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Journal Journal: OMG, I agree with Karl Rove, that can't be good..... 10

WSJ op-ed.

This bit kinda sums up in a nutshell why I'm bitter: Mr. Obama has not governed as the centrist, deficit-fighting, bipartisan consensus builder he promised to be. And his promise to embody a new kind of politicsâ"free of finger-pointing, pettiness and spinâ"was a mirage. He has cheapened his office with needless attacks on his predecessor.

Another interesting point: For example, he voted for the bank rescue plan in September 2008 and praised it during the campaign. Yet on Dec. 8 at the Brookings Institution, Mr. Obama called it "flawed" and blamed "the last administration" for launching it "hastily."

Oey vey

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thank you TWC, it's about time....

So Time Warner finally got off their collective lazy asses and increased our upstream here in the STNY market. Must have happened recently but I didn't notice it until today when I took my traffic shaping rules (configured for the old upload speed) offline to do some unrelated testing. Noticed that I had a full megabit of upload and called them to confirm it. Previously they topped out the upstream at 384kbit/s on the standard tier and 512kbit/s on the turbo tier.

The new tiers are 15/1mbits for turbo and 10/1 for standard. A few months ago they bumped up our download speeds to those rates but had left the upstream at the aforementioned slower rates. Previous to that we had 8mbits/512kbits for Turbo and 5/384 for standard. Glad they finally increased the upstream to a more realistic value. The downstream is nice, although I can't really peg it unless I fire up three or four different downloads. If my employer wasn't paying the bill I'd consider dropping it down to standard. Same upstream bandwidth and more downstream than I need.

I wonder if this means Verizon is eying our market for a FiOS roll out? It seems that TW's MO is to lowball their bandwidth tiers in the markets where they don't have any competition, then they bump them up right before someone else moves in. Would be nice to have a second option. I'm too far away from the CO to get DSL with any decent speed. In this neighborhood it tops out at 1.5 and is borderline at that. TW is currently our only realistic choice. Not sure I'd change away from them to go to FiOS (I hate Verizon with a passion) but it would be nice to see someone actually compete with them for a change.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Just testing out some journal submission changes 8

I don't actually have anything to say. Kathleen is due any day, and I'm looking forward to a few weeks of staying home, getting poor sleep, and changing diapers.
But mostly I'm testing to see if journal saving works properly.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Updates to Journal System 13

We've made some significant updates to the submission/journal system. Visiting Submissions and Journals yields a new form that allows stuff like tags to the data types. There are a number of annoying bugs, but for the most part the dust is starting to settle. More notes will be coming, but this journal entry is really just me putting the final test on the new Journal form.


Journal Journal: Citizens United v. FEC 1

I have spent a lot of time thinking about the oral arguments posed in the rehearing of Citizens United vs. FEC. This is a case whether a corporation which exists primarily for political advocacy could have their movie denouncing Hillary Clinton played legally over cable in the last two months before the primary. The district and appellate courts said "no" based on campaign finance laws. They then argued before the Supreme Court over whether campaign finance laws could be applied to them in this context.

If only it were that simple. Instead of issuing a ruling, the court asked the parties to come back and argue whether or not two important precedents in this area (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC) should be overruled on first amendment grounds.

The ACLU, ever the champion of unpopular causes, has filed an amicus brief asking the court to rule the law in question facially overbroad and unconstitutional on first amendment grounds. The NRA also filed an amicus brief asking for more limited decisions on Constitutional grounds, striking down a single amendment and instead punting the issue back to Congress to fix the resulting issues.

The case is difficult for many people because of deep-seated prejudices about the virtues and perils of corporations in America. Some see corporations as good and wonderful engines of the economy which should be left alone from government interference and others see them as evil, greedy money-powered engines of social destruction which must be kept on a short leash. These prejudices get in the way of addressing serious concerns on both sides.

More troubling from my viewpoint though is the government's retreat from what is probably the most plausible defence of these cases: That very wealthy corporations (many of which have more wealth than any natural person in this country) can distort election dialog with their mere presence in that dialog. Instead Elena Kagan sought to emphasize corruption dangers and shareholder protection which seemed to be less well accepted by the court. In essence she asked them to keep the lines the same but change the underlying reasoning behind the line.

In the end though nobody seems to doubt that Citizens United should win, but the question is on what Constitutional basis. This leads in turn to the role of corporate first amendment rights and whether these even exist. Here the questions to seem to become far more murky.

Jamie Raskin, in his opinion piece "Corporations Aren't People" on NPR, said:

The corporation is not a membership organization but an "artificial entity," as the Supreme Court has called it, chartered by the state or federal governments to serve public purposes. Legally speaking, it has no independent constitutional standing outside of the rights of the people who own it -- and they already have the right as citizens to contribute and spend on campaigns. The idea now being promoted that CEOs have a First Amendment right to take other people's money out of corporate treasuries to spend on politics is outlandish.

Chief Justice John Marshall wrote in the Dartmouth College case that, "A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. Being the mere creature of law, it possesses only those properties which the charter of creation confers upon it, either expressly, or as incidental to its very existence."

I agree with John Marshall in his analysis but I don't think it necessarily follows that corporations don't have first amendment political campaign rights. Similarly even if we accept that corporations have first amendment political campaign rights we don't have to conclude that no regulation is possible. The fundamental question becomes whether Constitutional rights are applicable to an organization incidental to its very existence or not. Obviously some rights are not. Corporations can't vote, and IBM can't be nominated to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. Other rights, such as the rights to due process and equal protection of law are incidental to existing in the American legal system.

So which category includes freedom of speech? Or could this be settled instead by merely holding it to be a part of freedom of the press (which News Corp, NYT Corp etc. clearly have)?

Existing in the United States means participating in the marketplace of ideas. Both freedom of speech and of the press protect that marketplace from undue government control, and require that government rule are narrow as possible to meet legitimate and important government interests. The protection is not one which is limited to natural persons-- corporations routinely advertise their products and have some first amendment protections on those advertisements. Similarly, corporations have the right to petition government for a redress of grievances. I don't think it is outlandish at all to suggest that corporations, just like resident aliens, have a right to participate in our political system even if they can neither vote nor hold office. I don't think there is therefore any question that corporations have a right to disseminate company positions on election issues and candidates to the electorate in advance of an election.

Furthermore, it becomes difficult to distinguish a corporation like Citizens United, which exists for political advocacy, a corporation like News Corp or the NYT which IS allowed to air endorsements for candidates via freedom of the press, and a company like Microsoft or Oracle.

However, just because corporations, like natural persons, might have a right to participate in this dialog does not necessarily mean that no laws can be passed to protect the marketplace of ideas from being monopolized by corporate voices in these important areas-- there is no interest that I can think of more compelling for the government than the interest in free and fair access to election points of view. However, such laws would need to be narrowly tailored to meet this very compelling interest. Blanket bans on electioneering communications are facially overbroad, however, and should be struck down.

This shouldn't be a question of whether campaign finance reform itself as a concept is Constitutional but rather whether this specific section of this specific act is. I believe that the court should and probably will strike this down, but I hope that it does so without unduly undermining the rationale of Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce.


Journal Journal: On Health Care Reform and Software Development 1

One important news topic for the last month has been health care reform. I have decided to oppose the bills presented because even though I could probably live with the Senate bill, the House bill is rather terrifying.

Unlike most opponents of Obama's health care reform package, I am not opposing the ideas of public plans, etc. Rather my problems are with details, such as the dismantling of state regulatory action regarding insurance, and so forth. The Obama approach means ripping out an autochthonous system and replacing it with an engineered beaurocracy which is expected to function right the first time, even though it was crafted and (if it passes) pushed through with an attitude that "you're either with us or against us."

The fact though is that we are better off approaching the health care problems in this country the same way we would an unmaintainable codebase for an amazingly complex software application. They suffer from most of the same problems, and both are amazingly complex systems. Expecting a new system to work from day one is out of the question.

A better approach would be to approch this through an incremental approach. The first year we set up bipartisan task forces to study the problem and come up with sets of recommendations. The next year one problem is addressed in one bill, is fully discussed and eventually passed in a bipartisan effort. The following year another issue is dealt with etc. Dividing a complex problem up into multiple babysteps is a widely used tactic in successful software projects, and it should be more commonly used in legislation as well.

Such an approach would mean slower change than Obama supporters hope for, but it would mean a better system would emerge. It is unfortunate that the current approach seems to be to create bills that will eventually fail in order to capitalize on the issue in future elections. We need some reforms. The question of which ones and how they are to work in exact detail needs a lot more discussion, however.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Mod points 3

So after lurking on the site a while, I kicked off my Slashdot account with this post. Just over six years later, I get mod points for the first time today. What's up with that?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Paper airplanes (yep) 9

Ever since I was in grade school, I have had an unnatural love of paper airplanes, and ever since I was in 7th grade, I have designed my own models.

More recently, though, I have turned my attention to the most complex and challenging area: aerodynamically correct paper airplanes, which fly on lift generated by the Bernouli's Prnciple. While this is quite difficult, the planes fly in ways which are unusual in terms of paper airplanes, and can be extremely rewarding. This is a post to help show some elements of this discipline for others. If there is interest, I will add some photographs of some of my airplanes.

The first point I would make is that lifting bodies are the easiest aerodynamically correct paper airplanes to make when trying to build monocoque airplanes. This is because the simplest lifting bodies can be made out of differentially folded cones, are reasonably simple to make out of a single piece of paper, and don't require the more complex solutions to things like attaching wings.

The simplest lifting bodies however, pose a different challenge. While the center of gravity is reasonably far forward, the center of pressure is fairly far back, making the planes quite spin prone. I have found two solutions to this problem: either enhance wingtip vortices to create drag on the swept wingtips or fold the tips into non-lifting stabilizers. Non-lifting stabilizers have the advantage of causing less drag, but both types work (and fly remarkably differently). Both have the effect of robbing the wingtip of lifting action and thus move the center of pressure forward.

If trying to build fixed-wing aircraft out of paper, this gets to be a lot more complicated. My first few models flew reasonably well, but not great. Stiffness of paper, monoquoque construction, etc. are rather problematic when building larger airplanes with paper and there are other challenges as well.

The biggest challenge is how to attach the wings. Here is where I will let you figure it out :-)


Journal Journal: Getting messages to show at the top of the page 2

Messages used to show at the top of the page above the first article, in a format like: "You have 2 new messages and 1 old message". Now they show up in a box on the right which, even though I know it's there, just doesn't work for me. As a consequence, I'm constantly missing out on replies and others' journal entries. I noticed you can drag the box around, but only in that column. Anybody know how to get the message notification to show up like it used to?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Thoughts on AF447 5

First, a disclaimer: I don't work in aerospace fields at all though I do design aerodynamically correct lifting body airplanes.... A lot of the conclusions here are my research as a layman. Rather I am writing here to put theories down on paper, as well as weigh relative weights of the theories. Also, my heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones in this tragedy, and if any are reading this, I hope it helps put some of the media speculation in more context.

Now.... What is known: At 0200Z (GMT), the pilot of AF447 sent a manual transmission that they were flying through a storm system. This corolates well with Tim Vasquez's projections and analysis but is way off from the BBC's maps. The plane would have entered the backward edge of the mesoscale convective system (MCS) and would have exited the forward edge, where the storm cells would have been strongest.

At 0210Z, the plane sent a series of ACARS messages denoting a large number of failures from 0210Z through 0214Z. These messages are designed to speed aircraft maintenance rather than determine the cause of an accident so they lack certain details which are important in this case. At the moment, however, they are one of the more important sets of information which is publically known.

After 0214Z, no further details are known. The vertical stabilizer was eventually recovered, but it isn't clear where or when it broke off yet. Most likely the vertical stabilizer was broken off by sideways forces but at the moment it isn't clear whether this happened in flight or during impact.

Finally, we have the Air Comet pilot report where the pilot at 7N49W reported seeing a bright light in the distance following a vertical downward trajectory for six second. Due to the curvature of the earth, the Air Comet pilot was not in a line of sight to the AF flight. The AC pilot could have seen a meteor.

Theories and weighting (note the weightings could change rapidly with new information):

1) Initial messages caused by lightening strike. Probability low to moderate. A lightening strike to the Radome could damage Pitot tube systems, weather radar, inertial reference systems, etc. The lightening strike would have to enter or exit on the radome to cause this sort of damage. Such would seem generally unlikely due to the tolerances involved. The main reason to suspect radome destruction is that pitot tube icing itself can't explain the TCAS fault reported. However, the inertial reference units are near the pitot tubes so it seems to me that severe turbulance-related damage would be more likely. Recovery of nose section, radome cover, etc should be sufficient to eliminate or confirm this possibility.

2) Meteor strike causing destruction of radome. Probability: extremely low. This would have a similar damage profile to the lightening strike scenario if the meteor was small enough to avoid further damage but large enough to destroy the radome. Also unlike a lightening strike, these are not events which frequently happen. Recovery of radome cover should be abe to rule this out or confirm it.

3) Pitot tube icing resulting in unsafe speed of aircraft. Probability: Moderate to high. Pitot tubes are known to ice up in conditions where no liquid water exists. For example a 1999 meteorological flight reported ice and graupel from 18k feet upwards through 41k ft and the DC8 involved in the 39-41k ft. range reported pitot tube icing. This would suggest that pitot icing can occur from processes different from structural icing. That case is worth reading in comparison to the present tragedy because it is reasonable to see the storms in both cases as comparable (both were equatorial meso-scale convective systems). The problem though is that the TCAS (Terrain Collision Avoidance System) faults might not be explained by simple cases of pitot icing because that system relies on groundspeed and GPS measurements rather than airspeed indicators. However, if severe turbulance was encountered (perhaps exacerbated by the autopilot increasing thrust to compensate for low airspeed readings), this might be sufficient to cause damage to aircraft systems including the TCAS and the IR systems (more on that below-- note though that the IR Disagree errors occur the next minute suggesting that they probably occur after the TCAS fault). While this seems like the most likely explanation, barring additional evidence to the contrary, it isn't possible yet to suggest that this is entirely certain. All of the 0210Z messages, however, except the TCAS error could be explained by the computer recognizing bad input from the Pitot tubes.

After the initial incident, the ACARS messages paint a picture of rapid deterioration of the situation. At least one internal reference unit failed, and shortly thereafter both primary and secondary air control systems would have failed. It is unclear at that point whether the aircraft was in direct law, or on manual backup (which gives LIMITED use of the rudder and elevator trim). The manual backup systems of an airbus are not designed for turbulance or even landing (they are only designed to provide some troubleshooting time while a plane is in-flight).

The next question is whether the aircraft broke up on impact or whether it broke up in the air. At the moment, there does not seem to be sufficient information to say. The last message, indicating a fault with the pressurization system due to external pressure increases COULD indicate decompression at that point, but it could also be due to cascades of bad information from the Air Data unit or an actual increase of outside pressure due to a rapid descent (for example, after a mach tuck allowed to progress too far due to lack of inertial reference). While it is likely that more detailed analysis of the vertical stabilizer will help answer this question, it is too soon to say whether it disintegrated in the air or when hitting the water (or a mixture of both). (The vertical stabilizer appears to have been broken off bit sideways force but whether this was the result of a sideways crash or problems in the air is currently uncertain.)

All in all, this is my rating of hypotheses surrounding the crash.

At this point, the evidence is not sufficient to conclude much beyond this IMO. Unfortunately a lot of this has been the subject of wild speculation from the media. Such speculation probably does not help anyone who is in search of truth whether due to curiosity or loss. I hope my post helps clarify at least one layman's view of the evidence for any such folk.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Lori Drew, The SCO Group, and the GPL 4

I have decided that I think that it is necessary at this point to put my thoughts together regarding the GPL, and when licence violations can gain the force of copyright violation. I am not a lawyer, but this has come out of watching a number of cases, discussing the issue with a number of lawyers, and trying to understand all sides.

When a GPL violation case comes up, folks generally are quick to argue that it is definitely copyright infringement. Stallman has even argued that nVidia's drivers infringe on Linus's copyrights. While I think that a subset of GPL violations do rise to the level of copyright infringement, I think these cases are somewhat overstated.

The GPL, despite what Stallman says, is a contract in which both parties agree to abide by certain behaviors in joint interest. The contract is an adherence contract similar in force to a web-site's terms of service (where use of the good or service requires adhering to the contract) and the consideration found is in the requirement of equal access to pulically distributed code. The GPL is much more like a contract than are more permissive licenses, like the BSD license, because the consideration factor is quite a bit greater. For example, while the BSD license might be argued not to include consideration since the only requirements are those required minimally by copyright law (not stripping copyright headers) and (when distributed in source form), not making false claims about warranties, the GPL actually requires the licensee to share something further with the idea that it will be available to the original developer. "I will share if you will share" is consideration while "I will share, but don't say I am giving a warranty when I am not" might be argued not to be. Similarly, the 4-clause BSD license (with the advertising clause) isclearly a contract, while the two-clause BSD license might not be.

At the same time, it seems reasonable to argue that a contract violation regarding copyright terms could become a copyright violation if the behavior is sufficiently outside the scope of the license. For example, if I grant someone a license to publish five copies of my book for a flat fee of $20, and they publish 5000 copies of the book, that would seem to be copyright violation, not a mere contractual issue. At the same time, I don't think it is copyright infringement if there is a reasonable argument to be made that the contract allows the use, or if the difference is small enough as to represent an issue resolvable through contract dispute (you print 6 copies instead of five by accident, that should be a contract matter). And certainly a mere reasonable disagreement as to the terms of a contract should not subject the loser in the case to copyright infringement sanctions.

Lawyers in contentious cases tend to find as many areas to allege misbehavior and as many grounds for relief as possible. Consequently, one can expect that any case of stepping outside of the perceived boundaries of a license will be labelled as copyright infringement because of the chance that the court will find for the plaintiff on this matter. It is thus understandable that lawyers will raise this issue in minor contractual disputes for leverage.

One of the most interesting cases which provides a parallel currently is United States v. Lori Drew. In this case, the US Attorney involved is seeking criminal sanctions over terms of service violations on MySpace's web site. Lori has been convicted of three misdemeanor counts of computer hacking for violating MySpace's terms of service (and creating a fake profile). Currently the court is considering throwing out those convictions in a directed verdict motion. If not, the next step is the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge is obviously having a hard time with the ruling since sentencing has been delayed for a total of seven months while he considers the motion to acquit. The key element here from many who support dismissing is that web site terms of service violations should simply not be prosecutable as crimes. Many of us feel that turning any term of service violation into a crime is dangerous to our system of law, and the same occurs with any other adherence contract. To hold the GPL to a different standard than MySpace's terms of service just because we like the license is hypocritical and similarly dangerous.

What I would propose in these cases is the concept of a penumbra around contracts, where violations are merely contractual issues. The penumbra would be defined both in terms of severity of the violation and vagueness in the contract. Any reasonable argument that the behavior was allowed in the contract would be sufficient to place the behavior under the penumbra where contractual violations could not lead to further legal or statutory challenges, as would the argument that the violation was not particularly egregious.

Back to my book analogy... Suppose in addition to limiting the number, I also require the book to be distributed on media suitable for being input directly into a computer or an offer valid for three years to provie such. Suppose the publisher does this by typesetting the book in the OCR-B font, and arguing that this is suitable for optical scanning and therefore they have met their terms under the contract. I take them to court. I don't think the court should entertain the notion that there are copyright violations in this case because there is a reasonable argument to be made that printing the book in a medium designed for both humans and computers is allowed by the contract. If I ultimately prevail, it should be on intent of the contract, and it should be a contractual matter.

So the next issue becomes the question of whether the GPL can regulate bridges (via linking) between a GPL application and a closed source application. Stallman says such bridges (such as the LGPL components of the nVidia drivers) are not in line with the license. He raises arguments which seem to be similar in nature to the arguments raised by The SCO Group in their suit against IBM. The major questions are:

1) Does linking NECESSARILY imply derivation?
2) Is derivation contageous? I.e. if A is derivative of B, and B is derived of C, can we say that A is derivative of C without further evidence?

Regarding the nVidia Driver issue, the typical understanding is that nVidia has ported the core logic of their windows drivers into a module which is independant of the Linux API itself. nVidia then provides a Linux driver, under the LGPL, which links the Linux kernel and the closed source module together and handles how the Linux kernel interacts with the closed-source module. Assuming this is the case, it would seem that nVidia has actually fulfilled their rights under the GPL v2. The reasons are elucidated by a reading of various rulings in SCO v. IBM.

In SCO, the court ruled that derivation was not contageous, and that one must show a continuity of the expressive elements in order to find derivation. In short, if A is derivative of B, and B is derivative of C, in order to say that A is derivative of C, one must show actual structures in A that are derivative of structures in C. It seems unlikely, given the standard understanding of this case, that the nVidia drivers in fact are derivative of the Linux kernel in this way, so they are not bound by the GPL. Similarly, under the GPL v3, it seems to my mind that one could easily create such a bridge without running amok because one can add additional permissions to specific modules (or even license modules under more permissive licenses like the BSD license).

The second issue, however, is the question of whether linking is decisive in the derivation discussion is an interesting one and has been dealt with substantially in other papers (see previous journal entries for citations). The general attitude seems to be that linking does not by itself imply derivation though it could lend some weight to the idea, particularly where object-oriented techniques like inheritance are used. However, a lack of linking does not mean that a work is not derivative either, particularly in more expressive content such as game displays (altering a game display, however done, might well be seen as creating a derivative work).

However, even if such a view were to be frowned on by the courts, I would hope they would see reasonable arguments to the contrary as requiring damages based solely on contractual violations rather than copyright infringement. Either way, I think Stallman is wrong and is advancing some dangerous arguments which we are rightly wary of in different cases. The key issues for me are: 1) do most lawyers I know accept those arguments, and 2) would we feel differently if those arguments were being advanced against Free/Open Source Software?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Why the patent threat hasn't materialized 1

Everyone worries about software patents. Yet despite sabre rattling from Microsoft, we haven't yet seen any major patent litigation against Free and Open Source Software. This entry explores the disincentives for enforcing patents against Free and Open Source Software as well as a little more information as to which project may need to worry more than others.

The scope of patent problems in the software industry are fundamentally new. Even the auto industry which at one point had several hundred manufacturers with major patent litigation for many years did not compare to the problems today. Not only are there overlapping patent claims, but the claims themselves are somewhat vague, and not tied sufficiently to a physical machine to be readily understandable as to what, exactly, is covered. Yet for all these problems, we see a few patent infringement lawsuits in the industry and these almost exclusively fall into two categories: countersuits and small players suing big players.

While patent protections and litigation may have been a big part of the reason for the consolidation of the auto industry in the early 20th century, patents apply to manufacture of physical goods with a high barrier to entry in a fundamentally different way to the production of intangible goods with a low barrier to entry. This is why business process and software patents have been threats which have failed to materialize.

To make an automobile, you have to:

  1. Build a factory
  2. Buy lots of expensive equipment
  3. Hire workers

Each of these costs money up front one hopes to make back through the manufacture of the product. A successful injunction means you are not only out of marketing your product, but also out your startup costs which would be substantial. Thus the mere possibility of patent litigation is an effective way to prevent competition.

In contrast, we see Free/Open Source Software requiring none of these. It can be made from home on common household equipment with essentially no startup costs. Some folks don't even make money writing the sotware, and it isn't terribly common that the developers themselves or the distribution companies have enough assets to make suits against them worth it.

So when we look at a company that might want to use patents to forestall competition, we see three real options:

  1. Do nothing, but maybe issue press releases stating that these infringe on unspecified patents. The problem with this is that until one notes which patents are at issue, this doesn't have a lot of credibility or effect.
  2. Issue a press release mentioning which patents one believes are infringed by which products. This has more credibility but opens up the business to a number of problems. First, the open source projects are likely to look at the patents and engineer around problem spots. Then one might see re-examination proceedings started, and some patents successfully challeged. So while this offers some short-term gains, it offers no long-term benefits and has some serious problems.
  3. One could actually sue over patent infringement. This would have more of an effect still than #2 above, but it has the same drawbacks. Furthermore, it is far more expensive than merely announcing the patent infringement issues because actual, costly patent litigation ensues along with, very likely, a great deal of pro bono work for the defence. Finally, it is even more risky because there is the chance that either the court or the patent office will invalidate the patent.

In these cases, litigating patents against Free or Open Source software doesn't make any strategic sense. No rational player will seek to use patents in this way. However, patents are a liability for big players (which is why I support Red Hat's patent pool). For larger players, it is typical for patents to be mostly useful in defence, but risky in offence. However, large players are vulnerable to patent lawsuits because they CAN pay royalties, etc. Consequently nearly every suit we see is by a smaller business against a big business.

I have concluded that software patents are useless against Free and Open Source software simply because they are usually easy to work around and the damage done by actual litigation is fairly limited.

Of course, IANAL, TINLA, and if you don't get that you shouldn't be reading Slashdot!

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Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them. - Oscar Wilde