Summary: Idle time is over as Internet service is up to speed and news starts rushing in
WE are gradually returning to normality as wired connectivity is up (although a few issues were encountered with it earlier today). BT will issue compensation for the problems it caused and the new connection will permit considerably higher upload speeds, which ought to help with TechBytes. I’ve also sorted out the monitors such that they are 4,000 pixels wide, all combined, just like it was in 2007-2009.
Logging of the IRC channels was done by our server administrator, Tracy, and complete logs will be published at a later point when more urgent issues subside. In the mean time, during the coming days, a little bit of old news will appear in the daily links. This may be a nuisance to those who follow other sites with GNU/Linux and Free/open source software news, but the intention here is to ensure proper coverage (at least by mention) of missed items. If a lot of today’s links digests constitute reruns or belated announcements, then be sure to check things out after the weekend (I will be away in London today and tomorrow, then catch up with the very latest).
“As promised earlier this month, greater emphasis will be put on concepts and not brands.”Our IRC channels have been thriving in recent months, especially with the return of some brilliant members. We also have a following in sites such as identi.ca and Twitter, having attempted to expand to other medium types as opposed to staying the same like “Linux Today” did (they appear to have some internal difficulties, which they will hopefully resolve because everyone needs them).
As promised earlier this month, greater emphasis will be put on concepts and not brands. There are already many brands in the Linux world, including WebOS and Android (which are decreasingly participatory, much less than Ubuntu for example). They have their own plans and their own promotion methods, so we need not help them. They don’t need the help. Instead, we should attempt to remove barriers that harm everyone (collectively), software patents for example.
Server load is very high at the moment, so it’s nice to be back. Thanks to all those who support us by active involvement, for example Eduardo Landaver who built the Spanish portal of Techrights. As we keep broadening our reach and focusing a bit more, meaning in terms of scope (departing a bit from pure politics for instance), we hope to have more impact and offer to our readers a platform in which they can make a positive difference. If you have relevant essays that you want published here, please mail them over or come to discuss this in the IRC channels. If we can sort of ‘outsource’ authorship, then we can post a lot more, leading to POV pluralism too. █
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The patent litigation system is getting rusty, must go away
Summary: Opposition to software patents appears to be on the rise and Microsoft’s lawsuits against Linux distributors (whom Microsoft just cannot compete with) contribute to this opposition; Google and Red Hat are encouraged to abolish software patents altogether, not adapt to them
“I’m trying to think of another business,where breaking the law is a necessary part of the business model,” explains this person whose article “Start-ups in the maze of software patents” sheds light on the real benefactors of the patent system:
Have you ever thought about patenting a pop up note, an online poll, a leaderboard in an online game, or a system where you open apps by clicking icons? I have some bad news for you – it’s impossible. Not because the claim is stupid, it’s just that all of those things are already patented (take a look here, here, here, or here).
And it’s all fun and factoids, until one day you find yourself in the role of a software start-up, looking down the long black tunnel of software patenting, leading from Happy Town to Reality Check Station in Breakdown City.
Alexandra Weber Morales argues that the Supreme Court should care about software patents. Really, it’s about time something is done about it. Having addressed the Bilski case, there seems to be not enough precedence to block similar patents from being granted and it’s “iculous software patents,” as Slashdot calls them, that turn into “a developer’s Nemesis”.
Things are not quite as the propaganda puts it — propaganda which typically comes from patent lawyers and lobbyists (working for large aggressors). Those who can benefit from software patents require a lot of patents, otherwise they can easily be defeated in court; everything infringes on everyone else’s monopolies and even Red Hat saw the need the get some patents, for what it claims to be defensive purposes. Sean Michael Kerner discusses a subject mostly brought up by Microsoft boosters who are openly hostile and very combative against Red Hat; he reassesses Red Hat’s relationship with software patents. We touched this subject before [1, 2, 3, 4, 5], concluding that Red Hat must change its attitude.
Red Hat played a role in the patent fight in Europe back in the days. It even funded Microsoft Florian, who recently defected to clients on the other side on the face of it. To recall some of the things which happened back in the days, one blogger writes:
For years, the free software movement rallied European citizens and small and medium businesses to reject a very bad directive on patentability of ‘computer implemented inventions’ (in other words, software) that would have damaged society in the long run. We managed to coordinate a strategy between different organizations, like FFII and FSFE. The movement succeeded in building a vast coalition of supporters against the directive, across the political spectrum. We isolated European giants SAP and Nokia, left alone to support a directive that appeared to be written by US-based multinationals.
The FFII has also just responded to Microsoft’s latest attack on Linux — an attack which is of course using software patents. “We predicted years ago that Microsoft would go after Linux challengers with software patents”, the FFII’s president, Benjamin Henrion, is quoted as arguing and to quote the entire thing (from E-mail).
Patent wars on – Microsoft sues Android retailers
Berlin, May 25rd 2011 — This week Microsoft sued the retailers Barnes&Noble, Foxconn and Inventec for distributing devices using the Android platform. The Android is a Linux derivate from Google. It is the most recent lawsuit in a battle of dominance on the tablet and smartphone market.
“”We predicted years ago that Microsoft would go after Linux challengers with software patents”
–Benjamin Henrion“What a desperate sales argument to sue retailers which use a competing platform. It’s ‘Take our platform or get sued’. Patent war is on. I am inspired by products like Openmoko and Android, not libel and lawsuits.”, finds FFII vice president Rene Mages.
“We predicted years ago that Microsoft would go after Linux challengers with software patents”, explains FFII president Benjamin Henrion. “It shows how patents stifle innovation”.
The FFII has a track record of making contructive proposals for reforming the patent system to eliminate software patent threats for developers.
U.S. Patent 5,778,372 “Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images” U.S. Patent 6,339,780 “Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area”
U.S. Patent 5,889,522 “System provided child window controls”
U.S. Patent 6,891,551 “Selection handles in editing electronic documents”
U.S. Patent 6,957,233 “Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering
annotations for non-modifiable electronic content”
Microsoft press release
Complaint for patent infringement
Stop Software Patents in the EU petition
Permanent link to this press release:
FFII Office Berlin
Malmöer Str. 6
Fax Service: +49-721-509663769
office at ffii.org
+32-484-56 61 09 (mobile)
bhenrion at ffii.org
The FFII is a not-for-profit association registered in twenty European countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 1000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.
Microsoft’s lawsuits are actually a sign of failure according to some people’s views:
It’s pretty clear that Microsoft, a many-time failure at mass-market tablets has decided that if they can’t beat Apple and Android at popular tablets, they’ll sue them instead. That’s my only explanation for Microsoft suing Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec over their Android e-readers.
Vista Phony 7 is still grappling with copy and paste, so Microsoft realises it simply cannot compete by making new products. More Microsoft partners are getting fed up too. Expensify’s CEO explains ‘Why We Won’t Hire .NET Developers’ and “Phone maker publicly says ‘No’ to WP7″, as we noted earlier this month.
The Consumerist says: “Microsoft says Barnes & Noble isn’t licensing the concepts that others, such as Amazon and HTC, pay Microsoft to use.” It’s just extortion. As noted here before, it’s easy to debunk Microsoft’s contention and as Tim noted before, it just shows how Microsoft really feels about “open source” and competition in general, namely:
Again I find myself making the observation that Microsoft’s future appears rather more in the courtroom than actual products on shelves. A rather sad state of affairs? Is Microsoft the dog that sits under the table in the hope that someone will take pity and throw it a scrap of food? I’ll let you decide.
Rob Pegoraro writes (about Microsoft and also Apple): “Throwing out ill-founded software patents is the solution. Until that happens, Microsoft may collect some extra royalty fees from companies like Amazon and HTC that find it easier to settle than to slug things out in court. But the company certainly won’t be earning any respect for this move.”
“Robocast Sues Apple For Infringing Its ‘Automated Browsing’ Patent,” says another headline about another patent, “which is, of course, utterly trivial,” says Glyn Moody.
Apple is on the receiving end of yet another patent infringement lawsuit. A company called Robocast alleges that Apple has willfully incorporated its patented automated browsing technology in a number of products, including iTunes, Apple TV and Front Row, without licensing their ‘invention’.
Robocast, which was founded by Damon Torres, who claims to have pioneered the use of automated web browsing in the nineties, has earlier sued Microsoft on similar grounds.
The court documents offer a fascinating read – as far as I’m concerned – so I’ve embedded them below.
In other news, from CNET, “U.S. backs I4i in patent case against Microsoft” (showing that Microsoft does not respect software patents, either, wilfully infringing some). Microsoft is trying to portray Google as some kind of firm that disrespects so-called ‘intellectual property’. Aoife White writes about Google’s latest patent-promoting move and “Google gets patent for its doodles” says another CNET headline:
And yet I still found myself sensing a momentary twitch of the single gray hair between my eyebrows when I heard that Google had been awarded a patent for its doodles.
Sometimes Google seems to be fighting against software patents, just like Red Hat. But at the same time both companies show no true commitment to such a goal, as we repeatedly showed before. Microsoft has just paid Nortel $7.5 million for IPv4 addresses, whereas Google considered buying Nortel’s patents. “Google hasn’t said what that means. But it appears to involve calling on the services of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s Charles Verhoeven to help fend off the complaints,” states this new article, adding context later:
Verhoeven, who helped Google win several patent trials last year, has appeared on behalf of HTC Corp. or Motorola Inc. in four of the five Android-related suits filed at the International Trade Commission and in more than a half-dozen suits in federal court.
One of the most closely watched is Apple’s ITC claim against HTC, which is set for trial next month. Verhoeven and his firm joined the defense in August.
Neither Verhoeven nor his clients will confirm or comment on the arrangements under which he’s appeared on their behalf. “A lot of people like Charlie,” said Michelle Lee, who heads patent litigation at Google. She referred further questions to Google’s press office, which declined to comment.
Rather than concentrate on making products and hiring engineers Google is now wasting effort on lawyers and patents. Who does this benefit? But more importantly, it sometimes seems like there is internal tension between the lawyers and the engineers in companies like Red Hat and Google (the lawyers justify their existence by harbouring patents). This ought to be resolved. █
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Summary: Microsoft is gunning down dissidence (for oppressive tyrants only) by deliberately leaving people who use Microsoft software exposed to surveillance and other abuses
THE subject of Free software as a tool of autonomy goes many years back. For a computer user to be in control of the software rather than the servant of this software, there are characteristics which need to be present in the code. The FSF gives one good definition of these characteristics, although there may be others. Richard Poynder explains how “Citizenship and Software” relate to one another in an atmosphere where software is increasingly politicised:
Lawrence Lessig came to understand the power of software to construct and shape our world when he was (briefly) “special master” during the Microsoft antitrust case. As he later put it to me, “[Y]ou can code software however you want, to produce whatever kind of product you want. And that capability is unique with software: you can’t, for instance, say that an automobile will be something that is a transmission and a radio wrapped in one. But you can do exactly that with software, because software is so plastic.”
As such, he added, the Microsoft case was just “a particular example of a more general point about how you need to understand the way in which technology and policy interact.”
Yet, as more and more of our lives are organised and controlled by computers, and the role that software plays in society becomes increasingly central, most people still assume that the virtual world that opens up before them when they switch on the computer, and the choices they are offered onscreen, is how things are and ought to be — not a consequence of the way in which the underlying software has been coded.
People who use Microsoft software are completely controlled by the political inclinations of Microsoft and those governments which Microsoft collaborates with (basically just about any government, for the sake of profit). The recent stories from Russia [1, 2, 3] were a shocking reminder of it and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) reports that “Microsoft Shuts off HTTPS in Hotmail for Over a Dozen Countries”. As André Rebentisch put it, “Hotmail does not offer https for authoritarian nations” and here are the nations in short:
According to an EFF deeplink Hotmail apparently disabled the https default option for its users who set their location to the following nations: Bahrain, Morocco, Algeria, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Congo, Myanmar, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan,
Brad explains why “Political Activists Need Linux” — a subject we addressed here many times before.
Over and over again I have stressed the advice of computer security experts: if you must use Windows, do NOT use Internet Explorer. And I’ll go one step further: if you have any reason to believe you may be targeted for attack — either because of your political beliefs, or your business activities — then stop using Windows.
There is also an interpretation from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. Here we have yet another example of Microsoft harming computer users. Won’t people learn from Egypt about how governments identify and arrest the opposition following surveillance? █
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“The best way to prepare is to write programs, and to study great programs that other people have written. In my case, I went to the garbage cans at the Computer Science Center and I fished out listings of their operating systems.”
“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Summary: Continued Mono lobby in Apple’s platforms; The empires of ripoff show their continued exploitation of freely-shareable and free/open source-implemented ideas
WHEN MICROSOFT MVP Miguel de Icaza is not praising Microsoft software like Silver Lie and Moon Lie (he is still at it, delivering on Microsoft’s contract/agreement with his employer) he is also promoting hypePad like it’s a badge of honour. He wants to popularise Microsoft’s C# (Java ripoff) on Apple products. That’s what he does. He promotes C# under the guise of ‘open source’ (Mono) and he is still boosting Monospace, which was organised by fellow Microsoft MVPs. It is clear what they are up to. It’s a case of assimilation (to Microsoft), which they also have a go at when it comes to Linux-powered platforms (making mobile Linux more C#-dependent). Aside from that, in Twitter (de Icaza snubs Identi.ca), he apparently defends Apple’s side and mocks GPLv3 in light of this news:
The upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Server will remove the formerly bundled open source Samba software and replace it with Apple’s own tools for Windows file sharing and network directory services.
One thing that Apple and Microsoft have in common is that they dislike GPLv3 and that says a lot. GPLv3 defangs software patents lovers, so those who dislike GPLv3 are often pushing for patent monopolies and software riddled with patent traps (such as Mono).
As an aside, regarding Apple, Robert Pogson explains why Apple is not a success based on grounds measured by the GNU/Linux world (freedom for example) and even market share.
Less than 2% MacOS usage in Asia, Africa and South America… Is that success?
Ballmer’s own slide shows this:
Apple may be popular in some Western countries, but that’s about it. Linux is a major rival to Apple, especially in phones, tablets, portable gadgets, etc. Sooner or later people realise that Apple is just a badge and that Apple’s staff cannot even deal with DST properly (not even in 2011!). To quote the MSBBC:
Some iPhone owners were heading in to work late on Monday after a glitch caused their alarms to malfunction.
Users found their wake-up alert coming one hour late, one hour early or not at all.
The problem, related to the clocks going forward for British Summer Time, does not appear to have affected everyone.
Apple has yet to comment on what caused it, but similar problems have previously hit iPhones in the US.
Maybe Apple is not reusing enough Free software. A lot of Apple’s code is derived from code it merely exploited and contributed almost nothing to (Apple’s version is proprietary). Who would wish to support such a company by rewarding it for these deeds? █
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Summary: Microsoft’s distortion of the law goes more global with the attempt to marginalise freedom in software using legal instruments, not technical merit
IT IS easy to beat the competition when it can simply be called illegal or borderline criminal and in a later post we are going to write about Microsoft’s use of software patents to do exactly that. Over in New Zealand (see background) Microsoft has been lobbying to make software patents legal — a lobby/fight that New Zealand carries on fighting against, even in the face of Microsoft- and IBM-backed lobbyists and the patent lawyers of those companies from overseas. One of them, a person among “lawyers at Chapman Tripp,” is still betraying New Zealand by trying to convince his government that giving multinationals a monopoly on algorithms would be a good thing. IDG prints this baloney, which in some sense validates opinions on technical matters courtesy of legalese experts (one of whom, Mr. Quinn, keeps on daemosing open source right now because it a threat to those who make a living from litigation). Here is a taste of the baloney:
Champions of software patents are urging Parliament to revisit the ban on patenting “computer programs” in the presently drafted amendments to the Patents Act 1953. They suggest the law as it stands will be unclear and will possibly contravene existing international agreements.
What international agreements will these be? Some speculative consent to sell out sovereignty, a la South Korea? People of New Zealand don’t fall for it. As one person from New Zealand told us recently, over there it is still the people who control the government, not the other way around, and that is increasingly rare. In Western parts of the world the balance of power long ago shifted and evidence of this exists in the fact that companies like Microsoft break the law in its existing form and in order to make themselves more powerful. This last example of it shows how Microsoft wants to criminalise not selling Windows. As Brad puts it, “Do You Sell to Washington State? Dump Microsoft.”
If you sell products or services to any customers in the state of Washington, you need to be aware of a new legal liability you might face. (Obligatory disclaimer: I Am Not A Lawyer, and this is not legal advice.) Microsoft has successfully lobbied to get new legislation passed there, in their home state, that will allow your customers to be sued if you use any “stolen IT” (Information Technology).
Microsoft keeps distorting the system (legalised bribery through lobbying) and it is starting to attack the customers for some extra income, as Groklaw explains: “But the real question is, Why? Why is Microsoft doing this? Does Microsoft need a new revenue stream, now that folks are switching to smartphones instead of PCs? Or is it something worse, something Machiavellian? I ask that because I noticed two things, one, that Microsoft said that it came up with the laws because it is dissatisfied with patent law and two, something odd and frankly alarming in the Washington State version of this bill that leads me to suspect that this is Microsoft’s Plan B in its litigation storm against Linux — its Ace in the hole in case the Supreme Court decides that its software is unpatentable.
“Not that Microsoft would mind having more than one way to harass Linux and it competitors in general, or two revenue streams without having to actually work to make better products. I’d like to show you how Open Source is deliberately excluded, though, a deliberate carve out.”
That is part of a long and fascinating post from Pamela Jones. For a shorter version of what Microsoft is scheming, see Edmundo Carmona’s “Is Microsoft trying to equate selling computers without Windows to software piracy as a new world policy?”
Very recently (as recently as 23rd of March) there was a small event in Mexico. An independent computer builder and a Microsoff legal representative had a meeting at the Legal Direction of Mexico’s National Institute of Author’s Rights. Apparently Microsoft wanted to make a statement specifying that they could take any legal action Microsoft considered pertinent given the builder’s lack of a Microsoft certificate of authenticity or original license included along with a computer built/sold by the independent builder. The builder states that given that they sell their computers with Free Software instead of Windows, the software has licenses and that Microsoft doesn’t have anything to complain about given that they don’t own copyrights for said software.
Greed knows no bounds, said Microsoft at one stage. The hypocrites. As Robert Pogson explains and as everyone else so well knows, counterfeiting has been beneficial if not essential to the monopoly. To use Pogson’s new words:
Illegal copying is just one of the means that non-free software suppresses the distribution of Free Software. It is similar to the tactic of making sure that only non-free software is found on retail shelves. Free Software is not about price but freedom to run, examine, modify and distribute software, something anathema to some big names in the industry of selling licences to software. Because of the four freedoms, Free Software tends to have a low price and purveyors of non-free software treat illegal copying of their software as an advertising cost.
There is no limit to how much Microsoft will distort the truth and distort the law (through lobbying) just to ensure it can squeeze out more money out of the population, which Microsoft software is controlling. Well, ideally, the user/population should control the software i uses. █
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