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Comment: Re:What's your suggestion for intelligence work? (Score 1) 397

by daveschroeder (#47938235) Attached to: Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

An oversimplification. The US, UK, and allies variously broke many cipher systems throughout WWII. Still the US benefitted from this.

What if the Germans were using, say, Windows, Android phones, SSL, Gmail, Yahoo, and Skype, instead of Enigma machines?

Comment: What's your suggestion for intelligence work? (Score 1) 397

by daveschroeder (#47938053) Attached to: Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

I presume you wouldn't say it was "wrong" of the United States to crack the German and Japanese codes in WWII...

...so when US adversaries (and lets just caveat this by saying people YOU, personally, agree are legitimate US adversaries) don't use their own "codes", but instead share the same systems, networks, services, devices, cloud providers, operating systems, encryption schemes, and so on, that Americans and much of the rest of the world uses, would you suggest that they should be off limits?

This isn't so much a law enforcement question as a question of how to do SIGINT in the modern digital world, but given the above, and given that intelligence requires secrecy in order to be effective, how would you suggest the United States go after legitimate targets? Or should we not be able to, because that power "might" be able to be abused -- as can any/all government powers, by definition?

This simplistic view that the only purpose of the government in a free and democratic society must be to somehow subjugate, spy on, and violate the rights of its citizens is insane, while actual totalitarian and non-free states, to say nothing of myriad terrorist and other groups, press their advantage. And why wouldn't they? The US and its ever-imperfect system of law is not the great villain in the world.

Take a step back and get some perspective. And this is not a rhetorical question: if someone can tell me their solution for how we should be able to target technologies that are fundamentally shared with innocent Americans and foreigners everywhere while still keeping such sources, methods, capabilities, and techniques secret, I'm all ears. And if you believe the second a technology is shared it should become magically off-limits because power might be abused, you are insane -- or, more to the point, you believe you have some moral high ground which, ironically, would actually result in severe disadvantages for the system of free society you would claim to support.

Comment: Why only sue for patent infringement? (Score 1) 191

by SLi (#47661195) Attached to: Larry Rosen: A Case Study In Understanding (and Enforcing) the GPL

The only thing I don't quite understand is the possible motivation for XimpleWare to only sue for patent infringement, but not for copyright infringement. It's not like you have to choose between the two (you can have both), and anyway it seems that a copyright claim would be quite strong.

Maybe it's just to keep the lawsuit more contained and therefore save in attorney's fees and costs? On the other hand it seems to me that only claiming patent infringement encourages the defendants to challenge the validity of the patents (which are anyway questionable after Bilski and Alice Corp), while they would have much more incentive to settle if there also was a copyright claim that they had little hope of winning.

Comment: Instead of a degree, try this (Score 1) 637

by johnnyb (#47619807) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: "Real" Computer Scientists vs. Modern Curriculum?

I actually noticed this trend about 8 years ago, and wrote a book to solve it. The book is called Programming from the Ground Up. It is a Linux-based assembly language book, but also teaches a lot about systems programming in general, but without being too technical.

For the other CS-oriented stuff that they don't teach, the two books you should get are how to design programs and Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. After that, I have written a series of articles to apply those ideas to "real" programming languages on IBM's developerWorks. You can find links to them here.

Comment: Re:DMCA? (Score 1) 273

by SLi (#47613823) Attached to: Hack an Oscilloscope, Get a DMCA Take-Down Notice From Tektronix

Whether the access is gained by the same way or a different way from how a copyright owner would do it is not material to the law; the authorization of the copyright owner is the defining criterion. The law defines circumvention thus:

to "circumvent a technological measure" means to descramble a scrambled work, to decrypt an encrypted work, or otherwise to avoid, bypass, remove, deactivate, or impair a technological measure, without the authority of the copyright owner'

For example, most non-authorized decryption would quite obviously be done in the same way as a copyright owner authorized device would do it. This would not make it not circumvention within the meaning of the law; the definition of circumvention is quite broad and essentially focuses on circumventing the requirement for authorization.

Comment: Re:DMCA? (Score 2) 273

by SLi (#47613269) Attached to: Hack an Oscilloscope, Get a DMCA Take-Down Notice From Tektronix

A mechanism doesn't need to prevent copying in order to qualify for DMCA's anticircumvention protections; it only needs to control access to a work. That's why you specifically need an exception for phones, among other things, even if phone unlocking does not let you copy the phone or its software.

"No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under [the Copyright Law]".

You would be right that this does not qualify as a DMCA takedown request. In this case that doesn't matter very much though, because the letter was sent to the publisher of the article, not only to a mere carrier of the article (like an ISP).

Normally carriers are not liable for what their customers do, unless they have sufficient (in legal terms, actual or constructive) knowledge of the infringing activity. The idea behind DMCA takedown requests is that by sending a certain formal request to an ISP, where you among other things must allege in good faith that your copyrights are being infringed, you put the ISP formally on notice that certain activity is infringing and thereby oblige the ISP to provisionally remove the content pending a counter-notice from the poster of the content. An ISP still has the option to not remove the content, but in that case it assumes liability if it turns out the content was in fact infringing. Significantly, sending a formal DMCA takedown request to an ISP has three special effects compared to sending a free-form cease and desist letter:

1) It puts the ISP under a threat of liability if it does not remove the content;

2) It absolves the ISP from liability towards the customer for removing the content;

3) It makes the sender of the takedown notice liable for damages and attorney's fees for knowingly materially misrepresenting facts in the notice.

So when sending a notice to an ISP (party other than who posted the information), it makes sense to send a DMCA notice, because the party has less incentive to act on free-form requests and because it can actually incur liability if it does. Thus many ISPs routinely disregard non-DMCA takedown requests.

When sending a notice to someone who actually posted the allegedly infringing content, it makes less sense to send a DMCA takedown request. The recipient is liable in any case, and sending the notice puts you in a disadvantage by making it more likely that you are liable for damages and attorney's fees.

I speculate Tektronix's challenge would most likely fail in this case rather because the information posted is not "any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof" that is primarily designed to circumvent a technical measure that effectively controls access to a protected work. (It certainly is primarily designed to circumvent, but it doesn't fall into any of the enumerated categories of technology, product, service, device or component.)

Comment: What's so Hard to Understand? (Score 4, Informative) 192

by qw(name) (#47333481) Attached to: An Army Medal For Coding In Perl
Anything that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of our forces deserves recognition. If writing code and automating or stream-lining a process is successful, write the person who did it up for a citation or medal. I did it in the navy 20 years ago and received a NAM (Navy Achievement Award) for my efforts. Not all medals given in the military are for combat duties.

Comment: The article misunderstands the ruling (Score 1) 263

by SLi (#47285741) Attached to: The Supreme Court Doesn't Understand Software

I don't think this article quite hits the nail. Specifically, its interpretation of the ruling is wrong (though IANAL). Having said that, this is certainly a positive ruling (if you are, like me, opposed to software patents), and in general my impression is that the trend is clearly against software patents. I'm not sure if there is any software patent the court would eventually uphold, but it generally prefers to avoid such sweeping rulings on matters that are not immediately before it. That is, the court is not entirely sure that no software patent can pass the muster, so it prefers to wait until it sees more credible software patents (like compression algorithms, apparently) to rule on those.

The article claims the Supreme Court ruled that the "invention" is not patent-eligible because "each step does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions". However, this is not the whole analysis and is akin to saying that no electrical circuit can get patent protection if it can be divided into basic components.

Let me quote the relevant parts from the ruling.

In Mayo, we set forth a framework for distinguishing patents that claim laws of nature, natural phenomena, and abstract ideas from those that claim patent-eligible applications of those concepts. First, we determine whether the claims at issue are directed to one of those patent-ineligible concepts. If so, we then ask, "[w]hat else is there in the claims before us?" To answer that question, ***we consider the elements of each claim both individually and "as an ordered combination"*** to determine whether the additional elements "transform the nature of the claim" into a patent-eligible application. We have described step two of this analysis as a search for an "'inventive concept'"--i.e., an element ***or combination of elements*** that is "sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon the [ineligible concept] itself."

(page 7, emphasis added, internal quotations removed)

That is, the "elements", or the steps the algorithm in question performs, are to be considered both individually and as an ordered combination. The article somehow reads the second prong of this analysis entirely out, but such a reading is not faithful to the decision. Similarly to how an electrical circuit that consists of basic components can still merit patent protection, the court leaves open the possibility that an algorithm composed of "ordinary" steps might be eligible if the steps "as an ordered combination" contains an "inventive concept" that is "sufficient to ensure that the patent in practice amounts to significantly more than a patent upon [an abstract idea] itself".

The text that the article quotes is from page 15 of the ruling:

***Taking the claim elements separately***, the function performed by the computer at each step of the process is "[p]urely conventional.". Using a computer to create and maintain "shadow" accounts amounts to electronic recordkeeping--one of the most basic functions of a computer. The same is true with respect to the use of a computer to obtain data, adjust account balances, and issue automated instructions; all of these computer functions are "well-understood, routine, conventional activit[ies]" previously known to the industry. In short, each step does no more than require a generic computer to perform generic computer functions.

But this is only the paragraph that analyzes the claim elements separately. What the article does not recognize is the paragraph that immediately follows:

***Considered "as an ordered combination,"*** the computer components of petitioner's method "ad[d] nothing . . . that is not already present when the steps are considered separately." ***Viewed as a whole***, petitioner's method claims simply recite the concept of intermediated settlement as performed by a generic computer. See 717 F. 3d, at 1286 (Lourie, J., concurring) (noting that the representative method claim "lacks any express language to define the computer's participation"). The method claims do not, for example, purport to improve the functioning of the computer itself. See ibid. ("There is no specific or limiting recitation of . . . improved computer technology . . . "). Nor do they effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field. Instead, the claims at issue amount to "nothing significantly more" than an instruction to apply the abstract idea of intermediated settlement using some unspecified, generic computer.

So, the fact that an algorithm only performs "purely conventional" steps is not the end of the inquiry; it just may be sufficient that such an algorithm when viewed as a whole ("ordered combination") may warrant protection.

Comment: Re:Missing the point; it's about not enabling (Score 1) 403

I don't know if you can. In the real world, duplicating objects is impossible. However, duplicating information in computers is essentially free. Therefore, I'm not sure that simulating the notion of "property rights" on a computer even makes sense. It certainly doesn't make sense if it costs DRM to achieve it.

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