Chess and the Open Source Revolution

January 8, 2012
(Volokh) From Tyler Cowen,
via James Grimmelmann:

Soren Riis has a really fascinating essay on the rather astonishing recent developments in the world of computer chess [Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) focusing on the the lifetime ban, recently handed down by the organizers of the World Computer Chess Championships, issued against the author of “Rybka,” a highly successful computer chess program, on the grounds that it is using “plagiarized” code.
It’s a fascinating story in its own right, but particularly for what it says about innovation and information; here’s the key figure, showing the improvements in computer chess play in the last two decades:
What happened in the mid-2000s that led to the sudden improvement in both the overall quality of computer and the rate at which new programs became seriously competitive? Riis writes:

What happened? Starting with the release of the first open-source Fruit in mid-2004, and continuing with the release of subsequent versions of Fruit, open-source engine Stockfish, and especially the release of reverse-engineered Rybka derivatives, highly detailed recipes for building strong, modern chess engines have been in the public domain. Fledgling chess programmers as well as programming veterans have not failed to take notice and the state of the art has advanced rapidly. As a result of this spread of knowledge new programs receive a tremendous performance boost and become “fast climbers”.

There’s a great deal more in the original essay about the nature of proprietary rights and the norms and customs in this particular community — well worth reading.

There is moderation however, because if profit seekers begin to notice they are not getting paid for their ventures then innovation stops. I’m not certain if the consulting model is a long term objective.  Free code will result in a large circulation of experts who will contend with each other through marketing strategies. P.S a certain CMU professor (who I can not mention legally and caused my arrest and conviction of a misdemeanor without any analysis of any University documents) also accused me of copying and pasting code… lolz IDIOTS!


Kodak Preparing for Chapter 11 Filing

January 5, 2012
Talk about a classic case of poor marketing. The consumer had no loyal relationship between Kodak and printing. Their mistake was in underestimating the digital technology advances that they themselves had researched and developed. They should of merged with a few competitors in the digital graphic sphere that didn’t have a recognized brandname… it would of made the difference between an iphone by Apple and a Palm. People would of bought smartphones with cameras with the Kodak brand name. Licensing out the trademark of Kodak could of been hugely profitable.

By (online.wsj.com)MIKE SPECTOR And DANA MATTIOLI

Eastman Kodak Co. is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection in the coming weeks, people familiar with the matter said, a move that would cap a stunning comedown for a company that once ranked among America’s corporate titans.
The 131-year-old company is still making last-ditch efforts to sell off some of its patent portfolio and could avoid Chapter 11 if it succeeds, one of the people said. But the company has started making preparations for a filing in case those efforts fail, including talking to banks about some $1 billion in financing to keep it afloat during bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.

Eastman Kodak is preparing for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection filing in the coming weeks should efforts to sell a trove of digital patents fall through. Dana Mattioli has details on The News Hub. Photo: AP

A Kodak spokesman said the company “does not comment on market rumor or speculation.”
A filing could come as soon as this month or early February, one of the people familiar with the matter said. Kodak would continue to pay its bills and operate normally while under bankruptcy protection, the people said. But the company’s focus would then be the sale of some 1,100 patents through a court-supervised auction, the people said.
That Kodak is even contemplating a bankruptcy filing represents a final reversal of fortune for a company that once dominated its industry, drawing engineering talent from around the country to its Rochester, N.Y., headquarters and plowing money into research that produced thousands of breakthroughs in imaging and other technologies.
The company, for instance, invented the digital camera—in 1975—but never managed to capitalize on the new technology.
Casting about for alternatives to its lucrative but shrinking film business, Kodak toyed with chemicals, bathroom cleaners and medical-testing devices in the 1980s and 1990s, before deciding to focus on consumer and commercial printers in the past half-decade under Chief Executive Antonio Perez.

The History of Kodak

0104kodak

Associated Press

Eastman Kodak Co. founder George Eastman, left, and Thomas Edison pose with their inventions in a photograph taken in the late 1920s.

None of the new pursuits generated the cash needed to fund the change in course and cover the company’s big obligations to its retirees. A Chapter 11 filing could help Kodak shed some of those obligations, but the viability of the company’s printer strategy has yet to be demonstrated, raising questions about the fate of the company’s 19,000 employees.
Such uncertainty was once unthinkable at Kodak, whose near-monopoly on film produced high margins that the company shared with its workers. On “wage dividend days,” a tradition started by Kodak founder George Eastman, the company would pay out bonuses to all workers based on its results, and employees would use the checks to buy cars and celebrate at fancy restaurants.
Former employees say the company was the Apple Inc. or Google Inc. of its time. Robert Shanebrook, 64 years old, who started at the company in 1967 and was most recently world-wide product manager for professional photographic film, recalls young talent traipsing through Kodak’s sprawling corporate campus. At lunch, they would crowd the auditorium to watch a daily movie at an on-site theater. Other employees would play basketball on the company courts.
“We had this self-imposed opinion of ourselves that we could do anything, that we were undefeatable,” Mr. Shanebrook said.
Kodak’s troubles date back to the 1980s, when the company struggled with foreign competitors that stole its market share in film. The company later had to cope with the rise of digital photography and smartphones.
It wasn’t until 10 years ago that the mood began to sour, said Mr. Shanebrook. By 2003, Kodak announced it would stop making investments in film. “I didn’t want to stick around for the demise,” he said.

KODAKrefer

Bloomberg News

A box of Eastman Kodak Co.’s Tri-X 400 film.

Kodak shares closed Wednesday at 47 cents, down 28% after The Wall Street Journal reported the company was preparing a Chapter 11 filing.
Kodak has lost money each year but one since Mr. Perez, who previously headed the printer business at Hewlett-Packard Co., took over in 2005. The company’s problems came to a head in 2011, as Mr. Perez’s strategy of using patent lawsuits and licensing deals to raise cash ran dry.
Hoping to plug the hole, Kodak put some of its digital patents up for sale in August. Efforts to sell the portfolio have been slowed by bidders’ concerns that Kodak might seek bankruptcy protection. The company has talked to hedge funds about borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars to bridge its finances until the patents sell, but the talks have faltered, people familiar with the matter said.
The first sign of acute cash pressure came in late September, when Kodak drew $160 million from its credit line at a time when it had told investors it would be building cash. The move sent Kodak’s stock tumbling and raised fresh concerns about the company’s viability.
Soon after, Kodak hired restructuring lawyers and advisers to help shore up its finances.
The company and its board have weighed a potential bankruptcy filing for months. Advisers told Kodak a filing would make its patent sale easier and likely allow the company to command a higher price, people familiar with the matter have said. The obligation to cover pension and health-care costs for retirees could also be purged through bankruptcy proceedings, the people said.
Those obligations—which run to hundreds of millions of dollars a year—as well as the unprofitable state of Kodak’s new businesses, have made the company undesirable as a takeover target, people familiar with the matter said.
During a two-day meeting of the company’s board, management and advisers in mid-December, executives were briefed on how Kodak would fund itself during bankruptcy proceedings should efforts to sell its patents fall short, a person familiar with the matter said.
Kodak is in discussions with large banks including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. for so-called debtor-in-possession financing to keep the company operating in bankruptcy court, people familiar with the matter said.
Kodak has also held discussions with bondholders and a group led by investment firm Cerberus Capital Management LP about a bankruptcy financing package, the people said.
Should it seek bankruptcy protection, Kodak would follow other well-known companies that have failed to adapt to rapidly changing business models. They included Polaroid Corp., which filed for bankruptcy protection a second time in December 2008; Borders Group Inc., which liquidated itself last year; and Blockbuster Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in 2010 and was later bought by Dish Network Corp. A bankruptcy filing would kick off what is expected to be a busier year in restructuring circles, as economic growth continues to drag and fears about European sovereign debt woes threaten to make credit markets less inviting for companies that need to refinance their debts.
Mr. Perez decided to base the company’s future on consumer and commercial inkjet printing. But the saturated market has proved tough to penetrate, and Kodak is paying heavily to subsidize sales as it builds a base of users for its ink.
The company remains a bit player in a printer market dominated by giants like H-P. Kodak ranks fifth world-wide, according to technology data firm IDC, with a market share of 2.6% in the first nine months of 2011.
As the company works on a restructuring plan, a key issue for creditors is whether the printer operations are worth supporting, or whether the bulk of the company’s value is in its patents.
Nortel Networks Corp., a company that also had fallen behind the technology curve, opted to liquidate itself in bankruptcy court rather than reorganize, raising a greater than expected $4.5 billion for its patent trove.
Kodak’s founder, Mr. Eastman, took his life at the age of 77 in what is now a museum celebrating the founder and Kodak’s impact on photography. His suicide note read: “To my friends, my work is done. Why wait?”

Very sad… it’s another American brand that was mismanaged and the sound of our competitors in other countries talking about the so called “lazy”American reverberate, but this is a case where the American dream failed because no one could recognize the potential of America. We shouldn’t let our enemies tell us that this is because we are weak. Our companies are failing because we don’t recognize how strong we are. Kodak is a textbook case. Printing is not what one associate with film… only a tech nerd would of seen the resemblance. Where were the marketing people?


Tel Aviv U. scientists perform levitation

October 27, 2011

We might still be able to make Marty McFly’s 2015 hoverboard…

The science behind it:

(h/t jzaik)


If you want to see more jobs created – change patent laws says Mark Cuban

August 7, 2011
…an explosive legal problem…
Mark Cuban has to dance to make jobs…

Major tech companies are  buying big collections of patents not because they want to own the intellectual property but rather because they want the ability to respond to patent lawsuits with a lawsuit of their own. It’s like playing a game of thermo nuclear war. If all sides have “nuclear patents” they can respond to patent litigation with equal force. In other words, if you have enough “nucleur patents” no one will sue you for patent infringement because you have enough power to respond in kind. Its crazy and costing this country jobs.
Google just spent $900mm buying a patent collection. Other big companies are spending the same way.  That is money that for many companies would have  gone to job creation.
We need to face the facts, patent law is killing job creation.

so what is the other argument? without these patents the big companies would just take shit that was developed for years by the little guy. This would kill innovation… (though one could make a cynical argument that there is nothing new under the sun and that ideas like say a smart phone for example is simply too vague to protect. When innovation comes like for example when the car first started, there was no single person who created the concept. It took Henry Ford to develop a system of manufacturing, but he by no means came up with the idea of a car).  Is there a happy balance? would legislation denying large companies from monopolizing ideas be possible? ( I don’t have enough knowledge into intellectual property law to comment… but I will be thinking about it.)  Certainly I’d like to see laws created that would allow intelligent discression from judges, but then again… I don’t have a lot of confidence in judges to hold that kind of power… so there must not be power held by one single person to keep patent ownership in check.  There must be checks and balances in the system.  There has to be oversight… and then again the parties must also be able to work together.  Certainly if a large company owns an idea pertaining to Apples then it becomes questionable as to intent if they start buying into markets that they have no interest in like Chickens.  Mass Stock patent buying must be stopped.

Destroying Hard Drive Leads to Conviction for Obstructing Federal Investigation

July 19, 2011
One wonders what the suspect’s lawyer was thinking? Why would the police not have rights to evidence once a suspect was arrested? There would of been other ways to protect the defendant… mostly involved in making up a lie. The extent of what lawyers can do unethically is better then what a lawyer could do within the system.

(Thanks to FourthAmendment.com for the link. • July 18, 2011 1:02 pm via computerdevices.org via volokh.com) The case is United States v. Hicks, an unpublished decision by the Fourth Circuit in which a child pornography suspect destroyed his hard drive in response to learning of the investigation.

According to the government’s brief, the defendant used an e-mail account to communicate with a suspected child pornography website and to purchase videos from it. Federal agents traced the e-mail account to the suspect, and they then went to the suspect’s home to ask questions. The suspect wasn’t there, but they left a business card with the suspect’s father, together with the request that the suspect contact them about his computer. The business card stated that the lead agent’s job position was as a “Child Pornography Team Leader.” The suspect called the next day and agreed to meet with the agents. During the subsequent meeting, the suspect admitted that he had seen some child pornography online and that he was familiar with some websites under investigation, but he denied having sought out child pornography or having saved any to his computer.
The agents asked the suspect if they could see his computer to confirm his story, but the suspect replied that they could not: When the suspect learned that the feds had dropped by, and when he realized that they were investigating him for child pornography, he had decided to destroy his hard drive. He “didn’t want to take any chances” of going to jail, he said. According to his brief, he had smashed his hard drive with a hammer, ran a magnet over it, and “thr[ew] the pieces out of his car window while driving.”
The feds apparently lacked the evidence to charge the suspect with possessing child pornography, but instead they charged and convicted him under a 2002 statute passed as part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. 1519:

Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit affirms in a per curiam opinion. First, the defendant argues that the 2002 law should not apply to him because it was intended to apply to financial crimes not individuals and personal hard drives. The court dismisses this in a footnote (see fn1) on the ground that the statute is unambiguous. The defendant then makes a Due Process challenge. Although it’s somewhat hard to follow, the argument seems to be that the computer was his own private property and that interfering with his control of the property somehow violated Due Process. The court disagrees, concluding that the passage of the statute and the notice given to him as to his charges satisfied the Due Process clause.
Finally, the suspect makes a Fourth Amendment argument, although the court muddles its brief analysis. The defendant argued that it violated his Fourth Amendment rights to convict him of destroying the computer given that it was his computer. According to the defendant, the Fourth Amendment gave him a right to control his property that was taken away when the law took away his right to destroy it, constituting an unlawful seizure. The court disagrees, stating that “there was no meaningful interference with Hicks’s possessory interests [and therefore no seizure] because he did not have a property right in the images of child pornography. See Helton v. Hunt, 330 F.3d 242, 247 (4th Cir. 2003).”
For what it’s worth, that’s not quite right. A possessory interest has nothing to do with a property right. Indeed, the whole point of contraband crimes is that they are crimes for having a possessory interest in what one cannot lawfully possess — that is, for possessing something for which one cannot have a valid property right. Helton v. Hunt says nothing to the contrary. Further, the defendant’s claim was as to the seizure of his physical hard drive, not contraband images which may or may not have been stored inside it. The court is right that there was no seizure, but it’s for a different reason: the government never took control of the property that the defendant elected to destroy. A seizure requires an actual submission to law enforcement control, see California v. Hodari D, which never occurred here. Anyway, it’s not a big deal: This is a non-precedential opinion, and the court was right that there was no seizure — and even if there was a seizure, there is no possible remedy here. Still, I thought I would point it out anyway.


New Chinese UAV spotted at sea

June 24, 2011

Anyway, that is a story for another day, what I want to point out here how a Japanese aircraft shadowing this Chinese fleet happened to take the first snap of a Chinese UAV in flight. While the Chinese have showed lots of examples of its UAV program at trade shows and such, none have been spotted on active service.

China and there is nothing that you can do about it. (Funny enough, the ethical latte drinkers are keeping very quiet on this.)

While a lot isn’t known about the capabilities of Chinese UAVs, expect Iran to start fielding them in the not so distant future.
Here is the picture of the UAV operating over the back of a Jiangwei-II Class frigate.

This UAV was once displayed with famous Dark Sword Combat UAV in 2006 Zhuhai Airshow, but at that time no name and other detailed information were available. Obviously, this UAV looks very close to U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk UAV. But the size of Chinese UAV is smaller than RQ-4, so if this UAV can carry long-time endurance survaillance is still a question. Perhaps this one is just a technological demonstration for future bigger airframe. Related information is with the China Defense Mash Up.

(China) In order to back up its pathetic claims that the seas off Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Malaysia belong to Peking and not the states which border those seas, China has been flexing its military might as only Orientals can. To that end, an 11-ship naval flotilla has been strutting its stuff off the coasts of those nations in which to send the message that sea areas 1,000 miles from the Chinese shore but only 20 miles away from the those above actually belongs to


Deep packet inspection takes off in Asia and the Middle East

March 18, 2011
Protesters in the Middle East

Deep packet inspection technology watches what we do on the web


Internet technologies have played a role in the recent Middle East protests

Why is deep packet inspection technology such a thriving business in the Middle East and Asia? 

The connection has timed out. You are not connected to the Internet. Server not found.
We’ve all experienced one of these dread messages at some point in our digital lives, courtesy of the inner workings of our Web browser. Most of the time they appear because of a problem with the networking hardware and associated software that stands between us and the websites we want to access.
In other cases they may be the result of a deliberate act perpetrated by an Internet service provider – often at the request of a repressive regime intent on blocking the free flow of information.
It happens in China every day, where typing the words ‘Tiananmen Square’ into a search engine will produce either a blank page or a heavily filtered list of results. Beyond these automated content filtering restrictions, there have been reports of Chinese Web users suddenly being unable to access YouTube whenever a video that the government has deemed as seditious is becoming too popular.
Similar experiences have been reported in Iran and in many of the countries in the Middle East that have been pressing for democratic change since the beginning of this year. One key technology that many suspect is being used to carry out such online censorship is deep-packet inspection (DPI).

How it works

The concept behind DPI is simple. Internet traffic consists of a multitude of IP (internet protocol) packets that are exchanged between two computers – a server and an end user. Before packets reach their destination to be reassembled, they must traverse a series of routers and switches that determine the best path for them, based on the information contained in each packet header.
DPI equipment mimics the ‘reading’ function of routers and switches, and can also look into each packet’s payload, which holds the data being exchanged.

Western reticence

Privacy advocates – particularly in North America and Europe – have been vocal about the fact that installing DPI hardware and software may give Internet service providers the ability to monitor all email, Web-based and audiovisual content going through their networks.
Shira Levine, directing analyst for next-generation operational support systems and policy at Infonetics Research, remembers how Virgin Media in the UK was heavily criticised last year after it said it would trial DPI technology to detect copyright infringement among its file-sharing customers.
‘Even that application,’ says Levine, ‘which you certainly couldn’t argue would be a violation of privacy as copyright protection is a legal mandate, created a lot of uproar. There’s been a significant perception in [Western] markets linking DPI with a ‘Big Brother’ technology. I think that’s really limiting operator investment in those countries.’
Privacy concerns are just one of the factors limiting DPI take-up in the Western hemisphere. Another is the net-neutrality debate. When the first DPI systems started to be marketed in the early 2000s, operators used them to perform network traffic optimisation. But since this involved making a number of assumptions about the value of certain types of packets and prioritising traffic accordingly, net-neutrality supporters (and, in some countries, communications regulators) asked for limits on their use.
That’s the end of the matter, then – the DPI industry has no future, right? Well, from a global market worth less than $250m in 2009, sales of standalone DPI gear (which currently account for more than 90 per cent of the market) will surge to $1.5bn by 2014, according to Infonetics.
‘There’s a lot of growth potential in some of the emerging markets,’ says Levine, such as the Middle East and Asia.
So, with Western demand for DPI inhibited, is it the more authoritarian states in the East that are buying the technology to control what residents are able to view on the internet?
Well, it’s one thing to say that governments which censor online content are probably using DPI tools to do so. It’s another to assert that this is driving the strong growth in demand. ‘I don’t see that being a huge driver at the moment,’ says Levine. ‘I’m not ruling it out going forward, though.’

From cyber security to targeted services

So what is driving demand? E&T put that question to Procera Networks, one of the top three suppliers of standalone DPI products, together with Sandvine and Allot.
‘If I look specifically at the Middle East, they’re pretty far along when it comes to service packaging, which is probably why we’re seeing a more rapid increase in that market than in many others,’ says Jon Linden, Procera’s vice president of global marketing.
Levine agrees, and explains what service packaging involves: ‘There’s less of a concern about privacy in those markets. So a lot of operators are looking at combining DPI with their policy and charging-control system to create value-added services – really being able to identify what the subscriber is doing and then turning that [data] into marketing and loyalty opportunities.
‘It’s about understanding and addressing the needs of the subscribers,’ says Dan Joe Barry, vice president of marketing at Napatech, which claims to have developed the most advanced programmable network adapters for traffic analysis and application offloading for wireless broadband operators.
‘There’ll be a period when you’ll have to monitor how they are using their services to build up an idea of what these guys like, what their needs are, how they use their service,’ Barry says. ‘Then, a dialogue can be established where you could say: ‘Look, I know that you use Facebook a lot – would you like a service where Facebook is prioritised so you can get a really good service for that [on your mobile]?”
Another emerging DPI application that Middle Eastern and Asian operators are keen on is lawful interception and cyber-security. ‘There is a need for anti-terrorism and other public security agencies to be able to go in and see what’s going on in the networks,’ says Barry.
‘Consumers have the idea that whatever I send is going to be encapsulated and nobody will be able to see what I’m sending. Well, that’s not going to be the case. And we don’t want it to be the case,’ he says, ‘because we want to be able to protect the network.’
Levine adds that some countries have specific government mandates that require communications providers to be able to filter or block traffic: ‘In some parts of Asia, for example, Skype traffic is blocked. So, quite often, it’s government mandates that are driving DPI investments.’

Scale, scale and scale

Whether it is for network security, traffic shaping or value-added service creation, many of the applications for DPI rely on combining fast microelectronics systems capable of processing the vast amounts of traffic that wireline and wireless networks are currently experiencing with software smart enough to make sense of the captured packets by comparing them with sophisticated data banks.
Only then can the network generate automated responses. It is what Procera calls ‘intelligent policy enforcement’.
‘We’ve been working with service provider deployments since 2001, and capacity is always a big question,’ says Linden.
Indeed, if a broadband operator is going to authorise a piece of equipment to sit in the packet path, it will face numerous questions about the product’s ability to operate transparently, without compromising network performance.
In the case of Procera, its DPI product will introduce a worst-case latency of 0.1ms, which Linden claims is a very impressive performance. But he admits: ‘We have to scale, and scale and scale to accommodate that [operators] are constantly building up their networks.’
Napatech’s Barry says his company’s DPI network adaptors, which can run at 10Gbit/s, don’t interfere at all with network performance, as the connection they are inspecting will typically be tapped: ‘It’s essentially a tap on the connection that’s providing us with a copy of everything that’s going past.’
Asked whether an ISP operating in a country where there’s government pressure to censor Internet traffic could use DPI to that end, Barry replies: ‘Of course you could. But you’ve always had that possibility anyway. I mean, you could tap telephone calls’ this is not a technology breakthrough. It’s been possible for a long time to do these sorts of things. You could have that fear, but it’s a question of trust. Do you trust that your carrier is interested in providing you with a better service?’

Further information

Mobile carriers warm up to DPI

The deep-packet-inspection market for communication service providers (there are parallel markets for the enterprise and government sectors) may be growing most noticeably in the Middle East and Asia, but it is also gaining some traction in other countries.
Analyst Shira Levine from Infonetics Research says the technology is increasingly being used by wireless carriers in North America and Western Europe. ‘Operators are less likely to want to talk about it – that’s the critical difference,’ she notes. ‘And, honestly, they’re using it for more basic traffic-management applications, not necessarily for some of the cooler applications such as value-added services.’
Part of that secretive attitude towards DPI may have started to change during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this February. Just before the event, DPI equipment vendor Procera Networks managed to get one of its European mobile operator customers to endorse its equipment.
Commenting on its experience using a 30Gbit/s intelligent policy enforcement appliance from Procera, Jörgen Askeroth, the chief technology officer of 3 Scandinavia, praised the product performance before adding that it was ‘business-critical to us by ensuring a positive customer experience and integration with billing’.