ome of the most beautiful artistic treasures created during the millennium we refer to in the Western world as the Dark Ages are books — usually of a religious nature, they were transcribed by hand in sumptuously precise calligraphy, illuminated with wonderfully colorful and imaginative borders, and graced with elegant inset illustrations that were themselves jewels of inspiration, meticulously set down with pen, brush and burnisher in inks, tempera and gold leaf on laboriously stretched and scraped sheets of parchment. When complete, these beautiful pages were bound in volumes large and small, from enormous folios that were easily read in the pulpits of candlelit cathedrals, to breviaries that nestled comfortably in the pocket of a monk's cassock. Lovingly preserved through many centuries, they are as wonderful to observe today as they were when they were fresh from the standing desks of the monks who gave them birth.
One of the realities that every standards professional must deal with is the sad fact that everyone else in the world thinks that standards are…
[start over; no one else thinks about standards much at all]
Ahem. One of the things that standards folks must come to terms with is the fact that on the rare occasions when anyone else thinks about standards at all, likely as not it's to observe that standards are…
[There. I've said it]
But really, now, this perception has got to change. And with the recent release of Dan Brown's latest pot boiler, The Lost Symbol, I believe I've figured out how to make standards really, really exciting. Really.
They're expected to deal with every new topic that comes down the pike, from regulating securitized credit swaps to beefing up cybersecurity, whether they've had any previous experience with it or not. Of course, there's never a shortage of people who want to educate them, but the "educators" with the greatest access are likely to be lobbyists. And when one paid advocate is promoting one action, political physics dictates that another highly paid individual in somebody else's pocket will be promoting an equal and opposite action. Soon, all potential solutions become obscured by a fog of business propaganda.
Two weeks ago, I wrote a critical analysis of the governance structure of the CodePlex Foundation, a new open source-focused foundation launched by Microsoft.
But what about the business premise for the Foundation itself? Let’s say that Microsoft does restructure CodePlex in such a way as to create a trusted, safe place for work to be done to support the open source software development model. Is there really a need for such an organization, and if so, what needs could such an organization meet?
As with my last piece, I’ll use the Q&A approach to make my points.
Well, it’s been a busy week in Lake Wobegon, hasn’t it? First, the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Microsoft had unwittingly sold 22 patents, not to the Allied Security Trust (which might have resold them to patent trolls), but to the Open Inventions Network. A few days later, perhaps sooner than planned, Microsoft announced the formation of a new non-profit organization, the CodePlex Foundation, with the mission of “enabling the exchange of code and understanding among software companies and open source communities.”
Not surprisingly, more articles were written about the apparent snookering of Microsoft by AST and OIN than about the new Foundation. But while the tale of the 22 patents is now largely over, the CodePlex story is just beginning. Microsoft says that its goal for the new Foundation is to create an open and neutral environment, and that the formation documents posted and governance structure described at the CodePlex Foundation site can provide a foundation for such an organization. The CodePlex site also makes clear that the Bylaws you can find there are just a starter set, stating, “Our governance documents are deliberately sparse, because we expect them to change.”
That’s good to hear, because I’ve reviewed all of the material at the CodePlex site, and I think that quite a bit of the governance structure will need to change before CodePlex can expect to attract broad participation.
Steve Jobs is a genius of design and marketing, but his track record on calling the right balance between utilizing proprietary arts and public resources (like open source and open standards) is more questionable. Two news items caught my eye today that illustrate the delicacy of making choices involving openness for the iPhone platform - both geopolitically as well as technically.
The first item can be found in today's issue of the London Sunday Times, and the second appears at the MacNewsWorld.com Web site. The intersecting points of the two articles are the iPhone and, less obviously, openness. But the types of openness at issue in the two articles are at once both different, and strangely similar.
The Sunday Times piece recounts the (unsuccessful) efforts of Andre Torrez, the chief technology officer at Federated Media in San Francisco, to switch from the iPhone to an Android-based G1 handset, because he objects to the closed environment that the iPhone represents. But after just a week, Torrez reverts to the better app-provisioned iPhone. The Sunday Times author concludes in part as follows:
Modern society harbors many bad habits. One is its penchant for enthusiastically embracing the benefits of new technologies before considering their less desirable side effects. Whether we look at the development of automobiles (first) and safety features (much later), or industrialization (first) and environmental protection (much, much later), the story is always much the same: we reach for the candy before we grasp the reality of the cavities. Only after the problems become too great to ignore do we investigate the unintended consequences, realize how difficult and expensive they are to address, and grudgingly start to rein in our appetites and exercise a bit of prudent self-discipline.
Perhaps we should not be surprised, then, that the U.S. government is only now becoming alarmed over the vulnerability to which we have become exposed as a result of our whole-hearted embrace of the Internet. With the operations of government, defense, finance, commerce, power distribution, communications, transportation, and just about everything else now dependent on the healthy operation of the Internet, that alarm is well-justified. And with the creation and storage now of virtually all data in digital, rather than physical form, exposure of our financial as well as our most intimate personal and health information is only a hack away as well.
Man's ability to affect the land is all too evident in these times of climate change, pollution and habitat destruction. Happily, the landscape can change man as well.
The weather finally broke last night, dropping 30 degrees by dawn, and thanks be for that. The night before I had camped in the Sheyenne National Grasslands, heavy with heat and humidity. But the next day it was pleasantly cool (upper 60s), albeit overcast rather than sunny.
Nor was this the only change. It took over 2400 driving miles to finally leave the Eastern, and then Midwestern terrain behind, but today I reached the beginnings of what I think of as the West. More than anything else, in my mind that means “dry.” For the last 800 miles, the landscape had been primarily flat, lush - and transitionally post-glacial. That last factor means an area where the great ice sheets completed their periodic southward pulses, dumping rich, black earth born of thousands of miles of ice grinding down stone, some deposited by glacial steams, and other as windblown “loess” – very fine mineral particles.
Mea Culpa. I am uncharacteristically late in commenting on the XML Wars of August, 2009, which have already received so much attention in the press and in the blogs of the technology world. The wars to which I refer, of course, broke out with the announcement early in the month that Microsoft had been granted an XML-related patent. The opening of that front gave rise to contentions that patenting anything to do with XML was, in effect, an anti-community effort to carve a piece out of a public commons and claim it as one's own.
The second front opened when a small Canadian company, named i4i, won a stunning and unexpected remedy (note that I specifically said "remedy" and not "victory," on which more below) in an ongoing case before a judge in Texas, a jurisdiction beloved of patent owners for its staunch, Red State dedication to protecting property rights - including those of the intangible, intellectual kind.
So if this is war, why have I been so derelict in offering my comments, as quite a few people have emailed me to tell me they are waiting to hear? Here's why.
Cybersecurity is an increasingly frequent topic in the news, and this week brought word of the indictment of someone who must be the leading contender for the title, Master Cybercriminal of All Time (Payment Card Fraud Division): Albert Gonzalez. More recent press reports point to additional conspirators who Gonzalez's attorney contends were there real masterminds. Top honors aside, government prosecutors contend that the team are responsible for all of the most high profile data breaches publicized to date: Heartland, Hannaford, TJX, and more - gaining access to information relating to an astonishing 130 million credit and debit cards or more.
With so many breaches in the news, you might understandably be wondering how safe your own financial information is, and whether anyone is doing anything to protect you. Happily, the answer is "yes," and as it happens, the organization that has been tackling this problem is a client of mine, PCI Security Standards Council, which creates and enables a global, end to end ecosystem of standards, certifications, auditors and more to secure payment card data from the moment that your card gets swiped on a reader to the time it reaches its ultimate destination.
Quote of the Day
“Sometimes upholding constitutional ideas just isn't enough; sometimes you have to uphold the actual Constitution”
-Excerpt from the dedication of a new "dark email" protocol to the NSA by PGP developer Ladar Levison
F.C.C. Sharply Expands Definition of Broadband Steve Lohr NYTimes BitBlog January 30, 2015 - The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday sharply increased its benchmark definition of broadband Internet service. The new definition increases download speeds to more than six times faster than the previous standard, set more than four years ago....The impact of the new definition is uncertain, but the standard does guide policy on matters like the national deployment of broadband service, particularly in rural areas.
The new benchmark standard on speed could also spill over into the current weighing of new rules intended to maintain an open Internet, or net neutrality — the concept that Internet traffic should be open and treated equally. How access speeds can be managed and priced by the major Internet service providers — cable television and telecommunications companies — is the central issue in the open Internet policy debate. The commission is scheduled to vote on open Internet regulations on Feb. 26....
The new broadband benchmark sets downloads at a speed of 25 megabits a second and uploads of 3 megabits a second. The previous standard was a download speed of 4 megabits a second and an upload speed of 1 megabit a second. ...Full Story
Intel to Announce a New Stylus Alliance & Standards in February Jack Purcher PatentlyApple January 30, 2015 - Last year Apple filed for ten smart pen related patents and earlier this month a rumor surfaced from a prominent analyst claiming that Apple was aiming to introduce a smart pen accessory for Apple's 12" + iPad Pro later this year. On Wednesday Microsoft introduced a new digital whiteboard display system for the enterprise called the Surface Hub that accepts input with a Surface pen working in sync with their OneNote software. Their digital pen was emphasized in their Surface Hub patent that we reported on yesterday. Today there's news that Intel is forming a new Stylus alliance that will be formally announced in February. The first standards-compliant stylus is set to roll out in Q3. It's sure beginning to look as if 2015 will be the year that the stylus of old undergoes its biggest overhaul to date.... ...Full Story
Wi-SUN(TM) Alliance Releases Technical Profile Specification for IEEE 802.15.4g Standard-Based Field Area Networks Press Release WI-SUN Alliance January 30, 2015 - The Wi-SUN Alliance today announced the release of a feature complete version of its technical profile specification for field area network communications. The specification brings Smart Utility Networks to enterprises, service providers and municipalities by enabling interoperable, multi-service and secure IPv6 communications over an IEEE 802.15.4gTM-based wireless mesh network. Mesh-enabled field area networks provide resilient, secure and cost effective connectivity with extremely good coverage in a range of topographical environments, from dense urban neighborhoods to rural areas, with minimal additional infrastructure.... ...Full Story
As simple As That Philip DesAutels AllSeen Alliance January 29, 2015 - ...I would like to update everyone on an exciting change to the IP Policy at the Alliance that is designed to scale to the next billion devices.
The challenge of the Internet of Everything is that it needs to be just that - an Internet of everything, a global ecosystem of billions of interoperable products, applications and services all speaking the same language, all working together regardless of manufacturer, industry or platform. AllJoyn is the open source software project built by the AllSeen Alliance’s thriving technical community of over 110 companies that is delivering on this challenge, creating simple and open technology that connects everything and enables the Internet of Everything.
Device manufacturer and application developers are...want the enabling power of AllJoyn but they need it delivered within an Intellectual Property (IP) framework that is clear, concise and aligned with the realities of global business. The challenge to delivering this is that the software that results from the AllJoyn project is the work of many contributors, each participating in a different context, under different constraints, for companies with different corporate goals.
Today we are pleased to announce a revised IP policy that strikes a careful balance, aligning the interests of all of the Alliance stakeholders....the contributors who have and will contribute code to the project are giving you an open source copyright license to the AllJoyn code and a pledge not to assert the patents they own that are required to implement their contribution in a certified AllJoyn implementation.... ...Full Story
W3C Launches Web of Things initiative Press Release W3C.org January 29, 2015 - W3C announced today a new Web of Things initiative to develop
Web standards for enabling open markets of applications and
services based upon connected sensors and actuators (the
Internet of Things) and the Web of data. Open standards will be
essential to realising the huge potential. We invite you to
join the new Web of Things Interest Group and drive work on use
cases, requirements, and best practices. The aim is to build a
shared vision and identify specific opportunities for
So far work on the Internet of Things has focused on the
sensors and actuators and the associated communication
technologies. Comparatively little attention has been given to
what is needed for services to break free of today’s product
silos. Web technologies are considered to be very promising,
defining services. However, there is considerable work left to
do to support discovery and interoperation of services, along
with attention to security, privacy, accessibility and
resilience in the face of faults and attacks.... ...Full Story
How to transfer ODT files with Google Docs and Microsoft Word Online Andy Wolber TechRepublic January 28, 2015 - Open your favorite writing app -- say, Google Docs -- to create a new file. The powerful collaborative editing features work only inside a Google Doc. Want to work with the file elsewhere? You'll either need to export the file or access the document with programming (i.e., the Google Drive API)....Control of a format or distribution channel can make it harder to use a competitive solution.
That's one problem of proprietary formats: a switch costs you time and/or money....Open formats or distribution channels make it easier for people to choose a different solution.
That's one promise of the open formats: your content exists independently of the software used to create the file. You're free to take your content and edit it with another app....Fortunately, Google re-enabled support for ODF in December 2014. That means you can leverage the collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, then export your completed work to a file in an open, non-proprietary format.... ...Full Story
LibreOffice Viewer beta hits Google Play ready to take on Microsoft Office Mobile Mark Wilson AndroidPit January 27, 2015 - Our phones and tablets have become much more than many people ever could have imagined, and they're now used for work as well as play. While larger-screened tablets such as the Nexus 9 are ideally suited for lengthier sessions of typing, phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5 are still used for viewing files. While Microsoft Office may be the industry standard office suite, there's plenty of competition, particularly from the free alternative LibreOffice. Today a beta version of LibreOffice Viewer has been released that allows mobile users to view Open Document Format (ODF) files on their Android devices.
libreofficeviewer Need to open office files on your Android? LibreOffice Viewer beta can help.... ...Full Story
NIST Requests Round Two Comments on its Cryptographic Standards Process NISO.org January 26, 2015 - The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is seeking comments on a revised draft document that details the principles and processes it will follow to develop its cryptographic standards and guidelines. Comments will be collected through March 27, 2015.
This second draft of NIST IR7977: NIST Cryptographic Standards and Guidelines provides more detail and identifies new policies and procedures that were not in the draft released for a two-month comment period in February 2014. The updates reflect feedback received in the public comments and a July 2014 report by an independent review committee....
The revisions to the first draft include new principles to ensure the usability of standards and guidelines and to encourage innovation while protecting intellectual property. The second draft also details how NIST will ensure balance, transparency, openness and integrity in its development of cryptographic standards and guidelines, and poses several questions to reviewers.... ...Full Story
New Linux Foundation's guide to the open-source cloud Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols ZDNet.com January 26, 2015 - I make my living from riding technology's bleeding edge. In particular I keep an eye on what's what with Linux and open-source software, but even I have trouble keeping track of what's going on with the open-source cloud technologies. Which is why I'm happy to welcome The Linux Foundation's 2015 report: Guide to the Open Cloud: Open Cloud Projects Profiled, which will be released on January 20th.... ...Full Story