7 Ways To Ruin A Technological Revolution

24. July, 2011

7 Ways To Ruin A Technological Revolution” is a Google Tech Talk by James Boyle in which he shows honest and sincere ways to stifle technological progress. And unlike him, I’m not ironic. A lot of stifling happens because we deem some things too dangerous. His 7 ways are:

  1. Ignore all empirical evidence and build our view of the world on hearsay
  2. Have a one-sided view of things. Always look at the costs and ignore the benefits. Be afraid of openness and prefer control.
  3. Focus more in outputs than on inputs. So protect the new book but ignore that most of the knowledge in any new book actually comes from existing books.
  4. Ridicule or ignore types of creativity that don’t fit the bill.
  5. Ditch all the technologies and openness we have because they kind of contradict points 1-4. It’s kind of silly saying openness just doesn’t work or that no one is ever going to publish anything without strict IP laws to keep people out when you have, say, Wikipedia. This means getting rid of the general purpose computer and network neutrality.
  6. Go international to keep small fry (like watch groups and NGOs) out of the game. Always harmonize “up”, that is towards tighter control. If one country has 25 years and another 75 years IP protection, the result is always 75 years for both (taking 50 years “away” from one country but that’s not a loss since that wasn’t a “right” before). Rights in such treaties are almost always mandatory, exceptions are optional (because more control is better, see #2).
  7. Make sure “critics fail to engage with the political process”. “It’s as if we have sought to turn self-marginalization to the level of an Olympic sport.” (0:26:14) Apathy also helps.

Some thoughts on #4 (after 0:18:00): Our society is built on sharing. Or did you pay back the $200’000 which your parents invested in raising you? Countless hours wasted playing with you as toddler which they could have spent at work instead. All the money spent on clothes that you didn’t want to wear anyway. The water polluted washing them which could have been used to grow food for more money.

“It’s commercial use if you get for free what you otherwise would have to pay for.” (0:20:16) If companies and IP policy makers had their say, you’d have to pay your girlfriend for a date just like for a prostitute. What else is date than a perfect business opportunity wasted because of “anti-capitalistic” hormones – or so some people seem to think. While we’re at it, let’s ask money for Christmas presents, too! Talk to a friend? It’s Cheap Friday, so it’s only $25 instead of $50/hr.

Such a view of the world ignores the benefits of these actions. When an author writes a new book, how much money goes back to the people who invented the written word? The printing press or the Internet? Who taught the author to write? Who sparked new ideas in his mind? So we have to be unjust somewhere but are we unjust in the right place?

Or maybe I’m wrong. At the end of his speech around 0:35:50 he says something interesting: “It is scary to me that the technologies that would enable the Google equivalent in the next technological cycle are being developed under the conditions that I have described. Because you would have to be an insane optimist to think that none of that is going to get screwed up by the processes that I described and I’m far from being an optimist.”

It’s interesting because we don’t know what will work and what will fail. Maybe this kind of resistance is necessary to separate good ideas from bad ones: Only a really good idea can overcome these obstacles. It has to be overwhelming enough to change the world. Since we can’t tell which idea should win, this might be the only way to weed the bad ones out.

Scary thought: Maybe superior technology like the Amiga didn’t change the world because it didn’t have what it takes – whatever that might be. All I can say from this point in time: We don’t have an Amiga on every desk, we have a PC on every desk. Steve Jobs knows his stuff but there is no Apple computer on every desk either. But there is an iPhone on (almost) every desk. Not a Windows phone. So the formula is Windows + PC == success, not Microsoft == success.

That said, not all is lost. I haven’t put my hands on an Amiga computer for more than a decade but I use the skills every day that I acquired with its beautiful OS. Amiga is dead, today’s hackers have Linux.

I think the good news is that the bad guys eventually fail because there is no limit to their greed. Eventually, they manage to upset even their most die hard supporters. Sony harassed Georg Hotz. Nothing happened. Sony lost 300 million customer records. The US government shows up to ask some serious questions. And the Zurich insurance refuses to cover the damages. Hm…

Interesting links:

Jazoon 2011, Day 2 – Java Concurrent Animated – Victor Grazi

26. June, 2011

Java Concurrent Animated – Victor Grazi

One picture says more than a thousand words. Now imagine what an animation can say. Victor did several for us to better understand the classes in java.util.concurrent. You can find the software on sourceforge: javaconcurrenta

Here is an example:

Very nice. I know a lot about threads and concurrency (the Amiga had preemptive multitasking back in 1986) but even I was surprised by the ReentrantReadWriteLock example: If you have a writer waiting for the lock and another reader comes along, should it get the lock immediately or should it wait for the writer to complete?

My first instinct was to get all the (quick) readers out of the way but chances are that, when all readers have been processed, another one might have come along, effectively starving the writer.


Das Märchen von der Vollbeschäftigung

6. June, 2011

Mal wieder ein Post auf Deutsch. Sorry for my English reads 🙂

Alle Welt redet von Vollbeschäftigung, sicherer Rente und stabilen sozialen Netzen. Oder besser: Die Politiker (links bis rechts) erzählen Märchen, während dem Rest der Bevölkerung langsam dämmert: Da stimmt irgendwas nicht.

Firmen wollen jedes Jahr um 7% “wachsen.” Was heisst dieses “wachsen”? Naja, da gibt es verschiedene Möglichkeiten:

  1. 7% weniger Kosten. Also z.B. den Angestellten den Lohn um 10% kürzen (die Firma hat ja noch andere Kosten als nur Löhne). Geht aber nicht, da rebellieren die Angestellten. Also wirft man eben 10% raus. Das hat den gleichen Effekt und sorgt gleich noch für (angespannte) Ruhe bei denen, die hoffen “mich trifft es nicht.”
  2. Man macht die Produktion 7% effizienter. Das geht durch neue Maschinen (für die man weniger Leute braucht) oder indem man die Produktion gleich ins billigere Ausland auslagert. Da ist zwar die Qualität schlechter, aber dafür ist es 30% billiger und so kann man das wieder hinbiegen.
  3. Eine Mischung aus beidem.

Am Ende ist es halt so, dass die (verbleibenden) Angestellten weniger in der Tasche haben. Natürlich kränkelt dann die Konjunktur: Wenn wenn man weniger Geld hat, kann man auch nicht so viel konsumieren. Aber das ist nicht das Problem der Unternehmen, da soll sich schön der Staat drum kümmern.

Man sieht: Das klappt irgendwie nicht.

Gebhard Borck hat sich hingesetzt und alle Gründe und Faktoren gesammelt, wo es in der modernen Arbeitswelt kneift und hakt. Stück für Stück werden sie jetzt in seinem Blog veröffentlicht: “Affenmärchen – Arbeit frei von Lack & Leder.” Hier geht’s los.

Ein paar Zitate (hier):

Die industrielle Epoche hat die Maschine vor den Menschen gestellt, Effizienz vor Effektivität, Stückzahl vor den Sinn des Produktes und Fehlerfreiheit vor Qualität – ja, Sie lesen richtig, mehr dazu erfahren Sie später, versprochen.

“Stückzahl vor Sinn.” Sehr schön. Milchsee, Butterberg. Wo hatten wir das noch? Ach ja, in der DDR. Oder hier:

Ein Marketingleiter eines Industriebetriebes, nehmen wir einmal einen Schokoladenhersteller, verdient zwischen fünfzigtausend und mehreren hunderttausend britischen Pfund. Er reizt Menschen dazu an, unvernünftig viel Schokolade zu kaufen und zu konsumieren. Er erzeugt Stress, wenn man die gewünschte Schokolade nicht bekommt, spielt die negativen gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen herunter und überhöht die empfundenen Glücksgefühle. […] die gesundheitlichen Auswirkungen finden sich in den bereits erwähnten externen Effekten, für die seine Firma nicht verantwortlich gemacht wird. Die Studie „a bit rich“ hat diese externen volkswirtschaftlichen Effekte […] untersucht. Das Ergebnis: Für ihr Einkommen von fünfzigtausend bis zu mehreren hunderttausend Pfund zerstören sie elf Pfund für jedes Pfund, das sie als Wert generieren.

(meine Betonung) Profit ist wichtiger als der Schaden, den ein Unternehmen an der Gesellschaft anrichtet.

OpenOffice Dead, Too

2. June, 2011

After the huge success with Hudson, Oracle boldly continues in its way to k…er…save OSS projects by dum…donating OpenOffice at Apache.

Remember: Jenkins strives, Hudson is caught in the gears of a long and tedious legal process called “IP due diligence.” Something OSS developers couldn’t care less. So Jenkins pumps release after release every week. Hudson … well, we’ll see. Sometime. Maybe. When all the dubious “IP” has been replaced, removed or at least moved to plugins.

Since this worked so well, Apache gets the OpenOffice project after all important committers left to join LibreOffice.

We have to see this through the corporate lens: Oracle, a multi-billion dollar company is used to make tough decisions and see them through. Just use their database and you will instinctively feel their priorities: The product is powerful yet clumsy. A lot of things could be solved in a much more simple way. But if they did that, it would cost Oracle money. As it is, it just costs those who use it. Note that these are not the people who made the decision to buy Oracle. They just follow the orders from people who see the world through shiny leaflets.

So LibreOffice committed the most horrible crime possible: They ignored Oracle. They came, saw and left without ever looking back. Outrageous! If you make $26 billion revenue, you can’t be wrong. Impossible!

Still … I’d be surprised if there will ever be a release of OpenOffice that anyone will care about.

Related articles:

Hudson and Jenkins Won’t Merge

18. May, 2011

There has been recent discussion about a merge between Jenkins and Hudson, after Oracle pushed the dead weight to Eclipse.

My prediction: Won’t happen.

Why not? Because Eclipse is run by lawyers and developers hate lawyers.

Exhibit A: “Is the Eclipse process so bad? … Yes. It’s very bad (for developers). Bad enough to end many contributions.”  (https://wiki.jenkins-ci.org/display/JENKINS/Jenkins+Hudson+Reconciliation+Requirements)

Exhibit B: “MIT (or MIT-ish, e.g., ASL, BSD, EDL) license” (same page)

Exhibit C: To work on Eclipse projects, you must become a committer (http://wiki.eclipse.org/Development_Resources). That means signing a contract. You have to have an IP Log. All projects on eclipse.org must submit to the Eclipse Public License (http://www.eclipse.org/legal/).

Why is that? Because IBM is rich and Kohsuke Kawaguchi is poor. So trolls are suing IBM and they won’t sue Mr. Kawaguchi. Which is why IBM is raising their barriers and why Jenkins isn’t.

The projects won’t merge

When Laziness Gets Expensive

9. May, 2011

According to heise online (German, video in English), Professor Dr. Eugene Spafford estimates the costs Sony‘s EPIC FAIL to secure their PSN servers to be 21 billion dollars.

Wow. 21 … fucking … BILLION … dollars. That’s 70’000’000 PS3s. 70 million PS3s. 36 million iPhone 4s. 700’000 cars at $30’000/each. They must be doing pretty well to be able to afford such a loss.

And it’s not that they didn’t see it coming. Sony knew for months that their servers were outdated and missing crucial security patches. Well, someone decided that it wasn’t worth to fix that. So: EPIC FAIL. Again. And again. Will they ever learn?

That feels like the same arrogance which led to the lawsuit against geohot and graf_chokolo.  Which probably made someone on the Internet so angry that they decided to give Sony this wedgy. Message to Sony: It’s not smart to be arrogant in the face of overwhelming odds.

You have, say, 1’000 people working to protect your assets. The world has a population of 7 billion (and you just lost 3 dollars to every and each of them) and the probability that one of them can kick you where it really hurts is about 1. At least.

Of course, the company is now using all its power to hunt down the little bastard. Sony, if you read this: Don’t be surprised if a 13-year old kid outwitted your whole security team.

Or rather the manager, who told the team not to fix those servers. But no, managers are never wrong. So the team must be punished. Fire them! All of them! Without supper! Serves them right! And don’t forget to sue the kid! Sue him to hell! Make sure he is not allowed to touch an electronic device ever again. EVER! It’s not your fault what happened! Try to create more DMCA-like laws! So you can sue more people! Get your engineering team to build a time traveling device so you can sue in advance! Force parents to divorce so they can’t breed anything threatening your revenue! Show the world who’s boss! Dictatorships never worked before but that should not stop you! It should rather encourage you! Grow by setting challenging goals!

See where the leads and why you can never win?

Making the world-wide security community hate you even more is your best bet! Trust me, I know at least as well as the guy who created this mess. And you trusted him, didn’t you?

Sony vs. The World 1:0 …?

13. April, 2011

So Georg Hotz “caved in” and accepted to sign a settlement agreement (good article). Those quotes aren’t accidental; being accused in a law-suit does odd things to your life and most of them are unpleasant. Being famous isn’t as great as MTV wants you to believe. Ever wondered why all those famous persons are either weird, drug addicts or die early? There might be a connection.

As for Georg, one hell is over and now he gets raped by all his supporters. It’ll wash over, trust me.

So did Sony win? No. Win would mean to prove in court that it’s illegal to decrypt and modify the firmware of the PS3. Which they avoided. If you’re a multi-billion dollar company and someone/something is a threat to one of your most valuable products (my impression after reading what SCEA said during the lawsuit), wouldn’t you want to make sure this issue is fixed once and for all? For some reason, Sony didn’t.

It’s probably because they didn’t want to harm poor Georg.

*hilarious laughter*

Oh man, I’m killing myself. So. Sony caved, Georg won: He’s not going to jail, he isn’t fined, he isn’t prosecuted. He’s a free man. Well, mostly.

He isn’t allowed to do illegal things with “any SONY PRODUCT” (their yelling). Oookaaayy… what exactly is illegal? Wasn’t that one important point that the lawsuit should have settled?

I mean in Europe, it’s legal to reverse engineer any software if you need that knowledge to make it cooperate with some other software (“make it interoperable”) and if you can’t get that knowledge some other way (competitor wants to keep you out of the market, producer is no longer around, etc.). You must not spread the reverse engineered code but you could, for example, write a patch or an installer with it.

And Georg isn’t allowed to talk about the settlement which is confidential. I don’t need to understand this, I guess, but I’m sure he would rather forget this sad story and move on.

So. One guy fixed. I’m sure no other smart person on the planet is going to try this again. Ever.

And one prediction: It seems that Georg has some money left. Instead of wasting it on his own case (which Sony might have dragged out for a decade, for example) he might have invested it in the other lawsuit where chances to win might be much higher – especially with all the notes he got from his case.