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Comment: A sort-of correction conducing to the same (Score 1) 524

by jbn-o (#48375801) Attached to: Microsoft To Open Source<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.NET and Take It Cross-Platform

A sort-of correction that reaches the same conclusion: End Software Patents (ESP) speculates that "the 2012 'in re Spansion' case in the USA and the judge ruled that a promise is the same as a licence". And since ESP mentions that Microsoft's Patent Promise has serious problems restricting its promise to those who don't add covered code to another project or those who produce something other than a "compliant implementation" of .NET, it seems that Microsoft patent promise has enough problems that it's still wise to not build dependencies on .NET (as the FSF warned).

Comment: Beware: MS no-sue promise can turn on you (Score 1) 524

by jbn-o (#48374411) Attached to: Microsoft To Open Source<nobr> <wbr></nobr>.NET and Take It Cross-Platform

Mono developer Miguel de Icaza has pledged to continue to add Microsoft's code to Mono saying "Like we did in the past with .NET code that Microsoft open sourced, and like we did with Roslyn, we are going to be integrating this code into Mono and Xamarin's products".

But is that wise? To your point, the Free Software Foundation's reaction to Microsoft's similar 2009 action point to exactly how changing ownership of patents render Microsoft's Patent Promise not to sue useless. This very promise could become the basis for a patent trap. In 2009 Microsoft's promise not to sue was called a "Community Promise" but today's .NET promise not to sue is risky in the same way—it's not (as the FSF rightly puts it) "an irrevocable patent license for all of its patents that Mono actually exercises" and neither is the MIT license Microsoft chose to release their code under.

Looking back at that essay from 2009, we see the FSF warn us (emphasis mine):

The Community Promise does not give you any rights to exercise the patented claims. It only says that Microsoft will not sue you over claims in patents that it owns or controls. If Microsoft sells one of those patents, there's nothing stopping the buyer from suing everyone who uses the software.

Falling into this trap will directly adversely affect your ability to run, share, and modify covered software. The FSF points to a practical way out as well:

The Solution: A Comprehensive Patent License

If Microsoft genuinely wants to reassure free software users that it does not intend to sue them for using Mono, it should grant the public an irrevocable patent license for all of its patents that Mono actually exercises. That would neatly avoid all of the existing problems with the Community Promise: it's broad enough in scope that we don't have to figure out what's covered by the specification or strictly necessary to implement it. And it would still be in force even if Microsoft sold the patents.

This isn't an unreasonable request, either. GPLv3 requires distributors to provide a similar license when they convey modified versions of covered software, and plenty of companies large and small have had no problem doing that. Certainly one with Microsoft's resources should be able to manage this, too. If they're unsure how to go about it, they should get in touch with us; we'd be happy to work with them to make sure it's satisfactory.

Until that happens, free software developers still should not write software that depends on Mono. C# implementations can still be attacked by Microsoft's patents: the Community Promise is designed to give the company several outs if it wants them. We don't want to see developers' hard work lost to the community if we lose the ability to use Mono, and until we eliminate software patents altogether, using another language is the best way to prevent that from happening.

I find it no accident that the built-to-be-business-friendly "open source" language is all over this announcement including the aforementioned blog post from a prominent endorser, while the wise warnings of falling into a patent trap come from the FSF who consistently looks out for all computer user's software freedoms—software freedom being the very thing that "open source" was designed never to bring to mind (see source 1, source 2 for the history and rationale on this point).

Comment: Why getting paid anonymously is better (Score 1) 144

by ciaran_o_riordan (#47670507) Attached to: Telegram Not Dead STOP Alive, Evolving In Japan STOP

All bank notes have a unique identifying number, so receiving banknotes without them being linked to you means you can be more sure that you're free to do whatever you like with that money (join a gay dating site, pay for health tests, donate to activist groups, etc.) without someone having a record linking you to your purchases.

It also cuts out the banks, who can be controlled by corrupt governments (i.e. all of them, to varying degrees) who can get your accounts frozen, even when doing so is illegal. Just ask Julian Assange. Sometimes private businesses (e.g. PayPal) can do this too.

Comment: Re:Quit whaling on Jimmy (Score 1) 113

by ciaran_o_riordan (#47662809) Attached to: Wikipedia Gets Critical Reception from UK Press at Wikimania 2014

> you are frustrated by the negative tone, the airing of "dirty laundry," etc.

On the contrary. I'm disappointed that the blogger ignored the dirtier laundry and instead focussed on the attention grabbing stuff like monkey selfies.

He indeed proposes solutions, but he doesn't mention that similar things have been in discussion for years and there are known problems with these proposals.

That's what I call disingenuous. The author seems informed about Wikipedia, so he should know that his missing the target and spreading out of date ideas.

Comment: Re:Quit whaling on Jimmy (Score 1) 113

(Thanks for the friendly reply, quite disarming, sorry I was a bit abrasive.)

The monkey-selfie story is a red flag for me because it's a honeypot for zero-effort journalists. The headlines come already half-written. It does have to get solved, but there are loads of other issues that are at least as important but are getting no attention from journalists because they'd take more work.

The proposed (and rejected) use of patented video formats is a much bigger story but it has no buzzwords and what picture are they going to show under the headline? Or, I'd be delighted to see an article ridiculing the quality of the articles about football/soccer players, which are written event-by-event by fans of that player and rarely given a top-down coherency review or any critical review at all. But that would also take time to research.

The blog entry's coverage of transparency/anonymity is also poor. Only one side is presented, and it's presented like it were an issue that WF has not yet tried to address. The truth is that it's been discussed to death and the blog entry's suggestions are mostly impossible. Some people need to be anonymous, and WF couldn't check everyone's identity even if there was consensus for it.

It's clear the author of that blog entry knows Wikipedia, so it's hard to imagine that he's unaware of the state of he anonymity debate, or that there are strong arguments for anonymity. So that's another red flag for disingenuous writing.

The suggestions regarding biographies of living persons too. The debate is much more advanced than what is presented in the blog entry, and it seems strange that the blog author doesn't know this.

(I haven't read reviews of Wikimania2014. I didn't even know it took place. The Wikimania conferences are a non-event for 99% of Wikipedia editors. That might explain lack of coverage in non-UK press.)

Comment: Re:Quit whaling on Jimmy (Score 2) 113

I'm interested in those problems. I'm just not interested in being informed by a ranter who's selective coverage indicates that he has an agenda other than simply providing an overview of the issues in question. That sort of person might disingenuously provide out of date info, or leave out key facts.

He makes out like Wikipedia is screwing the world, and that contradicts my observations that Wikipedia is massively making the world a better place to live in. If someone tells me the sky is usually green, that person better impress me quickly before I stop listening.

> you've failed to admit that you're a hardcore Wikipedian yourself

Oh no! You've uncovered my secret which I mention on my homepage, which I often mention on slashdot, and which was surely obvious from the context. I've added it to my Slashdot bio too now. (I have 14,000+ edits spanning ten+ years)

Comment: Re:Quit whaling on Jimmy (Score 2) 113

> the author also talks about very positive aspects of the event

Don't be distracted. He threw in a few kind words about the "sense of enjoyment" and he finishes by saying he didn't hate the conference. Surely that's not enough to make you think the author is objective?

On everything of substance the blog entry was moan, moan, moan.

I'm very interested in discussing Wikipedia's problems.* But I've no time for disingenuous rants like this one.

(* such as declining numbers of active editors, and the increasing rate at which edits are reverted by small groups of editors who think they "own" the consensus of the article, and the declining use of Talk pages, and the lack of control over bots.)

Comment: Re:Quit whaling on Jimmy (Score 1) 113

> Andreas Kolbe) is legit.

Well, this article he wrote is nonsense. I know nothing else about the guy.

He just takes every controversy and paints it as an unsolvable failure of the iron-fisted Wikimedia Foundation.

I hope he edits Wikipedia better than he writes blog entries.

Comment: Read the article, it's nonsense (Score 4, Informative) 113

The linked article is just tabloid journalism.

I wrote a comment about how the media experts were focussing on the wrong problems and how they clearly -surprisingly- knew very little about Wikipedia and its problems - BUT then I read the source article and found it's just an attack piece, cherry picking the least interesting parts of the conference and painting every controversy as being the fault of an iron-fist dictat from the Wikimedia Foundation.

What I learned: wikipediocracy is a nonsense website.

Comment: Never ethical, never private, never secure (Score 1) 164

by jbn-o (#47642071) Attached to: F-Secure: Xiaomi Smartphones Do Secretly Steal Your Data

Location data and contact/address data are sensitive yet inextricably linked to how people use trackers (also known as cell phones and other portable electronic devices). Whether the device conveys GPS coordinates, can be tracked to a remarkably small area via cell tower triangulation, or unknown (to the user) parties get the information from a proprietor (such as Apple), the privacy loss inherent in ordinary tracker operation makes it impossible to "avoid storing sensitive data on the phone".

This is no accident. When societies face the combination of nonfree software (both in OS and programs people are encouraged to install later), devices that are as close to always-on as is possible for mobile computing, and a userbase as persistently distracted away from focusing on their civil liberties as most tracker users are (no thanks to sites like /. which carry stories like these without any ethical critique to go alongside the corporate-written stockprice-sensitive spin) results like these are the outcome. Add to that the unethical ways in which trackers are made (such as Apple turning a blind eye to the environment in China or expoiting workers at Pegatron even worse than at Foxconn but Apple is certainly not alone in any of this) and you have an ugly recipe for abuse from end-to-end. Many thanks to people including Richard Stallman for compiling useful information about all of this and for his many years of warning people against nonfree software.

Comment: Proprietary power is always anti-user. (Score 0) 267

by jbn-o (#47619659) Attached to: Skype Blocks Customers Using OS-X 10.5.x and Earlier

It's news because so many people are never taught to think of software freedom. Instead sites like this one shill for Microsoft, Apple, and a weaker "open source" message that was designed to draw attention away from ethical examination of the issue. Cutting off service and not providing programs for various systems are just two of the things proprietors with the power they wield over users. Software freedom would mean letting users maintain older OSes as much as they want to, backport programs they found valuable, and run builds of modern programs as much as desired.

You're quite right to point out that Apple is no friend on these grounds. But this shouldn't be looked at in terms of business; the effect on the user is far more important. Proprietors are the same in how they treat people because the heart of any nonfree software is unethical power over someone else's use of a computer. Richard Stallman reminds us that Apple uses this same leverage to pressure users into malicious "upgrades":

Using the lever of "You have a choice, but unless you say yes, your old activities will stop working" is something that Apple has done before, with malicious "upgrades". Apple ostensibly doesn't force people to accept the new nasty thing; it just punishes them if they don't.

Nobody should be obliged to work on developing programs and nobody should have the power to prevent users from developing the software.

Comment: Yes, voters need voter-verified paper ballots (Score 1) 190

by jbn-o (#47586497) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Should I Fight Against Online Voting In Our Municipality?

Yes, you should object.

Voters can't be sure that there's any evidence of their vote entering the system accurately reflecting their vote without a voter-verified paper ballot. Electronic ballots are easily lost, misrepresented, and useless in a recount. Electronic voting doesn't improve on the problems with voter-verified paper ballots and electronic ballots introduce problems all their own. So this is an area where traditional voter-verified paper ballots are better for the voter and well worth fighting for.

Braille printed ballots are extra nice to have (the braille can co-exist with the ink print on the same voter-verified paper ballot). But voters who can't read ink printed text without braille (illiterate and blind voters, to name a couple of examples) can get help from a computer to help them prepare a voter-verified paper ballot. These voters can feed in a voter-verified paper ballot into a machine that is essentially a scanner/printer combo that prints marks on a traditional voter-verified paper ballot filling in the blanks in accordance with user input to the computer. The user can get the voter-verified paper ballot out of the machine and check out its accuracy, either submit it to be counted or spoil it to get a new voter-verified paper ballot and mark it themselves, Such voters can also bring someone they trust to help them vote but this is obviously less preferred as this means divulging one's vote to someone else.

"Never give in. Never give in. Never. Never. Never." -- Winston Churchill