handyfloss

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Posts Tagged ‘opinion’

A vueltas con el incremento de ancho de banda de Euskaltel

Posted by isilanes on February 21, 2008

Como el lector quizá sabrá, Euskaltel ha duplicado (y triplicado) la anchura de banda de todas o casi todas sus ofertas de conexión a Internet. Y lo ha hecho manteniendo los precios, lo cual es de agradecer (aunque no del todo soprendente, dado que llevaban más de 2 años sin cambiar su oferta).

Pues bien, la línea de 300 kb que tienen mis padres contratada, supuestamente ahora la ofrecen a 1Mb. ¡Genial, el triple de velocidad por el mismo precio! Bueno, la realidad es que no es del todo cierto. Parece ser que cambiar la página web para ofrecer mayores velocidades es más fácil que realmente servir mayores velocidades, con lo cual hay una pequeña discrepancia entre lo ofertado y lo servido: mis padres siguen con 300 kb.

Decidí esperar hasta febrero para que tuvieran un tiempo “de gracia” para adecuar el servicio a la oferta, pero como ya estamos a finales, he decidido quejarme a través de su área de cliente.

Como admiro y respeto a Euskatel por su buen trato al cliente y eficiencia en el servicio, he querido homenajearlos publicando en el blog la conversación electrónica que estoy teniendo con ellos. De esta manera, mis lectores verán lo buenos que son en Euskaltel (o lo malos que son: en su mano está). Mi experiencia es una gota en el océano, pero con que un solo lector decida contratar Euskaltel por leer esto ya sentiré que he hecho algo por una compañia que se desvive por darme el mejor servicio posible.

Más posts sobre Euskaltel:

Mi queja original (18-02-2008):

Veo en su página (euskaltel.es), que el contrato Despega 300 se ha convertido en Despega 1M, manteniendo la tarifa. Mis padres tienen contratado dicho servicio, pero la velocidad de conexión sigue siendo de 300 kb. Quisiera saber qué tipo de error han cometido uds., bien sea por publicidad engañosa (si el error está en la página web), o deficiencia de servicio (si nos están dando un ancho de banda menor del contratado). Por supuesto, también me gustaría que dicho error sea subsanado cuanto antes.

Gracias de antemano.

Respuesta de Euskaltel (20-02-2008):

Estimado cliente:

En respuesta a la consulta que nos remite a traves de su correo, efectivamente el servicio de Internet Despega 300 Kbps a dejado de comercializarse para pasar a ser Despega 1 Mb por la misma cuota mensual.

En el caso de los clientes que tiene contratado el Despega 300 Kpbs, se les va a subir la velocidad a 1 Mg sin coste adicional, estas subidas de velocidad se estan realizando paulatinamente y esta previsto que para verano ya esten todos nuestros clientes con las velocidades actualizadas. No obstante, cuando se vaya a producir el aumento de velocidad, recibiran noticias por parte nuestras informandoles de dicho cambio.

Esperando haber aclarado sus dudas,

Reciba un cordial saludo,

Euskaltel, S.A.

Mi respuesta (21-02-2008):

Estimada Euskaltel,

Comprendo y respeto los motivos (aunque no se me expliquen) de Euskaltel para hacer una subida paulatina de velocidades a los clientes actuales (aunque esto suponga un agravio comparativo frente a los nuevos clientes, que lo obtienen inmediamente).

Como entiendo que Euskaltel es igual de compresiva o más que yo, supongo que no le importará que yo, a cambio, pague un tercio de mi cuota mensual habitual, ya que se me da un tercio de la velocidad contratada (me dan el ancho de banda del momento que firmé, pero no el ACTUAL del servicio que contraté). Por supuesto, y al igual que Euskaltel conmigo, iré aumentando “paulatinamente” mi aporte mensual a Euskaltel, y espero (salvo imprevistos) pagar el 100% de mi cuota “para verano”, cuando previsiblemente uds. me darán el 100% del servicio contratado.

Iñaki

P.D.: pueden uds. seguir esta conversación, al igual que todos mis lectores, en mi blog: http://handyfloss.wordpress.com/2008/02/21/a-vueltas-con-el-incremento-de-ancho-de-banda-de-euskaltel/

Respuesta Euskaltel (22-02-2008)

Estimado cliente:

En respuesta a la consulta que nos remite a traves de su mensaje, le informamos de que Euskaltel cuando comunico el aumento de velocidad que aplicaria sobre los servicios ya contratados por los clientes sin modificar las cuotas, tambien comunico que el cambio se aplicaria de forma escalonada durante los proximos meses. Le informamos tambien que para este tipo de cambios, la ley tiene un plazo estipulado de 6 meses.

Asi mismo, Euskaltel tambien comunico que a partir de ese momento la velocidad minima que ofreceria seria 1M.

A los clientes que tengan contratado el servicio despega 300kb, Euskaltel les aumentara la velocidad de conexion sin que por ello se incremente la cuota mensual, lo cual no perjudica al cliente en ningun momento. Ni reducira la cuota a un tercio, puesto que Euskaltel en ningun momento comunico que modificaria la cuota mensual sobre los servicios de banda ancha contratados manteniendo la velocidad que en breve quedara obsoleta, sino que aumentaria la velocidad manteniendo la cuota mensual.

Tambien le recordamos que a los clientes se les esta ofreciendo el ancho de banda que contrataron, como Vd. bien dice, asta(sic) que Euskaltel les aplique el aumento de velocidad cuando llegue el momento; y se les notificara dicho cambio.

Reciba un cordial saludo,

Euskaltel, S.A.

Mi respuesta (22-02-2008):

Estimada Euskaltel,

En ningún momento he dudado de que tuvieran uds. la ley de su parte. Es más, estaba totalmente seguro de que si la ley les permitía retrasar el aumento de velocidad prometido 6 meses, se tomarían uds. los 6 meses, como admiten que harán. Si les hubiera permitido tomarse 12 meses, se habríán tomado 12, obviamente. Todo ello por dar el mejor servicio posible a sus clientes, ¡faltaría más!

Soy reticente a tomarme mi aumento de velocidad “manteniendo la cuota” (como tanto repiten), como un regalo que Euskaltel me hace en su infinita bondad. Más bien me lo tomo como obligación legal de no discriminación de unos clientes frente a otros, ya que (por motivos de negocio) han actualizado sus obsoletas tarifas (llevaban más de 2 años congeladas) para los nuevos clientes, y (mal que les pese) no pueden tener doble tarificación para clientes nuevos y viejos. Por tanto, se ven obligados a aumentarme el ancho de banda, y lo van a hacer lo más tarde que les permite la ley. Así que excúsenme que no les dé las gracias.

La única duda que me queda es la justificación moral (ya que legal parece haber) para ofrecer un servicio mejor a los nuevos clientes, con el consiguiente agravio comparativo para los clientes actuales. Parece que en vez de premiar la fidelidad prefieren insultarla.

Dada su política, lo más sabio por mi parte sería darme de baja, e inmediatamente darme de alta, para poder beneficiarme de su actual tarifa. Claro que no dudo de que uds. contarán con innumerables salvaguardas legales para obstaculizarme dicha operación lo más posible, retrasando la baja tanto como la ley les permita, de manera que no me saliese ventajoso hacer eso.

¿Leyendo mis argumentos les parece a uds. que están trabajando por tener contentos a los clientes?

Mi humilde consejo, para la próxima vez, es que si van a hacer un cambio de tarifas o servicios, lo hagan para TODOS los clientes simultáneamente (si no pueden, esperen hasta poder), y hagan el anuncio del cambio 1 minuto DESPUÉS de efectuarlo. Créanme, nadie les denunciará por haber duplicado el ancho de banda sin avisar. Avisar sin duplicar, por el contrario, sí puede ser constitutivo de delito (o al menos grave falta a los ojos de los clientes).

Atentamente,

Iñaki

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

SpyPig: another annoyance against your privacy

Posted by isilanes on January 27, 2008

I’ve read in a post in Genbeta [es], about a “service” for e-mail senders called SpyPig. It basically boils down to sending a notification to the sender of an e-mail, when the recipient opens it. This way, the recipient can not say that she hasn’t read it.

I will deal with two issues: moral and technological. Morally, I think this kind of things suck. I have received these e-mails asking for confirmation of having been read, and I never found appealing to answer. But at least you were asked politely. What these pigs SpyPigs do is provide a sneaky way of doing it without the recipient knowing. Would you consider someone doing it on you a friend? Not me.

Now, technologically, the system is more than simple, and anyone with access to a web server could do it. The idea is that the sender writes the e-mail in HTML mode, and inserts a picture (can be a blank image) hosted at some SpyPig server. When the recipient opens the HTML message, the image is loaded from the server, and the logs of the server will reflect when the image was loaded, and hence the e-mail opened. When this happens, the server notifies the sender.

The bottom line of this story is that HTML IS BAD for e-mails. My e-mail readers never allow displaying HTML messages, and show me the source HTML code instead (of course, I can allow HTML, but why would I?). So this SpyPig thing will never work for against me. And this SpyPig story is just one more reason not to allow displaying HTML in the messages you read. Of course, for the e-mails you send, consider sending them in plain text. Your recipients will be a bit happier.

For more tips on what NOT to do on web/e-mail issues, check the e-mail/web tips section in this blog.

Posted in Evil software | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

El Gobierno Vasco dice NO al software libre

Posted by isilanes on January 19, 2008

Quería hacerme eco de la noticia, aunque no es nueva (creo que es una decisión de principios del pasado diciembre). Tal y como se puede leer, y bien comentado, en softwarelibre.deusto.es y en cybereuskadi.com, el Gobierno Vasco se ha sacado de la manga un informe (por ahora, secreto) por el que han concluido que el software libre no es una alternativa viable al actual sistema de software privativo (básicamente, Windows con Office) para los ordenadores oficiales.

La declaración oficial (PDF) de la Vicepresidenta del GV, Idoia Zenarruzabeitia, es una respuesta a una petición realizada por la diputada del grupo socialista Idoia Mendia.

El detonante de este post es otro en la página de ELSE (Asociación de Empresas de Software Libre de Euskadi), donde comentan una reunión mantenida hace 4 días con el GV, de la que ESLE salió (aparentemente) con bastante buena impresión. Yo no comparto tal impresión. Más bien creo que el supuesto informe es una excusa barata. Dice ESLE en su blog:

También hemos solicitado acceso al informe realizado a lo que Gobierno nos ha trasladado la imposibilidad de sacarlo al exterior, ya que se trata de un documento de uso interno [...]

Y yo me pregunto: ¿es que un informe así no debería hacerse público? ¿No tiene la ciudadanía el derecho a saber? ¿No debe el gobierno dar explicaciones a sus ciudadanos?

Ocultar el informe convierte lo dicho por el gobierno en un simple argumento de autoridad. Como lo dice Zenarruzabeitia, o cierta consultora, o cierto informe, o el gobierno, o _____ (introduzca la autoridad que desee), debe de ser verdad.

A mí a lo que me suena es a que tienen otras razones, más inconfesables que las dadas, para rechazar el SL, y se escudan tras el informe para justificarse. En otro foro propuse que quizá (¡qué mal pensado soy!) en caso de dejar de malgastar dinero público comprando software de mala calidad a una empresa privada extranjera, quizá ciertas personas (las que decidían si hacer dicha compra o no) dejarían de recibir misteriosos maletines por Navidad (negros por fuera, y llenos de verde por dentro, creo que se me entiende).

Pues bien, parece que hay más gente defendiendo estas “conspiranoias”. Por ejemplo, hay gente que dice que difícilmente el GV se pasará al SL después de saber que MS lleva un tiempo “negociando” con el GV instalar una sede en Arrasate. Dicha sede, supongo, traería mucho dinero para el gobierno Euskadi, con lo cual pasarse al SL y enfadar a tito Gates podría ser muuuuy malito para los políticos la ciudadanía.

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Labeled breaks in Python

Posted by isilanes on December 19, 2007

I am a recent fan of Python, a very neat scripting language.

One thing I miss from Perl is the availability of labeled breaks. What are those? Suppose you have two nested loops. When a condition is met in the inner loop, you want to exit both loops. With Python there is not straightforward way of doing it. Imagine we are reading an array of data, line by line and column by column, and we want to exit when meeting the first zero value. With Perl:


LINELOOP: foreach my $i (0..$lines)
{
  COLLOOP: foreach my $j (0..$columns)
  {
     break LINELOOP unless $val[$i][$j];
  };
};

A simple “break” will exit the innermost loop, but we can use a label to exit a specific loop. However, in Python there is no such a thing as a labeled loop, as explained in this PEP.

My rant is with the explanations given by van Rossum himself in Python mailing list to reject the change:

1. The complexity added to the language, permanently.
2. My expectation that the feature will be abused more than it will be used right.

Wow! Incredible reasons!

The first one is silly: other languages have it, and it has worked fine. Adding complexity to a tool for the sake of it is really stupid, I agree. But the fact is labeled breaks would be tremendously useful, so the increase in complexity would be justified. Surely a language that can only print “Hello world” would be less complex, yet of little use.

The second reason is absolutely over-the-shoulder-of-the-users. So now good old Guido must guide his sheep along the “correct” path, lest we get lost! He is punishing the good programmers by not giving them a useful tool, so that bad programmers are protected from their stupidity. It’s like not selling cars at all because some people drive while drunk.

Just my 2 cents…

Posted in Free software and related beasts | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Blackout summary IX

Posted by isilanes on December 11, 2007

Yesterday morning, a new failure from Iberdrola turned the power supply of the whole campus off. So, here goes the updated list of blackouts I have been able to compile, with comments if any:

  1. 2007-Dec-10 (I used the reboot of my computer to install kernel 2.6.22-3)
  2. 2007-Oct-16
  3. 2007-Aug-27 (at least three short power failures, 5-10 minutes apart)
  4. 2007-May-19
  5. 2006-Oct-21 (they warned beforehand)
  6. 2006-Sep-14 (Orpheus fell, the DNSs fell, the DHCP servers fell)
  7. 2006-Jul-04 (Orpheus didn’t fall)
  8. 2006-Jun-16
  9. 2006-Jun-13
  10. 2006-Jun-08
  11. 2006-Jun-04
  12. 2006-May-26 (The card-based automated access to the Faculty broke down)
  13. 2005-Dec-21
  14. 2005-Dec-13

Summary: 14 blackouts in 728 days, or 52 dpb (days per blackout). 56 days since last blackout. Average dpb went up by 0.3.

First post in the series: here

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Vendor lock-in for dummies

Posted by isilanes on December 4, 2007

Intro

Any GNU/Linux user ends up hearing, sooner or later, the Ultimate Argument(tm) from a Windows fanboy:

If Linux is so good, and is given away for free, how can Windows still be so prominent?

Ironically, many Windows users answer the question themselves, when explaining why they can’t make the switch to Linux:

  • There are no games for Linux
  • Photoshop or AutoCAD are vital for me, and they only work under Windows
  • I fear some pieces of hardware won’t work under Linux
  • The web page of my bank only displays correctly under IE
  • My friends/colleagues/business partners share documents in MS Office formats, and I need to be compatible

The concept than embraces all the preceding points, and answers the rhetorical question above, is vendor lock-in. I will try to explain the concept with a humble tale I have used twice so far in comments to entries in Enrique Dans’s blog.

Tales of bicycles and cars

Imagine a country with no bicycles.

One day a guy comes up with the idea of making them, and starts to produce, and sell, bicycles that we shall call of type A. Being an empty market, the A-type bicycles quickly triumph, and the maker makes a lot of money.

But some time later, a second guy devises a better bike design (type B), and decides to produce and sell it. The price and the quality are better, so when people buy a new bike or replace an old one, they tend to buy bikes of type B. Soon enough, the market is dominated by the new, better, bicycle.

Now imagine a country with no cars.

One day a guy comes up with the idea of making cars, and starts to produce and sell cars of type A. As cars need petrol to run, A-type gas stations develop in parallel to car sales. Building gas stations is expensive, but sales are guaranteed, as everyone has or will have A-type cars, and they need A-type petrol: their growth is synergistic.

But some time later, a second guy devises a better car design (type B) and decides to produce and sell it. The price and the quality are better, BUT drivers can not buy B-type cars, because there is no B-type gas station. The problem is that, since noone has a B-type car, making B-type gas stations is doomed to bankrupt. So, no B-type cars are sold, because there are no B-type gas stations, and B-type gas stations will not be made until B-type cars are popular!

The result is a vendor lock-in.

Consequences

When a market (such as the one in the tale above) is dominated by vendor lock-ins, the producers benefited by the lock-in have little, if any, incentive to make better products. Their sales are guaranteed by the lock-in situation, not by their superior product in a fair market.

On the other hand, other producers will have an extremely hard time for competing, as their products will be almost unusable for the buyers.

The moral is that the lock-in situation is bad for either the potential users of the product locked-out (the B-type car above) and the locked-in one (the A-type car). Even if a consumer would never choose the locked-out product, the lack of competition will adversely affect the evolution of the product they do choose. The lock-in is bad for everyone: all consumers and all producers but the locker ones.

And this relates to Windows vs. Linux in what way?

In a really straightforward way. Microsoft, cunning as they are, have tried their best to get as many lock-ins on the software market as they can. Ironically, instead of abhorring this practice, most Windows users happily continue not only using, but even defending the product. I shudder at the simpleton comment that “freedom is not using Linux, but using Windows and Linux whenever you feel like it”. Literally taken, it is a very wise argument. But unfortunately the reality is not so simple: using Windows helps enforce a lock-in that keeps Linux out (while in this case the contrary is not true). You can not use Windows/Linux 50/50, because Windows asks you for monogamy.

The many lock-ins that MS has forced down the throats of the users, while the latter still claim them to be benefits of Windows include (as mentioned at the beginning):

  • Proprietary communication protocols that will not work with any other OS. This includes modifications on the IE web browser, so that web pages had to be done for it, and then be incompatible with other browsers. Or the MSN protocol, that is kept as closed as possible, to make free clones of the MSN client as little compatible as possible.
  • Proprietary file formats that will not be possible to modify with tools other than the “official” MS ones: WMV for video, DOC, XLS, PPT for office documents.
  • As much “Windows-only” software as possible, including games. Making games for platforms other than Windows ensues the wrath of MS, something that game makers can not take lightly, since their sales depend on the game actually running under Windows.
  • As much “Windows-only” hardware as possible. The first idea that someone gets about an OS is that it is the piece of software that interacts with the hardware. If so, it is astonishing why it is not MS the one incorporating the drivers in the OS, instead of the hardware makers (hardware != software) providing them. We have all grown accustomed to buying printers, mice, external CD/DVD/HDs… with a CD with the “Drivers for Windows 98″ or some such. Why? Windows can not make the drivers out of the blue, true. But the hardware makers can just make the necessary data public, so anyone will be able to make drivers. If the maker keeps these specifications secret, they will simply not sell anything.

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Tips for creating Web content

Posted by isilanes on November 27, 2007

From my own site at ehu.es/isilanes.

Comply with the standards

Much like in spoken languages, Internet information exchange requires a common language, understood by everyone. In this case, our browsers will be the ones making the translation from that language (HTML) into images, colors and human-readable text. Much like spoken languages, there is an “Academy” taking care of what is and what is not correct. In this case, the academy is the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Much like in spoken languages, HTML evolves and changes, but when changes are not incorporated in the standards, misunderstandings happen. To assure a Web page is correctly displayed by any browser, first standards are encouraged (I wish they could be enforced), then standard-compliant browsers are made. The Web should not be designed for a specific browser, rather browsers should be made to comply with openly known standards. For a discussion on that, jump to the Viewable with any browser site.

If you want to make your site as widely viewable as possible, and keep your visitors happy, you should really follow the W3C standards, because this way you really know that any standard-complying browser will display the page correctly. Is making a standard-compliant page difficult? Not really. First, you could follow the Accessible design guide at the Viewable with any browser site. Then, learning some HTML programming could help. Finally, you are encouraged to put a “W3C correct HTML” button on the product page, as you can see I have done on my ehu.es/isilanes page (orange buttons on the left hand side above). This page, for example, has been correctly coded in HTML, and its CSS is also correct, as you can test clicking the aforementioned buttons.

The code for the HTML-correctness verification:

<a href="http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=referer"><img
    src="http://www.w3.org/Icons/valid-html401"
    alt="Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional" height="31" width="88"></a>

The CSS button:

<a href="http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/">
  <img style="border:0;width:88px;height:31px"
         src="http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/images/vcss" 
         alt="Valid CSS!"></a>

Recall that you can put the above buttons in your pages at early stages of page creation (when they are still incorrect), and use them yourself to see if what you have done so far is W3C-compliant. The resulting validation page (saying “OK” or “Not OK”), usually explains the errors you might have done rather understandably, and help in fixing them.

Minimize the size

Every time a web page is visited, the client (the browser of the visiting person) has to download the contents of the page to be able to display them. The more fancy pictures there are in your page, the longer it’ll take to load. The more crap that the client has to download, the slower the visiting experience for that person. If a page takes too long to load in your browser, what do you do? Exactly, you quit and go somewhere else. Human attention time span is short, and more so in the Internet, so don’t ask your visitors for the patience you didn’t have when making the page in first place.

Avoid Java, JavaScript and Flash

The problem here is dual: size and accessibility. The problem of the size is summarized in the previous section.

The issue with the accessibility is related to the fact that you should ask your visitors for as few resources as possible to view your content. If they need to get and install some fancy software to access your functionality, then this fact might discourage them and make them go away.

Remember always that it is your task to make it easy to access your content, not the visitors’ to find the suitable tools for that. Use JS or Flash if you absolutely need to, but only if you absolutely need to. Usually a clever use of plain HTML resources will give satisfactory results, and will be much more visitor-friendly.

Avoid proprietary formats

Innocuous as they might look, formats like MP3 and GIF are patent-encumbered, which means that their use should/could be restricted by the patent holders. Also, using them forces the browser (in the case of GIFs) and MP3 player makers to comply with restrictive patent requirements (like e.g. paying royalties).

The best way to eliminate software patents is to dump patented material altogether. Use Ogg Vorbis format to encode your music, and substitute your GIFs for PNGs. Recall that patented software is illegal to modify, improve or have security holes/bugs patched by third parties, without permission of patent holders, which makes the openly developed formats evolve much faster, and eventually become better.

For specific reasons to dump MP3s and GIFs, see the Wikipedia pages for PNG and Ogg Vorbis. In short: CompuServe developed the GIF format without knowing that the LZW compression algorithm it used was patented (by Unisys). Later, after GIF became popular, Unisys announced that they’d start enforcing the patent (charge royalties) to commercial programs capable of displaying GIFs. Something similar happened to MP3 and the Fraunhofer Society.

With Open formats you’ll never have any such problem, and the visitors to your page will never have to pay royalties for programs capable of displaying the contents of your site.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

e-mail howto

Posted by isilanes on November 14, 2007

When we send e-mails (specially mass forwards) we might not be aware that on the other side of the wire there is some person that could be annoyed by some of our acts. We could help others behave nicely with us if we started behaving correctly with others. This post tries to help you with that.

All the following is my opinion, but I’m not asking you to do it because it’s my opinion. I think that, besides, it’s also sensible. Judge yourself.

Avoid HTML messages at all costs

In fact, only plain text e-mails should ever be sent (and anything else as an attachment). Sophocles, Shakespeare, Cervantes… they all used plain text, and managed to get their message through, didn’t they?

The reason to use plain text is dual. Firstly, it merely adds bloat. The e-mail will be unnecessarily fat, without adding the slightest actual content. Secondly, and maybe even more importantly, HTML is used in e-mails by spammers and crackers to force the receiver to execute unwanted actions, including: visiting unsolicited web pages, sending private data (as, e.g., the confirmation of the actual existence of the receiver, something very valuable for a spammer), and, if the HTML includes malicious Java, JavaScript or ActiveX code and the receiver is not correctly protected (*cough* Windows users *cough*), anything from crashing the mail client to setting your screen on fire and killing the little puppy you got yesterday.

For the second reason in the previous paragraph, any knowledgeable user will abhor receiving HTML e-mails (I do), and will have it completely deactivated (the mail client will not interpret the HTML code, and will display it literally instead, which is 100% safe, except if ugly symbols hurt your eyeballs). Thus, your pretty HTML message will not be correctly read by the receiver, and will at least charge him with the annoyance of either activating the HTML back, or reading the source code. And in this day and age, even allowing HTML e-mails in a per-sender basis is risky as can be, since anyone can forge anyone else’s e-mail address.

So, don’t ever send HTML messages, and also deactivate the rendering of HTML messages you receive altogether. The first thing will make your receivers happier, and the second one will keep you safer.

Use care if sending mass forwards

Can you name something more unpleasant than those silly mass forwards of 2MB PowerPoints with “witty” sentences, and almost always ending in “send it to 1000 friends or die a slow and painful death”?

For me, there are two kinds of forwards: the ones I name above, and the ones with funny, interesting and/or useful data. The first one: avoid them like the plague. Don’t ever send/answer/forward them. The only use they can have is negative: they clutter the net, they slow down the download of other (possibly important) e-mails for the receiver, they waste bandwidth and connection time for those who have either or both limited, and they don’t actually add anything to the life of the receiver, except anger towards a sob who pretends to be her “friend”, and then blackmails her to spread the same message or “suffer consequences”.

For the (veeery few) contents you want to spread to legitimately help/amuse/enlighten the receivers: choose a suitable format! If the content is a joke or similar, send it in plain text. It works all the same! Don’t send a huge PowerPoint just for the sake of it. If the content is a (presumably big) file (a movie file, a presentation that is amusing in itself, an article with images and links…), put it online and send a link instead! Sending just a link is much more comfortable for the receiver, since the size of the e-mail is tiny, and she can choose whether or not to download the file, after all. Not everyone has a personal web page, but at times it proves invaluable… look for online storage solutions, as there are many free ones.

Also take into account that mass forwards can be used by spammers to get a list of valid addresses to bomb with their mails. The more “evil” a spammer, the more friendly she’ll pretend to be, to be included in the more people’s distribution lists, so that she’ll be sent all their mass forwards, along with the addresses of maybe hundreds of victims.

To avoid that, try to send your forwards only to people you actually know, and think are not spammers. Even safer: DO NOT DISCLOSE the addresses of all the receivers of your e-mails to every other receiver. It’s easy: with any half-decent e-mail client (KMail, Thunderbird and even Outlook can) you can chose to make any receiver “To:”, “CC: or “BCC:” (“Para:”, “CC” and “CCO” in the Spanish version of Outlook Express). Send all your forwards with BCC to be on the safe side.

Trim the excess

Whenever you answer to or forward an e-mail, depending on the configuration of your e-mail client it will automatically attach the original message, quoted. Now, if the receiver answers to your answer, she’ll quote your text AND your quotation of her original message. Then you answer and… you get the picture: e-mails flying around with hundreds of lines that only add: a) superfluous size excess and b) confusion, since sometimes it is not easy to find exactly the new material (coloring quotations helps, though).

Quoting the e-mail we answer to can be useful, but when answering to an answer, be nice an take the ten seconds you need to properly delete what is not needed.

Also remember that blindly forwarding messages can make you disclose to third parties information that the original sender wanted just you to read. Watch out for that!

Don’t overspread e-mail addresses

Don’t make spammers’ day by providing them with your e-mail, much less with mine!

Spammers are out there, like the truth in The X-Files. They never sleep. They have no mercy. They will relentlessly go on an on, harvesting e-mail addresses to prey upon. You have to understand that the most valuable thing for a spammer is a list of valid e-mail addresses. Valid e-mails are those that will be actually read, or at least received.

The ways in which spammers build their lists include:

* Unprotected addresses publicly amenable on the Web
* Being included in a “mass forward” (see above)
* Random spam

Unprotected public addresses include valid e-mail addresses that appear literally in a web page, or sent to USENET or other discussion forums. For that reason, if you want to protect your address, while still making it possible for others to contact you, don’t ever put your address on the web like that:

myname@mydomain.com

Instead, put something like:

myname AT mydomain DOT com

or:

mynameIHATESPAMMERS@mydomain.com

Or any other combination that makes the literal e-mail completely invalid, but a human reader can realize how to handle to get the correct address. You have to understand that the spammers use robots to harvest e-mails from the web, that is, there are computer programs looking for e-mails, not human beings (even stretching the meaning of “human being” to include scum like spammers). An address that needs human “logic” to be read will not be parsed correctly by robots.

In that regard, beware that both “protected” addresses above are far from perfect. It’s trivial to write a robot program that translates every “AT” with an “@”, and any “DOT” with a “.”, and/or eliminates spaces, capital letters or words like “SPAMMER(S)” etc. So be colorful, and think like a robot can’t think :^)

A second approach to protecting your e-mail could be to use a specific anti-spam address. There are companies like Bluebottle who provide such a service. As you can see, the e-mail I provide in this Web site belongs to that category, and is a completely free account (they offer further services, that I do not need, for a fee).

These “anti-spam” e-mail accounts basically contact the sender each time they receive an e-mail. Then the sender has to perform some kind of basic action (click a button or similar) to assure that they are valid senders, and if they fail to, the e-mail is filtered. The validation action has the sole actual purpose of making sure that the sender is human. ANY human sender is let through, but the spam robots normally don’t have the wit to answer properly when prompted by the Bluebottle server. Yes, this might piss off the legitimate senders, because they are required to click a silly button before their message goes through. However, this is done only once. After the first authentication, all the e-mails coming from that address will be automatically accepted.

Being included in a mass forward is discussed above, and random spam messages are those offering medicines or pornography. If you answer to one of them, you might not get infected with a virus or anything, but the sender might secretly know that you actually exist (because she is notified when you answer or click the link), and remember: valid addresses are what spammers seek.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Un par de comentarios míos en Menéame

Posted by isilanes on November 10, 2007

Sin más razón que alimentar mi ego, aquí copio y pego un par de comentarios míos en una noticia de Menéame (8 razones de un usuario de Windows para no cambiar a Linux).

Me gustan sobremanera los comentarios #19 y #20. Analizadlos con un poco de rigor: los Windowseros “talibanes” (y los Linuxeros críticos) critican Linux porque falta software comercial (juegos y otros) y drivers. Los Linuxeros “talibanes” (y los Windowseros críticos) critican Windows porque se cuelga, porque no es seguro, etc.

Si os dáis cuenta, las ventajas de Windows sobre Linux son ajenas a Windows, mientras las ventajas de Linux son intrínsecas a este. Es decir: mañana las compañías de soft podrían decidir sacar todos sus productos solo para Linux, y la ventaja de Windows se vendría abajo. Al revés, no hay manera en el mundo de que la ventaja de Linux se elimine, a menos que alguien reescriba Windows de cero y lo convierta en UNIX 2.0 o algo así.

Yo alucino con los argumentos pro-Windows de la gente. Tomemos uno muy recurrente en este hilo: MSN. La gente dice que no pueden/quieren dejar de usar Windows porque (entre otros motivos), quieren usar el cliente MSN. El problema no es la calidad técnica de dicho cliente o de su protocolo, porque hay otros protocolos y clientes mejores (eso nadie lo duda). El problema es que MSN tiene un protocolo privativo, que MS puede cambiar como y cuando quiera, y al ser una aplicación popular, la gente se ve obligada o bien a usar clones que por fuerza andarán más “atrás” en compatibilidad y cualidades que el cliente nativo, o a usar el cliente nativo en el OS nativo.

Reflexionemos: estamos diciendo que hay un protocolo inferior que nos obliga a usar un cliente concreto, y este a su vez nos obliga a usar un SO concreto. ¿Y esto es una razón a favor de usarlo? Para mí es una razón en contra de usarlo. ¿Qué garantía de calidad se puede exigir a un productor en un mercado cautivo? ¿Cómo puedo ser tan necio de regalar mi libertad a cierto proveedor, y usar el único producto del mercado que me exige exclusividad, cuando hay otros productos mejores, y que no me la exigen? Si hay un(os) protocolo(s) de mensajería que es(son) abierto(s), y tiene(n) mil clientes diferentes (por lo que puedo elegir cliente) de los cuales muchos son multiplataforma (y por tanto puedo elegir el SO), ¿no es esto, precisamente, una razón poderosa para usar ese protocolo, y no MSN?

Vivimos en un mundo de borregos.

Posted in my ego and me | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My opinion on Mandriva vs. Microsoft

Posted by isilanes on November 6, 2007

Blog moved to: handyfloss.net

Entry available at: http://handyfloss.net/2007.11/my-opinion-on-mandriva-vs-microsoft/

I have posted about an open letter François Bancilhon, CEO of Mandriva, wrote to Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft.

Here I intend to give proper answer to some comments in the Mandriva blog page, mostly covering ethical and legal issues.

For a complete immersion on the subject, please read the whole letter. For a summary: the government of Nigeria decided to buy 17k computers. Mandriva and Microsoft made offers, and Mandriva won. After the computers being sent to Nigeria, the government of Nigeria contacted Mandriva and informed them that they’d pay the bill, but that they had changed their mind and would install Windows instead.

Now some comments in the Mandriva blog page, and my responses:

Charles said

November 1, 2007 at 3:03 pm

Would you entrust your country’s educational computer future to a company whose CEO writes whiny unprofessional conspiracy theories on his blog? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

Even if bribes were made (and I’m just saying hypothetically ‘if’), the reality is that for this to have happened somebody must have seen value in a Microsoft solution over your ware. It’s your fault for not being able to convince the customer otherwise, not Microsoft’s for behaving like a business.

Grow up.

1) The whole point is that with Mandriva the Nigerian government wouldn’t be “entrusting their country’s educational computer future” to anyone. It’s the other way around! No matter how stupid/lame/immoral/illegal Mandriva and its CEO are, once you make the Linux bet, you are free. You don’t depend on any single vendor for anything. I know it’s a complex concept for a slave-minded Windows user, but Linux is about Freedom. On the other hand, going for Windows implies entrusting yourself to a single company: Microsoft. Would you pledge obedience to an unethical, monopolistic, soulless, predatory and often illegal company? You are doing so by surrendering to MS. Besides, the CEO of Mandriva is not “whining”. He is caring. After all, they got the money, so, if money was his only concern, he’d be happy. But he is concerned about more things, which you seem to be impervious to: the fairness of the deal, the fulfillment of closed agreements, the access of Nigerian youth to Free Software, the respect of MS to anti-monopoly and fair market rules… The wise is pointing the sky, and you look at the finger instead.

2) It is not Mandriva’s “fault”, and MS did not “behave like a business”. If MS somehow bribed the Nigerian government, they’d be seriously breaking international law, violating the rules you rely on to believe you live in a democracy. Not “everything” is permitted in business. A monopolistic holding can not sell products below price (dumping) to eliminate the competitors. It is against law, and, if permitted, it totally damages the consumer in the long run. In the short run, the lower prices are a plus for the consumer, but once the competition is hampered, the company in the monopolistic position can continue abusing the market (raising the prices, lowering the quality, applying arbitrary limitations…).

sarek said,

November 5, 2007 at 3:46 pm

François,

What are you whining about. You have sold your PC you already have your money. If the Nigerians would say, we don’t want to pay for the software because we install Microsoft Windows i could understand your complaining. But you have deliverd your goods, and got payed. What is your problem, if the Nigerians want to convert the machines to a Sony Playstation, that is not you problem, it is their right because they have bought and payed for the goods. I can’t understand all those whining of Linux community against Microsoft, I use Linux myself and the company uses Windows. Linux is not heaven and Microsoft is not Hell. If you look at companies as Suse/Novell and Red Hat, it is no open source anymore (they are copieing the Microsoft marketing strategie).

François, stop whining and use a better sales team

3) Again, François is not complaining for money! He is speaking of fairness, justice, and even the good of the Nigerians themselves. Don’t you get it? Mandriva won the contract, because their offer was better. Any act whatsoever afterwards is a dirty trick (possibly illegal) to impose a worse product that had lost in fair competition. François is worried about Nigerians getting the worse product.

4) About Mandriva getting a better sales team… why should they? They freakin’ won the contract!! Their product is better, and their sales team did convince the Nigerian government. Where did Mandriva fail? They should have bribed the Nigerian government, I infer?

Steve said,

November 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Come on guys! Seriously, you wonder why the mass market isn’t taking on Linux in numbers? There’s a number of reasons, but comments like:

“I am proud to be a linux user and i’ll die as a linux user.”

“MS is like a drug dealer”

And then moaning about ethics. Come on – this is business.

5) No. François is not talking only about ethics. Bribing someone to dump the option that won in a public competition and choose the loser option is illegal and unfair. Besides, it is also unethic, and your lame ad hominem attack on Linux users doesn’t “prove” otherwise. What you accuse Linux users of is not unethic, and even if it were, it doesn’t disprove our arguments (read what an ad hominem is, please).

Maybe, just maybe Microsoft presented a really good business case, stating the TCO on a volume licence agreement compared to the Mandrivia option. The cost would be reduced due to the volume licence agreement anyway, and that also includes free technical support to MS.

6) This line of argumentation is irrelevant. Obviously MS might have a better offer than Mandriva. But the public competition was made just for that! Both Mandriva and MS made the offers they considered fit, and Mandriva won. How many times does this need to be said? Mandriva won the competition and MS lost it. If the Nigerian government changed their mind afterwards, it has nothing to do with MS’s merits, because such merits were judged in the public competition that Mandriva won.

Whilst Linux is a great platform, it’s still nowhere near Vista or XP level yet. Whilst Linux is free or very cheap this is OK – but if you compare Vista against Linux and remove the cost out of the equasion then the worlds most popular OS is probably going to win it.

7) You have obviously not used Linux much. The technical competition was lost for Windows long time ago. The only advantage of Windows is that it is more widely used and that more commercial software is made for it, and this generates a vendor lock-in effect. Both effects are external to Windows. Intrinsically, and leaving the price aside, Linux is miles ahead of MS Windows.

That’s just business, we’ve had the same thing happen to us (our company is a web development company. Got Phase 1 done, but support went as they got their system redone by a competitor before we even finished development) Get over it, stop whining like children and start working as a commerical entity rather than hobbyists.

8 ) This is not “business”, this is breaking the law (see point 2 above).

chineme said,

November 4, 2007 at 8:28 pm

I don’t understand what all this fuss is about,Someone buys a laptop or PC that comes pre-installed with windows (also paying for the software) then remove windows and install mandriva no one complains.

Then he do the opposite and everyone takes up arms.

9) You are wrong. If I buy a laptop privately, I can do with it whatever I see fit. But the Nigerian government bought 17k computers with public money. Whenever you do something like that, you have to make (if you live in a democracy) a public competition, to see which provider makes the best offer (to guarantee that public money is spent correctly). This competition was made, and Mandriva won. If, afterwards, and with no further public competition, the government decides otherwise, they are misusing the public funds.

Lets face it the Nigerian government wanted a good cheap hardware deal and they got it and they probably also got a good deal on OS from Microsft as well. So they went for it. What is this Francois complaining about? Wasnt he paid or did they violate a contract that he can sue them for? If they did he can go ahead ad sue and stop whinning.

10) See point 9 above.

Did he ever go to Nigeria to protect his investment? Or did he just read up all the drivel and nonsense about Nigeria being a corrupt country full of spammers like the rest of you and decide to stay away as far as possible.

11) No. What François did was to win the public competition with his better offer. Period. Mandriva’s offer was better, it won, and any other use of the Nigerian money is a misuse on the government’s side, and illegal actions from MS’s side depending on what they did to get the deal.

On spam: I recieve more spam on people trying to sell me viagra or sell me a home ownership loan or even winning a lottery than Nigerians trying to get me to move millions out of the country and I treat them all the same way: I trash them.

Lets concentrate on the real issue being poor marketing and follow up and leave Nigeria’s ethics or lack of it out of the issue

12) The “real issue” is not poor marketing. It is improper assignation of public funds. Read points 9 and 11 above.

Alex said,

November 3, 2007 at 5:46 pm

Dear François,
Your letter show ignorance on your part about black people in general and Nigerians in partucular. Nigerians may be poor now- but they are certainly not stupid!
Your assuption- even though you have dealt with nigerians is that they are ignorant about both business issue and they do not have they technical savvy to make their own decisions- it’s nothing but pure racism. Not racisim out of malice- you seem to demonstarte a sincere ignorance about the abilities of africans.

Incidentlly, only French young people spend more time in education than Nigerians in the whole world- you can check that out
Do you seriously Think Nigerians- some of the best educated people in in African , if not in the world are not clever enough to change from your OS to microsoft’s.

13) You are using a laughable straw man argument. François is not implying that Nigerians are stupid. He (if I understand correctly) is implying that a) MS behaved illegally, bribing the Nigerian government to make it choose an option that had lost in a fair and public competition, over the one that had won, and b) it might be a case of corruption in the Nigerian government side, by knowingly choosing the loser in the aforementioned competition, and hence misusing the public money assigned to buy computers. To “change their mind”, the Nigerian government would have had to repeat the public competition, so that MS could win in a second round.

As a person of Nigerian parentage, when i first read about your deal I was alamed about you supplying your OS to nigerian schools. From what I know about Nigerians everybody used microsoft anyway- Every Nigerian I know- including the teachers who would be using this machnines use microsoft.

The delivery of machine s that are rugged by your company is just the perfect thing for nigeria and her schools.
To me it sounds like the best business outcome- from the point of view of the customer.
They get rugged machines good for their situation, and an os they are used to

I think for once Nigerians have let common sence rather than money to prevail.
Maybe you should press our advantage that they loved your machines to keep your relationship with the Nigerian govermenmt going, so that you get more contracts from the country- Nigerian is a huge country with millions of young people eager to learn. A well considered stategy and long term view by your country in a frican may in the end popularise your OS there as well- believe me there are ways to beat microsoft in a country like nigeria- I mean software design wise

14) Getting computers with Windows is about the worst possible outcome for Nigeria. You say that Nigerians are eager to learn, but on the other hand you say that getting Windows is better, because they are used to it! Staying with the known “bad” thing, not to have to learn the new “good” thing is very bad politics for a developing country.

GvS said,

November 2, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Maybe because Mandriva is just one of 10.000 linux distro’s, and Windows is the defacto industry standard.

15) Windows being the de facto standard is really really bad for the computer users. What this means is that instead of software makers following the standards agreed upon by all agents (makers, users, governments…), it’s the other way around: users, governments and other companies have to follow the decisions of MS. Decisions that are taken to benefit only MS, regardless of how negative they might be for the users. Do you really think this situation is good for you?

If you are running a government, and you have to choose between:
a. A linux distro that my students have a 1% (a very very high estimate) of using in real life (that is working for a company)
b. A M$ solution, they will use in at least 50% (a very very low estimate) of the companies they will ever work for.
Now what do you choose to best prepare your students?

16) Your argument is that people shouldn’t use Linux because people don’t use Linux. Reread it, an realize what a nonsense it is! The correct reasoning is the following:

a) Windows binds you to a vendor (MS) / Linux doesn’t
b) Windows restricts your rights to use, modify and redistribute it / Linux doesn’t
c) Windows artificially restricts (DRM) what kind of media you can play on it / Linux doesn’t
d) Windows encourages you not to learn how the computer works / Linux does the opposite
e) Windows makes you dependent on proprietary formats / Linux doesn’t
f) Windows is bug ridden, unstable and subject to malware / The incidence of these is infinitely smaller in Linux
g) Windows encourages following the beaten path / Linux encourages finding your own way
h) Windows makes you fall in a dependency loop that is hard to get out of / Linux gives you freedom
i) Windows means more money to the already rich / Linux means more power to the user

Now, as a teacher in a developing country, eager to break the chains with the First World domination, to give the most freedom and power to your students, to educate them to learn, and not just repeat what others do without real knowledge… what would you choose to provide your students?

Anonymous said,

November 1, 2007 at 4:02 am

François,

Why are you assuming that Microsoft did something underhanded? It could very well be the case that a deal with Microsoft is more viable for the Nigerian goverment in the longer run -
– Their products are tried and trusted. Yours is still an unknown quantity.
– Their customer support is supposedly very good. How about yours?
– Maybe the TCO for Microsoft’s solution is lower than your solution.

I’m in no way taking sides. But you must be willing to accept the possibility that Microsoft could have presented a better long term deal for them.
-Anonymous

17) Did you actually read François’s post? MS lost the public competition. Mandriva won it. MS’s offer could have been better, but it actually wasn’t. Read point 6 above.

djbon2112 said,

November 2, 2007 at 11:37 am

Wow, more bitching from a Linux distro because Microsoft won a deal? Unheard-of!

18) Again the same nonsense! Microsoft LOST the deal. There was a public competition, and Mandriva won. Mandriva and MS had the opportunity to make their best offers, both did, and the government chose Madriva. MS didn’t win the deal: they bribed their way into it. Read points 2, 6 and 9 above, please.

Sorry, but Microsoft makes a better product. You know why? It doesn’t abuse my time.

I’ve tried to use Linux. I’ve tried Ubuntu, and Debian, and Fedora, and countless other distros (yours included) throughout the years. And every time, I’ve run into problems which are so simple to fix in Windows, but take HOURS of my time to attempt to fix in Linux. And I say “attempt”, because 90% of the time, the “solutions” don’t work, and I’ve wasted another hour of my life trying to make something simple (like, a Flash plug-in for Firefox in x64?, to name one of MANY!) work.

A friend of mine said, “Linux is only free if your time is worthless”. Microsoft products work easily, the first time, and don’t waste my life with trivial issues and setup. I can get a Windows Vista box up and surfing the internet, playing games, watching movies, doing ANYTHING you want, in under 2 hours. I’ll take a little “insecurity” (and Windows is only insecure if you’re an idiot) for that!

19) This rant is more tech-related than about the Mandriva vs. MS issue at hand. Anyway, I will comment something: your experience is anecdotal. Windows is easier than Linux if you are an expert in the former, and an ignorant in the latter. I have a long experience in both, and for me Linux is easier. When I an forced to use that pile of crap called Windows I keep finding that I don’t know how to do the simplest things. Maybe it’s because I am more used to Linux… so this proves my point. And there are a lot of things that are really simple in Linux, and are really annoying, or impossible to do in Windows.

You say that “Linux is only free if your time is worthless”. It’s a good point, but rather false. You are assuming that you already know how to use Windows, and that you have to learn how to use Linux. But if you know neither, learning Linux does not necessarily require more of your valuable time. Moreover, all the time I have spent figuring out how to do things in Linux was not wasted time for me. I learned a lot, not about Linux, but about how to do stuff, and how computers work, and how the Internet works, and about security, and about programming, and about an awful lot of things. Linux gave me the marvelous opportunity to learn a lot!

Update: Nigerian government moves back to Mandriva

Posted in This evil world | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

 
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