Friday, December 30, 2005
RED HERRING | Google Sued for $5B
This is one of those things that makes me wonder about the legal profession.
These guys are called patent trolls. They buy up obscure patents from various places, then they sue companies for money. Usually, the 'firms' are made up almost entirely of lawyers.
I'm not defending (or condemning) Google here. But I am reasonably sure that Google didn't steal any patents. The nature of our patent system encourages this kind of activity and I can't say it's good.
Big companies like Motorola and IBM often patent the hell out of pretty much any idea they can. They have offsite weeklong patent parties with 20 engineers and a couple of lawyers that do nothing but come up with potential patents once an idea or technology they've been working on takes shape.
They then use these patents to shut down competitors (rarely) and more often, they 'cross' patent with other patent holders when there's a possible dispute. It's actually a clever way of protecting their own IP (we'll share with you if you'll share with us). As large corporations go, it's almost altruistic (well, not really, but sort of).
But these patent trolls are evil. While I was a general manager at a CLEC (Competitive Local Exchange Carrier) company awhile back, my group was served by one of these firms. We were (by phone company standards) small. They were going after small weaker companies trying to get us to settle to set a precident that would then allow them to go after the big boys once they had some wins in their court. In this case, it was for 'transmitting multimedia over cableTV infrastructure'. Isn't that called 'TV'?
Hmmm.. think of the ramifications if they won that one. I left the company before it was settled (and yes, we decided to fight it rather than lay down). But the fact remains: it's a form of predatory legal action that's more than a little distastful.
And more importantly, it's something that kills innovation and destroy's American companies ability to invest and create new technologies. And yea, it's an American problem because our patent laws support it.
Philadelphia Inquirer | 12/30/2005 | Editorial | Flour, not coke Philly cops didn't rise to the occasion
OK.. this is nuts. Girl in Philly get's arrested and detained for THREE WEEKS because she had 2 condoms, filled with flour (used as a squeeze like stress reliever by she and her dorm buddies during tests) in her suitcase.
Three friggin weeks?? And this was in 2003. She's now suing the City of Brotherly Love for half a mil (WAY low if you ask me).
I love my security and safety.. Really I do. But I love my freedom more, and this is getting truly stupid.
Bush running hundreds (maybe thousands?) of wiretaps that most leading legal scholars say is illegal (regardless of his 'my authority is the US constitution' argument).
The NSA dropping browser cookies into anyone's computer that visits there website that tracks where you go and what you do on the internet (without asking, and with a 20 year expiration date).
A quickly written law (The Patriot Act) that, although done with all the best intentions, opens doors that really, truly, should not be opened.
Monitoring and tracking peace demonstrators (something I don't personally take part in... but what if I was walking by when they were taking pictures? Guess I'm one of em.. guess I'm going to be monitored, tracked and followed now)
Detaining people, without even charging them, for years. CHARGE them with something, for god's sake. If they're such a threat, you've got to have something on them to charge them with.
This shadowy stuff is more than a little scary.
I could go on.. but I won't.
Maybe I'm over-reacting. OK.. yea.. I am, but only a little.
This hit me because this is very real world, with a very innocent person being detained for carrying flour that 'might' be drugs (or something..)
I see a link between this kind of behavior from our police and other governement authorities and their increasing over reaction to anything seen as a threat. It's carrying over into average people's lives in a very negative way. See my earlier post:
on the women who refused to show her 'ID' while riding on a public bus and was arrested.
Why did this happen? Maybe because...She's asian. It was WHITE POWDER. It might be drugs...maybe something else?? Ask: If this was sept. 10th, 2001, think it would have happened? Three weeks in jail? I doubt it. Overnight detention maybe. Maybe.
They should call in the CSI guys on TV. They can do highly complex DNA tests in, like, what, 15 minutes?
Seriously though, a test like this should be simple and fast. "Opps.. you're right.. flour.. sorry bout that"...
Old Ben Franklin nailed it when he said:
"They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security"
Time to buck up and accept that we cannot protect against every possible attack, every threat to our security. Time to realize that our freedoms must be protected as much as our security. And most importantly- time to realize that WE, the citizens of the country, are not the enemy. These are trends, and they are not good trends.
The balance is out of whack. WAY out of whack. To our leaders: Get it together. Find some reasonable balance. Be smart about security, but don't crush, or even dent, the freedoms this country was founded on.
I took a week and turned off my cell phone and disconnected my email and just lived in the 'natural' world for a change. You know.. cars, restaurants, coffee shops (without a computer), hanging with people that didn't care about computers or web 2.0 or podcasting or much of anything I work on all day
Everyone should do it.
Amazing how we can get totally wrapped up in our worlds and forget about all the other extraordinary things out in the world.
End result? I've decided I'm doing the wrong thing with my life. I was meant to be a Anime/Manga artist (even though I have no idea if I can draw). So, guess I better learn fast. Either that or an erotic portrait photographer. Can't get a good read on which one just yet.... Maybe another week off.... hmmmm
Weird how things come full circle if you give them long enough.
Here's something from today's Wall Street Journal:
AT&T to 'Reintroduce' Itself
With a Big Campaign
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
December 29, 2005; Page B4
In a bid to re-energize one of the country's best-known brands, the new AT&T Inc. plans to kick off a massive ad campaign on New Year's Eve.
The campaign, which includes television commercials, billboards, airport signs and a theme song by the rock band Oasis, comes a month after SBC Communications Inc. acquired AT&T Corp. and decided to keep the historic phone company's moniker. Executives said the new campaign is bigger than any marketing buys in the history of both SBC and the old AT&T.
AT&T won't say how much it is spending on the campaign, which is being handled by Omnicom Group Inc.'s GSD&M and Rodgers Townsend. Advertising experts estimate it will cost $800 million to $1 billion.
This got me to thinking: This 'new' AT&T is one big honkin company. And, as big companies go, they have only one primary goal: Increase shareholder value.
How? By growing their sales and revenue. How to do that? Good products and BUYING OTHER PHONE COMPANIES. I yell this because, damn it.... they're gonna buy all the other phone companies and reconstitute AT&T! MaBell wants to live yet again.... Even the US governments anti-trust department can't stop her long term.
You heard it here first. Heh.
Saturday, December 10, 2005
This 'accessory' is available for your iPod now. Plugs in and vibrates/pulsates to the beat of the music.
This is what I call PERSONAL entertainment.
Thanks to the engadget guys for clueing us in on this. More from them at: http://www.engadget.com/entry/1234000727071936/
Thursday, December 08, 2005
My Del.icio.us tag list. If you're not a del.icio.us user, think about starting. It's a great way to quickly 'tag' things of interest so you can find them later. I use it half a dozen times a day to mark things I don't want to lose track of, and, it ranks them for me over time showing me what my thought process flow is in a semi-graphic highly alpha mannor. Cool stuff.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
This just isn't fair.
It's official: too much sex saps male brains
MALE animals can produce a lot of sperm or grow big brains but cannot do both, according to a study that may confirm the suspicions of many women.
The study of 334 bat species suggests that energy-hungry brains can evolve only at the expense of other tissues.
Writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, Scott Pitnick, of Syracuse University, New York, reported that species with promiscuous females had evolved extra large testicles but smaller brains.
"The general rule that is emerging is that sperm production can be incredibly costly," said Dr Pitnick, who first found the relationship in insects. Male fruit flies, for example, can make sperm 7.5 centimetres long.
"This led me to examine bats, as sperm competition is rife, and so testes can be ridiculously large," he said.
"Brains are metabolically expensive organs to develop and maintain, so looking for a trade-off there seemed obvious."
The most interesting implications of the study are for the co-ordinated evolution of brains, behaviour and extravagant sexually selected traits: ornaments such as the peacock's tail and armaments such as antlers.
Dr Pitnick said: "The road to sexual success can lie in being clever, in being a dull yet well-armed brute that can fight for paternity, in being spectacularly ornamented, or in providing a rich cocktail of seminal fluids and costly sperm."
Sexual selection could favour any combination of these.
Dr Pitnick carried out the study with Kate Jones, of the London Zoological Society, and Jerry Wilkinson, of the University of Maryland
Monday, December 05, 2005
That’s why the editors of the New Oxford American Dictionary have selected “podcast” as the Word of the Year for 2005. Podcast, defined as “a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player,” will be added to the next online update of the New Oxford American Dictionary, due in early 2006.
Wikipedia Tightens Submission Rules
By DAN GOODIN, Associated Press WriterMon Dec 5, 6:10 PM ET
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, is tightening submission rules after a prominent journalist complained that an article falsely implicated him in the Kennedy assassinations.
Wikipedia will now require users to register before they can create articles, Jimmy Wales, founder of the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Web site, said Monday. People who modify existing articles will still be able to do so without registering.
Graffiti. I’ve been thinking about that last post on Wikipedia and the uproar over how anonymous posting there can be troublesome and, in some cases, potentially libelous. It brings me to some personal experiences, both recent and in the past that tells me: anonymous isn’t necessary goodness.
I’m CEO of a podcasting startup called ClickCaster (www.clickcaster.com). We had some debate among the development team on whether to allow anonymous podcasting or not and, after going back and forth, decided that there needed to be some degree of accountability for what you say in your podcast. At the very least, you needed to supply a verifiable email that someone would complain (or send praise) to. You can still browse and listen to podcasts, but if you want to post something, you’ve got to supply a working email.
And this reminded me of a program developed internally at Apple computer back in the late 80’s, early 90’s by a fellow (Harry C) that had a somewhat profound effect on the company. It was called Graffiti, and that was exactly what it was. It was a small program you installed on your Macintosh, and it had two fields, one for text that you’d enter, and one for text that others entered to appear in. Super simple. Super fun and it, for a while, brought the Apple Campus network to it’s knee’s (thousands of copies running on virtually every employee computer in Cupertino).
Harry wrote it while working for ATG (Advanced Technology Group) and then, worked for me in the AOS (Apple Online Systems group). The sheet hit the fan, unfortunately, when he went to work for me, so I got a front row seat (as his manager) to what unfolded.Since you didn’t have to name yourself when you put text in and blasted it all over the network, making it anonymous and very graffiti like (hence it’s name), you also could say anything you wanted. Some people did, and it was fun.
But some people posted rumors, and gossip. One in particular was started about an HR exec who was sleeping with his administrative assistant. No biggie, most people at Apple back then were single and it’s was pretty common, This guy was married though, and in a sensitive job that interacted with a lot of people. And, unfortunately, it might have been true. This exec found out, went to the engineering VP (I think it was Larry Tesler… can’t remember) who, eventually, got to me, the software authors manager.
Because the software assumed a small (Apple only) audience, and it was a closed system, Harry thought it wouldn’t be a problem that it was anonymous. He was wrong. He was forced to pull the software from the network (although, if you had it, you could keep running it) and he was almost fired over it (I intervened, of course). But the lesson was learned.
Anonymous posting is almost always bad. There are a few (rare) cases where it makes sense (political, personal or professional repercussions if you associate your name with something for instance) but, in general, it’s better to have accountability than not to.
Hopefully, the Wikipedia folks have learn this lesson as well.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Following is a link sent to me by a friend about how a fake posting a person in Wikipedia got by the volunteer editors and slandered someone who's still around with alot of untrue info. This is my response to it. It's interesting in that I think this will become a sort of attack point by old media entities on new media and it's worth both keeping an eye on and making sure it doesn't spiral into something unreal:
"This is interesting in that it's creating alot of focus on the 'unreliability' of things like WIkipedia and blogs.
My initial reaction is 'how accurate are the newspapers?'. I've been quoted, over the years, many times in newspapers and magazines and, about 10 or so years ago, stopped talking to them because they NEVER got it right. Sometimes, they intentionally got it wrong (a quote by me was once used by a Washington Post reporter, totally out of context, about a story on the 'problems' at Apple computer... my quote, which had nothing to do with the problems, made it sound like an exec (me) from the company was confirming it was going down the tubes).
And the NYT's has some very real credibility problems in my mind right now when it comes to 'getting it right'. I don't even read these guys anymore due to 'award winning' reporters getting it wrong and, in some cases, just making it up. The NYT in particular is well known for having this happen to them.
That said, yea.. it's an issue. I think, however, it's a self correcting one. The Wisdom of Crowds is real, and overall, it's better than the editor/writer/fact-checker model used by commercial entities that broadcast out to the masses. Will things like this happen? Always. Will the Wikipedia's (and blogs and podcasts) of the world continue to have this problem? Yes. But I would bet, over time, if you compare the accuracy of a Wikipedia to a NYT's, you'll find overall better information with the user generated (and policed) source over the commercial source.
Just my two cents. ;-)S
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