Dysmey Post > Essays > Miscellany > A Bowl of Random Follies

A Bowl of Random Follies

α You cannot run a resort and go shooting the tourists just because you're paranoid, can you? You can threaten seizure of private assets (well, cancel the leasehold on them, since the assets are really yours) all you want; but what are you going to do with an unused resort? You will not allow your own citizens to visit (and they could not afford to do so). The people who used to visit will not come near it for fear of their lives. And you don't have the money to maintain it yourself. All and all, it was an exercise in folly from the start.

And it is going to get worse for you, as those people who used to live in your land, and have family members still there, grow old and soon die out. These children and grandchildren never lived in your land; have no ties to it; and regard you as a nuisance at best and a danger at worst. There will come a time when your land and theirs will become truly two nations. Then what?

β The original article in a Web site called Software Development Times disappeared shortly after it was posted. Its text was still in the Google cache, and has been reposted on Slashdot. And, its print edition still carries the article, which it cannot remove now that it is in print and in PDF form.

The theme of the article is not a surprise at all: Microsoft and hackerdom have always been hostile to each other for historical reasons. Hackers will not touch the .NET platform unless it is part of their jobs. They also stay away from Mono and Moonlight and anything else that is bears the mark of the monkey.

Microsoft, for its part, fulminates about 'patent infringement' (they would come after people that do not license patents from them, goes the Ballmer meme), extorts money from companies that use Linux, and then bitches when hackers refuse to have anything to do with Microsoft's "open specification promise" stuff. (And, no, there is no such thing as irrevocable.)

γ Google moves to Honk Kong, which is legally part of China, but lies outside the so-called Great Firewall. It is likely that this is the first stage in Google's month-long pullout of China. This will end with Google's extraction from the autocratic nation, whose most populous market is a myth due to the poverty and lack of access of the vast majority of its people, and due to the fickleness and hamhandedness of its government.

δ Now we have the Brits believing that Facebook causes syphilis. (Read it here and here.) How cute. I suppose it is not surprising what the Brits believe, given that their grasp of basic science weakens year after year. Many of them are as gullible as Americans in thinking that vaccines cause autism (an inherited disease with variable definitions) They do not even have a handle on the basic axiom of correlation is not causation.

ε Tell me, folks, how long does it take until someone realizes a threat? Intellectual Ventures (IV), the god of the patent trolls, has been discussed and griped about by Techdirt for a long time. I myself have posted three links to Techdirt IV-related articles in my last posting, but I will repeat: (, and ).

IV is a prominent symptom of a growing economic and legal schlerosis that is the proof that the current United States is a second-tier nation. One of the commenters to this article summarizes the problem in three paragraphs, which I have edited for tone and which assume that the word innovation means anything other than a feel-good buzzword.

It's a legitimate issue in the technology sector. All we keep hearing from political pundits and professors in the classroom is that innovation will drive the economy, lead you out of your bankrupt and unemployed community, solve world hunger and cure cancer.

And yet the patent system is structured in such a way that encourages this sort of corporate behavior, culminating in companies like Intellectual Ventures who, given that they don't produce anything per se, exist almost exclusively to stifle innovation. And they're making a truckload of profit in doing so.

Yes, there are certainly other issues that still need working out — can software really be patented, is something intangible really able to belong to someone, should monopolies be regulated, when is the U.S. Patent Office getting their act together, and countless others. But this would appear to be the poster child for everything that's wrong with the current patent system.

ζ Google is trying to promote the wonders of HTML5 (and trying to dispel the controversies hovering over it) with a HTML5 port of id Software's Quake II game. That's right: You can shoot and blow up cyborg soldiers and gun-armed pinheaded sargeants from the comfort of your own browser … provided the browser is Chrome or Safari.

η The iPad comes out tomorrow. Everyone is singing to the heavens. I am not. We have had tablet computers before. They were never popular. But then, those tablets ran on Windows; and, reportedly, Microsoft did not give a crap. Apple does care, however, so the iPad should be interesting.

There is another tablet out there. It is Linux-based, so one would think the hackers would flock to it. However, all the hackers (and I myself) can see is that the device is so mired in evil business practice and litigation that it is best not to touch it until moral smog dissipates, if it ever does. Needless to say, the iPad need not fear any competition from this.

θ The open-enrollment period for health insurance is coming up. I will get information that is more or less babble — even more so now that Obamacare is law.

Obama never considered, when he promised to spread the wealth around in his health care reform, that redistribution changes production — for the worse. Or maybe he did. Maybe he wants to goad the dull hurd into health insurance, even if it is crappy and pricey, as long as he can point to this, his finest achievement, his greatest kept promise.

I know now that

With all these in mind I will have to pore over the whack babble of my health insurance offerings. I have enough headaches already without having to figure out whether to keep something I already have.

At least I am luckier than my sister the editor. She is going to be hurded into Medicaid after the governor puts his own health plan to sleep due to Obamacare's expansion into its turf.

Still, even I would not go to such extremes as some medical specialist in Florida, who put up a sign that says Se vi balotis por Obama, iu alia kuracu vian renon. The Florida state medical board might have something to say to him, like Kiss your license goodbye, you fool!

ι There was angry shouting at Microsoft's shinanigans in forcing the OOXML format, defects and all, into acceptance as an ISO standard (ISO/IEC 29500). ISO showed itself to have the spine of a jellyfish, even refusing to investigate the underhanded deals of Microsoft with certain national standards bodies. The scandal had the effect of undermining the legitimacy of the ISO itself, especially among IT workers and some third-world countries. The disparity of rules for [Publicly Available Specifications], Fast-Track and ISO committee generated standards is fast making ISO a laughing stock in IT circles. The days of open standards development are fast disappearing. Instead we are getting 'standardization by corporation'.

Now it seems like Microsoft is undermining its own pet standard by refusing to follow up on it in the making of Office 2010. Part of this is due to Microsoft being unable to implement it because of its legal fight against some Canadian company. But it may also be due to Microsoft simply wanting the cachet of respectability for Office being based on an ISO standard, without the work of implementing that standard on Office 2010.

Whatever the case, Microsoft's negligence is biting back, as the head of the ISO OOXML subcommittee, originally supportive of Microsoft, is now angry at Microsoft for its neglect of OOXML. He warns major users of Office — corporations, governments, etc. — of Office 2010's inconformity and suggests sticking to Office 2007 until Microsoft gets its act together.

In fact, OOXML should never have been approved. But there is always time to withdraw the standard as a first step for ISO to restore its respectability among the IT community.

κ Hugh businesses like AT&T, GM and RCA got that way because the commercial market allowed them to grow, not just in size, but in complexity. Change from beyond, which they cannot see or which they ignore when they do see it, in time takes their markets away. Too complex to adapt to a changing market, the Biggie collapses, disgorging its workers and management into the void, as its fellow Biggies pick its carcass clean.

Sometimes a government buys out the Biggie to save its jobs. The Biggie keeps on existing for awhile, even though nobody buys its stuff (still crap◊y, now tainted by the State) anymore. But, sooner or later, even the State gives up, reassigning the suits into the lower reaches of the State aparatus, sweeping the old workers into its own pension plan, dumping the younger ones, and closing shop.

Techdirt quotes a piece () by someone called Clay Shirky. I never heard of him before, but evidently he argued with Jakob Nielsen over ten years ago about the nature of the Web (). Shirky argues the point I made above, while also noting that Hollywood, the Press and other Big Businesses (which Shirky and Techdirt call 'legacy businesses') tend to deceive themselves on change ('innovation') because the very thought of adaptation is a threat to their corporate structures. All their solutions to competition from the Internet are merely ways to maintain their own structures: Ways which do not work because users steer clear of them; ways which will force the Big Businesses to abandon the Internet as unprofitable and recline in their own decline.

λ The Register pushes one of its articles, about Microsoft and open source, with this statement so false that it has to be a joke — or a lie: The religious wars are over. Oh no, they're not!

But Microsoft is still haunted by a legacy of bad blood and what it calls "misrepresentations". This stems not just from Utzschneider's boss Steve Ballmer and his periodic claims that Linux is violating Microsoft patents. It goes further back. Microsoft's first attempts to engage with open source and Linux produced the hated Get the Facts campaign. This was followed by the notorious Halloween memos. Both exposed a bare-knuckled fight to discredit Linux and open source and persuade customers and partners that Windows was empirically the better way to go.

Let's not forget Microsoft's covert support for SCO's Linux suits; its fierce defence of its intellectual property that is the source of Ballmer's bromides and the extorted patent protection payments Microsoft extracts from businesses who use Linux; and the neglect of its own standards as noted above. Thus misrepresentation is evidently Microsoft's word for speaking truth to power.

No: The religious war is still going on, and Microsoft saying that they are not means that Microsoft is lying, mostly to itself. I wonder why the Register published this puff piece; its true title ought to be Microsoft clutches open source by its throat.

Written by Andy West on 3 April 2010.