Open Source

May 15th, 2007

Microsoft claims that Linux infringers 235 patents


Three years ago, I blog about the situation with Software Patents and noted:

Dealing with ‘non-bogus’ patent are tough, especially if it is held by non-OSS-friendly company, like Microsoft. (Microsoft have huge patent portfolios btw, but so far, they have not use it aggressive against competition yet). This is where we need a ‘Cold War’ in software patents – Where two or more giants, each with huge patent portfolios, and no one wants to be the first to strike.

It finally began

The Redmond behemoth asserts that one reason free software is of such high quality is that it violates more than 200 of Microsoft’s patents. And as a mature company facing unfavorable market trends and fearsome competitors like Google (Charts, Fortune 500), Microsoft is pulling no punches: It wants royalties. If the company gets its way, free software won’t be free anymore.

ps: 2 years ago, IBM did established the patents commons. I wonder how is that going…

March 20th, 2007

FOSS Primers by APDIP


undip-foss.JPGe-Primer on Free/Open Source Software: Network Infrastructure and Security authored by a friend of mine Gaurab Raj Upadhaya.

Working via information networks such as the Internet, intranet and LANs has increased the possibilities of communicating with a wide range of individuals and communities across long distances. The free and open source software (FOSS) movement is both shaped by network information environments, in particular the Internet, and it has, at the same time, influenced these networks significantly.

You can also download other e-Premier by International Open Source Network, a project under UN-APDIP.

August 15th, 2005

mplayer tricks

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Several months ago, I mentioned I was looking for mplayer documention. My wife has a bunch of wma files which she ripped using Windows Media Player but can’t play on iPod or iTunes now. We could probably rip again but being OSS geek, we like to inflict pain upon ourselves to look for the most obscure ways to do things. So the answer is obviously mplayer (with lame)

Actually it wasn’t so bad. It can be done using two command line:

mplayer original.wma -ao pcm -ao temp.wav
lame -V 5 temp.wav final.mp3

But this is not enough and I have to write this into a shell script allow conversion in batch. Batch is important, of course, since my wife actually has a lot of wma files to convert..okay, not so many, just 8 of them but hey, the final wma2mp3 script is definitely worth the effort.

Save it in your directory, do a chmod +x wma2mp3 and there you go. It works on Mac too! I know, I know, there is EasyWMA but did I mention I like to inflict pain on myself?

Incidently, mplayer also comes with a incredible tool called mencoder which does transcoding, resizing, encoding, and all sort of filters using command line. It is a perfect tool to downsize my VideoCD or AVI files to watch it on my Zaurus.

mencoder -oac mp3lame -lameopts mode=3:preset=24 -ovc lavc -lavcopts
  vcodec=mpeg4:vhq:vbitrate=384:keyint=250 -vop expand="320:240" 
  -o output.avi input.avi

See? It is so simple! One line does it all. It only takes about 30mins to encode 60mins of video (most windows program I tried takes nearly 3hours for 60mins of video) and the final output is barely 120mb. Here is the fitzaurus script if you are interested.

August 9th, 2005

Fun with Panorama

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Took some photos of Louvre Museum and had some fun making paronomic view of it, using Open Source Software of course!

Tools used (1) Hugin to align the photos and (2) Enblend to stitch the align photos together and optionally (3) Autopan-SIFT to generate control points for Hugin.

Bob Park has an excellent instruction on how to create paronoma view using these tools.

June 21st, 2005

Singapore Open Source Alliance


A group of major companies, IBM, HP, Oracle, Apple, Intel led by Resolvo got together to form a Singapore Open Source Alliance. See ZDNet article:

Spearheaded by Resolvo Systems, a Singapore-based Linux solutions provider, the Singapore Open Source Alliance (Sosa) will also converse with chief information officers in government bodies as well as small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), to accelerate the growth of open-source software in the island-state.

Other than IBM and HP, the alliance also consists of Red Hat, Novell, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple and Intel, according to Yap Boon Leong, business development director of Resolvo Systems. “Sosa is possibly the only open-source consortium in the world involving several key industry heavyweights,” he told ZDNet Asia.

March 30th, 2005

MPlayer Shutdown


I was looking around for mplayer doc today to use an obscure function but imaging my surprise when I get to mplayer homepage:

This site has been shut down because of numerous patent violations in MPlayer. The other free software multimedia players are next.

Multimedia is a patent minefield. All important techniques and formats are covered by broad and trivial patents that are harming progress and alternative implementations, such as free software multimedia players.

Not sure if this is a joke or not but I already feel the pain. For those who don’t know, mplayer is the swiss-army knife for video files which runs on multiple platform (Linux, Mac, Windows). It can play almost any sort of video file you throw at it (avi, rm, mkv etc) with a variety of codecs (xvid, divx, mpeg2, mpeg4, etc), any number of audio codecs (mp2, ac3 etc), play vcd, play dvd, audio ripping, video ripping, remixing, transcoding, resampling, fix broken video, etc etc – so much so that the man pages runs into 10s of pages and no one can remember all the options and switches available.

From a humble little project started in 2001, it has become the most important OSS video app we have now but it is no more. :-(

Update 1hr later: Okay, my timing was a bit bad – they just changed the frontpage to say “This headline might soon become a reality due to the numerous patented techniques MPlayer implements.” with a link to the page below. Fooled me there :P (Hecked, I am the early April Fool :P)

January 12th, 2005

More on Software Patents

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Remember my rant about Software Patent few months back?

Dealing with ‘non-bogus’ patent are tough, especially if it is held by non-OSS-friendly company, like Microsoft. (Microsoft have huge patent portfolios btw, but so far, they have not use it aggressive against competition yet). This is where we need a ‘Cold War’ in software patents – Where two or more giants, each with huge patent portfolios, and no one wants to be the first to strike. And Novell vows to defend Linux with its patent portfolio is admirable (They already done so by voicing out in the SCO facade). I hope others like IBM will do so soon.

IBM granted my wish today : IBM Releases 500 Software Patents for Open Source Developers. ;-)

November 1st, 2004

Interesting day…

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Blogging was slow these days. Other then suffering from this intolerable cough that refuse to go away, day work has not been kind to me either. Anyway, I have two interesting meeting today.

1) Richard Stallman who is in town to give a talk on Free Software (he refuses to use the term Open Source) and also Software Patent (and he also rejects the term ‘Intellectual Property’). I thought I was pretty left-wing but I think I am wrong: If I am a 6 on the scale of 10, Richard is a 12. Won’t say I disagree with everything he said on both areas but cant say I agree with everything either.

2) An old friend, Fred Baker was also in Singapore, passing by on his way home from China. Fred is a Cisco fellow, former IETF chairman and currently chairman of Internet Society among other things. We have dinner and of cos, beers :-) It is always a pleasure to entertain old friends and sharing ideas. Oh, Fred has this interesting co-existence theory of smart and stupid network. He is going turn it into a talk of some sort so no spoliter here.

October 18th, 2004

Software Patents

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The news that Linux potentially infringes 283 patents initiate a strong reaction from the OSS community. Actually, just look at some examples of software patents and you will see the most common algorithms like Quicksort (#5,175,857) and Random Number Generator (#5,251,165). So pardon me while I marvel : “Only 283 patents?”

Some folks, like Richard Stallman, may argue that this indicates a failure in the software patents and hence we should fight against it. Such arguments equates software patents as “Anti-Commons” (coined by Michael Heller).

On the other side, the traditional view on patents is that it provides incentives to inventors, and hence create more innovation. Without protection of patents law, a small but innovative company has no chance against a big company with marketing power.

Both are right; The trick is in achieving the fine balance between “protecting inventors” and “patents abuse” so as to create an innovative environment for everyone equally. And sometimes, we swing a bit too much to the left and sometimes too much to the right but neither extreme is good for all. This is well articulated in Tim Bray’s essay on Patent Theory.
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September 9th, 2004

Microsoft and Open Source


I was sitting with a Microsoft PR lady over dinner yesterday and I commented how sad Microsoft has alienated the Open Source community. I mean, it is one thing for Microsoft would see Linux as a competitor and react strongly towards it as they would against any other competitors, it is another to go against the ‘Open Source Movement’.

The result of this alienation is that Microsoft has not done much to encourage OSS developers to build OSS Windows applications which of course, resulted in less OSS apps developed for Windows. Yes, I am aware of the numerous OSS applications that runs on Windows but comparatively, given Windows has >90% of the desktop market share, I would expect the numbers to be much higher.

They are making the same mistake Apple did when they alienate Mac developers. Like it or not, OSS is here to stay and when there are more applications that runs on Linux then Windows, guess what the customer would run?