The Language-Making Animal

Marketplace links to a Reuters story on a group of deaf children in Nicaragua who have invented their own sign language.

The living laboratory of up to 1,000 children at a school in Managua was made possible because of the neglect of deaf people before the 1970s, a time of political and social turmoil in Nicaragua.

Deaf children were isolated and almost never learned formal sign language, [Ann] Senghas and her international team of collaborators said.

“They didn’t let them go out and socialize. You meet deaf people who are 50 and they really can’t communicate,” Senghas said.

But in 1977, a school for special education opened in Managua, followed four years later by a vocational school. For the first time, deaf children could meet and learn together, and could stay together as they grew up.

Risk Takers

Sometimes I catch Marketplace, which plays on WSHU at 18:30 weekdays, on my drive home. The other day they interviewed Richard Florida about whether post-9/11 paranoia is strangling our economy.

As of tomorrow, most visitors to the U.S will have to put their index fingers on a glass plate for an electronic scan. A digital photo will be taken, too. This is an expansion of a surveillance system put in place after 9-11. Abroad, there are complaints about civil liberties. But in the new edition of the Harvard Business Review, Professor Richard Florida of George Mason University makes the argument that the tightening of borders threatens to strangle something unique that’s made America’s economy remarkably strong.

Philip Greenspun posits that America’s economy will not be hurt much by the movement of labor in the International market, because America will still attract the best and the brightest. Richard Florida worries that we’re doing our best to drive the brightest away.

Whoever picks the music for this show has a sense of humor. “Leave Them All Behind” by Ride?

That program on immigration was followed with two today on immigration. The first, ostensibly on geneology, was bridged to another, on indentured servants H1-b visas, by Pilgrim, by Eric Clapton.

I’m related to Kerry and Bush. Are you? Some call it the American Myth…others, the American dream. The proposition that everyone in the U.S. succeeds or fails on their own merits. Yet perhaps success has more to do with ancestry than some are willing to concede. Consider this. President George Bush and his challenger, John Kerry have something in common. Both are distantly related to our own Adam Davidson. Something else Bush and Kerry have in common: both are rich and powerful men. Yet Adam squeaks by reporting for public radio. Perhaps, he thought, it might be useful to double-check the genealogical record.

The hypothesis in the above story is that some family members are not content, leave their homes, and take risks. Others stay within walking distance of Plymouth. The risk takers end up with the most toys.

Excessively Microsofted

Microsoft reorganizes their websites every now and then. The recent change to TechNet has vastly improved the URIs and UI both. But I think someone involved with the redesign must be a few cards short of a deck.

The security page,, used to refresh into a god-awful mess of an URI that had something to do with a table of contents. Now the index page loads this:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex,nofollow" />
<meta http-equiv=refresh content="0;URL=/technet/security/default.mspx">
<meta name="title" content="File has moved" />
<meta name="description" content="File has moved" />
<title>File has moved</title>
<font face="verdana, arial, helvetica" color="navy" size="2">
<b>The location of this page has been changed, please update your favorites.</b><br />
You will automatically be redirected in 3 seconds to <br />
<a href="/technet/security/default.mspx"></a>

Oh, good Lord! Why? Why not just use default.mspx as the DocumentIndex to begin with?

Other pages on use a somewhat less idiotic variation on this: a GET of results in a 302 redirection to

Remember, He’s Marketing

OK, now I’m going to pick a nit. Schwartz says, regarding IBM,

Finally, the ‘P’ in Power5 stands for Proprietary. You can’t claim your chip is open if you’re the exclusive supplier, guys – at least you can dual source SPARC from Sun or Fujitsu.

Motorola, anyone?

And while SPARC is outshipping Power 3:1 (so sayeth IDC), sure sounds like we’re the industry standard.

Apple ships a hell of a lot more POWER architecture chips than Sun ships SPARCs.

The competitive analysis holds up a bit more under scrutiny:

IBM saying they’re using this to come after Sun really suggests they’ve gone a few degrees shy of plumb – the single biggest threat to low-end SPARC isn’t a funny low volume Power5 box without an operating system. The big alternative to SPARC arose years ago from volume in the x86 market.

Nice pictures, though.

The View from the Sun

I’m finding that Jonathan Schwartz’s journal provides an interesting perspective on Sun and this industry. Regarding HP, he writes:

But that said, I think HP faces an enormous challenge. And it’s not related to the cancellation of PA-RISC, or weakness in their Itanium transition. Or even Dell’s printer onslaught.

To me, HP’s problems spawn from the death of… their operating system, HP/UX. Like IBM, they’ve elected to ask their customers and ISV’s to move to Red Hat Linux or Microsoft Windows on x86 systems. And if you’re an ISV, how does that differentiate HP? – they’re a box vendor. If you’re a customer, where does that leave you with your HP/UX investments? Facing untimely change – with a vendor no longer in charge of their OS.

Contrariwise, Ian Murdoch points out that HP picked Debian in order to exercise more than a little influence.

In the same piece, Schwartz remarks

I continue to hear customers disappointed in the realization that ISVs don’t qualify to “linux” (or specifically, Fedora) – so they have to pay big bucks for RHEL if they want commercial support.

By ISVs he means Oracle, etc. — the part of the solution stack on which customers depend but over which they exercise little control. I think the problem there is with the qualification process. This is a problem which several Linux distributions attempted to address with the United Linux specification, before SCOX decided that they’d be more successful in court than in code, but I think that branding effort was going awry before SCOX v. IBM.

The problem is the lack of discrete test cases leading to a synergetic whole. Instead of qualifying components, the whole blob is tested, so failures in discrete parts may not be immediately apparent.

How to Upgrade RedHat 9 to Fedora Core 2

Requires: apt.

$ sudo wget -O /etc/apt/sources.list
$ sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

Some people might prefer to /usr/sbin/shutdown -R now afterward.

BTW, this fixes a bug in the RedHate 9 network initialization script for DHCP, where the script tests that the interface is UP before making a dhclient request, but the interface can’t be UP because the IP address has not yet been assigned.

Picasa v. iPhoto

On my Windows desk, I’m using Picasa to look at the pictures from the new camera. It compares quite favorably to iPhoto, and even beats it in some respects. I don’t like to compare speed because the hardware aren’t from comparable generations, but Picasa seems a lot snappier in response than the iPhoto, version 2.0, I have.

One feature I like is how Picasa handles importing. If you’ve imported photographs already, but they are still on your xD card because you haven’t figured out how to write back to the card and don’t want to delete them, then they are excluded from the next import. It’s also fast.

Those Pesky Borderlines

There’s an amusing political story in today’s paper, in among the depressing stuff. The county board of elections has removed two candidates from the ballot. The funny part is the reason why they were removed: State election law requires caucuses to be held within the entity the candidates are seeking to represent.

The county Board of Elections this week knocked two Brewster village trustee candidates off the Conservative line on November’s ballot because the party caucus where they were selected was held outside of the village.

But Southeast Conservative Party Chairman Joseph Berger yesterday said he might go to court to reinstate the two, Jeffrey Rollins, 40, and John “Jack” Ciesielski, 51, to the line. The village is an incorporated part of Southeast and the town parties organize the village caucuses. Berger held his caucus at Sciortino’s Restaurant on Route 22, steps from the village boundary. Two of the village’s 19 registered Conservatives attended. [emphasis mine]

“I’m not saying I was right about it,” Berger said. “But it’s not a grave, grave matter of injustice if you’re only 100 feet away from the village.”

Potential Electoral Changes

The Political State Report reports that there is an amendment on the ballot in Colorado to address allocation of that state’s electors. I’m still not sure why the opponents of the Electoral College think that the problem with it is that the popular loser could win the College. There has have only been one two three cases where that has happened, in 1876, 1888 and 2000.

I suppose that the proponents of election by a simple majority of the populace think that they have nothing to suffer from that particular expression of the General Will. Without addressing that particular problem, the Electoral College remains an adequate, if clumsy, defense.

(I really should double-check the record before making assertions.)