Asking for directions

Karl, I’d suggest your friends definition of a police state but perhaps a best a correlation.

As a definition it seems rather arbitrary, why not a state aid lawyer and a junior doctor, or a prison warden and a teacher? Also you have to remember the boolean logic is a strict mistress – are you really suggesting that if P is the salary of a police recruit, and N the salary of junior nurse that if N = P + 1p then we’re suddenly is a police state?

The implied meaning is that if the state values entry level police officers over nurse then that an indication of a police state. Seems like their might be correlation but you’d have to find some other definition of a police state and apply it to various countries around the world to confirm the correlation (also if there was historical data for before / during / after police state that would provide further evidence).

However the sticker price doesn’t capture the total value of the job.

First up, the figures you quote aren’t normalised – it’s not clear from the links provided but it seems that the police have a 40 hour week, but nurses a 37.5 hour week, which means nurses have a slightly better hourly wage (yay, no police state!). Also you’d have to factor in holiday entitlements, overtime rates, pensions, shift patterns and flexitime, etc. All the tangible facts you could create a formula to assign an monetary value to get P, the total value of a police office, and N the total value of a nurse, to have a fair comparison.

Anyway I do have my own little anecdote that doesn’t itself provide a definition of a police state, but does give an example of the difference of living a police state for those that have never had the pleasure.

My parents fled South Africa in the late 70s. This was the height of the Apartheid regime and while neither of my parents were in any immediate danger, a number of events forced them to realise what kind of (police) state they were living in (for example, an acquaintance of my Dad’s disappeared for a month into internment and came out mentally and physically wrecked).

After we’d settled in, living in Oxford at the time, we went on our first day trip, to Salisbury as I recall, but could be anywhere. While trying to find a museum from a guide book, we got lost. My Dad popped into a news agent to ask for directions, but the the person didn’t know where the museum was, however they noticed, and pointed across the road, suggesting to my Dad “Why don’t you ask that Policeman”. Dad returned from the shop looking somewhat bemused, and after some consultation with my Mum, plucked up the courage to ask the Policeman who cheerily pointed us in the right direction.

My Dad later recounted how in South Africa people never voluntarily made contact with the Police, even people from the privileged white middle class. The Police were there to enforce the regime, were generally antagonistic, and randomly aggressive, and ultimately had extreme powers, all the way up to interning people more or less on a whim.

Now I don’t have any grand conclusions to make from this – it’s just the first thing I think about whenever someone mentions police state. Sadly many people have much worse stories to tell about the apartheid era police, and some people in this country wouldn’t exactly feel comfortable approaching the Police for directions, and, as Ade so graphically pointed out, we arguably have internment here in the UK.

Tumbling and twittering

From an SvN Sunspot I was pointed to Ricky’s rant about Tumblr

“Words have relative values. Someone who talks a lot has less value to their words than someone who rarely speaks. But when that quiet person speaks, people listen. When you publish 20 posts a day, your individual posts lose value.”

So I guess by that metric Tolstoy has no ‘value’ give that he wrote what has become the definition of a weighty tome (the first version of War and Peace I found on Amazon has 1296 pages). Quality and quantity are not necessarily inversely related – the words of someone who rarely speaks but says something stupid are not more valuable than the words of someone who tells an engaging story all night. And vice versa.

Also linked on SvN was this follow up from Fred Graver which has pop at Twitter

“It’s why I hate Twitter. There’s more of a chance that my dog will type Ulysses than that I’ll get an intelligent Twitter message… Why? Because WRITING IS THINKING. Good writing reflects good thinking. It’s why we go through multiple drafts of anything… to get to what we REALLY want to say.”

Which strikes me as equally silly. No-one needs the pressure of trying to write Ulysses for every type of communication – sometimes the word just needs to get out quickly and easily without much thought. Besides haven’t we all hit the witty one-liner almost without thinking, in amongst all our unthinking undrafted realtime chatter – and this seems to me what twitter is best for; simple, realtime, chatter (intelligence optional).

Please, Ricky and Fred, don’t take it all so seriously.

More Android questions

As ever a bang upto date follow up on Andriod (i.e. about a week late). See the previous post for disclosure and background (if you’ve been living under a rock).

First up; one of my concerns is that, given the non-reciprocal nature of the licence, it would require extreme discipline from all parties to not fragment the platform. Well fear not, ZDNet reports that everyone in the OHA has signed a non-fragmentation agreement

“All of the partners have signed a non-fragmentation agreement saying they won’t modify [the code] in non-compatible ways,” said the spokesperson. “That is not to say that a company that is not part of the OHA could not do so.”

Without seeing the agreement and not being a lawyer I have no idea how enforceable such an agreement would be. As ever the devil would be in the details – defining fragmentation, or ‘modifying code in non-compatible ways’.

Also on ZDNet is an interesting interview with Andy Rubin, director of mobile platforms at Google,

“The platform is completely open in a variety of ways. Of course it has open APIs, but it’s also open source, and it being open source means it’s (open to inspection).

So expect to have the entire industry crawling all over the source base, trying to make sure that there aren’t security issues, and there aren’t inefficiencies in how the platform is designed.”

But when exactly will we get to do that? Before or after the first phones ship?

The alliance is completely open. It’s not a closed thing; it’s not a club. We welcome anybody. Members who wish to join the alliance actually have to contribute something, so I encourage people to join and contribute.

So it’s a little unclear but it seems you have to contribute first and then get to be a member. Who decides? Google? Some percentage of the existing OHA members?

As ever with these kind of interviews it’s always easy to pick out something to poke at but this was too tempting;

Apple has a great business in building really, really high-quality consumer products, and the platform that we’re building can go into a lot of different products.

Including really, really low-quality products presumably.

Do Androids dream of open handsets?

Like sogrady, I have a few questions (and no answers yet) about the whole Open Handset Alliance / Android announcement.

DisclaimerDisclosure: My employer develops software for mobile and embedded devices and one of our clients, OpenMoko, has developed the worlds first 100% open mobile communication platform. And as usual these are my opinions and not those of any employers past or present.

So my questions resolve around community and governance;

Q: Is Android going to aim for a community around the code or is it simply code thrown over the wall with an Apache2 licence stuck on the crate?

Opinion: There are too many open source savvy people at Google for me to think that they are just going to throw code over the wall, even if that is how it appears atm.

Q: If it is supposed to be a community, i.e. OHA/Android are going to actively solicit outside involvement and contribution, how is that going to work? Who gets copyright? What’s the process for eventually getting SVN access.

Opinion: As I’m sure Luis would point out there are many open source projects that don’t have this clearly sorted, so in that sense Android isn’t on it’s own. However given the involvement of so many corporations you’d think this would have to be sorted, for their own sakes, up front.

Q: Since the FAQ makes great pains to point out that the Apache2 licence avoid all that ‘viral’ GPL nastiness and allow proprietary extensions of the platform, what’s to stop a handset manufacturer or carrier add a tonne of proprietary stuff to the phone which you can’t get rid of? As a 3rd party developer how is this better / more liberating than developing on top of Windows Mobile or Symbian?

Opinion: It seems to me that the whole drive here is to attract developers with the promise of an open platform. A platform where ’..application could call upon any of the phone’s core functionality such as making calls, sending text messages, or using the camera,…’ or ’… does not differentiate between the phone’s core applications and third-party applications. They can all be built to have equal access to a phone’s capabilities…’. I have nothing against the Apache licence per se, but given this is an alliance of a large number of companies, many of whom could be considered competitors, working in a very competitive market, it’s going to take an inordinate amount of discipline to not use the proprietary extension property of the Apache licence for ‘competitve advantage’, with 3rd party developers getting caught in the crossfire. I hope I’m wrong.

[So this sat in Draft mode all week, and I finally found a minute to tidy up here and there and push it out, just as the SDK is about to be released]

Cartoons are the new reality

Kottke has an interesting mini-review of the new Pixar movie Ratatouille in which he observes;

I’m not quite sure how this is possible, but the people in Ratatouille acted more like real people than the actors in many recent live action movies (especially the rats), like they had realistic histories and motivations that governed their actions instead of feeling scripted and fake. The world of the movie felt as though it had existed before the opening credits and would continue after the curtain fell………..This is an interesting state of affairs. In comparison, the live action movies have become the cartoons. Not all of them, but certainly many Hollywood movies have. Spidey 3, Transformers (I’m guessing), Die Hard 4 (guessing again), anything Eddie Murphy has made since the mid-80s, Wild Hogs, Blades of Glory, RV, etc. etc.

An interesting state of affairs indeed and one that I find reflecting myself in TV viewing. The stuff that I’ll happily watch over & over again like The Simpsons (or the lello people as Ileana calls them), South Park, Futurama, even Family Guy all have their own universe and characters with a consistent personality with realistic behaviour (even if the situations are often completely insane).

Compare that to the overly dramatic, pantomime-ish, issue of the week pap that is Eastenders, Corrie, Hollyoaks, or any of the other crap on TV, where characters ostensibly live in the real world, but exhibit inconsistent forced behaviour, and inhabit places and situations that just seem alien to me; c.f. demented doctor and husband hold expectant mother of husbands love child hostage in worlds most pre-emtive kidnap (Eastenders); girlfriend is almost escort / prostitute to boyfriends psycho brother, goes into business with his wife, spills beans, marriage breakdown, he gets upset, traps her in car boot then has crash while answering phone to brother searching for girlfriend, brother happens to arrive at crash site and helps discover trapped girlfriend by ringing her mobile (Corrie); young girl falls pregnant to school thug, hides pregnancy from all, has surprise baby, parents try and pretend it’s theirs, girl falls for school nice guy, previously nice reasonable dad turns psycho, corners boyfriend and aggressively threatens, boy reaches out finds brick nearly kills dad, who when recovered black mails boy into breaking up with girl, the pair then decide to run away together only to be thwarted when money is stolen by most unconvincing drug addict in history (Hollyoaks). I have no idea how I know these story lines but they make the Mecha Babara Striesand I’m watching on South Park seem utterly sensible.

Open interop is easier

There has been something nagging me in all the deals Microsoft has been doing deals with Novell, Xandros, Linspire, and friends – something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t until Mark’s post and Matt’s comment on it kicked some synapse into gear. The bit that bothers me is the so called interoperability work that is included in the agreements.

The thing is if they want interoperability there is no need to go around signing agreements and handing over cash – just assign some engineers to and Samba and/or make sure the specifications for OpenXML and CIFS are complete, and without licence or implementation restrictions, and make the necessary patent grants. In fact so long as the specs, licences, and patent grants are done right you probably don’t even need to worry about assigning engineers – other folks will be motivated enough to do the interop work for you.

Organisationally it’s dead easy to get into interoperability with open-source projects – sure there will be technical hurdles but if you do things in the open that’s all you have to worry about – no worrying with contracts, payments, legal maneuvering, PR, etc.

Proprietary companies make a big fuss about these sort of agreements because when you develop stuff on your own behind closed doors it’s a big deal to sort through all the organisational, legal, and financial angst around opening up and sharing with some other proprietary company.


FUD is good for you

Linspire (nee Lindows) the company that changed it’s name after and out of court settlement with Microsoft is now best friends with the folks from Redmond

I’m definately coming round to Don Marti’s line of thinking in FUD is good for you.

FUD is great, isn’t it? Drive away the FUD-susceptible customers, and all of a sudden Support is doing a better job, the product is getting better because “better” customers are using and talking about it, and I’m just getting started.

In the same vein it seems Microsoft is doing us all a favour and picking off all the weak also rans of the distribution market and herding FUD fearing sheep like customers their way. Wonder what will happen with the ClickNRun on Ubuntu deal now – to this point there hasn’t been anything that’s taken the shine off the big U, but too much cuddling up with Linspire could start to tarnish? (not sure how you tarnish something that is already brown and orange, but still…)

More GUADEC waffle

Some more random updates from your favourite Gnome related conference;

  • In case you missed it; Registration is open – book your place now! We have to start ordering schwag soon so if you’re not registered we can’t guarantee we’ll have enough to go round. Don’t delay, register today!
  • We still looking for volunteers to help with the recording / transcoding / archiving of each session. Aidan Delany if braveley stepping up to the mantle of organising this group of volunteers
  • We also need lots of volunteers to help keep GUADEC ticking – there’s plenty of great people on the list – why not sign up now?
  • It appears that we will be having another Football Tournament with the most skilled footballing hackers in the world doing battle on Aston’s finest astroturf.
  • Following some clarification from the Etap hotel (which seems to be everyones favourite including ours) you probably only want to share 3 to a room if you are really good friends since most rooms are a double bed and a single bed. Double check when you book.
  • As others have blogged we had a good meeting at the venue on the 2nd June. Aidan did a good job obsessively taking photo’s through the day and I finally got round to uploading the all to Flickr. At some point I will get round to annotating them a little better.
  • I knew I’d regret lending the camera to Jono and Aq – not because they’d do any damage, but because they’d end up doing something so cool: Check out the LRL adverts, The Freedom March and Don’t Listen Alone. Script, Direction, Production 8/10. Acting 6/10. Mark my words – these guys will be running the country before long (which will be both amusing and scary).
  • I should also point out that the State of the Map conference happens just up the road in Manchester on the 14th and 15th July. If you’re getting to Birmingham or the UK early for GUADEC then why not jump on a train or bus and find out the cool happenings in Open Streetmapping. I know a bunch of those guys will be piling down to GUADEC and there’s even talk of having a mapping party.

I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting but whatever it is I’ll just leave it for another time.

I’ll remember you til the day I die

Coming to the end of a pretty rough week. Sadly my brother Theo passed away on Saturday night peacefully and without pain. Theo had been recovering successfully from colon cancer operation last year – last week he felt a little weak and tired and was persuaded to visit a doctor. By the time myself and our dad had got up to Middlesbrough on Friday the doctor had to give us the bad news that the cancer was aggressively spreading through his body and the prognosis was that he had only days to live.

Obviously this was a shock to all of us but Theo was amazingly brave and calm about the situation and handled it all in his usual ‘no fuss’ way – I can but hope that when my time comes I muster half the courage and grace of my brother. Thankfully over friday and saturday all the family and most of his close friends were able to visit and spend some time with him. I’m sorry that due to the suddenness of the situation we were not able to get hold of everyone and give them some time to visit.

In keeping with Theo’s wishes we’ll be having a ‘no fuss’ internment at the Linthorpe Woodland Cemetery on Friday 15th June at 2.30pm. Any of Theo’s friends are welcome and I think Theo would have preferred you to wear bright colours (for example team shirts) rather than black suits. We’d kindly ask for people not to send flowers and instead, if they wish, to contribute to the Macmillan Nurses who were a tremendous help to us and Theo. Please send cheques made payable to ‘Palliative Care Trust Fund’ to

Noeleen Hunter
Macmillan Nurse
The James Cook University Hospital
Marton Road

Aside for folks on Planet Gnome – I’m sorry if I’ve dropped some GUADEC stuff over the last week. This was, in the first instance, down to my stupidity in forgetting my power supply in the rush up to MIddlesbrough, and not being able to pass stuff cleanly to Bastien and Thos. My thanks to those guys and others for picking up the slack and keeping things running. Please continue to pester us if there is stuff we’ve mislaid.