1x40: Zero-Dollar Energy

Jeremy Garcia, Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, and Stuart Langridge present Bad Voltage, in which things are longer than normal. Featuring doughnuts with the jam not in them, many many percentages, and:

  • The new release of elementary OS Freya makes us think about their funding model and their design-led approach, and whether it's all a good idea (2.02)
  • Stuart reviews an attempt to put together a music player for his parents with OpenElec and the Raspberry Pi 2 (26.40)
  • Bryan has objections, sometimes, to vaccines. We unjustifiably accuse him of being a lunatic anti-vaxxer and he explains his viewpoint, after which we get into a discussion of scientific data and public health policy, and generally Have The Vaccine Debate (41.10)

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“If someone takes a shit in your dinner, what you need is less shit, not more dinner”

Words to live by, right there.


If I want to know the truth about Linux I wouldn’t ask a group of medical doctors, and conversely I don’t think anyone should trust Bryan’s information on vaccines - which is opposite of the AMA’s recommendations: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/ama-wire/ama-wire/post/physicians-agree-vaccination-crucial-public-health

People who are experts in one field commonly fall into the trap of thinking they’re experts at everything and more informed than they actually are. The result is very smart people saying very stupid things. Perhaps the show should refocus its scope.


We are not claiming we are experts, we are just having a discussion. It is up to the listener to decide what they think.

Also, Bad Voltage has never just been about LinuX. We have covered guns, atheism, and more before.

I know the show isn’t solely about Linux, and can be about anything you want.

That said: Perhaps I’m in the minority of listeners, but I don’t find the opinions on non-tech subjects to be informative or interesting. I only signed up for an account here as a last ditch effort to respectfully express the strong desire for the show to concentrate on the areas within the expertise of the hosts, rather than those topics (some of which you named) that make a lot of us think about clicking the unsubscribe button.


I appreciate your thoughts on this, @3vi1, and it is always great to hear what people do and don’t want us to discuss.

It should be noted though, that we never set out to do a show about Linux or Open Source spedcifically: in the past we have covered gaming, music, guns, atheism, and all manner of other topics. Even then, within the Open Source world we have covered Ubuntu, ElementaryOS, SuSE and others.

There is always going to be things in the show you are interested in and not interested in. We hope you stick around and keep listening and the simplest solution for bits you are not interested in is to skip the segment. This is why @sil puts the times in the show notes.

I do suggest though that you don’t skip the segments you are less interested in. One of the things I am proud of with Bad Voltage is that I think we always bring a set of perspectives, not just a single perspective. Take the vaccinations segment for example: here there were four quite different viewpoints, and the segment was peppered with data and material that each of us used to illustrate our thoughts.

Now, should people listen to us more than a doctor Hell no. But then again, should people listen to us about technology more than anyone else? Probably not.

Bad Voltage is supposed to be fun, thought-provoking, and informative, and I don’t believe we can achieve this if we only cover a narrow set of topics.

Now, to be fair, we cover Open Source topics about 90% of the time, so I think you will be happy, but I just wanted to provide some background context on why we run the show as we do.

Thanks, and I hope you keep listening, @3vi1!

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Actually… it’s not. My stance is purely pragmatic. Take advantage of the vaccines that make sense for you based on locale, personal health history, etc… The opposite of my approach would either be “use every single vaccine that gets developed without thinking about it – even if it harms your health” or “don’t ever use any vaccine under any circumstances – even if it harms your health”. Both of those viewpoints would be quite bonkers.

I’m not entirely sure I’m an expert in any field. But I sure do like talking.

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Word. Especially @sil.

I don’t either, a point that I attempted to make with some fervour during the discussion.

More importantly, though, I don’t see that discussion as being about convincing any listener of our views, either mine or @bryanlunduke’s (or Jono’s or Jeremy’s in between). Instead, it’s about the process by which such views are arrived at; it’s a sociology discussion. Why do people hold differing views about science? What do we learn from studying opposing views? Vaccines, in that discussion, is merely the subject of the conversation; it’s not the point of it.

To me, that’s exactly the same as the conversation about the new elementary OS Freya release. We didn’t, and generally do not, talk about the detailed technology – which kernel version or Gtk version that Freya is using, or how it’s all compiled. Instead, it’s about how it’s presented; elementary take a very design-led approach to everything, which is unusual in the open source OS world (the only other people I know who even try are Canonical), and how does that change of approach deliver differences? What’s good about it and what’s bad about it? Is professionalism in press releases more or less important than developer documentation or kernel ABI stability or customisation hooks or an app store? Again, that’s really sociology, not technology, because that’s what’s interesting. The choices we make, about science, about technology, about politics, and what this means for our science and our politics and our technology as humankind. That, for me, is what the show’s about. If I were to talk about the things I’m actually recognisably expert in, then (a) we’d be the JavaScript and web business consultancy show (sponsored by Kryogenix Consulting Ltd!), (b) the other three presenters would be very, very bored, © so would almost all of you. A discussion of why @bryanlunduke makes certain choices about science (and why I think he’s wrong) and one of why @jonobacon makes certain choices about laptop purchases (and why I think he’s wrong) seem closely related to one another.

I hope you keep listening, @3vi1, but I wouldn’t want to promise that the show will solely focus on open source software reviews in the future, because it won’t. Feel free to skip segments that you’re not interested in, of course (as noted, this is why I explicitly put the times in the show notes).


Also, I would like to recognise here this respectfulness, and point out that it’s appreciated. Thank you.

Indeed. :slight_smile:

It was nice that the segment on Elementary OS was not a review of the OS itself. One can find many of such elsewhere. I did like the discussion you had about it, a perspective that I was unaware of.

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I wanted to start off by saying I am a big fan of the show but this weeks discussion on vaccines motivated me to sign up for a community account.

I wanted to thank Brian for participating in this weeks discussion on vaccines. It is not an easy thing to know you are in a minority not only on the show but in general public opinion and argue your own personal views. I thought it was an interesting exercise to see some of the reasoning behind his own views and how he arrived at a viewpoint that is so different from the cultural norm. It is important that people question the assumed common knowledge because sometimes it is wrong.

Please excuse spelling and grammatical errors, expressing my thoughts in written word is not a skill I have mastered.


And we, good sir, are a big fan of you.

Too true! And that’s something we, as Open Source-loving Linux nerds, should be comfortable with doing. :smile:

Looks like you nailed it, to me.

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… sorta.

We actually aren’t talking about different information or facts. We’re talking about differing opinions on practical application based on interpretation of the same core set of facts.

And, interestingly, both discussions quickly become “religious” in nature – not “Christianity” and “Buddhism”, mind you… but definitely religious. And I find that absolutely fascinating.


Just chiming in here on whether or not vaccines should be discussed at all, I think that’s part of the charm of the Bad Voltage podcast. Yes - I know it’s going to be linux focused, which is awesome. But I love when the hosts of the show delve into topics like soylent, blenders, vaccines, etc. It’s a tech-centric podcast, but I think the tangents are really fun.


The four of us very much appreciate the respectfulness. Do you have any evidence that “a lot” of listeners consider unsubscribing based on us covering non-technical topics? We very much pitch the show as “topics one or more of the presenters find interesting”, which often results in technical topics because of who those presenters are. We don’t claim to be experts on any topic and as I mentioned in the Soylent review, you should do serious research and consult a professional before making any decision based on something you heard from someone you don’t know on the Internet.


I guess I generally agree with Bryan. Or moreso the compromised position he seemed to be defending. People should always be able to criticise scientific facts and it’s a serious problem when people get zealous about scientific opinions.

The history of scientific development is paved with great people, who, while having a great deal of positive input on many topics, also were just wrong in other areas; Hawking and Einstein are good modern examples of this. A particularly good and relevant example would probably be the Roman doctor Galen. A lot of his work was destroyed in the end of the Roman empire but what remained eventually became textbook throughout Europe. While places his works were available and used by practitioners of medicine benefited greatly from his work, a certain zeal of treating the works as more than just the notes of a talented physician slowed development by stopping people correcting some of Galen’s more flawed concepts.

That said I’m not sure Bryan is as impartial as he would have us believe. If his daughter had only had a limited selection of vaccines I would support his position utterly but a lack of any at all suggests that either Brian flunked mathematics pretty hard or he isn’t being quite as impartial as he suggests.

No, it’s just a feeling I have based on my own reaction. But, it’s easy to believe that people interested in Vaccine or Atheism debate would have already gotten plenty of info/opinions on that from the great Skeptic’s Guide To The Universe podcast, as I have over the years. Discussing it on Bad Voltage seems shallower and redundant.

Anyway, thanks for letting me voice my opinion - and many more happy shows to you all whether you agree or not.

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