Jeff Wolfe's Weblog

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

RESISTANCE IS ... INEVITABLE - Slashdot is reporting on some games Microsoft is playing with access to a technical specification related to the Windows networking protocol. Here's my take on that:

  • Name one successful lawyer driven company (i.e. there aren't any)
  • Microsoft is becoming a lawyer driven company
  • Q.E.D.

I was skimming a copy of Money magazine at the grocery store, and it mentioned that Microsoft has something like $40 billion in the bank. I don't know what Money made of that, but I see it as an indication that Microsoft knows it doesn't have the Next Big Thing in its back pocket, so it's sitting around waiting to buy the Next Big Thing.

If the Next Big Thing is in any way tied up with Open Source software, Microsoft is in trouble. I think Microsoft knows this, also.

Perhaps Microsoft is secretly hoping one of the anti-trust suits will "force" it to do something that will maintain its monopoly for the next ten years. The holdout Attorneys General don't really know what they're doing, so Microsoft is playing a rope-a-dope strategy to get concessions disguised as punishment.

Regardless, Microsoft is clearly struggling with how to fight an opponent (Open Source) that has changed the rules in nearly every conceivable way.

Monday, April 29, 2002

GIVING IT AWAY HELPS YOU SELL IT - Eric Flint presents compelling anecdotal evidence that making books available for free online increases sales.

Thursday, April 25, 2002

NOT AT ALL LIKE BAD SCIENCE FICTION - Virginia Postrel has posted a good explanation of the terms being used in the cloning debate.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

FUN WITH ARMAGEDDON - The Smarter Harper's Index for May is now available. Here's his response to an item about the doomsday clock:

Dang! Last month I set my doomsday clock forward one hour and I keep thinking Armageddon should have happened 53 minutes ago.

WHAT'S UP WITH THAT? - has a story about Elmo testifying before Congress. That's right, the muppet Elmo. It's not April 1, and the story appears to be serious. Is this what it has come to?

SPORTS PLAY BY DIFFERENT RULES, IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE - "Max Power" takes on the idea that NFL teams are socialistic. He's right that the NFL teams collectively compete more against the NBA, NHL, and MLB than they do individually against each other, at least economically. They also compete against Lord of the Rings and the ballet for your entertainment dollar, and the rest of the entertainment world, for that matter.

If anything, he understates his case.

While NFL Europe is unlikely to be a haven for disaffected NFL draftees, because of the two leagues' relationship, several NFL players over the years have gone to play in the Canadian Football League. So that remains an option, although obviously not an ideal one.

Power also minimizes the impact of defections to other sports. But it can't be dismissed so easily. The draft only lasts seven rounds. Any eligible player not selected in the draft automatically becomes a free agent. So it's only the top athletes who are selected in the draft. These same top athletes are the ones most likely to be multi-sports stars in college. Drew Henson was a star quarterback in college, but he is currently playing baseball for my "hometown heroes," the Columbus Clippers. And he's by no mean the only example.

That such defections rarely occur doesn't lessen their impact. The NFL knows the players have other options, so they have incentive to deal fairly with them.

Baseball, basketball and hockey are all Olympic sports with worldwide appeal. The fact that even a sport as uniquely American as, well, American Football cannot eliminate players' options entirely just demonstrates the weakness of the sports-leagues-are-socialistic argument.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

THE CENTER OF THE BLOGGING UNIVERSE - Max Power proposes that the weblog version of the Erdos Number and the Bacon Number should be the Sullivan Number.

Bacon Numbers measure how far an actor is to Kevin Bacon. Those who have appeared in a movie with Kevin Bacon have a Bacon Number of 1. Those who have appeared in a movie with a person who has a Bacon Number of 1, but not with Bacon himself, have a Bacon Number of 2. And so on.

Erdos Numbers do the same thing, only with collaborations on mathematical research papers with Paul Erdos.

Sullivan Numbers measure how close you are to Andrew Sullivan on the web. Since both InstaPundit and Virginia Postrel have linked to my humble blog, I can claim a Sullivan Number of 2.

Saturday, April 20, 2002

MORE DISTRIBUTED COMPUTING - A new distributed computing project called Seventeen or Bust was started recently, which is working to solve the Sierpinski Problem. It's piggybacking on the existing Sierpinski Problem project. They've broken up the tests into smaller units and automated the collection of results so that more people can participate.

I've been participating in distributed computing projects for about six years now. I started out on the GIMPS project (world record prime numbers), then moved to (cracking encryption keys to prove their vulnerability). Now I'm working on the project to solve the Riesel Problem, which is sort of a mirror image of the Sierpinski Problem. One of the maintainers of Seventeen or Bust told me that their software could easily be adapted to Riesel, which I'm hoping they'll do after they finish with Sierpinski.

One of the best known distributed computing projects is called SETI@home. I've never participated in SETI@home, though. It took them several years to get it off the ground, and by the time they did I'd already been working on GIMPS for a while. Plus, I could never quite get excited about a project with such a remote chance of success.

If you're interested in more information about distributed computing, take a look at this page.

Also, see this article and this one by Virginia Postrel for earlier comments I made on the history of distributed computing.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

GREAT HEADLINE - Mike Lynch has an article over at Reason Online about the recent Supreme Court ruling on Child Pornography. The headline says it all.

Congress Shall Make No Law
The Supreme Court tells Congress to read the damn Constitution

Saturday, April 13, 2002

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, THOMAS JEFFERSON - Today is the 259th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson. He was born April 2, 1743, Old Style, which corresponds to April 13, 1743 on the modern calendar. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the 3rd President of the United States, although he did not think the latter accomplishment was worthy of mention on his self-designed grave marker.

ANTI-WAR LIBERTARIANS, THE FINAL CHAPTER - Brink Lindsey takes on the topic of anti-war libertarians for the last time "(for now)." He takes on the anarcho-libertarian argument head on. An excerpt:

The international system thus provides no evidence that anarcho-libertarianism is workable; it doesn’t show that the absence of a monopoly of force in a given territory is a good idea. On the contrary, a survey of the world as it is today shows that the alternative to a governmental monopoly of force in a given territory isn’t utopia, it’s mafias and warlords and unremitting bloodshed.

While you're there, you should also read the following article on Ludwig von Mises.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

POLITICS OVER MEDICINE - Virginia Postrel has a link to a petition to stop a bill currently pending in Congress that would ban so-called therapeutic cloning. The bill has already passed the House, so you should go sign the petition, then write your Senators. If you're a leftist, you might also want to sign this petition.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

BARRY NOT THE GREATEST - Jayson Stark looks at whether Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player ever. The short answer: no.

It's difficult to compare era-to-era, but I don't see where Barry Bonds has passed Babe Ruth as an outfielder. Or will. Barry's home run totals may be huge, but Babe Ruth won his first home run title in the dead ball era. Ruth hit more home runs than entire teams. And Ruth wasn't all power, no average. He had five seasons in which he had an On-Base Percentage over .500, something Ty Cobb, playing in the same era, never did even once.

Once you add in the Babe's pitching record, though, the comparison isn't even close. He had two 20 win seasons, and led his league in ERA once. And that's considering that he only had three seasons in which he pitched more than 200 innings (in addition, he split two seasons between pitching and the outfield). In those three seasons, he finished ahead of Walter Johnson in ERA twice. Three full seasons and two partial seasons aren't much to go by, but it's possible he could have made the Hall of Fame as a pitcher if he hadn't been moved to the outfield because he was such a great hitter.

MORE ON ANTI-WAR LIBERTARIANS - Brink Lindsey follows up on his previous post.

THANK YOU, BOB POOLE - Airports across the country are already talking about opting out of the federal screening program, as soon as they are able. The airport director at Kansas City International Airport said, "Our private screeners don't sleep on the job, they don't unplug metal detectors and we want to keep them here."

Bob Poole, Transportation Studies Director at the Reason Public Policy Institute, has been writing opinion articles and testifying before Congress about the limitations of federalized airport security since before the bills to do so were introduced in Congress. When it became apparent that federalization was inevitable, he suggested a program to test its effectiveness and an opt-out procedure after three years. Congress was in a hurry to "do something" about airport security in the wake of September 11. With those provisions, we'll be able to tell, as Poole said in December, "which 'somethings' will actually make flying safer."

Thursday, April 04, 2002

LIBERTARIAN ISOLATIONISTS - Virginia Postrel links to a Brink Lindsey post about anti-war libertarians. You should read both posts, because Virginia has some important things to add to the discussion. And she quotes a very prophetic Glenn Reynolds post.

If you've read Virginia's book, The Future and Its Enemies, you know that in the book, she explores the contrast between stasists, who want a controlled, one-best-way future, and dynamists, who believe in a decentralized, dynamic society.

Virginia casts the anti-war Libertarians as stasists "who dream of a static, stateless utopia." So it's easy to see how Virginia, as a dynamist, would have a problem with them, libertarianism notwithstanding.

I'm with Virginia and Brink here. I had a discussion last week with an anti-war Libertarian, and he blamed the whole thing on the presence of military forces overseas. Bring home all American troops everywhere, and the danger to America would end. Simple. Easy. And wrong.

UPDATE: Jay Manifold adds his views on the issue (via Virginia Postrel).

BASEBALL AWARD NAMES - With the NHL season wrapping up, some have started discussing who should win each of the various hockey awards. The thing about the hockey awards is, they all have interesting names. Baseball needs to do the same thing. Here are a couple suggestions to get things started.

Babe Ruth Award - The current MVP award should be renamed the Babe Ruth Award. Babe Ruth was head and shoulders above the competition of his day. I think most people think of him as a big, fat one dimensional power hitter, because that's what we see in pictures of him. But in his prime (before movies and television), he was a fit player who redefined the concept of all around. Obviously, his power records stood for decades, and he's still among the leaders, though no longer at the top. But he also hit for average and had a fair amount of speed. Beyond that, though, he was also a very good pitcher. When he pitched full time for Boston, he was consistently among the league leaders in ERA and other pitching statistics. Look at his record, and you'll see that Babe Ruth could very well have made the Hall of Fame as a pitcher, if he had not been transformed into arguably the greatest hitter of all time.

Willie Mays Award - Every year the baseball community has an argument over whether pitchers should be eligible for the MVP award. After all, pitchers have their own award, the Cy Young Award. We should end the argument by instituting a non-pitcher version of the Cy Young, called the Willie Mays Award. Willie Mays was one of the greatest everyday players to play the game. He hit for average, he hit for power, he had speed, and his defensive abilities were amazing.

The best pitcher gets the Cy Young, the best everyday player gets the Willie Mays, and the Most Valuable Player gets the Babe Ruth. There are other awards, and they should get names too, but these would be the big three. How about it, Baseball?

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

LOTR MILESTONE - According to the Internet Movie Database, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring passed $300 million in domestic box office this weekend, becoming only the 11th movie to reach that milestone.

There's no reason you should care about this; I just thought it was an interesting bit of trivia.

Monday, April 01, 2002

EVERYBODY'S A CENSOR - Last night, I was at my dad's house for Easter and I saw the television program Max Bickford for the first time. Last night's episode was about a group of radical leftist students who were trying to prevent a right-wing extremist from speaking on campus.

Meanwhile, in the real world Internet filters in libraries are the big story. Two quotes from the above story caught my eye.

From former U.S. Rep. Dick Swett: "Why should I be penalized if the rest of the world's mind is in the gutter?"

From Multnomah County, Oregon spokeswoman Penny Hummel: "We maintain it's a local control issue — the federal law is a one-size-fits-all solution."