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Amazon Patents the Milkman

Alaren Re:Sounds like a subscription... (365 comments)

This is in the UK, though, and the US Patent Office might not be aware that we exist.

Everyone knows England is just a conspiracy of cartographers.

about a year ago
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LG To Pay Licensing Fees To Microsoft For Using Android

Alaren Re:I'm honestly confused... (359 comments)

Alright, here. I AM a lawyer (though not your lawyer, and nothing I post here should be construed as legal advice) and you might be interested to know that Microsoft is already backing off a bit in the suit with Barnes & Noble. So yes: "at least 6 multi-billion dollar corporations, some of which are much larger than Microsoft, have signed patent deals worth hundreds of millions over completely flimsy ridiculous patents that could easy be overturned by any court."

The nice way of saying it is that those companies have agreed to "play ball" and probably anticipate improved relations with Microsoft as a result. In the sense that it takes money to make money, these companies probably see the payoff as an investment in something else (even if that "something else" is just avoiding a protracted legal battle). Barnes & Noble is no stranger to the game of David & Goliath, though they are usually the Goliath! But they are refusing to be bullied while several of the companies who have capitulated are not treating it so much as being bullied as cutting deals.

If Microsoft hadn't insisted on an NDA ("you're violating our patents but we won't tell you which ones unless you sign an agreement with us") they might have some minimal leg to stand on. As it is, though, what they're doing looks an awful lot like bad-faith extortion. Especially if it was a natural person doing it; but of course, large companies these days get away with much worse.

more than 2 years ago
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Asus Unveils Quad-Core Transformer Prime Tablet

Alaren It's the Size (274 comments)

Ten inches is too big to be truly portable, too small to justify using as a replacement if you own an actual computer (especially if you own a laptop). I think for many non-tech types, tablets are replacing the PC--after all, they only bought a PC so they could surf the web and maybe play simple games.

But that's not me. I don't carry a cell phone (my wife uses her iPhone constantly) but I'm interested in the 7" tablets... may pick one up this Christmas, though now that the Tegra 3 is out I guess I'm waffling again. Combined with a bluetooth headset, I would definitely use a 7" tablet often.

more than 2 years ago
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World Wide Web Turns 20 Today

Alaren You Never Forget Your First (169 comments)

I tried out Mosaic via a NovaNET connection out in rural Arizona--in 1994, when I was 14. It was another year before I bothered with the web again (once we moved somewhere with local dial-up access), though by the time I graduated high school I was using it every day.

I left IT behind in 2006 and am an attorney now, but honestly the HTML (and Photoshop) I learned running an "underground" newspaper website on Geocities has been more useful to me than most anything else I learned in high school. As usual, Randall got it right.

more than 2 years ago
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When it comes to jury service, I ...

Alaren Re:I get called upon about every year... (528 comments)

I've had the same experience. I've been summoned four times in the last 12 years. Twice I was out of state at school, so obviously I couldn't go. Twice I was in-state and reported happily. The first time I was down the list a ways and they selected a complete jury before getting to me. The second time I had just graduated from law school so the attorneys on the case bounced me, which was disappointing. While sometimes it doesn't work that way, most of the time if you are a lawyer or even a paralegal, you will not be selected. Which disappoints me because it means I will probably never get to serve on a jury now.

Anyway, in the same time period, my wife has never been summoned at all. Just the nature of random (here on /. do I have to say "pseudo-random?") selection; clustering tends to occur.

more than 2 years ago
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More Nintendo Console Rumors

Alaren Terrible Jokes (150 comments)

This resurrection of horrible Wii puns is incredibly misguided. You would think we'd have learned by now to never, ever cross the Streams.

more than 2 years ago
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Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life

Alaren Re:The work here is being done (361 comments)

Thanks for the link--looks like an interesting approach to the question.

about 3 years ago
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Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life

Alaren Re:No Repeats? (361 comments)

Interesting--thanks! It's not an area I know much about but it is certainly interesting to hear what's going on outside of the more headline-oriented news media.

about 3 years ago
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Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life

Alaren Re:No Repeats? (361 comments)

Interesting. I guess my perspective would be that the "much new to learn" would be the conditions under which those collected amino acids transition to the next step--a couple other posts suggest that work may be ongoing in this area, so I'm interested to read further. Thanks for your comment!

about 3 years ago
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Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life

Alaren Re:No Repeats? (361 comments)

I'm not sure this is a particularly valid point--unless you're advocating Intelligent Design, our planet does not resemble a "lab" at all. What took hundreds of millions of years to occur randomly should nevertheless be readily reproducible provided we have sufficiently good information about the conditions under which it happened. I've read a lot of theories regarding the origins of life, but those theories seem to be but rarely followed up with experimental science. Some comments below indicate that work is ongoing at least in some places, though; I will look further into what they've said about it.

about 3 years ago
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Sludge In Flask Gives Clues To Origin of Life

Alaren No Repeats? (361 comments)

I'm curious as to whether these results have been revisited--or replicated--since the 1950s. This article seems to indicate that people have been talking about the experiment without really revisiting the science for more than half a century.

Biology is not my area of expertise, but I have to wonder why we haven't managed to "create life" yet (or have we?). It seems like such an experiment could yield a lot of results that would be important for everything from medicine (understanding where we came from may give us better insight into where we are now) to space travel (isn't one of the variables in the Drake equation the likelihood of life appearing? Wouldn't we need to know what it takes for life to emerge in order to calculate that?).

Are the experiments just not economically promising enough? More complicated than they sound? I'd be very interested to know more about this area of research from someone with actual background in the field.

about 3 years ago
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Iceland Eyes Liquid Magma As Energy Source

Alaren Life Imitates Minecraft (215 comments)

Psh, I've been using buckets of lava to power my furnace for months!

(Seriously, though, is this a "new source" of geothermal energy? Isn't it more like a "new approach to utilizing" geothermal energy?)

more than 3 years ago
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Ebooks Finally Included On the NYT BestSeller List

Alaren Not a Chance (32 comments)

The vagaries inherent in selecting best-sellers do not really stem from problems of accuracy.

At present, there are only two entities that track overall sales of a book: the publisher, which tracks books shipped and/or returned, and Bookscan, which kind of sort of tracks books sold at the register.

The publisher's numbers are as accurate as reasonably possible for the very simple reason that they have to pay the author based on this number and are subject to audits at the author's request. However this does not track copies sold to readers--just to the indies, the chains, and other retailers. This number is occasionally made available to industry press (for example, Publisher's Weekly).

Bookscan numbers track copies sold to readers, however depending on the genre Bookscan may report 90% of sales or it may catch 50% of sales, because not all booksellers report to Bookscan. Bookscan subscriptions are not cheap to get (publishers and some agents are their primary customers) but Amazon recently made authors' personal numbers available via author accounts.

The best-seller lists rely on a combination of publisher input, Bookscan numbers, non-bookscan numbers, and their own statistical projections. My wife, a New York Times bestselling children's author, has spent some time examining the lists and the numbers with some of her author friends. Most of the time, Bookscan numbers line up more or less with the rankings on the list, particularly at the top. But (especially toward the bottom half of the list) there are recurring and sometimes wild variations. And some books are not "listed" because the publisher apparently does not submit them for consideration in a given week; Lois Lowry's "The Giver," for example, puts up strong enough numbers every single week that it would likely bounce on and off the Children's Hardcover list several times each year. Because the list is a powerful marketing tool, however, and "The Giver" presumably is in no need of marketing, this does not occur. Furthermore, the NYT has shown that it frowns on books clogging the list for too long (the Children's lists were made in direct response to Harry Potter's dominance, for example).

With specific regard to e-books, we're a little baffled as to why the NYT would create an eBook list and a "combined" list at once. I don't know if eBook sales previously counted at all toward a book's listing status; I do think they should! I can see why a separate eBook list might be of interest but I'm not sure THREE lists is warranted. As a general rule, expect to see the top slots of all three lists basically repeat themselves. But don't expect "improved accuracy." While accuracy is definitely among the lists' aspirations, the ability to track eBook sales only slightly improves the information already available to the Times.

more than 3 years ago
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Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Alaren Re:Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (832 comments)

Reading comprehension fail.

I am not arguing against childhood vaccination! At all! I'm not interested in defending Wakefield.

What I'm asking is for some empirical evidence of the claim that Wakefield has killed thousands of children. Not anecdotal evidence that some people have suffered. Not scientific evidence that measles is bad. Not restatements of why that childhood vaccination is a good thing. All these things I accept. What I don't accept is using invented numbers in an attempt to strengthen the case against Wakefield because inventing numbers is what got us into this mess in the first place.

My original comment has now been modded flamebait and overrated (and one insightful) because I have asked for data (rather than anecdotes) on Gates' claims. The dogma has officially overrun my karma. Way to be scientific, slashdot community.

more than 3 years ago
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Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Alaren Re:Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (832 comments)

Thanks for not going with the LMGTFY link. I am glad it amused you but I don't recommend it. It comes off as smug without actually contributing to the discussion.

Your link is pretty much the same as every other link on the subject. We have statistics. We have anecdotes. I am not arguing that lives have not been negatively impacted by failure to vaccinate. It is clear that people have indeed suffered.

What I'm pleading for is for people to stop spreading lies and off-the-cuff stats and just focus on the real data. Numbers like "1 in 500" are useful to have around. Numbers like "Wakefield killed thousands of children" or "Wakefield has caused hundreds of children unnecessary brain damage" are unverifiable at best--and likely flat-out false. Wakefield spun a handful of statistical outliers (mostly those with underlying mitochondrial disorders) into an international campaign of FUD. And all anyone seems interested in around here is lynching him for it--even if that means spreading some FUD of our own.

more than 3 years ago
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Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Alaren Re:Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (832 comments)

I assume you're pointing me toward the "deaths caused by Jenny McCarthy" page. That page is just more bad statistics of the same kind that made Wakefield's research so unethical. The page just counts deaths by diseases with known vaccines. It does not differentiate between unvaccinated children, vaccinated individuals who got sick anyway, unvaccinated foreigners, and so on. It just cherry-picks numbers from a CDC list. It's worse than useless, it's intentionally misleading.

And feel free to see my comment above regarding LMGTFY links. Congratulations on feeling smug without actually contributing anything to the discussion.

more than 3 years ago
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Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Alaren Re:Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (832 comments)

That was not helpful, much less informative. A list of stories about measles outbreaks--even those few that can be conclusively traced to children who remain unvaccinated based on Wakefield's "research"--is a far, far cry from empirical evidence of "hundreds of excess deaths and life-changing disabilities."

That you were modded informative (while no one has modded me at all) suggests that I'm right about this. Most people aren't interested in arguing with Bill Gates on this because he's on the "right side" of the argument--never mind that he's spreading bad information even faster than Wakefield did.

I recognize that it's fun to feel smugly superior by posting "LMGTFY" links but they're not actually informative at all. You're just continuing to act as though certain things were patently obvious even when, on actual reflection, they''re not. Participate in the discussion, or don't.

more than 3 years ago
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Bill Gates Says Anti-Vaccine Effort Kills Children

Alaren Please Show Me Evidence. Seriously. Please. (832 comments)

But the numbers are there showing that there were hundreds of excess deaths and life-changing disabilities, such as blindness or retardation, from kids not getting measles vaccines.

Link please?

I'm all for vaccination--let's just get that out of the way up front. Wakefield has been up to no good. But Bill Gates is now on record saying that thousands of children have died as a result of Wakefield's work. I have yet to see any empirical evidence of this. Indeed, the only evidence I've seen at all (that Wakefield has had real impact) is anecdotal and often turns out to be attributable to other forces (e.g. illegal immigrants who don't know they can get free vaccinations, religious parents who refuse vaccinations anyway, that sort of thing).

It bothers me that in an argument about the unempirical, biased work of one scientist, we are trotting out in opposition not truth but different lies. This is a very big problem! And yet we are all so angry at Wakefield that no one appears willing to call Gates on the carpet to explain what he is talking about and where his data is coming from. So have we decided that lies and invented statistics are okay so long as they support something we like? Come on, people. We're better than that.

more than 3 years ago
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Google Loses Street View Suit, Forced To Pay $1

Alaren Ah, Trespassing (225 comments)

For those who haven't taken property or tort law classes, it's worth noting that $1 damages is not an uncommon award in trespassing cases. Punitive damages are unlikely if there is not a showing of disregarded warnings, maliciousness, or similar. Actual damages are more common but in many cases, there aren't any actual damages. Nominative damages are awarded in order to acknowledge the owners' property rights were indeed violated; depending on attorney's fees, this can be an extremely pyrrhic victory.

I'm intrigued by the court's treatment of the privacy issues, though. In particular, we occasionally see stories around here where trespass law--and sometimes copyright law--is used to shut down and even jail photographers taking pictures in public places... but here we have the opposite, photography taking place in a private (if not entirely "private") space and the response is nominative damages against a wealthy corporation. It's a frustrating disconnect.

(Yes, I am a lawyer, but of course none of this should be construed as legal advice.)

more than 3 years ago
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After Online Defamation Suit, Dismissal of Malicious Prosecution Claim Upheld

Alaren Context... (267 comments)

That line alone shows that they basically see suing people as a way to stop free speech - and that it should be allowed, even if the law isn't technically on their side. Basically, abusing the system to get people to stop saying things you don't like is considered legal.

Read that again. The court didn't say you could prevail. Only that suing--that is, filing suit--to stop the spread of negative information is not per se an abuse of process. Were it otherwise, you couldn't sue someone for libel or slander. Notice that this is a different thing than prevailing at trial.

Can you imagine how many people have been in a situation like Chris, but haven't had the money to go into a legal battle with them?

This is by far the more troubling consideration. The expense of legal process makes every one of us a potential corporate serf, and it would be nice if we could find an effective way to prevent people with money from wielding the legal system like a club. But if we called that "abuse of process," then it would be impossible for the rich to seek justice against the poor--which makes no more sense and arguably less. It would be nice if we could just say, "well, obviously this corporation could not possible have believed it would prevail on the merits, and was just throwing money at the problem, so that's clearly abuse of process," but the standard of proof for intent is yet another obstacle that brings with it a host of other problems.

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Geek-Friendly Video Cameras for Young Children

Alaren Alaren writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Alaren (682568) writes "My daughter, almost 7 years old, is fascinated by YouTube and has declared that she wants a video camera. This strikes me as an opportunity to teach about videography and video technology and to show her that computers do more than just play games. Unfortunately, most tech review sites don't deal in technology aimed at children, and most sites that do are uninformative SEO sewage bobbing through the intertubes. I was intrigued by the announced Lego camcorder but it does not appear to have reached production. The Discovery Kids line of video cameras looked promising, but reviews (especially of the software) are in short supply. Most of the other brands I've found are clearly aimed at helping kids feel like they're using a video camera without providing the functionality I want: reasonable quality (VGA or better), expandable storage (like an SD card), easy YouTube uploading, and some straightforward software for trimming and merging video files (and, maybe, audio tracks). Part of me thinks what I'm really looking for is a Flip, but of course with children durability is an added concern, and I'd like to minimize adult interference where possible. So, Slashdot, help me finish my Christmas shopping early: what experience do you have with child-friendly video equipment and software? What brands do you recommend? Or should I just buy the grown-up version and a pack of stickers?"

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