and while most of the panels were geared toward home users and small
installations, at the other end of the spectrum, there were also
representatives from IBM that discussed the Watson computer which
recently won "Jeopardy!".
There was an episode of NOVA titled "Smartest Machine on Earth"
However; the NOVA special didn't mention is that Watson runs Linux as
its OS (Operating System) and uses FOSS (Free Open Source Software)
The official IBM terminology for the natural language processing and
search technology is called DeepQA:
which uses Apache UIMA and Hadoop:
The 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team were composed of Japanese-Americans, many of whom volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army even after being forcibly relocated to internment camps and went on to serv with distinction in Europe fighting against Nazi forces. Go For Broke National Education Center has a lot more information. "Go for broke" is also the name of a 1951 film detailing their exploits.
Free Open Source Software is a modern term combining the idea of something being free as in cost or "gratis" and free as in freedom or "libre" when applied to software. Richard M. Stallman, Eric S. Raymond as well as many others have written extensively about these ideals.
Ideals and theory are all well and good, but the practical pragmatic advantages of FOSS is just as important. The nature of FOSS encourages competition by allowing each program or application to compete on merit outside of any particular company as well as creating an ecosystem where different ideas or implementations can be unleashed and when something works well, it is practically impossible to destroy. It is basically a meritocracy. Many good proprietary software programs have been left to decay once their commercial companies folded or lost interest in the product. The term "abandonware" has been coined to describe these programs.
The interesting thing about FOSS is that practically everybody is already using it and have been for some time. Sendmail, qmail, and other FOSS is responsible for much of the email that gets sent worldwide on the Internet. The Apache Software Foundation's httpd server powers the majority of the world's web sites according to Netcraft:
FOSS has also enabled many new companies to quickly implement new ideas which speeds innovation and progress. Google uses the Linux operating system, not Microsoft Windows, on their massive server farms, Yahoo uses the FreeBSD operating system. Up and coming companies such as
Facebook has leveraged FOSS to quickly get into market:
MediaWiki, the software that powers Wikipedia is FOSS:
which is a spiritual successor to WikiWikiWeb, the first wiki application initially made in 1994. The Linux or GNU/Linux operating system can be found on devices ranging from small devices such as wristwatches and cellphones to netbooks and laptops, on many servers, up to mainframes, and the majority of the top 500 supercomputers in the world:
Weta Digital, creators of the incredible special effects for the Lord of the Rings trilogy makes heavy use of the Linux operating system as well as the Python programming language:
Apple makes extensive use of FOSS in their flagship operating system OS X:
There are FOSS programs for almost every conceivable application ranging from databases such as PostgreSQL and MySQL to 3D animation programs like Blender:
GIS (Geographic Information Systems) software such as GRASS (originally Army corps of engineers)
OpenOffice.org is a fairly complete productivity suite:
http://www.neooffice.org/ for a better integrated Apple Mac OS X version.
Among the many US government, military, and educational institutions that have embraced FOSS are:
the DoD (Department of Defense)
and the NSA (yes, that NSA):
Even video games use FOSS. Crayon Magic, used the Box2d engine:
which is FOSS.
There are many large commercial companies that have embraced FOSS:
AMD or ATI http://www.amd.com/us-en/Corporate/Virt
Sun Microsystems http://www.sun.com/software/opensource/
Sony products including cameras, and the PlayStation 2 and 3.
There are many groups aside from technical ones that have also adopted FOSS. From small commercial companies like Ernie Ball, manufacturer of guitar strings and other accessories:
to municipalities like the city of Munich, Germany:
national government institutions like the French Police:
or entire countries like Brazil:
Even though FOSS has been in the background quietly serving for many years, it has only recently begun to gain a foothold in the minds of the general public. Even though the Mozilla Firefox web browser is one recent application that has popularized FOSS, the reputation of FOSS has been tarnished by some commercial companies such as Microsoft which has called it a "cancer":
The irony or perhaps hypocrisy is that they have switched their websites and windows update servers to Akamai who use linux exclusively on their servers.
Microsoft has also claimed that Linux violates over 200 patents:
though Microsoft still has not named them. The patent violations seem highly unlikely as Linux runs on far more hardware platforms than Microsoft Windows.
They also have used BSD code in their ftp.exe client and other utilities that ship with Microsoft Windows for some time. FOSS is also in their Services For Unix product. In addition Microsoft used MIT Kerberos as the basis for their Active Directory product. Recently even Microsoft has started to quietly push FOSS to developers:
Although FOSS has many advantages, adopting FOSS is not an automatic panacea solution. It may have no direct monetary cost, but there can be costs in training or retraining personnel, time searching for solutions or customizing software that may not fit specific needs perfectly. Even so, Free Open Source Software is the quiet juggernaut that will not be so quiet in the 21st Century.
"But I say unto you, swear not at all; neither by heaven for it is God's throne; Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." Matthew 5:34-37
"But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." James 5:12
Here is the relevant episode of South Park on the off chance you haven't seen it.
I actually find it kind of amazing in a sad sort of way how it seems so many people have made decisions on who to vote for based seemingly on ads before there have been any real debates or without checking as many primary sources as possible for factual information about the candidates. A lot of "discussions" i've read and seen could be textbook cases of ad hominem attacks and all kinds of logical fallacies. It also seems to degenerate into a whole lot of petty name calling and herd mentality like a bad sports team rivalry. What's really sad is that it's usually a 51% to 49% victory.
I've read that the two party system is an inevitable consequence of the first past the post or plurality voting system that is used in the US. Other countries with working multiple political parties use other systems like approval voting or instant runoff or something else. A ranking system for candidates would seem to make much more sense.
In the original Constitution, candidates only ran for the office of President. Whomever got the most votes became President, the candidate who got the second most number of votes became Vice President.
How about something crazy like a balanced budget amendment for the Federal government?
Get rid of riders on bills. Each bill should have one and only one subject. These could actually turn out to be a win for government officials since it should get rid of the "i voted for it before i voted against it" type of junk.
A bill that gets passed unanimously is currently treated equally to a law that barely got passed with one vote. That seems stupid. It would make more sense to have the duration of the law be tied to how well it got passed. I think if a law gets passed unanimously, it can be a permanent law. Otherwise, maybe if it got passed with a supermajority it gets to be a law for 5 years before it gets reviewed. If a law barely got passed, it goes up for review in one year.
Get rid of party affiliations on ballots. If a voter can't remember or write down the candidate's full name, they shouldn't vote for them.
Gerrymandering districts so they look like some horrible modern art piece is a bunch of male bovine fecal matter. The boundaries should just follow geography, state boundaries, then be geometrically convex.
I guess this has turned into sort of a rant. I guess i would be much more impressed with "change" as the theme of this year's elections if it was a real fundamental change that wasn't tied to a person and a change in the system to really make it better.
Oh well, back to killing zombies for a while.
I've been a fan of Mythbusters for a few years now, but since there's been a lot of publicity about the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) including some silly quotes about the possibility of it destroying the Earth by creating a black hole, the phrase "Warning: Science Content" has become annoying to me. I still like the show, but i think that phrase perpetuates a bad attitude. Science works and should be perceived as being cool. It's not perfect, but its' the best tool that we have. It's spawned GPS, lasers, MRIs, the Internet (BTW CERN where the LHC is located could also be considered the birthplace of the WWW as that is where Tim Berners-Lee was when he first detailed the idea), antibiotics, vaccines, computers, and those plasma ball things along with pretty much everything else that makes life better.
So i think it should be "Yay! Science!"
Oh, there are cosmic rays that hit the Earth with much more power than anything that the LHC can hope could generate and the Earth is still here.
Personally i've never cared much for the term "blog" though i suppose it's shorter and easier to write than "online journal". Blogs always seemed a bit narcissistic to me but i have realized that i've lurked and read many blogs online for years. I've decided to attempt to blog to hopefully improve the signal to noise ratio of the Internet. Well that reason is somewhat tongue in cheek. I also hope to improve or at least maintain my writing skills.
Instead of taking the time to code up a program that automatically interfaces to all of those websites, especially since some don't have a workable API, i'm going the low tech route, just using a local text editor and copy and paste. Considering the stateless nature of http, it's probably better than the embedded editors on the websites since those can just make entries disappear when the network hiccups. I'm not sure what i'll write about yet since my interests and thoughts do tend to wander. I'll probably not write anything too personal since there is no such thing as privacy on the Internet. Contrary to whatever companies may lead people to believe or whatever settings are available, if something is online, it will be crawled, cached, and archived by countless bots, or downloaded and saved, etc., regardless of whatever somebody may try to do.
Then again, who knows, maybe i'm taking the Internet too seriously.