Free Software And Morals

Moralizing about Free Software

Over on, I posted a link to an interesting Steven Pinker article about the human moral instinct. Aside from the obvious aspects of the article relevant to cognitive science and AI, it struck me today that the “moralizing trigger” Pinker describes may help explain the difference between the Open Source and Free Software movements. While they’re both effectively doing the same thing, they’re doing it for different reasons. Pinker uses vegetarians as an example:

shutterstock_1241340The psychologist Paul Rozin has studied the toggle switch by comparing two kinds of people who engage in the same behavior but with different switch settings. Health vegetarians avoid meat for practical reasons, like lowering cholesterol and avoiding toxins. Moral vegetarians avoid meat for ethical reasons: to avoid complicity in the suffering of animals. By investigating their feelings about meat-eating, Rozin showed that the moral motive sets off a cascade of opinions. Moral vegetarians are more likely to treat meat as a contaminant — they refuse, for example, to eat a bowl of soup into which a drop of beef broth has fallen. They are more likely to think that other people ought to be vegetarians, and are more likely to imbue their dietary habits with other virtues, like believing that meat avoidance makes people less aggressive and bestial.

Substitute a binary blob in the Linux kernel for the drop of beef broth in the vegetarian soup and this sounds exactly like the difference between the Free vs Open camps. The article goes on to explain how mammal brains seem to have five “moral spheres” which appear to represent something akin to moral absolutes. The way different cultures and individuals map things to those five area creates the moral differences we see and leads to a lot of unfortunate conflict. Could it be that understanding the physiological basis of morality will help not only to solve big problems like Middle East vs West but also smaller ones like Open Source vs Free Software?

Van Helsing

Van Helsing

Susan and I saw Van Helsing recently. It was bad. It was so unbelievably bad. It’s another one of those movies where a few live actors have been stuck into an otherwise completely computer animated movie. And it’s not very good computer animation at that. The animators seemed to think that bigger was better and made everything so much bigger than life that it simply became unbelievable. Castles were higher than 100 story office buildings, My Hyde was about 16 feet tall, the wolfman was about 16 feet tall, Dracula was about 16 feet tall. And all these 16 foot tall monsters appeared to be operating in some other universe with completely different physical laws that allowed them bounce off walls and stick to the ceiling. Every five minutes Van Helsing or one of the other rare human characters would fall hundreds of feet out of a giant castle and land on the stone floor, on their head, and suffer no apparent harm. Some of the animation was done at ILM and they must have had a special that week because they threw a few hundred Ewoks into the deal. That’s right folks, Dracula had an army of Ewoks wearing welding goggles to do his bidding. Oddly the Ewoks walked and talked exactly like Jawas. And despite being way too long, no time could be found to have anything resembling intelligent dialog or character development.

Stephen Hawking Report From Lecture

Having shown up early, we waited in line to get in for a half hour and then sat for about 45 minutes before the lecture started and observed the audience. There seemed to be three major groups represented: physics students and faculty, a contingent of wheelchair-bound disabled, and a spectrum of geeky regular folks like us. The place was packed and it’s actually nice to realize there are enough people interested in a public lecture on science to pack a place like that.

Eventually, our wait was over and the lights went down. There followed a series of introductions including one by George and Cynthia Mitchell. George noted, among other things that, we should thank his wife Cynthia “’cause she owns the damn pavillion and gave me permission to hold Stephen’s lecture here”. After the last introduction left the stage empty, Hawking emerged from backstage, rolling much slower than I expected. I suspect the slower speed is required to give him time to operated the controls and steer. He made the entire 30 second trip to the microphone at center stage to the sound of a standing ovation and at least one enthusiastic shout of “GO HAWKING!” (at which Stephen showed a really big smile – something I’ve never seen him do in interviews).

An attendent showed up briefly to move Stephen’s hand from the wheelchair controls back to his computer input paddle. He immediately began composing and seconds later said “Howdy!”, much to the delight of his Texas audience. One thing you don’t realize from seeing edited TV interviews is how long it takes for him to compose each sentence. He talks with a roughly 50% duty cycle. For each sentence he speaks, he spends about the same amount of time selecting words and building the sentence. This time is reduced somewhat when he is giving a public lecture because he has pre-composed much of his talk. Most of the time it appeared he merely needed to queue up the correct sentence or paragraph which took only 10-15 seconds of silence. But when he wanted to add a spontaneous statement or change something there was a more significant time delay.

The brief periods of silence punctating the lecture gave it a very unusual quality. I wonder if it was not unlike hearing R. Buckminster Fuller speak – he was also known for punctuating his public lectures with long periods of silence during which he would appear lost in thought.

The actual content of the lecture mostly consisted of describing M-Theory and the brane model of multi-dimensional space-time. The way the theory goes, there are 10 or 11 spatial dimensions but we see only three of them because most are curled up so small that we can’t detect them. One of those extra dimensions, however, may be as much as 1cm in size and allows multiple 3-dimensional “branes”, one of which is this thing we mistakenly call “the universe”. The next brane along the way might have some other total different 3D “universe” on it. The interesting thing is that while most of physics is limited to the 3D branes, gravity can pass beyond into adjacent branes. If we were able to detect gravity from matter in an adjacent brane, it would appear to have the qualities of matter without being matter – dark matter. The term “shadow” was used to describe contents of adjacent branes. Shadow worlds, shadow civilizations, etc. Lots of good fodder for SF writers in there.

He pointed out a couple of ways in which these theories could be proven by observations of tiny black holes or other phenomena (and mentioned that he’d really like for one of those phenomena to be observed because, if it were, he’d probably get a Nobel prize. ;-)

Anytime I hear these modern, multi-dimensional space-time theories, I can’t help thinking back to R. Buckminster Fuller, who believed in 12 dimensional space way before it was popular. Using only some string and a ping pong ball, Fuller concluded that there were four (not three) observable spatial dimensions, each composed of 3 lesser-dimensions that did not allow spatial movement but only tiny rotational movements (I’ve forgotten the term; “turbining”?). He believed that where we went wrong was in the arbitrary decision that spatial dimensions had to be at 90 degree angles to each other. In a Universe with 3 dimensions at 90 degree angles, he reasoned, a cube should be inherently stable – but it isn’t. A tetrahedron is inherently stable, however, because it has four planes, each of which is in one of the four basic spatial dimensions. Unfortunately Fuller has almost joined Tesla in being so obsessed on by nuts that many scientists tend to discount his work these days. one has to wonder what a modern physicist like Hawking could do taking Fuller’s 4D space as a starting point.

One of Hawking’s descriptions of the structure of the real universe was a hyperspatial bubble. The bubble’s surface is the 3D brane that we think of “the universe” but, in reality, it may simply be a side effect of all the hyper-dimensional fun going on inside the volume of the bubble. Everything we known may just be a reflection or shadow of reality. He noted that his is somewhat analogous to a hologram and explained that he was an expert on holograms because he had played one on Star Trek:TNG. This segued into a brief video clip from the Descent episode with Hawking, Newton, Einstein, and Mr. Data playing poker on the holodeck of the Enterprise.

He closed with a mention of the Large Hadron Collider Project and the hope that it could create artificial black holes that might help prove or disprove M-theory. It struct me as ironic that he was here in Texas, home of the ill-fated Super Conducting Super Collider, talking about the need for a giant collider. If it weren’t for politics, we probably could have presented him with some home-grown Texas black holes (no doubt they’d have been twice as big as those puny European black holes).

The Benefits Of Document Management Software In Modern Business Settings

Millions of organizations from across the globe today are largely investing in electronic document management systems, abbreviated as EDMS.  This is exactly where the subject of document management software falls.  It does not matter whether you are running a startup business or a large multinational corporation; one thing that is for sure is that the use of such software will be pretty much beneficial to your kind of business. Long gone are the days when staffs had to search for documents on steel racks in some hidden warehouse.  With the use of specialized software, it becomes much easier not only to store but also to retrieve any kind of information.

The use of document management software comes with a myriad of benefits. They include:

Proper Storage Solution

The use of such systems makes it pretty much convenient to store, retrieve and use organizational data.  Again, storage of documents using a computer system offers a high level security assurance meaning that, no one will gain access to the data without express authority from the system administrator. If you want to declutter your office, this is the best option for you- at least with an automated system in place, paperwork is reduced considerably.

Fast and Easy Retrieval of Documents

It is also important to note that document management software ensures faster and much easier retrieval and use of data.  Every document which is stored in the system will be indexed using a unique primary key or file name.  Whenever you need to retrieve it, you will just have to type in the unique identifier then the document pops up.

Cost Saving

Last but not least, the use of document management software helps to save a business lot of money.  In fact, this is perhaps the biggest benefit that your business is bound to get from the use of such automated systems.  Since all files are stored in a computer, you don’t have to spend extra money in purchasing papers, files, storage racks and such-like equipment.

Benefits Of Precast Concrete

Precast concrete refers to readymade Aftec concrete blocks, walls or strips that are used to cut down on construction time. Ideally, construction managers have to mix concrete on the project site for every wall, floor and ceiling and then pour it into molds. This can take a lot of time, as the concrete is mixed according to a well-set proportion, poured into the right areas and then allowed to set in place. However, precast concrete actually cuts down on all of this and all the builders have to do is set the precast pieces in place and then cement them into place. Other advantages of precast concrete include –

Standardization of construction — Precast concrete blocks are manufactured according to the builder’s instructions. That means precast concrete can be used to make a whole range of different items like precast concrete stone walls and
decorative precast concrete fences. These are strengthened with fillers, colors, steel bars or iron rails to make them stronger according to project requirements and they can be installed almost overnight.

Stable and environmentally conscious — Concrete is remarkably stable and it can last for a very long time. Moreover during the manufacturing process, the companies add chemicals, colors and treatments to the material creating incredibly stable blocks and pieces. As the material is stable, it requires very little maintenance, repair, or renovation, and it will even remain stable during accidents like floods, earthquakes and heavy rain.  As the  material is stable, it can be bought and stored for extended periods of time ensuring that you are never out of raw material and projects are not delayed.

Most builders will custom-make their own precast blocks according to the project they have in mind. However, homeowners can also buy premade concrete blocks and then use them to suit specific projects. You can check with large supermarket chains or small hardware stores to find readymade blocks to complete your project.

Benefits Of A Lavender Salve

Lavender has numerous health benefits. It is both noninflammatory and antiseptic. It is a powerful relaxer and has the ability to alleviate sleep disturbances. Lavender is used to make creams, massage oils, scrubs, facial cleansers, and salves.


When used as a salve, lavender is an excellent ointment for relieving burns and healing scars and insect bites. As a salve it can be used directly on the skin to bring relief to the affected area. A lavender salve can be purchased from the store, online, or easily made at home. A salve has a harder consistency than a cream.


Salves usually have a base oil mixed into them with a small amount of beeswax to solidify the mixture. A common recipe includes a base oil like olive oil, almond oil, or coconut oil, beeswax, and lavender essential oil. Infusing lavender flowers in the base oil and adding the resultant oil in the salve can enhance its effects.


Aromatherapists consider lavender oil as one of the most versatile oils due to its multiple healing properties. The salve has greater absorbency when mixed with olive oil. Although lavender oil is generally safe to use directly on the skin, a salve can easily absorb in the skin and at the same time provide a protective layer.


A lavender salve can be easily carried as an emergency aid and applied to scars and burns on the spot. It can also be used as an analgesic and can be massaged to relieve headaches, joint pains, and muscle aches.


The salve can also be used to induce sleep in insomniac patients. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, lavender has the ability to slow the nervous system, relieve stress, and alleviate anxiety — all factors important for sound sleep. The university also mentioned a study in which a group of people who where massaged with lavender reported a positive attitude and less anxiousness.


Since lavender also has anti fungal properties, it is used to treat a number of skin conditions, such as fungal infections, eczema, and acne. In addition, it can be used to relieve pain post surgery and promote faster healing.


A lavender salve is a potent formula for skin conditions, sleep related problems, and pain management. Lavender’s sweet and relaxing scent has made it common in commercial use, but its real benefits are not limited to its aromatic qualities. Applied as a salve, it is both curative and practical.

The Benefits Of An Auto Responder For Internet Marketing

If you have been in internet marketing for a while, you may have heard “The money is in the list”, or a similar adage. The reason for this saying is your list can focus on customers who are interested in your product. The relationship between you and your clients will get a boost from using an auto responder.

internet marketingWhy Auto Responders are Suggested for Internet Marketing

An auto responder is software that automates your tasks which saves you time. For example, say you wanted to email all your subscribers on your list a 10-part course. This would be hard to do without using an auto responder. The auto responder simplifies the tasks for you by sending them over a period of several days to all members on your list. You can better keep the interest and eagerness of your clients as well as build trust.

Good Auto Responder Practices

A good practice is to slowly build the interest of potential clients. You can progress further in each message by telling how beneficial your product may be to them. Never just tell them they should buy their product. Answer such questions as why it would help them and how the product works. You may want to offer bonuses or discounts for those who buy within a certain time frame.

Choosing an Effective Program

It is essential you choose an effective auto responder software for internet marketing. You may prefer one with a broadcast feature. The broadcast feature sends messages in intervals. Another useful feature is tracking. This helps you keep up with how many clicks you receive from assorted links. You can find effective programs from and effective Utah SEO firm, like

An auto responder doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many free service available. Using an auto responder program for internet marketing is a worthwhile investment. It helps automate your business so you can focus on other maters.