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Comment Re:Gosh!!! (Score 5, Informative) 318

I never realized visiting a website required me to "sacrifice my freedom"!

Look, I know it's a lot to ask that you actually pause to reflect before dashing off that Frist Psot and racking up all that precious karma. But why don't you wind down your supercilious, holier-than-thou tone and actually read what Stallmann says about the Javascript trap?

If you did, you'd see that he has a perfectly valid point about how the effect of non-Free licenses, combined with minified (and therefore effectively unreadable) code, especially that which uses dynamically constructed elements, is hard to read, hard to share and hard for the community to improve. The tone of the article is pragmatic, reasoned and doesn't jump up and down crying 'Injustice!' or waving a placard. Much as you might hate this, it's a reasonable technical argument that follows logically from the concept of Free Software itself.

If you want to argue against Free Software on its merits, knock yourself out. I work with both proprietary and Free software all the time, and I see the benefits of both. But when you start pitching a fit and belittling someone else's calm, reasonably stated points without even attempting to address the logic, then you've lost any credibility. Honestly, you can ridicule Stallmann all you like, but you might want to consider what you look like to others as you indulge in this kind of adolescent, pop-collared frat-boy humour.

Comment Re:24 yo? (Score 3, Interesting) 429

I'm going to guess he's going to look back on his life and realize that he was dumb to think he'd seen it all at age 24. He talks as though the Third Age of Middle Earth is ending

In some important ways, it is. The process isn't complete, but there is a fundamental change happening, and it will discomfit some of us.

The days of 'Homesteading the Noosphere' (as ESR put it), are coming to a close. Scale, network topologies, business models and legal encroachment on the principles of individual online freedom are all conspiring to make the technological world we live in substantially more constrained than it's been since the internet became part of our lives.

The land rush is over, the cowboys are gone (either buried or rich) and the homesteaders are being bought out by the speculators and tycoons. Community-based governance is under siege by national and international interests.

And this is being reflected in the tech world. The craftsman's approach to software (always greater in repute than in reality) is decidedly more difficult to practice as a trade than it was. Toolkits are giving way to frameworks and apps replace applications. Backyard-mechanic roadsters and dirt-track races are swallowed up by Nascar - VCs get us excited by the prospect of building only big enough to sell out to someone bigger.

The physical networks themselves are being taken back by the telcos and proffered to governments for surveillance in exchange for ever more egregious rent-seeking behaviour. What we used to call sharing is now piracy. The word 'copyright' now means 'don't copy at all, ever.'

And in the midst of it all, we're grateful to lockin-vendors who make Free software difficult, if not impossible, to use. We rent what we used to own. Even our identities are no longer our own.

I grieve to say it, but unless there's a sudden and immense resurgence of the DIY spirit, especially in peer networking and distributed data, we're going to fall back into the bad old days of the dumb terminal and the smart network. And that network's smarts will not exist for our benefit.

I'm pushing 50 now, and do I fear change? Not really. I just regret the lost freedom, the creative anarchy of the '90s, the ability to hack something cool and new, the chance to achieve things never before possible. It's not gone yet. We could still turn things around. But every day we don't brings us a day closer to the day when we can't any longer.

Comment Re:why does your phone need software running on yo (Score 2) 519

I've used various iDevices for years, including all models of iPhone bar the 5, iPods and iPads. None of them sync by replacing the entire contents of the device. All of them will sync a single file. None of them will break Windows' features relating to third-party cameras and USB sticks. You either have a seriously messed up Windows installation, or iDevice, or probably both - or you're just deluded.

Comment Re:Impeach Bush!!! (Score 4, Insightful) 248

Hell yeah, if only we could impeach that Bush and get someone new (with promise of hope) instead. Oh, wait...

You know what? Fuck your cynicism. (Not you, your cynicism.)

Speaking as someone who lives in a country with a history of consistently corrupt, dysfunctional governments, without any kind of police presence in the community, with disgustingly poor health and education services, this litany of complaint and hopelessness sounds to me like nothing more than childish whining.

It wasn't always this way, and frankly, I don't care what happened that reduced the Americans in this audience to such a useless bunch of wankers. But merciful god, could you please show at least a modicum of intelligence and - yes, I'll say it - hope?

You people really have no fucking clue what it's like to live in a broken society. But if you don't shut the fuck up, learn a civics lesson or two and start fixing things, you're going to find out. And before you tell me it's too late, I'm here to say that if you think that, you honestly don't have any fucking idea how bad things can get.

There are very definite steps you can take to curtail this kind of intrusion on press freedom, only the first of which is to shout loud and long to your representative not to stand for it. So get off your ass, shut the fuck up with the whining, and get to fucking work.

Hugs, from the developing world.

Comment Very fast (Score 2) 496

A couple of hours ago i downloaded and printed a design from that site. I also proved why this is a gigantic non-issue: getting a good print from a 3d printer is very involved. The machines need a lot of fiddling to get them working right. My magazine, which was supposed to be flat bottomed, had a distinctive curve to it that did not make for a good working part.

Comment Re:Just what kids need in third-world countries! (Score 1) 97

I'm not quite clear on the above -- do you mean that:

A. it would be more reasonable to wait years for the telecom infrastructure to become available and then go straight to Internet-capable devices (as opposed to offline devices right away)

B. Internet-capable devices are preloaded (e.g. with Wikipedia), so it's better to get them now as it will eventually be possible to fully utilize their abilities, as opposed to spending on a wave of offline devices followed by online ones

C. Internet-capable devices aren't preloaded, but better to get them for the features they do have as they'll be more useful down the road

I defer to your experience, but was wondering because in cases A & C, it seems to me like any substantial delay would harm the educational & skills development of the kids left waiting, and "A" would result in some kids reaching adulthood without getting their chance.

I like B most, with C as a viable option if B isn't possible.

But emphatically: No, I don't ever advise waiting. What I meant to say is that when someone comes to me with a proposal like this (i.e. to give offline wikipedia devices to students) I suggest that they push harder to get internet into their target schools as well. In my experience, having internet connectivity makes computers many times more attractive to people of all ages in the developing world. Besides, a VSAT dish with generating capacity and a wireless network isn't asking for the moon. It's expensive by local standards, yes, but that's what donor money is for. :-)

The thing that drives me craziest in this job is when people see technology as a kind of either/or thing. You either have exactly the same infrastructure as you would in a downtown office in New York, or you have nothing. This idea is kind of a modulation on that problem, where instead of viewing the world in a binary mode, they've simply misjudged the distance of the steps between.

... In my decidedly less than humble opinion, of course.

Comment Re:Jupiter Tape? (Score 1) 621

People should remember just how terrible Americans are at keeping a secret

How long did the Manhattan Project employ thousands of people before anyone figured out what they were making?

Anthony Beevor, in his excellent history of WWII, tells a story about Churchill and Truman trying to figure out how to break the news of the successful Manhattan Project test to Stalin during the Potsdam conference in '45. They decided that Truman would tell him quietly, in a public room, in order to take him aback a little.

Thing is, Stalin already knew all the details. So there they are, Churchill hanging in the doorway watching Stalin like a dog watching a cookie, while Truman sidles up beside him and whispers the details into Stalin's ear. Stalin, of course, didn't bat an eyelash.

Afterwards, Stalin asked Beria (who had bugged the US and UK rooms) how they interpreted his complete non-reaction. According to Beria, Churchill asked Truman, "So? What did he say?" To which Truman replied, "I don't think he understood what I was telling him."

Stalin and Beria had a good laugh, took all of Eastern and Central Europe, but cancelled plans to invade Western Europe because they really did understand just how big that bomb was.

The moral of the story is: Don't ever assume it's a secret. Someone always knows.

Comment Re:Just what kids need in third-world countries! (Score 1) 97

don't have easy access to batteries

Batteries are available anywhere, and there is a single global standard. A rechargable AAA battery is good for 500 cycles at a cost of less than a cent per cycle.

Not true, I'm afraid. Well, not true in the sense that people where I live (about 20% of the population are on the power grid) don't find themselves doing without. Cost is the major factor, though availability is often limited.

I work in IT policy, and one of the biggest things we've had to accomplish in recent years is to convince the government that access to electrical power has to be factored into their ICT policy. It may seem obvious to you and me, but it actually took a bit of work. Curiously, it was the donors who didn't realise it, not government.

People made the same sarcastic, cynical statements about cellphones a decade ago. I guess criticizing others helps them rationalize their own inaction.

To be fair, most people did not actually say these things about mobile phones; they didn't think about them at all. The impact of mobile telephony on poor, rural areas was largely overlooked until it had already begun to make itself felt. Remember that mobile phone banking began in Kenya completely independently of any outside agency. People just began treating phone credit as cash, and passing it between themselves. The donors and banks only got into the mix after the fact. Same with Ushahidi and other cool SMS-based apps.

They did say that about computers and the internet, though, and yes, we're in full agreement that the old 'how can they have computers if they don't have roads' argument is bullshit.

But... I don't think offline devices are nearly as useful as online ones are, and by the time you've found a place that's capable of using them, you'd really be better off lobbying government and local telcos to build a tower as well. I'm not just speculating about this, by the way, I've spent the last decade working in the developing world on exactly these sort of problems.

Comment Re:Seriously? Segways are "too rational"? (Score 1) 533

Agreed. The problem the Segway solves isn't transportation. The problem the Segway solves is parting people who like tech gadgets from their money. If you live close enough to work that you can take a Segway, you live close enough to get off your duff and walk to work. Less hassle, less expense, and a lovely way to destress and see your neighborhood.

If you're absolutely insisting that your transportation have a low carbon footprint, Current Motors makes lovely electric scooters, and you can travel on regular roads at reasonable speeds, while hauling a small amount of cargo.

Comment Re:I use it for linux distributions (Score 1) 302

$ env |grep RSYNC
RSYNC_RSH=ssh

Worth putting right in /etc/profile so anyone who doesn't want it can disable it if they want. It is an entirely sane default.

I don't think that's required any more - not on Linux or Mac OS X, anyway. I use rsync several times a day and each time it just reads my ~/.ssh/config file for the options, sets up the connection and performs the transfer without any fuss or bother.

I haven't set the RSYNC_RSH env parameter since about 2002.

Comment Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (Score 1) 351

It wasn't a strawman, it's a hypothetical illustration of the problem with providing an exception for free services. Businesses in the EU, that provide a service to consumers/citizens, are required to meet certain criteria in order to prevent abuse. The fact that a business funds a service by means other than direct billing doesn't entitle it to ignore its legal obligations. You questioned why those obligations exist - the answer is, if they didn't, then consumers would be exploited and businesses would inevitably find means to have their services categorised as 'free' in order to avoid their obligations. It's interesting to note that it's not unique to consumer rights - if I walk into a business premises and injure myself, I can still sue them if they were negligent, whether I bought anything or not. These consumer protection laws are an extension of that logic. There is a certain cost involved in doing business in any given region, and in the EU that cost involves fulfilling consumer protection obligations.

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