Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Windows

Journal: MS Expat: Linux is 50 man-years away from world domination.

Journal by Stephen Samuel
After 10 years at Microsoft with less than "10 minutes with any Open Source code till I left Microsoft-which is actually very typical for MS employees.", this expat left Microsoft and spent a year using Linux (mostly Umbutu). It was a bit of a shock. To be precise, he "had an epiphany that Linux on the desktop is 99.999% ready to go. Linux is lean, stable, polished and extremely rich. All of the pieces needed for world domination on the desktop are there."

His back of the envelope calculation is that Linux is about 10,000 bugs away from being fully world-domination ready -- or about 50 man-years -- and some of those bugs are due to lack of support from device manufacturers.

User Journal

Journal: Is Sony a beachhead? 1

Journal by Stephen Samuel
The head of the RIAA has mentioned that Sony isn't the only company putting malware onto their CDs. The question, then, is: Should we be using Sony as a beachhead to get the public up in arms about what the media companies are doing, and planning to do with our privacy, viewing rights and purchaser rights?
Microsoft

Journal: FOX FUD's Massachusetts decision

Journal by Stephen Samuel
Groklaw has a nice deconstruction of the recent FOX FUD about The Commonwealth of Massachusetts' decision to move to an OpenDoc standard. The fud takes the form of an editorial by James Prendergast, executive director of Americans for Technology Leadership, the organization that was responsible for sending microsoft-friendly 'grassroots' letters to Utah's then Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

The letter spouts the usual Microsoft-campaign FUD about the decision purportedly locking out 'market forces' (read: Microsoft, who is threatening to not support the format), costing the Commonwealth more money (ignoring the cost of updating to Office-Vista) and various other pieces of half-truth and misdirection.

For those who are interested, I also have my own rant on evaluating Microsoft Office by Microsoft's own criterion.

Editorial

Journal: Corporate Karma and Community Principles

Journal by Stephen Samuel
In comments about the SCO/IBM lawsuit, some people keep bringing up that IBM's history as a 'good corporate' citizen is (at best) spotty, and that we may not be well off to depend on them as the front man for the Open Source/GNU community. This is far from being a trivial point.

Back in the '70s, when IBM ruled the mainfraim computer world like Microsoft now rules the PC Computer world, they pretty much invented the idea of using FUD to keep customers in place. Richard Stallman's principles on closed source as a weapon to use against your customers arose in the context of (and probably in response to) IBM's treatment of customers and rivals... A treatment that is echoed in Microsoft's activities today.

Is IBM a paragon of the Open/Free Source movements? no. On the other hand to the extent to which they take on, accept, and promote the principles of the Open/Free Source communities, they should be encouraged to continue doing so. The should also be discouraged from activities at odds with our principles.

The thing here is to not depend on IBM to carry the Open Source community. Just about any corporation is the the equivalent of a meta-psychopath. It's the nature of the legal entity. We can be thankfull that SCO has decided to fire the first big volley of the Open Source war at IBM -- a company quite capable of absorbing and returning that kind of fire. We can also use that situation to our advantage, but that shouldn't stop us from holding IBM to account if (and when) they violate Open and Free Source principles

This is where the US fell down with the US and Osamma. The USA allowed, supported and even trained these people to do things that were against the (overt) principles of the country. The CIA trained Osamma in the terrorist tactics that he's now using against the west -- they knew that he was a psychopath when they did it. It could be said that that's why they traind him. They also provided much of Iraq's WMD technology. During that same period, the US gave only the most tepid support to Nobel Laurates and other advocates of peacefull tactics and human rights. Then, the US ignored international law and widespread disagreement in chosing the timetable and terms of an invasion of Iraq. Given that history, it's no surprise that the US is now mired in a nasty and violent uprising against them. Few people in Iraq trust the US's motives and tactics, and rightly so.

You very much reap what you sow. To that end, I agree with SUN questioning RedHat on the "openness" if their most recent corporate tactics. I may com to a different conclusion, but I agree with asking the quesiton. It's important that we don't lose sight of our principles in promoting our goals. The fact that one corporation or another is the current darling of the Open Source / Free Source communities shouldn't stop us from questioning them about things that they are doing that go against our principles.

"What good does it do to gain the whole world if you lose your soul" applies as much much in the social and political world as it does in the personal/religious world. The "souls" being spoken of may be very different in the two contexts, but the principle remains sound.

Science

Journal: particle/wave duality explanation

Journal by Stephen Samuel
The home parallel universe test article got me thinking..

It's a fun explanation, but I think that the anti-particle thing is a bit odd. It doesn't pass Ocam'z razor test.

On the other hand it got me thinking: Perhaps an explanation for the quantum problem really is a parallel universe, but what's hsppening is that the photons are essentially 'phansing' in and out of the parallel universe. It's the phasing of the particles which determine their interaction. The Photons that 'arrive' at the dark bands are simply consistently in a 'dark' phase (i.e. in the alternate universe and, thus, non-interacting).

This would allow photons to keep their particulate state, and simultaneously explains their wave features.

For further explanation "Parallel universe" ~= extra dimensions.

User Journal

Journal: Post seperation Command Module Maneuvering

Journal by Stephen Samuel
In response to The Return of Apollo? :

The article says that the Crew Return Vehicle would have to land near the west coast because the Service (Propulsion) Module would need to splash down to the west of the Command Module.

I sugges that this is completely unnecessary. I see no reason why you couldn't supply the Service Module with enough internal smarts to be able to separate, maneuver, and then re-boost itself so that it can come down anywhere that you want it to.

The thought that the SM becomes a dumb rock after separation forgets the fact that you can now fit far more computer intelligence onto something the size and weight of a large wristwatch than Mission control had available on the ground during the Apollo missions. It would now be very easy to put the needed smarts into a Service Module to allow it to drop itself wherever you wanted it to.

Caldera

Journal: Is the SCO code even copyrightable? 2

Journal by Stephen Samuel
Looking at that chunk of malloc code, it is extremely functional. It is a very straightforward and minimal implemetation of first-fit memory allocation from a free pool.

static struct ( size_t m_size, char *m_addr } *chunk;
While(there are more chunks){

  • if the current chunk is at least as big as we need,{
    • take what we need out of the chunk
      point the pool pointer to the rest of the chunk
      adjust the size indicator.
      if we're using the entire chunk,{
      • move this node to the end of the list.
        # (so it doesn't block the search) #

      } #endif
      return the pointer

    }#endif

}#endwhile
# couldn't find a big enough chunk
return(NULL) # error

It would be pretty difficult to produce a tight version of this algorithm without a high degree of duplication. I'd say you might as well cut and paste, because about the only changes that I can see making in a tight implementation would be to change the variable names. You'd be lucky to find 4 meaningful permutations of this algorithim, once you tighten up the code for the kernel.

Try to implement the pseudo code above, and see just how far away you end up.

BTW, this is not part of a block of duplicate code.. This is pretty much the entire thing. If that's the best that they can find, then they're SOL.

If you're not on somebody's shit list, you're not doing anything worthwhile.

User Journal

Journal: abuse.net via DNS

Journal by Stephen Samuel
Abuse.net is a nice idea.... sending an email to some.domain@abuse.net will cause abuse.net to look up thee email address for the appropriate domain (some.domain) and forward the email there. (postmaster-abuse@some.domain)

A slightly diferent way to accomplish this would be to make the abuse.net data available via DNS...

some.domain.mailbase.abuse.net could return a TXT record saying 'postmaster-abuse@some.domain'. A mailer built to support this method would then send the email directly to postmaster-abuse@some.domain These lookups could be cached at various DNS servers, thus distributing the load on abuse.net for oft-(ab)used domains.

This does require specially crafted mailers, but -- as the method becomes more widespread, it could noticably reduce the load for abuse.net. This can be more generically viewed as a way to store a distributed per-domain database of relatively arbitrary data.

User Journal

Journal: OS authors need to register their copyrights.

Journal by Stephen Samuel
This article from lawyers.com indicates the necessity of Open Source authors registering their copyrights if they wish to have maximal rights to enforce their GPL copyrigts. Apparently, collective copyrights (i.e. on a magazine, or Linux) would not constitute a proper registration of the constituant parts (e.g. A single magazine article or Kernel module).

If people want to hang SCO by the balls, then we'll need to register the copyrights on our many versions of software -- and this would include deriviative copies as separate entities.

Caldera

Journal: SCO -- the score so far.

Journal by Stephen Samuel
  • SCO says it's their code in the Linux Kernel
  • They say it's IBM's fault.
  • Not only that, but it's code written by IBM.
  • SCO says they have the right to control release because it was once attached to an SYSV system
  • They have also assured their (other) licensees that they stil own their code that they inserted into their versions of UNIX, it's just that SCO can stop them from distributing it.
  • They say that the GNU license on the code is invalid because the GPL states that it can only be placed by the copyright owner
  • But if IBM Still owns the code, and they're the ones who placed it, then the GPL is valid (It's just that SCO gets to sue IBM for releasing it withiout their say-so .. but subsequent users are still OK).
  • SCO is still distributing Caldera Linux -- including kernel source.
  • This means that they're distributing it under the GPL, with a GPL license on it and IBM (the owner of the code) has also explicitly released it... Seems like everybody in this loop has given their permission -- either explicit or implict.
  • If their license is really this nasty (and they're ambushing customers with things like this), I expect that a lot of other businesses are going to abandon their Unix license as soon as they can.
  • It's pretty unlikely that their long stretch claim to owing everything ever put into AIX is going to win.
  • Some people now think that they're going to try and (essentially) blackmail people into paying them for any copies of Linux that didn't come direct from Caldera/SCO (even if it came indirectly from them).
  • This whole mess places them in violation of the GPL and opens them up to some nasty copyright suits.
  • Until this started, SCO looked like it was just going to fade into nonexistence.
  • If this fails, not only will their old UNIX funding sources dry up, but nobody is going to want to buy Caldera, either. They could also end up with millions (billions) in legal bills.

My reading of this is that they've started with a weak case, shot themselves in the foot, and are still claiming that they own the world. it really reminds me of Monty Python's infamous Black Night.

If I knew when (not if) SCO's stock is going to tank, I'd issue a shell-sort order today.

Caldera

Journal: And you thought the GPL was viral?

Journal by Stephen Samuel
From the latest developments in the SCO/IBM battle, it now appears to be the case that SCO is claiming that it's UNIX licenses are virulently viral. It's claiming that the SYSV code that have been illegally transferred to Linux include Non-Uniform Memory Architecture (NUMA) and Read-Copy-Update (RCU) technology. Thing is, that that code doesn't currently exist in their own versions of Unix, so how do they claim ownership?

Their claim, it would seem, comes from license terms in the old AT&T Unix licenses under which the licensees deeded back to AT&T licenses which deeded all derivative works back to AT&T. Although I haven't seen a copy of these precise license terms, I can see a few ways in which such language might be read.

The most reasonable would be that AT&T was to get back the rights to patches to their own code. I.E. If I were to fix a problem with the cat command, they would have the right to distribute those bug fixes and updates to other licensees. This would not, however, include the rights to new code developed whole, cloth by licensees. Under this reading, SCO would clearly not have any rights to thing like RCU and NUMA code that, as I understand it, are still not in SCO's own version of Linux.

A second reading is that the language does extend to included code but is, in fact, a non-exclusive license. In other words, AT&T might have been gained the right to include customer improvements of all sorts in it's own code, but the customers who developed such code would still have general ownership and control. This would actually be along the lines of what the GPL requires, except for the face that the code would only be available to the UNIX code owner and not the public generally -- although AT&T (and now SCO) would have the right to make that code available to the general public or just to specific parties.

The nastiest reading (and the only reading in line with SCO's current legal maneuvering) would be that SCO has both rights to and control over anything that is included in a licensee's 'derivative' version of Unix. SCO, for all intents and purposes, is claiming to own anything that has ever touched licensed code.

Although SCO is apparently currently claiming that licensees still own the copyright the only reading of SCO's claims to RCU is that they can prevent such code from being used anywhere other than in UNIX -- and even that might be subject to keeping the author's UNIX license up to date. In my world, this is effectively ownership of the code. Let me put it another way: SCO is claiming that they own AIX -- pretty much lock, stock and barrel.

Now some people might claim that this is the same problem as exists in the GPL, but that's not quite true. Although the GPL requires someone who distributes GPL'ed software to license any additions or modifications to the GPL'ed code, the author of the new code still owns it. They are free to relicense it, reuse it and do pretty much whatever they want with it, as long as they don't limit the GPL rights of anybody who receives it under the GPL. SCO, on the other hand is suing IBM for re-purposing their own code.

By the way, this isn't just IBM's problem. If SCO succeeds at this argument, they won't just own AIX. They could also own IRIX (SGI), HPUX(HP), Ultrix(HP, nee DEC) Solaris (SUN) and pretty much any other version of Unix created by a company that signed a similar license. In fact, they could soon end up owning Windows, as well (Depending on the terms of their recently inked license)..

SCO hasn't just picked a fight with IBM and the Linux community. Although it may not be clear yet, they've declared war against the entire UNIX universe. They've grabbed a tiger by the tail and I expect that they're hanging on for dear life.

Caldera

Journal: SCO source still available 1

Journal by Stephen Samuel
Although SCO has discontinued selling Linux, they still have updates available From theif FTP site. From a quick look, they don't seem to have any binaries available.. They're only distributing source. At the moment I see, among other things, 4 versions of the kernel source. I only downloaded kernel-source-2.4.19.SuSE-133.nosrc.rpm.

Now, IANAL, but if the source code contains any of the code that they claim to be suing IBM for, then they could have a problem on their hands. This really seems to puts a hole in the claim that this stuff is being distributed against their will.

A second problem for them is that -- given their letters to various companies, threatening to sue them for using Linux -- it would be pretty easy to argue that they're attempting to limit the distribution and use Linux, generally. This would mean that they're in violation of the GPL (as aptly pointed out by at least one "uppity" kernel author).

Given that they've already been warned about this, I'd say that they're setting themselves up for quite some bitchslap. If other US-based Linux developers want get in on the legal monkeypile (a.k.a. class-action lawsuit), they might be well off to register their copyrights with the Library of Congress to maximize the impact.

If it makes any difference to IBM's lawyers, my GPG signature of the SCO kernel I downloaded is:
-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE-----
Version: GnuPG v1.2.1 (GNU/Linux)

iD8DBQA+8RpH81rpxXbPAPYRAuRPAJoDf3RnVGq+HbiY5Cun+7A1Ia79sgCcCzDV
U/cbWbNU84vkjvAxPvC3EW4=
=ychd
-----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
(Check my info page for my public key)

Science

Journal: Biology, Computers and cloning

Journal by Stephen Samuel
In the mozillaquest article on the SCO/Linux lawsuit, http://mozillaquest.com/Linux03/ScoSource-02_Story03.html

They mention that cloning and copying are two different things. In the sidebar:

"In biology, clone usually means an exact copy."
.....
"A copy is not a clone. I guess programmers misused biological terminology.

In biology, a clone is NOT an exact copy. This is a misperception which is mostly in the public press, but not in the technical.

The copying in a clone is only in the DNA (this presumes that the cloning process is exact -- something not yet achieved with any advanced creatures). Although built from the same DNA, creatures can still come out quite different. One obvious example that I can think of is two cloned cats -- same DNA, but their markings came ut remarkably different.

The premise of 'Twins': that two cloned creatures could (mainly as a result of environmental differences) grow up to be entirely disparate creatures (played respectively by Arnold Schwartzeneger and Danny DeVito) may seem far-fetched, but it's not entirely out to lunch. Identical DNA is necessary for an exact duplicate creature, but it is *not* sufficient.

Once you understand that a creature's DNA indicates their basic plan and even functionaly but does not dictate entirely who they are, then I would say that the computer universe's use of the word 'clone' is actually much closer to the technical reality than many people might think.

User Journal

Journal: Buffy a drama ?? That's a laugh!

Journal by Stephen Samuel
In noting that Buffy the Vampire slayer was, once again denied an Emmy nomination, I notice one thing: Buffy -- The Musical was supposedly nominated for something like "best writing in a dramatic series". I find this rather strange, because I've always seen Buffy as a comedy, not a drama. I think that some brain-sucked bureaucrat from another dimension has concluded that, because the show has no laugh-track, it can't possibly be a comedy.

Now, granted: There are fight scenes, conflict, serious plot lines and arcs and heart-wrenching dramatic moments (like when Buffy comes home to find her mother motionless and cold on the couch). But the truth of the matter is that comedy is wrapped tightly into most plots; Comedic moments are often either the first or second scene in any show; and the dialogue regularly cracks me up.

background For those of you who don't know the series, it's set in Sunnydale -- A quiet University town of, at most, 100,000 people where the nightlife is dead (or, rather undead); magic spells usually work (work, here, includes backfires); safe sex means 'anything but hickies'; people mysteriously die or go missing at about half the national average rate (as in: Sunnydale is responsible for the other half); and nobody seems to consider it strange that -- despite the town's (necessarily) young population -- the Sunnydale Times has three sections: News, Sports and obituaries.

OK, I'll help -- but if the world doesn't end, I'll need a note for class.
-- Cordelia

Well-- nobody, that is, except for Buffy, her compatriots, and a top secret military task force that spends a season trying to take advantage of the area's unique ,uhm, wildlife.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that the show has it's plot twists and dramatic moments -- chases, fight scenes, battles and the occasional permanent death of a reasonably major character (Buffy, herself is getting rather tired of dieing). The action will, however, be sacrificed to a higher (comedic) purpose -- such as when Buffy was working for a fast food chain. An attacking vampire -- repelled by the smell of 'Ode de Hamburger' -- stopped the fight mid-swing, held his nose and scampered off, leaving Buffy entirely distraught.

Like most good comedies, Buffy can brilliantly combine social commentary and comedy. For those who missed the social double entendre of Zander and Cordelia having sex physically "in the closet", the relationship between Willow and Tara was a bit harder to ignore as an opportunity for social statement. Most brilliantly was when the Watchers' Council was inquisiting them:

Examiner: So tell me a bit about your relationship..
Willow/Tara: Oh, we're just friends. Real good friends. Extremely close friends... Girlfriends, actually. As in Lesbian girlfriends. Lesbian lover girlfriends. Yeah! Lovers!. We're very much in love.
(as they tag-team this answer, they slowly go from sitting close to each other for protection/comfort, to holding hands and being clearly affectionate. In the space of less than 30 seconds they managed to run the full gamut from in the closet to boldly affectionate.)
Examiner:Your relationship to Buffy?
Willow:Oh! We're just... friends.

Even Buffy's seasonal relationships turn out to be opportunites for comedy.

Buffy:Dammit Spike! You're a vampire! I should be putting a stake through your heart, not breaking it!
SpikePretty much the same thing, if you ask me...(1)

After Spike and Buffy have a secret Tryst under a tree, Willow meets Buffy and comments that "it must have been a pretty rough fight", noting the grass stains on Buffy's back. (insert lame coverup response here).

(yes, Buffy and her friends seem to be a highly sexualized group -- but that's actually realatively realistic for both their age and their situation. People in a war zone seem to have a reputation for being more sexually active than usual. This makes much sense from a dariwnistic point of view ("use it before you loose it"). Buffy's group isn't just in a war zone, they're on the front. )

Similar things could be said for the humorous comments that sometimes pass between the characters. Sunnydale nominally exists in the normal world. The characters know that the rest of the world exists and that it is them and their situation that's abnormal.

Buffy: I was really hoping that I'd finally fallen in love with a normal boy from small town Minnesota.
Ryan: I am a normal boy.
Buffy: Well, maybe for this town you are, but I'm not grading on a curve.

Now, for those of you who think that I'm arguing to have Buffy go more to the Drama side of the scale or more to the blatent Comedy side -- I'm not. I'm simply arguing that, given it's rather unique status, the people who promote Buffy for awards need to be responsible for the fact that, when a show has one foot firmly planted in the comedy genre, it's rather hard for some people to also take it seriously as a drama.

I think that Buffy would have a much better chance at awards like the Emmy if producers put it forward in the comedy stream. Yes, I realize that it should also win in the drama stream as well but, until people can take it seriously as a comedy (excuse the oxymoron), they're not going to be able to take it seriously as a drama, either.

footnotes_________
(1) A (probably) fictional quote that gives a sense of the relationship. (back)

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill

Working...