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Comment R.I.P. Debian (Score 1) 442

R.I.P. Debian, you have been a faithful friend for many many years. And there's dark forebodings for the whole of Linux, too. As an environment where I could always agree with the important choices that were taken, I mean.
Debian and RedHat were born roughly at the same time. I remember how sad I was to see a split in the Linux world, but a good option was available to me: I could let the jacket-and-tie folks go the way of RedHat, and keep navigating on the interesting seas that Debian was heading towards.
Now, no more. The Debian spirit is all but extinguished,and we are bound to have two RedHats for the price of one.
Pity. Occasion lost.
Now, what will I do with my beloved Debian tee shirt?!?

Comment Re:Did I hear anybody said "Gödel?" (Score 1) 231

Actually, it's possible to remove all errors and imperfections, if you would be satisfied with being boring.

No. Software for which you can guarantee that no error exist is not only boring: it is useless.

To prevent the next Heartbleed, it's more productive to donate to LibreSSL.

You do not get my point. You may succeed in rendering it less probable. But you cannot prevent it.

Comment Did I hear anybody said "Gödel?" (Score 1) 231

One of the many eye-openers that reading Douglas Hofstadter's "Gödel, Escher, Bach" book has provided me, all those years ago, is that, no matter how much we humans may try, we may *never* be sure to have removed all errors or imperfections from anything that's even marginally worth of our interest. In a nutshell, if you can prove that something has reached perfection, at the same you prove that it is not interesting anymore.

We cannot write complex bug-free software. PERIOD. OpenSSL is not windows. Headlines about OpenSSL bugs are not such a common occurrence. One bug happened at the wrong time, wrong place. This could have happened even if the world had opted for a proprietary library for this critical role. The only difference is that there would have been somebody to sue. Big consolation.

New theories come out of IT faculties around the world at regular intervals, that promise, if strictly followed, the holy grail of bug-free software. All of them eventually prove non-effective.

The only concrete effect of all these tactics is that the job of the programmer becomes more tedious, less interesting. One thing I can tell you from direct experience is that, the lowest the level of interest of the programmer, the higher the possibility will be that bugs may slip into his or her code.

So, the question is wrong. We cannot prevent the next Heartbleed. What the world needs to (re)learn instead is how to cope with unexpected events without reaching for your phone and calling your lawyer.

Many thanks go to all free software contributors, including OpenSSL ones, for what they do!

Comment Good behaviour cannot be enforced! (Score 1) 249

It depends on what life's ultimate goal is. If it is as I trust it to be - personal growth - enforced "good" behaviour brings nothing at all to me, and thus it is not good at all. Not only do I not grow by blindly obeying orders, but my discriminating capabilities are progressively dulled.

Our uniqueness as human beings is that we are provided with free will. The "bad" option must be available to me if I am to develop my ability to choose what's good for my personal growth.

(what's more: the decision about what's good and what's bad is bounced up (or down?) the power ladder. If you don't trust yourself for that decision, would you trust some remote politician? They are human, too. And often, they are found to be wanting on the ethical plane...)

Comment The human being behind (Score 1) 600

Most important is who will manage the system. You talk about a NGO. It may base its existence on some set of ethical values. Find a person who developed sufficient net skills, and who shares the values behind the NGO.

I manage my own home site. Domain, mail server, web server. For presence online, one fixed IP address, plus some friend with a second fixed address somewhere else, is enough. No opaque clouds to block my view. A small PC which is always powered is enough.

If requests are kept reasonable - i.e., not pretending to be able to handle thousands of contacts per second, not pretending to maintain multi-million contact mailing lists, and especially not pretending to aspire to the useless utopia of assured 24/7 fault-free presence - half a day per week of paid maintenance plus the emergency intervention here and there should keep your ONG afloat.

You should be able to provide whatever PC-dependent functions you want the 20 people to make use of with Linux apps. Your in-house Linux expert, if adeguately motivated, will be eager to write small scripts (or even huge applications) to cater for your specific needs. Of course, workplace PC's should only be used for work-related activities...

This only works for ethically motivated entities. If you manage a purely for-profit concern, no matter how small, you can only motivate experts to manage your network and machines with money, and there will always be someone who can offer more money than you. For good experts who base their choices on money, it will be a no-brainer to abandon you. What you will be left with are unskilled people with some vague point-and-click experience. You can opt for the cloud, but remember that, whenever an even vaguely important concern is raised, the survival or even the well-being of the entity providing the cloud services will always come before yours. ALWAYS! They are big and you are less than small.

The solution: either become a huge money-printing concern and get the best people available on the market, or much better, BE ETHICAL.

Comment Re:Java's performance (Score 1) 583

If Perl, Python, and Ruby are unable to match Java's performance, I'll take their portability, ease of development, lack of overhead and succinctness over Java any day.

Java's currently used for a lot of different things -- the scripting languages are a good fit to replace some, but not all and I wouldn't even really say most, of it.

For Perl or Python I cannot speak. But it is now more than 5 years that I switched, for my development work, to Ruby as my main language. I talk about more than 150.000 lines of Ruby, mostly for big interactive art installations (have a look at the web page of my best client to have an idea of what I am talking about).

How have I solved the evident performance problem? First of all, Ruby version 1.9 made the language much snappier. But if you need as much performance as you can get, Ruby makes it easy and comfortable to merge sections written in C within programs. If the partition between the two languages is made with intelligence (i.e. limiting C to machine-intensive small "engines"), you can really obtain the best of two worlds. C outperforms Java, and Ruby is much nicer to work with than Java.

Comment The holy grail (Score 1) 509

The holy grail is to know at any moment where every subject is, with as much precision as possible.

Obviously it is impossible for any kind of authority or goods provider to guarantee for you an accident-free future. Statistics may show an improvement (although statistics may be easily shaped to say what you want them to say). But they will never represent an assurance that you will be spared the specific pain or annoyance tomorrow.

On the other hand, to know at any moment where every subject is (and in this case, to eventually be able to remotely control their means of transportation) gives, to a more and more remote, less and less humane form of government, the possibility to steer the herd of primates with less effort.

Not evil - just plain lazy. If, at the expense of personal liberty, humans are restrained from committing what the government decides to forbid, law enforcers have less work to do. But I don't like it. To behave correctly because you are forced to does not bring about personal growth, and I am here on this earth to grow, not to own the latest volvo...

Comment Re:The glaciers are retreating! (Score 1) 791

a majority of the scientific community, most sensible thinkers. Against - A small minority of sceptical scientists who on the whole tend not to be climatologists.

Wouldn't your average "sensible thinker" maybe end up risking his cozy well-fed professorship by adopting a controversial position? As well as his friends, maybe, and that network of relations that he invested so much time and energy into building up? Conformism pays a lot. Especially where much much much money is involved. Think of this: who gives out official "climatologist" labels?

...that nutbag down the road who lives in his mother's basement and believes that JFK was assassinated by time travelling Nazi robots...

The "nutbag" is currently busier trying to make out how the WTC towers could collapse at free-fall speed while having to destroy floor after floor of massive steel pillars on their way...

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"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history." -- George Bernard Shaw