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So…Egypt, eh?


There seems to be a lot of fuss in the United States right now over Egypt.  In case you have been living under a rock, Egypt has been busy tearing itself apart as the citizens (millions of them) have taken to the streets in an costly effort to oust a dictatorship that has clung to power for 30 years.

Egypt’s current dictator is a major US ally.  The largest organised opposition to him at the moment is the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that would frankly be exceptionally bad news for anyone who doesn’t believe the same things they do.  While I understand the conundrum from a strategic and military standpoint, I simply cannot grasp at all how there is the remotest hint of a question who “we” (the nations of the western world) should be supporting.

The answer is as obvious as the nose on our collective face: “we” should be supporting the Egyptian people.  Yes, they may vote in a hostile government.  They may even vote in a government that is worse to the Egyptian people than the dictator they currently have.  That is not the point.  It is all irrelevant.  Democracy is a fundamental human right.  The Egyptian people have a right to choose their own destiny; a right to make mistakes – or not – as they themselves see fit.

We should not be fiddling while Egypt burns, making grand proclamations and televised overtures.  We should in fact be sending government representatives into the throng of protesters gathered in Tahrir square with only one question on their lips:  “how can we help?”  We need to be prepared to accept that if the answer is “stay the hell out of our way,” then it is our moral and ethical duty to do exactly that.

From a selfish standpoint, I would prefer it if Egypt didn’t vote in a government that wants to see me either converted or killed…but I would still defend to the death their human right to do so, if this is what they choose.   It is what being Canadian means.  It is supposed to be what being a citizen of any country that supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is about.  This isn’t about me, or you, or anyone put the people fighting for their freedom.  Freedom that isn’t merely what they “deserve”…it’s theirs by right.

Anyone who wouldn’t stand up to defend that right – even knowing the end result holds the possibility of not being in “our” favour – does not know what either freedom nor democracy mean.  Countries and persons do not deserve democracy only when the make the “right” decisions, or when the outcome is favourable to the western world.  Countries and persons deserve democracy and freedom because it is their right.  Inalienable.  Unassailable.  Who they vote for is simply none of our damned business.

Egypt, if we can help…let us know how.  In the meantime; good luck.

  • Author:
  • Published: Sep 23rd, 2010
  • Category: Rants
  • Comments: Comments Off on Automatic Provisioning

Automatic Provisioning

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There has been some chatter lately about automatic provisioning.  As an SME sysadmin, I work in an environment where there is no such thing as the concept of “chargeback.”  IT resources come out of the IT budget, and no other department ever has to pay for them or in any other way worry about the cost.  In this scenario, automatic provisioning is a terrifying concept to me.  The following is a rant I posted as a comment to an article on El Reg.  I apologise if the language or tone offends anyone:

Automatic Provisioning?

Over my rotting corpse.  Users (and especially managers) don’t give a flight-enabled euphemism about anything except that which directly affects them.  If you happen to work in a business where licensing costs are “IT’s problem” then the concept of automated provisioning is essentially like asking all members of IT to please go an slit their wrists with an HIV infected needle.  The very concept is ludicrous.
Users are the “people” (and I use the term loosely) who demand with raised voices, red faces and other tantrum-like symptoms a copy of the latest full Adobe CS suite so they can open a JPEG.  “Because the colour is rendered better in Photoshop.”  Not so they can EDIT a JPEG mind you, but so that they can VIEW it.  Why they need the whole rest of the suite is bloody beyond me.

Don’t forget that apparently saving a word document to PDF absolutely requires the latest Adobe CS Suite as well.  Apparently using PDF 995 would end the world.  Also; every single new task, render engine or what-have-you apparently requires a separate VM.  The capacity for which supposedly grows on trees.

Automatic Provisioning?  Like hell.  The day that the resources to provide the licenses and the storage/network/server capacity come out of someone else’s budget, they can automatically provision anything they want.  As it is, I have trouble just keeping critical business functions (such as e-mail, data storage, backups, web services, etc.) running under the existing budget.

I should add that training/”educating” users doesn’t help.  At all.  You can’t make someone actually care about something they don’t view as their problem.  There is no education platform, corporate policy or incentive package in existence that will ever cause the average Joe to grow two spoonfuls of give-a-shit.  If the cost of what they are “automatically provisioning” doesn’t hit them personally and directly, then they will simply look at it as “something the company/IT/my manager/someone-who-is-not-me” has to worry about and push the button to spawn another instance.

If you don’t restrain users, they will feast upon IT services long past the point where they have gorged themselves.

Automatic provisioning?  Over my rotting corpse.

  • Author:
  • Published: Jun 20th, 2010
  • Category: Rants
  • Comments: Comments Off on Does a love of evolution make me a softie?

Does a love of evolution make me a softie?

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I took the weekend off to go to the lake. Now, I don’t get to do this often, perhaps once every two or three weekends. In an effort to spruce the place up a tad, I bought some solar LED deck lights at the beginning of the season. They seem to work fine, and emit no heat that I can detect.

Having not been out for a few weekends, upon arrival at my lake lot, I found insects of various strips had taken up residence wherever they could find a niche. I took some time to get rid of a pair of wasp’s nests, and removed spider’s webs from my doorway. I did the cleaning and the yard work…but then I ran across something I just couldn’t get rid of.

Upon each of my deck lights was a complex lattice of spider’s webs. Very full spider’s webs. You can’t really appreciate it until nightfall, but these spiders were using the night time glow of the lights to lure bugs into their webs. They had discovered these light sources didn’t emit heat, and thus wouldn’t harm them. Instead, they spun their deadly traps, and used the mating instincts of other insects against them.

I was, and remain, deeply impressed. I could not clean these webs, could not unhome these intelligent arachnids. They have earned their place: they deserve to survive, to mate, and to propagate their line.

I felt a little touched; as though I was watching evolution in action. Somehow these spiders possessed a mutation denied their eight-legged brethren. Despite their fantastically small brains, they were able to take advantage of this “cold light,” something that should give them an edge over their cousins in the eternal game of genetic dominance.

I simply couldn’t intervene. I would love to see if a few generations of selective pressure end with more of the little blighters doing this on other “cold light” sources, or if the adaptation dies out.

I hope it doesn’t, I think it’s brilliant. Does that make me a softie?

  • Author:
  • Published: Jun 17th, 2010
  • Category: Rants
  • Comments: Comments Off on We am the hive mind

We am the hive mind

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Though the nearness of the words “facepalm” and “Facebook” is entirely coincidental, I have recently begun to mentally replace one with the other at all instances. If I read an article about Facebook, invariably it is some privacy hiccough, or someone who has done something unbelievably odd, antisocial or just plain stupid in full view of the digital public.

On the flip side of that particular coin, it has become a valid communications tool, with half a Billion individuals using it. Nearly half the population of my country uses it. Certainly more than half of the literate public in Canada is using it.

I am thusly terrified when I start to notice trends in people’s behavior that indicate a growing social meme whereby “if it is not on Facebook, it’s not true.” Much as I despair of the idea that Wikipedia is a valid source of primary information, I am consistently reminded of the tragic reality that there exist people who honestly believe that no bit of information about an individual is “true” unless they have posted it to Facebook.

My canonical example of this, (and the one that inspired this post,) is that of my impending nuptials. The hardest part about this change in status is the slow process of informing all of your friends. It is not new information by any means; in fact I am often startled when someone has not already heard. The issue apparently is that I have relied on more traditional mediums for the dissemination of information about my life.

I communicate with my friends primarily through voice communications, or secondarily through instant messaging. I prefer to have real-time conversation with individuals, and I see services such as Facebook as little more than a terrible combination between an egocentric blog and voicemail. (For those curious, getting a Facebook profile was not my idea. For all intents and purposes, I lost a bet.)

That some people would look at me in askance upon being informed of the changes in my life and exclaim, “but that’s not what your Facebook says” causes bitter poison to spread tendrils through my soul. My Facebook page contains little if any information at all. There is no relationship status, age, birthday…I’m not even 100% sure I filled out the box for “gender.”

I purposefully left Facebook as near to a blank slate as was reasonable because I believe that if you care enough about me to truly care what is new in my life, then you care enough to communicate with me in real time. (Phones, Instant messaging or even email all being perfectly acceptable forms of communication to me.) How the fact that a page with almost no information at all translates into “I have trouble crediting what you are telling me face to face” I simply cannot parse.

And thus the meat of my rant: a philosophical question. Are we, as a society, turning too much of our thinking processes over to these sorts of “social networking” sites? Perhaps to “the Internet” in general? The entire issue seems as though it may be related to my similar fears that the general public has lost the ability to differentiate between “rewritten press releases” and “actual news.”

When did we start believing what was presented to us without critical thinking?

When did we stop believing anything else?

And are these not overarching social trends worth being deeply, deeply worried about?

  • Author:
  • Published: Jun 1st, 2010
  • Category: Rants
  • Comments: Comments Off on A Mac Rant

A Mac Rant

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This is a comment I left on an article on El Reg…but I felt that is bears repeating, and so I am reposting it here.

Anti-malware for Macs.

It exists.  For the love of $deity, USE IT.  (I am getting so sick of cleaning Macs…)

Welcome to the big time boys; after years of slogging in obscurity, Microsoft ****ed the pooch and gave Mac an opening.  Because Jobs is no one’s fool he took advantage of this and the end result is that as a platform, Mac is finally relevant.  Relevancy bears a cost; and that cost is being a valid target.

For systems administrators, it is now that the really hard work begins; convincing all those Mac users that their nice period of obscurity is over, and it’s time to start learning some basic desktop security principals just like all the Windows users have to.

If I get one more worm-ridden Mac in from some user who smugly states “that’s impossible; Macs don’t get viruses” I think I might just compress into a microsingularity and evaporate

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  • Published: May 17th, 2009
  • Category: Rants
  • Comments: Comments Off on EU fines Intel: The sky is falling!

EU fines Intel: The sky is falling!

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The internet is imploding. Aparently, the world is ending, and it’s all the EU’s fault.  Oh, if only they hadn’t fined Intel.  I mean, eveyrone wants to buy Intel, right? BAD EU.


This isn’t about AMD or Intel’s current technology, or pace of technology, or the current price/performance or anything like that.  What this is is very simple:

Intel, being in a monopoly position has the ability to lean on customers, spread FUD, hand out “incentives” and “samples,” and generally do things that are considered as “good business practices” when you are not a monopoly.  (I.E. they are a well accepted and understood pack of business practises designed to promote your organisation, and screw your competition.)  These practices are VERY common in IT, as the ball swings between those who have something cool and innovative, and those who are selling yesterdays crap.

Now, and I know this is where you all get lost, these business practices are illegal if you are a monopoly.  Why? Because capitalism is (supposed to be) something that provides the best possible advantages to everyone via the magic fairy dust of competition.  If, as the 800lb gorilla amongst the mice, and you use your position to step on as many mice as you can, you’re generally regarded as stifling rather than encouraging competition.  You may not like it, you may disagree with it, but that is the law as it stands today.

Intel did this; full stop.  When AMD finally had a good product, rather than answering with a good product, they stepped on AMD over and over again until they could bring the great machine of their company into play and truly answer them technologically.  In a competitive environment, (and without Hector Ruiz,) AMD should have been able to make huge inroads into market share.  They should have been able to buy/build more fabs, ramp up production, sink loads of cash into R&D and actually meet Intel toe to toe for decades to come.  Yes fanbois, regardless of how much you love Intel, that was how far ahead AMD was at the time all these various anti-trust investigations started.

In the meantime and betweentime, Intel shart all over AMD, which caused them to devote an abnormal amount of their resources just to getting places like Dell to buy their chips.  Not an objective soul can honestly say Dell was all Intel because there was no demand.  HP ran roughshod over them for years because they didn’t shift AMD kit.  Customers screamed up and at them to sell them AMD kit of all flavours.  Dell (amongst, I have to admit, quite a few others,) only did so when Intel said “okay, we’ve finally got a price/performance answer to AMD, sell whatever you want.”  (The fact that various lawsuits were now out against Intel, investigating this very thing might also have played into this.)

Add in the “freebies” and “promotional items” which meant that ON THE WHOLE, company X got Y units for below the cost of production.  (Thus undercutting AMD severly, who didn’t have the resources to use loss leaders like that.)

So, in short, the point is that a way back when, the 800lb Intel gorilla stepped on the AMD mouse. In doing so, they prevented AMD from capitalising on the excellent work they had done in advancing technology, and thus hampering their ability to truly pump more money into R&D, thus really cutting into their ability to be competitive in the medium and long term.  This then meant that Intel had ensured that as soon as they finally caught up to AMD there would be no possible way AMD could pull ahead again.

That ladies and gentlemen, is how the consumer was hurt by this business. The EU fines are about the harm done to the CONSUMER.  Not to AMD, VIA, or other companies.  They are about what Intel did wrong to you, me, and the computer buyer down the street.  Intel used tactics that are illegal to use as a monopoly to directly harm AMD’s long term chances of being able to pump adequate money into R&D.  Thusly harming it’s ability to be a medium or long term competitor.  Does Nehalem walk all over Shanghai? Yes.  Why? Because Intel spend billions making sure that it would.  That means that for the forseeable future, Intel can rest on it’s laurels, not innovating nearly as much as it would have to if AMD were biting at it’s heels.  It also means that Intel sets the price, because AMD doesn’t have the resources to produce enough volume to drive the price down.

On a personal note, I would not honestly be shocked if Intel spent more money per year stepping on AMD than AMD actually had in REVENUE.  You honestly have to bear in mind the difference in size of these companies.  AMD is not the slightly smaller plucky underdog.  AMD is vastly, VASTLY smaller than Intel, and exist only because Intel lets them continue to do so. You can bet that every year at Intel, there is a meeting between people much more intelligent and worldly than I where the question is asked: “do we make more money by allowing AMD to continue to exist, or do we wipe them out for good, and just eat the anti-trust lawsuits?”

So please try to expand your minds beyond “AMD chips are not as good as Intel’s, thus this is all bollocks because who would buy AMD?!?!?!?!?oneoneone!!111!1oneone.”  Think about WHY AMD is so far behind, when they were, not that long ago, dramatically ahead.

Thank you, and good night.

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