The Adventures of Joshua Judson Rosen
(action man)

[ sections: VisualIDs | art | movies | everything ]

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Wed, 15 Dec 2010

11:52: Linux has won--without needing anyone to notice.

Someone in my local LUG remarked:

So, while I've been slaving away in the world of corporate IT, it appears Linux has quietly won the OS war. I just didn't notice. Linux may already be out-shipping Microsoft Windows.

... noting that it's actually quite difficult, if not impossible, to buy a TV that's not running Linux internally anymore.

Another member further remarked on the general prevalence of Linux in the embedded market--wondering, quasi-ironically, if maybe even his microwave oven might be Linux-based without him knowing. It's actually not beyond the realm of believability--Electrolux does actually have a fridge that's Linux-based.

Several years ago, I was at the movie-theatre down in Lowell, MA, with a friend who had a thing for photo-booths, when I discovered that the photo-booth there was running Red Hat Linux.

`Embedded Linux' was already pretty pervasive, even at that point-- having worked its way into a lot of types of devices that people don't even expect to be `digital' inside, let alone be `computers': photo-booths, A/V amplifiers and other stereo equipment, batteries, telephones (well before Android), the telephone network....

Now it's also refrigerators, televisions, toys for small children, e-Books, motorcycles, guitars, personal audio-players, video games....

As Mark Weiser wrote in `The computer for the 21st Century':

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

They're the things that happen without anyone noticing that they happened--changes that become visible only in retrospective.

And it's by design, actually.

Part of what's going on here is that more and more `mundane' objects are advancing technologically and becoming `smart'; and, when they do, they use Linux--because Linux is the thing that's making that advance possible in the first place. Develop your own thing from scratch? Pay to license something more obscure, and get a smaller talent-pool? Linux is a commodity. You're not supposed to notice when it gets used, just like you're not supposed to notice when 5-volt circuits (with connectors made by... what manufacturer?) get used.

At least, that's my perspective from the inside--that's why my groups have been shipping Linux for the past decade.

The amazing thing is that Linux-uptake just seems to keep accelerating....


Wed, 19 May 2010

01:33: Completely-unmaintained packages that YOU USE...

On Ubuntu, you can get a list of packages that are installed on your system but completely unmaintained by running this command:

dpkg --get-selections | grep '\Winstall' | cut -f1 | xargs apt-cache show | egrep '^Filename: pool/(universe|multiverse)/.*' | sed -re 's:.*/([^_]+)_(.*)_.*:\1:' | less -N

Packages in this list have not had time allocated to them for integration or QA prior to release, and they do not receive regular security-updates or bug-fixes following initial release.

As one moves further off-centre from Ubuntu's primary target-audience, the number of items in that list increases, and which items they are becomes more unsettling.

For example: I prefer to use the official GNOME web-browser, Epiphany--for reasons nicely summarised on Daniel Bo's weblog. Ubuntu shipped no updates for Epiphany during the lifetime of Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala), despite there having been several provided by Ubuntu's upstream community--with the first update making its way into Debian just 2 weeks after the initial (random?) snapshot was made for Karmic. That's no updates for the GNOME web-browser available through Ubuntu until the next release, 6 months later. If you stick with Ubuntu's Long Term Service (LTS) releases, then you can expect to go 2 years with no updates for this or any other package in the `universe' or `multiverse' sections of Ubuntu.

Having my web-browser, or anything else that faces the network, go without security-updates should be unsettling enough; but there are other items in my list that are even more unsettling: packages like gnutls-bin, which is supposed to be a security tool. And there are enough other `minorly-unsettling' items in my list that the sheer number of them all together is itself unsettling.

A friend was surprised to find that the "OTR" plugin for Pidgin, which he used to keep his IM conversations secure, is in universe-- which, again, means that he cannot expect security updates for it. So much for his secure conversations.

How many items are in your list, and what are they?


Sun, 14 Feb 2010

20:51: Love Bug(fix): libvisualid 0.2.1

It's Valentine's Day and libvisualid 0.2.1 is out, to fix some bugs that managed to escape with version 0.2.0; changes include:

  • Automatic complexity-limiting is actually enabled.
  • A divide-by-zero bug affecting the rendering of line-glyphs with exactly one `rib' sub-glyph has been fixed.
  • Under-reporting of the complexity added to Line-glyphs by multiple `ribs' has been fixed.
  • Two issues in the best-common-substring logic used to associate file-names with pre-existing VisualID-glyphs for other, related files have been resolved: memory-leaks have been fixed, and strings that were treated as circular are now treated correctly.
  • The VisualID Explorer now renders glyphs with a fixed 1:1 aspect-ratio, scaled without distortion to fit the available drawing-area.


Tue, 02 Feb 2010

09:09: Baby's Drawings

The latest libvisualid code produced this, during testing:

[musca politica]

When I asked Jay what he saw in it, he said, "three houseflies forming a political party".

I printed it out and brought it to Pam, who responded, "what's with the flies?". I told her that it was a VisualID. She trimmed it and hung it on the refrigerator.


Sat, 12 Dec 2009

22:39: Jenny on WikiReader

A while back, I lent my WikiReader to my sister in law. She seemed to like it, so my wife and I got her one of her own as a christmas-present.

Her response was enthusiastic:

Oh! I've been so lonely without it--whenever I have a question, I think `oh, I'll just... oh..., I don't have it anymore!'

Her husband followed-up with:

It's just amazing the amount of stuff in there.


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