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Open Source CADNANO is unbelievably cool

I just read this in Nature:

The researchers designed the structure of the nanorobots using open-source software, called Cadnano, developed by one of the authors — Shawn Douglas, a biophysicist at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. They then built the bots using DNA origami. The barrel-shaped devices, each about 35 nanometres in diameter, contain 12 sites on the inside for attaching payload molecules and two positions on the outside for attaching aptamers, short nucleotide strands with special sequences for recognizing molecules on the target cell. The aptamers act as clasps: once both have found their target, they spring open the device to release the payload.

These robots may be able to identify and target cancer cells.

Live Free or Die in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has passed a new law that is summarized as follows:

This bill requires state agencies to consider open source software when acquiring software and promotes the use of open data formats by state agencies. This bill also directs the commissioner of information technology to develop a statewide information policy based on principles of open government data.

They are living up to the high standards of their state motto!

Cape Verde's Big Win

Last week it was announced that former Cape Verde president Pedro Pires won the $5 million Mo Ibrahim prize for exceptional African leadership. As the citation explains, Cape Verde is among the smallest countries in Africa, poorest in natural resources, and yet managed to move its population of 500,000 forward much faster and much further than many other countries that shared similar (or presumably stronger) attributes. The key to their success? Openness.

Shout out to Zoneminder Project

For the first ten years of my open source life, I spent tens of thousands of hours pouring over hundreds of thousands of lines of source code across perhaps a dozen or fewer projects, mostly GCC, G++, GDB, and various other parts of the GNU toolchain. If there were a PhD in open source software, I was definitely specialist enough to have earned one. I was vaguely aware of the mountains of source code in the BSD distribution, and obviously Linux, but didn't really pay much attention to that until I joined Red Hat.

For the ten plus years after that, I have barely succeeded in scratching the surface of the 10,000+ packages that can be easily installed without the need to study the source code. It is both a luxury to have available the resources that are represented by the 200+ million lines of source code packaged for a typical Linux distribution, but it is also overwhelming...how can one possibly know all there is to know? And yet, I find that when I need to look for something, it's there. When I needed to control and monitor some PTZ network cameras, I looked for an open source solution and discovered a really wonderful package called Zoneminder.

OSI Board reponds to FCO Questionaire concerning CPTN Transaction

Towards the end of March, we received a message from the German Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office or FCO) advising us that the CPTN transaction had been re-notified to them. That means that the consortium seeking to acquire Novell's patent portfolio - Microsoft, Apple, EMC and Oracle - had once again asked for permission to proceed.

OSI Concerns Heeded

Notably, the terms of the transaction seem to have been significantly changed, apparently in response to concerns like the ones OSI expressed at the start of the year. OSI is very pleased that the FCO has been clear about the transaction with CPTN and congratulates them on continuing to consider the overall health of the evolving software market and not just the concerns of the existing dominant players.

Here is a non-expert summary of the differences (summarised with permission from the FCO):

  • CPTN will now only exist for long enough to distribute the shares equally among the participants in the transaction (no more than three months), and thus will not form a new long-term patent troll itself.
  • All parties to the transaction will retain a license to the full Novell patent portfolio, thus immunising themselves from patent actions with the shares they do not hold.
  • Microsoft will sell its 25% share of the patents on to Attachmate and retain only a license to the portfolio.
  • EMC will ensure that the 31 patents it has determined relate to virtualisation are not among the 25% share it acquires.
  • All patents will still be subject to all existing licenses, covenants not to sue and similar restrictions.

OSI Still Concerned

The FCO went on to ask OSI for its views on the revised transaction. The OSI Board responded to their questionnaire as follows:

OSI Commends the US Department of Justice

According to filings made by Novell

[On] February 2, 2011, each of [CPTN Holdings] and Novell received a Second Request from the DOJ regarding the sale of certain identified patents and patent applications to CPTN contemplated by the Patent Purchase Agreement. The Second Requests have the effect of extending the waiting period under the HSR Act until 30 days after both parties have substantially complied with the Second Requests, unless the waiting period is earlier terminated. Novell is in the process of gathering information to respond to this Second Request and is continuing to cooperate fully with the DOJ in connection with its review.

The Open Source Initiative commends the US Department of Justice for taking this important step to promote innovation by issuing a second request and deepening the investigation of CPTN's acquisition of Novell's patents. As we have stated, the history is clear: patents have been—and are likely to be—used by CPTN and its members to create fear, uncertainty and doubt concerning open source software, raise competitors costs and threaten customers. We trust and hope that following a thorough investigation, the DoJ will impose whatever measures are necessary to ensure that CPTN does not harm the commercial open source development model or market competition.

OSI asks German Federal Cartel Office and US Department of Justice to investigate CPTN transaction (update 2)

January 19, 2011 (update 2) - The Antitrust Division of the US Department of Justice has acknowledged receipt of the following correspondence (with attachment):

I am writing to you this morning in my capacity as President of the Open Source Initiative, a US 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Last month the OSI filed a statement with the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) outlining our deep concerns about a proposed transaction whereby four companies, Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, and EMC, would create a new non-practicing entity (NPE) to acquire and hold Novell's entire portfolio of 882 patents. Since making that filing, we have been joined by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and have updated that statement to represent that both our communities--the open source community and the free software community--are concerned that CPTN represents a potential broadside not against any particular product in the market today, but against one of the only viable sources of competition for these companies in software today: the free, libre, and open source software (FLOSS) communities.

Attached is our joint statement that reflects both our consensus thinking on the subject and our joint appeal that DOJ investigate the true purpose of CPTN.

If there is any other information you require from myself, any OSI board member, or the OSI as a whole, please do not hesitate to let us know. Thank you very much for your consideration.

Michael Tiemann
President, Open Source Initiative

The Concrete Benefits of Open Source Software

Following up on an earlier blog posting, Indian Open Standards Policy Finalized, I read an article published in the The Hindu, one of India's leading newspapers, about the concrete benefits of this policy. It also provides a very meaningful template for open source advocates to see how well an argument can be made with the proper framing of facts. Here is a quote from the third paragraph:

SCOSTA [the Smart Card Operating System for Transport Applications] was a standard developed for smart card-based driving licences and transport-related documentation by different State governments. It was developed by the National Informatics Centre in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. Despite attempts by proprietary lobbies to make the body opt for a proprietary standard, the NIC and academics went ahead and developed an open standards, one that comprised technological specifications that were entirely royalty-free, and put up the specifications on their website. By doing so, they made a huge impact on the entire market.

Indian Open Standards Policy Finalized

Venkatesh Hariharan reports:

After three years of continuous running battles, India's Department of Information Technology has finalized the national policy on Open Standards. Over the last three years, we worked with our friends in government, academic, civil society and the media to push the Indian government in favor of a policy that mandates a single, royalty-free standard. With this, India becomes another major country to join the growing open standards movement.

India's e-governance standards portal is at http://egovstandards.gov.in/ and this is the link from which you can directly read the policy document.

Of particular interest is Clause 4.1.2:

CSIS Updates Open Source Policy Survey

The Center for Strategic & International Studies updated their latest survey of Government Open Source Policies for 2010, and it is again an outstanding report. From the introductory note:

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