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Permalink 10:19:58, by matt Email , 192 words   English (NZ)
Categories: Social commentary, International events

And what's worse is I can believe it happened

On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold. ... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.

Something from Cold War Russia? Vietnam under Pol Pot? Maybe North Korea, modern era? Nope, it's an FBI agent describing "persuasion" measures utilised at Gitmo.

Five years ago, suggesting that the US would engage in such activities would've had you labelled a paranoid nutjob. Now it's all too believable. How can one country fall so far, so fast? Every great empire has its day, but most don't self-destruct within a single generation.


Permalink 14:08:07, by matt Email , 90 words   English (NZ)
Categories: blog

We REALLY need to make civics compulsory


In a discussion about the falsified licence testing scam, goodfella repeatedly claims that it'd be legal to bring further charges. The concept of double jeopardy just doesn't seem to register with him.
I'd thought it was a fairly simple notion - one crime, one trial (unless the jury's hung). But, no, it appears that some people just don't understand it. It's a good argument for making something similar to the US' "civics" curriculum part of NZ's schooling. When people don't even understand their legally-guaranteed freedoms, it's a sad day for NZ &amp;#58;&amp;#45;&amp;#47;

Permalink 13:13:00, by matt Email , 249 words   English (NZ)
Categories: blog

The infamous Theo de Raadt - "Linux is for Losers?"


Oh dear. First Linus says that Linux is much better than the BSDs in most areas, and now we have Theo with this wee rant. Linus should've kept his mouth shut, really. He's not a BSD expert, by his own admission, so any belief in the superiority of Linux is mostly from the blinkered view of an adherent. Theo is no better, and does himself no favours - not that he cares, as anyone who knows the history of OpenBSD is well aware.

As someone who uses Linux and FreeBSD daily, they both have pluses and minuses. For me, Linux's biggest strengths of wide application and hardware support are fairly heavily outweighed by the serious lack of stability and consistency. "Will this application place its config files in that directory?" "Will the driver for this new hardware actually work properly?" "Where's the init script for that daemon?" With FreeBSD I know exactly where everything will be, and I know that a driver that's in the kernel in -STABLE or -RELEASE will work properly with any compatible hardware. It's not potluck on whether it's going to exhibt quirky behaviour. The documentation, courtesy of The Handbook, is coherent, consistent, and can mostly be found in one place. One of the things that nearly every BSD-newbie comments on is the quality of the man pages compared to Linux. Having a unified goal, even if that goal is as nebulous as FreeBSD's goal of being the best OSS server OS, makes a huge difference.


Permalink 22:18:59, by matt Email , 313 words   English (NZ)
Categories: blog

BSA=BullShit Artists?


The wizened geeks amongst us probably heard about this, where the Economist, something of a business-friendly publication, called the Business Software Alliance to task over their accounting methods for calculating piracy losses. The summary in User Friendly is pretty accurate - establish a baseline of software that's on every PC, establish how many PCs were shipped and how many software licences were sold, and the difference is piracy.
The Economist cottoned on to a couple of flaws in this notion, the primary being that not every pirated copy is a lost sale. If I pirate PhotoShop and Dreamweaver, it's the only way I'll ever have them on my computer. I'm not forking out thousands of dollars for software. Similarly I might pirate a copy of WinXP64, but I won't be giving Redmond the better part of a grand of my hard-earned money. Maybe a couple-of-hundred, but certainly nothing more.

Of course, it's somewhat moot when you're an OSS fan who uses FreeBSD as the day-to-day desktop OS. Wa-hey I pay nothing for some really great software that's fast, stable, secure, and infinitely configurable. And that's just my operating system. 12,000 applications in ports, there's bound to be something that'll do what I need, and it's still free - as in beer and as in speech. Even better.
Free beer? Where? Who said that?

One hopes that the Economist will next be taking RIAA's accounting to the cleaner's, since they operate on the similarly flawed notion that every pirated copy is a lost sale. Most people I know who get music off the 'net do it because there's maybe two decent songs amidst the 12-16 tracks on the CD that they just paid $35 for - if RIAA started listening to their customers, instead of suing them, they might just figure out that what they're pushing isn't what people want. hmm, pushing, sounds so seedy. Well, the shoe does fit.


Permalink 18:56:13, by matt Email , 413 words   English (NZ)
Categories: Social commentary

Words of wisdom from an All Black


At the bottom of that article, Justin Marshall, in response to the question "Does rugby affect New Zealand society?" is quoted as saying:

I think it has a bigger bearing than it should. I've come home from two World Cups and it's like the country's almost died. The country needs to grow up a little bit, accept that rugby is a professional sport and if we lose games ... it helps the ABs build a little more resolve and what they need to win the World Cup.

I realise that in NZ society that makes him a heretic, maybe even a traitor, and that's precisely the point he is making. We're far too absorbed in sports, to the exclusion of things intellectual.
We have brilliant scientists, world-leaders in their fields, threatening to leave NZ if money isn't made available to fund their cutting-edge research into any number of highly beneficial areas - agriculture being the most apparent - at the same time as the Government is promising to help foot the bill in a bid to get the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Yes, fine, the RWC will have large tourist benefits for NZ, but we are a country built on agriculture. Much as we should be moving to tertiary industry, we'll never be able to escape our primary industrial roots - and we shouldn't leave them behind, in any case - so anything that can give us a strong, long-term advantage will reap rewards many times greater than the tourism boost from a once-in-a-lifetime (because we'll probably never get another shot at the RWC) event. And it's not just agriculture. Several important medical advances have come out of New Zealand in recent times, with some more likely in the offing. If our medical researchers leave, that's another loss to our country to the tune of several million dollars a year, every year, in licencing opportunities and sales - plus the tax loss on incomes.

Sports used to be a recreation, a place to flaunt our national pride, and we were at the top of our game for many years. Now it's a business, and we should treat it like one - at arm's length, with interest and pride but not unbridled passion - and worry about things that have real, material benefit for NZ. The All Blacks won't be making trips to Oslo for anything, but we've sent several of our compatriots there in the past. Will we be sending any more if we don't look beyond an unhealthy obsession with games?

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Shocking as it may be, I think, and sometimes those thoughts are almost worthy of public contemplation. So, here are those some thoughts, with no guarantees as to their validity, worth, or utility to the cosmos. All thoughts are my own, representing only my thoughts, opinions and positions, unless explicitly otherwise stated. This blog is not an official or unofficial outlet for any company or government body, or for person other than myself.


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