Older blog entries for louie (starting at number 272)

link dump, before I brave the torrential downpour

It is pouring out. I’d meant to go to Duke Gardens and start on Wealth of Networks again, but clearly not going to happen today. Instead, a quick linkdump and then a search for some local foraging.

Syndicated 2007-06-03 17:14:05 from Luis Villa's Blog

westlaw doesn’t get it- search with gradients, but without relevance

Sigh. So, kudos to westlaw for coming up with a new beta front page. Very clean, very google-like. (If you can’t see it, trust me.) Sadly, westlaw seems to think that the appeal of google is the clean look, rather than the good results.

If you search for ‘ebay v. mercexchange’ on google, you get the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case as the first hit, wikipedia, a blog post, and then the Federal Circuit’s (lower court) ruling on the case. This is pretty reasonable. Every hit on the page is relevant. They also got the ruling as the first hit within weeks of the ruling goes, which beyond reasonable and into ‘fairly impressive.’

When I searched for ‘ebay v. mercexchange’ on the new westlaw beta search a couple weeks after the ruling, I got… well, nothing referring to the Supreme Court. A bunch of commentary on the Federal Circuit’s decision. Some stuff on Indiana cities suing each other, and wills/estates. (WTF?) When I clicked around for a long time, I eventually found both decisions that Google finds immediately. Now, I get to commentary directly (better), but still no direct link to the case (still bad).

Now, I’m obviously not an expert, but I’m guessing someone searching for ‘ebay v. mercexchange’ is searching, 9 times out of 10, for the case itself. In fact, a teacher of legal research will tell you that you should never rely solely on commentaries- you should always read the case, as well as the commentaries, even if your intent is to first read the commentaries. So the should be result #1 (like it is in Google), followed by relevant background information and references (like Google.) That Westlaw still doesn’t get this is mind-boggling.

What makes Westlaw particularly maddening is that they should be able to measure relevance in much greater detail than Google can. Both Google and Westlaw have access to a rich database of documents which link to each other in a measurable, meaningful way. Westlaw has more- they can measure precisely how long people spend looking at documents, and know which results they click, in which order, when they run a search. And legal documents have a strict heirarchy which can be used to infer value when links are weak. And despite that, Westlaw still fails. (Lexis is no better.)

But hey, now the first search page you go to at westlaw has gradients. That counts for something, right?

Syndicated 2007-06-03 16:16:44 from Luis Villa's Blog

notes on my adventures in fedora-land

fedora logoI’ve been irritated for a while by some of Mark’s positions on ‘freedom’ (slamming Red Hat for non-freeness while seriously considering binary drivers and encouraging free software projects to rely on proprietary software for development), and obviously if I’m working for Red Hat, I should eat my own dogfood. So yesterday I spent a few hours installing Fedora for the first time… well, since roughly around when I ate my shorts. (NB: I can’t find a link or picture of that; if someone still has them, I’d like a copy.)

Some notes, good:

  • desktop effects actually work, with free video drivers. A very pleasant and unexpected surprise. (Unfortunately they seem to conflict with xrandr. Doh. But they were shiny while they lasted.)
  • most stuff Just Worked when I upgraded and left my old homedir in place; it appears that some gconf keys are not compatible, which is irritating, and some things I use were not installed by default, but otherwise, positive. (Most irritating: my xchat-gnome settings appear to have disappeared. Most silly/avoidable: ubuntu openoffice appears to use .openoffice.org2 and fedora openoffice uses .openoffice.org2.0.)
  • the session manager is much, much improved. I owe someone a beer for that- I assume Dan Winship?
  • Newest rhythmbox is very polished. Still prefer muine’s mental model, but rb is impressive, especially the ability to interact with music stores.
  • I’m quite impressed with yum; the performance is much better than I remembered. Still wish it had the rug two-letter commands :)
  • xournal is available through Koji, which is awesome. Gimmie is packaged too- more awesomeness. (Overall, sadly, little has changed on the tablet software front since last year.)

Some notes, bad:

  • my first user is not added to sudoers; apparently root’s password is still used to install software. This feels very primitive compared to the slick OS/X/Ubuntu default behavior. I know there is a jihad on to fix this problem in a more Correct and Sophisticated ™ way, but in the meantime, it still feels like a primitive situation for single-user boxes.
  • my wireless card works out of the box (great), but somehow NetworkManager doesn’t run by default, so nm-applet fails silently and inexplicably. Winner! As a bonus, system-config-network appears completely hosed, and dhclient appears to want to daemonize instead of actually get me a network address like I expect it to.
  • deskbar applet is vastly superior to the standard run dialog and mini-commander; it boggles my mind that GNOME still ships those by default and not deskbar-applet. (I know there are some performance issues, but c’mon- fix ‘em. This is a clear, huge winner for the users.)
  • my IBM volume keys didn’t work out of the box. You can fix that by installing tpb, but even after that the volume keys don’t get tied to the master volume, and the xosd visualizations take me back to the 80s. I know the fedora guys think that Ubuntu’s solution for this is a hack, and that it will be fixed ‘the right way’ for F8, but the Ubuntu hack has worked out of the box on every thinkpad I’ve used recently. I can understand being a puritan on licensing issues, and I realize hacks carry a maintenance cost, but I have less understanding for being a puritan on ‘hacks’ when it means your user experience lags the competition by 18-24 months.
  • the fedora installer did not attempt to recognize/make bootable my windows partition. Not a requirement (I have no idea if other installers do this) but it is a ‘would be nice’.

Some notes, mixed:

  • (sigh) All the proprietary bits that I shouldn’t want/need, but I do. Ubuntu makes it easy to get them; Fedora does not. I know Fedora is doing the right thing here, but… ugh. What a lose-lose situation for everyone- Fedora gets beat up for doing the right thing; Ubuntu gets makes a nice user experience (which is good) but significantly reduces our leverage to get some of these things fixed.
  • None of my tablet PC bits were not detected at install-time; this wasn’t surprising but I’d been hoping. Have been documenting the tablet parts of my adventure at ThinkWiki. Most frustrating part: if someone had just updated F7’s copy of linuxwacom at some point in the last seven months, 3-4 hours of my time would have been saved. (Will put a spec file and updated build patches in bugzilla tomorrow- yes, I built an rpm for the first time yesterday.)
  • It is my own damn fault that I did not read the older thinkwiki documention more carefully before installing. It says that screen rotation works, but ‘works’ has different meanings for different people, it turns out, and the thinkwiki definition of ‘works’ is not my definition of ‘works’. I have cobbled something together for now, but I’m not thrilled. Hopefully more time fixing that soon.

Overall, I can’t say I’m thrilled; I spent lots of yesterday cursing at various things. But I’m pretty much back where I was functionality-wise (or almost); I’m using a very Free distro; and I’m doing the right thing by supporting my employers and giving feedback on our product. Hopefully my experience will lead to a better experience for lots of folks in F8, if I can just bend the right ears :)


I’ve never thought of myself as a horse person, exactly, but the week before work started I went into the mountains and ended up doing a fair amount of horseback riding, and really enjoyed it. Most of my pictures aren’t up yet, but I really like this one, so I thought I’d throw it out there. The gentleman in the picture is the guy who talked me into the riding, with his wife behind him. Thanks so much, Joan and Ershal!

Syndicated 2007-06-02 15:48:20 from Luis Villa's Blog

they keep talking about building bridges, but forget that toll booths are optional

The only way that[ customer-benefiting interoperability is] possible is for companies to really be open to licensing arrangements and building these bridges that people thought were impossible before, among different providers and among different software development models.” –Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s vice president of intellectual property and licensing

Or, you know, you could agree not to assert the IP against your customers, open source, or standards-based projects, and actually benefit your customers like you claim to want to. Wouldn’t that be a wild idea. I think everyone is in favor of bridges, but some of us don’t assume that all bridges have toll booths.

(And I’m still waiting for someone in the mainstream tech media to challenge MS’s assumption here instead of just letting them get away with it. But I probably shouldn’t hold my breath.)

Syndicated 2007-06-01 00:05:38 from Luis Villa's Blog

presentation styles

I love this slide deck, and (mostly) this one too. Need to figure out if I can pull something like that off next time I need to do a powerpoint presentation. I doubt it, but I can give it a shot.

Syndicated 2007-05-31 03:58:28 from Luis Villa's Blog

social producers are going to get lawyers whether we like them or not

One of the comments to Matt Asay’s post about me over the winter asked what I think was a pretty good question, and one that has been asked in a couple variations this summer:

…I am usually saddened to see that law becomes a necessarily evil in science (programming in this case). Why can’t we just be?

For better or for worse, social producers (not just software, but wikipedia, etc.) are becoming so successful that we often have to interface with the real world. We’ve got two options. First, we can either stay small and under the radar, allowing us to keep operating on a handshake basis. This will work for some products and some producers, but I think many of us want to have a broader impact than that. For those of us who do think that social production is going to have a serious and broad impact on the world, we can use the tools the rest of the world has developed to relate to that real world- laws and legal experts, aka lawyers. I’m pretty sure there is no third option to ‘be big but somehow still avoid lawyers.’ (Feel free to convince me otherwise; I’ll save at least $90K in school bills if you do. :) At best, we might be able to avoid some of the regulation which has affected every other pervasive industry, but even without regulation by government, when you’re big you have to relate to other private parties- corporations, less trusting individuals, etc. The bigger you get, the more those relationships are mediated by lawyers, in order to make sure that all sides can eventually trust each other once the lawyers are gone. The need to defend and define our success, in part by using the law and legal experts, is a virtually inevitable byproduct of our success- the rest of the world is not just going to let us be if we have the impact we hope we can have.

The types of issues lawyers can and will help social production navigate aren’t just going to be defensive issues, thankfully. If more of our relationships are going to lean away from the purely economic/industrial and begin to include more aspects of the social/cooperative, we’re going to need creative new ways to structure and define those relationships. The GPL is the canonical example of this, of course, but there are other examples too, like the Red Hat sales model. We got lucky in many senses with GPL- while originally intended for a cathedral-like model of production, it happened to provide the reciprocity which turned out to be critical for success in the bazaar. We aren’t likely to be so lucky again- we may never again have the time to allow such relationships to grow slowly and organically. Red Hat’s current sales model couldn’t evolve; it had to be sculpted with the aid of lawyers from day one. Again, then, if we want to have such relationships, we’re going to need to choose the ways we structure them more deliberately and proactively- and lawyers will likely be involved, whether we feel comfortable with that or not.

This isn’t necessarily to say that social producers should give up and let the lawyers have their way with us; they should be viewed with some suspicion, and we should demand that the same principles which tend to govern social production now - values like openness, transparency, simplicity, robustness - should continue to govern social production in the future, even after the lawyers get involved. (Mike Dillon, Sun GC, has a great blog post on the clarity/simplicity thing; and another on aligning provision of services with the needs of customers instead of the needs of providers; great social production lawyers will take both of those to heart and great social producers will demand it of their lawyers.) But denying that law (and with it the lawyers) is coming doesn’t serve anyone well.

So… perhaps unfortunately, our own needs and the needs of the outside world are going to push social producers into the arms of lawyers, whether we like it or not. Fortunately, more lawyers are going to get it as social production becomes more pervasive; the team here at Red Hat certainly seems to, and hopefully I’ll add myself to the pool of such lawyers in another couple years.

Syndicated 2007-05-31 03:32:28 from Luis Villa's Blog

my nose is incompatible with my face, I think I’ll cut it off.

It is incredible how so few people can get so many things wrong in so few emails, especially when there are actually people saying the right thing right there in the thread.

(for those whose instinctive response is ‘well duh, it is debian-legal’,  I unsubscribed… jeez, most of a decade ago now, and may have forgotten how maddening it is. Apologies for restating the obvious.)

Syndicated 2007-05-30 12:24:35 from Luis Villa's Blog

discuss amongst yourselves

Can truly great things be created without arrogance?

(You can spit on me or suggest a missing link in the comments.)

Syndicated 2007-05-30 01:25:04 from Luis Villa's Blog

im in your RDU, eatin ur foodz

As I’ve now had several RDU-based people approach me about meals in recent days, and ask if I’d be interested in lunch, let me be clear: the answer is definitely ‘yes, I’m interested!’ The only question is about my availability; I’ll be traveling many weekends and know lots of folks down here who want to munch at various times. But if you’ve ever exchanged more than a handful of lines with me over email or IRC, feel free to poke.

Syndicated 2007-05-29 16:58:02 from Luis Villa's Blog

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