Stuff Yaron Finds Interesting

Technology, Politics, Food, Finance, etc.

Financial Plan

I have been on a 2 year odyssey to get my financial life in order. Mostly I've failed. I started by reading lots of books which generally said "do this" but never explained why. Over the next few weeks/months I'm going to try and summarize what I've learned.

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Yaron's Rules of Standardization

Most of my job for the last few years has been working on standards. In that time I noticed a fairly obvious pattern for technologies that tend to make successful standards, they meet three criteria:

Yaron's rules of standardization:

  • The technology must be very old and very well understood
    • 20 years is a good rule of thumb
  • Everyone must implement the technologies in essentially the same way
    • A good rule of thumb is, how hard would it be to build a bi-directional proxy between the various players implementation of the technology?
  • Standardizing the technology must provide greater advantage to the software writing community then keeping the technology incompatible
    • Even in the open source world standards can fail if there isn't enough advantage in it, just look at the fights over RSS.

Creative Commons Copyright

The abuses of copyright are a favorite topic of mine so I figured I should make the copyright on my own pages clear. I have chosen to use a Creative Commons Copyright. Specifically the Attribution/Noncommercial/Share Alike license. I thought about allowing commercial use but decided if someone wants to make money off my content they need to talk to me first. Scroll to the bottom of this (or any of my) web page(s) and you will see the copyright declaration.

Near as I can tell the HTML cognoscenti could never get over the ugliness of allowing HTML includes (if not done exactly right it can do serious damage to the HTML object model) so I was forced to use a src attribute on a SCRIPT tag which points at a JavaScript file that includes the much dreaded document.write that puts in the actual copyright declaration. That way if I want to change the copyright or add other footer information I can do so without having to edit every one of my pages. Ugly but effective.

Someday I'll figure out how to do this with CSS.

The Mechanics of Perverting Justice

The United States Government has decided to ignore the ruling of an American Judge that the government provide access to a key witness in the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui. The government has made secret submissions which it claims justify preventing Moussaoui from accessing the witness. The judge, who has reviewed those secret submissions has rejected the government's allegations and ordered them to produce the witness. By refusing to produce the witness the judge is likely to have to throw the case out or at least severely curtail its scope as doing otherwise would deny Moussaoui a fair trial.

Having the case thrown our would serve the government's interests in two ways. First, it would allow the government to re-arrest Moussaoui and try him in a military tribunal where his rights will be those the government decides to grant him. But even more importantly by forcing the trial to be thrown out the government will have, at least in its own mind, demonstrated that the U.S. Court System cannot successfully deal with war crimes trials and so strengthen the government's contention that military tribunals are the right way to go for dealing with war crimes. This likely means that Jose Padilla, a U.S. Citizen arrested on U.S. soil who has been in a military prison for over a year without charge and without right to see an attorney or appeal his detainment (if this isn't a clear violation of the U.S. constitution what is?) will probably end up in a military tribunal.

I suppose the military tribunal isn't that big a deal, after all, with Padilla the government has already proved that they can arrest a U.S. Citizen on U.S. soil and hold them for an indefinite period of time without right to consultant an attorney. With that capability available to them how relevant is it that the government can also then put the person through a Kangaroo court? The ACLU (the link is to their section on unlawfully detained people) folks, time to pay some more for your freedom insurance.

Darik's Boot and Nuke & Mandrake 9.1

I have an old computer I finally want to get rid of and I need to destroy all the data on the drives before sending it to be recycled. There is a simple GPL solution called Darik's Boot and Nuke which does the trick. But the directions on the Website don't quite work for Mandrake 9.1. Here were the changes I had to make:

To copy the image to a floppy I had to use dd if=dban-*.img of=/dev/fd0. [1] I had trouble with /dev/random generating enough bits. The easiest workaround is to substitute /dev/urandom for /dev/random. But there is a more paranoid choice. [2]

[1] In most system apparently /dev/floppy points to the floppy device but in Mandrake 9.1 it points to a directory with the floppy's contents. /dev/fd0 is what Mandrake uses to point at the actual floppy image, it's a link to /dev/floppy/0.

[2] /dev/urandom uses a crypto grade hash to extend the amount of random data collected by /dev/random. This should be fine but I'm really paranoid so instead what I do is first run dd if=/dev/random of=MySeedFile bs=512 count=20. This will give me more than the 512 bytes required by DBAN. You will have to play with the mouse a bit to generate enough random data to fill the request. Once the dd returns then I execute dd if=MySeedFile of=MySeedFile2 bs=512 count=1 and then delete MySeedFile.

2004 Democratic Presidential Candidate Howard Dean

There has been a lot of excitement in the American Internet community about Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean because he knows how to use a blog, raise money on-line and maybe not necessarily heap more disgrace upon America. So I decided to check out Howard Dean's website and his stand on the issues.

The high level summary is that he is a tax and spend liberal whose solution to most problems is to throw money at it. He doesn't have any new ideas, few concrete plans and no apparent clue for how we will fund the money he wants to lob around other than getting rid of Bush's tax cuts. While I may identify with large parts of Dean's social agenda fundamentally Dean believes government is the solution, not the problem.

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Can someone explain to me on what planet is it fine to tell Women not to eat dietary fat because of the threat of Dioxin but it isn't o.k. to restrict the sources of Dioxin in the first place? We are literally poisoning our children and our best solution is to say 'don't eat that'? I wonder how many babies will have to be deformed, retarded or killed before we decide things have gotten bad enough. Why must people be hurt and die before we as a society are willing to do anything about it?