jintropin
15
Feb

IT is just ‘Biology 2.0’

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

Mr Darwin
Photo by Badly Drawn DadI don’t know if it’s just instinct, but we humans have this sincere need to limit the amount of variation in anything we do. Ever sincy we started to live in stationary communities and worked our way up to professional farmers, we have been trying to eliminate variation as much as possible. Selecting the finest crop and weeding out the bad ones.

When after many centuries a certain Mr. Darwin explained to us that evolution actually depends on variation, nobody wanted to believe him. And we still don’t. Yet nature does what nature does best, defy human efforts towards standardization. And somehow we do the same. We come up with new stuff regularly and we call it progress.

But every time something new comes up, certain people start crying out that ‘this will replace that’, ‘this will win over that’ or ‘this must be phased out because of that’ etc.. It is a habit we’re born with, comparing things and classifying them as either good or bad. Recently I saw another example on LinkedIN Answers. Someone asked the community there whether PHP will win over .NET. I can’t help but feel a bit annoyed. Why can’t different species coexist and share an ecosystem where both can prosper? Why should the whole IT landscape be a monoculture?

And of course, it shouldn’t. Monocultures have significant disadvantages. We have seen that in agriculture a lot of times. One disease figures out a way to attack a certain crop and because of the monoculture kills every single plant or animal. This sort of thing has caused famine, disease and mass migration in humans and still does from time to time. Monocultures are vulnerable because the variation in disease resistance that occurs naturally has been selected away. This gives viruses and other pests a good chance to have an impact. Did you wonder why computerviruses are called just that? And why do they thrive in ‘monoculture’-IT-Landscapes?

In fact, there are more links to biology in the IT terminology field. How about bugs?

what about farms. What about LifeCycles, In fact we are also using biology-derived scientific fields like Taxonomy for IT related things as well.

We have these ‘climate-change’ like discussions on Google Chrome versus Microsoft Internet Explorer, and about Linux versus Windows. We have the Evolutionists versus the Religion-buffs when it comes to different development platforms. I guess there’s nothing new in IT when it comes to these subjects. So maybe, just maybe, we should learn a thing or to from biology, agriculture, and most of all history. Maybe variation isn’t a bad thing after all, maybe it brings stability while actually supporting us best. Maybe standardization aimed at minimizing variety is at least in part a bad choice that should be made carefully. Maybe we should ‘relearn’ choosing in the first place. (And I’ll come back to that in another post, promise!).

What about you? Don’t hesitate to comment below!

25
Jan

2010 will bring…

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

Laptop, the well-travelled suitcase years
Photo by Neil CrosbyYup, another predictions post. Like you, I can’t wait to see what this year is going to bring. Let’s try a few predictions on 2010.

HTML5 is going to be something really big one day. Will it happen in 2010? I think so. But it depends on one big monopolistic Goliath mainly. Will Microsoft add HTML5 support to it’s browser platform? I don’t have the answer on that one. HTML5 is what will make most of Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight rather obsolete. (and good riddens). Very promising technology!

Everybody predicted this next one already, and I second them: This year will see the continuation of the shift towards the mobile platforms. The Internet will see a lot of growth in mobile clients rather than desktops and laptops. There will be hot developments in this area. There might be a Microsoft Zune Mobile Phone later this year to add a new vendor to the already large list. I don’t expect a shake-out yet. Interesting to see what will happen with Google’s Nexus phone. Will it take of? And will the prices of smart-phones finally start to drop a bit?

We have seen a lot of formerly closed platforms opening up bit by bit in 2009. This is an inevitable process that will continue in 2010. Microformats, dataportability and several yet unknown open standards may actually become more prevalent (even though they won’t be mainstream this year yet). I guess people finally start to understand that the future wants to do away with borders and interoperability is the only way to go.

Interestingly I expect some big shot companies to start to work together against Google. We’ve seen some examples in 2009 already. Yahoo and Microsoft is one of those examples. Google will get some competition on several fields. Will it scare them? I highly doubt that. But it may make a few things a bit more interesting.

Privacy has been in decline in 2009. Unfortunately I don’t see any change of direction coming up. I think we gradually will have to get used to the idea that everyone knows everything about everyone else (or at least will be able to find it). I don’t think that’s a good thing. Let me elaborate shortly.

In the second world war on of the state archives in the Netherlands was burned to the ground by resistance people. They did this to prevent the Germans looking up the Jews in the records and then deporting them to concentration camps. Previously people didn’t necessarily think badly of such a registration, but with the new government (Germans) this didn’t seem a good idea anymore. A change of government isn’t necessarily impossible today. Will information on the Internet be of disadvantage to you when it happens? Think about it…

2010 will finally see the death of DRM. And good riddens (wishful thinking? comment!). This doesn’t necessarily means that there won’t be other threats to freedom of information and ageing copyright laws. I expect to see a few movements trying to reinvent copyright law to fit the Internet age. And it’s about time. The way we protect the rights of those that produce knowledge, art or software isn’t compatible with the current and future workings of the Internet.

How about IPv6? Will it finally arrive in 2010? I highly doubt it. Even though the remaining IP addresses will only last us another two or three years (depending on the country you live in) I don’t think that anyone wants to take responsibility anytime soon. In fact, there isn’t really a problem according to many. Naturally I don’t agree. However, there are so many disadvantages to making the transition today that it just won’t happen until it’s too late. Countries like China, India and Brazil will take the lead (and are already doing so). The western world will lag behind and loose the race. Pessimistic? Maybe, Try commenting to give me your insights…

What about Social Media? Well, I don’t really know. The big change in 2009 was the Geo-movement adding location to services. So now we have communication, profiling, multimedia and location. What’s there to add anymore? What are we missing? Sure there will be new platforms and new mash-ups of existing ones, but I don’t see anything completely new coming this year.

Every year sees a number of interesting security problems. This year will be no exception. I expect however to see the first few serious exploits released for mobile devices. This has been long overdue. These platforms are mainly very insecure and usually full of holes. With newer browsers and actually services running on many of the new devices security problems are inevitable.

Chrome OS will arrive and it will be instantly big. Netbooks have a large market share already and this new stable and extremely agile operating system will quickly take a big market share in that area. I have already tried one of the beta’s and was very impressed. The old SUN Microsystems adagium ‘The Network is The Computer’ comes one big step closer with Chrome OS.

2009 saw lots of hype around SAAS and Cloud computing. Early adopters are already using this type of computing a lot. There are definite issues with the way of working that these systems require. Interoperability, dataformats, collaboration, cost and security in general. This justifies a complete post, so I won’t go into these things here. However, We will see a lot more adoption this year and also a few interesting problems (like the MS SideKick Backup Issue of last year…)

What are your ideas? What are your predictions? How do you think mine are? Do you think I’m right or wrong? Please don’t hesitate to comment below, I’ll respond to every (non-spam) comment I receive here!.

Related posts…

19
Jan

The Joy of Printing…

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

I recently came across a post on this weblog via this weblog about printers. I just think it’s hilarious therefor I will share the link here. Again, it’s about printers. You may have had your unfortunate experiences with those in the past… Check the article out here. Hey, if you’re finished laughing, don’t hesitate to leave me a comment as well….monumentprintermound
Photo by topherous


6
Jan

Did it happen as I thought?

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

and i had fever
Photo by eir@siLast year around this time i posted a blog with predictions. Let’s see if I got it right…

Windows 7 came and was an instant hit. I didn’t think things would move so fast. I guess people were more fed up with Vista then I expected.

The so called Standards conforming Internet Explorer 8 wasn’t the revolution I hoped. In fact, it’s definitely still an Internet Explorer, bulky, slow etc. It does however have multiple processes for different tabs which is good. Unfortunately this eats away memory like nothing I saw before. I still only use IE8 when I absolutely have to (which is that pesky time registration thingy)

I predicted shake-out-time for social media sites. This ‘kinda’ happened as many small sites have been either bought by larger ones or just discontinued. Remember Pownce, Sezwho, IwantSandy? Still I think there are way too many left. Recently both Friendfeed and Ping.fm have been bought and news is out that MyBlogLog will stop.

I wrote about what I have previously called web 4.0. I didn’t expect it to happen and it didn’t. full points on that one. But what about the reason. I wrote that lack of interoperability is still the same (very) big problem as it was last year. I haven’t really seen any big improvements in this area. The only positive thing here is the increased amounts of talk about this subject. That’s a good thing.

Not being economically inclined I had a go at predicting a little bit about the economical crisis. I wasn’t that optimistic and I guess I was right. Now don’t tell me about the stock exchanges and the large numbers we hear every day, these are just measurements of emotion. If you truly look at it, it’s still the government backing that holds up much of the economy. If the government as much as mention the possibility of stopping that support, everybody panics. It’s no good yet and won’t be for some time, even though those who are heavily into the hot-air business of stocks and loans are making money at this time. Unfortunately I don’t think the system will change either. Those with judicial and economical backgrounds still rule the world, rather than engineers and technicians who actually know how things work…

Yep, the other crisis is still here too. Unfortunately we didn’t really work that hard to solve that one compared to the financial crisis. We failed dramatically in Copenhagen, we cut budgets for innovation and research and real changes to support different forms of transport and energy haven’t moved any nearer in the last year. Lots of words, yeah, lots of them, but not really any bananas…

It is nice to see that Open Source Software slowly becomes mainstream. In the e-government area where I frequently work it is becoming very prevalent. OpenOffice.org, Apache, Alfresco, Mysql, Tomcat, Freemind… Many products that I see being used around me in real business settings. This year also has shown – at least in the Netherlands – a lot of discussion about how to deal with Open Source Software in the process of acquiring new software by organisations. This is proving to be rather complex as the organization needs to change their habitual prerequisites and requirements on companies, licenses and support. There have been some useful publications on this area that help organisations along which is definitely a good thing.

This year for the first time there was a lot of attention to greener data-centers and energy efficient IT solutions. This is something new and it’s about time. I expected this to come last year and it did. We’re not there yet, a lot has to be done still, but progress has been made.

I wrote about virtualization as well. This has become so mainstream that hardly anyone is talking about it anymore. That’s pretty scary. If things become mainstream, they tend to draw the attention of the not so pleasant people of this world. I expected problems, they haven’t happened yet. There are no VMWare RootKits, Blue-Pill like trojans or VirtualViruses. I don’t however think that this is the result of the amazing security measures taken by consultants implementing these technologies, rather I think we’re just lucky…

Concluding this post, there isn’t really a clear outcome. Some things happened the way I thought, some didn’t. At least I wasn’t completely besides the truth-to-be. It’s quite interesting to see how some of these subjects will continue to develop in this year.

Don’t hesitate to comment!

Related posts…

31
Oct

The Readability of the EULA

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

End User License Agreement
Photo by fczuardiThe Software License and the EULA (End User License Agreement) have always been part of software. It contains the rights people have regarding the software, often limiting those rights as much as possible. It’s being a contractual document, Eula’s often contain a lot of legal jargon, which usually is gibberish to ordinary human beings. The question is, do they have to be this difficult to read?

I’m not going to answer that question of course, since I’m no legal expert, but readability – which happens to be a part of usability – is part of my expertise. It can be measured. Many scientists studying language have come up with formula’s to calculate the level of difficulty of a particular piece of text. The most well known of these scientists is Mr. Flesch who invented the Flesch Reading Ease test. The result was the following formula:

Flesch Reading Ease Formula

The results from this formula come in categories:

ScoreNotes
90.0–100.0easily understandable by an average 11-year-old student
60.0–70.0easily understandable by 13- to 15-year-old students
0.0–30.0best understood by university graduates

This table showed you that the higher the score, the easier the read… (source of both formula and table is Wikipedia)

Luckily there are tools to calculate the score on your texts (like this one which was used to calculate the values below) and even websites like this one. (And also note that there are other ways to calculate readability which I’ve kept out of this article to keep some readability…)

Let’s get back to the Eula. Is it any good, Is it readable and how do different Eula’s compare? I created this little table for your enjoyment:

EulaScore
GPL v246,26
Apache31,49
Microsoft Windows XP EULA25,26
GPL v339,41
BSD simplified FreeBSD27,48
MPL (Mozilla)32,64
MS-PL Microsoft Public License40,80

As you can see, the most readable license in this list is the GPL v2. The worst is the Microsoft EULA for Windows XP. Interestingly, the very open BSD license in it’s simplified FreeBSD version doesn’t do much better than the MS Eula. Also note that the Microsoft Public License isn’t that bad a read, meaning that you don’t need to be a MSc to understand what it tells you.  Since I didn’t check every license in the world, this is just an indication. Want your favourite license added to the list? Just leave your comment and I’ll update the table (when I find time to do so…)

An interesting question is the following legal one (please leave your comments!): If a license requires you to have more education than you actually have, can you actually be bound by it’s terms? In other words: If you can’t understand because they made it too hard, and you still accept, are you bound to it? And how about: Do we need to force companies to create their license documents with a minimum Flesch Reading Ease score of 60? Should we have a law about that? Should an ‘average’ person be able to understand this sort of documents since that same average person is also using the software? Should licenses be written in a way that helps the reader and user of the software? I think they should, How about you?

to further compare free licenses on other characteristics a good source to look is this one.

I am currently not aware of tools and formula’s to calculate readability in other languages than English. If you are aware of one of those, don’t hesitate to leave a comment as well…

I hope you enjoyed this post!

UPDATE: A discussion has started partly caused by this post on IusMentis (dutch).

4c685b3de1f98bc3665afa55cc11559d The Readability of the EULA
12
Oct

I’m a Google Waver Now

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

IMG_2937
Photo by Yme BosmaYes, My invite came this last night. Between bits of work I found a little bit of time to play with it a few minutes. And I am not (yet) very impressed. Sure it works and sure it’s fast. Sure I can create a wave (which isn’t much more than a simple document) and have a conversation. But there are problems that wave doesn’t solve yet, promises that aren’t kept.


Wave should be all about communication, but it is very limited in the sense that I can’t communicate without the boundaries of wave and without the (very small) group of people I found on wave so far. If this is to surpass e-mail, the least it could do is allow me to converse with those who still have nothing else…

And then, I’m not even talking other communication platforms. I want to interact with microblogging services like Twitter and Identica and (google owned) Jaiku. I want to socially network with Facebook, Hyves and (google owned) Orkut. I want to manage my calendar and todos in Outlook, Remember the Milk and Google Calendar (also Google owned). I want to interact with bulletin boards, I want to import data from RSS feeds, I want to export WordPress Posts (and not just embed a wave that consequently nobody can see without a wave account). I want work with data (like spreadsheets and databases) and not just text and images and I want to draw pictures and graphs like I can on a whiteboard.

I haven’t found any good ways of doing those things with wave yet… Maybe it’s early days, maybe I’ll have to wait, maybe I have to team up with folks with strong development skills and make these dreams come true. I don’t know. For now it remains a nice toy rather than a very useful application for my work. A hello world testwave I created I embedded in a sandboxwordpressinstall I created at geirriteerd.nl. Have a look and (probably) see (nothing?)

To get the invite I begged and participated in a small contest and won. I made the promise to write about my experiences (which I’m doing now and will do in the future). One of the things I want to investigate is how this new tool can be useful in the real world as a communication channel between organisations and people, especially in an e-Government setting. So that’s what I’ll be looking into in coming months. However, limited as it is right now (including my inability to invite people myself) the added value isn’t as big as I hoped.

I guess that between hype and hope a lot of land lays barren…

Please respond to this post or contact me on Google Wave (wDOTkossenATgooglewaveDOTcom, yeah, I don’t like WHAM (wave spam))

5
Oct

Towards my presentation October 29

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

Some of you may know that on the 29th of October I will be speaking at the fall conference of the NLUUG, the Dutch Linux and Unix Usergroup. The conference is about The Open Web and naturally I will be speaking about interoperability, or better, the lack of it.

In recent days I talked to a journalist of the website Transparante Zaken (Transparent Matters) about this conference and this resulted in an article that tells you a little bit about what I’ll be talking about the 29th. Here is the link to that article. It’s in Dutch but hopefully Google Translate will excel this time for you if Dutch isn’t your cup of tea…

Don’t hesitate to respond to the article on Transaparante Zaken, but don’t forget to also respond here!

16
Aug

Now I only have to start blogging ???

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

Or maybe get famous first…

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

15
Jul

More or Less Interoperability?

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

I recently read here an interesting opinion from Jonathan Zuck, President of the Association for Competitive Technology. I don’t agree with this opinion so much, I just had to write a post about it.
Read the rest of this entry »

4
Jul

Asterix Love

   Posted by: wkossen   in Uncategorized

Lately there has been a lot of discussion about this poor little character, the asterix: *. One example of this is this site. This character has been a very frequent site on every login screen you might encounter. It hides your real password (unless you actually had ******* as a password…) The question is whether this is good or bad practice. In this little post I’ll give you my opinion on it.

The original argumentation was to hide the password from peeking eyes. Look over someone’s shoulder and you know… then, you might look at what someone is typing on the keyboard and know as well. Especially if someone is typing slow. The added value is limited. In fact, security by obscurity isn’t real security. As it turns out, not seeing what you are typing increases the likelyhood of making mistakes. This is frustrating, but also costly. Unlocking accounts, retrieving passwords by e-mail etc. is timeconsuming and therefor pricy. Now we have two sides of the scales, which one is heavier?

In fact, that may not at all be the question. You could argue that the asterix’s make people feel good. They’re not only nice to look at, but also give a (false) sense of security, something people like (and not just after 9/11). The feel-good-factor hasn’t been taken into account in all the discussions I’ve read on the internet. Even if the added value in terms of real security is limited, what about making people feel safe (even if they aren’t. You want safety? Shut down that computer Now!).

Another factor that hasn’t been discussed is the simple fact that if we were to change this habit, it would take a very long time to reach an asterix-free world. There would be a mixed environment for years which might confuse people so much they call on the helpdesk anyway. No savings here. Is it really that bad? Or should people learn to type without looking and improve their skills that way?

Even further, one could (and I do) argue that the password itself isn’t a very good idea. There are better ways of securing stuff from unwanted access. Multifactor authentication, biometrics (although there are strong arguments against that one as well. maybe worth another post one day), smartcards, PKI, etc…. If we’re going to change at all, let’s not just do the superficial and aesthetics…

As you see, I don’t have the answer. do you? I hope you will comment on this post and give me your views on this little subject.

4c685b3de1f98bc3665afa55cc11559d Asterix Love