Monday, February 28, 2011

Jasmine revolution in China

The Chinese jasmine revolution has thus far been quiet shadow boxing. The protesters shout their calls for action through open social networks, enabling the government to anticipate and counter them with surgical countermeasures and displays of force. There is little action but a lot of tension - about 10% of articles in are about the Chinese jasmine revolution.

Original article

Wangfujing selead with plates, jasmine revolution unable to blossom in Beijing

According to "Apple Daily", the netizens called for the second wave of "jasmine revolution" for today. The local officials heard the enemy coming and even dispatched extra guards to parts of the city. One of the central meeting ares, the gates of McDonald's in Wangfujing [a suburb in Beijing], were sealed with plates because of "sunken earth holes". When netizens shifted the place to Wangfujing's Kentucky Fried Chicken, even the word "Wangfujing" became a sensistive word in, impossible to search.

As online calls for protests have expanded to 23 cities, local officials hear the sound of the horn and are making preparatory moves. Reports indicate that Beijing has already brought troops to the city and increased the surveillance of communications. "Red armbands" are guards, which consist of voluntarily patrolling citizens. Earlier, they have only been used during the Beijing Olympiad and the "Two Conferences" (the yearly meetings of National People's Congress and Chinese People's Political Consultative Committee.) Many patrol cars of Ministry of Public Security are stationed in the main street of Wangfujing, and anyone who takes photographs is promptly questioned.

Boxun [US based] website, which for several days has been the news platform for jasmine revolution, announced yesterday evening that it has difficulty operating because of intense pressure and repeated attacks. Because of current conditions, "Boxun unfortunately has to stop publishing related [to jasmine revolution] information."

Online reports indicate that domestic officials have intensified pressure on anyone who might participate in gatherings. Dissidents are being taken away, and a retired professor of Shandong Univeristy, Sun Wenguang was escorted away by Public Security. Some netizens claim that merely saying the word "jasmine revolution" will bring Public Security to the doorstep.

In the biggest domestic social network,, it is still impossible to search with sensitive words "jasmine revolution" or "meeting". Yesterday also "Wangfujing" became prohibited, producing announcement "Because of certain legal stipulations and policies, the search result can not be displayed."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

If I chose my sport according to what appeals to women in general, I would train martial arts.

Mystery says that to appeal to women in general, you should project an image of being a leader of men, preselected by women and protector of the loved ones. Martial arts push the "protector of the loved ones" button.

Many online dating announcements call for a traditional, real man. Training capability for violence is consistent with that. Also romantic fiction contains a lot of protector figures.

However, only once in my adult age have I been in a violent situation. The skill would be practically useless, therefore I have no interest for it.

By contrast, the effeminate undertones of pole dancing are likely to be a big turn-off for many women, so it definitely isn't something to be done to appeal to women. However, since I'm practising it anyway, it's reasonable to ask how to present it in a light which is consistent with my goals in other areas of life.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More doom and gloom

Talking about bad scenarios, one I want to avoid is living 50 years alone. Many friends have reached the middle class bliss of having a wife, a mortgage, a spacious car, 2.5 kids, and thou shalt not forget the golden retriever. I want it in the same trivial sense which Jane Austin meant with the opening sentence of "Pride and Prejudice": "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." The only question is how to actionalize the goal - what series of steps to perform to make progress towards it. Here's my current actionalization:
  • Participate in events of The Club to develop social skills and meet people.
  • Answer personals in and OkCupid in the rare instances when something interesting pops up (my sister and her husband found each others through and have since reached middle-class bliss.)
  • Read seduction material like Game for Omegas or Roissy or Mystery Method.
  • Practise pole dancing in order to have a hobby which appeals to the target group.

The pole dancing part needs a little explanation. Dance classes are definitely not places to meet women - rather they are places where girls team up to invent cruel and unusual shit tests to poke at your weaknesses. In fact, I've only had one 10-lesson card (and won't buy a new one until I finish dieting.) Going to those lessons was always a little disturbing.

However, dancing is currently my only interest with any appeal to women, and since I've decided to exercise regularly anyway, the time investment is quite low.

If I ever get to a level where I can make videos or performances without embarrassment, it should increase the number of first contacts that start with positive expectations. Avoiding embarrassment means, among other things, grounding the style in some visual tradition which is not feminine or gay. In that case, the skill is quite comparable to Mystery's magic tricks.

From the perspective of my goals, it doesn't matter if pole dancers are hot or not. What matters is how the target group, non-pole-dancing plain Janes, react to my hobby. At best, pole dancers can be a useful test group or act as social proof, giving me preselection points when I mention them.

Among men, the dominant view is that social skills are like poker: you should hide your goals and intentions while reading other people for their weaknesses. This way you gain or lose advantage from asymmetric information. Many years ago I broke it by mentioning desire for more friends in this blog, and The Scientist metioned privately that he wouldn't admit such things. After that I have been a good boy and followed this principle. Now where is my fucking prize?

The more I look, the more I see signs that relationship are almost a perfect-information game like chess or go for the sharpest females that matter most. For example Roissy's seduction performance didn't drop from describing openly what he did as he did it. Here is how Aretae describes his wife:
Sickness by skin color variations, 3 days ahead of time ("Start superdosing your vitamin D now, you're getting sick"). 10:1 she knows more about what you're feeling than you do, if she can see you (even if your back is turned, and you're wearing a heavy coat). And if she hears you [not me] say "hello" to your wife over the phone, she knows if your wife is ready to cheat -- by means of emotional echoes in your response, whether or not you do. Still pictures of popular trial defendents tell her whether they're guilty.

In the pole dancing school, at least one teacher is really perceptive. For example, once I had difficulty getting a series of moves right. The first time I got it right, she noticed it from the opposite end of the class, probaly without looking at me. Thinking that you can hide your sexual thoughts in a dance class is as foolish as hoping that in a go match, the other player won't see a move. At least some of them can read everthing that matters from your gestures. If you assume otherwise, they will confuse and startle you by showing you your own reflection in snappy comments. But there is one thing they can't turn against you - self-knowledge and confidence that comes from knowing why you are there, what you want out of it and acting consistently and decently.

Currently, none of the 4 actionalizations produces results. The best they can provide is general practise in social skills and a diagnosis of what I need to do differently to find an approach which works.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Päiväkäskyni viimeinen: Kusessa ollaan!

Now that Nokia has decided to use Windows, the question for Finnish IT industry is: Who will do the work?

Ominously, Nokia Finland is not recruiting Windows, C# or Silverlight programmers (Silverlight is the plaform for making 3rd party applications to Windows Phones). In, Silverlight jobs are either in the non-mobile industry or in the multiplatform field, where all mobile platforms are listed.

For example Abhinaba Basu in Hyderabad, India works in a team with Windows Phone and Silverlight competence.

In the past, Finnish developers moved between Series40, Symbian and Meego. There is no sign that they will be moving to Windows except for Elop's words.

Moving phone OS development out from Finland would be a tectonic shift in the Finnish IT industry. A HS artice mentions 3100 Symbian and Meego developers in Tampere and Oulu. There are more in Salo, Helsinki and in Nokia's subcontracting chain. Quick layoffs will create a glut of unemployed, resulting in hundreds of applicants for each open position until the industry has restructured, which would take years.

Mauri Pekkarinen uttered the unfamous words "we are from the government and we are here to help." He talked about managed handling of the structural reform. Based on what I have heard about TEKES projects, I hope that they will do as little as possible and stick to existing mechanisms like income-based unemployment benefit and start-up grant. Finnish state financed with debt 25% of its costs last year. We don't need more of that.

Technology perspective

Symbiatch raves about the high quality of C# language and Microsoft tools in Desktop. But Windows Phone is not a desktop OS.

A colleague recently investigated porting a multiplatform client to Windows Phone. The application runs in the background. He found out that WP7 didn't allow background operation to 3rd party applications, making the port difficult and maybe impossible. Also the first comment to Symbiatch's raving is the lack of socket interface, a fundamental low-level network technology necessary for many serious applications. If Microsoft refuses to give enough levers to pull, easier programming is useless. Angry Birds may be a lottery win for Rovio, but it is not a business application and the hype hides the long tail of apps producing nothing.

WP is just one of Microsoft's many income sources. If Nokia demands improvements to WP OS, they can afford to say "Stop whining, boy! Nobody forces you to use WP if you don't accept the terms." Let's hope that Nokia is big enough player to pressure Microsoft into necessary changes.

Economic perspective

Symbian proliferated years ago as a counterstrike to Windows. Mobile phone manufacturers feared they would become Dell-style commodity hardware manufacturers with tight competition and thin profit margins. Simultaneously Microsoft would reap profits from just copying bits after the initial development effort. Since Microsoft holds iron grip over WP and 3rd party applications, these old threats resurface.

Another force working against Nokia are network effects. Silverlight is not popular outside WP. Java midlets are popular in many different mobile platforms. Meego is compatible with Linux kernel, enabling vast amounts of Linux applications to be ported to N900 with reasonable effort. It depends on Nokia's ability to open WP whether the network effects will be positive or negative. At best, Nokia will get Windows developers into more open WP. At worst, obstacles around WP will make it as isolated as Symbian was before Qt and C API.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tomorrow at 12.00 is popcorn time for anyone interested in Nokia's future

Last year I wrote that Symbian has so fundamental issues that the platform is unlikely to produce hit software anymore. Thus far data has supported my predictions. Nokia's share in smartphones (where Symbian is used) decresed 6.7 percentage points despite the publication of flagship N8. Nokia refused to publish the sales figures for N8, which hints that the figures don't support the narrative of dramatic recovery after a new broom swept clean the sins of the past.

Against my predictions, Nokia lost market share also in stupid phones.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Bits are eternal

Last week I mentioned Kari and Esa, two informatics medalists interested in Haskell and category theory. This week Kari started a blog. His topmost science fiction story is an accessible summary of those themes.

The key paragraph is this:

Long ago, the program logic for computers was saved in monolithic ways, which made it difficult to reuse existing functionality for new purposes. Companies rationalized it with the need to protect their source code. On the other hand, computing capacity was also billions of times more scarce, forcing people to meticulously design all kinds of algorithms. Ancient software nowadays qualifies as a kind of art, when you looked at their painstakingly polished details and routines fine-tuned with clocksmith's precision, aiming to save every cycle and every bit of memory. Uki sighed while trying to remember what those primitive days felt like.

The Loom of Culture was a method to extend imagination as far as possible without breaking the sense-muscle interface [Note: The character, Uki, is embedded in a virtual reality where digital input fills his senses. His muscles also move him virtually. The sense-muscle interface connects his "body" to the virtual world.] All logic in the loom consisted of separate, abstract construction rules and restrictions as well as metadata, which made it possible to automatically combine the rules and restictions. The user could create contexts on the fly and combine, inherit and duplicate them. Each context had a set of objects it was working on and building. The user could add or remove assumptions, modifying the end result while the loom automatically reached logical conclusions based on type information, pruning impossible branches with restrictions. If the loom couldn't deduct some necessary feature from assumptions, the model offered the most probable default value in the same way as human vision fills blind spots with the best guess based on available information.

The loom had a basic context of general knowledge. The user could add more contexts from trusted sources. Typically each user started with a standard environment, supplementing it with libraries of his own hobbies as well as personal adjustments. The power of the system was its ability to make the knowledge in the models interact and build a massive amount of possibilities by combining simple, relative rules and pruning them with restrictions. Using it was much easier than you would think from this description, since the standard context could interpret thought, movement and speech to guide the loom. The difference to an artificial intelligence was that the loom didn't have its own intentions and it didn't act automatically, it only extended the imagination of its user.

Uki gestured to open the standard context, looked at the empty space ahead of him and said in his thoughts "Open the music library and let us assume Devil's Sonata by Tartini and the memes of popular music in the 1900s." The composition memes were made of functions. Some of the functions took other compositions as parameters, producing new compositions. For example "repeat" might be a function A ↦ AA and fade(X) produced a verion of X, which faded to silence in the end. These building blocks operated mainly on notes and concepts like "pitch", "volume", "duration" and "instrument". The memes themselves had been filtered with a genetic algorithm. The compositions were located at a timeline, and were "phenotypes". The genetic algorithm searched for the shortest set of functions to generate a composition. This program was the "genotype" of the composition, which generated the "phenotype". The idea of searching for the shortest composition was that it distilled the essential and abstract structural ideas from the compositions, relative to the current meme pool. In addition, whole compositions contained a kind of conceptual network, which described how often each block had been used as input for another and how long various patterns typically last. In addition to building blocks, the library contained information about harmony. The algorithm also increased the score of the composition if it contained several short genotypes, making it a kind of compact crossroads for several ideas. This could not completely model creativity, but it approximated it reasonably, as ideas interacted in the composer's head with other areas of life.

The next paragraphs explain what this has to do with programming.

Programming as meaningless, aimless busywork

Once I presented the character drawing software for N900 for a person in the company I work for. He commented that it was a nice competence development project. This represents a mindset where programming is meaningless, useless activity which aims to get money from the customer. Competence development is the only other imaginable reason to code. Programming to implement features is unheard of alien blasphemy.

For those people, programming as a kind of schoolwork assignment. It is impossible to talk with them about programming in any higher level of abstraction than which function call does what, since only losers talk about homework assignments unless they need hints to complete one. In school, the primary goal of reifying the status hierarchy goes far ahead of learning. Similarly at work, there is no debate about the purpose of writing software. Consequently, people are often as alienated about the nebulous goal of programming as they were in school about learning specific course content.

Making machines obey human will

In Kari's (and my) opinions, programming is all about making machines obey human will. Non-programming methods like creation wizards and cofiguration files are just as fine, but rarely enough. The short story shows programming without writing code and calling functions. The loom of culture is likely still Turing complete.

In the hierarchy of low-level and high-level languages, the loom of culture is the highest imaginable one. The programmer to expresses exactly the core requirements. The machine generates everything else by logical deduction and reasonable default values.

Programming languages are becoming more and more abstract, enabling the programs to shrink. Languages typically improve by placing low-level restrictions. This allows more guaranteed abstract features on higher levels. For example C language does not allow direct stack manipulation. This enables modular function calls.

Haskell is the current peak of this trend. Despite several attempts to learn it, I can't code in it myself. But Haskell has the reputation of producing the smallest implementations for various features. It also has the strictest low-level restriction in any language - namely, that you can't set a variable. This restriction makes it mainly an academic language which little industry adoption.

The loom of culture also has an interface which matches human intuition. Kari once described writing Haskell as the closest thing he has seen to writing what you think. Languages development requires insight into human intuition, and there is some empirical evidence that setting a variable is unintuitive.

Category theory is a branch of mathematics which is relevant to understanding Haskell and a source of inspiration for improving the state of art. I didn't understand the content of Esa's and Kari's debate at the time, and now Kari moved to Helsinki, but it was about developing even better languages. Esa says that type system is at the core of the effort, and indeed type-level restriction are mentioned in the loom of culture. Usually the word "abstract" is a rhetorical device ("This is like, totally abstract and general!") but in language development they must face it head on.

Kari and Esa are both talented, experienced and driven people, and they understand programming on some higher level that is inaccessible for my IQ and programming experience. The loom of culture is just one glimpse of it.