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Journal: Slashdot RSS Monitor for Android Mobile (Open Source) 1

Journal by nickull

So I was tasked with writing an open source Android application for mobile and decided to write a Slashdot RSS monitor to keep updated with the latest from Slashdot. The app is in the Android marketplace and the complete source code and video tutorials are available (Just hit the info button on the application). So far no bugs and it has 5/5 star rating. Size = 768 kb which includes 450 kb of graphics so if you want a leaner app, you can take the source and pare it down yourself. Open license â" do what you want.

Spam

Journal: Finally - an Anti-SPAM law with real teeth 1

Journal by nickull
The Tyee reports that Electronic Consumer Protection Act, the Canadian government's anti-spam bill, has just passed a second reading in Ottawa. This bill has real teeth and includes remedies for immediate action against spammers. "The CRTC has been given a wide range of investigatory powers, including the power to compel Internet service providers to preserve transmission data. Once it concludes its investigation, the Commission can pursue a settlement or bring a notice of violation with penalties that can run as high as $10 million. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada can also investigate certain complaints and the Competition Bureau can go after misleading representations with penalties up to 14 years in jail (indictment) or $200,000 and a year in jail (summary conviction). For those not content to wait for the CRTC or the Competition Bureau to act, the law also creates a private right of action to facilitate lawsuits against Canadian-based spammers."
Government

Journal: Vancouver city to be "Open Source/Open Standards" based! 3

Journal by nickull
Vancouver City Council has put forth a motion (PDF format) on "Open Data, Open Standards and Open Source" as written by Councillor Andrea Reimer. According to the motion, the City of Vancouver endorses the principles of:
  • Open and Accessible Data - the City of Vancouver will freely share with citizens, businesses and other jurisdictions the greatest amount of data possible while respecting privacy and security concerns;
  • Open Standards - the City of Vancouver will move as quickly as possible to adopt prevailing open standards for data, documents, maps, and other formats of media;
  • Open Source Software - the City of Vancouver, when replacing existing software or considering new applications, will place open source software on an equal footing with commercial systems during procurement cycles;
User Journal

Journal: Wolfram Alpha - Reasoning and Computational Intelligence

Journal by nickull
Skynet is here! Well not quite but there is an important development on the computational intelligence front this week. The launch of the Wolfram Alpha system should be written in history as a key event in the pursuit of computational reasoning. Wolfram Alpha will allow users to enter a factual question in a natural language string and answer it. What is really impressing me, is that the Wolfram Alpha should apparently be able to resolve conflicts in logic and assess which statements are true and which are not by accessing various resources. While rudimentary and likely comparatively slow (to Google) in process, this is akin to a child just learning to speak and dynamic algorithms could eventually build it's knowledge into a true artificially created sentient force capable of reasoning. Stephen Wolfram is an outstanding mathematician. He has engineered the Mathematica system, which, in the words of Semantics and Ontological guru John Sowa, "is the premier mathematical computing system available." Stephen writes on his site: "I had two crucial ingredients: Mathematica and NKS. With Mathematica, I had a symbolic language to represent anything--as well as the algorithmic power to do any kind of computation. And with NKS, I had a paradigm for understanding how all sorts of complexity could arise from simple rules."
Music

Journal: Open Source Music? 1

Journal by nickull
MixMatchMusic just announced it has acquired Mix2r.com, a web app that enables electronica artists to upload their music for remixing and for creating derivative works by other electronica artists, fans and music enthusiasts. Mix2r's community of musicians, DJs and fans features more than 6200 songs and music stems.

"MixMatchMusic's combination with Mix2r adds a lot of dynamic new music to our library and brings us closer to the critical mass of stems and community needed to fuel our next stage of growth," said Charles Feinn, MixMatchMusic co-founder and CEO. The end result - a real move towards open source music and a hit for the RIAA.
Networking

Journal: FCC makes landmark traffic throttling ruling against Comcast

Journal by nickull
The Federal Communications Commission on Friday ruled 3-2 against Comcast and declared that it overstepped its network management authority by blocking BitTorrent peer to peer traffic. This is the first official ruling on major network shaping and throttling by the FCC. While it did not fine Comcast, it clearly defines boundaries and sends the message that the FCC enforces network neutrality principles. This also paves the way for future action against ISP's by the FCC. The formal cease and desist order also forces Comcast to disclose to customers how it manages its network. I see this as a major victory for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Announcements

Journal: Adobe makes Flash more search engine friendly

Journal by nickull
Today Adobe systems made an announcement that it has provided technology and information to Google and Yahoo! to help the two search engine rivals index Shockwave Flash (SWF) file formats. According to the company, this will provide more relevant search rankings of the millions pieces of flash content. Until now, developers had to implement workarounds for exposing text content using in Flash to search engine spiders and other bots such as using XHTML data providers. While the flash content is exposed, it is not yet clear how it will be utilized by the search engines as they have not revealed their algorithms. The SWF specification is openly published here.
Microsoft

Journal: Microsoft to Host Open Document Format (ODF) workshop!

Journal by nickull
Microsoft has announced they are planning to have an open workshop for developers interested in their adoption of the OASIS Open Document Format (ODF). Microsoft has recently announced support for ODF in the next service pack for Office (SP2 for Office 2007, expected to be released in the first half of 2009). In conjunction with this announcement, they would like to invite all members of the OASIS OpenDocument Format TC and subcommittees to a 1-day DII workshop on how Office will support ODF. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, July 30, 2008 in Redmond, Washington.
User Journal

Journal: Microsoft fined $1.4 billion (a record) by the EU

Journal by nickull
As reported by the BBC, Microsoft has drawn the ire of the European Union who have levied a fine against the Redmond Software giant for $1.4 billion USD (originally 899m Euros). The fine is based upon Microsoft defying sanctions imposed on it for anti-competitive behavior. Microsoft must now pay after a ruling it failed to comply with a 2004 ruling that it abused its position.
User Journal

Journal: OOXML under third EU investigation!

Journal by nickull
As Reported by Andy Upgrove, "the Wall Street Journal and Information Week reported this morning that EU regulators have announced a third investigation into Microsoft's conduct on the desktop. This latest action demonstrates that while the EU has settled the case against Microsoft that ran for almost a decade, it remains as suspicious as ever regarding the software vendor's conduct, notwithstanding Microsoft's less combative stance in recent years. The news can be found in a story reported by Charles Forelle bylined in Brussells this morning. According to the Journal, the investigation will focus on whether Microsoft "violated antitrust laws during a struggle last year to ratify its Office software file format as an international standard." The article also says that the regulators are "stepping up scrutiny of the issue." The Journal cites the following as the type of activity it will look into."
Software

Journal: PDF now ISO 32000

Journal by nickull
It is official. As Jim King himself blogged today, Adobe has received word that the Ballot for approval of PDF 1.7 to become the ISO 32000 Standard (DIS) has passed by a vote of 13 yes votes and only 1 negative. The report breaks down as follows:

Countries voting positive with no comments: Australia, Bulgaria, China, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine. (9) Countries voting positive with comments: UK (13), USA (125), Germany (11), Switzerland (19). (4) Countries voting negative with comments: France (37). (1) Countries abstaining: Italy, Russia (2)

Total votes cast 14. 2/3's majority is required to pass so it was a large margin of victory (93%). For more information on the latest developments, check on this page:

http://www.adobe.com/devnet/pdf/pdf_reference.html

The Internet

Journal: Has Wikipedia been hijacked?

Journal by nickull
I have become concerned over the last few years of the growing tendency for Wikipedia to censor or delete information they make a sole determination is irrelevant. I have always been a fan of Wikipedia in general, but feel that someone needs to stand up and state clearly that the Emperor has no clothes on. Wikipedia is a volunteer driven organization and there are lots of good editors however there seems to be a vast discrepancy towards content. Lately, there seem to be incidents where editors are acting like dictators. The reason I feel compelled to write this is the latest series of incident that has been brought to my attention, all detailed below with references. I encourage you to read these and contribute to this conversation.

(full story at http://technoracle.blogspot.com/2007/08/has-wikipedia-been-hijacked_16.html)

User Journal

Journal: Adobe to release PDF specification to AIIM/ISO

Journal by nickull
Adobe announced it will release the entire PDF specification (current version 1.7 at http://my.adobe.acrobat.com/pdfconversations) to the International Standards Organization (ISO) via AIIM. PDF has reached a point in it's maturity cycle where maintaining it in an open standards manner is the next logical step in evolution. Not only does this reinforce Adobe's commitment to open standards (see also my earlier blog on the release of flash runtime code to the Tamarin open source project at Sourceforge), but it demonstrates that open standards and open source strategies are really becoming a mainstream concept in the software industry.
Software

Journal: How truly open is Flash? Do we need "Open Flash"? 2

Journal by nickull
This is a post made by David Mendels that inspired me to get this message out. I too have noticed that a few people Still perceive Flash as a proprietary technology. If you are one of those, read this then ask yourself the two questions at the end. I had a completely different view of Flash before Adobe and Macromedia merged. David writes: (Some basic points)
  1. The Flash programming language (ActionScript) is 100% ECMASCript, a standard with multiple implementations and is open. You can script using ActionScript with a plain old text editor.
  2. The internal Flash Player VM, "Tamarin" is an open source project run by the Mozilla foundation (donated by Adobe).
  3. The Flash file format, *.SWF is a published format.
  4. The Adobe Flash Player (the reference implementation) is free. So are several others like the Gnash player.
  5. The Flash Player is available on Mac, Windows, Linux, Playstation, Nintendo Wii, Symbion, and many other platforms.
  6. An SDK for building, compiling, debugging Flash applications is available for free on Mac, Windows and Linux
  7. There are over 100 third party, free, commercial, open source and closed source products that produce, edit, generate, and otherwise manipilate Flash files, Flash Video files, etc.
  8. There is a very active Open Source community around the Flash runtime. For better or worse (I do work for Adobe -;) many many people take full advantage of the Flash Player without using any commercial products from Adobe (or anyone belse). See http://www.osflash.org/ to get a good view of this.
  9. Flash itself makes use of several standards such as JPG, AVI, GIF and PNG's as outlined here.

There are numerous web based services (You Tube, BrightCove, etc) that convert to, host, deliver Flash Video without requiring the purchase or use of any commercial or proprietary technology.

Now, all that said, the Flash Player as a whole is not open source. There are a number of reasons for this, at least as of today. 2 primary reasons come to mind right now, but these are not immutable:

i. The desire to avoid bifurcation. Right now one can produce a SWF from any one of many tools/servers/services from many vendors and be 100% confident it will run across platform and across browsers. We experienced the impact of multiple slightly (or largely) incompatible implementations of HTML/JS browsers and of JVMs and both had a major impact to slow innovation and usage. One of the things our customers (developers/desginers/publishers) have told is us not to screw up the compatibility and ubiquity that have been the hallmark of Flash since day 1. ii. There are technologies in the Flash Player for which we do not own the IP or the rights to open source it, for example, we have licensed our MP3 codec.

There is one more area where we are arguably not "open". This relates to our licensing strategy on non-PC devices (eg Cell Phones). On these devices, we do license the Flash Player for a royalty to device manufacturers and telco operators. It is still free from an end-user and developer perspective, but there are a lot of costs associated with these integrations.

(...)

My experience is that when people say they want "open", there are usually 3 or 4 things they really want or need:

* No lock in. They don't want adopt a technology that they may get "blackmailed" to pay money for in the future. I think we have addressed this fairly well by making the Flash Player and SDK free.

* Integration. They want the technology stack they work with to work with the rest of their stack and tool chain. This requires appropriate use of standards (eg. we support XML over HTTP, Web Services, ECMAScript, CSS, integration with multiple IDE and Source Code management systems, etc) and well crafted and well documented APIs. I think we have this area covered too, but I'd like to hear about concerns.

* Leverage existing skills. By using standards, one does not get locked into skills that can not be found generally in the market and that will be obsolete in the near term. This is why we standardized on ECMAScript. This is why we have an Eclipse based tool. This is why we enable development with a purely ASCII text format to fit into other systems. This is why we leveraged CSS in the Flex framework, etc. I think we have this covered too, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

* Ability to fix bugs/issues without depending on a vendor. From a tool chain perspective, one can choose to work in an entirely open source toolchain for the creation of SWFs, so this is covered. From the runtime perspective, this is arguably a barrier. That said, I don't hear a lot of folks who have actual concerns about our "stewardship" of the Flash Player in this regard. I'd love to have your perspecitve.

Questions for the public:

* What does "Open Flash" actually mean to you? Have we done a good job of balancing the interests of implementers and developers without hindering innovation?

* What specific problem(s) does "Open Flash" solve that are not addressed by our current "openness"

Encryption

Journal: Semaphore Code - can Slashdot users crack it?

Journal by nickull

For those of you who love a challenge, Adobe has sponsored a whopper. The Semaphore art project in San Jose is where art meets technology. Four large round glyphs rotate their position every 7.2 seconds while a simultaneous low power radio broadcast emits a coded message. Artist Ben Rubin's mind shred's message seems to follow a pattern. Each broadcast segment contains an audible analog tone, an audible analog pattern, followed by a string-integer hash. Several items vary during the broadcast including the tone of the woman's voice as she speaks the integers. The tones also change.

Here is a pattern:

Tone, dot pattern, click(ping), string, integer, ping

Here are some general observations that might help those trying to decode it. I also want to state that while I do work for Adobe, I have in no way had any internal knowledge of this project nor do I have any keys to the answer.

Background:

Semaphore is an ancient flag based signaling system. A person holds two flags and uses one rotational angle to act as a key while using a second flag to indicate a specific value. The comparison to the rotating glyphs cannot be ignored.

1. What is the significance of the glyphs changing position every 7.2 seconds? This could be a key or it could be incidental to the entire exercise. I would suspect that due to its' precise timing, it is a key.

2. Ben Rubin's education should probably be factored in. There are no details of him ever studying cryptographic techniques. Accordingly, I would presume the cypher's key to be less complex than Rinjdael's (AES) et al. I did find his master's thesis entitled "Constraint based cinematic editing" which may be a clue into his mind.

3.What possible significance does the tone of the woman's voice have? It seems to speak in two tones - one about one octave higher than the other. It this significant of some kind of logic gate?

4. What are the string-integer pairs. Here is an example:
India 02
Kilo 08
Echo 06
Delta 01
Charlie 05
Mike 03
Mike 14
Echo 06
Delta 04
Delta 04 (note repeat)
India 02
Kilo 08
Echo 06
Delta 01
Charlie 05
Mike 03
India 02
Delta 15
Delta 04
Mike 14
Alpha 10
Delta 04
Delta 04
Alpha 10
Charlie 16
Delta 15
India 02
Delta 15
Delta 04
Mike 14
Alpha 10
Delta 04
Delta 04
Alpha 10
Charlie 16
Delta 15
Delta 01
Pumpkin 02 ??
Kilo 03
November 04
Charlie 11
Charlie 16
Lima 03
Echo 06
.....

Note the pattern repeats certain characters (Delta 04's seem popular). There are alsio patterns of repetition that seem to repeat above a statistically normal basis. Based on this I would aver that the answer is a value of text. The same values suggest double letter combinations in the resulting text (example = Challenge has two "ll"'s)

While the Semaphore Flag code uses only 9 positions, note that the numeric values scale much higher. Could this be a revision of the code based on some key (7.2) to reflect the glyphs ability to provide a more precise rotational index? I did not encounter any numeric value over 16 while listening.

The Semaphore art uses the NATO phonetic alphabet.

A: Alpha
B: Bravo
C: Charlie
D: Delta
E: Echo
F: Foxtrot
G: Golf
H: Hotel
I: India
J: Juliet
K: Kilo
L: Lima
M: Mike
N: November
O: Oscar
P: Papa
Q: Quebec
R: Romeo
S: Sierra
T: Tango
U: Uniform
V: Victor
W: Whiskey
X: X-ray
Y: Yankee
Z: Zulu

Note that "Pumpkin" is not actually part of the phonetic alphabet. Perhaps I heard it wrong.

Good luck - anyone with Theories, please post them back to this blog. Maybe we can get lucky....

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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