Mike Schaeffer's Weblog
Tue, 28 Nov 2006
Ghostbusters 2
Teresa and I just re-watched Ghostbusters 2 last night. While watching it, there were a couple scenes that initially struck me as totally being about wish fulfillment. The Ghostbusters have just made some kind of breakthrough, Bobby Brown's "Own Our Own" fades in, and they cut to scenes of the Ghostbuster-mobile tearing around the streets of New York interspersed with shots of the Ghostbusters themselves riding around in the car like refugees from a Beastie Boys video. These are clearly men of decisive action (and you can be one too).

It was the outcome of these two scenes that made me reconsider my opinion. After the first scene, the Ghostbusters fail to convince the mayor of New York of the threat of ghosts and get themselves thrown in an asylum. After the second scene, they end up immobilized by Vigo, writhing on the floor, and ultimately saved by the city of New York singing a nice round of Auld Lang Syne. Wish fulfillment, indeed.

reddit this! Digg Me!

[/personal/comments] permanent link

Sun, 26 Nov 2006
Ryan's First Thanksgiving
We just got back from Ryan's first Thanksgiving holiday. Rather than spread the travel out across the entire holiday season, we decided to hit both sets of grandparents during Thanksgiving. This has made for a fun, busy week and a great start for what promises to be a hectic year's end. Over the holiday, Ryan also had a whole bunch of firsts:
  • First visit with all sorts of family, including three great-grandparents.
  • First time south of the Mason-Dixon line.
  • First three airplane rides. (He travels really well; He basically did not cry at all!)
  • First time to touch his knees and feet.
  • First trip to Whataburger and his first two trips to Mexican restaurants.
Ryan was quite the little trooper and a big hit with everybody he met. We've put some pictures up here. We hope everybody had a good Thanksgiving holiday and wish everybody a happy holiday season!

reddit this! Digg Me!

[/personal/ryan_charles] permanent link

Sat, 18 Nov 2006
2 Months With the 'Revolution'.
It's been about two months since I've installed Ubuntu Linux on my Dell Inspiron 6000 laptop. The initial impression was highly positive, but two months later the reality is starting to wear a little thin. After switching to Ubuntu Linux my laptop is slower, less media-savvy, uglier, and less compatible than it was before. The thing that is sad about this is that as much as Linux has improved, it feels like it is lagging behind Windows more than it did ten years ago (the last time I used Linux full-time).

In a way, this relative lag is not too suprising; It is caused by the convergance of two sets of industry trends over the last ten years. Ten years ago, the commonplace Windows was Windows 95, based on the old 16-bit Windows 3.x kernel; In 2006 the commonplace Windows is Windows XP, based on the much more robust Windows NT kernel. Ten years ago, 3D graphics, video playback, and the Internet were only beginning to emerge in the mainstream; In 2006, these applications define the mainstream. Linux's kernel might still be better than Windows, but it's less better now than it was ten years ago, eroding its relative advantage. At the same time Linux's advantage in kernel technology has been eroded, computers are increasingly used for things that essentially require access to propriatary content and technolgy. The Microsoft windows license fee pays for things like high quality fonts, licences for MP3 and DVD CODEC's, and sophisiticated 3D hardware support. It is either difficult or impossible to replace these things in an open source model, so, to the extent they are becoming more important, Linux increasingly suffers in contrast to its closed course, license-for-fee competition.

One example of how this might directly impact people is MP3 playback. MP3 playback is built into Windows: the Windows licence fee enables Microsoft to pay the Fraunhofer institute's license fee for the MP3 patent. in contrast, MP3 playback is deliberately excluded from Ubuntu Linux because it's patented and, despite the fact that Fluendo has paid for a patent licence and written a GStreamer CODEC, the CODEC is not open source and doesn't match Ubuntu's licensing model. Thus, while it is possible to add MP3 support to Ubuntu Linux, it takes the extra step of downloading and installing a CODEC. The same is true for DVD and MPEG video, not to mention that it will be true for Blu-Ray and HD-DVD (assuming the protection mechanisms on those two are ever broken, which has its own ironies).

What is key to realize about this situation is that it is as intrinsic to the open source model as it is to the closed source model. Open source software precludes payment of license fees, closed source requires it; Open source software precludes enforcement of trade secrets, closed source enables it. Neither of these models is necessarily 'wrong', but as our computational lives become more dependant on technology that requires license fees or technolgy protected by trade secrecy, open source will comparatively suffer more and more. No amount of prosletyzing on the benefits of Open source software will change either this fact or the moral right of those who invest their blood, sweat, and tears into propriatary technology to demand payment for their efforts. The best that advocates of openness can do is to act as revolutionaries by living the cause, advocating its values, and hoping that enough people follow their lead to build a critical mass.

However, like other 'revolutions', the Linux/Open source software cause isn't necessarily an easy cause to live. As I've been finding out once more, the switch to Linux is a sometimes painful struggle through mediocre software, bad asthetics, poor integration, and steep learning curves. The question I'm struggling with right now is is it even worth it? The older I get and the more external responsibilities I have, computers seem more and more like a tool for life and less and less like a way of life. The 5-10 hours a week I spent maintaining and integrating my Linux machines back in college is a much higher price to pay now than it was then. No matter how much I might like for my son to live in a world of free, open information and powerful free software, it would be very difficult to justify taking enough time away from him and my wife to make a useful contribution to the fight to make it happen. This is particulaly true if fighting the open source fight somehow comprimises my actual paying job, which is definately possible. I work for a Windows shop, and my management could give a rat's ass about the theoretical benefits of open source if it compromises my ability to serve our clients. One flubbed presentation due to a flaky Linux installation could do just that, and it would be very hard to use the benefits of Linux to explain it away to the folks to whom I sell my time. Maybe the upshot of this is that Linux is, like other revolutions, a young person's battle. However, unlike other revolutions, Linux requires direct participation to reap the benefits; If you aren't using open software, you're still at the mercy of closed software vendors. If this is really the case, and Linux really is for the 'young', then when will it ever become relevant to the broader audience of Windows and Mac OS X users? I just don't know. I will keep up the struggle for a while longer, January 2007 seems like a good time to reassess.

reddit this! Digg Me!

[/tech/linux] permanent link

Fri, 17 Nov 2006
5 years
Teresa and I were married five years ago today and it feels like yesterday, almost literally. I love her more than the day we got married and continually thank my lucky stars to have her in my life. Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart.

HB

reddit this! Digg Me!

[/personal] permanent link

99.0...98.9...98.8...98.7...98.6...
It's been a couple weeks since my last post about Ryan's first fever, but I'm pleased to say we got through it without much incident. The doctor's diagnosis was that it was a mild viral infection; This was borne out by the ultimate progression of the illness. One of the more interesting things we found out during the doctor's visit is that we're very lucky that this happened as late after birth as it did. If Ryan had come down with a fever in the first two months of life, we would have been sent straight to the hospital for a battery of tests, including a spinal tap. They do this in young infants to rule out the possibility of latent infections from birth. It's not unheard of for infants to pick up a bacterial infection during birth. These infections can remain latent for 6-8 weeks and can cause severe complications. Since Ryan came down with his fever three months after birth, this was ruled out by definition.

A couple weeks after this little drama, we got our first 'sick child' call from Ryan's day care. They noticed oozing from his eye and wanted to rule out the possibility of highly infectious conjunctivitis, etc. This ended up being a clogged tear duct, but it was good they sent Ryan home anyway. We'd rather them err on the side of safety when it comes to sick children.

To close on a less biological note, Ryan went on his first plane ride yesterday. We flew to Houston as the first stop on our Thanksgiving tour of the grandparent's and great-grandparents homes. Despite the fact the flight was delayed three hours due to weather, the airplane's flaps stuck up, and they had firetrucks waiting for us at Houston's airport when we landed, Ryan got through the entire three hour flight without being 'that baby' (you know, the baby crying through the whole flight and irritating all of the adults). Actually, Ryan didn't cry at all. He was quite the little trooper, and both Mommy and Daddy were very proud. Two flights to go this holiday season.

reddit this! Digg Me!

[/personal/ryan_charles] permanent link

Sat, 04 Nov 2006
Baby Fortunes, part 2
"The greatest love is a mother's, then a dog's, then a sweetheart's."

-Polish Proverb


reddit this! Digg Me!

[/personal/ryan_charles] permanent link