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Links 23/1/2010: HTML5/Ogg Debate Heats Up, More Chrome OS Details

GNOME bluefish



  • Will Clinton Free The World From Software Dictatorship?
    Recently many Software Freedom activists have started to question bundled operating systems. If one goes to buy a PC, you will have to pay for the pre-installed Microsoft Window. Today there are many alternatives to Microsoft Windows -- GNU/Linux based Ubuntu is one of the most popular Operating Systems. It is not only free in terms of cost, but also free in terms of control that the user has over his or her computing. GNU/Linux operating systems are very much more secure than Microsoft technologies.

    If you want buy a branded PC from HP or any other major player and you want to run GNU/Linux on it then what are your choices? Irrespective of what software you want to run on your machine, you will have to pay the cost of pre-installed Windows, even if you are going to remove it and replace it with GNU/Linux. Will Mrs. Clinton take measures to save citizens from paying forced Microsoft Taxes?

  • Linux, the law and the economy.
    With the ever increasing user-friendliness of Linux, the fact that its not as demanding on the hardware, the fact that more and more companies are making programs for Linux and the strides of companies like Canonical with their Ubuntu product, I see the popularity of Linux doing nothing but growing.

  • LinuxCertified Announces its next "Linux Fundamentals" Course
    This two-day introduction to Linux broadens attendees horizons with a detailed overview of the operating system. Attendees learn how to effectively use a Linux system as a valuable tool. They get familiar with the architecture and various components of the operating system, learn both graphical and command line tools, and learn to do basic networking. This class is scheduled for January 28th - 29th, 2010.

  • Desktop

    • The disappearing Dell desktop Linux systems
      Dell no longer has desktop systems available on their Linux system page. Only laptop and netbook systems are now available. This is the second time in the past few months that Dell has dropped Linux desktop systems. Attempts to contact Dell to ask about the status of desktop Linux systems have so far been unsuccessful.

    • Google

      • Google's Chrome OS to include a media player
        Google has confirmed that its upcoming lightweight, browser-centric Chrome OS operating system will include a built-in media player. In an interview with ArsTechnica, Matthew Papakipos, the engineering director for the Chrome OS project, says that the developers are currently working on "integrating a whole media player into Chrome and into Chrome OS". The Chrome browser, for example, already includes support for Flash and HTML5 audio and video playback, however, users also need to be able to "play JPEGs and MP3s and PDFs and all that stuff when you're off line" said Papakipos.

      • Google's Chrome OS: Tomorrow's Desktop Today?
        Sometime in 2010, Google will release Chrome OS, its take on a netbook operating system. It will be far more than just that though. It's an entirely new take on the desktop operating system. While a final version is still months away from release there's already enough of Chrome available that we can begin to see what it's going to look like.


        You also won't need to be on the Internet to view or play some media files. We already know that Chrome OS will be able to read Adobe PDF files and play Adobe Flash videos. Now, we know that Google is integrating a media player into Chrome OS that will play at least MP3 music files. It will surely play other media file types as well, but exactly what those will be we don't know yet. We do know that you won't need to be on the Internet to play them. So, for example, if you have an MP4 movie on a USB stick, you'll be able to watch it even if you're not online. Again, the intent isn't to have you click on a movie file and have a media player pop-up to play it. Instead, the movie will start playing in a browser window. Chrome OS is all about integrating everything into the Web browser experience.

      • Graphics Stack

        • [ANNOUNCE] xorg-server
          Not a lot of fixes, LCA rather slowed down the patch flow. There's a number of patches in the queue for master, so I expect to be a bit more exciting.

  • Applications

  • K Desktop Environment (KDE SC)

    • Camp KDE Day Three Technical Talks Summaries
      The third day of talks at Camp KDE was somewhat shorter, due to the afternoon Cmake training provided by Marcus Hanwell of Kitware. However, in order to provide complete coverage of the talks for the readers of the dot, summaries of the third day's technical talks are provided within.

    • Lancelot forked
      I have been really lazy to write anything here for quite some time now. I enjoyed the simple life away from the blogocube (it’s actually a dodecahedron, but blogododecahedron is a mouthful) but now I’m back.


      The next step was the /fork/ from the title. The data models (aka every item list you see in Lancelot) are moved into a separate library called liblancelot-datamodels. Both libraries (liblancelot and liblancelot-datamodels) now reside in kdeplasma-addons/libs so that they can be used by any other plasmoid (or any other program for that matter).

      This is a way of saying “liblancelot is now considered stable enough to be used even outside of Lancelot”.

    • [KDE:] key quest: silk
      I used to have a silk dress shirt. It was a rich blue color, a bit loose fitting and just great for the hot and humid semi-tropical climate of Hawaii where I was living at the time. That isn't the kind of silk this blog entry is about, however. Rather it's going to be about KDE Silk which is a project which aims to deeply integrate online content and communication into the user experience.

      To quote the KDE Silk wiki page: "The goal of Project Silk is deep coupling of the web with the user experience while overcoming limitations of the browser. "Freeing the Web From the Browser", so to say. Project Silk takes the opposite direction of Google's Chrome OS, instead of making the browser the Operating System, we integrate the content and the communication deeply into the desktop and application "

    • [KDE:] key quest: web presence
      When I was contemplating the topics for my "Key Quests for 2010" list in December 2009, even before I had decided whether I'd share the list with others, the issue of KDE's web footprint came up pretty quickly in the process. It is very often our first impression for people who would like to get involved or who would like to find out more about us. It is where people go before they know how to (or if they want to) communicate with us directly. It also has been something we've really struggled with improving.

    • [KDE:] key quest: webkit
      The list of "Key Quests for 2010" was alphabetical. It was a sensible ordering and it prevented me from having to prioritize them in some linear fashion that could never be definitive anyways: all the points are important, though often in different ways, for different reasons and even with different key audiences. So, alphabetical ordering it was! This meant that WebKit was going to be the last topic, and now here we are. (Honestly, I'm glad I'll be able to get back to more "stream of consciousness, spur of the moment" blogging! :)

  • Distributions

    • Element media.OS v1.0 Beta Now Available
      The first beta of what will become Element MediaOS version 1.0, an HTPC centric distribution based on Ubuntu 9.10, is available for testers and developers. Element is designed for HTPCs and aims to integrate GTK applications into a ten-foot user interface through a unique implementation of the XFCE environment. Its started as my own project to set up an effective media center for my own HTPC that would allow me to utilise certain GTK applications without straining my eyes to read the dialog fonts. I decided it would probably be beneficial to other users who were seeking something similar so I am hoping I can get an active community of media center enthusiasts to get behind it and support it.

    • AstLinux 0.7.0 Released
      The AstLinux Team have release version 0.7.0 of AstLinux - it has been a while coming but has now arrived.

    • Red Hat Family

      • How Red Hat Routed the Recession
        While the recession has battered many U.S. software companies, Red Hat — which has staked its future on open-source Linux software, virtualization and cloud computing — has flourished. The company has a number of secrets behind its success, some of them unique.

      • FOSS Feats and Follies: Q&A With Red Hat Fedora Project Leader Paul Frields
        Last month, more than 200 Fedora Project developers and contributors gathered in Toronto for FUDCon, the Fedora Users and Developers Conference. Paul Frields, Red Hat's Fedora Project Leader, talks about FUDCon, what lies ahead for the next generation of FOSS, and how to address some of the lingering problems of Linux communities.

      • Fedora’s social IRC room
        Just thought I would point out for folks who haven’t heard of it that we have a social IRC channel available on #fedora-social.

    • Debian Family

      • The Debian Adventure, Part 16: Applications
        It's been over a week now, and my wife is settling in to her new Debian system with no further problems. There were a few extras I needed to install when I first brought Debian up, and a few more I've needed during the last week.

      • Debian 4.0 security support ends soon
        Debian developer Alexander Reichle-Schmehl has announced that security support for Debian 4.0 (code named "Etch") will end on the 15th of February, 2010. Debian 4.0 was originally released on the 8th of April, 2007 and included version 2.6.18 of the Linux kernel. After the 15th of February, no new updates, including security updates and critical fixes, will be available for Debian version 4.0.

      • Second Lucid Lynx alpha said to offer 15-second start-ups
        The second alpha of Ubuntu 10.06 boasts 15-second boot-time, says an industry report. Meanwhile, the Ubuntu project posted a controversial survey about which proprietary apps might be considered for inclusion with the distro, and Canonical announced a support plan for IBM's Ubuntu/Lotus "Smart Work" cloud distribution.

      • Updates Coming For Ubuntu Server 10.04 LTS
        To be worked on for Ubuntu Server 10.04 Alpha 3 is migrating from MySQL 5.0 to MySQL 5.1, an upgrade to Eucalyptus 1.6.2, PHP/Python/Perl libraries for Amazon's cloud computing platform, integrating Puppet and Etckeeper, boothooks and user based configuration for UEC/EC2, and various QA improvements.

      • Ubuntu books span Koala and Lynx distros
        Sams Publishing has published a 2010 version of its book Ubuntu Unleashed for Karmic Koala and Lucid Lynx releases. The publisher also launched an Ubuntu Linux Starter Kit combination book and boxed distribution, and has updated A Practical Guide to Linux Commands, Editors, and Shell Programming.

      • What’s Coming In Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx)
        Now that Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala) is out and stable I thought I would look into what is on the horizon for the next release of Ubuntu. There are a lot of questions that I have about the next release and I have found some solid answers, rumors and a lot of speculation as to what the next release will have.

        Ubuntu has committed to have a regular release schedule. I came across a lot of mixed feelings about this idea/concept. Some people feel that this regular release gets in the way of how users see the distribution. Some users like to be on the edge of technology and what the developers have made for the release. Once people get used to that release it is about time for another release that uses new ideas and concepts.

      • Linux for Children: Kid-Friendly Linux Distributions
        Believe it or not, there are several distributions of Linux intended for use by children as young as 3 years old. Child-oriented Linux distros tend to have a simplified interface with large, “chunky”, colorful icons and a specialized set of programs designed with kids in mind.

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Gallery: E-Readers Push Boundaries of Books
      The latest generation of devices are easy on the eye, lightweight and packed with some nifty features such as the ability to take notes, make lists and — for some — even watch video. They also offer far better battery life than any netbook or notebook, often come with an unlimited wireless connection for downloading new books, and give you access to libraries of e-books that can top a million titles. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year, there were so many e-readers that they had their own special section carved out on the show floor.

    • Phones

      • New release of Flickr Addict for the Palm Pre
        Version 0.2 of both Flickr Addict and Flickr Addict Lite have been released on the Palm App Catalog, just three hours or so after submission, so kudos to Palm!

      • Android

        • The Bizarre Cathedral - 64

        • Android rocks out on Fender phone
          T-Mobile launched an Eric Clapton-backed Fender Limited Edition of its Android-based MyTouch 3G phone. Meanwhile, China-based Hisense announced an HS-E90 Android phone, Motorola is launching an Android app store in China, and Taiwan's Gigabyte is rumored to be releasing an Android handset in Russia, say reports.

        • Processing for Android
          Pre-release downloads of Processing with built-in support for Android. Note that this code is incomplete and contains many bugs. It is not ready for widespread use. It should be considered "nightly build" quality. Do not use this code while operating heavy equipment. Do not rely on this code for thesis or diploma work, as you will not graduate. Do not use this code if you're prone to whining about incomplete software that you download for free.

    • Sub-notebooks

      • ARM to overtake x86 in ultra mobile devices by 2013, says ABI Research
        ARM-based systems introduces greater choice and differentiation for system vendors, although an estimated 90% of ultra-mobile devices (UMDs) shipped in 2009 were based on an x86 processor architecture, according to a new report by ABI Research.

        The firm forecasts that annual UMD shipments of netbooks, MIDs, smartbooks and UMPCs based on ARM instruction sets will surpass x86-based UMDs by 2013.

Free Software/Open Source

  • ZSL Unveils "PowerCube" DaaS in the U.S., Africa and India
    ZSL, a leading ISV & Global Software Solutions and Services provider, today launched "PowerCube" DaaS (Desktop as a Service), an open source-based desktop collaborative solution with supporting ZSL consulting practice. Available today in the U.S., Africa, and India, "PowerCube" will help mid-market customers using proprietary platforms to migrate to the IBM Client for Smart Work on Ubuntu's operating system.

  • The Open-PC: one step closer to open-hardware
    At the Gran Canaria Open Desktop Summit in July 2009, the Open-PC project was announced. The statement said the project aimed to “cooperatively design a Free Software based computer by and for the community”. Further this PC would use only hardware for which there are free software drivers available. This would be a PC with the minimal compromise required for running a free desktop. In January 2010 the project announced the launch of its first product.

  • Los Angeles Architect Uses Second Life to Develop Multi-Million Dollar, Mixed Used Shopping Mall Project in Egypt
    What you're looking at above left is the construction site of the Cleopatra Water Courts project in Cairo, Egpyt, a shopping mall complex that'll likely cost tens of millions dollars to complete. What you're at looking above right is the architect's conceptual model that got his design for it approved -- not a real world model, not a watercolor painting, not even an AutoCAD file. Rather, it's a build created in Second Life, which Los Angeles-based architect David Denton (known in SL as DB Bailey), showed his client, an Egyptian tycoon who funded the project. On that score, this is almost certainly the most expensive, ambitious real world project using Second Life as a platform.

  • A free software conference or an open source conference? describes itself as a "conference about Open Source Software, including Linux that brings together the world's community of Linux enthusiasts who contribute to the Linux operating system". The description is apt because it clearly states how focused on the "open source" philosophy that conference is. Their views and conclusions would differ if they focused more on software freedom instead. "Free software" and "open source" are terms expressing different values and different values give rise to different conclusions.

  • GT.M Comes of Age While VistA Rumbles
    Fidelity Information Services Free/Open Source GT.M Mumps database is gaining traction outside of private-sector Veterans Affairs VistA Electronic Health Record. Veterans Affairs VistA development in the private sector is proceeding at a furious rate. Companies such as M/Gateway, Astronaut (owned by the same conspiracy that owns Linux Medical News) Medsphere, DSS and others are making announcement after announcement of new development in the Veterans Affairs VistA Electronic Health Record or closely related space.

  • Audiocasts

    • CAOS Theory Podcast 2010.01.22
      Topics for this podcast:

      *Open source in consumer devices *VMware-Zimbra deal highlights open source, cloud *A capitalist’s guide to open source licensing *Latest on Oracle-Sun-MySQL, M&A implications

    • FLOSS Weekly 105: MongoDB
      Hosts: Randal Schwartz and Leo Laporte

      MongoDB, the a scalable, schema-free, document-oriented database written in C++.

    • Episode 132: Cinelerra in Japan!
      This week there is only a little bit of GIMP, but a lot more about the free video editor Cinelerra. I use it to make a kind of slide show video used to illustrate a short “bumper” for Martin Bailey’s blog and podcast about his (mostly nature) photography. Martin is living in Japan and has a lot to tell about photography and Japan. Highly recommended!

  • Databases

    • EU Commission Approves Oracle-Sun Deal With No Conditions
      I'm very grateful, personally, that the EU Commission cares about Open Source, but after its extensive investigation into MySQL, despite some misinformation, as I viewed it, it found, "The Commission's in-depth investigation showed that although MySQL and Oracle compete in certain parts of the database market, they are not close competitors in others, such as the high-end segment." That is true.

    • Ingres CEO Analyzes Oracle-MySQL Combo
      Intriguing stuff. But the really interesting dialog begins in chapter two, where Burkhardt shares his views on Oracle’s buyout of Sun, and the potential implications for MySQL.


    • Free software in the Haiti aid effort, and how you can help
      OpenStreetMap and Sahana are two free software projects that are facilitating aid to Haiti.

      We wanted to call attention to two free software projects that have been involved in the Haiti humanitarian effort, both because of the usefulness of their work and because they can surely use the help of skilled volunteers.

  • Releases

    • [Spread-users] ANNOUNCE: spread.el, a Spread Toolkit client for Emacs

    • PatientOS Open Source EMR "Falchion" Released.
      PatientOS EMR is an open source health care information system with a comprehensive toolkit to customize the EMR to meet the needs of Hospitals, Clinics and Businesses seeking to integrate an EMR with their software.

      This latest release includes a new AJAX web client for end users to access the clinical documentation through the browser. PatientOS Inc. worked closely with the Ila Trust foundation to create a light weight application which can meet the needs of seeing hundreds of patients per session.

    • opentaps 1.4 Release Candidate Available
      This release candidate is the final step before the official release of opentaps 1.4, which is expected in the next few weeks, and there should be only limited changes to opentaps 1.4 before its release.

  • Government

    • SF mayor: city can save money with open source software
      The San Francisco Committee on Information Technology has published a new software evaluation policy that requires departments of the city government to consider open source software solutions alongside proprietary commercial offerings.

    • U.S. Open Source for Open Government
      In December the U.S. White House set guidelines for an open and transparent administration. The Open Source for America (OSFA) organization is now following up with tips for a governmental move to free software.

  • Standards/Consortia

    • Ask YouTube for Ogg support! Ask YouTube for Ogg support!
      People are voting for Google to offer HTML5/Ogg video support on YouTube, in Google's own product ideas voting space.

      This piece of Ogg activism is getting some traffic on and Twitter right now. If you haven't already, you should jump in.

      YouTube is, obviously, the largest source of videos in the world by far, so keeping pressure on Google to support web standards and free formats (over proprietary formats like Flash) is really important.

    • G-Streamer For Google's Chrome Proposed But Denied
      In early December a beta of Google Chrome for Linux was released (though Chromium could be built on Linux in an alpha form for months earlier) while just days prior was the first public code release of Google's Chromium OS. Google's Chrome web-browser has been quick to attract new users on Linux thanks to its speed and features, but some are having issues with this web-browser over its multimedia support.

    • Bumps ahead as Vimeo, YouTube respond to HTML5 video demand
      When Google began soliciting feedback from users about what features they would most like to see in the next version of YouTube, the response was an overwhelmingly enthusiastic request for standards-based open video: users called for Google to support the HTML5 video element.

    • YouTube, Vimeo Ditching Flash for HTML5
      Both YouTube and Vimeo have announced that they are launching HTML5-based players on their video streaming sites, thus booting out the long-standing champ of multimedia delivery, Adobe Flash. With recent security issues plaguing Adobe products, it's no surprise that media giants such as YouTube are jumping ship. What makes HTML5 special is that the new Web standard doesn't require Adobe's software to stream content to viewers.

    • Thoughts on Youtube 'abandoning' Firefox and Opera
      So the question rises: "Why is there no OGG support in Youtube?" Numerous people claimed it is because Google is afraid of submarine patents for the Theora video format. While Xiph, the foundation behind Theora claims it is not patent encumbered but you cannot be sure until it is used by the masses and it would be an interesting target for companies. It's only an interesting target if royalties for patents will generate enough income to justify legal costs. Apart from that there is also the mid-2009 discussion about which format offered the best video quality.

    • Video, Freedom And Mozilla
      [T]hey only offer video in H.264 format, and that is not good news for free software. A lot of people have noticed that Firefox doesn't support H.264, and apparently many people don't understand why, or know what the problems are with H.264. This is a good time to restate the facts and re-explain why Firefox does not support H.264. I'll be mostly recapitulating the relevant chunks of my talk. (Hopefully a full recording of my talk will become available from the LCA site next week.)

      The basic problem is simple: H.264 is encumbered by patents whose licensing is actively pursued by the MPEG-LA. If you distribute H.264 codecs in a jurisdiction where software patents are enforceable, and you haven't paid the MPEG-LA for a patent license, you are at risk of being sued.


  • Web apps vs desktop apps
    Things to watch:

    * Google Native Client * Google Chrome OS * HTML5

    I’m sure there will be a lot of exciting events this year. Google is planning to release a simple OS centered around web browsing and web apps. It is intended for netbooks, but will surely impact the web platform, by proving that the shift towards the web apps is already happening today.

  • Platform Independent
    The sugar on top comes through with web applications. No matter what platform I am running there are many online application suites that promise to bring us OS independent applications. Google and Microsoft are both working on this, and in the future we can expect more of it. What does this mean?

  • Security

    • Overhaul for CCTV
      CCTV across Cherwell district is set to get a high-tech overhaul to the tune of €£330,000.

    • Snap-happy speed camera nabs parked car – twice!
      POLICE have apologised to a man after he was given two speeding fines from a camera outside his house – despite the fact his car was parked at the time.

    • Driver parked in front of speed camera gets tickets
      A driver was twice sent speeding tickets after parking in front of a camera because police officers failed to notice his vehicle was stationary, it has emerged.

    • Council Tax and CCTV - the Thornbury approach
      Q: What do councils do when their applications for CCTV funds get turned down?

      A: make their constituents pay for it instead.

    • I'm glad that Munir Hussain has been released
      Mr Hussain is calling for a change in the law to favour victims of burglary and home intrusion who act as he did in defence of their families, homes and property and I hope that he gets it. We ought to be entitled to defend ourselves in our own homes, and to know that the state will back us and not the criminal intruder when we do so.

    • Return My DNA

    • Police Arrest Five in Jakarta ATM Scam
      One of the suspects, Doni, was caught when he was about to withdraw money from a Bank Mega ATM on Jalan Enggano in Tanjung Priok. The police confiscated 20 cellphones, hundreds of cellphone SIM cards and Rp 120 million ($ 12, 282) in cash.

    • TSA plants baggie of white powder in traveller's bag
      A TSA agent at the Philadelphia International Airport slipped a baggie full of white powder into an unsuspecting passenger's baggage, then terrorized her when he "found" it, before announcing that he was just kidding. When she complained to airport security, she was dismissed because "the TSA worker had been training the staff to detect contraband."

    • How to Protect Against Insider Security Breaches
      One of the most common ways of preventing insider security breaches is to have an auditing system in place, which monitors who is doing what within the system. Another method of preventing insider security breaches is to implement a system of job rotation or separation of duties. But Multi-Party Authorization is a better method for proactively preventing insider security breaches because, as Knowledge Center contributor Craig Palmore explains here, Multi-Party Authorization requires two or more people in order to allow access to certain sensitive files.

    • VIN SUPRYNOWICZ: Handcuffed, disarmed for obeying the law
      Charlie Mitchener is a 61-year-old general building contractor with an office near Patrick Lane and Fort Apache Road in Las Vegas. He holds permits allowing him to legally carry concealed weapons in Nevada, Florida and Utah.

  • Environment

  • Finance

    • The Government's Endless Appetite for Spending
      Last December, Congress approved a $290 billion increase of the debt limit to support the government's borrowing through February. This lifted the total amount the federal government can borrow to $12.4 trillion.

    • Scott Brown Successfully Capitalized on the Bailout Blues
      Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley lost her special-election for the Senate seat vacated by the untimely passing of U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy. Much has been said about the role of health care reform in the race. Apparently everyone in Massachusetts has health care and reasonable doubts about an expensive national plan that might not improve their services.

    • Limiting bank investments that don't benefit customers
      President Obama proposed Thursday that banks should be restricted from making investments that are not intended to benefit customers, an activity known as proprietary trading.

    • Obama Sizes Handcuffs For Banks
      Though the roots of the financial crisis were in lax loan underwriting, followed by lax underwriting of derivative products containing those loans and a poor grasp on the exposures banks were amassing on their books, the administration is relying on populist outrage to regain momentum.

    • Bernanke’s Bid for a Second Term at the Fed Hits Resistance
      The Obama administration struggled on Friday to secure confirmation of Ben S. Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, underscoring the political upheaval as both parties tried to find their footing amid a powerful wave of populism.

    • Fed chairman Bernanke faces growing opposition to bid for second term
      President Barack Obama's administration is scrambling to save the nomination of Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke as more opposition emerges from members of the president's own party.

      Two Senate Democrats announced they would vote against Bernanke's bid for a second term on Friday, underscoring a major populist shift in the political landscape after a Republican's stunning Massachusetts victory ended the Democratic supermajority in the Senate.

    • Meredith Whitney Predicts Obama Bank Plan Will Pass (Update1)
      Meredith Whitney, the banking analyst who forecast Citigroup Inc.’s dividend cut in 2008, said plans to limit risk-taking at financial companies will probably be approved and may “dramatically” reduce trading profits.

    • Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) Plunge in Response to New Proposed Obama Rules
      In what seems to be a relentless and increasingly dangerous mentality by Barack Obama concerning the banks of America, he continues to attack them from every angle as he suffocates the ability to generate revenue based on what looks like some type of inner torment from the failures of his first year in office as president.

    • Barney Franks finally going after Goldman Sachs & Friends, and we wish him well
      Barney Franks and his House Financial Services Committee will open hearings today to discuss ways to impose limits on executive pay and the risks these bankers can take. Good for him. Will we skip the obvious question—what took Barney so long?—and wish him well.

    • Goldman Sachs under investigation for its securities dealings
      One of Congress' premier watchdog panels is investigating Goldman Sachs' role in the subprime mortgage meltdown, including how the firm sold securities backed by risky home loans while it simultaneously bet that those bonds would lose value, people familiar with the inquiry said Friday.

      The investigation is part of a broader examination by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations into the roots of the economic crisis and whether financial institutions behaved improperly, said the individuals, who insisted upon anonymity because the matter is sensitive.

    • Obama's Get Goldman Plan
      The crisis that began in 2008, with the near-failure of Bear Stearns, triggered a host of policies to shore up the investment banks. First, investment banks like Bear and Goldman were allowed to borrow directly from the Federal Reserve's discount window—a privilege heretofore afforded only to commercial bank holding companies. After the failure of Lehman Bros., Goldman and Morgan Stanley hastily transformed themselves into bank holding companies, which allowed them to take full advantage of all the Fed's and FDIC's new programs. First, the FDIC boosted the amount of deposits it would insure, and then it offered to guarantee debt issued by financial institutions. Goldman was one of the biggest users of this new subsidy.

    • Buffett: Big Banks Likely To Split Under New Rules -Fox Business
      Buffett also told Fox Business that he doesn't plan to sell off his holdings in Goldman Sachs, and that he foresees holding the shares at least five years.

    • Analysts Cut Goldman Estimates On Trading, Tax Concerns
      With the impact of President Obama's banking plan on Goldman Sachs Group (GS) far from clear, some analysts trimmed their 2010 Goldman forecasts on other worries following the company's fourth-quarter earnings report.

    • Private Equity Cos Awaiting Specifics On Obama's Bank Proposal

    • Financial News: Bankers Count Cost Of Obama's Bank Plan
      Analysts have this morning scrambled to respond to President Obama's surprise proposals for reform of the banking industry. Financial News summarises the views of some of the first to comment on the new regulations.

    • Obama to Wall Street: “You want a fight? I am ready.”
      This move was applauded by public interest groups. "Ten years ago, the financial lobby convinced our leaders that the country's most important banks should be allowed to operate like hedge funds. That deregulatory gamble cost us trillions in household wealth and millions of jobs. President Obama's proposals greatly improve the reform package needed to prevent another crisis," said Heather McGee from DEMOS.

    • How Goldman Sachs could profit from Obama's Wall Street regulations
      When I look at Goldman's staggering 2009 profits, I suspect some of their success comes from the fact that they have much of the field to themselves in the wake of Merrill Lynch's collapse and the general retrenchment in the finance world. Regulations that crowd out JP Morgan and Bank of America would leave Goldman even freer of competition. This is how regulation often functions: driving out smaller competitors and keeping out new entrants, thus preserving profitability by alleviating competitive pressures.

    • Is what's bad for Goldman Sachs bad for America?
      To believe that the administration’s latest proposals alone are responsible for sinking the markets is to believe that what’s bad for Goldman Sachs is bad for America.

    • Goldman Will Benefit From Obama’s Proposal, Bove Says (Update2)
      Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will benefit from President Barack Obama’s proposal to limit Wall Street risk because it may force its competitors to unwind trading operations, Rochdale Securities analyst Dick Bove said.

    • The Volckerization of Goldman Sachs
      President Obama received a lot of support from Wall Street during his 2008 campaign. For the next election, he might want to plan accordingly without it.

    • Goldman Sachs: Lifestyles of the Subsidized and Anonymous
      Happy Goldman Sachs Bonus Day! As we mentioned earlier, Goldman announced today that its 2009 bonuses will total $16 billion, spread (very unevenly) among its 32,500 employees. We thought we'd take a look at how they spend our money.

    • Goldman Sachs’ restraint on rewards is too little, too late
      Goldman Sachs’ decision to restrict its annual bonus pool to $16.2bn (rather than an expected $22bn or so) on the day that Barack Obama announced a sweeping set of Glass-Steagall like reforms that strike at the heart of its business model, turns out to be too little, too late.

    • Goldman Sachs Had Bomb-Sniffing Dogs, Police Barricades At Its Headquarters Before Earnings Announcement
      As Goldman Sachs prepared to announce its fourth quarter earnings and employee compensation levels yesterday, the bank had bomb-sniffing dogs and police barricades on hand at its New York City headquarters, the New York Post reports.

    • Gluttony, Greed, Wrath and Other Taxable Sins
      New York isn't alone among the cash-strapped states (read: all of them) in looking to take a tax sip from the nation's "sugared beverages." Today in New Hampshire, hearings are being held on soft drink taxes, and a bill is already in the pipeline. In Mississippi, a bill to impose a 2 cent per ounce tax is under consideration by the legislature. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says he is getting increasingly serious about soda taxes as well. And the California Senate must not have given way to total despair, since they are working up a plan for taxing sweetened drinks. Because legislators and governors tend not to be too hot on math, the pro-tax Center for Science in the Public Interest offers a handy little calculator that shows how much money could flow into state coffers from a soda tax. And once they see those numbers—$400 million in free money!—it's hard to forget them when it comes time to add up the columns on a budget spreadsheet.

  • PR/AstroTurf

    • Citizens United Is a Radical Rewriting of the Constitution by Pro-Corporate Supreme Court
      If you care about fighting spin and you are concerned about the health of American democracy, I hope you will join me in saying the Supreme Court really got it wrong today, and this must be fixed. You can help put Americans -- and people -- before corporations by signing here today. It'll only take a moment to say NO to the Supreme Court's arrogant effort to elevate corporations "rights" and undermine the power of the people in our democracy.

    • Firm to Remove Bible References From Gun Sights
      Bowing to Pentagon concerns and an international outcry, a Michigan arms company said Thursday that it would immediately stop embossing references to New Testament Scriptures on rifle sights it sells the military.

    • Cruise ship stops in Haiti bring bad PR, good deeds
      Cruise giant Royal Caribbean plunged into a public storm last week, when it resumed bringing passengers to Labadee for daylong beach retreats.

      How do you snooze in a rope hammock while, on the far side of those emerald mountains, tens of thousands of desperate human beings are still trying to extract their dead from wreckage?

    • Corporations get a crack at even more political power
      The Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission this week link here. It declares that corporations and other groups have the same rights as live humans. The left considers this a great defeat which will lead to a flood of corporate money in elections to the detriment of the average voter while the right only sees a justified extension of corporations and other groups freedom to speak and spend money to affect political races.

    • Lessig on giving corporations unlimited right to bribe politicians
      MrJM sez, "The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. FEC allows corporations and unions to pour unprecedented amounts of money into elections. Now more than ever, when Congress acts, we won't be able to know whether it was because of reason or judgment... or only because of the need for campaign money. The system is broken, and we need to act."

  • Censorship/Civil Rights

    • China slams Clinton's call for Internet freedom
      China blocks Web sites including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and has long forced domestic Internet companies to censor their own services. Blog providers, for instance, are expected to delete user posts that include pornographic content or talk of sensitive political issues.

    • China condemns 'groundless' US criticism of web control
      Mrs Clinton also urged Beijing to investigate Google's complaints that cyber attacks had originated in China.

      Foreign Ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said the US should "respect the facts" and stop making "groundless accusations against China".

  • Internet/Web Abuse/DRM

    • Amazon hikes Kindle royalties to 70%, with a catch
      Amazon dropped a bomb on the publishing world Wednesday morning by announcing a new royalty program that will allow authors to earn 70 percent royalties from each e-book sold, but with a catch or two. The move will pay participating authors more per book than they typically earn from physical book sales so long as they agree to certain conditions—conditions that make it clear that Amazon is working on keeping the Kindle attractive in light of upcoming competition. Still, authors and publishers are split on how good this deal really is.

    • Amazon 'makes it easier' for authors to DRM Kindle ebooks
      Amazon tells The Reg that no-DRM was always the default with its Digital Text Platform - used by small publishers and authors as opposed to large publishing houses. In the past, the company says, if authors wanted to add DRM, they had to download separate software. Now, they can add DRM simply by checking a radio button.

    • FBI, Telecoms Teamed to Breach Wiretap Laws
      But in a surprise buried at the end of the 289-page report, the inspector general also reveals that the Obama administration issued a secret rule almost two weeks ago saying it was legal for the FBI to have skirted federal privacy protections.


      The telecom employees were supposed to be responding to National Security Letters, which are essentially FBI-issued subpoenas. But those Patriot Act powers say the target must be part of an open investigation and that a supervisor has to approve it. While they require some paperwork, FBI agents have been issuing about 40,000 such NSLs a year.

      But an AT&T employee provided the unit with a way around some of those requirements. The employee introduced them to so-called 'exigent letters.' Those letters, first used immediately following 9/11, asked for information by saying that the request was an emergency and that prosecutors were preparing a grand jury subpoena. The letter falsely promised that the subpoena, which gives the telecoms legal immunity, would be delivered later, the report said.

      What's more, the report noted that the cozy relationship between the bureau and the telecoms made it hard to differentiate between the FBI and the nation's phone companies.

      "The FBI's use of exigent letters became so casual, routine and unsupervised that employees of all three communication service providers told us that they -- the company employees-- sometimes generated the exigent letters for CAU personnel to sign and return," the inspector general reported.

      In fact, one AT&T employee even created a short cut on his desktop to a form letter that he could print out for a requesting FBI agent to sign.

      Even that became too much. Agents would request "sneak peeks," where they'd ask if it was worth their time to file a request on a given phone number, the inspector general noted. The telecom agents complied. Soon it graduated to numbers on Post-it notes, in e-mails or just oral requests.

    • EFF Plans Appeal of Jewel v. NSA Warrantless Wiretapping Case
      A federal judge has dismissed Jewel v. NSA, a case from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of AT&T customers challenging the National Security Agency's mass surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans' phone calls and emails.

      "We're deeply disappointed in the judge's ruling," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "This ruling robs innocent telecom customers of their privacy rights without due process of law. Setting limits on Executive power is one of the most important elements of America's system of government, and judicial oversight is a critical part of that."

  • Intellectual Monopolies/Copyrights

    • 'Pants on the Ground' Guy: Show Me the Money!
      "General" Larry Platt -- the musical mastermind behind "Pants on the Ground" -- hasn't seen a dime since everyone and their mother started singing his tune ... and now he's lawyering up in the hopes of finally raking in some cash.

    • Director Of The Hitler Downfall Movie Likes The Hundreds Of Parody Clips
      Perhaps if you've been living under a pop culture rock for the past few years, you were unaware of the popular hobby of creating subtitled videos of an angry Hitler reacting to something going on in the world today, using a clip from the German movie Downfall.

    • Mother Who Banned File-Sharing Still Held Responsible
      A mother who doesn’t understand computers and forbade her children from downloading and sharing music on the Internet has been held responsible for their actions. A court in Germany ruled that parents simply banning file-sharing is not enough, and this has to be followed up to check compliance.

    • Pirates Are The Music Industry’s Most Valuable Customers
      Once again the music industry has come out with disappointing results for physical music sales, which they blame entirely on file-sharing. What they failed to mention though, is that their findings show that music pirates are buying more digital music than the average music consumer. Since digital music is the future, pirates are the industry’s most valuable customers.

      Have you ever heard one of the major movie studios complaining about the decrease in sales of VHS tapes? We haven’t. The music industry on the other hand continues to blame the decrease in physical sales on digital piracy, ignoring the fact that there’s a generation growing up that has never owned a physical CD.

    • MPAA Boss Doesn't Even Make It To The End Of His Contract
      Of course, right after the rumors, Glickman came out and announced that he would be stepping down at the end of his contract in September of 2010. So it seemed like maybe the studios would let him stick around to the end, since it was clear he wasn't coming back. Apparently even that plan has been thrown out the window, as Glickman has now announced that he's leaving as of April 1 in order to take over Refugees International, which seems like a worthy enough cause.

    • Verizon ends service of alleged illegal downloaders
      But a year after the RIAA made its announcement, not one major ISP had acknowledged supporting the RIAA's plan. The question raised by Henson's statement is whether Verizon has quietly signed on. An RIAA representative declined to comment.

    • More on Verizon and its antipiracy efforts
      To date, not a single major ISP has publicly acknowledged adopting a graduated response, yet Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast have for some reason stepped up the issuing of warning letters.

    • Kinsella Free Talk Live Interview on Reducing IP Costs
      I was interviewed yesterday by Mark Edge, as part of his "Edgington Post Interview Series," for his Free Talk Live radio show, about my Mises Daily article, "Reducing the Cost of IP Law."

    • IP and Aggression as Limits on Property Rights: How They Differ
      The IP advocate's argument is dishonest. He says, well, my IP rule limits your property rights, but so do all property rights. So what's the big deal? The big deal is that the only limits we recognize are that you may not violate others' property rights! Murder or normal theft or trespass is obviously an instance of this. But using my own property peacefully is not! The IP advocate needs to show that my use of my own DVD somehow interferes with his own property in his own scarce resources. Obviously, it cannot. So, it fall back on IP itself: it says, well, it doesn't violate B's physical property, but it does violate his intellectual property. Hellooooo--THIS is the circularity. The circular reasoning is done by the IP advocates, NOT by the libertarian who is simply a consistent opponent of aggression.

Clip of the Day

The Genetic Conspiracy (3/3) - about Monsanto


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