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.
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.
Quote of the Day
“It’s time to treat our digital ecosystem the way we do public health”
Matrix wants to smash the walled gardens of messaging Matt Weinberger CiteWorld September 23, 2014 - There are too many messaging apps. If you're like me, you talk to your friends on Google Hangouts during the workday but Facebook Messenger at night, with the occasional Snapchat message -- not to mention that team CITEworld communicates over AOL Instant Messenger, which is actually a thing that still exists even though it's no longer 2002. It can be a real pain to remember who you talked to and on what chat network.
Enter Matrix, a proposed open source standard that wants to make instant messaging, voice, and video chat as interoperable as email and as slick as Slack. Matrix is still new -- it launched to the public two weeks ago, and not a single messaging service supports it yet -- but it has a grand vision for the open future of messaging.... ...Full Story
New standard for ZigBee remotes makes friends with connected homes Stephen Lawson TechHive September 23, 2014 - ...On Tuesday, the ZigBee Alliance announced the ZigBee Remote Control 2.0 standard, which could become the foundation for remotes that control an entire house full of networked appliances. Among other things, a remote built with ZRC 2.0 will be able to send commands directly to networks of ZigBee-connected devices such as heating, air conditioning, lights, home monitoring devices and security systems.
ZigBee is one of several wireless protocols that are starting to connect so-called smart appliances and consumer electronics in homes. Others include Z-Wave, Bluetooth Low Energy, Wi-Fi and 6LoWPAN, the system underlying the Thread specification. Though some types of connected home devices are starting to generate interest, in the short run, having so many wireless protocols to talk to them could make it more difficult for consumers to adopt the new gadgets.... ...Full Story
To IoT or Not to IoT? Those wondering about how standards and security relate to the Internet of Things will find this to be a useful and informative discussion.
The Internet of Things: Risk and Reward (Video - 28.31 min) TIA Now September 22, 2014 - The "Internet of Things” is about to take on billions of low and high bandwidth devices, but are service providers and operators considering the barriers to entry in the IoT space? From CTIA 2014, we would like to welcome leaders in the ICT space on this roundtable discussion including Dinesh Sharma, Director of Marketing for IoT at SAP, Fred Yentz, CEO of ILS Technology- a Telit company and Ron Westfall, Research Director at Current Analysis. ...Full Story
Introducing TODO: Working together to make open source easier Facebook Engineering Blog September 19, 2014 - Today at @Scale 2014 we joined a number of other companies in launching a new open source collaboration called TODO. The group — whose name is a backronym for “talk openly, develop openly” — was formed to address the challenges that companies like ours have encountered in consuming open source software and running open source programs.
We'll have more to share about our plans in the coming weeks, but our overall goal in this collaboration is to make open source easier for everyone. We want to run better, more impactful open source programs in our own companies; we want to make it easier for people to consume the technologies we open source; and we want to help create a roadmap for companies that want to create their own open source programs but aren't sure how to proceed.
Initial members of TODO include Box, Dropbox, GitHub, Google, Khan Academy, Stripe, Square, Twitter, and Walmart Labs.... ...Full Story
Cybersecurity and the electric grid Marvin T. Griff Intelligent Utility September 19, 2014 - A computer storing operating cost data for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc., power network extending from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast was compromised this summer. Within the past two years, sophisticated cyber-attacks...gained access to U.S. and European power networks. These and other recent cyber intrusions highlight the persistent risk confronting the U.S. electricity grid....Elected officials and regulators have stepped up efforts to address cyber intrusionthreats. In February of this year, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled the Cybersecurity Framework for reducing cyber risks to critical infrastructure. The voluntary Framework, with its origins in President Obama’s February 2013 Executive Order, is intended to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities through a risk-based approach to improve cybersecurity practices....cybersecurity for the electric sector has historically been a concern that was the responsibility of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which assesses the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) reliability standards developed by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). Those standards focus on the bulk, or interstate transmission, portion of the electric system. Since 2007, FERC has shared responsibilities under the Energy Independence and Security Act with NIST to coordinate the development and adoption of smart grid guidelines and standards, including those directed at cybersecurity for the remainder of the grid.
The electric power industry is the only critical infrastructure industry in the U.S. with mandatory and enforceable cyber standards. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 gives FERC the authority to oversee the reliability of the bulk power system. FERC must approve all reliability standards or modifications proposed by NERC. But FERC cannot modify proposed standards; it can only direct NERC to submit a proposed standard or modification or to change one it find unacceptable.... ...Full Story
New DisplayPort 1.3 standard supports 5K monitors Agam Shah PCWorld September 19, 2014 - Monitors and TVs supporting 4K resolution are just arriving, but the new DisplayPort 1.3 is already looking forward to 5K resolution.
The new DisplayPort standard, announced by Video Electronics Standards Association, will replace the existing 1.2a standard. The new standard will connect computers to 5K monitors that display images at a resolution of 5120 x 2880 pixels.
DisplayPort is widely used in businesses to connect PCs to external monitors, and competes with HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface connector)....DisplayPort 1.3 is 50 percent faster than its predecessor, and has the speed to support higher-resolution displays beyond 4K. It will also support multiple 4K monitors at 60 frames per second, VESA said in a statement.... ...Full Story
Efficient XML Interchange (EXI) Profile for limiting usage of dynamic memory is a W3C Recommendation Press Release W#C.org September 18, 2014 - The EXI Working Group published the Efficient XML Interchange (EXI) Profile for limiting usage of dynamic memory as W3C Recommendation. EXI 1.0 is a very efficient format to represent an XML Information Set. It is highly customizable to fit the need of diverse use cases, ranging from B2B applications down to embedded-systems use. It satisfies compactness and processing efficiency requirements, while preserving all the information contained in the XML InfoSet. As a representation of XML, it is by design naturally extensible.... ...Full Story
MIG and IEEE SA produce new standard for IoT, e-health, connected vehicle, aug. reality Press Release IEEE.org September 22, 2014 - IEEE announced the availability of the IEEE 2700-2014 “Standard for Sensor Performance Parameter Definitions,” recently approved by the IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Standards Board. With sensors being one of the primary technologies to help improve the lives of every connected person in the world, IEEE 2700-2014 is intended to provide a common methodology for specifying sensor performance in the ever-expanding sensor technologies in the consumer electronics industry....The IEEE 2700-2014 fulfills the need for a common methodology to define sensor performance, and eases non-scalable integration challenges and burdens across manufacturers. Because sensor framework and technology span not only sensor vendors and ISVs, there are numerous types of sensors that require specification terminology, units, conditions and limits, including: accelerometers, magnetometers, gyrometers/gyroscopes, barometers/pressure sensors, hygrometers/humidity sensors, temperature sensors, ambient light sensors and proximity sensors.... ...Full Story
Global security association helps translate NIST framework Dan Verton FedScoop September 18, 2014 - The Information Security Forum, a U.K.-based association of leading companies from around the world, released a “mapping” document Monday that for the first time helps companies that currently use the ISF’s standard of good practice—known simply as the standard—to guide their information security programs to know if they are in compliance with the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology’s cybersecurity framework....ISF’s standard of good practice is one of the most comprehensive guides for information security in the world. More than half of ISF’s 300 member companies are included in the Fortune 500 and span more than a dozen countries.... ...Full Story
'Open and Libre Office projects should reunite' Gijs Hillenius EU Joinup September 18, 2014 - The software developers working on Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice - two closely related suites of open source office productivity tools - should overcome their schism and unite to compete with the ubiquitous proprietary alternative, urges Daniel Brunner, head of the IT department of Switzerland's Federal Supreme Court. Merging the two projects will convince more public administrations to use the open source office suite, he believes.
The current division between the two groups risks creating more instead of less incompatibilities, Brunner warned last week, speaking at the LibreOffice conference, which took place in the Swiss city of Bern. "I had to test this presentation in both suites, to see if it would work."
The Swiss Federal Supreme Court uses OpenOffice, but according to Brunner would benefit from the improved document filters that are available in LibreOffice. However, the former suite is more stable and is available on mobile computing platforms, he says, while the latter benefits from a bigger community of developers, introducing more new features.... ...Full Story