I find it confusing when software companies release products that share the name (and only the name) of other products they made long before. IBM recently did this with Lotus Symphony, which I hear is their "value-added" rebranding of StarDivision's StarOffice (IBM having eaten Lotus and SUN having eaten StarDivision in times between). Symphony (and its Mac version, Lotus Jazz) was actually a pretty poor product - each component was pretty lousy (although competing with WordPerfect or 1-2-3 was no easy task) - the only neat thing about Symphony was that it had OLE-style app integration long before OLE and that integration was pluggable with third-party components. It's surprisingly easy for me to slip back into that mindset of being vaguely excited, frightened, and enthused about Wordperfect... hmm.. For the really curious, pictures I took this morning of the awesome casing (not box) that Lotus Symphony came in (p.s. I am not ancient):
- Future versions of Solaris will include PostgreSQL. Neat. I sometimes wonder what Postgres and the other opensource databases are doing to Oracle - I suspect that they both threaten its mindshare (people get used to a different SQL dialect and might never learn or think of Oracle for solutions) as well as increasingly cut away at the low-end to midrange market that Oracle may have drawn profit from. In the end, Oracle may be the next SGI or Cray unless they figure out a way to be like IBM instead...
- The Basque ETA aims to continue attacks in northern Spain because the degree of autonomy they desire hasn't been put on the table by the Spanish state.
- A very friendly editorial on Chávez's constitutional reforms package
- I stumbled across this interesting blog that focuses on Israeli-Palestnian issues
- al Sadr's faction has pulled back out of the Iraqi parliament..
- With Bhutto (whom I believe ideally should have no future role in Pakistani politics) returning to challenge him, Musharraf has announced (again) his plans to resign as army chief and run for president again. This is concerning - if Musharraf loses and is entirely out of politics, the country may be left with a weak leader (like neighbouring Karzai) that would negotiate or comprimise with theocratic parties..
- Largely a public service announcement - Media Defender is a company that aims to protect IP interests. If you're opposed to IP interests (as I am), keeping a close eye on them and being educated about the tools/techniques they're using might be important.
- I've kept an eye on Citizendium, but only recently heard about Scholarpedia. One of the ways wikis differ from the web is that unlike a website, there's a much stronger pressure for centralisation. Ten or thirty essential resources on chemistry that a lot of people might know about are fine if they're normal webpages, but if they're wikis, in the end only two or three might survive. This is partly because linking between Wikis is not easy (or, rather, the difference between ease of internal links and ease of external links is marked), and presumably partly because the discussion side of wikis has social factors a bit like Usenet - the bigger the board the more the benefit (although in the end, Usenet was too decentralised to resist outside threats).. I am pleased to see that Scholarpedia actually has article proposals by professors I know at CMU (and a number of other actual academics). I'm excited by projects to use Wikis to ... actually make an encyclopedia :)
Taiwan is presently making big waves with a bid to enter the United Nations, with the Kuomintang pushing for it to apply as the Republic of China (its traditional name based on its continuity of government with Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's post-dynastic China, with the legacy of Taiwan's former claims to de jure sovereignty over the mainland) and the Pan-Green Alliance (presently in power)'s push for it to enter as the Republic of Taiwan. China will probably prevent either from happening, but it will embarass them a bit. Some thoughts: Chen Shi-Ban represents a departure from KMT rule - he's the first post-KMT president of the republic and has a fairly narrow mandate (his popularity has moved around a lot but the issue of independence combined with a set of scandals keeps him from making big waves). In his first term, he made promises not to rock the boat in order to appease China, but the Taiwanese public has (as I understand) slowly leaned towards a more pro-independence position and he's gone back on some of those promises, justifying them as the will of the people.
In my opinion, supporting independence of the Republic of Taiwan (as the Republic of Taiwan) is appropriate, as is supporting their admittance to the United Nations. De Jure and De Facto claims can only be separated for a certain length of time before they become ridiculous - like the pretenders to the throne of France (go look them up if you're interested), they ignore the fact that nations and legitimacy are earned and retained through struggle - when that struggle/cause ceases to exist in any meaningful way for long enough, they become empty words. Taiwan has functioned as an independent state for well over fifty years, with exclusive control over a cleanly demarcated area and control over its military, economic, and other domestic and foreign affairs. It has developed its culture separately from China, following very few of the reform or other programmes that the mainland has. That it branched during a revolution further marks its claim. These things together make it effectively a nation and China's claims to it as illegitimate as its (former) claims to the mainland.
I believe in The Revolution and hold Communism as part of a goal for society (mix in a nuanced notion of enlightenment liberalism and hope for reasonably high amounts of personal autonomy in as well, for starters), but I don't think, especially after Deng Xiaopeng, that China still should claim to be Communist, it being more of a oligarchic mixed-market system. However, even if it were closer to my ideals and I were to consider it to be within my "communion of solidarity" (I can't think of a better way to phrase this right now), this should not change the fact that Taiwan is not integral to it and is effectively sovereign - either Taiwan should make its way to the revolution (using the term loosely - I am still not convinced that the transition could not be initially bourgeois-democratic) in a largely independent way or if Red Armies begin to sweep the world again (whether that would be wise/in keeping with the ideals of whatever faction had them is another matter) then it may be invaded (although if these presumed Red Armies were Chinese, they should presumably reestablish Communism at home first), but it should be understood as such - an invasion of Taiwan to save the pride of China would be obscene. As-is, Taiwan is independent, it should be recognised as such, and the vanity that leads China to blackmail other nations to diplomatically isolate Taiwan should not be permitted, even at the cost of business ties. I believe Taiwan should be defended against any agression born of that vanity, not because of broad judgements on Chinese-Taiwanese differences but because permitting nations to use their political weight in that matter is too harmful to permit.