Un Rendez-vous

2009/09/18

Die Linke

Filed under: anti-war, politics — Tags: , , , , , , — simonlecoeur @ 00:38

Who would have thought that the Germans would be against a doomed war in Afghanistan or — gasp! — wealth redistribution?

Against a backdrop of multicoloured pre-fabricated housing blocks, a tanning salon and a travel agent offering last-minute deals to the Baltic coast, Frank Spieth handed out red balloons, pens and advice in equal measure.

The concerns of those who approached his campaign bus in Erfurt, the former communist east of Germany, were primarily local: a woman fighting for compensation from a hospital after contracting MRSA, another seeking a ramp access to her building, a man complaining about the state of windows in the city’s schools, which he said needed replacing even before the fall of the wall 20 years ago.

But in little more than a week, when Germans vote for a new parliament, Spieth and his allies are hoping to make a national impact.

His anti-capitalist, pro-social justice Die Linke is striking a chord with an increasingly disenfranchised electorate, espousing causes – such as inequality, reunification issues and, crucially, the war in Afghanistan – that are finding a receptive audience in both east and west.

“Our voters are representative of millions of Germans who feel cut off from the political process and they could have a significant impact on Germany’s political landscape,” said 62-year-old Spieth, who left the Social Democratic party (SPD) in 2003 after 37 years in protest at its restructuring of the social welfare state.

While Die Linke’s rivals have mercilessly attacked it for its radical wealth redistribution plans and its links to the defunct communist regime, its message is clearly getting through.

“The promises [of the mainstream parties] to us about the blossoming landscapes which would follow after unification are mere speech bubbles,” said 68-year old Erika Seebach, the MRSA sufferer, in Erfurt. “While some might accuse Die Linke of populism, they get things on to the agenda that really matter.”

Polls gives the party about 14%, but after huge gains recently made in key regional elections at the end of August, where it won 21% in the western state of Saarland, Die Linke is being seen as the party that could shake up the political landscape in the 27 September vote.

The policies of bigger parties, including the chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU and its junior Social Democrat partner, are now seen to be disturbingly similar in comparison.

“Generally there are only a few themes that particularly distinguish most of the parties,” according to Renate Köcher, joint head of the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy. “It’s only really Die Linke that stands out, in particular for their critical position regarding the German economy and societal order.”

Spieth embodies the verve and drive of many in Die Linke. The party, founded just two years ago is, he admits, “a motley crew of democratic socialists, social democrats, communists, Christians, you name it”.

Broadly speaking it consists of disillusioned easterners, former members of the ruling communists, and disaffected members of the centre-left SPD.

Die Linke is promising to redress the rich-poor divide by pumping €200bn (£178bn) a year into job creation and financing a gigantic public spending programme, a plan opponents dismiss as unworkable.

Its anti-capitalist stance has raised its profile at a time when expressing such views has become increasingly fashionable, though it has failed to cash in on the economic crisis as growth resumes in Europe’s largest economy.

But it came into its own in the aftermath of a recent Nato air strike, ordered by the German military, in northern Afghanistan. The attack triggered a fierce debate about pulling German forces out of Afghanistan. Die Linke is the only party in parliament that is calling for the immediate withdrawal of German troops. As many as 80% of people in Germany are against the Afghan mission.

“It’s got people talking about the war, which the other parties had wanted to exclude from the discussion, and that can only be a good thing for us,” said Oskar Lafontaine, a former SPD finance minister and one of Die Linke’s most prominent leaders.

“The majority of people are against this war due to our own appalling experiences in two world wars but if we don’t keep this issue on the agenda, no one will,” he told the Guardian at an anti-war rally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

As he went on stage there were roars of approval as he punched the air and with sweat dripping down his shirt, proclaimed: “We’re proud to be anti-war. As Willy Brandt said there should never be war on German soil ever again. That should be the message for now and the future.”Christoph Hein, a leading German novelist from Leipzig, who as a pacifist said he was a Die Linke supporter, albeit a reluctant one, put the rise in its popularity down to the increase in floating voters.

“The days when people voted for one party are over. People feel deceived by the other parties, but at least they feel Die Linke speaks their language, and this war issue is a good example of that.”If there is one factor holding the party back, it is the claim that it is a home for the “loony left”.

Die Linke party wins German votes by standing out from crowd

2009/09/17

Microsoft: Zune HD vs Windows Mobile

Filed under: hardware, mobile — Tags: , , , — simonlecoeur @ 12:19

Steve Ballmer: “Mobile strategy? I don’t need no fsckin’ mobile strategy!”

Dan Frommer:

While Microsoft has done a decent job aping Apple’s 2007 iPod touch with the new Zune, it’s missing a very important feature from the 2009 iPod touch: The App Store, which is now approaching 80,000 titles and 2 billion downloads since it launched last summer. Games and other apps are now a huge draw for iPod touch users. So much so that “playing music and videos” is just one of many reasons to own the device.

So, where is the Zune HD’s app store? It’s stuck in development in another part of Microsoft’s mobile gadget business, where no Zune HD buyer can use it.

Microsoft Zune executive Brian Seitz explained this week that Microsoft’s Windows Mobile division “is tackling the challenge of a mobile apps marketplace right now,” and Microsoft is “trying to get out of the business of building similar things in the company that don’t work together.”

Translation: We didn’t build an app store for the Zune because Windows Mobile is working on an app store, and we can’t compete with Windows Mobile. This is frustrating, because our new gadget (Zune HD) is better than theirs (Windows Mobile), but you know how it is with Windows around here.

No wonder Seitz is frustrated. What’s good for Windows is bad for Zune buyers. Zune HD buyers hoping to use their gadget to play games or use apps are now screwed. And likewise, any hope that this Zune will take meaningful market share away from Apple is gone, too.

This is emblematic of Microsoft’s history in the mobile gadget business: Struggling to solve old problems that competitors have already figured out; always following, never leading; and, above all, working so hard to protect the Windows monopoly that it just can’t get out of its own way. The result is now a big, convoluted mess.

Microsoft is certainly right that it doesn’t need two app stores, especially with different developer platforms. If the iPhone and iPod touch had different app stores, Apple’s mobile strategy would also be a mess.

But Microsoft’s failure to resolve this issue means that the Zune HD will be another dud, because it will probably not be compatible with whatever app platform Microsoft builds for the next few versions of Windows Mobile. (For now, Microsoft promises to eventually shepherd in a small number of self-selected apps for the new Zune, such as Facebook and Twitter apps, and a few games. But that’s not going to cut it.)

In the meantime, most people will continue to just buy iPods.

So what about the next element of Microsoft’s mobile strategy, Windows Mobile?

Well, version 6.5 is rolling out, and it’s as uninspiring as the last few versions. It has nothing on Apple’s iPhone, which continues to improve, and it will likely remain behind RIM’s BlackBerry, Google’s Android, and Palm’s WebOS in developer mindshare. So that will be no help to the Zune guys, either.

Yes, Microsoft is already working on yet another Windows Mobile, version 7. This version “actually looks quite good,” says a plugged-in source in the mobile industry. But it’s “apparently not shipping until late 2010,” our source says, adding: “Maybe too late for it to matter.”

The source is right: By the end of 2010, Apple and RIM will be another generation ahead. Windows Mobile will once again be running behind the train.

Microsoft’s Mobile Strategy Is A Mess

2009/09/16

Must be hard times at Microsoft

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — simonlecoeur @ 13:07

From the peerless Daniel Eran Dilger, who’s probably forgotten more about technology than Steve Ballmer ever knew:

Microsoft’s development program is patterned after Apple’s in some respects, with the same $99 annual fee to participate in its program as a registered developer. However, Microsoft will also be charging an additional $99 fee per application submitted for both free and paid apps, after an initial grace period through the end of 2009 that permits five free app submissions.

“We will run a rigorous certification process to ensure an optimal end user experience, and that the device and network resources are not used in a malicious way,” Microsoft says in its Marketplace information page. “This certification process bears a significant cost. We believe that $99 is an acceptable cost of doing business, in order to gain access to millions of customers interested in purchasing applications.”

Apple does not charge developers any additional fees to submit their apps, which has resulted in a crushing submission approvals workload that has left a few dozen developers publicly enraged by delays and inconsistencies in the approval process. The vast majority of the 75,000 applications in the App Store library are approved within two weeks, and at no cost, by Apple’s staff of reviewers. In July, Apple reported to the FCC that it handles 8,500 app submissions and updates every week.

Microsoft’s store rules tells developers, “if your app is rejected, you will receive an adequate explanation and any associative tests or policy rules that have failed. As the developer, you are expected to address these issues before submitting the app again. Submission fees are not refundable, and you’ll have to repay the [$99] submission fee for each time you submit the app.”

Additionally, “Microsoft reserves the right to remove your app from Windows Marketplace for Mobile at any time. An app may be pulled if its content is unsuitable or if the app has an unusually high rate of customer refund requests.” At the same time, the company says, “you’re not required to provide support for apps that are no longer available on Windows Marketplace for Mobile.”

Microsoft sells restrictive new WiMo Marketplace via iPhone ads

99 bucks (non-refundable) just to submit an app plus an annual fee? Hey Microsoft, that’s no way to get developers on board. Just sayin’…

2009/09/13

Dear Warren Buffet (Anger management in the ‘net age)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — simonlecoeur @ 17:58

Dear Mr. Buffett
I need to let you know what has happened with NetJets. You must not be aware. You are a smart and successful man. You will not be pleased. I have worked here for many years and am very concerned. I know we have had a very rough year financially, but we now find ourselves in a much worse situation with new leadership that is unprofessional and not capable or qualified. Most importantly, at least 4 of the people now put in charge of the company have a long history of unethical actions, including fraud, sexual harassment, affairs with their employees, and drug abuse on and off of the job. I have details in writing written by these people themselves proving these facts.
I do not know why David Sokol did not check out the people he was putting in charge. Did he ask anyone before he promoted these people??? It is common knowledge around NetJets that several of the new leaders are not good men. Murray and Jacobs are the worst. Did anyone check them out??? The IRS would have a field day with them. I wonder if their wives know what they have been doing for so many years. I have emails from these people given to me by a NetJets IT person. He collected evidence and gave the emails to several people including me. Our new leadership were not only stupid enough to do these terrible things, but they also wrote lots of emails about their fun times. I guess they thought they were invincible and that they would never get caught. Sorry boys, the game is over for you. The messages detail their sexual affairs, special gifts from the aircraft companies, free trips, and many things prohibited by our company for all employees. Did all of the people in leadership positions have drug tests? All of our pilots do. I know that several now at the top of our company would not pass. I bet the FAA would love that.
I am upset that Mr. Santulli is gone, but I am totally outraged that several of the people now in charge are cheats and liars not fit to work for our great company. Ask these new people in charge to tell you about the special deals they made and the gifts they get from vendors. Ask people like Olsen and Murray and Jacobs why so many women feel threatened and harassed by them. Ask Ben how many women he has had affairs with at NetJets and EJM. I can’t believe how many of these married men are doing this. Do your wives a big favor and leave them. They will be better off without you.
I can’t believe that Sokol did not learn about these people before they were given control of the place. I even question Sokol. Ask him why he spends more time looking at my chest than my eyes. My female coworkers would tell you the same thing. And he thinks he will be the next Warren Buffett??? Jim Jacobs isn’t fit to do anything. He was in charge of billions of dollars worth of contracts? No wonder we lost so much money. Why wasn’t he fired? He is the main reason we are losing so much money. Take a look at the gifts and special free trips given to Jacobs and his buddies. Wonder how many are from Cessna and the other Jet companies!
I know that about 600 people will be fired tomorrow. I may even be one of them. I also know that you are slashing the benefits and salaries for everyone else. If I am fired, I will sue NetJets and the 4 men that have harassed me. I also know that many of my female colleagues will do the same thing. I already spoke to a lawyer and was told that I have all the facts and evidence I need. I know we need to cut back to survive, but the people put in charge will make it much worse. I do not trust them. You should not trust them. Even Sokol should be checked. I will send you the emails with the details of their affairs and drugs and gifts. All written by the men themselves thinking they could get away with anything. If nothing is done to investigate and remove these people, I will send the emails to their wives and the media. Please do something now. I live this company and want it to survive. All of our hard work is going to waste now.
See your letter to us below and our guidelines. I read them. I follow them. Did our new leaders read them? I know they don’t follow them. I know for a fact that most of the people now leading NetJets have numerous violations of these rules now and in the past. Please do something now. I will send you the emails with all the facts and evidence. You need to be aware and fix this before any more damage is done. Thank you.

Anonymous commentator on Business Insider

2009/09/11

Quelle surprise

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — simonlecoeur @ 21:29

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder has decided not to bring any criminal charges against a former Bush administration official who lawmakers said lied to them in sworn testimony.

An inspector general’s report found that Bradley Schlozman, the former head of the civil rights division, misled lawmakers in sworn testimony about whether he politicized hiring decisions.

At his February confirmation hearing, Holder pledged he would review that decision to prosescute Schlozman when he took over the department and promised to strengthen and rebuild the civil rights division.

Holder’s decision was revealed in a letter sent to lawmakers on Friday.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who was one of Schlozman’s questioners at the original hearing and had urged Holder take a second look at the case, called the attorney general’s decision “very disappointing.”

“Perjury is often a close call, but in this case it wasn’t. Mr. Schlozman was way over the line,” Schumer said.

Bradley Schlozman Won’t Face Criminal Charges For Lying Under Oath

2009/09/10

English sense of “fair play”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — simonlecoeur @ 21:15

Rover executives ‘extracted £42m’

MG Rover collapsed with debts of £1bn
A report into the collapse of carmaker Rover will reveal that five executives took £42m in pay and pensions from the troubled firm, the BBC has learned.
The report by independent inspectors outlines how the five enriched themselves while the company was heading for insolvency.

It does not, however, accuse them of breaking the law.

The long-awaited report into the 2005 collapse of MG Rover will be released on Friday.

The independent probe has taken more than four years to complete and has cost the taxpayer about £16m.

‘Flabbergasted’
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has said it does not intend to launch a criminal investigation into the collapse, which saw about 6,500 people lose their jobs.
The four executives in control of MG Rover, the so-called Phoenix Four, have always denied any wrongdoing.

Former MG Rover chairman John Towers, ex-vice chairman Nick Stephenson, Peter Beale and John Edwards came in for criticism after the firm’s collapse when it was revealed that they had taken an estimated £40m in pay and pensions from the company.

Rover executives ‘extracted £42m’ (BBC)

2009/09/08

Server downtimes

Filed under: hardware — Tags: , , — simonlecoeur @ 12:23

The ITIC server reliability study puts server outages (be they caused by either a hardware or a software issue) in one of three buckets. Tier 1 outages are the “stupid stuff,” says DiDio, such as someone accidentally powering down a box, which are quickly fixed. Tier 2 outages are trickier and result in system downtime of between 30 minutes and four hours. A crashed application, or getting permissions bollixed up, or some kind of patch gone awry, are the kinds of causes of Tier 2 outages.

These usually require more than one system administrator to figure out and often require at least one administrator to be on site to physically deal with the box. Tier 3 outages are the worst, and most rare among enterprise-class servers. These outages can span more than one box in an n-tier application and database setup, and they take more than four hours to resolve. They also can result in lost data and usually cause irritation to end users who can’t get into their applications.

Among the customers surveyed by ITIC, IBM’s Power Systems running AIX experienced (this includes older System p and pSeries iron) the least amount of downtime per year, when averaged across all customers using these platforms. AIX shops reported an average of 0.42 Tier 1 incidents per year and 0.34 Tier 2 incidents, and not one customer reported a Tier 3 outage on their AIX boxes. The Power Systems machines (and this includes older System i and iSeries iron) had an average of 0.56 Tier 1 outages per year, 0.44 Tier 2 outages per year, and 0.12 Tier 3 outages. So in 2009 at least, the i platform fared a little worse than the AIX platform running on Power iron.

The numbers for the i platform were pretty similar to the numbers reported to ITIC by shops running HP-UX on PA-RISC or Itanium iron or running Solaris on Sparc iron. HP-UX shops deploying HP-UX 11i v3 on older PA-RISC iron reported an average of 0.60 Tier 1 outages per year, followed by 0.43 Tier 2 outages and 0.10 Tier 3 outages. With HP-UX on Itanium, the numbers were a little higher, with an average of 0.65 Tier 1 outages, 0.48 Tier 2 outages, and 0.14 Tier 3 outages. On Sparc boxes running Solaris, customers reported an average of 0.59 Tier 1 outages per year, 0.49 Tier 2 outages, and 01.10 Tier 3 outages.

When you do the math on the outages tracked by ITIC, the average Power Systems-AIX box had less than 15 minutes of unplanned downtime per year, half of what it was last year. HP-UX boxes (averaged across PA-RISC and Itanium machines) averaged just 36 minutes of unplanned downtime on PA-RISC iron and 39 minutes on Itanium iron. Solaris boxes were in the same ballpark, with 35.4 minutes of downtime, but the aging of Sparc iron (caused in part by just concerns among customers about Sun’s future when it went onto the financial rocks in early 2008) is pushing up the downtime numbers a little bit here in 2009, according to ITIC’s survey results.

Interestingly, servers running Mac OS at the shops polled by ITIC had 37.4 minutes of downtime per year.

Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 platforms did not fare as well, but they are improving. In 2008, ITIC’s survey respondents reported an average of 3.77 hours of unplanned downtime per year for their Windows boxes, but this has shrunk by 35 per cent in 2009 to 2.42 hours of downtime. While Windows servers have more downtime, the percentage of server incidents that make it to the Tier 2 or Tier 3 level are not appreciably higher, with only 29 per cent of total outages being caused by these higher level outages this year.

IT shops rank servers on downtime

Mortmain

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — simonlecoeur @ 12:18

Microsoft asks NHS what next for its EwA
08 Sep 2009

Microsoft is running a consultation to ask NHS IT professionals what they want to see in a future Enterprise wide Agreement between the NHS and the company.

The EwA is currently under negotiation as part of a nine-year provisional agreement and is due to expire in 2010.

Microsoft signed its EwA with the NHS in October 2001, and subsequently extended it in July 2007. The original deal covered 600,000 desktop licenses, with the number later extended to 850,000.

A questionnaire hosted on Microsoft’s NHS Resource Centre asks staff what they’d like to see as part of a future EwA, assuming the Department of Health decides to award one. With the Treasury looking for deep efficiency savings, all public sector expenditure is under close scrutiny.

“It is an opportunity for IT decision makers to feed back on what they have liked and disliked about the previous EwA,” said John Coulthard, director of healthcare and life sciences at Microsoft.

Microsoft asks NHS what next for its EwA

2009/09/07

“Labor Day in a Kleptocracy”

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — simonlecoeur @ 10:04

Reagan-Cheney between 1980 and 2008 created a new American aristocracy, a small sliver of super-rich, who buy and sell legislators, create whole “news networks” to present far rightwing fantasies as “news,” have their lackeys invade and occupy whole countries, hold themselves above the law, falsify financial statements, and suffer little or no punishment for stealing billions from the pensions of “working families” (i.e. those of us about whom P.T. Barnum remarked, “one is born every minute”.) The Republican Party has come to represent these super-rich. Since .1% of the population couldn’t actually win elections, they ally with other groups in society. About two-thirds of evangelicals have joined up with them, about a third of Latinos, significant numbers of midwestern rural families, and obviously large numbers of white southerners. In some cases these are lower middle class people on the make, who want to hitch their wagons to the brightest stars in the sky. In others, they share with the super-rich various resentments of the federal government. This alliance of odd bedfellows (think of Paris Hilton married to Joe Sixpack) is what produces the wackiness of Republican Party politics and media. They can’t come out and say that they want the country run for the benefit of 300,000 multi-millionaires and billionaires (almost all of them white), so they say they are all in favor of guns, apple pie, Jay-sus and the Confederacy. Sometimes, as with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, the pretense is so forced as to be implausible even to their minions. Clearly, racism and fear-mongering are also key irrational talking points for the plutocrats seeking support from the white lower middle class (though this route can backfire, as it did in 2008 when Republican fear-mongering about Latino immigration alienated most Latino voters and drove them into the arms of the Democrats.)…

Many of our corporations are essentially using us as garbage dumps for their unhealthy corporate food, creating a crisis of obesity that in turn is causing our bulging bellies to devour our brains and for men, to make it impossible for them to get it up. A government genuinely concerned with our welfare would outlaw anything but diet sodas. The unwillingness of our government to regulate this assault on our brain mass via our bellies is owed directly to the power of corporate lobbies that shape and even outright author legislation on such issues. (This paragraph is not meant to hurt the feelings of the victims of these policies; I’m saying you are victims– you have a right to expect your food to be healthy, and your government to care if it isn’t.) The super-rich are fattening us up, not for the kill, but for imbecility and impotence. At least we won’t remember to miss the fun…

I cannot entirely explain why the American super-rich are so much more heartless and stupid than their counterparts in Europe. In fact, they behave politically much more like Afghan and Pakistani big landlords, who pay their peasants a dollar a day and call in the army to put down any organized protests. In part, they have been offered an irresistible temptation by the destruction of organized labor; French workers wouldn’t put up with a tenth of the insults visited upon us by our overlords. But it is a dead end, even for the uber-rich. Healthy, educated workers will be key to American economic competition in the world in the coming century. Our super-rich and our politicians are hollowing the country out with their ponzi schemes and their Sparta strategy of projecting military force even as the country’s economic base in manufacturing and productivity sinks in comparison to rivals….

–Juan Cole

2009/09/06

Ealing Microsoft Comedy

Filed under: security — Tags: , — simonlecoeur @ 15:49

Updated An Ealing council employee infected the UK local authority’s IT systems with the Conficker-D worm after he plugged an infected USB into a work computer, causing tens of thousands of pounds in damages in the process.

The May incident took several days to clean-up and landed the west London council with a bill of £500,000 in lost revenue and repairs, The Guardian reports. Because IT systems were borked, the council was unable to process more than 1,800 parking tickets, at an estimated cost of £90,000, libraries lost out on £25,000 in fines and booking fees, council property rent went uncollected, and £14,000 was spent in overime sorting out delayed housing benefit claims….

The outbreak bears the hallmarks of the Conficker worm, which affected Manchester City Council in February to much the same effect. A detailed report on he incident, compiled by the council, blamed the infection on he use of a USB stick contaminated by Conficker-D. The worm exploited a Windows Autorun security weakness in Windows 2000 machines used by the council to upload itself and spread

Connections to remote sites were blocked during the clean-up operations. That left staff in outlying offices without telephony (because the council relies on a VoIP-based system). It also left staff in the main council office without voicemail for days for the same reason.

IT chiefs have put in a bid for a council-wide XP upgrade and extra end point and anti-virus defences at a potential cost of £600K. The upgrade would give the ability to lock down ports on PCs.

Conficker borks London council

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