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04.13.15

Links 13/4/2015: Linux 4.0 Released; A Look at Antergos 2015.04.12

Posted in News Roundup at 11:25 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • The Real Reason Open Source Startups Fail

    The recent news around Nebula shutting its doors has stirred speculation that OpenStack startups are struggling because of the state of the OpenStack market. There is even a piece claiming that the OpenStack dream is on “life support.”

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that winning in open source requires a playbook that is drastically different from one that most VCs investing in technology today are used to.

  • 3 best practices for bootstrapping an open source business

    I’ve felt this tension firsthand. My company, PencilBlue, an open source content management system, was instantly dismissed by a well-known venture capitalist because, as he put it, “No website creation tool makes money unless it completely gets rid of the need for developers.” This is someone who made seed investments in multiple household-name tech startups, and he had no clue that more than 70% of all websites are created by developers and that the $21 billion web development industry is ruled by open source platforms.

    That open source startups are hard to find in the investment-first ecosystem is not surprising, because they’re usually started by people who actually build the product. Most of the time, seeking early stage investment for an open source product doesn’t make financial sense. On the other hand, there’s much to be gained from the business and marketing knowledge in local startup communities, so being sequestered from them can put open source developers at a disadvantage.

  • Events

  • CMS

    • Presidential candidate website tech, compared

      Over the next year, political pundits will spend far too much time dissecting the horse race, scandals (real or imagined), the electoral college and more polls than you can shake a stick at. I’m doing none of that. I’m just looking at websites.

  • Business

    • Semi-Open Source

      • Pivotal sets the stage for open-source in-memory computing

        Opening up the code could give enterprise customers more input into what new features are added into future versions. For Pivotal, the move provides an entry to those corporate clients that have adopted policies of using open-source software whenever possible, said Roman Shaposhnik, Pivotal’s director of open source.

        The company also hopes the software, released under the name Project Geode, will find a wider user base, one looking for big data analysis technologies speedier than Hadoop or Spark, Shaposhnik said.

  • Openness/Sharing

  • Programming

    • Git and GitHub for open source documentation

      We use git extensively for documentation in OpenStack so that we can “treat the docs like the code”—and I’m seeing this trend many places especially in the Write the Docs community.

Leftovers

  • Security

    • Hacked French TV network admits “blunder” that exposed YouTube password

      The head of the French TV network that suspended broadcasting following last week’s hack attack has confirmed the service exposed its own passwords during a TV interview, but said the gaffe came only after the breach.

      “We don’t hide the fact that this is a blunder,” the channel’s director general Yves Bigot, told the AFP news service.

      The exposure came during an interview a rival TV service broadcast on the TV5Monde attack. During the questioning, a TV5Monde journalist sat in front of several scraps of paper hanging on a window. One of them showed the password of for the network’s YouTube account. As Ars reported last week, the pass code was “lemotdepassedeyoutube,” which translates in English to “the password of YouTube.”

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

  • Transparency Reporting

    • From A to Z (Asteroids to Zombies), the British Just Want the Facts

      Government secrecy has long been a hallmark of Britain, where neither laws nor traditions made it easy to obtain the documents and records that are the underpinnings of any bureaucracy. But a decade ago, the doors were swung wide open to allow the sunshine of public scrutiny into agencies, bureaus and councils, and the result has been both gratifying and slightly alarming.

      While Britain’s Freedom of Information law has established itself as a potent tool to scrutinize the work of public authorities and hold those in power accountable, it has also had some expensive consequences — and, in some cases, revealed the absurdity of public whim.

      The hundreds of thousands of requests that have been received at various levels of government in the last decade have not only been time-consuming for agencies and councils, they have also proved extremely costly.

      Such, though, is the side effect of transparency, say the proponents of open government, who also argue that the benefits outweigh the burdens.

      “What people often forget is just how much F.O.I. saves money, because it exposes wasteful and extravagant spending,” said Paul Gibbons, a freedom of information campaigner and blogger. “Just one example: a local council in Scotland was spending thousands every year sending a delegation to Japan for a flower festival. Once F.O.I. came into force, they quickly realized they couldn’t justify doing that.”

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • Snow-Capped Mountains and Rushing Rivers, but No Water to Drink in Nepal’s Capital

      Despite having among the highest water availability per capita in the world and holding about 2.7 percent of the world’s total fresh water reserves, Nepal suffers from a chronic water shortage.

      Set against a decade of political turbulence, acute mismanagement of water supplies and large in-migration from villages to the capital Kathmandu, the less socio-economically advantaged half of Nepal is increasingly left to fend for itself to gain access to clean water.

      In Kathmandu, the Nepalese government’s Central Bureau of Statistics shows that one out of five households do not have a domestic water source, while two-thirds live with a water supply which most probably would fail the standard for being ‘clean and safe.’

  • Finance

    • Dear Apple, Microsoft and Google, you owe Australia billions!

      As one watched representatives of the three most important IT companies in the world being grilled by an Australian Senate committee on tax avoidance last week, it soon became obvious that the whole show was a farce. The corporations have been fleecing Australia of billions of dollars in tax revenues for years and successive governments have been either powerless or unwilling to do anything.

      In the revenue leeching stakes, Apple is by far the worst offender followed by Microsoft, with Google bringing up the rear only by the virtue of its Australian R&D activities.

      The contempt with which all three companies view the Australian Government and the Australian people was obvious by the personnel they chose to front the Senate committee.

    • Dollar’s buying power plummets in first day of “official” WoW gold trading

      For most of World of Warcraft’s history, the only way to buy in-game gold with real currency was to go through one of many gray market third-party services (which technically goes against Blizzard’s terms of service for the game). That was true until yesterday, when Blizzard introduced a $20 game time token that can be sold for gold at the in-game auction house on North American servers (European servers will get the feature at a later date). While the real-world price of those tokens is fixed at $20, the gold price is “determined dynamically based on supply and demand,” as Blizzard puts it.

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • Noam Chomsky on the New York Times’ Media Bias

      A front-page article is devoted to a flawed story about a campus rape in the journal Rolling Stone, exposed in the leading academic journal of media critique. So severe is this departure from journalistic integrity that it is also the subject of the lead story in the business section, with a full inside page devoted to the continuation of the two reports. The shocked reports refer to several past crimes of the press: a few cases of fabrication, quickly exposed, and cases of plagiarism (“too numerous to list”). The specific crime of Rolling Stone is “lack of skepticism,” which is “in many ways the most insidious” of the three categories.

  • Privacy

    • ​Securing the web once and for all: The Let’s Encrypt Project
    • European court challenge to UK surveillance

      Rights groups have asked the European Court of Human Rights to rule on the legality of the UK’s large-scale surveillance regime.

      Amnesty International, Liberty and Privacy International filed a legal complaint with the court today.

      The scale of the surveillance carried out by GCHQ has been revealed by US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    • Brazil builds undersea internet cable to protect online privacy

      Angered by Edward Snowden’s revelations on the wiretapping habits of tri-lettered American agencies, Brazil is taking the internet into its own hands — and giving Uncle Sam the middle finger. Right now most internet traffic between South America and Europe travels through the overly inquisitive US, but that’s about to change. Next year, Brazil’s Telebrás and Spain’s IslaLink will begin laying £120 million worth of undersea internet cable to span the 5,600km of Atlantic Ocean between Fortaleza, Brazil, and Lisbon, Portugal. The Americans can just follow their allies’ activities on Facebook like everyone else.

    • Facebook admits it tracks non-users, but denies claims it breaches EU privacy law

      Social network claims privacy report commissioned by the Belgian privacy watchdog ‘gets it wrong multiple times’ over what Facebook does with user data

    • NSA dreams of smartphones with “split” crypto keys protecting user data

      The approach is only one of several options being studied by the White House. One alternative under consideration would have a judge direct a company to set up a mirror account so that law enforcement officials conducting a criminal investigation could read text messages shortly after they are sent. To obtain encrypted photos, the judge could order the company to back up the suspect’s data to a server while the phone is turned on and its contents are unencrypted.

  • Civil Rights

    • U.S. Air Force Fires General Who Threatened Airmen With ‘Treason’

      Three months ago, Maj. Gen. James Post — the deputy chief of Air Combat Command — warned airmen that talking to Congress about the A-10 Warthog is an act of “treason.”

      On April 10, the U.S. Air Force announced it had canned Post from his job.

      To be sure, the flying branch doesn’t like the A-10 and is locked in a battle with legislators over the attack plane’s future. But it certainly didn’t like Post making veiled threats. He made the comments during a January gathering of airmen at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

    • Dog Owners Threatened With $750,000 Fine Over Missing Dog Posters

      A D.C. dog owner did what anyone with a missing pet would do. He posted fliers — but then, he says, police threatened him with a $750,000 fine.

    • Access to justice a greater concern than free healthcare – poll

      The public is more concerned about access to justice than free healthcare, according to a poll commissioned by lawyers campaigning to reverse cuts to legal aid.

      The findings from a YouGov poll have been released as the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats vie to pledge more and more funding for the NHS.

    • Deputy who killed man after mistaking gun for Taser is an insurance exec who pays to play cop

      The reserve Tulsa County Sheriff’s deputy who fatally shot and killed a man last week when he thought he had pulled his Taser, is part of a group of wealthy donors who make large contributions to the department for the privilege of playing police officer.

      According to Tulsa World, Robert Bates, 73, who made the fatal mistake that cost a man his life, is a local insurance company executive who has donated multiple vehicles, weapons, and stun guns to the Sheriff’s Office since becoming a reserve deputy in 2008.

    • [Old] Shane Todd’s family says noose and towel used in U.S. engineer’s hanging death DESTROYED by police

      Police in Singapore destroyed two pieces of evidence tied to the death of Shane Todd, whose body was found in his apartment there in June 2012, according to the American engineer’s family.

      The 31-year-old’s parents, Rick and Mary Todd, have for months been demanding the Singapore government return the hand-made noose and towel around their son’s neck when his body was discovered by his girlfriend hanging from his bathroom door.

    • [Old] Experts: Engineer found dead didn’t write suicide notes

      Ever since the body of American engineer was found hanging in his Singapore apartment in June 2012, his mother Mary Todd has maintained that the five typewritten suicide notes found at the scene were not written by her son.

      “My son did not write those suicide notes,” Mary Todd has repeated to anyone who would listen.

    • [Old] Singapore gov’t destroyed evidence in US engineer’s death

      Two pieces of evidence central to the death of 31-year-old American engineer Shane Todd — whose body was found in his Singapore apartment in June, 2012 — have been destroyed by police on the island nation, according to an official letter sent to the Todd family lawyer earlier this month.

    • [Old] Shame In Singapore: If Edward Snowden Betrayed America, America Has Betrayed Shane Todd

      I can’t stop thinking about the strange circumstances surrounding the tragic death of a promising young American electric engineer in Singapore two years ago.

      His name was Shane Todd and his story is a cautionary tale for sanctimonious ideologues like Edward Snowden.

      Unlike Snowden, Todd defended America’s secrets and doing so may have cost him his life.

      While local authorities in Singapore claim that Shane committed suicide, his family is convinced he was murdered. For better or worse, so am I.

      Rather than recapitulating the circumstances surrounding Todd’s death, I would refer readers to an enormously compelling piece that appeared last year in the Financial Times about Todd’s death.

      Ironically, the only evidence I can add is taken from a classified diplomatic cable sent to the Central Intelligence Agency about seven years ago from a federal export controls official in China. The cable, which was made public by Wikileaks, reviews an application from a Chinese company for a license to export the technology that Shane had worked on in Singapore – a metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) epitaxial system for producing epitaxial materials like gallium nitride (GaN), a semiconductor circuit technology that offers disruptive capabilities in efficient microwave power generation.

    • [Old] Murder, international coverup alleged in new book

      “Mom, I might be paranoid, but I have the feeling that they are threatening my life if I don’t stay,” Shane said. “I am so naive. Coming to Singapore was the worst mistake of my life.”

      Just before his planned return to the United States, he was found hanged in his apartment. He already had a job lined up in the United States and had his family postpone celebrating Father’s Day and his brother’s birthday. He was going to be in a wedding in the summer.

      Rick and Mary Todd flew to Singapore, where they met with police. The official account of Shane’s apparent suicide soon unraveled.

    • [Old] 48 Hours: Did a son die protecting American secrets?

      The Singapore police told the Todds that Shane had hanged himself but, almost from the start, they did not believe it. Aside from having a new job, Shane had made summer plans with his brothers and had even asked his grandmother if he could use her car and apartment in the interim before he started his new job. He’d queried his future employer about the company policy regarding vacation time and publishing opportunities, Mary said.

      Even as Rick Todd staggered off the plane in Denver, devastated by the news of his son’s death, Mary and her sons already had hatched a plan to fly to Singapore immediately. There’s no doubt that the Todds had an advantage given that Rick flew for a major airline and the entire family had passports at the ready. Seemingly overnight, they were in Singapore asking pointed questions of police officials.

    • [Old] China, Hacking, And Murder
    • [Old] A Family Battles to Prove Their Son Died an American Hero in 48 HOURS: SPIES, LIES & SECRETS

      Peter Van Sant and 48 Hours return to a family’s quest to prove their son was murdered and did not commit suicide as officials in Singapore say, and they’re determined to clear his name in an updated edition of “Spies, Lies & Secrets,” to be rebroadcast Saturday, August 30 (10:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

    • [Old] Did a son die protecting American secrets?
    • [Old] Hard Drive: An American engineer’s death in Singapore raised disturbing questions

      With the sheer determination of a mother on a mission, I made a beeline for Shane’s bathroom. As I looked into the bathroom, I was perplexed and shocked. Nothing I saw matched IO Khal’s description. “Oh my gosh, John, come quickly, you’ve got to see this,” I yelled.

      John ran to me and we both began to exclaim, “Where are the bolts, the ropes, and the pulleys? Why is the toilet not across from the door as Khal described it?” Perplexed, we ran our hands over the marble walls searching for holes that might have been patched, looking for anything that would back up what Khal had told us. Nothing!…

    • [Old] Hard Drive III: Shocking reason we were told Congressional investigation was unlikely

      A week and a half after we returned to Montana, we discovered through various media sources that Minister Shanmugam was still in Washington D.C. and was scheduled to meet with Senator Baucus, Secretary of State John Kerry, Attorney General Eric Holder, and various other government officials, including Arizona Senator John McCain.

      Prior to these meetings, USA Today cited Sen. Baucus, emphasizing that the SPF and Singaporean government “have been less than forthcoming” in the Shane Todd case and that evidence he had seen so far raised “very, very strong questions” and “deep concerns about national security.” …

    • [Old] Family investigates ‘whistleblower’ engineer’s mysterious death

      Mary Todd is coming to New York in her quest for justice.

      The mother of Dr. Shane Truman Todd, the American engineer found hanging in his Singapore apartment two years ago, has co-written a book, “Hard Drive: A Family’s Fight Against Three Countries,” with Shane’s cousin, Dr. Christina Villegas.

      The California women claim Shane was murdered and that authorities ruled his death a suicide for political reasons.

      “He had expressed fear for his life,” Villegas told me. “We don’t know who is responsible for his murder, but all three countries are guilty of destruction of evidence and the coverup.”

      Villegas, who is coming with Todd to New York on Sept. 5, said, “The US State Department is fully aiding the perversion of justice. As soon as John Kerry met with Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, the FBI lost all interest in the case.”

EFF Uses Alice v. CLS Bank Case to Pressure USPTO to Halt Software Patenting

Posted in EFF, Patents at 3:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A look at recent patent policies and actions from the EFF, as well as increasing secrecy at the USPTO

THE US patent system, which is the primary source of software patents and by far the biggest facilitator of patent trolls, has not enjoyed much publicity as of late, especially not good publicity. Writers are picking on lawyers who want more patents, including Michelle Lee who is said to be destined to head the USPTO. It’s a system guarded by those who don’t represent the population but rather represent their colleagues and friends. It’s a system of protectionism, empowered by a government that’s heavily influenced by large corporations.

“It’s a system of protectionism, empowered by a government that’s heavily influenced by large corporations.”“The biggest impact on patent quality would be the USPTO injecting certainty into the eligibility debate,” IAM said a while ago. Well, actually, as we pointed out last night, the USPTO has already issued guidance on that (new examination rules), it’s just that patent boosters — like IAM — don’t wish to accept it.

As this other new post points out, the USPTO recently had its 9,000,000th “customer” (patent), for which it is being mocked. “So maybe we shouldn’t be so shocked,” said the author, “that USPTO plays the same game. There’s actual evidence backing it up. Because patents issue at discrete, weekly intervals, the PTO has time generally to group patents of the same “class” together in contiguous blocks of numbers. That’s why you usually don’t see a floor wax patent immediately next to a dessert topping patent. (Unless, of course, it’s for both.)”

That’s quite a bizarre way of numbering patents. But more to the point, there’s a lot of secrecy and anomalies in the USPTO. It’s hard to know how it’s working, which contradicts or conflicts with its function/status as government-run. Recently, the EFF pressured the USPTO and the USPTO then demanded that the EFF censors its comments on patent guidance, as if the rules must be kept secret. Not bad for a ‘public’ office, eh? To quote TechDirt: “As you know, last year the Supreme Court made a very important ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, in which it basically said that merely doing something on a general purpose computer didn’t automatically make it patentable. This has resulted in many courts rejecting patents and the USPTO being less willing to issue patents, based on that guidance. The USPTO sought to push out new “guidance” to its examiners taking the ruling into account. Soon after the Alice ruling, it issued some “Preliminary Examination Instructions.” However, it then issued the so-called 2014 Interim Guidance on Subject Matter Eligibility and sought public comment through March 16 of this year.”

“As you can see by the full filing,” TechDirt adds, “the EFF filing isn’t some sort of improper protest. Rather it is a clear demonstration of how the USPTO does not appear to be living up to what the courts are saying in the wake of the Alice ruling. It is difficult to see what the USPTO was thinking in trying to silence the EFF’s comment. It is beyond ludicrous on multiple levels. First, it suggests a skin so thin at the USPTO that you can see right through it. Second, it suggests that the USPTO doesn’t want people to recognize that its guidance is problematic in light of what actual federal courts are saying. And, finally, it suggests (still) a complete lack of understanding of how the internet and freedom of expression works, thereby guaranteeing that the EFF’s complete dismantling of the USPTO’s guidelines will now get that much more attention…”

The EFF did a fine job showing how unreasonable the USPTO has become. Where does it derive consent from? Only large corporations? It’s now shrouded in secrecy. It’s rogue, a bit like the EPO, which is becoming more alike.

Not too long ago the EFF “Outline[d] [a] Plan to Fix the Broken Patent System,” to use its own words, but Will Hill, citing Jan Wildeboer (Red Hat), said that EFF was not serious about fixing the real issues. To quote Hill: “This is not an issue that deserves debate. Software patents are wrong philosophically and no good has come from them. In the last two years, the community told EFF as much and people have been saying the same things since the US first allowed a software patent 25 years ago. Who does the EFF think they are representing and why would they rather reduce a harm than eliminate it? Shame on them.”

The EFF seems to be having turf wars between opponents of software patents and sponsors who love them because the EFF sometimes speaks out against them (not always). Not too long ago (just earlier this month) we learned that the EFF helped bust an infamous software patent on podcasting, so well done to them. Daniel Nazer from the EFF also used the term “Abstract Software Patents” to describe the kind of patents the EFF wants the USPTO to stop issuing, citing Alice. Here is what Nazer wrote: “The Supreme Court took a major step in cutting back on abstract software patents last June when it issued its landmark ruling in Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank. In essence, the court said that abstract ideas implemented by conventional computer process are not eligible for patent protection. Since then, the PTO has attempted to write guidance applying the law to pending patent applications. Unfortunately, the PTO has floundered and continues to grant far too many invalid patents. This week EFF filed public comments asking the Office to do more to ensure its examiners apply the new law.”

Also see the article “EFF: If You Want to Fix Software Patents, Eliminate Software Patents”. It seems abundantly clear that some elements inside the EFF (not all of them) do wish to altogether eliminate software patents and that’s good, it’s definitely progress. As Wired put it: “That is by far the most incendiary proposal the Electronic Frontier Foundation offers in its comprehensive report on overhauling a painfully broken patent system. The report, two years in the making, suggests everything from strengthening the quality of patents to making patent litigation less costly. And there, on page 27 of the 29-page report, is “Abolish software patents.”

“The argument is that software patents may not just be flawed, but utterly unnecessary. This hasn’t always been EFF’s stance on patents, says Adi Kamdar, one of the report’s authors. But as the group compiled the report, it received 16,500 public comments from people in the business, academic, and policy communities. The idea that patents should be eliminated entirely was a common theme.”

Vera Ranieri from the EFF meanwhile (earlier on) suggested that SCOTUS “Shouldn’t Reward Ambiguity”, stating:

EFF submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court yesterday in Commil v. Cisco, a patent case that asks whether having a “good-faith belief” that a patent is invalid means that someone can’t induce infringement of a patent.

The issue of what it means to “induce infringement” is a complex, esoteric area of patent law. Generally, inducement liability is where the person accused of infringement didn’t actually carry out infringing acts herself, but instead encouraged other people to do them. For example, telling someone “hey, use this product to infringe this patent” might be inducement, whereas just making a product without any knowledge of a patent on its use would not be.

In conclusion, the USPTO is out of order as it tries to censor and hide its practices while the EFF, which is not perfect either, is at least pressuring the USPTO to stop issuing software patents. Given the EFF’s history of being soft on software patents (or ambiguous at best), overall this is definitely a step in right direction.

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