More mischief from the EFF

Having completely struck-out in their attempts to undermine copyrights and to weaken America’s national security by attacking the PATRIOT Act, the mischievous little elves at the EFF want to attack one of the major foundations of the technology business, the patent system. They claim widespread abuse of the patent system has had a “chilling effect” on free expression:

More and more people are using software and Internet technology to express themselves online. Website and blogging tools are increasingly popular. Video and audio streaming technology is ubiquitous. E-mail and Instant Messaging have reached users of all ages. Yet because patents can be anywhere and everywhere in these technologies, the average user has no way of knowing whether his or her tools are subject to legal threats. Patent owners who claim control over these means of community discourse can threaten anyone who uses them, even for personal non-commercial purposes. We lose much if we allow overreaching patent claims to reduce the tremendous benefits that software and technology bring to freedom of expression.

There probably are a few more patents issued than should be, and there’s a system of checks and balances in place allowing patents to be challenged and re-examined, as many of the illegitimate patents issued to Proxim regarding 802.11 were. In fact, it’s this very system that the elves are using to press their cause, and it works because of the legitimate players who use it.

Now that the EFF is jumping aboard, will other grandstanders and dilettantes follow, and if they do, which will be the greater danger – illegitimate patents or illegitimate challenges?

Setting me straight

Lessig wags his finger and puts me in my place on his blog comments today. It’s such a fine example of argument by personal attack and obfuscation that I have to capture it here for posterity. As you read this, remember Lessig’s sneer at “Free Culture” critic Stephen Manes: “I love it when non-lawyers talk about the wonderful virtues of “fair use.”

I’m a network engineer, and I love it when non-engineers talk about the wonderful virtues of TCP/IP. Lessig can dish out this kind of arrogance, but he can’t take it:

There are few things in my life more depressing that finding this kind of argument in this space. Indeed, I find myself unable to come back to my own blog when I know this Bennett stuff rages. I love argument, and honest disagreement. I loved reading ?three blind mice.? But Mr. Bennett?s bullshit is too much for me.

When Bennett first posted his wonderfully titled, ?The Future of Mediocrity,? I had an email exchange with him. I told him that the ?review? was filled with simple mistakes, and that however interesting it might be to argue about points fundamental, it was a waste of time if he was going to be so sloppy about basic points.
Continue reading “Setting me straight”

Insourcing vs. Outsourcing

The Sacramento Bee has an interesting article today on the outsourcing/insourcing controversy, prompted by some grand-standing legislation:

The Golden State ranks first nationally for the most jobs – 713,500 – supported by the U.S. operations of foreign-based companies, according to the Organization for International Investment in Washington, D.C…

On average, U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies pay their workers 16.5 percent more than domestic companies, the trade group reports…

State Sen. Liz Figueroa, D-Sunol, who’s introduced legislation aimed at outsourcing, said she’s seen no evidence in her district, which includes much of the Silicon Valley, that insourcing is balancing out the negative impact of outsourcing.

“Insourcing is in the debate, but it doesn’t help the thousands of individuals in my district (who) currently don’t have a job,” Figueroa said. “In my district it’s the higher-paying jobs we’re losing – the computer programming and engineering jobs.”

Before I left California to do an in-sourcing job, I lived one district over from former head-hunter Figueroa, who’s generally regarded as a legislative lightweight, for good reason, and who sent her daughter to Smith College to learn radical feminism.

Perhaps the shoddy education California delivers to its higher-ed students accounts for its loss of high-tech jobs:

IT DOESN’T REFLECT well on San Francisco State University that President Robert Corrigan has announced that he is considering axing the School of Engineering to close a budget gap. The university has no shortage of gut courses that appear short on academics and long on liberal brainwashing —

you know, courses in majors that prepare students for careers as low-paid malcontent activists. Yet Corrigan wants to kill a program that enables poor and minority Bay Area students to learn in-demand, high-level skills with which they can make good money.

Just a thought.

Fake e-mail from Ebay

I got this fake e-mail today:


The Ebay has an email address for reporting fake emails: [email protected].

(I knew it was fake because: a) it’s a gif and not a regular text message; and b) Ebay doesn’t cut off your buying privileges out of the blue.)

Bigger than Google?

Nick Denton’s a little tweaked by my comments on Kinja, to wit:

Hey, Richard — just promise me one thing. That, when Kinja is the largest single referrer in your blog logs, you’ll eat your words.



My biggest single referrer today is Google, so the only way I can see this happening is for Kinja to get bigger than Google. If that happens, I’ll eat a lot more than my words.

More in-sourcing than out-sourcing

Here’s a nice statement of a fact that every critic of out-sourcing should be told:

While reliable figures aren’t available for the last two years, the Commerce Department estimated on March 18 that the number of Americans employed by U.S. affiliates of majority non-U.S. companies grew by 4.7 million from 1997 through 2001. In the same period, the number of non-Americans working at affiliates of majority-U.S. companies abroad rose by 2.8 million.

As an American who makes his living working for a non-American-owned company in the US, I’m one of the 4.7 million. While I can sympathize with those in Silicon Valley and elsewhere who feel they’ve been displaced from the employment rolls by the 2.8 million, attempts to “correct” this problem are only going to make things worse for them. My advice is to come on over to the in-sourcing side, where the water (and the money) is fine.

Not quite getting it

A couple of years ago, I had a feature on this blog called “Robopundit” that went out and aggregated RSS feeds from some of my favorite blogs into a cute little sidebar so you could see summaries of recent entries. I also engaged in a lot of speculation about what it would take to automate the function that Instapundit played on Sept. 11, 2001, and concluded it wouldn’t be all that hard. Nick Denton sent me an e-mail saying he wanted to pick my brain on the future of blogging, but we never connected. So now we have Nick’s new venture, Kinja, the weblog guide, some sort of lame attempt at aggregating blogs and making them more accessible. With all that Nick’s poured into this venture, both in time and money and buzz, I expected a lot more than this.

But the pattern is pretty familiar — I’ve noticed that people who steal other people’s ideas seldom get the vision right, even if they do get some of the details more or less in order, as was the case with my wireless MAC protocol that 802.11 picked up from Greg Ennis — the one that was finally corrected and completed by my buddy Srini as 802.11e.

Nick’s partner, Meg Hourihan, is leaving this unfortunate venture shortly, apparently in an attempt to preserve some reputation. With a little follow-through on Nick’s part, this unpleasantness could have been avoided, but now it’s his cross to bear.