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03.10.12

IRC Proceedings: March 10th, 2012

Posted in IRC Logs at 8:32 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Enter the IRC channels now

A Chance to End Software Patents in the United States

Posted in America, Law, Patents at 12:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The end

Summary: The SCOTUS gets another push toward the ending of software patents

ACCORDING to news reports like this most early one, the US Supreme Court might get another chance to pour sand on software patenting, having missed the opportunity a couple of years ago:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) civil rights organisation, the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), and open source company Red Hat have urged the US Supreme Court to provide further guidelines on the patentability of software and computer-based inventions. They have asked the Supreme Court to clarify the point at which an idea becomes too abstract to be patented, saying that current legislation in this area is inconsistent, confusing and impedes progress in the internet and computer fields.

Thanks to Mr. Pogson for the pointer and to Mr. Lee for his persistent attack on software patenting. From his latest good article on the subject:

Nathan Myhrvold, the Microsoft veteran who founded the patent-trolling giant Intellectual Ventures, loves to complain about the “culture of intentionally infringing patents” in the software industry. “You have a set of people who are used to getting something for free,” he told Business Week in 2006.

Myhrvold is right that patent infringement is rampant among software firms. But in demanding that this infringement stop, Myhrvold isn’t just declaring war on what he regards as Silicon Valley’s patent-hostile culture. He’s declaring war on the laws of mathematics. The legal research required for all software-producing firms to stop infringing patents would cost more than the entire revenue of the software industry. Even if firms were willing to pay the bill, there simply aren’t enough patent lawyers to do the work. Firms infringe software patents because they don’t have any other choice.

If a real estate developer wants to build on a particular piece of land, she first must figure out who owns the land before she can negotiate a contract and start construction. Most of the time, this is easy. The landowner can be readily identified in a public records office.

In principle, a software developer starting a new project faces a similar problem. He needs to know if the software he is planning to create will accidentally infringe on anyone’s patents. But whereas looking up who holds claims to a particular piece of land is easy, finding out who, if anyone, holds patents related to a particular piece of software is difficult and expensive. It’s so difficult, in fact, that the vast majority of software developers don’t even try.

See our Wiki page about Intellectual Ventures and mind this new article from Mr. Lee’s colleague. It’s about patent trolls and it says:

Over the last few years, wide swathes of the game industry, and the downloadable app industry in general, have been revolutionized by a single idea: letting people play for free while charging some of those players for in-game items. Now, it seems, a shell company is claiming that it has sole ownership of that idea, and is going to court to stop a wide range of game companies from using it.

Gametek LLC has filed a lawsuit against 21 of the biggest companies in social gaming, including Facebook, Zynga (Farmville et al), Electronic Arts (The Sims Social), Wooga (Diamond Dash) and 6Waves (Ravenwood Fair), as well as separate suits against iOS game developers such as Backflip (Ragdoll Blaster) and Gameview (Tap Fish).

Patent trolls usually use software patents. By getting rid of the latter a lot of the former can be eliminated too. Think how many jobs would be destroyed: parasites like patent lawyers and patent trolls will need to give room (and income) to real, producing developers.

Windows Mobile Death and Wiped Data, Applications

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:55 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Smartphone

Summary: The apocalypse of Microsoft in phones is hurting the few customers who made the foolish decision to buy Windows phones; even Nokia is going back to Linux because Windows is not capable

A FEW years ago Microsoft had customer data wiped. So much for people trusting Microsoft with mobiles, eh? Well, Windows Mobile Marketplace “will continue to work after 9 May 2012. However if the device requires a hard reset or is wiped, users will not be able to recover Marketplace applications or data.”

Flawed design from Microsoft or just lack of care? Maybe both? The Windows Mobile failure (notable at Microsoft) is one that we’ve covered here for a long time, but this one tops it:

Microsoft told users, “Starting on this date [9 May 2012], you will no longer be able to browse, buy or download applications directly on your Windows Mobile 6.x phone using the Windows Mobile 6.x Marketplace application and service.”
Microsoft went on to reassure users that applications downloaded and installed from the Windows Mobile 6.x Marketplace will continue to work after 9 May 2012. However if the device requires a hard reset or is wiped, users will not be able to recover Marketplace applications or data.

This just shows how risky it is to rely on Microsoft for mobile. Just ask Nokia, which loses bucketloads of money after putting a Microsoft mole in charge:

Nokia reports a €1.4bn loss

[...]
Nokia didn’t need an SEC filing to tell the world it had a terrible 2011, however it did attach a figure, a very large negative one, to Stephen Elop’s first full year in charge of the firm. According to Nokia’s SEC filing, the firm posted a €1.4bn loss during 2011 with decreased revenues and lower earnings per share.

Elop’s decision to plump for Microsoft’s Windows Phone operating system for its smartphone range has failed to jolt the firm into action, materialising in sales of €38.7bn, almost €4bn down from a year previously. After taking into account the cost of flogging its phones, research and development, administration and marketing expenses, close to a €1.1bn impairment to goodwill and tax all Nokia had left was a €1.4bn loss, hardly inspiring for the firm.

Nokia can perhaps save itself because it is running back to Linux. The problem is, Microsoft still uses Nokia for patents, by proxy. As a bit of research, 5 hours ago I went to a large British store that sells mobile phones. Not a single Windows phone could be found on display; the many Nokia phones there were low-end phones and none was a Windows phone.

Indian Press Covers Latest Microsoft EDGI Against GNU/Linux in Indian Schools

Posted in Asia, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 11:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Student with music

Summary: Press coverage arrives which shows how Microsoft removed fair competition, education, and autonomy from the agenda

A FEW days ago we wrote about what Microsoft was doing to shoot down a deployment of GNU/Linux — a deployment of very large scale in Tamil Nadu [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. We saw this coming and the Indian news sites respond weakly:

Even as a neighbouring state like Kerala uses ‘Free Software’ as a medium to promote self-sufficiency and initiate learning among students, thus, gaining edge in the competitive world, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to further the use of proprietary software. The government is doing this in the name of ‘improving’ the education system.

Jean Philippe Courtois, president, Microsoft International, met the state chief minister to discuss on improving the education and IT sector of Tamil Nadu. The meeting took place yesterday at Secretariat, Chennai-9.

And where are the regulatory authorities? Where are the protests? Why are no officials fired for selling out the future of the kids? These are not easy questions to ask, but they need to be asked. Microsoft has been allowed to get away with it for far too long far away from the US. It’s colonisation. EDGI is not an acceptable business practice, not for a convicted monopolist.

Apple is Becoming a Patents Cult

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Patents at 11:34 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Steve Jobs with patent
Original photo by Matt Buchanan; edited by Techrights

Summary: A look at Apple’s latest incursions in the parallel universe of patents

CULT of brand Apple is becoming somewhat of a patents cult, too. Its targets are not only winners like Android but also bankrupt companies, according to the following report which says:

A US judge has refused to let Apple kick Eastman Kodak while it’s down by halting the iPad maker’s patent infringement litigation against the bankrupt biz.

The fruity firm is freaking out because it’s afraid that Kodak will flog its precious patents to sort out its dire finances.

Judge Allan Gropper, sitting in a US bankruptcy court in New York, said that the lawsuit, which was pending when Kodak entered Chapter 11 proceedings, had to stay paused as per bankruptcy law, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The judge said that unfreezing the case would be “inappropriate”, but added that Apple and Kodak could settle if they wanted to and bring details of the deal to him for approval. He wants the case sorted out quickly and asked both parties to come up with some ideas of how to resolve the fight by 20 March.

We mind what Apple is doing because it also attacks Android/Linux using patents. It reportedly wants $15 for each Android device sold and one response to this says:

Samsung has refused to compromise with Apple in the patent war that Apple started against the leading Android player. The company is engaged in patent dispute with Apple around the globe. Samsung’s innovative products pose a threat to Apple’s dominance in the smartphone and tablet segment and the Cupertino’s iPhone maker resorted to courts and flawed patent system to fight with Samsung.

The Korea Times reports that the head of Samsung’s telecommunication division Shin Jong-kyun told the publication that they won’t compromise with Apple. According to reports Apple proposed a cross-licensing deal with Samsung to end their patent dispute. Apple reportedly offered a licensing fee between $5 to $15 per unit which includes the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPad.

What entitles Apple to be paid for products it did not make? Poor Apple. Actually, it’s not so poor, it’s just greedy and arrogant.

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

Steve Jobs

Java Patents Lose Their Teeth

Posted in Courtroom, GNU/Linux, Google, Java, Oracle, Patents at 11:27 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Dangerous dog

Summary: Recent steps from Oracle and the OIN indicate a weakening of the case against Dalvik

ORACLE has been trying to tax Android using software patents, but Groklaw thinks that “Oracle Must be Nervous” because the case sinks yet lower with the latest events taking place in the courtroom:

Oracle’s Case Against Google Sinks Lower

[...]

Ouch! Judge Alsup seems to be on his game. Neither the lawyers nor the judge could get the maths right on the potential damages in the case. Rather than $billions, they seem to be headed towards a few tens of millions, provided no more patents are thrown out and Google is found to violate copyright. Google is arguing that Java APIs are not copyright protectable and Oracle is holding that they are. Damages, if any could be very small in any case compared to the worth of the two companies.

Oracle is now asking for a fast trial (it began in 2010) and the OIN, which Oracle is a member of, is stepping up to defend some Java-like software (this was understated in the news, even our own coverage). If Oracle retreats from the patent case, will we see a lot of it ending like the SCO case, except for the bankruptcy?

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