Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Microsoft Vista and AACS - a match made in Hell

Microsoft launched Vista worldwide yesterday. This will undoubtedly be a commercial success, because the desktop operating system market essentially belongs to MS right now. But it may not be a good thing for our computers.

I first heard on episode 73 of Steve Gibson’s great Security Now podcast about the problematic Vista implementation of Advanced Access Content System (AACS), the DRM system used for high-def DVDs. New Zealand researcher Peter Gutmann had written a cost analysis of implementing AACS in Vista, it turns out that this makes the OS far less attractive to users. Peter’s analysis is by necessity qualitative rather than quantitative, but it’s nonetheless a compelling argument to not upgrade to Vista.

Let me be clear - I don’t advocate piracy – content producers should be paid a fair amount for their work. However right now, DRM is killing the goose who laid the golden egg. In a vain attempt to assure revenue streams, Hollywood and music labels are riding roughshod over consumers’ computers. Serious pirates will not be put off by this, only normal users who want to use their paid content on all their devices. See the Doom9 forums here, here and here for new hacks to bypass the protection. A new attack from Alex Ionescu seems to go one better.

My problem with all this is that Microsoft has failed to provide a compelling operating system, but rather prefer to sell us crippleware. The technical specifications were drafted by lawyers with the intention of locking down rather than providing features for the users. The use of tilt bits and promotion of closed source hardware drivers will make our systems more expensive and less reliable.

Microsoft’s response to the controversy has been fairly tepid; see this Windows Vista blog entry. Some of the main criticisms are answered – e.g. suspect video signals will “only” be degraded for premium content, never the user’s own content (it’s incredible that the specs were not clear on this point). However the use of unnecessary CPU cycles; tilt bits and crowding out open source software is just shrugged off, on the assumption that the consumer is ready to accept these inconveniences in order to support high-def DVD playing.

My own personal conclusion is that I won’t be buying any version of Vista. Am I alone?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Our roof after Hurricane Kyrill

This is how our roof looked after Hurricane Kyrill (see Wikipedia entry here if you weren't near Northern Europe last week). Heike heard "something falling off the roof" at about 2am, but nothing was visible on street level the next day. It wasn't till Sunday afternoon that I climbed up on the roof (very scary compared to rock climbing with ropes) and took these pictures.
We're hoping to get this fixed before snow settles on there...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Audiobook Review - Iraq Study Group Report

A click on this post title should bring you to www.audible.de, where they're giving away the free audiobook version of the Iraq Study Group Report (strangely on www.audible.com you have to pay $4.95 for this).

I listened to this over the Xmas break, here's the review I posted on audible:
"This audiobook is a must-listen. Bear in mind the authors - a crossparty set of American politicians who for the most part thought originally that it was a good idea to invade Iraq. They have changed their minds for the same reasons that most sane people never wanted the war - they see now that America can only lose, and that the Bush Administration has cynically and callously sent 3000 American soldiers to their deaths, as well as many times that number of Iraqi civilians.

The Iraq Study Group Report is a purely factual account, and there are a lot of statistics to get through, but the message that comes through is clear - a swift and managed exit is the only option that America now has available. The corollary not explicitly stated by Jim Baker and his co-authors, but implicitly drawn from the text, is that George W. Bush and his administration are at best inept, and at worst criminals."

Finally tried the Heidelberg climbing wall

Today I finally got aroud to visiting the new climbing wall in Heidelberg. New in the sense of 1 or 2 years old, I'm not too sure of the exact age, but I've been intending to go there for a while. The pic above is from their website, and doesn't do justice to the higher-than-average 12 metre wall - it's pretty impressive.

So anyway, today I went with Richard Schlenk, a friend and neighbour here in Oberdorfstrasse. The biggest surprise to me was that it's only a 5 minute cycle away, I hadn't realised that I live so close to a climbing wall!

Anyway, there's plenty to do there, routes from UIAA grade 3 to 9, though the 7's onwards are out of my range anyway. We kept to the lower grades today and had a lot of fun, I'm looking forward to going again soon.

Right now it's time to amuse Liam again, more soon.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New Year's Resolution - Maintain this Site

Now that www.macartan.de is changed over from static HTML to a weblog, I'd like to explain the scope and purpose of the new site. Maybe purpose first - let all of you out there know what myself, Heike and Liam are up to. This will have to do as the mission statement for now :-)

The title of this post also hints at my motivation, namely a New Year's resolution to keep the blog current and maintained. We'll see if it lasts...

The scope of the posts will I hope be pretty varied. Cute pictures of Liam are easy wins with grandparents, so the rest of you will have to accept that staple. As Technology is my career and hobby, expect some comment also on new gadgets and trends. Reviews of books, music, movies, podcasts, etc. will be in there too. Another NYR is to do more climbing in 2007, so I'll hopefully be able to report on some crags. Holidays too. The odd political comment such as "US out of Iraq" might be thrown in, although this is arguably such a no-brainer as to be a platitude.

A word on the blog language - it's English. This although I use predominantly German in my daily life. Maybe I'll post now and again in German if it's a topic of no interest to English speakers, we'll see. In general though, I'll save German eyeballs from my Hibernian grammer stuctures, for as Hans Bix said:
"Ich gebe zu , daß mein Verhältnis zur deutschen Sprache
wie mein Verhältnis zu meiner Frau ist:
Ich liebe sie, ich bewundere
sie, ich verstehe sie meistens,
aber ich beherrsche sie nicht."

And what do I expect from you, the reader? Please use the feedback button if you like or dislike any post - ambivalence is the only excuse for silence. A suggestion for your comfort is to paste the feed URL http://www.macartan.de/rss.xml in your favourite RSS reader, that way you don't have to come looking for updates (who knows how frequent they'll be?).

A word on timing, I'm planning to send a link to this post today 20th January to a select group of people, and ask you to beta test the site for a week or so, and send me your feedback. Then by the end of the month I'll send out links to everyone I think might be interested. Feel free to forward the link to anyone you think might be interested.

After all that blabbing, finally a bit of news. For those that don't know, Heike is expecting a sibling for Liam, the date we're aiming for is 21st July 2007. We're thrilled and looking forward to this, expect updates in the coming months :-)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Liam tries out the new drier for size

Liam tries out the new drier for size... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Picture of Liam and Heike from a day out in the park

As an initial post I thought I'd include a recent pic of Liam and Heike (from left to right). We spent Saturday 6th Jan in Herzogenriedpark (see the Wikipedia entry here). Had a great time, Liam especially loved the outdoor trampoline. More pics to be found under the Photo Gallery.

trial post

hmm, not working yet