May 27, 2008

Twisted Stakes a Claim

Disclosure: this post discusses remarks made by a Holden Web business partner.
In his Electric Duncan blog, Duncan McGreggor argues that Twisted now provides a viable LAMP alternative, and asks some very pertinent "so what?"-type questions:
As such, this is a direct competitor for LAMP. Here are some questions about that: What is the value of a full stack? Why is an alternative to LAMP good or needed? What is a good alternative? [...] We need to be asking ourselves what our applications are, what the network is, what services are, and what our dev teams and engineers need.
This led me to ask some questions of my own. Is this true? Is Twisted actually able to provide a full-service alternative web application solution? How adaptable is the architecture? Suppose I want to retain my Django templating instead of transitioning to Nevow: how easy would that be?

The case against LAMP starts with out-of-the-box scalability, as Sean Reifschneider (among other luminaries) has pointed out. I believe that Twisted has been proven at reasonably high levels. Whether it's processing Google-sized firehoses I don't know, but it's certainly supporting a significant part of the airline reservations structure.

As to "what is a good alternative", I suspect a lot of developers would go with "something that's orthogonal to my current code, so I don't have to rewrite anything". Perhaps that's asking a bit much, though. I know from various transitions I have made that some things just "fit my brain", and one of those was the Django templating scheme. Django users are pretty much database-agnostic, though a surprising number of them seem to use PostgreSQL. So perhaps Axiom support of Django templating?

The thing is, you can't just go around claiming to be an effective competitor to LAMP. You have to demonstrate the truth of that claim. I am sure the Twisted guys can do that if they are forced. They just don't realize the marketing necessity yet.

May 17, 2008

Nicholas Negroponte: An Ego Unbound?

I just finished reading Ivan Krstic's excellent Sic Transit Gloria Laptopi blog post. It appears that Negroponte would now like the OLPC XO to become yet another laptop we have to throw Windows off before we install some open source operating system supporting the GNU toolset.

I don't believe Nicholas Negroponte could manage to find his way out of a paper bag, let alone manage a hardware supplier trusted to build the infrastructure of developing countries. His Windows bait-and-switch makes him look like a shill for Microsoft. I wonder how much Microsoft stock he holds?

He just doesn't get that he has blown a huge chance to make a difference here. The thing that pisses me is the way he has played fast and loose with the work of literally hundreds of open source programmers who have attempted to support what they saw as a worthwhile educational project. But now Negroponte says that OLPC isn't an educational project after all. It's not about you. Nick, it's about the kids in the developing economies.

May 5, 2008

Thanks for the Money!

Well, apparently seven thousand other people also wanted to support brain tumor research yesterday at the eleventh annual "DC Race for Hope" in aid of the Brain Tumor Society and Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure. So many, in fact, that I didn't even pass the starting line until ten minutes after the first contestants. But it wasn't all about speed, which is just as well, since the lead runner past me on his return journey before I had even covered the first mile of the course.

The most important thing was the huge amount of money the event generated (a donation of a million dollars was announced just before the race commenced). Thanks once again to everyone who helped me to smash my sponsorship goal. With your help I raised $1,215, handsomely exceeding my target of $1,000, and my wildest expectations.

For those of you kind enough to inquire about my friend Sharon, her tumor turned out to be treatable with a combination of surgery and other therapies, and with luck she will be recovering from the surgery as I write this. I'm hoping that next year she can come to the race and join the other survivors. Thanks again for all your help!

May 2, 2008

The Media We Deserve?

Many thanks to Patrick Logan for bringing this New York Times article to my attention. It highlights the fact that the "military analysts" used (and paid!) by the major networks often appear to have business dealings and Pentagon relationships that cause blatant conflicts of interest with their independence as analysts.

My favorite quote shows that the networks feel they have something to hide, and in particular just exactly how "fair and balanced" Fox News wants to be:

CBS News declined to comment on what it knew about its military analysts’ business affiliations or what steps it took to guard against potential conflicts.

NBC News also declined to discuss its procedures for hiring and monitoring military analysts. The network issued a short statement: “We have clear policies in place to assure that the people who appear on our air have been appropriately vetted and that nothing in their profile would lead to even a perception of a conflict of interest.”

Jeffrey W. Schneider, a spokesman for ABC, said that while the network’s military consultants were not held to the same ethical rules as its full-time journalists, they were expected to keep the network informed about any outside business entanglements. “We make it clear to them we expect them to keep us closely apprised,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Fox News said executives “refused to participate” in this article.

CNN requires its military analysts to disclose in writing all outside sources of income. But like the other networks, it does not provide its military analysts with the kind of written, specific ethical guidelines it gives its full-time employees for avoiding real or apparent conflicts of interest.

Nothing like shutting up when you have something to hide. You can almost hear the ranks closing.

May 1, 2008

Microsoft Can't Support DRM

So it seems that "PlaysForSure" actually meant "Plays until the first time you change your computer or operating system after August 31, 2008". About ten days ago Microsoft's general manager for MSN Entertainment and Video Services sent out an email to customers advising them that license keys can no longer be retrieved and new computers cannot be activated after that date.

This is a very clear indication that digital rights management (DRM) is a loss for the consumer. If I wanted to keep songs from my eight-track stereo around then there was nothing to stop me from transferring them to audio cassette or CD (despite the RIAA's rather specious arguments that this was a breach of copyright). If I'd been silly enough to trust Microsoft's assertion that DRM offered me protections then I'd have to get ready to shell out for new copies after any change to my playing environment.

The Electronic Freedom Foundation has written to Microsoft stating in no uncertain terms that (by suggesting that users copy the music to a CD and transfer it to new computers that way) the company "is asking its customers to invest more time, labor and money in order to continue to enjoy the music for which they have already paid".

If Microsoft, with all their resources, can't keep a DRM scheme working then there is little chance for anyone else. It also doesn't encourage customers to trust the company if it is prepared to abandon them in this way, though they might have anticipated this desertion when Microsoft closed the MSN store when it started selling the Zune.

I suspect this is the beginning of the end of DRM. Let it rest in peace.