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Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

Halo1 Re:Can I have my money back? (187 comments)

Florian Müller and the FFII always have been different entities. No money donated to the FFII ever went to Florian Müller (even if we had wanted to, there was no way we could ever afford his salary). The FFII did cooperate with him while he was being funded by MySQL and later Red Hat, but even at those times the cooperation was everything but easy.

about two weeks ago

Goodbye, World? 5 Languages That Might Not Be Long For This World

Halo1 Re:Thinking back to my undergraduate days (late 70 (547 comments)

Pascal was/is a much better language than Fortran or Cobol.
I would be shocked if it completely died out.

Me too. Especially since I've been contributing for 17 years to the Free Pascal Compiler, and it supports more platforms than ever. I also don't see any particular declines in our download statistics or the bug reporting rate. Whether Borland-Inprise-CodeGear-Embarcadero Delphi will survive, that's another question. If they'd disappear, that would however be unfortunate for us too though, since many of our users use both products (Delphi for its polish and commercial support, ours for the multi-platform support).

about two weeks ago

Single European Copyright Title On the Horizon

Halo1 Re:Just to get through the misleading stuff: (94 comments)

this is the first term that the European Parliament's members will presumably have the power to block EU directives (something that remains to be seen how it works out)

That's incorrect. Look up the codecision procedure, it's been around since a long time. Since the Lisbon treaty, directives on more topics have come under codecision, but that one has been in effect for quite a while now.

and this is the only part that they will have in the law-making process

No, it's not just blocking or passing. They can, and do, also amend directives. These amendments then have to agreed upon with the Council of Ministers, but the opposite is also true.

--the European Parliament DOES NOT have the power of legislative initiative.

That's true, only the Commission has this power.

FYI, so you do not get carried away by flashy designations and think that this is an actual parliamentary representative democracy akin to national parliaments: it is not.

It's indeed not, since a lot of member states are heavily opposed to a "Federated States of Europe"-style organisation.

about 3 months ago

Following EU Ruling, BBC Article Excluded From Google Searches

Halo1 Re:Article is wrong (239 comments)

You can go first by defining such a rule about the first, second, fourth, ... amendment to the US Constitution. I'll even let you include all judgements by the Supreme Court on that particular amendment. Laws and judgements involving fundamental/inalienable (human) rights are never condensable into a simplistic rule.

Which is totally and completely irrelevant to this discussion and a rather poor attempt at a straw man.

How is asking you to do exactly the same as what you were asking of me a straw man? I was just trying to illustrate what I wrote above: "Laws and judgements involving fundamental/inalienable (human) rights are never condensable into a simplistic rule."

Your argument of Google not being a civil rights NGO (even leaving aside the issue that, once again, this is about a clash between different civil rights rather than against the oppression of civil rights period), or me spending money on fighting the ruling, are however great straw men: I never claimed they would fight it out of altruism, and I literally said I didn't mind the judgement at all (so why would I want to spend money fighting it?).

Google would try to convince judges that it interpreted the judgement in a reasonable way simply because the alternative seriously threatens their business model. As to the drama about Google risking fines and whatnot: companies skirt tax, employment, competition and other laws/judgements all the time if those even threaten to reduce their bottom line. Not to mention that, again, this judgement explicitly gives search engine companies the mandate to decide in part for themselves what is reasonable and what is not, unlike tax/employment/competition laws.

about 4 months ago

Following EU Ruling, BBC Article Excluded From Google Searches

Halo1 Re:Article is wrong (239 comments)

Define "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".

Keep in mind your definition must apply to every single situation and under no circumstance a judge will disagree with your assessment and assign damages.

You can go first by defining such a rule about the first, second, fourth, ... amendment to the US Constitution. I'll even let you include all judgements by the Supreme Court on that particular amendment. Laws and judgements involving fundamental/inalienable (human) rights are never condensable into a simplistic rule.

Because that is what Google is facing, people can have any search result that lists their name removed if it meets whatever arbitrary definition of those three words a judge wishes to interpret.

The judge has to interpret the entire judgement by the ECHR, which is quite a bit more elaborate than that.

There is a very legitimate argument that those terms are so vague Google has no choice whatsoever but to simply delist every single thing they are asked to delist.

And there is a very legitimate argument that it does not have to do that. Such expressions don't say very much.

Given that Google strongly opposed the judgement and given the fact that the further interpretation of the judgement has not yet been set in stone, it's a bit silly to conclude that Google now doesn't have any choice, in particular since the judgement also explicitly mentions that search engine operators only have to act ‘within the framework of their responsibilities, powers and capabilities’. A good and fairly short analysis sketching the picture of the various points of interest can be found here.

There is simply no black and white argument to be made either way right now, because while the judgement does start from considering the right to privacy as trumping both economic interests of search engine operators and the public's "general" interest into details about other people's lives, it does counterbalance/nuance this in various ways. Given the beating that the right to privacy has been getting lately, I personally don't mind at all that it now got a pretty strong reinforcement.

about 4 months ago

Following EU Ruling, BBC Article Excluded From Google Searches

Halo1 Article is wrong (239 comments)

What it means is that a blog I wrote in 2007 will no longer be findable when searching on Google in Europe.

That is plain wrong. The judgement only requires that people can ask that searches for their name (and /only/ their name) no longer turn up results that are "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".

Searching for Merrill's mess, Merill Lynch subprime etc will all still include his article in the results and no one has any right under the ruling to object to that, even if it mentions Stan Oâ(TM)Neal's name in connection with shady business deals a thousand times (just like no one can object against this post turning up in response to such queries).

Keeping that in mind, I do agree with the author that the article should not be excluded even when searching for Stan Oâ(TM)Neal's name, as the inadequacy/irrelevancy test does not fly here in my opinion either. He did say Google will get back to him on that point.

about 4 months ago

WikiLeaks Publishes Secret International Trade Agreement

Halo1 Re:Not sure what the "secrecy" fuss is (222 comments)

All treaties are negotiated in secret.

Secret from the general populace: yes. Secret from large corporations and lobby groups: hell no.

Furthermore, at least in the US, no treaty is in effect until it is ratified by the Senate, at which point all the elements of the treaty will be public and heavily debated down to the last comma.

It's great that Wikileaks is giving the world a heads-up view into what is being negotiated, but I don't understand why every Slashdot story about international treaties harps on "negotiated in secret" like that's unusual, or that a treaty can somehow take effect silently and invisibly.

I'm not sure whether you've ever tried influencing a non-binding agreement that was reached in diplomatic circles and which supposedly still needs to be ratified by politicians in public. I can tell you that by the time a completely negotiated deal ends up in a parliament, senate or council of ministers, there is an enormous amount of political pressure to approve it because of all of the efforts that went into negotiating that text. At that point, the negotiating parties have basically all said "yes, we agree with this and are willing to defend this text before our national politicians", and a very much used argument (that also carries a lot of weight) is then "we don't want to seem unreliable to our negotiation partners".

Sure, they may sometimes make a little bit of fuss about small details to "demonstrate" they're not just rubberstamping it, but actually completely changing positions on a matter of substance almost never happens (unless there is a huge public outcry, or a very big business interest). And even if that happens, it means all those negotiations were largely for nothing, which could have been solved by having more transparency in the first place.

about 4 months ago

OpenSSL Cleanup: Hundreds of Commits In a Week

Halo1 Re:I would think (379 comments)

but it's a rather bad example if the intention is to show how badly OpenSSL is supposedly maintained.

The intention isn't to show how badly OpenSSL is maintained. The intention is to create a good version of OpenSSL. One easy way to do that is to reduce OpenSSL to a reasonable, clean core without all the complexity of cruft and hacks that are clearly no longer understood or maintained by even the OpenSSL team themselves.

You may want to read my entire message again. It was about comments like yours, not about the cleanup initiative itself.

about 6 months ago

OpenSSL Cleanup: Hundreds of Commits In a Week

Halo1 Re:I would think (379 comments)

Does OpenVMS still require the byzantine workarounds that were in OpenSSL, or can it compile modern software without substantial changes?

The message I linked to at least adds several lines to a file called "symhacks.h" to deal with limits regarding the length of symbol names (which is probably required due to a limitation of the used object file format on that platform, and hence not easily resolvable by changing the compiler or linker).

I think part of the problem is that the OpenSSL developers are publishing code paths that they never test;

Conversely, I think part of the current cleanup is that it's not just a cleanup of bad/dangerous code, but also throwing away functionality/support that the people performing said cleanup personally don't consider to be relevant. It's their full right to do so, of course, but it's a rather bad example if the intention is to show how badly OpenSSL is supposedly maintained.

If there's a demand for OpenVMS SSL libraries

I'm not sure why you put this conditionally, since there obviously is such a demand.

about 6 months ago

OpenSSL Cleanup: Hundreds of Commits In a Week

Halo1 Re:I would think (379 comments)

This is actually the OpenBSD developers diving in because the upstream (OpenSSL) was unresponsive. If you look at the actual commits, you will see removal of dead code such as VMS-specific hacks

That code is not dead, there are actually still people using OpenSSL on OpenVMS and actively providing patches for it:

about 6 months ago
top To Add Linux Support

Halo1 Re:Kudos to them, but... (55 comments)

They also distribute (and hence support) quite a few Windows games with a Wine wrapper for Mac OS X.

about 7 months ago

RMS On Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

Halo1 Re:Goes too far (319 comments)

How about demand scarcity verses supply scarcity? The classic argument is that proprietary software uses artificial scarcity to maintain high prices. To fund the development of software with limited demand projected prices must be set high enough to justify the cost of building it.

True the bits don't cost anything and copying is unlimited but resources to develop don't become unlimited as well.

That's correct. Therefore a funding model for software without introducing artificial scarcity relies, as I see it, on directly funding those development resources. E.g., I've been working on the Free Pascal Compiler (FPC) as a hobby project since 1997, but the last couple of years I've been approached by several companies to implement certain features and extensions to it, and I've done so from time to time on a self-employed basis. Another funding model that's been making inroads lately is crowdfunding.

Note that I'm not saying that these models are easier than one whereby you introduce artificial scarcity, especially if you have a general end-user or business application as opposed to a fairly niche developer tool like FPC. More scarcity at a similar level of demand = more income, that's an economic given. However, as a result I don't think there is anything wrong with the statement that selling proprietary software licenses is an economic model based on introducing artificial scarcity (maybe as a proxy for a real scarcity, but possibly in a way that values this first scarcity higher than its "intrinsic worth" -- similarly to how monopolies result in higher prices).

1 year,23 days

RMS On Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before

Halo1 Re:Goes too far (319 comments)

Every time I read an RMS opinion, it seems to start at a good position and consistently attempts to be more and more idealistic to the point that he seems to be arguing a strawman.

RMS definitely is radical, but I've never known him to use strawman arguments.

I know he defines Malware differently from the common way (he considers DRM as malware, for example),

I guess he's also talking about backdoors for law enforcement (aka "legal interception") and other purposes.

but democratic values are less likely to be transmitted if I use Office? Proprietary developers want to punish students? I guess he means the corporations

His explanation indicates why he does mean proprietary developers rather than just corporations: e.g. in the US definition of core democratic values, there are aspects like personal freedom (e.g., modifying software) and the common good (e.g., sharing things with others). Note that he's not arguing here that it should be illegal for others to write proprietary software, i.e., he's not arguing to impinge on other people's liberty.

- and again, they don't generally give their source for modification, so they might be preventing students from modifying other people's work. Is that punishing them?

It limits the possibilities for expressing their creativity. Schools should be places where encouraging creativity is one of the highest valued goals. I know that is generally not the case right now (amazing video, btw), but this is a (small) way in which the situation can be improved.

I won't even claim to understand what the social mission of schools are supposed to be - prepare students for functioning in society?

I'm obviously not RMS, but I'd argue they should be prepared for functioning in society, for critically thinking about that same society (and anything else), and for contributing to a society that they consider to be better than what it is today.

Prepare them for jobs? Prepare them for college? Prepare them to develop free software?

I'd say: prepare them to become the best they can be. That can include a particular kind of job, being an artist, college (about which you can have very similar discussions as about school), developing free software or any combination of the above and many more things.

Prepare them for ignoring copyrights?

Now that last part is a great a strawman on your part: encouraging students to use Free Software, which they can share and modify freely according to the copyright license terms of that same software, is by no means the same as preparing them for ignoring copyright. It mainly teaches them that there are also alternatives to software whose business model depends on artificial scarcity. They will get to know MS Office and other popular products anyway, and if you can work with OpenOffice or LibreOffice, the jump isn't that great in any case. Maybe one of the primary things schools should teach are transferable skills (of which creative thinking is probably the "übervariant").

1 year,24 days

Why iOS 7 Is Making Some Users Feel 'Sick'

Halo1 Re:On the plus side... (261 comments)

Probably because of Apple's extremely annoying policy that you cannot downgrade iOS anymore a couple of days after they release a new version. See for more details. The ability to downgrade to iOS 6.1.3/6.1.4 was disabled around 22 September.

Since iOS 7 was only released recently, there are probably still quite a few devices with iOS 6.1.3/6.1.4 in the channel, and that person probably got such a device in exchange for his iOS 7 "upgraded" one.

1 year,25 days

First Ever Public Tasting of Lab-Grown Cultured Beef Burger

Halo1 Re:Zealouts and Luddites (303 comments)

2. Modified organisms have a significant survival disadvantage because the seed companies breed them so that they can't breed successive generations.

That is incorrect. The so-called terminator genes were never commercialised because of vehement opposition by many different groups. Breeding successive generations is only stopped by patent lawsuits.

I've discovered over the years that most people that are anti-GM take that stance because it was the politically correct thing to do. Once they start to examine the facts their opposition typically drops as unfounded.

You might want to look at your own facts.

about a year ago

Lawmakers Who Upheld NSA Phone Spying Received Double the Defense Industry Cash

Halo1 Re:*Sigh* (284 comments)

but it seems much more sane to me than allowing politicians to be legally bought.

Sanity in politics? Be still, my heart.

I realise that being cynical is so much easier: no chance to be disappointed, easy to look down on other people, feel smug about your oh so original snarky comments. However, you'll never achieve anything of worth (unless you only think in terms of monetary outcomes) on the given subject with that attitude.

I was involved in the fight against the fight against the software patent directive in the EU, and the only reason basically a bunch of students won the fight about that particular directive against a multimillion euro campaign by the giants of the electronics and software industry was that we weren't aware in advance that we couldn't win and that we didn't already "know" that all (or even most) politicians are useful idiots that only care about their image and paycheck, and instead kept bombarding them with facts and academic studies (even organising a couple of conferences ourselves). And having gone through the entire process and a few ones later too (some of which we lost), I still don't "know" that all/most politics is a sham.

I stand by my point (yes, the AC was me too) that politics without legalised bribery is far more sane.

about a year ago

Edward Snowden is ...

Halo1 Re:Wrong by law (601 comments)

He is merely wrong by law, not by morality. If I might remind the slashdot crowd: authority is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right; morality is doing what is right, regardless of what you are told.

Being an independent thinker, I side with morality, and therefore he is a hero.

To quote the excellent Rap News 19: Whistleblower:

Some praise these acts as heroic, worthy of mimicking
Others condemn them as illegal and prohibited
But, can't both be equally applicative?

To be good humans we're sometimes
called upon to be bad citizens.
Some nations were even born by
breaking laws of the tyrannous.

Do you support heroes from days of yore
who in order to cause reforms disobeyed the law?
Then what about those in the present
who heed the same call?

about a year ago

Fairphone project crowdfunding initial production run

Halo1 Correction for the last link (1 comments)

The last link should point to the actual candid interview.

And there's a "to" too many in the second sentence: "they aim to to demonstrate "

about a year ago

Nathan Myhrvold Live Q&A

Halo1 Legal certainty for software developers (51 comments)

How do you suggest an independent or freelance software developer would ensure that the code (s)he writes does not infringe on any patent? Or more generally: how do you see a solution for the legal uncertainty caused by software patents for software developers? (any software developers really, since it's not like large companies check for infringements -- after all, it opens them up to treble damages for willful infringement in case they considered a patent and wrongfully concluded it didn't apply).

In case you would want to answer that this applies to any branch of industry, does that mean that you do not believe that independent software development should continue to thrive? Most other branches of industry require huge capital investments, but software development is one of the few high tech fields where an individual has no need for anything beyond a computer and an internet connection to run a successful business -- as long as (s)he is not confronted by threats of patent infringement.

about a year and a half ago



Chevron gets 9 years worth of activists' internet metadata

Halo1 Halo1 writes  |  about a year ago

Halo1 (136547) writes "A US Federal judge has ruled that Microsoft must provide Chevron with IP usage records and identity information for email accounts owned by more than 100 environmental activists, journalists and attorneys. Chevron ask for this information in an attempt to prove that it fell victim to a conspiracy when it was convicted to pay $18 billion for dumping 18.5 billion gallons of oil waste in the Ecuadorean Amazon. Opponents, such as the EFF and ERI, criticise that this could allow Chevron to determine the countries, states, cities or even buildings where the account-holders were checking their email, so as to 'infer the movements of the users over the relevant period'."

Fairphone project crowdfunding initial production run

Halo1 Halo1 writes  |  about a year ago

Halo1 (136547) writes "The Fairphone project has designed an GSM/WCDMA Android-based smartphone (specs) and associated production process for which they need 5000 pre-orders at 385 euro a piece (incl. VAT) to go into production by September. While they openly admit that not every single component or part of the process is completely "fair", by making every step of the production transparent and improving several of them they aim to to demonstrate and facilitate improved product life cycles. Examples include sourcing a number of their raw materials conflict-free (tin, coltan; working on gold), having subcontractors pay workers a living wage, and contributing part of the proceeds to e-waste recycling facilitator Closing the Loop. The user also gets a "fair" deal: the device can be rooted, it has dual sim support, and they're working with Ubuntu and Firefox OS communities to offer alternative OS choices. The main downside is that pre-orders are limited to EU citizens. The deadline for pre-ordering is 14 June and they're currently at 52% of their target goal (if it is not reached, pre-orders will be refunded). Dutch-speaking readers may also be interested in a candid interview with the head of the project and a Dutch diplomat involved in the organisation and certification of conflict-free mining operations in the DR Congo."

European Commission paints itself in ACTA corner

Halo1 Halo1 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Halo1 (136547) writes "Last week, the European Commission published a rebuttal to an extensive and strongly condemning opinion document about ACTA by prominent European Academics. Ante Wessels from the FFII went through the Commission's reply and discovered that after correcting the mistakes they made, they actually confirm the opinion they were trying to refute. The Commission primarily appears to suffer from a lack of reading comprehension, amnesia regarding what it said earlier, and not being fully aware of its competences."
Link to Original Source

iPhone SDK Agreement Shuts Out HyperCard Clone

Halo1 Halo1 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Halo1 writes "Demonstrating it's not just about Flash, Apple has officially rejected for the first time another alternative iPhone development environment following its controversial iPhone SDK Agreement changes. Even though RunRev proposed to retool its HyperCard-style development environment to directly expose all of the iPhone OS' APIs, Steve Jobs still rejected their proposal. The strength of RunRev's business case, with a large scale iPad deployment project in education hinging on the availability of their tool, does not bode well for projects that have less commercial clout. Salient point: at last February's shareholders' meeting, Jobs went on the record saying that something like HyperCard on the iPad would be great "but someone would have to create it"."
Link to Original Source

Halo1 Halo1 writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Jonas Maebe writes "Someone thought up another way to profiteer from the software patent system: when a security hole is discovered, they'll try to patent the fix in order to collect money when the affected vendors close the hole in their product.. The company in question is not shy about its intentions: Intellectual Weapons will only consider vulnerabilities in high profile products from vendors with deep pockets. Let's be thankful for yet another way software patents are used to promote science and the useful arts."
Link to Original Source


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