Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

Stubborn Saudi sees crude exports rise in October to a four-month high

The most important story of the year? Surely the continued glutting of the oil market by the Saudis. It’s had catastrophic effect on many nations, especially those emerging economies that had banked their present and also future wealth on the oil they could extract and sell at ever rising costs.

Why has this received such little press? Yes, we know what is going on. But why? An internal power play by the new king? An effort to vanquish the US shale oil industry (and also the Canadian tar sands)? To show just how much strength the Saudis have? What is happening to oil prices of course benefits the commuter and many others dependent on oil for energy, so it’s hard to complain about. One doesn’t get on a soapbox to declaim against cheap gas; one doesn’t demonize the oil barons for putting money in the consumer’s pocket and effectively giving them all the raise their bosses refused.

But this continued–and even intensifying action is extraordinary and will have serious consequences; it already does. And the effects of the market’s decimation are arguably worse than the opposite, an oil embargo. At least, sharp, sustained falls have been held at least contributory to the fall of governments and empires.


Saudi Arabia continued to squeeze non-OPEC producers by increasing the crude oil supply glut, pumping out 10 million barrels daily in October.

Source: Stubborn Saudi sees crude exports rise in October to a four-month high

Broadband usage dropping in the United States – Business Insider

The “future”–the immediate range of years before us, as consumers–won’t be cabled but beamed. I hardly think this is surprising news; I and many others have been predicting this eventuality for at least the last decade. (It’s taking longer than I thought, but then, I didn’t really appreciate the burden of past commitments, property, habits, even individuals on the matter of the present.) What I find concerning is the usual: the lack of real open source productivity apps. I fear this lack will affect the locus of innovation, and thus as much its nature and scope. Instead of something breathtakingly new, we’re likely to see more respins of the old. Besides this creeping banality, there will be the marginalisation not of “open source” as such–hardly–but of open source productivity apps that public and private sector enterprises will consider adopting. And given the very predictable upcoming needs of billions of young students, urban professionals, and even landless migrants, I’m left wondering: what apps will they use that are not proprietary, not hobbled and hobbling in their freedom?

“If you think this is just a temporary state of affairs, remember that 90% of Americans had landlines 10 years ago, according to Statista (based on a survey by the U.S. Center for Disease Control). Now, only half do.”

The percentage of American adults with broadband has actually dropped over the last two years.

Source: Broadband usage dropping in the United States – Business Insider

Facebook’s open-sourcing of AI hardware is the start of the deep-learning revolution | Ars Technica

A good article describing the logic and also, to a degree, logistics of open source collaboration. Pretty much a normal situation where the goal is lofty and vast and the resources needed to produce works that can be commercialised are not clear; and no one is interested in a one-off, or unique result, as that, in biological terms, would be tantamount to producing a mule at best.

All of which is to point out the obvious, at least to those of us who are involved. Open source is… normal. But, evidently, the term, if not the actuality, still gives pause to most business people and even public sector officials. And it should. Any way of making and distributing a product should force the stakeholders into considering the process and its consequences, and “open source,” as a still novel, broad, even vague constellation of license and method and even unjustifiably uncertain legal consequence stands out, in much the same way as a pitch to unionise might. It’s not that it’s “disruptive,” it’s that there remain still too many uncertainties.

I suppose that situation is to my benefit. After all, as a consultant who resolves anxieties and sets up communities that work, I indirectly benefit from open source anxiety. But, there ought, at this point to be no more anxiety surrounding open source than any other production and distribution strategy. They’re all fraught, they’re all modes of risky business.


Collaboration is key to building the machine-learning boat and getting it afloat.

Source: Facebook’s open-sourcing of AI hardware is the start of the deep-learning revolution | Ars Technica

Stephen King on (tech) writing |

Useful writing advice that is short and to the point.

Six tips for tech writers from Stephen King.

Source: Stephen King on (tech) writing |

Teaching open source law |

Maru Rabinovitch explains why law schools should include thorough open source license and patent training.

Source: Teaching open source law |


From the article:

Open source legal training is not easy to find, and if available it is not cheap.

Which raises the obvious question:

So, why are law schools not teaching open source law? I see traditional copyrights and patents as a security blanket. Most companies need to know there is a fall-back mechanism in case the company does not reach the expected success. This means that if company doesn’t get the expected returns on a product, they can resort to the patent or copyright infringement claim. This business model, in my view, is why law schools continue to push the copyright/patent curricula instead of considering other open licensing models.

And none of this is new. Back around 2000, when I first started working professionally in open source, I was shocked to see not only that there was such scant academic (legal) interest in open source, despite Lessig’s and Moglen’s presence, not to mention Mitchell Baker of Mozilla, but that the field itself seemed pretty uninterested in professionalising. There were plenty of manifestos–you couldn’t have an open source project without one, it seemed–but zero professional organisations representing the interests of their members, the way that there are for other professions. The lack of such is not necessarily a bad thing, and one can easily argue that the institutional presence of the AMA or MLA or APA inescapably squelches otherwise valuable interventions and innovations. But, the good that does come out of having a strong professional interest in open source is, as Rabinovitch underscores, something that will prove its worth as open source code and practices find their way in the code that public and private sector organisations use every day in every way.

Linux Foundation Unites Industry Leaders to Advance Blockchain Technology

If you know what a blockchain (also block chain) is, you probably learned of it through reading about bitcoin, which uses it. Wikipedia’s definition of a blockchain is useful:

A block chain or blockchain is a distributed database based on the bitcoin protocol that maintains a continuously growing list of records hardened against tampering and revision, even by operators of the data store’s nodes. The primary means by which this is accomplished is through the use of a timestamp server which, batching recent valid transactions into “blocks,” and “taking a hash of a block of items to be timestamped and widely publishing the hash… proves that the data must have existed at the time.” The timestamp of each block includes the prior timestamp, “forming a chain, with each additional timestamp reinforcing the ones before it,”[1] thus giving the database type its name. Each blockchain record is enforced cryptographically and hosted on machines working as data store nodes.[2]

Source: Wikipedia retrieved 18 Dec. 2015 10:26 (-0500UTC)

The point here is that a blockchain can be used in ways beyond bitcoin. Such as for traditional money lenders and managers for whom blockchain answers several issues, not the least of them being security, usability, but also–and importantly–an interested, global community of developers. That the technology is open source is hardly incidental; in fact, it is essential.

New open ledger project to transform the way business transactions are conducted around the world

Source: Linux Foundation Unites Industry Leaders to Advance Blockchain Technology

Does the Gates Foundation do more harm than good? | Africa is a Country

The contradictions of modern billionaire philanthropy–a mostly US phenomenon–affect the work of the philanthropy and raise the question of whether the funder’s engagement in and approach to the making of public good is not jeopardising the value of that good. The link is to a fair review by Caitlin Chandler of the recent work by LInsey McGoey, No such thing as a free gift: the Gates Foundation and the price of philanthropy (Verso, 2015).

In July 2010, I attended the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. Representatives of the Gates Foundation’s HIV team set-up shop inside the venue with a private conference room. For th…

Source: Does the Gates Foundation do more harm than good? | Africa is a Country

The numbers of the Open Cloud (Tokyo edition) | Bitergia’s blog

Production communities, such as open-source developer networks, differ from consumer communities. Most obviously, the first makes, the second consumes; but there is also superposition of the two (makers can be consumers) and there is equally an overlap of identity narratives and thus motivations, interests, desires. But if tracking–by which I mean gathering the metrics that give statistical shape to the activity of the community–the consumer community is fairly straightforward (or at leat in theory), tracking the open source network tends to be less so, if only because what counts as a valuable contribution is not always easy to discern. For open source developers (and for community managers) speech, as reflected in email posts, Tweets, issues filed, commented upon, etc., as well as patches submitted, etc., can be too noisy; and relative silence punctuated by the occasional code submission a likely sign that the community is ailing.

But we need this data–the measure of our activity and a sense of the value of that activity as a dynamic–not just so that the community can see and anticipate problems before they become catastrophic but also so that those funding the efforts (you know, marketers) can justify the expense to their bosses.

All of which makes Bitergia’s work invaluable.

It furthers our understanding of the who, what, how of open source, moves it away from the tired myths that romanticise it and give evidence to the world of the surging importance of open source (technology, techniques) to multinational, private enterprises and vice versa.

Source: The numbers of the Open Cloud (Tokyo edition) | Bitergia’s blog

seanyeh/vibreoffice · GitHub


vibreoffice – Vi Mode for LibreOffice/OpenOffice

Source: seanyeh/vibreoffice · GitHub

Case Comment: Blacklock’s Reporter v. Canadian Vintners Association 2015 CanLII 65885 (ON SCSM) | Centre for Law, Technology and Society | University of Ottawa

The analysis by David Fewer, of U of Ottawa’s Faculty of Law Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), brilliantly summarises the case and its plausible implications. This is a small-claims court case; its jurisprudential reach is limited. But the extraordinary misreading of copyright law, trends, and logic shown by the Court, and the outsize damages the judge awarded to the plaintiff, a newsletter publisher, are a different matter. As Fewer argues,

As of the publication date of this comment, no appeal has been filed. If that remains the case, we will be stuck with this decision on the books. While the Court’s musings on copyright are not binding, the case will nonetheless be used in support of the activities of copyright trolls, in support of expansive claims of infringement on the flimsiest of bases, and in support of expansive liability claims resting on the circumvention of a business model. But while the jurisprudential reach of this case may well prove meagre, its practical effects in motivating trolls may prove more damaging by far.


Source: Case Comment: Blacklock’s Reporter v. Canadian Vintners Association 2015 CanLII 65885 (ON SCSM) | Centre for Law, Technology and Society | University of Ottawa

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