CyberTech Rambler

August 27, 2008

No Flash and Java == Cannot access to all website

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:52 pm

BBC is running a story about the Advertising Standard Agency banning iPhone ad because the ad misleadingly claim that iPhone can access all websites.

Apple is claiming that it is not misleading because it simply claims you can get to the website on the iPhone. However, ASA applied the more general principle that to you and me, access means seeing the content. I believe ASA is agreeable to degraded experience but is objecting to the fact that one can have blank screen on your iPhone should the website designer choose to deliver everything in Java or Flash. This approach with Flash is increasingly popular.

This ruling both excits and worry me.  Excits me because has the potential to force Apple to open up the iPhone platform more. Apple is trying to control the “user experience”. I understand it, but I am always conscious that it can be just an excuse to shut out competition on the iPhone. Recent events does not bore it well, for example Apple throwing out an iPhone app that enabled bluetooth modem function from its store without even bothering to explain why. (It did put it back again and if you ask me, it is likely to be a contract issue)

I am at the same time worried that if ASA applied the rule to strictly, all mobile devices must have all the bells and whistles a desktop webbrowser must have. This might shut out some mobile devices, especially cheaper one with more limited capability. It will drive cost up for all of us because your mobile device manufacturer has to spend money on making sure this is the case.

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August 26, 2008

Lack of interest means nobody bothers to get the computers working

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:41 am

OpenMalaysia, while trying to highlight the cost advantages of open source, has highlighted a significant problem with pushing computers to new users: lack of interest.

According to ComputerWorld Australia:

“With funding from the Japanese government, the PCPS program started around the 2000 timeframe when the contractors installed Windows PCs, but five years later it was discovered a lot of the computers were not being used because nobody knew how to use them.”

Nobody knew how to use them? That is possible. I don’t know how to start up my first PC. Someone had to teach me. Orgnaizationaly speaking it was a catastrophic failure since they procure the units, but failed to ensure they are used. There is another question that we need to find out the reason for it: Why nobody tries to figure out how to use it? Do we have a lack of interest here?

Back to the story. Did Microsoft failed to get Windows on those machine on cost ground? It is certainly a factor and a big one. However, I think somewhere in the government hierarchy someone important bought the ideal of using open source to build a local computer industry and see it through. If true, this is an important victory for open source, and kudo to the person who weather through the pressure asserted on him/her. We know that even in the best of circumstances the pressure would be huge and we are actually seeing one of the worst of circumstances.

August 22, 2008

Nevermind children in developing world, I want XO2

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:56 pm

Why? I had been looking for just this type of notebook for two years now, i.e., two screens, with at least one touch sensitive. XO2 fits the bill perfectly.

How much am I willing to pay? Buy one give one is a bargain!

August 19, 2008

Good article about the Artistics License case

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:09 pm

Sherwin Sly has a good article on the Artistics License case, discussing the differences between EULA and copyright license, a distinction that non lawyers find it difficult to tease out. It clarify a few points that I was unsure about the impact of this case which I am sure is shared by a lot of other people.

I like it because it describe the distinction between the two, describe when they are applicable and most importantly, the different legal remedies available and how this affects open source.

ISO rule mess?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:59 am

As PJ pointed out, I did feel that the wording “[OOXML is] subject[ed] to no further appeals against the decision.” on ISO Press Release about rejecting the four appeals very strange. It is very strongly worded. I would had just simply said the “decision is final”. The way I see it, there are two possibilities: (1) Bad translation to English, or some cultural background by the writer creeping into the Press Release or (2) a strong suggestion to anyone who wants to mount a further appeal that ISO will view this dimly or worse, we made up our mind so any further appeal will be futile.

Bad translation is possible. There is nothing to say that ISO’s working language must be English. More likely is we have a cultural background of the writer creeping into the language. I write differently from my fellow citizen and our cultural predisposition flood into our writing, consciously or subconsciously. This is especially when one is multilingual and whose first language is not English.

The second possibility is of course very sinister. I do not think this is the ISO view. I am more incline to write the wording down to cultural predisposition as I feel it is the most likely cause. However, it does highlight one thing: Never write in a way that is so absolute especially when you are trying to convey the procedures/rules of a big corporation.

PJ had found what she think is a route for further appeals. I am not surprised if she is correct. I would not even blame the framer of the Press Release for conveying the wrong information if this is the case. ISO is a big corporation with complex rules. No one person knows all the rules, not even those whose job description means they are suppose to know it by heart.

I do have one worry. This OOXML process highlighted the fact that ISO rules are unclear to a lot of people, including participants from National Bodies. Some even have the appearance of being made up on the spot according to some loose ISO guidelines and are not subjected to proper check-and-balance. Is this another case of making up rules on the spot? If so, it must be stopped.

August 15, 2008

OOXML appeals rejected

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 10:27 pm

No surprise there. Here is the news from GrokLaw. The best we can hope now is that ISO tighten its procedure for future applicants. Whatever the management committee says, in the eyes of a lot of people, the damage is done.

If anything, the whole saga just demonstrated one thing: People are always going to define the meaning of something to suit their advantage. I know. I do that many times before. Whatever the definition you use, if you stray away from expected norm, expect to be boo-ed.

Jacobsen v. Katzer

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:25 pm

Initially, when I first heard the news, I thought it was a no-brainer. The District Court definitely erred. The Appeal Court simply uphold the status quo. It did, but, as usual, is not that simple.

This Groklaw article cut through all the fuss to the heart of the matter. Slightly more details in this Groklaw article. The “enemies of open source” as PJ puts it, was trying to reduce the Artistic License, from a copyright license to simply contract terms. Legally there is a lot of difference, not only in monetary terms, but most importantly, burden of proof: It is much more difficult to wiggle out of copyright infringement. District Court thinks that because there are a lot of freedom granted by the Artistics license, it is in effect a contract dispute. Fortunately for open source, the Court of Appeals disagree. Their argument is what the other party had done is outside what the original author had permitted it to do and therefore, it is a copyright infringement problem, since copyright law give the authors the monopoly rights to control the particular activity the other party is said to had done.

However, I tell you what is scary. As Koman point out, the crucial point turns out to be the wording of the contract, in particular the two words “provided that”. That’s scary because layman like you and I would not had been careful in our words. Therefore, PJ is right, you need your lawyer to draft the license.

August 14, 2008

That dirty word “Consensus”

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:44 pm

Arnaud has an interesting discussion about what “Consensus” really mean? I think everyone can in general agree with what “Consensus” really mean. However, we must bear in mind that organizations can and often have specific definition of what “Consensus” really mean for them. The definition can be loosely based on what you and I think it is, but in the worst case, can be actually contorted to mean something totally different, i.e., giving the definition where most people will not agree what “Consensus” is.

For me, “Consensus” means much more than simple majority (50% threshold). In fact, I do not think a majority (66% threshold) is good enough, since we normally associate “Consensus” with major agreement among the people who matters, with only minor opposition. Having one-third of the people object does not sounds like major agreement to me. One thing that Arnaud point out which I normally miss is the fact that everyone in the decision making process must go out of the way to put in a favourable vote, i.e., if you can live with it, then you have the duty to cast the favourable vote.

Of course, in the context of ISO, we need to see what ISO define it to be. According to Arnaud, it says

“consensus: General agreement, characterized by the absence of sustained opposition to
substantial issues by any important part of the concerned interests and by a process that
involves seeking to take into account the views of all parties concerned and to reconcile
any conflicting arguments.
NOTE Consensus need not imply unanimity.”

My first impression? Oh dear, there is no technical definition, i.e., the voting crowd must be representative of the view of all the stakeholders (Otherwise, like the accusation in Denmark, we can simply keep on subdividing the stakeholders to get what we want). I will say it is safe to say 90% agreement is a good threshold for “Consensus”, with discretion for the chair if one cannot achieve 90% but there is at least 80% agreement.

I might be nitpicking now but looking at the last sentence, ISO clearly thinks that “Consensus” must at the minimum, have 66% (majority) vote. The specific mention of “unanimity” suggests that it must be close to it, but need not hit it.

August 10, 2008

It’s easy to tell SUN to get off OpenOffice.org, but who will stand up?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:42 pm

I seen this article about Novell saying SUN getting of OpenOffice.org is not a bad thing but thought nothing about it initially. After all, SUN marshalling of OpenOffice.org is not without problems itself.

However, there is a question I need to ask Meeks of Novell: “Who will step up?” With this, I mean do the plumbing work, i.e. working on stuff that will not get you headline. Novell? I think not. Not because PJ will not be happy (See her comments on the news pick), but at present Novell is going to be a worse choice than SUN. Its pact with Microsoft irks a lot of people in open source. Moreover, In the longer run, I don’t think Novell can do better.

Problems with VCL??? Like any software that has been a long for sometime, there are problems with the current OpenOffice.org program code. That is what I can historical baggage. Every time you show me a software, I can tell you how I think I can make it better, usually it involve a makeover and a very radical one as it means bring the software practice up-to-date. My proposal not being taking up? That 99% of the time.

His problem with OpenOffice.org appears to be he cannot get things to be accepted at the top level main OpenOffice.org. I am sure everyone had problems like this. Since he is the contact at go-oo.org, a collective that aims to “enhance” OpenOffice.org with non-open technology, I can see why he had a problem.

He says SUN’s advocation of a plugin architecture will not resolve the problem because users will get a “broken” initial installation and have to go online to search for plugins to “repair” the installation. My impression is that his definition of “broken” is this: A download that do not do what I want “broken”, but if so, everyone’s installation of any software is broken. For example, I like “DownTHEMAll” Firefox extension. However, my vanilla download of Firefox would be by this definition, broken. Is it fair to say that it is broken? I don’t think so. Why? because Firefox itself is useable and do a good job out-of-the-box.

I like the plugin architecture. As Eclipse had demonstrated, it is a good way to deal with copyright problems. it will give OpenOffice.org great flexibility and may one day prove to be its biggest asset. If implement correctly It encourage participation as well and build an ecosystem around it.

To counter the point about “broken” installation, as go-oo.org demonstrated, you can always get do your own download. Hence, if you think someone else download is broken, fix it and roll your own download. Do you own download. Fork it if need be. That’s your right. OpenOffice.org allows you to do so. Novell has the expertise to do it. History had shown that sometimes the person who fork it got it right and the main developement team got it wrong. History has also shown that  main development teams are willing to swallow their own humble pie a few years down the line.

Some stuff he mentioned cannot be fixed by plugin. Take for example, systray integration that Novell took time to write. It’s has t o be in the main source code. In fact, it is but not activated because it does not work on GTK. He is crossed. I emphatize with that. However, for a software that support multiple platforms, it is not unusual to require a piece of code to work across all platforms before activation. As it is domant, it is clear that the OpenOffice.org development team see a value in it. It is probably not high up on the prioirty list. Novell can fix it if it want to. It has the expertise. If I am cruel I will say that It seems that Novell is only interested in the Windows aspects and expects others to resolve the GTK problem. When it did not get this, it decided to complain rather than do something about it.

SUN could had handle OpenOffice.org development better. That is true. Let’s not forget that under SUN stewardship, OpenOffice.org had transformed from a wannabe to a realistic competitor to Microsoft Office. it must had done something correct here.

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