Of open source, security and collaboration

I had the privilege of being a panelist at the inaugural “India Digital Open Summit” held in Mumbai, India on 19th January 2018.

The event was organized by Reliance Jio and held at the Jio Talk Auditorium, Learning & Development Center, Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai. My first visit to that part of Mumbai so it was all good and exciting for me.

This Summit was organized jointly by Reliance Jio, The Linux Foundation and Cisco.

The event first of a four city Linux Foundation open source* series to be held in India this year. I am particularly interested in this specific event because of it being organized and run by a up and coming mobile telco, Reliance Jio.

It is really good, from my perspective, that open source is now the driver for all sectors of the global economy and now all corporate entities who expect to be still around over the next five years, are recognizing and acting on getting this into their organizations. We are long past the salad days of free and open source and we are now benefiting from the struggles of the last 20-30 years.

The panel I was on was chaired by Mr. Rajan Mathews, Director General of COAI.

The entire panel discussion can be viewed here.

I would like to perhaps highlight a two things that I was asked about and give added context.

The first was in terms of security of open source software. The typical comment that I’ve heard over the last two decades is that because the code is open, it therefore is prone to being turned into malicious code. The root of this myth is from statements that were made in the late 1990s and early 2000s by proprietary vendors trying to sow F.U.D amongst the technology buyers who were told that only closed proprietary software is secure because no one else can look at it. It is the classic “trust me <wink> <wink>” statement.

Open source is indeed more that good enough such that even the CIO of New York Stock Exchange Euronext endorses it for the NYSE. Billions are traded daily on the NYSE. If they can reap benefits from open source, so can any other entity.

Never mind that endorsement. Just look at what’s happened in the last few weeks around security – specifically in the CPU (i.e., the actual hardware) that runs almost 100% (or very close to it) of the world’s computing systems, mobile phones etc. The specific issue is about Spectre and Meltdown. Mitigation of this hardware issue is driven by the open source community and Red Hat has taken a lead position in it while working in tight collaboration with the rest of the industry, including proprietary OS vendors. If it weren’t for the open source developers, we won’t have been able to do the mitigation as quickly as we have been (and work still continues nonetheless).

So, I do hope that we have put behind us this uninformed statement that “open source software is not secure”.

The second comment is about a question that I was asked was about how open source code is being taken by corporates and turned into products and that the developers of these are not being compensated. This is an important question and will be asked over and over again.

This is where I am particularly proud to be a Red Hatter because what we do is to be trusted entity between the FOSS community of developers and projects and the enterprises who see tremendous value in the open source projects that become products that enterprises can use.

Red Hat can be likened as a gardener/farmer who tends the garden/farm that has many different crops, plants (projects). We harvest good projects from the farm and turn them into products. In that process, additional work is done in security, features, documentation, certification etc so that we can make the open source product ready for enterprises. These changes/enhancements are fed back into the open source projects. This two way process is what we do to ensure that the ecosystem of open source projects are indeed thriving and growing while we bring sanity and accountability to enterprises who use these project/products. Red Hat is a equal peer player/participant in the projects and that is how one gains trust in the community and also how we then are able to bring accountability to the enterprise.

Overall, I enjoyed my pane and I must thank Rajan for being an excellent moderator.

* open source is the marketing term of Free Software first coined by Christine Peterson back in 1998.

[this post first appeared here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/open-source-security-collaboration-harish-pillay/%5D


Joseph Schooling should not be the last

It was a supreme delight to have been able to sing Majulah Singapura (the video cannot be viewed because the IOC mafia thinks they own the copyright) with Joseph Schooling after being medaled at the Olympics for winning the gold for his 100m butterfly event.

There are plenty of analysis of what had happened over the last eight years that saw him leave Singapore at 14, go to the US, attend a school that has great sporting traditions (and coaches) and the to UT Austin – and benefiting from world class coaches.

Ultimately, if Joseph did not want ths medal, no amount of training, coaching, sacrifice of his parents would have gotten him to where he is today. He wanted it badly. He set his mind to it and made it happen.

But, despite his single minded persistence, his ambition would have been thwarted because of some of the structural blockages we have in Singapore for sportsmen to excel.

If Joseph is not to be last one to achieve that pinnacle of sporting achievement, we have to address a few things:

a) The secondary school system of sports is rather dismal. Back when I was in school, when you got into secondary one, you could go try out what ever sports the school had. The assumption (right one I would say), is that there are never enough opportunities to try things when you are in primary school, let alone become “good” in it. Today, however, secondary schools only ALLOW students who have proven previously to be able to play some sport before they can have that as their ECA. It is a chicken-and-egg situation. I am sure that there are some schools that keep the net wide and open to get all comers to experiment and try. Without that mindset, we will continue to fail in creating champion sportmen/women.

b) Lots of the national sports associations are helmed by well meaning and forward looking people who were themselves sportsmen. But, there are quite a few that have vested interests in play that does not allow for someone not from the annointed group to get involved. I will refrain from naming them here, but will happily share them if you contact me privately.

c) National Service: I don’t think anyone is doubting the value of National Service to build a strong citizenry. The fact that the full-time NS period has been revised and reviewed to make it useful and appropriate, we are, nonetheless, placing a huge premium to serving NS over sporting excellence especially for those who are talented and have potential. This is where Joseph Schooling’s NS stumbling block comes into play. His parents had to fight to get his NS liabilities deferred so that he can continue training and be able to peak just at the right time for him to win the gold medal at the Olympics. And peak, he did.

I am mindful of all those who could have gone on to sporting excellence if only they had the persistence to get deferment (and be granted). We will never know how many there could have been.

Here’s a suggestion

We *must* have a fair and equitable means to assess people who have potential and let them flourish. Grant them the deferment, easily, but ensure that they are encouraged to keep at the vision/goal and if they succeed (like Joseph in getting his gold), grant them the status that they’ve completed their National Service. Naturally, if the person wants to discharge of his obligations, grant him the opportunity to do so. We can be magnanimous and forward thinking like that. We are Singapore. We can do this. Training to excel in sport is no different from training to defend the country. The mental, physical and emotional challenge may be comparable. The rewards are different, but the value accrued in both cases to the individual and country is immense.

d) Creating sporting excellence among the polytechnics, ITEs and universities. Have a league for the various sports. All of these institutions would benefit from having mascots that go a long way to building the school identity and pride. I was from RI and we have the Gryphon although we never did use it as a mascot. It has served the school well (I think) and we must encourage all schools to have mascots.

Look at UT Austin, home of the Longhorns, Joseph’s school. Look at their website today.

Screenshot from 2016-08-14 22-11-05

Sport has pride of place today. That’s outstanding. If you are a UT Austin alum, if you are called upon to donate to the school, would you hesitate? No. I went to Oregon State, and yes, I’m a proud Beaver. The US schools have a tradition of inspiring students via sport even if you are not sport oriented or interested. Sport unites people in amazing ways. Remember the Kallang Roar? It united a people. We stood together. We don’t have that now.

Our schools don’t have any of that as well. Start with schools having mascots, start with a sporting league. Webcast the games (it is 2016, get with it already).

Let’s open up and ideate to make sure that Joseph Schooling is not the last one. He succeeded because of his exiting the Singapore system to make it happen. He still honours Singapore. I am sure he will come back after graduation and I hope his achievement will call into question that absurd assumptions we have in place today on how to build a sporting nation.

Lots of rescued data

I had finally managed to rescue one of many drives that had documents and articles I wrote from the 90s and early 2000s.

I will be putting them up on this blog and would have to back date them. I am not sure how to do this right but I guess placing links into a “catalog” that has a current date and then to point to the older ones would be appropriate.

Here’s one from 2003.

Remember, Remember The Eleventh of September. Majulah Singapura.

My extended family will be voting sometime today. My wife and I will be exercising our right to vote at Qifa Primary School. That was the same place we voted in 2011. The People’s Action Party and Reform Party are contesting in this West Coast GRC.

11940284_10206326379092598_8725255103894262689_oI just came across this Peanuts cartoon done many years ago (and I am not sure of the copyright status of it). It is very appropriate as we go to the polls.

Remember, Remember The Eleventh of September.

After all is said and done, we are all in this together to make our country thrive and flourish for generations to come.

Majulah Singapura.

Ensuring that this gets as wide a read as possible before September 11, Polling Day

This has been circulating in the chat groups on telegram.org and whatsapp.com and want it to be as widely read as possible. I did not wirte it, and I would love to give credit to the author. If you are the author or know who wrote it. please tell me so that I can give credit where credit is due.

A very well written article by a young Singaporean to be read before one votes this coming Friday:

I am a Singaporean voter. I want our policies to be thoroughly examined by different political parties in the Parliament.

I know all the candidates have different strengths, weaknesses and abilities but that is exactly the whole idea. A policy paper can be better scrutinized by different people with different perspectives, angles and insights. Ultimately, Singapore and Singaporeans benefit from better policies. Good policies can withstand scrutiny, no matter who came up with them.

I am a Singaporean voter. I want our anti-corruption department to be completely detached from the power of any government, regardless of political party

The department should be a checks-and-balances asset for the people of Singapore. The anti-corruption department should report directly to the people and conduct regular and random checks on every single branch of the state and government to ensure nobody plays under the table. Nobody.

I am a Singaporean voter. I want our civil service, army, police and judiciary systems to be independent from any politically-motivated decisions from any incumbent government.

I dislike the practice of parachuting newly-resigned civil servants, army or police officers or judges into the political sphere weeks or days before elections. This presents a serious conflict of interests because these newly-converted politicians still hold networks of influence within their old jobs and that may present dilemmas in crucial decision-making. Imagine if we go to war and our generals hesitate to act because they are considering military decisions based on answering to ex-colleagues-turned-ministers on which electoral constituency to defend or retreat from. Wouldn’t that be a disaster if they lost battle initiative due to such considerations?

I am a Singaporean voter. I understand all policies cost valuable taxpayers’ monies.

I am not a rabbit. I don’t eat carrots dangling in front of me. I am not a dog. I refuse to be tamed or intimidated by fear-mongering tactics. I am not a crazy person either. I don’t intend to bankrupt Singapore or Singaporeans over poorly-planned policies. I am, however, keeping an open mind to alternative suggestions to current policies. I don’t mind these alternatives be thoroughly debated in Parliament because there is always a chance to find moderation and suitability in them until these policies can meet the needs and wants of Singaporeans.

I am a Singaporean voter. I want my government to work for me, not against me and certainly not for themselves. I want my politicians to earn their keep, not sleep through in Parliament and just nod their heads in agreement to pass policies into bills which are not clearly understood by the people.

Governments are servants to the people. If they lord over their own voters, they are not governments. They are called tyrants. I understand the need for attractive pay to entice the best talents and minds into a government. However, I want such salaries to be pegged to real performance in their terms of office. This is called meritocracy. Any member of parliament who naps in parliamentary sessions should receive a pay cut for that month. No excuses. Any member of parliament who has contributed no constructive suggestions to any policies in a year should receive a pay cut for that year. Any member of parliament who broke the laws of Singapore should receive a demerit ceremony in public and serve the necessary sentence in whichever way deem fit by the people of Singapore.

I am a Singaporean voter. I want Singapore to survive longer than any political squabble or contest.

If any political party claims that Singapore will collapse or be in ruins if they are voted out of power, that means we have built the country in the wrong way. All political parties face the possibility of total dissolution but as a Singaporean, I want Singapore to possess a robust system where it can survive any change of power from any political party. This means the civil service, army, police and judiciary system must remain apolitical if they understand such a national need beyond political competition.

I am a Singaporean voter. Vote not for Singapore’s past. Vote not for Singapore’s present. Vote for Singapore’s future.


And the games have begun

Oh, the classic off-by-one error. All of us who were expecting the polling day to be September 12, started counting from the day after the nomination day. Missed out the fact that nomination day itself is counted. Classic CS 101 error.

Now that the games have begun, it is not surprising to see the Elections Department (that reports to the Prime Minister who is also the secretary general of the current majority-in-parliament party) putting out new rules.

This is exactly what, many other Singaporeans and myself have advocated for: that the elections department should be stand alone, independent entity. The text from the PDF (linked above) is included here:

Advisory on Participation in Political Activities and Election Campaigning by Civic, Business and Professional Bodies

Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, any person who conducts activities to promote or procure the election of a candidate, must be individually authorised in writing by the candidate or his election agent on and from Nomination Day.

Individuals who are not citizens of Singapore are prohibited from taking part in any election activity and cannot be so authorised.

2 In addition, any civic, business or professional body that wishes to participate in any political activity or allow its funds and/or premises to be used for political purposes needs to ensure that its constitution allows it to do so, and ensure that this does not contravene any laws that the body is subject to.

3 Such political activities include endorsing certain candidates and publishing advertisements or issuing press statements to express its support for a candidate. If such advertisements or statements amount to election advertising, the relevant rules under the Parliamentary Elections Act and its regulations have to be complied with.

4 While such bodies should have their own processes to consult their members and consider the merits of supporting a candidate, it remains each individual’s right as a voter, regardless of his membership of any organisation, to freely decide whom to support and how to cast his vote.

26 August 2015

I think this document is pretty standard and has nothing new. What would be useful is if this document’s conditions are meant to be observed from August 26th onwards and not retroactive. This is being asked because the PAP did use a VWO facilities for a very clear political purpose – that of introducing their candidates.

I am not hopeful that the Elections Department would state if their new rules were violated.

Fair play and transparency is even more critical in this hustings. The world is watching.

To keep things in context

Just so that we don’t get distracted with all the SG50 festivities and forget key historical details, here’s some of the festive commemorations we’ve seen in Singapore.

In four years, 2019, Singapore would be 200 years old from the day, in 1819, when Sir Stamford Raffles representing the British East India Company signed a treaty with Temenggong Abdul Rahman and the Sultan Hussein Shah of Johor to hand over Singapore to the EIC to become a trading post. That marked the start of Singapore being a British colony. Not sure if the monies promised to the two as per the treaty are still being paid.

Even if the 200th anniversary is not observed because of commemoration-fatique coupled with the lack of an impending election (as it was in 1969) there was some small observation of the 150th anniversary as noted in this from the National Archives:

I don’t recall any big rah-rah then (I was in Primary 4), considering that Singapore was 4 years into its independence, probably not much. I was personally more enthralled with the NASA Moon Landing than anything else.

It was not quite subdued  when you fast forward to 1984. There was a General Election coming and the government, I mean, the ruling party rolled out the “25 Years of Nation Building” celebrations in earnest. This commemoration was complete with month-long (may have been many months) National Exhibition at the then World Trade Centre exhibition halls in Telok Blangah. I remember going there to see the exhibition and being quite annoyed with the PAP-ism in the exhibition. The 25 years was about 25 years since 1959 when the PAP came into government, not about Independence. It had a clear political objective and despite sweeting the electorate, two opposition members won seats against the PAP – the late J. B. Jeyaretnam and Chiam See Tong.

That 1984 opposition victory royally pissed off the then Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who did his best to get rid of JBJ (by suing him for many things, and in the process bankrupting him and then gerrymandering the Anson constituency into Tanjong Pagar).

So, after that “25 Years of Nation Building”,

25 Years of Nation Building
25 Years of Nation Building

we have SG50 just in time for the next General Elections. The same tricks cannot be played now as we have far more information out there and no one in their right mind trusts the local MSM (The Singapore Press Holdings, or MediaCorp). People who DO watch or listen or read output from those two entities have always discounted the validity, integrity and credibility. They have not gone down to the absurdity of the US Fox News channel (at least not yet), but the slant these two have to being essentially pro-PAP is plain to see.

So as we wind down SG50 and gear up for General Elections 2015, remember, Singapore@200 is just FOUR years away and there are no general elections to fight then.

A special moment in time

It is sad that Achan (dad in Malayalam) is not around to watch and take part in the festivities around Singapore’s 50th National Day. I *know* instinctively how excited he would have been. He was a fan of pomp and pageantry although he, to the best of my knowledge, did not take part in any National Day parades.

Achan came to Singapore towards the close of the Pacific War (Second World War). He was with the British Indian Army and was stationed in Burma before being relocated to Singapore. When the war was over, he was discharged from the Army and choose to stay on in Singapore. That’s the start of our family in Singapore.

For some reason, Achan never really talked about his time during the war excepts for snippets here and there. He was not in the frontline dodging bullets, but because of his eyesight not being too good and he having learned shorthand and type-writing, was deployed as an admin clerk with whoever was the commander.

He shared with me once about how he was able to keep records of instructions and dispatches to the front line because those had to be typed and needed copies to be made at the same time. Those were done using carbon paper sandwiched between blank papers. When he had to type out orders – critical ones I assume – he’d use fresh carbon paper so that he could keep it and not reuse it. He therefore had a copy of what was sent out – in the carbon paper! I did ask him whatever happened to them and if he had it with him. “No”, was the answer. Never did press him though.

Front cover of Achan’s passport. Issued by the British for citizens of the Colony of Singapore.achan-passport-2Inside of Achan’s passport

Achan married Amma in 1957 and a few years later, I was born. I was born a few months after Singapore was granted self rule in May 1959. Achan was, from a citizenship perspective, a “British Subject, Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies”.My birth certificate states that Achan was a “Citizen of United Kingdom and Colonies” and going by convention of the child’s citizenship following the father, I too was a citizen of the UK and Colonies.

Just before my fourth birthday, Singapore joined Malaysia as a state, after from all accounts a one-sided referendum. That union made the Pillays Malaysian citizens.

The main thing I remember while we were Malaysians was that Indonesia wasn’t happy with the Federation of Malaysia which included Peninsular Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and British North Borneo (Sabah). The Indonesians launched attacks on Singapore and Malaysia (called Konfrontasi).

I remember one evening, Achan came back home early. We were living in Puay Hee Avenue (somewhere near the corner of Puay Hee Avenue and Siang Kuang Avenue in Senette Estate) –

Screenshot from 2015-08-10 14-52-58
Google Street View

This is from Google Maps and those houses there today were not the ones then. It was a single storey detached house with a driveway and a garden etc.

On the day he came home early, he brought my sister and myself on my tricycle to go look at a crater in the road near our house which was done by a bomb planted by the Indonesian army. The following quote makes reference to that:

On 9 December 1963, a bomb went off under a car along Jalan Wangi, Sennett Estate, killing two shopkeepers.

Another memory was him coming home early and saying that he had to walk all the way home from his office in High Street because there was no public transport which all were shut down because of riots.

I remember asking him a few days later if he knew when the next riots would be so that he could come home earlier to play with me!

One other memory I have from that period was going with Achan and Amma (and I think my baby sister came along with us as well) to check out a new house. Achan had in his possession a bunch of keys to apartments in Queenstown and he was told to go check them out and choose one. Imagine that.

I recall us arriving at Commonwealth Drive and then trying to locate the various units. The blocks along Commonwealth Crescent did not have block numbers (yet) and there was no easy way to figure out the addresses. I remember having to walk from block to block looking for the units for which Achan had the keys. We finally settled on 260D, Commonwealth Crescent. And sometime in 1964, we moved out of Puay Hee Avenue to our new HDB 3-room apartment in Commonwealth Crescent, Queenstown.

After being part of Malaysia leading to the Indonesian military confrontation and bitter dispute between the Singaporean state and Malaysian federal governments, Singapore and Malaysia mutually agreed to separate (yes, not kicked out) on August 9th 1965.

And overnight we Pillays became Citizens of Singapore. I changed citizenship three times before I was six years old.

I don’t recall the day when we left Malaysia. The only memory I have is someone saying, sometime later, that we now have to get a passport to go to Johore Bahru (as it was spelled then). How bizarre. Passport – not that I knew what that was!

Finally, I was a Singapore citizen. Not by choice, but by happy circumstance.

There was a time back when I was in primary six (1971), when the registration for the Identity Card was being undertaken in school. I recall Achan not being too keen for me to get my IC, because that meant that I’d have to do National Service which was introduced in 1967. For someone who served during wartime, I guess he was apprehensive with anything to do with the military. Probably explains why he was never much to discuss his time during the war.

So, fast forward many years, to 2015 and here we are the day after Singapore’s 50th National Day enjoying the hardwork of generations of Singaporeans to make newsfeed-big-logothis place home. Achan left us in 2007 and I am sure if he was here, he would have relished every moment, just as we continue to do.

It is a special moment in time. As my younger son was remarking yesterday as we made our way down to the Marina Bay to watch the fireworks, “this is the ideal time to wreak havoc in Singapore. All the people gathering around. The crowds. All you need is some crackpot to blow something up.” And it did not happen. We don’t have a locked-down state. We have a free country (granted we can have more freedoms).

As we look forward to the next 50 years to SG100 (when the boys would be 67 and 65 respectively!!), what kind of a country would it be? Can I help make it what it should be by working with the next generation NOW to make it happen? I shall leave that as subject of another post.

Majulah Singapura!

Completely missing the point about silly mobile “data plans”

I have on my cell phone a “plan” that gives me 50G of mobile data. When I first got the data plan back in 2006 or so, I think the telco provided I believe 2G as part of a “contract”. Then they unilaterally increased it to 5G and then to 10G and by about the end of 2007 to 50G. Pretty good I’ d say. In addition to that service on my cell phone, I got another one with data-only which also was upped to 50G. For the data-only plan, it costs me $25.14 per month.

mobYes, I don’t seem to be using much of it. Same for my cell phone data plan. But for me the 50G is important as there are times that I use both of them as mobile hotspots and I don’t want to even bat an eyelid on using it.

Then the telcos stopped giving these large data plans and started to offer tiered plans on 1G, 2G, 3G etc. And priced it differently as well. And some of them were “nice” enough to not put on a large price differential when you exceed your plan.

All of this was done on the lamest of excuse “network congestion”. That lie has been repeated over and over again that it is becoming really annoying especially when you start seeing Yahoo etc carrying commentary about why it makes sense to have data caps. And especially when this commentary makes statements like:

(And no, it’s not because they just wanted to fill their pockets.)

(yes it is)

Unlimited Data Means Network Congestion

Let’s do a simple networking 101.

All data traffic goes via TCP/IP packets. It is called packets because your data stream to and from your device is broken into data packets and sent. The TCP protocol ensures that the packets will arrive at the destination reliably with no data loss. These packets are all sent over the data channel from the device to and from the cell phone base station and onwards to the end point where ever it is.

Congestion happens when there is insufficient capacity to accept the packets coming in. Congestion has ZERO bearing on the “data plan” of the subscriber. Zero. Zilch. Nada. If there are ten people with five of them on a 2G plan and the other 5 on a 50G plan (like mine), and all ten are connected to the same base station, each of them will have the exact same speed to connect between the base station and the device assuming that the base station can handle ten SIMULTANEOUS connections and has enough BUFFERS to manage the data packets.

Congestion results when there are insufficient slots for simultaneous connections and/or the buffers are full. The data plan has nothing to do here.

Hence, when telcos say that their network is congested, it is because they have failed to provision enough capacity and is NOT and NEVER because of whatever data plan they sold.

End of networking 101.

Tiered Data Plans Weed Out Data Hoggers

Where does the author even get that notion? BS!

I have not been on a “contract” with the telco ever since my “contract” expired years ago. They’ve tried many times to entice me to sign up with a contract (ooh, you can get this new shiny phone at this *wonderful* price. yada, yada, yada). But that would have meant that I will loose my 50G data – essentially unlimited from my point of view. Thank you, but no thank you.

I do look forward to MyRepublic launching their unlimited mobile data plan. I am already using their 1G (speed not data) fibre to the home service and I am so far rather pleased with it. They were the first to offer 1G fibre and now all of the other providers have followed suit. I guess, when MyRepublic rolls out the unlimited mobile data plan, the other will do their “me-too” dance.

Perhaps for clarity, people need to understand that a “data plan” is not the same as the “speed of connection”. The mobile broadband system has connections are different speeds (3G, 4G, LTE etc). Regardless of your connection speed, the data traffic is still done using TCP/IP and congestion is all about capacity to connect and not the “data plan”.

The rain on the parade made it meaningful

source unknown. please contact me to give appropriate credit.
source unknown. please contact me to give appropriate credit.

Thank you, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. You gave your whole life to this country of ours. My parents, my siblings, my family and all of my extended family count our blessings for the gumption you lived with to make this place work.

You have set the benchmark. It is for us to measure up to it and extend it further. No half measures will do.

Even though I disagree with some the means you deployed for the ends you wanted for Singapore, I think we can do better. We have to have closure as a nation on the aspects of our last 50 years that need to be addressed and reconciled with.

I would call for the setting up of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission, not unlike what was done in South Africa by President Nelson Mandela. We owe it to ourselves and to the legacy you’ve left behind to make sure that any and all blemishes are addressed and as President Clinton said “being on the level”.

Today, March 29 2015, we said farewell to you, Mr Lee. The heavens poured like no tomorrow. Literally. It rained on the solemn parade but that made it very poignant and meaningful. The skies cleared when Singapore said the final farewell as we recited the Pledge and sang Majulah Singapura.

Yes, we can make the next fifty years even more amazing and make this paradise of ours that much better.

Majulah Singapura.

Congratulations, Howie!

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to contest for the post of the president of the Singapore Computer Society at the AGM on Thusday March 26 and the meeting decided to vote in Howie Lau as the next SCS president.  My sincere and heartfelt congratulations go to him. If asked, I will be more than happy to serve in his committee this coming year.

My concerns for the SCS still remain.  As noted in my blog post, I would want to see the SCS find ways to maximize the asset we have (the SCS Resource Centre) in a way that we can then increase our cash and there by not have to increase membership fees but more importantly find ways to increase our activities to make this society people aspire to belong to.

The SCS has to be relevant to a whole new class of members. As I noted in my blog, we need dreamers, makers, shakers and doers. We should be pleased to have people rushing to join us and help with the overall growth in depth and influence of the IT sector in Singapore. Heck, I’d even thrown in the newfangled acronym, ICM (Info Comm and Media), although I feel not entirely convinced about the M part.

I’d like to see the establishment of a Fellow’s Council, which will be the brain trust of the SCS to whom we can solicit ideas, mentorship etc for the Society and Singapore at large.

I’d like to record my thanks to Chak for leading the SCS over the last three years. It has been a pleasure working with you and look forward to more opportunities to do the same especially in the area of displaced IT professionals.

In the meantime, congratulations Howie, more than happy to serve in your council.


This was penned by my sister, Srila.

It is Nineteen Seventy-five

Thirteen years of age

Be aware of the world around you

Says Dad, bless his soul

So I begin to notice politics

LKY, Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam

Devan Nair, Hon Sui Sen, Othman Wok,

many others working as a team

Setting up systems, solving problems

Creating a nation where there was none

Creating opportunities within and without

in a world where size mattered

They had all the answers to all problems

Integrity, education, work ethics, quality

If the fundamentals are right, they showed us

The money will come.

They were right. It did and quickly.

The people, my Dad, and me – were sold.

This was Home, truly.

Why were there these other men then,

Jeyaratnam, Francis Seow, Chiam See Tong

And a few others, often lone voices

Challenging status quo, touting other points of view

at great risk to themselves

Pre-Internet, pre-Facebook, pre-twitter

It was hard to know if they spoke for the one

Or for the many,

for mainstream media never helped

Men who, once the opposition path chosen,

Could not stop or turn back easily

Lives spent standing up for an alternative path

Hits and humiliation taken

for the people, for Dad and for me.

Is it possible for a nation to be built by one man

Or is it many hands made up of different fingers

Moving in the same direction?

Nineteen Seventy-five, politically curious.

How interesting, a crisis in Australia

Whitlam, a giant, good looking man

Sacked by his boss and

Fraser, installed in his place

Would I have foreseen then

Thirty years almost to the day

That the fruits of policies they set in motion

Would see me call Australia home too?

A fair go, mateship, regardless of colour or creed,

work hard, play hard, welcome to our far corner

Bombarded with exciting new ways of thinking

Challenging ideas, differing views, exhilarating debates

So many new opportunities for a new migrant

Made possible by men I only knew by name

In Nineteen Seventy-five.

Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Lee Kuan Yew

Pass away within six months of each other.

Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam, Devan Nair, Jeyaratnam,

And others, pre-deceased.

Millions like me, in both my homes, have what we have

Because of leaders who were good men.

Good leaders are often controversial,

Both in life and in death

But that they were good men, like Dad, who did their best

Will stand the test of time.

Charting the future of the Singapore Computer Society

As some of you might know, I am a Fellow of the Singapore Computer Society. That honour was conferred on me in 2009 for my contributions to the IT profession as well as to the SCS. It’s humbling to have that recognition – the SCS is, after all, my professional body.

Which brings me to this: I have thrown in my hat to run for the office of the President of the Singapore Computer Society. The elections will be held on Thursday March 26 2015.

This year, the position will be contested by two persons, Howie Lau and myself. Howie is a great stalwart of the SCS and it is a privilege to have had many delightful opportunities to work with him in the SCS executive council over the years.

I am using this post to place on record my vision for the Singapore Computer Society so that members who would be at the AGM will be able to vote based on who they deem is the best person whose vision resonates with the membership.

Harish Pillay, Fellow SCS

Candidate for President, Singapore Computer Society

Statement from Candidate:

The Singapore Computer Society was founded in 1967 and come 2017, will be marking 50 years of serving Singapore’s IT professionals. It is time to look forward to the next half-century and beyond.

The IT world has changed dramatically since SCS’ founding. Back then computers were large systems owned and operated by a select group of businesses and government. In the intervening years, computers have become ubiquitous. It is everywhere we look.

Over the years, the SCS has recognized that membership of the SCS has to keep up with the changes in the industry as well as keeping the professional current and relevant.

We have a total of just over 30,000 members which includes about 8,000 professional (and membership fee paying) at it’s core, and the rest student members from the various institutions of higher learning in Singapore.

Looking into the future, the SCS needs bold and fresh ideas to engage, enthuse and attract members who identify and live the goals and mission of the Singapore Computer Society. Our member demography has to be as wide as possible especially with the growing groups of tech entrepreneurs. Their energy, enthusiasm and drive will help the SCS be a thriving and relevant organization.

The SCS needs makers, dreamers and artists in addition to suits and ties. The SCS has to be relevant to them as their professional organization that they choose to belong to.

As president of the SCS, here are some of the action items I would want to run with:

a) Recognizing that the chapters and special interest groups form the base rock of the SCS, to make sure that they continue to be relevant to the membership and to review their structure and activities to revitalize them to engage strongly across the membership.

b) Rationalize the use of Infopier’s asset to further the ideals of the Society.

c) Ensure that the Society has a strong voice in issues relating to copyright and patents especially those around software and make representations as needed. Technology, largely driven by computers, are dramatically changing many aspects of society and being plugged into and being cognizant of issues that impact members are very important (including the ongoing Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations).

d) Review the SCS Resource Center’s charter/usage to maximize the revenue potential. No, this is not a suggestion to sell, but a suggestion to look at doing good with it.

e) Establish a Fellow’s Council which will include all Fellows of the SCS. It will be constituent body of the SCS that offers mentorship, guidance and general support to SCS and its membership.

f) Review the use of proxy votes in AGMs/EGMs. A member acting as a proxy should not represent more than 20 members at these meetings (there are no limits currently). In addition, the SCS must explore and implement an electronic voting system similar to what the IEEE does.

My credentials:
2013: Distinguished Partner, SPRING Singapore, for contributions to IT Standards Committee (ITSC.org.sg) and promotion of software programming in Singapore.
2009: SCS Fellow for contributions to the Society and the local ICT Industry
2005: Inducted into Council of Outstanding Early Career Engineers, College of Engineering, Oregon State University for contributions to the computer/electrical engineering profession.
2005: I was Deputy Commander of Ops Lion Heart of the Singapore Civil Defence Force Search and Rescue Team and was deployed in Banda Aceh following the Indian Ocean Tsunami.

I received my BSCS and MSEE both from Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA in 1988 and 1990 respectively.

My relationship with the SCS started in 1991. I was then the Chairman of the BBS SIG, which got renamed the Internet SIG.

In the 2000s, I got elected into the SCS executive committee. In the SCS ExCo, I have held various portfolios such as the Editor of publication “IT Society”, Chairman of Community Outreach, Advisor to the Wireless Chapter, member of Thought Leadership Panel etc.

A little known factoid is that I personally manage the scs.org.sg email domain and mail forwarding for the Society’s members. In many ways it is tech therapy for me as doing it keeps the skills alive and is my on-going contribution to my professional society.

In  1993 I founded the Linux Users’ Group (Singapore). In 1996, I organized  the inaugural APRICOT (Asia Pacific Regional Internet Conference on  Operational Technologies) which is a regional, week long event that trains and engages with technical and policy community around all things about  the Internet. SCS was the host of APRICOT 1996 and 1999. APRICOT continues to be held annually around the Asia Pacific region.

I am the current president of the Internet Society Singapore Chapter and my two year term ends in August 2015.

I am currently working at Red Hat Asia Pacific heading up a global group that engages with the worldwide free and open source community of developers and hackers as well as working on public policy around technology in governments around the Asia Pacific region. I have been with Red Hat for about 13 years now holding various technology, sales and consulting roles. Previous to Red Hat, I had three start ups all in the technology and application services space.

I am married and my wife and I have two teenaged sons.

Congratulations Class of 2014 Republic Polytechnic

I am honoured to be invited to be the guest of honour and speaker at this year’s graduation at the Republic Polytechnic (http://www.rp.edu.sg/grad/home/Eventdetails.aspx?id=571).

Here’s my speech:

Mr Yeo Li Pheow, Principal and CEO of Republic Polytechnic,
Faculty, Facilitators and staff of Republic Polytechnic
Distinguished Guests
Friends and Family of Graduands
Graduating Class of 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning

Today, we witness the graduation of 330 students from courses in the Diploma in Information Technology and Diploma in Interactive and Digital Media.

Graduation or commencement speakers are usually requested to offer wisdom, insights and advise to new graduands such as yourself.

I find that somewhat unfair.

Unfair because the world you are going to experience will be as different from the world I experienced when I graduated almost three decades ago. That being said, there are some unchanging traits that transcend generations.

Now, let me start with a story.

I am sure you would have seen the video of how a dog somehow found itself on a busy highway. Unluckily for the dog, it gets knocked down.


Miraculously, another dog appears and somehow manages to get to the injured dog and ever so slowly nudges and drags the injured dog to the road side.

Eventually some humans arrive and provides help and we are told that the story ended happily in that the injured dog survived.

Animals exhibit traits that we humans label as compassion, exhibiting ethics and showing integrity.

I will pick on the latter two traits as the advice I would like to offer you today – ethics and integrity.

We understand ethics inately. We know when something is not done ethically.

Why should the graduating class of 2014 be concerned with ethics? In one word, “Life”. Life is chock full of twists and turns. And during some of these twists and turns, you will be faced with decision points where you may have to make ethical judgements.

The other trait is that of integrity. Integrity is a tough master. Integrity takes a long time to build. But once your integrity is lost, it is very hard to recover. Loosing your integrity can be likened to loosing your arm.

Yes, you can certainly get a super snazzy 3D printed prosthetic, but it is never the same.

Compromise your ethics or your integrity, you might end up never recovering from it.  That loss is a very high price to pay.

Both ethics and integrity should be used as guiding principles in all that you do; we do.

And here’s a tip: if you are ever in doubt, always, ALWAYS err on the side of ethics and integrity even if it disadvantages you. You cannot go wrong.

Let me tell you a second story.

When I was nine years old (it was in the 20th century, a long time ago nonetheless), I remember being at home watching TV. I was watching on our super duper black and white TV (no colour tv, no HD no cable, nothing), the footage of Neil Armstrong climbing ever so clumsily down the lunar lander and stepping on to the surface of the Moon.

I was mesmerized.

There it was, a human walking on the surface of the celestial body closest to our planet. Heck, if I looked carefully at the moon, I am sure I could have spotted him.


I knew then what I wanted to do: I wanted to be an astronaut. I too wanted to go to space and to the moon.

I still do.

The closest I’ve been to the moon is only 12km from the surface of Earth which leaves me another 369,765km to go.

Living in Singapore meant that becoming an astronaut was going to be tricky. We did not, and for all I know we still do not, have a space program to send someone to the moon.

I figured that if I can’t be an astronaut, I should do the next best thing and be an aerospace engineer – after all it had the word space in it.

Bang! Stumbing block number two. Singapore, then, did not have any program around aerospace engineering.

Fine, the next closest option then was to do electrical engineering. That was a wonderful twist – for doing electrical engineering in the 1980s gave me an opportunity to work on what was then called the ARPAnet which we call the Internet, today.

That brings me to my third story.

One fine Spring afternoon in 1986 (way before all of you were born), I was exploring the ARPAnet from the cold comfort of the EE lab in Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon.

At the Tektronix terminal I was seated in front of, I typed in:

    ftp ftp.funet.fi

The system responded with “Connected to ftp.funet.fi”.

Connected? I am now connected to a system in Finland while I am still in my lab in the US!


Big questions started racing through my mind:
 – Who is going to pay for this connection?
 – Am I doing something I should not be?

I quickly disconnected. I felt I made a huge mistake. Should I just act innocent (or for those of you who understand Singlish, “act blur”) and assume nothing happened? Or should I report it and face the music?

It was an ethical issue and my integrity was at stake.

I did what I felt was the right thing and sent a note to the system administrator stating what happened and offered to pay for the mistake.

The reply I got made me smile.

He said not to worry as my school was part of ARPAnet and so connecting to anywhere on the network was just fine and the US Department of Defense (the US equivalent of our Ministry of Defence) is funding the network. He thanked me for being upfront and disclosing what happened.

I was really glad I did the right thing when faced with the ethical and integrity dilemma.

Fast forward a few years into the 1990s and one of the constant themes for me was that I felt much happier when I was able to use my engineering expertise, skills and training to make this world a better place for as many people as possible and to do so ethically and with integrity.

I was fortunate to start two businesses and also to fail spectacularly in them.

Those were trying times and on many ocassions, my ethics was challenged and my integrity could have been compromised.

It was important to me that I kept both my ethics and integrity in tact through those difficult times.

Failure is unforgiving but a heck of a good teacher – provided you are willing to learn. Failure is cruel, but just as a samurai sword not forged in the hottest of forges is brittle and useless, without going through failure, you won’t know your strengths and weaknesses and how best to manage it. Success is sweeter if you failed before.

That brings me to those of you who would be going on to do your National Service. NS would be seen by some as a total waste of time, and by others as the time they went from boys to men. I am with the second sentiment. NS is guaranteed to throw up plenty of learning and trying opportunities and as long as you keep your ethics and integrity in tact, you will do just fine.

Let me quote from someone I am sure some of you would recognize:

     Empty your mind
     Be Formless, shapeless like water
     Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup
     You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle
     You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot
     Now water can flow or it can crash
     Be water, my friend.

“Be water, my friend” said Bruce Lee.

Just as you step out of this institution into life, be water.

As a final thought, as you leave your wonderful alma mater, the Republic Polytechnic, don’t leave with any unfinished business. Get closure with your friends, your acquaintences and your teachers. They were all part of your journey. As you part ways, hug those you can, say sorry to others, thank those you got help from and above all, be excellent to the institution that nurtured you for three years. Strive to be happy.

Thank you and congratulations, class of 2014.


Rest in peace, my friend!

It’s a tough day today.  Got into office and heard that a colleague passed away.

He killed himself.

He killed his only child, his daughter before killing himself.

He lost his wife a few years ago to illness.

I feel upset. I did not see this coming. He was always jovial, friendly, and an overall nice person. Heck, he even joined me on a hash run.

But today, he is gone.

Is there anything I could have done? He never seemed moody or reserved. Always smiling, always friendly.

Goodbye Arvind.

It’s not a contest per se, it’s a Sahana-moment!

So, my 3 am post from January 3rd 2013 is now on http://www.tremeritus.com, probably not a good thing, but then this is the way things move.

For what it’s worth, going by the comments in that post, this is not about scoring points against the Coordinating Chairman or the PAP or the WP.  It is about highlighting the facts in a way that was clearer and not wrapped up in words and more importantly, offering a better way to do things for the betterment of this country.

At the expense of being ridiculed for stating the obvious, all the information and analysis done at 3 am on January 3rd 2013 that is in my original post is from that one media release put out by the Coordinating Chairman on January 2, 2013.

There is confusion about what the various issues which sadly are related albeit tangentially.

Let me try to give a map of the issues that are being looked at.

a) The Ministry of National Development put out a  Town Council Management Report for 2012 on December 14, 2012. Of the 15 town councils, all except for the Aljunied Hougang Town Council scored green in S&CC Arrears Management – Examines the extent of Town Councils’ S&CC arrears that residents have to bear.” AHTC is the only non-PAP Town Council.

b) Because of that red score, the question arose as to what happened? To that extent, the AHTC released their comments.

c) It then was known to all of us that there was a company, Action Information Management Pte Ltd, that was providing the IT solutions to the town councils.

d) That was when the issue blew up with regards to who is AIM, why did this company get to do this business, how did they come to own the IT system etc etc.

So, there are two chunks of issues:

1) The poor performance from the Town Council Management Report 2012 perspective of Aljunied Hougang Town Council

2) Who is this AIM and what is their role in all of this?

Both are important issues. I am in no position to comment on the first point.  That is for the AHTC to address to the satisfaction of the residents of AHTC as well as us Singaporeans.

My interest centers in the second point. As a computing professional, having been in this industry since 1982, this interests  me personally. I am also an advocate of using and growing the use of open source technologies especially in the public sector. The Town Councils are public sector organizations. It pains me to see good money being thrown at IT solutions only for the vendor(s) to obsolete it in a relatively short time, and get the customer to pay up again and again. This becomes even more acute with public sector IT spending. It is yours and my tax dollars that get spent wastefully.

Sure, there as a time when the open source solutions and frameworks did not quite provide good alternatives to address the varied IT needs. But that was a long, long time ago. Today open source is so very prevalent in every nook and corner that there is no longer any justifiable reason not to consider open source first for any IT need, especially in government and public sector.

People who know me would have heard the repeating groove that I have become, in that we need, at least in Singapore, an official government policy to do open source FIRST for all public sector IT procurement and for government agencies to file justifications for exemptions if they want to go with a proprietary solution and these exemptions have to be public knowledge.

Why is that needed? It is because monies spent by publicly funded agencies especially in reusable technologies like software, should not be wasted and locked away in some proprietary solution.

I am not proposing nor suggesting that open source solutions don’t come at a price. They do. They will need to be supported (as any software needs to, open or otherwise). But the huge upside when used in the public sector is that the solution can be worked on and enhanced and re-factored by entities that the public sector organizations could engage. This grows the local, domestic IT sector. It grows it in a way that benefits the local econoomy and SMEs who then get opportunities to become conversant in domains that otherwise will be hard to get into. With the code being open, anyone can contribute, but, and this is the part most people miss out, you STILL NEED commercially contracted support. 

This opens up opportunities to SMEs in Singapore to take up the various solutions to manage and maintain and gain expertise and in the process begin expanding outside Singapore as well.

Eight years ago, as a reservist SCDF officer, I was mobilized to support SCDF’s Ops Lion Heart to help with Search and Rescue after the 2004 Boxing Day Indian Ocean tsunami. My country called me to serve at a time of need and I put on my uniform and was on the ground in Banda Aceh for about two weeks.

The lessons I learned then was that in a disaster situation, the various international agencies and military/civil defense forces on the ground had very little common technology (other than walkie talkies) that could be used to coordinate the work. We, the SCDF, had our comms equipment (we had a Immarsat vsat satellite and satellite phones and GPS devices) but other than that, nothing else to interface with the other forces on the ground. Why? Because each of those entities had their own proprietary software tools to work with. At a time when there was a massive natural disaster, as rescuers we were not assisted by the technologies because of vendor lock-in.

Out of that disaster, came Project Sahana –  put together by Sri Lankan open source developers. Sahana is now a UN sanctioned tool for disaster management.

Why do I bring this up? Because it seems that we are heading to a Sahana-moment in Singapore. Public sector IT services should be decoupled from political parties.  Public sector IT solutions must open up the source code so that there are no opportunities for being taken for a ride.

So, to draw back to the beginning. Mr Coordinating Chairman, this is not a contest per se. This is a genuine offer to help us, the collective us, to do the Right Thing

Thank you, Mr Lee!

As the date to the dissolution of the current parliament looms paving way for the parliamentary elections, I would like to thank Mr Lee Kuan Yew for the years of service he has given to this country.  He and his team comprising Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaretnam, Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr Hon Sui Sen, Mr Lim Kim San, Mr Edward Barker and Mr Othman Wok helped steer this country from the late ’50s through to the ’80s and set this nation on a path to be viable and successful.

All of Mr Lee’s team mentioned above, have stood down and paved the way for the next generation to take helm. The nation is waiting for you, Mr Lee.

Your place in history is assured.  You have helped along by writing part of the history yourself with your books so that part is done. I think the nation will both applaud you for that and even honour you by naming some institution (already done – Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), or some road – perhaps Oxley Road as Lee Kuan Yew Boulevard.

But all jokes aside, this is the best time for you to retire. Your pension is guaranteed. Your place in history is guaranteed. You can now sit back and watch how this country you and your team helped shape beginning to finally flourish and excel. The evolution of the political process, the energized population who will be able to finally be counted as Singaporeans cannot but help push this nation forward.

On that happy note, thank you.  Here’s to a happy and fun retirement!

Virtualization and the Internet

I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of network operators as part of the South Asian Network Operators Group conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from Jan 11-18, 2011. The topic I spoke on was entitled “Virtualization and the Internet”.

2010 in review

[Personal note: I moved to wordpress.com from livejournal.com because I was rather disappointed with the lack of community around livejournal.com’s code.  It not being open source did add to my decision to move. I did get to move out all of my posted on harishpillay.livejournal.com with the help of wordpress.com’s techies because my initial attempt failed. So, kudos to them.]

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 23 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 659 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 106kb.

The busiest day of the year was October 11th with 276 views. The most popular post that day was Rescuing a SCO OpenServer 5.0.5 machine to run in a VM on RHEL5.4.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were planet.fedoraproject.org, twitter.com, facebook.com, Google Reader, and rdist.root.org.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for starhub leaderboard, starhub toolbar, illegal starhub box, starhub wishfi, and weblink.singapore.wishfi.com.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Rescuing a SCO OpenServer 5.0.5 machine to run in a VM on RHEL5.4 February 2010


StarHub’s illegal code injection October 2010


Automatically connecting to the Wireless@SG hotspots February 2010


More twists and turns November 2010


GPG Keysigning at FOSS.in 2010 December 2010

Interesting stuff this week!

I have the pleasure of attending two interesting events this week – both in India.  

One is FOSS.in in Bangalore from Dec 15th onwards.  This is their 10th year they are running it and I must acknowledge that this is no small feat.  I had myself ran the Singapore Linux Conference in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and it was NOT easy. Perhaps I should look at running SLC again in 2011.  For FOSS.in, I will be engaged with the Fedora community in India and will be running the GPG Keysigning party.
The other is the National Convention for Academics and Research, to be held in Hyderabad Dec 16-18.  Looking at the sessions, they are all exciting and I am hoping to tap into the open source energy and interest at NCAR.  I am scheduled to speak as well at NCAR and I am hoping that they’ll update the schedule soon.

Brother DCP-135C and Fedora 12

I was disappointed that the Brother DCP-135C is not within the CUPS database. However, kudos to Brother, they do make drivers available on their website.

I have the USB version of the printer/scanner/fax machine and I had to download the drivers from DCP-135C. Pick the 32-bit or 64-bit rpms as needed.

What I did was to download the LPR, cupswrapper drivers, then went to scanner section and downloaded the brscan2 and scan-key-tool rpms.

With the 4 rpms downloaded, I switched to a terminal and:

yum install brscan2-0.2.5-1.i386.rpm brscan-skey-0.2.1-3.i386.rpm \
  dcp135ccupswrapper-1.0.1-1.i386.rpm dcp135clpr-1.0.1-1.i386.rpm --nogpgcheck

I hope Brother will set up a proper repo so that these can be done automatically!

Temporary fix to run Chromium in Fedora 12

Filed in BZ: https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=550651

Just updated Chromium via Spot’s page using yum update for Fedora 12. SELinux permission issues on three libraries. Need to grant permission to SELinux to run the following:

chcon -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/chromium-browser/libmedia.so' 
chcon -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/chromium-browser/libnacl.so' 
chcon -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/chromium-browser/libsandbox.so'
#to make the change permanent 
semanage fcontext -a -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/chromium-browser/libmedia.so' 
semanage fcontext -a -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/chromium-browser/libnacl.so' 
semanage fcontext -a -t textrel_shlib_t '/usr/lib/chromium-browser/libsandbox.so'

Put those 6 lines above in a script, run it and chromium should work there after.

BTW, Chromium was from:

name=Chromium Test Packages

Digital Restrictions Mismanagement or in Microsoft-speak RMS Restriction Mismgt System

Why would anyone continue to put any more credibility with the entire Digital Restrictions (mis)Management that our Redmond friends continue to implement in their software? DRM is bad enough, being locked out of your own files is completely unacceptable. Does this warrant a class action suit? I don’t know for I am a happy user of OpenOffice.org which does not have any of these abominations.

I like the following comment on /.. I think it is 100% spot on.

Deviant Linux? Normal Microsoft computer?

This was on a mailing list and thought I should publish it here for posterity.

(Tech Support | California, USA)

Caller: "I need to report a very serious computer crime! The local university
is running an illegal computer system!"

Me: "Could you please repeat that"

Caller: "The local university is running an illegal computer system! They've
hacked it!"

Me: "How could you tell they'd hacked it"

Caller: "Well, when it booted, it didn???t say Windows or Microsoft or
anything! It said something about Deviant Linux, I think, and the main
screen looked nothing like my good, legal Windows screen at home!
I think they hacked that, too!"

Me: "Do you mean Debian Linux"

Caller: "Yes, that! Is it some sort of computer mafia or something"

Me: "Uh, no, it's just a different operating system. Nothing to worry about."

Caller: "But it's illegal! It's not Microsoft, not even Windows! They're on a
normal Microsoft computer, so they're breaking the law! I think they stole
my identity when I came in the building! I'm calling the FBI!" *hangs up*

The Singapore Dilemma

So, the PSLE results came out today, November 26 2009. My son did well (got 3As and an A*) and his “aggregate” is 241. Next step is to apply for secondary one. In a way, the system is freer now compared to when I did my PSLE 38 years ago. He has a much wider range of options but there are some Singaporean idiocyncracies in it. FWIW, he did very well for his second language Malay, getting an A for it. Considering that my Malay was all from National Language which was from my primary and secondary school days, and we don’t speak anything other than English at home, I am really, really pleased to see him do very well in it. Full credit goes to his school Malay teacher, his Malay tuition teacher and his daily reading of the dead-tree edition of Berita Harian.

Last week or so, Lee Kuan Yew apparently acknowledged the mistake of his ways in insisting on a second language as an important subject. There are more to it that just this admission of mistake.

Firstly, the schools use the term “Mother Tongue” when referring to second language. This is a not too subtle spinning done by the PAP-led government to subconsciously suggest that the second language done in school is the child’s “mother tongue”. Of the four official languages in Singapore, historically, only Malay and Tamil are indeed the mother tongues of those who are Malay and Tamil. To every one else, the four official languages are technically non-mother tongues. But the clever use of “mother tongue” helps to imply to the Chinese Singaporean, the Malay Singaporean and the Indian Singaporean, that Mandarin, Malay and Tamil are their respective mother tongues. It is not and never has been. Clever PAPesque wording but stupid social engineering.

Keeping that in mind, let’s consider the plight of a Singaporean child going through school. She has to do a 2nd language compulsorily. Compare that with a foreign child attending the same school who is exempted. Who do you think would do better overall – given that no time and energy is spent on a subject with weightage that is not needed? Is it then a surprise to read enough stories of Singaporeans who uproot and move to Australia (mainly) and citing that the 2nd language policy is the push that made them leave? How many good people did we loose as a result of one man’s flawed reasoning? Singapore invites people from all over to settle on her shores and contribue to the economy, culture and the arts. But these newbies are not burdened with the mandatory 2nd language albatross.

Earlier this year, at a secondary school open house, I asked if students who join the school next year can choose to continue or discontinue the second language? The reply was that “so long as Minister Mentor is in the cabinet, it will continue to be a requirement to do 2nd language” – not the exact words, but the winks, nods and smiles implied it and I choose to put those words in their mouths.

The exam system has been gamed by those who can answer questions in the way that the graders cannot but pass and whether or not the child has any learning per se, is hard to determine. Looking at my son’s primary six science and english language text books, the contents of the books were so superficial that it is no surprise that the teacher did not even use it the whole year.

All is not rosy. Too many mistakes are in the system and political leadership is called for. Not sure if Lee Hsien Loong can rise to it, not sure if Ng Eng Hen (the education minister) cares, but we need to fix the problems. We are loosing (and have lost) good people due to stupidity on the part of the policy makers aka politicians from the PAP.

Fedora 12 launch at Singapore Polytechnic

Happy to have helped with the launch of Fedora 12 at the Singapore Polytechnic. It was a lunch and learn affair and we had about 120 or students in attendance – including about 10-20 faculty. Nice to see the interest. Good questions were asked: does it have AutoCad? How about PhotoShop? What about drivers? Was able to show them Fedora Electronics Lab and scribus and inkscape. Good interest and good feedback. Hopefully some will sign up as Fedora Ambassadors.

Acer Aspire One D250, Fedora and Android

My Mom was asking me for a small laptop for her to use and I figured that the best thing would be to get a netbook. With my sons and nephew in tow, we trooped down to VivoCity to see what’s on offer. Best Denki was the first stop and nothing that caught my eye. I had with me, my USB drive that runs F11 so I can test out the machines before I buy them. Better than using a live CD because not all the systems have CD drives.

Then we moved to Challenger and I was pleasantly surprised to see on offer the Acer Aspire One D250 preinstalled with Andriod and the some other OS version 7. I promptly, with a puzzled sales person overseeing me, plugged in my USB drive and booted the machine. Fedora 11 came up sprightly and the built-in camera, audio, wifi, bluetooth, 3 USB ports, ethernet and SD card reader all were detected and configured.

I did check out the set on display and the Android is a customized edition. The challenger sales person asked me if I wanted to “set up the machine”. I asked him why and he said that the Other OS is pre-loaded, but not configured. I said that doing a configuration would mean I have to agree to use that Other OS which I am not prepared to and that I am really interested in the Android and Fedora as the two OSes. He was not much of a help because “you are trying to run a freeware from your storage USB drive?”. I told him that, like Android, I am running another Linux distribution, called Fedora and that I would not need any other OS – especially the Other OS in the machine.

It appears that I can default the machine to boot from Android but I will first have to “set up” via the Other OS, which I might just do, so that I can get this machine to Mom.

Here are the specs of the machine (from lspci -vv):

00:00.0 Host bridge: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GME Express Memory Controller Hub (rev 03)
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O- Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort+ SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: agpgart-intel

00:02.0 VGA compatible controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GME Express Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 03) (prog-if 00 [VGA controller])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 16
	Region 0: Memory at 58280000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=512K]
	Region 1: I/O ports at 60f0 [size=8]
	Region 2: Memory at 40000000 (32-bit, prefetchable) [size=256M]
	Region 3: Memory at 58300000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256K]
	Expansion ROM at unassigned [disabled]
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: i915
	Kernel modules: i915

00:02.1 Display controller: Intel Corporation Mobile 945GM/GMS/GME, 943/940GML Express Integrated Graphics Controller (rev 03)
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Region 0: Memory at 58200000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=512K]
	Capabilities: access denied

00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) High Definition Audio Controller (rev 02)
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O- Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 16
	Region 0: Memory at 58340000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=16K]
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: HDA Intel
	Kernel modules: snd-hda-intel

00:1c.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 1 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Bus: primary=00, secondary=01, subordinate=01, sec-latency=0
	I/O behind bridge: 00005000-00005fff
	Memory behind bridge: 57100000-581fffff
	Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 0000000050000000-0000000050ffffff
	Secondary status: 66MHz- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR-
	BridgeCtl: Parity- SERR- NoISA- VGA- MAbort- Reset- FastB2B-
		PriDiscTmr- SecDiscTmr- DiscTmrStat- DiscTmrSERREn-
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: pcieport-driver

00:1c.1 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 2 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Bus: primary=00, secondary=02, subordinate=02, sec-latency=0
	I/O behind bridge: 00004000-00004fff
	Memory behind bridge: 56100000-570fffff
	Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 0000000051000000-0000000051ffffff
	Secondary status: 66MHz- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR-
	BridgeCtl: Parity- SERR- NoISA- VGA- MAbort- Reset- FastB2B-
		PriDiscTmr- SecDiscTmr- DiscTmrStat- DiscTmrSERREn-
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: pcieport-driver

00:1c.2 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 3 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Bus: primary=00, secondary=03, subordinate=03, sec-latency=0
	I/O behind bridge: 00002000-00003fff
	Memory behind bridge: 55000000-560fffff
	Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 0000000052000000-0000000052ffffff
	Secondary status: 66MHz- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR-
	BridgeCtl: Parity- SERR- NoISA- VGA- MAbort- Reset- FastB2B-
		PriDiscTmr- SecDiscTmr- DiscTmrStat- DiscTmrSERREn-
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: pcieport-driver

00:1c.3 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) PCI Express Port 4 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [Normal decode])
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Bus: primary=00, secondary=04, subordinate=04, sec-latency=0
	I/O behind bridge: 00001000-00001fff
	Memory behind bridge: 54000000-54ffffff
	Prefetchable memory behind bridge: 0000000053000000-0000000053ffffff
	Secondary status: 66MHz- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR-
	BridgeCtl: Parity- SERR- NoISA- VGA- MAbort- Reset- FastB2B-
		PriDiscTmr- SecDiscTmr- DiscTmrStat- DiscTmrSERREn-
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: pcieport-driver

00:1d.0 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #1 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [UHCI])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem- BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap- 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 16
	Region 4: I/O ports at 60a0 [size=32]
	Kernel driver in use: uhci_hcd

00:1d.1 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #2 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [UHCI])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem- BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap- 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin B routed to IRQ 17
	Region 4: I/O ports at 6080 [size=32]
	Kernel driver in use: uhci_hcd

00:1d.2 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #3 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [UHCI])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem- BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap- 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin C routed to IRQ 18
	Region 4: I/O ports at 6060 [size=32]
	Kernel driver in use: uhci_hcd

00:1d.3 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB UHCI Controller #4 (rev 02) (prog-if 00 [UHCI])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem- BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap- 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin D routed to IRQ 19
	Region 4: I/O ports at 6040 [size=32]
	Kernel driver in use: uhci_hcd

00:1d.7 USB Controller: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) USB2 EHCI Controller (rev 02) (prog-if 20 [EHCI])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O- Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 16
	Region 0: Memory at 58344400 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=1K]
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: ehci_hcd

00:1e.0 PCI bridge: Intel Corporation 82801 Mobile PCI Bridge (rev e2) (prog-if 01 [Subtractive decode])
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Bus: primary=00, secondary=05, subordinate=05, sec-latency=32
	Secondary status: 66MHz- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort+ SERR- PERR-
	BridgeCtl: Parity- SERR- NoISA- VGA- MAbort- Reset- FastB2B-
		PriDiscTmr- SecDiscTmr- DiscTmrStat- DiscTmrSERREn-
	Capabilities: access denied

00:1f.0 ISA bridge: Intel Corporation 82801GBM (ICH7-M) LPC Interface Bridge (rev 02)
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel modules: iTCO_wdt, intel-rng

00:1f.2 SATA controller: Intel Corporation 82801GBM/GHM (ICH7 Family) SATA AHCI Controller (rev 02) (prog-if 01 [AHCI 1.0])
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz+ UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin B routed to IRQ 28
	Region 0: I/O ports at 60d8 [size=8]
	Region 1: I/O ports at 60fc [size=4]
	Region 2: I/O ports at 60d0 [size=8]
	Region 3: I/O ports at 60f8 [size=4]
	Region 4: I/O ports at 6020 [size=16]
	Region 5: Memory at 58344000 (32-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=1K]
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: ahci

00:1f.3 SMBus: Intel Corporation 82801G (ICH7 Family) SMBus Controller (rev 02)
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem- BusMaster- SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap- 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B+ ParErr- DEVSEL=medium TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Interrupt: pin B routed to IRQ 17
	Region 4: I/O ports at 6000 [size=32]
	Kernel driver in use: i801_smbus
	Kernel modules: i2c-i801

01:00.0 Network controller: Atheros Communications Inc. AR9285 Wireless Network Adapter (PCI-Express) (rev 01)
	Subsystem: Foxconn International, Inc. Device e016
	Physical Slot: 1
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx-
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0, Cache Line Size: 32 bytes
	Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 16
	Region 0: Memory at 57100000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=64K]
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: ath9k
	Kernel modules: ath9k

03:00.0 Ethernet controller: Attansic Technology Corp. Device 1062 (rev c0)
	Subsystem: Acer Incorporated [ALI] Device 022f
	Control: I/O+ Mem+ BusMaster+ SpecCycle- MemWINV- VGASnoop- ParErr- Stepping- SERR- FastB2B- DisINTx+
	Status: Cap+ 66MHz- UDF- FastB2B- ParErr- DEVSEL=fast TAbort- TAbort- MAbort- SERR- PERR- INTx-
	Latency: 0
	Interrupt: pin A routed to IRQ 29
	Region 0: Memory at 55000000 (64-bit, non-prefetchable) [size=256K]
	Region 2: I/O ports at 2000 [size=128]
	Capabilities: access denied
	Kernel driver in use: atl1c
	Kernel modules: atl1c

This is the fdisk output:

fdisk -l

Disk /dev/sda: 250.0 GB, 250059350016 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 30401 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x7529554a

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1               1        1567    12586896   27  Unknown
/dev/sda2            1568        2090     4200997+   c  W95 FAT32 (LBA)
/dev/sda3   *        2091        2103      104422+   7  HPFS/NTFS
/dev/sda4            2104       30401   227303685    f  W95 Ext'd (LBA)
/dev/sda5            2104       30401   227303653+   7  HPFS/NTFS

The Android partition is /dev/sda2. I have backed up each partition and kept them as a tgz file. The android partition is about 1.3G uncompressed.

I think my next task is to file for a Other OS refund. Looking forward to the fun.

US PTO Fail – approves sudo patent

I truly wonder how the US PTO can even grant US Patent 7,617,530 in the first place. It is not so much that Microsoft got the patent, but the fact that it was approved. Looks like the US PTO is 0wn3d by Microsoft!
Great article at Groklaw on this. Please, someone, anyone, do something to fix the US PTO.

[sballmer@M]$ make sudo
[sballmer@M]$ make patent
[sballmer@M]$ sudo make install DESTDIR=/us/pto

[courtesy of Demosthenes T. Mateo Jr.]

Seeing excitement in the eyes of instructors! – Morning of Day 4 of POSSE.

It was a real delight to see the level of excitement when we did the document creation and editing at the POSSE day 4 session this morning by Karsten Wade aka Quaid all the way from the ether (aka Santa Clara?). The culmination was surely the way Mel showed the screencast she did using Istanbul. Good awesome morning. Lunch was awesome as well and the one dish that got emptied out was otak-otak.

Keeping a portfolio of accomplishments – an epiphany

Mention portfolio to an artist, and she will be only too happy to show off the work she has done. You can then, based on browsing the portfolio’s contents, decide to commission the artist to paint the centerpiece of your home. Looking and assessing paintings, photographs, poems, books, articles and so on is really the only rational way to understand and appreciate the true skill of the artist, photographer, poet, writer and journalist. Doctors, dentists, lawers, engineers have to have their craft and skills certified and constantly updated and revalidated. It is interesting to see that the legal system will fail utterly if the laws, decisions, judgements and so on are all not available to all and sundry to read, listen to and watch. The skills of a surgeon in pieceing together the severed artery is no less a display of amazing skills, but also the fact that it is open to review by peers.

Given that human endeavours have always needed to be peer reviewed and validated, why is that we do not seem to insist that in the case of software developers? Why do computer science schools continue to teach programming in isolation and not as part of the free and open source community? What better way than to read someone else’s good working code to gain a deeper understanding of both the subject matter, but also the art of coding?

Let me pose this question: when you are faced with hiring a newly minted CS major, how would you assess the person’s coding skills? Would you be going by the candidate’s GPA, or the score in a particular course? How about if you are going to hire a new visual artist for making icons, images etc for your product? It is not unexpected to ask the visual artist to provide her portfolio and following an interview or more, the hiring organization is rest assured of the skills. Contrast that with the CS major. If the person has been coding in, say C# or .Net while in school, would that person be maintaining a portfolio of code written? How would one do with these proprietary platforms when these platforms are hidden behind NDAs and such? How would the hiring manager truly assess the skills of the applicant? If, instead, the applicant had been coding in the open source arena, when asked, the applicant need only point to where her code, image, how-tos, etc are kept and let the interviewer figure the quality.

For many years, hiring a developer has been an exercise in blind faith and Russian Roulette. You had to take a risk on some individual coming with the right skills at a level that is of high quality and acceptable performance. You have no way to check other than to ask previous co-workers and perhaps even her manager (and even LinkedIn for that matter) on the quality. Why can’t we look at the code?

This brings me to epiphany that there cannot be any other way to hire a developer other than by checking out her portfolio. If the portfolio is hidden behind a proprietary NDA-wall, it becomes buyer beware for the organization. That itself explains, via conjecture, the enormous waste in software projects – US$1Trillion at last count. Singapore is currently wasting over S$1b on a proprietary implementation of the Standard Operating Environment, but what is S$1b compared with US$1T – a rounding error. But a huge rounding error paid out of tax payers monies.

We have to require all CS students to maintain a repository of code that they wrote while in (and perhaps before school) so that potential employers can make references to that in hiring decisions. QED.

StarHub’s prepaid mobile broadband SIM activation via SMS

This is really a note-to-self because the StarHub website http://www.starhub.com/maxmobileprepaid/selfhelp is horribly broken (aka it needs and works with Internet Exploder only) and I have not been able to use the service since I bought the pre-paid card. How someone can even design and deploy a disaster I cannot fathom.

This StarHub website does not tell me exactly how to activiate the service via SMS and found that the info is buried deep in their manual.

So, for the record this is how it can be done via SMS to 6782:

 2M1H => 2.0 Mbps speed; 1 Hr plan
 2M1D => 2.0 Mbps speed; 1 Day plan
 2M3D => 2.0 Mbps speed; 3 Day plan
 2M5D => 2.0 Mbps speed; 5 Day plan

 7M1H => 7.2 Mbps speed; 1 Hr plan
 7M1D => 7.2 Mbps speed; 1 Day plan
 7M3D => 7.2 Mbps speed; 3 Day plan
 7M5D => 7.2 Mbps speed; 5 Day plan

For the 2Mbps plan, the download speed is 2Mbps, upload 384kbps, while the 7.2Mbps plan has a 7.2Mbps download and 1.9Mbps upload speed.

So, there, no more secrets. Someone, buy StarHub marketing a cluebat!

Setting up the HTC Dream to work with StarHub prepaid broadband

StarHub’s prepaid mobile broadband is annoying to use! Urggh. Appended is the settings that I have to add to the phone before it will work.

Manual Settings
GPRS Settings:

Menu key > Settings > Wireless Controls > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names > select 
Menu key > tap New APN

Name: StarHub GPRS
*APN: shwap (in the event not able to connect to internet pls change it to shppd )


Port: 8080

Username: Leave it blank
Password: Leave it blank
Server: Leave it blank
MMSC: Leave it blank
MMS proxy: Leave it blank
MMS port: Leave it blank

MMC: 525
MNC: 05

APN type: Leave it blank

select Menu key and tap Save

So I was wrong!

In this post done in 2006, I predicted a few things, but the one that is closest to being spot on is how Vista would be banned from deployment (point b). So I was somewhat wrong. It was NOT deployed at all by even Intel. What makes anyone think that yet another “upgrade” of their OS is going to be any different?

Here’s what I predict (yes, it is early for end of year prediction, but hey!):
a) Windows 7 will be yet another spectacular failure (following the path set by Windows ME and Vista) but this time because of how they are pricing the product and the fact that a lot of devices and applications will not run properly.
b) The EU will slap on more punitive damages because of the way MS Europe is trying to hoodwink Europeran users over Windows 7.
c) The Singapore SOExcruciation project that is rolling out Vista (imagine that!), is going to be stuck with a huge upgrade task (which falls on EDS who won the deal). I would not be surprised if there is a security incident just because of the mess.
d) Netbooks will revert to running Linux (Moblin, Fedora, Android) and the Taiwanese vendors will just snub Windows 7.

Run Out Date

Today, October 15, 2009, I complete my obligations to serve my country in the uniformed services. Today, I stand down from the Singapore Civil Defence Force. I was enlisted on January 18, 1978 in the Singapore Police Force, got my commission as an Inspector of Police on October 11, 1978. Spent my two and a half years in the Police Academy and Queenstown Police Station. A lot of amazing experiences – “mati” cases, AWOL, drunken brawls in Holland Village, “mini-turf-club”, anti-vice and anti-drug raids, drunk driving incidents, etc etc etc. RODed from SPF in 1980, did about five years as a reservist Inspector, than transferred to the newly formed Singapore Civil Defence Force in 1985. Did service there, was part of the emergency command center, got trained as a public warning systems officer, participated in a bunch of war-time exercises, then transferred to the MRT shelter company as Company Commander of SC102 (Newton MRT station) in 2002. Was mobilized as a deputy commander of the 1st Contingent of Operation Lion Heart in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and was on the ground in Banda Aceh for ten days. Never expected to ever be mobilized for anything, but when the call came in, I said yes. And today, I stand down. Thanks. It has been fun.

Saving Singapore’s SOE – scrap it!

Isn’t something to read that India could save US$2billion if FOSS is adopted at 50% levels in India. Compare that with the S$1.x billion that has been earmarked and being spent on the Standard Operating Environment (euphamistaically called SOEasy) in Singapore. The migration of the existing Lotus Notes databases to the new fangled MS Sharepoint IS not included in the costs – yet no one in the establishment is spilling the beans. The people who want to do the right thing are being sidelined and or silenced. From all accounts, the top tier of the civil service and the cabinet is shielded from the mess and the waste. The middle management mandarins (aka scholars) are too happy in their “escalator career” that there will not be any ruffling of feathers and change of status quo.

A friend of mine who went to school at Nanyang Technological University recounts a visit of the campus by Old Man Lee who, when seeing students run up a sidewalk wet from rain and slipping and falling, saying to the then NTU president “why are there no covered walkways? I told you to get that it done that last time” – or close to that. Lo and behold, the sidewalks at NTU are now covered. If OM Lee still has to be there to get things done right, perhaps he does deserve to live long. From the grapevine, I hear that the Wireless@SG and the current Next Generation Network projects are all a result of OM Lee being asked by foreigners why Singapore does not have it.

As SOEasy crashes and burns, Singapore’s Ministry of Education does the Right Thing

What a pleasant surprise to read that the Singapore Ministry of Education has signed a deal to deploy Google Apps for use by teachers. This is a huge win that we have to shout out loudly.

I, however, do have one caveat. Reading paragraph one of the press release above it says: “… to adopt an open standard cloud computing platform”. I think it is not right to say that Google Apps is an “open standard cloud computing platform”. Well, not just yet. Not until we have a set of standards that allow people to move from one cloud infrastructure to another. As is, Google Apps is not fully open – yet. Don’t get me wrong – I am thrilled that Google is the provider not someone else. At least Google has a Clue about open standards and open source. At least now schools can just use Open Office and Google Docs interchangeably. No need for any proprietary office tools. I really want to meet the MOE officials who did the Right Thing and buy them a beer!

As I read that MOE went with Google, I was listening to a series of horror stories from the poor “rest of Singapore government officers” who are now burdened with the so-called “SOEasy” standard operating environment roll out. All those in IDA who have been “moved” to the “new easier platform” are now thoroughly annoyed. The play on words “SOEasy” (allegedly to mean “so easy”), is a disaster that we have to have stopped. Tax payers monies are being spent on stuff that reduces the efficiencies of the work process and forces clued-in IDA officers (yes there are some) to have to bring in their personal laptops in order to get work done. I am hearing from some government officials that I should not expect any replies from them via email after 5 pm because they refuse to bring their worthless “locked down Windows laptop” home. If I expect a reply, it will only come during office hours and only if they are in the office. So much for improving efficiencies. A few days ago, I was told by yet another government official that the emails that were on their Lotus Notes system does not automatically get forwarded to the new M$ exchange email server and that they have to cut and paste the mails between the systems. I was also told that the budget for the SOEasy project did not include data migration costs from the Lotus Notes database to M$ sharepoint. Imagine that! I am getting really concerned here because, unlike the NCB of old, the IDA of now is a technologically lost. I think we need to reboot IDA. Would you want to help me?

Yes, I am biased against the other behemoth because, unlike Google, the other behemoth does not have the “do no evil” ethos. The other behemoth only believes in vendor lock-in, even more vendor lock-in and to be kept on the constant upgrade path.

Congratulations, MOE, IDA and Google. The Singapore-Redmond nexus (some say axis of evil) has been cracked. And BTW, left hand MEET right hand!


Eugene says that “Isn’t that from one proprietary platform to another. I don’t see how that’s happy news. Plus, privacy should be another concern.”. I agree with him that it is still a proprietar platform. But the way I see it, you can extract mail out of the Gmail system as well as pulling down all of your documents if you want to. As for security, Google email did have a leak as recently as last week. But I think it has been resolved (although apparently Google took days to do this) and haven’t said why it is the case. Years ago (2000/2001), when I was running Inquisitive Mind (www.iqmind.com – not available anymore), we had a problem with some of our Singapore school customers who were able to see email from other schools. It turned out that the proxy servers run by the MOE were broken (they were MS proxies after all) and they cached all the contents aggressively. We had to put the time stamps in the html to be 01-Jan-1970 and also to add the nocache prama to the html. Painful experience, but that fixed it.

Welcoming to the Right Side of history

I think it is very early to welcome Microsoft to the right side of the history of computing and consumption and creation of software despite their announcement (with major cavaets) of the set up of their CodePlex Foundation. It is therefore interesting to read the headline here that uses the world “glasnost”. The last time Glastnost was a real force for change, we saw the melting away of the USSR and the Eastern Block. Would that be the case here as well? I hope so.

MSFT’s analysis of security

I was asked by @tonynewling for my take on “Vista One Year Vulnerability Report”. I finally got time to look at it and subsequent reports by the same author and I have to applaud the report’s author for cleverly clouding the report.

To his credit, he does say that he would have still done the report even if his employer’s product came out looking not so rosy. Granted that that report is over a year and a half old now (September 9, 2009), it is really passe to consider. But I am sure that MSFT would have used that report to try to make their Vista product look less vulnerable (considering how @tonynewling wanted my inputs). The author’s methodology is clever. He took the first twelve months of a product’s GA to analyse the vulnerability and patch efficiencies. He was also clever to say he was only going to compare Vista with Red Hat’s Red Hat Enterprise Linux WS 4. And this was to have been done even though Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 had already been out for almost twelve months. He was happy to run a test of twelve months of RHEL4 GA (which was in March 2005) to Vista which I think came out in 2007 (I am not going to check and am sure someone will correct me).

If we are to look at any software product’s development methodology (open source or closed source), every study (see David Wheeler’s page), shows that by being open, you are assured that if there are vulnerabilities and defects, IT WILL BE FOUND AND FIXED. Earlier last month, an eight-year-old vulnerability in the Linux kernel was discovered and fixed. Try that for ANY MSFT product. I am not begrudging their business model. What I am begrudging is the smooth “lies” that they constantly put out – including the cleverly crafted report referenced above.

Nevermind the past. Let’s move forward and look at what is looming on the horizon. Vista will be dead soon when MSFT releases their Windows 7 sometime this year. And how do they intend to bring it to the market? How about with blatant lies? I did pose the question earlier today and hoping that someone from MSFT will respond. It is HIGHLY unlikely anyone will (right @osrin and @tonynewling?). Now I read that the same lies are done with Mac as well.

Why can’t MSFT do an honest job in selling their product? Why do they have to resort to outright lies and misrepresentations? The whole MSFT business is an intellectual vacuum and morally corrupt.

reminder: rescuing an installed Linux machine – Fedora

Last Friday I promised a good friend that I will provide him with a LiveCD that contains a bunch of anti-virus software that will be able to scan his heavily infected windows machine. It continues to annoy me how Microsoft can continue to get away with utter and complete incompetency in shipping totally flawed operating system software. I downloaded PLoP live CD and went about setting up a bootable USB drive. Unfortunately, in that process, I accidentally messed up the master boot record of my functioning Fedora 11 machine. So, this post is really to remind me what to do to recover from these mistakes in the future.

a) Boot from a live CD – F11 would suffice
b) If the drive that needs rescuing is the internal drive (usually /dev/sda) and if the boot partition is /dev/sda1 (usually), then do the following:
i) Open up a Terminal
ii) Become root with the command (F11 root has not password):
$ su –
iii) run the grup command:
$ grub
iv) within the grub prompt do the following:

grub> root (hd0,0)
grup> setup (hd0)
grub> quit

Note that the line “root (hd0,0)” refers to the 1st drive on your system and the first partition. GRUB starting from 0. So hd0 is the first drive and 0 is the first partition.

Now, if you don’t know which one is the boot partition of your drive, then you will have to run fdisk /dev/sda. For example,

[root@qbic ~]# fdisk /dev/sda

The number of cylinders for this disk is set to 4998.
There is nothing wrong with that, but this is larger than 1024,
and could in certain setups cause problems with:
1) software that runs at boot time (e.g., old versions of LILO)
2) booting and partitioning software from other OSs
   (e.g., DOS FDISK, OS/2 FDISK)

Command (m for help): p

Disk /dev/sda: 41.1 GB, 41110142976 bytes
255 heads, 63 sectors/track, 4998 cylinders
Units = cylinders of 16065 * 512 = 8225280 bytes
Disk identifier: 0x6f1824f1

   Device Boot      Start         End      Blocks   Id  System
/dev/sda1   *           1          26      208813+  83  Linux
/dev/sda2              27        1501    11847937+  83  Linux
/dev/sda3            1757        4998    26041365   8e  Linux LVM
/dev/sda4            1502        1756     2048287+   5  Extended
/dev/sda5            1502        1756     2048256   82  Linux swap / Solaris

Partition table entries are not in disk order

Command (m for help): 

The output above is generated after invoking fdisk /dev/sda and hitting the p key. Naturally, you need to be root to do this. So, if the boot partition was say /dev/sda2, then the grub command above would have been root (hd0,1).

Taking the Singapore Pledge at 8:22 pm (1222 UTC) on August 9th 2009

Happy National Day! Here’s the pledge which we can recite at 8:22 pm – the time is chosen because that is when the parade reaches it’s conclusion.

We, the citizens of Singapore
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society,
based on justice and equality,
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

[taken from wikipedia]

Now, trying twiting that in 140 chars. It contains 38 words and 241 characters.

Here’s my attempt:

V e ctz of Spore pldg oursls s 1 untd ppl rgdls of rce lng or rel 2 bld a dcrtc soc bsd on jstz n eqty so s 2 ach hpins prsp n prgr 4 ou ntn

Missing the point about commercial open source

I cannot but emphatize with the post and his sentiment. The key point is in engaging and work with community all the time. It cannot be a “here, community, do something”. It has to be an equal-to-equal engagement. It has to be quid-pro-quo. Too many failed commercial open source companies thought that they can leech off of the open source community with their “secret sauce” and with very little give. Perhaps a good opportunity to write a article.

LG’s X110 netbook and Fedora

I was roaming around Sim Lim yesterday and came across a LG X110 netbook. These days I tend to carry around with me my “desktop” all in my trusty 60GB usb drive and with the permission of the salesperson, plugged the drive into the USB slot and viola, had Fedora 11 all running. Every single thing worked including the built-in camera (used Cheese WebCam). Could not test the wifi (duh! you’d expect Sim Lim of all places to have the tax-payer funded Wireless@SG crap).

The machine come standrd with 1GB RAM, a 10″ WSVGA LED display (was rather bright, running off power), and Intel’s GMA 950 video. The drive is a 160GB installed with the flash-based (I think) splashtop and the virus windoze eXPloder. The price was S$699 and for about $40 more, 1GB more. The model I looked at did not have the 3G broadband option – which I think is a shame. Apparently they have one, but is about S$100 more.

I asked him if I can get the machine without the preloaded virus, but it was a no go. I choose not to buy it for I don’t want it to be registered in some MS sale statistic that there is another netbook running their OS. Is there a way I can get this machine without windoze? I can certainly go through, and have fun doing it, in getting a rebate for returning the OS. Maybe I should just do that. Publish every step of the way on how they might choose not to respond to the contractual terms etc.

I might just go ahead and get the machine. The LED display was really attractive.

So MS has code in the Linux kernel, big deal.

While it is nice to see Microsoft playing nicely (for once) with the Linux and GPL space with their device driver for inclusion into the Linux kernel, there are some important things to keep in mind.

The code base (and I have not looked at it yet), is meant to be a device driver that will be loaded by a Linux kernel when that kernel is being run on a Microsoft virtualization platform.
Given Microsoft’s embrace, extend and extinguish track record, we have to keep constant vigilance in this set of code. I would have applauded them if the code they provided was meant to make their OS run better on a Linux KVM hypervisor. That would have meant that they really wanted to play nice. The way they have done this installment of code is for the other way around. Thanks, but no thanks. I don’t think I can find any use case where I will ever recommend any enteprise to run a Microsoft vitualization platform for any reason.

Any credible CIO and/or enterprise architect who chooses not to benefit from the high quality, highly scable, and built-in virtualization in the Linux kernel with KVM is shortchaging their organization – shortchanging in terms of having to pay more for virtualization and not being able to deploy and benefit from virtualization across the organization. Running a product like Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization with full subscription-based support is a compelling option because of the open source nature of the product as well as the stability and exnovation that is happening. Whoever controls the hypervisor, controls the destiny of best the VMs that run on it progress and perform. The IT industry cannot let a proprietary hypervisor control that and RHEV, IMHO, is the best choice to ensure that.

My sense is that even if the code is shipped in stable branches of the Linux kernel, over time, the code will go stale, because of pressures with the MS environment to focus only on their proprietary product. They will make their virtualization look and smell “better” by making the Linux VMs running on their hypervisor less than speedy and secure. Thanks, but no thanks.

So, even with MS’ GPLv2 Linux device driver code, be wary – very wary!

It was today 40 years ago!

As I recall and share with my sons and wife about how I felt 40 years ago watching on our 17″ black and white TV (Essex or Esser or something like that) the landing on moon, it reminds me that I have yet to achieve one of my goals – to be able to go to the moon. I know we can, and I know I will one day. I just want to do that ASAP.

Just today I was part of the prize giving ceremony of the code::XtremeApps:: 2009 where, in the Junior category, we recognized a two-sister team who wrote an application using Squeak Etoys to foster healthy lifestyles. One of the two sisters is just FOUR years old. What would her memories be 40 years from now? Only time will tell. It is perhaps extremely poignant to note that all the stuff we do with computers, the Internet, open standards, open source all had it’s start and motivation from the days of the Apollo space program. The need to miniaturize transistors lead to the development of integrated circuits which found its way into the early rockets. Yes, the computing power of the computers on board the Apollo is perhaps a fraction of my Fedora running laptop, but the laptop and Fedora would not be here if it wasn’t for that. So, thanks, NASA for hatching a dream and bringing forth amazing innovations to help improve life on earth.

But in the meantime, let’s make this planet a better place. Let’s strive to eliminate hunger, poverty (you know, poor people did not choose to be poor) and open up knowledge even further.

Another silly MS patent bites the dust!

Kudos to Tridge in working to remove another of the MS alleged patents that they claim is infriged upon by Linux. The rubbish that M$ claimed against Tom Tom was settled out of court so we will not really know the truth. Regardless of that, I applaud all moves to remove any possible “software patent” that can still be FUDed by MS.

This is so funny!

It is ever so nice to have a good belly laugh and all thanks to @osrin who tweeted that he thought that “Chrome OS and Android have different missions didn’t http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/07/10/android-will-live-on-get-%E2%80%9Csweeter%E2%80%9D-and-more-social/?mod=rss_WSJBlog we try this with NT and 98?”. I could not help but laugh out really loud! It has been a while since I had such an ROTFLMAO from a MS-person’s comment (the last time was when Ballmer said that there are patent infringements in Linux!) Thanks, @osrin!

Congrats, Viswa!

I am really happy to note that my good buddy will become a Nominated Member of Parliament. The only link I can point to at 1100 hrs UTC July 6th is the Kum Hong. The government press and media don’t have anything on their sites. I really wonder why.

So, with Viswa, I now have a total of three classmates in the Singapore parliament. The other two are full ministers. Well done, Raffles Institution class of 1975 (secondary four).

For the record, I did apply to be considered as an NMP, but I was never called up for an interview. A tinge of regret, but then, so be it.

No one gets fired for buying Microsoft? Not at the London Stock Exchange!

Simply a great story reaffirming how the failure of technical leadership and fundamental understanding about the need to have a robust underlying technical architecture for something as fundamental stock trading. Compare that fiasco with how the New York Stock Exchange sustains it’s leadership so much so, that the CIO himself is willing and able to go on camera to attest to the robustness of Linux and related technologies. Years ago, it used to be said that “no one get’s fired for buying IBM” and then some tried to replace IBM with Microsoft. Big FAIL.

I am hoping that the decision makers who awarded the Standard Operating Environment of the Singapore government are reading this blog and following those links. I suspect that they are not for they are so blinded and entrenched in a MS worldview. I continue to hear of major defects in the project, massive cost overruns (“oh, that part is not budgetted for.”) and general annoyance at the end user level. Try talking to anyone about the progress of SOE and all you get are snarls and a string of explitives. Wonderful. Almost a billion dollars plunked down for questionable and low quality proprietary software. No empowering of the local economy to help with the system. Wasted tax dollars. #fb

Congratulations to the NZ Government!

It is heartening to read that the NZ government’s negotiations with MS for NZgovt to fork out more money to MS for a licencing deal has failed spectacularly. I was hoping that something like that would also be a outcome of the, now faltering, SOE (Standard Operating Environment) project in Singapore. Well, who am I kidding? Portions of my tax dollars will go to Microsoft anyway because of how MS has cleverly structured the deal (or so I am told by sources). Even if MS is thrown out of the Singapore SOE, they will still get monies. Hmm. We need a FOIA/RTIA system here to find out exactly what sweetheart deal was cut. Obviously the sweetheart deal model did not work in NZ! Someone’s KPI is not going to be met! #fb

[SG Politics] Changes in SG political engagement?

Am intrigued about the proposals that are to be put forward by the establishment about some changes in how politics and government functions in Singapore. I think Chok Tong is clever in putting the “hints” out, but I think there are bigger issues behind the idea. I think it is crucial that there be consultation and review and if needed, a referendum, to ascertain if whatever proposal makes sense.

We have to do a few things off the bat.

a) Remove the whole idea of walkovers. It is an abomination of democracy. Even if there is only one person or a team (for the Group Representative Constituency or, more accurately, GeRrymandered Constitutuencies) or for the presendential elections, that person/team must garner at a minimu 30% of valid votes in favour. No vote, no seat. Plain and simple.

b) An independent Elections Commission. No more “Elections Department reporting to the Prime Minister’s Office”.

These two, or at least a) above, will go a long way in bringing this country to the heights of greatness it is capable of. #fb

Work To Rule

What a great post by Jeremy !Of all people, he knows how to do interoperability right. He had to reverse engineer the SMB protocols so that Samba can work. If interoperability against a black box is to be measured, Samba would get the top prize. No specs, badly written documents etc etc is what the Samba team had to content with. And yet, when the ODF 1.1 is released, MS goes out saying that “oh, there is no way to save spreadsheet formulas because ODF 1.1 does not say how” so we just did it our way. That is going by the letter of the law (standard) and not the spirit. I like Jeremy’s analogy about working to rule – that is exactly MS is doing with their honest-to-the-letter ODF implementation. #fb

Is Wolfram Alpha interesting?

Looks like Wolfram Alpha might be an interesting “new” idea. It does challenge one’s tried and familiar way of how to ask a question. I think there is value, but I am sure there will be nay sayers. Looking forward to see how school kids use this to answer their homework questions! #fb

MDA losing it’s focus?

While I would be kinder to the MDA, I think this article is quite telling. The two agencies (EDB and the MDA), have in their ranks people who are smart, but not street smart. It is a pity. There are good things these two agencies can do (and have done) but as the organizations mature, there is a significant amount of complacency that creeps in. #fb

How you get information

Looking at the charts, it sorta confirms what I have always felt – that traditional TV and traditional newspapers are quite passe. In 2006, I posed a question to a group of university students (about 70 of them) as how they get information. When asked about if they watch TV news, no one raised their hands. Reading the traditional morning papers – one hand. So, how do you get information/news? Websites, blogs, friends. The new media – however you define it – is what is driving the students’ information acquisition. Perhaps I should ask the same questions to a bunch of students this year and get a sense of how accurate the charts are. #fb

Failed leadership

I’ve always thought that Sony Corporation was a business that was both innovative and cool. But to hear their CEO thinks that he “doesn’t see anything good having come from the Internet” is amazing. It is 2009, even for Sony. This is no different from the way Microsoft continues to ignore the value of open source and competing on fair terms rather than to continue with their (MS’) convicted monopoly business model. It is failed leadership on the part of both Sony’s Howard Stringer and Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer. #fb

Thinning of the coding ranks

Rather bleak report about the thinning of coders globally. This will have a huge impact on how software gets written and shared.

It is therefore, timely that the ITSC has been running a programming contest since 2007. The 2009 code::XtremeApps:: contest hopefully to stem this decline marginally. If you don’t cut code, how would you understand what goes on inside a piece of software to help make it better? Yes, there is a class of people who are good testers – without writing code – but ultimately, it is the coders who make the whole thing tick. It is like saying “oh, the blub in the lamp has fused. I have to call in an electrician to fix it.”

I am excited that we are running the 24-hr contest using Andriod and Python as the platforms for the open category and for the under-12-years-of-age, Squeak. Quick. Sign up. Closing date is May 25th – in 12 days. #fb

MS’ new OS still needs anti-virus software?

I was really tickled to read a tweet from someone in the Seattle area who wanted to run some new fangled (but time-bombed though) MS operating system on his new machine. Apparently he “could not find an anti-virus product” for that new fangled operating system. My question really is, why is it that in the year 2009, Microsoft cannot make operating systems that do not ever need anti-virus software? It cannot build any operating system that is safe and virus-proof?

I know of many individual engineers in Microsoft and I know that they are competent and intelligent. Their respective intelligence and diligence I think does not hold out to the collective intellectual failure of management and product marketing in that organization which leads them to constantly put out operating systems that are so far below par, that it continues to be a running industry joke – even after almost 19 years after win3.0 was released. #fb

When supporting a standard is not supporting a standard

I applaud Distesh for his post. It is a well known tactic of Microsoft to go about saying that they are supporting Standard X or Prototol Y, when in reality, it is support in a cursory form only. When they said some years ago that they are using Keberos, they did support some and then added proprietary extensions. A few years before, Microsoft tried to fork Java while it was licensed from Sun only to be sued and to pay up $20million to Sun.

They never learn. Or rather, they cannot learn. They are bound to repeat the same behaviour, over and over again.

We all know that the Open Document Format version 1.1 definition is deficient in how formulae are stored in spreadsheets. And yet, there is already an implementation, all open sourced, in OpenOffice.org to exactly that. So, when MS releases an update to their office suite, they totally mess up how spreadsheets with formula are stored. It cannot be that they did not HOW some else would have worked around that deficiency in the standard, but they, in their arrogance, choose not to.

Why you ask? What will happen now is that there will be many people who use the MS office products and choose to save the documents in ODF format who are going to have documents that FAIL. These same documents (spreadsheets) will not work correctly when read into OpenOffice.org.

And guess what Microsoft will then say: “ODF is no good. Save in OOXML. See we told you.” And there will be people who thought they were finally able to have true transferability of ODF across products, now having to think twice.

It reminds me of how years ago when MS released their Office 95 tool and then subsequently their Office 97 tool. A document that was created and saved in Office 97 as a .doc, CANNOT be read by Office 95. Why? Simple.

Boss: Why can’t I read this .doc file?
Secretary: I think we are running Office 95 that’s why. We have to upgrade to 97. I am raising the PO.

Product Marketing decided to make the format different enough to force the unknowing to upgrade. They milked their customers, yet again.

They are doing it again in 2009. Do not trust Microsoft. I know they want to win customers and win the confidence of customers, but so long as they cannot play ball, stop buying any Microsoft products.

Engage, embrace, extinguish

This is not the first time that Redmond company has seen it fit to take a well-worn and engineered solution running on Linux (or even FreeBSD) and put their OS on it. I recall a company here in Singapore called earth9 which was a Linux business from the beginning and when they had a call from MS Singapore to do some work, MS Singapore wanted them to switch out of Linux to their OS and be a case study. That was I believe in 2002 or so. 7 year on, that still continues.

Today we have OpenOffice.org 3.1 gets released. In the meantime, the proprietary product from Redmond claims to be able to wirte ODF format, but fails. Pity. Money corrupts, but MS Tax Dollars corrupts absolutely.

[Singapore] Some fun memes from the AWARE EGM

Here are some fun memes from the EGM of AWARE that happened on Saturday, May 2, 2009.

a) “Shut Up and Sit Down” – a statement made by one of the executive committee members when a member was speaking from the floor. Nothing to do with Sit Down, Shut Up though :-).
b) “I’m on Page 73” – a statement made by a self-declared-appointed Feminist Mentor, Dr Thio, who said that a reference was made about her in a 2007 AWARE publication. It appears that she is trying to draw some credibility because she was mentioned in a AWARE publication.
c) 1,441 the number of votes in favour of ousting the executive committe. 761 was against the ouster.

Lessons in activism

It was really endearing to watch the tweets that were being generated under the #awaresg tag regarding the extraordinary general meeting (EGM) of the Singapore-based women’s NGO, AWARE.

The issues behind the calling for the EGM were very simple: the executive committee that was elected in at AWARE’s April 2009 Annual General Meeting (AGM), was seen to be pushing a religiously tainted agenda. Whatever the truth, enough people were upset in the way the AGM was done and how long term members were ousted.

After a long (multi-hour) EGM on May 2nd at Suntec City, the tainted executive committee was voted out after a motion of no-confidence was passed with over 65% in favour to rid of that exco.

I am not a member, but a supporter from the sidelines. I was really pleased to see that enough people (members) attended the EGM and were tweeting. At one time, the tag, #awaresg, was trending as #1 hashtag! For all the global participation of Twitter is, a small nation of determined people can have an issue that they are passionate about to trend to #1. Wow.

[Politics] Singapore NMP forms

#fb The Nominated Member of Parliament nominations for 2009 were opened in early April 2009. Unfortunately, inspite of all the e-government hype, you cannot find any official information about this. There is no press release on the http://www.gov.sg site, no note on the Singapore parliament website – zilch. Why the secrecy is beyond me. Perhaps it was an oversight. But a damn big oversight.

Anyway, for the benefit of those who are interested, here are the three documents that you will be provided when you go to the Parliament House and pick up the forms.

Note that the closing date for submission is May 11th 2009 and 4:30 pm.

Here’s what you need:
a) A proposer
b) A seconder
c) at least 4 persons accenting to your nomination
d) two letter of reference – there is an envelop provided by the Parliament that has
to be used.
e) A photo
f) An essay


NMP CV Form.

Proposal Form.

Here’s a screencast of my futile attempt to find the information.

MS Interoperability event – summary

[Updated on April 29th because of ZDnet’s inaccurate reporting]

The OIN gets assigned all the patents that then come under it’s purview. These patents are then available to all to use. If MS sees the value of doing this, then they can make their patents (many of them really silly patents) available to OIN thereby making it available to one and all.

In any case, the more important issue is the 200+ plus alleged patents that Ballmer and Co have alleged (case in point the Tom Tom issue of late). It is a total waste of time and effort to have this bogus claim still pending – even if Oliver Bell says that “MS does not make reference to it, only the open source community”. The fact that MS has yet to publicly state that they made a mistake in making that claim, is why it keeps coming up. I am sure that they will not admit – it is Microsoft after all. The open source community is a cooperative entity which succeeds because of the wonderful code review and not about patents. Please, Microsoft, get a clue.

There was another set of terms that were bandied around at the session. There was reference to “open source” and “commercial software”. This distinction is not accurate. Open source is commercial software as well – see what Red Hat is doing. See what MySQL is doing (on their own, within Sun and who knows when it is under Larry The Plumber).

[Quick braindump – April 28th – might need further editing]

Well, so the event came and went. GL Tan did not speak – apparently he had another event that he had to speak at and was represented by someone else from the CTO office. I wonder why is it that he was billed to be the keynoter and then, on the day of the event, someone else speaks. Didn’t the organizers check first? Or was it just a clever marketing ploy in the sense that I would not have bothered to go if it was not for GL speaking. I really wanted to know what he would have said with regards to interoperability in a MS-only event. Maybe, someone reading my blog could have figured that it was not prudent for GL to be there and so the switch around. No, I don’t want that credit. I would rather that it was a genunie conflict of scheduling – I rather see the good in people than be a conspiracy theorist.

The morning was kicked off my Oliver Bell speaking about the big picture of what interop means to Microsoft, as they want to define it. A lot of what he said was fair and valid. Next was Chew Tat Leong who spoke again about much the same stuff but had on his slides a reference to an ODF 1.1 issue about multi-variable lines (?) showing up the right way in oo.o 2.4.1 and wrongly in Symphony. Less that creduluous I say for I am sure it is the interpretation of Symphony (a proprietary product I think) of the ODF 1.1 that is at fault. I could have just as well show how a word97 doc is messed up when read by some ms word product.

Then came a panel discussion, which, frankly, was no big deal. I wanted to ask about many things, but
Mike Veltman from a Interoperability Group on facebook asked some questions from the open source perspective.

After coffee, the session resumed with John Fernandes talking about engaging with the open source community. The PHP Society and the Interoperabilty Group were the ONLY two represented there. The Linux Users’ Group (Singapore) was absent, interestingly. On the only slide John put up, he had listed the PHP Society, the Interop Group and linuxNUS as groups that John had interacted with. I will grant him leeway because he is new in town (six months or so), but there really is no excuse for not even inviting LUGS to be present. Either someone massively screwed up or they deliberately wanted to have friendly forces on stages. I think the former.

I did get a chance to ask question, a couple. One was why LUGS was not there. It is the oldest open source group in Singapore and yet. Second, about patents. How can open source developers trust working with Microsoft when the CEO keeps repeating about the 200+ patents?.

Oliver came up to the front (he was not on the panel) and said that today no one from MS says that and that only the open source community says that. I said that only – within the last two weeks, that this was repeated. Oliver then went on to say that Red Hat should be happy to take MS patents and make money out of it and in doing so, MS would want a cut. The comment was not accepted by me and I handwaved to the moderator to move on as it was not the thrust of the my question.

I was tweeting the whole event (did not use a tag, but check twitter.com/harishpillay). Interesting, Oliver tweeted back about the patent issue and I suggested that he should consider getting MS into OIN and make all of the software patents freely available to ALL open source developers (commercial or otherwise). MS can continue to do their standard royalty extract from those patents that they placed in OIN from people who use it but keep the code secret.

The last section of the event was about accessibility for disabled people. DAISY is a technique to provide e-book readers with properly tagged audio. Apparently MS office can save to DAISY format (nice), but the challenge is that the readers are expensive and there are very few books that are e-book ready. I think the disabled community have a very big challenge with all those DRM-ed ebooks and region locked content. Creative Commons is the way forward for them as well.


Singapore ranked 16th in the Open Source Index!

Red Hat and Georgia Tech did an academic study about how Open Source fares around the world. The site has a clickable map and it is interesting to see how the country rankings. What pleases me is that Singapore is ranked 16th globally (it is puzzling why Malaysia is 26th). I need to read the data and understand the methodology better for I would have guessed it the other way – given how MS the IDA is. Perhaps the Ministry of Defence, which does not give two hoots to IDA, saved the day for Singapore. Ever since the merger of the Singapore National Computer Board and the Telecommunications Authority of Singapore in 1999 or so, to create the IDA, thought and technical leadership in IT was flushed down the drain. We need to recover the lost ten years. I fear that the work-in-progress and accelerating disaster (as recounted by clued-in folks in IDA) that is the SOE project will further weaken Singapore IT prowess for another ten years. Please, IDA rip and burn the MS blinkers for the sake of the country.

Be reminded that over a year ago, the UN pushed Singapore down to 23rd in e-government rankings for which there has not been a single wimper from “the powers that be”.

Wonder who will attend?

Got wind of an interop event next week. Looks like it is about document standards, but it is not entirely clear. After the way MS bought the ISO to make ooxml an ISO standard, now they go around talking about interoperability. Notice that no one from the ODF world is on the list of speakers? Very interoperable I must say. I am sure MS has filed a software patent on how to clap with one hand. Interesting to note that IDA CTO is delivering the opening keynote. What kinds of interoperability principles could they possibly be pushing? No, I have not yet been invited.

What a delight!

I am really delighted to read about Ushahidi, Swahili for testimony. It is a Kenyan open source project that was triggered by the 2008 violence in Kenya. It is also the tool that is today driving the Indian VoteReport.in site that is tracking what is happening in the Indian general elections. It is also pretty damn cool to see their developer efforts that includes integration with Sahana! What a great testimony to collaboration!

BSA Wins (again) on sleeze

I am not going to provide the link to the BSA’s site that has some videos and photos (I am sure these are all actors and staged) about people who allegedly used unauthorized, proprietary software. But what I will provide is an opinion about how anyone can just walk away from the BSA nonsense and enjoy technology and be happy to share software.

Just stop using all non-free and non-freely-distributable software. Period.

Use only free and open source software (Fedora, Firefox, pidgin, Thunderbird, OpenOffice.org for example). If you are, unfortunately, locked-in into using Windows, you are able to still use the FOSS stuff mentioned earlier for that platform (and for Mac OSX as well). With that, you can just continue to laugh as to how much lower the BSA can go or raise the bar on sleeze.

Beware the Bearer of April Fools tools

Is this an April Fool’s offer? So, MS is kind enough to offer a “stripped down” version of their “server product”. Let me understand how this would work. So, a SMB gets conned into buying the “Foundation “. Some time later, the economy improves and there is a need to do more. Would this clay Foundation work? Yeah, it will work. It is a MS product after all. Why would one doubt it? Yeah, that’s the story!

Yet another reason why software patents are stupid!

While it is a windfall for the person mentioned, and it is nice to see Microsoft paying out more money as punishment, the problem comes from the whole premise of software patents. I think the patent owned by the Aussie inventor is most likely to be a software patent. All software patents are stupid to exist and I am hopeful that all of these types will be thrown out of court and the USPTO will correct it’s mistakes. It is laughable to see MS defending software patents only to pay out half-a-billion dollars in the penalty for violating some dubious patent. I therefore challenge Microsoft to drop the rubbish being spouted by Ballmer and once and for all say that there will be no more software patents anymore. Wait, it is snowing in Singapore! Wow!

MS continuing to block sales of Linux on Netbooks?

I think this article is a rehash, but I am sure that there is still some grain of truth in it with respect to the sales of netbooks. I am looking forward to the day when all those netbooks that got isold with windows xp, only to be told that they cannot even update for security etc, we can just go ahead and rescue those systems with Fedora.

[Singapore] Open Government and Open Parliament

I posted a very cynical comment but there is a bigger issue at play. There has never been any degree of transparency in the government, despite of what they keep saying. We need all of these:
a) Pass a Freedom of Information/Right To Information Act so that we can get to information on demand.
b) Transparency on how the Elections Department works – fully reviewable by citizens
c) Realtime webcasting of parliamentary proceedings – no editing, no spinning. Real and truthful.
d) Publically posted parliamentary attendance records – I am sure that it is somewhere, but it should be front and center.

There are very good ideas and techniques that the government can use and adopt from the open source world. President Obama is pushing for using open source both in adoption of technology in government and I am sure he will be looking at the proven principles of doing things collaboratively as shown in the FOSS movement.

[SG Politics] How many ministers does Singapore have?

I continue to be amazed by the utter waste of tax-payer monies that goes to pay the ministers who, on the face of it, do nothing. There are ministers with specific portfolios like defence, education, home affairs, law, etc, and a whole bunch of them without any – see the ones in the “Prime Minister’s Office”. The PMO has a minister mentor, two senior ministers, two deputy prime ministers, three ministers without portfolio (whatever that is) – all in about 9 including the PM. Why? If all the ministers are paid S$1m a year, that is S$9m just for the PM’s office? Why? Is paying oneself enormous amounts a halal form of bribery?

code::XtremeApps 2009 – Python, Android and Squeak

Just got pointed to PyCon 2009@Chicago. Kinda timely as the code::XtremeApps 2009 will have in the open category python and Android programming as the two platforms. This year’s Junior category will be using Squeak as the platform. The contest will be officially launched on April 24th and am looking forward to an exciting event!

[Politics, sorta] Botnets and espionage

It cannot be that governments in south east Asia are so naive that their computers are compromised and has become part of an extensive espionage network run by the Chinese. Or am I naieve to think the the governments have a clue? My suspicion is that, it is indeed a situation where the “GhostNet” phenomenon is widespread and made worse because of the widespread use in government of Microsoft Windows. What else can account for this? As much as I hate to point out, repeatedly in this case, that governments must never run anything that is proprietary on their systems exactly because of these issues.

I think Tibet should get rid of the Chinese overlords and the people should be allowed to vote to bring back their independence or choose freely to be part of any nation they choose. Fifty years after the invasion and annexation of Tibet by China, I think the world continues to fail to live up to the promise of freedom of expression and determination of the Tibetans as enshrined in the UN Charter.

This has some good info as well.

understanding the meaning of email forwarding

I am appalled to hear some members of the Singapore Computer Society complaining about their email forwarding having a hickup. Yes, the server had a catastrophic failure on Momday, but what the server does is to provide a forwarding of email and not storage/retrieval. Some people just don’t understand! Sigh.

Document Freedom Day!

Happy Document Freedom Day! It is fundamentally crucial that the world is kept aware of the need to ensure that all of the world’s knowledge as it get captured in digital forms, remain accessible for eternity. The Document Freedom Day, today, serves as a reminder of that need. There is continued lip service being given by one of the main opponents of document freedom, a certain organization from the US Pacific Northwest, who are working very hard to undermine all things related to the Open Document Format in the name of “interoperability”. Never mind them, let’s celebrate freedom today and resume the vigilance tomorrow.

Update: Here’s and article translated from German about DFD.

Kudos to TomTom in joining the Open Invention Network!

It is a fantastic move by Tom Tom to join the Open Invention Network. Let’s continue to build a patent pool that is freely available to any FOSS developer and help with the ongoing effort to outlaw software patents. Here’s another explanation on why software patents are bad.