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Journal Journal: Some questions remain in bank audit 2

What would it be like if we ran our banks the way we run our elections?
I suppose something like this...

Some questions remain in bank audit

IP newswire
Dateline: your town

Another box of money was found in the offices of Central Fiduciary Fidelity Financial Faith and Trust (CFFFF&T) today, as its audit entered its second week. Witnesses said that the box, about two feet high by two feet wide and three feet long appeared to be stuffed full of bills but they were unable to guess the number or the denomination. The audit, which many believe to be unneeded, was called by the managers of a defunct savings and loan in response to the demands from their customers, some of whom claim to have lost their life's savings.

This is the fifth such box identified at CFFFF&T, though there is as of yet no official word on how much money has been found in total. Bank officials issued a statement last Wednesday when the fourth box was found, saying that manually counting the money is a waste of time, but will be done if there is sufficient pressure from the media.

There have been widespread rumours floating around the internet for months, claiming that the nation's banking system is in serious trouble. Many of them point to incidents such as these as supporting their claims. Banking industry analysts however have repeatedly said that it was not uncommon for boxes of money to turn up in various corners of busy banks, and the alarmists who say otherwise or claim that it points to a bigger problem are just crackpots. CFFFF&T President Karl Blackwell agrees.

"They just aren't seeing the bigger picture" Blackwell told Faze The Nation Friday. "Banks are in no way close to collapsing. In fact, many banks are reporting record profits for the tenth year running. People need to just keep making deposits and leave the boring details to us professionals. We professionals? Whatever."

In any case, no one expects the total amount of money found in CFFFF&T's audit to be anywhere near enough to affect the banks financial statements, which were filed amidst great ceremony last Friday at a lavish party held in honor of the bank's current accounting firm, Outron, Rove and Lark.

But extra cash is not the only problem Blackwell has had to deal with lately. There have been scattered accounts of people accidentally depositing more money in their CFFFF&T accounts when they intended to withdraw funds, due to an error in the banks touch-screen ATMs. Blackwell stressed that such minor miscalibrations are to be expected when dealing with complex electronics. "Computers," he pointed out at the time "are only as good as the people who program them and the people who use them. Expecting computers to be perfect is tantamount to expecting perfection from people. I'm not saying it was necessarily user error--just that you can't proof that it wasn't."

And CFFFF&T is not the only target of criticism. Banking industry critics also point to problems such as the recent payday backlog in Ohio, where some banking customers had to wait for up to ten hours in freezing rain to cash their paychecks, especially in poorer neighborhoods. They claim that many customers couldn't wait that long and were forced to leave without cashing their paychecks, and that others who did wait were turned away or had their checks taken from them because they were at the wrong window. Some even go as far as to suggest that this represents an unearned windfall for the banks.

Seasoned industry watchers dismiss such claims as mere speculation. "No one know for sure that people left without cashing their checks," explained one expert who asked to remain anonymous. "They are just basing the theory that the banks somehow benefited from keeping people from cashing their checks on abstruse statistical arguments. There is absolutely no evidence of fraud. We've been very careful about that. Besides, if they couldn't make it that day, there'll be another payday in, what, just under two years, isn't it? They can cash their checks then."

Most people agree with the experts. But not everyone.

Some fringe critics are even calling for a total rework of the banking system, to more resemble the nations electoral process where detailed paper records are kept of every vote and there is an elaborate system of checks and balances. A spokesperson for Piebald Industries, which makes both voting machines and ATMs calls such demands unreasonable.

In an interview with Newsweak magazine, Piebald spokesperson Ryan O'Dear was quoted as saying "A paper trail for every deposit and withdrawal? Receipts? Automatic and transparent auditing? I don't think the people demanding such things realize how much it would all cost," he said. "And given the insignificance of most ATM transactions, it hardly seems worth it. After all, it's only money. It's not like we're talking about control of the free world or anything here."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Technocrat.net is back 13

Some of you may remember my technology policy / technology news site Technocrat.net. The site is reactivated. It's intended to be a more mature, and hopefully more relevant, forum than Slashdot. No ACs, a special focus on technology policy and high technology outside of the conventional corporate model, but conventional tech news as well.

I'd really appreciate it if you'd create a login on the site and submit articles. Especially original work, which hasn't always been well recieved on Slashdot - they seem to prefer linking to other people's coverage. RDF and RSS are available at http://technocrat.net/rdf and http://technocrat.net/rss, so you can keep track of articles from elsewhere.

Bruce

User Journal

Journal Journal: Have you passed through the nerd filter? 4

There is a "nerd filter" that people like me tend to pass through without realizing. On the other side of this filter, we are very likely to meet people we know, and in general people like us.

My most recent episode was at the 9000 foot visitor station on Mauna Kea. The folks there said that I shouldn't attempt to drive up to the telescopes without a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. So, I went in the parking lot and accosted occupants of the first 4-wheel-drive vehicle that came by. The driver of said vehicle had seen me lecture in San Francisco. I got my ride.

Just by standing at that 9000 foot visitor station, I'd passed through the nerd filter.

Then, a few weeks ago, I happened to come upon a local radio club's ham radio field day operation while hiking in the woods with my wife. An co-worker from 10 years ago walked up. It turned out he'd just gotten his ham license.

This stuff happens all of the time. Of course it helps that I am somewhat recognizable in tech circles, so people who know of me tend to walk up, but on the other hand I am not that well known.

What are your experiences beyond the nerd filter?

Bruce

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bruce Perens on NPR's Talk of The Nation: Science Friday 4

On Friday January 17, Bruce Perens will be interviewed on National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation: Science Friday", with host Ira Flatow. The subject will be the philosophy and business of Open Source software. The interview will take place between 2:20 P.M. and 3:00 EST, that's 11:20 to 12:00 PST. Find your local radio station here . For general information on the program, see the Science Friday site .
User Journal

Journal Journal: How Slashdot Made Me Famous :-) 8

I don't mean "famous" seriously, but I seem to have become somewhat well-known outside of traditional hacker circles. I try to use that to get our issues heard.

It came to me today that some of what drove me to become well-known outside of our little circle was frustration with Slashdot.

I used to post here a lot, and Slashdot was where I sent most of my bulletins first. Then I started to be frustrated with the editorial policies, submissions being nuked in favor of less important stuff, the AC and troll situation, etc. So, I consciously looked around for other venues in which to publish. First, I started Technocrat.net, which was good (and which I intend to make work again) but didn't pick up more than about 5000 readers. Then I started sending stuff to ZDnet. Surprisingly, ZDnet was much more willing to publish my stuff than Slashdot had been, especially since I didn't want to get paid. After a while, I shifted to their sister publication CNET News.com . I also sent some things to The Register and other publications. All were very willing to publish my stuff. It turned out that Slashdot was much more willing to link to stuff that I'd written on CNET than it was to accept my postings directly, not that it mattered as much once that content was on CNET. I guess that fits the format - I guess Slashdot doesn't want to be a producer of original material - they want to be an aggregator of stuff published elsewhere.

During this time, I was also doing a lot of things that drew attention. Forming a VC firm, working for HP, doing my gig with the W3C patent policy board, etc. Being widely read helped me get to do these things, and doing these things made me more widely read. The press started calling me, and I developed good relationships with a lot of reporters. When I left HP, I got a half-page in the New York Times print business section, with a big photo.

I probably wouldn't be getting all of this press were it not for Slashdot "pushing me out of the cradle". I'm not sure, however, that this was good for Slashdot.

Bruce

User Journal

Journal Journal: NY Times Publishes an Article About Perens Book Series 2

Please see this article in the NY Times. Woo Hoo! This is the end of the publicity except for a few magazines with long lead times. We got a good deal of coverage, and IMO it's always a good idea to put the successes of the Free Software movement in front of the people. Hopefully the coverage will inspire others to do free books. I have gotten a lot of writing proposals, but can use more. Please hit my book series page if you would like to write.

Thanks

Bruce

User Journal

Journal Journal: I Hit The Slashdot Comment Limit! 13

I posted 30 replies to the story about my Open Source book series with Prentice Hall PTR. The slashcode stopped me at that point. It says you can only post to Slashdot 30 times in 4 hours. It won't even let me do it as an AC. So, the software has cut off comments from the "Horse's Mouth" in favor of ones from the other end of the horse :-) It doesn't seem productive of information. Moderation of the previous comments in the article should be counted in this limit - I haven't checked, but I could probably have made it a good deal of the way from 0 to the 50 karma cap with those 30 comments.

Bruce

User Journal

Journal Journal: Answers to your questions about the W3C patent policy

From: Pierre Machard
> Do you have any reason to think that the position you defend will
> satisfy Patent holders ?

Some of them have threatened to walk off of W3C in response to even so
mild a position as the draft policy. Nobody thinks they'll really do it.
But your question shows the problem: we can't control their behavior
through the standards organization. We need their cooperation to make
this work. Thus, we can't take a draconian position. The only way around
this is to get legislation, which is a worthy but uphill battle.

From: Nick Phillips
> I presume you've seen Rik van Riel's suggestion as posted
> to one of the SPI lists earlier. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if the same
> things triggered his message as yours, either directly or indirectly.

A number of people have suggested defensive patent pools. I think
I remember doing so in a 1997 article in LinuxWorld.com . The three
problems are:

        1. Getting inventions.
        2. Getting money to file for patents. This is both legal fees to
              format the patent claim (which has to be right if you want to
              be enforcible), and filing fees.
        3. Getting money to file lawsuits. If you can't sue, nobody's going
              to be very interested in your claims.

I think that #1 could be handled by the community, #2 could at least be
started with pro-bono assistance from legal and engineering students, etc.
#3 doesn't have to come until later. If you want to run with the project,
please do so.

From: Wouter Verhelst
> It may not be a bad idea to have patent holders turn to a different
> standards body than people that object to software patents. If there are
> expensive 'standards' from one standards body and free standards from
> another, I feel that people would use the free standards, so that the
> patent holders would lose. Even if they have their own standard.

Well, there are about 100 existing organizations they could turn to,
including IETF (which has a joke of a patent policy IMO) and OASIS. It
would be very easy to do. I don't think making them do that would win
us anything.

From: James Antill
From Bruce:
> > The code that makes use of
> > the patented principle must be under the MIT license, which allows a
> > scope-limited patent license. That may be linked into GPL code and
> > distributed.
>
> How does this work?
> Say I have "xmms", which is GPL code that I didn't write ... and I
> want to implement some w3c std. that contains one of these patents. So
> I do the code as an MIT license, but I'm going to have to link it to
> the GPL'd code ... it's going to be a _derivative work_ ... so the
> code is basically GPL, no matter what I put at the top of the file.

The GPL terms on linking are that all parts of the derivative work must be
under a license with _no_additional_restrictions_ on top of those in the
GPL. The GPL does not prevent you from _removing_restrictions_, as long
as you are the copyright holder on the portion of the code in question.

From: Andre Lehovich
> I've been trying to comment on the draft patent policy.
> The link below -- to approve inclusion of my comments in the
> official archive -- doesn't work for me, returing a 404.

It's breaking for everyone, I think. I notified Danny Weitzner, the Patent
Policy Working Group chair.

Attention anyone whose message doesn't appear here: thanks for writing!
As usual, I am buried in mail and stuff to do, so although I read them
all, I can't answer every message individually.

        Thanks

        Bruce Perens

User Journal

Journal Journal: Please Support the W3C Patent Policy Draft 3

To All Members of the Free Software and Open Source Community,

For the past two years, I've been working on the W3C patent policy on
your behalf, to make it safe for Free Software to implement W3C standards.
Now, I'm worried that we could lose that fight, not because of the patent
holders, but because of our own community.

There's a long discussion below. I'm asking you to do something once you
read that discussion: Please write to
and tell them something like this (please elaborate - everyone discounts
rubber-stamp comments):

        To: www-patentpolicy-comment@w3.org
        Subject: Approve of draft policy - disapprove of software patenting.

        I request that W3C approve the draft patent policy, because it's a
        compromise that protects the right of Open Source / Free Software
        programmers to implement W3C standards.

And you may want to add this:

        I object to software patents, and support efforts to eliminate them
        at the legislative level.

Now, to the discussion.

Three representatives of the Free Software / Open Source community:
myself, Larry Rosen of the Open Source Initiative, and Eben Moglen of
the Free Software Foundation, worked on the W3C patent policy for two
years. We spent between 1/8 and 1/4 of our time on the project for all
of that time, participating in many face-to-face meetings and conference
calls. Across the table were some companies that, I feel, wanted to
"farm" their own patents in W3C standards and would have erected
lucrative "toll-booths" to collect royalties from every implementor of
web standards. If they had their way, we would have been locked
out.

We got you the best deal we could get. It's not everything we want,
and it can't be. The draft policy is at
http://www.w3.org/TR/2002/WD-patent-policy-20021114/ .

The proposed W3C patent policy grants a royalty-free right for everyone
to practice patents that are embedded in the standard by W3C members who
own those patents. It prevents "patent farming", the biggest problem
that faced us. The problem is that the patent grant is limited - it only
applies to code that actually implements the standard. This is called a
"field-of-use" limitation. The problem this creates for the Free Software
community is that other uses of the same patent in our code, for anything
but implementing the standard, could be covered by royalties.

I object to software patents entirely, and many of you do as well. Why,
then, did I (on your behalf) approve of a policy containing that
limitation, and why am I asking you to support it?

The answer is simple. Patent holders won't continue their membership
in W3C if that membership forces them to give up their patent rights
for non-standards-related applications. They will instead move their
standards-making activities to other organizations that allow them to
charge patent royalties on the standards. And we will have lost.

It comes down to what we can compel people to do, and what they won't
stand for. The patent holders want the W3C brand on their standards,
and will give up something for that. If we ask them to give up more,
they'll do without the W3C brand, and we have no way to control what
standards organization they move to. If we wish to fight software patents
outside of standards, I think our only choice is to do so at the legislative
level.

The field-of-use limitation presents special problems regarding the GPL,
because the GPL disallows a field-of-use-limited patent license. There is a
work-around for this. The code that makes use of the patented principle
must be under the MIT license, which allows a scope-limited patent
license. That may be linked into GPL code and distributed. I'm less than
comfortable with this, but my discomfort arises from the basic injustice
of software patents. A work-around is the best we can do in this case.

FSF, by its tenets, was bound to protest the field-of-use-limitation.
I respect that protest, as it is rooted an a belief that I share - that
software patents are fundamentally wrong. However, if the Free Software /
Open Source community comes out against the W3C patent policy, and the
patent holders who want unlimited rights to charge royalties come out
against it, just who will speak for it? The result will be that W3C
will fail to give final approval to the policy, and we will not even have
the limited protection from software patents that we've won. Thus, I
have to ask you _not_ to do what FSF asks this time. Of course, this
disagreement does not diminish my respect of FSF, and I will continue
to work with them as I have on many projects for years.

Thus, I'd like you to write that email now. It's very important that W3C
see support for the draft policy, or we'll be back to the old, bad policy
again. Thanks!

As always, please feel free to call me to discuss this at 510-526-1165
(California time) or write me at bruce@perens.com .

        Thanks

        Bruce Perens

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