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Writing Techrights Collaboratively

Posted in Site News at 3:07 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: How to help by writing for Techrights

EARLIER this month we started to experiment with simultaneous composition of new blog posts, as can more or less be seen in this wiki page. It is hard keeping up with all the news and the bigger this site’s authorship becomes, the more output will be available and the more profound it will be. If you wish to help the writing of new blog posts (and get attribution for any contribution which is made), please select a page which is not marked as “done”, then edit by inserting references, opinions, or even fixing some typos. New articles can also be created by editing the “Work in Progress” page (the index). The more it is done by the community, the more effective the site will be. For those who want to read new posts before anyone else, this wiki section is also the best area to be in, even though it’s unpolished. Be aware that wiki logins are independent from blog logins, for technical reasons. Coordination of wiki edits is sometimes done over IRC and Identica too. We try to make use of the best tools to achieve accuracy and speed. Techrights is a group effort.

Controlling Software, Controlling Minds, Controlling Nations

Posted in Bill Gates, Deception, Microsoft at 2:42 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Mind Control: To control mental output you have to control mental input.”

Microsoft, internal document [PDF]

Summary: How software tyrants pose a danger to more than just computing and sometimes to people’s entire way of life

OUR last post about the Gates Foundation hijacking US education was centred around TFA (there is a Spanish translation too), which is one among several invariable names of operations used to disguise their funders and agenda. For those who believe it’s only a US problem, it’s not. These is already expansion of it into Canada and sooner or later the rest of America. TFA stands for Teach For America and many franchises that are created in the US want to spread further and enhance their impact. Our valued reader Toby (he is Canadian) showed us a very long article this morning. It does a terrific job explaining what Bill Gates and some fellow plutocrats have been doing to public education in the US, usually by insulting the system with misinformation they paid to manufacture and then offering to ‘rescue’ the system which they label “troubled”. It is similar to the tactics used to increase quotas of foreign workers' visas and sometimes go further by taking over Haiti or Africa. It’s all about control, given the appropriate pretext. To quote some portions from the excellent new article:

The cost of K–12 public schooling in the United States comes to well over $500 billion per year. So, how much influence could anyone in the private sector exert by controlling just a few billion dollars of that immense sum? Decisive influence, it turns out. A few billion dollars in private foundation money, strategically invested every year for a decade, has sufficed to define the national debate on education; sustain a crusade for a set of mostly ill-conceived reforms; and determine public policy at the local, state, and national levels. In the domain of venture philanthropy—where donors decide what social transformation they want to engineer and then design and fund projects to implement their vision—investing in education yields great bang for the buck.

Hundreds of private philanthropies together spend almost $4 billion annually to support or transform K–12 education, most of it directed to schools that serve low-income children (only religious organizations receive more money). But three funders—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Eli and Edythe Broad (rhymes with road) Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation—working in sync, command the field. Whatever nuances differentiate the motivations of the Big Three, their market-based goals for overhauling public education coincide: choice, competition, deregulation, accountability, and data-based decision-making. And they fund the same vehicles to achieve their goals: charter schools, high-stakes standardized testing for students, merit pay for teachers whose students improve their test scores, firing teachers and closing schools when scores don’t rise adequately, and longitudinal data collection on the performance of every student and teacher. Other foundations—Ford, Hewlett, Annenberg, Milken, to name just a few—often join in funding one project or another, but the education reform movement’s success so far has depended on the size and clout of the Gates-Broad-Walton triumvirate.


The smallest of the Big Three,* the Broad Foundation, gets its largest return on education investments from its two training projects. The mission of both is to move professionals from their current careers in business, the military, law, government, and so on into jobs as superintendents and upper-level managers of urban public school districts. In their new jobs, they can implement the foundation’s agenda. One project, the Broad Superintendents Academy, pays all tuition and travel costs for top executives in their fields to go through a course of six extended weekend sessions, assignments, and site visits. Broad then helps to place them in superintendent jobs. The academy is thriving. According to the Web site, “graduates of the program currently work as superintendents or school district executives in fifty-three cities across twenty-eight states. In 2009, 43 percent of all large urban superintendent openings were filled by Broad Academy graduates.”


Philanthropists Are Royalty

On September 8, 2010, the Broad Foundation announced a twist on the usual funding scenario: the Broad Residency had received a $3.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. According to Broad’s press release, the money would go “to recruit and train as many as eighteen Broad Residents over the next four years to provide management support to school districts and charter management organizations addressing the issue of teacher effectiveness.” Apparently Broad needs Gates in order to expand one of its core projects. The truth is that the Gates Foundation could fully subsidize all of Broad’s grant-giving in education, as well as that of the Walton Family Foundation. Easily—it’s that outsized. Since Warren Buffett gave his assets to Gates, the latter is more than six times bigger than the next largest foundation in the United States, Ford, with $10.2 billion in assets.


Investing for Political Leverage

The day before the first Democratic presidential candidates’ debate in 2007, Gates and Broad announced they were jointly funding a $60 million campaign to get both political parties to address the foundations’ version of education reform. It was one of the most expensive single issue efforts ever; it dwarfed the $22.4 million offensive that Swift Boat Veterans for Truth mounted against John Kerry in 2004 or the $7.8 million that AARP spent on advocacy for older citizens that same year (New York Times, April 25, 2007). The Gates-Broad money paid off: the major candidates took stands on specific reforms, including merit pay for teachers. But nothing the foundations did in that election cycle (or could have done) advanced their agenda as much as Barack Obama’s choice of Arne Duncan to head the Department of Education (DOE).


Ventures in Media

On October 7 and 8, 2010, the Columbia Journalism Review ran a two-part investigation by Robert Fortner into “the implications of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s increasingly large and complex web of media partnerships.” The report focused on the foundation’s grants to the PBS Newshour, ABC News, and the British newspaper the Guardian for reporting on global health. Of course, all three grantees claim to have “complete editorial independence,” but the ubiquity of Gates funding makes the claim disingenuous. As Fortner observes, “It is the largest charitable foundation in the world, and its influence in the media is growing so vast there is reason to worry about the media’s ability to do its job.” The Chronicle of Philanthropy, too, questioned the foundation’s bankrolling of for-profit news organizations and its “growing involvement with journalism” (October 11, 2010). Neither publication mentioned that Gates is also developing partnerships with news and entertainment media to promote its education agenda.

Both Gates and Broad funded “NBC News Education Nation,” a week of public events and programming on education reform that began on September 27, 2010. The programs aired on NBC News shows such as “Nightly News” and “Today” and on the MSNBC, CNBC, and Telemundo TV networks. During the planning stages, the producers of Education Nation dismissed persistent criticism that the programming was being heavily weighted in favor of the Duncan-foundation reform agenda. Judging by the schedule of panels and interviews, Education Nation certainly looked like a foundation project. The one panel I watched—”Good Apples: How do we keep good teachers, throw out bad ones, and put a new shine on the profession?”—was “moderated” by Steven Brill, a hardline opponent of teachers’ unions and promoter of charter schools. The panel did not belong on a news show.

Gates and Broad also sponsored the documentary film Waiting for Superman, which is by far the ed reform movement’s greatest media coup. With few exceptions, film critics loved it (“a powerful and alarming documentary about America’s failing public school system,” New York Times, September 23, 2010). Critics of the reform agenda found the film one-sided, heavy-handed, and superficial.


Can anything stop the foundation enablers? After five or ten more years, the mess they’re making in public schooling might be so undeniable that they’ll say, “Oops, that didn’t work” and step aside. But the damage might be irreparable: thousands of closed schools, worse conditions in those left open, an extreme degree of “teaching to the test,” demoralized teachers, rampant corruption by private management companies, thousands of failed charter schools, and more low-income kids without a good education. Who could possibly clean up the mess?

All children should have access to a good public school. And public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K–12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them. Private money should not be producing what amounts to false advertising for a faulty product. The imperious overreaching of the Big Three undermines democracy just as surely as it damages public education.

A long discussion about it was started in the “boycottnovell-social” IRC channel and the key point is that Gates et al. are once again deciding for other people what to do and leaving a trail of destruction so that they can make a profit and use teachers, for example, as taxpayers-funded agents of indoctrination.

“Deciding for other countries what is right for them is the theme we see as analogous to what’s done by the wealth of the nation to public education in the US.”The situation in schools mirrors some other situations where Bill Gates and ultra-rich men of his class exploit even entire continents. To give just one example, consider David Rockefeller, who is a partner of Gates, e.g. in Africa’s “Green Revolution” initiatives that make African farmers dependent on American companies with patents on seeds. Deciding for other countries what is right for them is the theme we see as analogous to what’s done by the wealth of the nation to public education in the US. It is about what serves power structures and keeps those in power safe and moreover revered; it’s not about objectivity. People who understand that the population is being manipulated and deceived are rightly angry, but they are not sure what to do. Here for example is a famous video that comes with a strong language warning (Flash version). It shows David Rockefeller confronted at a Chilean Airport during vacations.

What the video does not say is what exactly the Rockefellers have been doing to foreign nations, including gory wars. As long as the likes of Gates are buying the press which teachers are reading (he pays them millions of dollars) and spend billions taking control of schools, most adolescent will never be told the true story behind the war on south America, for example. Lies by omission or deception by curriculum characterise a generally ill education system which strives to train rather than inform. It is almost like lobbying the children, but the children are not aware that this is happening (public education is free of charge for a reason, just like many newspapers are disseminated for free).

As a side note, earlier in the afternoon we found this article from the Economist (generally Free software-hostile paper) which advertises a book whose authors say the same thing Microsoft lobbyists are saying about “open source”. Not too surprisingly we found out that just like Microsoft and Gates ‘studies’ that are funded by them to deceive the public and warp consensus, this one too was written with Microsoft funding by Josh Lerner and Mark Schankerman. “Much conventional wisdom about programs written by volunteers is wrong” it says at the top and there are revealing paragraphs such as: [via Harish Pillay]

With “The Comingled Code”, Josh Lerner and Mark Schankerman, professors at the Harvard Business School and the London School of Economics respectively, are aiming to fill this gap. They have done a good job—although its academic tone makes it unlikely that the book will fly off the shelves, even in areas with a lot of hackers (who are sure to take offence at the fact that the authors took money for research from Microsoft, long the arch- enemy of the open-source movement— although they assure readers that the funds came with no strings attached).


Given the complex picture, they dismiss the argument that open source can solve the conundrum of innovation policy as being “too optimistic”. They do not believe that governments should intervene in favour of open-source software, as many have done through subsidies or public procurement. Instead governments should make sure that the two forms of software compete on a level playing field and can comingle efficiently.

Here again is the “choice” spin. It’s the same choice that was offered to anti-war “hippies” in order to give them an illusion of freedom (the fashion industry adapted/co-opted them). The above is not really choice, it’s the same old excuse for keeping things the way they are, i.e. predominantly proprietary. When the authors say “no strings attached” this does not mean no bias accompanies the writing. Of course, if they want to get funding in the future, being favourable to Microsoft would help. This is not the first example where Microsoft funds “Open Source” events and think tanks to get things done its own way and in the case of Ken Brown, Linux libel too gets spread with Microsoft cash in the back pocket.

The point of this whole post is basically to point out that rich people and rich companies control the channels of communication (literature, schools, consortia) so as to perpetuate and increase their own power.

“Gates’ gimmick of becoming a philanthropist repeats the Rockefeller scam almost one to one a century later.”

Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation

Links 18/1/2011: Xfce 4.8 is Released, Firefox 4.0 Anticipated

Posted in News Roundup at 1:37 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Desktop

    • System76 add 2 more laptops to their Ubuntu-based line-up

      Ubuntu-dedicated hardware company System 76 has today announced the launch of two new laptops.

    • Saying goodbye to my System76 notebooks
    • Lane Fox promises sub-£100 PCs

      Martha Lane Fox is promising £98 computers to tempt the last remaining digital refuseniks in UK to get online.

      The machines, refurbed by Remploy, will come complete with telephone support, monitor, mouse and Linux software.

      Lane Fox, David Cameron’s Digital Champion, told the Financial Times (subscription link): “Motivation and inspiration are still two of the biggest barriers [to using the internet], but clearly perception of price is another big deal for people. A good price point is certainly part of what helps people get online.”

    • Lane Fox To Champion £98 PC Scheme In UK

      The UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox is launching a new scheme under which Brits with no internet access will be able to purchase a refurbished Linux-based PC for £98.

      The PC will come with a Linux operating system, a flat-screen monitor and telephone support along with a warranty, The Financial Times reports. The scheme is part of Lane Fox’s Race Online 2012 campaign which aims to bring every Brit online by the end of 2012.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux kernel ASLR Implementation
    • Broadcom Wireless Networking Adapters and Linux

      I expect things to get better, at least on the 4313, as the open source driver finishes the cleanup and integration that it is going through now, and is incorporated in more common distributions. I hope it will be in the upcoming Debian 6.0 release, as that will then get it into a lot of other derivative releases, as it is already in Mint Debian and SimplyMEPIS 11. It should also be a part of a standard kernel release (perhaps 2.6.38?), which will then get it into the distributions which track the latest kernels.

    • Graphics Stack

      • Nouveau Fermi Acceleration Merged Into X Driver

        The Nouveau (and PathScale) developers working on reverse-engineering the NVIDIA Linux binary driver in turn to write a free software driver with 2D/3D acceleration for all of NVIDIA’s graphics processors, have another accomplishment under their belt today. They’ve now merged the NVC0 (a.k.a. “Fermi”) acceleration support into the xf86-video-nouveau DDX driver.

        Landing into the Linux 2.6.37 kernel DRM was initial mode-setting support for GeForce 400/500 “Fermi” graphics cards, but it went without any actual acceleration support. With the Linux 2.6.38 kernel there is now initial open-source acceleration support for NVIDIA Fermi GPUs, so the DDX driver bits have now been merged into the mainline xf86-video-nouveau display driver.

      • Linux and hybrid graphics cards

        I recently bought a Dell laptop (Vostro 3300) and directly installed Fedora 14 on it. Everything worked out of the box, I just needed to install Broadcom wireless driver.

        But, I was wrong! The laptop come with a Nvidia card, and checking the output of lspci, I found an Intel VGA card too. So I start reading why I have a Nvidia and an Intel cards in my laptop to find the new cool technology : Optimus graphics from Nvidia…

      • Mesa Now Supports A Bit More Of OpenGL 3.0

        This work, plus improvements going into the various Gallium3D and classic Mesa drivers along with state trackers, etc will eventually be released as Mesa 7.11 in a few months time.

      • The VIA TTM/GEM Patch Appears Ready

        Just one month ago an independent developer began working on VIA TTM/GEM support for the VIA kernel DRM driver along with VIA kernel mode-setting support, even while VIA’s open-source Linux strategy is dead. Just a few weeks later, James Simmons’ VIA TTM/GEM memory management patches are now ready.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC)

      • KDE Commit-Digest for 12th December 2010
      • New features in Amarok 2.4

        Amarok 2.4 features support for the third generation iPod Touch, the option to have Amarok write statistics and album covers back to the files directly, as well as a completely re-written collection scanner that better detects compilations. A mass-tagging user interface using the MusicBrainz open content music database is now included that allows users to update their songs with accurate information, as is transcoding support – the developers note that transcoding will be expanded to media devices in a future release.

      • 5 Splash Screens to Spice up digiKam

        Every new version of digiKam features its own unique splash screen. But you don’t have to wait for the next digiKam release to get a new splash screen. Here are a few ready-to-go designs created by yours truly. To learn how to replace the default splash screen in digiKam, take a look at the Replace digiKam’s Default Splash Screen article.

    • GNOME Desktop

      • Announcing Foresight Linux 2.5.0 ALPHA 1 GNOME Edition

        After a very, very, very long time I can finally announce another Foresight Linux release! We have gone through a lot of changes and it took us a while to rebuild our developer/maintainer/user base, but here we are! The goal is to go back to having a rolling release schedule and keep bringing the latest and greatest mix of GNOME and applications!

      • Run Unity Qt Panel Or Launcher In A Classic GNOME Desktop

        WebuUpd8 reader Anurag sent us a very interesting tip: you can run any part of Unity 2D (Qt) under the classic GNOME desktop. To use the Unity panel or launcher without the whole Unity Qt, you firstly have to install Unity Qt (2D).


        In the same way you can run the “unity-qt-panel”, either as stand-alone or togheter with the “unity-qt-launcher”. To fix the double titlebar for maximized windows you can use Window Applets – select the option to remove the titlebar for maximized windows.

      • GNOME Commander – A nice file manager for the GNOME desktop

        GNOME Commander is file manager aimed at people who want a fast and efficient file manager. GNOME Commander can currently perform most common file operations, and will detect changes to files caused by other programs and update its views without the need for the user to manually reload. The program also supports Copy and Paste, DND and MIME.

    • Xfce

      • Xfce 4.8 Desktop Environment Released

        After a pre-releases came in November and then another in December, Xfce 4.8 has been officially released today.

      • Xfce 4.8 adds remote shares browsing, new desktop panel, more

        The latest version of lightweight desktop environment XFCE has been released, adding support for remote shares browsing, a rewritten desktop panel, and improved settings/file transfer dialogs.

      • Xfce 4.8 released

        Aside from the features implemented in Xfce, the 4.8 development cycle brought us a bunch of other goodies. For the first time we had a serious release strategy formed after the “Xfce Release and Development Model” developed at the Ubuntu Desktop Summit in May 2009. A new web application made release management a lot easier. We worked hard on improving the situation of Xfce translators which led us to setting up our own Transifex server. Something else you will hopefully notice is that our server and mirroring infrastructure has been improved so that our servers hopefully will not suddenly surrender shortly after this release announcement.

      • Loss of Installer Dampens Xfce 4.8 Release

        XfceXfce is a wonderful mid-sized desktop environment for those that want some customization without excessive system overhead. Xfce began life in 1996 as a simple clone of CDE, but has since progressed along side contemporaries such as KDE and GNOME. Some might even think of Xfce as a compromise between the highly customizable KDE and the higher performing GNOME. It was very popular in lighter Linux distributions for a time, and is still commonly included as an alternative choice. For a while an easy one- (or two-) click installer was available that downloaded the individual packages, compiled them, and installed Xfce for you. But no more. Today the developers released version 4.8 with some new goodies and a bit of an updated look, but with no convenient installer.

  • Distributions

    • Reviews

      • Introducing Zorin OS 4

        Zorin OS is, according to the project’s website, an easy-to-use, fast operating system which attempts to be useful straight out of the box. The distro appears to be targeting people who have, up to this point, been using Windows and the project makes much of its ability to ape the Windows GUI and run Windows applications through WINE. The project offers us the Core edition of their OS for free and charges a small fee for their premium editions. Zorin’s website includes a news section, a page for frequently asked questions, a support forum and on-line store. All of this is well laid out, navigation is easy and I found the design appealing. The Core edition of Zorin OS 4 is downloadable as a DVD image and weighs in at 1.17 GB.


        In conclusion, while the rough start makes me think Zorin isn’t a good choice for computer novices, it may be good for Linux novices who were formally Windows power users. The system is set up to appeal to that crowd and, for someone who wants a large collection of software available and doesn’t get scared off easily, I think Zorin is a good option.

      • Linux armageddon Linux Mint vs Slackware

        Winner is – Slackware! This is really more tongue in cheek. I’ve been using slackware as my primary machine for the last four months and like a clock, you set it and let it run.

      • MoonOS 4 Neake

        MoonOS is an interesting alternative to generic Ubuntu, and to other Ubuntu derivatives such as Linux Mint. This release has some positive things for existing MoonOS users. However, I don’t see anything here that’s likely to grab users from other distros. There is not real standout feature that might possibly attract people and get them to switch to MoonOS 4.

    • Red Hat Family

      • Innosoft Gulf offers seminar to public about new features of Red Hat Enterprise Linux

        Following the availability of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6, Innosoft Gulf, the leading Certified Red Hat Training Partner and Oracle Approved Education Center (OAEC) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), is pleased to offer a seminar to the public about the new features of Red Hat Enteprise Linux (RHEL 6).

      • RHEL 5.6 boasts new bug and security fixes

        Though Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 6 may have just been released in November, RHEL 5 still has a lot left in the tank: Red Hat just announced version 5.6 of the platform with a host of new bug and security fixes.

      • Red Hat Server Edition 6: Long Life Cycle With Lots to Like

        Red Hat Enterprise 6 (aka Santiago) was released Nov. 10, 2010 — 3.5 years after the first release of RHEL 5 and 7 months after RHEL 5.5. It will be supported to at least some extent for another 10 years (until Nov. 30, 2020), which is a pretty impressive life cycle, especially compared to the 5-year support of Ubuntu’s LTS releases. It’s just one confirmation of the intended market for RHEL6, which is clear throughout the release specs.

    • Debian Family

      • Linux Mint Debian Edition – a green goddess

        I hope I’ve inspired you to try this interesting new distribution – I’m certainly hoping to keep it on my netbook in the long term.

      • Canonical/Ubuntu

        • Qt apps on Ubuntu

          As part of our planning for Natty+1, we’ll need to find some space on the CD for Qt libraries, and we will evaluate applications developed with Qt for inclusion on the CD and default install of Ubuntu.

          Ease of use, and effective integration, are key values in our user experience. We care that the applications we choose are harmonious with one another and the system as a whole. Historically, that has meant that we’ve given very strong preference to applications written using Gtk, because a certain amount of harmony comes by default from the use of the same developer toolkit. That said, with OpenOffice and Firefox having been there from the start, Gtk is clearly not an absolute requirement. What I’m arguing now is that it’s the values which are important, and the toolkit is only a means to that end. We should evaluate apps on the basis of how well they meet the requirement, not prejudice them on the basis of technical choices made by the developer.

        • Displex: Fusion-Icon Alternative With Ubuntu AppIndicator Support

          Displex (indicator-displex) is an application that provides similar functionality as “fusion-icon”, but using an Ubuntu appindicator. It can be used to control Compiz, Emerald and the Gnome Display Manager.

        • 4 Beautiful Ubuntu Unity UI Mockups/Ideas

          When you look back at the history of Ubuntu through the years, you will see that, Ubuntu Unity is *the* most significant change ever happened to Ubuntu. Ubuntu Unity is a really interesting idea with limitless possibilities. Now, here are some innovative user created Ubuntu Unity UI mockups/ideas you might find interesting.

        • Ubuntu Unity Desktop Mockup
        • [UbuntuWomen] Diversity and Encouraging More Women To Attend UDS
        • Do you Ubuntu – or do you do ‘poo poo’ Ubuntu?

          The Ubuntu “server team” and Canonical are in inquisitive lot, they want to ask the community just exactly how it is using the Ubuntu Server Edition — and in what kinds of organisations, scenarios, environments and/or deployments — hence the Ubuntu Server Edition was born and is now in its third year.

        • Ubuntu Server Survey 2011 — How do You Ubuntu?
        • Ubuntu Server Edition Survey 2011 (v1.0.0)
        • 5 Great Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat Tips And Tricks

          Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat was released on October 10th, 2010, and it really is the best Ubuntu release to date. Everything was made to be super easy for regular users, and advanced Linux enthusiasts still can take advantage of all that it can offer. A lot of functions have been completely automated (the screen type and resolution settings, for example) and most of them also got graphical menus for easier configuration.

        • Ubuntu 10.10 and Citrix

          Many of us with the opportunity will have met up with logging via a Citrix server. With that in mind, I set to getting an ICA client going on my main Ubuntu box at home. There is information scattered about the web in the form of question on the Ubuntu forum and a step-by-step guide by Liberian Geek. To summarise the process that I followed here, you have to download a copy of the Citrix Receiver installer for Linux from the company’s website.

        • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 219

          Welcome to the Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter. This is Issue #219 for the week January 04- 17, 2011 and is available here.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Phones

      • Android

        • Google Nexus S

          Here is what I like:

          * Android 2.3 (first and currently the only phone to have this)
          * 16GB Internal Memory
          * 4″ Display
          * 1 GHZ Processor

    • Sub-notebooks

      • OLPC XO-1.75, ARM Powered OLPC XO Laptop is faster than x86!

        OLPC CTO Edward J. McNierney gives us an overview of the ARM Marvell Armada 610 version of OLPC XO Laptop, XO 1.75, to be released soon, being optimized now in Taiwan, it provides for a sub 2 Watt One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop. One Laptop Per Child created the Netbook market, now they will push the PC/Laptop industry towards ARM support for lower power consumption and lower prices through increased industry competition and optimized SoC designs. The $100 Laptop is nearer. Marvell’s 610 is now one of the ARM SoC platforms that is now powerful enough to power a full desktop/laptop system.

      • OLPC Arm version is faster than Intel’s

        While Intel says that it has nothing to fear from Arm chips, it seems that the One Laptop Top Per Child project might disagree. The OLPC group, which aims to bring cheap laptops to kids in developing countries has been experimenting with the RM Marvell Armada 610 chip.

        OLPC CTO Edward J. McNierney showed Arm devices how the chip went faster than the Intel equivalent. The chip provides for a sub 2 Watt One Laptop Per Child XO Laptop with much more back for its buck.

      • $10 Laptop? India’s Educational Laptop Is Here, But Not At $10

        Although both of these projects are far-fetched and unlikely to enter the market anytime soon, we have something up our sleeves — Yet another Indian laptop! The new laptop, eBerry, is the richer cousin of the $10 laptop.

    • Tablets

      • Linux Geeks and Tablet Temptation

        Blogger Robert Pogson — also an educator — has “spent years teaching students not to touch the screen of the monitor,” so “I am not sure I will ever be ready for a touchscreen,” he told Linux Girl.

        “I could hook monitor, keyboard and mouse up to one,” he pointed out. “I have a bunch of thin clients, a notebook and a terminal server in my home.”

        Still, “I doubt I will be buying any new device for a year or so,” Pogson concluded. “If I were to buy something with touch it might be a smartphone, just because I love ARM (Nasdaq: ARMHY) and GNU/Linux running on ARM.”

      • WebOS: The Other Smartphone/Tablet Linux

        Regardless of what I think, the rumor-mill is going full-speed ahead that, on February 9th, HP will be showing off new smartphones, tablets and maybe even netbooks running webOS. Some folks, like James Kendrick, think that this news would be the cat’s meow. “Of all the product categories HP is considering for webOS, the tablet has me excited as I believe the OS is so fitting for the tablet form that it can take the competition by storm.” Really? Much as I like the idea of Android on tablets, once Google clears up exactly what it’s doing for programmers with Android for different platforms, I can’t see anyone storming Apple’s iPad anytime soon.

Free Software/Open Source

  • Open Source: we are buying, but are we engaging?

    We recently completed our 2010 national survey of open source in the UK academic sector (the full report is currently being finalised). This post examines the extent to which suppliers to, and staff of, UK universities and colleges contribute to open source as a matter of course. This kind of engagement is important since it realises the maximum benefits of open source software.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • No Hardware Acceleration Firefox for Linux Due to Buggy X Drivers

        Yesterday, the ninth Firefox 4.0 beta was released. One of the major new features in Firefox 4.0 is hardware acceleration for anything from canvas drawing to video rendering. Sadly, this feature won’t make its way to the Linux version of Firefox 4.0. The reason? X’ drivers are “disastrously buggy”. Update: Benoit Jacob informed my via email that there’s some important nuance: hardware acceleration (OpenGL only) on Linux has been implemented, but due to bugs and issues, only one driver so far has been whitelisted (the proprietary NVIDIA driver).

      • New Contributions features
      • Talking about HTML5 games development at MIT in Boston

        As part of our university outreach programme, a few Mozilla people and volunteers went to Boston last week to give a series of lectures on web technologies for games development.

        During the week we covered topics like WebGL for 3D development, basics of JavaScript, debugging and performance, canvas development, offline development and local storage and multimedia on the web. We’ll make these slides available in the comments to this blog post.

      • Attention Turns To Open-Source Drivers & Firefox

        Last week we reported on Mozilla Firefox developers having issues with Linux GPU drivers to the point that the Firefox 4.0 Linux build will not have GPU acceleration enabled by default, but it can be found for Mac OS X and Windows users. Fortunately, to fix the situation, there’s now some open-source Mesa/X developers looking into these problems of Firefox GPU acceleration.

        Mozilla’s Benoit Jacob wrote to the Mesa mailing list about the WebGL conformance tests to fix bugs in Mesa’s OpenGL implementation. “The goal of this email is to discuss steps towards whitelisting Xorg OpenGL drivers for WebGL rendering, and more generally for all OpenGL-based features, in Firefox. Although I’m only directly concerned with Firefox, this really applies equally well to all browsers implementing WebGL.”

      • How Fast Is Firefox 4?

        Mozilla has the finish line for Firefox 4 in sight: Beta 9 was just released and the first builds of Beta 10 have been posted to the company’s FTP server. There are just over 100 blocking bugs left and there isn’t much that will change until the final release will be available sometime in February or March. Time to check how fast this new browser is. The first article of this series focuses on JavaScript performance.

      • Firefox 4.0 beta release slights Linux

        The latest release has hardware acceleration, which is great news if you are a Windows user but pants if you prefer the penguin. It even works on Windows XP and Mac OS X

      • 5 reasons why I’m sticking with Firefox

        5. Mozilla: I like the fact that Mozilla is an non-profit organization with an aim to keep the net as open as possible in a time when net freedoms are under attack. Although I have nothing against them, I don’t like the idea of being locked into using Apple’s Safari or Google’s Chrome – I think both companies already have enough influence over my online time as it is!

      • New Mozilla Firefox 4 Beta: A “huge pile of awesome”

        Offering a developer tool overview of the Firefox 4 Beta, and noting that developers will benefit from support for HTML5, WebM and HD video, 3D graphic rendering with WebGL, hardware acceleration and the Mozilla Audio API for sound, Chris Blizzard – Mozilla’s director of product platform management – termed the latest beta as a “huge pile of awesome.”

      • Reduce the Firefox 4 menu button to an icon in Linux
      • First Look: Firefox 4 Beta 9
  • Oracle

  • Funding

    • OpenGamma secures $6 million Series B to power open source for financial markets

      To that end today OpenGamma is a new kind of financial startup, based in London, which has an open source analytics and risk management platform for the financial services industry. Today it’s completed a $6 million Series B round of equity financing led by FirstMark Capital, a New York-based VC. Accel Partners joins the round as a return investor. OpenGamma previously had a Series A round of $6m from Accel Partners.

    • EU funds open source language Scala

      As proudly reported in the developer blog for the programming language, Scala creator Martin Odersky will soon be able to double the size of his team. Over the next five years the group of developers working at Switzerland’s EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) will be receiving €2.3 million from the European Research Council. The goal is to overcome the challenges of parallel programming, which is becoming increasingly important as multi-core and multi-processor systems become more widespread.

  • BSD

    • Available: FreeBSD 8.2-RC2

      Ken Smith has announced the availability of FreeBSD 8.2-RC2. This is the second iteration of Release Candidates which will lead to 8.2-RELEASE.

  • Openness/Sharing

  • Programming

    • How to Identify a Good Perl Programmer

      The article Why You Can’t Hire Great Perl Programmers addressed the core Perl community. We need to encourage Perl dabblers to improve their skills and to join the community.

    • What *is* OOP?

      So I’ve played around with Python, and then with PHP, and now Perl. All three can be used for object-oriented programming.

      A while ago, when I was trying to learn more PHP, I started to feel the lack of knowledge about its OOP aspect. Having started out with K&R’s book on C, procedural logic has always made sense to me: What was this object thing?

    • Upstreaming your code – a primer

      The Linux kernel community has its own set of rules regarding various things, such as coding style, communication, and so on. Many of the leading developers in the Linux kernel community have little time, so it is best to follow these rules to make the whole process as smooth as possible.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • How to Encode to WebM

      With Google’s announcement that it’s dropping H.264 support in Chrome in favor of WebM, it’s time to start looking at the format. Here’s a look at how to get the best WebM quality.

    • Google’s WebM v H.264: who wins and loses in the video codec wars?

      Google announced last week that it is axing support for the H.264 video codec from its Chrome browser. (Only the one it distributes for desktops, at the moment; but it’s not clear whether the Android browser includes an H.264 codec. We’ll come to it.)

    • Google Clears Up Confusion in Web Video Brouhaha

      One way to look at the impact that Google’s open source Chrome browser is having is to consider the ripple effect that the company created with its recent blog post on web video standards and browsing. We covered the post and its implications here, and Microsoft–with its market share-leading Internet Explorer browser–served up a response dripping with sarcasm, here. Now, Google is delivering some specifics about its actual intent.

    • Some patent reflections on WebM

      So, one of the concerns cited about WebM is its possible vulnerability to patents from entities other than Google. Yes, we have rock solid patent grants from Google covering the WebM spec, but it’s possible other people have patents which cover functions you would need to implement in order to implement the WebM specification. So, the argument goes, you can’t rely on the royalty-free-ness of WebM.


  • Moving beyond “mountains of dead and mulched
    trees with interesting things inked on them”

    A Canadian-born lover of books and prominent science fiction author, Cory Doctorow is a champion of the cause of freedom of access to knowledge. When asked to do an interview with School Libraries Canada, he replied, “Generally, I’m not doing any interviews right now as I struggle with an imminent book deadline. However, given the nature of the publication, I feel duty-bound to do something with you, if we can make it happen….” He made it happen, and in the interview he reveals a few of the reasons for his commitment to positive social action, his deep-rooted attachment to school libraries, and his sense of common-cause with the library community in general.

  • 10 Websites With Fun Tests To Gauge Your IQ
  • Security

    • Security advisories for Monday
    • OECD study: an actual cyberwar is improbable

      Conducted on behalf of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a study has found that a cyberwar conducted solely via the internet between states is very improbable. The authors believe that most crucial systems are simply too well protected. While attacks on systems such as the one involving Stuxnet can be successful, they have to be carefully targeted and limited – and the effects have to be calculated exactly.

      The study finds that the term “cyberwar” is now “overhyped” as it is used for all kinds of things, including activities that used to fall under the category of espionage or sabotage. Indeed, Denial of Service (DoS) attacks related to WikiLeaks have also been called cyberwar even though they only constituted blockades.

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

    • Social Network Platforms and Subversive Politics

      Now the Tunisian government, however, most certainly viewed the Social Networking Platform as a threat. Here’s a post from last July by technically knowledgeable Tunisian citizen documenting how the Government was collecting social networking platform credentials of it’s citizens. At the time, this would be appear to have been some type of an official DNS cache poisoning/Phishing attack. The Tunisian Internet Agency(ATI) is the upstream provider for all Tunisian ISPs. Certainly, then, from a technical standpoint, it would have been feasible. However, the blogger notes that the attacks occurred only intermittently so as to not arouse too much suspicion.

    • Mission Creep: How the ACPO empire hyped eco-terrorism

      The collapse of the trial of the Ratcliffe coal protesters earlier this month has drawn new attention to police infiltration of protest movements.

      However, the controversy sparked by the exposure of undercover cop Mark Kennedy has been building for several years. While police have charged that environmental direct action represents a new and growing threat to public order, environmentalists have claimed the threat is being hyped to justify the growth of a labyrinthine and unaccountable intelligence structure under the control of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

      It is illuminating to re-examine the chronology of those debates in the light of what we now know about the activities of Kennedy and other police agents, thanks to a long running investigation by Guardian journalists such as Paul Lewis and Rob Evans.

    • GoDaddy pulls Pakistani website over CIA ‘murder’ case

      US-based web hosting company GoDaddy demanded the removal of a controversial article concerning a top CIA operative in Pakistan, leading to the source of a story that went global being taken offline.

      At the start of the month, GoDaddy demanded that “PakNationalists” removed an article that discussed a potential court case against Jonathan Banks, the CIA’s former Islamabad station chief who was accused of being responsible for allegedly illegal drone attacks on parts of Pakistan.

      The article, which was removed but can be seen from the Google cache, was called “CIA Station Chief In Islamabad Sued For Murder And Terrorism.”

  • Cablegate

    • WikiLeaks turned the tables on governments, but the power relationship has not changed

      WikiLeaks “changes everything”. So says Christian Caryl in the latest New York Review of Books, as the media, technology and foreign policy worlds ponder the effect of the industrial dumping of US government cables. For several years American analysts in particular have been trying to make sense of the information free-for-all facilitated by the internet. Julian Assange’s perhaps inadvertent contribution is to have brought a previously arcane debate into the forefront of global politics.

  • Finance

    • WikiLeaks receives details of mass offshore tax evasion, could be released within weeks

      A Swiss whistleblower has handed documents, which he claims contain details of widescale tax evasion, to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a press conference in London this morning.

      The documents are said to contain details of wealthy individuals and organisations from the US, Europe and Asia who are using the secretive nature of the Swiss banking system’s offshore Cayman Islands accounts to avoid paying tax in their native countries.

    • WikiLeaks discloses offshore banking secrets

      “British and American individuals and companies are among the offshore clients whose details will be contained on CDs presented to WikiLeaks at the Frontline Club in London”, said the Observer yesterday, stating, “Those involved include, Elmer tells the Observer, ‘approximately 40 politicians’.”

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • The incredible shrinking sound bite

      If you’ve watched any political coverage since 1992, you know what happened: CBS’s experiment failed. This week, as Congress’s 112th session begins, the shrinking sound bite stands as a rare enemy of Republicans and Democrats alike. Whether running for president of the United States or for city council, politicians can count on seeing their words broken into ever smaller and more fragmentary bits. You might debate whom to blame — asked about nine-second sound bites, one TV executive replied, “the politicians started it” — but you can’t dispute the trend. In recent presidential elections, the average TV sound bite has dropped to a tick under eight seconds. A shorter, dumber, and shriller political discourse, it seems, has become another hazard of modern life.

    • Two cents on election financing..

      The question of whether political parties should receive roughly $2 for every vote they garner from the Canadian public is being raised again in the news and political discourse lately. The Conservatives are in favor of getting rid of the subsidy, while the opposition parties are in favor of keeping it.

    • New batch of Tory ads slated to start running soon.

      That said, the Conservatives have resorted to a smear campaign at the expense of Ignatieff (and to a lesser degree Layton) and it can only mean one thing: Remember what your mother told you in high school?

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • Why you should always encrypt your smartphone

      Last week, California’s Supreme Court reached a controversial 5-2 decision in People v. Diaz (PDF), holding that police officers may lawfully search mobile phones found on arrested individuals’ persons without first obtaining a search warrant. The court reasoned that mobile phones, like cigarette packs and wallets, fall under the search incident to arrest exception to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

    • Rogue Facebook apps can now access your home address and mobile phone number

      In a move that could herald a new level of danger for Facebook users, third party application developers are now able to access your home address and mobile phone number.

    • Man stole nude photos from women’s e-mail accounts

      He then posted many of these photos to his victims’ Facebook pages.

    • China: No more award and prize!

      It is clear that the Chinese government is not happy about the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. However, it is beyond normal people’s imagination that the propaganda machine would turn its resentment into the censorship of the terms “award” and “prize”.

      According to the latest general notice from the Central Propaganda Bureau regarding news and propaganda in 2011, all news and commercial websites should not initiate any kind of nation-wide selection (listings and awards) of news, people or events. The background of this notice is related to a series of events last year:

      Firstly, Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

    • MEPs briefed on web sanctions in Hungarian Media Law

      Confirmation that the Hungarian Internet is at risk comes has been submitted to the European Parliament, by a security organisation which monitors for breaches of free speech in the new East European democracies.

    • Tor is released (security patches)

      Tor continues our recent code security audit work. The main fix resolves a remote heap overflow vulnerability that can allow remote code execution. Other fixes address a variety of assert and crash bugs, most of which we think are hard to exploit remotely.

    • European court deals blow to no win, no fee deals in Naomi Campbell case

      Judgment provides boost for press freedom following marathon legal battle by Daily Mirror over privacy ruling

  • Internet/Net Neutrality/DRM

    • Nokia’s ‘Comes With Music’ Disappears In 27 Markets

      Nokia’s struggle to compete against Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), and drive more sales of its own smartphones, hit a new low today, as the Finnish company said it would be discontinuing its free, bundled music service, Comes With Music, in 27 of the 33 markets where it has operated since 2008, after low subscriber takeup in several markets.

    • Has Bell Upgraded Internet Infrastructure?

      When the Internet was first made available to the public, Canada quickly became a world leader. When Bell and Rogers entered the High Speed Internet market, they offered Canadians top speeds, and low prices for unlimited access. (They did such a good job that they killed off all the competition.)

      Cheap and fast access is why Canadians so whole heartedly became early Internet adopters. And that’s why Canadians are currently some of the most Internet savvy and Internet connected people in the world.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Stupid legal threat of the young century

      Boing Boing has been on the receiving end of one or two stupid legal threats in our day but this one from the firm of Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh takes the cake, the little cake topper, the frosting and all the candles, as well as the box and the cake-stand and the ornamental forks.

      Back in July, I posted about the research on the academic advantage some people with autism exhibit. In the comments, someone else used the word “scam” in a message board post.

      Here’s where it gets good. The legal eagles at Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh represent an (apparently extremely touchy) company called Academic Advantage and they apparently earn their keep by using alerts or searches for “Academic Advantage scam” to see who’s badmouthing good old AA, and then they fire off a legal threat and demand that the content be removed from the Internet posthaste.


      And to the lawyers at Lazar, Akiva & Yagoubzadeh (whose motto is “Experienced Attorneys. Proven Results.” and who boast of degrees from Harvard, NYU and UCLA): shame on you. What would your parents say if they could see you squandering your top legal educations with this kind of careless, sloppy inanity?

    • Copyrights

      • The cloud is the future – Google joins the EFF in MP3tunes’ battle against EMI

        Google have reportedly filed a paper with the New York District Court in support of MP3tunes.com in its ongoing legal battle with EMI, joining The Electronic Frontiers Foundation who had previously filed an Amici curiae brief in support of the company and its founder Michael Robertson. MP3tunes provides an online music “locker” service where users can store their music and access it from computers and mobile devices. MP3tunes also operates a music search engine called Sideload where users can find music tracks on other sites and then put them in their locker. EMI says the service makes mass copyright infringement easy by letting users upload music they didn’t buy and providing links to online songs that users can then “sideload” into their library and EMI claims that digital locker service such as MP3tunes infringes copyright unless licensed by rights holders . Robertson unsurprisingly argues that EMI’s position is an incorrect interpretation of copyright law saying that MP3tunes is shielded from liability by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act – because it doesn’t encourage copyright infringement and promptly removes infringing content when notified but EMI.

      • Speak Out on Copyright: The Bill C-32 Edition

        Thousands of Canadians have spoken out many times on copyright reform, but it is important to do so once more. Bill C-32 is a better bill than its predecessors and with some tinkering would be a bill worth supporting.

      • Arrested Pirate Party Member Becomes Tunisian State Secretary

        After weeks of public protests on- and offline the Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali resigned and escaped the country last Friday. Today, the head of the transitional government, Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, announced his new cabinet members which include a familiar name. Slim Amamou, the Pirate Party member and freedom of speech activist who was arrested just a few days ago, is now the (deputy minister) State Secretary of Youth and Sports.

Clip of the Day

From SiCKO: How Liberals Respond to Their “Enemies”

Credit: TinyOgg

Microsoft’s Dangerous Obsession With Patents

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Patents at 4:54 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Microsoft products like KINect get sued for patent violations following Microsoft’s legal action against Linux/Android, which shows the limit of this monopolist’s patent strategy

MICROSOFT is not in a healthy state and it is trying to earn patents like never before. Rather than produce a portfolio of products it increasingly produces a portfolio of patents and then pressures companies to pay Microsoft for “licences” (otherwise Microsoft sues, until the licensing deal is done). Microsoft booster Todd Bishop says that Microsoft wants to patent ‘fans’ and that it’s a “one-way public relationships”:

In a filing made public today, Microsoft is seeking a patent for something it calls “One-Way Public Relationships” in social networks and other online properties.

Even though you’ve probably never heard or used that phrase, chances are you’re involved in many of these types of relationships already. That’s because it’s more commonly known as being a “fan” of something online.

The latest item of news being debated is “Microsoft Seeks Do-Let-The-Bed-Bugs-Bite Patent”. From Slashdot‘s summary:

“In its just-published patent application for Adapting Parasites to Combat Disease, Microsoft lays out plans to unleash ‘altered parasitic organisms’ on humans, including mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, bed bugs, leeches, pinworms, tapeworms, hookworms, heart worms, roundworms, lice (head, body, and pubic), and the like. ‘Irradiated mosquitoes can be used to deliver damaged Plasmodium to individuals,’ explains Microsoft. ‘Instead of contracting malaria, an individual receiving the damaged Plasmodium develops an immune response that renders the individual resistant to contracting malaria.’ Don’t worry about runaway breeding, advises Microsoft — ‘a termination feature [that] can include programmed death’ makes this impossible. As David Spade might say, I liked this movie the first time I saw it — when it was called Jurassic Park.”

If Microsoft becomes too focused on patents and not actual products, then it puts all of its eggs in the litigious basket and risks going out of business when the law changes (more on that in a later post). Going through some Microsoft patent news which we missed over the past two months, we find that Microsoft expands its patent lawsuit:

Microsoft is rumored to extend the patent infringement lawsuit that claimed his property on the operating system (OS) of mobile Android.

Here is the WSJ blog post “What Smartphone Makers Can Learn From the Sewing Machine Patent War”:

The smartphone market is highly lucrative, has many competing players, and involves countless patents. In other words, it’s a recipe for lawsuits. In the last month alone, Microsoft lobbed a suit at Motorola, who in turn sued Apple. Nokia and HTC both have sued Apple, and Apple has sued both Nokia and HTC.

Remember that the patent system started with real inventors whose contributions included physical and complex inventions like sewing machines (not suing machines like today’s patent lawyers) and whose novelty involved sophisticated mechanics with improvements. Sure, some of these early patents were granted to people who merely improved very slightly the work of others — work that had not been patented. The likes of Edison are a good example of this form of abuse. Anyway, the sewing machine patent war is a decent analogy for the smartphones patent war.

By attacking Motorola (Android) with patents, Microsoft has put Xbox at risk, so this whole strategy is becoming rather dodgy and unpredictable. It’s all that Microsoft has left. Motorola is now using the KINect to sue Microsoft back:

Microsoft and Motorola were discovered on Friday to have expanded their countering patent lawsuits to include technology that could cover the wider industry. Motorola on Thursday filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Wisconsin to include two new patents that claim the Kinect motion controller violates its patents Microsoft responded the same day by filing its own lawsuit in a Southern District of Florida court that added seven new patents to its claims, five of which claimed infringements by Android while two more aimed at Motorola’s DVR boxes.

The mobbyists keep concentrating on this case against Linux, chatting with people who include Rob Enderle. They try to use it to cause damage to Linux’ reputation (or more specifically Android).

SCOny [sic] too is collecting more patents around its console these days:

Sony’s plans for their PS3 – A patent filing hinting on the future?


I’ve written on many occasions about Kinect, the tech which I believe Microsoft is hoping to take its 360 through the next five years. In the meantime Sony has been busy too and they have released their Move tech which won best hardware accessory at Gamescon 2010, beating Microsoft’s Kinect for the accolade.

As we showed last night, SCOny is suing rivals with patents, but mostly hardware patents. When it comes to peripherals, it’s about patents that are partly software oriented.

Going further back in time, Canesta was bought by Microsoft and resultant articles stress that patents are a major part of it, e.g.:

i. Microsoft Buys Chip Company Canesta
ii. If Microsoft Acquires Canesta, It’s Probably A Patent Play (MSFT)
iii. Microsoft buys gesture-chip maker (and patent holder) Canesta
iv. Microsoft Acquires Canesta, 3D Tech Patents

Here is another one that we missed:

i. Microsoft Patents Brain Implant Gaming Device

Microsoft Corporation Technology Chief Craig Mundie announced today that they have perfected a new “brain implant” gaming device that will assure frequent gamers of “the best gaming experience of their lives”.

And also:

i. Give your keyboard the boot? Microsoft patents foot interface

Microsoft’s research into a “foot-based user interface” seemed somewhat novel in 2006, when I first wrote about the project. Now that the company has released its Kinect full-body motion control system for the Xbox 360, the idea of controlling a machine with your feet seems like only part of the picture.

ii. Microsoft Patents Foot-Controlled Interface–Finally, A Way To Dedicate All Four Limbs To Work

Microsoft has apparently been kicking around the idea of a foot-controlled computer interface for some time now. They don’t want you to type with your toes, fortunately, but rather to use your feet for simple tasks like scrolling and opening email. But now that the company has finally patented the idea, will foot-powered computing usher in an era of healthier and more efficient screen time or just tie people to their machines by four limbs instead of two?

iii. Microsoft Earns Patent for Foot-Based Human-Computer Interface Technology

This one is familiar:

i. Microsoft applies for a patent for a verifying a ‘safe’ operating system

Microsoft has applied for a patent for an “automated, static safety verifier” that will help verify the type- and memory-safety of an operating system.

And notably:

i. Microsoft Files Patent for Tactile Touchscreen
ii. Microsoft physical touchscreen patent app tips dynamic Surface
iii. Microsoft patents a more tactile touchscreen
iv. Microsoft patents shape-shifting display
v. Microsoft tries to reinvent the mobile keyboard

To quote from the first (number i) item:

In what is touted as what could be the future of touchscreen keyboards, Microsoft filed a patent on Nov. 25 for a “shape-shifting” touchscreen.

The technology would let users feel contours of a keyboard as if they were typing on a real physical keyboard even though they are really typing on a touchscreen which has a projected image of a keyboard.

Raining on Microsoft’s parade is the following: “Microsoft Research’s tactile touchscreens: Is it really circa 1970s PARC?”

These patent applications always spark a mixed reaction from me. You cheer the innovative ideas and then the capitalist cynic kicks in. The other item about Microsoft Research worth pondering is whether commercialization even matters.

Also worth mentioning: “Sony, Microsoft Patent New Touchscreen Technologies”

Patents filed by Sony and Microsoft suggest both companies may be planning to take touch screen technologies in interesting new directions, with potential applications for future game platforms.

And finally we have: “Microsoft patent bribes people to watch TV ads”

The patent, originally issued in 2000, is called “System and method for encouraging viewers to watch television programs.” It’s not a bad idea, as far as ideas that have never come to fruition go. Seeing it reminded me of Microsoft’s Magic Wand and Holographic meetings patents issued in 2009. It made me wonder what other oddball patents Microsoft has acquired recently. Answer: quite a few.

It is worth remembering that Microsoft buried Massive, which says a lot about its ventures that involve putting ads on TV.

The bottom line is, Microsoft is becoming a patents company. It’s everywhere in the news and it suggests that Microsoft’s vision is one of extortion and litigation.

Oracle and SAP Get a Lesson About the Harms of Patents

Posted in Oracle, Patents at 4:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Aggression as a business model

Tight fist

Summary: DrugLogic and 2FA have a case against Oracle and Versata still pressures SAP

OVER THE PAST couple of years we have argued that the world’s largest software companies benefit from and lobby for software patents. Oracle and SAP have been fighting a lot in court recently, over intellectual monopolies of course. But both companies share a pain, too. They are occasionally being targeted by intellectual monopolies of other companies and these monopolies are notably software patents.

“Oracle sued by drug-safety software vendor” says this recent report:

Oracle is being sued by drug-safety software vendor DrugLogic over alleged patent violations, according to a complaint filed Dec. 17 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

DrugLogic makes software for managing clinical drug trials as well as monitoring drugs after they go to market. The suit centers on competing products sold by Relsys and Phase Forward, health care software companies that were acquired by Oracle in March 2009 and April, respectively.

Speaking of drug safety, people are safest when patents on drug development are weakened or nullified (a month ago we learned that “Diagnostic Tests Can Be Patented, U.S. Court Rules”). India is ahead in that regard and this new text says “INDIA REJECTS SHAM PATENT APPLICATION FOR LIFESAVING HIV DRUG: Pharmaceuticals in India now free to help HIV patients worldwide”:

This weekend, India rejected an unmerited drug patent application, paving the way for access to lifesaving medication for HIV patients across the world. This groundbreaking victory for patients sets an important precedent to stop pharmaceutical companies from gaming the patent system, marking a new era of hope for millions of people living with HIV all over the world.

Getting back to Oracle, Courthouse News Service reveals that another rival “Demands $110 Million from Oracle”, alleging “conspiracy and corporate theft”:

Oracle Corp. and its wholly owned subsidiary Passlogix stole confidential information to deprive a competitor of royalties, force it into bankruptcy, and use the stolen intellectual property for their own profit, 2FA Technology says in a $110 million claim in Federal Court.

The only defendants in the 33-page complaint are Oracle and Passlogix. But 2FA says the “conspiracy and corporate theft” were led by Passlogix’s CEO Marc Boroditsky and its Chief Technology Office Marc Manza, “with active participation of Passlogix’s senior management team.”

This is reminiscent of Oracle’s case against SAP and vice versa. SAP meets some inconvenient software patents, which it lobbies for in Europe. There is a lawsuit against Microsoft and SAP [1, 2]. The Versata case is also still on:

A federal judge has ruled that software maker SAP AG is entitled to a new trial over what it owes Versata Software Inc. in a patent case, Bloomberg News reported Thursday.

Maybe they refer to this report. In any event, IDG covered this too:

The company had alleged that SAP’s Business Suite software and associated services violated a number of its patents. Formerly known as Trilogy Software, Versata sells products for business rules management, product configuration and other areas.

Meanwhile, SAP is still faced with the landmark $1.3 billion judgment a jury recently awarded Oracle in connection with its corporate-theft suit against the company. SAP has not ruled out an appeal of the award.

Why are Oracle and SAP asking for this whole patent trouble? They would be better off competing based on real merit.

Microsoft Troubled by the Patent Monster It Lobbied For

Posted in Microsoft, Patents at 3:48 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Microsoft gets two new lessons about the harms of software patents, courtesy of i4i and Uniloc

THE i4i case marches on. In older news we find details about the referral to the highest court [1, 2] and in new reports we get some numbers, such as 171 companies supporting i4i’s side and over 100 companies supporting Microsoft’s side [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]. These numbers do not mean so much and it should be left for people — not corporations — to decide on these matters. Microsoft booster Sharon Pian Chan has covered this too.

More than 100 companies signed a letter supporting software-development firm i4i in a patent case against Microsoft that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear.

The i4i case is mentioned here, in a press release that says “tech company i4i alleged that Microsoft infringed one of its software patents with certain versions of Microsoft Word. Microsoft argued that i4i’s underlying patent was invalid, and therefore Microsoft’s use of the technology did not constitute infringement.”

Let us hope that Microsoft will realise software patents are better off eliminated. They are a two-edged sword.

Adding to the pressure there is the patent troll who famously lives under the bridge in a van, where he is scheming to make money without lifting a finger. This patent troll, Uniloc [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11], has just been declared victorious (again) in the case against Microsoft:

An appeals court sided with Uniloc in its patent-infringement lawsuit against Microsoft Corp.

A lower court ruled that Microsoft did not infringe a Uniloc patent designed to prevent software piracy. The appeals court reversed the lower court and ordered a new trial on damages.

This was also covered in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] and the press release names this an affirmation. According to Patently-O (strongly pro-patents), “The CAFC Rejects the 25 Percent Rule” in this case:

Uniloc v. Microsoft involves a host of issues, although one stands out as particularly noteworthy. While “passively tolerat[ing]” the 25 percent ‘rule of thumb’ (a method for calculating a reasonable royalty for purposes of infringement damages) in past cases, the CAFC held today that the rule “is a fundamentally flawed tool for determining a baseline royalty rate in a hypothetical negotiation,” thus precluding its use for damages calculations.

The bottom line is, the more cases Microsoft loses to such patent trolls, the more likely it is to reconsider its patent lobby.

“Micro-Patents” a Euphemism for Destructors of Innovation

Posted in Patents at 3:21 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Polarised microscope

Summary: Dr. Glyn Moody looks at the term “micropatents”, which is being used in the context of fabbers

Euphemisms like RAND or FRAND (neither reasonable nor fair) strive to belittle the negative impact of patents and there is another new (on the face of it) term on the block and that is “micropatents”. No, it does not mean Microsoft patents, in fact it hardly means anything at all. It’s just another name for patents. In light of this White House report on 3-D printers, Glyn Moody asks, “what the hell are “micropatents”?”

Well, he later wrote about it, answering his own question in “Mega-Damage by Micro-Patents”

The key idea here is to offer “simple, agile and cost-effective intellectual property protection”; that is, making it easier to obtain patents, albeit lightweight ones. But in doing so, it will remove one of the few remaining barriers to patent applications, which inevitably will mean that every patent troll in the world will file thousands of trivial claims, since it will take so little effort or money to do so. It will give rise to the equivalent of patent spam.

Worse, these patent spammers will then proceed to sue huge numbers of inventors – and users – of objects made using fabbers. In fact it will become exactly like the world of copyright today, where tens of thousands of letters are sent out to alleged infringers, threatening to sue them but offering them a special “low-cost” way of settling.

Even more damaging, such a lightweight system will create a patent thicket around objects made with personal manufacturing systems that even nanotechnology will be unable to pierce. Again, we already have an all-too concrete example of what happens when it is easy to obtain patents for key ideas that are often indispensable for all users, in the world of software.


The only solution is to have not “micro”-patents, but the limiting case where the size of the patent tends to zero – that is, none at all. Then, companies and inventors would compete not on the underlying ideas (which patents try to capture and monopolise), but on their *implementation* of them.

As well as avoiding patent gridlock, this also addresses issues of copying and counterfeiting, since people will pay more for otherwise identical products when they come provably from a trusted supplier, and also of safety, since it rewards better-quality products (not just patented ones).

We shall see if the term micropatents gets used again in the future. It is worth catching such nonsense early on, before it mushrooms into something like “intellectual property” (fairly new propaganda term) and the British institute that deals with monopolies calls itself after it.

TechCrunch Sued by Gooseberry Natural Resources LLC, Complains About Patents, Receives “Extremely Nasty Personal Attacks”

Posted in Patents at 3:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Psycho cat

Summary: TechCrunch is sued using a patent on “[s]ystem and method for structured news release generation and distribution” and it starts complaining more and more about such USPTO-endorsed abomination

AS PART of AOL or even without it, TechCrunch has been attracting lawsuits for a while. In light of lawsuits such as this new one, TechCrunch seems to have become a vocal opponent of software patents, especially through the narrative of Vivek Wadhwa, whose personal pieces on the subject we mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4]. Here is the latest puddle of mud TechCrunch finds itself in:

Oh no, we’ve been sued. This week’s hopeful plaintiff is Gooseberry Natural Resources LLC, who filed a complaint in a Los Angeles federal court against Reddit, The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, Digg, Fark, Geeknet, TechCrunch, Newsvine, Yahoo and others.

We, along with our fellow defendants, have allegedly been violating US Patent No. 6,370,535, titled System and method for structured news release generation and distribution. The invention underlying the patent appears to be the notion of typing text into an admin system, storing that text on a server, and then publishing it on the Internet. The patent was awarded in 2002.

Vivek Wadhwa, a patent holder with regrets about what he did, is once again explaining that patents are counter-productive. In his polite piece “Let’s Compete on Innovation Rather Than Patents” he says that “[i]n the tech world, patents don’t foster innovation; they inhibit it” and later on he writes: “[s]eems my patents piece shook many people up. Woke up to some extremely nasty personal attacks. means I hit the nail on the head.” Here is part of this piece.

The next generations of telecom technologies are called “LTE” or “4G”. China’s Huawei believes that by 2015, it will hold 15–20% of the worldwide patents in these technologies, and that these will earn it at least 1.5% of the sales price of every device—every cell phone, laptop, and tablet—that uses them. Huawei is on track to achieve its goals: in 2007, it held just 152 patents; by the end of 2009, it had applied for 42,543 patents, of which 11,339 had been granted in China, 215 in the United States, and 1282 in Europe. Huawei’s rival, ZTE, claims to hold 7% of the world’s LTE patents and plans to increase this to 10% by 2012.

Emboldened by these successes, the Chinese government has initiated a nationwide program to make China the world leader in patents in every important industry. The New York Times reported that the government is offering cash bonuses, better housing, and tax breaks to individuals and companies filing the most patent applications. According to the Times, China’s goal is to increase the number of its yearly “invention” patent filings from this year’s 300,000 to one million by 2015. And it wants another one million “utility-model patents”, which typically cover items like engineering features in a product. In comparison, there are 500,000 invention patents granted every year in the U.S. The requirements for “utility-model patents” are so mundane that they are not even recognized in the U.S. as a legitimate criterion for the existence of intellectual property.

We were never big fans of of TechCrunch/Michael Arrington, but this site’s persistent opposition to software patents definitely helps reconsider these views.

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