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Submission + - Quicken Bill Pay is No Longer Safe to Use (perens.com) 1

Bruce Perens writes: I don't usually make security calls, but when a company makes egregious and really clueless security mistakes, it's often the case that the only way to attract their attention and get the issue fixed is to publicize it. This one is with Quicken Bill Pay, a product of Metavante (not Intuit). It's from personal observation rather than an expert witness case, and the company has been unresponsive through their customer support channel.

Comment Re:Conversely... (Score 1) 224

Thank you for affirming as much of my argument as you did and, also, for the corrections in the second half of that post. That's some good information, of which I was not aware. Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on shortening the term (of both, but primarily patents, as that's your focus)?

I think patents are probably about right as is. As you note, some industries develop faster than others... but if you start basing patent term off that, then do you create different term lengths for every industry? Like pharmaceuticals get 20 years, but software gets 3? Airplanes are 15, but cars are 5? Given the number of industries and the fine delineations we could make, you'd end up with more law than the tax code... 8-bit retro indie video games get 7 months; but 8-bit retro AAA video games get 9 months... two legged walking robots get 4 years and eight months, three legged wheeled robots get 3 years and 11 months, etc. Congress would spend all of its time passing new patent term laws. And what about the cross-over technologies? Software for developing pharmaceuticals? Biological computers? Simulated cars for video games?! And what about a revolutionary new technology, where the patent is the first in a whole new industry? Hundreds of years? Or none?
20 years seems like a pretty decent compromise, particularly with the maintenance fees. One thing that could help is additional maintenance windows... Right now, you pay your fees at 3.5 years from issue, 7.5 years, and 11.5 years (with the costs increasing each time). Many software patents are abandoned before hitting that 11.5 window. But what about 5.5, or 9.5? Or even annual fees, steadily increasing? That would help encourage shorter terms for patents that are obsoleted early.

As for copyright, there are multiple parts there (copyright is often compared to a bundle of rights, with exclusive rights to make copies, distribute works, perform the work publicly, make derivative works, etc.). I think piracy - direct copies, identical to the original - is less morally defensible than, say, sampling, which falls under the derivative work umbrella. Like, if you make and distribute a copy of someone's album because you're too cheap to pay or whatnot, that's just wrong. Heck, at best, it's plagiarism. But if you sample their bass line and make a new song over it, you've created something new, and the world of art is enriched due to your joint contribution.
With that in mind, I think that the term for a derivative work should be short - like 5 years. The original artist gets to do remixes, screenplays, etc. for that period, but if they don't, then it should be up for grabs - as source for further creative works. But pure copying? That term could stay as long as it is, frankly. Let the authors exploit their original work, but let others also improve upon it.

Comment Re:Conversely... (Score 2, Interesting) 224

They are written vague on purpose, because to be specific, would allow others to build upon your patent, and patent their improvements, locking you into a stale old way of building said invention, never able to improve it.

This is precisely the type of abuse, by a handful of unscrupulous assholes (patent holders being, relative to the entirety of the population, a handful of people), which I propose we amend patent laws to prevent.

And, by amend, I truly mean "actually enforce the laws as written", since they already require some degree of specificity.

I am a patent lawyer, and I completely agree. My patents, of course, are clear and informative; but yes, there are many terrible ones out there. Frankly, it's partly unscrupulous assholes, but mostly incompetent and lazy assholes: to write a good patent application, you have to understand the invention... too many patent lawyers skip that step, take whatever the inventor sent them and slap some boilerplate "in some embodiments" language on it, and file it. Heck, you can still charge the same amount as a well-written patent, but can crank it out in an afternoon! What a world!

Fortunately, the courts and the patent office are finally pushing back on this. Most of the "abstract idea" rejections under Bilski and Alice Corp and other related 35 USC 101 cases are really about badly written patents that claim "A method for doing something awesome, comprising: applying rules, by an expert computer system, to do something awesome." What rules? How does it achieve that awesome result? Fark if anyone knows... the person drafting the patent sure as hell didn't. The cases that are being upheld are the ones that go into detail about what calculations are being performed, how the thing works, the low-level specifics of what it does, etc.

That said, patent law and courts and such are glacial. It'll be another decade and change before patents drafted and granted, say, 5 years ago, expire. And patent litigation with terrible patents will keep popping up over that time. But maybe by the 2030s, things'll start looking better. \_()_/

It's debatable whether the term should be shortened; many would argue it should be extended, as was done with copyright. Personally, I believe that patents and copyright were given the terms they were originally given based on how long it took to produce and circulate a work at the time that those respective laws were written; as both now take considerably less time, yes, I agree that the terms should be shortened.

Patent term has only ever been extended twice, and the second one wasn't a real extension (the change from 17-years-from-issue to 20-years-from-filing was based on an average 3 year prosecution queue, so the result is the same). Copyright has big money publishers on one side like Sony, Disney, Columbia, etc. wanting longer term and, what, pirates? The public? No money on the other side. So your bought-and-sold Congresscritter happily votes for term extensions.
But in patents, Apple, say, wants longer terms for their own patents, but shorter terms for Google and Microsoft's. And vice versa. So you get this pressure on both sides, with no real imbalance in money and lobbyists.

Incidentally, there's a safety valve in patent term already - patent owners have to pay maintenance fees that increase over the life of the patent, or it goes abandoned. Most patents in the tech sector are abandoned long before that 20 year term expires, because, after 10 years, say, they're obsolete. It's the pharmaceutical people who try to keep them alive until the very end, because of how long R&D and FDA approval takes. Increasing those maintenance fees would have the same effect of shortening patent term in fast moving industries while keeping it long where it's needed.

Comment Re:I use them quite a lot (Score 5, Insightful) 223

The story says the engineers found it was used rarely, citing that as the reason for removal.

However, doing something rarely does not mean it is used never, nor does it mean removal is appropriate.

I rarely use a fire extinguisher, yet I keep one in my kitchen and my vehicle. I rarely use my window shutters, but I'm absolutely glad the house has them as they can save a fortune during a storm. I rarely print documents, but I still maintain a printer.

Just because it is rarely used does not mean it isn't useful, nor does it mean it should be removed.

Comment Re:How come html5 but not on firefox? (Score 1) 66

HTML 5 video has many mechanisms to restrict media access based on client properties. For example, there is a robustness parameter which implementations are expected to evaluate according to their perceived ability to prevent user-controlled access to content.

I suspect that Widevine (the DRM plugin used by Firefox) did not provide a robustness level on Linux which Netflix was comfortable with. To a degree, this is still ongoing. I think the maximum resolution you can get on Linux still is 720p, while Windows will go to at 1080p at least.

Comment Abandoning Time-Worn Processes Leads to Atrophy (Score 5, Insightful) 154

Scientists determined that those people who made use of machine washing rather than hand washing had diminished hand strength and neurological motor communication necessary for fine motor control. Seamstresses who bought thread rather than using the spinning jenny were similarly impaired. But worst off were teamsters who used the internal combustion trucks rather than teams of horses and used forklifts and other mechanical devices rather than loading their vehicles by hand. Their overall body strength was much reduced.

Comment Pity, since I can't accept the EULA (Score 1) 137

Google's Chrome browser, on the other hand, remained unhackable during the contest.

Unfortunately for me, I can't accept Chrome's EULA.

It incorporates Adobe's, which (if I recall correctly from my AT&T Android-based smartphone) has several clauses I can't abide - including a never-compete, don't block updates, don't work on circumvention tools, we can change the license without notice, ...

I don't intend to do anything that might come back to limit my future software work or employability. Clicking through such a license (even if every bit of it is struck down by the courts - which I'm not holding my breath expecting), especially on a device that "phones home" in a way that is easily identified with my true name, is an invitation for an all-versus-one gladiatorial match with two multibillion-dollar corporations' legal departments.

Comment Re:Stealth Layoff (Score 2) 292

The alternative offered? To "quit" his job and lose severance and other benefits. Why he (and them) complied? Because he's near retirement age and doing anything else would be end-of-life economic suicide.

That's an involuntary termination, not quitting. When companies try it generally it is a legal quagmire. If it is even slightly questionable companies will generally offer a huge settlement package rather than risk a drawn-out lawsuit fighting in the courts; and since they're leaving the state the drawn-out lawsuit would be in a state they no longer are local to, further increasing cost.

I'm curious, did you talk with a lawyer before accepting the deal?

Comment GitHub is in California (Score 1) 74

I struggle a bit to understand why this isn't a bigger issue. ... I wonder why some politician hasn't attempted to differentiate themselves by even mentioning the stifling effect on innovation [company-owns-all-your-inventions] policies impose.

Because it's already been adressed, long ago.

GitHub is in San Francisco, which is in California and governed by California labor law.

California labor law says that (paraphrasing from memory):
  - As a compelling state interest
  - overriding anything in the employee agreement
  - if an employee invents something
  - while not on company time or using company resources
  - and that invention is not in the company's current or immediately foreseeable business
  - then the invention belongs to the employee
  - (and the employment agreement must include a copy of this information as an appendix.)

(IMHO that law is THE reason for the explosive growth and innovation in Silicon Valley and why other states have been unable to clone it. Invent something that your current company won't use, get together with a couple friends, maybe get some "angel funding", rent the office across the street, and go into business with your new shiny thing. So companies bud off new companies like yeast. And innovators collect where they can become the inventor, the "couple of friends", or the early hires, creating a pool of the necessary talent to convert inventions into companies when they happen.)

What GitHub has apparently done is say to the employees:
"For the purposes of us claiming your IP, your lunch time and breaks are your time, even on company property, and your use of our computers and disk storage for things like compiles, storing code, and web research in aid of your project, does not count as 'using company resources'."

In other states, and other companies even within CA, that might be a big deal. For a company in CA, whose whole business model is providing archives for other people's software projects - and giving it away free to small groups, while charging large groups (or small groups that grow into large groups), it's not a big deal, and right IN their business model.

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