.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


November 28, 2006

Interesting Thoughts - and Dawkins

Exciting article here:

RICHARD DAWKINS IS RIGHT. His deicidal bestseller The God Delusion attacks the absurdities and cruelties, the contradictions and superstitions, the rip offs and fantasies of religion across the world and throughout history. I couldn't agree more. It's enough to make you wish Abraham hadn't been in when God called round.

The problem is, like other fundamentalists, Dawkins won't stop talking when he's finished talking sense. Rather than surveying the countless varieties of religion, weighing up their mixed record, and arguing that on balance we'd be better off without it, he is only willing to see the dark side, and writes off the whole thing, dismissing evidence that makes a monochrome worldview uncomfortable.

He sees the moral failures, but not the moral breakthroughs. He lists the atrocities and ignores the triumphs. He cuts through the supposed proofs of God's existence like a particularly moist sponge cake, but shows no conception at all of why people actually believe – other than that they're a bunch of morons who don't know any better.

There's a lot of sense there, but I especially like the line "like other fundamentalists." I still think that atheism is as much a faith-based position as theism. After all, you can't prove that my God doesn't exist. So atheists just have to believe it - they have to have faith. Just like mine.

November 23, 2006

Panda Porn?

A friend once said to me (we may have been drunk at the time), that he didn't think he'd have figured out how to have sex if he hadn't seen it somewhere else first. He didn't elaborate on where this "somewhere else" was, which may have been for the best.

Interestingly, though, it appears that Pandas have much the same problem:

After years of painstaking research, scientists say they have unleashed a baby boom among one of the world’s most beloved but endangered animals, China’s giant panda.
A bit of panda porn has helped too, they say.
“It works,” enthuses Zhang Zhihe, a leading Chinese expert, about showing uninitiated males DVDs of fellow pandas mating.

November 22, 2006

Reasons to like Windows Vista (58)

I'm currently preparing a presentation to discuss progress made so far in my 4th Year Engineering project. The project is to try and build a music transcription system. In essence, you pump a sound file into a computer, turn the handle, and the score comes out the other end. These sorts of systems have many potential uses.

Great jazz (if there is such a thing) often includes lots of improvisation and original work. How is the ordinary man in the street supposed to be able to produce similar sounds without spending years learning the art of improvisation? How much simpler it would be if a recording could be transcribed quickly and easily and the results published for anyone to play?

Sound files are massive, using lots of disk space. It would be far simpler to store a transcribed score of a recording. This could be played back using a digital synthesiser. Inevitably there would be a quality loss, but this could be made up by storing additional data such as vibrato and dynamics.

Finally imagine the potential for searching on the internet. Imagine if you could whistle a melody into a microphone and Google could find a recording of the piece it came from. This will only become possible when it is simple to transcribe recordings.

In order to illustrate this final point I produced the following picture:

The fact remains that Internet Explorer 7 running in Vista looks very, very cool.

Recording Yourself

Some time ago on a ringing email list there was a discussion about recordings. People generally found that when they listened to a recording of themselves, it sounded far better than they anticipated. The converse was also true - that when actually ringing people tended to be far more critical of themselves than when listening.

Interestingly I spotted this effect the other day recording some music. For Remembrance Sunday my voluntary before the service (Praeludium in g - Buxtehude) had to be quite tightly controlled timewise in order that I stopped in time for the 2 minutes' silence. I achieved this by recording my voluntary and writing time checkpoints into the score at various bars. I had a giant clock to compare the time with, and hoped that I'd be able to tell whether I was too slow or fast, giving me room to adjust and finish at the right time. Unfortunately this didn't quite work - the brass band refused to shut up and so I started a minute late, and the choir came in a few seconds early.

While listening to the recording I was slightly surprised at how good it sounded. At the first pedal entry in the Fugue I fluffed a little and made a few mistakes. While I was playing this I was really quite cross - what was played bore little resemblance to what was printed on the page and also sounded quite bad. In the recording, however, it wasn't particularly noticeable. It occurred to me that I was far better at recognising mistakes when playing than when listening. Part of this must be the fact that I had the score in front of me and knew when I was making the mistakes!

On Tuesday night I was grateful to be invited to join the Society of Cambridge Youths in a 12-bell practice at Towcester. [This link taken from Michael Wilby's excellent Rings of Twelve website which unfortunately uses frames and makes linking difficult.] I was quite disappointed by my ringing during the practice, making lots of striking errors and managing to go wrong during a simple touch (worrying about the striking you see). A recording of the practice has been made available online (I'll link to this if I get permission) and so I've been listening to this. A quick listening earlier this morning seemed to indicate the same effect - the ringing sounded far better than I remembered it. Without following too carefully it all sounded quite good.

This afternoon I listened again, this time following my bell through. Interestingly I noticed lots more mistakes this time - I was listening far more critically. Having the line in front of me meant that I knew what should be happening. If it didn't happen then it was immediately obvious. In the same way if I listen to the recording of the Buxtehude with the score in front of me then the mistakes leap out again.

I think there's two important factors working together here:

  • When listening critically it really helps to know exactly what's going on. Without a copy of the score or line in front of you it's harder to pick out mistakes. In music somebody could make a mistake changing one chord in a piece - you might not notice unless you had a copy on paper or in your head already. Listening to ringing it's difficult to listen very carefully to the striking of one particular bell unless you can follow it through the changes.
  • While performing one tends to listen far more carefully than when listening. There's a lot more concentration goes into a performance.

When I first started to learn the organ my teacher suggested that I should record some of my playing and then listen to it. He said I'd be amazed at how clear some of the mistakes were. Unfortunately I never did, but I'm fairly sure I would have noticed more mistakes. This is the opposite situation to the one I'm in now. I still feel one of my biggest steps forward as a musician was when I started to listen to what I was playing. It sounds like an obvious and simple skill, but it really isn't. This is especially true for the organ - while playing a particularly complicated passage it's difficult to find the brainpower to listen as well! After I started listening to what I was playing I found that I started to notice the mistakes - and began to correct them myself rather than waiting for my teacher to tell me.

I wonder if learner ringers see the same effect. I'm sure that most ringers could pick out which changes in a recording were struck poorly, but then they grab a rope and don't notice when they crunch and clip others. In the same way they must learn to listen to the sound they're making.

Comments always welcome - please add your thoughts.

November 21, 2006

A little Google Bombing

With thanks to this site. martinlutherkingdotorg is a racist site moaning about MLK. Perhaps you'll join me in posting these links to help knock the site off the top of the search engines.

Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King

November 20, 2006

Back to the Beeb

This article's quite good. It even has some numbers to back up my bland assertions.

What do the terms ‘left wing’ and ‘right wing’ mean? Well, if you are the BBC, ‘left wing’ is a term used mainly in sport. Insofar as it is used in politics, it is used to describe the mainstream. ‘Right wing’, by contrast, is a term used to describe political fringe groups: racist, violent, and illegal groups.


The phrase ‘right wing’ is often accompanied by words such as ‘extremist’ or qualifiers such as ‘far right’. For example, the search ‘far right’ produces 142 pages while ‘far left’ only 54. ‘Right wing’ and ‘extreme’ generates 29 pages while ‘left wing’ and ‘extreme’ just 18. This is because the BBC links the term ‘right wing’ with the BNP and National Front, while the search for ‘left wing’ does not produce any early matches linking to stories about the Socialist Workers’ Party, Revolutionary Communist Party, or even Respect, a party which won a seat at the last general election, and which is dominated by the SWP.

November 16, 2006

Entering dangerous territory

Today's discussion point is rape. I have to be careful here, because one wrong word or bungled phrase could land me in serious trouble with all sorts of angry women. God forbid I should end a sentence with a preposition.

This article from the Beeb got me thinking, or (more specifically) this quote did:

The government said: "Rape is never the victim's fault."

OK. Fair enough. But let's try and remember that shades of grey exist in every scenario. It's very difficult to have a sensible debate about these sorts of issues without women's groups jumping all over. The BBC links to Women Against Rape, who I'm sure are very nice. They do rather dent their credibility in my eyes with their webpage however, which contains such gems as:

One in six women has been raped.

I really can't believe that to be true. Still, I'm male, so what would I know?

I'd like to suggest, just quietly, that sometimes rape may be the victim's fault. Let's go back to the BBC page:

The study - thought to be the first of its size into drug rape - involved the Metropolitan, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Northumbria and Lancashire police forces as well as the Walsall area of the West Midlands Police.

The findings also revealed 119 of the 120 alleged victims admitted they had been drinking alcohol and forensic tests discovered evidence of alcohol in 52% of cases.

"In most cases, the alleged victims had consumed alcohol voluntarily and, in some cases, to dangerous levels," an Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) spokesman said.

And Det Ch Supt Dave Gee, co-author of the report, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that 48% of victims said they had taken a combination of recreational drugs and prescribed medication, in addition to alcohol.

When I go out for a night's drinking, I am very much aware that drinking to excess causes all sorts of carnage. I've had my share of drink-related injuries. I've gazed in confusion at peculiar cuts and grazes discovered the next morning. Nowadays I try to make sure that I retain some level of coherence - it's useful for health and sanity. It's quite clear, however, that many people, including women, just don't.

It's not difficult to imagine a group of friends going out for a night out, and consuming enough quantities of enough things that they really don't know what they're doing, what they have done, or what they are about to do. It's not difficult to imagine that some of the male members of the group might take an interest in some of the scantily-clad female members. It's not difficult to imagine that all sorts of things might ensue.

The question is almost one of consent. The woman protests that she said "no." The man protests that she didn't. Neither of them can really remember. One has to remember what has led them to be in that situation. Most blokes would probably suggest that once they were undressed with a girl then she'd pretty much given consent. She's spent the night leading him on while dressed in a revealing top. Most women would probably still like to reserve the final decision for themselves until the final moment.

If this is too late - if the bloke is psychologically fixed onto one course of action - it's hard to imagine he'll be easy to stop. But is this entirely his fault? I'd suggest that it isn't quite as simple as the first quote:

Rape is never the victim's fault.

Maybe legally rape isn't the victim's fault - but often she's got herself in that situation. Perhaps a few less shots of Vodka would have saved all sorts of problems.

In a way, this ties in with my discussion last week of fundamentalism within Christianity. I think women's organisations do themselves more harm than good when they make statements like the one above. There are shades of grey in everything, and black and white statements which refuse to admit compromise undermine everything they stand for.

November 10, 2006

ID cards

A new twist on the matter...

I have an enormous amount of faith in the cackhanded, blundering incompetence of the British state, and in the gormless, pen-chewing, internet-surfing idleness of its employees - some of whom may well be reading this right now when they should be getting on with being shadowy and malevolent; get back to work, if you are. I'm not particularly worried about the 4 million CCTV cameras in Britain either; that's 96 million hours of footage a day to sift through, and I pity rather than fear anyone unlucky enough to be lumbered with the job of watching it.


I'm not unduly worried about the inexorable slide of Blair's Britain into a cryptofascist Orwellian surveillance state, if only because that state would have to be administered by British public sector employees, and they'd be playing Solitaire or sending personal emails, waiting for 5 o'clock so they can naff off home.

Thought for the day

I've just thought of something, and unfortunately you're all going to have to hear it as well.

The average 17-year-old is actually 17-and-a-half.

There you are, don't say I never give you anything interesting.

November 09, 2006

Link Hoarding (2)

Ed Bott has been discussing the trends on his site for browser usage.

The last time I published these stats was on April 30, 2006. The share of visitors using Firefox or Mozilla has dipped roughly 1% since then, from 35.2% down to 34.18%. It’s still a bit higher than the August 2005 share of 33.2%, however.

Meanwhile, IE’s share crept back up by 1.5%, from almost exactly 60% to 61.47%. Not surprisingly, the percentage of people visiting this site using IE7 has more than doubled, from 6.53% last April to 14.52% today.

Five months ago, I drew this tentative conclusion and made a prediction:

"The easy gains for Firefox are over. I’ll be very surprised if Firefox is able to make any significant gains in share when I look at this snapshot six months from now. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that IE will gain back some ground during that time with the help of IE7."

I jumped the gun by a month, but the prediction appears accurate. And although Firefox 2 looks like a perfectly solid upgrade, it doesn’t offer anything that’s likely to convince IE holdouts to switch now.

Link Hoarding

For a while now I've been collecting links on Bloglines which I keep meaning to talk about. Unfortunately they're all out of date now, but you can still hear about them anyway. Here's an exciting one about the world of driving:

(From the Pedant-General about this document)

It is not speed that kills, it is inappropriate speed. Even then, speed is not even a contributory factor in three quarters of fatal accidents.


Cameras will do nothing to improve driver behaviour to reduce the massive 64% caused "driver error or reaction".

Cameras will not reduce the 19% of fatal accidents where "Driver distraction" was a contributory factor. Indeed 1% of that is due to "Distraction outside vehicle". Hmmmm.....

Cameras will do nothing to correct driver "behaviour or inexperience" (29%) either.

In short, plastering the entire country in speed cameras will do precisely nothing to prevent 88% of accidents that result in a fatality.

Most of us interested in driving were fairly sure of this anyway; it's nice to have the statistics to back it up.

CICCU on Sex - This should be fun

The Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union are an irritating thorn in the side of moderate Christians throughout Cambridge. And I don't think I'm being harsh, either. This week's TCS contains an enormous feature on what CICCU think about sex. Sex outside marriage, contraception, and homosexuality feature strongly. It's a hoot.

Ideally I'd give you a link to the article. TCS, unfortunately, haven't bothered to update their website since February 2005. So instead I'm going to have to type some bits.

So - Sex outside of marriage?

The heart of the issue is what the God who made the universe wants and what his stance is. As Christians we believe that God has spoken to us through the Bible and that in the Bible he has revealed what is best for us. He clearly tells any form of sexual relationship outside heterosexual marriage is wrong. It is not wrong because it breaks a religious rule. Rather, it is wrong because it is rejecting our Creator and saying that we know best. The Bible has a high view of sex but says it is something precious and to be enjoyed within marriage.


The official Roman Catholic view- that using contraception is sinful - is unjustified biblically. Contraception is probably a neutral thing but in so far as it encourages extra-marital sex it is unhelpful. There may be perfectly legitimate reasons why a married couple may want to use contraception although it should also be noted that the Bible often links sex with having children - although not exclusively. It is a question of balance. Other tricky issues arise where the contraception is abortive and is therfore murder.

What about gay marriage?

The Bible teaches that marriage is only between a man and a woman and that marriage is the only context for sexual relationships. For someone of homosexual orientation, total abstinence would therefore be required. Further, the Bible is clear that any form of homosexual relationship is sinful - again because it is saying we know better than our Creator. We shouldn't single out practising homosexual sex as worse than any other sin. The Bible is clear that even lusting after another person is a sexual sin. God dislikes all sin equally because he is perfect. To anyone who says homosexuality is OK nowadays, God retorts in the Bible, "I the Lord do not change," and, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." God's moral standards do not change.

Now, I personally find lots of this rather silly.

The first and most blatant point I would like to take issue with is the simple one-dimensional viewpoint which the CICCU representative seems to have of God. "It is wrong because it is rejecting our Creator and saying that we know best." Everything's very simple, isn't it? Unfortunately this view of God requires a full-frontal lobotomy to take on board. Furthermore, I'm happy to believe God may know best - but I'd like to know how we're going to derive that from the Bible. The Bible in itself is an enormous tome written across a span of centuries by different people for different reasons. Many of the translations available to us have political motivations underlying their every word. I wonder how the Bible can be clear on anything.

The OED gives a definition of concubine:

A woman who cohabits with a man without being his wife; a kept mistress.

The Bible mentions the word concubine 36 times (according to Bible Gateway), admittedly only in the Old Testament. It does seem as if the practice of keeping mistresses was very common among early Hebrews. Not quite "The Bible has a high view of sex but says it is something precious and to be enjoyed within marriage."

They're right about the "high view of sex" part, however. Consider these verses from the Song of Solomon:

16. My lover is mine and I am his;
he browses among the lilies.

17. Until the day breaks
and the shadows flee,
turn, my lover,
and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
on the rugged hills.

All this seems to stand in contrast to the hard line of our correspondent.

She knows better than the founders of the Catholic Church as well. "The official Roman Catholic view- that using contraception is sinful - is unjustified biblically." Thanks, that's nice to know. My first problem is here again - glib statements convince nobody. Luckily I've not had my lobotomy yet and like to think I am capable of argument and higher thought. I'm not going to stand and take these sort of points without some sort of evidence.

The official Roman Catholic view probably stems from this passage in Genesis 38:

8. Then Judah said to Onan, "Lie with your brother's wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to produce offspring for your brother." 9. But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he lay with his brother's wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother. 10. What he did was wicked in the LORD's sight; so he put him to death also.

The difficulty comes when we try to decide which meaning is more appropriate. We can view this passage in two contradictory ways:

  1. Onan spilled his seed on the ground and was put to death. This was because he wasted his sperm. Therefore wasting sperm is a sin and contraception is, by extension, wrong.
  2. Onan spilled his seed on the ground and was put to death. This was because he failed to fulfill his duty to his brother's wife and produce offspring for his brother. This was the sin for which he was killed.

Arguments about this passage will rage on. Personally I choose to ignore the issue - there's no point worrying about doing the right thing when I don't know what the right thing is. Unfortunately CICCU have produced their own interpretation and will stuff it down the throat of anyone who'll listen.

My second big point concerns the changeability of God. Admittedly this quote exists in the Bible (Leviticus 20):

13. If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

In fairness, however, this occurs in a long list of things one must and mustn't do. Leviticus 11 has a complicated set of instructions about what sorts of meat are clean - still kept to by Jews eating Kosher food. It's commonly accepted that this part of God's commandments was to do with keeping the populace healthy - don't eat pigs 'cause they're full of disease. If we aren't going to complain about Kosher food anymore then why should we worry about other things in the list. Surely God knows best about what we should eat, and we shouldn't defy Him?

Moving on, we come to the New Testament. The OT tells a story of a wrathful God who weighs in on the side of the Israelites, helping them slay their enemies in horrific ways. Jesus came to change all this. Originally we were sacrificed for our sins. But now God himself takes our sin upon Himself and becomes a sacrifice for us. Yet apparently "God does not change." The Bible is sufficient evidence that God's outlook on and involvement with humanity quite clearly has changed.

Mark 12

28. One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29. "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31. The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."


Matthew 7

1. "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3. "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4. How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Whether you think homosexuality is bad or not, you have no right to judge those who practice it. Love your neighbour as yourself - whatever you may think of them. Love appears sadly lacking in the quoted article. Later on it states that people deserve to go to hell for breaking God's commandments. Gee, thanks.

The problems I have with this interview are manifold, but the two main ones are thus:

  1. If you've been asked to give an interview to a Cambridge University student newspaper about your views, as a Christian, about sex, then there's a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. Making bland statements without any argument only reveals your lack of thought and understanding. Blind faith convinces nobody; what is faith without understanding? CICCU's mentality denies this, leaving no room for interpretation.
  2. Judging others is wrong. God dislikes sin, but came to earth as man to save us from it. Sin isn't an automatic ticket to hell, although it may be an invitation to be laughed at by some shallow-minded fools.

The sort of mental process required to swallow this swill is unacceptable to anyone at Cambridge - where I like to think we are trained to think critically. This form of evangelism is fundamentally wrong, and does ordinary Christians a fundamental dis-service. Articles like this make me embarassed to profess my faith in case I am associated with those discussed above.

I'll leave you with a quote on a more general form of evangelism from our College Chaplain:

There are CofE Churches I know of that make upfront evangelism their speciality, going overboard with door-knocking, street preaching and the Alpha method, but in doing so have lost all sense of what it means to be Anglican in their spirituality.   "Evangelism" in that kind of pushy, recruiting way is really quite out of step with Anglican spirituality. You can have one or the other, but not both. I'm not saying it's wrong to recruit; just that the style of recruiting will affect completely what you are recruiting people to. It's still possible, I think, to have the doors of the Church wide open (metaphorically) without adopting a sales-and-marketing style evangelism.

Democrats take America?

Recent news tells us of how the balance of power has shifted in Washington with recent voting. The House of Representatives now has a Democrat majority, and the Senate has swung in their direction too UPDATE: There is now a Democrat majority in the Senate. Donald Rumsfeld has stepped down as Secretary of Defence.

What I found amusing, however, was last night's 10 o'clock news on BBC1. The news team were thrilled.

Unfortunately I can't access the programme online anymore, but some of the quotes I seem to remember:

This is an unpopular president and an unpopular war.

Oh, OK. Perhaps it would help if you had a source for that.

Now there's a new Secretary of Defence, he'll surely accelerate the plans to get the troops out of Iraq.

Will he? Unfortunately this is only a statement of the hopes of the reporter. Almost certainly the new chap will do no such thing. The link above contains the following line from another news source, referring to the intentions of the new majority in the House:

On Iraq, Democrats have said they would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces and would require Iraqis to take responsibility for their country. They have also promised to double the size of Special Forces in order to track down and destroy terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda.

So let me get this straight, the Republicans want to stay in Iraq... and so do the Democrats. Hmm, interesting. Rather unfortunately, it's the opposite of what the BBC want.

November 08, 2006

Stamp Rage

Sometimes I think the Royal Mail ought to give up producing any seasonal stamps. They never seem to manage it without getting in trouble.

Stamp rage strikes again

The Royal Mail has a policy of alternating between religious and non-religious designs for its festive stamps. This year is a non-religious year, but that hasn’t stopped the Daily Express screaming that “Christ is dumped from Christmas stamps”, and phoning round the usual suspects for outraged “political correctness gone mad” quotes.

So the pattern we have is: Royal Mail follows traditional policy, Daily Express doesn't realise, Daily Express writes emotive and sensational story. Here's the start of their article:

BUNGLING mail chiefs were yesterday accused of taking the Christ out of Christmas.

And then the end:

The stamp controversy is a result of the Royal Mail’s policy of alternating between religious and non-religious designs each Christmas. A spokesman said yesterday the festive stamp collections had always alternated.

"It is about celebrating all elements of Christmas," he said. "It is something that we have always done. I think people will see this year’s issue of stamps as a first class set of Christmas stamps."

So if they new this, why the enormous headline and angry opening? Personally I think the "journalist" is hoping that nobody will bother to read to the end of the column. And they say the media is impartial?

November 03, 2006

More on that press conference

Unfortunately, being behind on the modern-day business lingo (since when has "teaming" been a word?) I struggled slightly to keep up with the conference. It does seem to me, however, that Microsoft has teamed up with Novell to help with two areas:

  • virtualisation
  • interoperability

Both of these issues have been a problem and I think we should welcome any attempt to solve them ... cautiously.

Virtualisation is a process where you run a virtual machine on your computer. This virtual machine behaves like a blank setup and allows you to test other operating systems within it. Interestingly, Microsoft has been keen on this idea for quite a while, now releasing the 2007 Beta of Virtual PC for free, and guaranteeing that their Virtual PC software will remain free for evermore. An example of virtualisation in action - you could run Linux from inside a virtual machine on your Windows PC. This could be used as an XWindows client or SSH terminal to enable you to control another Linux machine.

Interoperability has been a major problem for a long time. Trying to use two different operating systems only works if you use open document formats which can be read easily on both systems. During the press conference, a Novell engineer announced that they would be building translators between OpenOffice and Microsoft Office. I think that this is a good thing.

However it's always worth remembering Microsoft's history - they don't like the Open Source movement. Here's an alternative spin on the situation:

The word on the street is that Novell had some deep patent dirt on Microsoft and went proudly to demand their bounty.


So how was it that at the end of the day they ended up affirming software patents (something Microsoft wants and Free software people hate), set a precedent that open source distributors owe Microsoft money, slandered GNU/Linux as derivative and encumbered, and much more?


It's a remarkable reversal of opportunity, all the more remarkable that the Novell participants smiled the whole way through what had clearly become a Microsoft event. They went in seeking a huge payout, and emerged with the payout, yes - but also with a commitment to pay it back in royalties on open source software they sell. This is not at all surprising; indeed, I've heard others say this is Microsoft's modus operandi, a ju-jitsu move that takes the weight of an attack and turns it back both on the attacker and the folks around them, usually without them even noticing (at least not to start with). I'd not want to say how closely I've observed it before...

Here's some more links for those interested:

November 02, 2006

Knock me down with a feather...

There's rumours on the Internet - and we all know what they mean...

Or do we? Have a look at Novell's share price. Then have a look at some of the links on the right. Especially this one:

Novell Shares Spike 20% As Wall St Journal Reports Microsoft To Start Reselling SUSE LINUX

In a move that caused Red Hat shares to tumble 3.2% and Novell's to surge by 20% in the same period of trading today, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Microsoft is going to start providing support for SUSE LINUX and that it is working too on Microsoft-Linux interoperability.

The news is due to be broken at a news conference today being given by Steve Ballmer, Chief Executive of Microsoft and Novell's CEO Ron Hovsepian.

You can see the conference here. It'll be on at 2:00pm Pacific Time, i.e. 10:00pm here in the UK.

November 01, 2006

A Debate - Should there be an inquiry into the Iraq War?

Here's the start of a BBC article about yesterday's House of Commons debate:

At-a-glance: Iraq inquiry debate

Here are the key points from the House of Commons debate on the call for an inquiry into the Iraq war.


Adam Price

  • The Plaid Cymru MP opened the debate by saying the Iraq war was a "monumental catastrophe", which was about "the breakdown in our very system of government".
  • OK that's interesting. So there's going to be an inquiry, then? Reading down the article it certainly seems that way. Watching the 10 O'Clock News, however, we discover that actually there isn't. The MPs voted against one. How they did after the statement above I shall never know. Perhaps there were some other statements which the BBC didn't report.

    Reactions in other sections of the liberal press have also been exciting. I bought the Independent this morning.

    They were so upset about the results of the debate that they buried the news down at the bottom of the second page, choosing instead to publish what they have published repeatedly ever since the war started - a glorified article full of hyperbole complaining about it.

    This reminded me about an entry on Black Triangle from September 4th:

    Like the Daily Express, The Independent cannot be considered a newspaper. In fact, today’s Independent cover has even less news on it that the Daily Express, concerning itself with The World’s Greatest Green Inventions, or their glossy poster of birds in the electronic version, and the rest is concerned with the Independent’s raison d’etre: to prove that US and UK policies post-September 11th are wrong.

    The examples used in the graphic on the front page are full of non-sequiturs and simplistic cause and effects - which is ironic given one of the charges made against Bush and Blair is that they hold a simplistic Manichaean view of the War on Terror. Nothing prior to 2001 is considered. All outcomes are seen as the result of US and UK policy. A terrorist lets of a suicide bomb outside a Shia temple? That’s Bush’s fault that is.

    Read the whole thing. I think it's a real shame that the Independent, once a respected newspaper, is gradually turning into a total shambles written by hacks who spend their entire time pushing political agendas. The only problem now is what to read instead...