Brad DeLong has hypotheses about the roots of Free Software

You can read the whole thing here

In response to another article, wherein someone notes–mostly without suprise–that Linux is becoming a real contender for desktop use, Brad puts forth the following:

There are two theories about open-source. The first is that while it has always been possible for a charismatic leader to call forth immense team effort and accomplish great things by force of inspiration and example alone, such enterprises are never stable. In the long run you need either the stick of potential punishment–call it the authority of the state–or the carrot of material reward–the market–in order to maintain a large social division of labor and preserve a project across any substantial length of time. Call this process the routinization of charisma.

On this theory, those parts of open-source that will survive are those that get successfully routinized: substantial companies with big revenue flows have to say to people, “We’ve hired you to work on open-source, specifically Linux.” Why would a company do this? Well, why was Microsoft so eager to make sure that the hardware specification for the IMB PC remained open? Anyone with a substantial market position in a neighboring segment can profit enormously from the expansion of the market that free-as-in-beer product provides. This is what IBM is doing now by supporting Linux: trying to remove or at least reduce the Windows tax on computers, and so grow the market in the business-services segment that IBM is close to dominating.

Think of it this way: Microsoft is like the late Roman Empire, IBM is like the Huns, and the Linux programmers are like the Goths. IBM’s support of Linux is the analogue of the Huns driving the Goths before them to soften up the Roman Empire at the end of the fourth century.

The second theory is that it has been difficulties in communication and organization that have prevented the running of persistent, large-scale divisions of labor off of other human motives than fear and greed, but that now–thanks to the IT revolution–costs of communication and organization have dropped far enough that simple enthusiasm, curiosity, or the desire to demonstrate technical skill can attract enough part-time workers who can be coordinated enough to make meaningful contributions to an ongoing project.

It will be interesting to see what the answer is.

It is an interesting question. Despite having been on the inside of this for a long time, I have no idea what the answer is.

What a potentially interesting site

After reading that there was some sort of connection between the Allman Brothers’ In Memory of Elizabeth Reed and Miles Davis, I did a quick google search, and stumbled across songfacts, which has the potential to be an interesting site.

He’s big and red and files his horns

reprint series. In fact, looking over a list of his published work, that’s about all I think I was likely to have seen. I’m actually amazed that I’ve read so little of his stuff, because he certainly made an impression on me.

Well, I’ve also enjoyed reading Hellboy, with its wisecracking take on neo-Lovecraftian horror, but I just picked that up in the last year.

So, as I said some time ago (before the movie came out in theaters), I wasn’t sure how I’d like the movie adaptation.

In fact, I liked it just fine. I don’t think it was anything more than escapism, but I’m recovering from straining my back, and there are much worse ways to spend two hours stretched out on the couch. But, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t try and watch it with a pair of speakers whose cones have succumbed to dry rot. The constant flatulence is distracting.

I do believe we’re going to have to go out and buy some new speakers tomorrow.

The blessings of obsolete computer systems.

My el-cheapo wedding ring.

As I had occasion to be reminded today, I needed a new wedding ring.

Now, I went the first 6 3/4 years of my marriage without one. For the first couple, well, it would have given it away–although, in retrospect, there could have been a lot of fun in watching people figure it out–and for a good while after that we just had more important things upon which to spend money.

Finally, though, in 2001, flush with money from The California Job, Anne and I went and got rings.

Now, I’m not much of a jewelry person; I have a class ring that I don’t wear, and that’s pretty much it. I haven’t even owned a watch this millennium. But (never one to be without an opinion) I know I don’t care for yellow gold, which pretty much drove us to platinum.

This of course made them expensive, but if you figure in the wedding we didn’t pay for, the years of our lives not lost to wedding-induced stress, etc., it still seemed like a bargain.

Within a year, I had lost it, I believe somewhere within the confines of our own house.

This was the moment when platinum seemed sorta foolish.

Well, that was three years ago, but I finally decided it was time to replace it. So we went back to Ross-Simon, with a card we had from when we got the originals, thinking we could just give them the little code on the card, and have them order a new one up.

They had changed computer systems.

The code we had no longer meant anything to their system, and no visual inspection of catalogs produced an identical match. Although we initially took them up on their offer to try and research what our original bands were, after walking around for half an hour, we decided that it was not a point of obsession to us that the bands actually match–so we marched back down, and started looking at options.

Now, I’m sure it labels me as a geek–were there any doubt–that as soon as I heard titanium, I was intrigued. I was also convinced that it must be expensive–I mean, this is the stuff they make tail sections of F4s out of so they can withstand the heat (if you look at a picture, like this, it’s the shiny bits behind and above the exhaust), it’s got to be expensive, right?

Nope. Wrong. Light as a feather, virtually indestructible, and if I lose this one, well, they’re not quite disposable, but they don’t cost much more than a meal at a good restaurant.

Incidentally, you must check out this video of an F4 being used to crash-test a wall for a nuclear facility. The plane disappears more or less without a trace.

No rest for the wicked

This is a little tardy, but I feel I must mention that as of roughly 10 PM CST November 22, 2004, I have a new nephew, Nigel Sanford Berry.

On the subject of the name, I can only speculate that my brother in law (Hi, Cory!) didn’t think that naming his first son Calvin Rufus Berry was sufficient revenge on his parents for naming him Corlis–I wish, though, he had opted for therapy instead of a path that willguarantee his sons get beat up every day after school. It’s just a little too “sins of the grandparents” meets Darwin.

Then again, Patrick has a daughter named Hadley. Maybe it’s something in the water.

I’ve decided I’m going to call Nige “Junior”, since he shares a middle name with his dad–I have a nasty feeling that’s going to be a stand-out accomplishment in this family. I mean, what are they gonna call any daughters that turn up? Petunia Eglantine Berry? Calliope Dorothea Berry?

Just thinking of a child named Calliope makes me laugh. Boy will I feel guilty if that ever comes to pass.

Seriously, I look forward to seeing him at Christmas, no matter how bald, pink, wrinkled, noisy and smelly he may be.

My days of router hackery are over…

I broke down and did what I’d recently recommended to someone else–I bought a Linksys WRT54GS, and then I ponied up the $20/year for the subscription to sveasoft.com’s super-firmware.

(Yes, I know there’s some conflict about GPL compliance WRT sveasoft.com, although from my understanding of the issues (that they want to restrict circulation of betas), I don’t have a problem with it, really.)

Boy, I am awfully pleased.

For < $100 all told, I got 802.11g (though I am having one bastard of a time finding a cardbus card with an in-kernel driver), a four-port switch (though I’m really only using one), a router, a VPN server (albeit PPTP), a dhcp server that’ll do static address assignments, a local DNS server that cooperates with it, and no doubt a bunch of other stuff I haven’t discovered yet.

I don’t generally like consumer hardware, but sometimes they get it right.

Why do they do it? (AKA avoid the Netgear WG511, Linux users)

Hardware manufacturers seem to be obsessed with rejiggering the internals of their products without putting any markings on the packaging (or hell, on the card, or even in its top-level PCI information) to indicate that something has changed. This screws Linux users on a regular basis.

The particular case in point–which I suggest you avoid–is the Netgear WG511. The original (v1) iteration of this Cardbus 802.11g card used the Intersil PrismGT/Duette chipset which is well-supported under Linux–it has a driver (prism54) that’s been in the kernel for several months now and it’s apparently fast and reliable.

Unfortunately, some time recently, Netgear (and apparently other manufacturers, including SMC) started using the Intersil Frisbee in these cards. This chipset, though it declares the same PCI ID (but a different “subsystem ID”), is not compatible with the GT/Duette chipset.

So, to review: the external packaging has no distinguishing markings, the card itself has no distinguishing markings, and the PCI information only indicates that it’s a different “subsystem”.

Avoid this card at all costs!

21 Dog Years

So, in an amusing coincidence–given that I had just spent three months among ex-Amazonians–Anne’s friend Chapman got me a copy of this book as a birthday gift.

It is not the book I was thinking it was–there is apparently some other Amazon insider that mentions my friend Alex by name. It’s a quick, light read. A fair amount of dot-bomb silliness can be recognized.

Yet, at the same time, I guess it’s the final proof that I’m not a slacker that I find the main character unlikeable. Self-centered, uninterested in doing work, a dilettante who doesn’t even do a good job of that, he pretty much offended me.

I mean, it’s not like I have some relentlessly Puritan work ethic–I regularly lose an hour or so each Thursday afternoon after I get back from the comic shop. I don’t always get started all that early. Even when I’m working long hours, I don’t necessarily get a whole lot done.

But at least I don’t think of this as my right, that I shouldn’t have to work.

How cool was that?

U2 always seems to just take over SNL when they show up. Their 2000 performance (the day after the 20th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder) had Bono walking through the crowd, incorporating bits of Instant Karma during Elevation! (IIRC).

This time around, they did three songs (and the broadcast cut a fourth) and if you watch at the end of I Will Follow, well, let’s just say that some fan will one day be able to tell kids about her lap dance from Bono.

And then Amy Poehler looks like she’s about to faint in Bono’s arms.

My, my.

My local NPR station has a problem with the phrase “reproductive health and rights”

A local organization was told that it would have to remove the word “rights” from its on-air sponsorship spot.

The conflict between Ipas and WUNC has drawn national attention. Last month WUNC informed Ipas that it would have to remove “rights” from its on-air acknowledgement, which had read, in part, “Ipas, a Chapel Hill-based nonprofit that protects women’s reproductive health and rights at home and abroad.”

Joan Siefert Rose, WUNC’s general manager, said the phrase could be interpreted as advocating a political position, potentially running afoul of Federal Communications Commission regulations.

I have to say, I think they’re being lily-livered, and I’m not sure they deserve my money. But, it is an interesting fact that a lot of media outlets are now becoming concerned about the apparently arbitrary and capricious nature of enforcement of FCC rules; that this also involves an organization that is, you know, pro-choice, is doubly worrisome.

It isn’t the first time I’ve seen the thesis

Basically, the suggestion over at New Donkey is that, in fact, the nature of marriage has always been changing, and points out the fact that both Luther and Calvin felt that marriage was a secular thing that should not involve the church.

I’ve also heard it suggested, many months ago, that marriage as a formal ceremony originated as a way to be assured of the “proper” passing-down of property (poor people would just be “common law” man and wife), and that the clergy got involved because they were the only ones who were literate.

From Robert Fripp’s Diary

Jeff’s young new neighbour & his pal, on learning of Jeff’s professional area, asked him if he knew any rock stars.
JF: Have you heard of King Crimson?
A: Air-guitaring to the opening riff of 21st. Century Schizoid Man.
JF: How do you know that? (the riff was first played some 23 years before the neighbour was born).
A. Our friend used it for the music to his skateboard video.

Jeff didn’t mention Ozzy Osbourne is covering Schizoid Man on his next album.

I guess Ozzy just made another sale–I gotta hear this.

Just in case you thought it was about protecting marriage…

Yeah, yeah, Tom Oliphant likes Kerry, and he’s a Massachusetts liberal and all, but that doesn’t change the fact that, of the 11 state ballot initiatives portrayed as “protecting marriage”, only three were just about that–“the other 8 were about restricting people’s abilities to make certain sorts of contracts”:http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/11/07/the_gay_marriage_deception/:

In pivotal Ohio, for example, the voters may not have realized it but they voted to strip people of the right to contractually arrange distribution of assets, child custody, pensions, and other employment benefits.

Yep, those are the sorts of things that people in long term relationships who can’t get married might want to arrange. But they’ve been explicitly denied the right to enter into those sorts of contracts.

Your “small government” party at work.

Hopefully some activist judges will strike down these laws. Presumably, it shouldn’t be too hard a sell, since apparently people didn’t bother to find out what they were voting for, and are now presumably suffering buyers remorse:

The evidence is that the voters who approved it also opposed its actual contents. In the official exit poll Tuesday night, 27 percent of the voters said they support full marriage rights, 35 percent supported civil unions, and only 27 percent oppose any legal rights for same-sex couples. In other words, to underline the importance of artifice and deception in our sound-bite culture, the voters approved a measure opposed substantively by 62 percent of the very same voters.

Somehow I suspect that the local media didn’t do a great job of explaining to people what those initiatives meant–they just parroted the talking points of those who proposed them, and if that misrepresented the substance of the initiative, well, who’re the media to do actual, you know, reporting.

I can’t decide if this is good or bad

The Wachowski Brothers will be producing a movie of Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta.

Now, V isn’t bad–although it’s hardly Alan Moore’s best work, as it is lacking in subtlety in many spots–but I don’t see how they won’t do a Constantine on it–and let’s face it, that’s one movie I’m not intending to see in theaters, if at all.

I mean, to understand one of the first scenes in the story, you have to know what Guy Fawkes Day is about, and in a country where they had to re-title The Madness of King George III because people thought they’d missed the first two installments, well, that’s just going to be too much.

I do find interesting this little tidbit:

The project has been around for years, with Romeo Is Bleeding writer Hilary Henkin taking a stab at it at one point, but without success, the trade paper reported.

I mean, that would definitely produce an interesting movie–??”Romeo is Bleeding”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0107983/?? was…different. The scene where Lena Olin has Gary Oldman in a scissor hold from the backseat of his car, and he’s obviously loosing control and is going to crash and she’s laughing. That’s fucked up.

Very cool (once I figured it out)

So, I’ve had this Wacom tablet for a while–a couple of years now, I think. Haven’t done a whole lot with it, though it’s been connected into the USB hub pretty much the whole time.

Now, my desk has become a hellhole over the last few days–packaging stacked up from my new router/wireless gateway (about which more in another post), CD’s waiting to be ripped, my big Thinkpad docking station–the one that has a PCI slot in it–which I think I’ve more or less permanently traded for the little port replicator at this point, comic books, wall-warts, you name it.

Anyway, as a result of all this other stuff being on the desk, at some point the mouse pointer that comes with the Wacom ended up getting set on the tablet–it’s generally sat off to once side. I certainly didn’t think anything of it.

Several hours followed in which the Trackpoint on my Thinkpad would act, um…erratically. You try and go in one direction, and it’d let you go for a bit, and then you’d be dragged back to the point you were at, or thrown off in a random direction–all sorts of flakery.

The scary part is that the only thing that really annoyed me was Firefox–tabbing through Google search results is tedious. Pretty much everything else I can (and often do) control from the keyboard anyway.

Still, the Firefox thing was a big pain in the ass, especially since I was doing a lot of googling to try and figure out why my new wireless card wasn’t working (new router/gateway, remember?).

I must have rebooted thirty times, poking at various BIOS options, and trying different kernels (new wireless card, and I’d made a couple of other changes earlier in the day, and generally had too many changes in play at once) and pretty much any other possibility–however remote–that presented itself.

Finally, by this morning, I had pretty much decided that this all meant the Trackpoint was dying, which pretty much meant I was going to be getting a new notebook very soon–which is fine, I’ve been planning to get one since before I went to DC, and I know basically which one I want, and I should even be able to play a good game of Doom III on it.

And then I bumped the Wacom mouse, and the cursor on the screen moved. And if I moved the Wacom mouse off the tablet entirely, the Trackpoint started working again.

So I did some googling, and generally poked at things in my XF86Config-4 file–that I set up when I got the machine three and a half years ago and pretty much haven’t touched since–and lo and behold, I now have the Wacom up and working when I want it, and the Trackpoint for the other 98% of the time. Just as long as I don’t set any of the Wacom pointers on the tablet, I’m golden.

Now to get pressure sensitivity for the Wacom pen working in the GIMP.

Bring out yer tinfoil hats!

!http://a1055.g.akamai.net/f/1055/1401/5h/images.barnesandnoble.com/images/8400000/8401001.gif!cryptographic algorithm have put an awful lot of work into creating a more secure Linux, and now O’Reilly has a book about it.

Although my perspective is a little bit lower-level than most people–since I’m a professional sysadmin and software developer–the fact is, SELinux is almost certainly the wave of the future. Fedora Core is trying hard to ship with SELinux enabled by default–in fact, I think FC3 does, but I’m not sure; I do know an earlier beta did, but there were some problems.

Anyway, kids, this is the wave of the future–there is no indication that the Internet is going to do anything but get more hostile, and this is going to be an important ingredient in making sure your boxes don’t get beaten to death by the script kiddies. Consider picking up a copy yourself if you run any Linux boxes.

I’m sure Chet will be horrified…

…at least insofar as Achtung Baby is listed as one of U2′s best albums. Regardless of whether you agree with Chet’s assessment (I certainly don’t–I think U2′s discovery of irony was a watershed moment for them), the article in the NYT is worth reading. And just so you know, they’ll be on Saturday Night Live this weekend.

Oh, and if anyone by chance has a copy of U2′s last last performance on SNL, I’d appreciate a copy–specifically the rendition of Elevation that interpolated Instant Karma.

Hollywood Producers

So, I have to wonder, does it ever occur that people in Hollywood set out, “Producers”:http://imdb.com/title/tt0063462/-like, to intentionally make a really, really bad movie?

Because, honestly, I can’t come up with any other reason that An American Werewolf in Paris would have been made. I scanned it–ah, the joys of TiVo because I have a lot of affection for An American Werewolf in London, an altogether better, if lower budget, movie that, like Logan’s Run, has the added bonus of having Jenny Agutter (who, I find, has not actually been in a movie I’ve seen since 1987) nekkid.

This brings up, an interesting, if trivial, question for which Google has not been able to produce an answer: in the movie, Julie Delpy character’s name is Serafine (sometimes spelled Seraphine). In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, one of the characters, who is, incidentally, a werewolf, also has the name Seraphine, although she goes by Angua. So, is the name some sort reference that Google can’t find, or is Terry Pratchett inexplicably a fan of the movie (since I believe the appearance of that name only dates back to 1999, a couple of years later)?

(Incidentally, there is a very weird site I stumbled upon in my search, Otaku World. Actually, it’s not so much the site that is weird as the fact that they have “a whole section of “”paper dolls”:http://otakuworld.com/kiss/”. One of which is supposedly an illustration of Angua, although it looks nothing like any illustration I’ve seen before.)

And, finally, one of those weird bits of interconnectedness.

When I was four or five–while my mom and my infant brother and I were living in Birmingham with various relatives while my dad was stuck in Korea for a year (and I don’t know how the fuck one maintains a relationship at that distance for that long; three months and a couple hundred miles is tough, I can’t imagine that)–I insisted that I wanted to stay up and watch the movie Trilogy of Terror, and that I wouldn’t be scared, etc.

(I suspect many people haven’t seen the original, but The Simpson’s Halloween episode where the Krusty doll comes to life and tries to kill Homer is based on it.)

Anyway, predictably, I was scared shitless. I had nightmares from that movie for years (comments on the IMDB message board suggest others did, too).

The author? “William F. Nolan”:http://imdb.com/name/nm0634368/, co-author of the afore-mentioned Logan’s Run.

By my body betrayed!

So, knowing that I was going to be suffering some bad allergies when I got back in town post-election, I made an appointment with my doctor, with the intention of reviewing the drugs I take for them (and the related asthma), but the doctor decided to turn it into a full physical checkup since, well, I hadn’t had one in four years.

Heck, I haven’t been to the doctor at all in two and a half years–I’ve been healthy.

So, anyway, I was kind of expecting some plaudits for having dropped 20 pounds and generally being in better health, plus some new drugs.

Instead, I found out I have a hernia.

Well, the doctor was complementary about the fact that I’d lost 20 pounds without resorting to diets and so forth, but it kinda paled in comparison to the fact that I have some surgery I need to schedule.

This has totally freaked me out.

I mean, intellectually, I know that as such things go, this is trivial, and, frankly, the doctor doesn’t even seem to think there’s any exceptional urgency–it’s not large, I don’t have any pain associated with it, etc.

Yet, I find myself vaguely nauseous every time I think about it. While I’d originally thought to wait until after the holidays to get it done, now I’m thinking I may need to get it over with sooner, just so I won’t dwell on it.

Anyway, it’s nothing major, but boy, this is not what I wanted to come home to.

I’ll try and quit being a baby now.