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Slashback: SGI, Exploding Dell, Gizmo 110

Slashback tonight brings some clarifications, and updates to previous Slashdot stories including: the possibility of selling OpenGL to save SGI, a denial from Dell that it knew of the overheating battery problem, an update on the Skype competitor Gizmo, and a response from the Chinese folks that reverse-engineered the Skype protocol. Read on for details.
SGI's McKenna Considers sale of OpenGL. delire writes "The Computer Business Review has an article on McKenna's strategies to salvage the flailing SGI from bankruptcy ... one of which may include selling assets like OpenGL. As Gnome developer Christian Schaller aptly put it, 'I hope this gets picked up by a friendly entity, especially if there are some patents still attached to OpenGL.'"

Dell Denies It Knew of Overheating Battery Problem. Billosaur writes "A report from staties that according to inside information, Dell knew about the overheating problem in its laptop batteries for years. According to the report, an un-named insider 'leaked scores of documents to CRN, a computer industry publication, that indicated Dell knew of a dangerous battery malfunction for two years before a shocking video of an exploding laptop forced the company to recall batteries for about 22,000 laptops.' This on top of Dell's warning about lower than expected second quarter profits may cause the company some problems on Wall Street."

Gizmo: free VoIP to landlines in 60 countries. KrispyGlider writes "The more-standards-compliant Skype competitor Gizmo has launched a promotion in a bid to rapidly grow its userbase: free VoIP-to-landline calls to 60 countries, and even to mobiles in many countries. There aren't too many onerous catches to the deal Gizmo was previously covered in a Slashdot article from 2005 where it was noted that the Gizmo network has interoperability with other SIP networks, unlike Skype. However, the new version, 2.0 also has the ability to directly log in to open-source Asterisk VoIP servers, so you don't even have to use Gizmo's VoIP network any more."

When is it Okay to Reverse Engineer? Charlie Paglee writes "Last week Slashdot covered a story about a team of engineers in China reverse engineering Skype. Reaction on Slashdot was largely negative and raised many questions: Just when is it okay to reverse engineer and then innovate? The Chinese team issued a statement clarifying their actions: 'The domain of P2P innovation is limitless. We are very honored to work side by side Skype to promote P2P technologies in the VOIP industry. Our team is composed of the most talented P2P engineers in the world. We are working day and night to build a superior quality P2P network.'"
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Slashback: SGI, Exploding Dell, Gizmo

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  • by b4stard ( 893180 ) on Friday July 21, 2006 @07:55PM (#15760943)
    When is it Okay to Reverse Engineer?
    Always. Everybody should have the right to tinker with their gadgets and publish their results. Period.

    PS tinkering with your gadget != masturbation DS
  • by Nova Express ( 100383 ) <lawrenceperson @ g> on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:16PM (#15761006) Homepage Journal
    Hmmm, I wonder what computer company would want to buy OpenGL? It would have to be someone that doesn't have a DirectX license,or already used OpenGL in its operating system. I wonder who that could be?

    (cough cough Apple cough cough)

    • Seriously though, I hope this goes the way that Blender did. If SGI could agree to give OpenGL to a non-profit organisation for a fixed amount, the non-profit organisation could appeal to the opensource community (and companies like RedHat, Novell) for donations.
    • by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Friday July 21, 2006 @09:23PM (#15761251) Homepage Journal
      Microsoft would buy it for the express purpose of killing it. It's been a thorn in their side for over ten years.

      Since SGI needs money more than it needs OpenGL to survive, I expect SGI would acquiesce to such a deal even if Microsoft were up-front about their intentions.


    • I think it's more likely the Khronos Group would buy OpenGL. They are already taking over management of and handle lots of other "open" media libraries (OpenGL ES, Open ML, Open VG Open SL, ...). It's better than Microsoft but I suspect they would start charging a fee for access to the standard specification.
      • Why would they charge a fee for access to the specification? Khronos is all about open standards. If they need to reimbursed for the purchase of OpenGL, I imagine they would just charge more for the conformance tests. You do have to pay to pay to put an OpenGLES/MX/VG/MAX logo on your implementation. Actually, it has always been that way with OpenGL too - this is why Mesa only claims to be "an API which is very similar to that of OpenGL".
        • First of all, I have to apologize. I've read several stories on open standards lately and I confused this story with another where I heard "RAND" (Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory) fees which can be used to effectively shut down open source software projects. So perhaps it's not as bad as I thought. However, Jon Leech's comments on

          The OpenGL and OpenGL ES groups can communicate under the same set of intellectual property rules. IP rules are to standards like dental checkups are to you: unple

    • That's the first thing I thought. Apple, I hope, will buy it if only to protect their quartz extreme investment. What would be the coolest thing would be for them to buy it, continue using as normal, and keep it open and free for anyone else that wanted to use it. The kudos from that would easily be worth the money they paid for it.

      • If OpenGL "dies" somehow, say bye to already troublesome gaming on Mac too.

        In fact OS X desktop uses OpenGL extensively. Quartz Extreme and Quartz 2D Extreme (not enabled yet) relies on OpenGL.

        I don't get how OpenGL can be "bought" anyway. OpenGL is an industry board already, []

        Notice 3dLabs, Intel, Apple, Sun, Dell and IBM which lives its good days again?

        It is not some sort of a "geek" "4 guys coding" project which Microsoft can take over. Military even relies on OpenGL.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Apple has no history of being any better than MS when it comes to contributing to the open community. Apple buying OpenGL would probably be just as bad.
      • Uh, bullshit?

        Apple's no saint, but Microsoft doesn't have a site like this: []
        • Honestly, though. Apple aren't particulary good to the Free Software community. They do just enough so that we don't totally hate their guts, but never enough to redeem their value to us.
          • They should open their state of the art frameworks like Quicktime, Cocoa and even Carbon to make 1000 geeks happy and go out of business since Redmond guys will steal them?

            What does opensource people want really?

            Darwin Intel kernel? What kind of guarantee that MS won't give some time to their genius x86 coders to make a perfect working OS X Intel, a perfect hack which may even download updates from Apple? So, everyone owning a white PC box will have fun with OS X and Apple go out of business?

            It seems people
            • Ugh...MS can't "steal" it if Apple use the GPL, as they have done in the past. But nevermind that! Better get some FUD out! Fuck the facts! Go with fear!

              Maybe it's time to stop thinking that MS are evil and have to be beaten, and start thinking that our house needs to be put in order.

              I couldn't give a shit about illogical, irrational claims that Apple are good and need to beat MS. The fact of the matter is both of them have shitty business practices, and both try to screw over the Free and Open S
  • I think... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd ( 1658 ) < minus city> on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:21PM (#15761021) Homepage Journal
    Open Cores, Sourceforge and Slashdot should get together to see if they can jointly buy OpenGL. SGI'll probably take anything at this point, most vendors already have OpenGL implementations of their own and don't need anything SGI still has, and I'd rather trust CowboyNeil with the specs than most of the vendors out there.

    (Can you imagine what would happen if Microsoft bought it? Does anyone seriously believe ANY implementation would be safe, MESA included?)

    Failing that, Google must have some spare change. Hell, they could probably buy SGI for less than the value of the machines in SGI's inventory, which would seriously boost their server power.

    • I say we all get together and pitch in a few bucks and buy it ourselves. We'll call it he x1n933k foundation. It will be non-profit of course (except to me). Anyone interested can reply below


      • You have a point!

        It could be the OpenGL Foundation, or something.

        Blender code was salvaged that way, when the company went down.
        A foundation was created, and now it is a healthy project, at [] .
        A movie was recently made showing how advanced it has become, at [] .

        At that time, they raised one hundred thousand Euros, I believe OpenGL might be a tad more costly, but one shouldn't underestimate the power of individuals to get together and raise some money.

        Maybe even
    • Despite Google's love or organizing and sorting, I doubt that a graphics tool will be of any particular interest to them - and if they do buy it, DirectX supports will whine about how Google are "leveraging their monopoly" or somesuch...
  • Eek! (Score:4, Informative)

    by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:27PM (#15761051)
    I hope an entity like Microsoft doesn't end up buying rights to too much of OpenGL, and thus lock it up for years. It's a superb cross-platform language for development... pretty much all there is for high-end games or similar real-time rendering when you want to develop something open source. It would pretty much suck if no further standards could safely rely on a base of OpenGL/GLSL/GL* to attract an audience and technology base in the future. DirectX isn't bad on windows... but I'd hate for that to be all there is for upcoming years.

    Still... perhaps a something new from the ashes could form a more lasting standard that's better than going through major-company approval process of the OpenGL ARB. Even if DirectX continues to be the basis of future graphics card development, new open-source standards can use the same hardware hooks for better ends. I can't imagine that the graphics card manufacturers wouldn't be interested in helping a new standard form if enough of the developer community had a hunger for newer cross-platform 3d graphics library. GLSL is very nice - but perhaps a better set of standard could be developed in conjunction with future hardware in mind.

    Ryan Fenton (Who has been reading through the GLSL Orange book for the past few weeks)

    • Re:Eek! (Score:5, Informative)

      by MasterVidBoi ( 267096 ) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:52PM (#15761496)
      SGI already sold most of the important OpenGL patents to Microsoft years ago, and it basically had no impact on OpenGL's development. The ARB has already announced that it is merging with the Khronos Group (which standardized OpenGL ES), and have taken the name and trademark with them. Basically, the OpenGL ARB have cut themselves loose from SGI, and SGI's future actions won't have any real impact on the development of the standard.

      About the only part of OpenGL that SGI can sell at this point is perhaps their implementations (which would be specific to SGI hardware). And just about everyone who wants one of those already has one.
  • Wha...? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cal Paterson ( 881180 ) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:28PM (#15761055)
    In what alternate universe did Slashdot react badly to reverse engineering?

    Reverse engineering meaning what FOSS groups do every day...meaning WINE, Gaim, Samba etc...? I am actually shocked. This is a very good thing - I'm not sure if the Chinese group plan to release source code, but hopefully if they can, then others can, and we'll end up with FOSS Skype programs.
    • The "foreigners bad" attitude overpowered the "freedom good" attitude.
    • Ah, but if people criticize the sacred cows of Apple and Skype, it might stop them getting the good juju like iPods and other fashion accessories.
    • Re:Wha...? (Score:3, Informative)

      by DigiShaman ( 671371 )
      Just run a google search for "China blocks skype" and you will understand why.

      The problem with opening up the protocol means that the Chinese government can now effectively program their firewall to stop all Skype VOIP traffic going in and out of the country. The primary reason is so it does not cut into the government owned telcom industry. That's #1. Always follow the money trail first. Second, it's to censor the free flow of international communication as it will aid in dissent. The last think the CCP wa
    • Slashdotters don't always have a consistant opinion on reverse engineering (which is natural given the large number of us with differing opinions.) It wouldn't be the first time a vocal group opposed reverse engineering though - when Linus threw a hissy fit because Tridge had "reverse engineered" (ie telnetted in and typed "help") BitKeeper, with BitKeeper's control-freak creators terminating kernel developer's gratis usage as a result, there were enormous numbers of Slashdotters who sided with Torvalds. I

  • by 56ker ( 566853 ) on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:39PM (#15761101) Homepage Journal
    Reading about Dell and the exploding batteries reminds me of the story about Ford and its Firestone tyres (oh and Cadbury's and its recall of chocolates because of salmonella). In the latter two cases both companies knew about the problem yet nothing was done (or things were just glossed over by management) until the bad PR forced them to do something. However I'm sure it's bad PR to have to do a product recall at all as it starts making people wonder as to whether your other products have major faults too.
  • by fermion ( 181285 ) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @08:45PM (#15761121) Homepage Journal
    Reverse engineering is always ok. Very little happens in technology without a community of development, some of which is poaching other peoples idea. We all like out cheap PCs, which is largely due to the effort of Compaq, and to a lesser extent MS. We all like Linux and BSD, which is in a way a reverse engineered version of Unix, except that the specs were largely published. We all like to use various messenging service, which is only possible because the protocols were discovered. We all like cheap replacement parts for our cars, which are only possible when unauthorized third parties are allowed to produce the parts. Same for printer refills.

    Perhaps this has caused skype some problems. Oh well, it happens. Perhaps this has caused Skype users some issue with security. Well, if reverse engineering can break security,then that is what is called bad security. If they want to interface with Skype, that is as good wanting the messaging services to interface. If they want to block it, as much as we may not understand, i think that soveriegnty is something everyone can agree upon. After all, you do not give keys to your house to just anyone, or let just anyone put stuff on you lawn.

    Reverse engineer, especially in software, is what is going to save this generation of computing technology. Can you imagine how much a PC would be if Dell did not have support MS 40% profit margin, if Dell were truly free to put whatever software it wished on the computer and charge for the privilege? This will happen when MS is forced to standardize, as is happening with the EU case, and a truly compatible WIndows runtime is present.

  • The catch to Gizmo (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    If you go to Gizmo's website and read the fine print, it's not really all it seems to be. In order to make free calls, the other person has to be registered and active on Gizmo as well. It should read "free calls to other Gizmo user's numbers."

    Kind of pointless if you have to make everyone you want to call register and use Gizmo.
  • Why not sell OpenGL to the Khronos Group []? They've done a fine job with OpenGL ES, and they also manage several other open APIs. NVIDIA and ATI are already on their "board of directors" (not to mention SGI). It sounds like a shoo-in to me.
    • Why not another industry consortium for OpenGL
      You run in to problems with slow changes to the spec with that approach. Take XFree for example. Dog slow changes, it became stagnant and didn't let much community contributions. X.Org changed all that. If OpenGL had more frequent changes that implemented features that game developers wanted, it might become the standard game development target instead of DirectX which is sadly MS-Only.
  • I find it a bit frustrating how closed minded people are being about this exploding laptop issue.

    Yes, its definitly possible that the battery exploded due to overheating or overcharging caused by failure of its protection circuit. However, it is also possible that it suffered impact damage. (e.g. someone dropped the battery while changing it, or the laptop was dropped but survived.)

    It is a bit of a pity everyone tends to ignore other likely causes simply because they enjoy talking down the same companies ov
    • Just because there might have been mishandling of the laptop does not absolve Dell of responsibility.

      If dropping a battery will cause it to later catch fire (which it will almost always not), they should build a motion sensor into it. You can't tell me that they can put a mechanism in a hard drive that will lock the heads before it contacts pavement from a 3 foot drop, but the MYSTERY OF THE FLAMING DROPPED BATTERY remains unsolvable.
      • Were it not for the fact it would be grossly irresponsible to do so, I would suggest you get a Lithium ion battery and throw it on the floor.

        You might just be surprised at what sometimes happens.
    • Dropping is part of the ordinary environment of a laptop. While one doesn't necessarily expect it to work afterwards, a reasonable person wouldn't expect one to spontaneously combust in a life-threatening sort of way afterwards, either. So there's no reason to give Dell a free pass because "it might have been dropped". Even if it had been, it shouldn't have blown up.

      I suspect that the problem is that the lithium-ion technology is inherently unstable and should not be put in consumer gear.

      (contemplating th

      • Assuming that supercaps or fuel cells are safe in this regard. I'd assume there'd be a lot of mechanical stress due to the electric charge in the former.
      • So there's no reason to give Dell a free pass because "it might have been dropped". Even if it had been, it shouldn't have blown up.

        Does this apply to almost every other manufacturer of consumer electronics? Are they also denied "free passes" when batteries explode? Because its a hell of a lot more common than many posters seem to think.

        I suspect that the problem is that the lithium-ion technology is inherently unstable and should not be put in consumer gear.

        I am not a chemistry major, but I don't see

        • Does this apply to almost every other manufacturer of consumer electronics? Are they also denied "free passes" when batteries explode? Because its a hell of a lot more common than many posters seem to think.

          1. Yes. 2. Yes. 3. That was my point.

          I am not a chemistry major, but I don't see how its possible to store energy without the possibility of that energy being released in an uncontrolled manner.

          The batteries have to be better designed to fail safely instead of spectacularly. Whether this is done via

  • another open source client [] out there that is way better for me. it also based on mozilla .. yay !
    • I just found out about wengo. And I've never sounded so much like an advertisment; I've been telling everyone about it. No more booting to windows just to make a call because skype keeps crapping out on the sound in Linux...yay!
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:27AM (#15762166) Homepage

    SGI doesn't have any valuable rights in OpenGL. The specification is a public document. The reference implementation is open source. You can't copyright an API (SCO and Microsoft have both tried and failed). There's a charge to use the OpenGL trademark in a closed-source implementation [], and that's it.

    SGI's higher level APIs, like Inventor and Performer, have little if any resale value.

    • But there are the patents. And yes, you can design patents such that they eliminate the possibility of implementing a certain API without being in breach. As I understood it, that's one reason why the Free Software community hasn't been that enthusiastic about OpenGL.
  • He is the one that brought it into greater attention in the gaming world. He has been releasing his engines with the GPL license. He likes to give back to the community, and that would be a big give-back.
  • by dud83 ( 815304 )
    In communist China, working "side by side" means "in direct and absolute collision course to destroy the capitalistic ways of a corporation" *_*
    Nice to know! :p
  • Because I have BackSlash marked as "dont display" in my preferences here. So now we have regular slashdot, then backslash and now slashback. Whats next, dotslash?
  • Would you buy a Ferrari and put regular gas into it?

    I sort of resent this analogy. The reason you wouldn't put regular gasoline into certain expensive (sports) cars is that it is bad for the car if you do this. These cars were designed to use high-octane gasoline and if you don't, bad things will eventually happen. Using a cheap memory card won't damage your camera (unless it's incredibly defective).

    The submitter implies in his or her intro that buying an expensive camera and a cheap memory card is a bad

Loose bits sink chips.