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Net neutrality
May 29th, 2009 under Digital Rights, InfoSec, Life, rengolin, World. [ Comments: none ]

Since the early days (millions of years ago), the human race is being watched. Not by any sort of god or alien race, but by itself.

During the cave age, human-apes lived in groups. Either on trees or proper caves, they were all together. It was, then, pretty impossible to do something and not being noticed. If you want to enjoy the sunset while all others are working hard on protecting the cave, you’ll be spotted. If you get someone’s else wife for a ride, people would know.

Empires came and went and the only thing they brought as a relief for that was the number of unknown people around you. People would know you on your neighbourhood, but you could go away a few blocks and you’d be a total stranger. Moving cities was even better, but that was nothing that you couldn’t do during the cave age.

Even with the ability of changing homes, during your stay in a particular place, you are being watched. Not all vigilance is bad, though. Some might learn that you like football and invite you for the local team. Others could notice you left your door open and warn you, and even babysit your children.

Whenever you interact with the people, you invariable leave a trace. If a policeman asks your neighbour where have you been, he’ll probably have a good hunch and that will probably help the police to find you. The only thing that matters, really, is if you’re lost (and needs finding) or running away.

The Internet is a much bigger place than any city or country, it’s far easier to go on without being noticed. But, as with real life, people are watching. Sometimes for good, other times for bad, and that doesn’t make the Internet any different than the real world.

If you come to my house, I’ll remember. When you visit websites, your IP and page you visited is logged on their servers. We eventually forget your visit, if you were not that important, or clear old logs from the server, but for a while, you are there.

Being logged in a server is no different than being remembered, and that’s hardly a bad thing. What is bad is what you do with that piece of information. And for that, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the net or at my house, it’s a violation of your freedom for me to use that information solely to my profit. Hiding behind proxies is not the way to go, because that is only pushing your freedom even further away.

So, what is neutrality?

Net neutrality is to give the freedom to people do whatever they want, whenever they want and not cap their ability for profit or legal reasons. This may seem dangerous, if someone is trying to do any harm, the chance they’ll succeed is big, but that is also the case with real life. Suicide bombers,, for instance, always manage to explode themselves and no one can do anything about it.

Well, they can, and that leads us to a much worse scenario: Guantanamo Bay. Caping everyone’s connections and inspecting everyone’s packets because some will abuse is against human rights. The same with locking people in far away prisons without any charge just because there was a hunch that he/she would do something wrong whenever they would.

Society is complex and evil. Freedom comes with a high price: harm. If you start guessing who’ll do the wrong thing and punishing them before they do, you can surely save a lot of harm being done, but also you’ll harm lots of innocent people to a no return point. Your society will be as bad as the quality of your guess.

So, judging people for the crimes they have commited won’t change the harm they have done, but will save the lives of people that didn’t commit any crime. Crime is part of the nature. Not human nature, but life itself. It’s not possible to stop it once and for all, it’s not possible to accurately predict when it’s going to happen and the outcome of trying is far worse than not, so don’t even start.

Not only that, but these guess-works give permission to certain people (or groups) to deviate the logic for their own profit. That’s the case of recording companies and the fight against copying and borrowing. That’s the case of idea patents and the inherent inability to think. That’s the case of all major wars since the second world war (and probably many more before that).

Guessing on people’s freedom is evil, not even hideous crimes are that evil.


FSF Settles Suit Against Cisco
May 20th, 2009 under Devel, Digital Rights, OSS, rengolin, Unix/Linux. [ Comments: none ]

The long dispute with Cisco has finally come to an agreement. For me, that means two things: first, they’re not trolls sucking money from the big corps for stupid patent infringement, as some might fear. Second, they’re very patient, understanding and sometimes a bit too naive.

Why the fear?

When building embedded systems or when you’re too close to the hardware (such as Cisco) you may take a wise decision to use open source software, as it’s quite likely to be stable and taken care by a good bunch of good people. Even though there are several ways of doing it independently, so your software is not virally infected by the GPL, it’s not always possible and you may have to re-invent the wheel because of that.

It’s not only GPL, patents can also cause a whole lot of damage, and it seems that TomTom has decided to go head first with the Linux community.

So, although the fear is understandable, it’s more of a hysteria than based on actual facts. The FSF hasn’t had much to show on court, and that adds up to the uncertainty of the lawyers, but it’s in cases like the Cisco that they show a much higher maturity that most companies have shown recently, even mature companies like Microsoft.

Richard Stallman

The FSF is not only Stallman. Even though he’s the boss, the organization is a large list of people, sponsors, advisers (and now interns). One thing is to fear what RMS will do when he finds you using GPL in your kitchen scale, but a completely different matter is what the FSF (as an organization) does.

The Cisco case has been going for several years. They offered help, they’ve asked politely, they’ve warned about the potential dangers and so on. A lot has been made before they have actually filled the suit, and they’ve settled it nicely. This shows that they’re not just waiting the next infringement to get you down, they actually care about their (and your) freedom.

The day the FSF starts acting stupid is the day people will drive away. It’s not like Microsoft that you have no option, there’s plenty of options out there, software, licences, partners, advisers, programmers, etc. GNU/Linux is not the decent open source operating system, the BSDs are as good, sometimes better, especially in the embedded case.

The year of Linux

Every year since 1995 is the year of Linux. For me it always was, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the world. Recently, Linux (and other open source software) has played an important role in defining the future of mankind and more and more the Linux community feels that it’s their sweat and blood.

There is a great chance it’ll become the platform of all things in a very short time-frame. Cars, mobile phones, PDAs, netbooks, laptops, desktops, servers, clusters, spaceships. One platform to rule them all and in the darkness bind them, but if they play dumb, their glory might never see daylight.

Lots of people disagree with the new revisions of the GPL license, they feel it bites the hand that feeds it. Many companies feed back open source regularly and that kinda broke the synergy. I personally think that it’s excellent for some cases, but not for all. For instance, development tools should not be restricted, especially when it comes to platforms they can’t reach. Opening the platform is an obvious way around it, but not everything can be exposed and they can’t figure out every implementation detail.

Drivers might also have trouble with GPLv3 for the same reason. Again, there are ways around it, the FSF recently opened a backdoor to develop proprietary plug-ins if they’re blessed, but that might not be suitable for every case.

Solution?

Sorry, not today. Stick to FreeBSD if you can’t cope with GPLv3, find a way to co-exist with the GCC exception and provide the source code of what you have to. If it’s not your core business, you could donate your code to the community and make it GPL too and treat your program as enabling technology, of course, providing your code doesn’t expose any patent or trade secret.

So, well, yeah. Each case is a different case, that’s the problem of being in the long tail.


 


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