Quotes in 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

The rise of languages based upon hash tables is one of the great surprises in programming over the last twenty years.

Whatever you call them--hash tables, dictionaries, associative arrays, hash maps--they sure are useful. A majority of my college data structures courses are immediately negated. If you've got pervasive hash table support, then you've also got arrays (just hash tables with integer keys), growable arrays (ditto), sparse arrays (again, same thing), and it's rare to have to bother with binary trees, red-black trees, tries, or anything more complex. Okay, sets are still useful, but they're hash tables where only the keys matter. I'd even go so far as to say that with pervasive hash table support it's unusual to spend time thinking about data structures at all. It's key/value pairs for everything. (And if you need convincing, study Peter Norvig's Sudoku solver.)

--James Hague
Read the rest in prog21: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Erlang's Process Dictionary

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Any sufficiently large institution has something to lose. Credibility, money, power, you name it. Ergo, any request for something new and risky is met with caution. Be it a new proposal or a new project, it is safer to say ‘No’. Corporate systems are optimized for saying no. Maintain the status quo. No risk of failure and a spectacular blowout.

This is exactly why you are better off going ahead and doing something without asking first. If you don’t ask, no one can tell you to not do it. Have an interesting idea for a side project? Go code it up. If you ask someone first, you’ll probably get told “Go consult with team X,Y and VP Z” and face an endless spiral. Want to write a blog post on something you care about? Go do it.

Obviously, you need to know what you’re doing. Don’t do something obviously stupid. Making a post about unannounced feature X? Bad idea. Checking in code without telling anyone? Very bad idea. Sending an angry flame mail to the wrong VP? Depends (but typically not a bad idea). Like with any risk, there are downsides.

This won’t work all the time. You will fail, sometimes spectacularly. That is OK (see next heading for why). In fact, if you don’t make a complete ass of yourself from time to time, you’re probably doing something wrong.

--Sriram Krishnan
Read the rest in Stuff I've learned at Microsoft

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bachmann, of Minnesota, has spent much of this year agitating against health care reform, whipping up the so-called tea-baggers with stories of death panels and rationed health care. She has called for a revolution against what she sees as Barack Obama’s attempted socialist takeover of America, saying presidential policy is “reaching down the throat and ripping the guts out of freedom.”

But data compiled from federal records by Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit watchdog that tracks the recipients of agricultural subsidies in the United States, shows that Bachmann has an inner Marxist that is perfectly at ease with profiting from taxpayer largesse. According to the organization’s records, Bachmann’s family farm received $251,973 in federal subsidies between 1995 and 2006. The farm had been managed by Bachmann’s recently deceased father-in-law and took in roughly $20,000 in 2006 and $28,000 in 2005, with the bulk of the subsidies going to dairy and corn. Both dairy and corn are heavily subsidized—or “socialized”—businesses in America (in 2005 alone, Washington spent $4.8 billion propping up corn prices) and are subject to strict government price controls. These subsidies are at the heart of America’s bizarre planned agricultural economy and as far away from Michele Bachmann’s free-market dream world as Cuba’s free medical system. If American farms such as hers were forced to compete in the global free market, they would collapse.

However, Bachmann doesn’t think other Americans should benefit from such protection and assistance. She voted against every foreclosure relief bill aimed at helping average homeowners (despite the fact that her district had the highest foreclosure rate in Minnesota), saying that bailing out homeowners would be “rewarding the irresponsible while punishing those who have been playing by the rules.” That’s right, the subsidy queen wants the rest of us to be responsible.

--Yasha Levine
Read the rest in Michele Bachmann: Welfare Queen

Tuesday, December 22, 2009
You have to be a different kind of person to love C++. It is a really interesting example of how a well-meant idea went wrong, because Bjarne Stroustrup was not trying to do what he has been criticized for. His idea was that first, it might be useful if you did to C what Simula did to Algol, which is basically act as a preprocessor for a different kind of architectural template for programming. It was basically for super-good programmers who are supposed to subclass everything, including the storage allocator, before they did anything serious. The result, of course, was that most programmers did not subclass much. So the people I know who like C++ and have done good things in C++ have been serious iron-men who have basically taken it for what it is, which is a kind of macroprocessor. I grew up with macro systems in the early ’60s, and you have to do a lot of work to make them work for you—otherwise, they kill you.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Monday, December 21, 2009

In an AP story on increased security at major football (the American variety) events, this sentence struck me: "'High-profile events are something that terrorist groups would love to interrupt somehow,' said Anthony Mangione, chief of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Miami office."

This is certainly the conventional wisdom, but is there any actual evidence that it's true? The 9/11 terrorists could have easily chosen a different date and a major event -- sporting or other -- to target, but they didn't. The London and Madrid train bombers could have just as easily chosen more high-profile events to bomb, but they didn't. The Mumbai terrorists chose an ordinary day and ordinary targets. Aum Shinrikyo chose an ordinary day and ordinary train lines. Timothy McVeigh chose the ordinary Oklahoma City Federal Building. Irish terrorists chose, and Palestinian terrorists continue to choose, ordinary targets. Some of this can be attributed to the fact that ordinary targets are easier targets, but not a lot of it.

The only examples that come to mind of terrorists choosing high-profile events or targets are the idiot wannabe terrorists who would have been incapable of doing anything unless egged on by a government informant. Hardly convincing evidence.

Yes, I've seen the movie Black Sunday. But is there any reason to believe that terrorists want to target these sorts of events other than us projecting our own fears and prejudices onto the terrorists' motives?

--Bruce Schneier
Read the rest in Crypto-Gram Newsletter

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Linux is not an operating system. It is a kernel that can serve as the core for an operating system. What most people mean by “Linux”, though, is an operating system built around the Linux kernel. For use as a desktop PC operating system, all the various “Linux distributions” are basically the same thing: variations of Gnome or KDE sitting atop the ancient X Window System.

Ubuntu is almost certainly the pinnacle of these distributions, but they’re all conceptually the same thing, and the only significant difference is the choice between Gnome and KDE, and even there you’re just choosing between two different environments that are conceptually modeled after Microsoft Windows. The entire X Windows/Gnome/KDE “desktop Linux” racket has never caught any traction with real people. Almost no one wanted it, wants it, or will want it.

--John Gruber
Read the rest in Daring Fireball: Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Here at the Sunlight Foundation, we spend a lot of time with Adobe's products-- mainly trying to reverse the damage that these technologies create when government discloses information. The PDF file format, for instance, isn't particularly easily parsed. As ubiquitous as a PDF file is, often times they're non-parsable by software, unfindable by search engines, and unreliable if text is extracted.

Take, for instance, H.R. 3200-- otherwise known as "America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009", a 1017 page healthcare bill from congress. Because it is primarily published in PDF, we've got to build a special parser for it-- that bill-- in order to represent it programatically. Or Carl Malamud's IRS filings for 527 (stealth PAC) organizations: gigabytes of PDF files, all released by government. Government releasing data in PDF tends to be catastrophic for Open Government advocates, journalists and our readers because of the amount of overhead it takes to get data out of it. When a government agency publishes its data and documents as PDFs, it makes us Open Government advocates and developers cringe, tear our hair out, and swear a little (just a little). Most earmark requests by members of congress are published as PDF files of scanned letters, leading the Sunlight Foundation and others to write custom parsers for each letter.

--Clay Johnson
Read the rest in Sunlight Labs: Blog - Adobe is Bad for Open Government

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

patents by their nature discourage competition, and competition is the biggest spur to innovation. Progress in the software business comes largely through a process of leap-frogging: you see someone come up with an idea that seems to work, and you go one better; they respond by making yet another improvement to the concept, and so on. If either party at any stage chooses to stop this process by invoking patents, both companies suffer, and society as a whole loses out. Therefore, it doesn't happen very often: the patents lie in store unused, like a nuclear weapon. The Chancellor's proposals encourage companies to take the patents out of the box and exploit them, to reduce their tax bill.

In fact the bigger companies like Fujitsu, IBM, and Microsoft tend to have cross-licensing agreements in place where in effect each company agrees not to pursue the other for patent infringement. Although such an arrangement is transparently anti-competitive (it is essentially an agreement between the established players in a market to make it harder for newcomers to enter on level terms), it appears to be entirely legal.

--Michael Kay
Read the rest in Saxon diaries :: Patents: an Open Letter to my MP

Monday, December 14, 2009

The politics of resentment are impervious to facts. Palinists regard their star as an icon of working-class America even though the Palins’ combined reported income ($211,000) puts them in the top 3.6 percent of American households. They see her as a champion of conservative fiscal principles even though she said yes to the Bridge to Nowhere and presided over a state that ranks No.1 in federal pork.

Nowhere is the power of resentment to trump reason more flagrantly illustrated than in the incessant complaint by Palin and her troops that she is victimized by a double standard in the “mainstream media.” In truth, the commentators at ABC, NBC and CNN — often the same ones who judged Michelle Obama a drag on her husband — all tried to outdo each other in praise for Palin when she emerged at the Republican convention 10 months ago.

--Frank Rich
Read the rest in Op-Ed Columnist - She Broke the G.O.P. and Now She Owns It

Friday, December 11, 2009

College students in their final year have about 16 years of experience doing short projects and leaving everything until the last minute. Until you’re a senior in college, you’re very unlikely to have ever encountered an assignment that can’t be done by staying up all night.

The typical CS assignment expects students to write the “interesting” part of the code (in the academic sense of the word). The other 90% of the work that it takes to bring code up to the level of “useful, real-world code” is never expected from undergrads, because it’s not “interesting” to fix bugs and deal with real-world conditions, and because most CS faculty have never worked in the real world and have almost no idea what it takes to create software that can survive an encounter with users.

--Joel Spolsky
Read the rest in Capstone projects and time management - Joel on Software

Thursday, December 10, 2009
Java is to JavaScript as ham is to hamster.

--Jeremy Keith
Read the rest in Adactio: Journal—Misunderstanding markup

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

As everybody knows, the two biggest battles on Capitol Hill -- reforming health care and regulating Wall Street -- have unleashed massive campaigns from the enemies of free markets.

The Obama administration and congressional liberals, right? Guess again.

It's health insurers and big banks that are fighting against having their products displayed on open markets, where buyers might be able to find better (and more comprehensible) deals, or are resisting reforms that would open those markets to more competition. Neither the health-care industry nor Wall Street banking is a notably competitive sector these days. Indeed, both are becoming less competitive. And they want to keep things that way.

--Harold Meyerson
Read the rest in Who's afraid of the free market?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Like Microsoft operating systems, America's health-insurance system is incoherent, hard to understand, often dysfunctional and bloated by obsolete legacy systems. (Though unlike Windows machines, it's not cheap.) Different parts fail to operate properly with each other, and the whole thing is incomprehensible to most users, patients and doctors alike. But try to set up a central authority like MedPAC to make decisions about how to fix Medicare, or to mandate that policies cover a set of basic conditions, or to make end-of-life counseling available to seniors so they don't go through their final weeks in a blizzard of legal confusion—try to fix any of this stuff, and you'll be accused of "taking the control of health care out of the hands of patients and their doctors." This rhetoric is often driven by vested commercial interests. Medical-industry groups don't want a panel of experts making decisions about Medicare because it reduces their ability to buy concessions through congressional lobbying.

--Josh Marshall
Read the rest in User-friendliness and fascism

Monday, December 7, 2009
Java 6 for Mac OS X, introduced last year, is 64 bit only. This is, BTW, a real annoyance, since you must have a 64 bit capable CPU to run it, i.e. an Intel Core 2 Duo.

--Zviki Cohen
Read the rest in Either You Succeed or Explain: Eclipse Galileo for Mac: Cocoa or Carbon?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Our industry has collectively taught average people over the last few decades that computers should be feared and are always a single misstep from breaking. We’ve trained them to expect the working state to be fragile and temporary, and experience from previous upgrades has convinced them that they shouldn’t mess with anything if it works. They’ve learned to ignore our pressures to always get the latest versions of everything because our upgrades frequently break their software and workflow. They expect unreliable functionality, shoddy software workmanship, unnecessary complexity, broken promises from software marketers, and degrading hostility from their office’s IT staff.

When we tell them that the new OS is faster and better, only to have the upgrade break a piece of software that we don’t care about but they really do, we burn our likelihood that they’ll ever willingly upgrade again. Every time we tell them that they can now easily edit video or make DVDs, only to have them abandon their first effort in frustration and never attempt it again because our software sucks, we drive them closer to indifference or resentment toward future technology.

So when our nontechnical aunts refuse to upgrade from their Pentium III PCs with Windows 98 that work well enough for them and are set up exactly how they prefer, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

The upgrade market for average PC owners is dead. We killed it.

--Marco Arment
Read the rest in Why hasn't Vista sold well?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Anyone who continues to think that TDD slows you down is living in the stone age. Sorry, that’s just the truth. TDD does not slow you down, it speeds you up.

Look, TDD is not my religion, it is one of my disciplines. It’s like dual entry bookkeeping for accountants, or sterile procedure for surgeons. Professionals adopt such disciplines because they understand the theory behind them, and have directly experienced the benefits of using them.

I have experienced the tremendous benefit that TDD has had in my work, and I have observed it in others. I have seen and experienced the way that TDD helps programmers conceive their designs. I have seen and experienced the way it documents their decisions. I have seen and experienced the decouplings imposed by the tests, and I have seen and experienced the fearlessness with which TDDers can change and clean their code.

To be fair, I don’t think TDD is always appropriate. There are situations when I break the discipline and write code before tests. I’ll write about these situations in another blog. However, these situations are few and far between. In general, for me and many others, TDD is a way to go fast, well, and sure.

The upshot of all this is simple. TDD is a professional discipline. TDD works. TDD makes you faster.

--Bob Martin
Read the rest in

Friday, November 27, 2009

So who's for competition and open exchanges? Who's for markets, instead of opaque products sold behind closed doors? Not big business, at least in the health-care and finance sectors. They've got few competitors and sell products for which consumers can't easily discern if they're paying a fair price. Why muck with that?

The market champions here are the president, liberals in Congress and the American public. Advocates for socialism? More like advocates for shoppers.

--Harold Meyerson Read the rest in Who's afraid of the free market?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

There is a further irony in offering a peace prize to a president whose principal preoccupation at the moment is when and how to expand the war in Afghanistan.

The spectacle of Mr Obama mounting the podium in Oslo to accept a prize that once went to Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu Kyi and Mother Theresa would be all the more absurd if it follows a White House decision to send up to 40,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. However just such a war may be deemed in Western eyes, Muslims would not be the only group to complain that peace is hardly compatible with an escalation in hostilities.

--Michael Binyon
Read the rest in Comment: absurd decision on Obama makes a mockery of the Nobel peace prize

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All of these mistakes notwithstanding, one should not overlook the success of X as free software. X predates version 1 of the GPL by some five years. Once the GPL came out, Richard Stallman was a regular visitor to the X Consortium's offices; he would ask, in that persistent way he has, for X to change licenses. That was not an option, though; the X Consortium was supported by a group of corporations which was entirely happy with the MIT license. But in retrospect, Keith says, "Richard was right."

X was an industry-supported project, open to "anybody but Sun." Sun's domination of the workstation market at that time was daunting to vendors; they thought that, if they could displace SunView with an industry-standard alternative, they would have an easier time breaking into that market. Jim Gettys sold this idea, nearly single-handedly, to Digital Equipment Corporation; it is, arguably, the first attempt to take over an existing market with free software. It worked: those vendors destroyed Sun's lock on the market - and, perhaps, Keith noted, the Unix workstation market as a whole.

There were problems, needless to say. The MIT license discourages sharing of code, so every vendor took the X code and created its own, closed fork. No patches ever came back to the free version of X from those vendors. Beyond that, while the implementation of X11 was done mainly at DEC, the maintenance of the code was assigned to the X Consortium at MIT. At that point, Keith said, all innovation on X simply stopped. Projects which came out of the X Consortium in these days were invariably absolute failures: XIE, PEX, XIM, XCMS, etc. There began the long, dark period in which X essentially stagnated.

--Jonathan Corbet
Read the rest in 25 Years of X

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Conservatism" and "conserve" come from the same root. You don't unnecessarily squander limited resources you may need later. In fact you don't unnecessarily squander anything - period. You keep your debt limited to the minimum necessary. You pay your bills. If you get an unexpected windfall, you manage it carefully to stretch it out. You treat things in your care like they're your own.

So completely apart from global warming, fossil fuels are finite and will have a finite lifetime, and we have no practical substitute ready to replace them. Therefore we need to manage them carefully to maximize their lifetime. First we need to extend the lifetime of the resources themselves, and second, we need to buy time to develop alternatives and bring them on line. Doing so will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a side result.

It's a painfully amusing irony that most of the people who are lambasting Republicans for abandoning their traditional fiscal restraint, simultaneously pretend that finite resources are not a problem. We would have neither an energy crisis nor a global warming problem if conservatives treated fossil fuels the way they claim money should be treated. (For that matter, we wouldn't be reeling from the collapse of the sub-prime lending market if conservatives had treated money the way they claim money should be treated.)

--Steve Dutch
Read the rest in The Science and Pseudoscience of Global Warming

Thursday, November 12, 2009
the guiding principle of one of our nation’s two great political parties is spite pure and simple. If Republicans think something might be good for the president, they’re against it — whether or not it’s good for America.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in The Politics of Spite

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
It's true that Mac users feel they are freer than Windows users. But few of them really feel like countercultural rebels taking a hammer to The Man. Rather, they feel free because...well, I shouldn't use this platform as a product testimonial, but when I went back to Mac this winter after a decade as a Windows user, my experience was that whenever I plugged in a peripheral, installed software, connected to a Bluetooth device, or whatever, the machine just worked. That, to put it mildly, had not been my experience with Windows. I feel the same way about the ease of use of European versus American health insurance and care. And I believe many Europeans consider themselves freer than Americans because they have guaranteed health care. Conversely, there are complaints that Apple's commercial behaviour towards third-party software and hardware partners is exclusionary and unfree; clearly, one could imagine how freedom for the users may be a tradeoff against freedom for the designers. But a lot of issues of "freedom" these days are really about the freedom to operate in safe, functional, comprehensible environments where you can understand the basis for making choices. Creating those kinds of environments requires a certain amount of centralised design. In these contexts, opposition to quality centralised design doesn't make you freer. It just leaves you confused and helpless, and forces you to spend much of your time figuring out how to accomplish basic tasks, rather than doing the great things you wanted to do with your computer/life.

--Josh Marshall
Read the rest in User-friendliness and fascism

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Garbage Collection is just easier to use than malloc/free.  This is well documented in the industry, and yes it's not entirely "free".  Yes the heap needs to be managed in production environments, leaks are still an issue, GC pause times are an issue, etc, etc... but overall it's vastly quicker to write using GC and in the time saved make the program more performant or resilient to GC pause issues and you'll come out far ahead.  (I'm blithely ignoring all the C/C++ hand-rolled memory management techniques like "arenas" or "resource areas"; these fall into the category of "malloc/free is so hard to use so we rolled our own poor-mans GC but if the language had GC we would probably have never bothered").

--Cliff Click Jr.
Read the rest in Azul Systems - Cliff Click Jr.’s Blog

Tuesday, November 3, 2009
A database is an incredibly powerful tool, used correctly. Used correctly, they allow you to handle huge amounts of data shared between multiple different clients with great flexibility and good performance. Used incorrectly, they tend to be bloated, slow, pigs. There are a lot of things databases aren't good at- multidimensional data, for example, or recursive ("tree-structured") data. Databases have some signifigant limitations. Every single element in a relation (aka table) has to be exactly the same type- no superclasses, no variant types. Worse yet, SQL isn't even Turing-complete. It's the world's oldest, most popular, DSL.

--Brian Hurt
Read the rest in CAML-list

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It is amazing how easy it is to sail through a Computer Science degree from a top university without ever learning the basic tools of software developers, without ever working on a team, and without ever taking a course for which you don’t get an automatic F for collaborating. Many CS departments are trapped in the 1980s, teaching the same old curriculum that has by now become completely divorced from the reality of modern software development.

Where are students supposed to learn about version control, bug tracking, working on teams, scheduling, estimating, debugging, usability testing, and documentation? Where do they learn to write a program longer than 20 lines?

--Joel Spolsky
Read the rest in Capstone projects and time management

Friday, October 23, 2009
I thought that C++ had become too “expert friendly” and offered too few supports (language features and libraries) to help novices (of all backgrounds). Now I know that’s the case.

--Bjarne Stroustrup
Read the rest in Bjarne Stroustrup on Educating Software Developers

Thursday, October 22, 2009
We really wanted a place that has the ultimate New York luxury, which is a washer and dryer.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Paul Krugman Gets a New Place to Hang His Hat and Nobel

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Here's a bit of code computing string hashes that looks ideal for a static compiler (ala C/C++), yet Java is tied in performance.  I used fairly recent versions of 'g++ -O2' and 'java -server' on a new X86 (-server is the default for me, so no cmd-line argument needed).  The inner loop is:

  int h=0;
  for( int i=0; i<len; i++ )
    h = 31*h+str[i];
  return h;

Here I ran it on a new X86 for 100 million loops:

> a.out         100000000
100000000 hashes in 5.636362 secs
> java str_hash 100000000
100000000 hashes in 5.745 secs

Last year I ran the same code on an older version of both gcc & Java, and Java beat C++ by 15%.  Today C++ is winning by 2%... so essentially tied.  Back then the JVM did unrolling and "gcc -O2" did not, and this code pays off well when unrolled.

--Cliff Click Jr.
Read the rest in Azul Systems - Cliff Click Jr.’s Blog

Friday, October 16, 2009

if you look at it really historically, Smalltalk counts as a minor Greek play that was miles ahead of what most other cultures were doing, but nowhere near what Shakespeare was able to do.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The closures proposal seems primarily aimed at improving the Java programmer experience, smoothing out some of the rough edges and verbosity of anonymous inner classes, and I think that is a worthy goal. We should try to find ways to improve the usability of the Java language. But because of the natural law of language design, there will be a usability cost of increased surface area that accompanies the benefit of adding closures. Some things done the old way will become obsolete, perhaps deprecated, and officially ignorable. But they will still take up space in the documentation. They will still be in the developer's face, who has to remember they can be ignored. And they can't always be ignored, because important legacy APIs will still do things the old way. For example, the much-used Servlet API still returns Enumeration, not Iterator.

--Bill Venners
Read the rest in Seeking the Joy in Java

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Use 256-bit AES keys. Theoretically speaking, 128-bit AES keys should be enough for the forseeable future; but for most applications the increased cost of using 256-bit keys instead of 128-bit keys is insignificant, and the increased key length provides a margin of security in case a side channel attack leaks some but not all of the key bits.

--Colin Percival
Read the rest in Cryptographic Right Answers

Monday, October 12, 2009
working with osgi+maven reminds me of linking big ass c++ programs back in the day. 1 hour coding == 5 days linking :(

--James Strachan
Read the rest in Twitter / James Strachan: working with osgi+maven re ...

Friday, October 9, 2009

A number of other alleged advantages of America's "economic dynamism" are also mythical. Most people think that there is more economic mobility in America than in Europe. Guess again. We're also near the bottom of rich countries in this category, for example as measured by the percentage of low-income households that escape from this status each year.

The idea that the US is more "internationally competitive" has been without economic foundation for decades, as measured by the most obvious indicator: our trade deficit, which peaked at 6% of GDP in 2006. (It has fallen sharply from its peak during this recession but will rebound strongly when the economy recovers).

And of course the idea that our less regulated, more "market-friendly" financial system was more innovative and efficient – widely held by our leading experts and policy-makers such as Alan Greenspan, until recently – collapsed along with our $8tn housing bubble.

On the other hand, most Americans pay a high price for the institutional arrangements that bring us these mythical successes. We have the dubious honour of being the only "no-vacation nation", ie no legally required paid time off and of course some weeks fewer actual days off per year than our European counterparts enjoy. We have a broken healthcare system that costs about twice as much per capita as that of our peer nations and delivers worse outcomes, as measured by life expectancy and infant mortality. We are near the top in terms of inequality among high-income countries and at the bottom for parental leave policies and paid sick days. The list is a long one.

--Mark Weisbrot
Read the rest in Myths about the U.S. Economic Model

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Liberal power of all sorts induces an organic and crazy-making panic in a considerable number of Americans, while people with no particular susceptibility to existential terror -- powerful elites -- find reason to stoke and exploit that fear. And even the most ideologically fair-minded national media will always be agents of cosmopolitanism: something provincials fear as an outside elite intent on forcing different values down their throats.

That provides an opening for vultures such as Richard Nixon, who, the Watergate investigation discovered, had his aides make sure that seed blossomed for his own purposes. "To the Editor . . . Who in the hell elected these people to stand up and read off their insults to the President of the United States?" read one proposed "grass-roots" letter manufactured by the White House. "When will you people realize that he was elected President and he is entitled to the respect of that office no matter what you people think of him?" went another.

Liberals are right to be vigilant about manufactured outrage, and particularly about how the mainstream media can too easily become that outrage's entry into the political debate. For the tactic represented by those fake Nixon letters was a long-term success. Conservatives have become adept at playing the media for suckers, getting inside the heads of editors and reporters, haunting them with the thought that maybe they are out-of-touch cosmopolitans and that their duty as tribunes of the people's voices means they should treat Obama's creation of "death panels" as just another justiciable political claim. If 1963 were 2009, the woman who assaulted Adlai Stevenson would be getting time on cable news to explain herself. That, not the paranoia itself, makes our present moment uniquely disturbing.

It used to be different. You never heard the late Walter Cronkite taking time on the evening news to "debunk" claims that a proposed mental health clinic in Alaska is actually a dumping ground for right-wing critics of the president's program, or giving the people who made those claims time to explain themselves on the air. The media didn't adjudicate the ever-present underbrush of American paranoia as a set of "conservative claims" to weigh, horse-race-style, against liberal claims. Back then, a more confident media unequivocally labeled the civic outrage represented by such discourse as "extremist" -- out of bounds.

The tree of crazy is an ever-present aspect of America's flora. Only now, it's being watered by misguided he-said-she-said reporting and taking over the forest. Latest word is that the enlightened and mild provision in the draft legislation to help elderly people who want living wills -- the one hysterics turned into the "death panel" canard -- is losing favor, according to the Wall Street Journal, because of "complaints over the provision."

Good thing our leaders weren't so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill -- because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.

--Rick Perlstein
Read the rest in In America, Crazy Is a Preexisting Condition

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Republican Health Care Plan:

  1. Don't Get Sick,
  2. And If You Do Get Sick
  3. Die Quickly.

--Representative Alan Grayson, D-FL
Watch the rest on WDBO

Tuesday, September 29, 2009
This is totally anecdotal on my part but my not-very-rigorous survey of the industry tells me that the Java large-program tool-chain (and language features like GC) are more robust and complete than the C equivalents and this allows teams to write larger programs quicker than they could in C/C++.  Yes large programs are written in C/C++, and yes they get the memory usage "right enough" that the programs run usefully well... but the same program written in Java appears to come together quicker, with fewer bugs and a shorter overall development cycle.  I see a *lot*more 1MLOC Java programs than C ones and it isn't because Java programmers write fluffier code (which might also be true...) these large Java programs are really doing a "bigger" job than what can be squeezed into 100KLOC of C code.  In this case "Java beats C/C++" really means: we can't afford to build these systems in C/C++ but we can in Java... so there isn't any C/C++ equivalent.  Where's the C/C++ version of WebSphere or WebLogic?  Maybe somebody Out There can tell me the state of C/C++ Application Servers...

--Cliff Click Jr.
Read the rest in Azul Systems - Cliff Click Jr.’s Blog

Sunday, September 27, 2009

in the 1850s, the South was only bested in the scale of its slavery, by Russian serfdom. Thus this country was not merely a moral offender among many, but a moral offender on a grand scale, plying its trade at a point when much of the rest of the world had moved forward.

It is one thing to be judged immoral. But to be judged immoral and backward, at the same time, to be both debauched, and yet in your debauchery, still be a loser, is deeply painful. It was not bad enought that my people had been enslaved, but the fact that we were first enslaved by people who looked like me robbed us of any moral high ground.

The South long evaded that painful reality, and when confronted with it, simply lied. Thus pre-War Jefferson Davis is arguing that the fight is over slavery and white Supremacy. Post-war he's claiming it was about the sovereignty of states. To this day, 150 years later, you find people parroting this lie.

--Ta-nehisi Coates
Read the rest in Nathan Bedford Forrest Has Beautiful Eyes - Ta

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A German friend once remarked to me that the one of the first things he noticed when visiting the US was that the trains actually blew their whistles. The sound of a train whistle was foreign to him. I, on the other hand, grew up listening to the sound of train whistles every morning and evening, as it came into our town, crossing multiple streets that otherwise carried automotive traffic. What was natural to me — cars, pedestrians, and trains on the same surface — was a quaint relic of yesteryear to my friend.

The US passenger rail system isn’t even a 19th century system, despite more modern locomotives. It’s a slow-moving, delay-prone embarrassment.

--Mark Ashley
Read the rest in Will high speed rail kill the airline star? | Upgrade: Travel Better

Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Politicians like to talk about tort reform, which comes down to limiting lawsuits and victims going uncompensated.

--Mark Stephens
Read the rest in I, Cringely » Blog Archive » (Mal)practice Makes Perfect - Cringely on technology

Friday, September 11, 2009
Scala has type inference - so its typically as concise as Ruby/Groovy but that everything has static types. This is a good thing; it makes code comprehension, navigation & documentation much simpler. Any token/method/symbol you can click on to navigate to the actual implementation code & documentation. No wacky monkey patching involved, or doubting of who added a method, when and how - which is great for large projects with lots of folks working on the same code over long periods of time. Scala seems to hit the perfect sweet spot between the consise feel of a dynamic language, while actually being completely statically typed. So I never have to remember the magic methods that are available - or run a script in a shell then inspect the object to see what it really looks like - the IDE/compiler just knows while you edit.

--James Strachan
Read the rest in James Strachan's Blog: Scala as the long term replacement for java/javac?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Everything is going to be cured by leadership. Look, every time you talk leadership, you're talking followership. So every time you're identifying a leader, you're identifying a whole bunch of followers. Do we want a world of followers? And leadership is a very individualistic notion. Even if that leadership is portrayed as energising everybody else, it's the individual leader who's energising everybody else. And I'm much more enthusiastic on what I call communityship, that we need much more emphasis on the idea of community and people working together and developing things together.

--Henry Mintzberg
Read the rest in Background Briefing - 29 March 2009

Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Apple’s insistence on iron control will work against it in the long run. For example, forbidding the use of any virtual machine but their own. And the whole App Store thing: “You make the investment in building something good, and we’ll decide whether or not you’re allowed to sell it. When we get around to it.” And at the business level, the network operators are not exactly eager to have Apple do to them what they did to the music business.

--Tim Bray
Read the rest in ongoing · Mobile Gold

Monday, September 7, 2009
On television the voices of dissent can’t be counted upon to match the studio drapes or serve as tasteful lead-ins to the advertisements for Pantene Pro-V and the U.S. Marine Corps. What we now know as the “news media” serve at the pleasure of the corporate sponsor, their purpose not to tell truth to the powerful but to transmit lies to the powerless. Like Russert, who served his apprenticeship as an aide-de-camp to the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, most of the prominent figures in the Washington press corps (among them George Stephanopoulos, Bob Woodward, and Karl Rove) began their careers as bagmen in the employ of a dissembling politician or a corrupt legislature. Regarding themselves as de facto members of government, enabling and codependent, their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock-market touts as “securitizing the junk.” When requesting explanations from secretaries of defense or congressional committee chairmen, they do so with the understanding that any explanation will do. Explain to us, my captain, why the United States must go to war in Iraq, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of one or two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why K-Street lobbyists produce the paper that Congress passes into law, and we will show that the reasons are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be suspicious or scornful. Together with the television camera that sees but doesn’t think, we’re here to watch, to fall in with your whims and approve your injustices. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your vices in the rosebushes of salacious gossip and clothe your crimes in the aura of inspirational anecdote.

--Lewis H. Lapham
Read the rest in Elegy for a rubber stamp—By Lewis H. Lapham (Harper's Magazine)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009
There are a number of successful health-care systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn’t work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Why markets can’t cure healthcare - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Friday, August 21, 2009
a decade ago, whatever I thought of conservatism, I wouldn't have considered "following the law" and "constitutional limits on executive power" and "skepticism about government secrecy" and "acknowledgment of the 4th amendment" and "accountability for government misdeeds other than blowjobs" and "lying our way into war is maybe wrong" and, perhaps, most of all, "torture is bad" to be just "liberal" positions. But since we just came off the age of Bush, where only liberals actually got upset about these things, and conservatives haven't yet (for some reason) become all that concerned that Rahm Emanuel might be bugging their phones, these are now apparently "liberal" positions.

--Duncan Black
Read the rest in Eschaton

Thursday, August 20, 2009
By any account of what happened—Gates', Crowleys', or some version in between—Gates should never have been arrested. "Contempt of cop," as it's sometimes called, isn't a crime. Or at least it shouldn't be. It may be impolite, but mouthing off to police is protected speech, all the more so if your anger and insults are related to a perceived violation of your rights. The "disorderly conduct" charge for which Gates was arrested was intended to prevent riots, not to prevent cops from enduring insults. Crowley is owed an apology for being portrayed as a racist, but he ought to be disciplined for making a wrongful arrest.

--Radley Balko
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

There's a good chance that a shift in power from investors to founders would actually increase the size of the venture business. I think investors currently err too far on the side of being harsh to founders. If they were forced to stop, the whole venture business would work better, and you might see something like the increase in trade you always see when restrictive laws are removed.

Investors are one of the biggest sources of pain for founders; if they stopped causing so much pain, it would be better to be a founder; and if it were better to be a founder, more people would do it.

--Paul Graham
Read the rest in elharo's qqq Bookmarks on Delicious

Saturday, August 15, 2009
I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived.

--Stephen Hawking
Read the rest in Hugh Muir's Diary | Politics | The Guardian

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The future of healthcare in America, according to Sarah Palin, might look something like this: A sick 17-year-old girl needs a liver transplant. Doctors find an available organ, and they're ready to operate, but the bureaucracy -- or as Palin would put it, the "death panel" -- steps in and says it won't pay for the surgery. Despite protests from the girl's family and her doctors, the heartless hacks hold their ground for a critical 10 days. Eventually, under massive public pressure, they relent -- but the patient dies before the operation can proceed.

It certainly sounds scary enough to make you want to go show up at a town hall meeting and yell about how misguided President Obama's healthcare reform plans are. Except that's not the future of healthcare -- it's the present. Long before anyone started talking about government "death panels" or warning that Obama would have the government ration care, 17-year-old Nataline Sarkisyan, a leukemia patient from Glendale, Calif., died in December 2007, after her parents battled their insurance company, Cigna, over the surgery. Cigna initially refused to pay for it because the company's analysis showed Sarkisyan was already too sick from her leukemia; the liver transplant wouldn't have saved her life.

--Mike Madden
Read the rest in The "death panels" are already here | Salon News

Tuesday, August 11, 2009
"G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is a 118-minute animated film with sequences involving the faces and other body parts of human beings. It is sure to be enjoyed by those whose movie appreciation is defined by the ability to discern that moving pictures and sound are being employed to depict violence. Nevertheless, it is better than "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

--Roger Ebert
Read the rest in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews

Monday, August 10, 2009
C and C++ suck rocks as languages for numerical computing. They are not the fastest, not by a longshot. In fact, the fundamental design of them makes it pretty much impossible to make really good, efficient code in C/C++. There's a good reason that Fortran is still the language of choice for real, intense scientific applications that require the absolute best performance that can be drawn out of our machines - applications like computational fluid dynamics.

--Mark C. Chu-Carroll
Read the rest in The "C is Efficient" Language Fallacy : Good Math, Bad Math

Friday, August 7, 2009
You do not have health insurance. Let me repeat that. You do not have health insurance. (Unless you are over 65, in which case you do have health insurance. I’ll come back to that later.)

The point of insurance is to protect you against unlikely but damaging events. You are generally happy to pay premiums in all the years that nothing goes wrong (your house doesn’t burn down), because in exchange your insurer promises to be there in the one year that things do go wrong (your house burns down). That’s why, when shopping for insurance, you are supposed to look for a company that is financially sound – so they will be there when you need them.

If, like most people, your health coverage is through your employer or your spouse’s employer, that is not what you have. At some point in the future, you will get sick and need expensive health care. What are some of the things that could happen between now and then?

  • Your company could drop its health plan. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (see Table HIA-1), the percentage of the population covered by employer-based health insurance has fallen every year since 2000, from 64.2% to 59.3%.*
  • You could lose your job. I don’t think I need to tell anyone what the unemployment rate is these days.**
  • You could voluntarily leave your job, for example because you have to move to take care of an elderly relative.
  • You could get divorced from the spouse you depend on for health coverage.

For all of these reasons, you can’t count on your health insurer being there when you need it. That’s not insurance; that’s employer-subsidized health care for the duration of your employment.

--James Kwak
Read the rest in You Do Not Have Health Insurance « The Baseline Scenario

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What I’m seeing is the following double standard among BSD license users:

If you are a commercial company like Apple or Google then BSD licensors love you and want you to have “true freedom”.

If you are a GPL project, they pressure you into releasing your code BSD licensed and get offended because you use their code.

You cannot have it both ways people. Either your code is “truly free” for everyone to use, or it’s not and you need to change the license. If you BSD license it, and a GPL project uses it, well, I’m sorry to say, but you chose that license so everyone could use your code how they want…

...whether or not you get to use their code in return.

--Zed Shaw
Read the rest in Is BSD The New GPL?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009
my tip though for the long term replacement of javac is Scala. I'm very impressed with it! I can honestly say if someone had shown me the Programming Scala book by by Martin Odersky, Lex Spoon & Bill Venners back in 2003 I'd probably have never created Groovy.

--James Strachan
Read the rest in James Strachan's Blog: Scala as the long term replacement for java/javac?

Monday, August 3, 2009

we can see that the acquisition of MySQL AB by Sun hasn't worked out at all how everyone had hoped. Many of the fears raised by my blog post from 3 years ago have manifested in this mess. After MySQL became a Sun property, the quality of MySQL started to suffer, including releasing a version of MySQL that had serious known bugs. This had never happened before and sent a clear signal that not all was well with MySQL. And the community had a lot of frustrations with Sun as Sun slowed or stopped accepting patches. Even important companies like Google had serious patches to MySQL ignored. Clearly the process had broken down.

Today we find ourselves with at least three versions of MySQL that all have differing goals, yet promise to share code with one another. Some will be compatible with each other, some break new ground. The one thing we know for certain that nothing in this game is certain. Until Oracle makes a statement about the future of MySQL nothing will be clear.

I find it really interesting that both Drizzle and MariaDB have returned MySQL to fundamental open source roots. Neither group is going to require fancy licenses or copyright agreements and will solely rely on using the GPL. Drizzle is devoid of a commercial model for the time being and even Monty Program AB will look like a more "classic" open source company.

--Robert Kaye
Read the rest in OSCON: The saga of MySQL - O'Reilly Radar

Thursday, July 30, 2009
It’s user freedom that the GPL was created to protect, just like the Bill of Rights was created to protect the people, not the President. The GPL introduces checks and balances into an incredibly imbalanced power dynamic, that between a developer and his/her product’s users. The only thing the GPL says you can’t do is take away the rights of your users in your work or something derived from a GPL project, that the user rights are unalienable. You are free to do pretty much whatever you want as long as it does not infringe on the freedoms of others. (Sound familiar?)

--Matt Mullenweg
Read the rest in Not Lonely at All — Matt Mullenweg

Monday, July 27, 2009

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers’ point of view — they actually refer to it as “medical costs.” This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Why markets can’t cure healthcare - Paul Krugman Blog - NYTimes.com

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The system is currently biased toward the worst form of cost control: rationing by income. Every year, we contain costs by quietly letting 2 million or so more people fall into the ranks of the uninsured. And why not? It does not require an act of Congress. It does not require a war with a powerful interest group. The same cannot be said for cutting provider payments, implementing comparative effectiveness research, founding a public plan or bargaining with pharmaceutical companies. And so the system, which prefers to avoid conflict, prefers letting people lose their coverage to changing how providers practice medicine, because letting people lose their coverage does not require conflict. It's government. As Tom Geoghegan has said, it likes the quiet life.

In a Stein's Law world, we admit that the day of reckoning is imminent. The question is how we'd like it to look. And I'd prefer that the system not be quietly biased toward saving money on the backs of individual people as opposed to providers. Our incentives have gotten a bit insane when you need 60 votes in the Senate to let Medicare bargain down prescription drug prices but no one ever needs to approve a 10 million rise in the ranks of the uninsured. If we agree that hard choices are imminent, we should also be able to agree that there's a utility in setting up incentives for Congress to make them well.

--Ezra Klein
Read the rest in Ezra Klein

Sunday, July 19, 2009
when it comes to foreign policy and monetary policy on big spending and watching out for the big corporations, Republicans are Democrats.

--Ron Paul
Read the rest in Why Washington Ignores an Economic Prophet | Newsweek Business | Newsweek.com

Friday, July 17, 2009

despite all the hype, Windows UI programming is as tedious today as it was in 1995. Sure, the new UI looks a lot better. But that's mostly glitz: 3D effects, color gradients, video, and so on. Sure, it's all object-oriented now. But it hasn't really gotten any less complex to create the simplest of simple UIs. And that's a shame. When is Microsoft going to learn the real lesson about simplicity of HTML? Instead, Microsoft is doing the same thing to HTML that it does to anything it touches: adding cruft to the point where the basic functionality is buried so deeply that most people can't even find it. You can't really blame the average Windows developer for focusing on eye candy instead of usability -- it's all mashed together in the APIs, and by the time you've got something that works at all, you're too exhausted to look at it from your users' perspective.

It's no wonder that users are switching to the web as the platform for everything that used to live on the desktop -- with all its flaws (which I will discuss another time), web development still feels like a breeze compared to Windows development. And that means less time to release, and hence more frequent releases, which in turn means more opportunities for developers to learn what their users actually do. Which as a user I really appreciate.

--Guido van Rossum
Read the rest in Neopythonic: IronPython in Action and the Decline of Windows

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Eric is a totally nice guy, so I’m not slagging on him at all, but on this general attitude. “Hey your software is awesome! Can I get it for free so I can use it at work and make money or please my boss? That’d rock! (for me).”

Honestly, how many of you people who use open source tell your boss what you’re using? How many of you tell investors that your entire operation is based on something one guy wrote in a few months? How many of you out there go to management and say, “Hey, you know there’s this guy Zed who wrote the software I’m using, why don’t we hire him as a consultant?”

You don’t. None of you. You take the software, and use it like Excalibur to slay your dragon and then take the credit for it. You don’t give out any credit, and in fact, I’ve ran into a vast majority of you who constantly try to say that I can’t code as a way of covering your ass.

--Zed Shaw
Read the rest in Why I (A/L)GPL

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
It seems like some of us Republicans are taking our conservative message, mixing it with personal prejudices and racist views, and calling it patriotism. You can cover cyanide with chocolate, but you still can't call it candy.

--Lenny McAllister
Read the rest in New GOP "Racist" Headache - Page 2

Monday, July 13, 2009

The essence of Palinism is emotional, not ideological. Yes, she is of the religious right, even if she winks literally and figuratively at her own daughter’s flagrant disregard of abstinence and marriage. But family-values politics, now more devalued than the dollar by the philandering of ostentatiously Christian Republican politicians, can only take her so far. The real wave she’s riding is a loud, resonant surge of resentment and victimization that’s larger than issues like abortion and gay civil rights.

That resentment is in part about race, of course. When Palin referred to Alaska as “a microcosm of America” during the 2008 campaign, it was in defiance of the statistical reality that her state’s tiny black and Hispanic populations are unrepresentative of her nation. She stood for the “real America,” she insisted, and the identity of the unreal America didn’t have to be stated explicitly for audiences to catch her drift.

--Frank Rich
Read the rest in Op-Ed Columnist - She Broke the G.O.P. and Now She Owns It

Sunday, July 12, 2009
I think it's good that Microsoft created Silverlight, and Sun created JavaFX. It's really invigorated Flash/Flex development at Adobe, for one thing, and it promotes the idea that we need to stop wasting our time solving cross-browser incompatibility problems in our applications.

--Bruce Eckel
Read the rest in The Cathedral and the Pirate

Sunday, July 5, 2009

If the president was more passionately engaged in the fight to achieve the goal (instead of announcing he's rather have something bipartisan than legislation that, you know, actually gets the job done), and Congressional leaders were more focused on actually getting us affordable health care instead of placating the insurance lobby and other members of Congress, this would be a moot point.

But they're not.

And if the Democrats had shown they're actually looking out for us, and not their powerful sponsors, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

What the president doesn't seem to understand is, to us, this is an economic Hurricane Katrina. The water is rising and we're stranded on the roof, praying and waiting for help. Seems to us that you're more interested in looking bipartisan than getting us off the roof. Don't you know how scary it is, watching the water rise? Are you actually telling us to wait on the roof and mind our manners?

Mr. President, will you help us - or the insurance lobby? History has shown that you can't do both.

--Susie Madrak
Read the rest in Obama 'Concerned' About DFHs Attacking Centrist Dems over Health Care Reform. Gee, I Wonder Why? | Crooks and Liars

Wednesday, July 1, 2009
I personally never fight JOptionPane any more, for example, because I've written my own wrapper that beats some sense into it. But that doesn't mean JOptionPane is anything above awful. (This is the Python 3K blindness: it's harder for old-timers to appreciate how broken things are because they've got a good feel for where the dangerous swamps are, and ready-made duckboards for the areas they can't avoid. And aren't you supposed to get a bit wet anyway?)

--elliott hughes
Read the rest in elliotth's blog: Swing 2: Pissing in the Wind

Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I'm no language elitist, but language design is hard. There's a reason that some of the most famous computer scientists in the world are also language designers. And it's a crying shame none of them ever had the opportunity to work on PHP. From what I've seen of it, PHP isn't so much a language as a random collection of arbitrary stuff, a virtual explosion at the keyword and function factory. Bear in mind this is coming from a guy who was weaned on BASIC, a language that gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield. So I am not unfamiliar with the genre.

--Jeff Atwood
Read the rest in Coding Horror: PHP Sucks, But It Doesn't Matter

Friday, June 26, 2009

Remember people used to trumpet "write once, run everywhere"? Well, I think we're actually there. I think when we start talking about the possibility of exploring things like Netbooks and car navigation systems, you have potentially different processor architecture types. You have Intel, you have ARM, set-top boxes have MIPS.

We have all sorts of different processor architectures, and the guys who are steeped in legacy have trouble addressing those markets with a single solution. I actually think Android is the potential single solution that can address all those markets, and it's new, it's revolutionary. It will change the game.

--Andy Rubin
Read the rest in Google's Rubin: Android 'a revolution' | Digital Media

Thursday, June 25, 2009
  1. There is nothing at all that any Western country can do to avoid the charge of intervening in Iran's internal affairs. The deep belief that everything—especially anything in English—is already and by definition an intervention is part of the very identity and ideology of the theocracy.
  2. It is a mistake to assume that the ayatollahs, cynical and corrupt as they may be, are acting rationally. They are frequently in the grip of archaic beliefs and fears that would make a stupefied medieval European peasant seem mentally sturdy and resourceful by comparison.
  3. The tendency of outside media to check the temperature of the clerics, rather than consult the writers and poets of the country, shows our own cultural backwardness in regrettably sharp relief. Anyone who had been reading Pezeshkzad and Nafisi, or talking to their students and readers in Tabriz and Esfahan and Mashad, would have been able to avoid the awful embarrassment by which everything that has occurred on the streets of Iran during recent days has come as one surprise after another to most of our uncultured "experts."

That last observation also applies to the Obama administration. Want to take a noninterventionist position? All right, then, take a noninterventionist position. This would mean not referring to Khamenei in fawning tones as the supreme leader and not calling Iran itself by the tyrannical title of "the Islamic republic." But be aware that nothing will stop the theocrats from slandering you for interfering anyway. Also try to bear in mind that one day you will have to face the young Iranian democrats who risked their all in the battle and explain to them just what you were doing when they were being beaten and gassed. (Hint: Don't make your sole reference to Iranian dictatorship an allusion to a British-organized coup in 1953; the mullahs think that it proves their main point, and this generation has more immediate enemies to confront.)

--Christopher Hitchens
Read the rest in Iranian leaders will always believe Anglo-Saxons are plotting against them. - By Christopher Hitchens

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Given a choice between spending an hour doing a task manually, or spending three hours writing a program to do it automatically... a geek will write the program, every single time. And, if not given the choice, if explicitly ordered to do the job manually, we'll disobey and write the program anyway.

--Catherine Devlin
Read the rest in Catherine: pyOraGeek: how to tell a geek

Monday, June 22, 2009
We are all sharing these costs. Spam is a stealth tax on consumers. ISPs have to pay for the spam, for the extra bandwidth, for equipment, and they are forced to put up their prices for consumers.

--Patrick Peterson, CTO Ironport Systems
Read the rest in FT.com / Companies / Media

Friday, June 19, 2009
whatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Op-Ed Columnist - The Big Hate

Thursday, June 18, 2009
institutions have always been the bedrock for an effective market system, and an effective society. What is a society without some form of regulative government which not only creates the minimum aspects of behaviour, but the aspirational aspects of behaviour. What is a society without any sense of professions and obligations, and notions of honour, duty? Those are the kinds of things that are really the lifeblood of a society. It's these kinds of things that have really gotten lost in the discourse. In fact I think the thing that was really probably the saddest thing about the last couple of decades around these issues, is that the notion of bringing up words like 'duty', 'responsibility', 'institutions', 'partnership', you were often derided and seen as soft-minded if you brought those things -- they were terminologies that were seen as quaint or seen as naïve, if not mocked.

--Rhakesh Khurana
Read the rest in Background Briefing - 29 March 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

We examined the Green Dam software and found that it contains serious security vulnerabilities due to programming errors. Once Green Dam is installed, any web site the user visits can exploit these problems to take control of the computer. This could allow malicious sites to steal private data, send spam, or enlist the computer in a botnet. In addition, we found vulnerabilities in the way Green Dam processes blacklist updates that could allow the software makers or others to install malicious code during the update process.

We found these problems with less than 12 hours of testing, and we believe they may be only the tip of the iceberg. Green Dam makes frequent use of unsafe and outdated programming practices that likely introduce numerous other vulnerabilities. Correcting these problems will require extensive changes to the software and careful retesting. In the meantime, we recommend that users protect themselves by uninstalling Green Dam immediately.

--Scott Wolchok, Randy Yao, and J. Alex Halderman
Read the rest in Analysis of the Green Dam Censorware System

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing. It’s a reflection of the fact that both the 2001 recession and the current one reduced tax revenue, required more spending on safety-net programs and changed economists’ assumptions about how much in taxes the government would collect in future years.

About 33 percent of the swing stems from new legislation signed by Mr. Bush. That legislation, like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.

Mr. Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000. Such policies — together with the Wall Street bailout, which was signed by Mr. Bush and supported by Mr. Obama — account for 20 percent of the swing.

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

--David Leonhardt
Read the rest in Economic Scene - How the U.S. Surplus Became a Deficit

Monday, June 15, 2009
a lot of the success of various programming languages is expeditious gap-filling. Perl is another example of filling a tiny, short-term need, and then being a real problem in the longer term. Basically, a lot of the problems that computing has had in the last 25 years comes from systems where the designers were trying to fix some short-term thing and didn’t think about whether the idea would scale if it were adopted. There should be a half-life on software so old software just melts away over 10 or 15 years.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Saturday, June 13, 2009
There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

--Johhn Rogers
Read the rest in Kung Fu Monkey: Ephemera 2009 (7)

Friday, June 12, 2009
the development of corporations really took place in the early twentieth century and very late in the nineteenth century. Originally, corporations existed as a public service. People would get together to build a bridge and they would be incorporated for that purpose by the state. They built the bridge and that's it. They were supposed to have a public interest function. Well into the 1870s, states were removing corporate charters. They were granted by the state. They didn't have any other authority. They were fictions. They were removing corporate charters because they weren't serving a public function. But then you get into the period of the trusts and various efforts to consolidate power that were beginning to be made in the late nineteenth century. It's interesting to look at the literature. The courts didn't really accept it. There were some hints about it. It wasn't until the early twentieth century that courts and lawyers designed a new socioeconomic system. It was never done by legislation. It was done mostly by courts and lawyers and the power they could exercise over individual states. New Jersey was the first state to offer corporations any right they wanted. Of course, all the capital in the country suddenly started to flow to New Jersey, for obvious reasons. Then the other states had to do the same thing just to defend themselves or be wiped out. It's kind of a small-scale globalization. Then the courts and the corporate lawyers came along and created a whole new body of doctrine which gave corporations authority and power that they never had before. If you look at the background of it, it's the same background that led to fascism and Bolshevism. A lot of it was supported by people called progressives, for these reasons: They said, individual rights are gone. We are in a period of corporatization of power, consolidation of power, centralization. That's supposed to be good if you're a progressive, like a Marxist-Leninist. Out of that same background came three major things: fascism, Bolshevism, and corporate tyranny. They all grew out of the same more or less Hegelian roots. It's fairly recent. We think of corporations as immutable, but they were designed. It was a conscious design which worked as Adam Smith said: the principal architects of policy consolidate state power and use it for their interests. It was certainly not popular will. It's basically court decisions and lawyers' decisions, which created a form of private tyranny which is now more massive in many ways than even state tyranny was. These are major parts of modern twentieth century history. The classical liberals would be horrified. They didn't even imagine this. But the smaller things that they saw, they were already horrified about. This would have totally scandalized Adam Smith or Jefferson or

--Noam Chomsky
Read the rest in Education is Ignorance, by Noam Chomsky (Excerpted from Class Warfare)

Thursday, June 11, 2009
by (a) introducing legislation that has no good public policy justification behind it and which (b) does not benefit your own constituents while (c) being disproportionately supported in financial contributions by the single industry that would benefit from the legislation, you invite the charge (as 88% of citizens in my district believe) that "money buys results in Congress." WHETHER OR NOT "money bought" this result, you have committed this wrong. The wrong is the relationship, and the suggestion the relationship begs.

--Lawrence Lessig
Read the rest in And again: the point: DEFINE: "Good Soul Corruption" (Lessig Blog)

Monday, June 8, 2009
if you look at election results over time, it’s clear that a large number of non-white or non-Anglo Americans seem to have the sense that the Republican Party and the conservative movement don’t have their best interests at heart. And when people see conservatives not just saying “well, I’m a conservative and Sotomayor isn’t, so I’m not happy about the choice” but engaging in bizarre tirades against the “unnatural” pronunciation of her name and the evils of Puerto Rican cuisine while suggesting that the kind of resume that was suitable for Samuel Alito doesn’t cut the mustard for Sonia Sotomayor, well then I think that tends to reenforce the sense that conservatives are very interested in white people’s problems and not so interested in anyone else.

--Matthew Yglesias
Read the rest in Only Republicans Can Drive Latinos to the Democrats

Friday, June 5, 2009

I do this to myself every year. I go to the opening keynote on Tuesday. I suffer through the love-in-with-Sun-partners part, just so I can get to the good part with the important announcements. Then I go to the Wednesday keynote, which offers no such benefit, and vow never to go to any other keynote except for James Gosling's toy show.

Today's mobility keynote was easily the most painful in my memory. Some fellow from Sony Ericsson broke into rambling monologes that left his stage partners speechless, and he had an inexhaustible supply of platitudes (such as "Every user is unique" and "You can be a part of the total experience") that work better in the executive suite than a gathering of engineers.

He seemed a bit taken aback that the audience didn't "get" the idea of "monetizing" the 200 million Sony Ericsson phones out there. But help is on the way, in the form of another app store. Oh goody...

The store has been around for some time, selling ring tones, games, music, and movies. Unlike the Java app store, they figured out how to take money. After July 1, you can submit your apps (without having to pay a fee, which is apparently customary in the game biz), and they'll review it within 30 days. For their trouble, there will be a 70/30 "rev share".

I think I'll skip the other keynotes.

--Cay Horstmann
Read the rest in Cay Horstmann's Blog: Java One 2009 Day 2

Thursday, June 4, 2009
use motivational techniques that are appropriate to the level of developers you're working with. If you have neophyte developers, herd them with maxims, guidelines and static rules. If you have experienced developers, rules are less useful. Instead, encourage them to race: engage in a little friendly competition and show off how good they are to their peers.

--Jeff Atwood
Read the rest in Coding Horror: How to Motivate Programmers

Tuesday, June 2, 2009
It is with sad irony that the company which invented "planned obsolescence" -- the decision to build cars that would fall apart after a few years so that the customer would then have to buy a new one -- has now made itself obsolete. It refused to build automobiles that the public wanted, cars that got great gas mileage, were as safe as they could be, and were exceedingly comfortable to drive. Oh -- and that wouldn't start falling apart after two years. GM stubbornly fought environmental and safety regulations. Its executives arrogantly ignored the "inferior" Japanese and German cars, cars which would become the gold standard for automobile buyers. And it was hell-bent on punishing its unionized workforce, lopping off thousands of workers for no good reason other than to "improve" the short-term bottom line of the corporation. Beginning in the 1980s, when GM was posting record profits, it moved countless jobs to Mexico and elsewhere, thus destroying the lives of tens of thousands of hard-working Americans. The glaring stupidity of this policy was that, when they eliminated the income of so many middle class families, who did they think was going to be able to afford to buy their cars? History will record this blunder in the same way it now writes about the French building the Maginot Line or how the Romans cluelessly poisoned their own water system with lethal lead in its pipes.

--Michael Moore
Read the rest in MichaelMoore.com : Goodbye, GM ...by Michael Moore

Friday, May 29, 2009

ISPs would also like to be able to arbitrarily slow or degrade our network connections depending on what we're doing and with whom. In the classic "traffic shaping" scenario, a company like Virgin Media strikes a deal with Yahoo to serve its videos on a preferential basis, and then slows its customers' connections to Google, Hulu, and other videohosting sites to ensure that Virgin's videos are the quickest to load. As the Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark, said, this is like the phone company putting you on hold when your ring your local pizzeria, with a message inviting you to press one to be immediately connected to Domino's, its "preferred pizza partner".

But the real action in network fiddling isn't the battle between giants such as Yahoo and Google. Both well-established, have armies of otherwise unoccupied "business development" people lying around, and are handily capable of fanning out across the globe and buying lunch for their opposite numbers at every telcoms operator on the planet. The real victims of network discrimination are the nimble little startups, the firms that are in the same position today that Google was in 10 years ago when it consisted of a few marginally funded hackers and some taped-together hardware under a desk.

Google needn't be the last Google. It needn't be the last firm to emerge from the fevered imagination of two bright kids and turn the world on its ear. And it need not always come from Silicon Valley. Just as Research in Motion was able to take the world by storm from Waterloo, Ontario; just as Moo.com was able to conquer the world's business-card needs from Clerkenwell, so, too could the next remarkable startup emerge from the UK.

Unless, that is, the cost of entry into the market goes up by four or five orders of magnitude, growing to encompass the cost of a horde of gladhanding negotiators who must first secure the permission of gatekeepers at the telcoms giants. In that case, only the least experimental, safest, lowest-risk/lowest-return firms will be capitalized, because no one wants to take a big plunge on a risky proposition that could be stopped dead in its tracks by a phone company that's already given pole position to an incumbent.

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in Cory Doctorow: We must ensure ISPs don't stop the next Google getting out of the garage | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Obama has been at least as aggressive as Bush was in asserting radical secrecy doctrines in order to prevent courts from ruling on illegal torture and spying programs and to block victims from having a day in court. He has continued and even "ramped up" so-called "targeted killings" in Pakistan and Afghanistan which, as Goldsmith puts it, "have predictably caused more collateral damage to innocent civilians." He has maintained not only Bush's rendition policy but also the standard used to determine to which countries a suspect can be rendered, and has kept Bush's domestic surveillance policies in place and unchanged. Most of all, he has emphatically endorsed the Bush/Cheney paradigm that we are engaged in a "war" against Terrorists -- with all of the accompanying presidential "war powers" -- rather than the law enforcement challenge that John Kerry, among others, advocated.

--Glenn Greenwald
Read the rest in Obama's embrace of Bush terrorism policies is celebrated as "Centrism" - Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, May 21, 2009
If waterboarding is OK, why don't we let our police do it to suspects so they can learn what they know?. If waterboarding is OK, why didn't we waterboard McVeigh and Nichols, the Oklahoma City bombers, to find out if there were more people involved? ... We only seem to waterboard Muslims... Have we waterboarded anyone else? Name me someone else who has been waterboarded.

--Jesse Ventura
Read the rest in Ventura And Hasselbeck Rumble Over Waterboarding On The View

Monday, May 18, 2009
No O/R-mapper or code-generator can ever solve the fact that records, fields, validators, etc. need to be defined, by hand, in at least two places (front- and back-end). A UI generated from the database is just as bad as the database that’s generated from the UI.

--Alex Papadimoulis
Read the rest in Programming Sucks! Or At Least, It Ought To

Thursday, May 14, 2009
I'm no language elitist, but language design is hard. There's a reason that some of the most famous computer scientists in the world are also language designers. And it's a crying shame none of them ever had the opportunity to work on PHP. From what I've seen of it, PHP isn't so much a language as a random collection of arbitrary stuff, a virtual explosion at the keyword and function factory. Bear in mind this is coming from a guy who was weaned on BASIC, a language that gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield. So I am not unfamiliar with the genre.

--Jeff Atwood
Read the rest in Coding Horror: PHP Sucks, But It Doesn't Matter

Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Doctors can hand out morphine to anyone for anything beyond a headache, but they can't prescribe marijuana to terminal cancer patients. Madison Avenue encourages a population plagued by heart disease to choke down as many artery-clogging Big Macs and Dunkin' Donuts as it can, but it's illegal to consume cannabis, "a weed that has been known to kill approximately no one," as even the archconservative Colorado Springs Gazette admitted in its editorial slamming Phelps. Indeed, it would be perfectly acceptable - even artistically admirable in some quarters - if I told you that I drank myself into a blind stupor while writing this column, but it would be considered "outrageous" if I told you I was instead smoking a joint

--David Sirota
Read the rest in Addicted to fake outrage

Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The very fact that the concept "anti-American" can exist -- forget the way it's used -- exhibits a totalitarian streak that's pretty dramatic. That concept, anti-Americanism -- the only real counterpart to it in the modern world is anti-Sovietism. In the Soviet Union, the worst crime was to be anti-Soviet. That's the hallmark of a totalitarian society, to have concepts like anti-Sovietism or anti-Americanism. Here it's considered quite natural. Books on anti-Americanism, by people who are basically Stalinist clones, are highly respected.

--Noam Chomsky
Read the rest in Education is Ignorance, by Noam Chomsky (Excerpted from Class Warfare)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Smalltalk had problems in the past (and continues to have some of them now) for a few simple reasons:

  • Through the late 90's, it was just too hard to get Smalltalk unless you were an enterprise developer paying big bucks
  • Smalltalk asks you to change a number of things: use our tools (not your editor), use our SCM (not things like SVN, et. al.), use a syntax that isn't C-like
  • Use a non-mainstream, niche language and stack

--James Robertson
Read the rest in Smalltalk: Our Death has been Exaggerated

Thursday, May 7, 2009
C and C++ suck rocks as languages for numerical computing. They are not the fastest, not by a longshot. In fact, the fundamental design of them makes it pretty much impossible to make really good, efficient code in C/C++. There's a good reason that Fortran is still the language of choice for real, intense scientific applications that require the absolute best performance that can be drawn out of our machines - applications like computational fluid dynamics.

--Mark C. Chu-Carroll
Read the rest in The "C is Efficient" Language Fallacy : Good Math, Bad Math

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
there are two kinds of outsourcing. I mean if I run a factory, I can outsource the canteen without too much trouble, and it may even produce better food. But as soon as you outsource some key part of the production process, you actually lose control of it. A supreme example of this has been Boeing in the last decade, with its new Dreamliner. It not only outsourced the production of parts of the Dreamliner to companies overseas, it actually outsourced the design, and the result has been chaos, and the company is suffering rather badly from it. So outsourcing can be quite a dangerous exercise.

--Will Hopper
Read the rest in Background Briefing - 29 March 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009
There's a basic consumer protection principle at work here, and it's the concept of "unfair and deceptive" trade practices. Basically, a company shouldn't be able to say one thing and do another: sell used goods as new, lie on ingredients lists, advertise prices that aren't generally available, claim features that don't exist, and so on.

--Bruce Schneier
Read the rest in Schneier on Security: Unfair and Deceptive Data Trade Practices

Saturday, May 2, 2009

I spent many years growing up in Britain and as a grad student in America debating lefties who defended the Soviets or attacked America's role in the world or made specious arguments about the moral equivalence of the USSR and USA. You had to concede some points - the US support for some very nasty characters over the years in South and Latin America, the Middle East, and so on. But there was always one argument that I could use: Americans don't torture.

They do now. Unless we prosecute, America and torture will become synonymous in the global consciousness. This is Cheney's doing; and he must be called to account.

--Andrew Sullivan
Read the rest in The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Friday, May 1, 2009

Microsoft has totally screwed up its online branding and search. It’s pretty incompetent in those areas and has been for years. Yeah, I know that Microsoft has thousands of employees who’ll call me names on their blogs and yeah I know that Microsoft has thousands of fans, er, MVPs, who’ll tell you at length why I’m wrong.

But when I go around SXSW or Gnomedex or Northern Voice and ask people what they use from Microsoft I get blank stares. Microsoft has lost the Internet generation because they simply have not done anything interesting. Spending another $100 million on advertising is not going to change that.

--Robert Scoble
Read the rest in Scobleizer: Technology, innovation, and geek enthusiasm » Blog Archive The worst thing for Twitter «

Friday, May 1, 2009
there are two kinds of outsourcing. I mean if I run a factory, I can outsource the canteen without too much trouble, and it may even produce better food. But as soon as you outsource some key part of the production process, you actually lose control of it. A supreme example of this has been Boeing in the last decade, with its new Dreamliner. It not only outsourced the production of parts of the Dreamliner to companies overseas, it actually outsourced the design, and the result has been chaos, and the company is suffering rather badly from it. So outsourcing can be quite a dangerous exercise.

--Will Hopper
Read the rest in Background Briefing - 29 March 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009
The reason why Wall Street disappeared is that risk management was terrible, and risk management was terrible because people running risk management for Wall Street firms believed the models 100%. They had great confidence. And there are studies that I site in my columns, psychological studies, that look at what people get out of an MBA, and one of the main things people get out of an MBA is narcissism, self-confidence. They tend to think that they know what the right answer is and that they're 100% right, and the people that are most like that are the ones that rise to the top of organisations. And so what we had is failed models that were believed 100% by narcissists running organisations and that brought the organisations down. If you had people that were worldly and suspicious of these mathematical models running the organisations, they'd be a lot better off.

--Kevin Hasset
Read the rest in Background Briefing - 29 March 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
For the last couple of decades, we've been living with a kind of cartoon model of society in which the idea was that the only thing you needed to build social order was a lot of self-interested actors with some minimal property rights, and then sort of society would emerge from that. I think that model has really shown its limitations, because undergirding that, is the importance of institutions. And by institutions, we talk about patterns of behaviour, things like the law, things like norms of how one ought to behave, things such as obligations and duty. And we're increasingly recognising that this really the fundamental operating system of the society.

--Rhakesh Khurana
Read the rest in Background Briefing - 29 March 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

The GOP has passed what amounts to a spending and tax-cutting and borrowing stimulus package every year since George W. Bush came to office. They have added tens of trillions to future liabilities and they turned a surplus into a trillion dollar deficit - all in a time of growth. They then pick the one moment when demand is collapsing in an alarming spiral to argue that fiscal conservatism is non-negotiable. I mean: seriously.

The bad faith and refusal to be accountable for their own conduct for the last eight years is simply inescapable. There is no reason for the GOP to have done what they have done for the last eight years and to say what they are saying now except pure, cynical partisanship, and a desire to wound and damage the new presidency. The rest is transparent cant.

--Andrew Sullivan
Read the rest in The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (February 13, 2009)

Friday, April 24, 2009
Whenever a large software company acquires a startup, the first order of business is often an attempt to move the startup's application onto the larger company's technology infrastructure so that it can get benefits of "economies of scale" or some other buzzword that is typically a euphemism for "we bought you so now you're our bitches" that is not grounded in business realities. This often requires application rewrites that have the unfortunate consequence of causing the shipped application to stagnate as all efforts are poured into recreating the same application using a different technology. In addition, the founders of the startup typically get frustrated with what they [rightfully] deem as a pointless exercise and eventually move on to greener pastures.

--Dare Obasanjo
Read the rest in Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
As a Boston venture capital firm, we are always looking to propel innovation across the Commonwealth, and to strengthen Massachusetts’ global competitiveness. Through several discussions and planning sessions with State Representative Brownsberger, it’s clear that employment non-competes are stifling the emergence of promising young companies in our state, forcing some of our most innovative entrepreneurs to leave in favor of more open corporate environments. The success of Silicon Valley, which does not legally enforce non-competes, is a prime example of how emerging startups are allowed to thrive.

--Bijan Sabet, Spark
Read the rest in Spark Capital Backs Brownsberger’s Bill to Ban Non

Monday, April 20, 2009

The copyright wars have produced some odd and funny outcomes, but I think the oddest was when the record industry began to campaign for more copyright education on the grounds that young people were growing up without the moral sensibility that they need to become functional members of society.

The same companies that spent decades telling lawmakers that they were explicitly not the guardians of the morality of the young – that they couldn't be held accountable for sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, for gangsta rap, for drug-fuelled dance-parties – did a complete reversal and began to beat their chests about the corrupting influence of downloading on the poor kiddies.

Well, they got it half-right: the fact that kids – and lots of adults – don't see anything wrong with destroying the record labels is certainly bad news for the record companies. Back when Napster started, the general feeling was that the record companies deserved to die for all the packaged boy bands, for discontinuing the single, for killing the backlist, for price-fixing CDs, and for notoriously miserable contracts for artists.

Then came the digital rights management, the lawsuits (first against toolmakers like Napster, then against tens of thousands of music fans), then the use of malicious software to fight copying, the procurement of one-sided laws, the destruction of internet radio. Brick by brick, the record companies built the moral case for ripping them off (and the movie companies, broadcasters, ebook publishers, and game companies weren't far behind). As the copyfight wore on, wrecking the entertainment industry became an ever-more attractive proposition.

--Cory Doctorow
Read the rest in Cory Doctorow: You shouldn't have to sell your soul just to download some music | Technology | guardian.co.uk

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Why Not iPhone? · Clearly, at this time, the iPhone hardware and software are slicker, and the ecosystem is bigger. But I just can’t get past stories like Newber. Well, and I already know how to program in Java and don’t feel like picking up Objective-C and Cocoa to earn the privilege of being a sharecropper.

--Tim Bray
Read the rest in ongoing · Android Diary I

Monday, April 13, 2009
To understand how the language can be both unpleasant and complicated, and well designed at the same time, you must keep in mind the primary design decision upon which everything in C++ hung: compatibility with C. Stroustrup decided -- and correctly so, it would appear -- that the way to get the masses of C programmers to move to objects was to make the move transparent: to allow them to compile their C code unchanged under C++. This was a huge constraint, and has always been C++'s greatest strength ... and its bane. It's what made C++ as successful as it was, and as complex as it is.

--Bruce Eckel
Read the rest in The Positive Legacy of C++ and Java

Friday, April 10, 2009

the adoption of programming languages has very often been somewhat accidental, and the emphasis has very often been on how easy it is to implement the programming language rather than on its actual merits and features. For instance, Basic would never have surfaced because there was always a language better than Basic for that purpose. That language was Joss, which predated Basic and was beautiful. But Basic happened to be on a GE timesharing system that was done by Dartmouth, and when GE decided to franchise that, it started spreading Basic around just because it was there, not because it had any intrinsic merits whatsoever.

This happens over and over again. The languages of Niklaus Wirth have spread wildly and widely because he has been one of the most conscientious documenters of languages and one of the earlier ones to do algorithmic languages using p-codes (pseudocodes)—the same kinds of things that we use. The idea of using those things has a common origin in the hardware of a machine called the Burroughs B5000 from the early 1960s, which the establishment hated

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Thursday, April 9, 2009
Because of its constraints, REST does not have the same need as other approaches for service-description languages. The URL for a resource is how you interact with it using a semantically constrained set of verbs. Approaches like the Web Application Description Language (WADL) are unnecessary and confuse the issue. REST is not about arbitrary behavior; it is about manipulating information resources.

--Brian Sletten
Read the rest in REST for Java developers, Part 4: The future is RESTful

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
As our system has grown, a lot of the logic in our Ruby system sort of replicates a type system, either in our unit tests or as validations on models. I think it may just be a property of large systems in dynamic languages, that eventually you end up rewriting your own type system, and you sort of do it badly. You’re checking for null values all over the place. There’s lots of calls to Ruby’s kind_of? method, which asks, “Is this a kind of User object? Because that’s what we’re expecting. If we don’t get that, this is going to explode.” It is a shame to have to write all that when there is a solution that has existed in the world of programming languages for decades now.

--Alex Payne
Read the rest in Twitter on Scala

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
It is pretty surprising how many different kinds of bugs exist in really important areas like atomic operations. It is truly amazing that computers actually boot and do useful things even some of the time.

--Joe Damato
Read the rest in MySQL Doesn’t Always Suck; This Time it’s AMD at time to bleed by Joe Damato

Monday, April 6, 2009
Mark my words, Schwartz is toast, IBM deal or no deal. If the IBM deal fails completely (most likely outcome), look for Scott McNealy to pull a Michael Dell (or a Jerry Yang, depending on how you look at it) and to appoint himself CEO again. The board of Sun wouldn’t allow such a thing if there were even one viable suitor left. But there isn’t.

--Miko Matsumara
Read the rest in SOA Center » Sun IBM Collapse Heralds the Return of McNealy. Jonathan Schwartz is Toast.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In theory, the administration’s plan is based on letting the market determine the prices of the banks’ “toxic assets” — including outstanding house loans and securities based on those loans. The reality, though, is that the market will not be pricing the toxic assets themselves, but options on those assets.

The two have little to do with each other. The government plan in effect involves insuring almost all losses. Since the private investors are spared most losses, then they primarily “value” their potential gains. This is exactly the same as being given an option.

Consider an asset that has a 50-50 chance of being worth either zero or $200 in a year’s time. The average “value” of the asset is $100. Ignoring interest, this is what the asset would sell for in a competitive market. It is what the asset is “worth.” Under the plan by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the government would provide about 92 percent of the money to buy the asset but would stand to receive only 50 percent of any gains, and would absorb almost all of the losses. Some partnership!

Assume that one of the public-private partnerships the Treasury has promised to create is willing to pay $150 for the asset. That’s 50 percent more than its true value, and the bank is more than happy to sell. So the private partner puts up $12, and the government supplies the rest — $12 in “equity” plus $126 in the form of a guaranteed loan.

If, in a year’s time, it turns out that the true value of the asset is zero, the private partner loses the $12, and the government loses $138. If the true value is $200, the government and the private partner split the $74 that’s left over after paying back the $126 loan. In that rosy scenario, the private partner more than triples his $12 investment. But the taxpayer, having risked $138, gains a mere $37.

Even in an imperfect market, one shouldn’t confuse the value of an asset with the value of the upside option on that asset.

But Americans are likely to lose even more than these calculations suggest, because of an effect called adverse selection. The banks get to choose the loans and securities that they want to sell. They will want to sell the worst assets, and especially the assets that they think the market overestimates (and thus is willing to pay too much for).

--Joseph Stiglitz
Read the rest in Op-Ed Contributor - Obama’s Ersatz Capitalism

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Our society, through our choice of technologies, has created entire classes of people who are, in essence, disabled. No, we haven’t crippled them, but we’ve built elaborate infrastructures that depend on abilities that we know many people will not have for the course of their lives, abilities that they didn’t need to succeed in earlier centuries.

The largest disenfranchisement surrounds the automobile. Before the car, people typically lived where they worked. If they lived elsewhere, they were within easy walking distance. The automobile changed that, with people from 16 to 80 able to live anywhere they liked and drive anywhere they wanted.

In the US, entire cities, like Los Angeles, were built with the assumption that every citizen would be able to drive. Sprawling, low-density housing and remote stores and workplaces ensured that those unable to drive must endure childlike dependency on those who could. The majority of voters—those between 18 and 80—drove all over the needs of the minority, leaving both the old and young with few options.

The cost of ownership of a car, from purchase price to fuel, to upkeep, to transportation taxes, to environmental costs, etc., is extremely expensive, but this tyranical majority has come to accepted it and will scream bloody murder when someone wants to squander taxpayer money on public transportation for those millions left hanging.

--Bruce Tognazzini
Read the rest in Inclusive Design Part 1

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Seeing "d = ( a + b ) / c;" could mean an arbitrarily complex and deep code path in any language with operator overloading. In Java you know "there's nothing funny going on on this line", just normal arithmetic.

Sure, if you note that a, b, c, and d are not primitives, then you know there must be something special going on here. There's still the issue that operators are essentially encouraging and rewarding developers to give their methods single character names. That's great for cases where the method really is a mathematical addition or multiplication, but even then it gets messy -- for instance, vectors have dot and cross products, not just one multiplication operation.

Operator overloading is one of those features that's great if you're on a one man project where you can make all these decisions wisely for yourself as the maintainer/reader -- and a horror for a large team.

--Jess Holle
Read the rest in Weblogs Forum

Wednesday, March 25, 2009
The closures proposal seems primarily aimed at improving the Java programmer experience, smoothing out some of the rough edges and verbosity of anonymous inner classes, and I think that is a worthy goal. We should try to find ways to improve the usability of the Java language. But because of the natural law of language design, there will be a usability cost of increased surface area that accompanies the benefit of adding closures. Some things done the old way will become obsolete, perhaps deprecated, and officially ignorable. But they will still take up space in the documentation. They will still be in the developer's face, who has to remember they can be ignored. And they can't always be ignored, because important legacy APIs will still do things the old way. For example, the much-used Servlet API still returns Enumeration, not Iterator.

--Bill Venners
Read the rest in Seeking the Joy in Java

Friday, March 20, 2009
Regardless of where you stand on the love/hate Apple bunfight (and my favoured position is on the sidelines, cheering the things done well and booing the company's insistence that you use its products exactly as it decrees), it’s undeniably got some talent when it comes to user-interfaces. As Exhibit A, I give you the iPod - a series of devices that have turned your record collections into databases, yet have remained an acceptable topic of conversation amongst people who don’t know a computer-orientated three-letter-acronym for every letter of the alphabet.

--Richard Butler
Read the rest in dpreview.com Editorial blog : Digital Photography Review

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It is a fairly well known fact in the business community that the majority of mergers and acquisitions are a failure when it comes to increasing shareholder value, benefiting customers or any of the other metrics that are used to judge the "success" of an acquisition. Whenever you read a news story about some startup being acquired or two large companies merging, there is a greater than 50% chance that the resulting product or company will be of less value to customers and shareholders than if the deal had never happened.

When it comes to software company acquisitions, there are additional factors working against success that go beyond the typical laundry list of reasons that are given for why M&As usually result in failure. With technology company acquisitions not only are there a minefield of people and financial issues that have to be dealt with, there is also the real problem of what to do about technology mismatch that often exists across different companies.

--Dare Obasanjo
Read the rest in Dare Obasanjo aka Carnage4Life

Monday, March 16, 2009
Syntax is user interface

--Brendan Eich
Read the rest in ECMAScript Harmony

Friday, March 13, 2009

Program Managers at Microsoft are the advocates for software usability. They link (or are supposed to link) to the rest of the company development, usability and testing. They write specs and try to optimize the user experience, though with only limited success.

The bloated development, test, and PM teams across the company are a sign of Microsoft’s obsession with technology and all things technical. There aren’t nearly enough usability engineers, designers, writers, editors, and other people who worry about how usable the software actually is. In other words, like the people who run the feature teams at Apple.

A Microsoft designer once said that the biggest difference between Apple and Microsoft was that at Apple designers usually owned the product features, while at Microsoft, PMs always own the features. And most of the PMs at Microsoft are highly technical, often with computer science degrees. This is considered a good thing, by the way, but it isn’t good at all. It means the PMs tend to lean in favor of the developers just as management leans in favor of the developers, too. So in most cases where usability goes head-to-head with development, usability loses. And so do users.

--Mark C. Stephens
Read the rest in I, Cringely » Blog Archive » Microsoft Has PMS

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One largely unremarked aspect of global-warming denialism (as exemplified by George Will and demolished by Mike [below] and Zachary Roth at TPM) is that it amounts to a conspiracy theory. All of the world's actual climate scientists, and everyone in an a allied field capable of understanding their models, would have to be co-conspirators in the plot, with only a rag-tag group of economists, meteorologists, petroleum geologists, astrologers, and political pundits capable of seeing, and willing to say, that the emperor has no clothes.

Most of the glibertarians, cultural conservatives, and gadget-heads who constitute the useful idiots around the core oil-and-coal-company global-warming denialist constituency would be horrified to imagine themselves playing the role of 9/11 Truthers, or RFK Jr. pumping the thimerosal/autism link, or Thabo Mbeki claiming that AIDS isn't caused by HIV. But all four "movements" are alike in depending on compete mistrust of actual scientific experts.

--Mark Kleiman
Read the rest in The Reality-Based Community: Global

Tuesday, March 10, 2009
a system that emits XML must use the right tools. "Parsing" user input with regular expressions etc and then embedding the result verbatim into the output is going to break. Don't do it. Use the libraries that have been designed for this.

--Julian Reschke on the www-tag mailing list, Wednesday, 11 Feb 2009 08:42:05

Friday, March 6, 2009

Just to recap: the last president believed that he had the inherent power to suspend both the First and the Fourth amendments, he had the power to seize anyone in the US or world, disappear and torture them, and ordered his legal goons to come up with patently absurd legal rationales for all of it. And much of official Washington carried on as normal - and those of us who actually stood up and opposed this were regarded as "hysterics".

Something is rotten in a country where this can happen with such impunity - and when, even now, highly regarded and respected journalists and commentators simply move on or roll their eyes or sigh world-weary sighs.

What we just lived through was an attack on the Constitution of the United States, conducted by the president and vice-president and an array of apparatchiks.The theory undergirding it renders the entire constitution subject to one man's prerogative. The conservative blogosphere - who resolutely ignored this in deference to their Caesar - now bleats about Obama's alleged threat to the constitution!

--Andrew Sullivan
Read the rest in The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (March 03, 2009)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses?

A proud centrist. For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished.

Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse.

One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending.

The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy.

All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Op-Ed Columnist - The Destructive Center

Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Sun Microsystems had the right people to make Java into a first-class language, and I believe it was the Sun marketing people who rushed the thing out before it should have gotten out. They made it impossible for the Sun software people to do what needed to be done.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Global-warming denialism is a special case, of course: the policy implications of the facts about climate change threaten some very large economic interests and some dearly-held political beliefs. So global-warming-denialist brochures are printed on glossy paper. Other than that, though, it's fairly standard-grade fringe pseudoscience, not much different from the folks who write endless papers full of gibberish proving that Einstein was wrong.

--Mark Kleiman
Read the rest in The Reality-Based Community: Global

Monday, February 23, 2009

to anyone foolish enough to think that "at least Linux is okay for the nerdy stuff". No, it's really crap there too. We have too many half-baked attempts at writing the same few things, and almost nothing that's followed through to a useful "shippable" point.

We're stuck with our 1980s XTerms and our 1970s Emacs/Vim (or our IDEs written by people paid to work on them by commercial vendors) and our compiler, which alongside the Linux kernel is one of our few real successes. Like the Linux kernel, though, many commercial vendors pay people to work full-time on it. We kid ourselves if we think that these are fruits of the "community" of bedroom hackers. Those are the people churning out the the half-baked "utilities" that had more time spent on their about box and their start-up animation than on their usefulness or usability.

On the internet, no-one knows you're 14 year old or a raccoon. Until they use your software.

--elliott hughes
Read the rest in elliotth's blog: Desktop Linux suckage: a quick exercise

Friday, February 20, 2009
Every tradesman wants to use the latest, greatest, and most powerful tools, but rarely are they appropriate for the job. Likewise, there’s hardly ever a business case to immediately upgrade all platforms/libraries/languages. That 10-year old “Classic ASP” code hasn’t gotten worn out, just much less fun to maintain.

--Alex Papadimoulis
Read the rest in Programming Sucks! Or At Least, It Ought To

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

the Olympic gold medalist was recently photographed taking a toke of weed. The moment the picture hit the Internet, the media blew the story up, pumping out at least 1,200 dispatches about the "controversy," according to my LexisNexis search. Phelps' sponsors subsequently threatened to pull their endorsement deals, and USA Swimming suspended him for "disappointing so many people."

America is a place where you can destroy millions of lives as a Wall Street executive and still get invited for photo-ops at the White House; a land where the everyman icon - Joe Sixpack - is named for his love of shotgunning two quarts of beer at holiday gatherings; a "shining city on a hill" where presidential candidates' previous abuse of alcohol and cocaine is portrayed as positive proof of grittiness and character. And yet, somehow, Phelps is the evildoer of the hour because he went to a party and took a hit off someone's bong.

--David Sirota
Read the rest in Addicted to fake outrage

Monday, February 16, 2009

The problem with public corporations is that, no matter what they say, "maximize quarterly profits" is the real mantra.

Apple and Sun are both notable exceptions. Apple is run by a charismatic leader, a benevolent dictator who is able to reshape the company in his image. Which is great, as long as he is around (as they discovered when he wasn't).

--Bruce Eckel
Read the rest in Will Open-Sourcing Java Remove Competetive Corporate

Friday, February 13, 2009
One thing you have to understand about an organism as small and fragile as a honey bee is that nearly dead is as good as dead...and insects in general, and honey bees in particular, don't heal. And injured bee, say one that has been attacked by a varroa mite and had its skin pierced, dies...slowly certainly for the wound is small, but it dies from the wound. There is no mechanism for a bee to heal, to scar over a wound, to recover from a damaged leg, wing or antenna. Thus, a damaged bee, even moderately damaged, becomes a detriment to a colony.

--Kim Flottum
Read the rest in At Annual Beekeeper Conference, All Talk Turns to Colony Collapse Disorder

Thursday, February 12, 2009
Even after all these years, I sometimes find myself thinking that GNU Emacs is the coolest piece of software ever written.

--Tim Bray
Read the rest in Twitter / Tim Bray: Even after all these years ...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Obama administration will continue the cover-up of the alleged torture of the British resident. The argument is that revealing the extent of the man's torture and abuse would reveal state secrets. No shit. This is a depressing sign that the Obama administration will protect the Bush-Cheney torture regime from the light of day. And with each decision to cover for their predecessors, the Obamaites become retroactively complicit in them.

So what are they hiding from us? Wouldn't you like to know?

--Andrew Sullivan
Read the rest in The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan (February 09, 2009)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009
We are shocked and deeply disappointed that the Justice Department has chosen to continue the Bush administration’s practice of dodging judicial scrutiny of extraordinary rendition and torture. This was an opportunity for the new administration to act on its condemnation of torture and rendition, but instead it has chosen to stay the course. Now we must hope that the court will assert its independence by rejecting the government’s false claims of state secrets and allowing the victims of torture and rendition their day in court.

--Ben Wizner, ACLU
Read the rest in Obama fails his first test on civil liberties and accountability -- resoundingly and disgracefully - Glenn Greenwald

Friday, February 6, 2009
I’m 78, but what’s the use of good health if it doesn’t buy you money?

--George Soros
Read the rest in FT.com / Weekend / Reportage

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's almost forgotten now, but FDR ran for election promising a balanced budget and big spending cuts. By the time he assumed the Presidency, however, public protests against the economic collapse were so huge that he was forced to change course and launch his public spending push. The result? Unemployment began to slide down from its 25 per cent peak.

But then, in 1936, FDR wobbled. He listened to the people making the fiscally conservative case and slashed spending. Unemployment rose again - producing the spike in unemployment that people like Osborne now perversely cite as evidence that the New Deal didn't work. But the reality stands. When FDR spent, unemployment fell. When FDR cut back, unemployment rose.

Yet perhaps the clincher is the answer to a bigger question: how did the Great Depression end? It didn't stop with the conservative suggestion: slashed spending, slashed debt and slashed government activity. It ended with precisely the opposite: the vast fiscal stimulus of the Second World War. The government sent debt soaring to its highest levels in US history (until today) in order to spend more than ever before. It set up the longest boom in US history.

--Johann Hari
Read the rest in Johann Hari: The Republicans' Fatal Misreading of FDR -

Wednesday, February 4, 2009
You know your whole eggs & baskets thing, right? SATA RAID is like carefully dividing your eggs into two really good baskets, then tying them together with six feet of wet spaghetti and hanging them off a ceiling fan.

--Dylan Beattie
Read the rest in Dylan Beattie's Blog: A Rant about RAID, with a Bad Metaphor about Eggs, and No Happy Ending.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

If you look at software today, through the lens of the history of engineering, it’s certainly engineering of a sort—but it’s the kind of engineering that people without the concept of the arch did. Most software today is very much like an Egyptian pyramid with millions of bricks piled on top of each other, with no structural integrity, but just done by brute force and thousands of slaves.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Monday, February 2, 2009
If you think the choice will be made rationally on objective criteria, you are more of an optimist than I am. Since when did anyone choose their programming languages rationally?

--Michael Kay on the xsl-list mailing list, Sat, 21 Feb 2004

Sunday, February 1, 2009

if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

At the Justice Department, for example, political appointees illegally reserved nonpolitical positions for “right-thinking Americans” — their term, not mine — and there’s strong evidence that officials used their positions both to undermine the protection of minority voting rights and to persecute Democratic politicians.

The hiring process at Justice echoed the hiring process during the occupation of Iraq — an occupation whose success was supposedly essential to national security — in which applicants were judged by their politics, their personal loyalty to President Bush and, according to some reports, by their views on Roe v. Wade, rather than by their ability to do the job.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Op-Ed Columnist - Forgive and Forget?

Friday, January 30, 2009

We looked at Java very closely in 1995 when we were starting on a major set of implementations, just because it’s a lot of work to do a viable language kernel. The thing we liked least about Java was the way it was implemented. It had this old idea, which has never worked, of having a set of paper specs, having to implement the VM (virtual machine) to the paper specs, and then having benchmarks that try to validate what you’ve just implemented—and that has never resulted in a completely compatible system.

The technique that we had for Smalltalk was to write the VM in itself, so there’s a Smalltalk simulator of the VM that was essentially the only specification of the VM. You could debug and you could answer any question about what the VM would do by submitting stuff to it, and you made every change that you were going to make to the VM by changing the simulator. After you had gotten everything debugged the way you wanted, you pushed the button and it would generate, without human hands touching it, a mathematically correct version of C that would go on whatever platform you were trying to get onto.

The result is that this system today, called Squeak, runs identically on more than two dozen platforms. Java does not do that. If you think about what the Internet means, it means you have to run identically on everything that is hooked to the Internet. So Java, to me, has always violated one of the prime things about software engineering in the world of the Internet.

--Alan Kay
Read the rest in A Conversation with Alan Kay

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Rick Warren may occasionally sound more open-minded than Jerry Falwell, another plump Evangelical who once played a prominent role in U.S. politics. But he's not. Gays and lesbians are angry that Barack Obama has honored Warren, but they shouldn't be surprised. Obama has proved himself repeatedly to be a very tolerant, very rational-sounding sort of bigot. He is far too careful and measured a man to say anything about body parts fitting together or marriage being reserved for the nonpedophilic, but all the same, he opposes equality for gay people when it comes to the basic recognition of their relationships. He did throughout his campaign, one that featured appearances by Donnie McClurkin, a Christian entertainer who preaches that homosexuals can become heterosexuals.

--John Cloud
Read the rest in The Problem for Gays with Rick Warren — and Obama

Saturday, January 24, 2009
the JCP should put every new JSR on notice to make all information public by default. What's in it for you, the user of Java technology? Better technology, I think. Expert groups can have unhealthy dynamics, such as group think, design by committee, and a mad rush to adopt half-baked ideas just before deadlines. JSF in particular has some unhappy features, and absences of features. When the process is more open, interested people can watch what is about to happen, blog about the good and the bad, and raise awareness in the wider community. If you agree, please kvetch in the blog comments so that the JCP folks pay attention.

--Cay Horstmann
Read the rest in Cay Horstmann's Blog: A Call to Fix the JCP Oberver Status

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.

--Paul Krugman
Read the rest in Op-Ed Columnist - Forgive and Forget?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The government ought to mandate open source products based on open source reference implementations to improve security, get higher quality software, lower costs, higher reliability - all the benefits that come with open software.

--Scott McNealy
Read the rest in BBC NEWS | Technology | Calls for open source government

Tuesday, January 20, 2009
George Bush is the person in whom the Right placed its blind faith, the one they glorified and held up as the ultimate standard-bearer of what they believe in.  And now he -- and they -- lay in shambles and disgrace.  No matter what metric one uses, it's difficult to overstate what a profound failure the Bush presidency is, and everyone -- including Bush -- knows that.  The most important aspect of this Tuesday's election is to finalize their humiliating repudiation and to bury them for what they've done.

--Glenn Greenwald
Read the rest in The Post and "the most disliked president since polling began in the 1930s" - Glenn Greenwald

Monday, January 19, 2009
Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.

--Charles Mingus

Sunday, January 18, 2009
Some day, there is bound to be another national security crisis in America. A future president will face the same fear and uncertainty that we did after Sept. 11, 2001, and will feel the same temptation to believe that the ends justify the means -- temptation that drew our nation over to the "dark side" under the leadership of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. If those temptations are to be resisted -- if we are to face new threats in a manner that keeps faith with our values and strengthens rather than diminishes our authority around the world -- we must fully learn the lessons of our recent past.

--John Conyers
Read the rest in John Conyers Jr. - Learning the Lessons of the Bush Imperial Presidency

Thursday, January 15, 2009
If you are a bad person, a whining enemy or a strong-arm occupier, you are not my brother, even if you are circumcised, observe the Sabbath, and do mitzvahs. If your scarf covers every hair on your head for modest, you give alms and do charity, but what is under your scarf is dedicated to the sanctity of Jewish land, taking precedence over the sanctity of human life, whosever life that is, then your are not my sister. You might be my enemy. A good Arab or a righteous gentile will be a brother or sister to me. A wicked man, even of Jewish descent, is my adversary, and I would stand on the other side of the barricade and fight him to the end.

--Avraham Burg, Jewish National Fund chairman
Read the rest in Pro-Israel Rally Attended by Big

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Our government was one big pimp for the U.S. military.

--Kim Ae-ran
Read the rest in Ex-Prostitutes Say South Korea and U.S. Enabled Sex Trade Near Bases

Monday, January 12, 2009

There are times when I'll write something in, say, Perl that requires several CPAN modules, some of which may be pretty non-standard. Moving that code to a different machine forces me to install those modules yet again (and perhaps again and again).

I've often yearned for a language with a compiler than can produce real system binaries (not something that requires a runtime system like Java) that I can ship to various systems. The language I've had in mind would work at a higher level than C, be available on Linux/Unix platforms, have decent library support (ala CPAN), and have an accessible developer/user community.

--Paul Heinlein
Read the rest in On Ruby: Author Interview: Real World Haskell

Sunday, January 11, 2009
Charles Darwin didn’t do for God. German biblical criticism did — the scholarship on lost texts, discoveries of added-to texts and edited texts. All pointed away from the initial starting-block of faith — that the texts transmitted immutable truths. Realising that ‘holy’ texts are, like most other things in life, the result of an accretion of human effort and human error is one of the most troubling discoveries any believer can make. I remember trying to read some of this scholarship when I was younger, and finding it so terrifying, so ground-shaking, that I put it off for another day.

--Douglass Murray
Read the rest in Studying Islam has made me an atheist | The Spectator

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Pity poor Sun. Floating the idea of its software installed base as a marketing channel was a gutsy play, but in light of current economic conditions it was woefully mistimed -- as so many of Sun's recent moves have been.

JavaFX is interesting technology, but it's too arcane and far too late to the party to become a serious competitor to Adobe or Microsoft. And as a mobile platform it's stillborn; Adobe has struggled for years to make Flash a major player in the U.S. mobile space, to little success. By comparison, a Sun-dominated smartphone applications market is a pipe dream -- particularly given Apple's well-documented disinterest in Java for the iPhone.

No, my fear is that 2009 may see the beginnings of the Big Cataclysm for Sun. Executive change could be in the cards, but what top talent would risk taking on such a toxic company now? Sun's best option may be simply to sell itself off -- piece by piece, if it has to. Big Blue already does as good a job of marketing and selling Sun's technologies as Sun does. Maybe Sun could become a subsidiary of IBM Labs?

--Neil Mcallister
Read the rest in Software development predictions for 2009 |Fatal Exception | Neil McAllister | InfoWorld

Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The unspoken rule for Undo, of course, is that developers don’t have to provide it if really serious damage will occur. Delete a character, and you must provide Undo. Delete a file and, oh, well....

--Bruce Tognazzini
Read the rest in Kindle vs. iPhone/iPod Touch: Human/Machine Interaction & User Experience

Monday, January 5, 2009
There's a natural law in programming language and API design: as backwards compatibility increases, elegance decreases. Backwards compatibility is very important. There's a cost to breaking code, but there's also a cost to not breaking it—complexity in the developer's face.

--Bill Venners
Read the rest in Seeking the Joy in Java

Sunday, January 4, 2009

For years, Sun sold systems running Solaris on their Sparc chips. A couple of years back, they ported Solaris to the x64 architecture (there was a much older Solaris port to 32-bit Intel, but that went nowhere).

If you go to Sun today, you'll find they have two separate lines of "mainstream" servers. (There are also some specialized machines that aren't relevant here.) For a common level of performance in a medium data center, you can buy a Sparc-based server or a x64- (I think they actually use AMD) based server. The x64-based server is an industrial-strength machine, comparable to a Mac Pro or a high-end Dell server-class machine, perhaps a little higher end. The price is in the same range - say $7500-$10000. The Sparc-based machine is even higher end - just about every component is redundant and hot-swappable, for example - and will cost you $50000. (This is actually quite competitive with what Sun servers have historically cost.)

Of course, you can also buy a consumer-grade machine with similar basic specs from Dell or many other vendors and pay $2000 or less.

So, are all these manufacturers cheating people? Hardly. There really are differences between the different levels of machines. The basic measurements of CPU speed, memory, and so on simply don't capture the fact that at the low end, a power glitch might destroy your box, while at the high end you can probably take a sledgehammer to the thing and it will keep running. The right machine depends on what you need to accomplish. Is this a home gaming machine, or does a billion-dollar business depend on this machine being up and running 24x7x365 for ten years?

The big problem for the vendors is that the capabilities of the "lower end" machines keep improving. Sun is in a huge amount of trouble these days because the number of customers who really need, and are willing to pay for, those $50,000 Sparc servers isn't all that large - and is shrinking every day. The x64-based machines are good enough for almost all users. From Sun's point of view, though, the profits on a $10,000 machine can't match those on a $50,000 machine - even if the markup is the same, you'd have to sell 5 times as many of the former to match the profits on the latter. Even if Sun survives (I hope so, I have some shares....), it's very unlikely their Sparc-based midrange machines have any real future.

--Jerrold Leichter
Read the rest in Review Feedback: EFI

Friday, January 2, 2009
I've given up every piece of Microsoft software and hardware I own except for the XBox, which I had been holding onto just for Fable 2. Now that it's come and gone like a bird crapping on my head, I'm giving up. No more XBox or PC games for me. Ever.

--Steve Yegge
Read the rest in Stevey's Blog Rants: Fable II: Arguably Better than Getting Your Head Crapped On

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