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FreeBSD Project Falls Short of Year End Funding Target By Nearly 50%

Watts Martin Re:Obligatory (245 comments)

While I agree with the last two sentences, it's worth noting two points which undercut your first two sentences rather dramatically:

(1) Taking BSD-licensed code and making a proprietary fork doesn't make the previous release magically go away; it makes a new fork. If I love the open source editor FooEdit and FooEdit has a vibrant community around it, then somebody else comes along and starts selling BarEdit based on their proprietary, closed source fork, I can either choose to switch to BarEdit and accept the risks, or keep using FooEdit. (And arguably that's not a binary proposition in the first place: I can switch to BarEdit and then switch back to FooEdit.) The worst case hypothetical is that somehow BarEdit's creation kills the FooEdit community, but in reality that seems very unlikely; in practice, I can't think of a single BSD-licensed project that this has happened to. Can you? Yes, it's possible that in my scenario BarEdit would get cool new features denied to FooEdit users, but if you're deliberately choosing your software based on its "openness" then you've already decided to forgo cool features that are only in proprietary software. Furthermore, you can hardly point to BarEdit and say, "those cool BarEdit-only features would be in FooEdit if only it had been under the GPL"; the more likely case is that BarEdit would simply never have existed.

(2) While the anonymous coward who responded with "ROFL" was perhaps unduly acerbic, his point is correct: an end user who can't debug and patch code is dependent on the developers to fix bugs regardless of the license the software she's using is under. As much as people don't like to hear this around these parts, I know an awful lot of end users who look for free software because it's free as in beer.

about 2 years ago

Oracle Asks OpenOffice Community Members To Leave

Watts Martin Re:Oracle = Predictable? (589 comments)

The RTF spec hasn't stayed simple because Word hasn't stayed simple. I think people have forgotten that RTF is maintained by Microsoft as the documented, non-binary version of Word files, and every time there's a new release of Word it's followed by a new release of the RTF spec.

And you certainly don't have to "reverse engineer" RTF -- you can download the spec from Microsoft. It's proprietary in that it's not an open specification, but it's not the dark mysterious pit of hell that the Word binary format is.

about 4 years ago

Oracle Asks OpenOffice Community Members To Leave

Watts Martin Re: RTF (589 comments)

RTF can do (nearly?) everything that Microsoft Word itself can do, and absolutely nothing that Word cannot -- by design. It's Microsoft's own format and was designed to be the plaintext interchange format; they never documented the binary DOC file format, but always documented RTF -- you can get the RTF 1.9 spec from Microsoft's web site, which corresponds to Word 2007. Whether it's horrible is somewhat subjective, but it's certainly not dead.

about 4 years ago

Harsh Words From Google On Linux Development

Watts Martin Re:It's open source, google. Fork it. (948 comments)

And the Expose pretty much blows compared to your bog-standard workspace switchers on Linux.

Do you mean Expose or Spaces? Expose isn't a workspace switcher at all, it's just a weirdo visual effect to let you shrink all the windows on your current workspace down and switch between them. Spaces is, well, a bog-standard workspace switcher. Press a function key to see all the workspaces and drag windows between them, use ^1-^4 to switch between the spaces immediately (I only have 4 set, but you can set more if you're so inclined), click and hold on a window title and press the workspace control key to move the window directly there, add a dropdown for switching between spaces to your menu bar with optional names for the spaces, even "assign" applications to open in specific spaces by default.

I find the OS X interface to be mostly consistent and intuitive, but the last Ubuntu I used (8.04, I think) seemed to pretty much have its act together, and to be fair I think Windows Vista/7 does a pretty decent job. OS X is notably less consistent than OS 9 is, but I'd rather stab myself in the hand repeatedly with a fondue fork than use OS 9 for any length of time, so I think it's a fair tradeoff.

more than 5 years ago

Harsh Words From Google On Linux Development

Watts Martin Re:Choice (948 comments)

PC vendors would love to have Mac OS X on their PCs, and take Microsoft's foot off their neck. Apple won't allow that anytime soon.

This is something I've observed before, but it might bear repeating. Microsoft has a legendarily paranoid attitude toward competition: despite being the 800-ton gorilla they're always assuming any company that's in even indirect competition with them is out to get them, and ones in direct competition must be destroyed any way necessary. Computing history is full of examples of this, most notably relating to competing operating systems--look at DR-DOS and the incredibly restrictive licensing agreements that Microsoft required their OEMs/VARs to agree to, restricting their ability to preload other operating systems on PCs or even requiring OEMs to pay for every machine they sold whether or not the machines were preloaded with Windows if any machine they sold was preloaded. (BeOS' makers sued Microsoft over this a decade ago.)

Right now, Apple isn't seen as being "direct" competition by Microsoft precisely because Apple makes their own operating system for their own hardware, and Apple applications by and large only run on OS X. If Apple starts selling retail copies of OS X licensed to run on any PC, Microsoft's view of Apple changes. All Microsoft applications for OS X would be end-of-lifed faster than you can say "developers developers developers." Yes, that means Microsoft would see that revenue stream dry up--I don't think they'd care. Every technical and legal trick Microsoft can possibly pull to keep Windows from happily coexisting with OS X would get used. New proprietary network sharing protocols, licensing that prevents you from running Windows on a virtual machine on a non-Microsoft OS, you name it.

Am I saying Apple would never under any imaginable circumstance release OS X for non-Apple PCs? No. But I'm saying that Apple isn't going to do that unless they're really fucking sure they can get into an all-out war with Microsoft and win. I don't think that's going to happen anytime soon.

(And really, do you want it to? If you think Mac users are smug now, just imagine them if Apple did beat Microsoft in that kind of pissing contest.)

more than 5 years ago

Project OXCART Declassified From Area 51

Watts Martin Re:I believe it (208 comments)

But given all *facts* in the story, there's really a world of difference between the chances of an actual JFK conspiracy and the chances of UFOs/bigfoot/whatever.

(A somewhat delayed response due to putting off my taxes until the last minute yesterday...) True enough. I think the real fallout of the Warren Commission's report is that it doesn't matter whether they were deliberately trying to cover something up or just did a rush job to get a sense of "closure" as quickly as possible; they made it all but impossible for anyone to definitively say "this is what happened, case closed," so people may well be puzzling over bullet fragments several generations from now.

more than 5 years ago

Project OXCART Declassified From Area 51

Watts Martin Re:I believe it (208 comments)

The National Forensic Association is an intercollegiate debating organization. I doubt they have anything particularly important to say about the JFK assassination. There was a report by the National Academy of Sciences based on acoustical analysis of crime scene recordings, but it concluded that the multiple-shooter theory was not supported by the available acoustic evidence.

Perhaps you are thinking of a report by a Texas A&M professor of statistics and a retired FBI forensic scientist from 2007 who "conducted a chemical and forensic analysis of bullets reportedly derived from the same batch as those used by suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald." Their conclusion was that the bullet fragments aren't particularly rare and that the matching fragments could have come from three or more separate bullets, and that previous analysis based on bullet fragments "used to rule out a second assassin is fundamentally flawed."

The important thing to note here, conspiracy buffs, is that those two reports don't contradict one another. There could be a second shooter that wasn't captured by the acoustic evidence -- but likewise, matching fragments could have come from three or more separate bullets is not an equivalent statement to "matching fragments did come from three or more separate bullets."

It's also worth noting that, in fact, the report was not done by a "national association," it never made the sweeping claim that "the official story was impossible," and the report has been criticized for naive use of statistics and generally poor writing. According to critic John Fiorentino, the paper as finally presented in 2008 was revised to address his rebuttal linked above, and "by making the revisions, the authors have effectively negated their findings just as stated in [Fiorentino's] rebuttal."

There are many criticisms to be made of the Warren Commission's handling of the investigation, and I suspect that because of that there will be people arguing about this two hundred years from now. The problem is the same here as with nearly all Grand Government Conspiracy Stories, though: even if the official story (about whatever event we're talking about) is incomplete and imperfect, that doesn't ipso facto make the official story wrong in either overall scope or final conclusion. It's worthy to question authority and to be skeptical of any official story--but there is a point where skepticism becomes gullibility: someone who automatically dismisses anything The Government says is thinking no more critically than someone who automatically accepts anything The Government says, and is ultimately just as easy to manipulate.

more than 5 years ago

Designer Accused of Copying His Own Work By Stock Art Website

Watts Martin Re:You are ... being an idiot. (380 comments)

It's only the interactions individuals have with big organizations that go badly that we hear about, because interactions that go well aren't newsworthy. It only takes a few moments of reflection from that point to realize that these bad interactions are, even with organizations that have widely-known terrible reputations (the DMV, Verizon, etc.), a very small fraction of the total interactions those organizations conduct. We tend to ignore the basic math of the situation: if 95% of an organization's customers rated its service as average or higher, if we ran that organization we'd consider that absolutely fantastic. Yet if we have a half a million customers, that means 25,000 people rated us below average.

Slashdot tends to attract libertarians of both the von Mises and the Chomsky sense of the word. The sort of amusing/exasperating thing is that the people who are really on those two ends of the libertarian spectrum are both ready to reply telling me I'm nuts for lumping them together--but it's remarkable how little work it would take with search-and-replace to turn an average rant on paleo-libertarian Lew Rockwell's web site into an average rant on lefter-than-thou Z-Net. Both sides conclude--arguably correctly--that concentrating power over great numbers of individuals in the hands of a privileged few is extremely dangerous to freedom, but one side believes that you fix that by restraining corporations as much as possible and the other side believes you fix it by restraining government as much as possible. Maybe I'm just not enlightened enough, but I'm not convinced either path actually leads to magical ponies.

more than 5 years ago

DRM Shuts Down PC Version of Gears of War

Watts Martin Re:Frist Post! ...expires (598 comments)

Do you have any statistics which back up your implicit assertion that piracy is significant enough that it threatens the business of game companies?

I'm absolutely serious here: every game gets cracked by pirates anyway, so DRM is not effective at stopping piracy. It's not even effective at delaying piracy appreciably, from all reports I've seen. Yet game companies seem to by and large stay in business (and when they do go under, piracy is by and large not cited as the reason). It seems fairly evident, then, that

- DRM does not prevent piracy, its stated purpose;
- Piracy is not significant enough to threaten the livelihood of game publishers;
- DRM does massively inconvenience legal game buyers.

This would suggest to me that the idea that we need to "come up with something better" than DRM in order to "fight" it is fallacious. If DRM is not effective at doing what it's intended to do, but is effective at alienating your product's legitimate customers, there's no good argument for continuing to use it.

A shopkeeper who keeps hitting his customers in the face with a frying pan on the assumption that a non-zero number of them are trying to shoplift is not doing himself any good. "I'll keep doing it until you give me a better way to discourage thieves" is not a rational stance.

more than 5 years ago

White House Refused To Open Unwelcome EPA E-Mail

Watts Martin Re:The WH's boss is still we the people you know (497 comments)

I believe the lie that lead to the impeachment was about Monica Lewinsky. Wrong adulterous affair.

In any case, it somewhat begs the question. I think the strongest case conservatives made was, essentially, the "rule of law" argument: our country doesn't have rulers, but has a system of law that no one, regardless of office, can be held to be above.

The question, however, is: do we really believe that, or not? Because the defense of the Clinton administration boiled down to, "Well, these laws weren't broken in any matter that relates to the function of the office," and the conservatives replied -- I think correctly -- that it doesn't matter. Yet the defense of the Bush administration's actions boil down to, "Well, as long as we can make a plausible argument that we're breaking these laws in the service of national security, we shouldn't be held accountable." Would any conservative buy that argument if it had been made by Clinton? His wife? John Kerry? Barack Obama? Unless the answer is, "I would have absolutely no problem giving a Hillary Clinton administration the same sweeping surveillance powers and immunity from oversight," I would argue that's a serious disconnect.

more than 6 years ago



Twitter abruptly leaves Joyent

Watts Martin Watts Martin writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Watts Martin writes "A day after posts on both the Twitter and Joyent blogs proclaiming that "the decision to choose Joyent at an early stage was one of the big decisions that contributed to Twitter's success," a new post on the Joyent blog, "Twitter and Joyent: Update", tersely announces "Twitter has been officially off Joyent since 10PM last night." Twitter refers to an outage last night that was a "planned maintenance project" which involved finishing a "major infrastructure project [they've] been working on for months." If Twitter had been planning to move off Joyent for all that time and only let their provider know hours before the cutover happened, does this suggest a less than friendly departure?"


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