Apr 25

The long past of C

Hacking on the C code of giflib after an absence of nearly two decades has been an interesting experience, a little like doing an archeological dig. And not one that could readily be had elsewhere; nowhere other than under Unix is code that old still genuinely useful under any but carefully sandboxed conditions. Our reward for getting enough things about API design right the first time, one might rightly say. But what’s most interesting is what has changed, and giflib provides almost ideal conditions for noticing the changes in practice that have become second nature to me while that code has stood still.

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Apr 24

Penguicon party 2012!

Reminder: The Armed & Dangerous party at Penguicon 2012 is now barely more than 72 hours away. Begins 9:00PM Friday night, room number to be announced on this blog and probably tweeted too.

All readers of this blog will be welcome. See the real faces behind the Gravatar icons! Pursue discussion threads in person! Refrain from actual physical violence! Wheeee….

Apr 21

giflib: everything old is new again

In 1994 I handed off the maintainership of giflib, the open-source library used by pretty much everything in the universe that displays images for the single most widely used icon and image format on the World Wide Web, because patent issues made it unwise for the project to be run by someone in the U.S. Now, eighteen years later, Toshio Kuratomi (the hacker who took it over then) has asked me to resume the lead. I have accepted his request.

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Apr 15

Open source warfare != open source software

One of my commenters brought up John Robb, a former SpecOps pilot who has made a name for himself as a counter-terror theorist by writing about “open-source warfare”. Mutual acquaintances confirm what Robb’s own writings suggest, which is that his notions of open-source warfare are heavily influenced by what I have called the bazaar model of software development.

When I learned this in 2004 I attempted to begin a conversation with John Robb by email. The remainder of this post is my email to him – to which, for whatever reason, he never replied. I have edited the one link reference into a live link.

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Apr 12

Making simple connections

About six weeks ago I asked How would you like to help fix the Internet? It was an open invitation to help develop a cheap millisecond-precision time source for instrumented routers, so we can do delay tomography on the Internet and measure the bufferbloat problem.

The discussion thread on that post was lively, but eventually moved to a thumbgps project mailing list out of public view. I’m going to summarize what has gone on here because parts of it are very interesting in a “Wow…it really is the 21st century!” sort of way, and illustrate that there can be a lot of power in making simple connections.

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Apr 03

The smartphone Wars: Finally, Android breaks 50%

The newest comScore figures, for February 2012, are out. Android has finally achieved majority market share in the U.S.. This is three months later than a linear fit to most of 2010 and 20111 predicted, but whatever happened in 4Q2011 to throw everybody off their previous long-term trend curves seems to be over. Android, in particular, is back to pulling about 2% of additional market share per month – actually, its growth rate seems to have increased a bit from before the glitch.

I was right not to overinterpret Apple’s very slight loss of market share last month. The iPhone is back to very, very slowly gaining share. Apple fans should resist the temptation to overinterpret that, though, since the gain is within statistical noise level.

RIM and Microsoft continue to go down in flames, losing not just market share but total userbase as well.

What does it all mean?

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Apr 02

Trayvon Martin and the grievance factory

Even to a person as cynical and jaded as I have become about American politics, the brouhaha around the Trayvon Martin shooting is rather shocking. Usually, in past instances of even the most determined attempts to inflame racial hatred, there’s been at least a fig leaf of plausible deniability over the manipulation. Not this time. Not with MSNBC getting caught editing its presentation of the 911 tape to make it sound like the shooter uttered a racial slur. Not with Trayvon Martin’s photo obviously photoshopped to make him look younger, less threatening, and (ironically) more white.

I’m not going to utter or argue for a conclusion about whether or not Zimmerman shot in self-defense. We don’t know that. Perhaps he was, in fact, motivated by race hatred. The facts of the shooting will have to come clearer before that can be judged. We have more than enough facts, though, to observe and indict the operation of the racial-grievance factory, and to point a finger squarely at those who are dishonestly battening on Trayvon Martin’s death.

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