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Letters One thing that is becoming increasingly apparent is that the discussion surrounding SP2 very clearly has several million miles still left in in it. And we're not expecting a resolution of the various points of view any time soon. Oh no. This is a debate that could make Northern Ireland's "Troubles" seem short-lived.

Hi, I've been reading Thomas Greens review of Windows SP2 Jesus that man really needs to get out more. Sorry if my quick message turned into a long thesis but after spending the last 5 years of my life trying in vain to get people to turn windows updates ON I got rather cross:

My God! Its all so obvious now, all Microsoft need do is turn off virtually every service, enforce the use of limited user accounts and disable Windows Update. To be honest I can’t believe a hugely successful Multimillion dollar company like Microsoft, didn’t realise it was so easy. In fact I might just email them right now.

Or could it be perhaps that Microsoft got to be a multi million dollar company, precisely because it set out to build a simple to use, easy to understand operating system. One that just works, out of the box. Without the need to spend all day configuring complicated services and settings every time you want to make something happen.

I own a computer repair centre and deal with literally thousands of home users a year. I would say 80% of my customer base are exactly that, ‘Users’ They know how to turn the thing on, they know what the big blue ‘e’ in the middle of the desktop is for. Hell some of them can even word process. But for the vast majority of them that’s as far as it goes. Far less than half the machines I see even have an antivirus package installed and of those most of them are years out of date. Just to emphasise my point further, I’ve long since lost count of the number of systems that have thirty plus updates waiting to be installed. They’ve all been downloaded automatically at great expense over a dial up connection; whilst the user sat there thinking ‘gosh the internets slow today’. Yet none of them get installed. When I ask why? The most common answer I get is ‘Oh yeah, I wondered what those popup messages meant’

The point I’m trying to make is this; Millions of zombie PC’s sit on millions of desktops all over the world, spewing out viruses and junk precisely because the average user doesn’t have a clue that they need an anti virus package let alone a fire wall. So long as those computers do the tasks they need them too, they have no interest in securing them. SP2 is far from perfect but its free and if all the people who install it end up with a basic fire wall, automatic windows updates and the motivation to buy an antivirus package the impact will be huge.

The problem with Geeks like your Mr Green is, they seem to inhabit their own little world, where everyone is a computer ‘expert’ and all the answers are black and white. Meanwhile here in the real world companies like Microsoft understand that the majority of their customers are not. That they view there computer as a functional item, a means to an end and base their software purchasing decisions on which product will allow them to do what they need to do, as simply and as quickly as possible. Not for its technical merits or because they get aroused at the thought of tweaking their system to perfection.

Adam


I think one point the study summaries miss is that especially for small companies, the "average" doesn't mean much.

If you look at the first figure, it even notes "Hi volativity in sub-100 range". So for an individual company, its not a case of 10-15% of the computers will have trouble, it means that either you won't have any problems, or most (maybe even all) of your computers will have issues. That could be devastaing for some companies if they're not prepared.

Mike


or, to be a bit more positive, 90% of upgrades are seamless...

Paddy


On a slightly lighter, but still MS-related note:

If Longhorn features are being back-ported into WinXP (SP3 maybe?) then I think The Reg should adopt the codename "Shoehorn" for the project - in the fine tradition of "Itanic", "Recording Industry Ass. of America", "BT Openwoe", etc.

Ben


Back to the more serious letters, and this next one caught our eye. This week, Mercury Interactive said that the IT skills shortage in the UK was going to get worse, as fewer candidates study Computer Science at A Level:

Hi John, I find this very surprising that people at Mercury Interactive should have said stuff like this, especially since ALL of their actual development is done in Israel, for me that means it's offshore and not in the UK.

Also, consider the job prospects at the MI centre in the UK: although the kind of skills they are looking for are related to the software industry, they certainly aren't looking for software development skills per se. Unless you want to move to Israel. That seems a little ludicrous.

I think it isn't surprising that there aren't many `more people taking up the IT path: there don't appear to be any jobs in the UK. I personally know a few hundred highly skilled programmers, network technicians and software engineers who can't get jobs. I think it is unfair for people in positions of power to consistently state that there is a shortage of IT skills in this country when it is patently not true. They probably use this as an excuse to have their tech depts moved offshore. The skills are there, these global companies maybe don't fancy to pay UK rates, National Insurance payments, 25 holidays etc.

Before the dotcom bubble burst, people could get a job in the industry with a normal set of skills. Nowadays the employers only hire genuisses or people with many years of experience. This actually is a situation being created by the employers, who do not create any entry level jobs.

Have a look at all those thousands of job ads out there in the IT sector: the employers are all looking for the same guy. And if there is an entry level job available, they get swamped with applications.

This cycle just becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Kind regards

Daniel Ahrens


One last serious letter before we get to the funny stuff. ID cards. Yes, again.

This a rather late reply to the letter by Martin that you published in "Letters" in 17 August this year. He was replying to a letter by John on the subject of the proposed ID card scheme. Martin was writing from Germany in support of them.

I'm writing from Germany on the same subject - with the exception that I'm dead agin 'em. And to be honest, this letter has sweet damn-all to do with IT - well, a bit, anyway - but Martin's letter really got up my left nostril.

Dear Martin,

I don't know whether you're German or not but when you claim that ID cards are a normal part of life in other (presumably continental) European countries, then I can only assume that you are unaware of the freedom from these things that the Anglo-Saxon world has (largely) enjoyed since roughly the Middle Ages.

And if I'm wrong about your nationality then I'm sorry. I'm a New Zealander who has lived in Germany for the last 16 or so years. For the benefit of UK readers I can confirm everything you say about compulsory ID's and the compulsory residents' registration system there. And let me tell you, boy, it bloody well stinks.

I can assure you that it is a real freedom coming from a country where the authorities do not have the authority to demand that you identify yourself to them without reason to suspect that you have contravened the law. It is a freedom for the police not to know where you live if you have not been suspected of breaking the law. (It's called legitimate anonymity - you might have heard of it.)

Being arrested and being held for 24 hrs until the police are satisfied that you are whom you claim to be (this is the law in Germany, if you can't identify yourself with a picture ID) is tantamount to having to prove your innocence to the authorities. Therefore the principle of the presumption of innocence is already down the bloody gurgler.

And if you think that identifying yourself or verifying your address with a phone bill is funny (I call it democracy, myself), well, I'm glad they've got something to laugh about in Gemany. It'd make a nice change.

Whether you know it or not, the ID and compulsory residents' address registration system in continental Europe is nothing more than a means by which the state can get hold of the citizen a lot more quickly and easily. The whole issue hinges around the question of why the system and the authorities should choose to suspect me if I can't flash a picture ID?

Why should that make me suspicious in a democracy? Here's a parenthetical example of how ridiculous the system can get. Ten years ago I went down to my local cop-shop near Heidelberg to report the theft of my bicycle. The first thing I got asked was whether I had any ID on me. Frankly I was open-mouthed, but I didn't want any aggro, so I shut my mouth again and pulled out a company ID.

And like the "no2id" website says, an ID card is like branding cattle - it's for the benefit of the farmer, not the cattle. Such a system has no place in a democracy.

I've tried to keep this letter on the issue and not adduce any ad hominem arguments. If I haven't I apologise.

Bob McMurray Oftersheim, Germany


Right - enough serious commentary. Let's talk about homosexuality in the farmyard. We wrote about the efforts of a group of Australian researchers to determine the root causes of lesbianism in cows. Talk about a wide range of responses:

hi-

I was going to comment with loads of humorous suggestions about constitutional amendments and the like just to make light of it. But you know, my heart just sank too deep knowing how horribly spiteful, cruel and unproductive this issue is. I wish people could find peace and start enjoying one another.

Make love, not war; even if you have to do it with the same sex.

-lance


This is great use of sience! If it's enough to spoil some right-wing ignorants' BBQs ("Mr. President, the c.o.w. you are munching up was a suspected homo"), then go for it.

Oliver


Hi --- the last paragraph of the article on frisky cow behaviour is a bit silly --- the almost daily reports on astronomically expensive research never get that treatment (usually Hubble repair stuff; today an item about Seti@home, a giant waste of time considering there's El Reg's Cancerbusters; Beagle II; Cassini & Cassiopeia; the list goes on).

This research is essentially cheap --- some travel to Malaysia, some interesting cooperation with local scientists perhaps --- and has serious bearing on issues directly affecting several % of the human population, namely religious loonies (and presidents) and, oh yes, farmers. [For gay people it's less relevant; things are what they are, deal with it.]

Contrast this with the gene hunt approach involving throwing hundreds of thousands of thingies in the PCR, and mining the output for significance, which has nothing to do with science though it helps drug discovery.

All the best,

Michel.


Rather a shame this condition does not seem to affect my girlfriend, who is frequently stressed, and has numerous attractive female friends.

Mike


Crude oil prices may be through the roof, but that's ok according to the world's boffins, because the new economy will be based on hydrogen. All fine and dandy, but where will this hydrogen come from? This week: sunflower oil.

Not meaning to blame the messenger, but you can run a slightly modified desiel truck/car off of sunflower oil directly. With a desiel you would release the same amount of carbon dioxide, and get the extra energy from splitting the carbons off. I dont think this method would be any better than a high effiency turbo desiel.

Jonathan


So scientists have managed to develop a way of running a (modified) car indirectly on Vegetable Oil... Excuse me but the technology to run cars on modified vegetable oil has been around for years - it's called bio-diesel (Or transesterised vegetable oil) and can be used in many cars without any modification. I have been running my Skoda TDi on 100% 'bio' for a year now without any problems. At present 'bio' production is only economic if the original oil is free and so it is limited to using waste oil (Still a good recycling process though). If the government gave bio the same tax breaks as LPG (which is a fossil fuel & so contributes to global warming) we could have a world leading Bio-diesel industry using virgin oil and provide an alternative (non-food) income source for farmers producing the raw material.

David


regarding your story "Scientists suck hydrogen from sunflower oil"

My Client Traci Lords would like to make it known that she can do better.

Capt. Cretin


Aliens. Need we say more to introduce this story?

Yes Yes all very well, but do you honestly think that if the seti project finds evidence of alien life we, the average, easily panicked, hysterical people in the street are going to get the slightest whiff of it?

Think about it: if you have half a brain cell it would be a fundamental change to your entire outlook on life. Can't see a US govt allowing that to happen, besides which there might be a possibility of some interesting technology they could use - Interesting point that everybody always assumes aliens will be more advanced than us.

Not that I think the seti project is worthless quite the contrary, I have been running it on all of my home machines for many years now.

Malcom

Yes, but Malcom: that's what they want you to think...


Germs. They are everywhere. Even in biometrics stories:

"Fingerprint scanners were also considered, but market research found that women responded badly to the hygiene implications of sharing the print recognition pad with so many other people."

Duh, surely the keypad on an atm has the same hygiene risks. As for door handles, oh the horror.

Simon

We thought it was a bit weird too, but there you go...


We get some really odd letters sometimes. Take this next one. We wrote about Text messaging being used to trap unfaithful partners:

i think my wife is unfaithful.i want to trap her.give me tips

Anon

Well, Anon, we don't normally do this, being a news organisation, and all, but here are some tips:

Step one: laying the trap. Get a cardboard box and prop it up with a stick. Tie some string to this stick and keep hold of the other end of it. Put some of you wife's favourite food under the box. Now, sneak around a corner and lie in wait.

Step two: springing the trap. When your wife goes for the food, pull the string. If you are quick enough, the stick will fall away, the box will come down and Hey Presto! Your wife is trapped.

Was that what you were after?

Enjoy the weekend. ®

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