Monday, April 15, 2013

Bitcoin's Potential for Social Change



Perhaps Professor Krugman is too hasty in calling bitbugs "antisocial". Bitcoin encourages secessionist tendencies, yet holds great potential for social change. What if the World Peace movement collectively transitioned to bitcoin? It would be possible for the people to negotiate peace with their warmongering governments.

Perhaps we will see the emergence of a self-contained, underground economy that chooses its own values. The bitcoin economy would perhaps do away with the real/perceived hypocrisy of political discourse.

Will this bitcoin-enabled New World Order be egalitarian? I don't think so. Early adopters, such as the Winklevoss twins, already have a significant advantage in the bitcoin universe. Question is, can we trust our new cyberpunk overlords?

Character is what one does, when nobody is looking. Bitcoin models reality much closer to human nature. Will the human civilization annihilate itself? Will we survive and thrive? We'll just have to trust human nature.

What will it take to bring about this self-fulfilling prophecy? What kind of infrastructure should bitbugs be building?
An easier, more private way of doing bitcoin transactions via cheap, ubiquitous devices, such as smartphones. Applications such as Bitcoin Wallet already enable this.
Yet, a tipping point hasn't been reached. I still think primarily in USD. When I think in a BTC-centric way, the world will be different.

In my opinion, bitcoin is full of open questions, and opportunities. I remain cautiously optimistic about it.

Full disclosure: I own 4 BTC which I bought at 5 USD/BTC.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Education: India and USA



I studied Mechanical Engineering for a year, in India.
I studied Computer Science for several years in the USA.
I have an inkling of how to contrast these two educational systems.
In the spirit of "release early, release often", I am publishing my current opinions, and inviting feedback.

Education in India:

        Characteristics:
                Teachers are given high respect, and treated as virtually infallible.
                Rote memorization was emphasized.
                Books and calculators were not allowed on tests.

        Advantages:
                Students learned to do quick calculations in their heads.
                Students retain more material.

        Disadvantages:
                Teachers were not questioned enough.
                The student's imagination and creativity were not emphasized enough.

        Recommendations:
                Include Art and Humanities courses to round-out the curriculum.
                Use free software.
                Expose all students to elementary computer programming.

Education in USA:

        Characteristics:
                Emphasis on inuition and understanding.
                Books and calculators were allowed in some tests.
                Critical thinking encouraged.

        Advantages:
                Students integrate more material.

        Disadvantages:
                Students can't do quick and dirty calculations in their heads.
                There is far less rigor than is needed for success.

        Recommendations:
                Use free software.

Monday, April 8, 2013

India and Open-Source Software



Why India should use Open-Source Software:


Advantages:

1. Get software peer-reviewed by the world's largest software community.

2. Improve national security.

3. Reduce national spending.

4. Reduce foreign debt.

5. Build a stronger educational foundation, especially in Computer Science.

6. Join a common ecosystem of co-prosperity with China.

Disadvantages:

1. Initial cost to make the transition.

How should India use Open-Source Software?


1. Create a national Operating System distribution derived from Ubuntu Linux.

2. Mandate the use of the national distribution for all branches of government, and in public education.

3. Teach only non-proprietary programming languages in the Computer Science curriculum.

What may happen if India uses Open-Source Software?


1. Online support services will be built up in several local languages, to answer frequently asked questions about Open-Source software. Efforts like this are best left up to free enterprise.

2. Indian Computer Science students will gain deeper insights and a competitive advantage.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Open Source or Free Software?


I would like to develop software and share it freely. You can use my code, whether you are like me or not.
Gifting things is something that can be enforced with contracts, but is IMHO, best left up to individuals to decide.
Believe what you want. Use what you want.
To me, that's Freedom.

In my opinion, the pragmatic goals implied by the term "Open Source" are enough, without the insistence that your changes be turned over.
It's downright uncivilized to put conditions on who may eat a slice of your potluck pie, if you ask me!

There are perfectly valid reasons for closed-source software too.
For example, you may want to encode a trade secret which is your value proposition.
If you don't need peer review, don't release your source.
However, you may find that as consumers become more aware, they will insist on Open Source software.

There will always be niches of closed-source software.
There's more than one way to do it!

RMS: I am using GNU Emacs to write this. I love Emacs! Thanks for everything!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Open Source for Security



In hindsight, it will appear appalling that China, and India, and so much of the world, entrusted its information to a few external corporations. Entire governments are run on software which could conceivably be misused by external interests. Word processors, spreadsheets, databases, web sites; so much Opaqueware. It is through sheer historic accident that we have sleepwalked into this state of affairs.

I hate to use the term, but we live in the era of cyberwarfare. I am not advocating absolutism or idealism (whether it be nationalism, or software zealotry), but mere pragmatism.

I want to raise this question to the Indian Government:
"Why are we paying for Opaqueware when Free Software is freely available?"

I recommend standardizing on a GNU/Linux distribution, preferably of Ubuntu lineage. If desired, a national distribution might be created.

Monday, April 1, 2013

China and Linux: a Virtuous Cycle




News:

China is standardizing on a Linux-based OS, Ubuntu Kylin. A Virtuous Cycle is being put into place, that will enrich China, and the Linux ecosystem.


What this means for China:


1. Chinese users may not have Free Speech, yet, but they'll have Free Software.

2. All Chinese children are going to use an OS that looks and feels, and is the same.
Their educational curriculum will be based around a wholly open and transparent OS.


3. From a security standpoint, China has done well to end dependence on foreign, closed-source software.


What this means for Linux:

An increased user-base augurs significant improvements for Linux.
The Network Effect will make the Linux ecosystem more prosperous.

Suddenly, there is a world of incentive to develop for Linux -- device drivers, applications, even malware! Linux will get pounded on a lot harder, and tested in various contexts.

Monoculture is a bad thing, but let's face it -- a little forced UX uniformity might just be the recipe for Linux on the Desktop.

So many Chinese developers will learn the Linux source code!  Under a million eyes, all bugs are shallow. Linux just got those extra eyes, scouring for bugs.

Skeptics cite the doctrine of "ICFC" -- "In China, For China". Meaning, Chinese engineers will heavily modify Linux and render it useless outside of China. However, I believe that the Chinese see value in remaining connected with the global Open-Source software community. It is for this reason that Ubuntu Kylin is being developed in partnership with Canonical of UK, and favored over Red Flag Linux.



What this means for India:

The only Operating System options Indian users typically consider are:

1. Pay for Windows
2. Pirate Windows

Neither of these options is a sustainable model for a country so populous.

India has been called a Strategy-less Culture. There is definite value to following an organic, laissez-faire approach, and avoiding early optimization. However, there is a real danger that India will accept shortsighted incentives and align itself with closed-source software vendors. This is most true in the education sector. While Chinese students will be using an open system, and gaining deep knowledge of their Free software, Indian students could be saddled with opaque and expensive foreign software.

There is a tremendous opportunity for India to officially standardize on Ubuntu Linux as well. In this way, India will become part of the thriving Free Software ecosystem, strengthen the common platform, and find co-prosperity with China. India can align itself with Linux and participate in this rising trend, while remaining as independent and sovereign as ever.


Sources:

1. The Emergence of Open-Source Software in China

2. People's Republic of Open-Source: China Preps National Linux Distro