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Slashback: IEEE, Liquid, Swings 241

Slashback this evening brings you updates on silly patents, closer-to-mainstream watercooling for your desktop, the IEEE's publication rules, and more. Read on below for the details.

IEEE v. DMCA. Reacting to the IEEE's changing publication rules, Boone^ writes: "The IEEE has backed away from their stance that all papers submitted must comply with the DMCA. Their reason? 'The IEEE, publisher of nearly one-third of all computer science journals, said it is removing the requirement because it turned out to be more contentious than expected.' Personally I'd have preferred their reason to be based on the law instead of popular backlash, but maybe that's a step in the right direction to eventually bring about new legislation."

Many readers also pointed out this New Scientist story on the reversal.

Free as in Blender? tinus writes: "Ton Roosendaal, creator of Blender, submitted an update to Elysiun.com about finding solutions for continueing activities of the Blender projects. He describes the way Blender has been split up into smaller projects to make it both profitable as public domain software. Also, he gives us a preview of his setup for his new community plan, which even mentions 'Blender sources will be opened for members.'

Seems like there is a very promising future for Blender after all. Read the full story here."

Water meets your processor. Foss writes "You may remember this story about the dodgy-yet-extremely-cheap DIY water cooling block. Well, thanks to all your emails, Rob's getting better. It's still extremely cheap (under £10), but it's now pretty stable too, running a P3 933@1.1GHz for a few hours at a very stable 28 degrees. No dental floss this time round either!"

But don't worry, all the other patents issued were A-OK. Worried about getting slapped with a lawsuit for swinging different? f00zbll writes: "Cnet is running an follow up article on the patent posted earlier in the week. Apparently, the kid doesn't plan on suing anyone over swinging side ways."

We're here to save you money, Ma'am. Now, where do you keep it? guttentag writes "The NYTimes (reg req'd) is reporting on a MS and Mexico plan to develop digital community centers as part of a broader 'eMexico' initiative meant to bring the entire nation online by 2006. Microsoft will license its Windows, Office and Encarta software on the same terms that colleges and universities use. Some background: Microsoft's licensing deal with the University System of Maryland resulted in a mandatory $14 Microsoft tax imposed on all 130,000 students. Apparently, if you want to attend one of MD's taxpayer-funded university, you must pay MS. Is eMexico Microsoft's plan to tax Mexican citizens?" Hope they keep their licenses up -- Virginia Beach's taxpayers got to foot a city-size bill. The tab in Texas wasn't low either. What would it look like for all of Mexico?

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Slashback: IEEE, Liquid, Swings

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  • cost (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 18, 2002 @08:24PM (#3369833)
    A spokeswoman for the Patent and Trademark Office said she could not comment on the merits of any particular invention, but pointed out that typically only 400 of the 187,000 patents issued each year come under challenge.

    I'm assuming from this that challenging patents is an easy and inexpensive action. If someone could enlighten me on how to do this for little to no money, I'd be rather pleased as there are a lot of patents I'd like to have dismissed. As it is, I live in fear of being sued despite the fact that I have no intention to purposefully break any patents - it's simply too unwieldy for me as a software developer right now.

  • Alternatives (Score:1, Insightful)

    by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskettNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @08:33PM (#3369876)
    Jesus, would you editors please stop whinning about the choices other people make?

    Yes, we all know that you think that OSS is better. Yes, we all know they should have used an exotic and ecclectic mix of various miscellanous OSS projects. Yes, we all know that 'M$' is the beast.

    And we all know that not everyone agrees.

    I guess I don't get 'it'. Mexico wants something; they've hired a company to provide it, and have struck what sounds like a great deal.

    The $14 per license from the UMD deal? What a bargain! You get Windows, Office, etc for $14 per license per year! What a great frickin deal! And, of course, this line was sitting right there in the press release

    The agreement is not exclusive - participating schools and colleges will continue to be free to use and support any other software products they choose.

    Jesus, what more could you ask for? Ohh wait, anything that goes MS's way is bad. MS is the devil. They only want to hurt maim and kill. Down with the beast. Groups of schools that get together to form a consortium to save money are wasting their time. I mean, they could get everything they wanted for 100% nothing, absolutely free! It'd be so much better if they went with Microsoft! They'd save 100% of the money! Open Source is free! Even to implement across an entire network with thousands of users, its completely free! Yeah!

    Yeah. Sure. Hey, by the way Slashdot editors.. when was the last time you saw any open source company put together a broadbased, ambitious, and extremely useful package like the 'eMexico' initiative? Where is RedHat? Where are the competitors? Where is RedHat in this big deal? Why didnt they put together a package? What about the open source ally's? Where are they?

    Sorry, it may seem like I am trolling, but I am deadly serious. Where is the pressure on competitors to do better? Where is RedHat? SuSE? Mandrake? Where are they? They are off fighting for scraps here or there while missing huge opportunties.
  • by danheskett ( 178529 ) <danheskettNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @08:37PM (#3369893)
    Yeah, exactly, those prices are *cheaper* than you can get RedHat boxed set or Mandrake or anything else.

    For those prices you can just pick up a copy, tinker a bit, maybe pickup a few things, and that's it.

    Its always so goddamn virulent around against MS - but those prices (and the ones for the schools and Mexico) sound like just an amazing deal - really a fine bargin. I guess I dont get it.

    I guess until every single person chooses OSS than Slashdot wont be happy - its not good enough to be there, to be free ,to be available to anyone who wants it. They must crush and destroy everything despite what users what want.
  • by Catiline ( 186878 ) <akrumbach@gmail.com> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @08:41PM (#3369908) Homepage Journal
    It's based on the concept that since you pay a sales tax on everything* (*:Void where prohibited by law. Some restrictions may... *ahem*) the fact you "pay" for Windows with every prebuilt computer from the big name retailers (Dell, Gateqay, Compaq, eMachines, etc) makes it a tax as well. Of course, using such a loaded term is meant to suggests that the minimal OS choice I ought to have is ordering a "nude" PC with a $50 - $100 discount (price of license).

    Of course, you can always flip the loaded term around (especially given the recent actions of Microsoft), and say it's a commentary on their "we laugh in the general direction of your government" attitude. I used to think there was a limit to arrogance, but they sure cured me of that over the past year.
  • Re:On MS Tax (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @08:47PM (#3369937)
    Why should students be forced to pay a $14 fee for a mandatory software license if they:

    1) don't use computers in their class,

    2) only use Unix or Apples computers with not one bit of Microsoft software on them, or

    3) only use their own computers, purchased outside of the university, with independently and fully licensed software on them.

    Remember that last item - many incoming students will arrive with computers their parents bought them before they learned about educational discounts (you think Best Buy will tell parents of college-bound students about the competition?), and many non-traditional students will already have computers because of their job.

    This sounds a lot like a tax (second definition) - everybody pays regardless of whether they need it or not, and regardless of whether they've already paid for the product or service elsewhere.
  • Re:Alternatives (Score:2, Insightful)

    by raistlinne ( 13725 ) <lansdoctNO@SPAMcs.alfred.edu> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @09:05PM (#3370046) Homepage
    Ohh wait, anything that goes MS's way is bad. MS is the devil.

    You in fact answered your own question. Microsoft is a company out to destroy all of their competitors, including open source software. They've stated it, they've acted the part, and they've been found guilty in a federal court of doing just this (to specific competitors).

    Why do people find it so hard to understand that some of us do, in fact, believe that microsoft is bad. Why on earth does the fact that they want to make money somehow exonerate them from everything they've done to destroy competition, and somehow nullify the fact that they're a highly abusive monopoly?

    In short, MICROSOFT IS EVIL. Get that through your thick skulls. If you're not part of microsoft, you do not stand to benefit from anything that they do. Not in the long run.

    Note: I am counting greed as evil. It is not, in fact a virtue, and when greed is allowed to cause one to injure others, it is evil. Why do people restrict their definition of evil to killing >1,000,000 people and clubbing baby seals? There are plenty of types of evil in the world, and microsoft actively engages in several of them.

    Hell, there's "Megan's Law" for sex offendors. Somehow people think it's not entirely unreasonable for people to find out about child molestors who enter their communities. Microsoft has comitted crimes. Microsoft has admitted in many, many times to anticompetitive behavior. What more do you need? Bill gates to grow a goatee and wear all black?

  • by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @09:07PM (#3370060)
    The issue isn't whether students WHO WANT MICROSOFT PRODUCTS AND HAVEN'T ALREADY PURCHASED THEM are getting a great deal.

    It's whether it's fair to force students to pay for software that they don't want, don't need, and possibly can't even use.

    As a trivial example, I took one grad CS course a semester for about 7 years during the 1990s. 14 semesters. Had the University of Colorado had this mandatory plan, I would have paid close to $200 to Microsoft. For absolutely nothing of value in return.

    Could I run any Microsoft application on my computers? No - I was already using Linux almost exclusively on my own equipment.

    Did I need any Microsoft application for my graduate CS course work? No. It was either agnostic (e.g., email), or needed to be done on Unix systems.

    Could I have saved money on my rare Microsoft purchase? No - my laptop already included a mandatory copy of Windows and applications. What possible value would there have been in replacing a copy of Office 95 with another copy of Office 95?

    Maybe you're rich and can afford to give people $200 for absolutely nothing in return, but most of us aren't and we resent being forced to do so.
  • Re:On MS Tax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coyote-san ( 38515 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @09:22PM (#3370143)
    So a lab is required for Freshman English? BFD - that class ALONE has a lab fee associated with it. Same as the "glass fee" for most chemistry labs, the materials fee for some art classes, etc.

    The issue isn't whether *some* classes may reasonably have a mandatory fee associated with them, it's whether it should apply to every single student regardless of need. Worse, in this case not only do not many students not need MS products for their courses, if they do they probably already licensed the software via some other mechanism.
  • by josech ( 98417 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @09:52PM (#3370279)
    As you would know Mexico is an "emerging economy" (AKA third world), and one of the Mexicos greatest challenges is the technological dependency on other countries. Despite there are many people who are creative and brilliant (Manuel de Icaza) there are very few chances to develop an own technology. The mexican government doesnt support the technological development at great scale yet and the efforts to improve our technological base are very seldom.

    eMexico is a very interesting project focused on offering government services thru the use of IT in many different levels trying to close the technological gap. Unfortunately, Microsoft is the most known and used software provider, and its market dominance is brutal. 99% of the mexican IT is based on Microsoft products. I really dont think that Microsoft would pretend taxing these licenses, it pretends to consolidate its hegemony on the countrys technological dependence.

    Manuel made some proposals to include open source software on the eMexico project, but MS is offering a very "generous" support to the project in order to keep dominating the mexican market. They dont really need to tax this software cause they intend to dominate the whole mexican technology market.

  • Re:Dan is right. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ethereal ( 13958 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @10:06PM (#3370343) Journal

    That's a nice straw man:

    If all software developers worked for free, what would your job be? How would you put food on the table?

    But it's not particularly valid. The question isn't whether software developers should work for free, but whether the software itself should be free. And that's a very different discussion.

    The majority of software is written and used deep within corporations; it never sees the light of day. It isn't sold to consumers or to businesses; it's as much a part of a business as the chairs in the cubicles. There will always be software developers getting paid to write this stuff, and to write custom software for embedded devices that have special needs. Software developers will never have to work for free.

    But, if those developers are able to use software that is itself free as the basis for their work, then the costs to their employer are reduced. Where does this savings go? Into paying the developers better, more profit for the business, or better prices for the end user of the business' processes and/or embedded products that make use of the software.

    I put plenty of money on the table working with free software right now, and if I had my druthers I'd be working with it entirely. It's easier to use, easier and more well-thought-out to configure, has fewer licensing and cost issues for management, and doesn't mind me tinkering with it. Right now, can my employer's business do everything with free software? No, not quite. But would the business, and the software developers that it employs, be better off if it could run on free software? Absolutely.

    So yes, Red Hat et al should get their acts together, but let's face it - they're essentially always going to be fairly low-margin operations. The question is: with the amount of money that eMexico is putting up, could a small team of hackers (Miguel, even) have been hired to make Red Hat Linux more than usable for the goals of eMexico? Definitely - and with money left over, to boot. The goal is online access for millions of people; the point is not proprietary software. eMexico took the easy way out of that decision, not the smart way, and not the cheaper way.

    P.S. - do you really think that the majority of the citizens of Mexico that are getting online with this initiative will want to pay $14 (or whatever) for Microsoft Office? Or, more exactly, do you think that the $14 is worth the difference between Microsoft Office and Open Office? When $14 might be a day's wage, or more?

  • MS-exico? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jamirocake ( 456380 ) <mgarcia2@@@binghamton...edu> on Thursday April 18, 2002 @10:09PM (#3370364) Homepage Journal
    As a Mexican residing in the US i have to say this:

    It does not surprises me for to reasos:

    The right-wing governmet lead by the ex-Coca-Cola executive Vicente Fox that loves interviewing and meeting with his friend Bill G.

    Second: is a nation where most (not everybody thank god )computer knowlegable are "yuppies" that would never think of other OS than Microsoft. That is beacuse the common people don't have enough buying power to acqire PCs so that "world" is left to the semi-rich.

    In conclusion ,and ironically, is in nations like Mexico where MS can find a great niche because of poverty hopefully this won't continue, hopefully Linux will come to the rescue ....
  • "Our Content" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by j09824 ( 572485 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:09PM (#3370631)
    "The DMCA's been so bloody controversial," Bill Hagen, the IEEE's intellectual property rights manager said Tuesday. "On one hand, it protects our content.

    This comment is quite telling. Authors write articles for the IEEE at their own expense. Sometimes they even pay page charges. And most of the editorial and reviewing for the IEEE is done for free. And in return, the IEEE claims that it is "their content" and charges steep fees for access to it. It's a really unfair arrangement, and the IEEE can only get away with that because students and professionals must publish or perish and there is no way to avoid the IEEE if you work in the field. You can avoid buying Microsoft, but there is no way to avoid paying the IEEE.

  • Re:On MS Tax (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dragons_flight ( 515217 ) on Thursday April 18, 2002 @11:23PM (#3370718) Homepage
    Excuse me? Why should a nationally renowned university maintain diverse high quality computer labs for their students?

    Students don't pay $14 a year for computer access, the university pays $14 per license and even if that amounts to 4000 licenses at UMD that's still less than $2 per student per year to maintain the computer lab software. Futhermore, they have this great deal where a student or faculty member can buy MS software for personal use for only $14.

    In the technology age, big universities have to maintain computer labs in order to justify classes that require computer use even if not everyone can afford their own PC. If you would step back for one moment and realize that this is software they intend to run anyway, then you'll realize that it's a great deal for the university.

    As far as being a tax, why not? This is about raising the general level of education. Just like my taxes pay for roads that I never use but I assume that they help support the community. Very few, if any, colleges make only students that use the computer labs pay for their maintance.

    If you want a far more contentious issue, then let me tell you, every student in UMD residence halls is assessed a cable surcharge even if they don't even have a TV.
  • Re:Alternatives (Score:4, Insightful)

    by raistlinne ( 13725 ) <lansdoctNO@SPAMcs.alfred.edu> on Friday April 19, 2002 @12:09AM (#3371015) Homepage

    First off, Christianity and Islam are competing religions (read: world views), not businesses. They are mutually exclusive by their very nature.

    Ford and GM are not mutually exclusive by their nature. Neither are any of the other companies that you mentioned.

    Anyhow, about your assertion: "The objective of ANY business is to BEAT THEIR COMPETITORS." Well, this is only true of bad businesses. The objective of good businesses is to make money buy selling goods or services. It is true that very frequently businesses will compete with each other, and that if their competition went away life would be easier for them. However, not all businesses are out to make all the money in the world. Plenty of businesses are happy with finding a decent niche and staying in it. For example, take a look at any given restaurant which has existed for more than 10 years but hasn't turned into a franchise. Take a look at most of the small businesses around. They really aren't all big businesses waiting to happen.

    The truth of the matter is that many, if not most, people are content with a certain level of achievement and don't want to take over the world. Most people are willing to find an equilibrium with their competitors.

    But to get back to your examples, just imagine if Ford had made special "Ford Gasoline" which was incompatible with all other cars (ignoring the fact that this was beyond the technology of the time), way back when, and that they only agreed to sell "Ford Gasoline" to gas stations which didn't carry any other type of gasoline. Now imagine a world with only Ford cars which cost $50,000 for the cheapest model, break down every 500 miles travelled, and somehow manage to leverage Ford brand toasters into your home. Aren't you glad that there was actually competition back when and that noone beat out their cometitors with really immoral tricks?

    Anyhow, I really love this part, "Now tell me you really honestly think that would have happened if something like Windows hadn't come along to make these gosh-darn complicated new-fangled boxes usable to people that can't get their VCR to stop blinking 12:00."

    (btw, I have certainly benefitted from the massive influx of personal computers etc.)

    Anyhow, as to your point, I do think that this would have happened, since something like Windows didn't come along "to make these gosh-darn complicated new-fangled boxes usuable to people that can't get their VCR to stop blinking 12:00". Windows didn't simplify computing, it provided a framework for graphics.

    Windows was not easy, either to use or to program. I speak as one who did both on windows 3.1 - it was a POS any way you look at it. Windows 95 was an improvement, to be sure.

    However, if you think that what happened with the computer boom was either directly or indirectly facilitated by any features of windows that anyone writing an OS for the personal computer wouldn't have implemented, you're living in a dream world. Most people can't figure out anything about windows administration, and as for program installation all you need is a standard way of providing the user with access to the installed programs. Every operating system has this. Hell, I know plenty of people who prefer a text menu to hitting icons with the mouse, and people who prefer a command line (possibly with a reference card) to icons too.

    Anyhow, windows came with no useful programs other than solitaire and mine sweeper. Noone every bought a computer for windows. They bought a computer for the programs that they could run on it. During the later time of windows 3.1, there were at least two competing windowing interfaces for the PC that could run dos programs, and 3 if you include linux w/ X. Programs would have come regardless of windows, and advances in hardware were driven by software, not by windows. Microsoft office only started to dominate a year or two after win95 came out, and it doesn't offer anything over its competition aside from 100% microsoft office compatibility.

    The truth of the matter is that microsoft has made no discernable contributions to the world of computing that anyone who had been in the right place at the right time as Microsoft had would have done (and probably done sooner and better).

    Anyhow, if you think that computers are easy to use, you're the one who is delusional. People are simply good at learning repetative tasks, such as checking their email. If you made them two 10 extra steps from what they have to do now, as long as these steps are consistent from use to use, they'd still use their email just fine.

    Really, the only people who think that computers are easy to use are those who don't give tech support to their family, friends, or acquaintences. Try it some time. You'll realize just how hard most people find computers.

  • mistakes? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bilbobuggins ( 535860 ) <.bilbobuggins. .at. .juntjunt.com.> on Friday April 19, 2002 @01:53AM (#3371431)
    Intellectual-property experts said the patent clearly should have not been issued, but that such mistakes were inevitable from an underfunded government agency that issues 3,000 patents each week.

    What mistake? Temporary illiteracy? Did the possessed hand from Evil Dead get control of the 'APPROVED' stamp?
    I'm sorry, just don't get it.

New systems generate new problems.