Ironic News International

Rupert Murdoch and his son & heir and employees are getting a bit stressed about the world-wide-web as a threat to their unfeasibly large income stream. For instance, in today’s Guardian,

Rupert Murdoch: ‘There’s no such thing as a free news story’
News Corp chief Rupert Murdoch tells US regulators that users will pay for news – and aggregation is theft

He is terrified that the net is killing his print titles – like the British newspaper, the Sun (:-) What a loss to the written word that would be, not) by offering free news. He is so convinced that people will happily pay for trash content that he’s been busy trying to get every one who will listen – including a federal trade commission – to support this idea. Which rather seems to contradict the whole concept of people’s willingness to pay. If that were true, wouldn’t people just happily pay. Surely, he’s not demanding preferential treatment? Isn’t the untrammelled market the perfect mechanism any more? Gosh, you shock and stun me, Mr Murdoch.

I think the “News International threatened by technological change” think qualifies as being “hoist by his own petard” (whatever a petard is.)

For those of you with an interest in ancient history, Murdoch was at the centre of a bitter labour dispute in the 1980s, based on his determination to break the print unions through the use of new computer technology.

Whosoever diggeth a pit, etc….

Time travel for girls

An unexpected side-effect of being more or less trapped on the sofa for weeks (as a result of the ongoing activities of evil micro-organisms) is finding yourself on an unexpected sub-warp journey to a 1970s-80s world.

This is courtesy of the only daytime tv that’s left after watching enough “factual channels” to be able to pass post-graduate courses in How things are made; What scientific myths can be busted; Ancient history, and the Origins of the universe.

I take for granted that the endless stream of programmes about WWII battles and big building projects aren’t watchable. And obviously anyone would rather saw their own foot off with a rusty steak knife than watch hours of exploitative confessional shows (like Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer) or talk-shows featuring minor celebs.

So ancient detective stories – such as Columbo – are almost the only half-watchable daytime tv. Which causes temporal distortion after a few hours and I start to feel as if I’m living in the 1980s.

There are series like Murder, She Wrote, Golden Girls and Cagney and Lacey. Which come as a real shock.

Programmes with female leads. And the female leads are clearly not there for decoration. What are the chances of seeing ANY 21st century TV programme in which the female stars are not glamorous? There are few enough ongoing drama series with female leads who aren’t “desperate housewives” or people who work in fashion or femmes fatales.

OK, Law and Order always has a (good-looking) female lawyer. CSI has (good looking) female CSIs. At least they have jobs. But they aren’t exactly the central characters. Could you imagine these roles being played by the sort of women you see in the Golden Girls? Of course not.

Post-feminism, my arse. These ancient tv programmes seem to have almost come from a mythical golden age, when women in the media could appear in a whole range of forms. Assuming that you don’t watch tv or read newspapers and that you doubt for a minute media representations of women are now actually much more “pre-feminist” than they were twenty-odd years ago, here’s Dell’s new site for women customers.

This exists to reach out to the heads of women who might find a non-gendered tech-selling site too sciencey and off-putting. It focuses on the exciting range of different coloured laptops that you can match to your lifestyle.

(“Complement your personal style with a choice of colors or a distinctive pattern (starting at $40)”)

There’s a featured artist. Don’t think da Vinci. (A laptop printed with details from the Last Supper would indeed tempt me, I have to admit) No the artist is

Featured Artist: Robyn Moreno
Robyn is the author of the popular style book, Practically Posh: The Smart Girls Guide to a Glam Life (Harper Collins, July 2008), and is the editor-in-chief of a Turner Media website devoted to fashion. She hosts a web series called “Darling Robyn” on The Dell Lounge, a lifestyle site on, and is a lifestyle columnist for Ty Pennington at Home magazine.

Basically, this site assumes that women are only interested in shopping and how well their laptop will fit in a tote bag. Or as the Register says, with justified scorn:

Della has four sections that emphasis the humane, nurturing, collective, and caring aspects of… purchasing Dell computers; “products”, “tech tips”, “giving” and “featured artist”.
The site appears mainly focused on punting Dell’s Inspiron Mini 10 Netbook to ladies. It’s a computer, the company emphasizes, that will fit in your purse and let you stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues through email. And everyone knows broads fall for that kind of stuff.
Della’s “tech tips” section offers seven “unexpected” ways a netbook can change womanly existence, including helping you “find recipes online, store and organize them, and watch cooking videos”. Or maybe you’re the kind of chick that prefers to “use your mini to track calories, carbs, and protein with ease”. That just about encompasses everything you need.

If this backwards time-travel carries on for much longer, we’ll soon be handing back those pesky votes. Though we’ll be way too busy shopping and becoming bitchy but glamorous Stepford wives to notice, so I don’t suppose it matters.

More MOD data goes AWOL

This week’s data-loss story is a Ministry of Defence hard drive that’s gone AWOL. Another example of the UK government’s seemingly bottomless commitment to freeing up access to its data, by distributing it at random around the globe.

Ministry of Defence, that was.

An investigation is under way into the disappearance of a computer hard drive which could contain the details of about 100,000 Armed Forces personnel.

And when it says detail, it means unencrypted detail:

There may also be some personal information including bank and driving licence details, passport numbers, addresses, dates of birth and telephone numbers.

Of serving members of the Armed Forces. Does information get much more personal? It’s not as if that sort of data would be any use to enemies in the ongoing TWAT. (*heavy sarcasm*)

How much confidence does that inspire in the security of the information they’ll have on us mere civilians, when the ID-card scheme includes us all? (*Rhetorical question*)

A commenter said in the Independent

The MoD didn’t lose this data, EDS did. Nobody cares about data that isn’t their own. If this data had been handled in house and the work not outsourced it wouldnt have been lost

EDS is the MOD’s main IT contractor. Here’s their web page.

.. as an HP business group, EDS delivers one of the industry’s broadest portfolios of information technology and business process outsourcing services to customers in the manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, communications, energy, transportation, and consumer and retail industries, and to governments around the world.

The About us page has US contact numbers. It seems to have been written by someone from a Dilbert cartoon. Everything they do is “innovative” and their

highquality, cost-competitive services are provided from the optimal mix of onshore, nearshore and offshore locations.

This determinedly shore-heavy focus may refer to their “related companies”(part-owned companies) which include companies based in the UAE, India (workforce:28,000+ ), the USA and other unspecified locations. One provides “Benefits, Payroll and other HR Administration services to more than 34 million active and retired employees from its client organizations.”

On the 8 September, 2008, prison officers were disturbed about EDS’s loss of their personal data, to the point of threatening a strike.

At that time, Computer Weekly pointed out that EDS already had something of a track record in the data-loss area. The Burton Review Report, published in April 2008, looked into an earlier loss of MOD personnel data, in which EDS were involved.

One of the themes emerging from the Strategy for Transformational Government (2005) was the increased emphasis on sharing services, particularly in information and infrastructure. The Armed Forces have been early pioneers of this approach, through a range of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and Public Private Partnership (PPP) contracts. (from page 4, Burton Report)

Hmm. Need look no further for the culprit methinks: the whole processes for giving out PFI and PPP contracts.

You might assume that the UK must be desperately short of cash, if it’s prepared to hand over its most crucial information to any company that offers to undercut government employees, while providing a better service and still making a profit. (Well, it must sound convincing to UK governments,) But, it seems that the UK government has a bottomless pit of money for bailing out banks, so shortage of cash can’t be the reason.

If you are interested in looking up the track record of other private companies that keep public data, could fill in an obsessive hour. Type the name of your chosen PFI company and see what turns up.

Vista is teh work of teh debil

A few weeks ago I finally cracked and bought a new PC. Out of the box, this one was great. The HDD is massive and silent. The huge amount of RAM makes Photoshop usable once more and the widescreen monitor is a pleasure to look at.

What really lets the whole deal down is Microsoft Vista. It is, without a doubt, the worst operating system I have ever used. Yes, it may seem like it does more than MS-DOS but, in reality, it constrains you more (and uses a trillion times more system resources). Vista is pretty. It has nice icons and the transparency looks cool for the first hour or so you use it, but the reality is I had a more stable system with Windows 3.11 (even my ME box crashed less).

All the doom and gloom aside, my Vista box only has a few problems but they are monumental annoyances. I would rather have the limited use Windows 95 gave without the massive inconveniences Vista forces on me. Let me explain:

First off: I have (at the moment) 136 problem reports waiting for solutions. The very existence of these annoys me. Windows claims to be able to search for a solution then comes back with nothing. I also have 4 which claim they have solutions but I cant find out what the solution is. This is leading to no small degree of madness.

Next in line: Vista makes it harder for me to make changes than Ubuntu. Every time I try to do something I have to give administrator authority. It gets to the point where I almost authorise without looking. This is not making the system safer by any stretch of the imagination.

Thirdly: The resources it uses is astronomical. If I have no applications open, nearly 1GB of RAM is being used. What do I get for this? Transparent icons. Wow.

Not my screenshot but this is the error message I getFourthly: It crashes. It is no more stable than Windows ME and a far cry from what I would have expected from Win2k or WinNT. If I get another USB driver error message I will explode…. Argh… Boom…

Last but not least: It hates my software. The Rise of The Machines is obviously a genuine event because my Devil Infested Vista machine has software it just doesn’t like. Not in the normal software failure way, but almost random dislikes for certain applications (they run fine on the other Vista machine…).

The two applications The DevilVista hates at the moment are Opera and eMule (before you ask, I only use this share legitimate files, I would never use it get warez or the like). It hates them to the extent that neither are usable any more.

When I open Opera, it seems to open fine. All my previous windows and tabs load and the system works as normal. The evidence this is a recent dislike is evinced by the fact sites I visited last week as still available on load. However, over the last four days every time I click on ANY link in Opera or type an address in the URL bar and press go, the USB WiFi connection drops out. The network goes from full strength (the router is about 8 feet away), to unable to find any networks. Normally, there are about six or seven networks within range, but this instantly goes to none. No matter of refreshing will cure it. (remember this state).

eMule is different. I can open it. Connect to Kad or a Server and start sharing files (all legitimate remember). This works well for about 60 – 90 minutes whereupon the WiFi network vanishes and I am at the same state as above. eMule worked fine until about four weeks ago so this is not time coincident with the Opera curse.

Anyway, I try to troubleshoot the WiFi connection. Windows is no help, coming up with spurious error messages and terrible advice (and complaining it cant get online to find help… the irony.. it burns…). I try unplugging the device and re-attaching – this just kills it as now the device no longer exists on the system. My WiFi connector is attached to an external, powered, USB hub so I take the plug out of one port and put it in a different one.

This makes things go very weird. Initially it is great, the WiFi light comes on, and networks are found. I try to connect to the router and it asks for the WEP key. So far so good. It then connects to the router but refuses to “identify” (whatever the **** that means) and I am restricted to “local” access only. I try to log into the router (surely that is part of the “Local” network) and it just fails – unable to connect to server. (In the meantime, the laptop on the table next to me connects fine). In the end, admitting defeat, I reboot only to discover the BUGCODE_USB_DRIVER Blue Screen of Death message and it reboots again. This time everything works fine, I log in and it connects first time, every time.

It is coming close to driving me mad. For the most part, I can get away with out using Opera and eMule but the apparently arbitrary nature of this software vendetta is confusing. The machine used to run both without any problems. I am a touch concerned it may start to hate MS Office or FireFox and then there will be a real problem.

For completeness’ sake: I have run AVG and SpyBot S&D with upto date definitions. I have tried an online virus scanner and a rootkit checker – all seems to be clean. I am not yet willing to reinstall everything (there is a lot on the pc) and, before it is suggested I dont want a Mac (too expensive) and while I may install Linux (Not Ubuntu after my previous efforts, but PcLinuxOs is tempting) it isnt a solution.

Firefox Memory Hog

Now, for almost as long as I can remember (yes, I have a short memory), I have been a big fan of Firefox. I work on web applications so I have quite a few browsers installed, but generally I stick to Firefox for most browsing, with IE as a “backup” for those odd little sites which are cabbaged in other browsers. Opera is installed, but it doesn’t get used as often as the “big two” and the Seamonkey / Mozila etc browsers are hardly touched (anyone use Amaya for browsing?).

Recently, Firefox informed me that it had been updated and needed a restart. I dutifully complied and everything seemed to run fine.

As the hours and days passed, I noticed that my system was becoming slower and slower – web pages were taking an eternity to open and when I was running Photoshop or other system intensive applications everything really was starting to slow down. For reference, my system is an Athlon 64 x2 3800+ (Dual processor) with 1gb of ram. You would hope, that it would be fast at web browsing and basic office applications. It was, until recently…

Some initial research revealed that crap-shop-crap-ISP Pipex was providing me with a fraction of the broadband service they claimed, which explains the slow web pages (somewhat), but the problem remains in locally hosted pages. Despite my disgust with Pipex, they can’t really be blamed for everything else slowing down either.

Eventually, I cracked and bothered myself to look into this. Opening task manager reveals a possible cause of the problems. Firefox is a massive memory hog. I mean massive.

An example I had Firefox open with nothing other than this blog displayed. IE was running with this blog, Flickr, eBay and gmail tabs open.

Firefox was using 164mb of RAM vs IE which was using 98mb. IE had more tabs open and the tabs had more data-heavy pages.

What on Earth has the world come to. I tried opera with the blog page and flickr open and it hardly registered a byte. Blimey.

It seems that firefox, at least with this current “Upgrade” has become a worse memory hog than IE. Opera is like lightning in comparison to Firefox, but it always has been – seeing IE more responsive and less memory intensive is pretty shocking. I am going to look into this a bit more, but I would be interesting in hearing any other experiences on this subject.

[tags]Firefox, Mozilla,Internet Explorer, Opera, IE, Technology, Web Browsers, RAM, Memory, System Resources, Computers, Computing, Software, Problems, IT, Upgrade, Pipex, ISP, Amaya, Internet[/tags]

Security Madness

We at WhyDontYou would never consider suggesting people had insecure computers when it comes to dealing with their work, or personal data, but there comes a point at which madness takes over.

For example, today I was give access to an IT system by my employer. Being very zealous at the thought of evil people from the internet getting access, they have instituted quite strong policies when it comes to people being able to access data. Amazingly, some IT guru has convinced them of the need for all users to have very strong passwords. This has translated into a policy which requires all passwords to be 14 characters long, have a mix of upper/lower case letters and numbers, not include your user name or common words (whatever that means) and not be the same (or a variation of) any of the last 36 passwords. Passwords must also be changed every 30 days.


At first I thought it was just me, but upon asking around my workplace there is no one who claims to be able to remember their random string of gibberish password. Almost every one eventually admits to writing the password down and either carrying it with them or leaving it by the terminal.

Now, it strikes me that this pretty much undermines the point of having the password in the first place… In the quest for Fort Knox style security, my employer (or at least the BOFH IT team) have largely undermined everything. Isn’t technology great?

[tags]Computers, Technology, Security, IT, Hacking, Corporate Culture, Culture, Logic[/tags]

Now I hate AOL

Sorry if you are an AOL user, but if you are then please think of changing your provider. As a bit of “Disclosure,” I used to be an AOL user in the mid 1990s but, thankfully, I got over it.

My recent tirade is a combination of dislike for AOL and Packard Bell’s choice of software.

I have bought a new laptop (Packard Bell, MZ36 series) and it is brilliant. I really like it. However, today I foolishly tried to uninstall the AOL software which is doing nothing but popping up every now and then, running in the background and taking up disk space.

Doing the decent thing, I used the control panel “uninstall” applet. Possibly my big mistake. I started the uninstall process at 1655hours (BST) and as I write this it is 1815hours (BST). The process still has not completed. I refuse to believe that the AOL 9.5 software is so large that an Intel Core 2 Duo processor takes over 1 hour, 20 mins to remove it so I assume the thing has crashed. Being new to Vista, I have no real idea on how to stop it or how to kill the process without causing problems (I tried doing it in Task Manager but it didn’t die).

Worryingly there is a large collection of software I have no intention of ever using which Packard Bell have “Helpfully” installed for me. Do I have the courage to remove all of them?

[tags]Technology, Rant, AOL, Computers, Bad Service, BT, Vista[/tags]

Danger WiFi!

Computer magazines, being monthly, are often behind the curve of the news. This is a shame as the internet must be hammering them but still, for some reason, they seem unwilling to adapt and offer much in the way of unique selling points (other than you can read them sitting on the toilet, which is hard to do with a website…). But I digress.

For reasons which will become apparent soon (in a different post), I am was still subscribed to PCW today and, with the wonders of the Royal SnailMail, I got the August 2007 issue in the post. Now for the last few months I have been more and more dissatisfied with PCW, but out of some weird mindset I always hope the next issue will be better. So far it hasn’t failed to disappoint me… Anyway, on to this issue.

Turning to the news pages and wow – there on page 11 is the news “WiFi in ‘fried brains’ scare.” Well, cutting edge news, isn’t it, I mean it isn’t as if even this blog has mentioned it once or twice in the past … The news item briefly mentions the Panorama woo-ish nonsense and, as you can imagine with a PC magazine, PCW falls in the “Use WiFi” camp.

What is odd though, is how they defend WiFi. The main claim of Panononsense seems to be that radiation 1m from a WiFi point was greated than 100m from a mobile (cell) phone mast. PCW does not go to any lengths to dismiss this as such, nor does it comment on the massive “so what” that this carries. All PCW does to defend WiFi is say:

It did not spell out that the maximum WiFi power radiated is of the order of a thousand times less than that from the mast and a tenth that of a phone handset held right next to the head.

All well and good you may think, it is even probably factually correct (I don’t know off hand and can not be bothered to google it). This response has been echoed elsewhere on TV tech programs and in the computer press. Basically they are saying the WiFi danger is less than holding a phone to your head over and over to justify all manner of WiFi networks being put in everything from your PC to your underwear.

Amazingly, this is a sign the electro-woo cults have managed at least the divide bit of a divide and conquer. If the phone companies respond with saying their phones are less dangerous than WiFi, it will all be over…

Seriously, saying WiFi is “Ok because it is less dangerous than XYZ” is nonsense, especially as the danger from XYZ is almost comical. The downside, though, is it reinforces the idea in the listeners mind that XYZ is bad, and is almost certain to lead to “research” (or at least calls for a stupid “public enquiry”) which hypes up the dangers even more. It happens in almost every industry (GM is a good example) and often gets to the point at which people are confused over what is Woo and what is research. At this point, the “alternative practitioners” with their beads, EM-proof curtains and the like have truly won.

More than anything else, for me, this highlights that “Computer Science” is not a science…

[tags]computer science, computer magazines, computers, culture, electrosensitivity, em, idiocy, mobile phones, nonsense, pcw, personal computer world, philosophy, scaremongering, science, society, wifi, woo[/tags]

Almost Back Online

Well, this is a short one to say I am almost back online now, although the process has been far from easy. It is entertaining that in today’s modern world, having a short spell offline can cause more problems than you can shake a 32gb memory stick at.

It it hard to work out where to start with my ranting over this recent debacle, so I may be disjointed (no change there though). Some recent examples of the “traumas” (which are, admitedly mostly trivial!), have included such things as working out when the rubbish bins will be emptied. My house now has two types of bin (recycling and landfill), with a note saying they will be collected on alternate weeks. Nothing else. No idea which day of the week, or which week is which. Wonderful.

What the note did say was that to find out the day of collection, and which week was landfill and which was recylcing, I was told to “log on to the councils website and enter my address details.” Brilliant, except I didn’t have an internet connection. Continue reading

Life before the Internet?

How do you get broadband if you don’t have an Internet connection?

Answer: You phone someone with a net connection to do it for you.

Explanation: TW is currently offline due to having to move to a place in which only the most intrepid ISPs will offer the most minimal services. Thanks to the world-class silliness of Virgin media tech support service, I have also very recently spent another two weeks offline. I will spare you from the uber-dull details, solved eventually again by the Cafe-Nero-style lad who seems to be Virgin’s only competent techy. It was hellish, in a very mild sense of the word “hellish”, true, but, nonetheless, you wouldn’t choose to do it.

In fact, how does anyone live now without being plugged into the matrix of the Net?

Even given the willful Luddism that stops me from doing Internet banking or shopping, I genuinely can’t imagine how we lived before the Internet, let alone before PCs. It’s not that I wasn’t alive, then, either.

But, to be honest, I can barely conceive of there not being an Internet. If ever anything felt like historical inevitability, it’s the world wide web.

How did we get information? Despite dumping industrial quantities of used books on charity shops every time I move, this house is still a book depository. But, it never has a book with the right information when I need it.

Which is always ten minutes ago, because of the “instant information gratification” expectation that has come along with the Internet. So the library won’t do either.

In fact the local library, which was limited enough (with romantic novels, improving multicultural children’s books and fishing hobbyist books filling about 70% of its shelves) has been more or less replaced by a caffeine-beverages-free Internet cafe. The incommoding books got sold off for pennies, even adding a few volumes to the aforementioned book depository.

I seem to remember it was possible to write letters, take photos, contact people, do calculations, play games, draw pictures, play music and so on. It seems unlikely that we did them much, though, given how bloody hard it is to do any of these things without a computer and a net connection.

Pencil and paper are OK. At least they are portable. But, have you tried using a manual typewriter? A calculator? Well, you just wouldn’t, would you? You might as well get out the slate and abacus.

Have you tried even using your PC without the Internet, recently? It’s OK for playing music and doing 3d rendering. After that it’s like playing frisbee with a dog with its back legs cutoff.

Computers aren’t doctors

We all know Google has become the new hypochondriac diagnostic tool. All the same, it’s a bit disturbing how far the NHS has started to behave as if computers have some intrinisic sickness-curing value. And I’m not talking here about that inferior version of Google that you can find in the so-called NHS Direct high street shops. (Add a triage nurse, subtract the coffee and the wider web-surfing capability and these are NHS Internet cafes)

The general opinion on the new NHS computer system puts its cost at over £20 billion.

The National Audit Office claims that this cost will not all be borne by the taxpayer – only £12.4 billions, before factoring in the cost of the “savings” that will result from it. The companies involved – the major one of which was almost destroyed in the process – will somehow meet the shortfall. Hmm. I am definitely too sceptical. My limited understanding of the laws of the market make it hard for me to see why any company would bid for a contract that would cost them £8 billion pounds to complete. Their profit margins must be astronomical. In any case, I remember that about four years ago, this was going to be an unprecedented spend of £6 billion. So even on the most optimistic estimate, this project costs double what it was supposed to.

The Health Minister, Lord Warner, claims that the project will pay for itself. This in itself seems well nigh incredible, unless it means that huge numbers of clerical staff are to be made redundant, which begs the question of who is going to operate the new system then? My doctors and any hospitals I’ve ever visited have used computer systems for years. Were there some strange 19th century hospitals and surgeries lying forgotten in the world of the quill pen?

Correct me if Windows Calculator is wrong here but I believe that £20 billion (cost of shiny new national computer system) divided by 60 million (UK population) is £333.33. That seems to be the cost for every man woman and child in the UK

That’s approximately the cost of a cheap low-end PC isnt it? So this new system would buy everyone in the UK a low-end PC, WITHOUT any economies of scale.

How many doctors and nurses and hospital cleaners would it buy? Quite a fair number I would have thought, if we all club together a bit and put our £333.33 towards wages. A hundred of us could have paid for a junior doctor or a very senior nurse or paramedic or even two cleaners or cooks.

(Yes, I know that the blog has an excessively medical flavour this week. No particular reason, except maybe that getting a post picked up by the excellent NHS blog doctor site has skewed our thinking.)

Linux Hates Me

Seriously. I now believe linux is a collective conciousness which has taken steps to punish me on a constant basis. You can take your weak monotheistic religions which offer some abstract punishment in an afterlife and shove them, the LinuxGod is punishing me on a daily basis. For hours at a time.

Today, on prompting by Michal, I downloaded SimplyMepis 6.5rc3 (64bit version), burned it to CD and tried to install it – hoping that its claimed hardware detection abilities would solve the problem with the USB WiFi dongle. Did it work? Not a chance. Mepis was good enough to not even be able to get a graphical interface working (I use a WinFast PX7600 GS which most other distros get working instantly). For some crazy reason, Mepis demands you log in as username:root password:root on first install (as if that provides any security..) but when I tried this from a console login, all I kept getting was “login incorrect.” After doing this for about 15 mins, I finally gave up. Yes, I am a glutton for the LinuxGod’s punishments.

As I was in a *Nix frame of mind now, I gave openSUSE (still installed) another shot. I wish I hadn’t.

Still no connected network.Once more, I went through the farce of trying to configure the Belkin USB dongle. I manually entered the WEP key numerous times. I deleted the Network card setting and re-entered it numerous times. The end result? Well, the little red “x” says it all…

When I try to view the connection information window, despite it thinking it is working (and it claims the Router wants me to enter the WEP Key…), I get this:

Screenshot - Active Connection Information

Not exactly confidence inspiring, is it? For completeness I gave recompiling the driver another shot. Following the steps as given on the Wiki, with the RT73 source files and on numerous other sites, I still only get as a far as:


which results in this page of nonsense:

Output of make command

As you can see, the LinuxGod truly, truly hates me. I might have to get a copy of OSX and install that instead… Either that or just allow the impending nervous breakdown take its toll… (Will try Solaris 10 next week, just for kicks)

[tags]Linux, SUSE, openSUSE, Mepis, SimplyMepis, Operating System, Technology, Wifi, Networking, Belkin, Open Source, Computers, OS X, Mac, Router, Solaris, Unix[/tags]

Technological Breakdown

Well, it seems I have been thouroughly defeated by both Ubuntu and openSUSE (64bit versions). I pretty much spent all day Friday trying to get an openSUSE install connected via a Belkin WiFi USB dongle – which, incidentally worked instantly with the 10.1 32 bit. This failed to the extent the XServer died and I had to do a complete re-install. It appears openSUSE is not as tolerant for “hot swapping” USB devices as you would hope 🙂

On Saturday I cracked and tried an Ubuntu 6.10 install. I dislike Ubuntu because I feel the hand holding is over the top and personally find it next to impossible to get anything done on it. In the past, however, Unbuntu has been better than SuSE at finding devices and getting them working.

Not this time.

Ubuntu, in the case, was even worse than SuSE because of how difficult it is to get administrative commands working. After four hours, although I hadn’t destroyed the install, I gave up and reinstalled openSUSE.

Today, I have spent another five hours trying to get the WiFi dongle working – all to no avail. SUSE claims it is trying to connect to the router, but there is no activity shown on the dongle (it has an LED which blinks when it is working), so I suspect SUSE is lying. I spent two hours trying various methods of building the drivers – namely:


make all

as suggested at I tried the versions that come with the RT73 file. I tried the method shown by GIDForums and even followed the steps at All were good and seemed to make sense…. but none worked. At all. Each time I ran “make” it failed with millions and millions of errors.

Screen shot of old set up In the past, when I have tried to configure WiFi cards in SUSE I have been presented with a screen like this one (on the left – hopefully), but for some reason this is all changed in the 10.2 (at least the 64 bit version). This change is not helping matters. The old layout, while it could be confusing, at least allowed you edit the bits which needed editing. The new version is some what different.

Now, the screens I get look like this:

New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 1New WIFI manager - Screen 2 New WIFI manager - Screen 3

Now they appear “better” but they are pretty much useless when it comes to trying to “problem solve” the WiFi issues.

So far, nothing I have tried in three days has worked. When I look at the modules loaded, I have rt2500usb and rt73usb running in openSUSE. I tried to kill either of them with

modprobe -r name

But this did nothing either – openSUSE claimed modprobe didn’t exist (although it would show me the man page for it).

Eventually (i.e. now), I have given up for a while. Most of the solutions I can find require me to be connected to the internet to enable a fix – seems to defeat the purpose but…. Next weekend I plan to go to PCWorld and buy a Cat5 cable long enough to reach from the router to the linux box, hopefully this will allow an internet connection and enable the fixes. Until then, I am staying Windozed. Sadly.

Now, I love linux. I really do. However, until it is possible for people to use it out of the box with common store bought components it really is going to remain a niche product. This is a shame because for basically free you can get a fully functioned PC which runs a powerfull, easy to use and capable office package, web servers, graphics manipulators and much more. To run a similar system using the MS products everyone is so used to would cost thousands. With the advent of crap vista, and the change to “look and feel” you would think this is an excellent time for people to migrate to Linux. Sadly, at least in the case of SuSE and Ubuntu, Linux is not ready for this task. Can you imagine going to a shop and buying a television which required three days of recompiling before it would show a picture?

[tags]Linux, SUSE, Ubuntu, Wifi, Wireless, LAN, Networking, Technology, Computers, Society, Rants, YAST, openSUSE, Belkin[/tags]

National ID database

For this, go to the source and read it. No more secrets by Steve Boggan is a very very disturbing account of how “joined-up government” and national ID documents will mean the end of anything resembling privacy.

The blurb on the printed page says:

“Tony Blair insists his government is not building a Big Brother-style super-database. But all the talk of ‘perfectly sensible’ reforms and ‘transformational government’ masks a chilling assault on our privacy”

Brilliant article. It’s almost too much to take in and it might leave you feeling very depressed. But, really, if you live in the UK, you should read it.

Vista Pricing – Shamefull

Although we have mentioned MS Vista in the past on this blog, it was always unlikely that we would upgrade to it in the very near future. A recent check of the technology news helps confirm this.

It seems that Vista has been released in the US with an MRP of $99.95 (Upgrade version of Home Basic). Given the current exchange rates and using Reuters currency converter this works out at £51.23,

For some reason, it has been decided to sell Vista in the UK at £85 + VAT, which works out at about £99.88.

What madness is this! According to Reuters this is the same as US customers paying $194.72. I cant imagine MS would ship many boxes at that rate.

Just goes to show, you can pay nearly a hundred pounds, have to upgrade your hardware and learn a brand new way of working, or you can get linux for free. I think I can honestly say the only way Why Dont You will upgrade to vista will be when we get new computers and it comes pre-loaded with no alternatives.