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Morgaine Dinova
That doesn't scale.
That doesn't scale.


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Very clearly spoken TEDx talk from Bruce Schneier.  Good quote from it:  "Transparency is how we differentiate positive social groups from criminal organizations."

"The Battle for Power on the Internet: Bruce Schneier at TEDxCambridge 2013":  The Battle for Power on the Internet: Bruce Schneier at TEDxCambridge 2013
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Thankfully, Judge William Alsup ruled yesterday in the Oracle-Google case that Java APIs are not copyrightable --- Groklaw's coverage is here:

Most of the headlines focus on the fact that Oracle lost on all substantive counts in its lawsuit against Google, so Google has won. That's not really the important part of the story here though. The most important part of the story is that countless millions of programmers who don't have deep coffers and high-powered teams of lawyers for their defense have won the ability to continue practicing their profession, whatever programming language they use.

Although the ruling is still subject to the inevitable process of appeals, a disaster of epic proportions was averted here. "Epic" is not an overstatement. A world in which a company can limit the programs which can be written in a programming language by controlling the APIs would not be the world in which we live today. There would be no interoperability except where permitted, and open source would be reduced to a tiny fraction of its domain and power.

Commonsense prevailed yesterday against the greed of a megacorp that clearly has no qualms about destroying the very foundations of software interoperability. The judge's ruling is truly worth celebrating.
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Wow, great timing. The EU Court of justice has just issued a ruling which puts a torpedo the size of a house into Oracle's position in the Oracle-Google lawsuit, which is currently pending a verdict from the jury on whether Google is liable for breach of Oracle's alleged copyright on Java APIs.

Groklaw summarizes it concisely in ,

Of course, the EU Court of justice has no jurisdiction in a US court of law, but copyright issues tend towards global harmonization so this international precedent will inevitably be known to Judge Alsup if he rules from the bench on the copyright issue. What's more, even if Oracle prevails on copyrights in California, the EU ruling will be cited in higher courts on appeal. And should the US go totally mad all the way up to SCOTUS, American software development could just move to English-speaking Europe for protection from the US insanity. This EU decision is truly a major legal event.
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This is about the copyright part of the Oracle-Google lawsuit which is about to be passed to the jury for a verdict.

In section 11 of the "COURT'S PROPOSED CHARGE TO THE JURY AND SPECIAL VERDICT FORM" -- see , Judge Alsup has provided instructions for the jury (not yet finalized) which include this statement:

> "It is my job to decide whether or not the copyrights on the computer programs do or do not extend to protect the structure, sequence and organization of the code of the programs. I will not be able to decide this question until after your verdict. For purposes of your deliberations, you must assume that the copyrights do cover the structure,sequence and organization of the code."

The "structure,sequence and organization" mentioned above is apparently another way of saying "the overall API excluding names" (because names are not copyrightable), which is a bizarre concept invented by the lawyers in this case and not used by Java programmers, as many people in court have stated. Nevertheless, the judge seems keen to use the "SSO" term in his jury instructions.

This is very worrying, because in effect the jury is being told that "APIs are copyrightable". That would in numerous cases break any possibility of interoperation between different implementations of a language, because 3rd parties would no longer be able to make a new implementation that is compatible with another by using the same APIs unless the copyright holder of a language grants them a license to do it. You can be certain that most commercial holders of a copyright on a language would not grant such an API license because it would provide competition with their own product. Oracle provides a clear example of this.

Google has filed objections about this proposed instruction to the jury so it may yet change, but the judge clearly likes his formulation of the problem in terms of "SSO" and so this is likely to remain, particularly since lawyers on both sides are using it. It does seem universally dangerous to computing and interoperability of languages worldwide, but neither the lawyers nor the judge seem to care about this, as it has not even been mentioned in any filing.

Oracle's copyright case is on extremely thin ground, at least according to Groklaw, but if "APIs are copyrightable" is retained in the final judgement then it will be used as precedent far beyond the current case. That's worrying in the extreme.

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Raspberry Pi, Software Education, and The Software Crisis

Minimalism is a concept which hardware engineers embrace almost instinctively, but sadly in the world of software it's rarely even present in the vocabulary.

The emphasis in practical computing today is to ride upon the shoulders of giants by reusing the work of others, which is a terrific idea in principle but can be a disaster when applied without checks and balances. It almost always results in cancerous growth of colossal monolithic applications, which is why so many software systems today are bloated beyond belief and become ever more flaky in proportion to their size, not to mention suffering from dependency hell.

We used to call this nightmare "The Software Crisis", the reason why "software bridges" collapse millions of times a day across the world. This contrasts badly with the products of other branches of engineering, where reliability is required, expected and achieved as a daily matter of course, not as the exception. The Software Crisis is rarely mentioned anymore, because we have lost the war, surrendered to complexity, and have no solution in sight. Our software bridges continue to fall, ever faster.

How does this relate to Raspberry Pi? Not very strongly, except in the sense that the goal is education, and in software, "smaller is better". The 256MB on the Pi board is actually such a huge amount of memory that if any significant part of it were required to store the program code of a monolithic application then that application would be in deep crisis, whether it's admitted or not.

There isn't really any solution to this situation available at the present time. It would require a breakthrough in computing science to come up with a way of doing more with less, and then to force it upon a world which doesn't even realize that its pride and joy is actually an engineering disaster. That's not going to happen any time soon.

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"How to Build Everything" - A really intense and inspirational 5-minute talk by Redvers Davies at the Charlotte NC Hackerspace (Ignite Charlotte 4).

Don't be just a powerless slave to consumerism, your options wholly decided by faceless industries over which you have no control. Make things! Things that YOU imagine and that YOU decide can be made, not only those which others imagine for you. The walls of our consumerist prison have been breached by new technology, and it's no longer hard nor costly to hold the reigns of your own destiny. Take that first step towards your freedom, show your children that first step towards their freedom. Make things!

[Several metaphors were harmed in the making of this paragraph. And they enjoyed it. :P]
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I'm so sad for the Raspberry Pi Foundation, after all their hard work, wonderful goals, and such tremendous support from the worldwide community. This alleged "launch" has to be the worst launch there has ever been in the history of launches. The lovely little device didn't deserve this, and nor did the people. Much sadness ...

To cut a long story short, a few nanoseconds after switched to their "The Raspberry Pi Launch" static page which linked to the two distributors Farnell and RS, both of those "industrial strength" websites instantly collapsed. The inability of webbies to make robust and scalable websites is a topic for another time, so I won't dwell on it here. Right now I'm more interested in what this has done to the RasPi launch.

The first casualty was communications with the community. The Raspberry Pi Foundation has built itself a superb record of communication and openness throughout this project, and it's hard to overestimate how important this has been in the creation of something akin to a mass worldwide movement, reaching far beyond mere techie interest. Nothing quite like this phenomenon had happened before in the world, certainly not surrounding a $35 device, and the interest had blossomed so beautifully as a result of the power of people talking to each other.

Until the day of launch, that is. With a click of a sysadmin's hand, the Foundation killed off its own life support. Not only did the main blog disappear but every other communication page as well, including the forums and (incredibly), the FAQ. They created a Twitter channel, oddly expecting 140-character bleets to be able to carry worthwhile information, but the result was predictable. In the absence of a tsunami, the entire stream can be summarized as "How do I order?" and "It's dead, Jim", repeated a million-fold. Perhaps they've finally realized how pointless it was as an information channel, as there hasn't been a tweet there for 22 hours now.

This loss of communications was self-inflicted, and would have been pretty bad even if everything else had worked properly. Alas, the collapse of Farnell and RS turned community isolation into a total launch disaster. Very rapidly, excitement and eagerness to order one of the 10k units in the first batch was replaced with bewilderment at dead websites compounded by complete absence of official information. Nobody knew whether orders were actually working for some people, had the first 10k units been sold, was there any point continuing to try, or what? Amidst this mess, there must have been quite a few minor personal tragedies as well, since many people had disrupted their work or sleep schedules to order a unit, the vast majority to no avail.

Farnell has quite a useful community site at and its Raspberry Pi group channel was substantially more informative than Twitter. RS's community site published a few brief Raspberry Pi articles but doesn't seem to have built any kind of community interest group around the device. The Foundation may have been hoping that these two side channels would take over from their own blog during launch, but that really hasn't worked out too well. RS in particular seem to be very distant from the whole thing. Indeed, RS still doesn't have a proper product page for the device, and a search takes you to nothing more than a "Register here to express an interest in Raspberry Pi" page.

Which brings me to a final point. Both Farnell and RS have rather odd "Register an interest" pages for Raspberry Pi, unusual in the electronics industry. It makes me wonder whether it wasn't the Foundation who orchestrated this, because it seems unlikely to be a coincidence. That aside, it makes no sense whatsoever. The level of interest starts with the size of the RasPi mailing list (~100k), multiplied by some factor representing that many of us will buy several units, and from that baseline the numbers grow into the millions or dozens/hundreds of millions consistent with the goals of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, namely to get these low-priced units into the hands of school children everywhere. So what's the point of a few early adopters registering at Farnell and RS? None at all, it's meaningless. The whole point of putting industry muscle behind Raspberry Pi is to manufacture in volume, say in batches of 100k units minimum, and to keep doing so until demand starts to slack off. The "Register an interest" concept is just plain silly.

So, to wrap up, an eventful couple of days which are best forgotten as rapidly as possible. We still don't know what happened with the first batch, nor the size nor timing of future ones. Raspberry Pi Foundation, please please please restart communication again, it's important. Communication and information is the lifeblood of a project like this one.

And I'm hungry for my Raspberry Pi, and many more later. :-)

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We've had quite an interesting discussion about Immersionism and Augmentalism here in recent days. A new post today suggests that some confusion still remains (probably through lack of our many years of analysis of this topic), so I'll try to describe a little more fully and precisely how they differ. In particular, I'll explain what is actually varying as one moves along the continuous spectrum between the two worldviews.

(As an aside, note that Immersionism and Augmentalism are the worldviews, while immersion and augmentation are corresponding processes whose importance is upheld in varying degrees depending on worldview.)

The key difference between Immersionism and Augmentalism is of course the obvious one which is built into their respective names.

The Immersionist gives a lot of importance to immersion, and realizes that immersion is strengthened when worlds are isolated from each other. Indeed, phrases like "turn off your cellphones or it breaks the immersion" are understood universally today. This leads directly to the Immersionist's mantra of Separation of Worlds, because interference between worlds leads to the loss of what makes them distinct. It should be noted that this can go far beyond merely excluding annoying ringers and into matters of legal jurisdiction in virtual worlds as well, and everything in between. It's a very broad field of interest, and it probably goes way back to the dawn of time, when language began to allow stories to be told in the immersive quiet of the night around the campfire.

The Augmentalist gives a lot of importance to augmentation of physical reality by harnessing technology as extensions or tools, and this is how the Augmentalist approaches virtual realities as well. If you're really hardcore you may be draped in wearable computers and continually overlay your physical reality with digital information through LCD glasses or some other HUD display. Much more commonly though, almost everyone is a true blue Augmentalist just by being part of the modern world and using its products. This too has been going on since the dawn of time.

It goes without saying that most people are a mix of both Immersionist and Augmentalist. It is a rare person who doesn't augment their physical existence with a telephone, and it is a rare person who refuses to delve into a novel or a film on the grounds that "This is not reality". While popularity does not in any way invalidate marginal worldviews, nevertheless it is clear that most people find intermediate positions to be most rewarding.

So, it seems to be generally understood that there is a continuous spectrum between Immersionism and Augmentalism. These are not pigeon holes but general categories which flow gracefully into each other. Which category seems closer to home is very much a matter of degree and of where one's interest is focused, and not a matter of exclusive religion. We've also discussed how the continuum is delimited at each end by "extreme immersionism" and "extreme augmentalism". It is important to realize that these are conceptual endpoints of the spectrum only, and it would be unusual to find people actually upholding either of them. The importance of the two endpoints is that they define the spectrum that lies between them.

However, I still see a few misunderstandings remaining in our discussions, specifically about what goes on in the middle, so I'll try to be as precise as I can about this. The continuum that lies between the two endpoints of this spectrum is most easily understood if you keep in mind that the dimension which varies along the spectrum is that of consistency, in the technical sense of homogeneity or uniformity, ie. lack of exceptions.

Both the extreme augmentalist and the extreme immersionist have completely consistent positions within their individual worldviews: the extreme augmentalist is consistent in admitting the existence of no other worlds at all, while the extreme immersionist is consistent in holding that all worlds (including the physical world) are separate and on an equal footing. Consistency within their respective worldviews is 100% at both extremes.

In the continuum between the two endpoints, that single-minded consistency of world model is broken down and is never 100%. Each side accepts a bit from the other.

The non-extreme Augmentalist will admit that non-physical worlds exist and have an important role (for example, they may read books of fiction or watch films and even get immersed themselves). They will also understand that Separation of Worlds is important to the Immersionist to keep their worlds alive and distinct, and they will not seek to coercively deny that separation and impose their own worldview.

The non-extreme Immersionist will in turn admit that the physical world is special, and will either personally embrace the use of non-physical worlds to augment their physical reality, or will at least accept that this is the primary interest of the Augmentalist, and respect it.

Both non-extreme worldviews make an exception for the physical world but still embrace virtual worlds. People tend to support these non-extreme positions because they seem reasonable in view of how we experience reality. Admittedly, the purity of the endpoint models is missing and is combined into a bit of a mongrel worldview, but that is of no consequence to anyone I know. :-) Utility beats purity for most people, no contest.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that coercive augmentalists exist, committed to denying Separation of Worlds and coercively imposing their own augmentalist worldview on others by force. In contrast, the "coercive immersionist" does not exist and cannot exist, because the core mantra of Separation of Worlds precludes an immersionist from interfering with the augmentalist's world, or any other. At worst, the immersionist will just ignore the augmentalist and resist attempts at "world invasion", so to speak. It is at most, defensive.

A lot more could be said on the topic, but I'll stop there. We've been examining "Aug vs Imm" in one of the Second Life discussion groups regularly every few months ever since Henrik's essay appeared. The above attempts to distill some of what we have covered over half a decade.

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It is unfortunate that the labels "Immersionist" and "Augmentalist" so often lead to tangents about terminology, because arguments about labels distract from the more important topics at the heart of this: the partitioning of contexts and information, and the creation of alternate realities to hold those contexts.

Although we often discuss immersionism and augmentation within the context of 3D virtual worlds, immersionism has a very long history which predates the digital age. Every film or gripping novel or campfire ghost story can immerse you in a world of its own creation, very deeply indeed. Augmentation has a very long history as well: we have been augmenting our world and ourselves ever since we started to use tools.

Unfortunately, the war between the two worldviews also has a long history, with the burning and banning of books continuing to this very day. A book that describes "the wrong world" is considered a very dangerous weapon by the extreme augmentalist, sometimes punishable by death. Such is the still-barbaric world in which we live.

So, back to the topic in hand. It is totally natural for humans to partition their contexts: you are not the same persona when you are with your family as when you are in the boardroom or in the lab, let alone when you are laying waste to vast armies of trolls. Partitioning our contexts is done by keeping our identities separate and isolated within the microcosms that we create. That is the core mantra of Henrik's Immersionist worldview, the separation of worlds. And the mantra of the extreme Augmentalist is to deny people the use of multiple contexts, for one reason or another.

I suspect that this war or tension will continue indefinitely, because at stake is a matter of control: the control of one person over another. Identity separation is a strong defense against that control, which is why those who desire control over others so strongly abhor it.
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