Now is the time to yield a sigh…
Yield it! Yield it!…

Interaction: 2005's European WorldCon in Glasgow

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Wednesday 14th July

Well, that was quite a break, wasn’t it? The best part of a year since the last entry… I think that tells me something, and the something is that it is time to stop. I did enjoy putting up this weblog, even though it was rarely the light-hearted look at weird stuff on the Net I had originally envisioned. Interesting times, eh? I have too much going on, though, to attempt to keep up regular updates; more about that here. I have been playing about with LiveJournal, which is a lot faster to update (since I don't maintain the site’s structure); even so, I don’t get round to updating it all that often. When I do, I don’t intend it to be so preoccupied with politics or IT stuff. More ruminative, maybe more personal, we’ll see…

Meanwhile, how have things moved on since that last entry?

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Schwarzenegger, of course, went on to win the governorship of California. As Barbara O’Connor had predicted, it did become a circus, but it would be wrong to say the clown won. It is difficult to tell, separated from the place by a continent and an ocean, but he seems to be making a good fist of it on the whole (and the alert will have spotted I am not exactly close to him on the political spectrum). Not everything has gone smoothly for him; his education secretary told a six-year-old girl that her name, Isis, meant stupid, dirty girl. That didn’t go down well, but Schwarzeneggar did not fire him; on the other hand, with this governor, you cannot necessarily assume that the suggestion he made Riordan do push-ups as a punishment was just a joke.

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No sign of the threatened return of Blake’s 7, but good news: Doctor Who will return! At last, the Doctor will be back in a new, British-made series. Of course, it could be dire; since 1980, when JNT took over, there has never been a series which we could look forward to without wondering whether there would be anything good about it, whether it would recover some of its charm or plumb new depths of awfulness. It is a pity that the Daleks will not feature in the new series (apparently the baleful influence of Terry Nation has not ceased with his death), and I can’t deny I’m not thrilled at the prospect of Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, but then I’m someone who wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, never mind Pertwee or (Tom) Baker…

Let’s hope that this time they get it right, and the new stories are ones which can be as good as — no, better than the best of the golden years of Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee and Baker. This time, at least, I think there is a chance of it working, and not just because JNT is no longer around.

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Not much to say about the Mattie MacGregor thing, except that the Genesis Web Design pages have joined their fellows wherever dead Web pages go.

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Following The European Commission’s “last warning” to Microsoft the software giant was hit with a huge fine (€497million) and required to disclose complete and accurate interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers. MS was also required to offer a Windows version which did not incorporate Media Player.

The Beast, of course, will not go down without a fight. It is appealing the decision, and has asked that the punishments be stayed until the appeal is heard. If this ploy works, it could delay matters until 2009 — very much in Microsoft’s interests.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Fair Trade Commission has ordered MS to remove restrictive clauses from OEM contracts with PC vendors. Yep, looks like they’ll appeal that, too. Attacking from another angle entirely, the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team has advised people to dump Internet Explorer and use another browser — any other browser.

A statement on the CERT site said: “There are a number of significant vulnerabilities in technologies relating to the IE domain/zone security model, the DHTML object model, MIME type determination, and ActiveX. It is possible to reduce exposure to these vulnerabilities by using a different web browser, especially when browsing untrusted sites.” CERT otherwise recommends users to set security settings to high and disable JavaScript.

Possibly connected with this, for the first time in living memory — well, all right, since 1997 or ’98 anyway — Internet Explorer’s share of the browser market has slipped. OK, by about one per cent, and that is from an estimates that puts its share at about 95%; it is, though, the first time there has been any fall at all in the Beast’s browser’s popularity. It seems the main beneficiary is Mozilla.

Of course, browser stats are completely unreliable for many reasons (I have never seen a better listing of those reasons than that at this page on how the Web works), but that unreliability is, it seems to me, likely to enhance IE’s market share, not diminish it. For one thing, that 95% is certain to have some other browsers counted as IE because they are masquerading as it to get around stupidly designed sites which demand the MS browser. (Incidentally, the UIUC stats, which I have mentioned elsewhere, currently show the market shares as Microsoft 74.6%, Netscape 11.7% and ‘other’ 13.7%; that is also a fall in IE’s share since last I looked.)

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The Iraq war’s fallout rumbles on, of course. The depressing inevitability of it all means that those of us who thought it was a bad idea in the first place can take no real pleasure in saying, “We told you so.” And now Tony Blair, the soi-disant “pretty straight sort of guy,” has owned up to what he calls mistakes, which isn’t exactly how I would put it. Channel 4 News describes the findings of Lord Butler:

Lord Butler’s report on the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction in the run up to war was damning indeed.

On the intelligence itself: ‘seriously flawed’ and ‘insufficiently robust’. On the infamous September dossier which helped put the case for war: given ‘more weight than it could bear’ — and the 45 minute claim should should not have been included without context.

But Lord Butler said there was ‘no deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to mislead’.

Well, that’s all right, then. Pretty big of Blair to take personal responsibility for mistakes. Except that personal responsibility doesn’t seem to mean, er, personal responsiblity, given that he is still in the job where he made the mistakes which have cost so many lives. If he made mistakes of that character, how can he ever be trusted to make serious decisions, particularly with regard to defence, again?

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The only recurring theme not touched on again here is American politics, and there is a strange sense of déja vu as the elections are approaching with a Republican candidate of questionable ability, intellectual and otherwise, squaring up opposite a Democrat who is as stiff as a plank and keeps making statements which might not be exactly false but don’t seem the whole truth either. For once, I can’t really be bothered with it all.

Don’t forget Interaction, the 2005 WorldCon, is taking place in Glasgow next year. If you are at all into SF, this is worth bothering with. It pays to register early, by the way.

Anyway, that about wraps this up. I’ve enjoyed it, hope you did too.

…Oh, yes — happy Bastille Day!

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