Sue, Grabbit, and Run.

I have not written on the blog for quite a while, my health has not been good and I was not sure whether I would mention it on this site or not. In May 2012 I found out I had managed to pick up a wee dose of cancer and July / August I was busy getting zapped with 65 millisieverts of Gamma radiation. I did not start with great health and I think that is why it is taking me a long time to recover. I might have something to say about the joys of receiving radiotherapy treatment at a later date, or maybe it is something better unsaid.

I decided to write again now because Apple have won their lawsuit against Samsung in the US. I have never owned an Apple product, not because I was anti-Apple, far from it I think they have been terrifically good at creating good technology and well designed products, perhaps even deserving of the title innovative. I have not bought Apple simply because there was always a product that worked fine for me but generally at 50 to 70% of the price of the equivalent Apple item. I was however strongly tempted by the iPad until I found out just how much you were tied into Apple for software and the fact that you never actually ‘fully’ owned the iPad as when you wanted to replace the battery you had to send it to Apple and you did not get your ‘own’ machine back.

Apple have never been shy at copying features found in other companies products. The Mac owed not a little to technology pioneered by Xerox and Sun, and their OS is very similar to Unix. Now Apple are using their financial clout to try to hamstring other manufacturers from making good smartphones and have lawsuits throughout the world. Earlier this year I decided it was time for me to go down the smart phone route as I had recently started biking again and wanted a device powerful enough for me to leave my laptop at home. After several days of reading reviews I went for the Samsung Galaxy S2 which narrowly beat the current iPhone on the geekier web sites. I have been very happy with the Galaxy and am particularly pleased with my choice as nearly all the apps I use are free.

But now, in the US at least, people have to be careful about using rectangles with rounded corners for fear of infringing Apple iPhone’s look and feel. According to one US judge a person could buy a Samsung smart phone thinking it was an iPhone. The jury took only 3 days to come to their verdict, took no instruction from the judge and included $219,694 of damages against a Samsung phone for an infringement it did not have.

There are so many inconsistencies in this case that I do not believe it will be upheld on appeal, certainly not in its current form. Apple seem to have had it all their own way in the US case but are not having anywhere near the same success in lawsuits in other countries. A South Korean court said that both companies infringed each other’s patents, Apple infringed on two of Samsung’s patents, while Samsung infringed on one of Apple’s. In Holland the court rejected Apples claim of infringement of design rights while a UK court rejected Apples claim that the Samsung Galaxy tablet was too similar to the iPad. All, of course, subject to appeal. These are just a fraction of the lawsuits being held around the world. This is all about Apple and Microsoft’s war to try to destroy rival smart phone operating system, Android.

The stock markets saw Samsung’s share price lose 7% on the first day of trading after the court’s decision which seems a bit of an overreaction as the US is only responsible for 4% of Samsung’s mobile phone market. In contrast South Koreans are very fond of Apple’s iPads and iPhones and Apple are running the risk of a patriotic backlash if their tactics or US courts are perceived as behaving with impropriety by the South Koreans.

I guess I never will buy an Apple product now

You can read more about Apple and Samsung http://www.muktware.com/news

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Removal of Legal Aid for the disabled

The swingeing cuts to allowances and benefits for the disabled made by our current coalition government have led to a huge number of appeals against DWP (Atos) decisions which has caused a huge backlog of tribunals.  In fact they are having to work on Saturdays to reduce the backlog.  It is well worth disabled people appealing as 40% of decisions are overturned on appeal, rising to 70% when the appellant is represented.

The Tribunal judiciary has produced statistics which show an alarming increase in benefit appeals from 167,000 in 2008/2008 to 418,500 in 2010/2011 with projections that this will have reached 644,000 per year by 2014/2015.  Here are their statistics for Social Security and Child Support:

Annual Intake of SSCS Appeals
2008-09    242,800
2009-10     339,200
2010-11      418,500
(forecast)
2011-12      421,6009
2012-13      483,400
2013-14      576,700
2014-15      644,000

Those wily people we nearly elected to be our government have an answer to this distressing situation.  They are not, as any reasonable person would think, going to change the system that creates these wrong decisions.  That after all would be to admit that they were not as clever as they thought.  Their solution is simple, remove the right to legal aid for the disabled and the success rate of the appeals will go down.

Divided We Stand: Why Inequality Keeps Rising

So just why is David Cameron so keen to cut the money paid in benefits to the disabled by 20% ?  Well it allows him to cut the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% which is good for himself and all his friends who can afford to pay £250,000 for for dinner and never mind the fact that income inequality has already made the rich richer

A report from the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs (UK notes) states:

Income inequality among working-age persons has risen faster in the United Kingdom than in any other OECD country since 1975. From a peak in 2000 and subsequent fall, it has been rising again since 2005 and is nowwell above the OECD average.

The annual average income of the top 10% in 2008 was almost GBP 55,000, almost 12 times higher than that of the bottom 10%, who had an average income of GBP 4,700. This is up from a ratio of 8 to 1 in 1985. Taxes and benefits reduce inequality by a quarter in the United Kingdom, in line with the OECD average.

Amongst the key findings:

Top income shares doubled. The share of the top 1% of income earners increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005 [Table9.1]. Just prior to the global recession, the top 0.1% of top earners accounted for some 5% of total pre-tax income. At the same time, the top marginal income tax rate saw a marked decline: dropping from 60% in the 1980s to 40% in the 2000s, before its recent increase to 50%.
Benefits became less redistributive despite being more targeted towards the poor. This was largely driven by declining benefit amounts. It was also due to more people working, often at low-wage jobs and so not qualifying for benefits. And lastly due to tighter eligibility conditions.

Far from having the top rate of tax cut the report says that:

The growing share of income going to top earners means that this group now has a greater capacity to pay taxes. In this context governments may re-examine the redistributive role of taxation to ensure that wealthier individuals contribute their fair share of the tax burden.

You can read the full report here http://www.oecd.org/document/51/0,3746,en_2649_33933_49147827_1_1_1_1,00.html

Some Interesting Statistics

I think anyone who reads my blog will realise I am not a rabid Windoze basher but I do admit to being pro Linux. Windows has brought relatively easy and useful computer use to the masses and that cannot be a bad thing. Of my three laptops 2 are running Windoze, a venerable NT version and my old work laptop runs Windoze XP but my main everyday laptop runs linux, I also have a Linux freecom FSG-3 and a twee Linux RISC box. For many years I have used Firefox and Open Office which were both originally developed for Linux.

One of the problems with Linux and Linux applications is trying to find out how popular they are i.e. what is their market share, difficult because most Linux distros and applications are free and this is why I am putting these statistics into the public domain. These figures come from a site that went public in February 2012. I think they are useful stats as they are from a site which is completely unbiased with regards to software, platforms or any technical issues, they are in fact for a site set up for the disabled community.

Site Statistics March 2012

Unique visitors                          Number of visits                       Hits
2018                                              5297                                             190442

Operating Systems

Windows                                      153041                                        80.3 %
Linux                                             25186                                          13.2 %
Macintosh                                    11003                                           5.7 %
Unknown                                      1132                                              0.5 %
BlackBerry                                   57                                                  0 %
Java                                               14                                                  0 %
Java Mobile                                 5                                                    0 %
Symbian OS                                4                                                    0 %

Note: Robots and search spiders are not shown in the statistics, these are actual users.

Browser

Firefox                                                        135575                                   71.1 %
MS Internet Explorer                              24889                                     13 %
Google Chrome                                        1727                                         9 9 %
Safari                                                          968                                          6 5 %
Unknown                                                   986                                          0.5 %
Android browser (PDA/Phone)            677                                           0.3 %
Mozilla                                                       631                                           0.3 %
Opera                                                          360                                          0.1 %
Netscape                                                     114                                           0 %
IPhone (PDA/Phone)                               113                                           0 %
Others                                                          132                                          0 %

Let sleeping dogs lie

I had to go down to Englandshire again, to the shire of Berks. My friends there felt the need to take a weeks skiing in the US so I was invited to look after the two hounds. They are well natured Rhodesian Ridgebacks called Taff (dog) and Scooby (bitch). Say hello to the nice readers Taff, say hello Scooby. They are quite a handful to manage so I take them walkies one at a time. The first time I did that they found it to be a traumatic experience but the second time they were expecting it and were well behaved.

It is only the second day but they already know they don’t get to go walkies until they sit so I can get the lead on. I also have them sit before they get treats, they have dog biscuits and denta chews as their treats. The next thing is training them to ‘stay’. I started the training with Taff and Scooby saw there was an easy way to get dog biscuits so she joined in without me having to ask her. Today was only the second day of training and when I got two dog biscuits out of the jar they initially got excited but by the time I turned round to them they were already sitting.

Let sleeping dogs lie they say. These poor old hounds really know how to sleep. The normal day for them is to wake up and come downstairs, a drink of water, out into the back garden for the necessary and then into the living room for a well deserved pre-lunch nap. Taff likes to take his 140 winks on the sofa. Scooby, prefers to snuggle up to a nice cosy duvet.

All too soon it is time to stir and some water is necessary. Quick visit to the back garden and then it is time for a walk to build up an appetite before lunch. After eating it is only natural to take a post prandial nap. All too soon the day is over and it is time to go upstairs for to get some serious shut eye  in the double bed. It used to be my bed but I make do with the single bed.

It’s a hard life but a dog just has to do what a dog has to do.  They did have a puritanical streak though.  Whenever I took a nap in the afternoon they were absolutely outraged and both of them would take up post outside my bedroom door.

Time for bed.

What does your computer do when you are not looking

The World Community Grid Team

March 22 is World Water Day , a special day established by the United Nations as a means of focusing attention on the importance of fresh water.

In 2010, World Community Grid announced a commitment to water and 3 new projects. Toward that end, we've launched the Computing for Clean Water and the Say No to Schistosoma projects. Later this year, we'll be announcing the third water project for Watershed Sustainability.

To commemorate this year's World Water Day we are conducting a webcast featuring Dr. Francois Grey, from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, who will provide an overview and update on the Computing for Clean Water project.

The webcast will start promptly on March 21 at 7:30pm New York time, which is 23:30 UTC. In Beijing, the meeting starts at 07:30 (7:30am) on March 22. Learn how to prepare and participate in the webcast here:

And whether or not you can join the webcast, make sure your laptop, PC or Mac is running World Community Grid, and let your friends know this easy way to participate in helping humanity!

Thank you,

The World Community Grid Team

Pat’s ePetition Poster

Stop and review the cuts to benefits and services which are falling disproportionately on disabled people, their carers and families

Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions

The government were embarking on wholesale reform of the benefit system when the economic crisis struck. These welfare reforms had not been piloted and the plan was to monitor and assess the impact of the new untried approach as it was introduced in a buoyant economy. Unfortunately since then the economy has gone in to crisis and the government has simultaneously embarked on a massive programme of cuts. This has created a perfect storm and left disabled people/those with ill health, and their carers reeling, confused and afraid.

Click on the link below to see or download a Spartacus poster for this ePetition

Pats e-Petition shortened