Category Archives: IT Politics

Standardized cookies never took off

David M. Kristol is one of the authors of RFC2109 and RFC2965, “HTTP State Management Mechanism”. RFC2109 is also known as the first attempt to standardize how cookies should be sent and received. Prior to that document, the only cookie spec was the very brief document released by Netscape in the old days and it certainly left many loose ends.

Mr Kristol has published a great and long document, HTTP Cookies: Standards, Privacy, and Politics, about the slow and dwindling story of how the work on the IETF with the cookie standard took place and how it proceeded.

Still today, none of those documents are used very much. The original Netscape way is still how cookies are done and even if a lot of good will and great efforts were spent on doing things right in these RFCs, I can’t honestly say that I can see anything on the horizon that will push the web world towards changing the cookies to become compliant.

Will 2008 become 1984?

Next week in Sweden (June 18th), as reported in several places lately including slashdot, the Swedish parliament is supposed to vote for the pretty far-going law allowing FRA (a swedish defence organization previously involved in radio-surveillance etc) to wire-tap phone calls and computer traffic that cross the Swedish borders. The majority in the parliament is for the law, while it seems most of the ordinary people are against it. The hope is now that a few people will vote against their parties, that they will have the guts to stand up and “do the right thing” instead of following the party line.

I won’t go into how silly, stupid and bad such a law is but I’ll instead just show this great video to all swedes:

(video snipped from here)

stopa FRAlagen nu

This banner says (roughly translated by me) “On June 18th the government will take away your personal integrety. All internet traffic, all phone calls, all email and SMS traffic will be wire-tapped starting January 1st 2009. Big brother sees you! … and violates the Swedish Constitution.”

Swedish Broadband Usage

The other day I fell over this interesting report published by ITIF called Explaining International Broadband Leadership (108 pages 3MB PDF) that listed USA and 30 OECD countries and their broadband usage and the report came to numerous conclusions and advice why the US is falling behind in the ranks and so on. Quite interesting read in general.

In their ranking table, Sweden is listed at #6. I immediately noticed the column called “Household penetration” (subscribers per household). Hm, isn’t that the amount of households that have broadband? It says 0.54 for Sweden. 54% broadband users among the households 2007?

We have this organization in Sweden called “Statistiska CentralbyrÃ¥n” in Swedish and “Statistics Sweden” in english. They basically work with gathering and presenting statistics on Sweden and Swedish related matters. They’ve produced a huge report (in Swedish – 1MB, 256 pages PDF) called “Private citizens’ use of computers and internet 2007” (my translation). They mention that during spring 2007, 71% of the Swedes used broadband internet from their homes. (Over 80% had internet access in their homes, which makes 12% of the users not using broadband…)

Isn’t there a shockingly huge difference between 54 and 71? And this is just a quick number I could check myself for my country. How off is then the other countries’ values? The ITIF report doesn’t even try to describe how they got their numbers so it isn’t easy to see how they got this. The Swedish report does in fact also contain a comparison with other European countries, and the numbers shown for them don’t match the ones in the ITIF report either! (But the order of top broadband using countries is roughly the same.)

I’m also a bit curious on how they got the numbers for the “average download speed in Mbps” column, but I don’t have any numbers to cross-check for that.

playogg without Rockbox?

playogg logoI find it noteworthy that the FSF runs a campaign they call playogg in which they detail the importance and stuff why people should avoid non-free formats and instead use Ogg Vorbis in preference to mp3 for example.

Yet, they document a number of alternatives for Mac users, for Windows users etc on the front page, but there’s not a single word of advice for people with portable music players. Then again, it is very hard for people to find free software alternatives to their portable music players and FSF being so very anti-closed source this makes me wonder why there’s no mention of Rockbox, ipodlinux or even sansalinux to be found?

The only place with this info that I could find when following links from their site, was about three clicks away on xiph.org’s PortablePlayers wiki page but the majority of the stuff mentioned there is non-free…!

International money transfers hurt

I have contacts and business associates located literally all over the globe. Some of them occasionally pay me money. Receiving money from abroad is not easy. How can this still be the case in the year 2008 when soon every living soul have mobile phones and we have global mobile broadband just around the corner?

One dollar billThe citizens of US, often called Americans, are too fond of their silly checks and while they often can be squeezed to wire money they tend to not do it. I believe SWIFT/IBAN is a European invention so I suspect the US banks resist only because of that – and of course because the use of checks seems so deeply rooted in the American soil. Cashing in a 4000USD check cost me well over 200USD not very many moons ago. And then I had to go through many hoops at the bank, standing in lines, filling out forms, waiting for clerks not understanding at all what to do but explaining to me that they don’t have to cash it at all so I should better be grateful they do and yes please sign here that you’ll be forced to pay back in case we’ll find out in a hundred years that the check bounces. In Sweden, checks died out in the 80s and I’ve never owned a checkbook and have never used as payment.

From Russia I hear the SWIFT/IBAN thing is also expensive and one of my contacts then prefer to use Western Union instead. Now that’s another sorry and messy approach. I then have to show up at an “agent’s” place and stand in lines, fill in forms, stand waiting for the personal to try to understand how the heck they should proceed with this, answer lots of irrelevant questions and then in the end get the money in cash in my hand. (A fun side-note: Western Union’s SSL certificate has the wrong Common Name field in it. Certainly not the best way to give a good and trusty impression.)

To and from Africa we get to hear about “westernunion-like” businesses that tend to end up being blamed for sponsoring terror organizations. Perhaps we can somehow forgive parts of Africa where poverty is wide-spread and the internet/technological penetration is not so dense.

Within Sweden – I actually got an actual physical “100 kronor” bill mailed to me in an envelope the other day as a donation for curl. Of course I appreciate it, but I find it sad that sending an actual physical letter is the easiest and cheapest way!

Paypal is every so often just the most sensible and easiest solution out there. I’m just always so surprised that there are so few actual and serious competitors to Paypal – I mean that tries to function internationally. We have a handful Swedish or European-only style versions, but hey within Sweden and Europe SWIFT/IBAN rocks anyway so there’s little use for such a limited Paypal-clone.

I would guess that anyone who would seriously try to answer my questions would bring up legislations (and especially economy laws in various countries with money-laundry preventions and what not) and the conservatism of the banks that make big money by carving off a large amount or percentage on every transfer – not to mention the interest on the money during the insane periods when the money is in limbo somewhere between banks.

I would still rather like to see more companies and banks seriously trying to compete with Paypal about doing smooth payments from wherever to wherever. We’re in the 21st century darnit!

RHEL is never right

Okay it has been known for a while, but I just recently found out so I figure I should help put the light on a recent hilarious article published in the Red Hat Magazine: It is never correct to abbreviate “Red Hat Enterprise Linux” as “RHEL”. (That’s actually not the correct title of the article, but the correct title is so ridiculously long I won’t paste it here since it’d take everyone’s breaths away.)

According to this article, RHEL is “never correct” as an abbrivation for Redhat Enterprise Linux – even though Google finds almost 2 million pages mentioning it, and the top search result it shows links to www.redhat.com/rhel/. Limiting the search to within redhat.com gives more than 52,000 hits.

Some people complicate matters more than others…

Open Source Accessibility

SRF (synskadades riksförbund – the Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired) is a Swedish organization that recently expressed concerns about open source (in Swedish), since as they say “open source in itself is no guarantee for accessibility to disabled persons” (my translation).blind person symbol

The argument came up because Mats Odell, a minister in the Swedish government, expressed a positive attitude towards open source within governments (link in Swedish).

I find it disturbing that these visually impaired guys immediately bounce back and seem to imply and think that open source automatically somehow is less useful, less quality, less fitting or less accessible. But sure, open source is not a guarantee for better accessibility, but then nobody claimed it either and I don’t see how any software can be guaranteed to be better. A very weird statement it was I must say.

One perfect example showing how open source adds accessibility is how Rockbox works. By providing innovative functionality, it makes devices suddenly a whole lot more usable to blind or visually impaired persons. There’s simply no commercial alternatives coming close.

Other fine example on how open source makes software more accessible than any closed-source competitor, is in how translations can be done even to very small languages spoken by economically not so wealthy population groups. Like how closed-source programs fail to deliver software translated to the 11 official languages of South Africa and a lot of other ones.

To round off, the orca project makes openoffice, Firefox, gnome apps and Java-based apps accessible. I’m not saying I know all about being visually impaired and how they use open source, but I do know that open source is accessible to a far extent at some places and at others there’s room left for improvement. But open source gives everyone the ability to join in and make it happen.

The IPv6 failure being joined by DNSSEC?

In case you haven’t read it before, Randy Bush‘s 55 page PDF slide show named “IPv6 Transition & Operational Reality” is a harsh (but quite accurate) description of how the IPv6 protocol was made, where some of its major problems lie and why the transition is going so slow etc.

I tried to find some official and recent figures or statements from some of the more IPv6-positive people and companies, but I failed to find much updates from after the year 2000 or so…

Speaking of network things that aren’t so successfully deployed: DNSSEC. Apparently iis.se (runs the Swedish TLD) tested 10 broadband routers (article and PDF in Swedish only) how well they support this (I believe mainly because .se tries to be a pioneer in DNSSEC), and 7 of the tested ones failed… Personally I’ve never liked the fact that DNSSEC isn’t really crafted to do it securely all the way.

HTML is all downhill from here

Ok, so we’re now officially over the hill. HTML4 was as good as we could make HTML, and the proof of this is the mighty insane and crazy mess W3C shows in their HTML 5 draft from January 22nd 2008.W3C logo

I mean, you can possibly (I mean if you hold on to your chair hard and really really try to extend your mind and be open) show sympathy and understanding for far-fetched stuff like “ping” and “prefetch” (or for that matter “author” and “contact”), but when they come to editing, drag-and-drop and how to deal with undo they certainly lost me. My favorite chapter in the draft is however this:

Broadcasting over Bluetooth

It takes a while just to suck up the concept of a HTML draft discussing broadcasting data. Over bluetooth. Man, these guys must have the best meetings!

Slashdot pirate party propaganda

I bounced at reading the following quote at Slashdot today: “Moreover, the people of Sweden are decidedly on their side, with the Pirate Party, which is sympathetic to TPB’s cause, being one of the top ten political parties in the country.”.

Facts: In our last election 2006, roughly 34,000 Swedes voted for “Piratpartiet” which actually made it the 10th most voted-for party in Sweden. That is 0.63% of the votes.

Does this really make “the people of Sweden” on their side? Who would say something like that? Oh, look at who submitted the Slashdot post… Not even shy about it, the poster links to http://www.pirate-party.us/ …

But sure, it was one of the top ten Swedish parties in 2006 – the tenth to be exact. There’s unfortunately no newer numbers to be found anywhere since most polls tend to lump all the “little parties” together in a single number and november 2007 that number was 1.2% of the votes and Piratpartiet only one of many in there…