Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Comments

top

Red Hat Assistant General Counsel Analyses Supreme Court's Patent Ruling

harperska Re:This is NOT a land breaking ruling (43 comments)

It is a landmark because even though abstract ideas were never patentable, it was never established that joining abstract ideas to generic implementations was also not patentable. Previous law suggested that an implementation, even if it seems obvious, was transformative enough to make an abstract idea patentable. This case clarifies that once and for all.

about a month ago
top

Red Hat Assistant General Counsel Analyses Supreme Court's Patent Ruling

harperska Re:Patent the invention (43 comments)

This case was specifically about whether adding "on a computer" would make something patentable that is otherwise not, but it does have wide implications beyond software patents, including possibly business-method patents.

The things that are by their very existence unpatentable are abstract ideas, and things preexisting in nature (possibly among other things that I am not remembering). This ruling was actually more wide reaching than the red hat article suggested, because it establishes tests specifically to be used in the future and not making it so narrow as they like to do, so that the ruling would only apply to the case at hand.

This ruling doesn't just apply to software patents. The common law rule now is that if anything is not already patentable such as an idea or thing of nature, you can't patent a method based on that thing if the steps of that method are themselves well known or obvious to the industry to which they apply. In this case, an abstract idea combined with an implementation on a generic computer is considered unpatentable, and the precedent cited was from Mayo v. Prometheus where a biological function (i.e. naturally occurring) combined with a common medical procedure to measure that function was considered unpatentable by the same logic. Since Clarence Thomas relied so heavily on Mayo for this decision, that rule now seems to apply not only to stupid software patents, but anything in any industry that seems obvious to those in that industry.

In a way, they did comment on whether specific software-implementation claims would be patentable by pointing out that this claim specifically did not further the state of computing technology, suggesting that software that was truly innovative that did advance the technology and didn't just use methods "well known" and "long in use" may themselves be patentable. Otherwise, why point out that this particular software was specifically unpatentable because it was "well known" and "long in use"?

Interestingly enough, Sotomayor wrote her concurring opinion specifically to make a statement about how she thinks business methods are themselves unpatentable. I don't think concurring opinions have any common law teeth like the primary opinion does, so we don't have any specific precedent regarding business method patents. But we do know how 3 of the justices feel about them (since Ginsburg and Breyer joined Sotomayor's concurring opinion).

about a month ago
top

BlackBerry Back In Profit

harperska Re:Only keyboard smartphone (67 comments)

That's why I said "outside of what is best made with a qwerty keyboard". I am not arguing that the iPad is just fine for all content creation. Not all content is typed, and I specifically excluded typing for a reason. For example, I have heard a lot of musical people are performing and composing with iPad apps. In fact, composing on the go can be easier on an iPad than on a laptop, as a qwerty keyboard is definitely not optimized for musical note input whereas an iPad app can display a piano keyboard for input just as easily.

about a month ago
top

BlackBerry Back In Profit

harperska Re:Blackberry will probably be my next phone (67 comments)

Do your Android using friends have high end models like whatever the latest Samsung Galaxy is? Because Android has become the favorite OS for low-end crapphones foisted on people who would have opted for a simple flip phone but are forced into buying a smartphone because nobody makes flip phones anymore. I would not be surprised if those phones sound like crap, but it would be odd if flagship Android phones had poor call quality as well.

about a month ago
top

BlackBerry Back In Profit

harperska Re:Only keyboard smartphone (67 comments)

Except for all of the content creation that is happening on iPads. There is a lot of content outside of what is best made with a physical qwerty keyboard. It might not be a majority in any field, but it is certainly far from nonexistent and not as simple as the black and white dichotomy sound byte people like to repeat.

about a month ago
top

BlackBerry Back In Profit

harperska Re:Bogus turn around. (67 comments)

The CEO has proven that, underlying Blackberry, there is a real profitable business which is swamped by development costs.

Not necessarily. It depends on what it is that was cut. The problem with cost-cutting and downsizing to get into the black is that it is hard as an outsider to tell the difference between cutting genuinely unnecessary overhead and gutting the organization. If the cuts are just general downsizing, any appearance of increasing profitability is temporary and illusory. A useful oversimplification is that you essentially spend money now to make a product you sell tomorrow, whether it's in R&D now for products to be made in the future, or just the time it takes a product to move through the supply chain. So it is possible that the cuts are making them look profitable because they are currently selling what they made yesterday with yesterday's level of spending, while shooting themselves in the foot by eliminating the means to make something to sell tomorrow.

about a month ago
top

US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

harperska Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (220 comments)

A case that was used for precedent was over a patent for a medical process that used the concentration of a drug's metabolites to control the dosage of that drug. The patent was thrown out because it wasn't transformative enough over an unpatentable thing. The relationship between the drug dose and the concentration of metabolites is a law of nature which is listed alongside abstract ideas among those things which are not patentable. And most importantly to this case, the process for measuring the concentration of metabolites as stated in the patent was already well known and obvious to the medical industry. So the court established a test for patentability where if a thing is unpatentable (law of nature / abstract idea), and it is tied to a method that is obvious to the industry in which that method pertains to (common medical process / basic program on commonly available computer), that combination is not enough to establish patentability.

The opinion seems to take the definition of "generic computer" to be an average computing device in common use. From the opinion: "The method claims do not, for example, purport to improve the functioning of the computer itself. Nor do they effect an improvement in any other technology or technical field." In other words, this decision seems to say that software implementing abstract ideas that can be run on hardware that is common and generally available without needing to enhance that hardware in such a way that it would significantly advance the state of the art of computing is unpatentable.

about a month ago
top

US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

harperska Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (220 comments)

IANAL, but I am a software developer. One additional piece of the puzzle is that Thomas was very careful to use the term 'generic computer'. I.E. the system claims are invalid because the computer implementation at each step of the process does not need anything more than industry standard hardware, common APIs and algorithms/processes common and well known to the industry. Because the computer portion itself could be considered generic, it didn't make the unpatentable idea into a patentable process. That decision left the door open for software patents that require either specialized hardware, or truly novel algorithms not generally known to the industry to implement an otherwise unpatentable idea.

about a month ago
top

BMW, Mazda Keen To Meet With Tesla About Charging Technology

harperska Re:It's Nissan (137 comments)

Gee, I can't imagine why nobody would want to fill a box up with batteries that would cost what the batteries in your electric car cost

There is no reason why this would have to be the case. As the buffer batteries don't have to have the lightweight requirements of a battery you literally carry with you, they could easily be made of a cheaper but heavier chemistry. Maybe even a room full of deep cycle lead acid batteries.

about a month ago
top

US To Auction 29,656 Bitcoins Seized From Silk Road

harperska Re:Initial Offer (232 comments)

They could have split the 29656 BTC into as many lots as they wanted. They intentionally split it into a few lots worth over $1M rather than more blocks worth less. Arguing over the amount of the surety money is missing the point. $200K is a reasonable amount assuming the final bids will be over $1M, but that is just ignoring the question as to why the blocks are that large in the first place. The intentional decision to auction the bitcoins in the completely arbitrary size of 3,000 blocks presumably simply for the purpose of limiting bids to institutional investors and the otherwise wealthy is what people are arguing is undemocratic.

about a month ago
top

Aliens and the Fermi Paradox

harperska Re:Progenitors? (686 comments)

What seems plausible to me is that habitable planets are overwhelmingly common, while spacefaring races are relatively rare such that there are millions or billions of habitable planets in the Milky Way, and perhaps only a few thousand spacefaring civilizations. Therefore, there is no 'need' for spacefaring aliens to colonize earth as there is an abundance of other inhabitable worlds out there and the chance that a spacefaring civilization happens to be close enough to us that we happen to be on their colonization path is pretty small. No need for them to be specifically ignoring us, just that it is unlikely that they will 'accidentally' cross paths with us.

As far as detecting alien life elsewhere, remember space is big. I don't know the numbers but I think I have heard that without constantly sending out high power radio beacons in all directions, the amount of radio signal that we give off would be below the signal to noise threshold to be detectable even from Alpha Centauri much less wherever an alien looking for other aliens (e.g. us) might likely be. So unless ET beams a very powerful radio beacon directly at us at the moment we happen to be looking in that direction (minus speed of light transit time), we would never know they were there.

about a month ago
top

Apple Announces New Programming Language Called Swift

harperska Re:Who designed this, and what drugs were they on? (636 comments)

I wonder if including the first argument's variable name is an option, and just done in the silly style in the examples because the developer guide was written by ObjC developers who are just used to doing it that way.

I have often wished that somehow including the variable names in method calls was an option in Java, etc.

object.methodThatDoesSomething("blah", 42, true);

gives no hint as to what "blah", 42, and true actually mean in context, so you are dependent on the documentation being up to date to know what the arguments do.

object.methodThatDoesSomething(printString: "blah", waitSeconds: 42, crashAfterExecution: true);

makes it much more obvious at a glance what the code is doing.

about a month and a half ago
top

Strange New World Discovered: The "Mega Earth"

harperska Re:pffff.. (147 comments)

Not exactly. A reply I made the last time there was a slashdot article about a planet discovered by Kepler that required planet-forming models to be reevaluated is still particularly apropos.

When scientists say "This shouldn't happen according to current models", they are really saying "Holy shit, this is awesome! We get to come up with new models!".

Meanwhile, the mainstream media hears that and reports it either as "Scientists say this shouldn't happen. The universe is fucked up" or "Scientists say this shouldn't happen. Science is fucked up" depending on their political bent.

about a month and a half ago
top

SpaceX Shows Off 7-Man Dragon V2 Capsule

harperska PR (140 comments)

Hadfield is a NASA PR guy (as well as an astronaut), so he is obligated to say all of the political talking points. Even though Dragon will remove US dependence on Soyuz for all LEO astronaut needs, that won't be for a couple of years yet, and in the mean time we can't afford to piss the Russians off to much lest they say 'nyet' and screw us out of access to the ISS before then. Note that he also was sure to cover the talking point of how awesome the Shuttle was. NASA is politically obligated to not admit it sucked even though the shuttle program was cancelled simply because it was a sucky boondoggle, because their funding comes from congresscritters whose constituencies greatly benefited from the shuttle's existence.

about 2 months ago
top

Shrinking Waves May Save Antarctic Sea Ice

harperska Re:and just to drive my point home (298 comments)

Somewhat of an oversimplification, but useful as far as a counterpoint example to the AGW crowd claiming that increased sea ice must disprove climate change.

about 2 months ago
top

New IE 8 Zero Day Discovered

harperska Re:American Date Format (134 comments)

Not exactly fair to call out how an attack on Americans, done on American soil, which has become culturally and politically significant to Americans is generally referred to by the American format, as an argument that the American format has universal appeal.

about 2 months ago
top

NASA, France Skeptical of SpaceX Reusable Rocket Project

harperska Re:Just because... (333 comments)

You don't think SpaceX has already done the math on return flight requirements? That was the whole point of the Falcon 9 1.1 redesign which has now successfully launched twice. It has an increased size in order to launch the same payload as 1.0 with enough fuel left over to fly the legged booster back to land. I don't know if the fully loaded Dragon spacecraft counts as a 'small payload', but the most recent Falcon 9 launch was an ISS resupply mission that included a successful 'landing' of the first stage in the ocean to check out the legs and landing capabilities.

It takes a lot less fuel to fly an almost empty first stage with no payload from the stage-sep point back to the pad than it does to push the full second stage and payload from the pad to stage-sep. So over 90% of the first stage fuel is used in accelerating the second stage and payload, and the remainder is all that is necessary to turn the stage around and land it.

about 2 months ago
top

Ask Slashdot: Beginner To Intermediate Programming Projects?

harperska Enhance your old projects (172 comments)

Try adding new features to your existing simple projects. If for example you are a musician, your beginner project might have been a simple metronome app. You could then hone your UI skills by creating a new interface for easier dialing in a tempo rather than the simple text field widget you used initially. Or you could try enhancing it to accent the downbeat for various time signatures (for which you will also need to come up with more advanced UIs). Then you can enhance the beat generation code even further to play custom rhythms rather than a constant beat. Poke around in the audio APIs a bit to allow a choice of what sound is played for each beat. Before you know it, you have built a beatbox app.

I wouldn't recommend that sort of tinkering on a production app, but for personal projects coming up with new features for existing projects is a great way to hone your skills as you can make each step as big (today I will explore the MIDI APIs) or as little (today I will learn how to use a number spinner widget) as you want.

about 2 months ago
top

Rand Paul Suggests Backing Bitcoin With Stocks

harperska Re:Stocks? (404 comments)

Apple "famously" didn't pay dividends under Steve Jobs, but they most certainly do now under Cook.

about 3 months ago

Submissions

harperska hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

harperska has no journal entries.

Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...