Older blog entries for adulau (starting at number 109)

24 May 2010 (updated 27 Jun 2010 at 10:17 UTC) »

2010-05-24 Information Wants To Be Free Is Becoming An Axiom

Northern Gannet (fou de Bassan) on Rouzic Island

"Information wants to be free" is now becoming an axiom

The last article "Saying information wants to be free does more harm than good" from Cory Doctorow on guardian.co.uk rings a bell to me. It seems that we still don't often understand what's the profound meaning of this mantra or expression is. One of the origin for this expression could be around the fifties from Peter Samson claimed : Information should be free.

When Steven Levy published his book : "Hackers, heroes of the computer revolution", the chapter "The Hacker Ethic" includes a section called "All information should be free" in reference to The Tech Model Railroad Club (TMRC) where Peter Samson was a member. The explanation made by Steven Levy:

The belief, sometimes taken unconditionally, that information should be free was a direct tribute to the way a splendid computer, or computer program, works: the binary bits moving in the most straightforward, logical path necessary to do their complex job. What was a computer but something which benefited from a free flow of information? If, say, the CPU found itself unable to get information from the input/output (I/O) devices, the whole system would collapse. In the hacker viewpoint, any system could benefit from that easy flow of information.

A variation of this mantra was made by Stewart Brand in a hacker conference in 1984 :

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other

We could even assume that the modified mantra was a direct response to Steven Levy's book and to his chapter "The Hacker Ethic" (ref. mentioned in a documentary called "Hackers - Wizards of the Electronic Age"). The mantra or the aphorism was used in past twenty-five years by a large community. The application of the mantra by the GNU project is even mentioned in various documents including again the book from Steven Levy.

Regarding the last article from Cory Doctorow, why he doesn't want that make an emphasis on the information but on people's freedom. I agree to that point of view but the use of "information wants to be free" is a different matter. I want to take it on a different angle, information is not bound to physical properties like the physical objects are. By the effect of being liberated from the physical rules, information tends to be free.

Of course, this is not real axiom but it's not far away from being an axiom. If you are looking for the current issues in "cyberspace", this is always related to that inner effect of information. Have you seen all the unsuccessful attempts to make DRM (digital restrictions management or digital rights management depending of your political view) working? All attempts from the dying music industry to shut-down OpenBitTorrent or any open indexing services? or even the closing of newzbin where at the same time the source code and database leaked? or the inability to create technology to protect privacy (the techniques are not far away from the missing attempts done by DRM technologies)?

Yes, "information wants to be free", just by effect and we have to live with that fact. I personally think it is better to abuse this effect than trying to limit the effect. It's just like fighting against gravity on earth…

Tags: freedom information free freesoftware

Syndicated 2010-05-24 16:55:44 (Updated 2010-06-27 10:17:02) from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2010-05-03 Information Action Ratio

Street-Art in Rennes #17

Information-action Ratio or What's Your Opinion About Belgian Politics?

Listening to the Belgian news is often a bit surreal (this makes sense in the country of surrealism) as they talk about problems that we don't really care or this is not really impacting the citizen. Even if the media are claiming that Belgian politics (and by so the crisis just created by some of them) are affecting our life. But if you are listening to every breaking news, this is a majority of useless information that you can't use to improve your life or the society. Neil Postman described this in a nice concept : Information-action Ratio:

In both oral and typographic cultures, information derives its importance from the possibilities of action. Of course, in any communication environment, input (what one if informed about) always exceeds output (the possibilities of action based on information). But the situation created by telegraphy, and the exacerbated by later technologies, made the relationship between information and action both abstract and remote.

You can replace telegraphy by your favourite media but this is a real issue of the current news channel (e.g. television, radio,…). The information is so distant from what you are doing everyday. We can blame our fast channel of communication being very different compared to a book or an extensive article on a specific subject where the information is often well organized and generating thinking (that can lead to action). Why are we listening to information that we don't care? Why are we giving so much importance to that useless information? I don't have a clear answer to that fact. I'm sure of at least something, instead of listening/viewing useless information in the media like Belgian politics, I'll focus more on the media (including books) increasing my information-action ratio.

If you want to start in that direction too, I'll recommend Amusing Ourselves To Death written by Neil Postman.

Tags: contribute media belgium

Syndicated 2010-05-03 20:20:32 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2010-02-14 Contribute Or Die

Stacking books until...

Contribute or Die?

In the past years, I participated to plenty of meetings, conferences or research sessions covering technical or even non-technical aspects of information security or information technology. When looking back and trying to understand what I have done right or wrong and especially, what's the successful recipe in any information technology project. I tend to find a common point in any successful (or at least partially successful) project : making concrete proposals and build them at the very early stage of the project.

A lot of projects have the tendency to become the meeting nightmare with no concrete proposal but just a thousand of endless critiques of the past, present and future. Even worst, those projects are often linked to those "best practices" in project management with an abuse of the broken Waterfall model. After 3 or 4 months of endless discussion, there is no single prototype or software experiment just a pile of documents making happy any committee but also many angry software engineers.

If you are looking at successful (free and non-free) software projects or favourable standardization processes, it's always coming from real and practical contribution. Just look at the IETF practices compared to the "design by committee" methodology, practical approaches are usually winning. Why? because you can see the pitfalls directly and reorient the project or the software development very early.

There is no miracle or silver bullet approaches for having successful project but the only way to make a project better is to make errors as early as possible. It's difficult or near impossible to see all errors in those projects until you'll get your hand dirty. This is the basis of trial-and-error, you have to try to see if this is an error or not. If you don't try, you are just lowering your chance to hit errors and improve your project, software or even yourself.

So if you are contributing, you'll make error but this is much more grateful than sitting on a chair and whining about a project sheet not updated or having endless discussion. There is an interesting lightning talk at YAPC::EU in 2008 : "You aren't good enough" explaining why you should contribute to CPAN. I think this is another way to express the same idea : "contribute, make code, prototype and experiment" even if this is broken, someone else could fix it or start another prototype based on your broken one. We have to contribute if we want to stay alive…

Tags: contribute startup innovation

Syndicated 2010-02-14 21:45:31 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2010-01-01 Sharing e-Books with your Neighbours

Forban: sharing with your neighbours Bibliography - GooDiff  or how free software could help us from the legal gray goo?

Sharing e-Books with your Neighbours

or why I made Forban : a small free software for local peer-to-peer file sharing

Beside my recent comparison between e-books and traditional book, I own some e-books along with a huge collection of paper-based books. With books, sharing is commonly used among book-owners or bibliophile. The fact of sharing books usually produces an interesting effect doing cross-fertilization of your knowledge. This is applicable to any kind of books and this opens your mind to new books, authors, ideas or even perspective to your life. Sharing books is a common and legally allowed activity, there are even website to support the sharing of physical books like BookCrossing. With the recent publisher's move to sell (or should I say "to rent") e-books to readers or bibliophile, it looks like the sharing of books is trapped in something difficult or impossible to conceive for any editor or publisher. Even the simple fact of moving your e-Books to one reader to another reader (at the end, just moving your book to another bookshelf) is trapped on an eternal tax of purchasing again and again the e-books. This issue of eternal tax on e-books has been clearly explained in "Kindle Total Cost of Ownership: Calculating the DRM Tax". The technology of restriction on e-books introduces many issues and threats against the sharing or access to the knowledge. The restrictive DRM "pseudo-technology" on e-books is the application of the worst nightmare explained in "The Right to Read" written in 1997 by Richard Stallman and published in Communications of the ACM (Volume 40, Number 2). I'm wondering what we can do to counter balance this excessive usage of restrictive technology on the books often defined as "the accessible support of knowledge for the human being".

To support the phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally" with the recent threats against books sharing, I tried to come with something to help me to share books locally without hassle with friends, books fans or neighbours. I created Forban to share files easily on the local network. The software is a first implementation of the Forban protocols : fully relying on traditional HTTP with a simple UDP protocol for broadcasting and announcing the service on the local network. The protocols are simple in order to help other to implement other free or non-free software to support the protocol and introduce the local file sharing as a default functionality (a kind of default social duty for promoting local sharing). Forban is opportunist and will automatically copy all files (called loot ;-) announced by other Forban on the local network. By the way, Forban used internet protocols but it is not using Internet (a subtle difference but an important one especially regarding law like HADOPI).

Happy new year and happy sharing for 2010.

Tags: books freedom sharing freesoftware

Syndicated 2010-01-01 16:35:07 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-11-08 Random Collection Number 1

My Messy Moleskine

2009-11-08 Random Collection #1

While cleaning up my desks or hiking in the forest, I got plenty of ideas for a potentially interesting blog post but it's often too small to make a complete post. Some actions or comments made on physical and virtual communities can be also "blogged" but when added in micro-blogging are loosing their context due to the limitation of 140 characters (including URLs, yes, URLs should not be accounted in the 140 characters of a micro-blogging platform, this could be part of another blog post). You can claim that is due to my friendly disorder of loving information mess or even better, due to information being connected to the other in some ways.

[flickr] Getty Images proposal is just a trap to kill CC-licensed works and especially direct interactions between author-user

I recently discovered the "offer" from Getty Images made to flickr users to upload some photos in their group. If they select your photos, they could be in their stock. At first, it looks very good but digging in the FAQ of callforartists group

There is a chance one of your Creative Commons-licensed photos may catch the eye of a perceptive Getty Images editor. You are welcome to upload these photos into the Flickr collection on Getty Images, but you are contractually obliged to reserve all rights to sale for your work sold via Getty Images. If you proceed with your submission, switching your license to All Rights Reserved (on Flickr) will happen automatically. If you’re not cool with that, that’s totally cool. It just means that particular photo will need to stay out of the Flickr collection on Getty Images.

Hey guys, this is not cool. I wrote my arguments against the scheme on their groups, flickr helped artists to get rid of some stock photography monopolies but now they are coming back by removing (if you put your works in their group) CC-licensed from flickr.

[digital archiving] Digitalizing books or fragile document

During my benevolent work for the preservation of the intangible work in our region (in french), I made some comments regarding the digitalization of books (in french). and I discovered a free software/hardware project called Decapod to provide an easy and low-cost hardware solution to digitalize books. I really would like to test it or find similar project. A good step for making digital archiving and preservation more accessible while using free software and free hardware.

[copyright delirium] ACTA confidential document leaked but where?

Wikileaks released a copy of the initial ACTA draft agreement between US and JP but that was in late 2008, called revision 1 - June 9,2008. Plenty of recent articles about a leakage of the latest version of the ACTA agreement but I can't find the leaked document. The document from EU is a summary of the content with the references but not the real document. I suppose that from June 2008, there are other revisions especially the one including the Internet part. The process of redaction for such legal is scary especially knowing that will be the ground for a treaty, an EU directive and after various national transpositions. Can someone distribute the latest version of the ACTA agreement?

Syndicated 2009-11-08 14:27:40 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

25 Oct 2009 (updated 25 Oct 2009 at 23:03 UTC) »

2009-10-25 An e-Book Reader Is Not A Book

Stacking books until...

An E-Book (Reader) Is Not A Book

or why I'm not happy with e-book readers and still read paper-based books

Every year at home, we are reading and stacking more than 3 shelves of books. As you can see on the above picture, I'm forced to stack books on the top of bookshelves (here on the top of a classical "Billy" from a well-known Swedish supplier). Looking at my own use of books, electronic book seemed to be a nice opportunity. So I tried various e-books reader (on a 2+ years period) but without any success or even positive experience. I won't make a review of all the readers I tried from free software e-book reader to proprietary physical e-book reader. While testing those devices, I took some notes describing what was the issues encountered while reading electronic books compared to the reading of traditional books. I summarized my impression (at the end, this is just my own experience of reading so this is quite subjective). My impression are based on additional cost added by e-book reader compared to traditional printed books.

the set-up cost

Book doesn't need time to boot, set-up, charge battery, refresh page, index, recover or even crash. If have 5 minutes while waiting for your friends, you'll need to open the book and start reading. With an electronic book, this is not the case. In the best case, the e-book is ready but you'll see that the battery is going low and you are stuck in your car waiting for someone without the possibility to read (and worst, you forgot the charger for the car. This happens). Right now, nothing beats a paper book on the set-up…

the social cost

An electronic book limits social interaction in the tangible and physical world. One of the classical example, if you are reading a book in a train, I can't count how many times this was the opportunity for starting a discussion. Often just because the traveller next to you was trying to read on the cover what you are reading… With an electronic book, this is a limitation factor for starting a conversation : how can the traveller read the cover of your electronic book? Today, this is not possible with an electronic book. The case is valid in libraries, book-store or at home while visitors are negligently looking at your bookshelves. You can socialize with books on Internet but shutting down your local social interaction by moving from books to e-book is not an option for me.

the comfort cost

I'm reading everywhere but my bed is one of the first place where I'm reading. Sorry but a computer or device in a bed is something strange (even a traditional book can be difficult). Reading a screen before sleeping is like having a light therapy just before sleeping. The traditional book is not emitting light, an indirect light is used to read what's written on the paper. So the comfort of a paper book is unbeatable especially while reading in your bedroom.

One of my great pleasure is to read a book while drinking tea. It happened that I spilled some tea on a book but the effect is fundamentally different with an electronic device. Water (and other liquid) is dangerous for the books but it's worst for an electronic device.

the annotation cost

I know it's bad but I'm doing annotations (margin annotation, highlighting…) in my books and often going back to those annotations. You'll need a pencil and that's it. For electronic books, this is difficult (sometime impossible the way you want it) and to query back your annotation is also a pain.

Conclusion and still living with my paper books

The cost of using electronic books is high and not bringing that's much value (at least to me) compared to a traditional paper-based book. The only useful usage of an electronic book is when you'll need a reference book and doing a lookup for a word. Beside being someone using and creating technologies, I'm still more convince to read and use all those old books. The ecological impact of printing books is high but starts to be more and more limited. It's really difficult for me to find some real and concrete advantages of using electronic books. Maybe the main advantage is the lack of bookshelves, but I would be a bit nostalgic when our guest are killing their neck by reading the title. So I'll continue to purchase new bookshelves… at least for the next few years.

Syndicated 2009-10-25 21:07:43 (Updated 2009-10-25 23:03:44) from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-09-13 An e-Book Reader Is Not A Book

Stacking books until...

An E-Book (Reader) Is Not A Book

or why I'm not happy with e-book readers and still read paper-based books

Every year at home, we are reading and stacking more than 3 shelves of books. As you can see on the above picture, I'm forced to stack books on the top of bookshelves (here on the top of a classical "Billy" from a well-known Swedish supplier). Looking at my own use of books, electronic book seemed to be an nice opportunity. So I tried various e-books reader (on a 2+ years period) but without any success or even positive experience. I won't make a review of all the readers I tried from free software e-book reader to proprietary physical e-book reader. While testing those devices, I took some notes describing what was the issues encountered while reading electronic books compared to the reading of traditional books. I summarized my impression (at the end, this is just my own experience of reading so this is quite subjective). My impression are based on additional cost added by e-book reader compared to traditional printed books.

the set-up cost

Book doesn't need time to boot, set-up, charge battery, refresh page, index, recover or even crash. If have 5 minutes while waiting for your friends, you'll need to open the book and start reading. With an electronic book, this is not the case. In the best case, the e-book is ready but you'll see that the battery is going low and you are stuck in your car waiting for someone without the possibility to read (and worst, you forgot the charger for the car. This happens). Right now, nothing beats a paper book on the set-up…

the social cost

An electronic book limits social interaction in the tangible and physical world. One of the classical example, if you are reading a book in a train, I can't count how many times this was the opportunity for starting a discussion. Often just because the traveller next to you was trying to read on the cover what you are reading… With an electronic book, this is a limitation factor for starting a conversation : how can the traveller read the cover of your electronic book? Today, this is not possible with an electronic book. The case is valid in libraries, book-store or at home while visitors are negligently looking at your bookshelves. You can socialize with books on Internet but shutting down your local social interaction by moving from books to e-book is not an option for me.

the comfort cost

I'm reading everywhere but my bed is one of the first place where I'm reading. Sorry but a computer or device in a bed is something strange (even a traditional book can be difficult). Reading a screen before sleeping is like having a light therapy just before sleeping. The traditional book is not emitting light, an indirect light is used to read what's written on the paper. So the comfort of a paper book is unbeatable especially while reading in your bedroom.

One of my great pleasure is to read a book while drinking tea. It happened that I spilled some tea on a book but the effect is fundamentally different with an electronic device. Water (and other liquid) is dangerous for the books but it's worst for an electronic device.

the annotation cost

I know it's bad but I'm doing annotations (margin annotation, highlighting…) in my books and often going back to those annotations. You'll need a pencil and that's it. For electronic books, this is difficult (sometime impossible the way you want it) and to query back your annotation is also a pain.

Conclusion and still living with my paper books

The cost of using electronic books is high and not bringing that's much value (at least to me) compared to a traditional paper-based book. The only useful usage of an electronic book is when you'll need a reference book and doing a lookup for a word. Beside being someone using and creating technologies, I'm still more convince to read and use all those old books. The ecological impact of printing books is high but starts to be more and more limited. It's really difficult for me to find some real and concrete advantages of using electronic books. Maybe the main advantage is the lack of bookshelves, but I would be a bit nostalgic of our guest killing their neck by reading the title. So I'll continue to purchase new bookshelves… at least for the next few years.

Syndicated 2009-10-25 18:05:02 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-09-13 Machine Tag Taxonomy and Binomial Nomenclature

Machine Tag Taxonomy and Binomial Nomenclature

This is not a secret that I'm interested in botany and biology in general. When I'm shooting some pictures of the wild life, I'm always trying to classify properly the picture taken. Classification is very important when you are trying to protect the life around you. Especially when you are gardening, it happens that you have some bad surprise because a plant nursery used the same common name for two different plants. That's one of the reason why the use of binomial nomenclature is highly recommended.

I have gathered some notes on my use of machine tag for biology taxonomy. So you can express easily the classification on web services using tagging (like flickr or del.icio.us) a machine tag that can be read by human and by machine (read information automated systems) :

taxonomy:binomial="Asperula arvensis"

But finding the proper binomial name and especially, the proper spelling is not always easy. So I made a hack around agrep to find the proper spelling of a binomial name using a part of the official catalogue of life provided by ITIS.

The full text dump (around 10MB) of the binomial name extracted from the catalogue of life is also available. Without having such research data available, it would have been very difficult to build such an exhaustive catalogue.That's not a coincidence if the cover page of the latest Nature is about Data in research. Data is a critical part of the future of research but it needs to be easily accessible with the proper free license (just like free software).

Tags: tagging tag folksonomy classification reference machinetag machinetags triple_tag biology life binomial

Species and Binomial Classification

Syndicated 2009-09-13 13:40:02 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-07-31-The Yin and Yang Of Information Security

Visualizing the Yin and Yang of Information Security. Working in the information security field, I had some difficulties to explain the equilibrium I tried to reach. Stuck (again) in a traffic jam, I quickly drew the following three circles representing the three kind of "information security" approach. I somehow work in the three circles and often trying to reconcile the three with some large failure but also some success.

Being in the centre is very hard, you have to balance between proper implementation (the creation part), proper implementation against "deconstruction"/attacks while keeping an eye on the scientific input.

In the chapter 46 of the Myths of Security, John Viega is nicely explaining when you are just in the academic hacking circle without going close to the two other circles. You are doing academic novelty that no one can use, implement and attack. So the impact of your academic research is only the academic circle and nothing else.

When Linus Torvalds is stating "we should not glorify security monkey", this is the classical behaviour of staying in the "de constructing" circle without trying to find something creative and/or academic to solve the security issue.

When Wietse Venema is explaining that you should write small independent without modifying existing program to not affect the integrity of the others program, it's when you are creating a new software without taking into account the "de constructing" attacks on your software or the scientific background to make your software with a good level of formal correctness.

I'm the first to make the mistake to be contained in a single circle but you must force yourself to touch the two other circles in some ways. Information security is difficult but this equilibrium (academic, creativity and deconstruction) is difficult to reach. When you are close to reach to it, this is really a great moment…

Tags: academic software infosec stability

Visualizing the Yin and Yang of Information Security

Syndicated 2009-07-31 08:34:26 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

2009-05-16 Diversity and Stability The Case Of Hedges

For my recent birthday, I received a nice book called "Plantes des haies champêtres" (plant from the natural hedges) written by Christian Cogneaux. The book is a directory of the whole plant usually composing the natural hedges. On the form, the layout and typography of the book is clear and easy to read (the form is also important to render a book more interesting). The photos made by Bernard Gambier are really beautiful and tight to the spirit of the book. The content itself is useful (especially if you want to keep or create new natural hedges in your garden or land) and provide an exhaustive overview of the species available and common to natural hedges. But what's the relationship with diversity and stability in my blog title? good question. When reading the introduction about the importance of preserving natural hedges, I immediately thought about the scientific reason behind the conversation of natural hedges.

An natural hedge with its heterogeneity provide a nice ecological system to reach a "equilibrium stability". As demonstrated by the zoologist Charles Elton, a more diverse community provides more resilience while changes are introduced (like the introduction of new species or predators). Natural hedges provide a nice complex system with the abundance of species allowing to increase the general stability. If the topic of diversity-stability interests you, there is an excellent article from Nature on the diversity stability topic in Biology.

If you want to participate to biodiversity, when you are thinking of planting new hedges, consider to not use a single specie for your hedge. On one hand, you are introducing more risk to completely loose the hedge (e.g. when the hedge is sensible to a single predator). On the second hand, using various species help to increase biodiversity and protecting the surrounding nature. There is also nice effect of diverse natural edge : a natural edge with various species is nicer to look at than a monotonic green wall-like edge.

For the information security freaks reading my humble blog, there is the collateral discussion about diversity in information system as explained in the article : The Evolution of Security : What can nature tell us about how best to manage our risks?. But this is another story…

Tags: biodiversity ecology hedges diversity stability

cover of plantes des haies champêtres On the cover, you can see a nice Lonicera (very common on natural hedges).

Syndicated 2009-05-16 14:32:21 from AdulauWikiDiary: RecentChanges

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