Friday, June 23, 2006

How Odd Is That?

Just today Dan Gilmor posted about the Mayor of San Jose being arrested/indicted, with a possibility of jail time.

And, get this, it seems he hasn't even resigned yet.

According to this Mercury News article, Ron Gonzales was arrested on felony counts involving allegations of misconduct in office related to the Norcal scandal. He maintains his innocence.

I don't know whether he is innocent or guilty, but IF he is guilty, it is good to hear that politicians are not exempt from the law.

Gilmor observes that Gonzales is almost done his turn, so the court case could theoretically stretch until he is out of office anyways. Gilmor also hints that, while maintaining a general reputation for clean operations, the Sillicon Valley may see more of this in the future.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Bill Gates Steps Down

This article says that "Three decades after he started Microsoft with the dream of placing a personal computer in every home and business, Bill Gates said Thursday that he would leave his day-to-day role there in two years."

The article continues to say that gates will shift his energies to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. But he also said that he will remain as chairman and maintain his large holding in the company. And he still considers himself the largest shareholder in the company.

As Dan Gilmor observed, this is only a "sort of" stepping down.


Monday, June 12, 2006

Food for Thought

I believe this quote is good in that it encourages us to think about the relation of faith to understanding.

"Is it faith to understand nothing, and merely submit your convictions implicitly to the Church?" - John Calvin

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Friday, June 09, 2006

Suprise Suprise

The recent vote from the U.S. House of Representatives is bad news for the future of the Internet. The proposed revision to the currently debated Act would have helped to ensure the neutrality of the Internet, but alas it was voted down. Even large companies such as Google, Amazon, and Ebay are very concerned about the impact the Act will have. The old communication giants and other entities fighting against Internet neutrality don't necessarily like these new upstart companies (such as Google), and there is no doubt that in the future anti-competitive measures could be used against Google and other companies such as Ebay or Amazon.

The creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee warned that this could be the beginning of a "dark age" for the Internet.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Internet Neutrality - Free Market Issues

Some people argue that the U.S. government should pass the bills which the big telecommunication firms are pushing. They actually propose this on the basis of a "free market".

This absurd. These companies are clearly not satisfied with putting their product out on the "free market". The free market, as it is now, has allowed grass-roots companies to form and take away their marketshare.

The fact that these big companies are lobbying government to pass repressive laws in order to try to get the upper hand shows that these big corporations are actually afraid of a free market. Because a free market would challenge their unquestioned dominance.

The concept of "free market" is inseperable from the libertarian principle of freedom from government meddling. And yet these big telecommunications corporations are proposing to use government force to "ensure" that we have a "free market".

A free market is about competition and companies out-manouevering their competition by offering a better product and better service. Allowing the market to be rigged through the use of repressive laws is not what a "free market" is about.

I wish people would stop using the term "free market" when they are unwilling to deal with the realities of what "free" really means (in terms of having a playing field free of artificially imposed obstructions).

Can monopolies form in a free market? Yes, technically. Are they likely to survive long? No. A long standing monopoly is a sign that the market may not really be as free as once thought. Monopolies usually survive on circumventing the freedom of the market, unless of course all competition falls on its own nose (which is rarer than you may think). The neutrality of the Internet is being threatened right now because companies are posturing in order to try to make U.S. law play into their schemes to monopolize the Internet.

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Internet Neutrality

One of the foremost aspects of the Internet as we know it is that it is neutral. By this I mean that it is free in the sense of being independant from any particular governing agency. It exists as a free medium that can be used in many different ways by many different groups.

Tim Berners-Lee (who invented the technology of the World Wide Web) has said that the neutrality of the Internet is "essential to our society". He goes on to state that "It is the basis of a fair competitive market economy. It is the basis of democracy, by which a community should decide what to do."

Unfortunately, though, this neutrality of the Internet is highly endangered. Two votes are going to happen in the near future. One is in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the other is in the Senate. They could have major ramifications on the control that phone and cable companies can exert on the Internet. One such particular company is AT&T. These monopolies are essentailly lobbying to get control to say who gets access to high-speed pipes on the Internet, and also which particular content gets priority. This has obvious ramifications, but the worst ones are possibly the subtle but dangerous changes it would make to the culture of the Internet. It would change the very environment of the Internet, and could quickly polarize things and cause a very unfair and manipulative playing field.

The First Amendment principle which has always so strongly applied to the Internet could potentially be squashed out due to commercial interests. If you are an American citizen and feel you would like to find out more about this, or if you would like to take action, please go here.

This is an important reminder that the freedom we have traditionally enjoyed in the Western Hemispehre will not be maintained by status quo. There are too many forces working against it. It needs to be asserted and defended.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Why I Use Open Source Software and Linux

1. I enjoy using and endorsing software that I am not only allowed, but encouraged to makes copies and distribute to my friends and associates.

2. I enjoy using software that has a license which encourages rather than discourages innovation, bug fixes, and community-driven critique.

3. I enjoy being able to peer into the internals of the software I am running.

4. I depend on the stability of the software I run, and have found many OSS products to be superior to their closed-source alternatives in this.

5. I depend on the security of the software I run, and have found many OSS products to be superior to their closed-source alternatives in this.

6. I take comfort in knowing that if the maintainer of the software that I run were to drop dead or become disinterested, the basic building blocks for the continuation of the software are in place and would not need be hindered by legal barriers.

7. I enjoy knowing that most of the software I run is in active development through a transparent process, and that I also have various relatively accessable ways to encourage the development of features I want.

8. I enjoy knowing that if I can't persaude someone else to implement a feature, I can implement it myself with a realistic possibility of it being integrated into the product.

9. I like running a stable, secure, and powerful system which provides me with a flexible medium between ease of use and ease of tweaking.

10. I like the way that open source software has challenged a playing field which has been increasingly dominated by domineering corporations, and has consequentally sanitized and freed many corners of the industry for real competition and a real free market.

In concluding this list, I want to encourage people that Open Source software is not at all or nothing proposal. You may run Windows (at your own risk :>), but you can still reap the benefits of solid OSS software, such as FireFox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice, Apache, Gaim, etc.

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Monday, June 05, 2006

Difficult People - Threats - Part 2

Now, for part two, I would like to turn to some short tidbits of wisdom found both in the Bible and other sources that can be instructive here..

Regarding the nature, purpose, and origins of many threat-oriented approaches:

  • "The less confident you are, the more serious you have to act" - Tara Ploughman

On keeping positive and unphased by threats:

  • "I'm an old man and have known many troubles, but most of them never happened." - Mark Twain

  • "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear -- not absence of fear." - Mark Twain

The need to temper ones response to threats:

  • "Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame." - Benjamin Franklin

  • "Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." - Albert Einstien

  • "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1)

  • "Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty" (Provers 16:2)
  • "Good sense makes one slow to anger.." 19;11

Why it is futile to try to out-shout a prototypical Threat-Hurler:

  • "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results." - Benjamin Franklin

Why you can be MORE confident and calm when someone threatens you and starts making a big scene in front of you:

  • "Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly". - Proverbs 14:29

  • “They that are loudest in their threats are the weakest in the execution of them.” - Charles Caleb Colton

Why you should let your "opponent" out talk you:

  • "Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;" (James 1:19)

  • "It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt." - Mark Twain

Why threats are NOT good ways to get what you want:

    "I consider it a mark of great prudence in a man to abstain from threats or any contemptuous expressions, for neither of these weaken the enemy, but threats make him more cautious, and the other excites his hatred, and a desire to revenge himself” - Niccolo Machiavelli

Why threats don't phase an honest and intelligent person:

  • “There is no terror, Cassius, in your threats; For I am armed so strong in honesty That they pass by me as the idle wind” - William Shakespeare

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Difficult People - Threats - Part 1

I'm no expert in human behavior, and I often feel like a lost stranger when it comes grasping the complexities of human interaction. Part of this difficulty involves the problems that arise given the interaction of particular sorts of personalities.

I think we all can think of some particular instances of difficult people in our lives. People that threaten us. People that push us to the very limits of our patience. People who push all the wrong buttons. Notice that I'm not talking about people who push us hard or who challenge us. I do not consider challenging people to be necessarily difficult people.

As I don't feel to have considerable mastery over this topic, consider this more of a brainstorm session.

On common characteristic of "difficult people" is threats. Everyone resorts to a occasional threat. Since most of us are not naturally persuasive or confident, we tend to need to use some force on occasion. I think this is usually an unhelpful method, although there definately may be circumstances that justify it. But, continuing, difficult people that use threats are using this psychological ploy to accomplish something (namely, get something out of you or vent in some sort of way).

How should we deal with threats? Here are some potential suggestions. Remember that here I am not
speaking of "death threats", but rather the minor threats that are often used in a manipulative context
without various sorts of relationships.

1. Attempt to temporarily ignore the threat (regardless of how severe it is) and address the underlining need. Often the threat will be empty and won't be carried through if you show you are serious in addressing the underlining concerns. So, to make this more clear, if someone states a threat in the form of "If X, then Y.", ignore Y and drag the conversation into a discussion of X. Perhaps X can't be done because of some other mitigating factors. Perhaps X is not even clearly defined. Perhaps X is unreasonable. Perhaps X was done, but this fact is not recognized. Whatever you do, do not let the conversation focus on the threat itself. You could almost pretend the statement was instead formed as: "I want X". Threats can be a prototypical manipulative ploy and are often eventually manifested as being textbook examples of an attempt to draw you into a dual, usually by a person who has a characteristic reliance on threats to get what they want. By ignoring Y and focusing X, you are not only saving yourself from being on the receiving end of some major venting, you are also increasing the likelyhood of a win-win outcome. It is the best interest of the aggressor here to be derailed from his/her dash towards discussion of reprecussions.

2. Keep a calm and contained composure, as a much as possible. Whether you are about to solidly refute this persons claims, or concede because you know the reprecussions would be too great and the case they make too damning, it is in your best interest to remain cool. If you are about to refute what they are saying, you need to remain calm mainly because snapping back will only get them to listen to even less of what you have to say. However, a calm, peacefull response to their hot-headedness will certainly give them pause and likely make it more likely that they may hear more of your future argument. On the other hand, if you are about to concede and plead for mercy/leniancy, you should still remain calm. This person, more likely than not, came to you in order to set you straight. Non-resistence will not only make you a more difficult, but also insure that you have nothing to be embarassed about later. Remember, remaining calm is POWER and it will actually show your dominance over the situation, becuase you are controlling the most difficult thing to control. It is more difficult and awe-inspiring to be able to control you response to insults than to control someone elses behavior (which is what the other person is likely trying to do to you).

3. Beware of making unnecessary concessions in your conversation here. Sure, it would be nice to give in a little to pacify things (and that can be effective), but remember that some people have made careers of using this sort of manipulative technique of staging threats to get what they want. The greatest concessions will not likely passify the most hot-headed individuals and they may potentially be used against you later, which can be especially problematic if you later determine that they are unrealistic.

There are other factors and points to consider, but most of them highly depend on particular scenarios.


A Quote Worth Considering

"Experiment constantly, because risk is a part of growth. This is a new medium and we are always learning". As Esther Dyson says, 'Always make new mistakes'"

by Dan Gilmour in "We The Media"

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