Older blog entries for mjg59 (starting at number 221)

Good thing: Vicodin
Bad thing: The broken arm that necessitates the vicodin

Syndicated 2009-09-07 14:13:20 from Matthew Garrett

I moved out today, and in a bit over a month should be firmly relocated in Boston. Which means a bit over a month of living and working out of bags, but I'm in a park, it's sunny and I'm relaxed enough that even working through Bugzilla isn't making me sad.

Syndicated 2009-08-25 11:31:12 from Matthew Garrett

Defective by Design

You know what's Defective by Design? Thinking that this kind of functionality is a good thing, resulting in this.

Syndicated 2009-08-11 20:18:04 from Matthew Garrett

Though people might be forgiven for having gained the opposite impression, I don't yearn for a future where open source development involves spending 25% of the time coding and 75% of the time where we have earnest conversations about the precise social nature of our utopian society and hold votes on whether to send polite but firm telegrams to people who accidently swore at some point in the recent past. I've never really yearned to live in a commune. I hate the idea of singing around campfires and there are many people who I never, ever want to be polite to.

No. What I want is a future where I can say this person is being a dick, or this person is being a dick or that this person is being a dick and not have to engage in lengthy explanations as to why before people agree. A future where calling someone on their behaviour makes people examine that person's motives rather than yours. A future where you're allowed to criticise without being perfect. A future where people don't feel scared to speak up because the consequences of doing so may include people posting their address and phone number and trying to get them fired. A future where disagreements about behaviour aren't so often intrinsically linked to gender. A future where I get to stop writing about any of this because it's taken for granted anyway.

And I want some awesomely good arguments for why this isn't an excellent future that we should all be encouraging.

Syndicated 2009-07-27 18:32:04 from Matthew Garrett

Intel graphics in rawhide

I've just committed some new Intel driver code to rawhide, which should be in the next kernel build. There's a chance that some people with Intel laptops will see some screen flickering. If you do, could you please file a bug against the kernel in the Red Hat bugzilla and make sure you Cc: me (mjg@redhat.com). Include the output of the xrandr command.

Syndicated 2009-07-27 03:09:55 from Matthew Garrett

LCA 2010

Depending on timezones, you currently have somewhere between 8[1] and 33[2] hours to submit a presentation for this year's Linuxconf Australia[3]. If you think you have something interesting to talk about, then do it and enjoy an unarguably top-tier Linux conference. Also, New Zealand is excellent.

[1] Kiribati is weird.
[2] For all those of you stuck on Howland or Baker islands. If you start swimming now you might reach civilisation before the conference starts.
[3] In New Zealand, obviously

Syndicated 2009-07-24 02:47:16 from Matthew Garrett

RMS and virgins

Many of the comments here and here are disheartening, but part of the problem is that many people didn't see the presentation. Dave linked to a previous iteration of the same presentation[1]. Here's a transcription (errors are mine and mine alone):

I am Saint Ignucius of the church of emacs. I bless your computer, my child. Emacs started out as a text editor. An extensible text editor, which became a way of life for many users because it was extended so much they could do all their computing work without ever exiting from emacs. And then, it became a religion, with the launch of the newsgroup alt.religion.emacs. Tday in the church of emacs we have a great schism between several rival versions of emacs, and we also have saints. But fortunately no god, instead of gods we worship an editor. To be a member of the chuch of emacs, you must recite the confession of the faith. You must say there is no system but gnu, and linux is one of its kernels.

Then if you become a hacker you can celebrate that by having a foobar mitzvah, a ceremony in which the new hacker stands in front of the assembled congregation of hackers and chants through the lines of the system source code. And we also have the cult of the virgin of emacs. The virgin of emacs is any female who has not yet learned how to use emacs. And in the church of emacs we believe that taking her emacs virginity away is a blessed act.

The church of emacs has certain advantages compared with with other churches I won't mention. For instance, to be a saint in the church of emacs does not require celibacy. Although for some of us hackers we wouldn't notice the difference. But it does require living a life of moral purity. You must exorcise whatever proprietary evil operating systems have posessed the computers under your control or set up for your use and then install a wholy free operating system and then only install free software on the system. If you make that vow and you live by it then you too will be a saint, and you too will have the right to wear a halo. If you can find one, because they don't make them any more.

Sometimes people ask me whether it a sin in the church of emacs to use the other editor, vi. It's true that vi vi vi is the editor of the beast. But using a free implementation of vi is not a sin, it's a penance. And sometimes people will ask whether my halo is really an old computer disk. This is no computer disk, this is my halo! But it was a computer disk in a previous life. So thank you very much.


One of the frequent counterarguments against this being sexist is that RMS has often spoken out against sexism (see here, for example). It's very easy to claim to be free of sexism. It's much harder to perform the degree of introspection required to understand whether any of your actions are motivated by viewing genders differently. Do I believe that Richard is attempting to deliberately denigrate women? Not in the slightest. But I also don't believe that someone entirely gender-blind would have made the above joke.

My point here isn't to claim that he's a bad person as a result. I've got personality flaws large enough that you could probably drive a bus through them, but I'd be slightly upset if people thought I was evil because of them. My point is that nobody is above criticism, and if someone behaves in a way that offends a large subset of the community then they should to be criticised. Failing to do so sends the signal that we don't care about those who were offended, and at the same time provides no incentive for people to change their behaviour as a result. And yes, I think those who have high profile positions in the community should be held to higher standards than others - Richard's comments on Mono carry more weight because of who he is, but the cost of this is that everything else he says does as well. And if one of our nominal leaders is perceived as sexist then that reflects badly on all of us.

[1] Note that his GCDS presentation did not entirely consist of this routine - there was also significant discussion of Mono and why he believes that adopting it is dangerous. I don't entirely disagree with him, but that's really not the point here. I'm not involved in any Mono development. I work for a company that ships Mono in the community distribution it supports, but not in the enterprise distribution that pays my wages. If anyone brings up Mono in any comments here they'll be blocked and the thread deleted, because it is not relevant to this discussion.

Syndicated 2009-07-16 00:44:30 from Matthew Garrett

Simple conference organisation suggestion

If you find the comments discussed here unacceptable, don't invite RMS to keynote at your conference without an explicit apology and expression of understanding beforehand. I'm seriously at the end of my patience with people being unwilling to call others on behaviour they perceive as unacceptable. Either make it obvious or accept that people will treat your failure to do so as implicit support.

Syndicated 2009-07-11 05:32:17 from Matthew Garrett

Chrome OS

It turns out that I was entertainingly wrong a while ago, though I persist in claiming that this is an utterly ridiculous idea and I should be forgiven for thinking that Google were sane. The whole thing really still doesn't make sense to me. Worthwhile support of hardware is difficult. I'm going to take it as a given that Google aren't going to claim to support arbitrary hardware. People who would never otherwise try Linux will install it, and the state of many Linux drivers is sufficiently poor that it'd do a great deal to damage their brand. The logical assumption is that it'll be available pre-installed on devices where Google have worked closely with the hardware vendors.

Which concerns me somewhat. History isn't filled with compelling examples of this. Xandros's low-level support for the Eee mostly seemed to consist of a pile of shell scripts made of cheese and failure. The bizarro-Linux on the hilariously dodgy MIPS-based netbook I have is about as functional as my wisdom teeth. The best example of a Linux vendor working with OEMs is probably Canonical, and their enthusiasm for merging hardware support code in their OEM-specific distributions has led to things like touchpad gesture support based on using a known security hole or drivers that reimplement one that's already mainline.

What I'm trying to say here is that pretty much every desktop Linux product based on cooperation between OEMs and an existing Linux vendor has been built on top of a tower of shit. That's partly because it's a hard problem, but it's also because most OEMs produce dreadful Linux code and the Linux vendors don't have the resources to rewrite it in a clean way in the timescale permitted between hardware being finalised and shipping product. I haven't seen Google recruiting a larger than normal number of people with Linux distribution experience lately, so I suspect that the situation may be the same there. This is probably fine if the number of products is relatively small - there's an opportunity to QA them sufficiently to ensure that the rough edges underneath don't accidentally take someone's hand off. But otherwise there is a genuine risk that poor-quality devices will appear with Chrome OS and people will blame Google for the poor user experience.

So it seems like a risk for Google. Either there'll be a small number of devices and the same vague level of discontent that surrounds the fact that the number of shipping Android devices doesn't seem to have reached expectations, or a large number of potentially crappy devices. What's the payoff? It's pretty clear that this is going to be based heavily around Google's web apps, possibly with disconnected operation. That gets Google a lot of lockin. It also neatly sidesteps the entire disaster that has been providing application add-ons and updates for netbook Linux distributions. But it seems that Google could have achieved that by partnering with a distribution that already has experience in this field rather than going it alone.

I remain unconvinced that this is a sensible decision for Google. But then, I've already demonstrated that I don't have the faintest idea what's going on. Which probably puts me in the same field as most of the analysts I was bitching about before. Zounds. The irony.

Syndicated 2009-07-10 15:47:11 from Matthew Garrett

What does the desktop want from the kernel?

I'll be running a session on Wednesday at GCDS to find out what desktop developers would like to see from the kernel. There's a lot of interest in making things easier for file indexers, but if anyone has other problems that could be made easier with some level of kernel support then please turn up. No precise time or location yet, but probably around 3PM at the university. More details forthcoming.

Syndicated 2009-07-06 18:07:00 from Matthew Garrett

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