January 16, 2009
Fair Use Isn't Fair Sometimes, and the Linux Desktop
There are a couple of news stories floating on the tech news sites that struck me. One is this tale of DMCA takedown notices and YouTube. Kevin Lee blogs about films. He also created video essays using film clips and posts them on YouTube, or at least he did until his third DMCA takedown notice got his YouTube account suspended. The thrust of the story is a discussion of fair use rights and how they get lost in the mechanism of takedown and countertakedown notices. It was a quote by Lee that caught my fancy. He said "This development removes any belief I have in YouTube as a place that values the work I do." I think this is naive at best. His work is side by side with farting pandas and other animals in embarrassing circumstances. YouTube and Google are in this to make money by feeding off culture, not to promote it. Lee is unhappy that YouTube won't recognize the fair use in his work. The law places that burden on Lee, not on YouTube. More in Ars Technica.
The second story comes from TG Daily. It's about a girl who got a notebook from Dell with Ubuntu on it rather than Windows. She couldn't get her Verizon Internet Access CD to load, or the Word program, and consequently dropped out of school for a couple of semesters. She needed her computer and the time constraints made it impossible for her to continue. The reaction of the Linux community was fast and furious with some offering to help her become one of them, and others vilifying her for wanting to use Windows. Dell has offered to replace her notebook with one that runs Windows.
Say all the bad things you want about Microsoft, but it has done something that isn't duplicated by any operating system except possibly the Mac OS. It has created a software ecosystem that is mindless on a mass acceptance scale. People buy computers with Windows on them and answer the four or five questions at setup and start running. Most additional software installs with the same mindless efficiency and runs with a click. Linux is at home in the server room where dedicated and knowledgeable technicians can nurture these systems, usually out of sight and out of mind from most users.
Linux will never approach the mass market desktop until it offers the same ease to consumers as does Windows. Consumers apparently value that ease more than perceived stability or a fear of dependence on an evil Microsoft's desktop hegemony. Those who don't like Microsoft can still go with the ease of the premium priced Mac line, as do some 7.3% of the OS market. Technical users may chafe at this idea, but most users are not technical, nor do they want to be. Linux is never going to run a general user's desktop until running and managing it is an afterthought. [MG]
January 13, 2009
Genachowski To Be Nominated as Head of FCC
Julius Genachowski will be nominated to be FCC Chairman. His nomination is praised by public advocacy groups. Industry associations seem a bit muted on the development. Genachowski is credited with the Obama campaign's deft use of the Internet to get out the campaign message and raise oodles of cash. Some of Genachowski's experience comes from his time as a venture capitalist and corporate work. He sounds like someone who knows both the corporate and user sides of the Internet. That should make the FCC a very interesting place as it deals with broadband competition, DTV transition, and creating a first responder network out of existing spectrum.
Rambus Loses Patent Case Due to Spoliation
Rambus lost a patent case against Micron litigated in federal district court in Delaware on a spoliation issue. The judge accused the company of destroying relevant evidence when it should have known the documents could have been used in litigation. The sanction, finding the patents it holds as unenforceable against Micron. The court's opinion conflicts with another decision in similar litigation in California. Micron is thrilled, Rambus will vigorously appeal, and lawyers will make more money over this. As it should be. More in PC World.
The opinion from the District Court in Delaware is on Westlaw at Micron Technology, Inc. v. Rambus Inc.
--- F.Supp.2d ----, 2009 WL 54887, D.Del., January 09, 2009. The opinion from California that Rambus claims is in conflict is actually a resolution of the issue by stipulation:
5. Motion in limine no. 5 to exclude evidence of document retention and destruction of evidence
Resolved by stipulation. The agreed-upon resolution was:
[N]o party shall raise any allegations about the document retention policies or the destruction of documents by any party or about any party's alleged or adjudicated spoliation of evidence. If, however, a witness testifies about a document that has not been produced, a party may seek leave of the Court to pursue questioning of the witness about what happened to the document or documents. In addition, if a witness testifies that a party has not engaged in the destruction of documents or spoliation of evidence, then a party may seek leave of the Court to pursue questioning of the witness about that assertion. However, before pursuing any line of questioning related to the destruction of documents or spoliation, a party must make an offer of proof explaining the specific line of questioning the party intends to pursue.
Hynix Semiconductor Inc. v. Rambus Inc., Not Reported in F.Supp.2d, 2008 WL 350654, N.D.Cal., February 03, 2008.
The California opinion may not be legally what Rambus thinks it is, though that is why we have appellate courts. [MG]
January 12, 2009
Will Searching Google Destroy the Planet?
News appeared yesterday taking Google to task over how much CO2 is produced by searching Google. Alex Wissner-Gross, a physicist of Harvard, claims two Google searches are enough to produce the same amount of CO2 as boiling a kettle. Google disputes, and the Register actually takes a look at the the whole thing. They suggest the numbers and analysis are a bit dodgy and conclude that the daily flatulence produced by humans has more of an effect on the environment than searching Google.
It's not as if this "news" will make society stop using Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, etc., or computers generally any more than society will stop passing gas. When the History Channel next runs the recently concluded Armageddon Week of programming, I don't believe they will include searching Google next to super volcanoes, earthquakes, giant meteors, gamma ray bursts, killer microbes, nuclear war, and all the other mechanisms that can destroy life on the planet. To quote Dick Cheney, "so?" [MG]
Windows 7 Beta and Cheap MS Office for Students
Microsoft released the Windows 7 Beta on Friday to frustrated customers. Frustrated because the traffic caused the servers to crash resulting in few or no one getting one of the 2.5 million download and keys to run the software. Microsoft made good, though. They added capacity and the download site was back up in less that 24 hours. The company also lifted the limit on keys and downloads for two weeks. Get a copy, good through August 1, here.
Speaking of Microsoft, they are offering editions of Microsoft Office and Vista for $59.95 and $64.95 respectively to qualified students at educational institutions. The discounts are significant compared to street prices. Some schools may have better discounts based on their participation in other Microsoft sales programs. Still, these are pretty decent prices. More information is here. [MG]