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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 16 declined, 4 accepted (20 total, 20.00% accepted)

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Submission + - Nuance Loses Patent Trial Over OCR Tech

rtobyr writes: The Recorder is reporting that Nuance and partner Mofo have lost a suit over patent infringement of Optical Character Recognition (OCR) against Russian competitor ABBYY Software House.

Nuance had accused ABBYY Software House of infringing three of its patents and mirroring its packaging. Both companies market software that uses optical character recognition technology, or OCR, to convert scanned images of text so they can be searched and edited digitally. Represented by a team of lawyers from Morrison & Foerster and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Nuance argued that ABBYY's FineReader was little more than a copy of its signature product OmniPage. The Burlington, Mass.-based company also sued Lexmark International Inc. for its use of ABBYY's products and sought more than $100 million in total damages from the two companies. Nuance did not prevail on any claims in Nuance Communications v. ABBYY Software House, 08-0912. MoFo partner Michael Jacobs, who is co-lead counsel for Nuance with fellow MoFo partner James Bennett, declined to comment.


Submission + - Negative Keywords/Anti-words? 1

rtobyr writes: "I've been videoing some of the most memorable moments of my daughter's 10th birthday pizza/ (and first ever) slumber party. With the consent of all parents involved, I intend to edit clips into an iMovie "trailer" of a "documentary" about the effects of sugar (cake & ice cream) on 4th grade girls, and post it on YouTube. My problem is that I wouldn't be surprised if some troll labels my video as being the work of pedobear. My question is this: Is there a mechanism by which certain search criteria will cause my video to NOT appear in the results? Imagine a keyword, "-pedo" which causes any searcher whose search criteria includes "pedo" to NOT see my video in his or her search results?"

Submission + - Why is Microsoft/Bill Gates "The Enemy"? 2

rtobyr writes: "We /.'ers love to bash on Microsoft and Bill Gates. I'm no exception. Among many reasons, I hate DOS vice Bash. Bash is so natural. "man" is so useful. DOS is--by comparison--an abomination. Yet, DOS scripts ("batch files") are so much more common--dare I say: the standard--when compared to Bash scripts. Why don't I look at *sh as the abomination?

Barring complaints of the Win8 UI, Vista, & ME (we all make *some mistakes*), Windows OS's starting with 2000 have been satisfactorily stable--even when compared to *nix competitors (including OSX). I can't remember having to reboot a Windows server unless I was updating it.

As much as I really hate to admit it, Windows Server does more than other OS's. I can use IIS if I want, but I can also use Apache or NginX. I can use DotNet or C# if I want, but I can also use C, C++, Python, Perl, or any number of other languages.

Most of "us" prefer Linux over Mac, and Mac over Windows. We prefer Tovralds over Jobs, and Jobs over Gates. Why? Which of them have done the most good? The B&M Gates Foundation gives billions of dollars (to include the lion's share of Warren Buffett's fortune) to charities. Jobs is not known for being a philanthropist. The same goes for Stallman & Torvalds, yet we favor them as role models.

Why? Please don't be to sarcastic. I honestly wonder why my loyalties lie where they do (BSD > Linux > Mac (Actually BSD... I know...) > Windows) when Gates is actually doing more for the impoverished than Stallman, Torvalds, Jobs, and Cook combined?

What phenomenon compels me to internally condemn the most generous, and yet idolize those who--based on what I know of them--are A-Holes?"

Submission + - Neil deGrasse Tyson on September 11 Attacks (

rtobyr writes: "Astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson witnessed in horror the attacks on September 11, 2001.

I will never be the same after yesterday, in ways that I cannot foresee. I suppose that my generation now joins the ranks of those who lived through unspeakable horrors and survived to tell about it. How naive I was to believe that the world is fundamentally different from that of our ancestors, whose lives were changed by bearing witness to the 20th century's vilest acts of war.


Submission + - MacFarlane, Tyson to Revive Sagan's Cosmos (

rtobyr writes: "On Friday the Fox network is to announce that it has ordered a 13-episode series, “Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey,” expected to be broadcast in 2013. As part of a creative team that includes Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow and a collaborator on the original “Cosmos,” one of the executive producers is Seth MacFarlane, the creator, producer, co-star and animating spirit of “Family Guy,” the bawdy and irreverent Fox cartoon sitcom...Unlike Mr. MacFarlane’s cartoon shows, the new “Cosmos” will not feature non-sequitur pop-culture jokes, and will be hosted by Dr. Tyson."

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: FOSS Upgrade Paths

rtobyr writes: "I've got about 50 servers to manage. I do very much appreciate the technology that has come from FOSS operating systems projects, yet it seems to me that most *free* operating systems do not fully support an upgrade path. Ubuntu is the only exception that I'm aware of. I cannot seamlessly upgrade from Free/PC-BSD 8.x to 9.x. Instead I must re-install from scrach. The same goes for CentOS/RHEL 5.x to 6.x, and for every version of Mint Linux.

The two major commercial operating systems (considered to be evil by the FOSS community) easily upgrade from one version to the next. That's important in a real-life production environment. In 2001, I upgraded 200 workstations and 7 servers from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000 without incident. I've had similar experience with all subsequent MicroEvil systems. I do hate MicroEvil, but I can make only limited conclusions regarding the upgrade paths of other operating systems:

1) The distributions exist only for the sake of doing the project, and for the technologies that it produces (such as OpenBSD's OpenSSH).

2) Folks are expected to install a version of FOSS operating systems, but not upgrade because there's no reason to fix something that isn't broken.

3) FOSS operating systems are only for organizations who have so few servers or so many IT folks that re-installing everything from scratch is not inviably cumbersome.

4) I am oblivious to some upgrade path technique for FOSS operating systems.

5) I am a lame poser too unskilled to understand how to properly manage FOSS servers.

Please enlighten me."

Submission + - Why aren't schools connected?

rtobyr writes: "We use the Internet--E-mail, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to communicate with colleagues, friends, and family. When I was in Iraq with the Marine Corps, we used e-mail (secured with encryption and stuff, but e-mail nonetheless) to communicate the commanding officer's order that a combat mission should be carried out. My third grade daughter produces her own YouTube videos, and can create public servers for her games with virtual private network (VPN) technology.

Yet here I am trusting a third grade girl to deliver memos to me about her educational requirements in an age in which I can't remember the last time I used paper.

Teachers could have distribution lists of the parents. The kids' homework is printed. Therefore, it must have started as a computer file (I hope they're not still using mimeograph machines). Teachers could e-mail a summary of what's going on, and attach the homework files along with other notices about field trips or conferences that parents should be aware of.

Teachers could have an easy way to post all these files to the Internet on blogs. With RSS, parents could subscribe to receive everything that teachers put online. If teachers want to add to the blog their own personal comments about how the school year is going, then all the parents would see that also, and perhaps have the opportunity to comment on the blog.

It seems to me that with the right processes, the cost and additional workload would be insignificant. For example, instead of developing a syllabus in MS Word, use Wordpress. Have schools simply not paid attention to the past decade of technology, or is there a reason that these things aren't in place?"

Submission + - Apple Tablet Teardown (

rtobyr writes: "All you Jobs fans and hardware aficionados will appreciate iFixit's teardown of the revolutionary device:

Apple definitely snuck away some interesting tidbits inside — things they didn't want people to know prior to release. Initially we thought the battery was going to be difficult to take out, but boy were we wrong!


Submission + - How Can I Contribute to Open Source? 2

rtobyr writes: "I work for a state government agency. That means we can't donate money, because it's a "gift of public funds." I had the idea to put up a web page stating that we "use the following free software to save tax dollars" as a way to help spread the word about Open Source software, but management calls this "endorsement." A mirror server is a no-go as well. I'm certainly not a talented enough programmer to help with development. I've donated $10 here and there out of my own pocket, but I'm hoping you Slashdotters have some creative ideas about how my organization could give something back to the teams that create free software we benefit so much from."
The Internet

Submission + - Try Searching: A Solution

rtobyr writes: "This is an open letter to forum administrators and moderators in all forums which I am a member. I participate in a lot of online forums. In every forum, there are a set of questions that get asked over, and over, and over again. Invariably, someone will give the answer, "You should try searching before you ask a question. This has already been answered." Here's the problem with that: Now, when people do search for the answer, they find a bunch of posts where the answer is "Try searching." Sometimes there is a link to a post that has the answer. Sometimes there's a dead link to an expired post or nonexistent web or wiki page that used to have the answer. Sometimes there's a link to other links that may or may not have the answer. Sometimes there's no link at all.

I propose this solution: Keep a personal archive of answers to commonly asked questions. I use Google Sites as my own personal wiki for this purpose. Then cut and paste those answers when you get asked that same question /again/. That way, when someone does search for the answer, he or she can find a post that says more than just "You should try searching for that answer." If we don't answer those same questions in full every time, then we're not only doing a disservice to those people who do search, but we're also forcing people out of the habit of searching first because they know that they're only going to find the "try searching" answer."

Submission + - Lotus Symphony Beta 4

rtobyr writes: "IBM's Lotus Symphony Beta 4 (released this morning) allows for the development of third party extensions via Eclipse. Unfortunately, three of the most requested features have yet to be implemented: Mac support, customizable toolbar, and an OOXML filter."
The Courts

Submission + - What Constitutes Commercial Use?

rtobyr writes: "I have always assumed that when I am working for a government agency or not-for-profit organization that I my employer is entitled to freely use software that claims to be "free for non-commercial use." It seems to me that the term, "commercial" is derived from "commerce," meaning that profit is involved. Then I ran across a program whose EULA is an excellent example of ambiguity in this matter: Sandboxie, whose author — apparently — interprets commercial use as being installed on an Active Directory member computer. So I checked the EULA and found this:

This Agreement grants You the right to use the Software for personal use only. Commercial use of the Software is not permitted under this Agreement.
The statement totally ignores the possibility of use that is neither personal nor commercial. Yeah, I could contact the author (and I will) to clear up his intent; but Sandboxie is just an example. What do you suppose that "free for non-commercial use" means in general for non-commercial organizations? Do you suppose that the type of non-commercial organization matters? Should the military have the same freedoms with "free for non-commercial use" software as, say, a charitable non-profit? What about organizations in between those two extreme examples, such as credit unions or local or state government?"
Hardware Hacking

Submission + - Apple, AT&T Sued Over iPhone Restrictions

rtobyr writes: "Apple and AT&T are facing two lawsuits in federal court for anti-trust violations over iPhone restrictions. By not allowing other carriers to serve the iPhone, the two companies conspired from the beginning of their partnership to maintain a monopoly, the federal lawsuit alleges."

Submission + - Open Source Challenges for Microsoft Administrator

rtobyr writes: "Let me start by saying that this is not intended to be a criticism. It is my hope that this story can be one of those rare cases where Microsoft aficionados and the open source community can engage in productive dialogue. Nothing here deals in common criticisms such as "I shouldn't have to endlessly edit text based config files." This discussion asks more fundamental questions about industry specific solutions, choice management, and back office management. The best case result of this article will be that I get good advice that helps me take better advantage of open source opportunities. Hopefully, even if that doesn't happen, the open source community will understand a bit better why the rest of us haven't switched yet, and think about how to change that.

When I started my first network administration gig in 1997, I had heard of Linux. I had even installed Red Hat Linux 5 on one of my computers at home. It was good, and I could see the value in open source products. Unfortunately, I never could convince management of that value, so I wound up with really strong experience in Microsoft network administration.

My current employer's budget consists of tax dollars. Management is keenly aware of this, so they are quite frugal. Consequently, I get away with using Linux and other open source products wherever I can. There are reasons why we don't have Linux on the desktops of line workers. One I wrote about previously. Others include the need for applications that are very specific to my industry and location. For example, I work for a court of law. To my knowledge, there are no Linux based (or open source for Win32) programs for dynamically generating jury instructions. Even if there were, what are the chances that the program would accurately reflect current laws that change semi-annually regarding jury instructions in my specific state? How would it look if the Judge had to stop proceedings because the program that calculates alimony and child support for divorce cases crashed W.I.N.E.? It certainly would not reflect the dignity of the Court, which is very important to Judges. In medicine, it might be a program that analyzes symptoms and lists probable diagnosis. In banking, it could be something else. You get the idea.

As I've said, I do get away with using open source software sometimes. I've found that one of the big challenges is lies at the very heart of the open source philosophy: choice. Here's what I mean. If I'm running a Microsoft shop, and management says, "We need an intranet portal," then I say, "OK. Microsoft Share Point Portal Server costs $4,500." While you guys will debate this until we're all blue in the face, I assert that I say it knowing that Microsoft has put a lot of work and research into that product to make sure it has the features that businesses need in portals. I do a week of research and evaluation of that product. If I'm uncomfortable, I evaluate one or two other big name competing products. Then it's go time.

Now, I have choices. Free choices. Suddenly spending $4,500 (plus client access licenses) on an intranet portal is no longer attractive, but the choices are overwhelming. There's Drupal, Metadot, XOOPS, and 147 other hits on Freshmeat for "portal". Many of these products may be really good, but there isn't any more written about some of them other than a blurb on Freshmeat and a nearly empty Sourceforge page that serves as the product's home page. How do I even begin to narrow my choices down to a reasonable subset that will make it to the evaluation phase? Not only are there too many products, there are too many buzz words: How do I distinguish "portal" from "content management system" from "intranet system"? Another example: it took me two months of searching and evaluating products to settle on Nagios, and that's only after I'd done the process two years ago and then spent two years being dissatisfied with Big Brother. A real Microsoft administrator would have bought Ipswitch's What's Up for Windows, and been done and satisfied in a week.

Be careful to remember the purpose of this article: I'm not saying that choice or open source is bad or inferior. I believe quite the opposite. I just think that we MS administrators need additional guidance from the open source community about how to best take advantage of the open source way of doing things. How to manage a firehose of choice needs to be part of that guidance.

Then there's my environment. It used to be that we had one public web server and one intranet server. These servers ran IIS. All databases were on one MSSQL server. All our [commercial] vendors supported this. Any in house programming that needed to be done was done in ASP.NET. Now we have at least seven web servers running various combinations of Linux, Windows, IIS, Apache (with various and differing modules), PHP (with and without safe mode), and Tomcat. One of our more screwy servers has Windows+Apache+Mod Rewrite+PHP+Pear+Apache Perl Mods+IIS+ActivePerl. Then we have our MSSQL server and three other MySQL servers. Every home-grown or open source web application seems to have a set of requirements that conflict with another commercial, home-grown, or open source product that we are using for production. Each platform has differing procedures for administering settings and security. Administration is much, much more difficult. The IT documentation manual has become a nightmarish jumble of garbage that no one person can reference or understand. That's my fault for implementing open source solutions first and writing this article after the fact.

I recommend open source software to nearly everybody I meet. I even try to educate laypeople about the speech vs. beer thing. I especially advocate for Open Office. I'd like to be able to save the taxpayers a lot of money by standardizing on open source platforms. But how? I'd love to see open source experts advocate the cause by addressing three issues that don't get a lot of attention:
  • What should consumers do when they want to make the move to open source, but they need industry specific solutions that only run on Windows? This problem in particular is what bugs me about what I'll call open source crusaders who are always posting about how everybody should switch to Linux. If, after reading about the options that are not viable, you cannot recommend Linux on the desktop, then the last item (back office management) becomes even more important. After all, not running Linux on the desktop, but going open source in the back office complicates things:
    • Running Windows apps in VMware, dual booting, or separate Windows machines: This defeats the purpose. If I'm going to save money by running Linux, then why should I continue to buy Windows licenses for virtual machines or dual boot partitions? This also makes it harder on the end-user. My job is to make the end-user's job easier.
    • W.I.N.E.: Many of my industry specific apps use the latest Dot Net frameworks. WINE/Mono doesn't always run them.
    • Providing Windows only to employees that need to run the industry specific apps: Even if this group was smaller than every employee of my organization, I am still interested in standardizing. My department has enough work supporting one desktop platform. Two desktop platforms is not a viable solution.
    • Developing your own solution: We do not have the staff or the money to do this. It would cost more to develop and maintain our own solutions than commercial software is currently costing us.
  • What are the best techniques and recommendations for open source software choice management? Books could be written on the subject. I'd buy those books! If you participate in development of an open source project, please have a web page with a complete list of features, a comprehensive pre-evaluation FAQ, and maybe even a comparison of your product to popular Windows alternatives. For example, one important question to answer for us MS administrators is: If this product has a logon feature, then how well does said logon integrate with Active Directory?
  • How do I maintain a sensible back office environment when various premier open source solutions require differing platforms? What questions should I ask myself when deciding on a back office platform (ie Perl vs. PHP vs. Python) to standardize on, or at least have a preference for?
My last request to open source evangelists is this: Every layperson who asks you for computer help ought to get a sermon about Open Office, not Linux. I believe that Microsoft has more to fear from Open Office than Linux for two reasons:
  1. Microsoft makes more money from Office than from Windows.
  2. Open Office is an easier introduction to open source for laypeople than Linux is. They're more likely and able to accept it. Hopefully, acceptance of one open source product will lead to acceptance of others, including Linux. In other words, free open source software becomes like the Force: once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny!

Submission + - Webmail at Work

rtobyr writes: "I don't allow users at my organization to use any third party e-mail. When users complain, I point out that we can't control the security policies of outside systems. End users tend to think that big business will of course have good security; so I ran a test of the "Big Four:" Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL/AIM Mail, and GMail. Yahoo Mail was the only webmail provider to allow delivery of a VBS script. GMail was the only provider to block a zipped VBS script. End users also tend to think that a big business would never pull security features out from under their customers. We Slashdotters know that AOL and Microsoft have both compromised the security of their customers. I don't know of any security related bad press for Yahoo or Google. Three of my Big Four either allow VBS attachments or have a poor security track records. So my Ask Slashdot question is this: If you are a network administrator, do you limit your users' ability to use third party e-mail, and if so, do you allow for GMail or other providers that you've deemed to have secure systems and repuations?"

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