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Comment: Re:Morality vs The Law (Score 1) 191

by pem (#47663091) Attached to: Larry Rosen: A Case Study In Understanding (and Enforcing) the GPL
The thing you have to remember is this:

The code in question is dual-licensed.

The code is not produced by a charity; it is produced by a business. From the perspective of a business, the GPL is a marketing tool -- a great marketing tool. "Here's the source; try it out! Talk to others who are using it! Just contact us if you want to merge it with your proprietary code and make money!"

Any business can use the GPL this way, and many have. Just because a business uses the GPL does not mean that their politics align with the FSF.

Comment: Re:Didn't use a lawyer? (Score 2) 228

by pem (#47365337) Attached to: The New 501(c)(3) and the Future of Open Source In the US
You don't absolutely need a lawyer, but you do have to read the docs carefully and structure your answers carefully to give them what they need. If you are incapable of this, then, yes, you should get a lawyer.

I say this as one who just last year successfully set up a 501(c)3 for a community band, receiving a favorable determination letter, with no request for follow-up, in under 4 calendar months (which included the short government shutdown).

Yes, there is precedent and there are already lots of community bands, but you could say the same thing about software. And it was obvious from reading all the IRS material that it would be quite easy to screw up even a community band application. If I were doing a software 501(c)3, I think I would have been even more careful to stress the things that the IRS was looking for, and might have even told the other board members that we should amend the bylaws and/or do a few other things (like hold educational events or write scholarly treatises or whatever) before submitting the application.

FWIW, I completely disagree with all the people saying "well, duh, it should be a non-profit" because they distribute free software. A lot of for-profit companies distribute free software, too, and the IRS deals with innumerable shysters who try to turn their business into non-profits in all fields of endeavor.

Although, as I said, you do not need to be a lawyer to get through the process, if I had received a request for more information from the IRS for more information, I would have viewed that as a huge red flag that I was on the verge of fucking it up, and would have spent a few hundred dollars on an attorney at that point to try to salvage the $400 that I had to give the IRS for the application.

But obviously, that wasn't the mindset of the people at yorba. From the yorba foundation blog post:

Some [questions] were odd: "Will any of your directors or employees reside at your facility [i.e. our office]?"

The fact that they found this question odd is ample evidence that they did not try to get into the mindset of the IRS before sending the initial application, and the fact that they apparently still find it odd means that they failed to take the request for more information seriously enough and still weren't trying to get inside the IRS's thinking. Given that, it's not surprising, not news, not corporatism, not david-v-goliath, and certainly not the end of the world for free software as we know it that this particular application was rejected.

Comment: Listen (Score 4, Insightful) 218

by pem (#46551629) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Re-Learning How To Interview As a Developer?
Too often, people overcommunicate.

Listen and watch. If you are answering the question you thought they asked, instead of the question they thought they asked, they will probably be somewhat annoyed.

Try to pick up on that, and either figure out what they were asking, or ask for clarification. Let them get in a few words, too.

Comment: Re:JSON Sucks (Score 1) 68

by pem (#46511103) Attached to: OASIS Approves OData 4.0 Standards For an Open, Programmable Web
If the metric is readability without special tools, why stop there?

Neither JSON nor XML is easily writable without special tools.

YAML attempts to be writable, but the grammar and parser are huge and slow.

RSON is a superset of JSON that is eminently readable/writable, and much simpler than YAML, allowing, for example, for human-maintained configuration files.

The reference Python parser operates about as fast as the unaccelerated Python library pure JSON parser.

Comment: Embrace, extend, extinguish (Score 1) 194

by pem (#46441149) Attached to: Google Blocking Asus's Android-Windows "Duet"?
Microsoft is looking for a new revenue stream -- they would be the only software vendor taking money from Asus for this hybrid, and then it would be in their interest to make the MS part indispensible, and the Android part -- not so much.

Google understands perfectly what Microsoft is up to. Why is it evil for them to nip it in the bud?

Who even knows if Asus really wants to do this? They are not going to voice a negative opinion because they also sell Windows laptops.

And as others have pointed out, Asus is free to do this in any case -- they just can't have access to google services. Microsoft should be up for this; after all, if Amazon has the technical chops to run a third-party app store, surely Microsoft... oh, wait.

Comment: Re:Email the company's lawyer (Score 1) 526

by pem (#46207673) Attached to: Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC

The objective isn't to bring a lawsuit, it's to get your problem resolved

Exactly. Or it should be. One of my friends has a lot of bitterness towards his brother (and he's 54 and his brother is around 60). He simultaneously wants to fuck with his brother and never have to deal with him/think about him again. I keep telling him that it's one or the other...

In any case, before you send any correspondence, whether by post or email, you should be perfectly clear about your objectives, and they should be something that at least one other person besides you thinks is reasonable.

Comment: Re:Email the company's lawyer (Score 1) 526

by pem (#46205755) Attached to: Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC

"Some idiots will say to email the CEO, but if you're lucky, that will just get down to the lawyer, and the lawyer will already be miffed because you've piled more work on him from above. Better to go straight to the lawyer."

You think the CEO reads anything like a publicly-accessible email account? It all goes to "the right department" exclusively via some email-reading minion. You think emailing the CEO of Dell about a laptop return is going to make them go yell at a lawyer?

Apparent reading comprehension fail. I said to email the lawyer because if you email the CEO, it will only get to the lawyer if you're lucky.

Email the company at head office and it will end up at the person they deem right to deal with it. If you yell a lot it might go to their line manager. It won't get close to an expensive lawyer (or even legal department) until you get a court order at the very least.

The plural of anecdote is not data, but in my 10-15 experiences (probably closer to 30 if you count the experiences of the people I have individually counselled on how to deal with obstreperous customer service), it is extremely easy to get a lawyer's attention if you go about it correctly.

Welcome to the world of modern customer service, where "the boss" is the guy who was good at answering the phones last month, and you can never get hold of him anyway.

Right. Which is why you spend a bit of time doing that, document it well, and then go to the lawyer. Again, you are not trying to convince the lawyer that you are in the right. You are trying to convince the lawyer that you will be able to convince a judge or jury that you are in the right. Completely different things.

As someone who - in the past few months - has complained to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (who demanded tax returns going back 6 years despite me not being required to file them any more), had their car insurance settle out of court after cancelling my contract - without notice - in breach of contract (and actually a shed-load of other laws), and have several companies referred to Trading Standards (some of which dragged on for months), I can tell you that not until there's a real, genuine threat of a lawsuit (i.e. a court paper coming through the post) will anyone even CLOSE to a legal professional get involved.

And I'm telling you that, in my considerable experience, you can convince them that (a) you are capable of managing the lawsuit; and (b) you are perfectly willing to do so -- without actually directly threatening.

The first guy is always useless. Their boss is usually useless. But in any organisation of a decent size, there are dozens of layers in between. If you're really lucky, you'll get a letter signed "on behalf of" (P.P.) a qualified lawyer by his legal secretary who signs a pile of similar papers every day, from those people who bother to complain enough that they probably have a genuine cause but it's just not worth chasing to court.

I have always either (a) gotten communication from the lawyer; or (b) just had the right thing happen (for example, several times I got no response, but a full refund on a credit card. Obviously YMMV.

People do not know how to complain.

And I'm trying to rectify that. You're helping to make my point for me. I have had a dozen positive outcomes after following the approach I outlined.

Of course, you address your letter to Head Office but if you think for a second that a corporate lawyer does more than flick the paper onto a pile for some underling to sort out, until an actual court-stamped paper comes to them, then you're sadly mistaken.

I didn't say to address a letter to "Head Office." I said to address it to a lawyer. The lawyer the company says is in charge of its legal stuff. An actual living, breathing, human being, who probably has some power and who also actually probably understands the risk/reward scenario you are presenting.

And, fuck email. In the UK - at least, I assume the US is similar - every company has to provide a postal address of their head office on demand. It's a legal requirement (and I've got a company fined for failing to do just that while I was complaining about something else).

But most lawyers have and use emails.

Emails go to an underling that sits in front of an inbox and spam folder all day. Letters are verifiable proof-of-receipt and instantly admissible in court and undeniable if you send by a recorded delivery.

If you actually hit the inbox of the lawyer, even if it's their underling sorting through the inbox, you have almost certainly given them notice. You are right that you might not be able to prove they received it, which is why you should end the email with the equivalent of "please respond so I don't have to send you a letter." That shows a knowledge of the process and (if you phrase the rest of the email properly) should also show a willingness to follow through. Seriously, for whatever reason your mileage differs from mine, I can tell you that email has worked for me when dealing with CompUSA (RIP), Fry's, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Wells Fargo, for a start. In all cases, my issue was resolved extremely quickly after the initial communication with the lawyer. In most cases it was all by email; in a few cases they actually telephoned me.

They also get more attention because every idiot can send an email to complaints@ or headoffice@ but not every idiot will bother to send you a letter stating in black and white that you are wrong and these are the facts as they know them.

So, are you agreeing with me, or did you have a reading comprension fail? I advocated against sending an email to a generic address.

And you have to READ THE DAMN THINGS. Emails you can scan for keywords and auto-reply from a standard template . Letters some git has to type up a reply to, print it out, address it and send it back to you.

Apparently emails are just like slashdot comments.

People just don't know how to complain any more.

Obviously, we disagree on the best method. But mine works for me, and is a lot less effort and stress all around than what you appear to be advocating.

Comment: Email the company's lawyer (Score 5, Informative) 526

by pem (#46204427) Attached to: Customer: Dell Denies Speaker Repair Under Warranty, Blames VLC


The people who advocate small claims are half right. In many states, you have to send a demand letter before you can do that anyway.

Some idiots will say to email the CEO, but if you're lucky, that will just get down to the lawyer, and the lawyer will already be miffed because you've piled more work on him from above. Better to go straight to the lawyer.

I have had several successes, some quite large, and no failures, with the following strategy:

1) Try sincerely to resolve it through normal channels, as you apparently have.

2) Document how that didn't work. If you don't have good documentation, do (1) again.

3) Find the attorney or registered agent's email address. I have never had a problem doing this, but I'm pretty good at the google-fu. Good starting points for names are corporate bios, 10K filings at the SEC, and the Secretary of State's office (which might require a phone call). Since Dell is in Texas, they are required to have a registered agent with the Texas Secretary of state. I live in Texas, and I got Fry's registered agent's name from the Texas Secretary of State when I had an issue with them.

4) Send the attorney an email POLITELY explaining exactly what happened, and what needs to happen to make you a happy camper. Give them two deadlines. The first one should be about two weeks out to let the legal department research the problem on their end. The second one, at the end of the email, goes something like this:

"Please acknowledge receipt of this email within three days to save me the time and expense of sending a registered letter."

A registered letter is exactly what you need to do, in most cases, to put them on notice before you file in small claims. So this sentence puts them on notice that you are preparing to legally put them on notice, and since your speaker repair is way cheaper than dealing with you in court (you're not claiming the bad speaker damaged your hearing, or lost you business when the presentation went awry, are you?), they should be more than happy to do that.

One purpose of the letter that cannot be stressed enough is that you are not arguing with the lawyer. You are essentially presenting the same case that you would present in court. Your letter should be polite, without speling or grandmar erors, and compelling. Do not attempt lawyerese, because that is not required or even encouraged in small claims court. Just write it in plain English. You are not arguing with the lawyer, but you are showing him that you will present yourself well in court, and after expending time and money to defend, he will stand a good chance of losing.

Comment: From the flip side (Score 1) 1098

by pem (#46068137) Attached to: FSF's Richard Stallman Calls LLVM a 'Terrible Setback'
The entire rationale of the GPL is that "you can't use my stuff unless you give me any stuff you build on top of it."

Here, someone is giving you stuff without such strings, and you're suggesting building stuff on top of it, and then not letting the original author use your additional stuff in his day job where he can't use the GPL, because you don't like his choice of license.

GPL proponents are fond of saying "if you don't like the license, write it yourself. You don't get to profit off my hard work for nothing."

That's fine, and you're welcome to the attitude, but if someone gives you stuff, and you find it useful enough to build on top of it rather than starting from scratch, it makes you look petty and mean to place your code under the GPL so that he can't use it, even if it's legally permissible.

Forty two.