Category Archives: soapbox

No talent in the Philippines?

SpecOps Labs thinks there's not enough IT talent in the Philippines.

What a totally bogus excuse. You have no idea how angry that makes me. I'm going to rant about it at length today, but I'm going to post this in advance so that you can respond on your own blogs. E-mail me or use the feedback form so that I can link to your entry.

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Where should mailing list replies go?

John Billings writes:

I'd also like to change it so that when you hit reply the messge goes to the list and not the sender.

Although this is common behavior, there are good reasons to consider keeping the current setting of not overriding Reply-To. This is a fairly religious topic thoroughly covered in the following pages:

Keeping Reply-To intact:

Overriding Reply-To:

(Not that number should indicate anything, but the pages are interesting in themselves.)

Here are the reasons why I think not overriding Reply-To: makes sense for this community.

The Mail-Followup-To: header is often used to redirect a thread to another, more appropriate mailing list. For example, if something on the admin mailing list becomes of general interest, then you could add a Mail-Followup-To: header that automatically redirects replies to that message to, say, the people mailing list. On the other hand, if the admin mailing list overrides Reply-to: and no one distinguishes between Reply and Followup, then people would have to make a conscious effort to post to the right mailing list.

Also, discarding the Reply-To: set by the user loses information and makes it difficult to send off-list replies to people whose originating addresses may not be the same as their preferred address. This is the case when people have multiple e-mail addresses subscribed or recognized so that they can send mail from anywhere, but prefer receiving all their list mail through one account (gmail, for example, so that it can be archived nicely).

Many mailing lists choose to override the Reply-To: in order to accommodate people who don't distinguish between Reply and Follow-Up, but the distinction makes it much easier for people who are used to making conscious decisions to reply on or off list. Your mail client should have a separate command for Follow up, which you can use for replying to mailing lists. I recommend keeping the current setting for NIPL mailing lists.

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More thoughts about home

ka edong is right. we do what we can. but coming back to the philippines? i dunno. opportunities are not as plenty in the philippines as in, say, the us, canada, australia or japan. especially in my field (chemistry). how am i expected to do science if i have to think what i'll eat tomorrow? and what of instrument and equipment? i only want to do science, and where ever there is an opportunity, i'll go there. your desire to help the philippines by going back is great. i admire that. tell me that again after five years, and i'll admire you more. -

I've heard some people can do six months in one country and six months in the other. In fact, it works quite well: skip winter, skip really hot summers... If you're important enough to a lab or company that they'll let you do that, or you run your own business, then that's very doable.

Sometimes it's not about exploring the limits of what you can do for yourself, but rather finding out how you can improve as many people's lives as possible. In the process of finding out how to apply what you know to people's lives, you might find that you can go farther and faster than you imagined.

I like computer science, but I don't want only to do computer science. I want to help people learn life management and communication skills, and technology is just a way for me to do that.

Let's use a better example. You'd think biotechnology would be something needing millions of dollars in lab equipment, right? But technopreneur Maoi Arroyo's not in some comfy lab in MIT or Cambridge. She's out there, jumpstarting the Philippine biotech industry by helping people commercialize their discoveries—while remaining hooked into the global scene, jetsetting and making deals with people overseas. Not bad for someone in her twenties.

But technology and science are different, you might argue. Science is a pursuit of knowledge for knowledge's sake. Let's look at Kendra Castillo, taking up her master's in environmental management at UP. She may not have the supersensitive equipment or the finegrained meteorological data available in other countries, but there are _real_ questions still addressable by the lab she joined. The lack of resources forces her to be more resourceful and inventive. It's frustrating to deal with incomplete data and broken equipment, but that only opens up more questions to tackle through research.

The only limits are those we set ourselves. Sure, the Philippines may not have given us much. It may not give us opportunities to be highly paid for doing exactly what we do. But the secret to success is realizing that we _make_ our opportunities. We determine our future.

I want to make the Philippines better and I am willing to devote time and effort to doing this. Just words for now. I'm naive and idealistic, perhaps. But I know older, more accomplished people who are doing just that. They're bridging the divide through their efforts. They care about nationbuilding. Through their initiatives, they create jobs and wealth and _meaning_ for people who are just waiting for opportunities to come their way.

It's not too late to discover how you can make a difference. All you have to do is try.

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コンピュータは非常に複雑な仕事を瞬時にすることができる。 Computers are capable of doing very complicated work in a split second.

Not the only one

It's great to know that I'm not the only one who thinks loving one's country isn't passe. From a chat with Jijo:

 Hey Sacha! How are things in Canada? I just read your
              entry on coming back home to the Philippines. Very very
              very positive attitude! If more progressive people like
              you (and me!) thought more about what we can do for this
              country than merely what it can do for us, I'm sure it
              wouldn't be in the rut it is now. We have a lot of work
              to do, but as early as now, brava! :)
 Awww... =)
 Things are fine in Canada, although I _really_ need to find
         other Filipinos who care about the Philippines and don't go
         on and on about the Good Life here or say things like "You
         know, I was also patriotic when I was young..."
 I read the "Walang Kwenta Ang Pilipinas" email that's been going around.
 I couldn't finish it because I found that it just said
              too much of the obvious and the wrong. We all know we're
              in a rut, and just writing about the rut we're in
              doesn't solve things.
 Your blog entry, though short, inspired me. Knowing that
              I have like-minded colleagues like you give me the
              strength to continue standing up for this country,
              amidst the exodus of professionals and the shit that our
              politicians just keep ramming down our throats.
 I hope you find more like-minded people there. The
              feeling of being the only one can be very discouraging.

Ka Edong of Technobiography also wrote, "There's a lot to be done for the Philippines. We do what we can."

Awww. =)

I want to find other Filipinos in Toronto who are passionate about nationbuilding and who believe we can do something even from this distance.

I know people like that can exist outside the country. I mean, if MIT has enough people to start MIT PESO, why not UToronto?

私たちは時間を節約するためにコンピュータを使った。 We used the computer in order to save time.

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Working with Emacs

A recent post on the Philippine Linux Users' Group suggested a separate plug-emacs mailing lists for all the Emacs messages that have popped up recently. The suggester said:

There is a difference between discussion and stroking each other's ego. :)

Working with Emacs is a humbling experience. It brings you face to face with accumulated centuries of developers' work. Emacs involves people in its development to an unusual extent. Working with vi and even Eclipse made me feel more like a user than a co-developer. Working with Emacs made me feel part of the community, even when I was still struggling to make sense of the parentheses.

If in that sense, Emacs worship is considered ego-stroking, then sure, I'm guilty. I can't help but express my appreciation for one of those things that has really changed my life and made free, open source software really meaningful to me. For the culture, really, that made it possible. It's a piece of software, but it's also a conversation with so many developers around the world.

To newbies: if you're curious about the thrills of open source development and you want a nice, easy way to get started, why not try modifying Emacs? It's easy to pick up. All the source code is there, and you can modify it on the fly. We've had complete non-programmers try it out and fall in love with programming. They get thrilled when they share their tweaks and other people respond with comments and suggestions. This is good stuff. Try it out. =)

I suppose Emacs is off-topic. After all, it's cross-platform, not Linux-specific. I could easily be extolling the wonders of Emacs on Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, or BSD. Emacs doesn't require Linux. (Neither does Apache, but you don't see people waxing lyrical about web servers that often, do you?) The flood of Emacs-related posts that deluge the list whenever someone unwittingly brings up the topic is probably incomprehensible to people who've never tried Emacs or tried Emacs as just an editor and didn't like it.

Still, I want to share what makes open source real for me. Not kernel hacking, which is still too intimidating despite the existence of projects like kernel-janitor. Not network or system administration, which I don't have the patience to do. Just the free and flexible customization of something I use everyday and the thrill of sharing these customizations with other people in a community that spans the world.

I guess that's why I post on PLUG instead of plug-misc. I don't think PLUG should just be a venue for asking and answering technical questions, but also for sharing nifty hacks and examples of how far a Linux system can be pushed. Other people push their systems in terms of hardware and services. I push mine in terms of how well it can fit me, how well it can anticipate my needs.

I want to stroke other people's egos. I want people to discover how they can contribute to free and open source software, to experience the thrill of seeing their code out there and being used. Open source development isn't just for PHP wizards or C freaks who can contribute to existing projects or launch an entirely new project on their own. Maybe—just maybe!—people who thought themselves just users of a text editor will be inspired to think about how they can start customizing their own.

コンピュータを使えば時間に節約になる。 Computers will save you a lot of time.

clair ching says:

I can't help but agree with you. Emacs is the way that I appreciated FOSS more compared to GNU/Linux per se. Why? It's because I easily felt part of the community of Emacs users and hackers on the Emacs Wiki. That kind of interaction makes it less scary for newbies, IMHO. I mean, not all people on the Emacs Wiki are very friendly, I suppose, but the ones I have interacted with as I was learning to use various tools and modes available showed me that I can do something for the FOSS community, which is to write about what I learn. I don't even know ELISP but at least I know that my blog entries are helpful to others too. =)

I guess we have been too giddy over Emacs on the PLUG mailing list that is why someone suggested that. Well, I know I have always been giddy about it but I can't help myself! ^_^ Emacs is wonderful...

Besides there are so many hacks in Emacs that make FOSS usage, learning and advocacy so much fun! Like the Planner mode that allows me to somewhat organize my life, my thoughts, my schedule. Eshell allows me to do some things without opening a separate terminal. In Planner, I also store my notes on advocacy and my blog entry drafts. I also listen to music on Emacs. And when something goes wrong on whatever mode I am using, I can email the maintainer immediately, to tell him/her what happened so that the bug can be fixed, etc. I try to be as detailed as possible when I do that. So I guess that is my contribution. =)

In any case, I also enjoy the company of people using Emacs, not just because we talk about Emacs but because I am learning so much about you guys =)

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Hipster PDA: Waste of paper?

An insightful but anonymous person wrote in:

Not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but even though the HipsterPDA is excellent for notetaking etc., it really is a waste of paper!

"My notes and to dos are NOT a waste" I hear you cry. But that's not what I'm referring to. I'm referring to using ONE index card for writing a phone number, or an address, or a task. When this information is then transferred to the necessary electronic or paper area, the card is thrown in the trash - what a waste!

I apologise to those of you who recycle your cards, but from the many articles, comments I've read re: HipsterPDA, most people just trash the card and that's it.

I'm not a great fan of the digital world, but this disrespect for paper (and ultimately the rainforests) is just not on.

Hmm. Good point. Index cards require more processing than cheap paper notebooks do. I like the feel of heavy paper, and index cards require more chemicals and raw material than paper notebooks do.

I use one index card for all my notes regarding a meeting (and sometimes two if I need to segregate topics or spill over). I throw the card away after I get the data into my Planner. I don't really use my index cards for keeping track of tasks, as most of my tasks so far have been computer-related. My deck of index cards is really more for jotting down notes, making quick sketches, or giving information to other people.

I feel the trade-off is justified. I work better with index cards. A pack of 100 or 500 index cards is a small price to pay if it helps me keep track of things I should do or little nuggets of information I should pass onto other people.

Even if you multiply that by all the billions of people in the world, as long as they use their index cards to help themselves keep track of things worth keeping track of, then I think that's a net win for the earth.

Conservation is important, but it is not enough to see the evil in little things. We make a lot of choices that cost the environment. Food. Clothes. Housing and furniture. Should we stop eating because cooking by gas or electricity uses a lot of energy from non-renewable sources and the amount of waste going on in fast food places and restaurants is staggering? Should we stop patronizing bookstores because the vast majority of books don't get read and reused? Should we take our fingers off our keyboards now in protest against the way computers contribute to environmental problems? Should we take direct steps to end the world's population problem? We make choices.

In this case, I think my pack of index cards is certainly worth it. I respect paper, which is why I write down things that are worth writing down. I respect trees. I really, really like trees, and wish we had more in the city.

After I fill up the card and store it somewhere, I won't be able to use it a lot. I could write on my cards with a pencil and erase my writing until the card falls apart, but my time and the earth's time isn't worth that.

It's good to look for ways to save the environment. Reduce, reuse and recycle. However, don't lose sight of the forest for the trees. Little things matter, but if they help you do better things, then maybe it's worth it. You just need to make sure that what you're doing is worth the cost.

It's one more thing to add to the pile of recyclable material (not that garbage is really segregated in this country), one more problem contributing to the death of the earth, but it's something I choose to use. Not that this is going to convince hard-core environmentalists that I'm not a selfish, evil person, but at least I know and take responsibility for my choice.

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