Aristillus

A large crater to dump my thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘rants

Why Copyright Law Is In Dire Need of Reform, Exhibit 431245

leave a comment »

Another example of how today’s copyright law sucks. The flying lawnmower video no longer has a sound track. It’ s just not the same without Cotton Eye Joe in the background.

Assuming it has any business existing at all, copyright law should be fueling the creation of new material – not stopping or preventing it.

Written by aristillus

June 6, 2013 at 00:18

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

In The Waiting Line

leave a comment »

Dear people of England,

I know all y’all have a big obsession with queueing. The art of people in lines is your thing, like we Dutch are in charge of bicycles and being stoned. Everybody in the world has to queue sometimes, but nobody else can (or would bother to) boast about the skill, variety and finesse with which they do it. And while us foreigners are annoyed with being in an orderly line of grumpy waiting people, you seem to be almost excited about the prospect.

Anyhow, can you please tone it down a bit for the rest of us ? A single line or one queue per register is okay. Queues are optional; there is no need to create an artificial one if customers are being helped immediately (I’m looking at you, local Waitrose). If you have a sign in your store that says “We are using a double queueing system”, then perhaps you’re overdoing it. If you have three people managing a queue for the two registers in your bank, then perhaps you need to rethink your staff assignments. Panic and chaos will not ensue. Not immediately, anyway.

It’s true, there are few things more exciting than experimenting with queues and different queuing systems. As a software engineer, I am well aware of this. But please do your experimenting in private – perhaps in some sort of club? –  in your spare time. Or maybe you can have ceremonial queues on national holidays? Whatever, just don’t bother me with it.

Written by aristillus

March 18, 2013 at 01:08

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , ,

Space Oddity

with one comment

I love you, London, but you too have your oddities. None of them are too big to be a problem, but some things are impossible to ignore. In two years time I’ll probably be defending these as perfectly acceptable, once the Stockholm syndrome kicks in. For now, they bother me.

I’ll start with the food. Your chips are weird. Sorry, let me misspell that for you so you understand it. Your crisps are weird. You have crisps made of non-potatoey things, like pears, turnips and carrots. And then you lack proper flavoured crisps. There’s crisps with vinegar rather than peppers. WHY??

For a city that features half a dozen different world kitchens in a single street alone, it is extremely hard to find decent bread. Most supermarkets just have soggy, soft wheat stuff packed in plastic. I’m sure you can’t tell the difference once it’s been toasted.

I won’t bother complaining about the lack of decently priced good cheese. I knew that was one of the things I had to give up when I moved here.

I realize fish and chips is hardly haute cuisine, but what’s that green goeey stuff that looks like guacomole and tastes like unfinished pea soup in my pub grub?

What’s up with the giant powerplugs? British engineers seem to take any questioning of the size of the UK power plug as a personal insult the size of, well, said power plug.

I’m sure there’ll be another installment of this in another couple of weeks.

Written by aristillus

February 19, 2013 at 01:19

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

Leaving on a Jet Plane

leave a comment »

I like being in the sky, free as a bird, hanging under a kite or a couple of hundred kilograms of plastic. I detest travelling by jet engine airplane.

I hate waiting for security checks, for boarding, for customs, for luggage, for delayed flights.

I hate being squeezed into an uncomfortable chair with not enough leg room, in a small aluminum tube with several hundred other grumpy people.

I hate the conditioned low-quality air in jets. It causes that annoying greasy feeling on your skin and makes you feel like you badly need a shower.

I hate the impact the extravagant kerosene consumption has on the environment.

I hate having to plan my travel around pre-booked non-changeable flights.

I hate having to spend hours of layovers on airports with overpriced kiosks, fast food chains and book stores that sell nothing but John Grisham paperbacks.

I hate the silly security checks at airports. I hate having to take off my shoes and belt every time I go through a checkpoint. I hate having to watch what I pack to prevent my drinks or tools from getting confiscated. I hate having said items confiscated when I inevitably forget.

I hate jet lag.

Yet – for the moment – you will still find me in one of these metal tubes every couple of weeks. There is only one good thing about modern air travel: it gets you places, fast and cheap.

Written by aristillus

January 6, 2013 at 19:02

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

Amputechture: why I don’t like e-books

with one comment

There are some really big advantages to e-books. You can carry one device with a couple of thousand books around with you, all of it together weighing no more than a single pocket book. Even better, those thousands of books don’t get dog ears. Usually, I am an early adopter of new technology. And yet, I somehow still seem to have trouble making the leap in this case.

I have fundamental concerns with the current ways in which e-books are traded. The terms under which most e-books are sold are worrying. “sold” is probably the wrong word; the terms of the license that is sold to most books is ridiculous. You don’t really own the book, you get the right to consume a copy – but that right comes with a long list of ifs and buts. You can’t lend e-books to friends (or can only lend them a limited number of times). Publishers can retract the license, effectively removing it from your device after it has already been “sold” to you (in an amazing fit of irony, Amazon accidentally did this with e-book copies of 1984). Manufacturers of readers are given permission to phone home and track your reading habits.

But most of all, I really like my books the way they are. Old books and new books both have their own distinct smell. Without having to touch buttons I can see how far along I am. I like that I can feel the backs of paperbacks twist and crack under the pressure of my fingers as I work my way through a novel. I like being able to browse books in (the unfortunately decreasing number of) quality book stores, rather than in ad-filled electronic stores on small screens. I like that paperbacks are a commodity that I can easily lose or give away.

Written by aristillus

December 5, 2012 at 22:21

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , ,

It’s getting cloudy now

leave a comment »

Cloud computing is all the rage these days. It is, in short, computing as a service instead of as a product. This has serious advantages but also has a negative side that may not immediately be obvious.

The concept is pretty simple; somebody keeps some physical computers up and running and provides computing time on those computers to others, rather than everybody buying their own hardware. Sometimes this service is provided by a different part of the same company or government (a private cloud) and sometimes it is sold as a service (a public cloud, like Amazon EC2).

From the perspective of deployment and resource management, the cloud is a great idea. It’s easy to go from nowhere to having a couple of hundred machines running. No need to buy more hardware, fiddle with install CD’s, or worry about replacing broken parts. Everything can be done without having to leave your desk. And it’s possible to scale an application as demand requires; adding a few more servers can be done in less than a minute, and getting rid of them is probably just as fast. It’s easier to get redundancy. Quick repurposing of machines when demand requires it. Anyway, great stuff: the engineer in me is thrilled.

But it’s not all rosy. Cloud computing is just a technology, and technology isn’t inherently good or bad – it’s how you use it. There are plenty of valid use cases for the cloud, but it also enables some worrying behavior.

For starters, it makes it possible for companies and governments to outsource the physical machines and lower software layers they run their applications on. This means that (private) user data gets shipped around to not just one external party – the one running the application – but also to the cloud provider or providers that are providing the hardware it runs on. Their security or downtime can affect a large number of customers (and their customers). The cloud providers may be in a different jurisdiction (or often, multiple jurisdictions) with different legal systems, opening their customers up to legal issues regarding data retention or foreign government surveillance. And while having data spread across different companies and different continents was not impossible before the cloud, it certainly has become a lot easier and more common.

Handing over control over my personal data to so many companies (and governments) makes me uncomfortable, but it’s so darn convenient. Is there no way we can have the best of both worlds, some sort of hybrid model?

Written by aristillus

November 12, 2012 at 10:51

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

De technologiefetish van de Nederlandse politiek

leave a comment »

Er zijn maar weinig leden van de Tweede Kamer die een fatsoenlijke technische achtergrond hebben, en dat is zo af en toe helaas goed te merken. De gehele politiek lijkt groot voorstander te zijn van elk gebruik van technologie, zonder daarbij ook maar enige kanttekeningen te plaatsen. Het is dus ook geen wonder dat er de afgelopen jaren het nodige gepruts is geweest met technische dossiers.

Zo klonk er bij de verkiezingsuitzending vanavond weer dom geklaag van o.a. Charles Groenhuijsen en Wouke van Scherrenburg – die ik verder overigens hoog heb zitten – dat het zo onnodig was dat we tot laat in de nacht moesten wachten op de uitslag, alleen maar vanwege “een kluppie rare nerds”. Natuurlijk zou het fijner zijn als er geen blik vrijwilligers de hele nacht papieren stemmen hoeft te gaan tellen, en als de politieke junkies onder ons niet de hele avond naar Herman van der Zande hoeven te staren terwijl die de uitslag in elke van de 400 gemeenten oplepelt. Maar is dat ene nachtje extra wachten nou zo’n ontzettend groot probleem? En moeten we daarvoor de betrouwbaarheid en transparantie van de verkiezingen – en dus de democratie – riskeren?

Door alles te centraliseren – één van de consequenties van in ieder geval de vorige generatie stemcomputers – wordt grootschalige fraude vrij gemakkelijk, en het digitaliseren maakt het vrijwel onmogelijk voor waarnemers het proces goed te observeren. Stemmen op de computer is geenzins goedkoper dan op papier. Toch willen verschillende politieke partijen opnieuw investeren in electronisch stemmen – inclusief de partij waar ik zelf lid van ben. In zijn recente column op Webwereld gaat Arjen Kamphuis in op de vraag waarom ook verbeterde stemcomputers een slecht idee zijn. Naast alle technische bezwaren is het natuurlijk de vraag of die tientallen miljoenen niet beter besteed kunnen worden.

Maar het gaat niet alleen mis bij stemcomputers. Het Electronisch Patiënten Dossier (EPD), de OV-Chipkaart en de bewaarplicht zijn andere grote voorstellen die een forse en risicovolle investering in technologie vereis(t)en en waarvan het netto nut op z’n minst onduidelijk is. Technologie is een middel – maar geen wondermiddel – en mag geen doel op zich zijn.

Written by aristillus

September 12, 2012 at 23:31