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Basic Income as a Minimum Claim to Basic Resources

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Republished from Scott Santens:

“A basic income is in a way a minimum claim to resources, with each person using this to claim the resources most important to them. The fact a basic income is given regardless of work, makes it that much more clear it exists as such a claim on resources based on the shared right to such resources.
This last point is important. No one of us created the Earth. We were all born here. Its resources therefore can be seen as belonging to all of us or none of us. To use its resources that are free, and transform it into something else using human labor, does not change the fact a portion of it always remains owned by none or all because that portion was never created and only transformed.

It is this lack of 100% full individual ownership over anything and everything we create, that provides the justification that every single one of us has a right to a percentage, however small, of everything created by humanity. Therefore a basic income exists as a highly efficient means of representing such a claim to this universally owned portion as well as the means to effect its universal access.

For those familiar with a resource-based economy, basic income is a step in that direction. Instead of saying every human should have a 100% equal claim to all globally available resources, a basic income says that every citizen of a nation or state should have an absolute minimum claim to the natural resources of that nation or state, sufficient to secure individual basic needs, such that there will continue to be humans with a much larger claim, but no one will have less claim than a hard minimum limit.

In the United States 1.1% of all labor is involved in food production. This is because of how far we’ve advanced with our food technology, where we can now create all our food (and even waste half of it), with relatively miniscule effort. So why do we still insist that everyone work in order to eat it? If it took 1.1% less total effort, such that it took 0% of our total effort to produce our food (perhaps being produced by automated Star Trek style food replicators?), would we still insist people work to obtain food? If so, why?

Cash is a very efficient means of resource distribution. It’s a distributed non-centralized system. Is it the best of all systems? Probably not, but it’s what we’ve got right now, and it can certainly exist as a means of allocating individual resource rights, and distributing the goods and services people want to use these resource rights to obtain.

As for the idea that all prices will rise so much, that any attempt to guarantee a minimum allotment will be eroded, that is a huge oversimplification of how massively complex interconnected markets actually work and purely exists as a fear of change.

Think of it this way, what if food stamps didn’t exist? Do you think we would hear people saying we can’t give out food stamps, because it would raise prices so much that there would effectively be no point in giving them out in the first place? I imagine we would. Would they be right? Of course not, because we have food stamps, and they actually do allow more people to eat than would be able to without them. Without food stamps, a lot of people would be far worse off. Has the existence of food stamps raised the price of food for everyone else? If yes, does that mean we are all worse off because of them?

The same can be said of Social Security. Does that cause the prices of everything to rise so much, it isn’t worth it to seniors to receive it? If we didn’t have Social Security, would some people argue that implementing it would drive price inflation? Can you think of anything else we have that if we didn’t already have, we’d hear having it would cause the sky to fall?

We have the infrastructure in place and the technological capability to increase the quality of life for everyone.
We just have to decide to actually do it.”

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The post Basic Income as a Minimum Claim to Basic Resources appeared first on P2P Foundation.

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Should IT Embrace Subscription Licensing

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With big name, traditionally boxed products like Microsoft Office and Adobe’s Creative Suite turning to new subscription licensing models we, as IT, have to look into this model and determine if and when it is right for our businesses.  In some cases, like with MS Office, we have choices to buy boxed products, volume license deals or subscription licenses.  This is very flexible and allows us to consider many alternatives.  With Adobe, however, non-subscription options have been dropped and if we want to use their product line subscription pricing is our only option.  As we move forward this will be a trend more and more and something that all of the industry must face and understand.  It cannot be avoided easily.

First we should understand why subscription models are good for the vendors.  Many people, especially in IT, assume that subscriptions are designed to extract higher fees from customers and certainly any given vendor may raise prices in conjunction with changing models, but fundamentally subscription pricing is purely a licensing approach and does not imply and increase in cost.  It may, potentially, even mean a decrease.

Software vendors like subscription pricing for three key reasons.

The first is license management.  With traditional software purchases it was trivially easy for customers to install multiple copies, perhaps accidentally, of software causing a loss of revenue if software was used but not licensed.  License management was traditionally complicated and expensive for all parties involved.   Moving to subscription models makes it very easy to clearly communicate licensing requirements and to enforce policies.

For customers purchasing software, this change is actually beneficial as it lowers the overall cost of software because it helps to eliminate illegitimate uses of software.  By lowering the piracy rate the cost that needs to be passed on to legitimate businesses can be lowered.  Whether this turns into lower cost for customers or higher margins for vendors it is a benefit to all of the legitimate parties involved.

The second is eliminating legacy versions from support.  In traditional software and support models, customers might use old versions of software for many years resulting in many different versions requiring support simultaneously.  Often this would mean that support teams would need extensive training for a long tail of legacy customers or separate support groups would be needed for different software versions.  This was extremely expensive as support is a key cost in software development.  Likewise, development teams would be forced to be split with most resources focusing on developing or fixing the current software version while some developers would be forced to spend time patching and maintaining legacy versions that were no longer being sold.  These costs were often enormous and meant that great energy was being spent to support customers who were not investing in new software and came at the expense of resources for improving the software and support for the best customers.  The move to subscription licensing generally eliminates support needs for legacy versions as all customers move to the latest versions all of the time.

Again, this is a move that greatly benefits both the vendor and good customers.  It only sometimes is a negative to customers who were relying on being “expensive to maintain” customers who used old software for a long time rather than updating.  But commonly even those customers benefit from not running old software, even if this is not how they would operate if they had their druthers.  The benefits to the vendor and to “good” customers is very large, the penalty to customers that were formally not profitable is generally very small.

The third reason, which is really a combination of the above, is that customers who previously depended on buying a single version of a product and continuing to use it for a very long time, likely many years past the end of support, are effectively eliminated.  These customers, lacking a means to buy in this traditional manner, are normally either lost as customers (which is not a financial loss as they were not very profitable) or they convert to higher profit customers, even if begrudgingly.  This makes vendors very happy – separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.  Cutting lose customers that were not making them money and creating more customers that are making them money.

Now that we have seen why vendors like this model and why we are likely to see more and more of it in the future as large, leading vendors both demonstate the financial value of the change and condition customers to think in terms of subscription license models, we will look at why IT departments and businesses should consider embracing this model for their own reasons.

To the business itself, subscription licensing offers some significant value, especially to finance departments.  Through moving to subscription licensing we are generally able to move from capital expenses (capex) to operational expenses (opex) which is generally seen as favorable.  But subscription value is far larger than that.  Subscription pricing gives cost predictability.  A finance department can accurately predict their costs over time rarely being surprised whereas in the old approach software was largely forgotten and then some need would require an old package to be updated and suddenly a very large invoice would be forthcoming with potentially very little warning (often followed by large re-training expenses due to the possibly large gap in software versions.)  With subscription pricing, costs normally fluctuate fluidly with employee count.  As new employees are hired the finance department can predict exactly how much they will cost.  And when employees leave subscriptions can be discontinued and cost reduced.  Only software that is truly used is purchased.  The need to overbuy to account for fluctuations or predicted growth no longer exists.  Subscription licensing also leverages the time-value of money allowing businesses to hold onto their funds for as long as possible requiring them to pay only for what they use as they use it.

For IT the benefits are even greater.  IT should benefit from having a better relationship with finance and human resources as the costs and needs of incoming or outgoing users are better understood.  This eliminates some of the friction between these departments which is always beneficial.

IT also benefits from the effective enforcement of best practices.  It is common for IT departments to struggle to convince businesses to invest in newer versions of software which often results in support issues and unnecessary complexity and less than happy users.  With subscription pricing, IT is constantly supplied with the latest software for users which, in nearly all cases, is an enormous benefit both to IT and to the users of the software.  This eliminates much of the friction that IT experiences with the business and with management by moving the need for updates to an external mandate and no longer something that IT or the users must request.

IT benefits from easier license management on their end as well.  It is generally far easier to determine license availability and need.  Audits are unnecessary because the licensing process is generally handled (generally, nothing technically requires this) via an authentication mechanism with the vendor which means that unless specific effort is taken to violate licencing (cracking software or some other extreme measure) that licensing accidents are unlikely and easy to correct.

IT may also benefit from easier ability to handle complex licensing situations such as providing a higher feature set level for one user and not for another.  Licenses can often be purchased at a minimum level and upgraded if more needs are discovered.  The ability to easily customize per user and over time means that IT can deliver more value with less effort.

Many of the objections with subscription licensing are not actually with subscription licensing itself.  Often it is a perception of higher cost.  This is, of course, difficult to prove since any given company may choose to charge anything that they want for different license options.  Microsoft offers both subscription and non-subscription license options for some of their key products such as MS Office.  This gives us a chance to see how they see the cost differences and benefits and to compare the options so that we can find the most cost effective option for our own business.  By keeping both models Microsoft can be audited by their customers to keep costs of each model in line.  However, by offering both they also lose many of the benefits that pure subscription models bring such as needing to support only a single version at a time.

Adobe, on the other hand, made the switch from traditional licensing to subscription licensing basically all at once and appears to have decided to raise their prices at the same time.  This is very misleading because Adobe actually raised the price, and it is not the subscription model creating the price increase.  The benefits of subscription pricing are benefits of the model.  The pricing decisions of any given vendor are a separate thing and must be evaluated in the same way that any pricing evaluation is done.

The other common complaint that I have heard many times is an inability to “own” software.  This is a natural reaction but one that IT and business units should not have.  In a business setting software is not owned by people and we should have no emotional ties to it.  Software is just another tool for completing our work and whatever gives us the best ability to do that, at the best price, is what we want.  From a purely business perspective, owning software is irrelevant.  The desire to own things is a human reaction that is not conducive to good business thinking.  It is also very valuable to point out that IT should never have this mental reaction to owning software – it is the business, not the IT department or the IT professionals, who own software in their business.  IT is simply selecting, deploying, configuring and managing the software on behalf of the business that it supports.

Overall I truly believe that subscription licensing models are good, in general, for nearly everyone involved.  They benefit vendors in such a way that it enables them to be more viable and profitable, while making it easier for IT departments to deliver better value to their users often while enforcing many best practices that businesses would otherwise be tempted to avoid.  The improved profitability may also encourage vendors to pursue niche software titles that would have been previously unaffordable to create and support.  Vendors, IT and end users are nearly universal winners while businesses face the only real grey area where pricing may or may not be beneficial to them in this model.

Originally posted on the StorageCraft Blog.

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De mâine se schimbă etichetele produselor

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De mâine, ambalajele produselor alimentare vor conține o serie de informații suplimentare. În toate magazinele din România, etichetele alimentelor vor informa mai bine consumatorii în ceea ce privește valorile nutriționale și ingredientele conținute. Mai ales cele alergene, care trebuie trecute obligatoriu, atât pe produs, cât și în meniurile restaurantelor. Cei care nu respectă directiva, riscă amenzi usturătoare.

Potrivit noilor reglementări prevăzute în Regulamentul Uniunii Europene, din 13 decembrie , toate produsele alimentare trebuie să fie etichetate corect.

Astfel, ingredientele alergene trebuie trecute obligatoriu pe etichete, în cazul produselor din magazine, şi în meniuri, la restaurante. Potrivit regulamentului european, ingredientele cu efecte alergene trebuie trecute pe etichetă, astfel încât să iasă în evidenţă, în cazul produselor ambalate, a celor vândute în vrac sau servite în restaurante. Eticheta trebuie să mai cuprindă şi ţara de origine sau locul de provenienţă pentru carnea de porc, de oaie, de capră şi de pasăre, miere, fructe, legume şi peşte.

În prezent, este obligatorie indicarea originii numai în cazul cărnii de vită şi mânzat, ca urmare a situaţiei create de boala „vacii nebune”. De asemenea, în cazul produselor alimentare cu adaos de cofeină în conţinut, altele decât băuturile pe bază de cafea şi ceai, este obligatorie înscrierea expresiei: „Adaos de cofeină. Nu se recomandă copiilor şi femeilor însărcinate”.

Apoi, din 2016, consumatorii trebuie informaţi, în acelaşi mod, şi despre valoarea nutritivă a alimentelor., respectiv valoarea energetică şi conţinutul de grăsimi, acizi graşi saturaţi, glucide, proteine, zaharuri şi sare. Cei care nu respectă noile prevederi pot primi amenzile sunt între 1.000 şi 10.000 de lei pentru etichetare incorectă şi între 5.000 şi 50.000 de lei pentru practici comerciale incorecte, dacă se constată că informaţiile respective au fost ascunse în mod intenţionat, susţine preşedintele Autorităţii Naţionale pentru Protecţia Consumatorilor, Marius Dunca.

Mai mult, vor fi oprite temporar de la comercializare produsele, până ce vor fi etichetate corect. Operatorii economici vor fi consiliati în ce priveşte aplicarea noilor reglementări. Preşedintele ANPC a precizat că cine nu respectă noile reglementări nu va fi amendat direct, dar produsele care pun în pericol sănătatea consumatorilor vor fi retrase şi distruse, la fel ca pana acum.

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snowdrift - sustainable crowdfunding for free software development

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In a recent blog post, I mentioned how lucky I feel to keep finding ways to work on free software. In the past couple years, I've had a successful Kickstarter, and followed that up with a second crowdfunding campaign, and now a grant is funding my work. A lot to be thankful for.

A one-off crowdfunding campaign to fund free software development is wonderful, if you can pull it off. It can start a new project, or kick an existing one into a higher gear. But in many ways, free software development is a poor match for kickstarter-type crowdfunding. Especially when it comes to ongoing development, which it's really hard to do a crowdfunding pitch for. That's why I was excited to find Snowdrift.coop, which has a unique approach.

Imagine going to a web page for a free software project that you care about, and seeing this button:

1283 patrons will donate MORE when you pledge

That's a lot stronger incentive than some paypal donation dontation button or flattr link! The details of how it works are explained on their intro page, or see the ever-insightful and thoughtful Mike Linksvayer's blog post about it.

When I found out about this, I immediately sent them a one-off donation. Later, I got to meet one of the developers face to face in Portland. I've also done a small amount of work on the Snowdrift platform, which is itself free software. (My haskell code will actually render that button above!)

Free software is important, and its funding should be based, not on how lucky or good we are at kickstarter pitches, but on its quality and how useful it is to everyone. Snowdrift is the most interesting thing I've seen in this space, and I really hope they succeed. If you agree, they're running their own crowdfunding campaign right now.

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Shell script to connecting to a Shibboleth protected web app with curl

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Here’s a shell script I’ve created (reusing one meant for CAS protected resources), which will allow to connect to a Web application protected by the Shibboleth SSO mechanism.

It uses cURL to navigate through the various jumps required by the protocol, perform the necessary posts, etc.
I haven’t read the Shibboleth specs, so it may not be the best way, and may not work in all cases, but that was enough for my case, at least. Feel free to improve it on Github Gists.

After the connection is succesful, one may reuse the .cookieJar file to perform further cURL connections, or even some automated content mirroring with httrack, for instance (see a previous experiment of mine with httrack for Moodle).

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Making good and solid templates

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p { margin-bottom: 7pt; line-height: 120%; }a:link { } When your organization is migrating from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice its important that you provide the users with some good and robust templates. If your users are using LibreOffice in parallel with Microsoft Word or if your users are collaborating with other users outside the organization, then your templates must take this into
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