Content from 2007-05

Third Wednesday Songs of Summer
posted on 2007-05-31 00:39:00
Jason Mraz - Did I Fool You?
Andrew Bird - Dark Matter
The Spinanes - Kid In Candy
Modest Mouse - Dashboard
The White Stripes - Little Bird
Quick Update\Summer Reading List
posted on 2007-05-30 07:40:00
The first day of work was pretty good. I'll say more tomorrow cause I need to get to bed for tonight. My summer reading list has lengthened though.
My summer reading list was:
Worldchanging by Alex Steffen
The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler
Infotopia by Cass Sunstein
Code by Lawrence Lessig
Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond (finished)
The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Pike (Amazon lies. I have the first edition!!!)
Introduction to Computing Systems by Patt and Patel
Emergence by Steven Johnson
Sync by Steven Strogatz
Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
Godel, Escher, and Bach by Douglas Hofstader (Amazon lies again. First edition! [even though it's not as cool as 1st ed. k&p])

Today I purchased\added to that:
Cradle to Cradle by Braungart and McDonough
Programming the Universe by Seth Lloyd
The Future of Ideas by Lawrence Lessig
The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

Oh, boy. Good times. Busy times. Also, in case you don't know: Never let me near a bookstore ever again.
Third Tuesday Quotables
posted on 2007-05-30 07:38:00
"He didn't use very many arguments. He just basically took it for granted that I would be interested. He was clueless, unable to imagine that there could be entire segments of the human race who weren't the least bit concerned about increasing the Mac's market share. I think he was truly surprised at how little I cared about how big a market the Mac had - or how big a market Microsoft has. And I can't blame him for not knowing in advance how much I dislike Mach (the microkernel on which Mac OS X's XNU kernel is based)." - Linus Torvalds

"I'm doing a (free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones." - Linus Torvalds launching Linux on a small mailing list in 1991

"There are literally several levels of SCO being wrong. And even if we were to live in that alternate universe where SCO would be right, they'd still be wrong." - Linus Torvalds on SCO

"Personally, I'm _not_ interested in making device drivers look like user-level. They aren't, they shouldn't be, and microkernels are just stupid." - Linus Torvalds again

"2.6.x: still a stable kernel, but accept bigger changes leading up to it (timeframe: a month or two).
2.x.x: aim for big changes that may destabilize the kernel for several releases (timeframe: a year or two)
x.x.x: Linus went crazy, broke absolutely _everything_, and rewrote the kernel to be a microkernel using a special message-passing version of Visual Basic. (timeframe: "we expect that he will be released from the mental institution in a decade or two")." - Linus Torvalds making a joke about kernel release numbering schemes


"Modern PCs are horrible. ACPI is a complete design disaster in every way. But we're kind of stuck with it. If any Intel people are listening to this and you had anything to do with ACPI, shoot yourself now, before you reproduce." - Linus Torvalds

Okay, okay. I won't do that again. I'm done with Linus. I swear.
Third Monday Update
posted on 2007-05-29 05:46:00
Summer: Week 2: Finished
Music Library Reorganization (Begun)
Further Arch Linux Configuration
Including unexpected crazy reinstall and Openbox experimentation
Unbelievable Amounts of Sonya Drama
Withdrawal from OU Fall Courses
Still Didn't: Programming Chapter 2, GYM! Shame on me.
As mentioned: Arch hacking involved much more experimentation than expected, also more learning.

I also haven't mentioned to anyone yet that I had a job interview Thursday and I got the job and start tomorrow. I hope someone reads this and congratulates me cause it's a pretty bad ass job. I'll be helping with the Linux Systems Administration (working with everything to VMware ESX Servers to Apache\Tomcat machines). It's with a pretty reputable (from what I gather) sustainable architecture\design firm called TVS on the corner of Peachtree and 15th high up in the Promenade Building. I even get a parking pass...woot. Anyway, my hours are initially 7am-3pm T,W,Th. TVS also has offices in Dubai and Chicago and have worked lately on the new CDC campus.

Summer: Week 3: Schedule
Tuesday
TVS
Sonya before\until 5
GYM
Reading\Hacking?*
Wednesday
TVS
Sonya
Reading\Hacking?*
Thursday
TVS
Sonya
GYM
It's my friday night party out probably.
Friday
Chill.
Blog.

*= Summer Reading has begun. I've gotten a number of the books on former lists or syllabi I've made. So far the summer reading list is as follows: Just for Fun by Linus Torvalds and David Diamond, Emergence by Steven Johnson, Sync by Steven Strogatz, The Wealth of Networks by Yochai Benkler (YES!YES!YES!), Infotopia by Cass Sunstein (also great), Worldchanging by Alex Steffen, Code by Lawrence Lessig, Introduction to Computing Systems by Patt and Patel, and The C Programming Language by Kernighan and Pike.

News for 5/28/07:
First off, Dell finally made their big announcement this past Thursday. We've known it was coming since "the big day" which I kindly added some insightful commentary to in that link. I promise I'll actually try to say something useful about this finally in the next day or two. Also, I might just delve into a lot of the mac\linux thoughts I've been having lately.
Compiz and Compcomm Gits have grown somewhat quiet...and a poll went up on a name for Compcomm just today. Packages are soon to follow.
NJ Patel has done a lot of work on the Avant-Window-Navigator codebase and dropped a few updates.
And Oliver McFadden, that champion of men, is back in the Mesa git tearing up the R300 code. My hero.
Kerneltrap posted some interesting commentary on crash dumps.
Empathy 0.5 was announced. There are no packages yet but I'm definitely keeping my eye on this.
The GNOME roadmap was also released. And people are still doing work on semantic filesystems, which makes me happy. But I also say just port ZFS already. Apple's doing it. They want a free ride.
Novell is sorry for their patent blunders and idiotic agreements with Microsoft. Really.
A very interesting commentary slipped through the cracks on me.
Someone has brought up one of those good ol' ideas that seem to be ever kicking around under the surface.
Sun says screw Microsoft's patent threats, if nothing else, we've got your back (to Ubuntu, Red Hat, et al).
It sounds dumb but nanoglue. Nano-scale manufacturing needs something.
Hydrogen fuel from starch. That's one way to get abundant energy. Maybe.
Some good work on embedded electronics in textiles. Here comes fashion.
Second Friday Linux Lesson
posted on 2007-05-25 19:59:00
So, I'm running a little short on time here and cutting things a bit close but I've been thinking it out and we've got some great stuff to cover. Additionally, there's more great news on the Linux front that I'll be covering in depth before Monday but that's for later.

For my second Linux Lesson we're using what I think is one of the more important concept-application distinctions between *nix systems (Mac included) and Windows. The concept of the hour: Permissions also known as User Access Control and numerous other things. I should also note that permissions is somewhat tied to the concept of a superuser and so I'll brush over that as well.

Permissions are, in effect, the Operating System restricting the user to only being able to do the things they need to do. The idea here is to keep from handing the common computer user (who may not be a nerd) a desert eagle or shotgun with which they might blow off their own foot. So, the user has permission to mess with things like their /home/username directory (which in *nix systems is analogous to the My Documents, My this, My that, of Windows). Windows effectively lacks a permissions structure pre-Vista by default. I'll probably write more on this later as a concept called Sensible Defaults but for now just remember that Linux wants to help you not hurt yourself by keeping your ability to do bad things to a minimum.

Now for the command, sudo. Occasionally, you my find that you need to do something that you don't have permission to do. This doesn't in itself mean that what you want to do is a bad idea. Just use common sense. If you're deleting files you don't recognize, maybe it's a bad idea. If it's installing an application you want it's probably okay. It just depends. If you open the terminal, covered in our last lesson, and type "sudo other_command_you_want_to_do" then the Operating System will let you run that one command as the superuser (which is simply a user with no permissions restrictions, i.e. the ability to do anything) and prompt you for your password. If you successfully enter your password (which shouldn't be too tricky as long as you remember it) it will let you run the one command you didn't have permissions for one time and that's it. That single command, in conjunction with all the other commands you'll end up using it with, will end up making your life easier over and over again. That's it for this week.
Second Thursday Literary Lines
posted on 2007-05-25 02:24:00
Another one of my favorites. This is the second Milosz poem I ever read but it's really stuck with me. I'll give the last of my three favorites next week and then move on.

3. Paradise by Czeslaw Milosz:
Under my sign, Cancer, a pink fountain
Pours out four streams, the sources of four rivers.
But I don't trust it. As I verified myself,
That sign is not lucky. Besides, we abhor
The moving jaws of crabs and the calcareous
Cemeteries of the ocean. This, then, is the Fountain
Of Life? Toothed, sharp-edged,
With its innocent, delusive color. And beneath,
Just where the birds set alight, glass traps set with glue.
A white elephant, a white giraffe, white unicorns,
Black creatures of the ponds. A lion mauls a deer.
A cat has a mouse. A three-headed lizard,
A three-headed ibis, their meaning unknown.
Or a two-legged dog, no doubt a bad omen.
Adam sits astonished. His feet
Touch the foot of Christ who has brought Eve
And keeps her right hand in his left while lifting
Two fingers of his right like the one who teaches.
Who is she, and who will she be, the beloved
From the Song of Songs? This Wisdom-Sophia,
Seducer, the Mother and Ecclesia?
Thus he created her who will conceive him?
Where then did he get his human form
Before the years and centuries began?
Human, did he exist before the beginning?
And establish a Paradise, though incomplete,
So that she might pluck the fruit, she, the mysterious one,
Whom Adam contemplates, not comprehending?
I am these two, twofold. I ate from the Tree
Of Knowledge. I was expelled by the archangel's sword.
At night I sensed her pulse. Her mortality.
And we have searched for the real place ever since.
Second Wednesday Songs of Summer
posted on 2007-05-24 05:10:00
Maroon 5 - A Little of Your Time
John Mayer - Clarity
Beck - I Think I'm In Love
Andrew Bird - Wishing for Contentment
Guster - Careful
Second Tuesday Quotables
posted on 2007-05-22 20:33:00
Giving the Linus Torvalds Award to the Free Software Foundation is a bit like giving the Han Solo Award to the Rebel Alliance. - Richard M Stallman

Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it. - Brian Kernighan

One thing about school - I always had this attitude that I was in school to learn, and attempted to do whatever was involved in that process, while school had this attitude that I was there to earn grades, which I couldn't care less about. Unsurprisingly, my grades weren't very good. - Bram Cohen

Where there is love, distance doesn't matter. - Mata Amritanandamayi

Love demands all, and has a right to all. - Ludwig van Beethoven

And think not you can direct the course of love; for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. - Khalil Gibran
Second Monday Update
posted on 2007-05-21 23:29:00
We'll start with a summary of last week.
Summer: Week 1: Finished
Bank Deposit\Finances
Haircut
Econ Ch. 13, 6
Start Programming (C, Python, or a Functional Language {Haskell, Erlang, OCaml})
Talk to Mom about Blockbuster Movie Delivery. Begin Piracy Scheduling. Or open Netflix account.
Gym x3
Kower
Work on repartitioning System for Space. Switch Arch to Else? Yup. Fedora 7.
Unexpected Projects completed:
Getting Rid of Windows Partition and Getting Windows running as a VM (Virtual Machine) in QEMU
I also made a fresh arch install and had some good fun pirating some things and uploading

Summer:Week 2:Goals
Monday
Kower\Econ Articles
Music Library Re-organization
Further Arch Linux Configuration (possibly try alternative WM (fluxbox?))
Tuesday
Gym
Kower\Econ Test??
Sonya
Wednesday
Computer Programming Chapter 2
Thursday
Gym
Econ Test
Friday
Anything Left at Oglethorpe (Econ)
Signatures on Withdrawal Forms for Fall

News for 5/21/07:
First off, there's an update on Dell's Linux offerings on the Dell blog. It's noteworthy that they appear to be helping work on hardware support for Linux. I hope that means ATI/Nvidia support.
On the open source ATI front, Dave Airlie has announced a new release candidate of the X.org ATI Driver.
There's been, as usual, a ton of activity in the CompComm git but it's interestingly centered around packaging and organization. I think we're getting closer to 0.1!!!
Purdue University had a big week, complete with an advance in fuel cell technologies that brings us much closer to hydrogen fuel and some folks at Michigan State University have made advances in corn-based biofuels.
The University of Delaware has produced the first silicon-based spintronics device.
A very clever start up called Soliant Energy out of California has come up with a much more efficient way to do Solar Power.
Blizzard announced Starcraft 2!
And NJ Patel showed back up after a near 2 month absence and is continuing work on some of his exciting projects like the Avant Window Navigator, Tracker, Affinity, and Arena. Good to have you back NJ.
Finally, the magnificent OLPC project made it on 60 minutes. Intel is being dicks to them. Everyone who reads my blog, please stick with AMD. Really.
Everything is Code
posted on 2007-05-21 09:41:00
So, we seem to be gradually acquiring a philosophy of code. Definitely not every member of the species is but there's this sort of growing awareness in certain groups that things really are ultimately pretty simple...and also code driven. It's not that information matters, it's that information is matter. The mathematicians might've been the first. It's hard to say but they definitely had some sort of head start towards this thought process\philosophy. Later the rest of the hard sciences started getting involved. Things really kicked off with the advent of Digital Circuits and Computer Science. 0s and 1s could be used to describe or simulate pretty much anything...given enough memory and time. If it's computable, the Universal Turing Machine can do it. Then something happened again, in 1972 Walter Fiers deciphered the complete genome of the Bacteriophage MS2. Genetic sequencing began to take off. Somewhere in this process, when we really began uncovering the power of the genome and the expressiveness of the genetic code our efforts naturally shifted from reading the code to writing it. Increasingly, we are discovering that not only the virtual worlds of the computer but our actual reality are programmable. We can cause chickens to have more wings, we can make E.Coli produce plastic for stitches stronger than those available, caused cows to birth gaurs, and Australia is looking into making Tasmanian Tigers walk the earth for the first time in 70 years by birthing them from wolves. And we have created entirely new genomes. Born that which did not exist. Hopefully, we will soon discover for the inorganic universe what we have discovered for the organic and virtual universes. Maybe one day we will even discover a code which governs the fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetic, strong, weak).

For now, I'm curious about the Genetic Code. Certainly, there is an analogue between the machine code of 0s and 1s and the Genetic Code or As, Ts, Gs and Cs. We could even define A as 0, T as one third, G as two thirds, and C as 1 to draw this analogue out a little further. I would argue that the growth of computer science was fueled by a number of things but lowering the barriers to entry for programming was certainly one of them. That is, nobody codes in binary. Even long ago, everyone coded in assembler. Now, I'm not entirely (or even remotely) comfortable advocating that the emerging industry of genetic engineering try to emulate computer science. There are way too many bugs in our programs. However, linguistically speaking, I'm curious if there is an analogue to higher level languages in computer programming such as Assembler, C, Python, Basic, PHP, etc and if there aren't such languages how one might go about creating them. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
First Friday Linux Lesson
posted on 2007-05-19 02:27:00
This series is going to be meatier than the other four and also more diverse. Since people who use computers on a regular basis generally know how to do the things they need to do I'm going to be teaching things that most people may or may not use but which should often be new. At least initially, I'll be starting with a concept, then moving on to a useful command, application, hotkey/shortcut, hack/tip, code snippet/language feature, etc. Also, these "lessons" will be linux-centric because it qualifies as new knowledge for many people and because I love it so damn much. I don't think I could interest myself in writing windows tutorials every week. This series will generally assume that the reader is using a GNOME-based distribution (I like Ubuntu, but Fedora and Arch are nice too) where applicable.

For the inaugural post we're starting off with the only sensible thing:
(Concept) The Terminal, also known as the command prompt or the ominous opaque cause of digital doom.

The Terminal, more familiar to many as the command prompt, can be found in Linux by hitting Alt-F2 and typing "gnome-terminal" then pressing enter or by going to the Applications Menu, Accessories (or System Tools if you're using Fedora), then Terminal. The terminal need not be dangerous or painful to use. In fact, sometimes I find that it's vastly preferable to something with a GUI.

We're also starting off with the only sensible command: "cd".
cd is the change directory command. It allows you to (unsurprisingly) change the directory you're in which in turn enables you to navigate the file system to accomplish various tasks. cd can be used in one of two ways, to enter a folder in the folder you're in or to enter a specific folder anywhere on the system. Let's see how that looks. If you're in a folder, say your user's Home folder, and there is a subfolder in that folder called Desktop you would navigate to it like this, "cd Desktop" or like this, "cd /home/USERNAME/Desktop". The only thing to be mindful of is that it's case sensitive but that will get you around the Linux filesystem.
First Thursday Literary Lines
posted on 2007-05-18 04:40:00
Starting it off with one of my favorites:

Annalenna by Czeslaw Milosz

"It happened that sometimes I kissed in mirrors the reflection of my face; since the hands, face and tears of Annalena had caressed it, my face seemed suffused to me divinely beautiful and as if suffused with heavenly sweetness." - Oscar Milosz, L'Amoreuse Initiation

I liked your velvet yoni, Annalena, long voyages in the delta of your legs.
A striving upstream toward your beating heart through more and more savage currents saturated with the light of hops and bindweed.
And our vehemence and triumphant laughter and our hasty dressing in the middle of the night to walk on the stone stairs of the upper city.
Our breath held by amazement and silence, porosity of worn-out stones and the great door of the cathedral.
Over the gate of the rectory fragments of brick among weeds, in darkness the touch of a rough buttressed wall.
And later our looking from the bridge down to the orchard, when under the moon every tree is separate on its kneeler, and from the secret interior of dimmed poplars the echo carries the sound of a water turbine.
To whom do we tell what happened on the earth, for whom do we place everywhere huge mirrors in the hope that they will be filled up and will stay so?
Always in doubt whether it was we who were there, you and I, Annalena, or just anonymous lovers on the enameled tables of a fairyland.
Just cause it makes me smile.
posted on 2007-05-16 22:12:00
Proof of pwnage:
Exhibit A: http://img459.imageshack.us/img459/782/screenshotzm5.png
Exhibit B: http://img515.imageshack.us/img515/4038/screenshot1pp6.png
First Wednesday Songs of Summer
posted on 2007-05-16 20:28:00
Jamie Lidell - When I Come Back Around
Justin Timberlake - Summer Love
Scissor Sisters - I Don't Feel Like Dancin'
Maroon 5 - Wake Up Call
Girl Talk - Overtime
First Tuesday Quotables
posted on 2007-05-15 19:48:00
Imagine this design assignment: design something that makes oxygen, sequesters carbon, fixes nitrogen, distills water, accrues solar energy as fuel, makes complex sugars and food, creates micro-climates, changes colors with the seasons and self-replicates… Why don’t we knock that down and write on it. - William McDonough

You can't incent a dead person. No matter what we do, Hawthorne will not produce any more works, no matter how much we pay him. - Lawrence Lessig
First Monday Update
posted on 2007-05-14 23:12:00
Summer: Week 1: Goals
Todo:
Monday
Bank Deposit\Finances
Haircut
Econ Ch. 13, 6
Start Programming (C, Python, or a Functional Language {Haskell, Erlang, OCaml})
Talk to Mom about Blockbuster Movie Delivery. Begin Piracy Scheduling. Or open Netflix account.
Tuesday
Gym
Kower
Blank CDs?
Write Tech Stuff?
Work on repartitioning System for Space. Switch Arch to Else? Yup. Fedora 7.
Wednesday
Prepare for Econ Test
E-Mail Charlie Paparelli something. Job hunting.
Thursday
Econ Test

News For 5/14/07:
ATI Claims Plans to Improve (possibly open) Radeon Drivers on Linux. Big Deal if they follow through but much skepticism.
ATI releases R600. More Forward-Looking than G8x by Nvidia but also 6 months late. Need to play catch up a bit. Performance competitive but verdict still out.
Microsoft has decided Open Source is in violation of 235 of their patents. More on this later perhaps but generally considered a nuisance rather than a threat. (See groklaw.)
Intel is concerned about the slowness of software in catching up with their multicore roadmap.
The Supreme Court made a ruling on Patent Law and Prior Art that promises to help improve the Patent Cold War and also invalidate whole flocks of software patents.
The price of polysilicon used in solar panels skyrocketed.
Unheard Of
posted on 2007-05-14 08:20:00
Oliver McFadden has made 135 commits to the Mesa r300 code in a week. That's got to be some kind of record. I'm totally giving this guy a hand. Congratulations.
Social Web One-Liners
posted on 2007-05-05 07:50:00
Okay, so I had this realization at about 7am this morning and I don't have much more to add to it. It was pretty obvious once I realized it but I think I'll state it here for the hell of it.

I wrote some time back about Lessig and how the net has different levels of data collecting. I was characterizing web sites that collected information about you as bad and wondering about getting rankings for that sort of that thing so you could know what sites you were really anonymous on in some sense. Essentially though the web originally collected no data about who was on it and this anonymity was seen as good. As the web has taken on increasing functionality it has increased the data collected about users and the idea of anonymity of users has been subsumed by that of virtual identity. It allows the web to be more productive. I'll probably clean all that up later but the crux of it is the more we've moved forward in time the more data has been collected and the more the notion of online privacy (at least to the extent of anonymity) has become marginalized. Thusly, the social web has flipped the notion of online anonymity on it's head. In some sense, instead of being about not collecting information about you it's about collecting and disseminating certain information about you.

So, the one-liner: "The social web's (web 2.0/web NOW/uggh) idea seems to be to collect and publicize data about you as a service to you where the traffic or ads you generate through using the service sponsor/monetize it!"
Politics and the Digital World, v0.1
posted on 2007-05-04 10:08:00
*References:
http://redline6561.livejournal.com/155783.html
http://david.navi.cx/blog/?p=136
http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/006626.html
http://www.andrewlih.com/blog/2007/05/02/what-does-cyber-revolt-look-like/
http://blog.wired.com/business/2007/05/wikipedia_locks.html

Preface:
I feel I should explain a bit about why the events of May 1st were so important, why it was as I called it "a watershed day". Since I wrote that piece this afternoon the events covered have been very much in my thoughts and I've discussed them with a number of friends of mine, some technically inclined, some not. There were two events. The first being Dell's decision to offer Ubuntu preinstalled on select computers of theirs. This is a huge victory for Open Source Software generally and also Linux particularly. It's a larger victory for the Open Source Production Model because it stands as evidence that such a production model can compete with that of proprietary vendors such as Microsoft, Apple, etc. That I consider to be (significantly) less important than the second event of the day. That is, the HD-DVD scandal. Or the cyber riot. Whatever it should be called. Those of you who know how much I trumpet on about Open Source and Linux should understand what a large claim that is for me. It's more important that a ton of people revolted online against a standard than that Dell said they would sell (Ubuntu) Linux computers. And I've been predicting that Linux on the Desktop thing for a good year now. A year's expectations fulfilled but secondary to some arbitrary online screaming fit? Yes. Part of that is because I was expecting the Linux thing to happen sooner or later. I'm glad it was sooner but not shocked. I figured Linux would be about ready by now it would just take a company with the guts to try it. I can say I'm half-surprised (but pleasantly) that the company was Dell. The revolt was much more important though and showed us much much more about the dynamics of online communities and power structures.

Backstory:
First, by way of introduction to the problem space, I'd like to clear up what could be an easy misconception. What essentially happened was a 16 byte code (09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c1) that protects HD-DVDs from being pirated, played on unsupported platforms (such as Linux), being ripped, etc. was leaked onto the internet. A piece of legislation protecting the code called the DMCA was passed in 1998 which extends the protections of copyright and makes it illegal to produce or spread methods of circumventing or infringing copyright. So, the code is not protected speech. My posting it here even is illegal. (It should be noted that some feel the very existence of the code and the resulting inability to play HD-DVDs on Linux or back them up is a consumer rights violation. Legally, this assertion is not ungrounded but until the DMCA is repealed it is irrelevant. The DMCA for its part has faced much derision and opposition since its inception for many reasons, vagueness high among them. If I informed you that you could circumvent copyright and reproduce a book with a copier, paper and ink, I could be in violation of the DMCA, for example.) The Movie Companies whose copyrights are protected by this code are of course upset that the safety of their product is now jeopardized by piracy. The code leaked out onto the web in February and the movie companies began sending out cease and desist letters so that sites would take it down. Then, on May 1st people started noticing. Three sites in particular which all derive their content (information) from their users formed the center of it all. Slashdot, Digg, and Wikipedia. Slashdot and Digg are user-generated technology news sites and Wikipedia is, of course, the online encyclopedia we all know and love. When Wikipedia and Digg started trying to censor the code (Slashdot didn't) from their sites people started noticing and rebelled in extraordinary fashion. Within 48 hours the number of hits when the code was searched for on Google went from under 1,000 to over a million. Digg and Wikipedia were swarmed with people trying to propagate the code in dozens of forms (such as masquerading it as lottery numbers, an IP address, or even a picture of stripes where the colors' hex values spelled out the code). Digg was the center of the controversy and simply could not control the number of users forcing the information onto the site through stories, diggs (votes that increase a story's visibility on the main page), and comments. Wikipedia had more success by locking the entry for HD-DVD and did a number of other things to prevent the spread but still had it's forums inundated with the code.

The Punchline:
The important fact wasn't that people spread the code and lashed out\fought back against what they perceive as draconian intellectual property regimes and corporations (that happened for regular old DVDs with DeCSS in 1999) but that these sites, the icons of the Social Web or Web 2.0, were at the mercy of their userbases.

The Analysis:
The amazing promise of the Open Source revolution has been the efficiency and power of it's production models. That's what enabled a few thousand volunteers and about a thousand dollars a month to compete with Encyclopedia Britannica through Wikipedia. That's what enabled a rag tag bunch of software developers from round the globe compete with Microsoft and Apple through Linux. While it's clear that the Open Source Model has definite advantages its limitations and drawbacks are somewhat less studied and, perhaps due only to lack of experience and evidence, less clear. We remain uncertain what can benefit from "going open," we remain uncertain about exactly how the power structures work, and we remain uncertain about exactly who is in control. It's the difference between the interactions and activities of hierarchies and bureaucracies (which we understand so well) and those of networks. The importance of such knowledge and it's relevance in the coming century has been demonstrated by our need to understand the dynamics of networked organizations like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. For the most part, our bureaucracies have trouble stopping them even with considerably greater resources due to networks decentralized nature. It's as though there's no point to attack. What is particularly significant about the events of May 1st is that Wikipedia and Digg are not equal in their openness. Specifically, digg was unable to control it's users and Wikipedia was. This seems to imply that digg is more open than Wikipedia. Wikipedia however is promoted as more open than Digg and is designed with openness in mind. Digg's openness was, at least to some extent, accidental. Wikipedia has had to deal with more cyber-vandalism of this sort and so it was better equipped for the task. However, the same tools and methods of control that allowed them to prevent vandalism of entries enabled them to censor as well. Everything on Wikipedia is under an Open Source legal license (the GFDL). Digg's content is protected in no such way but it has fewer restrictions and administrative tools to control submissions and content. This is in part interesting because some people have suggested that Digg took advantage of its userbase to aggregate news content but this implies a control that is completely lacking. The suggestion at face value does seem a bit ridiculous when you consider that Wikipedia is doing precisely the same thing until you consider that Digg is a for-profit venture and grosses about $3 million annually. What's interesting about that suggestion is that it agrees with what we might imagine to be the case. Digg allows people to submit the news which people do because they enjoy it and Digg profits from it. But it's not that simple. Digg provides a platform on which people can author and vote on content and they profit from being an attention center of the web. Attention is becoming economically valuable. When companies use Google's AdSense they are essentially trying to buy attention. The web has made the reproduction of content an exercise in attention economics. All content, all video, audio, images, and text can be reproduced and distributed (effectively) for free. The scarcity has become one of time, one of attention. Hence the attention is the valuable thing. Sites on the web which get the most traffic are directly linked to the highest advertising profits. Digg gets the importance of attention and the users get the platform. That's a very important distinction so I'm going to repeat it once more. The users don't get the content, they get the platform. The essential defining element of any open source media, maybe any open source thing (so far as I can puzzle out) is that the users get the platform. The product, whether it's software, media, or otherwise is not what the users get. The users get the toolset that leads to the product and they (as the community) control the resulting product but that control is coincidental. As Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) said, "The big secret of course is that Wikipedia is not really about an encyclopedia, it's just a big game of nomic." The whole point is having control of the rules of the game. To this extent, I'm skeptical even of the claim that Wikipedia is more or less open than Digg. While Wikipedia locked entries from editing, the forums were still swamped with the Code they were trying to Censor. Moreover, as Jimmy Wales stated the rules could be changed at any time. While the platform has more controls and different power structures than Digg it still belongs to the users.

The Aftermath:
There have been numerous responses to the Code Frenzy over the last few days. One interesting reaction cited the entire movement as dumb because this sort of mass civil disobedience wasn't legal and wouldn't change the law or the decisions of the Content Corporations to use it and to use encryption. While those are all valid points I think they generally eschew the interesting aspects of this event in terms of hierarchies and networks clashing as social-organizational structures. Another reaction takes on the view of the necessary incentive to get people to spread sensitive information or participate in this sort of viral protest movement. Another still criticized Wikipedia for even trying to censor the number as it's effort would obviously be futile. The most interesting part is still Digg folding to it's user base. Businessweek had a cover story on Digg in August of last year and while Digg may make $3 million annually it's esteemed value is closer to 200 million dollars. Here's a 200 million dollar icon of the web being forced, more or less, to decide to work with or against their user base (which is the source of their power) and deciding to surrender to the whims of that user base even when that stance clearly flies in the face of the law and places them at odds with far more established and wealthy firms (the entire movie industry).

The Conclusion\Why it matters:
So, really, why such a big fuss about a little code and some cyber disobedience? Why the emphasis on new organizational structures? It is largely, for me, personal. I wrote this because these moments remind me of the little subtleties that I forget make Open Source special as an organizational form. I wrote this because I feel like I have a better understanding of makes something, anything, not just software, open than I did before the events of May 1st. But I'm also writing it because there's a direct connection between Economic\Material Progress and Innovation. New goods produce new profits and creativity is, I'm pretty sure, king. Google isn't open source but they've done the next closest thing. They've tried to foster good relations with their userbase and they allow their employees twenty percent time to work on what they want. That twenty percent time is motivating for people to produce. We all want to do what we want. I think that's a huge part of why Google's on top. They've found a way to make work not so worklike and in so doing increased the productivity of their workers. Eric Raymond once wrote that Enjoyment predicts Efficiency and I think that's a much more profound statement than he may have realized when he wrote it. If that's true and if, as I believe, Open Source fosters more enjoyment from it's participants than other methods of organizing production then it is a more efficient method of production than any other in existence. Open Production Models harness this enjoyment through voluntary selection of labor and many other motivating factors which I believe cause it to be potentially the most innovative organizational mode in existence. What's really fantastic is that I think it fixes a lot of the Spiritual Decay (which flies in the face of Material Progress) that Capitalism (depending on your view) has brought about. Finally, I think it's self-empowering and educating which ties into both the enjoyment and spiritual repair bits and also seems to foster a sort of social capital when many sociologists are concerned that our social capital is deteriorating, all the while providing public goods and services and reinvigorating the idea of a commons. Even if it just raises human efficiency in production and creativity, I'd say we can't ask for much better than that.

PS: I've underestimated the excellence of Radiohead's Kid A.
PPS: Sorry this wasn't a short entry like I promised.
Of Revolutions, or sometimes I think I should just act as a news feed\aggregator
posted on 2007-05-04 00:17:00
May 1st was a watershed day. It was a big day for digital revolutions for two reasons. One, Dell announced they would be selling machines with Linux pre-installed. Two, HD-DVD encryption was broken and when media companies tried to censor this fact the web denizens responded in a massive virtual riot. The tenuous connection between those two things is that they both demonstrate the growing power of networks over hierarchies where structures of organization or authority are concerned. I realize this may seem a ridiculous or unsubstantiated claim and if you want I'll argue it with you personally or in the comments. To start though I just thought I'd post a few links.
First, a link to the official dell announcement: Ubuntu on Dell. Yay.
Second, a nice visualization of the extent of the HD-DVD rioting: 900 thousand google results when I searched regarding the riot.
Third, news stories about the HD-DVD rioting: from Forbes, and the New York Times, twice. I'm sure there are others.
Finally, a few different views and examples of the protest: Youtube, IPv6 addresses, an Image Puzzle, a Song, a flickr search and our new celebrity of course has it's own website. Two, in fact.

While I feel these produce a pretty good pastiche of May 1st's two events and their significance it may not be fully evident. If that's the case, let me know in the comments or contact me and I'll try to explain it in a short but thorough post later. I may just do it anyway...

Update: Added the flickr search link. Very cool. Also wrote that second piece but it didn't end up being so short.
The Big Day
posted on 2007-05-01 12:57:00
It finally happened. The first big vendor flipped over. OEM Linux here we come.
Dell will be selling computers with Ubuntu Linux preloaded and support them fully this May 2007.
Quoth Linus:

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