Following from yesterday’s post about Oracle’s attempts to destroy open source software, here’s a report on their other front (in all senses of the word) against Google, courtesy of Mike Masnick at Techdirt:

Over the last decade or so, the fight between Oracle and Google has seemed incredibly personal – at least on the Oracle side. Of course, many have argued the main reason for Oracle’s attacks on Google were to pressure the company into settling its long-running fight over the Java API – and the Supreme Court just put an end to that — so it will be interesting to watch whether or not the attacks continue. But there’s an important point buried in all of this. Almost everything Oracle accuses Google of doing… it does itself. Often in much more nefarious ways. I mean, Oracle even copied an API without a license. But Oracle’s grand projection in blaming Google for the things that Oracle actually does (in much worse ways) goes way further than that.

Oracle are spending lots of money on lobbying politicians around the world to hobble or even break Google. This graph below is just for the USA:

Source: The Markup

I guess this also explains why Larry Ellison hasn’t been called to Congress to appear alongside Sundar Pichai or Mark Zuckerberg.

Dana Blankenhorn:

The world of open source software is based on one truth above all.

No takesie-backsies.

Once code goes open source it doesn’t go back. You can create a new version, create a new license around it, and sell that. But the old code remains free to see, free to fix, and free to change.

Oracle hates open source with a passion. Nothing else represents such an existential threat. Oracle’s business model is based on charging high and rising prices for its database software. If someone could create an alternative that was free, Oracle couldn’t exist.

So, Oracle took direct action. It bought Sun Microsystems, at the time a primary supporter of open source, in 2010 and closed its projects’ source code. The Sun Solaris operating system didn’t survive. The Open Office code base was eventually forked but isn’t a big factor in the market. The big get was Java, originally created as a “write once, run anywhere” environment but, by 2010, a primary language for servers.

Oracle closed the code by declaring the Application Program Interfaces (APIs), the instructions showing how the code worked, could be copyrighted. To Oracle, this now meant that any code whose creation relied on those APIs belonged to Oracle.

[…]

Fortunately, today’s software industry doesn’t rely on companies like Sun, thanks to the suit and the possibility Oracle might have won. Software companies no longer write code, declare it open source, and run the group behind it. Today that’s done by foundations like Linux, Apache, and Eclipse, which promise to protect projects from such poaching.

In the end, software found a way around Oracle’s attempt to close open source. But it was a close-run thing.

LG once out-iPhoned the iPhone. Now it’s exiting the phone business completely

Roger Cheng, CNET:

In January 2007, a consumer electronics giant announced the world’s first full touchscreen phone. Critics showered it with praise for its bold and sleek design. It launched a few months later and became a big hit. But this wasn’t Apple. LG Electronics pioneered this breakthrough, collaborating with luxury brand Prada on a phone with a capacitive touchscreen – the type found on all modern smartphones – that hit the market just before the original iPhone. 

The Prada Phone garnered accolades before the iPhone was even a thing, with an early design mockup winning an iF Product Design Award in 2006 in Germany. But that didn’t matter. When Steve Jobs took the stage – also in January 2007 – at Apple’s then-annual Macworld conference with the iPhone in hand, he changed the world.

I must admit that I’d completely forgotten about the LG Prada. It turns out that I’m not the only one.

The ignominious end to LG’s phone business is fitting considering its two decades as a handset maker that continuously tried — and failed — to reach that upper strata of cellphone players. The company never fully capitalized on the household name recognition built on a family of products that includes televisions, laptops, washing machines and kitchen appliances. Furthermore, it was beset by an inferiority complex to crosstown rival Samsung.

Instead, LG’s history with phones ping-pongs between dealing with existential threats and eking out moderate hits just successful enough to keep it in the game as a second-tier player. It shares a similar story to Motorola and Nokia, feature phone stalwarts that were swallowed up by the disruptions brought on by the smartphone. While LG never enjoyed their heights of success, it did manage to survive longer.

What a strange epitaph: “We survived longer than Motorola or Nokia.”

Yesterday I undertook an experiment on my Mac, going into the Display settings in Preferences and scaling down from the default 2560 âś• 1440 resolution to 1600 âś• 900.

Because this Mac has a Retina Display, which has a native resolution of 5120 âś• 2880, I’m not losing any pixels in the process. Instead, all the text and icons are scaled and interpolated to fit. Text remains sharp, as do most of the icons.

Continue readingLook After Your Eyes

Yahoo Answers will be shut down forever on May 4th

Nick Statt, writing at The Verge:

Yahoo Answers, one of the longest-running and most storied web Q&A platforms in the history of the internet, is shutting down on May 4th. That’s the day the Yahoo Answers website will start redirecting to the Yahoo homepage, and all of the platform’s archives will apparently cease to exist. The platform has been operating since 2005. 

Yahoo, which is now part of Verizon Media Group following the company’s sale to the telecom for nearly $5 billion in 2017, announced the change at the top of the Yahoo Answers homepage. The message links to an FAQ, which details the timeline of the shutdown. Starting April 20th, the platform will no longer accept new submissions, the FAQ explains. 

Users will also have until June 30th to request their data or it’ll be inaccessible after that. That includes “all user-generated content including your Questions list, Questions, Answers list, Answers, and any images,” Yahoo says, but “you won’t be able to download other users’ content, questions, or answers.” 

A note sent to active Yahoo Answers members provides a little more detail as to why Yahoo is shutting down the platform, including that “it has become less popular over the years” and that the company “decided to shift our resources away” from the product to “focus on products that better serve our members.”

I was vaguely aware that Yahoo Answers was still a thing, as I’d occasionally see it pop up among various search results. Out of morbid curiosity, I went to Yahoo UK’s homepage (be forewarned, you’ll most likely get hit with ‘please let us track you’ overlay) to find out what they currently define as ‘products that better serve our members’:

  • Celebrity
  • Finance
  • Mail
  • Mobile
  • Movies
  • News
  • Safety
  • Search
  • Sport
  • Style
  • Weather

The only common link I can see between those are that they’re a) things that people will actually want to look at, meaning b) more people for Yahoo to track, profile and sell that data on.

(I was somewhat bemused to see references to other no-longer-services such as Messenger and Groups on some of those pages. Make of that what you will.)

Perhaps the shutdown is for the best, considering the site appears to be overrun with far-right conspiratorial garbage. The current Yahoo Answers homepage is highlighting such introspective gems in its discover section as, “Will America survive 4 years of Joe Biden?” and “Will this summer be record riots by BLM and antifa?,” as well as this instant classic, “Was Stalin right about everything?” 

May all the wayward souls of Yahoo Answers now find the information they’re looking for somewhere more credible.

Catalin Cimpanu, the Record:

A threat actor has published the phone numbers and account details for an estimated 533 million Facebook users —about a fifth of the entire social network’s user pool— on a publicly accessible cybercrime forum.

[…]

“This is old data that was previously reported on in 2019,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Record. “We found and fixed this issue in August 2019.”

Nick Heer:

Well that is a relief since everyone I know has gotten a new name, email address, and phone number since August 2019.

Sadly, this is now the standard response to data breaches — state that you’ve bolted the stable door, move on. Any fallout is the user’s problem, not theirs.

I posted the following to an earlier iteration of this blog back in 2009, on the 20th anniversary of my first getting online:

One thing that I neglected to mention in my previous entry was the impetus behind my purchasing my first modem. Well, that impetus came in the form of an online service in the UK that started life as the Compulink Information eXchange, or Cix to its friends. More specifically, in the form of a section that appeared in the monthly UK computer magazine Computer Shopper containing printouts of conversation from the forum that the magazine ran on Cix. (To be even more specific, the forum was run by Huw Collingbourne – so really, it’s his fault originally that I ended up marauding the Internet!)

While Cix was technically an online service, most users made use of offline reader applications to download new messages, read them then upload new posts and replies due to the exorbitant cost of phone calls back in the 1990s. It was very much text-centric, and rather like a slightly more orderly form of Usenet. (They also had a Usenet gateway at the time, which was how I initially entered that realm of the Internet.)

My usage gradually trailed off as the World Wide Web became prevalent, but I do have fond memories. It amazes me that it’s still going, I guess enough people still use it to help pay the bills.

The Rise and Fall of Internet Art Communities, from DeviantArt to Tumblr

Today, sharing art on social media is like running on a treadmill forever. At least, that’s how illustrator Lois van Baarle describes it. “You have to post constantly,” Van Baarle, who got her start in the early aughts on DeviantArt, explained. “Otherwise, the algorithm decides you’re not interesting, and will not show your posts to your followers.”

Before big tech shepherded the vast number of online users onto a handful of sleek websites, there was a scrappier internet—where offbeat chat rooms and eccentric niche websites reigned, and carefully crafted “away statuses” were a kind of personal branding—back when you could be away from the internet. Until attention spans became a commodity, the internet was dreamed of as a “bastion for people to direct their own education,” as Charles Broskoski, co-founder of internet bookmarking site are.na, remembers.

Artists, too, forged communities in the spirit of collaboration and learning. From the gothic underworlds of Breed and Abnormis, to hyper-specific pixel art sites, to larger communities like DeviantArt, the internet presented a breadth of opportunity for all kinds of artists—often of marginalized identities or with artistic interests unrecognized by institutions.

I was a member of the DeviantArt community on-off from late 2003 through to 2016, and it was much different from the web of today. Sadly, as the article explores, social media has mostly supplanted the collaborative and expressive communities of old.

Sotira said that as the internet grew, DeviantArt lost the portion of its users who were using the site primarily to host images or chat with people. “We aren’t a photo-dumping site and we aren’t a social network—we are an art community,” he said. Though there is a case to be made that that DeviantArt is still a popular platform—it’s still one of the top 200 websites in the world—many artists feel that in 2019, the site is not the same.

“What I liked most about [DeviantArt] then was the intimate feel of the network because the audience was relatively small,” artist Aaron Jasinski, who joined the site in 2002, said. “That’s a hard thing to scale.” And Van Baarle, who has since migrated to Instagram, commented that “the user base is way less vibrant, young, aspirational, and motivated compared to before.…DeviantArt is sort of a dinosaur or living fossil in the internet world.” Kaufman had similar things to say about Conceptart.org, calling the site “an empty husk.”

Perhaps the pendulum can swing back, and new art communities form from a resurgent open web — but it’s unlikely as long as the attention of current and future generations is controlled by the likes of Facebook and Google.

Well, that was embarrassing — I managed to break the admin side of this site for a while this morning. Culprit was over-enthusiasm with the HTTP Headers plugin. I had to edit the .htaccess file to get back in.

Lesson learnt — don’t fiddle with settings if you’re not entirely sure what they do or if you need to touch them.

It turns out that the current WordPress theme I’m using — Velox — does have an option to not show author links. So I no longer need an extra plugin to hash the author username (and reduce the ability to guess the admin login).