Here are some unfortunate stories that we have accumulated for the past couple of days.
Patent TrollTracker Gagged, Sued
The most saddening news today is about the assault of the patent trolls. The victim? A protester against them.
Just this morning we were lamenting the fact that the formerly anonymous Patent Troll Tracker had shut down his blog, but now we know why. It appears that two patent attorneys in East Texas have sued him and Cisco for defamation. One of the attorneys happens to also be the son of the judge who helped make Marshall, Texas famous as a favorite for patent holders. The details on the case suggest that this lawsuit may have been the reason that Rick Frenkel outed himself, as it was actually filed back in November and used as a way to unmask the Troll Tracker.
Web Site Patents
Remember the “JPEG on a Web site” patent (or something along those lines)? Well, be aware that you needn’t be a software developer to consider risk associated with software patents. If you have a Web site, the trolls could come after you.
GraphOn Corp. said Monday it filed a lawsuit alleging patent infringement against Yahoo Inc., Classified Ventures LLC, IAC/InterActiveCorp., Match.com, eHarmony.com and CareerBuilder LLC.
Santa Cruz-based GraphOn (OTCBB:GOJO) said the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern Distict of Texas, claims the companies infringed its patents covering a method of maintaining an automated and network-accessible database.
The suit alleges the companies infringe the GraphOn patents on each of their Web sites, and seeks permanent injunctive relief along with unspecified damages.
Next time people ask if Amazon’s one-click shopping patent (or other similarly poor ones) might get used, consider examples such as the above. Forget about defensive patents. It’s more like an ambush.
The telecom Armageddon resumes (well, it never truly ceased). But here comes the owner of the ‘genius’ idea that is transmitting images.
Intellect Wireless Inc. has sued T-Mobile USA Inc., U.S. Cellular Corp., Virgin Mobile USA Inc. and Helio Inc. in federal court in Chicago, accusing the companies of infringing wireless image messaging patents.
Gamers hate software patents, not to mention game developers.
The vast majority of the respondents to this Question Of The Week were against the concept of software patents , and those that answered “no” answered with a great deal more fervor then those that said “yes”.
Case of point, fresh from the news: Activision’s “Guitar Hero” violates patent: Gibson
Gibson said the games, in which players press buttons on a guitar-shaped controller in time with notes on a TV screen, violates a 1999 patent for technology to simulate a musical performance.
Classic. How many past and present games are actually said to be violating (“infringing on”) some software patents (renamed “game patents” in this context)?
Software Patents Protest and Poll
In addition to the poll above and this recent other poll which can be found here, consider this testimony. [via Digital Majority]
“What’s all the more infuriating about the current patent situation is that many of today’s patents go against the original social contract surrounding patents. The original goal of the patent system was to get inventors to share their innovations for the common good. In return for a limited monopoly, you, Mr. Inventor, share your invention so that We, the public, can understand how you did it and can then innovate on top of it. Rather than stifling innovation, patents were supposed to drive it forward.
Unfortunately, many patents, even the ones that are legit, would have been created independently anyway. It’s obviously a balance, but at least in the world I live in, I see patents getting in the way rather than helping me. I have never gone and looked at old patents to get new ideas for products. The only time an independent patent, one that I’m not working on filing myself, comes to my attention, it’s because somebody is getting sued for infringing it. This tells me that we have lost the original goal that patents were supposed to foster.
Embargo on Patent Trolls
Lawyers are waking up to realise that the poor reputation of software patents is damaging and they respond accordingly. [via Groklaw]
The debate over patent trolls is dividing the IP bar.
In one of the most overt examples of choosing sides, litigation firm Howrey provocatively proclaims in a new brochure for clients that it absolutely won’t represent trolls — and criticizes firms that do.
“As a firm policy, Howrey does not litigate for ‘patent trolls,’” the page blares underneath a picture of a crossed-out cartoon troll. “Why support firms that are helping perpetuate this scourge on legitimate businesses everywhere?”
Sadly, there will always be some scummy lawyers around (howdy, Ray Niro [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]), and ones that are willing to ruin the industry for a mere buck. █
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Image contributed by Beranger
Novell has issued this press release which proudly announces the release of something nobody should wants, except Microsoft.
Novell today announced the availability of MonoDevelop 1.0, an open source development tool for Mono(R) that supports Microsoft* Visual Studio* project formats along with C# and other programming languages. MonoDevelop enables developers to quickly write desktop and ASP.NET Web applications on Linux* and Mac OS X*. MonoDevelop will make it easier for developers to port .NET applications created with Visual Studio to Linux and Mac OS X and to maintain a single code base for all three platforms.
If you are not aware of the dangers of Mono, start here. Consider the quotes below as well. █
“I saw that internally inside Microsoft many times when I was told to stay away from supporting Mono in public. They reserve the right to sue”
–Robert Scoble, former Microsoft evangelist
“You know what Microsoft’s problem really is? They’ve lost the ability to feel ashamed.”
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With all due respect to Mr. Durusau, we wish to pass on various bits of information without making any direct accusations.
Over the past few years — and particularly in the past few months — we have identified a pattern where people have their minds flipped upside-down after encountering or meeting with Microsoft. The stories are sometimes complex and we covered many examples before.
“Microsoft was also seen inviting journalists.”Some of the many examples include Slashdot editors and Webmasters who are considered "Microsoft doubters". They were invited to Seattle. Microsoft was also seen inviting journalists. Yes, they were flown in to ‘brainwash sessions’ before spreading Microsoft’s twisted version of the stories in the press (e.g. [1, 2, 3]). Then you have Miguel de Icaza and open source project leaders who became partners with Microsoft. They are subsequently caught inviting others to join hands with Microsoft, sometimes making special deals (e.g. XenSource, Zend).
We know about no contact between the ODF Foundation and Microsoft, but some people have their suspicions.
And now comes Rob Weir’s report about Patrick Durusau.
From the start Patrick has remained publicly silent on the topic of OOXML. No blog posts, no press, nothing. If you asked, he would say that this was his policy. Privately, you would get an earful (all negative), but as befits the unbiased chair of the committee which is responsible for the technical recommendation for the US NB, he kept his personal opinions out of the public arena.
This public orientation changed recently. As best I can figure it, on returning from a conference in Seattle in late January, Patrick was a changed man. Patrick is now an enthusiastic OOXML supporter and is eager to inform the world of his delight in OOXML at every opportunity. He posts his “open letters” on his web site, which are linked to, often within minutes, by the various Microsoft bloggers, and then sent around by Microsoft employees to the press and the various JTC1 NB’s.
Of course, Microsoft will not be so careful to distinguish Patrick’s personal opinions from his professional affiliations. So a post from Patrick’s personal web site is retold on a Microsoft blog as “The ODF Editor says….”, and then the next day is sent in an email to NB’s with a larger set of “endorsements”: . . .
Thanks to a poster who goes by the name “linonut”, here is a relevant writing that may explain what we see here. It’s titled “Manufacturing Consent: A Propaganda Mode”.
In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of a dominant elite. It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attack and expose corporate and governmental malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality in command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance.
What to make of this? Your call. The document above contains many more techniques such as the calling of something “communism” to create backlash and receive consent from the media. Memories of Microsoft's "Jihad" against its rivals return to mind (“Jihad” is Microsoft’s own word, which applies to internal E-mails from Netscape- and Java-era Microsoft). There is no gentle way to put it, but Microsoft has not changed its ways. It just got better at hiding it, and not only because of its E-mail shredding policies. █
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Breaking down the PR walls…
For future reference, herein we wish to demonstrate Microsoft’s inability to compete on fair grounds. This helps us substantiate and explain why Microsoft resorted to dirty tactics. Under today’s magnifying glasses: Windows Home Server.
We received some advice from a reader who wants us to cover a set of incidents which followed the recent release of what was seemingly a simple product whose primary function is — just as its tin implies — storing data.
Our reader writes:
I notice that the company famous for hiring bad programmers
(who else would fall down making a DST patch) is brushing more
critical problems under the rug:
A) Lose your shirt and lose your data:
So rather than passively playing our part in making bad engineering acceptable,
why not promote some good engineering:
A) Save effort, time and money while preventing the above data loss:
B) Little out of date but more graphical guidance:
Samba is already really good. Now that the Samba team has been handed a
final victory in the 10-year legal battle to get the server APIs out of
the Redmond cult, an already good package can get even better.
We have till June before a fix is even attempted. So until then why not
explore better options?
As further resources on this subject, consider the following references and excerpts:
Linux ‘Home Servers’
A Non-obvious Use for Debbie (a Debian 4.0 Home Server)
So far Debbie has worked in all of the relatively simple roles I’ve put her to. AVI, MOV and JPG files all work well on either the Linux or Windows clients when served by Debbie. PDFs work in either Linux or Windows. They even work when accessed by browser plug-ins, either FireFox 2 or IE6 or 7. Copying files to and from Debbie by the kids has been easy to implement.
Welcome to the Ubuntu Home Server Project
Ubuntu Home Server (UHS) will be an edition of the Ubuntu operating system which allows users to administer their home network.
Who needs Windows Home Server with Linux around?
Is this a joke? I only recently started paying attention to Windows Home Server, since I tend to focus more on desktop operating systems and enterprise server systems. So I didn’t realize until now that WHS is really just a vanilla file server.
Review: Excito Bubba home server
The Bubba is built around a 160MHz processor, which is only one tenth as fast as a notebook computer’s chip, but it uses a special version of the Linux operating system rather than Windows, which means it’s more than up to the task.
Despite Linux having a fearsome reputation as being hard to set up and use, setting up the Bubba was simple, as long as your router uses DHCP (this is switched on by default for most routers).
Multipurpose home server gains power, features
Quad Micro Works is prepping a second release of its Linux-based multipurpose home network, gateway, and server appliance. The new “Square One Personal Server” will integrate an 802.11g access point, along with a 4-port router and file, print, and Web servers.
Compelling Linux server slithers into the open
Given the compact size of the Slug (it’s smaller than most of the hard disk enclosures that plug into it), the low power consumption and the range of software available, it makes for a pretty compelling little Linux server, particularly for developers.
Hardware Review: Bubba – The Linux-Based Mini Server
Microsoft would like you to think that their new Home Server products are something new; affordable devices that sit quietly in the corner of your home, providing network backup for your most important files, and streaming your media around your home. While Home Server is definitely a new approach for Microsoft, it’s a niche that their nemesis Linux has been filling for some time. If Microsoft wanted a masterclass on how to craft their latest assault of consumers’ homes, they should look to Excito and their Bubba Mini Server.
Server device deemed “best Linux-based product”
Bubba is a compact, fanless server appliance with an internal hard drive up to 500GB, a 200MHz ARM processor, and a fully customizable Debian Linux operating system.
Compact, fanless home server runs Debian Linux
A small company in Sweden is shipping a low-power, ultra-quiet Linux file and print server based on Debian Linux. Excito’s “Bubba” is based on a 200MHz ARM processor, and comes equipped with 80GB to 500GB drives plus a customizable OS featuring a handy torrent/http/ftp download manager.
Windows Home Server
Home Servers Hold Big Promise, Limited Appeal
While Vista’s been grabbing all the headlines and hype, Microsoft’s gone and released another new operating system, and servers running it will probably be the coolest gadgets most consumers won’t rush out to buy.
Windows Home Server testing uncovers nearly 2,400 bugs
In an entry on the Home Server blog, program manager Chris Sullivan said that the group has received nearly 2,400 bug reports so far from beta testers, and still had 495, or about 21% of the total, classified as “active.”
Will Windows Home Server be Microsoft’s next flop?
If you buy-off on the theory that the world seems to be heading in the opposite direction that Microsoft wants to lead it, then you can’t help but wonder what the long term prospects for an offering like Windows Home Server are. Not good, if you ask me.
Windows Home Server fan club beats me up for asking if WHS is Microsoft’s next flop
Literally within minutes of each other (strangely coincidental), I received two e-mails — one from a colleague and the other from someone who concealed their identity — that basically told me I was out of line for questioning the chances that Microsoft’s Windows Home Server will succeed.
Will bad backups doom Windows Home Server?
Microsoft just announced it’s working on Windows Home Server, which among other features, will automatically back up files on all PCs in the home. But if the product uses the same kind of brain-dead backup built into Windows Vista, this is a product that will be dead on arrival.
The backup tool built into Windows Vista may be the worst utility every packed into an operating system. It doesn’t allow you to back up individual files, folders or even file types. Instead, you have to back up every single file and folder of broad generic types.
For example, if you want to back up a single picture, you have to back up every single graphic of every graphic file type on your entire PC, including all the graphics that Vista itself uses. This means you can be forced to back up hundreds of gigabytes of files if you only want to back up a few family photos.
Microsoft admits big delay on Home Server bug fix
Microsoft has admitted that it will not deliver a fix to a Windows Home Server data corruption bug it first discovered late last year until June at the earliest.
Stay Away from Home Server Day Care
The problem is fundamental in several ways. Data corruption or deletion occurs “when certain programs are used to edit or transfer files that are stored on a Windows Home Server-based computer that has more than one hard drive,” according to the Microsoft support document. So, the problems are with file copying and data storage—both fundamental features—and occurring in the likeliest of scenarios: Multiple hard drives. Surely Microsoft must have known that the earliest adopters would be enthusiasts?
Nine programs are associated with the data problems, seven of them from Microsoft.
Data Corruption Bug – List of Potential Applications Affected Grows
In summary, Microsoft has reproduced the bug successfully with the following applications:
* Windows Vista Photo Gallery
* Windows Live Photo Gallery
* Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
* Microsoft Office OneNote 2003
* Microsoft Office Outlook 2007
* Microsoft Money 2007
* SyncToy 2.0 Beta
* Intuit QuickBooks
Home Server users have reported the issue occurring with the following list of applications:
* Photoshop Elements
* Zune Software
* Apple iTunes
* Mozilla Thunderbird
* Adobe Lightroom
* Intuit QuickenMS Digital Image Library
* Windows Media Player 11
* Microsoft Office Excel
* Visual DataFlex
So, to put this in perspective, the list of potential applications affected is growing.
News Briefs: 1-17-08
Windows Home Server Anti-evangelism. Microsoft technical evangelist Volker Will is really unhappy about Windows Home Server. I’m a big fan of the product marketing, but Will’s anti-endorsement has me wondering about getting a HP MediaSmart Server as planned.
Windows Home Server bug corrupts files
Given that the point of Windows Home Server is to allow you to store your media files, a bug in the storage process that could result in corrupted files is bound to get attention.
Microsoft has issued a support document for the 13 or so (just kidding) people using Windows Home Server, the company’s latest product for those attempting to build the digital home of the future. Apparently there’s a flaw in the way Windows Home Server works with certain Microsoft applications, such as Windows Vista Photo Gallery, that could result in corrupted files if you use those applications to save files to the server. A list of the specific applications can be found in the support document.
By all means remember that Windows Home Server is a sibling of Windows Server and Windows Vista. They share the same DNA (codebase).
There are wonderful products in the market that just work. And then there’s wonderful marketing for products that just don’t work.
The emperor is naked. Share the word. █
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