Blog Archive

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Genetically Modified Food

Our food always consisted of GMOs, only the method of modification is not just selective breeding anymore, but also genetic engineering. The arguments against GMOs as human food are, that results/side effects of the manipulation are not extensively researched, that biodiversity will be reduced, that the impact on other lifeforms in the same biosphere will be destabilizing, that the dependency on specific products and companies will be favoured, and many more. The arguments for GMOs as human food  are about productivity. The UN estimates that about 805 million of the 7.3 billion people in the world were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2012-2014. If the same agricultural area yields larger crops, it fights both world hunger and the need for deforestation. Personally, I think that genetic modification will be necessary to provide enough food for the increasing world population, but worry that they create proprietary means in the hands of the few patent-holders.

Disclaimer : Picture is not an accurate depiction of the average GMO tomato.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Trilobites are an extinct class of Arthropods and therefore ancestral cousins of spiders, centipedes and shrimp (and yes, Kabuto). A relative with great visual similarity is the horseshoe crab. At the peak of their diversity, up to 20.000 species existed. All across the world, there are many fossil records of these marine creatures, from the Himalayas to Death Valley in Northern America, from the Russian steppes to the British Isles. The biggest specimen ever found had an approximate length of 70cm.

Between the Pre-Cambrian (600 million years ago) to the Permian era (250 million years ago), evolution caused these early animals to develop diverse orders and families. Some Trilobites were predators that walked on the ocean floors and chewed up worms and slugs, while other Trilobites were able to swim and filter particles from the water. Because of this huge diversification, they were the dominant species of their day, until their population shrunk and was ultimately extinguished right before or during the Permian–Triassic extinction event that killed off 95% of all marine species. 

For 270.000.000 years, Trilobites were present in the Earth's oceans and remained one of the biggest populations of animals during much of that time. For comparison, Dinosaurs reigned the planet for about half that time. The Homo genus which includes the species Homo Sapiens developed ca. 2.800.000 years ago, so creatures that could be considered human have been around for ca. 1% of the timespan that Trilobites existed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

In Correspondence with Dr. Stallman

Dr. Richard Stallman is the founder of the GNU Project and the Free Software Foundation, creator of the GNU Compiler Collection and Emacs and author of the GNU Public License. Dr. Stallman's work has contributed significantly to the evolution of free software, both in technical and ethical terms and can be found in many UNIX-like operating systems and software released under the GPL. He publishes at, good intros to his background are the film Revolution OS and the many talks he has given at Universities or even TED.
I sent an e-mail to Dr. Stallman and he was kind enough to reply within a few days. The following is my complete mail with the responses he inserted:

Dear Mr. Stallman,

I work at an IT service provider for medium-sized companies in Germany. The many environments I have encountered are almost exclusively made up of proprietary software, with Microsoft (Windows, Office, ADDS, Exchange, MSSQL, Navision, Sharepoint, etc.) as the dominant software vendor. If pieces of free/libre software exist, they are blanketed by proprietary software. There is lots of specialized software (for doctors, for manufacturing, for lawyers, for real estate, etc.) and all of it requires Windows (at least in Germany this seems to be the case).
Yes, that is often the case.  And that software is usually proprietarytoo, which means it is just as bad as Windows.  Thus, for computingfreedom, one needs to reject BOTH Windows and the specializedsoftware.
These firms know they are utterly dependent on proprietary products (and even specific versions), even from much smaller companies than Microsoft or VMware. CEOs and IT managers are well aware that the basis of their income is at the whim of these proprietary software vendors. They know that if a particular product stops working from one day to the next because the programmer has hidden an expiration date, they can close shop permanently.
This is an additional reason why they should make a long term plan tostop using that nonfree software.
With that fact out in the open, clients will point out that even if they were free to access, change and redistribute the code for the software they use, they wouldn't be capable of it, both in terms of the know-how and the means to employ somebody to (re)write software according to their needs.
See for why uses' collective control over the program helps protect themfrom the ill will (and bad decisions) of the developer.Maybe showing them that will do some good.
Companies accept being spied on (as long as it's not by the immediate competition) and being dependent, as long as their software tools allow for more productivity and are trivial to use. Freedom is not a necessity for profits, or so it seems. Do the principles of free software (that I advocate for personal computing) still apply to the business world?
How do you argue against the corporate use of non-free software? Does it matter if the computer that controls a conveyor belt or the ERP system are free/libre, since they are not _personal_ computers?
Using nonfree software means the user is under the power of the developer. That is bad for a company user just as it is bad for an individual user.
Individuals are ethically more important than companies.  So if I could magically free either all individuals or all companies, I would choose to free all individuals.
But we don't have a magic wand for either one.  What we have is opportunities to spread this idea.  The idea applies to all users, so let's spread it to all users.
I don't care if a company suffers from lack of freedom but when everybody's work environment is solely non-free, it is less likely for users to make the effort and consider using free software. I would also argue that if the immense effort and quality code that goes into non-free software for businesses were instead invested in free software, this would affect private use in a way that you Sir wouldn't have to advocate free software because it would be obvious to anyone.
I think you are right.
I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this and would like to know if I am allowed to share your response if I cite you.

Kind Regards and Best Wishes

[This post was published using non-free software]

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saudi Arrogance

The dominant topic in all news is the refugee crisis in Europe. Let us for now ignore the refugees coming from the Balkan, where certainly discrimination against Roma takes place, but the main reason for emigration is poverty. Let's talk about the people coming from the middle east, especially from Syria. In 2012, during the aftermath of the Arab spring, I speculated that Assad would not be overthrown and that the Syrian rebels would disperse into many small fractions, which turned out true, and that eventually the fighting would slowly come to a halt and the country would be where it started out, only with broken infrastructure and thousands dead, which didn't turn out true. The fighting still goes on, only now the IS has entered the conflict. Being shot at by both their own government and the IS murderers, it's a surprise there are Syrians that don't flee the country.

And here is Saudi-Arabia. It has an immensely rich elite, as one of the largest countries of the Arab world it has a fifth of the population density that Syria has, it is very close to Syria, they have the same official language, they both have more then 90%+ Muslims (Mecca is in Saudi-Arabia for crying out loud). How many Syrian refugees will Saudi-Arabia accept? Iraq, Jordan and tiny Lebanon take hundreds of thousand, so of course the big rich Saudis will take...exactly, zero. Same number for the smaller Gulf states by the way.
Saudi-Arabia never signed the 1951 UN Refugee convention, so while there are thousand of Syrians in Saudi-Arabia, all of them will need to apply for a visa if they want to stay even temporarily. 

In Saudi-Arabia, 100 executions took place during the first half of this year. Some by stoning, some by flogging, some by beheading (remind you of anyone?), some by crucifixion. A then 17-year-old was arrested for protests against the government and illegal gun ownership, and the sentence is crucifixion, the ultimate symbol of cruelty in a story quite popular in the West. Between driving Bugattis (only the men though, women are forbidden to drive) and locking people away for life for uploading Youtube videos, the Saudi government is pampered by all US presidents since World War I. They all have to make good friends with the new King Salman and King Abdullah before him.

My suggestion is that the North American and European governments invest lots in renewable energies, stop buying oil from these disgusting, arrogant and cruel people, let their money run out and tell them to go fuck themselves.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

To Propagate the Void

Slayer - Repentless [2015] []
You listen to an album called "Hell Awaits" and it sounds raw, the slow moments give you the creeps and the fast moments take your face off. There's structure and chaos side by side. It towers over you and leaves a lasting impressing from kicking your ass so hard. You listen to an album called "Repentless" and you feel nothing. It's hard to remember any moment from the album other than the ones where the cringeworthy lyrics stand out. With Lombardo out (again) and Hanneman passed away, it's an imitation of Slayer, lacking all creative will. It sounds like Slayer, but the pacing of the songs is all over the place, the drumming is rudimentary and the riffs are too much in tune. This record isn't even particularly bad by itself, but you cannot put that name on music and forget what it once meant. Repentless, meaningless, featureless, pointless.

Maniac - Vermin Hell [2014] []
The first full-length record by these guys from Algeciras, Spain comes recommended from Fenriz himself. This album doesn't reinvent, but it's something I like to call "fun". It's an enjoyable mixture of first-gen Hellhammer black metal, lots of punkish riffs and gang-shouting Speed Metal, pretty much what Apocalyptic Raids do, only more successful. If Inepsy were less into motorbikes and more into skeletons, they'd sound like this. It comes off grim as fuck, and when it doesn't remain in uptempo rumbling, it goes into some fantastic super-heavy but also super-simple riffs. There is as little variation as there is to criticize, so while I'd clearly recommend this to anyone who enjoys metal-punk, I seriously doubt that you'll ever need more than these mere 30 minutes from them, which is a shame for such a young band.

Rivers of Nihil - Monarchy [2015] []
"The Conscious Seed of Light", their first record, was a pleasant surprise, standing out from the crowd of slightly core-ish technical death metal (I'm looking at you, Irreversible Mechanism). I was therefore disappointed to find their second full-length release to be less gripping. What made the first album so good was that it plastered all the technical stuff around changing moods from vibrant pushing to composed weight. Monarchy isn't much different, but it's more heterogeneous, less funky jazzy Atheist-ish parts that give you seconds of catchy layers, instead there's more constant dissonance and attempts at harsh beauty Gorguts stuff, but it ends up using way too much modern metal chugging. There are still great parts in it but it's not as tight as their previous release. Not a bad effort by any means, but slightly misguided.

Black Fast - Terms of Surrender [2015] []
It's as if Skeletonwitch had realized they're boring and changed for the better. Black Fast aren't as grimdark and blackened as they present themselves, their music isn't so much creepy and gritty as it's a fast, technical and precise kick in the face that has more in common with Revocation, Xoth and maybe Vektor than the styling implies. There's at least one memorable part in every song, it's gripping and tight throughout, mostly thanks to the amazing guitarwork that manages to combine the soaring high-pitched tech solo, the sort of vibrating tremolo picking that Bölzer do so well, death and thrash riffs and pack that into one consistent song where all the parts work well together without seeming crammed or bloated. The guys from Missouri created a great record with lots of replay-value that I strongly recommend.

Chapel of Disease - The Mysterious Ways Of Repetitive Art [2015] []
This record is so weird, man. Not like Portal-weird, more like "Is that still the same album?" weird. If you extracted some parts, you'd think this was Morbid Angel worship (just look at the bandname), others feel like Scream Bloody Gore, and the instrumental opener is too smooth and groovy to fit either description. Tumbling from recent Hooded Menace Death-Doom to parts that would work on an Entombed album to the end of Blessed Black Wings, the guys from Cologne don't seem to make up their mind. As a consequence, you trade in a consistent trip through some ancient dark cave full of forgotten tombs for a trip through an ancient dark cave full of forgotten tombs with a waterslide. I have yet to make up my mind if that's a bad thing. Points for making this record more interesting than I ever expected.

GosT - Behemoth [2015] []
I don't always pay attention to electronic music, but when I do, it's mostly the fetishized hardhitting synthwave that people from now think people in the 80s would have attributed to future clubs, hackers and cyborgs. The action music from Far Cry : Blood Dragon. If you like genre-primus Pertubator (who remixed one bonus song on here), you'll like this one too. It's as simple as that. Thick synths, punishing bass and whatever was available sprinkled inbetween (funky bassguitar, fake marimba) make a great soundtrack for cyberpunk slasher movies and doing late-night tech work with headphones on. The harder the cuts, the harsher the songs become, especially when interlaced with dramatic shrieking soundeffects. Like the intro to a retro TV action show on way too many steroids. As metal as purely electronic music gets.

Further listening:
Cro-Magnox, the best electronic music album of this decade on perma-rotation.
Death Angel - The Ultra-Violence is so much better than their other albums.
Genfærd is solid rough black metal without many unique qualities.
Whole bunch of Sabbath.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Mr. Robot

I avoided Mr. Robot like the plague for a while because the premise of a mainstream tv show about hackers conjures up the typical clichés for me, with silly visualizations and idiotic use of terminology. Technologically apt circles were friendly towards it though, so I started watching too. The show revolves around Elliot, who works as a infosec expert and uses his skills after-hours for personal gain and his idea of social justice. Between the challenges of work and his socially crippled personal life, he unwittingly gets in touch with a group of activists who seek to attack the biggest conglomerate in the world.

There are indeed a few cringeworthy uses of techtalk, but what I thought would kill the show worked better than anything I have ever seen on TV: the tech basics are realistic and plausible. No neon towers of hovering numbers, no animated transparent GUIs for everything. Even the CLI commands they show on the screens make sense in the context they're shown in. The show doesn't pander to the general audience as much as I feared, so for the first few episodes, I was absolutely thrilled to see them actually getting it right.
The first season finished on Wednesday and Mr. Robot has been renewed for a second season. It was only until the last three episodes or so that the quality took a dive, [SPOILERS] as the "big reveal" was literally Fight Club [/SPOILERS], and the writers made bad decisions on which answers to reveal and which to leave open. Elliot's psychological problems are blown up immensely, and what's actually happening moves into the background. It feels like the show was first designed to finish within one season, but the good ratings made them push a bunch of stuff back.
If it wasn't for the last few episodes, I would most urgently recommend this show, but I felt that they messed up the finale somewhat. It's a great series for the most part though and I'm interested in where they'll take it next time around.