Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Geek Wednesday: How (Not) to Get Sued by Microsoft

MEPIS Linux on a widescreen 22" Samsung monitor (click to enlarge; also see our video demo, below)

Before we get to Geek Wednesday proper, I'd like to pass along a little tech/research project that Eric Alterman is starting over at Media Matters. Here's the basics of it:

...make a list -- with source material -- of every effect on the world, whether, um, good or bad, of the invasion of the United States and its "allies" of Iraq. We all know the litany; goodness I wish I had a key on my keyboard that automatically typed in: "cost trillions, killed tens, possibly hundreds of thousands, wounded hundreds of thousands more, increased terrorism, aided Syria and Iran (and China), destroyed a functioning country, increased hatred for the U.S. worldwide, undermined political allies, undermined the U.S. military, etc., etc. But seriously, let's do it systematically, with good sourcing.

So if you have some old bookmarks, downloaded web pages or pdfs, or simply old newspapers showing past evidence of such effects, then by all means write them up and send them to Prof. Alterman. And bookmark that page once it's up there at MM: it will make a fairly compelling case the next time some petty despot like Bush takes it into his feeble mind to start a Crusade with other people's sons and daughters. 120X90 Logo Banner

Geek Wednesday: Use the Source, Luke!

Perhaps you have wondered why we have a tech column every week here, at a political sort of blog. Well, politics can be boring: there are Democrats and Republicans. No viable third party. Oh, all right: we've got Nader and Liebermann. Like I said, no viable third party; case closed, next case.

But in technology, you have Microsoft, Apple, and Linux. Hey, a viable third party! Don't think so? Well, consider that Dell is soon to start taking orders for Ubuntu machines (for a feature list on these, check here). As we've been saying for awhile here, Linux is on the rise.

So why are open source geeks asking to be sued by MS? If you have a few minutes, check out some of the 700+ listings there (I'm number 447 on page 3)--you'll find some pretty funny stuff. If you want to know what this is all about, just check out last week's post here. As our observer geek Nearly Redmond Nick predicted then, MS isn't drilling down to the details of what MS patents Open Source has violated and how, because they don't intend to sue, nor do they have any grounds to do so.

Why, then, are they pissing off a lot of geeks and technophiles with baseless charges? Because, like the Bush administration, they just take a fiendish pleasure in spawning hatred (it's good publicity, at any rate). And, as we suggested yesterday, it may have something to do with the fact that Ballmer's not really an IT executive but a reject from Jackass. As we've pointed out many times with respect to the Bush administration, there is a certain strain of incompetence that infects every imperial entity, and MS is no different.

Anyway, here's a few links on the MS patent stew and how it's being digested:

  • Linus Torvalds himself, the inventor of Linux, thinks the violation shoe is quite on the other foot.

  • Groklaw wonders whether MS is actually infringing on the GPL

  • And Sam Varghese of IT Wire is having the same thought.

  • Open Office geek John McCreesh thinks it's simply more MS bullying tactics

  • But we believe in equal time here at DR. Since we've already featured plenty of Ballmer's foot-shooting antics here, how about a different closed-source proponent? So here's a self-professed cynic (wear it proudly, chum--it means "dog" or "cur"), who will bash open source for you. Open source, he says, is for losers, also-rans: the winners hate open source, and they should. Wow, chief, you must be...a winner! And yes, you are--you get the DR horns for the week!

    So what's Apple up to? Oops, getting sued again, this time for false advertising of how many colors show up on their laptop screens. I checked the comments board on this story, just out of curiosity and because I had nothing to do at work. Amazing how people tie their shorts into knots over stuff like this; but I guess if the lawyers do it, then Mac geeks can, too. I learned everything I wanted to know about dithering, and then some. One guy defended Apple and said that they would show how weak the charges are. I countered with this:

    Apple wouldn't deny the allegations so quickly, because they don't want the allegations to go away. You see, this is classic Karl Rove, gang. Here's the likely scene inside a recent Apple exec conference:

    PR FLAK: Steve, we've got to do something to get the press off our tail over this stockdating Smart Mailboxes are getting stupid from all the inflow...

    STEVE: Don't worry, Flak. We'll give 'em the old BushCo end-around / diversion tactic. Hire a couple geeks to sue us for something really inane but technical-sounding, number of colors on our displays. That will get the media off your tail about the stockdating business...

    PR FLAK: Jeez, Steve, you're a genius!

    Before we leave MS and Apple alone for this week, here's your tip of the week: if you run MS Word for Mac, then you know how long it takes to open. This tip will help some--it involves turning off WYSIWYG font and style menus. Of course, what will really help is if MS shakes its tail on getting MS Office for Mac into universal binary mode. But rest assured, Ballmer will make you wait, because he hates you, Macophiles!

    All right, before we go, let's say you've got $1500 burning a hole in your pocket and you need a keyboard. But you have to go haute couture all the way--every key has to be an OLED display, and you must type on a designer label: here you are. Or if you want to shop around a little, try this page. And people think Macs are overpriced...

    Our last bit is about geeks who care. Most I've met do: as I've said before, they're not a bunch of horn-rimmed reeds strung out on Red Bull. They're socially aware people who feel and see more clearly than the most powerful people on this planet. Some examples:

  • Geeks around the world have spoken out and even volunteered to help a woman in Connecticut who's facing prison because IE allowed some porn popup ads to show up on PCs in her elementary school classroom one day. I'm telling you, people, as long as shit like this is allowed to go down, Jerry Falwell is still alive.

  • The geek press, led by the extraordinary Declan McCullagh of C-Net, is raising red flags again about government instrusion on our private lives.

  • And Slashdot posted this piece about the Smithsonian Institute's sellout to big oil and fat government in "toning down" an exhibit on climate change—and this isn't the first time they've pulled this shit.

  • Seen any of these stories in the mass media lately? Yeah, I didn't think so. Now you know why we have a tech column every week here at DR. See ya next week, geeks.

    Pssst....Google—stop buying things and fix the damned Preview link on Blogger in Safari. And while you're at it, get Google Docs working in Safari, too.


    Corrine said...

    Hi! Two things -- have you ever seen an OLED display? I have and it is absolutely phenomenal. It isn't necessary to face the display directly. You can clearly see the image when off to the side. I cannot see the justification to the cost of a keyboard with an OLED display, but a computer monitor . . . oh yes! It leaves even the finest LED display in the dust.

    As to Julie Amero, fortunately, the work behind the scenes has paid off. She has been granted a new trial and the Conn. Asst. State Atty seemingly implied she will not be tried again.

    One small victory. Now let's hope the schools & public facilities learn something about proper computer maintenance (and perhaps provide some Teacher Ed).




    Brian Donohue said...

    About time--another small victory for the open source society, as I call it. If we had a mass media with any backbone or integrity, the geeks who got into this woman's corner on day one and stayed there would be on the front page around the nation today.

    What if we had government that acted as quickly and effectively to right injustice--not with guns or bombs, but with truth and reason?