Archive for January, 2009

the Gates Foundation and GNU/Linux

January 25, 2009

A great idea that will never be:

This is a great time for the Gates Foundation to embrace Linux, bringing the value of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) to people who might otherwise not hear its value.

abortion: when does life begin?

January 25, 2009

This post by Daniel Florien links to a revealing video where anti-abortionists are perplexed by the question: If abortion were against the law, what should be the penalty for those convicted?

In the comments, an anonymous person counters this with, “HOW TO STUMP AN ABORTIONIST WITH JUST ONE QUESTION – When does [human] life begin?” Though I’m one who supports the legalization of abortion, I don’t find this question difficult to answer:

My response:

Life begins sometime during fertilization. I don’t know when exactly…but sometime in the middle of that process. Clearly, at the very start of fertilization, life has yet to begin. But life has started once the fertilization process has ended.

The value/significance of life is dependent upon mental development. If a human life has yet to become a person, I don’t see any problem with the mother exercising her right to destroy it. Clearly, an embryo/fetus is not a person and therefore, abortion rights should be protected. On the other hand, personhood begins sometime soon after birth. But because personhood is an emergent process that occurs over time (like life during fertilization), we cannot determine *exactly* when personhood begins. Therefore, society should play it safe and simply make infanticide illegal.

What does one call a tivo-ized Linux kernel?

January 22, 2009

Bad GNUs.

school privacy and “cloud computing”

January 16, 2009

I’m noticing a growing trend in international schools to shift as much of the institution’s computing as possible to 3rd-party servers. The most popular seems to be Google servers – for example, GMail and Google Docs. My school director forwarded yet another instance of a school in South America doing this and below is my response:

Using a 3rd-party’s online services to do your computing is often referred to as Cloud Computing.

What is often not considered is that when an organization or individual uses such services, the user’s data goes into the hands of the party providing the service. This means that privacy is forfeited in exchange for the convenience of the service. In some cases this may not be a problem at all (e.g. a blog, microblog, or bookmarks are often a public venture and not a matter of privacy) but in other cases it can be irresponsible. What a school needs to decide is what information they consider private and what information is OK for outsiders to have a copy of.

I would always suggest that staff email be kept as local as possible. I would also suggest that most documents be kept as local as possible. And in regard to online classwork and assessments, that too I would suggest a school keep as local as possible. I don’t see “FREE” and the convenience of these services as incentive enough to put copies of our staff email, school documents, and student work in the hands of a 3rd party. Frankly, I think staff/student email, documents, grades/transcripts, and class work are generally a private matter and schools using Cloud Computing to do such work should reconsider that choice.

Any thoughts?

ubuntu FUD masquerading as journalism

January 15, 2009

An ABC News affiliate in Madison Wisconsin pretends to play watchdog for consumers while spreading FUD about buying machines with GNU/Linux preinstalled. The article claims on behalf of the consumer:

Her Verizon High-Speed Internet CD won’t load, so she can’t access the internet.

Her Verizon High-Speed Internet CD isn’t needed to access the Internet. Like any Internet contract, she would have been given her user details and can easily enter them without the CD. To claim that “she can’t access the Internet” leads readers to a false conclusion. The article goes on:

She also can’t install Microsoft Word, which she says is a requirement for MATC’s online classes.

That simply can’t be true. OpenOffice Writer on Ubuntu will open any of the institution’s .doc files and if (for some absurd reason) the school requires uploaded files to be in .doc format, OpenOffice can do that too. To the credit of the journalist, he apparently contacted the school and they affirmed that she could do her online classes without Microsoft Windows.

Besides the impression that you can’t go to school or access the Internet with Ubuntu, a portion of the “featured video” left me scratching my head. The footage clearly shows this lady working with Ubuntu 7.10. Ubuntu 8.04 has been shipping on new Dells since last summer. Exactly when was this January 2009 article written?

What do Microsoft’s Bill Gates…

January 9, 2009

…U.S. president George W. Bush, a tragic coal mine collapse, drug addiction, and daily life in remote regions of Vietnam have in common?


Hmm, I’m not entirely sure but one wonders if the artist put these specific shots up together or if the journalist randomly noted them from the 58 shots on display. Unfortunately, I had already left Hue and read about it in Hanoi so I didn’t catch it. If anyone saw (or will see – it’s on until January 11th) it I’d like to hear more.