October 31, 2004

First NaNoWriMo Post...

On my NaNoWriMo blog, I've posted the first part of my novel, "Bruce Napoleon, Vampire Veterinarian.". Since this is still October, this falls into the category of "pre-writing" and doesn't count towards my 50,000 word total.

For more info: NaNoWriMo and the rules

You do know that nanowrimo's goals are to -finish- the novel, not write anything good, right?

Chris DiBona
Location: Placerville, Ca
Posted Via: Blogger Interface

October 29, 2004

Probably The Best Movie I've Seen in a Long Time: Primer

Eric Case and I went and saw the movie "Primer" on Wednesday night. This is a movie which has at its center one of my least favorite subjects, time travel. You have to understand, too many years of bad science fiction has made me actively dislike time travel stories (and don't get me started about the holodeck madness). I mostly blame Voyager, but regardless, Primer is a terrific movie. It's not perfect of course, some of the plot was a bit more disjoint than its non-linear nature might require, but it is remarkable. You should make time to go see it. It's very much worth it.

In fact, I think it is fair to say that there is more talent and story in one frame of Primer than there was in an entire season of Voyager.

October 27, 2004

Linux Journal Post: Ballmer on Hardware...

My post on the Ballmer article has gone up on Linux Journal's site : Ballmer Blames Software Piracy on Spendy Hardware, or: What I'd Do with a Hundred Bucks

Chris DiBona

Posting From: Mountain View
Posting Via: Blogger Interface

October 26, 2004

Shiny Happy Funny Drowning Time!

I was at my friend Jeremy's house and he had this game "Sink the Titanic" where the point of the game is to stay above the waterline long enough to get on a life boat then make it to one of the nearby islands (or get rescued by the Carpathia)

Yes, really! I can't make this stuff up. In a way, this is wildly creative, in a sort of sick, lets make light of vast human tragedy kind of way.

These are the game pieces indicating things like water, food and lifeboats. The "adventure" cards say things like "Your food spoils, lose 1 food" or "It rains, receive 1 water" and "You escape being eaten by cannibals" or "You find some breadfruit".

Here you see the board, which has a titanic on it that rotates (sinks) into the background of the board, as it comes full circle the carpathia appears. The "A family game" logo on the box really drives home the sick nature of this. Ha Ha Kids! Try not to drown in the icy briny depths! Ha Ha!

I'm picturing a September 11th game where you roll the dice to see how far you can get down the stairs before the towers fall on you, or maybe you make it just far enough away to get hit on the noggin by a flying brick or something. But what would the adventure cards say? And, like in this game, if you roll a 1 or a six, that's the number of firefighters who pass you on the steps....collect the most firefighter corpses to win. Great family fun! I can picture the slogan for a Pearl Harbor game: "It can be December the 7th every day!"

Chris DiBona

Posted From: San Jose
Posted Via: The Blogger interface and with pictures from my Cell Phone.

Hillary Rosen, It's gonna take a lot more than that...

In Ms. Rosen's recent article: Wired 12.11: How I Learned to Love Larry, she shares with us with her story about her developing love for the Creative Commons license. I say only this: Get Bent. Most of us still remember when you were suing 12 year olds.

You are a broken person, one not worth fixing.

Chris DiBona

Location: Mountain View, Ca
Posted Via: Blogger

John Dvorak: "Podcasters are a bunchy of filthy pot smokin' hippies."

In a recent PC Magazine article "Podcasting: Not Ready for Prime Time", John Dvorak (not the creator of the keyboard, mind you) lets us know that Podcasting isn't perfect for everyone yet.

If that was all, then I think the world would have given the customary "meh" and moved on. But no. I'm hoping Dvorak was trying to be funny, but when he writes this:

One look at them, and you know they aren't your usual IT hacks. They look more like the participants in the High Times magazine roundtable debate on the benefits of hand pressed hempseed oil as a hair conditioner.

I mostly weep for his email box, and the future of PC Magazine. I mean, coming down on developers for hair style is so very strange. Does he expect ties? Perfect hair? I think that John has been hanging out with the khakis and blue shirt set a bit much.

Keep in mind, I'm not a podcast maniac, and I really can't bring myself to care about it that much, but this kind of writing stinks of "Boy, those guys sure have a lot of time on their hands!" and what John doesn't seem to realize is that his entire career has been based on people coming up with neat new things when they use that time and those hands.

I think the best way to describe this kind of writing is old. Close minded. Stupid. Weak. Lame. Boring. Adds nothing.....and for me to spend time commenting on it is....well, I guess the same. Does John have the ability to pull out of his dive? It is likely. Who hasn't written weak crap now and then, I know I have. For John to have devolved into calling these people who are passionate about this particular technology a bunch of pot-smoking hippies seems pretty dumb for someone who has been around as long as Dvorak has.

Chris DiBona
Location: Mountain View
Posted Via: Blogger Interface.

October 25, 2004

Blog us? Blog This? (and a NaNoWriMo update)

In my colleague Biz's blog entry today: Biz Stone, Genius: Blog Us he points out the very neat little "blog us" button at the bottom of a persons blog. While this only works for blogger, that's okay by me as I have a blogspot based blog.

So i got to thinking, what I really like is the "blog this" button on Google IE toolbar but I use Firefox. Maybe I could modify the link in the Blog us button to provide a similar functionality in Firefox. In fact, I didn't need to change a thing. Since it uses the "location.href" value than a hard coded value, I didn't even have to pull out a hardcoded url for the post. Tres cool!

Right click on the following link: Blog This Page and bookmark it directly (don't follow it unless you want to blog about this post) , then next time you're surfing around and want to comment on some page, you're a click away from firefoxy blogging goodness.

NaNoWriMo Update:

I have the first 850 words of the story written, I'm editing it, since it isn't November 1st yet, it doesn't count toward my word count, which is fine, but I want to whet some appetites out there. I'll be posting that tomorrow, so stay tuned on the Bruce Napoleon weblog for the first bit of the novel. I promise -nothing-. Go do a nanowrimo!

I have to admit to being a little intimidated by the whole thing, I mean, how the hell am I going to keep up with that much writing, especially considering my other duties (work, wife, kid, school, non-fiction writing, etc..). I expect to be fully exhausted by the end of this. Good thing I have some solid plane trips coming up and a laptop that takes a serious charge (7 hours in super power saving mode, and two extra batteries!), all hail "super power saver mode".

That said, I do wonder, what with my tendency to play mp3s while doing anything on the computer, how good is that for battery life? Probably not great, but I get a solid 6 hours regardless, and that's playing divx movies with both the bay and regular extended battery. This is a great laptop.

Chris DiBona

Location: Mountain View, Ca
Posted Via: Blogger Interface

Headlines Lie, or... 4 in 5 myopic marketing executives agree, MP3 is a dying protocol.

Today's crappy headline award is awarded to MSN, for their article "MP3 losing steam?.There is a lot wrong with this article, but lets just start with the Headline, which then leads to this opening sentence in the second paragraph:

"MP3 is still the overwhelming favorite of file traders, but the once-universal formats popularity has been going quietly but steadily down in personal music collections for the last year."

So, okay, I guess through some logic where mp3 downloading goes from 95% to 94% of all music file downloads, you might consider that losing steam, but the article wouldn't give such numbers, you might assume. Why not? Because, of course, anyone giving such numbers would immediately reveal themselves as being frauds, right? I mean, no one can logically expect us to believe that they know how many songs are being "traded" via bittorrent, kazaa, remote shares, IM and email? Right, I mean, only a shyster would expect us to.....you know what, I don't even have the heart to point out how wrong this article is.

Let me put it this way. If someone comes to you in print (as this article does), on TV or online and tries to assert they know how many people are downloading what kind of media on the internet. It is very safe to ignore them. It's like someone coming up to you and saying "I know how many clouds are in the sky." It always changes, its untraceable, and the diaphanous nature of it makes it difficult to classify, much less accurately observe. These people probably think Heisenberg is a German margarita or something.

Here's the justification they give for the headline: Since people are buying more music via itunes and other services, they're less likely to delete those paid for, drm-wrapped files as compared to mp3s which apparently people think nothing of deleting and do so all the time. How they maintain this last bit is beyond me, from what I've experienced people rarely delete music so long as it reaches some level of decent tagging. My pals are way more likely to buying enormous IDE drives.

Also, people commonly rerip their drm wrapped songs to mp3 so they can play and burn them onto any device. This is not so much the case for the end-to-end ipodders, but for the people who use other 'services' like Sony's or others, there's definitely some transcoding going on. (I hate transcoding, the end result is often repellently poor quality...kind of like atrac on mini-disc)

The really weird thing about this article is that, mid-way through it starts contradicting itself. Something I've been prone to do, but always with a warning.

Pathetic DRM bugs me.

Chris DiBona
Posted From: San Jose, Ca
Posted Via: Blogger Interface

October 22, 2004

Since others have noted the visit..

Last week, googlers had the good fortune to host the last (or first, depending on your perspective) great leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. Our CEO, Eric Schmidt, had a conversation with Mr. Gorbachev in front of all the assembled google staff.

Every Friday, google puts on what we call a TGIF (guess what that stands for), where new googlers (nooglers) are introduced and company news is disseminated to the gathered troops. We often have high profile guests, it just a really nice side benefit of working there.

A lot of people state, authoritatively, that "Reagan won the cold war.", which has always rung false to me. Don't get me wrong, he definitely had a role in it ending, but I truly believe that Gorbachev deserves the lion's share of the credit of taking a despotic, totalitarian regime and, through the twin policies of perestroika and glasnost, bringing the soviet union out from behind the veil which it had huddled for so long.

Some scholars believe that Mr. Gorbachev had a definite choice. He could either choose to become extremely repressive in the Stalinist way or he could attempt to open the USSR up via democratic reform. He chose the latter. This is what made him a good speaker.

I'd write more, but I'm not really looking to turn this into a political blog, and you can't really talk about Gorbachev and Reagan without inviting lots of exceptionally boring flamewars to start in comments (not that I'm that popular). Regardless of all that, it was very cool to hear him speak at the Google café.

Chris DiBona

October 21, 2004

I assure you that I am not insane.

If you look over to the right of this post, you'll note a cute little stamp looking graphic with the wordlet "NanoWriMo" on it. NaNoWriMo is short hand for "National Novel Writing Month." Which describes the use of the month of November to write an entire novel, 50,000 words or more, in 30 days.

This, when combined with Blogger, becomes NaNoBlogMo, in which you use the facilities provided by blogger as your platform to write said novel. The idea being that since you can blog from anywhere (via email, etc) on blogger, you can write your novel from anywhere. No excuses and one hell of a deadline.

The novel I'm writing, which you can read about on the books blog, might be entertaining, so go check that out and subscribe to that feed if that sounds interesting to you.

Why a novel? It certainly isn't for lack of things to do. Google keeps me very happily busy, as does my family, but I figure it would be fun and there are a few hours of sleep that I could easily skip with the goal of creating something fun. I really do like writing, and the last time I wrote fiction was for the dearly departed game rekonstruction and I miss the fiction thing.

Luckily my non-fiction jones is satisfied often enough for my use, what with the Linux.com, Linux Journal and other reportage style writing I've been spinning back up here on Ego Food.

Regarding "meet the feedsters": I sadly wasn't able to make it. As I mentioned in a previous entry google hired a grandmaster who threw a simultaneous match that same night, I didn't finish playing until around 8pm, so I decided to stay in the South Bay. I do hope to make it to the Technorati party next week though, so if you're in the bay area....

Chris DiBona
Location: San Jose, Ca
Posted Via: Blogger

October 20, 2004

Blogvergence, or: The Revolution Will Be Establishmentified

A great number of people have commented on the recent article "The Revolution will be commercialized" on Jason Kotke's site, but I thought, hey, what do I think about it?

First off, in this age of Adsense, the actual presence of an ad on a webpage should be considered a given, not a surprise. A much more interesting number would be the number of the top 100 blogs that have advertising in their feeds, not their page content.

As you may know, Engadget has been running ads for some Bose ipod craptraption in its feed (I don't like Bose's products, marketing or legal tactics, but that's a later, longer post, perhaps on my friend Michael's site as he has more experience dealing with that company.) At the recent BlogOn conference where I spoke many of the talks and discussions centered around monetization of feeds and weblogs.

I have to say that I found the whole topic of monetization of blogs leaves me kind of bored. I know that this is all very exciting, and money, and all that. Don't get me wrong, I like and could use some extra money, who couldn't? But isn't all this feed ad talk really just converging on regular syndication?

For instance, what is a blog with an ad? How is it different from the new York times, or cnn.com , which is just reporters writing stories with ads around them. What is a podcast with an Ad? It's radio.

Then, I ask and answer, How are weblogs any different (note I said different, not better or worse)

  • They're outside the current power structure:

    The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the rest don't pick who do or do not get to blog. Thank god for that. That said, we shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that there is no controlling power structure in the sphere o' blogs. I'm not saying it is bad or good, but it is what it is.

    For instance, I know people read this blog, but the immediacy that I enjoyed when I was an author for Slashdot isn't there and won't be for some time, if ever. Right now I'd be surprised if more than 200 people read this site when I post. I'm okay with this, I'm doing my blog for my own reasons (See title :-).

    That said, you can be guaranteed that there is a blog that is read by maybe just the author and his friends that is more cogent, informed and follows the rules of grammar and spelling better than any of those top 100. You can be guaranteed that there are likely thousands of unknown blogs that fall into this category, trying to break through into the public consciousness. Some will, some won't, that's the nature of media.

  • They aren't held to the same kind of scrutiny

    Most blogs don't report to an editorial staff, a legal department, an advertising department or a ombudsman. Many blogs have a very broken relationship with the truth. You might say: "But Chris, CNN and/or Fox News lies all the time!", and I'd say that in fact suing those organizations for libel is a practical way of attacking the problem of Fox/CNN libeling you, but the only thing you can do to effectively fight perception problems in blogs is to blog yourself, comment on other blogs etc... one might say that suing bloggers is an effective remedy, but I'd disagree. (More on that in a later column...)

  • They're a bit more portable:

    This is the only real difference in my mind, I can take blogs with me more often than not. Despite my current aggregation love affair with Bloglines, offline readers are legion and work quite well. Some bloggers don't do full posts in feeds, but enough do that it's not awful to read them this way.

    Podcasting is like this as well.

  • They're more immediate:

    No New York Times/CNN can be faster than the distributed madness that is the internet. No new York Times/CNN/Fox can be as wrong as the internet.

  • They're more personally liable and accountable:

    This is interesting in that I'm basically contradicting my earlier post. I'm okay with that. In theory the corporate shell that protects a Bill O'Reilly or a Dan Rather doesn't exist for a prominent blogger, so in a way, their are more personally vulnerable.

    This isn't a good thing, mind you, as people could be easily intimidated into self censure, something that the powerful love. I think that this will become a big issue over the next year, someone will get sued, then a year or so on, they'll lose a lot of money/their house/etc, and then some enterprising insurance company will come up with blogging insurance or something related, which will just be "traditional" media liability insurance in new clothes.

  • They bring expertise to the conversation:

    This is the very good thing that I think is truly different about blogs when compared to the regular media. The fact is that when it comes to truly technical topics, whether it is commentary on the gritty details of information technology, biology, medicine, finance or art, there are only so many people in large media organizations that have the background to even begin to write about a topic.

    In fact, there is one magazine that pulls it off in the sciences, and that's science news (which is so worth the subscription). In the blog world, the same people in a field can write about what they're up to. The world need not rely on the Mossbergs, the Markoffs or the Ira Flatows for all their science reporting needs. Don't read this as a slam of those three, I mostly really like their work, but they can't compete with the actually scientist at his or her most lucid.

    Anyhow, just some random thoughts about the nature of media. More later...

    Chris DiBona
    Location: Mountain View, Ca
    Post Via: Blogger Interface.
  • October 19, 2004

    14 Minutes of Me Writing About Stupid People

    By now, a number of you may have heard about Dipshit Artist Maria Alquilar. The stunningly idiotic Ms. Alquilar has given in to pressure to respell her mural.

    Let me take a deep breath, and a step back. First of all, I am -not- a perfect speller. In fact, I am not a good speller at all. Functionally illiterate is how I often think of myself. To make a fine point of it, a histogram of the keys I pound on while posting would likely show excessive spiking at the backspace and arrow keys. I'm not saying I'm stupid, but I don't type well, I type too sloppy so that my real speed goes way down.

    For instance, those last two paragraphs, when you take into account editing, took about 4 minutes of my fourteen to write. This paragraph added another 1 to that total.

    But this isn't about me, it's about how I feel about something. Ms. Alquilar is not like me in that, when she chooses to create she hides her mistakes, or her ignorance, behind to rubric of "it's art, not science, so don't expect me to spell correctly." Now, if she was taking a wee bit of poetic license with the odd word here and there, I'd agree and we'd all have a beer.

    That is not what was happening here. This artiste is defending the spelling of Einstein as "Eistein", Shakespeare as "Shakespere" and Van Gogh as "Van Gough". This and an additional 8 misspellings are what makes me cringe. Here's the kicker, she wanted $6,000 dollars to repair the error, saying that she was a "sacrificial goat" to the angry people who sent her email.

    I bet the reporter spelled it for her.

    The outcome of all the appropriate outrage is that she's fixing the mural free of charge.

    Did I mention that this mural was in a library?

    Oops! Gotta go...12 minutes into it....the last thing I want to say about this is that when artists rip off cities and patrons with bad art or express outrage when mistakes are pointed out, they make it harder for cities to give money to artists. Which is bad.

    Chris DiBona
    Location: Mountain View, Ca
    Posting Via: Blogger Interface

    October 18, 2004

    Well, that's a relief.

    Was perusing the news and came across this gem: Microsoft Math: Dual core licensed as one chip and this reminded me that some companies are still charging by the CPU for things. Maybe this made sense when CPUs were 20mhz or something, but when the chips in a desktop are insanely powerful, or in the case of a dual core chip, doubly so, what is there to be gained from per-cpu licensing than ongoing diminishing returns?

    What should Microsoft base its licensing on? Well, how about human beings. Depending on what shackles you've elected to take on with them (or many other software firms, its not just a Microsoft thing), many software companies actually expect you to purchase a different license if you want to run the software on a second machine, like, say, a laptop or a second computer in your house. I only have 1 pair of hands, and for that matter, 2 eyes, 1 nose (you get the point), why should I pay twice for something that I can only logically use at one time.

    That said, that's the deal you agree to when you use their software, then so be it, but spare me the fairy tale of software companies which are trying to stand out of the way of "dual core innovation."

    One thing I do welcome dual core machines for is video games. Well, sure, they're useful for databases, modeling etc, but a video game, that's where the action is at for dual core/smp. When the penetration gets far enough along, you could do so very cool things with a game that takes proper advantage.

    Imagine entities whose AI threads never stop processing, or sounds processing being offloaded from the control cpu, or all the graphics and user input and other high priority controls on one cpu and the less important bits like wind, leaf, and other attractive but functionally eye candy on a second. Lots of cool things when you've expanded your cpu budget.

    Also, how ridiculously fast can you get, I feel like a codger when I think back to the IBM PC my parents brought back to, and now my laptop has ram than I had disk space back then, lots more.

    I was considering going to the feedster dinner tomorrow night, but the thing about working at Google is that you'll have an idea of what you want to do in a week and then a tech talk or speaker will be scheduled that you really want to see, or your co-workers will arrange an event that you simply don't want to miss.

    Please don't read this as me bragging, but I'm very excited that tomorrow I'll be playing (along with 20 other googlers) chess against a grandmaster who has come to work for google. While I expect to be soundly beaten, I'm really looking forward to it. Then I'll be hopping up to San Francisco to have a drink with Scott and hopefully Scott.

    Also, I had the good luck to go to see "Shaun of the dead" with a friend last night, it was hilarious, best British zombie comedy movie ever. If you have an eye for the genre, it's even funnier. For instance, you know how in horror movies they're always moving a bathroom mirror or something and the Zombie! Will! Come! Into! View! Well, lets just say that is one of the many cliches they makes outrageously funny.

    A part of me wants ot ruin stuff for you, but go see it, you'll love it. Or you won't, in which case...that's okay too.

    Chris DiBona
    Location: Mountain View, Ca
    Posted Via: Blogger Interface

    October 17, 2004

    California Dreaming or: When the Undiscovered is Discovered

    I was thinking recently about Linux and computer enthusiasts in general, and it got me thinking about my little corner of California. It is hard to describe my affection for the spare rolling hills of the Sierra foothills. As I drive along the undeveloped stretches (which are getting fewer and fewer) I reflect on my own memories of these hills which as early as five years ago held no houses, strip malls, ever widening highways, or big box collectives.

    When Christine and I were looking to purchase a house somewhere near or in Placerville, we played with the idea of building a house on some land in the El Dorado Hills/Cameron park area, and I was struck with the real beauty of the hills. I had mostly kept to the bay area, which is beautiful in its own populated way, so the search for a house off the beaten path was something new for me.

    For those unfamiliar with California geography, Placerville is midway between South Lake Tahoe and Sacramento. Placerville was the county seat during the gold rush and was previously known as "Old Dry Diggins" and then "Hangtown". While accurately descriptive (you wouldn't have wanted to jump a claim in the gold rush), this name was considered a bit to brutal by the townfolk who prompted the name change in 1854 to the pretty, if a bit bland, "Placerville", referencing the kind of rock where gold could be found.

    El Dorado Hills and Cameron Park are both about 20 miles west of Placerville and both are going through a vast explosion of population due to their proximity to the newly invigorated town of Folsom, which now hosts an interesting mix of tech companies, including a large Intel campus.

    While depressing isn't the exact word that my wife and I feel when we see the explosive growth overtaking the rolling hills and oak trees on the North side of the highway on the way down to Sacramento, there is a bit of disappointment in the change from the peaceful beauty of the tall grasses and spare dottings of brush and oak to neighborhoods consisting of 4000 and 5000 square foot homes. For instance, the Serrano development, has approval to build 6500 homes on their sites in El Dorado County, and I'm guessing they're maybe a quarter of the way into their plans.

    Suddenly, this area of austere natural beauty is no longer austere. Lots more homes, cars, commerce and people. I don't hold much weight to the idea that our idyllic life in placerville is "ruined". I've never really believed that things necessarily get worse because more people enjoy them. Also, placerville still enjoys a 18 mile buffer from the expansive (and expensive) growth of the flatlands.

    While I do feel that the sprawl of our western neighbors is taking away something from the charm of gold country, the same can't be said for the advance of Linux adoption.

    While the analogy doesn't hold a one to one match, the terrific thing about Linux and its BSD cousins is that, with more people using it, it gets much much better for their influence. Linux is about 7 years into what I would call its adolescent growth spurt. Before 1998, the only people really using Linux were scientists and programmers, many prototyping for a "Real" Unix like Solaris, BSD or HPux. Yes, I know this is a vast over generalization, but stick with me here.

    Starting at or around 1998, you started seeing some very real adoption of Linux as that final target platform. You saw the growth (ongoing especially now) of the KDE and Gnome desktop metaphors. You saw IBM, HP and just about every company come up with a strategy about how to join the Linux party (or attempt to call the cops in an attempt to have it shut down). It is the rare large technology player that has an ill defined strategy around Linux and Open Source Software. I myself am employed in this role for Google, a noted consumer of Open Source technology.

    There are some that would say that the influx of these "non-traditional" influences represents a pollution of the ideals around Linux and Open Source Software. While I don't like to call these true-believers zealots, it is worrying when I see them reject these changes simply because of their source, namely the corporations or those who want to profit off of, and take part in the development of, free and open source software.

    For these people who are uncomfortable playing with these kinds of people and companies, there are a number of distributions that cater to their needs, being both terrific and non-dependent on any corporate/capitalistic influences. I speak of course about Debian and Gentoo.

    These distributions are capable, powerful and very influential. Without Debian, would the idea of online package distribution and maintenance have become so widespread? I doubt it. Similarly, Gentoo's focus on speed and its cutting edge nature provide for a solid testbed for all the latest programs and architectures. Not to take a potshot at Windows, but they've appeared to have had a hard time taking true advantage of the 64 bit opteron chips from AMD and the Itanium series from Intel.

    Gentoo is quite nimble when it comes to chip hopping, in a way that's so cool its almost scary. I don't recommend either Gentoo or Debian for companies, but when a person emails me asking how they can go to that next step of Linux use, I commonly refer them to both of those distributions and Linux from Scratch.

    Luckily, Linux scales in a way that the local geography has not, so I don't look out over the rolling hills of Linux with ennui as I do with excitement with what is to come from the ever growing Linux development community.

    Chris DiBona
    Location: Hangtown, Ca
    Posted Via: The Blogger Interface

    October 16, 2004

    One in Four Magical Mushroom People Pirate Software

    In a recent PC World story titled "One in Four Businesses Pirate Software" Jason Tuohey quotes a Business Software Alliance study about the nature of corporate IT.

    Here's the problem: The BSA has a reputation for having a delicate relationship with truth. Don't read this as my approval of software theft, I'm a big believer in intellectual property (open source software depends on a strong copyright regime).

    Cue Flashback and wavy special effects:

    Back in 1999 when I worked for VA Software I received a fairly interesting letter from a person about a BSA raid on his business following an investigation that the BSA did on a local "white-box" retailer who was installing windows 98 on machines without providing/paying for the proper licenses (a handy way of keeping costs down, I suppose.) It turns out his company had bought a number of machines from this vendor.

    I don't pretend to know every side... I think it is likely that they were contacted by the BSA alerting them that they had "stolen" property, but like many, they would ignore such a note from the BSA.

    Why would you ignore a note like that from the BSA? Well, because in the late 1990s the BSA sent out physical letters to what seemed like every business in the silicon valley stating that they knew we had pirated software because a previous employee had informed on them. Or at least enough of them that I got word from friends at companies all over the valley who got these.

    So you can imagine that we didn't take those letters seriously. And that is why I don't now take this study seriously when they come from the BSA.

    BTW, and interesting postscript of the letter senders story is that he switched over to an all Linux setup for his business and was oddly grateful for the impetus to switch.

    That said, if it is true that one in four businesses pirate software, then that might be an interesting datum to think about.

    October 15, 2004

    Lost in the Noise, or, how I learned to stop worrying about North Korean Cyber-Terrorists and Love my Network Connection.

    I was reading this story: "North Korea to Launch cyber war" and I gotta ask ...Why would any sovereign nation think that 500 people are going to make a palpable difference? We probably have tens of thousands of lame script kiddies in the US alone, not even considering Europe, Russia, Belarus, Romania, Australia and the pacific rim. I mean, it's not as if every single site and machine of any prominence isn't under constant DDOS anyway.

    When I was working at VA/OSDN, at least one of our sites was under attack (DDOS, scripted, etc...) every single day, so I don't really see the point of training an additional 500 to attack the US or any of our allies.

    Additionally, I'd worry more about Kim Jong Il's nuclear capability before I'd worry about a syn flood from North Korea. I've got backups of my data, I can't backup my DNA...at least not yet. I'll even go so far to say that while inconvenient, "cyber-terrorism" is pretty far down my list of "threats to worry about", somewhere far below mad-cow disease and maybe a little higher than the threat presented by George Lucas' promise to make sequels to Return of the Jedi.

    Considering this, I don't operate under the assumption that this is what N. Korea is actually doing...whether you call it network security operations, penetration testing, or computer forensics, you'd imagine every nation of a certain size and ambition has a team like this. I know we do.

    So, with those caveats in mind, if we have to present the spammer/ddos/script kiddie threat as a national security concern to get some of these aberrant freaks thrown brought up for charges, I guess I'm okay with that. It's not 1988 anymore, these aren't well intentioned Robert Morris' after all. For that matter, they aren't even Kevins around anymore...at least Kevin Mitnick had to have some knowledge (And I actually like Kevin, we did some TV together). We aren't wasting a precious programming resource by jailing a script kiddie.

    This post actually dovetails well into an article I'm writing for my pals at Linux Journal, which I'll link to when I get that one finished.

    Chris DiBona

    Location: Mountain View, Ca.
    Posted Via: Blogger Interface

    October 13, 2004

    Thanks for the extra food, Harvey's...

    I spent a lot of time in hotels over the last 7 years. I've estimated that I've flown some 300k miles and stayed a in a great number of hotels. Really nice hotels, some very overrated hotels, and some really nasty hotels.

    For instance, the circus circus, the second hotel I ever stayed in for a business trip... got a good deal ($50/night) on a set of rooms for VA Software for Comdex, we'd have stayed somewhere nicer, but nothing was available, this was in 1998, back when people still went to Comdex. One my first day at VA, 2 weeks before Comdex, my then boss, Larry Augustin, said "Oh, we're going to Comdex" and for me to set it up. I pulled it off...carpet, power, booth assembly, machinery, shipping, drayage, mob bribes, etc.. but the hotel situation was kinda icky.

    The circus circus 50$ rooms are somewhat, well, unfortunate. They have this yellowing border of paint around the top of the rooms, yellowing because of the three... make that four decades of smoke and Vegas fumes. These were the original rooms that made up circus circus, you go out through the parking lot, across the street, weaving between the winnebagos until you find your room, miles from the front desk, dragging your suitcases along the way. Suitcases and pamphlets....and a monitor. Lots of fun.

    Once you get in the room, if you should turn on the TV, you'll notice a channel with a clown...many clowns...clowns in a cop show, clowns in a talk show format, clowns teaching people to play card games....yep.... "Hey kids! Here's how you play blackjack."

    Comdex was kinda fun, though.

    But this isn't about circus circus, it's about Harvey's on stateline. Harvey's wasn't awful. The rooms were nice, the casinos, like all casinos, smelled of cheap cigarettes and cheaper beer. Also, I gotta say, the Led Zepplin cover band playing over the PA drove home the "redneck riviera" touch. The cure cover band playing over the pa in the elevator was way more offensive. Beatles? You expect the beadles to be covered, but the Cure? Please. Spare me....

    But, you ask, what's this about extra food? Extra food sounds good to me, sort of. Well, I'd normally be okay with food, but the reason this is -extra- food is that it came attached to "clean" plates at the buffet. It got to the point where I settled for food only being stuck on the bottom of the plate....As it was impossible to find one that was completely clean.

    The funny part about this was, when I was at the buffet, I'd pick up plate, look at it, and put it into a new pile if it was dirty. I'd then pick up the next one, look at it, and put it on the dirty pile. After three of these filthy, disgusting, egg pre-attached, plates, the person behind the counter said "Sir, what are you doing?"

    "Looking for a clean plate."

    Funny how they don't say anything after that...funnier still is how, shortly after I left, they move the dirty plates onto the "clean" pile.

    Nice view from the restaurant though.

    SFO, from the Millbrae shore.

    October 12, 2004

    Bobby Fischer, Thea Von Harbou and reconciling their personalities with their great works

    Bobby Fischer is really something. I've been reviewing some of his games of late and am in simple awe of his ability. Over the last year or so, I've been relearning chess, attempting to pass my previous, pitiful rankings and have been doing an okay job of it. I don't expect to be an international or grand master, as I don't think I have to time to put into it nor the innate ability, but I've been getting steadily better.

    With the study of chess comes the ability to parse and appreciate the genius behind some of the games played by the "greats" over the many years/decades/centuries of recorded games. You also start to accumulate anecdotes about the men and women behind these games. No one is more storied than Fischer.

    There are a number of terrific pages about Fischer out on the web, so I won't bore you with many details about this man, who is likely the strongest player of his generation, but I will bore you with some of the salient details about his aberrant personality.

    I drive more than I'd like, and rather than listen to hate speech that fades out everytime you go under a bridge on am or high fidelity commercials on the fm (with some exceptions, of course) I like to listen to audio books. I'm currently listening to "Bobby Fischer goes to war" Which talks about the life of Fischer and the times in which he grew up, specifically how his story was intimately connected with the cold war, specifically his chess rivalry with Boris Spassky.

    A certifiable paranoid and noted anti-Semite, born of a Jewish mother natch, Bobby Fischer was notorious for alienating tournament organizers all over the globe with his particular demands about lighting, audience distance and other minutiae that would otherwise be acceptable if it weren't for his being convinced that the Jewish people were evil. I'll refer you to an article on the World Chess Network about him, in the event you need further examples of his repellent anti-semitism.

    Thea Von Harbou was the writer who penned the novel Metropolis which one of histories greatest movies was made from. She was also a Nazi sympathizer who watched in apparent satisfaction when her husband, Metropolis Film Director Fritz Lang, was forced to flee Nazi Germany as he was Jewish. Imagine his position. His wife and collaborator stayed behind to develop films glorifying the Nazis while he fled for his life. How cold was this woman?

    But, as I said, this isn't about them, but my conflict about them.

    The first time I read Metropolis, I was moved. It was so well done that it was nearly impossible to read, as I found myself savoring its words, sentences and paragraphs. It was caviar and chocolate and oysters and wine by the palletload. It was too much.

    This too is what it is like taking in many of the games of Fischer. Breathtaking and genius and smart and surprising and unorthodox and even funny at times.

    But these two are in the case of Fischer and was in the case of Von Harbou, reprehensible human beings. Reprehensible human beings who are brilliant. And that's the problem, but celebrating the ideas and works of these two people do you give their ideas about Jews, or women (Fischer thought little of them) more credence, more power?

    Perhaps. But in the meantime, should we as a society do away with the beauty and knowledge that reprehensible or evil people create? How much evil makes great works, well, ungreat? Does the fact that slave labor likely made the great wall of china, or the pyramids makes them any less grand? Does the reprehensible caste systems of the middle ages make Vienna any less of a beautiful city, or stephansplatz less fantastic?

    I don't think so, but one might want to keep in mind the men, women and lives behind such works when considering them.

    Chris DiBona
    Location: My sisters place in San Jose.
    Posted Via: Blogger Interface

    Links, via IFrame

    Well, I decided to use my old category based links system via an Iframe. At the bottom o' the blog, you'll see em.

    I'm not -hugely- happy with this solution, as it kinda sucks, but it'll work till something better comes along, or I write something. I really like http://del.icio.us/ as it is something like 90% there, if they only had browser plugins for cross machine link syncing.

    Also, my prediction for the most oversubscribed hardware problems of 2005 is going to go to (drum roll please) last.fm, go check em out, you'll be able to use it maybe for two or three more weeks at most before the rest of the world slams it into the dirt. Good luck guys, go pick up some hardware.

    Chris DiBona
    Location: At Google, Mountain View.
    Posted Via: Blogger Interface

    October 10, 2004


    On the right, I've added some html to load some images from my store of cam pictures. You see two pictures, one the most recent pic taken, and the second a random shot. I wrote a quicky program in php to load them from my main servers. I want to basically move all of those services to blogger now, so the next step would be a linkfarm/blogroll, etc.

    My only "issue" with most blogs is that the linking is done in sort of a deathmarch list of endless reading opportunities. I don't like that so much, so I'm writing a little manager for links. Where I intend on putting it? Don't really know, we'll see...

    Chris DiBona

    Location: At Home in placerville.
    Posted via: Blogger Interface.

    October 7, 2004


    I work at Google now, as part of that, I'm consolidating all of my previous online publishing onto Blogger. I've actually been meaning to switch to a real publishing system for a while. I even, like most programmers, written a cms which is now sitting gathering dust in my filespace, never to see the light of day. But until the fine folks at Blogger give me a solid importing tool, I'm just going to point at my old journals.

    Old entries and writing can be found at the following urls:

    My O'Reilly network blog (I do the polls there too)
    My java.net blog
    My homespun blog on my homepage
    My Linux Journal articles
    My OSDN/OSTG/Linux.com/Newsforge articles
    My last book, Open Sources
    My log of stories posted on Slashdot (I did the polls there, but no more)

    I may post at these places again, but I'll always link to them from here. In a way, this will act as a synthetic feed for those posts.

    Thanks, and feel free to subscribe to my feed. Part of my posts will include a footer containing where I'll be writing from and other trivia.

    Chris DiBona

    Location as of this writing: Google, Mountain View.
    Posted via: The Blogger interface.