Wednesday, February 28, 2007

My best advice: Don’t Touch Vista

Bad Vista from the eff is a glossary at the bottom)

“The Vista Content Protection specification could very well constitute the longest suicide note in history” Peter Gutmann (IT security expert)

Vista is the new Windows operating system. It is not worth getting, ever. It is like running a large video game rather than an operating system (without being fun). 95% of computers are incapable of running it because they don’t have enough RAM to fit it in (requires 1GB RAM just for itself). It uses 15GB of hard disk space (more than half my hard drive) ten times more than XP and more than 15 times more than (at least) one Linux distribution. It takes a whole minute just to get to the login screen – because of the speed at which data can be moved from the hard drive to the RAM. Have you ever had a large (new) video game running and then tried to browse the internet at the same time, while having several documents open and your emails? No? You don’t want to try, think of treacle (without the sweetness).

It will, like all windows systems before it, have many security holes that will be found over time, but since it is new and much of the code in it has been written from scratch there will be many more especially at the start. It has 9 different ways of being turned off! So you have to relearn how to turn off a computer. It produces security warnings much too often so you are likely to automatically approve them without thinking (according to a security company) it does not tell you how dangerous it thinks the alerts are. It is not built to be secure, it is built to let other computers do stuff that you don’t want them to do to your computer against your consent (such as stop everything except Internet explorer working), so that they can manage your digital restrictions (DRM). “DRM causes too much pain for legitimate buyers [...] There are huge problems with DRM” — Bill Gates. (Yet Microsoft still spent millions integrating it into Vista)

There are 6 different versions, costing from £180 – £370. All of which are about twice as expensive as their US versions, just because they like ripping off British people.

The Licence agreement (EULA) says that you are not allowed to fix the problems with Vista, because they might be deliberate.

Many even new expensive and top of the market sound and graphics cards do not support the DRM and so are disabled by vista causing them to not work. “No-one has been able to identify any Windows system that will actually play HD content in HD quality”(1) If Vista does not like your computer your graphics will be “slightly fuzzy” and your audio “fuzzy with less detail”.

No one will be able to write programs to run hardware (drivers) for free anymore, preventing it from working with anything other than Vista (unless you pay money separately), because all the details have to be secret to stop people avoiding the downgraded quality on Vista.

Vista will disable worldwide any devices anyone manages to make produce the ‘premium content’ without DRM. So if one hacker breaks in anywhere, it stops working for everyone everywhere. And fixing this problem could cause the anti-piracy measures to be implemented, killing your entire computer.

Oh and the hackers got round the whole thing on the day it was released Microsoft spent millions the hackers? Pennies (5).

3 Hollywood studios must approve every single bit of hardware. Why?

A small jolt or slight inconsistency could cause the entire graphics system to reboot (freezing or turning off the screen for a few seconds) and probably crashing programs such as computer games. (This does not happen on any other OS.

Companies are not allowed to include Debugging (problem finding) abilities in their drivers, because this might tell people about the system.

SSL type encryption (used to connect to online banks etc (https)) is used to connect to different pieces of software, this is weird, and slows the computer down e.g. out of 11 different bits of data 9 are just for the DRM and 2 are for the audio and video, 550% more work for no reason.

Every driver has to wake up every 30 microseconds and tell Vista that nothing is happening, just to make sure nothing is.

Vista will release PIN numbers, credit card details etc. but it carefully encrypts video, they care more about Hollywood than the user.
Vista: “an operating system that is insanely paranoid” - Leo Laporte

If your hardrive crashes, you have to re-buy all your CDs, DVDs and online music, if they have DRM.

“The sheer obnoxiousness of Vista's content protection may end up being the biggest incentive to piracy yet created.”(1)

Microsoft could have put all the effort it put into encrypting all video and sound into making Vista secure instead, encrypting content that the user wants encrypting and stopping malware programs from doing nasty things, so much effort wasted on making things worse for the user.

Any other OS will run faster than Vista. Stick with XP (if you use windows) until 2011 when support for it runs out (Vista support runs out in 2012) then move to Linux. Linux is better than windows, it is inherently more secure, it is sane, it does cool stuff, (almost) anything Windows can do Linux can do better, free updates forever, free upgrades forever, thousands of free programs. There is even a version designed specifically for education: Edubuntu. Oh and did I mention it’s free. I now have both Ubuntu and XP on my laptop, as soon as I get the schools (Linux based) proxy server to let me out I’m leaving Windows.


  1. (readable despite being sometimes technical, very informative)
  2. (provided picture)
  3. (this really is very good)
  4. Paraphrasing “AACS took years to develop, and it has been broken in weeks. The developers spent billions, the hackers spent pennies.” (this site is good, but not always in the best taste)


RAM = Random Access Memory, this is where the computer stores stuff it is working on.
Hard disk space = the amount of space to save files into.
DRM = Digital Restrictions management
Graphics card = the piece of electronics that turns electrical signals into pictures on your screen. HD = High definition, you will probably have seen lots of TVs saying they are HD Ready (not that there is any HD telly or will be for another 3 years)
Driver = a driver is a program that runs a bit of hardware, e.g. you have a graphics card that is run by a graphics driver.
Malware programs = evil programs e.g. spyware, adware, viruses, worms, Trojans…
OS = Operating System e.g. Linux, Mac OSX, oh and Windows.

See also:

Edit: fixed formatting problems... again.

e petitions

I have signed several e-petitions on the 10 downing street e-petitions site, I have got a response :-)

Freeinformation - epetition reply

28 February 2007

We received a petition asking:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Reject the restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act proposed by the Department of Constitutional Affairs."

Details of petition:

"The proposed changes will restrict the number of requests individuals and organisations can make, and allow Government Department to include 'reading time' in fees calculations, greatly increasing the scope for obstruction of legitimate requests. As the Constitutional Affairs Select Committee concluded, there is no need to change the existing fees regime. Indeed, the cost of the Freedom of Information Act is less than was originally projected by the Government, and the transparency provided by the Act can only benefit efficient government."

Read the Government's response

The Government recognises the importance of public participation and understanding of the functions of Government. The intention of the changes proposed is not to hinder legitimate requests for information or to reduce the effectiveness of the Act. An independent review commissioned by the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs to look at the impact of the Freedom of Information Act showed that a small minority of requests and a small minority of requestors account for disproportionate amounts of the cost of answering FOI requests. The proposals are designed to address this issue and to ensure public authorities can balance access to information for all with the delivery of other public services.

On 14 December 2006 the Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, opened a public consultation on the draft fee regulations. The Government is keen to engage as many stakeholders aspossible in this consultation. The consultation paper is available at: Responses should be sent by 8 March 2007 to:

Department for Constitutional Affairs
Information Rights Division
6.16 Selborne House
54-60 Victoria Street

basicaly it means, blah blah blah blah. oh well.

Monday, February 05, 2007


(this is slightly old now, I wrote it for something else but will post it here now)
This is a section of lots of short news items (on this occasion on data protection) that I though warranted a brief mention.
The taxman now has the power to listen to your phone calls, read your mail, place bugs in your house and car. Apparently this is something to do with fighting serious organised crime, something that apparently the Serious Organised crime Agency SOCA cannot do – it has these powers and more.
If you fly to the USA your plane company has to give them your credit card details. I know the US has a lot of debt but I don’t think many people would be happy if they started paying for it using peoples credit cards.
If you get a passport/ID card with a RFID chip in it the only way to stop people walking off with your personal details just because you walked within 25cm of their scanner is to hit the chip with a hammer (this will break it) and they will no longer be able to steal it. It is illegal to do this with US passports and although the passport would still be valid, the UK Passport agency would probably not be too happy either).
Some people want to use the NHS national database to get accurate results on obesity, apparently people are not telling the truth about how much they weigh when responding to surveys so instead the people want to take the data without your consent. It is of course vital for your health that the national obesity level can be reported.
The police have the DNA of over 1 million innocent people on record just because they can.
CCTV cameras may have microphones installed so that the security people can listen to your conversation as well as watch it.