Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

OU marks Internet anniversaries.

May 5, 2009

2009 is a significant year in the history of the internet. It is the 40th anniversary of work beginning on of ARPAnet, the first computer network, now seen as the precursor of the internet. It is also the 20th anniversary of Tim Berners-Lee and his colleagues commencing work on a development of what would be the World Wide Web.

 To mark the two  events, Professor John Naughton* and his colleagues at the Open University –itself forty years old this year – have added to the university’s iTunesU site an compliation album of interviews with some of the people who made significant contributions to the development of the internet.

Here’s John’s introduction, as he’s posted it to his own online diary.

Today, the Open University has added a new album to its iTunesU site to mark the fact that the packet-switched network, like the OU itself, is 40 years old this year. The album is a compilation of interviews we’ve done over the years with various Internet pioneers like Vint Cerf, Don Davies and Ray Tomlinson (the inventor of email). The whole shebang is headed by an overview interview with me.  Sufferers from insomnia can find it here


A Brief History of the Future: Origins of the Internet: John Naughton

*John Naughton is Professor of the Public Understanding of Technology with the Open University and a regular columnist with The Observer. More information can be found here,

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The bean-counters’ software.

January 18, 2009

There is a nicely judged piece by John Naughton in today’s Business section of  The Observer explaining how the morphing of Dan Bricklin’s ‘spreadsheet analysis’  into Apple II’s VisiCalc and its imitators  Lotus 1-2-3, Microsoft Excel, those ubiquitous pieces of spreadsheet software that have taken the drudgery out of the every day tasks of  budgeting, planning, invoicing, cash flow analysis, accounting and other bureaucratic tasks involving calculations, has a long term effect that:

elevated the once-lowly bean-counter to the board and enabled accountants to run the world.

 

Dan Bricklin gave the bean-counters a sword, and boy have they learned how to wield it…..

 

The John Dvorak PCMag.com article to which John Naughton refers, and in which Dvorak argues at some length that not only did the spreadsheet software packages put power into the hands of bean-counters,  it actually enabled them to make “some truly horrible decisions”, is here.

See John Naughton’s online diary

Printing can damage your health.

August 2, 2007

Hot off the pages of silicon.com 

Office laser printers are as unhealthy as cigarettes, according to an Australian professor who is now calling for regulations to limit printer emissions.Office workers who are breathing easy since smoking was banned in public places in the UK can start worrying again, according to research from the Queensland University of Technology’s Air Quality and Health Program, led by physics professor Lidia Morawska.The average printer releases toner particles which can get deep into the lungs and cause respiratory problems and cardiovascular trouble, said Morawska’s team, part of the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, and specialists in atmospheric particles.The team tested 62 laser printer models – all relatively new – and found that 17 of them were “high emitters” of toner particles. Despite using similar technology, office photocopiers do not emit particles, they found. The particles have not had a full chemical analysis but some are potential carcinogens, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald. Several of the high emitters were HP LaserJet models, such as the 1320 and 4250, although eight HP LaserJet 4050 series printers were shown to have no emissions, according to reports.

After smoking in designated areas, it’ll be printing in designated areas. It is not something one should be flippant about. I

Think before you install Microsoft Vista.

January 1, 2007


John Naughton (see blogroll on the right) comments in an online diary entry he made today

Before Vista, I thought that anyone who willingly used a Microsoft operating system was merely foolish; from now on, I think they will have to be regarded as certifiable.

That’s putting it quite strongly, I think. To understand why he’s come to this conclusion, you have to read the full entry.  

PS.

Aids to understanding John’s entry.  

DRM      = Digital Rights Management 

Quentin =   Quentin Stafford-Fraser

Think before you install Microsoft Vista.

January 1, 2007


John Naughton (see blogroll on the right) comments in an online diary entry he made today

Before Vista, I thought that anyone who willingly used a Microsoft operating system was merely foolish; from now on, I think they will have to be regarded as certifiable.

That’s putting it quite strongly, I think. To understand why he’s come to this conclusion, you have to read the full entry.  

PS.

Aids to understanding John’s entry.  

DRM      = Digital Rights Management 

Quentin =   Quentin Stafford-Fraser

Piracy & Microsoft Vista.

November 27, 2006

When, in early 2007 after innumerable postponments,  Microsoft’s long-awated Windows Vista becomes available on the market, it will have many features which protect the operating system from tampering. Microsoft has added this new system a number of unique features that are aimed at deterring pirates and making piracy extremely difficult.

Some of these theft-deterrents include the standard features that came as part and parcel of Windows XP – Windows Genuine Advantage and Windows Product Activation, for instance – but some are brand new.

If, for example, you install Vista and fail to contact Microsoft to get it to verify that the Vista you are running is genuine and have it activated before 30 days have elapsed, you will find that your system is completely locked down.

When the PC is locked, there will be a small number of “modes” you may use in order to restore it back to normal. There will be the “crippled mode” which allows you to web-browse so that you can contact Microsoft to get the activation key. That key of course will only be given to those who have installed verifiably genuine copies of Vista. Added to that, there will be an over-the-phone and on-line purchasing modes which will give you alternative ways of obtaining the activation key you require.

Vista, I’m also told, comes with an inbuilt monitoring system that highlights any tampering you might try doing with the operating system. If, even post-activation, the software is found not to be rendered invalid for whatever reason, certain key features will all be disabled and you will be promptly notified that an issue has arisen with the software’s licensing. I’m not altogether certain how this is going to work on stand-lone computers, but I’d imagine they will have some monitors that come with Vista itself.

Of course all of this, according to Microsoft, is designed to make life difficult for the pirate. The thing is, it’s not just the pirates it makes life difficult for – it makes life difficult for everybody.

If you want to know just how difficult things are likely to get, have a peek at John Naughton’s online diary entry or his Observer column  of the 26th of November, and ask yourself the question he’s been asking for years: why bother with Microsoft?