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

want security? use a different product

[via Karlin]: Sneaky Toolbar Hijacks Browsers. That's trustworthy computing for you. Instead of having to worry about getting anti-spyware tools, and wondering when the next of these things is going to strike, I would recommend a simpler solution: use Mozilla. It rocks.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 8:06 PM

more on the power of the mind thingy

Lance commented to my previous entry on PEAR. He said:

[...] I'd like to know if The Sceptic (I forget the correct name of the magazine devoted to debunking the paranormal) ever looked at this. They are a fairly respected bunch (well, by other skeptics ;-) ), whose number included Isaac Asimov.
I'm not aware of The Skeptic assessing these claims. But there are several things that make me doubt that this is a massive gag of some sort. First, PEAR is a group that has been based at Princeton for almost 30 years now. I'd like to think that after such a long time Princeton would have taken measures to kick them out if they had been engaging in some massive lie. Second, they have never sought publicity. Fakers love publicity (remember cold fusion at the end of the 80's?). Third, and more important, not only anyone can go to their lab and request a demonstration (true, if the apparattus is rigged, that wouldn't prove much) but also they have many publications, not in Tabloids, but for example in the Proceedings of the IEEE. Now, I agree that this doesn't prove anything. But it certainly makes it harder to maintain a lie if it existed.

The problem in part in accepting PEAR's findings is that we have for decades relegated "paranormal" phenomena to the level of science fiction at best and tabloid-garbage at worst. About 200 years ago this was not the case, great scientists and philosophers were interested in weird, unprovable stuff as much as they were interested in more 'concrete' things (as much as, say, a differential equation is 'concrete'). In fact, Newton is a good example.

PEAR has made experiments that sound even more ridiculous than the ones I described in my previous entry. For example, they have made hundreds of experiments of ... err ... "mind travel"... were a person is asked to describe or draw the place where another person is. In many cases subjects described with detail places they had never been to. I can see you rolling your eyes... well, I find it hard to believe too.

Now, since we are on X-Files and Twilight Zone mode, here's another Princeton project that is truly strange: The Global Consciousness Project. This project grew out of the PEAR research (see the About section in their website, regarding Random Event Generators, or REGs). This project has "nodes" deployed all over the globe measuring "global-consciousness effects". I don't want to continue giving cursory descriptions, the website has good info on what they do.

In particular, note this article they wrote regarding the September 11 attacks. It's very strange.

Obviously, nobody in their right mind would accept these things at face value. But I think it's fairly common for people to have experienced strange things that can't really be explained by science as we know it today. At a minimum, these studies might take us to a level of understanding that we don't have today.

The fact that we can't say that this is absolutely positively impossible within what we know tells us (IMO at least) that there is too much yet that we don't know about the mind, and reality itself. A sort of proof by the negative. Even what we know is confusing for our 'standard' view of reality; for example it's impossible not to feel amazed every time when reading texts or papers on quantum mechanics (or general relativity for that matter, although relativity seems to match our worldview a little better better). And we always resist to new views: I think that if a hundred years ago someone had explained Schrodinger's Cat paradox to a meeting of "learned men of the age" they would have been kicked out of the room. :-)

Anyway, as Eminem says in Lose Yourself: "Snap back to reality, Oh there goes gravity". :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 7:00 PM

the company-employee relationship

I've been wanting to post on this for a couple of days now but my thoughts on it hadn't jelled.

I saw an entry on codeintensity pointing to another entry by Chris Winters on a a short article by Tom Yager (phew! So many links). Yager's article has to do with how a the new "workplace realities" of the day (e.g., 24/7 availability, working from home, etc) not only affect how companies view employees, but also how employees view companies (both entries referencing it contain good comments as well).

The key here is that companies usually don't take into account that employees see their increased sacrifice as something extraordinary; many take the dreary view of "if you don't like it you can always leave". Others are more subtle, giving employees bullshit performance reviews to cajole the employee into doing what they want.

At the core of all this is the apparent ignorance (widely dispersed throughout the business world) of the fact that employees are people as well. People with lives, dreams, hopes, fears. When the companies inherit their view of what an employee is from the 'Ford paradigm" of assembly-line management (ie, employees as tools) this kind of mismatches happen constantly. In these companies, the "concept" that an employee has aspirations or even (god forbid) a life outside work, is used against them in situations appropriate to management. When an employee complains, there is a problem with them, when the company is dissatisfied, the problem lies with the employee as well.

A Dilbert cartoon comes to mind, one of the colorful Sunday cartoons, entitled "Seven habits of highly defective people. One of them (under the headline 'Treat all complaints as the complainer's fault' I think) has Dilbert talking to the pointy-haired boss:

Dilbert: You don't motivate me.
Boss: Maybe you should see a therapist.

Funny, yes. But because it is true.

This world view is eroding, mainly under the push of management of technology companies, which are usually people that have built the companies themselves and so still remember how to value good work. But these mismatches still happen.

On a related note, the book Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams, by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister, is a classic on this subject. If you haven't read it, go read it. If you have read it, then read it again :-)

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 6:25 PM

version control

Was looking at alternatives to CVS in terms of version control (not that I have anything against CVS, but I thought it would be interesting to see if anything truly new had recently come up in the area.) I kept reading good things about subversion, which looks interesting. The other product I checked out was BitKeeper, which I remembered reading a while back was now managing the Linux kernel sources. Both products are interesting in the new capabilities they offer, specially BitKeeper.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 1:22 PM

HTML Parsing/View/Editing in the JDK

Anthony has posted an entry with a plea to sun requesting appropriate surpport in the JDK for HTML:

There is [...] one thing missing from the Java APIs, one thing that in my opinion is holding back Java from becoming a truly powerful client-side platform: there is no free, HTML 4.x/XHTML, CSS, JavaScript compliant web component in the Java toolkit.

So what can Sun do to remedy this situation? I suggest that Sun should either a.) license a browser component from a commercial vendor with a license that would allow them to distribute it with the Java Runtime, b.) purchase a commercial vendor which develops a pure Java web browser (IceSoft would be a prime candidate) or c.) work much closer with the Mozilla/Java developers to write a wrapper for accessing Mozilla through Java APIs.

Sun, you must do something at this point. Microsoft is looming and I am sure that more than a few projects have been written in Microsoft-friendly languages because of the lack of a browser component in the Java APIs.

Amen to that.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 11:46 AM

defining 'the right to know'

The New York times has an article on how organizations make public the information regarding attacks on their networks. I guess the same could extend to 'real world' facilities. In principle, it seems that the idea of 'full disclosure' is the right one, but then if we think that crackers (let's lay off the honorable term 'hacker' for a moment, shall we?) thrive on publicity, it becomes more difficult to know if that is productive or counterproductive. What is worse? Never making public that they attacked you, thus inciting them to do it until you do make it public, or always making it public, setting off some sort of race to see who can show up next on the 'recent cracks' list? Hard to know.

And speaking of 'the right to know' in a different context: here is a Salon article on the threats posed by the Pentagon's TIA program.

Categories: technology
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 11:39 AM

on speakers and speeches

An interesting Salon article that compares Bush to other 'great speakers' of the 20th century, and Bush's state of the union on Tuesday to some great speeches of the past. Along the way, he gives a few interesting tidbits of what makes a good speech.

Categories: personal
Posted by diego on January 30, 2003 at 11:34 AM

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