Virtually Unbreakable

 “We apply our BrainTrust™ proprietary video encryption to your movies before we upload them to our servers. If someone ever was able to gain access to your content, the files would be useless and unplayable, because they are stored in a scrambled, encrypted format. Once downloaded to the user’s hard drive, the files are still encrypted and only readable via the MOD Machine Player by a legitimate owner. We are not aware of a better DRM scheme than ours. Where Windows Media DRM is easily crackable, and doesn’t run on Macs, BrainTrust™ works great on Windows 8, Vista, Windows XP and Mac, and is virtually uncrackable.”

Virtually uncrackable? Well, since they load the file from a Python script, it’s easy to make a copy of the “decrypted” file before it’s reverted. Having done so, I was curious to see the encryption scheme. By comparing the binary files, I discovered the “proprietary video encryption” algorithm: for the first 15kB, each 1kB block has its initial bytes xor’d with the string “RANDOM_STRING”. That’s the “scrambled, encrypted format” that leaves these files “useless and unplayable”.

Asher Langton – Google+

I fail to understand how reasonable knowledgable people can think that there’s some way of delivering information to a person without actually “Delivering the Information”! If you’re providing me with the video/music/text, in whatever format, in whatever encryption, and then you provide me with a key and/or player program, you ARE PROVIDING ME WITH THAT DATA!

The “security” around my content can be broke, it will be broke and there’s no way in hell that anything built under this logic is unbreakable. Because you’re not trying to keep the information safe from me, you’re just trying to control how i can access it. So you’re forced to surrender a way of rendering it “readable” but then you try to control when or how i can read it. Does any of this seem any logic to anyone?

“Hey, here’s my encrypted book, and here’s a key for decrypting it, but be advised you may only read it at daytime.”

What will stop me from reading it at night? Even if the letters in the decryption key or book were only visible at daytime due to some magic ink, why couldn’t i just make a copy of it at daytime and read it at night? If this kind of reasoning and problem thinking seems ridiculous to you, congratulations, you’re a giant step ahead than the entire Media Industry executives, worldwide. (( And some software executives as well. Specially the Gaming executives… ))

Everyone that has given this two minutes of serious thinking will tell you that the only way to curb piracy is to offer a good service and value for money. Or simply abandon the current line of business and try to make your revenue in other related service line such as Support or Merchandising. It strikes me as unbelievable stupid that this kind of “unbreakable security” myth lives on and is relied upon.

Microsoft: We’ve sold 40 million Windows 8 licenses to date

How does this compare to Windows 7 sales? Microsoft said it had sold 60 million Windows 7 licenses from the end of October 2009, its launch date, to the end of January 2010 December 2009. So that’s 60 million Windows 7 licenses sold in two months. So far, Microsoft has sold 40 million licenses of Windows 8 in one month.

Mary Jo Foley – ZDNet

Windows 7 Home Premium retailed for 120$ for upgrade and 200$ for full sale price. (( )) Windows 8 upgrade price is 40$ (( for an online download: )) and around 100$ for the OEM version full price. (( ))

Also, since 2009 the “computer population” in the world has increased somewhat, although i can’t get any decent numbers on that.

Bottom line, with a larger available market and with prices slashed in half or more, Windows 8 can at best match or come close to initial Windows 7 sales. So, very “modest” indeed.

Update: One can also read this news essentially as: “Microsoft: with Windows 8 we’ve halved our Operating System Division revenues in its first month.” Curious to see how the shareholders will react once they realize what’s been done.

Big Words

The biggest issue I have with the original Nielsen’s post is that it uses an age-old trick to fool people into thinking this guy knows what he’s talking about, and far too many have taken the bait. That is, it hides the tenuous nature of its argument behind many, many big words and phrases. These all sound intelligent, thus the author must know what he’s talking about and you should believe him.

I’m referring to things like “cognitive overhead,” “added memory load for complex tasks,” and my personal favorite, “low information density.” That last one is classic because, as you know, what we’re all looking for is “high information density,” like those busy blogs and web sites where you can’t tell ads from articles and everything is blinking and screaming at you.

Dueling Views on Windows 8 Usability – Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows

Yes, it’s the messenger’s fault because he uses “big words”. Things so hard to understand as “cognitive overhead” or “low information density”… [sarcasm!]

I’m no usability expert, or english major, or even an english native speaker but somehow these terms don’t seem farfetched or undecipherable to me. Can i help with its translation to a “simpler english”? Allow me:

  • Cognitive overhead – Makes you think too much. Does this really require explaining? (( if it really does, think about your car. you can drive your car with a vertical line of buttons, randomly ordered and completely illogical such as “park,left,brake,accelerate,forward,right,reverse”; or you can simply have the logical and standard driving wheel, two foot panels and an automatic transmission selector. Which one do you think will have a significant “cognitive overhead” for the daily act of driving? ))

  • Added memory load for complex tasks – you have to memorize more/too much things to do some trivial tasks. And we are notoriously bad at memorizing complex,”illogical” paths for short-term/occasional use. In this case the original author was referring to the simple fact that because you can only see a single window at a time, (( or two in an unusable 80/20 split )) you have to memorize the information you want to act on, so that when you change applications you remember it to use it. Can we agree that this is cumbersome and inefficient?

  • Low information density – You have a lot of wasted area that doesn’t really help you. Somehow this was transformed into a pejorative “because we really need a full blinking flashy site right?” but Paul Thurrott failed to see that what you usually want is an adequate/reasonable level of information density. You don’t need to have the screen filled with blinking lights and numbers but you don’t need to have a 27″ screen filled with a colored background and a single central paragraph either. Sometimes you will want a “medium” information density (something around half to two thirds of your screen filled with info), and sometimes you might even want a really high information density, but i fail to se why would i ever want the waste of screen real-estate by present Metro apps.

On the whole Paul’s criticism of the original article is baseless and fallacious. Because the author uses some mild technical jargon he’s automatically wrong?

Also, Paul states:

“For example, Office was once designed so that all the toolbars were similar, with the assumption that this would aid users in moving from application to application. It sounds right. But it was based on absolutely no research at all, and over time, Microsoft found that users can handle completely different UIs. It’s why one person can use an Android phone, an iPad, and a Windows PC and never get confused. Completely different systems. But we’re just not that dumb.”

He’s right, we aren’t. But exactly because of that, we are also very careful regarding where we waste time learning new stuff or where we just stick to the old one that works. I love technology and trying out new stuff, but when i do find something that “scratches my itch” in a perfect/usable/understandable and reliable way, i tend to stick with it. Why would i waste my precious time learning some new X program that doesn’t really add anything new to my old program except the need of re-learning how to do stuff again? I’d rather spend that time learning some other new program/language/system that actually introduces me to new stuff and new things. What works, works. Keep it.

We can use and learn, and many times we even prefer, different user interfaces when we find it more practical or mode adjusted. The iOS and Mac OS X different approaches are a perfect example of this, I prefer the way iOS works on a touch small screen and i wouldn’t have Mac OS X interface on it even if i could. I realize that I use them for different purposes, with different goals and in different uses, so i prefer to have different interfaces with different strengths. I like some cohesiveness in both obviously, like the bottom Dock for instance, but overall if they are for different purposes they should adjust the way they work differently.

What Microsoft provides us with Windows 8, is nothing of this. It’s changes the way you did things on your old desktop system, with no particular benefit only to try to force you to use their touch products, where they fail absurdly because they didn’t went far enough and still drag all the desktop stuff behind. So instead of your old interface that you knew and worked and a new sparkling interface well thought for a new class of devices, you get a mishmash of both that serves no-one. Every time i see a Windows Explorer on a touch tablet i shudder. The great thing about an iPad is that it just works! It sits there quietly and i pick it up to check who was the cute actress on that movie/series/program and it’s there reliable and just as responsive as if unpacked 5minutes ago. Why, oh why, would i want to mess around in a kludgy, messy Windows Explorer window with tiny buttons and unresponsive experience!?

So, no, the fault is not from the messenger that actually did some research on the subject.

Oh, So This Is Where You Use The Microsoft Surface

It’s simply an awful tablet. If you remove the keyboard and try to use in portrait mode, the thing is too long and too narrow. It feels heavy because it’s too thick, despite being about on par with the iPad in weight. But if you attach the keyboard, you then have to be sitting at a desk or table where you can prop the thing up. It’s not a lap computer, which is nutty because tablet computers are for untethering you from a desk, and laptops have the word “lap” in them for a reason. Only Microsoft could come up with a way to make a tablet/laptop combo that forces you back to your desk no matter the configuration you select.

Only Microsoft could make a tablet that’s actually desktop PC.

And as a desktop PC, it’s too small for work day computing. It’s a secondary device at best. iPad users won’t buy this instead of a new iPad. Laptop users will still buy laptops. Price sensitive Android users won’t bite for the price ($499+, but unusable without a keyboard which is an extra $119 for the less expensive Touch Cover option). E-reader buyers will look for something lighter.

Who, then, is this tablet/laptop for? And where the heck are you supposed to use this thing?

As for me, the Surface sits in my kitchen. And it works pretty well there for quick web searches, email checks, recipe lookups, a little YouTube and the like. There’s no point getting into details about how well Office performs, or the lack of apps available for the Surface with Windows RT, or other details – this is an occasional use machine.

Anyway, the kitchen not the worst place for an oddball computer to end up – the PlayBook, after all, quickly became the bathroom tablet. (That thing is the perfect size for leaving on top of the toilet.) But if I were to invest in switching to Windows 8 from OS X or iOS, I go for a “real” laptop or a “real” tablet, not this odd halfling creation which is, in reality, neither.

Sarah Perez – TechCrunch

Portugal publishes open standards catalog. ODF, PDF and several other standards are mandatory.

The Portuguese Government has published the National Digital Interoperability Regulation [2], which defines the list of open standards to be adopted in the Portuguese public administration. This framework brings to life the existing Law of Open Standards [1]. It is part of the larger ICT reform program that aims to save 500M EUR/year while providing stimulus to the local economy.

We must stress the importance of the whole open standards adoption process and declare our explicit support for the way the interoperability regulation was designed. On one hand, there is some pragmatism to be noticed: the list of open standards is relatively short with priority given to functions where interoperability problems are a large concern. On the other hand, pragmatism didn’t mean lost of insight: there is no more than one open standard per functional category. This is something ESOP has always defended, as a measure to prevent incompatibilities that could bring the adoption process to a failure.

Choices have been made and ODF is the chosen open standard for editable documents. We think this is appropriate since ODF is implemented by several different vendors, in both open source and proprietary applications, across multiple operating systems. As a truly open standard, it can be implemented by any vendor that wishes to do so. This is a choice that will save money and avoid vendor lock in.

Other standards for formats and protocols include PDF, XML, XMPP, IMAP, SMTP, CALDAV and LDAP.


Portugal Government actually has a sane decision.

Untill now every time i installed Libre/Open-Office on someone’s computer i set it up using .dox and .xls as standard save file formats. Not anymore. It’s about time the world get used to using open standards, and it’s about time most people install some free version of standards compliant officesuite on their computers if their MS Office is not ODF compliant. (( To be fair i think ODF has been supported in MS Office since Office 2007 but i’m not sure to which degree and not sure if it’s not an optional download from MS website. ))

A quick thought on Sinofsky’s departure from Microsoft

Just a quick question. By this abrupt and complete dismissal of Sinofsky from Microsoft, isn’t Microsoft sending the message that Windows 8 is not what “she” says it is? I mean the public reading might go by something like: if Windows 8 is on the verge of becoming a success and it’s a great product as they say it is, then why was its main architect sacked in such a dismissive manner not even a month after its release?

Windows Head Steven Sinofsky to Leave Microsoft

Windows unit president Steven Sinofsky is leaving the company, effective immediately, AllThingsD has confirmed.

The move comes less than a month after Sinofsky presided over the launch of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s Surface tablet–products seen as key to the future if the PC software pioneer is to retain its position amid a market increasingly dominated by phones and tablets.

Sources have said the move came amid growing tension between Sinofsky and other top executives. Sinofsky, though seen as highly talented, was viewed at the top levels as not the kind of team player that the company was looking for. The move is likened by some to the recent ouster at Apple of iOS head Scott Forstall.

Ina Fried – AllThingsD

WOW! That was fast! I actually thought that if Sinofsky and Ballmer were not to be fired together in a future date, he (Sinofsky) would go on to be Microsoft’s CEO. Apparently he had the same “profile” as Forstall from Apple. Brilliant, on the path to something great, hindered only by being an obnoxious person to work with. (( Didn’t you used to think that, after high-school and university, these folks would have learned to behave and be polite by now? ))

It would be mighty interesting if he and Forstall would come together to form a new technological company though.

The amount of crap computer users have to put up with is incredible

This laptop comes with a fingerprint scanner, which is fairly easy to enroll in, but as soon as I installed Firefox, the HP software felt the need to add not only a plugin, but a toolbar icon. Worse, if I remove the icon, the plugin adds it right back. Even if I disable the plugin in Firefox, the icon will be added back, meaning it completely ignores both user preferences. Only completely removing the HP software got rid of it.

Then it was time to install some programs. Of course, Windows 8 doesn’t let you do that. SmartFilter blocked every attempt, telling me how it protected my PC from myself, and has no option to disable it from the dialog box. You need to go in the Control Panel to disable that, and when you do, you get a constant warning about your PC being at risk.

Now that Norton was gone, I personally happen to like Comodo firewall. So I go to download it, but the installer nicely tells me that this doesn’t work on Windows 8, and I need to download another file instead. However, this is their pro product, which basically means it’s filled with crap. It’s a good thing I noticed the tiny Customize Installer button because otherwise it would have: Changed my home page, subscribed me to something called GeekBuddy, enrolled me to their cloud program, change my DNS servers, and sent information about each scan it does to the company. The same was true with many of the applications I installed, like Adobe Reader trying to install McAfee, or QuickTime trying to sign me up for offers.

Next was time to get used to the new start screen. At first I didn’t like it, but I think it may actually be a decent idea. Of course I first had to remove everything so that I could put only my own software there. By now there were over 40 items on there, from the weather in South Africa, to some more games, and multiple links to their news, sports and other Bing related pages. I didn’t find any way to quickly clean it up, so I had to manually remove each icon.

Finally, now that everything had been uninstalled and reinstalled, I did a quick check of msconfig, which apparently in Windows 8 has been integrated into the Task Manager. Unsurprisingly, the amount of applications that had set themselves to run on startup was staggering. All sorts of crap like HP Messaging, QuickTime Task, Google Update, Apple Push, and so on.

Patrick Lambert –