Friday, May 26, 2006

Party at Joey's Let's Ruin His New Home I Hear He Does Not Have Flood Insurance

Google's release of Picasa for Linux is met with mixed reaction, despite using GNOME Volume Manager to power their camera auto-detection. A common derision amongst the Slashdot et al crowd goes, if Google cared about Linux, they would not have used WINE but in lieu made a native port. This reasoning is fallacious.

Releasing a Picasa variant for Linux signals that Google cares about the Linux market, for one reason or another. Simple as that. What a release via WINE, as opposed to a native port, does indicate is that Google is not overly interested in Linux as a platform. In Google's calculation, the cost of a native port outweighed the benefit of a native vís-a-vís a WINE-fueled Picasa.

Is that really unexpected? Our development platform is no shining star. We have two toolkits, poor binary compatibility, and unclear direction. To be sure, vendors such as Novell are devoting increasing effort toward improving the Linux ISV and platform story. But the community must make it a priority as well, from the kernel up through the highest levels of the graphical desktop. If developers can get nine-tenths of the way there with emulation, why wade into the mess full tilt? To find success, the benefits of native development on the platform must outweigh the costs. If Linux had the market share of Windows, we could get away with an awful platform. We are not yet there.

As for me? I am sticking with F-Spot: Fast, powerful, open, Larry-esque.

Elsewhere, the market bounced yesterday as predictedhoped. The oversold reversal spread overseas and continues today with a positive open amid not unexpected market indicators. In particular, financial issues are staging a nice recovery, although technology stocks are flat.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

In With the Out Crowd

Bernanke apologizes for his "lapse of judgment".

He damn well better. His irresponsible comments cost my children their college fund. Also, several meals. And booster shots. The market is only now recovering from quite a rout. I think that the market is oversold, though, and we are seeing a nice bounce as it recovers.

NM applet with four network cards
Four network cards, at once: Bet you did not know we did that

Thursday, May 18, 2006

NetworkManger not Manager

Several new NetworkManager features of note. One is that we now automatically build the allowed BSSID list in response to roaming. Consequently, walking around a corporate campus now seamlessly populates the trusted list with all of the wireless network's access points.

This begs the discussion on a little known feature: NetworkManager trusts networks via an (ESSID,MAC) pair and not solely the ESSID. As far as I know, this functionality is unique to NM. Indeed, recently, Windows has had a series of exploits involving Ad-Hoc networks and man-in-the-middle attacks. NetworkManager would never fall for such chicanery.

A second cunning feature is that, since NetworkManager stores a list of MAC addresses for each known wireless network, NM is able to do a reverse MAC to ESSID mapping for non-broadcast (hidden) networks, showing hidden trusted networks in the scan list.

A follow-up feature is to disable roaming for certain wireless networks, locking the BSSID to a specific value. Dan, astutely, suggested doing so for the "blacklisted" default networks, such as linksys and NETGEAR.

NetworkManager, the applet

A second feature, visible above, is that we now differentiate Ad-Hoc versus infrastructure networks in the scan list. This is important, again to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks where an Ad-Hoc network masquerades as your usual corporate AP. NetworkManager, trusting only the known MAC, will never automatically connect—now, the user is informed and will not force a likewise unwise connection.

Connecting to Ad-Hoc networks is rare and should always be a conscientious choice. Toward that end, Dan has suggested another smart follow-up: Given a request to force a connection to a wireless network, if multiple access points are in range, we should prefer infrastructure over Ad-Hoc networks.

Last week, Joey became a home owner, eschewing the high Cantabrigian rent for a higher Cantabrigian mortgage. Since the transformation, he has not shut up about how I am "burning money on rent" and "need to start building equity" in my life. Now, all he talks about is Tupperware and mowing his new lawn and social security. And, naturally, he became a Republican.

In other news, Amr Hamzawy, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes of Al-Qaeda facing an ideological crisis: There appears to be an emerging public consensus that democracy is the only viable way ahead.

G. F. Will on Who Isn't A 'Values Voter'? in today's Washington Post.

Also in a Tuesday Op-Ed, A Nuclear Test for Diplomacy, Henry Kissinger offers the wise realist perspective on Iran, noting: Focusing on regime change as the road to denuclearization confuses the issue. The United States should oppose nuclear weapons in North Korea and Iran regardless of the government that builds them.

Thursday, May 4, 2006

I do not like your couch

The elusive NetworkManager Easter Egg:

NM Easter Egg
Sniff, Crack, Autologin: It's Your Network
WEP keys? We don't need no stinkin' WEP keys!

Back in January, The Weekly Standard gave their take on turning Afghanistan over to NATO. Today, the New York Times reports, the Brits take command of NATO forces in Afghanistan—unfortunately, amid rising concerns that the Taliban threat is growing in the south, evidence that al-Qaida is still active, and increased militant activity.

The events are not unconnected: Here lies the risks in turning over Afghanistan to NATO.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

Literally covered in links, a veritable link fest

Ars Technica—easily my favorite technical website, thanks to the erudite Jon "Hannibal" Stokes—provides an updated Intel architecture roadmap, in which Intel reveals an accelerated rollout for their next-generation microarchitecture, Core—or, as I like to call it, ohmygodanythingbutthiscrapcallednetburst.

This news furthers the belief that we will see a Merom-based Apple MacBook Pro in August at WWDC, replete with a 64-bit instruction set and even better performance per watt.

Last month, in his article "Into the Core: Intel's next-generation microarchitecture," Hannibal sketched an excellent overview of the new microarchitecture.

AnandTech—easily not my favorite website—offers an informative, albeit written in the style of a ninth grader, article on the Intel Core versus AMD K8 architecture.

Speaking of vacillation, I have yet to convince myself of the horrors of losing network neutrality. I appreciate the arguments made by the content providers, and dinner chats with Luis "Lawschool" Villa have done well to illuminate the issue, but I still do not see a sufficient problem, enough of a market failure, to warrant government intervention.

There was some hope from the pro-neutrality camp that Senator Ted Stevens' (R-AK) recently proposed bill would enforce neutrality. No such luck. The bill does address network neutrality, devoting some funding for annual research, but it makes no attempt to oblige neutrality. And it offers up an additional assortment of sour treats, such as FCC-endorsed audio/video flags and the Universal Service Fee (read: more taxes, which in turn reads: I hate it).

In response to the Stevens' bill shortcoming, Representative Edward Markey (D-MA) submitted his original net neutrality amendment as a separate bill, the aptly-named "Network Neutrality Act of 2006".

With elections looming, we will not see a full vote this year, so there is time to raise the level of public debate.

Throw Bleach in with your Colored Laundry

My good friend Andrew Morton, angry that I did not kick Chomsky in the shins, tossed over an interesting paper: The Top 100 Chomsky Lies, by Paul Bogdanor.

I cannot vouch for the veracity of the entire document, but the first Chomsky quote alone causes my eyes to roll:

In comparison to the conditions imposed by US tyranny and violence, East Europe under Russian rule was practically a paradise. (The Golden Age Is In Us, Verso, 1995, pages 149-51)

A paradise? Is he serious? Or the second quote:

Also relevant is the history of collectivization in China, which, as compared with the Soviet Union, shows a much higher reliance on persuasion and mutual aid than on force and terror, and appears to have been more successful. (American Power and the New Mandarins, The New Press, 2002, page 137)

It is widely held that the greatest atrocities in human history occur at the hands of a nation's own—generally autocratic—government. Mao's The Great Leap Forward killed 20 to 30 million Chinese. Yup, devoid of force and terror, rife with success.