Open Source: Without Profit?

One of the arguments I’ve had with critics of Open Source software, is that they (the open source programmers) want people to use a product for which there is no profit, i.e. they are given away for free.

That’s funny. I’ve profited many times over from a lack of lost down time due to using Firefox to access the Internet and avoiding all that IE targeted malware. I’ve also profited from using Thunderbird and avoiding all those scriptkiddie re-mailers that seem to plague Outlook Express.

[BTW, Microsoft gives IE and Express away ‘free’ too]

I’ve also profited from the use of instead of MicroSoft office. I’ve saved all those profits I would have handed over to brother Bill, and given them to myself. Same for the OS’s that I test. The average Linux distro will run you 80 bucks if you want printed materials to go with the software. I’ve paid it more than once, as well as downloading them for free from the internet.

‘If’ I had a CAD package that suited my needs in Linux, I wouldn’t even look back.

Most people too narrowly define the word ‘profit’.

Equality: The Unknown Ideal

I was chastised recently that I should “respect my betters”.

There was a time when this sort of insult would have required a dawn meeting with pistols in the name of honor; but since shooting the random boor in the face from 20 paces isn’t in fashion any longer, I was forced to rely upon my wits. As usual, I think they failed me.

My betters? That’s a laugh. I run into my equals all the time, but haven’t met ‘my better’. Probably has something to do with a little known concept called equality.

Imagine my surprise when I’m told:

“equality is a failed concept and an attempt at the impossible. Socialists and communists both failed with it and still are trying to fit that square into a circle.”

Pardon my ignorance. Here I was thinking that Jefferson had said something like “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal” I had no idea that equality was a one of those ‘bad Commie’ things that we wouldn’t ever want to support, and I certainly wasn’t aware that we had trashed the Declaration and discarded all those outmoded ideals like equality.

Here I’ve been thinking that rights and liberties were all founded on the idea that we are all equals. I guess I need to get those leg shackles back on, eh? Imagine the effrontery of someone thinking they had rights and freedom in this day and age? Boggles the mind doesn’t it?

Or maybe I shouldn’t take other peoples misguided notions too seriously. From the lecture transcript of the same name, at

For the answer to th[e] question [in what sense can it be from our equal creation that we derive our right to liberty”] we must turn from Jefferson to Jefferson’s source, John Locke, who tells us exactly what “equality” in the libertarian sense is: namely, a condition

wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another, there being nothing more evident than that creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties, should also be equal one amongst another, without subordination or subjection. . . .[3]

In short, the equality that Locke and Jefferson speak of is equality in authority: the prohibition of any “subordination or subjection” of one person to another. Since any interference by A with B’s liberty constitutes a subordination or subjection of B to A, the right to liberty follows straightforwardly from the equality of “power and jurisdiction.” As Locke explains:

[B]eing all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions. . . . And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorise us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another’s uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours.[4]

This is a notable pre-Kantian statement of the principle that human beings are not to be treated as mere means to the ends of others. (Observe, too, how Locke and Jefferson both invoke independence as a corollary of, or a gloss on, equality in authority.)

Well, that makes me feel better. I guess I don’t need to go apologise to that guy with the whips who keeps telling me I’ve got to get back to work, and can instead give him the finger he so richly deserves…

One amongst equals. Live it. Love it.

Minding the Details

Back when I worked in a big architectural office, I was generally relied upon to generate details for whatever section of the project was my responsibility. Inevitably, when I would bring some suggested details to the Project Manager’s attention for discussion, someone would repeat the old axiom “The Devil is in the Details”. In the course of my 20+ years in the architectural field I have heard it quite a few times. Most of my co-workers hated detailing. It’s slow work when done right; and if the detail doesn’t work, you can guess who gets the blame.

The Austin Garden Center

While I’ve heard “The Devil is in the Details” thousands of times, I’ve always had a different view of the problem. The prestigious parts of a project’s design (exterior and interior appearance) are generally either fought over by the team leadership, or handed to some design guru to give his special ‘flourish’ to. The rest of the tasks are handed out the team, usually with some grumbling about who ends up with what, and most of them look forward to the day when they can paint with broad strokes and not have to worry about ‘the details’. No one wants them, except people like me. Design is design, and the joy of creation is in the details as much as it is in generating a building exterior that has ‘street appeal’.

The wife’s quilt pattern inspired VCT artwork – from the AGC AutoCAD files.

It’s a lot like writing, in a way. There is something I need to say, how to say it? There’s something this widget needs to do, how do I make it work? Sit there and puzzle over it, lay out designs and discard them one after another. Consult some references, lay out more designs, and sit and puzzle some more. Finally in the end it all comes together in a flash of inspiration, and Viola! The joy of creation, doing work that the average clock-puncher looks down on as beneath them.

µstation details from a current project

The old axiom does carry a grain of truth. If you don’t mind the details, if you don’t sort them all out for yourself, then you leave that part of creation to chance. Murphy is a hard task master, and gremlins don’t have a bad rep because they fix things when you aren’t looking. Chances are, if you leave the details to chance, you won’t be pleased with the outcome.

KLBJ AM online – It’s a ‘stream’ alright

That would be To listen online you just (as Jeff says) “Click on the flashing box, and put you head down”. Except it’s not that easy. They’ve cut the commercials online (some contractual issues, apparently) and instead stream a loop of comments from one of the most backwards Texans I’ve ever had the misfortune to be ‘forced’ to listen to; ‘Sgt.’ Sam Cox.

To say that I hate him is an understatement. For me, he’s gone the opposite direction from Rush Limbaugh. When Limbaugh came on the air in this region, replacing my then favorite radio personality Eric Blumberg. I could not listen to the man without screaming at my radio…

[I generally listened to the radio with headphones on, so as not to disturb my co-worker in the next cubicle. So you can imagine the quiet office setting, people with their heads down working on drawings, when suddenly one of them screams “Bullshit, that’s complete BULLSHIT!” Slightly disruptive in an office setting]

…These days, I can sometimes laugh at his lame attempts at jokes.

Sam has gone from being occasionally funny to always annoying. Having his most ignorant comments cycled over and over on the ‘stream’ is something that I just find too offensive to ignore.

So I wrote the following and posted it to the forums:

Change the streaming commercial mask, Please!

This is a request for a change in the streaming commercial mask for the webcast. I’ve had about all I want of Sam Cox in between the other programs I’m listening to.

I had no idea that Sam’s real name was Yahweh. I don’t know how else he can declare as fact “life begins at conception”. There’s only one entity that can declare that sort of thing to be fact, and I’m not even going to go so far as to vouch for it’s existence.

Sam’s statements are an embarrassment to thinking people everywhere, and should be an embarrassment to Austinites specifically, because of the fact that a majority of Austin disagrees with him on just about every statement that comes out of his mouth.

There is a place for minority opinion on the radio, but I really don’t think I should have to hear the same dumb statements every 5 or 10 minutes throughout the day while I listen online.

Put some Jeff on, or Timpone, or Dr Dean. Or just play some ‘bumper music’. Anybody or anything but Sam, please.

…And it was promptly deleted from the forums. I figured as much. So I sent it to the addresses that make a difference; the advertising director, the program manager, and the webmaster.
I haven’t heard back from them. Can’t imagine why. Time for the next move.

Feel free to write to the addresses above, and let them know that you feel the same (or that you think I’m a fruitcake, makes no difference to me) Maybe we can’t ‘flush Rush’, but perhaps we can ‘walk Sam’.

Well, they changed the stream, but they also restricted access to it. I can’t win for loosing. They also deleted the forums, ending the chance to interact with the staff and other listeners. Cutting their collective noses off, I guess. Anyway, Sam the fascist is still on the morning, so there hasn’t been complete success. That day will dawn when I can turn on the local talk radio station and not have to hear his voice. In the meantime I’m still avoiding KLBJ before the 10 o’clock hour. At least I can listen to Jeff online.

…Once I log in…

Real Invisibility; Just Around the Corner?

Apparently they’ve stumbled upon a Romulan warbird out there somewhere. Here’s a snippet of the article:

The cloak works on the principal of light as an electromagnetic wave, with a longer wavelength than X-rays and ultraviolet and shorter wavelength than infrared, microwaves and radio waves. The electromagnetic waves follow four mathematical formulas established nearly 150 years ago by James Clerk Maxwell.

Light that transmits through the fabric is made indistinguishable from light that passes through free space. “Using Negative dialectic constant materials is likely in principle, as we are discovering things in small scale that are possible in laborites,” said B. Sriram Shastry, physics professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Just one more of those things first seen in Star Trek that most people thought was “impossible”. This is something that wasn’t in “How Star Trek Changed the World“. You might want to check out the link under “Metamaterials” before that whole site is classified.

The Da Vinci Code

We saw the film at the Alamo Drafthouse South yesterday evening. Ron Howard pulled off another excellent film with this one. Personally, I thought it was every bit as good as Apollo 13.

Also hearkening back to Apollo 13, Tom Hanks appeared to be channeling his characterization of Jim Lovell in that film, and to great effect. Although I had my doubts, I really did buy him as Robert Langdon. There was some great chemistry between Hanks’ Langdon and Sir Ian Mckellen‘s Leigh Teabing. I’m going to have to pay to see it again just to get the grail arguments between the two of them down in memory. Ian McKellen, Gandalf and Magneto. I love that guy. Two films coming out this month. (saw the 7 min. teaser for X3 last week. Magneto’s speech to the mutants was great. Can’t wait to see that film) I would love to be getting his paychecks.

The rest of the cast delivered solid performances as well. I’ve not seen Audrey Tautou (who played Sauniere’s grandaughter Sophie Neveu) before, but I look forward to seeing her in other films. Good to see Jean Reno (Captain Fache) again. I think the wife has drug me to every film that he’s been in (released in America, that is) He has a very good comic wit in most films, although they didn’t have any use for it here. Fache has very little to find humorous during the course of the story.

Paul Bettany who played Silas was also a great cast. I had no doubts about his casting in the role, having seen him in Gangster No. 1 a few years back (the lead in that film is another one that the wife just ‘has to’ see every time he’s in one) I knew that Silas was not going to be a stretch for him.

The movie preserves the intent and feel of the book, while exploring some nuances of the characters that I hadn’t picked up on before. I think I’m going to have to re-read it, just to see if I missed something. Those who haven’t read the book shouldn’t have any trouble getting into the film, one of the friends who went with us hadn’t read it, and I didn’t hear a single word out of her until the show was over; and then the words were just praise.

Yes I know, it’s an over-hyped film. Go see it anyway. It’s worth the ticket price, and more.

Reading Least I Could Do today, came across a good one on The Da Vinci Code.

Meth – the ‘new’ devil’s drug

(One from the archive, but this issue is still being fought out in various legislatures)


It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. The (small gov’t?) GOP has a problem with the proposed new rules on curbing accessibility to Pseudoephedrine and Ephedrine (as if you can even find Ephedrine anywhere to start with) Not that proposed new rules on cold medications go too far….

No, the “Meth plague” has to be fought even more stringently than the Bush administration is proposing (Question: if it’s a plague, where is the massive increase in victims? Where are the facts and figures to back up this fear-mongering assertion?) Never mind that some people might need to have access to cold and flu medications. Never mind that some of us don’t care to be listed in their database as known purchasers of pseudoephedrine containing medications. Nope. We have to start a witch hunt, so that we can ride that fear into another re-election campaign.

BTW, the only attempt at factual reporting is the link at the bottom of the page. It leads to the “anti-meth site” Facts and figures about illegal methamphetamine (there is legally available prescription meth, BTW; does anyone remember this? No) It is ‘factual’ in that the site declares itself as ‘anti-meth’, which is the only fact available in *any* of the stories I’ve read to date.


Since writing the above last August, the fed passed their ‘standardised’ rules for the whole nation; I can now have the liberty of being treated ‘as if’ I would go out and start a meth lab if they would only let me buy a truck load of Pseudoephedrine. As if the people running these labs walked into a pharmacy and bought the drugs over the counter.


Somebody else who “gets it”: Cold pills? Sign here


And if you think it’ll stop anytime soon: Dangerous high sold over the counter

They’ll be targeting your cough medicine next. Hello stupid parents! Cough medicine disappearing from the cabinet? Maybe you should quiz the kid, ya think?

Soon we’ll have to sign to buy detergent, moth balls, fertilizer and fuel. Wouldn’t want you making any bombs in your kitchen now, would we?

The Hanso Foundation

The Wife and I are movie weirdos. Long after the rest of the theatre is empty, after everyone else who was in the theatre is already in the parking lot trying to get into their cars and beat the traffic home, we’re still sitting there watching the rest of the film. The credits, that is. We’ve gotten into arguments with overly enthusiastic maintenance people many times over the years (‘scuse me, the film is STILL RUNNING!) but occasionally it pays off with a closing sequence or a recognized name. (The monkey at the end of Pirates, and the cat at the end of Slither) The latest time this happened was when we were watching the credits for MI-III. Apparently The Hanso Foundation invests in certain films as well as mucking with the space-time continuum (or whatever it is they are doing on LOST) Right there at the end of the credits, a thank you to the Hanso Foundation.

They’ve been running ads on LOST during the commercial breaks as well, kind of like the ads for “Oceanic Airlines” (found three sites for Oceanic, there was just this one. Now there is an 815 site and this one) in the first season episodes. Try calling Hanso’s number, or visiting the website(s). Excellent time wasters.

Still don’t have any clue what will happen next week. The series has already gone places I hadn’t expected (We watched the “tailies” for what reason now?) I hate to imagine what the teaser promise of “changes everything” and “what happens when the counter stops” means. I can imagine, but I’ll wait for the episode. And then wait for the fall sweeps for the other shoe to drop, just like always.

If this was survivor (which I’ll freely confess to never have watched) I know one LOSTaway that I’d like to see voted off the island right now…

I’ll just echo the Dharma Orientation film and say, “namaste and good luck”

The Wife

“Doesn’t she have a name?”

Why yes, she does have a name, she just doesn’t want me to use it here or anyplace else on the web were I frequently sound off. She probably doesn’t want her name associated with her like the name Margaret has been associated with an amazing ability to argue about anything. I started calling her ‘the wife’ because it annoyed a co-worker to hear me refer to her that way many, many years ago. So, being the considerate person that I am, I’ve used no other reference for her since. She has always referred to me as her Significant Other, which I find clever and cute at the same time. Probably why we are still together decades later.

I say 20, she says 17 (I’ve said 20 for two years now. I’m preparing myself for the shock of it) Because “the time before we got married doesn’t count”. Not in her book anyway. In her book it all began 17 years ago today. Seventeen years ago today, we got married. Well, actually, that’s not the half of it. She graduated college on Friday, we got married on Saturday, and we moved to Austin on Sunday. It was a weird weekend. The wedding was planned by several friends. It was beautiful, right up to the point following the kiss, when they realized that they hadn’t planned how to exit the arbor we were in. “Weddings over, see you at the reception.”

Did you notice the ‘arbor’ reference? Yes, we were outside. It rained. Not much, we were dry before the ceremony was over. My best man and my brother the bridegroom went out for donuts right before the ceremony, hadn’t had any breakfast. There was a delay getting the breakfast, they were late. The-soon-to-be-Wife paid the final gas bill in her wedding gown while waiting for them (remember, moving next day?) I was instructed to ‘aim for his head’ when opening champagne later that day.

we wrapped ‘his’ wedding present in donut boxes when he got married a few years later. I don’t think he ever appreciated the joke, myself.

Is that all? Not really. The batteries on the stereo gave out before the wedding march ended. Her garter fell off (more than once) and had to be retrieved, so that it could be removed properly at the reception. I could go on, but I’d like to save some blackmail material just in case I might need it.

I start our time together from the first moment we met, driving test cars. Yes you read that right, but it’s not the job you think it is, trust me. Every tire on the road today was tested on the route that we drove. From San Angelo nearly to Del Rio and back; and then North of San Angelo to Robert Lee and back. Some of the most tedious work I think I’ve ever done. Four car convoys, correct 4 second spacing, dead level 55 mile an hour rate of travel. For 8 hours.

My best friend at the time was ‘lead’ (the car in front, the guy in charge) on the convoy that I drove ‘tail’ with. (how we ended up working at the same place at the same time is a story in itself) Some of the areas we drove through were pretty remote.

One night, down on the Devil’s river, we came across a jeep that looked like it had been on the losing end of a bear fight. Blood, bullet holes, no windows, dented, etc. On another night we came across a wreck in the clearing stages. Car hit head on with a tanker truck. As I’m sitting next to the wreck waiting to be allowed to go, the cop wanders over and casually kicks a shoe, with the foot still in it, back over towards the wreck. Won’t be forgetting either of those nights.

At least I never hit a deer. The wife hit three. Well, technically she ran over one that jumped onto the road in front of her and fell down, got hit by one that ran into the side of her car while she was passing, and then actually hit one in the test car she renamed ‘rocky’ because they had to wedge the headlights back in with rocks so that she could make it back to the shop. Ask her about the cow sometime. That’s a funny story.

…And since the vehicles traveled 800 miles a day 7 days a week, they tended to break down unexpectedly; and if you were the lucky one you were stranded with a broken down vehicle until the tow truck could come and get you. Some of us were a little edgy about this situation and would carry weapons with us on the off chance that we might need them. I didn’t want to hassle with a gun myself, so I carried a decent sized butterfly knife which I barely knew how to use.

Well my buddy, who ran the convoy, got to talking to other leads one night and discovered someone that I needed to meet. She had a larger version of the knife I carried, and she knew how to use it. The next night, he takes me over to introduce me to her as we are trading cars at the end of the shift. So she shows me her knife with a gleam in her eye (have I mentioned that I’m a bit skittish around knives? There was a reason I didn’t know how to use it) and proceeds to flip it around and demonstrate how you gut your opponent with one smooth motion. All the while grinning like the proverbial cat with the canary.

Honestly, she scared the living shit out of me. I thought I was a dead man. If I ever got away from her, I was not going to be looking back. I told my buddy as much afterwards.

Never did manage to get away from her. Drove in her convoys a few times after that when one of her drivers failed to show up. San Angelo is not a big place, so we ended up running into each other outside of work as well. And so I married her instead. True story.

20 years ago today, babe (yes, I know, 17) Happy anniversary.

Will the Real Star Wars Please Step Forward?

Turns out that Fox actually has more clout, when it comes to Star Wars, than George Lucas does. Or maybe, George still needs a few more millions in the coffers before he closes the bank on the Star Wars debacle.

In any case, recent news is that the original Star Wars Trilogy will be released in their theatrical versions. This, in spite of the statements by Lucas that the “special editions” were definitive, and that he had no intention of re-releasing the original versions.

The Yahoo story on the subject states “Fan attachment to the originals is strong”. I can’t speak for the rest of the fans, but this SciFi buff wasn’t wasting a dime on Lucas’ watered down version of the Original, Original film. Like his buddy Steven Spielberg who digitally removed the guns from the hands of the gov’t goons in his DVD version of ET. Lucas decided that being a shoot first, ask questions later rough and tumble (read as “more realistic”) pirate was the wrong image for Han Solo, and consequently altered one of the more powerful scenes in the film, Han shooting Greedo in order to escape Mos Eisley with his skin intact. I was OK with the rest of it. I could look past the suddenly populated desert planet (don’t ask where the food and water come from) appreciated the improved space effects and soundtrack; but that revised scene was so jarring that I still take out the “Special Edition” Laserdisc (that’s right folks. Laserdisc) at that scene and replace it with the Original Theatrical release version LD, just to watch it done right. I was beginning to think I was going to have to produce a version of my own (similar to the LOTR Purist edit) for my own personal DVD use.

I’ll never understand the magnitude of self-absorption involved in the decision to modify a film that is the contributive effort of hundreds of people, a film that was more successful than any other film of that year (a kind of success that you can’t create even if you plan it, the last three SW films being a case in point) a film that inspired a whole new series of films on the same subject; and somehow you, the rights holder, can make it better.

Please, enough meddling. Can I just have my old films back? Thank you. Government agents carry guns, and pirates don’t wait for their enemies to shoot first. No amount of wishing for a kinder, gentler world is going to change that.