feeds | grep links > Moving ACTA to WIPO and MMORPG Released as Free Software

  • EU resolution calls for Canada to support moving ACTA to WIPO
    Professor Geist comments on Canada’s relative silence of ACTA lately. I was surprised to see the European Parliament crafting such a resolution, though it matches well with the desire of many activists and is consistent with the EP’s earlier resolution threatening legal action if negotiators didn’t release an open draft of the agreement.
  • MMORPG released under AGPL
    This is good news, to be sure, but once again raises an important question. What are the requirements in terms of resources, time and skill to run an instance of Ryzom? If any or all are too high, what is the likelihood of someone running their own? I’d really like to know and will keep an eye out for stories of folks spinning up their own services.

Diaspora Proposal: Open Source, Distributed Social Network

I’ve seen a couple of people link to this, including EFF. Diaspora proposes to build a distributed, open source social network following a model that is very similar to WordPress and StatusNet. In fact the project, which is seeking funding with their proposal on KickStarter, makes an explicit reference to running a hosted service exactly like WordPress.com. I am a big fan of both of these existing projects for the fact that they provide both the open software for those with the means and inclination to run their own instance and a service for anyone else who trusts them to do that heavy lifting. Further, StatusNet is one of the most prominent projects using the AGPL, so it is the very definition of a high value, free as in freedom web service.

Diaspora will also be released, as it happens, under the AGPL so no one running an instance can make any of their improvements proprietary. More importantly, no one can use any modifications that would be hidden from scrutiny, changes that might threaten the security and trust the project is trying to build.

Each user will be able to host their own server, or seed, and all the end points will be able to share data securely, leveraging strong open source encryption, Gnu Privacy Guard. The core idea is to put identity and discretion in who to trust back in the hands of the user. I am all for this idea, even if it doesn’t gain as much traction as the existing proprietary systems, it at least gives us a choice. My experience of the community at Identi.ca, the original hosted StatusNet instance, makes me optimistic as the people on such open services tend to be much more dedicated to the underlying principles.

I will also be curious to see how Diaspora will compete with Facebook and others. StatusNet has played a very cagey game with Twitter compatibility that seems to be paying off. If Diaspora can interoperate with the applications people use with Facebook and keep the migration cost low, that could prove key. Facebook’s privacy depredations could fuel interest in Diaspora the same way Twitter’s early outages drove folks to alternatives, including StatusNet.

It is unclear if the team, four students in New York, will continue on some scaled down version of the project without funding. Right now, with just over thirty days to their funding goal, they are over halfway there. I pledged support, it is risk free (other than registering for yet another site). If they don’t reach their goal, none of the pledges are charged. Given the potential gain, it seemed worth it.

Catchy Video Promoting Commons

Shareable has a link to this video, produced by On the Commons and The New Press. It is a catchy work, mentally sticky and short enough to make an excellent self contained meme. It pulls quotes from three books put out by The New Press, including David Bollier’s “The Viral Spiral“, a book on my ever increasing list of titles to read. The other two books are “Blue Covenant” by Maude Barlow and “Unjust Deserts” by Gar Alperovitz and Lew Daly.

It doesn’t just discuss the intellectual commons, like free software and Creative Commons, but also touches on more traditional commons, in this case water as a natural resource. The binding thread of the work is social justice. It is as much an easy introduction to the idea of the commons as it is a thoughtful framing of the threat of enclosure of commons.

TCLP 2010-04-11 News

This is news cast 211, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, thanks to new donor this week, David.

This week’s security alerts are a new site collecting privacy and security info on apps and services and a vulnerability in WebKit’s handling of the blink tag.

In this week’s news reverse engineering facial recognition to develop dazzle camouflage (a story I also wrote up on the web site), asking whether IBM broke its open source patent pledge with their response and clarifying commentary from a couple of knowledgeable folks, a new memory management technique that could boost performance for multiple cores, and contending format shifting a book you own is ethical with supporting and dissenting responses.

Following up this week court rules against FCC in Comcast case barring neutrality regulation on ancillary authority but not through other means and the Digital Economy Bill has been passed including what we should do now.

[display_podcast]

Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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The Framing Issue with RMS on SaaS

I am seeing some thoughtful commentary on RMS’s latest essay on the SaaS problem and even had some friends ask for my opinion. In brief, what Stallman is objecting to is software that performs some operations of value on your behalf but denies you access to the source code, or even a binary, to exercise your freedom to modify the software’s operation. I’ll concede this is a troubling loophole for getting around copyleft but it is one that has been exploited for some time by software makers and service operators.

Personally, I think Stallman is bogging down too much in the particulars of where computation takes place and at whose behest. Computation is ephemeral, once complete what do you have to judge where the actual work took place? I put far more stock in the efforts of autonomo.us and even Google’s Data Liberation Front that are working to ensure the durable information that persists regardless of when and where computing takes place can be free.

I think this oversight also leads to Stallman giving collaboration focused network services too much of a free pass. The co-opting of my intensively cultivated social network shouldn’t be exempt from expectations of data and software freedom. I’ll concede that the problem begs far more difficult technical challenges, ones that simple adoption of the AGPL won’t easily solve.

I am all for free alternatives to what Stallman calls “SaaS”, a re-definion to laden the term with connotations similar to “proprietary” in his parlance. I am irked that he is doing this to a term already in use rather than suggesting a new, more evocative label. I guess I am just more moderate for thinking I shouldn’t have to work as a full blown sysadmin and run my own GPL/AGPL compatible copy of a service to exercise my freedom. I am not sure his vague thoughts on trusted operators and the implications that arise suggesting yet another web of trust make much more sense.

As long as I have the possibility of moving my data where I choose and strong expectations around trusted handling of my data, I consider that sufficiently free. Again, I am not suggesting that these problems are any easier to solve, but I think they are where we should be focusing our efforts first and foremost.

Wikipedia’s Notability Requirement Fails for FLOSS

Jason Ryan sent me a link to his quick write up about the article for dwm, an early window manager, being flagged for removal under Wikipedia’s guidelines for notability. The notice appears to have gone up just within the past day or two. Sifting through the talk page for the proposed deletion is informative, even after factoring out the inevitable trolling and meat puppetry.

The main problem is that most free software and open source projects never get significant coverage by the kinds of sources Wikipedia would like to consider. It doesn’t mean those projects haven’t made significant contributions to software as a whole or the underlying computer science. According to the commenters on the deletion notice, dwm pioneered a particular technique for laying out out program windows that was directly adopted by many subsequent projects.

I don’t think it would be hard to come up with exceptional rules for free software and open source projects based on availability of sources, depth of version control history, or any number of other metrics in terms of adoption and support. However, how do you sustain this sort of exceptionalism for the next article representing a class of things for which the notability guidelines so thoroughly fail.

I don’t know the answer to this conundrum but I also have to wonder how widespread this problem is. I suspect that the frequency of such deletions may be small enough for the time being that the case-by-case deliberation may work just fine. I’d like to see a broader analysis before I agree with the practical need for exceptions or even more systemic changes to Wikipedia’s guidelines, as much as I agree with the objections in this case solely on principle.

FSF Asking Google to Freely Release Newly Acquired Codec

In the wake of Google finalizing their acquisition of On2, the Free Software Foundation has wasted no time, according to The Register, in appealing to Google to release the VP8 codec under an irrevocable free license. This isn’t necessarily far fetched, Christopher Blizzard discussed this very outcome as a possibility.

It is hard to see a downside to Google in doing so. YouTube generates revenue from ads and licensing deals so the codec choice would seem to be orthogonal. Google has a roughly even track record with choosing to foster open platforms when there is no obvious downside.

Beware or You May Be Replaced with a Patent

Bradley Kuhn of the Software Freedom Law Center expressed surprise at a recently granted patent.

So, when I look closely at these claims, I am appalled to discover this patent claims, as a novel invention, things that I’ve done regularly, with a mix of my brain and a computer, since at least 1999. I quickly came to the conclusion that this is yet another stupid patent granted by the USPTO that it would be better to just ignore.

Bradley works on issues of compliance around the GPL and the software firm, Black Duck, has been developing tools to try to automate aspects of this work, most notably analyzing software to suss out chain of provenance. The utility of these tools is suspect, read Bradley’s remarks on why.

As he explains about the patent itself, out of a stream of ridiculous and mind numbingly stupid patent stories flowing out of the usual tech news outlets, this one really stood out. He expresses some reluctance to contribute to even highlighting this intellectual monopoly idiocy but I think it is worth highlighting.

As Bradley says, compliance with the GPL or other free software or open source licenses, isn’t that hard. Most of what the SFLC does is outreach and education, not litigation. I also get the impression that the software archeology aspects are rarely all that challenging.

My only question is whether Bradley will initiate or support contesting this patent. Sounds to me like he is living prior art.

TCLP 2009-12-20 News

This is news cast 201, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This week’s only security alerts is development of a counter tool to a forensics suite, COFEE, that Micrsoft offers but was leaked and the announcement to that counter tool, DECAF, was just a stunt.

In this week’s news an investigation into Monsanto’s predatory patent licensing practices brought to my attention via Glyn Moody’s comparison of the agri-giant to Microsoft, the latest developments with the Australian plan to filter net access including analysis of the test results they are claiming as a success, composeable icons for free software and open source licenses, and the first draft of the FCC’s broadband plan.

Following up this week just the news that the three strikes plan has returned in New Zealand despite its fundamental flaws.

[display_podcast]

Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML. You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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Doctorow’s DIY Experiment, Asking Oracle to Let MySQL Go, and More

  • Hiccup over indexing, searching Google Voice messages
    The original story has been updated to clarify. The messages in question had been shared or posted publicly in some way by the account holders, this is not a breach of voice messages more generally. Google has responded by changing the crawler not to index these messages, leaving it to site owners to opt-in to have them indexed and available in searches.
  • New auto glass standard could affect wireless devices
    From the net neutrality squad mailing list, an inadvertent clash between environmental concerns and the ability to enjoy cell phones and satellite radio. So far, this metallicized glass is being considered in California but could see adoption in other Southern latitude states is successful.
  • Author’s thoughts on his free content work being re-published
    Via Gnat’s four short links post for today at O’Reilly. Mark Pilgrim explains very clearly that re-publishing without his explicit permission is a large part of the point in him choosing not only an open but a free as in free software license for his book. Important to note that this competitive version only came after his publisher, APress, already had many years to profit from their version alone.
  • Cory’s DIY experiment, a print-on-demand short fiction anthology
    I will admit to some insider knowledge of Cory’s plans and relief that he is finally publicizing parts of what is a very ambition business plan. There is much here that should be familiar by now due to similar experiments by other creatives, most notably Trent Reznor. I would expect Cory to also share what hard date he is able to collect after the fact to give us as complete a case study as possible. Oh and I must start saving my pennies for one of the hand bound editions.
  • Monty urges Oracle to free MySQL
    At Ars, Ryan Paul explains not only Monty’s remarks but urging by the EC for Oracle to sell of the open source database. I tend to agree more with Matt Asay in this instance, that forcing the divestment may chill corporate backing and ownership of open source projects. I think there is a more common third way, partnerships through foundations, that Asay doesn’t consider. But I take his meaning and thing it is a sound bit of caution when thinking through this story.
  • Big content backs down on anti-spyware provisions
    Professor Geist has the good news following on from his earlier posting about rights holders proposing exceptions to the tabled anti-spyware, anti-spam bill that would largely dilute its effectiveness.
  • AP amends its countersuit against Shepard Fairey
    Xeni follows up on BoingBoing with what I think we can all agree is inevitable. Again, while the fair use merits may be salvageable in the case, the extra liability he has invited may erode his will and ability to see those remaining positive aspects through.
  • Barnes and Noble e-book reader launches today
    RWW has the pertinent details, as do many other sites. It seems to be an improvement over the Kindle, in terms of consumer freedoms, but still largely hobbled. Personally, I won’t touch it as long as AT&T is the carrier but also a worry is that B&N still uses cumbersome DRM. They do support more open and standard formats, though, most notably ePub but these do not appear to be the formats used for their commercial offerings.