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.
In 2001, I took a one month solo cross country trip, driving from Massachusetts across the Northeast, the Midwest, and then the prairie states, until I reached what we generally think of as “the West” – the land of canyons and buttes, deserts and mesas. Once there, I spent the rest of the time backpacking in the canyonlands of Utah, and then meandering North on dirt roads until I reached Glacier National Park, in the Northwest corner of Montana. After that, I zigzagged back East until I reached the Mississippi. Then, it was just a straight highway shot till I arrived back home once again. It was during that trip that I began writing in earnest, although I haven’t (yet) posted anything from that journey to the Web.
Last week, Microsoft and the European Commission each announced that Microsoft had proposed certain concessions in response to a "Statement of Objections" sent to Microsoft by the EC on January 15 of this year relating to Microsoft's bundling of Internet Explorer with Windows. If you've been reading the reams of articles that have been written since then, you may have noticed that the vast majority of the virtual ink spent on the story has been directed at the terms relating to browser choice. Typically, and as an afterthought, most of these stories have added a brief mention that Microsoft also proposed commitments relating to "another" dispute, this one relating to interoperability.
While the browser question is certainly important, in many ways it is far less important than the interoperability issue. After all - the primary benefit for consumers under the browser settlement is that they can choose their favorite browser when they first boot up their new computer, as compared to investing a few extra clicks to download it from the site of its developer - as they can already do now. Interoperability, of course, goes far deeper. There's no way that you can make one program work the way you really want it to with another unless it comes out of the box that way, or unless you have not only the ability, but also the proprietary information, to hack it yourself. And if both programs don't support the same standards, well, good luck with that.
So what exactly did Microsoft promise to the EC, regarding interoperability? Let's use ODF as a reference point and see.
I'm pleased to report this morning on the formation of a new advocacy group for the use of free and open source software in the U.S. Government. I'm also pleased to have been asked to serve on its Board of Advisors, along other proponents of free and open source software, such as Roger Burkhard, Dawn Meyerriecks, Eben Moglen, Tim O'Reilly, Simon Phipps, Mark Shuttleworth, Michael Tiemann, Bill Vass, and Jim Zemlin.
The new organization is called Open Source for America (OSA), and you can find its Web site here. Tim O'Reilly will officially announce OAS at OSCON later today, and you can find the launch press release here, as well as pasted in at the end of this blog post for archival purposes. I'm sure that you'll also see quite a few articles blossom across the Web today relating to its announcement, but having been in on the planning, here's what it's all about.
The dominance of Microsoft's Office in the marketplace would be logical (if frustrating, to those that think that competition breeds better products), if it was simply a matter of developer seats. After all, Microsoft deployed hundreds, and then thousands of engineers to develop and evolve its flagship app over the last 25 years. How could anyone expect a less well funded commercial competitor, much less an open source project, to equal Office for features, performance and interoperability with other office suites?
At the same time, people keep trying - a lot of them. Not just long-established competitors, like Corel, with the venerable and estimable WordPerfect office suite it bought from Novell, open source projects like OpenOffice and KOffice, as well as projects launched by much larger players, such as IBM (Lotus Symphony) and Google (Docs).
WordPerfect aside, most of these offerings disappoint when it comes to round tripping documents with Office users, although many provide perfectly fine alternatives for stand-alone use, particularly by those that don't need to create the most complex business document.
The funny thing is, though, that the quality of the result, and even the ability to interoperate in a world dominated by Microsoft's Office, doesn't necessarily equate to the depth of the resources of the developer. Now isn't that an interesting observation?
Why did perennial litigant Rambus, Inc. settle with the European Commission?
Certainly the most watched standards-related legal conflict of the decade involves the participation of memory technology vendor Rambus, Inc. in a working group hosted by standards developer Joint Electron Device Engineering Council (JEDEC) in the early 1990s. The fame (or notoriety) of the conflict arises in part from the importance of the conduct at issue (did Rambus set a "patent trap" for implementers of the standard that emerged from the working group?), and in part from the seemingly endless string of law suits that resulted from that conduct some fifteen years ago.
Most of these suits were brought by Rambus against vendors that refused to pay royalties when they implemented the standard, but these suits almost always resulted in vigorous counterclaims against Rambus, brought by those same implementers. And investigations into Rambus's conduct were also brought by both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States, and by the European Commission in Europe. A separate string of cases related to alleged price fixing and other improper conduct by other vendors that participated in the same working group, which ended in record settlement amounts being paid by those vendors to the regulators.
If you haven't heard the words "smart grid" before, that's likely to change soon. That's especially so if you live in the U.S., where billions of dollars in incentive spending is pouring into making the smart grid a reality. As you might expect, since I'm talking about it here, the smart grid will rely on standards to become real. A whole lot of standards, in fact, and that's a problem
Those of you who are subscribers to my free standards eJournal Standards Today know that I've dedicated each of the last several issues to one of the many multi-billion dollar initiatives that the Obama Administration has launched that are heavily dependent on standards - which in many cases do not yet exist. Each initiative is also of great complexity, and will need to rely on a level of cooperation and collaboration that does not natively exist in the marketplace. That's certainly the case with the Smart Grid challenge, and that's what the latest issue of Standards Today is all about.
Throughout the 20th century, the U.S. electric power delivery infrastructure served our nation well,… This once state-of-the-art system brought a level of prosperity to the United States unmatched by any other nation in the world. But a 21st-century U.S. economy cannot be built on a 20th-century electric grid. A Vision for the Modern Grid, National Energy Technology Laboratory, for the DOE, March 2007
For decades utility companies and environmentalists alike have known that more dramatic and economical advances in energy policy could be achieved through energy conservation than by any other means. By utilizing techniques as simple as buying more efficient appliances and better insulating our homes we can lower our dependence on foreign oil, release fewer greenhouse gases, and savemoney as well, all at the same time. For almost as long, utilities have promoted the concept of “demand side management,” and sought to enlist the aid of consumers and businesses to shift electricity usage to low-demand times of the day, with the potential benefit of avoiding the need to build expensive new power plants.
I am an avid, lifelong, reader of newspapers in general, and of the New York Times in particular. And I'm a staunch believer in the essential role of an independent press in a modern democracy. I’m also the owner of a Web site that serves over a million page views a month, some of which display short extracts of news articles, with links back to the full text. On occasion those links lead back to stories appearing at the Web site of the Times.
So why am I trying to kill my beloved Times and its worthy brethren?
Before Linux.com went dark late last year, it was one of the most visited open source news aggregation and discussion sites. As you may recall, word got this March that the Linux Foundation had taken Linux.com over, and was committed to making it bigger, better and richer than before. Further to that goal, it set up "Ideaforge," to tap the developer and user communities to learn what they in an on-line resource to make the Linux ecosystem more successful and satisfying for all involved.
After months of effort behind the scenes, and some pretty impressive Web design, the Linux Foundation delivered on that promise last night. What you'll find there is something that's different from anything that's ever existed before - an interactive, growing, feature and content rich resource that can help you hone your skills, find a job, assemble a Linux-based system, and, of course, access the most up to date news, blogs and ideas about open source software in general, and Linux in particular. What it's all about can be summed up in just six words: For the community, by the community. And if you read this blog, that includes you.
Quote of the Day
“For the first time ever there is a default open format for Government documents”
-OpenForum Europe U.K. chapter celebrating the annointment of ODF by the U.K. Cabinet Office
“The document format world has just been turned upside down”
uk government announcement - open document formats selected to meet user needs OpenForum Europe July 22, 0214 - For the first time ever there is a default open format for Government documents.
The implications of a successful implementation will be widespread. The potential is there to catalyse change well beyond central government. The Cabinet Office deserves every credit for a thorough and informed approach to being an intelligent adopter of standards. This policy can deliver simpler user centric ICT decisions, more cost effective archiving, easier e-inclusion programmes and improved collaboration between government departments and between departments and the outside world. If ever there was an organisation that runs on documents, it is the machinery of government. An open foundation to the digital workings of government should be applauded.... ...Full Story
Open document formats selected to meet user needs Press Release U.K. Cabinet Office July 22, 0214 - The open standards selected for sharing and viewing government documents have been announced by the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude.
The standards set out the document file formats that are expected to be used across all government bodies. Government will begin using open formats that will ensure that citizens and people working in government can use the applications that best meet their needs when they are viewing or working on documents together.
When departments have adopted these open standards:
- citizens, businesses and voluntary organisations will no longer need specialist software to open or work with government documents
- people working in government will be able to share and work with documents in the same format, reducing problems when they move between formats
- government organisations will be able to choose the most suitable and cost effective applications, knowing their documents will work for people inside and outside of government
The selected standards, which are compatible with commonly used document applications, are:
- PDF/A or HTML for viewing government documents
- Open Document Format (ODF) for sharing or collaborating on government documents
The move supports the government’s policy to create a level playing field for suppliers of all sizes, with its digital by default agenda on track to make cumulative savings of £1.2 billion in this Parliament for citizens, businesses and taxpayers.... ...Full Story
No Steering Wheel, No Problem: Standards Support the Future of Driverless Cars ANSI Weekly News July 22, 0214 - ...Google Inc. recently announced that it has begun work on plans to construct 100 self-driving electric cars as part of an ongoing program to support innovative intelligent transport systems (ITS). The new fleet of cars will be built without a steering wheel, gear shift, or gas and brake pedals, and vehicles will be given instructions through a specialized smartphone app....ensuring that the car’s piloting system is getting accurate information about the location of the vehicle and best routes to that destination is of the upmost importance. ISO 14825:2011, Intelligent transport systems - Geographic Data Files (GDF) - GDF5.0, provides specifications for the conceptual and logical data model and physical encoding formats for geographic databases used by ITS.... ...Full Story
Google, Freescale Backing Yet Another Internet-of-Things Standard Effort Ina Fried Re/Code July 18, 0214 - If you thought the only problem with two competing Internet-of-Things standards was that two rivals weren’t enough, you are in luck.
Google’s Nest unit, along with chipmaker Freescale and a handful of others, is announcing Thread — an effort to build support for future devices to connect to one another using a mesh network sending standard Internet packets over an existing low-power radio technology, a protocol known as 6LowPAN.
The Thread project joins Qualcomm-backed AllSeen Alliance and the Intel-backed Open Interconnect Consortium in offering alternate attempts at a standard for the connectible devices of the future....Of course, having all these different standards efforts practically ensures one thing: There’s no way all of these devices will actually be able to all talk to each other until all this gets settled with either victory or a truce....
But until that happy day, we have the positioning and chest-thumping and placing of stakes in the ground. ...Full Story
ONVIF Announces New Standard For Video Storage And Recording Cheryl Knigh Business Solutions July 18, 0214 - The Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) has released Profile G, a new standard for video storage and recording. According to the organization, the specification encompasses on-board video storage, searching retrieval capabilities, and media playback. This follows the 2013 Release Candidate for Profile G. A Release Candidate is the beta version of a product that is ready to release unless any significant bugs emerge during a six-month final implementation review.... ...Full Story
Intel, Qualcomm execs both say IoT will benefit from one standard Sue Marek Fierce Wireless July 17, 0214 - Despite spearheading disparate Internet of Things alliances, executives from Qualcomm and Intel say that the IoT ecosystem would benefit from having one standard and one platform.
At the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference here, Intel President Renee James said that even though the Open Interconnect Consortium, (OIC), which launched last week by Intel, Samsung Electronics, Broadcom and other firms, has the same goal as Qualcomm's AllSeen Alliance, the two groups are approaching IoT differently. "We come from different points of view but we need to make it work, " James said.
While Rob Chandhok, president of Qualcomm Interactive Platforms and senior vice president of Qualcomm Technologies, was not on stage with James, he was prompted to respond to her remarks. "I hope at some point we can merge the two alliances. I don't think it's great for the industry to have multiple approaches," he said.... ...Full Story
Internet of Things network protocol debuts with Thread launch Anna Vega E&T Magazine July 17, 0214 - The Thread Group, an Internet of Things (IoT) alliance, has been announced by its founders, which include Google's Nest Labs, Samsung and ARM.
Thread’s focus is on enabling mesh networking among IoT devices around the home, by providing a new wireless networking protocol for interoperability between smart devices.
Other Thread members include Freescale, Big Ass Fans, Silicon Labs and Yale Security....Thread Group views itself as a market educator, similar to the Wi-Fi Alliance in that it aims to test products for compliance and interoperability and certify those that pass the tests with the Thread logo. The Thread protocol is already embedded in products from Nest, like connected thermostats, and smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms.... ...Full Story
WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) Develops Interoperability Specification for Wi-FAR™ Networks Ray Sharma PCC Mobile Broadband July 16, 0214 - The WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) ®, a global industry organization enabling sharing of underutilized spectrum that was formed in Dec 2011, this week announced development of its interoperability specification for Wi-FAR networks.
WSA has been formed with the goal of enabling the emerging worldwide WhiteSpace ecosystem to deliver cost-effective broadband solutions, and support products and services that use WhiteSpace spectrum. Wi-FAR, initiated by WSA is derived from the IEEE 802.22 Standard on Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRAN).... ...Full Story
Will 25G Effort Prove Valuable? Dan O'Shea Light Reading July 15, 0214 - The interesting stuff always happens when you're on vacation. Last week's launch of the 25G Gigabit Ethernet Consortium seems like a great example of companies moving to establish a default standard where the standards process has failed so far to address a growing need. The group moved into a void created when IEEE participants voted, very narrowly, not to pursue such a standard....However, even the backing of Google and Microsoft Corp. does not necessarily guarantee industrywide success. As I caught up on this news a few days after the fact, the first thing I noticed, which probably already had been noticed by many of you, were the names that were missing: Facebook and Amazon Web Services LLC , in particular, but also big carriers that operate many data centers, like Verizon Terremark . Also, though Arista Networks Inc. is a major player in this group, other data center equipment vendors -- such as Cisco Systems Inc., Juniper Networks Inc., and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. CD) -- were not listed in the announcement....when certain big names aren't present in groups like this, it's usually a matter of time before we see separate groups pursuing their own path to the same goal.... ...Full Story
US to ask China to restart cyber working group Business Standard July 10, 2014 - The United States wants to restart a cybersecurity working group that China shut down after the US indicted five Chinese military officers on charges of hacking into American companies' computers to steal trade secrets.
US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said that United States is ready to resume those discussions, which he described as "useful and important," if China is.... ...Full Story