Wednesday, April 25, 2007

TV-Turnoff Week

Damn. A good idea but must I now buy a TV to participate?

Labels: ,

free software: free economic participation

With free software, individuals and organizations are free to share, sell, and commercially support such tools.

By contrast, proprietary software denies individuals and organizations needed economic freedoms. The result is monopolization of business specializing in such endeavors. Monopolization means dependency upon permission from another when a modification to, or knowledge of, source code is desired. Governments, schools, businesses, and individuals dependent upon proprietary vendors to service their technology are at a distinct educational and economic disadvantage. At the level of source code, economic participation is eviscerated. Although socially reprehensible anywhere, this is especially unfortunate for developing nations who may otherwise utilize the free market free software provides for their own region. Educationally, dependence means ignorance as the workings of proprietary software are typically kept secret. Educating oneself with regard to proprietary software means signing an agreement that breaks the bonds of human relationship. This effectively exports the acquired knowledge and skill set back to the vendor. This brain-drain clearly has negative long-term consequences in the tech sectors of local economies.

With free software, citizens of any nationality may refine, innovate upon, and share tools that rebuke the antisocial wall proprietary software constructs between users and developers. Free software offers free participation through a level playing field of economic opportunity.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

help me understand free culture

Recently, I've found my way to the free culture definition wiki through both Benjamin Mako Hill and now Tom Hoffman. Tom says "few understand freedom-driven licensing". I tend to agree as I struggle to see this from the "few's" POV. What I don't understand about the current definition is the absolute negation on any commercial restriction of free culture. A couple weeks ago I anonymously (too lazy to make an account) created a "Commercial Restrictions" section on the discussion page and asked,
"What about some restrictions on the commercial distribution of a work? That is, a free culture work can be copied and those copies can be shared but with some restrictions on selling those copies when permission is not granted."
Angela Beesley was kind enough to respond but in the absolute..."That isn't free content. Commercial Restrictions are explicitly not permissible restrictions."

Generally, I see why commercial restrictions impair freedom. But one particular exception I find acceptable (perhaps even desirable) is a commercial restriction on a work taken to print in meatspace. For example, an author strikes a deal with a publisher of tangible material and grants that publisher the right to sell the work in meatspace form. That is, no other publisher has the right to sell the work in meatspace. Anyone could make meatspace copies to give away or use commercially (e.g. a poster to promote a for-profit performance). This provides the meatspace publisher acquiring the granted right more incentive to fund the printing. Of course, there would be no commercial restrictions in cyberspace.

Can someone help me understand why this specific kind of commercial restriction is not currently acceptable to the free culture definition?

Labels: ,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

mainstream media-ocrity

Leave it to mainstream media to serve up useful but critically incomplete advice on protecting one's right to speak freely using the Internet. Need to make it exceedingly difficult for an oppressive regime to spy upon or censor you? Yes, don't use your real name. Yes, use a proxy. Yes, use tools like TOR. But do this with a machine equipped from top-to-bottom with free software. That is, a few techniques and TOR alone are not the best defense.

Like the article says, "There is no sure-fire way of staying anonymous on the web and avoiding detection." But, if serious about protecting one's anonymity from an oppressive regime, then the best defense implements an entirely free system.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

OLPC Nigeria

Nigerian students try out their green machines.

More pictures and commentary here.

Labels: , , ,

free software: the best pedagogy

Miguel asks "others to speak up". Here's what I have to say.

Schools should spend their money on free software. When money is spent on proprietary software instead of free software alternatives, schools are choosing the pedagogically inferior option.

What makes free software the right choice for schools are educational and economic opportunities provided for students/citizens. Free software provides students the opportunity to learn how software works and to contribute improvements back to the project. As students age and increase their participation as citizens, some will continue honing their programming skills and the best can receive pay for working on free software. That software can then be utilized by the country without any foreign dependency. This process sustainably feeds itself as money (and talent) is not siphoned to an outside (i.e. proprietary) entity. Indeed, the product is global and therefore includes the country and school making the original investment.

Unfortunately, when schools implement proprietary software they discourage curious students wanting to know how such tools work. This discouragement comes about as students are typically not allowed to get a copy of the source code. The inquisitive are told to go hack on free software tools while their peers use a different set. This segregation is pedagogically unsound due to its inherent opposition to curiosity and peer relationships.

"Peer relationships?" one may ask. How so?

Really want to tap the talent some students possess? Have them hack the tools their friends use. It's well known that part of the joy of programming is recognition. Imagine the teen who puts a new feature or design into a program her entire school uses. By contrast, imagine the teen who puts a new feature or design into a program nobody in his immediate community uses. If you were an educator, parent, or student, which would you like to see happen in your community?

Labels: , ,

Monday, April 09, 2007

mobius chess puzzle

Spoiler warning: the solution is the first comment on this post. Via Phillip Torrone at the MAKE blog:
White to move and mate in two. Click image to enlarge.

Labels: , ,

(ab)using children

While one affirming to others that there is (or isn't) a God is committing an error in judgement, others err on a completely different scale.
"[Children] are so usable in Christianity."
- Becky Fischer in Jesus Camp

Labels: , , ,

Friday, April 06, 2007

3 times unlucky

I just finished inhaling an extremely large bowl of pasta in an attempt to lessen the nausea the antimalarial drug I'm taking causes. Yep, for the 3rd time in three years those little bastards got me.

The joints ache. The head aches. Shivering one minute, sweating bullets the next. The mind incessantly rambling to itself in an incoherent manner. Lacking the energy needed to simply sit on the toilet for more than 10 seconds. Not fun. Not fun at all.

Fortunately, I'm of the economically privileged compared to most in Africa. Death by malaria is not really possible in my case. I can afford some of the most powerful drugs on the market (less than 48 hours later I feel considerably better). But what comes with that privilege is discomfiting knowledge. The knowledge that in many cases, fellow beings are dying and/or suffering from illnesses that could be treated by affordable generic drugs. But generally, the poor are not allowed to make them. Instead, they are often placated with handouts. Why? Patent law says so.

Is there not a better way to deal with this situation rather than granting exclusive patent rights on health-care products?

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 02, 2007

I'm sorry to have offended you...

Michael Matthews shares some insight into the futility of being "offended" and the tactic of apology often employed by politicians to use another's emotionally-based and reactionary criticism advantageously. Michael provides us with the example of Warren Chisum's distribution of an anti-evolution essay espousing anti-Semitic claims of a Jewish conspiracy to destroy Christian teachings about the universe. Michael says -
"The lesson is, if someone does something ridiculous, it's not sufficient to express offense. In fact it's counterproductive. Instead, one should make explicit the silliness or inconsistencies in the person's argument, how it is racially bigoted, how it is constitutionally illegal, or simply why it's logically fallacious."
Counterproductive indeed. Expressing offense, as Michael notes, gives the offender a way out by "apologizing for the offense instead of the actual act". How so? Because the offense is committed in the mind of the offended.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I love my race

I'm probably going to ostracize myself with this post and receive hate mail but I have to speak some truth. I know this post will rub a few liberal minds the wrong way but I just can't sit silent anymore. I love my race. There, I said it.

Some races are just plain beastly, dumb and violent compared to my race. My race is intelligent and compassionate compared to several other races. Sure, my race isn't perfect (which race is?) but there are other races that are simply disgusting. In fact, there are races so offensive and grotesque, I've got no problem advocating for their extermination. That's right. Slaughter them and their offspring. The sooner we can get rid of certain other races, the better off we'll all be.

Don't get me wrong. I don't hate all other races. Some I'm OK with and even admire in ways. For instance, I've got an open mind about interracial marriage with them. But I hate them. And when I see these distasteful creatures, I'm filled with genocidal rage.

I know it's hard for some to speak their mind concerning this issue. Many left-wing crazies believe we can all get along and they often intimidate those who speak out. But I hope others will join me in declaring love for our race while condemning many of those who are different than us.