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Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

sydneyfong Re:OracleVSGoogle: Judge can program, you still fo (177 comments)

clean-room reimplementation is legal

Clean room reimplementation is legal as long as the specification used by the implementors is free of copyright (and other I.P.) issues.

I definitely agree that some of the prior cases of clean-room implementation is at odds with the notion that APIs are copyrightable. To be honest, copyright law has never been logically consistent to me -- which is why I don't even pretend to have knowledge of it unless I'm arguing about legal topics on slashdot ...

5 days ago

Interviews: Ask Florian Mueller About Software Patents and Copyrights

sydneyfong Re:OracleVSGoogle: Judge can program, you still fo (177 comments)

The "wrong decision" referred to the GP isn't about the trivial range check, but rather the notion that APIs are not copyrightable.

It would be really shitty if APIs were copyrightable, but, as the GP said, that has been the conventional understanding of copyright law for a long time.

It would be interesting to see how the story unfolds, but really, there's nothing funny about the notion of APIs being copyrightable.

about a week ago

Ask Slashdot: Swift Or Objective-C As New iOS Developer's 1st Language?

sydneyfong Re:Obj-C (316 comments)

Furthermore, because of deallocation cascades, a release message in such schemes can have a very high latency

Right. When gc happens, good garbage collectors don't freeze the whole application for hundreds of milliseconds to scan through the allocated memory looking for objects to free.

about three weeks ago

Why Apple Should Open-Source Swift -- But Won't

sydneyfong Re:The FSF overreached with GPL v3 ... (183 comments)

It is legal paranoia. Just like how IT-types have network security paranoia and ban a bunch of software/tools that *could* *potentially* introduce security issues to the company network...

I mean, sure, if you spend time looking at an individual license it could be OK. But why spend the time to investigate? Just blanket deny, and if somebody thinks it's worth fighting the bureaucracy to use a damn piece of software, *then* it might be worth looking into making an exception...

about a month ago

Researchers Discover New Plant "Language"

sydneyfong Re:Communication? (70 comments)

they have not discovered any form of language beyond what they already knew about mRNA

Duh. Have you discovered any language beyond what you already knew about sound waves and ink? I thought not.

about 2 months ago

Disappointed Woz Sells His "Worthless" Galaxy Gear Watch

sydneyfong Re:Agreed. (242 comments)

Most critical production systems have alerts to pagers and phones. Nobody exclusively relies on email for this kind of stuff.

about 4 months ago

Court: Oracle Entitled To Copyright Protection Over Some Parts of Java

sydneyfong Re:That's some crazy shenanigians right there. (303 comments)

What makes you think that the Java API is "public"? At least Sun/Oracle never said that anyone can use those APIs. Which is why there was this compatibility certification crap.

about 5 months ago

Court: Oracle Entitled To Copyright Protection Over Some Parts of Java

sydneyfong Re:Not Getting the Strategy Here (303 comments)

I read somewhere that Oracle wasn't interested in buying Sun until they learnt about Android's use of Java APIs. If they were successful in suing Google for this, the damages could make up the purchase price anyway.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Computer Science Freshman, Too Soon To Job Hunt?

sydneyfong Re:Anybody can write code. Employable people can D (309 comments)

I agree with your list, except this one:

- one day I will rewrite this to be better

Welcome to the real world, where there are deadlines and sometimes it's a necessary evil to write crap to fix later.

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Computer Science Freshman, Too Soon To Job Hunt?

sydneyfong Re:Really? (309 comments)

What you say is true, but "not being the most brilliant people I know" is not necessarily "failure", and definitely not "the floor".

I know a bunch of really brilliant CS people as well. Almost all of them graduated with CS degrees and doing quite well. There are different kinds of "smart". The person who becomes a competent sysadmin at 16 is different from the one who drops out of college to found a successful startup, and is different from the one who gets a CS PhD and then a researcher job at Princeton.

The 16-year-old sysadmin probably can't do my job, at least not as well as I (software engineering), and I probably can't do her job well either.

There are different paths to "success", although I must agree that the value of getting a degree is diminishing every day, it's not necessarily a bad thing to do. It really depends on the circumstances of each case.

about 5 months ago

Horseshoe Crabs Are Bled Alive To Create an Unparalleled Biomedical Technology

sydneyfong Re:Sensationalist Headline much? (159 comments)

Depends. If you're kidnapped to the blood donation center and had your skin pierced and blood forcibly "removed" (I try not to use "bleed") from your body, while you are not dead yet, I suppose it fits the definition of being "bled alive".

about 8 months ago

The Neuroscience of Computer Programming

sydneyfong Re:Code is closer to legalese than math (161 comments)

(Sorry for stereotyping but) you're a typical geek. You think that words can have a precise, context-free meaning, and whether something falls within the meaning of a word (or a technical term) can be done in polynomial time.

The real world is much more complicated than that.

Take for example, what is a male and what is female? You'd think it's easy enough to determine that if you have access to the genitals, but there's still difficult corner cases to handle. For legal questions, it can be even more complicated. Questions like "was there a contract?" "is this negligence?" "did the person have the 'intention' to commit the crime?" are simply too 'complicated' to have a deterministic algorithm for all the cases. And before you ask why there are so many lawsuits (I'd imagine many more than the number of people with an indeterminate sex), the fact is that for the vast majority of cases the question is pretty clear cut, and it's really the corner cases that seriously go to court for a dispute on issues of law (as opposed to factual disputes, eg. whether a person did indeed sign a contract, whether the accused did kill the victim, etc.).

Supposedly you can really write out all the anticipated cases in a super horrifically complex program. But then, even if we suppose we can resolve the controversial cases where the facts don't fit our intuition (eg. the many many many situations whether or not you can have an abortion), it defeats the other purpose, that the (general) legal principles should be understandable by a lay person. In fact, lawyers are human beings too (well, not going into the soul question), and if the solution is not understandable by a significant number of lawyers, it's not going to become law. That's where your argument comes in -- but honestly, when you're good at skill X, you'd tend to believe that skill X is all you need to solve the world's problems, until you realize that when you apply skill X outside of its usual domain, it doesn't work in practice. (Just check out the mad scientists cartoons/movies for how things that work in theory could go wrong) The fundamental flaw I see, is that people expect the law to *usually* work according to their *intuition*. Usually court decisions don't tend to go against common sense, and when it does, the legislature will "correct" the decision (at least for common law systems) so that the law is what people expect. The problem is, what people expect can be very self-inconsistent, and what people expect is usually optimized for the normal case, not optimized to reduce the awkward corner cases. If you have no idea what the "self-inconsistencies" of a normal human being is, try understanding a woman. (to please the feminists: or a man who's not a logician -- getting to understand the opposite sex makes you wonder whether everyone's brains are just full of inconsistencies)

And of course you can't just look at the law in its current state and simply declare it void because you have a supposedly better system "intelligently designed" by a genius. I'm not sure about you, but I personally would be very skeptical of any large "rewrite" of a system by a person who doesn't even understand what the system is about.

I do agree there could be a bit more inter-disciplinary research on how CS can assist in making law less complex, but ... from what I know and understand (not to say that it's a lot), I'm skeptical whether there could be any groundbreaking results.

I'd say, getting legislation to use a proper version control system, and if a git-blame could show all the people who voted for/against a particular law, it would already be a great win. :)

about 8 months ago

The Neuroscience of Computer Programming

sydneyfong Re:Code is closer to legalese than math (161 comments)

Law is fuzzy. Programming is usually not.
Law is often inconsistent. Programming (or the underlying logic) usually cannot be inconsistent.
Law is relatively simple once you get past the fuzziness and inconsistencies. A lot of software is multitudes more complex than legalese.
There's often an easy way to test your program. Not so easy to test a legal theory or opinion. (You go to court, spend thousands or millions on legal fees before you get a judge to decide on the matter -- and then you have appeals)
Lawyers are usually not very anal about making the law "efficient" and "easy to understand". Sometimes the law is more complicated than it needs to be, and the lawyers like it that way (after all, they make money by translating all that crap to plain language). Most good programmers, on the other hand, strive to make their code easy to read.

English common law is basically all about struggling with legacy issues and finding new applications for old "code". The concerns about "backwards compatibility" (i.e. not overriding previous decisions) appear often enough to warrant a mention.

Disclaimer: IANAL, have a law degree, and I'm a software engineer.

about 8 months ago

James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering

sydneyfong Re:How about paying students after graduation? (321 comments)

Somebody is just bitter.

Sure, there's a bunch of money sucking parasites in Wall Street, and then another bunch of them in Washington DC, but then, to claim that they are the "only" jobs that pay well, is bullshit. The richest people in the world aren't the ones that merely push money about (except maybe Buffett). If you're talking about being an employee at a large corporation kind of "job", how about 3 million dollars at Google? Not sure how productive he was, but I'm pretty sure he wasn't in the business of pushing money around per se.

Tech is generally as well paid as any other industry -- it's just disingenuous to whine about compensation in the tech industry when it's been outgrowing basically every other industry, and companies scrambling to hire anyone who has a hint of talent.

about 9 months ago

Reports Say Satya Nadella Is Microsoft's Next CEO

sydneyfong Re:Trend? (177 comments)

An improvement from the "Chair in the Air" days, I suppose?

about 9 months ago

IE Drops To Single-Digit Market Share

sydneyfong Re:More reprsentative stats please (390 comments)

They say that some people are using lower-end Android phones as a "dumb" phone.

about 9 months ago



sydneyfong sydneyfong writes  |  more than 8 years ago

sydneyfong (410107) writes "A user demonstrates how online spreadsheets could help create and maintain "databases" in a useful and easy to use manner. He transforms spreadsheet data into RDF by using the XML export facility in EditGrid (an online spreadsheets application) and applying a custom XSLT template."



Call for alternate (DNS) root servers

sydneyfong sydneyfong writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Originally at

Given these recent outrageous and blatant violations by registrars, and the indifference of ICANN, this should be a perfect time to resurrect the idea of an alternate system of root DNS servers.

If nothing is done to address the problems, the .com, .net domain name space would probably be filled up with spam junk (if they are not saturated with crap already). Given the increasing importance of the Internet infrastructure these days, it's outrageous to think that the basic infrastructure of the Internet is held hostage by a small group of greedy corporate bastards. Remember the last time Verisign tried to redirect all non-existent .com/.net requests to their own portal site? They are willing to screw up anything as long as they can get away with it (and money).

I understand that the worst TLDs in question are .com and .net, but they set the example. How long would it be for country TLDs to follow the corporate footsteps of Verisign, Network Solutions and co?

I think it should be most apt to start meaningful discussion here on Slashdot, where there are enough people who have the expertise and skills --- and interest and passion, to pull this one off.

I have looked around a bit regarding projects such as AlterNIC, OpenNIC, OpenRSC, etc. But all those projects are dead or at the very least in deep hibernation. I have a feeling that the projects aren't really meant to be serious, rather they are hobbyist projects/social experiments that even the founders couldn't care less about.

Does nobody care at all?

That being said, I personally don't have any concrete proposals. But given the enthusiastic response of Slashdot readers (there are 600+ comments here), I believe we can gather enough personnel and expertise to give the old idea a new try. Interested parties might want to post a reply here, or in my Journal.

Any takers?

[Oh and moderators, you might actually want to mod this one up...]


Hello World!

sydneyfong sydneyfong writes  |  more than 7 years ago

This is an attempt to use slashdot's journal feature as a blog (like blogger,myspace,xanga, etc.)

I mean, it's there, I use slashdot regularly, and has this coolness factor. Why not?

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