Binary mittens

Binary mittensI just want to show off my awesome new mittens that my dear mother gave me as a present when I turned 40 (at least at the party I held for my birthday, I actually turned 0x28 already back in November). To help you decode them I’ve framed a line of digits. The left one is supposed to be read before the right one.

As a bonus design detail, the digits on the thumb are made the same as on the part which the thumb covers on the photo.

The backside has nothing to decode but instead features a tux image, the same one on both mittens so the enclosed picture only shows the left-hand one.

Binary mitten backsideI’ll admit that I didn’t immediately decode the mittens myself when I gave it a first glance, and I blame the fact that no lowercase letters were used!

I used my mobile phone to take the pictures, so they’re not really top-notch quality.

This will make the coming winter much more appreciated and I hope to impress a lot of friends when the few warm days of the Swedish summer have passed.

foss-sthlm, the sixth, the controversial one

I’m happy to say that I was the main planner and organizer of yet another foss-sthlm meetup, the sixth. Last week we attracted about one hundred eager FOSS hackers to attend to this meeting to which I had found and cooperated a somewhat controversial sponsor.

We have had a discussion within foss-sthlm now due to this event’s sponsor: what kinds of companies are acceptable as sponsor for FOSS events and what are not? It is obvious that we have a lot of different opinions here and several people have expressed that they deliberately didn’t go to meetup #6 simply because of the sponsor’s involvement and relationship to the Swedish defence industry. Do you think a defence manufacturer or weapon systems creator can also have its good sides and sponsor good activities or should we distance ourselves from them?

I’m honestly still interested in more opinions on this. We have not formed a policy around this subject because I simply don’t think that’s a good idea. We’re not a formal organization and we all have our different views. I think we have our members hand around and participate as long as we stay within a reasonable “boundary”. If we would get involved with the wrong kind of companies, a larger portion of the group would boycott the meeting or just plainly leave foss-sthlm. But why would we ever? I’m the one who’s mostly been in touch with sponsors and I would certainly not get involved and ask for money from companies that I believe have crossed the magic line in the sand.

The meeting was perhaps the most techy and most advanced of them all so far, and I found the talks very inspiring and educating. I’ve not had time or energy to put up a page with pictures or descriptions of them, and I think I’ll just skip it. You should probably try harder to attend next time instead!

Remove your software

Your software needs to be removed from my work computer. I did not install it,
do not want it and did not request it.

Another one of those emails arrived in my inbox today:

Subject: Remove:

Your software needs to be removed from my work computer. I did not install it, do not want it and did not request it.

[name redacted]

No mention what software or indication of what platform or what might’ve happened when my software allegedly ended up in the person’s computer. Not very friendly either.

Again I suspect that there’s some software that uses curl in some way, but I can’t tell for sure…

I replied to it, saying that I didn’t install anything on his computer.

Pointless respecifying FTP URI

There’s this person wiIETFthin IETF who seems to possess endless energy and a never-ending wish to clean up tiny details within the IETF processes. He continuously digs up specifications that need to be registered or submitted again somewhere due to some process. Often under loud protests from fellow IETFers since it steals time and energy from people on the lists for discussions and reviews – only to satisfy some administrative detail. Time and energy perhaps better spent on things like new protocols and interesting new technologies.

This time, he has deemed that the FTP a FILE URI specs need to be registered properly, and alas he has submitted his first suggested update of the FTP URI.

From my work with curl I have of course figured out a few problems with RFC1738 that I don’t think we should just repeat in a new version of the spec. It turns out I’m not alone in thinking this work isn’t really good like this, and I posted a second mail to clarify my points.

We’re not working on fixing the problems with FTP URIs that are present in RFC1738 so just rephrasing those into a new spec is a bad idea.

We could possibly start the work on fixing the problems, but so far I’ve seen no such will or efforts and I don’t plan on pushing for that myself either.

Please tell me or the ftpext2 group where I or the others are wrong or right or whatever!

11 years of me

On May 11th 2000 I posted by first blog entry that is still available online on No surprise but it was curl-related.

The full post was:

I was made aware of the fact that curl is not really dealing well with the directory part of an ftp URL.

I was gonna quote the appropriate text piece from RFC1738 (yes, it is obsoleted by RFC2396 although 1738 has more detailed info about particular protocols like ftp) to someone when I noticed that I had interpreted it wrong when I read it before.

The difference between getting a file relative the login directory or with absolute path. It turns out you have to get a path like if you want have the absolute path “/tmp”. Oh well, I have it support my old way as well even if that isn’t following the RFC just to allow people using that way to be able to use the new one unmodifed…

… which I guess proves that even though lots of time has passed, I still occupy myself with the same kind of hobbies and side- projects…

US patent 6,098,180

(I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice and these are not legal analyses, just my personal observations and ramblings. Please correct me where I’m wrong or add info if you have any!)

At 3:45 pm on March 18th 2011, the company Content Delivery Solutions LLC filed a complaint in a court in Texas, USA. The defendants are several bigwigs and the list includes several big and known names of the Internet:

  • Akamai
  • AOL
  • AT&T
  • CD Networks
  • Globalscape
  • Google
  • Limelight Networks
  • Peer 1 Network
  • Research In Motion
  • Savvis
  • Verizon
  • Yahoo!

The complaint was later amended with an additional patent (filed on April 18th), making it list three patents that these companies are claimed to violate (I can’t find the amended version online though). Two of the patents ( 6,393,471 and 6,058,418) are for marketing data and how to use client info to present ads basically. The third is about file transfer resumes.

I was contacted by a person involved in the case at one of the defendants’. This unspecified company makes one or more products that use “curl“. I don’t actually know if they use the command line tool or the library – but I figure that’s not too important here. curl gets all its superpowers from libcurl anyway.

This Patent Troll thus basically claims that curl violates a patent on resumed file transfers!

The patent in question that would be one that curl would violate is the US patent 6,098,180 which basically claims to protect this idea:

A system is provided for the safe transfer of large data files over an unreliable network link in which the connection can be interrupted for a long period of time.

The patent describes several ways in how it may detect how it should continue the transfer from such a break. As curl only does transfer resumes based on file name and an offset, as told by the user/application, that could be the only method that they can say curl would violate of their patent.

The patent goes into detail in how a client first sends a “signature” and after an interruption when the file transfer is about to continue, the client would ask the server about details of what to send in the continuation. With a very vivid imagination, that could possibly equal the response to a FTP SIZE command or the Content-Length: response in a HTTP GET or HEAD request.

A more normal reader would rather say that no modern file transfer protocol works as described in that patent and we should go with “defendant is not infringing, move on nothing to see here”.

But for the sake of the argument, let’s pretend that the patent actually describes a method of file transfer resuming that curl uses.

The ‘180 (it is referred to with that name within the court documents) patent was filed at February 18th 1997 (and issued on August 1, 2000). Apparently we need to find prior art that was around no later than February 17th 1996, that is to say one year before the filing of the stupid thing. (This I’ve been told, I had no idea it could work like this and it seems shockingly weird to me.)

What existing tools and protocols did resumed transfers in February 1996 based on a file name and a file offset?


Thank you all friends for the pointers and references you’ve brought to me.

  • The FTP spec RFC 959 was published in October 1985. FTP has a REST command that tells at what offset to “restart” the transfer at. This was being used by FTP clients long before 1996, and an example is the known Kermit FTP client that did offset-based file resumed transfer in 1995.
  • The HTTP header Range: introduces this kind of offset-based resumed transfer, although with a slightly fancier twist. The Range: header was discussed before the magic date, as also can be seen on the internet already in this old mailing list post from December 1995.
  • One of the protocols from the old days that those of us who used modems and BBSes in the old days remember is zmodem. Zmodem was developed in 1986 and there’s this zmodem spec from 1988 describing how to do file transfer resumes.
  • A slightly more modern protocol that I’ve unfortunately found no history for before our cut-off date is rsync, as I could only find the release mail for rsync 1.0 from June 1996. Still long before the patent was filed obviously, and also clearly showing that the one year margin is silly as for all we know they could’ve come up with the patent idea after reading the rsync releases notes and still rsync can’t be counted as prior art.
  • Someone suggested GetRight as a client doing this, but GetRight wasn’t released in 1.0 until Febrary 1997 so unfortunately that didn’t help our case even if it seems to have done it at the time.
  • curl itself does not pre-date the patent filing. curl was first released in March 1998, and the predecessor was started around summer-time 1997. I don’t have any remaining proofs of that, and it still wasn’t before “the date” so I don’t think it matters much now.

At the time of this writing I don’t know where this will end up or what’s going to happen. Time will tell.

This Software patent obviously is a concern mostly to US-based companies and those selling products in the US. I am neither a US citizen nor do I have or run any companies based in the US. However, since curl and libcurl are widely used products that are being used by several hundred companies already, I want to help bring out as much light as possible onto this problem.

The patent itself is of course utterly stupid and silly and it should never have been accepted as it describes trivially thought out ideas and concepts that have been thought of and implemented already decades before this patent was filed or granted although I claim that the exact way explained in the patent is not frequently used. Possibly the protocol using a method that is closed to the description of the patent is zmodem.

I guess I don’t have to mention what I think about software patents.

I’m convinced that most or all download tools and browsers these days know how to resume a previously interrupted transfer this way. Why wouldn’t these guys also approach one of the big guys (with thick wallets) who also use this procedure? Surely we can think of a few additional major players with file tools that can resume file transfers and who weren’t targeted in this suit!

I don’t know why. Clearly they’ve not backed down from attacking some of the biggest tech and software companies.

patent drawing

(Illustration from the ‘180 patent.)