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Journal Journal: The Nuclear Question

Nuclear energy is getting a lot of press lately. Most of it good. It was inevitable given the rising price of oil, that nuclear proponents would finally have their place in the sun. Here's some of my thoughts on this issue, for anyone who might give a fiddlers for the opinions of one lone maths freak.

The main reason nuclear energy is being pushed so much lately is because of the rising price of oil. Nuclear proponents are now being listened to by those looking around for alternate sources of energy. It actually has very little to do with the safety, cost and/or enviornmental impact issues. The nuclear situation hasn't changed a whole lot in the last five years, or inded the last fifty.

The arguments for nuclear energy are in fact, exactly the same ones that were put forward in the fifties. Namely a cheaper, cleaner, more efficient form of energy. There is a large degree of truth to all these arguments, and possibly more so now than when nuclear reactors were first proposed.

So the big question here is, if nuclear power is so great, then why haven't we switched to it in the meantime?

The most important reason for the lack of switch is, or rather was, cheap oil. Oil burning generators were quite simply too cheap to pass up. But now, with the rising cost of oil, this has changed.

Another reason for our relative lack of nuclear plants is essentially their bad public reputation, not all of which is unjustified. The reasons for this bad rep are varied.

First, is the connection in the public mind between nuclear reactors and nuclear bombs. This connection is made ever more concrete with TV shows and movies having plotlines where reactors are essentially turned into nuclear bombs by terrorists and the like.

But hollywood fantasy aside, this link in the public mind is justified to a some degree. The radioactive byproducts of commerical nuclear reactors are in fact key components in nuclear armaments; plutonium being the chief amoung these. With an increase in nuclear reactors, there will be an inevitable increase in the raw material for nuclear weapons so to speak. And so with the proliferation of nuclear power, it is not beyond reason to conjecture nuclear weapons proliferation as well.

The second reason for public mistrust of nuclear power is the radiation factor. Radiation and radiation poisioning are unknown factors for most of the human population. Again this situation is not helped by hollywood dramatisations of the effects of radiation. In some cases, outright fantasy scenarios of nuclear "fallout" involving mutated monsters roaming a desertified landscape prey on the public mind.

Still, again there is some justification in the public being cautious on this issue. Radioactive substances are dangerous substance and should not be treated lightly. Some might argue that this is no more so the case with radiation than with other harmful chemical and biological substances. However, unlike most chemical and biological agents, radioactive substances have an irritatingly long "half life", which increases significantly the duration of any contamination by comparision to a chemical spill.

If we take the recent Harbin Benzene spill in China as an example. This chemical spill has affected millions and caused considerable enviormental damage; fish kills etc. However, to a greater or lesser extent, most of the benzene will wash away or break down into less harmful chemicals. But could the same be said of the spill contained radioactive material?

Radioactive material dumped within the watershed of a major river like the Mississippi or the Rhine is something the public should be wary of. To a greater or lesser degree than a chemical spill, or indeed, the dumping of fumes into the atmosphere? Time will tell on this one.

Arguably the biggest reason for public skepticism for nuclear power is the track record of the nuclear industry. Chernobyl was, and remains, the biggest argument against nuclear energy. 300,000 people were displaced, a city and its hinterland was essentially written off of the books, and the on going medical and social problems currently affect millions. No accident at an oil or gas plant, no matter how severe, can come close to the level of destruction wrought by Chernobyl. The Harbin benzene spill, despite its severity, pales in comparision. Harbin is not a write off.

On a more day to day basis, the nuclear industry does have numerous blemishes. Three Mile Island being the most infamous. More serious and ongoing is a somewhat cavalier attitude towards the radioativity, with highly radioative cooling ponds existing outside many reactors, as well as incidents at Sellafield, where actual material was simply dumped into the ponds, and close to 30kg of plutonium have literally gone missing. The nuclear industry is run by human beings, who, for whatever reason, do not always run things as they should be run.

Still, it seems unfair to tarnish the entire industry with one brush. The majority of nuclear plants seem to have been run without incident. But as the amount of nuclear plansts increases, and if regulations become lax to accommidate them, any leaks or loose ends in the industry's procedures will become more apparent. The industry has a chance to grow now, but it may end up shooting itself in the foot if things go awry.

The last reason for public mistrust involves the disposal of nuclear material. And this is arguably the biggest of all the headaches associated with nuclear energy. Techniques may have improved, and the argument against the polluting nature of coal and oil fumes are put forward, but essentially the solution to nuclear waste material is to throw it in a big concrete lined hole and hope it will go away. The industry likes to think otherwise, as all polluters do, the coal and oil burners, the garbage disposal companies etc.. .

To be sure these disposal drums may be sophisticated, but the public still misturst the whole business. It is the low tech back end to the illustriously high tech nuclear industry. The wonders of nuclear energy, almost mystical in their abilities to the public, are brought back down to earth by the images of drums of material being dumped into a pit, to sit there for a hundred years not to become non-radioactive, but only "as" radioactive as natural uranium. Joe public might not know the ins and outs of radioactive decay, but he knows dumping when he sees it.

But again is this an issue? Especially compared to oil and coal etc... ? It certainly will be if these disposal drums are not constructed to the highest standards. Again, a leaking drum in the water supply of a major city would be a disaster. Arguably more so from a public relations rather than a health perspective. Not that health effects might not be significant. As nuclear power increases, and waste material increases, the nuclear industry would do best to go out of its way to ensure that dumping remains shiny clean nuclear's dirty little secret, otherwise the whole industry will be set back all over again.

Nuclear power has benefits, but it has some drawbacks as well, like most things. Unfortunately, some of the drawbacks of nuclear power are very serious indeed, and it will take real and sustained efforts to ensure that nuclear remains safe as well as cheap. My biggest worry is that cheap will win the day, and the only driver of safety and professionalism in the nuclear industry, like in any other, will be a serious accident or disaster. It is a sad fact that people must often be killed before industry is made to take things seriously.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Is Sony a beachhead? 1

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?

Journal Journal: FOX FUD's Massachusetts decision

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.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Age of Blogging

I wonder if anyone uses their Slashdot Journals anymore in this age of blogging. It's like everyone and his grandma is running a blogging service of one kind or another.

Journal Journal: Slashdot Up For A Facelift?

Looks like the Slashdot eds are toying with the idea of giving the old place a lick of paint and a brush up. Frequently reloading the Slashdot homepage will bring up the following

Horror!! Changing the Slashdot Slogan(TM)!! Such blasphemy will not go unpunished! Then again when you've run with the same slogan for eight years...? Oh well, I guess we're overdue for the apocalypse anyway. This would also help explain my ever decreasing estimation on Deathclock.

Slogan change aside, I'd just like to say that the watermark circuitboard scheme will NOT work as a face background not matter how much you tweak it. Face backgrounds should be plain. In the title maybe, but for the love of God don't condenm the world's tech head population to a lifetime of squinting painfully at headlines. Even though most of the clever ones have switched to RSS feeds by now. It's the comfy chair for them! With TWO coffees at eleven!!

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal Journal: Valve, Microsoft and Whale Meat

There's yet another discussion about Half-Life 2 and Steam going on. Some might wonder why so many slashdotters defend Valve, yet would scream blue murder if Microsoft ever tried anything remotely like Steam.

Two reasons I think.
One, the games section is populated by windows pc gamers, more so that regular tech heads. Most of these are young and innocent when it comes to IP issues. Kind of like a missing link between regular users and frequent slashdotters. Anyway, these gamers do love their games and the companies that make them and will brook no critisisms of them. They're also more likely to be confused by comments slamming windows XP, as they still regard it as "Way cool! I have a computer with XP!"

Two, Steam gives you Half-Life 2 which is a very popular video game. An MS scheme along the same lines would just give you Windows. Not so popular. People will support one and not the other simply because Steam gives them something they really want. I'm sure if Half-Life 2 was awful, no-one would support steam. It's kind of like people who've eaten whale meat, at special restauraunts.(Before you burn my house down, I haven't) Anyway, these people, having tasted the whales flesh are much more open to the idea of hunting whales than other. Well, I know of at least one person who was dead set against hunting whales, a big conservationist. He went abroad, sniffed a whale meat stand, took a bite, and now he's softened up to the whole idea. Apparently it tastes like beef, go figure. The point is, slashdotters hated Steam, then they tasted Half-Life 2, and now they're alright with the whole idea of Valve licencing a video game. We're all just animals underneath it all!

My 2 cents.

The Gimp

Journal Journal: The Linux Desktop Approaches. Millions Flee in Terror. 2

I've just spent the last TEN HOURS trying to draw THREE simple images of circles, rectangles, lines and one or two pasted in images. TEN HOURS I've spent swearing, cursing and damning the eyes of whoever decided that "Hey the GIMP is GREAT!!!! Let's thrown everything else out the window!!!!" GENIUS!!!! BLOODY GENIUS!!! ARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!! ...ahem...

As I was saying. The GIMP sucks for making images. Here's why from
"The GIMP is the GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring. It works on many operating systems, in many languages."

The GIMP is designed for editing images! It is completely useless at creating them! Yet in Fedora what Image Creation Utilities are available by default. Why the GIMP of course! You've also got KPaint v0.6. The danm thing doen't even have a fill tool for christs sake! And let's not forget XFig. Why move into the modern era when you can play arounf with vector graphics for hours. Vector Graphics?!?! WTF?!?! Xpaint people!! Hello!!

Once again Redhat play right into the hands of the naysayers. Newbie Linux users starts fedora. Newbie user hates browsing around in spatial mode. Newbie user can't watch movies. Newbie user can't play CDs. Newbie user can't play MP3's! Newbie users can't even scribble around in a simple mspaint type app!! Newbie user cant update system! Do redhat actually care if they attract new users or not?

The general newbie user will walk away from fedora thinking, "Linux is useless". And you know what? They'll be right. If distros continue with this idiotic structuring the Linux desktop will never get anywhere. You don't attract more linux users with the lastest sendmail or ssh versions. Users don't go, ohhh and ahhh, just because bash now supports 64 bit Unicode languages!!

Users want an easy to use, simple system with good apps! They don't give a shit about security. You supposed to do that! They don't need the GIMP! they need Xpaint. They don't need Rhytmbox! they need a working CD player! They don't need spatial browsing!! That sucks ass!!

Linux's future, like most things, depends on getting new people, paticularly young people to support it. New users will only venture into a system if it is friendly to them in the beginning. Newbies will not put up with complicated apps and having to configure /etc/yum.conf to get anything to work, and they shouldn't have to.
Windows will be dominant for the next 40 years! At least! Why? Because millions of kids grew up using windows! They started with solitare, played with paint, worked up to net browsing and went on from there. Legions of users who got good at computer by starting from the simple basics and working up from there. But on most distros, there are no simple basics! You've thrown straigt into the deep end, and guess what? Most newbies sink, or thrash their way back to XP. Why is it that the entire Linux community seems to think that everything is perfectly user friendly right now. Whatever I need to do I can get done using bash and perl scripts. Why just watch me sudo right now

I remember my first forays into Linux. I almost gave up right there. It's as if the Linux community is suffering from some collective brain damage when it comes to UI. We don't need it. We have bash. Meanwhile millions, nay billions, run screaming from the Linux Desktop paradigm. Don't make it easy to use unless you really really have to!

What was I ranting about again? Oh yeah the GIMP. Take my advice friend. Get yourself some of that #yum -y install xpaint. And for any newbie user, who would quite rightly be perplexed by that last one. It means log in as the root user(computer administrator), run the yum program(a software updater application) telling it to answer yes to all questions when installing xpaint(a graphics program very like paint on windows).

You see that's what people need to say to newbies. Not Just edit /etc/runinit.4/ to point to /dev/hdb2 on boot. That is not helpful. We should _never_ have to say that to a new linux user. The fact that we do should be the biggest indicator of all that something is wrong with the linux desktop.

I'm going home to draw up those picture on a windows computer. I don't have right to the university computers and xpaint won't compile. I'll be amoung the great unwashed, uninstalling spyware if any of the people who designed Fedora would dare to retort. Good day to you sir!

User Journal

Journal Journal: I feel Ill 4

I just read this slashdot story about how users across the globe are simply accepting spyware on their computers. As one poster puts it this kind of "clueless luserdom" is rampant on the net. I've got at least one friend who thinks like this. He just doesn't care if bearshare is spyware or not. He just wants to use it.

I used to think he was an exception, but after reading the story and reflecting on expierience, I realise that we are the exceptions. Most people will willingly, nay, gladly sell their privacy for a simple malware music sharer or cd ripper. Maybe we're all just paranoid? Maybe people should just accept eWallet,, spyware, adware, malware and of course Jay Patel and his legions of data mining spiderbots.

This thought depresses me more than any recent story I can think of. I mean, is the human race just destined to live in blissful ignorence. Are we just preprogrammed to fall for the pretty smilies of that small cunning few. Are most people really just sheep that blindly follow orders. I want to believe that people are otherwise. I want to know that people are individuals, capable of drawing their own conclusions and seeing past rosy curtains to the truth behind. Stories like this put a dent in my faith.

I don't believe all this acceptance of spyware will be without consequence. I believe people who knowingly accept spyware will come to regret their decision. They already suffer financially by having to buy a new PC every two years. But I feel that a larger problem lies in store for them. I don't mean this in a patronising way. I mean that I think a lot of bad things are going to happen to people who don't deserve it beacause of an uninformed choice they made. Global dictatorship, or just more junk mail? I don't know. But I refuse to belive that their are no consequences for so much personal data in the hands of private companies.

XBox (Games)

Journal Journal: Halo 2: Hype Evolved

"Halo 2 is going to be the biggest game ever!!! It's already got more preorders than San Andreas did!!!"

Thus was I greeted when I arrived into the computer room this morning. And thus Have I been greeted, on and off, every half hour or so, for the last week, and to a lesser extent, the last three years.

Yes that's right folks. Halo 2 is out and if you, like me, cannot recognise that it is The Greatest Game Ever Made(TM) without ever having played it, then you clearly lose on a new level. If you have not yet been awed into submission by the earth-shattering demos, you must be banished forevermore from the lands of the faithful. And if you dare suggest that any other work of mortal hands is even half that of Halo 2's option screen, you will be flamed even unto the very gates of hell itself, to languish Haloless there for all eternity.

OK First off, I don't own an Xbox. My first heresy, is complete.
Second, my favorite FPS, was Red Faction. My blasphemies are boundless.
Third, I'm not going to buy Halo 2. The magnitude of my sins, is unprecedented in all the annals of scripture. But I digress.

I repeat, Halo 2 is out. And with it comes Hype and Marketing, the likes of which, ye have never seen. As I said, I've been stopped on numerous occasions over the last week by madly grinning Halo 2 evangelists, gleefully telling me cheery facts, proving that Halo 2 is the second coming... of Halo. Everyone has been going, on, and on, and on, and on, and on, and on about Halo 2. Websites, magazines, ads, newspapers, blogs, phones, reps. Its guerrilla marketing site ILOVEBEES, featured four times on slashdot. And that's just the bloody marketing campaign. It's already been voted the second greatest game of all time, after only one day! Hell! It even featured on the news last night!

Q: What's the reason for all this?
A: "OMG OMF!!111 h410 2 15 50 gr34t!!1111 U L00Z3R!!11"

No, no I think not.

Q: What's the reason for all this?
A: Patriotism. or to be more specific Console Patriotism.

"L00Z3R!!1111 Ur ju5t 54d!!!111"

Remember all the hype surrounding Halo? Remember all the tales of online play and enemies so smart they just couldn't be beaten? Remember how people went out and paid $500 for a Xbox, just to play one game? Remember the reviews?
And after all that, people now complain about the repetitiveness of the single player campaign, the lacking marine(and enemy) AI, and the absence of Xbox live play.
I played Halo. I was a cracking good game. But it did NOT deserve the hype that surrounded it and it did not deserve the after party criticism it received once the initial hype wore off.(Only to be replaced by anticipation of Halo 2) People complained about the two weapon system(which was good). People complained about the speed. People complained about the lack of Bots(legit). People complained about the difficulty(clearly never played on legendary). People even complained about the coop mode because the second player did not appear in the cut scenes?! WTF?! Remember the complaining. I'll get back to it later.
And so Halo 2 is upon us, promising to fix everything that was wrong with Halo, refine and redefine the FPS genre, bring net generation graphics to this generation of consoles, and deliver the greatest game experience of your life. And the fans will start the whole thing up again. Why?

Console Patriotism.

The reason Halo was hyped so much had nothing to do with the game. It had everything to do with Xbox fans desire to prove to themselves and everyone else, that the Xbox was the No1 Console, with all the No1 games, and that the Dreamcast,GameCube and PS2 could bite it dust.
Now this console patriotism is nothing new. Remember the whole Sonic and Mario thing, between sega and nintendo. Remember how all the kids used to shout down the other console owners and proclaim how much superior their own console was? Remember that? this is exactly what happened with Halo, and it's happening right now with Halo 2.
The current hype is not being driven by Bungie, MicroSoft, ILOVEBEES or anyone else, though they are steering it. The current hype is being generated by console patriotism. Console gamers have made an emotional purchase in buying one console over the other, and they will seek to justify that purchase to themselves and everyone else. Everybody's done it, at some stage. You just
have to get through enough consoles to overcome it completely,(like me :E) Halo 2 is the biggest example, but remember Fable, KOTOR? They were hyped too, but more on that later.
Is there an acid test for all this? Or is it all OMF BS? A little from column A, a little from column B! But seriously, think about this for a sec. When the next Halo 2 fan boy start waffling on about covenant troops that can do high school maths try this test. Tell him you preferred Fable, or KOTOR or some other big shot Xbox game. He'll scoff, or maybe agree that that was a good game. Now tell him you preferred San Andreas. Any results?
The Xboxers hate the PS2. Just like the Mega Drivers and SNESers hated each others consoles. It's even worse of the Xboxers though, because the PS2 is so far ahead, despite the Xboxes clear technological superiority. And GTA:SA, one of the PS2's best, and released right before Halo 2, makes the bile rise in their throat. Bring it up at a Halo 2 convention, or a forum, and watch the flames fly. Not that it doesn't work in reverse as well. PS2ers hate the Xbox because it is so superior. And they loath the fact that Halo 2 got more hype than GTA,(so I suppose the Haloers can be happy about that at least).

They all however, have missed the point.
Console Patriotism only leads to disillusionment

Console Patriotism is just like regular patriotism. It's irrational, dogmatic and blinds people to the truth. Usually this truth is that they're being conned. And of course it will lead to disappointment.

Halo,Fable,KOTOR, even GTA:SA by now. All were hyped to the max. Now they are all fantastic games, but that hasn't stopped people complaining about them, usually very vehemently. I've played GTA:SA. Anyone who complains about it is a twat. I've played Fable. Anyone who complains about it is an idiot. I've played KOTOR, anyone who complains about it will be killed by Star Wars fans for being heretical. Not that the games were perfect mind. But they were miles ahead of the usually junk that clutters game store shelves and no one complains about. In fact people usually give mediocre game more credit than they deserve. that's emotional purchase again.
It's inevitable. If you took part in hyping a game, believing the dogma that this game was going to be the greatest experience of your life, transcending normal human existence, then, when you at last take it home and find it was just software running on a processor in response to your input, you'll feel more than just let down. You'll feel bitter,cheated, betrayed. You'll grow to dislike, or even hate the game, as some have done to these great titles. Already (H2 day +1) people are complaining about Halo 2's ending, mip mapping and multiplayer. I haven't played it yet, but I know it will be a cracker of a game, well above these petty criticisms.
What I'm getting at here, is that Hyping and Console Patriotism, in the long run, are doing damage to the game industry.
How many people bought an Xbox just for Halo, only to become disillusioned and sell the thing, for a loss, at a later date. The same thing has happened for years, and the more it goes on, the more over hyped games people buy, the less they will buy in the future.
Halo 2 happens to be one of the worst example so far(no it won't live up to the hype, nothing could), but there are many other example on every console, and there will be more for years to come. My greatest worry is that companies will use the example of Halo 2 to try the same thing with titles of only half the caliber. Where will the good games go then?

I hope you've read this little treastie before you played Halo 2. If so, remember. Halo 2 is a FPS. A damn good one. Enjoy it for that, not for the fantasy created in chatrooms and peoples minds. And if you've come here, disappointed after playing what was supposed to be the greatest game of your life, go back and play it again. It's still a great game, you just missed that because you were looking for something that wasn't there.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Homepage

Finally, i've come around to put up my homepage: There is not much there yet, but have a look if you like...

Journal Journal: My Chat With A Mass Mailer

Here's an old email exchange I had with one of the mass mailers in the university. He sent out an ad to all students about a room for rent. This is common practice in my university and none of the mass mailers seem to think there is anything wrong with it. This is paticularly annoying now that is available to advertise rooms for rent at modest cost. I'm posting this here so I can link to it in an Ask Slashdot story I'm submitting.

Perhaps my replys were a little curt, but I was really irked by the amount of mails of this nature I've been recieving. The guys replys were pretty bemusing.

Note: I've censored most of the name of persons involved. I'm vindictive, but I'm not about to go posting raw mail address onto the web. The list of student names is present, but I don't think a list of names very descriptive, I could be wrong. And sorry about the 'backwards' format too.

Well on with the show


From: ***@***.***.*** [mailto:***@***.***.***]
Sent: 11 February 2004 15:08
To: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]@***.***.***
Subject: RE:

I fyou were interested in the house you reply if not you delete it, I
thought that would have been quite obvious, clearly it wasn't don't
replyin to this email!!!
Original Message:
From: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
Date: Tue, 27 Jan 2004 21:06:40 -0000
To: ***@***.***.***
Subject: RE:

So why did you send me the original email. You included me in your send
list. You expected a reply.

> -----Original Message-----
> From ********
> Sent: Saturday, January 24, 2004 12:11 PM
> To: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Subject: re:
> Did you not understand my last email? i don't want to hear from you,
> your opinion is very unimportant to me, leave me alone you maggot
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Sent: 22 January 2004 09:16
> To: *********
> Subject: RE:
> Then don't send me any more mass emails. They are very annoying.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: *********
> Sent: 19 January 2004 21:01
> To: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Subject: RE:
> Could you stop harassing me please. I really don't
> appreciate this kind of email.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [ObsessiveMathsFreak]
> Sent: 19 January 2004 09:21
> To: **********
> Subject: RE:
> I've reported you to the itd department for
> sending mass unsolisited emails
> -----Original Message-----
> From: *********
> Sent: 17 January 2004 11:04
> To: [OMF Note: Lots of names. ~1600 I'd say, but this was just the R-N's]
> Subject:
> ALL MOD CONS; washer and dryer,cable T.V (fully
> paid), refuse fully paid, front and back door, transparent windows,
> kettle( complete with lead)and this legend . Tank.jpg >>
> CONTACT: (***) (*******); (***) ******* [OMF note: both mobile numbers]
> OR
> Reply to this E-mail


Data Storage

Journal Journal: Metadata Will Not A Good Filesystem Make

With WinFS closing in upon us and GNOMEs recent move to spatial browsing, it seems that the whole world is going to be moving towards a SQL search based filesystem, in which we use queries to locate our files and where deep nested floders will be a thing of the past. Using metadata on files, we will be quickly and easily be able to find the ones we want amid the heaps of data that now resides on our hard drives. Or will we?

First off what are the reasons behind the switch? Isn't our current filesystem good enough as is? Apparently not according to this OS news article, in which the author argues... I have seen, over and over again, that novice users ... don't get the concept of a file hierarchy. ... 80-90% of the computer users do not need more than 5-7 folders where they put their documents .

I think this is a valid point, if the figues are a little exaggerated. Most new home users will typically not know where to place files initially, or how to navigate a filesystem. They may well be confused by directories and trees, up and back buttons.Novices will also have to face the real issue of simply where to place their files. Microsoft, to their credit, have attempted to solve this problem by giving users the 'My Data' and 'My Pictures' type folders. Open by default by various programs, it gives users the options of simply saving their files to a predestined folder. However it runs into difficulty when hundreds, if not thousands, of files reside in only one folder. The user is now overwhelmed bu the sheer amount of data presented to them.
So what are we to do? Is the current storage ethos all wrong? How can we better cater to novice users? Is a metadata/spatial/query based filesystem the answer?

A filesystem is, at its most basic level, a method for storing files. To do so it must supply answers to a users two questions:
1)Where are my files?
2)Where do I put my files?

Microsoft and others have proposed a query based filesystem running on metadata. Metadata can certainly be very powerful, as Google has shown us. But our computer disc drives are not the web. Files typically do not reference other files. They are self contained, at the lowest level. Google relies on the fact that web pages link to one another. Files don't.
But at least with a query based filesystem, novice users can simply click save and not worry about filesystems or where exactly the file has gone. Also, once saved users can call back the file with a simple query. This would seem to solve both questions in one fell swoop. But does it.

The analogy often used with WinFS and other query filesystems, is that of a user saving pictures and then retrieving them. This example is probobly used as this is exactly who the system is catered towards, a home users saving their pictures, videos and some documents. Such a user will typically not have a huge volume of data, and even if they do they can use previews to see the data they want.
But what about the serious users? The accountant will multiple excel sheets, the programmers with hundreds of source files, the secretary will thousands of word documents. Even the pre-teen with half a dozen games might run into trouble with this system. Why? It has to so with Question One. Where are my files?

Take everone favourite computer relative, Aunt Tillie. How will Aunt Tillie use WinFS. Most likley she will just type in 'pictures' or 'photos' into her query. Perhaps with a 'last august' as well. She will find her pictures from her last august holidays and be happy. When she takes here christmas pictures, she will just save them and will type in 'my christmas pictures' and will find them. Novice bliss.

What about Joe? Joe's an accountant who's just bought a new computer at work with Longhorn. He has upwards of 1000 excel sheets with customers data. How will his query be structured? 'Report for sales to Toyota in august'. Dozens of files could sping up, all with exactly the simlar title. Ones from previous year, gross sales, sales returns, files linking to that file. The file he wants may not show up as some other accountant worked on and saved it just last week.

What about Max? Max is a programmer with hundreds of source, config, init and version files. How will his query be structured? 'Main.c for database project'. Every main.c on the computer could show up, along with every source file on the database project. He may be left to search through quite a lot of files.

Query filesystem proponents will argue that Joe and Max's problems stem from their bad metadata, or that their queries are not detailed enough. But whose job is it to properly form this metadata? The program will most likely fail in this regard as most of the metatags, author,type,size,name will be quite similar. So are Joe and Max expected to fill in metadata? Are they expected to go to the trouble of typing in more detailed queeries for data they may be unsure about anyway? Last august or september? Is this easier or harder than creating a depp nested folder structure, as Joe and Max have been doing for years?

In short a query/metadata based filesystem assumes that the user does not know where their files are. This might be true for novices, but is certainly not for anyone who has uses a computer regularly.

Query filesystems will make things easier for messy users but harder for tidy users? Is this right? Metadata will be hugely usful, and there is no reason not to incorperate it into our existing filesystems. But to abandon directories and deep nested files as some would argue will be a road doomed to overloaded failure.

Such is the cocky, uninformed, ignorent and luddite tone of my first journal entry anyway. Please comment if you agree or disagree, or indeed if you have read this at all.


Journal Journal: Blog Is In Da House

Well, I finally got one of these blog things the kids today rave about, all thanks to Slashdot! I found out about a variety of self-hosted blog packages after a /. story featuring a comprehensive blog comparison matrix. So I ended up installing Nucleus.

I was so inspired by this that in a rage of creativity I also remade my main website into more of a games storefront and pushed the development stuff to the back. The storefront is a PHP-Nuke module I wrote that calls web services using PHP. I had a lot of fun putting this together! (press the blog button)



Journal Journal: Corporate Karma and Community Principles

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.


Journal Journal: particle/wave duality explanation

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.

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Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty. -- Plato