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The Post-Work Economy

Date/Time Permalink: 08/09/12 06:18:32 pm
Category: General

Hey, there's this news about America that seems to be on the tip of everyone's tongue: the economy. It's sucking mud, right? And the younger generation, they're pretty depressed about the lack of jobs, right? And everyone's asking each other "Where did all the jobs go?"

And what's the first thing you hear out of every candidate's mouth, on either side of the aisle, from mayor to president? "We need to create jobs." "We need to bring jobs back." "Ladies and gentlemen, I will now pull ten million jobs out of this hat!" You'd think job were like rabbits, and it was all just a question of making them boink fast enough.

I think this is the point where I can drop the bad news about what happened to the jobs: You know all those stories we used to have about how technology will replace humans doing the same job? Well, it's starting to happen. It is happening. It's been happening for years.

You know that utopian Jetsons future where you just sit on your throne and push buttons and magic robots do all the drudge labor? Well, don't look now, but we're getting damned close to it. Technological unemployment is a thing, and it's not going away. And we're sure not going to let the Luddites have their way, so we better get used to a society with an ever-smaller number of available jobs.

  • Remember bank tellers? ATMs do most of the work they used to do.
  • Remember paper maps? GPSs fill that gap now.
  • Newspapers? Magazines? Paper books? Electronic media is eating them all.
  • Records and CDs? I don't have to tell you what happened to those, do I?
  • Media production in general? Technology does 90% of that now.
  • When's the last time you dropped off a roll of film to be developed?
  • Office jobs? Sure, they're still there in a FIRE economy. But each office gets more done with fewer heads.
  • Phone operators? Radio station DJs? Most of that's automated now.
  • Fewer cops on the streets? Well, good thing we have those red-light automatic-ticket machines at every intersection, isn't it?

Heck, I can relate a personal experience: Back when I worked for $GIANT_BANK, our mission in life was to process incoming payments from all the customers in North America, which arrived in the mail in the form of paper checks - run them through machines to transform them into electronic money. When I started prior to the turn of the century, we're talking some four truckloads of carts of trays of checks per shift and it was all credit cards. Almost a decade later, when I quit, maybe five carts, and that's credit cards, student loans, insurance, and mortgage. The center I worked at has since shut down.

And before that, the machines that I used replaced even more jobs before me. The computers did all the math, but that math was once done by banks of manual adding machines. Accounting was done by MICR and OCR technology, but it used to be done by writing transactions down in a ledger. Data entry was also outsourced; electronic images of the checks (when AI, OCR, and MICR were all defeated by people with sloppy handwriting) were processed by some nameless clutch of coolies in some south-Asian sweatshop. Even the machines that opened the mail and extracted the checks and paystubs replaced the people who used to do it with letter openers. Now, even what I did is gone - when is the last time you wrote a check?

Remember, we wanted this. We have all wanted our shining society of crystal spires and togas, our utopian paradise of leisure. We have only now begun to ask ourselves, "Hey, when robots/computers do all the work and there's no more immediate problems to solve, what the hell are we going to do for a job?"

Socialism.

Not the mean, dingy socialism of China, Cuba, and former Soviet Union that everybody's scared of. The hip, swinging, democratic socialism of Scandinavia.

Let's face it: We get more done now with fewer human resources. That's a good thing! But without adjusting a society to keep pace with technology progress, you end up with 95% of the people competing with machines for jobs, and masses of wealth becoming concentrated into the hands of 5% or fewer, who own the machines, the patents on the machines, the copyrights to the manuals about the machines, the universities that teach you how to run the machines...

There is a socialism answer.

You hate the idea? So do I. It's our second-worst option, but everything else is tied for first. But what's going to happen when we have no choice? Our population isn't shrinking. We aren't going to bust up all the gadgets and go back to doing everything by hand. What else can we do? You tell me.

I've been sniffing around on this idea, and so far I see an Alternet columnist suggesting an economy without jobs. And of course there's the classic scarcity question in economics. Another recent Alternet post points out lies perpetuated from our outdated Capitalist Republic structure, and #1 is the myth of the relation between the prosperity of the rich and the number of jobs. Because what happens when having more wealth merely allows the rich to buy more robots??? Or, indirectly, better technology to make outsourcing more efficient?

And there's those jobs again. "Give tax breaks to the rich, because they make jobs!" Yes, look at all these invisible jobs the Job Fairy brought us. They are raining from the sky.

It's a waste of time to fight progress. We're right here, on the Internet, trying to think bigger and pushing more progress forward. You can argue that you can move your career forward with progress. Take advantage of the new technology and the new jobs it creates - if you're replaced by a robot, become the guy who builds the robots. If science takes your job, become the new scientist. If the global market outsources your job away, become an outsourcer on the global market yourself. Yes, we can do that, but over time, that path shrinks. When one robot replaces thirty laborers, we only need a couple of maintenance persons for the robot.

We have to transition from a labor economy to a knowledge economy. We have to transition from a scarcity economy to a plentiful economy. Inevitably, we have to allow some of the scraps from our table to support a few freeloaders, who, let's face it, do nothing to earn their keep. Or they do intangible things to benefit society (helloooo, parents, grandparents, housekeepers, mentors, and volunteers of all kinds) which are not recognized as "jobs".

We already do this - we just force them to dodge and flinch through the system under a subterfuge to get the same public pension they'd get in a Socialist country.

And for the Raymondites (as in Eric S.) out there in Linux-land: What is Free and Open Source Software, after all, but Socialism in action?

Granted, Socialism works in software because you can freely copy and transmit software anywhere in the world, without making anyone poorer. That's harder to do with a truckload of turnips. The farmers' jobs are safe for now. But - I live in Iowa, an agricultural powerhouse, and more and more every year I see that there's better computer programs developing more advanced genetic strains of turnips with a higher yield per acre and better machines that harvest the turnips faster and when Google's self-driving cars become an established reality, even the truck driver that drives the turnips from the farm to the store will be out of work.

Did you see what I just did there? I linked to Wikipedia, a Socialist website that's put a huge encyclopedia industry out of work. Yes, they take donations, but that money goes mostly to servers, bandwidth, offices to keep them in - they spend it on bots. The content itself is, as this clever user puts it, "the aum of the Internet". Stick that in your John Galt, Jimbo! What's that about never asking another man to live their lives for the sake of yours, again?

The goal of technology, even of science, is to improve society to the point where we don't need a Capitalist system any more.

There are countries in the world that realize this now, and there are countries in the world who do not.

Update, same day By complete coincidence, I ran across this imaged quote making the social media rounds. Take it away, Buckminster Fuller!

Buckminster Fuller quote

Sourced from here, which I tracked down by the grace of Wikiquote.

Update 9/9/12 Hey, here's a philosophy professor also criticizing the role of work in capitalism. hm.

Update 11/25/12 Another look at this problem, "skills don't pay the bills". "Transitioning to a knowledge economy", did I say?

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Hey Valve Software? GO TO HELL!!! Sincerely, the Linux Community

Date/Time Permalink: 08/08/12 05:21:00 pm
Category: General

This Valve spam in the Linux community, this hoax perpetrated by Valve and Phoronix, has gone on long enough to rival the SCO jokes and Duke Nukem Forever urban legend.

I don't care if there is a Steam client for Linux. I wouldn't play the filthy piece of crap if you paid me. Valve can drop dead. Linux has games. Linux has companies like Mojang and id Software that have been much nicer to it than Valve even promises to be some day. We also have games on the Android platform, too. We even have Linux on gaming consoles themselves now. Come to think of it, Valve needs Linux far worse than Linux ever needed Valve, and Valve burned that bridge long ago.

Valve, listen closely:

NOBODY FREAKING CAAAAAARES!

And that was the six o'clock news.

Linux administrators, bloggers, tweeters, journalists, users: Lend me your ears.

Is there spam from Phoronix about Valve on your website? Is your community whipped into a froth over this hoax yet again? I gather the promise is, Steam for Linux, real soon now?

Just like they were saying in 2011?

Just like they were saying in 2010?

Just like they were saying in 2009?

Just like they were saying in 2008?

Just like they were saying in 2007?

Are you still counting? That's five years ago. "September 13, 2007" It's really easy, people, Google has a custom date range feature for searches, it's really educational.

Just like they were saying in 2006?

Just like they were saying in 2005?

Just like they were saying in 2004?

Just like they were saying in 2003?

Yes, the Valve-Steam-Linux spam-troll-astroturf-campaign is ACTUALLY OLDER THAN THE US-IRAQ WAR!!!

Here's a forum linking to Richard Stallman's post mentioning Valve porting Steam games to Linux (along the way to cautioning against non-free software) back in 2002.

Linux administrators, bloggers, tweeters, journalists, users: Have you no pride? Have you no self-respect? At the very least, if you chose to make such ignorant fools of yourselves as to go on gullibly swallowing this lie, this horse puckey, this song and dance, could you not at least spare some consideration for the poor readers who have to shovel the astroturf crap out of your RSS feed in the morning?

Linux community, why not let this be the year when we tell the boy who cried wolf that he doesn't get the front page headline anymore? Join me in boycotting all Valve Software products, no matter if they run on FreeBSD installed on a toaster oven. There is a price to pay for ten years of spam. That price is, people hate your company and don't want anything to do with it any more. Join me further, in demanding that news outlets refuse to carry Valve stories any more. They are not "stories", they do not belong on "news" websites, because they are hoaxes, ladies and gentlemen. Respond to every "Steam on Linux" story with an email or letter to the editor, saying: Enough is enough.

The credibility of news sources who seriously post this Valve / Steam / Linux hoax is to be called into question. If one runs a news source, one gives some editorial consideration to credibility, and does not allow every conspiracy theorist and UFO cultie to have the open mike. Responsible Linux news agencies do not perpetuate this decade-long astroturf campaign, certainly not to pollute and clog up the Linux news world until it's impossible to read about anything else.

And then let's all find something better to do with our time, shall we?


UPDATE I love it when the reactions (here and other places on the web, hopefully all viewable when Disqus straightens out) make my point better than I do myself. Let's see here, if you were an astroturfer doing PR-damage-control for Valve, and somebody just posted proof of your spam going back a decade, what do you do? Aha! You claim that the source of the spam had nothing to do with the subject! So far two separate responses to this post have claimed that Phoronix did all this stuff independently and then Valve just happened to decide to jump on the bandwagon now. You know, by complete coincidence!

Yeah, pull my other leg. It plays Pachabel's Canon in D.

Like I say, I don't care what claims are made. I don't care what claims are made good on. I don't care if Valve / Steam / Phoronix cures cancer. Valve has disrupted the Linux community long enough. And the fact that they're fighting back just goes to prove me righter. There's something evil going on, or they would not act this way. Plain old street smarts will tell you this.

Let's see here, how many times have you long-term readers seen this little drama play out over the years? When there's a huge hivemind-circlejerk about something and I'm the only dissenter? SOPA, OWS, Wrong Paul, Wikileaks, Anonymous, Microsoft evangelists, Microsoft Mono, Novell, Con Colivas, Helios and the Tux500 fiasco... Go ahead, Valve, make my day! A few more and I'll have my own Billy Joel song. Called "Don't Call Penguin Pete A Liar".

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Aurora Theater Shooting - Does Everybody Understand My Point About People Who Can't Tell Reality From Fantasy Now?

Date/Time Permalink: 07/20/12 02:21:59 pm
Category: General

I shouldn't be posting right now. I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't, so I might as well be damned for "do". It is too soon to talk about a bloody tragedy that happened only hours ago. It is highly insensitive to the victims and their family members for us media wonks to go on about it.

But you're all going to forget this happened within a week, and sick jokes about it are already starting to circulate on the web, so my hand is forced.

Last month, I posted about people who cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy. Detailing the problems that occur when these kinds of people encounter the media, and their delusions become mixed up with fictional fantasies. It got me called a "crank", among other things.

Last night, a man named James Holmes entered a movie theater at the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. He was dressed as one of the villain characters in the movie. He was equipped as that character in the movie. He then proceeded to open fire on the audience, attacking them in exactly the same style as that character in the movie. He timed his attack to coincide with the identical actions performed by that character in the movie, happening right beside him on the screen. Finished with his rampage and leaving a theater full of dead and wounded people, he then calmly waited in back of the theater for police to show up, bearing no evident anxiety over what he had just done. After being arrested, he informed the police that his apartment was booby-trapped with a sophisticated device exactly like one the character in the movie would have used.

James Holmes cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy.

Let's see if I can break this down so the simplest of you can understand it:

Problem:

A crazy person with guns just caused a massacre.

Key points of problem:

  1. Guns.
  2. Crazy people.

Solution space #1: What can we do about guns?

Well, there's debate about that all the time. Michael Moore said quite a bit about it in Bowling For Columbine. Gun control debate isn't my focus here. Naturally, hordes of gun nuts all crammed online within minutes of the story breaking to sing hymns to their beautiful, beautiful guns, and rationalized it as "if everyone was packing (including, one assumes, the three-month-old baby) then this situation would have been better... somehow". I am flabbergasted at how people can think that in a dark, crowded theater, where many people were so disoriented that they thought the rampage was part of the entertainment until the actual bullets started hitting them, more bullets whizzing around would be exactly what we need, but oh well. Second Amendment debates lie outside the realm of a geek / tech blog. To those of you out there with no such disclaimer... good luck!

Solution space #2: What can we do about crazy people?

Ah, now we're closer to my turf, since I blog about the Internet (it is a matter pertaining to both geeks and technology), and if you've all not noticed, a heck of a lot of crazy people seem to be on the Internet. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the whole Dark Knight fad was born in the lap of the Internet.

Previously, I indicated that the Internet, while not to blame for crazy people having delusions any more than any other form of media (video games, TV shows, literature, movies), does differ in one, small detail, in that it is more interactive than other forms of media. You give to the Internet and it gives right back. It gives to you, and you give right back. It is a more immersing experience. So it fosters and nurtures delusions.

Now, we all want to go on using the Internet. So we have a responsibility on the Internet. That responsibility is:

  1. To keep an eye out for deluded people.
  2. To be intolerant of hate speech by deluded people.
  3. To call out and identify when deluded people are posting hateful, violent thoughts on the Internet.
  4. To make it as clear as possible that there is a line between reality and fantasy and announce unambiguously when we cross it and when we return.
  5. To listen to, and identify, the delusions that run around within the media space and analyze the harm potential they have.
  6. To intervene to our fullest ability to council deluded people, explaining the difference between their delusions and reality.
  7. If they are resistant to this council, then to intervene with mental health treatment to prevent them from becoming a danger to themselves and society.
  8. ...And get health care laws fixed so that it's easier to do that.

Now, what is the responsibility (and I'm including myself here, remember) of those of us who produce media for public consumption? To not encourage people to confuse reality with fantasy. And that goes 180-degrees opposite of what big film studios do with their viral marketing campaigns for summer blockbusters. When we allow corporations to astroturf, when we allow "altered reality" events to market fiction, we make it that much harder for people who are already prone to delusion to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

Here's another good reason for me to post right now: The motives and inner thoughts of James Holmes have so far not become public. However, when the story comes out, I am certain that his thoughts will turn out to be woven, warp and woof, from a tapestry of popular Internet memes, Internet-bred conspiracy theories, Internet-published cornflake urban legends, Internet-popular pop psychology / philosophy / politics. You will hear his utterances and read his posts, when his web accounts are uncovered, and you will nod your head with recognition, because more likely than not they will be echoing the headlines of the very stories you've been reading lately all over social media.

I'd be very surprised if he also wasn't one of those guys painting his face like the Joker during an Occupy Wall Street rally. Or one of those guys wearing a V for Vendetta mask during an Anonymous rally. Or one of those guys dressing as a Wookie during a Ron Paul rally. Maybe three-for-three.

Are there some more Dark Knight fans who are deluded? Well, according to this story, negative reviews of the franchise have drawn death threats over the Internet. Does this tell us anything? Even BoingBoing, as guilty of the irresponsible media frenzy around comic-book movies as anybody else, just posted this week about these retards, biting the hands that feed them.

But remember, I'm not blaming the Dark Knight franchise itself, any more than I blamed the Matrix franchise before, or any other media production. They're just stories, albeit pretty brainless ones. It's the people who experience a work of fiction and then adopt it as their frame for reality that is the problem. I draw a webcomic, for those two of you who weren't aware yet. I would be equally (if not more) upset if someone chose to emulate the characters and actions of my webcomic in real life as well. I would be just as condemnatory if they tried to practice the fictional religion "Micca" from my strip, or attempted to commit cybercrimes the way the strip's character "Sherry" does, or conned their way into the offices of Senator Rick Perry to beat his butt with a riding crop the way the strip's character "Audrina" does. These would be wrong things to do. That's why it's - duh! - called fiction!

Speaking of BoingBoing, they've reposted (with no awareness of the irony) Marilyn Manson's thoughts post-Columbine school-shooting (which are also a part of the aforementioned Michael Moore movie). If you won't listen to me, perhaps you can listen to M.M.?

"A lot of people forget or never realize that I started my band as a criticism of these very issues of despair and hypocrisy."

As have I started my blog for similar motives, albeit within the realm of technology.

"When it comes down to who's to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you'll hit someone who's guilty. We're the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we're the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them."

Say, do you suppose he's talking about us?

"We live in a free country, but with that freedom there is a burden of personal responsibility."

Well, now you know where I get some of my crazy, radical, wild-hair ideas.

"In my work I examine the America we live in, and I've always tried to show people that the devil we blame our atrocities on is really just each one of us."

Well, hopefully, since Marilyn is more popular than I am (not, I concede, without cause), maybe you'll take his word for it, even while you dismiss me as a random raving loony for saying things of a similar bent. I am, after all, just one more part of the media.

A political cartoon that I found here speaks volumes about the issue:

guns vs mental health care

Now, the thing that Americans seem to push back against always seems to be the complex solution. People don't want that, they want an easy quick-fix. But that doesn't work. You should always beware of black-and-white solutions to multi-hued problems.

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A Bash Script To Demonstrate The Collatz Conjecture

Date/Time Permalink: 06/11/12 12:16:09 pm
Category: General

I suppose every hacker who reads Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid has the same problem: You can't read five pages without finding some new math or logic conjecture which you immediately have to stop and play with. Hey, it's kind of the whole point of the book! Being able to diddle out a quick Bash script to play with some sequence just makes it that much more interesting.

So, on page 400-402 of said work, the Collatz conjecture is introduced, also called "hailstone numbers". It's explained fully at that Wiki, but briefly you pick a number and apply the following rules indefinitely until you reach 1: If it's even, divide it by two, if it's odd, multiply it times 3 and add 1.

The conjecture is that every whole positive integer eventually reaches 1, albeit with considerable meandering along the path. The script:

#!/bin/bash

# Demonstrates the Collatz conjecture -
#     That any number will eventually boil down to 1
#     by following the formula of dividing it by 2 if
#     it is even and multiplying it by 3 and adding 1
#     if it is odd.

# http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collatz_conjecture

if [ "$1" ]; then
  N=$1
else
  N=$RANDOM
fi

ORIG=$N

echo "Starting number: "$N
echo
echo $N

STEP=0

while [ "$N" -ne "1" ]
do
  if [ "$(($N % 2))" -eq "0" ]; then
    N=$(($N / 2))
  else
    N=$((($N * 3) + 1))
  fi
  echo $N
  STEP=$(($STEP + 1))
done

echo "The number $ORIG took $STEP steps."

exit 0

If you give it a numeric argument, it'll start with that; otherwise it will just use a Bash built-in $RANDOM number. You will note that there's no bounds-checking or error termination here, indicating that I have great faith in either the conjecture or the user's ability to press Ctrl-C. You can also type in a number so high that Bash can't handle it and causes a stack overflow, plunging it into negative numbers which never terminate (even if they make it low, they may loop -20, -10, -5, -14, -7, -20...). Bash can handle 64-bit integers, so logically you'd check for anything higher than 9,223,372,036,854,775,807. But there's a problem with that...

The problem is that 9,223,372,036,854,775,807 is odd, so of course it's going to multiply times 3 and add 1. And so is 9,223,372,036,854,775,805, so that's too high. And indeed, we know from the whole nature of hailstone sequences that they sometimes get much higher than their starting number before they terminate, so the script would have to check the bounds on whatever the highest number is that can't get higher in the sequence than the 64-bit limit... And proving that all numbers below N never get higher than X is a problem such that if we solved it, we might as well solve the conjecture - a feat for which Paul Erdos posted a $500 prize in his lifetime. Unclaimed.

So, yeah, I'm open for some critique on this one.

In fact, if any math geniuses drop by here, my uneducated guess regarding proving the Collatz conjecture: Has anybody thought of using a Sieve of Eratosthenes type method on this? For instance, we know that 2 terminates; since 2 terminates, all powers of 2 must also terminate. We know that 4 terminates, so all powers of 4 must also terminate. 3 terminates; does that mean that all powers of 3 must also terminate? That's not so obvious.

Yeah, I'm in over my head here.

Sorry, no solution to the Mu puzzle, keep looking...

Update Just found out that the always-intriguing Cliff Pickover has also posted about hailstone numbers.

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Parenting On the Web: Why Neither Censoring the Internet Nor Controlling Your Kid's Consumption Works At All

Date/Time Permalink: 05/08/12 06:21:37 pm
Category: General

Silly parents! Are you all up in arms and legs about your little dumpling watching pornography online, like the subjects of this recent Guardian article? Well, I can't sympathize. Worse yet, I am here to destroy all hopes that you will ever have for (a) an all-wholesome web, or (b) getting your kids to practice wholesome viewing habits.

###

Our Parental Policy

See, around my house, we've always had a 100% liberal policy on what media content our kids can read, watch, listen to, and play. They have their own TVs and computers and phones and we don't put any parental controls on them at all. Instead, we offer proactive parenting: we coach and advise on the difference between reality and fantasy, the difference between listening to songs about anti-social behavior and acting it out, the importance of examining the morality and safety of a depicted action, and so on.

We're also all about the open-and-honest communication. What this means is that when they run across something unsavory, we can offer guidance on how to take it. Then they learn that no matter how cool an idea it might at first seem to stick some strange thing in some strange orifice, we're right here to mention that that's how funny stories told by hospital emergency-room staff are born. Any time our kids run across something weird and dirty, they can feel perfectly comfortable asking us about it, whereupon we can assure them that no, while some people online have a thing about dressing up as Tigger(*) for a night of fun adult romping, that doesn't mean that the average bride and groom will be expecting it on their wedding night.

(* sorry, furries, but you're used to being easy targets by now!)

Hey, by the time kids are seeking this out on their own, they're fourteen and passing puberty. They've already had sex-ed in school. They will have just four short years until they become legal adults as far as sex is concerned, and then they have to deal with the full brunt of the weird world and all of its myriad disgusting fetishes and depraved debauchery anyway. Would I rather they have their first introduction to the Wide World of Whackos as naive, sheltered, innocent lambs after they've moved out and are on their own, or would I rather they discover it at a safe distance first over the Internet where they have the advantage of my sober judgment and council? Why is this even a difficult question for anybody?

Seriously, why?

"Wise like a serpent, harmless like a dove." That's my attitude.

And before anybody takes this to mean that I let my kids cavort with child predators or send inappropriate photos to strangers, let me caution you wet thumbs that I'm only talking about consuming online media - interacting with it is an entirely different matter, and we're still gradually lifting our controls on participation until they understand how to avoid being victimized by creeps, and that their 35-year-old selves would regret imprudent photos snapped and posted of their 16-year-old selves. "For now you can look and explore, but you have much to learn before you can get out there and swim with the sharks."

###

Why Any Other Parental Policy Is Doomed

It is thanks to this open-and-honest communication policy that I get to find out about things like the current "practical jokes" fad on YouTube.

Imagine a perfect world as the repressive nannies would have it: There is either no porn online, or no way for their own kids to consume it. So their apple-cheeked little munchkin skips up and asks "Mommy, can I watch practical joke videos on YouTube?" Well, of course little moppet (pinches cheek), you run right along and have fun now!

Now, what are you thinking when you hear "practical jokes"? Glue a quarter to the sidewalk, watch people struggle to pry it up, yuk yuk? Perhaps the ever-popular "kick me" sign taped to the back?

How about putting bleach in shampoo?

Or Supergluing things to people's skin?

Or pouring loose change into the AC system of a car so when it turns on, it shoots coins in your face?

There's dozens more examples where this came from. But now, imagine your kid telling the gist of six or seven of these to you rapid-fire in a row, like my kid just did to me. Listen to your faith in humanity deflate like a sad balloon.

Now, granted, I know most of these are faked. (Did you hear that, wet thumbs in the back row? I knooooow they're faaaaaake!) But still, they suggest seriously messed-up things to do, and certainly we read about kids who get hurt in nasty ways imitating the Internet all the time, such as with the recent real panic about the swallow-a-spoonful-of-cinnamon challenge. In no uncertain terms, bleach in the shower can get into your eyes and blind you for life while burning your eyes right out of their sockets, superglue requires a trip to the hospital to remove with chemical solvents that might work, and coins shooting out of an AC unit can hit you in the face, possibly knocking a tooth out. Also, cinnamon by the scoop can choke you to death, and furthermore hurt the entire time you're dying.

This shit ain't funny. It's cruel, sick, sadistic, barbaric, and several other things to get into a huff about.

Now, how would we have known to censor this beforehand?

It's not X-rated. It's not even R-rated. You can keep your clothes on, not swear, not worship the devil, not abuse any illicit substances, not even pirate any music, and still depict something that's wrong on all kinds of levels.

###

I Would Rather My Kids Watch Porn Than Pranks

At least sex is usually a consensual act engaged in by people who enjoy it. At least in your standard sexual activity, there isn't an immediate risk of permanent debilitating injury. And at least the enjoyment-factor from most forms of sex does not come from sadistic cruelty, barbaric ignorance, and ruining someone's day and possibly life. Truly, I watch six prank videos in a row and Debbie Does Dallas starts looking as wholesome as white picket fences and apple pie by comparison. So does a Freddy Kruger flick, because at least it's clearly understood that it's a work of fiction.

The enjoyment of pranks is an act of sadism. It is all about getting amusement at the expense of another human being's dignity and safety. It is far, far crueler than half the degrading things I've seen porn stars do. The fact that these prank videos are so popular says scary things about what kind of dark undercurrent to our society we might be creating.

Furthermore, I will step forward to make the bold claim that the popularity of dangerous pranks among young people is a symptom of exactly the kind of sick society we create when we let the repressive nannies have their say. We can ban all kinds of less-dangerous ideas for teens to be exposed to, only to provoke them to invent new ideas on their own that are even worse.

And if you thought I was over-reacting to practical jokes, be aware that the next logical step is the "dare", where people voluntarily play pranks on themselves just for the attention value. Here again, you might think "but we all played truth of dare in junior high", but then you haven't been to another popular teen hangout online, Get Dare. Go ahead and browse around there - you'll find the horror stories soon enough. I'm the most liberal left-wing pinko in the world, and getdare.com makes me want to get an angry mob with torches and pitchforks together and go burn it down.

We can show people doing sick, sad, twisted things to each other all day long, and nobody raises an eyebrow. Yet we can't show two people loving each other. For that matter, we can't show a woman breastfeeding her baby.

We're a sick species.

And trying to fix it with censorship, whether individually or collectively, just makes us sicker.

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In Which I Explain A Thumbnail History Of Home Computing In A Response To An Email

Date/Time Permalink: 04/06/12 02:33:50 pm
Category: General

Foreward

Just about exactly one year ago, I received an email from a reader asking some questions about computing culture, and where Microsoft, Apple, and Linux fit into the scheme of things. He mentioned that he was fine with me posting the text of the conversation in my blog. And I meant to do that, but it got buried under the pile on my virtual desk until now.

Be advised that I love hearing from all of you, but I'm lucky if I get a chance to reply at all! And when I do, it isn't usually a four page epic epistle with footnotes and citations like this. But this one time, somebody asked just the right questions and gave me just the right impression that I had a wonderful opportunity to teach a fertile mind. Wherever he is today, I hope he went far in pursuing his dreams!


The original letter

Disclaimer: if you wish, you can answer publicly in a blog post, if you want, and quote the email in full. I have no problem with it :)

Dear Penguin Pete.

I would like to ask you something, which you might think is pro-Microsoft or pro-Apple or something, and it might be, but i'm really just interested in hearing what you think.

My question is this: Without the efforts of Microsoft and Apple, would computers be as easy to use as they are now? What if the development of computer operating systems and the way that computers behaved, were done by teams of volunteers, that wouldn't have had any money to conduct Human Computer Interaction tests, and refine the operating system as well as the GUI and CLI to the needs of the average man. Would we be lacking in the terms of desktop computer usage, with only the powerful geek elite using them, or would we have progressed even more, making computers easy to use, even for the average consumer?

I don't want to sound like i'm pro Big corporation, because they're inherently bad for the common folk. That said, i believe that Mircosoft's efforts in building Windows helped democratize computer usage to the level, where an average man could pick one up and start doing things with it. Same thing with Apple's original Macintosh: despite the price, it was made with the non-technical user in mind.

I've seen some anti-normal user sentiment in the Linux circles (although it's not that big, mind) but when i hear Richard Stallman speaking free software and such, i sometimes get the mental image, that he's horrified about the fact that NORMAL people WITHOUT a Ph.D are using computers to build things, consume things and just talk to other people.

What's your opinion on this?

Best Wishes
(name withheld)
Finland, The Canada of Europe.


My reply

Dear (name withheld),

Get ready for a long letter! :) I assure you, I won't rip into you here, I'll just set out the stuff you seem not to have discovered on your own yet. You sound like a bright person; I'm doing this because it's worth it to inspire a questing mind like yours by pointing you at the things you haven't been told yet.

Your question reflects the state of affairs which I rail against constantly. Specifically, there are facts that are buried by the corporate media which, had they been more openly aired, you would not have needed to ask. But there's a lot of nuanced, interconnected ideas that you have... you're not entirely wrong, and you're certainly not to blame for the parts that you have wrong - as I say, it's the fault of the media not providing you with better information! I'll break this down into parts.

(1) So basically, your first part is summed up as: "Would there be advanced computing systems without Microsoft and Apple?"

In the first place, Microsoft did not pioneer the desktop GUI. Windows didn't take over the market until 1993, when version 3.1 came out. Apple had a desktop GUI before them with the MacIntosh, going clear back to 1984, and in fact when Microsoft copied Apple to launch Windows, Apple sued in a famous litigation case for the "look and feel" of Microsoft's interface.

As you can see from that Wikipedia article, Apple also didn't pioneer the GUI interface... Xerox had it first! And likewise, Xerox sued Apple for copying them!

Now, as a side note, Apple computers contain a Unix-based core. Mac OS X "is a series of Unix-based operating systems and graphical user interfaces developed, marketed, and sold by Apple Inc."

Apple's Mac OS also makes use of the BSD code base, and there's your open source involvement already.

(1){a} So now your question is reduced to "Would there be advanced GUI systems without proprietary, corporate-controlled development, period?"

Now to trace it back to Xerox, the Xerox Alto and the Star were pioneers of GUI workstations starting in 1973.

But I'll skip a bit to avoid boring your leg off - the man you need to meet is Douglas Engelbart.

Douglas Engelbart

Never heard of him? All you hear about is Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, right? Douglas Engelbart!

Douglas Engelbart developed the first GUI at the Stanford Research Institute, and Xerox's systems were based on it. Douglas Engelbart is actually the pioneer of the mouse, graphics on the screen, hypertext, icons and buttons you could click on... way back in the 1960s! We're a long way from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates now, aren't we? :) Anyway, Douglas Engelbart was not in any way a corporate hack with a profit motive, but just a university researcher running off government money (from ARPA).

(2) Now, your query seems to imply that GUIs "brought the computer to the masses" and that before the Great Mouse Revolution, computers were the exclusive domain of the elite eggheads who could mutter incantations in binary or something. So, let me paraphrase this as "Would the public have been able to use computers before the desktop GUI?"

Well, what you're forgetting is that the consumer home computer revolution launched way back in the 1970s. Hobbyists already formed the Homebrew Computer Club back in 1975.

And that article tells the story better than I can:

"The Homebrew Computer Club was an informal group of electronic enthusiasts and technically-minded hobbyists who gathered to trade parts, circuits, and information pertaining to DIY construction of computing devices. It was started by Gordon French and Fred Moore who met at the Community Computer Center in Menlo Park. They both were interested in maintaining a regular, open forum for people to get together to work on making computers more accessible to everyone."

So right there, we have home-based hobbyists, "open forum", "making computers more accessible to everyone", and so on. The gist of my argument is that it's the "home hackers" who did all the research and groundwork - even the founders of Apple were members of this club and back then, their interest was in computer advocacy, not profit. The very kernel of computers-for-the-common-folk was born on the backs of the earliest form of open-source geeks, before the term "open source" was even coined. Corporations merely came along after the fact and monetized and commercialized what was freely traded before.

Furthermore, there's the earliest home computer market. The Radio Shack Tandy TRS-80 was in every mall in America, a floor display at the front of the store, launching in 1977 at a price of $600 - well within reach of the middle-class family. And there's the Commodore series, starting with the VIC-20 in 1980, at around $300 - this was my first computer, I was about 13 years old. Our family was dirt-poor, and we could still afford it. Furthermore, it was taught in school! There was also the Apple Lisa, the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and the IBM PCjr, all launched in the mid-1980s.

All this stuff was affordable for - and marketed to - the home user. Here's computer ads from the 1980s.

And that's nothing compared to the TV commercials, with William Shatner, Bill Cosby, and a Charlie-Chaplin impersonator right there next to the breakfast cereal ads during the Saturday morning cartoons. What I'm saying here is: people bought them, used them, loved them, and geeked out on them.

And now for the shocker: NONE of the computers available for the home in the early 1980s had a mouse. And NONE of them had a graphical desktop. NONE of them had anything but a command line where you typed commands, and ALL of them ran Basic, the original programming language for non-technical home people. And where did Basic come from? Can you guess?

All the way back in the Homebrew Computer Club, of which both Bill Gates and Steve Wozniak were members - and there was already an open-source version of this Basic programming language being passed around. Here's a great personal memoir from a former member.

Kids played text-based adventure games, where you controlled your adventurer with commands. You can see an early example of this at the beginning of the Tom Hanks movie Big (1988). And then there's Creative Computing magazine, published 1974 to 1985...

"The magazine regularly included BASIC source code for utility programs and games, which users could manually enter into their home computers."

Wait, this is a mind-blower... do I mean that "open source code" was being freely published and shared by home consumers way back in the 1970s/1980s? In a magazine that was sold in every store? Why yes, indeed, I do!

Now going back to the late-1960s/early-1970s, there was really no middle-class home computing. Because at that point, the concept of a desktop was still a fuzzy dream - you had to get time-share on a mainframe system and the only way to do that was be a university student. Computers cost thousands of dollars and even the best ones came as an assembly kit. You had to be an electrician just to put them together. But even there, it was hobbyists, not entrepreneurs, who were pushing the computer out to the people. Back then, the idea that software could be patented, copyrighted, sold, and monetized was silly.

Whew! Pant, pant. My fingers tire. Time for the next point:

(3) OK, Richard Stallman, "geek elitism", "user friendly", and so on.

Hooooo boy. Here's the deal. Could you do me a favor and forget this headful of pre-conceived notions for a minute? Clear your mind. Take a deep breath. Now imagine the following universe:

  1. Everything I've told you here is taught to every child in every school in every nation in the world, starting about grade 3.
  2. All schools have "programming" as a mandatory subject, as well as being integrated with both math and science.
  3. People grow up thinking that programming is something that NORMAL PEOPLE DO. It isn't any harder than basic math, after all. I'd say writing your first "Hello World" program is no more difficult than solving your first long division problem.
  4. Words like "geek", "hacker", "nerd" don't exist any more. Nobody calls you a nerd for knowing how to cook an omelet or change a flat tire on a car, do they? Everybody eats and everybody drives, so cooking and car repair isn't anything out of the ordinary to do, is it? Well, everybody computes in the 21st century - why is programming seen as something that only this stereotypical egghead autistic punk-rock anti-social "nerd" or "hacker" person can do? Because as you can see from this history, this attitude wasn't the case.
  5. "user friendly" is no longer a common idea. Instead, users are made "computer friendly"! We have to do it this way because we humans can change and adapt while computers are stuck being electric current running through logic gates, no matter how much gloss we try to paint over them.

That point there in (4) is the whole impetus for why I've been preaching on my little soap-box for five years on my blog. It's not "programming and computers for elite geeks and everybody else- hands off!" Instead, it's "everybody should learn computing and programming so that NO ONE is elite, and there will be no more geeks, just regular, ordinary people who have adopted to a world with computers in it."

But money wants it different. There's money to be made from keeping people ignorant and exploiting them for that ignorance, and that money funds a lot of misinformation, and so we have the age of corporate robber-barons who control the data and information and do the equivalent of patenting the alphabet and charging everybody ten dollars to read or write. And all you hear in the corporate-funded media is "Oh, hackers, they're evil! Don't be a hacker! People who know how to program are pathetic, anti-social geeks! Don't be one of them! (unless you pay $gazillion dollars to get a degree through our school and come work for us - then you can be one of the elite.)"

Does it all make sense now? :)

Addendum: How did it come to this? Well, it's really quite simple (even I forget this sometimes and need to be reminded). The integrated circuit was only invented in 1959. The human race simply hasn't had enough time to get used to the idea of computers yet. If you look back over history, there were similar adjustment periods for the advent of the airplane, the automobile, the steam engine, the telephone, the printing press, electricity, the sea-going cargo craft, and even back to aquaducts and paved roads. You can see that monopolies have grown up alongside each advance in society, going right back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle who criticized the olive-press industry at the time for being a monopoly. Similar monopolies were attached to the production and export of major traded goods like salt, oil, steel, and diamonds. Each time, they eventually get overthrown.

Thank you for listening, and good luck in your continued learning,
"Penguin" Pete Trbovich

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The Problems With Online Activism - A Followup

Date/Time Permalink: 03/05/12 11:31:08 am
Category: General

The Problems With Online Activism - A Followup

A while back, I posted Why Don't We Just Protest Internet Activism Instead? , which, judging by the reactions around the web, struck my usual sour note with the online hivemind whenever I put on my grown-up pants and think for myself, saying something original that no-one else dared to think.

Oh, let me pound this point home. Internet activism: Call it "hacktivism", "Anonymous", "Occupy Wall Street", SOPA-ACTA-PIPA protests, petitions, rallies, demonstrations, fund-raisers, displaying a ribbon on your Facebook page - ALL of it, a bad thing, and evil thing, a contemptible delusion of the masses that deserves to be stamped out. A poison to the intellect and spirit of society, that does a ton of harm for every bit it accidentally does good.

Online activism amounts to a witch-hunt

One other blogger had the courage to post my thoughts:

"I just don’t like bullies. Especially hypocritical bullies. If you actually believe in free speech, and not simply the free distribution of other people’s intellectual property, you should let journalists, law firms and investors exercise their rights to it alongside your own. And yes, working on a bill in an open, democratic process is a valid expression of speech.

Instead, we are threatening anyone who disagrees with us. Like all ideologues, we have convinced ourselves that the other side is a wealthy special interest as if we are not very wealthy, very special and very interested. We imagine that we are trying to protect the Internet only for noble purposes, but it’s also true that we stand to make billions of dollars from the Internet staying just the way it is."

...and then he got screamed down by the mob and back-peddled. I won't: I think once you try to win your cause by bullying, you automatically both lose your cause and make yourself worse than what you were trying to fight.

Do I really mean it when I say "witch hunt"? Have you seen the McCarthyist "list of SOPA supporters"? Here's one version. There are many versions around the web, but Reddit, that capitol of online Nazism, started it. How do you get on this list? Somebody accuses you. Does the list contains citations, references, any sort of evidence? No, it does not. Anybody can add or remove any name they want to at any time from the list and pass it around.

Yes, I mean it: WITCH HUNT. As barbaric as anything that ever happened in the Middle Ages, this business of passing around a list of names of entities to be boycotted by members of a disorganized online mob, each of whom feels themselves bullied into complying and subsequently bullying others. As illogical as the most ridiculous religious superstition, and as horrifyingly telling of the thin line that separates us from the brute beasts we pretend to be different from.

And who points it out? Just me. Everybody else was OK with it, nobody else questioned "the LIST" (scare chord) for fear of ending up on... "the LIST" (scare chord)!

Online activists are easily fooled

One person caught up in the false accusations was Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. Ryan never signed SOPA, came out against it, and yet nevertheless somebody slapped his name onto one of the dreaded lists, and in came the hate mail. Ryan had to post a correction, which the SOPA witch-hunters took to mean "Aha! He caved under the pressure! We won!" There are likewise grown adults walking around right now thinking that they got Microsoft, Apple, and Google to stop SOPA, when it was really the big tech corporations' idea all along.

Morons. Moronic morons leading morons, is all online activism will ever amount to.

There is a reason why we have amendments to our constitution to protect our rights in court, folks. There is a reason we have due process of law, and judges, and juries, and officially-declared rights. Because we already tried the riding-around-in-white-hoods-lynching-people thing and it just doesn't work. Mobs are stupid. When you join a mob, it makes you stupid.

Online activists have no sense of scale; they direct equal rage at the merest petty misdemeanor

Case in point: Rebecca Black. Yes, the song "Friday" was wretched (although that wasn't even her doing; she went through an agency which did a lousy job). Yes, she got famous for having a video online that went viral for being wretched.

What is posting a song online that some people don't like worth in retribution? Oh some funny jokes, some catty remarks, and a good round of teasing, right? That's all most reasonable people would deem appropriate.

How about death threats?

Is that going a little bit overboard? Well, that's what the hivemind's reaction is to everything. Everything is a death threat, a DDoS attack, a protest in Ku Klux Klan hoods "V for Vendetta" masks, a witch hunt, a riot, and if anybody doesn't bond with them 110% in complete thoughtless deference, they're The Enemy too.

I'm sure none of you will be shocked to learn that Your Humble Servant has also received death threats from random Internet spooks - for years! Not only over my continued protest of the continued hustling and scamming of the Linux community by scam artists shaking users down for money, but even over stupid, trivial, dumb things like a cartoon or something I said about a video game. God forbid I stick my nose into politics once in a while. I have nuts stalking me you haven't even met yet over that one.

Let me just say: The more crap I catch over what I do, the more I will do it. It is morally wrong to cave to a bully. I believe this. I believe this even if it costs me a life. If I shut up out of fear for my own safety, I make the bullies stronger and the next victim will receive even more crap than I did. Maybe it doesn't make me so much fun to hang out with sometimes - I still manage to have a sense of humor about it, even to mocking my own angst - but standards have to be stood.

Regardless if it's all empty threats delivered by little boys who are only brave when hiding behind the Internet. Which is usually the case, but every now and then...

Online activism creates people like Jared Lee Loughner

Beyond the death threats are the loonies looney enough to carry them out. Jared Lee Loughner, perpetrator of the 2011 Tucson, Arizona massacre, was as good as a golem composed of all the online activist's hobby horses. Atheist, 9/11 conspiracies, pot, Ron Paul, and the film Zeitgeist. And then it mixed with the crazy in his head and he went out and shot 20 people, killing six and profoundly crippling U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who had to step down out of office recently.

Jared Lee Loughner was to Anonymous as Charles Manson was to Flower Power.

Whoa! What am I saying here? Am I saying that online activism is to blame for Jared Lee Loughner? When he was obviously a crazy, disturbed person who would have eventually snapped no matter if he had never heard of the Internet? How could I lay the Tucson Massacre at the feet of the Internet hivemind any more than, say, I could lay the 1980 assassination of John Lennon at the feet of The Catcher In The Rye (read obsessively by assassin Mark David Chapman)?

Like this: Jared Lee Loughner was, remember, engaged in social media. He didn't come up with his delusions on his own; he was a member of conspiracy theory message boards where diseased minds share their disease and make everybody sicker.

Social media, unlike any other form of media, gives back to you. Get a crazy idea to go out on a shooting spree as a result of reading a book, seeing a movie, or playing a video game, and that's all coming from you. Get the same crazy idea and post it online, and if you're chosen the right Internet forum, you will get validation! You will get people co-conspiring with you, encouraging you, egging you on! You know those gruesome stories about teens hanging themselves after posting about it someplace like 4chan and the responses are all "Do it"? That never happens with a heavy metal album, no matter how menacing Ozzy sounds.

What I am NOT saying

I am not saying that the Internet should be censored in any way, shape, or form. Not even for the prevention of another psycho serial killer. That can't be helped. I don't bring him up to put blood on anyone else's hands. I bring him up as an example that the Internet is irresponsible and therefore should not be trusted with weighty matters.

Summary of what I AM saying.

The Internet needs to police itself - or some other entity will do it for them, and the online community won't like it. The policing needs to take the form of responsibility for our own actions, recognition that we are all easily lied to and easily lead over the Internet, realization that at least half of what we see online is not real, and most of all, establishment of the fact that online activism is the "cure" that is worse than every disease we will ever find.

Peace, love, and Linux be with you!


Update Just a few days later, Geekosystem has a post expressing a similar idea, concerning the recent buzz around Kony. Here again, armchair activists with a bleeding heart and a non-questioning mind can be bled for a few extra dollars by an outfit that produced a "documentary" film that is highly-questionable on its facts.

If I'm famous for anything, it's sticking my neck out, so I'll call into doubt that a single penny contributed to the charity "Invisible Children" actually finds its way into the hands of somebody who helps Ugandan children. I doubt it. And the burden of proof rests with its supporters. I quote the Wikipedia section on criticisms of "Invisible Children":

"Criticism of distribution of the organizations funds have also emerged. Specifically due to information reported by charity watch group, Charity Navigator. Invisible children received from Charity Navigator "four of four stars financially and two stars for the category of accountability and transparency."

Every time a charity organization does not make EVERY SINGLE PENNY completely transparent and trackable, from the time it enters their hands until the time it leaves them, you should be suspicious. How hard is it to post open books, with intake and expenditures? Why should a charity organization not do this? At least just post photos of receipts or something.

But more than that, there's concern over how the donation effort could really affect the situation. When dabbling in third-world politics on the other side of the planet, how do you know for sure who the bad guys are? Maybe there's more than one. That's a difficult concept to grasp, when one is used to good and evil being defined in Star Wars terms. No, it isn't just as simple as shooting the guy with the black helmet. There were similar concerns over last year's incredible Internet snow campaign with Kiva.org, which is a new blog post entirely. (There are three Kiva microloan partners in Uganda right now - did you know that? How do you know that the money you donated to Kiva last year didn't find its way into Kony's hands this year?)

What better target than a North American mouse potato who will click anything the Internet tells them to? What better cover for embezzlement and scamming than to claim that the money is going to benefit third-world orphans in some country most of you couldn't find on an unlabeled map, have never visited, and couldn't possibly make heads or tails of the true problems there? And finally, is there anything the Internet public gets more outraged about than when somebody like me comes along and points these things out?

UPDATE 3/31/12: In a miracle akin to Nyan cat creating the universe, CNET has something intelligent to say about this matter. Specifically, "old-guard" hacking groups are more worried about Anonymous / Occupy tyranny of the web than anything a government or corporation does.

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How Did This Get Past Microsoft? New Hampshire Passed An Open Source Software Bill

Date/Time Permalink: 02/05/12 10:08:29 am
Category: General

New Hampshire (motto: "Live Free or Die") has passed HB418, a House bill which legislates the requirement that state agencies "consider open source software when acquiring software and promotes the use of open data formats by state agencies. This bill also directs the commissioner of information technology to develop a statewide information policy based on principles of open government data."

Whew! According to bill author and Linux kernel contributor Seth Cohn (commenting on Slashdot), this is the first open source and open data bill to pass in any state, ever. Now, it does not require state government officials to pick the open source alternative over the proprietary one at any point in time, but simply to officially document their justification for their software policy.

Part of the justification for this is that state governments have to deal with the problem of digital obsolescence, where data stored in old media formats becomes unusable because no proprietary vendor supports the format anymore. Think of music stored on 8-track tape: where would you find a tape player in the modern day that would play back such a format accurately, or assist in transferring the data to a more modern format? Well, Cohn assures us that there's still data sitting on punched cards in the care of New Hampshire. What proprietary company would want to support it? The BSD games package (it's probably lurking on your Linux install right now) gives us the 'bcd' program; at the command line type "bcd $STRING" and it shoots out $STRING as a punched card:


 ________________________________________________
/PENGUIN PETE                                    |
| ] ] ]   ] ]                                    |
|] ]   ] ]                                       |
|    ]     ]                                     |
|111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111|
|222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222222|
|3333333333]3333333333333333333333333333333333333|
|4444]4444444444444444444444444444444444444444444|
|5]]555]55]5]555555555555555555555555555555555555|
|666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666666|
|]77]7777]777777777777777777777777777777777777777|
|888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888|
|99999]999999999999999999999999999999999999999999|
|________________________________________________|

There, just like "ISO 1682:1973" would have it. Now that's what you call "legacy support"! True, open source isn't necessary to support legacy programs and data standards... but have you noticed that open source developers always seem to care about these things while proprietary vendors do not?

This punched-card business may seem scary-archaic to some of you, but as a former state government employee myself, I assure you that this isn't even unusual. There's probably a few 286'ers out there still running Windows 3.1, IBM OS/2 Warp, and XTree Gold out there. In government, you don't just upgrade hardware willy-nilly. You run it until it breaks. If it still lights up when you turn it on, it's not broken. Heck, there's still jobs for COBOL programmers out there. If a team of archaeologists someday discovered within the basement of some federal warehouse a bearskin-clad caveman poring over chiseled stone tablets by the light of a torch, I wouldn't be the faintest surprised.

Of course, the bill could always be repealed, the ruling overturned, the public opinion astroturfed to death... Cue the return fire from Microsoft lobbyists in 10, 9, 8...

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Rick Santorum Condemns Education, Period

Date/Time Permalink: 01/26/12 02:37:20 pm
Category: General

I never thought I'd be blogging about The Frothy One in my august pages, but holy smoking clover! Santorum just came out and said what the entire Christian wing of the Republican party has always been thinking: They're anti-education - period!

Here's the reportage of his speech to Florida. With a video clip, because you will need to hear the words coming right out of his orifice to believe that this isn't a smear job.

"The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America. And it is indoctrination."

Wait, what about teaching people how to be, you know, engineers and doctors and lawyers and whatnot?

"62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it."

Could that be the effect of people who believed in young-Earth creationism being confronted with contrary evidence from things like the fossil record?

All this was him firing back after President Obama's State of the Union address, in which Obama simply called for more college education - calling it an economic imperative. What's that we hear every day? We need to create more jobs? Doesn't college help you get one, last I heard?

Well, Iowa, my home state, what do you have to say for yourselves? Iowa, the state with one of the best reputations for educational standards. Iowa, the state where Rick Santorum won the 2012 Republican caucus. Are you proud of yourselves?

Reverse evolution

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