Oct 12

How Not To Tackle the Mess around Forges

In my previous two posts I have diagnosed a significant weakness in the open-source infrastructure. The architecture of the code behind the major SourceForge-descended hosting sites is rotten, with all kinds of nasty consequences — data seriously jailed, poor or completely absent capabilities near scripting and project migration. I said I was going to do something about it, and I’m working the problem now — actually writing code.

The rest of this post is not an announcement, because it will be mostly about things I’ have figured out I should not try to do. Yet. But it is a teaser. I see a path forward, and shortly I expect to have some working code to exhibit that shows the way. Actually, I have working code that attacks the problem in an interesting way now, but I’m still adding capabilities to make it a more impressive demonstration.

Here are some approaches I’ve considered, or had suggested to me by others, and rejected:

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Oct 09

Looking Deeper into Forges, And Not Liking What I See

In my previous post, Three Systemic Problems With Open-Source Hosting Sites I identified some missing features that create serious brittleness in or project-hosting infrastructure. The question naturally arises, why don’t existing hosting systems already have these facilities? I have looked into this question, actually examining the codebases of Savane and GForge/FusionForge, and the answer appears to go back to the original SourceForge. It offered such exciting, cutting-edge capabilities that nobody noticed its internal architecture was a tar-pit full of nasty kluges. The descendants — Savane, GForge, and FusionForge — inherited that bad architecture.

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Oct 08

Three Systemic Problems with Open-Source Hosting Sites

I’ve been off the air for several days due to a hosting-site failure last Friday. After several months of deteriorating performance and various services being sporadically inaccessible, Berlios’s webspace went 404 and the Subversion repositories stopped working…taking my GPSD project down with them. I had every reason to fear this might be permanent, and spent the next two days reconstructing as much as possible of the project state so we could migrate to another site.

Berlios came back up on Monday. But I don’t trust it will stay that way. This weekend rubbed my nose in some systemic vulnerabilities in the open-source development infrastructure that we need to fix. Rant follows.

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Sep 30

Raymond & Polanski vs. “Mr. Society”

In my previous post, Why Artists Defend Roman Polanki, I analyzed the flap over the Roman Polanski arrest as a case of artists arguing for a privilege to behave like shitheels without being held to account for it. I advanced this as an explanation because I think it covers the facts better than some of the culture-war political narratives being bandied about, especially by conservatives, but I deliberately did not take a position on the rights and wrongs of the arrest or whether I think Polanski should be prosecuted at this late date.

Now I’ll do so. I expect it will startle almost all of my regulars and offend a good many of them, but I think Polanki should be let go.

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Sep 29

Why artists defend Roman Polanski

In 1977, Roman Polanski drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl. When he believed a sort-of-plea-bargain was about to come unstuck, he took it on the lam. He lived the high life in this self-imposed exile for thirty years, until busted in Switzerland recently. Now various of the usual suspects on the right wing’s enemies list are campaigning to block his extradition.

There’s a good deal of perplexity being expressed about this, and some predictable chuntering from right-wingers about lefties being moral degenerates. But this flap isn’t really about politics at all — it’s much simpler than that. It’s about people who think of themselves as “artistes” reserving themselves a get-out-of-jail card when they feel like behaving like repellent scum of the earth, too.

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Sep 28

Mighty aches from little ACORN’s fall

In all the foofaraw surrounding the ACORN scandals, there is a huge important consequence of them understood – but not spoken – by everyone who follows politics as a blood sport. This story describing conditions in Michigan and tallying up some recent ACORN convictions for electoral fraud is an indicator. And, on top of Obama’s plummet in the polls, the attention now being focused on ACORN has got to have any thinking Democratic strategist deeply worried about the 2010 midterms.

No, I’m not talking about the mere aura of scandal, the prospect that some of the smell coming off of ACORN might cling to the general run of Democratic politicians. That’s not going to happen, not while most of the mainstream media seems ever more intent on operating as an unpaid auxiliary for the Democratic National Committee. No stench will be allowed to adhere, not even if the stalwart partisans of the Fourth Estate have to lick it off with their own tongues. No, the real problem is this: ACORN was the linchpin of the Democratic electoral-fraud machine. Without it, the party’s position going into the next round of elections may be seriously weakened.

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Sep 24

Uncivil society and the collapse of the nomenklatura

A few moments ago, I read a review of a new book, Uncivil Society: 1989 and the Implosion of the Communist Establishment, and the following sentences jumped out at me:

This is less a story of dissidents, so-called civil society, than of the bankruptcy of a ruling class–communism’s establishment, or “uncivil society.” The Communists borrowed from the West like drunken sailors to buy mass consumer goods, then were unable to pay back the hard-currency debts and so borrowed even more. In Eastern Europe, communism came to resemble a Ponzi scheme, one whose implosion carries enduring lessons.

I found myself wondering “And this differs from our political class…how?”

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Sep 22

Not long before the end

In California Dreamin’ I wrote:

The U.S. as a whole will almost certainly face [California’s structural deficit] problem before the end of Barack Obama’s administration in 2012. Social Security obligations were due to exceed collections in 2013; even before Obama quadrupled the federal deficit this meant a giant blazing meteorite was already hurtling straight at the heart of the Feds’ dinosaurian finances.

It turns out the end is coming even sooner than I thought. The Congressional Budget Office now says Social Security will start running a deficit in 2010. And there is no money in Social Security’s so-called “trust fund” just bonds issued by the Federal Government itself. This means that in 2010, the Obama administration is going to face tough choices. It can (a) cut SS benefits, (b) raise taxes, or (c) kick the can down the road by borrowing more money to keep paying them.

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Sep 10

This blog got wormed

This blog is one of many that got hit late last week by a particularly nasty and invasive worm targeting WordPress sites. (No, it wasn’t a botched upgrade, as I saw at least one commenter speculate.) The first symptoms showed up either late Thursday or early Friday of last week, when links from the main page became garbled. What was going on was an attempt to insert pharmaceutical-spam malware into the site permalinks.

This injection attack actually corrupted the mysql database behind the blog, and some fairly serious surgery (which the ibiblio site admins were reluctant to try on a Friday) was required to fix it. All posts and coments from Thursday evening or previous should now be restored. The blog is now running WordPress 2.8.4, the very latest version which was rush-released to foil the worm.

A big hand to Ken Chestnutt, the ibiblio site administrator who did the actual repair. Regular posting will resume shortly.

Sep 02

Let these two asses be set to grind corn!

In The Book of Lies, the diabolically brilliant occultist Alesteir Crowley once wrote:

“Explain this happening!”

“It must have a natural cause!”
“It must have a supernatural cause!”

Let these two asses be set to grind corn!

In the original, there is a sort of grouping bracket connecting the second and third lines lines and pointing at the fourth. Crowley was asserting, in both lucid and poetic terms, that to the understanding mind the distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” is meaningless, an argument conducted about language categories with no predictive value.

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Aug 29

From radical evil to farce in two generations

There just isn’t any better marker for the fundamental narcissism of today’s left-wing politics that this:

That’s Che Guevara’s granddaughter, Lydia, We are told that she posed semi-nude to promote vegetarianism and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

There are so many levels of wrongness and unintended irony here that it’s hard to know where to begin…

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Aug 20

Quiddity has a qualia all its own

I changed my mind about a significant philosophical issue today, and in the process parted ways with a thinker I’ve been a serious fan of for a couple of decades now. The issue is raised by a thought experiment, of which I was previously unaware, called Mary’s Room. The simplest way of getting involved the dispute is to ask “How can I know that my experience of (say) the color ‘red’ is the same as yours? Is it even possible to have such knowledge?”

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Aug 13

Dr. William Short’s “Viking Weapons and Combat”: A Review

I expected to enjoy Dr. William Short’s Viking Weapons and Combat Techniques (Westholme Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-1-59416-076-9), and I was not disappointed. I am a historical fencer and martial artist who has spent many hours sparring with weapons very similar to those Dr. Short describes, and I have long had an active interest in the Viking era. I had previously read many of the primary saga sources (such as Njal’s Saga Egil’s Saga, and the Saga of Grettir the Strong) that Dr. Short mines for information on Viking weaponscraft, but I had not realized how informative they can be when the many descriptions of fights in them are set beside each other and correlated with the archeological evidence.

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Jul 30

GPSD-NG: A Case Study in Application Protocol Evolution

I’ve been doing some serious redesign work on GPSD recently. I had planned to do a blog posting about lessons learned, but the result grew enough length and structure to turn into an actual technical paper. You can read it here; comments and criticism will be welcomed.

Note, everything described in the paper has already been implemented in gpsd. There’s work still to be done; for those of you familiar with the software, I still need to do equivalents of the old–protocol commands B C J N R Z $. I do not expect these to pose any significant difficulties.

Jul 28

A Midsummer’s Light Posting

I’ve not been blogging much lately for two reasons. One: vacation. I went to sword camp (formally, “Polaris Summer Weapons Retreat”) again this year, had great time with friends, learned how to fight using a glaive (a form of bladed polearm). Two: heavy technical work. I’ve been designing and implementing a new protocol for GPSD; my next major post may be about some interesting issues that have come up during this process.

It-increases-my-paranoia news: Massive protests continue in Iran, some news about them leaking out through the news blockade, more reaching me through my NedaNet contacts. My Pennsylvania CCW arrived, so I now carry concealed legally – I had had plans to carry concealed illegally and make a Constitutional issue of it, but I’ve decided I don’t need to be in trouble with both the U.S. legal system and potential Iranian assassins at the same time.

I’m looking into upgrading my pistol competence level via IDPA tactical shooting; there’s a match at a gun club not far from here August 22nd and I’ll probably be at it. I did IPSC, which is similar, once back in 1998: you can read about it here. Then I got busy and famous and stuff, dangit.

Light blogging may continue for a while: World Boardgaming Championships is next week, and I’m playing a lot of on-line games in training for that; my goal is to at least make the finals in the Commands & Colors Ancients tournament.

Jul 10

In which I am thankful for Barack Obama’s election

I’ve been trying to buy a gun recently, a better carry weapon (and by “better” I mean more concealable than what I have now and in my favorite caliber). My friends, I am here to tell you that this is an awful time to be in the market for a firearm; they are scarce and teeth-jarringly expensive because demand for them has gone through the roof. On reflection, though this is deucedly inconvenient for me at the moment, I think it implies some excellent news for the longer term and is one of a very few reasons I can think of to be grateful that Barack Obama is in the White House today.

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Jul 07

Political Economics 101: A Dialog

Attached is a slightly cleaned-up transcript of an IRC conversation I had last night during which I tried to teach political economics 101 to a well-intentioned person I know who describes himself as a “socialist” (though, from the way he reacted, perhaps not for much longer). It went better than one might have expected.

I think this transcript is interesting on at least two levels. First, it was very constructive, with lessons about how intelligent people who don’t know economics perceive the issues around it as well as a short course in public-choice theory embedded in it. But also…there’s tradition running from Plato’s Dialogues to the Renaissance of teaching philosophy through dialog. It’s interesting, I think, to see how this modulates into the key of IRC.

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Jul 01

The Hand-Reared Cat

In a recent comment, I wrote:

Oddly enough, our cat often does come when called, and is rather good at figuring out what humans want and doing it. A few days ago a photographer came out here to take snaps of me for an AP story on NedaNet and was quite startled when I asked the cat to turn around so her head would face the camera, and she did it.

Our cat’s behavior is not doglike servility, though. She pays careful attention to human hands because she associates them with being petted, and she’s a total friction slut. As a result, you can often fetch her, or get her to move, with hand gestures. I made one that directed her attention towards the photographer.

By an odd coincidence, my wife Cathy insisted less than an hour later that I should watch a video of the Moscow Cats Theater (I’d post a link, but I haven’t found that exact one from here). And we both noticed something; as the cats are walking tightropes and so forth, the human trainers are using encouraging, guiding gestures that seem…familiar to us. And, in fact, the cats often seem visually fixated on the trainers’ hands.

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