Saturday, May 17, 2008

Open source and its benefits (English essay)

Well, this is another essay I wrote. It's probably the shittiest one.

Source code is the most important thing in computers. These codes are what tell the computer what to do and how to do it. There exist two types of source codes. The first is private source code made from software companies that want to make as much profit as they can. The second is open source code which is made by groups of people and is free for anyone to use. In a short term period, most people would think that private code is better because the programmers work harder on it so they can make more profit. However, open source software has many benefits that people don’t really know about.

Open source software can be modified by anyone because the source code is available to all. This makes it very easy to polish the software by fixing the bugs that are in it. After an individual fixes the bugs, this person shares the code with everyone on the web. For example, “In January 1999, attackers were able to plant a Trojan Horse version of the TCP/Wrappers tool on a well-known FTP site -- since source code is available, the back door was quickly noticed and removed.” (Ross, 1999, para. 3) This was possible only because the code was available to anyone that could read code. Another benefit from having the source code freely available is that software can be released very early because “In many cases where software firms rely on testing services and beta-testers, open-source collaboration offers engineers a third and often highly effective mechanism for cross-checking underlying code.” (Rais, 2007, para. 2) These are reasons why some software developers decide to make their projects open source. While they don’t make much money out of it, they still do from online ads and donations. Companies can also use this type of software.

Another good thing about open source is that it is completely free to use. People that don’t know how to read source code can still use open source software. An example of this is Open Office, which is the equivalent to Microsoft Office. While they have some differences, the users are just as productive on the free software as they would be on the private owned software Microsoft Office (Claburn, 2007, para. 10). Some companies might also want to use open source because of possible zero purchase cost, near-zero vulnerability to viruses, better security, and lower or no fees for upgrading (gbdirect, 2008). For companies, this means that they can have greater profit at every quarter. When these corporations have to buy private software, they have to buy licenses for every computer in which they will be using the software on. These licenses have to be renewed after a specific time lapse. Failure to comply results in legal action and can cost millions for a company. This can all be avoided by using open source software.

Again, a benefit that can be seen with open source is that all the code in most of the softwares can be reused in another program. This gives developers a greater freedom and because of this, more computer programs can be made with an open source code for people to use and enjoy. This cannot be done with private owned computer software because the code is only made available to programmers of that company. There is a law that prevents any programmer from taking code from an open source code and make it into commercial software. This prevents programmers from making open source into paying software and keeps open source programs alive.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The truth about animal testing

The practice of animal testing for the good of human kind is something that has been practiced for a long time now. These procedures are done in order to find cures for many illnesses the human exhibits. However, many people have seen this as something that is wrong because of many reasons. The main reasons are those of the results obtained, the money involved, and the ethics in the laboratories toward the animals.

Many groups are against animal testing because they believe it to be something unethical. They believe that the life of an animal has the same weight as the life of a human being. However, the governments across the globe feel that this is not the case, but most of them do have conditions on this. Most governments have set rules on how and why animals can be experimented on. For example, in the United Kingdoms, scientists must obtain a personal licence, a project licence, and the place or premises where the research is held must be officially approved by the Home Office. Furthermore, no experimentation can be done if the harm done to the animals outweighs the benefits produced to humans. While all these conditions have to be met, most of the time the last one is not. What happens in most cases is that research reaches a dead end and cannot continue on many drugs because of the results. When this happens, time and money is wasted and many animal lives are forfeit. This is not the only way that animals die in laboratories. Many groups have gone undercover to expose what happens in these research buildings. One of these groups, the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), went undercover at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford University, and documented that laboratory technicians laughed as they smashed live mice against bench tops to kill them. Many other groups have done the same thing and found that animals are kept in small cages that prevent any movement, as well as animals being beaten by enraged technicians, and animals being given products that had already been tested. So while regulations are made by the government, they are rarely respected and the government does not do investigations to find out. This is what most angers animal rights groups.

The reason why animal testing is allowed is because the findings of the research conducted have to benefit the lives of humans. Most drugs in the market are tested on animals. Most of these drugs do help humans live a more comfortable life. However, these are just the drugs that are released. As stated previously, many research projects hit dead ends and the drug is never used on a human being. Another reason why a lot of drugs are not released to the market is that the results received on animals are completely different from the ones that could be received in humans. An example of this is TGN1412, the ‘elephant man’ drug. This drug was tested on macaque monkeys and the dose given was five hundred times the one to be used on humans. Because no adverse reactions occurred on the animal test subjects, human volunteers were recruited. After only a couple of minutes that the drug was ingested by six healthy men, they developed life threatening reactions. This happened in a controlled environment, but similar problems happen outside laboratories and with released products. According to the British Medical Journal, no less than five percent of all hospital admissions are due to adverse drug reactions. Two percent of the patients admitted die. The total of mortalities due to this translates to 10,000 people a year. This is three times the number killed in road accidents in the UK. The reason this happens is because the human species is genetically different from every other animal species. Because of this many drugs that give positive results on animals will yield negative results on humans. Thus making these test wrong because the results that benefit humans are not as high as they should be.

To conclude, while the governments have many regulations in order to protect animals from being abused, many of the laboratories do not respect them and no investigations are done, which make this unethical to a greater degree. Furthermore, the results are more negative than positive for human kind. Many of these drugs give adverse reactions.

Video Games - Popularity

When video games first came out more than twenty years ago, they were a big innovation because of the new way people could play games. Games could now be played on the television and not just on the table. Over the years, these video games have evolved and changed in order to keep the same popularity they had when they first came out.

When these games were first brought to the public, they were very simple and did not have much content. However, even though they were, by today’s standards, flawed, they were very popular because they were something that people had never seen before. And example of this type of game is Pong, which was one of the first games to come out, but was very popular at the time. This game was made to resemble table tennis and was a very simple game to play. Although it was simple, it was still very popular. It was so popular that most people know what this game is just by the name. As time went by, the people who created these games started to try a new approach to keep the games popular.

While keeping the games very simple in terms of controls and graphics, the creators started to implement some story into the video games. With this new addition, video games became more popular. Although the stories that these games had were short and simple, they kept their audience entertained. The game Super Mario Bros was a simple game that had a small story to it. The premise of the game was that the main character had to fight his way to the castle in order to save the princess who was being held captive by a monster. This game had a story that was very simple, but yet again the game itself became very popular and is still known today. As the years went by, the stories in the games became more developed and more in-depth than when they first started. In today’s gaming world, a popular game usually has a good story in it. Other aspects of the games have evolved as well.

An aspect that has become crucial to a game’s success is the graphics that it has. At first, video game graphics were very simple and unrealistic. Today, the graphics that we see in video games are very detailed in order to give them a realistic feeling. If we take the previous game titles, the first one, Pong, had a black background, white lines to show the limits of the field, a white circle for the ball and two white rectangles for paddles. The other game was made some years later, but the changes were very notable. The game had different coloured backgrounds, different character designs and many in-game props. Games that are published in the present have graphics that make the user feel like he is playing something that is real. For example, the game DiRT which is a racing game has car designs that are very realistic as well as scenery design that give it a real feeling. This sense of reality in games has made them increasingly popular to the public. This realistic aspect is not only found in the graphics.

Again, something that has kept video games popular is their realistic feeling. As it was previously mentioned, the graphics have played a major role in this. Another thing that has given games a sense of realism is the ability to interact with elements inside the world of the video game. At first, most of the elements were controlled by an artificial intelligence, but what really made games popular was the ability to interact with other gamers. With this, gamers can create communities inside the game. They make new friends in their cyber life. A game that has this element is called Second Life. The user can buy and sell items, houses, food and many other elements in the game. The user can also go into clubs which are made by other gamers like him. With this, the gamer is able to make new friends and play a game while he’s making them. This ability to make friends while playing a game is something that has made video games very popular.

While it is true that being able to play with someone that lives far from the gamer has made these games popular, it is also true that being able to play with a real friend has also contributed to games popularity. An example of this is with the games Guitar Hero and Rock Band. These games can be played with online friends, but they were made so that people can play together. For example, the latter game is most fun when played with friends at a party because up to four people can play it at the same time. When all four people are playing, each one has to contribute to make a song sound like the real version. One has to sing, another one has to play the drums, and the other two have to play a guitar and bass. There exists a vast variety of games like this that make them popular.

To conclude, the popularity of video games is determined by the constant innovations that the creators put in the games every year. These innovations give the public the feeling that they are always trying something that is new when they play.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Why is it that some people that have a psychopathic mind become killers? I guess it's just a minority of these people that do this. I think it's because they don't have a strong enough will. Weird though.