November 2007 Archives

2007-11-23 01:10:12

Gnome goes Mono and jumps into the Patent Trap

The Gnome desktop environment developers have recently taken the decision to reengineer the Gnome desktop around the Mono framework. This decision has mainly been influenced by the main Mono developer Miguel de Icaza, who is a very vocal employee of Novell.

Reasonable doubt has been rased to whether or not Mono can actually be deployed freely. Mono itself is basically a free and halfway portable implementation of the .NET framework developed by Microsoft. However, the .NET framework itself is subject to a large amount of software patents, which cover the concepts used within the .NET framework. Since these are concepts and not individual implementations (which are covered by Copyright, which is certainly untouched by a reimplementation), they most likely also apply to the Mono framework.

To Novell itself, Icazas employer, this is not a significant problem, since Novell has closed a patent deal with Microsoft which undoubtedly also covers the .NET patents. However, all conventional Linux and Open Source vendors would not be able to distribute Gnome as it would be covered by the .NET patents Microsoft owns.

This amounts to an easy way for Novell to effectively lock in Gnome users to their own products. Gnome would no longer be a real Free Software project, even though the code remains freely available. It is expected that this type of patent issues will be raised many times, causing severe damage to the economy with the time. The only way of mitigation will be a transatlantic patent agreement which clarifies Art. 52 EPC: Software is not patentable.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, standards

2007-11-23 00:09:05

US Aid offering cheap monopolist products to the third world

The U.S. Agency for International Development (US Aid) is offering cheap access to hardware and training curriculae for Microsoft operating systems.

The project in question is a US$236'000.- project to unbind the «Unlimited Potential» of the industries of Sri Lanka which could be enhanced with information technology. It will be executed by Info Share, an NGO which develops IT solutions for NGOs, and Unlimited Potential, a Microsoft welfare organization, whose main purpose is to spread Microsoft in the developing world.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: general

2007-11-22 22:34:27

German Police says Good Bye to Microsoft Products

After the German Bundesrechnungshof has released a paper critizising the extensive and expensive use of Windows in public services, the German Police Trade Union has demanded that the failed police software project POLIKS shall be discontinued and all installations of the Windows operating system of Microsoft be replaced with Linux.

Issues with the new system had been raised for a long time already. It takes half an hour and longer to record a single case, which had been done within a couple of minutes using the paper based approach. This half hour is of course time that the person reporting the incident will have to wait. Also, the system has experienced 50 hours of downtime for the year, which is a rather low availability rate as opposed to services normally offered by Open Source systems.

The Police Union representatives suggest that the saved license fees could be used for the christmas gratifications for the police officers.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news

2007-11-22 22:21:27

John Tehranian: No life without IPR infringement

John Tehranian has released a paper stating that life without IPR infringements is not possible. Tehranian is describing the average day of an imaginary, but average person, all with respect to intellectual property rights infringements. The liabilities for such an average day would already amount to several million Dollars.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: general, politics

2007-11-22 19:22:48

IP-Plus «DoS'd»

Starting from yesterday afternoon, the IP-Plus network (AS3303) has suffered from severe difficulties, and initially even outages. Starting from the afternoon, IP-Plus started pushing an enormous amount of prefixes out to all peers.

For most routers, pushing an enormous amount of routes causes an emergency shutdown of the corresponding peering, and that was what IP-Plus must have experienced a lot that evening. (At least it happened on all routers I have access to, and I heard reports from others indicating the same.)

IP-Plus has a trouble ticket suggesting that a DDoS attack was the direct cause of the outages. However, no DDoS attack could ever have caused the effects we were seeing, so it appears that IP-Plus is trying to disguise human error as a force they are unable to control. This is not appropriate.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, network

2007-11-09 19:15:48

Data Retention adopted in Germany

Around noon today (finally not in a midnight session!), the German Parliament has adopted the law on data retention (VDS: Vorratsdatenspeicherung) with a lower limit of 6 monthes of retention. This legislation requires all connection metadata to be saved for 6 monthes before they may get deleted.

During the vote, which was held around noon, the parliament was an astonishingly empty place. This legislation, which can serve to turn Germany into a surveillance state, did not even raise enough interest among the parliamentarians to cause a significant majority of them to vote on the issue, which is a rather sad thing.

According to the German federal police, there is «no alternative» to the data retention policy. The same argument could be applied to death row, so it is utterly worthless as an argument.

I invite everyone who has talked to his local parliamentarian in Germany to have a word with him about why he did not appear in Parliament or why he voted in favor of the proposal (if so): have a look at the voting list for the German data retention law.

Not all is lost

But there is still a way to influence the legislation even after it has been passed. The Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung has a press release on their preparation of legal action against the law. According to the Arbeitskreis Vorratsdatenspeicherung, the legislation is in disagreement with the German constitution and thus cannot be adopted as it has been presented right now.

And the Arbeitskreis Datenspeicherung is not alone with this opinion: Parliamentarians of the Socialist Party (SPD) mentioned that they also don't think the law is compatible with the constitution, but expressed that the Constitutional Court would take care of it.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: news, politics

2007-11-06 21:45:15

Don't Trust Linux 2.6.24

While upgrading Linux to version 2.6.24-rc1 on a test machine, I noticed that the network card (Intel E1000) was gone. It did not appear in dmesg and was not in lspci either.

Ok, I thought, maybe a bug, and so I went back to the old kernel. However, the same problem occurred here: the NIC was not in lspci and was not detected by the kernel.

So I put it into a different machine: still dead. So I simply took a known good E1000 from the stack and put it into the machine, fired up Linux 2.6.24-rc1 – the NIC came up dead, and remained dead afterwards. Booting Linux 2.6.24-rc1 on a different test machine killed a third E1000.

Looking around a bit I found an entry in the Linux Kernel bugzilla describing how Linux 2.6.24-rc1 kills network cards. It is unresolved as of now, but has been reproduced with Realtek 8169 Gigabit cards. Sometimes it appears to help to turn the power off completely for a while, but I cannot confirm this resolution.

Considering the fact that the hard disk eater bug is unfixed since Linux 1.3.26, I am wondering if Linus is going to wait for a fix to this bug before releasing the next version, and if the kernel is going to undergo serious testing. I am expecting to see a half finished band aid going into the code again, which will continue to toast a NIC once in a while – just like it happened with the hard disks. In any case I urge every Linux user to boot 2.6.24-rc1 with great care and on computers inside warranty only, and continue to be happy about my choice of NetBSD and OpenSolaris as my main operating systems.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: programming

2007-11-03 20:14:05

OOXML: Not Beneficial (says KOffice team)

The KOffice developers, most of them individually known for their first implementation of a reader and writer for the Microsoft Office binary formats, released a clear statement that supporting OOXML is not beneficial. According to the article, the specification is too complicated and offers no advantage over the currently default Open Document Format.

Posted by Tonnerre Lombard | Permanent link | File under: programming, standards