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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

Useful qmail patch

Adds tarpit­ting to qmail-smt­pd, which is al­most manda­to­ry for a mod­ern large SMTP serv­er.

Too bad it's not pro­gres­sive tarpit­ting, but that's easy to fix :-)

Now all I need is a patch to make qmail-smt­pd check lo­cal rcp­t's va­lid­i­ty and I'm com­plete­ly trou­ble-free with it.

The remote control

As men­tioned be­fore, here's a pic­ture of the re­mote con­trol in a ho­tel room I stayed this week­end. No­tice the prob­lem? Click on it for a larg­er ver­sion.

I am not sure what the les­son is here. It can't be that a us­er in­ter­face must be good. This guy equiped a full ho­tel with these.

Worst & Best in scifi

I just fin­ished read­ing "In­to Deep­est Space" by Fred and Ge­of­frey Hoyle. It is the worst sci­ence fic­tion book I have ev­er read. And I have read hun­dred­s.

Mind you, per­haps the trans­la­tion is to blame for the flat tone and the dread­ful di­a­logue. How­ev­er, the stupid sto­ry­line and the un­de­scribed lo­ca­tion and char­ac­ters sure­ly come from the orig­i­nal.

In this book, there are three alien­s, who come from Betel­geuse (although they are ge­net­i­cal­ly al­most-hu­man­s), and their names are Betel­geuse, Rigel and Al­cy­one. I have no idea how they got to be named as start­s, but any­way, it took me 50 pages to fig­ure out Al­cy­one was fe­male, and 120 to see a men­tion of her be­ing ro­man­ti­cal­ly linked to the hu­man (called, I kid you not, Dick War­boys).

But enough of that. Af­ter I fin­ished this garbage (which is at least short­), I start­ed think­ing, what was my favourite sci­fi book, since this one is sure­ly the op­po­site.

I have to say "The dis­posessed" by Ur­su­la K. LeGuin.

As I have dis­cussed with Uwe a few times (although we are both fans uf UKL­G, so it's no ar­gu­ment :-), the rea­son her books are so good is that they are about peo­ple.

She is one of the big­gest hu­man­ists writ­ers I know. While some au­thors write about peo­ple who are more than hu­man in some sense, like Hein­lein, whose al­ter ego is usu­al­ly triv­ial to rec­og­nize, and is su­per-­com­pe­tent and re­al­ly, pret­ty su­per-hu­man, LeGuin's char­ac­ters are more hu­man than us.

They are good, or evil, or some­thing in be­tween, but they are what they are for hu­man rea­son­s, with hu­man mo­ti­va­tion, for hu­man goal­s, with hu­man pur­pos­es.

You can un­der­stand the guys. You can hate them or like them, but you can un­der­stand them.

For ex­am­ple, Shevek, the main char­ac­ter in The Dis­pos­sessed, is, for hu­man eye­s, supreme­ly un­in­ter­est­ed in pow­er, wealth, ma­te­ri­al poses­sion­s, which would seem to make him su­per­hu­man or in­hu­man.

Af­ter al­l, we all con­sid­er am­bi­tion and de­sire of poses­sion, ma­te­ri­al or per­son­al as nat­u­ral, be­cause we ex­pe­ri­ence them, we em­brace them!.

But he is not de­scribed as a char­ac­ter who sim­ply is like that. He be­came like that through ex­ten­sive and deep ed­u­ca­tion, al­most brain­wash­ing, al­though brain­wash­ing with a seem­ing­ly pos­i­tive goal in the de­scribed cir­cun­stances.

Now, is it good? He seems to be hap­py. His so­ci­ety, formed of like­mind­ed folks is de­scribed as hap­py, and good, and he even de­scribes the wealthy earth­-­like cap­i­tal­ist world he vis­its as "hel­l".

Would we be bet­ter off if we were brain­washed in­to be­ing good? Aren't we, on­ly in­ef­fi­cient­ly?

Is there moral val­ue on Shevek's be­ing eth­i­cal af­ter he has been ed­u­cat­ed to be un­able to be un­eth­i­cal?

Does it mat­ter?

Those are ques­tions a Hein­lein book will not make you ask, and they are wor­thy ques­tion­s, and they have no easy an­wswer­s. And they are all deeply hu­man prob­lem­s.

And al­though the com­pe­tent men of sci­fi are fun to read, and cause me to think of prob­lems of dif­fer­ent na­ture, which are worth­wile in them­selves, I think Ur­su­la K. LeGuin's books ac­tu­al­ly make me learn and think about more im­por­tant things. I learn about peo­ple from them.

They are good for you. And they are well writ­ten. And they are a fun read. And what more can one ask?

Now THAT is a stupid argument

I am read­ing com­ments about ars tech­ni­ca's KDE 3.2 re­view in /., os­news, etc.

Here's the stupid ar­gu­ment I men­tioned in the ti­tle: "G­NOME is bet­ter than KDE be­cause GNOME does X and KDE does Y" 1

That ar­gu­ment is ab­so­lute­ly stupid un­less you can show in­con­tro­versible proof that X is bet­ter than Y. And for 99% of the in­stances of the ar­gu­men­t, you can't. And even in that case, you are iso­lat­ing one fea­ture or de­ci­sion in a very com­plex sys­tem.

Is "yes/No" but­ton or­der­ing bet­ter? Maybe. Maybe not. I know "No/Yes" di­alogs piss me of­f, but that does­n't mean one is ab­so­lute­ly bet­ter.

And be­sides, sup­pose KDE de­cid­ed to do all things like GNOME. Min­i­mal­is­tic UI, GCon­f-ed­i­tor for any­thing more ad­vanced than chang­ing the date.

Then what's the point? Why would an­oth­er bland, bor­ing UI be use­ful at al­l? 2

There's a say­ing: "Taste is in va­ri­ety".


The op­po­site is of course just as stupid.


Yes, that is KDE-­cen­tric po­si­tion, I am a KDE user, and I pre­fer KDE, live with it :-)

In an old­er ver­sion of this, I said foot­notes were bro­ken. They aren't, as you can see :-)