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Journal Journal: Happening faster than I thought it would... 5

After the bankruptcy "reform" of the last decade (which only applied to the lower income levels), we knew it was only a matter of time before the return of debtors' prison and forced work camps. There was never any question that this was where Reaganomics would take us.

I guess I just didn't expect that we'd see it so soon. When the new privatized prison system meets debtors prisons, something very very ugly is going to emerge. And it appears it's going to happen within the next couple of years.

If you are very very wealthy, and you find yourself unable to pay your debt, the government will force citizens to make you whole. If you are part of the working or lower classes and find yourself unable to pay your debt, you have become an enemy of the New Corporate State and will be treated accordingly.

User Journal

Journal Journal: JC, I hardly knew ye 3

Unless there's a system failure (which is a distinct possibility), Jeremiah Cornelius, an iconoclastic and highly prolific Slashdot journal writer has packed it in and closed his account. Links to his journals are dead and his account only shows the UID number, not his user name.

While sometimes his opinions were the kind that made me uncomfortable (which is something, being iconoclastic and a pain in the ass bordering on the trollish myself), I will miss his energy and his strongly held sincere beliefs.

If he's gone elsewhere, I'd like to know which online community a guy like him would join. We;ve lost some long-time Slashdot users recently. I hate to see a good one go.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Deep in the Heart of TeX-Ass 3

Years ago, when my wife was finishing her PhD in Math, I helped her with putting her dissertation into the required format, which was a TeX document. The main thing I remember about it was how much trouble it was just to lay out a document. It was hard enough for her to do all the very difficult Math work and get ready for her PhD defense, but to then require her to learn TeX just seemed like piling on.

The other day, my daughter, who's now a Math grad student, came to me and asked if I knew anything about TeX. It caused a sickening deja vu as I realized that after all this time, TeX is still the required format for technical documents.

Now, I understand the elegance of TeX, and I can appreciate the need for a standard way of typesetting such documents. I've seen the Chinese students taking class notes in TeX and I'm aware of the place TeX holds in the Math, physics and engineering communities.

But jesus christ on roller skates, can no one come up with something a little easier to learn and use? I'm a musician and composer and arranger. I score films. Creating formatting and typesetting a music manuscript is at least as exacting and formalized as setting up a document to show some equations, some graphs and a figure or two. I've got a handful of excellent professional software that makes writing (and printing) music as easy as writing a business letter. I don't have to write code just to put in a D.S. al coda for heaven's sake.

When I was working on my own dissertation decades ago in critical theory, I remember using the DOS version of Nota Bene, because that was what my adviser used and by gawd, that was what I was going to use. It was like an even more baroque version of Wordperfect with all sorts of code and macros and packages for diacritical marks. But the world has moved on since then and now there's open office to fill all my document needs.

I guess I'm just venting a bit, thinking about my daughter having to learn tex on top of everything else she's got going on, and I know I'm going to get hit with questions, which means I'm going to have to go back and brush up. I'm about to install LateX on my machine for the second time in over 20 years and if nothing else, can I get some encouragement? Maybe an explanation of why time has stood still in this one area?

Now let me go get some aspirin.

User Journal

Journal Journal: PopeRatzo's Recession Buster

Wait until Saturday evening, when the point spread hits 5, then take the Bears and the points.

Send my share of the winnings to the EFF or the ACLU.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Are Right-Wing Trolls Being Paid to Disrupt Slashdot? 8

An under-reported story from 2010 was the apparent proliferation of paid political trolls. Some of us have suspected this was going on, but some recent leaks coming out of Right-Wing political action committees confirms that this is happening on a bigger scale than thought.

This phenomena goes back at least as far as 2002, when it was discovered that an internet lobbying outfit called the "Bivings Group" was found to have created at least two false identities, "Mary Murphy" and "Andura Smetacek", that were used to post a prodigious number of posts attacking research showing widespread contamination of corn by genetically-modified bee pollen. Bivings was working for Monsanto at the time. It was widely reported that the McCain campaign did this during the 2008 campaign, but the new paid trolling is taking on new forms and attacking more than the regular political online communities.

A very interesting film, (Astro)Turf Wars, a documentary by Taki Oldham, has a scene that was secretly videotaped during a training session organized by a right-wing libertarian outfit called "American Majority". During this session, the trainer instructed Tea Party members as follows:

âoeHereâ(TM)s what I do. I get on Amazon; I type in âoeLiberal Booksâ. I go through and I say âoeone star, one star, one starâ. The flipside is you go to a conservative/ libertarian whatever, go to their products and give them five stars. ⦠This is where your kids get information: Rotten Tomatoes, Flixster. These are places where you can rate movies. So when you type in âoeMovies on Healthcareâ, I donâ(TM)t want Michael Mooreâ(TM)s to come up, so I always give it bad ratings. I spend about 30 minutes a day, just click, click, click, click. ⦠If thereâ(TM)s a place to comment, a place to rate, a place to share information, you have to do it. Thatâ(TM)s how you control the online dialogue and give our ideas a fighting chance.â

From some of the clips I've seen, this (Astro) Turf Wars film seems like it might be interesting to anyone who has been suspicious of the seemingly organized commenting/moderating activity here on Slashdot.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Going to a place that has already been disgraced 2

Pamela Geller is despicable.
  I mean really despicable. If this country is or was ever great, than 9/11 should be no more than a triviality compared to its greatness. Compared to what this country represents, the fact that 19 lunatics with boxcutters flew planes into some buildings and killed 3000 people should be nothing but a blip on our history.

Instead, we've got people like Geller trying to make it the American Reichstag. I've never been more ashamed of other Americans than I am of Geller and Gingrich and Reid and anybody who's tried to turn the building of a community center into something ugly. Even if the people behind this community center were everything they're being accused of, it still does not excuse the kind of behavior I've seen these past few weeks.

I've never felt so disgusted with other Americans. I wish I could pass myself off as Canadian, honest to god. I wish I could get a goddamn visa to live in Finland or Belgium or evem goddamned Serbia. Anything but a country where people like Geller and Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved get treated like patriots for (and despite!) denigrating such basic, founding principles as freedom of religion and property rights. They say things like "oh, it's not about freedom of religion and property rights, it's about good taste". Good taste! Now the standard for freedom of speech is supposed to be good taste. And they say "oh, the muslim group must compromise". If they "must" then it's not a goddamn compromise. I don't care if you hate the idea of a community center with a mosque built near ground zero or near your house. If you go on television and try to compare it to Nazis putting signs up at Auschwitz, that makes you the scum of the Earth. You share a hell with the religious fundamentalists that perpetrated the crime in the first place.

So ten years after the fact, this bunch is going to turn into a bunch of drama queens over 9/11, turn the site of the Twin Towers into hallowed ground (or, as Ben Quale says, "hollowed ground"). Is the USA such a flimsy society? Are Americans such weak sisters that they're going to turn a tragedy into a pyre on which to burn each other (yes, the people who want to build the community center are Americans. Yes, there are bombs being thrown at mosques throughout the US in the last few days. Yes, there are "Americans" burning korans in Wal-Mart parking lots. Fucking mutts). I'm so tired of you, America. Never missing a chance to tell the world how great you are, how superior, how above the behavior of "terrorists" but the veneer of your Christian "reformation" turns out to be pretty goddamned thin, after all.

Things like this make me wish there actually was an afterlife where people were judged for their behavior on Earth. I'm willing to do the time for my crimes, as long as I can do it with the knowledge that people who've tried to spread this kind of ugliness were going to do the time for theirs. I'm so tired of you, America.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Theory of Relativity Exposed as a Liberal Plot. 6

Rewriting history textbooks isn't nearly enough for the Religious Right. It appears that the "conservative alternative to Wikipedia, "Conservapedia" has some serious issues with Einstein, too.

The first note in the references section of the Conservapedia entry on "Counter-examples to Relativity" will be of special interest to any physicists out there.

I guess that Colbert's throwaway joke about "reality having a liberal bias" was truer than he knew.

News

Journal Journal: Study Shows GMO Corn Linked to Organ Failure

According to a research article published in the current International Journal of Biological Sciences, genetically modified corn from Monsanto increases the levels of liver and kidney failure in rats, as well as other harmful effects to the "heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system.

Apparently, Monsanto has wasted no time claiming the study was based on "faulty data" saying that it's own 90-day study didn't show similar problems. Of course, that ignores the fact that the organ failure only starts to show up after "5-14 weeks" according to the abstract.

Media

Journal Journal: The Vast Left-Wing FOSS Conspiracy 1

Apparently, the webmasters at the Right-Wing website Redstate.org are blaming the fact that Scoop is made by members of the vast Left-wing conspiracy as the reason they're having web problems and can't seem to RTFM.

If we'd been a liberal website, we would have been able to fix the problem quickly and relatively cheaply. The online left loves Scoop. Unfortunately, there weren't really any conservative Scoop developers out there to help us. We kept crashing and were out of money. We had to close down or take drastic action.

C'mon, there must be a few coders out there who haven't been co-opted by the George Soros/islamoliberalcommienazi Illuminati and could help these poor boys. But it must be a little bit embarrassing for these strong self-reliant free-market conservatives to have to ask for a handout:

But we're convinced that America can afford even less to have us operating at anything less than our absolute peak potential during the coming presidential election season.

So we've decided to move ahead with our upgrades without delay, and despite not having the cash on hand - hoping and praying that RedState.com readers like you will help us make up the shortfall with a generous donation.

Operating Systems

Journal Journal: Taking the Free Desktop to the next level

As many of you are aware, the FreeDesktop.org project aims at bringing together some common aspects of the free desktop. However, when developing applications, one is still forced to focus either on GTK or QT and in doing so direct their product at one audience predominantly. QT apps can run in Gnome (or Xfce) and GTK apps in KDE, however they don't look fully integrated. Furthermore, because of the fundamental coding differences between GTK and QT, we often have redundant efforts into relatively mirror software programs, one aimed at each major desktop.

I'm certainly not the first to suggest this, but isn't now specifically a good time to consider more fully merging the two technologies? With the major refactoring of KDE 4 and QT 4, there are some major new core technologies that any developer should be excited about. KDE is also embracing Tango, DBus, and many of the FreeDesktop.org concepts.

Furthermore, one of the major arguments for keeping GTK and QT separate technologies has been C vs C++, however both now have diverse language bindings. Developers should be able to develop in any language they choose, and not have the language be mandated by the toolkit. Honestly, the only good reason to keep them separate is in design. People who prefer GTK styles or widgets opt to develop with GTK, and vice versa. Couldn't there be a universal library that is capable of operating in appearance and usability like both GTK and QT when it comes to widgets and visuals? In fact merging the two might extend both and not only enable developers to reach a broader audience easier, but unlock more power and potential for everyone.

Choice is important, and one should never lose the ability to run their desktop how they see fit. Neither Gnome nor KDE should lose all their efforts into developing their vision of the desktop, however further merging core technologies and libraries means opening up these powerful tools to developers for all free desktops.

Imagine any application being able to tap into the potential merged technologies of:

  • Cairo - A sophisticated 2D vector graphics library.
  • Pango - A library for laying out and rendering of text, with an emphasis on internationalization.
  • D-Bus - Interprocess communication system.
  • GStreamer - A multimedia framework.
  • HAL - A specification and an implementation of a hardware abstraction layer.
  • Poppler - A PDF rendering library.
  • Tango Desktop Project - Which aims to provide a common visual standard across different platforms.
  • Solid - Making a universal hardware layer is CRUCIAL. Given that both projects utilize Hal and DBus, taking it one step further isn't a huge stretch. Further developing Solid could tie into working with kernel developers to examine how to best handle hardware from the kernel into userspace, and reexaming exactly what portions belong in each space.
  • Phonon - I hate to sound like a dissenter, but audio on the FreeDesktop leaves much to be desired. Phonon aims to fix this.
  • Sonnet - An advanced dictionary that I believe will be the successor to ASpell
  • Decibel - Project providing a service architecture to make chat and phone communication universally available to desktop applications
  • Plasma - Plasma would have to be extended to support and operate like Gnome's deskbar and desktop, but it is a powerful tool to create widgets and plasmoids that would offer great flexibility to all parties.
  • Strigi - I know there are many search technologies, and I'm assuming the best aspects of each could hopefully be factored into Strigi
  • Semantic Desktop - I am familiar with NEOMUK, and perhaps there are other projects that could be brought to this table.
  • Gnome VFS - The Gnome virtual file system.
  • Gnome Keyring - For storing encryption keys and security information.
  • Bonobo/KParts - Again, merge the best features of these two technologies to create a powerful universal component model
  • LibXML - The XML library.
  • ORBit - The CORBA ORB for software componentry.
  • A merged composite technology for nifty eye-candy. Compiz and Beryl merged though many thought it wasn't possible. Now Kwin is being rewritten with many of the same features that Compiz would provide, but is duplicating efforts. No doubt Gnome, KDE, Xfce and all the rest will want to retain separate WM's, but a core unified underlying base for composite extensions should be established.
  • Translation - Obviously different desktop projects each have different apps, and a bunch of different text, but many of the core terms and documents could be brought together to simply translation on the free desktop.

I know KDE is developing an icon-caching system given that KDE 4 is going to heavily utilize SVG to better scale everything on the desktop. I'm not sure if Gnome has a similar system.

Integrating core technologies involves on getting people who currently see things differently to come together. Some may dismiss this as an impossible goal, however that isn't the case. Ideally these technologies should be flexible enough to achieve the results that everyone is looking for while providing a unified base to avoid duplication of efforts.

Lastly, what I'm proposing is no small task. I fully understand that it involves a great deal of work, and in doing so, it would temporarily pause/strain development of projects like Gnome and KDE from moving forward in their current separate ways. However, the initial work may be daunting but imagine how much time and effort would be saved in the long run when we drastically cut down on duplicating efforts.

In many ways this is a win-win, and really such an obviously beneficial move, it should at the very least be revisited and given considerable thought. The sooner such a merge of core technologies takes place, the more time you save in the long run, and the easier such a merge takes place. As duplication in code continues, the more time consuming it will be to examine all the duplicate code and agree on how to merge the two.

At the very least, I hope existing efforts can continue and the FreeDesktop.org project should choose one or two new areas to focus on in bringing everyone together, like Strigi/Beagle or Solid. So please, before dismissing this out of hand, at the very least look over the above list and consider if any of those technologies could be or should be merged into a FreeDesktop standard library for everyone to use.

Microsoft

Journal Journal: People-Ready Business

Recently Microsoft unveiled their new slogan, "People-ready business". They have asked bloggers to write about what exactly this means to them. As someone who has grown up on Microsoft technologies, not only in the home, but in the workplace as well, I feel that I am very qualified to write about what this means to me.

Not everyone is a computer genius, and ever for those with strong technical skills, information technology is ever changing. It is near impossible to keep up, and thusly it is vital to design technologies that are intuitive to the end user. Time shouldn't be wasted on fighting with the technology. The tools should be designed in a way so that users can easily take advantage of them. They should also feature-rich and powerful so that advanced users can maximize productivity. Microsoft's crown jewel in this regard is likely their Office Suite. Not many people may recall, but at one time Microsoft was the underdog in Word Processing and Office software. It had to wrestle control of the market away from such giants as WordPerfect and dBase IV. Microsoft Office has become the de facto standard for how most people work and communicate.

However, being "People-ready" means the tool isn't as important as the people who use them. Our documents and databases, our emails and calendars, it is the data that we create that is so vital to us. In that regard, there has been growing concern over Microsoft's proprietary document standards. When creating a document in one version of Office, can you be assured that a user with another version of Office can open it? How sure are you that you'll be able to open your data 5 years from now, or 10? How useful is the tool, if we end losing access to everything we create with it? Shouldn't our content belong to us? Being "People-ready" means empowering the people to fully control their documents. In that regard, I recommend everyone to look into alternatives like OpenOffice and KOffice, which both utilize the Open Document Format.

Being "People-ready" also means being flexible and far-reaching. When working and communicating with others in a global environment, having open standards allows for people around the globe to connect together, even across different platforms and technologies. Again, technology should be a tool that allows us to collaborate, not intrinsically divides us. End-users don't care about hardware levels, or version-numbers. They just want to be able to connect with other people. If Microsoft were truly dedicated to being "People-ready" their products would focus more on open-standards. Their web-browser would be standards-compliant, so that people can more easily develop web-sites and know that everyone will be able to see and use them the same way. Microsoft would utilize open-standards for applications like Outlook, so they could handle contacts and appointments with anyone regardless of platform. They would open up their instant messaging network, and instead build on an open platform like Jabber so that we can simply to one address for messaging, and bring everyone together under one service and one protocol for the entire world rather than a collection of diverse networks again that divide us.

A while back Microsoft ran a campaign about believing in the people who use their products. The campaign suggested that Microsoft wanted to encourage us to innovate and be successful, when in truth, no major company has done more to stifle the growth and development of other companies. Honest competition is fine in a capitalistic society, but repeatedly Microsoft has been accused, and often been found guilty of anti-trust practices. They have bought out companies, strong-armed vendors into locking out the competition, breaking the law, and operating with hostile intent to destroy other businesses. "People-ready business" is not threating to "fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I'm going to fucking kill Google".

In fact, the Halloween Documents, which are leaked internal Microsoft documents, detail exactly how they embrace, extend and extinguish the standards and ideas of other people. They go out of their way to destroy the means of bring people together. They also put workers and companies out of business. Not exactly "People-ready".

A quick Google search will bring up countless examples of how Microsoft is evil, and why. Recently, Microsoft confirmed again that they are not only evil, but they are they very opposite of "People-ready business". Open Source Software is in many ways the epitome of "People-read business". Community developed by the people, for the people. I understand businesses serve to make a profit. No one will fault a company for doing that so long as the abide by laws. And I'm not demanding they release products for free. There is a huge difference between Gratis and Libre that many people do not understand. Open Source Software allows people freedom to choose, to cater products to their needs, to utilize open-standards and bring people together. Once again, Microsoft is working very hard to destroy that.

Even better, most successful businesses give something back. Microsoft has massive wealth, and now Bill Gates has founded the Gates Foundation. Warren Buffet handed over the bulk of his personal wealth to this foundation, which has been receiving insane donations. What is Microsoft doing with all that wealth in the name of charity? Primarily sitting on it and making interest, but they have been making investments in companies notorious for polution, waste and human rights violations. When asked about it, the Gates Foundation replied they can't be bothered to investigate the companies they are investing their billions in. If that isn't the most socially irresponsible response, I don't know what is.

"Other companies in the Foundation's portfolio have been accused of transgressions including forcing thousands of people to lose their homes; supporting child labor; and defrauding and neglecting patients in need of medical care. Overall, the LA Times says nearly $9 billion in Gates Foundation money is tied up in companies whose practices run counter to the foundation's charitable goals and social mission. And that number may be understated - the Gates Foundation has not provided details on more than four billion dollars in investments it says are loans."

Bill Gates was Time's Man of the Year. So was Hitler. It has been suggested now that The Gates Foundation is also using their "charitable donations" as a negotiating tactic. You want polio vaccines? Well, your country better change your IP laws to better suit Microsoft's political goals. How "People-ready" is that? Microsoft is paying bloggers to spam people with BS propaganda about why they are a ""People-ready business". Please post this on forums. Post this on your blog. Post it everywhere. They are hoping to boost their Google PageRank by paying bloggers to spit out ads for them in the guise of sincere opinions. However, if people spread the message of what Microsoft really is, this will all backfire in their face.

Thank you for your time.

-- T. J. Brumfield

Media

Journal Journal: Submissions: Danish paper makes U-turn on cartoons

The Media Guardian is reporting on an infamous Danish newspaper's turnaround regarding the publication of certain cartoons. After initially expressing interest in reprinting cartoons from an Iranian paper, they have decided that some caricatures are beyond the pale: "Jyllands-Posten in no circumstances will publish Holocaust cartoons from an Iranian newspaper". This is the same paper in Denmark which posted a boring-then-shocking caricature of the Prophet Muhammed and is now apologising profusely, "peace be upon him".

Meanwhile the U.S. State Dept. says that the Muhammed cartoon irresponsibly incites ethnic as well as religious hatred; a double-whammy that seems to be ignored when debating the issue.

(Posted here cuz I'm tired of seeing my submissions irretrievably drop down a black hole.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Great Irish music.

Anyone in southern california (San Diego!) looking for a very good time on a Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday night should check this website...

http://www.leperkhanz.com

and go see that irish band. they put on a hell of a show, as the photos can show.

User Journal

Journal Journal: web logs are lame

I've never quite understood why people think they need to create web logs of their life. I guess it is about as lame to read them as it is to create them.

Oh well. To each their own.

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