* Posts by Golodh

12 posts • joined 2 Mar 2009

Microsoft ID guru slams 'duplicitous' Apple


Mr. Cameron just happens to be right ...

Of course he's right to note that, notwithstanding anything Apple may or may not say, the data they collect serve to uniquely define individuals. And of course that's precisely what makes such data valuable, and hence interesting to collect.

The question of who Mr. Cameron is working for is of course totally beside the point. The only thing that counts is what he says, and what he says is accurate.

The data collected by Apple go a lot further than the data collected by Microsoft, simply because Apple collects its data from a phone, not a computer. That matters because a phone contains a lot more data about you than your computer.

Things like: occupation, language, zip code, area code, location, and time zone aren't collected by Microsoft. At most they get an IP address, which is typically a dynamic address provided by an ISP, and a MAC address. They don't get a physical location, and certainly not in real-time. And they can't reconstruct your travel pattern either. Phone operators can. And now Apple has reserved the right tho shop that sort of information about people to whoever they like.

Spot the difference?

Linux wins the SCO vs Novell case

Jobs Horns

Well ... there's one or two things wrong with this verdict ...

and that's that it doesn't

- (a) favour SCO,

- (b) doesn't present SCO with a way forward to press its suit against IBM, and

- (c) doesn't set out a clear way for SCO to sue the world over illegal use of Unix copyrights.

Other than that, it's fine.

Surely there will be an appeal? This state of affairs cannot last.

Bear and Monkey smack Apple with patent suit

Gates Halo

US patent system working as intended ...

but perhaps it's being misunderstood.

First of all, people have to understand that the idea of the USPTO scrutinizing patent applications to see if they really are innovative is based on a misunderstanding.

What the USPTO does instead is to scrutinize a patent application to see if it (a) has already been patented or (b) has already been published in the mainstream open literature. That's basically it. Patent examination has become a first hurdle, and a proof-of-claim.

The real burden, determining if the patent is obvious, over-broad, or if there is prior art outside the mainstream literature is basically left to the courts.

Once people understand that, they can avoid a lot of disappointment and frustration due to patents they consider "obvious", or "bogus". This understanding will also remind them that lawsuits a an integral (and intentional) feature of patents.

The point is simply that either society at large can pay for a drastic enlargement of the USPTO so that it can check patent applications in depth, or society can put the costs squarely where they accrue: with patent litigants. Society has chosen the second alternative instead of the first.

Of course this makes the world a more dangerous place for Open Source Software, but that's a small price to pay for resolving the issue of funding the USPTO.

MS and Oracle's big dev tools - who needs 'em?


Why not go back to punchcards?

The article forgets to mention another strong point of IDE's: integrated debuggers.

Before anyone jumps up and starts talking about the merits of sprinkling your code with write statements: integrated debuggers are there because they big time-savers.

In the same vein, programs like emacs are fine for two sorts of programmers: (1) the sort that has endless supplies of time and (2) the sort that thinks for a few minutes, and then basically types in the whole program (or module),compiles, and watches the thing run without problems (this is also the sort of programmer whose productivity wouldn't be impaired if he had to use punchcards).

I belong to neither class and besides, I thoroughly dislike emacs.

So long live the IDE.

Oh, and perhaps the article could mention that the development of IDE's basically hasn't added anything useful since the days of Borland Pascal and Microsoft Visual C/C++. The "enhancements" since then are almost all bloatware.

UK.gov dismisses Tory claims UK cyberspace is defenceless


This is how to conduct Effective Opposition ...

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our introductory lecture on "How to conduct Effective Opposition".

You have all read the article included in the preparatory material, and we will now investigate why this particular act of Opposition is a particularly fine example of Effective Opposition.

With a few simple words Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition (HMMLO) has put the government on the spot where it must take a position, possibly spend money, and certainly do some work.

Just think of it. With an investment of no more than an hour's worth of research and three hours to put together a set of questions that can be shown to the press as pointing fingers at all the most serious vulnerabilities, Her Majesty's Government (HMG) is placed in an unenviable position where it basically has four options:

Option (1) is: agree that Britain's cyberspace is vulnerable and start doing something. Objectively speaking this is the most "honest" stance as cyberspace is *always* vulnerable to e.g. DDOS attacks, computer burglary, social engineering, terminal laziness and common garden variety abysmal stupidity on part of most organizations using networked computers. Not that the government will be able to do anything meaningful about it (and certainly not in the short run), but it can certainly be seen to be busy (the best way for which is to put together a budget and spend it). The advantage is that HMG is seen to be doing something (anything really). The disadvantages are: HMG will look berky since it had to be prodded into action by HMMLO, and in the very next session of Parliament HMMLO will be certain to lambast HMG for being (a) tardy (b) irresponsible wastrels and (c) ineffective (particularly if something untoward happens).

Option (2) is: agree that Britain's cyberspace may have certain vulnerabilities but say something to the effect that "HMG has the fullest confidence in [insert gov't branch viewed with particular hostility]'s efforts to keep Britain's cyberspace safe.". The advantages are: it costs little, it looks as if HMG has things under control (thus denying HMMLO an immediate political victory), and besides it's a nice opportunity to put that snotty little twit leading the gov't branch in question on the spot. The disadvantages are: the gov't branch in question may put in a revised budget proposal asking for much more funding and may warn of dire consequences if their demands aren't met (thus passing the buck to HMG again). Besides it might reflect unfavourably on HMG if a major cyber catastrophe occurs within weeks of HMMLO's warnings, in which case HMLO will gleefully proceed to crucify the responsible Minister and will make the case that it, and only it is fit to look after Britain's interests.

Option (3) is: deny that Britain's cyberspace is at immediately vulnerable. This tactic is best employed very near the elections. The advantages are: it's the least costly of all possible options. The disadvantage is: in case of HMG actually winning the elections, HMG might look negligent if (when) something untoward happens in cyberspace, in which case HMMLO will quietly say "Told you so", only it will say so to every newspaper, radio, and TV correspondent in sight (who will repeat the message, only MUCH LOUDER). This is a small price to pay, however if HMG does win. In case HMMLO wins the next elections, the then HMG will then be in a position to forcefully denounce the previous' government's "disasterous policies" and take its own pick of options 1-4, in which case the then HMMLO will at least have to wait a year or so before tabling the very same questions and aiming them at the then HMG.

Option (4) is: form a committee to study the matter and shelve the whole thing for a year. This is also an inexpensive option and works best if "experts" be found to publicly disagree on the threat (unlikely), the cause (more than likely), and possible remedies (almost certainly the case). The advantages are: low cost, a ready supply of excuses in case anything does go wrong, and "jobs for the boys". Best used if there is an "International Angle". Could be a nice source of junkets in Brussels (if the EU or NATO are to be involved). Disadvantages: this course of action can't very well be monopolised, and come the elections the junkets will be on the other shoe (as it were). The disadvantages are slim, except for the practical fact that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find room for yet another committee. Something which a slight but regrettably necessary budget increase might help alleviate.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen: HMMLO has basically placed HMG in a no-win position, except for option 4 which is therefore widely adopted by governments of all ages.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this concludes our introductory lecture on "How to conduct Effective Opposition". Required background reading for this lecture:

Appleby, H. (1980) Yes Minister, series 1, BBC. and

Appleby, H. (1986) Yes Prime Minister,series 1, BBC.

Google to mobile industry: ‘F*ck you very much!’


Terribly one-sided article, and questionable too

Interesting to see that The Register apparently endorses such a so blatantly one-sided article. I don't often see articles that bash Google so thoroughly, except by writers approved by a certain very large software company, well known for its operating systems and office packages.

What such articles tend to have in common is that they deal primarily in allegations (served up in lurid and colorful phrases) but fail to provide any verifiable facts.

In addition, it may or may not interest the writer that the Google search engine makes the difference between the Internet as a searchable, and therefore tremendously valuable resource and the Internet as a mere collection of proprietary islands with wires strung between them.

The Internet without a search engine is like a road network with all the road signs removed.

And then that tidbit about Google lobbying to "kneecap creators and rights-holders" is interesting. Perhaps the author forgot that search engines are the great catalyst of online commerce (including the sales of copyrighted works like music, articles, images, video's, and software)? Just read up on the horror stories of firms whose page-ranking suddenly dropped so that they were no longer on page 1. Stories which are typically the result of Google's counter-measures to the widespread practice of "search engine consultants" creating tons of fake pages just to artificially boost the page rank of some paying customer (typically a creator and a rights-holder). Such companies can find their revenues plummet within days because they aren't visible enough.

I also don't suppose the author ever did any scientific research (or has come into contact with anyone who did). Those that do will know that "rights holders" (read: publishers) base their business on nothing but a rolodex, a server, and an editor to commit the largest land-grab of intellectual property in history. Scientific articles are typically the result of expensive research (paid for by public funds, not the publishers), which is typed up and made almost camera-ready by those same researches (at no cost to the publishers), then peer-reviewed by highly-paid (not by any publishers but by the public purse and private research institutes) researchers, before being stamped "Intellectual Property of the Publisher", formatted, and then sold for huge sums to all kinds of research institutes and university libraries while the publisher faces practically zero cost for distribution. And sold for 25$ per article to the general public (yes, that's right, the same public that funded the research in the first place). Not a bad return for renting a web-server for 100$ a month.

But it gets better. Publishers typically offer _no_ uniform way of locating anything in their publications. At best they offer shoddy little search engines that can't hold a candle to Google in terms of power, speed, or flexibility. Oh yes, and then those rights-holders hire writers and other lobbyists to whine about their "Intellectual Property", for they are being soooo kneecapped. It reminds one of the Middle Ages when knowledge was locked up inside "guilds" and called "trade-secrets". Books were hugely expensive and kept out of the way in cloisters. Needless to sat that the Middle Ages weren't known as a period of particularly vibrant scientific and technological development. Society as a whole is more served with knowledge being disseminated and being available than it is by knowledge being sold for profit by the one party that had no part in its generation or in its description.

Besides, remember the Mickey Mouse act ( the one that extended the duration of copyright the year before Disney's copyrights were due to expire)? Now call to mind the joys of software patents and the resulting deluge of lawsuits. And the de-facto monopoly of Nexis-Lexis on court case repositories? And the DMCA that gives "content creators" unprecedented powers of obfuscation that play hob with libraries' ability to unlock knowledge? The whole-scale content filtering that's about to be unleashed upon the world under the current secret ACTA proposals in the name of protecting the holy IP? What's the positive impact of all this for society (barring those who happen to have stocks in the Mickey Mouse industry or major publishers).

Suffice it to say that copyright is anything but God-given. It's merely a rule that's instituted by society in order to promote innovation and creation and it can be changed if that seems appropriate. Right now it's (as is not unusual) formed primarily to protect the interests of those with the most powerful propaganda and lobbying efforts. No need to have "The Register" add to that (or does it find itself cash-strapped at the moment?)

Google is a god-sent for anyone who doesn't have an on-line connection to a mayor research library and serves the need for knowledge like no other institution on Earth. Surely one can bear that in mind when lambasting it for "kneecapping rights holders"?

Last but not least, what exactly is the problem with Google marketing 1 additional hand-held "Google" phone? Why is that detrimental? Google doesn't make the handset now, does it? And if cell-phone manufacturers thought they could use the name "Google phone" exclusively they just learned different.

Is data overload killing off human initiative?


The real problems

are known as "stupidity" and hypocrisy and have little to do with "information overload".

I mean stupidity both on the individual level but mainly as part of a group of people. The arrest of the academic who wrote about LSD is a good example.

Then there is hypocrisy. As in black-listing someone from teaching because she had pictures of herself drank and dressed up as a pirate on-line. Practically every single student gets drunk at one time or another (you want to be a bit careful around ones that don't), and if you follow everyone in a sensitive social position (e.g. teacher, politician) around with a camera 24-hrs a day, chances are you'll be able to snap some pics that will end that person's career then and there. From TV preachers to politicians to beauty queens to profesors.

Hypocrisy is extremely deep-seated however. In highly litigious environments like the USA, hiring someone who just *might* be more of a risk in their job than someone totally anonymous carries a heavy financial penalty: the risk of being sued afterwards if the person concerned ever does anything wrong that would allow a lawyer to argue that the evidence you had available might have have prompted a more thorough scrutiny. Of course for 99% of all jobs _nobody_ is going to take the trouble to thoroughly screen a candidate, to hiring managers conveniently reject anyone out of hand on basis of an unfavourable Google search.Quick, efficient, and it doesn't leave a trace. Nobody cares if the rejected candidate is or is not suitable, it's all about managing risks.

People have come up with various defence mechanisms against that kind of venal sillyness.

The most important one is making sure that people don't get to see what you're up to in your personal life, and you don't enlighten them. It's the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in optima forma. The main pillar beneath this strategy is called "privacy": do your dirty stuff where strangers can't see it. You can let your friends see it because they know a lot more about you and are able to place what they do see in context. Strangers don't and can't.

Unfortunately that selective availability of information goes out of the window on the Internet. So yes, it's very dangerous to have *any* kind of information that isn't meant for public consumption out anywhere beyond your direct control. Including websites that are supposedly "guarded through passwords".

And no, "deleting" things isn't a good solution. Simply because there are tons of dirty laundry that organizations (companies, governments, evangelists, churches and commercial pseudo-churches) don't want you to know about, even if it's important to you. Making it easy to delete stuff about you that you don't like will automatically destroy the openness that the Internet brought us, and that's too high a price to pay.

So, too bad about those people who saw their careers destroyed by youthful indiscretion followed by hypocrisy from employers or their peers. They will learn. Perhaps society at large will learn too, you never know.

On the other hand there are numerous people who would really, really like to help you eliminate the scruffiness of the current internet. Every company who would rather have a locked-down internet service rather than the current free-wheeling net. They are only too happy to oblige, kill the freedom of expression on the Net, and come up with something like Compuserve was.

Microsoft warns of 'irreparable harm' on court's Word injunction


Stranded without alternative set of software ...

It's a hooter. Microsoft being soooo worried about customers who would be "stranded without alternative set of software" if MS Office weren't on sale.

Pardon me? MS Office has an absolute monopoly then? Err ... didn't Microsoft claim that it's working in a software eco-system which has has "healthy competition"? Gosh. My mistake.

And there was me thinking that Open Office (which according to i4i *doesn't* infringe on their XML patent !) was an acceptable alternative. Well ... apparently not when Microsoft is trying to reverse a perfectly normal court decision. It will be again when the US and EU anti-trust authorities come sniffing around again, don't you worry. Stands to reason surely.

And Microsoft's unethical antics to stuff the ISO panels with bribed supporters to have its XML offerings declared not only a "standard" but also an "Open Standard" (despite MS Word's totally proprietary document format being buried in the XML specs)? Those weren't detrimental to customers? Oh dear!

And why oh why didn't Microsoft disclose that it had a lawsuit running against it when it touted its XML format as the new standard? Isn't that something that an ISO panel ought to know about? Well ... not if it's to *adopt* your standard obviously. Any remaining patent wrinkles can be ironed out later surely?

Hehe this is the Microsoft of old we've come to know and love. Funny how a company can get away with misrepresentation that would get any natural person jailed. But such is life in Commerce. If anyone ever complains, it's a "miscommunication" ... that or we'll blame the secretary. Any secretary.

Microsoft at a loss in Word patent case?


Banned from Spreading the Word !?!

Now that's a shame ...

EU court rules 11-word snippets can violate copyright


Actually this ruling is quite reasonable

Just suspend heckling long enough to consider the context. The complaint was against a firm that searches the net for keywords, collects the 5 words before and after the keyword, and relays that to paying customers.

Now the mere fact that they got someone to *pay* for this service means that it has commercial value. No matter if it's only 11 words: the factual gist of the underlying news flash seems to have been captured to such an extent that the end result is worth paying for.

Now what is it that has commercial value: the search service or the information that's generated? Of course that's both the service (the work needed to search for those keywords and to collect the information) and the information it provides. The service is carried out by the news aggregator, but where does the underlying information come from? Well, it comes from news flashes published by press agencies. Do they get paid for the use of their news flashed by the news scanning company? No, they do not.

And there you have it. The news aggregator packages and resells news from third parties and receives money both for the service of aggregating the information (which it performs itself) and for the underlying information which it scoops up for free from various websites.

Is this reasonable? Well, no. The amount of cost and effort needed to collect all those little bits of information in the first place far exceeds the effort needed to hook up a few PC's to the net, have them google for search terms, visit the offered links, copy down 10 words, and dump the result in a file.

Now since the news sites publish this information on the web, the only piece of legislation that might be applicable is copyright law. So either the judge decides that 10 words are too few to trigger a copyright violation, in which case news agencies cannot ask the news aggregator for money and must either continue to provide free information for others to make money from, or the judge decides that even those 10 words *can* in particular cases (like this one) be a breach of copyright.

As it's only fair that news agencies can assert copyright when it's resold, this is what the judge decided. As usual in law there are winners and losers, and the legal position of any site that collates information from other sites has just changed. Not pleasant, but not unreasonable either.

Microsoft bribes Oz to ditch Firefox

Thumb Up

Brilliant marketing from Microsoft

This must be the best value for money in the history of marketing. In return for an investment of a paltry 10k dollars they got themselves (free !) wall-to-wall coverage in just about every computer magazine on the planet.

That kind of money won't even buy you a decent editorial or a cover photograph anymore. Perhaps you'd get a half page full-colour on page two, but that's it.

Learn from Microsoft people!

Three months on, you still can't get off the DNA database


DNA retention is absolutely necessary to safeguard against illegal aliens

Interdepartmental Memorandum

It may have come to your notice that Britain's social security and its employment currently suffer from illegal immigrants. Illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. In order to counter this threat HM Government has created, despite some rather misguided pressure from the Opposition, a mandatory ID card, backed up by databases to unambiguously record and trace all Britons and legal aliens in our country.

There may be a more pernicious problem however. That of illegal aliens of non-terrestrial origin.

Consider the following. If Illegal Aliens of terrestrial extraction send money overseas, this money will, sooner or later, return to the UK's economy. At the very least its expenditure will indirectly benefit the UK. If extra-terrestiral Aliens send their money home, what then? The only possible answer is that this money is lost to the UK forever. This is unacceptable. Therefore we must be diligent in our search for Illegal Extraterrestrial Aliens (IEA's for short).

The only way IEA's can be found out is through their DNA. For that reason the Government has no option but to work work towards a national DNA register that will ultimately hold every single denizen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Talks on this subject with the EU are vigorously being pursued, and there are some indications that our efforts to persuade EU officials that the matter is one of the utmost seriousness are bearing fruit.

As a matter of fact, as we received the first such indications in the wake of talks of possible measures to reflect the the general state of the Economy in the staffing targets for the EU commission and its expense claims, we remain hopeful that a drastic reappraisal of EU policies is at hand.


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