Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Assignment #3– An Analysis of Non-Commodified Pop Culture

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

open-source-software

The rapid adoption of open source software by businesses and institutions across the globe has established it as one of the most important movements in recent history. The movement has paved the way for a significant amount of information sharing not only among people using and creating free and open software, but among many institutions and businesses traditionally associated with closed source/proprietary models. This article addresses why this movement has avoided some of the pitfalls of neo-liberalism, as Henry A. Giroux defines it, and how it represents a significant paradigm shift in the exchange of information on our planet.

The Linux operating system (Red Hat, Ubuntu, etc.), the Apache HTTPD web server that approximately 40% of all websites run on, the Firefox web browser, PHP, and MySQL are just a couple of notable examples of open source software. Open source in its simplest sense means that the programmer who originally wrote the application, script, or utility is willing to share her “source code” with others. Source code is simply the set of instructions she’s given to the computer or to the interpreter that make the program work. It’s the recipe for the secret sauce. This is useful if the end user understands the language in which the program is written because he is then free to add to the original code to make improvements or modifications. He is also free to fix any bugs that might be in the code. In the closed source model that came before (and that still exists), the software user had to contact the company, person, or institution responsible for the code, file a bug report, and wait patiently for a bug fix, enhancement, or modification — if said company, person, or institution deemed the request worth spending the programmer hours to work on — which further assumes those programmer hours haven’t already been committed to working on the next bigger, better, newer, and more money making software application.

oss

Open source software comes in a number of flavors and licenses. Apache, BSD, and GPL licenses are a couple of the more popular ones. The BSD license is the least restrictive of the three. It is so open that many businesses, including Apple Inc. use BSD code. (Mac OS X is based on FreeBSD/NetBSD.) Many makers of network equipment, routers, switches, network monitoring devices, etc. are using BSD licensed code and operating systems in their devices. Some of these companies give thanks by donating to the projects from which they’ve borrowed such significant amounts of technology from. But many do not contribute back to the projects from which they’ve so liberally borrowed software and ideas. As far as the BSD license is concerned, this is okay. There is no obligation for the user to give anything back, or to share changes to the code, or to even give credit. BSD licensed software is free for anyone to use for any purpose. The GPL (GNU Public License) is a bit more restrictive about what can be done with “GPL’ed” software if it is used, modified, then distributed. In short, the GPL requires the user who modifies and distributes software licensed under the GPL to make the source code (including the source code of any modifications) available to its users.

The old model of closed systems of proprietary information and licensing offers the consumer little choice. This is akin to how “neoliberal ideology, with its ongoing emphasis on deregulation and privatization, has found its material expression in an all-out attack on democratic values and on the very notion of the public sphere.” (Giroux) The users, if they aren’t wealthy businesses, are stuck paying exorbitant and potentially crippling licensing fees. In addition to licensing, sometimes expensive yearly support contracts are required. The software rapidly falls out of date and becomes no longer compatible with other businesses using newer versions of the software. So the users are often stuck in a painful loop of planned obsolescence of the software that they rely on to run their business, or to organize their lives. Some vendors have been accommodating to customers using older versions of their software, but many are quite callous about the forcing them to upgrade to the newer versions, focusing on the needs of bigger customers with deeper pockets.

Some users of these proprietary software applications just won’t upgrade. They will use the application until they are forced to move on. Leaving aside the problem of having important personal or business information on ancient systems, and how to recover it if the system crashes, by avoiding updates these users expose themselves to all manner of security vulnerabilities that jeopardize the integrity, confidentiality, and privacy of their information.

Another alternative smaller businesses and individuals will resort to is using pirated copies of the closed source software, which also exposes them to security vulnerabilities (crackers embed malicious code into versions of popular software on torrent/file sharing sites). Smaller, mom and pop businesses and individuals who work independently in jobs that require or are greatly benefitted by the use of computer technology can hardly afford the high cost of running legitimate (non-pirated) copies of business software. They are also subject to random audits by the company whose software was pirated, which can bring with it hefty fines. Again, this speaks to Giroux when he says, “Within the discourse of neoliberalism, the notion of the public good is devalued and, where possible, eliminated as part of a wider rationale for a handful of private interests to control as much of social life as possible in order to maximize their personal profit.”

In the early ‘90s a movement of pretty geeky computer people started sharing their source code with one another. Linus Torvalds and his Linux OS used the GPL. More and more people started using these products because they found the alternatives (like Microsoft Windows, or the established “big iron” UNIX variants) to be inflexible and prohibitively expensive. At some point the feature set of these open source alternatives to traditionally closed source commercial alternatives became so rich and powerful that they could easily replace their expensive competitors. And most users found them to be more stable and flexible. Open source software became more than an enthusiast’s home-brew solution. It became a commercial competitor. Today companies like Red Hat, Canonical, and many others have an entire business model built around open source software.

But what’s most significant is the impact the openness this model has engendered. Closed source companies are scrambling to keep up with the open source alternatives. Microsoft lost the browser war to open source browser alternatives. Microsoft market share for desktop OSes is slipping dramatically. Companies like Sun Microsystems open sourced formerly closed source projects like Java, and the Solaris operating system. Universities have begun releasing coursework and vast digital image libraries for free. Startups like The Khan Academy now offer entire mathematics curricula and courses for no cost whatsoever. Even the Wikileaks phenomenon owes its popularity to the groundwork that was laid by the early pioneers of the free and open source software movement, many of whom had the mantra that “information wants to be free.” Back to Giroux, “educators, parents, activists, workers, and others can address this challenge by building local and global alliances and engaging in struggles that acknowledge and transcend national boundaries, but also engage in modes of politics that connect with people’s everyday lives.” He goes on, “Most specifically, democracy necessitates forms of education that provide a new ethic of freedom and a reassertion of collective identity as central preoccupations of a vibrant democratic culture and society.” The open source way has spoken to these points Giroux has made. The openness of this movement is why it is a proponent of change, bringing lasting value by encouraging openness, sharing, collaboration, and transparency over profit. Instead of being just another commodified artifact in a commercial society, this movement represents a significant paradigm shift in the exchange of information on our planet.

open24

Image Sources:

  • http://www.bluecloudsolutions.com/articles/functionality-open-source-business/attachment/open-source-software/
  • http://houston.about.com/od/shoppingservices/a/Open-24-Hours.htm
  • http://www.livgeek.com/geek-tech/data-encryption-and-open-source-software

Citations:

  • http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Aug04/Giroux0807.htm

Fedora 15, sun-java (oracle-java), and /etc/alternatives

Friday, July 1st, 2011

Got Java from this link. (Actually, I still go to java.sun.com and root around, but I imagine good ole Larry’s gonna deprecate that soon enough.) I downloaded the JDK that I wanted in the RPM installer package, which today happened to be: jdk-6u26-linux-x64-rpm.bin (note: the 64-bit version for my 64-bit install). Make the install executable, run it, and Java is installed to /usr/java/jdk1.6.0_26/.

Easy enough. But /etc/alternatives governs the global settings that determine the default app for all kinds commands across the system. And the commands we care about (if we care about using sun-java) are among them. In particular the ones we want alternatives to know about are: java, javac, and javaws. You can replace /etc/alternatives’ symlinks to these commands with the newly installed paths to each one respectively. And that’s probably a good solution, esp. if, like me, you don’t really have a need for OpenJDK or GCJ once sun-java is installed. (And if you don’t mind maintaining those symlinks across system updates and sun-java upgrades.) But I didn’t want to go hacking around symlinks across the system, so I figured I’d knuckle under and work within the alternatives system. Here’s what I had to do:

# update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/java" "java" "/usr/java/jdk1.6.0_26/bin/java" 3
# update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/javac" "javac" "/usr/java/jdk1.6.0_26/bin/javac" 3
# update-alternatives --install "/usr/bin/javaws" "javaws" "/usr/java/jdk1.6.0_26/bin/javaws" 3

Then, update your systems by running:

# update-alternatives --config java

You should see sun-java as your 3rd option. Choose that, confirm with

$ java -version

. Welcome to object city!

Moderately Type A (External) Car Wash

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

Keeping my car looking good is important enough for me to spend a good amount of time every week doing it, weather (often not) permitting. When I bought my first new car (a 2001 VW GTI GLX with a VR6), I would be out there every 3-4 days, even in the dead of winter, washing that thing. But lately I’m a lot lazier, and I care more about performance and handling than I do about looks. That all said, I do like my car to look its best, when I can get a couple hours to do some detailing.

Thanks to the anal retentive maniacs (and I say that with the utmost admiration) at autopia.org, I learned about and tried a couple new techniques combined with a couple new products to wash my car today. I’m really happy with the results. My car hasn’t looked this good since it was fairly new. But owing to blemishes from daily driving, including a lot of embedded bug juice and tar that is pretty persistent, I haven’t completely restored it to factory showroom clean either. And since it is fairly well known that Subaru’s paint (at least on the WRX/STi line) is fairly cheap (let’s face it, no one buys an STi for great paint!), and because some of my previous car washing techniques were pretty barbarous (though still better than some other stories I’ve heard, and better than those who never clean their cars), it is unlikely it will ever look as good as it did the first day I drove it home. I do have some confidence that with the new processes I am using, with some further improvements and fine-tuning, I will have it looking as nice as it possibly can — provided I can keep the body straight with good driving. 😉

The new techniques I tried were as follows:

  1. Cleaning the wheels first. Yeah, no duh, right? I mean, you use insanely caustic stuff to clean off all that brake dust from those big Brembos — the brake dust also being caustic. Why would you ever subject a freshly cleaned car to these substances by waiting until the end to clean your tires/wheels? I don’t know why, but I was doing them last.
  2. Pre-treating bug juice and tar with a new product before beginning the car wash. Actually, I’m doing this before cleaning the wheels, since after applying this stuff, all you need to do is rinse the car thoroughly — which is what you need to do to the wheels before cleaning them anyway. This bug and tar product touts itself as being much greener than the nasty stuff I use for the wheels, so bonus for that. It works fairly well, but I have some very persistent bug splatters on the front of my car (spirited driving anyone?), so I believe it will take some time to get all this stuff off. But judging by the effectiveness of this product, I feel confident I will eventually only be cleaning the most recent bug corpses and tree tar (and other sticky stuff) instead of everything from the last 1.5 years of daily driving.
  3. Using a two bucket technique for the actual car wash: one for rinsing, one for recharging your wash cloth/product with car soap. This is another “no duh!” one that I feel I should totally have known all along, but for some reason, being the barbarian that I am, I was only ever using a single bucket to wash my car — not really thinking much about how almost black the water in that bucket started to get about halfway through the car wash — and how I was just rubbing all that black shit back onto my car’s finish every time I washed the goddamned thing! (Probably because I was just tired of washing the car and wanted it to be over instead of realizing how stupid/careless doing it that way is.) And as part of this two bucket technique,
  4. Using grit guards on the bottom of both my rinse bucket and my soap recharge bucket. What a cool idea! These are like little screens that fit perfectly at the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket and stand about 2″ from the bottom of the bucket. As you first rinse your mitt/sponge/whatever, you rub it on the grit guard in your rinse bucket. Then as you recharge your mitt in the soap bucket, you again rub it against the surface of the grit guard to make doubly sure the crap you just wiped off your car’s finish is not being rubbed back into your car’s finish.
  5. Using a new “Ultimitt” from properautocare.com instead of those old t-shirts that would wind up getting as course as sandpaper, since I was carelessly not doing a whole lot to make sure they were completely clean before every wash. The surface of the Ultimitt is also supposed to be optimal for not letting all the dirt from your finish act as an abrasive against the finish. I liked this new mitt a lot. It seems to cover a ton of ground, and to do it really well. It’s also quite evident when your car is clean, because of the squeaking this mitt does against your (now) clean finish. The drawbacks, however, are that fully recharged with soap, the thing is heavy, hence why it can cover a lot of ground quickly. That’s not a big drawback, but man my arms are more tired right now, than they were when I flew into town last week. (har, har) The other thing I wasn’t crazy about is also related to its size: It’s just not that maneuverable. I can’t use it to get into some of those weird nooks and crannies well enough, so I’m going to have to find something smaller to use for those spots. (Again, not a biggie.)
  6. After I did my final rinse with the spray of the nozzle of the hose, I removed the nozzle and let a solid flow of water cover the entire surface of my car. Instead of being all beaded out, my car’s finish had this really smooth, consistent coating of water. There’s another reason for doing this, I forget. The car did just look better after doing thing, but of course you have to immediately “towel” the car off to complete the process.
  7. Using a new Big Blue III Super Drying Towel. I was using (and really liked) The Absorber for the last ten years or so. But again, you have to consider the surface of the product you are using when drying your car. And believe me, a good, proper dry-off is like 80% of a good car wash. Actually I just made that statistic up, but really — a good dry-off is hugely important, lest all your hard work be completely negated. So regarding the surface of your drying product — it is alleged that this new product I am using’s more porous surface mitigates how much you might be rubbing fine residual amounts of dirt (or new stuff that blew onto your car in between your wash and your dry). I will take it on faith for now that it does this. The one thing I want to say is that this new microfiber drying towel is a dream to work with! It’s really big, it doesn’t need to be squeezed out like The Absorber I used to use did (making me have to really squeeze the water out of it when I was completely beat from washing my car and I just wanted it all to be over!), and it just seemed to soak up huge amounts of water in a really nice, easy way. It also just has a really nice feel to it and I really felt like I could focus on covering every little nook and cranny with it…since it’s nice and thin (compared to The Absorber).

Products I’ve been using all along:

New products I recently learned about:

  • einszett Anti-Insekt + Pre-Cleaner
  • Grit Guards
  • Yellow Tire & Wheel Ultimitt
  • Big Blue III Super Drying Towel

A quick mention of properautocare.com: I ordered late at night Monday and got all the stuff by Friday of the same week. They communicated extremely well through every step of the process, providing tracking numbers and confirmation of delivery, etc. Shipping was free since I spent over a certain amount on this stuff. I imagine I could have found a lot of this stuff cheaper elsewhere (I believe only one new item I mentioned is something they exclusively offer), but since they handled everything so quickly and professionally, I will definitely be using them more often.

Frank Zappa – Hammersmith Odeon [2010 ZFT Release]

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I haven’t had the time to give this a complete listen yet, so my review is only just begun. For those who still don’t know the track lists and some of the vital stats, I’m posting this as is until I have some time to digest it… First pass through 1.5 of the “set” is positive! Enjoy!

Dave

Frank Zappa 2010 – Hammersmith Odeon (Spring 1978)

3 hours over 3 discs, culled from a series of 4 concerts played at the HO, arranged by Joe Travers to fit into the format of a single complete show with encores. First 4 tracks were compiled and edited by FZ himself for a King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show.

Vital Stats:

CD1
01 Convocation/The Purple Lagoon
02 Dancin’ Fool
03 Peaches En Regalia
04 The Torture Never Stops
05 Tryin’ To Grow A Chin
06 City Of Tiny Lights
07 Baby Snakes
08 Pound For A Brown

CD2
01 I Have Been In You
02 Flakes
03 Broken Hearts Are For Assholes
04 Punky’s Whips
05 Tittie’s ‘N Beer
06 Audience Participation
07 The Black Page #2
08 Jones Crusher
09 The Little House I Used To Live In

CD3
01 Dong Work For Yuda
02 Bobby Brown
03 Envelopes
04 Terry Firma
05 Disco Boy
06 King Kong
07 Watermelon In Easter Hay [Prequel]
08 Dinah-Moe-Humm
09 Camarillo Brillo
10 Muffin Man
11 Black Napkins
12 San Ber’Dino

Personnel:

FZ
Terry Bozzio
Patrick O’Hearn
Adrian Belew
Tommy Mars
Peter Wolf
Ed Mann

CD Contents and packaging:

Liner notes: A small reminiscence by Peter Wolf about his experience getting hired to play with Zappa. Similar to the one Bianca Odin did on the Philly ’76 ZFT release. (I love these stories!) On the other side are some deets about the recording, some particular detail about recording mediums are included. I found it boring, but recording gearheads might like it. Hit me up if you want more info. There’s also a marijuana leaf with some various Latin terms for words on/around it, same goes for a picture of a poodle.

There is a photo I’ve never seen. It’s likely from the famous (from the posters and t-shirts) “Zappa Crappa” photo shoot of his sitting on the toilet bowl. This one has him on the pot with an acoustic guitar of indeterminate make and model (some type of dreadnought perhaps? I’m not that hip on acoustics.) guitar in hand.

“Party pack”, for FZ’s “birthday” Halloween (I don’t know, that’s a ZFT thing, and the CD didn’t show up until November 23rd, so … maybe that explains the marijuana leaf in the liner notes), replete with a balloon (has FZ mustache logo on it), and a paper hat.

Listening review…

CD1

Track 1: (Nice and uptempo) Purple Lagoon (short though) with FZ spoken intro
Track 2: Dancin’ Fool, no big surprises. Nice performance. Harmony vocals are a little loose sounding at the end
Track 3: Peaches, a lot closer to the version on Tinseltown. Is that an Adrian Belew solo I hear after Frank’s? Uptempo, nice performance, nice goofy vocalizations
Track 4: Torture, we’ve heard this so many freakin’ times, it’s really _almost_ not worth mentioning except for the fantastic, extended solo by Frank which has his spectacular tone and playing, which is very reminiscent of Rat Tomago from Sheik Yerbouti. (As we all know, this band is the one on Sheik Yerbouti, though these recordings are not from that album, as the liner notes insist.) These extended solos may seem self-indulgent to modern listeners with their lost generation attention spans, but I have to say that they are such a crucial part of what makes Zappa so great to me. I mean, the guy could write, could compose, could orchestrate, could conduct. But he could also play his “mini compositions” on guitar, and keep it interesting over a long period of time. Not many players can do this. And considering Frank didn’t come out of a jazz background, it says a lot.
Track 5: Tryin’ to Grow a Chin nothing remarkable here on my first listen.
Track 6: City Of Tiny Lights … nice FZ solo, Belew’s singing seems different from the versions we’ve heard on SY and on the Baby Snakes video. It’s hard to explain, it’s more subdued somehow. I theorize that it’s early enough that he was still a bit more shy about acting weird. But it could be just that Joe Travers (or whoever) mixed him differently. You decide.
Track 7: Baby Snakes, “Suck My Pee-pee Towards the End”? 😀 Fun performance of this one. Sounds like it’s fairly early in its evolution.
Track 8: Pound For A Brown, now this is the kinda’ shit I’m talkin’ about! I like Tommy Mars’ scat singing a lot (in general, and on this track). Hello lydian modal jam with keyboard and percussion solos. Very nice interplay with Terry and Ed Mann during Ed’s solo (Very nice sinister chords too, Ed!). Considering how Peter Wolf talks about being a jazzer, and how Patrick O’Hearn was too (and who knows about Tommy Mars? — I would like to know more!) I wonder how they felt about doing modal jams instead of stuff with lots of harmonic rhythm. Of course Peter Wolf mentions being into fusion bands too, so it’s not a big stretch. Great fusion-y jam overall, replete with ’70s fusion keyboard sounds/playing (which I love! So much better than the keyboard sounds that happened in the ’80s and ’90s!), pitch modulation toggle dial anyone? (What is that thing called, anyway?) Experimental sound effects jam toward the end of the track (~15:30/20:39), sounds like it was ad hoc conducted by Frank.

CD2

Track 1: I Have Been In You, funny FZ rap in the beginning, “The universal gesture of greeting”. It’s familiar because he’s told it before. But this take is pretty funny. The song itself sounds like it’s still evolving, though pretty close to how it winds up on SY. FZ does another rap in the middle of the song.
Track 2: Flakes, nothing exceptional here except for early hints at Matte Kudesai type stuff from Adrian during a nice solo he takes
Track 3: Broken Hearts Are For Assholes …
Track 4: Punky’s Whips “Pouting for you, you freakin’ sailor? Eat chain, buddy!” Nice performance. Long jam toward the end.
Track 5: Tittie’s ‘N Beer … No comments
Track 6 Audience Participation … No comments
Track 7 The Black Page #2 … nice brisk tempo for this track.
Track 8 Jones Crusher … No comments
Track 9 The Little House I Used To Live In …Cool track!

CD3

Track 1 Dong Work For Yuda … early incarnation of this tune
Track 2 Bobby Brown … explains the origin of the song
Track 3 Envelopes … Tommy Mars singing the melody
Track 4 Terry Firma … drum solo
Track 5 Disco Boy … kind of a decent-sized ad-hoc orchestration piece at the end.
Track 6 King Kong … first “encore” piece. Solos: guitar, keys, scat (Mars). Very nice guitar solo/tone on this one.
Track 7 Watermelon In Easter Hay [Prequel] … Same time sig, different feel overall, a lot faster. Solo is kinda’ cool, but nowhere near the impact it had in the version that appeared on Joe’s Garage.
Track 8 Dinah-Moe-Humm … (AKA Frank –and now the ZFT– paying the bills) This track is required on every ZFT release. Nice half note triplets, Terry!
Track 9 Camarillo Brillo …
Track 10 Muffin Man … cool Belew solo
Track 11 Black Napkins … “bogus frenzy” pretty rippin’ version.
Track 12 San Ber’Dino … speedy! Nice Belew vehicle.

Year end wrap up?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2005

Well, it’s been over 90 days since my last update. In that time I’ve gotten married, gone to Maui for a honeymoon (first time on the islands for both of us), gotten at least two new guitars, bought a digital piano and started taking lessons, and who knows what the hell else.

It’s been a good year. I got back into playing guitar pretty much full time. My playing’s gotten a lot better since starting. My chops are slowly coming back, my theory knowledge is pretty good, my ear’s not bad, I’m practicing in a somewhat more disciplined way, and my timing’s improved immensely.

I got back into the music of Frank Zappa in a big way (after a 6-7 year hiatus from fanatical listening) and have listened to more of his music in the last year than I probably have in the last 10. I’ve gotten a few of his posthumous ZFT-releases, and have re-acquired some of my old favorite titles.

I’ve grown pretty reclusive to the point of being agoraphobic. I’ve witnessed it happening more and more. And though I’ve watched it with a cautious eye, I’ve kinda’ let myself roll with it and have not tried to make life suck by being hung up on fixing stuff all the time.

I have big plans, as usual, for the new year, but nothing unconscionably ambitious. I would like to work on my sight reading as a big priority in my musical life (on guitar, piano and hopefully bass, time permitting). I’m also planning on transcribing a lot of bebop and maybe some gypsy jazz. Maybe I’ll start taking some guitar lessons as well. Aside from that, I hope to settle into the married life in a nice way, make some new distinctions and progress with my career and my current job (which I’m loving — esp. since I have the next 11 days off from work, and only 2 of them are actual vacation days).

See you in ought six.