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05.07.10

Canonical Needs to Tell Ubuntu Users How Much It Paid MPEG-LA for Patent ‘Protection’

Posted in Europe, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents, RAND, Ubuntu at 7:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

MPEG LA logo

Summary: Canonical ought to offer some form of disclosure about patent deals with the MPEG cartel

FOLLOWING the KnowRi§ht conference which we wrote about in the morning (FFII has a whole page about it), the president of the FFII linked to this article from Slashdot, which in turn links to a Microsoft booster from The Register. We have already written about this article and sort of defended Canonical’s position when it comes to H.264 patents*. FFII’s president, however, reacted differently and wrote: “Time to book BoycottUbuntu.com? How much did Canonical spent on the H264 patent license for Ubuntu? Ask them please.”

He later asked Canonical’s COO, but has received no answer yet.

Popey (from Ubuntu) passed along the message that “Microsoft patents portable applications,” as reported by Microsoft boosters.

On Tuesday, Microsoft was awarded a U.S. patent for “portable applications.” The description of this innovative technology? Running an executable file from a flash device.

The accompanying remark says: “Goodbye portable Firefox?”

In other news, a European/British lawyers’ blog hosts this piece about “Removable Features of Operating Systems”; it covers patents as follows:

It is long established that intellectual property law applies to computer software. Source code written by programmers is subject to copyright and, where programmers are employees, the copyright is almost always assigned to their employer. The processes and techniques embodied in that source code may be further protected by patents. Individual programmers or, as is more common these days, teams of programmers invent technical solutions to problems, and those solutions may be protected by patents. Again, a patent will usually be assigned to the employer, if any, of the inventor, but sometimes to some other organization.

Software patents have no room in Europe and what’s baffling is that Canonical pays for software patents, despite the fact that it’s based in the UK. What gives?

That having been said, earlier today the president of the FFII said that the “European Commission [is] still using the undefined term FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory), pushing for patents.” He linked to this new article:

Uncertainty over royalty payments is a bugbear of the wireless industry, as seen by the current nervousness over the IPR burden that will materialize in LTE devices. Once standards are set and start to appear in commercial products, patent holders often emerge from the woodwork to claim their fee, leading to complex cross-licensing negotiations and sometimes lawsuits and hefty royalty fees.

Many bodies, particularly the European standards agency ETSI, have been trying to get patent holders to declare their holdings in a would-be standard upfront, and the European Union is now offering a powerful incentive to turn this into best practise. The EU says companies that provide technology that could be adopted in industry standards could be exempted from strict European antitrust laws if they set out, from the start, the maximum fees they would charge for their patents.

[...]

According to the Reuters news agency, the draft rules contain benchmarks to assess the level of FRAND licensing fees. The Commission said companies would need to disclose their intellectual property rights before their patents were included in standards. “No or unclear disclosure obligations may furthermore give incentives to ‘patent ambushes’, that is companies hiding patents until industry is locked in and thereafter refusing to license or request exorbitant fees,” the statement said.

As we pointed out before, heavy lobbying from Microsoft has bamboozled Neelie Kroes into accepting software patents through (x)RAND [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. Does the H.264 cartel utilise the same RAND trick which Microsoft is already exploiting?

“Digital society depends upon open standards and interoperability. And with this in mind, public organizations should practice what they promote. If they don’t use open standards, why should citizens?”

Jan Wildeboer

___
* Canonical paid to appease the patent troll, but the problem is that it legitimises an attack on other distributions like Fedora, Mandriva, and even Asterisk distributions.

Australian Tax Office May Dump Novell

Posted in Google, Microsoft, Novell at 7:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Attachment for GroupWise

Summary: NSW tax office is looking for a GroupWise replacement

GroupWise is losing business quicker than it gains any. Here is a new report which suggests that Novell will almost certainly be dumped. It is not known yet which product will replace Novell’s GroupWise, but NSW makes another mistake [1, 2] by sending communication to be parsed and spied on by another company.

Microsoft’s BPOS (business productivity suite) and Google Apps on trial to potentially replace the OSR’s in-house Novell GroupWise system.

Government departments should never rely on remotely-hosted services. Never. It’s about control.

“Stop Microsoft through government antitrust enforcement now or say goodbye to new products and the openness of the Internet. Gates will own everything, and collect a fee on every imaginable product and service in cyberspace from home finance to a virtual visit to the Louvre. And forget about getting these products and services someplace else. Competitors won’t exist.”

Antitrust attorney Gary Reback

When Brands Become Cults

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 7:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Scientology Centre

Summary: ABC News is slamming Apple for its behaviour; Apple is sued again for patent infringement

MICROSOFT’S very own Encarta (now facing the firing line) defines “cult” as “a system of religious or spiritual beliefs, especially an informal and transient belief system regarded by others as misguided, unorthodox, extremist, or false, and directed by a charismatic, authoritarian leader.” Another definition is “an extreme or excessive admiration for a person, philosophy of life, or activity” and “a person, philosophy, or activity regarded with extreme or excessive admiration.” In sociology terms, a cult is an “elite group: a self-identified group of people who share a narrowly defined interest or perspective.”

“Yes, Apple does have AstroTurfers, perhaps not as many as Microsoft’s.”Many things can be characterised as a “cult”, including Microsoft, Apple, and perhaps even GNU/Linux groups (there is no single group), but the difference we wish to stress here is the role companies play. In the case of GNU/Linux, there is no company encouraging a cult-like behaviour; no single company owns Linux and GNU is not even a company at all; it’s antithetical to it. Now, compare this to Microsoft’s army of AstroTurfers and Apple’s fake hype campaigns which are facilitated by sites like Roughly Drafted, which are getting inside access as a reward for their borderline-AstroTurfing for Apple. Yes, Apple does have AstroTurfers, perhaps not as many as Microsoft’s.

There is a new article about Apple’s abuse of a blogger from Gizmodo — a subject that we covered in the following posts (in order of appearance):

To quote from the new article which appeared in ABC (mainstream media by all means):

Instead, fearful of being blackballed and missing the big story, and afraid of being swarm attacked by the legions of Apple fanatics who act as unpaid flacks to anyone who dares to challenge the perfection of the company or the divinity of its founder — and most of all, not having the muscle of the old-time media empires — today’s press largely has turned into the company’s full-time lapdog and lickspittle. Some well-known reporters have built entire careers out of being Apple promoters — and thus being given insider access.

The latest word is that Chen and Gizmodo have lawyered up and are considering suing the police. Good. And they should go after REACT as well, to the point that it is disbanded and replaced by another entity that isn’t a tool of big corporations.

Meanwhile, those Apple fanatics out there (including a few big-name bloggers) that are defending this assault on liberty should be deeply ashamed of themselves for being willing to trade the First Amendment for a few cool techno-baubles.

Apple has gone way too far and at the bottom of this post we add a fairly new message regarding Apple’s behaviour and Steve Jobs’ vanity. Apple apologists are a subject that we covered last month.

Over at IDG, there is this new post titled “Shakespeare weighs in on Apple/Gizmodo” and it contains the following:

In early 2007 he seemed none too pleased with the Microsoft/Novell alliance, among other things.

But focusing again on Apple, Florian sent us this press release earlier today:

Nokia announced that it has today filed a complaint against Apple with the Federal District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, alleging that Apple iPhone and iPad 3G products infringe five important Nokia patents.

There is already press coverage of that.

Nokia, not content with the pair of existing patent actions in Delaware, has filed another action for five patent infringements. This time it’s in Wisconsin, presumably for variety.

We have already written many posts about the Nokia-Apple patent situation [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Since Apple sues Linux/Android and Nokia says that it would protect Linux using its patents, a lot has changed since this confrontation began and we have to take Nokia’s side. Apple seems to have more or less sidled with Microsoft, which is a proprietary software ally with joint interests in harming Linux.


From USENET (for context):

Re: [News] [Rival] Apple Does a Lot of Evil and Continues to Get bad Publicity
From: Homer / Slated
Date: Wednesday 05 May 2010 18:44:21
Groups: comp.os.linux.advocacy

>> His only “sin” is founding a company that makes great products.

Apple’s greatest “product” is their indoctrination of sheeple like you, such that even the Microsoft faithful can’t see beyond Messiah Jobs’ “shiny-shiny” propaganda, to the political slime underneath.

Here’s a good article on that “product”:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/apple-unveils-new-productunveiling-product,2162/

Then again, it’s people like you who shovelled that slime in there to begin with, so it’s doubtful that you’d be repelled by it.

>> Your sins are helping an oil drilling firm pollute the ocean

Please don’t embarrass yourself by discussing things which you obviously don’t understand in the slightest. A gas FPSO, such as the one I worked on, does nothing to pollute the ocean.

Your continued and desperate attempt to stigmatise me with this is futile and pathetic.

You probably pollute the ocean more than that FPSO. You certainly pollute COLA, and the rest of the world, with your sick ideologies.

>> and exploit Nigerians

It’s ironic that, out of all the many contracts I’ve done in the offshore industry over the years, you should choose to focus on the one which not only entailed the least corruption by far (not to mention the least pollution), on the part of the oil and drilling companies concerned, but in fact saw those companies exploited by others – specifically the government of Nigeria, a body which, I can assure you, the people of Nigeria have much more to be fearful of than western oil and drilling companies.

Again, you simply have no idea what you’re talking about.

Paying Nigerian workers more than double the money they’d make elsewhere in Nigeria, providing them with pristine accommodation, feeding them four square meals a day, and providing them with a full range of entertainment facilities on board, is not exactly what I’d call “exploitation”, and it’s certainly more than they could expect from their corrupt government.

But the general assertion that the oil industry is corrupt is certainly true, as it is for every other industry, or anything else which has the potential for exploitation. Every one of us is surrounded by corruption in every aspect of our lives; there’s simply no way to avoid it, except perhaps to live in a cave or commit suicide. That then leaves people only two choices, to either accept or fight this corruption, whilst nonetheless continuing to live and work in an environment dominated by it.

However, evil bastards like you contend that fighting corruption whilst still living and working in a corrupt environment is somehow “hypocrisy”, essentially precluding everyone in the world from the moral right to speak out against corruption. Naturally this artificial paradox is very useful to people like you, who seek to promote that corruption, and defend it against its detractors, by falsely stigmatising them as “hypocrites”.

Am I getting warm, DooFy?

Of course, exposing your deceptions won’t actually stop you, will it, any more than prosecuting Microsoft and Apple will stop their racketeering? That’s why even after years of being exposed as a thug and a fraud working for the cause of a twisted political agenda, you’re still polluting COLA with your filth: Your agenda hasn’t changed just because you’ve been exposed, and neither has Microsoft’s or Apple’s just because they’ve been prosecuted.

The only way to stop them, and you, is to take away the power that fuels their corruption … money. Companies that run their business like gangsters need to be shut down permanently: Forcibly liquidated and stripped of their assets. The knock-on effect of that is people like you would no longer have a corrupt cause to “evangelise”, and you and your kind would crawl back into the slime pit you slithered out of.

>> and frothing vicious hatred for people that don’t agree with you 
>> about computer software.

“Don’t agree with me about computer software” doesn’t cut it, DooFy, as you damn-well know. The core of my doctrine has nothing specifically to do with software, it is simply that all knowledge should be Free, because no one person or company is the exclusive source of any given knowledge, and therefore to claim exclusive “ownership” of it is a lie.

Unrelated to that is the principle that businesses should not be allowed to behave like a bunch of gangsters running a racketeering operation, “competing” in a way that has nothing to do with the merit of their products or services, but instead relies completely on fear, sabotage, threats, bribery and extortion.

Microsoft and Apple violate both doctrines, a whole swath of other moral principles, and often the law.

You are apparently not only content to ignore their criminal behaviour, but actually revel in it, because of you are utterly committed to the principles of exploitation, selfishness and greed.

The best defence you can then offer to justify your vile attitude is that “other people do it”, pointing the finger at /me/, when in fact you know that is no justification at all, even if your accusations had any merit or were anything more than desperate speculation and wishful thinking. Not that slander ever actually needs any merit to cause the desired damage to its intended victim, or course, which is why you continue with your lies unabated.

>> He’s a winner

He’s a gangster, no better than Ballmer. His illegal misuse of the police as his own private security company, and his comments about Theora proves that, if not his decades of thuggish behaviour towards others who merely tried to support Apple products, but were rewarded with an iron fist. Indeed, Apple is on the verge of yet another prosecution, concerning Jobs thrusting his iron fist into the face of iPhone developers.

His “winnings” are the spoils of that gangsterism, just like Microsoft’s are the spoils of Ballmer’s and Gates’. Only someone who thinks like a gangster, sympathises with thugs and criminals, and scorns their innocent victims, could perceive this as “winning”.

> you’re a loser.

Thanks to Microsoft and Apple, and various other “IP” thugs in the industry like Alcatel Lucent, I and everyone else have lost some of our freedom. Again, only someone who thinks like a criminal would condemn the victims of crime as “losers”.

> Quick Nurse, Damp Fungal Sponge’s medication is wearing off and his 
> tin foil hat is slipping!

DooFy is just clutching at straws as usual, in a desperate attempt to defend the indefensible.

IRC Proceedings: May 7th, 2010

Posted in IRC Logs at 5:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

Links 7/5/2010: RHEL and CentOS 3 EoL, Fedora 13 Near

Posted in News Roundup at 5:52 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Riverbed and the Open Source Flamebox

    We also talked about the open source model and how it applies to a proprietary networking vendor like Riverbed.

  • Development/Documentation

    • Too Many Forges, Too Little Time

      Those days are long over, and I wonder if that’s a good thing. SourceForge, for all its flaws (and it had plenty), set some expectations for projects that other services do not. For example, SourceForge provides Web hosting, mailing lists, bug trackers, and most of the tools that projects need to grow and succeed. In short, not just the development tools, but also the community tools needed to discuss and promote the projects. For many projects, that set an expectation of using those tools.

    • New documentation project for blind Linux users and all the others

      When he realized that custom documentation for Free Software is needed for vision-impaired users, Tony Baechler offered to launch a dedicated service. I asked Tony what exactly he hopes to set up and how it should work.

      [...]

      Stop: When I first read Tony’s offer, I decided to contact him because I thought that such a good idea deserved as much exposure as possible. After reading this plan and the rationale behind it I’m even more convinced and also have one more reason to invite all readers who want to know more or could help in any way to contact Tony or visit audio.BatSupport.com, the website on which he will host these tutorials: follow Tony’s guidelines and you’ll produce audio tutorials very useful for all potential Linux users, not just those with vision problems!

  • Mozilla

    • Firefox 3.7a5pre: Tabs on Top, New Add-on Manager

      Firefox 3.7a5pre now has an option to place the browser’s tabs on top of the controls, similar to Google Chrome. This is likely part of Mozilla’s plans to redesign Firefox for version 4. The new option can be found in the right-click menu as “Tabs on Top” below “Navigation Toolbar” and “Bookmarks Toolbar”.

    • Education for an Open Web

      The Mozilla Foundation and the Shuttleworth Foundation support dynamic leaders with new ideas that drive openness and innovation. In particular, we share an interest in how open technologies and open education can foster creativity, participation and fresh thinking that improves the world. For this reason, we have decided to jointly offer an Education for the Open Web Fellowship. This is the call for proposals.

  • Oracle

    • Ex-Sun exec Padir turns focus to startup’s open-source software

      Karen Tegan Padir is an evangelist. Her gospel is open source software, and she recently changed denominations when she left Sun Microsystems Inc., where she was in charge of running the departments that determined the future of such ubiquitous Internet software as Java and MySQL.

    • VirtualBox Continues To Gain Under Oracle

      VirtualBox 3.2 Beta 1 brought experimental support for Mac OS X guests, memory ballooning, CPU hot-plugging, new hypervisor features, RDP video acceleration, and much more. With VirtualBox 3.2 Beta 2, Oracle has introduced Java bindings for VirtualBox, numerous GUI enhancements, fixes for Ubuntu 10.04 LTS guests, new icons, performance optimizations, and various other fixes.

  • Business

    • How Do You Make a Pentaho?

      Daley told me that it has around 45,000 “active” members – that is, people that do something rather than just visit. The community also contributes to the overall project – mostly QA, but also bug-fixes.

  • BSD

    • Bordeaux 2.0.4 for FreeBSD and PC-BSD Released

      The Bordeaux Technology Group released Bordeaux 2.0.4 for FreeBSD and PC-BSD today. Bordeaux 2.0.4 is a maintenance release that fixes a number of small bugs. With this release we have changed the Bordeux UI from a GTKDialog to a GTKWindow, the “OK” button has also been re-named to “Install”. We have upgraded our Wine bundle from 1.1.36 to 1.1.41, updated to the latest winetricks release, added support for the new Steam UI, and changed the progress bar back to Zenity.

  • Releases

  • Government

    • Open source is NASA’s next frontier

      The challenges to government’s adoption and participation in open-source communities is often thought to be a simple culture clash, but in reality it goes deeper than that, according to NASA’s newly-appointed chief technology officer.

      “The issues that we need to tackle are not only cuture, but beyond culture,” said Chris Kemp, formerly chief information officer at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif. “And I think we need new policy and support from the administration and Congress to help us tackle” them.

      [...]

      And open source is a key element of Kemp’s strategy. “We’re actually creating a new Open Source Office under our Open Government Initiative under the Chief Technology Officer’s office,” he said. “We’re really taking this seriously, and we’ve never had this sort of visibility and interest from headquarters before.”

    • EU Parliament calls for internet rights charter

      The Parliament has adopted a new digital strategy called 2015.eu which outlines its ambitions for internet policy for the next five years and beyond. It has passed a resolution adopting the plan and demanding that the European Commission make it work.

  • Openness

    • Honeywell Goes Open Source, Grabs Akuacom

      The smart grid shopping spree keeps going this week. Building automation giant Honeywell said on Friday that it has bought demand response firm Akuacom, for an undisclosed price. The news comes days after Swiss electrical giant ABB said it plans to throw down more than $1 billion for smart grid software player Ventyx (The Smart Grid Acquisition Tally . . . So Far).

    • Open Access/Content

      • PLoS ONE and botanical pioneer helps to bring open-access taxonomy a step closer

        There are several thousand new plant species described every year, published in a range of plant taxonomy journals and other venues. Publishing another description might not be seen as a particularly earth-shattering event but we are enormously proud to be able to publish Sandra Knapp’s new paper on four new vining species in PLOS ONE today as it represents a turning point for PLoS and for botanical nomenclature. The paper is a botanical pioneer: it is the first to be published in an online-only journal whilst adhering to the strict botanical code that sets out how new species can be named.

      • Copyright: a Conditional Intellectual Monopoly
  • Standards/Consortia

    • The future of the Internet is here: non-English extensions hit the Web

      Kim has already written a quick blog post on the launch, highlighting the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and IT, which is at the end of one of three top-level domains that have gone live.

      It is hard to describe the importance of this step. It has been years, literally years, of conversation and discussion and engineering to get to this point. And that point is: the Internet’s core infrastructure can now deal with non-ASCII language. Which means that the Arabic-speaking world, the Chinese-speaking world, the Hindi-speaking world, in fact the majority of people on the planet can finally use the Internet natively without this strange American structure that makes you puts, for example, “.com” at the end of every domain.

    • The Future of Reading is Open

      Today, Scribd is changing the way you read documents online. Over the next few weeks and months, Scribd will convert our entire content corpus — tens of millions of documents, books and presentations — into native HTML5 web pages so that we can offer the best online reading experience. Scribd documents in HTML5 load instantly, support native browser functions (zoom, search, scroll, select text), and deliver an impressive reading experience across all browsers and web-enabled devices, without requiring add-ons or plug-ins.

Leftovers

  • Presidential panel report: to avoid cancer, eat organic, filter water, avoid plastic food containers

    After reading the report, I was inspired to throw out (recycle!) all of the pthalate and BPA-laden cheapo plastic food storage containers from my kitchen, and order replacements made from glass with silicone seals. I already buy mostly organic foods, and drink mostly filtered water. I don’t microwave my food at all, but if even storing cold leftovers in certain types of plastic containers might up your risk, this seems an easy and cheap enough change to make. Can’t hurt.

  • Business Models

    • From Business Models to ‘Betterness’ Models

      I’d like to advance a hypothesis. Maybe, just maybe, business isn’t why companies exist anymore. Maybe 21st century companies are no longer just in business, but in “betterness.” Here’s what I mean.

      A fool and his wallet, they say, are soon parted. Consider yours truly. Recently, I ordered furniture from IKEA. It’s just for a spare room, I thought, and I’ll save a few bucks. What I forgot? The hidden costs. Comically torturous self-assembly with hilariously absurd diagrams, to begin with. But I never even got that far.

    • Wikipedia Now Lets You Order Printed Books
  • Hardware

  • Science

    • The Internet anticipated in 1964

      When the New Scientist’s 1964 series of predictions for “The World in 1984” was published by Penguin Books the following year, I added tables at the end. They summarized what seemed to me the main expectations of the scientists and scholars (about 100 of them) who contributed to the project. The first table concerned “Major Technological Revolutions” and I reproduce its contents below, reformatted to fit the page but otherwise unmodified in any way. The question marks denoted explicit disagreement or implicit controversy on important points.

  • Security/Aggression

    • Why Aren’t There More Terrorist Attacks?

      As the details of the Times Square car bomb attempt emerge in the wake of Faisal Shahzad’s arrest Monday night, one thing has already been made clear: Terrorism is fairly easy. All you need is a gun or a bomb, and a crowded target. Guns are easy to buy. Bombs are easy to make. Crowded targets — not only in New York, but all over the country — are easy to come by. If you’re willing to die in the aftermath of your attack, you could launch a pretty effective terrorist attack with a few days of planning, maybe less.

    • Video of SWAT Raid on Missouri Family

      Radly Balko of Reason posted this video of a SWAT raid on a family in Missouri. The officers found a small amount of cannabis, and so they arrested the parents on a charge of child endangerment, naturally.

  • Environment

    • ‘Iron hand’ to help realize green goals

      Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday vowed to realize the country’s green goal to cut energy intensity by 20 percent between 2006 and 2010, amid the strong economic recovery.

      In a nationwide video and teleconference, Wen told governments at all levels to work with an “iron hand” to eliminate inefficient enterprises.

    • Republicans won’t be nudged into cutting home energy

      It was hailed as a breakthrough in the fight to cut carbon emissions. In 2007, researchers found that heavy electricity users cut their consumption after being told that they used more energy than their neighbours. Almost a million US households have since received similar feedback and have cut electricity use by an average of 2.5 per cent.

      But a new study has identified a wrinkle in the plan: the feedback only seems to work with liberals. Conservatives tend to ignore it. Some even respond by using more energy.

    • Future temperatures could be too hot to survive

      Researchers from Purdue University and the University of New South Wales, Australia, have for the first time calculated the highest ‘wet-bulb’ temperature that people can tolerate – and have found that it could be exceeded for the first time in human history under reasonable worst-case climate change scenarios.

    • EU vows to tackle overfishing with policy overhaul

      European Union ministers on Wednesday vowed to overhaul their 840 million euro-a-year fishing subsidies policy by next year to avoid overfishing and make the industry more sustainable.

    • US carbon emissions plunge—not just because of lousy economy

      Residential and commercial energy use have remained pretty flat for the last three years, but transportation started a gradual decline in energy consumption in 2007. Although 2008 saw a huge decline in driving due to fuel prices, the cost of fuel dropped in 2009. As one might expect, total miles traveled rose, although only by a small fraction of a percent. Nevertheless, total fuel consumption was down from 2008 for every month of the year, spurred in part by an increase of 1.5mpg in the average fleet fuel economy. Given that the fuel economy is set to rise rapidly through 2016, this sector is likely to continue to improve.

    • Europe’s green delusion

      The European Union likes to think of itself as the unrivalled champion of eco-governance but, argues Derrick Sutter, it is far from living up to its image.

  • Finance

    • Low interest rates didn’t cause the bubble, economists say

      Economists have spent the past 70-plus years trying to figure out what caused the Great Depression. They’re likely to spend the next 70 analyzing the causes and lessons of this decade’s devastating boom and bust.

    • Senate Nod to Fed Audit Is Expected

      The Senate on Thursday rejected an effort by liberal Democrats to break up some of the biggest banks, defeating an amendment to financial regulatory legislation that would have imposed new limits on the size and scope of financial companies.

    • Congress wants review of market plunge

      Lawmakers are trying to learn the causes of the drastic stock market sell-off to ensure that high-tech trading is monitored and average investors are protected in the wilds of Wall Street.

    • As Homeowners’ Dreams Die, He’s the Undertaker

      Hardly any. Legally, they have already lost ownership. If they do not respond to the carrot the lenders offer — as much as $5,000 in cash in exchange for leaving the house in good order — he employs the stick: the county sheriff, who evicts them.

    • Steven Pearlstein: Greek crisis exposes cracks in Europe’s foundation

      It is easy to dismiss Thursday’s 30-minute, 1,000-point boomerang on the Dow Jones industrial average as a freak event that resulted when everyday human error collided with high-speed, high-volume computerized trading.

    • Glassman Says It Was ‘Stupid’ to Criticize Senators

      James Glassman, a senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., said it was a mistake for him to call members of a Senate panel ignorant and to call for “grownups to step in” to the financial reform debate.

    • Financial firms’ roles toughen legislative task

      But whether it should be the law is the subject of debate on Capitol Hill as the Senate prepares to vote on legislation to overhaul financial regulation. It is also one of the key issues underpinning the recent controversy regarding Goldman’s role in the financial crisis.

    • Unwashed Masses 1, Fed 0: Sanders Scores

      The effort to audit the Fed got a big boost last night when Senator Bernie Sanders reached an agreement with Chris Dodd, the chair of the banking committee. Under the deal, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) would undertake a full audit of the special facilities created by the Fed since December of 2007. GAO would make the findings from its audit available to the Congressional leadership. It would also make most of the details of the Fed’s transactions available to the public.

    • Democrats defeat GOP alternative on consumer agency

      Senate Democratic leaders cleared two major obstacles Thursday to winning passage of a Wall Street reform bill, beating back a Republican effort to curb the reach of a new consumer agency and striking a compromise on a watered-down bill to shine a light on Federal Reserve activities.

    • A.I.G. Said to Dismiss Goldman

      As its legal troubles mount, Goldman Sachs is losing a big corporate client: the American International Group.

    • Thank you, Goldman Sachs

      Has Congress suddenly grown a collective spine? Between the SEC case, the recent hearings held by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, and the current turmoil in the euro zone (exacerbated, some say, by derivatives deals), even Republicans can read the writing on the wall now: the public wants action against Wall Street. Will there be—mirabile dictu!—an actual bipartisan vote in favor of financial reform?

    • Roubini Urges Goldman Sachs Breakup, Possible CDO Ban: Books

      Break up Goldman Sachs Group Inc., he says. Consider banning collateralized debt obligations. And why not compensate traders with slices of their own exotic securities instead of with cash or shares?

    • Goldman braces for shareholder fury

      Goldman investors are converging on lower Manhattan for the firm’s annual shareholder meeting. Typically a rather mild-mannered affair, the gathering is poised to turn contentious given the scrutiny Goldman has been under in recent weeks.

    • BP And Goldman Sachs: Gambling With Your Money

      Just like Goldman Sachs, BP acted irresponsibly by recklessly pursuing profits at the expense of the American people. Both companies gambled, both companies lost, and both companies expect the taxpayer to clean up their mess. It’s time both companies are held accountable.

    • Goldman Sachs SEC Settlement Could Hit $5 BILLION: Fox Business Network

      Charlie Gasparino of Fox Business Network is reporting that the SEC’s highly publicized civil fraud charges against Goldman Sachs are likely to be settled for $1 billion to $5 billion.

    • What Any Goldman Settlement Might Entail
    • Whitman’s lead over Poizner plummets

      Former eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s lead in the Republican race for California governor has shrunk dramatically as the billionaire candidate has been battered by her ties to Goldman Sachs, new Republican and Democratic polls suggest.

    • Calpers Votes to Split Chairman, CEO Roles at Goldman

      The California Public Employees Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension fund, voted to split the roles of chairman and chief executive officer currently held by Lloyd Blankfein at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

    • Lloyd Blankfein Should Resign From Goldman Sachs

      Under Mr. Blankfein, Goldman’s reputation has gone from Teflon to Velcro. Criticism that used to beguile other firms without nicking the Goldman now seem to only stick to Goldman. Once the pinnacle of banking, Goldman is now the butt of jokes across Wall Street and Main Street.

    • A steel dome will be lowered over Wall St to contain the red ink

      A drilling platform at the corner of Wall Street and Broadway exploded and sank today with sticky red ink spreading across the land. It is impossible to estimate the damage this will do as it begins to wash up on Main Street. Senator John Kyle of Arizona denied that any Republican in the Senate ever favored more financial drilling, “Some candidate may have had said something two or three years ago like ‘the fundamentals of the economy are sound’ but that was never our policy”.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • Commissioner Malmström launches censorship arms race

      Commissioner Malmström has been explaining to the European Parliament and to the press that her Internet blocking proposals are “only” about child abuse websites and “only” the kind of blocking that is in place in countries such as Sweden. At the same time, however, her officials have been convincing the EU’s national home affairs ministries to agree in principle to measures to develop legal powers to destroy web resources outside the EU anywhere in an area covering the majority of the northern hemisphere.

    • Brazil’s Proposed Internet Regulation–an Update (That’s Actually Good News) (Guest Blog Post)

      Some fantastic news: in response to the waves of criticism toward the proposed notice and takedown regime that might have curbed online speech in Brazil – see my prior blog post – the Brazilian Ministry of Justice has announced a completely different system for online service provider liability and content removal.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • WIPO Traditional Knowledge Committee Moving Toward Legal Agreement

      A World Intellectual Property Organization committee tasked with finding an international instrument to prevent the misappropriation of traditional knowledge, folklore, and genetic resources has begun in earnest text-based discussions and is now working to find an agreement on extra meetings intended to speed the process towards creating an international legal instrument.

    • Copyrights

    • ACTA

      • Border detention of counterfeit and/or “counterfeit” pharma products

        So what is this 60 page document (which you can download here) all about? As ICTSD’s website explains:

        “The detentions of generic medicines in transit as a result of the implementation by certain countries of border measures, which go beyond the minimum standards set by the TRIPS Agreement, have attracted international attention. At the same time, such measures are often considered, by these countries, as instrumental in the fight against the circulation of “counterfeit” medicines [The Kat thinks these countries, in so far as they are personified, are concerned with counterfeits, not "counterfeits". The agenda of specific rights owners may be a different matter]. Clearly, the border measures in question raise complex legal and technical issues under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

      • Written Declaration 12/2010 signatories list
      • European Parliament Passes Resolution Calling on Canada To Support Moving ACTA to WIPO

        In the aftermath of its success in promoting release of the ACTA draft text, it is interesting to see the European Parliament becoming increasingly vocal about the ACTA negotiations. Canada has remained generally silent on these issues and the EP resolution may help coax out a response.

Clip of the Day

Functions and Statistics – International Space Station – Up To Us (1/4/2001)


AMD Should Have Given RadeonHD Driver Project to Red Hat

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Kernel, Microsoft, SLES/SLED at 8:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Test point on board

Summary: When given the chance, AMD should have let a real Linux company like Red Hat handle the free/libre ATI driver

Novell does not really care about software freedom. SUSE does care about it, Novell does not. These two entities are still separable because their philosophies differ.

As we pointed out twice this week, RadeonHD is apparently dying [1, 2], but it is important to understand the Microsoft factor, the Microsoft-imposed DRM mess, but most importantly the fights between Novell and AMD (wars of words). In fact, AMD almost gave the project to Red Hat, which already does fantastic work with Nouveau.

Phoronix takes a look at what happened to RadeonHD and there is focus on Novell’s role.

Earlier this week we reported that Novell was finally dropped the RadeonHD driver from openSUSE as they switch to using the xf86-video-ati driver with kernel mode-setting (KMS) support over using their in-house R500/600/700 driver they had developed as part of AMD’s initial open-source strategy for Linux. Whenever bringing up the RadeonHD driver at Phoronix it generally leads to a heated discussion in our forums between community members, developers, and other representatives over the history of the RadeonHD driver and what really was its purpose, among other dissenting views.

In this most recent discussion, Luc Verhaegen who formerly worked for Novell and was one of the few Novell engineers that worked heavily on the xf86-video-radeonhd driver from the beginning, made several more claims. Among these claims were “We at SUSE wanted to do what was best for the free software desktop, and it’s a real shame how politics and shortsighted egotripping wasted a lot of resources and destroyed many of the good and honest advancements and goals of this project.” In one of the replies, AMD’s John Bridgman had then said, “AMD senior management approved a plan that was developed jointly between “AMD people”, “ATI people”, Dave and Alex. I know you guys worked hard on a separate plan but that was not the plan that we were following.” What though was the original, “separate” SUSE plan for a free software ATI driver?

Novell’s obligation to Linux is not what it used to be. Novell’s contribution to it has gone down quite sharply (Microsoft patches hardly count) and the fight against SCO can also be seen as a selfish one (it need to be justified to shareholders after all). UNIX is worth a lot of money, so Novell is defending UNIX, not Linux. Regarding the Acacia case, watch Novell trying to sneak in and claim more credit by contacting bloggers.

Novell, by the way, appears not to have commented on this win in a press release. Update: One of Novell’s PR representatives contacted me. He agreed that Novell hadn’t sent out a release on this topic. They did, on the other hand, publish something on their PR blog about this (see http://www.novell.com/prblogs/?p=2406 for more information.)
As an aside, this approach to releasing information doesn’t work very well unless all of the intended recipients come around and visit the blog from time to time. Since we’re tracking well over 100 virtualization suppliers and well over 200 cloud computing suppliers, visiting all of their blogs would be a huge investment in time and effort

As we pointed out before, only Red Hat issued a press release and Novell just issued a belated message in its PR blog. We covered this in:

Red Hat is a Linux company. Novell is… well, a whole lot of stuff, mostly proprietary software. This morning we showed a video where Professor Eben Moglen said that Microsoft would call its GNU/Linux distribution “Novell”.

‘IP’ People Want to Add Software Patents to New Zealand and Europe

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 7:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

New Auckland montage
Picture by Taifarious1, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

Summary: Another update from New Zealand and interesting developments from Europe, where Spain stands in Michel Barnier’s way

THE patent situation in New Zealand currently resembles the situation in Europe. Multinationals and lawsuits-loving lawyers are trying to use or even abuse the system for their own agenda to be advanced and interests promoted at the expense of citizens’ (including developers). We find some of these people in Twitter. “Twitterer suggest general dislike of patents is crypto-luddism,” writes Carlo Piana, but “It’s the opposite: current system stifles innovation. [Software patents] hundredfold so…”

The legal 'industry' in New Zealand has been promoting software patents in New Zealand not because they would be beneficial to the software industry (which overwhelmingly rejects them, based on numerous new polls). Someone called “IPMentor” (probably from the field of law, as the name may suggest) has just gotten this opinion published in the press. It contains many common fallacies in there (mostly easy to spot). To give one example:

The Uniservices conclusion is just about opposite to the MED policy driver behind the current Bill – patents are to be discouraged because their benefits will flow overseas.

And what of the software ban? Well, the select committee has had a bit of a bob each way. The amended Bill bans patents for “computer programs.” But the explanatory note says their intention is not to ban patents for “embedded software” – and then says trying to define the difference between the two was too hard, so the intellectual property office should be left to draft appropriate guidelines.

No, a bill which permits software patenting would have the completely opposite effect because it would put New Zealand in a position of disadvantage, it gives its developers no safety from outside coercion. Ideally, the Bill should not just ban software patents; there are loopholes which need to be closed too, ones involving phrases or depictions like “on a device”.

Over in Europe, a debate takes place regarding software patents as well. It seems like Florian was the first to cover it.

I participated in the KnowRi§ht conference in Vienna, Austria, where I was invited on ultrashort notice to give a speech on “Software Patents, Standards & Competition”.

The big controversy at that conference clearly related to the future of the European patent (and patent court) system. I will report on that in a later post. Previously I’d like to summarize the outline of intellectual property rights matters on the EU agenda that a European Commission official gave at the conference.

Before I get into details of Dr. Jens Gaster’s comments, I have to mention that he pointed out at the beginning of his speech that he was not acting as a spokesman of the institution that employs him (the European Commission) but instead in a personal capacity as a lecturer. It was an academic conference and Dr. Gaster continues to pursue an academic career in addition to his work for the Commission.

There is more here about the FFII’s presentation (titled “What’s wrong with the UPLS?”).

The FFII criticizes that an incredibly powerful, international patent and patent court system would then be able to take controversial decisions while there wouldn’t be a single powerful and democratically elected legislator that could correct undesirable developments through new and better laws.

The FFII doesn’t mean that the judges themselves should be under democratic control (judges should always be as independent from political bodies as possible) but that there should be a lawmaking body that can pass new legislation related to all aspects of patent law. Even the European Parliament wouldn’t be able to do so. It has to share legislative powers in the EU with the national governments of the Member States, and the geographic scope of the UPLS would go beyond the borders of the EU itself.

Critics of the UPLS also have structural concerns, such as over what would happen if such a relatively autonomous court system exclusively specialized on patents and detached from the general judicial framework had to rule on a case in which a party claims fundamental rights under its country’s constitution.

[...]

For the event that the European Court of Justices “gives some green light” for the reform initiative, Benjamin Henrion predicts “huge lobbying.”

JM Cerqueira Esteves says that “According to PT’s INPI, the Norwegian Ind Prop Office is having today & tomorrow a debate on software patents (Except that our INPI uses, of course, the “computer-implemented yada yada” newspeak we’re well acquainted with).” Here is the English version of the page.

The primary role of The Norwegian Industrial Property Office (NIPO) is to support Norwegian industry and promote economic growth. Raising awareness and increasing understanding of industrial property rights is an essential element in enabling companies to secure their investments and develop a competitive edge in the global market.

Florian says that the “EC [is] likely to put EU-wide patent plans on hold due to lack of support from Spain” and he points to this new article. FFII’s president (Benjamin Henrion) adds or quotes: “No country will allow their companies to be discriminated in profit of Central-EU, US and JP big multinationals.”

“The article does not seem to be available online anymore,” he told us.

This article says that European commissioner Michel Barnier (he is the “man whose job is to pass anti-Free(dom) software laws,” as we put it back in December) regretfully needs “to put EU-wide patent plans on hold” and that he is “frustrated at lack of help from Spain”. To quote some more portions: “The creation of the patent has been an economic priority for the EU for ten years, and is a major goal of the Europe 2020 economic growth strategy.”

“It is innovation that distinguishes the leading countries from all others.”
      –Miguel Sebastián, Spain’s industry minister
That’s nonsense. See the presentation from the FFII for gory details about UPLS.

The article says: “Barnier had planned to present the relevant draft legislation on 18 May, in time for a political agreement by industry ministers at a meeting on 25-26 May, the last they will have under the Spanish presidency. But officials said that Barnier was becoming frustrated with Spain’s unwillingness to negotiate on the dossier or to prioritise work on it in the Council.”

Well, Spain should be congratulated. It is doing the right thing here. As we already know: “Sweden brokered a deal on the specifications for an EU-wide patent during its presidency of the Council of Ministers in the second half of 2009.” We wrote about this at the time.

Lastly, Spain’s industry minister Miguel Sebastián is quoted as saying, “It is innovation that distinguishes the leading countries from all others.” As everyone ought to know, patents and innovation are not the same thing and what Barnier is proposing opens the door to software patents in Europe.

Symptoms of the Sickness of the Patent System and Apple’s Infinite Greed

Posted in Apple, Law, Patents at 7:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Jobs with patent
Original photo by Matt Buchanan; edited by Techrights

Summary: The patent system receives more mockery and jabs while monopolies like Apple exploit it in order to marginalise competition

PATENTS are not an ethical thing in general, but their original intent was a positive one. The patent system was created to protect the small guy/girl (the “inventor”) from the big companies. That’s at least part of the story. Nowadays, the patent system does exactly the opposite thing by crushing the small guy/girl (unless it’s a patent troll and a parasite) and the funny thing is that public money is being used to fund this injustice.

As TechDirt puts it

Why Does The US Gov’t Get To Patent Research Paid For By Public Tax Dollars?

An anonymous reader links us to a report from The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which came out earlier this year, that highlights how, in 2008, the US government brought in $170 million (pdf) by licensing federally (i.e., taxpayer-funded) technology and patents to private companies.

This is not the exception by the way. Other countries are doing this and in some cases, the entities generated by taxpayers turn into patent aggressors (CSIRO for example [1, 2]). In other cases, publicly-funded research, some of which gets classified as academic, turns into startups with patents which are in turn being used to exclude the public. This practice is commonplace in medicine.

What’s not helping here is: 1) too many patents are being granted too easily; 2) patents are being granted to monopolies; 3) patents are too broad in terms of scope; 4) litigation/application is too expensive for the small guy/girl to be able to afford.

The written description requirement for patents is perhaps about to change, based on this new article.

The court stated, “The ’516 patent discloses no working or even prophetic examples of methods that reduce NF-kB activity, and no completed synthesis of any of the molecules prophesized to be capable of reducing NF-kB activity”

This seems to address issues with patents in general but not with software patents. How about those notorious “over the Internet” patents, which are acquired for just about anything in the analogue world, only when applied as a digital service? How about “on the cloud” patents, which TechDirt considers to be a looming problem?

With so much focus on “cloud computing” these days, companies looking to leap into the cloud and to embrace the agility and flexibility it provides are being warned that there may be a looming problem on the horizon: patent litigation. Seriously. As with pretty much any hot area of technology these days, there’s a pretty big patent thicket around cloud computing — even if the basic technology really isn’t all that different than what’s been around for ages. But, of course, that won’t stop opportunistic companies from claiming their patents cover new cloud services (or of having some players in the field attack competitors with patents).

Here we have a new patent from a company that ‘innovated’ “wireless handset communication system” and sued Apple (because Apple has cash).

In 1999, a company called NetAirus Technologies applied for a patent on a “wireless handset communication system,” and though laughably broad, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted it in 2006. Now, four years later, the company is using it to come after Apple (AAPL). On Friday, NetAirus filed suit against Apple, alleging that the iPhone–as a concept–infringes on its intellectual property.

[..]

How a patent so overly board could have made it through the USPTO is beyond me.

Apple is hardly a victim of this system though. Apple is an aggressor against Free software and against software in general now that it attacks Ogg Theora along with Microsoft. We covered the subject in:

One post that received too little attention is this opinion piece which says:

Maxwell’s comments aside, I know that I personally contacted Theora’s handlers (Xiph.org) at multiple points on Friday about the alleged patent issue and did not receive the courtesy of any response from them. If Apple or other patent holder had a similar experience, perhaps they have been contacted and Maxwell just doesn’t know about it (yet).

Frankly I’m not surprised that a patent pool is being assembled against Theora at this time. As a Theora user myself (Firefox 3.6 !!) I’ve seen how good the codec is which makes it a potential threat to the patent holders. Good technology unfortunately always seems to be at risk from those who think that their intellectual property is being infringed upon.

That said, I would hope that one of the various open source patent commons can step up and help out Theora with some defensive patents and/or legal assistance. The great thing about open source is that the code is open, so if someone does come forward and show a patent claim (legitimate or otherwise), there is always an opportunity to code around it.

The patent system and software patents in particular have become a threat to culture. Being passive is not an attractive option here.

“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

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