Why I Will Not Link to Amazon Anymore

My thanks to Doctor Roy Schestowiz of Boycott Novell for his article which mentioned that Microsoft and Amazon had signed a Patent Licensing Agreement. If I hadn’t read his article, I wouldn’t have known about this. So I guess you can blame Roy for making me write this 🙂

I’ve linked to Amazon a lot in the past. I often mention books, and always provide a link to where the book can be bought. I often talk about computer sales numbers, and Amazon’s top selling list is really handy. But then Amazon signs a deal with Microsoft. A deal in which Microsoft claims that the agreement covers Amazon’s use of Linux based servers. Let’s take a look at Microsoft’s Press Release:

REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 22, 2010 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that it has signed a patent cross-license agreement with Amazon.com Inc. The agreement provides each company with access to the other’s patent portfolio and covers a broad range of products and technology, including coverage for Amazon’s popular e-reading device, Kindle™, which employs both open source and Amazon’s proprietary software components, and Amazon’s use of Linux-based servers. Although specific terms of the agreement are confidential, Microsoft indicated that Amazon.com will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount of money under the agreement.

“We are pleased to have entered into this patent license agreement with Amazon.com,” said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft. “Microsoft’s patent portfolio is the largest and strongest in the software industry, and this agreement demonstrates our mutual respect for intellectual property as well as our ability to reach pragmatic solutions to IP issues regardless of whether proprietary or open source software is involved.”

The licensing agreement is another example of the important role IP plays in ensuring a healthy and vibrant IT ecosystem. Since Microsoft launched its IP licensing program in December 2003, the company has entered into more than 600 licensing agreements and continues to develop programs that make it possible for customers, partners and competitors to access its IP portfolio. The program was developed to open access to Microsoft’s significant R&D investments and its growing, broad patent and IP portfolio. In recent years, Microsoft has entered into similar agreements with other leading companies, including Apple Inc., HP, LG Electronics, Nikon Corp., Novell Inc., HOYA CORPORATION PENTAX Imaging Systems Division, Pioneer Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Fuji Xerox Co. Ltd.

Curiously Amazon did not issue a press release about this – at least if they did it’s not in the Amazon Media Room. From what I can see so far, it looks like the deal that Microsoft signed with Amazon probably includes a clause that allows Microsoft to be the only party to speak about it. This sort of clause is dangerous, since the party that’s speaking can lie about what exactly is covered. I am sending an inquiry to Amazon, with a link to this article, and will post their response.

Microsoft claimed several years ago that Linux infringes on 235 of it’s patents. Curiously they didn’t say what patents. Quite probably this is because Microsoft is not confident that the patents in question would hold up under examination. Linus Torvalds, who started the Linux Kernel project, and runs it to this day, said in response to the claim that the Kernel infringes on 42 patents that

‘If Microsoft were to actually tell people what patents they claim we violate, we could either laugh in their face and show prior art, or just show them to be obvious, or we could do things differently.’

By signing a deal with Microsoft, for technology that the Free and Open Source Community developed, Amazon has shown a lack of respect for the ‘Intellectual Property’ of the Free and Open Source Software Community. Amazon’s action is an attack on the community. It can also be considered an attack on the Constitution of the United States of America, which states

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

The wording above makes mention only of the Authors and Inventors. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution clearly meant that only the Author or Inventor of a work or invention can speak for that work or invention. Therefore if there are issues with a work or invention, the party who has the issues must approach the Author or Inventor, not a third party such as Amazon. In simple terms, Amazon has no right to admit that the Linux Kernel infringes on Microsoft’s patents, only the Authors or Inventors of the Kernel have that right. By making an admission that they have no right to make, Amazon has engaged in what is known as ‘Slander of Title.’

Someone will of course point out that Microsoft made the announcement, not Amazon. The issue here is that Microsoft is implying that Amazon agrees with Microsoft’s statement, since they have not issued a clarification.

Since Amazon has shown a lack of respect for the Community’s Intellectual Property, the Community should remove their support from Amazon. Many members of the community have links to Amazon on their websites. Many members of the Community buy from Amazon. Many members of the Community use Amazon’s e-commerce system. Since Amazon has acted against the best interests of the Community, the Community should act against the best interests of Amazon. Stop linking to Amazon. Stop buying from Amazon. Stop using Amazon’s e-commerce systems.

It’s often argued that a boycott is a bad way to fight a problem. Those who argue against using boycotts do so for a very good reason. Boycotts work. Boycotts work really well, in that they hit the offending company where it really hurts, in their sales. And that’s why so often you hear arguments about boycotts. Because they do work, and the offenders are terrified of the results.

So I won’t link to Amazon any more. I can’t stop buying from them, because I never have (I prefer Indigo). If enough people stop using Amazon, they will respond. They’ll have to. Think of it as Evolution in Action.

Or of course Amazon could just issue a statement that the agreement they signed wasn’t about Linux, and that Microsoft has been less than truthful.

Wayne Borean

Thursday March 18, 2010


FilKONtario 20 – April 9 – 11, 2010

FKO Image

Yes, this is an ad. And yes, I will be there.

FilKONtario 20

FilKONtario is one of the major Filk music conventions. Filk is the Folk Music of Science Fiction and Fantasy Fandom. Song topics may include Cats, Babylon 5, Star Trek, Cats, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, Cats, Cartoons, Computers, Cats, The Society for Creative Anachronisms, General Insanity, and Cats. No one knows why, but it’s impossible to get rid of the cats, they are almost as bad as the penguins… Yes, penguins. Somehow in the first year we ended up with a penguin for the convention mascot. I know who is to blame, but I’m not telling 🙂

Tux with Guitar

It was just over twenty years ago, that my wife had a great idea. She’s a musician, she loves Filk, and there really wasn’t a lot of Filk happening locally, so she decided to run a convention. She roped several of us into the madness, and we soon had a convention committee up and running. It was a lot of work, but everyone had a great time, and wanted us to do it again!

So this is the 20th FilKONtario. I’m no longer on the organizing committee (health issues) but I have a vested interest in advertising it – after all, if you come, I’ll get to hear your music. So come on out, and bring your instruments! If you don’t play, that’s fine. Music isn’t music without listeners.

Guest List:

You can download the Convention Progress Report here (PDF Warning).

Hall of Fame Inductees

Frank Hayes and Erica Neely were inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame last year. This year’s inductees will be announced at the Hall of Fame Banquet Saturday evening. Come and find out who is being honoured for their contributions to filk! You can check out the Filk Hall of Fame links on the left.

Special Events:

The Interfilk Auction is on Saturday night. Interfilk is a charity which pays for filkers to travel to conventions across the world. The items that are auctioned off pay for the travel expenses involved.

I don’t know what will be in the auction, it’s different every year. One year Tanya Huff offered a Tuckerization. Ingrid made the winning bid, and gave it to Cathleen. And that’s why a character in her novel Heart of Valor loves catalogues… I don’t know if Tanya intends to do that this year, but there’s always special things at the auction

New Convention

Toronto will have a new general science fiction convention in the fall of 2010. SFContario is going to be held downtown, close to all the amenities Toronto has to offer, and it is going to be very filk-friendly, since some of FKO’s concom are helping out with the planning.  Please visit their website at www.sfcontario.ca!


All of the attendees are here to sing and play with their friends. No one associated with the convention in any way is paid for their services (except that our guests of hounour are refunded their travel costs, and we pay their hotel bill during the convention.)


Friday April 9/2010:

  • Sally Headford
  • Randy Hoffman
  • Earth to the Moon space concert/slide show (a variation on the highly acclaimed Anticipation concert)

Saturday April 10/2010:

  • Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff
  • Erica Neely
  • Mark Simmons
  • Brooke Lunderville
  • Song Contest

Sunday April 11/2010:

  • Filk Hall of Fame Concert
  • Dead Penguin Filk


Saturday morning

  • Jeff:       Guitar gathering
  • Mark:   “Death Sucks” or “Fangs for the Memories” – integrating modern vampires into songs and stories

Sunday morning:

  • Erica:   Performance tips aimed at people moving from filk circles to one-shots and from one-shots to concert sets.
  • Maya:  Cosmic Quarters and Bubble Gum Balls: Generating Ideas for Story and Song

Come and celebrate spring with song, at FilKONtario.

Wayne Borean

Wednesday March 17, 2010

Apple Sues HTC For Patent Infringement – Mad Hatter Article Confuses Everybody

My wife tells me that I don’t have to explain everything to everyone, that they aren’t stupid. The problem is that she’s used to me, and my sometimes wild conceptual swings, and the rest of the world isn’t. So let’s take a look at the things that people have questioned me about over the last twenty-four hours.

1) I was accused of attacking IBM. This has me really confused. I didn’t mean to attack IBM (not that I wouldn’t if I felt like it). I don’t see where I attacked IBM. And I haven’t heard back from the person who says I did. So I don’t know what he meant.

2) A bunch of people thought that I was advocating stealing from Apple. After talking to a couple of the people who accused me of that, I understand what their problem is. They think, that since Apple has patents that were issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that Apple owns the ‘Intellectual Property’ covered, and that attacking the validity of Apple’s patents meant stealing from Apple. I pointed out that if the patents were invalidated by a previously issued patent that it would be Apple that was stealing the ‘Intellectual Property’ from someone else.

2.1) When they asked how it was possible that a patent could be issued to cover technology that had already been patented, I pointed out that people make mistakes, and that the USPTO was staffed by people.

2.2) When they asked what the situation was if the technology hadn’t been previously patented, I pointed out that the wheel had never been patented, and that patenting a technology like the wheel was illegal. Again, the USPTO is staffed by people, and people make mistakes, and it was possible that Apple had been issued a patent that they legally should not have been issued.

3) Another argument was that Apple has made a lot of contributions to the Free and Open Source Software Community, and that therefore Apple should get special treatment. After all, the community isn’t involved, Apple is suing HTC. But what if the technologies that Apple is suing HTC over originated in the community? Should Apple be able to attack HTC for using things that the community invented?

4) Why should the community be allowed to sue over non-compliance with the General Public License (GPL), if Apple can’t sue to protect it’s patented inventions? This is the best argument that anyone has given me. Apple has the same right to protect it’s ‘Intellectual Property’ that the community has. But there are some significant differences between copyright infringement and patent infringement. Both are incorrectly lumped under the catch-all term ‘Intellectual Property’, along with Trademarks. Richard Stallman has written an excellent article called ‘Did You Say ‘Intellectual Property’? It’s a Seductive Mirage‘ on why the term is wrong and shouldn’t be used.

4.1) It’s a lot easier to prove Copyright Infringement than it is Patent Infringement. The GPL lawsuits have had very solid proof behind them. The Apple suit against HTC may or may not have this level or proof behind it. At this point we don’t know.

4.2) Patents protect a specific way of doing something. Let’s assume that I am issued a patent on a four stroke spark ignited reciprocating internal combustion engine, and you are building a two stroke spark ignited reciprocating internal combustion engine. You don’t infringe on my patent. It is quite possible that the patent that Apple has been issued isn’t infringed by the technology in the HTC phones. Or for that matter I’m issued a patent for one type of sort, and you’ve invented another. We both based our sort on an earlier type, but we implemented the our sorts using different algorithms, and therefore your sort doesn’t infringe on my patent.

As I said in the original, I haven’t read Apple’s patents yet, and I have no idea how strong their case against HTC is. That doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception that by suing HTC for it’s use of Android, which is based on technology developed by the community, that Apple is attacking the community. The community doesn’t like being attacked, and is taking action against Apple.

So if you are considering a lawsuit against a competitor who uses Free and Open Source Software in the product you claim infringes on your patents or copyrights, don’t expect the community to like what you are doing, and do expect them to do something about it.

Wayne Borean

Tuesday March 16, 2010

Apple Sues HTC For Patent Infringement, Shoots Self in Foot in Front of Information Technology Staffers Worldwide

People who aren’t in IT are going to read the title and respond WTF, but everyone in Information Technology (IT) knows what I mean. Let’s go back. Way back. To 1980, when CP/M was the Operating System of Choice.

Back in the good old days, thirty years ago, technology companies suing each other wasn’t something that IT staff really concerned themselves about on a personal level. Oh, if you worked for one of the companies involved, you were concerned. Otherwise? No.

Since then things have changed a lot. There is a far better sense of community now, enabled by the conversion of the Arpanet into the Internet. People talk to each other a lot more now. Thirty years ago most people I knew lived within a hundred miles of my home. Now I know people all over the world. So does everyone else.

And then there has been a series of legal cases – cases which have made IT cynical about the legal system, and the companies that use it. Especially the companies that use it.

Unix System Laboratories v. BSD Incorporated and the University of California – in many ways this was one of the seminal cases which changed the attitude of IT towards companies that use the legal system against their competitors. It ended in a sealed settlement. A settlement that left the community unsure, and very unhappy. Ten years later using California’s Public Records Law, a Groklaw member called dburns obtained a copy of the settlement, which Groklaw dissected, to the delight of the community. Tis case may have directly been responsible for the success of Linux, in that people who might have worked on the BSD kernel worked on the Linux kernel instead due to the legal uncertainty.

SCO Group v. International Business Machines, Inc. – the actions of the SCO Group (previously known as Caldera International) were regarded by most of the community as a direct attack on the community, even though IBM was the legal target. SCO claimed that IBM had copied millions of lines of source code directly from the Unix Operating System into GNU/Linux. When SCO turned down the community’s offer to re-write the supposedly infringing parts of GNU/Linux, the initial confusion in the community was replaced by a dogged determination to strike back. The community quickly determined that SCO’s claims were bogus by checking every claim that SCO made against the source code files in the Linux kernel. The fact that SCO (when it was still called Caldera) had open sourced an earlier version of the Unix Operating System helped. Groklaw was one of the nodes of resistance that formed, and the line by line dissection of the various filings by Pamela helped confirm that SCO was lying . One of the things that really got IT upset was how the two major players, Ralph Yarro and Darl McBride attempted to use the ‘religion’ card (both claimed to be devout Mormons – claimed – their lies prove that they weren’t).

Gordon v. Microsoft and Comes v. Microsoft – two of the Anti-Trust cases brought against Microsoft, the public filings made very interesting reading, and showed that Microsoft was no friend of the IT community, regarding them as little more than sheep to be fleeced.

Jacobsen v. Katzer – This case aroused a lot of anger. Jacobsen was part of a group that wrote the JMRI Open Source program to control model trains. Katzer infringed on the copyright, and also illegally filed for patents on the JMRI project work. Katzer then sent threatening letters to Jacobsen. Jacobsen launched a suit against Katzer in self defence. After six years the case was finally settled, with Jacobsen winning. Kind of. It cost him a lot of money to defend himself (remember, the suit was launched in self defence after he was threatened by Katzer.)

Microsoft Patent Claims – Microsoft claims that Free/Open Source Software infringes on 235 of it’s patents. Microsoft won’t say what patents, assuming that they really know themselves, and that ‘He Who Throws Chairs‘ (Steve Ballmer) didn’t dream the entire thing up. Microsoft’s patents are software patents. The community regards software patents as bogus, because Mathematics aren’t patentable in the United States, and software is mathematics. Also in every case where a software patent has been used in litigation, the community has been able to find prior art, or proof that the patent was ‘obvious.’ Much to the community’s annoyance, the US Patent Office recently confirmed the Amazon ‘One Click‘ Patent, which has been a poster boy for ‘worst patent ever’ to the community.

There are other cases as well, but these are some of the ones that angered the community most. Most of them were seen as direct attacks on the community, and like any community it doesn’t like to be attacked, and has a tendency to attack back.

And now we’ve got Apple. Apple had generally been regarded as an OK company. It makes code contributions to the community, uses Free and Open Source Software in it’s core products (OSX is based on FreeBSD, Safari is based on Webkit, etc). Apple has been somewhat litigious, but the lawsuit against HTC is the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back.’ Whether the lawsuit has any legal or technical merits doesn’t matter. What matters is that Apple has taken an action that the IT Community doesn’t approve of.

Legally Apple’s suit may have merits (another article will deal with this). That doesn’t matter. Apple has, by launching this suit, proven a disdain for the IT Community’s mores. The community has had to deal with a lot of issues, especially over the last ten years, and as The SCO Group found out, if you piss off the community, the community will come after you.

A company like IBM, while big, is easy to fight. Compare IBM to an elephant. Large. Singular. You only have one target, and because of it’s size, it’s damned hard to miss. Which is why elephants are an endangered species. You only need one gun to kill an elephant.

The IT Community is made up of individuals. Lots of individuals. Millions of individuals. Compare the community to mosquitos. You can kill a mosquito with a gun, but if you do it will be more luck than skill. And like mosquitos the community doesn’t attack all from one direction, or all in one way. But they do attack, and they keep on attacking, until the target is dead.

And this is what Apple is facing. Apple doesn’t know it yet, but Apple (unless it settles with HTC really quickly) is probably dead.

For those of you who don’t understand what I’m talking about, I’m going to list actions. Actions that the community is already taking.

  1. Recommend that people not buy Apple. Remember that the IT Community controls a huge proportion of the IT spending in North America, Apple’s home turf. When your IT staff recommend you avoid a vendor, you listen, because they know what they are talking about (if they don’t, why did you hire them?) And for those who will argue that Apple is a very small part of corporate spending, don’t forget that many IT people have been recommending Apple to their family and friends as an excellent and safe alternative to the disaster that is Windows.
  2. Researching ‘Prior Art’ to invalidate the patents Apple is using against HTC. HTC’s legal team now has several million technical experts working to kill Apple’s patents for free. After all, if the patents are invalidated, then the lawsuit dies.
  3. Building bigger and better Free and Open Source Software applications so that users have alternatives to Apple software. A good example is Garage Band – the reason I own and use Mac’s is that they are the best option if you own a recording studio, and I own a recording studio. None of the Free and Open Source Software available at present will do what I need, which is why I switched from GNU/Linux to Mac OSX three years ago. Since the IT Community is mad at Apple, a lot of programmers are going to look at what they can do to make Apple’s Value Proposition disappear. Garage Band won’t be the only target, but it’s the one that would make the most difference to me.

And of course Apple is vulnerable. While Apple has done a good job of integrating hardware and software in all of it’s product lines, Apple is extremely vulnerable to the three attacks listed above (and other attacks that I haven’t mentioned because I haven’t thought of them – but some clever person has…) Sure, Apple has a lot of money in the bank, and it builds a good product, but what does Apple do if people stop buying?

I think Apple has just shoot themselves in the foot. Badly. Oh, the damage won’t be visible for a while, but it’s there, and unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn’t have a monopoly to rely on.

Wayne Borean

Monday March 15, 2010

Philosophical Geekess – Did she or didn't she?

Sam Varghese is one of my favourite writers. He tends to hit the nail on the head. Hard. The nail usually doesn’t enjoy the experience.

Today he posted an article titled ‘An insight into wrangles in the Ubuntu community‘ about issues with women and the Ubuntu community. It’s an interesting read, covering one woman’s complaints about how the leadership selection process worked, denying her a chance to play a larger role in the community.

Sam’s article is accurate. I’ve read Melissa Draper’s blog, including the posting about the community elections, and her somewhat panicked response when Sam sent her an email about the article he was writing. But while his article is accurate, it misses a couple of points.

I’ve been active in the Free Software community for four or five years now, including the Ubuntu sub-community. Like all such communities, there are certain people who seem to think that they have more rights than others. There are certain people who think that they should be leaders because of who they are, not what they do. There are certain people who think that they have the right to determine who is a ‘real’ member of the community, and who isn’t.

This is a problem with any community, whether it’s a volunteer effort, or a paid effort. There often is a self selected elite, and then there’s everyone else.

I don’t have a lot of patience for fools. I don’t have a lot of patience, period. I never have had a lot of patience, and the chronic pain has only made my temper shorter. This isn’t to say that the Ubuntu Community Council are fools. I don’t know any of them personally. Hell, they could be fools, and still be good people. The two positions are not mutually contradictory. I know people in several communities that I am totally incapable of working with, but who are nice people.

Since I don’t have the patience, while I take part in various efforts, I deliberately don’t get deeply involved. Instead I do my own thing, in my own way. If people don’t like what I’m doing, and I end up on an Enemies List, that’s fine. They have a right to an opinion too, however being me, I’ll happily correct them again, and again, and again, and again, ad infinitum.

So Melissa Draper, rather than defining yourself by the Ubuntu Community, why not force the Ubuntu Community to define itself by Melissa Draper? They may not like it, but you’ll have more of an effect, and have a lot more fun.

Frank Sinatra did a beautiful song called ‘My Way‘ – I think it’s fantastic inspiration.

Wayne Borean

Sunday March 14, 2010

Spring in Canada – Climate Change has it's Advantages – or Maybe Not

I’m running a bit behind on writing – the pain was really bad for most of the last week, so I didn’t get around to talking about my walk with the puppies to the park on Sunday. It was a wonderful day, sunny, warm (about 10 degree Celsius), just the sort of early spring day that takes your breathe away.

The boys (both our dogs are male) were having a wonderful time, bouncing around all over the place, until we got to the park and they saw a puppy that they didn’t recognize, at which point both of them started pulling like crazy, so that they could meet the new puppy. I nodded to the puppy’s master, who was wearing a brown leather jacket, and while the puppies all sniffed noses (and butts) we turned to watch his two daughters sliding on the ice rink. The girls were in the eight to twelve year old age range, and were having a wonderful time. The rink may have been too soft to skate on, but it was great for sliding in your winter boots. I wish I’d had my camera with me, as the picture would have freaked a lot of my American friends.

The girls were wearing pink tee-shirts. No coats. Just pink tee-shirts. They looked absolutely adorable, their faces lit up by huge smiles.

What does this have to do with the title?

According to Environment Canada, the winter of 2009-2010 was the warmest since they started keeping records sixty-three years ago. It also had the least precipitation. Even with the heavy rains we’ve received today, it’s been a really dry winter. Not quite drought levels, but dry enough to possibly affect crop planting.

Meanwhile to the south of us, the North Eastern United States, and parts of the South Eastern United States have had record snow falls. This has caused people like Glen Beck to claim that Climate Change isn’t happening. OK Glen, so you had a bit more snow than you are used to. How about us? We had so little snow, that basic childhood enterprises like building snow forts and snow men were impossible.

Rather than looking at a single year, you have to look at the average. And the difference in the average is scary. Local municipalities used snow fences along country roads up until the late 1970’s, and then they stopped. We haven’t needed them since then. Which was nice, it cut costs considerably. Street snow clearing budgets have also dropped, there hasn’t been as much snow. Salting costs have decreased.

Oh, we still have some years where the snow is a bit deeper. But on average we are getting a lot less.

A couple of years ago I had to attend an Industrial Truck Association meeting in Banff, and I took my wife along. She went on a trip up to the glaciers, and the guides talked about how far the glaciers had retreated. In Europe there’s been a number of mummified bodies retrieved from retreating glaciers, the most famous of which is Otzi, who was found on the Austria/Italian border. Of course Glen Beck wouldn’t know about this, he seems unable to understand that anything exists outside of the United States.

Climate scientists are almost unanimous on the cause. Scientists being unanimous about something is unusual. Scientists like fighting. Each other. Internecine fighting between scientific institutions, and advocates of different theories is the normal way of life in the scientific community. David Brin did a wonderful series explaining this which you can find here, here, and here, in which he pointed out that the majority of people who claim Climate Change isn’t happening have connections to the Fossil Fuel companies.

And David isn’t the only one to have noticed this. The Independent (England), Rolling Stone (yeah, they are left wing – this does not mean they are stupid), and interesting article called Climate Killers which lists those who are trying to stave off any changes in Fossil Fuel use (Rolling Stone again), the Guardian (England).

There’s an old saying, ‘It’s a Dog Eat Dog World‘. No where is this more true than in science. Science is a tough, tough, game, that makes politics look like an old ladies tea party. The only time you get a consensus in science is when no one can come up with an argument which will destroy the consensus. None of the Climate Change Skeptics is a climate scientist. A good example is Gene Quinn. Gene is a nice guy (we’ve traded emails, and blog posts) but he isn’t a Climate Scientist. I have no doubt that he believes very strongly that Climate Change isn’t real the way it’s scientifically defined, but he doesn’t have the knowledge to make that call.

I’m not a Climate Scientist either, but I worked in the Emission Control field for many years, and you can find my name in documents on both the California Air Resources Board and Environmental Protection Agency websites. I have a decent understanding of the science, and while I was originally extremely skeptical, I have had the chance to talk to people at a very high level who were able to explain to me where I was wrong, and how I was wrong. I also understand linkages, and how even a small change could cause tremendous damage. The problem is that we aren’t looking at a small change. We are looking at a change large enough that it will cause massive chaos as our weather systems change to adjust to it.

We could still avoid the worst. Nissan is introducing it’s first electric car this year. Imagine driving and never filling up with gasoline, ever again. Oh, you’d have to charge it every night, and the range is limited. But there’s only three or four times per year that our family would need to travel outside it’s range, and we could rent a vehicle for those trips – or use our minivan.

Heck, we would have bought an electric if they had have been available last fall. We almost bought a hybrid, but the cost/benefit ratio wasn’t quite right, so we bought the Honda Fitt instead (for those considering the Honda Insight, it’s a great car, but you cannot fit two men over six feet tall in the back, and that’s one of our family’s requirements – and we sometimes need to travel with five adults and two dogs, which is why there’s a Dodge minivan in the driveway).

Climate Change is real folks. And for those who think it isn’t, consider how much money you can save by not buying gasoline, especially when speculators are driving the price of oil.

Oh, and to all those politicians who are following the Fossil Fuel company lead – we will remember who you were, and we are going to change the definition of ‘treason’ retroactively so we can thank you for your inaction.

Wayne Borean

Sunday March 14, 2010

SCOicide – The SCO Group vs the World

On June 28, 2002, Darl McBride became the Chief Executive Officer of Caldera International, and proceeded to kill the company.

The above statement may seem rather strong to those who don’t know the background. Caldera International was a Linux Distributor. The company had made many improvements to Linux (including the first GUI installer), and while the Caldera version was never as popular as the Red Hat version, it was generally well respected. But Caldera was a money losing proposition. It had never made a profit one during it’s years of operation.

One move that Caldera made to try and become profitable was to buy the Unix business from the Santa Cruz Operation. The aim was to use the software distribution channel that Santa Cruz had successfully built up as a Unix vendor to sell more Linux, as Linux was expected to replace Unix in the X86 marketplace.

And then came Darl. The story gets really murky at this point. The people involved either aren’t talking, or are lying like a rug. This sounds harsh, but it’s the only viable conclusion based on the available evidence.

The public story is that Darl noticed that Caldera’s main source of income was the Unix business it had bought from Santa Cruz, and decided to concentrate on growing it. He also started asking questions about how Linux could be competitive to Unix in features and capabilities when it was a free software project (Darl apparently considered Free Software to be ‘hobbyist’ products, the sort of thing your Aunt May did on Saturday evening). As I said, this is the public story. Supposedly Darl was convinced that someone had transferred capabilities from Unix to Linux, and so Caldera sued IBM.

The lawsuit against IBM which originally was for $1 Billion US sent a shockwave throughout the tech community. Many of us wondered if maybe there wasn’t something to it – after all, the source for Linux was widely available, and if someone had copied something they shouldn’t have into it, it would be easy to find. Another consideration is that only an idiot would sue IBM without solid proof. Seriously. Would you launch a lawsuit against a company that was capable of ‘darkening the sky over Utah with lawyers’ without solid evidence to back up your claims?

I, along with a lot of other geeks started looking for answers. One of my searches lead me to a blog over at Radio Userland called Groklaw in early 2003 (the blog moved to Groklaw.net soon after). The blog was written by a PJ (Pamela Jones), who said she was a Geek and a Paralegal. PJ had written a lot of detailed articles. She explained how the legal system in the United States worked, evaluated the legal filings in the Caldera v. IBM case as they were filed, researched cases that were referenced and explained why they were important, and effectively ran an online seminar for programmers on legal system basics. It was a great resource.

Due to the interest in the case, Judge Kimbell told both parties to minimize redactions in the documents that they filed, and not to minimize the number of documents filed under seal. Because of this we learned that Caldera had hired people to investigate and prove the transfer of code, and that they reported that they COULD NOT FIND PROOF OF ANY TRANSFER. They filed their reports before the original lawsuit was launched. Darl, the CEO knew that he didn’t have any proof. None. But he went ahead with the lawsuit against IBM anyway.

Also there was the issue of whether or not Caldera actually owned the Unix copyrights. It was about this time that Novell, the seller, claimed that they sold the business to Santa Cruz, not the copyrights. So now Caldera sued Novell too. And Red Hat sued Caldera. And Caldera sued AutoZone. And Daimler Chrysler.

It was like watching a rabid dog running down the street, attacking everything in sight.

Or maybe watching a train wreck in slow motion. It was less than six months after the original lawsuit had been filed that PJ, along with the regulars who hung out at Groklaw managed to prove that what Darl was claiming was impossible. Which didn’t stop Darl of course. Remember at the start that I said only an idiot would launch a lawsuit of this sort?

It’s only now, that Caldera (which changed it’s name to SCO Group, apparently to confuse the Jury) has finally ended up in court, in front of a jury. The CEO is gone, they are in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and even if they win, they probably won’t survive.

And every day, for the last six years, I’ve visited Groklaw at least once a day. My wife at one point accused me of having an online affair with PJ, much to my amusement.

Thank you PJ – for doing a wonderful job. For teaching me so much. For working so hard.

Thank you.

Wayne Borean
Thursday March 11, 2010

Your Interview With Prime Minister Harper

Right. I want to interview a politician. You know, those guys who could walk under a snake, wearing a top hat.

Kidding aside, someone in the Prime Minister’s Office had a good idea. They recorded Prime Minister Harper, uploaded the recording to YouTube, and then set up a page so that Canadians could ask him questions back.

I like this. One problem that most countries have is getting the electorate politically motivated. By engaging the electorate this way, hopefully more will show up at the voting booth, join political parties, and write letters to the editor (and blog posts), etc. You have to give the Prime Minister’s Office marks for trying. There are problems with the system they’ve chosen, however this is a first attempt, and hopefully they’ll learn ways of being more effective in future.

Of course that still doesn’t make Stephen Harper my favourite Prime Minister. The guy has been, and is a disaster. The only reason he won enough seats in the last election to retain his position as Prime Minister (in a minority government again) is that his competition has been worse.

Canadian Politics – Ottawa is where we send all of the incompetents who can’t make it in the real world. There used to be a lot of jokes about how the only way to protect the local economy was to send Stan Darling (Tony Clement’s predecessor) to Ottawa. And unfortunately it’s true.

Wayne Borean

Thursday March 11, 2010

The Little Red Hot Rod – Honda Fitt – A Good Fit For the Twenty-First Century

Last fall I bought a new car – a Fire Engine Red 2009 Honda Fitt Sport. The car was loaded with everything except the Navigation package. Nav is useful if you drive to a lot of places that you don’t know well. Since I drive the same places over and over, I didn’t need it. One thing that I didn’t want, but that the kids asked for was an automatic transmission. All three of them promised me that they would learn how to drive if the car had an automatic. Curiously none of them have yet gone to get their Learners Permit. I should have got the standard!

What we have is a five door car, with rear seat head room that my 6’3″ middle son finds comfortable, with a 1.5L, 112 horsepower engine. So far I’ve put 12,000 kilometres on the car, and quite frankly it’s a great little beast. The seats are incredible – I suffer from chronic pain in my left leg, and the seats in the Fitt are really conformable, unlike the seats at the movie theatre on Saturday.

Fuel economy is a joy – 50 miles per gallon (Imperial) on the highway. When gas is over $1.00 per litre, it costs less than $35.00 Canadian to fill the car up. It handles wonderfully in the snow, quite frankly it was a joy to drive this winter.

Problems? Only one. Whoever programmed the Cruise Control messed up big time. If you have Cruise Control on, and you hit a hill, rather than accelerating slowly, the throttle will drop to the floor. This messes up fuel economy badly. If you want to stretch your fuel as far as possible, you are better off not using Cruise.

I’ve owned a lot of cars since I bought my first one when I was eighteen, of nearly every single make sold in Canada, including other Hondas, and this is the best car I’ve ever had. It’s a great little car, and I recommend it highly.

Wayne Borean

Wednesday March 10, 2010

Alice in Wonderland – 3D Masterpiece?

My daughter took me to see Alice in Wonderland on Saturday. I’ve been a big fan of Lewis Carroll’s writing since my long ago teens when I first read Alice In Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and many of his smaller works. The man did things that no one else had ever done to that point – his writing skills were incredible.

I’m also a big fan of Tim Burton. I love the man’s work. Batman was incredible, as was Batman Returns (after which the Batman franchise devolved quickly). Beetlejuice was hugely enjoyable. The Nightmare Before Christmas – well you get the picture.

The problem with going to a theatre is that the pain can be atrocious. The seats are uncomfortable, very uncomfortable, for someone who suffers from chronic pain. And my wife and daughter made the reservations the night before, so when I woke up hurting badly I was stuck with them.

So I popped a lot of pills, and went. And kept on popping pills. So there are parts of the movie I don’t remember all that well. Quite frankly I was so stoned that this isn’t a movie review. It is however a technology review.

3D is supposed to be the biggest and most exciting thing since colour. Well, it isn’t. 3D does add a bit of ‘dimension’ to the movie. A bit. But it’s just not that compelling. OK, so I’m not the greatest person to be reviewing it. But really – it’s not all that special.

So what will happen to all those theatres who are adding 3D? Nothing. They aren’t going to make huge new hauls of money. But current customers may enjoy the movies a bit more. Which will put more pressure on other theatres to also install it. So it adds another cost, but doesn’t bring in more money. This stresses the theatres economically. 3D instead of being a saviour, could end up killing the theatres who adopt it.

I guess we’ll see.

Wayne Borean

Wednesday March 10, 2010