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Archive for September, 2006

A Culture of Closing Everything That’s Beneficial

InternetNet neutrality is somewhat similar to the closing of software in the eighties. It involves greedy corporations that observe somethings open with financial potential, as well as benefits to be reaped. They introduce restrictions and kill openness to serve interests and agendas.

This initially happened not so long ago, as Open Source software merely vanished in the 80′s. GNU/FSF were formed to bring it all back. It is a successful effort whose fruits we only begin to see as people learn from past mistakes. They want to have control rather than be controlled. It is important to ensure that the same ideas do not spread to media and information, much of its embodiment being DRM.

Most sadly, the same approach and idealogy is now threatening the Internet. History may repeat itself as the same approach is now takes our cyberspace, including the World Wide Web. Imagine being charged to visit sites, read articles, etc. Suddenly, you see elevated newspapers that overcharge. Freedom no longer prevails.

The gain for the corporation has a price. It is made possible at the expense of free wealth of information that, much like open source software, promotes exchange of knowledge and makes engineering, for example, advance more rapidly. And while ignorance is bliss to most, it is most blissful to the corporation (or sometimes government) that takes advantage of it.

WordPress Domain Hosting

IT has been argued and nearly publicly announced that WordPress.com is headed towards a get-your-own-space program. I think this would be an excellent idea. Essentially, a blog that runs on WordPress.com can be accessed transparently from a personal domain rather than a subdomain on WordPress.com.

Interesting thoughts spring to mind. One can get a wordpress.org blog hosted by a third-party (through a manual installation or using a one-click-away script). Alternatively, anyone could just start things on a small scale with WordPress.com, then growing big(ger) with a personalised, top-level domain. While I’m not sure how search engines will deal with redirections or URL changes (this could get tricky), it could be done properly by sending HTTP header with status code 301. I heard success stories, as well as ‘Googlejuice’ disasters. But people’s bookmarks should not be an issue.

Chiroweb.com, for example, has been doing essentially the same thing, namely letting you have your own domain hosted as a subsite on a root site, which is at the same time accessible through your won domain. Page composition (CMS front end), on the other hand, is, as expected, restricted by the service, so there is limited freedom and scope for manoeuvre, development, and extension. This can nonetheless be circumvented by changing hosts and installing an alternative (temporary site mirror) manually. It should be possible with WordPress.org, but probably not with Chiroweb, whose templates are proprietary/licensed (example below).

Davie Chiropractic

That’s my relative in Florida!

The ‘New Netscape’? Anything Like the ‘New Digg’?

The Digg front page

DIGG is changing. It potentially transforms itself for the better, but there are residual side effects. There will no longer be a tiered set of users. Top Diggers, including myself as a former active Digger, largely resent the new move.

To those unaware of these recent sizzling developments I’m referring to, Digg’s algorithm is being modified to be less (or more) democratic, essentially by weighting user’s votes as though they are not necessarily equal. It could bring about improvements, but it also raises many questions, affects morale, and lowers aspirations among new and senior contributers alike.

More latterly, several Digg contributers have been trying to assassin the character of Netscape, suggesting that the idea of removing avatars in protest came from Netscape or some shills it had recruited. It didn’t (see quotes below).

There are some Digg contributers who seek to blame Netscape for all the in-house trouble. But the removal of avatars, whose progress I followed from early stages, appears to have begun from the top and gone downwards with folks like DigitalGopher, P9, and George W. I didn’t realise what it was all about the first time I spotted the pattern. I thought top users were being banned or stripped of their identity. There are intersting discussion about the impact of the change.

Here’s another thought I had: if top diggers lose power and are then perceived as ordinary, that will a considerable turn-off, which is sure to stop them from participating much, let alone ‘game the system’, as Kevin Ross called it (impulsive accusation perhaps).

So what should we now expect from top contributers? Just a submission here and there to keep up appearance and be part of the scene (presence), not ‘becoming the next Albert Pacino (top all-time contributer)’, who long ago decided to hang up the towel.

Lastly, here is are some bits from an interview with the top Digger, who quit abruptly.

The other users did not remove their avatars in support of me. It was in protest of Kevin’s message as well as the verbal filth that many Digg users were spewing at Digg’s top submitters.

The #33 Digg user, Curtiss Thompson, had many of the same things to say, in an email to Wired’s Michael Calore:

The blog post by Kevin Rose in response to the Digg community’s outcry about top diggers gaming the system has caused many top diggers to be singled out from the community and buried not on the merit of their content, but on their unfounded accusations that the top Diggers were manipulating or “gaming” Digg’s democratic system. Not only was the blog post misrepresented, but it was misinterpreted, by the Internet community to support one Digg user’s claim that The Digg System Is Being Gamed By Top Users.

Side notes:

  • A Digg friend was kind enough to have me mentioned and even credited. Thanks, buddy!
  • I had an interview about my recent move to Netscape/AOL. I will post a pointer to the text (or a copy thereof) in my blog as soon as it goes live.

Update: some comprehensive, link-rich coverage has just been posted on the topic.

Bill Gates Came From an Open Source Background

Bill Gates
Bill Gates arrested in his younger days (photo in public domain)

From: 'Programmers at work', Microsoft Press, Redmond, WA [c1986]

Interviewer: “Is studying computer science the best way to prepare to be a programmer?”

Gates: “No, the best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating system.”

Not only does this confession put Gates in a position of hypricy, but this also explains Windows’ origins — the garbage cans.

Related item: Microsoft accused of software communism (totality)

Wikis Finally Embraced by Academics

Wiki
The Public Wiki section on this domain

Some good news with regards to collaboration with tomorrow’s technology (pardon the pun).

“The collaborative editorial process of wikis often results in a stunning degree of accuracy. A study by the science journal Nature found Wikipedia nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannica. In fact, for summaries on niche issues and emerging interests, the biggest wiki of them all — Wikipedia — is often the best available source of information.”

It’s about time. I have been doing this for over a year, but people whom I work with refuse to embrace the concept of collaborative editing. They just toss 2 MB E-mail attachments back and fourth, bloating/clogging each other’s inboxes, still unable to spot the actual changes made.

Here is one example . The page is currently locked for editing because it’s a year and a half old, which expires its ‘shelf life’ and justifies guarading against Wiki SPAM.

X11 Config File from the Future

Spherical desktop

Wallpaper from Houghi (click image above
to enlarge; non-lossy PNG version)

TN ten years from now, Microsoft may have Singularity — another closed source implementation that resembles or fully mimics UNIX. But where would Linux be?


# /.../
# X11 config file


Section "InputDevice"
Driver "voice"
Identifier "VoiceServer[1]"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/vsrv0"
Option "Protocol" "Standard"
EndSection


Section "InputDevice"
Driver "glove"
Identifier "GloveRight[1]"
Option "Buttons" "50"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/glove1"
Option "Protocol" "Standard"
EndSection


Section "InputDevice"
Driver "glove"
Identifier "GloveLeft[1]"
Option "Buttons" "50"
Option "Device" "/dev/input/glove0"
Option "Protocol" "Standard"
EndSection


Section "Monitor"
DisplaySize 32000 32000
HorizSync 300-450
Identifier "Monitor[0]"
ModelName "MONITOR"
Option "DPMS"
VendorName "@@@"
VertRefresh 430-750
EndSection


Section "Screen"
DefaultDepth 128
SubSection "Display"
Depth 128
Modes "100000x90000"
EndSubSection
Device "Device[0]"
Identifier "HeadMountedDisplay[0]"
Monitor "Monitor[0]"
EndSection


Section "ServerLayout"
Identifier "Layout[all]"
InputDevice "GloveLeft[0]" "CorePointerLeft"
InputDevice "GloveRight[1]" "CorePointerRight"
InputDevice "VoiceServer[1]" "Voice"
Option "Clone" "yes, please"
Option "Xinerama" "on"
Screen "HeadMountedDisplay"
EndSection


Section "Extensions"
Option "Composite" "Enable"
Option "Taste" "Enable"
Option "Smell" "Enable"
EndSection

The First Linux Distribution

ManLUG

The old ManLUG Web site

The Linux Distro Timeline is a nice little project which visualises connections between the different Linux distributions as a function of time (there is also a Linux mindmap). In any event, it led me to exploring Wikipedia, which supports the argument that the first GNU/Linux distribution was developed right here where I work. Below is a snippet, extracted from some prophetic words from Owen LeBlanc.

There are now two free Unix operating systems available for PCs: Linux and 386BSD.

Linux is the more mature system, now available in it fifth public test version, 0.95a. The system requires a 386 or above, with or without a co-processor, with a minimum of 2 Mbytes of memory, and with at least 4 Mbytes recommended. The source for the operating system requires about 0.5 Mbytes, and binaries currently available (about 250 commands) require 8 to 10 additional Mbytes, although, of course, you may delete unwanted bits, or add further programs. With swap space, this means a minimum of about 20 Mbytes of hard disk space. …

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Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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