Quantum LOLcat

quantuum lolcat

How Is Occupying Iraq Paid For?

For the most part the true victims aren’t aware of how they pay the bills. The license to create money out of thin air allows the bills to be paid through price inflation. American citizens, as well as average citizens of Japan, China, and other countries suffer from price inflation, which represents the “tax” that pays the bills for our military adventures. That is until the fraud is discovered, and the foreign producers decide not to take dollars nor hold them very long in payment for their goods. Everything possible is done to prevent the fraud of the monetary system from being exposed to the masses who suffer from it. If oil markets replace dollars with Euros, it would in time curtail our ability to continue to print, without restraint, the world’s reserve currency.

It is an unbelievable benefit to us to import valuable goods and export depreciating dollars. The exporting countries have become addicted to our purchases for their economic growth. This dependency makes them allies in continuing the fraud, and their participation keeps the dollar’s value artificially high. If this system were workable long term, American citizens would never have to work again. We too could enjoy “bread and circuses” just as the Romans did, but their gold finally ran out and the inability of Rome to continue to plunder conquered nations brought an end to her empire.

Ron Paul seems a bit bonkers to my English cultural mind, but this article - on www.house.giv, gotta love that URL :-) - is good stuff. The petrodollar motivations for the occupation of Iraq were turned up by the seekers message board at Fravia’s a few years ago,

Obama represents the same old same old

Obama’s voting record shows that he represents the same old “of the people, by the flunkies, for the corporations” culture that is causing Reuters to quote portfolio managers saying “the gears of capitalism [to be] grinding to a halt.” (Via Mish)

2008: The Year of Preinstalled GNU+Linux

El Reg reported a while back on the supercheap laptops and a “Mac Mini”-style computer due out in 2008 with GNU+Linux preinstalled (though sadly its Ubuntu with a 1990s GUI and a lot of links to proprietary webapps like GMail instead of real and free software)

The Guardian has an article about why GNU+Linux on the eeePC is kicking ass (Mark Pilgrim made the point as only he can :-) and PCW has a list of the competitors shown at CeBit.

The E-Lead Noahpad is the most exciting - is that a fingerworks keyboard? The potential of multitouch for type design is fantastic, I think :-)

(And, I’m pleased to see the Guardian call the system GNU/Linux ;-)

BBC iPlayer Now Works With Free Software

Matt Lee explains how to watch iPlayer video using only free software.

Why hasn’t the BBC published this information?!

(This article is personal opinion only, not the views of any employers past or present)

Iain Wallace has made a simple webapp so you don’t have to do this manually :-)

The New Independent Editor

Wow. According to MediaLens, the upcoming editor of the Independent is Roger Alton. He was editor of the Observor in 2002, and here’s how he works:

all was not well in the Observer newsroom in the autumn of 2002. The newspaper’s correspondent, Ed Vulliamy, had been talking with Mel Goodman, a former senior CIA analyst. Despite leaving the agency, Goodman retained his high security clearance and remained in communication with senior former colleagues. Goodman told Vulliamy that, in contradiction to everything the British and American governments were claiming, the CIA were reporting that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, Goodman was willing to go on the record as a named source. It was an incredibly important scoop but the Observer refused to publish it.

Over the next four months, Vulliamy submitted seven versions of the story for publication - his editors rejected every one of them. (pp.329-331) In January 2003, the Observer’s then editor, Roger Alton, told his staff: “We’ve got to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Americans.” (p.350)

In support of this stance, the Observer’s David Rose echoed government propaganda on Iraq’s alleged connections with al-Qaeda - a performance that ended with a humbling apology from Rose in 2004. He described how his trust in official sources had been “misplaced and naïve… I look back with shame and disbelief”. (p.334)

Other people paid the price. Eleven days after Vulliamy’s story was rejected for the seventh time in March 2003, the first bombs fell on Baghdad.

The rest of that particular report is excellent; 80% of UK mainstream news is not researched by journalists but comes straight off newswires and from PR companies.

Impact of OLPC in Peru: Magic

OLPC in Peru was recently all over the AP newswire and the elite Ivan Krstić just visited that school and took away an amazing story:

  1. As there are few roads in and around Arahuay, the children don’t communicate much outside of school — with anyone. The teachers started independently pointing out to Mr. Navarro that this was changing once the laptops arrived: kids started talking to each other outside of school hours over the mesh, and working together more while in school. They started talking a lot more with each other in person, and conquered their previously paralyzing fear of strangers.
  2. With the laptops, the kids had to turn to each other to learn how to use them. Then they realized it was easy to send each other pictures and things they’ve written — and it became commonplace. The sharing, asserts Mrs. Cornejo, extended into the physical world, where once jealously-guarded personal items increasingly started being passed around between the kids
  3. The fathers, I later heard, all decided an education could stop their children from having no choice but to work the field all day as they did. With the laptops in place, the school was no longer a black box whose efficacy had to be taken on faith: the kids could prove they were learning. Schooling had gone open source. So their parents started having them help out only when necessary, and left them to read and write on their XO the rest of the time.

And this is lovely - spot the Aspergers kid :-)

Both Mrs. Cornejo and Mr. Navarro thought the XO would exacerbate some existing discipline problems at the school. One student, whose name I’ll withhold, commonly gets in fights with others, didn’t speak to or play with his classmates, and would normally sit in a corner of the classroom by himself. The principals anticipated the XO would make him even more territorial and isolated, but they were taken by complete surprise when he became the first kid to figure out the laptop, and then started teaching the others who curiously flocked around him. “We don’t tell these feel-good stories, these fairy tales,” Mr. Navarro responded to my unspoken skepticism. “It’s just what happened. It’s just how it is.”

Time for many Free Software Business Initiatives!

Libervis published an article calling for a Free Software Business Initative a while back.

But a single one isn’t really the idea, I think - many such initiatives sounds a lot better :-)

Meeting Pablo again briefly at FOSDEM, it seems the impressive libre.org crew are the avante garde of this with their “Libre Business Cluster.”

How To Do Pure GPLv3 Business

Wow. The Gnash project continues to be a living example of how business is done with a pure GPL model!

John Gilmore explains how it works to a software developer company who wanted to use Adobe Flash and was simple told “No, we don’t want your money” - lol

This is the classic “free software support / development” business contract, as practiced for many years by Cygnus Support (which I founded, and where Rob was a key employee). The key to making it work is for both parties to understand what exact specs you require the free product to meet. Then the developers can work up a price for which they think they can do that work. If that price is within your budget, you conclude a contract; otherwise, you and they start shifting the specs, to see if you can come up with a subset that you can live with, which is also cheap enough to implement.

If your spec is “perfectly implements every possible Flash 9 movie” then it’ll be expensive — multiple years of work by at least three or four talented programmers. If your spec is “plays the ten Flash 9 movies that we ourselves are authoring” then there’s a lot more leeway for adjustment — small changes in those movies can probably make large improvements in the delivery time and cheapness of the player. If your spec is “plays Youtube and nine other Flash 9 sites of our choosing”, then not only is this a development contract, but it should also include a post-delivery support contract (because those sites sometimes change their flash movies, and you’ll want Gnash to improve to play those websites as they evolve, after your product’s first release).

One area that would speed up development is if you could make good, small test cases. If you find a flash movie that fails in gnash, simplify it down to the essential part that fails, and report that. Ideally that test case would be your original work under copyright law, so you could assign it to the FSF and it could be added to Gnash’s regression test suite. Then not only can a developer fix the issue, and know when they’ve fixed it, but every future developer will find out rapidly if they have broken it in making some later change.

2. What kind of monetary investment would be necessary to significantly speed up Gnash development? I realize that this may be a difficult question to answer, but we are quite serious. We were prepared to pay Adobe to license their player,

I am happy that Adobe keeps declining to serve significant parts of the market; it makes life easier for the free software competition. I’m sorry it makes your life harder, though.

Most businesses don’t want a “significant speedup”; they want a “product in which these features work by this deadline”. If that’s what you really want, please give Rob an idea of which particular features, and a vague idea of the deadline.

Why is Ogg Theora Adoption Slow?

Larry Lessig of Creative Commons fame recently got a bollocking (as aq would say) by Jon Grant and fsfe-uk about supporting Flash for video streaming and not providing Ogg Theora streaming or download versions of his videos.

He kindly reponded by explaining exactly why he isn’t giving the format primary position - unlike the BBC (who I questioned via the official feedback system, and so this is not to be confused with the personal opinions of employees of BBC on a mailing list) who doesn’t support Ogg Theora because its merely unpopular - a chicken and egg paradox.

Xiph developer Ralph Giles responded to these points as follows:

Commentary commentary

Lawrence Lessig recently posted a summary on the fsfe-uk list about problems that were blocking Theora adoption. Here’s a rebuttal, for what it’s worth.

His first point, that Theora isn’t technically competitive with the lastest batch of encoders for the encumbered MPEG codecs, is entirely true. From Xiph’s point of view is that that’s a little like saying there’s no point in using Linux because it doesn’t work as well as Windows, but the technical disparity does need to be addressed.

Monty and Derf have been working on a new encoder the past few months, but there’s nothing to show yet. We believe the Theora format has scope to offer similar compression efficiency to h.263 with less complexity. Beyond that, we look to the BBC’s Dirac. But in the absence of software to prove the capabilities of the format, one has to take our word, as well as being interested in long term planning, for that to be a meaningful argument.

His second point, about people believing Theora is patented is just FUD as far as I know. We’re not aware of any patents. The original developer of the VP3 format which became theora grants rights to any patents they might have on the implementation. Submarine patents are of course always possible, but they affect MPEG and Microsoft codecs just as much as independent designs.

I’ve heard this argument from two different directions. First from corporations who have already bet on one of the MPEG codecs and want to dissuade any competition, and second from Free Software people, who don’t understand how patents work, shrug, say it’s all equally bad, and then get behind the proprietary technology.

What happened with the html5 flame fest was that some corporations said they didn’t feel the current demand for web content in royalty-free formats justified the additional exposure implementing them would create. That’s true so far as it goes, but a very specific statement about their own interests and hardly a reason for anyone else to eschew royalty free formats.

There was a lot of talk at the recent FOMS meeting about how to address the FUD issue and educate the free community about patents. Hopefully some public documentation will come of it. It’s been quite difficult to find legal counsel who understands the FLOSS development model well enough to toss ALL the traditional wisdom about patent risk out the window: namely to never do or say anything at all.

All that said, I completely agree with the recommendation that we get people talking. It can only help. Free software can’t compete with the installed base of flash video at this point, but we should all be working to offer an alternative for those who can use it, and prepare the toolchain so we can provide the greatest support for software and creative freedom in the next round of web video.

Why is GPL the most commercially oriented free software license?

The use of a license that enables proprietarization has actually reduced the opportunities for commercialization.

This only reminds me how important it is to sort out the application of the GPL to font software.

On Data Portability

Data portability is a movement in startup mode that Ian Forrester is involved in and doing a lot of promotion for, on and off work :-)

It seems to me that how “open source” is to “software freedom,” or how “NLP” is to Ericksonian Hypnosis (off topic but I thought I’d throw it in as I saw Derren Brown last week :-), is how “data portability” is to the “semantic web”: A way of promoting peripheral aspects of a memeplex that has central aspects that are historical, philosophical, and challenging to think about.

All are attempts to trick businesses into supporting something without pointing them at the real issues, because “business people don’t care about that abstract stuff.”

For software freedom, that has meant businesses only deal with the peripheral issues and end up in conflict with the original movement. This is harmful for businesses and the software freedom movement, IMO. Eg, the British proprietary software company Xara was in trouble when Microsoft launched Acrylic and Adobe discarded Freehand to consolidate the proprietary drawing program market on Illustrator, so they made most of their drawing program free software. But they kept the small but core geometry library proprietary, so the software freedom community had no interest in it, and so Xara died.

Will data portability get Web 2.0 companies to allow you to export some minor aspects of data, like your social graph, from one silo to the next? Or will it get hermetic Web 2.0 companies to support the semantic web properly? Searching for “data portability workgroup” sparql is not promising.

Also, what bright spark came up with principle 11 of DPW? “Politics can stay at the door” is absurd, since the whole point of the DPW is political. Amusing Stallman quote: “Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.”

Legal Restrictions On Type Designs

The following is personal opinion and certainly not legal advice, and is a repost of mine from a typophile discussion :-)

USA: “Patents for designs shall be granted for the term of 14 years from the date of grant.” and the first ever design patent was for a typeface. I’ve not yet found out how much it costs.

EU: “Community Designs” are either unregistered, which means automatic (like copyright) and those last 3 years (although they only started on 12th December 2001) or they are registered (like patents) which “confers on the design great certainty should infringement occur” and last 5 years from the filing date but can be renewed in blocks of five years up to a maximum of 25 years. The cost is variable because registrations can be done in batches but a single design for immediate publication appears to cost €350 - there is a cost calculator webpage to play with.

UK: the copyright law has a section specifically for typefaces that gives them a 25 year copyright term, and that is the same length as for “typographical arrangements” (book/magazine/etc layouts). And this is the same length of the maximum term for UK “registered designs” which, like EU RCD, last 5 years and can be renewed 5 times - though it seems redundant. Registrations cost £60 but may be done in batches where the rest cost £40. You can reduce this to £40/£20 if you wait a year between registering the design and publishing it.

If these laws are protections or restrictions is matter of perspective, and I consider ‘restrictions’ to be the correct term for me. I welcome suggestions for neutral terms :-)

The reason the lettershapes are restricted differently to the words we write are because they are fundementally different things. The terms of copyright vary according to different kinds of things, and many things are not subject to copyright. Usually that is because they are functional; the USA sees letter shapes as purely functional - we use them to read. Art, like a painting or a text, isn’t used to do something. In the UK, we do recognise them as somewhat artistic and thus subject to copyright, but only for 25 years.

And yes, this is talking about purely shapes, which may be expressed in ink brushed on to paper, engraved in metal, shaped in potato, as dots of ink lazered on to paper. All of those expressions are considered as the type design directly. However, when a program describes the shapes, that program is copyright, like any other program. That we create our PostScript programs with GUIs for our convenience, may fool us into thinking that they are not programs, but they are programs which output dots of ink on paper or dots of light on screens.

I should call the UK IPO Enquiries staff on 0845 9 500 505 (Note, all calls are recorded but ‘treated in the strictest confidence’) and also request the booklet ‘Applying for a Registered Community Design’ because these design rights are only scoped for the UK, and a Registered Community Design gives power across the EU.

Why Is School Compulsory?

“A right to free speech does not mean that authorities have the right to force people to use their right to free speech. Somehow, the “right to an education” has been misconstrued into the obligation of authorities to force people to utilize that right.” * Compulsory education

GNOME Joins Unicode Consortium

The excellent John Hudson wrote me,

The GNOME Foundation has just joined the Unicode Consortium. I don’t have any details — just the email I received via the unicore list — but perhaps you can find more information. It is a good move, I think, significantly increasing the open source voice within Unicode.

I agree that this is an excellent move for GNOME and Unicode! Thanks John! :-)