[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Saturday, 2009-10-03

Red Hat makes a strong case against software patents

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 11:22

Red Hat has filed an amicus curiae brief in a major Supreme Court case. In the brief, Red Hat makes a strong case against software patents, arguing that the legal reasoning that led to software patents was flawed and that the pending Bilski case provides the Supreme Court with an important opportunity to rectify this long-standing problem with the patent system.

[…]

“Far from encouraging innovation, this proliferation of patents has seriously encumbered innovation in the software industry. Software is an abstract technology, and translating software functions into patent language generally results in patents with vague and uncertain boundaries,” wrote Red Hat VP Rob Tiller in the brief. “Under the Federal Circuit’s previous erroneous approach, the risk of going forward with a new software product now always entails an unavoidable risk of a lawsuit that may cost many millions of dollars in legal fees, as well as actual damages, treble damages, and an injunction that terminates a business. Only those with an unusually high tolerance for risk will participate in such a market.”

(from Red Hat tells Supremes: software patents stifle innovation, Ars Technica)

The issuing of patents was an experiment. That experiment has unequivocally failed. Getting rid of software patents is a good start.

Tuesday, 2009-08-11

Firefox tabs opening new windows

Filed under: Software — bblackmoor @ 18:24

I discovered why the tabs in Firefox suddenly started moving themselves to new windows — and I found an addon to disable this annoying new feature.

Tuesday, 2009-08-04

OpenOffice Calc – odd roots of negative numbers

Filed under: Software — bblackmoor @ 17:45

We all learned in grade school that the odd root of a negative number is also negative. The cube root of -8 is -2, for example.

Mathematicians will tell you that -8 has two more roots, but these are not “real” numbers, and unless you are a mathematician, you will never need to know what they are. If you are a real person using real numbers, the answer you want is -2.

Unfortunately, if you try to find the odd root of a negative number in OpenOffice Calc, it returns an error, because of a bug which has been present in OpenOffice since its creation: it uses logarithms to determine the root, which is perfectly fine, but it does not take into account the sign of the base, which is the bug.

This is a ridiculously easy to fix bug, and it mystifies me that the OpenOffice folks have let it stay broken for so long. However, there is a workaround:

SIGN(A1)*(ABS(A1)^(1/3))

What this does is find the cube root of the absolute value, and then applies the sign of the base against the result. Be careful with your parentheses.

Friday, 2009-07-03

SmartDefrag 1.20

Filed under: Software — bblackmoor @ 12:18

There is a new version of SmartDefrag. SmartDefrag is an excellent, free disk defragmenter for Windows. I highly recommend it.

I don’t recommend installing the Yahoo toolbar, but that is up to you.

Thursday, 2009-07-02

VMWare Host Agent not starting

Filed under: Software — bblackmoor @ 16:25

I ran into a problem with VMWare Server 2.0 the other day. I have VMWare set up to start the virtual machines when machine starts. This is a Windows XP Pro machine (the final version of Windows, as far as I am concerned). From looking at the event log, it appeared that the virtual machines would not start because the VMWare Host Agent service was not starting, and the VMWare Host Agent service was not starting because it had several dependencies which were not yet started themselves when the VMWare Host Agent service was being kicked off by Windows.

I did quite a bit of research on this, and tried some very clever solutions, none of which made any difference (changing the service’s dependencies, etc.). What I finally did was to create a small batch file, vmware_host_agent.bat

:: pause sixty seconds, then start VMWare

ping 127.0.0.1 -n 60 >nul

net start “VMWare Host Agent” -x

And then created a link to that in the Startup group.

Problem solved. It’s not elegant, but it works.

Tuesday, 2009-06-16

IT professionals concerned about Forrester Research competence

Filed under: Security,Software — bblackmoor @ 09:22

Forrester Research has come out with a report stating, among other things, that half to two-thirds of businesses have “concerns” about open source security.

The problem with empty headlines like “Companies still concerned about open source security” is that they tell you nothing and yet imply everything. You may as well say, “Study Reveals Pittsburgh Unprepared For Full-Scale Zombie Attack“. What does this headline tell you? Is any city prepared for a full scale zombie attack? Is a full-scale zombie attack even remotely likely?

The answer to both is “no”. Yet the headline implies that the answer to both questions is “yes”.

Should companies be concerned about the security of open source software? Of course they should — and they should also be concerned about closed source software, as well as the firmware in their hardware, their physical security, and the safety of their employees in the parking lot.

Should companies avoid open source software for “security” reasons? Of course not. Open source software is, in general, more secure than closed source software, and security flaws in open source software are more quickly corrected when they are found.

The problem with polls like Forrester’s (and those who conduct them) is not that the results are inaccurate (although they may be). The problem is that you won’t get the correct answer if you do not ask the correct question — and you have to understand the topic in order to ask the right questions. Forrester Research clearly doesn’t.

Tuesday, 2009-06-09

Microsoft hacks Firefox, installs security hole

Filed under: Security,Software — bblackmoor @ 16:59

In a surprise move this year, Microsoft has decided to quietly install what amounts to a massive security vulnerability in Firefox without informing the user. […]

Microsoft pushed out its .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 update this February […] it installs the Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant extension for Firefox, silently, without informing the user. If you had Firefox on your computer when this update was installed, you may be subject to some dire consequences. […]

Yes, that’s right — the long-time, well known security hole present in Internet Explorer that consists of essentially letting Websites install dangerous, untrusted code on your computer willy-nilly has now been shoehorned into your MS Windows install of Firefox without your knowledge or permission.

Worse yet, Microsoft isn’t satisfied with just giving you vulnerabilities without your permission or even your knowledge. It has also gone out of its way to ensure that you’ll have a difficult time removing the vulnerability from your system if you should happen to become aware of it. The Uninstall button for this extension in Firefox has been deactivated.

(from Microsoft may be Firefox’s worst vulnerability, TechRepublic)

To find out how to remove this security vulnerability, see Uninstalling the Clickonce Support for Firefox.

Thursday, 2009-05-14

Soviet Microsoft

Filed under: Intellectual Property,Software — bblackmoor @ 13:24

Check this out this article from RoughlyDrafted Magazine: Soviet Microsoft: How Resistance to Free Markets and Open Ideas Will the Unravel the Software Superpower.

Tuesday, 2009-03-03

Reasons to migrate from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org

Filed under: Software — bblackmoor @ 21:13

I took some time and wrote up a recommendation for people who still use Microsoft Office. It’s easy to criticize people still using Microsoft Office, but perhaps they really don’t know why they should migrate to OpenOffice.org. I hope that this detailed recommendation helps them make the best decision.

It is imperative that businesses eliminate all unlicensed software. Migrating from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org offers a cost-effective alternative to purchasing additional licenses of Microsoft Office. In addition, migration to OpenOffice.org offers significant benefits, such as cross-platform compatibility, increased security, and more reliable access to archived documents. Migrating to OpenOffice.org also provides a more user-friendly upgrade path than migrating to Microsoft Office 2007, because OpenOffice.org uses a standard, familiar user interface.

(from Recommendation to migrate from Microsoft Office to OpenOffice.org [PDF])

Friday, 2009-02-06

MySQL creator leaves Sun

Filed under: Linux,Software — bblackmoor @ 19:21

Michael Widenius, the original creator of the MySQL database system, announced in a blog entry on Thursday that he has left Sun Microsystems and is launching his own company. He is unsatisfied with the direction of MySQL development and believes that he will be able to make more meaningful contribution to the software from outside of the company.

[…]

It’s unclear how this move will ultimately impact the MySQL community, but it seems likely that the outcome will be positive. Widenius clearly wants MySQL to have a stronger community focus and is also still committed to making technical contributions. The departure of the project’s two cofounders in the aftermath of the acquisition doesn’t reflect particularly well on Sun, but it probably won’t have any direct impact on the company’s business interests or MySQL development efforts.

(from Unsatisfied with direction, MySQL creator leaves Sun, Ars Technica)

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