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03.17.09

Links 17/03/2009: Skolelinux in German Schools

Posted in News Roundup at 8:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Skolelinux for Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate Schools

    From now on, the schools in Germany’s Rhineland-Palatinate federal state will be running Skolelinux on their computers, based on a decision made a year ago. The project is now announcing its next phase.

    The federal state schools will not only adopt Skolelinux as their operating system, but also use it to develop curriculum in 11 pilot schools. The 10-point plan, roughly translated as “Media Competence Is Our Schools,” involves an adapted Skolelinux version, according to Burkhard Schaefer, consultant for the federal state’s ministry of education, science, youth and culture: “The decision went to Skolelinux because it offered through available pedagogical network solutions from the Debian community a sustainable development based on software concepts.” Rhineland-Palatinate is the second federal state after Hamburg to select a Linux solution for its schools.

  • Sun lands Sparc-Xeon super on Cape Town

    The Sparc64 iron runs Solaris, of course, but it is not clear what is being put on the blade servers. Sun says that it is including the Sun HPC Linux Edition software stack, so this suggests Linux on the blades, and one would hope that Ubuntu is the Linux of choice in South Africa.

  • Testing Linux Distributions in VMWare and Parallels

    A long time ago I used to actually use a separate computer to install and test Linux distributions. I even built some of the boxes that I used to do the testing with but these days I mostly do my work on Macs. I know, I know…I’ve become a lame Apple whore. Along the way I finally ended up dispensing with testing Linux distributions on separate computers.

    [...]

    While Linux is great, it’s by no means the only operating system to run in VMWare or Parallels. I have Windows XP installed as well and I’ve messed around with a few other operating systems including Windows Vista and PC-BSD. They all run pretty well.

  • Renew your old PC

    Of all the alternative operating systems, one stands out when it comes to great performance on lower-spec hardware – Linux.

    Those of you shaking your heads and turning the page, hold on. There are plenty of other options if you can’t stomach Linux, but I can tell you right now they won’t perform anywhere near as well as a well- tuned Linux setup, so bear with me for a moment.

  • TOYA Boys Fight Linux Flow

    It’s expected when Microsoft tries to stop the spread of GNU/Linux. It’s my understanding that we as an entity might officially be causing them some grief. Even those who sell, distribute or package MS products are forced at the point of an auditing pen to do Microsoft’s bidding. It all comes down to money.

    A lot of money. Cumulatively, they are only doing what they are supposed to be doing…protecting their market.

    So that’s where I get confused. It’s perfectly understandable for companies “with some skin in the game” to get defensive, but what about those villagers who rally to Castle Redmond’s defense? Sure they are Microsoft Windows users but what point is there in them trying to stop others from at least trying Linux? I mean aside from those obviously being compensated.

  • The GNU/Linux Desktop: Nine Myths

    This system works because, with free software, the distribution can make whatever changes it needs to make the software run. It is only a problem for proprietary vendors. If they aren’t willing to work with the system and release their code as free software, that is their choice — but then they shouldn’t complain that the system isn’t set up for them.

  • GNU/Linux and Commercial Game Developers

    There are dozens, if not hundreds, of open source games that are already native on GNU/Linux. Unfortunately the commercial gaming market lags behind open source game development when it comes to GNU/Linux. Some people using GNU/Linux want the commercial games too. This article is an attempt to assist a move in the direction of GNU/Linux in the commercial gaming market.

  • Linux: The Brand

    Now it’s time the Linux brand got trampled to death too. The term is ambiguous and unhelpful when you use it outside of the programming and sys-admin industries. OK so we love having a single banner to fly and Linux is a very successful kernel project. But it’s not good to advocate with a conversation that starts off with a lie, that this system your using is Linux. Because then you’ll be constantly trying to explain why Linux doesn’t work here, but does work there, doesn’t do that, except when it does over there. It’s not a coherent system like the name’s use suggests.

    I think we should be more specific and say what we mean:

    * Linux – The Kernel project
    * FOSS – The Philosophies that underpin the creation of software
    * Ubuntu, Fedora – The Operating Systems

  • Change is a hard thing to do.

    Changing from closed source programs to open source programs is a hard thing to do. Many people will resist that change fiercely and will pull every trick out of the book to justify their objections to that change.

    Sometimes they have no choice and when a company is instructed to move from a closed source program to an open source program it is inevitable that, as the old Chinese curse goes, there will be interesting times.

  • Media

    • Blu-ray Support In FFmpeg? Coming Soon, Perhaps.

      Well, Blu-ray support may now come to Linux sooner rather than later. Following that Phoronix interview, a few interested parties have offered up Blu-ray drives and media to the FFmpeg developers. Robert Swain has shared with Phoronix this morning that they are now deciding on a suitable FFmpeg developer to receive these donations to begin work on Blu-ray support.

    • Elisa – A Great Open Media Center

      I recently installed and started using open source Elisa Media Center. Its a great little media player that works wonderfully well with all my media types for video, music, dvd and photos. It even connects to the internet and imports media from websites like youtube and flickr.

  • Google

    • Google Summer of Code 2009 and Wine

      It’s time for another round of Google’s Summer of Code (SoC). The SoC is an effort that first started in 2005 as an effort to get students involved in open source code development.

    • Pre-Alpha Chromium Browser Now Available

      Last week I found an Ubuntu package repository for the Chromium browser, the open source project behind Google’s Chrome browser. I didn’t get excited until I saw this post, which shows that the packages do contain a working web browser!

  • Sub-notebooks

    • Netbooks A Source Of Data Leaks If Not Properly Supported

      At first, I was on the fence about the article’s argument, but now I agree to some extent. Netbooks were not designed for corporate environments. They started off as Linux-only, with the purpose of Web surfing, email, and video chat. When manufacturers ran into the problem that customers didn’t understand Linux but started wanting Linux, they succumbed to the demand and opened the door to insecurity.

      That’s not to say security applications can’t be used on netbooks. They can, but maybe not as all-in-one suites that hook every system action, which leads to slower OS performance.

    • HP Mini 1000 Netbook – Running Linux

      Is Linux on the HP Mini right for anyone other than me? Linux in general seems like a good fit for netbooks — it does everything a typical netbook user will probably need, it’s usually pretty efficient, and it can be customized by vendors in ways that Windows can’t be. (Look at HP’s “Mobile Internet Experience”, for example. Without being told that it’s Linux, you’d never know it.)

  • Kernel Space

    • Kernel Log: What’s new in 2.6.29 – Part 7: Audio, FireWire, USB, Video and more

      On Thursday night, Linus Torvalds released an eighth pre-release version of Linux 2.6.29 and hinted that this could be the final 2.6.29 release candidate, with the main development tree now stabilising. He did not, however, completely rule out further pre-release versions, “[...]it seems to be stabilising to the point where I’m hoping that we’re approaching a final 2.6.29, and this might be the last -rc. We’ll have to see.”). Kernel Log is taking this opportunity to complete the “What’s coming in 2.6.29″ series with an overview of driver news from a range of areas.

    • Linux Benchmarking: As Easy As Dragging and Dropping

      Next month at Phoronix Media we will be introducing version 1.8 of the Phoronix Test Suite. Among a horde of new features, new test profiles, bug-fixes, and much more, there is a Phoronix Test Suite GUI (updated screenshots). The GTK2 GUI is nearly completed already, while additional fine-tuning and new features will come to the interface with Phoronix Test Suite 2.0 later this year.

  • Events

    • Gran Canaria Desktop Summit Opens Registration and Call for Papers

      This year the annual KDE community summit, Akademy, is being held in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain, from 3rd to 11th of July. It will be part of a larger event, the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit co-located with the GNOME community’s annual summit, GUADEC.

    • EclipseCon is Next Week: Discount for OStatic Readers

      Next week, March 23rd to 26th, EclipseCon takes place in Santa Clara, California. Eclipse is a very large open source community focused on open develpment platforms, and extensible frameworks and tools, overseen by The Eclipse Foundation.

  • Desktop Environments

  • Distributions

    • DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 294, 16 March 2009

      This week we follow up on our introduction to Logical Volume Management with a walk-through guide on using it with some of the most popular Linux distributions. In the news section, Slackware presents a massive first update of its ‘current’ tree since version 12.2 was released three months ago, Ubuntu packages Plymouth, the kernel-based mode-setting splash program for ‘Karmic Koala’, openSUSE battles to restore its main download server after a hardware fault, Tiny Core presents a new version of its revolutionary 10 MB desktop distro, and Debian delivers the first glimpses of ‘Squeeze’, the distribution’s next stable release. The issue also focuses on the ext4 file system after reports of possible data loss – is it safe to use it? Finally, two links to interviews with Debian and Ubuntu developers, as well as TuxRadar’s nostalgic look at the best desktop environments of 2000. Happy reading!

    • Arch Linux – a distro collector’s pick

      Having a ten years experience of using various Linux distributions I can say with all responsibility, that Arch Linux is one of the most complete Linux desktops I ever used. Moreover, if you care about expanding your computer knowledge, and you’re ambitious, it is just what you need.

    • Mandriva 2009.1 RC1 Screenshot Tour For both KDE and GNOME editions

      On March 10th, Mandriva announced the immediate availability of Mandriva Linux 2009.1 RC1. Though a bit late, we thought it would be nice to please some of our readers and offer them a visual tour of this first release candidate. And we promise that from now on we will keep you updated with screenshots for all Mandriva releases, so stay tuned!

      What’s new in Mandriva Linux 2009.1 RC1? Well, the most important feature of this release is draksnapshot a.k.a. the brand new system restore functionality. Another cool addition is the HDT (Hardware Detection Tool) that allows users to get a complete description of the hardware without needing to install the operating system to the hard drive.

    • WattOS Mini-Review

      If you want a minimal Ubuntu install on a older pc, or really make it fly on your new one, give WattOS a try I don’t see how you can go wrong.

    • Red Hat

      • Discouraging Software Patent Lawsuits

        Recently we’ve seen some surprising comments about Red Hat’s stand on software patents and, in particular, about one of its patent applications related to the AMQP specification. It looks like clarification is called for. Our views and our position, as expressed in our work for patent reform, our Patent Promise, and our work with the AMQP project, have not changed.

        Red Hat has worked hard to address the problems of our patent system. We believe there are serious problems with the existing system, particularly as it affects free and open source software. In just the last few months, we have supported new patent reform legislation, submitted a brief in the Bilski case arguing against patenting of software, and created an innovative patent settlement in the FireStar case that gave broad protection to the open source community. We are also proud of our work in helping establish the Open Invention Network, supporting the Peer-to-Patent program, and developing our Patent Promise.

      • Gushing, gossip, grapevine, gabble.

        If you’ve seen our feature list for Fedora 11, you know how extensive it is. These features will likely end up in other distributions as well — which is a purposeful goal of our upstream policies. Jerry-rigging changes in our own distribution that only change Fedora, and that would make our contributors work too hard trying to keep those differences coordinated, would make no sense. Instead we try to work heavily and directly in upstream communities like the kernel, X.org, freedesktop.org, GNOME, and so forth, so the advances we’re making will benefit free software users everywhere. The specific goals for a Fedora release include informing the public about all the work we’ve done to advance these various features for the good of all.

    • Ubuntu

      • Ubuntu 9.04′s New Themes

        Well, here we go again… it appears the Canonical just uploaded some new and very nice desktop themes for the upcoming Ubuntu 9.04 (Jaunty Jackalope) operating system, in order to please their devoted users. Softpedia is once again the first website to offer you a preview of the new artwork, which will probably be present in the final release of Ubuntu 9.04.

      • Hong Kong dealer offers MacBook-like netbook with VIA Nano CPU

        It ships with Windows XP Home or Ubuntu 8.04 Linux.

      • Talking Community With Ubuntu’s Jono Bacon

        OStatic: What is next for the Ubuntu community? Where would you like to see it go in the future? Are there any outreach efforts or events that you’d especially like to see pushed to the next level?

        Bacon: We are only at the beginning of a long and exciting road. While I am proud of the progress we have made in the community so far, there is still much to do. Every community is like a growing organism: it reacts to stimulus and change in its environment and changes accordingly.

      • Top 10 Reasons I’ll Never Use Ubuntu

        1. It’s too inexpensive. In fact, paying is only an option & I don’t feel compelled to pay for it. It’s just not as fun owning an operating system I don’t have to pay for.

        2. It’s too pretty. The ability to apply any theme, or build my own, ruins my sense of camaraderie with my fellow OS users. Where’s the sense in complete personalization?

        3. It’s too fun. Computers were never meant to be fun. When they become fun they become dangerous.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Dev kit teaches FPGAs to run Linux

      Altera is shipping a development kit for prototyping and developing FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) for embedded systems. The Embedded Systems Development Kit, Cyclone III FPGA Edition is a tri-board kit that can program NIOS II softcore FPGAs capable of running Linux, says the company.

    • Video: Open Source for Car Infotainment

      Up to now the automotive branch has not been famous for its engagement in Linux and Open Source. Now the chairman of the new open source alliance Genivi is talking about motives and plans.

Free Software/Open Source

  • Interview: Patrick Curran, chair of the JCP

    Several are actually running the entire working/expert group as an open source project, completely open.

  • During financial struggle, IT can help reduce cost

    4. Open Source Software: The use of open source keeps growing. It is not just about Linux. There are software packages available for just about every corporate need. The cost savings can be dramatic when you make smart choices.

    Simply downloading and building an open-source package because it is free can end up costing you a great deal of time. Treat open source like any other software. Do the research, talk to other users, and find a service provider that can help.

  • GIMP 2.6.6 Released

    GIMP 2.6.6 is a bug-fix release in the stable GIMP 2.6 series. This release contains an important fix for compiling GIMP against the recently released GTK+ 2.16.

  • CMS

    • Open source Campsite 3.2 helps newspapers move online

      With all the talk about newspapers worldwide facing financial pressures, the time now is right for tools that can be used to move newspaper content online. One such tool is Campsite, a open source content management system for print publications which this week announced a major new release.

      Developed by the Media Development Loan Fund non-profit foundation, Campsite 3.2 is one of a range of media organisation tools produced by the foundation to assist media organisations. The tools include Dream to manage distribution, Campcaster for radio broadcasters and Cream for media customer relations management.

    • Make Zimplit CMS Absolutely Yours, Logo Included

      Ever thought of building your very own CMS from scratch? Consider taking Zimplit CMS and putting your logo on it, or naming it after your favorite goldfish.

  • Business

    • Open source is a company; social media is a country

      Many people mistakenly think that open-source projects are emergent, self-organized, and democratic. The truth is just the opposite: most are run by a benevolent dictator or two.

      What makes successful open-source projects is leadership, plain and simple. One or two people articulate a vision, start building towards it, and bring others on board with specific tasks and permissions. The best projects are the ones with the best leaders.

    • AspireRFID Can Lower Deployment Costs

      The project, involving academic and research institutions across Europe, has developed free open-source RFID middleware, and is currently working to create a range of tools to facilitate RFID deployment.

    • Getting Beyond Economics

      It is a given that the adoption of health information technology (HIT) by health care providers has the potential to effect quantum leaps in the quality and level of health care, medical research and public health. That means increased efficiency, safety and efficacy. Although the economic cost of implementing the electronic health record (EHR) is frequently cited as a major barrier to adoption, many have expressed concerns about matters of patient privacy, the need to protect the confidentiality of physician-patient communications (a sine qua non of high-quality patient care), and interference with workflow, among others, as reasons not to embrace a universal EHR.

      [...]

      What’s more, because of the open-source nature of its license, the code is freely available, and users may make improvements without running afoul of copyright restrictions. Certification by the Commission for Certification of Health Information Technology (www.cchit.org) was announced on May 1. The implications of open-source WorldVistA and other open-source EHR systems (see www.openehr.org) are huge.

      [...]

      In many ways, the discussion of open source in EHR systems mirrors what is occurring in the current debate about electronic voting.

    • OpenSourceCinema.org Chooses Kaltura’s Video Platform

      EyeSteelFilm, the creators of “RiP, a Remix Manifesto”, a documentary about copyright and remix culture, announced today that it has partnered with Kaltura, Inc. (http://www.kaltura.com), developer of the first open source video platform and Raincity Studios, a web 2.0 community developer and web design company, to power full video capabilities on its new online community site www.OpenSourceCinema.org.

  • Servers/’Cloud’

    • Open Enterprise Interview: Mike Olson, Cloudera

      MO: I started college at Berkeley in 1979. In 1980, I got a work-study job for the Computer Systems Research Group, which produced the Berkeley Software Distribution — what most people call “Berkeley Unix”. I worked for Bill Joy and Bob Fabry on that project (and the guy in the next office was a kind of geeky grad student named Eric Schmidt…).

      I dropped out for a few years in 1982 and returned to Berkeley as an undergrad in 1988. I got a job working for Mike Stonebraker on the Postgres project, where I was one of the key developers. I got my BA in 1991, MSc in 1992 and left grad school in 1993 to join Stonebraker’s Postgres startup, Illustra. One of the last things I did at Berkeley was to write, with Margo Seltzer, an embedded database engine called Berkeley DB.

    • EUCALYPTUS: a Tree Growing in the Cloud

      Most important for Linux Journal readers, “EUCALYPTUS is implemented using commonly available Linux tools and basic Web service technology making it easy to install and maintain”, they say.

    • Zmanda Cloud Backup : Open Source Disaster Recovery Solution

      Zmanda Cloud Backup is a cost-effective backup and disaster recovery solution for SMBs. Because putting together a comprehensive data protection strategy can be difficult for midmarket companies, the company positions Zmanda Cloud Backup (ZCB) has simplified the process.

    • Bottling the Magic Behind Google and Facebook

      Hadoop is the open-source version of the file system and MapReduce technology developed by Google. Google has used such software to rewire its entire search index, making it possible for the company to run ever-faster searches on cheap servers and to ask questions of its vast data stores and receive coherent answers.

  • Releases

  • Government

    • Europe

      • ES: Administrations fund open source GIS education tool

        The ministry of Education in Valencia, one of Spain’s autonomous regions and the regional government of La Palma are funding development of Edusig, an open source tool to help teach geography to school children. The application is being hosted on the Osor.eu software development web site since late last month.

    • South Africa

      • Government CIOs keen on open source software

        “The move to open source software has not been as fast as we would have liked, but we are now entering a new era. In the past, open source deployments were mostly spontaneous and ad-hoc. We now have a more systematic approach.” In years past many government departments pursued their own open source migrations, usually in isolation from one another, and with varying degrees of success.

        [...]

        Now, says Webb, the State IT Agency (Sita) is assuming the role of paving the way for OSS migration by finalising standards and conducting pilot projects to make it easier for all to implement open source software successfully. … Webb also says that Sita expects all government department websites to be running on open source software “very soon”.

    • United Kingdom

      • Councils to Explore Open Source Benefits

        The UK’s first national conference on open source software in local government is taking place on 1st April 2009 in Manchester.

      • UK Government Backs Open Source

        The government of the United Kingdom stated in 2004 that its policy was to “seek to use open source where it gave the best value for money to the taxpayer in delivering public services.”

  • Licensing

    • Apache’s Ongoing Licensing Bout with Sun

      The recently updated Java Specification Requests (JSRs) show that the licensing battle between the Apache Software Foundation and Sun Microsystems (the force behind Java) still hasn’t ended after raging for seven years.

  • Open (But No Source Code)

    • Rethinking Financial Regulation: Simple Transparency, Open Source and XML

      We need open public policing of the financial system. Creating an empowered social network where the community of investors can help protect each other from being ripped off. Empowering a global financial neighborhood watch. Wired Magazine publishes a specific open regulation proposal.

    • OSM passes 100,000 users!

      Sometime during Monday 16th March 2009 OpenStreetMap gained it’s 100,000th registered user account!

    • Open Arms

      What prosthetic-arm engineering is learning from open source, crowdsourcing, and the video-game industry

  • Internet

    • Web browsers battle at festival

      Mr Lie said Microsoft’s platform dominance gave them an “obligation to promote competition”.

      His company has already complained to the EU that Microsoft is using its dominance to promote Internet Explorer over Opera and other browsers. And Google has lent its support to the complaint.

      Mr Lie said he was concerned that Microsoft would use its Windows Software Update System to distribute the forthcoming new version of Internet Explorer to users.

      “That system should be used for other browsers too, to ensure users have genuine choice.

    • Mozilla hangs fire on Firefox 3.5 till June

      A limited number of release candidates for Firefox 3.5 will be released before the final version of the software comes out, probably in around “two to three” months, Mozilla evangelist Chris Blizzard posted last Friday.

    • Firefox is still king for developers

      Firefox is still king when it comes to daily work on the tubes, despite the steady increase in the buzz surrounding the open-source Webkit project, on which Safari and Google Chrome are based.

    • Firefox New Tab: Next Iteration

      Oliver Reichenstein has joined Sean Martell to form a “new tab” visual design team. They’ve already separately produced almost all of these fantastic visual artifacts, and we are looking forward to more. If you’re a designer and interested in this project from a design perspective, this is a great opportunity to get involved in an open source project. Please jump onto either #labs on irc.mozilla.org or link your mockups in the comments section of this post.

    • Designing Firefox 3.2

      In January 2000, T-Online asked us what we’d do if we could design a browser from scratch. Our answer was “Tabs”. Eight years later Aza Raskin, head of user experience at Mozilla, asked me what I think a new tab should look like. The answer after days of mailing back and forth: “Forget tabs!”

    • Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 – Superb is too modest

      You all probably know that Firefox is my favorite browser. It is fast, stable and extensible. It is also quite safe. And it looks good, too. Finally, you may also have heard that Firefox 3.1, the latest version of this phenomenal browser, is coming out soon, promising a revolution in usability and speed. In fact, Beta 3 has been publicly released just a few days ago.

      [...]

      Firefox 3.1 is everything you expected – and then some. It’s going to be a blast. It’s faster, it’s more compliant, it has improved privacy, and a range of new features that make a great product into a greater one. Audio and video tags are particularly interesting, as they open a world of new possibilities when it comes to Web and what it means to us. Throw in a whole bunch of excellent extensions and the options are virtually limitless.

    • Come on, Sir Tim!

      Stob It is twenty years since Tim Berners-Lee, then a humble techie at CERN, sent a memorandum to his manager entitled Information Management: a Proposal.

      The Register is proud, on this important anniversary, to be republishing that historic document for the first time, so that we can all reflect properly on Sir Tim’s achievement, and feel retrospectively superior to him for the wretched syntax he devised to do HTML tables.

Leftovers

  • Prof may go to jail for popularizing philosophical works

    The case has provoked widespread protest in cyberspace, highlighting the gray area between popularization and piracy. On the Potel page in Facebook, hundreds of users worldwide have expressed outrage at the the “censorship”. One user summed up the opinion of the cyber-citizens: “What is happening is an outrage to the culture of human rights. An obscene display of the mechanisms of control, surveillance and punishment.”

  • eCommunications providers launch new initiative to promote legitimate online content

    ETNO is launching a new online content web site today, to raise awareness of attractive online offers put on the market by its members throughout Europe to download music, films or watch TV. ETNO members believe that offering a wide choice of online services is the best way to promote a legitimate use of the Internet and fight against illicit file-sharing.

    “The rapidly growing choice of legitimate online content services illustrates the increasing cooperation between e-communications providers and content owners in order to respond to consumer demand for price-worthy, secure and user-friendly services”, says Michael Bartholomew, ETNO Director.

  • Censorship/Web Abuse

    • Internet body labels IRMA legal threat ‘spurious’

      The recent threat of legal action from Irish music industry body IRMA to Irish ISP’s that do not comply to the same ‘three strikes’ terms as Eircom, has been labelled as “spurious” by the Internet Service Providers Association of Ireland (ISPAI).

      Paul Durrant, general manager of the ISPAI, said there is “no evidence of wrong doing” on the part of Irish internet service providers (ISPs).

      IRMA’s letter, received last month by ISPs across Ireland, asked these companies to follow Eircom in removing customers found to be illegally accessing copyright material. The letter stated that this request is in accordance with Irish and European law.

    • Australia’s internet censor bares its gums

      Australia’s national net nanny agency has threatened to fine anyone who links to websites on its blacklist, which apparently it keeps secret without even a hint of irony.

      The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) issued a threat last week to fine the online broadband discussion forum Whirlpool AUS$11,000 per day for linking to a blacklisted anti-abortion website.

    • How British cops are criminalising peaceful protest

      Last week Lib Dem MP David Howarth held a meeting in Westminster to present a highly disturbing and potentially explosive report on the way police in the UK are criminalising legitimate protest. The report, produced by the Climate Camp’s legal support team and entitled Policing of the Kingsnorth Climate Camp: Preventing Disorder or Preventing Protest?, documents a concerted campaign by police to deter, smear, intimidate, harass, and criminalise UK citizens who did nothing more than attempt to exercise their right to peaceful protest.

    • Leaked Comcast User Data Found Online

      Comcast appears to have suffered a leak of its user data that went undetected for more than two months. And it was an alert PC World reader who helped uncover the leak, when a document containing what appears to be 8000 e-mail accounts and passwords was found on Scribd.com, according to the New York Times.

  • Copyrights

Digital Tipping Point: Clip of the Day

Bhaskar Chakravorti, business theory visionary (SF) 01 (2005)

Ogg Theora

Digital Tipping Point is a Free software-like project where the raw videos are code. You can assist by participating.

Lesser Technical Dangers to the Triumph of GNU/Linux and Digital Freedom

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Patents, SUN at 7:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Technical barriers banner

FROM a purely technical perspective, there is little or no reason why GNU/Linux-powered devices should cease to thrive. They could even become a de facto choice in consumer appliances for years to come. In turn, more broadly we might find desktop deployments that consistently use GNU/Linux as the platform of choice. The greater of barriers to this are more subtle though.

“More recently, Torvalds said he was becoming concerned about what he described as “external issues — especially patents.””Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux kernel, keeps insisting that failing to compete based on technical merits, Microsoft resorts to fear, uncertainty and doubt techniques, sometimes going as far as intimidation. More recently, Torvalds said he was becoming concerned about what he described as “external issues — especially patents.”

This makes a classic case where legacy products are unable to compete, so laws and/or technical policies are being modified using sources of great influence while psychological games are being played. This alters the rules of the competition, rendering it a “moving goalposts” scenario which seeks to reverse the tipping point.

The discussion we present here takes a look at subversive tactics and shows what makes them possible in the first place. Such tactics can have technical superiority combated by other factors which enable existing software (notably Microsoft products in this context) to compete better, especially in a crowded market where software development, as opposed to support, gets more commoditised. Proponents of Free software are encouraged to aware of these factors because ignoring risk does not make it magically go away.

Patents

Patents were introduced under the premise that they would protect the ‘small guy’, whose invention can be stolen by ‘the big boys’, then commercialised and marketed too quickly for anybody else to keep up. The invention was of course a physical one. It was tangible. At the time, the patent office was somewhat of an ‘anti-ripoff’ system. Its purpose was not to stifle competition by sheltering monopolization but very much the opposite. The system was also selective and restrictive in terms of scope.

“It has a chilling effect on opportunities for startups.”Over the years, under increased pressure and lenience inside what had evolved to become an application-litigation ecosystem, patents became more fuzzy. Their original role was misplaced and they were incorrectly classified alongside intangible pillars such as trademarks and copyrights. It is hardly surprising that their new ‘umbrella’ — typically referred to as “intellectual property” — comes under a lot of ridicule nowadays. Some even consider this mixed bag a set of “intellectual monopolies” because grossly generalised ideas — even thought — can be owned by a company or an individual, who can lawfully charge a fee for sharing these. The ideas refer not to specific work but to general broad ideas, no matter how they are applied or implemented.

More recently, since some time in the 90s and only in few parts of the world, even knowledge pertaining to mathematics (think about software patents and business methods) could be owned by a person. It creates many unknown barriers and stifles development in science and technology. It makes programming, for example, a luxury of the wealthy. It has a chilling effect on opportunities for startups.

Just under a year ago, Microsoft began using vague patent claims as means of scaring away prospective users of GNU/Linux. It did so more aggressively than ever before. The company’s strategy relied on the assumption that revenue can be maintained, restored or increased by imposing a ‘tax’ on revenue made by competitors. It may also repel customers from levied products. Overall, it seems rather absurd.

“Might we be seeing the whole patent system implode, primarily due to self-inflicted damage and serious deficiencies?”Ownership of generic knowledge, rather than actual development work, has been a controversial subject for quite some time, not to mention the passing (or purchasing) of that knowledge by those wishing only to use it litigiously. They are commonly referred to as “patent trolls”.

One could reach the point of discussing another logical possibility. Might we be seeing the whole patent system implode, primarily due to self-inflicted damage and serious deficiencies? Familiarize yourself with the work of the open invention network for example. It is one possible solution, but it is worth considering ways of working around patents also.

There have been efforts to create algorithms which sidestep patent issues, such as the efforts which produced the Ogg format for encoding media files. Another barrier then merges because making these formats a standard, let alone a de facto standard, can be difficult. Many parties have vested interests in proprietary formats and patents, as the big controversy which involved Apple, Nokia, Ogg Vorbis and HTML5 has probably taught us.

Non-standards

There is actually a fine intersection between the issue of patents and the issue of standards. Universal standards exist to accommodate the need for free interoperability which mitigates patent issues or eliminates them altogether. Without standards, there is typically ownership of protocols — a proprietary entanglement that leads to one vendor controlling many others. It is a question of decentralization.

“Buzzwords like ‘innovation’ may be used as an excuse to deviate from standards and obtain greater control over means of communication.”In a perfect world, open and free methodologies exist to facilitate a royalty-free exchange of information, such as the ones which made the Internet a wonderful thing based upon low entry barriers. In reality, however, there is a resistance to this, which is sometimes the result of selfishness, even greed. Buzzwords like ‘innovation’ may be used as an excuse to deviate from standards and obtain greater control over means of communication. It makes dependency, even a reliance. Examples include the use of Adobe Flash and Microsoft’s ActiveX in public Web sites. This undermines the raison d’être and fundamental principles that made the Web accessible, indexable, portable and simplified enough for archival purposes.

Lobbying

To an extent, lobbying is related to the first and second points, namely standards and patents, at least in the sense that it sometimes brings them together. When governments do not prescribe standards, companies can take advantage and introduce patent-encumbered, vendor-specific, and sometimes DRM-laden ones as ‘standard’. Government-imposed restrictions and policies often stand in the way of new disruptive technologies and those who write and rewrite the law serve as gatekeepers in the face of change. They essentially serve as ‘agents of status quo’.

“They essentially serve as ‘agents of status quo’.”Lending a hand to issues around patents and standards, lobbyists are also involved in the process of making patent law and restrictions (e.g. requiring secret code for media playback). Watered-down bills and procurement which is not open for bidding (no tender) are another serious issue. We saw plenty of this even in the ODF/OOXML debate, which ceased to be technical although it should have been all along.

Lobbyists sometimes use a personal perspective, which is seen as self-serving (serving those whom they are paid by). There is plenty of evidence out there about DRM disinformation, for example, getting used to pass laws around the world, disguising the need for stubborn vendor lock-in as an elixir to copyrights infringement.

Competing Free Software Projects

Of course, as always, competition plays a role. Although GNU/Linux came under the most legal scrutiny in the past year — no matter how imaginary or spurious this scrutiny has been — other similar projects such as Hurd (part of the GNU operating system), OpenSolaris and BSD do exist to serve similar needs. They needn’t be seen as a threat because there is a great deal of intersection between the projects and their licensing terms permit a fair deal of exchange in terms of code. Hostility between the projects remains a danger. It’s a social barrier to be avoided because the projects can share space while there is plenty of market up for grabs.

“No battle is won without a fight and those who lose to GNU/Linux never rest on their laurels.”A fortnight ago, Microsoft’s CEO reluctantly admitted that Linux is the biggest competitor to Microsoft. Not Sun Microsystems, not Google, not IBM and not even Apple was the primary concern in Steve Ballmer’s mind. It seems to be the great momentum enabled by free software licences such as the GPL that Microsoft is most allergic to (i.e. afraid of).

Looking ahead, GNU/Linux will continue to evolve very fast. No other highly-distributed programming project thrives in development by a group so large and so highly motivated. It has become apparent, however, that some of the challenges to address along the way are more than just technical. It is important to be aware of them and respond to them appropriately. Embrace standards, favor Free software, antagonize software patents and keep a close eye on attempts to change the law. No battle is won without a fight and those who lose to GNU/Linux never rest on their laurels. They only make it seem that way in order to create apathy and unawareness of looming response. Secrecy can sometimes be predatory.

Originally published in Datamation in 2008

Red Hat Fights Fire with Fire

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Novell, OIN, Patents, Red Hat, Standard at 6:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Firefighters

Summary: Red Hat decides to use patents to mitigate the negative impact of patents

According to Red Hat’s new policy on software patents, “In the interests of our company and in an attempt to protect and promote the open source community, Red Hat has elected to adopt this same stance,” which is to adopt defensive patents. “We do so reluctantly because of the perceived inconsistency with our stance against software patents; however, prudence dictates this position,” Red Hat stresses.

Pieter Hintjens, former head of the FFII, is not alarmed by this. He writes:

I’d like to reassure everyone. Red Hat’s patent claim is very weak. iMatix first proposed content-based exchanges in the AMQP draft specs two years before Red Hat filed this. Further, the actual design is poor: dynamic routing XML is obvious but slow. There are faster ways to do this – extract the essential routing data from the XML and turn into a topic key or headers.

But the quality of the patent is actually irrelevant. What we have seen is that there is a risk that participants in the AMQP process will silently file patents on it. which would be detrimental to all of us, users and open source vendors alike. Even if this particular patent is contested and rejected, there will be others.

This new policy from Red Hat is being somewhat sensationalised by Slashdot, which even tries to make some comparison here to Microsoft/Novell (but if anything, it’s more like OIN).

“Red Hat’s patent policy says ‘In an attempt to protect and promote the open source community, Red Hat has elected to… develop a corresponding portfolio of software patents for defensive purposes. We do so reluctantly…’ Meanwhile, USPTO Application #: 20090063418, ‘Method and an apparatus to deliver messages between applications,’ claims a patent on routing messages using an XQuery match, which is an extension of the ‘unencumbered’ AMQP protocol that Red Hat is helping to make. Is this a defensive patent, or is Red Hat cynically staking out a software patent claim to an obvious extension of AMQP? Is Red Hat’s promise to ‘refrain from enforcing the infringed patent’ against open source a reliable contract, or a trap for the unwary? Given the Microsoft-Red Hat deal in February, are we seeing Red Hat’s ‘Novell Moment?’” Reader Defeat_Globalism contributes a related story about an international research team who conducted experiments to “quantify the ways patent systems and market forces might influence someone to invent and solve intellectual problems.” Their conclusion was that a system which doesn’t restrict prizes to the winner provides more motivation for innovation.

Jack Wallen proposes a better solution for Red Hat.

Of course, I understand why Red Hat would feel this necessary. But there are other ways around this that are less “’90s Microsoftian.” The most applicable idea is “prior art”. Basically what this means is any information (in any form) made public that is dated and relevant to the patents’ claim of originality can be used to dispute a patent. With that in mind I would much rather see Red Hat (in true open source form) create a sort of “patent wiki” that would post all information relevant to any ideas or technologies they are working on. With dated (and well documented) information, this would serve as strong defense against anyone applying to patent something Red Hat was already working on.

Mr. Wallen is probably right. Speaking for myself, I am personally opposed to fighting fire with fire, which is why I don't admire the OIN and hardly care for any of the output from corruptible analysts, no matter which direction they gravitate in. Red Hat should not take lessons from its competitors but instead do better (in the ethical sense, not just the purely business-wise sense). There is also a discussion about this in Linux Questions and The Register. To vilify software patents while embracing some simply leads to hypocrisy (hence no progress).

“Small Software companies cannot afford to go to court or pay damages. Who is this software patent system for?” —Marco Schulze, Nightlabs Gmbh

Is the EPO Selling Out to Microsoft?

Posted in Europe, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft, Patents at 6:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.

“One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”

Richard Stallman

Alison Brimelow

ACCORDING TO THE FFII, the EPO which is headed by Alison Brimelow (above) is perhaps acting against common sense and violating ethical guidelines by allowing the European Parliament no room in an important debate over software patents. What about the EBoA, which seems to be neglected for the time being?

“Microsoft-sponsored Czech presidency is working to ram software patents down the throat of the EPO using the so-called ‘Community’ patent.”Meanwhile, as we’ve been seeing recently [1, 2], the Microsoft-sponsored Czech presidency is working to ram software patents down the throat of the EPO using the so-called ‘Community’ patent. Those scare quotes are there to indicate that it’s one of these words which come to mean exactly the opposite of what they were supposed to mean, similar examples being “globalisation”, “harmonisation”, “libertarian”, “democracy”, and “conservative”. It’s an attack on people’s vocabulary and their ability to express ideas, even the ability to criticise what becomes glorified euphemisms.

The ‘Community’ patent is very anti-community in the sense that it’s means for banning Free software which is developed by real communities. According to IAM Magazine (subscription needed), the Czech deputy prime minister is the latest among the culprits.

Only last week the Czech deputy prime minister was saying: “The key to innovation at times of crisis is incentivisation. Lack of IPR can be fatal to SMEs, who are the main drivers of our economy and who, according to many studies, outperform larger firms in terms of technological importance of their innovations.” For this reason, he continued, the Czech presidency of the EU is “deeply committed” to finding solutions to the current Community patent and single jurisdiction impasses. It truly is a funny old world; especially in Europe

The rather alarming new press release is added below, in full. It sure seems like the EPO too has become part of this charade and already, as Microsoft’s Marshall Phelps put it quite recently, the EPO “can’t distinguish between hardware and software so the patents get issued anyway.”


EPO seeks to validate software patents without the European Parliament

Brussels, 17 March 2009 — At the highest level of the European Patent Office (EPO), the legality of software patents in Europe is about to be tested. The FFII warns that the European Parliament is being bypassed by allowing a decision with EU-wide implications to be made without its involvement or any real debate.

The President of the European Patent Office (EPO), Alison Brimelow, has asked the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) to decide on the interpretation of the European Patent Convention (EPC) regarding the exclusion of software from patentability. The EBA is replacing the European Parliament in order to validate software patents EU-wide without the need of a debate.

Benjamin Henrion, President of the association, says: “The current plan of the patent lobby is very clear: avoid a new software patent directive, validate the EPO practice via a central patent court, and guide the hand of the courts via a decision of the Enlarged Board of Appeal. They want to avoid the intervention of the European Parliament in substantive patent law.”

The European Parliament has already criticized the lack of separation of powers within the EPO in its resolution of March 2000 on human cloning: “Considering that the EPO is an institution acting as judge and party, where the attributions and procedures have to be revised. [...] Demand the revision of rules of function of the EPO in order to guarantee that this institution can publicly justify the accountability in the exercise of its functions [...].”

Influential persons such Alfons Schäfers, German lawyer and President of GRUR, were pointing at the lack of democratic control over the EPO and was calling for a return within the EU legal framework: “The EPO should become part of the European Union, like the OHIM in Alicante. To keep the EPO outside that framework is quite ridiculous at a time when the EU is expanding to the political and historical boundaries of Europe. The EU institutions – especially the European Parliament, must be given the wherewithal to exercise firm democratic control and to frame and implement European patent legislation. That is the only way to overcome the European Parliament’s growing suspicion of patent law.”

Henrion finishes: “What the EPO is doing is taking the place of the Parliament and skip the debate. The objective of this move is to guide the hand of the judges in order to achieve validation of software patents without a new law.”

Interested parties have up to the last day of April to send their comments to the Enlarged Board of Appeal.

The BBC and Self Censorship (Regarding Windows)

Posted in Deception, Windows at 5:28 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Hush hush

Summary: The BBC not only broke the law but also paid cybercriminals and re-raised the issue of self censorship (Windows never blamed)

RATHER than admit that it had done something erroneous, the BBC insisted on defending what it tactlessly embarked on, despite the fact that was a violation of the law. The BBC acts as though it didn’t know the law or as if it’s above the law. Now it turns out, based on The Register, that the BBC not only infiltrated people’s PC but it also fed/paid crackers (malicious, obviously, as the word implies) in this process, which helps not at all. Here is the latest episode in this one peculiar saga.

BBC Click used the botnet of 22,000 machine to send spam to webmail addresses it established and launch a denial of service attack against a test website by security firm PrevX which advised on the investigation. It then changed the wallpaper on compromised machines with a message of its own, advising affected users to clean up.

The BBC reckons its actions were legal, but specialist technology lawyers contacted by El Reg disagreed. Struan Robertson, editor of out-law.com and legal director at solicitors Pinsent Masons, said that the BBC’s actions were likely to have breached the unlawful access provision of the Computer Misuse Act, the UK’s anti-hacking law. He added that there was no public interest defense against CMA offences.

Isn’t it awfully hypocritical that when Gary McKinnon whimsically changes the wallpapers on some inscure Windows PC, then he faces extradiction and very long jail time, but when the BBC does it, then it’s ‘just’ education? This is probably the same old (and familiar) situation where if a small group commits acts of aggression then it’s labeled something like “terrorism”, but when a big developed nation does the very same thing, then it’s a war for “democracy” and “peace”. It’s scale that is inversely proportional to the severity of known crimes.

There are two issues here that we highlighted before. First — worth debating is the illegality of practice; the second is the fact that the BBC — much to its partner’s delight (Microsoft) — hardly bothers to mention that this is a Windows problem. Well, we already know how Microsoft 'manages' journalists and censors those who say that Windows is not secure (new example).

The BBC pretty much continues to deny its mistakes about Windows. One of its few (or only) FOSS-oriented columnists did attribute the problems to Windows in yesterday’s article, albeit not under a particularly informative headline (“Holes in the machine”).

Conficker spreads through a security vulnerability in the Windows Server Service that allows a carefully written program to persuade the attacked computer to run malicious code instead of the Microsoft-written software.

Once installed it turns off Windows Automatic Update and stops you using the Windows Security Centre. It disables a range of internal services that could be used by anti-malware programs, blocks access to a number of anti-virus websites and even resets and deletes system restore points so you can’t go back to an uninfected installation of your operating system.

Why is Windows not being blamed as often as it deserves to? What’s often found in the mainstream media suffers from a great level of self censorship. Well, self censorship is the situation in which a person abstains from saying certain things that might get him/her in trouble (and thus put the job at risk). It’s a subject that was covered before. And speaking of which, with the burden of words and liability, there are also atrocious moves in Italy to gag bloggers, to an extent.

An Italian MEP, Catiuscia Marini, has warned that net neutrality is proving to be a problem in the Telecoms Package trialogue discussions. She mentions the issue in a letter sent in response to concerned emails from thousands of Italian citizens about the threat to net neutrality in the Telecoms Package.

“As promised,” says Tacone, “at the end of th[is] article you’ll find a little snippet on the next Italian net-censorship act. It’s perhaps a little bit superficial, but there’s really not much to be explained it’s just the yet-another arrogant-ignorant-populist attempt to shut down free speech and preserve existing content monopolists.”

This is another lever of imposed discipline where writers are terrorised further. It’s intended to combat dissidence. There is plenty for politicians to worry about when a centralised, controlled press is going away and smaller publishers are returning after suppression of them almost a century ago.

In light of some recent developments, Mike Masnick explains why disappearance of old media is a good thing and we also find that the ‘client press’ of Microsoft, namely the Seattle P-I (there are more), will shut its doors later this week.

Seattle P-I to publish last edition Tuesday

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer will roll off the presses for the last time Tuesday.

This is also covered here, it was more or less expected and this is bad news to Microsoft, which will be less capable of controlling the press. When you control the press, you control what people think. You control consensus and therefore control what people are allowed to say and get away with. No more; not as much anyway.

Boycott Novell newspaper
Never self censorship in Boycott Novell

LF Video of the Day: GNU/Linux Pub

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, Videos at 3:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Ogg Theora

Direct link

Other videos from this contest:

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: March 16th, 2009 – Part 2

Posted in IRC Logs at 3:32 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Enter the IRC channel now

Read the rest of this entry »

IRC: #boycottnovell @ FreeNode: March 16th, 2009 – Part 1

Posted in IRC Logs at 3:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Enter the IRC channel now

Read the rest of this entry »

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