Readers reacquire Greenwich Meridian

Plus Photoshop on Linux and a right bunch of...

Letters The Google China search engine kerfuffle is unlikely to abate in the near future, so we'll start off this dredge of the Vulture Central mail repository with some reponses to a letter last week from Colin Jackson. To recap, Colin wrote:

Possibly the most frightening thing I have ever seen on this web of ours:

Search Tiananmen from Google Images:

Search Tiananmen from Google China:

Here's more:

The race between censor and source is a continuous one - presently page 5 of the chinese 'tiananmen' google image search contains one of the 'classic' images. I wonder how long it will last.

Phil Carmody

It appears google likes to bury bad news as much as junior ministers, as you can find tianamen square on, it just takes a little looking. Whether this poor bloke's blog stays up is a matter for debate...

(check the 2nd and 3rd rows)

Mike Green

I checked out the page on google china that Colin Jackson mentioned in his email to you and half an hour later I started getting port scans from an IP address that Whois says belongs to the Data Communication Bureau in China.

If I get dissappeared it's all your fault.

Named supplied and forwarded directly to Google and thence to Beijing

Some bright spark has suggested four year patents for techie-type applications. A good thing, or not?

Not a bad compromise, especially if it is to be the only way software-only inventions can be patented. It'll never happen though, because no-one in the software patents debate wants it. It's too restrictive for Big Biz and the Penguin-heads will oppose any software patents.


Where is the benefit to the public from a 4-year patent for obvious "inventions"? Existing patents reward inventors for describing novel, non-obvious developments. It is the provision of that description which is of benefit to the people as a whole, and it is in return for the provision of that description that exclusive rights are granted. The description of an obvious invention has no real value (it's, uh, obvious), so why should we give up our right to use obvious ideas freely in return for essentially nothing?

According to the IEEE Spectrum article "the goal is to prevent knockoffs". What's wrong with knockoffs? Lots of companies making similar products is good. I thought that competition was what capitalism was all about. It would be nice if companies had to be sucessful by providing better products and a higher standard of service, rather than by gaining exclusive rights to something.

Tim Auton

Back to Google now, and its decision to remove BMW and Ricoh temporarily from search results in punishment for some "doorway pages" naughtiness:

Maybe I'm missing something here, but I do wonder exactly how many masochistic English-speakers there are out there searching for BMW's German homepage via Google (presumably they'll be relying heavily on Google's translation function to make sense of all that dense Teutonic poetry?), let alone whatever subset of the greater unwashed who aren't going to hit BMW's international site just by typing BMW into their address bar and letting their browser do the rest. Anyway, it looks like German residents themselves aren't going to be too hard-hit by Google's policy, judging by a quick search for "BMW Deutschland" on

Yours, jof (neither German or in any way affiliated to BMW. Or Google)


Personally, I think that the tactics which are being used by google: "Bad BMW: staaaay" are really likely to backfire. Users aren't likely to care that either Ricoh or BMW was modifying its behaviour to get better rankings out of Google, they just want a reliable search.

It seems that Google has started to compromise its reknowned reliability for the sake of chastisement. If the trend continues, for example if a larger number of corporations started being delisted from Google, the quality of the service provided to the punter would be seriously compromised.....

What puzzles me is why BMW and Ricoh may have been attempting to modify their rankings. I mean, if I want to look at a BMW, it's not very hard to find.


Linux users are demanding Photoshop, among other apps. This is a topic guaranteed to get a good response from you lot:

These requests from users show that Linux is becoming more mainstream and that users of it are ready to go beyond 'configure the living daylights out of this puppy'. I haven't seen many Linux apps but I hear there are some fairly good ones. What is going to hurt the Linux community is the number of distributions. The hardcore girls and boys will want to use their own distro to run all these shiny apps on. I don't think Corell, Apple or Adobe are going to jump at the idea of supporting all these funky beasts though. From a support point of view it is not going to be easy to mount these apps on the system and have them stay where they are while the typical Linux user will insist on hacking drivers and builds of every type imaginable onto the system. Linux by itself will be stable enough, but how is a major vendor going to guarantee that it will stay that way when the user compiles the latest craze and runs it on a production system?

By the way, you mentioned which distro you're using, you didn't say which assault rifle would be your weapon of choice to accost the local mall rats.


AK-47, naturally.

<sarcasm> Who'd have thought it? Novell, a shop based upon COTS, has found that (having taken over SuSE Linux) people really want COTS on GNU/Linux, too. Interesting how you can get the answers you want by asking the right questions - was "I want GIMP on Linux" an option? was " on Linux is good enough for my purposes"? Heaven forbid, was "Solaris 10 x86, with StarOffice, Gimp, et al available, a viable option"?

Well, that Mono stuff (clearly no relation to COTS!) threw us all into thinking that Novell had suddenly grasped the community factor of F/OSS.


Steve Parker

That tickled me - open source advocates appear not to like eating their own dog food. Surely the mantra in the OSS world is if you want something then just write it, right? Isn't software development fully democractised these days? They mean to tell me that OpenOffice can't sub for Visio, GNUCash for Quicken and Nuv for Dreamweaver? Surely then now some of the piety has worn off the OSS people aren't trying to admit a lot of these efforts are just a bit shit?

It's ironic that this "demand" for applications tends to make many of Microsoft's key points about software development true; users want applications, not platforms. That markets, not developers, decide what applications are written for what platform. I'm no capitalist and I'm no flag-waver for the ludicrous prices of software like Photoshop which make software piracy a self-fulfilling prophecy but there isn't a single area of desktop software that has seen commercial software give way to open source. The Gimp was shit 5 years ago and time hasn't been kind to it. It took Mozilla four years before it was even tolerable.

I think all we can say for certain is that there is absolutely no chance any of these applications (other than, may be, Lotus Notes as its market share continues to slide) ever coming to Linux. And even if they did, how many copies of Photoshop for Linux at £400 would you even sell? Surely all good OSS advocates know you want all this stuff and you want it for nothing, too.

Kevin Hall

"But then again, how many photo professionals use Linux in the first place?"

You seem to missed that bit - logical disparity.

Why is there a demand for the pro application if no pros are using Linux?

It's bit opposite of ODF v. M$O situation: there is no demand for ODF in M$O since everyone who had M$O already locked in to M$O proprietary file formats. Thanks God, graphical file formats are still (mostly) open.

Ihar Filipau

Not that i want to bitch and moan about what working is but....

photoshop V7...not sure on 8/9 Dreamweaver MX flash MX

all run under wine reasonably well......adobe owns macromedia now so all in all its not that big a deal to them as long as they keep wine compatability high and easy.....

porting to linux doesn't necessarily help them and if they already get your money and have "THE BEST" software why would they want to change that competitior of note... GIMP is a bit far away from good enough for Pros and all the none Pros dont buy it just copy it or use the lower end products anyways...

they own their market no change required is there??


Lotus Notes made the top 10? Good lord, have these people used it? It would be number 1 on my list of applications I hope I am never forced (by work) to use again. I don't use Linux so I'd be more than happy if IBM devoted all future development to the Linux platform and stopped producting that awful application for Windows. PLEASE!

Leo Davidson

2. AutoCAD: hmm, interesting. Of course, AutoCAD was originally a Unix workstation application that got moved to Windows. Following that the Unix flavour was dropped.

At the time that the IntelliCAD company got eaten by Microsoft just after IntelliCAD the program was made open source there were conspiracy theories that Autodesk and Microsoft had a deal: that Microsoft would stay out of the CAD market as long as Autodesk stuck to Windows. I've no idea if that's actually true - perhaps it's time for some investigative journalism? Microsoft and Autodesk do seem to have a pretty good relationship though and a Linux port of AutoCAD seems unlikely to me.


Ed Davies

A few years ago Adobe beta tested FrameMaker, but unfortunntely decided to drop it. Not sure how relevant that is to Photoshop there was already a Unix port of FrameMaker, but the Linux market place has moved on a long way since then.

Ken Green

Thanks for the best laugh I've had in ages. I'd love to be a fly on the wall at Adobe when that pitch gets made:

The brief: to produce a linux version of Photoshop, or ideally several different packages to be compatible with all the varying package dependencies of the major distros. This will of course involve massive re-engineering, redesign, testing, and maintenance, all for an operating system that is maybe running at 0.3% of the desktop share.

Oh, and please be prepared to absorb all the development costs yourself, because the desktop user community for linux is used to a business model based on the gift economy and your competing products on the platform are free.

You'll get a free cuddly penguin and lots of respect on slashdot though!

Steve Mansfield

Warning: a bit of shameless self-promotion follows...

I'm the maintainer of Krita, which will be released begin of March (first beta already available:, and which will include cmyk, L*a*b, 8, 16 and 32 bit channel depths, adjustment layers, layer groups, scripting, a plugin architecture that allows for colorspaces, tools, paint operations, filters and almost everything else I can think of to be implemented as plugins. Our scripting support is a plugin, for instance, as is the 8 bit rgba colormodel, the brush tool or the airbrush paint operation.

Of course, we miss the breadth of features and the decade of polish both the Gimp and Photoshop have. But we're coding as fast as we can :-).


Scandal and outrage: Google has moved the Greenwich Meridian 100m east. What the hell is going on?

It's not just Google who disagree with the Observatory. MapPoint, MultiMap, Streetmap all put the Prime Meridian to the east of the Observatory.

Perhaps the Observatory are wrong...

Dave Liney

According a plaque a the Royal Observatory Museum, the US Navy in designing the GPS (system) shifted the prime meridian for reasons I do not know (or can't recall from the plaque). A keen eye at the Royal Observatory Museum would see their demonstration GPS showing 000°00' longitude but also there is no antenna attached to the GPS, the no GPS signal icon verifies this. Obviously, someone took the GPS out the prime meridian then disconnected the receiver and took it back indoors to the museum for display.

Again, I have no idea why the US Navy did this, I am sure some reader does.

Thank you, Hunter Chisholm

a more reasonable suggestion is that the co-ordinates in Google Earth correspond to the WGS-84 ellipsoid (or another equivalent), which doesn't exactly correspond to the Earth's surface. See the ROG's own FAQ on the issue here:

Carl Warnell

Don't blame Google, blame the U.S. Navy.

Don't worry, there aren't any black helicopters, nor is it a plot by those Yankee imperialists to confuse us Limeys and steal our meridian.

The 100-metre discrepancy is a by-product of the fact that the most accurate terrestrial coordinate system is defined by the Global Positioning System (GPS) these days, and not, alas, by Airy's transit telescope at Greenwich.

Plate tectonics (the slow movement of the continents as they float on top of the Earth's mantle) means that "fixed" points on the Earth's surface are *not* fixed at all. Now that we have the technology to actually measure the slow but inexorable drift of the continents, it makes no sense to rely on features on the Earth's surface to define something as important as the prime meridian.

Instead, a network of reference points scattered around the world define the International Terrestrial Reference Frame, whose prime meridian is a little over 100 metres east of the Greenwich meridian.

Just as the poor old Earth isn't stable enough to provide an accurate time scale, and Greenwich Mean Time was replaced by International Atomic Time in 1972, the Earth isn't stable enough to define a system of latitude and longitude either. At least, not to the accuracy required by modern GPS-powered technology.

I hope this sets your mind at rest.

Dr David Harper

Greenwich not stable enough? It's enough to have any true Englishman coughing beef and oyster pie over his copy of Longitude. We prefer this explanation:

The shift takes Google even closer to Beijing

Richard Cain

Our report on Deportivo Wanka yesterday caused much merriment among those of you with a similarly juvenile sense of humour. This chap, however, needs to work on his funny bone:

The Wanka tribe existed until some time before 500. The word doesn't enter the English language (at least in this sense) until some time in the 19th century...


No such problem here - and if you've ever wondered what a bunch of wankas looked like:

A group of Charlton fans were introduced to Deportivo Wanka around two years ago by our friend Richard Pool when he moved out to Peru to teach. Ever since we've been wearing the shirts with pride to all Charlton's cup games, including this season as you can see from:

Those Brit Deportivo Wanka fans in full

We're playing Brentford in the 5th round of the FA Cup on Saturday February 18 and will be in the Rose of Denmark pub on the Woolwich Road in Charlton with the shirts!


Glynne Jones

Splendid. Gentlemen, we salute you.

And finally, as it were, "The Final Countdown" controversy rumbles on. To recap, we reckon it goes:

Da-da-da-da, da-da-da-da-daaaa...

While another reader has it as:

dah-duh-dahh-dumm dah-duh-dah-da-dumm

Here's what Simon Harpham says:

You're both wrong. The Final Countdown goes:

d d daa daa d d da da daa d d daa daa d d da da da da daaa d d daaa d d da da da da daa daa daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Right, we're off to count those das. More Friday. ®

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