WorldWatch Week in Review

A look at worldwide OSS news for the weeks of August 30 - September 12.

This week's review actually covers two weeks, as my life was interrupted suddenly by catastrophic events that prevented me from writing a weekly review last week. We start off here with an amusing contrast between a pair of articles: an article from Wired presented a dark picture of FLOSS culture, while a new publication in Australia features everything from technical nitty-gritty to very light-hearted parody and feature writings.

A lot of interesting things are going on right here in Costa Rica. For one thing, I found out that there is a legislative project for FLOSS use in government that shows a great understanding of the real issues. Also, the Colegio de Abogados has started distributing to any of the 14,000 members who want it; they also are sponsoring some FLOSS seminars. Yesterday my anthropologist friend here, Felipe Montoya, sent me his write-up and subsequent thoughts about our original conversation about Open Source Seeds.

Coincidentally, yesterday I spent several hours talking to Maureen O'Sullivan, who is a professor at the University of West England at Bristol. Maureen is here in Costa Rica working on a legal project that would help provide a firm legal basis for FLOSS licensing based on the centuries-old principles of commons. Costa Rica seems to provide a unique venue for this discussion and possible application. I mention this conversation because Maureen has a lot of knowledge about genetically modified foods--the intellectual property and nutrition issues involved and even how grass-roots activism in Europe (especially the UK) has kept this issue from becoming more of a problem than it is right now. Our conversation also brought to light the fact that although the FLOSS community may be able to share a lot of information and techniques with efforts like the one Maureen is involved in, these grass-roots consumer movements have some things to give back to the FLOSS community as well. We are hoping to put more information out on this topic in the future, as it is germane to the basic conflicts developing in our world today and to ideas about how we can handle them peacefully. One thing I found particularly interesting was the idea of GM-Free Zones, places where individuals have made sure that no GM foods, seeds or other products are present. I think the same thing might be done by creating MS-Free Zones to foster a philosophical awareness that such software should be treated as a dangerous contaminant of the environment. Anyone who has visited Phil Hughes knows that his house is one such MS-Free Zone. Maybe I'll make him a sign.

An article from Spain patiently delineated and debunked the major objections to free software, and invites readers to participate in this and other FLOSS efforts. From the Far East, a major announcement was made about FLOSS development for embedded applications. Microsoft immediately called this an unfair competition, which is amusing considering what they've done to deconstruct the words fairness and competition.

SCO was levied in Germany, but only for 10,000 euros. That's less than 600 shares of its inflated stock, which is not even a slap on the wrist. We also have The Dueling Banjos as Darl McBride and Bruce Perens/Eric Raymond exchange barbs in two open letters. We're all hoping for a speedy deliverance from this FUD fight.

In other news from the music industry, RIAA lawyers have hit a new low, sounding more and more as if they might have spent their early years working for the KGB getting people to sign confessions. In the same article a French court decided that copy-protected CDs are defective merchandise, and customers can get them replaced or refunded.

Phil Hughes talks about his trip to Nicaragua and what he's thinking about Linux possibilities there. Meanwhile, I had a short interview with a US expatriate I met in the same country. I also posted my personal interpretations and thoughts on the recent IBM Linux commercial on prime-time US TV.

Thank you for your continued reading of WorldWatch.LinuxGazette. I am always open to your comments, suggestions and submissions.

Willy Smith is Editor in Chief of WorldWatch.LinuxGazette.



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Ad Hominem Attacks and the GM-MS Analogy

Willy's picture

For someone to post an anonymous ad hominem attack on me, without stating anything to back up their own knowledge and claims, suggests to me that they probably work for Microsoft and are paid by them to slam anyone who says anything against them on public forums. There, that's the same sort of unsubstantiated personal statement; it does nothing for either of us or the other readers, so let's not go there anymore.

I will continue to make challenging statements in WorldWatch.LinuxGazette and WWWiR. They are meant to make people wake up and think about the issues and the changes which are going on around us. Too many people are asleep and unaware, and will find a world which they are not happy living in if they don't take part in it. If I make some mistakes or stretch things a bit, please excuse me, it is with this in mind.

But in this case, you are wrong, the analogy is actually quite good from several standpoints; although I personally may not be very well-informed, as I have admitted, Maureen O'Sullivan is in fact very well-informed on both subjects from a legal standpoint; she could be called an expert. Here are some of the relevant analagous issues, which even I as a neophyte can understand: patentability of "Intellectual Property" (genetic material, software algorithms); criminalization of normal and unavoidable acts (propagating seeds, copying files); control or monopolization of what is part of the public heritage (illegalizing traditional varieties, digital rights management); and false marketing tactics concerning things of dubious or at least unproven quality (advantages of GM products, MS products).

If you read the article in WorldWatch, you would notice that Felipe Montoya also finds the analogy valid. Felipe is a degreed professional and devotes most of his time and energy doing something positive about the problem.

We welcome intelligent comments and article submissions. If anyone wants to write further articles on this subject, please submit it to WorldWatch or send me an email.

Willy Smith, Editor in Chief,

Re: Ad Hominem Attacks and the GM-MS Analogy

Anonymous's picture

Greetings Willy:

I want you to know that I really enjoyed your latest contributions. I think you are right on track with both your descriptions/comparisons as will as your points you just made here.

Your "Week in Review" stirred many emotions that circulate within the confines of my own mind. Perhaps most significant was the quote ". . . in detriment of the interests of greater humanity . . " by Felipe Montoya. People are taking another look at folks who do things for the greater good of all as being subversive to good ole American business as usual. I think it takes a lot of bravado to even utter such words in so many of today's public forums. Thank you for adding that article to story.

I really like the way you put all this information together. I will be back searching for more stories from you!

Thank you again. As always, I'm wishing you well.


Re: WorldWatch Week in Review

Anonymous's picture

Comparing OSS with "GM"-free products and MS with "GM" ones shows how easy it is for anyone to walk blindly into an area they do not have the knowledge to discuss. This analogy is weak and uninformed.

I don't want to start a discussion on "GM" here, just hope that the author writes on the topics that he is competent with as to not damage his overall credibility.

Have a nice day


Re: WorldWatch Week in Review

Anonymous's picture

The author is competent - I have done a thesis on free software and have done part of a PhD on the issue of regulation of GM crops. The similarities are many and Willie is well versed in both. Both are technologies, threatened by hostile ip rights and are potential victims of cross-pollination. Perhaps you need to be better informed.

Re: WorldWatch Week in Review

Anonymous's picture

A couple of years ago, when I started working at Philips, I was introduced to the concept of CMM. This gave me an idea for something similar, the definition of a Level 1 certification and a level 2 certification. The level 1 is for individual PC's, the level 2 is for complete rooms. Maybe we could extend it to level 3, level 4 and so on.

I posted it on Usenet, but I didn't got any feedback. People always think that I am too paranoid about MS, but to parafrase Niels Bohr : We aren't here to decide if we are paranoid, but paranoid enough.

I really would like to see such an initiative, with humorous stickers to mark PC's and rooms, which draw in a non-agressive manner attention to the fact that it is possible to do things without MS software.


Jurgen Defurne