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David Kramer’s high-entropy blog

Give Me Liberty And Give Me Bugs

“Give Me Liberty And Give Me Bugs” is a quote by Martin Owens, leader of Ubuntu Massachusetts and fellow BLU (Boston Linux and UNIX Group) member.  You see, it all started innocently enough with a thread on the BLU list about the iPad.  The flames hadn’t actually reached the second floor yet, so I decided to squirt some napalm on it by mentioning that (1) I just bought an iPhone to replace my dead-end Windows Mobile phone, and (2) I have given up on trying to sync music and PDA data with Linux, and am now using an old beater Windows XP laptop just for syncing and backing up my phone.  You see, I’m a PDA geek.  I track lots of metadata about my calendar events, contact data, tasks, etc.  Since the PDA as a separate device is pretty much dead at this point (s0b) I rely on finding third party software for my phone.

But back to the argument.  There were two dominant camps.

  1. Those that see any vendor lock-in techniques, DRM, planned obsolescence, and anything that prevent you from doing whatever you want with something you own, as an affront to nature, and should be illegal.  They would rather have Open Source/unencumbered products that didn’t quite work right than locked-down commercial products that work very well, but only in the One True Way as determined by the vendor.
  2. Those that see companies as entities that will generally focus on their own goals, charging as much as they can get away with for as little as they can get away with, targeting their products towards the target audience they choose.  They feel to expect otherwise is being idealistic.  One should act accordingly, and not act shocked when Apple releases a new version five months after you buy one.

Read on…

So Much For DNA Evidence

From Slashdot: Scientists Learn To Fabricate DNA Evidence.  This article covers two techniques that can now be used to falsify a crime scene with planted DNA.

On the one hand, this was probably inevitable.  There’s very little man can understand but not control.  On the other hand, this is truly a shame, as DNA evidence has been used frequently in the past few years to free wrongly-accued long-term inmates who were convicted before DNA tests were common.

“No New Taxes”: When will we learn?

I read an article this week on Charles Baker entering the race for Governor against Deval Patrick here in MA.  Whatever.  But the fun part is that he’s running on a platform of not raising taxes, and trying to repeal the recent increase in the state sales tax.  I know most people think we pay too much in taxes for what we get, and that it’s not fairly spread out, and not fairly apportioned, and an unfathomable amount of it is wasted on graft, corruption, and pet projects.  Of course everyone’s idea of what those froms and tos should be is different, so it is by definition impossible to please everyone, but that’s not my point.  Nor is it who is the better candidate.

My point is that if you have a government rife with waste and misappropriation, you cannot get it to “do the right thing” (even if everyone agreed on what that is) simply by reducing taxes, any more than you could make an overweight person healthy by simply reducing their calorie count.  There has to be effort put into uncovering and fixing the waste and corruption, or the vital services will be the first to suffer.  A politician that takes money is not going to suddenly become moralistic because there’s less money coming in.  Just like the overweight person must start with lifestyle changes like more exercise and sleep, a government cleanup must start with eliminating the waste and removing those responsible for the corruption.

Of course, that’s the hard way.  But the right way that leads to lasting success often is.  Silver bullets are for dreamers and werewolves.  So don’t listen to the quick fix people.  You can’t reduce taxes without coordinated attacks on misspent money and other ways of saving money in a sustainable way.  Other “simple solutions”, like the flat tax, are very regressive and have other problems (I’m willing to do a whole post on that if the comments go that way).  No, this one will take actual thought and finger-pointing.  The sheep need to open up their eyes and become critical thinkers and informed voters.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

There Be Monsters. And Art.

Joseph Carnevale, a Raleigh, NC artist, was recently arrested for his art.  Well, to be precise, he got arrested because he made his art out of stolen traffic barrels.  Illegal, yes, but so fracking cool!  So cool, in fact, that the construction company was willing to forgive him and not press charges, but the police didn’t have the same appreciation for the arts that they did.

He’res MSNBC’s take on itThis post at Sub5Zero has more pictures.

Blank Is The New Black

From Slashdot: DJ Danger Mouse Releases Blank CD-R To Spite EMI.

DJ Danger Mouse famously fought with EMI over his Beatles/Jay-Z mashup, ‘The Grey Album,’ and now seems to be battling with the label again. Rather than release his latest album and face legal issues with EMI, Techdirt is reporting that Danger Mouse will be selling a blank CD-R along with lots of artwork, and buyers will be responsible for finding the music themselves (yes, it’s findable on the internet) and burning the CD.

I find it fascinating how many of our largest staple industries are screwing themselves over by not keeping up with the times.  The music, auto, banking, telecommunications, and power industries are all in deep kimchee because the world changed around them (their supply, demand, competition, regulations, ecology), and they just stood there and said “This is the way my father did it, and the way my father’s father did it…”  Their advisers tell them to cleanse their blood with leaches and stay out of the night air.

Boston College Police Think Using Linux Is Suspicious Behavior

From Slashdot: This article tells of how a search warrant was granted simply because this student was running some alternate operating system they didn’t understand.  They suspected an email was sent from his computer which defamed a fellow student.  But instead of handling it as a disciplinary matter, they’re getting all Brazil on his a**.

“The Boston College Campus Police have seized the electronics of a computer science student for allegedly sending an email outing another student. The probable cause? The search warrant application states that he is ‘a computer science major’ and he uses ‘two different operating systems for hiding his illegal activity. One is the regular B.C. operating system and the other is a black screen with white font which he uses prompt commands on.’ The EFF is currently representing him.”

I saw a report on this on the news, which said they took every electronic device he owns, including is ipod (an infamous hacking tool, donchaknow.), his computer, and his cell phone.  He’s a Computer Sicence major, so he now has no way of completing his schoolwork.  And he lost his job at the computer lab.

This is a great combination of “Fear of the unknown” and “Shoot first, ask questions later”. Book burning at its finest.  If I were him, I would sue the school for the entire year’s tuition which will now go to waste, missed salary from his job at the lab, the replacement costs for all they took, and a big dollop for mental anguish from having his name dirtied with no evidence.

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