...making Linux just a little more fun!

<-- prev | next -->

The Linux Launderette


(?)Unauthori[sz]ed Practice of Law statutes
(?)Yet another "case study" (RadioShack Saves Millions of Dollars by Choosing Windows over Linux)
(?)RadioShack... and ferrets?
(?)Everything you ever wanted to know about C types, Part 1: What's in a type?
(?)Open Source cuddly penguins
(?)Ultra-cool gadgetry
(?)The usual brilliant Redmond strategy: checkmate in two moves
(?)3 Cyrillic spams

(?) Unauthori[sz]ed Practice of Law statutes

Sat, 31 Dec 2005

From Predrag Ivanovic

Answered By: Rick Moen

Rick, does this qualify?

He had to remove list of Linux compatible Bluetooth devices from the site, because "[undisclosed] registered member of the Bluetooth SIG complained about the non-qualified use of Bluetooth products on this page and the features document." Altough the BlueZ protocol stack is now qualified as a Bluetooth subsystem, the list is still not there.

(!) [Rick] Pedja, thank you for the suggestion.
I did follow that at the time that it was a current news item, The sum and substance seems to be that the (unnamed) Bluetooth Qualification Administrator asserted (repeating the allegations of a third party) that Holtzmann had been distributing information about not-yet-certified software or hardware products ("non-qualified products") that had been entrusted to him under nondisclosure (the "Bluetooth License Agreement") as a member of the private Bluetooth SIG. Or alternatively that Holzmann was violating his agreement by asserting that his BlueZ protocol stack was "Bluetooth" compatible, when it had not passed the required certification steps at that time. Or both. Or something similar.

(?) Well,according to this all he did is list drivers which are needed for some BT device to work with Linux. I couldn't find anywhere "Device $foo is certified by Bluetooth authority as working."

(!) [Rick] I don't want to make it seem as if I'm making excuses for the unnamed Bluetooth Qualification Administrator, but Holzmann may have agreed in his "Bluetooth License Agreement" to use the term "Bluetooth" only in relation to certified products. It's not entirely clear, what their objection was.
(!) [Rick] The problem is that the complaint may have been justified. We don't have enough information to decide one way or the other.
But it's very common to tie trademark-licensing rights to compliance with an industry-controlled certification suite. I can easily imagine Holzmann getting caught in one of those pitfalls -- and no actual malfeasance being visited upon him by the industry consortium.

(?) So, device is BT-compliant ONLY if it passed official certification, and since BlueZ was not certified at the time, listing products that work with it is considered a violation of some sort, right? And Holzmann received a slap on the wrist for doing that, so it seems. If that's the situation, based on info I have and your analysis, this is just another case of $institution enforcing strict regulations. I thought that only federal/government agencies (FAA,FCC etc.) are that strict.

(!) [Rick] Well, this is claimed to be based in some contractual agreement.
Contract violation isn't punishable in the way crimes are -- the former being merely civil disputes between parties. In retrospect, I really do think this entire case was about trademark rights, enforced with the aid of a rather aggressively worded contract. Which Holzmann signed. We have no way of knowing if he actually acted in violation of that contract (neither side having published the terms in question), but that's what's alleged.
An additional lesson is possible from noting that, stipulating that Holzmann was caught violating some contract he had agreed to, nonetheless the sky didn't fall. The parties just worked out the complaint, and moved on.
As I've observed many times, many computerists have a comical and self-destructive tendency to run shrieking in terror, seeking permission to capitulate, the moment they see a paper (or even e-mail!) demanding something, that looks as if it's been breathed on by a lawyer. I can imagine that the idea of an actual tort (such as violation of contract) would inspire them to fainting spells.
A "tort" in the USA and other British-derived legal systems is a civil wrong, i.e., a non-criminal action or failure to act, that had the effect of making the person involved (the "tort-feasor") fail an obligation towards someone else. The state has no part in civil litigation, except to supply the courts and judges: Each party pays his/her own legal expenses, and must convince a judge that a wrong has been committed through a "preponderance of the evidence". (Criminal cases, by contrast, must be proved by the state per the much higher standard of evidence being convincing "beyond any reasonable doubt".)
Generally speaking, all you can get if you win a civil suit is either correction of the wrongful situation (a "remedy in equity") or a money payment from the other side in compensation of your loss (a "remedy in law"). Sometimes , you can get an order that the other side pay your legal expenses. For a minority of torts in which the plaintiff is able to show particular recklessness, plaintiff can get "special" or "exemplary" damages to deter other people from being screw-ups in that way, in the future.
But that's really about it.
Now, people justly fear being sued (hauled into civil litigation) simply because of expense of legal representation, but that is a sword that cuts both ways (not to mention that "Discovery should prove interesting" threat I cited earlier). Therefore, most civil conflicts never go to court, even in the much-too-litigious USA, and even in cases where sundry threats of litigation have flown back and forth.
People go to court because either they're crazy, or because the other side refuses to compromise and plaintiff thinks he/she can win big enough to merit the time and expense. Fortunately for our sanity, that happens rarely.
(!) [Rick] One lesson is: Be careful what contracts you agree to. If the "Bluetooth License Agreement" stipulates that you may not use a certain trademark-encumbered term without passing the associated certification suite, then either decline the agreement or be prepared to live with its restrictions.

(?) Excelent advice. "Always read the fine print" and "Use your common sense".

(?) Yet another "case study" (RadioShack Saves Millions of Dollars by Choosing Windows over Linux)

Wed, 04 Jan 2006

From Predrag Ivanovic

If TAG isn't place for this,I'm sorry,but I just had to share few quotes from this...case study[1]. URL says it all, really...

(!) [Jason] Heh heh. Just skimming it, one thing is obvious: They're scared.

(?) "Benefits that the company expects to realize by choosing Windows include a lower total cost of ownership, simplified system management and deployment of software updates, reduced staffing and training requirements, improved system reliability and security, and... reduced exposure to the risk of intellectual property infringement claims."


"Highly skilled resources for the Windows platform cost significantly less than similarly skilled resources for Linux," says Cook. "Had we selected Linux, I'm sure that we would have incurred significant additional staffing costs."

(!) [Jason] Hey kids! Get your A+ Certification, so you can work for less than a *NIX admin! :)

(?) [..]

"Unlike many Linux vendors, Microsoft provides its customers with strong indemnification against patent, copyright, trade secret, and trademark infringement claims without a monetary limit--part of its commitment to ensuring that licensing issues and questions of intellectual property do not present problems for customers."

[1] http://www.microsoft.com/windowsserversystem/facts/casestudies/CaseStudy.aspx?CaseStudyID=17131

(!) [Ben] So they bought^Wfound themselves a supporter at Radio Shack who, in his own words, is "a strong advocate of Wind0ws XP Embedded" (note that he's the only one they quote throughout the entire "case study".) Everyone here is shocked - shocked, I tell you - what an unusual tactic for Micr0s0ft!
I stopped being outraged, or even bothered by this a long, long time ago. If you're going to read this kind of stuff, I suggest that you adopt the same attitude; let them make the noise, and we'll keep on producing the better OS. :) Those who are swayed by empty claims will do their thing; the people and companies who actually have to watch their bottom line instead of engaging in managerial dicksize wars will do theirs. And Linux will keep growing just as it has. Quietly, and regardless of Micr0s0ft "case studies".
(!) [Jason]
(!) [Rick] Which links to a "Cleveland Scene" article that's the most entertaining read I've had in a long time.
Short version: Zamos was a 21-year-old impoverished student who couldn't use the XP educational copy he bought, tried to return it under Microsoft's return policy and was rather unscrupulously denied, tried to sell it on eBay, had his auction questionably cancelled by a Microsoft flack, recertified his auction as lawful and then sold the copy, was sued by Microsoft on ridiculous copyright and trademark charges, countersued on several charges while proving in court (represented only by himself) that the lawsuit was bogus and the company's actions repeatedly in bad faith, got international publicity for the lopsided court fight that he seemed poised to win, insisted on a jury trial, and eventually accepted a settlement that included a gag agreement.
All his countersuit had requested was an apology and reimbursement for his $60 product cost. Microsoft refused, and thus ended up being taken to the cleaners -- in front of the entire world -- by a 21-year-old pro-se litigant with a $3,500 annual gross income.

(?) RadioShack... and ferrets?

Wed, 04 Jan 2006

From Predrag Ivanovic

(?) "Unlike many Linux vendors, Microsoft provides its customers with strong indemnification against patent, copyright, trade secret, and trademark infringement claims without a monetary limit--part of its commitment to ensuring that licensing issues and questions of intellectual property do not present problems for customers."

(!) [Sluggo] Regarding the last one... Microsoft is allowing you to pay them off to avoid a problem they themselves caused?
Isn't that what Ben used to do for the KGB? I thought it was called "Extortion" though.
(!) [Ben] You keep missing it, Mike. What I used to do is take people who called it extortion - even those who _didn't_ capitalize the word - stuff'em in a sack with hungry ferrets on crack, and toss'em into a large dryer. Cost me $2.50 each time, but it was worth it.
(!) [Jimmy] Now... that's just kind. I would use crack-addicted hungry ferrets, but I'd make sure they were going through withdrawal... mainly just to see if they'd eat'em or smoke'em.
(!) [Ben] Jimmy, from here on, I'll leaving the design of these things to you. I'm obviously getting behind the times, getting old and weak and decrepit... I'll just do the knee-smashing, the spine-breaking, and the skull-cracking, and you can do the hard bits.
(!) [Ben] Say... how's your mustelid quotient these days? Need to be upped any? 'Cause, y'know, I have low friends in high places; we can oblige.
(!) [Jimmy] I'm just amused by the mental picture I have of a ferret holding a pipe. In a sack, obviously.
(!) [Ben] I'd imagine that you could bribe Heather and get a JPG. :)

(?) Google

Tue, 24 Jan 2006

From Mike Orr


'Google's product development pipeline runs at such a fast rate that it's very difficult for any company, Microsoft or Yahoo! to catch up.'

That couldn't be because they leverage and support open source, could it?

(!) [Rick] You know, these stories, are, like, too spazzed out unless you run them through the Valspeak filter:

(?) That's great!

Yahoo! Like, oh my gawd! gives up quest for scope dominance
Yahoo! Like, oh my gawd! Inc., one of the first Network for, like, total spazzes scope companies, totally has capitulated to Google Inc. in the battle for market dominance. "We totally don't think it's reasonable to assume we're going to gain a lot of share from Google," Chief Financial Officer Susan Decker said in an interview. "It's not our goal to be No. 1 in Network for, like, total spazzes search. We would be very happy to maintain our market share."

I hope Thomas isn't getting a heart attack.

(!) [Thomas] I'm like, "no way".

(?) Everything you ever wanted to know about C types, Part 1: What's in a type?

Thu, 05 Jan 2006

From Jimmy O'Regan



"It is also possible to provide an incomplete definition of a structure or union type, providing the tag name but not the contents. Such an incomplete type cannot be directly used, but pointers to such a type can be used (but not dereferenced). You can use this to provide a level of encapsulation many people don't realize is possible in C.

Listing 3. Encapsulation in C.

       /* foo.h */
        struct foo_hidden;
        typedef struct foo_hidden *foo;
        extern foo new_foo();
        extern void delete_foo(foo);

        /* foo.c */
        struct foo_hidden {
                /* contents go here */
... the <stdio.h> API never manipulates a FILE object directly, only pointers to FILE objects. In fact, such systems are entirely conforming. The humorous "Your stdio doesn't appear very std." message that Perl's Configure script emits when it can't figure out how to poke around inside a private structure is simply false."


(?) Open Source cuddly penguins

Wed, 04 Jan 2006

From Jimmy O'Regan

"This project provides 'executables' that enable you to make your own soft-toy Linux® penguin. To put it straight: You can find sewing patterns and a community to sew your own soft toy or stuffed Linux® Tux penguin here."

(?) Ultra-cool gadgetry

Tue, 03 Jan 2006

From Benjamin A. Okopnik

In the "not (yet) Linux" category: this is the cool gadget of the year - tablet computing on paper. I see some very, very interesting possibilities in the future for this thing if it gets into the mainstream.

(?) The usual brilliant Redmond strategy: checkmate in two moves

Mon, 23 Jan 2006

From Benjamin A. Okopnik

Yes, but for *whom?*


Seems that Vista is going to require machines with more resources than (my estimate) half the US population, and probably 95% of the people in the rest of the world, own.

(!) [Sluggo] It worked for Windows 95....
Just what I need, a 3-D word processor.
(!) [Thomas] DDD? No wait, that's a debugger. Ah, I see now. :)


To be sure, Microsoft has said lesser computers will still be capable of
running Vista, just with some of the special features that differentiate
it from older versions of Windows automatically turned off.

"Lesser" computers? I love it.

Dell has a section on its Web site, at www.dell.com/vista, which
highlights computers the company recommends for those planning to
upgrade to Vista. For models for the home and home office, the
recommended desktop is priced at $1,749. The laptop costs $2,699.

Better and better, every day. Y'all ready to rush right out and buy the top-buck gizmo of the day?

(*Don't* anybody breathe. If Micr0s0ft actually falls for this one, we're home free.)

(?) 3 Cyrillic spams

Wed, 25 Jan 2006

From Rick Moen

Several spams got through over the last few days, in fairly quick succession: I think I've now closed that hole. As a reminder, this mailing list is a bit difficult to keep spam out of, because of the open postings setting. (Posters aren't required to subscribe.)

(!) [Jimmy] Oh. I thought you were giving us holiday suggestions ("Winter in Egypt" :)

(?) Essentially, although my mail server's most effective antispam measure is the RFC-compliance tests carried out during each attempted delivery (because most malware and other spam doesn't even try to observe proper SMTP requirements), my MTA's knack, a bit later, of vetting each posting through SpamAssassin is pretty useful, too.

Anyhow, as it turns out, some particularly clever spams insert SMTP headers intended to disable SMTP-time SpamAssassin checking on the receiving host. Today, I've changed the SA settings slightly, to make its semaphores a bit more difficult for spammers to forge. (The two most recent spams got through because I'd left that reconfiguration unfinished, with the effect, ironically, of disabling SA checking entirely until I realised my error.)

Talkback: Discuss this article with The Answer Gang

Copyright © 2006, . Released under the Open Publication license unless otherwise noted in the body of the article. Linux Gazette is not produced, sponsored, or endorsed by its prior host, SSC, Inc.

Published in Issue 123 of Linux Gazette, February 2006