Archive for October, 2009

Free software: the best defense

October 31, 2009

Spyware and malware survive and thrive on secrecy. The best way to maintain secrecy in a software program is to deny users access to the program’s source code (i.e. by making the whole or part of the program proprietary). With Free software, users are free to audit and modify the corresponding source code of a program. This means malicious code (like backdoors) are easily thwarted.

In theory, malicious code can exist in popular Free software programs but it’s not practical. Adding malicious code to a Free software program and attempting to distribute that code through a mainstream channel is like knocking on every door in an apartment complex to inform the inhabitants of

A) you spying on/attacking them and
B) the method(s) you are using to do so

Of course, many users don’t look at or change source code (just as many people are not in their apartment when there’s a knock at the door). But all it takes is one honest programmer (or one person at home in the entire apartment complex) to become aware of what’s happening. In effect, someone will blow the whistle on any attempt to harm the users. This benefit is had by both programmers and average computer users alike.

The freedom that Free software offers is the best defense against malware and spyware.

This post is an update from a March 2007 entry.
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What the Dell?

October 29, 2009

At a euro.dell site the first two points are fine, no bias at all. But…

choose

And on the right, they imply that the benefits of Free software are primarily for programmers. Educational institutions should also compare and contrast two opposing statements here…on the left, “do not want to learn” and on the right, “want to learn”.

when DIY shouldn’t cut it

October 28, 2009

Botched:

The man’s lawyer, Doug Christie, tr[ied] to have the case tossed out on constitutional grounds, saying his religious motive negated any criminal intent.

Thrown out? A legal system has failed if “religious motive” can excuse such an act. I can buy the lack of criminal intent, but that’s only through an insanity defence. At the very least, the man needs to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

On a related but inconsequential note, I don’t understand why (especially in this day and age) some parents have their sons circumcised. I have heard several arguments but don’t find any of them compelling. Perhaps a medical condition could set in necessitating the procedure, but I’m referring to an otherwise healthy child.

web feature request: image search

October 16, 2009

I want to right-click a graphic and choose something like “search for related images”. Then have exact (ranked closely thereafter by not-quite-exact) results appearing as links in my browser.

The “not-quite-exact” results are the most interesting feature and what that may mean is beyond my technical knowledge (and for now, my imagination). But one example would be the image existing within another’s larger coordinate system. That is, the image exists elsewhere on the web as part of a larger image. I’m sure there are other possible results (e.g. a grayscaled or rotated image match would appear high in the rankings) but much smarter folks than me can work the possibilities out.

I can haz imuge serch?

windows: GNU/Linux’s latest app?

October 16, 2009

Check out this new Acer netbook that “dual-boots” Windows and Google’s GNU/Linux variant “Android”:

(No, this post is not to point out the video cutting at 1:33 because Windows is taking a lifetime to boot – that laugh is bonus)

At the 1:16 mark we see Android ask, “Switch to OS: Would you like boot (sic) to Windows?”. After confirmation, we see Windows begin to boot…or is it launch? I’m curious – has the Windows operating system been turned into a proprietary GNU/Linux application? It appears this Acer isn’t hard booting when the command is given to start Windows (where’s the BIOS’s output?). So is this a warm boot or has Windows been virtualized?

I’d be grateful to anyone with more information willing to pass it on. When Windows is shut down, are we back to GNU/Linux? Or do we need to boot the machine again?

decriminalizing drug use

October 8, 2009

The United States’ current version of their War on Drugs fails miserably because the problem of drug abuse is a health issue. Categorizing an illness as a crime makes the situation worse by introducing unnecessary problems. Instead of policy posturing to demonstrate a “get tough” approach on drugs, the US should get smart and reform laws to resemble those in countries like Portugal.

The current administration has indicated they’re open to change. However, simply making arrests a “low priority” doesn’t go nearly far enough. Decriminalization will coax more citizens suffering from addiction to seek treatment. As well, non-enforcement indicates a corruption of the law itself. If enforcement causes problems, the solution isn’t to ignore the law but to change it, so that its existence is just and beneficial to society.

taking the arts out of language arts

October 1, 2009

Tom Hoffman has an insightful but disturbing post regarding the push for adoption of the Common Standards in US schools. His comparison of other documents to the Common Standards makes it clear they’re designed not to improve Language Arts, but to satisfy the parties heavily invested in standardized testing results.

If you’re a stakeholder, it’s well worth your time essential to give Tom’s words a read. At the end of the post, he includes a link for commenting on the currently proposed draft.