Saturday 9 February 2008

Blog moved

My blog is now hosted by Wordpress, so at this point it is easier to assign a new address:

Friday 8 February 2008

OOXML meets EU antitrust

CNN notes that the EU is looking into the OOXML actions of Microsoft (the original article requires a subscription).

I wouldn't count on the EU to show more backbone than last time, but I guess the company won't be so happy about the timing, considering the BRM takes place in about two weeks from now. (By the way, isn't all this bad press quite ridiculous? People keep confusing themselves with ideas such as "quality", or "fair play". It's so annoying!)

After that, there's another month for voting countries to present their final opinion, so I guess we'll have to wait until the beginning of April for the actual outcome. (Would a rejection from ISO put an end to it, though? Or would an approval of OOXML be taken seriously?)

One thing is clear: both Microsoft and ISO will have to reshape - the length of the rubber stamping process demonstrates clear deficiencies on both ends. Let's hope for the best.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Mortal assumptions

(Warning: clear signs of philosophical tendencies follow.)

Humans. When will we ever learn?

Why could, say, sarcasm be so hard to convey at times? An audience would simply assume a message is serious, and for some reason - no matter how absurd the conclusions would seem - the assumptions are not the first to be questioned.

To make things worse, sometimes said conclusions are not communicated back, but maybe this is not a big deal in the long run? Or maybe it is?

Interpreting a message without trying to understand the context is like running a business without a strategy.

Incidentally, I suggest the more convinced you are that you know the context and the underlying motives, the more likely it is that you don't. Just consider e-mail conversations.

Apparently, exercising the mind with openness means accepting that there are no simple answers. On the other hand, it should bring you closer to the truth, so it seems like a logical choice. Inconvenient, maybe, but logical.

What, then, is worse than one assumption? Software patents, of course! (Oops, I meant: "several assumptions".)

Now and then, I see people who argue heavily for one cause one day, and the opposite the next. Repeat this process any number of times, without any tangible attempts of understanding what went wrong, or even the mere awareness of having changed their mind (a possible side effect of using the gut).

So, how many assumptions did you just engage in when reading this post? (Don't forget to count the idea that they can be counted in the first place.)

Monday 17 December 2007

Drive-by voting

Since the Swedish stance in favour of OOXML, I've had no particularly exciting moments in the related committee of the Swedish Standards Institute (SIS). Because the decision was withdrawn in the media chaos that followed, Sweden will not be able to vote on Microsoft's ECMA's proposal, or go to the Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) in February. It'll be interesting to see how the story ends...

Meanwhile, I thought I'd remind you of how committed Microsoft's partners are to actual standardisation work, as opposed to, hmm, something else. See my table below, listing organisations ordered by degree of participation. (You can also find out the date of joining for some members. Note that many of them have decided not to be part of the committee in 2008.)

Oh, and IAMCP has sued SIS in order to make sure that "IAMCP and its members can continue to work with standards in a reliable manner".

What a sandbox.

Organisation5 Jun15 Jun14 Aug16 Aug1VOTE 27 Aug26 Sep26 Nov217 Dec
Riksarkivet (chair)xxx-NOxxx
Illuminet AB--xxNOxxx
IAMCP Sweden Chapter4xx--YESx--
Sun Microsystems AB-x--NOx-x
EPiServer ABxxx-YES---
HumanData Inventus ABx-x-YES---
iBizkit AB----YESx-x
Diamo AB-x--YES---
Kungliga Biblioteket5----NO-x-
Exor AB----YESx--
Formpipe Software Linköping AB----YESx--
FS System AB----YESx--
International Development Europe----YESx--
SourceTech AB----YESx--
Camako Data AB----YES---
Connecta AB----YES---
Emric AB----YES---
Fishbone Systems AB----YES---
Google Sweden----NO---
IT-Vision AB----YES---
KnowIT Stockholm----YES---
Modul 1----YES---
Nordic Station AB----YES---
Solid Park AB----YES---
TietoEnator Digital Innovations----YES---
ReadSoft AB----N/A3---
Strand Interconnect----N/A3---


1 This meeting was only for editorial purposes.
2 This meeting was organized specifically to discuss coordination between various working groups in SiS.
3 Left before the OOXML vote.
4 The person in question is listed to be representing "VeBe IT-Management AB" during the first three meetings (including one absence).
5 Is a member of other committees as well.
6 Became a member after the OOXML vote.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

FFII annual meeting in Brussels

I was kept rather busy this weekend, preparing and helping to execute the annual meeting of the FFII. Our President was re-elected, there are some new colleagues in the board, and so on. Software patents, watch out!

Where was I? Oh right, 30 geeks came to Brussels from all over Europe. Like at any good annual meeting, there was some flaming. And yes, they did try to ignore the schedule limitations I had set out in the agenda. Next time, there'll be no mercy... ;-)

While I just got tons of new work in my hands (we also had a long board meeting on Sunday), in the end I think it was a very stimulating (but exhausting) experience. We also had many speeches and other events. (I couldn't participate in most of Friday's events though, but at least I was in time for the beer... :-))

On Monday, I for once had some time to look around in the city (well, at least to see what to eat and drink near The Bourse, including some well-hid stuff along Beenhouwersstraat), and make a short stop to talk to some members. Then I went home again. Now just to catch up with all the paperwork...

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Strange bookshops

(For the record, the following does not relate to anything in the real world - not IT, not operating systems, and it's not even remotely related to installation procedures for software. The metaphors are completely fair and accurate, thus they do not necessarily reflect my personal opinion; I'm not making any subjective statements or suggestions.)

Shop 1

D: Hi Gene, can you get a book for me, please?
G: Hold on.

[Ten minutes later.]

G: Yes?
D: Oh, you know my style. You take a pick.
G: Moment...

[One minute later.]

G: OK. Maybe the one over there?
D: Great. I take it then.
G: Actually, the pages are blank. I need to fill them in first.
D: Uhhhhh, OK...

[One hour later.]

G: Here you are.
D: There's only one chapter here!
G: Oh, I'm sorry, I got confused. Try the other one in the shelf, it's a mass-produced copy.
D: Why didn't you just tell me?!
G: You didn't ask!

Shop 2

D: Uberto! Hi, I need the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
U: I'm sorry, I'm not in the mood.
D: I don't understand what you're saying, but I really need it.
U: OK, whatever.


U: Yeah, well, you know, I was getting some other books for you right now, and I would just mix everything up.
D: So do it after that!
U: I don't know what you mean.
D: ...


D: Are you getting the book or not?
U: Oh, I just finished with the other stuff. Sure thing, man.

Shop 3

D: Good morning, Winnie. How do I go about finding some books?
W: I have no idea.
D: What?!
W: Find them yourself!
D: Hmpf!

[Some time later...]

D: Here it is - YOU & NICK'S HATERS Handbook.
W: Oh, I like that one! It'll be 50 Euros.
D: What?!
W: Per year.
D: ...
W: Well?
D: I could get a very similar book for free elsewhere.
W: No, no, they're no good. You must use this one.
D: Mrrff... Bah, I don't care anymore, it's not me who'd pay anyway...
W: Good. But any book can be dangerous, you know? Are you sure you want it?
D: I just paid for it!
W: Right. Here's a few pages of rules about using this book.
D: OK, but I know nothing about this. Why are you showing this to me NOW? I already gave you some money, just let me read it!
W: I'm sorry, you need to study this thing closely before reading the book.
D: There, I put it in the tr... I mean, I got it.
W: Right. In which room do you want to read it? In the kitchen, the living room, the bedroom...?
D: Are you nuts?!
W: What do you mean?
D: Just. Give. Me. The. Book.
W: I guess you're OK with having it in the living room then?
W: Fine. Do you want some bookmarks with it?
D: NO!!
W: Here you go. See you soon!

Friday 9 November 2007

NX - Linux from a distance

I finally got around to testing NX (remote desktop, see "background" below) for Linux.

After doing a "stress-test" from an "impressive" distance of 5 kilometres, I'd say it's quite responsive, and otherwise appears to work as advertised. I especially like the resume functionality (suspend one or more login sessions), and resize-on-demand (i.e. toggling full-screen mode, or changing the resolution with the desktop adjusting).

As for the rest (sound etc.), it appears to behave properly, but then again, I've only just started using this. Graphically intense (e.g. 3D) applications don't work smoothly - no surprise there - on the other hand, neither does glxgears (20 FPS). Maybe by default, no frames are skipped.


Getting the (freeware) NX system up and running roughly means to:
  • Install nxclient, nxnode and nxserver on the host.
  • Generate DSA public key, and private key (without a passphrase) for the "nx" user.
  • Install nxclient on other machines; use the private key to authenticate as "nx", then use your login for the host.
Apparently it's a little more complicated than this, but for instance you can use an existing SSH server configuration which allows only public key authentication (hint, hint). That would only get you past the first security layer, though (the "nx" user), or I didn't see how to specify the user's private key in the client. A workaround I use is to use NX's own password database for authenticating users. (I could live with that, but is there a way to avoid this duplication? I guess it could also be a problem with other authentication methods.)

NoMachine's documentation covers many things, so I'm not sure what else to address for now. However, I could mention that - lacking suitable free software packages - I've tried instead to compile some stuff (see the repository) into an NX client on Debian stable/etch (on a G4 machine). After working around a configuration bug, I seem to be able to login and so on, but get stuck on a "Launching session" dialog. If I get this to work, I should be presenting some documentation soon after.


NX is a technology for remote access (similar to that of rdesktop) to Linux or Solaris systems. It's based on SSH and X, but offers significant improvements in terms of security (as compared to (e.g.) some VNC solutions) as well as latency and bandwidth requirements (ssh -X, anyone?).

Sadly, the official package from NoMachine is freeware, but there doesn't seem to be a free software equivalent yet. While - strictly speaking - there is such code available for building a server or a client, only some server code (FreeNX) seems to be reasonably up to speed so far (but I hope this will change soon).

GNOME oddities?

I've hit on some bugs when running GNOME on the host, but it could be unrelated to NX. More specifically, I've experienced that gnome-terminal can get confused and open a terminal on the host; trying to logout in XFCE can close the remote GNOME session... :-) Given that, I try not to login with GNOME-ish stuff when it's already running on the host. (Instead, I use something like fluxbox, but that now fails to logout at all in an NX session, weird...)