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(N)ice

In the Swedish Metro yesterday, it reads: (my translation)

The Internet went down when the tablet was launched

[…] It turned out to be a tablet computer – and perhaps an Internet killer. In any case those who were there in San Francisco, only specially invited guests saw the launch live, had problems reaching the Internet to talk about what they saw. […]

The corresponding Swedish text:

Internet gick ner när plattan lanserades

[…] Det visade sig vara en läsplatta – och kanske en internetdödare.
De som fanns på plats i San Francisco, bara speciellt inbjudna såg lanseringen live, hade i alla fall problem att komma ut på internet för att berätta om vad de såg. […]

Regardless of interpretation I have trouble seeing how this article could reflect well on the newspaper.

ASCII pOrtal

Who needs a powerful computer, when you can run ASCIIpOrtal? Now that game is geeky. 🙂

Note to fellow time wasters: if (for whatever reason) you want to compile from source, you need to compile PDCurses 3.4 first. Then copy it to / put a link in the source directory.

Update 30 Jan 2010: Burj Dubai renamed Burj Khalifa, height redefined.

Last week I came home after spending 10 days in the United Arab Emirates. Here is a clickable selection (pictures linked to are 30% the size of the originals) of my impressions.

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Making friends at the Dubai Aquarium Tunnel at Dubai Mall.

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A piece of Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.

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Cranes are a mandatory part of the skyline.

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Very strict regulations here.

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The Grand Mosque.

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This fellow seems to handle the climate better than me.

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Back to Dubai and Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest building at 828 818 meters.

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No comment.

Pictures from Atlantis and The Lost Chambers in The Palm, Dubai:

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Thumbnails and respective linked images available under CC by-sa 3.0.

Model rocket launch

Here’s a nice rocket launch (seems rather similar to an alternative clip which is shorter and has no high quality version, but might contain some more pieces of info), apparently reaching about 1350 meters (4441 feet, according to a comment). Features one very smooth landing, too. 😎

I’ve been following this for a while now. With platforms like Linux around, why not aim for open hardware? OSNews has the latest (here and here).

Update 23 April: added link to second OSNews article.

Doug Mahugh of Microsoft writes1 on Twitter:

XPS will be submitted to Ecma within three weeks, likely to be approved at the Ecma GA in June. Have decided not to submit to ISO.”

No ISO submission? Interesting. Note: XPS, Microsoft’s alternative to PDF, depends on their own “HD Photo” (see slide 14) Also known as “JPEG XR”, it is about to be processed through ISO this year.

1 Someone found this piece. As for myself, I believe I’m “too old” to use things like Twitter.

I’ve always found the man page for top to be painful to get through1, so I was quite happy when I found some old tips on how to get the most out of this nice utility. Not everything is in there, but it should be enough.

Another thing I’ve been looking for since ages ago is iotop (available in Debian and Ubuntu), letting you monitor disk activity on a per-process basis. This feature requires kernel version 2.6.20 or later.

1 In a way it feels like reading the man page for mplayer from end to end, albeit 7,000 lines shorter.

Update 7 April: thought I might as well mention jnettop too (its package name in Debian and Ubuntu), and you should of course know about dstat.

Software patents, ah… It’s like the seemingly never ending saga of SCO. Can’t they just leave us in peace?

Soon, the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) at the European Patent Office (EPO) will decide on several questions about software patents, asked by the President of the same organization. We’ll soon find out what kind of independence might or might not exist among the various layers of the EPO… (Interesting setup, for that matter.)

The questions, and some responses from the global community, can be found on the EPO page. Notably, replies from Jacob Hallén (FFII) and Philips are available there. URLs seem to be dynamic so please look these up on the page, right now under “23.10.2008 Case G3/08”. (My organization has no official submission as of yet, the deadline is the end of April.)

Sadly, the questions posed to the EBA are mined with typical EPO philosophy including their definitions of “technical effect”, “further technical effect”, “technical character”, “technical considerations” and other terminology they have used over the years. In that way they justified black being white, or more specifically the applicability of software patents (but, naturally, not “as such”).

Seeing how the specific questions to the EBA are phrased (quite some traps in there), and what is not asked, it seems clear to me that any set of answers with just “yes” or “no” is unable to speak against software patents in any meaningful way. Furthermore, if only one was to accept the premises of the questions, I submit that seemingly innocent arguments could be twisted in a number of ways to justify software patents. Nice job!

In their reply, Philips seems to have got the general idea: (page 4)

“[…] the claims define the invention in terms of the technical features […] is a technical feature if it has a technical effect. Whether this technical effect is on the computer or on the outside world, is irrelevant.”

Rough translation: “if it’s a new thing that required some thinking to come up with, and it runs on a computer, you can patent it”.

Considering how this opinion seems all too easy to find in certain circles, we have a pessimistic press release on this subject.

Eric Brechner of Microsoft says in his blog: (emphasis added)

“When using existing libraries, services, tools, and methods from outside Microsoft, we must be respectful of licenses, copyrights, and patents. Generally, you want to carefully research licenses and copyrights (your contact in Legal and Corporate Affairs can help), and never search, view, or speculate about patents. I was confused by this guidance till I wrote and reviewed one of my own patents. The legal claims section—the only section that counts—was indecipherable by anyone but a patent attorney. Ignorance is bliss and strongly recommended when it comes to patents.”

I applaud the admission here of one of the core problems of today’s patent system; patents simply don’t serve their purpose if they don’t ensure the distribution of knowledge. Now, if software patents would at least be readable, the other problems with that concept would be even more visible…

Software patents is like patenting an element. Putting arbitrary limits on this beast won’t help, and it would be a start to reach this level of debate in wider circles when we talk about patent reform.

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