Wed, 28 Feb 2007

My position on attribution

I'm starting to be settled on a position on attribution:

An Approved Open Source license may name an Original Author, and may require that a majority of users be able to name the Original Author. The license may not dictate the means through which that goal is accomplished. The license may not impose this requirement if less than one-third of the software is present in a derived work.

It's testable, and scales because at most three Original Authors need to be acknowledged. It is also congruent with OSD#10. It also rules against the SugarCRM license which is currently annoying so many open source developers.

I could be talked out of this if you have a sufficiently good argument. Send me email.

Posted [17:32] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thanks, Hillary!

In an AP article, we are informed that Hillary Clinton is going to take $60 BILLION dollars from "big oil", and then spend it on "clean-energy research and development." Where does she think "big oil" gets its money from? What is "big oil" going to do when its costs increase by $60 BILLION dollars? Does she think there are going to be no negative effects on the American public?

Obviously, she is appealing to the greed of the American public. "These are the kinds of things that I will do if you vote for me for President."

Posted [17:04] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Mon, 26 Feb 2007

100% Open Source

These folks: http://www.phpfox.com/ use 'open source' as a selling feature, where the open only refers to 'non-encrypted source code' rather than distribution rights. Here's what I told them via their Contact web form:

Hi. Your claim that your software is 100% Open Source, and yet you do not use an OSI approved Open Source license. At the very least, this will confuse your customers. Confused customers tend to avoid your business. At some level of misunderstanding, somebody might think that your software is actually Open Source and redistribute your software infringing your copyright. If you attempt to sue them, they could claim innocent infringement, saying that they were relying on your assertion that the software is Open Source. At the very worst, you might be engaging in fraudulent business practices. Most people know what Open Source means, and using a definition intended to mislead is fraud.

May I suggest that you use the term "Source Available" instead?

Posted [12:08] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 24 Feb 2007

The Shangri-La Diet

I weigh too much. The weight itself isn't the problem. It's more that the pad of fat in my belly interferes with proper taiji breathing. Have tried various dieting schemes and of course none of them worked over the long-run. Hope springs eternal, of course. What makes the Shangri-La Diet more likely to succeed is that it has a theory for why diets fail based on evoluntionary biology.

So, I'm gonna give it a try. First dose of ELOO last night. Not so hungry for breakfast, but of course that's probably me fooling myself.

Posted [11:53] [Filed in: food] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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FreeER Markets

A the end of 2006 (literally) I posted on "Faith in Free Markets". Through the (free market) miracle that is Google, I found a blog posting by Jeremy Hunsinger objecting to the possibility of saying anything about free markets, since all markets have interventions, saying:

I'd love to know where they found a free market to have faith in. I've never seen one that wasn't structured, biased or otherwise guaranteed by governmental or corporate structures.

Unfortunately, this idea exhibits a profound lack of understanding of economics. Jeremy isn't the only person to make this claim. A quick Google search for "no such thing as a free market" finds this and this and this which agree 100% with Jeremy, and are equally wrong. Economists rarely study anything by itself. Economics isn't the study of one thing; it is the study of one thing versus another. Economists try to figure out what you'll give up of one thing in order to get another, and why.

There's no point to objecting to advocacy for free markets by pointing out there is no pure free market, free of any coercive influence. We can compare more-free markets to less free markets, and decide which ones we like. If we like more-free markets, then we advocate for free markets, all the while realizing that the people who like less free markets will prevent us from having a completely free market.

It's not about free markets. It's about free-er markets.

Posted [11:35] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sun, 11 Feb 2007

Unfinished Railroads of New York State

I've started a page for the Unfinished Railroads of New York State. These are railroads which got past the design state into the building stage, but not to the operational stage. In other words, a hump of dirt in the woods, or a set of abutments bracketing a stream which don't necessarily have a railroad on either side of them.

Posted [01:07] [Filed in: railroads] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Was Archy ever alive?

Was Archy ever a live project? Of course Jef Raskin is dead now, so if Archy was ever alive, it is less alive now. But my thesis is instead that Archy was stillborn.

Archy, as a project, is radically different. In order to use it, you need to invest quite a bit of effort. As a proprietary, commercial system, it would have needed a huge amount of investment. The system needed to be programmed from the bottom up. It's so different from most other software that very little could be reused. Then, the company would have had to pay staff for a good twenty years before the software got enough sales to support its staff. That level of funding is nowhere to be found.

The only way, in my opinion, Archy could ever have succeeded is if it were an Open Source project. It isn't. The investment needed is no less simply because it's open source. What is different about open source versus proprietary development is that the investors are investing their own time, for their own reasons, for their own purposes. And yet the license they chose for Archy makes it clear that anybody contributing code does so for the benefit of the Raskin Center, since they and only they can license the code for commercial use.

So if you look at various Raskin Center pages, you'll see that no bug reports have been acted on in the last 14 months. Basically, the last person with permission to change Archy left then, and never turned the lights out. At this point, the Raskin Center should throw the existing code under a BSD-style license and see what happens to it.

Posted [01:03] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Sat, 10 Feb 2007

Blind Faith in Free Markets

I will tell you why I have blind faith in free trade. It's because any alternative to free trade requires coercion. Coercion requires threats and acts of violence. I am a pacifist. I believe that all violence which is not directly engaged in reducing even worse violence (that is, I believe that a police are necessary) is evil, and counter to God's will. I think that violence is the worst injustice. Thus, I think that violence cannot be used to counter injustice. Thus, I am philosophically opposed to most laws which interfere with trade, e.g. a minimum wage law.

You can see that my faith isn't so blind as some would say. There's a train of logic which only requires one assumption: that violence is the worst injustice. I would say instead that some people close their eyes when it comes to regulations.

Posted [12:43] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Fri, 09 Feb 2007

The Knack

"Will he live a normal life?"
"No. He'll be an engineer."

Posted [12:28] [Filed in: life] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Thu, 08 Feb 2007

Governments vs. Contractors

Matt Yglesias writes a somewhat confused blog posting about "The Trouble With Contracting." He opines that governments are less efficient than the private sector. He lays the blame on just one aspect of the private sector: that badly run companies go out of business. Then he notes that when governments buy their services through badly run companies, they don't necessarily go out of business.

He is totally missing the reason why badly run companies go out of business. They fail because other companies out-compete them. Competition is what you get when multiple vendors try to cooperate with the customer more than anyone else.

If, as Matt suggests, companies are not chosen to maximize cooperation, then buying services through contractors is not likely to be any more efficient. He's quite right even though he doesn't understand why he's right.

But the real problem is not whether governments hire employees, or hire contractors. The real problem is when governments hire anybody. Governments don't have the flexibility to provide many different levels of service to different groups.

Compare, for example, restaurants to schools. Restaurants are subject to very little government control. They have to find an acceptable location if the community restricts business locations via zoning. They have to maintain certain standards of cleanliness and food preparation. Other than that, they can sell anything anytime anywhere in any quantity and combination to any customers. Schools have one curriculum for all students in a single grade. All students are expected to learn all material at the same rate at the same age at the same time of day. A tiny bit of flexibility is provided for special education students -- but even then the goal would be for them to learn the standard curriculum (aka mainstreaming).

School choice will have very little affect on any of this (or so I predict). "He who pays the piper calls the tune." Initially parents will be able to choose from a substantial range of schooling. Over time, taxpayers will rebel against, say, pagan schooling, or math-only schooling, or athletic schooling, and more and more restrictions will be placed on them.

That, in a nutshell, is the case against government provision of services. The private sector might be more efficient, but efficiency isn't really the goal. The goal is for everyone to get what they want, not for everyone to get what everyone wants. A free market provides the first; governments provide the second.

Posted [01:47] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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Marketolatry

From time to time you will see people accuse free marketeers of "marketolatry". You'll see one here. The implication of that term is to say that we are worse than ideologues: that we worship free markets as our God. Thanks, no, I already have a God; don't need one so imperfect as markets, free or otherwise.

The problem with this accusation is it implies that we wouldn't change our minds in the face of contrary facts. The speaker usually believes that they have irrefutable contrary facts. Since we aren't convinced by their facts, we must be ideologues, or worse, marketolatrators.

Consider that they might be wrong. Certainly they don't.

Posted [01:10] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]
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