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.

Un adulte, c'est bien, mais un enseignant, c'est généralement plus compétent

admin Sunday October 15, 2023

Juste avant une rentrée scolaire chaotique, le ministre de l'Éducation du Québec tentait de rassurer la population avec une déclaration aussi inquiétante qu'impuissante :

Bernard Drainville wrote:
Il y aura un adulte dans chaque classe !

Le mot de la rédactrice en chef, Claudine St-Germain, dans l'édition d'octobre de L'actualité1 illustre bien que cette rentrée et cette affirmation surréaliste ne sont pas des exceptions, mais malheureusement bel et bien représentatives d'une situation généralisée qui―on ne peut qu'être d'accord sur ce point―doit effectivement changer!cry

1 Cet article du magazine L'actualité est disponible sur son site web, mais le nombre d'articles gratuits accessibles est limité.

Système de « santé » québécois ― les télécopieurs loin de leur dernière heure

admin Saturday October 14, 2023

Le télécopieur, devenu une aberration, reste omniprésent dans le système de santé québécois. Mais comme un court article du Dr Alain Vadeboncœur1 explique bien, le télécopieur n'est pas une maladie, mais plutôt un symptôme.

Le résultat d'un manque de vision d'ensemble, et d'une fragmentation. Initialement, celui d'établissements adoptant des systèmes différents, sans réfléchir à long terme. Et maintenant, celui d'une province trop petite pour se permettre une solution… avant encore bien des efforts gaspillés et de nombreuses tragédies.

1 Cet article du magazine L'actualité est disponible sur son site web, mais le nombre d'articles gratuits accessibles est limité.

Technological maturity at hand? Google's Pixel 8 smartphone

admin Friday October 13, 2023

For well over a decade now, handheld PCs have been one of technology's hottest topics. In 2021, more than a year after my Motorola Nexus 5X's Android had lost its security support, I decided it was time to replace it. The pandemic and the fact that I had never purchased a handheld was one reason why shopping the replacement took so long, but I never expected it would take me nearly a year. Indeed, the options were so bad that I decided to wait until Google would release its Pixel 6a (which―of course―was considerably delayed). The main reason was durability. Most phones would barely offer a meagre 3 years of software security support and the Fairphone was unavailable in Canada. The Pixel 6 finally offered a reasonable 5 years of security support, so I finally bought a Pixel 6a in July 2022.

While it's much better than my 3 previous handhelds, my new phone is far from perfect. Bugs were there on day 1, and the fingerprint reader is still so much less reliable than on my Nexus 5X. Overall, defects are visibly each week. Yet, I am pleasantly surprised to hear of the progress Google is making this month. Not so much by releasing Android 14, which is a modest improvement, but rather with the Pixel 8, which comes with the open-source Android and 7 years of security support.smile As Android 14 is showing, the evolution of handhelds is slowing down… which allows their maturation to start, and support to finally adapt to this new status.

I'm eager to see Google release affordable editions making this (early) maturity widely available, and hoping that by the time I replace my Pixel 6a, 7-year support has become the norm in a somewhat sustainable market where durability is an expectation.

Aging and Loss

admin Friday October 13, 2023

Age And Loss
The above image is probably copyrighted.
Thanks to my friend Sahar for sharing this, and to its author, which I unfortunately don't know. I assume the text is old and would be challenging to trace. As for the presentation, the bottom label suggests it may come from the book The Memeing of Life: A Journey Through the Delirious World of Memes by Kind Studio, but I am unable to verify that. If you know the origins, please let me know.

Illusory superiority and collective exceptionalism

admin Saturday September 30, 2023

Kune ni povos has always promoted unity while fighting fragmentation. Yet despite exceptionalism's impact on unity, I was not quite aware that exceptionalism can be the norm at every level. A 1977 study already showed that 94% of college teachers in the USA thought they were better than the average. Wikipedia's article on illusory superiority has a lot more statistics and details about this phenomenon.

A highly interesting article from the BBC associates self-inflation with individualism and exaggerated self-esteem. If the BBC's description of Hokkaido is accurate, it would make sense that the USA, which was largely populated by self-confident and ambitious settlers in the recent past, would remain a very individualistic country. It would make sense that teachers from the USA would be the most prone to overconfidence, since the USA are the most affected by individualism. It would also be predictable that less diverse populations as those in Asia would diverge less in the way each individual defines Right and Wrong. And indeed, the same article claims that self-inflation is almost completely absent from collectivist societies in Eastern Asia.

But exceptionalism is far from being limited to the individual. Some collective forms of exceptionalism will pit a continent against another, a country against its neighbors, a province against a neighbouring province, and even a city against another city a few hundreds of kilometers away. And let's not forget linguistic exceptionalism, racial exceptionalism, male chauvinism, nor human exceptionalism. If individualism increases individual exceptionalism, it might seem logical that it also favors state exceptionalism. If so, USA exceptionalism should be no surprise. Yet, exceptionalism can also be found in Eastern Asia, no further than in China.

At this time of increasing international tensions, it would help to know what exacerbates collective illusory superiority and what avoids it. Indeed, if a country managed to heal from exceptionalism, I would suggest it to modestly offer the planet its secret cure, hoping to end an exceptionally dangerous pandemic.

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.

Information 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.

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