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  1. These trends, as different as they are, are increasingly making open source the center of desktop innovation and design. The user revolts of 2008-12, caused by GNOME, KDE, and Unity all trying to introduce too many changes too quickly may have made open source developers cautious, but at least they are continuing to innovate. In particular, Linux Mint's Cinnamon has managed to elbow its way into popularity by consulting users and implementing the features that people actually want.

    None of this is to say that conventional or unaesthetic open source desktops do not exist. But the point is that open source as a whole continues to improve, while Windows has become increasing bereft of ideas and Apple's recent designs have become so flawed that they no longer inspire the uncritical awe they once did. Alone on the desktop, open source efforts continue to improve -- and what one Linux desktop introduces, the others can also implement thanks to the availability of the code.
    Reasons for the Transition

    The reason for these reversals might be very simple. To start with, thanks partly to the rising popularity of open source, the value of operating systems in general and desktops in particular has plummeted. Almost anyone with a registered copy of Windows, for example, can get a free upgrade to Windows 10, while a new copy costs less than half what a new version of Windows did two decades ago.

    Under these circumstances, both Apple and Microsoft are diversifying, and no doubt reluctant to fund research and development on the desktop any more than necessary. However, with the possible exception of Unity, which is designed to fit with Canonical Software's business plans, open source desktops are not developed as economic concerns. While they may respond to user feedback, they can continue to develop the desktop at the same rate as a decade ago.

    At the same time, both Apple and Microsoft have been far quicker than open source to move to phones and tablets, a market that has expanded in the last five years as sales of workstations and laptops has declined. Admittedly, the desktop has made something of a comeback in the last few years, but the possibility remains that open source's dominance in desktop development may have been by default as much as merit.

    If so, then open source's leadership on the desktop may be no more than a consolation prize. While open source developers have kept their heads down and improved the desktop, they have missed their chance to establish their values as a major force in mobile operating systems. Android, after all, may be based on Linux, and use an Apache license, but it remains a commercial operating system, differing from others only in origin. If open source has become the dominate force on the desktop, it may have done so only by being slow to respond new markets.
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  2. L’auto costa a noi italiani quasi quanto mantenere un figlio. O forse di più. Spendiamo tra i 600 e i 700 euro al mese, a seconda del carburante che si utilizza. Ed è tutto colpa dei prezzi della benzina, che appesantiti dall’Iva e dalle accise molto elevate, sono tra i più alti d’Europa. A cui si devono aggiungere i costi dell’assicurazione e delle tasse di proprietà, per i quali deteniamo un altro record.

    È quanto emerge da uno studio, il CarCost Index, appena pubblicato dalla società olandese LeasePlan, che ha analizzato i costi di proprietà e delle auto, in undici paesi europei.
    Tags: , by M. Fioretti (2016-02-11)
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  3. Un Piacentini consulente non pagato dal governo italiano e sempre dipendente da un colosso come Amazon, nella bufera nei mesi passati per non aver pagato il dovuto di tasse (e che ha una potente azione di lobby sulla politica italiana), desta più di una condizione di imbarazzo.

    Negli Usa quando la Casa Bianca attinge professionalità dall’industria privata, i prescelti si dimettono dai loro incarichi nelle aziende.

    È una regola che regna ovunque, in tutto il mondo avanzato: politica e istituzioni non possono essere confuse con gli interessi dell’industria privata.

    Purtroppo in Italia quello di Piacentini non è neanche il primo caso, proprio in materie attinenti lo sviluppo del digitale.

    Ora sembrerebbe che addirittura Diego Piacentini sarebbe disposto a dimettersi da Amazon per assumere l’incarico gratuito offerto dal governo italiano.

    Va tutto bene, ma Piacentini non ci venga a dire che lo fa per amore del suo Paese o per dare un contributo al suo sviluppo digitale o per mettere la sua esperienza a disposizione dell’Italia.

    No, questo no, per favore.

    Il secondo dubbio riguarda l’ulteriore aggiunta di nuove personalità, più o meno dirompenti, oltre a quelle esistenti.

    Se guardiamo al settore pubblico, abbiamo l’AGID, agenzia governativa per la digitalizzazione della PA, che deve lavorare proprio per l’Italia digitale. Forse il suo direttore generale Antonio Samaritani non è in condizione di poter procedere da solo?

    In aggiunta abbiamo a Palazzo Chigi anche un altro consigliere sull’innovazione, in questo caso addirittura un imprenditore, Paolo Barberis, incaricato di costruire Italia Login, il mega progetto dell’Italia digitale, la porta d’accesso a tutti i siti della PA digitale, insomma la madre di tutte le battaglie, che purtroppo è ancora rappresentato solo in poche slide che vengono di volta in volta aggiornate.

    Abbiamo poi il nostro Digital Champion Riccardo Luna,
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  4. Unless some enterprising fracking promoter figures out how to elbow his way to the government feed trough, it’s pretty much a given that fracking will shortly turn back into what it was before the current boom: one of several humdrum technologies used to scrape a little extra oil out from mostly depleted oil fields. That, in turn, leaves the field clear for the next overblown “energy revolution” to be rolled out—and my working ghess is that the focus of this upcoming round of energy hype will be renewable energy resources: specifically, attempts to power the electrical grid with sun and wind.

    In a way, that’s convenient, because we don’t have to wonder whether the two little problems with biofuels and fracking also apply to this application of solar and wind power. That’s already been settled; the research was done quite a while ago, and the answer is yes.

    To begin with, the numbers are just as problematic for solar and wind power as they were for biofuels and fracking. Examples abound: real world experience with large-scale solar electrical generation systems, for example, show dismal net energy returns; the calculations of how much energy can be extracted from wind that have been used to prop up windpower are up to two orders of magnitude too high; more generally, those researchers who have taken the time to crunch the numbers—I’m thinking here especially, though not only, of Tom Murphy’s excellent site Do The Math—have shown over and over again that for reasons rooted in the hardest of hard physics, renewable energy as a source of grid power can’t live up to the sweeping promises made on its behalf.

    Equally, renewables are by no means as environmentally benign as their more enthusiastic promoters claim. It’s true that they don’t dump as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as burning fossil fuels do—and my more perceptive readers may already have noted, by the way, the extent to which talk about the very broad range of environmental blowbacks from modern industrial technologies has been supplanted by a much narrower focus on greenhouse gas-induced anthropogenic global warming, as though this is the only issue that matters—but the technologies needed to turn sun and wind into grid electricity involve very large volumes of rare metals, solvents, plastics, and other industrial products that have substantial carbon footprints of their own.

    And of course there are other problems of the same kind.

    It probably also needs to be pointed out that I’m actually very much in favor of renewable energy technologies, and have discussed their importance repeatedly on this blog. The question I’ve been trying to raise, here and elsewhere, isn’t whether or not sun and wind are useful power sources; the question is whether it’s possible to power industrial civilization with them, and the answer is no.

    That doesn’t mean, in turn, that we’ll just keep powering industrial civilization with fossil fuels, or nuclear power, or what have you. Fossil fuels are running short—as oilmen like to say, depletion never sleeps—and nuclear power is a hopelessly uneconomical white-elephant technology that has never been viable anywhere in the world without massive ongoing government subsidies. Other options? They’ve all been tried, and they don’t work either.

    The point that nearly everyone in the debate is trying to evade is that the collection of extravagant energy-wasting habits that pass for a normal middle class lifestyle these days is, in James Howard Kunstler’s useful phrase, an arrangement without a future. Those habits only became possible in the first place because our species broke into the planet’s supply of stored carbon and burnt through half a billion years of fossil sunlight in a wild three-century-long joyride. Now the needle on the gas gauge is moving inexorably toward that threatening letter E, and the joyride is over. It really is as simple as that.
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  5. la nomina di Piacentini - ottima persona - ripropone con forza la questione della dualità tra tecnocrazia e democrazia. Ed è decisamente un punto (un altro) a favore della prima. Con la politica che si piega alle "capacità tecniche" del manager ignorando o fingendo di ignorare i contenuti politici e culturali che questi immette nella gestione della cosa pubblica e gli interessi economici che questi sostiene (tanto più sapendo di tornare a pieno ruolo a Seattle tra due anni).

    È interessante come questa cessione di ruoli dalla democrazia alla tecnocrazia avvenga in contemporanea con lo scenario dei tre top manager (Sala, Parisi, Passera) candidati a sindaco di Milano: altra storia, naturalmente, e su cui qui non ritorno, ma con tratti simili: cessione - o resa - ai tecnocrati "capaci", nella finzione che questi non abbiano carature e interessi politici.

    Peccato che invece la tecnocrazia non sia neutra, politicamente: è di parte, è una parte. E per averne conferma, se proprio non si ha tempo e voglia di leggere saggi e analisi sull'ideologia della Silicon Valley, basta vedere cos'è diventata l'Europa, in mano a tecnocrati da due o tre decenni.
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  6. Before you wander into lifelong parenthoodery, here are some things to consider (that maybe you’ve been told, maybe you haven’t).

    There’s no such thing as being “ready”.
    You can’t be ready for something you can’t know. There is no ready. There is only the decision to have a child or not to have a child. That’s all preparation you can possible possess.

    Having a pet is as much preparation for a child as watching the moon landing prepares you to be an astronaut.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2016-02-10)
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  7. Ho cercato di rivedere quasi uno per uno i punti che Carlo Troilo ha sollevato, cercando non di dare una verità assoluta, ma una prospettiva, senza dubbio diversa, che cercasse di riportare equilibrio al dibattito.
    La materia dei rapporti Stato–Chiesa è stata ridotta fin troppo facilmente, a dir la verità, ad un semplicistico quanto populistico catalogo di presunti privilegi. Se poi si volesse dar vita ad una revisione dei Patti Lateranensi, e se ne può parlare, sicuramente lo spirito non sarebbe quello giusto.
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  8. Indeed, the later point was noted by Indian regulators, who in a policy memo noted that programs such as Free Basics pose a problem for users because “knowledge and outlook … would be shaped only by the information made available by those select offerings.”

    The World Wide Web Foundation, which supports the notion of universal Internet availability, would seem to agree. After Monday’s ruling, Renata Avila, a Global Campaign Manager for the foundation’s Web We Want initiative said, “We can’t create a two-tier Internet — one for the haves, and one for the have-nots.”

    Down the road, the issues only grow, as the plan sets some dangerous precedents.

    Internet service providers would like nothing better than to offer their services according to the cable TV plan with tiered pricing. They already do this where they can, with levels of broadband speeds as well as with metered and unlimited bandwidth plans. Free Basics opens the door for metered content as well.

    It’s not hard to imagine that after a couple of years of Free Basics, and with folks in countries where it’s implimented getting so used to the idea of artificially selected content that they see it as the norm, that some ISP will make a new move to “help the poor.” Those who can’t afford access to the entire Internet could try the nominally priced “Expanded Free Basics” plan, offering access to the Web’s top fifty sites. For a little more, users might move up to a Bronze plan, offering a thousand sites, a Silver plan with 10,000 sites or Gold, with a million. The well off could stick with the Ultimate package that includes the entire Internet.

    Monday’s ruling by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India didn’t mention either Facebook or Free Basics by name, but seems to end the legality of what ISPs and mobile providers call “zero rating,” or content that is free or not metered, while making exceptions for emergency services, “or at times of public emergency.” The ruling also affects other “zero rating” services, such as Flipkart, a popular shopping app that’s offered with no data charges by some carriers.

    The teeth in this ruling are primarily in public perception, as the penalties for violation are light: only 50,000 rupees (about $740) a day to a total maxiumum of 5 million rupees. The new regulation will be in effect for two years.

    Although this might be seen as a backwards step in efforts to bridge the digital divide, the World Wide Web Foundation’s Avila sees it differently and offers what she thinks is a better approach to creating Internet access equality. “We call on companies and the government of India to work with citizens and civil society to explore new approaches to connect everyone as active users,” she said, “whether through free data allowances, public access schemes or other innovative approaches.”
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  9. I take my hat off to Fabian and Jennifer, who’ve made a real difference helping to take away the fear of plastic waste and turning it into something positive and useful – cleaning beaches and creating useful objects. They join a group of motivated individuals who are using 3D printing to make a positive change such as Better Future Factory and Refil.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2016-02-10)
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  10. Se insieme alle variazioni dei decessi si considera anche la variazione del numero dei soggetti a maggior rischio di morire, il fenomeno viene molto ridimensionato. Cosa confermata da analisi effettuate partendo da dati di mortalità regionale e decessi ospedalieri, che suggeriscono come la mortalità dell’inverno 2014/2015 sia in linea con la media degli anni precedenti ma superiore al 2014 (anno anomalo). L’eccesso estivo, per il quale la correzione demografica è meno rilevante, sarebbe invece confermato e attribuibile alle ondate di calore.
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