This story from the BBC describes an experiment to find out how much work there is in computer repairs and who's doing it. The author found that his phone never stopped ringing once his advert went up in the local newsagent's, and is dismayed at the number of people who are reliant on "unqualified amateurs" to "fix the most complicated pieces of equipment that have probably ever existed". Well, at least if I'm ever out of work, I could put up a card in the local shop.
The GPL has played a significant role in a US court case, and has stood up to scrutiny. Drew Technologies, Inc., a Michigan Engineering firm, developed some software under the GPL; later, their work was "claimed as a copyrighted work" by the Society of Automotive Engineers (standards organisation for the automotive industry). The case ended up in court because the SAE was trying to charge Drew Technologies to use the very technology they had developed, claiming that the software was "an unauthorized 'derivative work' of an in-progress technical standard of the SAE".
To sum up: Drew Technlogies won the case, and retain the right to publish their software under the GPL. The full story is at the link included above.
As mentioned in the article, the wider issue is the right of consumers to have "open" cars. Cars are getting so computerised that the only people who can fix them are the dealers for that brand of car. If the software and standards which the car depends on can be copyrighted or made into trade secrets, the situation can only get worse. The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association has the right idea with support for the Vehicle Owner's Right to Repair act: this "prevents vehicle manufacturers and others from unfairly restricting access to the information and tools necessary to accurately diagnose, repair, re-program or install automotive replacement parts".
I think it's about time we saw something similar for software. This week's Computer Weekly has an article (p.18) about escrow agreements between customers and software suppliers, which stresses the importance of source code being available to a firm if their supplier goes out of business. In effect, firms need a Right to Repair their software if their supplier disappears. Perhaps regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley will encourage firms to insist on their suppliers open sourcing code which is vital to their business.
Marvellous. Hacking toy robot dogs to sniff out chemical contaminants. They even plan to unleash a pack "into the wild".
This article notes that Mac OS X will become a target for hackers before too long and (heavens above!) someone has already written a rootkit for it. I wonder when Symantec will be releasing their "Mac OS X Protector Enterprise Security Blanket" product?
This is an interesting survey comparing popularity of open source "community platforms". To summarise:
At the weekend, I had my first patch accepted into the Drupal project (not the Drupal core, but a contributed module called Webform). Nice: means I don't have to maintain it any more! Does this mean I can put "Open Source Developer" on my CV now?
In an article about why IT consultants should jump on open source, the author mentioned how WordPerfect had been eclipsed by Microsoft Word. While working out when this happened (could be a useful example of how products are eclipsed by newcomers), I realised how this kind of micro-history, of the movement of product popularity in IT, is relatively under-documented. But this is where something like Wikipedia really comes into its own: I found a whole entry on the history of WordPerfect. It turns out WordPerfect was overtaken by MS Office in the early 1990s (which sounds about right to me). Is OpenOffice.org waiting to do the dirty on MS Office, the way MS Office did on WordPerfect?
Interesting article about how Google runs their infrastructure: 1000s of cheap PCs which they expect to break, running Linux. Not much detail, but gives some idea of the scale they are working on.
Today I was in contact with the first person I've come across who has a .coop email address (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). I found this utterly bizarre, so had a look round and discovered that .coop is now a top level domain name you can buy yourself. Might be of interest to my colleague Paul Cooper, who sometimes goes by the pseudonym "coop". Though I think he'd have to convince them he's a cooperative to get one.
Congratulations to my good friends Alex and Nancy, whose baby boy Cory was born yesterday at 9.30pm.