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GNU Social Contract version 1.0

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Andreas Enge announced the GNU Social Contract version 1.0:

Hello all,

just a public heads-up on progress on the GNU Social Contract. Following our initially announced timeline, we had put online the first draft at the end of January. The goal of the document is to formulate a common core set of values for the GNU Project, on which we can jointly build to form a stronger community. It is both an agreement among us, GNU contributors, and a pledge to the broader free software community. Additionally, we think it can be a first step towards formalising a transparent and collective governance of the GNU Project.

We received a number of questions and suggestions on the first draft of the document, witnesses to our collective approach to shaping a document that can help us go forward together. We discussed all the input with great care; it is documented, together with the adopted resolutions, at:

  https://wiki.gnu.tools/gnu:gsc-feedback

The result of all this is version 1.0 of the GNU Social Contract, see

  https://wiki.gnu.tools/gnu:social-contract

We believe that the outcome is an even snappier document, which lays out our common foundations even more clearly, and thank everyone of you who contributed to improving it.

We have invited all GNU maintainers to send a message until February 24, the end of the endorsement period, to endorse this version 1.0 of the GNU Social Contract, or to declare they do not wish to adhere to it. The current status is maintained at:

  https://wiki.gnu.tools/gnu:social-contract-endorsement

Happy “I Love Free Software” day, and thank you for supporting GNU!

Andreas

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brennen
44 minutes ago
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Boulder, CO
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Unix's /usr split and standards (and practice)

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In Rob Landley about the /usr split, Rob Landley doesn't have very good things to say about how the split between /bin and /usr/bin (and various other directories) has continued to exist, especially in various standards. One of my views on this is that the split continuing to exist was always inevitable, regardless of why the split existed and what reasons people might have for preserving it (such as diskless workstations benefiting from it).

As far as standards go, Unix standards have pretty much always been mostly documentation standards, codifying existing practice with relatively little invention of new things. The people trying to create Unix standards are not in a position to mandate that existing Unixes change their practices and setup, and existing Unixes have demonstrated that they will just ignore attempts to do so. Writing a Unix filesystem hierarchy standard that tried to do away with /bin and mandated that /usr was on the root filesystem would have been a great way to it to fail.

(POSIX attempted to mandate some changes in the 1990s, and Unix vendors promptly exiled commands implementing those changes off to obscure subdirectories in /usr. Part of this is because being backward compatible is the path of least resistance and fewest complaints from customers.)

For actual Unixes in practice, conforming to the historical weight of existing other Unixes (including their own past releases) has always been the easiest way. There are countless people and scripts and so on that expect to find some things in /bin and some things in /usr/bin and so on, and the less you disrupt all of that the easier your life is. Inventing new filesystem layouts and pushing for them takes work; any Unix has a finite amount of work it can do and must carefully budget where that work goes. Reforming the filesystem layout is rarely a good use of limited time and work, partly because the returns on it are so low (and people will argue with you, which is its own time sink).

(Totally reinventing Unix from the ground up has been tried, by the people arguably in the best position possible to do it, and the results did not take the world by storm. Plan 9 from Bell Labs still has its fans and some of its ideas have leaked out to mainstream Unix, but that's about it.)

The modern irony about the whole issue is that recent versions of Linux distributions are increasingly requiring /usr to be on the root filesystem and merging /bin, /lib, and so on into the /usr versions, but this has been accomplished by the 800 pound gorilla of systemd, which many people are not happy about in general. The monkey's paw hopes you're happy with sort of achieving the end of this split.

(A clean end to the split would be to remove one or the other of /bin and /usr/bin, and similarly for the other duplicated directories.)

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brennen
2 days ago
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"The modern irony about the whole issue is that recent versions of Linux distributions are increasingly requiring /usr to be on the root filesystem and merging /bin, /lib, and so on into the /usr versions, but this has been accomplished by the 800 pound gorilla of systemd, which many people are not happy about in general. The monkey's paw hopes you're happy with sort of achieving the end of this split."
Boulder, CO
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Blockchain

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Blockchains are like grappling hooks, in that it's extremely cool when you encounter a problem for which they're the right solution, but it happens way too rarely in real life.
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brennen
5 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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The End of Privacy as We Know It?

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A secretive start-up promising the next generation of facial recognition software has compiled a database of images far bigger than anything ever constructed by the United States government: over three billion, it says. Is this technology a breakthrough for law enforcement — or the end of privacy as we know it?

Guest: Annie Brown, a producer on “The Daily,” spoke with Kashmir Hill, a technology reporter for The New York Times. For more information on today’s episode, visit nytimes.com/thedaily. 

Background reading: 





Download audio: https://dts.podtrac.com/redirect.mp3/rss.art19.com/episodes/c306e6b0-ecd8-4c14-b53a-462605ef51bd.mp3
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brennen
7 days ago
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webshit weekly

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An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the first week of February, 2020.

Palindrome Day 20200202
February 01, 2020 (comments)
An Internet pretends there are date formats not specified in ISO 8601. Hackernews is still mad that America writes numbers down in the order they're spoken, because human behavior should obviously be driven entirely by some nerd's sense of aesthetics. Half of the comments are Hackernews arguing that whatever date format and postal address system they grew up with is a natural law. The other half agree, but grew up somewhere else.

Google Maps Hacks
February 02, 2020 (comments)
An underemployed computer nerd has too many telephones. Hackernews is dimly aware that they've placed half their lives into the hands of a faceless megacorporation with so little engineering acumen that it can be defeated by a bored person with a child's wagon. While some of them consider this to be idly alarming, most are more interested in reporting similar failures in traffic reporting systems run by advertising agencies. Later, another pack of Hackernews drill down into the real problem with traffic management: having to turn left, which is scary and should be outlawed.

The missing semester of CS education
February 03, 2020 (comments)
Some academics isolate the last remaining degrees of freedom in software development and target them for extermination. The academics report their indoctrination efforts to Hackernews and patrol the comment section. Hackernews is not convinced that computer scientists should know how to use computers at all, much less these specific computer programs. While some Hackernews firmly believe that universities should make this information available to interested students, others insist that it is better for learning institution to focus on fundamental invariants in the computer science field, such as AdSense and AWS.

Google tracks individual users per Chrome installation ID
February 04, 2020 (comments)
A GitHub does not like that Google's software sends information to Google, and expresses this opinion with a passive-aggressive rhetorical question on a GitHub issue, which has the effect of preventing the Google who opened the issue from ever interacting with it again. Hackernews trawls through Google public-relations apocrypha to find a suitable body of text which can dismiss the entire class of concerns expressed in the original comment. The common consensus is that it is not possible to prevent your data from being uploaded to Google, and so it's best to lie down on your Chromebook, open your advertising preferences, and think of GMail.

Wacom tablets track every app you open
February 05, 2020 (comments)
An Internet does not like that Wacom's software sends information to Google, and expresses this opinion with an in-depth blog post detailing how to watch it happen. Hackernews opines that switching to Linux would fix this. Other Hackernews think you can just politely ask your hardware vendor to stop spying on you. Still others try to work out what the precise balance should be between the user having a private life and software developers' God-given right to know everything you do with any electronic device. Nobody suggests that a drawing-tablet manufacturer should not even try to collect user data.

Open-plan offices decrease face-to-face collaboration: study
February 06, 2020 (comments)
Some academics claim that free-range programmers do not produce as well as caged programmers. The entire article provides no information beyond this, but contains dozens of links to other useless articles on the same shitty website, none of which contain additional information. Nowhere is the academic study linked, so Hackernews has to go find it themselves. Instead of discussing, Hackernews just whines about their work environments, or reminisces about that one time they got to work somewhere nice. No technology is discussed.

Python dicts are now ordered
February 07, 2020 (comments)
A webshit has something to say about Python internals, but I couldn't focus on the article, because the first comment on the blog post involves the text "it brings Python on par with PHP," which is such a monumentally alien thought that I think I need medical attention. Hackernews argues about who already knew this, why, and how. Another argument breaks out about whether this is the Correct and Natural approach to data structures, or if it's Completely Wrong and Stupid because of some ridiculous edge case nobody cares about. Most of the complaints are from people who are deeply concerned that (entirely hypothetical) existing code might break in the case its author made extremely specific assumptions about one particular data structure in a programming language directly aimed at people who do not give a shit about these topics.

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brennen
8 days ago
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"Still others try to work out what the precise balance should be between the user having a private life and software developers' God-given right to know everything you do with any electronic device. Nobody suggests that a drawing-tablet manufacturer should not even try to collect user data."
Boulder, CO
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Thunderbird’s New Home

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As of today, the Thunderbird project will be operating from a new wholly owned subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, MZLA Technologies Corporation. This move has been in the works for a while as Thunderbird has grown in donations, staff, and aspirations. This will not impact Thunderbird’s day-to-day activities or mission: Thunderbird will still remain free and open source, with the same release schedule and people driving the project.

There was a time when Thunderbird’s future was uncertain, and it was unclear what was going to happen to the project after it was decided Mozilla Corporation would no longer support it. But in recent years donations from Thunderbird users have allowed the project to grow and flourish organically within the Mozilla Foundation. Now, to ensure future operational success, following months of planning, we are forging a new path forward. Moving to MZLA Technologies Corporation will not only allow the Thunderbird project more flexibility and agility, but will also allow us to explore offering our users products and services that were not possible under the Mozilla Foundation. The move will allow the project to collect revenue through partnerships and non-charitable donations, which in turn can be used to cover the costs of new products and services.

Thunderbird’s focus isn’t going to change. We remain committed to creating amazing, open source technology focused on open standards, user privacy, and productive communication. The Thunderbird Council continues to  steward the project, and the team guiding Thunderbird’s development remains the same.

Ultimately, this move to MZLA Technologies Corporation allows the Thunderbird project to hire more easily, act more swiftly, and pursue ideas that were previously not possible. More information about the future direction of Thunderbird will be shared in the coming months.

Update: A few of you have asked how to make a contribution to Thunderbird under the new corporation, especially when using the monthly option. Please check out our updated site at give.thunderbird.net!

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brennen
12 days ago
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Boulder, CO
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