Monthly Archives: January 2007

A new Y2K bug?

A new Y2K bug?.

From the IT person for my department:

Congress changed Daylight Savings Time from the first Sunday of April (1st) to the second Sunday in March (11th). This is new, many computers, Palm Pilots, Blackberries, cell phones and 
software may not yet be equipped to handle this change.  We are beginning to run into trouble with scheduling events in the Outlook calendar between March 11th and April 1st.  Depending on which computer you use to look at the event you may see the event occur an 
hour earlier than you had intended. If you notice that any of your devices display a meeting at the incorrect time let me know. I will work with you and my colleagues in Wharton Computing to fix things so the correct time is displayed.

I would recommend that for any appointment you put into an electronic calendar for this time that you include the time of the appointment in the subject of the appointment. Rather than scheduling a meeting titled “Meeting with Lowell” you should schedule a meeting titled “12 noon meeting with Lowell.”  You may also want to keep a close eye on your home video recording devices, Airplane / train tickets, Concert tickets, etc. to avoid any surprises.

Quite an interesting unintended consequence of the daylight-savings change (which, as I understand it, was done to save on energy usage). It shows just how brittle some aspects of our life can become as we rely increasingly on machines. [Werblog]

What we need is a new strategy …

What we need is a new strategy … 

In following the political debate
over the Iraq debacle, it helps to take a step back from time to time
and to re-focus on Iraq from a strategic vantage point. Our President
isn't able to do that, and for the most part neither is the media nor
the Congress. As Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has repeatedly pointed out, the
President's surge is not a new strategy but a new tactic. All the goings-on
in Congress over which resolution best expresses disapproval of the
surge miss the larger picture. Even congressional defunding of the
surge is tinkering at the tactical level.

So go read the written testimony of Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.) given last week to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (the .pdf if here).
It is, as you would expect, a sobering read. But rather than a
thundering denunciation of the President and his Administration, it is
a quiet–though blistering–indictment of our political and military
establishment that makes most of the debate about the war and how to
move forward from here seem like self-serving, short-sighted exercises
in chest-thumping by one side and throat-clearing by the other:

Several critics of the administration show an appreciation
of the requirement to regain our allies and others' support, but they
do not recognize that withdrawal of US forces from Iraq is the sine qua
non for achieving their cooperation. It will be forthcoming once that
withdrawal begins and looks irreversible. They will then realize that
they can no longer sit on the sidelines. The aftermath will be worse
for them than for the United States, and they know that without US
participation and leadership, they alone cannot restore regional
stability. Until we understand this critical point, we cannot design a
strategy that can achieve what we can legitimately call a victory.

Any new strategy that does realistically promise to achieve
regional stability at a cost we can prudently bear, and does not regain
the confidence and support of our allies, is doomed to failure. To
date, I have seen no awareness that any political leader in this
country has gone beyond tactical proposals to offer a different
strategic approach to limiting the damage in a war that is turning out
to be the greatest strategic disaster in our history.

When the political debate over Iraq is viewed at the strategic
level, it becomes much clearer. Silly diversions are revealed for what
they are, like the demands from the President and Vice President that
opponents of the surge present their own tactical plans for “success”
or the defense secretary's claim that the debate itself emboldens the
“enemy.” (Gates has candidly said that four wars are currently underway
in Iraq, so which enemy is emboldened? All of them?)

The Democrats in Congress want to “send a message” with a resolution
opposing the surge. That's fine, as far as it goes. But as Odom's
testimony makes clear (go read the whole thing),
the President has committed strategic errors of monumental proportions.
Getting bogged down in a debate with the President over tactics, lets
him off the hook for the most egregious of his sins, which are
strategic, and makes it more difficult to chart a way out of this
strategic disaster.   [Via Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall]

On the “War on Terror” Rhetoric

On the “War on Terror” Rhetoric.

Echoing what I said in my previous post, Sir Ken Macdonald — the UK's “director of public prosecutions” — has spoken out against the “war on terror”:

He said: “London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

“The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement.”

Sir Ken, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, told members of the Criminal Bar Association it should be an article of faith that crimes of terrorism are dealt with by criminal justice and that a “culture of legislative restraint in the area of terrorist crime is central to the existence of an efficient and human rights compatible process”.

He said: “We wouldn't get far in promoting a civilising culture of respect for rights amongst and between citizens if we set about undermining fair trials in the simple pursuit of greater numbers of inevitably less safe convictions. On the contrary, it is obvious that the process of winning convictions ought to be in keeping with a consensual rule of law and not detached from it. Otherwise we sacrifice fundamental values critical to the maintenance of the rule of law – upon which everything else depends.”

Exactly. This is not a job for the military, it's a job for the police. [Schneier on Security]

What makes a dream job situation?

What makes a dream job situation?. In my opinion, the major factor is being able to make a difference! It is the basis of real job satisfaction. That phrase, being able to make a difference rarely appeared on the job descriptions I have seen and when it did appear, it was used as motivation when pay was less than stellar. Nonetheless, making a difference is what excites people who take responsibility for others and for their own lives.

When you can actually make a difference in people's lives by doing
your job, you will often endure lousy pay and indifferent management
for years before realizing that you can make a difference and make a
living wage somewhere else!

Making a difference in other people lives also implies that the
people you help are able to acknowledge your efforts to help them.
Somehow, this acknowledgement is far more important than being
recognized by the people who employ you.

I think that everyone has the capability to find their dream job as
long as they understand what is involved and that exchange is necessary
to sustain yourself in any position.

There is lot that I could write about dream jobs and nightmare job situations, but the basic requirements for a dream job are:

1. The job itself must have a worthwhile purpose
2. Other people should benefit from your work
3. You should be recognized, not reviled, for doing what is necessary
4. There should be ample financial rewards to allow you to continue this job indefinitely.

Any
one of these being omitted can make for a untenable job situation. For
example, the job af an elected official can fall short of perfection in
several significant ways. Being President of the United States is as
close to a nightmare job as I can imagine, because number 3 is almost
always out.

Being micro-managed or second-guessed will turn almost any job into
an unwelcome ordeal. When this increases to the point where it
interferes with your ability to make a difference, you need to
determine what actions lead to the greater good.

The important thing to remember is that you always have a choice.
You signed up to help people. Are you still able to do so? If not, what
can you do to make better use of your time?

For me, that always meant finding a situation where I could make a
difference and support my family in the process. There are countless
opportunities to do this. All one needs to do is look. [Making Ripples: post-corporate adventures]

#1: Keeping it FREE

#1: Keeping it FREE.

This is one post in a series, describing challenges we need to overcome to make free software ubiquitous on the desktop.

We have to work together to keep free software freely available. It will be a failure if the world moves from paying for shrink-wrapped Windows to paying for shrink-wrapped Linux.

As free software becomes more successful and more pervasive there will be an increasing desire on the part of companies to make it more proprietary. We’ve already seen that with Red Hat and Novell, which essentially offer free software on proprietary terms – their “really free” editions are not certified, carry no support and receive no systematic security patching. In other words – they’re beta or test versions. If you want the best that free software can deliver, a rock solid, widely certified, secure platform, from either of those companies then you have to pay, and you pay the same price whether you are Goldman Sachs or a startup in Rio de Janeiro.

That’s not the vision we all share of what free software can achieve.

With Ubuntu, our vision is to make the very best of free software freely available, globally. To the extent we make short-term compromises, for drivers or firmware along the way, we see those as bugs, and ones that will be closed over time.

The dream for me is to be able to keep free software free of charge for the people who want it on those terms. To have people sharing the same high quality base and innovating on top of it – from Beijing to Buenos Aires – will create something that we’ve never had before, which is a completely level software playing field for every young aspiring IT practitioner, and every aspiring entrepreneur. I believe that’s how we will really change the world, and how we will deliver the full benefit of the movement started more than two decades ago by Richard Stallman.

This is a personal challenge – I benefited hugely from the existence of Linux in 1996, it was what made it possible (together with SSLeay, now OpenSSL) to get into the crypto game and ultimately found Thawte. Now my goal is to make Ubuntu sustainable so that it can continue to grow while at the same time making all of that opportunity, all of those tools, freely available to the next generation of entrepreneurs.

I’m glad to say our commercial support operation in Montreal is growing and that users are turning into customers, so the ball is rolling. As Ubuntu moves into the enterprise, with some of the world’s largest companies deploying it, I think we’re starting to show that it really is possible to have a platform that is both free and self-sustaining. We’ve come a long, long way from that first meeting in April 2004.

If this is a dream that inspires you too then get involved and contribute! We’ll take whatever time and input you can give – from documentation and advocacy to local training and support. Art, energy, code… it takes all sorts to build something as complete as Ubuntu can be.  
[Mark Shuttleworth]

Joey Stanford: Top Secret: Unboxing System76's Unannounced Laptop!

Joey Stanford: Top Secret: Unboxing System76's Unannounced Laptop!

Get yourself some water and a napkin because this is a drool-fest. Gizmodo eat your heart out.

I stirred up quite a bit of excitement with my previous post concerning a new System76 laptop prototype that I spotted at my CoLoCo presentation to NCLUG. I am now able to release some of the backstory and details.

A few days before the presentation I emailed Carl from System76 with my dream specs for a laptop. He replied the same day that he had just gotten a prototype of their new machine that matched my specs to the letter minus a DVI-out connection. Carl brought it up to the presentation. I was so impressed I, like others, asked when I could put my order in. I shot Carl an email the next day and he did something special. As many of you know System76 is not only a big Ubuntu supporter but they also very much support LoCo teams. I’m fortunate enough to be currently running the LoCo where System76 resides. As a special favour he allowed me to place an order before the company was tooled up to take regular customer orders on this new model. I thought, “wow, that’s really nice!” so I put in my order about a week ago expecting it to be mid-February when the first production run completed and I would take possession.

Imagine my surprise when Carl called me today, Saturday, and told me my laptop was ready. System76 did a final production ready test run this week and Carl was able to snag me one of those machine. (You rock Carl!) I understand they are still tooling up the manufacturing floor (and their website) to handle this new model so right now I am the luckiest geek on the planet for about two more weeks. . . .  [via Planet Ubuntu]

Digital Lifestyle Servers Everywhere

Digital Lifestyle Servers Everywhere.

Marc has been struggling to find the right phrase the helps people understand what he's working on. Yesterday he wrote something I've heard him say, but I don't understand, that he was “forced” to change from calling it server in the closet. Why? I find that helps to position the software, if that's really what he has in mind. I want a server in the closet, one that really works for the house as an interface to the universe, both ways.

I also believe that servers belong everywhere, and predicted it, and it's happening. Nowadays if you want to buy a webcam, you can buy one that connects into your wifi network and has an integrated HTTP server. That's how you get the images — visit a web page on your LAN. I just bought a receiver that has a built-in HTTP server, so I can program the stereo over the Internet. It wasn't the reason I bought the receiver, but you can imagine I was delighted to find that it was there. It's also why I strongly believe that the TV set in your living room or den is also going to be a full computer, a peer on the Internet, a client of various Internet services (as predicted by Mark Cuban) and a server so you can control it using a web browser, and also so you can have your own private YouTube or MySpace (that, I believe is Marc's vision).

All the players here are orbiting around a set of protocols and standards that make this stuff work, even the ones you usually don't see playing well with others, the entertainment and technology industries. The attraction of the formats is irresistable. As TBL said: “Anyone can build a new application on the Web, without asking me, or Vint Cerf, or their ISP, or their cable company, or their operating system provider, or their government, or their hardware vendor.”

What he didn't say, but surely is aware of, is that it's possible to add new layers to the Internet that have the same properties, and new proponents of evolution who stand beside himself and Vint Cerf. It didn't stop with TCP, HTTP and HTML, and it won't stop with RSS and WiFi. But the philosophy that TBL stated so succinctly is so important that it's worth codifying as a law. And it can be restated in a mashup of the words of JFK: Ask not what the Internet can do for you, ask what you can do for the Internet.  [Scripting News]