Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Smalltalk website!

Geert Claes announced a new Smalltalk website. It has a cool name and URL: Check it out!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

PowerPoint makes us stupid

But I didn't say it. Army brass said it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Smalltalks 2008 opening video

Here's the video for Smalltalks 2008's opening: part 1, 2, 3, and 4. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Smalltalks 2007 opening video

Hernan Wilkinson uploaded Smalltalks 2007 opening video. It starts with all of us working like crazy very early in the morning to prepare all the welcome packages for the attendees. Nice memories :).

Here are part 1, part 2 and part 3.

Friday, April 16, 2010

More stuff we don't need

Great, my school gave me a laptop so I can be spied on. So, when I go back to school the next morning, school officials can berate me for my behavior at home. Isn't that great? Source here.

And please note: do not attack schools for this. Go after the people that engaged in this ridiculous behavior. People, you know, like computer technician Mike Perbix:

"you're controlling someone's machine, you don't want them to know what you're doing" --- Mike Perbix

Or people, you know, like technology coordinator Carol Cafiero:

Mark Haltzman, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Robbins and his family, said evidence now shows the district used the tracking software for non-authorized reasons — for instance, when students failed to pay the required insurance or return the laptops at year's end. At least once, a name mix-up led the district to activate the wrong student's laptop, he charged.

"Thousands of webcam pictures and screen shots have been taken of numerous other students in their homes, many of which never reported their laptops lost or missing," Haltzman wrote in a motion filed Thursday.

According to Haltzman, technology coordinator Carol Cafiero refused to answer his questions at a recent deposition, citing her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She and technician Michael Perbix were the only employees authorized to activate the webcams. Perbix did not fight the deposition.

Haltzman called Cafiero a possible "voyeur" and wants access to her personal computer to see if she downloaded any student images. To support the charge, he cited her response to an e-mail from a colleague who said viewing the webcam pictures was like watching "a little LMSD [the name of the school] soap opera."

"I know, I love it!" Cafiero allegedly replied.

  • Possession of a monitored Macbook was required for classes
  • Possession of an unmonitored personal computer was forbidden and would be confiscated
  • Disabling the camera was impossible
  • Jailbreaking a school laptop in order to secure it or monitor it against intrusion was an offense which merited expulsion
More details here, here (includes plenty of rather disturbing quotes by Mr. Perbix), here (includes photo of teenager sleeping at home taken by his laptop on command from the school), and here.

Finally, for a disturbing view of privacy gone out the window, check this article.

Speaking of kewl...

So you like the latest movie, huh? Check it out: when you watch that movie for "entertainment" purposes, you're supporting people who argue the following:

  • Consumers should voluntarily install software that constantly scans our computers and identifies (and perhaps deletes) files found to be "infringing".
  • Copyright protection measures can be trojan horses for consumer surveillance.
  • You must declare pirated electronic content at customs crossings, and customs agents can scan and seize your electronic devices.
  • Trade sanctions should be imposed on countries that have technology friendly policies, e.g.: Chile was named for considering fair use-style exceptions to its copyright law; Canada was listed for requiring that its customs officers have a court order before seizing goods at the border; and Israel was highlighted for refusing to adopt DMCA-style anti-circumvention provisions after legislative debate concluded that anti-circumvention laws would have no effect on copyright infringement.
  • Big Hollywood studios should be allowed to enlist the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to provide taxpayer-supported muscle for summer blockbuster films, so that they can "interdict... and to react swiftly with enforcement actions". Would you like some SWAT team busting your house to determine whether you have any pirated content at gun point?
Source here, which goes into even greater detail. There's an easy solution to this mess: never, ever watch one of those movies again.

Lulu offers free US shipping on books until May 1st

I just got an email from Lulu saying that if customers use the code FREEMAIL305, then they will get a $3.99 discount on their shipping. According to Lulu's email,

Use coupon code FREEMAIL305 at checkout and receive $3.99 towards your final shipping cost. This amount is the US mail cost for a single book order. Please note: there will be a shipping total listed on your order receipt. This coupon code will reduce your final order total by $3.99, which is the US mail cost for a single book. Shipping destination must be a valid US address.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Kewl is not better

Like it or not, the iPad is selling like hot bread.

Sigh. Just because things look cool, it doesn't make them good. For example, somehow it's a good thing to carry 1000 books in our pockets. What's the point, since we cannot meaningfully deal with even 5 serious books at a time? Moreover, 25% of Americans don't read books at all, and the rest reads about 1 book a month. Are Kindles or iPads worth so much just to read 1 book a month?

Really. Let's say that you read 15 books a year. If you buy them electronically, then you lose the rights to the works you bought (because e.g.: Amazon decides to delete the book you bought from your device). Also, assuming you buy new books only, you might save something like $150 on the books. However, you have to spend $259 on the device. The device which, by the way, will become obsolete in about the time it takes you to save enough on new books to justify buying the device. If you bought used books instead, or got the books free from the library you already pay for, it would be even more cost effective. But, in this way, you give your money away in exchange for an unnecessary and counterproductive luxury. I see. Incidentally, if you are a book author dealing with even mildly sophisticated matter, have you noticed you can't really format your book to look nice on an eBook device?

Also, we won't "facilitate" the distribution of knowledge just because a particularly efficient middleman enters the marketplace. In other words, people won't read more just because it is possible to get books more conveniently. After all, before the Internet was publicly accessible, you could just go to a library and read whatever you wanted to your heart's content. And yet, it hardly ever happened...

“As my wife once remarked to Vice President Al Gore, the “haves and have-nots” of the future will not be caused so much by being connected or not to the Internet, since most important content is already available in public libraries, free and open to all. The real haves and have-nots are those who have or have not acquired the discernment to search for and make use of high content wherever it may be found.” --- Alan Kay

When devices make information readily available to us, they also interrupt us more frequently. Hence, these devices that offer you things you don't really need serve as a pervasive source of distractions that work against you accomplishing anything meaningful. Why check email every minute? Do we really need to engage in SMS traffic like crazy? Twitter? Really? Have you tried achieving something difficult with so many things requesting your attention?

To me, the real problem is the sophistication of the audience. Alas, it takes hard work to become "sophisticated" (as opposed to "trivial"), and we don't really promote that personal and instrospective work as much as we could. If we did, perhaps more of us would create things, or perhaps more than ~5% of the population would be technologically inclined, or perhaps more of us would be "haves" as per the above quote, or perhaps we would have more of an appreciation for non-trivial results (e.g.: the iPhone application that allows you to "make music" by blowing on the microphone while touching the screen as if it was a flute... if you really want to "make music" then get a real music instrument or, failing that, whistle). In short, more of us might decide to stop amusing ourselves to death. And then, maybe then, we would have more of a say (mod e.g.: using a GPL OS). Until then, I think we need an updated version of the below quote...

"It's the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented. They show you what to do, how to do it, when to do it, how to feel about it, and how to look how you feel about it." --- Andy Warhol

Reminds me way too much of the jobs Brave New World's "A people" had... basically, to manufacture a phony reality for everybody else.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

You call this progress, right?

Oh yeah sure, I need a quad core to check my email, edit a photo, and run a virus check in the background, all at the same time.

Really? You know, back in the day when a text editor program was ~100kb, we did not need all this ridiculous amount of horsepower to... gasp!... check email... even today, the compressed installer for Thunderbird fits many times over in the cache memory of modern CPUs. Exactly why do we need a quad core to run an antivirus check in the background, particularly given that such checks are I/O bound anyway?

Admit it. Confess it already. Some people just don't know what they are selling, some folks don't know what they are buying, and hence we get this kind of confusion going on... this, you know, exploitation market similar to that set up for teenagers...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Smalltalks 2009 videos

You can now check videos from the Smalltalks 2009 conference at FAST's website. Just go to the page and click on the Videos tab on the top. Enjoy!

Friday, April 09, 2010

Smalltalks 2010

We recently noticed an uptick in questions about Smalltalks 2010. Are we going to have a Smalltalk conference in Argentina this year?...

Of course! :D

But first, we need to do our homework so we can have a wonderful event like the ones in 2007, 2008 and 2009, so stay tuned. In the mean time, did you see Dan Ingalls' Smalltalks 2009 presentation video at FAST's website?...

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Assessments 1.37

I just fixed the message checklistForClass: so it only scans active SUnit bridges. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 04, 2010

An additional Lulu 10% discount coupon

If you enter the coupon code SHOWERS, then you will get 10% off at Lulu. This is valid for a limited time only, and expires on April 30th. Enjoy :).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

A serious quote...

On two occasions I have been asked (by members of Parliament!) —"Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?" ... I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question. --- Charles Babbage

Friday, April 02, 2010

Informal quote...

No matter how much you push the envelope, it will still be stationery.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

A Knuth quote...

If somebody said what advice would I give to a young person, they always ask that funny kind of a question. And I think one of the things that I would, that would sort of come first to me is this idea of, don't just believe that because something is trendy, that it's good. I'd probably go the other extreme where if something, if I find too many people adopting a certain idea I'd probably think it's wrong or if, you know, if my work had become too popular I'd probably think I'd have to change. That's of course ridiculous but I see the other side of it too often where people will do something against their own gut instincts because they think the community wants them to do it that way, so people will work on a certain subject even though they aren't terribly interested in it because they think that they'll get more prestige by working on it. I think you get more prestige by doing good science than by doing popular science because if you go with what you really think is important then it's a higher chance that it really is important in the long run and it's the long run which has the most benefit to the world. So usually when I'm writing a book or publishing a book it's different from books that have been done before because I feel there's a need for such a book, not because there was somebody saying please write such a book, you know, or that other people have already done that kind of thing. So follow your own instincts it seems to me is better than follow the herd. [...] I have to see something to the point where I've surrounded it and totally understood it before I can write about it with any confidence and so that's the way I work, I don't want to write about a high level thing unless I've fully understood a low level thing. [...] if I went through my whole life only on, without any in depth knowledge of any part then it all seems to be flimsy and to me doesn't give me some satisfaction. The classic phrase is that liberal education is to learn something about everything and everything about something and I like this idea about learning everything about an area before you feel, if you don't know something real solid then you never have enough confidence. A lot of times I'll have to read through a lot of material just in order to write one sentence somehow because my sentence will then have, I'll choose words that make it more convincing than if I, if I really don't have the knowledge it'll somehow come out implicitly in my writing. These are little sort-of-vague thoughts that I have when reflecting over some of the directions that distinguish what I've done from what I've seen other people doing. --- Donald E. Knuth

10% discount at Lulu today

I really appreciate the interest you have shown in my books. I thought I'd pass on this bit of news. If you use the code APRILFOOLS when you check out at Lulu, you will get a 10% discount. To get the discount, you have to make a purchase today (April 1st). Enjoy!