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Red Hat Software

Journal: Fedora-what?

Journal by hyc

On the OpenLDAP Project we've taken a lot of flack about having outdated, clunky, badly performing software for a long time, thanks in large part to the obsolete releases that RedHat and other distros bundled in their offerings. People have said that RedHat acquired the old Netscape assets because OpenLDAP wasn't adequate for their needs. Of course, those people have no idea what they're talking about; OpenLDAP slapd was massively refactored in OpenLDAP 2.1 over 6 years ago, yielding a couple orders of magnitude improvement. But the RedHat faithful never saw it because RedHat continued to ship the clunky old OpenLDAP 2.0.27 release for so many years.

For the past few years OpenLDAP has been the fastest, most scalable directory server on the planet, bar none. Nobody else comes close. The benchmarks we've been conducting since 2005 all bear this out. Over the past few days I ran another set of tests against current versions of OpenLDAP (2.3.34), FedoraDS (1.0.4), OpenDS (0.1-34) and ApacheDS (1.0.1) just to clear the air.

Most of the data is posted right now on http://www.connexitor.com/blog/

At it's best FedoraDS is 3.5 times slower than OpenLDAP. Not even in the same league. For example, authentication rates on a database with 250,000 entries:

  • OpenLDAP: 15907 auths/sec
  • FedoraDS: 4526 auths/sec
  • OpenDS..: 4178 auths/sec
  • ApacheDS: 632 auths/sec

So, to the decision makers at RedHat, who didn't take my advice to work with the OpenLDAP Project and decided to spend millions of dollars on obsolete technology instead - nice job. You've helped prove that a well written Java program (OpenDS) can perform as well as a poorly written C program. Did you get a free bowl of soup with that hat?

United States

Journal: Enemy of Tyranny

Journal by hyc

Our world is seriously broken. If Thomas Jefferson were to walk around today he would probably be shocked that we let things degrade so far.

Back in the 18th century, I suppose the Founding Fathers could only imagine that Church and State were the only two seats of power that threatened an individual's liberties, and so State government is the main focus of their attention, and the Church was excluded from the interfering in government. The oppression they were fighting was wielded by a monarch in a long line of monarchs. Their solution to guaranteeing our freedom from tyranny was to insure that no person could rise to power in our government and remain there for life - so we have short terms of office for the President and the members of Congress, and term limits as well.

But it's common knowledge today that something is broken in the system. In the country that was founded on the principles that all men are created equal, the rift between the wealthy/powerful and the poor/powerless continues to widen. How can it be, that our population is losing more and more of its freedoms day by day, despite the ironclad language in our Constitution that our public servants are sworn to uphold?

A lot of people talk about how Big Business is now running this country, and not our actual elected officials. The people we vote for are just puppets, front-men for a shadow government run by the people with the real power. The fact that people see this yet do nothing about it is pathetic.

Yes, the reality is that the power-hungry have done an end-run around the Constitution. Since the powers of our legitimate government have been so successfully limited, they've chosen to pursue an avenue toward power that has been left unchecked. It's not that the Constitution has failed, just that it wasn't designed to protect us against tyranny from this direction.

Laws are being bought and paid for by large corporations; decisions are being made in our government by people nobody elected. This has to stop.

There are a number of steps necessary to fix the problem.

The basic guiding principle for the USA was that nobody should be allowed to ascend permanently to a seat of power. But today, power isn't concentrated in our seat of government, it resides in corporate boardrooms. The first remedy then, is to bring terms of office and term limits to corporate leadership, in the same way they apply to government positions.

The next is that people placed in power (through election processes) are accountable to the people they govern. Yet corporate decision makers are not held accountable for the decisions they make. The corporate veil that insulates corporation owners from liability for their company's actions needs to be abolished. It is unconscionable that we accord corporations the rights and privileges of natural citizens, but none of the liability that natural citizens bear.

When your company is responsible for an oil spill that devastates hundreds of miles of shoreline, you should be *punished*, and the punishment should cause you actual *suffering and remorse* for your actions, it should not just be a token slap. When your company is responsible for *deaths of consumers* your company should be taken to trial and a *death sentence* should not be out of the question if the company is found to have acted in a premeditated fashion. That sentence should apply equally to all of the responsible decisionmakers in the company (officers, major shareholders) and the company itself should be immediately liquidated/terminated.

Ultimately I think the basic notion of corporations is flawed and should be abolished. But in the interim, another measure that would improve the parity among all parties would be to require that all corporations extend ownership to all of their employees. The way large corporations get away with abusing folks working for minimum wage while company profits soar is totally reprehensible. The phrase "wage slave" should not even exist in our language. The fact that it does proves that here in the Land of the Free, we have lost our way. Every employee should have a voice in the running of their company, and an opportunity to influence the salaries of positions across the whole range, from top executives down to their own posts. The influence from external investors should be minimized. Indeed, outside investors are only there to make a buck, typically using *surplus* cash, but for the actual employees it is their livelihood at stake. Their voices should carry far more weight in the day-to-day operation of their company. The system that exists today is as repugnant as the "taxation without representation" that spawned the American Revolution.

I would take all of the capitalization of a company, cut the externally owned shares in half, and redistribute them to all existing employees (pro-rated by their current salary rate). And from that point forward, all external investors can only buy shares at 2x the cost of an insider. Nobody outside the company should have a louder voice in the running of the company than any employee of the company; cutting their influence in half will help somewhat to maintain the balance.

I suppose some would object that "this is America! We should be free to run our businesses any way we want!" That's true, but only as long as how you run your business doesn't infringe on my personal liberty. In today's world, Big Business is a major threat to civil liberty and it *is* the government's proper duty to remove that threat.

Communications

Journal: Caller ID displays...

Journal by hyc
I've seen "projection" digital clocks, and there are those amazingly overpriced caller ID globes. What I'd really like is a projection caller ID unit that projects the info onto a wall or ceiling for about 20 seconds whenever a call comes in. This should be pretty darn easy with a very small LCD display unit illuminated by a single super-bright LED. Since LED light output is already collimated you don't need a focusing lens in front of the LCD. (I started hacking a freebie caller ID box to do this myself, but my LED of choice (1W Luxeon Star) was a bit too large to fit behind the LCD panel. And it is, by any measure, total overkill for this application. Back to the drawing board...)

In the meantime, I'll have to be content with a display on my PC. You can get polished commercial software to do this from a variety of places, but it's such a simple task I just wrote my own. You can get the source code at my caller ID writeup. It's just two tiny programs, one that polls a caller-ID enabled modem for the info and broadcasts it via UDP, and another that listens to UDP and displays the info. Perhaps not a perfect model of socket programming, but extremely simple and easy to follow...

User Journal

Journal: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help you

Journal by hyc

Does that ever work?

I just got a nice letter from my state's Senator, Senator Barbara Boxer, regarding the sorry state of affairs on the California freeways. I'm posting my reply here, along with her original letter:

Dear Senator Boxer:

Thank you so much for focusing your attention on this matter. It seems clear that there's only so much space available for building freeways, so the primary emphasis of this effort should be to reduce the number of cars that need to go on the existing roads. And that means the primary effort should be on improving mass public transportation, so that people can conveniently get where they need to go without using cars.

Certainly the flow of freight is significant, but anybody looking at a Los Angeles freeway today, vs. a decade ago, will see the main difference being the huge number of SUVs now on the road. These things are 50% larger than the vehicles dominating the roads a decade ago, and they're making life miserable for non-SUV-drivers: taking up more space in lanes, decreasing on-the-road visibility for smaller cars, and helping to increase gasoline consumption at sharply increased rates, which only helps to drive up the cost of operation for everybody. While many people buy these behemoths as a 21st century station-wagon, the vast majority on the road are single-occupant, which is ridiculously wasteful. Any disincentives that can be provided for driving so wastefully would help, in combination with strong positive incentives for using mass-transit.

Having traveled all around this country and all across Europe, I've used some marvelously efficient mass transit systems. As a Los Angeles resident I am constantly jealous of the San Francisco BART, which I use every time I visit the Bay Area. That system is excellent, it goes where most people need to go and it gets there efficiently.

It's ironic to know that a century ago Los Angeles had one of the best light rail systems in the world. What we have today is improving, but it is still a long way away from actually being convenient for the LA population. For example, a lot of people commuting into Los Angeles live in the Lancaster/Palmdale area, and there is no express rail line that can transport them between home and work. They get to suffer along the over-congested 5 freeway, wasting 4 hours out of every day of their lives.

I live in the San Fernando Valley and I used to commute to a job in Inglewood every day, a 30 mile drive. The only way I could make the commute time acceptable was to leave home at 5am to beat the morning traffic, and stay in the office till 8pm to let the evening traffic subside. That prevented me from spending several unproductive hours sitting in traffic, but it also took a huge chunk out of my life; by the time I got home all I could do was go to bed to get ready for the next day. This is hardly "living." Things are so bad now on freeways like the 405, the only time they're appreciably idle is between 1AM and 3AM. The other 22 hours of the day they are just Busy.

The other issue that this raises is - why do these people need to commute in the first place? Why can't more people work in closer proximity to where they live? It's obvious that these people commuting from Lancaster to LA do so because they have good jobs in LA but can't afford the cost of living there, and so have bought residences in Lancaster where property is slightly more affordable. But why aren't they able to bring their jobs to Lancaster with them?

Rather than just making commuting easier and more efficient (which I agree is a terrific goal) I'd like to also see ways to eliminate commuting altogether. I'm pretty lucky in this respect since I work in the software industry and seldom need to drive from my home to an office, I primarily work by telecommuting. But even for people who work in real-world brick&mortar businesses, why aren't they able to concentrate their businesses closer to where they live?

Anyway, thank you again for working on this issue. I look forward to hearing about the improvements that you are able to create.

Sincerely,
    Howard Chu

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer wrote:

> I thought you would be interested in the following message.
>
> =============================================
>
> Dear Friend:
>
> The U.S. Census Bureau recently confirmed what most southern
> Californians know: daily commutes to and from work consume a
> significant part of workers' lives. The Census Bureau found
> that the average commuter spends 120 hours each year getting to
> work and another 120 hours getting home. This 240 hours each
> year, or ten full days, spent just getting to and from jobs is,
> in many ways, unproductive time not spent at work or with
> families.
>
> A prime reason for the long commute times is congestion -- too
> many cars on already packed freeways and streets. The Senate
> will soon consider legislation that could help shorten the
> amount of time that southern Californians spend on their daily
> commute to work. This legislation would set priorities for
> federal transportation policy and identify specific
> transportation projects for federal support and funding.
> I believe that one of the most important goals of the
> transportation reauthorization bill should be to help cut
> commute times for workers. To do this, we must improve our
> freeway systems and find ways to streamline traffic. Another
> goal should be to make public transportation both more
> efficient and more available to workers.
> We must also address the massive movement of freight through
> southern California. Forty percent of the goods imported by
> our entire nation arrives at the ports of Long Beach or Los
> Angeles, only to move east along our rails and roads. Making
> this flow of freight more efficient will greatly improve
> traffic flow.
>
> The federal transportation bill can help us ease the commutes
> of Californians, and I am working to improve the bill. If you
> have questions about this or any other matter, please let me
> know.
>
> Sincerely,
>
> Barbara Boxer
> United States Senator
>
> =============================================
>
> For more information on Senator Boxer's record and other
> information, please go to: http://www.boxer.senate.gov
>
> If you would like to make a comment regarding this or any other
> federal matter, please feel free to do so at: http://www.boxer.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm

--
    -- Howard Chu
    Chief Architect, Symas Corp. Director, Highland Sun
    http://www.symas.com http://highlandsun.com/hyc
    Symas: Premier OpenSource Development and Support

Red Hat Software

Journal: RedHat and Netscape Directory Server - yawn

Journal by hyc
Saw this article on InternetNews talking about things we've all already heard. This particular passage got my attention:

"One of the things that we, as software developers who care about whether or not we're using open source software, have been missing is a decent directory server," Red Hat developer Christopher Blizzard wrote in a recent blog posting. "No offense meant to the openldap folks, but it's well known that openldap doesn't scale as well as it needs to and is missing some very basic functionality that competing proprietary directory servers include today."

It's well known that *the version of OpenLDAP bundled by RedHat* (2.0.27) is 2+ years out of date, version 2.1 is over 200x faster than 2.0. The current 2.2 release is faster than the current Netscape version by a fair margin, and the margin *increases* as the number of clients increases. I.e., OpenLDAP 2.2 scales better than Netscape or anything else out there. (see benchmarks for some illustrative test results.)

Too bad Red Hat wasted all that money buying an obsolete code base. If they were really sincere about open source, they should have thrown some resources into OpenLDAP development, they would have gotten a greater return on investment in a shorter amount of time.

User Journal

Journal: Infinity and parallel universes

Journal by hyc

I watched a silly movie on the SciFi channel last night that got me thinking about time travel again. Before I get into that, I should lay out my interpretation of life, fate, and parallel universes.

Since the notion of parallel universes hasn't been completely laughed out of the realm of physics, here's one way to look at it. Think of a person's life, and every possible decision that's encountered. Plot it out and it's like a game tree, every decision point branches into alternate paths. When you talk about infinite parallel universes existing, it's basically saying that at every possible decision point, an incarnation of you actually went down each and every one of those paths. Your current consciousness led you down a particular path that brought you here, reading my journal entry. And there are an infinite number of copies of you all going down different paths of the tree. For every possible decision in your life, there is a parallel universe out there where you made that decision.

More inclusively, for every *particle* in the universe, there is an infinite number of parallel universes encompassing all the possibilities of that particles existence - collided with a photon here, missed the collision there, etc. etc.

"Infinity" is a nice, neat word, and sometimes it's easy to forget what it means. Here, we're talking about a near-infinite number (all the particles in the universe) each describing a decision tree with a near-infinite number of branch points (particles do decay after all). The number of parallel universes is stupendously huge, but is it truly infinite?

Is there such a thing as fate? Well, look at it this way - when your life begins, you have this huge tree of possibilities fanning out in front of you. But as soon as you make your first choice, huge sections of that tree are cut off from you. As you progress further in your life, further down the tree, some possibilities are much easier to reach, much more likely, and some are much farther away. Some are impossible to reach. So as you get further along in life, it looks like you're being pushed a certain way, it looks like you're being guided by "Fate." But all that means is that you're far along your decision tree. At any point in the past you could have chosen a different path, and then "Fate" would have looked completely different. And the theory of parallel universes says that there's a multitude of copies of you that *did* take those different routes in your life.

I started writing this entry thinking there was an infinity of possibilities, but now I think it's actually finite. Just a huge number, larger than anything we'll ever be able to count, which may be the same for practical purposes.

But just because there's a near-infinite number of possibilities in life doesn't mean that anything and everything is possible. Some fiction authors play with the notion of a "mirror universe" that's exactly the same as ours except the good guys here are evil there, and vice versa. It doesn't take much thought to realize that even with infinite parallel universes, a mirror universe is impossible. Just consider an evil person killing someone in universe and doing the exact opposite in the other universe - curing them. Now you have one person living in one universe, and dead in the other - the two universes are no longer perfect mirror images of each other.

The striking realization here is just because there are a huge, countless number of possibilities in life doesn't mean that *everything* is possible.

Coming back to the notion of time travel... If you think about the multiverse just being a huge mesh of branching decision trees, then you can define time travel as just a special case of "phase shifting" from parallel universe to another. At present, we don't have any way to interact with all the parallel universes around us. If we could phase shift to an adjoining plane, that would mean we've jumped off our current path of the decision tree and reappeared on a different branch. Time travel would just be a case of jumping off our current path to a point on the tree that's in the past.

But again, if you accept the notion that parallel universes exist and that every possibility is instantiated across these universes, that means that your arrival at that point in the past has inherently created its own branch of possibilities. This means it's impossible to change the past in such a way that it affects your present, because you've already traveled down the path you came, and anything you do in the past is just being done on a different thread. You can certainly "create a new future" but really all you're doing is pursuing a new path; the old one that you jumped off of is still doing its thing, just without you present.

So here's something else that's interesting - again, the idea is that for every conceivable possibility, there is a parallel universe out there where that possibility is fact. So if it's possible to create a time machine/phase shifter and jump around from point to point in this multiverse, then there are realities out there where it is being done. That means that at every point in human history where it has been technically feasible to create a time machine, it has been done.

But just because it was done doesn't mean that our life today will change, because we happen to live on a thread that has already happened exactly as it did. Anyone from the past/present/future who jumps to this exact spot in the multiverse will simply create a new branch, and part of our multiple incarnations will experience that, and part won't.

So, maybe the future is pre-ordained, inasmuch as we know that every possibility is realized, somewhere in the multiverse. And what we see as freedom of choice is merely one incarnation of ourselve's perception of our path along all of these branches of possibilities. What happened in our past is done and gone, unchangeable. If someone shows us a tool for traveling to the past, it can't erase that past, it can only create a new one.

I guess that solves the "go back and kill your grandfather" paradox, anyway...

User Journal

Journal: Ignore the MPAA/RIAA

Journal by hyc

The MPAA/RIAA are out to control everything you watch and listen to, and make you pay every time you do so. But the reality is, they are not the sole source of creative works in the world.

More artists need to realize that they don't need to sign with an RIAA label to get their works promoted and out into the public eye. Any musician can self-publish today and reach a focused audience of fans. The advantages to the musician are stupendous - instead of getting 10 cents per recording as they would from a label contract, they get 100% of their sales straight into their own pockets.

Every year Hollywood turns out reel after reel of the same old insipid dreck. As a filmmaker, you may not have the big budgets that can churn out a special effects blockbuster, but if you really care about your craft, then you know that getting the story across is all that counts. It used to be that all you needed to tell a story was, well, a story. And a voice, and a will to tell it. Artists/creators need to realize that this *is* all you need - you don't need the big studios "help." And you certainly don't need their "help" selling your creativity or "managing" your "digital rights."

A lot of the uproar over the DMCA and DRM mess has been about how consumers are getting shafted. This is all true and we need to fight that. But a lot of people seem to be be facing this from the perspective that the MPAA/RIAA really do own all the creative works in the world, and that just isn't true. And the more we encourage people to stop participating in their shell game, the more we encourage people to independently express their creativity, the less relevant those Associations become. Then it doesn't matter what laws they pass, because *we* own the content. And that's really the bottom line - *individuals* should have always owned the content, from the very beginning. Assigning ownership to these corporations should never have happened in the first place. Taking back control of our rights as consumers isn't going to be possible until we first take back our rights as creators.

User Journal

Journal: Government by the people, for the people

Journal by hyc

More thoughts on how big business is running America and, by extension, the rest of the world...

I wrote somewhere earlier (must've been a groklaw post) that the root of the Bad Laws that are interfering with our lives today were enacted in the interest of Big Business, and how unbalanced the balance of power really is in our "democracy" today. Because corporations are accorded the rights of human citizens, they have a lot of the privileges that individuals have, but their influence is greatly magnified because they represent such an immense concentration of wealth. An individual corporation has only one voice, but that voice is far louder than any private citizen's single voice.

This legal fiction needs to end; people should not be allowed to hide behind corporate veils to further their political agendas. Corporations should not be allowed to own property, intellectual or otherwise. Corporations should not be able to make political contributions or in any way lobby or attempt to influence politicians.

In exchange for severly curtailing corporate independence, they should get something out of it too. One of the slogans of the American Revolution was "no taxation without representation!" In exchange for removing the corporate voice from American politics, we should abolish all corporate/employment taxes.

A strict interpretation of the US Constitution would show that the federal income tax and a variety of other federal taxes are all unconstitutional. So as a matter of principle, all of them need to be abolished. But let's take it one step at a time...

The US Constitution does grant the federal government the responsibility to regulate interstate commerce. It would make the most sense to impose a federal sales tax, and completely do away with all forms of income tax. A federal sales tax would be completely within the original design and purpose of the Constitution. A flat tax would make everyone's life easier.

Failing that, it would still simplify lives if there was only one kind of income tax. Forget about corporate taxes, and forget about capital gains taxes. Income is income, and it gets taxed based on whose pocket it lands in.

Picking up the original idea - corporations are not people, and have no rights. They cannot own property. With this scheme, they don't hold any assets long-term at all; it's all apportioned to the shareholders immediately. So, there's no need for a corporate tax because the individual shareholders will be taxed instead. Simple.

While corporate contributions to political campaigns (or expenditures on anything not directly related to the operation of their business) would be outlawed, company officers could still, as private citizens, throw their money wherever they wish. But they would be doing it in their own names. No more shell games with holding companies and other garbage to obscure the trail of influence.

Our government is supposed to be free and open, transparent to all. It is high time we eliminated the shadows that power brokers hide behind. We need to take back control, take back our rights that big corporations are so greedily usurping.

User Journal

Journal: Sunscreen, ozone depletion?

Journal by hyc

So I'm here on the computer during a commercial break on the TV, and I hear the Coppertone Sunscreen commercial.

Suddenly the thought occurs to me, wouldn't it be interesting if the components in sunscreen were contributing to the depletion of the Earth's ozone layer?

That would be kinda like the tobacco industry owning the largest health care/lung cancer treatment centers, huh... Great business model.

Hey, I think I've figured out (2) in 1, 2, (3) Profit!!

User Journal

Journal: use 'em or lose 'em

Journal by hyc

So today I got my very first moderator points. Whoopee!! It says "use 'em or lose 'em" but it doesn't say "don't spend 'em all in place." Too late, they're spent. On we go...

User Journal

Journal: More on Intellectual Property

Journal by hyc

So one suggestion was to cut back the length of time that IP protection lasts to a more reasonable length, like 7 years or so. This sounds like a good idea to pursue.

Remember, the spirit of the original IP law was to foster a creative person's ability to continue to creatively contribute to society. I think it's reasonable to expect to be paid for the blood/sweat/tears that went into developing the original idea. I think it's reasonable to expect to make a profit, enough to enable one to continue developing the idea and explore new dimensions. That's all great. But realistically, how much can you milk out of one single idea? The idea is only "new" for so long, and others will come along and build on it, expand it, or come at the topic from a completely different direction. A new idea's useful lifetime is extremely short, especially in this age of such incredibly rapid change.

The one thing that is worrisome about an extremely short patent duration is that an individual inventor may not have the means to market the idea within such a timeframe, and then once the idea enters the public domain a larger company steps in and runs with it. Certainly large companies are known to manipulate market forces precisely to prevent small innovators from disturbing their turf.

Maybe a patent should be valid until (e.g.) 7 years after the first commercial realization of the idea *by anyone*. If you never bring it to market, then it never expires. If you license it to someone else and they market it, that starts the countdown. If you just sit on it, never license it and never market it, then you own it forever. (This kind of defeats the original purpose though, since it's hard to see how your idea ever benefited society if you never really deployed it in society.)

This brings up one of the key concepts that needs to be understood - Intellectual Property has no intrinsic value. It's an abstraction, it means nothing in the real world. It only acquires value when you instantiate an idea in the real world. If you never develop the idea, and never share it with anyone else, then its impact on the world is zero. Utterly pointless.

User Journal

Journal: Intellectual property

Journal by hyc

So as a musician and a software engineer, I've got a lot of conflicting views on the whole notion of intellectual property, particularly in light of the recording industry's crusade with DRM.

Obviously I like getting paid for my creative efforts. But I work on open source software, because I believe in the free exchange of knowledge, and the indisputable benefit of having many many pairs of eyes review one's code.

Professional musicians today have it so easy, compared to previous eras. Before the advent of recorded music, you could only get paid for actual live performances. A patron might commission a composition from you, which would include payment, and you could earn money from publishing the written score. But by and large, you earned your money simply by exercising your art; if you stopped performing, you stopped making money. (Also, the ratio of composers to performers was pretty small, so the majority of musical profession depended on live performance.)

That was pretty much true for every profession - if you were a blacksmith, or a baker, or whatever, you made money from actually practicing your craft.

But now we have musical recordings, which can act as a surrogate for the original performer, and a performer can sell a few million of these surrogates and never work another day in his life. I like being rewarded for practicing my art, but this doesn't seem fair.

An inventor can design a new gadget, patent it, and collect royalties for all the millions of copies of it sold around the world. And if it sells that well, he may never have to work another day in his life either.

But that's not what patent law is supposed to do - it is surely supposed to prevent theft of ideas, but that's all. I.e., IP laws are supposed to create an environment that promotes innovation, one that encourages inventors to invent and *continue inventing*, to continue to contribute to society. You should get rewarded for your effort, yes, but you shouldn't rest on your laurels, you shouldn't even be *tempted* to contemplate such a thing.

I believe modern IP laws, as manipulated by big business thru the years, have tipped too far in favor of the "creative" folk - bearing in mind that generally it is a large company backing the artist/inventor that really reaps the reward.

Copyrights and patents are justified to the extent that they allow creative people to continue to contribute to society. When the statutory reward outweighs their contribution, something is wrong with the system.

Back to our inventor friend and his gadget - someone sets a price on the commodity, establishing a perceived value for the invention. You buy the gadget, and when you use it, you start to realize some of that value. The more times you use the gadget, the more value you extract from it. But you only had to pay for it once, and it was yours to keep.

Nowadays we have "commodities" that aren't even actually sold, they are merely "licensed", so you never own the item, and you are subject to repeated payments to re-use the item. If you buy a book, you are free to read it, mutilate it, burn it, pass it on to a friend, toss it in the trash, do anything you want with it. You *own* that copy of the book.

If you "buy" a piece of software, you have to agree to a shrink-wrap license that disclaims that the software is even capable of doing anything useful. You are bound not to fold/spindle/mutilate/disassemble it. You haven't purchased a commodity, you have merely rented it. Oddly enough, while the software remains the property of the software publisher, and can be updated at any time, remotely, without your knowledge, you are not allowed to return it to the software publisher after opening its packaging. They can revoke your right-to-use but you can't cancel the license yourself, and get refund of the license fee.
Again, something is out of balance here.

It used to be that if you were good at what you did, and people liked what you did, then you would have a community of people supporting you. Now, business is set up on the premise that people will steal from you every chance they get, and so all customers should be treated as thieves from the get-go.

When people obtain illegal copies of music and software, it reflects a basic disrespect for the creator/seller of that product. But I think in a lot of ways this is a justified response to the seller's obvious disrespect for the customer. And as long as things continue in a "he started it! - no, he started it!" cycle things will only get worse.

The fact that open source has been such a powerful success on so many fronts tells me that if you treat your consumers with respect, you will get respect in return. And the real value of your contribution to society is obvious, without any bean-counters needed to tally up prices for every little bit of effort.

When a minority of people are stealing your product, I guess you're stuck dealing with that socipathic fringe that you can't avoid. When a majority of people are stealing your product, I think that's a clear statement that its perceived value as a contribution to society is far lower than where you pegged it. And that should be a strong wake up call to either improve your product or change businesses.

Lisp Users: Due to the holiday next Monday, there will be no garbage collection.

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