Older blog entries for samth (starting at number 11)

pjones: Sadly, I appear not to have made myself clear enough, since you seem to believe I find belief in the original creation of the world by God incompatible with all science. This is neither what I said nor what I meant. What I did say was that in order to do science, we must ignore the possibility that our senses are being used by a higher power to decieve us, since if we do not rule that out, all experiment and experience is useless. There is clearly room for God here, but not a god that tricks us.
pjones: First, as to the term theory.

One, the people that tend to emphasize the word theory in "theory of evolution" are the same people who want to use that to mean "hypothesis". Evolution is certainly a theory according to the scientific definition, as is gravity, and lots of other things.

Two, Newtonian Mechanics fail on macro scales too. In fact, one of the original confimations of relativity was that it correctly predicted the procession of Mercury's orbit, while Newtonian physics mispredicted this by 43 arc seconds per century. See this page, about 2/3 of the way down, for more info.

Second, as to the reliability of measurements.

It is certainly possible for an all-powerful God to have fabricated the evidence for evolution, if such a God were to

exist. However, once we allow this, then all of science goes out the window quite quickly. How can we know anything about the world, if all of our sensory perception could be fabricated? Clearly, we can't. So we are left with a few choices:

  1. Abandon all study of reality as futile.
  2. Invoke a loving God to ensure that nobody tricks us.
  3. Assume that our sensory perception is not being fabricated by some powerful being.
I don't like choice 1 much, for obvious reasons. Choice 2 is a cop-out of the highest order, and is what Descartes chose, when confronted with this problem. This leaves choice 3.

Therefore, since I see belief that our senses are being faked as an abandonment of science, claiming that the evidence for an old earth has been faked is similar. At least, that's what I'm left with.

rakholh: The people mrorganic is complaining about are not people similar to the way you describe yourself. They are people who believe the about 6000 years ago, God created the earth in a span of 144 hours, where hours are defined the way we normally do. Naturally, this belief is incompatible with real science. It doesn't help that these people want their beliefs taught in school as science. Additionally, these people take other elements of the bible overly literally, such as the portions about the subservience of women.

pjones: The belief that God (for some value thereof) originally created the universe a long time ago is not incompatible with science (knowledge of what happened before the big bang is impossible). Similarly, the belief that the process of evolution was either begun or helped by God is non in conflict with science, although it is non-falsifiable.

However, the belief that the Earth is only 6000 years old is incompatible with science, since there is huge quanties of evidence suggesting that the Earth is much older. Similarly, the belief that speciation is impossible (widespread among creationist I have known) is also incompatible with science.

Finally, which is a better candidate for belief, a theory which has 150+ years of accumulated evidence, or a theory that was proved incorrect almost 100 years ago? Despite this, however, many people continue to drone on about the so-called "theory" of evolution, all the while taking Newtonian mechanics as truth.

schoen: I suppose this is slightly cheating, but
grep -v ^$?
matches everything. Even worse cheating is, of course,
grep -v a{0}

I continue to be bad about posting diaries here. But I have some free time, so here goes nothing.

More GPL/QPL/KDE Insanity

Recently, Troll Tech employee Eirik Eng wrote an editorial on Freshmeat purporting to rebut Joseph Carter's article on the same subject. Since then, James Ramsey has posted a response, outlining again why the QPL conflicts with the GPL, and why this makes distribution of binary forms of KDE illegal. So the debate continues to rage.

However, the people who argue the KDE/Troll Tech side seem to have an unfortunate desire to cheat in their interpretation of both copyright law and of the GPL. I really wish that people arguing this topic (and other license topics) would take the time to read 17 USC (the copyright code). As a DVD/DeCSS activist, I've gotten plenty of opportunity already.

The claim that KDE people seem to be making is that KDE binaries are not derived works of Qt. This is untrue, but since the QPL does not place restrictions on derived works, this is irrelevant. But KDE binaries are clearly derived works of KDE. No amount of quibbiling will avoid that conclusion. In case someone wanted to try, here is the definition of derived work, from 17 USC 101 [Definitions]:

A ''derivative work'' is a work based upon one or more
preexisting works.
The claim that KDE is not based on either the KDE or the Qt source is simply false.

Therefore, by the GPL Section 2b

You must cause any work that you distribute or publish, that
in whole or in part contains or is derived from the Program
or any part thereof, to be licensed as a whole at no charge
to all third parties under the terms of this License. 
Therefore, the source code to all parts of the KDE binary must be published under the terms of "this License", that is, the GPL. Since Qt is part of the KDE binary (by any reasonable definition, including the one in 17 USC 101), Qt must be distributed according to the terms of the GPL. QED

NB: Matthias Ettrich, KDE developer, claimed in reponse to James Ramsey's artcle that they were basing their interpretation of the GPL on the statement on Lineo's statements on the issue. First, basing your copyright law analysis on a statment on a webpage by a company that has a vested intrest in limiting the GPL is not that intelligent. Second, Lineo is simply wrong. Reading their page in light of the quoted section of 17 USC 101 shows this.

AbiWord

AbiWord development continues to progress apace. Important developments include:
  • List Support. Martin Sevior, coder extrordinare, has added list support for AbiWord. It's fairly far advanced, as well. This is the biggest user-visible feature that we are waiting on for 1.0.
  • BeOS port. Several people have started submitting patches for the Be port, making me optimistic that it will be at least close enought to parity soon that we can make that a 1.0 release goal.
  • Smart Quotes. We now properly handle Word's Smart Quotes, and soon people will be able to use them in AbiWord also. Lots of props to Bill Carpenter, for implementing Smart Quote in a way that is significantly smarter than the way it works in Word.
  • Lots of patches. As the only person who really looks at the mail that gets sent to patches@abisource.com I have been fairly busy working to get everyone's work integrated into the tree. (I have to admit to liking this problem.) Fortunately, our liberal policy with regards to CVS write access means that if someone submits a whole lot, they will eventually not have to wait for me anymore. Also, CVS itself makes my life 10^9 times easier. For those who haven't, you should read Karl Fogel's book, Open Source Development with CVS. It taught me so much, and caused me to realize what a powerful and flexible tool CVS really is.
Everyone who is interested in development should read the AbiWord Weekly News, written by yours truly.

Come help us out as we push towards 1.0

Ultimate

Played in my first Ultimate Frisbee hat tournament yesterday. In a hat tournament (for those of you who don't know) teams are randomly drawn, and then basically left to themselves to organize. Well, our team didn't look like much of a powerhouse at the beginning of the day. But we (by now named Fruity Pebbles) played with lots of spirit, and lots of heart, and we really wanted it, so before we knew it, we were in the semi-finals. There the match became really tough, and it ended with a final score of 10-9, after the other team had made a huge comeback to get to 9-9 from 8-6. The final point was scored on a huck from me to another one of the 5 guys over 6ft on our team. So, on to the finals, where we met a team that was truly stacked with experienced players. We kept with them for a while, but eventually they were just too much. At the end, we got fired up and tried for a comeback, but by that time they were up by too much. Well, we were very happy with second place.

The Tragedy of the Commons (response to raph)

I disagree that there is as much modification from the traditional theory to applying it to free software. In the traditional model, there is

The potential for network effects. If I plant grass and you water it, we can do much more than either of us alone. Division of labor is applicable in a surprising number of places.

The ability of one person to benifit everyone. Planting more grass on grazed over patches (in the most classic model of the commons as a cow pasture) is extremely inexpensive. Yet it would benifit everyone. It would probably even benifit the doer more than it would cost, in the long run. Why, then, is it never done.

  • No one thinks long term. While Keynes is right that "In the long run, we're all dead," such thinking misses the point. There is clearly a potential for thinking much too short term, and it is precisely this mentality that leads the cattle herder not to plant more grass. The cost is all upfront, but the benifit is spread over multiple years.
  • People are lazy. Everyone figures that since it's so easy, and will help everyone, that someone else will do it for them, allowing them to benifit with no cost. This is the real tragedy of the commons, and it is what people accuse Sun (for example) of attempting to do with the SCSL, that is, get other people to do their work for them.

Finally, free software can be a "pure Toc", since even in a classic ToC scenario, people can stil be motivated to contribute for a number of possible reasons:

  • Fun. Lots of things can be fun, even planting grass. This is a major motivator in the free software world.
  • Concern for the commons. This is what motivates people like the Sierra Club. Software in the Public Interest is a canditate for this status.
  • Altruism, the desire to help other people. The FSF could be considered to fall into this category. Note: the distinction between this and the previous are usually blurry.
  • Recognition of long term benifit. Usually, work you put into the commons helps you in the long term. The collapse of the commons certianly does not. Free software mostly just accellerates this benifit.

Well, there's my entry in the I'm more verbose than schoen contest.

Nothing much happening here. Our website, the only really interesting thing I've done here at work, should go live later today.

Started working on the page numbering stuff for AbiWord. It's the last really missing feature before 1.0 (well, maybe lists too). Other than that, life is dull.

Well, AbiWord is making progess toward 0.9 (and then on to 1.0). The Jobs List (with apologies to Alan) that I posted was well recieved, and it looks like there are just a few more features we need before we can go into a feature freeze. The most important of these is a GUI for adding footers, otherwise known as page numbering. Really, this also involves writing the back end for inserting footers into the document, so it won't be that easy.

I haven't been hacking nearly enough recently. With my job (dull as it is) taking 9 hrs every week day, Ultimate Summer league (5-1 so far) eating two evenings a week, and partying wildly every weekend, there just aren't enough hours in the day. I've got to get some coding done, though, or I will go nuts.

My summer league team is looking good, although we have lost our best player, a kid from Carleton A (the national runners-up). Also, our captain is injured for the next week. This contributed to our first loss on Tuesday, but we redeemed ourselves yesterday by going from down 3-7 to winning 15-7. I've been playing really well this week. It helps a lot to be faster than almost everyone else, and be in better shape, which is certainly not true at school.

I haven't been doing a good job posting these reguarly, but I will try to do better.

Gosh, I haven't written in a while.

As I write this, I am at work at the Bates College IS department, here they have currently run out of things for me to do. I don't know if this bodes well for the rest of the summer or not.

I managed to survive my exit from school intact, although just barely. I got all my finals done (all one of them) and just barely managed to make my plane, after the van to O'Hare airport left 10 seconds(literally) before I caught it. Fortunately, the driver an hour later decided that we were in Montana, instead of Illinois, and drove like a bat out of hell.

I haven't done nearly enough work on AbiWord recently. Work takes up time from 8 to 5, and now that I have to get up, it's hard to stay up late coding. We are almost done with 0.7.10, though, and hopefully this will be the last of the 0.7's. We really just need someone to code footer insertion into the GUI (it already formats if you hack it into the XML file). Then we will have page numbers, and be ready to go to just bug-fixing before 1.0 :-). However, our BeOS port is seriously lagging. There hasn't really been much development on it lately, and lots of dialogs are missing. We have one promising candidate for a BeOS maintainer, though. What we really need is to clone Thomas Fletcher, who wrote both the BeOS and the QNX port. Impressive.

It's good to be back playing Ultimate, in summer league. Our team looks good this year, especially with a kid from Carleton A (national runners-up). Should make for some good times.

Just finished watching the Lakers/Blazers game. Too bad the Lakers won. Not that I care about either team, but I just like to root for the underdog.

My room is covered with stuff to pack, and my walls are bare. It is very strange to be leaving after only 9 months. Oh well, the life of a college student.

The U of C administration is trying to screw everyone over with regard to registration. They have a new online system for course registration, which would be great except that not only is it running asp, but it moved so slowly that I think it was running on a 486 somebody found in a closet. So when I tried to register on the last day (of course) the thing was jammed so tight no one could even get in. So I didn't get to register. They nicely provide a phone number to call if you failed to register, thought, but it just tells you to talk to your adviser. Your adviser then tells you that you can't register at all, and that I will have to add courses in the fall. I'm going to bitch at the registrar tommorrow.

I still can't resize my root partition. I suppose there are good data safety reasons for that, but it is annoying that I can't move my 9 gigs of MP3s (96% legal) to a seperate partition. So I can't get debian till I buy a new hard drive. Oh well.

I started a big debate on the AbiWord developer list about the STL. I think the C++ phobia that so many in the open-source community have is just dumb (not that AbiWord people have it). Templates are well-supported by virtually every C++ compiler in existance, and good STL implementations exist for them all too.

Turned in my final paper yesterday. Now I just have one exam, and I'm home free. Kind of weird.

I got Helix GNOME a few days ago. It really looks nice. I still can't get Sawfish to work, though. I guess it just hates me. Oh well. I'm going to convert to Debian soon anyway, so it won't matter.

Well, it looks like Sourcegear is stepping up their involvement in AbiWord again, in order to get a 1.0 release this summer. It's good to see the familiar faces (so to speak) back on the list. And development should pick up also. With the multiple new developers (Mike, Jesper) and renewed commitment from Sourcegear, Abiword looks to be moving along nicely.

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