Mark Murphy’s Techdirt Profile

commonsguy

About Mark Murphy

Mark Murphy is the founder of CommonsWare and the author of the Busy Coder's Guide to Android Development. A three-time entrepreneur, his experience ranges from consulting on open source and collaborative development for the Fortune 500 to application development on just about anything smaller than a mainframe. He has been a software developer for over 25 years, from the TRS-80 to the latest crop of mobile devices. A polished speaker, Mr. Murphy has delivered conference presentations and training sessions on a wide array of topics internationally.

Outside of CommonsWare, Mr. Murphy has an avid interest in how the Internet will play a role in citizen involvement with politics and government. He is a contributor to the Rebooting America essay collection, and his personal blog features many posts discussing "cooperative democracy".



Mark Murphy’s Comments comment rss

  • Aug 9th, 2018 @ 10:08am

    A Small Matter of Control

    Instead, what I'm suggesting is that platforms have to get serious about moving real power out to the ends of their network so that anyone can set up systems for themselves... Of course, this would require a fundamental shift in how these platforms operated -- and especially in how much control they had.

    That seems unlikely. Control is the name of the game for Internet properties such as the ones that you are citing. I think one could make a plausible argument that control is more important than near-term profits. It seems more likely that a firm with control can earn future profits than a firm with profits can earn future control.

    Which is why I have to call a wee bit o' shenanigans on:

    Most people do use Facebook. And for many people it is important to their lives. In some cases, there are necessary services that require Facebook. And you should support that rather than getting all preachy about your own life choices, good or bad.

    Tactically, I agree. Strategically, I expect that the only way to "move to a world of protocols instead of platforms" will be to move off of Facebook, et. al. to other things. Partly, those "other things" (hopefully) will be "protocols instead of platforms". Partly, without loss of market share, I do not see the existing Internet properties embracing a loss of control.

  • Aug 7th, 2018 @ 2:30pm

    What *Doesn't* Violate the ToS?

    The day after we released it, a Facebook spokesperson reached out asking to chat about it, and then told us that the tool violated Facebook’s terms of service, because it asked users to give it their username and password so that it could sign in on their behalf. Facebook’s TOS states that, “You will not solicit login information or access an account belonging to someone else.”

    By that definition, a Web browser violates the ToS, by offering fields for the user to type in their username and password.

  • Jul 19th, 2018 @ 4:06am

    Re: Re:

    though I actually wonder if Samsung forking Android would have helped or harmed Samsung

    Yeah, that's a coin flip IMHO. But I feel fairly confident that they would have tried.

    Some of the Chinese device manufacturers forked Android. Oppo, for example, created ColorOS.

    The challenge for any fork is getting developers to distribute their apps through the fork's "app store". Western app developers may tend to drag their feet here, as they tend to think only about the Play Store. Chinese app developers are used to dealing with dozens upon dozens of app stores in their home market, so for them, Oppo's app store is just another one on the list that they need to use.

  • Jul 19th, 2018 @ 3:59am

    Re: Re:

    Google could relicense the rest of the OS tomorrow if it wanted to.

    That could be difficult — I have not read through the relevant contributor license agreement recently to see whether relicensing rights are included in there.

    In general, relicensing a large open source project is a serious pain in various body parts, as all copyright holders need to agree, and there are a lot of copyright holders.

    Moreover, such a decision would not just affect Europe.

  • Jul 18th, 2018 @ 5:36pm

    (untitled comment)

    Yours is a fairly even-keeled reaction. I'll quibble on some of the details, though.

    And, as Google has suggested, part of the reason for requiring Chrome to be installed is that tons of other apps actually use Chrome components as part of how they work.

    If the EC gets some people with Android programming experience to help them, their demand could be clarified to address this.

    What the EC wants is that users have to opt into having Chrome, just as they have to opt into having Firefox Focus or other browsers. From the user's standpoint, this means having to go into the Play Store and "install" Chrome. That is because the user perceives an app like Chrome as being an icon in the home screen launcher, and to get one of those icons, you have to get the app from the Play Store.

    However, technically, that's not really what is happening. An app that is installed on a device (pre-installed or user-installed) can have zero, one, or a thousand home screen launcher icons. There is no 1:1 relationship here from a programming standpoint. In particular, there is nothing stopping a pre-installed app from initially having no home screen launcher icons, but then start advertising one when conditions change.

    So, Google could still ship Chrome, to satisfy the app integration requirements. It simply wouldn't advertise an icon for home screen launchers (in programming-speak, android:enabled="false" on the relevant `activity-alias element in the manifest). When the user "installs" Chrome from the Play Store, Google simply enables that icon rather than installing the full app (in programming-speak, use setComponentEnabledSetting() on PackageManager).

    (and I'll be happy to discuss the technical details to whatever depth you'd like... if you turn on code formatting features in your comment box Markdown support :-)

    Google may no longer be able to offer Android for free in the EU

    Android is open source. Google does not really have a choice about offering Android for free in the EU. They could say that they will need to change the terms for licensing the Play Store and other Google proprietary apps, though.

    But looking over these issues, I'm hard pressed to think of how anything would have developed all that differently if Google hadn't done these things in the first place.

    IMHO, Samsung would have forked Android, along the lines of how Amazon did. Samsung had a phase where they wanted to get out from under Google's thumb (see: Tizen), and I have little doubt that they would have taken a stab at "going it alone" without the Google proprietary apps. If they had very specific targets and price points (e.g., emerging markets and ultra-low-cost phones), it might have even worked.

  • Jul 6th, 2018 @ 4:35pm

    Re:

    This article on CCPA was published here nine days ago and covers the process for creating CCPA, though in that article it uses the "AB 375" name (referring to "Assembly Bill No. 375").

  • Apr 9th, 2018 @ 12:59pm

    Who appoints the arbiters?

    Indeed, it takes a special kind of "must-hate-on-everything-he-says" attitude to misread a statement about being more transparent and more accountable to an outside set of arbitrators, and turn it into Facebook wants to build its own Supreme Court.

    I think you are both reading your own interpretation into Mr. Zuckerberg's statement, and that statement is very light on the details.

    Here's the key sentence from the quoted passage:

    You can imagine some sort of structure, almost like a Supreme Court, that is made up of independent folks who don’t work for Facebook, who ultimately make the final judgment call on what should be acceptable speech in a community that reflects the social norms and values of people all around the world.

    The problem is that this does not say where this group of arbiters is coming from. Roughly speaking, there seem to be three possibilities:

    1. Facebook appoints them. If this is what happens, Ms. Rosenberger's comment, while a bit hyperbolic, isn't all that far off. Unless the arbiters are volunteers — which seems unscalable — the arbiters are paid by Facebook and therefore have a built-in bias to make Facebook happy.

    2. Facebook hires an outside firm or organization, which appoints them. This is a somewhat more elaborate version of the arbitration approaches that are "the new black" in all these terms of service. And — as I seem to recall being pointed out on Techdirt in the past — those arbitration firms have a built-in bias to find for Facebook, since Facebook is the client.

    3. Facebook agrees to abide by the decisions of some truly independent board, appointed by some truly independent agency. IOW, it's turtles all the way down. I haven't the foggiest notion how this would get set up. But, if neither the arbiters nor those who appoint them have any ties to Facebook, this would fit more with your interpretation.

    We won't know if the glass is half-empty, half-full, or contains a possibly-dead cat until something actually happens.

  • Apr 6th, 2018 @ 1:07pm

    Re:

    Quoting the legislation:

    “Bot” means a machine, device, computer program, or other computer software that is designed to mimic or behave like a natural person such that a reasonable natural person is unable to discern its artificial identity.

    Nobody is hand-flipping bits in a drive when they post to online platforms. They post via software (or, on occasion, butterflies).

    So, when you posted your comment, most likely you used a Web browser. Are you a bot? After all, you did not hand-flip bits in a drive at a Techdirt server. You used a "computer program".

    If you wish to claim that using a Web browser does not make one a bot, then the implication is that the source of the material typed into the Web browser is what determines "bot-ness" (bot-osity? bot-itude?) But I doubt that many of the Russian trolls used artificial intelligence to generate their posts from whole cloth. Rather, most likely, the origin of the posts were human, with software doing things like making mild random alterations, such as word substitution, to help defeat anti-spam measures, along with bulk posting.

    So, where is the dividing line? Does the use of a spell-checker make one a bot? After all, by definition, that spell-checker auto-generated part of the post, substituting words that appear to come from a "natural person". What about mobile social network clients that offer suggested basic replies? Does that make their users bots, if they choose a canned reply, if that canned reply appears to come from a "natural person"? Does retweeting make one a bot?

  • Mar 21st, 2018 @ 10:54am

    (untitled comment)

    Why is Facebook in so much hot water right now? Because it made it too easy to export user data to third party platforms!

    There is a wide gulf between "a user can export their Facebook data to import into another service" and "arbitrary third parties can access arbitrary data about untold numbers of users who happen to visit a particular Facebook app".

  • Jan 5th, 2018 @ 1:10pm

    (untitled comment)

    Tomczak composed this white noise himself, in all of its beautifully non-creative glory, making the copyright claims all the more absurd.

    What if Tomczak left his white-noise generator lying around, and a macaque monkey picked up the generator and recorded ~10 hours of white noise?

  • Nov 29th, 2017 @ 4:17pm

    Re: Question

    Presumably, that is already a crime.

    For example, suppose that you are riding your bicycle and a pedestrian is walking with their head up and no headphones through an intersection when you have the right of way. If you have the right of way, the pedestrian is committing whatever the pedestrian equivalent is of a moving violation.

    The fact that, in your scenario, the pedestrian is "heads down, headphones on" would not change that. So, whatever laws are against walking without the right of way would cover walking without the right of way with headphones on.

    If there is no law against walking without the right of way, fix that, and it will neatly cover both the with-headphones and sans-headphones scenarios.

  • May 27th, 2017 @ 9:06am

    Re: Technical question about phone security

    There is no "encryption at rest" on phones, right?

    Yes, there is.

    Android devices have offered full-disk encryption since Android 4.2 or thereabouts, though the implementation prior to Android 5.0 sucked. Full-disk encryption is opt-out starting with Android 7.0, meaning that Android devices are encrypted unless the user takes steps to disable that.

    I forget the state of iOS, as that's not my area of expertise, but I am under the impression that full-disk encryption is the norm on newer versions of iOS.

  • Mar 17th, 2017 @ 9:27am

    Who Will Make These Devices?

    Speaking from an Android standpoint, what they want is not even practical in terms of product distribution. It would require manufacturers to:

    • Create a custom Android build that has this filtering built in

    • Distribute models with that custom Android build to Georgia retailers

    • Realize that this sort of mandatory filtering runs counter to enterprise security, and so the sale of Georgia-specific devices will be limited to consumers (and enterprises run by idiots)

    Few manufacturers will bother, given the resulting projected sales numbers.

    Retailers cannot add the filtering themselves in general, because part of the "on-boarding" experience for an Android device frequently involves accepting a EULA. Retailers cannot accept a EULA on the consumer's behalf. Plus, any retailer-installed filters could be bypassed readily by people with the technical skills of your average American teenager, either on their own or via anti-filtering tools that will proliferate rapidly.

  • May 26th, 2016 @ 2:19pm

    CAFC Appeal

    > there's still a decent chance they'll end up siding with Oracle on appeal

    Really? I thought the CAFC was the court that rejected the original trial result, but bounced it back to the lower court specifically to examine the fair use case. If they weren't willing to entertain a jury deciding that it's fair use, they would not have left open that possibility. Right?

    Then again, IANALNDIPOOTV (I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV).

  • May 12th, 2016 @ 10:10am

    Re:

    > That's because we can create the API but we cannot create the ABI.

    Everybody on the planet can create the ABI, given training. It's not out of the question that I could teach Naruto (of monkey selfie fame) to create an ABI, given sufficient bananas. And assuming that Naruto likes bananas, as I have not had an opportunity to inquire with Naruto's agents on that subject.

    Hand-entering machine code is a pain, which is why we created programming languages, from assembler on up, to ease that pain. This does not make hand-entering machine code impossible, any more than the existence of a shovel makes digging a hole with bare hands impossible.

    > No amount of code written in Java works without the compiler

    Nonsense. Just because you have not seen a pure-interpreter Java environment does not mean that they do not exist or cannot be created.

    > Has anyone actually read them?

    Yes. Have you?

    > here's what a typical GNU/GPL licenses says:
    "You can use our software and do what you want with it, but you can't sell it and you need to keep it open".

    Please point out a version of any software license written in human history that contains your quoted phrase. Since a Google search on that quoted phrase turns up only one page -- this one -- you may have some difficulty. IOW, citation, please.

    Also, your approach towards the copyleft philosophy would seem to run counter to published statements by those who created that philosophy in the first place. For example, nobody is being prevented from selling GPL-licensed software, as the Free Software Foundation itself points out.

    > if there's a license to open the use, this means there's a license on APIs

    You are welcome to interpret it that way. Others will disagree with you, myself among them.

  • Nov 11th, 2015 @ 2:34pm

    Horse Racing

    In the DA's defense, I'll argue that fantasy sports is fairly closely analogous to horse racing, with respect to whether or not it is gambling.

    In both cases, there can be a measure of skill involved, such as researching past performance, particularly with respect to key factors like surface conditions (wet track/wet playing field). However, with that skill comes a large dose of luck to determine exactly who winds up winning and losing, both in the real-world performance (for the horses and the athletes) and in the betting performance.

    I don't think it is unreasonable to say that these sorts of fantasy sports should fall under the same regulatory umbrella as betting on horse racing. Whether that means that it is banned (only some states allow betting on horse racing AFAIK), regulated (for those states that allow it), or free-for-all (dumping all such regulation, anyone can bet on anything) is a separate debate.

  • Sep 16th, 2015 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re:

    > Having a picture of him with the much darker-skinned cop who was involved in all this totally undermines that whole narrative

    No, it doesn't.

    First, there are more than two races in this world.

    Second, bigotry is not limited to racism.

  • Aug 18th, 2015 @ 3:38pm

    Re: YOU "non-programmer" don't grasp what an API is! It's INTRINSIC AND INSEPARABLE FROM OTHER CODE.

    > It's INTRINSIC AND INSEPARABLE FROM OTHER CODE

    That depends.

    For example, presumably you are reading this in a Web browser. Your Web browser has an address bar, and in that address bar, you will see something like https://www.techdirt.com/articles/.... That is a URL. It is interpreted by the Web browser and used to retrieve the HTML for this Web page (which in turn contains other URLs for things like images).

    The interface used for the communication between the Web browser and the Web server is the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) and related protocols. These are defined via specifications and are independent from any particular implementation. A copyright on the specification would not extend to an implementation, any more than the copyright on the specification for a bolt would extend to an actual bolt.

    Similarly, many programming languages (e.g., C, C++) have clear separation between interface and implementation.

    Now, what harms Google here is that Java is not one of those languages. Interface is much more tightly intertwingled with implementation in Java.

    > It's not just arbitrary inputs that anyone could come up with in a couple seconds.

    That depends entirely on how fast you type. I certainly have defined APIs "in a couple seconds".

  • Aug 3rd, 2015 @ 1:24pm

    A Sense of Strategy

    Few of these sites seem particularly concerned about the fact that shuttering comments makes it very clear they don't really value truly local community, and lack the willpower to nurture and protect on-site (or in app) participation.


    Yes, but you seem to be taking this from the attitude that every Web site should have comments.

    Having a participatory community needs to be a strategic decision. It requires investment, and therefore it needs to make sense to make that investment.

    The problem is that too many sites added comments because "it's what all the cool kids are doing", without any strategic sense for why they have the comments. It was a checkbox on the VC funding form, for example.

    So, for many of these sites, I would argue that their decision is simply a reversion to what they should have done from the outset, given their organizational priorities. And, in many cases, it will be better that they do drop the comments, as if they are not going to make the necessary investments in engagement, those comments can easily turn into a cesspool, which reflects poorly on the organization. IOW, do it right or don't do it at all.

    The highfalutin' PR fodder for why they are taking down the comments is tripe, but PR fodder is generally tripe. It may be worthy of ridicule, but it is hardly newsworthy.

  • Feb 23rd, 2015 @ 1:17pm

    Re:

    "A right is a legally enforceable claim against another that he should do some act or refrain from doing some act"

    Feel free to provide a citation to a dictionary that has that definition. Feel free to link to it, if the dictionary is online.

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