Standard answers for friends and family: management consultancy

“You’re evil: you cut 5,000 jobs at the last company you advised.”

I was part of a team that made a recommendation. If the business was  doing well, why call on us to improve it? If it was doing badly, it  will be gone sooner or later anyway. If that happens, you’ll lose  more than 5,000 jobs.

“You just tell people what they know already.”

If they knew it already, why didn’t they act on it?

“…and all that happens at the end is that the executives award  themselves big bonuses.”

That was not part of the recommendation we made.

CEOs this week: who can lie the best?

This week saw a cornucopia of disinformation from the big software companies. We started out with Steve Ballmer of Microsoft claiming that Linux violated 235 patents held by Microsoft. People soon pointed out that the same argument had been used in 2004, and that the original author of the study originating the claim had concluded that it did not pose any great threat of litigation. Finally, one commenter surmised that the reason Microsoft had revived the abandoned initiative now was because it wished to disrupt the Red Hat Summit and the Open Source Business Conference, and force Red Hat to sign an agreement similar to Novell’s. However, it all came to nothing when Eben Moglen pointed out that the GPLv3 contained terms (“the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it”) that could be used to indemnify all Linux users when the GPLv3 comes into force. Since the vouchers that Novell is now handing out to its Linux customers, intended to indemnify them against patent litigation and covered by an appropriate agreement with Microsoft, have no expiration date, Linux is likely to soon be free of all patent violation problems. The vouchers can be handed in after GPLv3 is used across large parts of Novell’s Linux distro, and so can entirely absolve Linux of any existing violations of patents – although new code could bring new vulnerability! Nonetheless I heartily congratulate the people who are queueing up to get that little bit of fame, and be the first to get sued by Microsoft. Thanks for bringing the humour back, guys!

Soon after the news broke of Microsoft’s patent litigation threat, Jonathan Schwartz of Sun wrote a blog entry that outlined his company’s strategy, including a bit of history about how one company had approached them to see if they were interested in suing their users for patent violations. Some thought the unnamed company was likely to have been Microsoft. However, in the same blog entry, Schwartz also claimed Sun had written more than 25% of code in a typical Linux distribution – a false claim, as is clear from his source (see Figure 28 on page 50).

So here we go, another week of CEOs lying through their teeth, and the consumers keeping their head above the FUD. Is Steve Jobs really the only genuine guy out there?

Citizendium’s reply to Charles Darwin

My dear Darwin,

Having considered your application for becoming a Citizendium editor, we regret to inform you that we must reject your request, since you did not send it through a non-free email address that bears your name or a portion thereof. We understand that for a gentleman of your social standing, it would be unseemly to accept a paid position that would furnish you with such credentials, but I am afraid to tell you that we must insist on proper procedures.

Yours sincerely,

A Founder of Wikipedia

DRM-free: Why now?

Nobody could have missed the news that yesterday, the rules of the digital age were beginning to change for the better. EMI and Apple announced that a new option would be introduced to the Apple Music Store, of allowing the purchase of higher-quality, AAC encoded songs without copy protection. Norway has, of course, been rightfully praised for making a stand in the matter of digital lock-in that caused Jobs to write an open letter to the music industry and the world at large. One may suspect that the .30 USD surcharge is incurred by suspicions that some people will share files with their friends and family. The “analogue gap” seems to no longer be a concern, perhaps never was. But the music industry has been working hard for several years to make the traditional file-sharing networks unusable bittorrent arrived with great promise, but has become respectable with and Zudeo having developed distribution models for copyrighted content. I would therefore argue that a DRM-free deal at this time is as much favoured by the successes of counter-copyvio activities funded by the music industry as it is by Norway’s pressure or Jobs’ taking a stand. As a final comment, I fail to see how Microsoft is a loser in this deal any more than they have been ever since failing to establish compatibility between their own frameworks and with third party devices. It has been said that AAC is an industry standard, which I presume means it can be used without royalty payments to Apple. So Microsoft could be flexible for once and adopt AAC. Like that time they built Vista on top of a Linux or BSD kernel. What do you mean, that never happened? 😉

Stippled lines in PowerPoint 2007

After posting about PowerPoint’s difficulties with circles and straight lines, I’ve now found it also has a problem with patterns and zoom. See the first image, where the stippling of the two lines is exactly parallel, viewed at 400% zoom. Also note that the arrow is pointing from one “stipple” to another, which is more aesthetically pleasing than having the arrow stuck between stipples, or half on one stipple.


Then see the next figure, where the same scene is viewed at 200% magnification:


Now, the base of the arrow is only half on one stipple. Not what I was seeing before. Why would I bother to look at a higher magnification if what I’m seeing at that magnification is not representative of the final image? Absolute shambles.

Dell vs. HP – who “gets” consumer Linux first?

As I’ve outlined in recent posts, there is a race between HP and Dell for being first to market with a consumer Linux computer that receives the consumers’ blessing. I have a hunch that Dell will win this one, because they are completely focused on doing whatever pleases the consumers most at this point. Dell will find out that Ubuntu is the currently popular kid among Linux distributions, and they will collaborate with Ubuntu and Canonical to bring consumers the distribution they love on a computer that works. HP, on the other hand, may rely on its in-house Linux expertise. They may therefore be more accepting of the idea initially, but may realise too late that their in-house expertise is for the server market, and is not the kind of expertise they need in order to produce a compelling consumer laptop or desktop. Take my comments with a pinch of salt because it’s early days and HP’s cards aren’t really on the table yet. They may end up doing the right thing, and their existing ties with the development community (the kernel, particularly) may serve them well in preparing better software support for their chosen hardware components.