No Food for Thought

Food is something you should provide to your brain long before coming to this blog. You will find no food recipes here, only raw, serious, non-fake news for mature minds.

Aging and Loss

admin Friday October 13, 2023

Age And Loss
The above image is probably copyrighted.
Thanks to my friend Sahar for sharing this, and to its author, which I unfortunately don't know. I assume the text is old and would be challenging to trace. As for the presentation, the bottom label suggests it may come from the book The Memeing of Life: A Journey Through the Delirious World of Memes by Kind Studio, but I am unable to verify that. If you know the origins, please let me know.

Illusory superiority and collective exceptionalism

admin Saturday September 30, 2023

Kune ni povos has always promoted unity while fighting fragmentation. Yet despite exceptionalism's impact on unity, I was not quite aware that exceptionalism can be the norm at every level. A 1977 study already showed that 94% of college teachers in the USA thought they were better than the average. Wikipedia's article on illusory superiority has a lot more statistics and details about this phenomenon.

A highly interesting article from the BBC associates self-inflation with individualism and exaggerated self-esteem. If the BBC's description of Hokkaido is accurate, it would make sense that the USA, which was largely populated by self-confident and ambitious settlers in the recent past, would remain a very individualistic country. It would make sense that teachers from the USA would be the most prone to overconfidence, since the USA are the most affected by individualism. It would also be predictable that less diverse populations as those in Asia would diverge less in the way each individual defines Right and Wrong. And indeed, the same article claims that self-inflation is almost completely absent from collectivist societies in Eastern Asia.

But exceptionalism is far from being limited to the individual. Some collective forms of exceptionalism will pit a continent against another, a country against its neighbors, a province against a neighbouring province, and even a city against another city a few hundreds of kilometers away. And let's not forget linguistic exceptionalism, racial exceptionalism, male chauvinism, nor human exceptionalism. If individualism increases individual exceptionalism, it might seem logical that it also favors state exceptionalism. If so, USA exceptionalism should be no surprise. Yet, exceptionalism can also be found in Eastern Asia, no further than in China.

At this time of increasing international tensions, it would help to know what exacerbates collective illusory superiority and what avoids it. Indeed, if a country managed to heal from exceptionalism, I would suggest it to modestly offer the planet its secret cure, hoping to end an exceptionally dangerous pandemic.

Free software and integration: a long-term issue

admin Saturday September 30, 2023

More than a decade ago, Greg Kroah-Hartman started offering some Linux versions with significant support. Linux 2.6.32 was designated as a "long term" support release, even though the term was just about 2 years.

Fast forward to today and "longterm" releases have actually become long term, i.e. they provide 6 years of support. That is, until now. While I have no doubt those releases will keep being marketed as having "long-term support", that support is actually being cut back to just 2 years.

The first argument provided ("There's really no point to maintaining it for that long because people are not using them.") is doubtful to say the least, as the most popular GNU/Linux vendor still supports Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7's Linux 3.10, older than the oldest supported vanilla Linux. The second one ("Linux code maintainers are burning out") though, is certainly true. Indeed, Coase’s Penguin warned about the challenge of integration even before Linux 2.6 released:

Yochai Benkler wrote on 2002-12-03:
whether or not a peer production project will be able to resolve the integration problem is a central limiting factor on the viability of peer production to provision any given information goods.

And unfortunately, our global governance certainly hasn't gotten us any closer to a solution for that actually long-term problem.

Information security: an example of cumulative negligence

admin Friday September 29, 2023

In computer science, we're often taught that security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. This weakest link principle is true, but looking for that weakest link is not always the best way to harden a system.

Microsoft's analysis of how China (Storm-0558) breached the email accounts of senior USA officials earlier this year is an interesting case of cumulative mistakes, where a series of limited issues results in catastrophic damage. Even though the analysis is not confirmed and some details are missing, it's interesting to have a high-quality analysis of a real-world example of an attack exploiting multiple weaknesses:

  1. an unstable software component crashing
  2. a race condition causing sensitive data to be included in the crash dump
  3. that crash dump being moved to a wider organizational network (the debugging environment) following a failure to identify its sensitivity
  4. compromission of the corporate account of an engineer with access to the debugging environment
  5. an authorization bug allowing a consumer key to access "enterprise" email, apparently as a result of unclear API-s

As a senior developer having served numerous organizations for various projects, it's easy to relate to most of these weaknesses. And yet, it's easy to imagine how reporting most of these issues could have easily been brushed off by management as unlikely/alarmist, failing to see the risk from cumulative negligence.

Security is about strengthening each link, but it's also about keeping security in mind at all times.

Power surges and whole-house surge protectors

admin Wednesday September 13, 2023

Following a recent storm, my boss explained his Playstation was broken and said there was a power surge when power was restored. I was quite surprised since I always thought it was lightning itself which caused power surges.

This prompted me to read about power surges, which showed that while lightning is one source of surges, it is indeed far from the only one. But thankfully, I discovered not only these new risks, but a protection against surges I had never heard of: whole-house surge protectors (or surge arresters). I read a few interesting articles about surge and surge protectors. The one I'd recommend the most is the first:

Unfortunately, none of these gives convincing advice that one should use whole-house surge protectors. If you are aware of a cost-benefit analysis on the topic which compares average cost to how much losses using such devices prevents on average, please comment.

Cryptomedy: a cryptic but somewhat distributed comedy

admin Friday September 8, 2023

When people notice their bank account has been compromised, most call the bank. But even among software developers, few would ask the bank to change their code as a remedy. Yet, that's what Tulip Trading has asked their pseudo-bank (Bitcoin "developers") to do. At least, optimistically.

Those who believe "cryptocurrencies" are "decentralized" will struggle to make sense of such a request. But those of us who do see beyond the first level will appreciate that cryptomedy is well-distributed. It seems each one of its actors contributes its small share of humor.
If only the capacity to appreciate the resulting farce would be abundant and equally distributed among all adults… rolleyes

La grande histoire de La petite vie

admin Thursday September 7, 2023

Étant né en 1985, j'étais trop jeune lorsque La Petite Vie a débuté pour réaliser à quel point cette série a fait l'histoire. Et encore plus pour chercher à expliquer comment une série d'à peine une soixantaine d'épisodes a pu être aussi marquante.

C'est la lecture de l'excellent article « La grande histoire de La petite vie », publié dans L'actualité, qui m'a fait comprendre le tout. En effet, à lire l'auteur, qui semble faire remonter ce succès jusqu'en 1976, c'est une longue histoire qui aurait mené à cette réussite.

Claude Meunier wrote:

J’étais heureux que les gens embarquent. Mais en même temps, j’avais très peur que ça s’arrête. Je n’avais jamais été choyé par la critique. On avait dit de Paul et Paul1 que c’était une bande de morons ; de Ding et Dong qu’ils étaient des innocents ; de ma pièce Les voisins, coécrite avec Louis Saia, que c’était un mauvais téléroman… Je m’étais tellement fait ramasser que je demeurais très nerveux à chaque épisode. J’avais l’impression que les chroniqueurs m’attendaient dans le détour.

1 Trio d’humoristes auquel Claude Meunier a appartenu, avec Serge Thériault et Jacques Grisé, de 1976 à 1981.

Mais finalement, les principaux ingrédients ne seraient pas tant surprenants : expérience, échecs préalables, efforts, remises en question, ressources suffisantes, et la sagesse de s'arrêter à temps.

From Climatic Disruption to Ashes to Further Climatic Disruption

admin Wednesday September 6, 2023

The ongoing wildfire season in Canada has been unprecedented. Even though the worse has been in the West for a while, this week, we're seeing smoke in Quebec city again, and there's a new smog warning today. But how much carbon do we emit by fighting fires, bringing firefighters from other countries, evacuating towns and letting some buildings burn?

The answer is not that much―but only relatively. Unfortunately, it's trees themselves which emit the most. By far.

CBC wrote on 2023-09-06:

“The effectiveness of our greenhouse gas emission reduction targets is going up in smoke, literally.”

The amount of greenhouse gases burned in this year’s wildfires is estimated to be more than two and a half times that of all sectors in the Canadian economy combined, said Kurz, citing federal government data.

It's been several months since the newscast I follow (Canada's daily 45-minute The National) covers climate-related catastrophes/issues for 5 to 10 minutes on average. If we haven't already passed a tipping point, it's never felt so suffocatingly close.🥵

From Ashes to Ashes to Pharce

admin Tuesday September 5, 2023

No Food for Thought wouldn't be complete without a rant against Canada's Phoenix pay system. This week I worked with an unfortunate former government employee who's been compensated incorrectly ever since Phoenix was deployed, in 2016.1 She is still affected by Phoenix's mess, even though she retired 5 years ago! While this post doesn't pretend to be complete―which will have to wait until this fiasco's end―as the government reveals it's already paid over 4 million compensation hours to its employees, and with costs already in the order of a billion CAD, it's high time to start that rant.

Ah, if only "conservatives" could actually be conservative. Here's hoping Phoenix will die soon, but most importantly, that we Canadians at last start valuing governance and never allow such a phoenix to regenerate.

1 To tell the whole story, Phoenix only worsened her problems, which go back to 2014, when her pay's management was moved to the Miramichi centre Her situation has reached the point where she sent a letter accusing the government of fraud attempt😣


admin Saturday September 2, 2023

Some people are bored enough to break the law in order to find distraction. Why not get a wild cat like a serval (even if they're illegal in Nova Scotia)? Maybe because wild animals are themselves bored, when kept in captivity, and reputed to be great at recovering their freedom.

For anyone who's owned a cat and tried to keep it inside, feline escaping skills should be little surprise. What I find slightly surprising is the transformation of courage into fear visible in this encounter between very different cats. It seems the legal cat got its daily dose of adrenaline...
Angle matters!lol

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