Oct 102020
 

One of the big names in the opensource world – Eric Raymond – has declared that Windows will soon be effectively a Linux distribution. Which seems like a ridiculous notion; except technically it might make a lot of sense.

How?

It seems impossible for Microsoft to replace Windows with Linux, but actually it could be done. Windows itself consists of a bunch of software applications which call Windows “APIs” which in turn make calls to the legacy NT kernel. If all that software is written cleanly (it won’t be, but bear with me), it should be possible to make modifications to both (or either) the Linux kernel and the Windows APIs to allow Windows software to run natively.

Impossible? Nope – it has already been done to a certain extent – Wine and Proton allow a considerable amount of Windows software (and games!) to run under Linux.

Why?

So it’s not impossible, but surely it is a lot of work. So why?

Microsoft has a bit of a problem – they don’t make a huge amount of money selling the Windows operating system, and maintaining it is hugely expensive. All those security fixes, all those bug fixes, and all those new features they want to introduce.

Now most of this is done to the “userland” rather than the kernel itself, but the kernel does still need to be maintained. But what if you could use the Linux kernel and get some level of maintenance supplied by those not employed by Microsoft?

Would that save Microsoft money? It seems quite possible, and you can bet someone in Microsoft has estimated whether it would or not.

Will It Happen?

There are those who point to certain actions by Microsoft – the Linux subsystem for Windows, the Edge browser for Linux, the rumour of an Office build under Linux, etc. as indicators that Microsoft is planning this.

I think they’re wrong to the extent that those actions don’t say whether Microsoft is planning to make Windows a Linux distribution or not. There are plenty of reasons why Microsoft is releasing Linux software not least because they will almost certainly have developers that believe that porting software is a good way of finding bugs.

The real answer is that the only people who know are inside Microsoft.

The Join
Sep 282020
 

Trump won’t commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

If that was it, it would be just one warning sign but there are plenty of others.

He’s said “get rid of the ballots” in the very same speech. And there is no other interpretation other than he is anti-democratic; even if he was “joking”.

He appointed one of his jack-booted goons to sabotage the USPS so that mail in ballots wouldn’t arrive in time. Which would (curiously enough) have more of an impact on votes for a Democrat president than for a Republican president.

He’s “joked” that he should be entitled to a third term as president because of “things”. It seems his bruised ego is more important than the US constitution.

And there have been continued unfounded allegations of election fraud from the Trump camp since before he became president. As of yet nobody has found any evidence to substantiate those claims.

His campaign has hired 50,000 armed goons to “guard” polling stations which will be perceived as intimidation by any nervous Democrat voter.

And his volunteer army of goons – the rabid frothing at the mouth Trumpists – have already been demonstrating outside polling stations in a move clearly intended to intimidate Democrat voters.

You could argue that he is just joking and intentionally winding up “libtards”, but how can you be sure? It just isn’t worth the risk – the most fundamental requirement for any position in power is the belief in the democratic process.

Just imagine the shoe was on the other foot – Trump was a Democrat, and he was threatening to ignore the results of the election. Would that make you think differently?

Fundamentally whatever your politics, the last person you should vote for is someone who is threatening democracy.

No Fun At The Fair
Sep 242020
 

I like screenshots (the graphical kind) – I make them all the time for documentary purposes. But there is one kind of screenshot that makes me boil :-

Screenshots taken for fault finding which turn textual information into graphical information. How on earth am I supposed to be able to do anything with any of those IPv6 addresses without typing them in and risking making a typo?

And I’m a good typist – I’ve been known to freak people out by carrying on typing when they arrive at my desk whilst talking to them. But certain kinds of information – such as network addresses (whether MAC, IPv4, or IPv6) – are tricky to get right and a simple off-by-one error can dramatically influence the diagnostic results.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not expecting the average person to stop using screenshots when reporting faults. Hell, it’s better than nothing!

But there are IT support staff who don’t do textual cut&paste!

Sep 242020
 

All figures within this blog posting are based on the relevant Wikipedia articles. These are not 100% accurate because no figures are – there are academics who spend their whole career improving estimates of how many were killed.

I have a bit of a bee in the bonnet about this – and it has come up recently because :-

  1. I’d encountered a Jew who questioned that the overall total was over double the 6 million Jews killed.
  2. In association with a Twitter thread about the comparison between the ICE forced sterilisation of immigrants and the Nazis, I made a comment mentioning the other victims of the Nazis and neglected to include the Poles.
  3. On another Twitter thread, there was a discussion on US children not being aware that six million Jews had been killed in the holocaust; I don’t see not knowing the exact number (although six million isn’t the exact number either) as being that much of the problem (“millions” is close enough) but denying that Jews were killed in the millions is definitely problematic. But interestingly no mention was made of the other Nazi victims!

But let us get one thing out of the way first. This is not intended to devalue the murder of 6 million Jews – if they were the only victims of the Nazis, it would still be well worth going to war to scrub the Nazi stain from the Earth. And I’m not in general in favour of war.

But the same applies to the other categories of Nazi victims, and it seems they are often forgotten – people make a big deal about how the Nazis killed six million Jews (and it is a big deal) but totally neglect to mention the others.

Pre-War Killings

The first concentration camps were created in 1933 during the Nazis rise to power as a means of controlling political opponents. As the Nazi grip on power solidified, the advantages of a means of holding inconvenient people outside the control of the German judicial system became apparent and the slow decline of the concentration camps was reversed and the number of inmates began to rise again.

The number of political opponents who were killed by the Nazis during this period is not known, but a very rough estimate could be 25,000. Although other religious opponents can be included in that 25,000, Jehovah Witnesses deserve a special mention because almost unanimously they opposed Nazi mandates (including refusing to serve in the military). Approximately 1,400 were killed.

In addition to political opponents, Nazis incarcerated (and frequently killed) criminals and “asocials” (the homeless, alcoholics, unemployed, lesbians, …). At least 70,000 were killed.

Homosexuals (gay men) were also violently repressed and many ended up in the concentration camps. The number killed is unknown – Wikipedia claims “hundreds” but another estimate claims that up to 60% of the 5,000-15,000 sent to concentration camps were killed (for the purposes of the pie chart, I’m going to estimate 6,000). Many of those who survived the camps were re-imprisoned at the end of the war – being gay was still a ‘crime’.

Whilst lesbians were sometimes categorized as “asocials” and could end up in the camps for that reason, but they were not repressed quite as much as gay men.

The Jews and The Shoah

Although this blog article is about the other victims of the Nazis, it is unconscionable to talk about the holocaust without mentioning the Jewish victims. The Wikipedia figure for Jewish deaths is unusually precise – 5,896,577 or a touch under 6 million.

A bit of a distraction from the main topic – the word “holocaust” is Greek in origin and was used before World War II; usually in reference to the genocide of Armenians. “The Holocaust” is of course only used in reference to the Nazi programme of exterminating “sub-humans” which all too commonly is assumed to be only the Jews.

The specific word for the programme of exterminating the Jews is “The Shoah”.

I believe it is helpful to have two distinct (actually more – other groups also have terms) terms to distinguish between the Jews specifically (The Shoah) and the killing of everyone the Nazis considered “sub-human” (The Holocaust). There are those who object to this but given that at least one Jewish camp survivor (Elie Weisel) was of the same opinion it can hardly be legitimately called disrespectful.

Another reason for distinguishing the Jews from the pre-war category is that whilst Jews were harrassed mercilessly, ghettoised, and yes murdered before the war, the systematic killings did not begin until after the war began.

This is also the place to go into some of the issues relating to counting and categorising the victims. Was a Jewish Socialist killed because she was a Jew or because she was a Socialist? If she was picked up in 1934, it seems likely to be the later; if she was picked up in 1942 it would have been the former. And was she counted in both categories?

Do we count those killed outside the extermination camps as victims of the holocaust? If (for example) we exclude the handicapped because they weren’t in the camps, then we must also exclude up to a million Jews killed by the Einsatzgruppen.

During The War

The Roma

The Roma (or Gypsies although the later is regarded as an insulting term by many) come first because they are the closest to the Jews in terms of the level of hatred shown by the Nazis. Hated just because of whom they are rather than what they did.

Determining just how many Roma were killed is particularly difficult for a wide variety of reasons. The Wikipedia estimate of 220,000 killed is almost certainly a massive under-estimate – modern researchers have consistently increased the estimate up to a high of 1.5 million (75% of the total pre-war Roma population). I’ll go with an estimate of 1 million.

The Slavs (Poles in particular)

The third main racial group that the Nazis categorised as “subhuman” were the Slavs of Eastern Europe – Poles, Lithuanians, Czechs, etc. The Nazi attitude to the Slavs various widely – from expressing the desire to exterminate the entire race, to ‘accepting’ (with caveats) those Slavs who collaborated, and the wish to use Slavs as slave labour.

I suspect in the long term – if the Nazis had won – the Slavs would have followed the Jews into the ovens.

The Slavs will get sub-divided for various reasons – including to keep the Jews as the single largest group, but they could be categorized as one.

The first sub-group are the Poles. It is clear from the words and actions of the Nazis during the invasion that they intended to exterminate nearly all of the Poles – both Jews and non-Jews.

There is a myth that the Poles enthusiastically welcomed the extermination of the Jews – whilst there were undoubtedly some Poles who hated the Jews, it is also true that Poles represent the single largest group honoured as Righteous Amongst The Nations; yet it is believed that the nearly 7,000 Poles listed is a vast under-estimate of the total who could be listed – the true figure could be 50 times higher.

And many thousands of the 1.8 million Poles killed by the Nazis were killed for helping Jews.

Now we move onto the category of the Soviet Slavs – which comprises many different nationalities which I would be happy to individually identify but accurate figures for each are difficult to find.

First we find that Soviet prisoners of war – 2.95 million were killed (I’ve subtracted the figure of 50,000 Jewish soldiers because they were probably included in the Jewish total and to make this figure consistent with the other non-Jewish casualty figures).

Added to that we have 5.7 million Soviet civilians killed.

To this we should add 300,000 Serbs killed; not by the Nazis themselves but by a client state.

And the handicapped. They were not typically thrown into concentration camps, but “involuntarily euthanized” in or near their care facility. Up to 250,000 were killed.

Endword

The pie chart above visually represents the total of each group killed; from this we can see in purely numerical terms that there were many other groups included in The Holocaust. Any one of which would be a crime against humanity.

For those that doubt the figures … and especially that the “others” added up to more than the Jews, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum states “… murdered during the Holocaust at 17 million: 6 million Jews and 11 million others.”

There is currently an issue regarding the education of the young about the Holocaust with surveys reporting that some haven’t heard of it and many others do not know how many Jews were killed.

Not knowing the exact figure is forgivable – as we have seen the usually quoted figure of 6 million isn’t itself accurate – “many millions” is accurate enough for casual knowledge. And I’m a devotee of accurate figures, but when you come down to it, that’s what computers are for.

Not knowing about it at all is not just disrespectful to victims, but dangerous because we see warning signs of something similar happening today. But we need to remember that most teenagers have very little interest in the dry bones of history, and perhaps we need to make it an interesting horror story.

Aug 312020
 

I’m not a Tory; I don’t agree with their economic policies, social policies; hell I’d be hard pushed to find anything that I’d agree with them on. But in the past the occasional Tory government did at least have some basic level of competency – it was not just an endless serious of shambolic decisions and U-turns.

Just take a look at this (which is just one week).

Now I’m not opposed to U-turns – if you make a mistake, staying with that mistake because to make a U-turn makes you look bad, is the worst thing you can do. But too many U-turns is a sign of something far more serious – too many mistakes.

It’s Brexit.

Yes I know it’s all too easy to blame everything on Brexit, but sometimes it might just be true. I have a sneaking suspicion that any Tory with half a brain is in hiding until the chaos is over – whatever you think of their policies it is usual for at least some of the government to be smart, but the current government seems completely devoid of any clue.

It makes sense from their point of view – it would be better to have driven a stake through the heart of the Brexit concept, but without that option it is best to stay out of the limelight and look to picking up the pieces afterwards.

But it probably won’t work that well.

Early Morning Seatrip
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