Charlie Stross on Mercy, Al Megrahi and America

A very eloquent blog post from Charlie Stross on the kerfuffle over the release of Al Megrahi, mercy and the US.

Even if Al Megrahi is a mass-murderer, the fact remains that he is dying. It is long-standing policy in Scotland to exercise the prerogative of mercy when possible; in general, if an imprisoned criminal is terminally ill, a request for release (for hospice care, basically) is usually granted unless they are believed to be a danger to the public.

That’s because the justice system isn’t solely about punishment. It’s about respect for the greater good of society, which is better served by rehabilitation and reconcilliation than by revenge. We do not make ourselves better people by exercising a gruesome revenge on the bodies of our vanquished foes.

Well worth reading!

(Via Jim)

40Fires – Open Source Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Car

There was a message today on the OpenMoko community list from Roland Whitehead asking how well the OpenMoko community works. The reason for the query is really interesting!

I am working with the 40 Fires Foundation [http://www.40fires.org] to try to build a framework for the development of open source hardware. You might have heard that the first project is the “hyrban” car – a car powered by a hydrogen fuel cell – the prototype of which was revealed by Riversimple [http://www.riversimple.com] earlier in the summer and whose designs have been licensed to 40 Fires.

It appears that the plans for the car will be licensed under a Creative Commons license (though it’s not clear which variant – the current 40Fires wiki content is licensed under the 3.0-BY-NC version) though they do recognise that some components of the car may not be available under open source licenses. It does sound like an interesting project, will be interesting to see how it develops!

Kubuntu Users – Shave a Few Seconds Off Your Boot Time

If you’re a KDE Ubuntu user (Kubuntu) you might not know that the standard readahead package (which attempts to speed up boot by preloading the kernel file cache by efficiently reading them in advance) is tuned for the Gnome version of Ubuntu and so will be trying to read a bunch of libraries that are probably not installed on your system. So it’s unlikely to do much for your average KDE user!

However, if when you boot you go into the Grub boot loader and add the “profile” option to the end of your command line (after “quiet” for instance) then it will profile the files used during the startup and create new files in /etc/readahead so that next time you start you’ll actually be preloading the files that will be used on your system. I’ve found it’s shaved over 2.5 seconds off my boot time as recorded by bootchart.

There is a bug in Launchpad for this, it’s 369506 but it hasn’t had a lot of love. πŸ™

Android on my FreeRunner

So it’s just over two weeks since I started with Android on my FreeRunner and it’s time for an update. First of all I’m no longer using the Koolu images, they lack echo suppression support and as soon as I found that Michael Trimarchi’s Panicking port of Android does do echo suppression I switched. The added benefit of changing was that Michaels port has fixed the go-slow feel of the Koolu version and feels responsive and usable in most situations (though the soft keyboard is still a little slow).

Good points:

  1. Calls work flawlessly.
  2. SMS works flawlessly (and has a nice interface)
  3. Contacts can be added as shortcuts on the desktop
  4. Wifi works (though WPA2 Enterprise networks need some text file magic)
  5. GPS works nicely (I used GPS-status to see how many satellites it can see)
  6. Bluetooth works – or at least finds devices when scanning – not gone any further with that
  7. Web browser works nicely, even supports Google Gears

Bad points:

  1. NO ACCESS TO THE ANDROID MARKET – the Android Market application is not open source (a decision by Google) so you can’t access any applications hosted there. Whilst there are alternative sources they only have a fraction of the applications so this does limit things.
  2. The phone seems to stop being able to suspend if you define a APN for GPRS/MMS access. Resetting the APN to the defaults (none) fixes it though.
  3. I don’t seem to be able to download MMS/PXT’s – I suspect this is related to the APN issues and I may just not have the right info
  4. Accelerometers don’t appear to work – or at least the marble game I had didn’t react to me tilting the phone.
  5. Battery life doesn’t seem to be quite as good as Qtopia/Qt-Extended/QtMoko – I have to charge every 24 hours at present. That said the later kernels don’t seem to give me quite as long a lifetime as the 2.6.24 based ones so that may not be Androids fault..

But all in all I’m really quite happy with Android on FreeRunner, it easily outshines my previous favourite of Qtopia/Qt-Extended/QtMoko in terms of overall polish and usefulness as a phone! Thanks to all involved in the porting effort, and especially Michael.

Why Microsoft Got Hammered by the Judge over XML Patent

If you were wondering why the judge came down like a ton of bricks over i4i’s XML patent, then this this is likely the reason:

In a 65-page summary opinion dated Aug. 11, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis said that evidence presented during the May 2009 jury trial showed Microsoft had met with i4i executives as far back as 2001, knew of the firm’s patent for XML editing, and yet did nothing to guarantee that its implementation of “custom” XML would not infringe the i4i patent.

The judge also raises some (what look like to me) anti-trust monopolistic points:

“The trial evidence revealed that Microsoft’s intention to move competitors’ XML products to obsolescence was quite bold,” Davis said in his opinion. During the trial, i4i’s expert testified that 80% of the market for the company’s products was made moot when Microsoft added custom XML capabilities to Word 2003.

Of course you have to hand it to Microsoft for trying it on when attempting to get around the injunction, but the judge caught them again:

“Even after several years of litigation and a jury verdict of infringement, Microsoft requests the ability to continue selling the accused products and release an upcoming product with the same infringing functionality,”

Not to mention that Microsoft would have known of both the patent and the lawsuit whilst successfully railroading OOXML through the ISO standards process in flagrant disregard for the concerns about the format.

Fortunately it’s already been reported that OpenOffice.org ISO standard XML file format ODF is not affected by this patent.

i4i Says XML Patent Doesn’t Affect OpenOffice.org!

Here’s some interesting news from Government Computing (via Groklaw) on the patent that has caused all the worry about Microsoft Word and XML:

i4i said it has looked at OpenOffice and found it doesn’t infringe on its patents.

Which is good news for ODF, but still demonstrates what an utter minefield software patents are. The sooner they’re gone the better.