Category Archives: Technology

Court rule against Sugar Beets.

90% of sugar beets are genitically modified by a process from Monsanto. The modification is to cause resistance to their proprietery product the herbicide/weedkiller  Roundup. Makes it easy for the farmers and sells a lot of Roundup™. The Environmental groups sued in court and won an injunction that prevent new crops using Genetically modified seed.

A US judge has ordered a ban on growing genetically modified beets in the United States until the Department of Agriculture fully investigates their environmental impact.

Judge Jeffrey White of the federal court in San Francisco, California, made the ruling on Friday. It bars new cultivation of the genetically modified beets, which represent 90 percent of the US crop.

Claims are that the court ordered studies will take about 2 years.  Popular Science enumerates:

Friday’s ruling, by Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco, answers that lawsuit and appears to effectively ban new planting of the genetically modified sugar beets.

This year’s crop is not included, however, meaning beets in the ground will still be milled into sugar. The problems could start next year, because the sugar industry has said there are not enough non-genetically modified seeds to make up for the loss of GM ones, according to the New York Times.

I am confused and am left to wonder,” Why can’t they study the environmental impact using the current crops?” GM foods have always proven genetically safe before. I don’t know why Sugar beets should be different. The food police should be happy also, Sugar will be more expensive. The whole thing has left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Ray Bradbury has some thoughts.

Ray Bradbury reaches 90 years on the 22nd of this month,  He still has a lot to say about the world around him. He speaks out against Large government and not being accountable to the citizens. I find it interesting that he lashes out against technology.

…  despite his passion for more national space projects, he is not  technology obsessive by any means.

“We have too many cellphones. We’ve got too many Internets. We have got to get rid of those machines. We have too many machines now.”

Bradbury wrote darkly about bookburning in “Fahrenheit 451,” but he sounds ready to use a Kindlefor kindling. “I was approached three times during the last year by Internet companies wanting to put my books” on an electronic reading device, he said. “I said to Yahoo, ‘Prick up your ears and go to hell.’ “

I guess at age 90 he isn’t real worried about the loss of sales by ignoring Kindle.   Oddly, I find myself pretty much agreeing with him..

Oracle Sues Google

The only certainty on this one is that some lawyers are sure to make money.

Lets see if I explain what this is all about. Sun Systems created Java, and released it to the world under the GPL license, GPL says the software is free, but after modifying it, it must remain free. and it must have the official GPL license attached to it.

The GPL is the first and foremost copyleft license, which means that derived works can only be distributed under the same license terms. Under this philosophy, the GPL grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the free software definition and uses copyleft to ensure the freedoms are preserved, even when the work is changed or added to. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses are the standard examples.

Google decided to use Java and to modify part of it called the run time virtual  machine to use in their Android mobile operating system. They licensed it under  the Apache License agreement. Which allows software developed using the new VM to be less than free and open sourced.

Like any free software license, the Apache License allows the user of the software the freedom to use the software for any purpose, to distribute it, to modify it, and to distribute modified versions of the software, under the terms of the license.

The Apache License, like BSD licenses, does not require modified versions of the software to be distributed using the same license (in contrast to copyleft licenses). In every licensed file, any original copyright, patent, trademark, and attribution notices in redistributed code must be preserved (excluding notices that do not pertain to any part of the derivative works); and, in every licensed file changed, a notification must be added stating that changes have been made to that file.

If a NOTICE text file is included as part of the distribution of the original work, then derivative works must include a readable copy of these notices (again, excluding notices not pertaining to any part of the derivative work), in at least one of three places: within a NOTICE text file distributed as part of the derivative works, within the source form or documentation, or within a display generated by the derivative works (wherever such third-party notices normally appear). The contents of the NOTICE file do not modify the license, as they are for informational purposes only, and adding more attribution notices as addenda to the NOTICE text is permissible, provided that these notices cannot be understood as modifying the license. Modifications may have appropriate copyright notices, and may provide different license terms for the modifications.

This breaks GPL agreement. Sun knew this but decide not to act, I believe they just didn’t see any reason too. Google must have realized they exposed themselves to litagation.  Red monk speculates:

In estimating the risks of such action, Google could have reasonably assumed that the probability of Sun suing them was near zero. Sun may have been unhappy, and may even have suspected that Google’s cleanroom reimplementation was anything but. The Vegas line would still have been decidedly tilted against Sun turning to legal action.

Maybe Sun’s reluctance to sue was financial. I’m personally skeptical of this claim – companies with failing financial fortunes in my experience are generally more inclined to seek legal remedies to their problems, not less – but Shankland’s sources are always good. Even if this were the case, however, Google couldn’t have assumed that would suffice as a shield. Instead, the search giant would have expected Sun to behave consistently with its past behavior and future interests. …

Sun, in other words, was not going to sue Google. And Google knew it.

After a while Sun who has been in financial trouble for years was bought up and taken over by Oracle. Oracle decides to sue. Why is  not exactly clear. Oracle is going to lose of confidence with Java users , who are likely top shy away from using Java at least until this is settled Oracle isn’t going to win any good will. Maybe there is some kind of arrangement with Apple hinted at by SiliconANGLE :

In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement…”

This unexpected move by Oracle sends a strong and threatening message to Google and the entire Android community—specifically that Oracle will use its intellectual property rights to get compensated for innovations around the exploding mobile marketplace. Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison is inserting himself in the middle of an ever-evolving battle between Google CEO (and former Apple Director) Eric Schmidt, Apple CEO Steve Jobs, a long-time friend of Ellison’s.

Like they say, “I am not a lawyer.”, and I don’t even begin to understand all thats going on.

Virus in Siemens SCADA/HMI Systems

Its hard to believe that anyone would put faith in a Industrial Process system running on Microsoft Windows. Eyecurrent, explains:

Microsoft has posted an advisory about a new virus that seems to be specifically targeting Siemens WinCC through a Windows security hole, although users of other software shouldn’t feel smug about that, because there might be other strains affecting systems from other vendors as well. According to reports, the virus spreads via USB, keys and fully patched versions of MS Windows 7 are vulnerable. This is NOT the familiar “auto-run” vulnerability, so you’re not safe just because you’ve turned that off.

The really interesting point is that this appears to be specifically targeting industrial controls, rather than just the usual attempts by spammers to take over home PCs for botnets. If you are using this type of software, this is probably a story to keep an eye on.

Here is a link to the Microsoft Security Advisory:

The saving grace is that these systems are typically firewalled and isolated from the real world.