What the developers are for


c0d3g33k wrote there:

I'm a developer. (Professionally, that is, not for Gentoo). Used to be a scientist - had more fun writing the tools than doing the science. In my professional life, I've seen self-important high school dropouts slag accomplished lawyers, physicians, scientists and businessfolk, calling them "lusers" because they don't understand the sublime intricacies of Perl or HTML or XML or CSS or Struts or Java or C++ or C or Lisp or Assembly or . Self-important people who had the audacity to think that understanding a <form> tag, or a do:while loop or 'public static void main(String args[])' trumps the ability to keep somebody out of prison, or save someone's life or discover new drugs or found a successful company. Here's a wakeup call: Software development is something we used to do on the side in addition to our real jobs because it was a useful tool to accomplish our real goals. If you're a developer and you start feeling full of yourself, realize that *a lot of people can do it themselves, they just don't have the time*. It's like any other skill. Devote yourself to it and be a professional, but don't assume that your skills are the pinnacle of achievement against which all else pales. My motivation for developing software professionally is because it enables other professionals (or ordinary people) to do their jobs better, easier and quicker. The moment I forget that and assume that my self-indulgence is more important than enabling people to accomplish more with better tools, I've failed. Because there's nothing more sad than creating a tool that nobody wants to use. I hate that more than anything. Users aren't there to justify and validate your need to develop. Developers are there to develop tools that enable other human beings to do great things. My opinion of self-important developers is left as an exercise to the reader.

Don't sell yourself short as a developer - it's a wonderful skill to have. But realize that it's a skill that is fully realized only when it is enabling something else work better. You can't eat code, or drive it, or keep warm in the winter with it. But code can make these things better, more affordable, less expensive. So next time you are about to rake a "luser" over the coals, think about what they might be trying to accomplish. And realize they will accomplish it without you, easily. They have been doing so for all of history, not just since Babbage first conceived of his difference engine. So keep things in perspective.

Microsoft is like the Matrix

(note: this is a followup to my previous post)

The majority of the users Just Don't Know. The reference to the "Matrix" movie is both stunning and crystal clear. Right now, nine years after the first film was produced, I have been enlightened:

Microsoft is like the Matrix.

It's all about control and power. The only difference is that Microsoft does not desire electricity, but the money. All it can get. Now read, think and have fun.

We are trained in this world to accept only what is rational and logical. Have you ever wondered why? As children, we do not separate the possible from the impossible which is why the younger a mind is the easier it is to free, while a mind like yours can be very difficult.

Free from what?

From the Microsoft.

Do you want to know what it is, Neo? It's that feeling you have had all your life. That feeling that something was wrong with the world. You don't know what it is but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad, driving you to me. But what is it?

The Microsoft is everywhere, its products are all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out your window, or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. The computers use Microsoft products everywhere. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

What truth?

That you are a slave, Neo.

Like everyone else, you were born into bondage... born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind.

Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Microsoft slavery is. You have to see it for yourself.

I promised you the truth, Neo, and the truth is that the world you were living in was a lie.

There are countries, Neo, many countires... Where human beings no longer simply work with computers. We are being accustomed.

For the longest time, I wouldn't believe it. And then I saw their practices with my own eyes...

We are, as a money source, easily renewable and completely recyclable. The old customers can go and lots of new ones will buy new computers loaded with Microsoft software anyway. All they needed to control this money bag was something to occupy our mind.

And so they built a prison out of our past, wired it to our brains and turned us into slaves.

(after you've been shown an open OS (like Linux or BSD), tried to install/use it, failed at some point but resisted in using it)
I can't go back, can I?

No. But if you could, would you really want to?

I feel that I owe you an apology. There is a rule that we do not free a mind once it reaches a certain age. It is dangerous. They have trouble letting go. Their mind turns against them. I've seen it happen. I broke the rule because I had to.

When the monopoly was first built there was a man born inside (think: RMS) that had the ability to change what he wanted, to remake the license as he saw fit. It was this man that freed the first of us and taught us the secret of the war; control the source code and you control the future.

When he designed the GPL, the Oracle at the temple of Zion prophesied an even greater glory for his follower (think: Linus) and envisioned an end to the war and freedom for our people.

The Microsoft is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you look at the users, who do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are a part of that system and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inert, they are so accustomed to their programs, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.

Were you listening to me or looking at the woman in the red dress?
(note: I bet the name of a woman in red dress must have been Windows Vista!)

This isn't the Microsoft?

It's another training program designed to teach you one thing: If you are not one of us, you are one of them.

You know, I know that the ideal operating system doesn't exist. I know when I run it in my computer, the Microsoft is telling my brain that it is secure and efficient. After nine years, do you know what I've realized?

Ignorance is bliss.

Then we have a deal?

I don't want to remember nothing. Nothing! You understand? And I want to be rich. Someone important. Like a CEO. You can do that, right?

Whatever you want, Mr. Ballmer.

Do not try and bend the facts. That's impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth.

What truth?

There are no facts. (think: "Get the Facts" campaign)

Then you'll see that it is not the facts that bend. It is only yourself.

I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You are afraid of change.

I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin.

I'll hang up this phone. And then I'll show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.

Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.


Yanking the Window Shade

I've just read, right from the blog of Helios:
(note: original site used to be inaccessible, you may need to use the Wayback Machine for reading the story)

There is so much truth in his words. The majority of the users Just Don't Know. The reference to the "Matrix" movie is both stunning and crystal clear. Right now, nine years after the first film was produced, I have been enlightened:

Microsoft is like the Matrix

It's all about the control and power. The only difference is that Microsoft does not desire electricity, but the money. All it can get.

Thank you, Helios. You can count on me, ever after.


OOXML Payback Time as Global Standards Work in SC 34 "Grinds to a Halt"

Q: What do you get when you add too many new members to a committee and those members later refuse to vote?
A: A committee where work grinds to a halt.

The "original" members still try to vote, but the "fresh" members do not vote, yet still:

at least 50% of the P [Principal] members eligible to vote must in fact return a ballot.

So if the "fresh" members do not behave, the work stops. Nice? Not much. In my opinion they should be kicked out strong, after they receive an appropriate warning and do not respond to it either.


Burton Group's response to Ars Technica's Article on the ODF/OOXML Report


And the best quote:

ALL experts [...] who have REVIEWED [...] the OOXML specification have CONCLUDED that it is a memory dump of Microsoft Office binary data structures.

I wholeheartedly agree 100% - I have also concluded the same, not long ago after I've read the technical objections on the:
(a nice reading, by the way).


Gentoo ravings

Dear Gentoo,

Just reading articles like this one I've just found makes strange waves inside me:

The Linux Project: Gentoo revisited

This makes me both nostalgic and alerted. Gentoo was my first *real* Linux system I've used with success for 3+ years. I suppose these were the best times for both of us, me personally and Gentoo as a distribution. Until, of course, drobbins - the Gentoo creator - left the project for a while (for financial reasons). Author of the aforementioned article is totally right in one aspect, there is something ultra-special in the way Gentoo is installed manually. You literally put your hands on the keyboard and *create* the thing, your very own Linux install, from almost nothing. Using only a mere 27MB of a stage1 image and 40MB of a compressed portage tree. I mean, the manual installation really feels like an act of creation, the flashing lines of compiler output makes a unique feeling, especially when the first successful install is made. And a quote of the blinkenlights come to mind very quickly:

This room is fullfilled mit special electronische equippment.
Fingergrabbing and pressing the cnoeppkes from the computers is
allowed for die experts only! So all the "lefthanders" stay away
and do not disturben the brainstorming von here working
intelligencies. Otherwise you will be out thrown and kicked
anderswhere! Also: please keep still and only watchen
astaunished the blinkenlights

Yes, for a long while installing packages in Gentoo is like this: you issue an "emerge" command and watch the things moving in amazement. Yes, it can become tiresome at some point, especially when packages fail to compile, give strange errors, important stuff needs to be upgraded (like gcc, python, portage) and things break in strange ways during the process... At this point you start the famous distro-hopping and wonder how much electricity is being wasted worldwide during repeated Gentoo compilations here and there.

This is the moment when one grows up and the fun is lost. At least partially.

And yet, when the whole project shows the signs of fragility, when the former head of the project makes offer in his blog to return and help, when a trustee reveals the details of healing process, I just stumble upon said article and then I don't really know what to do.

Since I've departed from Gentoo like two years ago I never felt at home. Well, maybe I do to some extent, using Ubuntu (and I love the Code of Conduct, it's a great idea Gentoo should learn from). I've contributed to the Debian and Ubuntu docs and helped to extend/update the installation manual for the debootstrap method. This is almost on par with the manual Gentoo installation method, since several config files need to be created and then the noble and dependable apt-get does the rest. Shortly speaking, the DEB files just rock. And I confess, I hate RPM (this is illogical, I know, since so many distros use it, but it gives me the creeps). To some extent debootstrap is even cleaner, all it needs is several scripts and an empty partition, the rest is downloaded and installed on the fly from a mirror server. Yes, it gives a barebone base system that boots into a command line. But mind you, I admire Debian and have the greatest respect for it, but Gentoo just feels and looks slicker, at least for me personally.

And I say yes, I would like to install it back (and I always have a spare partition where it would fit, I really do), but there is always something. The great schizm/blessing of Paludis (depending on who you ask), an exodus of Gentoo developers, ubiquity of Ubuntu (it works, it's easy and problems are very googleable and my family use it) do not make my decisions any simpler. I have even installed Arch Linux (another great distribution) and it has almost everything I would like to see in Gentoo, but it's just not the same.

Oh, Gentoo, Gentoo. Where are you going? And what should I do?

Answer: Maybe I should read userfriendly.org more often?


Real men don't attack straw men

For the historical record:


In short: Richard Stallman, the GNU creator, says in his own particular idiom on the openbsd-misc mailing list that he "doesn't recommend OpenBSD". Because of his style of writing and resulting understatements people tend to treat his opinions literally, and attack him. During the following storm-o'words (aka flamewar) interesting things are being said.

In the end I've lost a great deal of respect for the original poster. This is one of the moments after which I realize that I've grown up a little more.

If/when I find time to read the story again I'm going to add quotes along with the links. Here's one for start:

The GNU Project campaigns to give software users these four essential freedoms:

Freedom 0: the freedom to run the program as you wish.
Freedom 1: the freedom to study the source code and change it so it does what you wish.
Freedom 2: the freedom to distribute exact copies to others when you wish.
Freedom 3: the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others when you wish.


Also worth reading:

EDIT: Fixed two of four broken links.


Dual booting and swap sharing: OpenBSD and Debian GNU/Linux

"The zen process, on the way to a better OS for your laptop



IPtables is Fun!

Suddenly everything is kittens! It's kitten net.
squid with a trivial redirector that downloads images, uses mogrify to turn them upside down
And if you replace flip with -blur 4 you get the blurry-net.



One thing that holds Linux back

Recently a video card refused to work in the computer of my wife's parents. No video signal, no beeps from inside the case, no smoke (luckily!), just nothing. My wife being the second local computer geek (I am the first one, you know ;)) just took a card from our desktop and used it for replacing the faulty one in the problematic machine. It worked as expected, but she run only up to BIOS screen to receive some video output and confirm that the old video card was in fact broken.

After I got back from work I quickly started Ubuntu in the "single" mode, changed little bits in the xorg.conf and then the parents' Linux system worked as before. It took several minutes at best. Then I assisted the sister-in-law in the Windows XP routine: run in VGA mode, unistall driver, reboot in VESA mode, download and install a new driver (I don't like the drivers that come on a CD), reboot and tweak settings. At least twice the time, and I really tried to be as quick as possible. At home I dig out an old PCI card and did a similar thing to both OS-es on my own computer, to be able to search for a new video card.

Then it struck me: even though X.org has made great leaps forward, there was still something tricky with configuring it.

I was quicker in Linux, and even though I don't like to admit this, it was possible to guide a person through the Windows way of replacing the video drivers. Even though the procedure was lenghty and required reboots, most of time I was able to explain each step in a simple way. On the other hand, after several years of Gentoo experience I think I do know the Linux stuff. Things like "X -configure", horizontal and vertical frequencies, settings for additional mouse buttons - I tried them all throughout last years on different hardware (and I really could go on and on). Just a couple of quick edits and the X server worked again; a simple procedure in my opinion, however rather hard to explain to the said person.

And yet, I still felt like there was something tricky.

You see, it's perfectly possible to configure the X.org server up to the user's heart. Despite this you can see here and there a call for help: "black screen", "unsupported frequency", "unable to set correct resolution", "extra mouse buttons don't work", "issues with additional monitor", you name it.
To all these people it is this one specific program, the X.org server, that gives them impression of Linux being "hard". Most of time problems with the graphics makes the less skilled users unable to jump into the Linux land or unable to do their work if they already have Linux installed (as may be the case for replacing a faulty video card).

What I really mean is this: it seems like all the bases are covered for X.org. The drivers work, all the functionality is there. It's just that X.org lacks serious attempt at handling errors like these, should they arise. Even more user-friendly than it is now. Yes, it's getting better - BulletProofX, displayconfig-gtk - but for example, not all Linux distributions offer a way of booting into a safe graphical mode (PCLinuxOS stands out nicely here). With the other OS from Redmont, there are at least means of failing back into safe defaults. I guess someone should get a hint here.

From the end-user point of view there are two biggest roadblocks that should be improved: better X.org error handling and configuration tools, as well as better wireless support. But the latter is worth an article on its own.

GDB GNU Debugger Intro