Archive for the ‘Computing’ Category

Open Source

December 31, 2015

Open source is the inevitable future for coding and software. It is one of the most important characteristics of the changes that society will undergo as a result of the Internet, which itself was borne of “public-domaining” of its technology.

In fact, Open Source is the sharp point of the advance of deeper changes. The angel said in Daniel 12 of the Bible that “knowledge shall be increased”. The printing press made it possible to publish scathing criticism of kings, who promptly clamped down on this new danger to society (sic) by requiring a “copyright”, or right to copy, a book.

With the computer age came electronic copying, and with the Internet came electronic sharing. With computers also came “hacking” by those with the aptitude. The copy-left movement sparked when MIT hackers saw their code escape hidden from them into the clutches of copyright by people who had nothing to do with creating it.

Companies are getting tired of budgets bloated by the arbitrary residuals and the captivity of proprietary fences. Even creators of web sites by the most well-known original Microsoft dot-net experts are abandoning all the insane licensing. Microsoft itself has acknowledged the inevitable.

Oracle has the tightest of proprietary technology it seems and the worst of fees and peripheral charges. Not for nothing Larry Ellison offered to “donate” their software for a national database of all Americans for free. (They make $150 per hour for hiring out their consultants.)

Open source has spilled over into other contexts too. There is now the “Creative Commons” licensing. The rebellion against fiat monopoly grants by a central committee is spreading without a shot being fired.

https://wiki.creativecommons.org/images/6/62/Creativecommons-informational-flyer_eng.pdf

The effects will cascade further still, and is already. IBM has shared its Power-8 technology for the core hardware of its bread-and-butter systems with a group of giants. Google is building out a huge data center based on it, in combination with other open technologies.

Big corporations might even be able at this point to get a general ledger item total of the cost of patents, copyrights, and licensing. It distracts from other revenue streams. One can even argue that patents are just copyrights as well, since they must be legally described in explicit language.

The line between “fair use” of copyrighted material is so artificial, so arbitrary, that the laws and rules could NEVER be so clear as to avoid a future of never-ending litigation. The situation is so bad that there are thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of patent applications, every year, whose sole purpose is to take something rather evident, or even obvious, to protect its applicants from lawsuits.

The thing will come crashing down. Even the great Isaac Newton said he only “built upon the shoulders of giants” who came before him.

Just as when social pressures obligated kings to give up the censorship over works of literature that copyright laws were meant to enforce, and “pseudo-democratize” it by granting monopolies to creators, and just as the printing press itself created a new environment for sharing ideas new and old, stories new and old, the ease of electronic sharing will eventually overcome the resistance of today’s versions of mercantilism and feudalism.

In any case, we can now unmask the truth that the riches that flow from “intellectual property” royalties usually do not go to the actual creators, but to their employers. Only a few of those who become the most famous eventually get out from under their binding contracts, or have the talent to make hay from them. The Microsoft company structure does nothing but pay the coders, same as for Oracle, HP, and all the licensing producers of proprietary software. Given a good chance to make a living without having to give away their smarts to the boss, most of the good coders, writers, artists, musicians would stampede toward freedom.

Maybe they already are. The natural state of man is not to become a mindless controlled drone. We are individuals, all of us humans, and each of us, the way our Creator made us.

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Robot Liability Issues? Space Internet with Lasers

October 25, 2013

ROBOTS

 

Robots are getting better, and some people are already talking about the liability issues. I’ll bet there are a few corporate lawyers and litigation specialists helping drive the talk:

http://cacm.acm.org/news/169024-legal-issues-with-robots/fulltext

 

They’re worried about open source robots. Who to blame when something goes wrong?

 

Much worry about nothing. Who sued Microsoft for all the time and money lost to the Blue Screen Of Death?

 

Nobody died, but….

 

It’s simple anyway. If you build a robot and sell it and it is to blame in some hypothetical situation, it’s a deal between them and you. Linux proved more reliable than Microsoft, more stable and generally less vulnerable to attacks, but Microsoft gets liability protections when it sells its stuff. Disclaimers tell you that by using it, you can’t blame them for the results.

 

Some computer academics want to roll that back. But do businesses really want that? For a fool-proof computer system, for all contexts and uses that you might imagine, free of glitches, you’d have to pay double.

 

Look, you want a car that will resist damage in an accident to that extent? Get an 18-wheeler. Otherwise, get what you can pay for and what you think is worth it. Or if you’re a business, of course it’s the same thing.

 

Of course, I’m glad Open Source is invading the robotics space. It’s already practically taken over the 3-D printing space, from what I can see.

 

 

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SPACE INTERNET?

 

http://cacm.acm.org/news/169004-nasa-says-first-space-internet-test-beyond-expectations/fulltext

 

NASA was (is) testing laser communication systems as a medium for a space-based Internet.

Cornell says the laser communications system could form the building blocks of an outerspace Internet. “This is the beginning of that,” he says. “I think we could have that with delay tolerant networking.”

NASA hopes to use similar systems for faster satellite communications and deep space communications with robots and human exploration crews in the future. Two-way laser communications systems can deliver six times more data with 25 percent less power than the best radio systems currently in use today, and weigh half as much, Cornwell notes.

“Oh, it’s going to enable a lot of things,” he says, “but the big benefit is you can send back more data from wherever you are.”

It will require line-of-sight, right? But then there’s not as much clutter in space as there is on the ground here, except for near-Earth orbiting space junk and useful stuff up there.