Older blog entries for cinamod (starting at number 61)

Morten, well, that all depends on what the definition of "is" is...
Christian, it's likely that Senator Clinton is doing what's called a "rush to the middle". That is, she is trying to appear more conservative and "moral" than she really is in order to appeal to the more conservative folks. This is probably a PR stunt leading upto her widely-rumored 2008 Presidential campaign.

Just my $0.02

Tomas, that's because in the US you get branded a traitor (or worse) if you suggest that the terrorists are anything other than whackjobs. The terrorists couldn't possibly have *any* legitimate gripes against us. They must hate our freedoms. Yeah, that's it. Our shit doesn't stink. We most certainly haven't done anything to upset them. Pesky questions like "why do they really hate us" are certainly not important, and are likely to get you into trouble.

  • No, we never gave WMDs to Saddam during his war against Iran...
  • The current war in Iraq is totally justified. So long as you're using whatever justification the administration is using this week...
  • No, we don't support the state of Isreal...
  • No, we never gave Osama and his Afghani army money, arms, and training during the 1980s...
  • No, we don't have military bases on Muslim land...
  • No, those female GIs walking around in non-Muslim garb on those military bases definitely don't upset some Saudi fundamentalists...
  • No, we never left depleted uranium shells in Iraq after the Gulf war, causing countless birth defects and other complications...
  • No, we didn't blow up Iraqi infrastructure (including lots of soft targets like acquaducts) during the Gulf war...
  • No, the sanctions against Iraq were a good idea, even though it's estimated that a million people died as a direct effect of them...
  • No, we don't ever try to manipulate political and social regimes in the middle east...
  • No, we don't support opressive regimes in Saudi and elsewhere...
  • No, Saddam and Osama definitely weren't our buddies in the 1980s...

I don't condone attacks against civilian targets, be they done by terrorists or the US military. I don't necessarily think that all of the things we've done above were "wrong" decisions. And I don't think that non-involement in the region will be a panacea either. But I won't pretend that those actions weren't controversial. Try walking a mile in their shoes. If I were in a Saudi's shoes, I might want to blow shit up. I'd imagine that most people would feel the same.

Our might does not make right. Our present and historical invovlement in the mideast is conveniently unknown or forgotten. Effects and causes are disjoint.

The West Wing's Toby Ziegler might be right - maybe they will like us when we win. But maybe they'll like us if we simply stop doing everything within our power to fsck with their lives. There's a good New Testament quote to the effect of "they will know you are a Christian through your actions and good deeds." Let's spread freedom through our good example instead of our tanks.

As you mention, it's the same way with crime. The only solution the US population will stomach is bigger prisons and offender databases. Criminalize everything. Issue Amber alerts. Run 24-hour coverage of blondes missing in Aruba, 40 days after they've disappeared. What you end up with 3+ million Americans in prison. Nevermind vicious cycles of poverty, inadequate education, lacking health care, broken homes, and all the other root causes. You don't solve crime by locking up everyone. You only breed more poverty, more broken homes. More criminals. The UK understands this. Why can't we?


7 Jul 2005 (updated 7 Jul 2005 at 14:40 UTC) »

My heart and deepest sympathies go out to everyone in the UK. Goddamn acts of cowardice.

If there are any Gnomies in the Boston area this 4th of July and you don't have something to do tonight or just want to stop bye and say "hi", Ruth and I are having some people over. Relevant info here:


Zawinski's Law , in honor of JRB's recent evince work:

"Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.''

This weekend, I've been busy hacking on gtk-wimp, GTK+'s native Microsoft Windows theme engine. A lot of things are coming together nicely. What's especially nice is that someone has been submitting nit-picky bugs - things that make a theme author really pay attention to detail. Bug reports are always good. Or as Jody prefers to say, "Anal is good."

/me ducks

Things that work (or work better now):

  • Menu/toolbars have a gradient applied to them
  • Better handling of menu/toolbar shadows, even tracking how the theme is using them
  • Sliders (GTK+ calls them "scales") now use WinXP theming
  • Apps with status bars now get the WinXP status bar grippie drawn properly
  • Toolbar grippies are drawn nicely too
  • Notebook tabs now get that orange stripe across their top
  • A host of scrollbar bugs are fixed

There's lots of room for improvement, of course, but things are looking a lot better these days. A screenshot for interested parties. Please file bug reports at sf.net.

I have some requests for GTK+/GNOME application writers, from a themer's perspective:

  • Set gtk-button-images=0. Make sure that no dialog buttons have images in them.
  • Set gtk-menu-images=0. Make sure that your menus don't have images.
  • Play with gtk-icon-sizes. Tweak the toolbar and menu icon sizes. Make sure that your toolbar and menu icons respect those sizes.
  • Please set each dialog's alternative button ordering.

These all make a big difference in how "native" your app looks and feels, especially on Win32 as gtk-wimp tweaks a lot of these settings. I'll be pushing these changes upstream to GTK+'s CVS later today or tomorrow.

I'd also like to congratulate Damien and Jonita! I wish you two a happy marriage :)

22 Jun 2005 (updated 22 Jun 2005 at 12:43 UTC) »

W00t! I'm officially a terrorist and member of Al-Queda now! No, really, Jeff Merkey says so. If you're reading this, you probably are too!

This is easily the dumbest lawsuit that I've ever read. The suit contains gross errors of fact, misrepresentation and misattribution, and ludicrous claims that FOSS advocates are terrorists. The document is inconsistently numbered, contains numerous misspellings, punctuation errors, and uses of improper words ("or" instead of "are", for example). They couldn't even find Slashdot/OTSG's address, which is as hard as clicking on the "contact us" link on their website. Lawers and their assistants get paid a lot of money so that these sorts of errors don't happen. On the whole, the suit looks amateurish and an attempt at "grasping at straws".

My sympathies and best wishes go out to Pamela Jones, Bruce Perens, Slashdot, 200 John Does, and all of the other "far right-wing terrorists" mentioned in this suit.

I feel sorry for Merkey too, as he's been slandered and "threatened" (I doubt the sincerity and liklihood of the alleged threats) countless times by Anonymous Cowards on /. and Groklaw, and claims to have had his identity stolen. I can't help but feel that he has brought at least some of this wrath upon himself through his own irresponsible words and actions. But the immature and inappropriate reaction of some members of the community (the 200 "John Does" mentioned in the lawsuit, but especially not /., Groklaw, and Perens themselves) is both reprehensible and inexcusable. But by suing public message forums and those who would point out flaws in his reasoning and facts, Merkey has stepped to a new low in this saga. Which is an impressive feat for Merkey, all things considered.

Hi rillian,

I'm also a big fan of Free interchange mechanisms, be they file formats, protocols, languages, etc. I don't think that PDF is evil. I just think that it's less warm-and-fuzzy than a lot of people would like to believe, and that it's not substantially warmer or fuzzier than the Microsoft formats, legally speaking.

You're correct that they don't have an open development process. As far as I know, there isn't even a driving/coordinating committee like we see with the W3C and OASIS groups. PDF documentation is good and freely available. But so is documentation on the Word 2, 5, 7, and 97 formats. Both specs have their share of flaws and inaccuracies. Both specs can be gotten readily enough online.

It's truly refreshing that Adobe has a blanket patent grant for conformant apps. This is nice, but it's not Free or Open, since I'm not free to make a derivitive work that is non-conformant and still use those patents and other copyrighted bits. Further, Adobe explictly forbids use of patent 5,860,074 in a viewer (Method and apparatus for displaying an electronic document with text over object) which seems quite core to writing a compliant PDF viewer. From my cursory reading of the abstract, they're forbidding viewers from rendering Linearized/"Web Optimized" PDFs, at least intelligently. Ouch.

The PDF spec does include other sub-components that are or were patented by !Adobe (such as LZW, JPEG, JBIG2, JPEG 2000, etc.). Rillian is right - getting sued over these things is probably a low-risk endeavour. But the risks and patents remain, thus being a stumbling block toward "Freeness". I also contend that a conformant viewer would have to support those patented bits in order to recieve Adobe's blanket patent-grant. And the PDF spec is a daunting beast. Producing a conformant viewer is nigh-impossible. I've tried more than once.

It's nice that PDF is easier to parse than PS, but that's not quite germane to our argument. Considering that PS is a Turing-complete programming language, it's not exactly hard imagining an easier-to-interpret format. And it's worth noting that the majority of PDFs I encounter are corrupt in one way or another.

So, even if things are "nice" and "low-risk", it doesn't make them Free or even Open. Any way one looks at it, PDF the spec and PDF the format is a patent-encumbered, copyrighted entity that you're not allowed to distribute or make derivitive works thereof. Adobe has both said and shown that it's willing to enforce those protections when it suits them to do so.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't use (a subset of) PDF and make it our own. I'm pragmatic. To me, it looks like the best option out there today. I'm just saying that people like RMS shouldn't be hypocritical when they advocate PDF over another format. On "Freeness" and "Openness" issues alone, we might be better off taking a subset of the equally well-documented, widely-available, patent-unencumbered DOC format and make it our own. But I honestly don't want to see that happen.

21 Jun 2005 (updated 21 Jun 2005 at 15:20 UTC) »

I'm all in favor of the ability to be selectively anonymous, both online and in real life. But I do take a bit of offense when people write out otherwise well-intentioned, thoughtful emails that deserve equally thoughtful responses, but I can't really reply due to their anonymity. There's no need to hide behind the curtain - I'm not about to judge you or think less of you because you were committed enough to take a public stand. If anything, I'd admire you moreso.

In this case, someone used Cypherpunks (Anonymous via the Cypherpunks Tonga Remailer <nobody@cypherpunks.to>) to respond to my last blog entry. Personally, I'd prefer that discussions that start out public stay public. So I'm going to make portions of this mystery man's statements public in order to respond to them. I hope that my doing so doesn't upset this anonymous OSS denizen.

Like many OSS people, this well-intentioned poster confuses "Open" with "Free". The poster also confuses "open" with "available for download". Since RMS and the FSF concern themselves with Free (and publicly and adamantly disavow/distance themselves of "Open"), my previous and current arguments focus on asking how the Free software founder and Foundation can advocate using a non-Free format over another (perhaps equally) non-Free format.

I also want to say that I have some intimate knowledge of both the PDF and DOC standards and their licenses, having worked at Appligent on wvWare, AbiWord, GnomePrint, etc., and having had some IP law training. With that said (and having just given myself enough rope to hang myself with), let's get to the email.

[ANON] Yes, Adobe owns PDF but 1) the specs are open - and remain open.

The specs are available and remain available, and I never claimed otherwise. I remarked that the spec is not Free. I'll also show that the specs are not Open. And, given the copyright and restrictions Adobe has placed on the format itself (as we'll see in later paragraphs), it is doubtful that a PDF reader or writer could truly be Free or Open as well.

[ANON] 2) Adobe freely licenses the format, in a manner that is consistent with all open source licenses.

I don't think that the format's or spec's license is consistent with any OSS licenses (re-distribution of the spec is forbidden), let alone all of them. That is an awfully big brush to paint with. What's certain is that Adobe publishes the format, but the terms under which it does so (and the conditions under which one might make software to implement said format) is not consistent with the GNU licenses, which is the inconsistency I allege. In my previous blog, I made no reference to the spec being Open, merely it not being Free. But it is neither. I quote from the PDF 1.5 reference:

NOTICE: All information contained herein is the property of Adobe Systems Incorporated. No part of this publication (whether in hardcopy or electronic form) may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Adobe Systems Incorporated. Please note that the content in this guide is protected under copyright law even if it is not distributed with software that includes an end user license agreement.


This limited right to use the copyrighted list of data structures and operators does not include the right to copy this book, other copyrighted material from Adobe, or the software in any of Adobe's products that use the Portable Document Format, in whole or in part, nor does it include the right to use any Adobe patents, except as may be permitted by an official Adobe Patent Clarification Notice (see the Bibliography).

That's in reference to the documentation itself, which is neither GFDL, CC, Open, or public domain. It's not even close. The SPEC itself is not Free - it is the wholly owned, proprietary property of Adobe. The spec is not Open, as the terms and conditions of its license/copyright still enjoin you from creating derivitive works of that spec or even re-distributing the spec, unaltered. Later on page 7 of the 1.5 reference:

The general idea of using an interchange format for electronic documents is in the public domain. Anyone is free to devise a set of unique data structures and operators that define an interchange format for electronic documents. However, Adobe Systems Incorporated owns the copyright for the particular data structures and operators and the written specification constituting the interchange format called the Portable Document Format. Thus, these elements of the Portable Document Format may not be copied without Adobe's permission. Adobe will enforce its copyright.


Authors of software that accepts input in the form of the Portable Document Format must make reasonable efforts to ensure that the software they create respects the access permissions and permissions controls


Anyone who uses the copyrighted list of data structures and operators, as stated above, must include an appropriate copyright notice.

After that, Adobe gives some set of exceptions, meaning that one could create an implementation that reads or writes the format, within some (large-ish) set of constraints.

But notice how you must also enforce Adobe's (lousy, hole-filled) DRM standard if you wish to do so, as well as include a BSD-ish advertizing clause when you do so. Note that your right to make software around this "open" spec is a "limited right" that Adobe may rescind if they so choose. Note that the format may include patented bits which Adobe explicitly says you can't use.

Adobe owns and will police this particular, unique implementation of an interchange format. These elements of the Portable Document Format may not be copied without Adobe's permission. Adobe will enforce its copyright.

[ANON] Compare to traditional DOC: 1) no specs (pulled, as you state), and 2) no license.

These specs exist, and were published by Microsoft. The binary MSFT Office formats have not changed substantially since 1997, when the last specs were published. As far as I know, the specs are under the same license as all content on MSDN. There are Free and Open implementations of the spec (wvware, antiword, catdoc, wv2, OpenOffice.org, etc.).

[ANON] Compare to the new Word XML: 1) specs are provided, but 2) the license invokes patents and many believe that clauses in the license are designed to be incompatible with some open source licenses including GPL.

Adobe's license also invokes patents and clauses which are incompatible with the GPL. The license and spec have many clauses that are designed to prevent Openness and Freeness. When you take into account the evidence I've provided, one can only conclude that PDF is not substantially more Free than DOC, despite any warm feelings one might have toward Adobe or hostile ones toward Microsoft. I'd argue that PDF isn't particularly even more Open than DOC. That's not my concern, but I think that I've proven that anyway. My concern is merely to show the inconsistency of the RMS anti-DOC stance, when one takes into account his proposed PDF alternative.

Also, please note that Adobe has invoked the DMCA to stop people from reading their own, purchased eBooks, which are essentially encrypted PDFs. This company is not a big, cute, cuddly teddy bear, and if I were RMS or the FSF, I wouldn't want to advocate in favor of using one of their standards simply because of this point.

So in conclusion, PDF is non-Free. DOC is non-Free. RMS says he "can't" read DOC, but "can" read PDF. I contend that this is inconsistent behavior. Either RMS should stick to his guns and discourage use of PDF as well (or better still, convince Adobe to free the PDF spec), or he should bite the bullet and use wvware, antiword, catdoc, or some other GPL'd program/library to read MSFT Office documents. Anything short of that is tantamount to hypocricy.

I'm not arguing in favor of boycotting Adobe, using Microsoft products, vice-versa, or anything in-between. Mine is to only point out the inconsistency in RMS' "use PDF and not DOC because DOC is eeeviiil" paper. If you're going to argue for Freedom, stick to your guns. If you're going to argue for Openness, stick with that. I don't think that Adobe's spec or format meets either criteria. But having written things that read and write both PDF and MSFT Office formats, you can guess how much I do or don't care about the formats and their specs so much as the ability to inter-operate with the things that generate and consume these formats. Reform comes in excruciatingly small increments.

Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful email, and I'm quite happy that you enjoy using AbiWord! If you're a FOSS hacker or otherwise a cool cat, thanks for keeping-on keeping-on.

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