Help stop software patents in Europe (and, less urgently, in the US)

So in case you haven’t heard, some really evil laws are on the verge of passing across the Atlantic in the European Union, see FFII’s page on Software Patents in Europe. Basically, there is a push to increase regulation of software patents, which could conceivably destroy Open Source software such as Linux. Software patents are inherently bad, because in practice software patents are never for a specific implementation of a concept. Software patents are generally for such sweeping concepts such as Amazon’s one-click shopping, or right-clicking to get a menu. What happens from an economic standpoint is that this reduces competition in a ridiculous fashion. Here’s my question: who should make a product? The person who implements an idea best, or the person who thinks of it first? Clearly it is in society’s interest for the first person to produce the good. However, it is also important for there to be people to produce ideas, and people may not bother inventing things if they cannot get compensation for their time and energy. So clearly we must allow the inventors to capture enough of the value of their idea to make it worth their while to create. On the other hand, the inventors have to earn their keep. They shouldn’t just be able to sit back in a comfy chair and extort money from people who are actually creating things. And they definitely shouldn’t be able to patent things that are obvious to anyone who works in the field. Patents are necessary to some extent, but some things do not deserve patents, and patent powers must be limited if we are to have a free market instead of a monopoly-dominated corporate aristocracy.

This is terribly relevant to the open source movement, because since many programs are created through volunteer work, and given away for free, it would be ridiculous to ask free software programmers to pay off patent holders. Most projects could not afford this extortion. There are also many side issues that I could remember for you if it wasn’t 1:47 AM. Maybe I’ll put in an update later, but for now, yeah, read

Just relaxing in the dorm today

I’m finally getting settled in here at college. Classes start on Monday, so I’m working on getting everything ready for the schoolyear. My computer has not been cooperating in my drive to get organized: the college network has gone down multiple times because of all of the Windows worms. Now our technicians won’t let anyone back on the network until their computer has been given a clean bill of health by the dorm tech. This horde of viruses demonstrates yet another reason Microsoft is bad for our country: as any good farmer knows, a monoculture is bad, because it is vulnerable to disease. This remains true whether the monoculture is an entire state sown with a single strain of corn, or an entire nation’s computers running on a single, monolithic operating system. If we allow Microsoft to hold a complete monopoly, every time a virus appears, the whole internet will crash. This is entirely unacceptable in the era of e-commerce, and I hope that businessmen will begin to understand the danger of losing diversity in our computing environments.
In other news, there was an incredible thunderstorm here right before I was about to take a shower, so I jumped around out in the rain with a bunch of my hallmates while wearing just my towel, and then I ran upstairs and got nice and hot and steamy in the shower. I really wish I could have just gone out naked, so that my towel wouldn’t get prematurely wet, but that might have been impolite.
Big shoutout to Andrew Abdalian! Andrew, my former quadmate, just moved in down the street from me, so I’m sure I’ll be dropping in on him on my way to and from campus, whether he likes it or not 🙂 I am in Woolman, by the way, which is up the hill from campus, and it is therefore very convenient for riding to class on my bike. Andrew is in Whittier, one of the new dorms that has spontaneously appeared as a result of the housing crunch. So yeah, come visit me folks, Woolman is fun! I’m here! And so is Kermit 🙂

Open mike night in Philly

Well, so I decided to go to an open mike night at The Fire bar and grill in Philadelphia. I asked everyone from the play if they wanted to come along, but despite some apparent enthusiasm everyone canceled. So I went anyway. It was pretty cool, I met some girls on the train on the way there. There was a freshman here and her friend from Bryn Mawr, and a random high schooler from Morton, who was especially cool because she happened to be on the train back home as well, so I didn’t get bored and fall asleep and miss my stop. Thanks Kat, I owe you one. Yeah, any night in which I meet girls is not wasted 🙂 Aside from my raging hormones, I also had a good time playing at The Fire. There were some really amazing musicians there, I bought a CD and I intend to buy more. The first person I ran into there was Ben Garvey, who hosts an open mike night somewhere in South Jersey and is also a computer geek, which makes him extra cool. Basically I hung out with him and some random girl because the 3 of us hadn’t been there before, and we were super-early, as in about an hour early. Ben has finally convinced me that it is a good idea to buy a guitar tuner. I’ve always thought that it would be really hard core if I could tune my guitar by ear, but I think I need to train my ear more, because my 2nd string always sounds out of tune either on the open string or higher up the fretboard. I had thought that that must mean that my guitar needs servicing. I was of course incorrectly attributing my mistakes to my equipment. Ben whipped out his electric tuner and had my guitar tuned perfect in seconds, it sounded better than it had in a while. I also saw Birdie, who really impressed me. And now I’m really bloody tired, so I’ll hit the sack. Gnnight!