stargrave's blog

Archive for March, 2009

Studying at the institute

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

Studying at Moscow Aviation Institute I meet with different lecturers, different sciences and of course different software. As most of lecturers are quite an old men, some of them do not know computers and computer’s software and some of them know only that, what were introduced in Russia in the middle of 90s. Where PCs became accessible for people. Of course nearly all of this computers run Microsoft’s operating systems, such as Windows or DOS. Of course people did not know anything about free software, “alternative” OSes and even Windowses quite good. And of course nearly everything was stolen, was free (priceless). The bigger part of engineering and scientific programs in our institutes was created on that PCs with illegal Windowses.

Today, great quantity of works, tasks, etc for students are in need of computer and in need of those old programs. Many of them are lecturer’s property – their own creations. And everything of this can cause many problems for a man trying to use, support only free software. Some lecturers give their programs with all corresponding source code (as a rule it is Fortran programming language). The other part of them gives only binary/object code and deny giving it’s source code, as, as they say, it is very hard to understand and is very important and expensive intellectual property. And the other one uses scripts for MatLab, MathCad and force to use this products. Also, many of them demand to use Microsoft Office Word’s format for all reports, Excel for building graphs and AutoCAD for drawings.

It is very hard to study in such environment. Most works I can complete using free GNU Octave instead of MatLab, Maxima or SAGE instead of MathCad, Gnuplot for building graphs and QCad instead of AutoCAD and assure teachers that there is no need in proprietary, expensive, unreliable software and I can successfully use the free one instead. I can say that I have got no money to purchase most of this software. They can give it to me, but nearly all of it requires Microsoft Windows to work. Problems can appear even when teachers give task itself… again in closed proprietary Word or MathCad format. They can refuse to talk with me, because I deny using of proprietary software on my computers, I can not afford it, I do not trust it and in best case I forced to run it in virtual machine or separate computers, because I have got valuable documents and information on my PC. And currently I am not talking about the ethical and social aspect of such doings: only about price, safety of my information, compatibility with other software, legal use of it (I do not want to be offender).

Instead of learning, much deeper diving in science, I have to listen how to do something in expensive non-free software and simultaneously learn the free alternative of it at home (actually I like it, but it takes much time). And then, I must prove that work’s results are correct and full. And, by the way, I have to take notebook and show my work on it (if paper printings are not enough) – as teachers will deny installing the free software, they do not know and do not want to know. And they can not accept that student can use the really hard and serious programs (OpenFOAM for example for aerohydrodynamics computing). And in other case I have got big problems with the teacher and have to show my work to the other one.

But hopefully something becomes good after all this stories. People, seeing those rejections, hard positions, begin to think about the cause, they begin to answer why are you doing so, what is the problem. They discover the free software existence and it’s benefits. People begin to think, think about their future. They are not calculation mechanisms anymore, they are thinking creations – people – from the lecturer’s view. And after several years of studying I see progress – recommendations and offers (by teachers) to use OpenOffice, Maxima and LaTeX for example.

PS: Today I discovered DreamSpark project of Microsoft. It’s aim is to freely give different software (including Windows OS itself) to students. It is terrible. They are openly forcing students (and future workers, users of proprietary software) anyhow to use their products. Also they force students to register in their Windows Live service. On their site I saw many student’s competitions. I (as a student) was very interested in that, interested in competition’s reports. But… everything is available only in OpenXML-based Office formats. Looking on other links I found student’s “success” stories. There and there (in russian). I can not believe in such delirium, I can not believe are there really exist people who can believe in them? Are Microsoft Office’s users/student are so silly? I was shocked.

Thoughts about mass media

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

There was an article in “Komsomol’skaya pravda” (“Komsomol’s truth” – popular newspaper in Russia) about cyberterrorists. There are several interviews with different people about what “hackers” can do, and are they really so dangerous and can they destroy nearly the whole world’s infrastructure and so on. This article was one of the silliest thing I have ever read. I think it was really exciting for people uncommon with computers. I wanted to close this dull newspaper, but noticed small frame with Richard Stallman‘s photo. It said that movie’s computer “hacker” has a real-life prototype and it is RMS. At the beginning of 90’s RMS declared a war against Microsoft, cracked different software-related sites and distribute it for free. I was shocked! I know history of free software movement, about GNU and RMS not so badly. I have never heard such lie, especially about him. I decided to search for something similar. Where did they find information like this? Without success. When I saw that people can leave comments on an Internet site about this article. To my surprise – already there were several dozens of comments not about a whole article, but about Richard Stallman-related remark. They asked authors of this article to explain what a hell are they writing? I left comment too of course. Several days later they disappeared. I and many others left another ones again – they were all deleted too. We promised not to take this newspaper anymore and to advise others to do so. Author – usual worker of this company, usual company producing shitty papers with a huge quantity of lies. Either they are too stupid to write something more clever than such creations, or they are too smart and understand that most people will never know the truth. Most people will be afraid of “hackers” (I use doublequote to show that, of course, I know who the hackers are; in the article’s context they must be changed to crackers), will be afraid of potential security risk for everything and will listen to “proven” safe giant corporations like Microsoft or Apple. Today everyone in Russia know that nearly all public, popular newspaper lied in nearly everything serious in Soviet Union. As I can see – nothing is greatly changed.

Simultaneously with discussion about that lies, I will mention about the meaning of word “hacker”. At the beginning, it meant something like “A person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities, as opposed to most users, who prefer to learn only the minimum necessary.” (taken from Jargon File). But, as I remember by reading many related things, some journalist used this term for one security breaker. And other ones (journalists) began to apply this word for them too. And, today nearly all people know them as “hackers”, instead of “cracker”. And who done that? Who destroyed the normal original meaning of this word and link it with the bad guys? Again those stupid damned journalists and article writers of mass media newspapers.

Once, I with my friend took a place in a competition to create some Internet project. Many journalists and a TV were there. After the short ceremony they took a little interview from us. They were asking questions, on which I was giving descriptive understandable answers. I was looking after what did they write in their notepads. Nothing! They just shaked their heads and made thoughtful faces. They began to write something after my friend started to use beautiful, but without any meaning and explanation, words such as “oriented for a big public”, “easy to use by everyone”, “simple, reliable and fast”, and so on. Only those words without anything like “wiki engine” (it will say much about the project), “standards-complaint” and so on. Journalists simply do not know those words, so why did they came to this meeting? To get their poor salary.

Russian’s cellular network “Mobile Tele Systems” also has similar stupid phrases on their advertisements. “Operator of reliability”, “Operator of new ideas”. What a hell are those “new ideas”. Do they invent GSM or SMS? Or what are they talking about? Actually they are not so bad in quality of service, but one day I had to stop using it, because they forced people to use proprietary software to see monthly statistics (RARed PDF file).

Their job is to create sensations, to force people to discuss nonexisting problems. I won’t forget many years discussing subject about USA on the Moon. That there was no any Moon-landing of USA spacemen. Honestly, some time ago I hope that is was true, but I understand that I was too silly. There are many well-known, reputable and very clever people in space field in Russia. As I live in a city where the Soviet Union’s cosmonautics was born, and study to create spacecrafts I met many of them – all of them are sure about landing on the Moon. Sure, that it definitely was.

Several days ago there was a TV program describing some ultimate innovative liquid. You can sink any metal to this liquid for several minutes and it will be protected from corrosion for ages. Half and hour and no describing how can that be. It is total physical delirium. People do not know anything about wetting and corrosion processes. But several thousand people already believed in that and run to purchase this wonderful liquid.

Large Hadron Collider was nearly finished. Press begin to print hundreads (thousands?) articles about the future catastrophe, that we are all going to die, about black holes and so on. Everywhere people talked only about it. Bought tones of paper to read more opinions of different “scientists”. Yet another food for journalist, people that can not do anything else, except talking about junk, lies, stupidness, lies again.

Where is really important news, for example about Pirate Bay’s trial? About who will win: fat, dirty, moneywilling entertainment industry that bought nearly everything or justice, battle for freedom, clear mind, progress? It regards to everyone – it is hope for bright right future with freedom and independence from guys with exploding money bags.

And everything won’t be so bad, if… if people will listen to someone else, instead of those journalists. You can try to explain that journalist’s “hacker” is cracker and RMS was not breaking sites to steal software. Nearly all of them will shake head and escape from you as fast as he can, or will say something like “I think that you do not know history good enough”, “You are wrong. Look – the newspaper is telling…”, “Everyone thinks that it is so, and only you are not accepting that.”, and so on. Nobody listen to well-known spacemen (Grechko for example), engineers who build spacecrafts.