Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Military hardware pr0n: Red Flag mass launch at Nellis AFB

A fascinating video I found on YouTube shows aircraft involved in the Red Flag 09 exercise during what is called a “mass launch”, which means exactly that: aircraft are pushed out of revetments and hangars out into the runways one after the other in a carefully choreographed dance that can take as much as three hours.

Red Flag is a readiness and training exercise run in different phases every fiscal year by the US Air Force’s 57th Wing out of Nellis AFB in Nevada. Aside from US Air Force, Marine, Army and Navy aircraft, other allied nations also take part with their hardware. This helps everyone get along together when the going gets tough. This is similar to the SFTI (aka TOPGUN) exercises run by the Navy out of NAS Fallon (back when “that movie” was released, TOPGUN was held at NAS Miramar).

The scramble progression is the usual heavy-read-blue sequence, with the large aircraft (support and ground attack) heading out first, followed by most of the “red” aggressor aircraft (used to simulate the enemy) and then the bulk of the “blue” forces. I spied:

  • 1 E-3 Sentry
  • 1 E-8 JSTARs
  • B-1B Lancers
  • B-2 Spirits
  • F-16Ns of the 18th, 64th and 56th aggressor squadrons
  • F-22 Raptors (which look like futuristic flying saucers compared to everything else)
  • F-15Es (ground attack variant of the F-15)
  • F-16Cs (Blue)
  • Marine AV-8B Harriers, poor little slow fugly things (I kid, some of my best friends are Marine aviators)

On this other video there are a couple of French (I think) AMXs as well as B-52G bombers and F-15C aggressors. The aggressor aircraft can be identified by their naval or desert camouflage paint schemes, used to mimic mostly Russian aircraft like the SU-27, MiG-29 and MiG-24.

Interestingly enough I did not see any Blue F-15s, I suppose because they’ve been supplanted by the F-22s. Too bad we only have enough of those for about 4 hours of any hot war against a capable adversary, but then the USAF is known for its shit for brains acquisitions, unlike the Navy (yay).

The one and only time I had the privilege to attend a Red Flag back in 1998 (the Dutch Air Force was there in force, IIRC) the Air Force was still flying F-4 Phantoms and F-111 Aardvarks. I didn’t know they let people stand in the middle of the grid at Nellis and take videos. I should probably try to get in on that action one of these days. If you’ve ever felt a jet engine go full MIL 30 feet away you probably know what I’m talking about.

This guy has some beautiful high-res pictures of Red Flag 07-2, which still featured the F-117 stealth “fighter” (more like slow tactical bomber), EA-6B Prowlers, A-10s and RAF Tornados. Very cool.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Roy Schestowitz explains the Free Software business model, and why “open source” is bad

If you call yourself “Open Source” and you also fulfill the conditions of Free software, then you are encouraged to rename and change your identity. Set yourself apart from the crowd that is too dense for you to be seen.


Case of point: The “assembly required” business model is among those that make open source software quite repellent and fuels FUD against it. Examples include quite a few popular packages (maybe even Asterisk). They really ought to learn from Red Hat’s model, but that said, Red Hat has, at some stage, made deliberate errors to earn money from support. It was a long time ago and it’s possibly just a rumour.


This post is not a statement favouring BSD/GPL ans saying that it’s a case of “all or nothing at all”. It’s close to this though. There are exceptions to all of this however.

Setting the standard that would later be showcased in BoycottNovell.

Awesome spam from Nigeria

Reply-To: <> From: "Colonel Harrison Clark"<> Subject: CAN YOU ASSIST PLS? X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000 To: undisclosed-recipients:; Hello, I am Colonel Harrison Clark, an officer of the U.S Army. I am on the move to Afghanistan from Iraq as the last batch just left and have some items I will need to ship to you. Can you be trusted? You can please go ahead and contact me on my personal e-Mail. ( ) God Bless America Colonel Harrison Clark.
And a full bird, no less. God bless America.
Monday, April 11, 2011

Kindle book roundup for April 2011 (Zombies, Sci-Fi, apocalypse and war)


I’ve been reading a lot of Kindle books lately and I know there’s a lot of geeks out there that enjoy the same kind of haughty literature as I do, so I figured I’d share.

First off though, I’m a big fan of zombie fiction. Not the ridiculous, campy kind, but the good, gritty, post-apocalyptic kind. If that’s your kettle of corn, without further adieu or review I highly recommend J.L. Bourne’s Day by Day Armageddon and its sequel Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile. Then there’s World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks. These are the cream of the crop in my opinion, and worth every penny. But since these two authors are not writing any more books at the moment, and having nearly exhausted my collection of military history and philosophy tomes, I have been forced to find other good stuff to read, which I list below for your (possible) enjoyment.

Comments and more reading recommendations are always welcome!


The Windup Girl

The Windup Girl
Paolo Bacigalupi
Amazon Kindle edition

I can’t spell his name despite being 1/15th Italian (or so my mom says), but Paolo Bacigalupi is my new favorite author. This man is a genius. He has created a superbly dystopian post-everything world where people are besieged by lack of food, lack of fuel, lack of love and lack of morality. In short, the kind of world we like our post-apocalyptic stories to develop.

The Windup Girl is a story about a man. You might find this odd, but it’s true. It’s the story of a man. Well, actually two or three men. Maybe. You can tell a book is good when you have trouble pinning down the true protagonist of the story. Is it the down-on-his-luck refugee that struggles to survive against pervasive racial discrimination and laments what he has lost? Is it his employer, the outsider that moves around in a bubble of privilege yet finds himself in constant peril and doubt about his ultimate purpose? Is it the swashbuckling homegrown hero that fights against threats both foreign and domestic? Or is it the namesake of the story, a genetic construct with unusual inner beauty doomed to an existence of humiliation and pain?

Against the background of a world that now struggles to sustain its human parasites who have brought most foul doom upon themselves, Bacigalupi develops the characters and the plot with near-exquisite precision. He is concerned with man-made disasters, rather than the more mundane natural ones. The familiar minutiae of the post-apocalyptic environment is all there. His technological acumen is without parallel; his synthetic terminology pristine. He imagines people use genetically engineered beasts to wind special springs, which are then used to expend energy and power vehicles and machines, a latter-day version of our chemical batteries. Potential energy is measured in the amount of calories required to generate it. Computers are powered by foot pedals, like old sewing machines. And that’s just the beginning. The backdrop of widespread famine and plagues brought upon by runaway genetic meddling of our food supply is breathtaking. One assumes this book was not exactly well received over at Monsanto headquarters. And the ways people and nations cope with these problems are surprising and breathtaking as well. Toss in the isolation brought upon by the contraction of civilization for want of fossil fuels and you have a winner here. There’s no other way to put it. The breadth and depth of this book are truly amazing.

Have a Kindle? Go download this book. Don’t have a Kindle? Order the dead tree edition. Go get it now, I’m not kidding. Unlike some of the other books here, this one is a plausible look at our possible future.

Pump Six

Pump Six
Paolo Bacigalupi
Amazon Kindle edition

You know all the praise I piled on Paolo Bacigalupi just now? Well, this is just more of the same prime stuff, FSM bless him. Pump Six is actually a collection of short stories set pretty much in the same dystopian universe as The Windup Girl, including one that offers some background to Windup Girl itself. I cannot help but hope that some of these (nay, all of these) will eventually be made into full-fledged books.

What more can I say? Read it.

The Walk

The Walk
Lee Goldberg
Amazon Kindle edition

An entertaining short story about the end of the world, as seen from the eyes of an entertainment executive in Los Angeles who is trying to make his way home after disaster strikes. A very good read with plenty of survival action, good humor, a clever twist and a great ending.


Conrad Williams
Amazon Kindle edition

Are you happy? Well, if you want to stop being happy and descend into the depths of depression, then this is the book for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. One is an innovative take on the old end of the world+zombie apocalypse yarn that will keep you clicking that “Next” button until the end. Williams is a good storyteller, and his twist on how the dead come back from the dead will definitely surprise you. That the origins and cause of the apocalypse are left unexplained is irrelevant, really. It’s that well written.

I have but two problems with this book. One (no pun intended), the author at times delves too much into the protagonist’s attachment to his family. While this is the driving force behind much of what happens in the story, at times the remembrance sections tend to get old. They tug at your heartstrings (especially if you have children), but they do get a bit old.

Second, it’s damn depressing. Did I mention it’s depressing? Except at the very end, and maybe even there as well. Don’t get me wrong, this depressing slant is a big part of what makes the book a good read. It’s the result of the author’s exceedingly stark take on what humanity and our world may become after a global disaster. But it’s still depressing. In a good kind of way. The book also gets progressively more sinister, as if everything that came before wasn’t quite sinister enough.

Depressing or not, this is an excellent read, which I highly recommend.

Scar Night

Scar Night
Alan Campbell
Amazon Kindle edition

I don’t do much fantasy beyond The Lord of the Rings and Roger Zelazny’s Avalon chronicles, and I don’t do much Sci-Fi beyond the classics: Heinlein, Asimov, Herbert, Niven et. al. And maybe Vernor Vinge. So when someone recommended this book to me saying that it was a fantasy and Sci-Fi hybrid, I was hesitant. I downloaded the sample, and by the time I got to the last page I was desperately clicking “Buy this book”. Yeah, it’s that good.

Scar Night is a weird story about a weird city that exists under weird circumstances in a weird world. It is inhabited by weird people who pray to weird gods and fight against other weird people.

Are you sold? No? Well, like I said, there’s a city. It’s suspended over what seems to be a bottomless chasm. Suspended – get this – by chains. That’s right, chains. And then there are angels, which are not really what you think. There are massive war machines, putatively left over after some unnamed apocalypse. There’s a whole industrial/steampunk feel that doesn’t overwhelm. There’s humor and despair. Organized religion makes an appearance as usual. There’s love and family and violence and genetic tinkering and more angels and devils and a whole bunch of other amazingly clever stuff, all woven into the story rather masterfully by Campbell. The gritty ambience of the story is just unbelievably well done. Can’t tell you anymore though, I’ll give stuff away.

I enjoyed this book enormously even though I’m a Sci-Fi and fantasy hipster. Recommended.

The Strain

The Strain
Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro
Amazon Kindle edition

“You have to read this book” they said.
“Really? What’s it about?” I said.

But lo and behold, here we are. A story by none other than Guillermo del Toro in collaboration with Chuck Hogan, The Strain is about vampires, yes. In a sense. It’s also a sort of zombie apocalypse yarn. What it isn’t though, is one of those trite vampire treatises. This ain’t no Twilight. The authors do an excellent job of building up the story, develop the characters (all of which are loveable) and explain the backstory.

Yes, vampires. No, it doesn’t matter. You’ll like it.

Summer of the Apocalypse

Summer of the Apocalypse
James van Pelt
Amazon Kindle edition

James van Pelt tells the story of a man at the twilight of his years, facing the realities of a disintegrating civilization after a calamity that reduced it (almost) to the Bronze age, and his desire to ensure that man does not go quietly into the night as little more than a strange species of hairless foraging apes.

Summer of the Apocalypse is an enjoyable read all around. The author goes back and forward in time, explaining the causes of the pandemic that nearly wiped out humanity and his efforts to reach a book repository to save it, therefore ensuring that the remnants of his tribe can regain prosperity through the use of lost knowledge. The protagonist is one of the few “old timers” still alive who as a child lived through the catastrophe and has a very different view on things than the younger generations, which grew up without electricity, cars, TV, the Internet or lolcats (perhaps not a bad thing). He wants to prevent children from dying of formerly curable diseases. He wants people to turn to science instead of superstition. He wants to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, and wants his family to also redeem themselves to him. Lots of popular culture references and reminiscing about the time when getting to the next city took three hours instead of three weeks and Star Wars was in theaters near you.

A good book with a well-developed message of conservation, harmony with nature and the importance of self-reliance. The ending though will perhaps leave you in a bit of a meh, but the rest is worth it.


Christian Cantrell
Amazon Kindle edition

A short story from Christian Cantrell about a post-apocalyptic world fighting its own demons, which are personified by genetically-enhanced cyborgs (created by us, of course). A bit heavy on the military side, but well developed and a fine read. This is $0.99, by the way.

The Compound

The Compound
S.A. Bodeen
Amazon Kindle edition

S.A. Bodeen weaves a good yarn with the story of a wealthy family forced to take refuge in a bunker after some kind of apocalyptic event. The dynamics between the characters are a joy to read, the mechanics of survival are well developed and the twist at the end will surprise you, although one does see it coming a bit earlier. A good book.


B.V. Larson
Amazon Kindle edition

A cross between the War of the Worlds and Battlestar Galactica, Swarm is a bit heavy on the military angle but worth a read nonetheless, if nothing else because the characters are so well developed. Sometime in the present, a bunch of seemingly evil spaceships descend on Earth and start kidnapping people, presumably to engage in anal probing (ugh, sorry). Then come a set of different ships with a set of different intentions. The twist comes early but everything is nursed along very well by the author. The constant deadpan humor makes a good contrast with the main character’s emotional pain, and the struggle to survive by the motley lucky (or unlucky) few that hold the Earth’s future in their hands will keep you turning the page. Overall a good book.


Kevin Bohacz
Amazon Kindle edition

This one is actually a zombie book, surprise. Kevin Bohacz is really good at developing the plot and characters, and putting them in one perilous situation after another while the world disintegrates around them. The twists and turns will keep you going until the end. Really, just a damn good zombie book. Definitely recommended.


Martin Parish
Amazon Kindle edition

2184 refers to the year in which this story takes place. In this world there’s been a war between genetically enhanced humans (essentially an evolutionary jump in the Homo sapiens line) and the “mongrels”, who are not enhanced but rather just plain old people like you and I. Basically, Humanity 2.0 has been released and they’re not supporting the previous version.

Parish develops the story with aplomb, introducing us slowly to the very different (and in some ways not so much) world where a minority of “better” people hold sway over the inferior and unlucky ones. If this sounds a bit like Apartheid then you’re in the right channel, except that this is much more sinister. The survival of the lesser species we know and love is at stake here.

The main character is a normal guy with typical issues who is thrust into an impossible situation despite his efforts to remain unseen and unnoticed, like the good little mouse contemporary common sense teaches he should be, as a mongrel. Plucked from his home in post-apocalyptic London and sent to a brutal work camp (yes, there’s that parallel as well) in the incongruously idyllic British countryside, he struggles to survive and maintain his own human essence. He picks up an unlikely sidekick along the way, as well as a secret that might set Humanity 1.0 free from oppression if only he can find the strength to use it. Then comes the voyage back home to what he knows and loves, which is expectedly epic and entertaining. Almost Homeric.

Ultimately 2184 is a story about selfishness, and readers will see why at the end of the book. I must confess this was rather underwhelming, but after a bit of thought I decided that the book should not be dismissed based solely on that. It’s a good story, well told and enjoyable. Recommended.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

When in BoycottNovell, talk slowly and use simple words

glenn-Let-me-tell-you-about-mono I noticed this morning that Herr Doktor Roy Schestowitz, PhD published another dire warning to the world regarding the Banshee project in BoycottNovell (aka “TechRights”). This isn’t remarkable really, he publishes one every three days or so. But I noticed that this one was especially strong in the fail department so I stopped by to leave a comment, as I am always interested in helping people out. It’s in my nature.

The post is as usual full of good old-fashioned truthyness, as are most of Dr. Roy’s well-researched articles. The opening salvo:

Canonical might wish to reconsider its inclusion (by default) of the Mono trap called Banshee an inclusion which we covered for its dangers in

Therein follow almost 20 individual posts on the issue. Because you know, you have to write about this one thing 20 times. Not one page where you document the issue, that would mean the intent is to inform rather than deluge and incite.

Somebody in IRC has just told us that Aaron Bockover is leaving Novell. He wrote: "banshee guy is leaving novell time to break out the fizzy might be good ammunition to convince ubuntu to stop shipping it” (it's up for Canonical to decide really and it's not too late as the next release is over 2 months away).

Remember, in the previous paragraph Dr. Roy said Canonical might wish to reconsider shipping the eeeeevil Banshee with Ubuntu, and that is obviously reinforced with the Anonymous BoycottBoy suggestion that the fact that the lead Banshee developer is leaving Novell might be good ammunition to convince them to not ship it.

So let’s break this out, for the benefit of the under-75 IQ BoycottCrowd:

  • Banshee is bad.
  • Dr. Roy totally does not want Canonical to ship Banshee with Ubuntu.
  • The guy that codes Banshee is leaving Novell.
  • Canonical has so far not responded well to the ideological arguments against including Banshee in Ubuntu, so it follows that the guy’s departure can be used as ammunition to reach the same goal.

Hopefully this isn’t too complicated. I’m trying to keep things simple.

In other words, Banshee is in some kind of unspecified danger, so it would be unwise to ship it with Ubuntu. That’s a mighty nice media player you got there, partner… it would be a shame if someone abandoned it.

So in my comment I pointed out that, in the very blog post Dr. Roy linked to, Bockover actually says he’s going to continue work on Banshee.

It follows then that Banshee seems to be in no particular danger of being abandoned, and so obviously Bockover’s departure can hardly be used as ammunition to convince Canonical to stop including the thing in Ubuntu.

So far so good. Eventually the head of the BoycottNovell Embarrassing Comment Enforcement Brigade shows up toting the usual faux drama-filled poetic diarrhea, wherein we learn that Bockover was “abused” by Novell and their “obvious undermining of software freedom”... or something. Well, we know the drill by now. These people are certifiable. But since he didn’t actually address my point about the post being misleading, I elected to remind him of his Slashdot days, just for fun. No surprise this guy ended up at BoycottNovell, eh?

But then following the usual pattern where Dr. Roy waits for his Enforcers to post snide comments and attacks, and replies to them instead (in a sort of grade school-style rebuff that looks as pathetic as you’d expect) we get this:

This stalker is trying to suggest that I “actually read the source” when in fact I read the entire post from Aaron Bockover before I prepared this post and the stalker cannot find factual inaccuracies as a result.

Fascinating, isn’t it? If Dr. Roy managed to read Bockover’s entire post before he prepared his post, then why the implication that Banshee is in danger of being abandoned, if the contents obviously eliminate that line of speculation? I never even hinted that there were “factual inaccuracies” in what he wrote. That’s not necessary – it’s simply misleading, and wink, wink intentionally so.

After a bit of the usual well-synchronized BoycottNovell circlejerk, Dr. Roy kindly confirms my read of his post in a subsequent comment:

IIRC, Novell owns Banshee copyrights, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when Novell drops the project by the wayside. Will it be orphaned?

This is called The Schestowitz Two-Step, a ritual dance steeped in innuendo and cleverness. Novell is dropping the project, eh? By the wayside no less? Orphaned?? Yes, because Bockover said he wouldn’t work on it anymore.

Oh wait, he said precisely the opposite.

But then Dr. Roy knows all this, because he’s a knowledgeable Free Software Advocate that would never muddle the status of a Free Software project with doublespeak about who holds its copyrights. We don’t usually mention in an ominous tone of voice that the FSF holds copyrights on Emacs, for example. We’d be branded as trolls and provocateurs, and rightly so.

I would remind Dr. Roy (he lovingly reads my blog, if only through the Google cache) that Banshee is Free Software, so whatever copyrights Novell has are irrelevant. If he ever gets the Mono itch and needs a project to work on, he can fork it to his heart’s content. A BoycottNovell-branded Mono-based C# media player. Now there’s something I’d pluck some toe cheese for.

Of course given the technical prowess he has shown in the past, he might want to get someone to ghost-write it for him.

Incidentally, I was shocked (shocked, I tell you) to learn that I am a .NET developer and a stalker. With apologies to stalkers everywhere, I’m not sure how to feel about that. Perhaps Herr Doktor would like to offer some proof of either claim, if he’s not too busy coding in proprietary software products or stalking Miguel de Icaza while declaring the Mono project to be dead:



Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Deconstructing BoycottNovell: Steve Jobs is a disgusting person

Following last week’s analysis of a BoycottNovell (a.k.a “TechRights”) article by Dr. Roy Schestowitz, PhD, I’d like to take the opportunity to score a double here, because I can’t help myself and seem to have too much free time on my hands lately (although I’m not lucky enough to be a professional student with 14 hours/day to burn). This one is interesting because it shows not only the pointlessness of the vast majority of the author’s vaunted 11 gazillion posts, but also a bit of the systemic hypocrisy that permeates most everything he publishes.

The article in question today is very dramatically (as always) entitled Apple’s CEO Leaves Just as Apple Probed for Monopoly Abuse. As usual I’ll go through it in roughly paragraph order.

We begin with this (note the original links are left intact in the quotes):

The announcement about Steve Jobs’ departure did not interest us immediately because just about every site covered it and mimicked Wikipedia’s pagefest with a mug of some allegedly heroic figure.

Yay! “I am not angry”, sez Dr. Roy constantly. And oh merciful god Wikipedia has a photograph or two of Steve Jobs? Good god, someone call Jimmy Wales and demand it be replaced with a picture of… Jimmy Wales? Hmm. Better not.

And who is “Us” again? I see no one but Dr. Roy posting on that blog. Anyway:

Fab, an Apple sceptic, put it like this:

Gratuitous and empty “there are people out there who agree with me” filler.

People who lurk in this site and are longtime Apple customers tell us that Steve Jobs is a disgusting person and has always been a disgusting person bn-sic-google[…]

This is absolutely hilarious, because I’m sure that these alleged Apple customers who “lurk” in BoycottNovell are close friends of Steve Jobs. Note also that it’s OK to quote “longtime Apple customers”, assuming they exist, but for example Dr. Roy playfully (or to use his favorite term, politely) calls Matt Asay “Mac Asay” because he  owns a Macintosh or something like that. Except that he writes [sic] after intentionally misspelling it, so it’s perfectly OK!

so his departure from Apple can generally be beneficial to computer users’ rights, even freedom

Yes, the first thing Apple is going to do after Jobs leaves is to remove all DRM from their OS and devices, and then tear down their app store.

People must remember that Jobs — like Gates — is surrounded by PR people.

No shit?

As one news site rightly points out, details are unknown about this departure

“Rightly”? What does that even mean? Starting to see a pattern here? This is all filler, nothing more.

and the relevance to Microsoft and Linux was explained by Wayne Borean:

Wayne Borean is another one of Dr. Roy’s friends. Or had you heard about Wayne Borean before today? The reference is presented as if it was written by a respected journalist at the Financial Times or the Boston Globe. This is a common pattern at BoycottNovell -- presenting “sources” as independent entities that just happen to write about the same things with the same slant all the time. Beware of links to GatesKeepers, The Source, No-Mono, OpenBytes, Pogson, etc. These are all his friends’ blogs -- a.k.a the Munchkin Network.

Oh and Wayne Borean is clearly not reading my blog, otherwise he’d know that Dr. Roy pretty much despises Linus Torvalds. Oh well.

We particularly liked Ghabuntu’s take on it:

Oh, I’m sure “they” liked Ghabuntu’s take on it, since the only thing Ghabuntu does on twitter is repeat Dr. Roy’s spam from Again, the Munchkin Network. And I love the part where the Google founders are compared to Steve Jobs. Why not compare Jobs to Google’s CEO? Oh that’s right, he used to work at Novell. Oops.

Well, we have a little theory about Jobs’ departure.

The beauty of BoycottNovell is that this theory will be tomorrow’s fact. Isn’t GNU/Evangelism great?

He could probably put that off for a bit, but let us talk about timing and note that Europe has opened a probe into Apple’s practices:

Dr. Roy is privy to Steve Job’s medical condition, so he knows that it could have been “put off for a bit”. His informers, who are close friends of Steve Jobs and informed him as to the man’s disgustness [sic], probably rendered an expert clinical opinion as well. Sweet, huh?

Vincent Van Quickenborne also lobbied for ludicrous laws that help Microsoft, sometimes while citing Microsoft lobbyists from ACT […] This man cannot be trusted and Free software proponents in Belgium do not like him because his policies help Microsoft a lot of the time.

This is amusing – this guy is apparently one of the Evil Ones, but it’s fantastic that he opened an antitrust probe of crApple, as the company is called in Dr. Roy’s chat room. Who cares about obvious contradictions with the BoycottNovell Bible when there’s a perfectly good blog posting to be made to fill the day’s quota? Consistency? Pfft.

Oh, and when the EU opens a probe of IBM’s airtight mainframe monopoly, Dr. Roy goes positively apeshit. But when they investigate Microsoft or Apple, it’s high-fives all around. Hypocrisy is a terrible thing.

Speaking of hypePads, they lead to lawsuits

First off, a lawsuit is an entirely different thing. Isn’t it strange that someone who claims to be an expert on legal issues would use that term incorrectly?

Second, why even bring this up? The charges are against two individuals that breached AT&T’s network to retrieve personal data about users, which just happened to be “hypePad” customers. Better still, they were charged because they notified AT&T of the hole in their infrastructure. This might as well have been people with Android phones on the Verizon network, and is at best tangential to the device itself. Truthyness in advocacy, from the guy that warns us about people who surround themselves with PR people. Or maybe just more filler, who knows.

But you knew all this, because you don’t get your news from BoycottNovell or BoycottBoy [sic], right?


Sunday, January 16, 2011

BoycottNovell and liabilities

I was amused this morning to see that for Dr. Roy Schestowitz from BoycottNovell (aka “TechRights”) is finding himself on the receiving end of the conflict he likes to dish out on everyone who fails to measure up to his ideological purity tests. This is a screenshot of comments made by Dr. Roy in just a few minutes ago:


I’m not sure what’s happening in Dr. Roy’s chat room at this time, but I’m not surprised if he is being “trolled”, what with his blog being the biggest troll in all of FOSS and beyond. Sometimes you reap what you sow.

But the thing that really struck me is Dr. Roy’s apparent implication that Jono Bacon is responsible for the actions of everyone in the Ubuntu community.

I find that to be a very strange claim.

You see, BoycottNovell tends to attract the dregs of FOSS; people who have been pretty much run out of everywhere else. Case in point is his valued collaborator twitter, a notorious Slashdot troll and generally a very unpleasant person, or at least his online persona is.

Dr. Roy claims BoycottNovell is a community. He uses the royal We constantly, trying to convey the idea that somehow the ten or so people logged into his chat room (who also post the vast majority of the comments in the blog) are a team effort. This, despite the fact that no one other than him can actually post to the blog at all. Trust issues? Who knows.

But Dr. Roy has found himself in hot water before because of what his associates say and do. Witness the “Fink” debacle, for example (which is the reason I prefer to remain anonymous… no need to be “Finked” by one of Dr. Roy’s friends). Then there’s azuthian, the newest incarnation of the AstralKnight meme operating out of

So Dr. Roy has come up with an innovative defense mechanism: Simply claim that whatever is said by other people on his blog cannot and should not be held against him in any way, shape or form.

It’s easy to log into IRC, shout “Heil Hitler” and then log out. It would be disingenious to point to that and claim everyone at BoycottNovell is a nazi (sorry Mr. Godwin). And no one would really believe it anyway, so it’s generally pointless and stupid. It would simply play into Dr. Roy’s drama-inclined hands.

But collaborators or associates are another thing. People who have been part of the “community” for years, and are  continually used as sources of juicy (if irrelevant) quotes that help fill the daily post quota, not to mention providing entire articles for the blog (even if they are routinely attributed to “Anonymous” to avoid embarrassment). Do these people speak for BoycottNovell?

It’s hard to make a case that your IRC conversations are not to be used against you, as Dr. Roy does here, yet elsewhere we are continually invited to read the logs; for example here. There are many more examples. Indeed, some of his posts are made up of nothing more than fragments of IRC chats. And where the logs used to be posted simply as “IRC Logs”, they were recently changed to “IRC Proceedings” as part of the “TechRights” rebranding. Proceedings sounds mighty important, like something official.

So can one find Dr. Roy liable for things like these?


I doubt “agent_smithe” was planning on delivering flowers to Miguel de Icaza. And what about this:

I wish they gave [Miguel de Icaza] euthanasia

That’s another valued long-time contributor, not some troll that just appeared out of nowhere.

There are literally hundreds of example like these. Violent homophobia, comments about how all Microsoft or Novell employees should die, how it must be “sickening” to ride in the same train as them, how they should all be thrown in jail and subjected to torture.

So if Jono Bacon is responsible for the entire Ubuntu community… is it not fair then that Dr. Roy be held responsible for the actions of his community? Or does he get to have the cake and eat it as well?



Wednesday, January 12, 2011

What’s wrong with BoycottNovell? An example of selective quoting and misinformation

People often ask what’s wrong with BoycottNovell (recently rebranded as “TechRights” to seem less negative, if that makes any sense). Often in sites like Reddit, Slashdot, Digg or Mixx, a link will be posted to the blog and invariably most people will react negatively. This isn’t surprising since the editor (for lack of a better term) and his collaborators are known to have gamed these websites extensively, so there’s always a latent perception of spamming and shilling coming from there. People will post comments like “oh no, it’s boycott novell again”, “who the hell voted|modded this up” and so on. Some people though will sometimes ask what’s wrong with BoycottNovell, and that’s hard to express in a single comment, especially without some supporting evidence.

So I will use an article published very recently to exemplify one of the myriad problems this blog has. This is fair, as the editor, Roy Schestowitz, (it’s actually Doctor Roy now, apparently) continually complains that people point to his past mistakes to “daemonise” him unfairly; one assumes that he has a determination to make his considerable output better over time, rather than worse. While there are hundreds of examples like this one available for topics like the XBox, Kinect, Windows 7, the Gates Foundation, Novell, etc, I refrained from using any that are too old (as in more than six months or so). In the name of fairness. Another common complaint is that, paraphrasing, people “can’t refute/rebut the facts so they shoot the messenger”. Fair enough, we’ll take the facts on here as well.awesome_truthy

The article in question is a comparison between the sales of the competing console controllers Sony Playstation Move and Microsoft Kinect. It was published on January 12, 2011 and is titled Sony Beats KINect Despite Massive Marketing Campaign From Microsoft. It can be found here. Note the clever SEO play of the URL: “kinect-vs-move-and-truth”. Truth. Since it’s relatively short, I’ll go through it by paragraph.

As we advance through the article and my comments, please keep in mind that the author here is absolutely serious about what he’s writing. This isn’t a throwaway post; it was dented, tweeted, posted to newsgroups and Free Software Daily (and perhaps other places, incessantly) it will be added to his “Reality log” anthology and referred to as supporting material in the future, just as he has done for the past four years. Once these posts are examined closely and disassembled they tend to look rather ridiculous and banal, so please bear with me.

We begin with the title: Kinect is camel-cased as KINect to make the case that the console controller is somehow related to the failed line of mobile phones pulled from the market last year by Microsoft. When reading BoycottNovell you’ll find that they have their own strange creative spelling arcana that is often difficult to understand. For example, Dr. Roy calls Windows 7 “Vista 7”, presumably to tie the Vista OS, which didn’t do too well, to its successor, which did. He prophesied the absolute failure of Windows 7 long before it was released, and the use of the “Vista 7” thing was part of that campaign. Other examples of creative spelling include things like “MoonLie” for Moonlight, “SilverLie” for Silverlight, “AttachMSFT” for AttachMate (presumably because Dr. Roy had predicted that Microsoft would acquire Novell, which ended up not being the case). Then there’s “Vista 7 Phony” for Windows 7 Phone, “iHype” for the iPad and “iPhony” for the iPhone. Among many others. These childish monikers are not jokes; they are used solemnly and consistently throughout the blog.

The article body opens with the usual clever image, a sort of LCD snapshot that spells the word “End”. A practitioner of PR techniques, Dr. Roy uses that as a sort of statement to reinforce his message that whatever it is he’s talking about, it’s coming to an end. Marshall McLuhan, eat your heart out.

Next up is the summary:

Not even a massive marketing campaign and fake shortages could help Microsoft against its competition

We’ll come back to this in a minute. Next (note the original links in the quotes are preserved):

On Friday the third of December (2010), Sony announced that it had sold 4.1 million Move controllers. That is not bad for a product that has only been out in the market for two months and with hardly any marketing at all.

First, note the “not bad…” part – this is sufficient cause for Dr. Roy to label anyone a “booster” if it was being said about a Microsoft product.

Moving on, a quick Google search of “kinect devices sold” reveals some rather amazing sales figures. Microsoft claimed back in November that they sold 1 million Kinects in 10 days after release. Most of the articles I found reference Reuters, who are a bit more careful and clearly attribute the numbers to Microsoft. And then more recently we find articles that quote Ballmer at CES on January 6 saying he’s pushed 8 million units since its introduction in November.

Even Goldman Sachs upgraded MSFT based partly on the Kinect numbers (and their overall performance over the holidays), although they maintained the neutral rating, which makes sense. Of course Dr. Roy only informs people when Microsoft gets downgraded by someone.

I do not know if these figures are true or not. I don’t know if Microsoft refers to units shipped or actually sold, not all of the sources are clear about that. More to the point, perhaps it’s not wise to trust Microsoft to tell us how many of X and Y they’ve sold, but there you go.

But here’s the thing. A cursory look at the source being quoted by Dr. Roy reveals that it merely repeats Sony’s own sales figures. It is also dated December 3rd of last year. Now, it’s only fair that if we are supposed to trust Sony to tell us how many controllers they’ve sold since release, then we should also trust Microsoft when they say how many controllers they’ve sold as well. No? Conspicuously absent from this and all the other articles I could find about the Kinect on BoycottNovell are any direct references to Kinect unit sales. This is also fair -- no one expects Dr. Roy or anyone else to blindly repeat Microsoft’s own sales figures. But since Dr. Roy is a model of consistency and honesty, it’s rather strange to see he is using sales figures from other corporations to support the idea that Kinect is selling less gadgets than them. Well, actually not even that since he never actually quotes any figures for the Kinect therein, he merely notes that the advertising campaign has been “expensive” and that the Kinect supply was hit by what he calls “fake shortages”:

Microsoft’s marketing campaign for Kinect on the other is said to have cost half a billion dollars*, only to lead to fake KINect shortages.

Saying that Microsoft spending money advertising Kinect leads to nothing more than shortages (fake or otherwise) is rather strange. In any case, Sony apparently launched a £2M campaign for its controller, and that’s just in the UK. Dr. Roy simplistically believes his source and agrees with the conclusion that Microsoft will spend half a billion dollars promoting the Kinect, which is just further proof that he doesn’t understand how any of this works. If anyone has any doubts about that, please read his various analysis on Microsoft financial reports. They’re hilarious.But let’s think about this for a second. In this previous article, Dr. Roy repeats the $500M idiocy (what else does one call it?):

On we move to KINect. Those who believe the $500,000,000 (estimate) marketing campaign may actually have fallen for the illusion of KINect 'success'.

BoycottNovell math: Take Microsoft’s total advertising budget for a given fiscal year, which is reported in aggregate but obviously spread across all their business units and products. Pretend they have only two products: Kinect and WP7. Finally, divide by two. Genius! This is PhD stuff right here.

Aside from being simply dishonest, since I can’t believe he is so daft as to not notice the obvious lack of logic in the argument yet uses it liberally, the whole advertising budget thing is a fallacy of relevance, a form of special pleading. Declare the product a failure, then make a big deal at the fact that the company spent $X advertising it. Double whammy and golf claps all around.

Moving on. I’ll skip the next paragraph, which merely repeats the shortage thing again, framing it in obviously biased opinion (despite that fact that, again, this article will be used as a supporting fact-based reference later). But we finally get to the reason for mentioning the shortages:

Claiming a product has or is on the brink of selling out is often a last-ditch strategic move to establish the false perception of high demand.

Ah. Obviously since we all know that the Kinect (and the Xbox itself) are failures as Dr. Roy has consistently claimed, then it’s clear that the shortages are nothing more than a clever cover-up attempt by Microsoft.


Despite Microsoft’s expensive manufactured hype […] “Playstation Move is Outselling Kinect”, according to this report

I suppose most hype is manufactured, but Microsoft is hardly alone in that area anyway. The linked report has the same problem as the first one: It also quotes Sony’s numbers, and is dated November 30th of last year. Again, we’re supposed to trust Sony, and merely assume that Microsoft has sold less units by now, despite the fact that no Microsoft sales figures are provided by Dr. Roy in the article. Which in any case would be dismissed as fake. Unlike Sony’s, eh?

It’s also hard to overstate the hypocrisy of using that particular source, since Dr. Roy and his friends are known to dismiss other websites and blogs based on the least minutiae,such as the fact that they use ASP.NET, for example. I’m not kidding. Do we expect PS3 Informer then to be particularly trustworthy when informing us about the fortunes of a product that competes directly with the Kinect? If previous behavior at BoycottNovell is any indication, if it had been related to Microsoft in any way it would have been dismissed offhand as nothing more than “shills” or “boosters”.

So, despite the dramatic article title, snide summary and biased opinions, at this point we have nothing more than two 2-month old articles that merely repeat Sony’s sales figures, invalid assertions about the cost of advertising, references to shortages, and a claim that said shortages are merely a way for Microsoft to mask disappointing sales, whose volume is never even actually mentioned.


It’s important to point out the modus operandi at BoycottNovell. Dr. Roy canvasses Google News and god knows how many blogs and website feeds every day of every week, selects the most appropriately negative samples, and uses them for his daily posting grind. Since he gets notifications when someone at Microsoft sells their house (yep, you read that right), it’s difficult to imagine that he somehow missed the news of Ballmer’s alleged sales numbers from PC Magazine or any other tech rag. So it’s likely that this article was (rather badly) crafted specifically in response to that.

The next paragraph goes into the shortage angle again, because it was mentioned by the previous Sony-friendly reference:

This persisted whilst [sic] illusion of limited supply for high demand was pushed by some blogs around Black Friday, but Michael Pachter, an expert in this area, insists that it must be fake.

Amusingly, Dr. Roy reproduces a quote from the linked article, which notes that the Sony Move has also been affected by “fake shortages”. So he uses the shortages argument against Microsoft, despite the fact that Sony seems to be guilty of the same thing. You can’t make this stuff up. Remember, in lieu of quoting Microsoft sales numbers, Dr. Roy merely tells us that they can’t be any good to begin with, if Sony Corporation says theirs are better and they were preceded by fake shortages and lots of advertising.

Then we have some faux indignation filler:

Microsoft was hiring celebrities to perform at stores so that many articles littered with famous names were generated as a result.

Corporations advertise their products. Hiring celebrities. And then that makes it on to the internets. What is the world coming to?

It is increasingly becoming apparent that Microsoft can only provide expensive and gimmickry [sic] marketing campaigns rather than substantial products.

Well, again, if we believe Sony’s own sales figures then we must believe Microsoft’s sales figures as well, which certainly don’t look like they are the weak results of a gimmicky campaign, but rather of something that seems to be selling. No?

The article finally closes with this:

It would be interesting what kind of marketing Microsoft would create for software patent lawsuits.


To summarize:

  • Sony has sold more controller gadgets than Microsoft. The source of this fact is none other than Sony themselves.
  • Both Sony and Microsoft allegedly had product shortages, but this is relevant only in the sense that they are a smokescreen for Microsoft, who are obviously not selling as many gadgets as Sony. Or rather, as many as Sony says they’re selling.
  • Hype over a Microsoft product is manufactured, while hype over Sony is absolutely not.
  • Microsoft’s Kinect advertising is expensive, Sony’s apparently not, or at least it’s not a negative in Sony’s case. Because their gadget is a resounding success, whereas Microsoft’s is a failure.
  • Corporations advertise products. Sometimes they use celebrities for this. When Microsoft do that, it’s a gimmick.
  • People who praise Microsoft are “boosters”, people who praise Sony are not.
  • Sony Corporation should be trusted implicitly.
  • There is no such thing as fake numbers or months-old information when one has to fill the daily post quota.

Facts? That’s for the peasants. Let them eat links.

For completeness, I went back to see what BoycottNovell had been publishing about the Kinect. As promised, no more than 6 months or so in the past. Some of the older articles about the XBox 360 are just hilarious in the stern seriousness of their apocalyptic predictions and hyperbolic claims. But here’s a sampling of the most recent ones that reference this Kinect thingy:
Microsoft's KINect is the next KIN-Like Disaster (and Why Kinect Patents Are All That's Left)

“It is an overpriced (and over-marketed) piece of of junk which is disliked by many in the media before it’s even launched.”
”Truth be told, the mangers of such projects have left the company. They named "Kinect" (or "Natal") as something that might actually succeed, but it doesn't look like it”
Failure of Microsoft’s KINect Could Kill Xbox 360

“Last week we showed that "KINect" may end up in Microsoft’s pile of dead products, just like KIN. “KINect” (formerly known as “Natal” but rebranded tactlessly) has been receiving bad reviews and it’s the only thing capable of saving the Xbox brand”
”As argued by Goblin from OpenBytes”

Note the “last week we showed” bit. Opinions magically become facts. As well as references to his friends’ blogs, which enjoy even less credibility, if that is at all possible.
Microsoft is Already Down-Speccing KINect, Loses an Exclusive

”Based on recent coverage [1, 2], Microsoft’s KINect is likely to become somewhat of a failure, maybe as much of a failure as KIN although that's hard to beat.”

“Recent coverage” == the stuff he said last week.
Microsoft's Director of Game Platform Strategy Quits, Could Further Pollute Amazon

”Xbox 360 is a lost cause and this departure helps support this claim. Given the shoddy hardware (now downgraded) and bad demos of Kinect, there is no imminent turnaround.”
Microsoft KINect Has Problems and It’s Behind the Competition (Buttonless)

“Microsoft says it expects Kinect sales to top 3 million units by the end of the year, but that's just nonsense because they usually end up missing their optimistic targets/projections, which are intended to be self-fulfilling prophecies.”

“Sony takes jab at Microsoft, says 360 is reliant’ on shooters,”argues one gamers’ site amongst others. Unlike One Of Our Competitors, We Don't Rely On Shooters is another angle. A New Sony Website Jabs At Microsoft's Kinect”

Of special note here is the quoting of Playstation- and Sony-friendly blogs… imagine if someone did the same with Microsoft-friendly sources.
KINect’s Fate Could be Similar to KIN's

More convenient quotes from his friends and clever "questions" as to whether the thing will even be released, and will Microsoft make any money on it? Stay tuned!
Microsoft's Hardware Ventures an Embarrassment

“On we move to KINect. Those who believe the $500,000,000 (estimate) marketing campaign may actually have fallen for the illusion of KINect 'success'.”

This is the same article referenced above in regard to the advertising budget thing. Here, Dr. Roy actually quotes a Sony employee badmouthing the Kinect. When Microsoft does that, it’s “libel” and “smears”. And a quote by collaborator “Goblin” of course. A well-known expert in the gaming industry.

It’s hard for me to understand how someone can spend so much time and energy raging over a $150 gadget for a gaming console that they’ve never or will ever use. It’s just mind boggling. Even scarier is the tone of solemn, absolute certainty used in most of these articles.

And hey, just to pour a bit of salt on the wound, let’s see what Dr. Roy has published in the past about Sony, just in case someone thinks he’s always been a big fan and it’s fine to quote their employees and “boosters” when they talk smack about the competition:
Quick Mention: Sony is AstroTurfing, Just Like Microsoft
”Makers of exploding batteries and deadly CD-ROM DRM are still up to no good.”
Symantec, Warner and Sony Music Are AstroTurfing in Blogs, Just Like Novell and Microsoft
Links 29/3/2010: Sony’s Bait and Switch
Sony Battled by Patent, Battles Against Standards

At BoycottNovell, they report and you decide.

Dr. Roy is quite adept at manufacturing innovative angles to use against the targets of his sophomoric rage, and these are invariably presented as well-researched, fact-filled and supposedly balanced articles. The reality is obviously quite different, once a little attention is paid. Which is rather amusing because he’s always reminding us to beware of nasty people and organizations that publish articles which omit information (like sales figures from the other side?), present a too-rosy picture of the situation (“not bad for a product…”) or don’t actually analyze the sources they’re quoting (Sony claims they sold lotsa gadgets and fan sites repeated that, news at 11).

One can take this level of analysis and apply it to almost everything published in BoycottNovell, and 9 times out of 10 Dr. Roy will come out on the wrong side of reality. I have no doubt whatsoever of that. Of course, good luck getting much done, the blog has a rather high grind rate. By the time you’re done analyzing an article published on Tuesday and push it on Wednesday, Dr. Roy has already slogged through 20 more. Of course, he doesn’t need to check facts, that would be too ghetto. Or for that matter, face up to the fact that the vast majority of what he writes is nothing more than badly researched and heavily editorialized opinion. Usually sourced from the same 4 different sites run by his friends.

Where are you getting your information and opinion from? I hope it’s not BoycottNovell. Perhaps it’s time to reassess the validity of some of the other things they say there, especially the systematic attacks on people and projects in the FOSS community that fail to meet their ideological standards.

(Disclaimers: I don’t own an XBox, a Kinect, a Playstation or a Move controller. In fact I don’t play anything more complex than FreeCell. I don’t have a long or short position on MSFT or SNE, not even on my 401K. I do like to dance in the rain, pet small rabbits and eat cheezy puffs)


As a scientist...

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