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Software Wars, the Movie

Soundtrack for the book:

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The best book explaining free market economics:

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Book explaining a political solution to our economic problems:

What House Minority Leader John Boehner should have said

Boehner was on the defensive for his nuking an ant statement.

He should have said something like this:

I’m sorry for mispeaking. My teleprompter was broken that day, and so I was speaking with my mind and heart as my guide. And I ended up using a metaphor that only half-conveyed the idea I was trying express. Which is that this reform is a spreader bar on our financial sector when our economy is already bound and shackled and gagged. As esteemed Richard Posner has written,

“The most sensible legislative response to the financial collapse of September 2008 would have been to do nothing until the causes of the collapse were fully understood.

There is no urgency about legislating financial regulatory reform. The existing regulatory agencies have virtually total authority over the financial industry. And because they were asleep at the switch when disaster struck, they are now hyper- alert to prevent a repetition of it. Indeed, bank examiners have become so fearful of condoning risky practices that they are making it difficult for banks to lend to small businesses and consumers and thus are retarding the economic recovery.”

So I didn’t mean to suggest that the ongoing financial crises he is presiding over are small. Far from it. He never does talk to me, but if he had called, I would have been happy to explain in any amount of detail my concerns.

So instead, he loaded onto his teleprompter a political attack that is based on a mischaracterization of my position. I just want to know at one point Obama realized this mistake. Or whether he knew it was a mistake when he said it.

Of course, this demonstrates that Obama isn’t the post-partisan unifier he claimed to be in his campaign commercials. Who is the real Obama? The one who claims to believe in the free market, or the one who pretends his stimulus bill is a success?

Conversation with Cuban programmers about rolling releases

There are 12 Cuban programmers each translating a chunk of my book into Spanish. Here is my latest mail to them:


An idea for an interesting project occurred to me, and you are the perfect candidate country to build it!

I have come to understand that rolling releases are what Linux should become. I have installed Ubuntu on friends computers, and years later, they are running the exact same software. Free software improves every day, and it is a shame that people are not always running the latest.

Therefore, you should put rolling-releases software on every desktop machine in Cuba. You should put something on that automatically upgrades to the latest version without any intervention by a local user.

Now, this can create a problem. If you put out a fix and every machine crashes and won’t boot, you are screwed.

Before I get to the solution, there are many ways to mitigate this problem. For example, you can mirror Debian-Testing, but create a different schedule for how the software deploys. Some machines will grab the latest builds. Some machines will grab Debian Testing + another 20 days. If you can categorize machines, and setup different dates for how long things sit in -Testing, you can catch problems early.

There is no software that does this yet and I you guys should build it. It allows people to connect up to Debian-Testing, but not be on the front lines. I’m not sure how to implement it. But it is a big enough project that it would require a bunch of you.

You also need to work on what to do when things go bad. For example, if a machine crashes, it should reboot into a special state to see if there are any new packages. It could be that a fix is waiting for it.

Furthermore, if the machine is still hosed, then you could have it decide to do a reinstall. You should setup every machine to have a separate user and home partition. This gives you the possibility to wipe machines.

Every machine that is running this Linux is connected to a very powerful force. Once it is installed, it can all be run remotely. Year after year, the software in every school and such will automatically get better. And hey, even if it breaks, well that’s just a reason to hire some Debian experts in every school.

And it would be useful to many other people. It could be one of the biggest reasons to move people back to Debian. In fact, you could end up unifying a lot of the other forks by Debian implements a better Debian-Testing. The early people who joined Ubuntu came from Debian and used it mostly because it shipped more frequently.

So you need to figure out how to implement it, and how to handle bad situations. The key is to have multiple types of correction mechanisms. One thing you can do is look at past Debian-Testing breaks and see if your solution handles them.

What do you think?


Some of Elena Kagan's Writings

Here is a tutorial (not the easiest thing to read) of her views.

Does anything in it stand out as possibly scary?

  • Focusing on government motives. She argues that campaign finance laws are good because she divines that their motives were good. “They were just trying to stem the ‘excess’ flow of money into politics!” The problem was the unintended consequences. But as long as she thinks she finds people with good motives, even total idiots, what they are doing is fine.
  • Inciting others to commit harm is not allowed, but legislation banning flag-burning is legal because she is sure it will never incite others to commit harm.
  • If there is an overabundance of an idea, “action disfavoring that idea [would] un-skew public discourse.” “As there are too many right wingers on Talk Radio, so we should un-skew the number of them.”
  • Restrictions should focus on whether the person’s ideas are causing “public harm”. Harm is surely very narrowly defined.
  • Government should treat all people creating public harm equally. “If we are going to round up one-right winger, we should be fair and round up them all.”

Using this sample of her writings, are you convinced yet that she is worthy of being on the Supreme Court?

E-mail to ubuntu-devel

Here we are 5+ years in, and these basic problems still exist.

The problem is Mark doesn’t see the point of doing work in Debian, because if he did, then why should he have created Ubuntu? Mark thinks contributing to Debian makes as much sense as contributing to Red Hat: nice in some ideal world, but not worth investing in. Do you think he talked to Dell or the Amazon cloud folks about supporting Ubuntu and Debian?

Work doesn’t go into Debian, which is bad for Debian,
Or work is done in Debian in which case Ubuntu has little reason to exist.

Update: It looks like the Ubuntu people are going to put their stuff into Debian. That is good to hear. So we’re going from the first scenario to the second — which is an improvement.


Ubuntu is developing more and more software of its own and often Debian
reintegrates the software but later on. I wonder why you are not
integrating new software immediately in Debian:
– you would benefit from the feedback of the debian community sooner
and avoid some packaging churn later on [1]
– even when you have constraint of integration with other software in
debian and that you’re blocked, you can have a ubuntu-specific packaging
thanks to the dpkg-vendor framework and still share the source package
between both distributions
– you would have some explicit responsibility in maintaining the software
that you create

[1] I’m referring to for desktopcouch, the
initial packaging is sub-optimal and the upstream developers (all have been asked for their feedback and insight on the
reasons of some dependencies but they have never responded… this
sucks hard. It would be nice if this small fingerpointing would lead
to someone reacting…


Raphaƫl Hertzog

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