Saturday, April 14, 2012

Learning to snowboard and picking gear

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

I started snowboarding around Pi (3/14) in 2011. My first venture was out to Kirkwood in Tahoe. I went with my coustin Pico who was out visiting me in San Francisco. I had not expected to try snowboarding as I thought it would be painful to learn and I already was starting to feel comfortable with skiing. I also didn't know squat about snowboarding... and neither did my cousin... She really wanted to learn so being the crazies we are, we just tried it, without taking any lessons, without input from anyone, we just winged it.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

"Fuck guac, get an avocado and put a chip on it" (tm). That was our general attitude for the entire trip we were making. We were traveling frugally, winging it, not caring much about anything. It's a good thing because when we arrived to Kirkwood from Yosemite we got there circa 11pm and not knowing the area we were a bit shocked to hear the prices for staying at any of the local Kirkwood hotels... and we also had my dog Mookie (which my cousin later kidnapped from me). We fortunately got a hint about some Hostel called "Rockstar" within Kirkwood we should call (530-318-5046) and check out.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

We got very very lucky. The Rockstar Lodge at Kirkwood was dirt cheap, allowed dogs, and... had a ping pong table, a pool table... and had a groovy young crowd crashing there. As you can see above too, the amount of snow that fell this season was amazing. That's a window at the Hostel.

Captain Morgan joined us. Here you can see Pico has the Captain in her...

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

Having a little Captain in you helps if you are learning to snowboard. Its painful. You will suffer, you will experience pain, you will complain, your ass is going to hurt for a while, but -- you will have fun. I recommend to go prepared for 3-4 days of mental anguish, desperation and pain.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

We rented gear from Sports Basement in San Francisco. They give you what I think are Burton Rockers with some cheesy bindings and boots. Given the price the cheap rental equipment is reasonable if you're not sure if you're going to get into it. As soon as you realize you like Snowboarding though ditch the crap rental stuff and quickly move on to demo equipment. The nice thing about snowboarding is that after being in hell for about 3-4 days, the next few days after that will feel increasingly rewarding. If you move away from cheap rental equipment to demo equipment you'll even feel a greater difference.

That season though I didn't move away from the cheap rental shit... and I felt the pain. As you get better and move from Greens (Beginners) to Blues (Intermediate) trails the biggest issue will be the discomfort felt on the feet and the tiredness on the legs and feet. Unfortunately the only way to work on that is to keep doing it. It gets better, I promise. I was so hooked on snowboarding after that trip I kept going almost every weekend until the season ended. Fortunately that year we had a great season and we had snow even toward the end of April. Towards the end of the season I even had grown the cojones to go to the top of Heavenly at 10,000 feet to cross over to the Nevada section, and even dared it down my first set of black diamond runs. Heavenly has an awesome view up there, on one side you see Lake Tahoe, and on the other you see the Nevada desert.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

I liked snowboarding enough I committed to renting a cabin in South Lake Tahoe for the 2012 season with a few good friends from SF. The price was not bad considering how often I was going last season and crashing at motels or hostels, it came out to $250 / month for 3 months. It had a hot tub :D The leased turned out to have worked really well and met really great folks. I think I ended up going up almost every weekend. It worked really well given that a few of my friends also worked from home in SF so we typically went up Thursday night, worked from home Friday and hit the slopes all day Saturday-Sunday.

Since I knew I was going to go up more often I decided to buy my boots but demo snowboards. You cannot really demo snowboard boots so the best I could do was to try the snowboard boots out at a store. I got my boots from the good folks from Mountain West in SF. The service at Mountain West was great, I highly recommend the place. I tried on a lot of snowboard boots, from all price ranges. At a certain point I couldn't feel the difference anymore. I ended up picking the 2012 Burton Imperial. They're amazing.

I took complete advantage of the fact that you can demo snowboards. Sports Basement has a great deal for demoing, you demo snowboards with nice bindings for $50 for the weekend (same price for Thursday - Monday :D ) and towards the end of the season the amount of money you have spent on demos can be used towards the purchase of a snowboard. Pretty sweet huh? Oh yeah..

I started off with the lightest snowboard on the demo fleet, the 2012 Rome Anthem. I was excited due to the background I got about the company Rome, founded by two folks from Burton who apparently had left for perusing their own vision on snowboard gears, etc. I hated the snowboard though.... Meh. I think it was just too damn light for me. Not sure. I just wasn't feeling it, at all... I moved on to the 2012 Burton Custom X. Woot! Wow. What a difference... I really just wanted to go with that one at that point.. but I felt I wouldn't really be taking advantage of the demo program so I tried others... I actually wanted to avoid Burton since some friends had ranted about Burton... so I listened and tried Lip Tech. There is a company called GNU that makes snowboards. Fellow geeks, it has nothing to do with the GNU project... Lip Tech and GNU are part of one family of companies under Mervin Manufacturing. The only difference I can find is perhaps that Lip Tech innovates stuff while GNU focuses and pioneers on being the world's most environmentally friendly snowboard shop. Both companies sell the same Lib Tech Banana Technology which reverses the typical snowboard's camber. I'm not going to get into snowboard technology here. My advice: ignore all that stupid shit and just try the damn boards out. I tried learning as much as possible about the technology advancements on snowboarding but found most marketing over the technology sucks ass and instead is sugar coded for what seems to be teenager year old punks who marketing would like to believe prefer fun cool words over facts. The slew of low quality marketing videos on YouTube explaining snowboard technologies are just sad. There is much room for improvement on education on snowboard technology. Not only does the materials suck ass, but its also confusing given that every snowboard company bites each other's technology and simply slightly modifies it and gives it a different groovy name. Anyway, I tried the 2012 GNU Billy Goat. That was really nice but unfortunately the bindings that Sports Basement had to offer for that snowboard were not as great as the ones offered through Burton Boards. On Burton boards Sports Basement's highest quality binding is the Burton Malavida and at least I do feel a difference with them. The 2012 GNU Billy Goat felt very comparable to the 2012 Burton Custom X, unfortunately the snow conditions varied when I went up so I couldn't manage to get equal fair comparisons between them, but they were both pretty nice. Something about the Custom X though.. I couldn't place it yet, was just feeling better though. I then moved on to the 2012 K2 Slayblade. This shit was heavy, really really heavy... It wasn't so great on Blue trails but it proved to me to be a great board on steep Black Diamond runs. It turned great and it was fast. For traversals it sucked. Due to the weight it also tired my feet out quite a bit... Moving on... I tried the 2012 Burton Joystick. This was a lot of fun, it felt very close to the Custom X and Billy Goat but I thought that the Custom X let me go faster through traversals, I wasn't sure. Time was running out so I went back to trying the Custom X.

At that point I had advanced quite a bit in technique though. I was doing Moguls on Black Diamonds and loving it, I even tried my first set of Double Black Diamonds. My first double black diamond was down Heavenly's Mott Canyon's Gate 1, which leads you to a route called "Widow Maker" (picture above). I'm surely not ready to sail through this yet, and it gave me good perspective as to what I need to work on. I do feel comfortable down Double Black Diamonds that have moguls though and in fact I love them.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

Well, the only Double Black Diamond with moguls I've tried is the Gun Barrel run at Heavenly. The only sad thing about moguls and snowboarding is that not many snowboarders like moguls and in fact you cannot find any good videos on YouTube to help you learn to snowboard on moguls... The way I learned was by watching one person go down the moguls on a snowboard really well. It was a rare site.. and if you want to learn to go down moguls on snowboards I recommend for you to also wait for your unicorn sighting and learn from it. If anyone is aware of good videos of snowboarders doing moguls please send them my way! Just a warning -- moguls are a hell of a work out :D The challenge is so much fun though. Be sure to work on cardio if you really want to work on moguls often. I even started getting comfortable at terrain parks, nothing fancy, but at least landing jumps and hit my first rail. I've gotten a bit fearless too and that can be a problem.. At one point I took a steep ramp, my friend tells me I didn't go up that high but moved forward in the air about 8 feet -- I landed straight on my ass. Its been about 2 months since that happened. My ass still hurts. After a while falling is part of the fun. You get used to it, and at least for me if I tumble over, even if I do full rollover flips down moguls, or steep hills, I just try to gain balance and continue to move on as soon as I can. Its fun!

And the winner is... The 2012 Burton Custom X! I got a size 160. Due to the Sports Basement demo program (I demo'd 8 times), a 15% Aids Life Cycle discount, I only paid about $80 for the board! Not bad for a board that is listed as close to $700... Now to rave about this board. You literally fly on the snow with this board. If you get fresh powder, oh boy, you feel you have jetpack on. It handles turns really well, I love it on the moguls. On long traversals, which unfortunately are very common at Heavenly, this board maintains a high cruising speed. I always fly through everyone on long traversals with this board. Curiously the reviews of this board online are great but the reviews tend to warn beginners to try something different... I found this odd as I felt like a beginner. Perhaps I'm no longer a beginner snowboarder. As for bindings.. you can't demo those and for now I'll just rent until I do more research on them. I have a feeling given my investment on experience and love for the sport I'll just end up getting whatever Burton recommends. I know, punk-sad but.. in the end, in Burton I gained to trust. A little bit of background on the 2012 Custom X -- Burton gave Marko Grilc a chance to help with input on the design for it. According to an interview with Marko Grilc on the 2012 Custom X he first wanted a board well for jumping but also well rounded board. In the end supposedly he uses it exclusively, and recommends it for boarders who want to move on to the next level. I frankly don't give a shit about the marketing hype over it but it was interesting to me that in the end (I only read reviews after I decided) I ended up going with a good board that did seem to meet the same marketing lingo for it -- doing bigger crazier things.

From I am mcgrof's smirking revenge

I just hope that for 2013 we will actually see some snow... There are reported record heat waves across the globe and this has me concerned. I know many of you will be lazy to read the link I just provided so  at the very least please see this video.

I avoid conclusions about this on purpose here.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Localizing the GPL

swiss army knife

Update: read killing proprietary drivers for all OSes for a followup

We have a huge proliferation of FOSS licenses in the community. Each one should be considered as a tool with its own set of capabilities and purpose. The GPL is one of such licenses. I've written about the importance of the GPL before. As an outsider to authoring process of the GPLv3 I now dissect issues I see with the advances of the GPL, the community, and provide some recommendations as a community member. I've noted before how even  IBM, Red Hat, Novell and Intel did provide a draft edit recommendation of the GPLv3. The big software project to persuade to follow the GPLv3 route was Linux, the kernel, and likely the GPLv3 got so much attention due to the possibility of Linux moving over. Linux did not follow though -- but one must not forget the fact that the FSF helps spearhead advances in Copyleft and although the sort of stuff they do state may make a few people cringe, specially businesses who are currently banking on an archaic business models, take it for granted that they are innovating philosophically. Its our roles in the community to take such new suggested philosophies, see to it where we can apply the ideas, and help evolve the ideas and create dialogue.


The GPLv2 is ancient, the Linux kernel is stuck on it, and I frankly do not see the whole project moving away from it any time soon, nor do I have hopes of it. We had the 2006 Kernel developers' position on GPLv3, signed by 10 kernel developers. While this position only represents the views of 10 developers, this statement is based on an old draft of the GPLv2. Times are changing too, and at least the section that deals with assignment of copyrights as a requirement is not really something that we need, this has been proven by SFLC's work on GPL enforcement through the copyrights of only a few developers. Some statements IMHO still do hold true though, particularly those that deal with not changing the freedoms the users of a project already had. But that doesn't mean copyright holders cannot decide at a later time to choose another license. In fact Linus did this himself when he decided for the first time to actually use the GPLv2.

Mount Budawang Cool Temperate Rainforest

A change in licensing of a FOSS project requires a compelling reason to not only address new philosophical ideas but also ensure the project's success and help the ecosystem. The  2006 Kernel developers' position on GPLv3 is trying to ensure that we don't bust the current investments made on the ecosystem, but doing a very poor job at addressing the philosophy. Its not an easy task to do though, after all the FSF deliberates with the community quite a bit before pushing out new licenses, and tackling the philosophy means being actively involved in the process of authorship of the new licenses. Lets not forget that the GPLv3 did have some corporate review as well. I wonder if the GPLv3 might look a bit different today if other new major current stakeholders like Google would be involved in working with the FSF on a new license. What would that look like?

Teslas cornering

As software philosophy evolves though so does software, software evolves faster. Linux in particular has evolved as the most rapidly evolving software project in the world, with impressive stats from Greg KH's kernel-development stats as follows:

3,160 developers 439 companies 12,300 lines added 8,800 lines removed 2,300 lines modified per day for all of 2011 5.77 changes per hour Kernel releases 2.6.37 – 3.2.0 January 2011 – January 2012

I value the philosophy behind the GPL3 and I wish we had a kernel using it and business models in place to embrace it. But we don't. Even if we wanted to relicense a GPLv2 project to GPLv3 is not trivial and this becomes increasingly difficult if the project is large with lots of contributors. The Linux kernel in particular has evolved to a type of project that accepts different types of GPLv2 compatible licenses on it. It also embraces a technique to allow contributors to ensure that their contribution are kept under the same license as the original file by the usage of the Singed-off-by tag on every single commit into the Linux kernel. What this has done is is allow for an ecosystem of GPLv2 compatible licensed files.


The Linux kernel is no longer a GPLv2 only project. The project as a whole is licensed under the GPLv2. Historically there has been a bit of confusion over what exactly can go into the Linux kernel, even among kernel maintainers. This became evident when Nick Kossifidis took OpenBSD's ar5k HAL, ported it to Linux, and we started working on getting a replacement for MadWifi upstream into the Linux kernel. At that time we were under the impression we needed to GPLv2 the content. Theo de Raadt correctly nagged at us that our kernel maintainers should allow GPLv2 compatible files. Rightly so -- this was possible but it required some work and we got the help of the SFLC to accomplish this. After we got ath5k upstream into the Linux kernel, ath9k followed suit, and it became the first completely permissively license driver in the Linux kernel. The goal and intent was simple: keep helping BSDs benefit from the work we made on Linux on the wireless front. I have helped spearhead a an effort to use permissive licenses in other areas of of Linux, even in userspace -- examples are CRDA, wireless-regdb, regsim -- a userspace regulatory simulator. I even relicensed the Linux kernel's regulatory core code to the ISC permissive license to help share more with the BSDs -- and this wasn't easy... it required getting ACKs from 24 of the contributors to it, took about 2 months and even had to address the contributions of two deceased developers to the Linux kernel... I hope it is clear that I've taken to heart the idea of sharing with the BSDs. Dot.

Tux & The BSD Daemon

Not to seem contradictory but I still value the GPL. In fact I remember quite a few times, maybe countless now, where some BSD developers have gotten worked up about how their code is used. If the GPLv2 is old, guess what, the BSD license is older. In terms of philosophy the only thing innovative about the permissive ISC license has is it has been made simple due to the Berne Convetion. The beauty about FOSS though is you have the freedom to work on the projects you want to though and you get then to express, use, and give freedoms to others in software the way you want to. I choose to help share as much as I can when it makes sense with the BSD family and even proprietary drivers (to kill them). I strongly believe it helps with the FOSS ecosystem as a whole.

Areas where sharing makes no sense though I am a big proponent of considering new licensing techniques though. For example, and to make one last strong statement against why its hard to consider the GPLv3 for the Linux kernel, as an experiment I've started toying with the idea of relicensing the Linux kernel backporting project I work on to automatically backport the Linux kernel on to the GPLv3. The most difficult technical issue I found was that GPLv2 files that do not have clauses in the license of "GPLv2 or later" would be incompatible with the GPLv3 content. To address this issue on the Linux kernel would be seriously hard. Consider the relicensing effort I went through on just making the regulatory core of the Linux kernel to the ISC license. Imagine doing that for every non "GPLv2 or later" file. Technically when backporting though one makes copyrightable changes to software though in order to make new features / APIs work with older kernels. These changes are copyrightable but I should not be able to GPLv3 content that is GPL only (ie, not "GPLv2 or later"). I didn't even begin to analyze the redistribution implication differences of embracing the GPLv3, but the licensing incompatible differences alone proved sufficient to disregard this idea.

Lightsaber Sy

The strength of the GPL should by no means undermine fostering our ecosystem, and that is exactly what Linux kernel developers sought to avoid back when writing the  2006 Kernel developers' position on GPLv3. I'll take this a step further though and say that the GPL should be treated as one of our most precious tools in our licensing toolbox, but, the weight that it carries must be carefully considered in light of our FOSS ecosystem. Let me provide one clear example. The hostapd project is a successful project that both the BSD and Linux communities reap benefits from, its licensed under a permissive license. It would be detrimental to the community for us to GPLv2 the project at this point. We stand more to gain than to loose by licensing the project under the GPLv2. When we could leverage more support from working with the BSD family or if we want to start bridging other ecosystems and development efforts in them we should consider using a license that suits those needs best.
dumb caveman

Drivers development is not rocket science, even if people make it out to be as such. Drivers should be simple, but due to how hardware development works even if you get all the documentation to a specific piece of hardware chances are that if you try to write a driver based on it that it will not work correctly. Sure, one could ask for the errata to hardware as well, but that's not easy to make available for various reasons. Hardware tends to always have bugs and these bugs are typically addressed through new iterations of hardware, or addressed through software workarounds in software. It is our capacity in the community to address hardware issues really fast, our community's diversity, and through random sampling and reporting that I believe makes FOSS driver development critical for a successful driver to succeed in the long run. This is best explained by Tim Harford's God Complex, when something is so complex at times the best answer typically is not to assume perfect engineering, but instead expect mistakes and engineer around that. I think the community does a great job at addressing this type of engineering. When you understand this and learn to feed it properly, I believe you tend to see projects thrive.

Protect your jewels

Given that we stand more to gain by working with different communities together on driver development and that driver development is not rocket science, we should share more drivers in Linux with the BSD family and in fact we should see if its possible to even share with other OSes. We should use permissive licenses for new drivers, and only localize the GPL on places in the Linux kernel that we feel are our jewels. The GPLv2 does a great job at protecting our assets, but the extent to which it provides protection to all of our assets should be considered. Given that device drivers are not rocket science, to help share more with the BSD family, and other OSes (to kill proprietary drivers), and help foster a better ecosystem between userspace and kernelspace we should prioritize permissively licensing device drivers, and only localize the GPL to areas where we feel we are innovating and differentiating the operating system. An example of a technology that helps differentiate the Linux kernel from any Operating System is the Linux kernel's RCU Mechanism. IBM even has patents over this technology and by implementing this in software and contributing it to the Linux kernel they added software to the Linux kernel with software patents. The nice thing about this though is that IBM provided a sort-of form of an explicit patent grant on it through the Documentation/RCU/RTFP.txt section of the Linux kernel. In any case, the RCU mechanism is innovation and the documentation over it by its authors on the Linux kernel make it clear that proprietary Operating Systems cannot use this software, I guess unless you are willing to pay IBM for licensing these patents. The GPLv2 here was used strategically by IBM, to protect their own investment on Linux, to protect one of their jewels. Companies who invest in FOSS soon realize the value of the GPL, this typically only becomes evident once you are a major stakeholder in software. The days of using just once license for a whole piece of software are over, as software and collaborative development grows we should strategically consider the license and the areas of technology that such licenses are applied to to help foster our ecosystem.