Author Archives: Dan

Most cryptic error message of 2014

My work computer (Windows 7 Enterprise) informed me today with a sad red “x” icon that:

Provider could not perform the action since the context was acquired as silent.

This is now my favorite error message; just barely edging out the message from 2003-era Windows ME which informed my girlfriend that she should contact her system administrator.

How to apply an Open Source License to a US Government Work

This article is also posted to my Intelink blog.

Every so often, a government project manager asks me a question like this:

I’m looking to hire some government guys and I’m interested in young folks hacking on [my project].

So, here’s my predicament:  if they work on the code, their work becomes ‘public domain’ and not something that could be restricted by licenses (at least according to some legal advice I’ve been given).  If the work is the in public domain, I have no way of ensuring that someone won’t take the code and sell it back to the government as their own (because they could modify it and put a proprietary seal on it).

Here’s my question: is there some legal structures that can be put in place to restrict modification, use and distribution like typical software licenses for government-created works?

Here’s some ways this has been done before. Continue reading

Whisky & Peat

I have never been much of a whisky(uisge) drinker.  Until a month or two ago, I had no particular interest in whisky, and I would have said that all whiskies pretty much tasted the same, and not particularly good.

Then, my wife bought me a bottle of Caol Ila (“COOL-Aye-la”), which tasted distinctly different:  It tasted like no substance I could ever remember trying before.  I was not sure I liked it, but it seemed so odd I kept trying it to figure it out.

One day I tried comparing it to some other whiskey (Bushmills, I think) that I happened to have on the shelf.  Bushmills still tastes like pretty much other whiskies, in my opinion.  In the comparison, I discovered to my surprise that I liked Caol Ila.

I shared these thoughts with my wife (who normally doesn’t drink at all), and she tried a small sip:  “It’s peat.”  She has traveled extensively in Ireland and Scotland; the odd smell & taste that I couldn’t figure out was instantly recognizable to her.

When the bottle ran out (a month later?) I thought about getting another – but at ~$55/bottle this is a vice I do not want to acquire as a habit.  Still, I remained curious: were there other whiskies with this same flavor? helpfully provided a chart with whiskies (all scotch) sorted by “peatiness”, measured as phenol parts per million (PPM).

(Aside: There is apparently one Irish whiskey that is also peated: Connemarra.)

Long-story-short: I went out to buy more peated whiskies “for science“.  The first liquor store I tried didn’t have Caol Ila (30-35 PPM) and so I tried Highland Park (20 PPM, $50/bottle).  They carried Lagavulin, (35-40 PPM) but at $70/bottle, that was a non-starter for me. Highland Park was similar to Caol Ila, but not as good.  Later I tried another store, and they also did not carry Caol Ila, and so I tried Laphroaig. (40-43 PPM, $40/bottle)

Before trying Laphroaig, I didn’t get the connection between “peaty” and “smoky”.  Laphroiag, in my opinion, is so smoky, it’s like drinking liquid campfire.  It’s got the peat kick of Caol Ila, but too much (in my current opinion).

I will experiment with blending Laphroaig with other non-smoky beverages to mellow it back to tasty, but so far, Caol Ila has a fascinating peat richness without being overpowering.  I guess maybe I’m a whisky drinker after all.

GLaDOS “for science, you monster”

ArtJamz in Crystal City


ArtJamz in Crystal City

Zette took the Risacher family to “ArtJamz” in Crystal City this morning.  The event was held in the 11th floor of Crystal Square 5, which is one of the buildings across the street from my old office building. There is a lot of empty office space in Crystal City since BRAC Recommendation 133 was implemented.

Since I spent a great deal of time in Crystal City office buildings, being in vacated office space repurposed as an art venue is eerie, or a least cognitively dissonant.

But the light was fabulous and I don’t usually paint, so it was a fun change of pace.

Zette's painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Zette’s painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12


Dan's painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12 working title "Lilith Recaptured"

Dan’s painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12 working title “Lilith Recaptured”



Megan’s painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Luke's 1st painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Luke’s 1st painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12



Luke’s 2nd painting from ArtJamz 2014-01-12

Jame did a painting too, but chooses not to publish it.

Hellekson’s Law: How did I do?

This article is also posted to my Intelink blog.

I learned the other day about Hellekson’s Law, which states that more specific policy can be improved for the general case by removing delimiters that narrow the policy scope.

In particular, the thought was originally formulated with respect to government policies regarding Open Source Software: if there is an agency policy about open source software, then it could be improved by removing the words “open source”.  Whatever policy statement applies to open source software, probably applies to software in general.

This makes sense to me… although I suspect that it doesn’t apply in all cases.  Sometimes there may be specific statements that apply uniquely to open source software, specifically because of it’s open-sourciness.  As the original author of the Department of Defense policy statement on open source software, I’m intrigued:  how did I do?

Let’s analyze the policy/guidance section of the DoD memo and see if it articulates policy that should apply to all software, not just OSS:
Continue reading