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What Did You Do First With Linux?

jesterzog Slackware on a 10MB partition (739 comments)

My first Linux experience was back in school about 1995, when one of my friends wanted to show me how awesome it was.

We somehow freed up about 10MB of space of the 40 MB disk on mum & dad's computer, and repartitioned it to install whatever version of Slackware was current at the time.

So what was so awesome about a 10 MB installation? I asked, and I was shown how cool it was to be able to switch between several different text consoles. (That multitasking sure beats DOS or Windows 3.1!) Another supposedly impressive feature was how you could change the font of the text consoles to be something more italicised and comicey! The Slackware installer of the day let you do this.

The other awesome thing I could apparently do, which my friend mentioned as he was leaving, was recompile the kernel. Wow! Of course on a 10 MB installation, I didn't actually have a compiler, or any kernel source, or a working modem to get any kernel source, and to be honest I didn't know what a kernel was or why I'd care about compiling it. But if I'd been able to, I'm sure that recompiling the kernel over and over again would have kept me completely satisfied. I bet it would have been better than staring at a command prompt all day with barely any storage space and no applications to run.

I couldn't figure out how to switch the text back to a normal font after my friend had gone, when it was hurting my eyes. Not that it really mattered, because I didn't spend a lot of time booting into Linux, except for when I wanted to feel cool. :P

So my Slackware installation of 1995 didn't last terribly long. In later years I tried to move to Linux several times with a dual partition, but always had problems due to some Microsoft application lock-ins with certain jobs I was doing for other people, as well as problems getting an X server to run reliably. Since about 2001, though, I've been persistently running Debian on my desktop and laptop computers. I did away with Windows at about that time, and I love it.

more than 5 years ago

The Woman Who Established Fair Use

jesterzog Re:Now I know who to blame (226 comments)

The purpose of copyright isn't to enrich the creator and his heirs, it's to encourage the creator to create more.

I generally agree but one small correction -- I think it's to encourage people to publish more. A problem before copyright existed was that authors were creating, but many were hoarding their work and being very careful who they showed it to (perhaps for a price), lest it get leaked. By providing the temporary monopoly over the work, there was much greater incentive for people to release it into the open where other people could access it.

Other than that, I'm for shorter copyright terms all the way. I'm completely in favour of one initial term of perhaps 15-20 years, plus up to one extension for which the copyright holder must explicitly state their interest in holding the copyright.

I don't really care about duplicating Steamboat Willy, but I think others should be able to. I also find it concerning how rare works without traceable owners are being lost into obscurity because projects such as Gutenberg aren't allowed to reproduce them, as a direct result of mega-corps such as Disney not wanting to forfeit the ownership on their very small minority of copyrighted material.

more than 5 years ago

RMS Says "Software As a Service" Is Non-free

jesterzog The data in a usable format seems most important (715 comments)

Assuming you're using the SAAS for some kind of data manipulation, I personally think the critical thing is to be able to conveniently pull down any or all of your data any any time you choose for backup purposes, and have it in a form that you're satisfied with so you can keep using it without the online service. Perhaps this is a very rich form which will let you re-import the data into some other application, or it may just be a simple text file.

The main advantage I can see of having source code for a SAAS application is if you want to completely re-create the service and point it at your data, or if you want to examine the specs of whatever format the data was stored on the server so you can access it again. Neither is very useful if you could never get your data in that format in the first place.

more than 5 years ago

RMS Says "Software As a Service" Is Non-free

jesterzog Re:I must not use it? (715 comments)

I tend to agree with this, but I'm a bit of a hypocrite. It's not the software that bothers me with SAAS. It's the data storage, for two reasons:

  1. If the service disappears, I might lose the data.
  2. Having someone else store my data may be a risk to my privacy.

I'm reasonably comfortable using GMail, because I find it very convenient with moving between the 4+ computers I tend to use every day.

I've solved problem 1 with a script on my home PC which runs on a cron job, periodically downloads all my sent and received emails from my GMail account via pop3, and stores them in a nice openly-specified Maildir format. From here they get backed up. I also try to avoid using my GMail address directly, because I don't want to encourage people to email me at an address that I don't own and which I might no longer control one day.

I haven't quite solved problem 2, and this is what bothers me. For now at least, the convenience of GMail has won out over concerns about my privacy. Perhaps I'll regret it one day if GMail's security is compromised, or if Google's policies about data change.

I'll post on Slashdot because I don't think I'll be too concerned when it closes down one day and zaps all my correspondence. (Hell, maybe I'll be relieved. :)

more than 5 years ago

New Zealand Halts Internet Copyright Law Changes

jesterzog Re:It was a shady mafRIAA backroom deal (216 comments)

The politician who got this section slipped into the law, Judith Tizzard (Labour party MP), did so, right before an election and right before the end of her career. She retired.

This is rubbish. She was voted out, and she only lost her electorate by 1500 votes after getting 13200. She retired because people didn't want her any more, not because she was going to anyway.

Judith Tizard's actually done lots of really good work over a long period of time, and it's a shame that she took such an awful stance on copyright law.

more than 5 years ago

New Zealand's Recording Industry CEO Tries to Defend New Draconian Law

jesterzog I disagree about the corruption (269 comments)

Really, it's just ignorance and a group of politicians on both sides who run a small country with limited resources and didn't appreciate until now that anyone but the entertainment industry seriously cared about an issue that the media doesn't traditionally make a lot of noise about because copyright is usually very boring. They've been caught by surprise, which is why there's suddenly so much open controversy in the media.

The New Zealand government has its problems as any government does, but it's naive to just assume that it's corrupt because it's a government and because the overtones on Slashdot tend to be that governments are corrupt. NZ politicians aren't perfect or inherently uncorrupt, and nor are public servents, but the country's much smaller, the election cycle is faster, there's only a single tier of representation, and the people in the government are much more directly accountable to the people who they govern. Mistakes get made but there are still checks and balances in place, of which the Official Information Act has had a huge impact, and for 3 years running Transparency International has rated NZ first equal in its corruption perceptions index. It's been in the top 3 for 9 of the 10 years that the index has been published (in 1998 NZ was ranked 4th).

Section 92A is very badly worded and badly thought out, and you could quite easily claim that Labour made some seriously bad mistakes in drafting it as they have with several other recent things, but I think it's a real stretch to claim that this is blatantly corrupt.

more than 5 years ago

New Zealand's Recording Industry CEO Tries to Defend New Draconian Law

jesterzog Re:Presumed guilty (269 comments)

With the incoming NZ law, it would be up to the ISP to decide if there's a breach of the law, and then cut the connection accordingly. The biggest issues that ISPs and the NZ Internet community have with this law isn't that it tries to stop copyright infringement on the 'net. It's that it's using a very blunt, inaccurate and disproportionate instrument to do it.

It's disproportionate because people could have their whole connection cut if someone using it might have violated a copyright, even though the Internet is now a huge and essential part of many people's daily lives that goes far beyond obtaining download music. eg. It's like saying that you're not allowed to use a road because someone who lives in your house once parked illegally outside a nearby shopping mall.

There's also an unrealistic assumption that ISPs have legal expertise and resources to make decisions about law that should really be made in a court. Several large ISPs in NZ have already stated that they'll probably have to set policies on the safe side which will make it more likely for people to be disconnected after accusations instead of being treated fairly under copyright law.

more than 5 years ago

New Zealand's Recording Industry CEO Tries to Defend New Draconian Law

jesterzog Re:What a coincidence (269 comments)

In New Zealand's case (and as a New Zealander), I think it's more just a case of some politicians being ignorant and/or misinformed. Until quite recently, I don't think many NZ Members of Parliament saw copyright as much of a priority for consideration in the face of some of the other things.

more than 5 years ago

Is Climate Change Affecting Bushfires?

jesterzog Re:Why don't the Austrailians build differently? (397 comments)

Yes, the building code could certainly do with an upgrade. When I was growing up many people had small fire bunkers dug into the ground and every local fire-brigade had a air-raid style siren. Neither are common today.

I'm from NZ rather than Australia so much of my knowledge of how things work in bushfires isn't first-hand. We don't exactly have them here as a day-to-day thing, and I'll welcome being corrected on this. That said, would fire bunkers have helped much in this situation?

I had a friend at the recent meteorology conferences in Melbourne (she flew in on black Saturday amidst lots of smoke and eerie orange light). If I understood correctly I think she was telling me that the temperature within 5 metres of some of these fire fronts was estimated to be on the order of 2000 degrees celsius. (In perspective, that's about 1/3 the absolute temperature of the surface of the Sun!) Many of the people who were sadly trapped and killed in this were expected to have died very quickly from the heat, or very suddenly boiled alive in water tanks where they were hiding as a last resort, a long time before the fire came anywhere near them.

I guess they could help a lot in fires that are more normal, but if more people had been encouraged to stay in supposedly safe bunkers on this occasion, with trees and houses exploding around them through the heat, I'm curious if it could have resulted in even more casualties simply through them all becoming ad-hoc inescapable ovens.

more than 5 years ago

Obama Admin Fights Missing White House Email Lawsuit

jesterzog Re:who would do the work? (345 comments)

If the task falls to Obama's staff who weren't even there during the whole Bush thing, then I can't really blame him. If you took on a new job, would you like to be told that rather than focus on the tasks that they were hired to do, instead your staff was going to have to digging around through your predecessors crap to try to find something that may or may not be there?

In principle I agree, but I'm confused about why partisan staff should be involved in this kind of thing in the first place.

Surely something like the IT system for the Whitehouse, as with many other things, should be run by an entity that's independent from partisan politics in the same way that the courts are independent and the law enforcement is independent. These people shouldn't report to the President or his/her staff except for very indirectly. They should report to someone who ahs a responsibility to the government but not to the currently presiding party.

Security and robustness should be required as part of the design of how the government works -- not something added on a whim by the current administration if it happens to match their policies at the time. If old partisan staff get fired and new partisan staff get hired whenever there's a change of government, it makes it very clear that they're only there to do things the way the current administration requires, and not the way that's best for everyone.

more than 5 years ago

Microsoft Update Slips In a Firefox Extension

jesterzog Re:malware.... (803 comments)

That or it's just a lazily written installer. Not every part of Microsoft talks to every other part.

If Microsoft were good at following the same recommendations it makes for everyone else, all its apps would be written in DotNet using Windows Presentation Foundation and take 30-40 seconds to start up. (This would be okay though, because as recommended by Microsoft, they'd have splash screens to distract the user from the amount of time they were taking to load.)

more than 5 years ago

US CTO Choice Down To a Two-Horse Race

jesterzog Re:Answer is obvious? (284 comments)

The real issue here is that in this situation I would want to see an individual from the private sector because when you work for the government you really don't have metrics on profit. Since the returns on investment are largely intangibles and have little for comparison it is difficult to quantify value. Because of this I want someone who can come in and at least have an idea of profit and value instead of just having to make things better.

Isn't it at least as important to have someone who's familiar with recognising that stockholders aren't necessarily the only stakeholder? Efficiency should be important both in the government and in the private sector and I'm not trying to suggest that there couldn't be big improvements in efficiency of the US Federal Government, but government is (or should be) very different when it comes to prioritising outcomes. Not everything in government can be profitible, and it's not all about sacrificing benefit to everyone so that higher dividends can be returned to a select few who happen to be owners.

I'm not a US citizen so it's not directly important to me, but if I was then I'd want to see someone possibly with experience in the public sector, but definitely with a demonstrated interest in providing good, practical and useful services for people where it makes sense to do so, rather than simply cutting costs with nothing but a profit motive.

about 6 years ago

Stimulus Bill Contains Net Neutrality Provision

jesterzog Is local politics any different? (129 comments)

I know you're being satirical (probably justified), but are more local politics, such as at the state level, any less absurd? Overseas we don't hear about much other than US federal politics.

I've never lived in the US, but it seems like a huge government compared with many, and in many ways I can appreciate why there are so many people who don't bother voting. Especially when I compare it with what I'm used to in New Zealand, where the government represents 4 million people, and I guess that's more similar on scale to the population of a typical US state. Personally I think it works okay (opinions vary) and you're never really too far away from other voters or hearing about issues that other people think are important.

If I had a vote for a government of about 300+ million people, though, I'm not sure I could be bothered because it'd just be too hard to fully comprehend how I fitted in with everyone else. My own vote would be irrelevant because it'd be completely outweighed by people voting because of issues I hadn't even heard of, let alone understood. From the outside, it sounds as if the EU's moving in that direction, too, with a government that's extensive enough to be good for the economy, but too huge for many people to care about or perceive themselves as having the slightest bit of significance in its operation.

Correct me if necessary, but my understanding was that the USA was formed with the understanding that the federal government was always supposed to be fairly minimalist, with individual states having a lot of independence to choose how to govern themselves. How and when did this change? Was it all during WW2 or something like that, or has it been more of a slippery slope?

about 6 years ago

Tricked Into Buying OpenOffice.org?

jesterzog OSS and subscriptions don't make sense (543 comments)

Technically she may be required to pay-up, but that doesn't mean she has to. It's very likely she could ignore the email, never pay, and the scammers would drop the bill because it's too expensive to file court cases to claim $96.

I'm not a lawyer and more importantly I'm not a German lawyer, and ultimately I think that getting German legal advice if possible is a much better idea than asking Slashdot. I'm finding this whole case difficult to understand, however. I can't see how she could be liable for anything or how this distribution could have been legal, simply because they shouldn't be allowed to change the OpenOffice.Org LGPL distribution licence.

What I find very confusing is the use of open source software with subscriptions. How does that actually work, and how is it possible to offer a "1 year subscription" to use OpenOffice.org at all?

OpenOffice.Org 3.0 is distributed under the LGPL, which to my understanding (please correct me if necessary) typically means that once you have the software, you can use it as you like, even as far as giving the software and its source code to someone else. Given that the LGPL already says that you can only re-distribute LGPL software under the LGPL (or the GPL), what right would some random company have to attach extra conditions such as requiring that a user may only use it for one year?

Subscriptions and OSS go together frequently, but in such cases the subscription is nearly always for services that surround the software, but which aren't specifically for using the software. Is this company perhaps trying to claim that she agreed to purchase a 1 year support contract? (Hint: Get a lawyer to check the actual wording and give real advice.)

It's also not uncommon to see companies charging for OSS, but in such cases as others have already pointed out, the charge usually accompanies the form of distribution (like a disk or in a package), and the distributor still can't stop the user from receiving the software under (L)GPL. If the distributor already gave the user the software in this case, surely it must have already been given with the complete LGPL licence (if it was given legally), and the company wouldn't have any mechanism to demand further money after it's been received.

about 6 years ago

FOSS Development As Economic Stimulus

jesterzog Re:What about Microsoft? (365 comments)

For what it's worth, both Adobe[1] and Microsoft[2] work on a variety of Open Source projects (for some definition of open source), which I'm sure they could convince the relevant people are worthy of funding under whatever scheme might be proposed. And if they get government money to fund their open source labs, I guess they can potentially divert more of their open source lab money into closed source projects.

All of this would depend upon the terms of which a grant is given out, though, and none of the detail has really been specified here. If something like this ever happened, don't be surprised if, by the end of it, there were clauses to either channel most of the money to corporates through some kind of absurd requirements, or to make sure that nothing being funded would directly hurt corporates.

about 6 years ago

Companies Using MS Word "Out of Habit," Says Forrester

jesterzog Re:Googles playbook (367 comments)

On the other end of the spectrum, I don't trust other companies to protect my data. At least when data is stolen off servers I control I know who is to blame.

What I'd really like is a web application that will strongly encrypt my data before it even sees someone else's server, and then give me an opportunity to make my own backups from time to time in a format that I can access independently of the web service.

I can't see this happening, at least not for free, because there doesn't seem to be an obvious benefit in a company storing people's data when it can't read and analyse their data. On the other hand, it might be worth paying something for and I'm sure many businesses could think the same considering how much they'll pay for existing ways of doing things.

about 6 years ago

The Environmental Impact of Google Searches

jesterzog Re:Wrong Comparison (516 comments)

Google locates a lot of datacenter capacity in areas served by hydroelectric power.

Is this very significant if it's still using electricity that would otherwise be in the grid for others to use? Google's use of electricity probably just contributes to more coal-fired power plants being powered up elsewhere.

Not that I think Google should immediately be considered the one at fault here unless it could be shown that their power use is somehow disproportinate compared with the benefit they provide when compared with other businesses. Saving electricity is a good way to reduce carbon emissions, but it might make much more sense to generate the electricity with less carbon emissions in the first place.

about 6 years ago

Mumbai Police To Enforce Wi-Fi Security

jesterzog Re:What it would do (134 comments)

Perhaps you could list a few alternatives that are easy for people who aren't technically inclined, which are generally foolproof, and which don't leave forensic traces that equipped police can follow.

Of course it won't stop terrorism. It'll just force them to do something other than what they wanted, make anonymous communication harder, and raise the chance they'll make a mistake. It'll probably annoy some people who have legitimate uses for unsecured access points, too.

about 6 years ago

Mumbai Police To Enforce Wi-Fi Security

jesterzog What it would do (134 comments)

Unfortunately, a gesture like this does not take into account the insidious scenario of walking into a cafe, buying a coffee and then (legally) using the cafe's wi-fi.

No, but it would help to narrow down the places from where potential terrorists could anonymously communicate to a number of places that might be manageable -- which is closer to what they want. If most access points were secured, it'd be that much harder to find an unsecured access point in a place unlikely to be covered by police or cameras... especially terrorists who aren't that net-savvy, because most people aren't regular slashdot-reading geeks.

Even with the negative effects on public freedom which should be controversial (but keep in mind that India is a very different country from somewhere like the USA), the police are trying to make things harder for terrorists so they can't just do whatever they want to do with total simplicity. If it's necessary to go to greater lengths to do stuff, it becomes more and more likely that someone will make a mistake that'll be detected, and they'll get caught.

Not that this would stop terrorist attacks or stop terrorists communicating or (most importantly) stop people from wanting to blow stuff up in India in the first place. It's just another step in a game of whack-a-mole until people sort out their disagreements.

about 6 years ago

The Technology Behind the Magic Yellow Line

jesterzog Origins of units (261 comments)

While we are at it, why do we still have 24-hour days, or worse 12-hour half-days where the 0 hour is actually 12 and proceeds to 1. Why are there 360 degrees in one rotation? Arc seconds, arc-minutes... Why is a dozen 12 units?

I'm a big fan of metric, but I can still see a lot of sense on imperial units, even though I don't use them a lot except for the conventions that have survived like time measurement. There are some really weird units, but imperial's major strength is that its most common units tend to be ones that are handy for tasks that people deal with from day to day. 12's a great number because it divides by so many different whole numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12). If you have 12 of something, it'll be very versatile for being evenly split up in small groups of many sizes. This is why so many things come in 12s or similar multiples.

I'm not an expert on any of this stuff, but I'd guess that the whole '12' thing is probably also why days are historically divided into 24 hours. It makes it really easy to divide a day into discrete blocks when doing basic mathematics, which is the kind of maths most people do. Divisions of 60 are just another convenient multiple.

As for 12 hour clock-faces, it's probably just much easier to read a clock face that's divided into 12 than into 24 because the gaps between the numbers on a 12 hour clock are bigger. Even if the hands go around twice in a day, you'd nearly always be able to figure out the time based on what you already know about the day so far. There are still some annoyingly ambiguous terms that are common, like 'midnight' being used to describe both the beginning and end of a day. (If someone says 'midnight Saturday', I don't know for sure what they actually mean.)

Circles are probably divided into 360 degrees because it's a very divisible number that's very close to the number of days in a year. Every night the sky and everything in it will have moved about 1/360th of a circle from where it was at the same time the previous night, before returning to where it started. If you don't have a lot of accurate measuring and construction equipment, it's still easy to divide a circle into 360 parts (a few straight lines are easily derivable locations). If you make such a circle and line it up with things in the sky, you could figure out the day of the year relatively easily to quite an accurate amount.

There is such a thing as Metric Time, but it never really took off with the rest of the metric system.

Personally I still think it's important to have systems that work in people's heads for everyday tasks, just because people aren't computers. Metric's a nice compromise for me. I've wondered for a while what it might be like if the principles of the metric system were applied to base 12 instead of base 10. Maybe you're right, and 16 would be a better option just because we have so many computers around, but as long as most people aren't directly dealing with computer implementation, they're most likely to fall back to a number that's most directly obviously useful to them. 12 is a smaller number than 16 and it divides by more whole numbers, so it wins on two counts.

about 6 years ago


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