A hot issue

I have always had a problem with the theory of human catalyst global warming. Not that the Earth is or is not getting hotter but that humans play a significant role in that effect. The main problem I have is that the reason that the theory is dependent on is not available for public scrutiny.  Personally I never trust the comments of someone who says, “I have proved XXX, but I am only going to allow professionals to view my work; the public has no need.”

Well a couple of articles are starting to bring to light some of these kind of questions.  This USAToday article points to a couple of researchers who reviewed the Global Warming data and came up with the opposite conclusion.  The main difference is that they are opening their research to public review.  The other article points out that the sun is actually giving off more heat in the last 20+ years or so.

Whatever the outcome of Global Warming research (or any research for that matter), its fundamentally important the public review be made available before we make public policy decisions on it.  I have little problem with emission control laws; but only if its based on sound (i.e. publicly review-able) data.

End of an era

In what could possibly be one of the most ignorant statements ever made by a software vendor CEO, Mr. Matthew Szulik is quoted in this ZDNet article as saying “Windows will remain the right platform for home users.”  This is really a frustrating blow to those of us who have put our bets behind Redhat for Linux.  My company is now reconsidering which Linux vendor we will be using now that Redhat has shown that it will a) stop supporting its entry level customers, and b) stabs them in the back when it decides it does not need them.  I am not sure if I will continue to work toward my RHCE.

Many of us already use Linux successfully at home, but that is really not the point.  The point is that this CEO has made a statement that makes my management question the validity of the remainder of their product line.  What is even worse is that after years of ignoring and screwing the best home user desktop UI (in spite of their best efforts KDE was still the most preferred GUI for Linux on Redhat,) they are now choosing to toss in the towel and claim failure.

The truth is that Linux IS ready for most home users.  If you use the right GUI and the right distro.  Unfortunately I can no longer recommend Redhat as that distro; ES, AS, WS, or any other.

OS Security

Recently the topic of Linux vs. Windows security has been making the rounds on the Internet.  Specifically some well known technocrats of the Internet world have commented on the increased usage of Linux and how this will affect the overall usage of it as a vehicle for virus reproduction. This article from Security Focus does a good job of covering some of the basics of the discussion.

You will find the most of the time a self indulged guru will start saying things like “When Linux becomes as popular as Windows it will have just as many virus as Windows does now.”  This logic is absolutely ridiculous and shows a distinct lack of understanding about the fundamental nature of computer security.  If that were true then the mostly commonly exploited web server would be Apache (considering that it is responsible for hosting more websites than all other web servers combined.)  but anyone who follows web attacks will quickly point out that IIS is the most commonly exploited web server.  No, Microsoft Windows OSes suffer from a completely different problem.  Bad design…

Lets be frank for just a minute. Microsoft Windows OSes are badly designed from a network security standpoint. Period! MS-Dos and Windows NT 3.51 (the OSes from which all subsequent Microsoft operating systems are based on) where never designed for global network connectivity. In the Blaster virus advisory, Microsoft went so far as to say the Windows XP was not designed to be run in its default configuration from within a hostel environment; like the Internet. Dos had no facilities for network connectivity until long after it was widely used. NT was designed to communicate with other computers but was designed to be used in a stand-alone, trusted, business network. This mindset is still prevalent in the Microsoft world and is evident from some of the mind-numbing default settings the Windows uses (default users having administrator access, non-privileged users being able to modify system libraries, firewalls the leave RPC ports open even when told to close them, etc..)

All of that aside there is anti-virus software for Linux. If you do a Google search you are unlikely to find what you are looking for since the vast majority of Linux anti-virus software simply gets rid of virus on their way to a Windows box (Linux proxy servers and the like.) The one Linux anti-virus program actually meant to be used to stop Linux virus is F-Prot for Linux. You can find a KDE based fronted for it here. If you really want to improve your Linux security you are better-off getting an IDS like Tripwire.

Unix (the grandfather of modern-day Linux, BSD, and OSX) has been designed, perfected, and used on hostel networks for 30 years now. If Microsoft actually developed their software in a secure fashion then the proportional number of virus would be closer to the numbers seen in every other OS in existence; not the other way around. If you want to see something funny be sure to check out this page from the F-Prot website. Its the current list of *nix OS virus that currently exist. Scalper is a FreeBSD worm, Slapper is a Linux worm (technically not a virus but close enough.) Two, thats it!

Sharecropper

I have been doing Linux development for about 2.5 years now and I must say that its a very liberating experience.  So when I found this link on slashdot today I could really empathize with the author.  Nobody (with the exception of Adobe and game makers) makes tons of money selling Windows software.  Why?  Because if your application is really that popular, useful, and marketable then Microsoft will simply include it in a future version of Windows.  (i.e.  Netscape, Norton Utilities, Real Player, ICQ/AIM, ACDSee)  Its not hard to make pretty good money but you are always beholden to the Microsoft “owner.”

School Issues

A discussion in the Christian Science Monitor talks about the benefits (in the opinion of the author) of same sex schools.  Recently I have seen several studies that not only point to some value for same sex schools but seem to confirm a long held belief that they most strongly benefit females by providing a safer and less “competitive” environment to learn in.

I actually graduated from a same sex catholic high school and although I did not necessarily enjoy it; it was very easy to see that it was an immensely beneficial environment to some of the students who attended it.  I don’t necessarily believe that it is  the job of public school systems to encourage “separate but equal” based on sex (the opportunity for abuse is simply to great), but I definitely think that such an environment can be very useful for some individual learning capabilities.  The best way to make such an opportunity available to low income students would be to widely implement a vouchers program.  This would give students the opportunity to attend same sex schools, magnet schools, private schools, religious schools, or give parents who choose to home school their children some much needed help.

The opportunities for improving or educational system are too great to ignore the benefits that same sex schools could bring.

US Courts and Foreign Cases

USA Today has a great article talking about the most recent ruling concerning gay sex laws in the US.  The problem that is pointed out is not the fact that gay sexy laws were stuck down (a positive development in my opinion) but that the Supreme Court decided to reference foreign law as a justification for the decision.

This is a problem that strikes at the very heart of the seventy of the US.  I am personally very concerned about the continuing trend of global rule that seems to be becoming more prevalent in the world scene.  History has taught us that diversity creates strength by limiting the amount of influence bad decisions (and for that matter good decisions) have on  a society.

It is therefor important to the US to continue to make decisions that are in  the best interest of the United States (and for France, Germany, China to make the decisions in the best interest of France, Germany, and China) because it will ensure a certain amount of diversity among the countries of the world.

The Majority of Life

In what seems like a serious blow to the pro-choice movement, a recent poll is finding that pro-life women have become the majority in the U.S.  What is most interesting is the group that did the study:

The New York-based center that sponsored the survey is a nonpartisan advocacy group for pro-choice women’s rights. The center’s president, Faye Wattleton, headed the Planned Parenthood Federation of America for 14 years.

To be absolutely honest with you I am not entirely surprised.  It was a popular myth during the early 90’s that “abortion is not allowed in the third trimester.”  WIth the recent attention paid to late term abortions (all the way through the ninth month), along with the recent conversion of Norma McCorvey (Roe of Roe v Wade;) women are beginning to realize the ignorance of calling abortion of privacy issue. 

Bias & Double Standards

This article from the British Telegraph reports on a story of a British Oxford Professor who rejected an application for internship from a prospective student based on him being an Israeli.  This kind of story brings to light a problem that I saw existing in the higher education system of the U.S. also.  Namely that many professors who claim to have a monopoly on being “open minded” are often just as close minded as non-academics when opinions that are opposition to theirs are expressed.

The point of my statement is not to imply that all professors exercise such a double standards.  The point is that no one is capable of being totally unbiased.  We need to stop treating academics as if they have some super power (not available to us mere mortals) that somehow allow them to look at all situations with logic, clear thought, and consistency.  Doing so will help move society into a better position to evaluate itself with honesty and integrity.  Its not wrong to have bias (we all have biases in one way or another); the secret is to admit our bias and to  try and  keep it from being the  sole influence on our decision making process.

What Desktop Linux REALLY needs

Not to give Lasse Christiansen a hard time (this article
is just the most recent in a barrage within the same genre) but her “I have a Linux dream” artile is really fusterating. I am starting to get pretty sick of this kind of Linux commentary.

The vast majority of the “The Problem with Linux” articles fall into the same group as Lasse Christiansen’s. Namely that Linux

needs to do xxx like XP

or

why doesn’t like have the OSX docbar

(and don’t even get me started on what a worthless piece of resource hungry crap the OSX bar is) type statements.

Ya, every so often a good point is made. Thinks like

why anyone can ship a browser without the relevant plug-ins

and

when it comes to video — Linux lags behind

have some relevance to a useful suggestion. But where do things like

Can someone explain to me why the loading of PCMCIA need to beep twice ….

have to do with Linux usability/functionality/simplicity… if Mr. Christiansen ever had to try and debug a pcmcia driver in Windows he would BEG for the “two beeps.”

The ultimate point of this admittedly bad rant is that Linux is not Windows. I didn’t switch to Linux because I was looking for a Windows replacement, or a free version of Windows. I switched to Linux because it is a superior computer platform with better all-around applications. Linux will not ever be windows (thank GOD!) or OSX (praise the LORD!) Improving Linux does not mean making it act more like some other OS. The day Linux get taken seriously as a desktop OS is the day that people want to use Linux for Linux sake… not, in spite of, some other os.

Tornado

I was in the Oklahoma City tornado yesterday so I am in the mood for a bit of humor this morning.

My boss passed The this parable along to me a while ago. Its another example of shot landing too close to home. I will let you make guesses about which one of the two programmers I am most like.

There is more about the tornado and my “interaction” with it inside:

Yesterday afternoon I was anxious to get home and be with my family because of the sever storm warnings out and the probability for tornado activity. It ended up being a bad decision on my part. About halfway home I started to get quarter size hale hitting my Explorer and realized that I was not far from something that had touched down. When I finally saw the thing it was about 300 yards from me… I had just enough time to stop the Explorer, get in the ditch (under a culvert), and watch as the tornado passed overhead.

I don’t think the tornado itself is really bothering me any today. What I am really upset about is how scared I was. I was concerned about my life (of course) but the thought that went through my head was that I might leave behind a fatherless daughter and a widowed wife. My stupid decision almost did more to damage the lives of the two people I love most in this world than the storm did to the tractor-trailer rig in front of me.

I think I was also upset about _feeling_ scared. This kind of fear was something I had never had when I was a young adult. The overwhelming pressure of this fear was greater proof of my advent into adulthood than my mortgage, my daughter, or even my marriage was to me. I am not upset about being an adult. Quite the contrary, I would not trade one day as a dad for another four years of college. It just that I had never felt old before that moment; laying in a ditch, on the side of the road, alone… with my fear