If you haven't heard, there's been a bit of a dust-up today between Google and its throngs of Android phone users. If you have heard, chances are you heard it post-spin, where Google is painted as being this horrible evil dictator, violating the 'spirit of open source.'
That couldn't be further from the truth. Here's what's actually going on.
Google's Android phone platform is, in fact, an open source operating system. Any phone manufacturer who wants to license Android for use on their handsets can do so, completely free of charge -- but there are a few caveats. Anyone deploying an Android device has to choose between a few different Android packages, including the "with Google" option, which allows the manufacturer to use Google's good name to promote their device. However, the "with Google" package requires that you deploy all the software the way Google demands. No deleting GMail and including Hotmail instead, for instance.
If the manufacturer does want to remove GMail and include Hotmail, they can still totally do that -- they just can't use Google's name to advertise their product. Oh, and they also can't include some of Google's popular apps.
While the operating system is open source, some of Google's applications are not, and are rather restrictively licensed, giving Google a bit more control over how they are used. The idea is they don't want someone's crappy modified Android install soiling their good image.
Very soon after the first Android device's release, clever hackers figured out a way to bypass the security T-Mobile included on it, allowing them to install custom installs of Android, based on newer, better code than what the devices were originally shipped with. Sure, that newer code would eventually be handed out to all devices, but many of us nerds are rather impatient, and would rather use it now. Crashes and all. So a sort of "community" of hackers was born, eventually culminating in several really popular Android distributions that included all sorts of really awesome functionality that was either not "prime-time"-ready -- or was flat out barred from inclusion by the carrier. (In this case, T-Mobile.)
This has been going on for roughly a year now, and several people have risen and fallen as the de facto "ringleaders" in charge of assembling the components into updates that mere users can apply to their phones. Many of these updates happened to include all those applications that Google has specifically licensed to be only distributed by those that comply with their licensing demands, and today finally caught the ire of Google.
Google has sent a Cease & Desist letter to the maintainer of arguably the most popular of these Android distributions, citing his inclusion of applications to which he does not have the proper license for distribution as the activity that needs to be ceased. He's no longer able to include GMail, Google Maps, etc., in his releases, which arguably makes his builds extremely undesirable for most users.
As you might expect, people understand this licensing issue, and completely realize that it's not good to be in blatant violation of an application's distribution license. Just kidding! In actuality, people are going "ape shit," threatening to buy iPhones, yelling obscenities at Google, and being all-around poor sports about the whole thing.
"Google is violating the spirit of open source!" cry many.
Online petitions have been made. There's an "app" in the Google Market which is currently the most popular Market download of the day, that essentially demands that Google re-license these apps so that people can continue to use them however they want. Facebook groups demanding the same thing are thriving. Twitter has gone nuts.
There's a funny thing about the "spirit of open source," though: many, if not most, open source projects are licensed in such a way that the code cannot be used in commercial applications without following the requirements of the license. It is never OK for someone to violate the license. When, as invariably happens, some company does violate the license, people go nuts. Likewise, nobody ever expects to be able to include someone else's proprietary functionality in their open source app. Yet, in the "spirit of open source," Google should just throw out their licensing altogether so that these whiny, entitled, whineyfaces can continue to use them on a distribution of Android that won't, and cannot license them properly?
That's a bunch of crap. Google is in a bit of an awkward position, having angered a significant amount of its Android user-base, but they are completely in the right here. Does it suck? Yes. But should Google be expected to give away everything for free just because people have been using it illegally for a year? I'll leave answering that as an exercise for the reader.
(If you'd like to check your answer against the correct one, here it is: "No.")
UPDATE: Some are suggesting that Google's inclusion of proprietary apps in an open source environment is a bad thing. This may well be the case, but you knew about it before you bought an Android phone and/or started developing for the Android platform. You chose to accept that fact, and now you have to live with it. Google didn't suddenly remove the apps from the source tree and 'closed source' them; they were closed source from the start.
UPDATE: Someone made this silly Hitler-meme-video, effectively illustrating the attitudes of these whinyfaces:
Long story short, Snopes has classified the story as 'MIXTURE,' containing both true and false elements, despite saying in their first statement that it is false.
Statement reproduces President Obama's response regarding opposition to his veterans' health insurance plan.
The beginning of Snopes' response:
This item is another entry difficult to classify as either "true" or "false." It's false in the literal sense that President Barack Obama did not utter the words attributed to him above; this piece is an excerpt from a form of satire that makes political or social points by putting outrageous words into the mouths of others.
However, even if the words aren't literally true (i.e., they're not something Barack Obama actually said), the issue they reference is not, as in most satirical pieces, a fabrication or a highly exaggerated version of reality.
Ah yes, the old "in a literal sense" conundrum.
The point here is that the claim they're addressing is whether the words actually are Obama's. They come right out and say they're not, but then go on a huge rant about policies of which they're obviously not fond. Many people are outraged by this. I'm guessing it's because everyone has always thought of Snopes as the last bastion of unbiased truth on the Internet. Everyone but me, that is.
This is bothersome to me because many Snopes-checkers rarely read past the green or red 'True' or 'False' indicators on any given subject, trusting that Snopes knows what they're talking about. In this case, their declaration of it as 'False' is not justified by the actual evidence they've presented.
Now, I'm not saying that Tony Blair did tell this amusing anecdote at a cocktail party, but the only "evidence" they have regarding its untruth is speculation from a man whose job it is to make Tony Blair look good -- a man that wasn't even present at said dinner party in the first place. In legal dramas on television, I believe they'd call that "hearsay." And I object! It's the word of someone who was present against someone who wasn't. Not exactly fair reasoning. (It is my claim, however, that had Tony Blair's press secretary been present, and had Tony Blair actually said it, the secretary would still say he didn't. That's his job, afterall.)
With evidence like that, Snopes could, at best, only classify the story as "unverifiable." After discovering this, I spent several hours going through all the George Bush articles on Snopes.com looking for bias. Granted, my results clearly showed my own confirmation bias -- I'm just going to pretend like that's not a problem. Suffice to say, according to my research, the statement that "Snopes is generally favorable towards Republicans whenever blatant evidence to the contrary doesn't make it impossible to do so," is a big fat "True."
So anyway, if you rely on Snopes to determine whether or not the things you hear are true, then you need to -- at the very least -- actually read their evidence for whatever determination they make and then use your own skills of deduction before you go snidely emailing it off to whatever poor sucker repeated it as fact.
You might not actually deserve the smug, self-righteous feeling you get when you do that.
I've been too tired lately to come up with content for here, let alone be able to make it sensible or entertaining.
That said, here's something I scratched out this morning:
One of my guilty pleasures is the show Ghost Hunters on the Scifi Channel, which I suppose might technically violate my "no reality show" policy. I think it squeaks by, though, on the basis that it's so steeped in a fantasy-world rendition of how science works.
See, the Ghost Hunters seem to legitimately believe that what they do is "take a scientific approach" to the study of the paranormal -- but unfortunately most of what they do just plain isn't scientific at all.
One of the staples of the show is Using Faulty Logic™, which I'm pleased to say they're quite good at.
Because so many people seem to not understand how logic works, I'm going to give a couple of examples of Ghost Hunter Logic™ and explain why they're no good. Hopefully this will serve as a kind of public service announcement, possibly helping some people that don't realize that they're not thinking logically about things.
First up: thermometers and EMF detectors as scientific ghost detection tools.
The theory here is that many places that people typically think might be haunted have been found to have measurable temperature differentials and measurable Electro Magnetic Field fluctuations.
As a logic excercise, we're going to assume that ghosts do exist, and that they do cause EMF/temperature fluctuations. (This is quite a stretch; neither of these things has been even close to proven, but bear with me.)
So, if I were going with Ghost Hunter Logic™, I could make the following claim:
"I just measured a cold spot and an abnormally high level of electromagnetic radiation with my scientific instruments. Because I know that ghosts cause cold spots and magnetic field fluctuations, I now know that there's a ghost here right now. Give me a tv show."
In case you're one of the large part of the population suffering from faulty logic-detection, that statement doesn't work because you can't correlate cause and effect in this way. Just because Pine-sol smells like pine doesn't mean that smelling pine proves that there must be Pine-sol around.
That's the fundamental flaw with how the Ghost Hunters guys investigate things. They come into every investigation thinking that there are ghosts; now any cold spot or magnetic field fluctuation that can't easily be explained becomes evidence that there's a ghost. Sure, they often discount them if they can easily explain them, which I have to give them credit for, but far too often they just don't think of the logical explanation.
Case in point:
Recently they were investigating a haunted library. As they walked around through the aisles, they kept hearing "footsteps" coming from aisles that would stop as soon as they would stop to listen. This suggested to them that something sentient was trying to evade detection. What this suggested to me was that their own footfalls were pehaps being echoed, or that there were loose floorboards or something that would transfer the noise over to another aisle.
I'm going to try to make a habit of posting examples of faulty logic I come across in an attempt to solve this serious problem.
Bob and Joe decide to sign up for college and take some classes together. They signed up for a Logics class, but after the first day, they had second thoughts.
Bob: I dunno about this class, it's not what I thought it would be.
Joe: I know, it's too hard, I don't get it.
Bob: Well I'm going to my advisor and withdraw.
Off he goes to his advisor and begins complaining about how difficult Logics class is. Bob's advisor listens carefully and begins to persuade Bob to give it a chance.
Advisor: Look, Bob it's not that difficult. It works like this -- Bob do you have a lawnmower?
Bob: Sure I got a lawnmower.
Advisor: Ok that tells me you have a lawn.
Bob: Well sure, I got a lawn.
Advisor: You got a lawn, then you probably own your own home.
Bob: Well yah, yah I do.
Advisor: Okay then, that tells me you're most likely married.
Bob: Wow, you're right on the target. I'm married.
Advisor: And you have kids, right?
Advisor: You're married with children; that tells me you're heterosexual.
Bob: Amazing, you can tell all that, just 'cuz I own a lawnmower. Okay I get it I see how you do this. I'll give the class a try.
Bob runs off to find his friend, Joe. Once he finds Joe, he starts persuading Joe not to drop Logics class.
Bob: Look Joe, I went to the advisor, and he explained how this class works. It's pretty simple really. I'll show you. Joe, do you have a lawnmower?
Joe (looking puzzled): No.
Bob surprized, thinks for a moment then quietly says, "faggot."