Googlephobia Paints The World Red

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

This is an open letter to Chris Fisher from Jupiter Broadcasting (and friends) regarding the recent tirade against Google “winning” the court battle against Oracle for the use of the Java APIs.

A short summary for the uninitiated:

After Oracle bought Sun including their Java implementation, they sued Google who implemented (some of) the Java APIs for use in the Android operating system, for copyright infringement in some source code, copyright infringement on the API definitions themselves and a couple of software patents they held about how to implement some Java behavior. Round one: Some source code was ruled infringing, APIs were found non-copyrightable  and patents were found not-infringing. Round two: A federal court (that normally rules on patent issues) held the ruling of copying (for Oracle) and patents (for Google) but ruled APIs copyrightable and Google infringing on that. Third round: a jury found that Google’s use of the Java APIs was fair-use and no damages should be awarded.

After the last jury decision, there was a lot of back and forth on the internet, notably one Ars Technica article (“op-ed”), by an Oracle lawyer claimed that the result boils down to nullifying any and all open source licenses:

if you offer your software on an open and free basis, any use is fair use.

Then we come to Chris Fisher – as the host of his Linux Action Show podcast, he has spoke out against Google many times in the past, but this tirade in the discussion of the Oracle vs. Google action in the most recent Linux Action Show #419, really demonstrates well the extents of his Googlephobia (LAS #419, 0:46:42):

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The sorry state of the autonomous car discussion

Monday, May 25th, 2015

English: Google driverless car operating on a ...As can be evident across the web (for example in this article), the current discussion fueled by Google’s self driving car news and a the possible development plans of other small and large companies is often concerning itself with the morals of a software driven car(1). Which is, frankly, unfortunate.

I think that the only people that should be really bothered by all this talk of “who should the autonomous car kill (in case of an accident)” discussion are the programmers hard at Google and other companies, who are suddenly held to a much higher moral standard than expected of programmers who are responsible, today, to hundreds of lives in each instances – such as programmers for railway systems and passenger jets flight control software.

When you look at the problem from the perspective of autonomous transport control software, that is right now being used to safely transport millions of humans daily, its obvious that the main concern of the designers is to have quantitatively better response (more consistent and faster, in that order) than a human, for adverse situations, but qualitatively better – that is, the systems will not pretend to make decisions morally better than a human would do at any given situation, just perform better on the exact same actions that the human it replaces will have taken anyway.

So when a Google self-driving car programmer comes answer to the “trolley problem” or the “fat man problem” discussed in the linked article, they should not be held to a higher moral standard than the average driver, because that is who they are replacing.

 


  1. that is, immediately after the “ooh, technology is so awesome” debate []

TurkTrust CA certificate breach and what does it mean for you

Saturday, January 5th, 2013

A pseudo analysis of the issue that was brought to my attention by Eric Klien’s post here. The following text is slightly edited version of my comment on the post, reproduced here because I think its important for my readers to be aware of the issue.

A new CA kerfuffle has broken out yesterday, and here are some of the headlines:

The information for the discussion below was sourced from these, more technical, articles(1):

To summarize, the problem was a botched test process in TurkTrust CA (as part of an external security audit) that caused a CA profile to be set up to generate “sub CA” certificates, and following that the profile was copied to the production system and subsequently used to generate two certificates before the problem was discovered and fixed (I assume the test profile was removed from the production system), but only 1 of those certificate was revoked. (more…)


  1. I applaud BBC for trying to present a complex security issue in “layman terms”, but as someone who is familiar with the technology in question, it gave me quite a headache, trying to “reverse translate” the text []

Apple’s next iPhone 5 will have everything we’ve already seen on Android

Monday, July 9th, 2012

International Business Times has published an article with some features made available by iOS 6 that is likely iPhone 5 will offer:

Answering/Declining Calls – Users will now have the option to answer or decline calls. Users may send a text message from a choice of pre-programmed options if you wish not to be disturbed at the moment. Users will also be able to remind themselves to return the missed calls later.

Really? That’s a new feature? Having used these features constantly since, like, forever on Android, I’m actually very surprised that iOS didn’t have those up till now.

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Android, iOS – who stole from who?

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

The obvious answer is – who cares? But Apple fan-boys seem to like to gloat that any smartphone design (or at least any design moderately successful – nobody is looking at Symbian) is a “rip off” from the iPhone, while Android fan-boys(1) point out may cases where iOS designers “shamelessly” “got inspired” by Android features such as the pull-down notifications, seamless multi-tasking, “share” functionality, personal Wi-Fi hotspot, untethered syncing (iCloud in Apple’s lingo) and more.

So everyone copies from everyone else – that’s how a market should behave: if one product comes up with a better idea, then it is only expected that other products can build on that idea – and sometimes do it better. And don’t get me started on the patent thing – patents allow an inventor to protect the technology and implementation of a specific idea, it does not give one a monopoly on ideas (even though many today try to use the patent system like that).

The question that, I think, is more interesting to ask is – who is more willing to play this game and who treats idea as their sole domain and exclusive property?

The answer, not coming as a surprise to anyone, can be found in Apple’s founder new biography: “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, as reported by AP review of the book set to be available tomorrow, here are some choice quotes (taken from AP’s review):

Jobs told Isaacson in an expletive-laced rant that Google’s actions amounted to “grand theft.”

“I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product.”

Jobs told Schmidt [Google’s CEO at the time] … ” I want you to stop using our ideas in Android”

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  1. of whom I am a card carrying member, I’ll admit []

Suddenly I’m Less Worried

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

About my next Android phone: Google Buys Motorola Mobility (for $12.5B).

This deal is very good for me, as a consumer of high-end smart phones, for several reasons: one reason is the more obvious patent issue: the Google smart phone OS has come under fire from competitors (mostly Apple) in a host of patent lawsuits, though none of them actually targeted Google itself: the main advantage of Android is its availability to any small manufacturer – which enabled the amazingly rich ecosystem that is the Android world, but its also its main disadvantage as competitors can target “small fish” for their patent extortion, companies that are too small to afford a real legal battle. Google wasn’t in a good position to help defend their OEMs or developers, and I believe this is what they were trying to do with their Nortel patents bids, that didn’t come through – but they had an ace in their sleeve: even as the Nortel business was going on, Google was probably already deep in negotiation with Motorola Mobility that hold a portfolio of around 18,000 patents and patent applications – compared with Nortel’s paltry 6,000 patents. With this arsenal, and once the deal comes through(1), expect Google to come out swinging.

But as I mentioned – this is only part of why I’m happy about this deal. The second, and likely more important reason as I will be looking for a new phone at about early 2012, is that I think Motorola Mobility is one of the best makers of Android running hardware – if not the best. They definitely have the market in keyboard slider phones, which is the kind I’m using. The problem is, I’m a power user – I like to use the latests and best software available and the whole point of having a small computer (read: user programmable device) in your pocket – is the ability to install and upgrade whenever something new comes out (about every couple of months). And this is where Motorola devices fail me: Motorola like to keep a lock down on any user modifications to the phone’s operating system and their devices are notoriously hard to mod – installing a new firmware on a Motorola phone is a dangerous game of “will it brick?”.

Motorola has come out with promises of freeing up the phone “bootloader” (the part of the phone’s firmware that makes sure you don’t install “unauthorized” software) but so far we haven’t see any results. I have hope that under the new ownership, Motorola Mobility developers will find it easier to keep to this promise and allow us power users to buy hardware on which we can run whatever Android-based operating system we want.


  1. supposedly by early 2012 – these things take time []

In case you’re looking for me on Google+

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Using the Google+ Nick service you can now find me at http://gplus.to/guss77.

Just wanted to let everyone know 🙂

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Same old Microsoft, at Nortel’s patent sale dispute

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

As reported on Reuters and Techcrunch, Microsoft is claiming that the sale of bankrupt Nortel’s 6,000 patents to Google (or any other successful bidder) is unfair under the current sale terms that allow the buyer to not carry current licenses to the patents.

Microsoft is understandably concerned, as they currently hold a “perpetual, royalty-free” license to all patents (which means that if the buyer doesn’t get to re-license with existing license holders, then they won’t get any more money from Microsoft on these patents), but what I’m ranting about is not their legitimate concern, but their attempt to color this as “unfair” – quips Techcrunch:

Microsoft says that’s unfair. And while they don’t specifically mention Google, it seems pretty clear who they’re thinking about when they write that a termination of existing licensing agreements “would result in considerable disruption in the development and enhancement of various existing technologies and give the prospective purchaser an unfair competitive advantage”.

This may be unfair, but Microsoft has done this exact same thing in the past, including the very near past where immediately after buying Skype, and just a few days after Microsoft promised that Skype will continue to be offered on non-Microsoft platforms, the “Skype for Asterisk” product was terminated disallowing Digium to sell any more Skype integration module for their successful (and open source) VoIP solution(1).

Obviously this is a move perpetrated to allow Microsoft’s competing VoIP product (Lync) an unfair competitive advantage by offering features that Digium can no longer offer – not because of technical issues but because Microsoft will not allow it.

Taking that into account, Microsoft claiming the sale of this patents to Google is unfair is just the pot calling the  kettle black.

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  1. I know that technically they did not stop supporting the module – just not allowing any new sales, but they also put a deadline to stop supporting the Skype-Asterisk integration module: it will not work past July 2013. Cutting this any sooner would have netted Microsoft/Skype a serious law suite so obviously they did the worst they could get away with []

Easiest Android Rooting In 3 Simple Steps

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

One of the neatest features of carrying a small Linux computer in your pocket, is that you have a machine to hack everywhere you go 😉

After getting a terminal application installed, you find that most stuff that you want to do require “root access” on your android phone – it appears that on Android they don’t really use “user permissions” but instead each app is its own user id with its own set of permissions (an ingenious way to handle different permissions per application).

To do most interesting things you need to make sure you can get root access. As a normal phone user you aren’t expected to need this so this feature is disabled on phones and to enable access to the root account you need to crack the phone’s security model. (more…)

I Hate Pod Catchers

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

[Updated: 29/7/2011]

One of the reasons to get a new mobile internet device, is to get a better pod catcher to use in order to feed my podcast listening habit :-). Its not that Escarpod for Symbian was bad – it was a very good application and any new podcatcher I’ll get will be measured against it – but my P1i was kind of dying and regardless all new development in Escarpod was happening in the S60 version and not for UIQ that the P1i was running.

Once I had an android device, the next order of business was to find the best podcatcher (for me). I’ve downloaded and tried all the podcatchers I could get my hand on, so here’s the summary of my trials and tribulations. If I missed any podcatcher that you know of (and want me to compare against those listed below), then drop me a note about it.

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