Rupert Goodwins' Diary

It was too good to last. Shortly after I'd created my Hertzian heaven, the Dell laptop started to misbehave.

It was too good to last. Shortly after I'd created my Hertzian heaven, the Dell laptop started to misbehave. It kept dropping the connection to the router, then pretending that it couldn't see anything but the wireless network from the Latin Americans' gaff upstairs (the one with the Portuguese SSID that translates as 'Testicles To The World', as far as I can make out). If I turned the laptop's wireless off and on again, back came the router at full strength. Hm. Nothing up with the router, which was happy to talk to the other two computers all day. Centrino laptop, so that'll be an Intel 2200BG adaptor — with a year old driver. Spidey sense tingles. Check Dell's site, but that's still got the same driver. Darn. On the other hand, it's not as if Dell will have re-engineered the standard driver package, so let's have a shufti at Intel. Aha! A new driver, just weeks old.

Result: a rock-solid network connection. Looking around after the event, it turns out that lots and lots and lots of people have had the same problem — with some complaining that whenever Intel produces a patch for one particular version of their adaptor (variants of which are legion, and not always clearly distinguishable), it cascades problems onto others. Whether that's true or not — a pal has had exactly the same experience as me, with the latest patch fixing the problem — it's definitely minus marks to Dell for not keeping up with the problem.

However, driver angst is about to get a lot worse. Microsoft has said that 64-bit Vista — and future versions — will require all kernel-level drivers to be signed, or they won't run.

Signing has never worked well. If you keep a tight control on it, you introduce far too much inflexibility and cost for an industry which relies on an absence of either to work effectively. And if you relax controls, then signing becomes a trivial annoyance with little power to prevent abuse. The power to sign comes at a cost of around $500, so you can expect somewhat less than five hundred bucks' worth of oversight.

The one thing that it does do is give Microsoft the power to turn things off by getting the root authority — Verisign — to revoke a certificate or class of certificates. This is uppermost in Microsoft's mind: as well as kernel-level drivers, all streaming media drivers have to be signed too: no prizes for guessing why Microsoft would want to be able to turn off any media capabilities it didn't approve of. As always, this move is presented as a way to improve security and reliability for users: as always, the real motivation appears to improve security and reliability for content providers at the expense of user choice.

Coincidence of the week: Google caving in to the Chinese censors at the same time as Hong Kong announces that CB will be legal on the island. It took about three years to get CB legal in the UK, mostly because the Home Office was scared that people would use it to talk to each other. Opinions vary whether the Great Firewall of China is the fingers of authoritarian ruthlessness closing on the windpipe of freedom, an irrelevance to a people who just want to make more money and couldn't care less about such details, or about as useful at keeping naughtiness out as the real Great Wall was against the Mongols. Breaker break.

Argument of the week, from a friend in Israel: "The Iranian government has said it wants to wipe us off the face of the planet.. Look what happened last time someone said that. You want us to wait for this lot to get nukes?". Well, since you put it like that...

Pastime of the week: looking up rude words in http://view.byu.edu/

Signoff of the week: tata for now.

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