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Dell, LDAP, IP Dandruff · I was looking at Neil Wilson’s Sun T2000 vs Dell 6850: LDAP AuthRate, a straightforward Dell-vs.-Niagara LDAP benchmark write-up, and two unrelated but interesting things came to mind. First, this piece suffers from major IP dandruff; is it really necessary for the text identifying the CPUs to read “Intel® Xeon® EM64T” and “UltraSPARC® T1 with CoolThreads™ technology”? I know about defending your trademarks and so on, but this is imposing visual pain on readers, and that can’t be a good thing. Second point: here we have yet another example of one of our people beating up Dell. In my time here, I haven’t noticed an organized Dell-dissing campaign, but I have noticed pervasive organic loathing for this one competitor all over the company, end to end. I mean, we compete with IBM and HP and Microsoft and so on, but there’s a whole different emotional level around Dell. My best guess is that it’s a cultural thing; Dell is doing well in this business without seeming to actually like computers very much. And one of the first things you notice if you work here is that people really care about computers for their own sake; almost everyone would be a tinkerer or hobbyist or spare-time hacker if they couldn’t get paid for what they’re doing. I don’t think either Sun or Dell are going away any time soon, so we can expect the fun to continue.
 
Ils sont fous ces Français! · Translating from Goscinny/Uderzo to Hunter S. Thompson: there’s bad craziness going on over in France. Apparently, there’s a move afoot to ban Free Software, and I can only think “Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence”. Malice or incompetence aside, in the unlikely event that this silly thing passes, it could hardly be enforced without building a cyber-police-state of an efficiency and comprehensiveness beyond the wildest dreams of the Beijing regime. If any of my readers are French citizens, you might want to call your local politician’s office or write a letter to your local editor or whatever. Here’s some more from Henry Story, with French-language links. [Update: Gilles Gravier writes: “It’s not all free software that they are trying to ban... Just software that enables distribution of copyrighted material which is not equiped with means of tracing who shares what with whom... Obviously, open-source software makes it easy to remove such tracing means, so is a no-no for SACEM (who are desperately trying to keep alive an old model for making money over artists instead of trying to turn to the future and find new adapted ways).” And now I see that he’s written more on the subject.]
 
6,950,791 · In the interests of full disclosure, since I have often fulminated in this space about the gravely-disordered software-patent landscape, I should state that I recently learned that, well, I now have one: Method for describing objects in a virtual space. The application was a condition of receiving venture-capital funding for my last startup, Antarctica Systems. As I review the patent, two things strike me: First, how hard it is to read through the lines of legal jargon to see what the essential technical point is. And second, how bad the drafting is; I spot lots of egregious typos and misspellings that apparently nobody caught. These must have crept in during the process because the submission was clean. Hmph.
 
DRM · There’s a lot of noise over the Open Media Commons DRM-for-the-masses announcement. Me, I thought Jonathan Schwartz’s little parable yesterday was way more interesting. What all the DRM dreamers don’t want to admit is that 95% or more of the population hasn’t yet encountered DRM, and when they do, they aren’t going to like it. They’re going to scream and scream and scream and get mad as hell and not take it any more. I’m talking about the honest people who play by the rules: they buy a house and the vendor moves out and pulls no more strings. They buy sofas and flowers and wine and paper and the store where they bought them doesn’t try to limit what you can do with them, and when the digital-media vendors try to horn in on this relationship, the response is going to be “you and whose army?” OK, if there’s ever a place where DRM is appropriate, it had better be open and non-monopolistic and all that. But the music and movie companies who are clinging to this idiotic idea that they can sell stuff to people and retain the rights to micromanage it, well they’re in for some really unpleasant surprises. People who are surprised, or think I’m a radical, should check out Cory Doctorow’s classic rant; for slightly different, but also stimulating angle, see Roger Sperberg’s The Law of Computer Entropy. [Update: This piece provoked authors of earlier rants on the subject to send pointers: among the best are those from Julian Bond and Norm Walsh.]
 
More Patent Funnies · Perhaps just now it’s unfashionable to grumble about patents, given that Sun and IBM are showering the world with bucketfuls of ’em (and a fine thing, too), but if you want a loud, ugly, wake-up call, start at VarChars, which is offered by someone who apparently wishes to be known only as “rayg”. Samples: IBM Receives Patent for Using Regular Expressions to Extract Information from Documents, Google Receives Patent for Highlighting of Search Results, and Microsoft Attempts to Patent Object Persistence. Read on for some predictably-negative commentary and—gasp!—a look inside some incredibly-advanced Google technology ...
 
The DRM Debacle · I spent a couple of days this week in Brussels talking with European Commission people and other vendors about a bunch of things, but DRM kept coming into the conversation. Herewith some doomsaying and paranoia; the whole idea is broken and going to cause severe damage and pain for content vendors, technology vendors, and ordinary folks who just want to go on with life ...
 
Patents and Linux · The wires are full of news around Linux and Patents, with OSRM claiming that Linux infringes lots of ’em, and IBM promising not to litigate ’em. Well, I go way back on this issue; herewith a software patent war story, flavored with the usual cynicism ...
 
The New World of PR · Last Friday, Scoble relayed a denial by Microsoft exec Martin Taylor that they were behind the big venture investment in SCO. I’m surprised that nobody’s pointed at the meta-message here; this is the first time I know of that a big company has gone to one of their bloggers to get a critical piece of PR out. But I bet it won’t be the last. [Updated: Scoble clarifies. I had read his original post to say that Taylor had emailed Scoble saying “Blog this.” In fact, Scoble saw Taylor’s message on an an internal mailing list and did it on his own initiative; not quite as newsworthy as I’d thought. But read Scoble’s clarification for more on this.] [Updated again: Business Week says that Microsoft did lead the Venture Cap horse to the SCO trough. I tend to trust Business Week. Uh, would Martin Taylor like to clarify his statement that the allegations “are not accurate”?]
 
W3C Patent Policy Draft · The latest draft, published today, is a landmark. You can't possibly imagine the number of hours of hard thinking and nasty wrangling that have gone into producing it. My personal take is that it's about done and it's good enough and we're not going to end up with anything better. Warning: long and boring, but I think important. ...
 
DVD Player Stupidity · Like most people, we have a DVD player, we climbed on board the bandwagon sometime in 2002. Unlike many who live in North America, we have strong family ties to Germany and to Australia, and have acquired DVDs from both places. Of course, we couldn't play them on the Sony DVD player because the entertainment industry puts "region codes" on DVDs, dividing the world into six movie-viewing islands. I am not going to dignify this idiocy by relaying their rationale; really just another symptom of the brain disorder affecting the industry that causes them to view their customers primarily as thieves and abusers ...
 
The Rant at Seybold San Francisco · I attended Seybold San Francisco 2002, where I gave an opening keynote and shmoozed heavily. Probably the most stimulating session was the Digital Property Rights track session "The Antipiracy Wars. The moderator was the pleasantly cynical Bill Rosenblatt, a guy who worries about this full-time. On the panel were Ted Cohen, a shill for the record company EMI, Lawrence H. Leach of L2 Design & Development, and Ed McCoyd of the Association of American Publishers ...
 
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