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11.26.12

Patents-free Standards in the UK

Posted in Europe, Patents, Standard at 10:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OOXML on the trash can
Back in the trash can
where it belongs

Summary: Andy Updegrove writes about the standards situation in the United Kingdom

The other day we wrote about Portugal's embrace of ODF. Now we have this report about Britain:

Governments certainly have more than enough to concern themselves with these days – financial crises, natural disasters and terrorism, to name just a few. Given that’s the case, it’s surprising that so many are finding the time to worry about what kind of standards the products and services they purchase comply with. But they are.

That’s the case in the EU, where the final terms of version 2.0 of the European Interoperability Framework (EIF) were the subject of heated debate, resulting in a watered down definition of what should be regarded as acceptable standards for use in enabling communications between EU member nations. It’s also the case within those EU member states that are considering adopting definitions similar to the original formulation that appeared in the original, 2004 version of the EIF.

It’s somewhat ironic that this discussion is occurring not in the context of standards generally, but with respect to information technology (IT) standards, where the standards of greatest concern are those that enable interoperability. I say ironic, because once a standard has become universally adopted in the marketplace, customers – including governments – have little choice but to adopt it as well, because interoperability standards not only enable government IT systems to interact with each other, but also with the citizenry. Moreover, one great economic benefit that can be gained from procuring products and services that comply with widely adopted standards is that it protects the purchaser from becoming locked in to the proprietary products and services of a single vendor.

Updegrove then writes about what happened in the UK very recently (regarding FRAND and beyond). It seems possible that FOSS adoption here will come through the requirement of fair competition via standards.

It is worth noting that, now that EPO is moving gently towards software patents*, Karsten Gerloff from the FSFE sounds his horn again:

How software patents are delaying the future

This fall, I went to Amsterdam to talk about “How Software Patents Are Delaying The Future”, on a discussion panel organised by the European Patent Office. The other people on the panel were patent attorney Simon Davies, and Ioannis Bozas, a patent examiner at the EPO. The panel was moderated by James Nurton of Managing IP. Despite our very different views on the subject, we had very friendly and informative conversations before, during, and after the panel.

For the EPO, organising this debate was something of a gamble. They’re widely criticised for their practice of awarding patents on computer programs, and the debate tends to get rather heated. While I couldn’t disagree more strongly with the way they do things at the EPO when it comes to software, I give them credit for putting this debate together. It was also refreshing to hear Ioannis state clearly that the EPO grants patents on software, as long as the program makes a “technical contribution”—that’s somewhat clearer than the line about “computer-implemented inventions” we’ve mostly seen the EPO employ so far.

A lot of this war on FRAND can suffer if the unitary patent is passed, whereupon lots of foreign patents can infiltrate the UK, for example. European programmers and even non-programmers should become active on this matter.
____
* Elver said today in the FFII’s mailing lists, “I was just sitting with a government official who mentioned that something or other will be decided on the 12th of December regarding the unitary patent system in Brussels.”

Israel- and US-developed Virus Infects Chevron and Others, Costing the Public Billions

Posted in Security, Windows at 12:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Digital imperialism is a virus

Virus

Summary: State-sponsored cyber-crime and what we can learn about its true cost

CYBER terrorism like Stuxnet continues to mess up the world, this time causing damage to those who charge based on their expenses:

Stuxnet, a sophisticated computer virus created by the United States and Israel, to spy on and attack Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities in Natanz also infected Chevron ’s network in 2010, shortly after it escaped from its intended target.

How many billions in damages has this Windows virus, created by governments, already caused? Regardless, amid reports of US services recruiting and training for malware writing, we should keep in mind that all of us are paying the price:

This highlights a huge problem with the use of malware by national security services to carry out these kinds of covert attacks on their enemies. Where a physical attack on a foreign nation is unlikely to cause direct casualties back at home — although it may lead to indirect ones through retaliation — attacks using worms and other malware are far less targeted. If they escape, as is likely to happen given the near-impossibility of controlling what happens to them once they have been released, they may well find their way back to the attacker’s homeland, and start infecting computer systems there.

This makes the “weaponization” of malware an inherently dangerous approach. Imagine if a nation deployed worms or viruses that changed data on infected systems in subtle ways, and that these started spreading by mistake among that same country’s health organizations or banks. Lives could be lost, and financial systems thrown into disarray.

That’s something worth bearing in mind amid increasing calls for the development of software that can be used offensively: as well as the likelihood of tit-for-tat responses, there is also the very real danger that the weapon will turn against the nation that created it.

What’s outrageous about it is that the cyber-crime in this case is the fault of people whom we give our tax money to. They also use predator drones, which only seem to create terrorists rather than eliminate any (along with innocent bystanders).

New PCs Cannot Boot Linux Due to Microsoft Dirty Tricks

Posted in GNU/Linux, Kernel, Microsoft at 12:24 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Can’t boot, not approved by Microsoft

Denver boot

Summary: More people find out that PCs they buy ahead of Xmas refuse to boot Linux, and Microsoft is at fault

Microsoft’s Vista 8 is a confusing mess that motivates many people to explore GNU- and Linux-based operating systems. Microsoft knows this. It does not give Linux keys to machines it ruined by blackmailing OEMs and meanwhile we lose potential converts to software freedom:

The Linux Foundation’s promised workaround that will allow Linux to boot on Windows 8 PCs has yet to clear Microsoft’s code certification process, although the exact reason for the hold-up remains unclear.

As The Reg reported previously, the Secure Boot feature of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) found on modern Windows 8 PCs will only allow an OS to boot if its code has been digitally signed with a key obtained from Microsoft.

That’s a problem for many Linux distributions, because some lack the resources to purchase a Microsoft key, while others simply refuse to.

Where is the formal complaint from the Linux Foundation? Oh, wait, Microsoft paid to silence it, so UEFI continues to sabotage GNU/Linux adoption, as intended.

One report says: “Linux fans wondering why they still don’t have a friendly UEFI Secure Boot option for Windows 8 PCs won’t get a solution in hand this week, but they’ll at least get an explanation. The Linux Foundation’s primary backer for the alternative OS efforts, Parallels’ server CTO James Bottomley, has revealed that Microsoft’s requirements for signed, Secure Boot-ready code are tough if developers aren’t entirely onboard its train of thought. The Redmond crew demands a paper contract signature (remember those?), agreements on work beyond the relevant software and a packaging process that complicates attempts to use open-source tools. Bottomley has already overcome most of these challenges, although he’s still waiting for a Linux Foundation-specific key that should theoretically clear a major hurdle.”

Bottomley worked on some Microsoft projects when Novell paid him, so his response is too gentle. In the mean time expect more stories like this one:

There is a section of this forum about UEFI problems. An admin will probably move your post there. Steve Riley has done a lot with UEFI but if you box doesn’t have an switch in UEFI to disable secure boot then I am afraid that you’ve been screwed.

IMO, preventing the installation of Linux is the entire purpose of UEFI.

Will Hill says: “There are more reports of UEFI boot problems.”

We saw that coming right from the start. Partnering with Microsoft was dumb. Antitrust complaints ought to have been filed.

Internet Trolls and Patent Trolls: How Microsoft and Apple Try to Derail Android

Posted in Apple, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents at 12:16 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pumping FUD since 2010

Gasoline

Summary: The use of proxies to belittle, sue, and sometimes just threaten Free and Open Source competition, notably Android

Market distortion and manipulation, including interference with the press, is a subject which bothered a judge in an Android case. Android foes habitually cheat. Microsoft Florian, who is funded by Android foes, is getting a bad reputation which his pushy attitude cannot make up for. As Muktware put it the other day:

If you ever visit FOSSPatents within a few sentences you will get the impression that it’s a blog written by someone whose sole job is to spin anti-Android stories. There should be no surprises as it’s run by Florian Mueller a blogger who is paid by Microsoft and Oracle, the arch-enemies of Android.

Mueller, the Microsoft paid blogger, is often bashed for spinning anti-Android stories and twisting facts. Mueller claims to be a ‘consultant’ of Microsoft and Oracle, but as Nilay Patel of The Verge rightly noted:

…Mueller’s enormous volume of output on FOSS Patents fairly raises the question of when he finds the time to do any serious consulting work for Oracle in between his diligently granular tracking of several international patent lawsuits, his frequent media appearances, and his additional work as a paid consultant to Microsoft.

FOSSPatent smartly downplays the victories made by Android players, injects his own ‘expert’ opinion against such victories which are ‘copy-pasted’ by lazy bloggers. He makes bold claims which are almost always wrong.

Florian is the Peter Popoff of IT. No matter how many times he gets exposed, he still manages to find someone who will give him air time. “Consultant” is a way of passing a bribe for an alleged service other than astroturf purpose and sometimes the astroturf starts before the payment, with flight tickets paid to also fly journalists to be brought to the brainwash and manufacture the required FUD [1, 2]. It is serious corruption that is systemic. This abuse of reporting is not without victims.

There is this new report about patent trolls and it starts as follows:

It’s tough to quantify which NPEs are the most feared, since many NPE’s simply threaten to sue companies, patent expert James Bessen told Business Insider.
The scariest NPEs, however, tend to be the ones with the biggest patent arsenals, Bessen said. Those companies typically also have the resources to file suit if they want.
With that in mind, BI ranked NPEs based on their number of patents and publicized patent applications as of July 2012 reported by PatentFreedom, a group that provides research for patent defendants.

[...]

What we know about the company: Inventors and patent owners hire Acacia to license their IP to corporations. Patent owners split the licensing revenue with Acacia.
Acacia says its licensees include Sony, Exxon, Microsoft, and other huge companies.

We wrote about Acacia for years and we covered most other trolls the author mentioned. Some of them are being used by practising companies to sue rivals without retribution — a fact which many overlook. Acacia recently hired yet another Microsoft executive. Will Hill wrote the other day: “Patent Extortionists get DOJ anti-trust attention? I have not looked into all the links to see what’s really going on but it would be nice.”

The FTC is missing the full picture by focusing on trolls alone, as standalone entities. Aside from patent trolls, companies like Microsoft also employ Internet trolls and astroturf professionals like Florian. There needs to be more coverage of that. Sure, it requires some investigating, but that’s what journalists are supposed to do.

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