August 31, 2002

Happy Labor Day.

From the New York Times: Into Their Labor

It shouldn't be surprising .. to learn that Labor Day was born in hypocrisy and blood. President Grover Cleveland signed legislation creating the holiday in August 1894, less than a week after 12,000 federal troops crushed a rail strike in Pullman, Ill. With one eye on midterm elections, he salved labor's raw feelings by giving the country a day off in honor of its workers... In the year of working-class heroes, we should do something real for labor, or else we should spare everyone tomorrow's cliches and rededicate the first Monday in September to a cause that stirs genuine passion. Happy Investor's Day.

Posted by Eli at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2002

Geeks should give up on government?

There's an interesting opinion piece by Declan McCullagh that basically states that geeks should give up on politics and try to solve political problems by creating new technology that subverts the politcal system. [Thanks for the link, Doug]

I take issue with McCullagh's attitude that geeks should just give up on the political fight, however. As more and more laws are passed, it will become increasingly difficult for programmers to "program past" the laws. The laws will become too restrictive. For example, laws that force makers of software and hardware devices to include digital rights management (or you can't copy this) features in their code effectively limit the creation of file sharing applications of any sort of significance.

And it should be noted that sometimes geeks do make a difference. When the Russian programmer that broke Adobe's eBook copy protection, Dmitry Sklyarov, was arrested under pressure from Adobe, many geeks were in uproar and complained directly to Adobe. Many of these geeks are Adobe's customers. Adobe has since lifted the pressure on the justice department to prosecute. In my opinion, they should first pay all of Sklyarov's legal fees, then they should give him a big fat reward for pointing out the security flaws in the eBook system!

Posted by Eli at 12:06 PM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2002

Barn Party Photos.

I added some photos from our last party. I can't claim that I took one of these -- my roommate, Nick, was the man behind the camera. Photo Album.

Posted by Eli at 11:42 PM | Comments (2)

What happens when a sci-fi writer describes the Open Source movement.

Excerpt from a Open Source Speech given at OSCON:[Thanks, Aaronsw]

And then - there's the Open Source Model.

That Linux Girl. That little slip of a hippie girl.

She's barely noticed at first. She lives in a little trailer shack, and her address at MIT is 666 Infinite Corridor. She's got this mad geek stare in her eyes. She's got open arms, and a threadbare tank top, and unbuttoned jeans. Free Love, that's what it's all about for our Linux Girl. Free like freedom, free like beer, free like, whatever. ...

"I love geeky guys," says the Linux Girl. "All geeky guys, I love ALL geeky guys. And I'm not ready to settle down. EVER!! I don't do that AT ALL!! Washing your socks, ironing your shirts, HA HA HA, let me offer a light little hippie-girl laugh here! Just cruise on by the trailer, handsome! I'll take my clothes off. No, it's better than that. I'll take my RIBS off! You can see RIGHT THROUGH ME! I've got nothing whatever to hide! I am open all the way through!"

The A&R guys from the industry are dropping by... "We may have a star here boys, I'm liking this Janis Joplin thing... But wait a minute, Janis here doesn't do anything but free concerts! And I guess her code looks pretty tight and shapely, but her body is completely transparent! You can't get anybody to pay to see a woman sing when her body is clearer than glass! It kinda defeats the whole purpose, really! It's like some kind of totally academic thing she's got going on here! She's like the Visible Woman! There's something creepy and medical about her..." ...

And then she starts having children. Any guy's children. She'll have your child, as long as you're not particular about giving it your name. She's got a whole brood of kids, like Sendmail, and Postfix, and Apache, and Perl. And some of 'em die young, and some are mentally retarded. But the hippie earth mother is just hitting her stride here. She's a one-woman demographic boom! She's having litters of kids, kids by the dozens.

Posted by Eli at 05:05 PM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2002

Defcon: Where nerds are sometimes women.

From Wired: Through the eyes of a female at Defcon, the world's biggest hackers conference: There are some women here -- a smattering of wives and girlfriends, a few reporters, a couple of lawyers and doubtless some female federal undercover agents.

Posted by Eli at 07:57 PM | Comments (0)

Zimbabwe rejects genetically modified food given to it.

Despite the fact that nearly half of it's citizens are close to famine, the Zimbabwe government rejected food given to it because it was genetically modified. But they might have good reason to do so -- read on in the Washington Post.

Posted by Eli at 07:47 PM | Comments (1)

Sun's CEO bashes open source.

In an interview with Linux Magazine, Scott McNealy, Sun CEO, takes a stab at open source J2EE software:

So, potentially you could make an argument that the open source thing is just screwing up all the revenue models and we aren't getting the advertising, because it isn't the best technology that always wins, it's who advertises more.

Posted by Eli at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

Impending doom predicted by security expert?

Byte: From a review of Bruce Schneier's book Secrets and Lies by Jon Udell:

As it happens, true anonymity is as hard to achieve as any other kind of digital security. What abuse victims and whistle blowers can have, and what they really need, is "pseudonymity": "Hi, my name's Bob, and I'm an alcoholic." But networks are inherently traceable, and Schneier concludes that "true anonymity is probably not possible on today's Internet."

I don't think that most net users realize this. I've had friends get rather hot and bothered when I told them that I could see when they came to my website and what they looked at by guessing what domain or IP address they were coming from. There are several "anonymyzer" tools out there that help with this, but it's interesting to see that from Schneier's perspective true anonymity is not possible.

"I make my purchases because the security comes from credit card rules, not from the SSL. My maximum liability from a stolen card is $50, and I can repudiate a transaction if a fraudulent merchant tries to cheat me. Digital certificates provide no actual security for electronic commerce; it's a complete sham. "

I find this statement pretty interesting. I have several friends who are afraid to buy anything online because they are afraid to enter their credit card number over the internet. The comments in this book will probably do nothing to persuade them that it's just as (in)secure to buy something online as off, but I think it is. You can just as easily be cheated at the store around the corner, or by somebody that's being paid $7 an hour that throws that credit card carbon copy in their pocket rather than the trash.

Posted by Eli at 11:39 AM | Comments (27)

August 01, 2002

Why people develop open source software.

Ever wonder why people develop open source software? I know why I do, and it turns out there are several other categories of people as well. The Boston Consulting Group recently completed a survey of open source developers to see why they do it. Be sure to check out the large PDF file there with all the details. Here are a few highlights: Overall Hacker Motivations:
  1. Intellectually stimulating (44.9%)
  2. Improves skill (41.3%)
  3. Work functionality (33.8%)
  4. Code should be open (33.1%)
Other interesting tidbits:
  • 70% of OSS developers are volunteers.
  • Lack of sleep considered biggest cost of participation.
  • 48.3% of developers stated that "When we prepare a program, it's just like composing poetry or music."
[from Tim O'Reilly's weblog]
Posted by Eli at 02:57 PM | Comments (1)