- Here's what "normalization" means. Trump praises this bizarre offer from Putin in which U.S. gets to question the 12 Russians the U.S. DoJ accuses of engaging in election subterfuge, in exchange for Russia questioning William Browder and former ambassador Michael McFaul. News outlets go nuts about the proposal, bringing on talking heads to discuss what a crazy idea this is. The anchors and talking heads use inflammatory language about "handing over" Brower or McFaul, or letting Russia "interrogate" the subjects, etc. But no one, NOT ONE (so far as I've seen) of these commentators or news anchors mentions the obvious: that Browder and McFaul are private citizens, so there is no legal principle under which the U.S. executive branch could compel them to show up for the questioning anyway. Do you see what's happening here? Trump talks about this swap as though it's a thing he *could* do. He knows it'll never happen. But as people talk about what a terrible idea the swap is, they unwittingly accepting the premise that citizens are property for all-powerful rulers to use as pawns in the first place! They push back on Trump's specific proposal, but they first grant his assumptions & worldview in order to do it. That's normalization.For so long as I remain an active civil servant, I can't legally mutiny against the President. If I am able to leave the civil service, the Hatch Act comes off and then I can then criticize some of the madness a bit more. Until then, I'm one of the people that keeps the federal government funded by helping collect 93% of the gross.
More chapters in the readingThe fifth segment of the reading of The Francesians is up. Contains chapters 27 through 29.
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Alien rebootShow all 5 replies
- Neil deGrasse Tyson in a new video is dismayed at American rejection of science, though it was integral to the shaping of the US. "Science is a fundamental part of the country that we are."
He sees standing in denial of science and rising to power as a "recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy."
Right after that statement is a clip of Pence, as a congressman, speaking to congress and saying, "Let us demand that educators around America teach evolution not as fact, but as theory." Science denial, but continues to get elected.
Science is not affected by the intentionally misinformed science deniers. Unfortunately,
our understanding of science and our political system are both negatively affected by the
Tyson says, "When you have an established scientific emergent truth, it is true whether or not you believe in it."
Call your elected reprensentatives and remind them that Science is Real and they need to
take that into account when legislating. If they done, vote them out. Better yet, recall
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Plus, Minus: A Gentle Introduction to the Physics of Orthogonal has a remarkably simple explanation of the speed of light limit, time dilation, and other effects of relativity. Using nothing more complicated than triangle geometry in a couple of different geometric systems.
As Egan works through some of the implications of a Riemannian universe that has no speed limit, he concludes "Life will need to master some delicate reactions" and "only certain structures will be stable". Of course, he needed to find a somewhat plausible way for life to work in order to write three novels about it (which are quite good reads).
He doesn't explicitly bring up the Anthrophic principle, but if life in a Riemannian universe would be very unlikely and fragile, it's a good thing this isn't one. Being limited by the speed of light seems like a reasonable tradeoff..
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I will have to check this out. Thanks for discussing it!
A colleague of mine, S. James Gates (theoretical physicist), uses something he calls "The Einstein Hypotenuse" to engage an audience with some skill in high school trigonometry in understanding how certain things, like the speed of light, are left invariant even as space and time change with relative motion. It sounds very similar to what Egan uses.
Software Freedom Doesn't Kill People, Your Security Through Obscurity Kills People
The time has come that I must speak out against the inappropriate rhetoric used by those who (ostensibly) advocate for FLOSS usage in automotive applications.
There was a catalyst that convinced me to finally speak up. I heard a talk today from a company representative of a software supplier for the automotive industry. He said during his talk: "putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people" and "opening up the source code to cars will cause more harm than good". These statements are completely disingenuous. Most importantly, it ignores the fact that proprietary software in cars is at least equally, if not more, dangerous. At least one person has already been killed in a crash while using a proprietary software auto-control system. Volkswagen decided to take a different route; they decided to kill us all slowly (rather than quickly) by using proprietary software to lie about their emissions and illegally polluting our air.
Meanwhile, there has been not a single example yet about use of GPLv3 software that has harmed anyone. If you have such an example, email it to me and I promise to add it right here to this blog post.
So, to the auto industry folks and vendors who market to/for them: until you can prove that proprietary software assures safety in a way that FLOSS cannot, I will continue to tell you this: in the long and sad tradition of the Therac 25, your proprietary software has killed people, both quickly and slowly, and your attacks on GPLv3 and software freedom are not only unwarranted, they are clearly part of a political strategy to divert attention from your own industry's bad behavior and graft unfair blame onto FLOSS.
As a side note, during the talk's Q&A session, I asked this company's representatives how they assure compliance with the GPLv2 — particularly their compliance with provision of scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable, which are so often missing for many products, including vehicles. The official answer was: Oh, I don't know. Not only does this company publicly claim security through obscurity is a viable solution, accuse copyleft advocates of endangering the public safety, they also seem to have not fully learned the lessons of making FLOSS license compliance a clear part of their workflow.
This is, unfortunately, my general impression of the status of the automotive industry.Show all 13 replies
@MikeLinksvayer, I do think license politics matter. I can't get past the fact that the bifrication of "non-copyleft good", 'copyleft bad" has won and been a great part of the cooption by Open Source of software freedom. But you and I should talk more about how I can modify advocacy to avoid it better so as to succeed in reaching those who are annoyed by such -- I suspect there is a way that I just don't see yet. I've been meaning to call anyway so I will after my current trip. :)
@Richard Fontana, I decided not to call out the specific name of the person who gave the talk. The statements were typical of those made by many different automotive industry representatives and their providers over a period of years. The fact that this particular individual wasn't any better or worse than others I've heard, so there was no reason to single him out. The problem is the general auto-industry rhetoric and talking points, not one person's version of it.@bkuhn While I agree with most of your post, I don't know if it's fair to say that the Tesla crash was due to proprietary software.The Tesla self-driving system, I'm almost certain, relies on machine learning and a neural network. I suspect that even if their algorithms were free software, accidents would occur at the same rate, at least in the short term. The way I understand it, the source code isn't all that important, it's the training data gathered during all the millions of miles driven on the road. Without the data, you're not able to run the program yourself in any useful way other than what you already do by just driving the car. Even if you had access to the data, the volume is so gigantic that you probably wouldn't be able to train the program without expensive infrastructure. Neither would you be able to study the program in a meaningful way, since the neural network isn't "source code" comprehensible to a human.I do think self-driving cars would eventually be safer if their training data were open; the more training data, the better, and self-driving car manufacturers would be able to make self-driving cars safer for everyone if they would make their accumulated training data interoperable, so we would benefit in the long term. But for this particular accident I don't believe the blame rests with proprietary software.I'm curious what you think. I tend to think that many machine learning applications don't fit within the traditional separation between free versus proprietary software, because even if they are open, they don't afford a user the four freedoms. This is something I've been musing about recently, which is why I reacted to that particular portion of your post, but I don't know the answer.@bkuhn the key word in my comment is 'retreat'. Apparently this person said "putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people". Instead of extracting the substance from the license politics and making the case that safety is compatible with (or even requires) that car owners be able to install modified versions of software running on computers in cars, you took the license politics hook line and sinker, making facile claims about GPLv3 software never harming people (for what definition of harm? but nevermind, uninteresting) worthy of a TV soundbite but unworthy of any other form of discourse.
A Requiem for Ian Murdock
[ This post was crossposted on Conservancy's website. ]
I first met Ian Murdock gathered around a table at some bar, somewhere, after some conference in the late 1990s. Progeny Linux Systems' founding was soon to be announced, and Ian had invited a group from the Debian BoF along to hear about “something interesting”; the post-BoF meetup was actually a briefing on his plans for Progeny.
Many of the details (such as which conference and where on the planet it was), I've forgotten, but I've never forgotten Ian gathering us around, bending my ear to hear in the loud bar, and getting one of my first insider scoops on something big that was about to happen in Free Software. Ian was truly famous in my world; I felt like I'd won the jackpot of meeting a rock star.
More recently, I gave a keynote at DebConf this year and talked about how long I've used Debian and how much it has meant to me. I've since then talked with many people about how the Debian community is rapidly becoming a unicorn among Free Software projects — one of the last true community-driven, non-commercial projects.
A culture like that needs a huge group to rise to fruition, and there are no specific actions that can ensure creation of a multi-generational project like Debian. But, there are lots of ways to make the wrong decisions early. As near as I can tell, Ian artfully avoided the project-ending mistakes; he made the early decisions right.
Ian cared about Free Software and wanted to make something useful for the community. He teamed up with (for a time in Debian's earliest history) the FSF to help Debian in its non-profit connections and roots. And, when the time came, he did what all great leaders do: he stepped aside and let a democratic structure form. He paved the way for the creation of Debian's strong Constitutional and democratic governance. Debian has had many great leaders in its long history, but Ian was (effectively) the first DPL, and he chose not to be a BDFL.
The Free Software community remains relatively young. Thus, loss of our community members jar us in the manner that uniquely unsettles the young. In other words, anyone we lose now, as we've lost Ian this week, has died too young. It's a cliché to say, but I say anyway that we should remind ourselves to engage with those around us every day, and to welcome new people gladly. When Ian invited me around that table, I was truly nobody: he'd never met me before — indeed no one in the Free Software community knew who I was then. Yet, the mere fact that I stayed late at a conference to attend the Debian BoF was enough for him — enough for him to even invite me to hear the secret plans of his new company. Ian's trust — his welcoming nature — remains for me unforgettable. I hope to watch that nature flourish in our community for the remainder of all our lives.
StoryPicture possibly inspired by: http://decider.com/2015/12/11/the-radicalization-of-luke-skywalker-a-jedis-path-to-jihad/
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How Would Software Freedom Have Helped With VW?
[ A version of this blog post was crossposted on Conservancy's blog. ]
Would software-related scandals, such as Volkswagen's use of proprietary software to lie to emissions inspectors, cease if software freedom were universal? Likely so, as I wrote last week. In a world where regulations mandate distribution of source code for all the software in all devices, and where no one ever cheats on that rule, VW would need means other than software to hide their treachery.
Universal software freedom is my lifelong goal, but I realized years ago that I won't live to see it. I suspect that generations of software users will need to repeatedly rediscover and face the harms of proprietary software before a groundswell of support demands universal software freedom. In the meantime, our community has invented semi-permanent strategies, such as copyleft, to maximize software freedom for users in our current mixed proprietary and Free Software world.
In the world we live in today, software freedom can impact the VW situation only if a few complex conditions are met. Let's consider the necessary hypothetical series of events, in today's real world, that would have been necessary for Open Source and Free Software to have stopped VW immediately.
First, VW would have created a combined or derivative work of software with a copylefted program. While many cars today contain Linux, which is copylefted, I am not aware of any cars that use Linux outside of the on-board entertainment and climate control systems. The VW software was not part of those systems, and VW engineers almost surely wrote the emissions testing mode code from scratch. Even if they included some non-copylefted Open Source or Free Software in it, those licenses don't require disclosure of any source code; VW's ability to conceal its bad actions with non-copylefted code is roughly identical to the situation of proprietary VW code before us. As a thought experiment, though, let's pretend, that VW based the nefarious code on Linux by writing a proprietary Linux module to trick the emissions testing systems.
In that case, VW would have violated the GPL. But that alone is far from enough to ensure anyone would catch VW. Indeed, GPL violations remain very prevalent, and only one organization enforces the GPL for Linux (full disclosure: that's Software Freedom Conservancy, where I work). That organization has such limited enforcement resources (only three people on staff, and enforcement is one of many of our programs), I suspect that years would pass before Conservancy had the resources to pursue the violation; Conservancy currently has hundreds of Linux GPL violations queued for action. Even once opened, most GPL violations take years to resolve. As an example, we are currently enforcing the GPL against one auto manufacturer who has Linux in their car. We've already spent hundreds of hours and the company to date continues to fail in their GPL compliance efforts. Admittedly, it's highly unlikely that particular violator has a GPL-violating Linux module specifically designed to circumvent automotive regulations. However, after enforcing the GPL in that case for more than two years, I still don't have enough data about their use of Linux to even know which proprietary Linux modules are present — let alone whether those modules are nefarious in any way other than as violating Linux's license.
Thus, in today's world, a “software freedom solution” to prevent the VW scandal must meet unbelievable preconditions: (a) VW would have to base all its software on copylefted Open Source and Free Software, and (b) an organization with a mission to enforce copyleft for the public good would require the resources to find the majority of GPL violators and ensure compliance in a timely fashion. This thought experiment, even with an otherwise unreal initial assumption, quickly shows how much more work remains to advance and defend software freedom. While requirements of source code disclosure, such as those in copyleft licenses, are necessary to assure the benefits of software freedom, they cannot operate unless someone exercises the offers for source and looks at the details.
We live in a world where most of the population accepts proprietary software as legitimate. Even major trade associations, such as the OpenStack Foundation and the Linux Foundation, in the Open Source community laud companies who make proprietary software, as long as they adopt and occasionally contribute to some Free Software too. Currently, it feels like software freedom is winning, because the overwhelming majority in the software industry believe Open Source and Free Software is useful and superior only in some circumstances. Furthermore, while I appreciate the aspirational ideal of voluntary Open Source, I find in my work that so many companies, just as VW did, will cheat against important social good policies unless someone watches and regulates. Mere adoption of Open Source won't work alone; we only yield the valuable results of software freedom if software is copylefted and someone upholds that copyleft.
Indeed, just as it has been since the 1980s, very few people believe that software freedom is of fundamental importance for all software users. Scandals, like VW's use of proprietary software to hide other bad acts, might slowly change opinions, but one scandal is rarely enough to permanently change public opinion. I therefore encourage those who support software freedom to take this incident as inspiration for a stronger stance, and to prepare yourselves for the long haul of software freedom advocacy.
The Manipulation Tactics of GPL violators
Ugh, I had a tightly scheduled day of urgent Conservancy work to finish before I leave for DebConf tomorrow, and a GPL violator decided to start playing head games with me this morning. It's already burned an hour of my time today and will likely burn more. Which, at this point, simply translates into less sleep for me, the night before a 18 hr travel day en route to DebConf.
People rightly point out that I'm often indigant about GPL violators, but it's because they (and their allies who oppose GPL enforcement) *know* that the only orgs that enforce the GPL are tiny compared to them, and squeezing the individuals to the breaking point of overwork is a viable strategy to end GPL enforcement. It's the classic lawyer strategy of "waste your opponents' time when you have more resources than they do"
I've survived because I simply refuse to break. I hope it continues to work. But many, I wish I could sleep on planes. It's those kinds of things I think at a time like this: I have to become an UberMensch merely to get my job done, and be able to do everything, including sleeping in on a coach flight like I'm in my own bed. If you see me at DebConf Friday morning, at least you'll know why I'm about to collapse. :)
Anyway, back to work!
Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) shared this.Show all 6 repliesWhy be indignant at the execution of a classic strategy? They are your opponents after all. You are a very limited resource, even if you were somehow dedicated 24hrs/day to GPL enforcement. Why have they not dedicated a bit more of their vast resources to occupying your limited resources? Do they just not find GPL enforcement a very important threat? That's what I'd be indignant about.
Your classic strategy of refusing to break coupled with (elsewhere) dismal prediction of a dark age brings to mind that folk tale and song about a steel-driving man.
human interest details
ISumaTV is doing content distribution in Northern regions of Canada using git-annex, and free software built on top of it. I like to imagine this involves bush planes and dog sleds and satellite receivers with my software on them, but I really don't know the human-interest details.
We programmers so rarely do, often all we get to see is the bug reports..
http://www.isuma.tv/media-players-network and http://isuma-media-players.readthedocs.org/en/latest/design.html are an interesting reads anyhow.the hard drives and machines are usually shipped by planes, and the uplink is satellite... there way more folklore than we like to think up there... a lot of the original culture is being lost in our globalized nightmare, unfortunately... which is exactly one of the things isuma is trying to adress!
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- Congress is trying to ram through the TPP again. Share these images to spread the alarm https://u.fsf.org/1a7