Code is up

… on Github.


Got around to putting my most useful programming projects up on You can now easily get the newst versions, repost bugs, read the source code and fork the code to make your own version.

The projects that are up so far are:

  • npcg – the random encounters and NPC generator for the AMAR RPG
  • hyperlist.vim – the VIM plugin to easily and effectively manage HyperListS
  • hypergraph – the tool to make graphical representations of HyperListS
  • mailfetch – collect mail from different imap accounts, filter and store locally
  • imaptools – Client-side tools for imap mail
  • pc41 – Facilitating serial/USB connection to an HP-41 calculator

The next project up will probably be my collection of HP-41 programs found on this site.

Update (2015-08-28): I have now put all my relevant HP-41 related programs up on my Github page. The pages and links on this site is now updated to point to my Github projects.

The case against patents

Thomas Jefferson once said:

Accordingly, it is a fact, as far as I am informed, that England was, until we copied her, the only country on earth which ever, by a general law, gave a legal right to the exclusive use of an idea. In some other countries it is sometimes done, in a great case, and by a special and personal act, but, generally speaking, other nations have thought that these monopolies produce more embarrassment than advantage to society; and it may be observed that the nations which refuse monopolies of invention, are as fruitful as England in new and useful devices.


And the debate on patents are more relevant than ever. Big companies suing each other for billions has become commonplace. Collecting patents to fuel an arsenal of defensive legal leverage, tip-toeing the mine field of patents when trying to invent something new, using patents to stifle competition rather than innovate, forging patents alliances that centralizes power and keeps the smaller players off the playing field. The list goes on. And the net value is hardly innovation incentive.

I want to bring to your attention an article that details the economic effects of patents (link to the full article). The abstract reads:

The case against patents can be summarized briefly: there is no empirical evidence that they serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity is identified with the number of patents awarded—which, as evidence shows, has no correlation with measured productivity. Both theory and evidence suggest that while patents can have a partial equilibrium effect of improving incentives to invent, the general equilibrium effect on innovation can be negative. A properly designed patent system might serve to increase innovation at a certain time and place. Unfortunately, the political economy of government-operated patent systems indicates that such systems are susceptible to pressures that cause the ill effects of patents to grow over time. Our preferred policy solution is to abolish patents entirely and to find other legislative instruments, less open to lobbying and rent seeking, to foster innovation when there is clear evidence that laissez-faire undersupplies it. However, if that policy change seems too large to swallow, we discuss in the conclusion a set of partial reforms that could be implemented.

The article is an excellent read and complements the book, “Against Intellectual Monopoly“.

Also check out Johanna Blakley’s neat TED talk on the same:

Personality tests and recruitment

Personality tests are frequently used as a tool in recruitment. There are pros and cons to using such tests.

I was the CEO of U-MAN in Norway from 1990 till 2000. The company’s main product was selling the Oxford Capacity Analysis as a tool in recruitment for our clients. The OCA test is controversial because it is used by the Church of Scientology and licensed from the Church of Spiritual Technology and 6% of the income from test sales is funneled to the Church of Scientology conglomerate. U-MAN, a WISE company, has later changed its name to Performia. The company has moved its testing online like so many other companies selling personality tests, IQ tests etc.

While I go into greater details regarding both WISE, U-MAN and the OCA test in my book “Nittenåttifire“, I would like to accentuate a few points here.

The OCA test is originally a fork of the Johnson Temperament Analysis (now the T-JTA). Before 1954, Hubbard used many different personality tests to validate changes and progress people had with Scientology therapies. Julia Salmen, an employee of the Church of Scientology in LA was asked by L. Ron Hubbard to come up with a personality test that would be free for Scientology to use. She started out with the JTA and added one personality trait (Certain – Uncertain) – a smart improvement as it enhanced the value of the JTA by adding an internal consistency check of sorts. The OCA test has 10 personality traits with 20 questions determining each trait (the JTA has 180 questions and 9 traits). It may be doubtful that this change actually constitute enough “new work” to void any copyright claims of the JTA.

While the JTA (and OCA) was designed as a general personality test, such tests are also frequently used as a complimentary tool in job interviews. But there is a liability in such use. A similar liability is evident when the employer relies on school grades when recruiting for a position.

When an interviewer has a candidate in front of him, her grades from school and a personality test result with scores and a nice graph, he tends to overemphasize the grades and the test results. Because it has numeric values. The numbers tend to eclipse his own observations. The candidate fades to the background while the grades and scores grabs attention. I know this both from my own recruitment processes and from watching other interviewers. I did more than 6000 test evaluations/interviews, I supervised hundreds of interviews done by others. Whenever there is a test score on the table, it takes center stage.

The OCA test is a really good test. But personality is seldom the main factor in job performance. We would often be surprised when we tested a team of people only to find out that the top performer had the worst test for the job. He could be completely unstructured, irresponsible in life, a nervous wreck and even shy. Still he was the best sales person in the company. When we focused only on selling and evaluating OCA tests, we recommended the wrong candidate for the job maybe 20-30% of the time. As we improved our recruitment services, adding tests for competence, structured interviews, better reference checking, etc. we managed to get as high as 97,4% success rate (checked with the client 18 months after placement). But – and here comes the big BUT – I am sure we missed some fantastic candidates in the process. The most amazing people have quirks, eccentricities. Some are even raving mad by normal standards.

One should be cognizant of the tools one uses. One should master the tools and never let the tools take center stage. People should be the focus of attention.

For what it’s worth, I leave you with a book I wrote while I worked in U-MAN – The Evaluator’s Bible.

In the next blog post, I will relate a recent story of a very different interview I had with an amazing person.

Checklist for creating a cult

  1. Make it your first policy to “Maintain friendly relations with the environment and the public.”
  2. Create some free or very cheap introductory service that give the public real gains
  3. Disseminate the introductory service widely, attracting many prospects
  4. Ensure every person that takes the introductory service feel indebted
  5. Sign the person up for more expensive service
  6. Make sure the service give real gains, lest people will leave
  7. Preferably advertise gains to be had that you cannot deliver, keeping the person always wanting the next service level
  8. Keep the atmosphere light and fun while the person invest increasingly more money and time
  9. Make the person feel special, as part of an elite society
  10. Enforce a policy that no one can talk about or discuss anything negative about the service
  11. Make up a good reason for this
  12. Ensure the person gets pot committed
  13. Increase the pressure, gradually squeezing the person for more time and money
  14. Have some confidential service that only the most pot committed and elite members can have
  15. Make sure the service levels end with the person being fully committed, more committed than to his day job, other petty interests, friends and family
  16. Tell the person that the next, unreleased level will only be released when some insane target is met
  17. You will then have a slave on your hand
  18. Back all this up by a rigid, authoritarian organizational structure
  19. Make sure everything is laid down in iron clad policy, removing the slightest inclination toward creativity or individual initiative
  20. Micromanage, measure every detail, come down hard on non-compliance and non-conformity in the organization
  21. Trademark everything, create a monopoly on the services, stamp out any competition
  22. Never defend against any criticism, always attack the critic by Argumentum ad Hominem, discredit always
  23. Amass enough money to litigate the hell out of any external threats
  24. Internal threats are handled with a policy on disconnection that makes the pot committed disconnect even from his own family
  25. Puff it all up with an apparency of social benefit programs
  26. Engulf the whole in excellent PR and glamorous videoed events with CGI effects
  27. Make it unassailable by calling it a religion
  28. As the guru, rake in money, live a glorious life

(Hugh at

Feel free to ask


When the traffic gets high, when posts get more than 500 or even a 1000 comments, I am bound to miss questions from my readers.

I want to answer your questions, and to ensure you are not left without an answer, I propose you ask any questions you may have to me as comments to this blog post.

Just add your question as a comment here and I will get back to you with an answer. Ask anything – from my views on life, IT, Scientology, my favorite HP calculator, music, art, preferences in any part of life or whatever else you may have on your mind. Do not hold back. I am not shy.

This post is not an arena for long discussions – or I may again miss some questions buried in long threads. Interesting topics may instead earn separate blog posts.

Amazing person: Egil Möller

While we’re in the technical territory…

I know a guy who can whip up a prototype of any IT application in a few hours. Others plan and work it out on the drawing board and go “figure-figure” for days until they finally start coding.

Egil simply DOES. He’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve met – and he transfers that intelligence to a sharp understanding of the problem at hand. And with swift creativity and ability to think outside the box, he’s a virtual geyser of ideas, solutions and new ways to go about the task.

A folk music dancing and singing, vegetarian geek with a warm heart and hard core personal integrity. Egil is a die-hard freedom enthusiast fighting for freedom of speech, expression and sharing. We share a world view when it comes to intellectual property, but are very different in our views on the reason for life. That has made for some interesting and valuable discussions over the years.

Egil is the technical lead on the amazing product Etherpad.

My wife and I sold our company in February – I really miss Egil, I cringe when I realized what people he now works for.

It would be great to work with Egil again sometime in the future.

Copyrights and Patents versus The Ant Hill Innovation

Apple threatens Exxon as the most valuable company on Earth. Nations are faced with an ever increasing debt problem.

I have written about the Ant Hill Innovation earlier. As the world faces increasing economic challenges, it seems the rationale behind patents and copyrights are increasingly questioned.

As Apple is squelching opposition, many start wondering if offering companies monopolies is such a good idea. What would the world have been like if Tim Berners-Lee had patented The Web 20 years ago?

With even The Economist weighing in, the future is hopefully dimmer for those who want to secure their own at the expense of the many:

…it is next to impossible to offer a new technology or software-driven service without getting sued for patent infringement.


At a time when our future affluence depends so heavily on innovation, we have drifted toward a patent regime that not only fails to fulfil its justifying function, to incentivise innovation, but actively impedes innovation. We rarely directly confront the effects of this immense waste of resources and brainpower and the attendant retardation of the pace of discovery, but it affect us all the same. It makes us all poorer and helps keep us stuck in the great stagnation.

It is time to rethink the patent and copyright regimes.

It is succinctly summed up over at TED:

What do you think the world would be like if there were no patents or copyrights?

My Open Source hero

I have been working professionally with Open Source software and Free Software since 2000. I have gotten to know a great many excellent developers, many work in my own company, FreeCode. But today I would like to acknowledge a person who inspires a passion I have, a hobby a cherish.

As Open Source (or even Free Software) has gone mainstream, there are Open Source developers seemingly everywhere. From the large communities like Linux (kernel, core programs, utilities, applications and various distributions), portal software (Drupal, Mediawiki, etc.) and games (Battle for Wesnoth being my favorite) to more esoteric projects.

As a reader of my blog, you may have picked up my fascination with old HP calculators and the programming of the HP-41. Especially the really low level programming in assembler, called MCODE (Machine CODE) for the HP-41. It is in this arena that I would like to acknowledge my Open Source hero.

Ángel Martin excels at MCODE. He excels at documenting MCODE. He is a learning machine and a teaching machine. He’s got more contributions to the HP-41 MCODE than you could shake a stick at and he shares his contributions freely. And he’s a social and very likable guy – not like the many Gollums who succeeds before a machine but not amongst people.

Yes, Ángel Martin is my Open Source hero.

The war is over!

When I first encountered free software in 1999, I was amazed by it’s creative power. The power of collaboration coupled with the power of a truly free marked seemed the future to me.

Back then when Linux was a geek’s OS and rarely taken seriously except as web servers, and Wikipedia was nowhere, “proprietary” seemed to trump “free” in most any arena. The push for marked dominance by secrecy, copyrights and patents was mounting with companies like Microsoft and Oracle carrying the torch of Mammon. Gordon Gekko’s legendary words, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works.” carried the American dream powered by egoism forward. But could something work even better? Free Software sparked a belief in me that collaboration, sharing and caring could indeed turn the tables.

My sentiment is well captured by Dan Pink in his TED talk. The endless possibilities of the Ant Hill Innovation captured my heart, my motivation. I decided to pitch in.

I got into the Free Software business in 2000. In 2004, my wife and I started FreeCode Norway (English link) and FreeCode International to help in the fight for freedom and the fight against vendor lock-ins. Being an idealist, I wanted to help make the dent in history by forwarding the ideals of freedom, creativity and human potential through collaboration.

For ten years I have been at the forefront of a battle for freedom. I went from a protector of “intellectual property” to a “copyright abolitionist“. I even rebelled against my own religion. The Church of Scientology had long since positioned itself as the main copyright terrorist on the Internet with it’s harassment tactics against anyone daring to challenge its monopoly on freedom.

I followed my heart, did countless of talks, speeches, seminars and media appearances in an effort to forward the ideology of a culture based on sharing. We helped African countries to see the light and set up FreeCode in Tanzania and Kenya, had meetings with governmental officials and got the media’s attention in Africa as well as in Russia, Ukraine and Norway.

The ideological war was fought in the area of software and it’s success gave birth to phenomenas like Wikipedia and Wikileaks. The marks of freedom was left on many parts of our society. Hell, even Microsoft started to embrace free software. Free software conquered the Internet infrastructure, started moving up the stack and is now practically everywhere.

New vistas

The conflict loving media used to cherish the David against Goliath battle of Geeks against the Establishment. But as David won out, not by vanquishing the proprietary but by its ideology slowly being absorbed by the enemy, the media interest kept sliding.

To the point where I now feel that The War Is Over.

It’s kind of sad really, as I love to have something to truly fight for. Freedom, justice and the common good. I’m not motivated by the next buck. I am motivated by making a dent in history for the common good. Oh, well. Got to find another Hill to conquer.

While the war I engaged in a decade ago may be over, there is always another Hill, and FreeCode, me and the ideology of sharing and caring will morph into a new identity to make a jab at Mammon from another angle. Because there is no rest until… Well, forget “until” – as any goal toward a common good will do – as the pleasure lies not in attaining the goal but in the journey itself. One only needs to remember to enjoy the game. Immensely.