Week in Review: New Macs, Qt, and Speed Skating

Another week, another Week in Review, number 9 already. The past week won’t go down in memory as a memorable one, but despite that, we did get lots of new Macs, an LGPL’d Qt 4.5, a sort-of optional Internet Explorer, and some more details on Snow Leopard – among other things, of course. This week’s my take is about a sport most countries aren’t really interested in – long-track speed skating.

Week in Review

The week started off with news around Intel. First, the company faced a countersuit by Psion over the netbook trademark, which Psion claims is theirs. On the same day, Intel and TSMC announced an agreement in which TSMC will produce the Atom processors, which is significant because Intel usually prides itself on doing all manufacturing in-house.

Qt also saw a new release this week with version 4.5 of the Qt cross-platform application and UI framework, accompanied by the Qt Creator integrated development environment. Apart from all sorts of new features and fixes, this is the first Qt release available under the LGPL, which counters the oft-heard Qt license argument.

On that same day, Apple updated all of its desktop machines, including the Mac Mini mini, the iMac, and the Mac Pro. Most OSNews commenters weren’t particularly impressed with the updates, especially in the graphics department. The call for an expandable, headless machine between the Mac mini and the Mac Pro was again strong. Still, the new Macs are now more up-to-speed in terms of performance, and especially the iMac is still pretty good value-for-money as far as all-in-ones are concerned.

Jumping to the end of the week, Apple was again in the news because of the first unofficial application store for the iPhone opening up shop, followed by information regarding new features in Snow Leopard, mostly related to how the operating system handles text.

News also got out that recent Windows 7 builds allowed you to remove Internet Explorer from the operating system. As it turned out, this wasn’t entirely true: in a blog post on the E7 weblog, Microsoft explained that the feature is only disabled – every mention is removed from the OS, but it remains available on-disk in case the user wants to install it again. Microsoft claims their research shows users want that.

Regarding Windows 7, I wrote an editorial about how I believe Windows 7’s User Account Control settings leaves the operating system wide-open to possible security threats. The editorial gave a short history on Windows NT and the need for UAC, what UAC does, and why it shouldn’t be softened down to please the whiner crowd. Let me again repeat that if you are running Windows 7, it is best security practice to move the UAC slider all the way up.

We also had some browser security news, most notably a report by Secunia that didn’t really showed a fair image of browser security: Firefox’ stats were inflated because Mozilla reports all flaws, not just the public ones like closed-source browser makers do. As such, it seemed as if Firefox saw a lot more security flaws. Still, the Secunia report also put Firefox in a positive light, because it showed that Mozilla was a lot quicker at patching zero-day flaws than Microsoft. Regarding Safari, professional cracker Charlie Miller predicted that Safari and Mac OS X will be the first to fall during the upcoming PWN2OWN contest.

To finish off this Week in Review, Jordan Spencer Cunningham is the third person on the OSNews team who bought an Acer Aspire One netbook, and this week he published a review about the successful netbook.

My Take:

Long-track speed skating is somewhat of a Dutch national sport. Most people here love it, and ratings for important international matches are impressive. Throughout history, Dutch speed skaters have played a major role on the international podium, winning countless medals and matches during world, European, and Olympic championships.

Us Dutch are also on the forefront of technological advances in speed skating. Basically all research regarding speed skating is done in The Netherlands, and several key technological advances in the sport are Dutch inventions (with the notable exception of the full-body suit, which is a Swiss invention), such as the clap skate. Thialf in Heerneveen is still the most popular speed skating track because it’s universally sold out during every match held – speed skaters from around the world are amazed at just how popular the sport here is, and are surprised by being greeted by so many cheering fans.

The popularity of speed skating in my country also means that the sport here is highly professionalised, to a degree where it borders on the insane. Large Dutch companies sponsor the various teams, giving them huge budgets, because the companies’ names will be plastered all over the media. The Dutch teams are also home to many non-Dutch skaters, and Dutch coaches find their home in foreign teams as well (for instance, the American national coach is Dutch).

Enough with the chest thumping, I hear you think, and you’re right. This past season has been fairly disastrous for Dutch speed skating, and despite all the money, professionalism, and drama in the media (the drama… Dear lord, the drama), Dutch speed skaters systematically underwhelmed – apart from Sven “god” Kramer, of course.

This is where it gets interesting. Despite having barely any money and basically zero popularity in their own countries, it were skaters like Shani Davis (USA) and the humble Martina Sáblíková (Czech Republic) who gave this season its spark. To me, the success of people from countries without a strong speed skating tradition proves that speed skating isn’t a sport of money, fame, and 4 year training schemes – it’s a sport of the heart, not the brain. And this is something we Dutch have forgotten.

The World Cup finals were held this weekend at the Olympic Oval in Salt Lake City, the fastest speed skating track in the world. Again, we Dutch failed to leave a mark, with only Sven Kramer doing what was expected of him (winning the 5k). Again, it were the Americans that delivered the spark this weekend, with Shani Davis and the very young Trevor Marsicano (19!) skating world records.

My personal idols in speed skating have never really been Dutch – Niemann and Friesinger from Germany, Shimizu from Japan, and Sáblíková are my idols in this sport. Most of all, however, the current generation of American skaters are the ones that have earned my respect and admiration: Davis, Marsicano, and above all, my personal favourite, Chad Hedrick. The Dutch speed skating world needs to take a long hard look at itself, shed the drama and politics, and start focussing on what this sport is all about: heroism, spirit, individuality.

If we don’t get our act together soon, the coming winter Olympics in Vancouver will be a monumental disaster for Dutch speed skating.


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