Hardware sucks, part 2

A month ago the hard disk in my home desktop computer crashed. Yesterday, the hard disk in my laptop crashed. I’ve been using computers with hard disks for at least 15 years, and before last month, I had never had a actual, physical hard disk crash on any of my personal machines (I’ve had drives wiped out for various other reasons, but the actual drives were always usable). Is this the start of a bad trend? Having hard disk prices below 1$/GB isn’t all that great if the disks have the life expectancy of a Microdrive.

Well, all the important stuff is backed up elsewhere, and I only lost some blog subscriptions added in the last few weeks. Still, I should try to start using Unison again (I stopped using it when I retired my Linux machine, which acted as server storage area) — it’s a great way to keep all one’s important files (in my case, almost everything under %USERPROFILE%) in sync between machines. Use it to sync your work and home computer, and you have automatic offsite backup.

Microsoft and transparency

Noone in the Microsoft development space can have missed the big change that has taken place within Microsoft during the last year. The company goes further in trying to build ties with the developers, employees are blogging, they are trying to get people involved.

Now, I have a healthy amount of suspicion towards Microsoft. I feel I’ve been fucked over by MS a number of times, from when I tried to use Perl with ASP 1.0, through when I tried to make sense of CDO (sparsely documented, 300+ byte IDs,…), to when I tried to use Pocket Outlook Object Model (POOM) on PocketPC for real-world scenarios (ID’s that change when record contents change — you’ve got to be KIDDING me??!).

Posts like Chris Pratley’s post about Word file format disclosure: ”We don’t do that because it is our intellectual property. People who want to work with us can get it by contacting us; people who want to compete with us need to work harder. That’s business. We might change our minds […] but really it is our prerogative” do nothing to change my suspicion

Microsoft, look; if you’re going to be both platform provider and competitor, you’ll have to accept that people care more about your position as a competitor rather than your position as a platform provider. In that sense, Robert Scoble’s post about ”Mozilla should adapt Longhorn tech” was spectacularly naive considering the history of Internet Explorer and Netscape.

I don’t take anything that Microsoft says at face value any longer. I always factor in what they have to loose and what they have to win. In the POOM case, we were doing a product that competed with Microsoft, so it makes sense (from a shareholder-earning standpoint) that they wouldn’t go to any great length to make my life easier. I’m thinking about this when reading the email thread that wasn’t ”created with public consumption in mind”. I can’t help to think that it was — it seems pretty sanitized to me.

When it comes to redefining Microsoft’s public image, comment’s like Chris Pratley’s don’t help. You’re an established monopoly, now deal with the new rules and expectations. If you want to be a platform vendor, then document your platform. This includes full documentation of the Office formats, CDO, Extended MAPI, and Pocket Outlook Object Model (POOM). This will undermine your position as a application vendor on that platform. Deal with it. Don’t make us rely on undocumented properties and sites like CDOLive. Don’t just skirt the issue by saying that ”it’s your prerogative” to keep things secret.

Quickies of the day

I’ve read lots of interesting things the last week, but haven’t sat down to go through my ”Items for Review” folder until now. By the way, that RSSBandit feature rocks!

  • Gunnar Kudrjavets has an interesting discussion about wheter to have assertions turned on in Release code (Part I and Part II). At first, one would agree with Schneier and Ferguson in that ”That [Release code] is the only place where you really need it!”. The problem is that release code has performance demands. If liberal usage of assertions slow down release code, you’ll be tempted to use them less, ultimately rendering you with a less solid system.
  • Those entries from Gunnar are several weeks old, but I didn’t find out about his blog until today through a post from Cyrus (whose last name I cannot seem to find). Cyrus has plenty of interesting stuff as well, particularly this post about some new stuff coming out of Microsoft Research. AsmL is an interesting system that reminds me of both automata theory and literate programming. Polyphonic C# is a extension of C# for asynchronous concurrent programming, which sound similar to how Erlang works.
  • Another interesting post from Cyrus is where he enters a well-written bug report to the Mono guys (regarding anonymous delegate support). It warms my heart to see Microsoft-Open source cooperation at this level, between the actual developers, and serves as a nice example that we all actually CAN get along.
  • Jimmy Nilsson writes a little about the current state of AOP on the .Net platform. Now, if the AOP fans are correct in that this is the next big thing on the same scale as OOP is the big thing today, you all should expect to deal with it in the real world in about 10 years 🙂

Alice, Bob and Friends

The paper about the new WinZip 9.0 AES encryption security problems does of course mention our old friends Alice and Bob, used in almost every example of a cryptographic system, but also a new adversary, Mallory. According to this, it seems that Mallory (a manipulator) is used in place of Eve (an eavesdropper) when it’s desirable to distinguish between these roles. I know I’ve read several examples of Eve being able to manipulate messages, but anyway… That explaination led me to this page, which I’ve read before, but it contains my favorite cryptology quote ever, so I’m afraid I’ll have to repeat it here:

From ”The Alice and Bob after-dinner speech”:

Against all odds, over a noisy telephone line, tapped by the tax authorities and the secret police, Alice will happily attempt, with someone she doesn’t trust, whom she cannot hear clearly, and who is probably someone else, to fiddle her tax returns and to organise a coup d’etat, while at the same time minimising the cost of the phone call.

A coding theorist is someone who doesn’t think Alice is crazy.

Stockholm Marathon: Three weeks left

So, I did another half marathon today, and did NOT run into the wall this time. I ended up with a finishing time of 2:15:15, which all in all is OK, but it’s going to be difficult to hit my goal of a four-hour marathon with that kind of pace. I’m hoping things will be a little better on race day, what with proper rest before, spectators cheering, energy drinks instead of water, and not having to carry the fluid around myself (I had 1,3 liters with me today, and that does make things even more exhausting).

Still, it will be a challenge to set out for that second lap (the Stockholm marathon course consists of two almost-identical laps around the city), particularly since the actual endurance isn’t my weakest spot. Rather, after running for a long time (like 15 km), my knees, feet and other parts start to ache a lot more. It will be ”interesting” to see how much they’ll hurt on the second lap…

Back at fourth!

In march, I noticed that a google search for ”staffan” yielded my blog at 23th place, down from 4th. I am now happy to announce that I’m yet again the fourth most important ”staffan” on the web (at least on the US google.com). This might mean that Rasmus google-poisoning powers has worn off. I’m also number two in a search for ”malmgren”, which I think is an all-time high.

I think there’s some kind of executive desk toy that displays things like stock indexes and website load with real-life analog dials, that get their information from some sort of radio network (I remember reading about it in Wired somewhere). I’d like to have one of those hooked up to my google rating.