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User Journal

Journal Journal: We must

I've been thinking hard about a lot of issues recently. There's the risk of civil war in Iraq. On the home front, Amazon.com and Toys R Us have been engaged in lawsuits. Apple has released a "Mac mini" that's inferior to the machine it replaced. The Bush administration has been caught exaggerating the degree to which tragedies like New Orleans were unforeseeable.

At first, all these things appear unrelated. But in a kind of way, they're not. They all involve people. People doing what they believe is right, and getting it wrong. There's no doubt in my mind that nobody wants a civil war in Iraq or New Orleans to flood again, but basic human nature means that, despite our best efforts, we end up going headlong into tragedy and suffering whenever we try to fix things beforehand. I'm sure Amazon and TRU didn't intend to hurt one another, but in the end, we saw a beach of contract. Someone somewhere mislead someone else, probably for all innocent reasons. And, well, I think I speak for everyone when I say I'm not going to pay $100 for some leather speakers, even if they can be hacked to run Windows.

We can do something about this, but it involves being willing to adopt democracy, a forceful power that, through thick and thin, has yet to fail us when we've been willing to give it a try. When we're worried about issues like the above, we can always just write to our senators and congressmen. They're good people. Sure, some do bad things, but that's the nature of the game, our senators and congressmen are just like us really, a mixture of good and bad, some liking chocolate, others cheese, but always walking together, forward, in the same direction, ploughing on towards the light, out of the darkness, away from the suffering.

We must do that too.


Journal Journal: SMP in OpenBSD - well done everyone

For a while now, I've been recommending that when people contact their elected representatives to argue the case for some IT issue, they also bring up the issue of the lack of SMP in OpenBSD, and the consequences this has for the effective deployment of OpenBSD on workstations and servers.

Well, it looks like all the lobbying has finally paid off. The next version of OpenBSD will support SMP which is a remarkable achievement. While many will, rightly, want to congratulate the programmers behind the OpenBSD project for this major improvement, I also think some credit has to go to the Slashdotters who put time and effort into lobbying their Senators and Congressmen and women to do something about this. I know many of you have been writing letters since 2002, but a year and a half isn't a long time to wait for something this extraordinary. Would it have happened without the lobbying? We will never know, but somehow I doubt it would have happened in such small a space of time.

This is proof, as if any were needed, that democracy can work, that we can all make a difference, that even if we can't code or market open source products, we can - simply by leveraging our collective elective strength - lobby the people who can make a difference to ensure the time and resources can be devoted.

Well done everyone.


Journal Journal: This quagmire... 2

Slashdot has over half a million registered users.

Think about that for a moment. Half a million. That's to say, with 250 million people in the US, every 500th person you meet has a Slashdot account. That's a remarkable number. And, of course, Slashdot has thousands more readers who have never registered.

But consider also what that means. Half a million people have considered Slashdot important enough to them to enter extremely private and personal information, such as their email address and a "nick name" they believe reflects the kind of person they are, on to Slashdot, together with a password that, in all probability, is the same one they use to access their Hotmail account, their eBay account, their PayPal account, and login to their work PC.

Half a million! Crikey!

Which would be great, if that half million could be mobilised to do something positive. If you're willing to put the effort into typing these details into a website, and then logging in and all that stuff, then it stands to reason you'll be more than willing to do other stuff where you believe it will benefit you. Maybe you'll change your long distance provider from AT&T to MCI, or from MCI to Sprint. Or maybe back to AT&T again when they send you checks, two times in as many months, first for $50 then for $80, as a blatent bribe to have you switch back to them.

The point I'm trying to make, is that there are half a million people here who are willing to get off their rears and do something. And while that half million may often disagree - is it GNU/Linux or just "Linux"? Is Linux ready for the desktop? Is BSD? Would we better off using Macs and if so, how what about that one mouse button, eh? - there are things we can agree on. Things we can sit down, and maybe not all of us, but, say, 400,000 of us, can say "Hey. Look, I may disagree with you about, say, GNOME being a big bloated pile of crap, but when it comes to the DMCA, I say, 'Oi! Bush! Nooooooo! You may be the Supreme Court's choice to be President of the US, and I admire your version of "Fool me once", but you do not enforce laws that prevent me from watching my own DVDs!' and give people like that a slap."

(And you'd be well in order to.)

So, I guess, what I'm trying to say is this: when someone says "I think blah and whatever and so-there and hel-lo! Get out! I am soooo there! And what I think is we should write to our reps and senators, and tell them this", you ought to listen to them. If you agree with what they're saying, well, go ahead! Do it!

Because if everyone thinks like that, that's 400,000 Slashdotters writing intelligent, well formed, gramatical and impresife emails and letters to influential people who can do something to help make things better.

Half a million! Wow.

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