Dec 23

Alzheimer’s and Herpes

There’s been a major breakthrough in the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. Every face-to-face friend I’ve told about this has found it fascinating, and one of my regulars has rightly suggested I should blog it. It seems many cases of Alzheimer’s may be due to brain infection by the herpes simplex Type I virus — the one that gives you cold sores. Researchers at the University of Manchester have found herpes-simplex DNA in the abnormal beta-amyloid plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The implications are huge.

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Dec 19

From Scythia to Camelot with Thud and Blunder

I am not sure when or where I first encountered it, but the theory that the Arthurian cycle of legends might be rooted in the mythology of Scythia and the Sarmathians instantly struck me as not only plausible but almost certainly correct. The Sarmatians (and the closely-related or identical tribe of Alans) introduced armored heavy cavalry using the shock charge with lance to Europe: the Sarmatian hypothesis would neatly explain several otherwise very peculiar features of the Arthurian material, including the fact that even very early versions insistently describe a style of war gear and knightly combat with slashing swords on horseback that would not become actually typical in Europe until the later Middle Ages.

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Dec 17

Old physicists fade away

A commenter writes, replying to my previous post on Eric and the Quantum Experts:

>Eric, you may still have a chance to revolutionize physics, since decoherence by itself may not completely solve the problem.

Alas, I am probably too old now. There is a way outside chance I could do it, yes, but,…hmm…how to explain this…

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Dec 15

Where the men are

A commenter wrote:

Think about it: guys like Leo Dicaprio or Owen Wilson for example.
These guys are not exactly manly men but seem more like teen boys.

There’s no need to invoke exotic theories like endocrine disruptors; they’re just reflecting the zeitgeist. I just turned 51, and a disturbingly large percentage of men in their twenties and thirties seem like spoiled narcissistic man-children to me. I thought for a while that this might mean I was turning into the sort of crusty old fart I laughed at when I was twenty-five, until I noticed that the percentage of man-children varied a great deal depending on my social context.

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Nov 22

Victory in Iraq Day

It’s Victory in Iraq day today. The good guys – Western civilization, the Coalition of the Willing, the United States, and the people of Iraq – won this war. The bad guys – Saddam Hussein’s regime, al-Qaeda’s jihadis, all their allies and enablers – lost it. The entire world will be a better place because of this victory. And that is a proper thing to celebrate.

Nov 20

The sound of empire falling

I predicted years ago that what would eventually do Microsoft in was white-box PC makers defecting because they needed to claw back profit margin as the Windows license became the largest single item in their bills of material.

And here’s the confirmation I’ve been awaiting: Microsoft Missing Netbook Growth as Linux Wins Sales. The boring biz-journalism headline is guarding some startling facts.

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Nov 16

moogly pwns the iPhone!?!

I got a chance last night to play with my friend Beth Matuszek’s iPhone, while she played with my G1. I’ve been blogging that I think the G1 is serious competition for the iPhone, but I must say I expected the iPhone to look better than the G1 when Beth and I did side-to-side testing of parallel functions, like browsing the Instapundit blog page.

It doesn’t. In theory the G1 and iPhone have the same resolution, but the cruel truth is that the G1’s display is superior – stronger luminance contrasts, better colors, generally crisper. It’s not a subtle difference, it really jumped out at both of us.

That’s not the shocking part, though. Beth has a first-generation iPhone that’s about a year old; some of the above differences might be simple phosphor decay. The shocking part is that Android does font rasterization and anti-aliasing better. The difference is really noticeable on small fonts; compared to the G1 the iPhone has an obtrusive case of jaggies. Hello? Hello? Apple? You’re supposed to be the world-beaters at this sort of thing; what have you been smoking lately?

UPDATE: Mystery partly and perhaps entirely solved. The physical sizes of the G1 and iPhone display are different. The iPhone’s is substantially larger, which means it has lower DPI. At the same font size in millimeters, therefore, the edges of a font glyph on the iPhone are doomed to look grainier unless the antialiasing is really dramatically better — which apparently it isn’t.

Nov 14

Linux-Hater’s Blog, considered

One of the advantages of having helped found the open-source movement that I cherish most is that nobody can criticize me when I criticize it. I’m a gadfly by nature, disgusted by cant even (actually, especially!) when it’s my own insights being reflected back at me as dogma. Anyone who actually does that is likely to flip me into full Discordian rascal-guru mode.

So I was actually pleased to learn of the existence of Linux-Hater’s Blog. I rather looked forward to winnowing through it for nuggets with which I could shock the more fanboyish members of my community by agreeing. Alas: when I finally went there with intent to read, I discovered that the never-actually-identified author of the blog had ended the project. I read the entire archives anway.

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Nov 13

Net neutrality: what’s a libertarian to do?

One of my commenters asked, rather plaintively:

You mentioned net neutrality. I’ve read about this, and the opposition to it. I’ve read about this, and the opposition to it. As far as I can tell, net neutrality is more supported by liberals/democrats, while the opposition is made up more of conservatives/republicans. But for the life of me I can’t figure out which is the the more libertarian position.

Your confusion is entirely reasonable. I’ve hung out with network-neutrality activists and tried to give them what I thought was useful advice. Their political fixations didn’t permit them to hear me. Here’s a summary of the issues and one libertarian’s take on them.

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Nov 12

Why Android matters

I’ve posted a couple of times about how kewl I think my Android G1 is. But I’m not jazzed about a mere gadget; the really exciting thing about Android is going to be the second- and third-order effects of the software, and how these tie into Google’s strategic interests and the future of open source.

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Nov 05

Open Source — Can It Innovate?

There’s an argument commonly heard these days that open-source software is all very well for infrastructure or commodity software where the requirements are well-established, but that it can’t really innovate. I laugh when I hear this, because I remember when the common wisdom was exactly the opposite — that we hackers were great for exploratory, cutting-edge stuff but couldn’t deliver reliable product.

How quickly people forget. We built the World Wide Web, fer cripessakes! The original browser and the original webservers were built by a hacker at CERN, not in some closed-door corporate shop. Before that, years before we got Linux and our own T-shirts, people who would later identify their own behavior correctly as open-source hacking built the Internet. (I was part of the tail end of that process myself; sometime I’ll blog about how and why the domain-name gold-rush is arguably my fault.)

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Nov 05

Obama won it

The crackup I thought I was seeing in the Obama campaign didn’t happen. I underestimated the ability of the mainstream media to cover for Obama’s weaknesses. We may all have underestimated the effectiveness of ACORN’s vote-fraud machine.

I’m glad we’ve elected a black man president; I’m sorry it’s one who looks quite so much like a sort of latter-day Manchurian Candidate programmed by his hard-left associates to hate his own country.

I hope we don’t all come to regret this day horribly. We can only hope that Obama is a better man than his influences.

UPDATE: At least one response to this post went way over the top. Who ever it was who started spouting about concentration camps… I don’t think there’s any way Obama is that evil. Bill Ayers or whatzisname the firebreathing black pastor Obama threw under the bus might be, but fortunately neither of them got elected. Obama is not a demon; at worst, he’s an idealist who’s been taught to hate his country until it’s made over in the transnational-Left’s image.

Worrying about an Obama administration trashing the economy, reinstituting the grossly misnamed “Fairness Doctrine”, and nationalizing health care is justified. Talk of concentration camps as if they were a near-term prospect isn’t, and I do not welcome that sort of fear-mongering here.

Oct 01

Why I Hate Proprietary Software

I’ve spent a lot of time writing arguments for why open-source software is a good idea and everyone should do it. On the evidence, I’m pretty good at this. I achieved that goodness through a strategy of making rational, technical, utility-maximization arguments in which I explicitly disclaimed having any normative or moralizing agenda.

While I’m happy with the results I’ve gotten from that strategy, it means there are people in the world who think they can persuade me to give proprietary software a second look by making rational, utility-maximizing arguments of their own. One of my regular commenters wrote this recently: “Eric, you may want to give MSDN, Windows, and their developer tools a second, unprejudiced look; they really are better than what Linux has to offer.”

It’s not going to happen. Ever. And the fact that anyone could say that to me, and believe for a nanosecond they might get any other answer, means that I need to explain something in public: why I hate proprietary software.

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