August 2007 Archives

2007-08-28 23:48:50

Anne-Louise Germaine

Anne-Louise Germaine, also known as «Mme. de Staël, was a philosophically engaged swiss noble in the 18th/19th century.

A famous statement of Mme. de Staël is this one:
La tristesse fait pénétrer bien plus avant dans le charactère et la destinée de l'homme, que toute autre disposition de l'homme.

I think that from a biologist's point of view, this statement surely can't be discarded easily, because one of the first things babies learn is unhappiness. However, I don't think that happiness is the same as, or even related to, sadness. It is more a state of being discontent, and thus should probably be named adequately. Happiness and containedness is not the same thing, not at all. Containedness means that a being has successfully fulfilled all of its desires and doesn't have any immediate desire at the point in time. This mostly occurrs paired with being busy with hobbies.

True sadness, however, is not related to being unhappy, or «discontained». It is also possible that a lot of people have not yet been truly sad. For one, I don't think I have.

True sadness is the state that is being reached when losing someone or something really important. And by really important I don't mean important for the fulfillment of everyday's needs, required for reaching a state of containedness. Losing «just» a boyfriend or girlfriend is nothing that could probably cause sadness. It caused unhappiness, unrest, and the demand for replacement. (Which could possibly serve as an adequate definition of unhappiness.)

True sadness is experienced when losing someone who has been part of your life for so long as to shape it significantly. This, in my opinion, constitutes a significant loss. Most boy- and girlfriends don't really shape one's life all that much; in fact we ignore the requirement to let them shape us so we can love them at all. True love is not possible with someone who would not constitute a significant loss.

Melancholy is a related subject, because it is entirely different. It appears to be a state where people don't expect too much from each other. While most people regard it as a bad state which makes people «sad», I think it is a significant, beautiful state of mind. Melancholy allows people to reduce the perception of their own needs, and to see that of the needs of other people. It is not a disease to disrespect the requirement to be contained which is imposed on us by the modern society (or the Major Consensus Narrative), but a gift. Melancholy does not necessary have to lead to depression, it can also lead to great pleasure and happiness.

Probably the most impressive quotation of Mme. de Staë is the following:
Le seul systême vrai pour éviter la douleur, c'est de ne diriger sa vie que d'aprês ce qu'on peut faire pour les autres, mais non d'aprês ce qu'on attend d'eux.

This is a thought that I realized is also a very important leading idea of my own life. I think that one of the most important rules of diplomacy is also true for any other type of interaction involving sentient beings: it is ill advised to expect others to do something specific. Thus, it is also ill-advised to do something for others expecting a reward for this.

One has to realize that a lot of favors are only done because some type of reward is expected for this. But unless the reward is immediate, it is not likely to happen (Or, for that matter, to be really a reward. Most of the time a «perceived reward» is received for something, it is indeed a favor done because something else, something immediate, is desired. It is important to realize that at least humans always want something.

Thus, it is not really interesting how much people do for each other, but it is indeed much more interesting to look for things that you can do for others without catching yourself trying it for a reward. I invite you to go out and do people a favor, not doing it because one expects them to be a good partner, because one expects money, or because one even expects a smile or a «thank you». You might be deceived.

Just do something that you know will help other people, ignoring completely the fact that they might show a reaction. Expect them to walk on by, not even blinking at you. Don't prejudge them to do this, but don't expect anything.

Once you've reached a level where giving people this kind of favor makes you glad, you have understood the true spirit of this statement.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: suisses

2007-08-22 07:37:35

UDC campaign condemned as "racist"

According to the «Radio Suisse-Romande» (RSR), the billboard advertisements from UDC, advertising a safer Switzerland, now have to be removed at least in the canton Geneva. RSR reports that geneva authorities have declared the picture, showing two white sheep kicking a black sheep off red ground with a white cross, symbolizing Switzerland, to be racist.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, politics

2007-08-21 20:42:35

Media coverage on OOXML proceedings in Switzerland

A couple of days before the official voting deadline, the media are starting to report about some conflicts thrown up in the proceedings. Heise has an article mentioning the accusation of bias raised against the chairman of the committee responsible for evaluation of the standard. The article further refers to an appeal raised against the proceedings in the meeting by the Swiss Internet User Group.

Another (short) article has been published on Symlink. This article also refers to objections raised against a possible conflict of interests of the chairman, and also mentions a second appeal against the proceedings in standardization of OOXML of the Free Software Foundation Europe.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, standards

2007-08-21 20:08:36

Federal courts: Star Office vs. MS Office

The federal courts of Switzerland are currently debating whether to continue the support for open source solutions (UNIXoid systems, Star Office) or whether to go back to Microsoft solutions (Windows, MS Office).

Up to this point, the Federal Court in Lausanne has been pioneering towards an open infrastructure, while the newer courts (the Federal Criminal Court in Bellizona and the Federal Administrative Court in Berne) went for Microsoft-only solutions. However, the Federal Court in Lausanne has already developed a large number of programs solving specific tasks in their specific environment, which makes it a lot harder to switch to the closed Windows platform again.

The reason of the debate was a decision of the parliament to have «IT in one pour». The story is covered in more detail in an article in «Der Bund».

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, standards

2007-08-20 22:41:14

bcollect 0.5 released

Today I released my up-to-now stealth project bcollect. It is basically a clone of ccollect which is written in C. Advantages over ccollect are clear locking and a single configuration file.

However, much work remains to be done here. Apart from the items in the todo file, which I forgot to update before the release, there are also:

  • Push the locking down further. Currently, one single instance of bcollect is permitted to run, and until that instance has finished running, no other instances may start in the same directory.
  • Make the output more suitable for logging.
  • Add ways to specify more arguments to the rsync process.
  • Make the behavior on locked backup dirs configurable.
    And still:
  • Make the rmdir implementation iterative rather than recursive.
  • Implement parallel execution (-p).
  • Implement pre/post execution scripts.

For more details on the project see the BSD project site or the project website.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: programming, general

2007-08-20 13:10:55

Collection of documents related to the Antitrust case

This is an interesting collection of documents from the Antitrust case against Microsoft:

Please note that all of these are Microsoft internal documents and not an invention of some conspiracy theorist.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: general, chaos

2007-08-20 11:58:12

Windows Vista - End of Monopoly?

Apparently, Microsoft has managed to finally hit over the bar with Windows Vista. Not only do the sales go horribly bad, they also get bad critics from all over the globe, predicting that Linux will become the dominant OS – the commodity OS – for both the PC and the server, to the eventual detriment of Microsoft's revenues.

PC magazine editor Jim Louderback, a former Windows Vista evangelist, has declare that he has lost his faith in Vista. Even more, he also suggests that a move to Linux might come to consideration, given the fact that Microsoft still doesn't remotely have the Vista bugs under control, after more than nine months.

"I've been a big proponent of the new OS over the past few months, even going so far as loading it onto most of my computers and spending hours tweaking and optimizing it. So why, nine months after launch, am I so frustrated? The litany of what doesn't work and what still frustrates me stretches on endlessly. The upshot is that even after nine months, Vista just ain't cutting it. I definitely gave Microsoft too much of a free pass on this operating system: I expected it to get the kinks worked out more quickly. Boy, was I fooled! If Microsoft can't get Vista working, I might just do the unthinkable: I might move to Linux."

The sales of MS Office 2007 don't appear to go well either, and additionally, the new OOXML document format is doing really badly. After 10 monthes that Office 2007 is out in the wild, less than 2'000 OOXML documents are available on the Internet. 1'329 of them have been added during the last 3 monthes, and 1'600 of them are coming from

Its opponent, the Open Document Format, appears to be doing much better in the meanwhile: in the same period of time, 13'400 more documents were added to the pool of documents available on the Internet.

Given all these facts, The Register already proclaims the triumph of Linux, which might be a bit early to shout out but is indeed a general trend. If even the release of a new Microsoft product doesn't change the market situation dramatically, as it did regularly in the past, there is definitely something going on.

Under these circumstances, it doesn't come as a surprise that Microsoft is pushing this badly for the standardization and use of OOXML, mainly with governmental bodies. It is an attempt to save the market share with the jimmy, and if it goes well, it could suddenly lead to a big rise in market share of Apple's MacOS 10.

The reasons for this are simple. Apple's iWork suite in version 08 now officially supports OOXML, but does not feature support for ISO 26300:2006 standardized formats. Of course, the question remains to be asked why Apple would do Microsoft such a favor: because they think that when the Microsoft Empire falls apart, they might inherit the market share through the OOXML jimmy. It seems that Apple doesn't see any other way either to prevent Linux from becoming the natural successor of Windows.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, standards

2007-08-19 22:47:32

OOXML: The Monty Python Factor has a nice hommage to Monty Python's regarding the OOXML specification.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: standards

2007-08-19 22:30:34

Music industry offers unuseable audio streams to critics

As their latest change in policy, the music industry now only offers low quality audio streams instead of music CDs to critics of the print and movie media corporations.

For quite a while now, the music industry has been accusing the critics of passing on the CDs they have been given. Up to this point, they have not been able to substantiate this claim. Just like with all the other accusations made so far, however, the music industry jumped to conclusions and decided to only pass low quality (32 kbps) audio streams to the media in the future.

However, as the swiss german news paper Der Bund complains, 32kbps are such a horribly bad quality that it doesn't allow the critic to decide if the music is worth listening or not. Thus, Der Bund sees this as another step of the music industry on the road to insignificance.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: chaos, news

2007-08-08 21:36:09

Google now with keyboard navigation

Google is working on a new interface which allows people to navigate their search results with keyboard shortcuts (besides looking all 3Dy and web2.0y). I must admit that this is the best usability enhancement of web applications for long.

One especially interesting aspect is that Google chose vi commands to navigate the search results. Maybe they still have employees that remember the Internet before the Web?

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: general, news

2007-08-01 16:10:38

MacOS X: UNIX, not BSD

The OpenGroup has registered Apple's MacOS X as an entity entitled to bear the UNIX trademark. This is of course a big step for MacOS X, which is now officially an UNIX operating system.

At the same time, however, this invalidates the claim that MacOS X is a BSD operating system. This claim, voiced loudly by MacOS X users confronted with BSD operating system users, has always been technically wrong, since MacOS X is not derived from or compatible to BSD operating systems. Nor are its drivers in any way. Normally, BSD drivers can be made to work on all BSD operating systems using only a small amount of #ifdef work.

MacOS X is a reimplementation of a kernel and userland which provides, amongst other things, a BSD compatible API to userland programs. It also ships with some tools that also exist under BSD. This, however, doesn't make it a BSD operating system.

The new legal argument also speaks against MacOS X being a BSD operating system: for historical reasons, the BSD operating systems cannot obtain the UNIX trademark, even though they all pass the UNIX certification requirements. The amicable arrangement in 1993 in the case of AT&T versus the University of California, Berkeley, clearly states this. Thus, legally, a BSD operating system can never be an UNIX operating system. Thus, if MacOS X is UNIX, it cannot be BSD.

Thanks a lot to Apple for making this clear.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, standards