Python Trademark Safe In Europe

Seems all that community pressure worked. The Python Software Foundation confirmed that the UK hoster that was threatening their name has withdrawn its trademark application. More at InfoWorld.

Google, VP8 and Codec Standards

The politics around codecs are complex and the incumbents are prone to deceptive feints, like in 2010 when MPEG-LA claimed that H.264 was available “free” for web uses (but content owners probably still paid multiple fees in the production chain).  So it is perhaps understandable that some people misunderstood Google’s agreement with MPEG-LA and interpreted it as a victory for the patent circus and the end of any claim of freedom for VP8.

In fact, my reading of the available facts suggests Google won. The license with MPEG-LA looks mostly face-saving for the patent pool, and the attacks from the incumbent companies suggest they’re falling back on the next line of defence. The whole situation is an object lesson in why software patents simply must not be tolerated. Read more in InfoWorld.

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Speak Up For SHIELD

If you’re a US citizen, your support for the bipartisan SHIELD Act could strike a decisive blow to patent trolls by making them pay costs if they lose patent actions and allowing judges to require a bond for costs from them before a case can proceed. Striking at their ability to build a fighting fund could well be the key to making the “business” they conduct unprofitable and dangerous.

While advocates of patent maximalism claim this also disadvantages small businesses legitimately prosecuting patents against larger foes, my take is small software businesses should be avoiding patents anyway. There are a few counter examples from the world of hardware (Dyson is frequently cited) but they are an expensive weapon; expensive to wield and likely to bring more value to the vultures who will pick over the wreckage of your business than to you yourself.

Read all about it over on InfoWorld.

Red Hat Picks Up Dropped Java 6

Red Hat put out a press release yesterday that didn’t instantly make sense to me. After a chat with their GM of Middleware, I realised actually they had all done us a favour picking up care of OpenJDK 6 that Oracle had dropped. More on InfoWorld.

A Broken Promise

Microsoft was fined for being a scofflaw and for failing to self-regulate as it had promised, not (just) for a “technical oversight”. I explain more on InfoWorld today.

Certification And Innovation

While there is probably a place for “granular” certifications, especially if their origin is the external accreditation of real-world recognition inside a community-of-practice, abstract profession-wide certifications such as one finds in professions like accounting or civil engineering seem to me to have only a negative role in software engineering. ICT is just too big, too varied, too fast moving for there to be a single wise way.

To assume you can mandate a single approach to all software engineering is to assume a world of sealed, proprietary black boxes that simply need experts to configure and deploy them, as with other regulated professions. In my InfoWorld column this week I explain why I think this is wrong.

Python Issue Slithers Away?

Looks like Python Hosting is no more. I’ve seen nothing official, but I note from that the new name for their cloud hosting is Veber Cloud.  My story at InfoWorld today has a few updates on what I wrote earlier in the week. Let’s hope this means the trademark application will also be withdrawn.

Learning from LibreOffice

LibreOffice is built from a large legacy codebase that dates back over 20 years. It includes millions of lines of code, can be compiled for a wide range of platforms and incorporates the ideas from long-superseded approaches to programming. Meanwhile, the LibreOffice development community is diverse, international and distributed. Bringing together the immovable object with the irresistible force has resulted in all sorts of interesting innovation. Read about it in my InfoWorld column this week.


US Hearing To Test Lemley Patents Proposal

A rare en banc hearing of the US federal circuit court today will re-hear the arguments over a fiercely-fought software patent case, CLS Bank vs Alice Corp (the aggressor here is actually Alice; CLS is named first as they sued pre-emptively). Among the amici briefs is one from the EFF proposing Mark Lemley‘s elegant re-examination of the patent statute as a solution. This involves treating “a computer which…”, the weasley phrase added in front of abstract patent claims to make them patentable, as unacceptable unless it refers to a specific implementation of a computer. In this case, the statute’s rules on functional claiming would then apply, severely restricting the scope of the patent.  I explain in more detail in InfoWorld today.


TDF Keeps Up The Pressure

The release of LibreOffice 4.0 continues the regular drumbeat of feature releases (coupled with maintaining a known-stable earlier version) that’s a signature strategy for The Document Foundation. While a lot of the long-term investment they’ve made has been in cleaning the code, speeding it up and making it more stable, there are also important features in the new release that improve LibreOffice’s enterprise value, such as CMS integration, MS Visio 2013 support and support for large spreadsheets and XML data import. Overall, the pressure on Microsoft to innovate remains high. Read more on InfoWorld.

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