Note for hackers interested in the proposed new "european constitution", with a few lame pdftotext I made a one file text version [1.1 MB] of the english and french version of the document, they're both available on my near empty web site. The french version has been cleaned up by Jean Thiery, the english one is still raw pdftotext.
Interesting Article about code and regulation, the first part about the evolution of fire regulation is quite enlightening and then there's a good transition to software
Codifying good software design
By Jack Ganssle
Embedded Systems Programming
Though computer programs aren't yet as dangerous as fire, flaws can destroy businesses, throw elections, and even kill. Car brakes are increasingly electronic and steering is headed that way. Software errors in radiotherapy devices continue to maim and take lives. Bad code has been implicated in a number of deadly aircraft incidents. The National Institute of Standards and Technology claims the cost of bugs runs some $60 billion a year in the U.S. alone.
Codes for safe software
Why are there no fire codes for software?
Today the Feds mandate standards for some firmware. But take a gander at the Federal Election Commission or Food and Drug Administration rules. The regulations are loose and woefully inadequate. Firmware is at a point in time metaphorically equivalent to the fire-fighting industry in 1860. We have sporadic but ineffective regulation. The press occasionally warms to a software crisis but by and large there's little furor over the state of the art.
Rest assured there will be a fire code for software. As more life- and mission-critical applications appear, as firmware dominates every aspect of our lives, when a bug causes some horrible disaster, the public will no longer tolerate errors and crashes. Our representatives will see the issue as good politics.
I'm posting here what was voted in Europarl, put together by ffii from this URL: http://swpat.ffii.org/papers/eubsa-swpat0202/plen0309/resu/index.en.html
My interpretation is that it's a very good thing, bye bye software patents in Europe if this goes through the next steps (unlikely but well :).
1. Article 1: Purpose
This Directive lays down rules for the patentability of computer-implemented inventions.
2. Article 2: Definitions
2a. "computer-implemented invention" means any invention in the sense of the European Patent Convention the performance of which involves the use of a computer, computer network or other programmable apparatus and having in its implementations one or more non-technical features which are realised wholly or partly by a computer program or computer programs, besides the technical features that any invention must contribute;
2b. "technical contribution", also called "invention", means a contribution to the state of the art in technical field. The technical character of the contribution is one of the four requirements for patentability. Additionally, to deserve a patent, the technical contribution has to be new, non-obvious, and susceptible of industrial application.
2c. "technical field" means an industrial application domain requiring the use of controllable forces of nature to achieve predictable results. "Technical" means "belonging to a technical field". The use of forces of nature to control physical effects beyond the digital representation of information belongs to a technical domain. The production, handling, processing, distribution and presentation of information do not belong to a technical field, even when technical devices are employed for such purposes.
2d. "industry" in the sense of patent law means "automated production of material goods";
3. Article 3a: Fields of Technology
3a. Member states shall ensure that data processing is not considered to be a field of technology in the sense of patent law, and that innovations in the field of data processing are not considered to be inventions in the sense of patent law.
4. Article 4: Rules of Patentability
4.1. In order to be patentable, a computer-implemented invention must be susceptible of industrial application and new and involve an inventive step.
4.2. In order to involve an inventive step, a computer-implemented invention must make a technical contribution.
4.3. The significant extent of the technical contribution shall be assessed by consideration of the difference between the technical elements included in the scope of the patent claim considered as a whole and the state of the art.
4.3a. In determining whether a given computer-implemented invention makes a technical contribution, the following test shall be used: whether it constitutes a new teaching on cause-effect relations in the use of controllable forces of natures and has an industrial application in the strict sense of the expression, in terms of both method and result.
5. Article 4a: Exclusions from patentability
4a.1. A computer-implemented invention shall not be regarded as making a technical contribution merely because it involves the use of a computer, network or other programmable apparatus. Accordingly, inventions involving computer programs which implement business, mathematical or other methods and do not produce any technical effects beyond the normal physical interactions between a program and the computer, network or other programmable apparatus in which it is run shall not be patentable.
4a.2. Member States shall ensure that computer-implemented solutions to technical problems are not considered to be patentable inventions merely because they improve efficiency in the use of resources within the data processing system.
6. Article 5: Form of Claims; and further provisions
5. Member States shall ensure that a computer-implemented invention may be claimed only as a product, that is a set of equipment comprising both programmable apparatus and devices which use forces of nature in an inventive way, or as a technical production process operated by such a computer, computer network or apparatus through the execution of software.
5a. Member States shall ensure that the production, handling, processing, distribution and publication of information, in whatever form, can never constitute direct or indirect infringement of a patent, even when a technical apparatus is used for that purpose.
5b. Member States shall ensure that patent claims granted in respect of computer-implemented inventions include only the technical contribution which justifies the patent claim.
5c. Member States shall ensure that the use of a computer program for purposes that do not belong to the scope of the patent cannot constitute a direct or indirect patent infringement.
5d. Member States shall ensure that whenever a patent claim names features that imply the use of a computer program, a well-functioning and well documented reference implementation of such a program is published as part of the patent description without any restricting licensing terms.
7. Article 6: Interoperability
6. The rights conferred by patents granted for inventions within the scope of this Directive shall not affect acts permitted under Articles 5 and 6 of Directive 91/250/EEC on the legal protection of computer programs by copyright, in particular under the provisions thereof in respect of decompilation and interoperability.
6a. Member States shall ensure that, wherever the use of a patented technique is needed for a significant purpose such as ensuring conversion of the conventions used in two different computer systems or networks so as to allow communication and exchange of data content between them, such use is not considered to be a patent infringement.
A few notes on media things:
I'm currently subscribed to only one printed newspaper which is Le Monde Diplomatique. It's thirty two pages of deep and well written papers once a month, sometimes by high profile american activists and professors, honestly that's enough reading for a month IMHO. When I need more, I just google around. The last two monthes are online, I believe there's an english edition (I can find you the reference if you're interested).
Went to see the movie "Last Party 2000" last week, wow. All put together, at some point, it's not unbelievable that we'll see American people fleeing back to Europe seeking freedom, world peace, trying to avoid persecution and general madness, it could be quite an interesting bit of history in reverse. Of course we have to preserve "Old Europe" from all this madness and this without doubt will be quite a challenge.
Hey raph you said you wanted some discussions, let's spark some with a flamethrower :).
Michel Rocard (ex France Prime Minister) now on the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education, the Media and Sport is proposing an amendment to explicitely rule out patentability on information (processing, ...) at the european parliament. The rationale is beautifuly written. Let's hope it has some influence on the outcome of the ongoing battle to stay free of software patents in Europe.
This story was proposed and immediately refused on slashdot, go figure.
I hope the "opposition" won't try to escalate the crisis, that the lockout will cease (it's not a strike as it is commonly understood, the bosses closed the shops and factories, part of the employees are still paid...) and that a democratic and constitutional vote will end this dark story in August without too much blood spilled.
However your example illustrates the risk of relying on only one blog, this particular one is a masterpiece of disinformation.
If you're interested in the media and politics, the Venezuela story is exceptional. I have no tie to Venezuela and I wouldn't be able to spot it on a south america map, but I got interested into this case because of total inconsistency in the french media - information released was contradictory and complete nonsense, this couldn't be true - of the reports in the "coup" of April 2002. I was lucky that a few debates and academic conferences took place nearby in Paris so I could make up my mind on the issue, getting mass of factual information that never appeared, and will probably never appear in any mainstream media.
Why the blog is about disinformation, read the paragraphs before
The president himself, in a unconscionable show of his growing contempt for what anybody else thinks, vowed that he would not step down "even if 90% voted yes."
The context is the February 2003 referendum requested by the opposition. This is indeed factually true, but it omits a big piece of the information (hence my disinformation masterpiece claim): the Venezuela constitution allows that a binding presidential referendum in August 2003 (mandate mid term, you need a big enough petition), and the president Chavez always stated that he would follow the result of this (August) constitutionally correct referendum, and never submit to any inconstitutional referendum on the subject.
Now you ask yourself why on earth the opposition is risking to throw the country into total chaos instead of having a public debate (FYI: oppositions control all the TV channels in Venezuala except the state owned one and all the mainstream newspapers) and just waiting for August? Hmmm.
I saw some speeches of Chavez and I must admit I'd never vote for him in a "normal" country, but I guess the other candidates were so obviously corrupted and evil that he got elected anyway.
I really encourage people to spend some time googling/thinking on this, and to compare what you found and what mainstream medias are saying. Here is one USA-based debate, to start with (shows both views on the issue) there is plenty of information around.
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