No Food for Thought

Food is something you should provide to your brain long before coming to this blog. You will find no food recipes here, only raw, serious, non-fake news for mature minds.

Free software and integration: a long-term issue

admin Saturday September 30, 2023

More than a decade ago, Greg Kroah-Hartman started offering some Linux versions with significant support. Linux 2.6.32 was designated as a "long term" support release, even though the term was just about 2 years.

Fast forward to today and "longterm" releases have actually become long term, i.e. they provide 6 years of support. That is, until now. While I have no doubt those releases will keep being marketed as having "long-term support", that support is actually being cut back to just 2 years.

The first argument provided ("There's really no point to maintaining it for that long because people are not using them.") is doubtful to say the least, as the most popular GNU/Linux vendor still supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7's Linux 3.10, older than the oldest supported vanilla Linux. The second one ("Linux code maintainers are burning out") though, is certainly true. Indeed, Coase’s Penguin warned about the challenge of integration even before Linux 2.6 released:

Yochai Benkler wrote on 2002-12-03:
whether or not a peer production project will be able to resolve the integration problem is a central limiting factor on the viability of peer production to provision any given information goods.

And unfortunately, our global governance certainly hasn't gotten us any closer to a solution for that actually long-term problem.

Computer security: an example of cumulative negligence

admin Friday September 29, 2023

In computer science, we're often taught that security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. This weakest link principle is true, but looking for that weakest link is not always the best way to harden a system.

Microsoft's analysis of how China (Storm-0558) breached the email accounts of senior USA officials earlier this year is an interesting case of cumulative mistakes, where a series of limited issues results in catastrophic damage. Even though the analysis is not confirmed and some details are missing, it's interesting to have a high-quality analysis of a real-world example of an attack exploiting multiple weaknesses:

  1. an unstable software component crashing
  2. a race condition causing sensitive data to be included in the crash dump
  3. that crash dump being moved to a wider organizational network (the debugging environment) following a failure to identify its sensitivity
  4. compromission of the corporate account of an engineer with access to the debugging environment
  5. an authorization bug allowing a consumer key to access "enterprise" email, apparently as a result of unclear API-s

As a senior developer having served numerous organizations for various projects, it's easy to relate to most of these weaknesses. And yet, it's easy to imagine how reporting most of these issues could have easily been brushed off by management as unlikely/alarmist, failing to see the risk from cumulative negligence.

Security is about strengthening each link, but it's also about keeping security in mind at all times.

Power surges and whole-house surge protectors

admin Wednesday September 13, 2023

Following a recent storm, my boss explained his Playstation was broken and said there was a power surge when power was restored. I was quite surprised since I always thought it was lightning itself which caused power surges.

This prompted me to read about power surges, which showed that while lightning is one source of surges, it is indeed far from the only one. But thankfully, I discovered not only these new risks, but a protection against surges I had never heard of: whole-house surge protectors (or surge arresters). I read a few interesting articles about surge and surge protectors. The one I'd recommend the most is the first:

Unfortunately, none of these gives convincing advice that one should use whole-house surge protectors. If you are aware of a cost-benefit analysis on the topic which compares average cost to how much losses using such devices prevents on average, please comment.

Cryptomedy: a cryptic but somewhat distributed comedy

admin Friday September 8, 2023

When people notice their bank account has been compromised, most call the bank. But even among software developers, few would ask the bank to change their code as a remedy. Yet, that's what Tulip Trading has asked their pseudo-bank (Bitcoin "developers") to do. At least, optimistically.

Those who believe "cryptocurrencies" are "decentralized" will struggle to make sense of such a request. But those of us who do see beyond the first level will appreciate that cryptomedy is well-distributed. It seems each one of its actors contributes its small share of humor.
If only the capacity to appreciate the resulting farce would be abundant and equally distributed among all adults… rolleyes

La grande histoire de La petite vie

admin Thursday September 7, 2023

Étant né en 1985, j'étais trop jeune lorsque La Petite Vie a débuté pour réaliser à quel point cette série a fait l'histoire. Et encore plus pour chercher à expliquer comment une série d'à peine une soixantaine d'épisodes a pu être aussi marquante.

C'est la lecture de l'excellent article « La grande histoire de La petite vie », publié dans L'actualité, qui m'a fait comprendre le tout. En effet, à lire l'auteur, qui semble faire remonter ce succès jusqu'en 1976, c'est une longue histoire qui aurait mené à cette réussite.

Claude Meunier wrote:

J’étais heureux que les gens embarquent. Mais en même temps, j’avais très peur que ça s’arrête. Je n’avais jamais été choyé par la critique. On avait dit de Paul et Paul1 que c’était une bande de morons ; de Ding et Dong qu’ils étaient des innocents ; de ma pièce Les voisins, coécrite avec Louis Saia, que c’était un mauvais téléroman… Je m’étais tellement fait ramasser que je demeurais très nerveux à chaque épisode. J’avais l’impression que les chroniqueurs m’attendaient dans le détour.

1 Trio d’humoristes auquel Claude Meunier a appartenu, avec Serge Thériault et Jacques Grisé, de 1976 à 1981.

Mais finalement, les principaux ingrédients ne seraient pas tant surprenants : expérience, échecs préalables, efforts, remises en question, ressources suffisantes, et la sagesse de s'arrêter à temps.

From Climatic Disruption to Ashes to Further Climatic Disruption

admin Wednesday September 6, 2023

The ongoing wildfire season in Canada has been unprecedented. Even though the worse has been in the West for a while, this week, we're seeing smoke in Quebec city again, and there's a new smog warning today. But how much carbon do we emit by fighting fires, bringing firefighters from other countries, evacuating towns and letting some buildings burn?

The answer is not that much―but only relatively. Unfortunately, it's trees themselves which emit the most. By far.

CBC wrote on 2023-09-06:

“The effectiveness of our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets is going up in smoke, literally.”

The amount of greenhouse gases burned in this year’s wildfires is estimated to be more than two and a half times that of all sectors in the Canadian economy combined, said Kurz, citing federal government data.

It's been several months since the newscast I follow (Canada's daily 45-minute The National) covers climate-related catastrophes/issues for 5 to 10 minutes on average. If we haven't already passed a tipping point, it's never felt so suffocatingly close.🥵

From Ashes to Ashes to Pharce

admin Tuesday September 5, 2023

No Food for Thought wouldn't be complete without a rant against Canada's Phoenix pay system. This week I worked with an unfortunate former government employee who's been compensated incorrectly ever since Phoenix was deployed, in 2016.1 She is still affected by Phoenix's mess, even though she retired 5 years ago! While this post doesn't pretend to be complete―which will have to wait until this fiasco's end―as the government reveals it's already paid over 4 million compensation hours to its employees, and with costs already in the order of a billion CAD, it's high time to start that rant.

Ah, if only "conservatives" could actually be conservative. Here's hoping Phoenix will die soon, but most importantly, that we Canadians at last start valuing governance and never allow such a phoenix to regenerate.

1 To tell the whole story, Phoenix only worsened her problems, which go back to 2014, when her pay's management was moved to the Miramichi centre Her situation has reached the point where she sent a letter accusing the government of fraud attempt😣


admin Saturday September 2, 2023

Some people are bored enough to break the law in order to find distraction. Why not get a wild cat like a serval (even if they're illegal in Nova Scotia)? Maybe because wild animals are themselves bored, when kept in captivity, and reputed to be great at recovering their freedom.

For anyone who's owned a cat and tried to keep it inside, feline escaping skills should be little surprise. What I find slightly surprising is the transformation of courage into fear visible in this encounter between very different cats. It seems the legal cat got its daily dose of adrenaline...
Angle matters!lol

Exit or Voice: the powerful anti-Putin voices of Arkady Volozh and Oleg Tinkov

admin Saturday August 26, 2023

Half a decade after the famous treatise on the matter, quitting or speaking remains a constant dilemma. In particular in rogue autocratic regimes like Vladimir Putin's Russia... and about a topic as political as the Russo-Ukrainian War.

👏🏼Russian businessmen Arkady Volozh and Oleg Tinkov👏🏼 have managed to take the right decision, clearly voicing their opposition, despite a forced very costly exit.

Arkady Volozh wrote:
I am totally against Russia’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine, where I, like many, have friends and relatives. I am horrified by the fact that every day bombs fly into the homes of Ukrainians

Oleg Tinkov wrote:
Of course there are morons who draw Z, but 10% of any country are morons. 90% of Russians are AGAINST this war!

Google Maps driving you nuts? Welcome to the anonymous road club

admin Friday August 18, 2023

Fast Company has written a 5-point rant against Google Maps. The first 4 points honestly don't bother me much... but as for the last one, it was quite a relief to read, about a year after realizing it and wondering if I'm going crazy for being the only one getting this behavior and going mad about it:

Michael Grothaus wrote:
Many times I just want to see the name of the street I’m standing on. So, I open Google Maps and zoom in on my current location. Yet no matter how far in I zoom in, Google Maps doesn’t always apply a label to the street I’m standing on. It just remains blank. Of course, business pins I have no interest in are still prominently displayed.

Slashdot's coverage of the article has lots of comments about that problem, some of which suggest the persistence of such a flaw does not result from incompetence, but rather an intentional business decision:

ThumpBzztZoom wrote:
It's simple, Google does not want you to know where you are. The less you know where you are, the more you have to rely on Google Maps.

Unfortunately, the issue is not just limited to your surroundings. Maps fail to show road and waterway names even when exploring different regions. And no matter the explanation, I have to admit that at this time, I'm still using Google Maps.😒

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