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Journal Journal: "A little bit of censorship"

Good god. I've been reading discussion by /. readers about censorship, and it seems that many otherwise thoughtful readers believe that 'a little censorship' is ok.

I'm constantly amazed by the imprecise thought patterns encouraged by our pop-media society. If asked, 'What do you think of censorship?', most /. readers would react with "Censorship is bad!" - fairly vehemently. But when the conversation comes up, they will qualify that to be "Well, it's bad unless it's censoring something I disagree with."

Guess what, people. Implementing the necessary intrusive infrastructure to eliminate 'kiddie porn' or 'bestiality' from the internet won't reduce the instance of these crimes - just the available evidence . And that intrusive infrastructure won't be used solely for protecting your eyes from kiddie porn. Trust me; the government or corporation that gets such a mandate will own your Internet overnight.

The powers that be will try and persuade you that you cannot tolerate such freedom. They will do their best to get you to finance their invasion of your headspace, in the guise of removing kiddie porn, bestiality, and spam from your internet experience. Then, when it's too late, you'll discover that they've also removed /., or Linux, or OpenBSD, or certain encryption protocols, ... etc. You'll find that you can no longer exchange emails with someone in China.

Images of crimes are not crimes, people, they're evidence of crimes. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don't give up the first relatively democratic mass-media ever in human history so that you won't have to see offensive images. If you do, it will cost you much more than you think.


Journal Journal: Is Installing XP a licence violation? 2


Last night I did something (I am not sure I remember what it was, exactly, but it had to do with network filesystem access and a powered-down switch) on my workstation that caused XP to refuse to shut down. No biggie, this has happened before. I hit reset.

The machine boots back up, and I log in - and I see a dialog box I've never encountered before. "The hardware configuration of this machine has changed significantly, requiring Windows XP to be re-activated."

Well, I think, isn't that interesting. So I click on the button that says "next". After thinking about it for a minute, Windows tells me "This key has exceeded the number of times it can be activated. Please enter another key to continue."

Now, this key is one I purchased, and has only ever been installed or used with this sytem, although I have upgraded the motherboard and several other elements.

Piss on it. I don't need visio after all. I'll just look at network diagrams on my laptop. *sigh*

United States

Journal Journal: Cultural and Societal Priorities in a Changing World 1

This may come as a surprise to some of you reading this, and others may say, "Oh, yeah, I knew that all along". As a society, our priorities are all fucked up. I don't mean everyone else's priorities. I mean 'ours'.

We live in a society where one can be sentenced to life without parole for embezzling money from the US Government, and the guy down the street can get 7 years for shooting someone in the head - and be out in 3 for good behavior or the need to put one more dope smoker behind bars. We live in a society where prime time movies can show graphic violence, but the FCC 'wants answers' about how a certain lovely pop star happened to get her nipple ring on TV. We live in a society that condones unilateral, pre-emptive invasion of another country in violation of international law, and cite that same international law as justification for invasion. We live in a society that will give children back to a crack addicted mother over and over and over until she or one of her boyfriends kills those children, while taking children from a loving foster family hoping to adopt because one bumped his head (slightly - no blood, dizziness, or confusion, just a tiny bruise) and wasn't rushed to the hospital immediately.

We live in a society that spent millions of dollars debating about whether or not a president should be impeached for getting a blowjob in the oval office without even noticing that the same man was a criminal... "If he didn't make any money, it must not have been illegal". Trust me, people, if it had been you or me, we'd still be in jail today. We have an attourney general that feels comfortable violating campaign finance laws while he preaches about righteousness. We've got a Presidential Administration that's comfortable praying to God and pressuring the intelligence community to confirm suspicions in order to justify war.

I watch movies on 'regular tv' and they bleep out words like 'shit' and 'fuck', but they will show the brains on the wall. They cut out scenes that show the smooth, beautiful flesh of young women, but are more than happy to present us with views of burnt and blodied Iraqi citizens. They cut out scenes of loving embrace, and show us scenes of brutality, abuse, and rape. Is this the way to make a better, happier society?

We live in a society where special interests purchased the government years ago and everybody tries not to talk about it except rude, crazy people like me that just don't realize that the way to make everything better is to just shut the hell up and let the big boys run the place the way they want to.

Sooner or later, we're going to have to get our priorities in line. If we don't, we're just circling the drain waiting for the final HUGE SUCKING SOUND that will signify our demise as a world power and our initiation into the Third World economy. We're building a national debt that will make our children indentured servants, where the so-called liberal media censored an ad by a group of citizens concerned about the future of those children. My Social Security statement came in the mail the other day, and printed in black and white at the bottom was the statement explaining that current projections clearly indicated that by 2042, Social Security reciepts would fall to less than 75% of the payout. No, people, there is no "Social Security Account"; SS was the scam of the century - every generation was always intended to pay for the previous generation's retirement. The surplus right now? (more people are paying into SS than are recieving payments) It's invested in treasury bonds and becomes part of the budget... wait... Isn't that like writing oneself an IOU, spending the money, and then using the IOU for collateral on a loan?

Our government has been held hostage by corporate interests since the inception of mass media. Before the advent of news and television, a candidate could actually promote himself by traveling around and talking to people. The news might actually mention him if he got enough people together to listen. Then the mass media networks formed, and advertising budgets went sky high, and now you have to be able to spend millions on advertising just to get a mention. So a bunch of guys give media outlets millions of dollars for campaign ads and coverage, and only one of them can actually go to the big dance. It's throwaway money, but absolutely essential to a candidate. Thus they depend on contributions. But who can contribute millions? Companies and corporations.

Is anybody who they claim to be? Are the GOP really industry's bitch boy, and Democrats the champions of the common dude-in-the-streets? I doubt it. The parties are a smoke screen to keep us fighting amongst ourselves, to keep us from noticing that 1% of our population controls 90% of the wealth, and that the situation has been subsidized by the government. To keep us from realizing that there is a reason that the recent prescription drug benefit has a clause in it that prohibits the government and administrators from negotiating a better price for prescription drugs. They are both members of the new aristocracy of corporate clients that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

The short answer is this, people. Reform campaign finance in a way that eliminates the corporate power to fund a candidate's campaign and then collect on what's due. Shoot all the corporate and industry lobbyists that pressure our legislative process to meet their needs.

In the end, the Dems don't need to "Take back the White house", and the GOP doesn't need to "Stand Firm in the face of Liberalism"; We, The People of the United States Of America need to take back government of the people, by the people, FOR the people!
User Journal

Journal Journal: How to support diversity in the Information Technology space

Anyone who reads my posts will know that I'm not a Microsoft fanboy. I don't, however, want to see Microsoft "destroyed" or "broken up". I'm not interested in 'attacking' successful companies. I don't think the rules should be any different for successful companies, either.

This may seem odd coming from someone who is such a vociferous opponent of the M$ mindset. Let me explain, and it will all come clear.

I think that the major issue that prohibits the adoption of better technology is what I call, for lack of a better term, 'divisive psuedotechnology'. What I am talking about is the artificial alteration of protocols, data storage formats, and memory structures that makes the transfer of data from one format or program to another very difficult. Take, for instance, the industry recognition that Microsoft's biggest competitor for Office is "last year's version". What this means is that Microsoft knows that the 'features' they introduced in the newest version are basically irrelevant to the largest percentage of their userbase; so they have to change data formats in order to force people to upgrade (eventually). The occlusion and polymorphism of the formats present a clear barrier to entry for a given competitor's package.

We don't have to change the rules for Microsoft to avoid this situation. I think that if you feel that a company should not be allowed to have monopoly power, the solution is not to penalize that company with special rules, but to write rules that make it difficult or impossible to achieve that market pre-eminence. In the case of IT, I think that a very simple rule would accomplish this task to a large degree; require (legally) all data storage formats and protocols to be public information. This forces all software companies to focus on the part of the job that is important - functionality. This way Microsoft (and others - they are just the example at hand, far from the only culprits!) cannot 'lock out' competition by simply changing or obfuscating their data storage format or network protocol. This means that software companies will have to make real improvements to software rather than simply introducing version incompatibilities and forcing upgrades by end-of-support combined with version incompatiblity. Upgrades then become a value proposition, and a company has to do real innovation in order to get new users or convince existing users to upgrade.

This will never happen, of course, because of the vested interest in the cash contributions of the tech industry. Microsoft and friends contribute to the campaign funds of politicians, and those politicians enact legislation like the DMCA, or make copyright infringement a crime rather than a civil tort.

Regardless, the moral of this story is this: Whether you choose proprietary software, open source software, or Free software, choose software that uses open standards for data storage and protocols. As a systems integrator, I can tell you with conviction that the choice of a proprietary protocol or data storage format is always a bad idea in the long run, because at some point any non-trivial system will have to interact with another non-trivial system, and those proprietary formats and protocols will eat up disproportionate amounts of time and money constructing expensive and buggy 'glue' systems. If enough of us make these decisions appropriately, it will cease to be profitable to create systems with artificial obsolescence and forced non-value upgrades.
United States

Journal Journal: Whatever happened to 'the pursuit of happiness'?

Interestingly enough, I used to be a political conservative. Then, I was a political liberal. Then I became a political libertarian. Now I am some political stance that has no 'label' in our society - except maybe "radical" or "crackpot". The strangest thing about this progression is that my opinions, in the largest part, about the important things, haven't changed. The information I have access to, however, has changed, thus informing my political views.

I once believed that America was a free market economy, when in fact, it is nothing like it. I once believed that people with money necessarily earned it, and necessarily 'deserved' it. I used to believe that corporations really cared (in an enlightened self-interest manner) about their consumers. I used to think that quality mattered to real businessmen, and it was only a few bad apples that didn't care about the end user, for whom the bottom line was God.

I used to think that our government existed to assure us 'Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness'. I used to belive in the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and honest politicians. I used to believe that Americans mattered individually in the political process.

Information has changed these veiws. With the advent of the Internet and the easy dissemination of information, we can find out more about our political process than ever before. Websites like clearly illustrate (albeit circumstantially) how our country is governed.

People like to pretend that we live in a 'free market society'. This is sorta true at various levels, but across the scope of our economy it's almost laughable. It's not a free market when industries and companies can buy allowances from the government. It's the sheer power of money in a money-hungry industry (politics). Big corporations in our country (and globally) buy the legislation they want - take as a recent example the 'prescription benefit' that was passed by Congress and supported by our President. Why would such a bill prohibit the negotiation of prices? What possible reason would our government have for making sure it paid the highest possible price for prescription drugs? Well, the short answer is that the pharmaceutical industry donated $29,376,406 to our government's electoral process in 2002 (the campaign funds of our politicians). In return they got the bill that they wanted, guaranteeing them windfall profits on our dime (our tax dollars).

Before anyone classes me as a Democrat, understand that I don't think they are any better than the alternative - they're both (dems and republicans) involved in the same game - maintenance of the status quo - keeping us (the American people) stuck in the false dichotomy of social awareness vs. a market economy. Without the special deals our government has always given industry, our market economy would have grown much more slowly, but still, I think, have had the pre-eminence our economy did over the past 150 years or so; in fact, if we were truly a free-market economy (in the spirit of the Sherman Antitrust acts), I think we'd be better off now, all around.

Wake up, America. We don't need to take back our country from the Republicans, and the Democrats dont' care about you, either. We need to take back our country from the corporate special interests. Your country and your constitution are bought and sold every day on Capital Hill, by Senators, Representatives, Lobbyists, and 'Activitsts', and the coin of the realm is advertising dollars (campaign contributions); we've allowed our politicians to become professional campaigners rather than our advocates; the task at hand is not running our country, or defending the constitution, but getting re-elected.

Journal Journal: Teknopolitically Correct 18

There's a certain disturbing tendency among techno-geeks everywhere that I tend to chalk up to a general tendency to be conservative in intellectual affairs. That being said, it infuriates me when this particular bit of intellectual kindness is adapted and regurgitated as though it were 'proven fact' among those 'in the know'.

The bit of FUD that I'm speaking of is the tendency to assume that Linux/BSD/OSX/BeOS/<insert operating system here> would be "just as bad" security-wise as the prevailing desktop and sometime server from Redmond.

The reasoning goes like this: Windows is the predominant desktop and as such has the most instances in cyberspace; thus virus/trojan/hack/toolkit writers target Windows specifically. In addition, nowadays it seems to be assumed that most 'hackers' (crackers and malware authors, not "real" hackers) use *nix (which may or may not be true - it seems counter intuitive if the malware is to run on Windows, no?).

These two concepts give rise to the assertion that if the attention of these 'black hats' were focussed on some other OS, the results would be similar to those experienced in our Windows-centric technoscape currently.

Well, I say POPPYCOCK and HORSESHIT. Before the flamethrowers kick into overdrive, let me disclaim a bit: I think that, were another OS in Window's market position, more of that platform's security/stability issues might be exposed than are now; my point is to address the 'just as bad' mindset.

This worldview is the result of certain assumptions that are based on faulty reasoning. The first failure is the assumption that all design philosophies are security-neutral. Now, almost any programmer and most techies of any sort will realize that this is not true; a little bit of thought should expose for you the fact that this is an underlying assumption of the "just as bad" school of thought.

Now, the second failure is the assumption that all programmers are equivalent. This one is not as obvious as the last, but it's equally incorrect and even more insidious, becaues it's not necessarily intuitively false. We tend to think of programmers/developers in a stochastic sense, and assume that we're comparing apples and apples, when in fact, I think there is little overlap between opensource development and the Redmond mentality - and here's the kicker - even if the developer/programmer in question works on both types of product... Yes, I'm saying what it sounds like I'm saying. I think a programmer that works on both commercial, closed source 'enterprise' development, on the whole, will write better code on his own opensource/FS project than on the project he is paid to develop. I believe that every individual will do better work when they're doing it because they love to do it than when they are doing it because they're being paid to do it - no matter what their work ethic.

Finally, one may certainly express an opinion (as I have done and am doing) about one's preferred platform, but assertions such as the "JAB" (just as bad) assertion are *just that*, opinions, not some enlightened view of the universe. JAB has not been tested or verified in any meaningful manner - it's an assumption made to assuage the consciences of those who choose Redmond because 'no one has ever been fired for doing so'. Until and unless <alternative OS X> becomes as ubiquitous as Windows, such assertions remain just that - unfounded assertions designed to mislead people who haven't considered the real issues and implications of JAB.

In addition, let me point out that anyone who runs a firewall and logs into #linux or #linuxhelp or #hackerz or "..." on IRC will see that his/her box comes under attack from script kiddies and crackers within seconds, usually probing for poor security decisions and software not kept up to date by the user/administrator. I think that many malware authors write their devious little trinkets for reasons of pride - or at least, used to; now it's pretty much because it's so easy and spammers need the help. Imagine what a coup for the Redmond crowd if someone were to come up with a really solid virus or trojan for *nix? Say, in perl, which is extremely cross-platform, increasing the possible target systems to include most of the *nix universe - along with devices like '~/' eliminating many of the path inconsistencies. People like to assert that the lack of such is because of the relative obscurity of *nix; I say it's not been done because it's fscking hard to do.

Regardless, here's my assertion, based on my opinion that the design philosophy of *nix is qualitatively and quantitatively better from a security and stability standpoint than the Redmond offerings, and my opinion that authors who write code because they love it write better code than those who do it because they get paid to (I think that applies to most endeavors, actually): Were *nix as ubiquitous as Windows is now, we would not face anything even approaching the global interference caused by trojans, virii, and crackers who attack Windows. In other words:

No, Virginia, it's not 'just as bad'



"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." --Bertrand Russell

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