ms-dos is now open… 36 years too late

I suppose Microsoft is trying to go with this whole… open source thing that the rest of the world embraced a long time ago. They’ve just placed the source code for MS-DOS out into the public domain about three or four decades after it’s useful. Seriously, guys?

It’s probably lost on most people that this code is utterly useless, unless you have access to a time machine, of course. In order to assemble the code you’d need MASM v1.10 which is a very old Microsoft Assembler program indeed. I remember actually owning that about thirty years ago, believe it or not.

Obvious chicanery

Looks like whoever made this available has added a number of poison pills: file-renaming, garbage characters to prevent assembly, the absence of an old (required) assembler, etc. It’s so blatant it would be funny otherwise.

disengenuous

adj. Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating

rip, red hat

Say it isn’t so.

Since the end of October is all about scary stories… Just on the heals of Microsoft buying github for US$7.5B last year, IBM has now has purchased Red Hat Linux for a cool US$34B dollars.

Screen Shot 2018-10-30 at 12.34.56 PM

Granted, I haven’t used Red Hat in a few years mostly since it is one of the few paid UNIX-based operating systems out there. Ubuntu, backed by Canonical, is clearly the better choice for anyone who knows what’s going on.

IBM is the antithesis of open-source software, as is Microsoft. This is just sad. But good riddance. Now get in the hole, Red Hat.

this-is-capitalism

microsoft news

REDMOND, Wash., Oct 8, 2018 /PRNoisewire/ — On Monday, Microsoft Corp. announced new in-field promotions for users of the Windows 10 operating system. In a news brief, Microsoft CEO Natya Sadella says the company will replace existing STEs (Software Test Engineers) at the company with the product users themselves, removing the unnecessary positions at Microsoft. “By promoting our own users to in-field STEs, we’re streamlining the process of identifying and eventually dealing with the bugs in our operating system…, not that there are many.”

“Understandably, these are of course unpaid intern positions being offered to each user of Windows 10 but just think how great that will look on their resumes”, Sadella continued. “Who doesn’t want to work at Microsoft?”

MICROSOFT CORP- LOGO Logo

“We’ll be allowing Windows 10 users to include this position on their resumes for free for a period of twelve months. Afterwards, they may continue to do so by signing up with Microsoft ResumeFodder 365 on a month-by-month basis”, Sadella explained.

Nasdaq:MSFT responded favorably to the news, up $3.52 at market close.

microsoft wants open source extinguished

On June 9th when Microsoft had just purchased github.com, I wrote about how I thought this was something tragic for the world of open source. This morning I awoke to several new security notifications from my repositories there (requiring about an hour of my time to adjust my code):

“We found a potential security vulnerability in a repository for which you have been granted security alert access. Known low severity security vulnerability detected in debug < 2.6.9 defined in package.json.”

On the surface, one might think that Microsoft is trying to make the world a better place. You might think this if you’re an optimist or a friend of them, perhaps. Maybe Microsoft cares about security so much that—having just purchased github—they now want to ratchet up the quality of the collection of software as stored there by most people who don’t like them…?

But if you’re a pessimist or if you’re someone who doesn’t like Microsoft, could there be another reason behind this new diligence they’re trying to bring to code security? It’s not like Microsoft has a great track record in writing bug-free or network-safe code themselves.

“It’s not like Microsoft has a great track record in writing bug-free or network-safe code themselves.”

Strategic sabotage

Richard Nixon was known to do something termed ratfucking in the political world. Wiki even has a page on the subject. It means “political sabotage or dirty tricks”. It would eventually result in his impeachment. In some college circles, a mean-spirited prank is part of the playing field. To me, it feels like many of the players inside Microsoft are the same type of people, those who have no qualms destroying the competition, tripping them up and generally exercising a “whatever it takes” attitude toward their so-called success.

Microsoft’s internal methods:

Steal their air

In a lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Justice turned up an internal tactic used inside Microsoft which describes what they do when they feel that a competitor needs to be removed: “embrace, extend and extinguish”. In other words, 1) embrace open source by buying the main storehouse for its code, 2) create products such as Visual Studio Code which replaces similar free editors and 3) gradually remove the competition by getting rid of it now that you’re in a controlling position.

Appeal to fear

Another tactic they use in the market space is to promote fear with respect to anything the competition could provide. We’re seeing this now in the pseudo-warnings being auto-generated by github.

What this is

What we’re seeing is a direct and strategic beginning to Microsoft’s move to embrace, extend and extinguish github and yet it’s open source itself who is their ultimate target.

The future of gihub and open source

Expect more of the same: dirty politics related to the leading repository site of what Microsoft views as their competition.

and now, a positive outlook on ad content

Since I no longer have an Office 365 subscription I find myself occasionally using their web-based version to fetch my email. How very annoying their galley ads have been lately. They’re too animated, they change faster than you could actually read them. They’re about as obnoxious as they could be.

Since I use Safari as my favorite browser, I just wrote a custom stylesheet to deal a blow to those unwanted ads. I’ve specifically targeted the ones usually delivered by Microsoft’s online Outlook website but it could be edited to remove other content you don’t wish to see.

safari-stylesheet

Safari -> Preferences -> Advanced -> Style Sheet:

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.16.38 PM

Result:

Screen Shot 2018-08-08 at 12.19.24 PM

on the mad exodus from github.com

If you don’t code for a living, you probably didn’t hear about the US7.5B deal in which Microsoft is now purchasing github.com. For the rest of us, this is big news.

GitHub Inc. is a web-based hosting service for version control of software using git. They offer both private repositories and free accounts (which are commonly used to host open-source software projects). With its 28 million public repositories, it’s the largest host of source code in the world.

Github’s competitors are reporting record numbers of customers moving their repositories away from the now Microsoft-owned provider.

What Microsoft now controls

Presumably, Microsoft now controls both Atom and Electron, two extremely powerful platforms in the coding space. The former is a great code editor and the latter is the underlying executable program which allows others to code in JavaScript to create a very usable desktop/GUI application.

Microsoft also now control the revenue stream. Each private repository costs $7/month or $9/month, depending upon whether its personal- or business-related.

Microsoft now apparently has access to the code in those private repositories. Just imagine what their competitors must be thinking, now that Microsoft has a copy of their internal project code to include any secret ideas those competitors have been working on.

Alternatives

We’ve all been lulled by github’s ease-of-use, it’s free nature and such. We haven’t even considered alternatives before now, to be honest. The specter of this new playing field means that we must look at our options.

Gogs.io is an open-source option for hosting your own github-like service.

Gogs

Over the last three days, I’ve now setup my own private, internal Gogs service called gitjs.io. Since I own the domain name I may later push this into the cloud but for now, it’s running on one of my computers here at home.

After the initial hurdles to get OSX to startup the Gogs service on a privileged port (http/80) and to automatically start upon bootup, I must say that I love it.

It’s a full-featured github-like experience throughout with all the screens you’d expect. You can create users, organizational levels and do the things you did over on github.

The command line git program interacts with the service as expected. The underlying code creates a global repository folder to stores everything much the same way that github might.

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 6.38.00 PM

The Future of Source Control

I don’t need a crystal ball to suggest that Microsoft’s purchase is going to be a game-changer for open source. The world of open source is the very antonym of what Microsoft stands for.

I would suggest that anyone and everyone with a github account highly consider the immediate need to move your code elsewhere. Microsoft has a long history of buying up competitive technologies only to starve them of air over time. In fact, internally Microsoft used the term “starve them of air” to describe how they would ruin a competitor’s advantage in the market.

It’s time to take your code and run.

remove ads from outlook

I find myself at the moment without a license for Office 365 and for the time being, I’m just using the web-based version of Outlook as found on outlook.live.com. This would probably be bearable only it’s a fair bit irritating to me with their frequent ad rotation/animations as seen in the right panel.

I’m guessing that people in marketing must think that if they’re not irritating, we won’t pay attention to them. But how should rudeness result in a sale? That just defies logic to me but that’s how they think now.

Adding Insult to Injury

Looking into this further, I can see that Microsoft is allowing third parties to track what I do, what I type, etc. I’ll be culling some of these abuses as well.

The Fix

Without further ado, I indicate the work-around to stop their ad server from functioning. I’ve given the instructions for OS X. For a Windows computer, you’d use Notepad to edit c:/windows/system32/drivers/etc/hosts instead.

$ nano /private/etc/hosts
127.0.0.1       ads.adacado.com adacado.com
127.0.0.1       lax1-ib.adnxs.com adnxs.com
127.0.0.1       aka-cdn.adtechus.com adtechus.com
127.0.0.1       a248.e.akamai.net
127.0.0.1       ads.scorecardresearch.com scorecardresearch.com
127.0.0.1       ol.at.atwola.com
127.0.0.1       pixel.advertising.com advertising.com

Initially, you’ll need to supply the you password. When finished adding these lines, you would enter Ctl-O, Enter and Ctrl-X and finally exit. Refresh in your browser and the ads should be gone.

 

experience is simply the name we give our mistakes

September 14, 2017 | Microsoft News Center

REDMOND, Wash. — Sept 13, 2017 — Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday announced that the Windows 10 software — with a slow start so far in customer satisfaction — will get a new name soon.  Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Windows and Devices Group explains:

“I think most of us at Microsoft felt that the Windows 10 name didn’t adequately describe what we were trying to achieve with this operating system. This new name should make it clear what Windows can ultimately do for our customers and how we at Microsoft focus on getting them the best experience possible with instantaneous, streaming updates 24×7 to your desktop, mobile or any device.”

Windows 10 to be renamed

To celebrate the new continuous update feature, Microsoft is renaming Windows 10 to coincide with the upcoming fall update. “The new name is our commitment to up-to-date software, no matter what it takes”, added Terry. “There’s no such thing as too many updates, at least that’s how we think. Our customers shouldn’t have to wait for something as important as a new version of Candy Crush Soda Saga. If we had our way, you’d have the next version of the Microsoft Solitaire Collection app before it’s even been tested by our own QA. Now that’s fresh software.”

“In the past, Windows Update took a back seat to most of what was going on in the computer, like… running a Word document. We feel that updating is much more important than almost anything that our customers could imagine doing with a computer so we are now putting that in the driver’s seat, if you will.”

Windows Update 10

The newly-named Windows Update 10 operating system is a bold new experience for users. With a streamlined, uncluttered interface, customers should find it easy to keep their system up-to-date and all without those unnecessary icons.

Win10

One of the best ways to get the Windows Update 10 update is to upgrade to Windows Update 10 by clicking the following link. More information can be found at https://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-update-10-upgrade.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to update every computer and every organization’s computers on the planet to have the very freshest copy of the X-Box app since we want to sell things online like Apple. All your base are belong to us.

Note to editors: For more information, news and perspectives from Microsoft, please visit the Microsoft News Center at http://news.microsoft.com.Web links, telephone numbers and titles were correct at time of publication, but may have changed. For additional assistance, journalists and analysts may contact Microsoft’s Rapid Response Team or other appropriate contacts listed at http://news.microsoft.com/microsoft-public-relations-contacts. Stop reading this and update your computer. I’m sure there’s a new version that you missed.

so many operating systems, so little time

Sometimes you need to do many things with the same hardware. Say, for example, you might need both Windows 10 and a Linux-type of operating system on the same computer. Here are some of your options for this.

You might say, “why would I want that?” There are times when you want to try out something new. You might need to test software compatibility with something you don’t have currently. You might purchase some new software or a printer which isn’t compatible with your current setup. Or, like me, you might be endlessly curious about the possibilities. You might want to create a smartphone app and need to see how that looks on a variety of phones.

Boot from a “Live” media

In this case, you have Ubuntu on a CD or on a USB thumb drive. You boot to this media and select the live option from the menu (“Try Ubuntu without installing”). You then get a Desktop experience running Ubuntu (Linux) on your existing hardware and you don’t even have to install it in the classical sense. Once you shutdown this system and remove the media, nothing whatsoever has changed on your original hard drive.

TryUbuntu

I’ve used both methods (CD and USB) and will attest that the latter will boot up faster than anything you’ve seen before, I’d guess.

Pros:

  • It’s very fast to boot this way from the USB drive.
  • You can try another operating system without making any changes whatsoever to your existing computer.
  • It makes short work of hacking a Windows-based computer if you don’t know the password(s) and accessing the files on its partitions.
  • It seems to be wonderfully compatible with a variety of computers and laptops without fussing with drivers.
  • Each session takes advantage of all the available RAM.

Cons:

  • Unless you change the defaults, any changes to your Desktop and configuration are lost upon restarting this session.

Set up two partitions and select one upon startup

In this case, you shrink the size of your existing hard drive’s partition to make room for another operating system.  You then install the new operating system to this second partition.

Upon restarting the computer, you then select which partition (operating system) you’d prefer.

GRUB

This technique is often called “dual booting”.

Pros:

  • The settings you change will be saved from one session to the next.
  • In many cases, you can access files on the other partition(s) if you know where to look.
  • You can take advantage of fast hardware like that on an Apple computer to use other operating systems like Linux.
  • Technically, you could install Windows 7 on one partition and Windows 10 on another.
  • This technique can be extended to many operating systems on many partitions.
  • Each session gets all the available RAM.

Cons:

  • You have to reboot in order to get back to the other operating system to use its tools and software.
  • In the case of OS X, major version upgrades usually try to overwrite the menu at the beginning which would normally allow you to select the other partitions. It’s almost as if Apple doesn’t want you to do this and breaks things on purpose, of course. If you’re technically-minded, you can fix this each time however.

Set up a virtual manager (VM) and “spin up” an operating system

This seems to be the preferred and newest method these days. You run a virtual machine manager, create a virtual computer using this technique and then install the new operating system to this.

QEMU

You then boot up the virtual computer and you see this as a window on your Desktop.

XP

Pros:

  • You can copy/paste from a Windows application into a Linux session’s Terminal session or any similar combination of from/to.
  • For demonstrations, you can easily show that something works with multiple operating systems (without rebooting or bringing multiple laptops).
  • Depending upon how much hard drive space, RAM and processor speed you have, you could potentially run several virtual machines at once.

Cons:

  • Technically, it’s the most challenging of the various options and the learning curve is steep.
  • It may require more RAM memory than what you currently have for this to run well.

Progress so far

I have plenty of experience using the first two methods above (live- and dual-boot) but have recently been working with the VM option, as described below.

Dual-boot MacBook

I’ve setup my MacBook Pro to boot both OS X and Ubuntu. It seems to work great so far. I hope to next setup a VM so that I can emulate a Raspberry Pi computer within the MacBook itself (for development purposes).

HP Laptop

I’ve setup my HP laptop to boot Ubuntu and have added a VM which has Windows 10 loaded in it. Remarkably, the Windows 10 install actually works better than the original (native) installation on this laptop.

Multi-boot Raspberry Pi computers (IoT re-purposing)

Since the Raspberry Pi (3 and Zero) computers have an easily-replaceable microSD card in them, I now have a small library of different images with which I may boot any individual computer. It’s just important to label each to avoid confusion.

So I might pull the microSD card for the robotic tank project out of a Raspberry Pi, replace it with the card for the closed ecosystem or for a different project altogether. Once it boots, it’s now a completely different computer, if you will.

microSD

Multi-boot 3D printer

Technically, the Robo C2 printer has a Raspberry Pi computer inside so it makes it easy to boot to different versions of the software. This is useful when you’re modifying things to add on new features, for example.

Smartphone software on a workstation

I’ve also had the opportunity of installing Android on a standard Dell Vostro 200 desktop computer. (It’s good for testing software and websites.)

Cloud-based alternatives

There are entire services available at Microsoft, Amazon and presumably Google in which you “spin up” a virtual computer and remote into it.

Amazon’s offering is called EC2 and I’ve had the opportunity to use it in the past. In the span of two hours, I was able to spin up or “instantiate” a virtual SQL Server in a datacenter somewhere, to upload a corrupt database, fix it there and then to download it back to me. I then killed that virtual server. The total cost was something like $4 to “borrow” their virtual hardware for a couple of hours. Compare this to the cost of purchasing an actual server, paying for Microsoft licensing, waiting for everything to arrive, setting it up, etc. I literally saved thousands of dollars with a service like this.

Microsoft’s offering is called Azure. I can’t say that I’ve used it yet but it works essentially in the same way that EC2 does: define an instance, spin it up and remote into it.

Looks like Google’s offering is their Compute Engine. It sounds like they’re trying to play “catch up” to both Amazon/Microsoft on this one.

There’s another player in this space, MacInCloud.com appears to be offering remote sessions into what are likely discreet/physical Apple computers. For all practical purposes, it would likely behave like a virtual computer might.

Private cloud

And finally, I had the opportunity to re-purpose about eight Dell Vostro 200 computers from work into a MaaS (metal as a service) private cloud. The underlying layer of software which did the cloud part is called OpenStack which allows you—like Amazon itself perhaps—to be the host for spinning up virtual servers.

It takes a lot of work to get the initial one or two computers running for this. But then, using a concept called Juju charms, you select what are essentially recipes of things to install which have complicated inter-dependencies and it seems to make it all work for you. Seeing these things run is pretty impressive given that this is in the free, open-space world.

The future

It’s hard to guess what’s next in this series of events. We may soon be running a VM with Windows 10 on a wearable single-board computer like the Raspberry Pi 3 or similar. In theory, then, you might wear a pair of Google Glass(es) or the Microsoft HoloLens which would interface with the Pi computer via Bluetooth. Given the lack of a keyboard, presumably the interface might be like the Amazon Echo/Alexa service: you ask for something, the system must recognize the command, submit it to a server and display the results or iterate through them via voice.

And yet, given the augmented reality (AR) side of things, you might say “keyboard” and a virtual reality keyboard could appear on the physical horizontal space in front of you and you just “type” on an imaginary keyboard to input data.

The interfaces could evolve to project these virtual keyboard-type interfaces onto an imaginary glass wall in front of you, much the same as you see in sci-fi movies these days. These glass-like devices probably would incorporate an outward-facing camera to catch and interpret your hand movements into discreet commands like typing, page-forward, scroll-down, dismiss window, etc.

GoogleGlassHololens

got chrome?

“Would you like to install Chrome?”, I’m asked a hundred times per day by my default search engine, Google.com. “No, Google. As I’ve already answered a thousands times before this, I don’t want to install another browser on my computer.”

No, Google.  As I’ve already answered a thousands times before this, I don’t want to install another browser on my computer.

In the browser wars, Google hates Microsoft and Microsoft hates Google. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then when you’re using Internet Explorer and you visit Google that they then try to get you to install their own competing browser (Google Chrome). And when I say “try” I really mean “relentlessly nag you to death on the subject“.

The Fix

I’ve posted before about using a custom stylesheet to thwart Google’s Chrome-nag. Here is a new method which seems to be working for me today. I just updated the option for IE -> settings -> Internet Options -> Home Page:

https://www.google.com/webhp??

Normally, that /webhp?hl=ca part is expected to steer Google so that it selects your home language, Catallà, for example. Interestingly enough, Google doesn’t apparently nag people (regarding Chrome) who speak languages other than English!

So we use this knowledge to break the chain of violence, so to speak. Actually, we’re breaking more than that since by putting two question marks we’re technically breaking (okay, “faking out”) the specification for query strings.