Thursday, 9 March 2006

My secret life as a Condorcet voter

As of this posting, I am one of 290 Debian developers who have thus far bothered to vote on the first General Resolution of 2006, which will state Debian’s position on the GNU Free Documentation License and decide whether (and under what conditions) GFDL-licensed documents will be allowed in Debian’s “main” distribution.

My sense is that the spirit of the Debian Free Software Guidelines is most consistent with the interpretation embodied in Amendment A—I seriously doubt the Free Software Foundation will go after people who distribute GFDL-licensed documents on DRMed media and the “transparent formats” issue is probably a non-issue in practice, judging from the distinct lack of interest by the FSF in going after people who violate the GPL’s “you must make source available for three years” rule, but the invariant sections rule is clearly non-free and cannot be ignored.

Unfortunately (or, fortunately, depending on your perspective) this means Debian users will not have access to most of the documentation that uses invariant sections—primarily those documents distributed by the FSF themselves. On the upside, it will at least spare our users from having reams of Richard Stallman’s political rants foisted upon them and their hard drives in exchange for the privilege of having the Emacs manual available.

So, anyway, here’s how I voted, since it will be public at the close of the vote anyway: 2143—or, in other words, Amendment A [GFDL allowed if invariant sections not used] > Original Resolution [GFDL not allowed at all] > Further Discussion > Amendment B [anything GFDL'd goes].

Next up: the elections for Debian Project Leader, featuring a smorgasbord of seven candidates.

Wacky prof follies of the day

Via email from FCS, a story on a professor at Suffolk University who apparently can’t work Fn-F4 (the internal/external display switch) on his laptop properly:

A Suffolk University professor is under investigation by university officials following accusations of alleged pornographic misconduct.

According to Emily Macdonald, a student in the class, [the professor] allegedly watched porn on his computer, which was unknowingly connected to a monitor that was behind him.

The class ended half an hour following the display, and the students never tried to intervene.

All sorts of intriguing questions arise here: was he multitasking at the time, both lecturing and watching Hung Jury 17 simultaneously? How does one “unknowingly” hook up one’s own computer to a monitor? Perhaps most importantly, from a pedagogical standpoint, did the porn in the background hurt or help students’ comprehension of the other material presented in class that day?

Update: The boss has additional thoughts on this matter.

Update (19 July 2007): At the request of the individual involved in this unfortunate incident and after some reflection, I have removed his name from this post; his identity was really not all that important to the point of this post.