So, writing on my blog hasn’t been required for any of my classes this semester, so I haven’t taken the time to write. I have been quite busy, though. I am graduating in April, getting married in May, and starting a full time job with National Instruments in July. All of which is very exciting, and all of this also has kept me very busy.
In the mean time, I’ll keep thinking about things. I have an interesting programming problem i need to solve before too long. I created a web site for my eagle scout project years back. It was an index of cemetery records for Malheur County, Oregon. I hosted it on Geocities; however, Geocities recently shut down. Before it shut down, I went and grabbed the pages off of their server, and stuck them on my own. The site is currently hosted at http://jwhitecl.webhop.net/malheurcountyrecords/. The problem is that I don’t want to host it. The information should be made available, and there are other sites that host this kind of information. I was planning on transferring all of my information over to one of these sites, USGenWeb, but their cemetery records are in a very different format than my own. I plan on writing a script to convert the cemetery records, but this is a non-trivial transformation. I’ll post more on the details of this problem and the solution I come up with before too long. (Probably during the month of June)
At Epic Systems, I worked on medical software. One of the main concerns doctors had about medical software was that it would start making the decisions that doctors should. They feared it would create “cookie-cutter medicine.” It is a valid concern, and applies whenever leadership depends on technology. When it comes to working with people on a personal level, computers can facilitate good decision-making, but can also be poor decision makers. They just cannot consider all possibilities, as a skilled leader does.
Addiction is a mental disorder. Unfortunately, in our society we look down on people with mental disorders. One way of coping with this is for the addict to seek refuge in his or her vice. Luckily, for the internet addict, it isolates them from the world. A big part of the destructive cycle of addiction is with our society. People are more willing to address their addictions when we treat them like normal people with normal problems. They would not run from society as so many internet addicts currently do.
Antivirus software gives an illusion of security. People lose all benefits of antivirus software when they are not careful online. You do not just go to a slum somewhere with one hundred dollar bills hanging out of your pockets and a shirt that says, “Don’t mug me – The police will get you” and thinking that law enforcement will prevent any problem. Law enforcement is not good at prevention. It is good at reacting to problems. Antivirus software is the same way; however, many seem to think that antivirus software is some type of magic protection. People should demonstrate the same level of caution online that they do anywhere else.
While I was in southern Chile, there was not a lot of technology. I took some time every week to write an email home, and I went to the small Internet cafes that are ubiquitous down there. They had old computers – most of them were second hand computers from the United States or Europe. The vast majority ran Windows 98, and occasionally we could find ones that used Windows XP. This was in 2005-2007. The majority of people did not own a computer. They had cell phones, but rarely were they new. Most were four or five years old, and they could not afford to buy more than a few dollars of minutes every other month to make calls. They received relatively few benefits of the flat world; but had to contribute a lot to it.
In southern Chile, they produced many exports, and had some contact with the outside world. There were some tourists, but few foreigners besides that. They had some fisheries and berry farms, and exported their salmon and berries to China, Japan, Korea, and the United States. This did not change things for the people, though. The vast majority earned minimum wage, or about $300 (USD) a month. The world may be flat for those that have a little more money, but it is not for the rest of the world. For the developing world, the world being flat just means that their work is what helps keep the standard of living high in developed countries, and they reap no real benefits beyond the low pay their jobs offer. I do not know if any of you have noticed, but for them the world is round.
This was an interesting article; however, I felt it left out much of the good that ‘cathedrals’ bring to society. They do especially well with business applications, and provide the ‘boring’ software that many open source developers do not really want to work on. Contrary to the author’s perception of the world, there is a lot of closed source software that is well-maintained and high quality. I think that quality of software is more dependent on the quality of the developers, designers, and management than the development model used to develop the software. Microsoft produces both good and bad products. So does the open source world. I think both closed and open development models are vitally important.
While protection of intellectual property is good, I am wary of the influence of large companies in the creation and enforcement of intellectual property laws. Large companies, such as Microsoft, IBM and HP, have lots of influence. They make lots of money and have many employees. They can afford lobbyists and wield a lot of political influence. They also influence their employees’ political views. In addition, I have yet to meet a person that gives priority to intellectual property when choosing who to vote for. I suspect people usually put other political issues in front of intellectual property, as I often do. As a result, large companies get too much say. There are some organizations, such as the Free Software Foundation, which make their stance clear on IP; however, they are not powerful enough to sway politicians. It is extremely important that individuals make their voices heard about copyright and software patents.