Google to acquire Motorola Mobility (Updated x1)

Very interesting news, especially given Motorola’s recent sabre rattling about going after patent victims^W income – hopefully this will put the end to that nonsense.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. & LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. – Aug. 15, 2011 – Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: MMI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Google will acquire Motorola Mobility for $40.00 per share in cash, or a total of about $12.5 billion, a premium of 63% to the closing price of Motorola Mobility shares on Friday, August 12, 2011. The transaction was unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies.

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.

I hope with Google in control we’ll see some better Android devices out there – can we get a real keyboard please ?!?

Update 1:

It appears that patents are part of the reason for Google buying Motorola, but looks like they’re being trailed as defensive according to this TechCrunch article:

During today’s conference call explaining the deal, Page noted that Motorola’s “strong patent portfolio” will help Google defend Android against “Microsoft, Apple, and other companies.” The first two questions on the call went right to the patent issue as well. With Android under attack on the patent front by Apple, Microsoft, Oracle and others, buying Motorola is very much a defensive move as well.

Comment on Social Media and Social Unrest

My good friend Alec Muffett has written on ComputerworldUK about a discussion on the pros and cons of social media in light of the riots in the UK. He puts it really well:

I support that some people might want to use Blackberries to organise riots. If people want to use a cellphone or social media to conspire, that’s fine by me. I also believe that young lovers should be able to whisper sweet nothings to each other in secret, I believe that rape victims should be able to communicate in private, and that pregnant girls should be able to seek abortion advice without state, corporate, or parental eavesdropping. Cancer sufferers should be able to share in private their illness with the people who care for them, and I believe that dissidents should be free to communicate political opinion.

I believe all of these things because I discriminate the ability to obtain privacy from the exercise of criminal intent, and I believe that the ability to have a private conversation – something that 200 years ago was easily guaranteed – is a valuable asset to the individual. Plus I further believe that a state which has been too lazy, too profligate, or too cheap to police what people are doing rather than how they talk about doing it, is in no position to argue that ability or secrecy of communication should be inhibited because the problem is too expensive for them to address otherwise.

This is even more appropriate these days given that David Cameron, the UK PM, has now said:

We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it will be right to stop people from communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

I guess because it worked so well in Tunisia, Egypt, etc…

I would also suggest you watch his video “On Cyberspace, Social Media and Censorship“, recorded before the UK unrest.

Microsoft Patents “Legal Intercept” of VoIP and other Network Protocols

In 2009 some bright sparks at Microsoft decided that they should patent how to legally intercept VoIP (explicitly SIP traffic in the patent) and other network protocols. The SIP attack basically boils down to tweaking the SDP packets to remove an option:

If SIP invite messages are intercepted on their way to the call server or in the call server then the “a=candidate” lines referring to a direct peer to peer voice connection may be removed from the SDP parameters. As a result, the terminating call VoIP entity is not offered local paths and will not respond with them in the answer SDP. This forces the call through the NAT and into the public network where it can be transparently recorded.

But of course this is a patent and so the broad principles are couched in heaps of legal mumbo-jumbo and so what is actually covered is impenetrable.

One interesting point, given recent developments, is:

For example, VoIP may include audio messages transmitted via gaming systems, instant messaging protocols that transmit audio, Skype and Skype-like applications, meeting software, video conferencing software, and the like.

This is long before they bought Skype, but I’m sure that won’t stop conspiracy theorists.. 🙂

Relicensed All My Flickr Photos – Please Reuse!

After some thinking I’ve decided that my previous choice of the Creative Commons “attribution, non-commercial use, share-alike” (BY-NC-SA) license doesn’t really square with my feelings on free-software and culture in general, so I’ve taken the plunge and relicensed all my photos on Flickr under a simple Creative Commons attribution (BY) license. This means you can reuse any of my photos for any purpose, whether you make Linux distributions, want to make a collage, are looking for media for an advertisment, anything. I’d really get a buzz if you do use them, all I ask is that you credit me.

Here’s a couple of examples (there’s over 500 there as I write this!):

Bee Line Partial lunar eclipse from Melbourne, 26th June 2010 DSC_0079.JPG Senator Kate Lundy talking about Gov2.0 at SFD Melbourne Tree Fern DSC_0162.JPG

DSC_0017.JPG Steve teeing off on Iains birthday round of golf at #Olinda Geeks with phones DSC_0038.JPG Ladybird DSC_0054.JPG

AEC Obfuscates on Voting Rules

Update: Antony has kindly clarified his reasoning in a comment on this article, and so I have now sent a follow up query to the AEC based on this.

Update 2: After much too-ing and fro-ing (see the comments) with Antony Green and the AEC it appears that the AEC would rather obfuscate on the whole issue than bring clarity to it, and Antony makes a very convincing case about why it is valid to do both. What I’d love to see is a comment from someone involved in the voting process with one of the OIC guides to confirm that it says that those votes are handled as Antony says. I somehow doubt anyone would dare though.. 🙁 After that enlightening discussion with Antony I’ve changed the title of this article from “Do Not Vote Both Above and Below the Line in the Senate! (Updated)” to “AEC Obfuscates on Voting Rules” as that seems to be fairer to both Antony and the AEC. 😉

Update 3: Just found this on the AEC website describing how voting works:

However, if the elector completes both sections formally, the below the line section takes precedence.

So it is really valid, despite what the AEC have been telling me! Thanks to “GetUp!” for providing the link to that AEC page on their voting page.

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Soliciting Australian Signatories to an Open Letter Against Software Patents to Minister Kim Carr

The Melbourne Free Software Interest Group (a group of Melbourne computer folks with an interest in software freedom) have put together an open letter to Senator the Hon Kim Carr, the Minister for Innovation, to request that software be excluded from patenting as part of the Australian governments review of patents in general.

We are currently collecting signatures to the letter and if you are in Australia and of a like mind we would really appreciate it if you would contribute your signature too! Just click on the link, read the letter and the form to sign it is at the bottom of the page. Please also pass this on to others you know who may be interested.

Amazon Patents Social Networking in 2008 ?

Does this sound familiar to you ?

A networked computer system provides various services for assisting users in locating, and establishing contact relationships with, other users. For example, in one embodiment, users can identify other users based on their affiliations with particular schools or other organizations. The system also provides a mechanism for a user to selectively establish contact relationships or connections with other users, and to grant permissions for such other users to view personal information of the user. The system may also include features for enabling users to identify contacts of their respective contacts. In addition, the system may automatically notify users of personal information updates made by their respective contacts.

It’s the introduction to a patent by Amazon for their obviously unique idea of a “Social Networking System” which includes such strikingly novel ideas such as:

wherein the service maintains relationship data representing contact relationships between users, and the method further comprises using the relationship data to detect, and to cause the first user to be notified that, a third user is a contact of a contact of the first user via the second user.


wherein the personal data of the first user comprises an identification of a school attended by the first user and an associated date range of attendance, and the computer system is additionally programmed to use said personal data to identify, and to inform the first user of, other users of the service who attended said school in said date range.

None of which existed before the patent was filed in 2008, honest guv…

Hello USPTO ? Anyone in there ?

Protect Your Family with the Kogan Portector!

If you’re worried about spam and scams coming through the Internet Portal (thanks to Stephen Conroy for pointing that threat out) then get yourself a Kogan Portector! Here’s their advert for it on YouTube..

Of course you must be sure to read the disclaimer..

DISCLAIMER: The Kogan “Portector” Internet Filter is not a real product. This product is in no way affiliated with Communications Minister Stephen Conroy, The Australian Labor Party, or the Australian Government. Incorrect use may result in uncensored Internet content, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of thought, and protection of your civil liberties.

Phew, thanks Kogan for saving us!

Patents, MPEG-LA and Not-So-Professional Video Cameras

So you’ve bought a nice new professional video camera and you want to shoot a video of a friends band so they can sell a couple of copies to buy a new guitar, simple eh ? Well not quite, you’ll probably want to check the license for the camera according to this article by Eugenia Loli-Queru:

You see, there is something very important, that the vast majority of both consumers and video professionals don’t know: ALL modern video cameras and camcorders that shoot in h.264 or mpeg2, come with a license agreement that says that you can only use that camera to shoot video for “personal use and non-commercial” purposes (go on, read your manuals).

Now, you may ask, this can’t be right, can it ? Surely a “professional” video camera should be able to be used for professional purposes ? Well yes, it should, but it can’t. The reason is (of course) software patents, according to Eugenia:

Apparently, MPEG-LA makes it difficult for camera manufacturers, or video editor software houses, to obtain a cheap-enough license that allows their users to use their codec any way they want!

So the camera manufacturers pass that onto the purchaser, if you buy one and want to use it professionally then you will have to get your own license from MPEG-LA and then pay them a royalty on every copy sold. Sadly you can’t even get away from this by transcoding your MPEG2 or H.264 video into a free format for two reasons, firstly the camera most likely uses it internally first (and that’s apparently enough) and secondly the MPEG-LA claim their patent portfolio is so broad that you cannot create a video codec these days without infringing one of their patents. So theoretically you’d need to pay no matter what you did.

Eugenia does offer one possible way out, the ancient MJPEG format:

Let me make one thing clear. MJPEG **sucks** as a codec. It’s very old and inefficient. OGV Theora looks like alien technology compared to it. But (all, if not most of) its patents have expired. And JPEG is old enough to predate MPEG-LA. Thankfully, there are still some MJPEG HD cameras in the market, although they are getting fewer and fewer: Nikon’s dSLRs, Pentax’s new dSLRs, and the previous generation of Panasonic’s HD digicams. Other cameras that might be more acceptable to use codec-wise are the Panasonic HVX-200 (DVCPro HD codec, $6000), the SILICON IMAGING SI-2K (using the intermediate format Cineform to record, costs $12,000), and the RED One (using the R3D intermediate format, costs $16,000+). Almost every other HD camera in the market is unsuitable, if you want to be in the clear 100%

Yet another reason why software patents need to be defeated, they stifle what we can do with the technology we have paid for.