You are currently viewing archive for July 2011

Category: Issues
Posted on July 18, 2011 by Gary
From Raw Story:
Greg Mitchell's new book, Atomic Cover-Up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima & Nagasaki and The Greatest Movie Never Made, is the first to be devoted to the historic full-color footage that was covered up by the U.S. government for decades.

Google's "ad word team" notified Mitchell Monday that an online ad for the book's video trailer was being suspended because it "promotes violence."

"At this time, Google policy does not permit the advertisement of websites that contain the promotion of violence," an email to Mitchell said. "As noted in our advertising terms and conditions, Google may refuse any ads or terminate any of your ad campaigns at any time, for any reason."

You can watch the video trailer at the Raw Story link above. At no point does it advocate violence against anyone. By exposing the harm that war can cause, it might in some small way help to deter violence.

A lot of people think of Google as a benign alternative to some of the more obviously scummy corporations like Microsoft. They aren't. When it comes to corporations of that size, there's no such thing as benign. Think about this before you decide to trust them with custody of your email or any other documents.
Category: Software
Posted on July 8, 2011 by Gary
Via Forbes:
In the 1980s, attorney Gary Reback was working at Sun Microsystems, then a young technology startup. A pack of IBM employees in blue suits showed up at Sun headquarters seeking royalties for 7 patents that IBM claimed Sun had infringed. The Sun employees, having examined the patents, patiently explained that six of the seven patents were likely invalid, and Sun clearly hadn’t infringed the seventh.... An awkward silence ensued. The blue suits did not even confer among themselves. They just sat there, stonelike. Finally, the chief suit responded. “OK,” he said, “maybe you don’t infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back... and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?” After a modest bit of negotiation, Sun cut IBM a check, and the blue suits went to the next company on their hit list.

Android has roughly 10 million lines of code. Auditing 10 million lines of code for compliance with 18,000 patents is an impossible task—especially because the meaning of a patent’s claims are often not clear until after they have been litigated. Most Silicon Valley companies don’t even try to avoid infringing patents. They just ignore them and hope they’ll be able to afford good lawyers when the inevitable lawsuits arrive.

So Android, like every large software product on the planet, infringes numerous Microsoft patents. And Microsoft is taking full advantage. They’re visiting Android licensees and giving the same sales pitch Reback remembers from a quarter century ago. “Do you really want us to go back to Redmond and find patents you infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us?” Once again, many of the targets are writing checks to make the problem go away.

In software development, in which I myself am gainfully employed, you often find that there's one clear best way of doing something. You may reinvent it without knowing or caring who did it before you. Should that entitle the first person to solve the problem — or the person who patented the solution, who probably wasn't actually the first — to free money from you? That's a bit like saying that I need to cut a check to Karl Fredric Gauss' decendants every time I solve for three unknowns in three linear equations.

Microsoft, of course, doesn't follow its own rules. The Win-D'Ohs operating system borrowed heavily from Mac OS and OS-2. The .NET platform is basically Java with some not-very-useful extra features thrown in. And so on. You'd be hard-pressed to find any product these guys put out that somebody else didn't do first, usually better, and almost always cheaper.

So to all the readers out there -- yes, both of you -- please don't buy any Microsoft products. If you need a PC, get Ubuntu instead. After all, Microsoft will get your money anyway.
Category: Local politics
Posted on July 7, 2011 by Gary
The Chicago Tribune reports on activities of DuPage County Sheriff John Zaruba that would be considered endemic of rampant corruption if Cook County Democrats did them:
  • The Zaruba campaign has regularly sent letters to employees seeking donations—helping him raise a much larger portion of his campaign cash from deputies than other current sheriffs. Scores of his employees also have done campaign work.
  • Political supporters were more likely to receive promotions—at times over peers who scored higher on tests and job reviews. He promoted one supporter over more than 20 higher-ranking deputies.
  • Political supporters also have been more likely to receive lighter discipline in recent years than nonsupporters. One federal suit alleging favoritism led to a $65,000 settlement, while other suits are pending.

Sadly, there will probably be no consequences for Mr. Zaruba, since the first law of DuPage government is that there are never any consequences for anything.