February 2007

Finished Dreaming in Code

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

Overall, Dreaming in Code was an interesting book. For programmers who already are obsessed with the classics of software engineering (Mythical Man-Month and friends), you probably won’t learn much new stuff in this book. However, the personal illustrations using OSAF did lead me to some self-evaluation of the work I do. It was also interesting to see the internal workings of an organization which seems to be set up ideally for programmers — a good mission, an open source project, no real deadlines or users in the beginning, design-focused, etc. — and still see it run into the same issues traditional software shops run into.

I’d post a longer review, but I’m headed down to New Orleans today. Will post a longer review when I get back, hopefully also of Capitalism 3.0, whose ideas have been swimming in my head the last few days of commute.  I think they really deserve to be summarized and presented here.

In the meanwhile, I’ve started reading Making Globalization Work by Joseph Stiglitz. This book, in particular, has been a kind of catharsis for most of my armchair ideas in economics, at least so far.  It’s a very strange feeling to read the ex-Chief Economist of the World Bank explaining his own ideas about overcoming the zealousness of “market fundamentalism” prevalent in economic circles, while I, who never studied economics formally, think, “Why would anyone trained in this discipline actually believe that markets are a magic force that work on their own?”  But I guess ideology always trumps rationality.

Dell IdeaStorm

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

A friend from NYU, Luke Geldermans, pointed me to this website the other day. It’s really an amazing example of how much real demand there is for Linux on the desktop.

The website provides a way for Dell customers to vote on the issues which are most important to them. The number 1 issue right now is making Linux available as an install option on their Dell PCs. There are a slew of issues below that related to gaining driver support for Linux, and offering Windows with OOo and Firefox, and even offering OS-less computers to avoid the Microsoft tax.

It’d be interesting to see how this pans out, but in the meanwhile, go ahead and contribute a vote!

American Thinker?

Friday, February 16th, 2007

I just stumbled across this online newsletter called “The American Thinker.”  I will not link to it because I refuse to give this piece of trash a boosting in any search engine ranking.

I read an article on there (the first one I saw) called “Cultural Marxism.”  Its thesis is that though self-proclaimed communists hardly exist in America, the “new left” is organized around Marxist principles and is just a form of “masked communism.”  Here’s a nice quote:

Both communism and the New Left are alive and thriving here in America.  They favor code words: tolerance, social justice, economic justice, peace, reproductive rights, sex education and safe sex, safe schools, inclusion, diversity, and sensitivity.  All together, this is Cultural Marxism disguised as multiculturalism.

Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah Hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah hah …. it would be funny, if only it were made up.

Search for it yourself.  This is what the American Right reads and how they frame the progressive movement.  Absolutely stunning.

Dreaming in Code

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

I just picked up a copy of Dreaming in Code from Barnes & Noble. Will probably devour it in the next couple of days.

Open Source Talks at Google, and VIM creator

Wednesday, February 7th, 2007

Google has an interesting talk about “How Open Source Projects Survive Poisonous People” at Google Video.

On February 13, they’re going to have the creator of VIM, Bram Moolenaar, giving a talk on VIM7.  What’s funny is that Bram, who has been working full-time on VIM for the past few years (living entirely on donations and money votes for VIM features) has now been hired by Google.  Smart move.

Way more interesting than YouTube

Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

I found a site today called “Fora.tv”. It’s way more interesting than YouTube: it’s a free video site that features intellectuals and figures in public discourse.

Perfect for my commute. Up till now, I’ve been depending on PBS, which has good content, but doesn’t give it all away for free.

Check it out: Fora.tv.

In particular, there’s a talk by Peter Barnes (author of Capitalism 3.0) in there.

Spirited Discussion with Miguel de Icaza on Mono and Microsoft

Sunday, February 4th, 2007

I got fired up by the evidence coming out of Microsoft from yesterday, and decided to write a post to Miguel de Icaza’s blog.

Here’s what I wrote:

Hi Miguel,

It looks like a new set of “Halloween Documents” have come out, thanks to a case in Iowa, Comes et. al. v. Microsoft (http://iowaconsumercase.org/index.html). I’m wondering if you have any comments on this document in particular, which suggests that Microsoft management knew full well they were “stealing Java” to intentionally marginalize the cross-platform language issue.

A select quote from the document, “Screw Sun, cross-platform will never work. Let’s move on and steal the Java language.”
Here’s the e-mail archives, which was submitted into evidence:

http://www.iowaconsumercase.org/011107/PX_2768.pdf

I’m wondering, given these thoughts from within Microsoft management, and given the recent news of Sun open sourcing the Java language under GPL terms, how is it that you can still push for the Mono project on Linux? Aren’t we always going to be fighting an uphill battle against a monopoly company protecting its biggest cash cow: the Windows platform?

Although my question was more “devil’s advocate” and meant to rile him up, Miguel provided some of the strongest and most cogent arguments for Mono that I’ve seen on record.

I just want to say great work to Miguel and the Mono team, and that if you ever doubted your raison d’etre, all it would take is reading this thread to be convinced! You’ve certainly convinced me!

Update: it’s really this kind of dependency on Windows I’m worried about in .NET. I think it’s just that the culture of the Java runtime is one of platform independence, whereas .NET from Microsoft is one of “platform dominance,” and Mono is some sort of stepping stone between Microsoft’s single-platform vision and those of us who want to write cross-platform apps using .NET.

It’s Official Now: Microsoft Stole Java to Minimize Cross-Platform Languages

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

Well, I’ve always suspected that C# was nothing but a Java rip without cross-platform support, meant to marginalize Java so that cross-platform languages don’t become as pervasive as Microsoft’s single-platform, Windows-only languages. Now, evidence has come out of Microsoft e-mail archives that proves not only that they just “stole Java” in those pivotal years, but that managers knew full well they would never make an effort to keep the language cross-platform.  A classic “embrace and extend” situation.
A select quote from the document, “Screw Sun, cross-platform will never work. Let’s move on and steal the Java language.”

You can read the entire thing in a scanned copy from the Iowa case Comes et. al. v. Microsoft Corp.

Update: my discussion with Miguel de Icaza makes this seem “less official,” but I still think the mentality from this document also pervaded the mentality of .NET development, specifically that cross-platform would never be a goal of Microsoft .NET.

Software Engineering Management, In a Nutshell

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

Just saw this on Salon.com, in a letter to the editor about Scott Rosenberg’s new book, “Dreaming in Code”:

There are three options you have when developing software:

1. Quality

2. Lots of features.

3. Low cost

Pick any two.

When you actually go through the combinations, it’s quite funny, and poignant.

Also, check out this excerpt from Rosenberg’s book, called “Words fail us.”  I’m currently working on a software project and we’re doing lots of new and innovative stuff, and I can’t even express how much I connect with this article.  Choosing the right vocabulary may be the single toughest thing in working on software team projects today.

GPLv3: Will it marginalize the FSF?

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

I just read an interesting position paper that suggests the new version of the GNU GPL will marginalize the Free Software Foundation.

I’m not going to say I agree, yet. But I think the author may be right.