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.
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:
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.
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 ;-)
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
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:
Adorable Kid in any country. The show specifically shows what country it is, and the characters have localized features, names and dresses.
Adorable Kid has a problem.
His predicament is filmed by a robot ladybug, which reports via a satellite to an unnamed organization.
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.
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.
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.