Saturday, December 22, 2007

High praise

I have nothing but praise for the team which worked on ndiswrapper. Getting my wireless card to work with windows drivers on a linux machine for the first time in less than 5 minutes is really faster than on windows, and easier too.

I have witnessed the work of a solid kernel programming effort, reverse engineering effort, user interface design and extensive testing, work done all outside of the usual office cubicle by hobbyists, mostly.

Great job!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Too much freedom...

Such is the conclusion of the Senate when it comes to social liberties. Following the Patriot Act, one can be legally taken into custody, tortured and imprisoned, all based on suspicion only.
The natural thing to think is that since you have nothing to hide, and you're totally legit, nothing can happen to you, but this is exactly the problem : you don't need to do something illegal to be punished anymore.

Prisoners of war are protected by the Geneva convention (you know, the one which held accountable nazi SS criminals), but here's a thought: What if you don't call your prisoners POW's, but instead enemy combatants, and what if you're also a superpower ? Yes, it's not agreed upon by anyone else, and it will become a source of tension between yourself and other powers, but since there's no-one to bring you to your knees, is that really a problem ? Your citizens root for you and wave your flag in the name of liberty. They even buy bullets for you, after sweating 40 hours a week. And if they somehow refuse to cooperate, there's always ways to make them shut up, in very persuasive ways, all in the name of freedom and safety, of course.

But whose safety are we talking about here, then?

Clearly not the citizen's, since he can be tortured for whatever reason, and no one will know about it.
Clearly not that of other countries, since already you're not respecting the basic liberties of either your enemies, nor your own people.

Well let's see, who's left ?

Mr. Bush? France called, and they want their Statue back.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Solaris ...

So they invented Java, and made an operating system which runs banks, yet for some reason, I can't get the two working together. Their own Java server management application crashes with a Null Pointer Exception (a Java error) when ran from a totally stock machine. The bug is even documented, since July... and we're in December. Good job Sun.

Proof: http://bugs.opensolaris.org/bugdatabase/view_bug.do?bug_id=6584154

Look at the date : July and we're in December.

To be fair, this is under VMware, and not likely to happen on their own hardware, which kind of explains the lack of interest to fix the bug.

Interruption

Writing is most likely the surest way to express oneself without fear of being interrupted.

Freedom of speech

In classical monarchies, as we know them, the king's judgement was never (openly) doubted, and could never be directed questioned without fear. To add insult to injury, he did not allow for such practice : his word was golden, and he regularly refused to listen to alternative opinions. The practice of silencing an opinion still persists in modern times. In some countries or cultures, freedom of speech is not taken for granted, not just at a personal level, but at the government level. This translates into censorship and fear of being prosecuted - or worse. One might argue that those countries and/or cultures aren't as developed as ours, and this is largely due to freedom of speech.

John Stuart Mill exposed some arguments for the freedom of speech, which I will try to explain here.

  • Only rarely does one possess the whole reality on a subject. Most often than not, truth is shared between people and between points of view. By silencing an opinion, one will silence part of the truth.
  • A valid opinion which is regularly challenged by outsiders, is likely to be remembered better than one which is never challenged, and will not become simply custom and die off : people will actually understand the opinion and make it continue.
Nietzsche had a much nicer way of saying pretty much the same thing : Truth is not something helpless, which must be protected at all costs; it is quite strong, and takes different heights of the spirit to grasp it.

The same argument was simply extended to the eighteen and nineteen century western society. It is rather absurd to assume the dumbest of men to be smarter than the smartest woman in such a way as to not allow her to vote or take certain functions in society. If we agree that this is absurd, then it becomes evident as to how certain societies currently hinder their own progress, due to censuring their women.

On the other hand, proponents of those societies may say that women do not want such responsibilities, and that women are naturally meant to raise the kids, and nothing more. Odd that this argument sounds exactly like the one racists have used in the past to enslave black people. In our times, it is pretty much obvious that the black man is capable of self-government.

Compatibility

As soon as a standard is created, those who don't adapt to it will decay; such is the thought Microsoft should chew on. Yes, Office 2007 attains new heights in terms of usability, largely due to the ease of creating professional-looking documents. Add a few 3D charts which are sure to attract anyone's attention and you've definitely got a winning combination : until you go on and save your document. Surprise surprise, you can only retain your editable charts if you save your file under the new docx format, which is not supported under earlier versions. So much for all that excitement... This IS Microsoft, after all, not Google.

On the other hand, Google does allow you to export your data. Hell, if you feel like it, forward your google e-mail to an unrelated account, no one will complain. Try to do this with hotmail. Tough luck, eh?