Open Source Industry Australias hard hitting position

Open Source Industry Australia have published a positioning paper on the SCO business and, not surprisingly, it’s a bit of a whack for SCO. An organisation like OSIA is unlikely to side with SCO, but even so Wars have started over less.Here’s a taster for you:

1) SCO launched this lawsuit as a cynical share-price pump and dump

2) Unless proven, there is no infringing code in Linux.

3) SCO has dropped the key argument in its case against IBM.

4) SCO’s claims that companies such as Computer Associates have bought
its Linux Intellectual Property (IP) Licenses are false.

5) Linux does not infringe on any SCO IP with respect to Application
Programming Interfaces (API).

6) Linux does not infringe on any SCO IP with respect to Application
Binary Interfaces (ABI).

7) SCO’s case will fail because it cannot prove it owns any Unix
copyrights nor can it prove that any infringing Unix code is in Linux

8) The AutoZone and Daimler-Chrysler defendants were not sued for using

9) Microsoft is the only reason that SCO is still in business.

Read the full article here (it’s a PDF, sorry!).

Shares SCOing down!

Looks like SCO are in for a rocky ride again. Share prices have hit the buffers with shares briefly dropping below the $4 mark. As of writing they have staggered back up to $4.77 mark, but it’s clearly a herculean effort for a company which is all but dead.It’s a sorry end for the Unix operating system: to be owned by a 300 staffer company, most of whom are involved in litigation and licensing rather than developing product. Unix is effectivly dead now: SCO are just concentrating on litigation. It seems that the financial world is not even sure this will save them.

Volume has been high in the 14 months or so since litigation began. TurboTas guesses that most people who want to earn a few quid have now done so (Mainly the exec’s at SCO!)

Here is the share price picture showing volume and price over the last couple of years. Shares are not quite as low as they were pre-litigation, but it’s only a matter of time now.

See here for more up-to-date share prices.

TurboTas 2004

Online Gaming Bank? Too Good to be True!

I read this article this other day about the real world economics of the online gaming communities. Assets in these online virtual worlds have acheived real world value. The logic is that as they represent effort expended, they are desirable by other gamers to such a degree that they will pay real money for them. I wondered if this could be extended to a service.Rather than having the hassle of using Ebay to find or sell your credits in your favorite game, it occurred that a banking service with published exchange rates could be an easier way for both buyer and seller to interact.

Rather than bidding at auction, there would be published buy and sell rates per server per game for the most popular games. Both rates would be supply/demand driven: If supply drops, buy price rises: if demand falls, sell price falls. Of course the opposite of each effect is also true.

Based on this I did some rough calculations for a couple of online games:

In Eve, one english penny will get you around 12000 Kredits (isk). In Star Wars, that same penny will get you around 845 credits.

Carrying on with the Star Wars example, if the ‘bank’ set a buy rate of 10000 credits to the pound and set a sell rate of 9000 credits to the pound, the bank clearly makes around 10%.

In real terms, given that during May 2004 £400 has already changed hands on Ebay for Star wars currency sales and a whopping great £700 already for sales of Eve currency, TurboTas can’t help thinking there may be a small market here.

Of course, there would be a small admin fee to stop huge disparity growing between buy and sell rates. Also the only practical games would be those where character to character transactions are not only possible, but possible when the recipient is not online.

Further expansion would be possible with the transfer of other assets and even whole characters: The bank in these cases would act as agents.

Back up the transaction with PayPal money transfers and you should be laughing. Turbotas has grabbed Anyone care to help?

Cell Phone Jamming As An Anti-Terror Tool

Cell-phone use could be blacked out at LAX, the Rose Bowl and Universal Studios under an anti-terrorism plan being formulated by Sheriff Lee Baca and other law enforcement authorities.

Cell-phone use could be blacked out at LAX, the Rose Bowl and Universal Studios under an anti-terrorism plan being formulated by Sheriff Lee Baca and other law enforcement authorities.

Baca is exploring the use of jamming equipment — already used widely in foreign countries and to protect President Bush — to interrupt cell-phone signals if a terrorist attack was expected in Los Angeles.

The issue gained urgency after terrorists used cell phones to detonate explosives March 11 in railway bombings in Spain. Baca, who recently returned from a fact-finding trip to Pakistan, said a cell-phone jamming device helped avert the attempted assassination of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Dec. 14.

“We have to look at this very realistically,” Baca said. “Public safety is more important than public convenience. We want to take the responsibility head-on and do the best we can, protecting people against terrorist attacks.”

Los Angeles Police Department Lt. Horace Frank said the department’s bomb squad is very interested in the idea and LAPD Counter-Terrorism Bureau Chief John Miller met with Baca recently to discuss the proposal.

“It certainly sounds like a technology that we would be interested in,” Frank said. “But I’m sure there are hurdles we’ll have to cross.”

Various companies already sell equipment on the Internet that block cell phone signals. The products include jammers that overwhelm cell phone frequencies, systems that mute cell phone ringers and sensors that detect cell phones.

The products range from hand-held jammers costing a few hundred dollars that darken cell-phone signals over a range up to 15 meters, to nearly $10,000 suitcase-sized equipment sold to government and military agencies that can block signals up to several miles.

“You can block a couple of miles or just in the theater,” said Bill Vorlicek, vice president of the Emergency Management Group at Kroll Inc. in New York City.

“The military has airplanes that can fly over and block an entire city. A lot of hospitals use them to prevent cell phones from triggering someone’s defibrillator. A lot of devices in hospitals are frequency-controlled.”

Although Baca’s proposal could be useful in protecting the public, critics say the more powerful jamming equipment could create unanticipated problems, such as preventing fire and police personnel from communicating via cell phone or even on their own vehicle radios during an emergency.

“Is the cell-phone jamming equipment a tool? Yes. But it’s not the panacea. It’s not the silver bullet,” Vorlicek said. “The idea has been tossed around for use in New York, but not for anti-terrorism, but in theaters to prevent the annoyance of cell phones going off during a movie or opera.”

The cell-phone industry objects to the use of the jammers, arguing that the airwaves are public property and jammers violate the rights of cell-phone users.

Currently, there are 162 million cell-phone users in the United States. In California, more than 17 million people have cell phones and in the greater Los Angeles area, more than half the population sport the fashionable accessory, according to industry figures.

Under law, the importation, sale or use of cell-phone jammers is banned in the United States and can result in Federal Communications Commission fines of up to $11,000 daily per device. An FCC spokesperson said the fines have been levied against people for not holding a license to use the devices.

“The FCC rules are clear,” said Travis Larson, spokesman for the international Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. “Jamming is illegal, but whether there is an exception made for law enforcement is a decision the FCC will have to make.”

An FCC spokeswoman in Los Angeles said they are unaware of any local law enforcement agency in the nation that uses jammers now.

“In an emergency situation, there are different exceptions that could be made,” she said. “But that’s a decision that would have to come from the headquarters in Washington, D.C.”

Currently, the Secret Service uses cell-phone jamming equipment when President Bush travels in his limousine, on Air Force One and when he gives a speech. Casinos use jammers to prevent people from cheating using cell phones and some federal law enforcement agencies use the equipment during hostage situations.

John Mack, chief executive officer of USBX Advisory Services, a Santa Monica-based investment banking firm with a specialty focus on the security industry, said the jammers could have the inadvertent effect of blocking communications between first responders in a terrorist attack.

“Many police, fire department, hazmat units and a whole host of people rely on cell-phone communications and to the extent you use jamming devices designed to jam terrorists, you may be jamming the first responders, whose communication is critical in an emergency situation,” Mack said.

He noted that since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, law enforcement and fire agencies have taken steps to develop “inter-operability” equipment that eliminates incompatibility among communication systems.

“In a significant terrorist situation, having all agencies being able to communicate is a huge issue,” Mack said. “If every time you think there is going to be a terrorist attack you engage the cell-phone jammers in a five- mile radius, not only are you throwing normal commerce and business into disarray, first responders could be blocked from communicating.

“Sure, you could say that you’ll get technology specifically designed to jam only the right kind of cellular frequencies, but first responders use all sorts of different kinds of technology and I don’t think you could say that first responders wouldn’t be jammed while the stuff terrorists are working with would.”

If officials received intelligence that terrorists planned to detonate a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport, he would favor using jamming equipment until a bomb squad could render the explosives safe.

“But every day the LAPD responds to a hundred situations where a water heater blows up or noxious gases are emitted in a car crash. Will we presume those are terrorist threats and engage in cell-phone jamming in a big circumference?”

For cell-phone user Phyllis Hines of Lake View Terrace, Baca’s proposal sounds good.

“If it’s a matter of saving lives, I think that takes precedent over the right to communicate and I would support something like that,” Hines said. “It would seem to take some of the danger out of the times we are living in now.

“But if it became an invasion of our privacy or was overused, there would need to be restrictions placed on it. It can’t be used as a general policy. It has to be restricted to emergencies.”

This article from the LA Daily News

Evolution Exchange Connector goes OSS

This is huge news. No I’m really not joking, but you need to be a IT futurist like me to appreciate it fully: Novell have just announced that the Exchange connector for the Ximian Evolution client will be FREE from May 14th.

I kid you not, this could well be the final straw needed to convince businesses to move to Linux desktops in droves.

I know that you’re all sitting there thinking ‘TurboTas, you are mad as a hatter’, but perhaps think again.

Evolution is a rock solid mail client with all the features you expect from Outlook except that you needed to pay to talk to an exchange server with the OWA engine running.

Lets be honest here: Exchange is pretty good at what it does: not many (FOSS) systems come close to it’s functionality (Yet!). Now that the platform requirement has gone, it’s just become even more useful.

The next big step would be evolution compiled for Windows. Then we really would have a killer app. Alas, that won’t happen in the near future: Evolution has core gnome dependencies. All is not lost though: in 2000 a small team did succeed in getting gnome running on Windows.

Of course, the next big step after that would be a FOSS Messaging Server with all the nice features you’ve come to expect from Exchange: It’s on the way!

Watch this space and remember that you heard it here first.

If you want the lowdown on what’s hot and what’s not is the world of FOSS, TurboTas is available at pretty good day rates and has been advising Large corporations and Goverment contractors on the use of Free/Open Source Software since 1994. Just get in touch

TurboTas 2004

One Time Pad generation

The problem with one time pads is that they are a bit hard to produce and distribute. One of the hardest parts of the process is to make a pseudo random stream of 0’s and 1’s. I’ve had an idea about how to do this.

Why not simulate a homogonizing device, such as say,a food mixer. Start off with a 3d cell model of a circular container, much as you would with a CFD model. Lets say take a million cells.

Lets set eachj of the cells either on or off. The initial method is relevant but lets’forget that for a moment.

Next we introduce the ‘paddles of the mixer. These paddles operate on the bits in the bowl in the same way as they would in a real mixer: we’ll simulate viscosity and a distance/velocity algorithm to affect each of the cells during each iteration of the mixer.

The ‘whicking head’ can be moved around by the user to form a unique patter or the heads could be induced into ‘chaotic’ motion.

We’ll have some kind of distribution check to show when the process is complete. I’ve a clever plan for this based on voume shading, but ignore than for now.

Once the mix is complete, you have (hopefully) a stream of bits which is as random as you could possibly hope for. these can be read out in any order and used for the pads.

A sensible precaution would be a trim to remove data from the ‘edges’ as this may be less likely to move.

SCO v IBM: No Linux Copyright Infringement!

Yes, Hot(ish) off the presses is SCO’s latest Memoranda. Courtsey of Groklaw, we get the news that SCO now claim that they never said that IBM had infringed SCO copyrights by contributing to Linux. Instead the residual copyright claim is simply that IBM continued to use AIX and Dynix after SCO had ‘revoked’ the license (yes, the fully paid up, perpetual license, that’s the one!).So here we are a year on from the times Darl started categorically stating that IBM made contributions to Linux of code owned by SCO. Apparently not. No. Nosireee. But someone did. Oh yes. Yessss. Yes yes yes.

The most strange thing is that they still claim the violations did occur, but they seem unable to pinpoint who it is that contributed and want to concentrate on secondary infringers.

This is evident in the same memoranda which asserts that the Autozone case is the copyright infringement case. Why? AutoZone know nothing about the kernel and have never contributed anything to it: How could they be guilty of the primary copyright infrinmgement.

It looks like the simple facts are that SCO have had a year to scan the codebase of Linux for infringements and have not found any (Hooray!).

Public and industry opinion is certainly turning against SCO. Today another huge organisation made statements that they beleive the SCO claims to be without merit.

Of coursse there is so much going on that the cases are very far from over. Gradually though, it seems that the community is winning!

TurboTas 2004