Archive for March, 2009

LXDE in user comments:

I’ve been with KDE 3.5x, and got sick of the sluggishness. I went to Gnome. Pretty but not much faster. Tried E17. Fun if you like to fix things constantly. Tried KDE 4.1. Uggh. Tried LXDE. Win95 revisited. Tried OpenBox. Quick but too basic and unconfigurable (ok, I cannot be bothered wading through text files to configure a gui).

Do people actually remember what Win95 was like? It is always the same: make a top bar menu, oh, they follow the mac, place a panel left bottom corner, oh, it looks like Windows. Did you notice that the Windows7 watch “looks KDE”? Now with all the experimentation, where start menues at once “look different”, where you cannot be sure anymore that the blue icon is the web, we are on the path to user interface indifference.

Nobody is expected to configure his Desktop Environment but those people who want can do. The basic concept of a windowing environment hasn’t changed much over the last twenty years. It was time to rethink that component of the user experience. What we found out was that a panel is actually no application but a means to launch your programs and switch between applications.

In this Sesame Street classic it is explained from a memory footprint perspective how to make the perfect match.


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In the European Parliament Internet Freedom recommendations we discussed here earlier:

whereas it is important to deal with emerging issues such as network neutrality, interoperability, global reachability of all Internet nodes, and the use of open formats and standards,”

Openness and interoperability are classics, net neutrality is what Obama cares about and global reachability is a new meme. It bears the potential to assemble an unhealthy alliance between European Human rights groups criticising the Chinese Grand Firewall and Chinese spammers who are cut off by European operators.

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Washington KEI kindly put an intervention online; it comes from the US delegation at the WIPO SCP session. An organisation I am affiliated with, the FFII, is represented by Dr Bakels at the meeting under its WIPO observer status. As of myself I thought that meeting would be unamusing, but instead I stumble upon the United States denial statement as a rather odd indication of the deep disruption and lost confidence in ISO among some WIPO members:

The United States remains a strong supporter of our policies that allow U.S. standards developers to participate in international standards development activities without jeopardizing their patents, copyrights and trademarks.

Today, more than 16,455 standards are approved as International Standards (with about 1800 more in the pipeline) and 11,500 of these as American National Standards. Thousands more are adopted by industry associations, consortia, and other Standard Setting Organizations on a global basis.

Yet the number of disputes that result in litigation per year is typically in single digits, and the vast majority of these cases involve specific fact patterns. In other words, there is NOT a crisis, as claimed by some, in standard setting.

Good to know that there is no crisis and sure the world economy is undergoing worse disruptions than standardization governance issues. Let me also quickly mention the US endorsement of a re-definition of open standards that may not be met with excitement in the technologists community:

“Open standards systems offer a balance of private and public interests that can protect IP with fairness, disclosure policies, and reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing.

I would suggest it became irrelevant. What does concern me is that the US diplomat endorsed the statement of the German delegation. I hope their comment was no embarassement.

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This time a Parliament recommendation is different from the usual reports, because it is about the internet and communication freedoms. Most persons will overlook the provisions on criminal sanctions but that is the meat:

Strengthening security and fundamental freedoms on the Internet
European Parliament recommendation of 26 March 2009 to the Council on strengthening security and fundamental freedoms on the Internet (2008/2160(INI))

l) proceed to the adoption of the directive on criminal measures aimed at the enforcement of intellectual property rights, following an assessment, in the light of contemporary innovation research, of the extent to which it is necessary and proportionate, and while simultaneously prohibiting, in pursuit of that purpose, the systematic monitoring and surveillance of all users” activities on the Internet, and ensuring that the penalties are proportionate to the infringements committed; within this context, also respect the freedom of expression and association of individual users and combat the incentives for cyber-violations of intellectual property rights, including certain excessive access restrictions placed by intellectual property holders themselves;

m) ensure that the expression of controversial political beliefs through the Internet is not subject to criminal prosecution;

Provision l) relates to the so called IPRED2, the second IP enforcement directive (criminal measures) which is a kind of zombie law on the Council level, originally proposed in 2005. The Parliament report suggests to have a fresh reconsideration of the zombie but to prohibit “the systematic monitoring and surveillance of all users” activities on the Internet, and ensur[e] that the penalties are proportionate to the infringements committed”. The best technical solution to make this happen would be either a restart or the proposal of an amended version by the Commission.

The private telecommunication surveillance and interception is penalised by many penalty codes in Europe but recently Nokia disputed with the Finnish legislator over monitoring communication of its employees (“Lex Nokia”) to protect trade secrets. Most member states are not very keen to get the European Union involved with criminal law harmonisation, a controversy that apparently got started with the Maastricht revision round and the cumbersome installation of Europol.

Read the full text to see how diverse and broad the views of parliament are on the matter.

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Osnews item:

Australia’s Nick Hodge has stated that Microsoft purposefully decided not to support Acid3, because the test tests against draft standards.

Isn’t that the very purpose of all the ACID tests?

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Among others German former finance minister MdB Hans Eichel contributes (EICHEL) to the recent EU-Commission DG Market Consultation on hedge funds. What I find impressive is his footer (some edits so he does not get spammed). I wonder if there is a standard for that but don’t they find it risky that their data might end up in a blog with a “call your representative now” request?

Hans Eichel, MdB

Bundesminister a.D.
Ministerpräsident a.D.
Oberbürgermeister a.D.
Postanschrift / postal address:
Deutscher Bundestag
Platz der Republik 1
D – 11011 Berlin

Besucheradresse / visitors address:
Paul-Löbe-Haus, Raum X.XX0
Konrad-Adenauer-Straße 1
D – 10557 Berlin

Tel.: +49 (0) 30 – 2X7-749XX
Fax : +49 (0) 30 – 2X7-769XX
Mail: hans.eichel@bXXdestag.de
Wahlkreisbüro Hans Eichel, MdB
Humboldtstr. 8a
D – 34117 Kassel

Tel.: +49 (0)561 – 9371XX0
Fax : +49 (0)561 – 9371XX2
Mail: hans.eichel@wk.buXXestag.de

Internet: http://www.hans-eichel.de

Wie Sie wissen, können über das Internet versandte E-Mails unter fremdem Namen erstellt oder der Inhalt verändert werden. Aus diesem Grund sind unsere als E-Mail verschickten Nachrichten grundsätzlich keine rechtsverbindlichen Erklärungen. Der Inhalt dieser E-Mail samt Anlagen ist vertraulich und u. U. rechtlich geschützt. Der Inhalt ist ausschließlich an einen bestimmten Empfänger gerichtet. Eine Weitergabe, die Herstellung von Kopien oder der sonstige Gebrauch durch Nichtadressaten ist nicht erlaubt. Ich bitte daher jeden anderen Empfänger, der diese E-Mail ver­sehentlich erhält, mich umgehend zu informieren und die Nachricht zu löschen.

As you are aware, messages sent by e-mail can be manipulated by third parties. For this reason our e-mail messages are generally

Here his contributions stops. DG Market pasted his contribution sent by email into a binary word file. Some persons don’t like these binary formats at all and have access problems or security policies. They become very passionate about using open formats.

Confidential treatment?

The case is also very interesting under the rules of EC/1049/2001 which covers principles, conditions and limitations concerning access to public documents. Usually contributions to consultations are not published when you explicitly request confidential treatment. Basically the footer claimed it was automatically “Der Inhalt dieser E-Mail samt Anlagen ist vertraulich und u. U. rechtlich geschützt.” which a positive declaration of the sender that it was confidential. Did the person who submitted the mail request confidential treatment from the Commission? Does the Article 255 implementation overwrite Mr. Eichels assert that his mail was not solely for the recepient (“Der Inhalt ist ausschließlich an einen bestimmten Empfänger gerichtet”). Is that receipient the general public in case of a public consultation? The footer further says: “Eine Weitergabe, die Herstellung von Kopien oder der sonstige Gebrauch durch Nichtadressaten ist nicht erlaubt.”, making copies would be not permitted. The footer demonstrates why MEP Cashman needs to negotiate with care in the EC/1049/2001 revision process. Would simple copyright ownership overwrite the public access with the new IPR exclusion under Art 4 in the MEP Cashman report? Then public access at large would be void.

In this case the footer is probably just automatically added and Hans Eichel has certainly no intention to ignore the transparency requirements under EC/1049/2001 and hide disclosure of his well-written proposals. As internet users we have to expect that DG Market consulted Hans Eichel before they published it and he did agree with it. The present consultation rules are very good. If you don’t want it to get published it won’t get published.

The use of legal disclaimers written up by some lawyers in a footer invokes the impression that without an explicit disclaimer communication was not to be protected by professional care, when used inflationary it only leads to confusion and with or without a disclaimer lack of due diligence would take effect. It blurs the nature of confidential communication. In the context of a consultation submission it looks contradictory. It leads to uncertainty because in most cases such a footer is automatically added to non-confidential communications.

As the DG Market published his contribution there is no reason to believe they shouldn’t. It is in the public section and it is their responsibility. Yet, as a recepient I have no indication from the document as such that the confidentiality notice was cleared. The Council usually adds a “Public” notice. As a user I didn’t even know a document from “individual” “EICHEL” was from MdB Hans Eichel. Would an internet user regardless of the public accessible status get into legal trouble if he quotes from the contents of the document in a blog? Would a friend to whom a user of their document database forwards the word file falsely believe it was an illegitimate leakage, and how would that reflect on this contacts reputation in terms of confidential treatment of their communication etc. etc.

DG Market put his mail into the CIRCA document repository for everyone on the net to read. What is CIRCA? A very cool document management system. You find it explained by the Commission IDABC.

CIRCA (Communication and Information Resource Centre Administrator) is a simple and effective groupware, developed by the European Commission under the IDA Programme. It is a web-based application providing online services that offer a common virtual space for Workgroups, enabling the effective and secure sharing of resources and documents. Its architecture is based on Open Source Software. It has been widely used by the EU public administrations since 1996. It is also a generic service (including help desk, assistance and training services) operated by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Informatics (DIGIT) to support the work of the numerous EU committees.

The software is released by the Commission IDABC under the European Union Public License and is also used by German ministries.

All contributions to the DG Markt Hedge Fund consultation can be found here.

UPDATE: The German Finance Ministry submission by Uwe Wewel is as far as I can see fully identical with Eichel’s submission. GZ VII B2 WK6300/06/0001-01. If the text originates in the ministry and Eichel would claim copyright with the disclaimer he probably does not even have any author’s rights in the content. I hope the next Council under the Swedish presidency will dig into the transparency and document access problems and find better rules

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The European website epractice.eu sents me an XLS file (good old binary excelformat) with 6444 columns:

  1. Old URL
  2. New URL
  3. Title

And they write:

Dear ePractice Facilitator,

Find enclosed the url equivalences table of old and new items resulting from the
migration of ePractice.

We hope this will help in the task of updating any broken links appearing in
your community static content.


Your ePractice Team

Why is it so difficult for their admins to redirect?

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Forrester on Open Source

A new paper from Forrester Research concerning Open Source for Microsoft discusses the potential of the development model. Sure, you have the necessary portion GPL bashing folklore in there (which unfortunately prevents the substancial criticism that should be raised by neutral parties) but as a Microsoft document it sounds like Gorbatschev 1989 in Berlin, as Brenno de Winter predicted quite a while ago. What Forrester got right here is in particular the concept of best practise transfer, an embracement of crowd-based business processes:

Model internal reuse strategies on the example of successful open source communities. When it comes to software reuse, open source projects have achieved in practice what many commercial organizations have long desired: high levels of reusable components that enable rapid assembly of new solutions. There’s substance to the argument that the more transparent a component’s development, the more likely that other developers will be interested in using it. And if new developers can also make changes or extensions to apply a component into a new context, so much the better.

More thoughts should be spent on that transfer because open source as such may not be commercially sustainable for some companies. It is worth to investigate how self-selection by professionals may improve labour allocation and help to overcome ICT specialist shortage. Google is an example for a company that seems to incorporate this element in its business and development process quite successfully.

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Jon von Tetzchner from Opera does not like the new browser competitor IE8. He criticises that the IE8 does not support Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) which are part of the html5 standardisation effort at the W3C. Opera is currently involved in EU antitrust action against the manufacturer of the browser.

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Still just a draft:

Everyone should have the possibility of accessing services provided by public administrations. This includes users with disabilities and elderly users as well as all those who have particular difficulties in becoming part of the digital society. The possibility of accessing services provided by public administrations should exist regardless of the software, communication
channel, or technological device used.

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