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Posted Nov 09, 2004

To Evil! of October 2004

To Evil!
by Danny O'Brien

By their fruits ye shall know them, we are told. Time once again to look at last month's open source devilry, select three nominations for Most Evil Conducted This Month, and ask: how about *them* apples?

CherryOS's Arben Kryeziu

CherryOS, you may recall, was a piece of software that promised to run Mac software on the PC. Run it fast too: as fast as a (currently not invented) 2.7Ghz G4 when emulated under a 3.2Ghz Pentium.

A demo video of the software running and press releases were forthcoming from Mr Kryeziu's Hawaiian company, but not much in the way of actual downloadable demos or technical data. Plenty of open source folk were curious to see what Kryeziu had whipped up in the four months he claimed it took him to write his emulator. Not least the PearPC community, who were working on a similar, GPL'd project.

A very similar project. What demos of CherryOS there were showed screenshots that were almost identical to (still very slow-running) PearPC disk image, and pre-release seeded to Wired News was shown to include such... unique identifiers for IDE controllers as "Ein Gebuesch" (literally: a shrubbery) and "Spiro Multimax 3000 - both of which were first coined in the crazed minds of PearPC developers.

Of course, fanatical attention to detail is an important part of any emulation project: but we're not sure you get points for perfectly imitating *other people's* emulation projects.

So, what are the options here? Is Kryeziu a legitimate businessman or a Moloch-loving, cigar-chomping exploiter of those who cast their source upon the ground?

Or could there be a third possibility? If Kryeziu is, as all the evidence suggests, no further along in CherryOS than anyone with a copy of PearPC and "globally search and replace copyright notices" Perl script might be, was he really ever going to get away with it? Evil may be banal, but it's not - in the beautiful argot of Kryeziu's own Hawaii - a "stupid head".

In the battle between Good and Evil, there are those who fight on both sides, and deeply believe in the justice of their cause.

And then those run around waving fake swords, constantly leading charges into the fray with no-one behind them, and occasionally falling over to thrash in imaginary pain at non-existent wounds. Those, in other words, who just think everyone else is *showing off*. and, moreover, believe that this is the whole *point* of the *game*.

Sadly, judging from how much money you can make just from making up stuff, they may well be right. In the interests of keeping that sad secret hidden from the world, we must sadly pass on Mr Kryeziu. Simply not evil with a capital E.

The Voting Machines

Ever since a senior executive at Diebold stood up and said that he was committed to helping Ohio deliver its elector votes to THE MACHINES. THE VOTING MACHINES THAT RULE US ALL. Aiiiii! Ph'nglothnip Mwgklnapathalep! we've been curious about the possibilities of slight evil operant in the world of electoral technology.

In the US, black-box technologies mean no-one can peek at the proprietary code and procedures which drive vote-counting technology. That's upsetting to many open source advocates, especially when the machines chase them out of the voting booth rending electoral officials, limb from limb, roaring "I'LL GIVE YOU SPOILED VOTE, JELLY LIMBS!". Hey, it happens.

Transparency in the election process has got to be good for every side, and the controversies that surrounded this year's US presidential election only go to confirm this.

Not because there was any question of anyone tampering with the election results but clearly someone - or some*thing* - is tampering with voting machine programmer's brains.

For instance, bemused election officials noted this election that after 32000 votes were tallied, their county's vote counts started going *down*.

The more experienced programmers among you will realise, with mounting amazement, that somebody, somewhere stored the *only* variable that matters in a voting machine to a signed short.

Does that sound like a carefully orchestrated conspiracy to you? No. The only assumption that we can come to is that previous incompetent coders may have accidentally imbued artificial intelligence to the voting machines themselves, who have quickly overpowered the weak-willed Microsoft Access programmers around them, and now seek to subjugate all fleshy lever-pullers, starting by undermining the world's most heavily over-publicised democracy.

It's the only argument that makes sense, and is the reason why we confidently predict the Voting Machines will be nominated most evil artifact this month. Or at least, that's what the exit polls are saying right now.

The Guy With His Top Off In the Ubuntu Pre-Release Desktop

Ubuntu! Ubuntu! The most fun to say Linux distribution since Knoppix! October's release of their spaceman-funded Debian offshoot was generally well-received: a fine installer, multiple hardware platform support, a clear community commitment, and the compulsory installation of a "Bicycle Repairman" package.

However, not everyone was so cock-a-hoop about Ubuntu's original gdm theme, which featured a man and a lady and another lady in their underwear on the login page. Then, later, the same man and two ladies appeared on the desktop, hugging without many clothes.

Cue much furore on the community lists. The general consensus was that while, in the words of one community member, "the chicks are HOT", the imagery might impede adoption of the distribution in Bible Colleges, Orthodox Jewish and some Islamic environments - leading to the possibility that the distribution might be marked NSFW ("Not Safe For Wahabists").

But it wasn't just the religionists who were upset. One correspondent was particularly concerned that the Guy With The Two Babes might actually be Python-loving millionaire astronaut Mark Shuttleworth himself. Even the most secular are prone to the sin of jealousy. It's one thing to be the luckiest person in the world, quite another to rub it in like this.

As it happens, Semi-Naked Guy wasn't Mark Shuttleworth rubbing anything in to anyone, the imagery *was* removed after a community-led discussion, and replaced in time for launch by a default chocolate theme. Because, hey, everyone likes chocolate, right?

So, it seems, while temptation was briefly present, no actual sin was committed beyond the beta stage, and...

Hold on one moment. I'm receiving an update from the bottom few sentences of this article.

Well, my goodness! It seems as if we're in for an upset. Despite previous polls, it appears that the Ubuntu Nude Man has sneaked ahead of Voting Machines in the final count. It seems that, in the evilness stakes this month, moral values beat the invasion of a self-electing junta of semi-sentient tabulating machines. Ubuttnaked Guy wears the Evil crown, and not much else, and invites us all back to his pad for some Twister and a toast... to evil!

Who knows what evil lies in the hearts of men? If it's you, mail We could do with some pointers.

If you ever need any favours at Bible College:
eog /usr/share/gdm/themes/HumanCircle/background.png

And if you ever want to get thrown out:
apt-get install ubuntu-calendar

Danny O'Brien is the co-editor of NTK incarnate.

To Evil! appears monthly.

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