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Comment: Open Patents (Score 1) 96

by Mark Shewmaker (#36687208) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Open Patent Licenses?

The idea behind the Open Patent License is for owners of patents (and non-patent IP that still ends up behaving like patents from a practical real-world extent--amazing how that actually happens) to be able to license them in a copyleft-type manner, ideally handling more than just the software patent situation.

The goal is for all players to be able to participate in a growing patent pool and have open and free access to this pool under copyleft-type conditions, whether they're small players or larger players.

Don't be thrown by the badly-worded license--I had it as a starting-point for discussion/work, getting ideas out there, and ended up having a few lawyers come out of the woodwork, offer to help, then realize it was a bigger project than they had expected. After a number of rounds of that I ended up putting the project on the back burner, as you can see. I need to get it more active again. Anyone who is interested in contributing in any sense, please contact me.

Also, I've since realized that a far, FAR, shorter license probably makes sense. A structure of something similar to Google's license from their CLA for instance, or Redhat's patent promise, made a bit more generic and made to cover patent-like IP, is probably a better idea, and I am planning to re-start the license wording along those lines.

I will happily accept help from anyone who is interested.

Comment: Re:Don't pay the fee (Score 1) 319

by Mark Shewmaker (#30500424) Attached to: Verizon Defends Doubling of Early Termination Fee

You could have a totally free market, in which independent organizations certify particular restaurants as "safe", but then the customers would have to constantly be checking those certifications.

In the US state where I live, that's what we have with government regulations, and I suspect that's what we would privately develop without them.

It's not at all a big deal, and it's actually pretty cool.

Health inspectors come at random times to each restaurant, and the restaurants are required to PUBLICLY POST THEIR REPORTS in the restaurant itself.

The result is that people read these reports, really! Folks shy away from going to restaurants with lower scores, and the fact that a place has a high score is something that will invariably come up in conversations. It's not some goofy thing that only a few people do, it's something that people notice and then talk about if the score is particularly high or low.

(Just a few days ago I went back to a place for the first time in a year since they got a bad score--82, a score which of course included written notes on all the problems found. Now their score is 100, which is really unusual, and I won't be hesitant to go back for cleanliness reasons. These scores make a real difference in people's behavior.)

I know that in some US states that these reports aren't published the same way, so people can't make decisions on whether to eat somewhere based on the problems found in the previous inspection.

Given that the existence of government testing will in practical terms preclude the development of private testing in most areas, if you don't have real-world transparency in the testing process that the state government provides/enforces, then people will just become used to the fact that the information isn't there, and possibly just assume that it's too much information for individuals to keep up with or even pay attention to anyway.

But if you're used to seeing these results, it's a natural thing to look for the posted health report. It's as natural a thing as to look for as credit card logos, or noting whether this is a place where you pay your bill at a cashier up front versus paying at the table. You really just do it and don't think much of it.

Well, unless you're writing a reply to a slashdot comment. :-)

For a different industry, look at the history of Underwriter's Laboratories. Before their existence, there were neither private nor governmental regulations on the safety of electrical devices. Since unsafe devices were being sold and causing homes and businesses to burn, insurance companies that bore the brunt of the financial side of the resulting losses got together to make their own private testing agency, and arranged their policies to encourage the use of only UL-tested and certified electrical devices.

The market was allowed to work in that case, in that it was allowed to develop private certification agencies that people and companies do pay attention to. While technically it's possible to buy and sell non-UL tested devices even today, for the most part you'll not find them in stores as stores won't sell them as a mass-market item at all, and if you did buy such a product you'd have insurance problems if/when they caused a fire, and you'd probably have liability problems if you actually used them in a business. You'd pretty much have to go out of your way to purchase something like this today, meaning that you'd be doing so only if you had a real reason to, (maybe you're stripping the device for parts, or comparing something between multiple devices of the same type, working on things in your own electronics lab and the like.)

In any event, government fortunately happened not to try to develop it's own system of electronic safety certification that would preempt the development of private certification, so we have a working private system that can pay attention to the actual real safety issues, and get less bogged down in politics.

Of course, their are real costs of both systems, and nothing will ever be completely perfect. (For instance, in the UL case, one of the reasons you have all these wall warts is that they are separately certified, and it's easier for electronic manufacturers to use some standard part that's more tested as opposed to integrating that into, say an xbox directly, and then needing to pay and wait for the full thing to be tested and shown to meet all the requirements of having everything integrated together.)

But at least a private system can develop based on a negative feedback loop based on actual economics of safety issues, (ie, companies will lose money and go out of business as unsafe products are used, and this process will happen whether it's an election year or not, and whether there's public fanfare about some problem or not.)

I would prefer that these sorts of things develop privately, and be allowed to develop privately, and I don't think that this really requires the end consumers to be all-knowing PhD-holders in every field. :)

Comment: Use pinfo to read info pages (Score 2, Informative) 815

by Mark Shewmaker (#29793727) Attached to: PulseAudio Creator Responds To Critics

Ah, documentation. On linux, most entries in the online reference manual (`man pages') send you off to *censored* info requiring a *censored* "info viewer" that expects you to know emacs and two to one will give you the manpage again only this time you need *censored* emacs contortions to get out of dodge.

Use "pinfo" to read info pages: apt-get install pinfo

pinfo is the opposite of "info" in almost every respect:

  1. It's simple to use. No contortions necessary. (Use arrow keys and "q").
  2. Color highlighting makes the info pages easy on the eyes.
  3. Arrow-up and arrow-down moves you between highlighted and very visible info-hyperlinks within the document, without the need to visually hunt for special "::"-delimited links.

And as a bonus, you can use it to read man pages too:

  1. If there's no info page, it will show you the man page instead.
  2. If you want to read a specific man page when there is already an info page, use syntax such as "pinfo -m 2 mount" versus "pinfo -m 8 mount" to read the section 2 versus section 8 man page. (This is nice if you want to pretend you're in lynx and select one man page from within another, or select a web page from within a man page.)

Programmers do it bit by bit.