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09.16.14

Links 16/9/2014: Firefox OS Smartphones in Bangladesh, “Treasure Map” of the Internet

Posted in News Roundup at 7:19 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

The United Kingdom Should Dump Microsoft For the Sake of National Security

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 5:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The UK has issues of Microsoft dependency and Windows viruses; its migration to Free software and GNU/Linux is not fast enough to guard its autonomy in the age of digital imperialism

TECHRIGHTS has published dozens of articles — including some “exclusives” — about the UK and its dangerous dependence on Microsoft. The UK is a lot more dependent on Microsoft than other nations and it’s a huge problem because such dependencies facilitate spying on lawyers and journalists, not to mention politicians. Being one’s “ally” does not mean exclusion from the “targets” list, as revelations about Germany and Turkey served to show. Microsoft is as bad as one can get when it comes to privacy and it habitually colludes with the state (the United States, not Britain).

The other day a reader sent us this link about Microsoft Office spying. “Delve pulls content from within your organization’s OneDrive, SharePoint, and Yammer accounts,” says the article. The scary thing is, CTOs and CIOs in the UK are sometimes using stuff like this on the government’s Windows-running PCs, which can cost $10,000 per year (per PC) merely to maintain. Have we learned nothing from Stuxnet? Is the UK begging to be a vassal of another nation?

Dependence on Microsoft Windows also leads to virus epidemic in the UK right now. It turns out that British businesses are now struggling with a so-called ‘undetectable’ Windows virus. So much for ‘competitive advantage’, eh? To quote the Torygraph: “A Peter Pan pantomime in Bournemouth is being used as part of a sophisticated hacking attack from Eastern Europe that is targetting thousands of British businesss.

“An email claiming to be a £145 invoice for nine tickets to a performance of Peter Pan at the Bournemouth Pavilion theatre contained an attachment that if opened installs a virus onto the receipent’s computer.

“The malware, which the email claims are the tickets for the pantomime performance, captures highly sensitive personal and commericial information including passwords and is almost “undetectable” by current anti-virus software.”

It is baffling to see the London-based Canonical still feels comfortable putting GNU/Linux under/alongside a surveillance platform. As one Microsoft-friendly article put it: “Ubuntu’s popularity with the OpenStack crowd can’t be lost on Microsoft, and Microsoft has learned that it must play nicely with Linux in its virtualization and cloud product lines. Now, Canonical has reported that it has completed work with Microsoft on tools for Windows Server to run on top of OpenStack and Ubuntu.”

This is unwise because putting Windows in the stack is the same as granting the NSA access to the stack. Microsoft should in principle be purged, along with its software. The company has already proven that it is the best friend of illegal surveillance, espionage, political sabotage and other shenanigans. How much evidence need one see before it becomes crystal clear that Microsoft has no place in the public sector, except perhaps in the United States?

CBS Hires Even More Microsoft Staff to Cover Microsoft Matters

Posted in Deception, Marketing, Microsoft at 5:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: CBS continues to be infested with Microsoft staff past and present (this time Dave Johnson) and the bias in output is quite revealing

PROPAGANDA giant CBS (notoriously selling to the public wars of conquest and mass surveillance) has been a target of our criticism also because it hires people who have worked or are still working for Microsoft to cover Microsoft positively and slam Microsoft’s competition. It’s not news, it’s advertising or agenda, if not propaganda.

Microsoft boosters are everywhere at CBS, with several in CNET and several in ZDNet; some are still Microsoft employees, not former employees. They are attacking Microsoft rivals and planting PR for Microsoft. Later on when they chat to me in Twitter they still pretend to be “objective”. They don’t say much; they just know they got caught in a conflict of interest.

Anyway, CBS has apparently just hired yet another (there are many more) “former” Softer to put Microsoft puff pieces disguised as articles. This guy, Dave Johnson, works neither in CNET nor ZDNet (CBS-owned) but more directly writes for CBS sites. There are quite a few articles like this one and it’s an epidemic that ought to raise concerns and draw criticism. Watch his stream of Microsoft propaganda (even vapourware at the moment).

Meanwhile it’s reported that Microsoft paid almost half a billion dollars for NFL to pretend to endorse Microsoft (advertisement disguised as recommendation), but even this has not worked like Microsoft hoped. As TechDirt (among other publications) put it, “Marketing Failure: Microsoft Pays NFL To Use Its Surface Tablets — And People Still Call Them ‘iPad-Like Tools’”:

Over at The Verge, Vlad Savov has an amusing post about how NFL announcers this weekend referred to the sideline tablets that players are using as “iPad-like tools.” Microsoft Surface tablets are being allowed on the sidelines as part of a $400 million deal between Microsoft and the NFL. And Microsoft is promoting the Surface as “the official tablet of the NFL.” And, in the end, all anyone remembers is that it’s an “iPad-like tool.” I wonder if the guy who signed that deal for Microsoft has lined up a new job yet…

There have been quite a few articles like this one.

Embedded advertisements or fake endorsements are only some of the tools in Microsoft’s arsenal of AstroTurfing tools, used by proxy much of the time. But again, what CBS is doing is much worse than most. It’s corrupt means of providing what CBS pretends to be “news”.

CBS is not news; neither in politics nor in technology. It needs to be shunned. It’s corporate press, not news.

Microsoft Has Just Killed Minecraft for GNU/Linux and the Possibility of Free/Open Source Releases

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft at 4:50 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Persson sells out to Microsoft and lets the abusive monopolist destroy the popular cross-platform game that a community has been built around

Microsoft likes buying companies just to kill their GNU/Linux versions (unless a program spies on the users, like Skype does). We have given many examples over the years. Minecraft seems to be no exception.

Some days ago it became quite apparent [1, 2] that Minecraft was on its deathbed. As OpenSource.com put it: “A lot of very big, very reputable sources are claiming that Microsoft is acquiring Mojang, the makers of the astoundingly popular sandbox game Minecraft, and that the deal could be finalized as early as next week.”

Watch this appalling hogwash. “Spinning Microsoft continued destruction of the industry as only “not cool” rather than the malice it is,” told us one of our readers. “Notch’s objections to Vista8 might be partially behind the discussed takeover.”

“Passionate Players Fear Acquisition of Upstart Videogame Maker Will Destroy Its Indie Spirit” says the summary. Here is another article from the same publication. It shows the times “When Minecraft Founder Markus Persson Blasted Microsoft”.

Despite all this, Markus Persson sold out. Minecraft will probably never release GNU/Linux versions anymore. See also this old article about “GPL Non-Compliance” in “Minecraft Plug-Ins” and this old page where Mincraft’s Persson states: “I will release the game source code as some kind of open source.”

Nonsense. Microsoft killed off this possibility. Persson threw away his principles and completely sold out. He sold out a community.

“Minecraft for Linux Conveniently Missing from Mojang-Microsoft Deal” says one article’s headline [1, 2] as “Microsoft acquires Mojang and Minecraft for $2.5 billion”. In our IRC channels Sosumi says he “never played minecraft nor I am interested in playing it” (it was always proprietary).

MinceR says that “Mojang is dead now… like terminal reality and ensemble studios” and Sosumi replies with “I’ll probably follow the same line as it did with bungie… with support dropping for non-Microsoft platforms as new releases come”

XFaCE says: “Expect an immediate rewrite to C#”

This is not “greener pastures”, it is a deathbed. But Persson enriches himself in the process.

“Microsoft asserts that it “plans” to continue distributing Minecraft across PC, Xbox, PlayStation, iOS, and Android, but obviously the game’s cross-platform future is called into question by this acquisition,” says the article above. Notice how GNU/Linux gets omitted. It is not a coincidence.

Another Reason to Boycott Intel UEFI

Posted in GNU/Linux, Hardware, Microsoft at 4:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: More anti-competitive aspects are revealed inside UEFI, which helps merginalise GNU/Linux

Boycotting Intel is not hard to justify. The company is deeply corrupt. We spent over two years explaining why its UEFI antifeatures too should face a boycott and Silviu Stahie provides yet another reason in this article about a new petition. It says: “The Intel Atom Bay Trail tablets have been out for a few months already, but none of the hardware vendors is providing 64-bit firmware builds for them, which means that you can’t install any Linux distros.”

Here’s more: “In fact, you can’t install Linux on any 32-bit UEFI PC, because the boot loader only supports 64-bit, and this is a major issue for people who really want to used their Intel Atom Bay Trail-powered devices with a Linux OS.”

The solution is quite simple; avoid Intel, potentially dodge x86 (where practically possible), and definitely avoid anything with UEFI on any kind of device. It is not only a patent trap but also means for securing Microsoft’s monopoly. In addition, it’s a potential back door for bricking computers remotely. Intel should be shamed of itself.

Quick Mention: Novell and SUSE Passed to Microsoft’s ‘Partner of the Year’, Microsoft Focus

Posted in Microsoft, Novell at 4:03 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Novell is changing hands again, and falling into the hands of even more Microsoft-friendly actors

Many GNU/Linux sites have not properly covered — if at all — the news about Microsoft’s very special partner (with a long track record) buying what’s left of Novell and SUSE after Microsoft took the patents.

Microsoft Focus, or Micro Focus, would soon be in charge of SUSE. One GNU/Linux-centric journalist said: “Micro Focus announced today its intention to acquire privately-held Attachmate in a deal valued at approximately $2.3 billion.

“The deal includes the issuance of 86.60 million shares of Micro Focus to Attachmate’s parent company, Wizard Parent LLC. Micro Focus states that the value of the granted shares is approximately $1.19 billion. Micro Focus also will take on Attachmate’s net debt of $1.17 billion.

“Micro Focus is an enterprise application modernization and testing software vendor with a long list of products in its portfolio. The company’s core products include its Visual COBOL, Enterprise Analyzer and Enterprise Developer platforms.

“Attachmate is an amalgam of multiple companies, including a namesake company that provides enterprise file share and legacy application management products, and the NetIQ business for networking application visibility software. Attachmate also owns Novell, which it acquired in a $2.2 billion deal in 2011. Following the acquisition of Novell, Attachmate spun out SUSE Linux as its own operating division.”

Oddly enough, nothing is being said about the Microsoft connection or even the mysterious sale of Novell to Attachmate via secretive proxies.

We are probably going to revisit this acquisition very soon.

Links 16/9/2014: Linux 3.17 RC5, KDE Frameworks 5.2.0

Posted in News Roundup at 3:45 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Hello World: Videos That Teach Linux To Kids

    Recently, they launched a new series, “Superusers: The Legendary GNU/Linux Show,” which stars Aramis, a gnu who bares a strange resemblance to Richard Stallman, and a penguin named Adelie. The pilot episode for this series, called “Help,” deals with the Linux command by the same name and features some clever wordplay, utilizing lyrics from the old Beatles song. This would be in keeping with the brothers’ idea of making sure their videos appeal to kids and adults alike.

  • Desktop

    • How to lobby for open source and Linux in schools

      About eight years ago, I started lobbying to bring more Linux and open source software to high schools and higher IT vocational institutions in the Netherlands and Belgium. Here’s how I did it and what you can learn from it to do the same where you live.

    • Ho Hum “9” Inaction

      Real innovation happens in FLOSS and GNU/Linux where the pace of innovation sometimes is annoyingly fast. In the last few years, FLOSS has brought us the cloud in real measure, better and faster IT generally, Android/Linux and “apps”, more distros and rearrangements of the desktop than you could ever think of shipping, and most amazing of all, growth of >100% in users at a price of $0 to end-users.

    • Linus On GNU/Linux And Computers In Education

      It is good to know that his local school used GNU/Linux and OpenOffice before they moved to that community and that his children have no real problem using GNU/Linux at school. That squares with my experience over much of northern Canada. GNU/Linux just works really well for students and teachers. It’s fast, efficient and reliable so folks can get on with teaching/learning and not fighting software. The key thing is that GNU/Linux is affordable and schools can have about twice as much IT for the same cost as with that other OS.

    • Linux Tech Support & Time Warner

      I’ve spent my time in the tech support trenches…and someone else’s time as well. Please mark my dues paid in full. I’ve worked from the script-reader doing basic trouble-shooting, up to floor supervisor and level three support. My point? Not everybody who works support at a call center is an idiot, but some certainly are…

    • Greens urge Saxony to consider open source use

      The Alliance 90 / The Greens in the parliament of the German state of Saxony are urging for a feasibility study on moving the state’s public administrations to free and open source software solutions. The political group, free software users themselves since December 2011, say that lower IT costs and advantages in IT security should drive public administrations to using free and open source software.

  • Server

    • Speed or torque? Linux desktop vs. server distros

      My post about splitting up Linux distributions along dedicated server and desktop lines has produced interesting feedback. The comments — both in public and privately via email — are all over the place.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 3.17-rc5 Kernel Released
    • Linux 3.17-rc5

      So I should probably have delayed this until Wednesday for sentimental
      reasons: that will be 23 years since I uploaded the 0.01 source tree.
      But I’m not an overly sentimental person, so screw that. I’m doing my
      normal Sunday release.

      And as I mentioned in the rc4 notes, the previous rc was pretty small,
      possibly because neither Greg nor Davem had sent in any updates that
      week. Guess what? David’s networking updates came in an hour after I
      did rc4, and sure enough Greg came in this week too, so – surprise
      surprise – rc5 isn’t as small as rc4 was.

      Oh well. It was too good to last.

      I also got a report of an *old* performance regression in the dentry
      cache (since 3.10 – positively ancient), and that in turn made me look
      around some more, and there were a few other special cases that could
      cause us to not do as well as we should. I fixed some of it, and Al
      fixed the rest. So hopefully we not only fixed the reported
      regression, but are actually doing better than we used to.

      Anyway, the size of rc5 means that I’m certainly not cutting the
      release early, which means that I will have to think about exactly
      what I will do about the next merge window. Because it looks like it
      might end up conflicting with my travel around LinuxCon EU. I haven’t
      quite decided what I’ll do – I might release 3.17 normally, but then
      just not open the merge window due to travel. Or, if there are more
      issues than I think there will be, maybe I’ll delay the 3.17 release.

      We’ll see.

      Regardless – the rc5 changes is about half drivers (networking, gpu,
      usb, input, ata..) with the rest being mostly a mix of filesystem
      updates (the aforementioned performance thing in the core vfs layer,
      but also some NFS export issues found by Al and misc other stuff),
      architecture updates (arm, parisc, s390) and core networking. And a
      smattering of other. Shortlog appended.

      In other words, things look fairly normal, even if I’d have been
      happier with rc5 being smaller. But with the bump from networking and
      drivers, I’m not going to claim that this was either unexpected or
      particularly scary. I’m hoping we’re done now, and that rc6 and rc7
      will be noticeably calmer.

      Knock wood.

      Linus

    • Torvalds says he has no strong opinions on systemd

      Linux creator Linus Torvalds is well-known for his strong opinions on many technical things. But when it comes to systemd, the init system that has caused a fair degree of angst in the Linux world, Torvalds is neutral.

    • Linus’ Systemd Indifference, PCLOS Review, and Rebecca

      Today in Linux news Linus Torvalds tells Sam Varghese that he’s Switzerland in the Systemd war as Paul Venezia is back to clarify his “split Linux in two” post and Linuxgrrl takes the community pulse. Jesse Smith reviews PCLinuxOS 2014.08. Clem has announced a change in naming protocol at the Mint project for upcoming 17.1. And finally today, Jim Zemlin talks about what it takes to be a successful Open Source project.

    • Is It Time to Cleave Linux in Two?

      The latest flareup? None other than the suggestion that Linux be split in two.

    • Graphics Stack

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • Enlightenment E19 Officially Released With Its Own Wayland Compositor

      sWhile E19 didn’t come out last week as talked about, it was released this morning! The Enlightenment E19 update is a huge upgrade over E18 or E17, especially if you’re an early Wayland adopter.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Snippets in Kate 5

        Recently I spent some time to port and clean up the Snippets plugin and the underlying template interface for Kate 5. It’s now fully working again and more powerful than ever. The template code was originally written by Joseph Wenniger and most of what I show here is still working like originally implemented by him. Still, there were some improvements I would like to show; also, I’m sure many readers might not be aware of this great feature at all.

      • KDE Frameworks 5.2.0 Officialy Released
      • Running KDE Plasma 5 on Kubuntu 14.04, Kubuntu 14.10 and Linux Mint 17 KDE

        KDE Plasma 5 is a completely new desktop experience for KDE users. built using Qt 5 and Frameworks 5 and it introduces an updated artwork concept with cleaner visuals and improved readability, called Breeze, along with improved high DPI support and a converged shell, as well as a fully hardware accelerated graphics stack.

    • Distributions

      • New Releases

        • Black Lab Linux 6.0 Beta 1 Is Now Based on a Heavily Modified GNOME 3 Desktop – Gallery

          Black Lab Linux 6.0 Beta 1, a distribution based on Ubuntu 14.04 LTS, is out and users can now download and test it.

          Black Lab Linux was initially released to provide a real alternative to Windows and Mac OS X systems, but as time passed, the developer switched this approach to one focused more on open source design. Gone are the days of dreary desktops with all-too-known designs. We are now entering the GNOME world and it looks like it’s hit the spot.

        • 4MLinux Multiboot Edition 10.0 Beta Lets Users Install Latest Ubuntu and Fedora over Network

          4MLinux Multiboot Edition 10.0 Beta, a mini Linux distribution that is focused on the 4Ms of computing, Maintenance (system rescue Live CD), Multimedia (e.g., playing video DVDs), Miniserver (using the inetd daemon), and Mystery (Linux games), has been released and is now ready for testing.

      • Red Hat Family

        • Second Xfce 4.10 “plugins” COPR repo for Enterprise Linux 7

          I have setup a COPR repository for Xfce 4.10 plugins that can be installed with EL-7. The original Xfce 4.10 repo for EL – 7 (xfce410_epel7) contains the core xfce packages. The new repo contains only plugins. I made a second repo just for organizational sake.

        • Fedora

          • Better font support in LibreOffice on Fedora

            Fedora and LibreOffice developer Caolán McNamara recently blogged about some fonts (specifically some fonts for OSX) not showing up in the font chooser in LibreOffice on Linux. It turns out is was an issue with the way some fonts encode their names, and LibreOffice was not showing these thinking it was an error. Bottom line is that the issue is fixed, and the fix will be seen in Fedora in the future, resulting in better font support in LibreOffice — which is always a good thing!

      • Debian Family

    • Devices/Embedded

      • Intel’s Edison Brings Yocto Linux to Wearables

        Linux-based platforms for wearables include Android Wear, Samsung’s Tizen SDK for Wearables, and now Intel’s Yocto Linux and Intel Atom-based Edison computing module. The Edison was released last week in conjunction with the Intel Developer Forum. Prior to the formal launch, some 70 Intel Edison beta units have been seeded, forming the basis for about 40 Edison-based projects, says Intel.

      • Phones

        • Android

          • Google reveals the first ultra-cheap Android One smartphones

            Google has unveiled the first smartphones to run on its Android One platform, a standard designed to help push affordable smartphones in the developing world. The initiative kicks off in India, where Micromax, Spice, and Karbonn are all selling phones with 4.5-inch screens, 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel main and 2-megapixel front cameras, 1.3GHz quad-core MediaTek processors, dual-SIM slots, microSD expandable storage, and FM radios.

          • With Android One, Google puts itself firmly back in the OS’ driving seat

            Under Android One, Google has developed its reference hardware designs — meaning OEMs no longer have to develop and test their own smartphones; they just pick up Google’s ready-to-wear versions and get manufacturing. Google already has three local Indian smartphone makers signed up to do just that — Karbonn, Spice, and Micromax — all soon be be selling Google-designed, Android One-powered devices for around $100.

Free Software/Open Source

  • The True Measure of a Successful Open Source Project

    A question I get a lot is, “What makes an open source software project successful?” This isn’t a simple question, as every project is really different. But certainly there are some common characteristics: a vibrant and open community and ecosystem of contributors, an innovative goal or technology and investments from a diverse set of stakeholders are just a few.

    Business benchmarks and market share help measure the success of a project over time. A blockbuster like Linux can tout nine code changes per hour, $10.8 billion in shared R&D investment and millions of developers. It runs 65 percent of smart mobile devices, 95 percent of high performance computing market, 55 percent of the embedded systems market, and most of world’s stock exchanges.

  • Open source all the tasks

    During the rise of Windows, I was using a desktop composed of a Conectiva Linux (now Mandriva), a window manager called Window Maker, and a Netscape browser. I connected to the Internet using my modem and PPP. Not bad for those who like alternatives. It so happens that at that time the maturity of the software we were using freely and openly was questionable. Furthermore, we didn’t have a lot of options when it came to the tools we used to perform our daily tasks.

    Recently, I was invited to talk at the Firebird Developers Day about Firebird. Firebird is a completely mature open source database management system and is used by companies worldwide. My presentation was about the launch of the FireServer Project, previously covered on Opensource.com: Migration to open source tool inspires new Linux distributiont. It’s a Linux distribution based on CentOS and dedicated exclusively to providing a high performance environment to a Firebird database server. It also boasts an ecosystem of value-added services.

  • An Alliance of Major Players to Guide Open-Source Software

    Representatives of Facebook on Monday announced the formation of a group, the TODO Project, intended to streamline the way open-source software projects, a big part of cloud and mobile computing, are executed. This may include such things as best practices for updating open-source software, ways of securing legal compliance, or tools and habits for making software that is freely available to anyone.

    Open source is a popular approach to software, in which anyone can contribute to and use the code. Formal approval of changes comes from agreed-upon authorities who speak for the group. It is considered a good way to build software with fewer bugs, and such software makes up much of the world’s mobile and computer server operating systems, as well as many other applications.

  • Open-source project promises easy-to-use encryption for email, instant messaging and more

    Called “Pretty Easy Privacy” (PEP), the project’s goal is to integrate the technology with existing communication tools on different desktop and mobile platforms. The development team launched a preview PEP implementation Monday for the Microsoft Outlook email client, but plans to build similar products to encrypt communications in Android, iOS, Firefox OS, Thunderbird, Apple Mail, Jabber, IRC (Internet Relay Chat), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and Twitter.

  • Events

    • Learn more about free and open source software at Software Freedom Day 2014

      The days of free and open source software being something that only pasty white guys living in their moms’ basements cared about are long gone. Today, the FOSS movement is absolutely huge, with even big companies buying into the concept thanks to the cost savings and beneficial functionality offered by increasingly competitive and polished FOSS options.

    • Samsung to host first open-source conference

      South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. said Monday it will hold a two-day conference on open-source to allow developers to share ideas on the new industrial trend.

    • Samsung Open Source Group’s Linux Kernel Updates and More from LinuxCon

      This year’s LinuxCon & Kernel Summit North America were notable for several reasons, not the least of which included being able to see the scenic views of downtown Chicago through the hotel lobby windows!

      Below, the Samsung Open Source Group will share our top highlights of the conferences, as well as look forward to what we can expect from LinuxCon Europe next month in Germany.

  • Web Browsers

  • SaaS/Big Data

    • Open source datacenter computing with Apache Mesos

      Apache Mesos is a cluster manager that provides efficient resource isolation and sharing across distributed applications or frameworks. Mesos is a open source software originally developed at the University of California at Berkeley. It sits between the application layer and the operating system and makes it easier to deploy and manage applications in large-scale clustered environments more efficiently. It can run many applications on a dynamically shared pool of nodes. Prominent users of Mesos include Twitter, Airbnb, MediaCrossing, Xogito and Categorize.

    • No, Citrix did not kill CloudStack

      CloudStack’s lifeblood is its user community, so the Citrix shakeup is much ado about nothing

    • Despite Controversy, CloudStack is Alive and Healthy

      In a post last week, I took note of a big shakeup at Citrix, surrounding its cloud platform tools and the leadership behind them. Specifically, some important Citrix cloud executives (including General Manager Sameer Dholakia) left the company, and Citrix veteran Klaus Oestermann is now in charge of a newly formed cloud group. The the success of OpenStack has been cited as part of the reason for the shakeup, as Citrix officials have been questioned about touting CloudStack as far and away the most widely deployed open source platform in the cloud.

    • Google’s Cloud Platform for Startups Offers Free Tools and Funds

      When the OpenStack Foundation released the results of a broad user survey it did late last year, one of the trends that emerged was that businesses could leverage the open source cloud platform on top of operating systems like Ubuntu and incur nearly no costs for the actual software infrastructure that runs applications. Cloud computing is reducing the cost of doing business for many organizations, especially many startups.

      With that last thought in mind, Google is delivering a package to help startup businesses launch their business with free Google Cloud Platform services. Qualifying startups are to get a $100,000 credit for Google Cloud Platform services, in addition to 24/7 support from the company’s technical solutions team.

    • New features for OpenStack networking, web dashboard improvements, and more
    • HP-Eucalyptus: Buying an edge in a busy, complex market

      HP’s move to acquire Eucalpytus (see HP buys Eucalyptus, puts Marten Mickos in charge of cloud unit by my colleague Larry Dignan) is the latest example of asupplier trying to be a part of every industry party.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

    • Austrian gov computing centre lauds OpenOffice

      Austria’s Bundesrechenzentrum, the federal government-owned computing centre praises the wide range of application uses of Apache OpenOffice, a free and open source suite of office productivity tools. The solution can be adapted to the data centre’s needs, integrated in its specialist applications and also allows document to be created and submitted automatically and semi-automatically. OpenOffice is the standard office suite at the computing centre since 2008, installed on 12000 PCs across the organisation.

  • CMS

    • Acquia to deliver government’s cloud-hosted, open source CMS

      Boston-headquartered Drupal services company Acquia will deliver the federal government’s govCMS project.

      The project to create a standard content management system for federal government agencies was announced in May.

    • WordPress Resets 100,000 Passwords After Google Account Leak

      Late evening on Sept. 12, WordPress revealed that it was taking proactive measures to secure its WordPress.com users against the Google account disclosure. WordPress has an open-source content management system (CMS) as well an online service at WordPress.com, where users can create their own blogs. WordPress.com accounts can also be used by self-hosted open-source WordPress users to get a number of services from WordPress.com.

    • How Matt’s Machine Works

      And that is how Mullenweg, creator of WordPress, founder of Automattic, and chairman of The WordPress Foundation, runs 22% of the Internet.

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Data

      • 5 great apps backed with open data

        Data.gov has taken open source to heart. Beyond just providing open data and open source code, the entire process involves open civic engagement. All team ideas, public interactions, and new ideas (from any interaction) are cross-posted and entered in Github. These are tracked openly and completed to milestones for full transparency. We also recently redesigned the website at Data.gov through usability testing and open engagement on Github.

  • Programming

    • Pyston 0.2 Is A Heck Of A Lot Better At Running Python Programs

      Earlier this year cloud storage provider Dropbox open-sourced their own high-performance Python implementation, Pyston. Pyston is a JIT-based Python implementation built atop the LLVM compiler stack. The initial Pyston release was a bit basic but now after months of work, Dropbox is announcing the second version of Pyston.

    • CppCon Wrapped Up & There Was A Lot For C++ Developers

      CppCon ended last week as the annual meeting for any and all C++ developers. CppCon is filled with many interesting talks and the conference overall received rave reviews from C++ developers. While we weren’t in attendance at the event, there’s interesting notes and slides coming out from those in attendance.

    • Git: A Tool for Learning Puppet

      If you have worked through this tutorial series so far, you’ll recall that we’re teaching your cat how to use just enough of the open source tools needed to make it through Puppet Fundamentals. We installed the Learning VM (virtual machine) in our intro, learned some important command line commands, and learned how to edit a document in vim. This blog post — the final one in our series — is about how to use Git. Once you finish this tutorial, you’ll have all the basic learning you need to start learning Puppet on your own, or by taking one of our training courses. (You’ll find all these resources in the Learning section of our site.)

  • Standards/Consortia

    • OpenForum Europe Challenges Governments to Walk the Open Format Walk

      OpenForum Europe, an advocacy group focusing on IT openness in government, issued a press release earlier today announcing its launch of a new public Internet portal. At that site, anyone can report a government page that offers a document intended for collaborative use for downloading if that document is not available in an OpenDocument Format (ODF) compliant version. The portal is called FixMyDocuments.eu, and you can show your support for the initiative (as I have) by adding your name here (the first supporter listed is the EU’s indominatable digital champion, Neelie Kroes).

      The announcement coincides with the beginning of another initiative, Global Legislative Openness Week, which will involve global activities annd “events hosted by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and members of the parliamentary openness community.” A full calendar of events is here.

Leftovers

  • Huawei opens R&D facility in France

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09.15.14

Željko Topić, Benoît Battistelli, and the European Patent Office (EPO): Part II

Posted in Patents at 5:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

“Staff at the European Patent Office went on strike accusing the organization of corruption: specifically, stretching the standards for patents in order to make more money.

“One of the ways that the EPO has done this is by issuing software patents in defiance of the treaty that set it up.”

Richard Stallman amid EPO protest

Summary: Part II of our look into the EPO appointment of Željko Topić and other matters showing the dubious integrity of the EPO

FOLLOWING part I of our coverage of the deeply corrupt EPO we received an overwhelming amount of mail, some confidentially and some not confidentially. People point out to us that EPO has a lot of ‘dirty laundry’ and in the coming months we’ll be eager to provide proof of that. Some of the staff of the EPO is grossly overpaid (they decide on their own salaries almost) and the management is silencing employees in various ways that we were privately told about. Hence the need for anonymity.

The following is a good translation of a recent Die Welt article. We put it below — verbatim — and thank the person who made it available to us.


Better off – brassed off

The 6800 members of staff at the European Patent Office in Munich on average earn 121,000 Euro a year, but they’re still far from happy. They call their boss “Putin”.

Tourists leaving the Deutsches Museum in Munich on the west side have a view of a building which leaves no doubt about its purpose: This has got to be the headquarters of some powerful institution. The 35-year-old wedge of glass and concrete overtops its surroundings with a stern formality. More flags flutter in front of it than any other building in the city, with a massive sculpture rotating on its own axis. This is the home of the European Patent Office. A few years ago the building was cleared of asbestos. The contaminants were removed, and the staff have been back for two years. But the atmosphere in the organisation is still poisonous.

There is a tradition here that the management of the Patent Office tends to be somewhat at loggerheads with the self-aware and self-confident patent examiners, but this disparity has recently entered a new dimension altogether. The President and the staff have fallen out beyond hope of salvation – but they’re still going to have to live together for years to come. It’s not an edifying spectacle, so shortly before the planned introduction of the European Patent. The Unified Patent means that the Office is set to become even more important after 2016. The EPO, as it’s also known, is already one of the most important patent offices in the world. It is a bulwark that stands as a symbol of the strength of innovation of European companies. So how can such an organisation be tearing itself apart like this? The answer to this question must start with the President of the organisation. Benoît Battistelli hardly misses an opportunity to upset his staff. The 64-year-old has been heading up the Patent Office for four years. He comes from the best Parisian civil service tradition, as an alumnus of the École nationale d’administration (Ena), the nursery for executives, and he was mayor of the Paris suburb of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, from where Louis XIV also came. Battistelli has the aura of gravitas of a leading civil servant of France, and radiates it from every pore.

He never loses his verve. He can dismiss the sagging morale of his subordinates with a friendly smile. “How is anyone supposed to reform a system which well-paid people have become accustomed to all their lives?”, he recently asked a small gathering. In the staff journal “Gazette” he complains about “systematic opposition” directed against him. These are words which no management seminar ever teaches. Which no manager would ever utter if he wanted to gather his team behind him and motivate them. They are the words of a man who has decided that there is no future in trying to win a popularity contest among the employees any longer. A man who has a skin thick enough to weather out even storms like these.

The dispute is weighing down one of the most successful organisations in Europe. An organisation which was already functioning well when other European bodies in Brussels and Strasbourg were still trying to justify their existence. The European Patent Office has its roots in 1973, when more than 20 states decided in Munich to back the introduction of a European patent procedure. The European Patent Organisation was established four years after that, and today the European Patent Convention comprises 38 nations, among them eleven states which do not belong to the EU. The European Patent Office is one of the most powerful patent organisations in the world. When it comes to the number of applications, the EPO ranks fifth among the world’s largest patent offices; and it is highly commended for presenting the highest quality of patents, which means applying particularly tough examination.

The staff are the assets of the organisation. More than 6800 people work here, and two-thirds of them are highly sought-after and highly-specialised patent examiners. Some of them are regarded as leaders in their field. They are able to assess whether inventions really are new and really worthy of protection. They deal with major corporations and their powerful patent attorneys, and they go head to head with them.

And they get extremely well paid for doing so. In a current offer for a position, the authority offered an “attractive salary” of 4200 to 8000 Euro – and bear in mind, that’s net. A look at the social report discloses that last year the Office paid out 821 million Euro in salaries and supplements. Converted to staff members, this gives average earnings of 121,000 Euro. Word has it that some employees are getting more than the heads of state of their home countries. Someone who lands a job with the Patent Office is home and dry. If the life partner isn’t working, there’s money for the housekeeping. Even Germans are granted expatriate supplements if they have worked abroad for two years before taking up the position. The EPO spends 20 million Euro on financing an international school. Added to this are the perks of the job: “Basically, you fly Business Class”, as they say.

These are conditions which colleagues in the German Patent and Trademark Office can only dream of. The German examiners work in a neighbouring listed building, which was originally designed as a hospital. As a result, most of the offices come provided with a washbasin. But that’s about the only convenience in comparison with the mighty European patent authority next door.

The examiners here do exactly the same work as their European colleagues, but they earn a lot less. An examiner at the German Patent and Trademark Office receives between 3200 and 4250 Euro net per month. “If I had the chance, I’d work for the EPO like a shot”, complains one member of staff. Most of them fall down when it comes to knowledge of languages. English, German, and French are mandatory. Fluently.

And as well as that, the pressure of work is rising steadily. President Battistelli has set himself the goal of streamlining the authority to absolute efficiency. “Our aim is to be the best patent office in the world”, says Battistelli. “I don’t know whether we already are the best. But I know for sure that we’re the most expensive.” At the German Patent Office, it costs about 640 Euro for a patent to be issued, while at the European Patent Office it is said to be ten times as much, or so the German Patent and Trademark Office has calculated. More efficiency is needed, because there are financial risks involved. The authority does not receive any allocations, and has to live from what it earns itself. And there are doubts as to whether that will be enough in the long term to meet the growing pension obligations. After 35 years, an employee is looking at a pension in the amount of 70 percent of his old salary. The in-house experts have been ringing alarm bells: By 2023 at the latest, it will be necessary to start tapping the reserves, currently at 5.7 billion Euro. A new study is now being commissioned.

Battistelli has set out a plan for the future which is based on five fundamentals. One of these involves the personnel, who are in any scenario responsible for the really significant part of the costs. And that is bringing him massively in conflict with the powerful trade union Suepo. The Patent Office has been afflicted by strikes on a regular basis for many years. Battistelli harbours serious doubts as to whether the strikes are always based solely on matters of labour rights. The view is that it has often been nothing more than having a long weekend. So Battistelli has curtailed the right to strike. Personnel can only down tools if really compelling grounds pertain. And what those are, is his decision. He has also taken it upon himself to see that the elections for staff representatives are reorganized. He has introduced a system of vote-counting which is alleged to be aimed at suppressing the presence of the union Suepo on the employees’ council, an aim which was thoroughly thwarted at the elections in June. He has also taken up the cudgels against the high absenteeism due to illness. He has been pushing for employees who are off sick to be subject to visits by doctors unannounced, between 10.00 and 12.00 and also between 14.00 and 16.00, just to check up on them.

This doesn’t sound too bad, especially given that German civil servants actually have no right to strike at all. But it has led to unrest at the EPO. The atmosphere has now become so poisonous that anything Battistelli does almost necessarily leads to conflict. Some people like to refer to him as “dictator”. Or the “Sun King”. Or “Putin”.

These are different cultures, and they’re clashing. On one side, there’s Battistelli, who is used to a centralistic leadership culture from France, with the emphasis on obedience and reverence for authority. On the other, there are the self-aware and self-confident examiners, who work in small self-contained teams, and whose technical expertise no-one, repeat no-one, can challenge.

Just how far the mistrust extends rapidly becomes clear when you talk to employees of the Office. No-one says anything over a landline. If the issues are discussed at all, then it’s on the mobile while taking a walk along the River Isar or in a café. No-one puts it past the French President to spy on his own employees.

The oppressed staff act as if they are living under a dictatorship. Now that a ban has been introduced on sending a collective e-mail to more than 50 people, e-mails are simply forwarded. When the European Inventor’s Prize was awarded in Berlin in mid-June, someone actually engaged a lawyer who distributed leaflets in which the management culture at the EPO was denounced radically.

As far as Battistelli is concerned, it is only a minority of the employees who are yelling for rebellion. A small group of perpetual agitators, who want to cling on to their privileges. But that doesn’t quite ring true. Going by the most recent votes, the staff were still pushing for strikes. And when the Office celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Patent Convention in a big way last year, official sources indicate that 600 people staged a demonstration. The question is how Battistelli can react to the dismal mood. “He’s a skilled politician”, says someone who has been following the situation closely. Word is that he can rely on the French government covering his back. And, above all, he can rely on his back being covered by the smaller states, who depend a great deal, in a great many ways, on the European Patent Office being a success. The Administrative Council, on which Germany, like all other states, has only one vote, has this summer already extended Battistelli’s employment contract, actually scheduled to expire in 2015, to the year 2018.

The Federal German government is watching the situation in Munich carefully. “The reforms are necessary and in part overdue” is the word from the Federal Ministry of Justice. Despite this, there are still qualms about the social tranquillity at the Office. It appears that most recently both the President as well as the staff representatives have been called upon “not to break off the channels of discussion, and in future to strive more vigorously to seek mutually acceptable solutions”. So far, the call has not been so well received.


Our sources also have evidence which suggests long-standing connections between Topić, the EPO President Battistelli, and the Chairman of the EPO Administrative Council, Mr. Jesper Kongstad (Danish PTO). We were presented with a letter in which Kongstad is approached with the aim of investigating this. We cannot comment on this or reveal the documents until a few weeks from now as this might interfere with diplomatic efforts to address the matter.

Our sources believe that Battistelli and Kongstad are colluding to prevent any independent investigation into the matter of Topić’s appointment.

In the coming weeks are are going to share more documents and if documentation is required to defend our point, we do have possession of it.

“It is not the policy of the EPO to require or examine source codes […]. Moreover, given the length and complexity of source code listings, which can often stretch to hundreds of pages, it would be quite impossible to examine them.” —European Patent Office brochure

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