Generation Warfare, or Mr. Rogers is Evil.

Posted April 13, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: Opinion

Tags: , ,

At some point I have to stick up for my generation, especially following my TED talk post where it was pointed out most of science research is really being carried out by people of my generation.

However Fox News, catering to the beliefs of a +50 generation, would have you know my generation is lazy and full of entitlement because, trumpets please: we watched Mr. Rogers! They spent 3 hours dedicated to this recurring theme:

What Fox won’t tell you is the reason they are so embittered over our generation is we took them to the cleaners during the election, because of course we are so lazy having watched Mr. Rogers. Lazy people always do the best job rallying people to support their cause and vote in record numbers.

Very Interesting Talk On Bacteria Communication

Posted April 9, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: Biology, Science

Tags: ,

Seriously, you should watch this to the end. This lady shows how bacteria communicate and that the implications of this will be huge. This will be a game changer in the field of medicine and perhaps the rest of science as well.

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Cow Tipping Done Right

Posted April 7, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: Humor

Once again we here would like to promote good science. Therefore, next time you go cow tipping make sure you are doing it right.

Brooks on Morality

Posted April 7, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: Opinion

Tags: , , , , ,

David Brooks is one of my  favorite columnists.   He wrote a column today entitled The End of Philosophy where he discusses where humans get morality.

He points out that philosophers back to Socrates assumed morality came from good reasoning.  However, more and more it doesn’t seem like reason is what gives people their morals; emotions do.  As Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia puts it, “The emotions are, in fact, in charge of the temple of morality, and … moral reasoning is really just a servant masquerading as a high priest.”

Many people are convinced they have some code of ethics that through reason spells out their morality.(Like religious or philosophical beliefs.) Though this may be true to a degree, most people make moral decisions based on the immediate emotions they feel, not logic flowing from some moral axioms they subscribe to.

Of course evolution is mostly responsible for all this.  Interestingly, as Brook’s points out, the more we learn of evolution the more we see that it has led humans to be “cooperative, empathetic and altruistic,” not just competitive.

I agree.  No matter what philosophy or religion or lack of both, most humans make very similar moral decisions in similar circumstances.  Evolution has bred humans to be very moral creatures by compelling us to follow the aesthetic paths our emotions are suggesting we go.

Open Source Is The Pinnacle Of The Free Market

Posted March 31, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: Linux

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Though I am not going to advocate Laissez-faire economics, I do want to point out that the open source world is as close as you can get to a pure free market. The reason is because if you make a product in the open source world, anybody is able to study it, modify it, redistribute it and even sell it without many restrictions.

If person A delivers a great product, but person B is able to study the product and make it better in a cheaper way, the free market has done its job. This can happen in the open source world but has a hard time happening in the proprietary one.

Current Patent Laws Prevent True Market Freedom
Take the iPod. Steve Jobs admits the iPod has been fully patented through and through. If somebody has the ability to deliver the same product, just better and cheaper, his/her hands are tied.

We will never know if Apple is the company who delivers the iPod at the greatest value for customers since nobody is legally allowed to try.

Proves Red Hat Is The Best
This is not true of Red Hat. Red Hat makes billions, and if someone was able to take Red Hat, make it better and cheaper in a way that pleases customers there is nothing stopping them.

Guess what, Oracle recently tried and failed. Despite the open possibility, nobody can deliver Red Hat software with as great of value as Red Hat can. This proves Red Hat is truly the best at what they do.

If You Really Provided Your Product At The Best Value You Wouldn’t Need Patent/Proprietary Protection
Look again at Red Hat. They don’t need them. They still make billions. I have a feeling Apple and Microsoft would run scared stiff if you took their patents and proprietary licenses from them for the risk of someone doing it better and cheaper would be extremely high.

Edit: When I said Red Hat makes billions I mean they have made billions over the years. (total)

Fingerprints Shouldn’t Be Used In Court

Posted March 27, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: News

I’m sure everyone has seen some Law and Order or CSI type show where finding a suspect’s fingerprints at a crime scene seals the case.

However, it appears scientists, including members of the National Academy of Sciences are questioning the validity of fingerprints, especially partial fingerprints that have been smudged. From the LA Times:

In 2007, a Maryland judge threw out fingerprint evidence in a death penalty case, calling it “a subjective, untested, unverifiable identification procedure that purports to be infallible.”

The ruling sided with the scientists, law professors and defense lawyers who for a decade had been noting the dearth of research into the reliability of fingerprinting. Their lonely crusade for sound science in the courtroom has often been ignored by the courts, but last month it was endorsed by the prestigious National Academy of Sciences.

The question is not whether fingerprints are unique — most scientists agree they probably are, though that assumption remains largely unstudied. The issue is whether the blurry partial prints often found at crime scenes — what Faulds called “smudges” — are sufficient to identify someone with any reliability.

The answer: No one knows. There are no national standards for declaring a fingerprint “match.” As a result, fingerprint identifications are largely subjective.

I will say if someone has to go to jail for the rest of their lives over evidence with no scientific credibility this is a bad thing. I’m not going to be able to watch these crime shows now without thinking “man, I wish I could be the defense attorney.”

Innovation Sparks Jealousy

Posted March 26, 2009 by Joseph Smidt
Categories: Linux

Tags: , , ,

(Full disclosure: I use, and contribute, to both Fedora and Ubuntu)

I’m finding increased jealousy toward Fedora every day especially when someone points out how well Fedora is innovating.

Case and point, take this article I just read Ubuntu 9.04 vs Fedora 11: A lot can change in one month! The article concludes:

Ubuntu, as usual, has been rock stable for me…

But considering the differences – Fedora 11 seems to be a full 6 months ahead of Ubuntu….

Ubuntu sure has some catching up to do. When Ubuntu 9.10 releases, I can’t even begin to imagine how far ahead Fedora 12 will be!

Now look at the comments:
First, take Inconsiderate Clod:

Fedora is a (stupidly) aggressive development distro which regularly causes major malfunctions to all it’s rawhide users as well as it’s more ‘conservative’ users…  the world should be happy and thankful with all the Fedora users who unwittingly offer themselves up to be ginny pigs for the greater good of FOSS.

Ouch! I guess I am an unwitting Fedora Ginnie pig. Do I hear a little jealousy?

Or maybe RALF:

You sir, are an idiot.

Firefox 3.1 isn’t stable yet. OpenOffice 3.1 isn’t stable yet. Plymouth only works with Intel hardware, Ubuntu too will use gnome-media, Thunderbird 3 isn’t stable yet.

Double standard RALF? Ubuntu releases their LTS release with with Firefox Beta and RALF is complaining that a Fedora Alpha release has some Beta software? Interesting.  Not to mention the incorrect statement about Plymouth coming from someone calling another an idiot.  I found this amusing.

The development of each Ubuntu version lasts 6 months. In those months, they lock down the version and keep fighting bugs until the deadline.

Because, Fedora doesn’t try to fight bugs until their deadline?

That’s why people can actually _use_ Ubuntu. Fedora is more like ‘what’s next?’

Again, by Canonical’s versus Fedora’s own numbers, more people use Fedora then Ubuntu, so this “usability” argument is a little weak.

Personally, I think both Canonical and Fedora deserve praise, not attacks due to jealousy. Canonical has brought Linux to millions of users who arguably needed something like Ubuntu to get started. Likewise, Fedora’s innovation always keeps it a good 6 months ahead of the pack without the luxury of having an upstream distro do the majority of the heavy lifting. For these reasons we need to have more praise and less jealousy.