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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 2 hours 16 min ago

When All That’s Left is a Bunch of Patents: Stories of IBM, Finjan, Ericsson, and Citrix

Saturday 6th of January 2018 02:45:50 PM

Summary: Companies on the decline, where the number of products already verges (or is) zero, decide to just sue the entire industry, thereby reinforcing the cautionary tale about patents as ‘insurance policy’ taking its toll on real (operating) companies

THE USPTO has long granted all sorts of bizarre software patents. Those were granted on ideas that had already been implemented elsewhere (without the coder/developer/programmer pursuing a patent). There was extensive prior art, but code at the time was rarely shared on the Web (definitely not in the nineties and back in the eighties there was no World Wide Web just yet).

“There was extensive prior art, but code at the time was rarely shared on the Web (definitely not in the nineties and back in the eighties there was no World Wide Web just yet).”One such company which pursued many software patents was IBM. It applied for (and received) a humongous number of software patents. That was back in the nineties and the decade that followed. It spent many years in the top spot for prolific patenters (classified by firm). Many of these patents are still valid as in not expired; but they’re not necessarily valid based on triviality and prior art assessments (if done properly). IBM is now trying to ‘monetise’ these patents and as we noted some days ago, IBM now goes after Web firms (there’s a pattern here). A few days ago GeekWire wrote that “IBM is suing Expedia, alleging that the popular travel site has for years been infringing on several of its patents, some of which date back to the early days of the internet.” Because those patents are about to expire and IBM is about to die (the company’s core business is slipping away and layoffs are routine).

Will IBM change its ways? We doubt it. For a number of years we’ve complained about IBM’s ferocious lobbying for software patents in the US, putting aside its many threats and lawsuits against Web firms (such as Twitter). IBM is now a taxman and it is eager to maintain this revenue steam; it has become similar to Microsoft over the past 15 years (Microsoft hadn’t been aggressive with patents until its monopoly was slipping away just before Windows Vista and the ongoing rise of Google/Apple).

“For a number of years we’ve complained about IBM’s ferocious lobbying for software patents in the US, putting aside its many threats and lawsuits against Web firms (such as Twitter).”A few days ago we wrote about the patent troll Finjan because it blackmailed FireEye. It is supported by Microsoft and it received some patents from IBM to bolster its trolling efforts.

“FireEye and Finjan settle,” said this headline just before the weekend. Understatement of the year? So far in 2018? To call trolling and blackmail a “settlement” is to grossly misrepresent what happened. Finjan does nothing but this. It’s a predator. From the article:

Cybersecurity firm FireEye has agreed to pay $12.5 million to patent licensing company Finjan as part of an agreement settling their patent dispute.

The settlement includes a patent licence agreement, granting cross-licences between the two companies for the disputed patents.

Or, in simpler terms, “protection money”. Finjan will now use that as ‘ammunition’ with which to threaten more companies (the few it has not already sued and/or extracted “protection money” from). It’s appalling. IBM and Microsoft actively helped this troll.

“Finjan will now use that as ‘ammunition’ with which to threaten more companies (the few it has not already sued and/or extracted “protection money” from).”Elsewhere in the news we find mentions of Ericsson's trolling practices in Europe. This case was concluded around Christmas (we wrote about it) and IAM rushes to defend the trolling with tweets like this: “Ericsson IP chief highlights “methodological and mathematical errors” in landmark TCL decision as Swedish mobile giant plots appeal…”

Notice how they only tell or emphasise one side of this story. So did the writer of the story, who tweeted this: “Goes without saying that this decision is not good for licensors but taken with UP v Huawei and other big SEP decisions we now have some much clearer guidelines such as use of top down methodology and variable regional rates. That can only be good thing for #patent licensing…” (trolling)

IAM’s coverage, as expected, means amplifying — right from the headline — only the side/assertion/creed of patent trolls:

Key ruling in high-profile US FRAND case “highly biased in favour of infringers”, says Ericsson’s chief IP officer

[...]

Speaking to the IAM blog Ericsson chief IP officer Gustav Brismark has made his first public comments on the judgment handed down by a California court just before Christmas in the Swedish telco’s high-profile FRAND licensing dispute with Chinese mobile manufacturer TCL. The decision, which was filed on 21st December, is the latest case involving standard essential patents (SEPs) to hit the courts and is largely seen to have gone against Ericsson.

This is the kind of coverage we have come to expect from IAM because the site (like the magazine and events) is little more than a megaphone of trolls and patent aggressors. It’s like ‘Watchtroll Lite’.

“This is the kind of coverage we have come to expect from IAM because the site (like the magazine and events) is little more than a megaphone of trolls and patent aggressors.”Watchtroll has just written about a case which we mentioned here before — a case wherein a firm is pushing aside smaller rivals. This is the kind of thing IBM has been doing for decades, relying on its vastly bigger patent portfolio and vastly deeper pockets. And speaking of which, watch this new report about Citrix using its patents against a smaller rival as a form of retaliation for “improper conduct”, “deceptive statements” and so on. Patents are just being used for leverage here; it’s not about patents but about the defendant hiring “a number of its former employees and executives in the last few years.” To quote:

Citrix added that the aim of the suit was to prevent Avi Networks’ “improper conduct” and to recover damages over its wrongful use of its patented technology in its Vantage Platform. Citrix also wants to stop Avi Networks from making “further deceptive statements” and selling its infringing product without the correct licenses.

Citrix appears to have a beef with Avi Networks over its recruitment practices as well, as the smaller firm has hired a number of its former employees and executives in the last few years. This includes Avi Network’s current Chief Executive Officer Amit Pandey, who served as vice president and general manager of Mobile Solutions at Citrix from January 2013 to March 2014.

“Several other Citrix employees have left to join that company, bringing with them their knowledge of Citrix’s products and intellectual property,” Citrix complained in its filing.

What it means to say is that these employees simply know something and by virtue of knowing these things they become a liability. Citrix has been having business deflation issues and it now digs deep for patents with which to ‘punish’ rivals. How typical of software patents and those who possess them…

The Federal Circuit (High Patent Court) is Still No Friend of Patent Maximalists and Microsoft Cases Are Belatedly Recalled by Them

Saturday 6th of January 2018 01:27:41 PM

Summary: The highest patent court (bar the US Supreme Court) has given no hope to those who pursue patents on virtually anything; Microsoft’s disputes with Mastermine and Biscotti are recalled by them, albeit these cases too offer little hope (unless they emphasise the dissenting, i.e. in the minority, judges)

THE Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC), unlike the USPTO, rejected software patents pretty much every time last year. We watched these things very closely and back in April we wrote that "RecogniCorp v Nintendo (CAFC Case) is Another Nail in the Coffin of Software Patents in the United States".

There was a Friday conference (that’s yesterday) on the RecogniCorp petition. As one patent maximalist put it, “I previously wrote about the pending RecogniCorp petition for writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court that asks for clarification of the Abstract Idea analysis. I see the basic question here as to whether Parker v. Flook is good law. The Supreme Court will likely discuss the case in their January 5 conference.”

We doubt the Supreme Court will look into it (beyond assessing the petition) because it rejected similar appeals in the recent past. The patent maximalists will no doubt hope for anything whatsoever that can annul or override Alice, but they aren’t getting close. Check out this new “2017 CAFC Guidance For Patent Prosecutors”. CAFC isn’t into patent maximalism and it’s certainly not disputing Section 101/Alice. The article spends a lot of space writing about this Microsoft case (covered here numerous times last year [1, 2, 3]):

In Mastermine, the Court considered the extent to which user-initiated methodology of a Customer Relations Management (CRM) system may be recited in system claims. The district court found certain claims of the patents-in-suit (7,945,850 & 8,429,518), indefinite for improperly claiming two different subject-matter classes citing IPXL Holdings, L.L.C. v. Amazon.com, Inc., 430 F.3d 1377( here). The Federal Circuit reversed.

In its reversal, the Federal Circuit provided helpful guidance to patent prosecutors on how to claim user-driven hardware features in the first instance, as well as how to impress upon a patent examiner that functional language of such claims does not cross the line to reciting a separate statutory class.

This case (Mastermine) was a setback for Microsoft, which fought back against infringement allegations. Similarly, Microsoft was recently dealt a blow from CAFC, where everyone but Newman sided with the plaintiff. Watchtroll wrote about that yesterday:

On appeal Microsoft challenged the Board’s standard of review. The Federal Circuit reiterated that anticipation is a question of fact subject to substantial evidence review, that ultimate claim construction and claim construction relying solely on intrinsic evidence is subject to de novo review, and subsidiary factual findings based on extrinsic evidence are reviewed for substantial evidence.

[...]

Judge Newman dissented with the majority’s finding that the Kenoyer reference neither anticipated nor obviated the ‘182 patent. After performing a clause-by-clause review of claim 6, she argued that Figure 1 of Kenoyer discloses all of the elements of claim 6 and, thus, anticipates claim 6.

Further and in opposition to the majority’s view that Kenoyer presents “multiple, distinct teachings that the artisan might somehow combine to achieve the claimed invention,” she argued that the Kenoyer reference explicitly combines the limitations to provide the same conferencing system as in claim 6. Finally, she argued that the majority’s statement that “Microsoft fails to explain how a computer, especially the computer in Kenoyer, would receive broadcast, cable, or satellite television signals” was baseless because Biscotti does not provide an explanation and both Kenoyer and the ‘182 patent treat such signals as known technology.

Sites like Watchtroll would rather emphasise the above (dissent) because, as they themselves acknowledged at the end of the year, CAFC left them with little hope of a software patents resurgence. The truth of the matter is, patent litigation is becoming harder and harder in the US — a subject we shall cover with some hard figures (2017 totals) tomorrow.

President Battistelli Has Acted Like a King Since His Early Days at the EPO

Saturday 6th of January 2018 10:48:05 AM

See also [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Original: English [PDF] | German [PDF]

Original: English [PDF] | French [PDF]

Summary: As far back as 7 years ago, the EPO‘s President (only a year on the job) stopped accepting any input from the GAC (General Advisory Committee) and just went along with the so-called 'roadmap' set forth by Élodie Bergot

Élodie Bergot’s HR Roadmap Explained by EPO Staff Representatives

Saturday 6th of January 2018 10:24:44 AM

Original: English [PDF] | French [PDF]

Summary: Best known for appointment/promotion by nepotism at the EPO, Élodie Bergot’s document is politely being criticised based on lack of technical merit

The European Patent Office Suffers an Unprecedented Patent Quality Crisis Reminiscent of the World’s Worst Offices

Saturday 6th of January 2018 09:42:20 AM

Summary: The very fact that the European Patent Office (EPO) has, in some domains, become more lax/lenient in its granting practices than the US patent office should be a cause for alarm; this typically means an increase in litigation, from which law firms benefit at the expense of productive companies

THE EPO had spent decades building a superb reputation for quality of patents (until Battistelli and his ‘reforms’ came). It was about quality, not quantity. There weren’t many European Patents (EPs), but those which existed were rather good and difficult to challenge, which made them worth a lot and potentially scary to any defendants.

The USPTO, on the other hand, became rather notorious for quality (there’s a whole series called “Stupid Patent of the Month” about it). Now it’s China taking this ‘crown’ (more on that later this weekend).

“There weren’t many European Patents (EPs), but those which existed were rather good and difficult to challenge, which made them worth a lot and potentially scary to any defendants.”A patent office without quality control (or with insufficient quality control) might as well become a registration office like INPI. It’s not worth much, but at least people can safely assume that filed/granted patents are questionable at best. They’re as good as notes that an engineer files in his/her cabinet.

“The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office eventually reexamined the patents involved in the suit, 5,629,867 and 5,809,246,” says this new article. As it turns out, MAD’s patent crusade has ended. The press barely mentions any of this, but since broadcasters are affected the most, here’s one new article about it. It’s in Radio World and this makes it clear that the clear winners were lawyers on both sides (neither the plaintiff nor the defendants):

The official court document dismissing the suit is very brief and offered no out-of-court settlement specifics, if, indeed, any took place, stating only that all parties “hereby stipulate and agree to this dismissal of the above-captioned action with prejudice,” which means the suit cannot be brought forward again. Each party also agreed to “bear its own fees and costs.”

Several patents held by MAD were at the center of the infringement suit targeting CBS Radio, Greater Media, Beasley Broadcasting, Cumulus Media, Entercom Communications and Cox Radio. Beasley has since acquired Greater Media and Entercom merged with CBS Radio. The plaintiffs claimed their patents, involving hard-disk radio automation systems, were being infringed by the broadcasters. Townsquare Media, originally included in the infringement suit, was released from it in late 2011, a move that sparked industry debate about a possible settlement agreement.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office eventually reexamined the patents involved in the suit, 5,629,867 and 5,809,246, at the request of equipment maker and automation software developer Broadcast Electronics. As the result of two reexaminations “DigiMedia was forced to narrow their amendments and arguments,’ according to courtroom documents associated with the case.

Imagine what would happen if the patent examiner got it right the first time around

“A patent office without quality control (or with insufficient quality control) might as well become a registration office like INPI.”But you see, there’s a problem…

As TechDirt put it yesterday, “Shocked, Shocked To Learn The Patent Office Is Structurally Designed To Approve Shit Patents” (we mentioned this paper last weekend).

Here is how TechDirt frames it (with some background and unnecessarily obscene words):

The book Innovation and Its Discontents, by Adam Jaffe and Josh Lerner, was first published in 2004. We’ve cited the book frequently around here, as it did a bang up job describing structural problems with our patent system (and the judicial review of patents). There were a few big points that it made about why our patent system was so fucked up, and a big one was the incentive structure that heavily incentivized approving patents rather than rejecting them.

Specifically, there were two big ideas mentioned in the book about the US Patent & Trademark Office: (1) that because Congress forced the USPTO to fund itself from fees, it had the direct financial incentive to encourage more patent applications, and a good way to do that is to approve a lot more patents and (2) individual examiners were rated and reviewed based on productivity scores on how many patent applications they completed — and it is much faster and less time consuming to approve a patent, rather than reject one. That’s because once you approve a patent it’s completed and gone from your desk (and into the productivity metrics as “completed”). But, if you “reject” a patent, it’s not done. Even though the USPTO issues what it calls “Final Rejections” there’s nothing final about it. The patent applicant can keep going back to the well over and over again, making minor tweaks on the application, requiring the examiner to go through it again. And each time they do, that hurts their productivity ratings. As an additional “bonus” — the USPTO actually makes significantly more money when it grants a patent, because in addition to application fees, there are also issuance fees and renewal fees.

This was pointed out here before. We even wrote about it a decade ago. If examiners have an incentive to grant (more so than to reject), then it’s a recipe for disaster. It’s a guarantee/symptom of declining patent quality.

Last year we warned that in some areas, patent quality at the EPO had gotten even worse than in the USPTO. Scope of patenting under Battistelli gradually broadens in order to fake ‘production’.

Yesterday, “Patentability of Diagnostic Methods in Europe” got published by Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP’s Hazel Ford. Read it carefully:

Like the USPTO, the European Patent Office (EPO) considers that the discovery of a natural phenomenon is not patent eligible. However, unlike the USPTO, the EPO takes the view that a patentable invention can derive from a practical use of that discovery (EPO Guidelines for Examination G-II, 3.1), such as its use in a method of diagnosis. For example, the discovery of a naturally-occurring correlation between a biomarker and a disease can be put to a practical use in the form of a method for diagnosing the disease. A claim directed to a method of diagnosing the disease involving detecting the presence or amount of that biomarker may therefore be patentable at the EPO, even if the underlying naturally-occurring correlation is not patentable.

The main issue with diagnostic methods at the EPO is not their reliance on naturally-occurring products or effects, but instead is a general exclusion from patentability of diagnostic methods that are practiced on the human or animal body (Article 53(c) EPC).

[...]

The approach to patenting diagnostics is therefore very different in Europe to that in the United States, and many methods that may receive objections under 35 USC §101 in the United States may have no such patent eligibility problems at the EPO. Diagnostic methods that are carried out on in vitro samples can be patented in Europe, as can methods that do not reach a diagnostic conclusion. Where an invention does relate to a method of diagnosis that is performed on the human or animal body, some claim types may still be patentable in Europe, as long as they were described in the patent application as originally filed. We recommend considering global claiming strategies when the patent application is drafted, so that suitable language can be included in the application to allow for filing such alternative claim types at the EPO in due course.

It is worrying that the EPO now grants patents on things that the USPTO would not; it is even more worrying that Battistelli has gotten so close to China (more on that later this weekend). It’s like he’s trying to set up ‘SIPO Europe’, not IIB. Will anything change in July? We doubt it. Campinos is not a scientist (his background is banking, Battistelli’s background is politics) and he signaled no changes to core policies, only empty allusions to dialogue. The EPO’s (and Battistelli’s) friends say: “With Antonio Campinos off to @EPOorg, @EU_IPO needs a new executive director. Nice work if you can get it: “The current basic monthly salary … is EUR 15.944,36. There are additional salary elements reflecting marital status and dependent children” https://euipo.europa.eu/tunnel-web/secure/webdav/guest/document_library/contentPdfs/about_euipo/vacancies/VEXT-17-256-AD/VEXT-17-256-AD_en.pdf …”

“Campinos has been working with Archambeau for quite some time and considering his ‘musical chairs’ move at CEIPI it’s not hard to envision something similar at EU-IPO.”“Battistelli already ‘fixed’ it,” I told them, “[according to what] some say, and the Belgian guy from EPO will get it [the job] as part of the ‘exchange’…”

We were alluding to Christian Archambeau and alleged back room deal with Belgium [1, 2]. Campinos has been working with Archambeau for quite some time and considering his 'musical chairs' move at CEIPI it’s not hard to envision something similar at EU-IPO.

Sane Responses to the Latest Pressure From Team UPC Amid Brexit Negotiations

Saturday 6th of January 2018 08:45:56 AM

FTI Consulting, which promoted highly controversial fracking (as per its own brochure [PDF]), also promotes the UPC by paying publishers while receiving over a million euros from EPO budget

Summary: Paid-for lies regarding the Unified Patent Court (UPC) continue to circulate; nevertheless, readers/commenters are not gullible enough to accept/swallow these lies

THE EPO, unlike the USPTO, has weakened the appeal boards and is actively pushing towards more litigation, not less of it (later this weekend we’ll write about the sharp decline in patent litigation in the US).

Yesterday it resumed the old #IPforSMEs nonsense, either by naming companies from their ridiculous ‘study’ (going back to September [1, 2]) or just posting vague tweets that imply SMEs rejoice over patent saturation (one single patent lawsuit can be destructive if not fatal to a start-up). We’ve grown rather tired of lies about “UPC for SMEs”; it’s often Bristows staff that spreads such lies and yesterday we saw Bristows and others lobbying the British government for patent maximalism (for patent microcosm profits). This tiring old thing and tireless effort by Team UPC was noted also by Eibhlin Vardy, who wrote this blog post about it. The relevant part (to us):

2. Unitary Patent/Unified Patent Court Agreement – the note seeks confirmation that it is the UK’s intention to stay in the UPC following Brexit, and asks that the UK work with UPC member states to bring the UPC/UP into effect and ensure the UK’s participation following Brexit;

Watch the comments, especially the parts about the UPC. One person wrote:

2. UPC: Confirmation the UK will stay? It hasn’t ratified yet so nothing to stay in. IP profession reps are looking after themselves – it is in their interests as we all know.

Another person wrote:

2. European patent attorneys will retain their right to assist practicing attorneys at law, so not a big deal for CIPA. The UK staying in the UPC if it is up and running by the time of Brexit seems problematical. Much simpler to enact legislation to the effect that UPC judgments in respect of European patents having effect in the UK will be extended automatically.

And the latest:

I see a fundamental problem with the continued mutual recognition of judgments post Brexit (let’s face it they don’t mean mutual in a two-way sense). The CJEU clarifies EU law (Directives and Regulations) in the context of maintaining one of the pillars of the Single Market, namely the free movement of goods and services. A primary aim for the CJEU is to advance the harmonisation of the internal market. A recital to this effect can be found in virtually every Directive of relevance to the IP area.
However the UK government has publicly declared that it will not seek to remain in the Single Market and it will actively seek other markets outside the EU. To that extent, opinions and judgments of the CJEU made after Brexit, even if they refer to Directives etc made before Brexit (ie those Directives which are to remain legally binding in the UK), will be made based on assumptions which are incompatible with or possiblty inimical to the interests of the UK after Brexit.
As has already been mentioned in the comments above, the UK courts may wish to take note, post Brexit, of relevant CJEU decisions, but ‘mutual recognoition’ suggests something rather more binding in its effect.

It is good to see that people are responding to such UPC jingoism; they too know that the UPC isn’t getting anywhere. There have been a massive PR campaigns behind UPC (not limited to FTI Consulting). Shall truth be victorious, Battistelli’s future will be very grim.

Links 5/1/2018: Elive 2.9.22 Beta, Ubuntu 17.10 Re-Released Next Week

Saturday 6th of January 2018 04:29:21 AM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
    • 7 Best Linux Distributions for Desktop/Laptop 2018

      This would be our first article in 2018 and happy to present you a list of the best Linux distributions to add to your favorite list in 2018 for your Desktop/Laptop, it is important to note that there is no such thing as “best” Linux distribution. People have different tastes which vary from UI experience to the feature set provided by a Linux distribution. As an example, a newbie will have a different preference from an advanced Linux administrator who has worked with a distribution like Gentoo and is obsessed with Linux CLI administration.

      If you’re not sure about a Linux distribution to use, It’s best to test them on VirtualBox or VMware Workstation, you’ll definitely fall for one that suits your needs and preferences.

    • Dell XPS 13 with Ubuntu — The Ultimate Developer Laptop of 2018!

      I’m the proud owner of a new Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition (9630) laptop, pre-loaded from the Dell factory with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS Desktop.

      Kudos to the Dell and the Canonical teams that have engineered a truly remarkable developer desktop experience. You should also check out the post from Dell’s senior architect behind the XPS 13, Barton George.

    • Dell releases Ubuntu Linux-based XPS 13 Developer Edition (9370) laptop

      If you want a computer pre-loaded with a Linux-based operating system, you can never go wrong with System76. After all, that company focuses entirely on Linux — it does not sell Windows machines at all. Hell, System76 even maintains its own Ubuntu-based operating system called Pop!_OS. By supporting that company, you are also supporting the overall Linux community.

      System76 is not the only company selling Linux-powered computers, however. Despite being a major Microsoft partner with Windows, Dell also sells desktops and laptops pre-loaded with Ubuntu. One of the company’s most impressive computers is the svelte XPS 13 laptop. Dell sells a version with Ubuntu that it dubs “Developer Edition,” but non-developers can, of course, use it too. Today, the company announces the the 7th-generation version of this notebook. The 9370, as it is called, can be purchased immediately.

    • Announcing the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition 9370 with Ubuntu

      We’re excited to see Dell announce the availability of the 7th gen XPS 13 Developer Edition (9370) which comes preloaded with Ubuntu. Canonical have been part of Dell’s Project Sputnik project since Day 1, and five years later we are delighted to see it continue. In fact, our VP of Product Dustin Kirkland was one of the three original developers (or cosmonauts) who provided input into this project and has left some thoughts five years later in his blog.

    • Dell’s new XPS 13 – the ultimate Linux laptop?

      he new Dell XPS 13 (2018) is a compelling Ubuntu laptop. It has a smaller footprint, yet bigger performance. We look at the specs, price and release date.

  • Server
    • Twistlock 2.3 Advances Container Security with Serverless Support

      Container security vendor Twistlock released version 2.3 of its container security platform on Jan. 3, including new features to help protect container workloads.

      Among the new features in the Twistlock 2.3 release in an improved Cloud Native App Firewall (CNAF), per-layer vulnerability analysis functionality, application aware system call defense and new serverless security capabilities.

    • Amazon launches its own open-source OS ‘Linux 2′ for enterprise clients

      In a deviation from its earlier policy of not permitting its cloud services users to run operating systems on its clients’ servers, Amazon has since launched its own version of the Linux OS, according to a report in VCCircle. This move by Amazon Web Services is seen as a response to rivals Oracle and Microsoft who have been offering what is known as Hybrid technology to their clients in which the open platform OS Linux can be used by the clients availing cloud services to run many other programs, on their own severs as well as on the cloud.

      Up to now, Amazon did not provide this facility to its clients directly. Only the Amazon-owned data centers were permitted to run these OSs.

    • Five Linux Server Distributions to Consider in 2018

      These five tried-and-tested Linux server distributions top our list for distros to consider for the data center or server room.

    • Get Started with Spinnaker on Kubernetes

      In the last previous installment of the series, we introduced Spinnaker as the multicloud deployment tool. We will explore how to setup Spinnaker on the Kubernetes open source container orchestration engine and deploy your first application through it.

      In this tutorial, I will walk you through how to setup and configure Spinnaker on Minikube. Once it is up and running, we will deploy and scale a containerized application running in Kubernetes.

      Spinnaker is usually installed in a VM running Ubuntu 14.04 LTS. Thanks to the Helm community, it is now available as a Chart to install with just one command.

    • Know when to implement serverless vs. containers

      Serverless computing is either the perfect answer to an application deployment problem or an expensive disaster waiting to happen.

      VMs, containers and serverless architecture all have distinct pros and cons, but serverless might break everything if the applications aren’t suited for that deployment architecture. To prevent an implosion in IT, give developers an educated assessment of serverless vs. containers for new deployments.

    • Amazon counters hybrid cloud model with Linux 2: Amazon launches next Linux server OS

      Amazon Web Services (AWS) recently launched Linux 2, with access to the latest 4.9 LTS kernel. According to the company, the newest version “provides a high performance, stable, and secure execution environment for cloud and enterprise applications.” The system includes five years of long-term security support and access to software packages through the Amazon Linux Extras repository. It is currently available for all AWS regions.

  • Kernel Space
    • Linux 4.14.12
    • Linux 4.9.75
    • Linux 4.4.110
    • CES preview: Back to the future

      Toyota will showcase its Linux-based infotainment platform that will be included in the 2018 Camry. Automotive Grade Linux is an open-source project by The Linux Foundation, which is the official authority of one of the foundational programming languages for modern computing.

    • Linux Foundation
      • Hyperledger 3 years later: That’s the sound of the devs… working on the chain ga-a-ang

        The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project was announced in December 2015. When Apache Web server daddy Brian Behlendorf took the helm five months later, the Foundation’s blockchain baby was still embryonic. He called it “day zero.”

        Driving Hyperledger was the notion of a blockchain, a distributed ledger whose roots are in digital currency Bitcoin, for the Linux ecosystem – a reference technology stack that those comfortable with a command line could experiment with and build their own blockchain systems and applications.

        Behlendorf, the project’s executive director, said upon assuming command in May 2016: “There are lots of things that we want to see built on top.”

    • Graphics Stack
      • AMD Posts Last KFD Kernel Patches For Discrete GPUs, Needed For Upstream ROCm

        AMD has posted their remaining patches for now for getting the discrete GPU support upstream in the AMDKFD “Kernel Fusion Driver” that is part of their ROCm compute stack.

      • Xilinx ZynqMP DisplayPort DRM/KMS Driver Posted

        Xilinx is interested in contributing the latest DRM/KMS driver upstream.

        Xilinx has developed a new DRM/KMS driver for their DisplayPort sub-system that is part of their ZynqMP SoC. The Xilinx ZynqMP SoC has a full display pipeline and two planes and DisplayPort 1.2 encoder.

      • Tessellation Shaders Land For RadeonSI NIR Backend

        The work led by Valve Linux driver developer Timothy Arceri on adding tessellation shader support to RadeonSI’s NIR code-path has been merged to Mesa 17.4-dev Git.

        RadeonSI Gallium3D has been working on a NIR back-end for eventually supporting SPIR-V ingestion as needed for OpenGL 4.6 compliance with code sharing with the RADV Vulkan code. Eventually though RadeonSI may eventually switch to using NIR completely as its intermediate representation. But before that can happen, the RadeonSI NIR support needs to get to parity with its existing OpenGL support when tied to TGSI IR.

      • Broadcom’s Open-Source VC5 OpenGL & Vulkan Support Improving

        Broadcom open-source driver developer Eric Anholt has written his first status update on the VC5 driver activities of the new year.

        VC5 is the new Broadcom GPU capable of Vulkan and much greater OpenGL capabilities than the VC4 graphics processor most well known for being within current-generation Raspberry Pi devices. Eric has been working on the bring-up of the open-source VC5 driver stack for the past half-year and he continues making progress on getting the VC5 OpenGL Gallium3D driver closer to parity to the long-standing VC4 driver as well as working on “BCMV” as the new Broadcom Vulkan driver still in its early stages.

      • NVIDIA Mainlining Tegra186 DRM Support For Linux 4.16

        Nearly one year after rolling out the Jetson TX2 developer board with the “Tegra186″ SoC, the Tegra DRM driver in Linux 4.16 will finally be offering basic display support with this open-source driver.

        NVIDIA has finished prepping the Tegra186 support for their Tegra DRM driver, which is around 4,000 lines of new code or a net gain of 2k. But at this stage the Tegra DRM driver for Linux 4.16 will only support driving displays via HDMI with Tegra186 as DisplayPort and DSI interfaces have yet to be implemented in the driver for this latest SoC.

    • Benchmarks
      • Linux KPTI Tests Using Linux 4.14 vs. 4.9 vs. 4.4

        Yet another one of the avenues we have been exploring with our Linux Page Table Isolation (KPTI) testing has been looking at any impact of this security feature in the wake of the Meltdown vulnerability when testing with an older Linux Long Term Support (LTS) release. In particular, when using a kernel prior to the PCID (Process Context Identifier) support in the Linux kernel that is used to lessen the impact of KPTI.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Babe Music Player Is Getting a Mobile-Friendly Qml Port

        It’s been almost a year since I publicly stood in front of you all to coo over the Qt-based Babe music player — and now I’m back to coo at it some more.

        You can blame Babe developer Camilo Higuita. He’s shared a new video of his app that has me excited. The clip, which is embedded above, demos the ‘initial work’ he’s made on a Qml port of the Babe that uses Kirgami.

  • Distributions
    • The Best Linux Distributions for 2018

      It’s a new year and the landscape of possibility is limitless for Linux. Whereas 2017 brought about some big changes to a number of Linux distributions, I believe 2018 will bring serious stability and market share growth—for both the server and the desktop.

      For those who might be looking to migrate to the open source platform (or those looking to switch it up), what are the best choices for the coming year? If you hop over to Distrowatch, you’ll find a dizzying array of possibilities, some of which are on the rise, and some that are seeing quite the opposite effect.

      So, which Linux distributions will 2018 favor? I have my thoughts. In fact, I’m going to share them with you now.

      Similar to what I did for last year’s list, I’m going to make this task easier and break down the list, as follows: sysadmin, lightweight distribution, desktop, distro with more to prove, IoT, and server. These categories should cover the needs of any type of Linux user.

      With that said, let’s get to the list of best Linux distributions for 2018.

    • Red Hat Family
      • CentOS Linux Receives Security Updates Against Meltdown and Spectre Exploits

        Free Red Hat clone CentOS Linux has received an important kernel security update that patches the Meltdown and Spectre exploits affecting billions of devices powered by modern processors.

      • Grab scales to meet business demands with open source IT automation and management

        By deploying Red Hat Ansible Tower, an enterprise open source IT automation and management solution, Grab increased its app uptime to 99.99%, reduced development and deployment time, and streamlined infrastructure management with role-based access and automated deployments. As a result, Grab’s users can access the app when needed, and its IT teams can ensure systems are stable and scale to match feature and user base growth.

      • Beta Testing in the Ever-Changing World of Automation

        The International Standards Organization (ISO) has been focused on the standards around quality versus usability over time. In 1998 ISO identified efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction as major attributes of usability. In 1999 a quality model was proposed, involving an approach to measure quality in terms of software quality and external factors. In 2001 the ISO/IEC 9126-4 standard suggested that the difference between usability and the quality in use is a matter of context of use. ISO/IEC 9126-4 also distinguished external quality versus internal quality and defined related metrics. Metrics for external quality can be obtained only by executing the software product in the system environment for which the product is intended.

        This shows that without usability/human computer interaction (HCI) in the right context, the
        quality process is incomplete. The context referred to here is fundamental to a beta test where you have real users in a real environment, thereby making the case of the beta test stronger.

        Beta Testing Challenges

        Now that we know why beta testing is so very critical, let’s explore the challenges that are involved with a beta stage.

        Any time standards are included, including ISO/IEC 9126, most of these models are static and none of them accurately describe the relationship between phases in the product development cycle and appropriate usability measures at specific project milestones. Any standard also provides relatively few guidelines about how to interpret scores from specific usability metrics. And specific to usability as a quality factor, it is worth noting that usability is that aspect of quality where the metrics have to be interpreted.

      • OpenShift Commons Briefing #112: Kubernetes 1.9 Release Update with Derek Carr (Red Hat)

        In this briefing, Red Hat’s Derek Carr talks us through the recent Kubernetes 1.9 release features and functions and reviews what is in the works for release 1.10. The briefing is a great guide to the 1.9 Release which went out the door at the very end of 2017. The 1.9 release had a strong focus on fixing bugs, maturing existing features to beta or stable. For Kubernetes 1.9, “Stability” is a key feature with an emphasis on refining, polishing, scale, and tightening up production matters.

      • Red Hat’s Latest Nouveau Developer Posts Updated NIR Code

        Not only is RadeonSI working on NIR support but Red Hat has begun working on NIR support for the open-source NVIDIA “Nouveau” driver as part of a compute effort and possible Vulkan support in the future.

        As written about last month, longtime Nouveau contributor Karol Herbst has joined Red Hat and his first public-facing project is developing NIR support for Nouveau. In the original patch series Karol explained he’s working on NIR support for Nouveau in order to get SPIR-V (the Vulkan / OpenCL IR) support moving. Their expressed focus right now is on SPIR-V compute support but this would also be a step towards Vulkan for this open-source, reverse-engineered NVIDIA Linux graphics driver.

      • Finance
      • Fedora
        • Fedora 28 To Work On Better VirtualBox Integration, Hardening Packages & Stronger Crypto

          With more developers returning to their activities after the holidays, feature work on Fedora 28 is heating up.

          Recently proposed for Fedora 28 include:

          VirtualBox Guest Integration – This is aobut having the VirtualBox guest drivers and tools ship by default in Fedora Workstation. This is part of an effort by Red Hat for getting more of the VirtualBox drivers mainlined in the Linux kernel. Basically if all goes well this means a smoother out-of-the-box experience when running Fedora on top of Oracle VM VirtualBox.

        • ABRT team: Link to FAF directly from Fedora Packages
        • Fedora 28 Taking To Modularizing Their Anaconda Installer

          When talking about the Fedora/RedHat Anaconda installer it still brings back bad memories from the Anaconda fallout a few years ago when they went through some painful transitions that also led to release delays. In 2018, Fedora/RedHat developers are taking up the initiative of modularizing the Anaconda installer.

          For the Fedora 28 release due out this spring, the plan is to split the Anaconda installer into several modules that in turn will communicate with eachother using a DBus API. The modularization effort sounds nice as long as it goes smoothly and doesn’t lead to any fallout like with past Anaconda overhaul initiatives (though admittedly Anaconda has been playing nicely the past number of releases and no complaints on my end currently).

    • Debian Family
      • Derivatives
        • Elive 2.9.22 beta released

          The Elive Team is proud to announce the release of the beta version 2.9.22
          This new version includes:

          Keyboard typing to support special languages like Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese. If you need an extra Ibus configuration contact us with the details needed
          Network access to your local machines using hostname.local
          Numpad always enabled option in installation
          Desktop right click is assigned to an amazing launcher
          Designs shadow fix, borders more white, less pixelated icons in menus, much improved menus and userfriendly, misc overall improvements
          Userfriendly better organized menus, more friendly icons and names, improved description for the dock launchers

        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Ubuntu will fix Meltdown and Spectre by January 9th

            Ubuntu, perhaps the most popular Linux distribution, on the desktop, which has multitudes of other distributions depending on it to send out security updates, has announced that it will update the kernels of all supported releases in order to mitigate the newly publicly disclosed Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, by January 9th.

          • Ubuntu 17.04, the Last Release with Unity 7, Reaches End of Life on January 13

            Canonical announced today that it’s putting an end to the support offered by the Linux company for its Ubuntu 17.04 “Zesty Zapus” operating system next week on January 13.

            Launched last year on April 13, Ubuntu 17.04 was a powerful release, both inside and outside, running the latest (at that time) stable Linux 4.10 kernel series and shipping with an up-to-date graphics stack based on Mesa 17.0 and X.Org Server 1.19 series. It was also the last Ubuntu release to ship with the Unity 7 desktop by default.

            “As a non-LTS release, 17.04 has a 9-month support cycle and, as such, will reach end of life on Saturday, January 13th,” says Steve Langasek, Engineering Manager, Ubuntu Foundations at Canonical. “At that time, Ubuntu Security Notices will no longer include information or updated packages for Ubuntu 17.04.”

          • Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus) reaches End of Life on January 13, 2018
          • Canonical Plans to Release Ubuntu 17.10 Respin ISOs for All Flavors Next Week

            Canonical announced on Friday that it plans to release the promised respin ISO images of the Ubuntu 17.10 (Artful Aardvark) operating system early next week on January 11.

            The announcement comes minutes after Canonical announced the end of life of its Ubuntu 17.04 “Zesty Zapus” operating system on January 13, 2018, saying that it’s beneficial to have Ubuntu 17.10 images available in the face of the impending EOL for Ubuntu 17.04, as users will need to upgrade their installations.

            Last month, several users reported broken BIOSes due to a bug in the Ubuntu 17.10 installation images. Laptops from Lenovo, Acer, and Toshiba were affected by the issue, which locked users out of their BIOS settings. The bug could make user’s system unbootable even if the image was booted in live mode.

          • Exceptional respins of Ubuntu 17.10 media; call for testing
          • Ubuntu 17.10 To Be Re-Released Next Week
  • Devices/Embedded
    • January 2018 catalog of hacker-friendly SBCs

      This catalog accompanies our January 2018 round-up of hacker-friendly SBCs. Here, we provide brief descriptions, specs, pricing, and links to further details for all 103 SBCs.

      Our January 2018 hacker-friendly single board computer round-up comprises three resources: an overview of recent SBC market trends; this catalog, which provides descriptions, specs, pricing, and links to related LinuxGizmos coverage and supplier product pages for all 103 SBCs; and a Google docs spreadsheet that tabulates the key features and pricing for all 103 boards. Links to all three parts of our round-up are in the box below.

    • Ringing in 2018 with 103 hacker-friendly SBCs

      Welcome to our latest biannual round-up of hacker-friendly single board computers that run Linux or Android. Included are a brief review of recent SBC market trends, a catalog with key features, specs, and pricing of each SBC, and a table comparing them all.

      Relative to our June report, which was accompanied by a reader survey co-sponsored with Linux.com, our latest hacker-friendly single board computer (SBC) round-up has grown from 98 to 103 boards. Although there’s no survey here, we invite your comments in the discussion area at the bottom of this post.

      There are three parts to this round-up: this post, which provides an overview of recent SBC market trends and discusses our latest crop of hacker-friendly SBCs in general terms; a catalog post with brief descriptions, specs, pricing, and links to related LinuxGizmos coverage and supplier product pages for all 103 SBCs; and a Google docs spreadsheet that tabulates key features and pricing for all 103 boards. Links to each are in the box below.

    • RISC-V Foundation Trumpets Open-Source ISAs In Wake Of Meltdown, Spectre

      The RISC-V Foundation says that no currently announced RISC-V CPU is vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre and, in the wake of those bugs, stressed the importance of open-source development and a modern ISA in preventing vulnerabilities.

      In consumer computing, we usually only hear about two instruction set architectures (ISA): x86 and ARM. Classified as a complex instruction set, x86 dominates the desktop and server space. Since the rise of smartphones, however, reduced-instruction-set (RISC) ARM processors have dominated the mobile computing market. Beyond x86, there aren’t many complex instruction sets still in use, but there are still many relevant RISC designs despite ARM’s seeming ubiquity.

      The lesser known RISC-V ISA is among those being developed to take on ARM. It was created in the University of California, Berkeley and is unique because it’s open-source. The ISA is actively being worked on and is now overseen by the RISC-V Foundation, which includes companies such as AMD, Nvidia, Micron, Qualcomm, and Microsoft. An ISA alone doesn’t define a CPU design, though. RISC-V being open-source means that anyone is free to build their own CPU to implement the ISA, or their own compiler to build software that can run on RISC-V CPUs.

    • WHY RASPBERRY PI ISN’T VULNERABLE TO SPECTRE OR MELTDOWN

      Over the last couple of days, there has been a lot of discussion about a pair of security vulnerabilities nicknamed Spectre and Meltdown. These affect all modern Intel processors, and (in the case of Spectre) many AMD processors and ARM cores. Spectre allows an attacker to bypass software checks to read data from arbitrary locations in the current address space; Meltdown allows an attacker to read data from arbitrary locations in the operating system kernel’s address space (which should normally be inaccessible to user programs).

      Both vulnerabilities exploit performance features (caching and speculative execution) common to many modern processors to leak data via a so-called side-channel attack. Happily, the Raspberry Pi isn’t susceptible to these vulnerabilities, because of the particular ARM cores that we use.

      To help us understand why, here’s a little primer on so

    • All Raspberry Pi Devices Are Immune to the Meltdown and Spectre Vulnerabilities

      Just in case you were wondering, Raspberry Pi Foundation founder Eben Upton confirmed today that none of the Raspberry Pi devices are affected by the recently disclosed Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities.

      Earlier this week, two major hardware bugs were unearthed in modern processors, affecting almost all devices powered by some CPUs from Intel, AMD, or ARM made in the past two decades. The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities are considered the worst chip flaw ever discovered, putting billions of devices at risk of attacks.

    • You know what’s not affected by Meltdown or Spectre? The Raspberry Pi

      One or more of the security vulnerabilities disclosed this week affect nearly every modern smartphone, PC, and server processor. Intel processor are vulnerable to both Meltdown and Spectre attacks. AMD chips are vulnerable to Spectre attacks. And the ARM-based processors that are used in most modern smartphones can fall prey to a Spectre attack as well.

    • Hackable, Rockchip-based media player also offers NAS and retro gaming

      Cloud Media’s open source “Popcorn Hour Transformer Media Computer / NAS” computer is based on Pine64’s RK3328-based Rock64 SBC, and supports Linux and Android media player, NAS, and retro gaming.

      Cloud Media has spun a new variant of its Popcorn Hour media player that is open source in hardware and software thanks to its mainboard: Pine64’s open source, quad-core Cortex-A53 Rock64 SBC. It’s available in a Media Computer and NAS (network attached storage) version for the same price of $95.90 (2GB LPDDR3/16GB eMMC) or $115.90 (4GB/32GB), not counting SATA storage.

    • Tizen
    • Android
Free Software/Open Source
  • Cable’s Open Source Flirtation Heats Up

    CableLabs , the heart of cable research and development, has created its own OpenStack platform called the SDN/NFV Application Development Platform and Stack project, or SNAPS for short. That in itself isn’t news — SNAPS has been around since 2016 — but the organization also introduced two related projects as part of its open source effort just three weeks ago. And CableLabs’ lead architect for wired technologies, Randy Levensalor, opened up even more recently about how his team’s approach differs from some of the NFV strategies undertaken by telecom operators when the virtualization craze first took hold.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Mozilla & Mr. Robot – Insert Freedom Here

        A few weeks ago, Mozilla finally showed us its true skin. No more illusions about its feel-goodie world-loving efforts. Yet another shark in the pond, after its share of filthy dimes. One day, there will be a new browser, and it will be something nice and cool and unspoiled by greed just yet. That will be the moment when I say goodbye to Firefox. For now, it’s still the least annoying turd in the pile, and I’m exercising my rather futile civil duty to complain.

        In a world without real choice, the best you can do, short of a proper bloody revolution, is to bitch and moan and tell your story. Luckily, this seems to work well. If there’s one good use to social media, it’s blowing things out of proportion and making viral, tidal waves of feces. Harness that power. Fight back. Remember, there IS such a thing as bad publicity. When it hits their pocket, you know you’re on the right track. So once again, thank you Mozilla for molesting my browser. Stay fake.

      • Mozilla statement on breach of Aadhaar data

        Mozilla is deeply concerned about recent reports that a private citizen was able to easily access the private Aadhaar data of more than one billion Indian citizens as reported by The Tribune.

        [...]

        Mozilla has been raising concerns about the security risks of companies using and integrating Aadhaar into their systems, and this latest, egregious breach should be a giant red flag to all companies as well as to the UIDAI and the Modi Government.

      • Lessons from the impl period
      • Looking back at Bugzilla and BMO in 2017

        Recently in the Bugzilla Project meeting, Gerv informed us that he would be resigning, and it was pretty clear that my lack of technical leadership was the cause. While I am sad to see Gerv go, it did make me realize I need to write more about the things I do.

  • Databases
    • The State of VACUUM

      In a recent blog post, I talked about why every system that implements MVCC needs some scheme for removing old row versions, and how VACUUM meets that need for PostgreSQL. In this post, I’d like to examine the history of VACUUM improvements in recent years, the state of VACUUM as it exists in PostgreSQL today, and how it might be improved in the future.

      When I first began using PostgreSQL, autovacuum did not exist, and I was not aware of the need for manual VACUUM. After a few months (!), I wondered why my database was so slow. Putting a vacuumdb command in cron, scheduled to run every 6 hours, was sufficient for my needs at the time, but it only worked because my database was small and handled a limited amount of traffic. In many environments, UPDATE and DELETE operations will target some tables much more often than others, and therefore some tables will accumulate dead row versions much more quickly than others, and therefore the interval between one VACUUM and the next should also vary. If a user with this kind of environment were to run a full-database VACUUM frequently enough to meet the needs of their most heavily-updated tables, they would VACUUM lightly-updated tables far more often than necessary, wasting effort. If they were to reduce the frequency of the full-database VACUUM to avoid wasting effort, heavily updated tables wouldn’t get vacuumed often enough and their on-disk size would grow as they filled up with dead row versions, otherwise known as “bloat”.

  • CMS
    • 3 flexible tools for managing hotel reservations and more

      Rezgo is a web-based reservation system that’s designed specifically for tour and activity operators. It provides tour management solutions (such as online booking engines) and supports integration with popular booking engines such as Expedia and Travel Advisor. Rezgo focuses on increasing business efficiency, with no limits on users, bookings, or features for its products. Rezgo’s open source booking engine is available for inspection and download at GitHub. It is built with PHP using the Twitter Bootstrap CSS framework and AJAX. You’ll find Rezgo easy to work with if you’re comfortable with XML API development, PHP, AJAX, and CSS.

  • Education
    • A school in India defies the traditional education model

      Located in a sleepy village just two hours away from the bustling metropolis of Mumbai is a school that defies traditional educational models by collaboratively owning, building, and sharing knowledge and technology. The school uses only open source software and hardware in its approach to learning, and takes pride in the fact that none of its students have used or even seen proprietary software, including the ubiquitous Windows operating system.

      The Tamarind Tree School, located in Dahanu Taluka, Maharashtra, India, is an experiment in open education. Open education is a philosophy about how people produce, share, and build on knowledge and technology, advocating a world in which education is for social good, and everyone has equal opportunity and access to education, training, and knowledge.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
    • 20 years of the Open Source Initiative (OSI)

      No openwashing, thanks

      With so many vendors claiming to have ‘got the open religion’ but in fact doing nothing more than openwashing a few ‘less than key’ elements of their total technology stacks, the OSI says its next goals to promote open source’s viability/value to issues and look for areas where it can promote and champion implementation and what it calls ‘authentic participation’.

  • Funding
    • WP Engine Raises $250M to Grow WordPress Platform

      The open-source WordPress content management system has grown significantly over the last eight years and along with that growth, one of its leading backers, WP Engine, has also grown. On Jan. 4, WP Engine announced it raised a new $250 million round of funding from Silver Lake Partners.

      Silver Lake is well-known in the private equity world; not only did the firm work with Michael Dell to bring Dell Inc. private in 2013, but it also helped fund Dell’s acquisition of EMC in 2015. WP Engine was founded in 2010, with total funding to date now standing at $291 million.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Enterprise Roles in Open Source Compliance

      There are generally two teams involved in achieving compliance: a core team and an extended team, with the latter typically being a superset of the former. The core team, often called the Open Source Review Board (OSRB), consists of three key representatives from engineering and product teams, one or more legal counsels, and the compliance officer/ open source program office manager.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • What you didn’t know about Creative Commons

      I attended film school, and later I taught at a film school, and even later I worked at a major film studio. There was a common thread through all these different angles of the creative industry: creators need content. Interestingly, one movement kept providing the solution, and that was free culture, or, as it has been formalized, Creative Commons.

  • Programming/Development
    • An introduction to Eclipse MicroProfile

      Enterprise Java has been defined by two players: Spring on one side and Java Enterprise Edition on the other. The Java EE set of specifications was developed in the Java Community Process under the stewardship of Oracle. The current Java EE 8 was released in September 2017; the prior version came out in 2013.

      Between those releases, the industry saw a lot of change, most notably containers, the ubiquitous use of JSON, HTTP/2, and microservices architectures. Unfortunately there was not much related activity around Java EE; but users of the many Java EE-compliant servers demanded adoption of those new technologies and paradigms.

    • ARM Preps ARMv8.4-A Support For GCC Compiler

      ARM Holdings has submitted patches implementing support for the ARMv8.4-A instruction set update for the GNU Compiler Collection (GCC).

      ARMv8.4-A adds a new Secure EL2 state, more cryptographic hashing algorithms are supported by the instruction set, support for Activity Monitors, improved virtualization support, and Memory Partitioning and Monitoring (MPAM) capabilities.

    • GitHub Issue Notifications on Open Source Projects

      Many Open Source Project maintainers suffer from a significant overdose of GitHub notifications. Many have turned them off completely for that.

      We (GitMate.io) are constantly researching about how people handle a flood of incoming issues in our aim to improve the situation by applying modern technologies to the problem. (Oh and we love free software!)

    • Computer Science Pioneer Bjarne Stroustrup to Receive the 2018 Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering

      C++’s combination of expressiveness and efficiency surpasses that of other programming languages, making it a popular choice for complex tasks with resource constraints such as game engines, database implementations, control systems, financial services, graphics, networking, and web servers. C++ is now used by approximately 4.5 million programmers around the world and has revolutionized numerous applications — from web services like Google and Facebook to medical systems such as CAT scanners and blood analyses.

    • Splice Hooking for Unix-Like Systems

      We actively use the Unix splice hooking approach described above in projects we create for our clients here at Apriorit, particularly in the area of cybersecurity. We’ve implemented this hook type for a variety of architectures and kernel versions, including x86_64, x86, and ARM in Linux 2.6.32 to 4.10.

      We hope that you find this approach useful and that you’ll be able to use some of the ideas presented in this article for your own hooking needs.

    • Inside the snake pit with ‘angr’ Python framework creator

      Well, angr is a highly modular Python framework that performs binary analysis using VEX as an intermediate representation. The name ‘angr’ is a pun on VEX, since when something is vexing, it makes you angry. It is made of many interlocking parts to provide useful abstractions for analysis. Under the hood, pretty much every primitive operation that angr does is a call into SimuVEX to execute some code.

      All IoT firmware is binary and only vendors have the source code. But often, IoT vendors don’t share source code, so security teams are left to find their own way to analyse the binary code. That means that, if you want to analyse IoT devices for vulnerabilities, then you need good binary analysis tools.

      Binary analysis goals: program verification; program testing; vulnerability excavation; vulnerability signature generation; reverse engineering; vulnerability excavation; exploit generation.

Leftovers
  • Get your SVGs out of your HTML

    How does a data url work? Normally a url in the background of a CSS element would say “go out and grab this asset at a different URL. A “data” url instead encodes all the data needed to render the image without making a new network request. Here’s an example of what one might look like:

  • Security
    • How Hackers Can Read Your Websites’ Passwords Using Meltdown And Spectre [With Solution]

      ​Everyone is talking about Meltdown and Spectre, the two security flaws found in Intel, AMD(less vulnerable) and ARM CPUs. Using the flaws attackers can read system memory which may have your passwords and other sensitive information. The worst part of it is that most systems are affected by it. So you’re most likely affected by these flaws. Let’s see how much an Internet surfer like you is affected by Meltdown.

    • Windows 10 Cumulative Update KB4056892 (Meltdown & Spectre Fix) Fails to Install

      Microsoft rolled out Windows 10 cumulative update KB4056892 yesterday as an emergency patch for systems running the Fall Creators Update in an attempt to fix the Meltdown and Spectre bugs affecting Intel, AMD, and ARM processors manufactured in the last two decades.

      But as it turns out, instead of fixing the two security vulnerabilities on some computers, the cumulative update actually breaks them down, with several users complaining that their systems were rendered useless after attempting to install KB4056892.

      Our readers pointed me to three different Microsoft Community threads (1, 2, 3) where users reported cumulative update KB4056892 issues, and in every case the problem appears to be exactly the same: AMD systems end up with a boot error before trying a rollback and failing with error 0x800f0845.

    • Linus Torvalds says Intel needs to admit it has issues with CPUs

      Linux creator Linus Torvalds has had some harsh words for Intel in the course of a discussion about patches for two [sic] bugs that were found to affect most of the company’s processors.

    • We translated Intel’s crap attempt to spin its way out of CPU security bug PR nightmare

      In the wake of The Register’s report on Tuesday about the vulnerabilities affecting Intel chips, Chipzilla on Wednesday issued a press release to address the problems disclosed by Google’s security researchers that afternoon.

      To help put Intel’s claims into context, we’ve annotated the text. Bold is Intel’s spin.

    • When F00F bug hit 20 years ago, Intel reacted the same way

      A little more than 20 years ago, Intel faced a problem with its processors, though it was not as big an issue as compared to the speculative execution bugs that were revealed this week.

    • Meltdown, Spectre and the Future of Secure Hardware

      Meltdown and Spectre are two different—but equally nasty—exploits in hardware. They are local, read-only exploits not known to corrupt, delete, nor modify data. For local single user laptops, such as Librem laptops, this is not as large of a threat as on shared servers—where a user on one virtual machine could access another user’s data on a separate virtual machine.

      As we have stated numerous times, security is a game of depth. To exploit any given layer, you go to a lower layer and you have access to everything higher in the stack.

    • KPTI — the new kernel feature to mitigate “meltdown”
    • Check This List to See If You’re Still Vulnerable to Meltdown and Spectre [Updated]

      Security researchers revealed disastrous flaws in processors manufactured by Intel and other companies this week. The vulnerabilities, which were discovered by Google’s Project Zero and nicknamed Meltdown and Spectre, can cause data to leak from kernel memory—which is really not ideal since the kernel is central to operating systems and handles a bunch of sensitive processes.

      Intel says that it’s working to update all of the processors it has introduced in the last few years. “By the end of next week, Intel expects to have issued updates for more than 90 percent of processor products introduced within the past five years,” the company said in a statement today.

    • Meltdown and Spectre CPU Flaws Expose Modern Systems to Risk

      After a rollercoaster day of speculation on Jan. 3 about a severe Intel chip flaw, Google’s Project Zero research team revealed later that same day details about the CPU vulnerabilities.

      The CPU flaws have been branded as Meltdown and Spectre and have widespread impact across different silicon, operating system, browser and cloud vendors. The Meltdown flaw, identified as CVE-2017-5754, affects Intel CPUs. Spectre, known as CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715, impacts all modern processors, including ones from Intel, Advanced Micro Devices and ARM.

    • Major Intel Kernel flaw may impact performance across Linux, Windows and Mac OS

      New reports have surfaced suggesting that there might be a major security flaw with Intel processors launched in the last decade. The harsh part is that patching the issue might slow down the performance of the CPU by up to 30 percent. Intel hasn’t put out an official statement yet, but Linux Kernel patches are being pushed out to all users.

    • Intel facing class-action lawsuits over Meltdown and Spectre bugs

      Intel has been hit with at least three class-action lawsuits over the major processor vulnerabilities revealed this week.

      The flaws, called Meltdown and Spectre, exist within virtually all modern processors and could allow hackers to steal sensitive data although no data breaches have been reported yet. While Spectre affects processors made by a variety of firms, Meltdown appears to primarily affect Intel processors made since 1995.

      Three separate class-action lawsuits have been filed by plaintiffs in California, Oregon and Indiana seeking compensation, with more expected. All three cite the security vulnerability and Intel’s delay in public disclosure from when it was first notified by researchers of the flaws in June. They also cite the alleged computer slowdown that will be caused by the fixes needed to address the security concerns, which Intel disputes is a major factor.

    • More about Spectre and the PowerPC (or why you may want to dust that G3 off)

      Most of the reports on the Spectre speculative execution exploit have concentrated on the two dominant architectures, x86 (in both its AMD and Meltdown-afflicted Intel forms) and ARM. In our last blog entry I said that PowerPC is vulnerable to the Spectre attack, and in broad strokes it is. However, I also still think that the attack is generally impractical on Power Macs due to the time needed to meaningfully exfiltrate information on machines that are now over a decade old, especially with JavaScript-based attacks even with the TenFourFox PowerPC JIT (to say nothing of various complicating microarchitectural details). But let’s say that those practical issues are irrelevant or handwaved away. Is PowerPC unusually vulnerable, or on the flip side unusually resistant, to Spectre-based attacks compared to x86 or ARM?

    • Measuring the Intel Management Engine to Create a More Secure Computer

      A modern computer has many different avenues for attack—ranging from local user-level exploits to root and kernel exploits, all the way down to exploits that compromise the boot loader or even the BIOS—but for over ten years the Intel Management Engine—with its full persistent access to all computer hardware combined with its secretive code base—has offered the theoretical worst-case scenario for a persistent invisible attack. The recent exploit from the talented group of researchers at Positive Technologies moves that worst-case scenario from “theoretical” to reality. While the proof-of-concept exploit is currently limited to local access, it is only a matter of time before that same style of stack smash attack turns remote by taking advantage of systems with AMT (Advanced Management Technology) enabled.

    • Linus Torvalds Latest Meltdown: “Is Intel Selling Sh*t And Never Willing To Fix Anything?”

      It’s not surprising to hear that the creator of the open-source Linux kernel couldn’t hold his temper after learning that Intel processors are affected by vulnerabilities that date back more than a decade ago. And why not? He has enough power to criticize Intel as the active development of the 26-year-old Linux kernel can’t go forward without him.

    • Linux Kernel 4.14.12 Released to Disable x86 PTI for AMD Radeon Processors

      It was bound to happen sooner or later, so Greg Kroah-Hartman just announced today the release of the Linux 4.14.12 kernel, which disables the x86 KPTI patches for AMD Radeon processors.

      Submitted over the Christmas holidays by AMD engineer Tom Lendacky, the “x86/cpu, x86/pti: Do not enable PTI on AMD processors” patch has landed today in the Linux 4.14.12 kernel, disabling the kernel page table isolation (KPTI) for all AMD Radeon processors, which were treated as “insecure” until now.

    • More Linux Kernel & GCC Patches Come Out In The Wake Of Spectre+Meltdown

      Besides the already-merged Kernel Page Table Isolation (KPTI) patches, other Linux kernel patches are coming out now in light of the recent Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities.

      Paul Turner of Google has posted some “request for comments” patches on a “Retpoline” implementation for the Linux kernel. The Retpoline patches are intended for fending off Spectre, the attack that breaks isolation between different applications. Unfortunately the Retpoline patching does add an additional cost to the kernel performance with the overall overhead being reported up to a 1.5% range.

    • KPTI Intel Chip Flaw Exposes Security Risks

      Operating system vendors are rushing to put out a fix for an alleged Intel chip flaw that could be used to exploit systems.

      Intel has not officially disclosed details on the flaw yet, though a patch already exists in the Linux kernel, with patches for Microsoft Windows and Apple macOS expected by Jan. 9. The Intel flaw doesn’t have a branded name at this point, though security researchers have referred to it as both KPTI (Kernel Page Table Isolation) and KAISER (Kernel Address Isolation to have Side-channels Efficiently Removed).

    • Reading privileged memory with a side-channel

      We have discovered that CPU data cache timing can be abused to efficiently leak information out of mis-speculated execution, leading to (at worst) arbitrary virtual memory read vulnerabilities across local security boundaries in various contexts.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • ​How the Meltdown and Spectre security holes fixes will affect you
    • More details about mitigations for the CPU Speculative Execution issue
    • Purism Says It’s Releasing Patches to Stop Meltdown Attacks in Its Linux Laptops

      Purism’s response to the Meltdown and Spectre security exploits that put billions of devices at risk of attacks came today in the form of a press release with details on the patches for its PureOS operating system.

      If you own a Librem laptop from Purism, chances are it will get a patch to mitigate the Meltdown hardware exploit. The patch, as expected, consists of a kernel update, which users will have to install from PureOS’s software repositories and make sure they reboot their computers for the patch to be correctly installed.

      “Purism’s PureOS, a Free Software Foundation endorsed distribution, is releasing a patch to stop the Meltdown attack, with thanks to the quick and effective actions of the upstream Linux kernel development team,” says Todd Weaver, Founder and CEO of Purism in the press release.

    • PyCryptoMiner ropes Linux machines into Monero-mining botnet

      A Linux-based botnet that has been flying under the radar has earned its master at least 158 Monero (currently valued around $63,000).

    • Python-Based Botnet Targets Linux Systems with Exposed SSH Ports

      Experts believe that an experienced cybercrime group has created a botnet from compromised Linux-based systems and is using these servers and devices to mine Monero, a digital currency.

      Crooks are apparently using brute-force attacks against Linux systems that feature exposed SSH ports. If they guess the password, they use Python scripts to install a Monero miner.

    • AMD PSP Affected By Remote Code Execution Vulnerability

      While all eyes have been on Intel this week with the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, a disclosure was publicly made this week surrounding AMD’s PSP Secure Processor in an unrelated security bulletin.

      AMD’s Secure Processor / Platform Security Processor (PSP) that is akin to Intel’s Management Engine (ME) is reportedly vulnerable to remote code execution.

    • DragonFlyBSD Lands Fixes For Meltdown Vulnerability

      Linux, macOS, and Windows has taken most of the operating system attention when it comes down to the recently-disclosed Meltdown vulnerability but the BSDs too are prone to this CPU issue. DragonFlyBSD lead developer Matthew Dillon has landed his fixes for Meltdown.

    • Spectre question

      Could ASLR be used to prevent the Spectre attack?

      The way Spectre mitigations are shaping up, it’s going to require modification of every program that deals with sensitive data, inserting serialization instructions in the right places. Or programs can be compiled with all branch prediction disabled, with more of a speed hit.

      Either way, that’s going to be piecemeal and error-prone. We’ll be stuck with a new class of vulnerabilities for a long time. Perhaps good news for the security industry, but it’s going to become as tediously bad as buffer overflows for the rest of us.

      Also, so far the mitigations being developed for Spectre only cover branching, but the Spectre paper also suggests the attack can be used in the absence of branches to eg determine the contents of registers, as long as the attacker knows the address of suitable instructions to leverage.

    • Intel Deploying Updates for Spectre and Meltdown Exploits

      Intel reports that company has developed and is rapidly issuing updates for all types of Intel-based computer systems — including personal computers and servers — that render those systems immune from “Spectre” and “Meltdown” exploits reported by Google Project Zero. I

    • Capsule8 Launches Open Source Sensor for Real-time Attack Detection Capable of Detecting Meltdown
  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • ‘US needs free press, but has media subservient to Clinton-Obama interests’

      There is a long-standing collusion between the mainstream media and the people in power loyal to the Clintons and the Obamas, who tried to put Hillary Clinton in power as president, investigative journalist Charles Ortel told RT.

      On December 30, WikiLeaks published an e-mail that, it said, showed how the New York Times was providing the State Department and Hillary Clinton with advanced warnings about potentially damaging stories.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • National Bird Day

      Each year, over 45 million Americans take part in birdwatching, spending approximately $41 billion on related trips and equipment—contributing significantly to local communities and the national economy as a whole.

      While avian aficionados admire these special creatures year-round, birds are officially celebrated on National Bird Day—an opportunity to recognize the contributions they make to the health of ecosystems, the economy, and human enjoyment and creativity (just think of how many paintings, songs, and poems are inspired by birds!). January 5, 2018, will mark the 16th annual National Bird Day, and while it’s by no means the only opportunity to make friends of the feathered variety, it’s a good excuse to visit one of the country’s 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves, which are havens for birds and the people who love them.

  • Finance
    • Astounding coincidence: Intel’s CEO liquidated all the stock he was legally permitted to sell after learning of catastrophic processor flaws
    • Intel CEO sold all the stock he could after Intel learned of security bug

      While an Intel spokesperson told CBS Marketwatch reporter Jeremy Owens that the trades were “unrelated” to the security revelations, and Intel financial filings showed that the stock sales were previously scheduled, Krzanich scheduled those sales on October 30. That’s a full five months after researchers informed Intel of the vulnerabilities. And Intel has offered no further explanation of why Krzanich abruptly sold off all the stock he was permitted to.

    • Death of the American Trucker

      When Donald Trump sidles up to a semi truck, he’s usually selling policy only a plutocrat could love. Campaigning to repeal the Affordable Care Act in March, Trump pinned an iTrucks button to his lapel and honked the horn of a Mack truck outside the White House. “Obamacare,” he said, “has inflicted great pain on American truckers.” In October, at a rally before the “proud men and women of the American Trucking Associations” in Pennsylvania, Trump touted GOP plans to slash corporate taxes by 40 percent and to end “the crushing, horrible and unfair estate tax.” Behind him, positioned for the TV cameras, was an 18-wheeler – emblazoned with an unlikely slogan: truckers for tax reform. He vowed his America First agenda “means putting American truckers first.”

    • Ethereum Price Crosses $1,000 For The First Time To Create New Record

      It’s hard to point out the reason behind this recent rise in Ethereum price. However, as per experts (Via Fortune), this could be due to the push which was given by banking giants who have announced plans to test Ethereum blockchain.

    • Ethereum Rises Above $1,000 for the First Time as Ripple Soars

      Even as the arguable star of 2017 Bitcoin stalls thousands below its all-time high, the third largest cryptocurrency by market value, Ethereum, is soaring to new records Thursday.

      For the first time ever, Ethereum prices rose above $1,000 per unit in early trading Thursday, as investors look increasingly toward alternative currencies such as Ethereum, Ripple, and Litecoin.

    • Ripple Co-Founder Is Now Richer Than Google Co-Founders, Becomes One Of World’s Richest

      Larson holds a 5.19 billion XRP and a 17% stake in Ripple which made him take advantage of XRP’s recent rise. So, in total, he has control over 15.6 billion XRP. As of writing, Larson’s net worth is around $54.2 billion (XRP value $3.48, according to Coinmarketcap). Earlier, the value of XRP reaching $3.84 (net worth $59.9) made him reach just below Mark Zuckerberg who stands fourth on Forbes World’s Richest list.

    • 5 blockchain trends to watch for in 2018

      Few new technologies have raised as much discussion as blockchain. One reason is the controversy, concern, and perceived opportunity around blockchain-based cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether. Another is the growing crop of ventures crowdfunded via initial coin offerings (ICOs).

    • City workers accused of tossing out homeless people’s belongings

      The City of Chicago is being accused of making a heartless attack on the homeless after a video showed crews clearing out a homeless camp along the Kennedy Expressway in the Avondale neighborhood.

      Jeffrey, a homeless Chicagoan, doesn’t have much, but the little that he and several other homeless men did have in the Belmont and Kedzie underpass was hauled off as trash by city cleanup crews Wednesday afternoon.

      A passersby saw what was happening and shot video.

    • Man ordered to stop housing homeless to keep them warm

      A Chicago man who has been helping homeless people get out of the cold by offering “slumber parties” at his home has been ordered to stop helping them.

      City officials are warning Greg Schiller to stop offering “slumber parties” in his basement to homeless people in his neighborhood or else his house will be condemned, NBC 5 reports.

    • Julio Lopez Varona on Puerto Rico’s Predators

      Meanwhile, the New York Times describes the banks and hedge funds that are preying on the situation—scooping up the homes of people unable to pay mortgage, for example—as “bargain hunters.” Different people have very different visions of the way forward for Puerto Rico—depending, to put it simply, on whether you think servicing debt matters more than human beings. It is, as a report from the activist group Hedge Clippers describes it, a story of “pain and profit”—and an important cautionary tale with meaning far beyond the island.

      Julio Lopez Varona works with Hedge Clippers; he’s also the founding organizer with Make the Road Connecticut. We’ll talk with Julio Lopez Varona about those seeking profit in Puerto Rico’s pain, and how we can change that story.

    • Revealed, how a THIRD of Tory donations come from a tiny group of rich men who enjoy lavish dinners with Theresa May

      More than a third of donations to the Tories last year came from a tiny group of super-rich men who enjoy lavish secretive dinners with Theresa May.

      Research reveals how much Britain’s party of government depends on a band of millionaires for survival.

      And it comes despite Mrs May vowing in 2007: “To restore public trust we must remove the dependency of the political parties on all large donors.”

      Labour analysed donations by the 64 people – 62 of them men – who attended ‘Leader’s Group’ dinners, hosted by the Prime Minister and other senior ministers, in the first half of last year.

    • Bitcoin Adoption Rate In Iran Surges Despite Censorship And Protests

      Massive protests erupted across Iran last Thursday, spurred by a stagnant economy and the rising cost of basic necessities. On Wednesday, almost a week later, the BBC reported 21 people were killed in subsequent protests. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards deployed forces to three provinces to quell the anti-government uproar. The government has blocked popular messaging services like Telegram and Signal, in addition to several internet networks. Yet despite censorship and civil unrest, the Iranian bitcoin community is growing rapidly.

    • Iranian Bitcoin Adoption Surges Amid Political Protests and Censorship

      Iran has witnessed widespread protests for the last week, with the media reporting that more than 20 individuals have been killed so far during the demonstrations. The protests have been attributed to popular dissatisfaction with high unemployment, inequality, housing costs, and other economic strains.

      The rebellion has seen the deployment of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in three provinces, and censorship of numerous online networks – including Telegram and Signal. Despite the restricted access and rolling internet blackouts, Iran’s cryptocurrency community appears to be gaining strength during the turmoil.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Is Facebook Enabling The African Exodus To Europe?

      Firstly, smugglers create accounts and pages on Facebook where they advertise their services and give their phone number, as well as recommend contacting them by WhatsApp application, which guarantees the encryption of messages.

      Secondly, in order to authenticate their message, they publish pictures showing preparations for the journey.

      Thirdly, they publish photos and reports of people who made it to European countries, which is supposed to build trust on the side of potential clients. Important information is also contained in comments under posts. Thanks to them you can find out, among others, who used the smugglers’ services. In this way, through the grapevine, the rumours are spread about planned relocation.

    • Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Be President

      On the afternoon of November 8, 2016, Kellyanne Conway settled into her glass office at Trump Tower. Right up until the last weeks of the race, the campaign headquarters had remained a listless place. All that seemed to distinguish it from a corporate back office were a few posters with right-wing slogans.

      Conway, the campaign’s manager, was in a remarkably buoyant mood, considering she was about to experience a resounding, if not cataclysmic, defeat. Donald Trump would lose the election — of this she was sure — but he would quite possibly hold the defeat to under six points. That was a substantial victory. As for the looming defeat itself, she shrugged it off: It was Reince Priebus’s fault, not hers.

    • The Wolff lines on Trump that ring unambiguously true

      There are definitely parts of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” that are wrong, sloppy, or betray off-the-record confidence. But there are two things he gets absolutely right, even in the eyes of White House officials who think some of the book’s scenes are fiction: his spot-on portrait of Trump as an emotionally erratic president, and the low opinion of him among some of those serving him.
      Why it matters: Wolff captures the contempt some Trump aides have for the president and his family. Axios’ Jonathan Swan notes that this includes people you see trumpeting their loyalty to him.

      So Wolff’s liberties with off-the-record comments — while ethically unacceptable to nearly all reporters — have the effect of exposing Washington’s insider jokes and secret languages, which normal Americans find perplexing and detestable.

    • ‘He’s totally onboard’: Wolff book describes Trump admin’s collusion with Israel

      Amid the media hype over Steve Bannon’s comments fueling allegations of collusion with Russia, pundits have overlooked an excerpt from the same book that points to collusion between the Trump administration and Israel.

      In the book, titled ‘Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House’, author Michael Wolff describes a conversation between former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News who died in in May 2017.

    • Could It Be? Congress Actually Wants To Do The Right Thing On Electronic Voting!

      One of the topics we’ve talked about longer than any other topic on Techdirt is the problems with basically all electronic voting systems out there. Remember the good old days of Diebold, the well known voting machine maker? We wrote dozens of stories about its insecure machines starting back in 2003 and continued to write about the problems of electronic voting machines for years and years and years. We’ve gone through four Presidential elections since then and lots and lots of other elections — and while the security on e-voting machines has improved, it hasn’t improved that much and still is subject to all sorts of risks and questions. And those questions only serve to make people question the legitimacy of election results.

      And, for all those years, it appeared that basically no one in Congress seemed to have any interest in actually doing anything. Until now. A new bipartisan bill has been introduced, called the Secure Elections Act, that would actually target insecure e-voting machines.

    • Think Tank-Addicted Media Turn to Regime Change Enthusiasts for Iran Protest Commentary

      Since the outbreak of mass demonstrations and unrest in Iran last week, US media have mostly busied themselves with the question of not if we should “do something,” but what, exactly, that something should be. As usual, it’s simply taken for granted the United States has a divine right to intervene in the affairs of Iran, under the vague blanket of “human rights” and “democracy promotion.” (The rare exception, such as an op-ed by ex-Obama official Philip Gordon—New York Times, 12/30/17—still accepted the premise of regime change: “I, too, want to see the government in Tehran weakened, moderated or even removed.”) With this axiom firmly established in Very Serious foreign policy circles, the next question becomes the nature, degree and scope of the “something” being done.

    • Gazing at Iran Through a Distorted Glass

      A truism about U.S. politics and media is that once a foreign leader or a country has been demonized everything written or said about the subject will be skewed to the negative, a rule reflecting Washington’s groupthink and careerism, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar notes about Iran.

    • Ohio’s Voter Purge Goes to the Supreme Court: What You Need to Know

      Ohio’s illegal purge practice has disenfranchised thousands already.

      In November 2015, Larry Harmon went to vote on a ballot initiative, only to find that his name was not on the list at his usual polling location.

      He had been purged. The reason? Larry had chosen not to vote in 2012, as he didn’t support either candidate and, he noted, “there isn’t a box on the ballot that says ‘none of the above.’” Larry also did not participate in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections.

      The right to vote includes the right to decide whether, when, and how to exercise that right. Yet Ohio has adopted a “use it or lose it” policy that violated Larry’s right to choose when to vote, and has disenfranchised thousands of registered, eligible Ohioans.

    • Trump Disbands Sham Election Commission, but Wants Homeland Security to Continue Dirty Work of Voter Suppression

      Good riddance to the fraudulent commission, but we must remain vigilant against what replaces it.

      On Wednesday night, the White House announced that it would disband the Election “Integrity” Commission led by Vice President Pence and Kris Kobach, the Secretary of State of Kansas, citing the refusal of state officials to go along with Kobach’s reckless plan to collect sensitive data on every single voter in the country.

      Donald Trump formed the commission after he falsely claimed that he was the true winner of the national popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, claiming that his nearly 3 million vote deficit was the result of voter fraud. Despite failing to produce any proof of rampant voter fraud, the White House insisted in its statement last night that there is still “substantial evidence” of fraud. The president tweeted this morning that the “System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.”

      The Trump administration also announced that the Department of Homeland Security will take up the voter fraud cause, and Kobach told Politico that “he expects officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and political appointees overseeing that agency to take over the commission’s work and begin efforts to match state voter rolls to federal databases of noncitizen.”

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Facebook declines to say why it deletes certain political accounts, but not others

      The fact Facebook has left accounts of other sanctioned individuals untouched suggests the social network may be subject to US government pressure behind the scenes. The company, which has a real name policy on its platform, could easily use screening software to ensure that it doesn’t do business with people or companies on OFAC’s sanctions lists.

    • Rights Groups Raise Alarm Over US Government Role in Facebook’s Selective Censorship

      Civil liberties and digital rights groups are raising concerns over the possible behind-the-scenes influence by the U.S. government in Facebook’s decision to selectively block some sanctioned world leaders from using the social media platform, while allowing others to maintain accounts.

      Facebook deleted the account of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov last week, explaining that the head of the Russian republic had been added to the government’s sanctions list, which bars U.S. companies from providing services to him. Kadyrov has been accused of committing numerous human rights abuses against the LGBT community and his opponents.

    • This ex-NSA hacker is hunting white supremacists and hate groups lurking on Twitter

      Twitter and Facebook say hate speech is a violation of their policies but they also say it can be hard to identify who is engaged in bona fide hate speech and who isn’t.

      Twitter demonstrated the problem earlier this week when it came under fire for blocking a German satirical magazine’s Twitter account after it parodied anti-Muslim comments.

      Enter Emily Crose, a former NSA analyst, cybersecurity professional and former Reddit moderator.

    • German Hate Speech Law Backfires After Twitter Immediately Blocks Satire Account

      2017 was the first year when public sentiment in the West began to shift against media, and large tech companies like Facebook and Google for allegedly enabling “fake news.” While decades of flawed economic policies have resulted in out of control wealth inequality, which has driven the public to populism and nationalism, somehow it is all the content distributors’ fault. But nowhere in the West has the backlash been bigger than Germany, thanks to a compounding refugee crisis that has made the situation worse.

    • Is Germany’s new hate speech law killing press freedom?

      Germany’s tough new social media law was meant to rid Twitter and Facebook of hateful and illegal content. But critics say that at just 96 hours old it is already choking press freedom.

    • Free speech vs. censorship in Germany

      Sophie Passmann is an unlikely poster child for Germany’s new online hate speech laws.

      The 24-year-old comedian from Cologne posted a satirical message on Twitter early on New Year’s Day, mocking the German far right’s fear that the hundreds of thousands of immigrants that have entered the country in recent years would endanger Germany’s culture. Instead of entertaining her more than 14,000 Twitter followers, Passmann’s tweet was blocked within nine hours by the American social media giant, telling users in Germany that Passmann’s message had run afoul of local laws.

    • China’s social media giants want their users to help out with the crushing burden of censorship

      China’s social media giants are ramping up efforts to get their users to turn in people circulating taboo content, as the Communist Party further tightens its grip on the country’s internet.

      On Monday (Jan. 1), China’s tech giant Tencent said it was hiring (link in Chinese) 200 content reviewers to form what the company is calling a “penguin patrol unit,” after the company’s penguin mascot. The brigade, made of 10 journalists, 70 writers who use Tencent’s content platforms, and 120 regular internet users, will flag “low-quality” content.

    • Really Bad Ideas: French President Macron Wants To Ban ‘Fake News’ During The Election

      The transparency idea isn’t such a bad one (though the details would matter quite a bit), but it’s unclear why the amount of money for sponsored content should be capped if it’s clearly labeled and disclosed. But the really troubling part is that last one, allowing for “emergency legal action” to remove content. It may not be surprising that Macron is saying this about fake news — since there were reports of a burst of fake new campaigns that tried to influence the French electorate to vote against Macron in the election.

      But, as we’ve discussed many, many times — the idea of government-mandated censorship, even if for the idea of stopping “fake news” is a terrible idea. It will be abused and abused badly. Remember, while the term “fake news” was first popularized by people who were upset about Donald Trump’s election, he’s now co-opted the term and uses it to argue that any media report that makes him look bad is “fake news.” Imagine what a Trump or a French Trump-like figure would do with this kind of power?

    • Iran Internet Censorship Forces Protesters to Turn to Dark Web

      Internet censorship in Iran has caused thousands of Iranians to turn to specialist software to bypass the restrictions, as anti-government protests continue across the country.

    • Iran’s social media blackout forces apps to submit or face a total ban
    • Netizen Report: Iranian Authorities Blocking International Web Traffic, Messaging Platforms
    • How Iranian protesters are skirting the government’s tech clampdown to continue their fight
    • Censorship stupidity: Trump tries to keep the Wolff from his door

      How fitting it is that Trump’s tinpot totalitarian attempt to block the release of a devastating book roughly parallels Richard Nixon’s attempt to block the release of the Pentagon Papers. Two malignantly unhinged presidents, two frontal assaults on the pillars of the First Amendment.

      Purely by chance yesterday, I was watching Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” while the details of Trump’s desperate bid flooded the news cycle. Inside the theater, a Nixon lawyer was telling the newspaper, “I respectfully request that you publish nothing further of this nature.” Outside the theater, a Trump lawyer was telling the publisher of Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury” much the same thing: “Mr. Trump hereby demands that you immediately cease & desist from any further publication, release, or dissemination of the Book.”

    • Speaking as a parent, YouTube’s censorship system is deeply flawed

      Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m very dedicated to being a “good mom.” For me, this means being emotionally and physically available for my kids, giving them everything they need and some of what they want, and taking an active interest in what appeals to them.

      [...]

      What I found was shocking and upsetting.

      Some videos mimicked the one I’d already seen, but others were much worse. In some, the girls were wearing swimsuits in a bathtub while the same man from before— their father— scared them with frogs and lizards until they cried. Other videos showed them dressed as babies, and involved acts of force-feeding, intentional spitting up, and going to the bathroom in diapers. I was livid that these girls were being filmed and exploited, and after coverage on BuzzFeed News, the account was shut down, the father is being investigated, and hundreds of thousands of other disturbing YouTube videos starring children have been deleted.

    • China’s media watchdog in legal challenge over censorship of gay content

      A member of the public is taking China’s media watchdog to court over new regulations that describe gay relationships as “abnormal”, demanding the regulator provide a legal basis for censoring audiovisual content on the internet that depicts homosexuality.

      In a rare move, the Beijing No 1 Intermediate People’s Court accepted the case from Fan Chunlin, 30, earlier this week and is expected to hand down a verdict within six months, state-run Global Times reported, citing Fan’s lawyer, Tang Xiangqian.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • State Child Care Laws Should Not Require Teenage Kids to Submit Biometric Data to the FBI

      Jennifer Parrish, a child care provider in Minnesota who runs a day care out of her home, finds herself at a crossroads due to a recently passed Minnesota law. The law imposes new background check requirements on child care providers, including that they provide biometric information. But the law doesn’t apply just to the providers themselves; it also requires anyone age 13 and up who lives with a family day care provider to submit to the same background check, whether or not they have committed any crime. This means Jennifer’s 14-year-old son, along with about 12,000 other kids in Minnesota, must provide his fingerprints and a face recognition photograph to the state, which will send them to the FBI to be stored for his lifetime in the FBI’s vast biometrics database.

    • NSA chief Mike Rogers expected to retire from agency in spring
    • NSA’s Rogers to retire this spring
    • NSA Chief Mike Rogers’s Classified Retirement Memo Leaks
    • NSA director to leave agency in the spring: Report
    • NSA chief to leave, expects successor this month: Report
    • NSA director Mike Rogers announces his retirement
    • Agency Transformed, NSA Chief Rogers Set for Spring Departure
    • A former hacktivist reveals how a UK spy agency is actively subverting democracy [VIDEO]

      A co-founder of the hacker activist group LulzSec warns how a UK Government cyber warfare unit has been actively engaged in subverting democracy and creating fake news for the last decade. Leaked documents back this up.

      And these revelations highlight the hypocrisy of the statement by British Prime Minister Theresa May, reiterated by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, accusing Russia of election meddling.

      Fake accounts

      A presentation [0:15] on 27 December by LulzSec co-founder and security researcher Mustafa Al-Bassam to the Chaos Communication Congress summarises the work of the secretive Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG).

    • Amazon turns over record amount of customer data to US law enforcement

      Amazon has turned over a record amount of customer data to the US government in the first-half of last year in response to demands by law enforcement.

      The retail and cloud giant quietly posted its latest transparency report on Dec. 29 without notice — as it has with previous reports — detailing the latest figures for the first six months of 2017.

      The report, which focuses solely on its Amazon Web Services cloud business, revealed 1,936 different requests between January and June 2017, a rise from the previous bi-annual report.

    • California Senate to Hear EFF’s License Plate Cover Bill

      Across the country, private companies are deploying vehicles mounted with automated license plate readers (ALPRs) to drive up and down streets to document the travel patterns of everyday drivers. These systems take photos of every license plate they see, tag them with time and location, and upload them to a central database. These companies—who are essentially data brokers that scrape information from our vehicles—sell this information to lenders, insurance companies, and debt collectors. They also sell this information to law enforcement, including U.S. Department of Homeland security, which recently released its updated policy for leveraging commercial ALPR data for immigration enforcement.

    • Q&A: Edward Snowden on rights, privacy, secrets and leaks in conversation with Jimmy Wales

      I don’t pass judgment on whether Wikileaks did the right thing or the wrong thing, because I think this kind of experimentation is important. We need to challenge the orthodoxy.

      We need to challenge the presumptions that whatever we’re doing right now, the status quo, is the best of all possible worlds. This is the best anybody could possibly do. Instead, we test our premises again and again in different ways, so what I did was I saw that inside the United States government, the National Security Agency had started violating the Constitution in a very unprecedented and indiscriminate way.

    • Police Scotland to use drones that see in dark for spy missions

      INTELLIGENT drones that can see in the dark will be used for secret police spy missions, Police Scotland has said.

      Drones equipped with “intelligent computer systems and thermal imaging” are being developed by Scottish universities for use by the force.

      Plans are already under way to purchase two relatively low-tech off the shelf drones for Aberdeen and Inverness, primarily for use in missing persons searches.

    • DHS Expands License Plate Dragnet, Streams Collections To US Law Enforcement Agencies

      The DHS has provided the public with a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) on its use of license plate readers (LPRs). What the document shows is the DHS’s hasty abandonment of plans for a national license plate database had little impact on its ability to create a replacement national license plate database. The document deals with border areas primarily, but that shouldn’t lead inland drivers to believe they won’t be swept up in the collection.

    • China Plans To Turn Country’s Most Popular App, WeChat, Into An Official ID System

      In one respect at least, China’s embrace of digital technology is far deeper and arguably more advanced than that of the West. Mobile phones are not only ubiquitous, but they are routinely used for just about every kind of daily transaction, especially for those involving digital payments. At the heart of that ecosystem sits Tencent’s WeChat program, which has around a billion users in China. It has evolved from a simple chat application to a complete platform running hugely popular apps that are now an essential part of everyday life for most Chinese citizens.

    • Former NSA worker pleads guilty to biggest theft of data

      Martin has been accused of stealing a massive 50TB of classified data from the NSA over the course of the 20 years that he was working there as a contractor. The government has not said what was done with the stolen data, but it is believed that the data stolen included elite hacking tools that Martin stole while working for Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp, the very same firm that employed the whistle blower Edward Snowden.

    • Personal data of a billion Indians sold online for £6, report claims

      The reported breach is the latest in a series of alleged leaks from the Aadhaar database, which has been collecting the photographs, thumbprints, retina scans and other identifying details of every Indian citizen.

    • 36 fake security apps harvesting user data and tracking their location found in Google Play Store

      Security researchers have unearthed 36 malicious Android apps parading as security tools on the Google Play Store that actually harvest user data, track their location and more. According to Trend Micro, these apps offered users a wide range of security capabilities including cleaning junk, saving battery, scanning, CPU cooling, locking apps, Wi-Fi security, message security and more.

    • Yes, Your Amazon Echo Is an Ad Machine
    • Amazon has big plans for Alexa ads in 2018; it’s discussing options with P&G, Clorox and others

      The e-tailer has been in talks with several companies about letting them promote products on the best-selling Echo devices, which are powered by the Alexa voice assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Consumer companies, including Procter & Gamble and Clorox, have been involved in these talks, according to the people.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • The Espionage Act And NSA Whistleblower Reality Winner’s Uphill Battle

      The defense for Reality Winner, a National Security Agency contractor accused of mailing a classified document on Russian hacking to The Intercept, contends the government misstates the law under the Espionage Act. They believe the government ignores “serious constitutional problems” raised by their interpretation of the statute.

      But Winner’s defense faces a tremendous uphill struggle. Under President Barack Obama’s administration, leak prosecutions intensified the government’s ability to wield the Espionage Act as a strict liability offense, which means there is very little the government has to prove beyond the fact that an unauthorized disclosure took place.

      Winner is scheduled to go on trial on March 19, in Augusta, Georgia. Since her arrest in June, she has been held in pretrial detention, with Judge Brian Epps refusing to grant her bail.

      Epps suggested Winner’s “hate” for America and supposed admiration for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange makes her an ongoing threat to “national security.”

    • An Indiana State Rep’s Indecent Proposal to Get Colts Players to Stop Taking a Knee

      On Sept. 24, Milo Smith took his daughter to an Indianapolis Colts’ game against the Cleveland Browns. Though the Colts won that day — a tragically rare occurrence this year — Smith left the game offended. During the national anthem, a group of players on both teams took a knee in reaction to President Trump’s comments two days earlier, where he called protesting players sons of bitches who should be fired by team ownership.

      “To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith told the Indianapolis Star newspaper. “Our government isn’t perfect, but it’s still the best country in the world and I think we need to be respectful of it.”

      But Smith isn’t just an ordinary Colts’ fan. He’s a state representative, and he couldn’t sit idly by while the Colts players knelt during the Star-Spangled Banner. Instead, he’s promised to introduce legislation that would force the team to refund the ticket price to any fan offended by a Colts player protesting during the national anthem.

      If passed, however, that law would be an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

    • Indiana Legislator Wants To Force NFL Team To Hand Out Refunds To Fans ‘Offended’ By Kneeling Players

      Kneeling doesn’t “disrespect” paying customers. If they want to feel offended by it, that’s their prerogative, but it’s not directed towards them. And it has nothing to do with not respecting the national anthem, the United States, the troops fighting for these players’ freedom to express themselves, or anything else related to patriotic jingoism. It’s a protest of ongoing oppression of African Americans in the United States. That’s what has been diluted by attacks on this particular form of protest. Not only have people like Smith managed to turn the protest into an anti-American statement, they’ve shifted the players’ goalposts away from the law enforcement target to an assault the flag, the troops, and every other symbol of unquestioning patriotism.

      Smith is dumb and his proposed law is dumber. Even if it manages to survive a vote on its highly-dubious merits, it certainly won’t survive a Constitutional challenge. As Howard Wasserman of Prawfsblog points out, there are numerous ways the law could be construed as government infringement on free speech rights.

    • For Cops Handing Out Bogus Pedestrian Tickets, Ignorance Of The Law Is The Most Profitable Excuse

      The official reaction to ProPublica’s report has been worse than a shrug. It’s been genuine indifference to the problems it causes people ticketed for non-violations of the law. Most law enforcement agencies said nothing more than recipients were welcome to challenge the bogus tickets in court. But people always could, so it’s not like the agencies are making some sort of concession, much less offering apologies or promises to improve. The “fight it in court” proposal is a non-starter, since it’s likely wages lost due to a day in court will far outweigh the face value of the ticket they never should have received. The potential savings of $55-77 just isn’t worth it for most people, so the government will continue to collect on bogus tickets simply because it’s hit a sweet spot in pricing.

      Then there’s the reaction of this agency, which openly admits pedestrian stops aren’t about pedestrian safety or even actual violations of the law.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Supporters Aim To Use Net Neutrality To Bludgeon Cash-Compromised Lawmakers In The Midterms

      We’ve already noted that the best route for killing the FCC’s recent attack on net neutrality rests with the courts. Once the repeal hits the Federal Register in January or soon thereafter, competitors and consumer groups will be filing multiple lawsuits against the FCC. Those lawsuits will quite correctly note how the FCC ignored the public, relied on debunked lobbyist data, ignored the people who built the internet, and turned a blind eye to rampant fraud during the comment proceeding as it tried to rush through what may just be the least popular tech policy decision in a generation.

      The hope will be to highlight that the FCC engaged in “arbitrary and capricious behavior” under the Telecommunications Act by reversing such a popular rule — without proving that the broadband market had dramatically changed in just the last two years. They’ll also try to claim that the FCC violated the Administrative Procedure Act, and even went so far as to block law enforcement investigations into numerous instances of comment fraud during the open comment period.

    • Maine Governor Tells 16-Year-Old Worried About Net Neutrality Repeal To ‘Pick Up A Book And Read’

      As more than a few folks have noted, many opponents of net neutrality (from FCC boss Ajit Pai to Mark Cuban) are following blind ideology. Many of them quite honestly believe that no regulation can ever be good, and that government is absolutely never capable of doing the right thing. That kind of simplicity may feel good as you navigate a complicated world, but it’s intellectually lazy. As a result, the decision to use net neutrality rules as an imperfect but necessary stopgap (until we can reduce corruption and drive more competition into the sector) simply befuddles them.

      Of course this kind of blind ideology is particularly handy when you don’t actually know how modern broadband markets or net neutrality even work, but your gut just tells you why the whole nefarious affair is simply bad. That’s why you’ll see folks like Ted Cruz consistently doubling down on bizarre, misleading claims based on repeatedly debunked falsehoods. Needless to say, this sort of lazy thinking is not particularly productive. Especially when you’re a member of the same government purportedly tasked with analyzing real-world data, listening to constituent concerns, and actively tasked with making things better.

    • California The Latest State To Propose Its Own Net Neutrality Rules
    • California Introduces Its Own Bill to Protect Net Neutrality

      2018 has barely begun, and so has the fight to preserve net neutrality. January 3 was the first day of business in the California state legislature, and state Sen. Scott Wiener used it to introduce legislation to protect net neutrality for Californians.

      As the FCC has sought to abandon its role as the protector of a free and open Internet at the federal level, states are seeking ways to step into the void. Prior to December, the FCC’s rules prevented Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or slowing down traffic to websites. The rules also kept ISPs from charging users higher rates for faster access to certain websites or charging websites to be automatically included in any sort of “fast lane.” On December 14th, the FCC voted to remove these restrictions and even tried to make it harder for anyone else to regulate ISPs in a similar way.

    • FCC releases final net neutrality repeal order, three weeks after vote

      In 2015, a month passed between the net neutrality order being made public and its appearance in the Federal Register. That means the current net neutrality rules could technically remain on the books until April 2018, although the FCC leadership won’t be going out of its way to enforce them in the meantime.

    • “Vote out” congresspeople who won’t back net neutrality, advocates say

      The website lists which senators have and haven’t supported a plan to use the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to stop the repeal of net neutrality rules. The rules, repealed by the Federal Communications Commission last month, prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling Internet content or prioritizing content in exchange for payment.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Trademarks
      • It Begins: Some Comic Conventions Refusing To Fold After San Diego Comic-Con Gets Its Trademark Win

        After following the saga of what seemed like a truly misguided lawsuit brought by the San Diego Comic-Con against the company putting on the Salt Lake ComiCon, the whole thing culminated in the SDCC getting a win in the courtroom. One of the reasons this verdict threw many, including this writer, for a loop is that the defendant in the case made the argument that the SDCC had allowed the term “comic con” to become generic, an argument buttressed by the reality of there being roughly a zillion comic conventions using the term across America. Despite the SLCC’s public discussions about appealing the decision and the fact that proceedings are already underway to cancel the SDCC’s trademark entirely, much of the media speculation centered around what those zillion other conventions would do in reaction to the verdict.

    • Copyrights
      • Corel Patents System to Monetize Software Piracy

        Canadian software company Corel, known for iconic products such as CorelDRAW and Winzip, has a new anti-piracy patent. Instead of implementing tougher restrictions, the company proposes to reach out to pirates through a messaging system, offering ‘amnesty’ to those who are willing to pay up.

      • White Noise On YouTube Gets FIVE Separate Copyright Claims From Other White Noise Providers

        The implications of YouTube’s ContentID system in an era of user-generated content can sometimes be quite muddy. It is widely known that ContentID is open to abuse, and that it is indeed abused on the regular. However, too many stories about that abuse play far in the margins of what the average person could look at and recognize as a very real problem.

        This is not one of those stories.

        Instead, the story of how one music professor’s upload to YouTube of 10 hours of pure white noise was flagged five times for copyright infringement (FIVE TIMES!) operates as though someone somewhere is trying to bring a reductio ad absurdum argument into physicality.

The EPO’s Attack on the Boards of Appeal Dooms the Unitary Patent (UPC) and Team UPC Alters Its Tactics

Friday 5th of January 2018 12:18:19 PM

Ad hominem tactics are now permitted as well? Has it really come to this?

Summary: The crisis of the Battistelli regime means that credibility of patent justice is significantly lowered and Team UPC finds itself scrambling for ways to salvage what’s left of the UPC (even if that means mocking the complainants)

THE EPO had a slow start this year. There’s not much report, but there is still plenty to analyse.

Yesterday we found this puff piece about the EPO. “According to a recent study published by the European Patent Office (EPO),” it said, “Europe is the leader within the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies industry.”

“What has the EPO turned into? Where is it going?”It makes the EPO sound so benign if not helpful. Well, the EPO was retweering this the following day (this morning); maybe they participated in “placing” it in the media. We have written a great deal about how the EPO handles the media and we are certain that many of these 4IR puff pieces were created in cooperation/participation/coordination with the EPO.

Anything else in the news about the EPO? No. We’re checking these things very closely.

“Experienced examiners and patent attorneys will tutor you throughout the Oral Proceedings workshop,” the EPO wrote yesterday. “Experienced examiners are becoming fewer at EPO,” I told them. The EPO suffers extraordinary brain drain which insiders are telling us about, citing clear evidence. The EPO is unable to recruit talent.

“We will soon close the call for applications for the Judicial internships at the Boards of Appeal,” the EPO also wrote yesterday. “For the Boards of Appeal to actually start functioning,” I responded, “they need not burden of tutoring interns but full-time staff.”

“The bottom line is, the UPC may be in fatal trouble here; what happened to Corcoran is quite likely the very last straw.”This has been said repeatedly over the years, not just here but also the likes of AMBA etc.

What has the EPO turned into? Where is it going? Can it be salvaged? We hope so. And so do insiders.

There is this ongoing conversation about whether members of the Boards of Appeal can deliver a testimony. The latest twist is this:

The Service regulation have changed extensively since June 2017 but the version published on the Internet is still the old one from March 2017.

Article 19 now reads:

“Article 19 – Discretion
(1) A permanent employee or former employee shall exercise the utmost discretion with regard to all facts and information coming to his knowledge in the course of or in connection with his employment.
(2) A permanent employee or former employee shall not, without permission from the President of the Office, disclose, on any grounds whatever, information which has come to his knowledge in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties and which has not already been made public.
(3) Paragraph 2 shall also apply in legal proceedings. In this case, permission may be refused only where the interests of the Organisation or of a Contracting State so require. It may not, however, be refused if, in the opinion of the court, this would be likely to lead to a miscarriage of justice.
(4) Paragraph 2 shall not apply to an employee or former employee giving evidence before the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization in a case concerning an employee or former employee of the Office.”

An explanation is then given of why ILO is of relevance here (the EPC notwithstanding, as that too is relevant):

So let me see if I understand this correctly.

The Service Regulations allow the President to cite vague (and ill-defined reasons) for denying his permission for a (former) to provide evidence before a court of law. (Presumably such decisions can be challenged … but only before the ILO AT.)

On the other hand the President is completely unable to deny permission in connection with the provision of evidence to the ILO AT.

Is that correct?

What could possibly be the basis for this difference? I would have thought that it would make more sense for the Regulations to instead rely upon the provisions of national laws for establishing an appropriate balance between the interests of confidentiality and those of justice.

More importantly, what basis in the EPC is there for applying non-disclosure obligations to all “information which has come to his knowledge in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties and which has not already been made public”? Article 12 of the EPC only indicates that there is a duty not to disclose “information which by its nature is a professional secret”.

For members of the Boards of Appeal to comment upon the issue of their independence, the only “non-public” information that they would be imparting is the manner in which, in practice, the EPO implements the provisions of the EPC (and the Service Regulations, etc.) vis-à-vis the members of the Boards. Is it really credible for anyone to assert that this information would amount to a “professional secret” in the sense of Article 12 EPC? I think not!

The latest on this says:

The article is rather odd and may need a lawyer to dissect. The “on any grounds whatever” sounds rather desperate and child-like in trying to enforce what I imagine may be unenforceable. It would appear that the administration is trying to extend immunity to encompass a self-defined exclusivity.
Paragraph 3 raises an issue beyond my knowledge as to what the term “likely to lead to a miscarriage of justice” means in terms of being a court’s opinion. Surely that can only be assessed after a court case or in full knowledge of all facts. During a case a party will not be able to present their best case unless the court considers a miscarriage of justice will otherwise occur? When is a different decision a miscarriage?
Paragraph 4 doesnot say any case before the ILO but limits it to one involving an employee or former employee. Why the condition? And when did the ILO-AT last take evidence anyway – they seem to religiously refuse to hear witnesses.

Another newer comment said that “it would be interesting that a party demands that Mr Corcoran testifies in front of the BVefG” (which can stop the UPC).

it would be interesting that a party demands that Mr Corcoran testifies in front of the BVefG and presents the court with the concrete example of his own case: eg how he was treated all along: how he was denied the rigth to access documents charging him, how he was denied the right to be heared, how he was not re-instated in DG3 further than the few remaining days of his mandate in 2017 (out of which close to 3 years were lost due to an abusive and vexatious suspension), and then brought back to DG1 under Battistelli’s hierarchical supervision.

This would surely give the Court a smashing insight into a concrete case and it could thus help the BVefG to establish beyond doubt how really “independent” the BoA of the EPO are.

And wait for Battistelli to become the first French President of the UPC Court in Paris soon (the UPC treaty foresees that its first President will be a FR citizen and he is said to want to go for it).

you liked the DG3 saga ? No doubt you will love the independence of the UPC Court under Battistelli !

The bottom line is, the UPC may be in fatal trouble here; what happened to Corcoran is quite likely the very last straw.

We have meanwhile noticed that CIPA’s Stephen Jones leaves IP Kat. Good riddance? He was mostly pushing CIPA's agenda (like UPC) in that blog. “We also thank and say goodbye to Stephen Jones,” they said, “a very experienced IP lawyer and current President of CIPA.”

“UPC lobbying does not strictly depend on Kluwer Patent Blog, where much of this lobbying gets delivered by Bristows staff.”It’s going to be easier to view IP Kat not as a front for CIPA even though their most prolific writer remains an employee of Bristows. Sadly, one of the better writers in there is also leaving, albeit just temporarily. “Nicola Searle will be on sabbatical from The IPKat for the next few months,” it says. We’re not against IP Kat but against particular elements of it; IP Kat is a mixture of many writers from many backgrounds, covering different topics. Their coverage regarding UPC, for instance, has always been appalling and they delete comments that they don’t like (or that Bristows doesn’t like). The same has been happening at Kluwer Patent Blog (Bristows deleting comments about the UPC there). And speaking of which, Kluwer Patent Blog was dead again yesterday. It happened a lot lately, sometimes for as long as a whole day. Lots of UPC lobbying over there became inaccessible. Kluwer Patent Blog was still down when we checked last night. People noticed. “Kluwer down again,” wrote one reader, “apparently since this morning.” I wrote about that twice yesterday and someone also left a comment here to say: “Worlds best IP blog seems to be hacked? Nearly everywhere I get: ¨ Error establishing a database connection¨” (there were other error messages later in the day).

UPC lobbying does not strictly depend on Kluwer Patent Blog, where much of this lobbying gets delivered by Bristows staff. Yesterday we saw Managing IP speaking of “potential timeline for Germany ratifying the UPC” as if it’s only a matter of time. That won’t happen. Self-fulfilling prophecy attempts by Team UPC again? Here is the full paragraph:

Topics discussed at our recent European Patent Forum USA included the potential timeline for Germany ratifying the UPC, FRAND after Unwired Planet v Huawei, the patentability of computer-implemented inventions at the EPO, patent enforcement strategies in Europe and hot tubbing of experts in the UK

Don’t forget that IAM, supported explicitly by the EPO, received money from the EPO’s PR department/external agency to set up a similar event in the US, dedicated purely to UPC lobbying/promotion. It was grotesque. And speaking of IAM, watch what they published yesterday: “The second five IP personalitirs of 2017 named by IAM – Patel, Qualcomm, Shore, Stjerna and Xi.”

Ingve Björn Stjerna, who exposed the UPC for the undemocratic sham that it was, is among “The IAM IP personalities of 2017″ (many of the other top personalities are patent trolls, like we said yesterday). To quote the article:

Ingve Björn STJERNA – As a new year begins, the future of the Unified Patent Court (UPC) remains up in the air; not because of Brexit but due to a complaint currently before the German Constitutional Court asking it to rule that the country’s ratification of the UPC agreement would be illegal. The case was brought by IP lawyer Ingve Björn Stjerna, a long-time critic of the UPC, and has a number of strands – including alleged flaws in the vote to ratify taken in the German parliament and concerns over the independence of the UPC and its judges. In April 2017, it caused the constitutional court to ask Germany’s president to suspend implementation of ratification. Then, later in the year, it requested that interested parties should submit comments – so delaying consideration of the arguments. If the court now decides that the case should proceed it is likely that it will not be heard until the summer, at the earliest, with a decision not to be expected until months later. That would effectively torpedo the UPC in its current form, as even a ruling that membership of the system is compatible with the German constitution is unlikely to leave time for the country to ratify the agreement before the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 (currently, UPC member states also have to be EU member states). One man can move a mountain, so the saying goes: in 2018, Stjerna could well prove this to be true.

Very gentle on the UPC there, IAM. As one might expect. IAM has, over the years, been an integral part of the UPC lobby or “Team UPC” as we often call that lobby. It even spread false information in order to promote the UPC and compel readers to go along with it.

“IAM has, over the years, been an integral part of the UPC lobby or “Team UPC” as we often call that lobby. It even spread false information in order to promote the UPC and compel readers to go along with it.”And speaking of Team UPC, this week (yesterday) it kept lying about what Britain wants. In order to promote litigation it cited this front group and then said (courtesy pf Edward Nodder) that “UK IP organisations request government action on IP (including the UPC) in light of Brexit”

In the same vein, makers of cluster bombs want endless wars and makers of particular vaccinations sometimes want particular diseases to spread.

It wasn’t enough for Bristows; on the same day it used this slant about France as if UPC acceptance in France is a new thing. France has already been in it for years; it’s one of the first, being the home country of Battistelli and Barnier, both of whom pushed incredibly hard for the UPC. Bristows did the the same for Belgium (also not new), but the Unitary Patent is dead due to Germany and the UK, not France or Belgium. The dishonesty of Bristows is noteworthy, but it’s no longer surprising.

“In the same vein, makers of cluster bombs want endless wars and makers of particular vaccinations sometimes want particular diseases to spread.”Speaking of British boosters of the UPC (law firms, obviously), watch this new rant from Team UPC. It seeks to prop up a smear or promote a false moral equivalence; it’s almost ad hominem, trying to frame Dr. Stjerna as a hypocrite, as if complaining about the UPC is as bad as the UPC itself. No wonder Stjerna did not want his name known…

Here is what the UPC booster wrote: “While I’m thinking about the topic of the UPC 3rd-party submissions, I continue to be astonished that the grounds for the constitutional complaint at #BVerfG haven’t been made public [...] I know summaries have been published by (e.g.) @KluwerBlogger but it seems absurd that we have to rely on third-party summaries rather than seeing the complaint “in the flesh” [...] In the UK it’s a relatively simple matter for non-parties to court proceedings to get hold of statements of case. It seems perverse that something which is allegedly of fundamental constitutional significance in Germany, and thus a matter of public interest, should be kept secret [...] I also note heavy irony in that Stjerna – having long criticised lawmakers for alleged lack of transparency in negotiations & discussions behind the framing of the UPCA and unitary patent regulations – is apparently upset about the publication of details of his case (see image!)”

“The dishonesty of Bristows is noteworthy, but it’s no longer surprising.”So I decided to reply, but did not (obviously) managed to convince those dyed-in-the-wool UPC folks (who are paid not not understand why UPC is wrong). The reply: “[] Wrong, Roy. Try reading the thread again. I take no position on the validity of the complaint – how can I, when I’ve not seen it? That’s the point. It’s a matter of considerable public and legal interest, and therefore I’m astonished that it’s not been published [] “Compare and contrast: the grounds for the “Miller” Article 50 case were online and available for scrutiny by the public, as they should have been – and even if they hadn’t have been published, members of the UK public can easily obtain court documents [] Whereas in Germany, an allegation of a *breach of the German constitution* is kept private despite the clearly fundamental significance [] This seems odd, to put it mildly. As I noted previously, it’s also rather ironic that Mr Stjerna has (in my opinion, correctly) criticised lawmakers for a lack of transparency in the proceedings leading up to the UPC legislation… [] …and yet he has refused to publicly confirm that he is the author of the complaint and apparently he’s upset that outline details of it have been made available.”

“Maybe they anticipate that the response will be UPC tribalism,” I told him. He responded: “If by “UPC tribalism” you mean “reporting on facts in plain view”… as I say, I take no position on the complaint, but it is surely in the public interest for it to be made available for analysis both by supporters *and* by critics.”

“Having seen the antics of Team UPC for nearly a decade,” I told him, “I can relate to the low-profile complaint…”

“It should be noted that many members of Team UPC now post anonymous blog posts (we are guessing, based on numerous things in their text, that those are Bristows staff).”He just laughed it off: “LOL. “Low profile”? He has literally appealed to the highest constitutional authority in the country. If that’s low-profile, I’m a banana. [] Transparency cuts both ways. I know you’re a vocal critic of the secrecy of EPO and UPC discussions – and I’m all for transparency too. Do you only dislike secrecy when it suits your ends to do so?”

So what they basically wanted is the ability to scrutinise the complaint and person (complainant). Because they operate very much like some sects or cults. “I wouldn’t have done this like that,” I told him (keeping the complaint sealed), “but I can understand why he did.”

It should be noted that many members of Team UPC now post anonymous blog posts (we are guessing, based on numerous things in their text, that those are Bristows staff). So they want to push the UPC agenda with the mask of anonymity. Hypocrisy knows no bounds. For the record, I always posted under my name (my real name) and letters that I sent I always made publicly accessible. In contrast to the UPC gravy train…

Links 5/1/2018: Mesa 17.3.2 RC, Meltdown/Spectre

Friday 5th of January 2018 07:12:27 AM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • An Open Source Startup Dies as Mapping Gets Hotter Than Ever

    For at least one startup, 2018 opened with a thud. On Tuesday, the open source mapping company Mapzen announced it would shut down at the end of the month, with its hosted APIs and support services going dark on February 1.

    That’s a real pain for Mapzen users, whose ranks include civic tech organizations like Code for America, app developers, and government agencies like the Portland-area transportation agency TriMet. And it’s a bummer for those who contributed to Mapzen’s wide-ranging data sets, which included detailed info on public transportation.

  • Events
    • Gentoo News: FOSDEM 2018

      Put on your cow bells and follow the herd of Gentoo developers to Université libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium. This year FOSDEM 2018 will be held on February 3rd and 4th.

      Our developers will be ready to candidly greet all open source enthusiasts at the Gentoo stand in building K. Visit this year’s wiki page to see which developer will be running the stand during the different visitation time slots. So far seven developers have specified their attendance, with most-likely more on the way!

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • New flexbox guides on MDN

        In preparation for CSS Grid shipping in browsers in March 2017, I worked on a number of guides and reference materials for the CSS Grid specification, which were published on MDN. With that material updated, we thought it would be nice to complete the documentation with similar guides for Flexbox, and so I updated the existing material to reflect the core use cases of Flexbox.

      • January’s Featured Extensions
  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
    • Open source’s security scalability and flexibility [Ed: Hortonworks, which is NSA-connected, continues to pay this NSA-friendly site for sponsored puff pieces like this one]

      In order to stop sophisticated modern threats, organizations need to be flexible and scalable with the way they handle their data. Network flows and data need to be collected and examined at cloud scale in order to let defenders identify anomalous behavior, but getting to that stage is a heavy lift.

      Henry Sowell, technical director for Hortonworks, spoke with CyberScoop on how open source systems allow for that flexibility and scalability, especially at a time where the onslaught of threats has never been greater.

  • Programming/Development
    • Announcing Rust 1.23

      The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.23.0. Rust is a systems programming language focused on safety, speed, and concurrency.

    • Source{d} Applies Machine Learning to Help Companies Manage Their Code Bases

      If you go to GitHub, the most popular developer platform today, and search for a piece of code, it is a plain-text search.

      “It’s like how we used to search on the web in 1996,” said Eiso Kant, CEO and co-founder at source{d}, a startup focused on applying machine learning on top of source code.

      “We have been writing trillions of lines of source code across the world, but none of the systems or developer tools or programming languages we’ve designed actually learn from all the source code we have written.”

    • What is agile methodology? Modern software development explained

      Every software development organization today seems to practice the agile software development methodology, or a version of it. Or at least they believe they do. Whether you are new to application development or learned about software development decades ago using the waterfall software development methodology, today your work is at least influenced by the agile methodology.

      But what exactly is agile methodology, and how should it be practiced in software development?

    • PHP version 5.6.33, 7.0.27, 7.1.13 and 7.2.1

      RPM of PHP version 7.2.1 are available in the remi-php72 repository for Fedora 25-27 and Enterprise Linux ≥ 6 (RHEL, CentOS) and as Software Collection in the remi-safe repository.

    • What is Perl?

      Perl is a bit battle-scarred, but it’s battle-tested, too. If you want to experiment with the latest, flashiest technologies, Perl may not be your first choice. However, if your business depends on having solid software with a track record of getting things done, Perl’s often a great choice.

Leftovers
  • Why Teens Aren’t Partying Anymore

    That means iGen’ers were seeing their friends in person an hour less a day than GenX’ers and early Millennials did. An hour a day less spent with friends is an hour a day less spent building social skills, negotiating relationships, and navigating emotions. Some parents might see it as an hour a day saved for more productive activities, but the time has not been replaced with homework; it’s been replaced with screen time.

  • Science
    • Most Americans Are Still Afraid of Self-Driving Cars

      Impressively, according to this survey by the Pew Research Center, 94% of Americans have at least heard about self-driving cars, with 35% saying they’ve heard “a lot” about them. Yet, not everyone is thrilled to hear the news. A slight majority of 56% of Americans say they would not want to ride in a driverless car, largely due to trust issues. 42% of people who don’t want to ride in a driverless car say they “Don’t trust it” or are “Worried about giving up control.”

    • Leaving flatland – quantum Hall physics in 4-D

      In literature, the potential existence of extra dimensions was discussed in Edwin Abbott’s satirical novel “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” (1884), portraying the Victorian society in 19th century England as a hierarchical two-dimensional world, incapable of realizing its narrow-mindedness due to its lower-dimensional nature.

      In physics, on the other hand, the possibility that our universe comprises more than three spatial dimensions was first proposed in the wake of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity in the 1920s. Modern string theory – trying to reconcile Einstein’s ideas with the laws of quantum mechanics – even postulates up to 10 dimensions.

    • ‘Silent code’ of nucleotides, not amino acids, determines functions of vital proteins

      Humans possess six forms of the protein actin, which perform essential functions in the body. Two in particular, β-actin and γ-actin, are nearly identical, only differing by four amino acids. Yet these near-twin proteins carry out distinct roles. A long standing question for biologists has been, how is this possible?

    • Submarine Cable Goes for Record: 144,000 Gigabits From Hong Kong to L.A. in 1 Second

      When a new undersea communications cable becomes operational late this year, it will break the record for a key metric: data rate times distance. In a single second, its six fiber-optic pairs, stretching roughly 13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) between Hong Kong and Los Angeles, will be able to send some 144 terabits in both directions. That’s as much data as you’d find in several hundred Blu-ray discs. The cable’s main purpose is to connect Facebook and Google data centers in East Asia with those in the United States.

      The new cable is part of an ongoing transformation of the submarine fiber-optic cable network. Originally, that network carried telephone calls and faxes. Later those subsea conduits served primarily to shuttle data between Internet users and a myriad of service providers. Now, it’s mostly transferring content and cloud-computing offerings between the data centers of a handful of tech giants.

    • In the Tech World, It Really Helps When People Think You’re Male

      The cofounders of Witchsy, an online marketplace for dark or funny art that wasn’t a good fit for other arts marketplaces, last year accidentally conducted an experiment on sexism in tech. Fast Company briefly described their experience in an August 2017 article—a story that quickly went viral. And last month, at the Atlantic Inclusion in Tech summit, the Witchsy cofounders—Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer—filled in the fascinating details.

    • Dude, you broke the future!

      We’re living in yesterday’s future, and it’s nothing like the speculations of our authors and film/TV producers. As a working science fiction novelist, I take a professional interest in how we get predictions about the future wrong, and why, so that I can avoid repeating the same mistakes. Science fiction is written by people embedded within a society with expectations and political assumptions that bias us towards looking at the shiny surface of new technologies rather than asking how human beings will use them, and to taking narratives of progress at face value rather than asking what hidden agenda they serve.

  • Security
    • ​Major Linux redesign in the works to deal with Intel security flaw

      Long ago, Intel made a design mistake in its 64-bit chips — and now, all Intel-based operating systems and their users must pay the price.

      Linux’s developers saw this coming early on and patched Linux to deal with it. That’s the good news. The bad news is it will cause at least a 5-percent performance drop. Applications may see far more serious performance hits. The popular PostgreSQL database is estimated to see at least a 17-percent slowdown.

      How bad will it really be? I asked Linux’s creator Linus Torvalds, who said: “There’s no one number. It will depend on your hardware and on your load. I think 5 percent for a load with a noticeable kernel component (e.g. a database) is roughly in the right ballpark. But if you do micro-benchmarks that really try to stress it, you might see double-digit performance degradation.”

    • Red Hat Says Security Updates for Meltdown & Spectre Bugs May Affect Performance

      Red Hat’s John Terrill informs Softpedia today that Red Hat is aware of the two hardware bugs (Meltdown and Spectre) affecting most modern microprocessors and they’re working on security updates to mitigate them on their supported operating systems.

      The Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities (CVE-2017-5753, CVE-2017-5715, and CVE-2017-5754) were publicly disclosed earlier today as critical hardware flaws affecting modern microprocessors made in the last two decades. These can be exploited by an unprivileged attacker to bypass hardware restrictions through three unique attack paths and gain read access to privileged memory.

      Red Hat Product Security provided us with several resources to better understand the impact of these hardware bugs on any of their supported Linux-based operating systems from an open source technology perspective. They said that Intel, AMD, POWER 8, POWER 9, IBM System z, and ARM chips are affected by the newly discovered vulnerabilities.

    • Google Makes Disclosure About The CPU Vulnerability Affecting Intel / AMD / ARM

      We’re finally getting actual technical details on the CPU vulnerability leading to the recent race around (K)PTI that when corrected may lead to slower performance in certain situations. Google has revealed they uncovered the issue last year and have now provided some technical bits.

      Google says their Project Zero team last year discovered serious flaws in speculative execution that could lead to reading system memory where it shouldn’t be authorized. Google was also able to demonstrate an attack where one VM could access the physical memory of the host machine and in turn read memory of other VMs on the same host.

    • Meltdown And Spectre CPU Flaws Put Computers, Laptops, Phones At Risk

      Today Google security blog has posted about the two vulnerabilities that put virtually many computers, phones, laptops using Intel, AMD and ARM CPUs at risk. Using the two major flaws hackers can gain read access to the system memory that may include sensitive data including passwords, encryption keys etc.

    • Linux Kernels 4.14.11, 4.9.74, 4.4.109, 3.16.52, and 3.2.97 Patch Meltdown Flaw

      Linux kernel maintainers Greg Kroah-Hartman and Ben Hutchings have released new versions of the Linux 4.14, 4.9, 4.4, 3.16, 3.18, and 3.12 LTS (Long Term Support) kernel series that apparently patch one of the two critical security flaws affecting most modern processors.

      The Linux 4.14.11, 4.9.74, 4.4.109, 3.16.52, 3.18.91, and 3.2.97 kernels are now available to download from the kernel.org website, and users are urged to update their GNU/Linux distributions to these new versions if they run any of those kernel series immediately. Why update? Because they apparently patch a critical vulnerability called Meltdown.

    • Processor flaw exposes 20 years of devices to new attack
    • A Major Security Vulnerability Has Plagued ‘Nearly All’ Intel CPUs For Years
    • That Pervasive Chip Bug Is Worse Than Originally Feared
    • Fixing Serious Bugs in Widely Used Computer Chips Means Slowing Down Your Machine

      A flaw in many chips leaves devices vulnerable to attack unless they’re patched with software that will make them sluggish. Some semiconductors from ARM, whose chips are popular with mobile phone makers, are also affected. AMD chips may also be affected, though the company told Axios there is a “near zero” risk to its products.

    • Researchers Discover Two Major Flaws in the World’s Computers
    • SUSE Responds to Meltdown and Spectre CPU Vulnerabilities in SLE and openSUSE
    • The inventor of Linux is furious at Intel

      Linux inventor and founder Linus Torvalds is not known for holding back strong opinions he has about computers, which is why he’s become one of the loudest voices critical of Intel’s handling of the so-called Meltdown bug, which was revealed on Wednesday and could enable an attacker to steal confidential information, including passwords.

      “I think somebody inside of Intel needs to really take a long hard look at their CPU’s, and actually admit that they have issues instead of writing PR blurbs that say that everything works as designed,” Torvalds wrote in a sharply-worded email sent on to a Linux list on Wednesday.

    • Canonical Will Soon Patch all Supported Ubuntu Releases Against Meltdown/Spectre
    • Ubuntu Updates for the Meltdown / Spectre Vulnerabilities
    • Current Status: openSUSE and “Spectre” & “Meltdown” vulnerabilities
    • Ouch

      So we have an attack (Meltdown) which is arbitrary memory read from unprivileged code, probably on Intel only, fairly easy to set up, mitigated by KPTI.

      Then we have another, similar attack (Spectre) which is arbitrary memory read from unprivileged code, on pretty much any platform (at least Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Samsung), complicated to set up, with no known mitigation short of “wait for future hardware which might not be vulnerable, until someone figures out an even more clever attack”. It even can be run from JavaScript, although Chrome is going to ship mitigations from that to happen.

    • Red Hat responds to the Intel processor flaw

      These problems seem to have come about as a result of “speculative execution” — an optimization technique that involves doing work before it is known whether that work will be needed. Correcting the vulnerabilities, therefore, comes at a performance price. More information on this tradeoff is available from this Red Hat post. Patches could slow down systems by as much as 30% — a hit that most users are likely to feel. However, the specific performance impact will be workload dependent. To address Spectre in the short term, Red Hat has modified the kernel by default to not use the performance features that enable the vulnerability. Their customers do have the option to disable the patch and use the performance features. While Red Hat is working with chip manufacturers and OEMs on a longer-term solution, this option gives customers a way to make their own security and performance decisions

    • Red Hat, tech giants move to counter major security flaws Meltdown, Spectre

      Computer security experts have discovered two major security flaws in the microprocessors inside nearly all of the world’s computers.

      The two problems, called Meltdown and Spectre, could allow hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers, including mobile devices, personal computers, servers running in so-called cloud computer networks.

    • Speculative Execution Exploit Performance Impacts – Describing the performance impacts to security patches for CVE-2017-5754 CVE-2017-5753 and CVE-2017-5715

      The recent speculative execution CVEs address three potential attacks across a wide variety of architectures and hardware platforms, each requiring slightly different fixes. In many cases, these fixes also require microcode updates from the hardware vendors. Red Hat has delivered updated Red Hat Enterprise Linux kernels that focus on securing customer deployments. The nature of these vulnerabilities and their fixes introduces the possibility of reduced performance on patched systems. The performance impact depends on the hardware and the applications in place.

    • Meltdown and Spectre: ‘worst ever’ CPU bugs affect virtually all computers
    • Massive Intel Chip Security Flaw Threatens Computers

      A design flaw in all Intel chips produced in the last decade is responsible for a vulnerability that puts Linux, Windows and macOS-powered computers at risk, according to multiple press reports. The flaw reportedly is in the kernel that controls the chip performance, allowing commonly used programs to access the contents and layout of a computer’s protected kernel memory areas. The Linux kernel community, Microsoft and Apple have been working on patches to their operating systems to prevent the vulnerability.

    • What Linux Users Must Know About Meltdown and Spectre Bugs Impacting CPUs

      While these bugs impact a huge number of devices, there has been no widespread attacks so far. This is because it’s not straightforward to get the sensitive data from the kernel memory. It’s a possibility but not a certainty. So you should not start panicking just yet.

    • Loose threads about Spectre mitigation

      KPTI patches are out from most vendors now. If you haven’t applied them yet, you should; even my phone updated today (the benefits of running a Nexus phone, I guess). This makes Meltdown essentially like any other localroot security hole (ie., easy to mitigate if you just update, although of course a lot won’t do that), except for the annoying slowdown of some workloads. Sorry, that’s life.

      Spectre is more difficult. There are two variants; one abuses indirect jumps and one normal branches. There’s no good mitigation for the last one that I know of at this point, so I won’t talk about it, but it’s also probably the hardest to pull off. But the indirect one is more interesting, as there are mitigations popping up. Here’s my understanding of the situation, based on random browsing of LKML (anything in here may be wrong, so draw your own conclusions at the end):

      Intel has issued microcode patches that they claim will make most of their newer CPUs (90% of the ones shipped in the last years) “immune from Spectre and Meltdown”. The cornerstone seems to be a new feature called IBRS, which allows you to flush the branch predictor or possibly turn it off entirely (it’s not entirely clear to me which one it is). There’s also something called IBPB (indirect branch prediction barrier), which seems to be most useful for AMD processors (which don’t support IBRS at the moment, except some do sort-of anyway, and also Intel supports it), and it works somewhat differently from IBRS, so I don’t know much about it.

    • The disclosure on the processor bugs

      The rumored bugs in Intel (and beyond) processors have now been disclosed: they are called Meltdown and Spectre, and have the requisite cute logos. Stay tuned for more.

      See also: this Project Zero blog post. “Variants of this issue are known to affect many modern processors, including certain processors by Intel, AMD and ARM. For a few Intel and AMD CPU models, we have exploits that work against real software. We reported this issue to Intel, AMD and ARM on 2017-06-01.”

      See also: this Google blog posting on how it affects users of Google products in particular. “[Android] devices with the latest security update are protected. Furthermore, we are unaware of any successful reproduction of this vulnerability that would allow unauthorized information disclosure on ARM-based Android devices. Supported Nexus and Pixel devices with the latest security update are protected.”

    • How the Meltdown Vulnerability Fix Was Invented

      A major security flaw has surfaced that’s thought to affect all Intel microprocessors since at least 2011, some ARM processors and, according to Intel, perhaps those of others. Unusually, the exploit, called Meltdown, takes advantage of the processors’ hardware rather than a software flaw, so it circumvents security schemes built into major operating systems.

    • Why Intel x86 must die: Our cloud-centric future depends on open source chips

      Two highly publicized security flaws in the Intel x86 chip architecture have now emerged. They appear to affect other microprocessors made by AMD and designs licensed by ARM.

      And they may be some of the worst computer bugs in history — if not the worst — because they exist in hardware, not software, and in systems that number in the billions.

      These flaws, known as Meltdown and Spectre, are real doozies. They are so serious and far-reaching that the only potential fix in the immediate future is a software workaround that, when implemented, may slow down certain types of workloads as much as 30 percent.

    • Intel Acknowledges Chip-Level Security Vulnerability In Processors

      Security researchers have found serious vulnerabilities in chips made by Intel and other companies that, if exploited, could leave passwords and other sensitive data exposed.

    • ​How Linux is dealing with Meltdown and Spectre

      He’s not the only one unhappy with Intel. A Linux security expert is irked at both Google and Intel. He told me that Google Project Zero informed Intel about the security problems in April. But neither Google nor Intel bothered to tell the operating system vendors until months later. In addition, word began to leak out about the patches for these problems. This forced Apple, the Linux developers, and Microsoft to scramble to deliver patches to fundamental CPU security problems.

      The result has been fixes that degrade system performance in many instances. While we don’t know yet how badly macOS and Windows will be affected, Michael Larabel, a Linux performance expert and founder of the Linux Phoronix website, has ran benchmarks on Linux 4.15-rc6, a Linux 4.15 release candidate, which includes Kernel Page Table Isolation (KPTI) for Intel’s Meltdown flaw.

    • [Fedora] Protect your Fedora system against Meltdown

      You may have heard about Meltdown, an exploit that can be used against modern processors (CPUs) to maliciously gain access to sensitive data in memory. This vulnerability is serious, and can expose your secret data such as passwords. Here’s how to protect your Fedora system against the attack.

    • Today’s CPU vulnerability: what you need to know

      The Project Zero researcher, Jann Horn, demonstrated that malicious actors could take advantage of speculative execution to read system memory that should have been inaccessible. For example, an unauthorized party may read sensitive information in the system’s memory such as passwords, encryption keys, or sensitive information open in applications. Testing also showed that an attack running on one virtual machine was able to access the physical memory of the host machine, and through that, gain read-access to the memory of a different virtual machine on the same host.

    • Apple says Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities affect all Mac and iOS devices

      Technology companies are working to protect their customers after researchers revealed that major security flaws affecting nearly every modern computer processor could allow hackers to steal stored data — including passwords and other sensitive information — on desktops, laptops, mobile phones and cloud networks around the globe.

      The scramble to harden a broad array of devices comes after researchers found two significant vulnerabilities within modern computing hardware, one of which cannot be fully resolved as of yet. Experts say the disclosure of the critical flaws underscores the need to keep up with software updates and security patches and highlights the role independent research plays in prodding tech companies to minimize security weaknesses.

    • Intel CEO Sold $24 Million In Stocks After Google Exposed 10 Year Old Vulnerabilities

      In the month of November last year, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich sold off a big chunk of his company stocks worth $24 million (245,743 shares). The stocks were valued at $11 million back then. Now, the CEO is left with just 250,000 shares which fulfill the minimum requirement to continue his job.

    • “Meltdown” And “Spectre” Flaws: Affecting Almost All Devices With Intel, AMD, & ARM CPUs

      Just yesterday, a report from The Register disclosed a massive security screwup on behalf of Intel, which impacted nearly all chips manufactured in the past ten years. It was also reported that future patches released by the developers of Windows and Linux kernel could reduce the performance of devices up to 5-30%. That’s a lot.

    • Security updates for Thursday

      As might be guessed, a fair number of these updates are for the kernel and microcode changes to mitigate Meltdown and Spectre. More undoubtedly coming over the next weeks.

    • A collection of Meltdown/Spectre postings
    • Mitigations landing for new class of timing attack

      Several recently-published research articles have demonstrated a new class of timing attacks (Meltdown and Spectre) that work on modern CPUs. Our internal experiments confirm that it is possible to use similar techniques from Web content to read private information between different origins. The full extent of this class of attack is still under investigation and we are working with security researchers and other browser vendors to fully understand the threat and fixes. Since this new class of attacks involves measuring precise time intervals, as a partial, short-term, mitigation we are disabling or reducing the precision of several time sources in Firefox. This includes both explicit sources, like performance.now(), and implicit sources that allow building high-resolution timers, viz., SharedArrayBuffer.

    • Is PowerPC susceptible to Spectre? Yep.

      Meltdown is specific to x86 processors made by Intel; it does not appear to affect AMD. But virtually every CPU going back decades that has a feature called speculative execution is vulnerable to a variety of the Spectre attack. In short, for those processors that execute “future” code downstream in anticipation of what the results of certain branching operations will be, Spectre exploits the timing differences that occur when certain kinds of speculatively executed code changes what’s in the processor cache. The attacker may not be able to read the memory directly, but (s)he can find out if it’s in the cache by looking at those differences (in broad strokes, stuff in the cache is accessed more quickly), and/or exploit those timing changes as a way of signaling the attacking software with the actual data itself. Although only certain kinds of code can be vulnerable to this technique, an attacker could trick the processor into mistakenly speculatively executing code it wouldn’t ordinarily run. These side effects are intrinsic to the processor’s internal implementation of this feature, though it is made easier if you have the source code of the victim process, which is increasingly common.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • Remaining Peaceful Was Their Choice

      People living now in Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, have endured unimaginable circumstances for the past three years. Civilians fear to go outside lest they be shot by a sniper or step on a land mine. Both sides of a worsening civil war use Howitzers, Kaytushas, mortars and other missiles to shell the city. Residents say no neighborhood is safer than another, and human rights groups report appalling violations, including torture of captives. On Dec. 26th, 2017, a Saudi-led coalition bomber killed between 20 and 50 people in a crowded marketplace.

    • Giving War Too Many Chances

      As the new year begins, it is important for the U.S. to acknowledge its troubling history of global war-making, especially over the past two-decades, as Nicolas J.S. Davies delineates.

    • Erasing Obama’s Iran Success

      Those wishing to kill the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the agreement that restricts Iran’s nuclear program, have never given up. The agreement’s ever-lengthening successful record, now more than two years old, of keeping closed all possible pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon ought to have discouraged would-be deal-slayers. But the slayers got a new lease on life with the election of Donald Trump, who, as part of his program of opposing whatever Barack Obama favored and destroying whatever he accomplished, has consistently berated the JCPOA.

    • North and South Korean Leaders Agree to Direct Negotiations as Trump Provokes Kim Jong-un on Twitter

      President Trump tweets that his “nuclear button” is “much bigger & more powerful” than North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s. Meanwhile, North and South Korea have opened lines of communication, saying they are open to direct negotiations. We speak with Bruce Cumings, professor of history at the University of Chicago, author of “North Korea: Another Country.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • ‘Aggressive’ marine mammal assaults pressure officers to ban swimming at common San Francisco cove

      For San Francisco tourists, Aquatic Park Cove is one of the city‘s most iconic areas, a popular spot to watch enormous sea lions and harbor seals frolicking in the water across from Ghirardelli Square.

      For locals – or those who can brave the brisk waters, in any case – the cove is known as one of the best places for an open-water swim, especially favored by triathletes.

      But last week, the cove‘s most prominent features clashed in a harrowing manner, when “aggressive” marine mammals attacked three swimmers in the span of about five days, officials said.

    • How Harvey Hurt Houston, in 10 Maps

      Even before Hurricane Harvey hit, Houston was no stranger to devastating rainstorms. The city got two “100-year” storms in the two years before Harvey made landfall. All three storms flooded thousands of houses, many outside of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood plains.

  • Finance
    • Intel admits vulnerability, but plays down effects; stock slides, AMD gains

      Intel Corp. admitted Wednesday that its chips have a vulnerability that will require software patches, but denied a media report that said other companies’ chips were not affected and that the software updates will have a major effect on devices’ performance.

    • Intel Says CEO Dumping Tons of Stock Last Year ‘Unrelated’ to Big Security Exploit

      According to a report published by the Register yesterday, “a fundamental design flaw in Intel’s processor chips has forced a significant redesign of the Linux and Windows kernels to defang the chip-level security bug.” Windows and Linux developers have reportedly been working to address the issue since November.

      As our friends at Gizmodo ES pointed out (via Hacker News), Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich sold roughly $11 million in company stock at the end of November. Counting the employee stock options Krzanich exercised, the CEO unloaded 245,743 shares, leaving him with 250,000 remaining shares—the minimum Krzanich is required to own according to the company’s bylaws, the Motley Fool reported.

    • Google’s ‘Dutch Sandwich’ Shielded 16 Billion Euros From Tax

      Alphabet Inc.’s Google moved 15.9 billion euros ($19.2 billion) to a Bermuda shell company in 2016, regulatory filings in the Netherlands show — saving the company billions of dollars in taxes that year.

      Google uses two structures, known as a “Double Irish” and a “Dutch Sandwich,” to shield the majority of its international profits from taxation. The setup involves shifting revenue from one Irish subsidiary to a Dutch company with no employees, and then on to a Bermuda mailbox owned by another Ireland-registered company.

      The amount of money Google moved through this tax structure in 2016 was 7 percent higher than the year before, according to company filings with the Dutch Chamber of Commerce dated Dec. 22 and which were made available online Tuesday. News of the filings was first reported by the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad.

    • The U.S. Is Blocking a Chinese Fintech Giant from Buying MoneyGram

      American authorities have decided that Alibaba’s digital payment firm, Ant Financial, won’t be allowed to acquire the cash transfer company Moneygram.

      Ant Financial, which was one of our 50 Smartest Companies in 2017, is a Chinese tech company that handles mountains of data generated by its mobile payment business and other banking services. It was created in 2014 by e-commerce giant Alibaba to operate Alipay, a dominant mobile payment platform in China with 520 million users, and uses tools like computer vision and natural-language processing to reimagine financial services (see “Meet the Chinese Finance Giant That’s Secretly an AI Company.”)

    • Merrill Lynch bans its clients, advisors from trading bitcoin-related investments

      Merrill Lynch financial advisors cannot buy bitcoin-related investments for their clients, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

      The ban prevents the financial giant’s roughly 17,000 advisors from pitching investments related to bitcoin and executing client requests to trade Grayscale’s bitcoin investment trust (GBTC), the newspaper said, citing a person familiar with the matter.

      “The decision to close GBTC to new purchases is driven by concerns pertaining to suitability and eligibility standards of this product,” according to an internal memo the newspaper reviewed.

    • In the World of Cryptocurrencies, Something’s Gotta Give in 2018

      In 2017 we were told that blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies were going to save the world, disrupting just about anything with a digital fingerprint. But we saw very few tangible examples that justified the hype. In 2018, many of the intriguing pitches we heard will still be around, only now the challenge is going to be finding a way to deliver real products and services. Here are some of the biggest issues that members of the blockchain world will have to work through if the new year is going to realize the potential that was so highly touted in the last.

    • The subtle rhetoric of Barnier’s now-famous graph

      And as one goes downward (of course) from left to right one can only blame the UK for adopting such positions.

      At the base of the stair is where the UK must end up, by reason of its “red lines”.

    • Minimum Wage Increases Could Speed Up Robot Adoption in the U.K.

      British government policies to boost income for poorly paying jobs could actually incentivize firms to automate instead.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Making China Great Again

      As Donald Trump surrenders America’s global commitments, Xi Jinping is learning to pick up the pieces.

    • Orrin Hatch Was Never a ‘Public Servant’

      The retiring senator has always been a shameless tool of billionaire campaign donors and a partisan errand boy for the likes of Donald Trump.

    • The Most Irresponsible Tweet in History

      This may be the most irresponsible tweet in history. Julian Sanchez articulated the best-case scenario: “The good news is, other countries won’t take talk like this too seriously because they understand Trump is a small man who blusters to make himself feel potent. That’s also the bad news; there’s nowhere left to go rhetorically when we need to signal that we’re serious.” Most likely, that’s the fallout.

      But what if this needless social-media saber rattling escalates into war?

      The Gimlet Media host P.J. Vogt asks a key question: “Imagine if you were the person who invented Twitter.” If I were that person, I would ban President Trump immediately.

      And I would ban all other world leaders, too.

    • Donald Trump Hires Charles Harder To Threaten Steve Bannon With A Lawsuit, Block Publication Of New Book

      It goes on. Normally, none of this would be Techdirt-worthy, but late last night, a new twist was added. According to ABC News, President Donald Trump has hired lawyer Charles Harder to threaten Steve Bannon with a lawsuit for defamation, breach of confidentiality and non-disparagement agreements. And, then, this morning, more news broke of another letter, written by Harder, sent to Wolff and the book’s publisher, demanding that the book not be published at all — and that they send Harder a complete copy of the book.

      So, let’s lay our cards on the table here: the lawyer, Charles Harder, is still the lawyer representing a plaintiff in an ongoing lawsuit against us — and we’ve written about many of his other lawsuits, including representing the First Lady, Melania Trump. Not much more needs to be said about him. We’re also not huge fans of Steve Bannon. Or Donald Trump. Or, for that matter, of Michael Wolff, who has a long history of… not being very good at his job. So, if you want to accuse us of bias in this post, consider it spread all around.

    • You Want an Infowar, Fine

      Now, however, I do subscribe to the notion that Russia interfered with the US election on Trump’s behalf. It passes all of my sniff tests. It does not move the BS needle on my Truthometer. Putin put Trump in office. All the meetings, the indictments, the lies from Trump and his family and so much more are overwhelming. It’s Mueller Time, as they say.

      Yes, Hillary conspired, unwittingly, with her own iniquitous collusion to bump off Bernie and with her bloodstained foreign policy record. Like so many, I voted for her as a purely defensive and highly emetic act.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Fordham Students Sue over Free Speech Rights to Establish Students for Justice in Palestine Group

      In a case that highlights what some are calling the “Palestine exception” to free speech on college campuses across the nation, we look at students who are suing Fordham University’s Lincoln Center campus in New York for their right to start a Students for Justice in Palestine group. The student government approved the group unanimously, but the dean of students overruled the approval, saying the group would “stir up controversy” and be “polarizing.” On Wednesday, the students asked a judge to reinstate the student government’s approval. We speak with Ahmad Awad, who has graduated from Fordham University and is the lead petitioner, now a law student at Rutgers University. We also speak with Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal.

    • This Ex-NSA Hacker Is Building an AI to Find Hate Symbols on Twitter

      In August of this year, a white supremacist plowed through a crowd of protesters gathered in downtown Charlottesville, Virginia. The attack injured around 20 people and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer. The violent clashes that weekend shocked Americans, among them Emily Crose, who wanted to be there to protest against the white supremacists but couldn’t make it. A friend of hers was there, and was attacked and hurt by neo-Nazis.

      Crose is a former NSA analyst and ex-Reddit moderator who now works at a cybersecurity startup. Inspired by her friend’s courage, and horrified by the events in Charlottesville, Crose now spends her free time teaching an AI how to automatically spot Nazi symbols in pictures spread online, be it on Twitter, Reddit, or Facebook.

    • Iran blocks encrypted messaging apps amid nationwide protests

      Even before the protest, Iran’s government blocked large portions of the internet, including YouTube, Facebook, and any VPN services that might be used to circumvent the block. The government enforced the block through a combination of centralized censorship by the country’s Supreme Cybercouncil and local ISP interference to enforce more specific orders. The end result is a sometimes haphazard system that can still have devastating effects on any service the regime sees as a threat.

    • German ‘hate-speech’ law tries to regulate Facebook and others – will it work?

      In September 2017, a law with the euphonious name ‘Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz’ (‘network enforcement law’) was adopted in Germany. Its goal is to force social networks to remove hate speech and certain other unlawful content within 24 hours in obvious cases, otherwise within 7 days upon being notified. The transition period ended on 31 December 2017 – meaning the new rules can now be enforced. Failure to delete content within the given deadlines can result in heavy administrative fines of up to EUR 50m.

    • Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Words?

      Unlike hate language, taboo words, dirty words, or fighting words that may cause harm, offense, or incite violence, the dangerous seven are not only surprisingly innocuous, but one might even say necessary to describe the present concerns of modern life and science. Astonishingly, “science-based” and “evidence-based” are on the list of the so-called banned words, along with “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” and “fetus.” The Post reports further that in some instances, semantically manipulative mouthfuls were offered, such as “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” in place of the widely accepted “science-based” or “evidence-based.” For the rest of the words to be avoided, such as “fetus,” there are no other suggested alternatives.

    • Editors’ picks for 2017: ‘Internet censorship: how China does it’

      Last month, Chinese state media published articles commemorating the 30th anniversary of China’s first-ever email: ‘Across the Great Wall, we can reach every corner in the world.’

      The email was sent from a research institute under China North Industries Group Corporation in Beijing on 14 September 1987 and received by the University of Karlsruhe in Germany at 8.55 pm on 20 September 1987.

      Techno-optimists believed that the internet would ensure a free flow of information and ultimately a democratic society in authoritarian states like China. Thirty years on, however, China has instead built a Great Firewall, a vast hardware and software system that aims to prevent access to undesirable websites and censors sensitive content.

    • German Hate Speech Law Goes Into Effect, Turning Social Media Platforms Into Gov’t Revenue Generators

      The law gives social media platforms 24 hours to remove “obviously illegal” content. This, of course, raises the question about how obvious “obviously illegal” content needs to be to trigger the 24-hour deletion requirement. Presumably, the government gets to decide how “obvious” the illegality is and how often it gets to collect millions of euros.

      In what must be considered a show of government largesse, one week will be allowed to handle “complex” removal orders — again, something likely determined solely by the German government. Given Germany’s ultra-weird relationship with its Nazi past, the difference between complex and simple takedown demands isn’t likely to be clear cut, putting companies in the path of fines and further German government grousing.

      I understand that American companies are somewhat obliged to follow local laws when providing services overseas, but they should not be put in the position of being held criminally and civilly liable for the posts of their users. They can attempt to moderate content with an eye on local statutes, but the fines for posting “obviously illegal” content should be levied on the person posting it, rather than the service provider.

    • Censorship in Venezuela Fuels Social Media Growth

      Freedom of the press in Venezuela has been threatened by the government for more than a decade. Even though the constitution of Venezuela protects freedom of expression and press freedom, Reporters without Borders found in 2017 that oppressive leader Nicolas Maduro “does his utmost to silence independent media outlets.”

      The accumulation of power in the executive branch has enabled the Venezuelan government to intimidate, harass, and criminally prosecute the opposition, human rights defenders, and independent media outlets. While traditional media outlets are being threatened, social media serves as an alternative tool to transmit and consume news.

    • ‘Sounds more like North Korea’: Anti-censorship Toronto subway art delayed over hate speech fears

      Two artists behind a controversial art installation commissioned for a newly opened subway station in Toronto say the city’s refusal to greenlight the project has ironically achieved what the art was meant to do — spark a debate about free speech.

      German brothers Jan and Tim Edler, owners of realities:united, a Berlin-based art studio, say they’d been working with the Toronto Transit Commission on the project since 2009. But they say it was only days before the new Pioneer Village subway station’s scheduled opening last month that they were told authorities had concerns about the art piece.

      At issue is LightSpell, a public art installation that would allow users to enter eight characters on a control panel in the station that show up on giant light screens that hang from the ceiling.

    • Social media plays ‘extremely important’ role in Iranian protests despite censorship

      Since the 2009 Green Movement protests in Iran, internet connections have grown significantly, which is why social media is likely playing an important role in the anti-government demonstrations rocking the country.

      “I believe that has made a tremendous difference between now and then,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director for the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “One difference between now and 2009 is that almost the whole nation is now plugged online.

      “I think for these protests it’s extremely important.”

    • Legal challenge to state censorship opens up gay rights debate in China

      China’s media regulator is being taken to court over its view that homosexual activities are “abnormal”, in a rare public case that pits state censorship against gay rights.

      Following a crackdown on showing homosexuality in the country’s media, a Beijing court has made the unusual move of accepting a legal challenge brought by a member of the public hoping to raise awareness in a country still gripped by dated conservative views on homosexuality.

    • How can scholars tackle the rise of Chinese censorship in the West?

      The extraordinary rise of Xi Jinping was, understandably, the main talking point of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October. Thanks to the president’s relentless consolidation of his personal power base within the party and the official encouragement of something approaching a cult of personality, comparisons with Mao were inevitably made by Western media outlets.

      The symbolic culmination of Xi’s ever-tightening grip on power was the unprecedented incorporation of his personal political theory, known as his “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, into the party’s constitution. Xi’s 14-point plan to turn China into a “great modern socialist country” that is “prosperous, strong, democratic, culturally advanced, harmonious and beautiful” has been accompanied by equally strong ambitions on the international stage. At the 2017 World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, he cast himself as the leading champion of free trade and the fight against climate change, sensing the vacancy created by Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy and a European Union increasingly looking inward as it grapples with Brexit. Trump’s extravagant courting of Xi during his recent Asian tour and his refusal even to broach the issue of human rights only underscored China’s rising global standing.

    • Election censorship to apply to social media

      Election candidates will be required to register for vote-canvassing on electronic and social media, according to the current draft of the organic law governing the election of MPs.

      The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) committee vetting the bill has finished the first round of deliberation for all 178 sections of the law, said spokesman Taweesak Suthakavatin.

      The bill was submitted to the NLA by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) on Nov 28, along with another organic bill related to the Senate.

      The panel’s next task will be to ask those NLA members who proposed changes to the law to elaborate on their amendments.

    • Artist compares TTC censorship on installation to North Korea
    • Revealed: Vietnam’s 10,000-Strong Internet Monitoring Force, Tasked With Stamping Out ‘Wrongful Views’
    • In Rhode Island Schools, Censorship Continues Online

      By filtering internet content, schools diminish the academic freedom of teachers and students.

      Imagine a school administrator telling a high school political science teacher that a whole range of timely topics — for example, medical marijuana, terrorism in the Middle East, gun control, or even politics in general — was off-limits for class discussion. The pedagogical absurdity of it, not to mention the upending of academic freedom it embodies, would seem obvious to most. In school districts across the country, however, a similar type of censorship takes place in the classroom every day, with little dissent.

      The censorship takes place invisibly, through the use of internet filtering programs that block certain categories of websites — or even websites that mention specific words — when students use school computers to access the internet. Although primarily designed to prevent access to pornography, the deeply flawed software, and school districts’ widespread embrace of it, has a significant impact on classroom teaching.

    • U-Haul Sends Bogus Legal Threats To Moving Assistance Company Run And Operated By Military Veterans
    • Why Can’t I Represent Incarcerated Arizonians if I Boycott Israel?

      Each year, I renew a contract to provide legal services to incarcerated people in an Arizona county jail.

      I have been doing this for 12 years without complications. Lately, though, there has been some extra paperwork that has nothing to do with my work as an attorney. Now, in order to renew my contract, I am being asked to promise that I will not participate in a boycott of Israel.

      [...]

      My interest in the Israeli-Palestinian issue isn’t new. I have visited the region previously. I raised a Jewish son. Last spring, he and I traveled together to Israel and Palestine. We met journalists, human rights advocates, Israelis, and Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank. No one we talked to believed that Israel would ever dismantle the more than 100 Israeli settlements peppered through the West Bank. It was painfully clear to us that Israel will not stop, and in fact has accelerated, its de facto policy of permanent Israeli occupation. On the other hand, it will never allow equal rights for the 2.8 million West Bank Palestinians in a single state.

    • Facebook Allowing Israeli Security Forces To Shape The News Palestinians See

      Facebook continues to increase its stranglehold on news delivery, reducing pipelines of info to a nonsensically-sorted stream for its billions of users. Despite the responsibility it bears to its users to keep this pipeline free of interference, Facebook is ingratiating itself with local governments by acting as a censor on their behalf.

      While Facebook has fought back against government overreach in the United States, it seems less willing to do so in other countries. The reporting tools it provides to users are abused by governments to stifle critics and control narratives. And that’s on top of the direct line it opens to certain governments, which are used to expedite censorship.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • China tries Tibetan language advocate featured in NY Times

      An activist promoting the Tibetan language stood trial Thursday in western China for inciting separatism after he appeared in a documentary video produced by The New York Times, highlighting the risks that Chinese citizens often face when speaking to foreign media.

      Tashi Wangchuk’s lawyer Liang Xiaojun told The Associated Press that a judge in Qinghai province heard oral arguments for four hours and will issue a verdict at an unspecified date.

      Tashi has pleaded not guilty. If convicted, he could face a lengthy prison term.

    • Israel’s Knesset Advances Bill Seeking Death Penalty for “Terrorists”

      Meanwhile, members of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, erupted in a shouting match Wednesday, as Prime Minister Netanyahu and right-wing lawmakers advanced legislation that would make it easier to carry out death sentences against Palestinians convicted on terrorism charges. Capital punishment is legal in Israel but has not been implemented since 1962, when Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was put to death for his role in the Holocaust.

    • Help Save BAR from Google, Trump, the Democrats and Their Spies

      Sixteen months ago, the Washington Post issued the equivalent of “wanted” posters targeting more than a dozen of the most effective leftwing sites on the internet — including Black Agenda Report, the only Black-managed operation singled out for suppression. Since then, the radical sites slimed as “Russian propaganda outlets and sympathizers” by Prop-or-Not, the Post’s shadowy “source,” report having lost on average nearly half their Google search-generated audiences,. BAR editors have also noted a drastic drop in the number of our own articles that come up in routine Google searches, compared to pre-November, 2016. BAR’s internet profile has been methodically shrunken.

      [...]

      Amazingly, the Democrats attacked Trump from the Right, reprising the McCarthy era of three generations ago. Trump was soft on the Kremlin, which is depicted as the home of Euro-Asiatic totalitarianism, no matter who is actually in charge. However, the new “Red Scare” requires the linking of Trump/Putin with domestic Reds – thus, the vilification of BAR and other Left sites by Prop-or-Not, a toy in the hands of Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man and business partner with the CIA.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • No, The Death Of Net Neutrality Will Not Be Subtle

      If you listen to Comcast , AT&T, Verizon and their army of paid allies, nothing bad will happen now that the FCC has voted to kill net neutrality protections. In fact, Comcast argues, without government oversight of an uncompetitive market, investment and jobs will soon be miraculously springing forth from the sidewalks. It will, the industry argues, be impossible to even measure the incredible innovation that will be created by letting entrenched ISPs (and their natural monopoly over the broadband last mile) run roughshod over the backs of American consumers and smaller competitors.

      But even among folks that support net neutrality, there’s pretty clearly a contingent that still believes the damage caused by the repeal of the rules will somehow be subtle. Because the net neutrality debate in recent years wandered into more nuanced and quirky areas like interconnection and zero rating, they believe the ultimate impact of the repeal will likely be modest. After all, these harms (like Comcast exempting its own content from usage caps, or Verizon covertly choking interconnection points) were murky and out of the intellectual or technical reach of many Luddite consumers.

    • FCC chair pulls out of Consumer Electronics Show appearance
    • FCC Prepares To Weaken Broadband’s Definition To Hide Competitive, Coverage Issues

      Under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the FCC is required to consistently measure whether broadband is being deployed to all Americans uniformly and “in a reasonable and timely fashion.” If the FCC finds that broadband industry is failing at this task (you may have noticed that it is), the agency is required by law to “take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment” and by “promoting competition in the telecommunications market.”

      Of course given that the telecom sector is often the poster child for regulatory capture, this mandate often gets intentionally lost in the weeds. This is usually accomplished by simply pretending the lack of competition doesn’t exist. Or worse, by meddling with broadband deployment metrics until the numbers show something decidedly different from the reality on the ground. It’s a major reason why broadband ISPs (and the lawmakers who love them) whine incessantly every time we try to update the definition of broadband to a more reasonable and modern metric.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • South Africa’s Push For Knowledge-Based Economy Through IP [Ed: This headline and few initial paragraphs conflate knowledge with “IP” (opposite). Mumbo-jumbo ‘religion’ ...]

      This statement was made by Mmboneni Muofhe, Department of Science and Technology (DST) deputy director general for technology and innovation, at the ninth Intellectual Property Summer School held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in December. The meeting brought together students, lawyers, scientists and different professionals drawn from Africa and other parts of the developing world for a ten-day intensive programme in intellectual property.

    • Copyrights
      • Software Copyright Back Before Federal Circuit: Time for the Court to Get it Right

        Should a company be able to shut down competition by asserting copyright in a collection of software commands? Tech giant Cisco Systems thinks so: it’s gone to court to try to prevent its competitor, Arista Networks, from building competing Ethernet switches that rely in part on commands Cisco argues it initially developed. Cisco lost the first round in a California district court, but it’s hoping for a better outcome from the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

        As we explain in a brief we’ve submitted supporting Arista, Cisco is wrong. First, where the collection of commands in question is simply a group of standard, highly functional directives, arranged based on logic and industry standards, it shouldn’t be copyrightable at all. Second, any copyright that does exist must be sharply limited, as a matter of law and good practical policy. Without such limits, the software industries will find themselves embroiled in the same elaborate and expensive cross-licensing arrangements we see in the patent space and/or face an explosion of litigation. Either option will discourage innovation and competition.

      • Confused Judge Says Video Game Play Has No Copyright, Because The Work Is Not ‘Fixed’

        Just last month we joked about how confused the creator of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Brendan Greene, was when he claimed that there was no intellectual property for video games. That’s completely wrong, and there are many, many cases to show that it’s wrong. Yet… now there’s a case that bizarrely, argues that video games don’t get copyright (hat tip to Rick Sanders and Owen Barcala for flagging this one). The case is one that’s been dragging through the courts for years, bouncing around, concerning publicity rights of former professional football players when used in EA games like Madden NFL.

        The latest issue involves EA asking for the latest iteration of the case to be dismissed based on another ruling concerning NCAA basketball players and their publicity rights. In that ruling from April of this year, the 9th Circuit ruled (among other things) that federal copyright preempted state-based publicity rights claims. I don’t want to dig too deeply into what all of that means, but suffice it to say that under the 1976 Copyright Act, the law says that federal copyright law now trumps all state copyright or copyright-like laws, and you can’t hide behind some state law when federal law should apply. Here, the court said that the state-based publicity rights claims were blocked because of that, as the only issue should be covered under federal copyright law, where they would fail.

      • Spotify Hit With $1.6 Billion Lawsuit From Publisher Representing Tom Petty, Neil Young

        Music streaming company Spotify was sued by Wixen Music Publishing Inc last week for allegedly using thousands of songs, including those of Tom Petty, Neil Young and the Doors, without a license and compensation to the music publisher.

        Wixen, an exclusive licensee of songs such as “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” by Weezer and works of singers such as Stevie Nicks, is seeking damages worth at least $1.6 billion along with injunctive relief.

      • Spotify is being sued for £1.18bn over unlicensed songs

        In other words – its defence is that Wixen isn’t acting with the knowledge of artists and that it doesn’t actually have a right to sue Spotify in the first place.

      • Spotify files to go public in New York
      • Google Blocks Pirate Search Results Prophylactically

        Google is accepting “prophylactic” takedown requests to keep pirated content out of its search results. Caleb Donaldson, copyright counsel at Google, explains that the company is ‘removing’ infringing links before they are indexed. Aside from these novel features, the company also has high hopes for artificial intelligence.

Software Patents Are Still Being Rejected in the United States (New Examples), But the Anti-Alice Lobby Goes on

Thursday 4th of January 2018 08:40:04 AM

Ears wide shut

Summary: The situation in the US is becoming unbearable for those who put all their eggs in the software patents basket; in the meantime, however, more attempts are being made to change the law

THE US patent office gradually moves away from software patents. It makes it harder to get any. That does not mean that applicants can’t find ways around Section 101. Earlier this week we found this article about a new patent. “Face-tracking sensors and sophisticated software would manage the display so that you saw a realistic blended picture from any angle,” it said. Another article said: “Amazon acquired Body Labs last year, an AI-software and computer vision company that once touted its ability to create 3D models of human bodies in motion and then dress them in virtual outfits…”

Here we go again with buzzwords like “AI” and “VR”. These help opportunists get past the restrictions and receive software patents. Amazon has had truly notorious software patents, some of which we covered here before.

What’s noteworthy is that courts, unlike the patent office, aren’t tolerating software patents. Lawyers know that. We regularly see anti-Section 101 rants from law firms that profited from software patents. Here’s a new rant from Jeremy Anapol and Maria Anderson. What they’re basically doing, with polite language, is constant complaining about Section 101/Alice. We have become accustomed to that.

Charles Bieneman has just written about yet another software patent which bites the dust, owing to Alice. To quote:

Implementing a process in a highly technical environment will not necessarily save patent claims challenged under the Alice abstract idea test, as illustrated in Ancora Technologies, Inc. v. HTC America, Inc., No. C16-1919 RAJ (W.D. Wash. Dec. 14, 2017). In this case, the court dismissed, under FRCP 12(b)(6), a complaint of infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,411,941, directed to a “method of restricting software operation within a license limitation,” even though the claimed method was implemented in the sophisticated technical environment of a computer BIOS system.

[...]

The plaintiff argued that, as in Enfish, LLC v. Microsoft Corp., the claims here were directed to improving operation of a computer. But, considering the claims under the first prong of the Alice abstract idea test, the court thought these patent claims were more like those at issue in Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Erie Indemnity Corp., where the Federal Circuit held that claims directed to storage of electronic files were patent-ineligible.

[...]

Turning to the second prong of the Alice test, the plaintiff, citing BASCOM Global Internet Services, Inc. v. ATT Mobility LLC., argued that claim 1 recited in unconventional arrangement of admittedly known parts by reciting “using an agent to software licensing verification structure in the BIOS, and then actually verifying a program using that verification structure.” But the court disagreed that this was an inventive concept overcoming the claimed abstract idea. The claim simply recited storing data in a pre-existing memory.

It must be pretty stressful to depend on software patents. They’re very weak; they’re not worth the risk.

Here we have the patent troll Dominion Harbor calling a “cheat sheet” something it plans to bypass Alice with.

Last year, as we noted quite recently, the Federal Circuit smashed software patents using Alice. There was just about no decision truly antagonising Alice. None! Here’s the so-called ‘cheat sheet’ [1, 2] which lists all important decisions (those which can be cited in the future):

THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT’S 2017 PRECEDENTIAL SECTION 101 CASES:
1. Cleveland Clinic Foundation v. True Health Diagnostics LLC., 859 F.3d 1352 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
2. Credit Acceptance Corp. v. Westlake Services, 859 F.3d 1044 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
3. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Capital One Financial Corp., 850 F.3d 1332 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
4. Intellectual Ventures I LLC v. Erie Indemnity Co., 850 F.3d 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
5. Mentor Graphics Corp. v. EVE-USA, Inc., 851 F.3d 1275 (Fed. Cir. 2017), panel rehearing and rehearing en banc denied, 870 F.3d 1298 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
6. RecogniCorp, LLC v. Nintendo Co., 855 F.3d 1322 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
7. Return Mail, Inc. v. United States Postal Service, 868 F.3d 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
8. Secured Mail Solutions LLC v. Universal Wilde, Inc., 873 F.3d 905 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
9. Smart Systems Innovations, LLC v. Chicago Transit Authority, 873 F.3d 1364 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
10. Thales Visionix Inc. v. United States, 850 F.3d 1315 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
11. Two-Way Media Ltd. v. Comcast Cable Communications., LLC, 874 F.3d 1329 (Fed. Cir. 2017)
12. Visual Memory LLC v. NVIDIA Corp., 867 F.3d 1253 (Fed. Cir. 2017)

We have covered most of the above. These were frustrating to the patent microcosm.

So what is the patent microcosm going to do? It will play dirty, as usual, and attempt to change the law. As the FFII’s President put it yesterday: “The great return of Software Patents in US, yet another bill written by the patent industry.”

“Such bills would not pass,” I assured him, “but those behind such bills want us to believe otherwise…”

Section 101 is becoming the norm as it is; it has not been changed for a long time. One new message said: “The Chisum Patent Academy will dig into these 2017 Sec 101 #patent eligibility cases (and other notable topics) at our upcoming March seminars in #Houston and #Cincinnati. To register, visit https://chisum-patent-academy.com/ https://twitter.com/ChisumOnPatents/status/948198698919571456 …”

Yeah, sure, they will try to undermine Section 101, but that doesn’t mean they will succeed. So will Watchtroll, who just can’t help obsessing over years-old decisions. Watchtroll wrote this week: “I again continue to wish for patent eligibility reform in Congress that would overrule Mayo, Myriad and Alice.”

Keep on wishing. It’s another one of those “Patent Wishes for 2018″; Check out “New Year’s Resolutions For The U.S. Patent System” by Courtenay C. Brinckerhoff of Foley & Lardner LLP (greedy law firm). The author tries to interject lobbying agenda into the USPTO’s alleged “resolutions” and it’s just the tired old anti-Alice and anti-Mayo. To quote: “It’s been nearly six years since the Supreme Court called the patent eligibility of diagnostic methods into question in Mayo v. Prometheus, and two and a half years since the Federal Circuit twisted the knife with its decision in Ariosa v. Sequenom. The USPTO issued guidelines to help stakeholders navigate the newly treacherous § 101 terrain, but when even the Patent Trial and Appeal Board doesn’t let applicants follow those narrow paths, it’s no surprise that individual examiners find roadblocks where none used to be.”

That the USPTO actually improved patent quality isn’t a bad thing. Unless one is in the litigation ‘business’ (like Foley & Lardner LLP)…

Jeff Lindsay on Twitter, citing Watchtroll, wrote this: “When USPTO employees start claiming to be “judges” or even “chief judges” as they strike down 90% of granted patents, we have a serious arrogance issue that is harming innovation & property rights in the US. See “Nightmares” in this @IPwatchdog article: https://lnkd.in/fhw9mmg”

No, USPTO workers claim no such thing. Their job is inherently judging applications. Lindsay set up a straw man (argument) here. We assume he’s alluding to PTAB. The ‘professional’ PTAB bashers, cowboys such as Paul Morinville, are again (over at Watchtroll) attacking the Supreme Court. Their desperation is quite revealing. They just don’t want to obey the law and they attempt to change it by shaming judges, courts etc.

Banner & Witcoff’s Ernest V. Linek and Brian Emfinger have meanwhile written about Alice and it seems like they too aren’t honest. If patent law firms were honest (they’re not), they’d say software patents are de facto dead and not worth pursuing in courts anymore. This is what they said:

As non-traditional venues see more patent litigation in the aftermath of TC Heartland and Cray, time will tell if further distinctions emerge between district courts’ treatment of challenges to subject-matter eligibility and the various motions for disposing of patent infringement claims on that basis.

The venue doesn’t matter that much, especially once cases are brought before the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit no longer tolerates software patents.

Perhaps the most worrying thing here is that people with zero experience in software are advocating software patents. Consider Watchtroll as a prime example of it; it’s like a think tank that’s hiring writers to promote software patents — a subject they neither understand nor affects them professionally. See, in Watchtroll no tech/legal background is needed; “Somewhere near the end of 2011,” Steve Brachmann admitted the other day, ” I responded to an ad that was left on Craigslist. A website called IPWatchdog.com was looking for a writer to contribute content on Apple’s patenting activities…”

Promoting litigation and software patents. That’s the only objective. Taking something which is hot in the news and then spinning that — somehow — as regarding patents. That is a Watchtroll kind of lunacy. Watch what Brachmann wrote the other day; Watchtroll outdoes itself with the patently absurd assertion that we can’t quite go to space without software patents. “Benefits of NASA Space Directive on Mars could be Limited by Uncertain Software, Biotech Patentability,” says the headline. We’re speechless. Such is the intellectually-dishonest nature of Watchtroll nowadays.

Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Makes Precedential a Decision on Patent Troll Skky LLC

Thursday 4th of January 2018 07:36:17 AM

Summary: Last year’s decision in Facebook v Skky has become precedential and patent maximalists continue their effort to undermine PTAB, which generally stops a lot of patent trolls

IN April last year we wrote about this patent troll with USPTO-granted patents that had been used to blackmail some large companies.

As covered by Law 360 last year [1, 2]: (reference PDF)

An expanded Patent Trial and Appeal Board panel declined Thursday to adopt a “time of filing” rule that would change how judges evaluate whether a patent is eligible for covered business method review, instead leaving in place a decision not to review a media delivery patent Facebook Inc. is accused of infringing.

The expanded panel, which included Chief Judge David Ruschke, was ruling on a request for rehearing Facebook filed last year after it lost a challenge to a Skky LLC media delivery patent.

Michael Loney, Managing Editor of Managing IP, posted this reminder that large companies too rely on PTAB when getting rid of nuisance software patents and said that this decision is now precedential:

September 2017’s Facebook v Skky, explaining the determination of covered business method patent review eligibility, is the 11th AIA trial decision to be deemed precedential

Just before the holiday period, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) designated the Facebook v Skky decision from September 12 2017 as precedential.

Separately, Loney noted that in spite of fee hikes the number of petitions grew last year and hit an all-time record.

2017 *just* squeaked into a record year for total PTAB petitions filed, beating 2015 by two petitions!
2017: 1799
2016: 1758
2015: 1797
2014: 1677
2013: 790

Let’s not take any of it for granted as more PTAB bashing is expected from the patent maximalists. It’s all about destroying PTAB to Watchtroll. In his own words: “The issues I will be watching in 2018 other than Oil States are as follows: (1) What does the new Director of the USPTO do with respect to reforming the PTAB? (2) Will the USPTO adopt a code of judicial ethics for PTAB judges?”

Again insinuating that these judges are unethical? They always try to create a scandal where none existed.

Links 3/1/2018: BuildStream 1.0.0, Fuchsia OS Surfacing

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 10:35:03 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Linux resolutions for 2018

    It’s always a good idea to start a new year with renewed intentions to be even better users and administrators of our Linux systems. For auld lang syne (for the sake of old times), let’s touch on some of the ways we might improve our system practices in 2018.

  • Now What?

    Linux Journal was a print magazine for 17+ years, then a digital one for the next 7+. What shall we be now? That’s the Big Question, and there are many answers, some of which are already settled.

  • Steve Jobs’s worst decision was promoting Tim Cook

    Fifteen years later, 2 billion smartphones have shipped worldwide, and Microsoft’s mobile OS share is just 1%.

  • Server
    • Amazon has quietly released a game changer for its cloud: Linux software that runs on corporate servers

      Amazon’s cloud business quietly just took a big step outside the cloud.

      Last month, soon after Amazon Web Service’s giant tech conference, the company started offering its enterprise customers a new version of the Linux operating system it calls Linux 2. The new product marks a departure for the cloud-computing juggernaut, as the software can be installed on customers’ servers rather than run from Amazon’s data centers.

      Amazon will rent access to Linux 2 to its cloud customers. But it’s also making the software available for companies to install on their servers. There they can use it to run many of the most popular server software programs and technologies, including Microsoft’s Hyper-V, VMware, Oracle’s VM VirtualBox, Docker, and Amazon’s Docker alternative, Amazon Machine Image.

    • December 2017 Web Server Survey

      The noticeable spike in Apache-powered domains in May 2013 was caused by the largest hosting company of the time, GoDaddy, switching a large number of its domains from Microsoft IIS to Apache Traffic Server (ATS) . GoDaddy switched back to using IIS 7.5 a few months later.

      Today, Apache still has the largest market share by number of domains, with 81.4 million giving it a market share of 38.2%. It also saw the largest gain this month, increasing its total by 1.53 million. This growth was closely followed by nginx, with a gain of 1.09 million domains increasing its total to 47.5 million. While Microsoft leads by overall number of hostnames, it lags in 3rd position when considering the number of unique domains those sites run on, with a total of 22.8 million.

    • Amazon Linux Moves Beyond the Cloud to On-Premises Deployments

      For nearly as long as Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been in operation there has been a Amazon Linux operating system that runs on it. Initially Amazon Linux was just an optimized version of Red Hat’s community Fedora Linux, adjusted to work on AWS, but it has evolved over the years.

    • The future of DevOps is mastery of multi-cloud environments

      DevOps is a set of practices that automates the processes between software development and IT teams so they can build, test, and release software more quickly and reliably. The concept of DevOps is founded on building a culture of collaboration between IT and business teams, which have historically functioned in relative siloes. The promised benefits include increased trust, faster software releases, and the ability to solve critical issues quickly.

      That said, implementing a successful DevOps organization requires IT leaders to think more broadly about how to spur a cultural and organizational shift within both their team and the broader organization, as opposed to simply deploying new technologies. A successful DevOps strategy requires a merged focus from both development teams and operational teams on what the company needs to meet its digital transformation objectives. Thus, it is about breaking down siloed groups of people and responsibilities, and—in their place—building teams that can multitask on technical issues and goals.

  • Kernel Space
    • Another set of stable kernel updates

      The 4.14.11, 4.9.74, 4.4.109, and 3.18.91 stable kernel updates have been released with another set of significant fixes and updates. Note that 4.14.11 also includes the remainder of the kernel page-table isolation patches.

    • Further Analyzing The Intel CPU “x86 PTI Issue” On More Systems

      Yesterday I posted the first benchmarks of the performance impact of these x86 PTI security changes that landed in the Linux 4.15 kernel just days ago. As outlined in that article, most of the slowdowns attributed to the page table isolation come down to slower I/O but not universally as it largely depends upon the I/O workload as well as the speed of the actual storage device. In most desktop-ish workloads, the impact of enabling x86 PTI is much less like with not seeing much of a change for gaming.

    • Linux Will End Up Disabling x86 PTI For AMD Processors

      While at the moment with the mainline Linux kernel Git tree AMD CPUs enable x86 PTI and are treated as “insecure” CPUs, the AMD patch for not setting X86_BUG_CPU_INSECURE will end up being honored.

      The patch covered in the aforelinked article has not been merged through to Linus Torvalds’ Git tree. Instead, as of a short time ago, is now living within the tip/tip.git tree. In there is also defaulting PAGE_TABLE_ISOLATION to on and other recent fixes around x86 Page Table Isolation (PTI) support.

    • Linux 4.14.11
    • Linux 4.9.74
    • Linux 4.4.109
    • Linux 3.18.91
    • Benchmarks
      • Initial Benchmarks Of The Performance Impact Resulting From Linux’s x86 Security Changes

        Over the past day you’ve likely heard lots of hysteria about a yet-to-be-fully-disclosed vulnerability that appears to affect at least several generations of Intel CPUs and affects not only Linux but also Windows and macOS. The Intel CPU issue comes down to leaking information about the kernel memory to user-space, but the full scope isn’t public yet until the bug’s embargo, but it’s expected to be a doozy in the data center / cloud deployments. Due to the amount of interest in this issue, here are benchmarks of a patched kernel showing the performance impact of the page table isolation patches.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • Viper Window Manager 3.0.2 Released!

      After languishing for nearly half a decade, I recently dusted off the code for VWM. Although the original release worked well, it never quite satisfied my technical idealism. There were lots of things I wanted to implement, fix, or clean-up, but none of them were trivial. But let me digress for a bit…

      What is VWM? Viper Window Manger (VWM) is a lightweight window manager for the console. You heard right! VWM is a window manager for the console. It’s built on top of libviper which is a convenience layer on top of ncurses and a GTK-like framework for rapidly creating console programs.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • KDE Plasma 5.11.5 Linux Desktop Environment Released as the Last in the Series

        Coming one and a half months after the KDE Plasma 5.11.4 release, KDE Plasma 5.11.5 is here with more than 30 bug fixes and improvements across various of its components, such as the KWin window and composite manager, KScreenlocker screen locker, Oxygen and Breeze themes, Plasma Discover package manager, as well as Plasma Desktop, Plasma Workspace, and Plasma Addons.

        “Today KDE releases a bugfix update to KDE Plasma 5, versioned 5.11.5. Plasma 5.11 was released in January with many feature refinements and new modules to complete the desktop experience,” reads today’s announcement. “This release adds a three week’s worth of new translations and fixes from KDE’s contributors. The bugfixes are typically small but important.”

      • KDE Community Goal: Streamlined onboarding of new contributors

        Over the second half of 2017, KDE has been going through the ambitious effort of having its community propose and choose goals for the next 3-4 years.

        These goals have been set now, and I was thrilled to learn that my proposal on Streamlined onboarding of new contributors was chosen and many other KDE contributors believed this was a goal worth pursuing in the near future and voted for it.

        The other two proposals that were selected are Top-notch Usability and Productivity for Basic Software and Privacy.

      • KDE Plasma 5.13 Desktop Environment to Feature Better Web Browser Integration

        While many are waiting impatiently for the release of the KDE Plasma 5.12 LTS desktop environment, the KDE community announced today on Twitter a new feature of KDE Plasma 5.13.

        Yes, you’re reading it right, we’re talking about KDE Plasma 5.13, the version of the Linux desktop environment that will be coming after KDE Plasma 5.12 LTS, which is hitting the streets at the end of the month, on January 30, 2018.

        A short-lived branch, KDE Plasma 5.13 will be released on June 12, 2018, and it appears that it brings better web browser integration by allowing users to control and monitor various aspects of their web browser like playback, downloads, and tabs.

      • Better Browser-Desktop Integration Coming For KDE Plasma 5.13

        One of the new features being worked on by KDE developers in the new year is better desktop integration with web browsers.

        Expected to arrive with Plasma 5.13 is better desktop integration with Chrome/Chromium browsers and potentially Firefox too (there is an experimental Firefox add-on here). From the Plasma shell even with a minimized browser window you can now start/pause/mute any playing content, monitor browser downloads from the notification panel, and also find open browser tabs via Plasma’s “Run Command” utility.

      • #KDE #KDENEON Plasma 5.11.5 Bugfix release ready in User edition
      • Rome wasn’t built in a day

        After a very long time, the KMyMoney development team is about to start the release cycle for the first release of its personal finance manager application based on KF5/Qt5. Various reports show us that people are already using the master branch in their production environment, as several team members have also done for at least a few months.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • BuildStream 1.0.0 released

        It’s my pleasure to announce the first stable release of BuildStream.

      • GNOME’s BuildStream Reaches v1.0

        BuildStream is the developer-focused project for creating a flexible and extensible framework for modelling of build and continuous integration pipelines in YAML format. BuildStream itself is written in Python.

  • Distributions
    • The Top 10 Linux Desktop Distros of 2017

      It has been an engaging year for the Linux and open-source community. For example, Ubuntu ended Unity 8 development as well as their plans towards convergence and switched to using GNOME. Slack OS virtually rewrote its binaries to be Debian-based; Kali Linux became more popular, and Skype finally released a Linux version worth writing home about.

      With such an eventful 2017 for most Linux distributions, I imagine many of our (potential) readers are wondering which Linux distributions have been the hottest this year, and probably why.

    • 10 Best Lightweight Linux Distros For Old Computers | 2018 Edition

      Linux is known to serve the needs of everyone. If you’re having some old desktop or laptop, there are many lightweight Linux distros that you can install and enjoy a lag-free computing experience. From a variety of options, you can choose Puppy Linux, Lubuntu, or Linux Lite. You can also install Arch Linux or Debian and use a lightweight desktop environment.

      Some of you might be running insecure Windows XP on your old computers due to machine’s outdated hardware configuration. But, you don’t need to do that anymore. There are tons of Linux distributions that are specifically built to cater the needs of such laptops and desktops. Apart from being lightweight, these operating systems are fast and secure.

    • Red Hat Family
      • Red Hat Worries as Amazon Targets Enterprise with New Linux Distro

        The launch of Amazon Linux 2 marks Amazon’s most concerted foray in to the enterprise yet, a move that is some suggest fear will see it compete against Red Hat.

      • Managing your hybrid cloud

        In their current form, these technologies are relatively new. They bring a lot of useful capabilities to IT operations. They also require management capabilities to evolve alongside. Hybrid cloud management needs functions like self-service access under policy-based control, metering and billing, intelligent workload placement, system image provisioning, capacity planning, governance, and lifecycle management—features that often go above and beyond what’s baked into the cloud infrastructure. At the same time, hybrid cloud management needs to fulfill its overarching goal of providing consistency across hybrid infrastructures.

      • Journey to OpenShift in a Multi-Cloud Environment, Part 3

        Our journey to OpenShift across multiple clouds has taken three parallel paths: Changing our culture, rethinking the application lifecycle, and evolving our infrastructure. This post, the last one in our 3-part series, describes how we’re working around the infrastructure differences of our various clouds.

      • Finance
      • Fedora
        • Linode and Vultr no longer disables SELinux by default in Fedora Server 27

          The two virtual private server (VPS) hosting providers Linode and Vultr have been offering server instances of Fedora Server with Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) enforcement disabled by default. New instances deployed with Fedora Server 27 now enable SELinux in enforcing mode by default; aligning them to the upstream Fedora defaults.

          SELinux is a mandatory access control system managed by a set of security policies that the Kernel use to limit what processes and users can do on the system. One of Fedora’s differentiating features compared to other Linux distributions is its well-maintained and low-friction default SELinux policy set.

    • Debian Family
      • Derivatives
        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Accessing the Juju CLI from within the GUI

            In the Juju GUI 2.11.1 release, we are excited to bring a new feature we’ve been working on for a while now: the shell in the GUI.

            The GUI is a powerful tool, but at times the command-line is necessary. For instance, the ability to SSH into a unit helps for debugging processes or accessing data directly. Running debug-hooks is another: if a unit is stopped during one of its hooks and you need to see if you can get it up and running, sometimes debug-hooks is your best bet.

            However, not all developer situations have the CLI available. If you’re accessing your environment from Windows, getting to the tools you need from the CLI isn’t trivial.

            To address these cases, we’ve developed the jujushell functionality.

          • Flavours and Variants
            • Linspire rises from the dead (in name only)

              Linspire is a Linux distribution that’s designed to be easy for Windows users to learn. In fact, the original developers used to call the operating system Lindows, before changing the name.

            • Lindows rises from the grave! Freespire 3.0 and Linspire 7.0 Linux distros now available

              About 16 years ago, a for-pay Linux distribution caused quite a stir all because of its name — Lindows. Yes, someone actually thought kicking the billion dollar hornets nest that is Microsoft by playing off of the “Windows” name was a good idea. To be honest, from a marketing perspective, it was brilliant — it got tons of free press. Microsoft eventually killed the Lindows name by use of money and the legal system, however. Ultimately, the Linux distro was renamed “Linspire.” Comically, there was a Lindows Insiders program way before Windows Insiders!

              After losing the Lindows name, the operating system largely fell out of the spotlight, and its 15 minutes of fame ended. After all, without the gimmicky name, it was hard to compete with free Linux distros. Not to mention, Richard Stallman famously denounced the OS for its non-free ways. The company eventually created a free version of its OS called Freespire, but by 2008, both projects were shut down by its then-owner, Xandros. Today, however, a new Linspire owner emerges — PC/OpenSystems LLC. And yes, Lindows is rising from the grave — as Freespire 3.0 and Linspire 7.0!

            • Lindows Linux Distro Is Back From The Dead: Linspire 7.0 And Freespire 3.0 Released

              Do you remember the Lindows Linux distro, which aimed to make the process of using Linux and running Windows applications on Linux much easier? For those who need a refresher, Lindows based its Windows compatibility on Wine API. Then, it developed program named CNR to serve as a GUI-based means to download/install applications. Later, Microsoft sued Lindows, Inc. and the case was settled after the Lindows trademark was transferred to Microsoft, changing the name to Linspire.

            • Linux Mint 19 codenamed “Tara”

              GTK 3.22 is a major stable release for GTK3. From there on, the theming engine and the APIs are stable. This is a great milestone for GTK3. It also means Linux Mint 19.x (which will become our main development platform) will use the same version of GTK as LMDE 3, and distributions which use components we develop, such as Fedora, Arch..etc. This should ease development and increase the quality of these components outside of Linux Mint.

            • Linux Mint 19 “Tara” Slated for Release in May/June 2018, Based on Ubuntu 18.04
            • Linux Mint project sheds light on next big update

              With the recent release of Linux Mint 18.3, attention has now shifted to the Linux Mint 19.x series which will represent the biggest update the Linux distribution will have seen since 2016. The first of the four releases of the new series, simply known as Linux Mint 19, will be dubbed Tara and all subsequent releases of the series should also begin with the letter T with the second letter going further through the alphabet for each release, for example, the Linux Mint 18 releases were called Sarah, Serena, Sonya, and Sylvia.

            • Linux Mint 19 named ‘Tara’

              Unfortunately, 2017 was not the much-fabled year of the Linux desktop. Hell, that might not ever happen. With Windows 10 being such a disappointment for many, however, it is definitely a possibility. Maybe 2018 will be the year…

              One such desktop operating system that consistently delights users is Linux Mint. Today, we get some information about the upcoming version 19. The biggest news is that it will be called “Tara.” If you aren’t aware, the operating system is always named after a woman.

            • Linux Mint 19 Release Date & Features
            • Linux Mint Translation Guide

              The Linux Mint Translation Guide is ready.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • 10 Open Source Technologies You’ll Need to Know in 2018

    All those contributions are leading to growth in open source in general. In its 2017 Octoverse report, GitHub, the largest online repository for open source projects, reported that it now has more than 24 million users and more than 25 million public repositories.

    Of course, some among those 25 million public repositories are more important than others. In several areas, open source projects have become the dominant technology, and IT professionals who want to keep their skills relevant need to at least be familiar with these projects.

    Here are ten open source projects that, in light of current trends, will likely be particularly important for IT pros to know in 2018.

  • How governments and citizens used open source to solve human problems in 2017

    Each year, when we look back at the top government articles on Opensource.com, we see interesting case studies of government technology policies or implementations. Our most popular stories from 2017 aren’t about adopting open source to solve technology problems. Instead, they demonstrate how governments and citizens are coming together through open source to solve human problems.

  • Flashrom 1.0 Officially Released For Programming BIOS/EFI/ROM Flash Chips

    The Flashrom utility that’s associated with the Coreboot project for reading/writing/erasing/verifying flash chips commonly for motherboard BIOS/UEFI/firmware chips has reached its long-awaited v1.0 milestone.

  • Want to understand DevOps? Look to open source’s history

    Shortly after Richard Stallman launched the GNU project in 1984, which marked the start of the free software movement, he wrote a manifesto explaining the project’s goals.

    Stallman stated repeatedly that he intended to create “free” software, but did not define what “free” meant. It was easy for readers to assume Stallman was referring simply to price, rather than control over source code, but that is what actually mattered to him. This uncertainty engendered a lasting ambiguity that endures to the present, when some uninformed computer users continue to assume that “open source” simply refers to software that costs no money.

  • Open-source software improves snow research

    All over the world, snow researchers and snow scientists dig holes in the snow. They look at the snow crystals, feel for strong and weak layers, and take measurements in order to predict and better understand avalanches. But snow science recently took an about-face, thanks to the open-source software known as SnowPilot.

    Doug Chabot of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center launched the SnowPilot Project during the winter of 2003-2004 after software developer Mark Kahrl wrote the program, hoping to find a way for researchers to collaborate and share their data on snow.

    “Avalanche forecasters and snow researchers all over the world, they record snow pit data,” Chabot said. “We all dig holes in the snow and say what we see using a common language.”

    But what Chabot realized in the early 2000s was that a large portion of snow data was being put away in desk drawers, never to be used. So he asked the question, what if we create a platform where researchers can enter their data into a worldwide database? And what if that database is accessible to everyone?

  • 5 ways open source can strengthen your job search

    Perhaps the clearest way working on open source projects can assist in your job search is by giving you project experience. If you are a student, you may not have many concrete projects to showcase on your resume. If you are working, perhaps you can’t discuss your current projects due to privacy limitations, or maybe you’re not working on tasks that interest you. Either way, scouting out appealing open source projects that allow you to showcase your skills may help in your job search. These projects are great eye-catchers on resumes and can be perfect discussion topics in interviews.

    In addition, many open source projects are kept in public repositories, such as GitHub, so accessing the source code is easy for anyone who wants to become involved. Also, it makes your publicly accessible code contributions easy for recruiters and other individuals at potential employers to find. The fact that these projects are open allows you to demonstrate your skills in a more concrete manner than simply discussing them in an interview.

  • GIS Company Mapzen to Shut Down, but Users Can Still Grab the Open-Source Code and Data

    Mapzen, a mapping platform company lauded among developers and civic hackers for its open-source approach, is shutting down.

    For fans of the company, there’s a bright spot: because its data and code is open and users will still be able to run the projects they built using Mapzen tools, as well as some of the company’s tools, on their own. They have until Feb. 1 — the day the company will shut down its APIs, services and support — to grab what they need.

  • GIS company Mapzen to shut down but users can still avail open-source data

    But for the admirers of the company, there is still a silver lining: as the data and code is available in open source and users will still be able to run the projects they built using Mapzen tools, as well as some of the company’s tools. Until February 1, when the company will shut down its APIs and support, users are free to grab all that they require.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Mozilla Will Delete Firefox Crash Reports Collected by Accident

        Mozilla said last week it would delete all telemetry data collected because of a bug in the Firefox crash reporter.

        According to Mozilla engineers, Firefox has been collecting information on crashed background tabs from users’ browsers since Firefox 52, released in March 2017.

        Firefox versions released in that time span did not respect user-set privacy settings and automatically auto-submitted crash reports to Mozilla servers. The browser maker fixed the issue with the release of Firefox 57.0.3.

      • Mozilla GFX: WebRender newsletter #11

        Newsletter #11 is finally here, even later than usual due to an intense week in Austin where all of Mozilla’s staff and a few independent contributors gathered, followed by yours truly taking two weeks off.

  • BSD
    • Intel Coffee Lake Graphics Support Added To DragonFlyBSD

      DragonFlyBSD should now have initial support for Intel’s latest-generation “Coffee Lake” graphics.

      With these recent Intel CPUs having effectively the same graphics hardware as Kabylake but just renaming the “HD Graphics” to “UHD Graphics”, the DragonFlyBSD support addition mainly comes down to adding in the new PCI IDs, similar to some of the other open-source Intel graphics driver patches elsewhere.

    • LLVM 7.0 / Clang 7.0 Is Now Under Development

      LLVM/Clang 6.0 has been branched, thus making LLVM/Clang 7.0 open for development on master.

      The LLVM 6.0 branching has taken place a few weeks earlier than is traditionally done to satisfy an unnamed, large user of LLVM to jive with that company’s internal testing processes. The branching / feature development is now over but the release candidates will not begin until mid-January.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Open-source civil war: Olive branch offered in trademark spat… with live grenade attached

      A few days before the Christmas holiday, the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) made a peace offering of sorts in an ostensible effort to resolve its trademark dispute with the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC).

      In September last year, SFLC sued the SFC claiming that the SFC trademark “Software Freedom Conservancy” is confusingly similar to the SFLC’s “Software Freedom Law Center” trademark.

      The SFLC was formed in 2005 to provide legal services for open-source projects. And in 2006, it helped set up the SFC, so it could provide infrastructure support – including legal services – for open-source developers.

      That shared history and similarity of purpose has made the intellectual property dispute between two organizations rather confusing to folks in the open source community.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Jimmy Song Uses Andreas Antonopoulos Model, Open Sources Forthcoming Book

      Bitcoin core developer Jimmy Song will open source write his book, Programming Bitcoin, to be published by O’Reilly in the Fall of 2018. Mr. Song acknowledges and tells of his discussion with noted bitcoin evangelist Andreas Antonopoulos about the best way to put together a book of this kind. Mr. Antonopoulos’ Mastering Bitcoin was also put out in open source as it was being written, allowing for comments, corrections, additions by the ecosystem. It too was eventually published by O’Reilly. In fact, Mr. Antonopoulos wrote the publisher, explaining why Mr. Song was the appropriate choice for the project.

    • FarmBot Wants to Cultivate an Open-Source Future for Remote Farming

      “Farm from anywhere” is a phrase we’re likely to hear more and more of as technology enables easier access to fresh, locally grown food. We just wrote about Babylon Micro-Farms, a remote, hydroponic farm you can keep inside your living room. There’s also a healthy urban farming market: thanks to companies like Farmshelf and Smallhold, restaurants, schools, and the average consumer get better access to fresh food and more involved in the food production itself.

    • Open Access/Content
      • To combat soaring textbook costs, look to an open-source approach

        For university and college faculty, the start of a new year means it is once again time for our inboxes to be flooded with e-mails from students asking “Do I really need the textbook?” or “May I use an older edition?” And for good reason. The cost of textbooks has risen by 1,041 per cent since 1977, more than triple the rate of inflation. Textbooks can cost anywhere between $50 and $450 for a single course, accounting for up to 40 per cent of a postsecondary student’s educational costs.

        As a faculty member, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of exorbitant textbook costs on my students’ educational outcomes (for a glimpse, follow the hashtag #textbookbrokeBC). According to my latest research, published in the International Review of Research on Open and Distributed Learning, 54 per cent of B.C. students do without at least one of their required textbooks, while 27 per cent take fewer courses and 17 per cent drop courses, all because of high textbook costs. What is more, these students are more likely to hold a student loan, be working more hours a week and self-identify as a visible minority.

      • Pre-print Open Access Site arXiv Surpasses Billion Download Mark

        The pre-print database for scientists to test the peer review waters was set up in 1991 as a relatively simple electronic bulletin board on a single computer.

        Twenty-six years later, the site arXiv.org has surpassed a full billion downloads of papers – and receives more than 10 million submissions each month, they said. Scientific giants like Stephen Hawking and the physicists of the LIGO facility at Caltech have even debuted some of their latest publications on the site.

        The organizers of the database, which is housed at the Cornell University Library, said that the pre-print method is helping to push discovery and intellectual cooperation.

  • Programming/Development
    • The Rust Programming Language Blog: New Year’s Rust: A Call for Community Blogposts

      ‘Tis the season for people and communities to reflect and set goals- and the Rust team is no different. Last month, we published a blogpost about our accomplishments in 2017, and the teams have already begun brainstorming goals for next year.

      Last year, the Rust team started a new tradition: defining a roadmap of goals for the upcoming year. We leveraged our RFC process to solicit community feedback. While we got a lot of awesome feedback on that RFC, we’d like to try something new in addition to the RFC process: a call for community blog posts for ideas of what the goals should be.

      As open source software becomes more and more ubiquitous and popular, the Rust team is interested in exploring new and innovative ways to solicit community feedback and participation. We’re commited to extending and improving our community organization and outreach- and this effort is just the first of what we hope to be many iterations of new kinds of community feedback mechanisms.

    • This Week in Rust 215

      Hello and welcome to another issue of This Week in Rust! Rust is a systems language pursuing the trifecta: safety, concurrency, and speed. This is a weekly summary of its progress and community. Want something mentioned? Tweet us at @ThisWeekInRust or send us a pull request. Want to get involved? We love contributions.

  • Standards/Consortia
    • Driving Open Standards in a Fragmented Networking Landscape

      Once upon a time, standards were our friends. They provided industry-accepted blueprints for building homogeneous infrastructures that were reliably interoperable. Company A could confidently build an application and — because of standards — know that it would perform as expected on infrastructure run by Company B.

      Standards have somewhat fallen out of favor as the speed of digital innovation has increased. Today innumerable software applications are created by innumerable developers at an accelerating pace. Standards — once critical for achieving interoperability — have failed to adapt in this brave new world.

      [...]

      The bottom line is that we need to accept that “the only constant is change.” Innovation in software can bring many good things, but we need to learn how we can eliminate the silos, guard against new ones forming, create better interoperability, and simplify operational complexity. The examples above show that by taking a programmatic approach to standards, this degree of interoperability can be achieved even today.

Leftovers
  • Removing Disqus

    Disqus started showing a red notification symbol at the bottom of every post. The notification is just a distraction aimed at increasing engagement with the comments. It’s ugly and I don’t like the distraction is introduces to my posts. This is my primary complaint.

    Beyond that, there are just small annoyances. E.g. I don’t need another inbox to maintain and I think the UI is a little ugly.

  • Science
    • Physicists take first step toward cell-sized robots

      An electricity-conducting, environment-sensing, shape-changing machine the size of a human cell? Is that even possible?

      Cornell physicists Paul McEuen and Itai Cohen not only say yes, but they’ve actually built the “muscle” for one.

      With postdoctoral researcher Marc Miskin at the helm, the team has made a robot exoskeleton that can rapidly change its shape upon sensing chemical or thermal changes in its environment. And, they claim, these microscale machines – equipped with electronic, photonic and chemical payloads – could become a powerful platform for robotics at the size scale of biological microorganisms.

    • The End of Night: Global Illumination Has Increased Worldwide

      Artificial light is often seen as a sign of progress: the march of civilization shines a light in the dark; it takes back the night; it illuminates. But a chorus of scientists and advocates argues that unnaturally bright nights are bad not just for astronomers but also for nocturnal animals and even for human health.

    • Tweaking quantum dots powers-up double-pane solar windows

      Using two types of “designer” quantum dots, researchers are creating double-pane solar windows that generate electricity with greater efficiency and create shading and insulation for good measure. It’s all made possible by a new window architecture which utilizes two different layers of low-cost quantum dots tuned to absorb different parts of the solar spectrum.

      “Because of the the strong performance we can achieve with low-cost, solution-processable materials, these quantum-dot-based double-pane windows and even more complex luminescent solar concentrators offer a new way to bring down the cost of solar electricity,” said lead researcher Victor Klimov. “The approach complements existing photovoltaic technology by adding high-efficiency sunlight collectors to existing solar panels or integrating them as semitransparent windows into a building’s architecture.”

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Taking Care to Get a Mississippi Scandal Right

      I was a visitor to his rural Mississippi county; worse, I was a reporter from New York City.

      He summed up his skepticism this way: Every time Mississippi made national news, it seemed like the reporters managed to find the one toothless person in the vicinity and shove him or her in front of the camera.

      The sheriff had a point. And I had a challenge to conquer. The story I was onto was not going to flatter Mississippi. But I did promise him I would not go searching for the toothless.

    • Want to Lower Health Care Costs? Stop Wasting Our Money.

      In Maine, there’s a warehouse the size of a middle school gymnasium, stuffed with brand-new medical supplies and gently used medical equipment. Several pallets are piled with boxes of surgical sutures, still in their shrink wrap, each box worth hundreds of dollars. Tubs overflow with diabetes supplies and surgical instruments that may run hundreds of dollars apiece. There are bins of bandages and gauze and saline and ostomy bags and every other medical supply you can imagine. These materials, unexpired, could easily stock any hospital or clinic. But each item has actually been thrown away by a local medical facility.

      The cost of health care has been rising for decades, and Americans are paying the price. In a recent Gallup poll, people cited the high cost of care as their No. 1 financial concern. It’s an enormous problem, and trying to solve it all at once brings on panic and paralysis. But after reporting for a year on the ways the medical industry blows through our money, I have one idea: Let’s end the egregious waste that’s draining our health care system.

      The National Academy of Medicine has estimated the health care system wastes around $765 billion a year — about a quarter of what we spend. Eliminating all the waste could allow us to insure 150 million Americans, the Academy of Medicine said, and saving half of it could provide groceries for every household in the country for a year. Eliminating the waste would also stop our rising health care costs from eating up our wage increases. My premiums go up 9 percent next year. Same thing happened last year. Odds are your costs are rising, too.

  • Security
  • Defence/Aggression
    • Are the Wars in Syria and Iraq Finally Coming to an End?

      I spent most of the last year reporting two sieges, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, which finally ended with the decisive defeat of Isis. This was the most important event in the Middle East in 2017, though people are already beginning to forget how dangerous the Isis caliphate was at the height of its power and even in its decline. Not so long ago, its “emirs” ruled an area in western Iraq and eastern Syria which was the size of Great Britain and Isis-inspired or organised terrorists dominated the news every few months by carrying out atrocities from Manchester to Kabul and Berlin to the Sahara. Isis retains the capacity to slaughter civilians – witness events in Sinai and Afghanistan in the last few weeks – but no longer has its own powerful centrally organised state which was what made it such a threat.

    • Trump Tweets His ‘Nuclear Button’ Is ‘Much Bigger’ Than Kim Jong-un’s
    • Trump’s Vow to Support Iran Opposition Carries “No Credibility” as Demonstrations Enter Sixth Day

      As anti-government demonstrations enter their second week in Iran and spread to several key cities, President Donald Trump tweeted it’s ”TIME FOR CHANGE!” and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called for an emergency meeting to discuss the developments. “Despite the attention that these anti-government protesters have gotten over the past week, there was no indication … that this was a repeat of 2009. … This was not a mass uprising,” says Tehran-based reporter Reza Sayah. We also speak with Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council, who notes a new budget deal in Iran’s parliament that would cut government payments to the poor and raise fuel prices 50 percent was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” prior to the protests.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • U.S. court ruling complicates Trump’s elephant and lion policy

      On December 22, a federal appeals court ruled that the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) did not properly follow procedures when it banned importing elephant “trophies” – including heads, tusks, or other parts – from Zimbabwe in 2014. While the ruling was aimed at an Obama Administration policy, its impact will likely influence how the Trump administration treats trophy hunting across Africa.

      Trump’s USFWS made waves in November when it announced that it was overturning the Obama-era ban, and would allow imports of elephant trophies from Zambia and Zimbabwe, the latter which was undergoing a coup at the time.

  • Finance
    • Donald Trump’s new tax cut may ‘help’ Apple buy Netflix: Analysts
    • Was Your Smartphone Built in a Sweatshop?

      An in-depth investigation of Vietnamese Samsung production facilities peels back the shrink-wrap of Big Tech to reveal an extremely vulnerable, mostly female workforce that may be sacrificing its neurologic and reproductive health in digitized Dickensian workshops to make cutting-edge smartphones.

    • Is the U.S. at peak of industrial production?

      Back in 2012, I read an article in the New York Times that stopped me in my tracks. We were still in the midst of the jobless recovery, yet, the Times noted that “…the economy now produces as many goods and services – more, in fact – than it did before the downturn officially began in December 2007. But it does so with almost five million fewer jobs.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Voter purges: U.S. Supreme Court to decide if Ohio illegally purged voters
    • NYT’s ‘Trump Effect’ Mainly the Effect of Higher Oil Prices

      The New York Times (“The Trump Effect: Business, Anticipating Less Regulation, Loosens Purse Strings,” 1/1/18) had an article touting the fact that businesses are investing more under Donald Trump than before he was elected. It notes that non-residential investment has risen at an annual rate of 6.2 percent in the first three quarters of 2017. Reporters Binyamin Appelbaum and Jim Tankersley attribute this increase to a removal of regulations, leading to a newfound sense of confidence among investors.

      There are two important points worth noting about this increase in investment. First, it is not an especially rapid rate of growth. There have been many periods in both the recent and more distant past when it grew at a more rapid pace.

    • Trump’s Seven Forbidden Words

      There is a scene in George Orwell’s famous dystopian novel 1984, where the protagonist, Winston Smith, is having a conversation with a philologist by the name of Syme. Syme is involved in a government effort to restructure the language spoken by the novel’s upper classes, those who have power or work for the ruling party. The language is called “Newspeak.” Syme’s job is to get rid of dangerous words. Here is how he describes his task: “We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day. … The whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought. In the end we shall make thoughtcrime [having unorthodox thoughts] literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it.”

    • Could GCHQ influence Iran protests? They’ve done it before, claims researcher

      The UK government uses fake content & sockpuppet accounts on social media to infiltrate activist groups & “destroy” enemies, former hacktivist Mustafa Al-Bassam claims. A shadowy unit is known to target the Middle East, he says.

      Al-Bassam, who uses the alias TFlow, was a black hat hacker and one of the six core members of hacktivist group LulzSec. He is now a researcher and Computer Science PhD student at University College London, and says social media sites such as Twitter, BlogSpot and YouTube are being used by British intelligence agencies to pursue geopolitical goals.

    • Labour demands Theresa May reverse Toby Young appointment due to his ‘misogyny and homophobia’

      Labour has demanded Theresa May reverse the appointment of Toby Young to the board of the new universities regulator because of what it said was a history of “homophobia and misogyny”.

      It was announced last weekend that Mr Young, a right-wing journalist who has helped establish a number of free schools, is to join the board of the newly-created Office for Students.

      The move sparked an angry backlash after it emerged Mr Young had previously criticised wheelchair ramps in schools as a sign of “ghastly inclusivity” and claimed working-class students at Oxford University were “universally unattractive” and “small, vaguely deformed undergraduates”.

    • Toby Young – Unfit For Public Office

      The resistance among many – and not just those on the left – to the idea of gifting the loathsome Toby Young the taxpayer-funded sinecure of a seat on the board of the new Office for Students has now reached critical mass, so much so that the Guardian has picked up on some of the deficiencies in his candidature highlighted here on Zelo Street. Tobes has sounded appropriately regretful. But he’s not out of the woods yet.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Gawker superfans elevating cash to purchase web site out of chapter

      [They] have started a crowdsourcing campaign to raise $500,000 to try to buy Gawker out of bankruptcy.

    • Ousted Educator Tries To Talk Appeals Court Into Letting Him Sue Someone For Things Someone Else Said

      Because prudence is always in short supply but stupid is the world’s foremost renewable resource, an ousted director of a Tennessee culinary school is appealing the dismissal of a defamation suit he brought against his replacement for things a journalist said.

      The original lawsuit didn’t live long, fortunately. Heavily quoting a Tennessean article by journalist Jim Myers, Tom Loftis — the former head of the culinary school at the Nashville university — sued Randy Rayburn (Loftis’ replacement) over things Myers said.

      Loftis apparently expected his status as a private person (given more reputational protection by courts than public figures) to overcome the deficiencies of his lawsuit. But the deficiencies won and Loftis lost, having failed to show how words written by Jim Myers were somehow libelous statements issued directly by Randy Rayburn.

    • Chinese Billionaire Got A US Court To Issue An Unconstitutional Gag Order On A Critic

      Eugene Volokh has an incredible — and incredibly disturbing — story about how Jia Yueting, a Chinese billionaire, appears to have convinced a Washington state court to issue an unconstitutional gag order against a critic who lives in Washington state. Jia is famous for his company LeEco in China, as well as his attempt to create an electric car giant competitor to Tesla in the US called Faraday Future. Almost exactly a year ago, we wrote about how Faraday Future was flailing with a series of incredible stories leaking out of the company. A large number of top execs were fleeing the company and there were reports of questionable activities, including Jia demanding that Faraday Future employees design a car for LeEco, without payment or credit. In the past year, it does not appear that things have gotten much better for Jia, and he was just ordered to return to China to deal with debts that appear to be piling up.

    • Indonesia introduces new Internet censorship system

      Indonesia’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry is set to implement a new $14 million Internet censorship system from Wednesday. The new system will automatically block pornography and other content deemed to be unsuitable by the government, following years of manual monitoring which has failed to adequately police the abundance of illicit online content.

      The ministry’s Information Applications Director General Semuel Pangerapan said the machine is equipped with artificial intelligence that will crawl websites and use keywords to detect inappropriate content.

    • A Saucy App Knows China’s Taste in News. The Censors Are Worried.

      One of the world’s most valuable start-ups got that way by using artificial intelligence to satisfy Chinese internet users’ voracious appetite for news and entertainment. Every day, its smartphone app feeds 120 million people personalized streams of buzzy news stories, videos of dogs frolicking in snow, GIFs of traffic mishaps and listicles such as “The World’s Ugliest Celebrities.”

      Now the company is discovering the risks involved, under China’s censorship regime, in giving the people exactly what they want.

      The makers of the popular news app Jinri Toutiao unveiled moves this week to allay rising concerns from the authorities. Last week, the Beijing bureau of China’s top internet regulator accused Toutiao of “spreading pornographic and vulgar information” and “causing a negative impact on public opinion online,” and it ordered that updates to several popular sections of the app be halted for 24 hours.

      In response, the app’s parent company, Beijing Bytedance Technology, took down or temporarily suspended the accounts of more than 1,100 bloggers that it said had been publishing “low-quality content” on the app. It also replaced Toutiao’s “Society” section with a new section called “New Era,” which is heavy on state media coverage of government decisions.

    • A campus radio station sweats under the shadow of political censorship

      The College Fix continues to report on the frustrating case of “Deplorable Radio,” a radio program broadcast until recently from Swarthmore College’s KUMM station. The conservative radio show was yanked from the airwaves almost immediately after one of the hosts used the word “tranny” live on-air. The station manager initially claimed that the usage of that word, which is a reputedly offensive term for transgender individuals, violated federal law; station officials later walked back this claim yet listed several other administrative reasons that the show was pulled from the airwaves, such as having an unapproved guest on the show and failing to log telemetry data per the station’s guidelines.

    • Newsweek Compares Trump Blocking People on Twitter to Iran’s Internet Censorship

      Newsweek ran a story Tuesday suggesting that President Donald Trump’s habit of blocking people on Twitter was comparable to the blackout of entire sites instituted by Iran earlier this week.

      The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Trump administration has upped diplomatic pressure on Iran, demanding the regime stop blocking access to social media sites like Twitter and Instagram that were being used by protesters to organize demonstrations.

    • Iranians resist internet censorship amid deadly street protests

      Iranian authorities have blocked Instagram and other social media platforms in response to a wave of street protests across the country this week.

      The clampdown has resulted in Tor users climbing from around 6k at the beginning of December to over 10,000 at the last count as citizens seek to circumvent the controls, according to official stats.

      The Islamic Republic’s government has blocked Telegram and Instagram amid demonstrations, initially about economic conditions, in which at least 22 people have lost their lives.

    • Iran Is Blocking the Internet to Shut Down Protests

      As protests over economic instability and government censorship persist in Iran, the Hassan Rouhani government has reportedly wielded its favorite suppression tactic: blocking the internet.

      Multiple reports say the government was blocking internet on mobile networks starting on Dec. 30, including social media services like Instagram and messaging services like Telegram, to try and stop the protesters from organizing and amplifying their message. This is the biggest anti-government public demonstration since 2009.

    • US demands Iran end social media blocks

      The United States on Tuesday urged Iran to stop blocking online social media and advised its citizens to set up virtual private networks, or VPNs, to circumvent censorship.

      Steve Goldstein, the State Department’s under-secretary for public diplomacy, denounced Iran’s attempts to restrict net access and urged Iranians to find a way to log in.

      “People in Iran should be able to access these sites through VPN,” he said, adding that the State Department’s own Farsi language Facebook page has around 700,000 subscribers.

    • Iran Moves To Block Social Media Apps, Mobile Networks As Protests Spread

      The government of Iran has shut down mobile internet access and blocked apps including Telegram and Instagram after days of protests that exploded into widespread civil unrest. According to the Washington Post, at least two people are reported dead during the demonstrations, “the largest in Iran since an uprising over disputed election results shook the country eight years ago.”

      The protests began as demonstrations against Iran’s precarious economic situation – a weak oil market has undermined growth and promises of reform by President Hassan Rouhani – but quickly became focused on the theocratic government. Activists in the streets demanded Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei step down, while some even demanded the return of Iran’s pre-1979 monarchy.

    • NSA leaker Edward Snowden speaks out as Iran silences dissent on the internet

      Snowden said that state surveillance is “never about privacy. It’s about power.”

    • Moralist Upsurge in Brazil Revives Censorship of the Arts

      It is not yet an official policy because censorship is not openly accepted by the current authorities, but de facto vetoes on artistic expressions are increasing due to moralistic pressures in Brazil.

      The offensive affects the artistic world in general, not just the shows or exhibitions that have been directly canceled in recent months.

      “This affects all our work, because it dissuades us from fear of reactions and the sponsors will now think ten thousand times before supporting a work of art,” said Nadia Bambirra, an actress, theater director and acting coach.

    • Facebook facing criticism from fans of photographer Monet Nicole Moutrie’s for removing her ‘Birth Becomes Her’ video
    • Facebook slammed for censoring viral ‘Birth Becomes Her’ video designed to inspire expectant mums
    • Woman Complains Facebook Banned Her Viral Video Of Mothers Giving Birth
    • Birth photographer banned by Facebook: “Life is not against community standards”
    • Facebook Removes Viral ‘Birth Becomes Her’ Video for Some Pretty Ridiculous Reasons
    • German police accuse AfD lawmaker of incitement over anti-Muslim tweet
    • German MP’s anti-Muslim tweets spark account suspension, outcry
    • Germany’s populist AfD seeks to turn online ‘censorship’ to its advantage

      With the New Year came a new law on online hate speech in Germany, forcing Twitter and Facebook to remove content more quickly in some cases. The AfD party, no stranger to stirring the online pot, is crying “censorship.”

    • Conservative Video Producer Suing Google Over “Censorship” Pushes for Injunction

      These are just some of videos put on restricted status by YouTube. All come from Prager University, run by radio-talk-show host Dennis Prager, who in October filed a lawsuit against Google alleging censorship of conservatives. Now upping the ante, Prager demands a preliminary injunction that would prohibit YouTube from restricting viewer access to its videos absent evidence of graphic nudity, violence, profanity, obscene material, hate speech, or anything that would be considered “objectively” offensive.

      Presenting U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh with a free speech issue of “profound importance,” Prager on Friday even nodded in court to the thoughts of net neutrality supporters.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Using Haven app to secure your belongings

      No, but it will record whatever it sees or hears. There are ways to block radio signals (to make sure that Haven can not send out any notification), but that is an expensive step for an attacker to make. You can keep the phone inside of your hotel locker to record if anyone opens up the locker or make it watch your hallway at the house. Government agencies love to see what is inside of our computers/house(s), but they don’t like get recorded while doing so.

    • NSA losing top talent: report

      The NSA said its attrition rate among those specializing in science, technology and math is 5.6 percent, but, according to the newspaper, the agency’s attrition rate for hackers and those working in the watch center is about 8 or 9 percent.

    • NSA’s top talent is leaving because of low pay, slumping morale and unpopular reorganization

      The National Security Agency is losing its top talent at a worrisome rate as highly skilled personnel, some disillusioned with the spy service’s leadership and an unpopular reorganization, take higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector.

    • NSA FACES BRAIN DRAIN AMID PLUNGING MORALE, PLACING NATIONAL SECURITY AT RISK: REPORT

      The National Security Agency is facing an exodus of talent to more lucrative and flexible jobs in the private sector, The Washington Post reports.

      Current and former U.S. officials cited in the report said that hundreds of hackers, engineers and data scientists have left the spy agency since 2015, with low morale among the factors blamed for the loss of expertise.

    • Report: NSA Facing Exodus of Top Talent Amid Low Morale
    • The NSA is losing some of its best people to the private sector
    • NSA is losing talent over low pay, flagging morale and reorganization
    • DHS Documents Show Harassment And Intrusive Device Searches Are A Common Occurrence At US Borders

      There are nearly 100 pages of long, detailed complaints in the document [PDF] turned over by the DHS in response to the Knight Institute’s’ FOIA request. The incidents detailed are troubling, seemingly going beyond what’s needed to actually secure the nation’s borders. Multiple complaints show intrusive searches and questioning are routine, even if the destinations traveled to are equally routine.

    • Google eclipses Fb as the highest supply of site visitors for on-line publishers

      It‘s basically a flip from the beginning of the year: In January, Facebook provided nearly 40 percent of publishers‘ external traffic; now that‘s down to 26 percent. And Google, which started the year at 34 percent, now generates 44 percent of traffic. Parse.ly‘s data comes from some 2,500 publishers that use its analytics service, including the Wall Street Journal, Time Inc., Mashable and Huffington Post.

    • Wiretap Orders That Defy Geographical Limitations Mandated by Congress Must Not Be Tolerated

      The Supreme Court should recognize and give teeth to the critical, privacy-protecting limitations Congress placed on wiretaps, EFF told the court in an amicus brief we filed with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

      When law enforcement officials wiretap someone’s cell phone, the law doesn’t allow them to tap any phone they want anywhere in the country. The Wiretap Act (also known as “Title III” because it comes from Title III of the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Street Act) permits wiretapping, but only under the narrowest of circumstances and subject to restrictive requirements carefully drawn to protect extremely sensitive privacy interests.

    • No, Microsoft isn’t demanding your phone number to run Windows

      The latest build numbered 17063 appears to omit the “skip” button on the screen where you are asked to enter a phone number to link your account. It’s a feature that is handy for some of Windows’ cross-device services such as Cortana, but should, theoretically be optional.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Hollywood Women Declare “Time’s Up” for Sexual Abusers

      In Hollywood, more than 1,000 prominent actresses, writers and directors have launched a project aimed at combating sexual abuse and harassment in the film industry. The “Time’s Up” campaign follows on the heels of a torrent of allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment against powerful men that began with reports into sexual abuse by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The initiative seeks to raise $13 million for a legal defense fund to help working-class women bring sexual abuse charges. It also seeks to bring gender parity to Hollywood studios and talent agencies, while penalizing companies that tolerate persistent harassment. The campaign also seeks to end the use of nondisclosure agreements that silence victims. Among those participating are director Ava DuVernay, producer Kathleen Kennedy, and actors Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, Cate Blanchett, Eva Longoria and America Ferrera.

    • Appeals Court Dismisses Gang Designation Lawsuit Against The FBI Brought By Insane Clown Posse Fans

      The Sixth Circuit Appeals Court has now had the dubious privilege of hosting a legal challenge by Juggalos (as fans of the Insane Clown Posse are known). The case traces back to 2014, following the FBI’s 2011 designation of Juggalos as a gang in its National Gang Threat Assessment report.

    • Legal Footnote: You Have to Look Hard to See the Supreme Court Correct Its Mistakes

      Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court often come with great anticipation and attention, even true drama. Anxious crowds gather outside the court at dawn. Opinions first go out on paper to the waiting hands of television news interns, who sprint the documents to correspondents to be immediately deciphered on the air. Justices later announce their decisions in open court, and occasionally read aloud the opinions.

      But when the court fixes mistakes in its opinions, it does so very quietly. No press releases. No public reading of corrections. For most of the court’s history, the justices have only signaled their fixes and edits by adding the word “modified” in small type to newly issued print and digital versions of the opinions.

      The changes thus have proved hard to find — not just for the general public, but for lawyers and judges and scholars of the law.

      Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, an advocacy group pushing for judicial transparency, thinks that’s a problem.

    • Texas Cops Arrest Journalist For Publishing Confidential Info Given To Her By A Police Officer

      Something with a hint of retaliatory ugliness has reared its head in Laredo, Texas. Citizen journalist Priscilla Villarreal has been arrested for releasing information Texas law enforcement meant to keep secret. Villarreal — a.k.a. Lagordiloca — has been an unofficial fixture of Laredo nightlife for a few years now, cruising the town after dark to livestream footage of newsworthy events. She’s well-known to local law enforcement, though not exactly well-liked, which may have something to do with her recent legal troubles.

    • Police Training Firm Dumps Interrogation Technique Linked To Multiple False Confessions

      There may be a significant shift in police interrogation methods over the next several years. The Marshall Project reports one of the nation’s largest police consulting firms is abandoning a technique that has been used by a majority of law enforcement agencies over the last six decades. It’s called the Reid Technique, and it’s been linked to a large number of false confessions. But after fifty-plus years of religious reliance on the technique, the consulting firm says it’s no longer going to be training officers to deploy it.

    • Reporting Recipe: Investigating Your Police Department’s Handling of Hate Crime Reports

      As part of our Documenting Hate project, we posted a story detailing how and why law enforcement agencies mishandle hate crime data, which they’re asked to report annually to the Federal Bureau of Investigations. We’re opening up the records we collected for that story so journalists can assess how their local law enforcement agencies they cover measure up.

      In the course of our reporting, several large police departments told us that their lack of records on hate crimes reflected the fact that their citizens weren’t often the victims of such crimes. But our reporting found evidence of spotty record keeping across the country, in departments large and small. Some agencies, like Miami-Dade’s county police, told ProPublica that they had failed to fill out forms that would identify crimes as having a bias motivation, even when the evidence supported such a classification. Other agencies sent us records of crimes they marked as bias-motivated but were omitted from their reports to the FBI.

    • How a Local Bureaucrat Made Millions Amid the Rush to Build a Border Fence

      A decade ago, Congress gave officials at the Department of Homeland Security a year to build 60 miles of fence in the Rio Grande Valley to protect the Texas-Mexico border.

      They faced determined resistance. Political leaders denounced the border fence as wasteful and ineffective. Landowners refused to sell their property for its construction. Environmentalists argued it would slice up habitat for endangered species in one of the most biodiverse regions in the country.

      The officials found a savior in a politically savvy bureaucrat named Godfrey Garza Jr.

      A shrewd county insider, Garza ran an obscure agency that had plans to repair 22 miles of crumbling dirt levees running along the Rio Grande, the riverine border between Texas and Mexico. Garza helped negotiate a deal: If Homeland Security would pay to fix the levees, the feds could build their fence on top of them.

    • Neo-Nazi Who Calls for ‘Slaughter’ of Jewish Children Is of Jewish Descent, His Mom Says

      A reclusive neo-Nazi who co-runs the white supremacist Daily Stormer website, and recently said Jewish children “deserve to die,” has Jewish relatives on “both sides of his family,” his mother told Newsweek.

      Andrew “Weev” Auernheimer, who handles the technical side of Stormer alongside editor Andrew Anglin, said on a podcast last month that Jews were to blame for the website’s loss of its dot com address after a white man allegedly killed peaceful protester Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August. Subsequently, the site has been forced to jump around the internet.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Comcast & The Cable Industry Greets The New Year With A Flurry Of Price Increases

      What do you do when you’re faced by an existential, evolutionary shift that threatens your entire, overly-comfortable industry? Why you raise rates, of course! Comcast is one of six cable providers who have informed customers that they’ve raised the rates for the new year, despite the record-setting shift toward cord cutting during 2017. Everything Comcast offers is seeing price hikes of some kind, ranging from increases in the company’s traditional channel bundles, a price increase for Comcast’s standalone streaming platform, and even the fee charged for renting a modem (which is now $11 per month).

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Regeneron v. Merus: Sui Generis or a Regener-ating Fact Pattern?

      Although the District Court and Federal Circuit decisions reasonably cause concern among many patent prosecutors that the actions of a later attorney enforcing a patent during litigation could be used to establish an inequitable conduct ruling impugning the prosecuting attorney, we respectfully argue that Regeneron presents a rather nuanced fact pattern that should not be broadly applied—especially when the prosecuting counsel does not direct litigation strategy and tactics.

    • AgJunction Files Patent Infringement Lawsuit Against Raven Industries

      AgJunction Inc. (TSX: AJX) (“AgJunction” or the “Company”), through its wholly-owned subsidiary Novariant, Inc., a leader in automated steering and machine control technology for precision agriculture, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the Western District of Texas against Raven Industries, Inc. (“Raven”). The lawsuit alleges that Raven products violate three AgJunction patents related to automated mechanical steering, implement steering and system calibration technologies.

      “AgJunction has one of the most comprehensive steering and machine control IP portfolios in the industry,” said Bob Barjesteh, vice president of intellectual property and general counsel for AgJunction. “These assets are critical components of our corporate strategy and integral to the success of our business and that of our partners. After several attempts to negotiate with Raven, we are left with no choice but to assert three of our patents, which are vital to hands-free steering and machine control functions.”

    • Using Patent Data For Drug Development [Ed: As if the only source of information out there is patents...]

      It is a well-known fact that developing new drugs is a financially risky endeavor. The average cost of a new drug is $2.6 billion, including drug failures and time spent, according to the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. To compound this daunting math, only 12% of drugs entering clinical trials result in an approved medicine.

    • Copyrights
      • What Could Have Entered The Public Domain On January 1, 2018?

        Current US law extends copyright for 70 years after the date of the author’s death, and corporate “works-for-hire” are copyrighted for 95 years after publication. But prior to the 1976 Copyright Act (which became effective in 1978), the maximum copyright term was 56 years—an initial term of 28 years, renewable for another 28 years. Under those laws, works published in 1961 would enter the public domain on January 1, 2018, where they would be “free as the air to common use.” Under current copyright law, we’ll have to wait until 2057.1 And no published works will enter our public domain until 2019. The laws in other countries are different—thousands of works are entering the public domain in Canada and the EU on January 1.

      • Hopefully For The Last Time: The US Has Zero New Works Enter The Public Domain On January 1st

        For many years now, during the first week of January, we write a post about Public Domain Day. That’s the day — January 1st — where works that have reached the statutory limit reach the public domain. The Public Domain Review has an excellent collection of the Class of 2018 — showing what works entered the public domain this week in the “life plus 50″ copyright countries (Canada, New Zealand, and many countries in Asia and Africa) and the “life plus 70″ copyright countries (most of the EU, Brazil, Israel, Russia, Turkey, Nigeria). For life plus 70 countries, the works of Aleister Crowley and Winston Churchill are now in the public domain. For the life plus 50 countries, Rene Magritte’s paintings, the song compositions of Woody Guthrie and Otis Redding, and the writings of Jean Toomer are now in the public domain — among many others.

        Except, as we note each and every year, there is no such “graduating class” in the US. Because, thanks to Disney’s heavy lobbying, copyright keeps getting extended and extended and extended. If you’re interested, the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University has also put together its depressing annual “What Could Have Entered the Public Domain…” list for the US, if the law had remained as it was prior to 1978, when the maximum length of copyright was 56 years. Under that setup, Josepher Heller’s Catch-22, Salinger’s Franny & Zooey and Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land all would have entered the public domain. Grok that. Movies including Breakfast at Tiffany’s, West Side Story, and The Guns of Navarone all would have entered the public domain as well.

IBM Has Become Almost Indistinguishable From the Patent Trolls It Passes Patents to (Finjan for Example)

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 08:57:41 PM

IBM has become another Microsoft

Summary: IBM and Microsoft have adopted a similar patent strategy which involves threatening a lot of companies for ‘protection’ money and passing patents to patent trolls that threaten these same companies some more

THE life cycle or the lifespan of patents at the USPTO is typically 20 years. This means that many patents preceding the dot com bust are about to expire.

IBM is a dying company. It’s just trying to make money from a dying empire of mainframes which, in the age of hosting VMs/VPSs (so-called ‘cloud’), is worth zilch. IBM has already fired many of its ‘expensive’ employees and it now operates like a classic patent troll. As WIPR has just put it (in the headline), “IBM settles patent suit, sues Expedia over same patents” (like every patent troll).

Technology multinational IBM settled a patent dispute with a company that manages travel websites, one day before suing US travel company Expedia over the same four patents.

In 2015, WIPR reported that IBM had taken action against The Priceline Group, which manages travel websites such as priceline.com, and had alleged infringement of four patents.

The patents asserted include two that were issued in the late 1990s: US numbers 5,796,967 and 5,961,601. The ‘967 patent tracks previous conversations online between a web user and a merchant, and the ‘601 patent covers technology related to web performance.

Both sound like software patents which are about to expire. Trolling much, IBM? This desperate?

Let’s not forget that IBM also sold patents to this troll called Finjan last year. We wrote about its latest attack in the morning and it turns out that we were right. The press release (still being circulated) was hogwash as earlier this evening financial media made it clearer that was not licensing but blackmail. “Finjan (FNJN) Settles With FireEye for a Net $12.5 Million,” it says, so that’s nothing like “cross licensing” (as the press release suggested). To quote:

Finjan (NASDAQ:FNJN) announced today that it settled with FireEye for a net $12.5 in cash that was paid in Q4 2017. With this payment, Finjan will redeem about 31% of the Series A-1 preferred shares or $4.7 million of the $15.3 million Series A-1 Preferred Stock financing. From December 16, 2017 to March 16, 2018 Finjan is able to redeem this stock at 1.3 times the original purchase price. FireEye agreed to pay Finjan $17.5 million in license fees comprised of $12.5 million in cash which was paid on December 29, 2017, and $5.0 million which will be offset by $5 million in license fees from Finjan to FireEye under the FireEye cross license agreement.

What we have here is a publicly-traded troll. We named another one this morning. This troll is connected to both Microsoft and IBM, both of which have a track record of passing patents to aggressive trolls. What does that make Microsoft and IBM?

Translation Shows That Carl Josefsson and Christoph Ernst Refuse to Comment on EPO Injustice as It Might Embarrass Battistelli

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 08:10:48 PM

As if they too are subservient to Battistelli, who is supposed to have no authority over them…

Original/translation: SUEPO’s translation [PDF] | Original in German

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from the Birmingham Jail

Summary: An investigative article/journalism from Mathieu Klos and Christina Schulze, which contains few unknown details, did attempt to get a comment from heads of the Administrative Council and the Boards of Appeal, but both acted as though they are afraid of Benoît Battistelli and Željko Topić (Battistelli did play a role in appointment of a President at the Boards of Appeal, as well as his own successor’s, Campinos)

Disciplinary incident at the European Patent Office: Pyrrhic victory for suspended judge

For years an Irish judge has not been allowed to get to his former place of work at the European Patent Office, because Office boss Benoît Battistelli had banned him from entering the building, but as of last week the man is once again back as a member of the Boards of Appeal at the European Patent Office (EPO). President of the Boards of Appeal, Carl Josefsson, has implemented two judgments by the Administrative Tribunal of the International Labour Organization (ILOAT). The Tribunal had ordered that the judge be reinstated. But he will only be able to exercise his duties as a judge for a few days, until the end of the year; the Administrative Council will not be extending his term of office.

So far the situation has not been confirmed by any official source. When asked, the President of the Administrative Council, Dr. Christoph Ernst, told JUVE that the gathering of the 38 EPO Member States would not voice an opinion in this confidential staff matter. The Administrative Council is the disciplinary supervisory body for members of the Boards of Appeal. Josefsson, too, who as President of the Boards of Appeal, is the hierarchy superior of the judge concerned, declined to make any comment.

According to an internal memo, however, which is in JUVE’s possession, on 11 December Josefsson did allow the judge the right to enter the building, and he thereupon resumed his work. The case of the judge had been a feature of the heated debate about the independence of the Boards of Appeal since December 2014. It was only in September that the Boards of Appeal moved out of the main building in Munich city centre to Haar on the outskirts, a consequence of the reform of the EPO court, which is intended to make it more independent of the Office and its President. The day after the decision in the case of the Irish judge the celebrations were held marking the move into the new service building.

The judge’s term of service concludes at the end of the year as part of a cycle of five years. The Administrative Council clearly could not agree to an extension. The Irishman’s name does not appear on the list of reappointed judges who are still in office. In the past, the reappointment of EPO judges has always been a formality, but because his term of office is not being extended the judge will revert to his former activity as a patent examiner. This will mean that for disciplinary matters he will no longer be subject to the Administrative Council but directly to the EPO President.

Accusations against the judge not clarified

The matter all started exactly three years ago. In December 2014, Office President Battistelli imposed a ban on the Irishman entering the building, and pushed through his suspension by way of the Administrative Council. The reason was the accusation that the man had passed on information which was not approved for the public domain, and had made critical comments about the Boards of Appeal and the controversial Director of the EPO, Željko Topić. The judge has always protested his innocence, and any infringement of EPO regulations has to the last always been denied.

It has already been six months since a decision by the Enlarged Board of Appeal with regard to bias on the part of its own chief executive due to his tasks in the management of the EPO triggered the discussion about the independence of the EPO Court. The ban on the Irish judge entering the building had been seized on by many critics as proof that Office President Battistelli was getting too involved with the dealings of the Court. The supervisory and disciplinary body responsible for the members of the Boards of Appeal is actually the Administrative Council of the EPO.

The case also heated up the discussion about how to deal with disciplinary proceedings. In formal terms, an EPO judge can only be suspended by the Administrative Council if the Enlarged Board of Appeal recommends this. But last year the court refused to do so, after Battistelli intervened in writing in the proceedings which were in hand. The Enlarged Board of Appeal regarded this as another massive exertion of influence, and ended to proceedings without a recommendation.

International Labour Tribunal awards suspended judge compensatory damages

The case reached its most recent climax at the beginning of December, when the ILOAT in Geneva decided, in two of four appeals by the judge, that he must be reinstated (File Refs. 3958 and 3960). The highest labour court for staff members of international organizations also awarded the EPO judge a total of 35,000 Euro as compensation for moral damages and for loss of service income, plus 5 percent interest on the missed remuneration.

Many observers then demanded his permanent reinstatement. “In view of the massive procedural errors, confirmed by the Enlarged Boards of Appeal and now also by the ILOAT, failure to reappoint him represents a further violation by the EPC”, the judge’s attorney, Senay Okyay, told JUVE: “We shall of course be pursuing to the full all legal recourses which are available to my client”.

Unlike the situation before the decision by the Administrative Council, in the first instance the judge no longer has the option of another approach to the ILOAT open to him. He must now first go through the wearisome internal appeal procedure. (Mathieu Klos, Christina Schulze)

Battistelli’s Attacks on Judge Corcoran Threaten Not Only the EPC But Also UPC

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 07:48:06 PM


Michelangelo’s slave sculpture

Summary: Lack of independence, or judges’ ‘bondage’ to Battistelli, isn’t just a violation of the most fundamental rules (and spirit) of the institution but also a clear barrier to a system which extends breadth of impact to enforcement/litigation

THE situation at the EPO sort of resumes where it stopped before Christmas, with Judge Corcoran ending up on the other side of the fence (Battistelli’s). DG1 is under the direct control of Team Battistelli.

“I think you work with an out of date Codex (the employee contract),” one person wrote today in response to claims that DG3 is unable to complain about Battistelli, e.g. in a German court. The comment emphasises that “the relevant article is now Art. 19? And it has very limited exceptions in sub-clauses.”

This person wasn’t alone. Another one said:

Please refer to Article 41 of the EPO Service Regulations.

Many BoA members were “permanent employees” prior to appointment and remain so afterwards.
There is room for argument about those who worked elsewhere prior to appointment.
But if they are not recognised as “permanent employees” then their employment situation is even more precarious as they would not enjoy the protection of Article 41 (3) of the Service Regulations.

… would it not rather prove the point that the Boards of Appeal are not truly independent if the President could forbid them from providing evidence on this subject in a court of law.

It is rumoured that some members of the Boards wanted to participate in an interview about the current situation with an IP magazine.
According to Article 20 of the Service Regulations the President should have to give his permission but “Permission for publication of
a work by a member of a Board may only be refused with the agreement
of the authority referred to in Rule 12(1) of the Implementing Regulations
to the EPC 2000.”

It is said that when a signal of disapproval came from the 10th floor those involved ran for cover and did not risk a confrontation by referring the matter to the “the authority referred to in Rule 12(1) of the Implementing Regulations”.

All rumours and hearsay and no documentation I know.
But such is the state of affairs at the EPO these days.

“Apart from the absurdity of requiring Board members to seek permission from the President to comment on the issue of their independence, there is something else that I find strange about the application of the Service Regulations to the Boards,” said the next comment, which is pretty informative:

If there is anything to the hearsay, then I can only comment that this is a very sad state of affairs indeed.

Apart from the absurdity of requiring Board members to seek permission from the President to comment on the issue of their independence, there is something else that I find strange about the application of the Service Regulations to the Boards. That is, is it not strange that the Boards of Appeal should be bound by Regulations, the drafting of which is de facto controlled by the President – especially if those Regulations could be shown to compromise the independence of the Boards of Appeal?

However, there may be a way out. This is because it seems to me that one could argue that, where Article 20(1) conflicts with Article 15(2) (“Members of the Boards shall, both in the performance of their duties and otherwise, conduct themselves in such a manner as not to detract from confidence in their independence”), it is the provisions of the latter that should prevail. This is because it is surely more important to maintain confidence in the independence of the Boards than it is for the President to have control over “non-public” information regarding the practicalities of how the Office is managed.

Whichever way the cookie crumbles, it would certainly make for an interesting situation if a court (such as the BVerfG), or a party to court proceedings, were to make a formal request for a member of the Boards of Appeal to provide expert evidence on the extent to which independence of the Boards is guaranteed (both in theory and in practice) under the EPC and associated rules and regulations. No doubt the President would object but this would at least bring the issue to a head (and, hopefully, to a resolution).

Workers of the Office, which now includes Corcoran, cannot speak out against Battistelli (except anonymously). Not even staff representatives are courageous enough to speak out as often as they used to (SUEPO’s site has not been updated for weeks; it was finally updated with a couple of links earlier today).

“What’s worth noting is that even UPC boosters (who actively lobby for it) aren’t happy with Battistelli’s ‘reforms’, which some believe are intended to usher in the UPC.”Today, linking to its ‘magazine’ (quarterly publication), the EPO said: “A team of eight at the EPO in Vienna ensure that customers have access to the patent information they need, in the format they require.”

They actually use the word “customers” and they make it sound as though these “customers” are very happy. But they’re not. See this long new thread from a UPC proponent, who is also a “customer” of the EPO. “Hi #EPO watchers,” he wrote. “Just heard of new internal instructions for Examiners to issue Summons if there are *any* outstanding objections after 1st A94(3) comm. Can anyone confirm? [] my colleague tells me this is from an “EPO-wide memo” (so not confined to a particular division) but it is for “internal distribution only” and so the Examiner couldn’t give exact wording (?!). Agree, this is all rather concerning. [] I think one of (many) troubling things about this, and other recent “reforms”, is that it takes as its base assumption the idea that the Examiner is correct – while simultaneously depriving the Examiner of the time and opportunity to consider their position in detail.”

What’s worth noting is that even UPC boosters (who actively lobby for it) aren’t happy with Battistelli’s ‘reforms’, which some believe are intended to usher in the UPC.

“When asked by Ars, the EPO’s spokesperson mentioned the imminent arrival of the unitary patent system as an important reason for revising the EPO’s internal rules…”

Dr. Glyn Moody

Job Applicants at the EPO Disappointed, Reference Made in Interview to Slavery

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 07:17:31 PM

Summary: Working conditions at the EPO, as well as recruitment standards, have taken a plunge under Battistelli and Bergot as head of Human Resources (HR)

LIFE at the EPO is hard; salary may be better framed as “compensation” because for many workers there’s neither pride nor thrill in the job. It isn’t scholarly but more like a production line and stress levels are very high. Notoriously so; and it gets worse over time with growing ‘production’ pressure.

Someone has just left the following comment in Kluwer Patent Blog:

Please accept as new year gift one more Russian word for your list:

gulag.

This is how we feel. Emprisoned and powerless in our (golden?) cages. Blindly undergoing useless restructuring (for example, in the next 3 months everyone will be moving office room at the EPO), scared to speak out for fear of retaliation (every month a list of colleagues who “end service” for no reason is published on our intranet ). Everyone wanting to listen and possibly publish our incredible stories having been silenced anyway.

Counting the days left (180) until “le roi” is gone. Hoping that we don’t end up with an “o rei” at his place.

Like we said before, it’s hard to believe in “instant impact” when Campinos comes; much of the same management and policies shall remain in place. Undoing these policies probably won’t even be on the agenda.

We have meanwhile heard from a reader about declining recruitment standards at the EPO; the HR department, led by Bergot, is struggling. Standards deteriorate as people lose interest in joining the EPO and many talented workers are leaving. This isn’t a theory/hypothesis but something that many insiders privately and publicly (albeit anonymously) talk about.

One such person told us: “Here are some of the last reviews that some applicants gave on the site Glassdoor.de (a job hunting site) about EPO after they had their experience. This is at present all the information I’ve got: they try to recruit and to keep an attractive profile as an employer, but their culture is too crooked to not show for what it is at some point.”

The reviews are largely negative. Most of the relevant answers are in English.

“In the links to further answers you can find also people showing surprise for the negative descriptions,” the person added, “but some other (more) actually confirming they have no surprise about that type of behaviour from EPO. Most answers and reviews are in English; only the site (in my case at least) has most descriptions of paragraphs and entries in German. You can set the language…”

Here are three in English, starting with the old one:

Application

“The procedure took more than 2 months. It took plance in January 2008 at EPO Munich

Interview talk

Intial interview was asking how I would interpret a chemical structure, is it new or not. If a knew a few pharmaceutical ingredients. Read a text in French/German and understand it. My french was a bit weak, but got a second HR interview. This was also ok, usual questions. Then had to wait 1.5 months, until I phoned them, then they said on the phone no…..strange!

Maybe at the time they could afford to turn people down. But now, in late 2017, here are the two reviews that are listed:

Application

Procedure took 6 weeks, talk held in EPO Munich.

Interview talk

The EPO selection process has 3 stages. Online test for personality and logic. Apparently personality does not really matter at this stage. Then skype meeting to discuss patent with your future coworker. Then you skype with an external worker which test your personality. Beware if you are a little bit creative of have a little bit too much of personality. They are looking for malleable people to follow their direction.Finally you get to meet the people in persons. This is when they almost harassed me and I was saved by another person who was in charge to check the interview process was fair. This job has nothing to do with innovation, you will get to scroll down and read a certain number of patents per day. They also are looking for very diligent people who will stay forever with them and follow whatever direction they are told. In my case I was applying for a certain technical field for which I got accepted and got the technical interview in another technical field. I had prepared the technical interview for weeks by learning the relevant vocabulary in the 3 languages and had a technical interview which had nothing to do with that. They suddenly to change the field without letting me know in advance. To me this was truly unprofessional. I had the same feeling of lack of professionalism when they invite me to come to the interview a week in advance but gave me half of the money to pay a plane ticket. I had to request more money and it worked and I can imagine some shy individual would not do so. Please ask for them to reimburse the full cost of the interview. In my case I would have paid about 1000euros out of pocket to come.

Finally the real live interview was shocking with references to slavery as a joke about the job and pushy personal comments.

Read that last sentence again.

Also this:

Application

I applied personally. The procedure took more than 3 months. Talk held in March 2017 at EPO The Hague (The Netherlands).

Interview talk

Quite long, although admin at the interview stage was adequate. Well…maybe if they didn’t come and pick me up from the gate as security didn’t inform them of my arrival. Interview panel of three people of which one was staff association. Chairman at the end started eating (this is how much respect a candidate gets). Questions unrelated to the job, at least for an HR post would expect most competency…

Competency in HR? Led by a person who leaped many pay grades presumably owing to family connections?

The EPO has a pattern of threatening people to remove texts the managers don’t like, so we’ve preserved the above (excluding what’s in German as this isn’t a German-speaking site, unlike the original). The responses to these seem to include actual EPO staff, maybe even the HR department (for example here). Words like “fake testimony” are being brought up; welcome to Trumpist ‘logic’…

Microsoft-Connected Trolls Like Finjan Are Still Blackmailing Companies That Compete With Microsoft

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 10:44:39 AM


Phil Hartstein, CEO of Finjan (Photo credit: Courtesy), via Times of Israel

Summary: Finjan, a patent troll which pretends to be a legitimate company, continues to shake down legitimate companies for their cash and TC Heartland is currently the best available legal instrument for curtailing patent trolls (litigious tourism)

THERE IS a profound issue when the USPTO grants software patents (it doesn’t happen so much anymore) or allows mass reassignment of patents. One particular patent troll, Finjan which is Microsoft-connected and buys patents of other companies in order to bolster the trolling (Microsoft does plenty of that these days), successfully blackmails a real company right after Christmas and then it falsely frames it as “cross-licensing” (whilst hiding the sum paid as ‘protection’ money by the company, FireEye). It’s partly a publicity stunt we suppose; there are many ongoing cases which this troll initiated against similar companies and it wants those companies too to ‘settle’ (pay ‘protection’ money). From its press release:

Finjan Holdings, Inc. (Nasdaq:FNJN) and FireEye, Inc. (NASDAQ:FEYE) today announced they entered into Confidential Patent License Agreements on December 29, 2017, whereby the companies resolved all pending litigation matters and granted each other cross-licenses going forward.

Finjan is such a disgusting troll that even former staff/advisers link to Techrights and publicly berate Finjan (which previously paid them a salary). The press (as in mainstream media) barely covers this and the press release is so misleading that we suppose FireEye was forced to go along with it…

Microsoft does the same thing; it blackmails companies and then, as part of the settlement, it’s agreed that they will paint the whole thing as amicable. What a load of nonsense. Classic trolling!

What can be done to stop trolling? Well, it may be some time before they’re altogether eliminated. Some trolls are so large that they are publicly-traded. One such troll is InterDigital, which was mentioned here last year and most past years, e.g. [1, 2]. Andy Nguyen wrote a fiscal analysis of it, soon to be cited by another troll (Dominion Harbor). It happened just the other day (one troll bragging about another patent troll, InterDigital). Nguyen said:

I’ve put together a small checklist, which I believe provides a ballpark estimate of their financial health status.

Not a single word is said about what InterDigital actually does. It doesn’t really do anything. It’s a troll. It’s a litigation and patent aggression entity.

Anyway, help may be on the way. TC Heartland already limits the operating space of trolls. It restricts their movement. The Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA), according to this, already spins this trolls ‘killer’. As we noted on the last day of last year, the case 'kills' many trolls and they expect to discuss that a week from now:

The Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) will be offering a program on “The Ramifications of TC Heartland and Recent Decisions About Venue in Patent Cases” on January 10, 2018 from 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm (EST) at the FCBA office in Washington, DC. Andew R. Sommer of Winston & Strawn LLP will moderate a panel consisting of Gregory A. Castanias of Jones Day, Douglas A. Cawley of McKool Smith, Tara D. Elliot of WilmerHale, Richard Rainey of Covington, and Jen Yokoyama, Senior Counsel, Apple Inc. The panel will explore the Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands and the Federal Circuit’s decisions in In re Cray and In re Micron and how these decisions are shifting the patent litigation landscape. The panel will also discuss the shift of cases out of Texas and the increase in filings in Delaware, and explore how practice before the district courts has changed in light of TC Heartland.

Notice how many of these represent trolls (e.g. McKool Smith). Expect this to be an echo chamber of trolls/troll apologists and foes of TC Heartland. Quite frankly as usual…

Then there are judges like Gilstrap, which is an utter disgrace to his occupation, not just because he’s pro-patent trolls and a patents maximalist but because he’s against justice itself (he famously disregards the law and even rulings from the Supreme Court because, according to him, what matters is that he just brings money for his district, which currently depends on attracting trolls). Suffice to say, Gilstrap ignores TC Heartland too and it got pretty serious last year. Politicians are berating Gilstrap and even scolding (calling him “reprehensible”).

According to this first post of the year from Patently-O, there are still attempts to identify and exploit ambiguity in TC Heartland:

I previously wrote about Judge Gilstrap’s decision in BigCommerce and the somewhat complex issue of venue in multi-district states. Even though BigCommerce is a Texas corporation, it argues that venue is improper in E.D.Tex. because the company HQ is in Austin (S.D.Tex.). Judge Gilstrap disagreed and now Mark Lemley and his team have filed a petition for writ of mandamus to the Federal Circuit.

[...]

The law of Stonite: In Stonite the Supreme Court was interpreting a prior version of 1400(b), but confirmed that “an inhabitant of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania” could not be sued for patent infringement in the “in the Western District of that State” without a “regular and established place of business” in that Western District. As I previously wrote, a major “problem with Stonite is its cryptic language and that the prior statute used the word ‘inhabitant’ instead of ‘resident.’”

We are still wishing and hoping that the patent system will have patents enforced only in districts that are relevant and only by entities which actually make something (other than litigation). Patents, after all, were justified as facilitators of innovation by information sharing, not as a tool of extortion used by opportunists who never invented anything (other than methods for squeezing patents for money, usually by threatening the most vulnerable).

2017 a Good Year for the US Appeal Board Dealing With Patents (PTAB): Another All-Time Record, Invalidating Low-Quality US Patents

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 09:44:39 AM

Related: Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Defended by Technology Giants, by Small Companies, by US Congress and by Judges, So Why Does USPTO Make It Less Accessible?

Summary: Some good news for the start of the year as the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) receives a record number of petitions in spite of the fees going up

THE USPTO‘s Director recently had PTAB fees raised considerably (price hikes), but that wasn’t enough to stop PTAB.

According to a longtime PTAB tracker, in spite of all the FUD and the immature smears from the patent microcosm, PTAB still breaks new records and last year was another record year. Here are the numbers:

A record number of PTAB petitions were filed last year, edging out 2015’s figure by one, according to data pulled from the Docket Navigator database. PGRs were more popular than CBMs for the first time last year

The number of petitions filed at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) in 2017 was one higher than the previous record, according to figures pulled by Managing IP from the Docket Navigator database.

“We expect that later this year the Supreme Court will legitimise PTAB even further.”Don’t assume that PTAB bashers will let it be; they will continue to do anything within their capacity to eliminate or at least slow down PTAB. We shall be watching them. Now that PTAB IPRs are more expensive, and a potentially new Director will be appointed soon, there may be more attacks on PTAB on their way and a possible slowdown too (fee increases lead to that). “Foley & Lardner will be offering a webinar entitled “PTAB — A Year in Review” on January 18, 2018 from 1:00 to 2:00 pm (CST),” says this page, but remember that Foley & Lardner is part of the patent microcosm, so this “webinar” (fancy word for marketing) will do much of the expected things, just like other “webcasts” advertised a few days ago in this blog, e.g. [1, 2].

We expect that later this year the Supreme Court will legitimise PTAB even further. The Oil States case certainly seems to be heading in that direction, judging by early hearings (transcripts thereof).

EPO Management Claims “Higher Quality Patents” and Everyone at the EPO Knows That It’s a Face-Saving Lie

Wednesday 3rd of January 2018 07:49:03 AM

Starting the new year with old lies


Source (original): Rospatent

Summary: Structures and procedures that helped ensure high patent quality (e.g. the Boards of Appeal) are under unprecedented attacks and a new statement — with Benoît Battistelli’s fingerprints all over it — is this year’s first example of lies as the norm at the European Patent Organisation

THE EPO scandals and EPO lies are nothing new. They’re routine now; it’s almost mundane.

Check out the latest “news” item from the EPO’s site (warning: epo.org link). It was published yesterday, claiming “higher quality patents,” as usual. This is a lie. Every paragraph contains lies. Basically, the EPO continues to disregards the law, the truth, and human lives. It just cannot be trusted. To quote: “The European Patent Office has completed an internal re-organisation which will enhance the efficiency of its patenting process. The move is also expected to foster the timeliness of the patent granting procedure for users and contribute to higher quality patents and services.”

People are also complaining about the quality of services, but the EPO will never publicly acknowledge that. As usual, they’re interjecting Benoît Battistelli into everything in this “news” item. It’s him who has been responsible for many of the scandals.

“This is the best opportunity to get a closer look a the activity of the Boards of Appeal,” the EPO wrote yesterday, advertising internships again.

The Boards of Appeal urgently require actual full-time staff, not interns. Battistelli wants to destroy them through (DG3 as a whole). It’s a violation of the EPC. Nobody new was hired and they’ve just lost Patrick Corcogan, a valuable technical judge.

In light of suggestions that DG3 members ought to give testimonies in German courts (e.g. Patrick Corcogan, now in DG1, after his mistreatment), a new comment was posted to say that it’s rather unlikely to happen due to fear of retribution and “would it not rather prove the point that the Boards of Appeal are not truly independent if the President could forbid them from providing evidence on this subject in a court of law?”

Obviously.

If they cannot speak to the constitutional court about what Battistelli is doing, it will make opposition to the UPC harder.

Speaking of the UPC, IAM used to spread fake news about UPC in Spain [1, 2]; that culminated last year. This week it gives this “[r]ough translation – “From 1st January, Spanish SMEs and entrepreneurs which wish to do so can submit their PCT applications in English as well as Spanish, and conduct all proceedings before the Spanish Patent Office in English”” (Spanish here).

So forget about the UPC; they too know it’s not happening. They already come up with language bridges that aren’t UPC.

Donald Zuhn has just noted that UPC’s forever promises go quite a while back. “After making it onto our 2012 and 2013 lists,” he said, “the unitary patent and Unified Patent Court (UPC) initiatives took a three-year sabbatical from our top stories list.” It will probably disappear again this year because the UPC is stuck. It cannot move on.

“Alfalahi, Birss, Campinos, Cao and Nokia,” according to IAM, are the “IP [sic] personalities of 2017,” but when patent trolls like Kasim Alfalahi, judges like Colin Birss (rules for trolls' interests) and António Campinos (amid EPO scandals) are top picks, what does that say about IAM? Here’s what IAM’s editor said about Campinos:

Antonio CAMPINOS – In July, the Administrative Council of the European Patent Organisation did something that it had never done before and invited applications to be the next president of the European Patent Office (EPO). Previously, the appointment has been made behind closed doors following a secretive election process with no criteria given as to why the successful candidate got the job. But this time we know exactly what it is that the Council requires of António Campinos, who will succeed current incumbent Benoît Batistelli on 1st July 2018. The job spec provides a benchmark against which to judge Campinos’s success – and such a level of transparency has previously been unknown at the EPO and it would be nice to think it will be followed by a lot more in the future (though don’t hold your breath on that one!). It always looked like the job as described in the July announcement was a perfect fit for Campinos, who as executive director of the EU IP Office has established a strong reputation as a political operator while keeping sometimes fractious national agencies onside, ensuring a top class service for users and maintaining an amicable relationship with staff members. They are skills he is going to need in spades in his new job.

How gently worded; and the list goes on in part 2 (probably to be published later today)…

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    The open-source Xen virtualization hypervisor is widely deployed by enterprises and cloud providers alike, which benefit from the continuous innovation that the project delivers. In a video interview with ServerWatch, Lars Kurth, Chairman of the Xen Project Advisory Board and Director, Open Source Solutions at Citrix, details some of the recent additions to Xen and how they are helping move the project forward.
  • The Gravity of Kubernetes
    Most new internet businesses started in the foreseeable future will leverage Kubernetes (whether they realize it or not). Many old applications are migrating to Kubernetes too. Before Kubernetes, there was no standardization around a specific distributed systems platform. Just like Linux became the standard server-side operating system for a single node, Kubernetes has become the standard way to orchestrate all of the nodes in your application. With Kubernetes, distributed systems tools can have network effects. Every time someone builds a new tool for Kubernetes, it makes all the other tools better. And it further cements Kubernetes as the standard.
  • Welcome to 2018
    The image of the technology industry as a whole suffered in 2017, and that process is likely to continue this year as well. That should lead to an increased level of introspection that will certainly affect the free-software community. Many of us got into free software to, among other things, make the world a better place. It is not at all clear that all of our activities are doing that, or what we should do to change that situation. Expect a lively conversation on how our projects should be run and what they should be trying to achieve. Some of that introspection will certainly carry into projects related to machine learning and similar topics. There will be more interesting AI-related free software in 2018, but it may not all be beneficial. How well will the world be served, for example, by a highly capable, free facial-recognition system and associated global database? Our community will be no more effective than anybody else at limiting progress of potentially freedom-reducing technologies, but we should try harder to ensure that our technologies promote and support freedom to the greatest extent possible. Our 2017 predictions missed the fact that an increasing number of security problems are being found at the hardware level. We'll not make the same mistake in 2018. Much of what we think of as "hardware" has a great deal of software built into it — highly proprietary software that runs at the highest privilege levels and which is not subject to third-party review. Of course that software has bugs and security issues of its own; it couldn't really be any other way. We will see more of those issues in 2018, and many of them are likely to prove difficult to fix.