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Posts published in “Patents”

Google & Microsoft Shake Hands in Patent Dispute

handshake
Photo by Tobias Wolter
Microsoft is full of surprises these days.

“Microsoft and Google are pleased to announce an agreement on patent issues,” Redmond has said in a joint statement with Google. “As part of the agreement, the companies will dismiss all pending patent infringement litigation between them, including cases related to Motorola Mobility.”

Deb Nicholson Talks (What Else?) Software Patents

The FOSS Force Interview

Back in June I had the opportunity to meet Deb Nicholson, a person who is well known to people who frequent open source and Linux conferences.

I was dog tired, having had only about four hours sleep. I’d gotten up at about five in the morning, much earlier than I think is civilized, in order to make it to Charlotte in time for the opening ceremonies at the SouthEast LinuxFest (SELF). I’d allowed for traffic jams in the morning rush hour traffic that didn’t happen and so arrived early enough to have time to try to catch a nap on an inviting and empty couch I found in the vendor hallway that turned out to be part of the booth space for Internet Systems Consortium.

Deb NicholsonDeb Nicholson
Deb Nicholson
Luckily for me, Chuck Aurora, who had driven up from Mississippi with his family to maintain the booth and try to grab a few contacts, was generous when he arrived with his teenage daughter in tow, and wasn’t perturbed that I’d mistaken his booth for a public rest area. I didn’t need to get up and find someplace else to sleep, he said, exhibiting the southern hospitality I’d been told to expect at SELF. I was free to go ahead and nap if I could.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Patent Trolls Working Overtime

Unified Patents LogoUnified Patents LogoThe trolls are still at it. In spite of the fact that the Supreme Court was busy ruling against them last year — between January and June it ruled against patent holders six times — the number of cases being brought by non-practicing entities (NPE), which is one measure of a troll, continues to rise. According to a report published in June by patent defense organization UnifiedPatents, there will be about eight thousand tech related patent disputes this year, with over six thousand of these expected to go to trial.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Newegg Goes Over Patent Judge’s Head

There’s been an interesting development on the patent front, which has been deceptively quiet for some time. Surprisingly, the latest news involves a case that went to trial nearly two years ago. It’s not a surprise, however, that the case was tried in the Eastern District of Texas, infamous for awarding verdicts in favor of patent holders. Also not surprising, the plaintiff is a non-practicing entity (NPE), a fancy term for “troll.”

East Texas Federal CourtEast Texas Federal Court
U.S. courthouse in Marshall, Texas
Back in November, 2013, a jury in Marshall, Texas found that online retailer Newegg infringed on a patent held by TQP Development because it mixed the use of SSL and RC4 on its websites. The jury awarded $2.3 million, less than half of the $5.1 million that TQP’s damage expert had said would be fair. At the time, TQP had sued more than 120 companies over the same patent, collecting $45 million in settlements.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

The Ubuntu, Microsoft & SUSE (Bermuda) Triangle

There’s little doubt that a few eyebrows were raised by the news on Friday, when Larry Cafiero reported on FOSS Force about Canonical’s partnership with Microsoft involving Microsoft’s OCS hardware and Ubuntu’s open source Metal-as-a-Service (MAAS) deployment product. Those with a little memory might wonder if this is a case of history repeating itself, as we’ve seen Microsoft court aspiring princess distros before, with SUSE, not long after the distro was purchased by Novell, a company with an uneven history.

Ubuntu plus MicrosoftUbuntu plus Microsoft
A graphic from the Ubuntu web site, touting the distro’s partnership with Microsoft.
Shortly after the turn of the century, Utah based Novell, desperate to stem shrinking revenues, announced it’s intentions of becoming a major Linux and open source player. During the 1980s and 90s the company had flourished in the networking market with its NetWare operating system, a business that was by 2001 in rapid decline, mostly because Windows was now able to network out-of-the-box, and partly due to a customer relations fumble by CEO Eric Schmidt which resulted in the loss of much of the company’s installed base.

In 2003, to establish its open source cred, Novell went on a buying spree, which began in August when it spent an undisclosed amount to acquire Ximian, the open source company behind Evolution, Mono and Red Carpet, the later being an early attempt at an universal package manager for Linux, a precursor to Linspire’s Click & Run. In November, just three months later, Novell spent $210 million, partly financed by an investment from IBM, to purchase SUSE (then SuSE), which was at the time one of the top three Linux distros by most estimations.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

2014’s Five Biggest Stories Affecting FOSS

Another year has come and gone, and as you might have guessed, 2014 still wasn’t the year of the Linux desktop.

Covering FOSS and Linux isn’t nearly as exciting as it was a decade or so ago — but that’s a good thing. Back then, we were at war with nearly every proprietary software vendor on the planet and faced threats from all directions, including up and down. To be sure, we didn’t start the wars we were fighting, as PROFAL (the People’s Republic of FOSS and Linux) only wished for peaceful coexistence.

The dust settled long ago and it appears as if we won most of these wars we didn’t start. Even our old arch enemy Microsoft is now waving the flag of peace and is seeking to normalize relations with us. And our old arch-arch enemy, SCO, doesn’t even exist any more — at least not in any form that we would recognize as the SCO of old. May Caldera rest in peace.

That doesn’t mean there’s not still news to be covered in the FOSS world. There is — and plenty of it. But these days, it’s mostly about advancements in technology, new start-ups and new alliances. We still face threats, to be sure, from crackers, spooks, politicians, the RIAA and the MPAA, but these forces threaten all of computerdom, not just FOSS, so we’ve been able to nurture some new strange bedfellows to join us in our struggles.

As years go, 2014 wasn’t the most boring year in the history of the free software movement, but it also wasn’t overly exciting. Again, that’s a good thing as it means there was no battening down the hatches and stuff. Still, there were many trends in the news this year which directly affect the purveyors and users of FOSS.

Here’s my top five list:

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

5 Questions for Microsoft’s New CEO

Right now it’s too soon to tell what kind of CEO Satya Nadella will be for Microsoft. He may be a good guy who understands just how much his company has erred ethically, almost since day one, and who has plans to realign the company he now guides to a position where it can become a positive force in the tech arena. I’m not expecting that. I’ve learned over the years to not expect anything sane or ethical from the Redmond company, no matter who’s in charge or doing the talking.

As a FOSS proponent, there are a few questions I’d like to ask Mr. Nadella if I had the chance. His answers would tell me much of what I’d like to know about the new boss at Microsoft and his plans for the company.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Google Beats Troll, Ellison’s Oracle ‘Unbreakable’ & More…

FOSS Week in Review

NSA involved in industrial espionage

Another big non-surprise this week in the continuing saga of the NSA. It appears that our beloved spy agency has been using their secret powers for the purpose of uncovering industrial secrets from foreign companies. So much for the separation of business and state. Reuters reported that in a television interview with a German TV network, Edward Snowden said the agency doesn’t confine its intelligence gathering to items of national security.

“‘If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to U.S. national interests – even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security – then they’ll take that information nevertheless,’ Snowden said…”

Even the Republicans are jumping on the stop-the-NSA bandwagon, which is rather surprising.

Troll Sues FTC, Net Neutrality Dead & More…

FOSS Week in Review

NSA spying not as effective as claimed

Claims from the Obama White House and the NSA about the effectiveness of the NSA’s dirty tricks evidently aren’t true, according to a report from the New America Foundation. Since the Snowden revelations began, we’ve heard that something like 50 terrorist attacks have been averted as a result of the NSA monitoring Americans’ phone records and such.

However, Mashable tells us that according to this report, the effects of the NSA’s cyber spying has been minimal.

“‘Our review of the government’s claims about the role that NSA “bulk” surveillance of phone and email communications records has had in keeping the United States safe from terrorism shows that these claims are overblown and even misleading,’ said the research team, led by Peter Bergen, a reporter specialized in national security who also interviewed Osama Bin Laden in 1997.

“‘Traditional investigative methods, such as the use of informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations, provided the initial impetus for investigations in the majority of cases, while the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal,’ they added.

The report goes on to claim that the spy agencies wholesale collection of phone data only had an impact in 1.8% of cases. The figures for PRISM’s impact is 4.4%.

Open Source Hardware Gets CES Cred

At last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we again had the opportunity to witness how much the ideas behind open source are changing industries outside of software. I say this because open source hardware was much in evidence at this year’s event.

The press is taking note. In their coverage of CES, Adweek posted an article on an impressive mobile 3D mapping device being made by Occipital.

“All of this is made possible because Occipital is participating in a trend of open source hardware which is changing the way that startups operate. They focus on creating a stable piece of hardware and rely on the development community to extract its full potential for practical application.”

Christopher Clark talks about open source hardwareChristopher Clark talks about open source hardware
Christopher Clark, Director of Information Technology, SparkFun Electronics
This is a trend with the potential to eventually change hardware as radically as the various open source licenses have changed software. Indeed, it’s already making changes — and the concept isn’t just being adopted by small startups either.

Christine HallChristine Hall

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

Blackberry Trolls, Coke in Patent Suit & More…

FOSS Week in Review

India drops deal with Google over spying fears

Since the Snowden leaks revealed that Microsoft has allegedly built back doors into Windows for the NSA, we’ve been saying that the spy agency’s actions are going to hurt the U.S. tech industry’s business abroad. Well, it’s started to happen. On Thursday, Reuters reported that India has decided to drop out of a planned partnership with Google designed to help voters access information.

“…the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes.”

cokeadcokeadThere’s even been more digital security news from the EU, where there’s been a scramble to address privacy and security issues since the NSA scandal began. On January 3, phoneArena.com reported that European phone makers have been coming out with pricey phones designed for the security conscious.

Mark our words. This is only the beginning.

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