Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Microsoft discounts to keep marketshare?

A while back I commented on the unpalatable choices for Microsoft arising from the falling prices of hardware. Well now I think we might have the first evidence that cheap basic laptops running Linux have the potential to hurt Microsoft.

Yesterday Asus did the official announcement for its EEE line of cheap laptops. As expected, Asus hopes to ship 3 million units next year. After plenty of bait and switching by the Asus PR machine the prices are higher than expected (starting at T$7,999 or $US$245) but not too bad for what you get. Prices will fall but but probably not dramatically as the price point is low to begin with. The Reuters article is here.

"In a significant development, Asustek said it would also offer a version of the ultra low-cost PCs with Microsoft's Windows operating system, after initially saying that all the computers would carry the open-source, free Linux system. Windows versions of the computer would cost about T$1,000 more than Linux versions, leading many to say that Microsoft had offered the Windows systems at a big discount from its usual price of T$2,000 to T$3,000 for mass buyers."

It seems XP will be the Vista Poverty edition. PC World reports:

"XP fits the low-cost segment," said Davis Tsai, general manager of Microsoft Taiwan....Asustek showed off one Eee PC running Microsoft Windows XP Professional, version 2002, service pack 2. The Windows Eee PC included Office 2003 versions of Excel, PowerPoint and Word

T$1000 is about US$30. Does the large discount indicate that Microsoft is concerned about keeping its marketshare, or does it indicate that Asus is worried that people won't buy their EEE laptops if they aren't bundled with Windows? The good thing is that it seems that consumers will finally have a choice about whether they actually want to pay extra for Windows.

Personally, as a long time Windows user, I'm hoping the EEE or one of the other basic laptops coming out is going to offer me an easy introduction and transition to Linux. If you're interested in an Asus, EEE User is the place to track further announcement and releases. Bestbuy and Newegg seem to be the places that will have them in the States.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Science fiction douche-bags

Cory Doctorow and Ursula Le Guin have something in common. Something that many great artists and activists seem to share. They do great work, they write great books, they say great things... but as people they can be great stubborn chumps, dills and pains-in-the-ass. Unfortunately the fact that they do great stuff doesn't necessarily make them great people.

I really admire Doctorow's activism around DRM and that he made his books available on the net. I practically read boing-boing everyday. Ursula Le Guin is an accomplished author and scholar. The Earthsea novels were part of my childhood. I really felt for her when they slaughtered her books and turned the remaining lips, hooves and arseholes into some of the worst television the world has ever seen.

But look at this and this.

In summary Le Guin wrote a really short story (577 words) and posted it to Ansible. Frankly I've seen better comments on Slashdot. But Doctorow liked Le Guin so much he posted the whole thing on boing-boing. Good for him, helping an old lady get some publicity. But it turned out Le Guin didn't like that. Even though her work was available on the net and Cory could have just linked to it, she objected to the reproduction on boing-boing. Instead of contacting Cory directly to ask him to remove it (which he surely would have) she had someone else write a post dissing his use of the 'work' and mischaracterising the effect of the Creative Commons licence. Now Doctorow has apologised to Le Guin and remove all references to her from boing-boing.

Partly this whole situation results from Le Guin abusing the de minimis rule in copyright. This is the issue about how small does a work need to be before it ceased to have copyright protection. In general, you can't have copyright in one word (that is trademark territory) but you might be able to have copyright in a sentence. Le Guin's 577 word "story" is clearly capable of being a work protected by copyright. Reproducing it in its entirety is not fair use. However just because Le Guin was within her rights, doesn't mean she was right.

My message for Le Guin. Grow up. Doctorow was trying to do you a favour. If "gravy" is all you care about, being a copyright bully about this issue has probably cost you more in book sales than you'll earn with your 577 word "story". Not contacting Doctorow directly to deal with this issue discreetly doesn't say much about your character. Allowing your friend to slime the Creative Commons is just low.

My message for Doctorow. Grow some balls. Le Guin did the wrong thing. She may be right in law but that does not mean she is morally right. The last time I looked Cory Doctorow stood up to copyright bullies rather than backing down and apologising. She's like three times your age boy, find the nerve.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Richard Dawkins: love and hate on Facebook

Dawkins has long been a lightening rod for arguments in relation to atheism and religious belief - but in our crazy modern LOLCat bible world there is only one way to truly assess someone's worth. So I ask the ultimate Web 3.0 question, how does Richard Dawkins stack up on Facebook?

Well, there are 29 'Richard Dawkins' listed on Facebook with 9 profiles with pictures of the man himself. However it is highly likely these are all fakes. The Richard Dawkins website already has its own social network. Why join another social network when you have your own?

There are 158 Dawkins Facebook groups expressing a broad range of views but most support Dawkins and his work. Many of these groups likely have overlapping membership so I'll only list a representative sample.

  • If I weren't an atheist I'd think Richard Dawkins was God: 3750 members.
  • Richard Dawkins = Cooler than Jesus: 2978 members.
  • The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science: 1265 members.
  • Richard Dawkins has a Posse: 174 members (my personal favourite).
  • Group for Understanding and Appreciating Richard Dawkins (GUARD): 244 members.

But there are a minority of haters.

  • Richard Dawkins can fuck off: 512 members.
  • Richard Dawkins is Wrong: 194 members.
  • Richard Dawkins is famous for his opinions not his scholarship: 64 members (ummm so is the pope guys).

Some groups are harder to classify:

  • Richard Dawkins can fuck me: 30 members (pro-Dawkins, if he wasn't married to that ex-Dr Who babe he'd have some options).
  • Pray for Richard Dawkins: 21 members (anti-Dawkins ultimate concern-trolls).
  • I don't believe in God but I do believe Richard Dawkins is an arsehole: 39 members (A.K.A I agree with everything you say, but I still don't support your right to say it J)
  • Mr Dawkins, turn that frown upside down!: 49 members (encouraging him to smile more = support?).

So in summary, despite the haters, Dawkins seems to be doing pretty well.

PS. If you're so inclined please support the OUT Campaign by listing yourself as an atheist whenever you fill out your personal details (for example on Facebook). It's well past time atheists stood up to be counted.