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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Cynic’s corner or: why I don’t buy it.

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Saw this on Last.fm’s blog:

One of the nicest bits of feedback we’ve had here at Last.fm HQ in the past few weeks was a message from two users who had just started a life together. They wrote to say that it all started through common musical interests on Last.fm, which led to them becoming friends online, and, over time, to discover that they were true soulmates. Yes, honestly.

Honestly? Don’t buy it.

I may be an old cynical, with my romantic nerves rugged and my soul tattered, but I’ve seen this too many times. It just happened that they got a way-too-cool-to-pass PR story that *just* coincides perfectly with the way they’ve “been using the idea of a musical soulmate (…) to guide the development of our new neighbours service”. And they don’t put their names, or faces, on it?

Yes, its quite the thing, I think its a PR thing, since they didn’t make it look like a PR thing. But think, if this was a true story, you’d get down their names, or even their Last.fm usernames, with those funky avatars they have. Its not like they have confessed to liking bestiality, and for a few dollars, this story could’ve made much more sense and go much better than an opening paragraph in a blog.

On the other hand, I’ve seen this before. The just too good to be true story, with no names, no real details, just a ‘believe you me, ’tis be ‘onest tale’ hand around the shoulder confidentiality. I worked in this place, where as incentives to the more efficient employees, used to give raffle tickets to the lottery. When asked, the managers used to tell how “once, this girl actually won 10,000 NIS from one of those”. She didn’t, but the story got carried on, even appeared in a couple of articles on the company. It’s a white lie, no real harm done, win-win situation, so to speak. I just don’t buy it any more.

Update: And not two minutes after posting, I read this item in ValleyWag about what Venture Capitalists really think about the start-ups they invest in.

Written by Erez

Friday, August 22, 2008 at 17:30

Posted in Blogging, Culture

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Sunday’s Drinking Game – Jiuling

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Originally, my aim was to think of something that went along with the 2008 Summer Games. However, when I was searching for Chinese alcoholic beverages, I came upon this article about Chinese Drinking Game(s) which is named Jiuling (Jiu means alcoholic drink, and I assume Ling is game).

Dice are rolled and contestants have to guess number of spots. Those who make an incorrect guess pay a forfeit by taking a cup of drink.

Naturally, this is very close to other, western variations of this pasttime. However, more variants follow:

A person beats a drum or gong behind the scenes, the other people sitting around the table will quickly pass a flower from one to another. When the drummer stops, whoever has the flower will drink and even give a simple performance according to the rules.

It stands to reason that, after a while, and with a few bottles consumed, the gong-hitter will probably miss a beat or two, or someone will try to eat the flower. Such things tend to happen.

Two people stretch out fingers at the same time while shouting out a number from 2 to 20. If one shouts out a number that is equal to the total number of fingers extended, then he will win, while the person shouts a number that is less, will lose the game and has to take a drink as a punishment.

Also, after a while, they start poking each other’s eyes yelling “guess how many fingers I’m using”.

As for the drink itself, Maotai is always a good choice. If memory serves me right, it is distilled from a type of grain calledSorghum, similar to Whiskey, but is in fact is closer to Tequila, or Rum in its texture. Otherwise, rice wine is always welcomed, and if you have no actual Chinese drink, a large dose of alcohol in your tea will do the trick.

Written by Erez

Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 20:54

Posted in Sunday's Drinking Game

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Free as in freedom from being sued

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Probably everyone and his wife, and their dog, and its fleas have heard by now about the new Microsoft/Novell agreement. While I don’t really care much about most of it, there is one part that I found extremely interesting:

(with) The patent coverage (clause) … the companies are agreeing to work together without suing each other or somebody else. Their agreement provides covenants releasing each other from risk of lawsuit by the other….

This is VERY good news. Mono-based software becomes very prominent in GNU/Linux distros, which, if the above is accurate and will be practiced, up until now were under the risk of being sued for patent infringement for being a clone of the .NET framework. For instance, in Ubuntu, there are three .NET applications that I use(d), Banshee (a music manager), Beagle (Desktop search tool) and TomBoy (Note taking). Granted, I went back to RhythmBox as soon as 6.10 was released, due to Banshee long freezes, and never used Beagle for more than 2 days before uninstalling it, due to HUGE resources usage, and I don’t really use Tomboy, so it’ll probably be the next to go, along with the whole Mono platform, but it’s still a good thing to know.

I still don’t like Mono, I understand the reasons behind using it (C# being the nicer brother of Java and all), but it’s a huge resources hog and unefficient as hell (although I may be wrong about hell here). I don’t know whether it’s due to the project still being in early development (about 2 years), or that the .NET doesn’t work well with Linux, but I still haven’t met one Mono app that I liked well enough to use despite the resources hog.

At any rate, it’s good news. Assuming the information’s correct and that both sides play nice and don’t throw it away in a year or so.

Written by Erez

Saturday, November 4, 2006 at 1:19

Free as in free-software-only distro

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Ubuntu is a great distro. I use it, love it, advocate it, you name it. It has top-notch hardware recognition, easy to use tools, excellent package management, smooth installation process(es), and cool looking GUIs. There is just one problem with it. It’s not 100% free. They don’t claim to, in case anyone wondered.

So now, a new fork of Ubuntu has arrived, called Gnewsense which takes Ubuntu, strip it from all the non-free/restricted/proprietary parts and voila! 100% free software GNU/Linux distro. It would probably have a lot of difficulties and problems that Ubuntu managed to avoid by using the non-free parts, but freedom was never easy. I’ll try it on the ole laptop, since I don’t think it will work on the desktop, due to those exact issues. But, its one project I’m keeping my eye on and fingers crossed for.

Written by Erez

Friday, November 3, 2006 at 23:34

Cut the Crap, Mozilla.

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In a recent, smug, triumphant, in-your-face, Q&A some guy from Mozilla composed with himself, the following claim has been stated and is repeated here, verbatim, unedited, untouched:

Ultimately, Debian took a position that was consistent with their own policies, and not compatible with some of the exceptions to Mozilla trademark policies that we offered. While we understand and respect their decision not to work with us under our branding guidelines, Mozilla believes that brands like Firefox are important for consumer protection.

You read that right. Consumer Protection. For the sake of all that is good and holy. How and when did the cornerstone of Free-Software become Microsoft? Oh sorry. Make that “cornerstone of Open-Source”. After all, they never did care about Freedom.
Consumer protection my foot. The only thing they need to protect their consumers is against themselves, Digital Restriction Management-stylee.

And what about Firefox 2.0? Turns out it has finally got to the stage it should’ve always been at, which is a total and shameless ripoff of Opera. Hopefully by 3.0 they will get multiple tabbing line and finally be usable. You see, the only real reason to use Firefox has been their position as the free-and-open alternative to MSIE. With the new “consumer protection” phase, that position has become null and void. Use Epiphany, use Flock, use IceWeasel, use whatever fork you want. Just don’t believe the Hype.

Oh, and Mozilla? Trademarking your shit won’t work. Check what Oracle just did to Red Hat.

Written by Erez

Friday, October 27, 2006 at 22:01

Lay down your weapons

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I didn’t think reading the “Beez” recent referance to the GNOME/KDE “wars” would benefit me much, as his latest article was called “3 reasons why NOT to use GNOME“, so one shouldn’t expect too much objectivity/rationality from such a writer. I was happy to find myself wrong.

Not only does the Beez rectify himself by distancing his writing from the X Vs. Y hoards, he also acknowledges the simple truth:

One thing that this war has learned me (sic) is that the smartest people of all are the “civilians”, our users. They just use a mixture of what is there and don’t understand what the fuss is all about. They happily shop in the giant bazaar for whatever they need.

Truer words were never sounded. I use GNOME, I’ve used KDE on occasion, and have tested Kubuntu as a possible replacement for Ubuntu with every of the past releases since 5.10 (Breezy Badger). I kept returning to GNOME, not because it had more features, or because it had more application, or because of quality, or because of configuration issues or because of support for freedom or because of anything. Simply because I like it better. Like. It’s a nice argument isn’t it? I admit openly that KDE is better configurable, has better apps, better quality, is more mature as a project, and is free, while GNOME has some crappy apps, keeps treating his users like idiots (yes, Torvalds is 100% spot on the mark there) and incorporated Mono (as GTK#), but I still like it better. It might be that this is caused by GNOME being the official Ubuntu DE, which means they have sunk more hours of development, refinement and customisation into it, but it can also be because I simply like it more. I really dunno. But I have this weird nagging feeling that a lot of people are like me.

On the other hand, I also hope a lot of people are like the Beez:

I repeat it one more time, I really don’t care what you’re running as long as I don’t have to run it.

Written by Erez

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 at 14:30

Maybe they will finally get it (probably not)

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I’ve mentioned Firefox less-than-total commitment to the Free Software concept in previous posts. It would seem that those guys from Mozilla got the whole deal more than a little bit off. As this article shows, not only does they trademarked the Firefox logo, but also have a clause that stipulating that using Firefox name without the official branding is a trademark violation. Don’t use the Firefox name, you say? Why, thank you, say Debian. Especially since that would release them of the other obligation, that any updates/patches they make to Firefox have to get approved by Mozilla before being implemented. This really gives the whole “FOSS” (Free and Open-Source Software) concept a new twist.

Same issue has been affecting Debian-derivative Ubuntu, who also have been using a customised (albeit ugly) not-trademarked icon for Firefox, apparently against the browser’s license. Debian have already announced that they will re-brand (and most likely fork) Firefox for use in their GNU/Linux distribution, it remains to be seen how would Ubuntu react to this issue.

Written by Erez

Tuesday, October 3, 2006 at 23:48