Does reason exist among religious people?
August 3rd 2010

The title should read "theist", not "religious", people, but I sacrificed correctness for impact. I didn't want the reader to spend time wondering what a theist is (if you wonder it now, a theist is someone who is almost, but not 100%, an atheist: one that disbelieves in all gods, except one).

I recently stumbled across an essay by David Anderson (a very religious fellow, or at least theist), where he asks: "Does Richard Dawkins exist?". He makes a parallelism between Richard Dawkins's arguments supporting doubts about (some) god's existence (in his book The God Delusion), and similar arguments against the existence of Dawkins himself.

Apparently, the argument of Anderson's essay (I'll sumarize here, for those readers with severe fallacyfobia, who could suffer a seizure if they read the original), goes as follows: Dawkins, in his book, offers some arguments against the assumption that god exists. These arguments are based mainly on skepticism. Anderson (thinks he) applies the same reasoning to Dawkins himself, and concludes that Richard Dawkins must not exist. Since this is apparently ridiculous, Anderson has cleverly shown how stupid we were for believing Dawkins, and how "Hyper-scepticism" is bad. What he fails to tell us is, then, what alternative mindset he recommends... "hyper-gullibility", perhaps?

I will debunk this theist zealot's points with three both alternative and additive propositions. The first one is that Dawkins's existence does not need to be proven to reasonable people (god's does). However, if it needed to be proven, it could be (god's can't). Thirdly, if Dawkins's existence could not be proven, the validity of the arguments in his (alleged, maybe he doesn't exist) book would hold just the same (the Bible has no validity if there is no god to back it up).

If you're not into never-ending dissertations (unlikely, if you read so far), you can skip the first two sections, and head directly to "The existence of Richard Dawkins is irrelevant".

Dawkins's existence does not need to be proven

The very essence of skepticism is not to doubt about everything, but about anything that defies our logic, experience or widely accepted principle. We (should) build our ideas by piling up our experiences, such as "things fall towards the ground" or "banks have no scruples". It is only fair that we should apply skepticism to concepts that defy those ideas, not to the ones perfectly fitting. If my sister told me "I hurled the ball through the window, and it fell on a car", I would tend to believe her. If she told me the ball suddenly turned upwards and headed for the Moon instead, I would tend not to believe her. Of course, the first claim could also be false: maybe she didn't hurl the ball at all, or she did, but it landed on the road, not on a car. But it is the second claim (the ball heading for the Moon) that deserves skepticism.

Similarly, it might well be that Richard Dawkins does not exist, but the simplest explanation is that he does. One could have seen him on TV, or read one book allegedly by him. One could have a friend who went to a talk by Dawkins, or an uncle who studied in the same highschool as he did. Yes, the guy on TV could be fake, the book could have been forged, your friend can lie to you about the talk, and your uncle might just have Alzheimer's. But the simplest explanation is that there is some guy by the name Richard Dawkins. Skepticism would make us place the burden of proof on anyone claiming the opposite. At the very least, we would need some evidence that the notion of his existence is not reasonable. For example: the existence of Clark Kent could be accepted as reasonable (shy men with glasses working for newspapers are known to exist), whereas that of Superman would grant some skepticism (flying aliens with X-ray eyes and unlimited strength are scarce in my neighborhood).

On the other hand, god is our Superman here. It does fall (far, far away) beyond what is reasonable, so skepticism is required. Many, if not all, what we experience every single day of our lives would be mistaken if god existed. Obviously, it could well be the case, but it stands to reason that we should doubt it.

The existence of Richard Dawkins can be reasonably proven

I don't mean so much that Dawkins actually exists, as that there are ways to find out if he does. For example, David Anderson could offer all his money to anyone coming to him and convincing him that they are Richard Dawkins. If I were Dawkins, I would go! I seriously doubt Anderson is such a die-hard skeptic that he'd risk making that claim. On the other hand, I have no problem in imagining Dawkins taking the same vow towards god, and never ever losing the money, of course.

One could find "Dawkins" in the telephone guide of Oxford, England, and visit them all, until one meets the guy in this Wikipedia article. With god, we have no picture. This should be no problem, as god is everywhere. However, apparently there is no way of meeting him, having a conversation with him (other than a monologue), or even devising any course of action that would result in an outcome if god existed, and in a different one if it didn't exist. Please re-read this last sentence until you are fully aware of its meaning: it is impossible to even imagine any test that would have one of two results (lets say, "positive" and "negative") depending of god existing or not. With Dawkins, let's say it is possible.

The existence of Richard Dawkins is irrelevant

OK, you got me. I confess: Dawkins does not exist. It was all a hoax.

The question is: so what? Dawkins is just a guy presenting some arguments that stand on their own. We do not concur with Dawkins because he exists, but because the arguments themselves convince us. Dawkins's works, his books, interviews, talks and arguments in general, would have the same validity if they had been produced by a monkey on crack, just as 2+2=4 holds regardless of it being said by Einstein or Hitler.

On the other hand, the Bible (or Qur'an, or whatever "sacred" text) has only meaning as long as one believes there is a god authoring it. Most, if not all, of its content coud be called unreasonable, unfair, outrageous, insane, false or simply wrong, except for the little detail that it's the word of god. Well, if god wrote it, it must be right. After all, the guy is all-knowing. Religions, and all that is sacred, stand solely on the argument of authority: god said it, so it's the pure, unadulterated, Truth. Period. Anyone with an IQ over absolute zero can find a circular argument here: god exists because the sacred text says so, the text is sacred because it's god's work.

The arguments in The God Delusion would have the same validity (or lack of it), even if it were written by a schizophrenic kid. His talks would mean no less (and no more) if given by a gorilla in disguise. His appearances on video would convey the same message (or misinformation) if they were all computer-generated by a 10-line Python script written by rabid rabbits randomly biting a keyboard.

I suggest the reader think about the effect of knowing that the Bible was actually written by a schizophrenic kid (which, by the way, some of its contents seem to suggest), that all alleged apparitions of the virgin Mary were gorillas in disguise, and that the 10 commandments are actually a 10-line Python script, written by rabid rabbits randomly biting a keyboard.

See the problem with the Dawkins/god, Bible/The God Delusion parallelism?

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USA is different
January 4th 2010

Yes, "Spain is different!" they use to say, mostly in Spain. But our friends across the ocean are different to most civilized countries, in we-know-what issue... I was taking a peek to the trailers for A Perfect Getaway (La escapada perfecta in Spain), in the FilmAffinity site (a site I really recommend), and look below what I found:

Explanation: the above is a still image at 00:49 of the Spanish trailer (I guess it is the same for all Europe, with or without voice translation, depending on the country. In Spain, voice is translated to Spanish). The below, is a still image at 00:33 of the original (American) trailer. Notice any difference in Miss Jovovich's costume? Exactly, the friggin' film is rated R, and boasts plenty of murder and violence. But somehow the viewer is not allowed to take a look at a quite candid image of a butt. At least in the trailer.

Of course it doesn't strike me as a big surprise. I was surprise-proofed the day I watched kid Son Goku have his genitalia covered by pious briefs in a scene of the American version of Dragon Ball, where he is seen swimming naked (in the original Japanese version, and also the ones aired in Spain).

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Los trajes de Camps y la desfachatez humana
August 27th 2009

Ya lo sé: hace casi un mes que se archivó la causa contra Francisco Camps por los trajes que supuestamente le regalaron como posible soborno. El tema está pasado, y se ha escrito suficiente sobre él. Pero bueno, a mí me apetecía comentar algún detalle de la decisión judicial, sobre la que leí en El Diario Vasco, y de ahí lo cito.

La Sala de lo Civil y lo Penal del Tribunal Superior de Justicia de la Comunidad valenciana (TSJCV) ordenó ayer [...] el archivo definitivo de la causa abierta por cohecho contra el presidente de la Generalitat, Francisco Camps [...] por recibir múltiples regalos, trajes y complementos en su mayoría, de empresas del caso Gürtel, la presunta trama corrupta dirigida por Francisco Correa [...]

Hasta ahí, la exposición de la situación.

La resolución del TSJCV deroga el auto dictado en mayo [...]. El juez consideró «una realidad muy probable» que los investigados no hubiesen pagado los trajes, pese a que ellos mantienen lo contrario, y descartó que los regalos fuesen un simple detalle social por las personas de que se trataba, el valor de los objetos, la reiteración con que los recibían y el probable interés del oferente por ganarse su gratitud.

Bueno, quizá había indicios en mayo que provocaron ese auto, pero ahora se ha visto que no los hay... sigamos leyendo:

El auto del tribunal señala que, aunque los cuatro imputados hubiesen recibido los regalos, no existe delito alguno porque ni Camps ni los otros investigados, pese a ocupar los más altos cargos del Gobierno, podían desde sus puestos hacer favor alguno o asignar de forma directa concesiones a la trama de Correa, ni consta que interviniesen en las adjudicaciones por valor de más de seis millones de euros que organismos de la propia Generalitat dieron a estas compañías entre 2005 y 2007.

La sala, en contra de lo mantenido por la Fiscalía y el instructor, considera que lo descrito en el artículo 426 no se puede aplicar «de forma automática» a Camps, Campos y Betoret, [...] porque para que se produzca el delito deben recibir las «dádivas» en consideración a «actos propios de su función». [...] Dice que este «nexo causal» entre regalo y función no existe porque no eran competentes para realizar las adjudicaciones y la trama corrupta, por tanto, no tenía nada que agradecerles o por qué agasajarles, aunque de hecho lo hiciese.

Ahí está la madre del cordero: el nexo regalo-contraprestación.

Es decir: 2 de los 3 jueces (el tercero votó en contra) consideraron que si un empresario corrupto reconocido, regala algo al político corrupto honrado, y recibe algo a cambio de la organización a la que el político pertenece, pero no directamente de dicho político, entonces no existe "soborno". ¡Qué correcto y justo suena, y qué pila de mierda más gorda es! O bien estos jueces son tontos y no pueden ver, o simplemente no quieren ver, pero algo pasa con ellos.

Está claro que un entramado empresarial corrupto como el del caso Gürtel nunca da duros a cuatro pesetas. No llegaron a donde están por hacer regalos y no cobrárselos luego. Es obvio que cuando un corrupto declarado hace regalos a gente poderosa (generalmente políticos), lo hace para granjearse su "simpatía", y deja inmediatamente de gastar dinero en balde si no recibe nada a cambio (nótese la mención que hace la noticia a la "reiteración con que los recibían"). Para un empresario corrupto los sobornos son parte de su libro de cuentas: me gasto X en sobornar al alcalde para que me deje edificar y así ganar Y. Si la ganancia Y es menor que el soborno X, entonces se decide no dar dicho soborno.

Comprendo que la presunción de inocencia debe primar, y que cualquier político debe ser considerado honrado hasta que se demuestre lo contrario. Pero de eso a chuparse el dedo hay un trecho. La Ley debería prohibir TODO regalo a cualquier cargo público, simplemente por la posibilidad de que sea un soborno.

¿Y por qué no solo excluir los regalos que generen contraprestaciones, en vez de todos? Pues por una razón que la estulticia de la presente sentencia deja en evicencia. Quede claro que lo que sigue es un ejemplo, sin ningúna relación con la realidad. Si el empresario (llamémosle "Bigotes") quiere sobornar al político (llamémosle "Camps") dándole un regalo (llamémosle "trajes") y recibiendo una contraprestación (llamémosle "adjudicaciones de servicios"), simplemente se necesita un segundo político (llamémosle "Adjudicator") que sea capaz de dar dicha contraprestación al empresario. Entonces Bigotes regala a Camps los trajes; Camps regala a Adjudicator una muñeca hinchable, o lo que sea que a Adjudicator le ponga; Adjudicator adjudica los servicios a Bigotes y ¡todos contentos!

Bigotes tiene la adjudicación a cambio de los trajes. Camps tiene los trajes a cambio de una muñeca hinchable, y Adjudicator tiene la muñeca a cambio de las adjudicaciones. Pero la belleza del esquema estriba en que jueces gilipollas como los del TSJCV nunca encontrarán indicios de delito en tales actividades. ¿Por qué? Porque si bien es cierto que Camps recibió los trajes de Bigotes, no estaba en su mano hacer las adjudicaciones, y por lo tanto no dio nada a cambio a Bigotes. Igualmente puede que la adjudicación de los servicios fuera incorrecta, y quizá algún día se revise y eche atrás (aunque probablemente no). Pero nunca se considerará resultado de un soborno, porque no hubo ningún soborno: Bigotes regaló algo de forma desinteresada a Camps, y recibió una adjudicación (justa o no) de otro señor. ¡Viva la aplicación ridícula de la ley!

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Sobre González-Sinde sobre las descargas de Internet
July 16th 2009

Como siempre, estoy al límite de la novedad, comentando noticias que tienen casi un mes de antigüedad. En fin.

El caso es que quería comentar algunas perlas de la ignorante ministra esta, González-Sinde. De las muchas estupideces cosas que ha dicho, me referiré concretamente a las recogidas en esta noticia en El País.

Vayamos por partes:

La ministra de Cultura, Ángeles González Sinde, ha señalado que que no hay que generalizar y acusar a todos los internautas de hacer descargas ilegales [...]

¡Y dale con "descagas ilegales"! A ver cuando nos enteramos de que bajar de Internet material con copyright NO ES ILEGAL en España, cuando se hace sin ánimo de lucro. Y en caso de que ese material se redistribuya comercialmente, el delito está en el lucro con dicha redistribución, no en la descarga en sí. La legislación española defiende los derechos de los ciudadanos (como debe), y no permite que unos pocos controlen lo que podemos acceder con interés no comercial.

González-Sinde, en declaraciones a RNE, [...] s eha[sic] mostrado partidaria de la última propuesta de la Coalición de Creadores, que representa la industria cultural, de perseguir las páginas webs de enlaces en lugar de a los usuarios.

¿"Coalición de Creadores"? ¿"industria cultural"? ¿A nadie se le revuelve el estómago con tales conceptos?

En cuanto a lo de perseguir páginas de enlaces, en vez de a usuarios, es de traca. Todos sabemos que los periódicos, por poner un ejemplo, sacan una parte substancial de sus ingresos de los anuncios de servicios de prostitución ténuemente encubierta, y sin embargo el Gobierno no se pronuncia sobre ello. No oigo a nadie decir que si la prostitución es ilegal, también lo deben ser los anuncios de ella. Sin embargo con las descargas el caso es al revés: son legales (léase la Ley, ministra), pero sí se quiere perseguir no su ejecución, sino su facilitación mediante anuncios e información. ¿Cuál puede ser la diferencia? La de siempre: el dinero. Mientras los anuncios de negocios que explotan la libertad sexual de mujeres engrosan las arcas de ciertos empresarios, las descargas que hacen accesible recursos culturales y de ocio a millones de ciudadanos merman las arcas de ciertos otros empresarios. Ante esto me pregunto, ¿por qué el beneficio o perjuicio económico de ciertos empresarios puede afectar las decisiones de un Gobierno, que como tal se debe a los ciudadanos y a la aplicación de la Ley y la Justicia? También uno se pregunta por qué ganar dinero anula la injusticia de la prostitución; y a la inversa, por qué perderlo anula los beneficios sociales de una cultura, un conocimiento y un ocio más accesibles. Es decir, el dinero es la medida moral de si algo es bueno o malo, ¿no?

"[...] es importante aplicar las leyes que ya tenemos y cerrar esas 200 páginas que se lucran poniendo a disposición material audiovisual que han conseguido ilícitamente"

No sé a qué páginas se refiere. ¿Quizá se refiere a páginas que extraen música de CDs comerciales y las venden on-line como si fuera suya? Si es así, aplaudo la decisión. Es inaceptable que haya gente lucrándose del esfuerzo y el arte de los artistas.

Ahora bien, aparte de las discográficas, no conozco de sitios que hagan eso. Sí que hay sitios que hacen accesible material con copyright mediante tecnologías p2p, pero todos los casos que conozco son gratuitos. Los usuarios suben el material que desean compartir, y otros lo bajan, sin más beneficio que el quid pro quo.

Ha matizado que el problema de la música en Internet es el poco peso de las canciones y su rapidez para copiarlas.

Esta es la perla que ha desatado mi indignación, el detonante de este post.

Primero, es falso, ya que cuando la velocidad de las redes era inferior la gente también compartía ficheros. No existe un tamaño de canciones tan grande, o una línea tan lenta (dentro de límites razonables), que la gente elija no bajar música o películas.

Pero, en segundo lugar, es un razonamiento increíblemente perverso, y más aún viniendo de una ministra de Cultura. El que archivos de contenido audiovisual sea susceptible de compresión manteniendo la calidad es un avance tecnológico de tremendo valor. Nos permite almacenar más en menor espacio, permite hacer más copias de seguridad en empresas que trabajen con ello, permite su transmisión más rápida y eficiente, permite streaming de vídeo en tiempo real sobre canales que por su lentitud no lo permitirían de otra manera... En cuanto a la velocidad de las redes de comunicación, es otro avance más importante todavía. Permite la comunicación en tiempo real entre dos puntos cualquiera del globo, permite la colaboración internacional (por ejemplo en ciencia), permite la transmisión y réplica de información vital en tiempo razonable, permite las copias de seguridad remota en tiempo razonable, permite que grabe un vídeo de mi hijo jugando con un sonajero, y se lo haga llegar a sus abuelos antes de que el niño vaya a la universidad se haga futbolista.

Lo que esta tiparraca insinúa es que la tecnología nos permite hacer cosas maravillosas, y por ello es mala. Está predicando un oscurantismo encubierto.

Para la ministra, las críticas que le hacen por esa regulación demuestra "lo virulento o apasionado de esas reacciones demuestra que es un tema importante en la vida de la gente. La red ha cambiado la manera de participar en sociedad".

No señora. Las criticas indican lo que toda crítica indica: que la gente no está de acuerdo con usted. La gente no "reacciona apasionadamente" simplemente. La gente se indigna con usted y con sus declaraciones. Así de simple.

En el caso concreto de la piratería musical, ha subrayado que "me preocupan mucho los efectos colaterales [de] que no se recupere la inversión cuando inviertes en cultura que se puede copiar".

El argumento de siempre: la cultura se muere, porque al ser gratis acceder a ella, nadie querrá producirla.

Los defensores de tal despropósito cometen la falacia de dar por sentado que vender trozos de plástico con canciones dentro es la única manera de obtener beneficios de la producción musical. Al igual que las radios nos dan el coñazo con lo último del Loco del Canto, Bisbal y demás para "promocionarlos" y que luego la gente compre más discos y vaya más a conciertos, sigue siendo válido decir que el distribuir la música por Internet hace más visibles a muchos artistas (claro que no necesariamente a los que las mafias discográficas quieren) y les permite obtener ganancias de conciertos a los que no iría nadie si no se hubieran bajado su música de internet. No veo a nadie quejarse de que emitir música gratis por la radio puede dañar la venta de discos. Al fin y al cabo, si puedo oir la canción por la radio (y hasta puedo grabarla de la misma, si quiero), ¿para qué iba a comprarme el CD? Al contrario, las discográficas se dejan una pasta gansa en untar a las radios para que emitan lo que ellas (las discográficas) quieren que la gente oiga.

Pero incluso aunque las descargas bajen ventas de discos y los artistas reciban menos beneficios. Aunque los artistas en ciernes desistan de dedicarse a ese mundo por no tener aliciente económico (otra falacia, suponer que la única motivación para producir cultura es la económica). Aunque la producción de Cultura se resintiese por las descargas... Eso no justifica el daño causado a la ciudadanía por medidas injustamente restrictivas.

Denostando e intentando impedir las descargas de material con copyright se está haciendo un daño enorme a la sociedad. Para empezar, se está intentando mantener un modelo de negocio obsoleto, lo cual en una sociedad capitalista es inaceptable. La venta de soportes físicos para material audiovisual no es un fin en sí mismo, sino un medio para poder hacer llegar el producto a los consumidores de la manera más eficiente posible. No puede hacerse que un grupo toque para un cliente cada vez que el cliente desee, pero sí puede grabarse en un medio físico, y que luego el cliente use ese medio para reproducir la música. Como la producción y distribución de estos medios físicos cuesta dinero, es lógico cobrar por ello, como por cualquier bien (el medio físico) o servicio (la distribución). Pero observemos que se cobra por la producción y transporte del medio físico. En cuanto haya otros medios de eliminar la brecha entre músico y su audiencia, los medios físicos (CDs, etc) quedarán obsoletos, y el pago por ellos será insostenible. Ese punto ya ha llegado.

El segundo daño a la sociedad es de un ámbito moral. Se nos dice que "no se puede tener todo gratis" (yo me sigo preguntando ¿por qué no? ¿No es eso el objetivo de toda sociedad, que sus ciudadanos estén satisfechos sin tener que "pagar" por ello? ¿Es que la vida tiene que ser un "valle de lágrimas" por narices?), pero además se nos dice que "compartir está mal". Este es un mesaje nefasto. Compartir es lo que hace, por ejemplo, que la Wikipedia sea lo que es. Compartir es lo que hace posible que haya gente que pueda ver series extranjeras subtituladas en el idioma propio por terceros desinteresados. Lo bueno del p2p y la Web 2.0 es que el material que consumimos mejora (y muchas veces se crea) con la aportación desinteresada de otros. A cambio, yo soy ese "otro desinteresado" para ellos, aportando mi ancho de banda y espacio en disco duro para que puedan ver una peli que yo ya he visto. O perdiendo mi tiempo para corregir un artículo en la Wikipedia, o comentar algo en un blog y aportar algo a su autor, o contestar a alguna pregunta en un foro sobre un tema que domino. Desde mi punto de vista, es una pena que en el mundo no funcione todo así. Que no podamos aportar desinteresadamente aquello que sabemos y podemos hacer, y beneficiarnos de la misma aportación de otros. Y para un reducto en que sí se puede, ¿nos lo quieren quitar? ¿Quieren criminalizar el ser buen vecino?

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Accessing Linux ext2/ext3 partitions from MS Windows
July 2nd 2009

Accessing both Windows FAT and NTFS file systems from Linux is quite easy, with tools like NTFS-3G. However (following with the MS tradition of making itself incompatible with everything else, to thwart competition), doing the opposite (accessing Linux file systems from Windows) is more complicated. One would have to guess why (and how!) closed and proprietary and technically inferior file systems can be read by free software tools, whereas proprietary software with such a big corporation behind is incapable (or unwilling) to interact with superior and free software file systems. Why should Windows users be deprived of the choice over JFS, XFS or ReiserFS, when they are free? MS techs are too dumb to implement them? Or too evil to give their users the choice? Or, maybe, too scared that if choice is possible, their users will dump NTFS? Neither explanation makes one feel much love for MS, does it?

This stupid inability of Windows to read any of the many formats Linux can use gives rise to problems for not only Windows users, but also Linux users. For example, when I format my external hard disks or pendrives, I end up wondering if I should reserve some space for a FAT partition, so I could put there data to share with hypothetical Windows users I could lend the disk to. And, seriously, I abhor wasting my hardware with such lousy file systems, when I could use Linux ones.

Anyway, there are some third-party tools to help us which such a task. I found at least two:

I have used the first one, but as some blogs point out (e.g. BloggUccio), ext2fsd is required if the inode size is bigger than 128 B (256 B in some modern Linux distros).

Getting Ext2IFS

It is a simple exe file you can download from fs-driver.org. Installing it consists on the typical windows next-next-finish click-dance. In principle the defaults are OK. It will ask you about activating "read-only" (which I declined. It's less safe, but I would like to be able to write too), and something about large file support (which I accepted, because it's only an issue with Linux kernels older than 2.2... Middle Age stuff).

Formatting the hard drive

In principle, Ext2IFS can read ext2/ext3 partitions with no problem. In practice, if the partition was created with an inode size of more than 128 bytes, Ext2IFS won't read it. To create a "compatible" partition, you can mkfs it with the -I flag, as follows:

# mkfs.ext3 -I 128 /dev/whatever

I found out about the 128 B inode thing from this forum thread [es].

Practical use

What I have done, and tested, is what follows: I format my external drives with almost all of it as ext3, as described, leaving a couple of gigabytes (you could cut down to a couple of megabytes if you really want to) for a FAT partition. Then copy the Ext2IFS_1_11a.exe executable to that partition.

Whenever you want to use that drive, Linux will see two partitions (the ext3 and the FAT one), the second one of which you can ignore. From Windows, you will see only a 2GB FAT partition. However, you will be able to open it, find the exe, double-click, and install Ext2IFS. After that, you can unplug the drive and plug it again...et voilà, you will see the ext3 partition just fine.

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Microsoft produces crap, AMD eats it
June 16th 2009

It's old news, but I just read about in in the Wikipedia article for the Phenom II processor.

Apparently Phenom processors had the ability to scale the CPU frequency independently for each core in multicore systems. Now, Phenom II processors lack this feature: the CPU frequency can be scaled, but all cores must share the same frequency.

Did this happen because of technical reasons? AMD thought it was better to do it? No. As Wikipedia says:

Another change from the original Phenom is that Cool 'n Quiet is now applied to the processor as a whole, rather than on a per-core basis. This was done in order to address the mishandling of threads by Windows Vista, which can cause single-threaded applications to run on a core that is idling at half-speed.

The situation is explained in an article in anandtech.com, where the author mistakes an error on Vista's account with an error in the Phenom processor (bolding of text is mine):

In theory, the AMD design made sense. If you were running a single threaded application, the core that your thread was active on would run at full speed, while the remaining three cores would run at a much lower speed. AMD included this functionality under the Cool 'n' Quiet umbrella. In practice however, Phenom's Cool 'n' Quiet was quite flawed. Vista has a nasty habit of bouncing threads around from one core to the next, which could result in the following phenomenon (no pun intended): when running a single-threaded application, the thread would run on a single core which would tell Vista that it needed to run at full speed. Vista would then move the thread to the next core, which was running at half-speed; now the thread is running on a core that's half the speed as the original core it started out on.

Phenom II fixes this by not allowing individual cores to run at clock speeds independently of one another; if one core must run at 3.0GHz, then all four cores will run at 3.0GHz. In practice this is a much better option as you don't run into the situations where Phenom performance is about half what it should be thanks to your applications running on cores that are operating at half speed. In the past you couldn't leave CnQ enabled on a Phenom system and watch an HD movie, but this is no longer true with Phenom II.

Recall how the brilliant author ascribes the "flaw" to CnQ, instead of to Vista, and how it was AMD who "fixed" the problem!

The plain truth is that AMD developed a technology (independent core scaling) that would save energy (which means money and ecology) with zero-effects on performance (since the cores actually running jobs run at full speed), and MS Vista being a pile of crap forced them to revert it.

Now, if you have a computer with 4 or 8 cores, and watch a HD movie (which needs a full-speed core to decode it, but only one core), the full 8 cores will be running at full speed, wasting power, producing CO2, and making you get charged money at a rate 8 times that actually required!

The obvious right solution would be to fix Vista so that threads don't dance from core to core unnecessarily, so that AMD's CnQ technology could be used to full extent. AMD's movement with Phenom II just fixed the performance problem, by basically destroying the whole point of CnQ.

Now take a second to reflex how the monstrous domination of MS over the OS market leads to problems like this one. In a really competitive market, if a stupid OS provider gets it wrong and their OS does not support something like CnQ properly, the customers will migrate to other OSs, and the rogue provider will be forced to fix their OS. The dominance of MS (plus their stupidity), just held back precious technological advances!

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Pay for online radio? Don't think so.
March 26th 2009

Apparently the online radio service my (formerly?) beloved last.fm was providing will no longer be free in the future, according to a recent official blog entry. Due to marketing/commercial/licensing decisions, the service will remain free of charge in the UK, Germany and the USA. Subscribers in the rest of the world will have to pay 3 euros per month.

In principle, I couldn't care less for online music. I exclusively listen to my private collection, and only use last.fm to publish the list of tracks I listen to. However, I have a couple of thoughts about it.

The first one is that I think that charging web users according to location should be made obsolete. In Internet each person is just that: a person, an individual, a user. A site could ask me what my preferred language is, to interact better with me (and I could answer whatever, true or false), but my nationality, religion or race should be irrelevant. So much talk about "globalization", and they only use it when it suits them. For example the work market is "globalizable", but Internet is not.

My second thought is that they have been forced to charge money to their users because they have to pay for the right of broadcasting licensed music. My position? Fuck them. Yes, seriously, screw paying for the broadcasting rights! I am seriously fed up with the morons in the music (and film) industry, trying to control the uncontrollable. If I were Last.fm, or a radio station in general, I would broadcast just Creative Commons music, such as that at Jamendo. If you are an artist and want me to broadcast your music, then you should pay me, not the other way around. However, if you provide me with your music for free, I might broadcast it for free, too. Quid pro quo.

I think that radio broadcast of music, or internet sharing, or the CD market, should be completely free of charge (or, in the case of physical formats like CDs, charge just for the price of the physical medium). The musicians should see this forms of broadcast as advertising. The distribution of their music should be as wide as possible, to make them as famous as possible, so that the revenue they get by doing actual work (like performing live) is maximized.

But, hey, that's just my view. What can I do with an industry that asks me to either comply or fuck off? Well, I guess that we, the clients/users should be asking that to the industry, not the other way around. I certainly try to.

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First DreamHost disappointment
July 11th 2008

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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11 Comments »

Microsoft se pasa al humor
May 31st 2008

Pedazo de noticia que he leído vía EmpresaDigitala.net. Según esta, Microsoft apuesta por la seguridad para diferenciarse del software libre.

¡Oh, sorpresa! MS, la empresa que produce el ubícuo sistema operativo Windows, tan conocido por su invulnerabilidad ante ataques de software malicioso y su práctica ausencia de bugs y errores, ha decidido seguir por el camino de la perfección que la caracteriza, para diferenciarse del software libre, que tantos agujeros de seguridad sabemos que tiene, y cuyos bugs sabemos que se tardan tanto en solucionar. ¡Menos mal! Estoy ya harto de los virus y troyanos en mi Debian. Es que cada vez que me mandan un e-mail tengo miedo de abrirlo, no sea que se me infecte el ordenador. Además el antivirus que tengo todo el tiempo corriendo en segundo plano me come muchos recursos, y no puedo trabajar a gusto. ¡Ojalá pueda pasarme a Windows, y olvidarme de todo este rollo del malware!

¡Venga ya!

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Creative Labs and the proprietary idiocy
April 1st 2008

Just when you thought that the world of proprietary software and silly "intellectual property" business couldn't do it worse, they surprise you!

This weekend I learned about a message from a big boss at Creative Labs to an individual nicknamed daniel_k at some Creative Labs forum. Please follow the link to the message, because it is very interesting. And don't forget to read some of the responses.

The short story is that Creative Labs produces some sound cards and their drivers. Apparently some of the drivers would not work for Windows Vista, and daniel_k managed to program drivers for Vista (and Linux, I think), and distributed them for free (asking only for voluntary donations). The result: an open message in a forum, asking daniel_k to cease and desist.

The rationale for CL to do that seems to be that they didn't release Vista drivers for the sound cards on purpose, so that customers would have to buy new cards if they switched to Vista. With daniel_k's contributions, such customers are not forced to dump the old card for a new one, so this costs CL money!

Another example of absolutely vile acts from vendors of proprietary software (were the drivers free software, this discussion would be moot), and one more reason to say fuck you all!

The good part is that the story is already being spread around the net, and a lot of customers and potential customers are becoming angry customers and potential customers. I wish CL the worst for their vileness and short sightedness on the issue. They should have supported daniel_k, and use the ensuing possitive feedback campaign... but they didn't. Shame on you, Creative Labs!

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