Palaces For The People
Thursday, December 11, 2003
A DIY Cruise Missile
Watch me build one for under $5,000
Last Updated: 8 December, 2003
NZ Government Moves To Kill The Project
The New Zealand government has moved aggressively to shut down this project -- and by using quite unscrupulous methods which appear to be in breach of the law.
It has long been apparent that the project represents an embarrassment to the government -- a government that recently sold the Air Forces fighter jets and trainers and now sees the military's role simply as a support and peace-keeping one.
Having publicly admitted that the project broke no laws, and thereby making it very difficult for them to simply shut it down by direct methods, the government appears to have broken their own laws in an attempt to ensure that I can no longer continue this project -- and, as perhaps a purely punitive step, ensuring that I can no longer even continue developing my jet engines or maintain my websites.
They have even gone so far as to deliberatey scuttle a licensing deal I had arranged with a US company who was to begin manufacture of my X-Jet engine -- despite the fact that this meant sacrificing jobs and export earnings.
The strange thing is that just a matter of months ago, they told me I could export the very same technology to Iran -- despite the fact that it is widely considered to be a terrorist sponsor and similar exports are prohibited in the USA.
I am not about to try and understand the way in which politicians think -- but suffice to say that I am bitterly disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled by the government.
On the up-side, the missile has been completed (apart from some minor work that is relatively inconsequential) and, to ensure that the testing will proceed at sometime in the New Year, it is no longer in my possession -- but it is in safe hands.
To avoid facing potential prosecution (persecution?) I have made sure that I can honestly say I do not know where the missile is right now - although it is still in the country and will not be exported.
Obviously, with the future of the project far from guaranteed, I've offered to refund those who have subscribed to this website and will be accepting no more subscriptions at this time.
You are welcome to ask questions or make comments on the site's forums and I encourage you to check back in a few weeks -- because the fat lady hasn't sung yet.
NEW FEATURE: Because I'm getting so much email about this site and the Cruise Missile project, I've started a discusion forum where people can ask questions and share their views about the technical issues involved.
Note, as of 11 June, I've begun uploading more detail to the Project Diary section of the website (latest update was 15-September 2003).
Check out what happened the week that the world's media got wind of this project by clicking clicking here
Some time ago I wrote an article in which I suggested that it would not be difficult for terrorists to build their own relatively sophisticated cruise missiles using off-the-shelf components and materials.
Not surprisingly, that piece has produced a significant amount of feedback from the tens of thousands of people who have read it so far.
Included in this feedback, I've received quite a number of emails from former and currently serving US military personnel who acknowledge that the threat is one they are very much aware of and for which there is little in the way of an effective defense available.
However, there have also been a number of people who claim I'm overstating the case and that it's not possible to build a real cruise missile without access to sophisticated gear, specialist tools and information not readily available outside the military.
So, in order to prove my case, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and build a cruise missile in my own garage, on a budget of just US$5,000.
I like to think of this project as the military version of "Junkyard Wars".
Obviously the goal of this website is not to provide terrorists or other nefarious types with the plans for a working cruise missile but to prove the point that nations need to be prepared for this type of sophisticated attack from within their own borders.
A detailed level of documentation will be provided to those who qualify and are willing to pay a small subscription for full access to the project diary.
Since this site was erected there has been some public discussion on the project. For that reason I've created an FAQ that I hope will answer some of the questions and concerns you might have.
Microsoft FAT patents 'could be re-opened'
Microsoft FAT patents 'could be re-opened'
By Andrew Orlowski in San Francisco
Posted: 09/12/2003 at 22:04 GMT
If Microsoft decides to mine its patent portfolio for cash, it's likely to face a few unexpected consequences. A new patent body that's vowing to defend the free software community against Microsoft's new patents-for-cash revenue strategy says it will ask the US Patent Office to go back to square one, and systematically examine the validity of the patents in question. This is an unusual tactic that promises to bring the overworked USPTO's approval of questionable patents right into the spotlight.
Forty-six per cent of patents brought to trial are dismissed as bogus. According to Dan Ravicher, who heads the recently-formed Public Patent Foundation many more aren't asserted. It's one of the tactics he says is an option.
Ever since Microsoft hired IBM's IP overlord Marshall Phelps, the Linux and free software folks have been circling the wagons, and discovery of prior art is one of the tactics they're considering.
The Public Patent Foundation's mission is to advise and counsel people who object to patents that threaten to "restrict civil liberties and free markets", Dan tells us. The PPF has other options including filing friend of the court briefs on behalf of defendants, and broader education. He's keen to encourage companies form mutually beneficial "disarmament treaties", too.
Ravicher said the PPF would selectively re-examine patents when freedom is at stake.
"We're going to undermine those we believe are posing a threat," he said. "Marshall Phelps can't bring over this business model of twenty years ago that he created at IBM. The point of the PPF is to give the communities a voice, a defender."
The FAT of the land
Regarding the FAT patents, Ravisher said "I have a hundred pieces of prior art which were not reviewed by the examiner. We have them under review." As several Register readers have pointed out, the FAT file system was not an innovation, and bears close resemblance to CP/M file systems. However, as Dan points out, you can't patent functionality.
Did the PPF approve of the tactic, employed by cryptographer Lucky Green, to file pre-emptive patents? Green has put claims on aspects of the lock-down TCPA, to prevent it being implemented.
"My belief personally is that if you fight fire with fire, everything burns," says Ravicher. "It's difficult to criticize unreasonable opponents if you're using same tactics."
But Ravicher agrees with Phelps when he says that a small company holding a patent poses an asymmetric threat to a larger competitor.
"Phelps is right; Eolas, which got $520 million from Microsoft, is a one person company. eBay has lost a $50m claim to a one person company, too. Small companies are tempted to get a patent and through predatory techniques use them as a lottery."
However he's keen to point out that that the sky isn't falling on the free software community just yet. Nor does he think that Microsoft is going to deploy a Shock and Awe barrage against the industry.
"Microsoft has 3,000 patents, but I'd bet that they're not going to litigate 2,950 of them. Very few of them are going to justify being aggressive."
Ravicher, who worked has worked with the FSF and Eben Moglen for three years.
"I'm a patent attorney, and I'm often the one least concerned about a patent threat. It's like jay walking is illegal in NYC, but everyone does it because the fine is not significant enough," he says. "Likewise with patent infringement, if you are held to infringe a patent, there's no windfall. It's rare for a patent holder to get an injunction, especially against a smaller competitor, just because of anti competitive terms."
The free software and open source communities should remember, he says, that a patent isn't the end of the world; that workarounds can be implemented quickly and often painlessly.
If the PFF's tactic catches on, it could have a dramatic effect on the overworked USPTO. ®