CyberTech Rambler

September 28, 2011

Show Down Time [Updated]

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:02 pm

It is easy to write a sensational headline that does not deliver once one read the article. If you, however, want to learn how to write a sensational headline that befits the article, look no further than TheRegister.

I love this headline about Microsoft signing a patent deal with Samsung over Android. It says it all. The content rocks as well.

What is interesting here is the fact that Motorola Mobility is the only holdout that did not signed a patent deal with Microsoft and choose litigation. The fact that others fall like domino is only to be expected: It is not good business to be embroiled in a long and protracted legal lawsuit when you can pay to let it go away.

As Clark noted, Motorola Mobility is now a Google Company. What this means to me is show down time is near. Everyone, especially those who signed the patent deal with Microsoft specifically for Android, will be watching it closely. I will be surprised if one of the  contract requires Microsoft to sue Motorola in reasonable time. However, I will not be surprised if it turn out that there is a clause in the patent agreement that give licensee a discount if for whatever reason, Motorola Mobility signed on the dotted line and pay less than them.

What is for sure is the loser in this litigation will come out with a lot of egg on its face. If it is Google, it completely destroyed Android image as open source. If Microsoft did not win this one, while I am sure the patent deals will withstand it, Microsoft will have to give the other party a lot of favour when it comes to signing the next deal to keep them happy. Not to mention the public humiliation for using  trump up charge against Android. This charge, if proven to be trump up, is more serious than ‘Linux is Cancer’.

Referring to Microsoft thinking that cross licensing is the way to go, Clark pointed out that “Demonstrating a firm grasp for self-fulfilling reasoning, Microsoft’s executive duo reckoned a solution to the industry problem of patent litigation is now in sight. That solution is to sign a deal with Microsoft, when it’s Microsoft that is one of those bringing the prosecutions or rattling the sabers. “. On which I would like to add the following two observations: One, if it is truly the way forward, Microsoft should not had trumpeted it as ‘Android needs Microsoft patent’ because it immediately put a huge obstacle for Google to  climb over to sign on the dotted line and, two, we still have another 10 ton elephant in the room called Apple which unlike Microsoft, is not interested in cross-licensing deal but is suing others in order to exclude them  from the iPhone/iPad market space. In short, cross-licensing is not a solution to the patent nightmare at all.

[20110929] As usual, Brian Proffitt’s analysis of the deal is better, way better than mine. I believe he is right when he says Samsung is irked by Google’s for not coming to their defense on Android. However, while it is an important consideration, I do not think this is one of most important consideration when Samsung inked the deal. If I were Samsung, I just want to pay Microsoft to make it  go away. I don’t really have the time or effort to go to court to prove it wrong or to counter sue it with patents I own and know they infringed.

September 23, 2011

Fair Allegation Against Microsoft locking down the boot process?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:07 pm

Being a big  company, Microsoft is the target of a lot of of accusations, some fair, some not and some are downright wrong. So, when news surface that Microsoft is attempting to use Secure Boot in UEI to lock down computers, it is just another day at the office. Until of course, Microsoft chooses to response.

The accusation, by Prof Anderson, is

“Proposed changes to the UEFI firmware spec would enable (in fact require) next-generation PC firmware to only boot an image signed by a keychain rooted in keys built into the PC. I hear that Microsoft (and others) are pushing for this to be mandatory, so that it cannot be disabled by the user, and it would be required for OS badging. ” [Emphasis mine]

Microsoft’s response side-stepped the “mandatory” part, instead, focusing on the fact that PC vendors can choose to allow unsigned OS. Clever, isn’t it?

Furthermore, as Garrett pointed out, the problem is some system will shipped where it will not be possible to choose not to use “Secure Boot” (the part that requires signing the OS).

We must not lose sight that Microsoft is within its own rights to say I will deny you Windows 8 if you don’t use “Secure Boot”. However, because of its market power, to push for Secure Boot to be mandatory can and should be seen as abuse of monopoly power because it raises the cost for the competition.

In my opinion, the solution is to make  not using Secure Boot is a mandatory requirement of UEFI. Sure, there will be some vendors that will not implement non-secure boot. However, most will  the number of non-compliant, i.e., no option to not use Secure Boot, computers will be few and far in between. Why? The number of firmware vendors is small, most will have to support non-Windows computers and it will be in their interest to implement non-Secure Boot, especially if UEFI requires it.

Frankly, no consumer or IT manager is asking for Secure Boot. I doubt UEFI firmware vendors are crying out for it. They could do with one less requirement anytime any day especially one that is quite complex to implement. It is the OS vendor  (OK, may be vendors) that wants it. I am sure increasing the cost to competition is part of the goal, but let’s not forget they are increasing their own cost as well. For example, how are they going to update the keys on older computers when they are pushing for you to update their OS?

Prof Anderson is right, it is Trusted (or as Richard Stallman calls it: “Treacherous”) Computing all over again. It is likely to be heading to the bin. Like Treacherous Computing, it is not a even a practical or viable solution to a ill-defined problem. However, as users of computers, we must still decapitate it every time it reveals its ugly head.

September 21, 2011

EC drops TurboHercules’ complaint against IBM

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:33 pm

Normally, I only get to comment when a dispute happen, not when a dispute ends. The reason? People make fanfare of a new dispute and just like thousand other internet users,  I become aware of it through the fanfare. Rarely, except for some rare important cases, where the end of a dispute is as well publicized as its beginning. This means I normally missed them. Not to mention I actually forgotten about it.

The complaint to EC against IBM by TurboHercules is a good example where I forgotten about it. Until of  course Groklaw’s PJ pick it up on EUROPA’s Press Release. I must congratulate the person who actually report it to PJ. It is not easy to spot a single paragraph explaining that EC had dropped the complaint “following an in-depth investigation”. There is little  clue on the title about this TurboHercules’ complaint on the title, and EC appended this notice almost as a after thought to a request for information on a slightly related case.

Search on Google reveal this eWeek article in August that gives more information. Anyone who saw the article when it was published will know that the logical conclusion is for EC to close the  case, with or without ‘in-depth investigation’. The eWeek article suggested another party to the complaint reached a settlement with IBM where it folded completely to IBM’s demand. I don’t know why but TurboHercules’ website is offline today.

I never thought that TurboHercules’ complaint has merits. Given what had happened, I think it is safe to say that like other commentators who thinks the same, we are  correct. Nice to be vindicated once in a while.

September 13, 2011

Are we seeing a potential new strategy in the patent defence game

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:11 am

When I first heard of the news that HTC bought patents from Google to sue Apple, I asked myself whether we are seeing a new strategy in the patent defence  game: Patent merry-go-round.

The merry-go-round works like this: Company A sues company B. Company B buys patents from Company C that shares a common interest in defending Company B against Company A. So far, nothing new. However, the twist is, once a amicable settlement is reached, and if company A sues company D, company B or company C will come to the aid of company D.

It is like an unofficial patent pool defending the something of value for company B, C and D. What is important here is the strong message sent by this collective defense to company A.

Google had been accused of not standing behind Android. In particular, stand by the sideways while its partners get sued. This move is great, like the impressive Google challenge of Lodsys patents, it shows Google is a sleeping giant and when it step up to defend its partners, it roars loudly!

On both count, nobody can say Google’s move is not impressive. I would add innovative to the mix. Perhaps distruptive to the business of patent defence game. I believe both counts more than the lip service paid by another, much bigger company with a saggin phone operating system who attempt to use its indeminity pledge as a tactical advantage..

It’s great to see at least one government decided open standard must be royalty-free

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 8:00 am

It’s really great to hear that the UK Government believe that Open Standard in ICT must be Royalty-Free, not simply Random and Non-Discriminatory (I cannot quite get my finger to type ‘F’, ‘A’, ‘I’ and ‘R’ as Mr Moody did in the original article).

Unfortunately, all these talk in Parliament, however great, have this problem of failing at the first hurdle where it really matter, i.e., when it comes to the actual procurement. Lobbying by big companies will have it watered down publicly if possible, or do quietly if not.

Strictly speaking, it is actually a watered-down version. Under this definition, OOXML would had qualified, eventhough so far, only the vendor who proposed it is using it. All its friends during the standardization process appears to had deserted the OASIS committee.

However, credit must be given where credit is due, even though I think it is just lip service.

September 6, 2011

Great victory for Spamhaus

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 3:35 pm

Spamhaus got a really great victory against a spammer. That was a long process, i.e. 5 years. In includes a part where Spamhaus was plain silly by ignoring the lawsuit, and another that is pure drama when the spammer decided to go after Spamhaus domain name registration. Then it dropped out of public consciousness. The drama did not end there, as this posting about the final appeal by Technology & Marketing Law blog describes what happened.

Spamhaus only have to pay damages of 3 dollars, the spammer have to pay defense costs. Thus, overall, Spamhaus win financially. Only problem is it is unlikely to be able to collect the fee. Spamhaus got their lawyers pro bono, so arguably it is 3 dollars out-of-pocket. If, in the unlikely event, Spamhaus lawyers did not know at the beginning that they won’t get paid, they would had known it when the spamming company went bust. Still they persevere with Spamhaus. To me, it demonstrates that there are lawyers who do good and for that, they have a big THANK YOU from me.

September 5, 2011

Come on Apple, you don’t need to add fuel to fire

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:32 pm

As if one need to make the latest lost iPhone sturdy (Yes, Apple did it again, in almost identical circumstance as last year), it now emerged that there might be some strange had happened, i.e., not to Police Procedure and perhaps some deception (whether intentional or not is something up to the court and police) involved, at the address where the iPhone is alleged to be.

To be fair, most of the time, things like this are swept under the carpet. However, the police officers and private investigators involved should had known that if they do not follow the procedures to the letter, they would simply add fuel to the fire.

The last time it was the police raid on a journalist house that exploded the story beyond recognition. That story only recently concluded with no charges brought against the journalist.

My feeling is there is insufficient evidence for the police to justify asking to step into the house, that’s why they didn’t. The private investigators will have no such qualm or restriction and might intentionally take advantage of the occupiers belief that it i. Was there a deception? It is probably goes down to “he says – she says”. Ultimately it will amount to nothing. Only thing for sure is from today onwards, private investigator will not be able to pull such a trick anymore in San Francisco. Police procedures will now requires them to identify non-police officer that accompanies them.

As for not filing a report, might be simply the officer is simply late on the paperwork. Not stepping into the house probably means they don’t have to file paperwork. Unfortunately, that might be the intention all along. My litmus test is whether the officer recorded the visit in their personal log book, together with the name of people with them, and if the existing police procedures require it, whether the private investigator enter the house. Again, rest assured, SFPD will consider having their police officer do this from today onwards.

All in all, in both  iPhone cases, SFPD did not and will not come out smelling of roses.

As for Apple, they probably demonstrate (again) that they take leaks seriously. This time, there is a risk they gone too far. There is a potential that this is the spark, just like Tabloid newspaper hack into and delete messages from a murder victim’s phone which cause the whole phone hacking scandal to explode, that bring the relationship between Private Investigators and Police into the public’s focus and scrutiny in an explosive way.

The moral of the story for you and me is to identify everyone who  comes to your door. Not just one or two.

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