February 2010

There are more worrying developments for open source software. It is becoming a(n unintended?) target of zealots in the copyright-to-the-absurd, shortsighted entertainment industry. Behind the curve as such attempts may be, this industry has enormous cloud in the US Congress and parliaments and governments around the world. The esteemed BBC that has now introduced commercials before showing video content also blocks certain open source video software from accessing their videos: “… BBC … has enabled SWF Verification for its catch-up Internet-video service. … users of Open Source software (such as Xbox Media Center – or XBMC) can no longer access videos from BBC’s iPlayer.” (AfterDawn.com). According to ZDNet, “Andres Guadamuz, a lecturer in law at the University of Edinburgh in the UK, has carried out an investigation and discovered that a very influential lobby group is asking the US government to look at open source as being worse than piracy. The lobby group in question is the  International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), a group of organizations that includes the MPAA and RIAA.” They quote from IIPA documents: “The Indonesian government’s policy… simply weakens the software industry and undermines its long-term competitiveness by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services, even as it denies many legitimate companies access to the government market. Rather than fostering a system that will allow users to benefit from the best solution available in the market, irrespective of the development model, it encourages a mindset that does not give due consideration to the value to intellectual creations. As such, it fails to build respect for intellectual property rights and also limits the ability of government or public-sector customers (e.g., State-owned enterprise) to choose the best solutions.”

A new report came out: The Future of the Internet IV, by J. Anderson and L. Rainie. It’s the 4th volume in this quasi-annual series (previous volumes also available online). This is an important study.

A survey of nearly 900 Internet stakeholders reveals fascinating new perspectives on the way the Internet is affecting human intelligence and the ways that information is being shared and rendered.

The web-based survey gathered opinions from prominent scientists, business leaders, consultants, writers and technology developers. It is the fourth in a series of Internet expert studies conducted by the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University and the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. In this report, we cover experts’ thoughts on the following issues:

“Three out of four experts said our use of the Internet enhances and augments human intelligence, and two-thirds said use of the Internet has improved reading, writing and rendering of knowledge,” said Janna Anderson, study co-author and director of the Imagining the Internet Center. “There are still many people, however, who are critics of the impact of Google, Wikipedia and other online tools.” Read more

I’m a bit confused. The National Treasures website, set up by the Israel Antiquities Authority, provides a gallery and info: “This on-line site offers a selection of published artifacts from the collections of the National Treasures and is available for researchers, curators, students and the general public in Israel and abroad. This site is updated continuously, and new artifacts are added on a regular basis.” So far so good. However, when you dig down to an actual artifact page, this is what jumps out:

There are two links for “Purchase”? Fortunately, when I clicked these, nothing happened, the page stayed the same. Still, is the IAA in the antique dealing business now?

Correction: As Mark and Catherine were kind enough to point out, the entry page of National treasures actually does state: “The artifact’s information card presents detailed archaeological data about the selected artifact, including provenance, type, dimensions, material, site where discovered, dating and bibliography. In addition, hi-resolution images of on-line artifacts may be purchased on-line from the photographic archives of the Israel Antiquities Authority.” I am sorry for any confusion I may have caused. Just goes to show that it isn’t always a good idea to write blog posts (very) late at night…

This week, I came across a website, unprofound.com, with free, no-strings-attached photos that you can “use in just about any way [you]‘d like. You may NOT, however, redistribute these photos individually or en masse, as photos, to any other websites or offline buyers. The photos themselves are still the intellectual property of their respective owners and you are merely receiving permission to use them in your designs, your art, your personal and professional projects, as your desktop backgrounds.” One way to browse the photos is by dominant color… It is nice that the contributing photographers come from around the world and therefore provide more than just typical stock photos of life in the US or so. Here’s a photo I liked:

by anthonym

And now for something a bit different: “… volunteers are gathering in cities around the world to help bolster relief groups and government first responders in a new way: by building free open-source technology tools that can help aid relief and recovery in Haiti. ‘We’ve figured out a way to bring the average citizen, literally around the world, to come and help in a crisis,’ says Noel Dickover, co-founder of Crisis Commons (crisiscommons.org), which is organizing the effort.” (source: NYT article)

Update 2-17-10: Wired magazine has set up its own Haiti webpage: Haiti Rewired.

Microsoft has made a deal with the NSF to offer free cloud computing services to scientists, says The New York Times. “The goal of the three-year project is to give scientists the computing power to cope with exploding amounts of research data. It uses Microsoft’s Windows Azure computing system, …” “[Those systems] allow organizations and individuals to run computing tasks and Internet services remotely in relatively low-cost data centers.” “Microsoft’s commitment to scientific computing comes two years after a similar service was introduced by Google and I.B.M. … hoping to differentiate the new service by offering scientists a set of custom applications that simplified access to Azure and use of existing software applications like Microsoft Excel easily.” “… the explosion of data being collected by scientists had transformed the needs of the typical scientific research program on campus from a half-time graduate student one day a week to a full-time employee dedicated to managing the data. He said this kind of exponential growth in cost was increasingly hampering scientific research.”