07.27.10

Links 27/7/2010: Dell Sells Ubuntu Over Phone; Linux-based Pandora Runs Mortal Kombat 3

Posted in News Roundup at 10:30 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • Dell decides to sell Linux boxes over the phone

      TIN BOX FLOGGER Dell has quashed reports that it stopped selling machines preloaded with the Linux distribution Ubuntu.

      It was reported that Dell had given up on its Linux experiment by going back to being a Microsoft only shop, however the firm responded to those stories by telling The INQUIRER that it will continue to sell selected machines with Ubuntu installed. However, punters looking for the capable alternative to Microsoft Windows will have to order by phone.

  • Kernel Space

    • Benchmarking ZFS On FreeBSD vs. EXT4 & Btrfs On Linux

      While ZFS was not faster than EXT4/Btrfs overall, these results certainly show that this file-system is a superior choice to the UFS file-system options on FreeBSD. The performance of ZFS is certainly better than UFS and it has the much greater set of features. It would actually be nice to see ZFS enabled by default in FreeBSD in a forthcoming release or at least for it to be properly integrated with the FreeBSD installer like what has been done with PC-BSD.

  • Distributions

  • Devices/Embedded

    • Android phone sales triple this year

      “The figures suggest an increasing number of consumers are now asking for Android handsets by name,” said GfK analyst Megan Baldock. “Operating systems are no longer simply a by-product but a key selling point in their own right.”

    • Augen’s $150 Android tablet hits Kmart circular, coming to stores later this week

      We can’t say we’ve heard of Augen before, but the company certainly sparked our interest (and that of Kmart circular readers) this weekend with its $149.99 7-inch Android tablet. Oh yes, you heard right shoppers — the small Florida-based shop is bringing an Android 2.1 tablet with WiFi, 2GB of storage and 256MB of RAM to a store near you for just 150 buckaroos.

Free Software/Open Source

  • Project of the Month, June 2010

    OpenNMS was registered on SourceForge in March of 2000 as project 4141, about two months after NetSaint which later became Nagios. So it has been around for while, almost longer than any other open source management tool.

    It was designed from “day one” to be enterprise-grade, that is to manage tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of devices from a single instance. Ultimately it will be able to mange unlimited devices with a heavily distributed architecture.

  • If Oracle Bought Every Open Source Company…

    Recently, there was an interesting rumour circulating that Oracle had a war chest of some $70 billion, and was going on an acquisition spree. Despite the huge figure, it had a certain plausibility, because Oracle is a highly successful company with deep pockets and an aggressive management. The rumour was soon denied, but it got me wondering: supposing Oracle decided to spend, if not $70 billion, say $10 billion in an efficient way: how might it do that? And it occurred to me that one rather dramatic use of that money would be to buy up the leading open source companies – all of them.

  • Open Core is a bad word

    Matt Aslett continued his series on Open Core yesterday, and pointed to my post on the subject. He says, and I agree, that we can’t expect companies to call themselves Open Core as a means of differentiating from Open Source if we use pejorative phrases like “crippleware” to refer to Open Core projects.

    But that ship has long since sailed. No company has every described themselves as “an Open Core company” to anyone except VCs, as shorthand for their business model. In the software business, Open Core has no-one defending it, and it has no brand value. In fact, in free software circles, Open Core has been a pejorative phrase almost since it was coined – fauxpen source, popularised by Tarus Balog, cites Open Core as a synonym, and pretty much every mention of it which I have found has not been by a vendor referring to themselves, but by an analyst or commentator referring to a class of business models.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Liberate U.S.: Do government legal files belong to the people?

      Years ago, as young student serfs toiling on the law school legal plantation, several of my peers and I “had a vision.” It was not as big as some, but hopeful and liberating nonetheless, of legal information being freely accessible to all Americans.

    • Navigating the Wild West of non-peer-reviewed science

      Peer review serves as a critical sanity check for the scientific literature. It is by no means a perfect system—flaws ranging from outright fraud to subtle errors can easily slip past reviewers—but peer review can generally identify cases where a paper’s conclusions aren’t supported by the underlying data, or the authors are unaware of other relevant papers, etc. As a result, peer review acts as a key barrier to prevent scientifically unsound ideas from attracting undeserved attention from the scientific community.

  • Standards/Non Standards

    • OpenGL 4.1 Specification Released

      The Khronos Group announced today the release of the OpenGL 4.1 specification, which has been defined by Khronos’ OpenGL Architecture Review Board (ARB). The previous version of the specification, OpenGL 4.0, was unveiled in March.

    • What is Google Punch? A New Google Docs Format

      A Google staff member posted a video on YouTube demonstrating a particular Google Spreadsheet function today, but when she selected a file format to launch – there was a new option on the drop down menu. Called Punch, the video made no mention of the file type and we’ve been unable to find any mention of it elsewhere. Internally, at least, it appears that something very new is in the works at Google Docs.

Leftovers

  • Curated computing is no substitute for the personal and handmade

    But I fear that when analysts slaver over “curated” computing, it’s because they mean “monopoly” computing – computing environments like the iPad where all your apps have to be pre-approved by a single curating entity, one who uses the excuse of safety and consistency to justify this outrageous power grab. Of course, these curators are neither a guarantee of safety, nor of quality: continuous revelations about malicious software and capricious, inconsistent criteria for evaluating software put the lie to this. Even without them, it’s pretty implausible to think that an app store with hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of programs could be blindly trusted to be free from bugs, malware, and poor aesthetic choices.

  • HP guns for printer ink competition

    HP has asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to have a look at some of the inkjet ink supplies and components that are being shipped to the Land of the Free.

  • Science

    • What Caffeine Actually Does to Your Brain

      More important than just fitting in, though, caffeine actually binds to those receptors in efficient fashion, but doesn’t activate them—they’re plugged up by caffeine’s unique shape and chemical makeup. With those receptors blocked, the brain’s own stimulants, dopamine and glutamate, can do their work more freely—”Like taking the chaperones out of a high school dance,” Braun writes in an email. In the book, he ultimately likens caffeine’s powers to “putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.”

    • Quark discoverer: Decoherence, language and complexes

      BEFORE my interview with Murray Gell-Mann officially begins, we have lunch. We are at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in the foothills of New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains, and here, lunch is a communal affair.

  • Security/Aggression

    • Guv: At least 2 state workers behind ‘The List’
    • The quiet threat: Cyber spies are already in your systems

      Is your company’s data under surveillance by foreign spybots looking for any competitive advantages or weaknesses they can exploit? This might sound farfetched, but such electronic espionage is real. It’s an insidious security threat that’s a lot more common than you probably realize.

    • Sixteen Years in Prison for Videotaping the Police?

      The ACLU of Maryland is defending Anthony Graber, who potentially faces sixteen years in prison if found guilty of violating state wiretap laws because he recorded video of an officer drawing a gun during a traffic stop. In a trend that we’ve seen across the country, police have become increasingly hostile to bystanders recording their actions. You can read some examples here, here and here.

    • Police chief: Yes, my plods sometimes forget photo laws

      The Metropolitan Police Force cannot be guaranteed to abide by the law when it comes to allowing the public their right to take photographs.

      That was the startling admission made last week by Met Police Commissioner John Stephenson under sharp questioning from Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member Dee Doocey during a Police Authority Meeting on 22 July in City Hall. Video footage of the exchange is available on the Metropolitan Police Authority site, with relevant footage from around the 68 minute mark.

    • Who controls the off switch?

      We have a new paper on the strategic vulnerability created by the plan to replace Britain’s 47 million meters with smart meters that can be turned off remotely. The energy companies are demanding this facility so that customers who don’t pay their bills can be switched to prepayment tariffs without the hassle of getting court orders against them.

  • Finance

    • SpongeTech Strikes Out in Bankruptcy

      SpongeTech Delivery Systems, which makes soap-filled sponges in such shapes as (appropriately) SpongeBob SquarePants and whose advertising has dazzled fans at sporting events, has filed for bankruptcy protection

      According to Crain’s New York Business, the Manhattan sponge maker’s demise began after the company’s chief executive was charged with fraud in May. Prosecutors said CEO Michael Metter helped to fake 99% of the company’s supposed sales, and he was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

    • Hedge Fund Owner in Rothstein Case Agrees to Surrender Bulk of Assets

      Fort Lauderdale, Fla., millionaire George Levin, whose Banyon Investors Fund was the primary feeder fund that funneled about $830 million into Scott Rothstein’s Ponzi scheme, has agreed to surrender the bulk of his assets under a bankruptcy settlement.

  • Censorship/Privacy/Civil Rights

    • US Newspaper starts charging online commenters token registration fee

      Newspapers have come up with various methods to monetise online content; for example, New Zealand’s The National Business Review has introduced a paywall for some of its online material.

      However, The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro, Massachusetts may be taking the search for new revenue streams just a little too far. It has announced that it will start charging its readers to comment on stories on the paper’s website. Before posting their thoughts on any story, readers must register their name, address, phone number, and a credit card number with the paper. Registered readers are charged a one-time fee of 99 cents for their commenting privileges.

    • Court: Violating Terms of Service Is Not a Crime, But Bypassing Technical Barriers Might Be
    • Privileged Information in a ‘WikiLeaks’ World

      “The advent of something like WikiLeaks kind of makes the traditional concept of prior restraint obsolete,” says Lee Levine, a name partner at Levine Sullivan (Levine is not advising The Times or any parties on the WikiLeaks matter).

    • UK ISP TalkTalk Monitoring its Customers Online Activity Without Consent

      Broadband ISP TalkTalk UK could be about to incur the wrath of privacy campaigners after some of its customers spotted that their online website browsing activity was being monitored and recorded without consent. The situation has caused a significant amount of concern with many end-users worried about the impact upon their personal privacy.

    • Italy: Internet press freedom under threat

      Guilia Bongiorno, president of the parliamentary judiciary committee, decided on 21 July that amendments to paragraph 29 of article 1 of the so-called Wiretapping Bill were “unacceptable”. The amendments targeted the article’s extension of the print press rectification obligation to the web. By eliminating even the possibility that this complex topic will be debated in parliament, the deicison threatens to make freedom of information on the web its first victim.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation: Evidence from the Human Genome

      This paper provides empirical evidence on how intellectual property (IP) on a given technology affects subsequent innovation. To shed light on this question, I analyze the sequencing of the human genome by the public Human Genome Project and the private firm Celera, and estimate the impact of Celera’s gene-level IP on subsequent scientific research and product development outcomes. Celera’s IP applied to genes sequenced first by Celera, and was removed when the public effort re-sequenced those genes.

    • Copyrights

      • Fighting With Teenagers: A Copyright Story

        I signed on to the website that is most offensive to me, got an account, and typed my name into the Search box. I got 4,000 hits. Four thousand copies of my music were being offered for “trade.” (I put “trade” in quotes because of course it’s not really a trade, since nobody’s giving anything up in exchange for what they get. It’s just making illegal unauthorized copies, and calling it “trade” legitimizes it in an utterly fraudulent way.) I clicked on the most recent addition, and I sent the user who was offering that music an email. This is what I wrote:

        Hey there! Can I get you to stop trading my stuff? It’s totally not cool with me. Write me if you have any questions, I’m happy to talk to you about this. jason@jasonrobertbrown.com

        Thanks,
        J.

        Nothing too formal or threatening, just a casual sort of suggestion.

        But I wasn’t content to do it with just one user. I started systematically going through the pages, and eventually I wrote to about four hundred users.

        The broad majority of people I wrote to actually wrote back fairly quickly, apologized sincerely, and then marked their music “Not for trade.” I figured that was a pretty good result, but I did find it odd – why list the material at all if you’re not going to trade it?

      • Woot To AP: You Owe Us $17.50 For Copying Our Content

        When Woot announced last week that it was going to be acquired by Amazon.com, just about everyone wrote about it. However, of the many media organizations that covered the deal, only one has floated a policy that would charge bloggers for the kind of excerpting that’s historically been considered fair use. So, when the Associated Press, in writing about the Woot-Amazon deal, borrowed some of Woot’s own verbiage, the deal-a-day site struck back and told the wire service it expected $17.50 for the words. Or the AP could just buy two pairs of Sennheiser in-ear headphones and call it even.

      • RIAA suffers big setback in Tenenbaum case

        The music industry suffered another high-profile legal setback on Friday when a federal judge reduced a damages award against a file sharer found liable for copyright violations.

      • Judge Cuts File-Sharing Fine to $67,500
      • RIAA Appeals Reduction of Tenenbaum P2P Judgment

        Disagrees with Judge Nancy Gertner’s ruling that the $675,000 fine is “unconstitutionally excessive” and formally appeals the case to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

      • Curse of the Greedy Copyright Holders
      • Indian Ocean Pokes at Record Companies, Gives away Latest Album for Free [Kill Piracy]

        Indian Ocean, a favorite of PI team (and our readers) has poked at Recording companies and decided to give away their latest album, 16/330 Khajoor Road for free. The album has seven songs and Indian Ocean is giving away free song from the album starting July 25th, 2010.

      • BitTorrent Releasers Slice The Top Off Movie Piracy Pyramid

        Online movie piracy has largely enjoyed a fairly predictable structure during the last decade. New releases have generally hit the Internet on high-security ‘topsites’ first and then trickled down to become widely available on peer-to-peer networks. TorrentFreak now takes a look at a new wave of release groups who operate with a fresh and BitTorrent-powered philosophy.

      • Peter Sunde Banned From Operating The Pirate Bay

        Earlier this year The Pirate Bay’s co-founders Gottfrid Svartholm and Fredrik Neij were banned from operating the site by a Swedish court. Today, The Pirate Bay’s former spokesperson Peter Sunde was added to this list, and now faces a fine of nearly $70,000 if he does not comply with the decision.

      • Copyright Finally Getting Around To Destroying Player Piano Music… One Century Late

        I’m reminded of this bit of history thanks to this story, brought to my attention by Glyn Moody, about how Jon “Maddog” Hall wanted to try to preserve some deteriorating piano rolls, but discovered (much to his annoyance) that copyright may be getting in the way. He points out that many old player piano rolls are deteriorating, and the small group of remaining collectors are hoping to preserve the music by digitizing them.

Clip of the Day

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 SNES – [Linux-based] Pandora emulation


Microsoft and Bribery, Fraud

Posted in Bill Gates, Dell, Finance, Fraud, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Search at 5:42 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Money on a dark desk

Summary: A look at some of Microsoft’s latest bribes which are not a legal offence and some of the criminal acts of Microsoft and Bill Gates’ Corbis

WHEN IT COMES to Microsoft, there ought to be a distinction between “bribery” in the legal sense and “bribery” in the more metaphorical sense. Microsoft does both. Many mainstream publications accused Microsoft of “bribery” or attempted bribery when it decided to simply buy some customers rather than earn any [1, 2, 3]. Having failed to achieve much with this strategy (billions are being lost in the process), Microsoft is rebranding the same efforts and marketing them differently, this time characterising them as “charitable”. Yes, it’s like charitable bribery. George Orwell would love it!

Well, there’s a catch. In order to enable the $3 donation, users must set Bing as their default search engine.

It’s self evident. Microsoft is becoming rather scummy. But it’s marketed as a “charitable” endeavour, so how dare we criticise it? There are other miserable new attempts to crush Google’s cash cow (because Google also competes against Windows and Office, which are Microsoft’s cash cows).

“Rather sad when a company has to buy users of Bing and developers for Phone 7, don’t you think?”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
According to Microsoft Nick, Microsoft is now offering another type of bribe for potential Windows phones developers. We gave several other examples last month. Groklaw says: “Rather sad when a company has to buy users of Bing and developers for Phone 7, don’t you think?” Groklaw also gives this example where Microsoft uses its employees to artificially inflate numbers.

Why can’t Microsoft attempt to earn customers and developers without bribing them? It’s a rhetorical question actually. How can Microsoft justify laying off more employees this month [1, 2]? Must it give their wages to people whom it tries to lure in?

Now we move on to some more serious charges where “bribery” means bribery in the legal sense. That’s where prosecution and jail sentence happen to those who are not affluent enough to bail themselves out (or bribe officials). Last week we wrote about the Bill Gates-owned Corbis scandal [1, 2], which came to light [1, 2] at a time when corruption in Intel and Dell also came to light. Yesterday we wrote about it again [1, 2] (also the day before that), owing to the fact that Dell fraud teaches us something about its attitude towards GNU/Linux. As the SEC put it in its press release:

Christopher Conte, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, added, “Dell manipulated its accounting over an extended period to project financial results that the company wished it had achieved, but could not. Dell was only able to meet Wall Street targets consistently during this period by breaking the rules. The financial results that public companies communicate to the investing public must reflect reality.”

It seems likely that Microsoft is doing the same thing and a few months ago we wrote about the Pequot case. Coverage about this can be found in:

According to this new report, the SEC does one thing right by giving “$1 million reward for information in Pequot insider trading case”:

The money goes to Glen Kaiser and Karen Kaiser of Southbury, Conn. She’s the ex-wife of David Zilkha, a former Microsoft Corp. employee who had accepted a job at Pequot.

The SEC in general has decided to reward whistleblowers, which is the right thing to do.

The soon-to-be-signed financial reform package creates a new whistleblower program with potentially huge cash rewards for individuals who provide information about securities law violations to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

As a reminder, $4 million went to the Microsoft employee who exposed financial fraud inside the company and produced/shared documents as evidence. With the SEC’s new rules in place, how long will it take for another person who works for Microsoft to report Microsoft fraud? Microsoft paid its former CFO millions of dollars to keep quiet.

“One strategy that Microsoft has employed in the past is paying for the silence of people and companies. Charles Pancerzewski, formerly Microsoft’s chief auditor, became aware of Microsoft’s practice of carrying earnings from one accounting period into another, known as “managing earnings”. This practice smoothes reported revenue streams, increases share value, and misleads employees and shareholders. In addition to being unethical, it’s also illegal under U.S. Securities Law and violates Generally Accepted Accounting Practices (Fink).

2002 story about Charles Pancerzewski, Microsoft

Michael Widenius Lobby Against Oracle a Matter of Self Interest

Posted in Database, Oracle, OSI, SUN at 4:56 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Michael Widenius in Prague
Photo from Kolbe

Summary: How the emergence of SkySQL weakens Monty’s case against the company which bought (and continues to maintain) MySQL

“SugarCRM jumps the Open Source shark claiming closed is open and it’s the rest of us who are mistaken,” wrote Simon Phipps in Twitter. Phipps used to be the Open Source symbol of Sun Microsystems (now he is in OSI), whose employees that moved to Oracle might as well attempt to pass ‘open’ core as “Open Source” (hot subject at the moment [1, 2, 3]). Roberto Galoppini has published an opinion on ‘open’ core from Giuseppe Maxia (Oracle/MySQL), who calls it the “pragmatic freedom”. As Pamela Jones (Groklaw) put it earlier this month, “I don’t share his views, but I thought you’d like to hear from an open core defender, who also happens to work at Oracle on MySQL, as he presents what’s been jokingly called the Yuppie Nuremberg Defense (“I had to pay my mortgage, etc.”).”

“SugarCRM jumps the Open Source shark claiming closed is open and it’s the rest of us who are mistaken”
      –Simon Phipps
Jones also points out that Michael “Monty” Widenius from MySQL (and from Microsoft’s CodePlex Foundation) had personal financial interests while lobbying against Oracle’s takeover of MySQL (he helped create SkySQL). “Another happy coincidence?”

That is what she asks anyway. “Consider the timing of the appeal of the Oracle-Sun deal by Monty before you answer,” she adds. This is an especially hard subject for us to address because Techrights uses a MySQL database. So does Groklaw for that matter. As for Phipps, his Web site uses MySQL and he refuses to talk about MySQL under Oracle (at least in FLOSS Weekly). We are grateful to Widenius for MySQL, but this project is no longer his. He sold it and made millions.

Source Seems to be the Hardest Word

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Marketing, Novell, Videos at 4:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: A look at the recent talk from Novell’s PR/CMO and a reminder of why SUSE developers ought to leave Novell

John Dragoon, the Senior Vice President and Chief Spin Officer at Novell, gave the following talk some weeks ago (Open World Forum).

Dragoon keeps talking about “exploitation of open source software” and of “Linux”. Yes, he uses the word “exploit” (or “exploiting” and “exploitation”) quite a lot in this talk when referring to use. He must be thinking of Novell’s own attitude towards “open source”” and “Linux”. Novell is exploiting these. Also notice how more than once he has a hard time saying “open source software” (he says “open software”).

We could go on making criticisms about other things, such as the fact that he talks fluff-speak like “going forward” and he is using shamed analysts (Goldman Sachs for example) while pretending that they are not like PR, by actually saying so. Experience suggests otherwise.

From around the same time we also have this Markus Rex (Novell) interview where he talks about many issues, including Novell’s identity management product that lost to IBM’s. Novell can sell neither open source nor proprietary software as well as it wants to. By contrast, OpenSUSE volunteers make a fine distribution which has just received praises from Jesse Smith at DistroWatch. He concludes as follows:

I found the latest release of this distribution to be a solid offering. Some of the previous issues regarding codecs have been corrected, the new KDE desktop is light and fast. I like that openSUSE gives users the option to use the Smolt system profiler and YaST is an excellent control centre. The distro’s work with virtualization is great and there is a large selection of software available on the CD. The only thing I’d like to change about this distro is in regards to the package manager. The existing YaST tool for handling software is effective, but I’d like to see a more novice-friendly program added. Ubuntu offers a good example of this where they have a beginner-friendly Software Center and a separate menu entry for Synaptic. The way Linux handles software packages is, in my opinion, one of the operating system’s greatest strengths and it’s important not to frighten people away from it. Over-all, I see openSUSE 11.3 as a great release, possibly the best we’ve seen of the lizard yet.

As we argued yesterday, OpenSUSE volunteers out to fork and/or rebrand; people who work on SUSE for money ought to apply for a job somewhere like Red Hat. Novell is not the place to be at the moment and many people avoid SUSE because of the Novell affiliation.

Microsoft Admits a Software Patent is Just Like Maths

Posted in America, Europe, Microsoft, Patents at 4:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Time for math

Summary: A bunch of news about patents, including an invaluable admission from one Microsoft attorney that mathematics ought not to be patentable

SOFTWARE patents are an abominable thing, unless one is a patent lawyer or a software monopoly in one area or another. In the industry, the argument over software patents is a class war, it’s not an argument between Free software and proprietary software. Ghabuntu wrote about New Zealand's situation when it comes to software patents over there. Separately, the site’s main editor said: “I am no legal expert nor an attorney, but what bugs my mind is how the future is going to be like given how governments keep doling out patents like biscuits to mega corporations.”

Africans have a lot of reasons to dislike patents and not a single one to like them (unless the speaker or false representative happens to be working for a multinational company). More patents were granted in 2009 than in prior years, according to Legal Times. This just means more monopolies, not increased innovation.

The number of utility patents granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office increased in 2009 after a two-year decline.

[...]

IBM Corp. received the most utility patents last year, with 4,887, followed by Samsung Electronics Co. (3,592); Microsoft Corp. (2,929); Canon K.K. (2,241) and Hitachi Ltd. (2,146).

Groklaw has found this article from NewsWeek — an article that talks about American creativity and the impact artificial limitations have had on it:

For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining. What went wrong—and how we can fix it.

[...]

In the 50 years since Schwarzrock and the others took their tests, scholars—first led by Torrance, now his colleague, Garnet Millar—have been tracking the children, recording every patent earned, every business founded, every research paper published, and every grant awarded. They tallied the books, dances, radio shows, art exhibitions, software programs, advertising campaigns, hardware innovations, music compositions, public policies (written or implemented), leadership positions, invited lectures, and buildings designed.

[...]

Enriched environments are making kids smarter. With creativity, a reverse trend has just been identified and is being reported for the first time here: American creativity scores are falling. Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary discovered this in May, after analyzing almost 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults. Kim found creativity scores had been steadily rising, just like IQ scores, until 1990. Since then, creativity scores have consistently inched downward. “It’s very clear, and the decrease is very significant,” Kim says. It is the scores of younger children in America—from kindergarten through sixth grade—for whom the decline is “most serious.”

“Without discounting the theories about education in the article,” explained Pamela Jones from Groklaw, “I wonder if anyone is thinking about the effects of IP law on US students’ creativity? They can’t watch a movie, after all, without being warned that the FBI will find them and punish them if they do anything at all with the movie’s contents. A lot of truly creative YouTube mashed up videos were killed by Hollywood too. It sends a message to young people that they are not allowed to be creative; only a certain “priesthood”, so to speak in Hollywood are allowed to be. Creativity builds on what went before, but now there are high gates and locks to prevent it from happening.”

There are lessons to be learned here about the patent system too. How can a software developer find encouragement and peace of mind? The developer is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of software patents that he or she does not even know about.

There ought to be examples other than software where patents do more harm than good. Groklaw gave one example from Europe:

At the European Patent Office in Munich, there are some tasty patents on the table for debate. The office’s appeals board is debating whether patents on broccoli and tomatoes can be allowed.

There is also this example:

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in Bilski v. Kappos, Mayo has petitioned the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to sit en banc to re-hear its statutory subject matter challenge to the Prometheus patents. (U.S. Patents 6,355,623 and 6,680,302).

The Prometheus Claims are directed toward an iterative approach of dosing an active drug ingredient (6-thioguanine). Most of the claims are centered around three ordered-steps of:

1. administering a dose of the drug to the subject;
2. determining the amount of the drug in the subject’s blood; and
3. re-calibrating the drug dosage.

Jones explains (in News Picks, thus no permanent link):

This is the case about administering a drug, taking a blood test, then recalibrating. Or as the petition puts it, the patents “attempt to exclude the medical community from using test results of naturally-occurring human metabolism, making physicians and medical researchers infringers simply for thinking about the correlations between patient health and levels of certain chemicals in a patient’s blood.” And you thought software patents were stupidly damaging. This patent, the petition tells us, can be infringed simply by thinking. And how, pray tell, do you enforce your patent? Believe it or not, they sued a researcher at the Mayo Clinic even though she “was not concerned about Prometheus’ claimed levels. Because she had seen those levels and not erased her mind, however, Prometheus accused her of infringement without her having to do anything with her natural and unavoidable mental recognition.”

But that’s silly, I hear you saying. That can’t be right, can it? The expert for the patent holder testified that merely seeing a document with test results infringes even if a doctor “crumples it up, throws it away, reads it, acts on it, doesn’t act on it, any assumptions you want to come up with.” The lower court had said the patents were not valid because they preempted all use of a natural phenomenon, but the court of appeals had reversed. When the US Supreme Court ruled on Bilski, immediately thereafter it vacated Prometheus and remanded.

Separately, Groklaw helps show that Microsoft too is dissatisfied with software patents, which it compares to maths. Here is the source of information:

While there are at least eight (8) cases before the Federal Circuit that could be the court’s first word on patentable subject matter after the Supreme Court’s Bilski v. Kappos opinion, my prediction is that the first decision to provide additional guidance for computer software will be Research Corp. Tech (RCT) v. Microsoft. Furthermore, I predict that the court will expand/clarify the scope of patentable subject matter to clearly include subject matter that has no realistic application outside of the computer art. There are several reasons for these predictions.

Jones is again offering a long interpretation where she says:

If you read the 2008 decision [PDF] by the court of appeals, which sent the case back to a new judge, which is how it ends up back before them, you’ll be puzzled, in that the description of the patent is that it’s algorithms, math. In fact in oral argument, which you can get from this page, choose oral argument, then oral argument recordings from the drop down list, then type in Microsoft in the case name block and 2010-06-09 as the date, you’ll get to the mp3 and can hear Microsoft’s attorney pointing out that the patent is just math. He makes a distinction between software and math, which I consider illusory, but when he tells the panel that the patent is math, one of them say, yes, but it doesn’t preempt it. Then Microsoft’s attorney says, but when you remove the math, there’s nothing left. Assuming that is so, how could this case possibly be used to broaden Bilski? Rather, it would seem to directly contradict it, should that happen.

The author seems to think that if it’s math, it’s not abstract. But if you read Bilski, beginning on p. 18, I don’t see how anyone can take the view that algorithms are patentable in and of themselves, so if this is nothing but, what in the world would it mean to allow it to be patentable? In short, I hope either the description or this prediction is wrong about the outcome, but if it’s correct, I hope Microsoft appeals, and oddly enough, if they do, I’ll be rooting for them.

This is not the first time that we see Microsoft playing down software patents either by comparing them to mathematics or by saying that there needs to be a physical device to make software actually patentable.

European Ombudsman Confirms Refusal of Access to Secret ACTA Documents

Posted in Europe, Intellectual Monopoly, Law at 3:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Not even the Ombudsman can give access to a process of a conspiracy of foreign companies working to harm European people behind closed doors

EUROPE is under attack by ACTA proponents such as Pedro Valesco-Martins, Paul Rübig, and Luc Pierre Devigne. That last person was recently fired or simply decided to leave. His political career is probably tarnished due to his advocacy and defence of the ACTA, which nobody in Europe seems to actually want. According to this response to Ante Wessels [PDF], the European Ombudsman is of no use here.

This mirrors our recent experiences with the European Ombudsman, which failed to stop American lobbyists from derailing Europe’s interests, let alone show their subversion of European documents/charters. Europe needs an Ombudsman with a strong spine in order for it to be effective and justify its existence.

The FFII has just released the statement below.


Citizens have a clear interest in being informed about ACTA, EU Ombudsman concludes

Brussels, 27 July 2010 — According to the EU Ombudsman, citizens have a clear interest in being informed about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Despite this, he concludes for formal reasons that there was no maladministration by the Council of the European Union when it denied access to the ACTA documents. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) had filed a complaint with the Ombudsman concerning the Council’s refusal to grant access to ACTA documents.

The Ombudsman “agrees that the conclusion of the ACTA may indeed make it necessary for the EU to propose and enact legislation. In that case, the ACTA would constitute the sole or the major consideration underpinning that legislation, and citizens would have a clear interest in being informed about the ACTA.”

“This is a loophole, it is possible to force legislation upon democracies while the public can not scrutinize all documents.”
      –Ante Wessels
While citizens have a clear interest in being informed about ACTA, they do not get access to the ACTA documents. The Ombudsman observes that, although ACTA “could have far-reaching legislative consequences for the EU, this does not mean that the procedure for concluding the ACTA is the same as a legislative procedure, and that the rules governing the latter (including those with regard to public access to documents as set out in the Turco case) apply by analogy to the former.”

FFII analyst Ante Wessels comments: “This is a loophole, it is possible to force legislation upon democracies while the public can not scrutinize all documents. The EU legislation on access to documents needs to be repaired. In the meantime, parliaments should not accept the usage of this loophole. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties stipulates that the history of a treaty plays a role in the interpretation of that treaty. Without full disclosure, parliaments will have to decide on a proposal with unknown aspects, a dark horse.”

Background information

Behind closed doors, the European Union, United States, Japan and other trade partners are negotiating the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. ACTA will contain new international norms for the enforcement of copyrights, trade mark rights, patents and other exclusive rights.

The FFII endorses the Washington Communique: International Experts Find that Pending Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement Threatens Public Interests

Ombudsman decision

FFII information page on ACTA

FFII analysis

Washington Communique

Permanent link to this press release

Contact

FFII Office Berlin
Malmöer Str. 6
D-10439 Berlin
Fon: +49-30-41722597
Fax Service: +49-721-509663769
Email: office (at) ffii.org

http://www.ffii.org/

Ante Wessels
ante@ffii.org
+31 6 100 99 063

About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1,000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.

Antitrust Attacks on IBM Carried Out by Microsoft and its “Satellite Proxies,” According to IBM

Posted in Antitrust, Europe, GNU/Linux, IBM, Microsoft, SCO at 3:23 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Satellite dish

Summary: IBM names Microsoft as a source of the complaints (or at least their financier) which target GNU/Linux-powered mainframes

GNU/Linux has several people who may sometimes seem like its friends when obviously they are not. For starters there’s Florian Müller and there are others like Bill Beebe, who sometimes act as apologists for SCO and even this week show some disregard for GNU/Linux (Beebe does not use GNU/Linux and neither does Müller by all indications).

As we pointed out yesterday, Müller is again taking shots at IBM (mass-mailing journalists and posting in several places). He is still doing this today, even minutes ago. He is like a true lobbyist and he helps Microsoft’s agenda, whether he acknowledges it or not. Earlier this month it was Kevin McBride who also helped Microsoft’s agenda by boosting SCO's case. SCO is like Microsoft's patent troll, but this one uses copyright allegations and sues IBM using Microsoft funds. Groklaw responds to ZDNet’s poor reporting by emphasising: “Kevin isn’t SCO now. His brother isn’t either.”

“What strikes me is that the price in June was going up until June 10, when Stewart ruled for Novell (look at the activity for *that* day), and then it dropped back to 0.04 the next day, and that was the highest until July 9, when Kevin McBride posted claims about Linux.”
      –Pamela Jones, Groklaw
Darl was of course sacked. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols (SJVN) made a mistake similar to that of ZDNet and Groklaw corrects him by stressing that “this isn’t SCO talking, in that the brothers McBride are no longer associated with SCO, unless SCO’s current leadership wishes to take credit for this event.”

Separately, Groklaw points out that SCO’s stock rose as a result of this McBride action. “I find this mezmerizing,” says Pamela Jones, “this chart of SCO’s daily share price. What strikes me is that the price in June was going up until June 10, when Stewart ruled for Novell (look at the activity for *that* day), and then it dropped back to 0.04 the next day, and that was the highest until July 9, when Kevin McBride posted claims about Linux. Then you see the price go up to a high today of 0.10. Coincidence?”

Later on Groklaw wrote about the TurboHercules case, noting: “First SCO and now TurboHercules. See a pattern, anyone? I certainly do. Microsoft and its “satellite proxies”. Someone needs to investigate that as an antitrust violation, in my view, using litigation and regulatory process to harm a competitor.”

The term “satellite proxies” is an exact quote from IBM. Now that there is an antitrust investigation in the EU there is also a lively discussion and here is how IBM responds:

IBM said it is cooperating fully with E.U. regulators and that the allegations are being brought by competitor Microsoft and its “satellite proxies.”

More here:

IBM countered in its own statement that the EC’s accusations “are being driven by some of IBM’s largest competitors — led by Microsoft — who want to further cement the dominance of Wintel servers by attempting to mimic aspects of IBM mainframes without making the substantial investments IBM has made.”

Recall what Microsoft apparently did to IBM in order to restrain critics of OOXML. Here is another report that names Microsoft’s role:

In a statement, IBM said it “intends to cooperate fully” with the inquires. But it also asserts that the investigations were actually triggered by Microsoft (MSFT). “Let there be no confusion whatsoever: there is no merit to the claims being made by Microsoft and its satellite proxies,” IBM said. “IBM is fully entitled to enforce its intellectual property rights and protect the investments we have made in our technologies. Competition and intellectual property laws are complementary and designed to promote competition and innovation, and IBM fully supports these policies. But IBM will not allow the fruits of its innovation and investment to be pirated by its competition through baseless allegations.”

Microsoft spinners responded to this as follows.

IBM, based in Armonk, New York, said in a statement that “there is no merit to the claims being made by Microsoft and its satellite proxies.”

“Certain IBM competitors which have been unable to win in the marketplace through investments in fundamental innovations now want regulators to create for them a market position that they have not earned,” IBM said.

Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft, said in an e-mail that the company invests in startup companies such as T3 to give customers greater choice. The company isn’t a party to T3’s complaint against IBM, he said.

“We do share T3’s belief that there needs to be greater openness and choice for customers in the mainframe market,” Shaw said. “Customers tell us that they want greater interoperability between the mainframe and other platforms.”

Notice the wording. He does not deny Microsoft’s role. “Microsoft wasn’t a party to SCO v. IBM, either, but it gave money that made it possible for it to happen,” Jones explained. “You don’t have to be a party to be involved.”

“…Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux.”

Larry Goldfarb, BayStar, key investor in SCO approached by Microsoft

Windows Viruses Can be Politically Motivated Sometimes

Posted in Microsoft, Security, Windows at 2:36 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Flag of Iran

Summary: A Windows worm that affects Siemens systems at this moment reportedly has special focus on Iran

LAST week we wrote several posts about the SCADA worm (Windows only), which IDG says was targeting Iran in particular:

Iran was prime target of SCADA worm

[...]

Symantec isn’t sure why Iran and the other countries are reporting so many infections. “The most we can say is whoever developed these particular threats was targeting companies in those geographic areas,” Levy said.

[...]

Because Symantec can see the IP address used by machines that try to connect with the command and control servers, it can tell which companies have been infected. “Not surprisingly, infected machines include a variety of organizations that would use SCADA software and systems, which is clearly the target of the attackers,” the company said in its blog post Thursday.

Stuxnet spreads via USB devices. When an infected USB stick is viewed on a Windows machine, the code looks for a Siemens system and copies itself to any other USB devices it can find.

This ought to at least arouse suspicion that targeted attacks are a possibility, with a political agenda somewhat likely. It’s not as though it didn’t happen before. Last year we also found out that Iran uses Novell and Microsoft software to potentially make bombs.

In other news, Windows Live is more of a spying tool than most people realise. IM is never private, either (Skype IM is monitored by Chinese authorities for example). That’s why the US government at one point objected to giving ICQ to the Russians. Anyway, about Microsoft:

Microsoft has taken Hotmail and Messenger accounts and turned them into Windows Live Spaces accounts. What’s more worrisome, MS has also taken the liberty of converting your Messenger contacts into Friends. It then shares information about these new Friends with each other. To try to prevent this sharing (and, based on my tests, you can’t), you have to navigate a mind-boggling labyrinth of privacy settings.

It has a bad odor to it. When I use Facebook, I fully expect that other people will be able to see what I’m doing. No problem — I would never use Facebook for sensitive business communications. But when I use Messenger, I expect it to be as private as a phone call.

Facebook too is close to Microsoft and it gives Microsoft its data.

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