» Galileo Global Positioning threatened by the US Military?

I just read this article in The Register regarding the potential effect/degradation of the Galileo Global Positioning System by the US Military; apparently they are not that happy about its 1m resolution that is to be publicly available.

I sincerely hope that no such demands are accepted by the EU. Galileo is a fantastic project and it’s utility to Europeans and everyone else is paramount, both in civilian and military contexts. Unfortunately, I can see how the US military is concerned about this and how they will use their military and political muscle/influence to ‘convince’ the EU that Galileo should be degraded to a toy-GPS.



ADSL in Greece revisited once again.

I was just about ready to go to bed when I read this transcript from a session in the Greek Parliament regarding ADSL. (it is in Greek). I thought it is time to revisit the subject.

I’ve got ADSL in Greece since this summer when it was announced. I can safely say that for as long as I used it (i.e. while I was there) the service was okay, albeit at a very high cost.

The obligatory purchase of a modem from OTE costing around €200 (cf. the Netgear DG834G 802.11g AP/Router/ADSL modem/4port switch in the UK which costs considerably less) — imposed presumably due to the financial interests of the company as well as the incompatibilities arising from the use of inferior Intracom/Alcatel/Siemens DSLAM devices in many exchanges as well as the very high cost of connectivity (more than €70 + VAT for a 384/128Kbps connection) still make is prohibitive for the Greek market.

Many people here (in the UK) believe that the UK too is lagging behind in the internet connectivity/access ratings. And indeed maybe it does, compared to countries like France, Germany, Italy and of course most of the Scandinavian ones. But if the UK is lagging behind, Greece must look like a Genuine Third World Country (if not a zoo) and certainly not an EU country that will host the 2004 Olympics.

In the middle of the summer I sent a letter to the Hellenic Oftel (EETT) regarding the situation touching upon the price, equipment provision and service availability of broadband connectivity in Greece and they too gave me a standard content-free reply that avoided to touch upon any of the issues I had enquired about and merely gave reassurances regarding the Committee’s efforts.

With ADSL having been overdue for three years before being finally widely available for the public this summer, extremely high prices, clueless technicians, lack of choice in modems and slow speed options (compared to the rest of Europe and the US) one would definitely expect a different (more apologetic) response from the people in charge of this fiasco. I just cannot believe how someone in the highest position of the Telecommunications Ministry and with the burden of this ridiculous state of connectivity in Greece falling upon his shoulders for the most part, can be so arrogant, ignorant and corrupt and still have no sense of dignity that would lead to his resignation, even when others (from any political background/party, social group etc.) specifically and accurately criticise the governments fundamental faults and indifference in dealing with such important issues like this.

It’s a different world.


» IgNobel awards

Saw it last week, before I returned to the UK from a trip to Europe, but forgot to write about it here.

It’s almost as funny as the guy whose Ph.D is about why and how biscuits break in their packaging. (he must have been runner-up for this year’s physics ignobel)

Anyway, check out the IgNobel Awards.



Sweden not joining the Euro — what does it mean?

One day after the referendum took place in Sweden, anti-Euro campaigners all over the UK express their satisfaction and assure everyone that the UK should and will not adopt the Euro for years to come. But what does this mean for the UK and what does it mean for Europe?

Reading the opinions and polls taken by the BBC yesterday, it was clear to me that most people that voted ‘yes’ were pretty clear as to why they chose to do that. On the contrary, almost everyone voting ‘no’ either claimed ignorance, fear for something new or indifference. Not a single person (out of those interviewed by the BBC Online) had any serious or economically valid comment to make with regards to the ‘no’ vote that they cast earlier that day, although, of course, there are several arguments in favour of this decision.

It seems to me that, both in the UK, Sweden and in other countries outside the Eurozone, the majority of people against the adoption of the single currency are entrenched with politics and erroneous beliefs — most of them completely irrelevant to economics — and fail to see the true potential of the Euro as a European currency. They attach political beliefs, social beliefs and decades old ideology to something new, something purely economical (in the scientific sense), something that, in my view, in the long term will definitely help preserve the culture, society and values of Europe, by keeping/making Europe a stronger economic power in the world arena.



Ximian Gnome — Linux Desktops

I recently tried Ximian Gnome 2. What do I think? Well, it is definitely a good try, but it is very similar to the Gnome desktop I had on my machine more than 18 months ago. I don’t know whether it is me or it is really happening, but I find the Linux Desktop developments slowing down in the past year or so.

I have been privileged with a ‘switch’ to Macintosh computers, thus making my interaction with Linux boxes more infrequent, and even then from a server administration point of view which is not really focused on getting fancy desktop environments, but — really — has there been much happening on the linux front (at least from a Desktop/HCI/User Experience point of view) in the past 18 months? I don’t think so.

Ximian Gnome is very nice, very polished (although I did find several bugs here and there) and definitely a product I would choose over Windows for Enterprise use, considering the costs involved. But where is the Linux Desktop scene going? With both MacOS X and Windows evolving into composite-based desktops, and the industry slowly adding those same human-centric features that they claimed they would add ten or fifteen years ago (think Object orientation, the Cairo OS, the Taligent OS et al), such as file meta-data and associations, increased integration between applications etc., how is linux going to compete?



Java development on OS X. Things that need to be done.

Part of my development efforts in the past few months has been based on Java and since MacOS X is the operating system of choice for me I usually use it for Java development.

On the C/C++ and of course Objective-C front, MacOS X is doing alright, despite the largely obsolete development tools involved. It has, not only due to Apple’s engineering efforts, a top-notch (albeit not the fastest one) compiler, gcc, a good debugger, gdb and an excellent RAD API, Cocoa. So, on this front I have no reason to ditch OS X and choose another platform for my development. OS X is as great as an OS a developer could ask. And with the advent of XCode, things can just get better — although maybe not as good as they could.

On the Java front, however, things are less rosy than this. Sun does not officially support Java on the OS X platform. Instead, due to a (very good!) relationship between the two companies, Apple gets to optimise Sun’s JVM for OS X usually releasing a J2SDK/JRE some months late. This is not just Apple’s fault. Apple shipped Web Start in 10.1, it also included support for Cocoa development in its development tools. Apple supported Java from the first moment, when Microsoft dropped support whatsoever in Windows XP. Apple is definitely trying.



Apple as innovator, from Tim O’Reilly.

Just happened to stumble upon an interview by Tim O’Reilly (if you don’t know who he is, maybe this is not for you). In that interview he speaks of Apple as an innovator in the computing industry.

One of the comments in the article are what made me want to write a few things about it. One of the readers mentioned how much more exciting, enthousiastic and meaningful the computing industry was in the 1980s. And yeah, he did mention Atari, Commodore Amiga and one could also add Spectrum, Archimedes and of course NeXT, on whose Operating System, MacOS X is largely based. Think about it for a second: What MORE have people added in the 90s desktop and overall computing experience? Multitasking was there; GUIs were there (ok ok, much simpler, but still the concept was there); audio and multimedia was there (at least in the most advanced computers of the time — clearly not talking about your average DOS box).

The only difference I see is that computers do not cost €2500, but €800 and that more or less the same software in terms of features requires ten times the memory, processing power and storage. Even though I agree with Tim when he states that Bill Gates is largely responsible for the “ubiquity of personal computing”, I believe he is also responsible for killing the enthousiasm and passion behind the most challenging and interesting industry the world has seen.



DRM, privacy, the way the net is turning out to be!

Well, I have managed to correlate several – seemingly unrelated – things again to my own surprise. Think for a sec. about the way the unipolar governing of the world by — currently — the US, personal freedom/privacy, the power provided to the world by electronics and computing. I just watched Colossus: The Forbin Project, a cheesy 1970 sci-fi film about a computer similar to SkyNet in Terminator, that decides to take over the world: fortunately not immediately killing the whole of mankind plus Colossus, the computer at hand, joins forces with an equivalent Soviet computer called Guardian and combine their forces to achieve total control over the world. In the movie, the computer demands that its creator, a certain Dr. Forbin, is being put under constant surveillance.

Think for a second how easy it is today, 33 years after the release of that movie to monitor someone’s actions. Most personal financial transactions take place using credit or debit cards or at the very least ATMs. Registrations everywhere provide information as to someone’s personal details. And computerised bank networks as well as digital telephone exchanges retain (in the post 11th September world) extensive logs about people’s phonecalls. As if this was not enough, anyone living in a large city will have noticed the hundreds of CCTV cameras everywhere. I am sure this is more evident in the States than Europe or the rest of the world. The recent Verizon appeal turned-down, to not reveal their subscribers’ identities to RIAA increasingly worries me about how Orwellian the future could end up. A lot of people have written about privacy on the internet and how the Verizon case — at least in the case — will set a precedent that could literally end up forcing ISPs to reveal user data to anyone claiming they have broken the law *before* they prove it!


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