Comment on a Fox forum comment on Obama

Silly title for the post, I know. Bear with me.

Through the "random hot post" feature in WordPress, I read Fox forum post criticizing Barak Obama (I would't expect that in a Fox forum!). In short, it says that the claim that women are worse paid than men for the same job is a myth. For a longer explanation, read the whole article

The thing is that I tried to comment there, but I couldn't (when hitting "Submit comment" a 404 error appears). Bad page coding or anti-leftist filter? I don't know, but I'm writing down my opinion here. Because I can :^)

I didn't expect such right-wing ideas in a Fox forum [/irony]

I partly agree with the reasoning of the post, fair is fair. But the writer absolutely fails to stick to the logic he proclaims. There are two issues, that he correctly differentiates:

A) Whether men and women have different salaries "on average"

B) Whether men and women have different salaries "for the same job"

The writer seems to accept that while it is true that men earn more in A, in the more "fair" comparison B, the salaries are equal. I am not going to comment on B, because I have no data. For the sake of argumentation, I will assume that it is true that in the B comparison salaries are equal.

Now the writer tries to convince us that the comparison in A is unfavorable to women because:

a) women tend to not choose jobs with higher salaries.
b) women can not sacrifice themselves to their job, because they have to be good mothers

Let me disagree. The fact that, on average, men have better jobs does not imply that women do not choose them. Actually, it is more probable that what it means is that those on charge (men) do not choose women for those jobs. This is discrimination.

And about the point b, it is hard to make it enter some people's skulls, but women should be "good mothers" as men should be "good fathers". A home/family is a hard work for BOTH parents, and there is no sacrifice a man could do for his job that a woman should not be allowed to do. Maybe men are more willing to make sacrifices to their job (condemning their partners to stay home in the process), and maybe men are more allowed to do those sacrifices. This is discrimination.

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DreamHost makes me happy again: free backups

Perhaps you are aware of my first (and last so far) gripe with DreamHost: as I wrote a couple of months ago, they wouldn't let me use my account space for non-web content.

Well, it seems that they really work to make their users happy, and probably other people requested something like that, and read what the August DH newsletter says about it:

In keeping with my no-theme theme, uh oh, I think I just made a destroy-the-universe-LHC-style self-contradiction, here's a new feature that pretty much has nothing to do with anything I said in the introduction!

https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=users.backup

Now, you know how we give out a LOT of disk space with our hosting? Well technically that space is only supposed to be used for your _actual_ web site (and email / database stuff) .. not as an online backup for your music, pictures, videos, other servers, etc!

Well, just like every other web host does, we've been sort of cracking down on that some lately, and it seems to catch some people by surprise! Nobody likes being surprised, especially in the shower, which is where we typically brought it up, and so now we offer a solution:

You CAN use 50GB of your disk space for backups now! The only caveat is, it's a separate ftp (or sftp) user on a separate server and it can't serve any web pages. There are also NO BACKUPS kept of THESE backups (they should already BE your backups, not your only copy), and if you go over 50GB, extra space is only 10 cents a GB a month (a.k.a. cheap)!

Thanks, DreamHost, for showing me that I made a good choice when I chose you!
Update: apparently only SFTP works (or FTP if you are idiot enough to enable it), but not scp or any SSH-related thing (rsync, ...). I hope I find some workaround, because if not that would be a showstopper for me.

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First DreamHost disappointment

I will simply copy&paste an e-mail interchange between DreamHost and me, with a few extra comments (some data substituted by "xxxxx"):

DreamHost:

Dear Iñaki,

Our system has noticed what seems to be a large amount of "backup/non-web" content on your account (#xxxxx), mostly on user "xxxxx" on the web server "xxxxx".

Some of that content specifically is in /home/xxxxx (although there may be more in other locations as well.)

Unfortunately, our terms of service (http://www.dreamhost.com/tos.html) state:

The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose; DreamHost Web Hosting servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service. DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the backups/archives at their discretion.

At this point, we must ask you to do one of three things:

* You can delete all backup/non-web files on your account.

* You can close your account from our panel at:
https://panel.dreamhost.com/?tree=billing.accounts
(We are willing to refund to you any pre-paid amount you have remaining, even if you're past the 97 days. Just reply to this email after closing your account from the panel).

OR!

* You may now enable your account for backup/non-web use!

If you'd like to enable your account to be used for non-web files, please visit the link below. You will be given the option to be charged $0.20 a month per GB of usage (the monthly average, with daily readings) across your whole account.

We don't think there exists another online storage service that has anything near the same features, flexibility, and redundancy for less than this, so we sincerely hope you take us up on this offer!

In the future, we plan to allow the creation of a single "storage" user on your account which will have no web sites (or email). For now though, if you choose to enable your account for backups, nothing will change (apart from the charges). If you want to enable backup/non-web use on this account, please go here:

https://panel.dreamhost.com/backups.cgi?xxxxxxxxxxx

If you choose not to enable this, you must delete all your non-web files by 2008-07-16 or your account will be suspended.

If you have any questions about this or anything at all, please don't hesitate to contact us by replying to this email.

Thank you very much for your understanding,
The Happy DreamHost Backup/Non-Web Use Team

My answer:

Dear DreamHost Support Team,

I fully understand your point. Though apparently sensible, a detailed analysis shows that the policy you cite from the TOS makes little sense.

Right now I have a 5920 GB/month bandwidth limit, and a 540 GB disk quota in my account, both applied to web use. My current use in this regard is less than 4 GB disk space (0.7% of my quota), and my estimated bw use at the end of the present billing period will be around 0.2 GB (33 ppm (parts per million) of my current (and increasing) bw quota).

Now, on the other hand, I have some 50-100 GB of data (less than 20% of my disk quota!!) that I want to keep at the servers (for whatever private interest, that I do not need to disclose, but I will: backup and data sharing among my different PCs). Keeping this data up to date could cause between 1 MB and 1 GB worth of transfers per day (30 GB/month at most, or 0.5% of my bw quota).

All of the above raises some questions:

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? Isn't all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the isilanes.org/ folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become "web content" that I am allowed to host at DH?

It seems to me that you are renting me a truck to transport people, then frown at me if I take advantage of it to carry furniture. Moreover, you are advising me to keep the truck for people and rent small vans for the furniture.

[snip irrelevant part]

Believe me, I am willing to be a nice user. I just want to be able to use the resources I pay the way I need.

Iñaki

Their answer:

Hello Iñaki,

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

Some people will. Admittedly, very few do, but to be perfectly blunt, overselling is actually a vital part of our (and ANY) web host's business model:

http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/05/18/the-truth-about-overselling/

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

That's an exaggeration, to be honest. Anyone can use up to the entire amount of their bandwidth and space, providing they use it for the purpose intended. If we ever open DreamStorage, you'd be welcome to use that space for backing up your data.

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? sn't all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

Well, just as we have...there's a ton of data in a non-web-accessible directory. That's a pretty good tip that something's up. By your argument, we couldn't take down someone for copyright, or even child porn violations, as it's just "a collection of 0s and 1s", and who are we to "discriminate"? Our Terms of Service, which you agreed to 2008-02-22 at 3:39pm. If you didn't agree, this simply wasn't the service for you.

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the isilanes.org/ folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become "web content" that I am allowed to host at DH?

Honestly, we're not going to let you off on some weak technicality. If you don't wish to comply with the ToS, we've even allowed you the option of receiving a prorated refund, regardless of how far out from your 97 day guarantee you are. We have no desire to lose your business, but your truck analogy is almost there. We're offering you trucks for transporting furniture...and we're doing it at a nice low rate. But we do require you actually use them. We count on the fact that very few people are going to be moving furniture 24/7, but if someone wanted to use it to it's fullest, they could. However, that doesn't mean you get to rent the truck, park it somewhere, and use it as a free self-storage unit. We want the truck if you're not using it for it's intended
purpose.

[snip irrelevant part]

Let me know if you have any other questions.

Thanks!

Jeff H

My final answer:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the kind answer! This kind of support is what gives DH an edge over other hosting providers. Keep it up.

What I say in my second point is not an exageration. It's the plain truth: if not for backups, I will never use 1% of my quota. I mean *I* won't. Don't know about others, just me.

It seems a little unfair that some guy with 500 GB of HD use and 5800 GB/month of bw use is paying 8$/month as I am (I don't recall the exact amount), while I am using 4 GB and 0.2 GB/month. Then I want to use 80 GB and 30 GB/month and I have to pay an extra 16$. That's a total of TRIPLE that of the aforementioned guy, while I'm still using 6 times less HD and 200 times less bw.

I would love to pay for some resources, and administer them as I like, be it for web, backup, svn, or whatever. What I meant with my third point is that 100 MB of my backups "hurt" the system as much as sb else's 100 MB of web content, so I can't see the reason to make the user pay a separate bill for "backups". Just make ftp traffic count against the disk/bw quotas and that's it! You could then stop worrying about "fair" use.

But that's pointless ranting on my side. Thanks for the attention. I will consider what to do in the light of the information you provided me.

Iñaki

I just want to point out how ridiculous their answer to my third point above is. DH tells me that they should be able to discriminate my data according to content (or use), because the opposite would supposedly allow me to break the law with copyright violations or child pornography. To follow with the truck metaphor, I am renting a truck from them, to carry furniture around. Since I don't use up all the space in the truck, and I have a fridge I want to move, I put it into the truck. Now DH wants to patrol what I carry in the truck, and tell me that the fridge is not allowed, because it is not "furniture". When I complain, and say that what I carry in the truck they lend me is none of their business, they answer that it is, because I could well be using the truck for drug smuggling. That's really lousy reasoning. If I use the truck for carrying something illegal, then the police will sort it out, not the renting company. It is the general Law that will tell me what I can use the truck for, not the renting company.

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Gmail and browser discrimination

Due to Iceweasel (Firefox) being so slow on my machine, I switched to Konqueror, which is reasonably fast and full of features, but nowhere as good as Iceweasel, I must say. However, IW is unbearable, so I'm waiting for FF 3.0 to use IW again.

I use an e-mail client to read my e-mail over IMAP, my main account being a Gmail one. However, I sometimes visit the Gmail site, for example to set it to fetch e-mail from some other accounts. I had always done it with IW, and everything worked fine, but now with Konqueror it doesn't.

With Konqueror I get the message:

and some features are missing (specifically, the option set how to fetch e-mail from other accounts, and some others).

I could understand it if Konqueror were missing some functionality/plugin that IW has and Gmail requires. But it is not the case. I can tell Konqueror to identify itself as Firefox, and THEN the Gmail page shows up correctly, so obviously it's not due to Konqueror's limitations. It sounds like a case of sloppy programming from the guys at Google, with something like:

if browser is one of 'IE', 'Firefox', 'Safari':
  show this page
else:
  show dumbed down page

After years of discrimination to non-IE users, and a tremendous fight to make webmasters produce standards-compliant sites, instead of specific browser-compliant ones, we still have to suffer this shit. And from Google, the "don't be evil" guys, supporters of free software and all that BS.

By the way, this issue is known, and mentioned, for example, in the Wikipedia page for Gmail.

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Movistar y su buzón de voz

Hace poco que he cometido la blasfemia de cambiarme de Vodafone a Movistar, y ya me he topado con el primer coñazo: el 1000 veces maldito buzón de voz. Si queréis saber más sobre este "servicio" y sus "bondades", podéis leerlo en el sitio de Movistar.

Si visitáis la página que menciono, notaréis una curiosa carencia en ella. Venga, visitadla y no sigáis leyendo esto hasta que la hayáis encontrado... ¿Ya la habéis encontrado? Pues efectivamente: la puta página no dice cómo leches dar de baja el servicio. Mis amigos me odian porque si me llaman mientras estoy hablando con otra persona les salta el maldito buzón, y se les COBRA una llamada para NADA.

Es un servicio que no quiero, que me molesta, y que no entiendo por qué tengo. No entiendo por qué no tengo que hacer nada para que se me dé de alta, y sin embargo darse de baja es complicado. Bueno, sí lo entiendo, claro: es un medio de las operadoras de telecom para forrarse cobrando llamadas que de otra manera habrían sido "perdidas". ¿La verdad?, me dan asco.

Update: se puede lograr la información para desactivar el buzón en esta otra página de Movistar. En resúmen: llamar al 537 y pulsar 4 (quitarlo del todo), o esperar y oir las instrucciones si eres masoca.

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Euskaltel me sube la velocidad

Finalmente Euskaltel ha considerado a mis padres dignos de ponerles, como clientes antiguos, la misma anchura de banda que a los clientes nuevos con el mismo contrato. Ahora mismo tenemos una tarifa plana de 1 Mb.

Más sobre el tema en mis posts sobre Euskaltel, sobre todo en A vueltas con el incremento de ancho de banda de Euskaltel.

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Truñoweb de la semana: alsa.es

Update: a 28 de abril de 2008, la página alsa.es parece bastante mejorada. Sigue sin funcionarme bien, pero ahora la han modernizado (al menos en apariencia).

Cuando uno quiere hacer un viaje en autobús, ¿qué hace? Pues consultar horarios y tarifas en la página web de una compañía que haga el trayecto deseado, ¿no? En este caso deseaba hacer un viaje que la compañía ALSA cubre, así que ni corto ni perezoso me dirigí a su página web: http://www.alsa.es.

Como primer contacto, el hecho de que se te redirija a http://www2.alsa.es/portal/index.asp ya es bastante malo. Ninguna web seria te reescribe la URL, sobre todo la de la página principal. Además, el añadido de la palabra "portal" es superfluo y molesto, y el fichero "index.asp" podría haberse omitido también (añadiendo "index.asp" a una línea en apache2.conf, httpd.conf o mods-enabled/dir.conf, si usan Apache). El cutre "www2" en vez de "www" al comienzo de la URL es también para nota, y el hecho de usar ASP ya ni lo comento.

Seguimos con que hay que aceptar JavaScript (si usamos el recomendable plugin de Firefox NoScript) de dos direcciones: www.alsa.es y www2.alsa.es. Doble molestia para nula ventaja sobre una sola dirección de origen.

Como queremos consultar una ruta y su horario, hacemos click en "Rutas y Horarios", ¿no? Esto nos lleva a una página donde se nos pide elegir país de orígen de una lista desplegable. Elijo "España", y me dispongo a elegir ciudad de orígen de la correspondiente lista desplegable a la derecha. Uno se espera que esta segunda lista desplegable esté conectada con la primera (que solo salgan las ciudades del pais que has seleccionado). Pues bien, está conectada: si eliges España, la única ciudad de orígen disponible es "Error". Esto puede ser muy útil a quien quiera hacer un viaje de Error de Arriba (España), a Error de Abajo (España), pero poco más.

Con la única función vital de la página inutilizada, me puedo dedicar a comentar más fallos de estos ineptos. Por ejemplo, eso de "Web optimizada para 800x600" me llega al alma. Lo que quiere decir es que han hecho la página con un ancho fijo de 800 píxels. Por eso con cualquier pantalla a más resolución (todas las de después de la Guerra Civil) se ve una columna central con contenido (por llamarlo de alguna manera), y dos franjas grises a los lados. Franjas que serán mayores cuanto más resolución tengamos. Y si tuvieramos MENOR resolución o usásemos una ventana pequeña, sería aún peor: tendríamos que usar barras de desplazamiento lateral para ver toda la página. La verdad, se me hace difícil comprender qué clase de inútil hace páginas de resolución fija hoy en día, pero por lo visto haberlos hailos.

Si intentamos comprar billetes, accedemos a una página en la que, además de toda la basura de imágenes y anuncios de la página de inicio, tenemos un recuadro donde nos salen los pasos que vamos tomando para comprar billetes. Hete aquí que el primer paso es elegir ruta, y por tanto en el recuadro nos aparece una copia de la página de "Rutas y Horarios" que menciono arriba (con su error idéntico y todo). Ahora bien, la página de compra es de 800 píxels de ancho, y la de Rutas y Horarios también. ¿Cómo meter la segunda en un recuadro que es parte de la primera? Fácil: con barras de desplazamiento o "scrollbars". Simplemente lamentable.

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Is my theory bullshit?

This post tries to sketch a rule of the thumb to quickly check whether an idea/theory/belief is utterly useless or not. I have admittedly adapted it from the russellian definition of Science. Recall that utterly useless ideas are not necessarily wrong. They are just that: utterly useless.

There is a single basic question you have to ask yourself when you invent/encounter a flashy new theory or idea like telekinesis or homeopathy:

Can I imagine any conceivable way of refuting this theory?

If the answer is "no", then the theory is bullshit.

If you accept this, you are bound to abandon the theory if someone comes up with a valid experiment at which your theory fails (if someone challenges your telekinetic powers and you can not shut her mouth, you must accept you don't have telekinetic powers).

On the other hand, if you don't accept the above premise, you must, without excuse, believe in any other theory that can not be proved wrong, such as the Invisible Pink Unicorn or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Failing to do so will undoubtedly qualify you as an absolute hypocrite.

Now, the long explanation...

Proving something true is theoretically impossible, but proving something wrong is trivial: if I say that all swans are white, no matter how many white swans I see, I will never be sure that the theory is true. On the other hand, after the first black swan I see, I will conclude without doubt that the theory was wrong.

Thus, "proving" some theory is usually equaled to designing an experiment in controlled conditions, where a result is expected from the theory, and we get precisely that result in the experiment. Obviously, we could have obtained a different result, and our theory would have been proved wrong. It is precisely the fact that a different result could potentialy refute our theory what makes the desired result confirm it. It follows that, if there is no conceivable circumstance under which the experiment could have failed, our theory can not be disproved, and therefore can not be "proved" through absence of refutation.

Take for example a seer who claims to be able to see the future. Her theory is not necessarily bullshit: one can devise a test, failing which would mean that she is wrong. For example, one can ask her to "see" something that she can not access by normal means, and that she can not guess by chance, for example the next lottery winning number. If she guesses correctly, the theory is temporarily accepted. If she fails, the theory is dropped.

Not it comes the funny twist: any argument that tries to make the precognition theory above survive after a failure (e.g. "I do not control when I can see the future", "I only see abstract visions that I have to interpret afterwards", and so on... you know the thing), automatically turns it into bullshit. Directly. And that because of the little rule of the thumb I present above.

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Blackout summary X

Last week a new power failure affected the Campus. At least the PCs at the DIPC were reseted around midnight. So, here goes the updated list of blackouts I have been able to compile, with comments if any:

  1. 2008-Mar-05
  2. 2007-Dec-10 (I used the reboot of my computer to install kernel 2.6.22-3)
  3. 2007-Oct-16
  4. 2007-Aug-27 (at least three short power failures, 5-10 minutes apart)
  5. 2007-May-19
  6. 2006-Oct-21 (they warned beforehand)
  7. 2006-Sep-14 (Orpheus fell, the DNSs fell, the DHCP servers fell)
  8. 2006-Jul-04 (Orpheus didn't fall)
  9. 2006-Jun-16
  10. 2006-Jun-13
  11. 2006-Jun-08
  12. 2006-Jun-04
  13. 2006-May-26 (The card-based automated access to the Faculty broke down)
  14. 2005-Dec-21
  15. 2005-Dec-13

Summary: 15 blackouts in 813 days, or 54.2 dpb (days per blackout). 86 days since last blackout. Average dpb went up by 2.2.

First post in the series: here

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EU fines MS with 899M euro over non-compliance

The European Union decided last wednesday that they'd impose a 899M euro penalty on Microsoft for not providing the information they had been asked to release in 2004.

The short story goes like this: the EU decided that MS was to make public the specifications of some protocols and formats for allowing interoperability of Windows with other OSs. MS decided that this would be bad for their monopoly, so refused. Later, they pretended to comply, by sending the EU 30k pages of basically bullshit (for practical purposes, that documentation was useless). Now, the EU has decided that we should take none of it, and has fined MS for not complying.

Go, EU, go!

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