Home and thriving, but it takes longer

View from Chaos Manor, Thursday, January 15, 2015


Went to Kaiser, took all morning but the verdict is in – I am all right but everything takes longer. So it goes. Physical therapist here just after we got home – pharmacy out there took forever to get one bottle of standard pills. PT was lovely young lady who grew up in Memphis of all places. And gave me a pile of exercises to do daily.  Slowly I recover.  Well it seems slow to me, but actually the therapists say it is quite rapid.  After all, I never got mu balance back after the 50,000 RAD cancer treatment, which finished the tumor.

Thought I might get to LASFS tonight but the fan club as to wait a week…  Just too tired.  Larry and  Wendy will be over tomorrow…   


President Obama has acknowledged this problem but, again, at a high level of abstraction. “The question . . . is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works,” he said in his first Inaugural Address. “Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day.”

But no programs have ended since January 2009. Is it because all of them work?


. This sums up the situation of growing government nicely. Government programs last forever. Das Buros steht immer. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, per omnia secula seculorum.

Similarly, teacher unions say they protect only the competent, but few incompetents – in LA 10 in eleven years among 30,000 – are ever found. No one gets fired, money is spent, and the kids learn nothing, so they go to college and learn less. Now they are debtors forever, and the beat goes on. They have to turn to government, which will bail them out, by raising taxes and paying themselves big salaries and big sure pensions they could get nowhere else.

Of course eventually you run out of money.

It is predictable and was predicted. Salve sclave.


RE: Google pushes to take Oracle Java copyright


As a software developer, I have always felt that software, which describes a process for solving a problem, should be coverable by patents. This use of patents, however, has been restricted to covering fundamental ideas, like graphical user interfaces, many of which patents should not have been granted because these ideas were already common practice at the time.

That left copyright law to protect general software. It is not in my mind an ideal fit, but my intellectual property deserves some protection or it has no market value what-so-ever. Then I go hungry and so do my children. Not good.

Copyright law, as currently implemented, is rather silent about licensing standard-essential property whereas patent law specifically recognizes standard-essential property. Patent law demands that the holders of patents for technology required to abide by a recognized industry standard (such as IEEE-802.3 for wired Ethernet or IEEE-802.11 for wireless Ethernet) are themselves required to license without prejudice and at a standard price to all who wish to manufacture devices complying with the industry standard. There is no such prevision in copyright law, allowing holders of copyrights over software the right to NOT sell to anyone or to sell at whatever price they wish to each entity wishing to use the copyrighted IP.

The case in question revolves around what Google did when it created Android (Well, Android, Inc. created Android and Google bought Android, Inc…). While Android is based upon Linux, Google wanted the apps running on Android to be written in Java and they wanted a Java JVM to run on top of Android to handle the execution of these apps. Google found that Java was not friendly to mobile devices as they did not have the memory or mass storage capabilities that the Java architecture requires to run well.

Remember the Spirit fiasco on Mars.

Rather than completely abandoning the approach, they re-wrote the Java JVM to be friendly to small devices, calling the result Dalvik. Dalvik is not the open source Java core, but it is based upon it. It does implement the Java API pretty faithfully, but Google diverged from that API where it suited their needs. Android and all of its components are open source. Android is also freeware. It sounds, at least, like fair use of open source software.

I find the case of Oracle trying to claim copyright over the Java API to be dubious as they have placed Java into the market as open source and as an industry standard. It is not, however, a standard recognized by any national or international governing body (e.g. IEEE, ISO, etc.). It is open source, or at least, most of it is. Sun Microsystems completed putting all of the Java they owned into open source in 2007, before Sun was acquired by Oracle. Open source, however, does not mean that anyone if free to redistribute Java tools developed by Oracle, such as the JDK or the JVM. That still needs to be licensed for commercial use.

Oracle has taken exception to Google’s use of the Java ‘standard’. Since Google does not use the JVM (it uses Dalvik), Oracle’s only approach to getting at Google is to claim abuse of copyright on its Java API, which Google largely used intact. The decision that API’s are copyrightable leaves Google with a very weak "fair use" defense. I see it as weak, because fair use has never allowed anyone to widely redistribute copyrighted material for free.

Should API’s be copyrightable? Probably, because they can’t be patented and IP deserves market protection. Do we need a way to manage copyrighted material that is standard-essential in the market place? Most definitely. Should the Java API, which has been put into the open source space, be copyrightable? Probably not. Open source distribution means that anyone can make as many copies as they want and give it away for free. It means that new code can be written based upon the open source and be given away for free as widely as desired. This seems incompatible with copyright protection. Did the court decision say that the Java API was not open source? Did the court even consider the nature of open source?

As a developer, I realize that recognizing copyright protection for industry standard APIs, absent a rule under copyright for handling standard-essential IP, is a disaster. I also recognize that the court’s decision has a terrible impact on the meaning of open source. If I base popular work on open source software, do I risk being sued for copyright infringement? IP protection needs to be re-thought and re-implemented.

Kevin L Keegan


It is generally known that when Oracle (aka One Raving Ass Called Larry Ellison) went to acquire Sun, the main goal was to monetize Java, and only reluctantly dealing with Sun’s dwindling hardware business. Android developers write in Java, then run the resultant code through a converter to create Android-compatible bytecode for its VM (Dalvik). Android’s need to create a counterpart VM was then-Sun’s insistence on licensing for mobile Java.

Oracle is trying to levy a reverse-engineering tax on Google for their ingenuity in avoiding the mobile Java licensing terms. Imagine the state of the industry had IBM done this back in the 80s to Phoenix, AMI etc for the PC BIOS, or AT&T/Novell to Linus Torvalds for reverse-engineering the UNIX APIs for Linux. In a previous life I made my living reverse-engineering 3270 terminal controllers for a third-party firm made up mainly of former IBM engineers from Triangle Park NC; they’d have been sued out of existence in this scenario.

If this went in Oracle’s favor, most coding would be brought to a screeching halt for re-implementing anything previously done by anyone, anywhere, in the last 70+ years (modulo the successor to the Sonny Bono copyright law).

Robert Halloran

Wow, followup to the previous item: EFF has submitted an amicus brief in support of Google with a list of names looking like a Who’s Who from the Computer Science Hall of Fame: Vint Cerf, Ken Thompson (UNIX), Bjarne Stroustrup (C++) , Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger and Brian Kernighan (the A, W and K in UNIX’ awk), Alan Kay and Peter Deutsch (Smalltalk), Brendan Eich (Javascript), Ed Felten and Bruce Schneier (security), Mitch Kapor (Lotus), Ray Kurtweil, Tim Paterson (86-DOS); https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-computer-scientists-scotus  

Robert Halloran


One of my earliest columns in BYTE – about 1982 – included a conversation with my mad friend Dan Mac Lean on copyright vs. patents in software.  Just what is patentable?  But code is not the same as stories.



Buck up! Good reading ahead!


Sci Phi Journal on Amazon!

David Couvillon

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work

Thanks.  Indeed



Dear Dr. Pournelle,

I’m glad you are out of the hospital and are recovering well.

I thought you might appreciate this feel-good story; Marines foil a robbery in progress, being careful not to mess up their dress blues.



Brian P.



Robert Kinoshita, RIP.


Roland Dobbins


Sisi’s Brave New Egypt?



Roland Dobbins

‘A federal researcher points out George III couldn’t suspend laws — as many say Obama just did.’


Roland Dobbins



Jerry, on your blog, you said:

It did sound a bit fuzzy to me, but it’s a bit out of my field. So what did happen? Just change in direction of a beam? That happens all the time.

Well, I’m an astronomer/astrophysicist by education and experience, so it’s right in my field. And if anything unusual happened at all — I haven’t gotten hold of the full article from the Astrophysical Journal yet, let alone had time to read it in full, so I can’t say that ANYthing unusual happened yet, although the news media seem to think so — then it was a simple (well, perhaps not so simple, depending on your point of view) case of spacetime distortion from the powerful gravity fields causing a gravitational lensing effect that essentially changed the direction of the pulsar beam.

If I should find out any more info, I will let you know asap.

Stephanie Osborn

Interstellar Woman of Mystery


The general public ‘science’ article published by the Inquisitor about the disappearing pulsar drew upon another general public science article published by Popular Science. The Popular Science interpretations of the science were quite liberally reinterpreted by the Inquisitor.

Nothing unusual happened to pulsar J1906. It is NOT beaming its signal somewhere else in time, just somewhere else in space. We detect pulsars as pulsars because spinning neutron stars that are accreting mass from another object produce jets at points perpendicular to the accretion disk, a plane determined by the neutron star’s magnetic field, not by its spin axis. Just like on the Earth, the magnetic poles on a neutron star seldom align with the spin axis of the neutron star, so as the neutron star rotates (at up to 30 times per second), the jets emitted at the poles are swept though space like a lighthouse. If those jets happen to illuminate the Earth, we detect them as pulsars. We can only detect pulsars that happen to aim at the Earth at some point in their rotation. Most pulsars never do, so we do not detect them, though we can estimate their number given the number of pulsars we have found.

Precession happens to any spinning object whose rotation axis is not vertical. As children, we see this as the wobble of our toy tops when we nudge them away from vertical while they spin. Newton provided a means of predicting the rate of precession for our toy tops, so we call this Newtonian precession. When you get up to objects of significant mass, such as the Earth, scientists like to differentiate the precession of these objects by calling it geodetic precession (see http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/geodetic/). While it is difficult to define ‘vertical’ in open space, a rotating mass produces a bulge at its equator, making it wider and more massive around its equator than it is around its poles. The Earth has this issue. The gravitational influences of the Moon and the Sun would like to keep that bulge at the Earth’s equator in the plane of the Moon’s orbit around the Earth and in the plane of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun. The two are not coincident, so they are each pulling on the Earth’s bulge in different directions at different times. Also, the Earth’s spin axis is tilted 26 degrees to it solar orbital plane, likely by a large impact over 4 billion years ago. All of this leads the Earth to have an approximately 26,000 year precession. If we beamed a laser straight up in the sky from the North spin pole, it would strike the star we currently call Polaris. A few thousand years now, it will strike a different star. At some point in the time between, any observers watching Earth from Polaris will see our laser beam wink out. Disappear. Did the Earth just vanish? No. Did our laser beam go somewhere else in time? No.

What is complicating the Inquisitor interpretation is a misunderstanding of geodetic precision. Scientists make this distinction because large rotating masses alter their precession rates in a significant way due to the effects of gravity. In 1916, W. de Sitter used general relativity to predict that when a mass rotates, it actually rotates the spacetime around it as well. Think of it as a twisting effect, as would happen if you spun a bowling ball on a rubber sheet. This is called frame dragging. If a spinning mass is precessing, then frame dragging will have an effect on the rate of precession. It will not, though, allow the rotating object to send signals to other times.

What was observed with pulsar J1906 was geodetic precession shifting the axis of rotation away from the Earth, thus rendering the pulsar undetectable. While it may be the first time we have observed a pulsar doing this, it is not going to re-write the physics text books. Even without the effects of general relativity, this pulsar, and ALL of the other pulsars we currently observe, will eventually become undetectable as pulsars from the Earth as precession moves their rotation axes. Geodetic precession just predicts the when of this better than Newtonian precession. According to the Popular Science article, geodetic precession predicts that pulsar J1906 will be observable as a pulsar from the Earth again in just 160 years.

Kevin L Keegan


One advantage of being me is that I generally know someone who someone – or several – who  does know.  Pity this is probably a fairly standard observation among pulsars






Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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