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Harper chomping at the bit for an election

Steven Harper is pushing hard to call a snap election in the next week or so. Canadian election law mandates a 6 week campaign, so we'd actually be at the polls no earlier than mid-October.

Why is Harper so keen on an election right now? The political landscape isn't really in his favour; the best he could hope for would be another Conservative minority government. That's not in his personal best interest, as it would likely result in his position being reassessed by the party.

Harper claims that the current parliament is dysfunctional, but that clearly isn't the case. By any objective measurement, this parliament has been extremely compliant in its minority status. The Conservatives have gotten quite a bit of their agenda through, which is unusual in a minority parliament, especially considering that they have no real allies in the other parties.

Dion has suggested that Harper wants to preempt several by-elections that have been called, and that he wants to avoid committee hearings on Conservative scandals. I don't think that's really it. Yes, the Liberals would get a bit of momentum from wins in the by-elections, but that's not certain and hardly fatal anyway. The committee hearings are important, but they haven't gotten much traction in the public view.

In my view, Harper is terrified of Obama. Improved relations with the US was the primary selling point the Conservatives used in the last election and that would be squarely on the Liberal's side with Obama in the Whitehouse. Further, it'd be seen as inappropriate for the Liberals to assume that Obama will be the president before he's elected, so Harper is desperate to get Canadians to the polls before November 4th.

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Psystar plans to counter sue Apple

Psystar has laid out its defence plans against Apple. They will be suing them under the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Clayton Antitrust Act arguing that tying OS X to Apple hardware is monopolistic.

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Slashdot on Firefox's SSL mess

Slashdot has picked up on Firefox 3's terrible certificate management system, pointing to this article. While I'm rather critical of Mozilla's handling of this, they're in the right in this case.

The article in question points out several sites with expired certificates getting terrible error messages. This is the right thing to do, those sites should trip a giant "OMGWTF" flag in browsers. They're broken, and the lax treatment they've gotten from browsers in the past has not prompted their admins to fix them.

The problem isn't with legitimate security issues like lapsed certificates, it's the fact that Firefox has effectively banned self-signed certificates for technical illiterates. There are many use cases where commercially available Certificate Authorities are not practical or even outright impossible.

Hardware firewalls, for example, cannot use CA signed certificates. For one, their final sale price is often at or below that of a CA signed certificate for a single year, and for another they won't have a permanent, externally accessible DNS name to certify. It's fine to say that users of commercial grade equipment should be able to add exceptions, but your average Mom & Pop with a $50 Linksys firewall probably won't manage.

This change won't result in better security. It can only result in either people deciding Firefox doesn't work, or that configuring their routers is just too hard. Hundreds of thousands of identical systems running with default passwords open to the wider internet will not make the world a better place.

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Psystar still selling Mac clones

Psystar, the plucky little Mac clone company, is still selling its wares despite the Apple lawsuit. They've hired some pretty heavy hitters themselves, so I'm not quite convinced they're really doing this on their own.

Regardless, I wish them luck. If they can force Apple to accept commoditized hardware it will be a big win for the whole industry, Apple included.

Well, except for Microsoft.

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On Firefox's antipathy to encryption

Overall, Firefox 3 is a great update. It's faster, leaner and though others may disagree, I love the Awesome Bar. Unfortunately, it's extremely hostile to secure web browsing and makes it all but impossible for regular users to use encryption for non-commercial purposes.

Previously, Firefox 2 would warn the user when accessing a secure site that didn't prove it's identity (a self-signed certificate), but it would let them through. Firefox 3 throws a screaming hissy fit, and forces the user through not one, but four confusing and intimidating gauntlets, none like the other. The stereotypical grandma simply isn't going to be able to make her way through that. Firefox 3 will not allow her to use encryption anywhere but her bank.

Phishing is a problem, but solving it does not justify banning all non-commercial encryption outside the nerd ghetto.

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