Archives for category: Software

Judge rules that the warrants issued against Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (yep, legal name) were invalid because they were too vague, after most everything seized has already been returned in previous rulings. Also, therefore, the evidence collected was invalid and was improperly released to be sent out of the country. Nothing on their hard drives can be used, which is pretty much the only thing they’ve got.

Looks like Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder may get his wish that Kim Dotcom wins his case.

The U.S. piracy case against MegaUpload founder Kim DotCom appears to have run aground, with a New Zealand court ruling that the search warrants issued in January were invalid.

New Zealand High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann ruled Thursday that the warrants did not adequately describe the offenses alleged, according to a report in the New Zealand Herald. “Indeed they fell well short of that,” she said. “They were general warrants, and as such, are invalid.”

She also ruled that it was unlawful for the data confiscated in the raid to have been sent offshore, saying “the release of the cloned hard drives to the FBI for shipping to the United States was contrary to the 16 February direction” [given by the court] “that the items seized were to remain in the custody and control of the Commissioner of Police.”

MegaUpload is a cloud-storage locker that DotCom claims was completely legitimate and protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. U.S. officials, who are trying to extradite Dotcom and six associates to face piracy and wire fraud charges, say he encouraged users to store pirated videos, music, software, and other media and then share them with others. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Remember when the FBI shut down MegaUpload?Boy, that was sure a win for the federal government!

Except, uh, not. Ever since the raid, the US government has consistently been losing in New Zealand courts, where MegaUpload is based. They’ve had to free Kim Dotcom, had to return some of his assets, and, most embarrassingly, had to actually fork over the evidence they have that he was breaking the law. It’s rapidly become clear that the FBI and the Department of Justice did not do any research into where American and New Zealand laws intersect and where there might be issues.

And now the case is essentially dead

New Zealand High Court Judge Helen Winkelmann ruled Thursday that the warrants did not adequately describe the offenses alleged… “Indeed they fell well short of that,” she said. “They were general warrants, and as such, are invalid.” She also ruled that it was unlawful for the data confiscated in the raid to have been sent offshore.”

Roughly translated, this means the United States can’t use anything it found on those hard drives, if it did happen to find anything, because it’s illegally confiscated. This is a wee bit of a problem because their entire case is likely built on what they found in those drives.

In short, the entire case has collapsed. The US government walks away with a black eye, the labels walk away with an object lesson that you can’t game the system, and hopefully MegaUpload users get their data back.

Read more:
Well, I’m not so sure that the labels will get such an “object lesson” that you “can’t game the system”. It’s hard for me to judge where that all goes next. Of course in the United States a Fourth Amendment right to be left alone without worrying about your free speech or free exercise of your religion might result in such a fishing expedition –like the non-specific “general warrant” they used–, and apparently in New Zealand there are some comparable rules.

I, Cringely » Blog Archive Not your father’s IBM ~ I, Cringely – Cringely on technology:

The article covers some interesting views on IBM, and insights that extend much broader than IBM.

It’s a prediction of failure for iBM’s plans to grow earnings-per-share, and his conclusion that the result will be a failure. He make a very good case for this.

He shared a good quote from Steve Jobs about big companies that grow into a monopoly position. They can’t get more market share, and doing a better product can’t make them more profits. The people running them become sales and marketing people.

This is the first thing to understand about the IBM of today: the company is being run by executives who for the most part don’t understand the products and services they sell.  The IBM of today is a sales organization.  There is nothing wrong with sales if you can also deliver, but increasingly IBM can’t deliver.

He goes on to quote Jobs again specific about IBM:

The reason IBM can’t deliver is also explained well by Steve Jobs. It’s IBM’s maniacal fixation on process, once a strength but now a cancer.

Companies get confused,” Jobs told me.  “When they start getting bigger they want to replicate their initial success. And a lot of them think well somehow there is some magic in the process of how that success was created so they start to try to institutionalize process across the company.  And before very long people get very confused that the process is the content.  And that’s ultimately the downfall of IBM.  IBM has the best process people in the world.  They just forgot about the content.”

In this instance content means the deliverable, whether a product or service. IBM smugly thinks it knows so well how to do things that they can export their entire business model to cheaper labor forces in less expensive places to do business. While this is correct to a very limited extent it has been embraced as religion in Armonk.

Like he says, Global Services is IBM’s biggest money maker but they’re losing customers.

In another article Cringely showcased two companies in Memphis that replaced IBM’s outsourced services with its own employees and used a local company to monitor its services to prevent outages, one of those companies having had an outage that IBM discovered only when it was reported..

The read is worth it:

In the editor’s note in the print edition of ACM Communications, Moshe Vardi comments on the direction that scientific publishing is going.

Most businesses have sellers and buyers, but academic fields have authors, publishers, and libraries. The print media and the peer review process, has kept the quality from dropping, in his view. The last word of what gets published is no longer the say-so of editors in the field, or the peer review process, but the publisher. The publishers also have opened up the “vanity press” to authors. In turn, the “publish or perish” paradigm has led the authors to take advantage of the entry of “vanity press” ideas, albeit under different names.

The profit motive came up again as a negative in all this. Ho-hum. Again? Will we never learn?

One commenter, Andrew Adams, pointed out, the reader was left out of this discussion.

But we all know that real breakthroughs in science meet resistance as they are mistaken as low quality or quack ideas. But with the barrier to on-line publishing so low now that even a caveman can do it, those breakthroughs along with quack ideas have access to all the audience that can find it or that cares to read it.

But never fear. Bach and Beethoven still have an audience that appreciates that kind of quality and then there is easy-come easy-go entertainment for the masses.

The editor’s letter is titled “Predatory Scholarly Publishing“. He contrasts a “typical business”, that has sellers and buyers, with the “scholarly publishing business”, in which you have publishers and libraries as sellers and buyers, but also (1) authors, and (2) editors and reviewers. The editors and reviewers have been gatekeepers, who are paid or earn civic duty or scholarly prestige.

The thrust of the essay is to lament that vanity publishing and publishers themselves are making more decisions on what to publish. Anyone who wants to find an audience that is willing to read his stuff will find it.

There’s that “evil profit motive” again, bringing down quality. But it is also bringing down cookie-cutter conformity. Quality stuff is still “out there” along with bad stuff.

Take a paper that would gone into the trash before. The author pays his “registration fee” to get it published. Now, this paper has a better chance of getting published. Say, a good chance. But then, anybody who reads it or sees it has a chance to pick it apart.

The P versus NP episode was a turning point in my opinion in this whole discussion.  The “proof” was “published” via Internet, and it took a lightning-fast less than 24 hours to fall hard. So quality and lack of it get exposed more quickly than ever now. What’s the problem?

The problem seems to be that those who had the role of gatekeepers up to now, are afraid that the reader is now going to get lower-quality product. Their position as gatekeepers had a purpose, but now the terrain is shifting.

Quality will not lose its respect. Like one comment pointed out the readers and the audience is pretty much the same thing. The readership and the authorship that respects quality in its field will find each other.

In my opinion, this will widen the field for non-conformist advances, and new ideas are almost by definition non-conformist. The paradigm of how to publish science is shifting, and with it there may be a few, or many, other paradigm shifts.

Better to let knowledge grow like wildfire. Truly bad stuff will get hooted down. The theory that the moon is made of green cheese does not stand a chance.

And never fear, ACM publications, periodicals, will be kept in high esteem for its readership.

But why should people who pay for the end product, the consumer of the product, not have any say in the product? The world will go on.

In my opinion, it is a torture of history and common sense to see the profit motive as a net negative in the computing world anyway.

The profit motive has driven great advances in computing. The main reason computing academics gets funding is because it has proven itself as a fertile field of study that has yielded a great many fruits in terms of practical applications. The vacuum tube, the transistor, the microchip, programming languages, airliners, and all the rest paid for many of the research directly, and often indirectly. McDonnel-Douglass was one of the major sponsors of engineering studies at Washington University, for example.

What we do need in the United States and everywhere else is a better educated populace. The only way to get that is to have an independently educated populace. By independent I mean absolutely free of any political meddling, and any government funding is political meddling.

As you’re finding out with publishers in the academic field, the guy that pays the bills calls the shots. In Austrian economics, they express it as the concept that demand drives the market. This is the way it should be. Until now, the bottleneck of print resources created demand for those with a reputation for selecting what goes into it. Now it opens up.

For politically driven media like Time Magazine and the New York Times, this means that much of the readership that had the choices limited to them by a few dozen media companies, now have a much broader selection on-line, and the body politic is making good use of it. Editorial offerings that were not before available are now accessible over the Internet.

We the readers are making good use of it. Bypassing gatekeepers is coming in vogue.

Wait! Not bypassing gatekeepers, but the fact is, the readership is morphing into its own gatekeeper. New structures of respect and prestige are forming.

But we do need a more enlightened and educated body politic.  For that you need to move toward a demographic that recovers the intellectual acumen of the generation that had high school entrance exams from 1910 that would stump the Harvard grad of today and flunk more than a few MIT grads to boot.

With alternate publishing outlets, new sciences and technologies that have huge, very huge potential, getting more eager audience and more play.

For example, all the traditional publishing structure in all probability would have prevented Fleishman and Pons from publishing anything in 1989. They bypassed that and told the world about it instead, bypassing all the bottlenecks and informing the entire world, including physics labs and physics students everywhere that there was a new energy kid on the block worth checking out:

Not being able to censor the news, the gatekeepers of publications and research money who did not want to see their careers and their expensive educations devalued, used the same means to debunk it. Unsuccessfully it turns out.

MIT has a billionaire hot-fusion program going, funded largely by government money. When they announced that they had failed to get the results that Fleishman and Pons got, one of their own faculty bolted, became a whistle-blower, said they did get promising results, and went off and founded the “New Energy Foundation”, to fund further research into this promising technology.

It is now getting more attention around the world, in fact, and Arthur C. Clarke has added his name to those calling on the US president and institutions around the world to invest more into this new, clean, potentially very cheap and very abundant energy source.

And what traditional academic publishing gatekeeper would have been able to give the time of day to Luis Cruz, the Honduran teen that invented “Eyeboard”, an inexpensive eye-tracking device that will help people with disabilities greatly.

Command and control don’t work in economic domains, why should it work in science or academics?

Suppression of the first advocate of the germ theory of disease resulted in a great many unnecessary deaths from infectious diseases because the medical profession refused to believe that invisible little animals were getting people sick. It also drove them to punish him for telling them the truth (“You’re killing people!”) and to have him put away in an asylum.

that got its first advocate sentenced by the quality-minded establishment to an insane asylum, blaming him for their deafness to the lives they were killing with their dirty hands, calling him crazy for saying so.

“We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth”.


In big companies and big outsourcers it often happens that projects are always broken down into small pieces, measurable, how quick. Training in new technologies, new languages, takes bites out of budgets. How quick can you get this done, and forget about modernizing your code, it’s not budgeted.

I sympathize, why fix it if it ain’t broke, and you’ve been taking the bugs out for thirty years, and you don’t want to do that again, but think about that. Like you have a hundred programs that access several files, each file in almost all of them say, and when you have to expand the amount file you have to change 50 programs and recompile the other 50.

Brace yourselves, your dollar amount fields have a high probability of a need for expansion soon.

And what is your company going to do in twenty more years with a change to your OCL you run with STRS36PRC, after all the guys are gone that used to know what to do with a matching record indicator and all that?

On a recent iPro or MC-online article somebody mentioned a study that showed 60-something percent of developers’ time is now spent on maintenance. Tools that make maintenance easier are great, and there are some tool sellers that address that (like Databorough and Hawkeye). But I think that many companies would be well served by a well-planned, minimally disruptive, stepwise move toward modernizing their code base. Things like breaking up the monolithic order entry programs into small pieces, replacing the in-line routines in fifty programs that access the same customer information by external routines, and so on.

ROI? Sometimes real hard to calculate, but if you can cut down maintenance on the other end by even half, then what would you say?


Google guilty of infringement in Oracle trial; future legal headaches loom:

In what could be a major blow to Android, Google’s mobile operating system, a San Francisco jury issued a verdict today that the company broke copyright laws when it used Java APIs to design the system. The ruling is a partial victory for Oracle, which accused Google of violating copyright law.

But the jury couldn’t reach agreement on a second issue—whether Google had a valid “fair use” defense when it used the APIs. Google has asked for a mistrial based on the incomplete verdict, and that issue will be briefed later this week.

So there you go, it’s official now. Oracle has every intention of putting its Java toothpaste back in the tube, and it has a big lawyer staff to help do it. They are famous for taking open source territory and staking a claim in it and digging in with its proprietary claws, and making money every way it can, tooth and nail.

They just took Java out of the running. Sun released it to the open source world.

And by the way, software algorithms are “patentable”? This is as preposterous as any mathematical solution to any math problem, the maps to get to there from here on paper, or in your mind, or a thought experiment.

So these two giants have proven arrogant, and they’re going after each other, and they’re acting like the pie is limited.

Larry Ellison has said “Privacy is dead, get over it”. And Google’s guys has said anonymity is dead. Easy for them to say, darlings of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and other entrenched establishment types. Anonymity is the defense of the poor guy against such power houses, and dictators.