Ex Bibliotheca

The life and times of Zack Weinberg.

Wednesday, 25 September 2002

# 10 PM

The FSF has released a lengthy FAQ on why, in their opinion, one should speak of "GNU/Linux" instead of just "Linux."

I don't wish to address that issue, but I do want to respond to one of their questions:

"Why not just say "Linux is the GNU kernel" and release some existing version of GNU/Linux under the name "GNU"?"

It might have been a good idea to adopt Linux as the GNU kernel back in 1992. If we had realized, then, how long it would take to get the GNU Hurd to work, we might have done that. (Alas, that is hindsight.) Today, with the GNU Hurd working, it would not make sense to do this. We don't want to release a GNU/Linux system as "GNU", because we are getting ready to package and release the real GNU system.

There is another reason why we don't want to take some existing version of GNU/Linux and relabel it as "GNU": that would be somewhat like making a version the GNU system and labeling it "Linux".

I take issue with the description of the Hurd as a working kernel. It's never going to be efficient, nor has adequate attention been paid to security; features have been thrown in for no good reason; all the interesting things that the Hurd claimed to make possible are also possible with the Linux kernel. It is my personal opinion that the Hurd should be scrapped immediately, and the resources currently devoted to its development redirected to work on Linux or EROS. The latter is an interesting experimental kernel, which genuinely does have capabilities (no pun intended) that Linux lacks; further, serious attention has been paid to elegance, efficiency, and security.

# 9:15 PM

more politics

Very interesting two-part article in the Sierra Times: "Dis-Mything 9-11: Is The USA PATRIOT Act Patriotic?" (part 1, part 2). I smell kookery in both the article and the Sierra Times generally. For instance, Mr. White refers to a "hard money clause" of the Constitution, which he implies made the 1933 Act abolishing the gold standard unconstitutional. There is a sentence in the Constitution which could be described as a hard money clause (in article I, section 10, paragraph 1) but it does not make that Act unconstitutional. It is a restriction on the powers of the individual states, not of Congress; it's clearly intended to ensure that the states do not issue their own currencies (as they did under the Articles of Confederation).

A few paragraphs before that, in section 8, Congress is given unrestricted power to "coin money and regulate the value thereof," without any mention of what material the coin must be made of, or what if anything its value must be backed by. There is no justification for an assertion that the Constitution requires a hard currency.

However, that's a minor flaw in an otherwise excellent pair of articles. Mr. White is correct to object to legislation passed without due consideration, and to the PATRIOT Act specifically. I would like to encourage all my readers who are resident in the USA to sign the online petition for its repeal.

Another good article is in this week's SF Weekly: Matt Smith reports on a professional architect's conclusions about the most effective ways to respond to the destruction of the World Trad Center. Apparently simple and cheap-to-implement changes to the fire codes could ensure that skyscrapers can be evacuated safely in the event of another such disaster.


Also in this week's SF Weekly is a review of Das Experiment, a German movie based on the 1971 Stanford prison experiment. It sounds well worth seeing.

In last week's SF Weekly there was a feature article on why the Bay Area has stopped producing big-time rock bands. I especially want to call your attention to the segment beginning on page two, "This Band Should Be Your Life," profiling the Pattern. This is a new, happening band that deserves more attention. I've downloaded their MP3s and I like what I hear. They're playing Slim's in San Francisco on October 7th; I think I'll go.

from the out-of-total-left-field dept.

I'm walking home today and some guy buttonholes me and asks where he can score some pot. What I wanna know is, where did he get the idea that clean-shaven T-shirt-and-jeans white-boy me knows where to score pot? Maybe it's the ponytail.

# 3:20 PM


It's not a good thing when updating your weblog becomes one of the things that you avoid doing because you're already ages behind on it. So I'm just going to throw out a bunch of random things that come to mind and we'll call it caught up, okay?

duct tape

This weekend I bought more stackable CD racks because I was out of space, only to discover that the Crate&Barrel and IKEA brands are incompatible. (I would link to pictures of each, but just try to find a specific product in either store's online catalog.) Duct tape and coat hanger wire to the rescue! I bent a coat hanger into an adapter between the two kinds of stacker tab, and duct-taped all the joints together so it wouldn't fall apart. It does want to tip over, but that's okay, it's up against the wall.

mad linkage

The reply brief for the petitioners in the Eldred v. Ashcroft case is well worth reading. Free the Mouse!

Speaking of which, BumperActive is a pretty cool thing in its own right. As are Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour and Junction City. I bet the tour would be right up the SF Mime Troupe's alley; perhaps I'll try to hook them up.

As long as I'm on the subject of politics, Anna has a fascinating discourse on Socialism and Peter Maass has a number of interesting comments on the Iraq juggernaut. And I think it's high time I added Avedon Carol to the links on the right.

It turns out that Lore Fitzgerald Sjöberg lives in Berkeley and patronizes Cafe Elodie, which is also one of my favorite downtown cafes. He also has a "mysterious letter" of advice for web-log-writers, which is worth reading. I am not sure I measure up. And finally, he proposes the glossing links concept, which is nifty, and I may decide to play with it. The link density on this page is arguably too high.


Rael has a new version of Blosxom out. I'm not sure I will upgrade. I've already heavily customized this version, and he seems to be taking it in a different direction from me, anyway. (Can someone explain to me what RSS is for and why I should care, please?)

A more interesting possibility: an anonymous correspondent sent me a reference to a comment add-on for Blosxom. This is something I'd really like to have, except that it doesn't seem to work on that guy's site, which means I'd probably have to do a bunch of debugging, which I do not have time for right now.

Movable Type's standalone trackback utility is also interesting, although perhaps I should just switch to Movable Type...

babylonian mythology was never so bishonen

Utukki is being updated again.