Heartbleed and Lessons Learned

Simon Phipps:

Here’s my column from Issue 4 of Linux Voice magazine. Currently working on the column for issue 6.

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

HeartbleedWe’ve had some time for the shock of the Heartbleed announcement to sink in and there’s a lot to consider. While the first impressions might be about the serious, exploitable bug and the repercussions of its abuse, the incident casts light on both the value and risks of open source.

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Elections In Middle Earth

The Middle Earth elections are over and there’s a new alliance of elves and men in control, but all I can find on local TV is news of Tom Bombadil crushing Bilbo in Hobbiton.

I’ve been watching the BBC, and every single item of reportage has used a local political lens. We have heard guesses about next year’s UK elections, chest-beating from leaders of local parties, cameos of local politics in other countries to show what’s happening here is just like what’s happening there. But there’s little mention and absolutely no analysis of the power shift in the actual “political parties” of the European Parliament (with names like EPP, ALDE and S&D) and no useful indication of the actual consequences to the UK of the decisions its people have taken.

This is no surprise; neither the campaigning political parties nor the pre-election media ever mentioned the real politics of the European parliament, so how could anyone vote about it? Instead, the whole election has been portrayed like a mock election at a school. All comment asks what this means for Hobbiton; no-one is asking who’s running Middle Earth.

My take from the European election results is the UK has voted to remove many of its experienced politicians from Brussels and to leave the EPP and S&D to run the show. By promoting UKIP, we now have eleven fewer elected representatives working on our behalf to improve the UK’s position as new policy evolves, and even if they did suddenly decide to represent us — instead of voting in favour of things like the ivory trade and against flood prevention “to make a point” — they have no parliamentary colleagues they are willing to work with among the other nationalist parties to produce change.

The same story in other countries means the intact set of experienced political operators is from Germany, and the dominant influence from the UK will come from Labour acting within the S&D party who came second in the election. The UK’s ability to influence has been dangerously harmed and the euro-sceptic influence has moved even further from the levers of control (the UK’s Conservatives had already quit EPP by forming a new minority party) leaving pro-europeans from EPP, ALDE, Greens and S&D in control.

Meanwhile, xenophobic parties from across Europe will be funded with millions of new euros as their no-show no-work MEPs collect default allowances and feed their party with money (assuming they don’t just keep it). There may be fewer jackboots and more smiling populists, but the mantle has been handed over.

Instead of explaining all this, the UK’s news media talk as if UKIP has “won the election”, talk about local politics elsewhere in Europe and give no indication of the actual balance of power in the European Parliament. This is the real political bias problem.

By treating the European elections in purely parochial frames, voters have been given no information about the true consequences of their votes and as a result have voted like it’s a national election. No-one is being told about the true power-brokers or the future of policy. Instead, the news media have betrayed their audience and created a situation where the UK’s influence in Europe — which will remain the market maker for our economy and jobs — is further diminished. I have complained to the BBC that their coverage has been parochial to the point of abuse; you could too…

Here are the actual results:

EU Election Results 2014

As of June 9, 2014

Steering Where You Look

Simon Phipps:

I’ve been thinking about the concept in this article for a long time. I think the “steering where you look, not where you meant to go” concept is widely applicable, not just to technology but to religion, politics and other areas. Do please send improvements!

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

When I learned to drive, my instructor told me “you steer where you look” — in other words, wherever you focus your attention becomes your destination, so keep your eyes on the road ahead and don’t worry about the stores at the roadside (or even too much about the kerb and the parked vehicles).

The same principle seems applicable in other contexts. We’re moving away from a hierarchical, post-industrial society and evolving into a meshed society of peers, interacting in variable roles on their own terms. That’s challenging established institutions, but sadly they have frequently “steered where they looked” and made the wrong choices.

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More cautious excitement as Microsoft opens .Net

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

The Microsoft news is coming thick and fast. A few days ago we discussed Office for iPad, Microsoft’s confession of unethical behaviour and its release of MS-DOS code under a prohibitive license. This weeks news seems even bigger: open source for .Net and $0 pricing for mobile Windows. There’s cause to be excited, yet as ever caution is required.

The excitement comes from the .Net news. The formation of the .Net Foundation and the hosting of 24 projects within it should liberate developers to innovate in a way that seemed impossible under previous leadership. This move has seemed an obvious one for the open source community for a long time, as it offers a new lease of life for .Net through contributor innovation and should help create a rich, monetisable market.

The caution relates to the news that Windows for mobile will be free of charge. Whilst unarguably a big move…

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Parody Finally Made Legal In UK

Simon Phipps:

We thought this was never going to happen. Seems clean and clear but I will be interested to read expert analysis.

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

Draft regulations have been published in Britain that will finally end the anomaly where quotation, parody, caricature and pastiche are considered breaches of copyright. If approved by Parliament, they will come into force on June 1st, finally closing the loophole in copyright law that allowed copyright owners to chill criticism and stifle research in cases that are otherwise reasonable.

Using the “fair dealing” concept, The Copyright and Rights in Performances (Quotation and Parody) Regulations 2014 both limit the scope for these literary forms infringe copyright, and also invalidates contract terms that claim to forbid them.

(1) Fair dealing with a work for the purposes of caricature, parody or pastiche does not infringe copyright in the work.

(2) To the extent that a term of a contract purports to prevent or restrict the doing of any act which, by virtue of this section, would not infringe copyright, that term is unenforceable.

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Crowdsource vs Open Source

Simon Phipps:

I have frequently pointed out that crowdfunding means no stake and that crowdsourcing is not open source. People still get surprised each time things turn out differently to what they expected though.

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

The acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus Rift by Facebook was announced this week to mixed reactions. Most negative were those who had enabled the VR goggles to be created in the first place — the backers on Kickstarter who provided nearly $2.5m to see the dream become reality. One prominent backer, the founder of Minecraft creators Mojang, was especially upset, deciding that Minecraft will not collaborate with Facebook. In a blog post he wrote:

I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.

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2014: Year of the Linux Desktop

Originally posted on Meshed Insights & Knowledge:

For those thinking that the supremacy of the Linux desktop is closely tied to the success of GNU/Linux distributions like Ubuntu and the downfall of Windows, this headline might come across as bizarrely fantastical. The reality we live and work in though, is one in which Google Apps adoption, the growth of Chrome OS and the unstoppable tide of Android and Android based devices, mean that Linux servers are powering the large majority of what goes on on our desktops.

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