The defining moment of the last decade.

It is an almost scary idea that in 5 weeks time the first decade of the 21st century will be over. I can still remember the celebrations at the turn of the century ten years ago (at the time I was only 12 years old!).

In the herald this morning there is an article on the defining moment of the last decade.

The writer of the article makes an interesting choice for the defining moment:

The defining moment of the last 10 years wasn’t George W. Bush reading “The Pet Goat” to a bunch of kids on 9/11 while New York was burning, or the Hadron Collider finally producing its first bang this week. I fear the true essence of this decade was captured in four minutes of a flash mob video of 20,000 perfectly syncopated bouncing Oprah fans “spontaneously” erupting in a choreographed dance to a Black Eyed Peas performance in the middle of Chicago’s main thoroughfare.

However the article also makes a point that we have gone too far with the mass publicity of our private lives:

It took radio 38 years to reach an audience of 50 million. Facebook got there in 24 months, according to Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s now infamous “Did You Know” series. To put this in perspective, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter didn’t exist at the start of this decade. I can be patient. We’re bound to outgrow this over-sized hyper-connectivity lust. I’ll be the really edgy, new advocate for two people just sitting in a room talking – because that’s all it needs to be sometimes.

Personally I have not given much thought to what the defining moment would be, there are a lot of things that could be considered. Maybe that is the topic for a future blog post?

Auckland City Council’s Carparking Machines were hacked not skimmed

Breaking news seems to be coming form the Twitterverse this morning.

It appears that the Auckland City Council’s parking machines were storing the credit card numbers of all cards entered into the machines and the database storing this data has been hacked.

There is a discussion going on here at Public Address: http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,2226,hard-news-a-bigger-breach.sm

There is no reason why after the transaction was processed for the council to store the credit card numbers unless they were using them as a form of tracking of people using the carpark, if this is the case they still should have never stored the credit card numbers, at a minimum a hash sum of the number would have worked. There appears to be much more to come on this story.

Update:

This just in from Mr A. Source:

Auckland City’s PCI certification is under serious review which will compromise their ability to carry out any credit card transactions. This will also potentially impact the new Auckland Council. Basically, internal systems at Auckland City have been compromised.

http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,2226,hard-news-a-bigger-breach.sm?p=142117#post142117

Opinion reporting vs factual reporting.

I was stunned to read the following opinion piece in Computerworld this afternoon, it is full of inaccuracies and Microsoft loving:

Opinion: Why Chrome OS will fail — big time

Fatal flaw No. 1: The Linux foundation
First, there’s the core architecture. A derivative of Linux, the Chrome OS builds on Linus Torvald’s popular open source foundation to create a lightweight, web-oriented desktop environment. However, it also inherits that platform’s many warts, including spotty hardware compatibility.

From power management to display support, Linux has long been a minefield of buggy code and half-baked device driver implementations. Google recognises this fact and, in a page out of the Apple Macintosh playbook, has taken the draconian measure of allowing the Chrome OS to be distributed exclusively on a series of as-yet-undisclosed netbook-like devices.

It’s a move born of desperation. Google knows it can’t possibly establish a viable hardware ecosystem and still meet its self-imposed release deadline of “mid-2010”. So rather than do the hard work of courting device vendors and building certification processes, Google is taking the easy way out by micromanaging which systems will be allowed to ship with the Chrome OS and then dumping responsibility for the rest of the ecosystem onto the open source community.

This first point is complete and utter nonsense. Linux hardly has any so called warts, it is more stable than windows and is much more secure too. When was the last time you heard of a virus on Linux? How does that compare to windows?

Spotty hardware compatibility? Again hardly. In the past linux had issues with device driver support however this is more as a result of hardware manufacturers not providing information about the hardware to build the drivers, it is not a fault of the linux programmers themselves.

Google is also not allowing the OS to be distributed exclusively on a series of as-yet-undisclosed netbook-like devices. The code is open source anyone can compile and run it for any device. However in order to keep the OS small Google have said they will only be officially supporting a small number of devices. This is the same as windows not running on an ARM CPU. The difference here is with Chrome being open source people can build support into branches of it.

Google can establish a viable hardware ecosystem by mid 2010 it is easy use the existing linux device drivers. The difference is they don’t want to because they want to keep things simple and small, who can blame them for that? They are trying to be the opposite of Microsoft.

Fatal flaw No. 2: The web user interface
Then there’s the user interface. Google looks at the world through the prism of a web page. So it comes as no surprise that the primary interface to the Chrome OS is … Chrome, as in the Google browser.

Unlike a traditional OS, there’s no desktop. The “applications” running under the Chrome OS are really just interactive web pages, with the Chrome browser’s tabs serving to separate and organise them visually on the screen. Basic configuration tasks, like defining wi-fi settings, are handled via Chrome OS-hosted pop-up windows, while a simple status bar-like strip at the top of the display informs you about battery life, connectivity status, and so on.

Sadly, none of the above UI constructs is particularly original or compelling. The tabbed interface and “dockable” favourites are clearly derivative of Mac OS X and/or Windows (depending on whom you ask), as are the status icons and pull-down applications menu.

In fact, nothing about the Chrome OS UI jumps out as innovative. Rather, it simply replaces one set of metaphors (Start menu, taskbar/Dock, system tray) with a bunch of webified equivalents. And though I can certainly appreciate the advantages of doing away with those heavy legacy OS windowing layers — web content is lighterweight and easier to isolate from a security standpoint — it also serves to limit the environment’s overall utility.

The world won’t buy an inflexible OS
And that’s where I believe the Chrome OS ultimately fails. In its effort to pare the traditional OS model down to the bone, Google has thrown out the one characteristic that made Windows and, to a lesser extent, Mac OS X and full-blown Linux successful: flexibility.

Simply put, the Chrome OS is too narrow. It assumes that the world is ready to give up the traditional personal computing paradigm and live full time in the cloud. In reality, most users prefer a hybrid existence, with some of their data and applications stored locally, and others — typically the freebies, like Gmail — hosted online.

Perhaps the easiest way to put the Chrome OS into context is by comparing it to the OS it’s designed to supplant: Microsoft Windows. Like the Chrome OS, Windows lets you boot your system, surf the web, and manage your data. Unlike the Chrome OS, Windows also lets you run rich, local applications and services — and do so on the hardware of your choosing.

Don’t forget that Google’s plans for acceptable hardware to run the Chrome OS is very limiting. No hard drives or even DVD drives; only solid state drives. That may reduce power usage and speed up boot time (as if that was really an issue), but it also means you can’t run your own apps, or store and access data, when you don’t have a live internet connection. Plus, the supported laptops are only netbook-size laptops, with low-power CPUs that won’t be all that capable. Sure, Google says you can use a PC or Mac for that stuff, and Google is right: You will. Why you would want a web-only appliance as well is not so easy to answer.

Again this is all nonsense. The current build of Chrome only stores everything on the cloud. Future builds will include the ability to store content from gmail and other apps offline on the SSD – just look in the Google apps labs for these features, they are just not finished yet. Secondly, why support HDD? HDD is old technology storage is going the way of SSD and if Chrome the OS of the future then they need to support the future, not the past.

The bottom line is that while there is virtually nothing that you’ll be able to do with the Chrome OS that you won’t be able to do equally well with Windows, there are literally millions of things that you can do with Windows today that you’ll likely never be able to do with the Chrome OS.

So don’t be surprised when you start hearing about early Chrome OS adopters trying to reformat their systems with Windows 7 Starter Edition. After all, people are easily distracted, and the Chrome OS already bores me to death.

Of course you can do the same things in Windows as you can do with Chrome. That is why there is a Chrome Browser for Windows. However the key difference is the focus of the operating systems. Windows is designed to be big heavy and bulky. Chrome is designed to focus on the cloud. And of course there will be things you can do on windows that you can’t do on chrome. Google have made this clear already, Chrome is not meant to replace Windows it is designed as an alternative to Windows. And I doubt many people buying a chrome netbook would reformat to Windows. If you were going to do that you would buy a Windows netbook.

What is best for the ingorant masses?

This quote made me laugh this morning:

Another marcher, Steve Baron of Better Democracy NZ, congratulated all those who participated in the march. “They are the gladiators of society, the 6-8 per cent of New Zealanders who get politically involved and get off their backsides in an attempt to make a difference”, he said.

“They will eventually triumph over the elitists in society who believe they always know what is best for the ignorant masses”, said Mr Baron.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10611015

So the claim is elitists don’t know what is best for the ignorant masses but somehow the hard right wing child beaters do?

Less representation is a good thing? Yeah right!

David Farrar at Kiwiblog this morning posts that under the new structure for the Auckland council the total number of elected representatives drops from 258 to 147 and then proceeds to say “I’d say 111 less Councillors etc is a good start!”.

How is it that less representation is good?

Currently with 258 democratically elected representatives across the region there is one representative for every 5,426 people (from a population of 1,400,000 people). With only 147 elected representatives this drops to one representative for every 9,523 people.

However, what is worse is the drop in the number of councilors from 109 to 20. In other words from one councilor per 12,844 people to one per 70,000 people.

That is a massive drop in representation.

Community boards simply do not cut the mustard when it comes to representation. The reality is community boards are designed to feed a majority view into the council. However it is only a view, and only a majority one. They are essentially nothing more than people with good intentions who unfortunately will have the majority of their good views railroaded by the superiority of the much more powerful council. This is hardly good democracy.

The call for one united Auckland council was primarily focused around reducing bureaucracy rather than mucking about with the representative democracy. It is unfortunate that the National Government has overrun this process and turned it into a farce by playing politics with the biggest city in New Zealand. Pathetic.

The World is NOT going to end in 2012

I have had a number of emails and conversations about the December 12 2012 over the past few weeks. Mainly sparked as a result of the new disaster movie 2012.

I saw the movie on Friday night and it is terrible. The theme is a good one and there was potential to create a really good and really scary film, however, it fails miserably. Under doing the 2012 theme and over doing trying to almost kill every single cast member 6 times over. It really should have been called 2012 where humans become cats and have 9 lives.

Anyway I am side tracked. Below is a copy of an email I just sent to a friend on the ideas around 2012.

I do not believe the world is going to end in 2012.

Yes the magnetic poles of the earth could swap. This has happened a number of times in the past, although not for a few thousand years. If this happens it is most likely it will happen very quickly (as in overnight) and it is unlikely we will see any major changes (however all the compasses will point in the wrong direction). There is a possibility that the change could also cause an electric field that could wipe every electronic device in existence. Essentially sending us back to the stone age. This is only speculation. But if it happened we run the risk of nuclear reactors exploding etc as they suddenly have all their cooling and other support structures stopped. It would also kill hundreds of people on life support etc in hospitals. But again this is unlikely to occur and there is certainly no truth to it happening in 2012.

The Mayan calendar ends of December 12 2012 as in the movie. However this does not really mean anything at all. There have been plenty of other calendars over time that have ended at different times. And even our current calendar is not that old (we started using it around 1552 if I can remember correctly). Before that we had a calendar that started in April. And before that we had a calendar that was based on 10 months (hence why sept = 7 does not make sense with september being the 9th month or oct = 8 being the 10th month. Furthermore currently those of Jewish faith and muslims use different calendars as well. One ancient calendar ending does not equal the end of the world.

It is a simple as that, there is no big conspiracy or whatever. Just someone starting a rumour and those who do not know better blindly believing it.

Hello World from Google Chrome OS – First Thoughts

Hello World!

I am now running Google Chrome OS off a 4GB flash drive in my laptop.

So far it is not as spectacular as first thought, and it is very clear that this is a development build however I can see much potential in Chrome OS in the future.

Some brief thoughts:

  • Boot times. From a cold start 26 seconds to login screen. From post BIOS to login screen 13 seconds. Not the 7 seconds advertised but still quick.
  • WIFI does not work on my laptop. This had me hunting for a network cable to get online. WIFI has always been an issue under linux so this could be a major roadblock for Google in making Chrome OS widespread.
  • Typing is slow and delayed. There seems to be some major problem with lag when typing.
  • System stability. So far I have had weird lock ups on my laptop after a few minutes of use. In particular I can still move the mouse but cannot click or type and have to press the power button to shut off the system. However, this may be a bug in the latest linux kernel as Ubuntu does the same thing on my laptop. I will test on my desktop and report back.
  • Android is much more of a complete OS.

This last point is interesting. Android is designed for smart phones which typically have less powerful components than a netbook or laptop. However, Android allows the user to add apps and other software and has much more of an OS feel to it. Chrome OS consisting of only a web browser turns the end device into nothing more than a very dumb dumb terminal. Surely there needs to be a middle ground. I would not use Chrome OS if I wanted to download images off a digital camera for instance as there is nowhere local to save and edit them.

Overall Chrome OS has potential has a very fast way to boot into a web browser if that is all you want to do. However, as it currently is, systems in the future with Chrome OS running will also need to provide a second much larger and more complete OS for those more complex but equally common tasks.

Adventures in the land of building Google Chrome OS

Okay I have now been working through the process of building Google Chrome OS for a little more than 12 hours. My main desktop computer has been on all night trying to sort out the development build environment so the code can be compiled. It does not help that we went over our data cap a few weeks back and are stuck on 64k internet until mid next week this makes downloading the required files ultra slow.

The build instructions provided by Google so far are quite clear and straightforward to follow. However, they are not very detailed. There are no timings for each step of the process or information about what each step does. So far I have downloaded the full source code (270mb) at uni so I would not have the dial up speed internet problem. However in order to compile the code it is required a strict development be provided. As such the compiling script creates a debootstrap environment virtualizing a minimal Debian OS. While this is a cool feature designed to ensure every build remains consistent it is a pain that this is not explained before the start of the process because the amount of data required to set this up is a lot more than the entire source code for the operating system.

Because the process of building from scratch is so long there has been a build snapshot uploaded onto The Pirate Bay. This is a good idea and I have seen on a few blogs comments that Google should be releasing a nightly build snapshot of the compiled OS. While this takes away the fun of building from scratch it does make testing the OS a lot more accessible. It is something I hope Google implement soon.

Hopefully my next blog on the OS will be a little more positive and lot more further down the building track.

Google Chrome OS goes open source available now

I have something to play with over the weekend.

Around two hours ago Google released the source code to their new operating system.

I am going to download it later today and will set about compiling and organising the installation of it.

For more info: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/releasing-chromium-os-open-source.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2FMKuf+%28Official+Google+Blog%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

March for Mob Rule.

Brain Rudman has a good column in the Herald today about the so called March for Democracy this Saturday.

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10609888

How humiliating to live in a country where $500,000 is being spent encouraging people to march up the main street of our biggest city demanding the right to beat their kids.

It could only happen in a country with one of the worst child murder rates in the developed world.

Instead of parading up Queen St this Saturday, waving their wooden spoons and looking for bottoms to belt, Colin Craig, the organiser and bankroller of this crassly named March for Democracy, and his supporters should be holding a candle for each abused child.

It is quite amazing that what is being dubed as the biggest protest march ever is about the right to smack a child. It just goes to show how sad a society we have become when the biggest issue facing us is the right to abuse and hit defenseless kids.

Despite this horrendous culture of abuse, Mr Craig will process up Queen St with his merry marchers to demand that their ancient right to smack their children be restored. Will the penny never drop that he’d be doing more for democracy – and the kids of New Zealand – if his $500,000 went into something as simple as parenting lessons – or support services – for at-risk young parents.

Exactly. If you want to really fight child abuse then put the money into programs that will sort the root cause of the issue. Not provocative and factually wrong tv ads.

The organiser of the ambiguously worded anti-smacking referendum of earlier this year, Larry Baldock, set the benchmark for hyperbole in September when he announced plans for yet another referendum, this one on whether or not such votes should be binding.

“If we do not seriously address these constitutional issues now, our children and grandchildren may be governed in a way our forebears never imagined possible when they resisted oppression on foreign battlefields to protect our liberty.”

This despite the fact that binding referendums have never been a part of the Westminster system of democracy our forebears fought to defend.

Also lurking in the wings is Steve Baron, who since 2003 – first under Voters’ Voice and now Better Democracy – has been campaigning for binding citizens-initiated referendums as a form of direct democracy.

He says he is marching on Saturday and “I hope others will join me and become the 6-8 per cent of society who become politically active, the political gladiators, the select few who get off their backsides to make a difference.”

Bob McCoskrie, national director of Family First, warns that the march is “not a one-off – it is part of a long term strategy to bring representative democracy back to New Zealand”. Like Mr Baldock, he’s got his political science confused. Binding citizens-initiated referendums, which is what this motley right-wing band are demanding, are anathema to the principles of representative democracy.

This form of government dates back to the 18th-century principle, advocated by Edmund Burke, that an MP is not in Parliament to act as his constituents’ delegate, but is elected to represent them, using his skills and best judgment to do what he thinks is best, for both country and the electors.

The development of disciplined political parties has somewhat watered this principle of MP independence down, but the system we have inherited and developed is still a far cry from the principle of mob rule that governance by binding citizens-initiated referendums promises.

The Royal Commission on the Electoral System 1986 decided that “in general, initiatives and referendums are blunt and crude devices … [that] would blur the lines of accountability and responsibility of Governments”.

They threaten the rights of minorities. In Switzerland, the land of cheese and binding referendums, binding referendums enabled a majority of men to deny women the basic right to vote until 1971.

Paradoxically, they also allow minorities to push their own hobby horses. Baron, of Better Democracy, in his rallying call for this Saturday’s march, appealed for “political gladiators … the select few who get off their backsides to make a difference”.

He puts this minority at 6-8 per cent.

6 – 8 percent is nothing more than mob rule. The rich elite with their ability to ensalve the working class. It sounds like the past. The past that the vast majority of New Zealanders do not want to go back to.