Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Good to have James back James Surowiecki, the only journalist who understands business (apart from Krugman, who's really a professor) left Slate where he could be read by millions to go to the New Yorker, where he is read by fewer people who probably don't understand all the numerically literate arguments he makes. The magazine does not understand the web, so my guess is this link will rot, but read this great article on Junior's protectionist, anti-consumer, and frankly, anachronistic boosterism of old-energy.

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

Insurer considers Windows NT higher risk Here's an interesting article from ZDNet that talks about how one small firm charges higher insurance premiums for NT equippment than for Unix equipment. The reason: NT boxes are hacked more often. This, it seems, is partly because NT is less secure that Unix, and because NT professionals are generally less competant than UNIX professionals, and experience higher turnover.

Hope folks enjoyed a good Memorial Day holiday.

Thursday, May 24, 2001

Get the dirt on Junior Here's a book the Man suppressed that talks about Dubya's dubious rise to power. It's back in print, just.

Online Identity Fabrication Clay Shirky, whom I have linked to many a time, writes here about how a Dennis Lee in Singapore gave himself false credentials through the Internet. Although quite how him doing this through the Internet is special I am not sure. Certainly, it was easier to find him out by checking his online sources, online. How much harder would it have been to expose this fraud if he had stolen from hard-to-find but prestigious sounding journals overseas.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Religious Insanity in the US When my good friend CD first sent me this article, I did not beleive it. But, it's by the Washington Post, so...

Junior is offering federal grants exclusively to religious groups, a move that goes beyond his original plan to let those organizations compete with secular groups for government money.

Is it just me, or is this insane? There are good reasons for a government to discriminate against religious organizations (this little thing called seperation of Church and State). There are reasonable reasons to allow the two to compete equally to operate social programs. But preferential treatment? Of course, there is no media firestorm. Reporters in the US are brainddead.

Just for fun Number plates from all over the world. Check it out.

"Aimster" handed over to AOL The National Arbitration Forum, in an attempt to get publicity for itself, has handed AOL the right to the "Aimster" domain name. Score one for the man.

Monday, May 21, 2001

Managing a software project Managing a software project is quite unlike other things, as Phil Greenspun, MIT professor and until recently, CEO of Ars Digita, explains in this article. In particular, he goes into good detail about how to keep your best programmers (the ones who account for almost all the productivity) in the office as long as possible. This sparked a good discussion underneath the article about how this was an exploitative sweatshop.

Friday, May 18, 2001

Bush will do anything for political power Or even more pathetically, the appearance of political power. Here's a story about some researcher who put up maps about caribou, only to be fired by the Bush Administration because his work migh jeapordize their planned Alaskan oil projects.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

Keeping the Internet a public good Law professor Lawrence Lessig calls out to technologists to explain why the Internet's openness and transparancy has made it such a fertile field for innovation.

Mourn the passing of Eazel Eazel, the open-source innovator, was trying to make linux safe for the desktop. Sadly, it is no more.

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

And now for something completely different Here's a good article on a strange topic. 25 years ago, this guy called Dave Sims started self-publishing a comic about a talking Aardvark called Cerebus. Remarkably, he's managed to make a living out of that. The comics community wants to hold him up as a hero, an emminent grise of an industry he has been tremendously influential within. Unfortunately, he's turned into a nutter as he's grown older.

His insane ravings attract more attention than insane ravings should. Paul O'Brian argues this is because the industry wants to cannonize him but he's refusing to play the game by being such a vocal nut. It's great to see an idol refusing to be worshipable -- and a little industry like comics gets you to see that happen up close.

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

The Internet is not like TV Why does nobody get this. Doc Searles talks clearly about why nobody wants to get a marketing message and by extension, broadcast advertising does not work online.

Monday, May 14, 2001

Forcing scarcity on non-excludable goods Microsoft has recently changed to a software rental model where customer rent software, and then have to give it back. The rental price is not so far from the outright purchase price, which was technically just a lease-in-perpetuity anyway.

The problem here is simple: the marginal cost of producing a piece of software is zero for everyone. Either companies (like Microsoft) can sell their software with onerous liscencing restrictions (like they do now, and have just made worse through their rental model) that limits what people can do with software their "own" (cannot sell it second hand, cannot lend it to a friend etc.) OR they go open-source and give their product to the public domain.

Dan Gilmore talks about the vampiric effect of this approach.
Idiot lawyers help the software industry own us all
And here's that philisophy at work in the model railroad business.
The extortion begins Check it out.

Friday, May 11, 2001

Who pays for content? Generally speaking, for broadcast content, it's advertisers. So maybe the Web should not be pay-to-read after all. However, this may also be why most content is terrible -- it caters to advertisers needs, not the readers. Remeber, "information wants to be $6.95." (Thanks to CD for the lead).

Thursday, May 10, 2001

Globalization helps the poor Samuel Brittan makes the case that only just recently has the world economy staggered back to where it was in 1913 in terms of open trading, but that most of the benefits of further liberalization will go to poor, third world countries. In particular, they should be allowed to sell their agriculture to the rich world.

Wednesday, May 09, 2001

Nice idea Here's a well reasoned and throughful note on making books available online for free. Moreover, Eric Flint (the author) is putting his money where his mouth is by doing just that with his own books.

The crux of the argument is that books as easy to read in atomic (paper) form than electronically, and that free electronic distribution makes for great publicity. No argument with either point. Also, he points out that people are trying to make illegal on the Internet what is perfectly legal in the real world -- libraries and sharing books between friends.

Tuesday, May 08, 2001

US got ousted from UN Human Rights Commission As it should be. Here's a great article from Salon that lists the US's Cuba can do no right, Israel can do no wrong hypocrisy, as well as the administrations childish and parochial attitude towards the rest of the world.

Monday, May 07, 2001

Israel wants to keep stealing land Israel is outraged that people asked it to stop shooting defenseless people and stealing their land. 1935 anyone?

Banks under investigation for fraud The theft which went under the name of securities underwriting is finally being looked into, as Wall Street's leading investment banks, including CSFB, Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs, are under regulatory probes into alleged malpractice in their allocation of shares in initial public offerings during the height of the market boom.

Copyright Thugs Lawrence Lessig writes about how Congress gave the recording industry more power through the DMCA than the Constitution gave Congress, since it preserves copyright without allowing for "fair use."

Friday, May 04, 2001

More reactions to the Microsoft Propaganda Speeches Here are a couple more reactions to the Microsoft propaganda speeches:

A very thoughtful critique by Alan Cox on the true economic and risk differences between open-source and closed-sourced

A less thoughtful critique on the "art" of open source by Linus Torvald.

I hope the Cox piece gets alot of media airplay. It's very good. (Thanks to KN for the pointers!)

Press reactions to Microsoft Microsoft Uber Alles Here are a bunch of articles commenting on Microsoft's open-source-under-glass strategy they hope will cast FUD over real open-source projects and allow them to extend their monopoly over rented software the way they currently do over packaged software.

Here's The Register's commenting on Microsoft's announcement and Raymond's response (see yesterday's blog).

Here's a piece from the New York Times by John Markoff on the Microsoft announcement.

Here's The Register commenting on John Markoff's New York Times piece.

Thursday, May 03, 2001

Microsoft Microsoft Uber Alles A fantastic article by Open Source advocate, Eric Raymond, critisizing Microsoft's new "openness" policy. The Borg from Redmond wants to lock users ever more tightly into their upgrade tax plan, and remove even the few vestiges of individual rights people currently have over their PCs. This evil must be stopped.

Wednesday, May 02, 2001

Idiocy on display Just thought I would point folks to this article on why Bush Jr's missle defense system sucks

I think Jr is a callous and stupid man, but with a sly cunning. I could not waste money on something as useless, anatagonizing, and stupid as a missle defense system.

Evils of complexity Complexity is the biggest problem in software. It causes the most technology projects to fail outright, or produce substandard products. For software vendors (like Microsoft) who have a monopoly on the market allowing them to crush competition and extort annual upgrade taxes, this does not matter. But to businesses and consumers it does.

This poorly written and sloppily conceived article talks about Oracle selling "simplicity" through a software suite. One thing it gets right -- integrated software makes complexity work.

Far better is to design minimal systems composed of many small, simple programs, each one doing as little, as robustly as possible, passing laintext to each other. Think Unix.