Sunday, August 17, 2003

I spent my days this week reading, writing, and thinking about solution methods for structured eigenvalue problems. I spent my evenings reading about political and legal matters, particularly those relating to copyright. I finished reading Lessig's The Future of Ideas, which is an extended essay on and recent history of copyrights, intellectual property, and the tension between open use of resources and governmental or commercial control. I've also been reading about the SCO vs. Linux circus (see summaries at Computerworld or ZDNet). Briefly, SCO claims the copyright to code released by IBM into recent versions of the Linux kernel. They've initiated law suits against IBM and RedHat, and are making threatening noises toward Linux users in general. Whether or not they legally hold rights to pieces of the code -- and the history of Unix and its relatives is sufficiently tortuous that I'm unsure -- SCO's general strategy seems indefensible. But I'm not a lawyer, and I suppose SCO's antics are no sillier than the dynamics of the California recall election.

I strive to write directly and clearly when I describe my work. Writing well is difficult, but it's ultimately rewarding: not only do I gain insight by writing and rewriting my abstracts, talks, and papers, but I have the opportunity to influence someone else. I want the ideas and codes I develop to be understood and used. That's a powerful motivating force for many: scientists and engineers, programmers and philosophers, and doubtless many writers and artists. I read about strategies in which businessmen and lawyers try to exploit or defend exclusive use of intellectual property which they do not understand or want to understand, and which the developers would probably prefer to share, and I feel frustrated.

And after I spend some time feeling frustrated, I eat and sleep and wake to write some more.