Older blog entries for roozbeh (starting at number 138)

War: We had a few friends at our place Tuesday (which was a public holiday here). We played Cluedo, we cooked some Chinese food together, we talked a lot about cooking, satire, ... We enjoyed our time.

The only worrisome thing that came up a few times, was a possible war on Iran, and one of our guests (Matin) had heard it may even happen in two weeks time. I, having not followed the very recent turn of events but only the developments about the Democrats getting control of the US Congress and Senate, found that ridiculous and impossible.

But after another guest (Arash) explained the way he thinks some things will happen, I agreed that they may. We saw that the only way of getting Iran and the US into a war would be an attack by Israel. The Israeli government may be under pressure for the various things enough to do something like that. After all, they seem to be very angry at what happened in Lebanon, and they may like to do something about it.

Let me tell you what will happen from this side. The bombs or the rockets or whatever they will be that will only be targetted to nuclear facilities will also kill several civilians, because of people living with their families near the facilities, misfires, and various other reasons, let alone future Chernobyl-like effects.

From that moment, Iran will enter a war state. Having grown up in a war (how many of the readers of this blog can claim the same?), which was interestingly another war with Iran which also had the US on the other side of the table, I can easily tell you how that will feel like.

Random scenes that come to my mind: the very brilliant people (who usually are very sensitive) will get hot and go to war voluntarily and get killed. Several others who are scared of war and the draft/conscription will hide (or get hidden by worrisome moms) at home and will not see the light of day for months. The borders will be closed. There will be refugess to countries like Afghanistan and Turkmenistan who used to send refugess the other way around, to Iran... The effects would be irreversible. Think about the Iranians scattered in the world today in the West, you will have Iranians everywhere: in Arab countries, in Central Asia, in Caucasia, in South Asia, in Eastern Europe, in North Africa, ...

The government will have much tighter control because of a war state, which they will keep the same way the US goverment has kept the post-9/11 state by introducing the Homeland Security Advisory System (Did you know that the current threat level is Orange/High Risk of Terrorist Attacks for all US domestic and international flights? What does “High” really mean?). The Iranians will have a much harder time than presently, although I guess it will take quite a while for us to get to the level Iraq is now experiencing. I guess instead of the sect-related Sunni/Shia conflict Iraq is having now, we will have a ethnicity-related Persian/Azerbaijani/Kurdish/Baloch/Turkmen conflict.

And of course, more innocent Americans will get killed!

It may be so sad for observers, but it will be hell for us random free software developers who will not be able to leave the country once the Iranian government declares a state of war (even if it's only one simple rocket from Israel, with no US involvement).

I hope I can sleep tonight.

Movies: We watched The Lost City last night with a bunch of friends and the night before that with just Elnaz and me, and I quite enjoyed it. But the reaction of our friends was quite varied, which made me wonder a lot.

One of them (Shervin) even originally thought that it was a setup and I had planned to show them a long and controversial movie just to see how they’ll react to it, while I had only been trying to share a wonderful experience... I guess most of the controversy had originally arisen because of portraying Che negatively. Who knows?

Still, I highly recommend the movie to get some idea of how it feels for a normal person to live through and/or after a revolution, specially for someone who cares mostly about life, instead of ideas. The image of young revolutionaries helping the government confiscate their father's property, for example, has been a quite common image in early days of post-revolutionary Iran, for example. The music and the colorful dancing scenes are also lovely.

21 Dec 2006 (updated 21 Dec 2006 at 15:11 UTC) »
Unicode: I just got my copy of the Unicode 5.0 book. It’s so wonderfully typeset, specially the code charts. I got a version signed by many of the editors of the standard, which I guess I will be keeping for quite a while.

Major changes include:

  • More than a thousand new characters, specially Phoenician ones (for your nostalgia) and Sumero-Akkadian Cuneiform (for mine).
  • Unicode Bidi now is more specific about bidi mirroring.
  • Unicode promised to encode uppercase and lowercase letters together, to stabilize casing. (This results in weird things. For example, if a new uppercase letter is found in, say, Roman Latin, with no corresponding lowercase letter, and Unicode is asked to encode it, it will add a lowercase placeholder characters to correspond to it.)
  • Indic scripts were clarified more. But don’t ask me how, as I can’t say I understand the interaction of virama, ZWJ, and ZWNJ much.
  • Last but not least, is that they are not printing all that CJK and Hangul characters in the book anymore. They are on a CD, so if you really do like the trees, you can avoid wasting them on things you don’t have any hope to understand. Also, this makes the book carriable in your bag.

But don’t listen to me. Go and read what Mark Davis has to say about it.

I highly recommend buying the book, even if it is just for seeing my name in the same book as names such as Don Knuth, Bill Gates, and Joel Spolsky. ;-)

You can order the book from The Unicode Consortium (or your favorite online bookstore, but don’t buy from Amazon.com, blah, blah).

Java as free software: While I congratulate Sun guys for freeing Java at last, and am looking forward to see it have a good impact on several users and developers, like being able to use Java applets in completely free browsers, I feel worried about the in-between situation.

Just today, a customer asked me that now that Java has been opened up, is it “OK” finally? Their organization has some open source policies and he was wondering if they should not plan to replace Java anymore.

Many manager types have got the message wrong. They think that by the events of yesterday, they can now use Java freely, that they are not bound by Sun’s will anymore: they will be able to hire people to fix the bugs, they are less depending on proprietary software, they can use the software in ways previously impossible, etc. This may have been intended, of course.

Thus, while it’s a long-term victory for developers and users (which we should thank Sun for), the short-term impact of just freeing some parts but not others may become very annoying. Just like the old days of hearing “But Java is already Open!”

The customer, I told him to worry until the day they can replace all the proprietary parts of the stack. I told him that he needs to worry until he has replaced their current Java implementation with a free one, even if it still comes from Sun and provides exactly the same funtionality. On that day, he can stop worrying about the proprietary software and start worrying about language choice ;-)

Narcissism: Shayan, an old colleague from Sharif who is now working for Microsoft, has blogged on Sharif Linux, FarsiWeb, and me.
Red Hat, Novell, and Microsoft: Was thinking about Havoc’s post and suddenly found how ironic it is. Quoting him:
This is not a religious argument about open source, it's a matter of respect for a community that works together, and the wishes of creators. If I write something and put it under the GPL, then I want it under the GPL where all of us working on it can use it. I don't want it to be made proprietary, for someone else's benefit, due to some shady deal and legal technicality. Commercial yes (and encouraged), proprietary no.

Let me say the from my point of view, and the problem I have with the EULA of Fedora.

This is not a political argument about the US policies or the Iran-US relations. It’s a matter of respect for a community that works together, and the wishes of creators. If an Iranian writes some code or a patch and puts it under the GPL, then he wants it under the GPL where all of us working on it can use it. He doesn't want it to be made illegal for Iranians to use it, due to some legal technicality.

Hmm, works! The legal technicality here is probably that restrictions about certain encrypytion software is expanded to all packages in a distribution, including those to which Red Hat does not hold all copyright.

What really sucks, is that I don’t see much help from Red Hat guys in this. Rahul and Jesse helped a lot for a short while but the communications stopped after Red Hat lawyers basically told them “it’s fine, believe us.”

US elections: I just wish to congratulate the American friends for making Rumsfeld resign. Just last night, I was talking to my parents about my eighty-three year old grandfather, and how sharp he is, that he had used Rumsfeld as an example of a “f***ing bastard” when we were talking international politics!

For the record, my grandpa has been a truck-driver and later a grocer for most of his life, and had survived three heart attacks and a kidney surgery when we were discussing Rumsfeld perhaps a year ago.

Loss: Still no news of the passport, the laptop, or anything for the matter. I am still struggling to restore my Fedora Extras commit access, to de-orphan things that I missed rebuilding for FE6 (Thorsten had offered to help). Of these, spicctrl will remain orphaned, as I don’t have a VAIO laptop anymore. Also, the passport office has told me that they will not issue me a new passport until six months later, which will be March/April 2007, presumably to make sure I am not lying about losing the passport (one important alternative in their mind is confiscation by a random foreign government).

Unicode: Am still waiting for my Unicode 5.0 book, in the meanwhile I prepared a few Unicode proposals for consideration by the Unicode Technical Committee and ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2. The ones publicly available are:

The other two were about changing the bidirectional type of four Unicode Arabic characters (mostly to simplify the way Pango can imeplement these) co-authored with Behdad, and renaming some mis-named Arabic characters. A few more concerning ZWNJ and ZWJ need to wait until I get the book so I can suggest a diff...

1 Nov 2006 (updated 2 Nov 2006 at 12:45 UTC) »

Testing Old Persian cuneiform in Firefox:

𐎲𐎥𐏐𐎺𐏀𐎼𐎣𐏐𐎠𐎢𐎼𐎶𐏀𐎭𐎠𐏐𐏃𐎹𐏐𐎡𐎶𐎠𐎶𐏐𐎲𐎢𐎷𐎡𐎶𐏐𐎠𐎭𐎠𐏐𐏃𐎹𐏐𐎠𐎺𐎶𐏐𐎠𐎿𐎶𐎠𐎴𐎶𐏐𐎠𐎭𐎠𐏐𐏃𐎹𐏐𐎶𐎼𐎫𐎡𐎹𐎶𐏐𐎠𐎭𐎠𐏐𐏃𐎹𐏐𐏁𐎡𐎹𐎠𐎫𐎡𐎶𐏐𐎠𐎭𐎠𐏐𐎶𐎼𐎫𐎡𐎹𐏃𐎹𐎠𐏐

In order to view the text, you need the font Xerxes (TTF, 9KB). This is probably the first publicly available standard font for Old Persian. (The license is GPL with the extra embedding allowed in documents exception.)

Intersting note: Apparently Pango knows how to break the text as can be seen from pasting the text into gedit. The backslash-like characters are Old Persian spaces and thus line breaks are allowed after them, which Pango knows about. But Firefox doesn’t and treats the text as one long word.

18 Sep 2006 (updated 18 Sep 2006 at 17:59 UTC) »

Someone just stole my laptop and passport. More to come.

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