Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A 3rd person perspective.

Imagine you're sitting; doing something - reading this blog. Now, look at yourself from a 3rd person perspective looking at yourself reading this blog. Now look at yourself looking at yourself looking at yourself reading this blog. Recurse, till you get tired of recursion. I do that sometimes; when I want to stop thinking.
It never works :)

I haven't been posting much to this blog lately, and its not because I am too lazy, as I at first thought, nor because I don't have anything coming to my mind, nor that I don't have anything to say. Its because I think every blog post out in my head now. I mean, why do we blog? Or wait, set that aside; how do we feel after we blog about something?

We forget about it.

I have been "posting" in my head for really forever now, but of late it has become a regular ritual. I'm walking, I think of something, think about it for a while, then I think how it would look like in an article for Meander(our college magazine), or as a Diary entry, or just as a blog post. And in doing so, I sort of 'write the article', or the entry, or the blog post, and once its done, I... just forget it.

Right before going for my midnight dinner(from which I just came back), I watched the movie "A Waking Life". Its an excellent movie. If you like excellent movies, and trust me when I say its one, go and watch it now before you read the rest of this post.

Its about someone who is 'stuck' in a dream. Whenever he wakes up, he finds himself dreaming again. Its not the kind of "Groundhog Day" kind of movie, its a movie which starts off as being about what could be anything, and ends with us wondering if the Protagonist is dead. The movie in itself is an experience, it has an abstract plot, an abstract setting, abstract dialog, and an abstract ending.

As the movie progressed, I listened to the dialog intently, all the time being delighted that all that I had thought (and forgotten) over the years was being echoed and mirrored in the movie by the characters. The political, social and anthropological views and opinions, the concept of Free Will, everything, everything was mind bogglingly familiar, all echoes of what I had always believed. And then there were other things that I had never thought of, like the collective conscious, the concept that we might just live the entire rest of our life in the last 6-12 mins before our brain follows our body in death.

It made me think how it would be like to be dead and dreaming. I put myself in such a position, imagined how it would be.
At first, I found myself dismayed that all I was doing was worthless, that it was all for naught. That whatever I do was not going to be remembered, and that it would not really benefit society in any way. Then I realised that everything is about 'me'. Why would I want to do something that benefits society? Because it would make me feel good. And does society really matter? Isn't it all you? You want society to matter, so it does. There is no absolute scale by which to go, it is all YOU.
So I made myself think that whatever I would do in my perpetual dream would be fruitful -- because I would want it to be that way. And I came to the conclusion that it would be bliss; a rare chance to do whatever I wanted.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

In this house we obey the Laws of Thermodynamics.

... said Homer Simpson.
A story was published on /. today about a Nuclear Reactor in Alabama powering down due to increased river water temperature which made cooling inefficient. Here's a sample comment on why the reactor needs so much cooling.

Waste heat? Why not just figure out a way to turn waste heat into energy to avoid heating the river up unnecessarily?

And, its modded 4, insightful.
I mean, WTF!? Did these people go to school or not?!

More such comments here, here, and here :|

Edit: The comment I mentioned is now down to 1, Insightful. It was modded 'insightful' 5 times, modded 'overrated' 3 times and 'troll' 2 times, and everyone starts off at 1 =)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

teh suck

The previous blog post was really... useless :|
Too long, too descriptive, too jargon-ish for the n00b, and not enough info to keep a knowledgeable reader engrossed. Maybe someday I'll rewrite these thoughts in a site somewhere.
Speaking of sites, me and a couple of friends have bought some webspace. But I haven't really gotten around to do anything with it though :P

What is "Free"?

"Think free, as in free speech, not free beer."
    ~ Richard M. Stallman

"Free beer?" you ask. "Think free," Superflex members helpfully explained at the launch, "as in free software."
    ~, on "Free Beer"


"Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry."

"[...] works licensed solely under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license are not free [...]"
    ~ debian-legal


Everyone contradicts everyone else over what is "Free", and what is not. Some have a very broad definition of the word "Free" which includes free food coupons and even gifts, while others talk about the Freedom of speech. This is basically Gratis vs Libre. But, even within Libre, there is a lot of inconsistency and misunderstanding. From here on, I am going to assume you are well-versed with the concept of "Free Software". If you're not, skim through the wikipedia article on it first.

In the above two sets of quotes, the seeming contradiction is of a different nature in both. In the first set, its a misunderstanding (and a play on words ;), while the second is a clash of ideas.

"Free beer" means beer "on the house", because the bartender has a crush on you, just won a lottery, or is simply in a good mood. And then we have "Free Beer". Beer where the recipe is Free, people all around the world contribute to it to make it better, and a new improved "version" of the beer is released every 6 months.

In the second set of quotes, on one hand we have the uber-paranoid Debian (not that that's a bad thing), and on the other hand, we have the Creative Commons people who had a more conservative view of the concept of the word "Free". They have since then (with version 3.0 of their license) fixed the problem and made it more in-line with the commonly held definition of "Free".

"What is this definition of Free you talk about?", you ask. Hmm, I'm not really an expert on that, so I'll just talk about "Free Software" (about which I know enough to blabber for a while at least ;).
"Okay, what the hell is the definition of Free Software then?", you say. Well, a lot of people seem to think Free Software means Open Source, which is incorrect. There are things that are Open Source and are far from free. They show you the source code, but you cannot modify it, redistribute it, or infact do anything with it except use it. That might seem fine to you, but it doesn't really work. The power of Free Software is behind the fact that anyone can edit it and improve it. So Free Software is a subset of Open Source.

Now, even within Free Software, there are several definitions of 'Free'. We have the GPL, the LGPL, the BSD license, the MIT license, et al. They are not just licenses, they are definitions of "Free".

The GPL created by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) says

"If any code distributed under me is reused anywhere, and if that work is distributed as well, then it must be under me as well".

This might sound very restrictive, and in fact this is why some people dislike it, but that clause is to keep software free. Kind of like Fundamental Rights, the Right to be Free...

This kind of license is strong copyleft.

Now, the word "reuse" is ambiguous. Does it only mean using code directly in your program? Or does it also include linking to it? Turns out, the GPL applies to both of these. The only thing that is excluded is run-time linking to libraries. For the case of linking, the FSF created the LGPL (Library GPL)

"Use me as GPLed code unless you're just linking to me, in which case, go forth and link."

However, the terms are much more complicated than this overly simplistic sentence. This is mostly for libraries like codecs, etc which are made to be used by a lot of different software, hence the need to make them usable by non-GPL code. However, the creators of the license now recommend you to use the GPL for certain kinds of libraries. See here for why.

This kind of license is copyleft.

And then we have the BSD license

"I am Free Code, use me.".

That's it. That's the gist of the license, the code is Free as in Libre, but you are also free to subjugate it if you want :) Thats how Apple was able to take OpenBSD, make Mac OS X out of it and not have to release the source code for it.
In this sense, it has less restrictions than the GPL. For one definition of "restriction".

This kind of license is called copycenter. Kinda like, copying-center ;)

And finally, we have the public domain.

"I'm just lying around here, use me."

Things in the public domain are "Free" under ALL definitions of free. Its just there, not "owned" by anybody. Examples of things like this are mathematics. No one "owns" mathematics, no one can own mathematics, even if you invent something in it (like, say calculus) you can't "own" it, its all under the public domain.
In most countries, copyrighted/patented works become a part of the public domain after 20 years. However, the laws are complex and are different in all countries. See here for details.

This stuff is copy-everything =)

So, what do you think is Free?