Python trademark attacked

Python is an interesting programming language which I’m interested in learning. (It has some awesome features.) It has a long history in programming terms, having been first released to the world in 1991. It is released under a GPL-compatible Open Source and Free Software license.

And now it’s under attack:

There is a company in the UK that is trying to trademark the use of the term “Python” for all software, services, servers… pretty much anything having to do with a computer.

If you work for an EU company which uses Python, you can help. Please do.


Writing Signs (in Unicode)

Here’s a little article I wrote a while ago about signed languages, and the various efforts that have been used to make them writable. Sutton SignWriting is probably the most interesting. I have learned it a little (a very little). There is an interesting project to get Sutton SignWriting encoded into the Unicode specification, but nothing’s happened yet. The Unicode roadmap has left room for SignWriting, but the specific project Binary SignWriting has not yet been accepted. Trying to represent a complex script like Sutton SignWriting in Unicode is actually quite difficult.

Here’s an example of two Haikus translated into British Sign Language, with annotation. And here’s David Frost explaining why Sutton SignWriting is important.


“Apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device”

U.S. Patent No. 8,254,902 appears, from a quick scan, to be yet another “concept” patent, awarded not to an actual invention, but to a general idea. This is a bad thing in general, because it serves to stifle innovation, not to encourage it. (It is sometimes said, for example, that it is now completely impossible to design a method for encoding video without trespassing on many of the overly broad patents which exist in the area.)

In the specific case of this patent awarded to Apple, though, there are other problems:

What that means in real-terms is “preventing wireless devices from communicating with other wireless devices (such as in academic settings),” and for, “forcing certain electronic devices to enter “sleep mode” when entering a sensitive area.”

But the patented technology may also be used to restrict protesters’ right to free expression in oppressive regimes around the world — if you haven’t checked recently, there’s plenty of them — by preventing camera images and video being taken at political rallies and events.

Because while Apple may patent the technology, it would not be they who threw the switch.

Of course, this invention would not, in actuality, force phones or other mobile devices to shut down or to disable certain functions. What it would do is send a signal telling the phone to turn off the camera. So make sure your phone ignores those signals. This is yet another reminder that we control our destiny better by supporting Free Software.


Munich Supercomputer

A new supercomputer in Munich is efficiently cooled with hot water, instead of air. This saves a remarkable amount of energy. It is efficient, cheap, and environmentally friendly.

This computer will be used by scientists around Europe, collaborating on studies of earthquakes.

The field of supercomputers, incidentally, is ruled by Linux


Design for third-party login

It’s becoming increasingly common for websites to allow you to log in using your account on another site: third-party login. This uses protocols such as Facebook Connect and OpenID. But this post isn’t about how it actually works under the hood. It’s about the user experience. How should third-party login be presented to the user? And how do other people do it?