BT et C

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Waiting Game

Just kinda sitting around today on the edge of my seat for news out of the Supreme Court. At least I'm not stuck outside in the cold...

Fun Quote of the day: from a doc on what's new in Gnumeric 1.4:
The port of the core of Gnumeric to the GTK+ libraries will enable the application to be run on the series of operating systems sold by Microsoft and colloquially known as "Windows".

Also today I'm proud to be a Dallasian -- Big dogs with big pockets are starting to get it. Tell Mark to call me; I've got several ideas he might be interested in, and he's got several dollars I might be interested in. Dang, he was /.ed, I'll have to get in line.

Monday, March 28, 2005


HE is a regular column here at BT et C. Most of the titles of our regular columns are just capital letters like that.

This week's HE:

.25/.50 limit at stars: -$20
$10 sit-n-go tourneys at stars: +$34
home game at Richard's apt: -$43
.25/.50 limit at sportingbet: -$9

Grand total: (ick) -$38

Woops. I just realized I put up an HE update without adding it to the "important acronyms" section (on the right). Fixed. Also remembered one more

$10 Multitable tourney at stars: +$17
Grand total: (ick, but could be worse) -$20

Saturday, March 26, 2005

I Care But Don't Care

Having missed a month+ of Luke's stuff, I played cryptkeeper a little bit. My comment on the interoperability memo is in the Feb 7 article. A quick couple of bullets to wrap that up.

-I think it's bull. Microsoft will go on trying to patent the internet and lock people into as much of their software as they can. The (seductive) argument is: "don't you think the best way to have machines interoperate is to make them all run the same (our) software?"
-I don't particularly need it to be bull, or need anyone else to believe it's bull. I've got stuff to do.

Sensible programmers/businessfolk need to keep apprised of threats to innovation coming from any direction -- read those EULAs, etc. But there's an important, often-overlooked bit about open source development: it's better. And will therefore win, if we just do our work.

One more
-I don't particularly need open source development to "win". But it's proven to be the best way to get stuff done, and as I said before I've got stuff to do.

Oh, found it:
Der Spiegel
Money Quote (thanks PJ):

Gates: The truth is: the fewer operating systems there are within a company, the better it is from a security point of view.

SPIEGEL: I beg your pardon?

Gates: Simply because one must spend billions of dollars to ensure the security of each individual system. Our company has an unbelievable number of people who are solely responsible for this type of security around the clock.

SPIEGEL: The particular charm of Linux is that it is an adaptable system that users can shape themselves.

Gates: If everything runs under the same platform, however, you can better concentrate resources and more quickly repair errors.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

My Birthday Present

Alright, Luke and I are resolved to update our stuff more frequently (yes, Luke, I resolved for you. Get to it.)

For my birthday, I got some wonderful news: Bill Gates is joining me in calling for some improvements to the US patent system. Awesome! He also joins others who -- perish the thought -- might be more public-spirited than the Vole?

How about a tit-for-tat?
MS: executives "recommended that the U.S. Congress end patent filing fees for small companies, nonprofit groups, universities and individual inventors" and "pushed Congress to end the diversion of patent fees from the USPTO to the U.S. government general budget, saying that the office needs more funding"
NA: "The patent office needs additional resources to hire and train more examiners, and to implement information technology that would boost its processing capabilities. "

I like it.

MS: "It is too easy for a litigant to manipulate the U.S. system and look to a patent lawsuit as the ultimate lottery ticket, hoping to confuse jurors with technical jargon that will yield the payment of a lifetime"
NA: urges "the USPTO to strenuously observe the statutory requirement known as the "nonobviousness standard," which says that in order to qualify for a patent, an invention cannot be obvious to a person of ordinary skill in a given area."

All good points, so far as they go. But the critical difference between NA and MS recommendations for reform is in the latter's silence on this issue:
NA: "Access to patented technologies should be available for research purposes and in the development of cumulative technologies, where one advance builds upon previous advances."
From the article: "In 2002, the federal circuit court ruled that scientific research is part of the "business" of universities and is not protected from liability. Prior to that decision, many in the research community presumed the existence of a research exemption and acted accordingly"

That bit encapsulates the IP crisis for me. All its implications might take some unraveling, so bear with me.

Software is not a product, nor is it a service. It is a body of knowledge -- specifically, it is Very Abstract mathematics. Feed these bytes into a computer, and these other bytes will come out. Every time. Source code and GUIs and all the other stuff is simply a layer on top of that. Double-click this, or type that, and the interpreter/desktop manager will feed bytes into the computer. And these other bytes will come out.

Fedora Core 3 is only the most recent stopping-point in a long line of incremental advances over MULTICS. A microprocessor is an invention; a 64-bit microprocessor is an advance.

The NA does not find that the patent system requires a major overhaul, but I think the research exemption implies exactly that, if the fundamentals of software are understood.

Software ~= research != business

(That's the approximately-equal sign there)

There's a great deal more to say on this, but I'll wait for comments.