Programming future users ….

Much has been said about the “deal” between Microsoft and the South African Department of Education (DOE). In essence, the deal involves a “re-commitment” of an agreement signed between the DOE and Microsoft in 2002. However, the deal had a sunset clause … that it would come to an end in 2007/8. The latest deal (2008) apparently promises free software “for as long as it takes”.

A quick search on the internet will give you an idea why such a deal would not be struck with governments in the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States. The controversy in these countries centres around giving “preferential treatment” to a particular software company/vendor in their education systems. Activists in these countries have raised the issues of “freedom of choice”, arguing that the role of education in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is to school pupils in the range of communication tools and applications options available – including Open Source -.

In the European Union, where Microsoft has locked horns with its parliament over a number of issues, governments actively encourage local councils and government departments to switch to Open Source ICT solutions. In South Africa, where a decision was announced (made?) to commit to the use of FOSS (Free Open Source Software in the public service (which would include schools?) . Striking a deal with Microsoft, accepting its “gift” sends the message to future users that computer … sorry, Microsoft “skills” are essential.

Even more baffling is the South African government’s decision to adopt the Open Document Format (ODF) as a national  official (SABS) standard for its documents. Microsoft, instead of joining the drive towards an open international standard, chose to make a bid to patent its own “international open” standard.

No doubt the decision to accept the “gift” could, and have been, explained in terms of “the needs in the country as an emerging economy” … that the “challenges with poverty” we face outweigh the cost of enabling ICT literacy at public schools.  Read some of the official reponses here  at Educationweb http://www.educationweb.co.za/ew/?p=166.

Lofty as it sounds, the cynic and activist in me can’t help but be uncomfortable with the idea of such viral (pun intended) marketing being allowed into our public schooling system. As long as government departments (meaning politicians), school administrators and teachers show by example that Microsoft is the “only” and “best” way to get ahead in this world, generations of (young) new users are being programmed to follow suit.

Free mobile games scam

I bought a Nokia 6111 the other day and became bored with the three games which were pre-loaded onto the phone. Besides, they were not my type of games.

I them did a search for free games on the internet. One of the (hundreds of) links looked promising and took me to the mobile website with a .uk domain. There I was instructed to register (for free, of course) if I want access to their free games.

This I did but after clicking on the link in my e-mail to the free games, what should I encounter? I should have known it was a trick to notch up “registered users” – there were no free games for my phone! What a trick to draw visitors to your site!

Website turn-offs

I saw and advert for a service during one of my searches on the internet and clicked on the hyperlink to visit the site. After about 30 seconds of the “Welcome Page” telling me that it “is loading” I closed the browser window and put the site on my blacklist of “never to visit again”.

What were the web designers thinking? That I have broadband and it will take about two seconds for the flash page to load, forcing me to look at fancy graphics (the web designer’s creativity?) before I get to the real information? I don’t think so.

The number one rule clients must insist on when they are approached by web design companies is usability. This does not mean a drab website without any design flair, but it must strike the right balance between usability, translated as functionality.

Bad, bad drivers …!

Bad, bad drivers! A word of caution though. There are some Bluetooth Dongles out there with some nasty and very suspicious drivers and application software. I bought one the other day with BlueSolei Drivers and if I wasn’t “tecno savvy”, it would have installed a piece of spyware on my computer. In fact, in order for the software to work, it will insist that you must be connected to the internet ( or have access to the internet).

My firewall alerted me that some EXE file was trying to connect to the internet while I was browsing. Lo, and behold, there was BlueSoleil Exe trying to hijack my browser. Since I use Firefox 2.0, an illegal operation window flashed up. When I investigated the cause, I discovered the EXE was trying to access the internet via IE. What nerve! Needless to say I “killed it” – instructed my firewall to DENY access and ticked the “REMEMBER” option. From now on, the firewall application will just ignore its requests.

So, be alert and don’t let proprietary software install any nasty “listeners” on your computer. Safe surfing!!