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Legal

Interview with Ciaran Gultnieks of F-Droid

Filed under
Android
GNU
Legal

This is the latest installment of our Licensing and Compliance Lab's series on free software developers who choose GNU licenses for their works.

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Dangerous Decision in Oracle v. Google: Federal Circuit Reverses Sensible Lower Court Ruling on APIs

Filed under
Android
Google
Legal

We're still digesting today's lengthy decision in the Oracle v. Google appeal, but we're disappointed—and worried. The heart of the appeal was whether Oracle can claim a copyright on Java APIs and, if so, whether Google infringed that copyright. According to the Federal Circuit today, the answer to both questions was a qualified yes—with the qualification being that Google may have a fair use defense.

Quick background: When it implemented the Android OS, Google wrote its own version of Java. But in order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google relied on Java APIs. Application Programming Interfaces are, generally speaking, specifications that allow programs to communicate with each other. So when you type a letter in a word processor, and hit the print command, you are using an API that lets the word processor talk to the printer driver, even though they were written by different people.

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Will Apple sue Amazon for copying the iPhone?

Filed under
Android
Mac
Legal

Let’s face it, Apple has never been shy about suing other companies that they think have infringed on their intellectual property. The recent legal fights with Samsung are a good example, but there have been others over the years. At one point Steve Jobs even vowed to use Apple’s billions to destroy Android in court because he regarded it as a stolen product.

Apple has made it clear that they will go after anybody that they think has copied their work. The company has spent millions and millions of dollars trying to protect its patents and products. The end result has been somewhat muddled, but that doesn’t mean that Apple will stop sending its lawyers after those it regards as thieves.

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Easter egg: DSL router patch merely hides backdoor instead of closing it

Filed under
Hardware
Security
Legal

First, DSL router owners got an unwelcome Christmas present. Now, the same gift is back as an Easter egg. The same security researcher who originally discovered a backdoor in 24 models of wireless DSL routers has found that a patch intended to fix that problem doesn’t actually get rid of the backdoor—it just conceals it. And the nature of the “fix” suggests that the backdoor, which is part of the firmware for wireless DSL routers based on technology from the Taiwanese manufacturer Sercomm, was an intentional feature to begin with.

Back in December, Eloi Vanderbecken of Synacktiv Digital Security was visiting his family for the Christmas holiday, and for various reasons he had the need to gain administrative access to their Linksys WAG200G DSL gateway over Wi-Fi. He discovered that the device was listening on an undocumented Internet Protocol port number, and after analyzing the code in the firmware, he found that the port could be used to send administrative commands to the router without a password.

After Vanderbecken published his results, others confirmed that the same backdoor existed on other systems based on the same Sercomm modem, including home routers from Netgear, Cisco (both under the Cisco and Linksys brands), and Diamond. In January, Netgear and other vendors published a new version of the firmware that was supposed to close the back door.

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History Repeats Itself: Patent Abusers Successfully Stymie Anti-Patent Troll Bill In The Senate

Filed under
Legal

Back in December, we noted that the House Judiciary Committee had approved an unfortunately watered-down, anti-patent troll bill. It was better than nothing, but we hoped that the Senate would approve a much stronger version. For a while it seemed like that was likely to happen, but... those who abuse patents are pretty damn powerful. Even those who have been hit by patent trolls in the past, like Apple and Microsoft, have decided to join forces in lobbying against meaningful patent reform. They've been pushing to water down the Senate's bill, taking out nearly everything that would make the bill useful -- and it appears that they're succeeding.

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Here's Hoping The Supreme Court Does Not Blow Another Opportunity To Fix The Software Patent Problem

Filed under
Legal

Four years ago, the Supreme Court had a chance to establish once and for all whether or not software was patentable. The Bilski case got all sorts of attention as various parties lined up to explain why software patents were either evil, innovation-killing monsters or the sole cause of innovation since the cotton gin and everything in between (only slight exaggeration). Rather than actually answer the question everyone was asking, the Supreme Court decided to rule especially narrowly, rejecting the specific patents at stake in the case and saying that the current test used to determine patentability (the so-called "machine-or-transformation" test) need not be the only test for patentability. However, it declined to say what tests should be used, leaving it up to the lower courts to start ruling blindly, making up new tests as they went along. And muddle along blindly they did -- right up to the height of pure absurdism in the CAFC (appeals court that handles patents) ruling in the Alice v. CLS Bank case, in which every single judge disagreed with each other. The ruling was 135 pages of confused mess where all justices only agreed on a single paragraph, which (like Bilski) said this particular patent was invalid, but no one could agree why.

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SCO & NSA: The Great Digital Whack-A-Mole Game

Filed under
Legal

Since leaving SCO, McBride’s life has continued with the sort of gangsteresque intrigue that defined him in the days when he was Linux’s public-enemy-number-one. Last May he made news when The Salt Lake Tribune reported that he had turned over a four year old audio recording of a conversation he had with Mark Shurtleff, who had been Utah’s Attorney General when the recording was made.

The conversation turned around a bad debt McBride was trying to collect.

It seems that McBride invested $286,000 with businessman Mark Robbins, who had promised a $5 million return which McBride had hoped to use to cover legal expenses in the SCO vs. IBM case. Unfortunately for McBride, Robbins skipped town to avoid being served a bench warrant in an unrelated civil case and was nowhere to be found. In an attempt to collect the debt, McBride established a website, Skyline Cowboy, which the Tribune described as “a sort of virtual bounty-hunting operation aimed at flushing out Robbins.”

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No Licence Needed for Kubuntu Derivative Distributions

Filed under
KDE
Legal

Later last year rumours of this nonsense started appearing in the tech press so instead of writing a grumpy blog post I e-mailed the community council and said they needed to nip it in the bud and state that no licence is needed to make a derivative distribution. Time passed, at some point Canonical changed their licence policy to be called an Intellectual property rights policy and be much more vague about any licences needed for binary packages. Now the community council have put out a Statement on Canonical Package Licensing which is also extremely vague and generally apologetic for Canonical doing this.

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How Linux defenders attack bad software patents before they’re approved

Filed under
Linux
Legal

arstechnica.com: Despite the rise in the number of patent trolls launching lawsuits affecting open source software, there are some glimmers of hope. The America Invents Act that was signed into law in September 2011 has provided new ways to prevent the issuance of over-broad software patents that could fuel future lawsuits.

FSF, other groups join EFF to sue NSA over unconstitutional surveillance

Filed under
OSS
Security
Legal

fsf.org: The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today joined eighteen other activist and advocacy organizations in challenging the National Security Agency's (NSA) mass surveillance of telecommunications in the United States with a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

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More in Tux Machines

Hardware With Linux

  • Raspberry Pi's new computer for industrial applications goes on sale
    The new Raspberry Pi single-board computer is smaller and cheaper than the last, but its makers aren’t expecting the same rush of buyers that previous models have seen. The Raspberry Pi Compute Module 3 will be more of a “slow burn,” than last year’s Raspberry Pi 3, its creator Eben Upton predicted. That’s because it’s designed not for school and home use but for industrial applications. To make use of it, buyers will first need to design a product with a slot on the circuit board to accommodate it and that, he said, will take time.
  • ZeroPhone — An Open Source, Dirt Cheap, Linux-powered Smartphone Is Here
    ZeroPhone is an open source smartphone that’s powered by Raspberry Pi Zero. It runs on Linux and you can make one for yourself using parts worth $50. One can use it to make calls and SMS, run apps, and pentesting. Soon, phone’s crowdfunding is also expected to go live.
  • MSI X99A RAIDER Plays Fine With Linux
    This shouldn't be a big surprise though given the Intel X99 chipset is now rather mature and in the past I've successfully tested the MSI X99A WORKSTATION and X99S SLI PLUS motherboards on Linux. The X99A RAIDER is lower cost than these other MSI X99 motherboards I've tested, which led me in its direction, and then sticking with MSI due to the success with these other boards and MSI being a supporter of Phoronix and encouraging our Linux hardware testing compared to some other vendors.
  • First 3.5-inch Kaby Lake SBC reaches market
    Axiomtek’s 3.5-inch CAPA500 SBC taps LGA1151-ready CPUs from Intel’s 7th and 6th Generations, and offers PCIe, dual GbE, and optional “ZIO” expansion. Axiomtek’s CAPA500 is the first 3.5-inch form-factor SBC that we’ve seen that supports Intel’s latest 7th Generation “Kaby Lake” processors. Kaby Lake is similar enough to the 6th Gen “Skylake” family, sharing 14nm fabrication, Intel Gen 9 Graphics, and other features, to enable the CAPA500 to support both 7th and 6th Gen Core i7/i5/i3 CPUs as long as they use an LGA1151 socket. Advantech’s Kaby Lake based AIMB-205 Mini-ITX board supports the same socket. The CAPA500 ships with an Intel H110 chipset, and a Q170 is optional.

Leftovers: Ubuntu and Debian

  • Debian Project launches updated Debian GNU/Linux 8.7 with bug fixes
    An updated version of Debian, a popular Linux distribution is now available for users to download and install. According to the post on the Debian website by Debian Project, the new version is 8.7. This is the seventh update to the Debian eight distribution, and the update primarily focuses on fixing bugs and security problems. This update also includes some adjustments to fix serious problems present in the previous version.
  • Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, December 2016
    The number of sponsored hours did not increase but a new silver sponsor is in the process of joining. We are only missing another silver sponsor (or two to four bronze sponsors) to reach our objective of funding the equivalent of a full time position.
  • APK, images and other stuff.
    Also, I was pleased to see F-droid Verification Server as a sign of F-droid progress on reproducible builds effort - I hope these changes to diffoscope will help them!
  • Linux Mint 18.1 "Serena" KDE Gets a Beta Release, Ships with KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS
    After landing on the official download channels a few days ago, the Beta version of the upcoming Linux Mint 18.1 "Serena" KDE Edition operating system got today, January 16, 2017, an official announcement. The KDE Edition is the last in the new Linux Mint 18.1 "Serena" stable series to be published, and it was delayed a little bit because Clement Lefebvre and his team wanted it to ship with latest KDE Plasma 5.8 LTS desktop environment from the Kubuntu Backports PPA repository.
  • Linux AIO Ubuntu 16.10 — Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, and Xubuntu In One ISO
    Linux AIO is a multiboot ISO carrying different flavors of a single Linux distribution and eases you from the pain of keeping different bootable USBs. The latest Linux AIO Ubuntu 16.10 is now available for download in both 64-bit and 32-bit versions. It features various Ubuntu flavors including Ubuntu GNOME, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu MATE, and Xubuntu.

Top Ubuntu Editing Apps: Image, Audio, Video

It's been my experience that most people aren't aware of the scope of creative software available for Ubuntu. The reason for this is complicated, but I suspect it mostly comes down to the functional availability provided by each application title for the Linux desktop. In this article, I'm going to give you an introduction to some of the best creative software applications for Ubuntu (and other Linux distros). Read more

Leftovers: OSS and Sharing

  • Google's open-source Draco promises to squeeze richer 3D worlds into the web, gaming, and VR
    Google has published a set of open source libraries that should improve the storage and transmission of 3D graphics, which could help deliver more detailed 3D apps.
  • Why every business should consider an open source point of sale system
    Point of sale (POS) systems have come a long way from the days of simple cash registers that rang up purchases. Today, POS systems can be all-in-one solutions that include payment processing, inventory management, marketing tools, and more. Retailers can receive daily reports on their cash flow and labor costs, often from a mobile device. The POS is the lifeblood of a business, and that means you need to choose one carefully. There are a ton of options out there, but if you want to save money, adapt to changing business needs, and keep up with technological advances, you would be wise to consider an open source system. An open source POS, where the source code is exposed for your use, offers significant advantages over a proprietary system that keeps its code rigidly under wraps.
  • Can academic faculty members teach with Wikipedia?
    Since 2010, 29,000 students have completed the Wiki Ed program. They have added 25 million words to Wikipedia, or the equivalent of 85,000 printed pages of content. This is 66% of the total words in the last print edition of Encyclopedia Britannica. When Wiki Ed students are most active, they are contributing 10% of all the content being added to underdeveloped, academic content areas on Wikipedia.
  • AMD HSA IL / BRIG Front-End Still Hoping To Get Into GCC 7
    For many months now there's been work on an AMD HSA IL front-end for GCC with supporting the BRIG binary form of the Heterogeneous System Architecture Intermediate Language (HSA IL). It's getting late into GCC 7 development and onwards to its final development stage while this new front-end has yet to be merged. Developer Pekka Jääskeläinen has been trying to get in the finishing reviews and changes for getting approval to land this BRIG front-end into the GNU Compiler Collection. It's a big addition and with GCC 7 soon just focusing on wrong-code fixes, bug fixes, and documentation fixes starting on 19 January, there would be just a few days left to land this new front-end for GCC 7 to avoid having to wait until next year for it to debut in stable with GCC 8.
  • Rcpp 0.12.9: Next round
    Yesterday afternoon, the nineth update in the 0.12.* series of Rcpp made it to the CRAN network for GNU R. Windows binaries have by now been generated; and the package was updated in Debian too. This 0.12.9 release follows the 0.12.0 release from late July, the 0.12.1 release in September, the 0.12.2 release in November, the 0.12.3 release in January, the 0.12.4 release in March, the 0.12.5 release in May, the 0.12.6 release in July, the 0.12.7 release in September, and the 0.12.8 release in November --- making it the thirteenth release at the steady bi-montly release frequency. Rcpp has become the most popular way of enhancing GNU R with C or C++ code. As of today, 906 packages on CRAN depend on Rcpp for making analytical code go faster and further. That is up by sixthythree packages over the two months since the last release -- or about a package a day!