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Monday, January 31, 2011

Galileo Leaks, 2011

A little update on the Galileo navigation system. Or more likely, its part of Wikileaks. I have written here often about Galileo system and its benefits for Europe (not to mention the competing systems that are planned by both Russia and China), so my position on this is clear. However the news today is not about Galileo itself, but about the stupidity of the head of German satellite firm OHB Technology, Berry Smutny who said: "I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests,". The coolest part of the scandal is that the guy actually profited millions from the same stupid idea and he didn't find any problem with it, even though he's also quoted saying that some of the French missiles are aimed at Germany. So lets see - he's so against France and its military, but he is ok with earning money trough satellites that he finds as a danger of the national security of his own country? Is it just me, or this sounds absolutely crazy. Either the US diplomats lied or he lied to the US diplomats. In both cases, I find it extremely hard to believe that someone could say something so irrational. But anyway, I'm glad that they fired the guy (if that means suspended, of course), because whatever he did, he ruined the reputation of the project. And if you think about it, it's not a bad project. We all know how crucial became GPS for our lives. Well, if US army manipulated the system once, there's no reason to believe they won't do it twice. And after all, that's the idea behind capitalism, right? That markets regulate themselves trough free competition. Well, you can't have free competition without competing products or services.
And second of all, no money invested in space are wasted, not on the long run. Because this way one invests in science and in space technologies which encounter very different challenges and problems than any other technologies. And different challenges lead to different solutions and ultimately to significant progress. And that's cool!
Another news I decided to post here is about the decision of the EC to upgrade their computers from XP to Windows 7. I think this is absurd. And the guy saying that even if something is free, you still have to pay for support and so on. Hello?! If by support you mean paying people to fix the idiocy of the normal users, well I suggest you invest those money into improving the computer knowledge of those users. At least this will bring some benefits not only M$ but also European citizens. 
Anyway, I think that if you want to support Open Source then you should support it by using it and not by using their direct (and paid) competition.But I guess  we shouldn't expect something that rational from the EC.

Ok that's it for now, because it's a complicated week. Enjoy!

Galileo satnav system called 'stupid idea': US cable

January 13, 2011 
The head of a German firm working on Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system called it a "stupid idea" being pushed by France for military reasons, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed Thursday.
According to an October 2009 cable from the US embassy in Berlin obtained by and released by Norwegian daily Aftenposten, the head of German satellite firm OHB Technology, Berry Smutny, made the comments to US diplomats in Berlin.
"I think Galileo is a stupid idea that primarily serves French interests," Smutny was quoted as saying in the cable.
Galileo aims to challenge the dominance of the US-built (GPS) set up by the Pentagon in the 1980s, which is widely used in a huge variety of like those in cars and boats.
Smutny, whose firm was jointly awarded a 566 million euro ($742 million) contract to develop 14 satellites for the system, said the project was "a waste of EU taxpayers' money championed by French interests," according to the cable.
"He claimed the EU desire to develop a redundant but alternative to GPS was spearheaded by the French after an incident during the Kosovo conflict when the US military 'manipulated' GPS to support military operations," the cable said.
"Since this time, he said France has aggressively corralled EU support to invest in Galileo development -- something Smutny said France wants to ensure their missile guidance systems are free of any GPS reliance. Smutny added, the irony for German investment in Galileo is that some of France's nuclear missiles are aimed at Berlin," it said.
Asked about the cable by Aftenposten, Smutny denied making the comments.
Plagued by delays and cost over-runs, the Galileo project has an official price tag of 3.4 billion euros but reports have said the final cost of the system could exceed 20 billion euros. It is scheduled to be operational in 2014. source
Executive Suspended for Criticizing E.U. Satellite - The chief executive of the largest satellite company in Germany was suspended on Tuesday for telling American diplomats that the Galileo satellite project in Europe was redundant, cost-inefficient and designed to benefit French business interests, according to cables published by WikiLeaks.

European Commission of Two Minds on Software Purchases?

BERLIN — The European Commission, which last month urged governments across the Continent to develop computer systems that communicate better with one another, is itself considering extending its use of Microsoft software products that the company’s critics say are incompatible with other systems.
A commission task force has tentatively endorsed plans to upgrade 36,180 office computers used by the commission, the European Parliament and more than 45 other E.U. agencies to Windows 7 from Windows XP, according to minutes of a Dec. 15 meeting of the working group in Brussels that were obtained by the International Herald Tribune.
A day later, the full commission adopted a set of software purchasing guidelines called the European Interoperability Framework. Those guidelines exhorted E.U. governments to build and maintain interoperable software systems that incorporate “open source” products, which are free and use technology standards that are compatible with rival products.
The decision might be seen as ironic in light of the commission’s decade-long antitrust battle with Microsoft, which it accused of inappropriately preventing rivals from creating products that could be used with Windows, the operating system that powers the large majority of the world’s computers. The task force’s recommendation, which would extend the commission’s use of Windows for two years, would cost roughly €4.5 million, or $6.1 million, a year based on its current contracts. The proposal was approved pending a final legal and budgetary review.
Francisco García Morán, the administrator in charge of the Directorate-General for Informatics, whose department prepared the recommendation to upgrade to Windows 7, declined to be interviewed. Maros Sevcovic, the European commissioner for Inter-Institutional Relations and Administration, who oversees government software purchasing, also declined a request for comment.
Mr. Mann noted that the commission’s computer systems have been using open-source software since 2001 and already use more than 250 open-source software products from companies like Red Hat, Atlassian and Balsamiq Studios. The commission’s day-to-day operations in Brussels run on more than 350 servers using the Linux open-source operating system, he added, and government Web sites use 850 servers running open-source software.
European governments spent $15.7 billion on software last year, buying 19 percent of all software that was sold, according to International Data Corp. In January 2008, the commission agreed to spend up to €48.9 million over four years through Feb. 29, 2012, to buy and maintain Microsoft software for the desktop computers of the commission, Parliament and 45 other E.U. institutions in a contract awarded through a competitive bid to Fujitsu Technology Solutions, a Microsoft reseller.
Should it decide to upgrade its desktop computers to Windows 7, the commission would again have to buy software from Microsoft through authorized resellers.


Javi said...

I really think they should invest in open source too. Could be one way to placing the European Universities at the forefront of technology. And of course it's crazy neglect the Galileo project!

"No money invested in space are wasted". I really love this idea!

Greetings from Spain. :)

Anonymous said...

i think i was reading about this at NYT yesterday

Denitsa said...

Hi Javi and thanks for stopping by. Funny thing, I was in Spain when you commented.

Well I love the idea too :)
After all only when we are standing on the edge, we produce qualitatively new things. And space is certainly an edge of a kind. And we have the basic needed to explore space. Only we don't have the political will (or social urge) to do it.
As my supervisor says - the biggest benefit of LHC is not in physics but in technology. The same goes for space.

More news on Galileo:
Europe defends 'stupid' Galileo satellite

Javi said...

I'm glad you visited Spain, I hope you enjoyed it. ^^

You're right, sometimes research itself is more important than result.

And thank you very much for this last link!



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