Saturday, April 30, 2005

Here is a link to the EuroLinux page, one of the key partners in the movement to save the European Union from becoming a place where it is impossible to legally develop or consult about software without being in a big company with a massive legal department. I`ll post more about the background soon, but basically the several-year long struggle will come to crisis point in May. The European Commission, backed by most EU member governments, is pushing a new Directive which will allow the patenting of, not just specific software programs, but the algorithms and logic which they implement. In other words, a patent on good ideas and common sense. The IT industry already suffers from a chronic lack of this - now it will become illegal as well. Despite a massive, sustained, and well-researched movement by small businesses and tens of thousands of software professionals (like me) against this movement, the Commission, as is its wont, wants to carry on regardless. Last month the European Parliament (the only directly-elected part of the three-part EU government, and the weakest!) rejected the Directive in its draft form, proposing several sensible amendments. The Commission does not want to accept this, and in May will propose the Directive again. This second time, only a full majority of all members of the Europarl will be enough to stop the crazy law getting through.
Those readers who think this is just a bunch of bearded geeks getting their knickers in a knot should think again. For instance, there has been a lot of noise in the press over the last 2 years about low-end middle class jobs in data processing, IT and other back-office functions being shipped off to India etc. Well India will be laughing if the EU passes this directive, as it will just add one more comparative advantage to the Indian IT industry - in this case, the ability to think about the customer`s business, and come up with a reasonable solution, without having to worry that Cap Gemini Ernst & Young came up with something vaguely similar a few years back and managed to patent it. If you want to know more, have a look at this site: http://www.eurolinux.org/

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Unreasonable Veto" was the phrase Mr. A(rrogant) Blair used to undermine the UN Security Council veto system which has worked for over 40 years. Now it's come back to haunt him: look at this leaked transcript of the the attorney general's legal advice about the decision to go to war on Iraq. Although the most publicised part of this leak has been paras 26-30 which show that the UK Govt's chief legal adviser had serious doubts about any move to war based purely on UN Resolution 1441, the last para (31, go to the bottom of the page), shows that he also politely but firmly pointed out that Blair was talking shit when he suggested that the US and UK had the right to ignore any veto by a permanent member of the security council, however 'unreasonable'.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

My first post using a new little program I have written to let me post directly from a window on my computer without going via the v.v. slow blogger web interface.

Regular readers will be pleased to know that this is the first part of a program which will make it easy for me to add pictures to the blog, without all the current hassle, but also without having to sign up to Flickr or that kind-a-stuff.

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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Galinya dji dozi miu
This was the title of a recent op-ed piece about the effects of globalization on the Mozambican chicken-rearing industry. The four words really say it all - they are a literal translation of ´A Chicken for 12,000 meticais´, as said in a heavy Brazilian accent. The article bemoans the fact that, since import restrictions were loosened, the local market has been flooded with incredibly cheap frozen chickens from Brazil. The writer asks ´how can the wholesale price be so low (about 60 US cents) when they have to raise, slaughter, pluck, package, freeze the chickens and then ship them 5000 kilometres across to here?´. Its a good question, and the writer suspects that the ´galinhas´ arriving in Maputo are of a quality that would never be allowed into Europe.

Quite apart from the fact that the surge of imports is slaying yet another local agricultural industry. The author wryly notes that if the trend ever expanded to ducks it would be a different story, as the new president himself, who somehow became very wealthy over the last 15 years, famously attributes his success to his duck farms.

Language note: the title phrase in ´proper´ portuguese would be written:
galinha de doze mil
...which in Mozambican accent would be pronounced
galinya di dozi mil

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Friday, April 22, 2005

Got in the house half-drunk this fine night and rocked through to the kitchen seeking a glass of water. Into the cup it sloshed, as I raised it to my lips I noticed three brave ants still a-crawlin´ round the rim. How they got there I don´t know the glass I took straight from the washrack, and now the weather is colder anyway, they are supposed to disappear gracefully for a few months. I drank it anyway.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Here is a depressing note from a guy who spent over two years, along with his mate, developing a piece of Open Source software. http://www.etomite.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=2209 Eventually the application got really popular and ´took off´. The author eventually decided to create a new, commercially-licensed application from scratch, leaving the original Open Source application to the community. But the response he received from some of his users was so virulent that he ended up closing down the project completely.

In non-software terms, this would be like the owner of a free soup-kitchen setting up a café on the same street with the intention of handing the kitchen over to one of the employees. But then he sees the original soup-kitchen burnt down by his enraged former customers. Not necessarily a great explanation but anyway, it reinforces my belief that Microsoft doesn´t have to panic about the ´Open Source Threat´ just yet, there are too many real human organizational questions to be worked out bit by bit first. That said, I think in 50 years time Microsoft will just be a memory.

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