Fri, 29 Feb 2008

Lunch, and my talk

So, Claire bought us lunch, and Ana bought us hot chocolate, and after that fine treatment, I'm ready to give my talk on Open Source Licensing.
Posted [09:50] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Thu, 28 Feb 2008

Learning to speak irish

I'm learning to speak irish. Not Gaelic, Irish. Things like "craic", which means atmosphere. Use it like "The craic was good." And pub is pronounced poob like good, but a little shorter.
Posted [08:46] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

flex talk

Sitting in Andrew Shorten's talk on Adobe's flex. You can write an application using flex that runs inside a flash player, or on the desktop using air. Will have a Linux air player later this year. buzzword uses flash as a word processor. picnik does picture editing. sliderocket does presentations (not yet public).

The command-line compiler is free, bit the IDE is proprietary. Flex can cache the flex class library inside the player. Can use rtmp to push data to the app. air has a SQLite library built in. Cute stuff.

Posted [07:19] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Wed, 27 Feb 2008

iwtc2008 day one

Haven't taken in many talks today at iwtc 2008. Too many interesting people to talk to. Talked to Ken about web testing. Talked to Anton about sports-centric community building.
Posted [12:50] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Mon, 25 Feb 2008

Solvay Process Company

I found the Solvay Process Company's tunnel, left over from their "cable road". They ran a cable conveyer from their quarry to their processing plant.
Posted [16:23] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Heading off to Ireland

Well, I'm headed off to Ireland in 9 hours. Or, rather, I'm headed to Syracuse for a 5pm flight. While I'm there, I'll do a little poking about. Unlike other trips, I'll be able to blog on the road from my n800.
Posted [01:05] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Fri, 22 Feb 2008

fr1st p0st

first blog post via my n800
Posted [08:52] [Filed in: posts] [permalink] [Google for the title] [digg this]

Wed, 20 Feb 2008

Changing the Weather

Money spent trying to change the weather is wasted, and takes away money needed to adapt to the weather. We can stop emitting CO2, sure, and we can become damned poor and unable to help the people who are REALLY POOR. I'm not worried about us. I'm worried about the poor people in low-lying areas. Who's gonna take care of them if the rich countries have impoverished themselves and not succeeded at changing the weather.

Remember: Kyoto has cost the world half a trillion dollars already. How much of that money would we have been able to spend to buy up low-lying land in India, Bangladesh and other such countries? That's how the free market would deal with warming: people in rich countries buying out the property of people in poor countries, so they can afford to move elsewhere and rebuild. How many shanties in India could you buy with a half-trillion dollars? All of them, I'll venture.

Posted [10:53] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

The Influence of Government

Larry Lessig proposes to lessen the influence of money on legislators. Unfortunately for him, he is trying to hide a symptom without curing the disease. The disease is that governments regulate businesses. The symptom is that businesses then have a profit motive in regulating governments. If you want a government which is free of corruption, you have to eliminate the motive for corrupting them.

The solution is a "Freedom of Trade" amendment to the Constitution. Word it like "Congress shall pass no law respecting the freedom of trade. Congress may tax trade without respect to its nature only on a percentage of price."

Update: it seems that Larry agrees with me, so it will be interesting to see what goes up on Change Congress. The only realistic solution that I see to excess power at the federal level is for the states to demand their power back. In order for that to happen, first the people must be changed, otherwise the states won't know to demand their power.

Posted [10:32] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Tue, 19 Feb 2008

Patent Obviousness

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards. --Arthur Koestler

And the more obvious a discovery, the EVEN WAY MORE OBVIOUS it seems afterwards. --me

People who claim that no patent can be judged as obvious after it's been invented (such as Arthur Koestler) are missing something. There are two kinds of inventions: obvious ones, and original ones. The original ones come from asking an obvious question, and deriving a unique solution. One that has never been thought of. One whose details are not obvious given the question. This is a true invention -- something from nothing.

On the other hand, obvious inventions can come from asking an original question. An inventive question. And some answers are completely obvious once you ask the question. I claim that these are the kinds of discoveries that Arthur Koestler is referring to. You can even argue that the patent system should cover these kinds of inventions, because a public purpose is served by encouraging people to invent new questions by giving them a monopoly on the answer.

The trouble arises when people ask obvious questions, derive the obvious answer, and then think they can get a patent. And right now, they do. There are innumerable examples of obvious inventions deriving from obvious questions, and the public harm in allowing an unproductive monopoly on an idea should be obvious but the USPTO continues to grant these kinds of patents.

The solution is to look for obviousness in both the question and the answer, and only give patents for originality in either the question or the answer.

Posted [10:08] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

Mon, 18 Feb 2008

From the mouths of politicians, wisdom

From the mouths of politicians comes wisdom. CNN reported today that Barack Obama said:

"The problem we have is not a lack of good ideas," Obama said in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Friday. "It's that Washington today is a place where good ideas go to die."
The obvious solution to that problem is to not bring your ideas to Washington. That's how the founders set up our country. Most things were to be done at the state level, so that if they were mistakes, then everybody else could see it, and avoid that mistake. If an idea turned out to be a good one, then other states could adopt that idea.

Washington has too much power now, but there are still many things that can be done at the state level. Do that, and keep those ideas secret from Washington, lest it kill the idea.

Posted [01:58] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

Sat, 16 Feb 2008

Teaching Climate Change

A California legislator wants the state's science cirriculum to teach climate change. Climate change is a documented fact. Within recorded human history we have gone through two 1500-year warming / cooling cycles. There's evidence on every continent of this. But human-caused global warming is bullshit. Basically, we're being asked to believe that the inevitable warming is *more* warm *now* than it *should* be. We have zero evidence of that. Nobody can say with any precision how quickly the earth warms when it warms. It was warmer during the Roman Warming than it is now. Fig trees grew in northern Italy where they don't grow now.

Yeah, teach climate change, but teaching global warming is as bad as teaching creationism. They're both faith-based education.

Posted [15:58] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

Thu, 14 Feb 2008


Working on the Mark XIII keyboard. This one will have the keymodules connected together with a matrix of stiff-ish copper wires, covered over in polycapralone. The theory is that people will be able to change the shape of their keyboard by heating it up using a hot air blow dryer. That will soften the polycapralone, which gets quite soft, and won't hold up its own weight, hence the copper wires. The keyboard owner can push the keymodules around until they're in the perfect position for them. The copper wires will hold the shape until the polycapralone hardens, making the keyboard both flexible and stiff, soft and hard, as needed.

Here are a set of keymodules, soldered to a small PC board, with a brass strip used as a barrier against the polycapralone. Without the barrier, the polycapralone would stick to the keys and/or jam up the key movement.
Key modules (Thumbnail)

Posted [02:28] [Filed in: chordite] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Wed, 13 Feb 2008

1974 NYSDOT abandoned railroad inventory

New York State Department of Transportation did an inventory in 1974 of all the abandoned railroad right of ways in New York State. They were published as typewritten documents, and so never existed as text on a computer. They're currently available as PDF files. But Google seems not to have found those files, which is no surprise, because they're hidden behind a search box. OOPS! I'm taking the liberty of turning them into HTML documents and reposting them on the web. They're a little rough right now, but you can take a look at them in their unfinished state.

Posted [14:43] [Filed in: railroads] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Health Insurance

Health insurance companies do three things:

So, if you talk about changing how health insurance works, you need to address all three of these functions if you want to make sense.

Posted [02:33] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

Tue, 12 Feb 2008

Irish Web Technology Conference 2008

I'm speaking at, and attending, the Irish Web Technology Conference 2008. I'll be giving a talk on "Choosing an Open Source License". It's being held in Dublin City February 26 / 27 / 28 / 29. I hope to see you there if it's an appropriate conference for you.

Posted [00:27] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , ] [digg this]

Mon, 11 Feb 2008

A Result of the Nanny State

A friend and I were talking about the war on drugs. He teaches at a local college, and he claimed to me that he'd seen way too many students proclaim that if something was legal, it couldn't be bad for you. This is exactly what you should expect when the government tries to protect you from everything. The self-reliant adult realizes that it cannot succeed at doing that, so there will always be things that are legal which are harmful. A victim of the nanny state doesn't understand that, and so seeks more and more regulation of their lives. They want the government to eliminate any and all danger from their lives, without any need on their part to detect and avoid danger.

They think they'll get a safer adult life. Instead, they'll get a crib.

Posted [00:06] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]

Sun, 10 Feb 2008

ASUS Eee PC hands-on

I finally got to put my hands on the ASUS Eee PC, at The Computer Guys, here in Potsdam. It's a solid-state subnotebook. Runs Linux. Comes with Open Office, a few games, a web browser. Has Ethernet, Wi-Fi, three USB, one SD slot, and audio in and out. Supports SDHC. Seems very sturdy.

It's wicked small, being a subnotebook. Tiny keys, but you can almost touch-type on it. The key feel is good enough, given the size. The nicest thing about it is its size. It's smaller than a hardcover book. If I wasn't already flush with mobile devices (Toshiba laptop, XO, n810, n800, n770, and various iPAQs), I would definitely buy one.

Posted [12:00] [Filed in: opensource] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags ] [digg this]

Sat, 09 Feb 2008

OSHA is useless.

I've blogged about workplace safety before, but I had no idea how right I was. We could fire everyone who works for OSHA and not affect workplace safety one whit.

Posted [00:59] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , ] [digg this]

Fri, 01 Feb 2008


Some people don't see the value in individuality. "Oh, the world would be better if we just did this once and shared it." To which I say "yeah, but only if they DO IT RIGHT." It's a utopian idea: "let's make everybody do the right thing, because mistakes are killing us."

No. The biggest problem to solve in human activity is the problem of error. We make mistakes, and we don't know they're mistakes. The problem is that the future is unknowable. When we take action to affect the future (but action can only affect the future, so action is always speculative) we don't know if that will be the right action.

Centralizing decisions doesn't solve that problem, but it increases the cost of the inevitable errors.

Here is a selection of my blog postings concerning mistakes: value-transactions, taxes-spent-badly, monopoly-and-market-power, feature-not-a-bug, centralization-vs-distribution, and buy-my-mistakes.

Posted [12:29] [Filed in: economics] [permalink] [Google for the title] [Tags , , , ] [digg this]