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Legislation and More Legislation
The proposed European Union directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions (software patents directive) is still in more or less the same limbo it was in when last discussed here in November. As mentioned in November, Poland has expressed serious reservations about the proposed measures and has blocked the European Council of Ministers from adopting the relatively pro-patent proposal currently before it. This would have have occurred, for reasons of expediency, at a meeting of the Council of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Tom Chance, writing at LWN, has given a clear and useful overview of how these developments fit within the decision making structure of the EU. He also presents a neat précis of the realpolitik which will likely lead to Poland shelving its objections in order to achieve agreement on matters closer to its economic self-interest. Should this happen, meaning the measure is adopted by the Council, it could again be rejected by a Parliament keen to reinstate its original amendments. However, under the relevant voting rules this would require two thirds of all MEPs to vote accordingly. This is unlikely to occur.
Parliamentarians, and citizens, concerned about the adoption of this controversial directive have called for the entire process to be restarted from scratch. Since the processing of this directive has now spanned a European Parliament election, there are grounds for this to occur under the auspices of Rule 55 of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. However, it is likely that many Eurocrats will be loath to restart the legislative process given that this would open the EU institutions to accusations of inefficiency and indecisiveness.
As we approach the time when decisions on the future of this directive will be made, many individuals and organisations are attempting to raise their political representatives' awareness of these matters. Although it is valuable in this process to achieve some understanding of the issues and consequences of the proposed policy, it is perhaps even more useful to impress on elected representatives that they will be called to account in their own countries for their voting and policy in Europe.
Useful sites for those opposed to software patents:
Calculating entropy from things like your server logs.
The Guardian reviews Microsoft's Annus Horribilis, and other trends/news from 2004.
Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, has announced plans to switch government offices over to Open Source software during the next two years.
Some arguments in favour of using Linux in embedded applications.
Fairly lengthy interview with Richard Stallman.
www.amiculus.com/, looking for new business models for Open Source and Free software producers and users.
Archos is launching a Linux powered, WiFi enabled, portable media player.
News in General
Open Graphics Project
The Open Grapics Project aims to develop 2D and 3D graphics hardware based on open standards and documentation that will allow full operation with GNU/Linux and other open source software. The principles behind this development are outlined by Timothy Miller in an interview he gave to KernelTrap.org. The hardware part of this venture is Miller's employer, Tech Source. A mailing list has been established to discuss the project.
As of Christmas Eve 2004, the latest version of the stable 2.6.x series of Linux Kernels is 2.6.10. The new year brought an update to the older 2.4 series, which has now been updated to version 2.4.29.
As always, you should download from your nearest mirror.
The Debian Project has announced the release of the fourth update for the current stable release of their GNU/Linux distribution. Debian Woody GNU/Linux 3.0, (r4), released on January 1st 2005, comprises for the most part a collection of security fixes accumulated (and addressed) over the past months since the r3 release in October.
The Debian Project addresses the issue of sexism .
Screenshot tour of Games Knoppix, a Knoppix variant that comes loaded with a selection of some of the best games available for GNU/Linux, all on a live, bootable, CD. There is a review of this distribution at Linux.com.
The Linux From Scratch 2nd edition book is currently on pre-order sale. This means you can order this book for USD13.99, whereas in a couple of weeks when it starts to ship it will be available at USD19.99.
Linux From Scratch provides a set of instructions allowing you to build your GNU/Linux system entirely from source. Even if you do not plan to use such a system, it is an interesting exercise, and this book could provide useful information and background to many non LFS uses.
Looking towards the next release of this distribution, it has been announced that the first milestone live-CD preview of the next Ubuntu release (Hoary Hedgehog) has been let loose.
NewsForge has reviewed Xandros Desktop OS 3 Deluxe Edition. This Debian-based GNU/Linux distribution aims to provide a comfortable and familiar experience to users more accustomed to the use of GUI environments, and perhaps new to GNU/Linux.
Software and Product News
JBidWatcher is an open-source (LGPL), Java-based, application that allows users to monitory online-auctions, and even to snipe by making a winning bid at the last available moment. NewsForge has published a description/review of this software.
IBM is to launch a new low-end Power-based server running GNU/Linux, making a definite marker with regard to its relationship with chip-making rivals AMD and Intel.
Adobe has released version 7 of its Acrobat software for GNU/Linux. The stand-alone Acrobat Reader has also been updated to version 7.0, and this update too is available for GNU/Linux as a no-cost download.
The Mozilla Project's Firefox web browser has passed the 20 million download mark. In a likely-connected development, Microsoft's Internet Explorer product is reported to have lost 30% of its market share.
Mick is LG's News Bytes Editor.
Originally hailing from Ireland, Michael is currently living in Baden,
Switzerland. There he works with ABB Corporate Research as a
Marie-Curie fellow, developing software for the simulation and design
of electrical power-systems equipment.
Before this, Michael worked as a lecturer in the Department of
Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin; the same
institution that awarded him his PhD. The topic of this PhD research
was the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has
been very useful in his past work, and Michael has a strong interest
in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering.
Before this, Michael worked as a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin; the same institution that awarded him his PhD. The topic of this PhD research was the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has been very useful in his past work, and Michael has a strong interest in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering.