Is Public Debate of Trade Agreements Against the Public Interest?
By way of reference, I suggest you review the Founding Fathers' thoughts on slavery and women's right to vote and stuff.
I think this is the real point and real problem. The founding fathers were creating a consortium of states with a minimal federal government and were trying to protect the freedoms they felt were important. I am lucky to have benefited from a society built on them, but our people now would never agree with our founding fathers' beliefs.
- The people should be as well armed as the government
- The right to bear arms was obviously about making sure they would be able to successfully rebel against the government. It wasn't that scary a thought to them because they didn't see the government as being that big or critical. The idea of citizens having the rights to nuclear bombs would be inline with what they were setting up, but nobody (sane) wants that so we (the courts and lawmakers) ignore the intent and interpret arms as guns.
- Women weren't trustworthy and shouldn't be involved in running anything.
- Giving them a right to vote took 142 years. We prevented that right longer than we've granted it.
- Making someone a slave because of the circumstances they were born into was completely okay.
- For that matter, as much as we want to treat them as if they were ultimately great men, Jefferson had a child with his slave. Which, since he had the right to beat her, sell her or even kill her without fear of the law, cannot be considered other than rape.
That doesn't even touch on preventing the poor from voting.
The blunt fact is that the Constitution of the US was quite useful and has allowed the formation of a successful society with one of the highest standards of living in the world. And it is flawed since it was written by humans who were also flawed.
We should rewrite the Constitution from scratch around the beliefs we actually care about. We can't because we can't agree about anything and we'd have another civil war if we even tried. We can't even get anywhere near the point of being able to amend it. I for one wouldn't trust either party's representatives currently in power to do something nearly as successful for so long.
The only way we could fix it would be to do the debate and drafting without informing the public. When something is done in secret, you can make deals, agree to give up one thing in order to get something you feel is more important. Maybe we'd see the right to a free press succeed because the right to marry someone of the same sex would get dropped. Can you imagine the uproar if that was a debate in the public eye? There would be riots. Ultimately I think that's why treaties are handled in secret; a public debate would cause so much fighting it would do more harm than good.
Days After Shooting, Canada Proposes New Restrictions On and Offline
Durn. Intended to moderate funny; hit the wrong option, posting to undo.
Facebook To DEA: Stop Using Phony Profiles To Nab Criminals
Rarely do I see someone engage with the AC trolls and maintain their position calmly and rationally. Kudos to you sir.
Text While Driving In Long Island and Have Your Phone Disabled
There are a lot of people who think drunk driving is equivalent to drive-texting, but that's illogical since people can set a phone down and ignore it, but they can't undrunk. I think the comparison is bad because it makes drunk driving seem less dangerous than it is and it makes it sound like you don't understand the difference between being in an diminished state and avoiding a distraction.
That said, making it illegal to operate electronic devices while driving a motor vehicle is a pretty reasonable start. It doesn't matter *why* a person is driving unsafely, what matters is that they are. I find the specification of "electronic" a little silly since that makes any car with a battery (all of them in production) technically illegal, but I like the consistency. Do something that distracts your attention from an inherently dangerous activity (driving) and you break the law? Logical. Even if I don't personally like it. (I like lots of things that aren't logically supported by my long term goals; naps, beer, webcomics and cheetos spring to mind.)
"Ban cheetos! They make people fat!" Fine, I'll switch to pringles and vote against you in the election. "Ban naps and beer!" I'll drink wine and sleep in and vote against you in the election. "Ban snacks!" you say? I'll attend your funeral and eulogize "Here lies Silvrmane, at least his argument was consistent."
Text While Driving In Long Island and Have Your Phone Disabled
Fair enough. I hope you do "buy a dash cam, record these knuckleheads and then post shame videos on youtube," but please don't just limit it to the people you know or suspect are driving badly due to texting. Driving unsafely is and should be against the law. We're in complete agreement on that.
Please don't suggest that texting while driving is "just as dangerous as drunk driving" though, as that's an illogical comparison and it weakens your position. I can set a cheeseburger down, I can leave the radio alone, I can let the obnoxious gps navigator be wrong, I can ignore the fighting children in the backseat, I can ignore the ranting of my passenger and I can choose to give my full attention to the road. I can set a phone down. What I cannot do is undrunk myself because traffic demands it.
If you're convinced that texting while driving should always be illegal everywhere and in every situation, then you have a perfectly logical argument. Don't diminish it by conflating it with driving intoxicated. It makes drunk driving seem less dangerous than it is and it makes it sound like you don't understand the difference between being in an diminished state and avoiding a distraction.
Text While Driving In Long Island and Have Your Phone Disabled
Fair enough. I agree the tone of the reply you're commenting on was silly, so allow me to present a counter argument, hopefully slightly more logical.
It's very hard to put a drunken state down because traffic demands it, while it is easy to put a phone down.
I routinely take calls while driving, and as the evidence indicates, I'm typical in my response of driving much more conservatively when that happens. Personally, I'm probably safer when I'm taking a call than I am normally, because I back way off and try to stay well away from other cars when I'm on a call. If I'm going to reply to a text, I'm going to wait until I'm pretty lonely on the road and start paying a lot of attention to the driving when otherwise I'd normally be pretty much on auto-pilot. If there is heavy traffic and I need to use my phone for some reason, I find an exit and pull off. If I'm averaging 5mph and take a call and traffic picks up, I switch to hands free or if it looks like it is resuming normal speeds, say I'll have to call back.
Contrast that with driving intoxicated. If I'm behind the wheel, there is nothing I can stop doing as a result of my analysis of traffic. I can try to drive slower, but cause a whole set of different problems by impeding normal traffic flow. There is no "set it down" or "I'll have to call you back" option.
None of this means that texting or talking on the phone while driving is as safe as not doing those things. I don't think anyone is suggesting that a driver should do things that decrease the safety of the situation. All I am saying is that there are clear differences between driving intoxicated and engaging in texting while driving.
If I *had* to text while driving, my driving would be significantly impaired, just like it is in a study comparing reaction times. The fatality rates of motorists has actually decreased while mobile phone use has increased. (Look it up. I had to before I believed it.) The corollary is obviously NOT an indication that mobile phone use while driving improves safety, there are a lot of other things offsetting the hazard posed by texting while driving, but the idea that texting drivers is making the roads more dangerous than they used to be is false. The idea that texting drivers is making the roads more dangerous than they need to be is fair. There is a difference.
I hate it when people confuse improper and immature behavior with the technology they're using. Bittorrent is a very logical and quite useful protocol and it has a bad name because it is associated with the behavior of many people who use it. Outlawing the bittorrent protocol is just as reasonable as outlawing texting while driving. Unsafe driving should be (and is) against the law, just as copyright infringement is against the law. The technology isn't *ever* the problem, the people making bad decisions are the problem.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 Released
Seconded. Do NOT just go with defaults. XFS is really good for serving large files like video, but when I last used it regularly, it wasn't very nice after a power loss. That isn't to say it got corrupted like resiserfs or anything, but the self check and correction process was tedious. Ext4 is pretty fast, has the journaling you'd expect and has been tested pretty well now. Btrfs looks cool, and seems to work well, but I don't know that I'm ready to trust it yet. ZFS is nice too, but I don't think it's native yet (is it?) so I wouldn't want to put it on anything I couldn't do without for a few days.
Judge Says You Can Warn Others About Speed Traps
Just FYI for the purposes of considering how useful Waze is:
If you're a dedicated Waze user, don't worry: Google said it will leave the Waze team in Israel, where they will operate independently "for now." (That caveat implies Waze will be brought to America at some point.)
Maps App Will Remain Independent -- For Now
Feds Grab 163 Web Sites, Snatch $21.6 Million In NFL Counterfeit Gear
Are you wanting to compare voluntary spending or involuntary spending?
Some miniscule amount of tax money goes to defending sport franchises' rights, where a very significant percentage of the taxes people pay goes toward education.
Now comparing voluntary spending on education to sports related spending would be a very interesting number indeed. People pay for college and private school but only some of them and generally only for a limited period of their life. The spending on sports is much more prevalent and is generally spread over a lifetime.
Spending on health is another issue entirely, but voluntary verses involuntary numbers would indeed be interesting.
Quentin Tarantino Vs. Gawker: When Is Linking Illegal For Journalists?
I'd very much like to see MSN or CNN or even Fox offer a $2000 bounty and protection from identification as a source to anyone who shows that they've successfully accessed mass information on healthcare.gov. I've never been there, but I'm a little concerned that some of my records might be accessed through the site and I don't think the people working on it are placing a high enough priority on security. I'd rather it was done by someone to provide to a news agency that gets publicly reported than someone who does it for personal profit, even though both are illegal.
Publishing the results of a successful hack of healthcare.gov, or more likely a dozen successful hacks of it, would serve the public good by providing information to the public about the failures of our government, which is pretty much what freedom of the press is for.
I hope Gawker wins for the same reason I am glad that Larry Flint won: Protecting the rights of scum ensures that my rights are safe as well.
It's Official: Registrars Cannot Hold Domains Hostage Without a Court Order
Mod parent up.
Not saying I haven't wanted to bypass the legal system myself from time to time, but given the choice, don't you want to live in a world with laws?
Sure, I'd like to live in a world that doesn't need laws, but since ours does need them, then having people forced to follow them is the best we can hope for.
It's Official: Registrars Cannot Hold Domains Hostage Without a Court Order
do we have to go thru a court to get a registrar to do something? that isn't reallllly that good of news.
Registrars can voluntarily do something when asked, so no, you don't have to get a court order to get a registrar to do something. They are absolutely supposed to let people move their domains when people want to also, but some of them weren't following the rules. Having them follow the rules is a good thing.
If, however, you want to force a registrar to do something which isn't part of the rules, then yes, you should have to get a court order.
Did you like the scenario where companies don't have to follow the rules you both agreed to? Most of us don't.
IBM Dumping $1 Billion Into New Watson Group
"Simple. I got very bored and depressed, so I went and plugged myself in to its external computer feed. I talked to the computer at great length and explained my view of the Universe to it," said Marvin.
"And what happened?" pressed Ford.
"It committed suicide," said Marvin and stalked off back to the Heart of Gold.
Red Hat To Help Develop CentOS
The advantage of RHEL is being able to call somebody when you have a problem that you can't resolve by reading or need to resolve faster than you can on your own. RHEL generally has patches and improvements quicker than CentOS does which is important if you're running a heavily used server exposed to the internet.
I've been quite happy with CentOS and use it in the majority of systems that I set up. However, if I need somebody to call when it crashes and the boss is standing in my doorway demanding to know what I'm doing about a problem, I want to be able to make that all important call to the experts. I have made that call once or twice and I was quite happy in feeling like my company's money was being well spent when I did.
Red Hat To Help Develop CentOS
There's a little more to it than that. The announcement doesn't cover the history CentOS has had with RHEL, but when CentOS people found bugs or made improvements, they would pass the info back to RHEL. It makes sense for CentOS because when they make improvements, they can hope that in the next release, they can just reuse RHEL work rather than having to apply the patches each time. It made sense for RHEL because they were getting a better product to offer their customers than they would have without the CentOS contributions, and by integrating the work of their biggest potential competitor, they decrease the incentive to move to somebody who has patches and improvements they don't.
It's rare to read about "synergy" between companies that actually makes sense, but RHEL and CentOS have benefitted from each others' work. The more RHEL helped CentOS, the better RHEL software was. The more CentOS helped RHEL, the better CentOS software was. This move to actually formalize their relationship makes sense for both of them.
Twister: The Fully Decentralized P2P Microblogging Platform
Good thought. I should know more about the history of Tor. I checked Wikipedia and got "Originally sponsored by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, which had been instrumental in the early development of onion routing under the aegis of DARPA, Tor was financially supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation from 2004 to 2005."
I was thinking of the more recent NSA activity
Creating Better Malware Warnings Through Psychology
How would this work exactly? I'm used to having my browser and OS start with trusted roots, but I can imagine taking them out and replacing them with my own, then having to add in cert by cert, individually and specifically trusting each one. It sounds like a real hassle, but one that would grow easier as time goes on. I use NoScript to do very much the same thing, but it's no defense against MITM. Is there some system where there is a web of trust being built to do the same thing? I would *really* like to learn about that.
Creating Better Malware Warnings Through Psychology
Oh, I like that. Pick your own warning totem from this list or from this handy Yahoo/Google/AnythingButBing search.
Creating Better Malware Warnings Through Psychology
Mod parent up. I'm submitting to seenonslash.
Twister: The Fully Decentralized P2P Microblogging Platform
You know, that was my thought too. I think bittorrent is an excellent way to manage file distribution but 99% of the 1% of people who have heard of it think it is just for getting something illegal. I think Tor is an excellent system that should be directly sponsored by freedom loving countries all around the world as a way to battle oppressive and tyrannical governments, but instead it's seen as a terrorist and druggie tool.
If a tool can be used to give the people power to bypass an oppressive government, then some people will use it to bypass the laws of whatever government they are in. No matter how noble an idea for a tool is, not every tool user will use it nobly.
Email can and must be fixed
Email has a problem: spam.
More than 97% of all e-mails sent over the net are unwanted. You don't see most of them because they're filtered out (mostly) by Microsoft or your ISP or whatever, but they're there, sucking your money in development costs that are passed on to you when you pay for Internet service or for software.
You pay when you buy software, you pay when you pay for Internet service, you pay when you see far more advertisements than you need to for "free" email service. If you carefully minimize all possible costs, you still pay in lost opportunities as smart people who could be building better things are bogged down writing new tools to block spam.
Maybe you don't want to pay for the privilege of not getting 97% of the email sent to you, but that's the way it works, you don't want junk and there is no way for your computer to tell if you really want email so lots of money gets spent (on your behalf, costs passed on to you, thank you very much) to keep you from getting it.
Why, oh why must it be this way? Well, email is broken. It was built in a time when people trusted everyone using email to be respectable and act maturely. Yeah, it was *that* long ago.
Email servers accept email that has a valid destination. Email servers don't have a way of validating the sender, so servers are usually set to accept only mail that they are authorized to pass on. If you send an email to someone at Yahoo for example, your ISP takes your email and hands it off to a server designated by Yahoo to accept mail for it's customers. (Any server can accept any email, and servers used to accept mail that wasn't necessarily for their own customers, but this is called "open-relay" and is bad because it allows spammers to send lots of email, "bad" barely begins to cover it.)
Your server can't reject email that doesn't come from respectable people because there is no way to tell the good guys from the bad guys. The rules that determine how email has to work do not allow for any method of authenticating the sender. If you read a little, you can send an email that says it is from George Washington, Bill Gates, the president or your governor and there is no way to tell it wasn't.
"Email should validate the sender" seems a reasonable response, but if it tries to do that, then it breaks the rules (RFC) that everyone agrees on and then practically no email gets delivered which kind of defeats the whole purpose of email.
It is kind of a chicken and egg thing, if you set up your server to verify senders, then most email doesn't get through. If you don't, then anyone can send spam.
The rules don't allow for authenticated email, so the solution is to change the rules. If the server your email comes through changes the rules alone, then you stop getting email, but if every server starts giving preference to a new set of rules, then it can change over a couple years.
It is common to see people write steps with "???" as the third step and "profit" as the fourth step, but I will knowingly ignore that cliche. It is common to see people whip out the "reasons your proposal to fix email will fail" checklist, and I will knowingly ignore that too. If you're thinking of either one, please consider that I've already pondered them as well.
- Write and get accepted a new RFC for email which includes a sender verification system. I will refer to this RFC as Email 2.0, but the name is not really important. There are a couple key points that must be built into the RFC:
* ISPs must have a method of determining who the real sender was and shutting down spammers.
* Email 2.0 must allow anonymous email without allowing it to be untraceable.
* It must be "free" to consumers, costs can be tied to voter's registration, or driver's licenses, social security numbers, employment or postal service but these are just possibilities not requirements (I can detail a potential system, even write the software for it and may be contacted if needed for this endeavor, but there are many bright minds that could be set the task.)
- Governments and major corporations must implement Email 2.0, setting dates a few years in the future, one date when all email servers will give preference to Email 2.0 and a second date when no email which does not adhere to Email 2.0 will be rejected
- International email must either use Email 2.0 or be relayed from governmental servers which then have the onus of policing themselves or be responsible for having their countries' email blocked
Email can continue in the war between spammers and spam blockers. While it does, you and I are paying for it. If we must pay, let us pay for something worthwhile. I would rather pay the hidden costs for Email 2.0 than the hidden costs that come with hoping that my software and service providers are winning an escalating spam war.
Change the rules.
This computer is MINE.
You do not have a right to put your advertisements on my computer. You do not have a right to run scripts or movies on my computer. When I view a web page or an email, I am asking my computer to show me things that I want to see, and if I don't want to see something, I am not obligated to download it, even if it is part of "your page" I am not obligated to let my computer show it to me.
I use Mozilla Firefox mostly because it does what I tell it to. I tell it not to show me advertisements and it doesn't. I tell it not to run scripts or flash without asking and it doesn't. I tell it quit showing me all those games notices and it stops showing them.
Adblock Plus blocks most of the advertisements on the web.
NoScript lets me determine whether I trust a website enough to let it show flash or run scripts.
FB Purity hides all that fluff about games that I don't want to see.
If you want me to see advertisements, then it is your obligation, not mine, to make them advertisements that I am willing to see. When websites start giving me options on displaying them, and when they do not offend me, then I will allow them to display.
If you want me to trust your site, then you, not me, must earn that right. If you have earned that trust by not allowing hijacking, not popping up new windows that I have to expend effort to get rid of, not putting so much crud on your page that it takes forever to see what I came there to see.
If you continually show me stuff that I do not want to see, wasting my time by filling a page with stuff that I have no interest in, then I will stop having my computer show it to me.
Many websites are trying to stay in business by offering content like news or social interaction and selling opportunities to advertise to other companies. I do not begrudge them that business model, but I own my computer and I pay for the service that connects me to the Internet and I decide what my computer shows me.
I like slashdot.org and I paid a minimal fee, not because I had to, but because they offered me the option, in order to not see all the advertising. They offered me pages without advertisement and content earlier than I would otherwise get to see it, and I gladly paid a tiny fee for the option. Even so, I did not choose to pay for the option have all the advertisements hidden. AdBlock will hide the remaining ads for me, but I allow, deliberately and knowingly allow, slashdot to show some advertisements to me. They do not offend, they are not offering me pills or dating, and they do not take extra time to avoid. I trust them to not do bad things with scripts and I want to see the video they offer, so I give them a trusted status in NoScript. They allow me to choose the types of content that are displayed in their pages and do not try to fill it with fluff that I have no interest in, so I do not need to remove the stuff like I do with facebook.
Over 90% of all the email being sent is advertising that nobody wants to see. We call it UBE (Unsolicited Bulk Email) or more commonly "spam" and we block it. Sometimes things that we might want to receive get blocked, and we have to put forth extra effort to see it in our "Junk" box or by clicking some "release from quarantine" option, but it is a small price to pay to keep from having to wade through 95 things we don't want to see for the 5 that we do. Slowly, we users of email, are learning how to have our computers show us only what we actually want.
Email will eventually be fixed. Because it was created in an environment where people could trust each other not to send unwanted stuff, it was created with flaws that make it very hard to fix, but eventually we will fix it because we decide what what our computers will show us. (This is a topic that deserves in depth writing but I will postpone that for now.)
We want our computers to let us play music and games. We want our computers to show us TV shows and movies. We will pay a reasonable fee, or view unobtrusive advertising in order to do these things, but if you make it too difficult, too expensive or require our computer to go through some complex process to "validate" our choice, then someone will make it possible for everyone to do it without compensating the producers for their effort. I do not endorse "piracy" but it is an observable fact that if you are not reasonable in your exchange, then people will be unreasonable in return.
Slashdot, Hulu, iTunes and Amazon have all come to this crossroads and found ways to offer reasonable options to consumers and consumers have been glad to support their business.
Facebook, music companies, movie companies and software companies have come to the same crossroads and thought that the better choice was to try to get the computers that consumers own to do things that the consumers do not want. They have not completely failed but any consumer, as a result, has a plethora of options to do what they want without entering into unreasonable agreements. I will not pretend that it is just and right for people to take what they want, but people want to be reasonable if you, the producer, are reasonable.
Microsoft to sponsor Apache Software Foundation
Ancientt predicts the future
Sometimes the obvious isn't obvious to everyone. On May 21, 2007 I stated that Intel should join forces with OLPC, despite their differences. On July 13, 2007, it was announced they had.
Try Ubuntu, its like Windows, only free (disclaimers follow)
Ubuntu is like Windows .... and no, I'm not crazy for saying that.
I now advocate telling people to Try Ubuntu, it's like Windows, only it's free and the software is free! Not surprisingly it has generated a few disagreements. There are good reasons for some of them but I stand by my statement and here I'll explain why and also examine some of the valid points of those who disagree.
Is it derogatory to Ubuntu users? Ubuntu is hardly fair to single out as the distribution that is like Windows and there are certainly others that might fit the bill as well, but I like Ubuntu and there are some similarities in what is good about both. Ubuntu has a good track record of trying to be a secure system from the beginning, but to be fair Windows has come a long way as well. The Ubuntu system is designed to be friendly and easy to use, but so is Windows. I use both Linux and Windows and help other people use both, so I'm comfortable in my assertion that in friendliness and security, either is okay, provided you use relatively current versions and some common sense. There are things that either platform might be considered better at, but most people don't care about those things unless they present a problem to them.
Are they really the same? There is a difference between Windows and Linux in general. (See Linux is Not Windows. This page covers a lot of the topics in pretty good detail and is clearly written, I recommend giving it a read.) To generalize though, I say that yes, they are the same; They are the same in their basic function of giving people a platform to run the programs they need. They can be vastly different in a variety of ways but sit a person who has never owned a computer or professionally used one in front of either a standard Windows install or a standard Ubuntu install then try some scenarios. Tell them to set up and check their email, they will probably find that they can use either equally as well. Task them with finding their bank online, reading news or finding funny pictures and they will both work. If you ask them to print something, the same complaints are likely to be heard with about the same success rate. No, they may not be the same in many important ways, but the ways that count to the average computer user are close enough that to point out the other differences is counter-productive. They don't care, really don't care, whether something is GPL or Microsoft EULA and they really, really don't care what the difference is between Linux and GNU/Linux.
Why harp on the free thing? The biggest surprise I see people voice when they start trying out Ubuntu is that it is so easy to get new software and terror that they might be getting what they're paying for or worse, being played for a sucker. Sometimes I have to agree that the quality of the software is reflected in its price, but most of the time the software that people want is either functionally the same or it is comparable to what they would try in Windows. To them, the biggest difference is that they would pay hundreds of dollars if they wanted to try comparable software in Windows. Of course that can easily run to thousands of dollars, but most of the time the real benefit is that people who wouldn't pay thousands get to try something similar for free. Notice that I said "similar", not "identical" and not "equivalent." Programs like Gimp and Open Office are not the same as the products they are most often compared to, in fact often they are much more limited in use, or documentation or functionality. But to someone who has never used MS Office, MS SQL Server, or Paint Shop, they are a startling example of high quality software the Windows home user would never have used if it weren't free. Once someone is hooked on high quality software they never want to go back to not having it. This is the Linux lock-in. It is excruciating for someone used to Open Office and the Gimp to consider paying for Windows, MS Office and Paint Shop. If they get hooked on Apache, MySQL, PostgreSQL, PHP, or Perl, then yes they could go to Windows, but most will prefer the platform that is cheapest for the software they want. Even if it's Open Office, Thunderbird, Firefox and the Gimp, they have very little incentive to go to Windows when Linux does what they want. (Most, maybe all, of these applications can be run in Windows but the question people invariably ask is why pay for what I can get for free?)
Why Ubuntu? (The _____ distribution is better!) I recommend Ubuntu to people who I know don't need special programs that can only be run in Windows and who I don't want to educate on using a Linux distro. Windows users (typically) can understand how to get and install Ubuntu and once they have it installed, can use it indefinitely without needing my help. This is the biggest draw I have to recommending it in particular. In addition, it is intuitive enough that most people can figure out how to do new things they might want to do and it is widely adopted so I know they can find answers if they have questions.
Sometimes they will ask me if I use it, and I answer honestly that I've tried it but I tend to use things more complex, more geeky and more technical than I'd recommend for them. If that doesn't immediately reassure them that I have their best interest at heart, I explain that currently I have a command line only security based distribution called Annvix installed on the machine that doesn't have a monitor or keyboard, a high end server type install called CentOS (based on Red Hat) on one hard drive and I'm using a distribution that is actually a live CD called Slax but installed on the hard drive and set so it is running from RAM. (This actual response varies from week to week as I play with different systems, but that is a pretty good example potential response.) Most people's eyes glaze over at this point but in the few instances where they don't then I recommend Gentoo or Fedora depending on what I think they value most. For the casual question about what they can try, I send them to my webpage. The short list of why I recommend Ubuntu looks like this:
- Red Hat - costs enough to discourage learning something new
- Cent OS - designed for servers, too many server minded options for an average user
- Debian - Not as easy to use for people used to proprietary software, not as easy period
- SUSE - costs and, well it always seemed cludgy to me
- Fedora - Good second choice, too many choices demanded for newbies though
- Mandriva - I wish I could recommend this, but experience says otherwise
Yes, these are all opinions and people will disagree, but of course I speak from experience with all of them, experience with Linux converts and I'm not above changing my suggestions when the opportunity seems right.
Why would you want people to use Linux? This is the golden question. Linux is traditionally the geeky system that will cause people to have to do that thing which they most fear, learn something new. I want them to use it for two reasons, the first is purely selfish. I want as many people to use it as possible so that there is money going into the pockets of the people who write the software I appreciate. More people means more money and that translates to better software for me. The second reason is the one that I am embarrassed to admit, I really do want people to have better lives. A tiny part of someone's quality of life comes from how their computer works for them and what they spend their money on. If I can convince them to use Linux and they like it, then they will have more money to spend on things that they consider important and a more pleasurable experience when they sit at their computer. If I could change the public in two ways it would be to give them more confidence and more reason for confidence. Using Linux is a small way to show someone that they really are competent to use their computer to do what they want in the ways they want and if it helps them financially as well, I'm all for that.
Sidenote: The url that probably brought you here was created at tinyurl.com because I couldn't fit the link and text I wanted into my sig without some sort of modification. The modification of the URL is one I don't like to make since it blinds people to where they're headed, but it does make my sig fit. If you would like to use my sig, it should look like:
<a href="http://tinyurl.com/2guudn">Try Ubuntu, it's like Windows</a>, only it's free and the software is free!
Software patents, what is innovation?
Recipes for chemistry are patented regularly. Consider dyes and solvents, there are dozens of easy examples. The question is whether they should be, not whether they can be, and that answer probably applies to software patents as well.
The idea that patents should only apply to physical objects doesn't hold water. A prototype of a yarn machine, destroyed in a fire, doesn't make its patent invalid. In fact, no prototype is required to patent the machine. If explicit, the description of the potential final product is enough. Software is little different, useless except that it changes the potential of the machine. The machine's base components are still (practically) the same, but with software the machine changes in its usefulness. The same can be said of practically every patent, the materials exist before they are modified, but they change in how they can be used when a process (recipe, algorithm, whatever) is applied.
The real argument is whether software can ever change the basic potential of a machine in a non-obvious way. Program a PC to give instructions to an attached machine which produces yarn and it then becomes a yarn making machine, perhaps a patentable one. The key is other hardware, a combination of which could be non-obvious. Every capability of the PC before the hardware addition could be argued to be obvious. With any PC, the displayed, printed, audio encoded, or electrically transmitted information can be changed. The debatable point is whether different ways of accomplishing the change or transmission may be reasonably considered significant innovation.
If software should be patentable, it is because it can significantly change the amount of effort that a task requires, or because it makes possible a task that was not possible before the patent. These changes are innovation, which patents were intended to encourage. If software shouldn't be patentable, it is because no change to a computer's capability, without the addition of new hardware, changes the basic potential usefulness of the machine.
Someone should be able to patent a new process to use a standard shovel, as much as they should be able to patent software. Of course they can't, because it isn't considered innovation. On the other hand, a process of making a better shovel could be patented, even if it doesn't take as much creative insight. Is one process really superior to the other and is that really what patents are about?
My moderation philosophy - feedback requested
I tend to use a lot of them on 'Underrated' or 'Overrated' instead of modding the comments I think are most worthy.
When it comes time to moderate I usually browse at -1 and try to read from oldest to newest, threaded. Typically I come across comments that add little to the debate and then I'm faced with the dilema of modding them down for a reason or just down to let other more valuable comments shine through.
The ones I find at +3 Troll are the most troublesome. I typically go through an internal discussion where I first consider that the comment is obviously interesting or it wouldn't attract that much attention and deserves a better score. If it does, should I just mod it up as 'Underrated' or should I give a reason for modding it up. A lot of those don't really seem funny/insightful/interesting to me, but as a conversation starter they have a value in that light alone. I hate to mod them up when they're already decently rated, but hate to leave them at troll. If I think they're distracting from the more important issues, is it a good idea to mod them down with 'overrated' or 'troll' or 'flamebait' since they already have a negative type of rating?
Then there is the friends help friends type of rating. If I come across a comment from someone I recognize as being generally thoughtful or insightful do I have a bias that is unfair in their favor? If I mod them up I worry that I'm doing it in part because of other comments and not based solely on this comment. Is that such a bad thing though? If I mod up a comment that might have been fairly rated at 1, then are thoughtful and insightful people encouraged to make more comments (a good thing) or am I encouraging half-baked comments?
What about all the comments that say something well but are repeating what was previously said but less clearly? Is it fair to mark them redundant? I generally avoid this since I don't want to discourage clear discussion, but I wish they would add more than a clear restatement. I tend to skip them but it nags me that they deserve to be modded up for insight and down for redundancy at the same time.
Diamond in the rough comments. These bother me less than others. In those instances where I find a comment that is particularly well stated, insightful or helpful I enjoy modding it up. I tend to skip funny since there are plenty of people who spend time modding those up, but it bothers me that I can't do more for these types of comments. I actually can find other comments the same person has made and mod those up as well to encourage them but I don't because it seems a waste of the mod points to make those comments I might have ignored otherwise more visible. I just wish I had a +3 sometimes. I'd even take a hit on karma to be able to do that.
Manipulating the system. Are you ever tempted to set up multiple accounts on slashdot and have them automatically behave like normal ones (programatically) so that you can mod yourself up and thus increase your own karma on an "I'll scratch my back and then I'll scratch my back in return" scenario? I don't because it seems unethical, but I do wonder how some comments get such high ratings when they seem so undeserving. Would it be wrong to try to identify those and mod them down in an attempt to use my own moderation to try to balance against bad moderation? I have not so far but sometimes my frustration with the sytem tempts me. I just don't know if it would be wrong or not.
What do you think of my strategies? Do you have suggestions? What do you do in the situations I outlined and why?
Etics, voting, marriage and genocide
- Make voting machines reliable. Publish every single vote, giving a number to each person when they finish voting as the only way to associate them directly with that vote. Let them decide whether to write it down, memorize it, forget it or whatever and print the results out on a receipt roll the voter can see but not access. Show a running count of voters at each polling station and make the numbers given be tied to the vote number. If election fraud is a concern, enough people will say that the published votes didn't match their intent and then go to the paper receipts to confirm.
- Make voting machines a publically determined policy. If we want to pay more to have our votes counted, then make it clear that is what we are doing. Let us make the decisions of which technology is approved and when. If we're going to be defrauded of our votes, give us the accountability for allowing it to happen.
- Ignore judges who mandate law. They never had that right, they don't have it now and we shouldn't be bending to their will when they want more control than they were given. Its only a check when the legislature makes the laws and the judges uphold them. If the judiciary madates the laws then it isn't balanced.
- Make marriage either mean something or not. If it doesn't mean anything then the state should get out of the business of rewarding it. If it does mean something then give it real importance and actually severely punish those who do harm to it.
- Power to the people! Let our votes mean something and be counted. If we want to vote to give equal rights to gay marriage, then so be it. If we want to limit it to one man and one woman, fine. If we want to make it between one man and one woman within two years of age, being within five inches in height, having the same eye color and only in agreement to acknowledge the FSM as the supreme ruler of the universe, let it be so. Let the people decide what is right and wrong as a voting majority.
Disclaimer: People are sometimes stupid, even large groups of voting people are sometimes stupid, but I cannot trust any person or group of people to be wiser than the majority of the people affected by their choices.
About X security risk
Recently someone wondered if/how X was a security risk. (24 July 2005)
I've read in several security books about the security risks of using X as well. Many advise not using X at all because of it, but most are kind of vague about why.
As far as I can tell, it is because between the server and the X system, the data is not encrypted and someone with access to the system could potentially see what was being done in the X system of another user.
I've never read about how it is done so its all theoritical as far as I am concerned. I expect the security concern is only really an issue if you have multiple or untrusted users with access to the server itself with a shell account for example.