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02.27.12

IRC Proceedings: February 26th, 2012

Posted in IRC Logs at 10:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Enter the IRC channels now

Apple’s Lawsuits Against Free Software Show Hypocrisy

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 10:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“We’ve always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Steve Jobs

Summary: More evidence that Apple’s work on the hypePhone (iPhone) is a case of ripoff, by Apple’s own double standards

IN THE EYES of the Free software movement, sharing enhances the pace of innovation and contributes to cultural wealth. Ideas are everywhere and we should stop being overly possessive when it comes to the infinitely shareable. It is therefore natural to discourage artificial limitations and this new article speaks about two of them: patents and copyrights (even though Open Source does rely on copyrights):

The concept of protecting ideas and innovation by legal means dates back to antiquity. But many of our existing laws are under strain, their suitability and ultimate purpose called into question.

Here, Anton Hughes discusses collaboration and considers the role of the open-source movement in a world still governed largely by copyright and patents.

Open source began in the late 1970s and early 80s as a way of preserving the sharing ethos upon which early computer science was built. Since then it has grown well beyond its original scope, and now underscores the creation of many creative works.

It is an inaccurate statement. Open Source began much later and even the GNU project is under 30 years old. Despite the article’s inaccuracies, it does get across the main message about sharing. “Everything is a Remix” recently made the case against patents and it mocked Apple for its lawsuits against Android. “If Android is a ‘stolen product,’ then so was the iPhone,” says this new headline. To quote:

In a sense, the answer is almost certainly “yes.” It’s hard to imagine how Google could have prevented some iPhone innovations from seeping into Android design. The iPhone was the talk of Silicon Valley in 2007 and 2008. It would have been practically impossible for the Android development team to avoid learning about iPhone features. Once Google’s engineers were exposed to the concepts Apple pioneered, they couldn’t help but be influenced by them.

But if Google is guilty of using Apple’s ideas, Apple is equally guilty. Many researchers and companies invented technologies that predate the iPhone but made it possible. As Microsoft’s Buxton points out, Wayne Westerman (the multitouch researcher who sold his startup and became an Apple employee in 2005) cited the work of numerous early multitouch researchers in his 1999 PhD thesis. The iPhone incorporated key innovations pioneered by Bob Boie, IBM, Jazzmutant, Jeff Han, and others.

Apple’s products are themselves claimed to be patent infringing, but the reality of patents as a whole does not bother Apple. The company is built upon fantasy and delusion.

Europe’s Unitary Patent Siege

Posted in Europe, Patents at 10:16 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Sunrise

Summary: Patent news from Europe, courtesy of FFII for the most part

THE European authorities have turned rather FOSS-hostile as we showed over the past year or two. The people at the top put unhelpful policies in place (compared to their predecessors) and many in FOSS circles are in denial over it. This new workshop is no exception. “In particular,” says the page, “the workshop will help to identify advantages and disadvantages of patent pools in relation to ICT standardisation and to subsequently identify how patent pools could best function in order to avoid antitrust concerns.”

If they altogether ban software patents, then workshops like this might become obsolete. But patent lawyers in Europe keep working hard to spread patents in Europe. Here is the latest they have to say about the Unitary Patent:

Wednesday afternoons and unitary patent reform are beginning to be an all too common event for the patent lawyers amongst us, and especially for Baroness Wilcox (Minister of State, Department of Business, Innovation & Skills). Yesterday afternoon she was before the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee E on Justice and Institutions on the on-going saga of the proposed unitary patent reform. The latest of the hearings followed the earlier and somewhat fraught session before the House of Commons European Scrutiny Committee a couple of weeks ago (see previous reports here and here), which itself followed the expert witness session held in January (see reports here and here).

As the FFII’s president puts it, the “Patent mafia is composing the Committee for the Rules of Procedure for the Unitary patent court” — something which is shown here. More promotion of more patents in Europe:

All of this naturally means that, while politicians negotiate on the substantive provisions and court locations, there is a degree of waiting around for those us inhabiting the less rarefied air of European patent politics. Readers may think they can now sink comfortably into their office chairs, switch off and await further news. “Maybe”, says the AmeriKat, “But not for long …”

Separately, says the FFII’s president in a tweet, “Mrs Kroes voted for FRAND and EU patent court, that’s not really defending software freedom” (we showed a lot of evidence of this).

The FFII also reminds us of the blackmail in Spain when it mentions the pressure on Italy (which along with Spain opposes the Unitary Patent). “Yes,” the FFII says, the Unitary Patent “is a real issue. Also the attempts of Italy to blackmail the EU to accept Milan lays no good foundation for a Court.” Here are some questions on the subject and a mention from Spiegal regarding the “European RAND attack on the web innovation model”. The European Union needs to ban RAND, FRAND, and software patents in general, including euphemisms related to these; otherwise it plays into the hands of multinationals, not Europeans.

Microsoft Refuses to Explain Avoidance of Tax After Putting Staff in Government

Posted in Finance, Microsoft at 10:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Wineberry

Summary: The United States is still being paid almost nothing by Microsoft, which used government connections to avoid tax

THE FOLLOWING new post brings back memories of an old campaign which we have written about for years — one that a former Microsoft employee ran in an attempt to do justice and force Microsoft to pay billions. Here is the latest:

Following up on our post asking Microsoft to disclose its Washington State royalty tax payments from 1998 – 2010 to back up its claims of innocence, I’ve written an open letter to Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith. If Microsoft thinks this blog is spreading misinformation about its Nevada tax dodging, it just needs to disclose the amount of royalty tax it paid in the years 1998 – 2010.

Here is Microsoft’s non-response: “In response to our letter to Brad Smith, Microsoft PR sent me an email in which they refuse to release the royalty tax data that could vouge for their contention that they did not use their Nevada office to avoid paying more than $1.33 billion in taxes, interest and penalties between 1998 – 2010.”

Finally, here is a reminder of political corruption (crony capitalism) that enabled it:

As the Washington State legislature worked to close a record $2.8 billion deficit in April 2010, chair of the finance committee Rep. Ross Hunter slipped language into the final budget bill that granted amnesty to Microsoft on more than $1.25 billion in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties, savings the company had amassed by recording its licensing revenue in a small Nevada office since 1997. Hunter’s bill also changed how the state’s royalty tax is calculated, saving the company $91 million more annually. Prior to his public service in the legislature, Hunter spent 17 years as a Microsoft executive.

To balance the budget (and pay for Microsoft’s tax breaks), the Legislature cut $120 million from K-12 education and $73 million from university budgets. After signing the bill, Governor Gregoire praised Microsoft for contributing $25 million over five years to a scholarship program that largely funds graduates in technical programs that the company can hire.

This is an example of “legalised crime” — something that would be a crime had the criminal not held positions in government.

Bill Gates Funds ALEC

Posted in Bill Gates at 9:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Koch

Summary: A citizens-hostile front group turns out to be funded by the Gates Foundation

IN OUR daily links we occasionally include links about ALEC, a controversial AstroTurfing/lobbying group for corporate power. It turns out that Bill Gates is funding them. “Knowingly or not, the Gates Foundation has just stepped on a political landmine,” says this one report. What about the Koch ties that we wrote about some days ago?

All of this just serves to show how the Gates Foundation buys political power and as one person recently summarised it:

Tim Ogden, editor of Philanthropy Action, and Laura Freschi, of New York University’s Development Research Institute, described the extent of Gates’s dominance and how its vast resources can squelch dissent.

While other philanthropies are trying to help get the ball across the goal line on issues they care about, Mr. Ogden said, Gates is “creating the ball, building the team, hiring the referees,” and “funding the instant replay.”

Ms. Freschi said it’s not out of the question that one day a reader might devour an article about a Gates-supported health project, printed on the pages of a newspaper that gets Gates money, reported by a journalist who received media training paid for by Gates, citing research by scientists financed by Gates.

Gates’s focus on relentlessly highlighting the positives of global health and antipoverty work may sometimes come at a cost, she said. (She noted the title of a recent Gates-sponsored conference on malaria: “Optimism and Urgency.”)

While optimism has a place in advocacy, Ms. Freschi said, she questioned how big its role should be in vaccine research. She asked whether there was enough of a “firewall” among data collection, scientific analysis, and advocacy at the Gates fund and whether its money and influence could cause researchers to focus on approaches they didn’t believe in or to portray results in overly rosy ways.

The lobbying power of Gates often relies on proxies, but not always. ALEC is among them. We’ll keep an eye on the impact.

Undocumented Microsoft APIs

Posted in Antitrust, Courtroom, Microsoft, Novell at 9:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Black hole

Summary: A legal case recalls Microsoft’s violations of competition laws

THERE IS a new article from Pamela Jones, who sheds light on Microsoft’s undocumented APIs [1, 2, 3] — a lesson for our times:

Microsoft has a pending motion in Novell v. Microsoft, asking the judge to dismiss Novell’s entire case as a matter of law without going to a second jury trial. Microsoft lawyers list many reasons why, in Microsoft’s view, it did not violate antitrust law when Bill Gates decided [PDF] not to publish certain APIs in 1994 even though it was “late in the day” to make such changes, because: “I have decided that we should not publish these extensions. We should wait until we have a way to do a high level of integration that will be harder for the likes of Notes, Wordperfect to achieve, and which will give Office a real advantage.”

That’s what the trial, which ended in a mistrial, was largely about, and we’re waiting for Novell’s response to Microsoft’s motion.

This may be an old incident, but Microsoft has not changed since then. We must learn from the past to avoid mistakes in the present and future. We still fail to understand why OpenStack, for example, even considers putting Microsoft’s proprietary software hooks inside its stack. Here is the latest from this saga:

Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization and the OpenStack open source cloud platform apparently aren’t seeing eye to eye — at least for the moment. In fact, an upcoming OpenStack release called Essex will not support Hyper-V because the OpenStack folks saw lagging Microsoft development activity on OpenStack.

[...]

Both Microsoft and OpenStack have stated that steps are underway to ensure Hyper-V re-emerges in OpenStack. In the meantime, this temporary setback is a wakeup call to Microsoft, which will need to make sure it has adequate developer resources assigned to the effort.

The mistake that OpenStack would be making by letting Microsoft back in is an issue we wrote about before [1, 2, 3].

“…[C]ut off Netscape’s air supply.”

Paul Maritz, Vice President, Microsoft (now VMWare CEO)

Links 27/2/2012: Linux 3.3 RC5, Orange and x86

Posted in News Roundup at 5:11 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Projects showcase Central La. students’ interest in science

    The 12-year-old Pollock Elementary School pupil showed how he believes Linux is better than Windows at the Louisiana Region IV Science and Engineering Fair Saturday at Louisiana State University at Alexandria’s Fitness Center.

  • Ten Things I Wish I Knew When Becoming A Linux Admin

    Ten years ago I installed Linux for the very first time. To be exact, it was Slackware 7, the best distribution at the time in my opinion. Since then I’ve come to favor Debian Linux as my favorite version…at least for my Linux servers. I like to have a solid core system installed that I can build from scratch, but this is for another time. This article is for you new Linux admins; here are the ten things I wish I knew when starting my Linux admin journey.

  • Desktop

    • GNU/Linux on the Desktop: Alive and Growing

      So, while Adobe and AK may believe GNU/Linux is dead in the water, the real reason for abandoning Flash on GNU/Linux lies elsewhere, likely the fact that Flash is a dead-end technology with HTML 5 ramping up. Killing Flash in 5 years is irrelevant for that reason.

  • Kernel Space

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments

    • The Completely Blank Xfce Desktop

      The Xfce desktop environment comes with Xubuntu and is also available in the Xfce versions of Linux Mint, Fedora and other Linux distributions. Using Xfce, you can easily set up a highly functional but completely blank desktop – no icons, no menus, nothing. Just a blank screen or a favourite wallpaper, ideal for the user who hates distractions or loves simplicity. Here’s how to do it.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

    • Gentoo Family

      • Sabayon 8.0: slightly burnt dessert

        February 2012 brought us some fresh releases of Linux-based operating systems. These systems are not as big and famous as Ubuntu, Fedora or OpenSuSE, but still have a considerable army of fans.

    • Red Hat Family

      • Red Hat vs Oracle Linux Support: 10 Years Is New Standard

        The Linux chess match between Red Hat and Oracle now involves a showdown on long-term support strategies. Indeed, both Red Hat and Oracle recently extended their Linux support life cycles to a lengthy 10 years. The big potential winners are partners and customers that are trying to maintain long-term IT road maps involving Linux data centers.

      • Is It Time to Try on Red Hat?

        Software firm Red Hat Inc. (RHT) captured my attention this weekend as I was scanning through lists of stocks. This poor equity was largely abandoned in December by investors despite a strong earnings report. A mix of sky-high expectations and poor news from Oracle (ORCL) in late December had the security dropping close to $39 on extremely high trading volume. The kind of high volume that bottoms are built on.

      • Red Hat’s Cloud and Virtualization Win: More to Come?

        It’s a familiar story: Like so many other telecom services providers, CDLAN is trying to push into cloud services. For CDLAN, the path to SaaS and cloud services involves an open source twist: Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Is this a sign of things to come for Red Hat?

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Press Release: KuwaitNet to open source VPN platform

    KuwaitNET, a complete Internet solutions provider, announces the launch of VPNPlatform.org in an effort to give back to the open source community which has been a large driver of their business over the years.

  • Open source opens doors for Aussie start-up

    It’s pretty rare for a start-up company to benefit from more than a decade of software development valued at about $2 million each year. Rarer still for one to land a six figure contract before it has even launched a commercial product.

    But that is precisely what Gold Coast-based Opmantek has done. The company was formed in October 2010 to acquire the commercial rights to the popular open source network management software Network Management Information System (NMIS), a product first developed in 1999 by one of Opmantek’s founders, Keith Sinclair.

  • Events

    • GNUmed holds mini conference

      GNUmed has been around a while. Most communication happens via the mailing list. Not everyone is comfortable with mailing lists and users tend to stay away from it. That is why we are planning a get together in Leipzig, Germany.

  • Education

    • Nature Editorial: If you want reproducible science, the software needs to be open source

      Modern scientific and engineering research relies heavily on computer programs, which analyze experimental data and run simulations. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a scientific paper (outside of pure theory) that didn’t involve code in some way. Unfortunately, most code written for research remains closed, even if the code itself is the subject of a published scientific paper. According to an editorial in Nature, this hinders reproducibility, a fundamental principle of the scientific method.

      Reproducibility refers to the ability to repeat some work and obtain similar results. It is especially important when the results are unexpected or appear to defy accepted theories (for example, the recent faster-than-light neutrinos). Scientific papers include detailed descriptions of experimental methods—sometimes down to the specific equipment used—so that others can independently verify results and build upon the work.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

Leftovers

  • TEST: How to know if your computer license should be revoked
  • Finance

    • SEC Seeks Testimony of Ex-IKB Employee in Lawsuit Against Goldman’s Tourre

      The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission wants to question a former employee of IKB Deutsche Industriebank AG (IKB) in its lawsuit against Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) trader Fabrice Tourre, court records show.

      The SEC today asked a federal judge in New York to issue a so-called letter of request that would allow the agency to take testimony from Jorg Zimmerman, a resident of Germany.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Facebook suffers lobbying exodus

      The move signals that the gloves are coming off in the ongoing lobbying fight between content providers and Internet companies. Facebook’s lobbying spending increased about 285 percent from $351,000 in 2010 to $1.35 million in 2011.

  • Privacy

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • ‘The Free Internet Act’ Emerges As Redditors Craft SOPA Alternative

      When two proposed anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA looked as if they could become law, social news site Reddit helped organize a large-scale online protest that led lawmakers to table the bills indefinitely. But the activism didn’t stop there, and now Redditors are trying to draft legislation of their own.

      “The Free Internet Act,” as the idea has been tentatively named, intends to preempt any future legislation aiming to limit the scope of the Internet or censor content. Redditors have turned the “r/fia” page into a place to craft something they’d like to someday see become a standard for governing the Internet.

    • Study Confirms What You Already Knew: Mobile Data Throttling About The Money, Not Stopping Data Hogs

      Of the four national mobile operators, only Sprint still offers an “unlimited” data plan — and most industry watchers expect that to go away soon. When the operators talk about this stuff, they complain about how unlimited plans are abused and the amount of data being used by so-called “data hogs” is crippling network bandwidth. Of course, the alternative story is that they just want to charge people higher rates, and putting a toll booth on data usage makes that possible. A new study by Validas confirms that the latter theory seems to match with reality. The company looked at 11,000 mobile phone bills of users on both throttled (tiered) plans and unlimited data plans and found… data usage was effectively the same. In other words, for all the talk about how tiers and throttles are needed to stop bandwidth hogging… reality shows that these plans have little impact on actual data usage. Or, to put it really simply: these plans are all about the mobile operators making more money and have nothing to do with network capacity.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • Why Ebook Portal Library.nu Differed From Other Filesharing Sites

        A couple of weeks ago the popular ebook portal Library.nu was shut down, apparently voluntarily, after a coalition of book publishers obtained an injunction against it and a similar site.

      • Leaked Audit in Eminem Royalty Suit Highlights Huge Stakes for Record Industry

        Here’s what an examiner turned up when opening Aftermath’s financial books to see how much was owed to Eminem’s production team.

      • If You Want To Compete With Free, This Is What You Need To Know

        When it comes to competing with piracy, one of the talking points of copyright maximalists is that content creators “can’t compete with free.” These people complain that because pirates don’t have to cover production costs, competing with them is a losing venture. What these people have not learned, despite our many attempts to teach them, is that price is not the only cost considered when consumers choose between buying legally and pirating. Over at Gamasutra, one expert blogger, Lars Doucet, has shared a very profound look at four “currencies” people consider when making such a choice.

      • One More Copyright Infringement, And HADOPI Must Disconnect Itself From The Net
      • Crony Capitalism: Big Companies Sponsor Fancy Dinner For TPP Negotiators

        We’ve talked about the ridiculous Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations, which are being held with incredible levels of secrecy, and which appear to include a wishlist of every copyright reform change that Hollywood wants, with little to no public scrutiny. The USTR, who’s in charge of negotiating the agreement for the US claims that there’s unprecedented transparency — and that may be true if you’re talking about the unprecedented lack of transparency in the negotiations. And where it gets really ridiculous is that while the public has no access to the information, the big company lobbyists have pretty much full access. We already spoke about the recent meetings in Hollywood, where TPP negotiators got to party with the Hollywood elite — but civil society/public interest groups who tried to hold an open meeting in the hotel (and reserved space and everything) were kicked out of the hotel.

      • UK Labour Party: Let’s Just Get On With Kicking People Offline Over Copyright Infringement

        As Techdirt reported at the time, the UK’s Digital Economy Bill was rammed through Parliament, without proper scrutiny or even much democratic process, in the dying hours of the previous government. Since then, the implementation of the Digital Economy Act has moved forward relatively slowly. That’s partly because there have been a series of legal challenges from ISPs concerned about its legality (and likely cost for them). In addition, it made sense for the current UK government to wait for the completion of the Hargreaves report on copyright in the digital age before proceeding.

      • Reductio Ad Absurdum: Eternal Copyright Is Crazy… But What About Today’s Copyright Term?

        Of course, it’s easy to laugh at satire like this… until you remember that some make such arguments seriously. But, similarly, it seems worth recognizing that for most of us, copyright is already effectively eternal. Here in the US nothing has entered the public domain in quite some time and it’s questionable if or when anything new will enter the public domain… as most people fully expect Disney to push for another copyright term extension as Mickey Mouse approaches the public domain yet again.

      • ACTA

        • FFII call for action: Act on ACTA

          over the past 10 years we have been at the forefront of many policy initiatives to prevent more risks for software professionals: Software Patents, IPRED1+2, Data Retention, European Interoperability Framework and many others. Since 2008 we have been following the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and sought to bring transparency in the process. Our involvement was partly successful, for instance criminal enforcement was not extended to patents and the Commission released the text of the agreement. However, both process and content are still deeply flawed.

        • ACTA is part of a multi-decade, worldwide copyright campaign

          Last week, we observed that major content companies have enjoyed a steady drumbeat of victories in Congress and the courts over the last two decades. The lobbying and litigation campaigns that produced these results have a counterpart in the executive branch. At the urging of major copyright holders, the Obama administration has been working to export restrictive American copyright laws abroad. The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is just the most visible component of this ambitious and long-running project.

        • Where did the patients go?

          The European Commission decided to ask the EU Court of Justice an opinion on ACTA. Commissioner Karel De Gucht stated: “We are planning to ask Europe’s highest court to assess whether ACTA is incompatible – in any way – with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property.”

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