September 22, 2007
Google As Telecom
Google seems to be getting more involved as an Internet service carrier if some news reports are to be believed. Although Google denies interest, the Guardian Unlimited suggests that Google is thinking about bidding on reclaimed wireless spectrum that would be up for auction in the U.K. There is another report that the company is getting involved in a consortium that would lay fiber optic cable in the Pacific in 2009. The result would give Google at-cost network access to Asia. Of course, we’re still waiting to see if Google bids on wireless spectrum in the United States if and when that auction proceeds. And then there’s the running rumor of a Google phone. For a company that claims few ambitions in the telecommunications realm, there’s an awful lot of noise in that direction.
GPL To Be Tested In Court
The Software Freedom Law Center has filed the first lawsuit in the United States that tests the General Public License V2. The suit was filed against Monsoon Multimedia for including BusyBox code in firmware for a streaming video device. BusyBox is a set of Linux utilities found in embedded systems. Monsoon acknowledges that BusyBox is distributed in their device firmware but refuse to release the source code for their product as required by the license. This is the first test of GPL in a U.S. courts and has far reaching implications depending the outcome.
September 20, 2007
NBC Offers Free Encumbered Downloads of its Shows
NBC is going to offer free* copies of its popular shows, the ones the won't sell on iTunes anymore. The asterisk next to free means that they are not really free in the sense of a giveaway. Episodes are supported by non-skippable ads in a proprietary player. They expire after 7 days. If this is the free model, imagine what the terms will be for buy to own content. This is coming is 2008 and will include HD content. The demand for NBC content might be less than overwhelming if sales are based on terms anything like the clunky UnBox deal NBC signed with Amazon. Vendors have their views on how they want to package their content and consumers have the right to consume or not. We'll look in on this again when there is an impression of how it's going. The service is called NBC Direct and operates on Windows PCs. It will come to Macs as soon as NBC can figure out a way to make DRM work there. A point worth raising is what information, personal or otherwise if any, will the player send back to NBC as part of the deal?
Office 2003 Service Pack 3 Released
Microsoft posted the details on its web site along with a link for downloads. The Update Office menus choice in an Office 2003 application should also find the download. SP3 was released on September 18th.
Pro Se Demand $5B from Google Over Upside Down SSN
Tech Dirt has a story on a Plaintiff who has sued Google because his social security number when turned upside down resembles the name Google as part of a secret code. It also needs a couple of numbers from the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the code. That's because the plaintiff lives in Pennsylvania. Rather than state the obvious about the pro se filing, one should view the Tech Dirt story for the real flavor of the suit. Plaintiff demands as damages, by the way, of $5,000,000,000.00. It's all in the handwritten filings. Stand in line, Viacom et al.
September 19, 2007
Oklahoma Game Law Struck Down
The latest casualty in state laws restricting video games to minors comes out of Oklahoma. Judge Robin Cauthron ruled that the law banning the sale of games to minors does not restrict access to other similarly violent or sexually oriented materials which is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. This is in addition to the usual First Amendment challenge which was also a factor in the decision. Note that this continues the unbroken string of decisions that have gone against the states and municipalities that have enacted these laws.
More on this from Ars Techinica.
September 18, 2007
Two More Free Alternatives to Microsoft Office Apps
IBM has jumped in the game of offering an Microsoft Office alternative. It's Lotus Symphony, which is neither the successor to Lotus 123 (ah, the 80s) or a candy bar from Hershey. It is a suite of three applications, Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets. These are probably the three most used apps in MS Office beyond Access. The download is free but be warned, the registration process is a bear. One has to create an ID, a password, and a contact profile. Typical IBM. And the download, once you can get to it, is slooooooooooooooow. At least that's my experience on a campus network. I'm up to 24 KB/sec., which should take at least another hour plus to download the 133 MB file.
From the Lotus Symphony FAQ:
Lotus Symphony can save documents, spreadsheets and presentations in a variety of file formats. In addition, Lotus Symphony can also convert documents, spreadsheets, and presentations types into Adobe® Portable Document Format (PDF) files.
Note: The following file formats are supported by the three IBM Lotus Symphony applications. OASIS (Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards) specifies the ODF (Open Document Format) file standards:
.Lotus Symphony Documents supports .doc (Microsoft), .dot (Microsoft template), .odt (ODF), .ott (ODF template), .sxw (IBM Lotus Symphony native format), .stw (IBM Lotus Symphony native format template), .lwp (IBM Lotus SmartSuite®), .mwp (IBM Lotus SmartSuite template), .rtf, and .txt formats
. Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets supports .xls (Microsoft), .xlt (Microsoft template), .ods (ODF), .ots (ODF template), .sxc (IBM Lotus Symphony native format), .stc (IBM Lotus Symphony native format template), .123 (IBM Lotus Smartsuite), .12m (IBM Lotus Smartsuite template), .xml, and .csv formats
. Lotus Symphony Presentations supports .ppt (Microsoft), .pot (Microsoft template), .odp (ODF), .otp (ODF template), .prz (IBM Lotus Smartsuite), .mas (IBM Lotus Smartsuite look template), .smc (IBM Lotus Smartsuite content template), .sxi (IBM Lotus Symphony native format), and .sti (IBM Lotus Symphony native format template)
While we're on the subject of large corporations attacking MS Office, Google makes available Google Presentations, which is a PowerPoint alternative. It works like PowerPoint, if there was such a thing as PowerPoint Lite. The software has all the basic features for straightforward presentations with graphics that don't require special effects. That is approximately 95% of presentations everywhere. The files seem to be compatible with .ppt format. How far that goes without supporting multimedia and other advanced features of PowerPoint, however, can be problematic going between the two programs. Access it through the Google Documents section of a Google login.
September 17, 2007
SCO Files for Bankruptcy Protection
Old Viruses Never Die
They don't fade away either, apparently. Stoned.Angelina came back from the presumed dead to infect - wait for it - Vista. Details here.
Verizon Appeals Open Access Provision in Spectrum Auction Rules
Verizon has filed a document with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the FCC's authority to require an open access provision for the upcoming spectrum auction. The effect may be to delay the auction until this can be sorted out. The document is short and rather conclusory, claiming:
Verizon Wireless seeks judicial review on the grounds that the Report and Order exceeds the Commission's authority under the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. §§ 151, et. seq., violates the United States Constitution, violates the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701, et. seq., and is arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence and otherwise contrary to law. Verizon Wireless challenges that part of the Report and Order which adopts what the Commission refers to as an "Open Platforms for Devices and Applications" mandate as part of the service rules for the C Block of spectrum in the upcoming 700 MHz auction."
That's pretty much it. No statements of how and why these claims may or may not be true, and no specific citations beyond what is here. Note to Verizon Wireless attorneys, "et" in "et seq." doesn't require a period. It's an itty-bitty Latin word all by itself. They could have added that Google might get hold of that spectrum and, loose cannon they may be to us, could destroy our business model by giving consumers device freedom. Hey, we're not Europe, after all, they didn't add.
Thanks to the ZDNET blog by Dan Farner and Larry Dignan for the link to the filing.
EU Court to Microsoft: You Lose
The European Court of First Instance rejected most all of Microsoft's objections to the European Commission's order and fine relating to the interoperability of third party clients to Windows. The Court upheld the record fine of over half a million dollars and concluded that the Commission acted correctly on the tying of Windows Media Player to the operating system.
Microsoft had claimed that much of the information the Commission was forcing Microsoft to disclose to competitors amounted to giving up trade secrets, or materials that are patented or under copyright. The Court agreed with the Commission that Microsoft mis-characterized the depth of information it was required to turn over to competitors. In any event, Microsoft's dominant position in the market required more technical information than had been forthcoming.
The Court did side with Microsoft on having an independent trustee monitor its conduct. The implementation was too open ended for the Court, and having Microsoft bear the costs was beyond the power of the Commission.
Microsoft does have the option to appeal, but only on law, not factual issues. That suggests a successful appeal to be unlikely. The ruling is likely to affect other software giants as it confirms to the Commission broad powers to regulate competition. Google is under fire for some of its privacy practices and some regulators have a dim view of Apple's iTunes store being closed to other devices or the iPod closed to other stores.
Update: The Justice Department has, without surprise, issued a statement that criticizes the decision in the case. Quoting Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant AG for Antitrust:
“In light of the United States’ own antitrust case and judgment against Microsoft, and the importance of the computer industry to consumers and to the global economy, the United States has a particular interest in today’s CFI decision. The decision is both lengthy and complex, as befits the importance and difficulty of the issues raised by the EC’s case against Microsoft. It will therefore be some time before the full impact of today’s decision on antitrust policy in Europe will be apparent. We are, however, concerned that the standard applied to unilateral conduct by the CFI, rather than helping consumers, may have the unfortunate consequence of harming consumers by chilling innovation and discouraging competition.
“In the United States, the antitrust laws are enforced to protect consumers by protecting competition, not competitors. In the absence of demonstrable consumer harm, all companies, including dominant firms, are encouraged to compete vigorously. U.S. courts recognize the potential benefits to consumers when a company, including a dominant company, makes unilateral business decisions, for example to add features to its popular products or license its intellectual property to rivals, or to refuse to do so."
I guess those Europeans have funny notions about competition and dominant companies. Neelie Kroes, EU Competition Commissioner, expects Microsoft's market share to drop as a result of the decision. This may be too much to bear for Mr. Barnett, it seems.