UNIX Timeline Project -- Grokline's Status

Friday, May 21 2004 @ 11:11 AM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

No doubt you are wondering about what happened to the promised launch of the UNIX timeline project. Here is what happened. First, it will go live, probably on Monday, but not here on Groklaw. We will link from here to the timeline site, www.grokline.net. It's not there yet, so don't go there until Monday.

This is such a huge and complex project that MathFox needed to design software to do what we needed doing. It isn't something Geeklog can handle on Groklaw, and so I asked OSRM to host it, in part because I want the project on a server we don't share and have complete control over, and they have kindly agreed to do so, although our work is ours and will be released under a Creative Commons license for the world to enjoy and use. I also thought of some last-minute questions I wanted to ask a patent attorney prior to launch, so we can do our planning as effectively as possible.

This week, we also thought of some ways to make retrieving the information we collect a little easier, with a finer granularity, and that is what is being worked on now. John Crowley, who is doing the design work, came up with some usability improvements, which we also want to implement before we launch.

I noted in the news recently that Microsoft hired a patent attorney away from IBM, and I doubt they did that without a purpose. I am trying to figure out how best to design Grokline so as to block that purpose, as best we can. I, like you, believe that the SCO attack is just the first shot across the bow, and that patents will be the next weapon, perhaps using some other SCO-like proxy. Here's an article that relates to what I am thinking might just be one part of the general plan, ironically enough on MSNBC. I believe Grokline can help in that battle, much in the way Groklaw has helped and will continue to help in the first.

So the plan now is to launch version 0.1 of Grokline, so to speak, on Monday, and then ask you for your input and any ideas for any improvements. I am very conscious that no one is as smart as all of us together, so I look forward to your input. We'll continue tweaking, as needed. If any of you are data architects, I'd like to hear from you.

You might find PCPro's article on IBM's latest filings pertinent to this discussion:

"Indeed Greg Aharonian, who runs Patnews and the www.patenting-art.com site thinks that copyrights in software are a non-starter in the first place. 'Software copyright is so illogical that it affords little to no protection for software, if you understand the law... Software is too much functionality, utility, processes, methods [and] ideas, all governing aspects of software explicitly denied copyright protection.'"

There is a link to a paper by Mr. Aharonian, with a handy list of cases on copyright. Obviously, the SCO case is an attempt to broaden the definition of what copyright can protect in software, not only in the IBM case but most particularly in the AutoZone lawsuit, but the real battle, in my opinion, since I expect them to lose the copyright battle, will be patents. The Anderer memo showed us that SCO is likely just a stand-in for those who wish to block GNU/Linux. We have seen that there are those willing to misuse the courts as an anticompetitive weapon. The ADTI book demonstrates that the dark side is willing to unfairly smear the reputation of an honorable man. Andy Tanenbaum contacted me to let me know that there is an update on his web site, in which he provides even more clarity to his position and states plainly once again that Linus did write Linux. Also, he heard from Linus, and Mr. Brown never even contacted Linus in connection with this book. Can you imagine?

"In his email, Linus said that Brown never contacted him. No email, no phone call, no personal interview. Nothing. Considering the fact that Brown was writing an explosive book in which he accused Linus of not being the author of Linux, you would think a serious author would at least confront the subject with the accusation and give him a chance to respond. What kind of a reporter talks to people on the periphery of the subject but fails to talk to the main player?"

I also wanted to share with you a new search engine, or new to me anyway, that searches just for scientific information on the Internet. It's called Scirus, and when I searched for patents, here is what it found. Enjoy. And there is an article on the ADTI mess on IT Business that sums up like this:

"Prentice Hall could use the Tocqueville Institution report as the basis for a lawsuit, but not if it has been watching SCO, whose courtroom antics recently earned it a place in Business 2.0's 'What Doesn't Work' section. What these scandals do, in the long term, is create a culture of fear that could leave the next generation of innovators too paralyzed to develop their ideas. If we are truly living within what the report's author depressingly calls an 'intellectual property economy,' we better start distinguishing what constitutes creativity and what's a rip-off. No, Linux did not come fully-formed out of some vaccuum, but by using this feeble strategy to undermine him, Torvald's critics are stealing from the best."

So, if this is the opponent and these are their methods, and if patents are next, then that is what we need to begin thinking about, and I am.

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