Monday, October 29, 2007

In a hole? Stop digging.

The EC want to tackle problems with "IP", by which I assume they mean copyrights, trademarks, patents etc. Good. There are plenty of problems in this area, not least the fact that the EPO ignores legislation which says that software ideas may not be patented. But anyway, the EU solution is not to fix the problems but rather to create an entirely new layer in which we can have all kinds of new problems:

European Commission asks for new IP protection layer | The Register

Good grief.

Even if it takes longer, and even if it is painful, the correct solution is multilateral agreements through the WTO. Bilateral agreements are a lawyers delight and will just have to be dismantled again (to the further delight of lawyers) when multilateral agreements are finally in place.

Someone take that shovel from the EU before we all get buried.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

How to break a standards process

In their desperation to get their MOO-XML file format approved as a standard, Microsoft loaded various standards committees with people who would vote for it. Microsoft's efforts failed, but at least in the case of the ISO/IEC committee the battle appears to have caused significant longer term harm:

Slashdot | Format Standards Committee "Grinds To a Halt"

Thanks, Microsoft.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

ANSI Smalltalk

In 1998 the first version of the ANSI standard for the Smalltalk programming language was released under the auspices of INCITS. It has the cosy name "ANSI INCITS 319-1998".

Since 1998 Smalltalk has moved on, with more implementations of Smalltalk (dialects) and most dialects trending towards ANSI standard, as well of lots of cool things like Seaside and Croquet. The ANSI process for Smalltalk has not moved on and the committee that put together the standard no longer even exists.

Today, even though much of the ANSI standard is implemented in most dialects, it is hard to write a Smalltalk program that will run unaltered in more than one dialect. This is something that the Sport (Smalltalk Portability) library helps to address, but the very existence of a kludge like Sport points to the need for greater inherent consistency among Smalltalk dialects.

I have been promoting the idea that getting the ASNI process restarted for Smalltalk would be a win for all Smalltalkers; vendors, tool-smiths and application developers alike. In my view the ANSI process should be on-going, producing a new version of the standard regularly (say every 18 months or 2 years) and looking to the community for priorities.

Recently I spoke with INCITS about what it would take to restart the process and it seems fairly straight forward. We need to put together a proposal for starting the project. If the proposal is accepted a committee is formed and the committee gets to work.

I will be posting more details to comp.lang.smalltalk since that is the primary all-dialect discussion forum for Smalltalk.

I think we can get the Smalltalk ANSI standardization process going again and I think we should, and there is no time like the present.

BBC iPlayer - some progress

The BBC iPlayer is still a Microsoft Windows only service that uses a Microsoft protocol to transfer content. Fixing this was left to the BBC Trust who are to review the matter every six months.

But what will the BBC Trust review? What progress has been made towards making BBC content available via open protocols on any platform that supports those protocols? No concrete progress so far it seems, but the BBC are starting to talk about alternatives to the Microsoft only iPlayer program and the Microsoft protocols, all be it wrapped up with an announcement promoting the use of those very same Microsoft programs and protocols:

BBC NEWS | Technology | BBC online to go free over wi-fi

I think we need to see the BBC move from talk to action so that the BBC Trust has something concrete to review at it's first 6 monthly meeting following the launch of the Microsoft only iPlayer. Using the Adobe Flash player and the Adobe protocols is an improvement over the Microsoft-only approach as it does work on many platforms, but it is just locking BBC content into the products of yet another corporation, Adobe this time.

Adopting an open protocol would be an even better fit with the BBC charter and would open the content for use with software written by anyone, even Microsoft or Adobe if they chose to write such software. I hope this very point comes up at the next BBC Trust review.

I hope that the trust of the UK government in the BBC Trust was not misplaced.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Software Idea Patents vs FOSS

Here we go, an example of why Software Idea Patents are bad news for the IT industry but great news for patent lawyers:

Groklaw - Patent Infringement Lawsuit Filed Against Red Hat & Novell - Just Like Ballmer Predicted

... and I'm sure there will be more.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Leopard in October?

There have been a number of articles suggesting that the new version of Apple OS X (10.5Leopard) is due out real soon now, as if they have uncovered some deep secret. Then there are more articles suggesting that it won't be released for ages.

... but I took the easy approach and looked here:

Apple (UK and Ireland) - Mac OS X Leopard

October it is, then :-)

Not that I'll be upgrading for a while. I suspect that there will be some worthwhile patches out in the new year, so perhaps then.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

UK-wide WiFi from FON & BT?

I have run a FON hotspot here in London for a while now. In theory this should mean that I can get WiFi access to the Internet in many places around Europe and a few cities outside Europe too, at no additional cost to me. In practice the FON hotspots have never quite coincided with where I happened to be.

It looks like my chances of getting a connection have just got dramatically better in the UK:

Introducing the BT FON Community, Wi-Fi everywhere in the U.K. | FON Blog

I am still not really clear on how this will work (e.g. will every BT hotspot now also announce itself as a FON hotspot that I can use for no additional cost?), but it sounds like it should be a good thing.

Ah, more news on this from CNN.

... and a site for the project: BT FON

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

MS shoots self in foot. Wins award.

FFII have identified the organisation that has done the most to save the world from being undermined by the MOO-XML (Microsoft Open Office XML) document file format.

It's Microsoft!

Microsoft "Best Campaigner against OOXML Standardization"

By so aggressively destabilising the standards process Microsoft have created a pervasive negative view of MOO-XML.

Well done! Keep up the good work.

Oyster matter rumbles on

The matter of the detention and assault of my wife at the hands of a TfL employee rumbles on with no resolution in sight. The good news is that TfL now say that they are taking this seriously. All we need now are for their actions to start matching their words.

I heard the latest news from London Travel Watch who are taking on TfL on our behalf. Remarkably the TfL response suggested that in order to make any progress they really need more detail, such as the exact time of the incident ... which of course a different part of TfL already know. This after they claimed to be sorry for internal TfL communication inefficiencies which they have now addressed - yeah, right.

At this point we are looking for some fairly simple things from TfL, though I suspect TfL may view these as being very hard ...
  • TfL need to acknowledge that there are systemic problems with the Oyster system and the training of station staff regarding the Oyster system. (Then they need to do something about it!)
  • TfL need to explain what station staff should be expected to do in situations such as the one we suffered. (e.g. perhaps staff should have access to a reader that will let them see activity on an Oyster card).
  • TfL need to explain what passengers should do in situations such as the one we suffered. (e.g. should we have immediately called the police?)
I'm still not holding my breath.