Microsoft Training Retailers in FUD, Cluelessness and Cluefulness around Patents, and More

I managed to catch up a little bit yesterday after getting home from my travels. Catching up involved mostly just flagging things to read later, though, not so much the actual reading and note taking.

  • Microsoft teaching retails to spread FUD about Linux
    Emil at Ars Technica has screen shots of a dodgy quiz for Best Buy staff intended to push their message of Windows 7’s superiority to Linux, content which is continuous with their years of fear, uncertainty and doubt. Reading through this, you get a pretty clear sense of the Redmond giant’s nervousness in the netbook category.
  • A chilling demonstration of how broken software patents are
    If you read the linked piece, you get a pretty clear impression of a company that in no way contributes anything useful to the technology industry. There seems to be some pretty serious self delusion, including their trick to avoid “technically” being a patent troll.
  • Intel’s Grove suggest patents should be used or lost
    Mike Masnick has the details at Techdirt, a pretty good contrast to the Myhrvold piece. Grove seems to have a really good grasp of how the patent system as applied to computing technology has the opposed effect from that stated in the progress clause.
  • Network surveillance an unintended consequence of copyright
    I think the original post to whom Cory links understates this. Starting from a maximalist view of enforcing copyright, universal network surveillance and all of the privacy risks that go along with that, seem pretty inevitable.
  • Why anonymized data really isn’t
    This Ars piece by Nate Anderson details a new paper by law professor Paul Ohm. He digs into research done over the past handful of years showing how it is possible to “re-identify” data that is supposed to be anonymous. Ohm uses these examples, many which Anderson recaps in the article, to point out the critical gap in privacy laws that have traditionally been fixated on protected personally identifying information, a tact that does nothing for recovery of identities from presumed anonymous data.
  • Concerns with Google Books specific to academics
    Unrelated to the privacy and monopoly concerns raised by others, here the issue seems to be the centralization of editing and maintenance. Nunberg, who has been writing about these issues, points out a variety of errors in the project’s metadata and the implication is that Google is a bottleneck, no matter how well meaning, in an time when folks are more used to distributed control, like Wikipedia.
  • One real time web standard gaining adoption
    According to RWW, WordPress has implemented Dave Winer’s proposed syndication for real time updates, RSSCloud. They have a related piece, linked from this post, of an aggregator that has also implemented the technology. This has me curious about the fragmentation risk here, that Google and FriendFeed has selected PubSubHubbub; can these be made to interoperate? Or will it be largely irrelevant like the practical differences between RSS and Atom?
  • Child safety software sells their data to marketers
    Cory posts the relevant details. It confirms my biggest concern with censor-ware of any kind, namely these sorts of unintended uses. And where they are logging data, in this case IMs, the more valuable that data, the more likely someone else will get it, either through theft or, as in this case, via a pretty shameful profit motive.
  • Details on one of the Apps for America 2 contest
    I linked to the finalist list last week, RWW has some good details on the one for which I voted. This entry is also open source, using a very liberal MIT license and you can clone their sources from github. No further insight into incorporating local data sources in addition to federal ones.
  • Web browser inspired by Unix philosophy
    I like the idea, I will readily admit it, but kind of question its usefulness compared to something like curl. Having to write your own scripts for bookmarks, downloads and such would seem to be tedious to me with little upside. I am sure it does open things up to the point where someone could do something wickedly surprising far simpler than via an extension mechanism.

Quick Links for 8/27/2009

  • Now the US Courts are fine with RECAP
    According to Masnick at Techdirt, the Deputy Chief of for Policy and Budget at the Administrative Office of the US Courts not only claims to be fine with the Firefox extension to free court documents, but also has spoken with Professor Felten who oversaw its development. The Deputy Chief and Felten have apparently been on the same page throughout the project, suggesting the nastygram was a bit of bureaucratic indigestion.
  • Federal appeals court’s ruling enhances computer privacy
    According to Wired, this is as much a win for privacy as it is a contentious ruling. The dissenting judges point out the problem, the lack of supporting precedents. I expect this will be re-hashed and quickly as a consequence.
  • Holographic rendering GPU
    Some excellent details at Ars from Chris Lee on some recent research in Japan. The feat of rendering a hologram with essentially a pair of beefy FPGAs is impressive though the results are limited in the depth of the hologram and the frame rate possible for animations. Undoubtedly with what is essentially just a proof of concept at this stage, performance will improve rapidly given the ultimate result of true holographic projection.
  • ACLU sues for records around border laptop searches
    The suit is under the Freedom of Information Act and is intended to assess the risk to Fourth Amendment rights posed by expanded search and seizure powers at US borders. No news other than that the suit has been filed.
  • Google Sumer of Code efforts in open government
    Dana Oshiro at RWW describes to projects at Sunlight Labs receiving interns from Google’s project. One is focusing on local government, which I think is an excellent next step beyond transparency in the federal government. The other aims to better support citizen engagement and congressional discourse with constituents.
  • Facebook updates privacy policy for the bettter
    According to this Bits article by Claire Cain Miller, the changes fall into roughly two groups. The first, largely at the behest of the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, improve data retention and transparency into policies. The second address a disturbing gap that has been drawing a good deal of attention, private data handling for 3rd party applications.
  • Was Obama image removed from Flickr for a fake takedown?
    According to this RWW piece, this may be the explanation, considering all of the plausible rights holders have denied issuing the take down.

Quick Links for 8/26/2009

  • Dirty coding tricks to make a deadline
    Some really amusing stories, here, not as horrifying as I expected at first. A few of them are actually some good lessons about lateral and creative thinking in the face of extreme constraints.
  • Finalists chosen in Apps for America 2 contest
    Sunlight Labs continues to encourage what is not only possible, but truly useful with open government data. I like the hyper-local application and hope that if it fares well, they’ll look into incorporating not just federal data, but also local government data.
  • Mininova, TPB rival, ordered to remove copyrighted material
    According to the Wired article, what is surprising is that Mininova, unlike The Pirate Bay, appears to have respected take down requests in the past. There’s no information on any damages, just that the court ruling requires them to take down all infringing material in one fell swoop, presumably as opposed to as complaints come in.
  • Coder who worked on Swiss wiretapping trojan talks about it
    The details are not so shocking as the revelation, which actually came out some time ago, that some law enforcement agencies would go to such lengths. The risk they are willing to put consumers at seems above and beyond more “traditional” forensic tools and techniques.
  • FCC chair strongly commits to network neutrality
    The problem, as pointed out in this Ars piece by Matthew Lasar, is that his declaration is scant on details. He hasn’t even commented on the latest maneuvering by Comcast trying to erode the FCC’s power to enforce neutrality or Markey’s latest legislation. Vague, unenforceable rhetoric is as bad, maybe worse, than no such commitment.
  • Google opens up its ePub archive
    Just a few details beyond the announcement at RWW. The books in question all come from the public domain and while they are OCRed, so much smaller sized files and benefitting fulling from the ePub format, they are not proof read or edited. May be useful to Project Gutenberg if there are enough titles not already on their library as it would save initial scanning and converting at least.
  • EU may rule parts of ACTA unconstitutional
    Michael Geist links to a piece that discusses the implications, which may be limited. I am not entirely familiar with the legal and legislative concepts discussed, but they seem to speak to jurisdiction and scope of powers, so may not be affected by the details of the agreement, which is still largely secret. I hope the comparison to the French court’s ruling on Hadopi leads to a similar outcome.
  • FCC considers allocating spectrum to the smart grid
    John Timmer at Ars has coverage of the discussion which seems very preliminary, it is the first time I’ve even seen this suggested. Apparently the discussion was undertaken as part of the larger consideration of the national broadband plan the FCC has been hashing out.
  • Apparently no one asked Flickr to takedown Obama picture
    If you rule out the likeliest rights holders, then who is left, really? It certainly seems like there isn’t anyone who hasn’t spoke up denying they issued a complaint. It certainly tips consideration further to the censorship side of the question.
  • Government briefing to its employees equates file sharing to stealing
    As the Slashdot piece mentions, no consideration is given for public domain works or open content of any kind. Hardly surprising for what is essentially an overgrown HR memo.

TCLP 2009-06-17 Hacking 101: Responsibilities and Relationships

This is a feature cast.

In the intro sharing my decision to extend the submission deadline for stories for my 4th anniversary show.

Listener feedback this week is from nahtass who writes about the evolution of print on demand, imag1nary_number who writes about a more chilling unintended use of the Chinese PC filter software, and Philip who shares a conversation about open data. The group blog I mentioned in response is

The hacker word of the week this week is elder days.

The feature this week is a new Hacking 101 piece of approaching design by understanding responsibilities and relationships.  I mention The Programmer’s Stone, the collaboration diagram exercise from Bob Martin [PDF],  and Bob’s book, “UML for Java Programmers“.


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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