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How Patent Trolls Destroy Innovation

Jesus_666 Re:Patent Trolls arent just little companies (28 comments)

Patents are not inherently evil. If I get the idea for a new valve design that uses some obscure property of gasoline to make direct injection engines five percent more efficient then I deserve to be rewarded for that. But do I deserve a reward for taking something we already do and adding "via electronic transmission" without even detailing how exactly that transmission would work? Do I deserve a reward for taking the concepts of HTTP redirects and credit card processing and coming up with a redirect to a credit card processing software?

We have a few problems right now that need fundamental changes to how patents work in order to be resolved:

Firstly, there is a flood of patents far too great to allow patent examiners to examine each patent in detail. We can't solve this by adding more examiners; there's no money for that. We can't solve this by allowing an arbitrary backlog; sooner or later we'd get to a point where you'd spend longer for your application to be processed than the patent would last once approved, which would hurt legitimately useful applications. The current solution, just doing less work per patent, just means that more junk patents come through.

Additionally, we don't have enough experts. A patent on "storing a word processor document in a single XML file" (real patent) might not sound obvious to a patent examiner who doesn't have a deep understanding of IT but to an IT professional it's blindingly obvious; after all XML is a universal format and we store all sorts of other documents in XML form already. Still, a patent has been granted for this "innovation", most likely because the patent office can't afford enough IT experts to properly evaluate every IT patent. (Admittedly, the patent is specific enough that one can, with effort, create a non-infringing XML text document format. But it's still obvious.)

Of course it doesn't help that some granted patents are overly generic. Many patents just declare dominion over an idea, sometimes even without providing technical information on how to make the idea actually work. This can be hard to see for the examiner because of the relative dearth of domain experts.

Compounding that is the fact that willful infringement nets harsher punishment. However, if I actually do the research to make sure I don't violate certain patents it becomes reasonable to assume that I know about all relevant patents in the field. If I overlooked some and end up infringing them it becomes difficult to prove that I didn't know about them, costing me more money. Thus, the safest course of action is to never read any patents at all so I can at least claim ignorance. This keeps me open to surprise litigation, of course, and it also perverts the entire point of the patent system: Patents are not there so that someone can control an idea, they are there so that someone provides his idea and technical work to everyone else in exchange for some royalties.

Fixing this mess won't be easy. We need far more experts, more time per patent and fewer patent applications. The former two aren't going to happen because nobody's willing to pay that much money and the latter isn't going to happen as long as obtaining patents is as lucrative as it is today. While I don't think that killing off the entire patent system is the way to go it's easy to see how people come up with the idea.

15 minutes ago

Plan Would Give Government Virtual Veto Over Internet Governance

Jesus_666 Re:Does it matter? (61 comments)

Well, there are the schenanigans around the .iq domain. While accounts seem to differ it was a bit peculiar that .iq dropped off the root zone right around when the Iraq War happened. (I know that the guy administering the TLD was nasty but he wasn't convicted yet and I'm not sure it's reasonable to shut down a TLD because the Tech-C is being prosecuted.)

"Random people" includes any single government. Jon Postel might have been trustworthy but his government isn't. Not when international politics are involved. No single government or regional bloc truly is. (Neither are all governments combined but at least they'll have a harder time screwing everything up.)


Plan Would Give Government Virtual Veto Over Internet Governance

Jesus_666 Re:Does it matter? (61 comments)

Then again many people outside the USA aren't entirely comfortable with the USA having control over internet governance. Mind you, there are many other countries equally unsuited. The problem is that if one single country has control then one country might decide to use that control to further its own interests. And I don't think that it's a good trade to give all power to one country just to ensure that certain other countries get no power at all.

Of course this is about power shifting towards governments in general. This is to be expected - after all, we can't just have random people running the internet and governments happen to be the very things that represent their countries internationally. I expect ICANN to become something like the ITU: A UN agency that handles infrastructure governance. That does seem to be the safest and fairest option. Do Iran and North Korea get a voice? Yes, they do, just as they should. But that doesn't mean they run the show.

2 days ago

Solid State Drives Break the 50 Cents Per GiB Barrier, OCZ ARC 100 Launched

Jesus_666 Re:Cheaper drives (183 comments)

I like Apple as much as the next guy but their add-on prices are silly. The fact that their hardware tends to be good in general doesn't excuse the fact that they charge twice as much for an upgrade as you'd pay on the open market. This is obvious when looking at RAM where you pay huge markups on modules with identical stats made by the same company.

That's why I don't like their Retina lineup - less customer-serviceability (and parts in more expensive form factors) mean less independence from Apple's horrible add-on prices.

about a week ago

Microsoft To Drop Support For Older Versions of Internet Explorer

Jesus_666 Re:Please also stop supporting newer versions. (138 comments)

Well, to my knowledge this attitude is mostly found in non-IT companies. For them their computers are no different from, say, their plumbing. As long as the plumbing works (and there are no other pressing factors like legal requirements) there is no need to replace the pipes with new ones that may be in some way better. IT professionals understand that outdated software can (and often does) pose a security risk but most other people don't.

Of course it would be nice if we could get people educated about that sort of thing. Then the only ones we'd have to worry about would be those who just plain can't upgrade - either because they have custom software or because their job-specific hardware has no drivers for modern Windows versions.

about two weeks ago

Microsoft To Drop Support For Older Versions of Internet Explorer

Jesus_666 Please also stop supporting newer versions. (138 comments)

Seriously; I'd be happy if Microsoft stopped supporting newer versions of IE as well. It's not that IE is a terrible browser per se, it's that Microsoft's policy of only releasing new versions of IE for versions of Windows they still support means that many people out there are stuck using ancient IE versions. This means that web designers often still need to care for things like IE 8 on Windows XP (which, to make things even better, behaves unlike IE 8 on other Windows versions) because that's what some customers use to see if their shiny new website works.

No, those customers aren't going to replace their still-working XP boxes with brand-new computers running Windows 8.1 Upgrade 1 Patch 1 Service Pack 1, especially not to get a browser update. As long as those computers don't physically break down they're going to keep running Windows XP; after all, replacing a working tool is unneccessary cost and businesses don't like unneccessary costs. So IE 8 compatibility remains important, at least for those customers who still use it to look at their websites.

All of that would change if Microsoft wrote IE to support the same platforms Firefox and Chrome do. Firefox 31 runs on XP SP2, as does Chrome 36. So should IE 11. Then we could finally move on from the days of horrible IE-specific hacks and dozens of kilobytes of compatibility code and actually get some work done. As it is, the only recourse we have is to keep telling people to never run IE under any circumstance except to download a better browser; hopefully at some point we will have drilled "IE is always the wrong choice" into people's head hard enough that they will reflexively use a browser with a sane update policy and IE will be marginalized enough to be irrelevant.

Which would be sad; more competition in the browser market would be good. But not through an obsolescence factory like IE.

about two weeks ago

Xiaomi Arrives As Top Smartphone Seller In China

Jesus_666 Re:Yeah yeah (82 comments)

Well, I can believe in Xiaomi winning on quality. Their phones are quite powerful, yet reasonably priced. I have a coworker who swears by the brand and from what I've seen I definitely like his Mi2 better than my Galaxy S3. Are they the alpha and omega of phone development? Definitely not. But they certainly are a welcome addition to the high-end smartphone market.

Well, they're better than Samsung, which admittedly isn't terribly difficult.

about two weeks ago

Big Bang Actors To Earn $1M Per Episode

Jesus_666 Re:Nerd Blackface (442 comments)

Well, I wouldn't call it great. Sheldon is an exaggerated stereotype, same as 90% of all TV characters. It's easy to read people's behavior into him because, well, he is an exaggeration of those behaviors. It's just a TV character, written to be easily recognizable. Nothing too great, nothing too horrible. He reflects certain behaviors and attitudes commonly associated with nerds so the writers did their jobs right.

Now, I still don't watch the show but that's because every time people have tried to hook me on it I watched an episode and never laughed. The show's brand of humor just isn't mine and I don't find the main characters very likable. It's a matter of taste, though, and I recognize that many people find the show very entertaining. (Hell, The Middleman got canceled before they had time to shoot the first season's final episode and I consider that show to be among the best live-action entertainment produced in the last decade. My tastes certainly don't align with those of the people who actually count.)

about two weeks ago

The XBMC Project Will Now Be Called Kodi

Jesus_666 Re:This naming trend has to stop (188 comments)

Nonsensical names are everywhere. Microsoft .NET isn't a network protocol. ActiveX and DirectX have nothing to do with the X Window system, which in turn doesn't use cross-shaped windows. Apple's Lightning connector isn't rated for millions of volts. The Fiat Panda is not an animal and neither is Mozilla Firefox. eBay has nothing to do with an actual bay and Amazon is not even a Brazilian company. SAP doesn't even do anything with trees, much less their sap. The AMD Athlon has nothing to do with sports and the Intel Core-i7 doesn't have sqrt(-1)*7 cores.

Here are some more sensible names. Don't abbreviate them; nobody would understand you.

.net becomes "Microsoft Common Language Infrastructure Application Development Platform".
ActiveX becomes "Microsoft In-Browser Native Code API".
DirectX becomes "Microsoft 32/64-bit Multimedia API".
The X Window System becomes "Graphical Display API for Unixlike Operating Systems".
Lightning becomes "Apple 8-pin Connector Introduced In 2012".
Fiat Panda becomes "Fiat Cheap Car".
Mozilla Firefox becomes "Mozilla Web Browser"; likewise all other web browsers become "[manufacturer name] Web Browser".
eBay becomes "Physical Goods Marketplace Website With Many Auctions".
Amazon becomes "Physical Goods Marketplace Website With Sometimes Free Shipping".
SAP becomes "Big German Expensive Software Company".
Athlon becomes "AMD 32-bit Processor" (or "64-bit Processor").
Intel Core becomes "Intel 64-bit Processor (AMD-derived)". No distinctions between i3, i5 and i7; those don't contribute anything a model number can't.

See? Much better. Now, you might argue that names like "Core" or "Panda" are used to distinguish products from each other and not to inform the user of the exact properties of the product but that kind of sloppy thinking will get you nowhere.

about two weeks ago

Was America's Top Rocketeer a Communist Spy? The FBI Thought So

Jesus_666 Re:White Werhner von Braun may be many things... (165 comments)

Of course the V-2 would've been more useful if the Nazis didn't have to rely on their spy network for targeting data - at a time when the German spy netwok in the UK had been completely subverted. Properly aimed V-2s would have caused a lot more damage.

about three weeks ago

Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

Jesus_666 Re:TCO (158 comments)

It's the opposite for me. Setting up a Windows box generally requires a second computer to hunt down various drivers without which Windows can't access the internet. Setting up a Linux box requires only the USB stick you put the installer on and an hour of your time. In my experience, with a distro like Ubuntu or Mint setting up Linux requires zero effort beyond deciding on what your partition scheme should be and you generally get better performance (modulo availability of 3D acceleration) than with a Windows install.

Now, I use all three major desktop OSes. Once it's set up Windows is okay. It just doesn't have the fire-and-forget nature of Linux (where installing most software you need requires nothing more than a short incantation) or the polished UI of OS X (despite Apple's efforts to make it worse).

I admit that my Linux boxen are usually not exactly cutting-edge devices. I don't use 3D acceleration on them and video playback doesn't go beyond YouTube. That may be a factor in why I find the OS to be easy to take care of.

about three weeks ago

Linus Torvalds: "GCC 4.9.0 Seems To Be Terminally Broken"

Jesus_666 Re:Oe noes! A compiler bug! (739 comments)

Care to take a wager that it will be fixed in 4.9.1?

You'd lose that wager. The bug was fixed in the trunk before Linus even reported it but the fix didn't make it into 4.9.1.

For those who didn't bother reading through the LKML discussion and GCC bug reports: GCC 4.5.0 started doing bad things when a certain combination of flags was set, causing it to potentially use the stack pointer red zone even if explicitly told not to. This usually didn't lead to problems because the most programs can afford not to care about whether the red zone is used. The kernel can't; if you use the red zone in the wrong place your system crashes. This was only noticed in 4.9.0 because that version changed around some unrelated code which now caused the kernel to be compiled in such a way that the bug became relevant.

about three weeks ago

Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

Jesus_666 Re:Seriously? (619 comments)

As has been pointed out already, the real lesson is not about socialism but about how East Germany's planned economy was so screwed up that the only way to get anything done was to cheat - whether by paying the right people for unofficial services or just by having relatives in the West who were willing to bring over some stuff that could be freely purchased in the West but required several years of patient waiting to obtain in the East.

So yeah, life in East Germany did make people more likely to break the rules but the reason for that is just that East Germany was a deeply dysfunctional state where only cheaters prospered. (Socialism played a role there but presumably it should be possible to have a planned economy without running it in the absurdly stupid way East Germany did.)

about a month ago

Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy

Jesus_666 Re:Blame the Players, not the Game (127 comments)

Prep time is useful but not necessary. In fact, so is a GM. I've been in fun adventures where we had neither a GM nor a fixed plot. Not quite as great as a proper campaign but fun nonetheless and very quick to set up. Now, there are games where you need a GM who plans things out in advance - Shadowrun, for instance; at least if you play it the usual way with legwork and so on. But if you don't do anything that requires meticulous advance planning you can really just pick characters, have someone come up with an initial situation and make the rest up as you go, passing GM duty from player to player as people come up with an interesting direction to move the story to.

Now, I can't say I've done that with D&D; being German I prefer The Dark Eye*. But we did do it with a few systems including TDE, Shadowrun and a weird TDE/Shadowrun/Star Wars/Exalted/homebrew crossover game where we constantly had to translate back and forth between systems. Good times.

tl;dr: Roleplaying can take a lot of prep time but if you're willing to have a more chaotic experience you can do without it - and even without a GM.

* D&D doesn't even have crucial skills like Pottery, Housekeeping or Crystal Growing. It's a wonder anyone can get any adventuring done with that system.

about 1 month ago

Marvel's New Thor Will Be a Woman

Jesus_666 Re:Congratulations? (590 comments)

I'm really not invested in this as I'm not really a dedicated comic book reader but to me it doesn't look like a big deal. Somewhat bewildering but not a big deal.

In-universe the case is clear: It's not the same character, just like whoever came after Bruce Wayne wasn't the same Batman. They slapped the name onto someone else and that's it. Of course it's kinda weird how they retained the name as I thought that "Thor" was the original Thor's given name but then again my knowledge of Marvel's Thor comes from that one movie and a Hostess Cupcakes ad. Might've been a title all along.

On the meta level it's a transparent attempt to rejuventate a series Marvel apparently felt was no longer generating enough interest. It's not really different from breaking Batman's spine or disbanding/reforming the X-Men. In essence it's a soft reboot without having to toss away the continuity, which is something best reserved for a crossover. Blatant pandering in this case, yes, but nothing particularly unusual.

As for screwing with Norse mythology: Didn't they do that all along? I mean, old Thor was already a space alien if I remember correctly.

Seriously, to me this seems like business as usual. Thor was replaced by a woman. In other news, Wolverine has teamed up with someone.

about a month ago

Critical Vulnerabilities In Web-Based Password Managers Found

Jesus_666 Re:KeePass? (114 comments)

You can always try KeePassX (for Linux and OS X; use the latest 2.0 Alpha release) and MacPass (for OS X), both of which are compatible with the KeePass 2.x database format. They might not have all the features but they work rather well and you don't have to deal with the monstrosity that is KeePass on a non-Windows system.

about a month ago

Disappointed Woz Sells His "Worthless" Galaxy Gear Watch

Jesus_666 Re:All smart watches suck (242 comments)

Microsoft's hardware isn't all bad - just think of their human interface devices, which are highly esteemed. Their reputation with mobile devices is much spottier, though, with the Zune probably being one of the better ones. Their smartwatch might be good (especially since they bought Nokia's mobile devices division who know how mobile devices work) but on the other hand Microsoft does have a history of shooting themselves in the foot with anything that fits in your hand but isn't a peripheral. That makes it easy to crack a few jokes about the device.

If Microsoft indeed does as you say (I don't know, I'm not in the market for a smartwatch) then I think the brainpower behind the watch comes more from Nokia than from Microsoft proper. Not that that's a bad thing. If Microsoft defers to its ex-Nokia engineers when it comes to mobile devices that's probably better for Microsoft Mobile, Microsoft prime and the quality of their mobile products. I, for one, would welcome more competent mobile competition from Microsoft. Competition is good.

And, for the record, I don't hate Microsoft's mobile products. I find them amusing because historically they have been the mobile market's comic relief character but I don't hate them.

about a month and a half ago

Ask Slashdot: Choosing a Web Language That's Long-Lived, and Not Too Buzzy?

Jesus_666 Re:Perl still works, and PHP is fine (536 comments)

PHP is the boring, reliable choice. It's popular enough that it's probably still going to be mainstream in twenty years. The ease of entry means a steady stream of neophytes who end up checking out PHP at their first web language.

It's not a pretty language but you can be reasonably certain that for the forseeable future it's going to stay. It's nowhere near as nice as Ruby on Rails or Python/Django but it does have a huge market share so there's both relatively many people who speak it and a lot of ready-to-use code, from snippets to frameworks.

The huge amount of available code is a bit of a mixed bag, though - PHP attracts a lot of entry-level coders and in many cases it shows. On the one hand you have things like Twig (a clone of Django's template engine) that are a delight to work with; on the other hand you have things like most WordPress plugins, which consist of barely-working code written by someone who thinks that "model-view-controller" involves Kate Moss staring at a gamepad. The fact that PHP makes it easy to write code that is wrong but still runs doesn't help here.

PHP has flaws. A lot of them. It's a pretty annoying language to work with. But it's not going to fade away anytime soon and that is its strength. If that makes it desirable to you then PHP is a reasonable choice. If it doesn't you might want to stay with Perl or take a look at trendier languages like Ruby, Python or JavaScript.

about a month and a half ago

Disappointed Woz Sells His "Worthless" Galaxy Gear Watch

Jesus_666 Re:All smart watches suck (242 comments)

It'd probably have a 5" display, quadrophonic sound and an octacore CPU and run an unmodified Windows RT. Due to weight concerns most of the battery had to be sacrificed, limiting its life to an etimated fifteen minutes - but no other smartwatch has both Office and HDMI and you can always use the USB port to hook it up to an external power source if you want to use it on the go. You see, Microsoft gets mobile devices.

Or they decide they actually want to make money and release a generic Android-based smartwatch. Their Nokia arm doesn't seem too hung up about reinforcing the Windows hegemony if it gets in the way of business.

about a month and a half ago


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