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05.31.19

Links 31/5/2019: Large Migrations to GNU/Linux and DistroWatch Turns 18

Posted in News Roundup at 11:35 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Goodbye Windows: Russian Military’s Astra Linux Adoption Moves Forward

    Just earlier this week, we reported regarding the Chinese Military’s plan to ditch the Windows operating system and adopt a new operating system. At the moment, there are no reports of a Linux-based or Unix-like OS being adopted to ditch the proprietary software.

    As per various reports, it seems that Russia is also acting swiftly to replace Windows with homegrown Astra Linux. It’s a Debian-based distribution that was originally launched by a company named RusBITech in 2008. Initially, RusBITech focused on the private sector but later on expanded to the local government bodies.

  • Russian military moves closer to replacing Windows with Astra Linux

    Russian authorities have moved closer to implementing their plan of replacing the Windows OS on military systems with a locally-developed operating system named Astra Linux.

    Last month, the Russian Federal Service for Technical and Export Control (FSTEC) granted Astra Linux the security clearance of “special importance,” which means the OS can now be used to handle Russian government information of the highest degree of secrecy.

    Until now, the Russian government had only used special versions of Windows that had been modified, checked, and approved for use by the FSB.

  • China Prepares Alternative OS For Windows Amid Cybersecurity Concerns

    The publication quoted the report of Kanwa Asian Defence, a Canadian Military print publication, revealing that the Internet Security Information Leadership Group (ISILG) in China has been created in order to replace Windows, and the UNIX system, used by the Chinese military.

    The Chinese government is concerned that the United States intelligence agencies are capable of hacking onto operating systems like Windows, and UNIX or Linux to be used in spying on Chinese military secrets. China plans to develop a more secure operating system that will offer more security against western attacks.

    However, Ian Thornton-Trump, head of security at AmTrust International, explained that the reality of a secure OS is that you need a pipeline of developers to develop and support it given the economy in China a briefcase full of dollars is highly likely to yield you an advanced copy of the OS for opposing nation states to dissect and reverse engineer.

  • China to Drop Microsoft Windows, Citing Security Concerns Amid US Huawei Crackdown

    The People’s Liberation Army’s Internet Security Information Leadership Group (ISILG) will reportedly take on the task of creating a replacement for the Microsoft OS and UNIX system, also used by the Chinese military. China has previously already mulled such an option, regarding the Linux-based “Red Flag” OS as a possible replacement for Microsoft’s system. However, these ideas have not seen much development so far.

    This time, the notion was brought up amid the ongoing trade war between China and the US, which recently took a new turn after Washington banned Huawei equipment from its domestic market and tried to pressure its European allies to do the same, citing alleged cybersecurity issues. The US claims that Huawei is working with the Chinese government and installing backdoors in its equipment on behalf of Beijing.

  • The Government of South Korea Moves to Linux

    The South Korean government will migrate all of its Windows computer hardware to Linux, according to statements made by the country’s interior and security minister, The Korea Herald.

    The decision has been made with the cost savings as the main consideration, but also with the intention of recovering some technological independence. Windows 7, the operating system currently used in the South Korean Administration, is scheduled to end the support in January 2020 and spending prospects for what would be the natural upgrade to Windows 10, do not seem to enter the plans of the Executive.

    Also, to the concern for the cost of continuing to maintain Windows, or what is the same, to the reduction that is expected to be obtained in the medium term once the migration has been completed, the preference is added not to continue relying on a only operating system , according to the statement by Choi Jang-hyuk, head of the Office of Digital Services of the ministry.

    It will be in the Ministry of the Interior where Linux will begin to be tested, without determining what type of implementation will be carried out. The requirements that have transpired involve security tests on devices connected to private networks, compatibility with government websites and legacy software. The transition will have an investment of about 655 million dollars, including the purchase of new equipment.

  • Desktop

    • Dell Begins Pre-Installing Linux On Range of Precision Laptops

      “While Linux-preloaded laptops have been available for years from smaller companies, and have represented a fraction of their own sales with the much-admired XPS 13 developer model, Dell now offers a range of Precision models pre-installed with Ubuntu Linux,” writes Slashdot reader Freshly Exhumed.

    • Hello Again, Linux

      Prior to 2006, I had used only Windows. Around that time, there was a lot of anxiety about its upcoming successor to Windows XP, which at the time was code-named Project Longhorn. My colleagues and I all were dreading it. So, rather than go through all that trouble, I switched to Linux.

      However, my first experience with Linux was not great. Although 2006 was The Year of the Linux Desktop (I saw headlines on Digg proclaiming it almost every day), I quickly learned, right after wiping my brand-new laptop’s hard drive to make way for Fedora, that maybe it wasn’t quite The Year of the Linux Laptop. After a desperate and miserable weekend, I finally got my wireless card working, but that initial trauma left me leery. So, about a year later, when I decided to quit my job and try the digital nomad freelance thing, I bought a MacBook. A day spent hunting down driver files or recompiling my kernel was a day not making money. I needed the assurance and convenience Apple was selling. And it proved a great investment.

      During the next decade, I dabbled with Linux. Every year seemed to be The Year of the Linux Desktop—the real one, at last—so on my desktop at work (freelancing wasn’t fun for long), I installed Ubuntu, then Debian, then FreeBSD. An article in this journal introduced me to tiling window managers in general and DWM in particular. The first time I felt something like disappointment with my MacBook was after using DWM on Debian for the first time.

      Through the years, as my MacBook’s hardware failures became increasingly inconvenient, and as my personal preference in software shifted from big beautiful graphical applications to small command-line programs, Linux started to look much more appealing. And, Linux’s hardware compatibility had expanded—companies had even started selling laptops with Linux already installed—so I felt reasonably sure I wouldn’t need to waste another weekend struggling with a broken wireless connection or risk frying my monitor with a misconfigured Xorg.conf.

  • Server

    • What’s new with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 and Red Hat Virtualization

      Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8 is based upon the principles of “operational consistency, security, and cloud foundation.” Utilizing kernel 4.18x, RHEL 8 is based on Fedora 28 and will run on Intel/AMD 64-bit processors as well as IBM Power LE, IBM z Systems, and ARM 64-bit.

      Red Hat has sought to reduce complexity in RHEL 8, which comes with ten guaranteed years of enterprise support. Their model involves repositories for the base operating system as well as application streams for flexible lifecycle options, which offer multiple versions of databases, languages, various compilers, and other tools to help facilitate the use of RHEL for business models.
      Build-in defaults in RHEL 8 include tuned profiles for database options (ready-to-go options out of the box) and ansible system roles to provide a common configuration interface (ensuring standardization and reliability)
      The RHEL 8 YUM package manager is now based on the Dandified Yum (DNF) technology, which supports modular content, better performance, and a stable API for integration with tooling. User feedback indicated that “yum is a lot faster than it used to be, and all the commands work well.”
      Red Hat Insights (tools to provide system administrators with analytics, machine learning, and automation controls) are now included in RHEL 8 along with a session recording feature, which can record and playback user terminal sessions for better security and training capabilities.

    • Cepsa Powers New Digital Customer Experiences with Red Hat-based Container Platform
    • Alibaba Cloud Launches 10+ New Products And Features @ APAC Summit

      Alibaba Cloud, the data intelligence backbone of Alibaba Group, is focused on providing the Asia Pacific region with a cloud service to drive a highly integrated technology ecosystem. In line with its goal, Alibaba Cloud today launched more than 10 new products and features at the Alibaba Cloud APAC Summit. The company also announced a new accelerator program connecting technology partners with the Alibaba ecosystem.

    • Contributing to Open Source with Docker, Inc

      The rumors have finally been confirmed. Docker, Inc. is opening their new R&D center in Sofia. At an event last night, they stated their intentions to do a fair amount of product development in Sofia as well as contribute to the local society/community too (if I got this correctly). This is very good news for the local eco-system so congrats for that from my side!

      This blog post outlines my impressions from the event and a few related more general thoughts.

  • Audiocasts/Shows

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux Continues Prepping EFI Special Purpose Memory Support

      EFI Special Memory (EFI_MEM_SP) succeeds the earlier ACPI HMAT (Heterogeneous Memory Attribute Table) for indicating if a memory pool is general purpose memory or intended for application-specific usage. If it is and the kernel obeys this new attribute, the kernel will avoid allocating to that region and reserve it for use by applications specifically looking for this specialized memory. For the most part it’s intended for cases like HBM (High Bandwidth Memory) on a chip that may be addressable by the system itself but given its performance heuristics and limited capacity should be reserved for application-specific purposes rather than inadvertently being used by the kernel for mundane memory storage.

    • Graphics Stack

      • X.Org Server 1.20.5 Released With A Few XWayland & GLAMOR Fixes

        With no X.Org Server 1.21 release being imminent, Red Hat’s Adam Jackson today issued xorg-server 1.20.5 as a very small point release to the existing 1.20 stable series.

        X.Org Server 1.20.5 includes just eight new patches, three of which are XWayland patches, one Gitlab CI revert, a Present Extension fix, a GLAMOR fix, and two DIX fixes.

      • Xorg-server 1.20.5
        Minor bugfix release to fix some input, Xwayland, glamor, and Present
        issues. Thanks to all who contributed fixes and testing.
        
        Adam Jackson (1):
              xserver 1.20.5
        
        Michel Dänzer (3):
              Revert "gitlab-ci: Only run docker-image stage if relevant source files change"
              xwayland/present: Destroy sync_callback in xwl_present_cleanup
              present/scmd: Check that the flip and screen pixmap pitches match
        
        Olivier Fourdan (2):
              xwayland: search for a render node to use
              glamor: pixmap FBO may not be allocated
        
        Peter Hutterer (2):
              xwayland: fix a realloc OOM error case
              dix: leave last.valuators alone on slave switch
        
        Ray Strode (1):
              dix: ensure work queues are cleared on reset
        
        git tag: xorg-server-1.20.5
      • Qualcomm Adreno 540 Support Prepped For Open-Source Linux Kernel Graphics Driver

        Support for Qualcomm’s Adreno 540 series display/graphics could potentially be on the table for the Linux 5.3 kernel series. Patches are at least being reviewed for this A540 open-source support.

        Jeffrey Hugo of the Qualcomm-aligned Code Aurora posted on Wednesday their latest patches on A540 enablement as found in the MSM8998 SoC. These patches are enough to get the MSM DRM/KMS driver lighting up for the Adreno 540 hardware though some user-space bits for the Mesa Freedreno/Turnip drivers might still be needed.

      • AMD Is Aiming For Radeon RX 5700 “Navi” Support In Linux 5.3 + Mesa 19.2

        As I’ve been saying for weeks now since the initial AMDGPU LLVM compiler back-end support was posted and based upon the release cadences for the various projects: AMD’s next-gen “Navi” GPU support is likely to come with Linux 5.3 and Mesa 19.2. That’s now been further firmed up and does appear AMD will be posting those kernel and Mesa/OpenGL driver changes in early to mid June for meeting those release windows.

    • Benchmarks

      • AMDVLK Still Has Some Performance Advantages Over Mesa’s Radeon RADV Vulkan Driver, But It’s A Good Fight

        As it’s been a while since our last comparison of the two AMD Vulkan drivers for Linux gaming and with getting the Radeon VII situation straightened out here are some fresh benchmarks of the latest AMDVLK and RADV Vulkan drivers when running various Ubuntu gaming benchmarks with Radeon RX Vega 64 and Radeon VII graphics cards.

        The AMDVLK Vulkan driver tests were using the new 2019.Q2.4 release while the RADV Vulkan driver was using Mesa 19.2.0-devel via the Oibaf PPA. All tests were done from Ubuntu 19.04 while running with a Linux 5.1 kernel. The only changes to the system were swapping of the RADV/AMDVLK drivers and testing both the Radeon RX Vega 64 and Radeon VII graphics cards for the current summer 2019 Vulkan gaming performance.

      • Intel Brings Its Own Benchmark to Refute AMD’s ’2X’ EPYC Claim

        Intel is firing back at AMD CEO Lisa Su’s Computex claims that the company’s upcoming 7nm EPYC Rome data center processors are twice as fast as Intel’s Xeon Scalable 8280 processors in a popular benchmark. But Intel says that AMD didn’t configure its Intel test system correctly, and also didn’t use the most relevant processors for comparison testing. Now Team Blue has released benchmarks to back its claims.

        It might seem a bit odd to quibble over one single benchmark, but there’s a lot at stake. Intel made $34 billion last year from its data-centric businesses, which also includes storage, memory, and networking products, all of which benefit from Intel’s commanding share of the data center processor market. In fact, Intel’s data center sales now account for roughly 50% of the company’s total revenue.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • KStars v3.2.3 is Released!

        Another minor release of the 3.2.X series is released, KStars v3.2.3 is out for Windows/Mac/Linux. This would probably the last minor release of the 3.2.X series with 3.3.0 coming into development now.

        This release contains a few minor bug fixes and some few convenient changes that were requested by our users.

      • 5 best KDE-based Linux distributions to try out

        The KDE Plasma 5 desktop environment is a traditional, modern interface that is similar to Microsoft Windows. It’s currently the 5 iteration of the desktop, and ships on all major Linux operating systems, as well as BSD and other Unix-based OSes.

        In the Linux community, many distributions choose to ship KDE Plasma 5 as their primary desktop. That said, some do it better than others. In this list, we’ll show you the best KDE-based distros to use, and how to get your hands on them. So, here are the 5 KDE-based Linux distributions to try out!

      • Organizing time on Plasma Mobile

        About a year ago the phabricator tasks of Plasma Mobile were extensively revamped. We tried to make clear the objective of each task, providing helpful resources and facilitating onboarding. Looking at the features needed to reach the “Plasma Mobile 1.0” milestone, the calendar application was sticking out. So, Calindori was born (even though this name was coined some months later).

        Build on top of Qt Quick and Kirigami and following -or trying to follow- the KDE human interface guidelines, the whole point of Calindori is to help users manage their time. Through a clean user interface, it aims to offer the users an intuitive way to accomplish their tasks.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • Why translation platforms matter

        In my opinion, the GNOME platform offers the best translation platform for the following reasons:

        Its site contains both the team organization and the translation platform. It’s easy to see who is responsible and their roles on the team. Everything is concentrated on a few screens.
        It’s easy to find what to work on, and you quickly realize you’ll have to download files to your computer and send them back once you modify them. It’s not very sexy, but the logic is easy to understand.
        Once you send a file back, the platform can send an alert to the mailing list so the team knows the next steps and the translation can be easily discussed at the global level (rather than commenting on specific sentences).
        It has 297 languages.
        It shows clear percentages on progress, both on basic sentences and advanced menus and documentation.
        Coupled with a predictable GNOME release schedule, everything is available for the community to work well because the tool promotes community work.

        If we look at the Debian translation team, which has been doing a good job for years translating an unimaginable amount of content for Fedora (especially news), we see there is a highly codified translation process based exclusively on emails with a manual push in the repositories. This team also puts everything into the process, rather than the tools, and—despite the considerable energy this seems to require—it has worked for many years while being among the leading group of languages.

        My perception is that the primary issue for a successful translation platform is not based on the ability to make the unitary (technical, translation) work, but on how it structures and supports the translation team’s processes. This is what gives sustainability.

        The production processes are the most important way to structure a team; by putting them together correctly, it’s easy for newcomers to understand how processes work, adopt them, and explain them to the next group of newcomers.

        To build a sustainable community, the first consideration must be on a tool that supports collaborative work, then on its usability.

        This explains my frustration with the Zanata tool, which is efficient from a technical and interface standpoint, but poor when it comes to helping to structure a community. GIven that translation is a community-driven process (possibly one of the most community-driven processes in open source software development), this is a critical problem for me.

      • Federico Mena-Quintero: Bzip2 in Rust – Basic infrastructure and CRC32 computation

        I have started a little experiment in porting bits of the widely-used bzip2/bzlib to Rust. I hope this can serve to refresh bzip2, which had its last release in 2010 and has been nominally unmaintained for years.

        I hope to make several posts detailing how this port is done. In this post, I’ll talk about setting up a Rust infrastructure for bzip2 and my experiments in replacing the C code that does CRC32 computations.

      • Sysprof Developments

        Earlier this month, Matthias and I teamed up to push through some of our profiling tooling for GTK and GNOME. We took the occasional work I had done on Sysprof over the past few years and integrated that into the GTK-4.x tree.

        Sysprof uses a binary log file to store information about execution in a matter that is easy to write-buffer and read-back using positioned reads. It helps keep the sampling overhead of sysprof low. But it’s too detail oriented for each application supporting the format to write. To make this stuff reusable I created a libsysprof-capture-3.a static library we embed from various layers of the platform.

        GTK-4.x is now using this. Builder itself uses it to log internal statistics, tracing data, and counters for troubleshooting. I’ve also put forward patches for GJS to integrate with it. Georges revamped and pushed forward a prototype by Jonas to integrate with Mutter/Shell and get us frame timings and Cogl pipeline data. With some work we can finish off the i915 data sources that Eric Anholt did to correlate GPU commands too.

        What this means for developers is that soon we’ll be able to capture system information from various layers in the stack and correlate them using similar clocks. We’re only scratching the surface right now, but it’s definitely promising. It’s already useful to quantify the true performance improvements of merge-requests in Mutter and Shell.

      • Sysprof Making Progress For Improved GNOME Profiling

        Christian Hergert of GNOME Builder IDE fame has been working on a round of improvements recently to the Sysprof tool he also leads development on for system profiling in determining the hot functions of a program and related profiling mostly around GNOME components.

        One of the main additions has been adding support to GTK4 for Sysprof’s new engine and he is planning on plumbing that new engine support through to at least Mutter and GJS while potentially back-porting it to the likes of GTK3.

  • Distributions

    • DistroWatch reaches adulthood

      Yes, it was exactly 18 years ago, on 31 May 2001, that DistroWatch was first published. It wasn’t quite the comprehensive website covering free operating system that it is today, but it was a start – a single page comparing a dozen Linux distributions in a table format, with major features and package versions. Many of the projects popular in those days, such as Caldera OpenLinux, Corel Linux, Progeny Debian or Libranet GNU/Linux died long time ago, but others, like Slackware Linux, Debian, Red Hat or openSUSE continue to thrive in various forms to this day. If you’d like to see what this website looked like in 2001, please take a look at this snapshot provided by Archive.org.

    • QtFM

      There is a new tool available for Sparkers: QtFM

      [...]

      Lightweight desktop independent Qt file manager for Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD and macOS.

    • Reviews

      • ROSA, A Nice KDE4 Distro in 2019

        While Ubuntu doesn’t have KDE4 anymore, a Mandriva-based GNU/Linux distro named ROSA from Russia continued to ship KDE4 even in 2019. It is ROSA Desktop Fresh R10 released in 2017 and supported until 2020. ROSA is one among three splits of Mandriva, other two are OpenMandriva and Mageia, happened right after 2011. We cannot run KDE4 anymore on Ubuntu today, but we can still run it on ROSA and get support. This article briefly highlights ROSA R10 for you. I wish anybody who wants a good distro with KDE4 in 2019 finally find what he/she wants.

    • New Releases

      • GParted Live 1.0.0-1 Stable Release

        The GParted team is pleased to announce a new stable release of GParted Live.

        This release includes GParted 1.0.0, updated packages, and other improvements.

    • Fedora

      • EPEL Proposal: EPEL Wagontrain (aka Steve Gallagher’s EPEL 8 Branch Strategy)
      • A beginner’s guide to Silverblue

        At Red Hat Summit 2019, I became fascinated with Fedora Silverblue, an immutable (i.e., unchangeable) variant of Fedora Workstation that primarily uses Flatpak to install apps. I’ve used Fedora for nearly three years (and Linux for about 22 years) and recently upgraded my machines (home and work) to Fedora 30. But I liked the idea of an immutable desktop and resolved to try it out when I got home.

        According to the Fedora Silverblue User Guide:

        “Fedora Silverblue is an immutable desktop operating system. It aims to be extremely stable and reliable. It also aims to be an excellent platform for developers and for those using container-focused workflows.”

        The day I returned from Red Hat Summit, I downloaded the latest image of Silverblue from the main Silverblue website. I burned it to a USB drive (do you really “burn” to a USB drive?) and tried to install it. The process failed, but I was jet-lagged, so I headed to bed suspecting that the problem might lie with the USB drive—I’ve found that about 50% of USB drives have problems when you try to install Linux from them. I woke up early (jet lag still), found a new USB drive, and tried again.

    • Debian Family

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Swedish Programmer Ola Bini Denied Bail by Ecuadorean Court

    “Ola is clearly now a political prisoner,” the FreeOlaBini campaign declared after the decision was made by Judge Yadira Proaño, who denied his request arguing that “since the Attorney General’s Office has not stated the amount of the alleged damage, the amount of the bail cannot be set.”

    Bini has been accused, without charges, by the Ecuadorean General Attorney’s office for the alleged crime of attacks against information systems. Yet the defense team has informed that they still haven’t been informed of said charges after 50 days of detention.

  • Intel’s Open-Source SVT-AV1 Video Encoder Ends May With Another Performance Boos

    It’s been very fascinating to watch the speed improvements of Intel’s SVT-AV1 open-source AV1 video encoder since in February when being made aware of Intel’s new SVT video projects. The SVT-AV1 project is ending out May with another step-up in performance for what is already one of the fastest CPU-based AV1 video encoders.

    It was just in mid-May that SVT-AV1 0.5 was released while since then the Intel open-source developers have remained busy working on more improvements.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Tantek Çelik: The @W3C Needs You: Please Vote For Change In The @W3CAB Election

        Please Vote in the 2019 W3C Advisory Board Election (W3C Member-only link, only Advisory Committee members can vote).

        My fellow Advisory Board (AB) candidates and additional members of the W3C Community have shared their thoughts on the AB election, some on their blogs, and some on W3C Member only list(s).

        It is very important that you explicitly rank candidates according to what is most important to you due to the way the current W3C STV mechanism is interpreted and implemented by the W3C Team. Past STV elections have shown that a Ranked 1 vote is crucial to candidates, Ranked 2 may have some impact, and the likelihood of effect drops off precipitously from there (though you should still rank at least a few more, ideally all candidates, just in case).

  • LibreOffice

    • LibreOffice monthly recap: May 2019

      We started with a new Month of LibreOffice. These are twice-yearly campaigns where we encourage people to join our community and help to improve the software. Everyone who contributes can claim a cool sticker pack at the end – and this year, we have some exclusive glass mugs for a randomly selected bunch of winners too!

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Lack of leadership in open source results in source-available licenses

      Don’t get me wrong — there will still be open source, lots and lots of it. But authors of open-source infrastructure software will put their interesting features in their “enterprise” versions if we as an industry cannot solve the Amazon problem.

      Unfortunately, the dark cloud on the horizon I wrote about back in November has drifted closer. Amazon has exhibited three particularly offensive and aggressive behaviors toward open source: [...]

  • Programming/Development

    • Best Free Books to Learn about Awk

      Awk is a versatile programming language designed for pattern scanning and processing language and often used as a data extraction and reporting tool. It’s an excellent filter and report writer. It’s a standard feature of most Unix-like operating systems.

      Awk is small, fast, simple, and has a clean comprehensible C-like input language. It has robust programming constructs including if/else, while, do/while and for C-style and array iteration.

      The name awk comes from the initials of its designers: Alfred V. Aho, Peter J. Weinberger, and Brian W. Kernighan. The original version of awk was written in 1977 at AT&T Bell Laboratories.

    • Filter the output of a file continously using tail and grep
    • Growing the Cookbook’s “broken” function
    • Learn Python with these awesome resources
    • Wing Python IDE 7.0.3 – May 30, 2019

      Wing 7.0.3 has been released. This is a minor release that includes the following fixes and improvements…

      [...]

      Wing 7 introduces an improved code warnings and code quality inspection system that includes built-in error detection and tight integration with Pylint, pep8, and mypy. This release also adds a new data frame and array viewer, a MATLAB keyboard personality, easy inline debug data display with Shift-Space, improved stack data display, support for PEP 3134 chained exceptions, callouts for search and other code navigation features, four new color palettes, improved bookmarking, a high-level configuration menu, magnified presentation mode, a new update manager, stepping over import internals, simplified remote agent installation, and much more.

    • Using std::unique_ptr with Qt
    • MacOS Mojave Dark Mode Support in PyQt 5.12.2
    • Transport Layer Note
    • HI KDE, HI GSOC 2019

      On this summer I’m working with the KDE community by participating the “Google Summer of Code” Program.

      My main goal during GSOC period is making a markdown view, WYSIWIG editor using C++ and Qt.

    • PHP version 7.1.30, 7.2.19 and 7.3.6

      RPM of PHP version 7.3.6 are available in remi repository for Fedora 30 and in remi-php73 repository for Fedora 27-29 and Enterprise Linux ≥ 6 (RHEL, CentOS).

      RPM of PHP version 7.2.19 are available in remi repository for Fedora 28-29 and in remi-php72 repository for Fedora 26-27 and Enterprise Linux ≥ 6 (RHEL, CentOS).

      RPM of PHP version 7.1.30 are available in remi repository for Fedora 26-27 and in remi-php71 repository for Enterprise Linux (RHEL, CentOS).

    • A Week of Python

      Ok. Time to be a bit honest.
      As you folks know, I have been trying to learn programming using Python since June 2017, when I joined the 10th cohort of DGPLUG’s Summer Training.
      And time and again, I have failed.
      Not just with programming, but with most other projects I tried to do.

      At the end of my rope, I decided to just quit everything and considered (very seriously) a return to my old stressful career, thinking maybe that is all there is for me.

      Two people saved me.

      The first one was Kushal Das.
      The man was absolutely bull headed about me being in the right place and that if I could do this.

    • Compiler Support Getting Wired Up For AVX-512 VP2INTERSECT

      AVX-512 is being further extended with future Intel CPUs. LLVM Clang is now the first open-source compiler seeing support for Tiger Lake’s VP2INTERSECT instructions.

      Yesterday I wrote about initial compiler support landing for Intel’s Sapphire Rapids Icelake successor with the new Enqueue Stores “ENQCMD” seeing support in both LLVM and GCC. Waking up this morning, attention turned to AVX-512 VP2INTERSECT and that support has made it first into LLVM/Clang while no GCC support at the time of writing but it can’t be far behind.

    • PyData EuroPython 2019

      The PyData track will be part of EuroPython 2019, so you won’t need to buy an extra ticket to attend.
      The PyData track is run in cooperation with NumFocus.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Huawei can now add the IEEE to the growing list of companies banning it

      “IEEE complies with US government regulations which restrict the ability of the listed Huawei companies and their employees to participate in certain activities that are not generally open to the public. This includes certain aspects of the publication peer review and editorial process,” the organisation said.

    • Guest Post: Export Restrictions, Membership Organizations and Huawei

      New U.S. sanctions against Huawei in the escalating U.S. – China trade war have thrown another wrench into the gears of global commerce. But how do these sanctions affect standards organizations and open source development? The high level answer is that the impact will be significant for most standards organizations, and negligible for most open source projects. The major differentiator will be the degree of transparency of the organization in question.

      The details, and the answer for any given organization, however are much more complicated, and the political landscape remains dynamic and subject to change.

Leftovers

  • Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform app dream is dead and buried

    Microsoft had a dream with Windows 8 that involved universal Windows apps that would span across phones, tablets, PCs, and even Xbox consoles. The plan was that app developers could write a single app for all of these devices, and it would magically span across them all. This dream really started to fall apart after Windows Phone failed, but it’s well and truly over now.

    Microsoft has spent years pushing developers to create special apps for the company’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP), and today, it’s putting the final nail in the UWP coffin. Microsoft is finally allowing game developers to bring full native Win32 games to the Microsoft Store, meaning the many games that developers publish on popular stores like Steam don’t have to be rebuilt for UWP.

    “We recognize that Win32 is the app format that game developers love to use and gamers love to play, so we are excited to share that we will be enabling full support for native Win32 games to the Microsoft Store on Windows,” explains Microsoft’s gaming chief Phil Spencer. “This will unlock more options for developers and gamers alike, allowing for the customization and control they’ve come to expect from the open Windows gaming ecosystem.”

  • Microsoft Wanted To Create History With UWP; Now It’s Turning Back
  • Health/Nutrition

    • Alabama Abortion Ban Is a ‘Violation of Human Rights,’ Amnesty International Says

      The remarks from Amnesty International added to an array of criticism levied by national politicians, civil rights organizations and health care providers. The ACLU said on Tuesday it would sue to prevent laws criminalizing abortion from taking effect, and Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote, “When I was growing up, people got abortions. Desperate women turned to back alley butchers or even tried the procedure on their own. Some were lucky, but others weren’t. They all went through hell. Access to safe, legal abortion is a constitutional RIGHT. Full stop.”

    • Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease and Early Death

      Are ultra-processed foods like savory snacks, frozen meals and soft drinks really bad for your health? A pair of European studies published Wednesday gives fresh evidence that you are better off avoiding them.

      The studies, which both appeared in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), followed groups of people over a period of time in France and Spain and found that those who ate more factory-made foods were at greater risk for heart disease and early death respectively.

    • Ultra-processed food and adverse health outcomes

      Over recent decades, the volume of industrially processed products in global food supplies has increased. This trend has coincided with a transition towards diets linked to a rising prevalence of obesity and non-communicable diseases in many countries.1 Among food processing classification systems investigating this phenomenon the most prominent is NOVA, which groups foods into four categories according to the extent and purpose of industrial processing involved.2

      One such category is ultra-processed foods, defined as “formulations of food substances often modified by chemical processes and then assembled into ready-to-consume hyper-palatable food and drink products using flavours, colours, emulsifiers and . . . other cosmetic additives.”3 These foods include savoury snacks, reconstituted meat products, preprepared frozen dishes, and soft drinks.

      In the 10 years since Brazilian researchers coined the term ultra-processed foods,4 there has been a growing body of evidence associating consumption of such foods with poor diet quality, increased cardiovascular risk factors (eg, dyslipidaemia, hypertension), and adverse health outcomes such as obesity and metabolic syndrome.3

      Two large European cohort studies in this week’s issue56 find positive associations between consumption of ultra-processed foods and cardiovascular disease5 and all cause mortality.6 The authors designed their studies well, performing various sensitivity and secondary analyses, adjusting for well known sociodemographic and anthropometric risk factors and for established markers of dietary quality. These findings follow a previous study7 and a linked editorial8 reporting an association between consumption of these foods and an increased risk of cancer.

    • Ultraprocessed foods are easy, cheap and could be killing you

      “Ultraprocessed” describes many foods, including pre-prepared dishes found in grocery store freezers, packaged baked goods, dehydrated soups, ice cream, sugary cereals and fizzy beverages.

      Two separate studies published Wednesday in The BMJ link eating the popular factory-made fare with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of early death. While a direct cause-effect relationship has yet to be established, the researchers of both studies note that previous studies have associated highly processed food consumption with higher risks of obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even some cancers.

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • A teen is using her graduation cap to honor kids who have been killed in school shootings

      Warren decorated her cap with a QR code that will send anyone who snaps a picture to a webpage listing victims of high-school shootings.

    • In Japan, Trump orders USS John McCain to cover its name and get out of sight

      The Wall Street Journal reports that President Trump ordered the locally-anchored USS John McCain to cover its name in tarp and stay hidden while he was visiting Japan. Sailors, who wear badges with the ship’s name, were given the day off or told to stay away from official events where Trump would be present.

    • Waiting Out the Landlord’s Clock In Iran

      Quick hypothetical; Lets say you’ve been living in the same house in the same neighborhood for your whole life, generations in fact. There have been some minor squabbles but for the most part you’ve managed to get along with the neighbors. Then one day, some outside landlord buys the house next door. After several tenants come and go, a real loudmouth thug moves in, making threats, beating his wife and kids. Finally, the bastard truly breaks bad, tares down your fence and declares your backyard to be part of his property. After an epic battle in the courts, he finally returns to his property and eventually gets evicted. ‘Great!’, you think, naturally, and you even help the landlord clean up the place. Everything seems peachy fucking keen for suburbia. And then the landlord moves in.

      Suddenly, this brash wealthy landlord is building shit up, putting up new outbuildings and sheds near the property line, erecting tall steel fences with razor wire. Suddenly, it dawns on you that the last tenant wasn’t the problem, you were, and the last tenant was only removed because he wasn’t trouble enough for you. And the threats start up again. Local street kids who you’ve helped out in the past are declared gangs and you get blamed for running them. The landlord accuses you of possessing certain weapons that your neighbors have and freely flaunt but you’ve never showed any interest in. Finally, after dealing with years of threats, you sign a deal with the landlord promising to stop procuring these fictional weapons if the landlord backs off. Things calm down for a tip. Then the landlord pulls out of the deal and shit gets nuts again.

    • War With Iran Would be a Huge Sellout for Trump

      In the 2016 Republican presidential primary, Trump was quick to set himself apart from the rest on one issue in particular: the Iraq War.

      “Remember this,” he said in a primary debate in New Hampshire. “I’m the only one up here” who said, “‘Don’t go [to Iraq], don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’” And when he ran against Hillary Clinton, he chastised her: “You shouldn’t have been in Iraq, but you did vote for it.”

      Candidate Trump said he’s not “one with a trigger.” Yet President Trump has surrounded himself with people who absolutely do have a trigger. And now the U.S. seems to be inching closer to war with Iran.

      Trump appointed John Bolton as National Security Advisor and Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State just over a year ago. With Bolton and Pompeo, Trump now has a war-hungry national security team happy to go it alone against the wishes of long-time U.S. allies in Europe and elsewhere.

      Bolton, who served in the Bush administration, was a strong proponent of the Iraq War, a decision he still defends today — despite the war’s horrible consequences, and even after many Republicans have changed their tune.

    • Congressional Catering to Netanyahu Must End

      Four years ago, the U.S. Congress invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint congressional session as part of his campaign to defeat the Obama administration’s efforts to negotiate the Iranian nuclear accord. Netanyahu’s address was an unacceptable interference in the U.S. domestic political arena and should have been challenged. President Obama refused to hold a private meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister but, before leaving office, the president signed the most generous military aid package ever given to the Israelis. Thus, Netanyahu paid no price for lobbying in our congress against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

      Last week, 400 members of the Senate and House of Representatives presented Netanyahu with another gift in the form of letter to President Trump advocating a Middle East policy that fully indulged the Israeli agenda for the region. The fact that the letter coincided with Netanyahu’s floundering efforts to form a new Israeli government suggests that the Congress was trying to enhance the Israeli prime minister’s efforts. Clearly, the U.S. president and the U.S. Congress are on the same page in trying to boost Netanyahu’s standing.

      The letter to the president was presented as a U.S. regional security agenda for the Middle East, but the recommendations that concerned Syria and Iran were thoroughly consistent with Israeli (and Saudi) proclamations and propaganda. Israeli and Saudi spokesmen have been lobbying the Congress in recent months for such a statement and, in gaining a letter signed by most Democratic and Republican party leaders, the capitals of Jerusalem and Riyadh have been well rewarded. (Five congressional contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination signed the letter, indicating that they would continue the one-sided policy of the current administration.)

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • UN torture official urges UK not to extradite Julian Assange to the US as he would not receive a fair trial amid claims the WikiLeaks founder has been exposed to ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading’ treatment
    • WikiLeaks’ Assange suffering from ‘psychological torture’: U.N. rights expert

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has suffered “psychological torture” from a defamation campaign against him by the media, judges and senior political figures, a United Nations human rights investigator said on Friday.

    • Julian Assange a victim of torture, says UN expert, and Australia is partly to blame

      Julian Assange has been subjected to intense psychological torture comparable to some of the gravest cases from “interrogation prisons” around the world, a United Nations expert says.

      He accuses the UK, US and Sweden of a “consistent failure” to protect Assange’s human rights – and Australia of a “glaring absence” where it should be helping one of its citizens.

    • U.N. official says Assange is a victim of ‘psychological torture,’ warns against extradition to the U.S.
    • Julian Assange is showing symptoms of ‘psychological torture,’ expert says

      Julian Assange has been left in a state of “extreme stress, chronic anxiety” and “constant panic” after spending seven years holed up in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy, a leading United Nations expert who visited the WikiLeaks co-founder in prison said Thursday.

      Nils Melzer, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture, told NBC News he blames the United States, United Kingdom and Sweden for “ganging up” on Assange and subjecting him to “psychological torture” and “collective persecution” while he was inside the embassy.

      “You talk with him and he is extremely agitated. He had all these questions: What’s going on there? What is in this [legal] proceeding? And what’s going to happen here?” the U.N. official, who has been working informally with Assange’s legal team, said.

    • Assange indictment threatens media freedom

      The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their Norwegian affiliate Norsk Journalistlag in condemning the US government’s decision to prosecute WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange under the Espionage Act.

      “Uncovering secret or classified information relevant to the debate in society is at the heart of media’s public mission. By publishing information that powerful stakeholders want to keep undisclosed, media can contribute to keep those in power accountable. It is therefore crucial that the publication of such material lies within the freedom of the media, even when authorities wish to keep the information undisclosed,” says a statement issued today by the executive committee of the Norwegian Union of Journalists.

      On 23 May, the US Justice Department announced that it was charging Julian Assange under the Espionage Act, for his connection to the leak of some seven hundred and fifty thousand confidential military and diplomatic documents, in 2010. Wikileaks published classified material that revealed torture, war crimes and murder of journalists committed by US military.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Africa: Why Doctors Should Consider Prescribing ‘Nature’ to Patients

      Knowledge about lifestyle changes in reducing the risk of NCDs is not new. In 1948, the Framingham Heart Study (FHS) began in Boston, Massachusetts, with the objective of identifying common factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease. By 1967, the FHS found that physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease while obesity increases the risk of heart disease. The difference is that for the first time, this evidence that has been around for more than five decades can now be prescribed by doctors.

      If doctors and other health workers in Africa formalise the prescription of nature and governments improve population-level interventions, we could gradually reduce the number of Africans who die prematurely from NCDs.

    • Mammals Are Dying at an Alarming Rate Even in Unpolluted Forests

      Scientists led by Ana Benítez-López, an ecologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, estimated that the abundance of large forest mammals has declined by 40 percent in remote forests—untouched by activity like logging—due to hunting over the past four decades. Medium-sized mammals such as monkeys and sloths experienced a 27 percent loss, while the average abundance decline across all tropical mammal species was estimated to be 13 percent.

      Large mammals, such as jaguars and elephants, suffered the biggest losses because they yield the highest profits for hunters, according to the study.

    • Extraordinary Environmental Contingency activated in Mexico City

      Air pollution in Mexico City worsened overnight, triggering an emergency alert.

      The Environmental Commission of the Megalopolis (Came) issued an Extraordinary Environmental Contingency for the Mexico City metropolitan area after measuring extremely high levels of PM2.5 — fine particulate matter — at different points around the city in the early hours of the morning.

      The commission warned the public to avoid outdoor activities.

    • Reef restored: How Belize saved its beloved coral

      In Belize, battering hurricanes, rampant oil exploration, and unchecked coastal development had ravaged its fragile reefs. By 2009, the downward spiral had become so severe for Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System that UNESCO put the nation’s reefs on its List of World Heritage in Danger.

      But then, something remarkable happened. Belize brought its reefs back from the brink of extinction. The Central American nation offers a compelling example of how a grassroots environmental movement can spur governments to enact tougher environmental laws and regulations and how, when properly applied, restorative processes can help coral recover from even the severest damage.

    • North Korea says it is suffering worst drought in decades

      The official Korean Central News Agency said an average of 54.4 millimeters (2.1 inches) of rain fell throughout the country in the first five months of this year. It said that is the lowest level since 1982, when North Korea received 51.2 millimeters (2 inches) of rain on average during the same period.

    • North Korea Suffering Historic Drought Amid ‘Severe’ Food Shortage

      The rainfall is the lowest amount since 1982. Thus far in May, North Korea has seen 0.02 inches of rain. However, Pyongyang City, Nampho City, Kangwon Province and North and South Hwanghae provinces have seen no rainfall.

      According to KCNA, if precipitation for the rest of May does not exceed 50% of the average annual precipitation, North Korea’s January to May rainfall totals will be about 3 inches, the lowest amount ever recorded for that time period.

    • AI-Backed Sensors Help Reduce Wind Turbine Risks to Protected Birds

      On a Wyoming wind farm, there’s an unusual addition amid the familiar, massive wind turbines. A newly built tower, which stands only about 33 feet tall, appears small in comparison to the neighboring 328-feet-tall wind turbines. Atop the miniature tower sits an array of cameras — a layer of devices is arranged in a circle and one camera is stationed above swiveling in different directions. Suddenly, to the west, a speck appears in the sky. The top camera swivels to face the speck, which is steadily growing larger on the horizon. Within seconds, the camera has identified the approaching object as a golden eagle, one of only 40,000 left in the United States — and one that is flying directly toward the wind turbine’s deadly spinning blades.

      Although wind farms utilize a renewable source of energy and therefore do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, wind turbines’ blades, revolving at 170 miles per hour, can kill birds on contact. The harm that turbines have already imposed on protected avian wildlife, such as the golden eagle, has dampened conservationists’ enthusiasm for them, but a camera detection system called IdentiFlight is helping the wind energy industry become safer for protected birds.

      IdentiFlight scans the sky in a 360-degree radius and can spot any object flying within 0.6 miles. Once it detects a flying object, the system uses artificial intelligence to analyze the image against 200 image attributes, including body length, wing span and wing posture, in order to classify what species the bird is, and determine if the bird is one of the protected species that IdentiFlight has been programmed to watch out for. Initially designed in the United States to detect golden as well as bald eagles, IdentiFlight is expanding its species classification capabilities as the technology spreads to geographies with different avian identification needs. Once IdentiFlight makes its species classification, it produces a confidence value to measure how perfectly the object matches the system’s image attributes for a certain species.

    • Wildfires Force 10,000 to Flee as Alberta Repeals Carbon Tax

      More than 10,000 people have been forced to evacuate as wildfires spread in northern Alberta, Canada’s CBC News reported Thursday. Smoke from the fires has choked skies across the province, raising the Air Quality Health Index in its capital city of Edmonton to a 10+ Thursday, the Edmonton Journal reported.

    • Estimated 10,000 people evacuated as multiple fires threaten northern Alberta communities

      Thousands of more people have been put on evacuation alert Thursday as smoke from out-of-control wildfires in northern Alberta billowed across the province.

      Edmonton was enveloped in smoke, prompting the Air Quality Health Index to jump to a 10+ Thursday afternoon. An estimated 10,000 people have already been evacuated due to the wildfires and smoky conditions while thousands more have been put on evacuation alert as at least three major fires have spread rapidly since Wednesday.

    • Unstable polar glaciers lose ice ever faster

      Almost a quarter of all the glaciers in West Antarctica have been pronounced “unstable”. This means, in the simplest terms, that they are losing ice to the ocean faster than they can gain it from falling snow.

      In the last 25 years most of the largest flows have accelerated the loss of ice fivefold.

      And in places some glaciers, including those known as Pine Island and Thwaites, have “thinned” by 122 metres. That means that the thickness of the ice between the surface and the bedrock over which glaciers flow has fallen by almost the height of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt, and far more than the Statue of Liberty in New York or the tower of Big Ben in London.

      The conclusions are based on climate simulation matched against 800 million measurements of the Antarctic ice sheet recorded by the altimeters aboard four orbiting satellites put up by the European Space Agency between 1992 and 2017. The conclusion is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

    • As Natural Gas Infrastructure Decisions Loom, Massachusetts Gov. Baker Invests in Fossil Fuel Companies

      Amidst growing controversy over his administration’s support for new natural gas projects, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker personally invested in the fossil fuel industry, DeSmog has found.

      According to Baker’s recent financial disclosure, filed last week with the state’s Ethics Commission, the governor invested last year in a specialty energy fund composed almost exclusively of oil, gas, and coal companies.

    • 2018’s Extreme Weather Harmed UK Bumblebees

      The data was based on a “BeeWalk” project in which citizen scientists walk through certain flower-rich habitats at least once a month from March to October and record the number of bees they see. In 2018, 482 people submitted data from 559 sites.

      “Whilst it is great to see the four ‘biggest species winners’ from our latest BeeWalk data are rare bumblebees, it’s concerning to see four of our seven commonest bumblebees have declined over the last nine years,” Bumblebee Conservation Trust Science Manager Richard Comont said.

    • Modi’s Escalating War Against India’s Forests and Tribal People

      The result of the biggest election in history, India 2019, is terrible news for tribal peoples in the world’s biggest democracy. Politicians with authoritarian nationalist inclinations like India’s newly invigorated Narendra Modi are in vogue around the world, and while many minority groups are feeling the impact of this surge to the right, the past year has seen an alarming escalation of the threat against tribal and indigenous peoples worldwide.

      The “Trump of the Tropics”, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, has received widespread condemnation for his attack on indigenous peoples in Brazil, and rightly so. However, the sheer scale of India’s assault on its tribal people is unprecedented: around 8 million people are set to be evicted from their homes, and tens of millions may soon be subject to draconian laws which allow them to be “shot on sight” with essentially no due process or legal recourse.

      India’s famous forests are the battleground on which Modi’s administration have waged war against the nation’s tribal peoples. Many of India’s tribes live in forests and rely on these ecosystems to survive. These vast tracts are rich in biodiversity and are home to some of the country’s most iconic animals, notably the tiger.

      Tribes like the Chenchu, of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, have always lived harmoniously with the tigers, whom they honour and revere, but do not fear. According to one Chenchu man, Thokola Guruvaiah: “We love [tigers] as we love our children. If a tiger or a leopard kills our cattle, we don’t feel disappointed or angry, instead we feel as if our brothers have visited our homes and they have eaten what they wanted.”

  • Finance

    • Uber Will Reduce Promotions After Losing $1 Billion in a Quarter

      Uber Technologies Inc., in its first financial report as a public company, posted first-quarter sales near the high end of its previously disclosed preliminary results. The company also reported a $1.01 billion quarterly loss, among the largest of any public company.

    • China’s saber-rattling on rare-earths trade has US officials looking for options

      China has thus far imposed mild tariffs on the rare-earth ore coming to it for processing. This tariff has squeezed the bottom lines of the owners of the only US rare-earth mine at Mountain Pass, Calif. Mountain Pass ships its ore to China for processing into industrial-grade metal, because there are no comparable rare-earths processing plants in the US. An Australian rare-earth minerals company announced last week that it would join with a US chemical company to build a rare-earths processing plant in Texas, but such a plant is likely years away from becoming a reality.

    • China ready to hit back at U.S. with rare earths: newspapers

      While China has so far not explicitly said it would restrict rare earths sales to the United States, Chinese media has strongly implied this will happen.

    • Wealth is correlated with greed, dishonesty and cheating — are these effects or a causes?

      There’s a wealth of psychological research that correlates wealthy people in the real world with negative traits like rudeness (people driving fancier cars are less considerate of pedestrians and their likelihood of cutting off another driver is correlated to the cost of the driver’s car); greed (rich people take more candies out of dishes set aside for kids than poor people); generalized unethical behavior; cheating at games of chance; and overall stinginess.

      One possible explanation for all this is that getting rich is easier if you’re dishonest, lack empathy, and cheat whenever you think you can get away with it.

    • The UK grew rich by looting the world; now it launders billions for other looters

      The British empire was a globe-spanning criminal enterprise that produced vast riches for England (and, to a lesser extent, Scotland and Wales) by stealing the lands of others while slaughtering and enslaving them; today the empire is in decline and the UK is no longer reliant on direct looting.

      Instead, the UK and its former colonies have become the world’s most prolific money-laundry for other looters, servicing criminal oligarchs who steal from their own countries. The latest Corporate Tax Haven Index from the Tax Justice Network (previously) puts the UK and its overseas possessions firmly in the lead in the global money-laundry league tables.

      The story is complex: many of the former colonies (now euphemistically termed “overseas territories” or “dependencies”) were deliberately set up as financial secrecy havens during the decolonization process, a maneuver that provided British elites with a convenient way to hide their wealth from British authorities while creating (some) jobs on these “treasure islands.”

    • Iran Developing National Blockchain Platform on Hyperledger Fabric

      The Central Bank of Iran (CBI), via its Informatics and Services Corporation (ISC) and in conjunction with Areatak — a Tehran-based blockchain solutions provider — is developing a national blockchain project for its banking and financial sector.
      Called the Borna platform, Iran hopes to use the project to revamp its banking ecosystem, creating a digital financial economy that will replace the current legacy system. There are also future plans to open up the platform to local private establishments, creating a unitary monetary and banking system for the country.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • May Plot? Did U.S. Concerns Over Huawei Hasten Theresa May’s Departure?

      Britain’s PM Theresa May spent the last two years fighting off numerous Brexit-related coup attempts from within her Conservative (Tory) party. But the sudden announcement of her departure came just two weeks after US officials cautioned May not to award contracts to China’s Huawei. Was this May’s Gough Whitlam moment?

      [...]

      In 1950s-70s’ Australia, the CIA infiltrated unions, networked with rising stars like the country’s future-Governor General, Sir John Kerr and advocated for politicians including Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser. Labour PM, Gough Whitlam, came to power in Australia in 1972. Within three years, he had been ousted. Whitlam threatened to expose the US Five Eyes bases in Australia, as well as investigate the US role in financing his political enemies. According to John Pilger, who interviewed CIA agents, Theodore Shackley was a CIA agent who authored a memo warning that Whitlam was working against Australia’s (read: elite US) interests. Shackley is notable for the US role in the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile, famously on 11 September 1973. Another agent, Victor Marchetti, who helped establish the US Pine Gap spy facility near Alice Springs, said: “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House… a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion” against Whitlam.

      The CIA reportedly leaned on the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, to acquiesce in the demands of Whitlam’s political rival, Malcolm Fraser, for the ousting of Whitlam on the spurious grounds of his refusal to hold an election over a spending bill. Invoking constitutional powers, Kerr dismissed Whitlam in 1975.

    • How to Sell the Narrative of American Greatness

      Roberto Sirvent and Danny Haiphong provide a clear outline for how the public is sold a narrative of American greatness, or exceptionalism, and how the media is complicit in this massive propaganda effort. A manufacturing of propaganda that goes on 24/7, all year and every year. American’s sense of entitlement and their air of anti intellectual superiority, starts in the cradle and even before that. I think there is still a book yet to be written on untangling and tracing back the many strands of religious exclusion, xenophobia, Puritanical rigidity, and rank sentimentality — which are very deeply engrained in the American spirit and psyche.

      They (the authors) state their intentions in this book from the first pages…“Ultimately, we want to equip our readers with the tools to locate, critique, and dismantle the twin ideologies of American exceptionalism and American innocence.” Now, one might want to quibble with certain passages (like suggesting..I think its being suggested anyway…. Bernie Sanders’ popularity represented anything positive… because of course Sanders is himself embedded in the propaganda machine. And that young people having a favorable opinion of the word *socialism*. I’m not sure that is a positive if the word is simultaneously associated with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. I would argue that is simply more disinformation and indoctrination, not a meaningful groundswell of opposition to the status quo.) That said, the providing of tools … meaning the critical thinking and vocabulary to dissect this stuff… is crucial.

      And there is great insight in linking the critique of exceptionalism with innocence (is innocence an ideology, though?). As a tool of propaganda, a rhetorical tactic, the idea of innocence is indeed pernicious and ubiquitous.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Libel Lawsuit Has A Bunch Of Crazy Ideas About How Section 230 Immunity Works

      If you want a masterclass in misunderstanding pretty much everything about Section 230 of the CDA, this libel lawsuit — filed by a massage business owner against a Redditor, Reddit, and a few board members — will fill this really weird hole in your life. I won’t judge. But I will ask questions. Judgmental questions. (h/t Eric Goldman)

      Also, it’s a RICO lawsuit.

      There’s a lot to unpack here, so we’ll start at the top. The plaintiffs claim someone known as “DiggDejected” on Reddit libeled their massage business by claiming… well, the claims aren’t exactly clear. The lawsuit claims the disputed content is “libel per-se,” but never actually details the content of the disputed posts other than say one of them suggested the its spa parties for kids “gave kids diseases.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Google takes a stance against permission-grabbing Chrome extensions

      Google announced today new privacy protections for Chrome extensions, along with new rules for the Google Drive API and Drive third-party apps.

      The new rules are part of what Google calls Project Strobe, an initiative to improve the privacy and security of users’ data, which the company set in motion after discovering a serious bug in Google+ that exposed the personal details of over 500,000 users.

    • Bill Introduced To Create A Warrant Requirement For Border Device Searches

      With a great deal of luck, we may finally get a bit more respect for Constitutional rights at the border. The Supreme Court may have ruled that searches of cellphones require warrants, but that ruling doesn’t apply within 100 miles of any US border (that includes international airports). Warrantless device searches happen regularly and with increasing frequency.

      So far, courts have been hesitant to push back against the government’s assertions that border security is more important than the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. And if the courts do feel something should be done to protect US citizens and foreign visitors, they feel it should be done by Congress, not by them.

    • Best Secure Email Services To Use In 2019

      If you have heard somewhere that emails are one of the most insecure means of communicating, then you have heard the brutal truth. This is because your email can be intercepted and read without you even knowing it.

      [...]

      Most people send information through their normal Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook accounts. In fact, by signing in to your Gmail account, you allow Google to scan your emails for keywords and target you with product personalization ads.

    • Why You Need To Make A Backup of Your Facebook Data

      Many people enjoy using Facebook and other social networking platforms, and some people use it carefully due to security reasons. If you don’t want to delete your Facebook account but just to backup everything the social network stores about you, continue to read this post. Once you complete the process of Facebook data download,​ you will run into some surprises, either positive or negative.

    • Facebook Shareholders Challenged Zuckerberg and Left Empty-Handed

      Shareholders presented eight different proposals, many of them intended to limit Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg’s power, an issue that has become increasingly prevalent given Facebook’s recent run of crises over the past year — from privacy breaches to election meddling and spreading terrorism. One proposal outlined a change in voting structure to limit a special class of shares that carry extra votes, shares mostly owned by Zuckerberg. Another suggested removing him as chairman. Zuckerberg, the 35-year-old co-founder who has majority voting control, rejected all of them, just as Facebook said he would.

      The vote tallies haven’t yet been made public, but all it took was for Zuckerberg to vote against these proposals to ensure they failed.

    • Mark Zuckerberg’s head of security accused of sexual harassment by two former staffers

      One of the former staffers, who worked as an executive assistant to Booth, says they witnessed Booth utter a sexually demeaning comment toward another staff member of Zuckberg’s, who is gay, and to later on have groped and inappropriately touched the man at the Palo Alto sushi restaurant Nobu last year. The former security staffer is also accusing of Booth of repeatedly finding reasons to harass her at the workplace, like telling other members of the staff to inform her she had to change clothing because it was distracting. The security staffer says Bloom fired her for “rolling her eyes in a meeting” and complaining about a negative write-up.

    • Mark Zuckerberg’s personal security chief accused of sexual harassment and making racist remarks about Priscilla Chan by 2 former staffers

      The allegations are startling because they make accusations of overt racism and sexual impropriety within the most intimate confines of a famously private and unimaginably wealthy family. While Facebook has been rocked by public scandals over the past two years, Zuckerberg has kept his family insulated from the fallout. But the accusations against Booth and Mosteller have the potential to bring a different crisis to the very center of his domestic affairs, and they represent a potentially profound betrayal of trust on the part of the very man that Zuckerberg charges to protect the safety of his children. Facebook spends $20 million annually on Zuckerberg’s personal protection and travel.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • AT&T Sues California to Prevent Oversight Over IP Based 911 Calls Using State Law AT&T Supported and Wants Renewed

      The California legislature in 2011 passed a law to remove state and local authority over the broadband access market to “ensure a vibrant and competitive open Internet that allows California’s technology businesses to continue to flourish and contribute to economic development throughout the state.” Sounds good, right?

      But that never happened. Instead, the broadband access market in California is heading into a high-speed monopoly that, for many, is more expensive and slower than many other markets. In fact, all the law does is protect broadband monopolies, and the major ISPs are working it hard to get it renewed through Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez’s A.B. 1366.

  • DRM

    • How DRM has permitted Google to have an “open source” browser that is still under its exclusive control

      A year ago, Benjamin “Mako” Hill gave a groundbreaking lecture explaining how Big Tech companies had managed to monopolize all the benefits of free software licenses, using a combination of dirty tricks to ensure that the tools that were nominally owned by no one and licensed under free and open terms nevertheless remained under their control, so that the contributions that software developers made to “open” projects ended up benefiting big companies without big companies having to return the favor.

      Mako was focused on the ways that “software as a service” subverted free/open software licenses, but just as pernicious is “digital rights management” (DRM), [...]

    • Google’s Chrome Becomes Web ‘Gatekeeper’ and Rivals Complain

      “Chrome has become spyware,’’ said Brendan Eich, co-founder of Mozilla and the current CEO of Brave Software Inc.

      Brave offers a browser that blocks ads and web tracking software, and it is developing a system that pays users small amounts when they visit certain sites. This could upend the internet advertising business. The only catch is that the Brave browser is built on Chromium.

      Eich said it’s a trade-off he’s willing to make. Building a browser from scratch is a gargantuan task. But it hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Brave on Google’s ocean.

      In August 2017, Netflix suddenly stopped working on Brave’s browser. After a flurry of emails, Brave Chief Technology Officer Brian Bondy discovered that a Google update had changed the way Netflix used Widevine — the same tool Maddock was trying to get permission from Google to use. Brave hadn’t been told about the changes, so its browser broke when users visited Netflix online. It took over two weeks to fix the problem.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Once Again, China Is About To Use The US’s Obsession With ‘Intellectual Property’ Against Us

      You’ve heard the narrative of course: China is supposedly terrible on intellectual property, always copying the US and swiping our secrets. This has been the popular narrative over the last few decades, with politicians and other folks continuously insisting in strong terms about how we need to get China to “respect our intellectual property.” Early on we warned folks that this wouldn’t end well, and so far we’ve been exactly right. Unlike many supporters of our patent and copyright systems, China actually recognizes that those systems are mercantilist forms of monopoly protectionism, and if there’s a country out there that knows how to leverage such protectionism, it’s China. And here’s the ridiculous gift that the US has handed China: in demanding that it better “respect” patents and copyright, it gifted China the key to being protectionist in a manner that the US can’t really complain about. It’s a tremendous self-own by US policymakers, but it keeps happening.

      We warned about this a decade ago when we pointed out that China was rapidly patenting stuff, and using all those patents to make a giant public display about how it was now “respecting patents.” But, in practice, it was using those patents to block American competitors and to even block US companies in other countries. To China, its patent strategy is not about greater innovation, it’s about using the monopoly-powers that (inexplicably) Americans are demanding China “respect” as an economic weapon against non-Chinese companies.

      [...]

      But, more importantly, all that the US has done over the past few decades is to teach China how to use patent and copyright law for political purposes, and now that Trump is so focused on this ridiculous trade war, watch out for China to leverage our own demands about intellectual property against the US.

    • USPTO Issues Notice on Impact of Federal Circuit’s Supernus Decision on PTA Procedures

      In January, the Federal Circuit determined in Supernus Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Iancu that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had erred in calculating the Patent Term Adjustment for Supernus’ U.S. Patent No. 8,747,897. In particular, the Court found that because there were “no identifiable efforts” that Supernus could have undertaken in the time period between the filing of an RCE during prosecution of the application that issued as the ’897 patent and the mailing of an EPO notification of opposition for a European counterpart patent (which resulted in Supernus filing a supplemental Information Disclosure Statement during prosecution of the ’897 patent), Supernus had not failed to engage in reasonable efforts to conclude prosecution during that time period.

      In response to the Federal Circuit’s decision in Supernus, the USPTO issued a Federal Register notice (84 Fed. Reg. 20343) earlier this month notifying stakeholders of the impact of the decision on its PTA determinations. In the notice, entitled “Patent Term Adjustment Procedures in View of the Federal Circuit Decision in Supernus Pharm., Inc. v. Iancu,” the Office indicates that it is “modifying its patent term adjustment procedures in view of the decision.” However, the notice states that “the USPTO will continue to make the patent term adjustment determinations indicated in patents under the existing regulations using information recorded in its PALM [Patent Application Locating and Monitoring] system,” and that a patentee who believes there were no identifiable efforts it could have undertaken to conclude prosecution of an application (as Supernus argued with respect to the ’897 patent) “may raise the issue in a timely request for reconsideration of the patent term adjustment, providing any relevant information that is not recorded in the USPTO’s PALM system.”

    • Uniloc patent challenged as likely invalid

      On May 28, 2019, Unified, represented by Ropes & Gray, filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 6,519,005, owned and asserted by Uniloc 2017 LLC, a Uniloc affiliate and well-known NPE. The ‘005 patent, directed to a method for performing motion estimation, a process used in digital video compression, has been asserted against numerous streaming and multimedia companies, including Amazon, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), Bitmovin, Google, Hulu, Netflix, Roku, Sling TV, and Vudu.

    • Slotznick patent added to PATROLL

      On May 29, 2019, Unified added a $1,000 contest to PATROLL seeking prior art for U.S. Patent No. 7,137,127 granted to Benjamin Slotznick (an NPE – individual). The ’127 patent is generally related to user-generated embedded information transfer.

    • Qualcomm files motion to stay enforcement of FTC’s antitrust remedies pending Ninth Circuit appeal

      The standard for a stay is a mix of irreparable harm, the likelihood of the appeal to succeed on the merits, harm to the party that obtained the injunction, and the public interest. Given that the FTC is a government agency and not a commercial operator, the last two factors are practically indistinguishable as the FTC will have to argue on the basis of what the stay means for its actual beneficiaries (other industry players, and by extension, consumers).

      Unsurprisingly, Qualcomm believes all factor weigh in its favor. With a view to irreversible consequences, Qualcomm points out that any exhaustive patent license agreement it might be forced to enter into with a rival chipset maker might stay in force and effect, and Qualcomm is also concerned about having to sell chipsets exhaustively to currently-unlicensed customers (meaning Qualcomm couldn’t double-dip and collect royalties thereafter). And, as everryone expected, the prospect of having to renegotiate license agreements (which entails the specter of companies halting their payments, as Qualcomm has experienced in China and the U.S.), scares Qualcomm.

      The alternative to a stay for the duration of the entire appeal would be a stay pending the Ninth Circuit’s motion on a motion to stay that Qualcomm would file with the Ninth Circuit to the same effect (seeking a stay pending the appeal).

    • Kojicast patent challenged as likely invalid

      On May 24, 2019, Unified, represented by Haynes and Boone, filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) against U.S. Patent 9,749,380, owned and asserted by Kojicast, LLC, an NPE. The ‘380 patent, directed to streaming multimedia content from a server to a media playing device through operation of a portable device such as a tablet or smartphone, has been asserted against Dailymotion.

    • Upcoming Senate Hearings on Section 101 [Ed: The Senate Hearings on Section 101 is rather rigged; full of lobbyists and bought academics with money for agenda]
    • Copyrights

      • This Is Why We Can’t Have Fun Things: The Copyright Dispute Over Lord Buckethead’s UK Political Career

        You might recall during the 2017 UK elections, some attention was paid to the ongoing tradition of quirky, satirical political candidates running for office. But none got more attention than one “Lord Buckethead.” There are lots of videos and photos showing Lord Buckethead on stage with Theresa May on election night, but the best summary of the whole situation came from John Oliver:

      • Bell Wants Canada to Criminalize Pirate Streaming Services

        Canadian telecoms giant Bell is recommending that the Government should criminalize people who are involved with pirate streaming services, including those who advertise or sell pirate set-top boxes. The proposal is seen as a prime tool to combat online piracy. In the same submission, Bell also revives its call to institutionalize site blocking.

GNU/Linux in 2019 and GNU/Linux in 2009 Face Entirely Different Worlds (and Challenges)

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 5:02 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The ‘proprietary-but-source-available’ syndrome makes a comeback (openwashing)

Come closer

Microsoft: Come closer. So I can stab you in the back.

Summary: We need to resume coverage of Microsoft abuses and attacks on GNU/Linux; their thinly-veiled attacks are intensifying while media that Microsoft is paying relentlessly cheers and ‘perfumes’ these attacks

ABOUT A DECADE ago “cloud computing” (as a term, as that is for the most part what it boils down to) had started securing a foothold. Businesses were ridding themselves of servers that they had long controlled and instead used something akin to a terminal (or browser) to access some servers they neither owned nor controlled. Let’s not even bring “edge” and “smart” and “AI” and other nonsense into it. The world of so-called ‘IT’ (another controversial term) changed; whether it’s due to marketing buzzwords or vice versa (in reverse) isn’t what’s important right now.

“In our view, simply ignoring what Microsoft is up to (in 2019 in particular) is no longer an option.”Some of our readers bemoan the OSI; some even blast the FSF, saying it hasn’t kept up with emerging threats. The emergence of systemd and various forms of Microsoft entryism (e.g. in Python) would sometimes be cited. We don’t bring up these issues often enough. That’s mostly because we focus on software patents, as we have since 2006. Our intention is to gradually change that and return to focusing on Microsoft threats; Novell is long gone, but the same tactics are now resurfacing with Azure‎ (Microsoft tries to sell it using promises of “IP peace of mind”). At the same time Microsoft’s takeover of GitHub can be seen as an abduction of developers and development. Satya Nadella merely continues the strategy laid forth by Bill Hilf‎ and Sam Ramji (under Ballmer) a decade earlier. Months ago Microsoft got itself a seat on the Board of the OSI; these people now promote, from various such seats, alternatives to “Open Source” (various other terms) and are connected to the managers of “Open at Microsoft” — the same managers who phoned my employer to condemn me and caused me trouble. They know what they're trying to achieve and how. It’s the same old Microsoft; there’s no “new Microsoft”, only new PR.

“It’s the same old Microsoft; there’s no “new Microsoft”, only new PR.”In our view, simply ignoring what Microsoft is up to (in 2019 in particular) is no longer an option. That’s why we began writing a lot more about the Linux Foundation and we shall revisit other topics, such as Apache‎ being hijacked. Even the chief of Eclipse has begun complaining about it in public (there were some press reports about it earlier this month). Recently, corporate media spent more time and space covering WSL (WeaSeL) than GNU/Linux itself. Microsoft’s sponsorship of the media pays off. They want developers to use Vista 10 with extensive NSA surveillance and Visual Studio (openwashing through “Code”) while UEFI ‘secure boot’ makes it hard to even boot GNU/Linux on a new laptop/desktop.

Index Pages for Over 25,000 Blog Posts/Articles

Posted in Site News at 3:41 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Cards for indexing

Summary: Ongoing work making the site easier to navigate by subject/topic/name

FOUR days ago we wrote about work (underway) to organise the site, especially making old articles easier to find (by topic/date). In recent years we published about 3,000 articles about the European Patent Office (EPO) and prior to that even more about the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Many prior years were spent writing about GNU/Linux, Microsoft and Novell. We had already written about software patents in Europe more than a decade ago, i.e. well before Battistelli and Campinos were even at the Office. About US software patents we had written for almost a decade before AIA’s impact with 35 U.S.C. § 101.

The index pages added so far, in chronological order:

There are more on the way. Wiki pages for indexing may not be as useful as search or a glossary, but we’ve used these for about a decade to craft a per-topic synopsis. There’s always room for improvement and we rely on volunteers who help craft these.

British Patent Courts Continue to Expose the Collapse in Quality of European Patents

Posted in Courtroom, Europe, Patents at 1:52 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Judges who are not controlled by the Office in Munich see things differently

Patent Courts

Summary: The UK Patent Court and the UK High Court are just some of the courts which continue to reject bogus European Patents (courts in other countries do so as well, but press coverage about it isn’t in English)

THE previous post noted that the EPO‘s President, António Campinos, may have already run out of time and out of favour. He won’t be trusted anymore.

Putting social aspects aside, Campinos has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care about patent quality (same problem at the USPTO) and he just wants to maximise revenue while pretending there’s financial urgency (or imperative) to do so.

“Putting social aspects aside, Campinos has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care about patent quality…”The patent extremists couldn’t be happier. We’d rather not link to Watchtroll’s “Mission Impossible? How US Drafters Can Minimize Support/Clarity Issues Under Article 84 EPC” and “Legal Entitlement To Priority – A European Perspective” (those are just their latest headlines, preceding articles that bash “European Patent Office opposition proceedings and in invalidity actions”). Remember that patent quality does not matter to those who just profit from a lot of litigation; fruitless litigation is a net loss to the plaintiff and defendant, but not to the law firm (so-called ‘representatives’).

Earlier this month we learned that the EPO had granted a patent on blood (plasma, or “blood separation patent”) until the highest British court ‘told’ it off (indirectly); why does this keep happening? This British court has recently done the same in other cases [1, 2, 3, 4] and as IPPro Magazine put it a few days ago:

The European Patent Office (EPO) has revoked a Regenlab patent related to platelet-rich plasma after finding it lacked both novelty and added matter.
Estar Medical filed an opposition to the European patent (2,073,862 B1) in 2017. It was revoked in April following an EPO hearing.

Estar was also successful in obtaining a revocation order from the UK High Court in January for the same Regenlab patent due to it lacking novelty and an inventive step.

An application to amend the UK patent from Regenlab was refused by the UK Patent Courts, which ruled that the amended patent would still be invalid.

The UK Patent Court also denied Regenlab permission to appeal that judgement and was forced to pay “extensive legal expenses” to Estar.

[...]

He commented: “It has been our position from the start that the Regenlab blood separation patent was false and should have never been granted and we are happy that the EPO shares the same view. Estar Medical has remained confident in its position since the opposition was filed in 2017.”

So now we have patents on life, water (dependent on quality of water), air (dependent on quality of air), nature, and mathematics. Great!

Sarah McFarlane (Powell Gillbert) has just published this piece which speaks of the British system compared to the EPC. To quote: “The key statute is the Patents Act 1977 (as amended), which sets out (among other things) the requirements for obtaining a patent, the resulting rights provided and the remedies for patent infringement in the United Kingdom. The Patents Act 1977 gives effect to the European Patent Convention 1973 (EPC) (as amended) in the United Kingdom.”

“So now we have patents on life, water (dependent on quality of water), air (dependent on quality of air), nature, and mathematics.”But the EPO no longer honours the EPC. We’ve covered so many examples of that. Earlier this week Mondaq carried this piece about software patents in Europe — patents that basically ought not exist at all!

Andrew Sunderland (Haseltine Lake LLP) wrote about the EPO having another chance to end such patents — something which we doubt can happen when the judges lack independence/autonomy. Quoting Sunderland:

Following the recent referral to the EPO’s Enlarged Board of Appeal, the EPO has issued a notice indicating that all pending proceedings before the examination and opposition divisions at the EPO, which depend entirely on the decision of the EBA, will be stayed until the decision is issued. Therefore, applicants and opponents should expect a long wait on some cases related to simulation technology.

[...]

If proceedings are stayed, the relevant division at the EPO will inform the relevant party. At the same time, any communications setting a time limit for a response will be withdrawn until the Enlarged Board has given its decision, after which the division will issue a communication concerning the resumption of proceedings.

This should be a trivial case to decide on; it has been made crystal clear by courts, by Parliament and even by the EPC that patents “as such” ought not be granted. Just because the EPO spent many years granting them doesn’t make it OK. Longterm deviation from the law does not render it an “acceptable” norm.

António Campinos Didn’t Even Last a Year

Posted in Europe, Patents at 1:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

It’s like Benoît Battistelli still controls the Office in absentia

EPO change

Summary: The Staff Union of the European Patent Office explains why the ‘new’ EPO President is more or less the same as his predecessor, Benoît Battistelli, who put him in this job

WHEN Battistelli came to the European Patent Office (EPO) it took a couple of years before things started to really heat up (breakdown started 3-4 years later). António Campinos seems to have lost the staff’s faith (or benefit of the doubt) within just months and less than a year after his arrival there’s already a call for strike. On Wednesday the Staff Union of the European Patent Office (SUEPO) linked to the World Health Organization’s new page about burnout* and the following day came out a 2-page publication (“Seven reasons why Mr Campinos’ first year is far below expectations” by SUEPO Munich, dated yesterday). It is “the most recent SUEPO Munich publication,” told us our source, adding the joke that “Antonio Campinos, according to the Administrative Council the award winning social peace keeper!”

Here it is in HTML form:

Munich, 30.05.2019
su19016mp – 0.2.1/0.3.2

Seven reasons why Mr Campinos’ first year is far below expectations

Almost one year after the arrival of Mr Campinos as President of the EPO, we note with regret that the social situation has not improved, and that none of the root causes of the many issues that trouble our organisation have been addressed. There are many reasons for discontent and it is high time to voice our claims:

1. Fair settlement for all SUEPO Officials/Staff Representatives abusively sanctioned by the Battistelli administration

Mr Campinos suggests that those Staff Representatives who were abusively sacked and now claim the status quo ante and/or restitutio ad integrum are making “excessive claims”. There is nothing excessive in demanding that they now be in the situation in which they would have been if they had not been unlawfully sanctioned. In his Communiqué of 20 May 2019, Mr Campinos even dared to suggest that they were claiming “significant amounts of taxpayer’s money” which should be handled with “due diligence, due process and careful legal assessment”. This suggestion is disingenuous and offensive. It is the Office who, through unlawful acts, has caused the damage and is now engaging in victim blaming. This also contrasts ironically with Mr Campinos’ attempt in the Budget and Finance Committee meeting on 21 May 2019 to obtain no less than EUR 600 million for allegedly necessary and urgent building investments. Some delegations seemed to have spotted that the real amount might be even higher, close to EUR one billion!

2. Fair reporting instead of artificially underrating hundreds of colleagues with “(far) below expectations”

Mr Battistelli proudly claimed that the reforms he introduced – mainly cutting staff benefits and applying greater pressure on staff through a new reporting system – had secured the long-term sustainability of the Office. Mr Campinos’ financial report of December 2018 continued along the same lines. It claimed an “all-time high” operating result of EUR 390 million, rising revenues, and increased efficiency. The EPO Reserve Fund for Pensions and Social Security was topped up with another EUR 200 million. EPO staff was thanked, but not rewarded, for these good results. Instead, Mr Campinos reintroduced a hidden box marking and labelled it “(far) below expectations”, with a record-breaking 8% of staff supposedly receiving this rating. According to our information, the actual figure may be even higher with DG1 being particularly targeted, especially in directorates considered to be less “productive”.

3. Respect for staff instead of threats of incompetence procedure

Only two months after starting his new presidency, Mr Campinos dismissed an examiner colleague for alleged professional incompetence. He did so even though the Central Staff Committee (CSC) had drawn his attention to the unlawfulness of any procedure based on Art. 52 ServRegs (dealing with professional incompetence), until and unless implementing rules to Art. 52 are defined. In GCC meetings, Ms Bergot declared that 7 or 8 procedures are still in the pipeline. In February 2019, instead of waiting for consensus with the CSC, Mr Campinos nevertheless forced through the implementation of new performance management guidelines with a 4-point scale for retroactively assessing the performance of the year 2018. This reminds us strongly of the Battistelli times. The newly-introduced rating “far below the expectations” will put or keep a staff member on a track leading to possible dismissal for incompetence. Clearly, procedures for dismissing staff for incompetence are meant to be used only in truly exceptional cases. The exponential increase of staff underrated at “(far) below the expectations” is worrying and reminds us of the early declarations of Ms Bergot that “there should be a turnover of 10% at the EPO”.

4. Fair career progression for everyone, no managerial arbitrariness

Staff members have expressed major concerns about the new career system. The comments in the Willis Tower Watson survey are eloquent: “Reduce targets and pressure and clearly define minimum targets for getting a reward/step.” “[We need] honesty and transparency from higher management concerning planning, goals and rewards, including admitting errors.” “Reform the new career system to make the achievement of a pensionable reward fair – transparent – deterministic”. Following these results, Mr Campinos introduced new “Guidelines for the reward
exercise 2019” which do exactly the opposite and state that “there is no automatic link between appraisal reports and the reward exercise. While performance is a pre-condition, it may not be sufficient to warrant a reward.” The reward exercise will thus continue to be arbitrary and lack transparency. Regardless of the recent white-washing initiatives concerning Gender Diversity and Inclusion, women who are pregnant, work part-time or take parental leave are still affected negatively in their career and newcomers continue to be an asset in which the EPO refuses to invest (only 15% received a reward compared to the EPO average of 50%).

5. People-oriented management, instead of management by fear

As FICSA wrote in its letter of 23 May 2019, Mr Campinos should understand, “given [his] legal background and as a former EU official, that the leftover dysfunctional policies of the EPO would not be acceptable within the EU institutions”. By keeping in place the senior managers of the Battistelli administration and by refusing to condemn their most egregious abuses, Mr Campinos is de facto endorsing them. In the Willis Towers Watson survey, 63% of the respondents consider that insufficient effort is made to get the opinions of staff and 58% do not feel free to speak their mind. Even more worryingly, only 20% state that they do feel free to speak up. Nearly half (49%) responded negatively to the statement that “all staff are treated with respect here” and 44% of staff feel that they lack any opportunity for personal development. A proper assessment of the psychosocial risks at the EPO is becoming urgent.

6. Fair assessment of the EPO financial situation, no pension reform based on a heavily
biased study

“A dystopian fiction!” This is how the European Patent Institute (EPI) qualified the Financial Study performed by Mercer in the Budget and Finance Committee meeting. In Mercer’s “Matrix”, the fee income is understated (part 1) and the return on invested capital is deliberately omitted (part 2). These are some of the tricks used by the consultants to artificially create an alleged financial gap.

7. Fair salary and pension adjustment procedure for the coming years, no erosion of purchasing power

At the EPO, financial studies tend to be a prelude to cuts in staff benefits. The latest study is no exception. Immediately after presenting the results of the Financial Study, management cited the coming reforms aimed at covering the artificial financial gap: the pensions, the tax adjustment on pensions, the yearly salary adjustment (which also affects pensions), and the education allowance. Since November 2018, the number of retiring employees has increased sharply. More will follow if Mr Campinos continues to refuse to commit in writing to transitional measures and a respect for the legitimate expectations of (future) pensioners. His statement in GCC meetings: “I come from a world where acquired rights don’t exist. There are no acquired rights” is far from reassuring and all the more surprising from a former EU official.

SUEPO Munich

The gloves actually came off some time back; we’ve meanwhile created new Wiki pages, e.g. for Bergot, Minnoye and Bristows. It certainly looks like a tough ride ahead; Campinos has changed virtually nothing. Things can get even worse.

In the words of “Concerned observer” (earlier this week):

It seems that Märpel may have identified an explanation for the EPO’s management seemingly inexplicable attempt to sell the fantasy that the EPO’s finances are in a precarious position.

https://rip-kat.blogspot.com/2019/05/financial-study.html

This is no joke. Do applicants really want the EPO to prioritise, above all else, cutting their internal costs for providing the services (examination and opposition) that are the very reason for the EPO’s existence? Avoiding waste is one thing. However, there comes a point where cutting costs has an inevitable, detrimental impact upon service level.

Given the many complaints about the downward trend in the quality of examination at the EPO (including on this blog), I would have thought that the EPO’s management would by now have got the message that applicants do NOT support any drift towards a “cheap and cheerful” approach to examination. This therefore raises another question: why on earth would the EPO’s management be pursuing an approach that is not supported by applicants?

Whilst I can only speculate, one possibility is that it has something to do with the remuneration for those managers who can demonstrate that they have made a significant “saving” for the EPO. If this is actually what is happening, it would suggest that we can now expect intense competition for the top management jobs at the EPO … from candidates motivated solely by the possibilities for self-enrichment (at the expense of applicants and less senior EPO staff).

It would be wonderful if it could be proven that such speculation is wide of the mark, and that something far less sinister is going on. We shall just have to wait and see whether any such proof emerges … though I will not hold my breath waiting for it.

A lot of low-quality patents would also be good for the litigation ‘industry’ and patent trolls — a subject we shall touch in our next post.
______
* Meanwhile, the media is covering another story, “World Health Organization classifies ‘gaming disorder’ as an illness” (dozens of articles like this over the past few days, e.g. “‘Gaming disorder’ officially on World Health Organization’s list of diseases” and more in our daily links).

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