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Tuesday, July 10, 2001
oblivion (via guardian au.)

President Chiluba [Zambia] was clear, in his summing up, about the way forward for the continent. He said: "Africa must make a choice, choice towards peace, stability, unity, tolerance and reconciliation or face relegation into unending conditions of insecurity, hate, discord and total oblivion."

on the far edge of the earth (via guardian ru. :)

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East — Every year in June it happens. Bright plastic tables with umbrellas sprout outside restaurants, a swarthy man with a mustache fires up a barbecue, and suddenly a cheerless street corner comes to life.

Monday, July 9, 2001
hey, orange juice in my fridge keeps on fermenting. i should have a nice concoction in a few days. um, i won't regale you with what i watched this weekend, suffice it to say that james franciscus is a proto-bruce campbell. oh, and the ending was awesome :)

squirrel fishing! (via metafilter)

Sunday, July 8, 2001
andrei sakharov exhibit (text only version)

The experience of building the most terrible of weapons transformed Sakharov’s life. The advent of nuclear energy meanwhile pressed all physicists to become more aware of the politics related to their physics. For Sakharov the weapons were a new physical fact that he was required to meditate upon. Having done this thoroughly, he faced an old dilemma: "If not me, then who?" This led him to transcend the boundaries of physics as a science. In his research work, following his intuition as a physicist, Sakharov had broken through the limits of accepted knowledge on several occasions –– in 1948 when he suggested a new principle for a thermonuclear device, in 1950 when he proposed the idea of the Tokamak thermonuclear reactor, and in 1967 when he suggested an explanation for the mysterious asymmetry of matter in the Universe. The same intuition guided him in writing his 1968 "Reflections," which broke through the limits of the accepted political conventions of the Cold War.

Saturday, July 7, 2001
a lecture

***
That afternoon I walk through the oldest quarter in Prague. The streets are narrow and the houses timbered. It is here that Bolzano was born in 1781. There is everywhere a mood of moral earnestness, as palpable as the lowering color of the sky. Reading a biography of Bolzano published in German, I am not surprised that he proposed to order his life by a principle of benevolence. By and by, I wander back to the university to meet with the director of the institute, Ivan Havel. He is a small, energetic, merry man, with gray worn in thick curls, gray eyes, and a trim compact body. He is dressed in a well-cut English suit and wears a shirt with French cuffs. He speaks English, which he has acquired at Berkeley, with a considerable Czech accent and lisps as he talks, spraying saliva in every direction; at lunch he is a menace.
          Presently Sir Arnold Bergen enters the room. He is an immensely distinguished British pharmacologist, in Prague to deliver a lecture to the Academy of Science. He is perhaps in his mid-sixties, lean, vulpine, his hair covering the top of his head in strands drawn up from one ear; he has a powerful nose, the thing like a flügelhorn.
          We go to lunch at a club said to be frequented by Czech reporters. The food is mystifying. I order dumplings and Bergen, carp, Steins of foaming pilsner all around.
          Later, I give my talk in a room with a strange glass blackboard. When I am introduced, Havel says that I am a writer as well as a scientist. This elicits a murmur of approval. There are twenty or so people in the audience. The room quickly grows stuffy, but everyone listens intently.
          I speak slowly and distinctly, in the way one does to an audience that treats English as a second language; I am supposed to talk about Tychonoff's theorem, but to my surprise I find myself explaining the elementary calculus to a roomful of mathematicians, re-creating in my own mind the steps that Bolzano took in order to define continuity. For some reason I feel it absolutely crucial to explain how the concept of a limit is applied to functions. No one seems to mind or even notice.
          "A function indicates a relationship in progress, arguments going to values. Given any real number, the function f(x) = x2 returns its square, tak?"
          The solemn serious men nod their heavy heads.
          "The image of a machine, something like a device making sausages, is irresistible," I say decisively.
          I walk over to the blackboard and with quick strokes of chalk draw a sausage-making machine, or what I imagine looks like one.
          "In go the arguments 1, 2, 3, out come the values, 1, 4, 9."
          There is a snicker from one of the men sitting on the rough wooden pew in front of the class. "Vulgar?" I say. "Tak, vulgar." I wipe the palms of my hands on my suit, a gesture that I realize I have never made before. And then I resume.
          "As the arguments of f get larger and larger, its values get larger and larger in turn."
          Sir Arnold Bergen and Ivan Havel seem fascinated, and I receive the impression that this is material that they have never heard before. Swoboda and Schweik are looking at me intently.
          "Now imagine," I say, "arguments coming closer and closer to the number 3, tak?"
          I walk back to the blackboard and show the men in my audience what I mean, writing, 2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, . . . , before the function.
          "What then happens to the function? How does it behave?" I ask, realizing with a sudden sense of wonder somewhat at odds with the hard-boiled pose I usually affect, that a function is among the things in the world that behaves—it has a life of its own and so in its own way participates in the drama of things that are animate.
          "I mean," I say, "what happens to the values of f as its arguments approach 3?"
          I look out toward my audience. Swoboda and Schweik are looking at me intently, their faces serene, without irony. It is plain to me that they do not know the answer yet.
          "They approach, those values, the number 9, so that the function is now seen as running up against a limit, a boundary beyond which it does not go."
          Swoboda leans back and sighs audibly, as if for the first time he has grasped a difficult principle. The room, with its wooden pews and narrow blackboard, is getting close.
          I say, "The concept of a limit, as it is applied to functions, is forged in the fire of these remarks."
          I step back to the blackboard and write:
          As x approaches 3, f(x) approaches 9.
          Or again:
          As x gets closer and closer to 3, f(x) gets closer and closer to 9.
          Or yet again:
          As x gets closer and closer to 3, f(x) approaches 9 as a limit.
          "You see," I say, "the function f(x) has a limit at L if, as x approaches some number C, f(x) gets closer and closer to L."
          Sir Arnold Bergen mouths the words closer and closer.
          "The analysis," I say professorially, "proceeds as it has proceeded in the case of sequences; f(x) is getting closer and closer to the limit L if the differences between f(x) and L are getting smaller and smaller, if they may be small without end—arbitrarily small."
          Sir Arnold allows the accumulated tension in his body to collapse. I am tremendously pleased that I have made my point, even though it is a point with which every mathematician in the modern world is familiar.
          And then I say something that astonishes me: "It is when functions are seen in this context that the poignancy of the process becomes for the first time palpable."
          Several of the men cross themselves.
          "In the example of f(x) = x2, the function achieves a moment of blessed release at the number 3 itself; there f(3) is 9, the process of getting closer and closer over and done with."
          "Yes," says Sir Arnold.
          Then I write the symbols f(x) = (x2 – 1)/(x – 1) on the blackboard and rap the board with my knuckles.
          "Here," I say, "is another story."
          Ivan Havel has let his attention wander, but Swoboda and Schweik are looking at me raptly.
          "As x approaches ever more closely the number 1," I say, "f(x), as a few examples will reveal, gets closer and closer to the number 2. It approaches 2 as a limit."1
          I say this dramatically, wiping my hands again on my suit in the same gesture that I find so strange.
          "But at 1 itself"—I pause dramatically and allow a heavy, meaningful silence to invade the room—"f(x) lapses into nothingness, tak?"
          Sir Arnold Bergen is frowning again in concentration.
          "The function f(x) lapses into nothingness because"—I say this word very deliberately—"(1 – 1)/(1 – 1) is simply 0/0. At its limit, this function is undefined. The behavior of the function at an inaccessible point is expressed or explained by its behavior in a neighborhood of that point."
          There is another puzzled look from Sir Arnold. I see suddenly what I really wish to say: "The function gets closer and closer to its limit, but, you see, it never reaches that limit."
          Tak, says someone in my audience, like man to God.
          I say goodbye to Swoboda and Schweik at the metro station. I watch for a moment as they trudge down the street. Their tread is heavy and tired; I notice that they barely lift their feet from the ground.

---
1 Given a real number x, this f acts first to square it. Then 1 is taken from the square, the result left to perch on top of this fraction. Down below, f withdraws 1 from x, the work of the function finished when the perchee (on the top) is set off against percher (on the bottom). If x = 3, x2 – 1 is 8 and x – 1 is 2. And f(3) is 8/2 or 4. At x = 1, both x2 – 1 and x – 1 are 0. The fraction 0/0 that results has no mathematical meaning and exists entirely as a symbol of nothingness. At x = 1, f is undefined. The number 1 marks the spot where a black hole exists, a great emptiness. Everywhere around the number 1, like peasants tilling fields on the slopes of a volcano, the life of the function continues. As x approaches 1, f(x) approaches 2. And yet at 1 itself, nothingness predominates.

***
chapter 15 from a tour of the calculus, pp. 132-135
by david berlinski

Friday, July 6, 2001

(via linkmachinego)

Thursday, July 5, 2001
sci-fi stories

disturbing news (via drudge)

radiohead maedia

X is for Xenakis, Iannis

C.G. Who’s he?

K.E. Xenakis was a Greek architect, mathematician and composer who died last year. In the 1950s, he applied computer processes to composition, to model aggregate events like birds flocking, or crowd behaviour, into his music.

C.G. Cool, cool. A comparison would be when we were playing a show in Barcelona last spring before Kid A came out and people recorded those things and put them on the internet. So three weeks later we went to Israel and 800,000 people were singing along to the new songs because they’d all downloaded it en masse and learnt the new songs and participated. For me that’s what’s fascinating about the internet, that aggregate thing. With our website we didn’t want people to come to our site and find out about Radiohead. We wanted them to come to our site and find out about what Radiohead are finding out about. So there are lots of links.

Our site should be like Paddington Station with a much better version of WH Smith’s in it. And from that site you’ve got these groups of other sites who have all this information about us and pursue it with such alacrity and commitment precisely because we’re not in the middle of it all. They’re the actual centres of it all.

My page is junk, because I hate putting anything to do with me on the site, it just feels wrong. But that’s what I’m proudest about – how everything that Radiohead does is displaced into other sort of nodes of energy from other people.

Y is for Youth, Sonics for the Youth

K.E. This is Anti Pop Consortium’s term. It’s the title of an EP by Priest of Anti Pop Consortium.

C.G. That’s great isn’t it. We’ve got the biggest number of hits of any band website, 900,000 a day. I like to think they come on to go ‘somewhere else’, as well as to go somewhere else.

Z is for Zoology

C.G. Any pets? No, my brother’s just got a pet, a little dog called Brixton Bruxelles, a dog that looks like him. No pets. It’s a full on job just looking for human social responsibility.

neat stuff

Wednesday, July 4, 2001
responses to russia is finished (via "Atlantic Monthly" sux0rs :)

(#58 of 137)

I didn't think it was possible, but the discussion actually eclipses the stupidity of the article itself! Though most of the points Mr Taylor makes (except the moronic historical background) are correct, the article is faulted by its thesis. The conclusion that Russia is doomed is a cry for attention at best. But the attacks on US culture in the discussion are laughable, especially Russians trying to stand up for their culture by bringing up hamburgers. Don't prove Mr. Taylor correct, you idiots (asdr in particular)! I have heard that argument enough over vodka at kitchen tables to make me gag - again when I pass the McDonalds on my way to work on Nevsky and see the lines of hundreds of Russians eagerly waiting for their turn at some grease. As a US citizen who has lived in Russia for almost ten years, owns a successful(?) business and also married a Russian woman - I have to say that, unfortunately, I agree with much of the information in Mr. Taylor's article though not necessarily the conclusions. It is also funny that most of the information seems to be hearsay gathered by speaking with people who really live and know Russia. Russia is a victim of itself in that it has created a population too scared and repressed to rise up against the elite that continue their despotic rule. The elite are the same people that have always ruled the country, though they change hats from time to time. The medieval peasant mentality will exist in Russia for a long time to come and nothing much will change. The people of Russia are worthy of great respect with some great shortcomings: The complete lack of a will to challenge authority and a somehow related lack of respect for each other (and themselves) - in short: the peasant mentality. But one should not forget that the great (scientific, etc.) achievements of Russia, that one of the participants in the discussion brings up, are not achievements of the state or its institutions but of its individuals. People that continue to show genius even as slaves. The problem is that they gladly accept slavery and theft. "It is part of our culture" - my Russian friends are prone to say after they are shamelessly used or wronged by another. Then they will easily turn around and wrong someone else exactly in the same way. This acceptance of "the way that it is" is both the reason that Russia has survived for so long and, perhaps, the reason that it has remained backwards (to our thinking). Until that changes, Russia will remain the way it is, no worse and no better. Nothing will change until a generation with new ideals comes along and declares that enough is enough. But in order for this to happen the culture of Russia itself will have to change. Is this a good thing? Putin will continue the trend backing the "elite" from the security establishment in control of all media, business and other institutions further crushing any ideas of the few peasants that tried of gaining any power or money beyond what they can chip off the exposed corners or running away with the crumbs that spill from the feeding orgies above. The reality is that Putin is playing a delicate balancing game of trodding on the people while propping up their pride in being Russian - not just Russian but the classical Russian peasant. If you read his speeches he glorifies the idea of the benevolent Tsar, the fact that people shouldn't be required to know the details of Government, that he will take care of them. And I would argue that the people of Russia accept this and welcome it. The trend was, years ago, among Russians to constantly critcize their own culture. This has been reversed in the last few years, leading to the classical "hamburger argument" that comes up so often when an American is discussing democratic principles, the stock market, or even the weather. Now many Russians see no wrong in themselves or their culture anymore - a dangerous lie if anything, as everyone should be able to criticise their culture. Perhaps they tired in the years of self-inspection/criticism caused by the world's attention and analysis. The message is "we'll do it our way, critics are welcome to leave!" The people have swallowed the hook. The elite have a few more decades of rule insured and unhindered theft. But it is in no way an end of Russia. It is in fact a glorious extension of Russia the way that it has always been. The real end of Russia, as we know it, would be the change to a fair, democratic country where the Government answers to an enlightened people respecting each other's rights. That would be the end.

(#66 of 137)

I'm responding to the forum of about three days back:

I was excited to learn of the Atlantic Monthly article "Russia Is Finished." by Jeffrey Taylor.

NPR also siezed on the title, and promoted a talk program about it. Both pointed out that Russia is fast coming to resemble a third world country.

But neither NPR nor Mr. Taylor came close to the reality that the Soviet Union was very backward all along and just a pretend superpower long before Gorbachev oversaw its demise.

This lack of insight made it, as Flynn Cratty in the Atlantic Monthly's forum put it: "not a very interesting article."

What's interesting is that our media still publish such stories about the Soviet Union, still bent on fabricating the conventional view around which we built the cold war.

Igor Nalivayko writes, also in the current Atlantic's internet forum that visitors find Russia is not what they expect. Not now, nor in the past.

He's right. I was dumbfounded on my first visit in 1987, to see a "superpower" that looked more like a third world country! More astounding was how well kept this amazing secret was!

I returned to Russia again and again over a four-year period, fascinated by the disconnect. Most fascinating were Gorbachev and his task of steering the decaying behemoth, trying to maintain dignity and world respect as the grand illusion of superpower status crumbled. Seeking insight into our enigmatic "enemy," I spent months in the former USSR, several times. Here's something I wrote while working at TASS news agency at the end of my second visit, in 1989:

" My feeling is that Russia's threat to our (US) "security" has changed, from (previous) competition for allegience of small countries, to (NOW, 1989) a threat to withdraw as our enemy and undermine the paradigm that has allowed "Pentagon Capitalism" to thrive in the US.

" . . . . I'm convinced that their (USSR's) challenge to the US has been largely bluff for a long time. A young university student here in Moscow told me that she and her friends had been afraid to say anything against their system in even the smallest matter for fear that the enemies would detect weakness. (this fear was universally taught) The weakness was obvious to all in the USSR, (and surely to our foreign service & CIA) making the pretense of strength all the more necessary, in the Russian mind.

" To uphold the paradigm in the US, the intelligence community went along with the pretense. To blow the whistle on it would not serve their needs. (as Kissinger told JKGalbraith in the '70s, the defense establishments of both superpowers were conspiring) to keep the myth alive -- both sides upholding the same lie for different reasons.

This whole scenario is now passe', thanks to Gorbachev. (but) To prolong the feeling of threat, (so necessary to Pentagon Capitalism) terrorism and drug lords are now being trucked out, --feeble substitutes for Red Dawn, but apparently good enough. SDI is a good ploy to make the enemy less specific, or to allow continuation of pentagon capitalism without an enemy. Any enemy might turn uncooperative as has the recent USSR. . . . " (withdrawing from the cold war and taking away the justification for a lot of serious arms business in America) . . . . "

That serious arms business goes on, hardly missing a beat regardless of which party is in power, or what the evidence shows (or what the majority may think of it if they knew the whole truth). It's depressing to read this 12 years later. --Not because of the naivete' that can be detected, but because it was so easy for me to see the situation even then, and yet every attempt I made to publish or even discuss my findings was met with scorn. I went on the air on a public radio station to say the USSR was not a superpower, and later I was listening to a tape broadcast of my interview and I was shocked to hear a female voice break in and say emphatically: "The Soviet Union IS a superpower!" I just let it go, but looking back it strikes me as an example of how resistant was, and is, the everyday society to seeing the real picture, and how successfully our dominant overlords were in creating "reality." (now I realize I gave up too easily. I should have kept insisting, knowing the truth will eventually out.)

And it's depressing to find very little being published even today, that's not tainted by the same old questionable paradigm. --the evil communist sinister empire, against which we must arm to the teeth to protect ourselves and our allies.

It's most depressing to find the US still trapped in the "Permanent War Economy," as scholar/author Seymour Melman called it in 1976.

Notice how the Bush team is chilling relations all around. If those guys have their way we're in for a new cold war, just as bogus as the old one. Couldn't we pay the defense industry giants just as much to build something useful instead of space weapons? --like mass transit or alternative energy systems?

also check out the exchanges between cpalson and steve pound! (pretty much 97 til the end :) jared diamomd vs. david landes, immigration policy, an interesting aside blurb on elitism, clocks and industry (the mechanization of culture)...

What about China? Here we had an ancient civilization and very advanced culture. In 500 BC the Chinese were using draft animals, mostly water buffalo, for plowing and fertilizer and by the 13th century China had the most sophisticated agriculural system in the world. So what happened?

1) Their reliance on labor-intensive energy supplied by their own growing population prevented the import of any foreign workforce along with the attendant innovations.

2) They developed a centralized, authoritarian style of government and knowledge and technology became the property of the imperial government -- something to be kept from the people. The Chinese built astronomical water clocks. Due to sediment, they frequently clogged, but these were imperial projects for use of the emperor only. And just as the Chinese regarded knowledge of time as the province of the elites, the Muslims in Constantinople, who were also much taken with timepieces, felt it was sacrilege to allow the public any possession of clocks or knowledge about time.

The significance of these cultural attributes is monumental. The clock brought order and control as well as personal autonomy to lives. Europeans began placing clocks on buildings to enhance public awareness. People could then coordinate their comings and goings and enhance productivity. Awareness of time creates task-oriented consciousness (time is money) and without a clock, the assembly-line method of manufacturing would never have occurred. The mechanical clock remained a European monopoly for more than 300 years, and in its higher forms, right up into the twentieth century.

and um, cultural determinism.

Tuesday, July 3, 2001
matt rossi stands up for the little old lady (lol :) on the el, body snatcher style!

"Fuck. Off. You. Little. Shit." I didn't even bother to take off my sunglasses. "Go fuck yourself, and if you have the energy when you're done, fuck them too." I looked at each of them, and each of them looked away, and I don't think it had anything to do wth me. It was a game to them, and then they realized it wasn't to us. Salt from the sweat seeping from my skin stained my mouth, and I grimaced with it, my teeth poking out pointed from behind stinging lips. Behind me, someone made a noise that could have been a grunt, or maybe a snarl, I'm not sure. By this point, easily ten of us, men and women, were standing up while the train rolled along, I would think. Most of the people in the car.

and he's proud to be an american, too :) "Happy Birthday, America, you hideous bitch."

Monday, July 2, 2001
watched rosemary's baby on dvd and dracula (w/ bela lugosi :) on amc. found a nice comic/used book store nearby (stories) past the cvs and picked up quarantine by greg egan and some abc comics. i'm living large :p just got some chinese takeout and learned my brother's working in the icu! (respiratory therapy unit)

in other news...

a new mental map of the world (via most-viewed)

It would be a worthy goal to erase the false lines between East and West, but it will not be easy to attain. The Iron Curtain between Eastern Europe and Western Europe has vanished from the geopolitical map, but the lines remain marked in our cold war memories and held in place by a host of prejudices and impressions about Western civilization. The idea of Eastern Europe as a backward place is actually older than the Cold War, and can be traced back as far as the 18th century, when Dalmatia was a province of the Venetian republic and Venice aspired to bring "civilization" to the Dalmatian Slavs.

the yugoslav model (via world full coverage)

Is it possible for a Western soldier or statesman to commit a war crime? History suggests that we tend to think not. Proposals that Britons and Americans should be tried over acts of war in the Falklands, the Gulf or Serbia have been quickly dismissed. And what of the response on those occasions when it is acknowledged that Western commanders were responsible for a massacre? In April 1919, at Amritsar, British Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire unprovoked on a crowd of unarmed Indian protesters, leaving almost 400 dead. The Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab supported it as “the least amount of firing which would produce the necessary moral and widespread effect”. Dyer was relieved of his command, but returned to England a hero to many, who presented him with a purse of thousands of pounds and a sword inscribed “Saviour of the Punjab”.

also see a new kind of justice (via guardian u.) conditionality, "the Bush administration made clear that U.S. support for Yugoslavia's economic reconstruction would depend on cooperation with the international criminal court." safe area gorazde, intro, joe sacco's page at fantagraphics, exerpts.

Sunday, July 1, 2001
they don't like the internet (via ars technica)

Microsoft's role in the ecology of the Internet business has long been to "cut off the air supply" of competitors. Microsoft execs deny coining that memorable phrase, which emerged during the antitrust trial -- but whether they used it or not, it accurately describes the company's tactics. Today, AOL -- with its tens of millions of subscribers -- has the luxury of, in essence, being the atmosphere of the online world. Where Microsoft needs to subsidize its online efforts with the obscene profits generated by its desktop-software monopoly, AOL controls the world's largest stream of direct revenue from online services. This is thanks to the company's unique position in serving as the country's biggest Internet service provider and its largest producer of content (since the merger with Time Warner).

AOL won this position by offering new users a genuinely easy method of getting online, and by locking those users into AOL buddy lists and instant-messaging services. Users pay AOL their monthly connection fee (which seems to creep up a couple of dollars every year or two) and then AOL tries to leverage the relationship through advertising and promotions. Smart business? Sure -- but one that relies on users' lack of smarts.

It's not yet clear how AOL will respond to Microsoft's offensive, but you can be sure it will give up no ground without a battle -- in the courts or the consumer market or the software arena or everywhere at once. AOL will do everything in its power, as it always has, to keep users' eyes and dollars from roaming beyond AOL turf -- and now that AOL's turf is so vast, that's an easier task.

Before asking whether either of these companies could control the Web or the Net, you have to pin down what you mean by "control." There's control of speech -- of individual users' ability to say what they want. There's control of access -- of whether and how we're able to find and reach others across the network. And of course there's control of the ability to make money online.

As long as AOL's and Microsoft's struggle is fought primarily in that final realm, the fight won't be one that most Net users will care about; one mega-corporation's money grab looks pretty much like another's. Things will get far more interesting, however, if the conflict spills over into the other two categories. The Smart Tag controversy is a glimpse of what corporate speech control on the Net looks like -- that's why it has so much of the active Net up in arms. Meanwhile, the more AOL and Microsoft "leverage" their advantages in, respectively, subscribership and software, the more likely they are to start closing off entrances and exits and transforming their fiefdoms into private networks. In the world of instant messaging, each company's users are unable to connect with the other's -- a preview of what corporate control of access on the Net looks like. Think of how it would feel if e-mail worked that way!

In fact, it's not hard to imagine this at all -- because it's exactly how the commercial online world worked before 1994. The smoke of today's AOL/Microsoft war obscures a secret agenda the two companies will never admit to publicly: They don't like the Internet -- and never have.

GPL anathema (via slashdotdotorg)

My take on Microsoft's business model is, in brief:

  • * Microsoft's core business model relies on an at-all-costs defense of its overwhelming market dominance in end-user operating systems, because this dominance is the lever by which the company hopes to achieve all of its myriad other ambitions, including its ambitions in the server market.
  • * To defend its overwhelming market dominance in end-user operating systems, Microsoft must discourage or prevent the formation of a critical-mass pool of non-Microsoft end-user applications. People don't switch to a different end-user operating system until there's a sufficiently large pool of applications from which to draw.
  • * To prevent pools of non-Microsoft applications from forming, Microsoft likes to appropriate what it calls "commodity protocols" (off-the-shelf, public protocols such as HTML, JavaScript, CSS and many more), and add proprietary extensions that prevent the formation of competing application pools.

Here's why Microsoft is attacking the GPL:

  • * Microsoft can't play its "embrace and extend" game with GPL-licensed software because the company can't appropriate and modify the code. If Linux had been released under the BSD license, Microsoft would have probably already released a version of Linux, Linux++ or Linux# or L-Nux, with a variety of maddeningly incompatible oddities that taken together would make it even more difficult to develop applications for Linux.
  • * A GPL-licensed application pool is indeed forming around Linux, and Microsoft can't figure out how to attack it. You can't attack the companies, because--as Eazel recently proved--the software's still around, even if the company shuts down or gives up on the product.

In the coming weeks, you're likely to see Microsoft pressure to force the U.S. government to disallow the use of the GPL as a license for software created with public funds. If my analysis is correct, the decision should go the other way -- the government should require anyone developing software with government funds to release the software under the GPL. It's the only way to ensure there's a meaningful public commons of freely available software that can't be manipulated for predatory purposes.

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