May 27, 2008


Posted in computers at 9:46 pm by Mike Milinkovich

Last week I read that the CRTC (the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) is studying the possibility of regulating the internet. Like that is even remotely possible. Or desirable.

With the increasing popularity of online broadcasters such as Joost, Hulu and even YouTube, the CRTC has grown concerned that traditional broadcasting regulations outlining required levels of Canadian content are threatened.

Jeez, did it ever occur to these folks that the very reason people use these services is so they can watch what they actually want to watch, rather than what government regulators think is good for them?

Then this week I read that the Canadian, US and other governments are seriously talking about turning border inspectors into “copyright regulators” with the authority to inspect laptops, iPods, cell phones and the like to determine whether they have illegal copyright materials. And if they do find something which the inspector (in their sole judgment) determines to be an illegal copy of copywritten material, they can detain you, fine you and/or destroy your device.

Oh my. It really does seem that there are going to be some major political and regulatory battles over the next couple of years. But these ideas are just such utter nonsense it staggers me that policy makers would even consider them.

All I can keep thinking of is the time I sat beside a Canadian federal court of appeals judge on an airplane. He told me that he mostly adjudicated patent and copyright cases. He also told me that he had never used a computer in his life and had no idea how they worked.

It ain’t gonna be pretty.

August 16, 2007

Body Hacking and Rainbow’s End

Posted in computers, sci fi at 10:09 am by Mike Milinkovich

I am really very sorry that I missed Quinn Norton’s talk at OSCON on Body Hacking. But I did find a version of her slides, and Alasdair Allan’s blow-by-blow description of her talk.

I strongly suggest that people take a look at what she’s talking about, because this stuff is obviously happening and happening quickly. Any talk that ends with “What counts as human?” is worth a look. The moral and ethical conundrums are mind-bending.

The body hacking ideas are particularly interesting to me because I just finished reading Rainbow’s End…one of my summer sci-fi reading list. A wonderful book, with lots of very interesting ideas on what society will be like in a world of wearable computers and utterly ubiquitous wireless networking. Another great pick by Andreessen.

Then today, I also stumbled across a news article on the invention of paper nanotube batteries that are “…a prime candidate for being implantable inside the body…” because “…the battery may also be activated by the electrolytes found in human secretions and fluids“.

So my conclusion: Rainbow’s End has a great vision of the future, but likely didn’t go far enough. The future is likely to be far stranger…and much sooner…than people expect.

February 26, 2007

Pass it on, spread the word

Posted in computers at 4:30 pm by Mike Milinkovich

This video is well worth watching. You have no idea what net neutrality means? You should. The fact that you’re reading this (or any) blog proves that.

The scary thing about this particular topic is that if net neutrality is lost in the US, it will gradually spread to other countries in the world, as the vested interests there push their agendas. Witness the recent push by a US lobby group to paint Canada’s copyright regime in a bad light.

Save the Internet | Rock the Vote

January 17, 2007

Open is only mostly better…

Posted in computers at 10:46 pm by Mike Milinkovich

In the last 24 hours I’ve read two very interesting blogs/threads that were seemingly similar, but which for me resulted in quite different conclusions.

The first was related to Apple shipping the iPhone as a completely closed system, and the myriad of pundits who predicted its doom as a result. They’re wrong.

The second was related to Microsoft and its need to be more open, even going so far as suggesting that .NET and Windows both be open sourced. They’re right.

So why do I see those scenarios so differently? The difference is the market they’re after. The iPhone is the quintessential consumer device. And frankly, consumers don’t care if the software is open source, or Java, or whatever. They just care if it works. They care about the experience, including how cool it is perceived as being. The iPhone has those attributes in spades.

In the case of Microsoft — particularly with .NET — the target market is developers. And developers care deeply about architecture, openness, extensibility, pace of innovation, and the like. And the best way to provide developers with many of those attributes is via open source. If Microsoft loses the hearts and minds of developers they will lose first marketshare and then profitability.

The obvious counter-argument to this, of course, is centred on the question of whether innovation on the iPhone will lag if it remains a closed device. In general, I do believe that open systems spur more innovation than closed systems. However, there are particular cases where a small, focused, brilliant team can execute more effectively than an ecosystem. I believe that the iPhone is such a case. Furthermore, the track record of open source communities developing compelling end-user software is limited. To date, open source’s successes have been primarily by developers for developers.

Time will tell if I’m out to lunch or not 🙂

January 6, 2007

Want to improve your computer’s boot time?

Posted in computers at 1:52 pm by Mike Milinkovich

I’ve spent a little bit of time tuning the startup times for the computers around here. Things were getting a little desparate on the main family desktop. This is a 4-month-old Windows XP HP dual-core 2.8GHz box with 2GB of RAM that was taking something like five minutes to completely boot up to the point of being useful. That is just simply crazy, as that machine should come up waaaay faster.

In less than 90 minutes of tinkering I was able to dramatically improve the start up performance. I used the following (subjective) test to measure improvement:

from the moment I hit the “logon user” button on the Windows XP start up page, how long did it take before I was able to launch Outlook?

On the home computer I was able to reduce the wait from approximately 2.5 minutes to around 10 seconds. Even better, I reduced the number of running processes after boot from 63 to 42, thereby freeing up lots of memory and resources. Yee hah!

So how do you do this and how hard and risky is it?

  1. You need to download one utility and find one website. The utility is AutoRuns from the ever-helpful SysInternals folks. You can download it here.
  2. The startup list page on SysInfo then gives you all the information you need to determine which processes can be safely deleted using AutoRuns. I found the advice they gave on each process to be spot on. Here is an example of the advice it gave me about whether I could safely delete “ibmmessages” from my Thinkpad:
    StartUp Advice

The general rule that I used was that I never deleted any process that I wasn’t absolutely sure I could get rid of. But that sure ended up being a lot.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any screen shots on the home computer, because those would have been a little more dramatic. However here are the “before” and “after” lists from the IBM Thinkpad T60 that I use for work: