Be a Martian – Part One

Caltech/NASA JPL have a new website: Be a Martian. The aim – a drum up interest in the Mars project. The problem, well read these words:

This site was created under a Memorandum of Understanding between NASA/JPL-Caltech and Microsoft.

Yep Silverlight. Silverblight. Silverlie. Whatever you want to call it. This was mentioned on Groklaw where I heard about it for the second time. I’d actually signed up on the website several weeks ago, and posted a complaint about Silverlight at that time, and got no response. This time I decided on the nuclear option. I called.

After a couple of minutes of talking to a very polite receptionist, who finally understood that I was having a problem with a website, I got transferred to Mark in Public Services. I explained the problem to Mark, pointing out that:

1) Most geeks are fans of the space effort.
2) Most geeks don’t run Windows.
3) Most geeks refuse to have Microsoft software on their systems.
4) Does CalTech/NASA/JPL really want to annoy their biggest fans?
5) Does Microsoft have the right to force us to run Windows?

Mark had never heard of the website, so I pointed him to it, and he spotted the bit about the Memorandum with Microsoft immediately, and pointed out that of course Microsoft would use Silverlight. And he’s correct. Of course Microsoft would use Silverlight. However NASA/JPL is a government institution, with responsibility to the American taxpayers, not Microsoft, and that it could be argued that any memorandum that blocked access to a significant part of NASA/JPL’s core constituency might not be legal. I also mentioned that I’m not an American, and I’m interested, that my fondest early memories was watching the sub-orbital Mercury flights.

Mark is going to check into things after Thanksgiving (a point which blows my mind – why don’t Americans celebrate Thanksgiving in October when it should be celebrated). He also gave me contact information for several other people, and I will be following up on this.

And yes, Mark knows I intended to blog about it.


14 thoughts on “Be a Martian – Part One

  1. RE:Thanksgiving-Lower latitudes have longer growing seasons; hence later harvests; hence later harvest festivals; e.g. Thanksgiving. Here in Texas we haven't had our first frost yet!

  2. Yes, but Texas wasn't a part of the United States when Thanksgiving was first celebrated, so you Texans don't count 🙂

  3. Here in N'Hampsha the orchard stores just started pulling their apples out of freezers — in other words Apple growing season has JUST ended. I have to agree with furbearntrout

  4. Would be nice to have Thanksgiving here in France, I think it's a nice symnol. BTW, here in Nantes, France, it's about 15°c/day and 9°c/night. Please use more logical SI symbols (water boils at 100°c, and freezes at 0°c!).

  5. The site works fine on my Mac, which is, as far as I know, not running Windows.Has someone had problems accessing the site? When I got it, I checked it with Safari, Firefox, Mozilla Suite, Konqueror, and Internet Exploder, running on Windows, Ubuntu, Fedora, and OSX. It worked fine on all of them. I didn't try every browser/OS combination. If there's problems, I'd like to know about it. Not likely that I can do anything, but I'd like to know.

  6. The first page works, but when you enter the site it asks you to install silverlight.That was the point of this post. Most of what looks like the most interesting stuff is encapsulated in Silverlight, where it is inaccessible to a lot of us.

  7. Microsoft has ported Silverlight to the Mac and they support it with easy installs and regular updates. My beloved installed Silverlight on her Mac. It's her machine.I understand they are working with Intel to port Silverlight to Moblin.As you are well aware, PJ distrusts, and I believe you do as well, Microsft Patents in either Silverlight or Moonlight. I don't know if Moonlight will work on Nasa's web site.This is not the first time Microsoft has wrapped up content in Silverlight. I understand they have also cut a deal with the Library of Congress.There was some mono included in the Ubuntu 9.04 I installed on this Netbook. I went to un-install Evolution, one of the components using Mono, and got a warning that my Gnome desktop would be affected. I've not yet taken the time to determine exactly what is going on here. I prefer Thunderbird for my email client.Everything being said, presumably with Microsoft and Intel working on Silverlight for a version of Linux, it would begin to put it on par with Adobe Flash, which also runs on all three platforms.I don't know what your opinion of Flash is, it also is proprietary. However there appears to be some problem with some web sites and Gnash, and uninstalling Gnash and installing Flash cleaned them up. My apologies.Any way, the point is, Adobe knows how to generate downoloads for the different distributions of Linux. They have YUM, .tar.gz, .deb and .rpm files avaialble for download. The .deb just ran and installed like clicking on a Windows .exe. (I had authorize with the password of course. No unauthorized install here.) I do have the gripe that Adobe's 10.x won't install on Ubuntu 6.06. But all those flash sites that require Flash 10, work just fine with Ubuntu 9.04. So, if there is a site that requires Silverlight, then I just won't see it. Flash runs on the Chrome OS, but not Silverlight. However Flash won't run on the iPhone. I am very interested in what response you get from Nasa. I am an American Tax Paying citizen, and that content I helped pay for. As common place as Linux is becoming, there is still the attitude in some circles is "oh, it's not Window's, well, no matter, almost everyone else uses Windows, does, so it doesn't matter and we are not going to spend significant effort for odd-balls."Don't forget the other tact Microsoft is taking with Bing and some news organizations. They are still focusing on controlling your content. I think going to Mars is a waste of money when we could be focusing on geo-stationary power satellites, (read Sun Power by Ralph Nansen, then cry), but that's a different subject.

  8. When you want to uninstall evolution and c° from synaptic, it does, but, going command line with "sudo aptitude purge 'app'", it works most of the time more se lective. Keep on trucking!. Reine. Women(in computing)Power!.

  9. reine,Evolution is why I stopped using Ubuntu. I don't need an email client, and I refuse to keep software installed that I don't use. The folks in the Ubuntu forums just could not understand my attitude. I like having control. If I couldn't remove Evolution easily (and the attitude in the forums was that I was a lunatic for wanting too) then I wasn't using Ubuntu, so I switched to Moon OS.Greg,I switched to Linux to get away from Microsoft and their incompetence. This is why I refuse to have Mono or Moonlight (both Microsoft based technologies) on my computer. I want nothing to do with Microsoft.Stating this publicly got me on the Mono Enemies list: I thought was quite a compliment, I wasn't aware that I had that much influence: will be updating the blog with the results of my conversations with JPL/NASA, when I have something. The holiday down your way has slowed things down a bit though.

  10. Reine, Mad Hatter, Thank you both. I'll check out the remove you mentioned. Also will look for the update. I think I remember reading something about you being on that enemies list. I kind of got upset when MS sued Tom Tom, and figured that their "Open Source Friendliness" is only a way for them to get more free coding done for them. I still can't figure out what MS has about people building products that would make theirs more valuable, but it's kind of like the frog giving the scorpion a ride across the river.

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