Tag: open source

Hacking Ventilators | Motherboard

Credit – Cathryn Virginia

We’ve talked about manufacturers limiting their customers’ ability to work on their own machines and devices before. They use all sorts of excuses, ranging from copyright to deep concern for their customers’ safety, when it’s really a deep desire for their customers’ money. Farmers have pushed back by trying to circumvent the measures used to lock them out. An entity called iFixit is working steadily on finding ways to fix everything and share them with the public. There have been small victories along the way.

Now there’s a new atrocity showing itself. The people manufacturing the ventilators essential to saving lives are trying to make it impossible to repair and re-use them. In this time when we’re supposed to all be in this together, they’re in it for themselves. This is what happens when we let them excuse themselves by saying that their only responsibility is to their shareholders.

Medical care providers are fighting back by hacking ventilators to get them working again. A few quotes from the article at Motherboard:

As COVID-19 surges, hospitals and independent biomedical technicians have turned to a global grey-market for hardware and software to circumvent manufacturer repair locks and keep life-saving ventilators running.

You can’t just take the working parts from different machines to make a working ventilator.

… a functional monitor swapped from a machine with a broken breathing unit to one with a broken monitor but a functioning breathing unit won’t work if the software isn’t synced.

These fixers have taken a page from the John Deere tractor owners who had to hack their machines to get their work done.

This grey-market, international supply chain is essentially identical to one used by farmers to repair John Deere tractors without the company’s authorization and has emerged because of the same need to fix a device without a manufacturer’s permission.

It’s getting harder.

… newer medical devices have more advanced anti-repair technologies built into them. Newer ventilators connect to proprietary servers owned by manufacturers to verify that the person accessing it is authorized by the company to do so.

There’s a lot more in the Motherboard article, both infuriating and encouraging. Go ahead.

rjb

Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair

Credit: ShakataGaNai CC-BY-SA – tap for big

If you have been following this blog, then you know that I have posted several times about the right to repair movement, and the despicable behavior of some vendors who would rather you couldn’t. I wrote about how John Deere was abusing their customers, and how the farmers were pushing back. I wrote about how farmers were using ‘unauthorized’ software to work on their tractors. I wrote about how iFixit is leading the way in the fight for the right to repair. And about a small victory that means people can work on their own cars now. We’ve seen the problem: vendors who treat their customers like mere users of their products, with no ownership rights. And we’ve seen good-hearted people pushing back, to the point where some jurisdictions are developing legislation to give people the right to repair their own stuff. Now the pushback is going in the other direction. The manufacturers have hired lobbyists to try to convince the politicians to not enact the laws. They want to continue with the present system, where people buy something, it breaks, and they throw it away and buy something else. They don’t mind that people throw away so much stuff — Americans alone throw away over 400,000 cell phones per day — because it’s good for business to sell them more stuff to replace it. And, after all, they’re not responsible for anything besides their shareholders’ dividends. Their own convenient little sandbox, and everything outside of it is someone else’s responsibility. These are the paragons in our funny little world.

The battle lines were drawn at a hearing in New Hampshire last week for a proposed right to repair law, with supporters calling for economic justice for consumers and opponents warning of crime and injury should the law pass.

… the proposed legislation would stifle commerce, leave New Hampshire consumers vulnerable to cyber crime and even physical harm at the hands of clueless owners and inexperienced or unethical repair professionals.

The proposed legislation in New Hampshire would

… require original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) that do business in New Hampshire to make the same documentation, parts and tools available to device owners and independent repair professionals as they make available to their licensed or “authorized” repair professionals.

and

… documentation, tools, and parts needed to reset product (software) locks or digital right management functions following maintenance and repair would also need to be made available to owners and independent repair professionals on “fair and reasonable terms.”

That’s all. If you want to do business in New Hampshire, then treat your customers right. But the lobbyists paint a different picture.

… repairs performed by the owners of lawn equipment, electronics and home appliances or independent repair professionals carry serious economic, safety and security risks.

They go on to outline the risks, painting a picture of economic decline, grievous bodily injury and death. I think you get the idea. For full details, I recommend following the link to the article at Security Ledger, as well as a supplementary article at the US Public Interest Research Group website.

via In Granite State: Industry Groups Paint Dark Picture of Right to Repair | The Security Ledger

rjb

The Grateful Dead and Creative Commons

Image by: Lisa Padilla – CC BY-SA

Could the Grateful Dead have been using Creative Commons principles decades ahead of time? This Matthew Helmke article from opensource.com makes the connection.

Although many bands at the time allowed fans to record shows, the Grateful Dead took the idea a step further. Fans who purchased “tapers’ tickets” were given access to a special area located near the soundboard. The band even encouraged tapers to share their recordings, as long as no profits were made on the sale of their tapes.

Creative Commons took inspiration from the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and its GNU General Public License (GNU GPL). Their goal is to find ways to use private rights for public good and to set creative works free, but only for certain uses.

Creative Commons has come up with a set of licenses that keep the power over creative works in the hands of creators while also freeing the content to be used in ways that modern copyright law forbids, much like the Grateful Dead did with their creative ticketing and taping permissions.

In the end, we get a legal means of fulfilling the freedom that the Grateful Dead allowed its fans, without gray areas that could lead to problems such as those that the Internet Archive had with the soundboard recordings of Grateful Dead concerts. This legal murkiness blocked access to those recordings for some time, although they are now available.

So the Grateful Dead has maintained a long and successful career using principles of openness and freedom that didn’t get formalized until much later in the Creative Commons licenses. I think it’s safe to say that the band would have used a CC license if they had been available at the time.

via What the Grateful Dead have in common with the Creative Commons | Opensource.com

rjb

Wikipedia – The Free Online Encyclopedia

I have cited Wikipedia in many of my posts, and I’ve done it with no shame. Not everyone has shared my enthusiasm, though. Many people have used Wikipedia as an example of what is wrong with getting your information from the internet. They have disparaged its reliability, saying that anyone can contribute to it, so it can’t be a trusted authority. School teachers and college professors have even been known to ban and/or penalize its use, threatening to lower grades of offenders.

Teachers in middle school, high school and college drill it in to their students: Wikipedia is not a citable source. Anyone can edit Wikipedia, and articles can change from day to day — sometimes by as little as a comma, other times being completely rewritten overnight. “[Wikipedia] has a reputation for being untrustworthy,” says Thomas Shafee, a biochemist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

I remember trying to tell some of those people that they were being too negative about Wikipedia. That its accuracy rivaled that of traditional encyclopedias. Typically, I was rebuffed, sometimes angrily. Not even comparisons to the democratizing effect of the printing press could bring them around. I gave up trying to convince them, but I never gave up using Wikipedia. Now it looks as if those of us who support it will be vindicated.

With hundreds of thousands of scientific entries, Wikipedia offers a quick reference for the molecular formula of Zoloft, who the inventor of the 3-D printer is and the fact that the theory of plate tectonics is only about 100 years old. The website is a gold mine for science fans, science bloggers and scientists alike.

But even though scientists use Wikipedia, they don’t tend to admit it.

… the site’s unreliable reputation may be unwarranted. Wikipedia is not any less consistent than Encyclopedia Britannica, a 2005 Nature study showed (a conclusion that the encyclopedia itself vehemently objected to). Citing it as a source, however, is still a bridge too far.

Academic science may not respect Wikipedia, but Wikipedia certainly loves science. Of the roughly 5.5 million articles, half a million to a million of them touch on scientific topics. And constant additions from hundreds of thousands of editors mean that entries can be very up to date on the latest scientific literature.

The linked article describes studies that explore the influence science has on Wikipedia, and the influence Wikipedia has on science in return. There appear to be very good reasons why scientists and scholars and educators should try to get over their prejudice against the online encyclopedia.

It’s a good reason for scientists get in and edit entries within their expertise, Thompson notes. “This is a big resource for science and I think we need to recognize that,” Thompson says. “There’s value in making sure the science on Wikipedia is as good and complete as possible.” Good scientific entries might not just settle arguments. They might also help science advance. After all, scientists are watching, even if they won’t admit it.

via Wikipedia has become a science reference source even though scientists don’t cite it | Science News

Books Now in MOBI

After a very patient education by my friends on MobileRead, I have decided to make the books available in the mobi format. Contrary to my expectations, given its association with the Amazon Kindle, the mobi format has been freed, along with associated software. From Wikipedia:

Mobipocket SA is a French company incorporated in March 2000 that created the .mobi e-book file format and produces the Mobipocket Reader software for mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDA) and desktop operating systems.

The Mobipocket software package is free and consists of various publishing and reading tools for PDAs, smartphones, mobile phones, the e-readers Kindle and iLiad, and applications on devices using Symbian, Windows, Palm OS, Java ME and Psion.

This is a great relief to me because I no longer have to rely on external sources to provide Kindle users with copies of my books. I don’t have a Kindle, but I understand that they are able to use files encoded in the mobi format, so they aren’t completely tied to the Amazon book store. Now my readers who only have a Kindle ereader can get their copy with the least fuss possible.

I think that covers all the major formats now, for both the ebooks and the audiobooks.

rjb

%d bloggers like this: