OS/2 eZine

16 November 2000
Simon Gronlund is earning his Master of Science in Computer Science at the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, as an adult student. He also teaches Java and computer-related courses at the college. When he isn't tampering with his Warp 4 PC, he spends his spare time with his two boys and his wife.

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Reflections from Sweden

Every country has its hero, no matter were you go there is a hero you will hear about. Sometimes bragged about, sometimes adored. Sweden is of course no exception, we have them lined up in a long queue.

When I have cleansed away Bjorn Borg (tennis), Ingemar Stenmark (downhill skiing), Alfred Nobel (dynamite and the famous Nobel price), ABBA and Roxette (music), Ericsson (cellular phones), Volvo (cars) and dozens more of them, a few persons remain that we apply the "computer filter" on: out comes Hakan Lans.

Hakan LANs

This year Hakan LANs was picked out as Year 2000's Swede of the World by a Swedish association. The statement of their reason mentioned his thirty years of epoch-making inventions that have given him many national and international honors. Mr. LANs is one of the persons behind the computer mouse, he invented and patented a technique that today is used in any computer's color graphic. He also invented the global positioning system now standard within both air traffic and shipping, though that patent he was forced to leave hold of by mighty American business interests, else the technique should have remained unused. That is how power by money and influence can be used.

But is it strange then, Swedes are proud of Hakan LANs? I do not think so, any country would time and again gladly mention such a person. And if there is no one they would speedily invent that person.

October 3rd many Swedish news papers published the shocking news that an American court judged that Hakan LANs had no right to serve a writ upon computer companies making encroachments on the patent warrants he owns. Since both Mr. LANs and the companies are muzzled by their lawyers, the information given is puzzled together from many sources.

The first days the Swedish headlines were of the size used at wartime, and they stated that Hakan LANs ran the risk of being judged to pay the companies in question up to billion dollars. How come? And why?

History and background

Back in 1979 Hakan LANs obtained a patent for computer color graphics. After lengthy legal proceedings, in 1989 IBM and Hitachi fully realized the facts and bought licenses. It was at that time, the magazines say, that a minor mistake was made, an unclear document was signed, moving the ownership from Hakan LANs to his one-man firm. The mistake was corrected and the ownership remained Mr. LANs That is confirmed by a former IBM principal responsible to patents, Mr. Bertel Ahlman, an IDG magazine says.

IBM and any Japanese manufacturer still consider Hakan LANs as owner of the patent and pays the license fees. Consider that Japanese firms seldom pay such licenses voluntary.

In 1997 Hakan LANs as the owner of the patent sued eleven computer companies for patent encroachment. These were

  • Acer America
  • AST
  • Compaq
  • Dell Computer
  • Digital (now bought by Compaq)
  • Gateway 2000
  • Hewlett Packard
  • Nec
  • Olsy North America
  • Packard Bell
  • Siemens Nixdorf

and they made a common cause against the accusation. And three years later, October this year a court judged to their advantage.

Twist the law

Most European citizens have their ideas of the American lawyers, mainly the ideas is obtained and watered by Hollywood movies and TV soaps; an American lawyer will always twist the law and is in complete lack of ethics and morality. And this actual judgment does nothing to prove these ideas false, as the now evident reactions of most Swedes show.

Note that the decision never says anything whether there is a patent encroachment. or not. It merely says that Hakan LANs is not the right person to sue the companies listed. A judicial chop logic. And so far Hakan LANs was not even allowed to attend the court himself.

That makes me recall a trial Apple had with Microsoft a few years back. If I am right it was rejected due to a legal mistake on Apple's side, wasn't it? And the one ethically right became the looser, due to judicial chop logic.

Next step
The next move came from Compaq, they want to get $800,000 as a recovery for their costs. Quite well paid lawyers they have, I might be on the wrong track earning myself a Master of Science on Computer Science within a year or so.

But the other companies squat uneasy behind Compaq to see the outcome. Why?

Public reactions

The public reactions did not wait, over a night this case was well known to any Swede with any connections to computers. And that is most of the citizens since computers now are the normal life to most employees and Sweden is one of the top notch countries of the connected world.

First out was Minister of Commerce, Leif Pagrotsky, stating that this is nothing but stealth. After him the Swedes have lined up to express their support for Mr. LANs, and to vent one's anger on Compaq and the other so called criminals.

Sweden is a rather big market to these companies, at least not a market to ignore. Thus it will be very interesting to see if comments on the many Swedish news sites and news paper notices will have any impact on the now ten companies:

"We do not pick manufacturers based only on quality and price. Factors like ... ethics also come into play." "We was to buy Compaq equipment for more than SEK1,000,000. We are now buying that equipment from elsewhere." "Boycott them all. They may use juridical loopholes but they behave immoral and unethical."
Myself will for sure not buy anything from the companies listed until they have showed themselves companies of principles, like IBM and the Japanese companies. If finding loopholes is their way of solving problems, next time it might be myself that is their prey, "this problem is not part of the warranty." "But here it reads ... " "Sue us if you like to."

The lighting point

On the other hand the college I study at, the Royal Institute of Technology, has the privilege of having the quartet cracking the ten codes of Dr. Simon Singh's one year old book "The Code Book: Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography" as doctoral candidates. Using skill, math and computer power they made it in one year and received the £10,000 reward from his hand November 6th.

Java related

Since I wrote the last Into Java part I have had the opportunity to visit two developer forums, The IBM Java Briefing Days, that visited Stockholm October 10th. To an OS/2 user that event was maybe a little saddening, not that OS/2 was put in a bad light, not at all. It turned out that the speaker both used OS/2 Warp 4 and had a OS/2 desktop background bitmap! But of course, with a groovy OS/2 background he ran Windows NT.

Further OS/2 was mentioned quite a lot in the handouts and the technical papers we received. WorkSpace-on-Demand was briefly discussed, but dismissed since there is no customer demand, "which Computer Department would like to dismiss itself as no longer needed?" Laughter.

The new IBM strategy was clearly pointed out to us. IBM has halted the development of common applications! Besides a few exceptions IBM will continue with middle-ware and business solutions. This is why they reach out the hand for developer's support, since if IBM is not producing applications, the developers must.

If IBM will leave the common customer market, what will happen to our beloved OS/2 Warp? That remains to be seen, but if IBM sees no benefit from continuing the OS/2 support, due to low demand on services as Software Choice and other OS/2 revenues, why should they continue pouring money into this product?

Still Java was pointed out as an IBM key technology that will be supported for a long time. The attendants were richly rewarded for their attention with costly Java related products, as VisualAge for Java 3.5, WebSphere and the Patterns for e-business v. 2.

The other happening was the SUN Tech Days held two days later, also in Stockholm. Two spectacular days in true SUN style, that seems to be rock-n-roll, funny contests and listening to technical evangelists having the gift of the gab. Anyway, it was a also a rewarding time, instructive tracks, lots of expensive gadgets given away, whereof some will turn into the Into Java column in due time.

Conclusion; stick to Java. Whatever will happen to computing and the platforms we tend to use, Java will remain used and powerful a long time to go.

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