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Links 12/8/2011: CompuLab Trim Slice With GNU/Linux; Rioters Analysed

Posted in News Roundup at 6:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



  • Does linux Need Defrag ?

    I’d actually strongly suggest not defraging … the reason behind this? Even on windows most defraggers have 2 options, 1 Defragment, 2 Compact … sometimes called something different, but the end result’s the same.

  • Linux Distros: When It Absolutely, Positively Has to Be Secure

    From a security perspective of Linux reliability, most attacks occur at the kernel level.

  • Desktop

    • CompuLab Trim Slice H mini computer – small but powerful

      If you’re interested, there is a couple of choices to pick from – the Trim Slice H Diskless that lets you include your own hard drive or SSD for $279, but if you think that you can afford to fork out $319 for the H250, then taking that route will let you enjoy Linux pre-installed on a 250GB hard drive.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • [Linus Torvalds view of Kernel 'Voodoo']

      We shouldn’t do voodoo stuff. Or rather, I’m perfectly ok if you guys all do your little wax figures of me in the privacy of your own homes – freedom of religion and all that – but please don’t do it in the kernel.

    • XtreemFS 1.3.0 release candidate arrives with new licence

      The developers of the open source distributed and replicated file system, XtreemFS, have announced, after almost a year of development, the first release candidate for version 1.3. The new version offers cross-site replication with auto-failover as its major new feature, allowing it to work in potentially unreliable cloud environments.

  • Applications

    • Stellarium – A free planetarium software for star gazing in Ubuntu

      Stellarium is an open-source planetarium program that has gained a considerable popularity together with other free and open-source astronomical programs such as Celestia and KStars. What makes Stellarium a standout among a plethora of other contenders is its balance of features and the simplicity it offers for a novice user while maintaining a high scientific accuracy

    • FreeCAD – Free 3d CAD application for Linux

      FreeCAD is an Open Source CAx RAD based on OpenCasCade, Qt and Python. It features some key concepts like macro recording, workbenches, ability to run as a server and dynamically loadable application extensions and it is designed to be platform independent.

    • LogMeIn launches VPN.net
    • An Overview of the Node Package Manager

      NPM is a package management and distribution system for Node. It has become the de-facto standard for distributing modules (packages) for use with Node. Conceptually it’s similar to tools like apt-get (Debian), rpm/yum (Redhat/Fedora), MacPorts (Mac OS X), CPAN (Perl), or PEAR (PHP). It’s purpose is publishing and distributing Node packages over the Internet using a simple command-line interface. With npm you can quickly find packages to serve specific purposes, download them, install them, and manage packages you’ve already installed. npm defines a package format for Node largely based on the CommonJS Package spec.

    • Review: RawTherapee 3.0 on Linux

      The open source raw photo editor RawTherapee released version 3.0 at the end of July, with a revamped interface and a new palette of photo tools. RawTherapee is noteworthy for several reasons, including the fact that builds are available for Mac OS X and Windows, in addition to Linux. But this release also marks the first major update to the program since it was made free software. Let’s take a look.

      In the two years since developer Gabor Horvath switched from a proprietary licensing system to the GPLv3, a small team of contributors has grown up around the RawTherapee code. Many are users of non-Linux OSes, which is good for the outreach side of promoting open source. On the RawTherapee downloads page, you can grab installers for Windows and Mac machines, as well as 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the application packaged for the Ubuntu and Gentoo distributions. A separate page lists build for other distros, including Fedora.

    • Instructionals/Technical

    • Games

  • Desktop Environments

    • A foundation for the desktop – one apple, two ideas

      The story of the free software desktop is littered with what-ifs and might-have-beens. The desktop has been ‘good enough’ for years, and can boast some considerable success stories, but has yet to make a significant breakthrough.

      On the face of it, the free software desktop should be an easy choice. The average GNU/Linux desktop costs little, looks good and performs well, and offers a real opportunity to break the upgrade cycle. Cost, security, scalability and versatility are persuasive arguments for the free desktop, but other factors have worked against the uptake of Linux at the corporate level.

      Inertia among users is usually given as the reason and users are made to take the blame, but perhaps there are simpler explanations. The desktop has been left in the hands of the Linux companies, and the Linux companies are many and small. Many have come with grand ambitions and some with high ideals, but few have stayed the course.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC)

      • KMyMoney 4.6.0 adds CSV import
      • Kate Turning 10 Years Old

        We almost missed it, but 10 years ago Kate was included in KDE’s CVS repository and shipped the first time with KDE 2.2.

      • Plasma Active, the stage is yours

        Thanks a lot to Intel for passing around the ExoPC at the AppUp workshop yesterday. Its kind of nice hardware to start developing for Intel based tablets, whereas for normal use, the battery life and weight is kind of problematic. I really like the idea to be able to write nice and shiny Qt applications which run both on MeeGo and Windows and the AppUp store is really open in respect to allowing distribute open source software.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • Rocks 5.4.3 Now Available
      • ConnochaetOS 0.9.0 Released to Replace DeLi Linux

        When I first saw that ConnochaetOS 0.9.0 had been released, I thought a new distribution had appeared. But alas, upon close inspection it turns out that ConnochaetOS is the predecessor of DeLi Linux. Because it seemed like years since I last heard anything about DeLi, I figured I’d take a look this new submission.

    • Red Hat Family

    • Debian Family

      • Derivatives

        • Canonical/Ubuntu

          • Unity Update Part 2: Music Lens, Indicator Changes And More

            Further to our look earlier today at the design changes that Unity 2D in Ubuntu 11.10 is sporting, here is short burst of screen shots and tid-bits on changes to Ubuntu proper.

          • Ubuntu 11.10 Latest Updates Revealed The New LightDM Login Theme | Video Preview

            Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 3 development release comes with the default LightDM display manager login theme, but after installing recently available updates for Ubuntu 11.10 Alpha 3 Oneiric Ocelot! it has a new polished theme as we have seen earlier in this post.

          • Bad to worse? New ubuntu unity design ignites heated arguments

            The unity shell and the top panel was always a design headache for those who behind the development. The design in its current form itself was criticized by many and was one of the reasons why many people hated unity. The daily builds of the unity 2D had a new iteration of the design apparently trying to solve some of the issues associated with the desktop shell. The new design now is now causing far more criticism than the current version.

          • Get Set for Thunderbird Email, Other Changes, in Ubuntu 11.10

            The next major release of Ubuntu is imminent, and it will bring with it some significant improvements and big changes. While some users are still getting to know Natty Narwhal, version 11.04, Ubuntu 11.10, dubbed “Oneiric Ocelot,” is due on October 13th. Several alpha versions of Ocelot have appeared already, but now the new version has had a feature freeze, according to the Ubuntu wiki. Here are some of the changes you can expect in Ubuntu version 11.10.

          • Natty Narwhal netbook: The ultimate network administrator toolkit

            You can be the coolest and best-equipped network administrator on the block with Ubuntu Natty Narwhal Linux on a netbook. Netbooks are lightweight and portable, have long battery life, and bright sharp screens — and, thanks to Linux and open source, you can outfit your netbook with all the software network troubleshooting and fixit utilities you’ll ever need.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Phones

      • Android

        • Android Ice Cream Sandwich Coming, Images Leaked

          arking the end of so-called fragmentation, Android Ice Cream Sandwich is getting ready for the prime-time. According to reports there are couple of screenshots of the development version of Ice Cream Sandwich making their rounds on the Internet.

          We have gather reports from different source and present you will the picture. Looking at these rumored reports, there is no doubt that iOS 5 will be left far behind and no surprises if Apple will blatantly copy some of these features.

    • Sub-notebooks/Tablets

Free Software/Open Source

  • Programming, creativity and open source

    There are people who think software development is devoid of creativity. Of course, anyone who has even a passing interest in development, or, say, has ever found him- or herself having a late night chat in a disreputable Sydney pub with a Drupal/Node.js developer, knows that this is untrue.

    It’s not just the programming process itself — breaking down a problem into its component parts and figuring out how to solve it in the most efficient (or least dangerous!) way possible — that involves creativity

  • Twitter runs open source for developer website
  • Twitter to open source streaming data analyzer
  • Open Source Phone System with Twilio OpenVBX

    OpenVBX comes packaged with Twilio Client, allowing users to make calls directly from the browser and if their status is set to available, they will be able to receive calls right in the browser.

  • Events

    • Linux marking 20 years in Vancouver

      Linux is celebrating its 20th birthday this year—and the party’s officially coming to Vancouver.

    • Session on future directions of FOSS held

      The International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS) held a consultation session on ‘Future directions of FOSS in India’ at Technopark here on Tuesday in order to establish future directions for the use and promotion of free and open source software in the country.
      The consultation session is first of a series of similar sessions.

  • SaaS

    • Nebula Cloud Project Gets Buzz, But Will Proprietary Players Taint It?

      In case you’ve missed it, Nebula, a new startup from former NASA CTO Chris Kemp, which is focused on open source technology for large private cloud deployments, is generating a lot of hubbub. Nebula is billed as a way for many companies and organizations to leverage the kind of muscle in the cloud that Google and Facebook do, at a fraction of the cost. Simon Phipps has noted that at OSCON, luminaries such as Bill Joy and Al Gore waxed rhapsodic in a video about Nebula. Here is more on what Nebula is all about, including some concerns about whether proprietary players might taint its open source focus.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • Funding

  • Public Services/Government

    • UK Digital Future to Fail Without Government Focus

      The Government needs to invest in training developers in open source platforms if the country is to stand a chance of competing with its American and European counterparts in digital development.

      Open source software is extremely valuable for web companies in the UK but many are experiencing skills shortages that are stalling their growth.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Hardware

      • Willow Garage Announces Availability of New PR2 Robot for $200,000

        The combination of PR2 and the open source Robot Operating System (ROS) means that researchers benefit from immediate time to innovation. Right out of the box, the PR2 and ROS provide a complete, integrated hardware and software platform for research and development in the personal robotics field.


  • Solving Microsoft’s hard problem

    Microsoft has a problem to solve. On the one hand, open source is not going away – its distributed, modular and iterative approach clearly has many advantages compared to traditional top-down development techniques when it comes to writing and maintaining complex code. On the other hand, Microsoft has spent over a decade propagating variegated FUD against it (although it’s true that it has adopted a more accommodating stance in recent years, what with the release of odd bits of code under open source licences, and various attempts to snuggle up to some open source projects).

    Still, Microsoft’s basic stance remains the same: free software is OK for certain, limited situations, but for serious, enterprise-y stuff you need honest-to-goodness closed source. Given that, how can it begin to tap into the power of open source for its major projects without seeming to admit it got it all wrong, and that open source is actually a better approach?

  • Rupert Murdoch endorses Carey as next in line

    Rupert Murdoch acknowledged publicly for the first time that his son James is not the preferred choice to succeed him as News Corp. CEO, at least in the near-term.

  • Generation F*cked

    The UN’s first ever report on the state of childhood in the industrialized West made unpleasant reading for many of the world’s richest nations. But none found it quite so hard to swallow as the Brits, who, old jokes about English cooking aside, discovered that they were eating their own young.

    According to the Unicef report, which measured 40 indicators of quality of life – including the strength of relationships with friends and family, educational achievements and personal aspirations, and exposure to drinking, drug taking and other risky behavior – British children have the most miserable upbringing in the developed world. American children come next, second from the bottom.

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

    • Aggression during G20 rally ‘perpetrated by police,’ judge rules

      A Toronto judge has ruled that “adrenalized” police officers acted as aggressors at a peaceful political rally that led to dozens of arrests during last year’s G20 summit.

      “The only organized or collective physical aggression at that location that evening was perpetrated by police each time they advanced on demonstrators,” Justice Melvyn Green ruled on Thursday. He was referring to a demonstration at Queen St. and Spadina Ave. on Saturday, June 26, 2010.

    • The Patriot Act and the End of the Rule of Law

      Since 9/11, we are living in a political state where personal privacy, free flow of information and freedom of association have been diminished as a result of the Patriot Act, which weakens the rights of individuals while increasing the military and police power of the state and federal governments. The executive branch has undermined the rule of law by eroding rights established in the Constitution. One example is the Bush administration’s use of offshore torture and rendition. Another is the failure to ask Congress for a Declaration of War before invading Iraq and other aggressive military expeditions. Another is the selected assassination of leaders like Osama Bin Laden.

    • London’s Rioters Are Thatcher’s Grandchildren: Pankaj Mishra

      I am often asked, when in the U.S. or Europe, whether I feel frightened while traveling through such obviously dangerous places as Afghanistan and Kashmir.
      It’s hard for me to explain, and so I never confess, that I feel more insecure on the streets of Tower Hamlets, a London borough just south of Tottenham and Hackney, the epicenters of London’s riots.
      Tower Hamlets, where I often go to work in a friend’s apartment, has among the highest rates of poverty, unemployment, overcrowding and crime in Britain. But it is not a ghetto. Segregation is more insidious, and inequality has shrewd disguises, in what is also one of London’s most diverse boroughs.

    • The moral decay of our society is as bad at the top as the bottom

      I cannot accept that this is the case. Indeed, I believe that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society. The last two decades have seen a terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite. It has become acceptable for our politicians to lie and to cheat. An almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up.

    • Riot-smashed comic-shop window in Birmingham makes for inadvertent summation of England’s Current Situation

      Joe from Forbidden Planet sez, “A couple of our comics stores in Manchester and Birmingham got damaged during the awful riots this week (what sort of numpty attacks their local comics store?!) – luckily they didn’t get into the stores, it was just the frontage took some bruises and staff are all fine. One of our colleagues at our much loved Nostalgia & Comics store in Birmingham, David, sent us this photo which just seemed to sum things up rather nicely.”

    • The Debt Crisis and the War Economy: Pentagon Purchases $23 Billion Worth Of Global Hawk Drones

      With $14 trillion in the hole and a slew of wars seemingly no one wants America to be in, what better way for the United States to spend their money by putting $23 billion into spy planes?

    • Attacking the messenger: how the CIA tried to undermine drone study

      The US Central Intelligence Agency and unnamed ‘US officials’ are attempting to undermine the Bureau’s investigation into US drone strikes in Pakistan, it was revealed today. The attack is two-pronged.

    • Police monitor beaten in back of police van

      Independent police monitor punched and kicked to the head and legs in back of police van, while monitoring policing of disturbances. The Network for Police Monitoring will make a complaint to the Metropolitan police after one of its volunteers was arrested and beaten by police while monitoring the policing of disturbances in Enfield on the night of Sunday 7th August. Along with two others, Taherali Gulamhussein was stopped and searched by police under section 60 powers, which gives them the right to search for weapons.

    • China Gleefully Uses UK Desire For Censorship To Validate Its Own Censorship

      We’ve talked repeatedly of the blatant hypocrisy of many Western nations talking about the importance of internet freedom and condemning China (and others) for their internet censorship… while still wanting to censor at home. As we’ve warned, such efforts only give repressive regimes who censor the “cover” they need to continue. And, of course, with UK politicians looking to censor the internet to try to stop the riots, China has quickly used this as validation for its Great Firewall censorship:

  • Cablegate/Leaks

    • This week in WikiLeaks Press: 1-7 August
    • Thomas Drake; ‘Yes’ Would do it Again
    • Executive Order Responding to WikiLeaks Due Shortly

      The Obama Administration is putting the finishing touches on a new executive order that is intended to improve the security of classified information in government computer networks as part of the government’s response to WikiLeaks.

      The order is supposed to reduce the feasibility and the likelihood of the sort of unauthorized releases of classified U.S. government information that have been published by WikiLeaks in the past year.

    • Under the long arm of Indonesian intelligence

      IT WOULD seem an unremarkable venture – a group of American tourists visiting a cultural centre in the Papuan town of Abepura. But to one observer the event (lasting, as he later reported, precisely 35 minutes) was laden with potential significance.

      The man in the shadows as the visitors watched a traditional dance was an informant for Indonesia’s elite special forces unit, Kopassus. In a subsequent report, he noted that, while the visit had been ”safe and smooth”, there was no room for complacency. It was a point heartily endorsed by his Kopassus contact, Second Lieutenant Muhammad Zainollah, who alluded, in a report to his own commander, to the risk of foreign tourists ”influencing conditions of Papuan society”.

      ”Politically, there needs to be a deeper detection of the existence hidden behind it all,” he warned, ”because of the possibility of a process of deception … such as meetings with pro-independence groups.”

    • Realigning the Public Perceptions of Anonymous and Wikileaks.

      Proponents of Wikileaks identify Julian Assange as an international hero and liken him to the Founding Fathers of the United States. Critics cast Wikileaks as a nefarious syndicate deserving the label of foreign terrorist organization. Some go even further by demanding Julian Assange be given the death penalty or summary execution. In either case, the situation and stakes are clear. We are living in the age of the information revolution. The invention of the personal computer and internet connected us all. It also produced participatory democracy—on an unprecedented scale—that caught the international power elite completely off guard. Now we observe these power brokers frantically scrambling to return the naïveté of the public back to the levels prior to globalization in the wake of this technological empowerment.

      This should not come as a surprise. Authority figures rarely want to cede power to others. Nevertheless business leaders, government officials, and IGOs need to realize that there is no turning back. The technology is here to stay. The only question remaining is: where do we go from here? The consensus from these entities seems to be to target Wikileaks in order to cut the head off the proverbial snake. However, those who propose this measure fail to comprehend the size and scope of this lofty idea.

      The cyber security giant H.B. Gary realized this when it started testing the waters in defense of Bank of America. In anticipation of a presumably embarrassing document dump by Wikileaks, Bank of America retained H.B. Gary Federal—by recommendation of the U.S. Department of Justice—as a security consultant. Everything seemed okay and out of the public eye until the CEO of H.B. Gary, Aaron Barr, began antagonizing the internet activist group known as Anonymous, which operates in tandem with Wikileaks’ transparency efforts worldwide as a guard dog. In both private correspondences and public statements, Barr boasted of having information that would cripple the infrastructure of the group and render them ineffective.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Shell fights spill near North Sea oil platform

      Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell has said it is working to stop a leak at one of its North Sea oil platforms.

      The leak was found near the Gannett Alpha platform, 180 km (113 miles) from Aberdeen, Scotland.

      The company would not say how much oil may have been spilt so far, though it said it had “stemmed the leak significantly”.

  • Finance

    • Italy turns on the ‘parasites on society’ in tax clampdown

      Italy has launched a hard-hitting television campaign against the country’s endemic tax evasion as Silvio Berlusconi’s government tries frantically to reassure Europe and the markets that it can reduce its massive public debt and avoid a Greek-style meltdown.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Civil Rights

    • 8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

      Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.

    • London Is the Surveillance Society’s Biggest

      london fullness.jpgFor several years now, the British media have been telling us that theirs is a surveillance society. “It could be the 4 million closed-circuit television cameras, or maybe the spy drones hovering overhead, but one way or another Britons know they are being watched. All the time. Everywhere,” Luke Baker wrote in a representative Reuters article published in 2007, going on to note that “Britain is now the most intensely monitored country in the world, according to surveillance experts, with 4.2 million CCTV cameras installed, equivalent to one for every 14 people.”

TechBytes Now Available in Ogg and in WebM Format

Posted in Site News, Videos at 4:50 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: YouTube allows users to view the videos in HTML5 mode, as part of its current trial

YouTube is finally working properly without Adobe Flash… provided one enables this option. Episodes of TechBytes have all been uploaded to YouTube while Google was encoding as WebM, providing both a fallback hosting service and another free format. TinyOgg is no longer operating, but its purpose of replacing Flash with Free software/codecs has now been fulfilled by Google, at least to an extent.

Global Dimming for the Cult of Patents

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 3:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Patents extravaganza meets its limit as the public continues to ask for change

WE LIVE on the verge of changes to the patent law. It is up for us to help determine whether those laws or amendments make things worse. Earlier today we covered the situation in different parts of Europe and we finally come to discussing the software patents situation in the United States and the rest of the world in general, having covered the situation in other, very specific countries. Here is what Ubuntu’s founder (based in the UK) had to say on the subject this week: “The patent system is often misunderstood. It’s sold as a way of giving the little guy an opportunity to create something big … when in fact patents don’t really work that way at all.

“What they do very well is keep the big guys entrenched and the little guys out. For example, it’s very common in established industries for all of the majors to buy up or file as many patents as they can covering a particular area. They know and accept that the other majors are all in the same industry and essentially cross-license each other to keep the peace within that defined market. But they use that arsenal to stop new entrants coming in and disrupting the market.”

Well said.

Stephan Kinsella, a longtime critic of patents, blogs in Mises.org about another patents-hostile study. Kinsella then tops that up with a rant:

In a nausea-inducing post, the US Patent and Trademark Office is trumpeting on its website the millions of patents it has issued. As the short version states: “The USPTO has issued millions of patents over the years. Number 1,000,000 was issued 100 years ago this month. Number 2,000,000 was issued in 1935. Take a closer look at these “million milestones” from patent history.” This disgusting puff-piece, of course, ignores the horrible cost of the patent system, and naturally, conflates innovation and invention, with patenting.

Glyn Moody argues that “more is less when it comes to intellectual monopolies,” referring to the above.

One patent lawyer accuses of bad conduct, which is interesting if true. “Patent Aggregator RPX Accused Of Extortion, Racketeering & Wire Fraud,” says the headline, with the following clarification immediately made:

The word “extortion” is often used by patent infringers (and their apologists) to describe licensing activity carried out by patent owners. In reality, however, the patent owner often does nothing more than exercise the basic right of enforcing a patent through civil litigation. Some suggest that these patent owners rely on dubious arguments or enforce patents that are likely invalid. However, patents enjoy a presumption of validity as a matter of federal law, and characterizing a lawsuit as frivolous requires more than just disagreeing with the infringement theory (which often turns out to be the case). While some patent owners might bluff, actually resorting to litigation requires convincing attorneys to put their reputations on the line by affirming that an adequate investigation was conducted.

The president of the FFII writes:

Lobbying for abolition would be way cheaper. And building an arsenal only works for big guys, does not solve trolls

RPX is just another pool, just like OIN. They do not help against patent trolls. They are unfit for this purpose. Moreover, it’s a money hoover and a club for super-wealthy corporations. Who does that really serve? Surely not the public. Thankfully, there are people who do speak for public interests and usually they call for the total end of software patents. Here is an interesting post about what the abolitionists (like the FFII) want:

To the die hard advocates it isn’t about the quality of the patents being issued or the term of exclusivity that is being given. It is about very existence of patent rights for software – period.

That’s right. And this is the ‘camp’ Techrights subscribes to. Here is what Masnick of TechDirt quotes in his site, which also belongs to the same camp and does fantastic exploratory work. The Google General Counsel is quoted as saying: “A patent isn’t innovation. It’s the right to block someone else from innovating… Patents are government-granted monopolies… We have them to reward innovation, but that’s not happening here.”

TechDirt also posts this:

If you thought bogus patent lawsuits were crazy now, just wait and see what might happen if a court rules the way two companies are arguing they should. The EFF has filed an amicus brief in two cases in which patent holders are arguing that they can drag third parties into patent lawsuits if those third parties do one part of a claim, while someone else does the rest. If you think about this, and are aware of current patent lawsuits, this is a horrifying prospect. Think Lodsys on steroids, where individual consumers could be sued for patent infringement, merely for making use of what a service provider offers. For example, in one of the two cases, Akamai is claiming patent infringement, and the issue is one claim in the patent. All of the steps of that one claim are handled by a third party… except for “tagging,” which is done by users. If Akamai’s argument holds, then users of Limelight’s services who do “tagging” could be liable for patent infringement without having any idea at all that they’re at risk, and without them even violating the vast majority of what’s claimed in the patent.

And one last article from TechDirt says, “Google Being More Aggressive About Bad Patents; But Should It Go Even Further?”

A few years back, there were some stories about how Google’s legal department was willing to take on big important issues, not just because they would help Google, but because it would strengthen the overall internet and innovation. That obviously would help Google too, but there was a sense that the company would fight for issues beyond just those that impacted Google. In recent years the company seemed to shy away from some of those fights, so it would be interesting to see if fighting against bad patents brings Google back around.

Of course, as some are noting, even as Google is getting vocal, it appears to be pulling some punches — focusing on the specific patent problems it faces, rather than speaking out against the fundamental problems of the patent system itself. In fact, nearly a month ago, Glyn Moody wrote an excellent piece explaining how Google’s best line of attack here would be to go after the very concept of software patents, something the company hasn’t shown a willingness to do just yet.

Unlike Groklaw, TechDirt does not try to help the legal case of particular companies (that already have an army of full-time lawyers handling the case and speaking to the judge). We realise that Groklaw also accepted — without much criticism at all — Google’s purchase of software patents from IBM. There are better ways to address the problems Google is having and we too urge Google to take another route. We have urged it for years. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes several more rants on the subject, noting that “Patent War [is] A Multibillion Dollar Waste [and] Could End With A Stroke Of A Pen”. How about just ending all software patents like Mark Cuban suggested in the Huff & Puff (his views were even mentioned by software patents proponents)?

Just watch the chaos that carries on based on the past few days’ news. NTP makes a mess [1, 2] and more ridiculous patent lawsuits are filed. The Britain-based Independentny had gone ba asks, “Are there now so many patents in Silicon Valley that it’s impossible to innovate?”

But it’s not just about patent owners – some perfectly justified – grabbing themselves a chunk of the wealth generated by the technology industry. There’s much industry infighting, too. Oracle is suing Google over features of the latter’s mobile operating system, Android. Microsoft is also suing Motorola over Android-related issues. Yesterday Apple won a suit in a German court that accused Samsung of copying of the iPad’s “look and feel” for its Galaxy tablet. Samsung is gearing up a response amid its much-hyped Galaxy 10.1 tablet being seized by EU customs officials as a result of the case.

Apple is also accusing HTC of infringing 20 of its iPhone-related patents; meanwhile, HTC is countersuing over five patents of theirs.

With the number of US patent lawsuits rising by 20 per cent in the first six months of this year over the same period last year, many people are questioning whether innovation is taking a back seat to litigation. In the world of music and art, copyright is usually a black-and-white issue; you’ve either copied someone else’s work or you haven’t. But patents provide a certain amount of scope around your idea and that grey area has become a prime target for legal disputes. “The Patent Office examiners determine the scope of an allowed patent,” says Simon Davies, chairman of the computer technology committee of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys. “They don’t always get it right.”

The accusation levelled against the US Patent and Trademark Office is that they’ve issued too many patents with too broad a scope for too long. Notable patents from recent history include a “method of refreshing a bread product” (basically toast) and the crustless peanut butter-and-jam sandwich, both approved in 1999.

As several people — myself included — have suggested, the UK should build an absorption science park to offer subsidised haven to software developers from the United States. Both sides would win, as the UK would get more talent and the developers would get peace of mind. Mike Masnick says we are “hitting something of an inflection point in getting people to realize just how incredibly broken the [US] patent system is.” To quote the article with some context:

It’s certainly beginning to feel like we’re hitting something of an inflection point in getting people to realize just how incredibly broken the patent system is. There has been a flurry of mostly excellent news stories from a variety of sources picking up on this and detailing specific cases of a broken patent system. The This American Life episode certainly helped kick off a lot of attention, but it’s definitely been growing in other areas as well. The latest entrant into the field is an excellent article from Ben Popper over at The Observer’s BetaBeat site, which focuses on one specific smaller patent troll, a company called IQ Biometrix, and what it’s done over the years… which is basically nothing productive. However, it does have two hugely questionable patents: 7,289,647 for a “system and method for creating and displaying a composite facial image” and 6,731,302 for a “method and apparatus for creating facial images.”

Masnick also explains the role of lobbyists in this: “We’ve noted how there’s suddenly been a lot of mainstream interest in the massive problems of the patent system, thanks in part to mainstream media operations like This American Life doing stories that expose just how damaging the patent system is today. And yet, despite all of this, we’ve been pointing out for a while that the patent reform bill making its way through Congress is useless. It does nothing to address the problems of the system and has a few things that will make matters worse. And it bizarrely includes clear favors to Wall St., protecting them from a few bad patents, while leaving everyone else — including Silicon Valley — to fend for themselves.

“So why isn’t Congress actually fixing the patent system?”

Read this article from the Huff & Puff (AOL):

After months of dead-end negotiations over raising the federal debt ceiling, President Barack Obama walked into the East Room of the White House on June 29 to demand action. The stalled talks not only threatened the integrity of the nation’s debt, he said, they reflected a lack of purpose about solving economic problems and improving the plight of middle-class families.

“Many people are still looking for work or looking for a job that pays more,” Obama said to a scrum of reporters. “There are more steps that we can take right now that would help businesses create jobs here in America.”

The first item on Obama’s list of immediate, job-creating congressional actions was the passage of patent reform legislation.

“Right now, Congress can send me a bill that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to patent a new product or idea, because we can’t give innovators in other countries a big leg up when it comes to opening new businesses and creating new jobs,” he said.

Obama was jumping into a drawn-out Capitol Hill battle, one that has never been particularly concerned with creating jobs or alleviating unemployment, despite what recent rhetoric might suggest. Lawmakers have spent nearly a decade jockeying over intellectual property rules in what has become a sprawling corporate feud — one that currently involves nearly 800 registered lobbyists.

Welcome to the shady world of K Street politics. As we showed a couple of months ago, Bill Gates and his mate Nathan Myhrvold are hiring many lobbyists and running campaigns to sustain the broken patent system and possibly make it even worse. The backlash against their scam (racketeering operation) is still seen all over the Web thanks to reporting from NPR (partly funded by Gates, not the public, but nonetheless still capable of investigating real issues sometimes). Patent trolls are devouring weapons of small companies that would never have sued as they have no way of defending against a counter-attack (whereas patent trolls haven’t got this problem), as I happened to have witnessed myself after a colleague’s company had gone bankrupt (the patents appear to have ended up in Myhrvold’s nest).

What is the role of Myhrvold in the grand scheme of things? We have a wiki page that explains it. Microsoft has become a very parasitic and mostly/almost non-practising entity in fields such as mobile, leading to substantiated claims that Microsoft makes more money from competitors’ products than from its own products that lose. Forbes says that “the company is licking its chops from the juicy licensing fees it gains from Android handsets. According to Horace Dediu, Microsoft sold around 1.4 million Windows Phone 7 in Q2, which brought in around $21 million from the $15 per Windows Phone 7 that it earns.

“On the other hand, HTC sold 12 million Android smartphones in Q2, and as it earns around $5 per Android phone from HTC patent licensing fees, Microsoft made around $60 million. This is 3x the amount earned from its own OS from the licensing deal with HTC alone.”

Microsoft is having those companies extorted from other directions, too. And for those who care, Red Hat has just been sued again over patents:

The suit was filed on August 9, 2011, in the US District Court for the District of Delaware against Adobe Systems, Inc., Alcatel-Lucent USA, Inc., IBM Corporation, Juniper Networks, Inc., NetApp, Inc., Red Hat, Inc., and VMware, Inc.

We wrote about the plaintiff, MOSAID (patent troll), not so long before this post.

In any event, the United States system (the USPTO in particular) seems to have become an enemy of companies within its perimeters, so these entrepreneurs would be better off moving to a place like Europe, where a lot of the above trouble is scarcely heard of. If the US relies on patents as a saviour amid economic collapse, then it ought to wake up and see what happens in China. Based on this new report, “The number of software patent applications filed [in China] during the period also increased significantly, going from about 500 in 2000 to more than 80,000 in 2010, according to the statement.” China is getting software patents armament on the face of it. Better to just abolish them all, universally.

New Zealand’s Software Patents Debate on Television

Posted in Patents, Videos at 1:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Don Christie of Catalyst IT confronts a non-practising pundit (‘IP’ person/patent lawyer) over the issue of software patents

We were hoping to get hold of the video and we finally did, thanks to Benjamin Henrion who uploaded it. Here it is in YouTube (which now has WebM versions of most videos, although it’s in testing one must opt in for).

For more information, also see our page about software patents in New Zealand.

The Patents Cartel Against Linux Brings Together Linux Allies

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Novell, OIN, Oracle, Patents at 12:49 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Fiasco Cisco

Summary: How the attacks on Android and on GNU/Linux merely bring large companies that compete against Microsoft even closer; another look at Apple’s abominable behaviour

Cisco joining the OIN is an important piece of news because of the scale of Cisco and Sean Michael Kerner claims, based on reliable sources, that Microsoft’s patent cartel (built in part with Novell and Nortel patents) is the driver of OIN’s growth:

The Open Invention Network (OIN) got its start in 2005 as an organization tasked with creating a patent commons to help Linux.

Over the years it has grown, and in the second quarter of 2011, the organization added 35 new member companies. That number is down from the 70 new members that the OIN added in the first quarter of the year.

As to why growth was faster in the first quarter, the reason has to do with an event that caused many organizations to consider their patent positions.

“The first quarter was somewhat extraordinary as there was the hangover from the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Novell patent sale,” Keith Bergelt, CEO of Open Invention Network told InternetNews.com.

It is nice to see that the OIN recognises threat in Novell’s patents. We have warned about this for almost 5 years. CPTN includes Oracle, Apple, and Microsoft, all of which attack Android.

Groklaw tracks quite closely the Oracle case [1, 2, 3] and Lodsys cases, which also affect Android. Apple is meanwhile trying to embargo more Android tablets (Motorola’s), but Motorola is not too nervous because it has its own large patents arsenal, just like Samsung.

Apple’s aggression and embargo attempts were covered here before and these come under yet more scrutiny, even from OS News. To quote:

Earlier this week, we learned that Apple managed to get a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, barring it from being sold in the entire European Union – except for The Netherlands. The legal construct on which this injunction hinges was not a patent or trademark – it was something else entirely. It’s called a Community Design, was instated in 2002 and 2003, and, as I have learned, is far, far worse than anything the United States Patent and Trademark Office has ever come up with.
The Community Design was instated as part of Council Regulation No 6/2002. A Community Design is basically a trademark on the design of a product, whether it be software, hardware, or packaging. It is filed at the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), and once granted, is valid in the entire European Union. Initially it is valid for a period of five years, but it can be extended five times to reach a total of 25 years. Every member state has several Community Design courts, which are regular courts allowed to take on matters relating Community Designs. So far, nothing special.

Apple is meanwhile stacking up more patents it can attack with (e.g. touchscreen patents).

Murdoch’s press shows more prior art which weakens Apple’s story (this one is concrete, not some sci-fi from many decades ago) and more calls are made for resentment against Apple:

A huge win for anti-competitive practices, lawyers, and patent trolls.

A huge loss for consumers, choice in the market place, and free competition.

Muktware too has a string of strongly-worded posts, such as [1, 2]. One of these even breaches Godwin’s Law.

The bottom line is, those inside Microsoft’s cartel (notably Apple and Oracle) get some serious flak. They have become nasty and anti-competitive.

Germany Does Badly Regarding Software Patents

Posted in Site News at 12:47 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Germany's flag

Summary: The German courts help validate some software patents right at the heart of Europe, despite lack of explicit consent from the EU

THE FFII’S Benjamin Henrion has taken note of the happenings in Germany and he claims that: “Software patents now validated in Germany, time for a new directive”

Germany recently took some steps that take us further from haven state for software developers. Falk Metzler, a proponent of software patents (he’s a patent lawyer), is among those who will benefit financially. To be fair, it’s not only lawyers who lobby for this; there are also some gullible journalists out there (Patel), but Timothy Lee rebut one of them with “Software Is Just Math. Really.” To quote his latest good article on this subject:

First, Patel makes the common argument that the patent system’s value comes from the way it encourages disclosure of useful technologies. This seems like an argument for software patents that could only be made by someone who’s never developed software (which Patel concedes he hasn’t). I’ve known and worked with a lot of computer programmers over the years in a lot of different parts of the software industry, and I’ve never met a computer programmer who finds patent filings a useful source of technical information. A typical patent is written in dense legalese. This style, combined with the tendency invent new terminology for standard concepts, makes searching the patent database almost impossible. Patents are often not released to the public until years after the original application, by which point the technologies described are often out of date. And most important, the typical patent has very few of the technical details a programmer would actually be interested in. Most importantly, the patent office doesn’t require the disclosure of source code.

Going back to the original subject, Germany helped Microsoft by allowing it to patent software relating to file systems. According to this new press release, Microsoft’s Finland-based partner Tuxera has just got another victim for its Microsoft-taxed ‘solution’. Microsoft's FAT patents in Germany help legitimise attacks even in EU-based companies such as TomTom (Holland) and also coming from Germany there is some new SUSE propaganda for Microsoft tax on GNU/Linux, in the form of a press release.

Why is Germany acting as Microsoft’s attack vector on Europe? It is truly disappointing.

The Real Issues, Not Gossip

Posted in Site News at 12:35 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Why Techrights has been focused almost entirely on the issue of patents since its inception

THERE is a difference between covering what’s important and covering what gets more readers. Those two things are not the same (nor do they overlap), as tabloids clearly demonstrate. Techrights spent a lot of time covering Novell, which brought not so much traffic; but this issue was important. Novell was Microsoft’s pathway towards patent FUD, as tool for suppressing GNU/Linux adoption (now it is going after Java/Linux, or Android). But what bothers us a bit is extreme fascination with Ubuntu at the expense of other GNU/Linux distributions — something that has become somewhat less of an issue earlier this year because Ubuntu does not make it into the news so much anymore.

The only thing worse than the above trend (covering only one distribution) is the personification of operating systems. When GNU/Linux news becomes news about selected individuals, then the articles cease to be technical. They also become emotionally charged (people are mentally wired and good at hating people, not amorphous institutions). Having said that, if one is considered to be a “subjective” writer, this does not invalidate his or her opinion; it might actually be necessary in order to drive progress. “Balance” is hinged on the assumption that we must also cover and almost promote less civilised sides that are often outdated and seldom rational.

We often give credit to particular types of sites for driving everything forward. Phoronix, for example, is very good in that regard. Then there are some sites that produce detailed reviews, which are an invaluable (very valuable) service to the community and technical documentation/HOWTOs have their place too, although these are usually less like news items. Then there are pundits like SJVN, who do a whole mixture of things. But let us remember that Shuttleworth or Torvalds are not surrogates of GNU/Linux and to speak about their personal life as though it determines the success of Freedom is just plainly pointless. What we currently consider to be the #1 issue (for this particular area of IT) is software patents, so all of today’s posts will cover the subject as thoroughly as possible and provide a lot of external links for those who wish to know more.

Attaining the goal of software patents elimination is definitely achievable. Let us not be distracted by minor details that either affect one single person or one particular software package. Software patents can apply to all software and everyone who either develops or just buys products (and overpays). We can do something which actually matters to a lot of people rather than sink into the fringe of gossip.

Peer to Patent in the UK Does Not Help the Ending of Software Patents

Posted in Europe, Patents at 12:25 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Another word of caution about the “Peer to Patent” effort in the United Kingdom

When the initiative known as “Peer to Patent” just stayed in the United States (the origin country) it did not make too much sense as the approach was not eliminating software patents; it ended up managing to legitimise them, or at least some of them (which it failed to stop or simply overlooked). According to this, we continue to see more evidence that the initiative spreading to the UK is not helping much [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. “The UK Intellectual Property Office has launched a pilot scheme to collect comments over the Internet on patent applications before they are granted,” says an official site.

“Peer to Patent belongs to a different strand with a different goal, funded largely by IBM (at least at the moment), a software patents proponent.”To quote one person from Twitter, Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, Peer to Patent allegedly “admits to allow #swpat when information is transferred more efficiently between processor and memory http://ur1.ca/4wbps”

We have written about this initiative many times before and based on what we see it still cannot be supported by abolishment proponents. In fact, unless it gets renamed “Peer NOT to Patent”, it will stay incompatible with the goal of groups like the FFII. Peer to Patent belongs to a different strand with a different goal, funded largely by IBM (at least at the moment), a software patents proponent.

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