June 29, 2004

Mac OS X 10.4

The big story at the moment isthe latest Mac OS X release, this is more of an incremental change than 10.2 or 10.3. Improvements to the iApps, and a new codec in Quicktime. There are two big changes. One is getting BeOS like searching, instant searches of the file system based on metadata as well as being able to save searches as folders that update themselves as files are created and changed. The other alterations to the graphics subsystem pushing even more work out onto the GPU allowing some effects to be processed in realtime, new effects can be added and are effectively plugins.

June 27, 2004

Straining trains

The telegraph is running a story that trains consume more feul to move passangers than diesel cars, which puts a stake into any enviromental reasons for using them, so there is no reason to use commuter trains at all as the other two reasons, speed and conveneince only really come to the fore over long distances. And sometimes not at all. Trains should haul cargo, not people.

June 25, 2004


After some science how about some psuedoscience? This is a list of things that creationists claim shows that the universe is a lot younger than is beleived by everyone else.

more wierd physics

Related to my post on the NASA Breakthrough Propulsion Physics report I have found yet another Unified Field Theory I haven't read it all yet and it looks odd. But not quite as odd as Superstring theory.

wierd physics

I just found the lastest summary or the results of NASA's Breakthrough Propulsion project that explores the weirder side of physics to try and find ways of creating stardrives, either drives that require no reaction mass or that can achieve faster than light velocities. The report is very readable, but no prime candidates yet.

June 22, 2004

Feel like disappearing

An oldy but goody from wired on disappearing, or just recovering you privacy, American centric but applicable to the UK as well. Maybe this is overkill, but with David Blunket in the home office maybe not. I heard him say last night that he wanted to "nail" a football holigan deported from Portugal, now it's 50/50 that he's talking metaphorically or is trying to reimpose crucifiction. I wonder if there is any chance of him stepping aside in favour of his dog?

June 18, 2004

Surf the net while surfing waves

The BBC has a story about a internet enabled surfboard, publicity stunt really, but with applications heading towards being web based could be interesting in future. Work from the beach?

ChatBarrier - Snake oil warning

The company that made such a fuss over being able to copy icons between files and applications have decided to ride their wave of publicity by releasing ChatBarrier which encrypts iChat conversations. However anyone using this product should be warry as it has all the signs of being snake oil such as using 512 bit encryption keys.

512 is a stupid number, if they are using a good symetric cypher like AES then that is over kill, 128 bits will keep you out of the hands of any organisation on earth, and breaking 256 bits (AES's maximum) would require a computer taking an entire gallaxy as a power source[source applied cryptography: ssecond edition] simply to count through all the possible keys without even testing them. Also if they are using a symetric cypher they are probably using a propriatory one as I no of no peer reviewed cypher that uses more than 256 bits of key, this is backed up by saying nowhere which cypher they are using. RC4 can use this amount of key material, but normally is limited to 128 bits. Cyphers that are not peer reviewed are almost always worse than one that have been tested by experts from around the world.

If they are using Public Key cryptography then 512 bits is simply far to short, as 512 bits is within the technical capacity of a well funded adversary to break.

Nor do they say anywhere how they are doing the key exchange, the hardest part of any cryptosystem, if we assume they are using Public Key (the most logical approach) then does this 512 bit key value relate to that. In which case the system is broken, if they are using a better value (at least 1024 as the sessions probably won't be for long term storage of important data) why don't they advertise it? Afterall 1024 bits sounds better marketing than 512 bits.

The biggest snake oil warning is them saying "no one can break" only One Time Pads are truely unbreakable, brute forcing a 256 bit key may be way outside our current capabilities but it is possible, as is brute forcing a 512 bit key even if the requirements make it practically impossible.

June 17, 2004

Make your own Pirate Radio Station with an iPod

fun with an iPod

June 16, 2004

Microsoft Trustworthy Computing - Officially a myth

Bruce Schneier has writen in this months Cryptogram news letter on Microsofts desision not to let unlicensed users apply the SP2 patch.

."This decision, more than anything else Microsoft has said or done in the last few years, proves to me that security is not the first priority of the company. Here was a chance to do the right thing: to put security ahead of profits. Here was a chance to look good in the press, and improve security for all their users worldwide. Microsoft claims that improving security is the most important thing, but their actions prove otherwise."

"SP2 is an important security upgrade to Windows XP, and I hope it is widely installed among licensed XP users. I also hope it is quickly pirated, so unlicensed XP users can also install it. In order for me to remain secure on the Internet, I need everyone to become more secure. And the more people who install SP2, the more we all benefit."

So Microsofts trustworthy computing is officially no more than marketing fluff. Not that there was much dought about that before.

June 15, 2004

blair bush love song

A short video byatmo using TV footage to create a love song from the Miserable Failure and Tony blair.

Google's Gmail: spook heaven?

The register is running a story calledGoogle's Gmail: spook heaven? on the dangerous precedent that Gmail sets for possible invations of privacy, I don't think it is bad as far as email snooping by goverment agencies is concerned, as that was and is going to happen.

It rasises problems with when exactly is your privacy being compromised, when your email is scanned, or does it take a human conciousness to do it. The story raises the prospect that it might not even be legal in California.

One of the lines of logic followed by the story is that law suits on Gmail could lead to vast reams of private email getting exposed as part of court cases between corporations that themselves have little interest in the mail contents. But will subsequently get poured over by others, such as spammers, and criminals that want to steal identities, with impunity looking for passwords and other personal data.

Gmail finally looks like the case where Google got it wrong, not because of any technological problems, but because they forgot their own rule Do No Evil


In the beginning .NET was said to be many things such as:

  1. A new language and a language agnostic, cross platform set of libraries.

  2. A set of webservices (Hailstorm, Passport etc.) that would allow easy creation of web applications.

  3. A marketing initiative branding everything .NET

  4. new .NET enabled non-PC devices from cell phones to game boxes.

  5. A set of enterprise servers to run everything on.

Of these only the language and servers remain. The .NET compact framework has basically no market, the marketing hype diserpated when they found that nobody understood what .NET was because it seemed like .NET was everything and nothing, and nobody wanted to buy Microsofts webservices (partly because loss of service in Passport in the early years scared people, as it should when getting customers to log in to your site is a core part of your business).

The runtime has been ported to other platforms by the Open Source movement as part of two projects Mono and dotGNU. However there is vigerous debate over whether they should have done these projects considering the patents that Microsoft holds over .NET, including the core system of the CLR and core libraries. This core has been submitted to the ECMA as a standard. But the standard only covers the core, not Windows.forms, ADO.NET, ASP.NET or any of the new longhorn technologies. dotGNU has tried to get around this by doing all of the development in countries that do not recognise software patents and producing a clean room clone of the non standardised parts. Mono has no answer to the patents other than a casual line in an email that they won't get asked to take a license. With the non-standardised parts it cloned them, and created a second set of technologies that deliver the same functionality as well. Both stratergies are problematic if the goal is to produce a Free Software implementation of .NET. Should the Free Software movement worry about this? Microsoft did say that it wanted .NET cross platform and created Rotor (an implementation of the ECMA parts of .NET that runs on FreeBSD) to prove it. Well consider their history, they have already been proven to be willing to do anything to crush their competitors, they have already funded SCO's groundless attacks on Linux as containing SCO owned code, they have already shown that they don't care if the tactics they use are legal or not, and they have already been shown to see Linux and the Free Software movement as their number one competitor. Yes there is good reason to be afraid.

.NET was supposed to allow any language to be used, without modification. However O'Reilly says:
"Frankly having worked for ten years as a C++ programer and written a dozen books on the subject I'd rather have my teeth drilled than work with managed C++."
the point of .NET and the CLR was that you could programme in any language without there being any noticable changes to programming style, apparently this is not the case, and:
"It is likely that many VB programmers will choose to learn C#, rather than upgrading their skills to VB.NET. This would not surprise because the transition from VB6 to VB.NET is, arguably, nearly as difficult as from VB6 to C# - and,whether it's fair or not historically, C family programmers have had higher earning potential than VB programmers.""
So if Microsoft could not get the language that they created to work properly in .NET, the platform that they created, what does that say about it's real language agnostism.

.NET was also supposed to be the cure of Microsoft's poor security record as the cornerstone of the new way of doing things that is Trusted Computing. However it should be remembered that Trustworthy Computing started after .NET, .NET cannot therefore be seen as part of Trustworthy Computing even if they will have done everything they can within what already existed in .NET to make it trustworthy. However by allowing access to pointers and the ability to manipulate raw memory addresses as well as mixing .NET and old style code will mean that the system will not be as secure as it could be as it can only ever be as secure as it's least secure part. The least secure part in this case being the old and unmanaged code, which windows has already shown to be very unsecure.

June 14, 2004

Project Ornithopter

Someone is actually trying to build an Ornithopter, basing it around bird flight. Personally I would have gone for a Dragonfly, alot older than birds, and they can get big as speices over a foot long are in the fossil record. Also simpler, as they have no wing joints.

June 11, 2004

More fun with microwaves

More fun with microwaves generating Plasmas, ball lightning and other fun stuff. Also how to build you own plasma globe.

Microwave melting of metals

Use your Microwave cast small amounts of metal, really cool idea. Microproduction of castings using simple domestic equipment.

June 10, 2004

climbing robot

A climbing robot has been created. Currently it can't see and requires all the moves to be preprogramed into it.
"Future incarnations of Lemur are likely to have grippers for a more secure foothold, and more joints in the articulated limbs, giving them a greater range of movement. It will also be taught how to react if it unexpectedly loses its grip"I believe that I can help with that last point

printf("OOOOOH!!! FUCK!!!");

June 08, 2004

On the EU, why I want out.

The reason that I don't like the EU and want to pull out is that I simply don't see any benefits for the money that we give to it, we are teh second biggest contributer afterall. There are arguements for EU membership some of which at first sight seem persuasive, but when you actually examine them they fall apart.

  • The EU has stopped a major european wars in the last 60 years.

    This is simply bogus, NATO kept the piece. For most of the last 60 years the atomic weapons of the USA where facing the atomic weapons of the USSR in an ideological conflict known as the cold war. Had any european nation tried to go to war with it's neighbours it would have quickly reduced itself (and the rest of the world) to a radioactive rock. National leaders knew this and so did not attack each other. Since the colapse of the USSR the defensive aliances of NATO remained, along with their atomic guarantees of peace.

  • We get loads of money from the EU for things like Cornwalls objective one status.

    We do get money back from the EU but that does not alter the fact that this country is the second largest net contributor to the EU coffers.

  • The EU has forced this country to accept lots of liberal legislation protecting the rights of ordinary people that we would not have got otherwise.

    It is true that the EU has delivered plenty of good liberal legislation, as well as some that bad, and some that is simply stupid. This is true of all legislatures. However I would prefer that the laws that govern me where created by a democratic body. The EU parliment has no power to initialise legislation, nor can it veto legislation, and any sugestions it makes can be ignored as they where in the case of software patents recently. The parliment, the only directly democratic element is little more that a fig leaf.

  • The EU is just a free trade body, and this is a trading nation.

    One of the EU's roles involes trade, however haft of our legislation comes from it showing that it also has a large political dimension.

  • The EU is happening anyway, so we should be in to influance it.

    However if we are out they can do whatever they like and it will not be imposed on us (as it is at the moment). We may have to react to events in the EU, but we have to react to events in the EU and across the globe anyway so this changes nothing.

  • Leaving the EU would harm the economy as we would no longer have access to the common market.

    There is another organisation called EFTA (European Free Trade Aggrement) that was originally set up with Britian as one of the founder members. It is purely a free trade area an it has an agreement with the EU giving access to the each others market forming the EEA (European Economic Area). We simply swap EU membership for EFTA and get out of the EU whilst keeping the market.

  • It's either the EU or become the 51st state of the United States of America

    No it isn't, most of the countries in the world are not in the EU or part of the USA and they work prefectly well

  • If we leave the EU this size of the EU economy will leave us without any investment.

    Britain is the 4th largest economy in the world. We are a global trader. Saying this is the same as saying that China must give control of it's currency an politics to Japan. Which is stupid. It is the same as telling the most of east africa that it must give up control of its currency and politics to Europe, which is also stupid and should anyone sugest it would be dismissed correctly as racist colonialism.

  • The EU is going to gain economies of scale that will give it massive growth boasts leaving us in the dark ages should we leave.

    This argument was used to argue that we must join the Euro, and therefore can be examined with emperical evidence. Since the creation of the Euro the UK has consistently grown faster than the EU average. Since the begining of the Euro the UK economy has expanded to larger than that of France going from the 5th largestt economy in the world to the 4th. The UK has under haft the unemployment of the EU average. The UK avoided recession caused by the global slowdown following the US dot com crash in 2001, the EU didn't. The evidence shows that not only is this argument wrong, the reverse is true and if we leave (maintaining the common market via EFTA) it will improve our economy.

Then there are the arguments against the EU

  • It's corrupt, the buget hasn't been signed off as adding up by its auditers since 1995

  • It's main policies, the common agrecultural policy (CAP) and common fisheries policy (CFP), are insane and counter productive. CAP is supposed to help small farmers. It gives huge subsidies to farmers to produce intesively, creating large surpluses. Then pays then even more to leave sections of land without anything growing on them, whilst still farming everything else as intesively as before. The amount of subsidy is based on the amount of land. This means that big farmers (who don't need the money) get paid more at the expense of the small farmers who this was suposed to help. We pay more for food than we should due to the inflated market price. We pay for it again in taxes. We impoverish the third world by pricing them out of the European food market where they could compete really well, leading to the kind of resentment that fuels terrorism.

  • It's undemocratic, the laws that it creates are initialised by the unelected commision, rubberstamped by the unrepresentive parliment (which can be ignored if it doesn't give the right answer), an is then either sent to the member states to be implemented by the member state's elected parliments, without the power to make any modifications.

June 04, 2004

note to self

for ODE: pass events between threads using "asynchronous message passing" each event is sent as a self contained object containing all that is needed to know about it. Like Obj-C remote messaging.

June 03, 2004

NotCon: strange conferance in london

The Register is reporting a strange conferance happening in London. True geeky new media bollocks in the finist pre-collapse dot com style.

June 02, 2004

Wi-Fi hotspots simply too expensive

The register is reporting that WiFi will not make money this is not a suprise, despite the lauding of the libertarian WiFi profits claiming that it would make network access and phone calls free for everyone. Nice try, but like with the internet people still need to get paid and still need to buy the equipment needed. That means that they have to get their money back somehow, so have to charge meaning that it will never be free of charge.

June 01, 2004

EU hands airline data to US

EU Commision hands airline data to US despite the Parliment saying that it shouldn't. Which kind of shows the real power of the parliment and one of the reasons that turnout to the Euro elections is unlikely to be more than 20%. Why bother when your (democratically elected) MEP is just going to get overruled by the (unelected, corrupt, and unaccountable) Commision.

An Open Letter On Software Patents and EU Election

An Open Letter On Software Patents and EU Election by Alan Cox, the Linux kernel maintainer, in which he asks people to either vote Green or UKIP personally I will be voting for UKIP even without this letter. The EU is institutionally corrupt adn we should leave as soon as possible. Simply swap it out for EFTA, we maintain the free trade benefits without being annexed as part of the United States of Europe.

Another First Look at Longhorn

WindowsDevCenter.com has a alpha preview of Longhorn the decididly unimpressive new operating sytem from Microsoft.

the good:

the sidebar as a place for dropping applets that intergrate with the OS.

minimising the sidebar so it takes up less room.

Sync manager, allowing easy backup of data.

the bad:

The sidebar takes up alot of room (but might still come out as a benefit overall).

Window title bars, these seem to take up a truely ridiculous amount of room. They are simply a waste of space for not benefit. A very good example of this waste, the sync manager

The 3d window stacking. Notice in the screenshot while you can in this instance see all of the windows this might not always be the case for some combinations of window positions, such as a small window behind the centre of a large window. Note the small tab of window at the lower edge of the stack, it is almost invisible now and would not take much to obscure completly, by moving it's position on the screen upwards a little.

This feature seems to assume that all the windows will be aof approximately equal size. Which is perhaps a good assumption as many windows users keep all their windows maximised. It is also strange that they need this feature, which requires alot of processing, just to add something like drop dhadows onto windows. A useful visual indicator of stacking order, but not one that should take up this much processor power. Mac OS X has had it for ages and runs fine on a 300Mhz processor without hardware acceleration.

IE is still not up to par, the article states it does not have tabs, and according to the article does not seem to offer any improvements over the SP2 version. Certainly nothing about it finally becoming stantards compliant. This is not suprising considering that they have stopped IE development as a distinct product.