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Comment: Re: Check your local community first (Score 1) 111

by grcumb (#48395371) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Who's the Doctors Without Borders of Technology?

Heyya - just a quick tip of the hat - sounds like we got started much the same way. What part of the Canadian frontier you tame? Yukon here, early 90s with a NPO.

Eastern Arctic, at about the same time. Worked with Jeff Philippe a bit, too. He was operating out of Yellowknife back then. We set up what was at the time the most remote commercial ISP in the world. It was a great lesson in doing more with less, but still operating in a place where the broader context was more or less sane.

The thing that people forget when they're working in developing countries is that you can't take even the smallest things for granted. The movement of goods can resemble Brownian motion more than anything else. I've been in situations where the tool (or part) I needed simply didn't exist in the country. And I'm not talking about arcane, hard-to-find items - I mean things like the proper allen key to mount drives into their enclosures in a rack mount server. Power is abysmally poor, and UPSes degrade about as fast as bread on a hot day - and they're all hot days.

Long story short: It's tedious, difficult work with few rewards. Often you measure success in disasters averted. I wouldn't recommend it for most people, and I wish that some well-meaning people would stay the fuck away. But those who end up here, end up living a life to be envied.

Comment: Re: Check your local community first (Score 4, Interesting) 111

by grcumb (#48393153) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Who's the Doctors Without Borders of Technology?
Stay home. Seriously. As someone who has spent the last decade working on technology in the developing world, I can tell you that most of what I do is clean up after well meaning people who don't know enough about technology to avoid making simple mistakes, and who know next to nothing about local conditions. I cut my teeth working on the Canadian frontier, and I suggest you do something similar. Don't try to help until you're confident you can.

Comment: Re:ISPs don't want to take Cogent's money (Score 2) 704

by grcumb (#48354383) Attached to: President Obama Backs Regulation of Broadband As a Utility

Thank you for giving us the Netflix perspective.

That's not just the Netflix perspective. It's the perspective that most sane individuals have.

Counter arguments:

1) Residential broadband networks were never engineered as video delivery systems. The advent of mainstream streaming video completely changed the engineering calculus for last mile networks. Over subscription ratios need to change to accommodate the higher peak hour bitrates; this takes time and costs money. Where should this money come from?

Erm, even in the 1990s it was clear that point to point video was going to be an integral part of the internet. And I don't mean 'clear to me in hindsight', I mean clear to the guys selling fibre and switching gear to telcos and ISPs. I consulted with one of the largest and most advanced network equipment companies in the world, at one of their development labs. They were already talking about video on demand as a certainty in 1998, and rushing to get products to market.

If Comcast's management, in their infinite wisdom, were unable to see the writing on the wall 15 years ago, then they have only themselves to blame. The problem is that they have little incentive to invest aggressively, because they don't face substantive, effective competition in the majority of their marketplaces. So now, their complacency is such that they feel they have a right to bitch about the expense of providing a level of service that is well behind the state of the art in Europe, even lagging behind powerhouses like Estonia?

To answer your question, therefore: The money should come from reinvestment of profits. Just like it every other ISP and telco that has managed to leave them in the technological dust. If you plan to make the case that Comcast is somehow struggling to get by on the pittance they charge because of vanishingly small margins, then I'd suggest that the answer there is for them to give way to a company that actually knows how to make money in a sure-fire profitable business that features some of the more profitable corporations in the world. The fact is, they're making more and investing less than ever before.

Why should I pay the same for my connection as the household that's running three or four simultaneous HD streams during peak hours? My 95th percentile is less than 0.5mbit/s, yet I pay the same as my neighbor who regularly runs three HD streams at the same time. Hardly seems fair, does it?

You should pay the same because the baseline level of service should be minimum 10-20 Mbps these days. The fact that you use a vanishingly small percentage of that capacity should be your problem, not everyone else's. Pulling one or two video streams is baseline operability these days. For fuck's sake, I can do it and I live in the developing world in a place with some of the most obscenely high prices in the world!

I know that misery loves company, but just because your usage is unusually low is not justification for limiting the capacity of Comcast's entire customer base.

Comment: Re:Yep (Score 1) 450

by grcumb (#48347401) Attached to: Joey Hess Resigns From Debian

You missed the point completely.

I missed part of the point, yes. But...

The point is that people complaining that Debian changed the default init system and that there is currently a GR to make it mandatory for upstream developers to make sure their packages run at least systemd plus something else.

Which is kind of a sour grapes reaction to the fact that systemd is a pretty much of an all-or-nothing proposal. Back in the day, I worked on a distro that was based on RedHat, but which used DJB's service management system in order to handle the status of a couple of particularly bedeviling services. It wasn't pretty, so I have sympathy both with sysadmins who don't want to see things change utterly, and with systemd devs who don't want to have to try to shim service management onto the existing pile of cruft.


People just used sysvinit because it was the default one....

They did not. They bitched and moaned and wrote their own alternatives.

... and nobody complained "but I want to replace sysvinit with xxxx and still have everything function easily".

They did, actually, if only implicitly. This is why none of the would-be replacements ever really took off. People do want any sysvinit replacement to be more or less transparent. And their expectation has yet to be met. You can argue the merits of systemd, you can claim that it's worth the pain, but you cannot with a straight face ignore a lot of history that led to the place we are today.

It's been tacitly understood that when introducing an incompatible system, you're swimming against a very strong tide. The refusal of both camps to achieve a workable compromise is a problem of mutually incompatible visions. The willingness of both sides to impute irrationality on the opposite camp without pausing to reflect on their own stance is a primary source of the continuing rancour.

Comment: Re:Land of the Free (Score 4, Insightful) 231

by grcumb (#48347083) Attached to: Berlin's Digital Exiles: Where Tech Activists Go To Escape the NSA


How times have changed...

Er, not so much. Berlin in the 1920s was an island of intellectual freedom and experimentation in all kinds of artistic, social and political philosophy before the corruption and incompetence of the Weimar regime brought everything crashing down.

In the 1970s, it was haven for an entire generation of the European avant-garde. David Bowie's song Heroes is pretty much a story about two lost young lovers living in a besieged Berlin:

I can remember
standing by the wall
while guns shot above our heads
and we kissed as though nothing could fall.

It's no accident that the song is available in German as well as English.

You can go back even farther if you like. Similar to London's position as the maritime gateway to the Continent, Berlin's position at the crossroads between East and West, North and South in Europe has ensured that it's a popular mixing spot for political, social and artistic cultures.

Comment: Re:Yep (Score 1) 450

by grcumb (#48347025) Attached to: Joey Hess Resigns From Debian

I think this whole thing would be a non-issue if you could swap out systemd with another system and still have everything function easily.

There was no complains with sysvinit in the same regard. People just used sysvinit because it was the default one and nobody complained "but I want to replace sysvinit with xxxx and still have everything function easily".

It's pretty astounding, really, that you could feel so comfortable stating the exact opposite of the truth.

If you had actually paused long enough to RTFA, you would have found that people have been complaining about sysvinit - and writing their own supplements and drop-in alternatives - pretty much for as long as it's existed.

You've fallen exactly and precisely into the hole that the article warns systemd supporters are most likely to fall into.

I'm not suggesting this as evidence that systemd opponents are right. I am suggesting that systemd supporters, in spite of their protestations of open-mindedness and good intentions, are consistently, persistently wrong about the reasons why things are the way they are in the Linux world. They would never have invented and implemented systemd in the way they have if they weren't bull-headedly insistent on ignoring history.

... Which explains, of course, why you couldn't even be arsed to read the fucking article.

Comment: Re:Yep (Score 1) 450

by grcumb (#48346921) Attached to: Joey Hess Resigns From Debian

IMO: the article is wrong. Many of the reason that systemd is hated are technical. And those technical reasons have expressed, and then ignored, many times.

I think you misunderstand. The technical arguments are real; of that there's no doubt. But the reason this particular issue could not be resolved entirely in the technical arena is because of the nature of the change. Poettering and his ilk are expressing a fundamentally different vision for Linux through the design and implementation of systemd. In its essence, systemd is kind of an anti-POSIX. It is premised on the primacy of Linux, it espouses a holistic (as opposed to piecemeal) approach, and while it's liberal about third party libs and utilities playing in its sandbox, it shits in everyone else's.

An example: If their version of libpam detects that it's NOT running in a systemd context, it does nothing and simply returns a success token, which is probably the least obnoxious thing to do, but which still could cause some significant issues, depending on the circumstances. The obvious alternatives of integrating more generic behaviour into the library, or using someone else's, just don't pass muster with Team SystemD, because that's pretty much the opposite of what they believe to be important.

So although the conflict is playing itself out tactically on the technical level, this really is a schism between two significantly different FOSS philosophies.

Comment: Re:Yep (Score 4, Informative) 450

by grcumb (#48341859) Attached to: Joey Hess Resigns From Debian

Thanks systemd.

BINGO. In spite of Joey being on the 'winning' side of the systemd debate, his resignation seems to be a direct reaction to the schism that systemd has driven into the linux community. As someone far brighter than me said:

the systemd debate is rarely a technical argument for either side, instead it is an ideological and cultural war waged by two opposing demographics that inhabit the same general sphere of Linux and FOSS. This isn’t about technical merits, it’s about politics.

Read the whole piece. It's one of the best round-ups of the state of the debate.

(And by 'debate', I mean 'debacle' of course.)

Comment: Re:We aren't the target audience... (Score 1) 47

by grcumb (#48329971) Attached to: LibraryBox is an Open Source Server That Runs on Low-Cost Hardware (Video)

With that said, I am working to find interesting educational content, and have talked with Project RACHEL ( which works very well on a LibraryBox. I would love to be able to provide "content packs" of educational content for various levels and uses.

Interesting. We're evaluating RACHEL too.

But please do give some thought to performance. It's underrated as an issue.

Most people - even many of my colleagues - think that something, anything is better than nothing. And that's true, as far as it goes. Our immediate challenge is getting broadband internet to a part of the world that doesn't have any automation whatsoever, unless you count horses. It's quite remarkable the lengths they're willing to go to in order to see their children's lives improved. But it's equally interesting how people's attitudes change as ease of access improves.

Right now, there's one village where they need to climb a nearby mountain in order to get mobile coverage. There are phones in the village, but they're few in number and reserved for particular uses. There's almost a tabu built up around their use, and nobody is particularly proficient with them, nor is there much sophistication or even process optimisation in their use. The point is that children can't really get the most out of the material unless it's immediately available all the time. There's enough effort required in terms of language and technological process that even a small amount of additional inconvenience will be enough disincentive for the majority that uptake is no longer generalised.

Of course, that has to be balanced against being able to run the damn thing at all.

Comment: Re:We aren't the target audience... (Score 2) 47

by grcumb (#48322685) Attached to: LibraryBox is an Open Source Server That Runs on Low-Cost Hardware (Video)

I see several post on here that talk about how we've been able to do this for quite some time now. I can think of several other devices that do the same thing as what this guy made.

Yep, just like the Aptus Classroom Without Walls (sorry, PDF only - not my site) or any one of a dozen other attempts at this.

I am right at this moment putting together the ground work to deliver tablets and computers to some of the most remote areas in the developing world, and we've been looking very carefully at this kind of stuff. Right now, we're leaning heavily toward just reappropriating the software and using better hardware. The big problem with this kind of server-in-a-dongle is that, although it's possible to make a cute knick-knack with a tiny processor, it doesn't handle a class of 40 children (and more) well at all.

As far as this particular one is concerned: would it be too much to ask to see a listing of the content in this 'library'? I checked the site, and there's basically nothing.

Comment: Re:BT (Score 1) 89

by grcumb (#48305387) Attached to: Pirate Bay Founder Gottfrid Warg Faces Danish Jail Time

And you would be wrong about that. I'm a multi-millionaire who risked everything to create software programs that are used worldwide to make the car you drive better, the airplane you fly safer and make the heart pump that saves your lazy junk food eating ass safer.

I mean this in all sincerity: Good for you.

Those things happen only because I can protect my IP from the likes of you.

Let's be clear about this, though: When you say 'those things', you're referring to those specific things that you and your company did. Because there is a very large volume of life-changing —and life-saving— software that came about without any thought of recompense, and with very different ideas about copy-protection and ownership.

Without copyright protection, enforceable EULAs and copy protection/licensing software, I would never have created my products and all those products that impact your life would be more expensive.

I don't know why I spend my time trying to convince people like you that you are utterly, hopelessly wrong in your idea that it is OK to steal other people's work without compensating them the price they demand. I think it's because I have tons of spare time now that my wife and I spend our days travelling the world first class.

Again, in all sincerity: Good for you and your wife.

Having traveled in first class, I found it to be full of pampered, self-important twits with more money than sense, but hey, it wouldn't exist if there weren't a demand for it. I'll take business class myself, thanks.

So in summary, suck it bitch. I'm laughing all the way to the bank.

Ah, the famous 'I'm all right, Jack' defence. Astonishingly, this self-aggrandising approach to entitlement doesn't breed a lot of sympathy among those of us who have other considerations than ourselves. But that's okay. I've saved lives, you've saved lives —that's what counts. At the end of the day, the fact that the lives I saved were in the developing world and yours (probably mostly) weren't is not going to count for much when we're both rotting in the ground. The fact that I'm largely at peace with myself and don't get too exercised about what people do with the fruits of my labours is likely secondary as well. I daresay you're pretty content, too.

But there is this: My way of living and doing business is just as workable as yours, and my way doesn't serve only the rich. So fuck you, you self-satisfied, closed-minded, smug little shit. You think there's no other way but yours? You're wrong and I'm living proof.

Just reposting this here, because apparently Mr I'm All Right Jack has a problem with actual dialogue. In spite of my original comment being modded all the way to 5, he's used a bunch of sock-puppets to take it all the way back to -1, because 'Flamebait'. It seems we're supposed to remain civil when told to: 'Suck it, bitch.'

Work without a vision is slavery, Vision without work is a pipe dream, But vision with work is the hope of the world.