Why is the United States (still) in Afghanistan?

August 14th, 2010

Seems this is one of the great mysteries of our time! As far as my little goosy brain can recall, the war in Afghanistan was originally in retaliation for the suicide bombings in New York, 2001-09-11. Seems the US president at the time had great difficulty in grasping the concept of a “suicide bombing” and felt the need to blame and bomb someone.

Then it was to capture or kill alleged 9/11 architect Osama Bin Laden – though that idea soon dropped off the proverbial radar for reasons that have never been adequately explained. Nor was the true nature of Al-Qaeda explained, though the bearded, dark-skinned Bin Laden made a fantastic bogeyman and was even used to justify the illegal war in Iraq.

Some of the lies that the US Authorities told regarding AlQaeda are detailed in this BBC documentary entitled “The Power of Nightmares“:- http://www.archive.org/details/ThePowerOfNightmares

Then the purpose of the Afghan war was to defeat the Taliban – which of course has failed miserably. Ironically, the Taliban were formerly part of the Mujahideen, a group of fierce rebels that formed during the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the late 1970’s and 1980’s. Only in those days, they were “holy warriors and freedom fighters, defending democracy and the American way, etc., etc.” Consequently, under the Reagan administration, they were the proud recipients of truck-loads of American weapons and wads of hard currency, delivered with the compliments of the CIA.

Then, one day, the US generals realised they didn’t have enough manpower to defeat the Taliban. So suddenly the mission became to “liberate women“. After all, the womenfolk were having a pretty grim time under Taliban rule. So what better way to extract more money out of Congress and put more troops on the ground.

This was followed by claims that the true purpose was to prop up the “democratically” elected government of President Hamid Karzai. The proverbial wheels fell off when it was revealed that around 1/3 of Karzai’s votes were, in fact, rigged and two of his senior election officials were forced to resign.

I understand the latest “objectives” involve weeding out the corruption in the US puppet Afghan Government, followed by an orderly but face-saving withdrawal of US and other NATO troops. However, NATO chiefs are somewhat backward in coming forward regarding how these latest “objectives” can be achieved. The situation is made more complex by Karzai’s claims that the vote fiddling was actually the work of the US and its allies.

Karzai also blames the United States for empowering the Taliban in the first place – conveniently forgetting of course that he also supported the Mujahideen back in the 1980’s. With a minimum of publicity, “secret” negotiations with the Taliban began in May 2010. This is particularly distasteful to Karzai because the Taliban gunned down his father in 1999-07-14.

Today it seems that Afghan women’s rights have quietly been dropped from NATO’s agenda, just like “capturing Osama bin Laden” was several years earlier. Moreover, the talk in the circles of power seems more of “doing a deal with” the Taliban, rather than “defeating” them.

Throughout this sad and sorry saga, we were also told that the United States had a secondary purpose in Afghanistan, namely to stamp out the production of opium – the raw ingredient for heroin. Needless to say, opium production has actually seen a steady year-on-year growth throughout the US occupation and today Afghanistan supplies over 93% of the global opiates market.

http://www.cfr.org/publication/14099/afghanistan_opium_survey_2007.html

Meantime the poor old taxpayer is starting to ask him/herself who is the least credible:- the Terrible Taliban, the Crooked Karzai, the Prevaricating Pentagon, or a US administration that seems to change its story as often as some people change their underpants? Fact is, they have all lied and they all have much blood on their hands. And I use the words “poor taxpayer” advisedly. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have already cost the United States in excess of one trillion dollars!

Which leads me neatly to the ultimate irony. When the United States fought (and eventually lost) the Vietnam war, the world was told it was to stop the spread of Communism – the so-called “domino theory“. Today, a significant proportion of the money the United States has squandered on its latest round of pointless wars was borrowed from the “top domino” – the People’s Republic of China.

Some interesting further reading, from a rather surprising source:-

http://spectator.org/archives/2010/03/26/why-are-we-in-afghanistan

We know it’s crap, but we’ll use IE6 anyway says UK Government

July 30th, 2010

Following my last post – and email to Her Majesty’s Government regarding the failure of its site responding to the anti Internet Explorer 6 petition, the good news is the site actually works now. Hurrah!

The bad news is that Her Majesty’s Government intends to carry on business as usual and continue using the highly flawed IE 6 anyway, despite all the well known and highly publicised security risks. Quoting from  http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ie6upgrade/

[…] It is therefore more cost effective in many cases to continue to use IE6 and rely on other measures, such as firewalls and malware scanning software, to further protect public sector internet users.

So it seems the great unwashed can look forward to even more data losses and security breeches, compliments of Her Majesty’s Government.

Honk! Honk!

Anti-IE6 petition response failure

July 30th, 2010

Seems the hapless UK government can add one more IT failure to its long, long list. This morning we received notification of the results of the on-line petition we signed entitled: “We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to encourage government departments to upgrade away from Internet Explorer 6“.

This notification read:-

You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to encourage government
departments to upgrade away from Internet Explorer 6.

Her Majesty’s Government has responded to that petition and you can view it
here:

http://www.hmg.gov.uk/epetition-responses/petition-view.aspx?epref=ie6upgrade

Her Majesty’s Government

Petition information – http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ie6upgrade/

Great, we thought – eager to see the results. Unfortunately, the link Her Majesty’s Government gave us:-

http://www.hmg.gov.uk/epetition-responses/petition-view.aspx?epref=ie6upgrade

returned:-

“Bad Request (Invalid Hostname)”

Government response to IE6 Petition

Brilliant! A Microsoft-powered Government site, set up to respond to concerns about another  failed Microsoft product frequently used by Her Majesty’s Government, didn’t work. So we emailed Her Majesty’s Government, suggesting that whilst some people may be amused by the irony, we really think that Her Majesty’s Government needs to get this fixed, pronto!

So far we have had no reply from Her Majesty’s morons minions and Her Majesty’s Microsoft-powered petition response site still does not work!

Honk! Honk!

Jailbreaking iPhone is legal – common sense has prevailed!

July 28th, 2010

Seems that Apple Computer Inc’s ridiculous claims that Jailbreaking an iPhone breaks the law have been firmly rejected by the US Copyright Office and the Library of Congress. Apple attempted to hoodwink the US authorities by alleging that jailbreaking infringed its copyright because the process relies on pirated copies of the bootloader and operating system.

However, the decision announced 2010-07-26 by US Librarian of Congress James Billington, specifically adds jailbreaking to the list of practices that do not violate the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

When one jailbreaks a smartphone in order to make the operating system on that phone interoperable with an independently created application that has not been approved by the maker of the smartphone or the maker of its operating system, the modifications that are made purely for the purpose of such interoperability are fair uses,” Marybeth Peters, Register of Copyrights, wrote in the ruling, approved by Mr Billington.

Ms Peters also rejected Apple’s 2009 claim that hacking the iPhone violated copyright law because the practice relied on pirated copies of the smartphone’s bootloader and operating system. Full story:-

http://news.idg.no/cw/art.cfm?id=107913C8-1A64-67EA-E4D2905186EAFF34

http://www.copyright.gov/1201/2010/Librarian-of-Congress-1201-Statement.html

Sadly, Apple has made a complete ass of itself with this debacle. Attempting to force users to use only the  software that Apple approves of makes as much sense as Ford telling you that you can only run your Ford Focus on roads that Ford approves of! Apple’s public image as a “fab & groovy” company that makes elegant, sophisticated products for free-thinking people is now severely and irreparably tarnished. But the news for Apple Computer Inc. is about to get much, much worse. Seems US chain Kmart will be retailing the new Gentiouch (an open source, Android-powered tablet computer) in the United States for under $150 (US) within the next few weeks:-

Generic iPad rival for less than $150

Generic iPad rival for less than $150

More information:-

http://www.augenus.com/indexhome.html/GENTOUCH.html

Source:-

http://www.slashgear.com/augen-gentouch-78-149-android-tablet-headed-to-kmart-2795429/

As mentioned in a previous post, it seems the Gentouch is not the only generic touchpad on its way to a store near you! In addition to those under development in China, seems other developing nations are entering the fray. According to BBC News, an Indian company, with the help of the Indian Government plans to make & market a similar device for twenty five quid (about 35 bucks)!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10740817

I guess the good folks @ Apple Computer Inc. feel they have to “make hay while the sun shines“.  Hence all the misinformation and restrictive practices in its unseemly scramble to fleece the punter for as much cash as possible. And poor old Steve Jobs is not a well man and no doubt feels his days are numbered anyway, poor fellow. So you cannot blame Apple for its “both front-feet in the trough” business strategy I suppose? But I fear Apple’s current prosperity will be short lived.

In any event, this is probably not a good time to buy shares in Apple Computer Inc. methinks! lol 🙂

Rotten US Corporations: Dell pays $100 million to settle fraud case

July 25th, 2010

Seems that despite Enron, Worldcom et al, the US financial administration has learnt absolutely nothing from its myriad of previous failings. Dell’s paltry (US)$100 million penalty for its chronic cooking-of-the books bears testament to fact that the US authorities are still unwilling or incapable of dealing effectively with America’s thoroughly bent and corrupt corporations.

The pathetic personal penalties paid by the perpetrators of these crimes are even more astonishing. For example, Dell’s CEO and arch-crook Michael Dell should be doing time, not fined a mere four-million bucks (petty cash to him) and allowed to carry on business as usual…

http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2010/2010-131.htm

But let’s stand back from this latest US corporate fraud for a moment. Acer founder’s recent observation that many American IT corporations will become irrelevant within 20 years, seems very poignant.

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/gadgetreviews/acer-founder-thinks-american-it-brands-will-be-dead-in-20-years/11340

If devices such as this hit the market…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-10740817

…then Dell, Microsoft, IBM and even Apple Computer Inc will be in very deep trouble.

Twenty-five quid tablet computer from India (from BBC News)

Twenty-five quid tablet computer from India (from BBC News)

Even if this particular device never hits the market, you can be absolutely certain that others will. We are rapidly approaching a time when really good unbranded computer hardware, running free, open source operating systems such as Linux will be available as complete, working devices for less than the cost of a proprietary American operating system.

We are also entering the second dip of the worst recession in 80 years. Several key western economies, including the USA are hopelessly in-the-red and are now teetering on the brink of bankruptcy:-

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2187rank.html

So who  is going to pay $100 for Mac OSX or Windows operating systems, (other than the very rich and handful of brand-loyal fanbois,) when you can buy a complete, working computer, c/w operating system and all the software you need, for a fraction of that? Who will stump-up all that hard-earned cash for an Apple iPad when you can buy a device that’s just as good, for less than one tenth of the price? And the days of average folks paying $500+ for a jazzed-up mobile telephone are certainly drawing to a close!

Trouble is that the fat-cats running the US IT corporations have their heads so far up their own proverbial bottoms that they cannot see the writing on the wall. Indeed, this lack of vision beyond the current fiscal year’s profits is a disease that has infected much of corporate America.

On the other hand, perhaps America’s rich-and-powerful know exactly what’s happening and that’s why they are scrambling to ram their snouts in the trough before the gravy train pulls out of the station?

Honk! Honk! Mind the gap! Stand clear of the doors please!

Stuxnet, another slash in Microsoft’s death of a thousand cuts?

July 20th, 2010

Micro$haft operating systems hit by yet another “zero-day” malware strike is hardly news. But this latest attack in the guise of “Stuxnet” is different. Seems from my albeit limited reading on the subject that the Stuxnet concept strikes right at the very heart of the “Windows way of doing things“.

scutigera coleoptrata animation

For example:-

  1. Windows 7 64bit insists on so-called “signed drivers” – the excuse being that it makes the system much more secure. But Stuxnet worm uses stolen digital certificates (from Realtek & JMicron). So it can freely install its payload ( a.sys file rootkit) as a legitimate driver.
  2. Whilst Verisign has now withdrawn one of these stolen certificates, it is clear that digital signing can no longer be relied upon as a means of verifying the integrity of Windows software or drivers.
  3. Microsoft has been crowing about its “better than Unix” UAC (user access control) system. Stuxnet completely bypasses that. In fact, it appears that in this context that the “.lnk” files that MS uses for its short-cuts are not subject to any form of UAC at all!
  4. This does not only spread by USB sticks as some would have us believe. Infected machines can spread the worm via ethernet connections too. In fact, you don’t have to open a file. You merely need to use Microsoft’s file Explorer to view a directory! So external SMB connections and Sharepoint are both vulnerable now.
  5. Now it is “in the wild” and currently infecting roughly 1000 Windows PCS a day, other “copycat” criminals will use the same or similar techniques.

So, if your computing is important to you, then please don’t put all your proverbial “eggs in one basket” by relying solely on Micro$oft’s poor quality, over-priced operating systems. Or better still, dump M$ completely! It is perfectly achievable and will save you a small fortune:-

http://www.garfnet.org.uk/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=66&Itemid=16

Some further reading:-

http://news.softpedia.com/news/New-Stuxnet-Related-Malware-Signed-Using-Certificate-from-JMicron-148213.shtml

http://www.controlengeurope.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=35267

Probably most easily digested Stuxnet analysis I have read so far:-

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/07/20/win_shortcut_vuln_exploit_code/

Honk! Honk!

The worst thing about British pubs is…

February 10th, 2010

Worst thing about British pubs is not the prices – though I have to say, they are pretty shocking! It’s the rubbish standard of service, the queuing forever at the bar, dirty glasses, surly staff who make out they are doing you a tremendous favour serving you in the first place. And unless you choose one of the few independent pubs, the beer is pretty poor too. And does anywhere in the South of England know how to keep Guinness properly?

CF. continental Europe, where you sit down with your friends and a few minutes later, someone (often an unbelievably pretty waitress) takes your order. You can choose from a list of beers – and there are generally quite a few good ones, in amongst the dross. Most of the time, if you are a stranger in town, you can enquire which is the best brew to try first. This is an altogether much more pleasant and relaxed way to enjoy your beer.

If you are with someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, e.g. Mrs Goose, then the establishment will offer you coffee, hot chocolate or at least something that she likes. Whilst prices tend to be very close to UK ones these days, due to the plummeting value of Sterling against the Euro, the quality of service makes the price worth while.

No wonder UK pubs are closing at such a rapid rate. They seem stuck in a post-WW2 time-warp or something and seem to think that having an ear-splittingly loud jukebox and a few plastic oak beams will provide the “atmosphere” needed to get the punters through the door, and compensate for the grunting bar-staff. And don’t get me started on the horror they call “quiz-nites“. UK pubs simply have not caught up with what customers really want, i.e. a bit of service, please! Frankly “yer average boozer” here in Sunny Southampton is simply dreadful and they would have to pay me to set-foot through the door.

Now where’s that crate of McEwan’s Champion? Honk! Honk!

Apple stole our iPad idea says Chinese manufacturer

February 2nd, 2010

A Chinese company is claiming that Apple actually ripped the idea off from one of its existing Chinese-made products, called a “P88“. The P88 has been on sale for six months according to the company’s president, Mr Xiaolong Wu. The P88 easy to recognise because it “looks just like a big iPhone“.

Seems Shenzhen Great Loong Brother Industrial Co., Ltd. is threatening to sue Apple for “Plagiarism“. Presumably by this it means some sort of intellectual property theft? Despite its similar looks, the P88 is actually quite different under the bonnet from the iPad. It has a 250 Gigabyte hard disk, an ethernet port and three USB ports. It also runs Windows or Linux. The touch screen is only a single touch resistive type. But the processor is, in theory at least, faster than the iPad.

Personally I wouldn’t touch the P88 if it came bundled with Windows – I refuse to pay Windows Tax! And I wouldn’t have an iPAD under any circumstances while it was so riddled with DRM. However, I think the P88 pad, at the right price, running Linux and 100% FOSS could actually be quite an attractive product – if you like that sort of thing.

Whichever way this goes, it certainly rains on the proverbial parade for Apple Computer Inc., which is never a bad thing, in my view. It also makes it very difficult for Apple to sue any of its competitors in this context. So, If I were a gambling goose, then I’d place my bets on seeing a large range affordable clone tablets pretty soon. I would expect some of these to be far superior to the iPad – particularly for those who despise DRM and who care about their privacy – and a heck of a lot cheaper too!

Pics & story as told by Wired:-
http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/02/chinese-ipad-maker-threatens-to-sue-apple-for-plagiarism/

Full P88 specifications:-
http://hkjulong.en.alibaba.com/product/284530927-209723234/tablet_pc_p88.html

More about the company and its products:-
http://hkjulong.en.alibaba.com/

Story as told by the China Post in Taiwan (in English):-
http://www.chinapost.com.tw/china/business/2010/01/30/242970/Chinese-company.htm

Story from El Mundo (in Spanish):-
http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2010/01/29/navegante/1264759894.html

Funny old world, huh! Honk! Honk!

Tablet computers? YES. Apple’s overpriced DRM-riddled tablet? No thanks!

January 28th, 2010

When I first heard about iPads, I thought it was something that geek girls might use during their iPeriods. But it seems I was mistaken.

Actually, I think the tablet form factor is an interesting one and may have great appeal in areas such as education. That’s why Nicolas Negroponte and his team have adopted it for the next generation X0-3 OLPC. However I have serious misgivings with regard to both the price and even more so with regard to Apple’s heavy-handed deployment of DRM (digital restrictions management) in these devices. In a nutshell, Apple can:-

  • Decide what software you are allowed to use.
  • Delete any content it disapproves of.
  • Disable the device completely.
Anti DRM protesters at the 2010 January launch of the iPad

Nevertheless, a reasonable degree of commercial success for the iPad will no doubt inspire Chinese and Taiwanese companies to produce perfectly adequate generic clones. These will be significantly cheaper than the iPad, whilst not being infected with Apple DRM. Then it would not take the open source community long to write and compile decent apps for the clones. I understand that the XO-3 will be 100% OSS (open source software). So I suspect that many existing OSS apps will be ported to the generic pads very rapidly.

Therefore I’m perfectly happy to let the Apple fanbois have their fun. If they are prepared to pay through-the-nose whilst Steve Big Jobs & his minions @ Apple Computer Inc. spy on their data and dictate what apps they can and cannot use, then more fool them! Meantime, smart people will wait for one of the new generation generic pads that will undoubtedly follow – running some form of GNU/Linux and c/w 100% open source software of course.

Translated into practical terms my little goslings, that means 1/3 the cost of an iPad, 100% freedom regarding what software you install and infinite superiority in terms of privacy and security.

Honk! Honk!

References:-

Should I dump Internet Explorer

January 22nd, 2010

This was the title of a blog post over at ZDNet. So should you dump Internet Exploder. Now let me see…

Yes! Yes! Yes! Along with all Microsoft’s other products!

Let’s stand back from this for a minute folks. Microsoft is a big, greedy, highly profitable US corporation that has systematically stifled its competition whilst deploying a variety of highly dubious methods to force equipment manufacturers to bundle its products. Microsoft has a long track record of producing poor quality and insecure products. Meantime, its senior executives have become very rich indeed. One would have more sympathy with Microsoft if it had poured its vast profits back into securing its products. But it hasn’t.

I hope that legislatures around the planet will go much further than just recommending users stop using one of Microsoft’s products. I hope they will explicitly outlaw Microsoft “bundling”, so that consumers actually have a choice of operating system. It is entirely unacceptable that consumers are forced to buy Windows whenever they buy a new computer. Why should we be forced to pay what amounts to a “Windows Tax” to Microsoft, regardless of whether we want to use its rotten products or not?

The good news is that it seems the Microsoft racket is finally unravelling. I would say to consumers everywhere, now would be a very good time to write to your MP/congressman. Complain to your national/regional consumer protection organisations. If you can buy equipment OS-free then do so. Boycott IT suppliers that still persist with bundling. The writing is on the wall my little goslings…

The Hungarian Government recently voted its public sector should adopt open standards:-

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13505_3-10419262-16.html

Meantime it seems the good people of Italy have started a class action against Microsoft to get their Windows Tax refunded:-

The GarfNet team successfully dumped Microsoft back in May 2007 and it was one of the best business decisions they ever made. Moreover, it proved beyond all reasonable doubt that Microsoft-free businesses are perfectly viable:-

http://www.garfnet.org.uk/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=66&Itemid=58

Actually MS-free businesses are more than merely “viable”. Being free from Microsoft has considerable advantages, both in terms of cost and in operational terms, i.e. reliability, security, ease of replicating systems, lack of malware etc.:-

http://www.garfnet.org.uk/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=69&Itemid=58

Meanwhile GarfNet is compiling a formal complaint to the UK Office of Fair Trading and to the European Union Competition Commission regarding the forced payment of Windows Tax here in the UK. There is still a lot of work to do but this is the progress so far:-

http://www.garfnet.org.uk/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=74&Itemid=331

Final comment before the Microsoft apologists and “fanbois” get up-in-arms. I’m not actually advocating the total annihilation of Microsoft. However I think the world would benefit from a much downsized Microsoft, with much lower profits and perhaps a 20-30% market share. I have no doubt that a Microsoft that actually had to compete in the marketplace would produce higher quality and more secure products. This would be better for the consumer, better for national security, better for the economy and better for the IT industry. Long term it might even be better for Microsoft too!

Though I suspect that I will stick with the Penguinisitas, whatever happens to Micro$haft. Honk! Honk!