Quick Security Alerts for the Week Ending 10/17/2010

feeds | grep links > Chrome Loses Pirvacy Feature, Google Introduces Image Format, Microsoft Sues Motorola over Android, and More

feeds | grep links > Scribd Surprises Users with Paywall, An Open Source Low Bandwidth Codec, More on the IP Enforcement Bill, and More

  • Xerox PARC turns 40, The Register
  • Scribd quietly moves users docs behind a paywall
    Mike Masnick at Techdirt shares the realization by law professor Eric Goldman of this little publicized change. This action by the document sharing service defies reason. Goldman articulates how undoubtedly most of the users caught by this change must feel, used and trapped. Once again, this isn’t an issue with open or closed but moving from one to the other after a bargain was offered and a promise made. Even a much more clear shift would have been more tenable, if almost as unpalatable.
  • Is Facebook turning on online activists it used to support?, ReadWriteWeb
  • An open source, low bandwidth voice codec
    Slashdot points to a project whose main developer also worked on the Speex codec, another effort tailored to efficient coding of just voice. Mainly Codec2 looks to be focused on replacing a current, proprietary codec used in amateur radio but its capabilities are compelling, almost 4 seconds of clear speech in just over 1 kilobyte. It would be nice of some of the unencumbered ideas might find application in high quality voice encoding, too, perhaps to help fuel an open alternative to Skype with similar sound quality. Of course, that’s just the podcaster in me thinking out loud.
  • Mozilla joins Open Invention Network as licensee
    HT @glynmoody
  • Wendy Seltzer discusses new IP enforcement bill
    In this post on the Freedom to Tinker blog, Seltzer places the bill firmly in the context of piracy as a legal pretext for censorship. I didn’t touch on the issue of potential abuses but the point dovetails with what I explained yesterday about lowering friction. It simply becomes too easy to press a claim of infringement, legitimate or not, for the correct purpose or some lateral one such as suppressing dissenting speech.
  • EP votes on controversial anti-piracy report, TorrentFreak
  • Bill Tracker launched for legislation in the UK, BoingBoing

Hack Your Own Mind Machine Interface

Yesterday’s post about cyborgs has not surprisingly brought all things cybernetic top of mind. This post by Cory at BoingBoing about an open source library for programming a proprietary but arguably affordable EEG headset neatly fits the filter. If I’m lucky, maybe I can find a story a day for the reminder of the month to honor September’s theme as noted on Slashdot yesterday.

From the developer’s github site:

I’ve been interested in the Emotiv EPOC headset for a while; a $300 14-sensor EEG. It’s intended for gaming, but it’s quite high quality. There’s a research SDK available for $750, but it’s Windows-only and totally proprietary. I decided to hack it, and open the consumer headset up to development. Thanks to donations I got some hardware in hand this weekend.

That announcement page also has a good overview of where development is at and where help is needed. The license is essentially a public domain dedication with an exception for some code borrowed from elsewhere. Emokit is written in Python which may turn off style snobs but does make the library accessible and portable. A C library is planned which will undoubtedly broaden the project’s appeal.

H+ also has an in-depth interview with the person responsible, Cody Brocious. It provides some good context, explaining that while there are other options for open source EEG hacking, Emokit plus the EPOC headset lowers the cost and makes it more accessible.

Free/open library to talk to brain-computer interface, BoingBoing

feeds | grep links > More License Options at Google Code, Piracy as an Excuse for Censorship, Gaming Does Rewire Your Brain, and More

feeds | grep links > Open Source Cell Network, Chrome 7 Sports Hardware Accelerated Effects, Gmail Gets a Priority Inbox, and More

Today, the blogging has definitely slowed as I anticipated yesterday. I haven’t started packing for my trip in earnest but later on tonight I will.

Library at the Heart of Linux is Finally Free and Open

A nice bit of software archeology by Simon Phipps. Not just digging up the history of this old Sun code that was up until this month still under a restrictive license, but the challenges and Phipps’ own part in correcting that situation after a few attempts.

This may come as a shock, but all GNU/Linux distributions to date have been built with essential software under a licence that clearly meets neither the Open Source Definition nor the Free Software Foundations’ requirements for a Free software licence. The tenacity of a Red Hat hacker has finally solved this problem for everyone, however, and I’m proud to have played a part too.

The code in question is the original SUN RPC code, buried in the guts of Linux’s, and other OSes’, networking code. The most fascinating aspect is how the original, informal licensing terms purely as a function of time evolved from seeming liberal to quite conservative. As Phipps notes, this code well predates the GPL so didn’t benefit from the kind of legal theorizing and scrutiny that came to software licensing later on.

GNU/Linux – finally it’s free software, Computer World UK

feeds | grep links > Distributed Computing Spots Astronomical Rarity, Search Engine Runs a Tor Enclave, and More

feeds | grep links > Linux Foundation’s Compliance Program, Leaked Google Privacy Document, KDE 4.5, and More

Day two of my trip and the main event, the Cassandra Summit, was excellent. Jet lag and tromping around San Francisco on foot this evening have wiped me out. The hotel WiFi has also decided not to cooperate, slowing down and acting generally very flakey.

Tomorrow I’ll be in training all day and then catching the red eye home. Not sure if or when I’ll be able to blog, so if you don’t even seen a list of links, you’ll know why and I’ll be back Thursday.

Core Android Development Opens a Bit More But Unlikely to Open Fully

The Register shares some news from the search giant around a baby step towards being a bit more open with its mobile platform and rationale for holding back some development, keeping it private. The part of the platform that will be more open to contribution will be the native development kit (NDK). Incoming code, at some yet to be set date, will flow into the public source tree rather than into Google’s private tree as it does now.

The announcement was part of remarks by Android open-source and compatibility program manager Dan Morrill at OSCON, the open source conference sponsored by O’Reilly that has been going on this week. Morrill went on to explain that the delay of source releases to the community is undertaken for reasons of risk management.

Google wants to retain competitive advantage and prevent a scenario where OEMs ship unfinished source code on phones with disastrous consequences for developers and end users as their code breaks or applications downloaded from the Android Market fail to work.

According to Google, this has nearly happened before when one unnamed OEM wanted to start shipping pre-release the Android 1.5 – codenamed Cupcake – on its phones.

It is unlikely that Google will change its stance on this approach, despite criticism form the broader open source community. It is an odd balance to maintain given how inclusive Google has been otherwise with its mobile development platform.

Not surprisingly, The Register has further news from OSCON of some of the friction between Android and the open source community. In this instance, the Linux kernel maintainers have proposed three options Google could pursue with its kernel modifications to have them accepted back into the fold of main kernel development. In this instance, there is evidence of goodwill on both sides, the stumbling block may simply be coordination of kernel releases and code updates. Hopefully some good will come of it yet.