27 July 2007

Conservation of Annoyance

a fundamental law of IT: the total annoyance (A) of working in a large corporate office remains constant given no external interactions.
A = γm0βzzz
where m0 is the mass of a solution at rest, βzzz is the amount of bureaucracy, and γ (the Gähnen factor) is given by
γ = (1-v2/c2)-1/2
where v is the team velocity, and c is the velocity with Rails. that is, when more productive tools or solutions are selected, there will be an equal rise in the amount of bureaucracy associated with implementing that change.

20 July 2007

Ron Paul @ Google

this is a fantastic (long) clip if you're interested in hearing some of Paul's ideas in depth. his libertarianism really comes through. what also comes through is how well he knows his history and beliefs, refusing to resort to trite sound bites. again, i can't stress enough how different he is from the other candidates.

18 July 2007

security exploits and organ sales

software companies, including giants like microsoft, may need to re-think their refusal to purchase security exploits from hacker groups. as the author of the article so deftly explains,
Really, what is a good argument against companies paying for security exploits? It's virtually certain that if a company like Microsoft offered $1,000 for a new IE exploit, someone would find at least one and report it to them. So the question facing Microsoft when they choose whether to make that offer, is: Would they rather have the $1,000, or the exploit? What responsible company could possibly choose "the $1,000"? Especially considering that if they don't offer the prize, and as a result that particular exploit doesn't get found by a white-hat researcher, someone else will probably find it and sell it on the black market instead?
companies have an opportunity to leverage the hax0r community to strengthen their own products. would it not be better to know about vulnerabilities such that they may be fixed?

the same thinking applies to sales of human organs. wouldn't it be better to get access to as many organs as are needed than to stick to some strange protectionist strategy? (i call it protectionist because there are parties that profit from organ sales already, just not the family of the deceased.)

it's time to re-think our knee-jerk policies and use markets to start solving problems.

quote of the day-or-so

Free markets are simply millions upon millions of individual decision-makers, engaged in peaceable, voluntary exchange pursuing what they see in their best interests. People who denounce the free market and voluntary exchange, and are for control and coercion, believe they have more intelligence and superior wisdom to the masses. What's more, they believe they've been ordained to forcibly impose that wisdom on the rest of us. Of course, they have what they consider good reasons for doing so, but every tyrant that has ever existed has had what he believed were good reasons for restricting the liberty of others.
Economist Walter E. Williams via Carpe Diem

java on the web

The relative verbosity of programming languages isn't the interesting thing; nor is typing doctrine. What's interesting is the culture of frameworks and what different communities deem valuable. My sense of it is that on Java, too many web frameworks - think JSF, or Struts 1.x - consider the Web something you work around using software patterns. The goal is get off the web, and back into middleware. Whereas a framework like Django or Rails is purpose-built for the Web; integrating with the internal enterprise is a non-goal.

ETag support is just one example; there are so many things frameworks like Rails/Django do ranging from architectural patterns around state management, to URL design, to testing, to template dispatching, to result pagination, right down to table coloring that the cumulative effect on productivity is startling. I suspect designing for the Web instead of around it is at least as important as language choice.

It's hard to explain sometimes just how time-consuming it can be to get Web things done on some Java frameworks.
Bill de hÓra

what he said.

02 July 2007

conflict of interest

i know it's hard to believe, but a Virginia state rep, David Albo, may be using his position in the gubmint to line his own pockets. as a lawyer specializing in traffic law, he makes his money off of motorists trying to wiggle out of tickets. to drive up his target market, he has introduced the $3550 speeding ticket.

sicko is whacko

Kurt Loder, that old guy on MTV that pretends to be journalist, has reviewed "Sicko," Michael Moore's attempt to cast the light of truth on America's hugely inept health care system. Loder has spotted Moore's lack of actual knowledge on the subject.
Unfortunately, Moore is also a con man of a very brazen sort, and never more so than in this film. His cherry-picked facts, manipulative interviews (with lingering close-ups of distraught people breaking down in tears) and blithe assertions (how does he know 18,000* people will die this year because they have no health insurance?) are so stacked that you can feel his whole argument sliding sideways as the picture unspools. The American health-care system is in urgent need of reform, no question. Some 47 million people are uninsured (although many are only temporarily so, being either in-between jobs or young enough not to feel a pressing need to buy health insurance). There are a number of proposals as to what might be done to correct this situation. Moore has no use for any of them, save one.
it's quite obvious Moore believes we're too stupid to recognize a good thing when we see it, so he trots out a carefully selected band of people who, quite honestly, were raped by their HMOs, etc. the whole contrived sequence of dirty American companies and super-delcious-awesome-happy euro-hospitals is a continual smell, ideally suited to those already under the unthinking spell of socialism.
What's the problem with government health systems? Moore's movie doesn't ask that question, although it does unintentionally provide an answer. When governments attempt to regulate the balance between a limited supply of health care and an unlimited demand for it they're inevitably forced to ration treatment.
i'd agree that the US system is completely broken, but creating our own mega-version of those systems that aren't actually as hella-awesome as Moore would have us believe is a worse mistake, mainly because large programs once undertaken in this country are largely unstoppable, regardless of performance.

i'm certain i could go find a bunch of Cato or Reason articles or papers to support whatever system i currently think is better than what we have, but (as everyone can guess by now) i'm quite lazy. let it be sufficient to say that we as consumers should be made more aware of what costs we're imposing on the system, maybe by eliminating employer-sponsored health care plans. if you subsidize something, you get more of it; by subsidizing the consumption of medical care, we're wasting some very precious resources.

the economics of environmentalism

Munger has done it again, creating a reasoned and accessible explanation of some of the misguided efforts of knee-jerk environmentalists.
A generation of American has been indoctrinated into a "save resources, recycle at all costs" mindset. "Recycle!" is used as a moral bludgeon. This is different from "Don't Litter!" Littering is a collective action problem, a genuine social dilemma: cheaper for me to throw that cup out the window. But I myself would prefer a world where no one throws cups out of windows over a world where everyone does. "Don't litter" is an attempt to solve a real problem.

"Recycle, regardless of cost!" doesn't solve a problem; it creates one. Laws requiring recycling harm me, the environment, and everyone else. We have to take prices into account, because prices are telling us that we can't save resources by wasting resources.

prices involved in recycling that are free to fluctuate based on resource consumption would be mighty good at letting us know what is actually a good thing to recycle. if i end up sending more carbon into the air than i'm saving by recycling, just what good is recycling that product? there's no such thing as a free lunch. i'm all for doing my part to recycle, but i'd much prefer to actually save my planet than satisfy some garbage nazis who prefer action to results.