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11.19.12

The Image That Scares Apple

Posted in Apple at 9:17 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Book

Summary: Steve Jobs’ (and Cook’s) company is still afraid of female anatomy

The other day we wrote about Apple's censorship of software relating to drone strikes. According to Stallman, not just software but also content is being censored by Apple:

Apple dropped from iTunes the erotic novel, The Proof of the Honey, saying it is because of the cover.

Repeated acts of censorship are an additional reason to condemn iTunes, but not the only one. Even if there were no censorship, you ought to refuse to buy from iTunes because it tramples the rights of its own users.

There is nothing too provocative in this cover, which can be seen here. It says:

A publisher has claimed that Apple has removed Salwa Al Neimi’s erotic novel The Proof of the Honey from the iTunes store because its cover – which features part of a woman’s naked back and bottom – is “inappropriate”.

So Apple is not just against sex but also against banal photos of the human body (not genitalia).

Vista Phone 8 as Bad as Vista 8

Posted in Microsoft, Vista 8, Windows at 9:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Nokie phone

Summary: Software and hardware issues affect not only Surface; Phones running “8″ show that BSOD is universal with Windows

Ever since Nokia got hijacked by Microsoft its stock has been nosediving. Now we learn that the “8″ of mobiles is so defective that many users (among the few who chose this platform) complain:

Windows Phone 8 devices have been available since the beginning of the month and users are starting to report early issues across HTC and Nokia handsets. In a thread over at WPCentral with 143 replies, a variety of HTC 8X users report that handsets randomly reboot while in use. A thread on Microsoft’s own support forums has also gained 50 replies complaining about the issues. The Verge can confirm that an 8X we are testing has rebooted on more than one occasion.

What a disaster. What is also a disaster is this other “8″:

  • Sinofsky on File-Management

    Steve, both of you, my Little Woman is just an ordinary user of PCs. She runs few applications, does a lot of web-browsing but takes pictures of everything using smart phone, digital camera and web-cam: moonrise, houses, children, relatives, friends… She accumulates thousands of pictures per annum and has ~20K so far on her PC. You can bet she would tolerate no inflexibility in her file-manager. Fortunately she uses Debian GNU/Linux with XFCE4 and she can have as many windows as she wants open to her file-system as she sorts things out, categorizes them, edits them and inserts them in documents, e-mails, and social websites. File-management has been one of the few things that every user of a PC since the 1980s has appreciated. Who are you to limit what a user can do with a PC out of the box? Who are you to force on the world a crippled OS limiting what people can do with their files?

  • [Jakob Nielsen] Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users

    I have nothing against Microsoft. I happen to think that Windows 7 is a good product and that Windows 8 is a misguided one. I derived these conclusions from first principles of human–computer interaction theory and from watching users in our new research. One doesn’t have to hate or love a company in order to analyze its UI designs.

  • What not to buy on Black Friday: Windows 8 PCs & laptops

    How do I hate thee Windows 8? Let me count the ways.

The latter link is SJVN’s review of Vista 8, the platform which Microsoft is failing to sell. Jakob Nielsen is a usability expert and he too slammed Vista 8. It will be remembered as a massive blunder. Now, let’s see what Apple is up to…

Trolls Roundup: Medtronic, Patrick Collins, Parascript LLC (AccuDetect Protectionism)

Posted in Patents at 9:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Selfishness defined

Troll picks cows

Summary: Patent (and copyright) news of interest and a few remarks on those

Software patents and patent trolls who use them are of great interest to us, so this news about a troll losing its case got our attention and the attention of others who write:

It’s always slightly amusing to watch extreme patent aggressors get hoisted by their own petard and lose a patent lawsuit. Medical device maker, Medtronic, is somewhat famous for its aggressive pursuit of patent infringement claims against others. In one case, a few years ago, a judge overturned a ruling that Medtronic had actually won and then scolded the company’s lawyers, noting that their “conduct was in disregard for the duty of candor, reflecting an attitude of ‘what can I get away with?’”

Here is another setback for a troll:

It has become its own genre of legal writing: angry judges denouncing plaintiffs in file-sharing lawsuits for abusing the legal system. Judges in New York, Florida, and Illinois have all handed down decisions excoriating the tactics of peer-to-peer plaintiffs. The latest addition to the genre comes from Massachusetts federal Judge Leo Sorokin.

The plaintiffs in the case are publishers of pornographic masterpieces like Anal Cum Swappers 2. Sorokin notes that one of the plaintiffs, Patrick Collins, Inc, has filed “John Doe” lawsuits against at least 11,570 defendants. Yet the firm hasn’t converted any of those “John Does” into named defendants at this point—and that’s the first step toward actual litigation.

This one is a copyright troll though:

While copyright trolling cases keep popping up, it’s become quite impressive how many courts are dumping such cases often while slamming the trolls’ strategy. It’s now happened again. A judge in Massachusetts has called out a troll for its “lack of interest in actually litigating.” The case involves porn company Patrick Collins, Inc., which has been involved in a ton of these trolling cases — including some of those linked above — along with another company, Discount Video Center, represented by the same lawyer.

The practice of trolling with software patents sure is spreading to copyrights. We saw some examples before.

Speaking of software patents, watch how they are being used to impede development of medical solutions:

Pattern recognition software company Parascript LLC has received two U.S. patents for its AccuDetect software, which is used to analyze mammograms for suspicious lesions that could indicate breast cancer.

Longmont-based Parascript developed the computer-aided detection software to analyze digital mammography images. The software can identify suspicious areas for possible soft-tissue densities and calcifications, the company said in a press statement.

See, this is something I have great trouble with. First, it is a case of software patents, which is a broad thing preventing many implementations on similar ideas, which are abstract anyway. Secondly, rather than share knowledge on how to save life they simply hoard another monopoly, hoping to have exclusive rights over cancer treatment. This is not the spirit in which I earned my doctorate in Medical Biophysics. If they acquired skills at something, then they can offer services around those. Their implementation is already covered by copyrights, so why seek patent monopolies?

Europe to Push for Unitary Patent (Software Patents Loophole) at 7 PM CET Tonight

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 8:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lawyers in government against citizens’ will

Flag of Europe

Summary: Urgent call to contact politicians regarding the Unitary Patent and its consequences; reminder of the reality of lawyers’ influence

NOW that it’s almost 3 PM (CET) it’s probably a good time to address a very important subject. Central Europe is currently not allowing software patents, but large corporations are trying to change that. This impacts me professionally and it impacts many others.

Richard Stallman, the father of Free (as in freedom) software, warned about allowing Europe to give a go-ahead to software patents, saying it would eliminate the current advantage European developers have over their counterparts across the Atlantic. He also suggested eliminating litigation over software patents in the US, as covered by a site he helped fund (through the FSF):

Another approach to ending the problems of software patents would be a law saying, as Richard Stallman puts it, “that developing, distributing, or running a program on generally used computing hardware does not constitute patent infringement.”

Stallman’s piece in the Wired series had major impact, which we last showed when talking about forums on software patents getting stacked by lawyers and law professors. They’re everywhere in these debates because they’re prominent in politics and they hang around where they can make money at other people’s expense.

Speaking of events about software patents, here is one. On Friday there was this conference:

Preview of Our “Solutions to the Software Patent Problem” Conference

On Friday, we’re having our big academic conference of the semester, “Solutions to the Software Patent Problem.” At the conference, experts will propose their ideas of how to fix software patents. Ultimately, we hope there will be enough enthusiasm among the participants to coalesce around one or more proposals and see if we can actually make progress.

In preparation for the conference, we held a “preview” for the students so that they would understand the conference background better. Without previews like this, students often don’t get as much out of the conference because so much of the discussion goes over their heads. Colleen Chien was supposed to do the preview but she had a major conflict, so I stepped in. Below, I’ve included my talk notes. If you’re really interested, I’ve also posted the audio from the talk. I hope to see you on Friday!

This is a conference dealing with software patents, but it is stacked mostly by “law” people (i.e. lawyers). Groklaw wrote:

I’m so happy to tell you that tomorrow’s conference on what to do about software patents, Solutions to the Software Patents Problem, at the Santa Clara Law’s High Tech Law Institute will be live streamed for those of us who can’t make it in person.

I confess I begged for this, because I know a lot of you are seriously interested in this topic but can’t make it there. So thank you Santa Clara Law. Here’s where you go tomorrow, and it runs all day from 8:50 am to 5:30 pm Pacific time, minus one talk at 9 AM.

To be fair, it was not just a parade of lawyers. This one particular event had notable speakers who are against patents, so unlike some conferences, it was not just law people speaking among themselves. Here is TechDirt:

Patent Office, Perhaps Forgetting What Year It Is, Locks Down Mobile App Development Platforms

I’m spending today at a conference at Santa Clara University’s Law school on Solutions to the Software Patent Problem. It seems only fitting that as this is happening, I’ve been alerted to a completely ridiculous new patent: Appsbar has put out a press release gleefully announcing that it’s been granted a patent on offering a “create your own mobile app” development platform. Stunningly, the patent in question, 8,261,231, was just applied for in February of this year. I’m at a loss as to how a competent patent examiner could possibly think that a mobile app development platform is somehow new or non-obvious in this day and age.

There is more news about the expansion of the patent system to Silicon Valley — something that ought to be criticised. Rather than shrink the system that issues far too many patents, those in charge let it grow further.

One law professor with an actual background in some science is the latest author in the Wired series on patents. John Duffy describes himself as follows:

John Duffy is a professor at Virginia Law School; prior to that, he was a research professor at George Washington University Law School. Duffy was identified as one of the 25 most influential people in the field of intellectual property by The American Lawyer. He earned his undergraduate degree in physics.

The previous contributor, Andrew Chin, is also a law professor and he writes about his case for keeping abstract patents:

Much criticism of software patents is rightly aimed at the use of abstract claim language to cover a wider range of technology than the patentee invented and disclosed. Mark Lemley, for example, highlights “functional” language in claims as particularly problematic, and proposes in this opinion series that a claimed function be limited to the disclosed “program and ones like it.”

[...]

So the utilities of Bilski’s claimed methods are not amenable to one resource-specific causal account, but many. Bilski’s methods perform their hedging functions whether the market participants’ option values are calculated on my office desktop PC or on the London Science Museum’s Difference Engine, and whether their transactions are completed via telephone or website. A patent examiner could simply cite such an observation in rejecting Bilski’s claims as unpatentable subject matter.

A key advantage of my proposed “concrete causation” standard is its consistency with Supreme Court precedents, which allows the Federal Circuit to introduce it without need for legislation. The universal applicability of this approach conforms to our treaty obligations (to make patents available without discrimination as to the field of technology), suggesting it could become an international norm. The approach also upholds what I’ve identified elsewhere as the patent system’s metaphysical commitment to scientific realism.

By design, this proposal explicitly acknowledges that all of the “useful Arts” confront the common problem of having limited resources. This necessity is, after all, the mother of invention. The patent system exists for those working to do more with less, not for those seeking to corner the market on such efforts through abstract claim drafting.

In Europe too we are left to deal with “legal” folks, whose interests lie not in advancing knowledge but in making a lot of money from it, as if the latter somehow takes priority over the former. April asks people to fight back against the bureaucrats by informing them:

The European Parliament just announced an exceptional meeting of the legal affairs (JURI) committee on Monday November 19th, 2012 at 7pm for the only purpose of discussing the unitary patent package. This new unexpected event in the unitary patent saga is a concern. There is an urgent need to get in touch with the MEPs to let them know about the threats of the unitary patent.

We must really ensure that software patents are kept out of Europe, including the loopholes that let Finnish company Tuxera put a patent tax on Linux and Android. Carla Schroder wrote about it the other day:

Microsoft’s creaky old FAT filesystems, FAT16 and FAT32, have long been the de facto standard filesystems for Flash storage devices. They enable portability because FAT is supported on all major operating systems, and they don’t have access controls so there are no permissions hassles– just plug in your device and use it. But despite FAT’s age and ubiquity, Microsoft successfully enforced its FAT patents against TomTom in 2009. TomTom agreed to drop FAT32 support from their products, several of which were built on Linux. Microsoft has also gone after Android vendors, such as Motorola, who use FAT.

The legal landscape, as always, is bizarre. Linux can support FAT32 without paying royalties because of an inane technicality: long and short filenames. My fellow old codgers recall the 8.3 DOS filename convention: filenames could be no more than 8 characters long with a 3-character extension. This collided with grownup filesystems that supported longer filenames, which FAT truncated. And that is why something like nicelongfilename.txt would be shortened to nicelo~1.txt.

[...]

Linux users have options, sort of. Tuxera sells a good exFAT driver, but only to OEMs, such as Android vendors. There is a free exfat driver, fuse-exfat, and it is included in several distros. This is built on fuse, filesystem in userspace. I’ve tested it a bit without problems, but the developers do not have access to any specifications and it’s still young, so it has some rough edges. I would not rely on it for syncing a Linux PC with devices that use exFAT, like cameras and smartphones.

There is prior art there, as Linus Torvalds revealed some months ago. Those patents are essentially bunk.

Holding Back Standards Adoption in Europe

Posted in Europe, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument, OpenOffice at 7:49 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Langham street, London

Summary: Without speaking to FOSS experts the bureaucrats in Europe consider giving up on ODF and FOSS

EARLIER THIS year we wrote about how OOXML was interfering with FOSS adoption in the German public sector. IDG has
this report which echoes a few others but places little or no emphasis on OOXML. It says:

Several open source groups such as the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Document Foundation and the Open Source Business Alliance protested the plans in an open letter to the council on Friday, saying the council compared apples with oranges.

“Numerous statements concerning LibreOffice and Apache OpenOffice are incorrect or outdated,” they said in the letter, adding that the support of LibreOffice and OpenOffice is at a professional level these days. “The assessment of the evaluation that compatibility to Microsoft Office cannot be reached in the next few years, is also wrong,” they said.

According to the organizations, no open source experts were consulted in the process. Therefore they hoped the council would still consider a migration to a current version of LibreOffice or OpenOffice.

The council plans to vote on the draft bill next Tuesday.

That is just a few days from now. The cost of lock-in is very high and many managers fail to take this into account. There are 450 comments in Slashdot. The problems in Freiburg are somewhat representative of the excuses made in other places. Microsoft had hired some people whose task is to attack LibreOffice/OpenOffice.org adoption (also see [1, 2, 3]), nut almost nobody in the corporate press reported on that.

Links 19/11/2012: Precise Puppy 5.4.1, Ubuntu/Canonical Loses Compiz Developer

Posted in News Roundup at 7:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Study on free, open source software in governance

    In a statement issued here Monday, ICFOSS said the study would bring out the extent to which free and open source software is used in government projects, and assess the economics of its use.

  • Business

    • Why businesses are adopting the open source community approach

      A few months ago, I joined Red Hat as a marketing apprentice (intern) in Paris, France—where I am also continuing my studies at France Business School—and it became clear to me that my vision of what open source is and what it means to be part of the community has changed. This evolution has significantly altered the way I am participating in projects and communiticating with peers.

  • BSD

    • What’s Exciting About FreeBSD 9.1: Intel KMS

      While FreeBSD 9.1 is running behind schedule, one of the exciting additions to this forthcoming BSD operating system is finally debuting Intel kernel mode-setting on FreeBSD support.

      The most exciting feature in this release is undoubtedly the availability of Kernel Modesetting and new drivers for intel chipsets. The drivers are not perfectly up-to-date (xf86-video-intel is at 2.17 and mesa is at 7.11) but it is a significant improvement over what was previously available (2.7 and 7.6, respectively).

    • FreeBSD project servers hacked

      The FreeBSD project has announced that an intrusion was detected on two of the machines within its project cluster on November 11.

  • Licensing

    • Relicensing VLC to the LGPL the hard way

      VideoLAN president Jean-Baptiste Kempf has completed relicensing most of the popular open source VLC media player from GPLv2 to LGPL. In a blog post, Kempf explains the reasoning for the relicensing: the project is trying to attract more developers, especially for app store versions of the application. VLC was removed from the iOS App Store back in January 2011 because it was licensed under the GPL. By the end of the year, the developers had already relicensed libVLC, the core library of the media player.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Should Hostess open source their recipes?

      In other words, should they release their recipes under a license like Creative Commons or the GPL that would allow people to use, modify, and enhance the recipes?

    • Ray Kurzweil on the future of work: Lifelong learning and an open source economy

      Singularity University, on the grounds of the NASA Research Center at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley, abounds in optimism, and, as Singularity’s vice president of innovation and research, I have understandably caught the bug. I have written about why I believe this will be the most innovative decade in human history, how we are headed for an era of abundant and affordable health care, and how robotics, artificial intelligence and 3D printing will lead to an era of local manufacturing in which the creative class flourishes.

      But deep down I also worry about the dark side of advancing technology; specifically, how we could create doomsday viruses, be in ethical gray zones, and impact employment with new technologies. So my exchanges with Singularity University founders Ray Kurzweil and Peter Diamandis often turn into lengthy debates. While we agree on the positives, we never quite reach an agreement on the risks and downsides. I usually run out of arguments, and their optimism always wins me over — until it wears off.

    • Open Hardware

      • Chumby inventor, Huang. to keynote at LCA

        The inventor of the Chumby, Dr Andrew “bunnie” Huang, has been named as the first of four keynote speakers at the Australian national Linux conference next year.

Leftovers

  • If I Were Your Lawyer I’d Tell You Not to Brag About Your Crimes on the Air

    The Denver Post reports that a woman who faked mental illness to get out of jury duty, and then bragged about it on a talk-radio show, has pleaded guilty to perjury and “attempting to influence a public servant.” The “public servant” in question was the judge who had presided over jury selection, and who excused the woman after she claimed to be suffering from post-traumatic stress. But this potential juror went the extra mile: she “sold her act” by dressing crazy, with “heavy makeup smeared on her face while her hair hung askew in curlers, with shoes and reindeer socks mismatched.” She also spoke “disjointedly.”

  • Americans Voting Smarter About Crime, Justice At Polls

    A headline from the Denver Post this week read: “Colorado Drug Force Disbanding.” Another from the Seattle Times announced, “220 Marijuana Cases Dismissed In King, Pierce Counties.”

    Just 15 or 20 years ago, headlines like these were unimaginable. But marijuana legalization didn’t just win in Washington and Coloardo, it won big.

    In Colorado, it outpolled President Barack Obama. In Washington, Obama beat pot by less than half a percentage point. Medical marijuana also won in Massachusetts, and nearly won in Arkansas. (Legalization of pot lost in Oregon, but drug law reformers contend that was due to a poorly written ballot initiative that would basically have made the state a vendor.)

  • Defence/Police/Aggression

  • Cablegate

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • How Germany Is Getting to 100 Percent Renewable Energy

      There is no debate on climate change in Germany. The temperature for the past 10 months has been three degrees above average and we’re again on course for the warmest year on record. There’s no dispute among Germans as to whether this change is man-made, or that we contribute to it and need to stop accelerating the process.

  • Finance

    • Goldman Sachs and Litton Loan Servicing: A Very Uncomfortable Divorce

      rior to the 2008 when Wall Street was laying on big bets on the housing market, mortgage servicing was the equivalent of blackjack; the odds for a player who knew the rules were very good and having a company that collected monthly mortgage payments from homeowners provided a reliable revenue stream. Even better were the companies that operated in the sub-prime space — “default servicers” — because if you couldn’t shake the shekels out of the homeowners pocket, you could always seize the property in foreclosure and make back your nut and then some. In the colorful vernacular of the industry these mortgage loans are referred to as “S&D” (scratch and dent).

    • US Government Campaign Against Whistleblowers and Electronic Robin Hoods
    • Italian Catholic Church to pay property tax from next year
    • Freedom From Religion Foundation sues IRS for not enforcing electioneering restrictions on churches

      On the heels of a presidential election in which hundreds of preachers publicly promised to flout Internal Revenue Service rules by endorsing candidates from the pulpit, the Madison-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed suit against the IRS for failing to enforce electioneering restrictions against churches and religious organizations.

      Filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, the lawsuit charges that Douglas Shulman, the commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, “has violated, continues to violate and will continue to violate in the future, the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by failing to enforce the electioneering restrictions of 501(c)(3) of the Tax Code against churches and religious organizations.”

    • Sanders: Going Over ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Better than Bad Tax Deal

      Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Monday that if the lame-duck Congress can’t agree on a tax deal by the end of the year, briefly going over the “fiscal cliff” is preferable to accepting a bad deal.

  • Censorship

    • Julian Assange labels Obama ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’

      WIKILEAKS founder Julian Assange has described re-elected President Barack Obama as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and says he expects the US government to keep attacking the anti-secrecy website.

    • Lurk no more

      ON NOVEMBER 11th Russian internet-users began to notice that Lurkmore, a sometimes funny, often vulgar website with a cult following, was no longer accessible. Lurkmore (pictured) is a user-generated encyclopedia, a Russian-language wiki Wikipedia focusing on obscure internet jokes and memes, or what its co-founder, Dmitry Homak, calls “the kind of stuff said by the characters on SouthPark”. Although no one had officially told Mr Homak anything, it soon became clear that the site had fallen into the Russian government’s “Single Register” of web content to be banned under a law passed by the Duma in June.

  • Privacy

    • The Hackers of Damascus

      It didn’t matter. His computer had already told all. “They knew everything about me,” he says. “The people I talked to, the plans, the dates, the stories of other people, every movement, every word I said through Skype. They even knew the password of my Skype account.” At one point during the interrogation, Karim was presented with a stack of more than 1,000 pages of printouts, data from his Skype chats and files his torturers had downloaded remotely using a malicious computer program to penetrate his hard drive. “My computer was arrested before me,” he says.

  • Civil Rights

    • Vendetta masks declared illegal in UAE
    • Court Orders Password Turnover and In Camera Review of Social Media Accounts – EEOC v. Original Honeybaked Ham Co.

      The court says that the fact this type of information “exists in cyberspace . . . is a logistical and, perhaps, financial problem, but not a circumstance that removes the information from accessibility by a party opponent in litigation.” Based on the evidence cited by the employer, the court says it’s satisfied that there’s no fishing expedition. Accordingly, it orders “each class member’s social media content . . . produced.” The court proposes to use a special master, and orders the parties to collaborate and work out the specific instructions to the special master. The special master will produce information which the court will then review for relevance, and then allow the EEOC (or plaintiffs) to designate privileged material. The remaining items will be turned over to the employer.

    • International Organization Finds U.S. Violating the Rights of Protestors

      The right to peacefully assemble, enshrined both in the U.S. Constitution and international human rights law, is an intrinsic element of the democratic fabric of the United States. Yet according to a report released Friday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an international organization of which the U.S. is a member, America is failing to uphold this fundamental right. The report is the first comprehensive OSCE report on violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly that covers the U.S.

  • Copyrights

    • But Does It Copy Macrovision, I Mean, Run Linux?

      Two decades ago, old VCRs were in disproportionately high demand. Newer ones were unable to copy movies as they were distorted by a special signal. Hollywood is fighting for this war on equipment owners to carry over to general-purpose computers. Will they succeed?

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