Jackson's Articles, Page 1 of 2

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02 May 12

Oracle, Google and the Future of Programming

Oracle and Google are in court disputing Oracle’s claim that the Android operating system’s reimplementation of Java APIs constitutes copyright infringement. Here is a brief timeline of the dispute.

There appears to be damning evidence for both sides; be it Google’s internal documents recognizing the possible copyright issue during the development of Android or Oracle’s admission that Oracle management decided it wanted to compete with Android prior to deciding to sue Google or even conflicting testimony from two former CEOs of Sun, the previous owner of Java intellectual property.

26 Apr 12

Women's Rights in Egypt

According to a report from Alarabiya.net, Egypt is currently debating several bills to move the country toward a more fundamentalist version of Islamic rule. One law will legalize marriage of girls starting from age 14 and another, strangely (at least to this westerner), allows a husband to engage in intercourse with his wife for up to six hours after her death (clearly a cause worth fighting for). Yet another is looking to strip women of divorce rights in the country.

An Egyptian MP, Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the National Council for Women, is appealing the approval of the bills in light of “the woes of Egyptian women, especially after the popular uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.”

11 Feb 11

State Firearm of Utah

When I moved to Utah 7 months ago, I realized that it was going to be a weird place to live (even for a Texan). So I guess it should be no surprise that amidst serious discussion about the state budget deficit and how to pay for education, Medicaid and other such weighty costs, the Utah Legislature decided to spend time passing a bill to make the Browning M1911 the state firearm of Utah.

09 Feb 11

Boxcar 2D

A colleague of mine sent me a link to a little flash-based website called Boxcar2D.com. It wasn’t long before pretty much everyone on my five person team had the simulation running in the background on their PCs. After determining that letting it run unfettered wouldn’t affect our bandwidth reports to management, a few of us decided to just let it run all night.

It is a fairly cool simulation that lets you pick a few parameters for the evolution of a simple two dimensional car that has to traverse a randomly generated (and increasingly difficult) track. The best performers out of each generation (20 car types) are sent to the next generation with the most beneficial traits passed on.

10 Dec 10

Apache Quits Java Community Process

Java developers are up in arms today due to the news that Apache has resigned it position on the Java SE/EE Executive Committee.

According to ASF’s news release, they feel Oracle has created a contradictory Java SE 7 specification request and license. Apache says that this will severely inhibit independent implementations’ distribution. The biggest red flag to Apache is that they feel the new Java SE 7 spec will prohibit the distribution of independent open source implementations of the spec.

Reading through the comments of the release on Apache’s website, many of the developers are calling for a fork of Java and leaving Oracle’s Java en masse. Many others are simply wondering if Oracle is attempting to turn Java into Microsoft’s .NET. Most are worried how this will impact Java and its current position as the most widely used programming language.

03 Dec 10

To Kill Or Not To Kill

Are you a moral absolutist or a consequentialist?

A absolutist takes the stance that the morality of a specific act virtually never depends on context or secondary consequences, but on the action being taken. Consequentialists feel that the consequences of the action will determine its moral value. The morality of consequentialism is often summed up as “the ends justify the means,” which automatically presents it in a bad light to most people. Thank you, Machiavelli.

One tool that researchers use to study people’s placement on this spectrum is called the Trolley Problem.

02 Dec 10

Alien Life Found in California

When we talk about life, what do we mean? For every known living organism on Earth that means something that is made up of Carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulfur. Until now, that is.

NASA scientist Felisa Wolfe Simon has discovered a completely new organism that is, as NASA is saying, “life as we do not know it.” The bacteria, known as GFAJ-1, is capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes. Yeah, that arsenic… the one that is poisonous to almost every organism on the planet, save a few that can breathe it without quickly proceeding to death.

26 Aug 10

Psychologically Skewed

According to a recent New York Times article, a group of researchers at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, have released a study that criticizes the current approach taken to discover the “universals of humanity.”

The premise of the study is that most psychology research is performed in U.S. universities. Consequently:

68 percent of research subjects in a sample of hundreds of studies in leading psychology journals came from the United States, and 96 percent from Western industrialized nations. Of the American subjects, 67 percent were undergraduates studying psychology — making a randomly selected American undergraduate 4,000 times likelier to be a subject than a random non-Westerner.

10 Aug 10

Practical Application of States Rights

I was reading up on Rand Paul a little and I came across his stance on gay marriage, one that seems to be pretty standard for Tea Party-leaning candidates. It made me wonder what such a situation would actually be like? What would it actually mean if states actually did “decide for themselves” on the issue of same sex marriage?

If two people got married in one state and moved to a state that did not recognize their marriage… what would happen? It seems like that would require a huge change in how states recognized other states’ laws, and ignoring a piece of the Constitution to boot.

26 Apr 10

The Virtue of Patriotism

I am sad to admit that I am not a patriotic American. Or at least, I don’t think I am. I see others who are self-avowed patriots and I am not anything like them, nor do I feel that I value the same things.

I used to routinely hear that if I didn’t like insert controversial talking point here, I should just leave and see how I like living outside the USA, without my freedoms. But the thing is, I have lived outside of the US and it was pretty much the same as living here. Only very rarely did the Gestapo break down my door in the middle of the night to drag me in for hours of intense interrogation with little or no reason.

11 Mar 10

Ad-Blocking: Dueling Views

Lately I have been playing around with extensions on Firefox (on Linux) and Chrome (on Windows). Chrome has a few really interesting plug-ins that I have played around with. One is an “IE Render” button, that will open a new Chrome tab and render it as if it were IE8. This may sound ridiculous, but some sites (like USAA until a few months ago) do not render correctly in Chrome, but do in IE. It totally works, so I convinced my wife to stop using IE8 completely. I consider that a big win.

That was my first experience with a Chrome plug-in so I started browsing through all those available and found Ad-Block+. I had it on Firefox already, but due to my wife being strongly against my Linux aspirations for our laptop (a battle still being fought), I do not really use Firefox as much as Chrome. I installed it and it worked fairly well. Now sites I visit load faster, and some (ABC) do not disrupt online video watching with super loud commercials. Fantastic, right?

23 Feb 10

The Politics of Posturing

Sometimes I wonder if our 24-hour, get-the-news-while-it’s-hot environment is helpful to the citizenry at all. The current item of interest? A six-hour televised health care summit.

As University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato sums it up:

Oh, it’s bipartisan – but only because they’re all there. And they will be united only in trying to get their own messages across. It will be "kabuki theater, with the White House trying to prove Republicans are obstructionists, then “expressing outrage when Republicans refuse” to back the bill. Act two of the kabuki theater is the Republicans expressing outrage that the President has not truly been bipartisan by starting over.

03 Feb 10

Apple and Microsoft: A Tale of Two Companies


In the 80s, we had Apples at school and a PC (186, baby) at home. I remember loving the games I played on the Apple ][’s at school and enjoying the experience of a windows-based environment as opposed to the command line DOS I was using at home.

Then things changed. Steve Jobs left, Apple went to hell 1 and Microsoft went to… what do you call a place where Microsoft is really happy, but no one else is? I think I’ll call it the 90s.

My entire childhood/adolescence was filled with Windows PCs at home. Windows 95, 98 and ME reminded me of what I used at school and I never noticed any real difference in use at the time, probably since they were all just rip-offs of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center GUI. I don’t recall having complaints about Windows, but looking back, maybe it isn’t normal to have to reset a computer every few hours. I did not know anyone who had a Mac and it seemed that everyone I knew was an ignorantly happy Windows user.

29 Jan 10

Bin Laden weighs in on Climate Change

Well, the argument can now be settled. Osama bin Laden has released a new audiotape criticizing the US for its failure to halt climate change. He said:

All of the industrialized countries, especially the big ones, bear responsibility for the global warming crisis

Asked for his reasons in entering the climate change fray, he responded “it’s getting pretty hot running around the mountains in these robes all the time.”

I am sure that we are all happy he has taken time out of his busy schedule of destroying the Great Satan to participate in the climate change debate. This does leave me wondering where climate change falls on his list of reasons to destroy America.

26 Jan 10

Anti-Abortion Super Bowl Ad

Another indication of a slow news day, I guess. The Washington Post is reporting on the outrage that an ad, set to air during the Super Bowl, is creating. The ad is sponsored by the conservative Christan group Focus on the Family and presents the story of Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. Apparently Pam went on a mission trip to the Philippines and became very ill while pregnant with Tim. Wikipedia outlines what happened on Tim Tebow’s page. Here is the relevant portion:

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