Success for Distributed Computing

No word on the SETI@Home project yet, but participants in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search have discovered the largest prime number yet, which is so large that it would take about 1500 pages just to print it out. Participants in the program volunteered the use of “spare cycles” on their computers to search for numbers, and after several years Michael Shafer of Michigan State University finally found it. Of course, it’s really nothing that he did personally, but everyone who participated deserves some credit for helping out. Check out the full story at Salon (subscription required).

128 Megs In Your Wallet

A twist on the USB keychain idea — the USB Credit Card. It’s not only thinner than the keychain devices, but it also transfers faster than most, with speeds up to 5 mb/s. Price is 100 euros for the 128 meg model, with capacities available up to 512 mb.

The Truth Is A Virus helped fund a documentary called The Truth Uncovered, which details the various positions that the administration has taken on the Iraq war, and exposes the flops in those position and the lies they were based on. Apparently many people have been buying this video and then screening it at home for friends and neighbors, and MoveOn has set up an interactive map of those parties. It’s interesting to see where the parties are being held not just because they are the most likely areas for vehement opposition of the President’s handling of the war, but because the map shows the effect of a viral marketing campaign. The video is available for $15 (DVD) from TheTruthUncovered if you want to “get infected” yourself.

EyeToy For Your PC: Gesture Mouse Control

In doing some “research” for the review of the EyeToy I ran across an open-source project trying to bring the same functionality to the PC with any ordinary webcam. The program, which is not yet quite complete, works by using an ordinary glove to control the mouse arrow on the PC screen, with certain gestures indicating whether to open or move the application, or any number of other features. While the wearer must wear a kitchen glove to control the mouse, it’s an interesting project that could lead to a whole lot of interesting projects and games.

Robot Assassins from the Future

After seeing a neighbor with a cheap pellet gun at a campout, and finding out it only cost $30, I started to get the itch to relive the glory days of my youth, blowing away plastic army men and soup cans. I wasn’t prepared to stumble across a global tribe of airgun hackers, or airsmiths. This pistol (right) is a Crosman 2240 with a scope, laser sight, flashlight, and bulk c02 attached. These guys take $50 c02 pistols and trick them out until they look like something from Assassins-R-Us.

There are a number of resources for airgunners, including the internationally flavored It’s an odd but friendly mixture of varmint -shooters from South Carolina and 10m Olympic pistol shooters from Europe, using $800 pistols made by Swedish co-ops.

I’m not a real gun guy, per se, but I bought a $25 refurbished Crosman 1377c pistol, which can shoot groups of one inch at 10m in my basement. (if only *I* were that accurate). Sometimes I’ll take it to the fields behind my house and shoot from the hip at debris.

They are all hardware hackers of sorts, and regardless of ideology and nationality. know the importance of merging with the machine to make the perfect shot. These guns are relatively quiet, and shooting the pistol in the basement is paradoxically calming, and pretty fun.

The SCO Monkey Trial (A Street Tech Intro)

By Bruce Dykes

SCO used to be a Linux company called Caldera. They bought AT&T Unix from Novell, who bought it in the early 90’s, but did nothing with it, choosing instead to battle Microsoft in the desktop app arena with WordPerfect and Quattro Pro.

Caldera’s goal was to build a common environment between AT&T Unix, and Linux. SCO’s brand of AT&T Unix had a respectable installed base, and an impressive reseller channel. Caldera found it a more difficult strategy than first thought, the original board wound up moving on, and Caldera found itself under the direction of The Canopy Group and Darl McBride.

The original SCO, Santa Cruz Operation had renamed themselves Tarantella, and gotten out of the OS business in favor of network management software. One of Darl’s first moves at Caldera was to buy the SCO name from Tarantella and rename Caldera to The SCO Group (SCOX).

Brought on board to increase revenue, he started casting about for untapped potential, and he discovered the original AT&T Unix licensing contracts with IBM.

Older geeks will remember the DR DOS vs. Microsoft lawsuit, where, in the early days of Windows 3.1, Windows was programmed to produce error messages when it was loaded on top of DR DOS. Darl McBride headed the company that bought DR DOS, and the lawsuit against Microsoft, and won a decent settlement, so naturally, he thought litigation was the best way to put SCO/Caldera in the black.

The first thoughts when they announced the lawsuit vs. IBM was that it was buyout bait – they were suing for [pinky] one billion dollars! A sum large enough to get themselves noticed, and hopefully bought out to go away.

They selected David Boies to represent them. You may know him from such lawsuits as RIAA vs. Napster, or Al Gore vs. the Florida Election Commission. From those cases, one thinks SCO might have been better represented by Lionel Hutz, but he did win when he was representing the DoJ vs. Microsoft (it was on appeal that M$ was able to get their punishment neutered), and he also represented the government in their antitrust case against IBM, so not a bad selection in and of itself, but hardly promising, either.

IBM is the single largest holder of patents in the country. Entire families of IP lawyers have been raised for the sole purpose of managing IBM’s patent portfolio. Taking them on in an IP battle is the legal equivalent of launching an overland invasion of Russia in September.

After poking the dragon, and being shocked to learn that not only didn’t the dragon want to pay them for their valuable service in waking it up, but was in fact rather more interested in setting them aflame, the common belief is that they changed their strategy to a pump-n-dump run on the stock.

SCO is accusing IBM of violating contractual clauses in their Unix license that prohibit them from taking any software developed for Unix System V, and releasing it into Linux. Please note that they’re not accusing IBM of any copyright violations, or patent infringements, just breach of contract, no matter what else they may be saying to the press.

There’s a few problems with this:

1.a. The contracts don’t prohibit taking software developed for SysV and releasing it as a separate product – they prohibit taking software developed from the SysV code and releasing it as a separate product.

1.b. AT&T sent out side letters to all AT&T licensees to clarify that point that anything developed independently was the product of the developers, and not considered a derivative of the SysV code.

1.c. Novell, the company that sold Unix to SCO, says not only didn’t they sell the totality of all Unix rights to SCO, they still have the right to veto any amendments that SCO wants to make to the licensing agreements, and they’re vetoing any attempts by SCO to revoke IBM’s Unix license.

1.d. While SCO hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with the code in question (remember, they’re only charging IBM with breach of contract, not IP any violations), all their statements to the press have hinted at three different code groups under the SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing) section of the Linux kernel: JFS (Journaled File System), NUMA (Non Uniform Memory Access), and RCU (Read Copy Update). The problem with that is, all that code was developed independently of any SysV code. JFS was created at IBM, and RCU and NUMA were developed by Sequent, also an AT&T licensee, and also independently of any SysV code.

2. Damages.
2.a. SCO brought the lawsuit back in April. But for all their talk of IP infringement, they refuse to identify the code and allow it to be cleaned from the kernel. Darl has gone on record to say he doesn’t want that to happen.

2.b. What’s more, they’ve been discovery ever since, and so far, SCO has refused to provide any examples to IBM of this allegedly infringing code. Since April. There’ll be oral arguments in court today where IBM says they’ve given SCO what they can, but without SCO being more specific, there’s only so much they can do, while SCO’s counter is that IBM and only IBM knows what code they copied into Linux, therefore it’s down to them to provide the code that they copied, and SCO has no way of knowing what that code may be.

You may notice something about that last item. It’s in direct opposition to multitudes of public statements made by SCO principals over the past several months. There’s one piece of legal advice that any lawyer, anywhere is going to give you for free: shut yer yap! With every statement, SCO’s been putting its feet in its mouth, then pulling the trigger to put a few rounds into them.

And that doesn’t even begin to start covering the IBM countersuit, and the suit by Red Hat charging tortious interference.

The single best source of info on the trial is:

Windows-Free Tablet PC

A couple o’ months ago a friend asked me for a recomendation for a good laptop for college. He wanted something inexpensive, highly portable, flexible, and preferably Windows-free. Well, if I’d known about the Element 2100 at the time, I might have recommended he at least take a look. The specs on this laptop are pretty impressive for the price; 14″ screen and internal 30 gig hard-drive, 256 megs of RAM expandable to 1 gig, USB 2.0 ports, memory card reader and optional internal WiFi. Best of all it’s a tablet PC, which means that the screen is a touch-screen and can be rotated to cover the keyboard, or used like a standard laptop. It ships with Licoris GNU/Linux instead of Windows too, which saves cost and reduces threat of system failure. The whole thing comes in under 5 lbs. and is relatively slender. The downsides are that it does not seem to have an internal optical drive and the VIA 1GHz processor seems a little under-powered. More RAM wouldn’t hurt either, but maybe that’s not as much of an issue if you’re not running that old bloatOS.

Those willing to take a chance on this unit can get it for around $1000, but you might want to wait until a few reviews show up, especially ours.