Now blogging at diego's weblog. See you over there!

on economic "belief systems"

Consider Capitalism: With a totally free market, we would naturally gravitate towards monopolies... which then negate the ability of free markets to function... but then Capitalism's "endgame" and how it affects its progress is never much of a discussion-item, since Governments usually step up and provide regulation and sometimes financial relief for Capitalism's excesses, therefore hiding its flaws in part.

Socialism (and communism!) didn't work quite right either... and let's not even talk about Fascism and the like...

So isn't it time for something truly new to appear? Economics is a completely man-made concept... and as such it should be very malleable, and yet Physics, which is supposed to reflect the laws of nature rather than the ideas of man, has changed much more in the last hundred years than economics has... too many vested interests, probably...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 9:50 PM

the telecoms crash

related to my previous post, an article in this week's Economist, The Great Telecoms Crash, gives a bird's eye view of what could be the biggest bubble in history, both in absolute and relative terms.

Maybe now, after all the hype, the initial public offerings, the parties, and the bankruptcies, people we'll be able to go back to the basics and start using all this overcapacity for some cool things...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 9:48 PM

java & security

The security scheme of Java 1.2 (which exists on all JDK versions above and including 1.2) is too fine-grained for many applications. It's hard to see how the use of the java.policy file makes things easier or more secure. It seems like the worst of both worlds: it's possible to override all security with the appropriate settings, but simple things (like the RMI requirements to be able to open sockets to listen for connections) require special settings in the policy file, or an additional policy file included with the program.

The process is always the same: I'm doing something that is not allowed by default in the policy file, so I have to look up the privileges that are needed, add those privileges into a policy file or the JDK policy, then try again. Sometimes the policy file might be in the wrong directory, so I have to specify its location to the java interpreter... then I get it working and I forget about it. It's little things like this that make Java programs harder to deploy than native programs (and let's not even mention how cumbersome it is to create a signed Java application accessible through Java Web Start). Now, I'm not saying that Java should revert to the windows technique of allowing any program to wipe out the machine without problems if they wanted to, but maybe a healthy middle ground would be nice.

At the very list, these tasks should be properly automated in the major IDEs...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 4:46 PM

future and past selves

Dylan posted a cool entry to his weblog yesterday regarding how our sense of 'self' is so anchored in the present that our past and future 'selves' amount almost to different people, the only difference between them and any other person being that, in the case of our 'past selves' our current self is dependent on their actions, and our 'future selves' are completely dependent on our actions.

Many times I've thought along those lines, particularly when I find something that I wrote many years ago and I find the ideas, or opinions, different, strange, ridiculous, or naive (which is the lesser evil I suppose). I remember why I used to think in this way or that, but I can't put easily myself again in a position where I could believe what I wrote. This feeling increases the more we learn: we find things we did, clumsily, years ago, and we are amazed at how bad they are, and yet at the time we felt it was the best thing ever done. In moments like that, I am confronted with a stranger: myself.

Last night I realized that this is simply showing us how little we know ourselves, even in the present. We do things, most of the time, in a sort of automatic pilot, carried along by our prejudices and preconceptions, only occasionally taking new paths. We don't usually stop to think why are doing things, so naturally, when we look back at them, we sometimes find the behavior of our "past selves" a bit puzzling. It's another of the paradoxes of life: Knowledge changes us. So each time we increase the knowledge of ourselves, we change what we are, and we no longer have knowledge of who we are, but of who we were.

Now if we could just learn to accept it...

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 4:43 PM

the last tycoon

An article on what has changed (and what hasn't) in hollywood. Specially good is the summary of the situation the different studios find themselves in these days, having been swallowed up by giant media conglomerates that were supposed to deliver the much-hyped "convergence" but failed, and how these huge empires are floundering for all the right reasons.

The article seems to suggest that since the idea of conglomerates have failed, it might be time for a diaspora. Let's see... The big six media conglomerates splinter, hundreds of their siblings free to create and compete... hmmm... not bloody likely.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 1:13 PM

errors and messages

It's late, and you still have to get those files copied. The modem can't seem to connect. Against all your instincts, you dig up a floppy disk from a drawer, and insert it in the drive. You open an explorer window, and drag the files into the icon of the floppy. Friendly, friendly icon.

The files begin copying, relatively slowly, and you can confirm this is happening because pieces of paper are breezing through the screen, from one folder into another. There they go... One, two, three-- what?

"Not enough space to complete operation."

Now here we are, finally, in the 21st century. We talk about cloning, stratospheric jets, maybe artificial intelligence... and yet the most widely distributed software in history can't yet check to see whether there is enough free disk space to complete a copy operation. A better example of Windows' stupidity is this: suppose you have a 20 Gb disk, with about 15 Gb of data. Naturally, Windows reports 5 Gb of free space out of 20. In explorer, if you selected all the directories in the drive, and pressed Ctrl+C, then Ctrl+V, Windows would begin the copying process.... and fail.

When confronted with these kinds of errors, the vast majority of users blame themselves. "What did I do?", or "I didn't realize there wasn't enough space" or "I am such an idiot." This is unique in software. For example, when the TV doesn't work, what you'll hear the most is "what is wrong with the TV?" You will not hear the person blame him/herself. This is good product design (let's sidestep for the moment the issue of whether what the product does is good...).

I wait for the day when, after a program locks up for no good reason, the user looks at the machine in disgust and says, "Now, what is wrong with this software?"

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 11:07 AM

inside the mind of a maccommunist

This article discusses the MacCommunist, a writer from New York with a unique spin on MacMania.

A reader (obviously not a Mac user :-)), tired of his Marxist views, wrote: "Macs appeal to socialists because Apple is the model of a planned economy,Totally anti-free market (no clones). No free choice of Mac supplier…. No free choice of hardware configuration. You get what the central planners (aka Steve) say you need and don't ask for nothing different…. Yep, Apple is for socialists."

This guy seems to ignore the fact that if you replace Mac with Windows and Apple with Microsoft, you get a much better analogy, since Windows really controls the market... but Bill Gates is, no doubt, one of the foremost examples of capitalism at "its best" and most fierce. So maybe analogies are not all that useful when contexts change so rapidly.

Or maybe we should start looking beyond worn-out hundred-year old ideas ...

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 10:28 AM

the purple rose of cairo

The best "movie on movies" I've seen. Incredibly good on many levels: the analysis of fiction and its place in "reality," the question of creation, how much of art is in the viewer, and ... the warm feeling only good art can create, all in one. A movie to see more than once.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on July 18, 2002 at 10:27 AM

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