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Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

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.

The Windows User’s Anti-Linux Mentality

Vista error message

I learned to love the mockup that I had prepared with
the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) last month

STEREOTYPES are hard to fight, but logical inclinations are even harder to change. Everyone wishes to push away the enemy, whatever or whoever that enemy may be. First they ignore, then they ridicule and laugh at the enemy. Finally, they fight, before inevitably conceding and losing (attribution: Ghandi was among some people to use this 4-step breakdown, but he was not necessarily the first).

What point am I approaching here? Nobody likes foreseeing change. Change can leave one behind. Windows-defending ‘Internet trolls’ , and Windows advocates alike, fear becoming newbies so they will utter “Linux is terrible, hard, not ready for the desktop and so forth”. Maybe if they push it hard enough, they believe, one can win time for Microsoft to catch up, yet they most probably will not. This commotion has the adverse effect. The sooner people upgrade to Linux, the better. The world is heading towards open standards, Open Source, and one vocation that is opened by such migration — the Free Open Source: GNU/Linux.

As I said once in the past, I do not perceive myself as a typical, largely-ridiculed ‘Linux fanboy’. What I do appears to be constructive and beneficial for society’s computing infrastructure, as well as for quicker innovation in science and technology.

In recent months I have had the pleasure of sending Pamela Jones some news items on a daily basis. What a nice person she is! This morning I decided to learn a little more about her (non-personal) background and the following interview caught my mind (only a fragment appears beneath). I believe it supports the main point that I address above, as well as my previous post from yesterday.

(PJ:) They were always getting viruses and other malware, and eventually I learned why and how and what to do (not that they cooperated much), and one day I realized, “I really love this stuff.” When I discovered dual booting or a Knoppix CD meant you could see what went wrong on the Windows side, it changed my life. Eventually, I couldn’t enjoy Windows any more, partly because I saw finally there really was no way to secure a Windows 98 box no matter what you do, and partly because upgrading beyond Windows 2000 meant licenses to choke on, a lot because of privacy concerns, and also because I started resenting typing in numbers to prove I had paid for the software and feeling like I was being treated like I was criminally-inclined. The difference in how I felt using the two OSs was striking.

One day, I realized that this difference was “It”. Proprietary software and all the laws that back it up are designed to enforce restrictions on users. And that’s just what it felt like. For personal pleasure, I always turned to GNU/Linux, which felt like breathing clean air. No restrictions.

Reality Check: Getting a ‘Real’ Job

Computer lab
Another day, another dollar.
But is your workplace a dreadful place to be?

I quite enjoy my life in an arena which involves research, publications, public appearances, sharing of code that I produce, and technical writings that I rapidly accumulate. All of that, in fact, is something that reaches culmination through the Internet and Web sites, which are — to me at least — a gateway to a wider world. For long I have pondered (and even lost sleep over) a scenario where I find myself in a cubicle, coding for somebody else day, by day, by day…

Dreadful forecasts aside, there are other ways to make a living. Fortunately, a happy life is one where making ends meet should suffice, vacations are unnecessary, and help for those that surround us gets elevated. I seem to be getting worried prematurely. Here is one such article that speaks of self-employment and affordable independence.

It’s funny that when people reach a certain age, such as after graduating college, they assume it’s time to go out and get a job. But like many things the masses do, just because everyone does it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. In fact, if you’re reasonably intelligent, getting a job is one of the worst things you can do to support yourself. There are far better ways to make a living than selling yourself into indentured servitude.

This reminded me of an older blog item (a speech actually) which I once read and boomarked. It moved me enormously.

I was a diligent Oriental in high school and college. I took college-level classes and earned college-level credits. I rushed through college in 3 1/2 years. I never traveled or took time off because I thought it wouldn’t prepare me for work and it would delay my graduation.

Frankly, I blew it.

You are going to work the rest of your lives, so don’t be in a rush to start. Stretch out your college education. Now is the time to suck life into your lungs-before you have a mortgage, kids, and car payments.

Another nice item from the first author (one which I commented on before) speaks of 10 ways to relaxify your workspace. Recommended reading!

Linux – Windows Quotes

Money on keyboard

The following is a mind-stimulating fragment from a post that I recently read in the Linux advocacy newsgroups. Judge it for yourselves.

(In a derogatory reference to Linux) “Anything free is worth what you pay for it” - Robert Heinlein

What? You think it could be worth less?

He also said:

“Certainly the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet, you can’t win.” - Robert Heinlein

Which should be the unwritten motto of the OSS community.

And finally one for you to ponder:

“Your enemy is never a villian in his own eyes. Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate–and quickly.” - Robert Heinlein

Principles That I Support

Tux of Linux

SOME people might argue that I am “some Linux fanboy”, or at least have me characterised in this way. In reality, I care for far more than just an operating system. I care for technology, communication, and openness as a whole.

Among the things that I try to encourage and/or promote:

  • Open Source development models and software. This includes the operating system (which in this case, in the Open Source arena, Linux is The operation system).
  • (Preferably open) Protocols. For chips, processor, including their underlying designs.
  • Standards and formats. I don’t care for people who send me a Word file or a WMV files, which are proprietary. Sadly, people send them innocently, not realising what they do. They can’t wholly take the blame for ignorance, on which software monopolies capitalise.
  • I loathe the idea of encrypting one’s data without consent or genuine purpose, e.g. digital right management (DRM). If I wish to engage in a private conversation with someone, we can mutually choose to encrypt it. Applying this ‘crippling stage’ to other people’s personal media and information without their knowledge is just another black area.
  • Neutrality and end of discrimination. Against platforms, regions, etc. The idea of Net neutrality is like that of a fast lane for those who pay more, e.g. First Class in airlines. This augments the barrier between the rich and the poor and creates another technological (or digital) divide, which bridging projects like the One Laptop Per Child are stubbornly trying to annihilate.

Open Up Your Curriculum Vitæ

WHEN was the last time you revised your résumé? Here comes a personal rant. Explicitly putting in skills such as “Word” and “Photoshop”, rather than “office/authoring/WYSIWYG tools” and “graphical design/editing applications” (respectively), is just plain silly. Competence in industry is about skills that are independent of just one commercial application. Times are changing and preferred software changes in accordance. Businesses evolve. Adaptability and familiarity with diversity is where true merits lie. Common function names and icons can help the user quickly familiarise and re-orientate, so generic skills are what truly counts. Think memorisation of menus versus understanding. The paradigm and terminology, as well as menu layouts, will typically remain uniform, owing to the nature of the task at hand.

In conclusion, I would suggest omitting brand names from any curriculum vitæ. Programming languages might be the exception, yet it’s the paradigms that count (e.g. object oriented, scripting, declarative). In programming languages, it’s largely syntax that varies, much as in menus in various applications and common utilities. Avoid being assigned to a vendor, whether it is commercial or not. Failing to do so is pretty much like saying that you can drive a Corsa rather than saying that you are in possession of a drivers’s licence.

GIMP GUI Screen-shot
An example of a poor user interface
in The GIMP (version 1.2.3)

Making Your Work More Pleasant

Crocodile sign
A sign that is sure to get people’s attention

YESTERDAY I had a cursory look at ten tips for making your workspace more pleasant. As a gensture of reciprocity, here is the gist with warm attributions to the author, Steve Pavlina.

  1. Make your workspace look attractive to you.
  2. Clear out the clutter.
  3. Add plants.
  4. Make it smell good.
  5. Play relaxing music.
  6. Get a decent chair.
  7. Add a portable fan.
  8. Add a fountain.
  9. Personalize your space.
  10. Establish uninterruptible periods.

Points (3), (7-8) are the only ones I am in lack of. All of them involve the inclusion of objects, which I believe add to clutter (point 2).

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