EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.28.13

Techrights in 2013-2014 (Eighth Year)

Posted in Site News at 3:33 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Completing the seventh year soon…

Cards

Summary: As its motto claims, or as the old saying goes, Techrights vows to fight the good fight in the increasingly-oppressed digital landscape

The war on dissent is being fought against computer programmers and other such folks who are technical, recognising — quite correctly — that they have power to fight back against abusers of power. This goes beyond digital protests and extends to journalism. Abuses of the secret services, for example, are getting hard to hide because people out there facilitate anonymous Internet usage and truly private chats. In their book, Julian Assange and co-authors stressed the importance of ciphers, focusing on one particular cornerstone of online activism. Here in Techrights, key members have been encrypting E-mail for quite some time and using anonymisation tools (we received important leaks and scoops over the years). Whatever makes a group harder to map makes it harder to disrupt. It doesn’t mean that given enough effort it will stay impossible to map, but it sure helps discourage that. One key member of the site — someone whom I have known since around 2005 — complained in several E-mails today that LinkedIn somehow still managed to link him to me (he works from Internet cafes and is very privacy-conscious). When data gets passed around and moreover sold, even the most prudent among us find ourselves unable to stay low key. Pamela Jones had a legitimate point to be concerned about. When people put their job on the line and reach out to reporters we must have some safe harbours and assurances that not everything is being tracked. Surveillance deters sources from coming forth, drying up investigative journalism as a result.

“Everything is peaceful and stable now, but the world is not. There is a lot of work to be done.”Those who have followed this site since 2006 have seen it going through harder times. Threats, DDOS attacks, smear campaigns etc. probably peaked around 5 years ago and even members of the site suffered from it (insults and threats were common). In recent years we have suffered from almost not a single troll. The focus on the site was not defence from opponents’ attacks (this was common in early days) but the subjects we wish to tackle. Everything is peaceful and stable now, but the world is not. There is a lot of work to be done.

Over the past few days we have gathered some new stories that show how corporations and/or the people who lead them control politics and gain an increasing level of power over everything (see links at the bottom). This in itself is not news and it is not shocking. But it is helping to show where many of society’s fears like war, famine, climate change etc. come from, directly or indirectly.

A lot of people think that pollution, war, and economic disparity (among many issues that would take a paragraph just to name) can be addressed by selecting a political party which big businesses control through money. It’s not an election, it’s selection, where one typically gets just two choices (the choice between spokespeople elected by plutocrats).

Bill Gates is not the devil and he is not the world’s only problem. Microsoft is not daemonic and eliminating just Microsoft would not render software benign overnight or the computer industry more fair over time. In my discussions with Stallman it repeatedly comes up that Apple worries him more than Microsoft. I don’t share this view, but I can accept the premise laid out by him. While I’m away (summer vacation, will take photos as usual) a scheduled story will appear where Stallman speaks to me about Steve Jobs and Apple.

“Over the coming year we will cover more Apple news from a sceptical eye, but Microsoft will stay the centre of focus.”Several weeks ago Obama served Apple like no president before him. In a sense, this was a troubling reminder of the rising power of Apple, which only Android seems to be effectively limiting. At the stores here in the UK I saw just Android and Apple products on the shelves (I bought something for the tablet earlier today). Apple is far from dead here. The Apple brand may be diminishing, but Apple still has some momentum.

Over the coming year we will cover more Apple news from a sceptical eye, but Microsoft will stay the centre of focus. Microsoft does far worse things to FOSS and now that Ballmer is expected to leave, the company will be able to do this with more impunity (if a CEO gets chosen from a minority ethic group and/or is female, that would not be surprising). Other topics of interest meriting blog posts are formerly sections of daily links; assuming it is sustainable (time-wise), we will cover surveillance, devices, copyright, lobbying, patents, operating systems, and pertinent software. Expansion of coverage is further defended by those who generously support the site financially (readers), so if you want to keep us strong for years to come, please consider making a contribution. Personal sacrifice cannot be gratis for a lifetime. Independent writing cost me a career. I do need support from readers, but I don’t wish to be seen as begging for support. In return for this support we will publish Stallman interviews until the end of the year (editing takes a lot of time) and post about 50 stories per week. My existing workstation is faulty (hardware issue since two days ago), so I will need to purchase a replacement shortly.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Africa’s food sovereignty under attack by corporate Interests

    Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), a coalition of pan-African networks, with members in 50 African countries and representing smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society, met in Addis Ababa 12-16th August 2013 to formulate an action plan to safeguard Africa’s sovereignty over its food, seeds and natural resources from the assault on Africa’s food systems.

  2. Pursuing Profits – or Power?

    Do corporations seek to maximize profits? Or do they seek to maximize power? The two may be complementary—wealth begets power, power begets wealth—but they’re not the same. One important difference is that profits can come from an expanding economic “pie,” whereas the size of the power pie is fixed. Power is a zero-sum game: more for me means less for you. And for corporations, the pursuit of power sometimes trumps the pursuit of profits.

  3. Newt and CNN: Working the Refs Works

    There’s a kind of right-wing media criticism we’ve often called “working the refs.” The point is not to make complaints with a basis in reality; rather, the hope is that by complaining that your “side” isn’t getting a fair shake, someone in the media will want to avoid further scolding and so next time cut you break.

  4. Top Quotes from ALEC’s 40th Birthday Party in Chicago

    The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting in Chicago earlier this month was marked by massive protests outside, but inside the walls of the Palmer House Hotel, the business of this notoriously secretive organization went forward as usual. The few quotes that have trickled out from inside the ALEC meeting are revealing.

  5. Stop the CEO March on Washington

    In the decades that have followed, those struggling for justice are not the only ones who have rallied in Washington. CEOs from Wall Street and large corporations have of course been a powerful presence. They don’t march to Washington but instead fly in corporate jets. They don’t come with millions by their side, but rather with millions in their pockets. And they don’t come to demand greater inclusion and opportunity for all, but for more tax breaks for their businesses, to be paid for by cuts to services provided to ordinary families.

Links 28/8/2013: OpenBEL and Linux Foundation, 30-Year GNU Anniversary Planned

Posted in News Roundup at 3:09 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Has Apache lost its way?

    Complaints of stricture over structure, signs of technical prowess on the wane — the best days of the Apache Software Foundation may be behind

  • In defense of Apache

    Apache is great for many things, not so for others. Its proponents misunderstand its weaknesses, and its detractors misunderstand its strengths

  • Why not change the world?

    I have always been interested in science, technology and (most of all) computers. These are things that I always loved, even though they were sometimes difficult. I loved math and science class in school; I read science-fiction and fantasy novels in all of my spare time. I was the nerdy kid at school that was bullied and mocked. It would have been so easy to just give in and be “like everyone else”. I could have stopped reading. I could have played more sports.

    [...]

    This is the sentiment that drove me into my open source career.

  • What open source means for the Average Joe or Jodi

    Ask just about any person you meet whether they are using open source software (OSS) and the chances are good you will be met by a blank stare. Yet, people might be surprised when you tell them that they are either using it on the mobile device they own or on their social media platform of choice.

  • SaaS/Big Data

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice Conference: Join us in Milano!

      This year the LibreOffice Conference will take place in Milano, Italy. Come and join us for this excepional event from the 25th to the 27th of September 2013. Learn about migrations to LibreOffice, LibreOffice existing deployments, writing extensions and much more. Participate in hacking sessions and community workshops and most of all, meet the LibreOffice community face to face for a few days of exchange and fun!

  • Education

    • Internet is future of higher education says University of the People

      Shai Reshef dreams of making quality education affordable and accessible to everyone, and he sees the Internet as the road to get there. Reshef is the founder of University of the People (UoPeople), which bills itself as the world’s first tuition-free, degree-granting, non-profit online university.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Project Releases

    • Cairo 1.12.16 Takes Care A Whole Lot Of Bugs

      Beyond making a whole lot of Intel X.Org driver changes and some recent yet-to-be-merged performance improvements, Chris Wilson has put out a new release of the Cairo graphics library.

    • Calligra 2.7.2 Released

      The Calligra team has released version 2.7.2, the first of the bugfix releases of the Calligra Suite, and Calligra Active in the 2.7 series. This release contains a few important bug fixes to 2.7.1 and we recommend everybody to update.

    • Calibre reaches 1.0 after nearly 7 years of development

      I am fully occupied this week and the next with training my new helpdesk team, so it took me a bit by surprise when Willy Sudiarto Raharjo tweeted that there was a version 1.0 of Calibre since this morning. Kovid Goyal, developer of Calibre, published the news in a blog post. It’s nearly seven years since Kovid started with Calibre – this was the time when the first E-ink based ereader device, SONY PRS-500, hit the market. At first, Calibre was merely a library which was able to convert e-book formats into Sony’s LRF format. It got ‘upgraded’ with a graphical user interface to manage Kovid’s growing ebook library.

  • Public Services/Government

  • Openness/Sharing

    • The promise of the Commons: an interview with David Bollier

      David Bollier is no stranger to politics. The author, activist and independent commons scholar worked for Ralph Nader in the late-’70s and early-’80s, he’s a policy strategist and he has participated in or founded numerous public interest projects. But, over the years, he found himself increasingly disillusioned with political activism.

  • Programming

    • A Look at PHP’s Continuing Evolution

      PHP is not a young language. As of 2013, it’s 18 years old; that’s old enough to vote. Many upstart languages have appeared over the years to try and unseat PHP as the “lingua franca” of web applications but it still commands over 80% of the web market. One reason for PHP’s popularity is no doubt the ease with which new developers can get started with it, but just as important is the fact that PHP has been evolving for all those 18 years.

    • History of the UI of Server Install GUI
    • Lack of referrers on github is an annoyance

      Github is a nice site, and I routinely monitor a couple of projects there.

Leftovers

New Zealand Beats Multinationals and Patent Lawyers in Latest Round Against Software Patents

Posted in Patents at 2:58 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Good news for Auckland and other major cities

Church in Auckland

Summary: The island which shares patent woes with Europe is successfully steering politicians in the right direction, albeit loopholes remain for exploitation

The fight over software patents in New Zealand ended with an outcome not as bad as we feared after Foss had tried to legalise software patents. Following backlash from the public and from local companies he changed his tune completely:

New Zealand has finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents after five years of debate, delay and intense lobbying from multinational software vendors.

Aptly-named Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernisation of patents law, saying it marked a “significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand”.

“By clarifying the definition of what can be patented, we are giving New Zealand businesses more flexibility to adapt and improve existing inventions, while continuing to protect genuine innovations,” Foss said.

Loopholes for software patents endure. But still, it’s no worse than before. Pogson said “Governments shouldn’t have to do this. It’s obvious that software is obvious and subject to copyright. Software has to be obvious or stupid computes wouldn’t be able to figure out what has to be done. Software is obvious like telephone books and recipes are obvious. They are not innovative in that they are just a sequence of data and instructions with myriad combinations. Software is subject to copyright. That’s the right way to protect the developer’s ideas.”

In Europe we share the same problem as NZ. While software patents are not ‘officially’ allowed some companies continue to be granted piles of them. Some would be useless in court though and the patent holders know that.

Millions of Dollars Worth of Lobbying From Patent-Trolling Giants Can Render Reform Against Trolls Effective Only Against Small Trolls

Posted in Patents at 2:45 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

White House

Summary: Patent trolls, which are only a small part of the patent problem, are trying to challenge initiatives that fight them, led by monstrous troll Intellectual Ventures

The world’s biggest patent troll, the Microsoft- and Gates-backed Intellectual Ventures, is getting desperate to classify itself as something other than patent troll because of coming changes that are supposed to stop trolls. This one troll alone will spend $1 million lobbying the government and Joe Mullin says that this “World’s biggest “patent troll” has grown to 800 employees, 70,000 patents.”

Steph, the Troll Tracker, comments about this troll. She does not think that much will change:

I’ll absolutely grant that the SHIELD Act is not going to do much good. It’s rare that I agree with a troll, but I’m woman enough to admit it when it happens. Kudos for recognizing that legislation isn’t the panacea (whose got a thesaurus now, huh?) we want it to be.

One thing I intensely dislike is when people use the “but the other guy is worse” excuse for their own poor behavior. Bad behavior is rarely relative. This is the approach IV is talking about here.

What needs to be widely recognised is that the patent problem is not the troll problem, it is a lot more than that. Here is a new article which puts it in perspective. Bear in mind that some trolls serve large companies, but the opposite is not true, so the figure below might actually be lower than 20%.

Patent trolls’ live to sue — but they only file 20% of patent suits

One of Silicon Valley’s favorite hobbies is complaining endlessly about the rise of “patent trolls” and how they’re destroying innovation.

And by patent troll, we mean a company that doesn’t make anything but just owns a bunch of patents and uses them to sue the pants off real companies that make real products and employ real people.

Obama promises to crack down on trolls because they’re a nuisance to the corporations which control the White House and by extension the nation. Some trolls got large enough that they can spend millions on lobbying to derail laws or bills which are against them. As one new article puts it, Apple is the company most targeted by patent trolls, which is why trolls and not patents are targeted by the White House (GAO recently pointed this out). To quote the new article which references a lawyer:

Apple, HP and Samsung have been attacked the most by so-called “patent trolls” within the last five years, a Silicon Valley lawyer said Tuesday. But recent legislative activity may be weakening their power.

The reason that Obama is going after trolls is not that he is trying to help good causes, he is just trying to help corporations like the above while even annulling court decisions against them (Apple). Given the way this administration is run, lobbying by what became a corporation of trolling (IV) can actually render even reform on trolls ineffective. Just wait and watch how money talks in Washington.

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channels: Come and chat with us in real time

New to This Site? Here Are Some Introductory Resources

No

Mono

ODF

Samba logo






We support

End software patents

GPLv3

GNU project

BLAG

EFF bloggers

Comcast is Blocktastic? SavetheInternet.com



Recent Posts