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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Computer Science dying?

Neil McBride, a principal lecturer in the School of Computing at De Montfort University, has an interesting article about the feature of computer science at universities. He claims that the current CS-courses are disconnected from the reality. IT-workers hardly develop new systems from scratch, but has to cope with existing systems and are doing less technical work, but more social and business related work. This is mainly caused by the fact that computers are not mysterious anymore. A few decades ago, only at universities computers were common and it was a true art to get a computer doing something useful. Today, an eight-year-old can design and use a robot without programming. On the other hand, in countries such as India and China are full with graduated programmers working for a much lower salary than ‘western’ programmers.
He claims that coming years CS-courses, like the one currently existing, have to change. He doesn’t come with a prefixed solution, but points out some ideas. At his university, the CS-degree does not assume programming as an essential skill, other skills are more important for a computer scientist. I’m not sure if I agree with this, because I think an understanding of the fundamentals of programming are relevant in order to understand computer related problems and to think of sensible solutions. I think it is important for current CS-students not to focus on the technical part only, and to develop a broad skillset. It is important to understand businesses, a little bit of psychology and market developments. During my study I saw a large number of students thinking that it is sufficient to have knowledge of systems which are currently used (mostly the Microsoft productline, consisting of Windows, Visual Studio and Office). However, it is not very likely that in about ten years, this is the same. When you asked them questions about open source projects, they turned it down with statements like ‘it is to difficult’ or ‘… doesn’t run on Linux’. They clearly doesn’t have any knowledge on this part of the IT-market. In my opinion it is deadly for a CS-graduated to be this narrow sighted.

Some more on OpenXML

Migual de Icaza wrote a lengthy article on the Open Document Format vs. OpenXML discussion. One of his points is that the size of the OpenXML specification is not a problem, because ODF lacks essential parts in the specification of the spreadsheet document format, which makes it impossible to implement a spreadsheet solely based on the ODF specification (the specification on formulas is missing). OpenXML will probably by sufficient to implement an office application ‘from scratch’. I think this is a reasonable observation, and therefor I think the OpenXML specification isn’t that bad after all. Another point he makes is that first everybody was complaining about the fact that MS did not disclose the specification of its file formats, and now the company does, people are complaining it is ‘too much’. De Icaza: “If anything, if I was trying to interoperate with Microsoft products, I would request more, not less.”. I think he has more knowledge about these issues than I have, because he was one of the developers on the Gnumeric spreadsheet, which was one of the first non-Microsoft applications fully compatible with Microsoft Excel’s document format.
Another issue he mentions is that ODF is not perfect, and that a standardization of OpenXML is not a real problem for the success of open source software. He points out that open standards in general are a Good Thing and that has that point as clear advantage over Microsoft Office (which uses closed standards until the release of Office 2007). This made it a little bit easier to get governmental organizations using instead of MS Office. Now that this advantage is not there anymore, open source software should compete on technical grounds instead of political grounds.

Watch out for OpenXML

Jono Bacon, community manager of Ubuntu, calls everybody to protest against the standardisation of Microsoft’s OpenXML format as an ECMA standard and European ISO/IEC standard. While I’m not very involved in the discussion of the various word processing document formats, I think it is better that everybody uses one common standard. Because OpenDocument was the first of this kind of formats to become an international standard, I think it is reasonable that everybody uses this standard. I think it is not a good idea to let Microsoft again decide about the standards for the document formats used in word processors (and other office software), because the prove in the past that they do not like to let others use their format and seems to be incapable to define a decent standard.
According to Jono Bacon, the OpenXML standard is 6000 pages, but Microsoft is trying to make it a standard using a ‘fast track’ procedure.

Interessante visie op auteursrecht

Column over auteurrsrecht door saxofonist Hans Dulfer op Xs4all. Uiteraard heeft hij volgens mij helemaal gelijk. Ik ga never nooit betalen voor drm-muziek; zelfs als platenmaatschappijen niet anders meer zouden uitbrengen (maar dat doen ze toch niet, want dan verkopen ze niets meer).

Sinds wanneer is dit nieuws

Zojuist op de radio bij het journaal: Geenstijl verklaard Felix Meurders dood. Lekker boeiend ook, weblogs zoals Geenstijl zijn leuk entertainment, maar moeten vooral niet serieus genomen worden.. Het probleem is dat de ‘journalisten’ die daar schrijven dat wel zo graag willen. Daardoor is Geenstijl een kansloos geheel en denk ik niet dat het nog lang zal voortbestaan.
Sowieso is het doodverklaren van iemand helemaal niet grappig of zo. Blijkbaar kunnen ze niet zo goed tegen kritiek, terwijl ze zelf niets anders doen.

Consument straks crimineel?

Interessant stuk:

VNU Business Media Europe has a new owner

Today, VNU announced that Business Media Europe has been sold to a British company called 3i. Since my employer,, is part of VNU Business Publications Benelux, which on its turn is part of VNU Business Media, this means that is also sold. Interesting. (more…)

Interesting article on Microsoft’s marketing strategies

This article is about the ‘vapour ware’ strategie Microsoft uses in order to push products from other companies of the radar. The article specifically tells the story on Microsoft’s Cairo, a product which never appears on the market. The article describes how this story resemble the current marketing buzz Microsoft is generating around Vista. Interestingly, it seems that Microsoft promised a ‘object oriented filesystem’ already back in 1993, but seems to be incapable of delevering such a filesystem even now in Vista (WinFS would be a part of Vista, but eventually was not of high enough quality to be shipped with Vitsta, according to Microsoft). When you read such an article, you’ll be almost ashamed for believing all the articles an publications on Microsoft products in the early nineties.

A ‘must read’ for Microsoft lovers and haters (I hope the first group will get to its senses after reading this 🙂 ):

Nec Versa P520 broke again

For the third time within three months, my laptop is broken again. This time it seems there is something wrong with the memory of the system, because the beep-code (1-3-4-3) means ‘error while checking 512KB base memory’. So, tomorrow morning I can visit the Notebook Service Center again and hopefully get my laptop repaired again in approximately a week. The downside is that I have to install everything I use for my graduation project on another system, which takes quite some time..
While I was already convinced that NEC laptops are just garbage, this problem confirms this again. I think the mainboard is broken again, as it was the last time. If I’m right, this will be the third time the mainboard is broken. Besides from the mainboard, also the modem, harddisk and display are already replaced. There is still a problem with the bios, which makes it not possible to get working at 1400×1050 without ugly patch and there are black spots on the display which are caused by the mousepad not fitted nicely in the housing.
The only thing I can do is advice everybody to never buy a NEC-laptop (or any other hardware from that company). A company which releases such a piece of crap as a ‘business laptop’ can never be able to produce anything decent.

Broken laptop

It is defintive now: NEC laptops are the worst in the world. Yesterday, my laptop, a NEC Versa P520, broke down again. This is the second time within a month, and about the fifth time in three years. The f*cking thing doesn’t do anything at all. When I try to start is using the powerbutton (a rather normal way to start a computer) nothing happens. The powersupply seems to be fine and when the accu is removed, the laptop also doesn’t work.
About three weeks ago, my laptop was also in repair, becaus the screen was broken. The guy from the Notebook Service Center told me that this problem occured quite often which even confirmed my opinion that NEC-laptops suck. They replaced some cable which connects the screen with the rest of the system which solved the problem for now. However, I think it will always be a weak spot and will break again eventually.
About a year ago, my laptop was also in repair for about two months. That time, my laptop sometimes suddenly stops working at all and won’t start again. Shaking or turning it upside down made it work again, but it wasn’t a very comfortable situation. They first thought it was a problem with my memory modules (the went loose or something… a bit strange when memory modules just fall out of their sockets I think, but ok..). That solved the problem for a day. About four repair sessions later, they decided that my motherboard was broken, and replaced it, which solves the problem.
When I got the laptop, about three years ago, the hardisk broke down after two days. Also the modem was broken (I didn’t notice that, but they discovered it while reparing my monitor) and there are dark spots on the monitor, which is appearently caused by the mousepad which isn’t entirely flat. According to the Notebook Service Center, this problem is caused by transporting your laptop in the provided backpack and putting additional stuff in the same backpack. When I bought the laptop, they advertised with the robousness of it, which was exensively tested… oh, and the thing was hardly supported by Linux three years ago.. while for some students it was required to work with Linux… (now, almost all components are supported, exept for the modem.. but who needs a modem anyway).

Newer students got a IBM Thinkpad T42. At least, that is a laptop which can survive the handling of a normal student… but probably they had not enough work at the Notebook Service Center, so they decided to give students again a NEC the year after the IBM… that thing had the same problems. Last year, they decided again to provide new students with a Lenovo (former IBM) Thinkpad. There are two possibilities: the persons who selected NEC laptops are just stupid, or NEC paid a large amount of money to get selected (I wonder why, because it is certainly no ‘free advertisement’).

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