Aug 31

Ground-truth documents

Sometimes good terminology, by making a distinction that wasn’t easily articulated before, can be very clarifying. I was in an IRC conversation about software engineering with A&D regular HedgeMage earlier today and found myself inventing a term that I think may be useful: the ground-truth document.

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Aug 23

Defense Distributed

I suppose it was inevitable, in a good way. Some friends of freedom have begun a project dedicated to developing and sharing open-source designs for firearms that can be manufactured with a 3D printer. Read about it here at Defense Distributed.

I approve, of course. I approve of any development that makes it more difficult for governments and criminals to monopolize the use of force. As 3D printers become less expensive and more ubiquitous, this could be a major step in the right direction.

Aug 22

ciabot for git version 3.5 is released

I shipped an updated version of the ciabot hook scripts for git to the git maintainers this morning.

The cool new thing in this release is that the script no longer needs to be modified for installation as a hook. You can install one copy where any number of git repositories can see it; when it’s run it will collect the information it needs either by autoconfiguring or by looking at variables set in each project’s .git/config file.

UPDATE: Once I started looking at the code…I found a way to make it completely self-configuring in the normal case. So I’ve shipped 3.6. This will be helpful for forge sites like Savannah, because it means they’ll be able to install one standard git hook that Just Works.

Aug 21

How To Choose A Martial-Arts School

The responses to my progress report on searching for a new martial-arts school made it clear that many people are interested in advice on this topic. The problem is especially difficult for new students choosing a first school, as they have yet to develop the kind of trained eye that can evaluate technique.

I have been training in empty-hand combat and contact weapons since 1982; more or less continuously since 1990. I have studied shotokan, tae kwon do, aikido, wing chun kung fu, and Mixed Martial Arts at five different schools and trained in sword-centered Western Martial Arts at two more. Along the way I’ve picked up bits and pieces of iaido, kenjutsu, escrima stick fighting, penjak silat, shaolin kung fu, Greco-Roman wrestling, Okinawan karate, naginata-do, and lua. I hold a black belt in tae kwon do and have been an instructor in multiple styles. I report these things to establish that my experience of styles and schools is very broad, equipping me to give useful advice on how to choose one.

This how-to will be aimed mainly at people new to the martial arts trying to choose a first school, but the questions I suggest can usefully be asked even if you are a much more experienced student.

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Aug 17

A martial-arts trilemma

So, nine days ago the Mixed Martial Arts program my wife and I had been training in was canceled, and we’ve been shopping for a new school in our area. We’re serious students, twenty years deep in empty-hand and weapons, so the general run of strip-mall karate and TKD joints just isn’t going to do it for us. We require a school with high-quality instruction that can teach us stuff we haven’t seen before.

Fortunately, the area where we live (Chester County in southeastern Pennsylvania) an affluent section of the Boswash metroplex and thus probably nearly as good as it gets in the U.S. for choice. Internet searches turned up two strong possibilities, in addition to the third which is to stick with our current dojo and switch to Tang Soo Do.

We’ve now been to do evaluation classes at both. This is an after-action report likely to be of interest to martial artists of any description, and I’m hoping that the process of writing will help me clarify my thoughts about an interesting trilemma.

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Aug 08

Shopping for a new martial-arts school

For some months now my wife Cathy and myself had been the only regulars showing up for the MMA classes at our local dojo, Iron Circle. While this meant we got a lot of quality instructor time, I did wonder how the school could afford to run classes fotr two students.

Well, it turns out they can’t. Two days ago, Master Maybroda emailed us to tell us the MMA program was being canceled. Too many people, it seems, show up expecting it to be like what they see on UFC and bail when it isn’t. “You two outlasted all the wannabes” he wrote.

This leaves us with a problem. Where and how shall we train? We wouldn’t even consider just stopping. We’re martial artists – and, though my wife denies that this has become part of her self-identification in the way it is for me, she is no readier to give it up than I am.

Looking over the local Yelp listings for martial arts, and discarding schools we’ve trained at before but left for various reasons, we seem to be down to three alternatives…

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Aug 06

An open letter to The Economist

In “Who’s Afraid of Huawei?” you point out the need for the telecoms industry to adopt transparency guidelines to head off risks from kill switches, spyware, and back doors covertly installed in their equipment.

One minimum necessary condition of such transparency is that all software and firmware in these devices must be open source, with customers permitted to install their own software images from published source code and development toolchains that can be audited by third parties.

While open-source software cannot completely head off the possibility of Trojan horses embedded deep in telecoms hardware, it at least reduces the management of aggregate security risks to a tractable problem. No lesser measure is or can be even remotely as effective, even in principle.

Telecoms customers should insist on open source – and, as any competent counter-espionage agency would do, should consider vendors’ insistence on information asymmetry to be indicative of an unacceptable security risk.