» No Upgrades Here.

I’m not sure if this is a political stunt by Microsoft, or if they are really going to go forward with it. If they are it is insane: By not giving Europeans the capability to upgrade their operating system, like it has done for more than twenty years and at the same time trying to put the blame on the European Commission for doing so (while not providing any specific reasons for doing so), Microsoft is really shooting itself in the foot; from a PR point of view it’s a pretty bad strategy that’s almost certainly going to backfire. At any rate, I feel so sorry for all those people that are going to want to upgrade from a poor OS like Vista to a mediocre one like Windows 7 and having to do a full reinstall [let alone pay the premium of getting the full version].

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» Web 3.0™. The Latest in EU Buzzwords.

Absolute BullIt’s not as if any government anywhere (let alone the European Commission) ever preempted technological innovation and successfully regulated it, before it even became reality. Take for example what happened with Biofuel in the EU. Or renewables. Or, as a matter of fact, the ‘net itself. So it actually begs the question: What on earth were the (seemingly clueless) bureaucrats that drafted this press release thinking when they coined their own pointless buzzword (as if there aren’t enough already) in ‘Web 3.0′ and proceeded in presenting their equally pointless milestones and grand vision, when the EU funding for broadband has rivalled Gore’s Information Superhighway in waste, frivolousness and incoherence?

In spite of the lack of substance in the press release, there are some good parts in the related Commission report, The Future Networks and the Internet. Nope, it’s not the internet of ‘things’ or ‘stimulating investment in high-speed broadband’ or — ironically — ‘building the net of the future’. Instead I found keeping the ‘net open and guaranteeing availability to be the most useful (and realistic) of the themes presented in the report. In any case, thinking about the future is commendable and could prove extremely wise; the way the Commission attempts to achieve it seems completely wrong and betrays ignorance of how and why technology such as the ‘net can have such a disruptive effect in society (hint: yep, lack of regulation definitely had something to do with it).

A public consultation on the ‘early challenges of the Internet of Things’ is open until the 28th of November.

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2008.09.16

Central planning and Research

Diomidis Spinellis wrote earlier today about the EUs planning priorities for research and how he thinks that’s bad for innovation. I agree with his thesis, but I find his complaint somewhat naïve.

Let me explain myself: If I could only give one reason to the question “What’s wrong with EU Funded Research?”, I don’t believe that ‘central planning’ would be it; sure, there are ‘themes’ that get adopted, promoted and subsequently funded by the Commission every few years in their respective FPs and this may be — as Diomidis claims — wasteful. Yet, historically, the United States, despite its overwhelming superiority in wealth, technology and the — now — more than obvious brain drain effect, has had the most prominent centrally planned academia of all developed countries by far. This goes to show that centrally planned research cannot be examined separately from the multitude of other variables involved when considering research funding, that there’s much more to blame besides planning when criticising EU Research and finally that planning per se is not a determining factor.

While I was at Imperial and in various discussions with colleagues and friends from the States, it was clear to me that research Stateside was prescribed in massive umbrella projects, whose funds trickled down the hierarchy, from professors, to post-docs and Ph.Ds; the freedom to choose what to work upon was severely constrained and the topics of research were more or less decided at a very high level where only the top of the academic hierarchy could have a say. This was especially true in the fields of science and technology where military and government programmes demanded specific outcomes, deadlines and themes.
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»  Οι Ιεραρχικές Παρεμβάσεις

Ο E-Lawyer γράφει για τη ανησυχία και την επερχόμενη παρέμβαση της Ευρωπαϊκής Επιτροπής στο κρίσιμο θέμα της ιδιωτικότητας και με αφορμή τη χρήση των καμερών στους δρόμους, τη παράιτηση των μελών της Αρχής Προστασίας Προσωπικών Δεδομένων κλπ.

Την ίδια στιγμή η Ευρωβουλή κατακρίνει με απόφασή της τη κατάχρηση εξουσίας από την Επιτροπή καθώς και τις εθνικές κυβερνήσεις των κρατών-μελών, όπως αυτή πραγματοποιήθηκε τα τελευταία χρόνια μέσω της θέσπισης νομοθεσίας με συνοπτικές διαδικασίες (χωρίς δημόσιο διάλογοι), και συγκεκριμένα νόμων που παραβιάζουν τα ανθρώπινα δικαιώματα και κυρίως το δικαίωμα στην ιδιωτικότητα καθώς και τη “δίκαιη δίκη”. Σχετικά με το δικαίωμα στην ιδιωτικότητα γίνεται αναφορά στη χρήση μεθόδων παρακολούθησης καθώς και την διακίνηση προσωπικών, ευαίσθητων δεδομένων μεταξύ κυβερνητικών οργανισμών με πρόφαση την εθνική ασφάλεια και την πάταξη της τρομοκρατίας.

Η σημασία της απόφασης της Ευρωβουλής είναι μεγάλη καθώς αποτελεί το μοναδικό δημοκρατικά εκλεγμένο όργανο της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης (το Συμβούλιο αποτελεί δημοκρατικό θεσμό μόνον έμμεσα και έχει ιδιαίτερα περιορισμένες αρμοδιότητες ούτως ή άλλως). Βρίσκω τον συμβολισμό της χρονικής σύμπτωσης αν μη τι άλλο ενδιαφέρωντα και ελπίζω πως η παρέμβαση τόσο της Επιτροπής στην Ελλάδα, όσο και της Ευρωβουλής στην Επιτροπή θα έχουν θετικό αποτέλεσμα. Δυστυχώς, στη δεύτερη περίπτωση, το Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο δε φαίνεται να έχει την ισχύ που θα έπρεπε ώστε να ελέγχει αποτελεσμάτικά την Επιτροπή, ως οφείλει.

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» Multinational companies [..] now know that the EU will take a much harder line when it comes to competition.

And that seems to frustrate the Department of Justice Corporate Pampering.

Reading the DoJ statements about the EUs treatment of Microsoft and how it ‘may have the unfortunate consequence of harming consumers by chilling innovation and discouraging competition’ makes me wonder whether it is referring to the same case, the same software, the same company and the same planet or whether they’ve been smoking the corporate crack pipe for far too long.

Microsoft’s dominance of the market has anything but helped competition and innovation over its twenty year reign of the industry. But then again, these are the same people that found Microsoft guilty seemingly only because the evidence was overwhelmingly against it, but then decided to do nothing about it. Kroes is absolutely right to express her frustration about the DoJ’s public criticism on the EU’s policy; it’s none of their business and definitely not within their jurisdiction.

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