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Links 19/1/2013: Aaron Swartz-Bradley Manning/Wikileaks Link Publicised

Posted in News Roundup at 12:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish



Free Software/Open Source

  • MobileDevHQ’s Ian Sefferman: So You Built an App – Now What?

    “Our starting point was obviously all open source. Our main framework was Ruby on Rails. We do a lot of processing in Hadoop. We are standing on the shoulders of giants here. Wherever we can find little bits and pieces that are easy for us to open source and do fixes that we can put back, we are happy to do it,” said Ian Sefferman, CEO of MobileDevHQ.

  • Vert.x’s journey teaches invaluable governance lessons

    As the Vert.x community selects its future home, it offers a fascinating illustration of the role of governance

  • SmartFile Announces Open Source App Contest for Indiana College Students
  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox’s Move To a Rapid Release Cycle Didn’t Just Upset Users

        Purportedly, one of the best lessons in software development to have come from the open source movement is the rapid release cycle, and partly because the Google Chrome browser was benefiting from rapid releases, in February of 2011, Mozilla announced that it was moving the Firefox browser to a rapid release cycle. As you can see if you look at the comments on this OStatic post from April of 2011, not every user of Firefox was pleased with the arrangement, due to performance problems that were showing up in the browser.

      • Firefox 18.0.1 coming soon

        Critics of the Firefox web browser might say that Mozilla never gets it right the first time and base that assumption on the version updates the company releases shortly after Firefox moves to a new version.It happened several times in the past that Mozilla had to release an update after releasing a new version of the browser, and it appears that this streak won’t break with the release of Firefox 18.0

      • Silent installs of add-ons still possible in Firefox

        A security researcher has demonstrated how it is still possible to silently install extensions, or as Mozilla calls them add-ons, for the open source Firefox web browser. In a blog post, Julian Sobrier of ZScaler detailed the process, which makes use of the fact that Firefox uses an Sqlite3 database to maintain information about which add-ons are installed and, of those, which ones have been approved by the user.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • OpenOffice Writer English Grammar Checkers

      If you wish there was an English grammar checker for OpenOffice Writer, you’re in luck. Two popular extensions let you add an English grammar check to OpenOffice for free.

  • CMS

    • 10 free Drupal modules that make development easier

      When it comes to open-source content management systems, Drupal really stands apart from Joomla and WordPress, its closest competitors, for several reasons.

      The payoff for using Drupal is the development of very tightly configured sites that perform well and scale excellently. This is why many developers are willing to put up with its idiosyncrasies.

  • Education

  • Business


    • FSF

      Internet Freedom Day isn’t just about celebrating; it’s about action:

      * A free Internet needs free JavaScript: You can help by installing the LibreJS plugin.
      * Join millions of others in the actions at InternetFreedomDay.net.
      * Internet activist Aaron Swartz was a leader in the SOPA/PIPA protest. Watch and share this video:

    • GNU Press now selling GNU/Linux Inside stickers!

      By popular demand, we are now selling the GNU/Linux Inside sticker pack. For $15, you receive 10 GNU/Linux stickers. Because these stickers are high-quality and durable, they won’t fade away or scratch off your computer, making it the ideal way to rep your use of free software!

    • GCC 4.8 Improves Its Runtime Library (libstdc++)
  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Access/Content

      • Mathematicians aim to take publishers out of publishing

        Episciences Project to launch series of community-run, open-access journals.

      • The Growing Adoption of Creative Commons Textbooks

        Cable Green doesn’t have to look very far to find an example of an education system weighed down by what he considers a bloated and inefficient textbook industry. The director of global learning for Creative Commons simply points to his home state of Washington. “My state spends $130 million per year buying textbooks,” he says. “We only have a million public school kids in the state, so we’re spending $130 per kid per year.” Because each book is expected to last half a decade, the kids aren’t permitted to keep them or write in them. The books are only available in one format, paper, and are sometimes seven to 10 years out of date. If one of Green’s kids loses a textbook, as a parent Green is expected to fork over the money to replace it.

    • Open Hardware

  • Programming


  • Security

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

  • Cablegate

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Japan to start building world’s biggest offshore wind farm this summer
    • Fracking Industry Goes After Promised Land Film

      The film chronicles the story of a gas industry salesman, played by Matt Damon, and his attempt to convince the residents of a rural Pennsylvania town to agree to fracking development. The questions raised by actors in the film mirror the debates taking place in communities across the country. What type of chemicals are used in fracking? What is the effect of fracking on air and water? While the industry may make a few struggling families rich, what is the cost for the community as a whole?

  • Finance

    • 20 Infamous Quotes That Wall Street Wishes Were Never Made Public
    • Ex-treasurer of Spain’s PP had €22m in Swiss bank

      The beleaguered government of Mariano Rajoy has been embarrassed by revelations that its party’s former treasurer had a bank account in Switzerland containing up to €22 million.

      Luis Bárcenas held the treasury post in the conservative Partido Popular (PP) from 2008 until 2009, when he resigned because of an investigation into his part in a massive fraud network. He stepped down from the party in 2010. The inquiry into that case continues and information a Spanish judge has requested from Swiss authorities shows details of an account held under the politician’s name which coincides with the time he was managing the PP’s finances.

    • What Is Goldman Sachs?

      …it derives about half of its income from things that many people would consider trading.

    • Finland: A nation in debt

      People in the 25–34 year-old age group carry the heaviest home mortgage burden.

      Sixty percent of all households owe money to the bank, with home loans accounting for 70 percent of this debt.

      Those in their thirties are the most saddled by debt, with 119,000 euros being the average amount owed. On the other hand, half of young families are debt-free, according to the statisticians.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

  • Privacy

  • Civil Rights

    • Naked-Image Scanners to Be Removed From U.S. Airports

      The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • European Commission Backtracks On Net Neutrality

      European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has stated that it should be up to ISPs to decide how they manage their traffic, essentially admitting that Net Neutrality wouldn’t become part of EU legislation.

      Without appropriate laws, network operators will be able to offer cheaper, ‘tiered’ Internet connections with limited capabilities, alongside full strength Internet services. Before taking responsibility for the EU Digital Agenda, Kroes insisted that ISPs should be regulated in order to ensure that companies are not limiting access to online content “out of commercial motivation”, but critics say she has now backtracked.

    • Internet and filtering applications: a tale of choice and revenues

      That does not mean more pages to your 100-page contract! The Commission has been encouraging the advertising industry to ensure users get a clear choice about cookies, based on short, digestible information. The Commission is also working with a wider set of online actors to develop a “Do Not track” standard, so that consumers who make this choice can be sure it is respected.

      On net neutrality, consumers need effective choice on the type of internet subscription they sign up to. That means real clarity, in non-technical language. About effective speeds in normal conditions, and about any restrictions imposed on traffic – and a realistic option to switch to a “full” service, without such restrictions, offered by their own provider or another. Ensuring consumer choice can mean constraints on others – in this case, an obligation for all internet service providers to offer an accessible “full” option to their customers. But such choice should also drive innovation and investment by internet providers, with benefits for all. I am preparing a Commission initiative to secure this effective consumer choice in Europe.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • A time for silence

        I hate my perpetual optimism about our government. Aaron was buried on the tenth anniversary of the time that optimism bit me hardest — Eldred v. Ashcroft. But how many other examples are there, and why don’t I ever learn? The dumbest-fucking-naive-allegedly-smart person you will ever know: that guy thought this tragedy would at least shake for one second the facade of certainty that is our government, and allow at least a tiny light of recognition to shine through, and in that tiny ray, maybe a question, a pause, a moment of “ok, we need to look at this carefully.” I wasn’t dumb enough to believe that Ortiz could achieve the grace of Reif. But the single gift I wanted was at least a clumsy, hesitating, “we’re going to look at this carefully, and think about whether mistakes might have been made.”

      • ‘I Have a Dream’ Posted in Defiance of Copyright for Internet Freedom Day

        As Friday is one year since the Internet blackout against the Stop Online Piracy Act, some Internet activists are marking the date by declaring “Internet Freedom Day.”

      • Ahimsa: Sita Sings The Blues Now CC-0 ‘Public Domain’

        A few years ago I started thinking about taking a vow of non-violence: a commitment to never sue anyone over Knowledge (or Culture, Cultural Works, Art, Intellectual Pooperty, whatever you call it). Copyright law is hopelessly broken; indeed, the Law in the US is broken all over the place. Why would I resort to the same broken law to try to fix abuses that occur within it?

      • Kim Dotcom on Mega, Hollywood, the internet and copyright enforcement – video
      • Senator John Cornyn Asks Eric Holder To Explain DOJ Prosecution Of Aaron Swartz

        While we’ve seen some politicians in Congress speak out about the prosecution against Aaron Swartz, for the most part, it had been the “usual crew” of folks who had formed the core of the anti-SOPA alliance — Reps. Lofgren, Issa and Polis. That’s great, but it also made it unfortunately easy for some to dismiss their complaints. However, it appears that this may be getting bigger.

      • The Six Week Delay in the Swartz Investigation

        As I noted, the same day that Aaron Swartz resubmitted his FOIA on Bradley Manning’s treatment, the Secret Service got a warrant to search most of the hardware captured on the day he was arrested (a USB on his person and a laptop and hard drive found elsewhere on MIT’s campus), as well as his home (and they subsequently got a warrant to search his office at Harvard).

      • Was Aaron Swartz’ Effort to FOIA Bradley Manning’s Treatment Why DOJ Treated Him So Harshly?

        I have shown earlier how, during the period when the Grand Jury was investigating Swartz, Swartz was FOIAing stuff that the prosecutor seems to have subpoeaned as part of a fishing expedition into Swartz. I have also shown that a FOIA response he got in January 2011 suggests he may have been discussed in a (presumably different) grand jury investigation between October 8 and December 10, 2010. And Jason Leopold has also pointed to some interesting coincidences in Swartz’ FOIAs.

      • The Prosecution of Aaron: A Response to Orin Kerr

        He had co-written a basic RSS spec the year before, when he was 14. He was to go on to play a fundamental role in Creative Commons. When you now search for stuff online, using its legal status as a search prerequisite, not just a text query (Physics textbook, available to use or share, even commercially) you are doing something that Aaron’s volunteer work helped to enable. People talk of him now as some kind of Data Liberation activist, which he certainly was, but principally he was and is one of the great architects of the commons, a builder, as Dave Weinberger stresses, not just a hacker — though hacker, of course, is actually a name that programmers wear with pride. The guy who invented the World Wide Web had this to say about him. “Aaron dead. World wanderers, we have lost a wise elder. Hackers for right, we are one down. Parents all, we have lost a child. Let us weep.”

      • Aaron Swartz
      • Hacktivism: Civil disobedience or cyber crime?

All Your Rectangles Are Not Apple’s

Posted in Apple, Patents at 6:07 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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

Summary: Apple fails to guard insane monopolies on shapes and basic geometry — patents which it has used to ban Linux-powered and Open Source products

Lisa Shuchman says that “Design Patent Suits Becoming Less Prevalent in U.S. Courts”, but Apple, which gets knocked down by analysts as it cancels orders (Android eats its lunch), continues betting on design patents.

Apple patents boosters brag about new ones [1, 2] while another court kicks Apple the curb on this one. A Dutch-English version of this early report says:

The Galaxy Tab 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1 of Samsung do not infringe on Apple’s tablet design, the Hague court judges now in the main proceedings. Het kort geding ligt al bij de Hoge Raad. The lawsuit is already at the Supreme Court.

Samsung behaalt andermaal een overwinning in een juridisch gevecht met Apple om het uiterlijk van zijn tablets. Samsung achieves a further victory in a legal battle with Apple to change the look of his tablets. De Galaxy Tab 7.7, 8.9 en 10.1 vallen niet onder de beschermingsomvang van het Gemeenschapsmodel van Apple, een serie schetsen van een rechthoekig device uit 2004. The Galaxy Tab 7.7, 8.9 and 10.1 are not covered by the scope of the Community design from Apple, a series of sketches of a rectangular device in 2004. Dat oordeelt de Haagse rechtbank in een bodemprocedure die door Samsung was aangespannen. That considers the Hague court in proceedings by Samsung was filed.

Later came some reports in English. We have already explained why we prefer not to cite English-speaking press and courts, where it is common to assume Asian designs are borderline ripoffs at best.

Speaking of Apple, it was rumoured to be interested in buying the patent portfolio of Kodak, which had sued Apple for patent violations. Kodak is being compared to Openwave by Christine Hall, who writes:

While there’s been a feeding frenzy at Kodak, with a group of tech’s heavy hitters grabbing patents at fire sale prices, Ericsson has been busy making a deal with a troll to do their dirty work for them.

In the later case, the troll is Unwired Planet, a company that at one time, as Openwave Systems, was a major player in the mobile software world, credited with pioneering the Mobile Internet and being the original developer of HDML, a precursor to WML. Nowdays it appears as if the company has morphed into troll territory, having shed itself of most, if not all, of its software offerings to concentrate on licensing and enforcement of its portfolio of patents.

Patent trolls have a good chance at winning cases because no deterrence in the form of countersuit will ever be brought against them. They have no products. That’s why Microsoft, for example, likes arming patent trolls. Microsoft folks even created the world’s biggest patent troll.

New Fights Against Software Patents Around the World

Posted in America, Europe, Patents at 5:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A roundup of patent news from Europe, the US, and some other places which suddenly let software patents be

Hartmut Pilch, the habitually-involved founder of the FFII, writes in his blog about the group's latest action which strives to tackle software patents in Europe one patent at a time, as a matter of making a point or precedence perhaps.

Meanwhile, the patent has been revoked. The Opposition Division revoked it for the second time. In 2007 it had already revoked this patent, which had been granted in 2003 and filed in 1998. However the Technical Board of Appeal (TBA) revived the patent and remitted it to the Opposition Division, alleging that the Opposition Division had failed to prove that the feature of simplification to a “single action” (one click) was not novel. In today’s hearing, the Opposition Division considered this feature novel. Moreover it also considered novel the process of ordering a gift for a friend without fully disclosing his address. However the Opposition Division doubted, whether the combination of these two features could be considered an “inventive step”.

Defining what makes a software patent is a legitimate debate, unlike what makes “good” software patents. Amazon is doing badly based on grounds of triviality, prior art, and lack of software patenting in the case of Europe. It ought to make this patent quite easy a target for the FFII.

Meanwhile in the United States, the USPTO enjoys protections from corporations and government (virtually the same under corporocracy) and one notable lawyer who is a product of this system advocates yet more patent monopolies, saying that “Patents Boost American Prosperity” (maybe for lawyers). The idea that academia, for instance, would stop innovating if no patents were offered is totally ridiculous. Masnick’s Web site is dismantling the arguments one by one, concluding:

Yes, we agree that innovation holds the key to future prosperity. The problem is that there is no evidence that the patent system actually increases that innovation, and a ridiculous amount of evidence that it does exactly the opposite. It retards innovation, diverting money from actual innovations that hit the market, to lawyers. The costs associated with the patent system far outweigh any benefits. Could you craft a functioning patent system? Perhaps, but today’s system is not it, and if Judge Michel ever spent time with actual innovators who were the victims of patent trolling, he might learn something. But, you know, that would offend his patent lawyer and patent troll buddies.

More patents boosters, again in the form of patent lawyers, debate the scope of patents:

The chart above shows the percentage of published non-provisional patent applications that include the term “means for” at least once in the claimset. Although not the only way of doing so, “means for” is traditionally used by patent attorneys to invoke the doctrine known as means-plus-function claiming allowed under 35 U.S.C. 112p6. [Soon to be renumbered 35 U.S.C. 112(f)]. As the chart shows, the percentage of applications that include at least one means-plus-function term is well under 10% and seemingly in continued decline. A decade ago, about 1/4 of all applications included this type of claim.

At the legal site Groklaw, Pamela Jones responds with: “So topic one the USPTO asks us to address covers “well under 10%” of the applications for patents. Of course.”

Well, the USPTO likes to focus on rigged debates which hardly address the real questions, as we have explained before. Those are easy to find. It’s either a stacked panel, a push polling-like tactic (dancing around distraction and disinformation), or both.

We are rather troubled to see patents on software getting granted in countries that fought them: South Africa, Israel, and New Zealand. See this press release:

Publishing Data Management announced today that five international patents have been granted for the software engine that drives ProofPlus, its trademarked Financial Compliance and Electronic Document system. Patents have been issued in Israel, Russia, New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa and are pending in China, Europe and additional countries. This announcement underscores the significant commitment a company must undertake to protect its inventive efforts in today’s global marketplace.

Europe is not a “country” actually, not even with the unitary patent [1, 2]. Either way, let us hope that multinationals’ pressure (clients of patents lawyers) to make software patentable won’t spread outside of the United States where, in my humble opinion, corporations already have far too much power over the authorities. Imperialism by corporations never-endingly strives to expand for increased profit. It’s governments’ job to place boundaries and represent people, the digital majority

Corporocracy map

“Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.”

Richard Stallman

Vista 8 is Dying With the Desktop Based on More Data Points, Security Issues Persist

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Vista 8, Windows at 5:33 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Vista 8 logo
Graphics by Will

Summary: The walware magnet which is Windows is on its way out, giving way to Apple as the arguably greater threat to computing freedom

Richi Jennings, ComputerWorld (IDG) accumulator of news, shows this review or overview of negative Vista 8 news. It is quite telling that even Microsoft boosters can hardly deny the undeniable in IDG. Reuters published a review by John C. Abell, a blogger who says about Microsoft Surface:

The promise of the Surface, and hybrids in general, is that they can credibly replace both a laptop and a tablet. Surface disappoints as either.

One person whom I follow in Diaspora wrote:

#Windows8 will further Balkanize the PC.

I used to think Windows 8 would kill the PC, in the sense that devices running #Android would never really claim the title but nonetheless take over all of its functions, but for the time being at least, it looks a lot like the stupid turf wars of the internet are moving to the hardware space, and for a while at least, it’s going to be mostly bad news for free software:

As with #apple devices, #microsoft devices will become walled off and hostile to #linux. #Android won’t be as hostile, but the user experience on an Android machine turned into a GNU/Linux one will be pretty similar to dual-boot today. Users will have to choose if they want to be brand-affiliated to Microsoft, Google, or Apple.

And none of them will be terribly Linux-friendly.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom, in fact, there are some reasons to be very hopeful about this landscape:

First, ALL of these devices are getting cheaper. Microsoft desperately wants to start getting people buying thousand-dollar tablets that run Office, but the smart money is on the sub-$200 tablets, and below. As computing resources get cheaper, experimenting on them feels like less of a risk. Additionally, licensing costs start eating a bigger and bigger share of a shrinking pie.

Second, users are getting sick of stupid turf wars. Even the normal people. Users who thought of Linux as “too hard” also enjoyed the freedom Windows used to offer (compared to the concrete-walled garden of Apple’s operating systems) will have a lot of reason to give free software a try. (This was after all a significant factor in my own slide away from Windows.)

Third, operating systems do less, and browsers do more these days. The very fact that I’m posting this to Diaspora is proof that social networks are a problem, but it’s also proof that the solution isn’t necessarily to pull everything back down into the client. With less of the need-to-have functionality on the client, Linux has a lot less work to do to become “good enough tech”.

Tactically speaking, all this says free software users and advocates should: * Avoid hardware that has bad deals baked into the ROM (UEFI, etc) * Develop cool things on #Android, or better yet on #Linux ARM devices. * Set our parents and grandparents up with a clean linux distro when they throw their hands up at Windows 8 * And as always, welcome rather than agitate.

I’m just saying.

He correctly name Apple as a threat to watch out for. Microsoft is irrelevant in mobile and it even needs to beg developers to give its mobile platform attention:

Despite the usual Microsoft PR, Windows Phone (and infact) many of Microsoft’s many “new ideas”, have been met with apathy from the consumer. Windows Phone has found itself in a catch-22 I believe where the consumer wants the apps and the devs wont come and make the apps they want until they are Windows Phone users. That in addition to the image of Microsoft in the eyes of the mainstream consumer all leads to apathy at best.

Watch this pathetic move. Why would people bother with a mobile platform which has blue screens of death (now the mobile platform too) and security issues? They, unlike the US government, learned about the pitfalls of choosing Windows. From the news: “Two U.S. power companies reported infections of malware during the past three months, with the bad software apparently brought in through tainted USB drives, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT).”

This is a Microsoft Windows issue. And watch this news:

Microsoft can’t be too happy with its security software right now: For the second time in a row, the company’s Security Essentials failed to earn certification from AV-Test, the independent German testing lab best known for evaluating the effectiveness of antivirus software.

There is discussion about it here and more coverage elsewhere.

As an operating systems company, Microsoft is going down rapidly and it is trying to evolve or expand to new markets in order to survive. Microsoft is the next Novell.

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