CyberTech Rambler

November 30, 2006

Becta under fire for paying lip service to open source

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:44 pm

Becta, the UK agency championing  for open source in education is under fire for paying lip service. Particularly, Becta ICT model for educational establishment is product-based, making it hostilee to open source products.

To be fair, Becta is finding itself in a difficult position: It has to maintain a fine balance its recommendation list of proprietary and open source software. Too much one direction or the other will cause a fuss.

This probably explains why proprietary software vendors had not voiced their disgruntle about Becta. Yes, we have cases where they complain about Becta reports but they are far inbetween.  May be it is time Becta demonstrate that it is creating a level playing field for both open source and proprietary software in UK education.


November 29, 2006

If you have a home theater, don’t invite your friends round for movie

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:32 pm

Why? MPAA believe you cannot share your movie, yes the one you purchased, with your friend. If they get their way, this is what will happen: The person who sold you your new home theater must inform MPAA about it, and your existing one must be retrofitted with a new monitoring device.

At present, they are only interested in going after those with deep pocket, i.e., those that can afford a home theater. Whether you are rich enough depends on the size of your TV, the type of sound system you have and whether you sit on the floor or not.

They are trying to sell US Congress a bill to this effect. I do not think the bill will fly, MPAA may be big gun, but in home theater sellers, they find their match.

This, however, demonstrate what happens when Intellectual Property Rights are taken to the extreme. I suppose the day MPAA says only you, the purchaser, can watch the DVD you buy alone is on the horizon.

November 28, 2006

Zune does not satisfy Creative Common License in spirit

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:31 pm

Hot on the heel on Microsoft-Novell’s agreement violating the spirit of GPL if not the actual text, Microsoft’s Zune player is said to do the same with Creative Common License. At issue is the fact that your Creative Common Licensed work uploaded to you via Zune WiFi must go through the same indignity that all other upload must suffer, i.e., it will delete it on the third playback, or third day, whichever earlier.

Now, before we start saying “here we go again” or “it is only to be expected”, I believe Microsoft did not target Creative Common directly. The same cannot be said for GPL but that is a different issues. In fact, this may be a side-effect of keeping record labels happy with the over-the-air exchange of copyright material, with the intention of stopping rampant sharing of copyright material which users ripped from CD. However, I must admit this is poor execution on Microsoft’s part.  A good design will, at least in the minimum, use the metadata on the deleted material (which survive the delete) to point users to websites to download the material the next time the Zune player is hooked to the computer. Or even better, as suggested by Creative Common, use the URL to check with Creative Common whenever the device is hooked to the net. Then again… may be this will diminish Zune’s music store standing.

Creative Common has not ruled out modification to its license that will make this act of  deletion-through-ignorance illegal. If they do, this will permit the content creater to sue Zune. Apparently, one of the consideration is whether Zune proved popular. I say put this in the licesne whether Zune is popular or not. To concentrate on Zune alone is simply tunnel vision. Moreover, if reviews are any guide at all, Zune is perhaps…doomed.

November 27, 2006

Good news for song lovers,…, but not Cliff Richard

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:34 am

Finally, some piece of good news on the copyright front: An independent review by the Treasury is going to recommend against British Phonographic Industry request to extend copyright for sound recording. Cliff Richard, one of the campaigner for the extension, is going to be one of its most prominent victim now.

Copyright, patents and other so-called “Intellectual Property” is simply a contract between the community at large with individuals where individual is given limitted rights about the fruit of their endeaver. For once, we see the government deciding to enforce the contract rather than extending the rights of the individual.

Neil McCormack, a music journalist believe this is not good:

“[An artist] can make a record in 1955 and have been getting royalties… been living on that and suddenly they’re gone”

I appreciate why he says it is “suddenly”, however, I disagree as the artist knows for a long time running that royalties are going to cease one day. That’s the essence of the meaning of “limitted rights” in copyright. Furthermore, if a person can be evicted from his house because his leasehold expires, why shouldn’t royalties dried up for artists? In both case, if anybody failed to prepare for it, that’s his fault.

November 24, 2006

Some legal analysis on whether Microsoft-Novell deal is legal

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:02 am

LamLaw analysed the Microsoft-Novell deal on whether it is illegal and potentially, what recourse do GPL holders have. It is one of the first article that put Microsoft-Novell agreement implication on both parties GPL obligation under the microscope of a law book. Good analysis, perhaps biased towards GPL, but nonetheless, show us, the non-lawyers, on where the law stands on this issue.

Please note that LamLaw’s analysis does not constitute legal advice. Seek the opinion of your own lawyer if you want to start suing Novell and Microsoft…. and don’t forget that the two companies has the resources and had studied the issue longer than your lawyer can affort to do.

November 23, 2006

Novell paying extortion money to Microsoft

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:40 pm

Novell said, in its open letter to open source community and Microsoft confirmed, that Novell does not believe Linux infringes Microsoft IP. Thus, why did Novell paid 40 million dollars to Microsoft to protect its customers from being sued by Microsoft? Apparently, for “peace of mind“. This approach sounds familiar to you? In the part of world where I come, we call this “protection racket”.

PJ of Groklaw says that Novell is saying one thing to the open source community, but doing the opposite in business market in UK and Germany. I can see the rational behind her arguement but will draw my own conclusion in a few weeks time. I will give, and hope you will give as well, Novell the benefit of doubt because the timeline suggests that UK and Germany is working on the script their Head Office in America gave them. Nothing sinister here, the machinary that got started on that faithful day needs time for that day’s event to filter down, and this week sounds about right for UK and Germany to start pumping adverts about the deal. Novell might have a change of heart recently and it takes time for that to filter down. Thus, I give them a few more weeks before concluding that Novell is a hypocrite.

Bruce Peren jumps on the bandwagon with an open letter to protest the Microsoft-Novell deal. I considered signing it but back off because I find the wording too strong. However I will not object to anyone signing it. The point he covered (minus the rhetoric) are valid and if Mr Hovsepian of Novell did not see it already, then Novell deserves to sink. I am from Asia. In Asia, we do not normally stand up and start shoutint/protest but approach the person personally and voice our concern. After that, we make sure they get the message by changing the way we deal with them. That is what will eventually get their attention and is the true punishment for the deviant deed, if the concensus is this deal is indeed deviant.

As such, I hope Novell’s suppliers and open source software buyer will take the appropriate action to show their displeassure. This is the language businessman everywhere understands. They are trying to impose business talk on open source community and in this case, lets demonstrate our skill in business talk as well.

Novell, at present, have no fear about its access to the kernel as there is no way Linus can pump it to version 3 of GPL, even if he wants. However, other surrounding softwares that makes up the Linux that we know are likely to move to version 3 of GPL. Free Software Foundation has said that that version should to exclude this type of deal? To keep this deal, Novell will have to fork any software that converts to GPL v3. Does it have the technical knowhow?Yes. It is doing well with SuSE Linux. But do Novell has the capacity? I do not think so. This is the business language Novell’s top brass understands. Let’s talk to them in language they understand.

The consequence of Sony Rootkit scandal

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:15 pm

Remember a while ago where Sony’s implementation of Digital Restriction Management causes security problems on users’ computer? We are seeing a longer lasting consequence of it right now in the form of an proposed exemption on DCMA which states:

6. Sound recordings, and audiovisual works associated with those sound recordings, distributed in compact disc format and protected by technological protection measures that control access to lawfully purchased works and create or exploit security flaws or vulnerabilities that compromise the security of personal computers, when circumvention is accomplished solely for the purpose of good faith testing, investigating, or correcting such security flaws or vulnerabilities.

To me, it is a good start but not really good enough. Why restrict circumvension only for compact disk format and not any DRM measure (software) that can cause security problems? The root of the problem is software, not CD. And how about audio-visual work for which the equipment to play had malfunctioned, damaged or obsolete. This is important because the Copyright Office allows digital restriction management computer programs whose doogle had malfunction, damaged or obsolete to be circumvented. Reading the text suggest that exclusion of audiovisual work is intentional. Furthermore, as the Copyright Office decided not to give exemption to “DVD that cannot be viewed on Linux Operating System” confirm this in its recommendation text kinda confirm this.

November 21, 2006

He says, she says, but ultimately, he wins

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:59 am

Suppose the recent Microsoft-Novell deal is a marriage, we are seeing the first argument in the relationship. Novell says Microsoft wanted the patent deal and that it believe that Linux does not infringe on Microsoft Intellectual Property. Microsoft begs to defer. In the end, it is said that the couple agrees to disagree.

Again, using the marriage analogy, while nobody sees Novell as being bullied into the relationship, most people will agree that Novell is not on equal footing with Microsoft. With Microsoft flogging the agreement as “Linux infringes on Microsoft IP” and Novell having to go on the defensive, are we seeing “Battled Spouse Syndrome” here?

The question is, in the end, who is the winner?  Microsoft of course, whether is there infringement or not. If there were infringement, Microsoft obviously have the upperhand. If not, there is just sufficient publicity to plant the seed of doubt. Microsoft is in the same league as HP, IBM and Oracle where they can afford better lawyers than you do in such a way that even if they spread half-truth, joe public are unlikely to be able to afford to sue them. At least joe public is not Novell, Novell as a effigy in Microsoft public caning.

The best quotes so far are from Mary Jo Foley:

“You know a partnership isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when the parties involved need to spend more time explaining (and defending) themselves than actually delivering on what was promised.”

“…Microsoft basically is calling Novell and other Linux vendors thieves. Under what circumstances would a pro-customer company encourage its users to buy software from a partner who was stealing its own IP?”

November 17, 2006

Will Microsoft sue Linux for patent infringement?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:50 pm

This issue raise its ugly head again as the natural consequence of the infamous Microsoft-Novell agreement. That agreement did nothing for the open-source community, contrary to the claim of Novell and Microsoft. As things are starting to lie down, people starts to examine the consequence of this announcement.

This got heated up because for the first time, Microsoft CEO directly accused Linux of infringing MS IP. From Todd Bishop’s blog:

“… the fact that that product [Linux] uses our patented intellectual property is a problem for our shareholders” — Steve Ballmer

The question is, is this true? For something as complex as Linux, we simply don’t know. Chances are not insignificant that some MS patent are affected. The crunch is, it is rather expensive, for both sides in any IP lawsuit to find out. The same is true for Microsoft Office, Microsoft Windows etc etc and etc. This is the flaw of the current IP regime that should be eliminated, but nonetheless affects everyone.

Thus, the more significant question is will MS take the plunge and sue? And what will happen if MS take the plunge? With the Microsoft-Novell argeement, and Steve Ballmers “invitation” to others to join the party, superficially, the chances of this happen increased. There are only two things that stop Microsoft, or any other parties, from suing: Gaining a bad reputation as a result of suing or suffering a IP retaliation suite. The first one haven’t stopped SCO who feel that they had nothing to lose. Microsoft is unlikely to be in SCO shoe any time soon and it values its reputation more than SCO. One can argue that one aim of Microsoft at present is to create two categories of users, i.e., commerical and non-commercial one. If Microsoft succeeds, than the reward for suing commercial users might outweight the fall out.

Thus, the only realistic protection FLOSS is to retaliate with an IP lawsuit which Microsoft’s brilliant pool of lawyers cannot get it out of. The realistic IP weapon of choice is patent. Unfortunately, FLOSS are generally speaking, patent-poor. Some might argue that IBM and other heavy weight might throw their patent in FLOSS’s defence. Unfortunately, although it is unlikely, IBM and others might do a “Novell dance”. Lets not forget that, not so long ago, Novell was one of the few we thought will use their patent portfolio to protect FLOSS. Suppose IBM and other stick it out using their patents to defend FLOSS, FLOSS is still at risk that they might “cut-and-run” at the last minute, doing a deal with Microsoft or any other litigator, leaving it high-and-dry. In IBM’s defence, if it wants to, it could had just bought SCO rather than fight it, and I appreicate IBM doing so at great cost to itself. Microsoft knows that the patent defence thing is very strong, that is why it is it is offering others to do the Novell dance. With this, Microsoft is trying to chip away this armour.

This IP thing is a brilliant strategy for Microsoft. We are only seeing the beginning of the battle. Right now, chances of collateral damage is too high for Microsoft to take this course of action. The future hinged on whether Microsoft succeed in advancing its idea of two tiers of FLOSS users. If so, commercial users beware. Even if it fails, (lets face it, this is a very tall goal), it will manage to spread FUD to push some business its way. Win-win situation.

November 15, 2006

Microsoft News

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:19 pm

Wow… several news on the Microsoft front. Almost all from Mary Jo Foley’s blog on ZDNet:

  1. Zune does not work on Vista. A surprise, but don’t forget Microsoft still have approximately two and a half month before this begins to matter as consumer version of Vistas (the versions that counts) is on sale. Still, it is a PR disaster for Vista. Let’s hope for Microsoft sake it does not turn into a real problem for Vista users. If Zune is to rival Apple, it must deliver the consumer experience that is at least equal to that of Apple.
  2. PowerShell does not work on Vista either. Power Windows users will be disappointed. PowerShell looks like a gigantic update to Windows Scripting ability and probably a must for Windows to be able to rival Linux and Unix-like system in terms of useability at an advanced level.
  3. The most serious news for Microsoft is it has until Thanks Giving Day (just slightly less than two hands full) to comply with EU directive to share interoperability information. Now, either Microsoft already have all the information nearly ready for hand over, or it is going to flunk the deadline.
  4. When I first heard of Microsoft’s “Interoperability Alliance”, I dismiss it as another talking shop. I did not put this and EU’s interoperability directive together. Not even when news emerged that the alliance is missing big names as I told myself that it will be a miracle if Microsoft manage to recruit everyone in that Alliance. Only when Mary Jo blog about it, I realized it can be a weapon against EC in its appeal. EC might not like it, but the judges may buy it. At least, this means EC have a higher fence to climb to win over the judges.
  5. Microsoft’s Matusow put his hand in the air and admitted their not-suing-hobbyist covenant is not up-to-scratch. Apparently people from Novell told them, but was it before or after the announcement. He said it missed the mark. I said it achieved its objective, since Microsoft stance is that it is not going to allow the patent covenant to cover commercial activity but rather wants to negotiate cover for commercial activity on a per-instance basis. Their, and Novell’s, mistake is to misrepresent it for what it isn’t.
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