CyberTech Rambler

July 27, 2012

I think we stand a chance to take a peak behind the monetary value of FRAND

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:59 pm

PJ is hoping (and I will say against all hope) that we might get to see the cross-licensing agreement between Samsung and Microsoft, one of those Microsoft signs with equipment manufacturers for use of its “intellectual property” in Linux that Microsoft had been beating the drum about.

I believe the court is predisposed to err on the side of caution and protect information involving a non-party to the litigation. While I do really want to see the full agreement, I  think it will be morally wrong, and inappropriate to allow litigants to use a lawsuit to pry information from third parties, so much so that I will err on  the side of caution to protect innocent bystanders.

But here is the interesting thing, Samsung is the one that files those agreements. If PJ is right that Samsung files them to support its argument that its FRAND offer to Apple is fair, then I believe we stand a chance to see a redacted copy. The redacted copy will only contains parts relevant to the FRAND claim. The argument goes that if something is Fair, Reasonable and non-discriminatory then there should be no confidentiality or competitive advantage concerns. In fact, there should be a presumption in favour of openness in FRAND licensing terms. Disclosure ensure that nobody, licensors and licensees alike will be shortchanged.  Disclosure is actually important tool to help FRAND licensing terms achieve its goal. Without disclosure, how can we judge whether the terms offered to us by vendors claiming to practice FRAND is really Fair, Reasonable or non-discriminatory?

I think the public has an interest and the rights to see everything related to the case to be able to form a informed decisionwhether the right  conclusion is reached. However, this right does not extend to disclosing information not related to the litigation. Those information has to be presume to be private regardless of how much we want to see it.  Thus, if granted, I believe the judge will order redaction of anything not related the the FRAND claim. Thus we are likely to see the actual sum paid (or the cut Samsung get per device) and even the percentage of the actual sum paid that is actually for the  FRAND part of the agreement. However, we might not see anything else.

The difficulty here is to redact the information in a way that is fair to all parties. Is a redacted copy useful to the public if it does not show the actual portfolio Microsoft and Samsung put up in the agreement? Perhaps not. The good news is, those word smiths in law firms would had drafted the agreement with the expectation that a redacted copy will be ordered by the court one day. It will take another set of word smiths to carefully redact it, but we would have had a good start.


July 24, 2012

Computers and buses do not mix

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 1:51 pm

About two years ago, StageCoach in Cambridge bought a large batch of double decker buses to replace their single deck cousins in Cambridge. Overall feedback is their drivers like them because they are easier to drive. As a passenger, I like them because they quality of the interior is better. Unlike their previous mix bag of buses of different age, (some which give you the jitters with the screeching noise they make when the driver press the brake), they improved the quality of their service.

As someone with immense interest in computers, I did have a misgiving: They were too computerized. All the  gauges are virtual instruments on a LCD display in front of the driver (except a few mission critical ones that are still real instrument). I predicted that as the buses get older and need more maintenance, the computer will be in the way of providing a bus service to the people of Cambridge.

That is happening now. Guess what is the bus drivers’ solution? Stop, wait for 2 minutes and restart the engine. That itself is not much different from what they did with the old buses, with one caveat: They think they are doing this to reset the onboard computer. In 99 out of 100 cases they will be right. However, right now I have an additional worry: They start to think that almost all the problems they have is the fault of the computer and do not spend enough time to work out whether it is  false alarm or they have a real problem. That, has implications on road safety.

The incident that led me to this worrying state of mind is what I had observed with my bus trip yesterday. The driver noticed that he had a problem. Before taking us up he stop and restarted the bus. Then, he took us on but stopped again a few bus stops away. This time, he called the depot. Although it was not the stop that I want, I figure it is close enough to walk the distance instead of waiting for him to get instruction from the depot. Up to then I was thinking it is yet another false alarm triggered by the computer and thought nothing about it.

As I was walking down the street, the bus caught up with me. It stopped at a zebra crossing. There is where I noticed strange noise from the bus. It sounds like low pressure air leak. Furthermore, it sounds like this happen when the driver applies the brake. I believe the driver is aware that there is a problem with the brakes, since he stopped and was testing his brakes, causing a queue behind him in the process.

What I am not sure, and hence the reason for the post, is whether he thinks he has a physical problem or it is just a false alarm from the on board computer. It is not easy to hear the strange noise from the brakes because it was at the back at the best of time, let alone peak time traffic. The engine noise would had drown the hiss so the passengers would not had noticed as well.

Here is my worry: As a society, do we tend to blame the computer if anything goes wrong in a way we don’t with old fashion gauges and warning lights? If so, it is a serious cause of concern for me.

I must admit I made a mistake yesterday. I should had tell the driver. I didn’t. I assumed he knows and will take the bus out of service at the nearest possible place which is a bout a kilometer away. He cannot stop at the location he tested his brake because he would cause a traffic jam. There was on going traffic and I was afraid they might knock me  down if I spoke to the driver. I should had informed him about my observation to give him a fuller picture of the problem, if he had not notice it.

If you think I am blaming the driver you are wrong. He acted properly. He did exactly what I would if I noticed a (potential) problem. If he haven’t aware of what the real problem is he is certainly taking steps to find out. Even if he knew, I am not sure taking the bus out of service is the correct decision. Most importantly, at no point did I feel unsafe for myself or the passengers still on the bus.

July 23, 2012

Windows 8 not suitable for business?

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:36 pm

Gartner analyst Gunnar Berger feels that Windows 8 is not really designed for the Enterprise but for the tablet device. One key concern is it emphasize touch too much that makes it difficult to use on a non-touch device, such as the majority of the desktop today. This would be bad on a non-touch screen on a desktop, and worse for Enterprise as one extremely useful trick is for admin to remotely view the screen of a computer to figure out how to help the user.

I share that concerns. However, I do not think the issue is going to be a deal breaker. It is a brave move, one betting on all desktop will eventually have touch screen. If everyone has a touch screen than this problem will go away. One can get desktop with touch screen today (although mostly restricted to high end model). From an enterprise  context replacing administrators’ computer with a touch screen model does not cost much and is doable. My question is, will touch screen take hold on Desktop?

Steve Jobs, when introducing the “Magic Track Pad”, says that users what what “gesture” is on iPhones and iPad but find touching the desktop screen less useful on desktop screen. While I say take this with a pinch of salt (because, if he were still alive, he will reverse himself when launching a Mac computer/desktop with touch screen), I agree with him. Firstly, desktop windows tend to be at an awkward angle to perform the multi-touch gesture, i.e. vertical,  Secondly, it is quite a distance away from the person, making it more difficult to reach.  Finally, they tend to be larger than what one normally feel  comfortable to use: I  believe anyone finding that they have to move their elbow to reach the corners of the screen as too large.

Could I be wrong? To paraphase Berger, “I am not a Garnter Analyst so I do not have data to back me up”. Who knows?

For example, in my opinion Apple’s 30″ iMac are simply too large, and I am not alone. I have a 27″ one, and people with 30″ actually prefer mine then theirs. However, make that 30″ screen a touch screen, ditch the physical keyboard and mouse, put it horizontally or almost horizontally  in front of me like a draftman’s table, will this work? Almost definitely!

Is it worth the bet? Definitely. If touch-enabled, Windows Metro Desktop tiles can be very useful. Especially for system administrator. it is not unusual for system administrator to have lots of windows monitoring the health of their system neatly arranged on their desktop to give a view of their system at a glance. That translate nicely to tiles. If, as expected, touching a tile bring up the controls for the aspect in question, that will be the nirvana of the administrator. Sure, you can do it on existing Windows tablets or Windows Desktop, Linux or Mac, but it will be more difficult to implement or in the case of Windows tablets, too small a screen to do anything useful.

July 11, 2012

Flame looks more and more like espionage tool

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 4:36 pm

TheRegister’s write up on security specialists analysis of Flame malware shows me that it is very likely to be a espionage tool. It does several thing that would not had been found in garden variety malware. They include (1) limiting its own spreading in an effort to reduce risk of detection  [I am not saying malwares will not do this, but quite simply the pool of victims out there is so large that it is not worthwhile limiting the spread of one’s malware]; (2) No visible payload but ability to add payload to it [Again, some malware might do this but would be quite rare to have no initial payload]; (3) clean after oneself petty thoroughly [As TheRegister point out, it goes an extra mile”

But the key to me is actually the planning and careful execution of the plan for Flame. It adds a new dimension to malware investigation, i.e., management of the malware. We haven’t seen this dimension taken so seriously before and add a layer of intrigue to the story of Flame.

July 10, 2012

Bittersweet for both Apple and Samsung

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:33 am

The judgement will be something to read if I can find it. The reason is almost every headline says the Judge struck down the Apple vs Samsung suit claiming  Samsung Galaxy Tab 10 infringing iPad design because Samsung is not ‘cool’.

Since the BBC put coolness on its headline on the story, it is safe to say that media outlet did not get it wrong. For both Apple and Samsung, it is bittersweet. Sweet for Apple because its design is “cool”, bitter for Apple because it did not win. Exactly the opposite for Samsung.

From a reasonable close distance, not only Samsung’s lawyers in the US, I also struggle to tell the two apart. However, on close up, if one’s initial impression is a Galaxy Tab 10 is a iPad quickly changed to suspicion that it might not be the case and if one spend about 1 minutes with it you will know it is not an iPad.

That is why I understand why the judge used ‘coolness’ as the deciding factor. It is true that the design is very similar, but one has to look at the totality of the design. This means both hardware and software must be considered. Taken together it is hard to find a case for infringement. Taken separately there is little if any infringement on software, but hardware is a potentially borderline case.  For the latter, it has to do with difficulty to tell the two apart on close up. The reason for not considering the design from a close distance away is it is not unusual for computers and tablets look the same at a distance. I am not sure that on close up there is an infringement because a lot of design decisions are dictated by common sense and necessity. Necessity because one will use a camera the size of a pin hole and not the camera len used in handheld camera, on the side of the screen; Common sense because that camera must be place in the middle of one of the side. All tablets in going  to be a touch screen surrounded by border with ports/connectors at the side. Ports and connectors are also standardized item. So the design is basically the choice of colour and artistics aspect of the design of the border and the location of connectors. Is iPad’s choice worthy of design protection? I do not know the answer.

July 3, 2012

Google compromising itself? I still do not think so

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:57 pm

Mr Cooper wrote that Google had compromised with the EU the way Microsoft did not. It is a view point that is vastly different from mine.

Right now, I am willing to  give Google the benefit of doubt that it does nothing wrong. It is from my experience with Google search services. I do not  feel that Google is biased towards its own services. Me and most of my friends do not normally use Google’s own service to do our purchases.

From that standpoint I believe Google is taking the pragmatic approach. The complain from its competitors appears to be not on merit, but simply they cannot compete with Google. Nonetheless, the EC do want to ensure that this is not the case. If a compromise is to be made, why not?

Microsoft did resist. However, it did not do it because it needs to stand its ground. That, I can respect. It did it to gain advantage and even when it was told to, either by US Department of Justice or the European Commission, it refused to. In fact, the latest saga is its appeal was turned down by European Union’s General Court of Justice. In that saga, expect Microsoft to appeal  that decision.


Facebook just cannot mess with its customers like that

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 2:12 pm

I must confess I have a facebook account. I did not want one, but to cut a long story short, a series of unfortunate events meant that the least worst path for me to take at the time is to sign up for one. In my defense, I signed up only after being pestered by friends to get an account for three years, and the last time I looked into my facebook account it was a good two years or more ago. I still get those rubbish email from facebook saying so and so did something that I do not care. For all intent and purposes, you can consider me a non-facebook user.

Boy am I glad I do not use Facebook. That company just cannot treat its user right. One mistake is unfortunate. The company history, however, confirm that it cannot get things right for its users. You might want to argue it is pushing the boundary so it will inevitably cross the lines sometime. Its competitors, including Google, cross the lines before. Unfortunately, it did so many times that it seems to be either due to incompetency or downright not caring for its users. Right now, I will say Facebook’s  greatest enemy is itself. Users of  social networking field can and had demonstrated to switch alliance. In fact, Facebook is a beneficiary of such a switch. Everyone wants to be the next Facebook in Facebook’s backyard. Facebook just make it easier if it mess with customers like that.

The latest debacle is Facebook reaching out from its mobile app cocoon into your mobile phone to change your friends emails to @facebook if possible, especially if you got the email address via facebook in the first place. I have no doubt some fine print in your EULA allows it do. Unfortunately, common sense and ethics says Facebook should not do it without explicit permission and with big flashing red ‘I agree to bla bla bla’ and loud siren.

The only silver lining in this dark cloud is it is an education and demonstration to joe user that your mobile app can modify anything on your phone. Hopefully this will prompt some people to take more care.

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