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Confessions of a D-List Supervillain (D-List Supervillain, #1)

Review:

I was hooked when the "vil­lain" in­stalled a rootk­it on a Lin­ux-pow­ered sen­try bot be­cause the own­er had been neg­li­gent up­dat­ing the in­stalled dis­tro.

Re­al­ly, a lot of fun. The au­thor has sev­er­al cheap books in Ama­zon!

On Politeness, Street Signs, and Codes of Conduct

When I grow up, I want a pink car. Girls like pink.

—Ta­to (my son, age 4 at the time)

There has been a lot of talk late­ly about codes of con­duct in con­fer­ences. I don't have an­swers to much, but I do have a lot of ques­tions in my head, and some things seem to come to my mind be­cause of that, so I will do a lit­tle head dump­ing, and let's see if clar­i­ty ap­pears.

So. The main thing seems to be that the pro­posed codes of con­duct aim at mak­ing events in­clu­sive, and more di­verse, and wel­com­ing to peo­ple who may have felt un­wel­come in the past. That these groups in­volve wom­en should be a call of at­ten­tion. Wom­en? Wom­en are half the world, and ap­par­ent­ly we have been ex­clud­ing them, whether in­ten­tion­al­ly or not.

So, in prin­ci­ple, if adopt­ing a code of con­duct helps that, I am all for it. Same about gays, les­bian­s, tran­sex­u­al­s, etc. They are not 50% of the world, but they are about 10% of it, so it's a very large amount of peo­ple, and adding them to our groups is an­oth­er easy op­ti­miza­tion.

How­ev­er, it con­cerns me a bit that these codes of con­duct con­tain lan­guage like this:

Ha­rass­ment in­cludes of­fen­sive ver­bal com­ments re­lat­ed to gen­der, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, dis­abil­i­ty, phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance, body size, race, re­li­gion, sex­u­al im­ages in pub­lic spaces, de­lib­er­ate in­tim­i­da­tion, stalk­ing, fol­low­ing, unau­tho­rized or in­ap­pro­pri­ate pho­tog­ra­phy or record­ing, sus­tained dis­rup­tion of talks or oth­er events, in­ap­pro­pri­ate phys­i­cal con­tac­t, and un­wel­come sex­u­al at­ten­tion.

Some are com­plete­ly ob­vi­ous, peo­ple who dis­rupt the speak­ers at con­fer­ences are to be thrown out, in­tim­i­da­tion is abom­inable, stalk­ing is creep­y, etc. But "of­fen­sive ver­bal com­ments re­lat­ed to [ev­ery­thing]"?

And here, I have to make a small de­tour and talk about street sign­s. When I vis­it­ed Lon­don, one thing that called my at­ten­tion was the lan­guage in street sign­s. Here's an ex­am­ple:

http://s0.i1.picplzthumbs.com/upload/img/9b/be/1e/9bbe1e8c53e414b0c1c652b6e8684586ddbe9d3e_400r.jpg

In oth­er coun­tries it would say "No dogs", would­n't it?

So, why do they have signs like this? It's prob­a­bly be­cause they are very po­lite peo­ple. Al­so, it may be be­cause of­fen­sive signs are pun­ish­able by jail.

I have a com­plete­ly un­found­ed sus­pi­cion that the po­lite­ness came first, and then came the right not to be of­fend­ed, which end­ed en­cod­ed in­to law, and now you just have to be po­lite, or else.

I am quite loud­ly athe­ist, yet I on­ly men­tion it out­side this blog if some­one men­tions his re­li­gion. So, for ex­am­ple, if some­one says "god asks less and yet he for­gives", I may say "that's be­cause he does­n't ex­ist", as a joke. I am now as­sum­ing that say­ing that in a con­fer­ence with that kind of code of con­duct is go­ing to be con­sid­ered of­fen­sive be­hav­iour. And let's say I am ok with that, I can still go for a few hours with­out of­fend­ing peo­ple. Have not tried it late­ly, but I am sure I can do it.

And I know that at a pri­vate even­t, like a con­fer­ence, there is no in­her­ent free­dom of speech, be­cause there is the right of ad­mis­sion, and I can just be kicked out with­out any ex­pla­na­tion, and I am al­so fine with that, be­cause I re­serve the right to kick peo­ple out of my own home, too.

So, sure, let's keep re­li­gion out of it. It has no place in a tech­ni­cal con­fer­ence one way or an­oth­er, and in any case, I will wear my in­vis­i­ble pink uni­corn shirt as an out­ward sign of my athe­ism (it looks just like a gray v-­neck t-shirt).

And I am to­tal­ly fine about not mock­ing or ha­rass­ing peo­ple be­cause of their gen­der or sex­u­al pref­er­ences. I am old and pro­vin­cial enough that when two men start kiss­ing next to me, I feel awk­ward. Luck­i­ly, I am enough of an adult that I just think to my­self, "dude, you are a pro­vin­cial prude" and look the oth­er way. Af­ter al­l, I have seen peo­ple take ex­cep­tion to me kiss­ing my wife in pub­lic, so, live and let live, what­ev­er. I like wom­en, my wife likes men, so I can un­der­stand you lik­ing ei­ther.

On the oth­er hand, I un­der­stand that the mere ex­is­tence and pres­ence of some peo­ple can be of­fen­sive to oth­er­s. I know peo­ple who would rather stand for 2 hours than sit next to a tran­sex­u­al. Or would rather get off the bus in­stead of be­ing there. And I am enough of an old, pro­vin­cial prude that I un­der­stand them. So, of­fend­ing is not the thing here, be­cause if of­fend­ing is the thing, then the mere pres­ence of some­one can of­fend oth­er­s, and that's the ex­act op­po­site of what we wan­t. We want them to ei­ther not be of­fend­ed, or be of­fend­ed and get over it, or be of­fend­ed and not care.

So, hand­ing out in­vi­ta­tions to three­somes to peo­ple in hall­ways is a bit too much (I nev­er in­vite peo­ple to three­somes be­fore the fourth date, it is gauche). Hit­ting on peo­ple in bars at night is prob­a­bly not too bad, un­less it's a con­stant thing that ru­ins the night for some­one (what do I know, I have nev­er hit on some­one or been hit on in a bar. Ex­cept by oth­er men. Just my luck­!) in which case I ex­pect a group of nice peo­ple to form a pro­tec­tive ring around the poor per­son who is just too at­trac­tive? (a­gain, what do I know, I have nev­er been atrac­tive).

The thing we want is po­lite­ness. We want to be nice to each oth­er. We want ev­ery­one to be as nice as they pos­si­bly can to as many peo­ple as they can. Spe­cial­ly, we want ev­ery­one to be ex­treme­ly nice to the peo­ple they like the least. Be­cause with peo­ple you get along with, you can do crazy stuff you can't do with oth­er­s.

On the oth­er hand, I sus­pect there is some­thing else here I am miss­ing. Be­cause tol­er­ance and re­spect is just not my thing. I am all for pros­eli­tiz­ing and dis­re­spec­t, for cre­ative an­noy­ance and push­ing peo­ple out­side their com­fort zones. But I try not to do it per­son­al­ly, I try to throw things to the crowd and see what they do with them.

I mean, I have been pho­tographed with­out my con­sen­t. I have even had my shirt scanned with­out ask­ing per­mis­sion (ok, I ad­mit hav­ing a QR code in a shirt is sort of an im­plic­it agree­men­t), I have been called names, but I know that, in the words of a sci­fi writer, I live life in the low dif­fi­cul­ty set­ting, be­cause I am a rather healthy white het­ero­sex­u­al male born in mid­dle class with a job, so again, I don't quite know what it's like to be in­sane­ly at­trac­tive, or gay, or in­sane­ly at­trac­tive to gays, or any­thing. I am not ha­rass­able. My face pro­tects me. I know oth­ers don't have such pow­er­ful de­fens­es.

So, while that kind of lan­guage does fill me with trep­i­da­tion, and makes me won­der what kind of com­mu­ni­ty I have been liv­ing in, obliv­i­ous to all these things I read about late­ly, I will ac­cept those codes and try to fol­low them. I have nev­er in­ten­tion­al­ly bro­ken them, even be­fore they ex­ist­ed (I did once take an in­ap­pro­pri­ate pic­ture, it was a joke, I on­ly showed it to one per­son, and I delet­ed it, and I re­al­ly am sor­ry and would not do it again, ok?)

So, I hope to see a lot of peo­ple I don't know in the next free soft­ware events I at­tend. Hope­ful­ly I will not of­fend any of them in a bad way. I will not be too brash. I will try to be in­clu­sive. I will try to be nice. But re­mem­ber. If I am very, very nice to you, it may be be­cause I can't stand you. You're wel­come.

Amped

Review:

Fun read. I sus­pect the whole premise is non­sense, but at least it's non­sense out­side my area of ex­per­tise so I could ig­nore it ;-)

The Raspberry PI Sucks.

It sucks be­cause it's ex­pen­sive. Or at least it's ex­pen­sive for how lame the hard­ware pro­vid­ed is.

The oth­er day I got a Mele a1000 box for which I will do a full re­view soon, I hope. But I re­al­ly need to get the word out: this thing kicks Rasp­ber­ry PI in the ass so hard it's not even fun­ny.

For starter­s, it costs twice as much. Which may seem bad, but trust me, even at twice the cost, it's cheap­er. Be­cause if you are the kind of per­son for whom the $35 makes a dif­fer­ence, then you are al­so prob­a­bly some­one who does­n't have a HD­MI-­ca­pable TV or mon­i­tor. And the Mele works with HD­MI, but al­so with RCA con­nec­tors and VGA, which means pret­ty much any TV or mon­i­tor man­u­fac­tured in the last 20 years will work in a pinch. You can re­pur­pose an­cient mon­i­tors (1024x768 CRTs from 1996? WORKS FINE) that are avail­able ev­ery­where.

Al­so, it comes with Wifi, wi­hch the Pi does­n't. And of course Eth­er­net, too.

It comes with 4GB of in­ter­nal stor­age and 512MB of RAM. The Pi? None and 256m­b. See a pat­tern here? You pay twice as much and it comes with more than twice as much hard­ware in it.

Al­so, it has two USB con­nec­tors (1 in the Pi mod­el A, 2 in the Pi mod­el B).

One im­por­tant fea­ture: it comes in a box. A nice, stur­dy, small box, that can be nice­ly placed so that it does­n't break apart.

The CPU is sev­er­al times faster and sev­er­al gen­er­a­tions more mod­ern. The GPU is slight­ly less pow­er­ful, but you won't no­tice, the on­ly thing the Pi can do with that GPU is de­code video re­al­ly quick, for any­thing re­mote­ly in­ter­est­ing the CPU is a bot­tle­neck.

And both are pro­pri­etary, but at least some­one is work­ing on open Mal­i400 driv­ers.

The Mele is use­ful out of the box, you can just in­stall Ubun­tu on it, or use An­droid, which is open source. It's ful­ly root­ed, you don't need to do any­thing strange to in­stall oth­er op­er­at­ing sys­tems in it (just like the Pi!) ex­cept that since the CPU is so much bet­ter, it can just do stuff eas­i­er.

Did I men­tion that while the Pi has on­ly a SD card for stor­age while the Mele has 4GB of flash, and a SD slot, and an eSa­ta slot? And that us­ing that it could be a nice small file server?

And the kick­er: it's not a char­i­ty. It's $70 be­cause you are pay­ing a busi­ness to cre­ate the things, and does­n't de­pend on get­ting se­vere­ly dis­count­ed chips from Broad­com, it just is a good prod­uct at a good price. And that's just awe­some be­cause it means in 2 years we will have some­thing about as pow­er­ful as the Mele at the Pi's pri­ce­point, and some­thing much more pow­er­ful at the Mele's price, and that's sus­tain­able, be­cause the peo­ple who are build­ing it and de­sign­ing it, and sell­ing it, and ship­ping it, are mak­ing a liv­ing out of it, while kick­ing the ass of the char­i­ty. And that's good. And if you want 100000 of the­se, you or­der them, and you get them, in­stead of hav­ing to pre-buy, and wait month­s, and see them ship in tiny batch­es.

So, buy this, or some­thing like it.

Al­so: $92.60 with free ship­ping

Fear the Oso

Since I have a small kid, I know stuff oth­er peo­ple don't. Specif­i­cal­ly, I know that a sur­veil­lance state is forth­com­ing and that noone will care. Noone that mat­ters that is. Be­cause they all will have learned about it when they are three. So, by 2035, the ex­pec­ta­tion of pri­va­cy will be: None.

There is a clas­sic south amer­i­can left­ist book called "To Read Don­ald Duck" that ex­plain­s, from a marx­ist-the­o­rist point of view, how Don­al Duck forges the pub­lic con­science. If Dorf­man saw one episode of Spe­cial Agent Oso he would have an aneurys­m. Let me sum­marise ev­ery episode:

  1. Adorable Kid in any coun­try. The show specif­i­­cal­­ly shows what coun­try it is, and the char­ac­ters have lo­­cal­ized fea­­tures, names and dress­es.

  2. Adorable Kid has a prob­lem.

  3. His pred­i­ca­­ment is filmed by a ro­bot la­dy­bug, which re­­ports via a satel­lite to an un­­named or­­ga­ni­za­­­tion.

  4. The mis­­te­ri­ous boss called "M­r. Dos" (By the way, the chief of the ar­­gen­­tini­an se­cret ser­vice is called "Señor Cin­­co". Just say­ing!) as­signs the mis­­­sion to one of his "a­­gents", usu­al­­ly our main char­ac­ter, Os­­o.

  5. Oso us­es ad­­vanced tech­nol­o­­gy to find Adorable Kid, and with the guid­ance of his "Paw Pi­lot" (how dat­ed is that?), teach­es Kid the three easy steps to solve his pred­i­ca­­men­t.

  6. Oso learns a val­u­able les­­son for his ap­­par­en­t­­ly end­­less Spe­­cial Agent train­ing pro­­gram.

This is wrong at so many lev­els it's hard to keep track of them, but let's try any­way.

  • There is an un­­named or­­ga­ni­za­­­tion that has the re­­sources to know when ev­ery kid can't tie his shoes, and send an agent to help.

  • Ev­ery la­dy­bug may be a ro­bot­ic satel­lite-­­ca­­pable sur­veil­lance de­vice.

  • This or­­ga­ni­za­­­tion will send agents to get in con­­tact with kids in any coun­try with­­out any adult su­per­vi­­sion.

  • They have un­lim­it­ed re­­sources, in­­­clud­ing space sta­­tion­s, ar­ti­­fi­­cial­­ly in­­tel­li­­gent bird-robo­­copter­s.

  • Their agents are not on­­ly good, kind and help­­ful, they are adorable stuffed an­i­­mals.

The mes­sage is so blunt that it's not even mild­ly hid­den to re­quire marx­ist anal­y­sis, this car­toon says, loud and clear, that un­named or­ga­ni­za­tions look at ev­ery­thing you do, but it's for your own good, and when those or­ga­ni­za­tions en­ter your life, it's on­ly to help you and pro­tect you, and in the pro­cess, these vir­tu­ous groups be­come even more vir­tu­ous.

Hav­ing lived in latin amer­i­ca in the 70s and 80s, I can say: bug­ger, we wished for that to be so! In re­al­i­ty, these things usu­al­ly hire very few stuffed an­i­mal­s, and quite a bunch of plain old an­i­mal­s.

The con­stant sur­veil­lance is not even thought about, it's just as­sumed to be there, there is no con­sid­er­a­tion that kids de­serve, need or even have pri­va­cy or a pri­va­cy ex­pec­ta­tion, the la­dy­bugs rou­tine­ly film the kids in their homes or even bed­room­s, and send the im­ages to a satel­lite for au­to­mat­ed mon­i­tor­ing. Jere­my Ben­tham lacked the imag­i­na­tion and tech­ni­cal re­sources to imag­ine this, so he had to put his pris­on­ers in a cir­cle, to be watched by mere hu­man guard­s.

So, what can we do? Prob­a­bly noth­ing. I ful­ly ex­pect my kid to grow up with no ex­pec­ta­tion of pri­va­cy, and no con­cept of do­ing things out­side the purview of a gov­ern­men­t, of­fi­cial­ly or un­of­fi­cial­ly.

Is that evil? May­be, but it will be their nor­mal. Just like we don't ex­pect to have si­lence, or pri­vate elec­tron­ic com­mu­ni­ca­tions un­less we take spe­cif­ic mea­sures (y­ou all know that, right?), and we ex­pect all our on­line ac­tions to be tracked by some­one (y­ou do ex­pect that, right?)

My hope is a world of hyp­ocrites, who have a pub­lic fa­cade and a se­cret life. I can on­ly hope my son will be­come Bat­man.


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