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Software Patents Versus Free Software (WordPress, MP3 Playback)

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OSS
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  • On React and WordPress

    Big companies like to bury unpleasant news on Fridays: A few weeks ago, Facebook announced they have decided to dig in on their patent clause addition to the React license, even after Apache had said it’s no longer allowed for Apache.org projects. In their words, removing the patent clause would "increase the amount of time and money we have to spend fighting meritless lawsuits."

    I'm not judging Facebook or saying they're wrong, it's not my place. They have decided it's right for them — it's their work and they can decide to license it however they wish. I appreciate that they've made their intentions going forward clear.

    A few years ago, Automattic used React as the basis for the ground-up rewrite of WordPress.com we called Calypso, I believe it's one of the larger React-based open source projects. As our general counsel wrote, we made the decision that we'd never run into the patent issue. That is still true today as it was then, and overall, we’ve been really happy with React. More recently, the WordPress community started to use React for Gutenberg, the largest core project we've taken on in many years. People's experience with React and the size of the React community — including Calypso — was a factor in trying out React for Gutenberg, and that made React the new de facto standard for WordPress and the tens of thousands of plugins written for WordPress.

    We had a many-thousand word announcement talking about how great React is and how we're officially adopting it for WordPress, and encouraging plugins to do the same. I’ve been sitting on that post, hoping that the patent issue would be resolved in a way we were comfortable passing down to our users.

    That post won't be published, and instead I'm here to say that the Gutenberg team is going to take a step back and rewrite Gutenberg using a different library. It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

  • MP3 Is Dead! Long Live MP3!

    Back in May, there was an unexpected surge in press coverage about the MP3 audio file format. What was most unexpected about it was it all declared that the venerable file format is somehow “dead”. Why did that happen, and what lessons can we learn?

    What had actually happened was the last of the patents on the MP3 file format and encoding process have finally expired. Building on earlier work, it was developed by the Moving Pictures Expert Group (MPEG) built on the doctoral work of an engineer at Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. Many companies held patents on the standard and it was not until April that the last of them expired. There’s no easy way to ascertain whether a patent has expired even after the date one moght expect it, so the wave of news arose from announcements by Fraunhofer Institute.

    Framing this as an “ending” fits the narrative of corporate patent holders well, but does not really reflect the likely consequences. Naturally the patent holding companies would rather everyone “upgrade” to the newer AAC format, which is still encumbered under a mountain of patents necessitating licensing. But for open source software, the end of patent monopilies signals the beginning of new freedoms.

More in Tux Machines

Security: WPA2, CVE-2017-15265, Fuzzing, Hyperledger

  • Fedora Dev Teaches Users How to Protect Their Wi-Fi Against WPA2 KRACK Bug
    Former Fedora Project leader Paul W. Frields talks today about how to protect your Fedora computers from the dangerous WPA2 KRACK security vulnerability that affects virtually any device using the security protocol to connect to the Internet.
  • WPA2 was kracked because it was based on a closed standard that you needed to pay to read
    How did a bug like krack fester in WPA2, the 13-year-old wifi standard whose flaws have rendered hundreds of millions of devices insecure, some of them permanently so? Thank the IEEE's business model. The IEEE is the standards body that developed WPA2, and they fund their operations by charging hundreds of dollars to review the WPA2 standard, and hundreds more for each of the standards it builds upon, so that would-be auditors of the protocol have to shell out thousands just to start looking. It's an issue that Carl Mamamud, Public Resource and the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been fighting hard on for years, ensuring that the standards that undergird public safety and vital infrastructure are available for anyone to review, audit and criticize.
  • Patch Available for Linux Kernel Privilege Escalation
    The issue — tracked as CVE-2017-15265 — is a use-after-free memory corruption issue that affects ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture), a software framework included in the Linux kernel that provides an API for sound card drivers.
  • ​Linus Torvalds says targeted fuzzing is improving Linux security
    Announcing the fifth release candidate for the Linux kernel version 4.14, Linus Torvalds has revealed that fuzzing is producing a steady stream of security fixes. Fuzzing involves stress testing a system by generating random code to induce errors, which in turn may help identify potential security flaws. Fuzzing is helping software developers catch bugs before shipping software to users.
  • Devsecops: Add security to complete your devops process [Ed: more silly buzzwords]
  • Companies overlook risks in open source software [Ed: marketing disguised as "news" (and which is actually FUD)]
  • Q&A: Does blockchain alleviate security concerns or create new challenges?
    According to some, blockchain is one of the hottest and most intriguing technologies currently in the market. Similar to the rising of the internet, blockchain could potentially disrupt multiple industries, including financial services. This Thursday, October 19 at Sibos in Toronto, Hyperledger’s Security Maven Dave Huseby will be moderating a panel “Does Blockchain technology alleviate security concerns or create new challenges?” During this session, experts will explore whether the shared nature of blockchain helps or hinders security.

Games: Nowhere Prophet, Ebony Spire: Heresy, The First Tree, Daggerfall, Talos Principle

  • Nowhere Prophet, a single-player tactical roguelike with card-based battles has Linux support
    Nowhere Prophet [Official Site, itch.io], a single-player tactical roguelike with card-based battles is currently going through 'First Access' (itch's version of Early Access) and it has Linux support.
  • Ebony Spire: Heresy, a first-person turn-based dungeon crawler will release next month
    For fans of the classic first-person dungeon crawlers, Ebony Spire: Heresy [Steam] looks like it might scratch the itch. One interesting thing to note, is that Linux is the primary platform for the development of the game. It's really great to hear about more games actually developed on Linux! Even better, is that the source code for the game is under the MIT license. You can find the source on GitHub. The source is currently a little outdated, but the developer has told me that it will be updated when the Beta becomes available.
  • The First Tree, a short and powerful exploration game is now available on Linux
    The developer of The First Tree [itch.io, Steam, Official Site] email in to let everyone know that their beautiful 3rd-person exploration game is now on Linux 'due to a ton of requests'. Linux support arrived as part of a major patch, which improves gamepad support, adds an option to invert the Y-axis and Camera Sensitivity options are in too. On top of that, a bunch of bugs were also squashed.
  • The open source recreation of Daggerfall hits an important milestone
    Another classic game is getting closer to being fully playable natively on Linux. The project to recreate The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall in the Unity engine has hit an important milestone and now the the main quest is completely playable. Daggerfall is the second entry in Bethesda’s long-running Elder Scrolls series of role-playing games and was originally released way back in 1996. It was an ambitious game, with thousands upon thousands of locations to explore in an virtual game area the size of a small real-world nation. It’s a game that I personally lost a lot of time to way back in the day and I’m happy to see that a project that allows me to play it natively on Linux is coming along swimmingly.
  • The Talos Principle VR Launches With Linux Support
    Croteam has just released The Talos Principle VR, the virtual reality edition of their award-winning The Talos Principle puzzle game. SteamOS/Linux with the HTC Vive is supported alongside Windows. This VR-enhanced version of The Talos Principle is retailing for $39.99 USD.

Android Leftovers

Review: Google Pixel 2

If I had to pick the moment I most appreciated the Google Pixel 2, it would be when our airboat driver-slash-tour guide put a hot dog and a piece of raw chicken in his pocket, dove into the New Orleans swamp, and began playing with a giant gator named Who Dat. I’m no social media whiz, but I knew there was Instagram gold unfolding in front of me. So I pulled out my Pixel 2 XL, the larger of Google’s two new models, double-clicked on the power button to open the camera, and started snapping. Read more