31 January 2006

Who owns your data? or your computer, for that matter?

Most people who know me personally, know that I work with and on computers. I think that most assume that I have wizard-like powers over Windows - but that only comes up when the ask me how to do X, Y or Z. Nothing could be further from the truth: I use and run a Linux-derived OS for most all of my day-to-day computing needs.

The reasons are many - and at some point I'll explore the issue of I don't want an OS that gets in my way as that is important to me - but I've always kept coming back to who owns your data?, as that is an issue every computer owner should think about. If you're using an application that saves the text that you write, the numbers that you input, or other data you provide into an unknown and undocumented file format that keeps you from using your data as you see fit, then the answer to that question is I don't own my data. In my book that's an untenable situation.

And don't say it doesn't matter - I have files that are between 15 and 20 years old. Some of it is computer code in fortran, but the other is the text of my Master's thesis, marked up in TeX. All of it simple, well understood, ASCII text. And all of the original data I used. Had I used Wordstar or other now-long-since-dead word processor, that text may well have been locked away forever. And yes, that's TeX, not LaTeX!

A newer thought - who owns your computer - is a related question. You paid a pretty penny for that shiny new computer, and you certainly do pay for your internet connectivity, and you pay for your software - you do purchase your software, right? - but then to have that software turn around and bite you squarely on your ass is an insult. Cory Doctorow over at boingboing.net is shining a light upon Starforce, a copy protection software that some purchased games surreptitiously install on your Windows system. A set of device drivers that can in certain circumstances cause hardware failure of certain multi-speed CD/DVD writers, as they're designed to stop you from making a copy of the CD/DVD. Even a legitimate backup copy.

Yes, they shouldn't have to worry about getting their titles pirated and illegitimate copies made. But you, as the computer owner shouldn't have to worry if the software you install will result in system instability or hardware failure. Using such a protection scheme is extraordinarily disrespectful treatment of people who are paying customers. To me that is just unacceptable.

Apparently not satisfied with installing drivers that may play havoc with your computer's hardware, it seems that the fine people of Starforce resort to legal threats to keep people from saying bad things about their software. Given that this is my first encounter with Starforce, I'm not impressed.

Caveat emptor, my friends, caveat emptor.

20 January 2006

The Sound of Freedom has a new Sheriff

Hey, I finally got first post! Heh.

Yes, I know, so has every other blogger on the face of this planet. Thanks for letting me down easy. I'm new to this side of the blog, but I've participated on blogs, so I'm not totally clueless. I'll warn you, tho, some days I'll be pithy, witty and in the zone, commentarily speaking, and other days will be...not so good.

Such is life, and ideally this will be a learning experience. On the other hand, I've survived on Usenet and held my own, so this is just different expression of that concept: to share thoughts and ideas, to have them debunked and shown false, or to have them reinforced and refined. Sometimes fiercely, sometimes not.

One of my passing interests is all things military. Part of that stems from my computer gaming - does anyone else remember Harpoon? - part of it stems from reading many of the mil-fiction novels by Clancy and Coonts (Flight of the Intruder), and part of it is because I desire knowledge and understanding of things that interest me. And the military interests me.

Which leads me to give explaination of my title. Anyone who has ever been associated with the US Air Force will tell you, military aircraft are noisy beasts. A very distinctive sound. And when air bases get calls from irate neighbors complaining about the noise, the response is that's the sound of freedom, ma'am.

In the city I live and work, we're at a kind of crossroads for military aircraft. I've seen various T-37 and T-38 trainers out of Tyndall, as well as F-15 and F-16s, the occasional Navy F-18 out of Jax, and plenty of Herky-birds - I'm also a meteorologist, so I naturally will doff my cap to the fine folks who are Hurricane Hunters.

So on Thursday (18 Jan 2006) I was minding my own business and walking back to work from lunch when I hear the sound of a military aircraft approaching, low and not particularly fast. I look up in the direction I think I hear them, and there is a flight of two fighters. But not a type I'm immediately familiar with. Then it hits me. This is a pair of F-22 Raptors.

Here's a pretty good set of pictures of what the F-22 looks like - yes, I went and double checked to verify what I saw. I pretty much got the view of the belly - they didn't wait around for me to send signals that I wanted an impromptu air show, nor did I have my digital camera immediately at-had. Rats, I did have my cell phone with it's mostly worthless camera which would have been better than nothing...sigh...

Needless to say, I was impressed. They look graceful, and a great deal of fun to fly. And exceedingly lethal. Yes, the Air Force has a new sheriff, and his name is Raptor. And I'm pretty stoked to have seen them in-flight so early in their deployment.

Yes, it was good week. :-) Ok, no Spitwads of Wisdom today, but like I said some days are better than others, and this blog is about what interests me. And my interest now is food! Later y'all!