Tag : uk

Microsoft Windows tax refund, from Dell

So I got a new computer from Dell UK. Unfortunatelly it came with Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit) SP1 and Microsoft Works 9.0, which I did not intend to use. I contacted Dell Customer Care last Wednesday and they promised to call me back to inform me of their course of action. On Thursday morning I got a call that Dell is in the process to issue the refund and that they will contact me during the coming week when they actually issue the refund. I got the call today Monday at 15:09 that the refund has been issued, £31 for Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 and Microsoft Works 9.0.

Dell Credit Note (refund) for Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 and Microsoft Works 9.0

In detail, the Credit Note says

Item No.  Description                    Quantity Unit Price  Net  VAT
          Cust Invd b4 parts recd 3rdpty    -1      26.96   -26.96  S

  VAT Summary                                      Subtotal   -26.96
                                                   Freight      0.00
   VAT    VAT Rate      GBP        GBP             VAT £       -4.04               
   Type     %       Total Net £   VAT £                
    S      15         -26.96      -4.04           
                                                   Total      -31.00

Now, that was the short story for getting my Windows refund. The long story was that I had to go through several weeks of effort to figure out how to get a new computer without Microsoft software. I contacted by phone both Dell and Microsoft and I estimate I was on the phone for about four hours in total. To save you the effort, here are some tips,

  1. You will get stonewalled. I did not get any reliable information on how to buy a computer without Microsoft software while I was researching my options. I actually gave up and proceeded with buying a computer with Windows, considering that my last resort was to use the EULA method as soon as I got it delivered (I would not accept the EULA, thus I would be entitled for a refund or credit).
  2. Apart from phone calls, I spent some time on Dell Chat. In one case, I was told that I can get a computer from the Latitude range with FreeDOS. They would have to get the precise configuration of the computer so that they can give me a quote. We made sure that the configuration was correct (the one in my basket with the one I would get the quote for). It sounded very promising, however, at the end the computer with FreeDOS would be about £30 more expensive than Vista. I asked for clarification on this issue but I did not get any.
  3. You will be often told that you are the first person that asks for a computer without Microsoft software. Try to think that you are a pioneer and don’t feel let down.
  4. When calling by phone, avoid using premium telephone numbers. Get a good SIP account and configure Ekiga or SFLPhone (has recording feature). For Dell UK, try 01344 373727 which apparently is fine even if you are not a Public sector customer.

Microsoft Vista first boot screen, EULA or refund/credit.

By using the software, you accept these terms. If you do not accept them, do not use the software. Instead, contact the manufacturer or installer to determine their return policy for a refund or credit.. (why are there two dots? — simos)

When you first boot a new computer that has Windows pre-installed, you are presented with the above screen. Why would Microsoft give the option to reject their software? I believe the reason is that they want to enter into a contract directly with the customer, thus there is no issue with removing this facility in future versions of Windows (probably for similar reasons, Hotmail now supports POP3, apparently so that small mobile devices can retrieve e-mail. You can now migrate from Hotmail to GMail easily.). However, the whole environment is setup in such a way that virtually noone would be able to pursue a successful refund. One has to scroll the tiny text box in order to find the pictured paragraph (no option to print!). Even the Microsoft Customer Care EMEA are not aware of the option not to accept the EULA.

In your case, if you do not intend to use the pre-installed Microsoft software (apparently includes the case where you already have a license, such as an Academic License), you have the option to reject for a refund or credit. Simply press the Shutdown button and do not accept the license. Then, get on the phone.

Antirrhinum (Snapdragon)

I installed Ubuntu 9.04 (x86_64) and the computer runs fine ;-).

It was unexpected when Intel got a heavy fine from the EU for anticompetitive practices. Does this practice by Microsoft (making it extremely difficult to obtain a refund or credit) constitute an anticompetitive practice?

Firefox Download Day Today! Check the start time!

Tuesday, 17th June 2008, is the Firefox 3 download day.
Download Day
For the world record attempt, check the start time for your location before downloading Firefox.

If you are located in Athens, Greece, we start at 20:00, Tuesday 17th June 2008.

If you are located in London, UK, we start at 18:00, Tuesday 17th June 2008.

Check the correct start time for your location.

Download Firefox 3!
Download Day - English
For more information, see http://www.spreadfirefox.com/

thersa.org.uk, infected.

Probably through SQL injection, this page of thersa.org.uk links to a javascript file from some server in China

The screenshot shows the thersa.org.uk website has been infected, and users that visit it end up running in their browsers malicious JavaScript code. The code loads Javascript files from the .cn and the .la domains.

There is a reference in one of the files to a cookie named killav (Kill Antivirus?) that may disable some antivirus programs.

In addition, one of the JavaScript files checks which browser you have. If you have Internet Explorer 6 or 7, it loads some exploit which attempts to run binary code. If this succeeds, you are infected. If you have Firefox, it does not attempt to perform an infection, and it goes to the next phase.

The next phase is to open up pages to sites in China. It appears to me that the bussines plan in that case is to generate revenue from ad hits.

The worst thing however is if you get infected. Unpatched windows systems are at the mercy of these attackers.

One way to mitigate such risks is to use Mozilla Firefox, and have the NoScript add-on installed.

Update 5 June 2008:

The RSA updated their website by moving it away from Windows and ASP, to open source software. They are using Centos Linux, Apache, and an open-source CMS. Therefore, the above security risk does not apply any more.

Take Back The Tech #2!

Last year we talked about the Take Back The Tech, an initiative by the Association for Progressive Communications, Women’s Networking Support Programme (APC WNSP) to stop violence against women with the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), that took place between the 25th November and the 10th December. The same initiative runs this year during the same days (25th November to 10th December). At the time of writing this the event is at Day 8 of the 16-day event.

Violence Against Women (VAW) can also be perpetrated through the use of ICT (such as being a victim of targeted spyware or malicious online intimidation). Therefore, a better use of ICT (Take Back The Tech!) would help mitigate online-related VAW and reclaim the control of technology.

You can start your own campaign and join the existing ones that are in place. In Europe there are existing campaigns in the UK and Skopje.

Here is the announcement for this year,

25 Nov to 10 Dec

ka-BLOG! Calling all bloggers to contaminate the blogosphere with
activism on VAW for 16 days.

ka-BLOG is a 16-day blog fest for the Take Back the Tech Campaign. It
is open to anyone and everyone – girls, boys, everyone beyond and more
— who want to share their thoughts on violence against women, and how
online communications can exacerbate or help eliminate VAW.

We welcome bloggers in different languages!

ka-BLOG with us 🙂

For more information, go http://www.takebackthetech.net, or email jac
AT apcwomen DOT org

[FYI. In Filipino slang, “ka-BLOG” would mean someone you blog with.]

Vote NO with comments (on DIS 29500 / OOXML)

  • Vote “No, with comments,” which is the JTC1-prescribed way of indicating “conditional approval” (JTC1 Directives (DOC, pops), Section 9.8)
  • Recommend that OOXML be resubmitted as normal working item in JTC1/SC34:
    • Split into a multi part standard: WordProcessingML, SpreadsheetML, DrawingML, Office Open Math Markup, VML, etc.
    • Have each part progress independently, at its own speed, within normal ISO processing stages
    • Encourage participation from OASIS to identify opportunities for harmonization with existing ISO 26300 “ODF”
  • OOXML, as the default format in MS Office, is important. But as a standard it is full of inconsistencies, omissions, inaccuracies and errors. No standard is perfect, but OOXML, in its current state, does even not meet the minimum requirements.

source: Rob Weir‘s presentation slides, last slide (pdf)



OOXML is being rushed to become an ISO standard using the fast-track process. This is not good. As end-users we want real commodity document formats that are easy to implement and do not tie us to a specific office suite. Sadly, the purpose of rushing to standardise OOXML is simply to avoid letting it become a commodity document format. By letting OOXML become an ISO standard as it is now, a few companies get to gain a lot, but we are going to lose.

Spread the word.


I copy below the voting country list.

According to Rob Weir, all countries can cast a vote on this; sorry for this misinformation.


The voting countries (Participating countries) are (the list is being updated, please see Participating countries for new list)

  Brazil (ABNT)
Bulgaria (BDS)
China (SAC)
Colombia (ICONTEC)
Cyprus (CYS)
Czech Republic (CNI)
Côte-d’Ivoire (CODINORM)
Denmark (DS)
Finland (SFS)
France (AFNOR)
Germany (DIN)
India (BIS)
Italy (UNI)
Japan (JISC)
Kazakhstan (KAZMEMST)
Kenya (KEBS)
Korea, Republic of (KATS)
Netherlands (NEN)
Norway (SN)
Sweden (SIS)
Switzerland (SNV)
Thailand (TISI)
Trinidad and Tobago (TTBS)
Turkey (TSE)
United Kingdom (BSI)

In addition, the following countries have observer status (Observer countries), (the list is being updated, please see Observer countries for new list)

  Australia (SA)
Chile (INN)
Greece (ELOT)
Hong Kong, China (ITCHKSAR)
Hungary (MSZT)
Ireland (NSAI)
Israel (SII)
Lithuania (LST)
Mexico (DGN)
Romania (ASRO)
Spain (AENOR)
Sri Lanka (SLSI)
Ukraine (DSSU)

The observer countries, though the cannot vote, they can submit comments.

OOXML voting process and controversy

By the end of this month, the ITC 1/SC 34 Technical Committee (ISO) will be voting on whether to accept or not OOXML as an ISO standard.

The voting countries (Participating countries) are

  Brazil (ABNT)
Bulgaria (BDS)
China (SAC)
Colombia (ICONTEC)
Cyprus (CYS)
Czech Republic (CNI)
Côte-d’Ivoire (CODINORM)
Denmark (DS)
Finland (SFS)
France (AFNOR)
Germany (DIN)
India (BIS)
Italy (UNI)
Japan (JISC)
Kazakhstan (KAZMEMST)
Kenya (KEBS)
Korea, Republic of (KATS)
Netherlands (NEN)
Norway (SN)
Sweden (SIS)
Switzerland (SNV)
Thailand (TISI)
Trinidad and Tobago (TTBS)
Turkey (TSE)
United Kingdom (BSI)

In addition, the following countries have observer status (Observer countries),

Australia (SA)
Chile (INN)
Greece (ELOT)
Hong Kong, China (ITCHKSAR)
Hungary (MSZT)
Ireland (NSAI)
Israel (SII)
Lithuania (LST)
Mexico (DGN)
Romania (ASRO)
Spain (AENOR)
Sri Lanka (SLSI)
Ukraine (DSSU)

The observer countries, though the cannot vote, they can submit comments.

The current stage that OOXML is at, is 40.20, which means is the period that leads to the voting whether to accept or not as an ISO standard.

This proposed document format is controversial because an existing document format exists, the OpenDocument document format, ISO/IEC 26300, Open Document Format for Office Applications (OpenDocument) v1.0, since 2006.

OOXML is a controversial document format. Read more on this regarding OOXML.

In addition, see the Technical White Paper on OpenDocument and OOXML by the ODF Alliance UK Action Group. Another whitepaper, ODF/OOXML technical white paper by Edward Macnaghten.

Open Malaysia is also valuable resource (includes blog contributions relating to open standards). For example, in spreadsheets in OOXML one cannot write dates before the 1st March 1900!

Finally, Achieving Openness: A Closer Look at ODF and OOXML by Sam Hiser.

Update #1: Microsoft is Outmuscling OOXML Opposition in Spain

Update #2: It is important to vote NO rather than abstain. It is sad that Spain decided to abstain rather than voting NO. UPDATE: Spain is an observer, thus cannot cast a vote. Somewhat lost en la traduccion.

Update #3: Czech comments on OOXML.

Important MO file optimisation for en_* locales, and partly others

During GUADEC, Tomas Frydrych gave a talk on exmap-console, a cut-down version of exmap that can work well on mobile devices.

During the presentation, Tomas showed how to use the tool to find the culprits in memory (ab)use on the GNOME desktop. One issue that came up was that the MO files taking up space though the desktop showed English. Why would the MO translation files loaded in memory be so big in size?

gtk20.mo                             : VM   61440  B, M   61440  B, S   61440  B

atk10.mo                      	     : VM    8192  B, M    8192  B, S    8192  B

libgnome-2.0.mo			: VM   28672  B, M   24576  B, S   24576  B

glib20.mo			     : VM   20480  B, M   16384  B, S   16384  B

gtk20-properties.mo           : VM     128 KB, M     116 KB, S     116 KB

launchpad-integration.mo  : VM    4096  B, M    4096  B, S    4096  B

A translation file looks like

msgid “File”

msgstr “”

When translated to Greek it is

msgid “File”

msgstr “Αρχείο”

In the English UK translation it would be

msgid “File”

msgstr “File”

This actually is not necessary because if you leave those messags untranslated, the system will use the original messages that are embedded in the executable file.

However, for the purposes of the English UK, English Canadian, etc teams, it makes sense to copy the same messages in the translated field because it would be an indication that the message was examined by the translation. Any new messages would appear as untranslated and the same process would continue.

Now, the problem is that the gettext tools are not smart enough when they compile such translation files; they replicate without need those messages occupying space in the generated MO file.

Apart from the English variants, this issue is also present in other languages when the message looks like

msgid “GConf”

msgstr “GConf”

Here, it does not make much sense to translate the message in the locale language. However, the generated MO file contains now more than 10 bytes (5+5) , plus some space for the index.

Therefore, what’s the solution for this issue?

One solution is to add to msgattrib the option to preprocess a PO file and remove those unneeded copies. Here is a patch,

— src.ORIGINAL/msgattrib.c 2007-07-18 17:17:08.000000000 +0100
+++ src/msgattrib.c 2007-07-23 01:20:35.000000000 +0100
@@ -61,7 +61,8 @@
REMOVE_FUZZY = 1 << 2,
+ REMOVE_COPIED = 1 << 6
static int to_remove;

@@ -90,6 +91,7 @@
{ “help”, no_argument, NULL, ‘h’ },
{ “ignore-file”, required_argument, NULL, CHAR_MAX + 15 },
{ “indent”, no_argument, NULL, ‘i’ },
+ { “no-copied”, no_argument, NULL, CHAR_MAX + 19 },
{ “no-escape”, no_argument, NULL, ‘e’ },
{ “no-fuzzy”, no_argument, NULL, CHAR_MAX + 3 },
{ “no-location”, no_argument, &line_comment, 0 },
@@ -314,6 +316,10 @@
to_change |= REMOVE_PREV;

+ case CHAR_MAX + 19: /* –no-copied */
+ to_remove |= REMOVE_COPIED;
+ break;
@@ -436,6 +442,8 @@
–no-obsolete remove obsolete #~ messages\n”));
printf (_(“\
–only-obsolete keep obsolete #~ messages\n”));
+ printf (_(“\
+ –no-copied remove copied messages\n”));
printf (“\n”);
printf (_(“\
Attribute manipulation:\n”));
@@ -536,6 +544,21 @@
: to_remove & REMOVE_NONOBSOLETE))
return false;

+ if (to_remove & REMOVE_COPIED)
+ {
+ if (!strcmp(mp->msgid, mp->msgstr) && strlen(mp->msgstr)+1 >= mp->msgstr_len)
+ {
+ return false;
+ }
+ else if ( strlen(mp->msgstr)+1 < mp->msgstr_len )
+ {
+ if ( !strcmp(mp->msgstr + strlen(mp->msgstr)+1, mp->msgid_plural) )
+ {
+ return false;
+ }
+ }
+ }
return true;
However, if we only change msgattrib, we would need to adapt the build system for all packages.

Apparently, it would make sense to change the default behaviour of msgfmt, the program that compiles PO files into MO files.

An e-mail was sent to the email address for the development team of gettext regarding the issue. The development team does not appear to have a Bugzilla to record these issues. If you know of an alternative contact point, please notify me.

Update #1 (23Jul07): As an indication of the file size savings, the en_GB locale on Ubuntu in the installation CD occupies about 424KB where in practice it should have been 48KB.

A full installation of Ubuntu with some basic KDE packages (only for the basic libraries, i.e. KBabel – (ls k* | wc -l = 499)) occupies about 26MB of space just for the translation files. When optimising in the MO files, the translation files occupy only 7MB. This is quite important because when someone installs for example the en_CA locale, all en_?? locales are added.

The reason why the reduction is more has to do with the message types that KDE uses. For example,

msgid “”
“_: Unknown State\n”
msgstr “Unknown”

I cannot see a portable way to code the gettext-tools so that they understand that the above message can be easily omitted. For the above reduction to 7MB, KDE applications (k*) occupy 3.6MB. The non-KDE applications include GNOME, XFCE and GNU traditional tools. The biggest culprits in KDE are kstars (386KB) and kgeography (345KB).

Update #2 (23Jul07): (Thanks Deniz for the comment below on gweather!) The po-locations translations (gnome-applets/gweather) of all languages are combined together to generate a big XML file that can be found at usr/share/gnome-applets/gweather/Locations.xml (~15MB).

This file is not kept in memory while the gweather applet is running.
However, the file is parsed when the user opens the properties dialog to change the location.
I would say that the main problem here is the file size (15.8MB) that can be easily reduced when stripping copied messages. This file is included in any Linux distribution, whatever the locale.

The po-locations directory currently occupies 107MB and when copied messages are eliminated it occupies 78MB (a difference of 30MB). The generated XML file is in any case smaller (15.8MB without optimisation) because it does not include repeatedly the msgid lines for each language.

I regenerated the Locations.xml file with the optimised PO files and the resulting file is 7.6MB. This is a good reduction in file space and also in packaging size.

Update #3 (25Jul07): Posted a patch for gettext-tools/msgattrib.c. Sent an e-mail to the kde-i18n-doc mailing list and got good response and a valid argument for the proposed changes. Specifically, there is a case when one gives custom values to the LANGUAGE variable. This happens when someone uses the LANGUAGE variable with a value such as “es:fr” which means show me messages in Spanish and if something is untranslated show me in French. If a message has msgid==msgstr for Spanish but not for French, then it would show in French if we go along with the proposed optimisation.


(see http://www.guadec.org/schedule/warmup)

At the first presentation, Quim Gil talked about GNOME marketing, what have been done, what is the goal of marketing. He showed a focused mind on important marketing tasks; it is easy to get carried away and not be effective, a mistake that happens in several projects.

The next session was by Tomas Frydrych (Open Hand – I have their sticker on my laptop!) on memory use in GNOME applications. Many people complain that XYZ is bloated. However, this does not convey what exactly happens; pretty useless. In addition, the common tools that show memory use do not show the proper picture because of the memory management techniques. That is, due to shared libraries, the total memory occupied by an application appears very big. A tool examined is exmap. This tool uses a kernel module that shows memory use of applications by reading in /proc. It takes a snapshot of memory use; it’s not real-time info. It comes with a GTK+ front-end (gexmap) that requires a big screen (oops, PDAs). However, it is not suitable for internet tablets and other low-spec devices. Therefore, they came up with exmap-console which addresses the shortcommings. It has a console interface based on the readline library.

Here are the rest of my notes. Hope they make sense to you.

. exmap –interactive
. ?: help
. Head: quite useful (dynamic allocation)
. Mapped:
. Sole use: memory that app is using on its own (rss?)
. “sort vm”
. “print” or “p”
. “add nautilus”
. “clear”
. “detail file” (what executables/libs loaded and how much consume)
. “detail none”

Sole use
. valgrind, to analyse Sole Use memory?
. “detail ????”

Lots of small libraries: overhead

Looking ahead
. Pagemap: by Matt Macall
. http://projects.o-hand.com/exmap-console/

. Sole use: ~18MB ;-(

Tomas was apparently running Ubuntu with the English UK locale. The English UK translation team is doing an amazing job at the translation stats. Actually, most messages are copied, however with a script one can pick up words such as organization and change to organisation. The problem here is that, for example, the GAIM mo file is 215KB (?), however for the British English translation the actual changes should be less than 2-3KB. Messages that are missing from a translation mean that the original US English messages will be used. I’ll have to find how to use msgfilter to make messages untranslated if msgid == msgstr. Where is Danilo?

After lunch time (did not go for lunch), I went to the Accerciser session. Pretty cool tool, something I have been look for. Accerciser uses the accessibility framework of GNOME in order to inspect the windows of running applications and see into the properties. A good use is to identify if elements such as text boxes come with description labels; they are important to be there for accessibility purposes (screen reader), as a person that depends on software to read (text to speech) the contents of windows.

The next session was GNOME accessibility for blind people. Jan Buchal gave an excellent presentation.

My notes,

. is from Chech republic, is blind himself. has been using computers for 20+ years

. from user perspective
. users, regular and irregular 😉
. software
. firefox 3.0beta – ok for accessibility other versions no
. gaim messenger ok
. openoffice.org ok but did not try
. orca screenreader ^^^ works ok.
. generally ready for prime time
. ubuntu guy for accessibility was there
. made joke about not having/needing display slides ;-]
. synthesizer: festival, espeak, etc – can choose
. availability of voices
. javascript: not good for accessibility
. links/w3m: just fine!
. firefox3 makes accessibility now possible.
. web designer education, things like title=””, alt=”” for images.
. OOo, not installed but should work, ooo-gnome
. “braillcom” company name
. “speech dispatcher”
. logical events
. have short sound event instead of “button”, “input form”
. another special sound for emacs prompt, etc.
. uses emacs
. have all events spoken, such as application crashing.
. problems of accessibility
. not money main factor, but still exists.
. standard developers do not use accessibility functions
. “accessor” talk, can help
. small developer group on accessiblity, may not cooperate well
. non-regular users (such as blind musician)
. musicians
. project “singing computer”
. gtk, did not have good infrastructure
. used lilypond (music typesetter, good but not simple to use)
. singing mode in festival
. use emacs with special mode to write music scores (?)
. write music score and have the computer sing it (this is not “caruso”)
. gnome interface for lilypond would be interesting
. chemistry for blind
. gtk+
. considering it
. must also work, unfortunately, on windows
. gtk+ for windows, not so good for accessibility
. conclusion: free accessibility
. need users so that applications can be improved
. have festival synthesizer, not perfect but usable
. many languages, hindi, finnish, afrikaans
. endinburgh project, to reimplement festival better
. proprietary software is a disadvantage
. q: how do you learn to use new software?
. a: has been a computer user for 20+ years, is not good candidate to say
. a: if you are dedicated, you can bypass hardles, old lady emacs/festival/lilypond
. brrlcom, not for end-users(?)
. developer problem?
. generally there is lack of documentation; easy to teach what a developer needs to know
. so that the application is accessible
. HIG Human Interface Guidelines, accessible to the developers
. “speakup” project
. Willy, from Sun microsystems, working on accessibility for +20 years, Lead of Orca.
. developers: feel accessibility is a hindrance to development
. in practice the gap is not huge
. get tools (glade) and gtk+ to come with accessibility on by default
. accessibility
. is not only for people with disabilities
. can do amazing things like 3d interfaces something

These summaries are an important example of the rule that during presentation, participants tend to remember only about 8% of the material. In some examples, even less is being recollected.


I am writing this in the morning of the second day (posted at the end of the second day). Just had breakfast and there is a bit of time before making it to the conference venue.

Yesterday Sunday, was the first of the two days of warm-up for the GUADEC conference. At 11am the registration started. I was in front of the queue and got my badge quickly, then picked up the bag with the goodies; three cool t-shirts, a copy of Ubuntu 7.04, Fedora 7 Live, Linux stickers, two Linux pens, a mini Google Code notebook (no, that’s an actual notebook (not that type of notebook, it was just the paper-based thing)).

During registration I met up with Dimitrios Glezos (of Greek Fedora fame) and a bit later with Dimitrios Typaldos. It was the first time I met both of them in person.

Between a choice of two sessions I went to the one on X.org developments (XDamage, xrender, etc extensions and how to use them). Ryan Lortie gave the presentation.

Next was lunch time, and Dimitrios T. recommended a pub for traditional English food and drink. Sayamindu came along.

The next session I went to was the Hildon desktop, which is what we used to call Maemo; GNOME for internet tables such as the Nokia 770 and Nokia 800. There are special technical issues to solve. Lucas Rocha mentioned refactoring issues with the source code. In addition, as far as I understood, there is an issue with the internationalisation support for the platform.

Next, Don Scorgie talked about the GNOME documentation project. Several things can be improved and one of them is the introduction of a simplified XML schema for the needs of GNOME documentation. When compared to DocBook XML, the new GNOME documentation schema has only 6 elements (or do they call them tags?). In addition to this, there is a documentation editor with a special rich-edit widget for this schema. Mallard is a type of duck(?).

I also attended the last 10 minutes of the presentation on project Jackfield (sadly no special significance between Jackfield and what the project is about). Jackfield is apparently a way to run Javascript scripts on the desktop. OS/X is supposed to have it, and there are already scripts available. With Jackfield, you can run those scripts unmodified on Linux. The demos where really impressive.

The final session for the day was a presentation by Richard Rothwell on free software for the socially excluded. No, you do not have to go to Africa for this. His work relates to families in Nottingham, UK. It reminds me the situation and effort in Farkadona, Greece, that was described by Kostas Boukouvalas. I think it would have been helpful if Kostas Boukouvalas could have attended this. Richard is running a 3-year project that provides a number of PCs (in the hundreds?) with Linux to socially excluded families. Even in the UK, funding is hard to come by.

What’s wrong with health care systems?

It is generally quite easy to create a blog using one of those online services such as Blogspot. In fact many people create a blog and after a couple of posts they lose interest and neglect to update it. There is a blog I would like to draw your attention to, http://fakellaki.blogspot.com/. This blog was last updated on 3rd May 2007, one month ago. Quite sadly, it will not get updated again because the blogger has just passed away.
Amalia, the blogger, has been a victim of malpractice of the health service (both national and private) who failed her. For Amalia At the age of 8 she was complaining that there was pain at her leg. The doctors failed to diagnose a case of schwannoma (a type of benign tumour). Seventeen years latter and after many visits, the tumour became malign and she developed cancer. A further five years of fight against cancer and she passed away in May 2007.
At the time of writing, her final blog post has over 1500 comments.
In the US there is no national healthcare system which leaves tens of millions of people without basic healthcare. For the rest, who have private healthcare, it appears there is a varying degree of satisfaction. Michael Moore, in his latest documentary Sicko, talks about the trend in the US private healthcare system to actively look for technicalities so that they do not cover the medical expenses.
What is wrong with the health care system? Is health care inherently expensive so that quality naturally drops? Are the examples depicted above the norm or are they just mere exceptions? What’s the true cause of the problem?

Techteam.gr does not work from abroad?

Quite strangely I try to connect to http://www.techteam.gr/ from abroad (UK) and I cannot. The result I get is similar to blocking someone using a firewall.
However, when connecting from inside Greece, it simply works.

Techteam.gr, why does this happen?
Update (Jun 07): Apparently there is still some blocking at some times during the day.

Σπάσαν τα καλώδια

Την περασμένη εβδομάδα έγινε ένας ισχυρός σεισμός κοντά στην Ταϊβάν. Το επίκεντρο ήταν στη θάλασσα, κοντά στις νότιες ακτές του νησιού. Υπήρξε ένας αριθμός θυμάτων που ήταν σχετικά μικρός λόγω των αυστηρών πολεοδομικών κανονισμών της χώρας για ανθεκτικά κτίρια.
Ένα από τα θύματα ήταν τα καλώδια οπτικών ινών του συστήματος APCN 2 που συνδέουν την ΝΑ Ασία με τις ΗΠΑ και τον υπόλοιπο κόσμο. Έτσι, μέχρι την επισκευή των καλωδίων (~4 εβδομάδες) η σύνδεση με το Διαδίκτυο για τις χώρες της ΝΑ Ασίας είναι από αδύνατη μέχρι πολύ αργή.
Την επόμενη μέρα της καταστροφής το Google ήταν η μόνη υπηρεσία που κατάφερε να λειτουργήσει. Η εντολή traceroute έδειξε ότι τα πακέτα τερμάτιζαν στο Χονγκ Κονγκ οπότε το Google είχε προσπεράσει το πρόβλημα με τη Ταϊβάν με χρήση κάποιας άλλης γραμμής. Άλλες υπηρεσίες όπως Yahoo δεν ήταν προσπελάσιμες. Μπορούσες να συνδεθείς μόνο με δικτυακούς τόπους μέσα από στην NΑ Ασία.

Κοιτώντας το χάρτη με τη διασύνδεση των καλώδιων οπτικών ινών στην Ασία (PDF), διαπιστώνει κανείς ότι π.χ. είναι δυνατή η σύνδεση στην Αυστραλία από την ΝΑ Ασία. Πως μπορεί ένας χρήστης να συνδεθεί από ΝΑ Ασία με ΗΠΑ μέσω Αυστραλίας; Ένας εύκολος τρόπος είναι με τη ρύθμιση διαμεσολαβητή (proxy) που βρίσκεται στην Αυστραλία στο Firefox. Υπάρχει μεγάλη λίστα από anonymous proxy στο διαδίκτυο που μπορεί κάποιος να βρει εύκολα μέσω Google.

Στις τοπικές εφημερίδες διαβάζει κανείς άρθρα για τοπικούς ιστολόγους που η διαδικτυακή τους ζωή έχει ταραχθεί λόγω της αδυναμίας ιστολόγησης. Ελπίζω να διορθωθούν τα πράγματα σύντομα.