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Operating systems in computing
                    and other parts of the world
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mixed bag of goodies
 

  1  OS wars  in computing              Operating systems Monopoly. How microsoft won.
                                                         Was it fair? It is still going on!

   2  Genetic (engineering)?             Gene engineering  kills the genes of food plants!  Find out how!
   3  Monsanto destroys                   The US government acts in monsanto's interest. WHY?
   4  Water power operating systems?    WasThe history of water power  similar to that of computing?
   5  Microsoft. The freedom to innovate goes on  (Kill the competition any way you can!)

1         Computer OS wars, Evil empires and the Future
                                   History of computing mid 70's on
Once upon a time there were many p.c. operating systems. The market developed and IBM saw its potential. They developed a machine, needed an operating system, and went to silicon valley. The guy they wanted was unavailable, they went down the road to Bill Gates and Bill (who hadn't got one) licensed one from someone else. Microsoft's first big lucky breaks.
There were far better operating systems around at the time but now only Apple and Amega survive from that era.
The industrial might of IBM (with microsoft hanging on to its shirttails) destroyed the rest.
Ibm pc's had imitators, DOS had imitators as always happens in a developing marked.
It wasn't all plain sailing . Apple had a far better but overpriced product, and unfortunately for them,
they didn't license their technology or fill their orders. Microsoft had plenty of trouble of their own. DOS mutated rapidly to keep the clones at bay (Microsoft had also licensed a version of unix and they combined much of it into their simpler DOS to beef it up) (so much for innovation!). To catch apple, they needed an easier user interphase. Microsoft developed windows as a point and click layer on top of DOS. The whole system nearly collapsed under its own weight and barely crawled along but was simple enough to use. Apple brought a court case, windows looked too like their system. Apple lost.
Microsoft also worked with IBM on a successor to DOS called OS2 in the late 80s. It was way better than the early versions of windows but microsoft did everything they could to scuttle it as they migrated their software developers to windows. OS2 needed good hardware and only succeeded in a major way in Germany.
For some reason, during the beta testing of windows, whenever a dos clone was used as the carrying layer, an error message came up and the computer refused to run. This error message, more than anything else, destroyed the dos clones. The public would never chance them again.
There was a big court case over that one too ( settled with microsoft paying undisclosed damages to one of the dos companies ).
This was the crucial breakthrough for microsoft! Suddenly  microsoft DOS had no rivals and a passable user interphase and a huge captive market. The consumers were captive, the chipmakers and applications makers were captive. Windows still mutated but now the mutations were called upgrades. Microsoft, having a head start and giving more detailed access to their own software developers, made more reliable applications for windows. Companies making competing applications, sometimes found that they had to pay a higher price for the operating system when they were putting their own product on than if they just bundled microsoft products! Dell sells some computers in Europe without operating systems (for the linux community who install their own OS), they sell the identical computer with windows for the same price! People ask" is windows free then?" and that one is in court too! Evidence of microsoft arm twisting? Of course!
Prove it. Very difficult.
The destruction of Netscape (the company) is evidence of just how strongly microsoft guard their monopoly. I do most things through my browser, like many other people. I do not need a huge operating system to use it. The next version of windows is, as far as I know,  using internet explorer as its user interphase. Say goodbye to your browser choice now!
What hope for the future?
Everybody is trapped in the Microsoft Feudal System. Great companies like IBM must do as they are told or else. Revoke a windows license to a computer company and it dies. IBM is especially harshly treated by microsoft. Its windows license is more expensive solely because it competes in many sections of the computer market.
There is some hope.
Linux is developing so rapidly. It is almost level with NT now. Impressive for a system that is less than 10 years old.
Star office is free and Sun gave away 2 million of them in a few weeks. Full office system free!
A payback for microsoft breaking the license rules for suns java language perhaps.
Must be hurting microsoft.
The major mobile phone companies have come together behind another system, EPOC and that should be enough to secure it as the OS for mobile users. (As opposed to windows CE.)
Palm computing has signed license deals with Symbian (the EPOC consortium) so the rest of the world is now lined up against microsoft. Intel doesn't care. They make chips for both sides.
Sony and Nintendo may have an online segment in there next generation machines. Games machines are comparable in power and faster than most higher end computers.
And finally, the justice department investigation. Hopefully a splitting of the company and hefty fines will be the outcome.
The natural order of things is for there to be 5 to 10 companies dominating a market. This order may reassert itself as the market matures. Hopefully the market will split into many pieces, and there will be room for many companies. None of which
has a stranglehold. Hopefully.
The latest in the computer wars is that microsoft have reinvented the java programming language and called it C#. The hope is to starve java of developers and to keep them stuck to microsoft. C# would work with all computer operating systems but work Better with windows. Just like when Office worked a bit better and won.

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2. Genetic engineering text
    This is the slightly changed text of a letter I wrote to a newspaper a few years ago. (They  Printed)
In the "Free Market", big companies use every cudgel at their disposal to beat down or buy out the opposition. Monsanto is acquiring seed companies all across America because of their killer app. (patented resistance to their herbicide). Monsanto gene technologies actually mirroring this action on a molecular level.
Read on:
The current debate about genetically engineered plants is interesting but I would like to approach it a little
differently. Round-up, the weed killer in question is generally recognized as one of the safest and I have
no quibble with that. Producing food plants which are resistant to it sounds like a great idea. However,
glyphosate (the active ingredient) is a plant hormone many millions of years old. Monsanto didn't invent
it.
The genes which bring resistance to glyphosate are probably as old as the hormone glyphosate. The
monsanto scientists merely shunted it from one organism to another.
Because other plant breeders in America and in Europe do not have access to this gene, suddenly all their
varieties are "old hat". Many of their varieties are undoubtedly superior in many other respects to the
monsanto seeds. Much of this variety in food plants will disappear as monsanto seeds dominate. Many
more weed types will be defeated too. I have seen the number of weed types dwindle rapidly on my
father's farm over my lifetime. One which still survives in some numbers we know as "lambs quarters".
1500 years ago, it was an important part of the human diet in the British isles! It has no resistance
to glyphosate.
In the tough and changing genetic competition of today, I have no doubt that the glyphosate resistance
gene will wipe  the thousands of genes of this weed and others like it off this planet. (And the genes of
food plants unlucky enough to be owned by rival companies).  A thousand small seed companies around
the world might save some of this genetic material. One big one certainly cannot.
This development is a disaster the future of mankind.
Monsanto have too big of an advantage here. They will win. Everybody and everything else will lose.
The rules must be changed and their monopoly must be broken. The future will be much the better for
it!
           I wrote this letter regarding the glyphosate resistant gene in sugar beet in Ireland. Irish sugar beet is bred by several different European companies. I think that a Swedish company has had the most success in suiting Irish weather and soil conditions. I do not think it has access to the glyphosate
resistance gene. So even though their seeds are best suited, they cannot survive the competition!
It has only recently come to light that other gene technology (a bacterial gene that produces poison that kills insects in corn crops) has unexpectedly been killing monarch butterflies which eat the pollen from the corn.
I do not think for a second that this effect was unexpected. They probably thought that it could be glossed over by the public relations department. (and perhaps it can!). What hope for bees and fruit crops?

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Monsanto is the great threat to the future.
In less than a decade, they have got North America to the position where many food crops grown in the States and Canada are transgenic, patented and owned by Monsanto. North Americans are eating foods contain natural pesticides from bacteria and wild plants. Nobody has tested these new plants for harmful effects. It can take 10 to 15 years to do proper long term studies.
Why are they not labelled in the supermarkets?
Why have the normal procedures been relaxed in one of the least understood segments of Science?
Why are the genes of life being patented? Companies are even applying for patents on parts of the human genome!
This has gone too far and too fast.
The American Government will now try to force European countries and others around the world to let the stuff in to their supermarkets.    The world trade organization is their vehicle to achieve this.
A consumer revolt in Europe forced shops there to ban this food.
Beware of government by big business for big business. American farmers and universities are now serfs to the giant monsanto monster.  The US and Canadian Governments seems to be acting out their wishes too. Are they acting for you?
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4.      History of water power (pulser pump included)

              Air lift  pumps are in widespread use behind the scenes.
    Tromps (the power producing half of a pulser pump) have almost completely disappeared.
                             Here is the explanation.

         Hydro power operation systems             The incomplete story
                (Apologies to apple, unix, microsoft and all the rest).
Vertical Axis Water Wheel The first really successful water powered device. A small water wheel, lying on its side in a flow of water, turning a vertical shaft. It was used in small run of the river water mills. It was used extensively from Roman times up to perhaps 1200 ad or so.
applications    grinding cereals and  spinning wool
Undershot Water Wheel   Perhaps a little more efficient and more clog resistant. Delivers more torque because they generally have a larger radius. Run of the river option from 1200 ad on.
applications grinding cereals and  spinning wool.
Overshot waterwheel  More efficient at around 60% and used to utilize larger heads of water
(generally 2m or more). This means that overshot waterwheels could be (generally) a minimum of 5 times more powerful than
an undershot wheel in the same place. 1700-early 20 century
applications They could drive a multitude of machines in much larger integrated mills,
    be they grain mills, textile mills, or machine shops. They helped start the industrial revolution.
Hydraulic ram pump Very efficient (80%)  hydro powered water pump .
application  pumping water ( limited number of applications is the problem)
Tromp Used in the 19th century to provide air to power pneumatic tools and to ventilate mines in the UK and elsewhere.
  Tromps powered jack hammers to dig alpine tunnels in both France and Switzerland. And DC generators (powered by air from tromps ) generated the light in expensive apartments in Paris in the 19th century.
applications pneumatic power for tools and motors.  Development killed off by hydroelectricity.
  The  water pump application was never developed at the time.
Hydraulic motors.  High head local power can be used to spin a pelton wheel  that is attached directly to a variety of shop tools.
applications power for any mechanical tool locally.
Hydro electricity The killer application! Hydro electricity started in the late 19th century and the combination of  efficiency and
transportability proved to be the killer of all the other Operation Systems.
The grid (or net) meant  convergence with other forms of generated electricity.
Hundreds of applications sprung up and electricity became the O.S. of choice for everybody. Electricity everywhere! became
the battle cry of the triumphant electricity companies. (Just like now with windows everywhere!).
The other operation systems still existed but only in tiny niches lost in the backwoods.

Hydro power operation systems                   The Future
Hydro electricity has taken all the high ground and middle ground. What's left?
 Lots!
Now, just like in computers, (Amega, Beos, EPOC, Linux, Palm)  alternative operating systems are reviving. Hydro electricity is not without problems.  Silting of dams,
fish migratory routes disrupted, land flooded. Power lines everywhere.
Lots of power is available in a low head environment. Often in riverside towns where local applications abound!
Pulser pumps can power fountains, aerate the sewage treatment facility, and they aerate the river itself!, they can collect and
remove silt from the river (modern living has greatly increased erosion rates so we should take some back), They can pump
water from the river in times of flood (modern floods are bigger because all drains are straight and excess rain goes straight to
flood. Years ago, rain usually soaked into the soil first and the floods rose more slowly). All the other applications, washing sand, ventilation etc. can be developed. It's easy to use all the power from a pulser pump in that town.
Not only that, the river benefits from the input of oxygen.
The end user efficiency is not going to be dramatically different from that of hydro electricity from that same low head source.
The costs however will be dramatically lower. It should be an obvious choice but people are blinded by the one operating system mentality.
 
 

5   Microsoft and    freedom to innovation
Microsoft made a whole industry about their freedom to innovate. They really mean freedom to muscle in.
Consider mobile phones. Soon they will be smarter.  A company called symbian was formed a few years ago to make an operating system for mobile phones. They used a very fast reliable and lean operating system from psion as their base and the backing of the makers of about 75% of the mobile phone makers in the world. Their lead over bulky slow wince was so big that many people thought "its over, no chance for microsoft!" The microsoft phone design will be called stinger and the symbian phone design will be called pearl. It now looks like microsoft might get a phone to market first! (I should point out that Symbian have 2 larger phonecomputers (not the pearl design yet) selling now (from Nokia and Ericsson). Pearl will be half the size with almost the same power.
How did microsoft catch up? First of all they sucked away as many of the senior staff as possible to their pocket pc division. A bit like cut copy and paste, I suppose.  The loss of these people caused disruption and loss of continuity, and there can be no doubt that some intellectual property got sucked away too. If you put inaudible symbian and microsoft into a google search, you should get some strange details about the staff poaching.
Then Symbian had to figure how to get the phones to communicate with windows PCs. That was really hard because it was not in Microsoft's interests to help them. (If microsoft was split in 2, the OS company would be only too happy to get more business). It took weeks.
There may be more problems in the future for Symbian.   What if microsoft make it difficult for symbian phones to communicate with their windows 2000 servers. They wouldn't do that, would they?
I am afraid that they will if they are let.
The Blue mountain card case shows what they are capable of.  Blue mountain make free greeting cards for email.
They found very suddenly that many went missing in transit. How could that be? They were been filtered out as junk mail! Microsoft software was responsible. Interestingly enough, a microsoft greeting card division was just being launched. It took a court order to get the blue mountain cards through and despite the effort to crush them they still survive.......
http://www.zdnet.com/eweek/stories/general/0,11011,377634,00.html gives more details about that rotten episode in business history.
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