Freesteel Blog » The Hague Visitation

The Hague Visitation

Monday, October 1st, 2018 at 3:46 pm Written by:

I was over at The Hague last week for Sensible Code taking the overnight ferry instead of burning the planet with the so-cheap-and-convenient.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to RevSpace, probably the tidiest hackerspace in the world. As I cycled back to my hostel at 1am, I was wracked by the guilt that I’d walked out on two empty cans of diet coke and some crumbs at my desk space. It’s quite a nocturnal place, and I had to quickly run away before I accidentally stayed there till the sun came up.

I spent most of the evening trading tech with WJ who warmed up when I showed him how our hackspace in Liverpool manages its affairs through Github issues, and he couldn’t believe that we had things like Issue 807: “Replace the toilet seats” in public on there since last May. RevSpace doesn’t have a somebody-should/work-to-be-done list because all work has already been done as soon as somebody notices it.

Let’s begin with their door entry system, where they use their Doorduino3 based on iButton technology rather than the insecure and clonable RFID cards we have in DoES.

They seem to have acquired a huge box of leftover broken sha2017 badges, that aren’t really broken, because usually the ESP32 on them is still working if you’re willing to saw off enough of the circuit board. These are put to use everywhere in the hackerspace. Then there is the ESP-NOW technology that I’d never heard of, but which I’ve now got to waste a couple of days on. Oh, and they do use a MQTT around the place, but are able to get the status out onto the web using an EventSource object, which is another thing I’ve never heard about, but which fulfills many of the uses taken up by WebSockets, but in a much more robust manner.

I didn’t get photos of their huge flip-disc sign or their endlessly animating RGB LED panel by the door, but here are some pics of the walls.

Revspace very tidy tool storage

Revspace cafeteria where people like to cook for the whole hackerspace community

Oh my, I just spotted some left-over tools and sawdust on the wood-working bench

RevSpace is half underground, due to having priced up the cost of heating at an alternative property. In this property they’ve done all their own ventilation and run it based on CO2 sensors. In contrast, DoESLiverpool is on the first floor of a building with full-height windows to the sky, but we’ve not been through our first winter yet and aren’t competent enough to manage our own air supply. This is done by the building manager.

My contribution (apart from the mess on the table) was to show him the Jupyter Notebook technology, which was an astonishing oversight for something that is now everywhere. This is the problem these days, and always the fear at the back of any hacker’s mind: Even when you work full time learning about the tech, you can easily miss really big developments. Last week I found that a reporter at the BBC was using this tech.

I stayed an extra day and had a blow-out breakfast with Aidan at one the many beach bars on the sand, before getting fleeced at the Mairotshuis painting museum that just contains Flemish art of the 16th and 17th centuries. Next month they are having a special exhibition where they are borrowing all the Flemish paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries currently held in British museums — in case you didn’t get enough of this range of samey portraits. The last straw was a painting of a street scene in Italy populated by Dutch people. I’m going to pay a visit to the Walker Art Gallery here in Liverpool as an antidote. It’s got stuff from everywhere around the world.

A fair few of paintings were of the interior of some church in Delft, so I stopped off there on the way back to the Hook of Holland to check it out. This was much better value. For about 5 Euros you get entry to both Old and New Churches and a free cup of tea at one of 6 cafes. The job of the “New” Church is to keep bodies in its crypt of every member of the Dutch Royal Family since “The Father of the Fatherland” William of Orange.

Then, on the ferry, I stayed up far too late that night watching the horror-show of the Kavanaugh hearings on the TV. This Saturday Night Live sketch summed the whole experience up perfectly.

Just to be less obvious, I perused the Kavenaugh extra judicial writings and speeches list and found a moderated panel discussion on Intellectual Property Law from 2007 at the Federalist Society — the political organization that has been successfully targeting and packing the US Supreme court with extreme-right pro-corporate nutters since 1982. I’ve got some passing familiarity with the issue of software patents.

From the transcript:

Professor Kieff: Let’s look at another industry. No meaningful patent protection in the United States in the software industry, beginning with the Benson decision in the early ’70s, and that persists in the United States in the software industry through the ’80s, really for the early ’90s, finally with the Alappat decision in the Federal Circuit in 1996. Now what happened in the United States software industry during that time? Everybody remembers that. We got Microsoft. The absence of patents in software was closely correlated with a single large player, and the presence of patents and biotech was closely correlated with a drastic increase in the number of players, a drastic increase in the amount of competition.

Now, in fact, just the last couple of days I’ve been in Chicago at a conference at Northwestern looking at the Microsoft antitrust case. People on both sides of the case seem to agree, actually in the U.S. and in Europe, the remedies seem to have not made much of a difference to the market, although Microsoft does now seem to be getting a lot of competition, a lot more credible threats. Who is the number one threat for Microsoft today? That’s Google, and Google is a company built around search technology, technology that was patented and is patented. Google has a very serious patent portfolio that it takes very seriously. And so, the threat to Microsoft is not coming from regulation. That’s not making any difference at all. It’s costing lot of money, but it’s not doing a lot of benefit.

The threat is coming from Google, with patented technologies, and the patents on that technology allowed Google to raise venture capital to form itself into a firm and to take the firm public, a firm that now has a market cap, one of the largest firms in the world. Now, that window of time in which one could get real patents on software, which opened in ’96, is actually just closed this year because of Federal Circuit cases on Section 101 of the Patent Act, and so it’ll be interesting to do some studies over time whether, in fact, now that we close out patents and software, do we actually now get less competition?

I have not heard such ridiculous bollocks on software patents in a really long time. Everyone else in the world except a jack-ass patent lawyer would correlate the “drastic increase in number of players” in 1996 with the development of the internet. That’s why we called it the Internet Bubble, not the “Software Patent” bubble.

That’s why Bill Gates wrote in an internal 1991 memo:

If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then they have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want.

Nine years later the phone company of the UK was suing the rest of the world for infringement of its patent of the webpage hyperlink.

And furthermore my understanding is that the reason the remedies in the Microsoft Anti-trust case made no difference to the market was because they were never carried out! Microsoft was not broken up. In fact the company cheered the presidential selection of George W Bush whose administration, as promised, swiftly reversed the breakup order.

After all, it’s the job of the right wing conservatism to comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted.

By god it is what they have paid for.

More recently the ideology has been expressed equally succinctly:

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.

So it’s okay for these people to lie under oath or pass crazy laws like the Hague Invasion Act. Law is supposed to apply to everybody else; it’s not universal and does not apply to them.

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