I’ve lost count of the number of times that other GitHub users have forked one of my repositories and then sat on their copy and did nothing.
If you want your own personal copy of a repo, by all means use git clone to mirror it to your PC. Is there a need for your copy to be public on GitHub, when it contains nothing but a (gradually becoming obsolete) snapshot of the original?
If you plan to do some of your own development on it, then my advice is: don’t do the fork until you are ready to push your first change to it. This is because, at the time you fork, the owner of the repo you fork from gets a notification, and that is the time I will go to have a look at your copy, to see if you’ve done anything interesting yet. If I see nothing, I will probably forget to go back at some later point to recheck, so you are unlikely to get a second chance at my attention.
So use GitHub wisely.
the Alan Turing statue in Manchester decorated for his 100th birthday
(Source: Boing Boing)
If any techie argument in an online forum goes on for long enough, the probability that two disagreeing viewpoints will both claim “real-world” justification for their position approaches one. — Me, inspired by some of the reader comments to this article.
The factorial should be outside the square-root sign.
At school, I was good at maths and science. But from an early age, I was fascinated by these things called “computers” that were portrayed on TV and in books (this was the early 1970s in a South-East-Asian country, so they were not exactly household objects). I read up everything I could about them, but all the popular accounts were frustratingly short on detail. I was very impressed when some older boys built a rudimentary one (just a few lights and switches) for a science fair at school.
Then some school friends and I got membership at the British Council library in town. They had more books than I had ever seen before, including a full set of tne Encyclopedia Britannica. Alone of all the encyclopedias I had seen up to that point, the Britannica article on “Computers” actually had examples of proper program code! (It was in FORTRAN, but, hey, that was still fantastic to me.) In among all the sample statements, there was this:
N = N + 1
As I said, I was good at maths, and I knew what an equation was—enough to realize that this made no sense as a mathematical equation—there was no value of N (at least, no finite value) which would satisfy it!
But the key point was, in FORTRAN, the “=” denotes, not equality, but assignment. The statement means, “take the current value in the location denoted by N, add 1 to it, and put it into the location denoted by N”.
Once I had grasped this concept, I understood a whole lot more about computers than I had before.
Other languages from around the same time, designed by Proper Computer Scientists, used “:=” to denote assignment, leaving “=” to represent something closer to its mathematical meaning of equality. But unfortunately, the later popularity of C, which uses FORTRAN-style “=” for assignment, and invented another operator, “==”, to denote equality comparison, has probably meant that whole new generations of maths-savvy teenagers will have to go through the confusion I did.
There’s a lot of hoo-hah over copyright piracy these days. “Content creators deserve to be paid for their hard work”, we are told.
Do people who work hard deserve to be paid? Well, then—who are the hardest-working people in the world? How about those who clean our toilets and our sewers? Shouldn’t they be paid more than anybody else?
And furthermore, shouldn’t these hygiene creators get royalties for their work, just like content creators do? After all, think about this: when you use a clean toilet, and dispose of your surplus excrement down a properly-functioning sewer, you are not just benefiting from the use of the facilities at that moment. No, you are also benefiting from the fact that you haven’t caught a nasty disease, like typhoid or cholera, from using unhygienic toilet facilities. Such diseases can really bugger up your life, not just kill you. So the fact that you are able to leave that toilet after using it in as good health as when you entered, and are able to go on living a productive life, means that you owe those who gave you that clean toilet. They have hygienic property rights over your life now (just like intellectual property rights, but closer to the opposite end of your body, if you know what I mean). In short, just like copyrights, they have sanitrights.
And remember, hygienic property is like intellectual property—you don’t own your good health, you only license it from the sanitright-holders. The initial licence is for your personal, non-commercial use only. If you want to use your good health for anything more, you need to pay extra for the necessary licence. Any kind of work that involves being able to stay conscious, get out of bed and move around would incur royalties on any income you get. Suppose you want to become a doctor, who earns a living from imparting good health to others—such a flagrantly commercial use of your own good health would have to incur the second-highest licence fee of all.
And the highest? That would be if you were to become a toilet cleaner or sewage worker yourself.
I previously discussed Creative Commons licensing, including which parts of it to use and which parts to avoid. In this posting I want to list some projects that use the non-Free parts—in other words, the parts should be avoided.
• Blend Swap is a very handy resource for those looking for models to use with the Free Blender 3D modelling program. And they are enlightened enough to require that all contributions be redistributable under the Free CC-BY-SA licence—with one glaring exception: All LEGO-related material must be licensed under the non-Free CC-BY-NC. Why is this? It seems to be based on a misunderstanding of trademark law.
After all, consider that the site also offers models related to other trademarked merchandise, such as game/movie characters, car models and so on, yet none of these are subject to the same restrictions—what’s so special about LEGO?
• Celestia is a wonderful program for those wanting to learn about astronomy, and the software itself is available under a Free software licence (the GPL). However, the Celestia Motherlode, that hosts additional data files for use with Celestia, makes its offerings available under a non-Free licence:
We believe that all files on CM, including their contents, are freely distributable for NON-commercial use.
It would have been much nicer if they had made it clear that all contributions were understood to be made available on a CC-BY or CC-BY-SA licence.
• XKCD is a cartoon that is a favourite of many geeks. However, the cartoons are officially licensed CC-BY-NC. Yet I have seen more than one cartoon published in a print magazine—surely if anything constitutes “commercial” use, that would be it? On his “clarification” page, he says he’s
also okay with people reprinting occasional comics (with clear attribution) in publications like books, blogs, newsletters, and presentations.
Interestingly, there is no mention of magazines in that list.
• the Free Universal Construction Kit is a wonderful use of nascent 3D-printing technology to promote interoperability between different toy-construction systems like Lego etc. Or it would be, if they hadn’t used the NC clause in their CC licence. Why do people keep making this mistake?
Pi day is my excuse to just learn about math all day. The other 364 days I have no excuse.