I am submitting a comment to Wen Wen and Chris Forman's Viewpoint on the Communications of the ACM, titled Economic and business dimensions: Do patent commons and standards-setting organizations help navigate patent thickets?. I believe my comment is worth sharing a bit more openly, so here it goes. Nevertheless, please refer to the original article; it makes very interesting and valid points, and my comment should be taken as an extra note on a great text only!
I was very happy to see an article with this viewpoint published. This article, however, mentions some points I believe should be further stressed out as problematic and important. Namely, still at the introduction, after mentioning that patents «are intended to provide incentives for innovation by granting to inventors temporary monopoly rights», the next paragraph continues, «The presence of patent thickets may create challenges for ICT producers. When introducing a new product, a firm must identify patents its product may infringe upon.»
The authors continue explaining the needed process — But this simple statement should be enough to explain how the patent system is broken and needs repair.
A requisite for patenting an invention was originally the «inventive» and «non-obvious» characteristics. Anything worth being granted a patent should be inventive enough, it should be non-obvious to an expert in the field.
When we see huge bodies of awarded (and upheld) patents falling in the case the authors mention, it becomes clear that the patent applications were not thoroughly researched prior to their patent grant. Sadly, long gone are the days where the United States Patent and Trademarks Office employed minds such as Albert Einstein's; nowadays, the office is more a rubber-stamping bureaucracy where most patents are awarded, and this very important requisite is left open to litigation: If somebody is found in breach of a patent, they might choose to defend the issue that the patent was obvious to an expert. But, of course, that will probably cost more in legal fees than settling for an agreement with the patent holder.
The fact that in our line of work we must take care to search for patents before releasing any work speaks a lot about the process. Patents are too easily granted. They should be way stricter; the occurence of an independent developer mistakenly (and innocently!) breaching a patent should be most unlikely, as patents should only be awarded to truly non-obvious solutions.
I am happy to share here a project I was a part of during last year, that ended up being a complete success and now stands to be repeated: The diploma course on embedded Linux, taught at Facultad de Ingeniería, UNAM, where I'm teaching my regular classes as well.
Back in November, we held the graduation for our first 10 students. This photo shows only seven, as the remaining three have already relocated to Guadalajara, where they were hired by Continental, a company that promoted the creation of this specialization program.
After this first excercise, we went over the program and made some adequations; future generations will have a shorter and more focused program (240 instead of 288 hours, leaving out several topics that were not deemed related to the topic or were thoroughly understood by students to begin with); we intend to start the semester-long course in early February.
I will soon update here with the full program and promotional material, as soon as I receive it. update (01-19): You can download the promotional information, or go to an (unofficial) URL with the full information. We are close to starting the program, so hurry!
I am specially glad that this course is taught by people I admire and recognize, and a very interesting mix between long-time academic and stemming from my free-software-related friends: From the academic side, Facultad de Ingeniería's professors Laura Sandoval, Karen Sáenz and Oscar Valdez, and from the free-software side, Sandino Araico, Iván Chavero, César Yáñez and Gabriel Saldaña (and myself on both camps, of course ☺)
OK, I already bragged that our book on Operating Systems is finally printed and has, thus, been formally published.
What I had not yet mentioned is how we planned its physical distribution. Yes, it is available for sale at some UNAM libraries... But coming to UNAM is sadly an option only for people who are in Mexico City.
I have been quite busy, and was unable to come up with anything earlier, but I have finally finished setting up a decent although minimal web page for the book. In it, I mention the possible ways you can get your own printed copy of Fundamentos de sistemas operativos:
- If you are in Mexico, the advised way is to call or mail the library at Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas — (+52-55)5623-0080 or email@example.com.
They will ship the book (they would ship it overseas, but it'd be too expensive!) and are able to process electronic payment opetions.
The book printed at UNAM has substantive part of its pages printed in color, and let me tell you... It's worth it.
- If you are not in Mexico or you prefer not to deal with a human, you can buy the book from the on-demand printing service lulu.com.
For cost reasons, it is printed in black and white, but it is the same content (minus two typos ;-) ). Lulu.com is an international company, so they will get it shipped to you cheaper and faster — And I have requested the book to be made available to libraries such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble (and was told it should take a couple of weeks to have it ready there).
(and please report me any bugs you see!)
Today I was refered to the publication of an "agreement" signed by my university's Rector: The Agreement that establishes the General Guidelines for the Open Access Policy of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
This is a document we have been waiting and pushing for throughout several years; I got involved in the Network of Digital Collections (Red de Acervos Digitales), RAD-UNAM back in 2011, and am honored to be its current coordinator, but this group has roots back in 2005. And, of course, by then several other people had been working on the topic without formal coordination.
Not only we are happy because the agreement explicitly mentions our group as one of The Venues for Open Access publishing and dissemination in UNAM. In its seventh point, it mentions:
In the matters of Open Access, academic entities and university dependencies have the following obligations:
VII. Promote and support the creation and maintenance of institutional repositories, as well as the deposit of the digital resources produced by its academic community, which should be incorporated into Red de Acervos Digitales de la UNAM
So... We have done a good job. And there will be surely more to follow!
I'm including here a copy of the agreement by itself (without the whole number of the Gaceta UNAM) because I will surely have to refer to it in the future.
Basically everybody who knows me is aware that, basically for the last two years, I have been writing a book on Operating Systems for use in my class — and, of course, in any similar class. Well, long story short, as of today:
What's that in my car trunk? Lets have a closer look.
Finally, Facultad de Ingeniería finished printing the book!
So... Well, some minor data points:
- The book is (and has been for some time already!) available online as a free download.
- If you want to derive from it or enhance future editions in any way, just clone it!.
- Want to get a physical copy? Great! It will soon (a week or so) be ready at both the Faculty's and the Institute's bookstores.
- But coming to UNAM is hard for you? Stay tuned. I have uploaded it to an on-demand printing service (Bubok), but its service is so dismally slow that I'll try it somewhere else. I'll keep you posted!
Anyway... Very happy here :D
A couple of months ago, I was invited to give the starting course for the Masters degree in Free Software in the Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar university. UASB is a multinational university, with campuses in (at least) Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Colombia; I was doubtful at first regarding the seriousness of this proposal and the viability of the program, but time made my doubts disappear.
Bolivia is going through an interesting process, as they have one of the strongest worded government mandates for migration to free software for the public administration in the next couple of years; this migration has prompted the interest of many professionals in the country. In particular, we have over 40 registered people for this Masters degree. Studying a Masters degree is a long-term commitment which signifies a big time investment, and although many of the student are quite new to the idea of free software, they are willing to spend this time (and money, as the university is privately owned and charges for its enrollment).
I gave this class together with Alejandro Miranda (a.k.a. @pooka), as we have a very good pair-teaching dynamics; we had already given many conferences together, but this is the first time we had the opportunity to share a whole course — and the experience was very good. We have read the students' logs, and many of them clearly agree with this.
I had to skip two of the (ten) lessons, as I travelled from Mexico to Argentina halfway through it (of course, we brought the babies to meet my wife's family and friends!), so we had also the honor of having Esteban Lima fill in for those sessions.
I am very happy and grateful that the University took care to record our presentations and intend to record and put online all of the classes; as we were the first in the program, there were some understandable hiccups and some sessions were lost, but most are available. Here they are, in case you are interested in refering to them:
|Topic||Video (my server)||Video (Youtube)|
|Introduction to free software||Watch||Watch|
|The effects of free software||Watch||Watch|
|Free software and open standards related to technologic soverignity||Watch (low)
|The free software ecosystem||Watch||Watch|
|Free software implementation in Bolivia||Watch||Watch|
|Introduction to intelectual property: Copyright, patents, trademarks, etc.||Watch||Watch|
|Who is "the community" and why do we speak about it?||Watch (low)
|Current status and challenges for the movement||Watch||Watch|
All in all: This was a great opportunity and a joy to do. I think the material we used and developed fit well what was expected from us, and we had fun giving somewhat heterodox readings on our movement.
[Update]: UASB uploaded some extra videos, with a much better quality! I added them to the table above, specifying (Low) or High whenever needed. Also, all classes are now available. Enjoy!
Today I feel more special than I have ever felt.
Or... Well, or something like that.
Thing is, there is no clear adjective for this — But I successfully finished my Specialization degree! Yes, believe it or not, today I can formally say I am Specialist in Informatic Security and Information Technologies (Especialista en Seguridad Informática y Tecnologías de la Información), as awarded by the Higher School of Electric and Mechanic Engineering (Escuela Superior de Ingeniería Mecánica y Eléctrica) of the National Polytechnical Institute (Instituto Politécnico Nacional).
In Mexico and most Latin American countries, degrees are usually incorporated to your name as if they were a nobiliary title. Thus, when graduating from Engineering studies (pre-graduate universitary level), I became "Ingeniero Gunnar Wolf". People graduating from further postgraduate programs get to introduce themselves as "Maestro Foobar Baz" or "Doctor Quux Noox". And yes, a Specialization is a small posgraduate program (I often say, the smallest possible posgraduate). And as a Specialist... What can I brag about? Can say I am Specially Gunnar Wolf? Or Special Gunnar Wolf? Nope. The honorific title for a Specialization is a pointer to null, and when casted into a char* it might corrupt your honor-recognizing function. So I'm still Ingeniero Gunnar Wolf, for information security reasons.
So that's the reason I am now enrolled in the Masters program. I hope to write an addenda to this message soonish (where soonish ≥ 18 months) saying I'm finally a Maestro.
As a sidenote, many people asked me: Why did I take on the specialization, which is a degree too small for most kinds of real work recognition? Because it's been around twenty years since I last attended a long-term scholar program as a student. And my dish is quite full with activities and responsabilities. I decided to take a short program, designed for 12 months (I graduated in 16, minus two months that the university was on strike... Quite good, I'd say ;-) ) to see how I fared on it, and only later jumping on the full version.
Because, yes, to advance my career at the university, I finally recognized and understood that I do need postgraduate studies.
Oh, and what kind of work did I do for this? Besides the classes I took, I wrote a thesis on a model for evaluating covert channels for establishing secure communications.
Guests in the Classroom: Felipe Esquivel (@felipeer) on the applications on parallelism, focusing on 3D animation
I love having guests give my classes :)
This time, we had Felipe Esquivel, a good friend who had been once before invited by me to the Faculty, about two years ago. And it was due time to invite him again!
Felipe knows his way around the different aspects of animation. For this class (2015-04-15), he explained how traditional ray-tracing techniques work, and showed clear evidences on the promises and limits of parallelism — Relating back to my subject and to academic rigor, he clearly shows the speed with which we face Amdahl's Law, which limits the efficiency of parallelization at a certain degree perprogram construct, counterpointed against Gustafson's law, where our problem will be able to be solved in better detail given more processing abilities (and will thus not hit Amdahl's hard ceiling).
Once again, on March 11 I had a great guest to save me some work and give a talk at my class! This time it was César Yáñez, and he talked about memory management algorithms, emphasizing on ARC.
Thanks a lot!
On November 14, as a great way to say goodbye to a semester, a good friend came to my class again to present a topic to the group; a good way to sum up the contents of this talk is "everything you ever wondered about persistent storage".
As people who follow my blog know, I like inviting my friends to present selected topics in my Operating Systems class. Many subjects will stick better if presented by more than a single viewpoint, and different experiences will surely enrich the group's learning.
So, here is Rolando Cedillo — A full gigabyte of him, spawning two hours (including two hiccups where my camera hit a per-file limit...).
Rolando is currently a RedHat Engineer, and in his long career, he has worked from so many trenches, it would be a crime not to have him! Of course, one day we should do a low-level hardware session with him, as his passion (and deep knowledge) for 8-bit arcades is beyond any other person I have met.
Last Wednesday I had the pleasure and honor to have a great guest again at my class: José María Serralde, talking about real time scheduling. I like inviting different people to present interesting topics to my students a couple of times each semester, and I was very happy to have Chema come again.
Chema is a professional musician (formally, a pianist, although he has far more skills than what a title would confer to him — Skills that go way beyond just music), and he had to learn the details on scheduling due to errors that appear when recording and performing.
The audio could use some cleaning, and my main camera (the only one that lasted for the whole duration) was by a long shot not professional grade, but the video works and is IMO quite interesting and well explained.