it.gen.nz

Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, August 30, 2007

World votes No to Microsoft standard

Updated 5 September – the vote in the the world standards body is “no“. Sanity rules. Well done, everyone who has worked for this. It’s still not over, though. More below.

Updated 1 September – are votes being bought in the international standards body?

Standards New Zealand has voted “No” to the proposed Microsoft standard, OOXML. This is the Right Thing for many, many reasons, one of which I blogged a few days ago.

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posted by colin at 3:11 pm  

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Should companies have to tell you if they lose your records?

Today I talked on Radio New Zealand National about the Privacy Commissioner’s new draft code which would effectively force companies who violate your privacy to tell you about it so you can do something about it. My speaking notes are below the fold and there are links are in the usual place.

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posted by colin at 11:25 am  

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Westpac comes to the party

Two weeks ago I spoke on the radio about the risks of online banking, especially since the New Zealand Bankers’ Association is trying to make you liable for the risks if your PC isn’t secure. Westpac has broken ranks with the NZBA and introduced an online guarantee which says, essentially, they will cover fraud in your online banking unless you have been really reckless or criminal. Good on Westpac!

Let’s see the other banks look after their customers as well.

posted by colin at 7:25 am  

Monday, August 27, 2007

The nice thing about standards…

…is there are so many to choose from, or so ran a sarcastic saying in the computer business back in the 80s and 90s. In information technology, standards are meant to define an official way of doing something so that software and hardware from different manufacturers will all work together.

Customers benefit from the competition that standards allow, and for real competition there needs to be a single open standard that all manufacturers can implement. We learned that lesson in the 1980s and brought the manufacturers to heel by requiring standards, and the explosion of personal computers and the Internet is the result. Unfortunately, it looks like the world might be about to go down the track of multiple incompatible standards again.

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posted by colin at 10:39 pm  

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The General Public Licence

Today I talked about the General Public Licence, one of the ways in which software is licensed. It’s very important for several reasons, and it’s controversial because some software companies see it as a threat to their ways of doing business. Others see it as essential. My notes are below, and some links are at the end.
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posted by colin at 9:39 pm  

Monday, August 20, 2007

Bubble popped!

And Telecom’s new service branded jointly with Yahoo certainly seems to have. Telecom has got right up people’s noses with its implementation of Bubble. There’s at least three different problems going on here. (more…)

posted by colin at 5:04 pm  

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is Internet Banking Safe?

Updated 29 August.

Internet banking is used by many New Zealanders every day. People like it because it’s quick and convenient and banks like it because it’s cheap to run. And on the rare occasions when it has gone wrong and people have had money stolen, the banks have always covered. That’s changing: a few weeks ago the New Zealand Bankers’ Association released a new code of practice which makes the banking customer – that’s you and me – at least partly responsible for the security of Internet banking. If you report a fraud, the banks are demanding the right to inspect your computer to see if you have secured it, and “may decline your claim if you refuse”. Hmm.

I talk here about whether we should trust Internet banking if the banks are no longer prepared to pick up the tab when people get their accounts drained by thieves. Links at the end. (more…)

posted by colin at 2:01 pm  

Sunday, August 12, 2007

King Lear

I confess: despite loving Shakespeare, I had never really “got” Lear before. I know, it’s supposed to be the greatest of the four great Shakespearean tragedies. But it never connected with me viscerally the way the others do – I never got that feeling that, hey that could be me out there behaving like that.

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posted by colin at 2:35 pm  

Sunday, August 12, 2007

iPod law eases for music, not!

Yes, I’ve not-so-subtly altered yesterday’s Herald headline for the title – but it’s almost true. The article misses the point that music companies can opt-out of letting you copy the music you have bought to the iPod you have bought. It’s not clear whether they need to put a ‘no iPods’ sticker on the CD cover to opt out, or whether some dense legalese inside to the effect that the musics may not be format shifted unless required by law would suffice. Either way, the music industry is not being required to let you use your iPod legally. The Select Committee’s analysis on this (warning, big PDF) makes it clear that they thought about this problem but decided not fix it.

The end result is: you can still be sued by music companies for copying your CDs to your iPods. That’s how they like it. Nothing changes. Sigh.

posted by colin at 9:45 am  

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A victory for open source

SCO has lost its legal battle to charge people for using other people’s work. You can read all about it at Groklaw. Briefly, SCO asserted that a) it owned Unix, b) Linux was illegally copied from Unix, and c) everyone using Linux therefore owed it licence fees. A few companies paid – most just ignored the demands. SCO sued some major Linux users including IBM, then Novell stood up and said we own Unix, SCO doesn’t, and we have no problem at all with Linux. SCO sued Novell and has just lost. It will therefore lose to IBM and the others in very short order as the basis of its claim has been overturned. SCO will be liable for the licence fees it has already collected, and possibly damages, not to mention huge legal fees. A longer and better description of the whole process is on Wikipedia.

This is important because SCO’s whole legal challenge has been seen as a deliberate and cynical attempt to scare people off open source. Proprietary software companies (you know who I mean) have been portraying the SCO action as a reason not to use Linux, after all, they say, how can you be sure you won’t be sued? They can’t do that any more.

posted by colin at 11:57 am  
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