Monday, October 11, 2010

Cloud Computing: Is there a threat?

During the LinuxFestJo event last Saturday, I had a chat with Noha Salem, an Egyptian Googler, about Google's upcoming agenda and future plans for the IT industry. Everything she said was pretty interesting, until she reached the issue of cloud computing. She argued that cloud computing  is certainly the trend of the future, which is somewhat true. However, what raised my suspicions was when she claimed that the cloud is going to totally, but slowly, replace the desktop, to the extent that desktop applications will slowly become obsolete and unsupported over time. This this is where I'd like to declare my stance against Google, and/or any other company, firm or organization which adopts such views for the future of computing.

Perhaps the most sensitive aspect in the issue of cloud computing is the issue of privacy and personal security. Personally, I have no idea how storing all my personal data and personal files (images, documents, audio and video stuff) on some server located somewhere on another continent can be even remotely as private, safe and secure as storing them on my personal machine and then sharing them with the world as I wish. The irony is that when I tried to tell Noha that there will be many people who will refuse to place all the personal stuff on the cloud, her only response was something like: "Oh, of course there will be a great consideration for personal preference!". But then, how is there going to be any kind "relevant" personal preference when the ability to store files and data on a completely isolated machine will not be available anymore? In my opinion (please correct me if I'm wrong), cloud-hosting service providers can brag all they want about the levels of privacy and security they provide, but the fact remains that the cloud will never be even half as trustworthy, when it comes privacy and security, as the desktop.

Another critical issue about cloud computing has to do with the fact that internet speeds vary from one country/region to another. Here in Jordan, for example, internet speeds could barely exceed 10mbps (which, by the way, is not even remotely affordable by middle class citizens). However, in other regions in the Arab world on the other hand, such as the UAE, internet speeds reach as high as 30mbps, especially with the new eLife service provided by Etisalat. Moreover, what about those who can't afford an internet connection altogether? You're not trying to convince me that we'll have completely defeated the entire world's poverty by the time the cloud computing trend takes the lead, are you?

Conclusion, it's not that I'm totally against cloud computing. Of course not. I actually think it's a great technology; but I am, however, against the idea of total migration to it, to the extent of totally flushing the desktop down the toilet. I believe that balance is always the best thing to do.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The real, and unusual, story between Microsoft and Piracy

"It's easier for our software to compete with Linux when there's piracy than when there's not."

As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They'll get sort of addicted, and then we'll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade."    
                                                     ~Bill Gates

In a recent post at Pcmag titled "CSI Redmond: How Microsoft Tracks Down Pirates", the author tells a long, suspenseful and obviously MS-sympathetic tale about Microsoft's epic battles against "criminals and pirates". He starts his epic story with the following:

Each new iteration of Microsoft software also marks a new chapter in the ongoing cat-and-mouse game between software counterfeiters and Microsoft's own enforcement team.

Like paper currency, Microsoft employs a variety of techniques to assure customers that the software discs they're buying are valid. And rings of cybercriminals, in turn, make every attempt to defeat those safeguards. 

And then he went on to describe the different methods used by "pirates" to counterfeit Microsoft's software, as well as posting images showing the different tools used in the process. Next, he proceeds to tell the epic tales about Microsoft's heroic combat against counterfeiters, and also enumerating the different methods MS uses in that process.

However, the real story about Microsoft's strategy regarding piracy and counterfeiting could never be further from the stories told by the most famous news websites, or even newspapers and news channels or radio stations.
The real story, as Bill Gate's quote -mentioned above- suggests, is about creating a generation of computer users who know nothing about their machines other than what MS chooses to show them. A generation whom the only definition they know of the term "Operating System" is "Windows", all they know about installing a new piece of software is "Next, Next, Next, I Agree, Finish".

But then the grief doesn't end here, because the problem will seem even worse if you ponder the fact that most people, around the world, who use computers can barely afford to pay their monthly bills, and that all these people are using pirated software because:

  • A) That's the only software they've ever known. 
  • B) They cannot afford to pay for the annual licensing fee of a genuine copy.

These people have been mass-hypnotized, they've been indoctrinated into believing that whatever MS gives them is right, and that MS software is the only software on Earth that actually works. Now, take under consideration that MS is a for-profit organization after all (Actually, MS is a for-nothing-but-profit organization, but ya know), and that sooner or later, MS will start collecting money in all ways possible. At that point, the poor people who became "addicted" to Microsoft's software are at crossroads.

  •  A) Their financial issues have been solved by then and now they are ready to pay MS for the genuine licensed copy of their software. (Which is very unlikely).


  •  B) That their financial problems are still there, which means, they can either continue to take the risks of using pirated copies of MS's software, or stop using a computer altogether.

What most mass media institutions and huge famous news website are trying to market as Microsoft's justified fight against pirated software is a big hoax. Microsoft preys upon addiction and complete ignorance, and piracy has always been Microsoft's biggest scam from the very beginning.

The solution:
The best solution for this problem is to turn the table against Microsoft's scam. How? By dumping Microsoft altogether and embracing Free Software. This way:

  • A) There will be no piracy anymore, since Free Software saves our human dignity, because we no longer have to steal anything anymore. 

  • B) Microsoft will continue to bleed to death, not from piracy, but from the grand awakening of  the people, which is Microsoft's worst nightmare.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Songbird gets forked after stopping Linux support.

Recently, a number of blogs have covered the bad news about Songbird development team halting Linux support for the Songbird music player [1, 2, 3, 4].

However, the good news is that the Songbird project has been forked already, and the upcoming forked project is called "Nightingale", and it can be found here. And according to this source, the source code for the new project will be available on Bazaar (bzr) soon.

This news is great since the Songbird media player seemed very promising, and dropping Linux support for it was a very stupid decision.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Live@edu, an educational service? Or a digitized lottery ticket system?

Earlier this morning, I received this really weird message on my cell phone from my university, and it goes like this:

Message: Win a 100 JD prepaid Visa Card!
Send an email from your Live@edu account to       telling us
about your favorite Live@edu service!

And it made me wonder, what the heck is this whole Live@edu scam all about?
As far as I know, and as the name states, it's merely an educational service made precisely to indoctrinate the youth into becoming Microsoft sheep. But now after I received this message, I'm not sure anymore.

Can anybody please enlighten me?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Free Software is not about deception, Free Software is about caring for others

   A couple moments ago, I was just tinkering around with Pidgin, the famous free open source IM client. And for the first time ever, I finally stumbled upon an excellent feature that's been staring back at me for quite some time now, but for some reason, I've never cared to know what it is until now. The feature is called "OTR" which stands for "Off The Record messaging".

   And from this link we find that OTR is a feature that provides a way of assuring the privacy of the messages exchanged between a group of people chatting over the internet without taking the risk that some certain private and sensitive parts of their conversation might be exposed to other impostors or parasitic human entities. And it works by using a specific encryption scheme that guarantees the safety of the messages from the reach of outsiders.

   And now this makes me wonder, what if Pidgin was proprietary software? Would its makers still give a damn about whether the users are guaranteed their full privacy and security while using it? Or will it be just another piece of software that's full of deceptive eye-candy from the outside, while the inside (i.e. the under-the-hood stuff) can be as far from security and privacy as east is from the west? The difference between proprietary and free open source software is in the fact that in FOSS, the source code is open and visible to everyone, meaning that if there's anything wrong with the source code, it can be easily detected and fixed. On the other hand, proprietary software keeps the source code visible only to its owners, which means that the owners/developers of a proprietary software can write all the code they want (be it good for the user or not) and nobody will ever know for sure what they wrote because their code is only visible to them, which simply means that they can be spying at every single action done on their software while the user is unaware of anything because A) He can't see the source code. And B) Because he's busy enjoying the deceptive eye-candy of the software (e.g. Nice interface, exciting features, etc.). And a widely known example of that kind of disrespect for the user's privacy is the DRM feature hidden in a wide range of famous proprietary technologies such as Apple's iPod or Amazon's Kindle.

   Now, if we ponder this issue a little bit, and ask ourselves this question: Why do we find most FOSS projects much more respectful to the user's rights of privacy and security than their proprietary counterparts? We can even find a number of FOSS projects that not only respect the user's privacy, but are actually dedicated to providing the user with a safe, secure, private and anonymous networking environment. Such projects include the Tor project, and the famous web site In fact, during a conference about web anonymity in Jordan last year, Jacob Appelbaum from the Tor project clearly stated: “If protecting people's rights of privacy and anonymity would get me jailed, then I'm fine with it.” *

But now on the other hand, another question comes in:

Are Microsoft's Most Valuable [Hypocrites] ready to sacrifice everything if it was the only way to protect the Windows users' rights of privacy and anonymity as well? Are they willing to say the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth about the nefarious doings of the company they're advocating, regardless of the consequences?

For example, what is it that makes this gentle man at PCWorld lie deliberately and blatantly, claiming that “Microsoft takes the security issue more seriously than Apple does”?

From the way I see it, Microsoft's advocates are just too drunk to think honestly about their actions, for all these people have in mind is money, as it is the main and only thing that drives them.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The anatomy of a Microsoft Most Valuable [Hypocrite]

  Earlier today, a known Microsoft Most Valuable Hypocrite posted a tweet in which he said:

It is all fun and games, until IBM sues your open source project for patent infringement:
   And when I tried to remind him that the company he worships (Microsoft) is the most notorious company when it comes patents, I said:

Hey! You are the last man on earth that can talk about "Patent infingement"! @migueldeicaza

  And instead of responding politely and rationally, he (as usually known among most Microsoft's Most Valuable Goons/Hypocrites) preferred to resort to street language, which explains a lot about Microsoft's totally unethical attitudes not only towards FOSS, but towards anything and anyone who dares to stand in its way. And his response was

@Omar_S_Hafez Oh yeah, how so? Have I ever threatened anyone with patent infringement? Or you are talking out of your ass?

  So, basically, and based on my previous experience, being a Microsoft employee, goon, kool-aide junkie, hypocrite, troll, etc. is  all about the following:

  1. Being an excellent liar, fraud, con artist.. etc.
  2. Being a professional yapper. You have to keep on yapping, and yapping, and yapping and never stop yapping, even if you've no single idea what you're saying.
  3.  Being an extreme ultimate ignorant. Chanting "Sharepoint! Sharepoint! Sharepoint!" or "BING! BING! BING!..." without even knowing what any of these are is a vital attitude of a typical Microsoft goon/hypocrite.
  4.  At some point, where you find yourself trapped and your mind is out of ideas, resort to trash talking, bullying, astroturfing, or even changing the subject entirely. This helps a lot at distracting the audience from realizing how much of a loser you are, and might also give a [false] impression, that you know what you are saying.
  5. At some certain cases, when a FOSS blogger starts to sound more annoying, things tend to get a bit technical. So, instead of just trash-talking and spreading FUD, you might also have to declare a DDOS attack on their website to bring it down. This way, readers will start to feel sick of the website's frequent downtimes and sluggishness and decide to leave it for good.
  6. When you are criticizing GNU/Linux, never talk about anything new. All you have to do is keep reviving the old issues like "Linux is not easy for non-geeks", "Linux is only virus free because it has a molecular user base", "Linux can't play games", "Linux doesn't support hardware drivers".. etc. etc. And people will directly assume that you've spent dozens of hours examining the Linux system from inside out.
  7. Arrogance plays a major role in the personality of a typical MS Most Valuable Hypocrite. Keep looking down at people who disagree with what you say.

  And this list goes on and on and on... but these are the ones I could come up with at the moment.

  And in the end, my advice to Meguel de Icaza is this:
I think you really should stop what you're doing and go take a couple lessons on how to talk politely with other people. And the most important thing is: NEVER take these lessons in Redmond!