Dear Microsoft, help me like you

The years after Ballmer’s exit from Microsoft brought big changes, and many of them.

  • .NET’s core became open source under a widely known permissive license. Previous FOSS efforts from Microsoft didn’t do so well in picking licenses. But now it’s all on GitHub, not some marginal platform, but everybody’s darling.
  • Xamarin was absorbed, perhaps making mobile .NET development less of a pain. I don’t know if it had been painful at all, I hear Xamarin’s tools were pretty good on their own, but with Microsoft’s gloved and lubed hand deep inside the monkey, Xamarin may extract more joy from it.
  • Docker now (or soon) runs on Windows, natively using Hyper-V.
  • Node.js runs on Windows, natively.
  • Chakra (the JavaScript engine) has become open source and cross-platform. And it will soon be available inside Node.js.
  • ASP.NET is open source.
  • F# is open source.
  • TypeScript is open source.
  • PowerShell is quite probably going open source.
  • Visual Studio Code came out, and is open source.
  • Canonical has ported their Ubuntu userland to the Win32 API.
  • Microsoft is going into containers and small footprint servers with Nano Server.
  • Microsoft absorbed Mojang and thus Minecraft. Perhaps to lure the younger generation towards Microsoft products, perhaps also because they can make cool toys like Hololens and stack them on something that already has an established community.
  • XNA was dropped instead of open sourced, but Monogame came to the rescue, and now that we’re all part of the touchy-feely FOSS crowd, we’ll forgive them that move.

But there have been some dark chapters as well:

Continue reading Dear Microsoft, help me like you

Microsoft’s Cortana spies on everyone except school children

It appears that Microsoft decided that its voice-controlled assistant can no longer be disabled in Windows 10 after the upcoming Anniversary Update. So is listening in on everything someone says in a household something perhaps slightly immoral? From this action, you’d think that Microsoft doesn’t think so. But then you discover that Microsoft also decided that school children will not be spied on (that would be immoral?) so the Education Edition of Windows 10 will not contain Cortana at all.

Maybe physically removing the microphones from your computer will prevent being spied on, because just disabling the devices via software is not guaranteed to switch them off, since you don’t have the source code to the drivers or the kernel.

Microsoft is not alone in wanting to listen in on you having clumsy sex, Google also sneakily placed a recording system on all computers running an up-to-date version of Chrome. They even managed to infiltrate the free software base of Chrome, Chromium. So do Chrome users on Windows 10 now have two spies in their bedroom?

Applied Buddhism: The mechanics of judging

Many things can be judged, and I’d wager you’ve judged both people and actions in the past.

That man over there, why is he so fat? Oh, I don’t like how he’s so fat. He probably overeats and indulges, he just doesn’t know when to stop. I’m much better than that fat man. And look at her! That woman dresses like a slut. You can almost see her labia from the other side of the street! I bet she has cheap sex every weekend and doesn’t even feel guilty.

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Usually judgements are a good idea, a way of assessing a situation based on the evidence that you have. But the judgements I described are not really productive. They are prejudices  and they can do nothing to further your mind’s development.

Continue reading Applied Buddhism: The mechanics of judging

US English language in Debian with proper weekdays and numbers

Our friends over there in the US like to have their own measurement systems, and they don’t stop there. They also like to start the week on Sundays. I hear this has religious reasons.

This leads to problems when you generally want to set up your Debian systems with plain old English (US) locales but need proper measurement units in your programs. One of the solutions here is the magical file /etc/default/locale. Here’s a screenshot of what amazing feats this can accomplish:

Screenshot_2016-07-15_12-39-44.png

My weeks start on Monday (as they should!) and I get European paper formats, Swiss date and time formats, but still have my precious English error messages. No one wants German nerdspeak, it’s gibberish! “Sendewarteschlangenlänge”? What does that even mean?

The beauty of the locale system is that you can mix and match any of these. You can have Portuguese weekdays with English error messages, Swedish currency and US paper formats.

First you have to generate all the locales you’d like to use (as root):

dpkg-reconfigure locales

Then just put whatever combination you like in /etc/default/locales and log out and back in again. Here’s an example:

LANG=en_US.UTF-8
LC_NUMERIC=de_CH.UTF-8
LC_TIME=de_CH.UTF-8
LC_COLLATE=de_CH.UTF-8
LC_MONETARY=de_CH.UTF-8
LC_PAPER=de_CH.UTF-8
LC_MEASUREMENT=de_CH.UTF-8
LC_ADDRESS=de_CH.UTF-8
LANGUAGE="en_US:en"

The system gets US English spelling and language, but the rest is in German (Switzerland). So we Swiss Franc as currency, ‘ as a thousands separator, etc. And this works both in pure console sessions and in most desktop environments.

Be careful, though. Some desktop environments (like Plasma) allow you to override these settings in your desktop session.

The Dhammapada exploration – part 13: The world

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

What is our relationship with the world? Not what is our purpose, I highly doubt there is one. But how do we interact with the world around us? Let’s find out some of the Buddhist views!

Continue reading The Dhammapada exploration – part 13: The world

The Dhammapada exploration – part 12: The self

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

Last time we talked about death, so let’s go to a more cheerful subject: self. Or is it more cheerful? We’ll see!

157. If one holds oneself dear, one should diligently watch oneself. Let the wise man keep vigil during any of the three watches of the night.

The three watches are childhood, youth and old age. Those who cultivate virtue can better take care of and protect the self through all these stages.

158. One should first establish oneself in what is proper; then only should one instruct others. Thus the wise man will not be reproached.

If you don’t know what you’re talking about, don’t dispense it as wisdom.

159. One should do what one teaches others to do; if one would train others, one should be well controlled oneself. Difficult, indeed, is self-control.

Practice what you preach. This is such deeply wise advice and it works for any situation. Recently I’ve read that companies led by people who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk perform even more poorly than companies led by people who are themselves bad at work, but who are at least honest with their employees about that. Of course teams where the team leader was honest and hard-working turned out to also become honest and hard-working.

So this stuff works.

160. One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.

You can’t charge others with protecting you. If you have an alcohol problem, you can’t say “friends, please don’t allow me to drink at tonight’s party, I know I will lose control and be fucking drunk as hell and I’ll be insulting the host and trying to sleep with his husband”.

This control has to come from you. That’s why it’s self-control, duh.

161. The evil a witless man does by himself, born of himself and produced by himself, grinds him as a diamond grinds a hard gem.

Evil and unwise actions you perform will hafe an effect on you, sooner or later.

162. Just as a single creeper strangles the tree on which it grows, even so, a man who is exceedingly depraved harms himself as only an enemy might wish.

This is awesome. By not being skillful you strangle your own development. You’re your own worst enemy, you are able to be worse to yourself than even your worst enemy could be.

163. Easy to do are things that are bad and harmful to oneself. But exceedingly difficult to do are things that are good and beneficial.

No one said it’s gonna be easy to cultivate wisdom and right action. And this verse again tells you so. No easy peasy marching into paradise simply by believing in some savior or some prophet’s visions. The path is as difficult as it is wonderful.

164. Whoever, on account of perverted views, scorns the Teaching of the Perfected Ones, the Noble and Righteous Ones — that fool, like the bamboo, produces fruits only for self destruction.

If you speak out against the wisdom from a position of ignorance or perhaps even ill will, that will not benefit you. You foolish bamboo.

165. By oneself is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself is one made pure. Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.

This might ring a bell if you know humanism (in the sense of secular humanism). Buddhism is very much a human-centered philosophy. Everything is your responsibility and your responsibility alone. No interventionist gods, no shifting responsibility to your family.

Remember an earlier verse where it was said that you can’t even hold your own parents responsible for your fate? It’s like that. Some find it scary to have to rely only on yourself. Some call it egoistic, but is it egoistic to be self-reliant and responsible or is the inverse true? By being that way, you place no burden on anyone else. I find that to have nothing to do with egoism.

Of course we’ve already learned that according to Buddhist the ego, the self does not exist, we are non-self, anatta.

166. Let one not neglect one’s own welfare for the sake of another, however great. Clearly understanding one’s own welfare, let one be intent upon the good.

Thanissaro Bhikku has this as “Don’t sacrifice your own welfare for that of another.” Some interpretations take “welfare” to mean spiritual progress. So make sure your own progress is unhindered first, before helping others.

I interpret this also as taking care of your own life, a decent income and living quarters first before attempting to establish the same for others. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, even if your intentions are good, donating to the poor might not be a good idea at that point. It might be uplifting in the short term, but the next month you’ll have less, and before you know it you yourself will be in need of help from others.

Instead those who have already established stable conditions for themselves should share. There’s also nothing wrong with getting filthy rich (through decent means, of course) and then sharing a lot of that, even if you end up building factory after factory or office building after office building and if you are greatly successful. You share your own fortune by creating jobs, by keeping the cash flowing.

If you just buy yacht after yacht to feed your greed and indulge in many sense-pleasures, that would not be in the sense of the word in my opinion. But even being stinking filthy rich, you can be beneficial to society.

Look at Elon Musk, for example. I wouldn’t want to look too closely at how he established his fortune, but no one can deny that he creates a lot of jobs and has invested a great deal of money in furthering the advancement of the human race, he’s doing his share of attempting to save the planet.

Now you can say “But oh, what about all the displaced people from Eritrea, what about the hungry in refugee camps in Syria, how has Elon helped them? He hasn’t!” and you might be right, even though we don’t know if he donates to Médecins Sans Frontieres. This still does not diminish the value of his positive intentions.

Just like the Gates family with their Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It might be true that the foundation exists also to funnel donated money into primarily US companies by clever stock market trading. Thereby shareholder value is increased and it maybe drives this or that greedy CEO to orgasms. That might all be true. But Bill also seems to have a genuine interest in defeating malaria and in making sure a further ebola outbreak does not wipe out half the human race.

At least these parts of those intentions are good. They bear good kammic fruit. If shady means are utilized, well, then those bear bad kammic fruit. But I didn’t actually want to go there, I just wanted to give some examples of how egoism and selflessness are not always aligned in the way we commonly think.

The Dhammapada exploration – part 11: Old age

This is a series of articles I’m doing on one of the basic Buddhist texts, the Dhammapada. Read the rest of the articles in this series.

The Dhammapada touches on so many things, but weirdest for westerners is probably thinking about old age and death. We like to avoid that in our youth-obsessed culture.

So are you ready to get old, sick and die? I thought so! Here we go!

146. When this world is ever ablaze, why this laughter, why this jubilation? Shrouded in darkness, will you not see the light?

Thanissaro has this last bit as “Enveloped in darkness, don’t you look for a lamp?”

We have to stray a little to get this one. The flames are the flames of passion, the darkness is your ignorance. We are all easily engulfed by these flames. And I mean sense pleasures here. You are ignorant of the emptiness of these pleasures. But by developing wisdom (the light) you can see right through to the truth of their emptiness and no longer be attached (or engulfed by them).

Continue reading The Dhammapada exploration – part 11: Old age