Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Personally, I'm terrified of suburbia.

In every neighborhood I've visited, there is blatant evidence of ongoing experiments in growing live humans.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Amazing Insights

Personally, I've always found it eerie how much life imitates reality.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Modest Proposal, Take Two

(With apologies to Jonathan Swift)

Much hand wringing has evolved over the current obesity crisis enveloping the United States and numerous other countries. In the interest of mitigating this unfortunate situation, I offer a simple solution of established efficacy.

In the United States, proponents long ago succeeded in implementing a waiting period and background checks on individuals wishing to purchase handguns. Advocates credit this approach with providing real benefits in reducing handgun violence and, hence, in saving many American lives.

The effects of obesity are widely blamed for far more American deaths than handguns. Additionally, the current health care crisis in the U. S. is gravely compounded by the complications associated with obesity. The answer is obvious; implement a waiting period and background check on the purchase of high-fat foods.

Imagine, if you will, this scenario: An individual goes to their favorite fast food restaurant and orders a bag of fries. Those fries are then set aside and, after a 10-day waiting period and background check to determine that said individual is not at risk, the fries can be picked up and consumed by the purchaser.

I predict the implementation of such a modest and reasonable proposal would lead to a dramatic improvement in the nation's health, virtually over night. I urge you to contact your elected representatives and demand they implement this proposal immediately. We have nothing to lose but our fat.

Think of the children.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Palin Ethics Controversy

I'll have to admit I'm a bit perplexed by some being so confounded that Sarah Palin is obstructing the ethics probe into her governorship. It seems perfectly natural that a Republican candidate for the Vice Presidency would not want to be bothered with ethics; the current occupant of that office certainly never has been.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Evolution of Linux

Mark Shuttleworth, a noted personality in the Linux world, has been much quoted lately for comments he made at OSCON regarding the OS X desktop and the need for Linux to exceed its usability. While those comments have merit, it is to Linux's credit and advantage that it has focused more on the foundation of the OS than its GUI interfaces.

Throughout their histories both Apple and Microsoft have concerned themselves more with presentation than substance. While that has helped them win market share on the desktop, it has left their products riddled with security holes.

While few seem foolish enough to defend Microsoft products' security, Apple aficionados often claim a superiority the facts cannot sustain. Independent security surveys of the OS X code commonly find that Apple's coding practices introduce great numbers of vulnerabilities into the underlying OpenBSD code. To Microsoft's credit, they are far less dismissive of their failings than Apple.

Linux, on the other hand, like Unix before it, has been more concerne
d with the strengths of its foundations and has evolved its user interfaces in this light, rather than despite it. Those who assert that Linux and Unix aren't intrinsically more secure than Windows just don't understand the effect such a fundamental difference in philosophies produces.

While I applaud Shuttleworth's goal of producing an improved desktop user interface, the Mac paradigm is not one I'd care to see embraced. In all too many respects the saccharine Mac UI purposely isolates the user from the chance to understand what is going on with their machine and its software. The attempt is to produce addiction, more than provide real ease of use, and it is often effective. Ultimately, however, to use a tool without understanding its function is to invite accidents. In that respect, Steve Jobs is more Pied Piper than emancipator.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Open Source and the "Innovation" Trap

For decades now in the software industry, when a company lacks for a legitimate criticism of its competitors' products, they level the charge that those competitors lack the ability to "innovate". So it was when Apple Computer alleged that Microsoft had stolen the idea of the GUI from Apple, when in fact Apple had purloined it from Xerox's PARC labs. When confronted with this fact, Apple did the obvious thing: They sued Xerox to assert hegemony over the desktop GUI. Unsurprisingly, Apple lost. As the Bard said, "Truth will out."

Most recently proprietary software vendors have made this assertion against Open Source. It is a specious allegation that deserves no attention whatsoever. Unfortunately, many in the Open Source movement have become distracted by this FUD.

The innovation chimera does provide a useful marketing tool to approach those easily seduced by "new and improved". Unfortunately, in the software business, "new and improved" often means change simply for the sake of change, with little real benefit and, in many instances, a reduction in usability and transparency.

Recent examples of questionable decisions in OSS projects include the KDE 4 attempt to eliminate folders from the desktop and Firefox 3's redesigned bookmarking system. Both are classic examples of "fixing what ain't broke". Although some small benefit may derive from the application of these new regimes, the cost is in relearning and lack of intuitiveness for those with prior experience. This is despite the fact these were relatively minor changes and only serves to illustrate the greater hazards assumed with less modest modifications.

It should be said that open software is not alone in susceptibility to this contagion. Both the ribbon interface in MS Office and the need for the Alt key to reveal the menu in IE 7 result from a blind pursuit of "innovation". Neither has done anything significant to enhance productivity and both have frustrated and confused experienced users.

Ultimately, while it certainly has its place in software development, innovation is a commodity that should be applied sparingly and cautiously to software. Those who develop for Open Source projects should not be befuddled by the desperate assertions of those threatened by the greatest innovation in the history of software development, the Open Source collaborative development paradigm, itself.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The "Year of Desktop Linux" Chimera

For most of the last decade, a variety of tech industry pundits have touted the "Year of Desktop Linux", which is usually met with articles from the opposition claiming "Linux Not Ready for Prime-time". Both arguments are specious attempts to attract readers and flame-wars at the expense of observable fact. Meanwhile, those less cognizant of matters digital are left pondering, "Linux? Uh, they make air-conditioners, don't they? Hunh, a desktop air conditioner. That could work." Alas, dear reader, the laws of thermodynamics do not favor such an endeavor.

The "Linux Not Ready" argument has long since become the effete diatribe of the mean-spirited and puerile, which warrants neither attention nor response. The "Year of . . ." assertions, however, usually come from those with good intent. Unfortunately, this apparent anticipation of cataclysmic change derives from an essential misperception.

When working systems are in place, newer, better systems do not suddenly supplant them. The internal combustion engine did not instantly replace horses and steam engines. Nor did hydraulic brakes instantly displace mechanical ones. Indeed, it took decades for the new technologies to gradually dethrone their predecessors. Who among us can't recall the tired refrain, "Get a horse!"? Well, alright, some of you young whippersnappers may not have heard that, but, if you're that young and were educated in the United States, you're probably not up to reading this blog, anyway. Go watch EewwToob, or post something incoherent on LieSpace. This here's serious bidness. But I digress.

Closer to home, there was no "Year of the Windows Desktop", either. While the uptake of Windows 3 by home users was fairly rapid, that was driven as much by the growing availability of low-cost PCs from companies such as Packard Bell and Leading Edge as by the operating system those computers came with. For most of these home users, this was their first PC. In business it took much longer for Windows to gain sway. Again, functioning systems were in place in most businesses and until they were replaced, Windows wasn't needed or even, usually, desired.

So it is that there will be no single year that is the coming out for Linux on the desktop. It's already here and it's growing, fast. In the third world Linux is rapidly claiming market share for the same reason Windows 3 made its inroads in the home market; for most people in those countries their Linux PC is their first. The real surprise is how rapidly Linux and Open Source Software is claiming the European market. Already, in Finland Firefox has claimed almost half of the entire browser market. In France, Germany and other European countries, governmental entities are implementing desktop Linux at a dizzying rate.

Microsoft C-level executives aren't staying up nights for fear that they'll wake up to find Linux has suddenly sprouted on all the world's desktops overnight. Rather, they are losing sleep as they watch a gently rising tide gradually drowning an exhausted, monopolistic business model.