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The proposed European Union directive on the patentability of computer-implemented inventions (software patents directive) has moved a step closer to adoption.
As reported last month, there was a strong push from the European Parliament, and from some national governments (notably Poland) to restart the legislative process that is targeted at regularising the basis for software patents in Europe. Currently the European Patent Office is demonstrating a tacit acceptance of software patents. This is in spite of an official framework that has traditionally been interpreted as prohibiting the granting of patents for software implemented inventions. Many leading individuals and organisations involved in Free and Open Source Software believe that software patents are not a good way to drive innovation. Meanwhile, other vested interests see their future in the creation of large stockpiles of patents that threaten to bog down the software industry in a defensive/offensive patents stand-off. The formula that will finally be adopted by the EU with regard to this issue will have profound implications for innovation and economic flexibility throughout Europe.
As matters stood last month, those opposed to the pro-software-patent directive proposed by the European Commission were hoping that the Parliament JURI committee would recommend a restart of this legislative process. Such a restart would provide an opportunity to re-examine the whole concept of software patenting, and strengthen the European Parliament's hand with regard to applying the restrictions on software patents it proposed earlier in this process.
In a continuation of the support the anti-patent lobby has received in Parliament, the JURI committee did indeed recommend such a restart, much to the appreciation of groups such as the FFII. Unfortunately, as welcome as this move is, the JURI committee, and Parliament, cannot enforce such decisions. Against this background, the Commission has decided to push ahead regardless, and move the hotly contested directive closer to final adoption. FFII has reported that this reluctance to restart stems from an awareness in the Directorate General for the Internal Market, currently headed by Irishman Charlie McCreevy, (a refugee from a particularly ruthless backstabbing in Irish domestic politics) that any revised directive would likely take a very different shape to that currently on the table. Though some legitimate questions may be asked about McCreevy's politics and closeness to vested interests, such enquiries have been tainted by rather intemperate, prejudiced, and simple minded outbursts by at least one prominent anti-patent campaigner who is apparently ignorant of the dangers of scapegoating minority ethnic or national groups for the ills of society.
The next outing for this directive will be on the 7th of March when there is a meeting of the Competition Council. For EU citizens, lobbying of your national representative on this panel may still be a worthwhile endeavour.
Useful sites for those opposed to software patents:
Slashdot has reported that Eben Moglen is planning an upgrade for the GPL. The linked eWeek article outlines some of the issues that are being borne in mind. A lot of emphasis is placed on balancing the interests of all interested parties, even down to choosing language that can be easily and unambiguously translated for use in disparate countries across the world.
The World Social Forum convening in Porto Alegre, Brazil, has heard activists, including the Brazilian Minister of Culture, call on developing nations to explore Free Software solutions.
IBM tests GNU/Linux security.
New modular structure for Linux Standards Base.
LinuxTracker.org is a new source of GNU/Linux torrents and downloads.
Three on Python:
The Open Source technology behind Flickr
Interview with Mad Penguin creator, Adam Doxtater.
GNU/Linux finds a role in the provision of wireless Internet handhelds and infrastructure in Kenya.
GNU/Linux gaining ground in China.
Open Source content management tool, APLAWS, is providing the infrastructure needed by UK Local Government to migrate their services online.
Can GNU/Linux enable the creation of a new $100 laptop for developing countries.
The newest iteration of the stable 2.6.x series of Linux Kernels is now available. Linux 2.6.11, released on March 2nd, includes a particular emphasis on bugfixes.
As always, you should download kernels and patches from your nearest mirror.
BeatrIX Linux is a free, compact (Less than 200 megabytes), operating system aimed at both office and home users. It will operate on most IBM-compatible PCs manufactured in the past 10 years, and can be run as a live CD or it can be installed to hard drive. You can see a screen-shot tour of BeatrIX at OSDir.com, and read a review at Linux Times.net.
Via Debian Weekly News, it has been reported that Debian GNU/Linux runs successfully on the new Apple Mac Mini. Explanatory notes are available online.
VidaLinux is a Gentoo-based distribution that incorporates a number of precompiled applications and a graphical installer (Red Hat's Anaconda). You can read a review of VidaLinux 1.1 at Mad Penguin.
DotMepis.org, a new MEPIS Linux community site, has been launched recently.
OSNews review of VectorLinux SOHO 5.0
Slashdot has reported the presentation of Knoppix 3.8's many new features at CeBIT.
The Mozilla Project has released a new version of its popular stand-alone browser application, Firefox. Firefox 1.0.1 boasts increased stability, a configuration tweak to make phishing scams a little harder to fall for, as well as fixing over a dozen vulnerabilities.
Win4Lin, Inc., a supplier of virtual operating systems on Linux, has announced the release of their Win4Lin Pro product which runs Windows 2000 and Windows XP applications on Linux.
Internet telephony software publisher Skype has launched Linux and OSX versions of its widely used communications software.
The Apache Software Foundation and The Apache HTTP Server Project have announced the release of version 2.0.53 of the Apache HTTP Server ("Apache"). This release is compatible with modules compiled for 2.0.42 and later versions. Apache HTTP Server 2.0.53 is available for download from http://httpd.apache.org/download.cgi.
O'Reilly has released a new edition of its book Linux Server Security. The book covers a wide range of GNU/Linux security issues. For an overview, you can consult the table of contents.
Mick is LG's News Bytes Editor.
Originally hailing from Ireland, Michael is currently living in Baden,
Switzerland. There he works with ABB Corporate Research as a
Marie-Curie fellow, developing software for the simulation and design
of electrical power-systems equipment.
Before this, Michael worked as a lecturer in the Department of
Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin; the same
institution that awarded him his PhD. The topic of this PhD research
was the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has
been very useful in his past work, and Michael has a strong interest
in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering.
Before this, Michael worked as a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College Dublin; the same institution that awarded him his PhD. The topic of this PhD research was the use of Lamb waves in nondestructive testing. GNU/Linux has been very useful in his past work, and Michael has a strong interest in applying free software solutions to other problems in engineering.