[conspire] No more GNU HP Minis

Ruben Safir ruben at mrbrklyn.com
Tue Feb 2 09:25:35 PST 2010

I never finished this and I'm never likely to finish this, but enough
was written here, I believe, to be of use to someone. In any event, I
think a lot of the difference here is whether or not we need to
save/change the world or not. I do vote even though only twice in my
life have my preferred candidate won. I've been fighting losing battles
my whole life. I don't view it charging windmills. I view it as having a
voice. Proprietary software alters peoples perceptions of their place in
the world, their potential, and their role in society. And for me that
is a rubber hits road issue.

Rick Moen wrote:
> Quoting Ruben Safir (ruben at mrbrklyn.com):
>> Frankly, it is a fool's errand to try to detach moral issues from  
>> technology.
> A lot of people, reading a posting like that, would immediately fly
> off the handle at the completely unjustified foundational assumption
> that one's stance lacks a moral footing.  
(This is way off topic and well into thread drift, but worth discussing)

I think that is too strong of a negative context to frame that statement
in. It's not a statement of personal judgment, it is a statement of
historical fact. All technology brings with it moral implications, and
then it often takes time for civilization to adjust. One of the most
glaring examples, but hardly the only one, is Nobel and Dynamite,
Oppenheimer and Nuclear fission, and the political debates around Stem
Cell research and Genetic Manipulation. But in truth any technology
brings with it a whole host of moral implications and issues that need
to be resolved.

However, nothing is historically more insidious and disruptive
communications technology, and digital technology is the motherload of
communications technological revolution which will and has shaped the
our future. Historically speaking, communications technology, has been
the underlining historical force of change in mankinds history. I've
written this in details previously, but I'll flesh out this historical
context and current political and moral issues again because I believe
that it is always worth while for people to explore and learn about the
context of their current experiences.

It's been said, and I don't recall the author, that a man always
perceives the end of his field of vision as the ultimate limits of the
universe. It is a human failing that we all suffer from. One of the
great things about discussing issues with you, and fleshing out
practical practices and theoretical principles, is that you have one of
the richest veins of both historical and technological knowledge of
nearly anyone I know. Your a priceless resource. People who are lucky
enough to be your friend and to interact with you on a regular basis,
can, if they listen, greatly broaden the horizon of their vision.

So, some of what I will say now, will undoubtedly be confirmed by your
own rich store house of knowledge.

Revolutionary improvements in technology have been historically used
either to help Democratize society, or to control it, often both. It has
been used as a means of peaceful enrichment of individual lives, or a
means of repressing men, and sometimes both. It has been the fuse and
gunpowder of war and violent revolution, and the peaceful tool of
improved interconnectivity and sense of common human suffrage.

Starting with the original communications revolution (leaving out the
development of language in Humans which in itself is a fascinating area
of anthropological study), the beginning of written language transformed
society radically in an extremely short period of time and changed the
essential view that human beings saw of themselves and how they
perceived the world.

Specifically, view art and human development prior to the broad use of
the written word, human beings essentially saw the world is a freer and
more chaotic way and shown by the examples of the art they left behind
such as this:

One of the horses of the Cave of Bulls

The Venus of Willendorf

Horse Statue from Germany

A board swath of European Cave art from across the continent.

Neolithic Art of Jordan

Indian Petrogyphs Rock Art from Bhimbetka - 7000 BCE

Other examples that show how mankind though of himself and his
environment prior to the invention of writing include Stonehenge, the
Cult Wagon from Strettweg Austria, the ruins of Neolithic Jericho, the
Easter Island statues. All over the world, prehistoric man shows a
diverse body of art, on a variety of subjects, but all this human
activity contains a string of commonality. As the late Frederick Hartt
s. of the University of Virginia wrote in his masterpiece: "Art, A
History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture" (original publication 1976
with updated editions until 2003) , said of mankind and his art prior to

"The first section of this book brings together the arts of certain
societies that lacked the ability to compile permanent records. But that
is by no means all these arts have in common. One extremely important
trait is the identification of representation with the magical or
religious power, so that the object of art itself comes into existence
as the embodiment of an attempt to control or to propitiate, through
ritual, natural beings that or natural forces. A second universal trait
is the total lack of concern for space. Animals, birds, fish, to a
lesser extent human beings, are widely represented, usually in
conformity with transmitted stereotypes; plants appear only quite late,
and are then ornamentalized, Landscape elements (save for the volcano of
Catal Huyuk) never demand representation, and the immense spaces
surrounding mankind, which must have appeared mysterious and
challenging, are not even suggested. "

The transformation of Human Civilization worldwide by the technological
revolution of writing was both astonishingly fast, lethal, and complete
in the sense that all of human civilization, the essence of mankind, was
transformed in nearly every way. Control of writing was an essential
political activity, from the first civilizations in the Bronze age, to
the restriction of literacy of the American Slave. Too quote Hartt again
(Art a History.. :Part Two pg 52 pub 1976)

"Records and communication facilitated commerce and systematic
agriculture, as well as the development of government authority. Cities
grew to considerable size. Monarchies arose and extended their sway to
ever wider regions by subjugation of their neighboring states. By the
middle of the second millennium BC, three powerful and prosperous
empires had developed: In Egypt, in Mesopotamia and in th islands of the
Aegean Sea"

"*Along with writing and the new attitudes and systems it made possible,
there arose entirely new modes of intellectual activity based on writing
and aimed at the intellectual and physical control of the environment
and of man himself*. "

Obviously Hartt in his text was admittedly Western Centric, but
factually the same pattern of development swept through the rest of
human civilization including the far east and the Indian Subcontinent.
Looking as a specific example to represents the general trend of the
impact of communication technology on ancient civilization, it is useful
to observe the transformation of Egyptian society before and after writing.

Just prior to the wide spread use of writing this landscape was produced
in Hierakonpolis Egypt before 3000BC

http://www.mrbrklyn.com/resources/hierakonpolis_pntg.jpg , in case the
original image disappears from the web in a few years.

In this example, even at it's most highly evolved state, prehistoric art
in Egypt shows randomness of motion, symbolic and stylized, almost
iconic representation of man and animals, all the elements of the free
style of European Case art.

Within a century this entire self image of man and civilization is
turned upside down in Egyptian art, with the randomness replaced by
orderly composition, naturalistic representation and depth of the human
and animal physical form, rigid schematics, straight ground lines, and



Mesopotamian art similarly changes, a reflection of the human view of
his owe existence as can be seen in this piece from Ur about 2600 BCE:

Not only did the self image of mankind dramatically change as a result
of the revolution of writing, our view of our place in the universe
transformed, and the monopolization of writing and education was pursued
as a political policy of the brutal monarchies which developed across
the world, and these monarchs used the power of writing to lethal ends
with brutality that was described by the late *Eugen Weber, Historian
and Former Dean of UCLA’s College of Letters and Science, *in his video
lectures, "The Western Tradition"
http://www.learner.org/resources/series58.html, "that then we get
several centuries of war, and brutality and chaos, which we can discuss
calmly because we weren't there..."

What was interesting about this first communicatins revolution that
nearly as soon as it started, the technology and its social implications
laid seeds for it's inevitable democratization. It has been recently
learned that the earliest script, which had historically been thought to
have started in Sumar, and Mesopotamia, actually had roots in early
Egyptian Hieroglyphics.

> Which _does_ happen to be
> false, and you are going off on a rather ludicrous flight of fancy,
> _but_ offence-taking would just chew up time towards no particular gain.
> And it's not the interesting part, anyway.
> The interesting part is the truly vital consideration I learned as a
> kid, from numerous wise people including my parents, at whose knees I
> developed abilities to think about morals in the first place:  It's that
> the very worst sin one can commit in advancing a moral agenda is to be
> ineffective, to squander valuable time and energy that could have been
> used to accomplish something.
> This comes as astonishing news to many people, I notice.  They think
> morality is about cultivating a good batch of outraged attitude, and 
> making a lot of noise that makes them feel good.
> Which brings me back to you.  You claim that getting more Linux preloads
> on new computers is somehow vital.  Completely aside from disputing your 
> assumption, I've also pointed out that nothing you're doing advances
> that goal.  Your notion of how to bring it about completely lacks a
> credible plan, and seems to mostly revolve around going onto LUG mailing
> lists and making a lot of noise about slaveware, e-readers, and DRM, and
> about how vital your cause is.
> And that's kind of sad, because you're wasting your time and effort
> doing things that produce no results whatsoever in the area you claim is
> vital, and chews up a bunch of other people's time.  Moreover, worse 
> than the fundamental failure of ineffectiveness on a moral agenda, you're
> trying to get other people to join you in being equally ineffective in
> the same way.  
> In science fiction convention-running, we have a metaphor called "people
> points" -- the energy, goodwill, and time of people you can call upon to 
> get the work done.  To run a volunteer-staffed SF convention, you have
> to spend some combination of money and people points, over 1-2 years of
> lead time.  The more money your group has to burn, the more it can
> econonise on spending people points.  Conversely, to save money, you
> need to conserve people points and spend them wisely.
> You strike me as someone in a huge hurry to burn up people points, yours
> and others', and get very little in return.  And you really should fix
> that.
> My approach, that of focussing on helping the people who're willing to 
> substantively participate in our community, of keeping our forums and
> insititutions alive and healthy, and staying away from areas that
> achieve little benefit for the amount of time, money, and irritation it
> would cost me, demonstrably gets worthwhile things done.  It's
> effective.  And that's Rule 0 for me.  I see noisier efforts that waste
> time and get nothing worthwhile done, and it looks like not just waste,
> but immoral waste.  And when someone like you says I need to shift
> priorities to do that sort of wasteage, my answer is positively steeped
> in morals:  I say "Hell no."
> Among the things I painstakingly eschew is trying to lobby manufacturers
> to do Linux preloads, private free-of-charge technical support for 
> strangers, and operating system advocacy aka trying for high "adoption
> rate".  Because those are just time sinks, and don't work, i.e., don't
> actually achieve much.
> And yeah, you said you don't agree -- but if you bother to take a good
> look, you'll find you not only have no results but also utter lack of a
> credible cause-effect plan to get to them.
>> There is NO category 1,2,3 of people...there are just PEOPLE.
> If you care about being effective, you have to bear in mind that your
> life and time and energy are finite, and decide where to optimise.
> Again, I _know_ that my optimisation strategy does pretty well,
> producing far greater and better results for less effort than if I did
> things otherwise, and especially if I did things as you urge.
> I don't think you can realistically say the same.
> So, as the LOLcats people might say:  "Effectiveness:  You're doing it
> wrong."  And that's a real shame, because I'd rather you be both
> productive and happy.
>> I KNOW system engineers who were big GNU fans, who have stopped using
>> Linux because hardware support is a PIA.
> Let me put it this way:  One of us runs an installfest twice a month,
> twelve months a year.  It's not you.  If current distros (i.e., not the
> last-but-one release) didn't work well on all but (1) extreme cutting 
> edge chipsets just released, and (2) a couple of notorious types of
> _bad_ hardware, especially really badly selected wireless chipsets, I'm
> pretty sure I'd know.
>> Hell, I've had a year so bad that it would make your testicles twist. 
> I'm very sorry to hear that, especially as I gather that your marriage 
> may have been among the casualties, which is a terrible thing.  Too much
> pain for too many people, Ruben.   And I have _two_ people I care about
> whom I'm visiting in hospitals, now.  That's a pair too many.
>> Have a happy thanksgiving if we don't talk.
> And you, too, Ruben.
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