Summary: A quick look back at nearly 5 years of our work
NEXT month we’ll exceed 14,000 blog posts and probably reach 15,000 some time after our initiatives turn 5. For those who wish to look back through the years, the Internet Archive has a nice new silder-based GUI for navigation (see the top part). We received some very pleasant feedback today from longtime contributors and readers. Techrights will hopefully outlive Apple and Microsoft. This year there are fewer posts in this Web site because I am writing hundreds of pages of technical reports on programs I develop. Recently we assigned more writers who are doing a fantastic job contributing in IRC, the wiki, and the blog. If you are interested in getting more closely involved, please do get in touch with our IRC community. It really is the group’s effort and we always have research that needs doing. █
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Summary: Recognition of the impact of this Web site
EARLIER this week I was retweeted by Wikileaks, last night the Wall Street Journal approached me for a comment having gathered information from Techrights (regarding a patent troll), and this morning we were cited by this investigative piece from Oxford University Press about the Gates Foundation, concluding that: “Perhaps the lack of criticism by public health professionals is due to conflict of interests arising from the ubiquitous and large amount of foundation funding for public health programs and researchers. Public health professionals and organizations may be fearful of loss of funding or denial of application for funds for criticizing the foundations. Because foundations are sometimes in partnership the reaction to such critical analysis could easily diffuse across foundations and put a critic at risk at multiple foundations. Some philanthrocapitalists are sensitive to criticism and find it incredulous that anyone would consider them anything other than heroes whose financial and technological innovations they believe represent the future. They isolate themselves and become more closely associated with the other wealthy around the world than they are to average members of society and to their own country, and seem to scorn the middle class.”
We are going to return to covering the Gates Foundation in months to come. Even When Microsoft is virtually gone, the sociopaths remain out there in the wild (see Elop for example). If we stop caring, they win. █
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Summary: As misconceptions about the patent systems get removed and Google’s patents heap expands massively, a ban of Android devices proves counter-productive to Apple and there appears to be a growing push for reassessments, even from Google
JUDGING by the news, patent unrest has become part of the national debate and agenda. As always, lobbyists try to reverse this trend.
Microsoft Florian is still up to old tricks (see the comments too) and his lobbying agenda provides new distortions from a former Microsoft lawyer who helps distract from analyses of the Motorola deal. A known foe of the patent systems writes:
So let’s get this straight. Apple and Samsung are suing each other, while Apple relies on another division of Samsung for key parts. Apple and Microsoft–and apparently RIM–are using patents aggressively to stop competition, despite each having been hammered hard by others (including patent trolls) for patent infringement. Google, who seems to want patents for defensive purposes, lost out on the Nortel patent shield (acquired by its competitors Apple, RIM, Microsoft, etc.), but has paid billions of dollars now for patents from IBM and even from Motorola (recently its patent enemy), and may pay more for Interdigital’s patents–in a continuing escalation of the patent war in the smartphone segment of the market.
It all helps substantiate calls for a fix to the patent system, which has become a tool for Apple’s litigation and blocking of competition. Giga Om indicates that Apple’s embargo attempts are failing because the claims are weak and Apple’s fabricated 'evidence' can only make matters worse. Glyn Moody’s latest analysis goes along the following lines:
In the present case, that Community design [.pdf] consists of a drawing of a rectangular tablet with rounded corners and a border. That’s it: it’s as vague as a very vague thing can be, but apparently it’s enough to get Samsung’s tablet blocked in Europe because they, too, are rectangular with rounded corners and a border.
“The European Commission has created a monster here,” explains Moody, “one that most of us (myself included) didn’t even know existed. Clearly, this horror needs slaying before it starts marauding through the entire European economy, wreaking havoc on a scale that makes today’s patent litigation look like playground fistifcuffs.”
The Inquirer says that the ban has already been partially lifted and one GNU/Linux advocate notes that “[e]ventually Apple will have gained nothing from this litigation except some hefty legal bills.”
“The Android army marches on….”
Peter Köhlmann, a German GNU/Linux advocate, says: “The whole thing is a riot. It has been the *wrong* court from the start. If apple wanted to ban the device in Europe, there is exactly *one* court which is applicable: The Trade court in Alicante / Spain
“And for Germany the Düsseldorf court was also the wrong one, they must use the one in Frankfurt, because that is where Samsung/Germany is located.
“So expect a *very* costly decision for apple to chose the wrong court and, to top it a little, use manipulated evidence.”
With over 650,000 activations a day, Android is now making Linux very prevalent on mobile devices while the Microsoft-boosting cult promotes Microsoft’s patent propaganda book. How shameful. They just cannot advise people to buy Windows phones, so they try to assure Microsoft tax on Linux.
Google is meanwhile exploring routes to defanging patent trolls, which Motorola’s patent portfolio cannot be effective against. Katherine Noyes uses the whole case to say that this is why we need to kill all software patents. “If there’s any lesson to be learned from Google’s news-making activities these past few days,” she explains, “it’s that software patents are a problem.”
“The most recent illustration, of course, is Google’s $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, clearly a strategy for gaining the latter’s considerable catalog of patents.”
Mike Masnick adds that startups needing patents is a myth too:
While I’m not as much in agreement with the crew of folks who likes to separate out “software patents” from the rest of the patent system (the whole system is broken), I can see serious problems with the way that “software” is patented these days. I tend to think that the fix isn’t to carve out software patents, but to fix the whole system itself. Still, if we look at what are generally considered software patents, it does seem clear that they are doing tremendous damage to the industry and innovation as a whole — and thus are very much in violation of the Constitution’s patent clause which only allows for a patent system if it “promotes the progress.” Tim Lee points us to James Besson’s most recent paper, in which he analyzes a generation’s worth of software patents and shows how such little most in the software industry actually seem to want patents. In fact, it’s mostly those outside of the industry who obtain software patents.
Patently-O joined this debate about software patents by pointing out that:
In an important decision, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has rendered many broadly written software patents invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101 as interpreted by Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S. Ct. 3218 (2010). Most patent decisions involve questions of whether an invention is obvious under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a) or sufficiently described under 35 U.S.C. § 112. Section 101 asks a slightly different question – whether the patented invention is the type of innovation that properly fits within our patent system. In language virtually unchanged for over 200 years, Section 101 indicates that a patent should be awarded to the inventor of “any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” Over the years, courts have repeatedly held that Section 101 bars the patenting of ‘laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.’
So that ought to exclude mathematics, which is what a lot of software essentially implements at a lower conceptual level.
The USPTO says it has granted 8,000,000 monopolies on ideas so far. Does that actually promote progress or only an illusion of advancement? At Microsoft, patents used for vapourware is still the modus operandi, perhaps for PR purpose. Everything for mobile patents blackmail and Windows 8 hype. Hopefully the next version Windows will emulate the mobile platform and suffer a similar fate. It seems like neither Apple nor Microsoft could face Android without some legal harassment, and that too is ultimately failing because Google found armament opportunities. Interesting times ahead. █
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Summary: Short update from Romania regarding its procurement mistakes
EARLIER this month we wrote about procurement issues in Romanian authorities, which were later acknowledged and explained by Glyn Moody who now adds:
This is ridiculous – whoever put this together clearly doesn’t understand free software. As I noted before, since this system would not be distributed, there is no requirement to release the source code. This means that it would be no different from closed-source software, with no “risk” of code being altered.
Whatever the real reason, the excuses being offered for Romania’s bizarre behaviour are simply unacceptable.
Read the whole post and see what one might think. This is an important systemic problem which applies to many countries. █
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Summary: A brief progress report about SUSE’s pet project, which helps sell Microsoft-taxed GNU/Linux
OPENSUSE is the child of SUSE, the dependent partner of Microsoft. There has been very little news about the project recently, maybe half the amount of news compared to the same period last year. Someone asked us in IRC this week whether OpenSUSE was going to die. The answer was “no” because OpenSUSE is mostly a trademark for SUSE to organise developers around and rally volunteers with.
Among the latest blog posts about OpenSUSE there’s this remark on the project’s KDE leaning. An approaching release is still in the works and ‘flavours’ are officially released. The latest release is “a Linux distribution that provides parents, students, teachers as well as IT admins running labs at educational institutes with education and development resources for their needs. Edu Li-f-e is based on openSUSE 11.4.”
Michal Hrušecký writes about the OpenSUSE conference which is coming quite soon. There is also this OpenSUSE summary of the Desktop Summit which is now finished. On the technical side, nothing is new. There is not even marketing. █
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