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07.31.10

Novell Puts Microsoft Tax and Microsoft Code in Android and in GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, LG, Microsoft, Mono, Novell at 2:09 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Now [Novell is] little better than a branch of Microsoft”

LinuxToday Managing Editor

Summary: Novell is acting as though it is Microsoft’s committer in circles where Microsoft is rightly distrusted and OpenSUSE still ought to escape

THE controversial Mono framework is probably Novell’s main ‘contribution’ to GNU/Linux. It is now being developed with contributions from Microsoft employees, not just Novell employees. We already know the danger of Microsoft’s software patents. LG, for example, pays Microsoft for each device it ships which contains Linux. Apparently this will include Android tablets too. HTC has a similar problem and as a leading distributor of Android (car dock may be coming in September) the Microsoft tax matters, and not just because it feeds Microsoft but also because it makes Linux more expensive.

HTC appears to have put surprising effort into rendering a lifelike torch for its Flashlight app, while app sharing (seen after the break) is a neat addition — and don’t worry, devs, it only works on items that aren’t copy protected.

It would be nice if HTC also shipped phones without an operating system and then let customers download Android for them. This way Microsoft would not be paid for Android.

Anyway, making Android ‘tainted’ by default would be a more convenient thing for Microsoft, wouldn’t it? So Microsoft’s booster Gavin Clarke is now advertising MonoDroid [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14], which he says Novell is still pushing forward along with plugins for Microsoft’s Visual Studio.

he Novell-backed MonoTouch project is about to start beta tests of a version of its open-source implementation of Microsoft’s framework for use on Google’s Linux operating system for devices.

Final product for MonoDroid is expected in the fall, Novell Mono product manager Joseph Hill told The Reg – around the time of the next installment in Microsoft’s Windows phone story: Windows Phone 7, due in October.

[...]

Novell, meanwhile, is today expected to announce availability of an updated version of its Mono Tools plug in to Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE.

It’s becoming harder to know the difference between Microsoft and Novell. They might as well share offices.

Novell also helped Microsoft put its code inside Linux, despite the fact that it was for proprietary software, was discriminatory towards GNU/Linux, and was even a GPL violation. Microsoft MVPs and other Microsoft boosters like Marius Oiaga are the only ones we found promoting this thing in recent days.

Linux Integration Services v2.1 for Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V R2 is a set of drivers that enable synthetic device support in supported Linux virtual machines under Hyper-V.

Meanwhile, OpenSUSE is pushing Microsoft patent bait into GNU/Linux through OpenSUSE. I have been communicating with OpenSUSE managers (they contacted me, I didn’t contact them), but since they get a wage from Novell they always defend Novell’s side and refuse to see that Novell sold OpenSUSE down the river when it signed its 2006 patent deal with Microsoft. Novell offered no safety to OpenSUSE, especially if it is used commercially.

At any rate, OpenSUSE continues to be a technically solid distribution. The Linux Format people have always liked OpenSUSE and they still do. So does this person, whose new review says:

After eight months of development, the OpenSUSE 11.3 release in mid July was followed by an avalanche of excitement surrounding the new upgrades and enhancements. The OpenSUSE 11.3 DVD includes the best of the KDE 4.4.4, GNOME 2.30.1 and XFCE 4.6.2 desktop environments. Also included for the first time is an LXDE flavor which could be the first true lightweight version of OpenSUSE plus a preview of the radically different GNOME 3.0 desktop. Also take note of the great new features OpenSUSE has included. Stuff like the Btrfs filesystem available in the installer, improvements to zypper package manager, netbook support, smartphone syncing, and backup/file sharing capabilities in the cloud with Spideroak.

[...]

After over a week of using OpenSUSE 11.3 in KDE, GNOME, and LXDE releases I got a pretty good feel for how the distro met my needs.

According to another person, “some of the changes are for the worse” in OpenSUSE 11.3.

The openSUSE guys decided to drop SCPM from 11.3.

“Instead” there is network manager.

Whoever made that decision has no idea at all about what scpm is, and what you can do with it…

With new community leadership OpenSUSE can hopefully distance itself from Novell. It probably needs to. Everyone needs to.

Microsoft’s #1 Cash Cow Doesn’t Sell Well Anymore, Steve Ballmer Pressured to Leave

Posted in Microsoft, Office Suites, Steve Ballmer, Windows at 1:18 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Calf

Summary: Microsoft’s Office sales are said to be “disappointing” and the Wall Street Journal foresees more trouble ahead

Microsoft Office 2010 has been receiving poor reviews, but as noted before, Microsoft hyped it up far too much (marketing budget alone almost reached $100,000,000). See for example posts like:

Microsoft Office 2010 sales are disappointing, says a report which IDG mentioned:

“This fact highlights the challenges for Microsoft going forward for Office,” Baker wrote. “A strong product launched into a saturated market faces considerable headwinds. Even so, sales of Office 2010 in general have to be characterized as a bit disappointing during the first two weeks.”

This isn’t particularly surprising and as Canonical’s Matt Asay points out yesterday:

n Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Holman Jenkins, Jr asks if “Steve Ballmer is a failed CEO?” then forecasts Microsoft’s feeble future even as it banks record profits. Microsoft is a company stuck in the glory years of the 1980s and 1990s – truly glorious years for a company that built not one but two massive cash cows: Windows and Office.

The profit margins of Windows and Office gradually erode as competition increases. Microsoft’s Windows profits decline over the years, leading to more and more layoffs and an increase in Microsoft’s debt. Don’t believe the accounting hype like Asay believes it. Ballmer inherited a company with huge cash reserves which were depleted.

The Ubuntu-GNOME Debate Carries On (Updated)

Posted in GNOME, GNU/Linux, Red Hat, Ubuntu at 12:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Stone statue

Summary: Links to some of the latest takes on Canonical’s participation in GNOME

FOR background, see the previous posts on the subject [1, 2].

Greg DeKoenigsber: “It’s not about tribalism, Mark.”

It’s about accepting responsibility for your place in the world. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.

With the dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of engineers in Canonical’s employ now, why do none of them do any of the heavy lifting in GNOME, or in any other upstream project, for that matter?

There’s a difference between Ubuntu and Canonical. The Ubuntu community has obviously done ridiculous amounts of good work in the open source world for multiple years, and will continue to do so. Ubuntu community members are great evangelists for open source. The Ubuntu brand machine is Canonical’s greatest strength, and a world-class model for others to follow. The existence of Ubuntu has grown the pie for open source in general.

cmsj (Canonical): “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

I work for Canonical, so it’s hard for me to pretend I have no bias in this. I’ve been a GNOME user for much longer, but I’ve not contributed to the project in any meaningful sense, mainly because I’m a sysadmin who codes some rubbish in his spare time. Therefore you might wish to largely ignore anything I say.

I have a myriad of reactions to this, all of them my own and just as subjective as anyone else’s, but there’s one that I think is at least novel in amongst the discussion I’ve seen so far…

Where do we go from here?

Is it the case that the angry people will only ever be happy if the defensive people hire tons of engineers with a job description of “go hack cool GNOME stuff, but only within GNOME’s processes/domain”? If so, how many is enough? (Note that I am a lowly sysadmin, this does not constitute anything close to a committment to doing anything, I cannot speak on behalf of those who sign my paycheques, I speak only for myself ;)

Adam Williamson (Fedora): “The success of Ubuntu”

In July and September 2004 (so presumably also in August), Linux is at 3.1%.

In June 2010, after nearly six years of Ubuntu as the generally-perceived Linux desktop standard bearer, Linux is at…4.8%.

In March 2003, Linux was at 2.2%. So that’s a rate of growth of 0.9% over 16 months to July 2004 – 0.05625 percentage points per month. The rate of growth from July 2004 to June 2010 is 1.7% over 71 months – 0.02394 percentage points per month. The margin of error in those numbers is likely huge, because we’re playing with such small numbers, but even so, it sure doesn’t look like Ubuntu has even managed to increase the rate of growth of Linux one iota over the ‘leading desktop distributions’ that preceded it (in the 2003-2004 range that was probably Mandriva; before there was Gentoo and Red Hat Linux, and SUSE was always there or thereabouts).

It’s hard to find stats from the other places that track operating system usage that go back as far, but going back as far as they do – to around 2007 or so, usually – they seem to tell much the same story. I can’t find any which show really significant growth in general Linux adoption, or a significant increase of the rate of growth at any point in Ubuntu’s tenure.

Carlo Daffara: “About contributions, Canonical and adopters”

This is not a contest. We should be happy for every, small, large, strange or different contributions that we receive. Should it be more? Maybe. But don’t overlook all those things that are being done, some of them outside of pure code. Because, as I wrote in the past, there is much more than code in an OSS project.

Sam Vargehse: “Canonical takes much more than it gives”

Red Hat tops the list of companies that contribute to GNOME with 16.3 percent and Novell is close behind with 10.44. Neary notes that 11 of the top 20 GNOME contributors of all time are either present or past Red Hat employees.

[...]

Canonical derives the base for Ubuntu from the Debian project. It takes liberally from many free and open source software projects to produce a distribution.

While this distribution is available for free download, Canonical is also basing a business on it, and developing ways and means of making money off Ubuntu.

Nothing wrong with that. But it is reasonable to ask – how about giving back a little more?

Susan Linton summarises

Adam Williamson of Red Hat and formerly of Mandriva wondered if Ubuntu’s success is any real success at all given that Linux represents less than 5% of total desktop usage amongst computer users and that hasn’t grown any significantly since Ubuntu’s inception or rise to popularity. He did say that “if you show up with a couple of graphic designers, anyone who’s passed Media Relations 101, and a bit of cash, you can pretty much win by default, which is what Ubuntu did.”

Sam Varghese, known Linux detractor and journalist, reminds us that Canonical didn’t make the Top 30 in a report from the Linux Foundation on kernel contributors. On the same subject, “Greg Kroah-Hartman cited statistics that showed Canonical’s contribution to 2.6.27-rc6 was 100 patches against Red Hat … with 11,846 patches. Novell had 7222 patches.” Varghese asks what everyone’s trying to ask, “How about giving back a little more?”

Carlo Daffara, Open Source researcher, said that “GNOME is only one of the projects and they measure too little.” He asserts that “bringing Ubuntu to million of people is a contribution; every time Canonical manages to bring a press release out it is making a huge contribution.” He sums up by saying this isn’t a contest. “We should be happy for every, small, large, strange or different contributions that we receive.” Chris Jones, Canonical employee, suggested “it would generally be more useful for people to be talking about solutions than arguing about who is the most or least evil.”

Thanks to TuxMachines for these links.

Update: Here are the opinions of Linux Today‘s former and existing manager editors:

  • Canonical’s Disconnect with Linux Developer Community

    Actually, I was a bit more specific. My first reaction to seeing the table of commits was incredulousness at seeing how Canonical compared to Sun Microsystems, not Red Hat.

    [...]

    Meanwhile, while I was working out my inner demons about Sun, others in the community were angry about Canonical’s low amount of commits compared to Red Hat. And the chief pitchfork carrier, in this case, was Greg DeKoenigsberg, CTO of The Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, a non-profit in Half Moon Bay, CA, and formerly the Senior Community Architect at Red Hat.

  • Ubuntu, the Bad Selfish Linux

    I have a glass half-empty type of perspective much of the time, and I’ve leveled my own share of carping at Canonical. I may have missed it, but I have never heard Mark Shuttleworth, Jono Bacon, or anyone representing Ubuntu or Canonical put down other Linux distributions or contributors. In my grumpier moments their relentlessly positive, cult-like Kumbaya-or-else approach makes me want to turn the hose on them. But I don’t remember them attacking anyone else the way they’ve been attacked.

    [...]

    Who else besides Ubuntu welcomes everyone, and tries to maintain a sane, friendly community? My favorite distribution is Debian, but no way will I ever try to be contributor. If I were an ace coder I would rather eat dog doo than try to become a kernel contributor. Life is too short to waste living in a flame-proof suit. There are a lot of FOSS projects that build rational, productive communities. But none of them are as big as Ubuntu, and few place as high a priority on community-building. When the Ubuntu folks say “Anyone can play!” they mean it.

    It’s tempting to see this as plain old envy, the billionaire and his pet distro cashing in on the work of others. News flash: everyone cashes in on the work of others. What good is GNOME by itself? Or the Linux kernel by itself? Not much. It’s a giant messy ecosystem, and every part of it has an important role.

Links 31/7/2010: 2011 Desktop Summit Planned

Posted in News Roundup at 12:40 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Device support in Windows vs. Linux

    One of the highly debated subjects with Windows and Linux is with device support. The two have different methods of how drivers are created and implemented into the operating system. With Windows, Microsoft writes generic drivers to help ensure that users can get up and running, then 3rd party supplied drivers can be installed to optimize performance. With Linux, drivers are all included with the Linux kernel, and devices are detected and the appropriate drivers are then activated on the fly. There are no 3rd parties to contact for drivers (unless a proprietary driver is needed, in which case it has to be manually installed, similar to Windows; this is rare but sometimes necessary).

    I’ve found that driver support in Linux is excellent.

  • Server

    • Unisys floats mainframe cloud

      A mainframe cloud may seem oxymoronic like a lead Zeppelin (“a” included on purpose), or intuitively obvious (given the virtualization and metering capabilities that have been in mainframes for decades). But Unisys has nonetheless fluffed up a mainframe cloud for its ClearPath mainframe customers.

  • Kernel Space

    • Graphics Stack

      • NVIDIA’s Dead Open-Source Driver Gets Updated

        The last time the xf86-video-nv driver was updated was in early March — just a couple weeks before NVIDIA announced it would stop supporting future ASICs in this driver nor would it deliver any support for features like DisplayPort. That March update didn’t bring much to the table nor does this update that’s coming out of NVIDIA’s Santa Clara offices on a Friday afternoon.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC)

      • KDE e.V. and GNOME Foundation to Co-Host 2011 Desktop Summit in Berlin

        The 2009 Desktop Summit was a fantastic opportunity for the leaders of the free software desktop community to share talks, address common issues, and build relationships between the communities with combined social events.

        The 2011 Desktop Summit will build on the first Summit’s success. More than 1,000 contributors from more than 50 countries are expected to attend the 2011 event in Berlin. In addition to members of the GNOME and KDE development community, the conference will also attract many participants in the overall FLOSS community from local projects, organizations, and companies.

  • Distributions

    • Red Hat Family

      • Three Months Until Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 End of Life

        Red Hat has issued another notification signaling the approaching end-of-life (EOL) for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3. The aging Linux distribution is approaching the end of its support cycle, patches and security updates will only be issued for another three months.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Where do you find Linux?

      Looking through my home for Linux systems I just realized that it is everywhere. First of all, I find it on my computers – from servers to laptop. That is the obvious place though. I wonder, where else can I find Linux running?

      Next, I find it on my set-top-box, a DM500 – a dreambox. The dreamboxes range from my very basic PAL receiver to devices with multiple receivers and HD-support. All are based on a Linux system running on a PowerPC processor. The box has networking and there is community driven development version of the software running on the box. The result – I can stream TV to my laptop, play content from my server and set record timers over the internet.

    • Phones

      • Nokia/MeeGo

        • MeeGo at OSCON Wrap-Up

          There were also several MeeGo demo stations in the Intel booth at OSCON showing Netbook, Handset and In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) demos. While the netbook demos have been around for a little longer, this was the first time many people had a chance to get a hands-on, closeup look at IVI or a handset running MeeGo, so those demos were very popular. Here is a picture of the IVI demo station in case you missed it.

Free Software/Open Source

  • GNU and Open Source

    The GNU project developed some of the 21st century’s most important software. The GNU Compiler Collection is used on Linux systems, BSD/OSX systems, and on Windows. GNAT has, for the most part, replaced any other Ada compiler ever created. The list could go on, but you get the idea. The sad thing about GNU is that it is so ideologically bent that I can no longer support it.

    I am not looking to start a fight here. Please respond with your opinions on this topic. Let me know where you stand. My mind is open.

  • Databases

  • Programming

    • Eclipse 4.0 SDK released for early adopters

      The Eclipse Foundation has announced the official availability of version 4 of Eclipse SDK. With this new generation of the Eclipse development environment, the Eclipse developers are aiming to modernise the IDE’s underlying architecture to include contemporary features such as a model-based user interface framework, CSS-based declarative styling of the UI and a services oriented programming model for consuming Eclipse provided services. A more modern look and feel for the workbench has also been incorporated along with binary API compatibility with previous releases to make migration simpler.

Leftovers

  • Finance

  • Internet/Net Neutrality/DRM

    • Reject UltraViolet DRM

      Throughout the relatively short history of Digital Restrictions Management, we have seen various methods of user restriction come and go. Now, there is a new threat on the horizon: UltraViolet. A soon to be implemented DRM scheme, UltraViolet — or should that be Ultraviolent — is a joint effort between companies such as Sony, Adobe, Cisco, HP, Microsoft and Intel. What seperates UltraViolet apart from other types of DRM is its use of “the cloud.” Whereas most other DRM schemes are implemented locally, UltraViolet intends to store the digital media you purchase on a centralized server with the goal of preventing users from storing their digital media on unauthorized devices, sharing and making copies.

Clip of the Day

We are KDE! – FOSS.IN/2008


07.30.10

IRC Proceedings: July 30th, 2010

Posted in IRC Logs at 6:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME Gedit

Read the log

Enter the IRC channel now

Links 30/7/2010: Mandriva One 2010 Spring KDE Reviewed, Neoclassical Economics

Posted in News Roundup at 5:54 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • The Best Way to Learn Linux – Ubuntu

    You have no doubt heard some of the “I lost everything on my hard drive” stories that have come from feeble attempts to install various flavors of Linux in a dual boot system with Windows.
    Partitioning hard drives is probably not a good idea for the typical computer user, but the desire to learn more about Linux while keeping the Windows option open is entirely too mouth watering for the eager mind to resist. I have a story or two myself. Here are the basics I have learned about Linux and the best way to learn Linux while preserving ALL of your Windows files, etc.

  • Applications

    • Instructionals

      • Open Source Toolchains for Linux Systems Administrators

        Software developers are very familiar with toolchains, series of programs where the output of one program forms the input for the next. A free software example would be using the GNU Emacs editor, the GNU bin-utils and the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC) to write a program. Software developers frequently create programs and subroutines that are used in other programs rather than recoding the same process over and over again.

  • Distributions

    • UberStudent To Offer Online Courses

      UberStudent is upping the ante with its plans to offer free online courses, using the Moodle learning environment, to teach students to academically excel with its platform. UberStudent dubs itself ‘a free Linux learning platform for learning, doing, and teaching academic computing at the higher education and advanced secondary levels’.

      “I began UberStudent as a way to place sets of smart and dedicated computing tools, and just the right amount of support, into the hands of college and college-bound secondary students,” said Stephen Ewen, UberStudent’s founder and lead developer. “At core, it’s an academic success curriculum in the form of an installable, ready-to-go learning platform. With UberStudent, students can learn to really excel at the skills and habits they must have to succeed in college,” he added.

    • PCLinuxOS/Mandrake/Mandriva Family

      • Mandriva One 2010 Spring KDE

        Like Mandriva Control Center, for example. It’s a very user friendly distro. It just needs to be a bit leaner, faster and less obnoxious to look at. If you want a heavyweight distro with a general ease-of-use, speed and looks, with a good KDE implementation and the latest software, plus all the proprietary drivers out of the box and um, music playing while the OS boots, I’d recommend going for Sabayon rather than Mandriva. The two fall in the same category, but Sabayon seems to be winning.

    • Debian Family

Free Software/Open Source

  • Does Neoclassical Economics Rot Your Brain?

    This is, of course, ridiculous. There’s no reason all lemonade stands need to be for-profit enterprises. Kids learn a variety of lessons from lemonade stands. Charging might teach valuable lessons about budgeting and self-sufficiency, but giving lemonade away can teach equally valuable lessons about generosity and public service. Savage apparently doesn’t care what the girls’ parents might have hoped their kids would get out of the experience. The mere fact that the girls were failing to conform to the neoclassical model of homo economicus was enough to condemn their activity.

    That’s a frivolous example, to be sure, but the same mixture of intellectual laziness and arrogance crops up in more serious contexts. I’ve written before about this Richard Epstein column where he criticizes the free software movement for, basically, failing to conform to the assumptions of the neoclassical model:

    The open source movement shares many features with a workers’ commune, and is likely to fail for the same reason: it cannot scale up to meet its own successes. To see the long-term difficulty, imagine a commune entirely owned by its original workers who share pro rata in its increases in value. The system might work well in the early days when the workforce remains fixed. But what happens when a given worker wants to quit? Does that worker receive in cash or kind his share of the gain in value during the period of his employment? If not, then the run-up in value during his period of employment will be gobbled up by his successor – a recipe for immense resentment. Yet that danger can be ducked only by creating a capital structure that gives present employees separable interests in either debt or equity in exchange for their contributions to the company.

    This passage bears no relationship to reality. Free software projects scale up just fine without “a capital structure that gives present employees separable interests in either debt or equity.” Contributors are not employees or shareholders. The inability to cash out does not, in fact, generate “immense resentment.” And Epstein could have learned all of this pretty easily if he’d talked to a few people in the free software community before writing his column. But why let facts clutter up a perfectly good theory?

  • Swivel Viewer, an open source embeddable album viewer

    If you prefer to host a viewer and images on your own site, check out
    the Swivel Viewer site at code.google.com, where you’ll find an open source embeddable album viewer that also supports zooming and panning.

  • Military Open-Source Software Could Increase Flexibility, Lower Cost

    Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are helping the U.S. military analyze and develop the advantages of open-source software — programs that make their source code open to others so it can be changed and improved.

    Bringing many minds to bear on a given program can lead to software that is both high quality and low cost, or even free. For example, the Linux operating system, which licenses its basic source code for free, is now used to run many servers in companies, government and academia.

  • Europe’s Tender Words About FOSS
  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Data

      • Science Online 2010: What shall I say?

        Seriously – is there any exciting and new we could communally do before in the next month? My guess it would have to be in the area of data-driven chemistry. I was talking with Jean-Claude Bradley at breakfast about liberating chemical reactions from the literature. There will be new science in that. Not world-shattering, but worthy.

      • Open Data needs Open Source tools

        The biggest problem many data-driven apps contests have is that it’s too hard to get started. A developer has to download some strange dataset off of a website like data.gov or the National Data Catalog, prune it, massage it, usually fix it, and then convert it to their database system of choice, and then they can start building their app. It reminds me of being a Linux user before APT existed. While fun, it was still a hassle to get all dependencies and compile everything from source.

  • Programming

Leftovers

  • D.C. judge issues injunction against news organization

    D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff issued a temporary restraining order against the National Law Journal last Friday after she discovered the news organization was planning to publish a story regarding the fee dispute between District of Columbia-based law firm Hogan Lovells and one of its former clients, beverage maker POM Wonderful. POM had hired Hogan Lovells to represent the company during a regulatory investigation.

  • Glenn Beck’s gold-investment scam/scheme: an explanatory infographic

    Jess Bachman, infographic designer extraordinaire, shares this new work which shows how Glenn Beck “uses his influence to peddle dubious information and endorse fraudulent companies, and how how those companies go about scamming fear ridden consumers into buying terrible investments.”

  • U.S. sues Oracle, alleges software contract fraud

    The Justice Department said on Thursday it sued Oracle Corp, alleging it defrauded the federal government on a software contract in effect from 1998 to 2006 that involved hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

  • Security/Aggression

    • Cell phone eavesdropping enters script-kiddie phase

      Independent researchers have made good on a promise to release a comprehensive set of tools needed to eavesdrop on cell phone calls that use the world’s most widely deployed mobile technology.

    • Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, Giving Up On Victory, Not War

      If you ever needed convincing that the world of American “national security” is well along the road to profligate lunacy, read the striking three-part “Top Secret America” series by Dana Priest and William Arkin that the Washington Post published last week. When it comes to the expansion of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), which claims 17 major agencies and organizations, the figures are staggering.

  • Environment/Wildlife

    • Scientists warn of global warming threat to marine food chain

      Numbers of phytoplankton – the microscopic organisms that sustain the marine food chain – are plummeting as sea surface temperatures rise

    • Global warming pushes 2010 temperatures to record highs

      Global temperatures in the first half of the year were the hottest since records began more than a century ago, according to two of the world’s leading climate research centres.

      Scientists have also released what they described as the “best evidence yet” of rising long-term temperatures. The report is the first to collate 11 different indicators – from air and sea temperatures to melting ice – each one based on between three and seven data sets, dating back to between 1850 and the 1970s.

  • Finance

    • Citigroup Pays $75 Million to Settle Subprime Claims

      Citigroup agreed on Thursday to pay $75 million to settle federal claims that it failed to disclose vast holdings of subprime mortgage investments that were deteriorating during the financial crisis and ultimately crippled the bank.

    • Federal Reserve’s James Bullard: Long-term deflation is a possibility

      A top Federal Reserve official warned Thursday that the nation faces the risk of an extended period of falling prices known as deflation, such as that experienced by Japan over the past two decades.
      This Story

      *
      Fed official warns of deflation risk for U.S.
      *
      Fed ready to step in if economy relapses
      *
      Ezra Klein: The economy can’t recover until the economy recovers

      James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, argues in a new paper that large-scale quantitative easing — or purchases of government bonds and other assets by the central bank — would be the best policy tool to prevent that possibility, though he doesn’t endorse making such a move now.

    • SEC charges billionaire Texas brothers who donate to GOP with fraud

      Sam and Charles Wyly, billionaire Texas brothers who gained prominence spending millions of dollars on conservative political causes, committed fraud by using secret overseas accounts to generate more than $550 million in profit through illegal stock trades, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Thursday.

    • Obama hails auto bailout as good news in Michigan

      President Barack Obama on Friday heralded the recent turnaround for U.S. automakers, arguing that thousands of jobs and increased production vindicate his unpopular decision to bailout the industry.

      With Americans facing a still-limping economy and potentially pivotal congressional elections in three months, Obama is seizing on the positive new trends in the auto industry as evidence of broader economic good news. He launched an intensive campaign to highlight the story as a concrete area of improvement with direct ties to his administration’s actions.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • Senators fail to agree on privacy approach

      After six months worth of allegations of privacy invasions involving some of the largest Internet companies, it should come as no surprise that politicians are calling for new laws. The fact that it’s an election year probably made it inevitable.

    • Second Student Sues School District Over Webcam Spying

      A webcam scandal at a suburban Philadelphia school district expanded Tuesday to include a second student alleging his school-issued laptop secretly snapped images of him.

    • DHS tries to defuse privacy criticism, asks for help

      A top Homeland Security official on Wednesday sought to downplay concerns about privacy and Internet monitoring raised by recent reports of the department’s activities.

    • Court Says Privacy Advocate May Publish Social Security Numbers

      A federal appeals court has ordered Virginia’s attorney general to back away from threats of suing a privacy advocate who publishes Social Security numbers of elected officials on the internet.

    • White House Seeks Easier FBI Access To Internet Records, Blocks Oversight Attempt… Just As FBI Caught Cheating On Exam To Stop Abuse

      Oh, and just to make this all more comically depressing, just as I finished reading both of these stories, I saw a story about a new investigation into reports that FBI agents were caught cheating on an exam, which was designed to get them to stop abusing surveillance tools. Yes, you read that right. After all the reports of abuse of surveillance tools, the FBI set up a series of tests to train FBI agents how to properly go about surveillance without breaking the law… and a bunch of FBI agents allegedly cheated on the test that’s supposed to stop them from “cheating” on the law. And, not just a few. From the quotes, it sounds like this cheating was “widespread.” But, of course, it might not matter, since the requirements for surveillance are being lowered, oversight is being blocked, and apparently the White House is willing to retroactively “legalize” any illegal surveillance anyway.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality/DRM

    • Broadband speed – the facts

      You may have read this morning about Ofcom’s report on broadband speeds. We thought it would be helpful to set out why speeds vary and what you can expect from an ISP like TalkTalk.

    • Ofcom Slams ISPs For Misleading Broadband Speeds

      In its latest delve into the state of the nation’s broadband provision, the regulator praised infrastructure providers for a 25 percent increase in the speed of the average actual fixed-line residential connection. The average connection was advertised to have a speed of up to 10Mbps in May 2010, compared to 8 percent in April 2009.

    • Ofcom Faces Backlash For Broadband Criticism
  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation: Evidence from the Human Genome

      This paper provides empirical evidence on how intellectual property (IP) on a given technology affects subsequent innovation. To shed light on this question, I analyze the sequencing of the human genome by the public Human Genome Project and the private firm Celera, and estimate the impact of Celera’s gene-level IP on subsequent scientific research and product development outcomes. Celera’s IP applied to genes sequenced first by Celera, and was removed when the public effort re-sequenced those genes.

    • What IP is really about

      From my spam folder:

      You could be sitting on a potential gold mine!

      It’s right under your nose, in the form of intellectual property created by you & your lab. Don’t let your invention representing millions in potential revenue sit idle simply because you aren’t aware IP & patent protection laws and other key aspects of moving innovations from your lab to the market..

    • Copyrights

      • Copy Fight

        In a recent Wired.com article, Gibson was certainly candid about the money-making potential of his approach. “Media companies’ assets are very much their copyrights. These companies need to understand and appreciate that those assets have value more than merely the present advertising revenues,” he said.

        But in my phone conversation with him, he also characterized his approach as the best way to discourage infringing activity. “There are these folks out there who say, ‘Oh, they should send out a takedown letter.’ But people have been sending takedown letters for over a decade now and it’s had little or no effect on infringements. Infringements continue to grow.”

      • British Library Worries That Copyright May Be Hindering Research

        Michael Geist points us to the news that The British Library has apparently come out with a new report entitled Driving UK Research — Is copyright a help or a hindrance? The paper brings together 13 different researchers to all share their opinions, and the general consensus appears to be that copyright today is a serious problem in need of reform (and, no, the “Digital Economy Act” in the UK didn’t help at all).

      • Dear Warner Bros., It’s Not ‘Word Of Mouth’ If You Have To Pay People To Promote Your Movies

        There was an amusing post this week at TheWrap.com discussing how the various Hollywood movie studios are confused about the basics of social media and Twitter. You may remember (or, maybe not), back in 2003, when Hollywood suddenly started blaming text messaging for certain movies failing, because some kids would go to a movie, realize it sucks, and quickly warn their friends to stay away. Of course, Hollywood blamed text messaging, instead of the fact that they made a crappy movie, and couldn’t rely on their old methods of squeezing a ton of money out of people before word got around. In the age of Twitter, of course, this has only increased, so the studios started blaming Twitter, calling it “the Twitter Effect” and proceeding to freak out about it.

      • Our Rotting Video-Game Heritage

        Diverse technologies, missing or secret documentation, and hostile copyright laws threaten video-game preservation.

      • Perfect 10 Loses Again, As Court Says DMCA Notices Need To Be Properly Filed

        Just last week we were talking about Perfect 10′s lawsuit against Google in Canada, where we noted that in Perfect 10′s own bragging press release, it effectively admits that its takedown filings were not properly filed. They admit that they just sent images to Google saying that it owned the images, without telling Google where they were actually located to take down. This was the same charge that Rapidshare recently made against Perfect 10, noting that the company seemed to purposely not want companies to take down their images, so that it could sue.

      • ACTA

        • From Wellington to Lucerne: Tracking the Major ACTA Changes

          While the parties have not formally disclosed it, the immediate ACTA schedule now appears to include discussions between the U.S. and the EU next month in Washington followed by a full round of talks (Round Ten) in Japan in September. Some have criticized the exclusion of the remaining ACTA countries in the August discussions, but as I posted earlier, the ACTA text has really come down to a U.S. vs. EU document with the remaining countries picking a side. The sticking point in Washington will undoubtedly be scope of the treaty, with the EU pushing for inclusion of geographical indications and the U.S. making it clear they are willing to cave on almost anything that does not involve changes to domestic law. Geographical indications would require change, however, which is what led to my post speculating about the possibility of an ACTA without Europe.

Clip of the Day

Free Software Movement


“No One Understands Computer Programs or How They Should be Patented,” Argues Lawyers’ Site

Posted in America, Europe, Free/Libre Software, Patents at 2:18 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Anti software patents
India too is fighting against software patents

Summary: Alison Brimelow’s referral to the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EU) is discussed again and the US continues to demonstrate the failure of systems with software patents

SOMEONE has just mailed us this article (which we missed) because it covers the Brimelow referral [1, 2, 3], discusses the conflict of interests, and also provides some historical background to software patents in Europe. It says that “About 40 years ago, when the founding fathers of the EPO began considering seriously the wording of a European Patent Convention, one of the questions they had to consider was what to do about patenting in the fledgling computer technology scene. At the time no one could really have understood or appreciated how computing would develop or how the patent system might cope, and trying to build a comprehensive system was probably beyond their bounds. So computer programs were lumped in as exclusions together with games, business methods and mental acts, a magnificent loophole was inserted and they presumably concluded that a few decades of technical and legal development would allow a more comprehensive answer to the problem. On May 12 2010, the Enlarged Board of Appeal, Europe’s highest IP tribunal, issued an opinion that proved conclusively that the draftsmen all those years ago had been absolutely right. No one understands computer programs or how they should be patented.”

Europe ought to learn from the United States’ mistakes. The market there is being harmed by software patents, large victims of which include Facebook.

Reuters reports about the expensive failure of such issues, which only seem to benefit lawyers/litigators in this case.

Facebook Inc won a legal fight on Wednesday over claims its hugely popular social networking website infringed a patent owned by Leader Technologies, but the little-known company said it would ask the judge to set aside the verdict.

Software patents are being trashed one at a time in the US and TechDirt has this to say, noting that East Texas is part of the problem (trolling tourism).

The jury has declared the patent invalid. Clearly, the only explanation is that the jury was also made up of idiots. Next time, Leader Technologies should file the lawsuit in East Texas where they know how to make juries, rather than Delaware.

Why is it that Europe hardly has any patent trolls? Maybe there is indication here that abstract ideas in computing have no place in patent offices. The EPO will hopefully never emulate the USPTO. Programmers in Europe are put in a position of advantage as long as software patents stay away and the Shazam story is a recent example of this [1, 2, 3] (this Dutch developer did not need to censor his work).

Microsoft’s Software Patents Lobbyists and Patent Trolls

Posted in Europe, IBM, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, Patents, Standard at 2:14 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Seeing gnomes

Summary: talkstandards.com upsets IBM’s Rob Weir and Microsoft’s patent troll Nathan Myhrvold may not be failing (at extortion) as much as some people assume

A Microsoft lobbyist which we last mentioned in the morning (talkstandards.com) has just caught the attention of IBM’s Rob Weir, who found this new posting about an upcoming “Online Forum” rather objectionable. Weir wrote: “Why not talk about the lack of tension with genuine open standards?”

I told him about talkstandards.com goal’s and he told me: “Don’t like the name. I was thinking of creating a site called “DoStandards”"

Talk is cheap. How about real standards? This site’s contributors include Microsoft’s Oliver Bell and Knut Blind, a proponent of patents inside standards.

As a quick recap, talkstandards.com is promoting patents inside standards and it almost always pushes Microsoft’s line. The FFII’s president calls it a Microsoft lobby. But there are worse things than mere lobbyists for software patents; Microsoft has created and groomed Intellectual Ventures (IV), which we last wrote about yesterday because someone claimed that it was failing. Mike Masnick disagrees:

[T]he IRR for a venture fund, especially in the early years, is pretty meaningless. A typical venture fund lasts ten years, and the first few years is when all that money is being invested, and there’s no real returns. On top of that (and, more importantly), the IRR is usually reported based on a totally made up number, which is what the VCs believe their portfolio is valued at, since it doesn’t involve a liquid market. VCs were afraid that publishing such numbers would freak people out, and lead VCs to focus on more short-term investments. I don’t think that’s really happened, but it does appear that the Intellectual Ventures funds represented here (showing IRRs of -73% and -10%) might not really mean anything.

Without knowing the details of what those funds represent, or how long the timeframe is for those funds, it’s difficult to assess what’s really going on. It does look like IV isn’t valuing its first fund very highly any more, and considering it’s Intellectual Ventures I, perhaps you can assume it’s further along in the process. But, in a game where a sudden “home run” can change things quickly (even if we’re talking about patent infringement lawsuits or licensing demands, rather than true venture investments), it’s difficult to make any serious call on the performance just yet.

The software patents machinations are frequently tied to Microsoft. It’s no coincidence because there is a lot at stake for Microsoft, not just Apple (which also invests in Intellectual Ventures to extort and terrify everyone).

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