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January 17, 2006

Enter the New Gnu Public License [7:21 pm]

New GPL Is Free at Last

Richard Stallman, author of the most radical and durable license for free-software developers, is updating the GNU Public License for the first time since 1991.

Stallman released a draft of GPL Version 3 at a conference at MIT here Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Among other things, the new version contains provisions barring GPL code from being used in digital-rights-management schemes, and restricting the patent rights coders can claim in their GPL-licensed programs.

GPLv3 comment anddiscussion area; Slashdot’s GPL 3 to Take Hard Line on DRM; also New open-source license targets DRM, Hollywood

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Can’t Keep A Bad Idea Down [5:17 pm]

Software patents loom large again

Europe’s Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy on Monday launched an initiative that could re-open the controversial software patents debate.

As part of the initiative McCreevy has unveiled a public consultation on how future action in patent policy to create an EU-wide patent system can take account of “stakeholders’ needs.” The Commissioner is also looking for feedback as to how to improve the patent system in Europe.

Slashdot: EU Software Patent Argument to Reopen?

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NYTimes Editorial: An Emerging Pattern [4:58 pm]

As I said earlier, it looks like the NYTimes is picking a new fight: Editorial: Beijing’s New Enforcer: Microsoft

Even as Internet use explodes in China, Beijing is cracking down on free expression, and Western technology firms are leaping to help. The companies block access to political Web sites, censor content, provide filtering equipment to the government and snitch on users. Companies argue that they must follow local laws, but they are also eager to ingratiate themselves with a government that controls access to the Chinese market.

Such obvious disregard for users’ privacy and ethical standards may make it easier to do business in China, but it also aids a repressive regime.

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Dorkbots [4:23 pm]

When Art and Science Collide, a Dorkbot Meeting Begins

Founded five years ago by Douglas Repetto, the director of research at Columbia University’s computer music center, dorkbot is an informal club of artists, techies and geeks who do “strange things with electricity,” according to their motto. In five years, chapters of the club have sprung up in nearly 30 cities around the world, from Seattle to Rotterdam to Mumbai.

BoingBoing post: NYT on Dorkbot

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Peer Review, How? [4:20 pm]

Idea Lab: Trial and Error

Journal editors say they can’t prevent fraud. In an absolute sense, they’re right. But they could make fraud harder to commit. Some critics, including some journal editors, argue that it would help to open up the typically closed peer-review system, in which anonymous scientists review a submitted paper and suggest revisions. Developed after World War II, closed peer review was meant to ensure candid evaluations and elevate merit over personal connections. But its anonymity allows reviewers to do sloppy work, steal ideas or delay competitors’ publication by asking for elaborate revisions (it happens) without fearing exposure. And it catches error and fraud no better than good editors do. “The evidence against peer review keeps getting stronger,” says Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal, “while the evidence on the upside is weak.” Yet peer review has become a sacred cow, largely because passing peer review confers great prestige - and often tenure.

Lately a couple of alternatives have emerged. [...]

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A Look at the Implications of the Frey Fray [8:42 am]

Critic’s Notebook: Bending the Truth in a Million Little Ways

he book sold more than two million copies because it was endorsed by Ms. Winfrey, and because it rode the crest of two waves that gained steam in the 1990’s: the memoir craze, which reflects our obsession with navel gazing and the first person singular; and the popularity of recovery-movement reminiscences, which grew out of television-talk-show confessions (presided over by Ms. Winfrey, among others) and Alcoholics Anonymous testimonials.

These two phenomena yielded the so-called “memoir of crisis” - a genre that has produced a handful of genuinely moving accounts of people struggling with illness and personal disaster but many more ridiculously exhibitionistic monologues that like to use the word “survivor” (a word once reserved for individuals who had lived through wars or famines or the Holocaust) to describe people coping with weight problems or bad credit.

They also coincided with our culture’s enshrinement of subjectivity - “moi” as a modus operandi for processing the world. Cable news is now peopled with commentators who serve up opinion and interpretation instead of news, just as the Internet is awash in bloggers who trade in gossip and speculation instead of fact. For many of these people, it’s not about being accurate or fair. It’s about being entertaining, snarky or provocative - something that’s decidedly easier and less time-consuming to do than old fashioned investigative reporting or hard-nosed research.

[...] This relativistic mindset compounds the public cynicism that has hardened in recent years, in the wake of corporate scandals, political corruption scandals and the selling of the war against Iraq on the discredited premise of weapons of mass destruction. And it creates a climate in which concepts like “credibility” and “perception” replace the old ideas of objective truth - a climate in which the efforts of nonfiction writers to be as truthful and accurate as possible give way to shrugs about percentage points of accountability, a climate in which Ms. Winfrey can declare that the revelation that Mr. Frey made up parts of his memoir is “much ado about nothing.”

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Death of a Virtual World [8:29 am]

It’s the end of the world as they know it [pdf]

On Dec. 30, the engineers at Turbine Inc. of Westwood entered their final, fatal commands. ”There was actually a global message that said, ‘The world will shut down in two minutes. Please log off,’ ” Hail said.

A storm of words flashed across Hail’s screen. Dozens of her fellow gamers pounded out their last desperate farewells, taunted by the network’s doomsday message. One minute 30 seconds. One minute. Thirty seconds. Nothing.

So ended a digital world that had become Hail’s Internet haven, the world of Asheron’s Call 2.

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