Shannon Sags

Into week out. Got to venture into the park this morning but the indisposition limited my constitutional in magnitude. And the summerishness continues to intensify. Sometimes I am glad to be senior so I can get away from these annoyances sooner.

Speaking of annoyances, I ran across an article [Link] complaining about the inadequacies of Shannon’s information theory. The most intriguing thing about this is that someone thought it news. I can recall reading papers at conferences on how broken Ma Bell’s information theory was fifteen or twenty years ago. Apparently this is one of those cases of non-academics aren’t relevant or being too far ahead of the academic herd. I am going to continue to entertain both conjectures absent any stronger evidence than academic ‘bitchin’. 

The problem is that Shannon entropy counts encoded information only and that by counting characters only. The more letters in your alphabet, the more accessible states and hence the more entropy. And the statements “dogs eat” and “Spot ate” have the same entropy but oh, so different!, information content. 

If your dog is named Spot, of course. Otherwise it’s the same. 

So information is contextual and depends on how it relates to knowledge.

And Shannon information theory doesn’t do that. 

But it does explain a lot about why journalism is so bad.

Brain Things

On the cusp once more. Off this morning to the park for constitutional. Slack wind, but I was able to eschew a hoodie or jacket so long as I was generating waste heat. Some of that heat came from mentation. I noticed yesterday – but failed to load the article – that someone has put an enormous amount of RAM on a memory stick. This led me to consider the nature of the ‘information revolution’.

Back when I was recently out of grad schule I did a bit of a blunder. There was a problem I was interested in and before I went to work on it I did a literature search. In those days literature searches involved consulting abstracting services and getting librarians to run computer searches for you. And looking through the compilations of likely journals. So I did all that and went ahead and worked the problem, which took three years from start to getting the author copies of the journal article in my hand, and then a couple of months later I got a letter pointing me to an obscure – to me – journal where the problem had ostensibly been solved. It hadn’t, not really, analytically, but it shook me. 

This was how things were done then. We had a shortage of information and had to work hard to get it. Paper was the norm. Computers were rare and closeted. Searches had to be performed by trained people. And storage was minuscule. The first mainframe I programmed on had 16 Kb of RAM. All hand built with a soldering iron. 

Today, it is easy to do searches, and we don’t do them. Just go ahead and do the work. That’s easier than trying to figure out what has been done before? And we can store all of this information. And Sturgeon’s rule applies to the Nth power because most of it is crap. Are there any cat photographs with captions that aren’t crap. Fundamentally? An we take photographs so we don’t have to remember the occasion. But we have dutifully recorded and saved it, probably never to look at or even recognize again. Information hoarding has become a form of denial?

Which angst brings me to a reprise of some work I commented earlier. I ran across a new article [Link] that put a bit of a different spin on things. I quote:

A new study found ‘no significant difference’ in the number or quality of moral and immoral deeds made by religious and non-religious participants. 

The researchers found only one difference – Religious people responded with more pride and gratitude for their moral deeds, and more guilt, embarrassment and disgust for their immoral deeds.

That first part is repetitive. It is and was telling that religion has no impact on immorality. So the claims that religionists are moral and atheists and secularists are immoral is so much propagandist stercus tauri. But the second is new and equally damning. It goes very far to explain the reason for religionists: guilt.

Guilt is a common thing. It is in the kitbag of almost every mother and not a few fathers. It is widely used by incompetent managers, and the parents are probably as well. And it works but not because it  is used, it’s effective because it brings a chemical rush when the deed that generated the guilt is forgiven. Guilt, simply put, is an opiate, at least metaphorically. But it is chemical. Not moral, not spiritual, but purely physical. Religion, at least this aspect, is all about the effect of chemicals in the brain.

Which explains the commonality of religion. It’s programmed into humans. 

So are humans an appliance of religion? More cogitation is required.

Linux Laughter

Once more into week out and looking forwards to ‘hawg’in tabs. And this week has turned out to be a pretty good week in that regard. So the whole prospect of sorting through them is rather daunting and depressing.

This has been a good week for wart recognition in the Linux community. First, it seems that the founder of Gnome has become a minion of the dark side, succumbing to the false placidity of Fruit. [Link] We may only hope that someone puts him out of his (and our) misery before he realizes he has traded his creativity and cognition for their appearance. Not that we gainsay his freedom to move to the dark side, just that he may be in need of some compassion and sympathy. Of course, we rather can’t blame him. After all, all that is left to Gnome is the claim that it is the least horrible and unpleasant of the tile GUIs, an almost workable third behind Unity and whatever Metro is called today.

And while we are on the dark side, out favorite Sith, Mark Shuttleworth displayed his actuality this week, announcing that Ubuntu is an autarky, not a democracy.[Link] I found a couple of bits especially illuminating:

“But while Shuttleworth says he understands that some in the community will be resentful of the “disruptive change” that Canonical has brought to Ubuntu and the Linux world at large, he believes that if you’re not on board with Unity and Canonical’s broader vision, it’s probably because you’re stuck in and old-school geek mentality that has no place in Ubuntu.”


“To Shuttleworth, Ubuntu isn’t about catering to hobbyists, but about building an open source OS that is so compelling that free software becomes the norm, rather than the exception.”

Rather obviously, Shuttleworth is all about exploiting all those “hobbyists” who have made Ubuntu arguably the best of the distros. One has to suspect that he has recycled his urine one time too many and become too focused on the dead pixels on his monitor. Part of the problem, clearly, is that the old-school elitist mentality is increasingly necessary to make Ubuntu work by stripping away the new bits inserted by Shuttleworth that do not work – like Unity – and replace them with bits that do, like XFCE and KDE. We do have to ask ourselves and the community how much longer can the hobbyists patch Ubuntu after Shuttleworth’s mucking before it is no longer worthwhile and we leave Ubuntu to the folks who see MegaHard as a larger attack rabbit to be run away from?

History is full of folks who suffered from the same kind of evil that infests Shuttleworth – Hitler, Stalin, Napoleon, …. We may only hope, as compassionate humans, that his fate is exile rather than a bunker.

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In Search of Potential

Yesterday was a great day. After the usual round of downloading podcast episode, editing metadata, and transferring them to player – and charging player – she decided we had to venture out to purchase electrochemical accumulators, what the bogs refer to as batteries. Ayeh, courtesy of the council of thieves politicians in Muntgum this week out is a “tax free” period for the purpose of disaster relief (?) necessities. The list is available on the Alibam income tax web site and is notable more for what is not on the list than what is. If I were making up a list of what I needed in the event of a tornado blitz (e.g.) that list would be a lot longer and more diverse than this “official” one. Once more the council of thieves politicians displays their incompetence, greed, and slavery to corporate interests.

But that’s the nature of living in Alibam, one step away from national socialism or other form of tyranny.

Speaking of which I caught a broadcast from WAFF news last evening on a pro-chocice/pro-life demonstration in Huntsville.[Link] The bigotry was laid on with a bull dozer. Less than five seconds were spent on the pro-choice demonstrators; almost two minutes on the pro-life. And the facial and verbal expression of the news reader were blatant in their bias. So much for objectivity and fairness in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill.

On a more pleasing note, I see that the Yankee government has finally extended its open access policy to more than biomedical research articles. [Link] This is quite pleasing. It signals that the YG may be actually cracking down on avaricious journal publishers by compromising their autarky. And, it makes more taxpayer supported research available to people who can use it. And from an acute rectal pain standpoint it may also get rid of some of the noxiousness of the Freedom of Information Act that has never been funded adequately and is widely abused by corporations for their own greed. So a small booyah to some unsung staffer in the president’s palace.

A second good bit is an article [Link] entitled “I Can’t Find a Single Productive Use For My Tablet”. That sums it up. A fairly comprehensive, albeit subjective, as such things necessarily have to be, indictment of the slab as work surface. I admit I don’t like the throw-out that W8 may be a mediocre work medium – and ignoring Ubuntu tablet completely – but at least the analysis is not totally whacked. It’s not like the guy will likely discorporate any time for absence of neural activity, even if it is less than we should like. But the points are not bad and it is worthwile just because of the bravery and honesty – well, semi-honesty.

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The Actual Rock

Ran across this cartoon [Link]

shortly ago. Was engaged.

First, there is the aspect of Rat being the brunt for a change. I support proper disrespect but not when it is not deserved.

Second, I agree with the implied assessment. The internet is not trustworthy. If anything it is less trustworthy than most “holy” books, like the bible, if not by much. And unlike them, it is fairly open. But that openness means that one cannot tell poo from pony. Hence the need for the encyclopedia.

I have numerous – annual – copies of the electronic Britannica. Every year I buy one or more copies, depending on the needs of the few educationalists who will talk to me, and I go through the pain of getting my copy – the one I keep – to run on WINE.

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In Search of a Land Fill

Today is sag day. Went to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill yesterday for staff call and food acquisition and that took time, effort, and will. Today is also end of gym for the week, I feel burnt out a bit and the weekend schedule is farcical to insulting. Only in the old confederacy can such religionist discrimination be condoned by the legally elected government.

I have noted in the emails that the repulsians are beginning to sound a bit frantic and strident. Not that I am not amenable to a few of their concerns but there are too many nastynesses about both political parties for me to countenance either. I do not wish the collapse of just the repulsians, indeed that would be a disaster, but rather the collapse of both. At times like this the execution of a Sokrates seems not unreasonable.

I also have to keep children and grandchildren from my mind. Else it would combine with the ineffectualness of the individual and difference from the majority to destroy me faster.

On a more pleasant note I noted an article [Link] this week about the rumor of MegaHard porting Orifice to Linux. Evidently there was a lot of buzz about this because it was perceived to induce a lot of large organizations to switch to Linux given its betterness and the prospect of having their office unproductivity toy. 

Sorry folks, I have to yawn at the prospect. MegaHard Orifice is a rectum. (There, I finally got to use that association explicitly!) In fact it is a rectum embellished with all manner of useless and distracting stercus. And there is no way to keep it clean. From my perspective it has only one positive feature, which is the Visual Basic coding in EXCEL. But if I am running Linux and can actually do number crunch coding with a REAL language, like FORTRAN, then who needs that?

IMHO, LibreOffice is a far better product. The stercus encrustation is much less. Not zero, mind, but low. And several dB easier to use. In fact, LO is an actual productivity tool unlike Orifice. So the rumor for me is much less of an attraction than a repulsion.

But I would like to see them bring Scientific Word to Linux. Lyx is nice but it ain’t SW!

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Yesterday was another medicalist day, except this time for FD SCP. So I got to do a lot of sit and try to divert myself time. One of the topics was why we find external change so much more stressful than internal change.

That brings me to a pair of articles in the Register. The first [Link] was sent me by my colleague, Magnetic Inductance Force, and has the comforting title, “Every single Internet Explorer at risk of drive-by hacks until Patch Tuesday”. Comforting, at least, to those of us who don’t use Internet Exploder. Of course on a Linux box you can run, I am told, IE on WINE but why? I ask those who tell me this question and they all respond that it’s possible but not preferable. But in my discussion with my contributing colleague we did discuss why anyone still uses IE when there are other, gooder – as some say here in Alibam – browsers. I personally do not like Chromium, passing it by for the actual Chrome, mostly because of the ease of integrating with Gooey. But while I have Chrome installed on all my boxes I really only use it on the Xubuntu box that I use for surfing. FireFox is the browser of choice for serious internet usage.

I have heard colleague argue the merits of almost all browsers, except IE. Somehow there are no proponents of it, only folks who opt for the path of least resistance or are conditioned. I am often surprised by the former. Some of my colleagues, people of good knowledge and mind, who just can’t get engaged with the idea of a better browser. When I wax on the merits of things like ReminderFox and other add-ins, they blink stoically and radiate an attitude of enduring frivolity. When I ask how they get reminded of things like medication schedules they admit to not and missing regularly. They are also the people who use the MegaHard email client – not Outlook, the spayed one – instead of ThunderBird or some other client that does things – and they don’t have a gMail account and don’t understand why they need anything more than their ISP account. And they don’t do gCal or any other calendering, in the main.

There are a few who work in organizations of tight IT control. These are all MegaHard shops. And because they can’t use anything but IE at work, they don’t at home. Some of them are so low on the bog ladder that they don’t even know to complain.

I tend to think of these people as the third world of IT users. They are rather like primitive denizens of some third world country who suffer all sorts of medical maladies because they lack infrastructure and the knowledge to expect it. Just as people in more developed countries expect clean water and sanitary plumbing and …. and are keen to secure these benefits for all, those of us who use other browsers seem keen to secure those benefits for all, preferably by eradicating MegaHard.

Which brings us to article two [Link] about MegaHard’s abysmal sales of their tablets. I have to admit to a bit of surprise here. After all the MegaHard clone of Unity, whatever other name they stick on the GUI, is intended for a slab. It’s the reason they abandoned their established base in hopes of gathering in all the slab slime. And it appears they are failing.

But what took me by the surprise was that the article had as abysmal analysis as an Amerikan one. The article went on to discuss the depressed sales of PCs by folks like Higgledy Piggedly and Dull. But never did they consider in their analysis that part of the reason is that the consumerists are buying slabs. So if the market is dominated by replacement, sales of boxes are going to go down and sales of slabs are going to go up as the consumerists get rid of old box for new slab. Duhhhhhh!

What I haven’t grokked yet is the effect of UEFI. As the consumerists migrate to slabs and abandon their boxes, the box demographic will become more solidly creation users and the OS demographic will shift to Linux and (shudder) Apple OS. But if UEFI won’t work well with Linux – forget the Fruit Folk – then that will further depress sales of boxes.

I won’t even mention yet any views of MegaHard owning a big chunk of Dull and what that will do for the organic Linux box makers.

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