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01.09.13

Links 9/1/2013: Mageia Moves Ahead, Fedora 18 Beta for ARM

Posted in News Roundup at 9:10 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Want to understand open source? Live with its developers

    Let’s say you want to understand what makes free and open source software (FOSS) so vital today—and what makes those who write it so committed to their difficult work. How would you do this? You might crack a few books on the cultural history of coding, like Levy’s Hackers or Markoff’s What the Dormouse Said, both pivotal explorations of the values that seem to guide open source programming (what we might call “the hacker ethic”). You might pore over the seminal tracts that give voice to these values—Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar or Stallman’s GNU Manifesto, perhaps. You might even peruse key documents from the projects themselves—maybe the Debian Social Contract or the Fedora Licensing Guidelines.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox OS finds a new way to app
      • Find out what’s new in Firefox 18

        Mozilla is currently in the process of releasing new versions of the Firefox web browser. Stable channel users will be moved from Firefox 17.0.1 to Firefox 18 via automatic updated if the browser has not not been configured otherwise. The new release is already on Mozilla’s ftp server but not on the main site which means that there is still a slim chance that it will be replaced by another version. Most of the time though that is not happening and if you are experiencing issues with Firefox 17.0.1 you may want to upgrade right away. Download portals such as Softpedia already list the new version for download on their sites.

      • Mozilla Firefox 18 Boosts Performance with IonMonkey

        Mozilla is out with its first Firefox release of 2013 today, accelerating the open source web browser with a new engine.

        Firefox 18 includes the IonMonkey JavaScript engine that Mozilla first started testing in September of 2012. IonMonkey can improve performance by as much as 25 percent for JavaScript heavy pages, by introducing an extra layer of JavaScript optimization known as intermediate representation (IR).

      • Firefox 18 Launches With Faster IonMonkey-Enabled JavaScript, Built-In PDF Viewer
      • Firefox 18 Features Major Update to JavaScript Engine: Ion Monkey

        On Tuesday, Mozilla pushed out version 18 of the Firefox browser. Unlike your average browser update, this one includes an overhauled JavaScript engine, Ion Monkey, which you can find complete details on here. Ion Monkey speeds up JavaScript tasks by translating them to intermediate representations, optimizing them, and then translating them to machine code. It should have a big impact on web apps, and also on games.

      • Mozilla Firefox 18 Boosts Performance with IonMonkey
  • Public Services/Government

    • Greek government asked to adapt enquiry form to accommodate open source

      Eel/lak, a Greek open source advocacy group wants the Greek administration to change one its enquiry forms, to accommodate users of free and open source software solutions. The form is used by the Greek government’s Financial and Economic Crime Unit when requesting companies and organisations to provide an inventory of their software licences along with the corresponding invoices.

    • Study Finds Free Trade With China Lowered American Manufacturing By 29.6 Percent

      Around 2001, the raw number of manufacturing jobs in the United States plummeted from just over 17 million to just over 14 million. After leveling off for a few years, it collapsed to around 11.5 million due to the Great Recession. It’s since seen a small rebound under President Obama’s tenure, but the continuing depression has put the long-term fate of manufacturing back on the national radar.

  • Openness/Sharing

  • Programming

Leftovers

  • Full Show: Ending the Silence on Climate Change
  • 1998’s most intriguing OS, 15 years later: Hands-on with Haiku alpha 4
  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • Does It Matter if John Brennan Was Complicit in Illegal Torture?

      In nominating John Brennan to head the CIA, President Obama has made it more urgent that the report be declassified. It is one of several sources that could help us to answer an important question: Are the American people being asked to entrust our clandestine spy agency and its killing and interrogation apparatuses to a man who was complicit in illegal torture?

    • New CIA boss plans to retire in Ireland once his term ends

      The new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hopes to retire to Ireland when his term is completed, his family have revealed.

      John Brennan, whose family come from Co Roscommon, was this week nominated by US President Barack Obama to lead the CIA. The former counter-terrorism adviser paid an unplanned visit to these shores last November when he visited his Irish relations.

    • ‘CIA turns into military force, targets countries it’s not at war with’
    • Was a Reporter’s Role in a Government Prosecution a Reason to Recuse Him?

      Some readers found fault with Mr. Shane’s writing of the story, given his involvement. One was James Savage, a former longtime investigations editor with The Miami Herald.

      [...]

      I’ve been writing recently about the debate over reportorial impartiality and its role in the truth-telling that makes journalism worthwhile. One crucial element when impartiality comes into question is transparency.

    • U.S. Spy Law Authorizes Mass Surveillance of European Citizens: Report

      Europeans, take note: The U.S. government has granted itself authority to secretly snoop on you.

      That’s according to a new report produced for the European Parliament, which has warned that a U.S. spy law renewed late last year authorizes “purely political surveillance on foreigners’ data” if it is stored using U.S. cloud services like those provided by Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

    • Excusing Torture, Again

      The neocon Washington Post let ex-CIA official Jose Rodriguez, who oversaw waterboarding and other torture and then destroyed the videotaped evidence, make his case that there was no torture, just effective interrogation that helped get Osama bin Laden. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern disagrees.

      [...]

      Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer in the early 60s and then served in CIA’s analysis division for 27 years.

    • Two Former US Officials Criticize Obama’s Counter-Productive Drone War

      The study concludes that the Obama administration has been “successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties” downward by counting all military-age males they kill as combatants. Civilian casualties are likely to be far higher than so far acknowledged, Boyle said, and government claims to the contrary are ”based on a highly selective and partial reading of the evidence.”

    • NSA Whistleblower Compares Case to CIA Officer Convicted of First Classified Leak

      On Sunday, New York Times journalist Scott Shane published a feature story on the Justice Department’s prosecution of John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer convicted of violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA) by revealing the name of an undercover officer. It was the first successful conviction of someone for a disclosure since President Barack Obama was elected president.

      Thomas Drake, a National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower who the Obama administration tried to prosecute for a “leak” until the case collapsed, joined me for a conversation about the parallels between his prosecution and Kiriakou’s prosecution.

    • Terror Tuesday: Impunity surges in New Year
    • The FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism

      Under J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI became a self-perpetuating myth-making machine carved out of Hoover’s battle against communism, organized crime, and his war on civil rights and anti-war activists (Cointelpro). Now, in the post-Hoover, post-9/11 period, the war on terrorism allows the myth making to continue.

    • War Profiteers Still Finishing First

      So who’s the fool? The outfit that turned its business of peddling useless propaganda to U.S. occupied countries onto America itself – by smearing journalists that dared criticize it – or the government that hired them for hundreds of millions in the first place?

    • Obama Administration Interrogating Terror Suspects Locked Up Abroad (Again)

      Remember rendition? Many people believe the practice of having terrorism suspects interrogated overseas was supposed to end when George W. Bush left office. But President Barack Obama said he’d end torture, not renditions—and last week, the Washington Post reported that they’re still happening. That’s true in some sense, but as Mother Jones and others have reported, the Obama administration’s use of foreign regimes to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects has avoided Bush-style renditions in favor of a different practice known as proxy detention.

    • Former Guantanamo Prosecutor to Speak about Torture and Intelligence

      Colonel Morris Davis, anti-torture and humanitarian law advocate, will speak about “Confronting Torture: How it Makes America Less Safe” on Thursday, Jan. 31, at 12 p.m. in Rm. 5042 at the UNC School of Law. The lecture — free and open to the public — is sponsored by The Immigration & Human Rights Policy Clinic at UNC School of Law.

    • 5 terrifying facts about John Brennan
    • The CIA’s Hypocrisy on Secrets

      On Thursday, ex-CIA deputy director Jose Rodriguez publicly protested that agents had only used water bottles when waterboarding detainees, not the buckets shown in Zero Dark Thirty. Disclosures like that must chafe John Kiriakou, the ex-agent facing 30 months in prison for passing info to a reporter. “The contrast points to the real threat to secrecy,” namely, the agency itself, author Ted Gup writes in the New York Times. “The CIA invokes secrecy to serve its interests, but abandons it to burnish its image and discredit critics.”

    • As Brennan Tapped for CIA, Case of Somali Detainees Highlights Obama’s Embrace of Secret Renditions
    • Obama names head of drone assassination program to lead CIA
    • Republican senator threatens to block Obama’s CIA nominee
    • Senator threatens to block CIA nominee
    • John Brennan Wrong for CIA, CODEPINK Says

      Once CODEPINK heard about the coming nomination, we decided to protest in front of the white house. Within just a couple of hours banners were made, the press was called, and other CODEPINKers were alerted.

    • Secret Double Standard

      The contrast points to the real threat to secrecy, which comes not from the likes of Mr. Kiriakou but from the agency itself. The C.I.A. invokes secrecy to serve its interests but abandons it to burnish its image and discredit critics.

      Over the years, I have interviewed many active and retired C.I.A. personnel who were not authorized to speak with me; they included heads of the agency’s clandestine service, analysts and well over 100 case officers, including station chiefs. Five former directors of central intelligence have spoken to me, mostly “on background.” Not one of these interviewees, to my knowledge, was taken to the woodshed, though our discussions invariably touched on classified territory.

    • Kuwaiti police tear-gas opposition protesters

      Kuwaiti riot police on Sunday fired tear gas and stun grenades at hundreds of opposition protesters who demanded that the new parliament be dissolved and controversial electoral legislation be scrapped.

      Police arrested several protesters including Osama al-Shaheen, a member of the previous opposition-dominated parliament, as they chased demonstrators through a residential area south of the capital, Kuwait City.

    • US drones killed 25 in a single day

      As usual, all of the casualties were claimed to be militants. But a recent study by one of President Obama’s former counter-terrorism advisors concludes the administration has been “successful in spinning the number of civilian casualties” downward by counting all military-age males they kill as combatants.

    • DRONES DRAW MORE CONTROVERSY AS BERKELEY TRIES TO KEEP THEM OUT OF THEIR SKIES
    • Why You Won’t Hear About Drones at John Brennan’s Confirmation Hearing

      Alas, don’t hold your breath. The hearings will be run by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who is slated to remain chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Despite leaking information regarding covert drone strikes in Pakistan, the senator strongly endorses targeted killings — and, more generally, executive branch secrecy– and will assuredly place strict limits on the discussion of drones in open session. Although drones and targeted killings were never raised in the confirmation hearings for previous CIA directors Michael Hayden or Leon Panetta, they were during successor David Petraeus’ testimony in June 2011. See below for the brief exchange between Senator Roy Blunt and Petraeus (where you read “(CROSSTALK)” that is Feinstein trying to interrupt the discussion.) Do not expect much more from John Brennan’s confirmation hearing.

    • nnan Needs to Correct the Record on Dro
    • Czar of the Drones

      …both boys were instantly vaporized—only a few chunks of flesh remained.

  • Cablegate

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

  • Finance

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • What Will Scott Walker Lift from the ALEC Agenda in 2013?

      Wisconsin’s 2011-2012 legislative session saw the introduction of 32 bills or budget provisions reflecting American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model legislation — including Governor Scott Walker’s contentious attack on public sector collective bargaining, voter ID legislation, and bills that make it harder for Americans to hold corporations accountable when their products injure or kill — and 19 of those proposals became law.

  • Censorship

  • Privacy

  • Civil Rights

    • Secrecy and National Security Whistleblowing

      In the “national security” area of the government–the White House, the departments of state and defense, the armed services and the “intelligence community,” along with their contractors–there is less whistleblowing than in other departments of the executive branch or in private corporations. This despite the frequency of misguided practices and policies within these particular agencies that are both more well-concealed and more catastrophic than elsewhere, and thus even more needful of unauthorized exposure.

      The mystique of secrecy in the universe of national security, even beyond the formal apparatus of classification and clearances, is a compelling deterrent to whistleblowing and thus to effective resistance to gravely wrongful or dangerous policies. In this realm, telling secrets appears unpatriotic, even traitorous. That reflects the general presumption–even though it is very commonly false–that the secrecy is aimed not at domestic, bureaucratic or political rivals or the American public but at foreign, powerful enemies, and that breaching it exposes the country, its people and its troops to danger.

    • Student Loses Lawsuit Challenging Texas School’s RFID Tracking Program

      A Texas public school district’s controversial pilot program to keep track of its students on campus with Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips has survived a legal challenge in federal court. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia dismissed a request for a preliminary injunction from Andrea Hernandez, a sophomore at John Jay High School in San Antonio who refused to wear the school’s ID cards on religious grounds.

    • Student Suspended for Refusing to Wear RFID Tracker Loses Lawsuit
    • As Criminal Laws Proliferate, More Are Ensnared

      Eddie Leroy Anderson of Craigmont, Idaho, is a retired logger, a former science teacher and now a federal criminal thanks to his arrowhead-collecting hobby.

    • Minn. driver’s license data snoopers are difficult to track

      Driver’s license info is readily accessible, but finding out who’s checking it out is not easy. Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek challenges state to justify its secrecy.

    • John Brennan pick revives leaks dispute
    • On Civil Liberties, John Brennan Is No Worse Than Barack Obama

      Four years ago, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan withdrew his name from consideration to run the Central Intelligence Agency. On Monday, President Barack Obama announced Brennan was his pick for the job, following the resignation of David Petraeus over an extramarital affair.

    • War Powers Reversal

      Perhaps the greatest irony of the Obama Presidency is how much it has vindicated the antiterror strategy of its predecessor. The latest example is President Obama’s vexed statement in signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013.

    • China: Fully Abolish Re-Education Through Labor

      The Chinese government’s announcement today that it will sometime this year “stop using” the notorious Re-Education Through Labor (RTL) system is a rare positive response to the system’s growing unpopularity, Human Rights Watch said today. While suspending use of RTL would be an important step, the government should aspire to fully abolish the RTL system.

    • Paying a high price for cheap fashion

      Young women are mistreated in some Indian textile factories in the Tamil Nadu state. German companies are among those who work with factories in that region. But there is no obligation to disclose the commodity chain.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • Response to Nominet direct.uk consultation

      Our response offers general comments on the proposals set out in the consultation document, rather than addressing the consultation questions specifically.

      We understand the interest in improving security online, and the consequent benefits for the confidence people have in online encounters.

      However, we do not believe that the proposed solution fits the problem. It is unclear that a .uk domain is the answer to the problems identified in the consultation document. We believe there are better ways to address a need to improve security and consequently help boost the confidence people have in online transactions.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Trademarks

      • The Google Shortcut to Trademark Law

        The strength of a trademark — the extent to which consumers view the mark as identifying a particular source — is difficult to evaluate in practice. Assessments of “inherent distinctiveness” are highly subjective, survey evidence is expensive and unreliable, and other “commercial strength” factors such as advertising spending are poor proxies for consumer perceptions. Courts often fall back on heuristics and intuition rather than precise logical analysis.

    • Copyrights

      • RapidShare: Traffic and Piracy Dipped After New Business Model Kicked In

        Under continued pressure to take additional anti-piracy measures, file-hosting site RapidShare introduced a new business strategy last year. The model restricted the ability of all users to engage in third party public distribution, the most popular way of sharing copyrighted material. As a result the company experienced a significant drop in traffic and, according to a spokesman, a significant drop in copyright infringement too.

      • The Problem of “International Orphan Works” (Guest Blog Post)

        The U.S. Copyright Office recently extended the deadline by which the public may submit comments on issues related to orphan works until February 4, 2013. The Office is gathering suggestions for shaping future U.S. legislation and taking other actions to address the issues of works whose copyright has not expired, yet the owner of the copyright cannot be identified or located. However, legislating on orphan works at the national level cannot solve an important problem: the problem of establishing the status of an orphan work internationally. The solution to this problem is crucially important for anyone hoping to use orphan works on the internet – particularly entities that are among the most active lobbyists for orphan works legislation.

      • Anti-Piracy Company Seeks Patent On Automated Copyright Trolling

Microsoft-fed Patent Aggressors and Lobbyists Make Free Illegal

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, RAND at 8:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Freedom is not a crime

GNU father

Summary: How patent parasites and parasitical legislation make free platforms and services a violation of patent law, even in places where software patents are not legal

The Microsoft- and Nokia-armed Vringo (like MOSAID) is still attacking Google with software patents. Daniel Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation, says: “I’ve written previously about the Vringo (VRNG) v Google (GOOG) patent infringement case, where the jury awarded Vringo’s I/P Engine affiliate a mere $31M, which was a small fraction of the $493M it asked the jury to award. The litigation appears highly material to Vringo’s valuation, currently around $250M, as some suggest it could provide future royalties for Vringo from Google of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

What companies with Microsoft ties are doing is, they try to elevate the cost of free products from Google, in the form of flat-rate tax, technically akin to FRAND. Speaking of which, FRAND is a backdoor route for software patents in Europe, putting aside other back doors that crooked politicians promote. Microsoft lobbying, usually through proxies like BSA and ACT, is succeeding at bringing FRAND to Europe. The President of the OSI writes:

The final report from a European Commission meeting designed to whitewash patents in standards may prove a helpful marker for watchful eyes looking out for abuse.

The writer, Phipps, is a Brit, just like Glyn Moody who pointed to this. It sure looks concerning that Europe is getting two backdoors for software patenting in such a short period of time.

“There’s no company called Linux, there’s barely a Linux road map. Yet Linux sort of springs organically from the earth. And it had, you know, the characteristics of communism that people love so very, very much about it. That is, it’s free.”

Steve Ballmer

Novell Board Sued for Selling Out

Posted in Novell, Patents at 7:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novell logo bitten

Summary: The irrational dealings of Novell bring belated legal wrath

We hardly cover Novell anymore. The company is history. But just as WordPerfect keeps Novell at present, so does the Attachmate sellout, which Pamela Jones says will haul back the perpetrators. Hovsepian left and moved elsewhere, but his sellout might not go unpunished:

If you thought the deal smelled funny back in 2011 when Novell sold itself to Attachmate and its patents to a Microsoft consortium, you are not alone. Some shareholders — the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System, Operating Engineers Construction Industry and Miscellaneous Pension Fund, and Robert Norman — sued.
The named defendants, Novell’s Board, Attachmate and Elliott Associates, all moved to dismiss on summary judgment. Attachmate and Elliott succeeded and get to waltz away, but Novell’s board is left on the hook will have go to trial on the shareholders’ claim that the board breached its fiduciary duty, acting in bad faith, a Delaware Court of Chancery judge has ruled [PDF]. I have it as text for you.

Specifically, they claim that Novell favored Attachmate over other bidders, especially a “Party C”, and the judge, under Delaware’s reasonable ‘conceivability’ standard, denied summary judment with respect to the board and decided there will need to be a trial.

“Party C, a private equity firm” ended up with Attachmate at the end of negotiations as the two bidders still standing. Party C actually bid a bit higher than Attachmate. But the allegation is that Attachmate was favored with information that Party C was not given, such as a bid by a Microsoft consortium to buy Novell’s patents, and various other maneuvers that ensured the Attachmate deal prevailed. After Microsoft stepped in with an offer to buy the patents, Attachmate’s deal was better than Party C’s. But, the judge points out, if Novell had told Party C about the offer, it logically might have offered more to match or exceed Attachmate’s bid…

Here’s some background:

As 2010 ended, everyone was digesting the news of Novell’s acquisition by Attachmate, valued at more than $2 billion, and would soon digest the news that Microsoft was acquiring many of Novell’s patents. There were many people who noted that all the signs were there that Novell wouldn’t be sustainable as an independent company. Still, as Groklaw confirms, in 2011 a group of shareholders found the deal to “smell funny” and filed suit. And now, after all this time, the Novell board has to go to trial to address the claims.

Don’t forget the monkey business.

Latest Case of Microsoft Using Hardware Companies to Block GNU/Linux Coincides With Denying Previous Such Case

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Vista 8 at 7:14 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Evidence of chip-level offences (using silicon to block Linux) fading away

Circuit

Summary: Microsoft’s use of discriminatory and potentially illegal contracts to stop GNU and Linux at OEM level

GNU and Linux benefit from the failure of Vista 8, but UEFI makes it hard to boot Linux, as we last noted yesterday in a guest post about this news. A new article from the Indian press covers this problem:

Microsoft’s brand new version of its flagship product, the Windows operating system, has pitted it once again against Linux users who have had a longstanding battle with the giant. The Linux community has been particularly offended by the operating system’s Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI), or popularly known as Secure Boot.

The GNU Linux community’s fundamental objection to the feature is that it amounts to collusion between Microsoft and hardware manufacturers to lock users, depriving them of the freedom to install other operating systems in a Windows environment. They were later mollified by Microsoft’s clarifications that there will be a ‘Secure Boot-disable’ option on PC’s shipping with Windows 8. Although this option would have allowed installation of multiple operating systems, it is still arduous on Secure Boot machines.

[...]

A blog post on Free Software Foundation website reads, “When done correctly, Secure Boot is designed to protect against malware by preventing computers from loading unauthorised binary programs when booting.” In the case of the Microsoft implementation, it hasn’t been done correctly. Making the apprehensions of Free Software crowd come true, Microsoft has now made it mandatory for ARM-based devices to have “Secure Boot” on, without an option to disable it. This means ARM-based devices certified for Windows do not have the option of booting into another operating system (unless the operating system in question is also certified by Microsoft).

Here is a new suggestion for a workaround:

TLWIR 52: Secure Boot Reveals the Need for a GNU/Linux Reference System

[...]

Perhaps the reference devices could be named once per year to give manufacturers a year to compete, develop, and deliver their new reference candidates. The reference candidates that did not get picked would probably still be great choices for people building new GNU/Linux systems. Some hardware manufacturers would get angry, but their only recourse would be to get better at supporting GNU/Linux, or risk becoming obsolete in the GNU/Linux community. The confusion around Secure Boot would go away: anyone could be certain that they would have no problems at all with a reference system. The reference system would provide a system 100% guaranteed to work with no problems at all.

More outrageous than that is the revisionism we see in the press. Charles Arthur from the Bill Gates-funded Guardian chooses to eliminate from history a previous anticompetitive tactic from Microsoft, where companies behind netbooks were encouraged to prevent GNU and Linux from spreading. Pamela Jones called Arthur’s piece “hilarious rewrite of history.” She explains: “Microsoft saw Linux on netbooks as a threat, and it deliberately set out to kill Linux on netbooks by requiring vendors to follow their specs, which blunted the Linux benefits. (“‘Microsoft would like the netbook to go away and be replaced by lightweight laptops — ones with long battery life that cost enough to justify running full Windows on them,’ he said. Helm added that Microsoft is trying to discourage the production of inexpensive computers where Windows becomes the most expensive component because it can’t make as much money on Windows on these devices, and they could drive down the price of Windows.”) There were also reports of arm-twisting vendors to drop Linux and the typical ugly Microsoft FUD.”

USPTO Antagonises Change, Apple Continues to Lean on Patents and Trademarks

Posted in Apple, Intellectual Monopoly, Patents at 6:57 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Lawsuits map

Summary: Apple uses the protectionists’ office — a monopoly henhouse guarded by wolves — to ban competition at home and away

At the USPTO it's all about quantity (money or monopoly on words and ideas), so no plans of reform are sincere. The USPTO offers fake choice on the subject of software patents and a debate in Slashdot shows FOSS-oriented comments. The debates are rigged by design from the get-go. Now, some columnists downplay the view that software patents should just be dumped while others put out there the news about consultation from developers:

The world of software patents is a strange, confusing, inefficient place. There’s a pretty serious question as to whether or not software patents should really even exist. Now, the USPTO is making moves to at least step in a better direction by calling out to software developers anywhere and everywhere for advice on fixing the whole thing up.

The call for advice will take the form of two round table events in February, one in Silicon Valley, the other in New York City. Seats are limited but pretty much any developer can attend if they RSVP by email and include some credentials. The events will also be webcast, and any developers/spectators who can’t/don’t want to attend can also just send in written comments.

Remember that they are allowed to debate software patent “quality”, not abandonment. So the panel omits the view that many if not most developers hold. Here is another article:

The United States Patent and Trademark Office is seeking input from the software industry about the performance of the patent system. A pair of February “roundtable” events—one in Silicon Valley and the other in New York City—will give members of the public an opportunity to comment on how to improve the quality of “software-related patents.”

“Each roundtable event will provide a forum for an informal and interactive discussion of topics relating to patents that are particularly relevant to the software community,” according to a notice in the Federal Register. “While public attendees will have the opportunity to provide their individual input, group consensus advice will not be sought.”

How many people — if any — will speak for the view that software patents must all go away? Watch what patents are doing for Apple against Linux:

Apple was supposed to have won big in the suit against Samsung in a massive series of claims of patent infringement. This was the apparent result of a jury verdict last August in which there were charges of attorney misconduct, juror misconduct and trial errors before the ink was dry on the decision.

But a few weeks later, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) invalidated one of the key patents that Apple used to win its case. This is the patent in which a menu or other screen item will bounce back if it’s scrolled past the end.

According to Wired, Tim O’Reilly, seemingly a software patents opposer who likes Apple, says about Apple that “They’re clearly on the wrong path. They file patent suits that claim that nobody else can make a device with multitouch. But they didn’t invent multitouch. They just pushed the ball forward and applied it to the phone. Now they want to say, “OK, we got value from someone else, but it stops now.” That attitude creates lockup in the industry. And I think Apple is going to lose its mojo precisely because they try to own too much.”

Apple’s patent strategy goes ahead and trademark confrontation too is at the core of this branding company:

A California judge says Apple can’t bring up false advertising claims against Amazon in a case between the two companies.

The problem is not trademarks per se but particular trademarks which go too far (broad, not narrow). With Kindle Fire, Amazon has become a major rival to Apple. It’s not just the digital stores. Apple continues to rely on monopolies in shoring up its badgeware. Apple’s main competition is Android/Linux now.

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