* Posts by Flocke Kroes

1405 posts • joined 19 Oct 2007

Samsung wins right to delay UK appeal in Apple dispute

Flocke Kroes
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Put the blame where it belongs

Patent law allows this insanity. Blame the lawyers who created it.

Personally I think Apple should have won this appeal, but with the following stipulations:

1) Apple have to pay court costs and Samsung's legal fees in advance.

2) All the resulting rulings are thrown in the bin when the changes to the patents have been accepted or denied.

Both sides win: Samsung (and the courts) do not have to pay for this complete waste of time and Apple's lawyers get to divert a few more millions of Apple's profits into their own pockets.

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Seattle pops a cap in Uber and Lyft: Rideshare bizs get 150-driver limit

Flocke Kroes
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seems unreasonable

150 full time taxi drivers per company in a city might make sense, but it is beyond silly when you are looking at divers who have a separate day job and just happen to be going the right way at the right time.

Try to understand https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture

Imagine what this law will do. Lyft and the others will license their software to dozens of micro companies each with 149 vehicles. These companies will insist drivers do not use any other ride sharing app.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/wfryer/3929189482/

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Shuttleworth: Firmware is the universal Trojan

Flocke Kroes
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Re: He's right... and wrong!

Wouldn't it be nice to be sure you do not have NSA firmware in your hard disk that will hand over the drive encryption key to anyone that knows the NSA's secret handshake? How about replacing a camera's firmware to make it a standard UVC device or to make the LED always come on when it is recording? Would you like to know if your 32GB HDLC card contains 32GB, or 8GB with some lying firmware that will crash and burn when it gets quarter full.

Given proper documentation, people will do these things for themselves and share them with others. They will use Linux when it is the right tool for the job or something smaller when Linux does not fit. I can understand Mr Shuttleworth simplifying the message. Imagine what what the Daily Wail or the Grauniad would do with a technical quote over 5 words. A proper IO MMU on USB interfaces was overdue last decade. Try explaining why to a non-technical journalist and see what headline he comes up with.

Enough of the UK government now understand the value of open standards sufficiently to mandate ODF. It took them under a decade to catch on. Several other governments took less time. The same thing will happen with open firmware. Techies want it now. People will want it soon. Progressive governments will mandate it later. Manufacturers will then hire coders to maintain it, and in about fifteen years members of the Conbour party will draft a law requiring it on new purchases.

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Flying Toaster screen savers return on GitHub

Flocke Kroes
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When did the flying toasters fly away?

After a quick 'apt-get install xscreensaver-gl-extra' the toasters were flying just like they used to in the days of the CRT.

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Scam emails tell people they have cancer to trick them into installing a money-stealing Trojan

Flocke Kroes
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Back in the day ...

... e-mails over 32k were not certain to make it across the internet. There were tools to split and reassemble large files, but it was far more sensible (and polite) to use sftp/ftp/http. It all started to go horribly wrong when Microsoft started sending e-mail as a container with the same message in html and plain text. I assume they did it because putting **emphasis**, _underlining_ and SHOUTING in plain text was too difficult for Microsoft executives. The internet would be a better place if people set their mail delivery agents to reject long messages.

PS - The ODF formats are a bunch of things in zip files. If you block zip format files, you will also block .odt word processing documents.

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Windows Phone beats BLACKBERRY in mobe OS popularity stakes

Flocke Kroes
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Re: US only

You can find world wide figures here:

http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2014/02/final-2013-smartphone-market-share-numbers-full-year-and-quarterly-q4-data-by-top-10-brands-plus-os-.html

Apple's installed base is 21%, so they do far better in the US than in the rest of the world. WP is 3% in the US and in the whole of the world. Europe has been a difficult market for WP, in part because of retaliation for the destruction of Nokia. WP does well in the bargain bins of the third world where unwanted phones are disposed of. The odd thing is Symbian, with 5% world wide market share, but not showing up in the US figures.

Nokia has given a clear statement about the future of WP: they released three new Android phones.

Linux on Azure. Android on phones from Microsoft's Nokia. Is it time to say Microsoft Linux has arrived, or should we wait for Steam on XBox?

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NZ bloke's drunken poker bet ends in 99-letter name

Flocke Kroes
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Of course

But it is so much hassle to get someone else to type in, they just say they are from Waikikamukau.

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Sony can't wait to flash you its enormous disc ... a 1TB Blu-ray spinner

Flocke Kroes
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Still no reason to suspect life

If history repeats, hard disks will be cheaper than 1TB blu ray disks for a few years. By the time blu ray becomes cost effective, a typical backup will require a stack of disks and an auto changer to chew through them over the weekend. I would bet on write-once flash being practical before 1TB blu ray.

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Police pen shortage threatens Irish public order

Flocke Kroes
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Electronic pads are useless for signatures

Delivery guys ask me to 'sign' electronic pads. I would be worried that the words on the thing I am signing could change with the wind, but the device cannot record variations in pressure, and cannot keep up at all. The result is a random spiky mess that bears no relation to my signature.

The problem here is that occasionally, a few policemen do not like that their victims have been granted bail, so they make it difficult for the victims to keep their bail conditions. Electronic pads are not going to prevent that. The judge has the right idea - if some policemen are using bail conditions to cause trouble, the solution is to make bail unconditional. The same thing used to happen in the UK. (I have no idea if it still does.)

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Steve Ballmer: Thanks to me, Microsoft screwed up a decade in phones

Flocke Kroes
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Microsoft's future in under a bridge

Microsoft has done very well as a lock-in company. Now that the monopoly is broken, they can transition to being a legacy software maintainer - watch their prices soar. I am sure they will continue to throw money down the drain to enter the phone business. The carriers control that market, and will continue to exclude Microsoft. The new business where Microsoft has real strength is patent trolling.

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HTML is a sexually transmitted disease, say many Americans

Flocke Kroes
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Any incentive to get the right answers?

Without it, some people will say the daftest thing that pops into their head at the time.

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Frenchman eyes ocean domination with floating, mobile Bond villain lair

Flocke Kroes
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Where have I seen plans like this before?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_One

http://www.crowdsourcing.org/editorial/open-source-death-star-a-kickstarter-with-850-quadrillion-stretch-goals/23724

http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-05/build-real-starship-enterprise-make-it-so-ambitious-engineer-says

By the way, the nacelles are well above the centre of drag. When you start the engines, the entire thing will tilt forward.

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Microsoft: NSA snooping? Code backdoors? Our hands are clean!

Flocke Kroes
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Someone really looked at the source code?

The terms and conditions that come with it are that if you could have glimpsed some Microsoft code, and you write some software, Microsoft can sue you for copying it. No programmer capable of reading a non-disclosure agreement would touch that with a barge pole.

Next up, you cannot compile Microsoft's source code - it is not all there and the terms and conditions say you can't. In real life, to understand a huge pile of source code, you have to insert some extra code to print out the internal state in the areas you are looking at to be certain the code is called when you expect and does what you expect.

This 'governments can review the source code' statement is just PR.

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Nokia launches Android range: X marks the growing low-cost spot

Flocke Kroes
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It's about the bonus

Elop's $25M bonus depends on him selling Nokia to Microsoft. Step 1 was to utterly trash Nokia so the cost would be acceptable. Step 2 was to turn Nokia into a Microsoft dependency so it would be of no value to anyone else. Step 3 was supposed to be the sale, but Elop was so thorough about step 1 that Bill saw no reason to buy. Elop's master stroke was to threaten to sell Androids. Bill will promptly pay a few billion to close an Android shop.

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Magnets to stick stuff to tablets: Yup, there's an Apple patent application for that

Flocke Kroes
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Remember the patent on the thermos flask?

The judge said that although it was obvious in hind sight, looking at a delicate piece of laboratory equipment like a Dewar flask and thinking "That could be made robust and portable enough to take on a picnic" was not obvious before the patent. The judge included a picture of a Dewar flask to underline his point. In the background of the picture was a small, robust Dewar flask that the lab technician had assembled to show off to friends and family at picnics.

The ideas comes early and often, but do not instantly become reality. In this case it was because rare earth magnets were not always so cheap. Apple can often beat competitors to market because Apple's customers are willing to pay more.

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Flocke Kroes
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Prior art easier than you thought

'Jupiter' by Ben Bova had magnetic fastening connectors, and was first published in 2000. I would be shocked if it was the first example. If only non-obvious did not mean non-obvious to a pickled porcupine.

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Help! Apple has snaffled the WHOLE WORLD'S supply of sapphire glass

Flocke Kroes
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Gaming the suppliers

I do not have the numbers to know what Apple are really doing, but here is meanest possibility:

Apple place a huge bulk order and get an excellent price in return. The manufacture invests to increase production to meet the order, and delivers over a time scale of say 1 year. During that time, everyone else has to use something else. A year later, the manufacture asks Apple about a repeat order, and Apple replies "No thanks, we have two more years of stock sitting idle on the shelves." The manufacturer now has no regular clients at all, and is still in paying for that investment in increased capacity. If anyone thinks about placing an order with the manufacturer, Apple offer parts from stock at a lower price. Apple waits a year, then buys out the bankrupt manufacturer for a pittance.

As I say, I have no idea if this is Apple's plan, but it is a tried, tested, effective and profitable plan.

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Not so FAST: Another discount software broker BOOTED OUT

Flocke Kroes
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No conflict of interest at all

FAST has always been Microsoft's sock puppet. The only news is they are being a bit more blatant about it than usual.

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Tizen teasing continues as new members join but none pledge devices

Flocke Kroes
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A possible reason for Tizen ...

... to prevent Google's terms and conditions becoming a problem to manufacturers and networks. Samsung's Tizen phone vanished just before news reports of Google selling Motorola.

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Facebook adds 50+ gender options: Stalking your 'Friends' just got more LGBT-friendly

Flocke Kroes
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The original internet

If men are kids, women are men, and kids are undercover FBI agents, what are all the other options?

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Rotten to the core: Apple’s 10 greatest FAILS

Flocke Kroes
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Apple not the only victim of '80s chip sockets

The most common way to fix a computer in the '80s was to open it up and push the socketed chips back down. If someone needed a computer to work reliably after a car journey (or a delivery to Scotland) I fitted spring clips to hold the chips in place.

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Hands up if you have one good reason to port enterprise apps to ARM

Flocke Kroes
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Re: Hand is up

Early this century, pppd gave me some hassle because back then it had some little endian only code. Endianness shows up whenever multi-byte values go over a network, get stored on disk or are sent to some hardware. As I have been doing embedded systems for decades, I step around the pitfalls without thinking. I heard Microsoft had real problems with endianess because their file formats depended on where the C compiler placed values in a structure. If that is true, it would have hit them again for 64-bit machines, and if they ever meet an 8-bit CPU that does not benefit from padding out to word boundaries it will byte them again.)

(Endian typo - The last few ARMs I met were little endian only. Selectable endianness is fading into history.)

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Flocke Kroes
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Hand is up

A decade ago, ARM was big endian, which caused a small hiccup (See man 3 htobe64 for the solution). ARM is big endian now, so the problem has evaporated. There was some hassle when x86 became AMD_64, (see man stdint.h). Sometimes this showed up again when porting AMD_64 back to ARM (See man inttypes.h).

Porting to ARM has been trivial before, and will be even easier for 64-bit ARMs. Been there. Done that. Didn't bother to get a T-shirt.

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Jean Michel Jarre: Je voudrais un MUSIC TAX sur VOTRE MOBE

Flocke Kroes
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Consignment of geriatric shoe menders

Cobblers is cockney rhyming slang (cobblers' awls), so the equivalent French phrases are:

C'est de la couillonnade.

Tu racontes des couilles.

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Apple in patent cross-hairs AGAIN

Flocke Kroes
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Requirements for a profitable patent

The claimed invention must have been in use for over a decade and be obvious to a squashed slug. That way there are plenty of people to sue.

Good news: Instead of a court with a judge and jury who are not patent professionals, patent disputes will soon be heard in a dedicate European Patent Court where everybody involved earns their income deciding how much protection money the rest of us have to pay. Even better, thanks to the patent box, they pay tax at a discounted rate. What could possibly go wrong with that?

PS: I have seen an eloquence of lawyers. I have not seen anything for weevils, but there is a sneak of weasels.

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Flocke Kroes
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Value of a patent license

The only thing anyone can do with a patent is get an injection preventing sale of the infringing device. It does not matter that the relevant claim only brings in one pound of extra revenue per century, infringement provides the thread of an injunction. This sets the value of a valid, infringed patent as everything you can afford. Lawyers will tell you that the value of an invalid / not infringed patent is a little under the cost of defending against nuisance litigation. In the real world, the only thing you get from paying danegeld is more Danes.

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It's Satya! Microsoft VP Nadella named CEO as Bill Gates steps down

Flocke Kroes
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I do read the news

People do not read the adverts beside articles on the internet any more. These days the article is the advert. WP articles adverts are easy to recognise. They will show year on year growth without mentioning the tiny market share. They will mention units sold without multiplying by average selling price or mentioning installed base. I am sure you can provide citations of these adverts.

WP installed base is fifth, behind Symbian and Blackberry.

http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2013/11/bloodbath-year-four-smartphones-galore-q3-results-all-market-shares.html

Despite heavy discounting and subsidies, WP is in decline:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/terokuittinen/2014/01/23/just-how-much-brand-damage-is-microsoft-doing-to-nokia/

Nokia gets hefty subsidies, sells its head office (and counts the sale as a smart phone) and still makes a thundering loss on each phone. No-one else wants to 'compete' with that.

http://venturebeat.com/2012/12/04/nokia-sells-head-office-building-for-222-million-should-keep-company-afloat-for-another-few-months/

Even if there weren't 101 reasons not to buy a Windows Phone, the carriers will not let Microsoft in the door. Microsoft own Skype, which the carriers loathe with a fiery passion. Elop complained about lack of support from the carriers caused by the doubly indirect connection with Skype. I do not see the carriers lining up to sell Windows phones now that Microsoft has bought Nokia's handset division.

http://www.mobot.net/101-reasons-buy-windows-phone-7-5-device-ouch/3

By comparison, Google is selling Motorola, so will no longer be competing directly against its own manufacturing partners. Microsoft maintain their high profits despite falling market share by increasing prices. If things carry on as they are now, this will take them out of the phone market, the home computer market and the small business market. Only multinationals and governments will be able to afford lock-in prices. The other choice is to compete on price (free) which trashes their traditional (enormous) revenue stream. Anyone trying to give Microsoft as mass market future will be fired for slaughtering the cash cow.

I am sure Nadella will be stretched in opposite directions just like Ballmer was. If he follows the contradictory requirements, I expect more adverts telling us how Microsoft is selling more WP9 than any other manufacturer, that profit margins are up and that they are successfully skimming more and more profit from their surviving business partners.

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Flocke Kroes
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Signs of failure

You are permitted to buy computers with Windows 7 pre-installed.

OEMs dare to manufacture chromebooks.

Windows Phone market share was 12%, now 3% - and mobile phones are a far bigger market that desktops and laptops.

The first two would not have been tolerated a decade ago. Mobile phones were a vital strategic target that now belongs to Samsung and Apple. The best Microsoft can say is 'We are aiming for third place'.

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Microsoft to build 'transparency centres' for source code checks

Flocke Kroes
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Pretend there is a proper code review

Thousands of programmers working for months with tools they can trust declaring parts of one version of an enormous code base do not contain back doors. The cost would be enormous. In return, tax payers get the opportunity to have the government rent installs of software that can update itself over the internet until it bears no relation to the code that was reviewed.

If the money were spent reviewing free software instead, the result could be installed for free on any number of computers. It could be maintained without having to pay monopoly lock-in prices. The EU could distribute signed copies of guaranteed a spyware safe operating system with built in politically correct filtering. In fact they could base it on work that has already been tested in the field: Red Star OS.

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Microsoft to Australian government: our kit has no back doors

Flocke Kroes
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Do people have no memories at all?

This has happened before. Microsoft representatives swore in court that there was no NSA back door shortly before the back door was public knowledge: http://www.theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/nsa_backdoor_windows.htm

Now we get another statement that there is no back door. Microsoft representatives were found guilty of lying under oath in federal court during the the abuse of monopoly trials. Microsoft can easily send a representative to court who does not know about any back doors. Even if Microsoft wanted to be honest, they can be required to lie for national security. The question is not if there is a back door, but how many are there, and who is able to exploit them.

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Yes, HP will still sue you if you make cartridges for its inkjet printers

Flocke Kroes
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IANAL

If I buy an HP ink cartridge, the patent for that cartridge has been paid for. If someone refills it with ink and sells it, the patent is still paid for. The concept is called patent exhaustion. The idea is that when a component manufacturer pays a license fee, the product manufacturer, distributor, retailer and customer _should_ be safe from prosecution for that patent. AFAIK, the law is abundantly clear, but the cost of defending against a patent bully is prohibitive.

If HP want to sell their printers below cost, then is their choice. If HP wants to feel unhappy that people are selling refilled ink cartridges then they are welcome to go into the corner and cry. This sort of granny bashing is not going to earn them any friends.

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Mail Migration

Flocke Kroes
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Personal conspiracy theory

The new e-mail system has already been selected. The user survey will include requirements that are a precise match for every single advertised feature of a particular product. If users generate any other requirements, these will be advertised for the version N+1 release. When the product arrives, you will find half the features are non-functional at best.

In your place, I would polish up my CV, start looking for my next job then propose testing various products prior to any decision being made.

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Microsoft loses cash on each Surface slab – but core biz strong as ever

Flocke Kroes
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New products hamstrung by main revenue source requirements

The traditional 'volume licenses for lock-in ware' model earns vast amounts of cash. Prices can be raised again and again to counter loss of market share, so this will not change any time soon. While this is Microsoft's main profit centre, every other Microsoft division cannot do anything that would hurt it.

Microsoft cannot make a small cheap computer because each one sold replaces the sale of a computer with and expensive software license.

Windows on routers, satnavs and washing machines is a complete non-starter because of the required licensing fees. If anyone ever made a success of such a product, licensing fees would increase until Microsoft owned the business.

Two computers in the top 500 are Windows machines (one is Microsoft's and the other is old). If Microsoft reduced the license fee per CPU to something competitive and allowed scientists to modify the OS as required then the volume license fees fall through the floor and the barn door falls off lock-in.

The phone carriers decide what phone operating systems can be sold for their networks, and they have declined to race towards bankruptcy like every other large business that becomes dependent on Microsoft. If Microsoft really wanted a Windows Phone, they would have to provide the software with a GPL or BSD license. Make sure all the furniture is nailed down before suggesting that at the next board meeting.

The only business Microsoft has that is compatible with main revenue stream is patent trolling Android. OEMs have swallowed that in return for Windows 8 licenses at a non-discriminatory price. They cannot remain viable if they continue to fund Microsoft. There was a recent supreme court ruling that past payment of royalties is not evidence of patent infringement. At some point the OEMs are going to realise that the terms and conditions for receiving Microsoft Marketing expenses do them more harm than good.

For those of you currently locked in, will you switch to Linux when Microsoft licenses cost £3,000 per year per seat or £30,000?

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Bored with patent trolls? Small fry - prepare for the Design Trolls

Flocke Kroes
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The threat of implementing the European Unified Patent Court is terrifying enough by itself

At the moment, if you are being trolled, you can hope that someone in the court does not have a vested interest. The idea of the European Unified Patent Court is that every official involved is a patent professional dedicated to diverting all R&D budgets to squabbling lawyers.

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Chrome lets websites secretly record you?! Google says no, but...

Flocke Kroes
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Simple

Configure ALSA to tell Chrome that the tuner is a microphone, and tune in to Al Jazeera.

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Plusnet is working on a network-level filter to block pirate sites

Flocke Kroes
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Re: AC 19:21

AC 16:20 is not saying copyright infringement funds terrorism. He is saying that the MPAA said piracy funds terrorism.

http://www.infoworld.com/t/networking/file-trading-may-fund-terrorism-766

http://boingboing.net/2011/03/16/piracy-doesnt-fund-t.html

Politicians are still well behind the times. Paedos and bombers are not the boogie man any more. I am far more frightened of bankers taking another chunk out of my pension fund. Which do you think we will see fist: MPAA saying 'Sharing movies crashes the stock market' or a law that says 'You can be held in custody for up to 42 days without food or water if the police suspect you are involved in banking'?

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Judge sighs at 'whack-a-mole' lawsuits as Apple deals blow to Samsung

Flocke Kroes
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Judge Koh has a simple solution available

With billions at stake, each side is going to argue about the definition of every word until the next big meteor strike. The lawyers involved are going to advise their clients not to settle while there is a drop of blood left for them to suck. If judge Koh invalidates all the patents at issue, the problem goes away (to whoever hears the inevitable appeals), and she can do something more constructive with her time.

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Good news: 'password' is no longer the #1 sesame opener, now it's '123456'

Flocke Kroes
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When you do not want to create an account

Try emails postmaster@localhost or user@name.example.com with passwords password or wordpass.

If that does not work, create that account so the next person does not have to bother.

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Nokia Lumia update spreads Black death

Flocke Kroes
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"differentiating its Windows phones portfolio from the rest of the pack"?

Nokia's market 3.9%

Windows phone share 3.6%

Other OS market share 0.4% (not Android, iOS, Windows or Blackberry)

If we pretend that 0.4% is 100% Symbian, that means 3.5% of the market is Windows phone on Nokia. That leaves 0.1% for Windows phone on Samsung, ZTE and HTC. (up to 0.25% if you are generous with the rounding errors). Even assigning all 0.25% to HTC would mean Windows phone was only 10% of their business.

Nokia does not need to differentiate because 'the rest of the pack' doesn't care, and because Nokia sold their mobile phone business to Microsoft.

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Tales from an expert witness: Prior art and patent trolls

Flocke Kroes
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You missed the most common way inventors deal with patents

Don't waste your time reading them because:

You would have to read thousands to find anything relevant.

You would have to learn patent language to understand them.

Even if you understand the patent, your still have to do the research to create a product.

Reading a patent makes you liable for triple damages.

You are going to get sued anyway.

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Intel and Asus put the dual boot in, offer 2-in-1 lapslab WinDroid

Flocke Kroes
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The mighty have fallen half way

A few years ago, Microsoft would not have tolerated dual boot from a major manufacturer. Perhaps a few years from now, customers will be able to choose what OS is pre-installed.

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BT 118 phone number fee howler lands telco giant with £225k fine

Flocke Kroes
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Easy

Use javascript to resize an image until the legally required information is below the fold.

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How to kill trolls and influence Apple people: A patent solution

Flocke Kroes
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Easy patentless way to fund things like flesh lights

kickstarter

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Flocke Kroes
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No point in student discounts

Defending a patent costs several hundred thousand. If you do not have that, the trolls won't offer you more than a pint for a patent. A MegaCorp might offer you 99% of the litigation revenue, and then use the patent exclusively for cross-licensing so you get 99% of nothing.

Don Dumb: I have good news for you - there are already plans to create a specialist patent court to rule on the validity of patents and any other type of patent disputes. This will take ordinary judges and juries out of the process and all decisions will be made by patent professionals. Perhaps the European Patent office did not advocate these plans purely out of self-interest. Personally, I think you would stand a better chance in getting justice with trial by ordeal.

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Flocke Kroes
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@WatAWorld

You are demonstrably wrong about global markets. If the Rasberry Pi Foundation had wasted money on patents, and MegaCorp had copied the Pi, the foundation would have nothing but legal bills while MegaCorp would have product revenue and could cause delays and appeals for years. Instead, the foundation did launch a modest product world-wide all at once and have sold over two million.

ARM would do fine without patents. Their designs are protected by copyrights. If the patent system disappeared, Apple and Samsung could make ARM compatible CPU's by recreating all the verilog, building a batch of CPU's, finding the bugs and repeating until they either get it right, or stop throwing money down the drain and license ARM's tested and working design.

BTW: Try downloading ARM's (or Intel's) patents and putting them into a verilog simulator. The result will be a big list of errors, not an emulated CPU. The patents do not disclose anything of value.

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Flocke Kroes
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Tabarrok's curve, first mover and the elephant

If we pretend the curve is accurate, deleting the entire patent system keeps innovation at the same rate, but has a bunch of other advantages: the courts are not backlogged with patents cases and all the patent examiners and patents lawyers are free to to something constructive instead.

In the real world, being first to market is an advantage. If your first generation product is copied, by the time the copy reaches the market your second generation product is ready to protect your market share. If on the other hand you invest in patents instead of a second generation product, delays and legal fees will bankrupt you before you get a penny from the copycats.

Finally, the idea of the patent system was that in return for getting a monopoly, you published how your invention works. There is so much dross that an inventor is unlikely to find a relevant patent. There is no chance he will understand it because it is written in patent language, and if he gets it translated the chances are he will find the invention is not adequately described anyway. Inventors do not read patents unless they are being sued - partly for the reasons just given, but also because reading patents makes inventors liable for triple damages.

I am all for using existing laws for reducing the patent problem prior to abolishment. IANAL, but I suspect demanding licensing fees for non-infringing products is fraud, and asking for settlements scaled to the cost of defending against nuisance litigation is racketeering.

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Mars One's certain-death space jolly shortlists 1,000 wannabe explorers

Flocke Kroes
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Reasons for applying

Wanting to live on Mars is not a good reason for applying. If you want to do humiliating 'psychological' tests live on television then go for it. Lucky winners can watch the trip delayed until it is cancelled with the rest of us. Unlucky winners can be one of the first corpses to crash into Mars live on TV. I think many of those 200,000 understand the difference between what is advertised and what is available.

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Haswell micro: Intel’s Next Unit of Computing desktop PC

Flocke Kroes
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No passive cooling!

Intel's web site makes it clear: active cooling, so it would be useless as a media centre even if it it were not massively over priced for that task. The PSU is rated for 65W (I did not look for the standby power specs). For me, it competes badly against an old laptop or an old ATX box that gets new components every few years. I assume the fan is a non-standard shape, so all £300 goes in the bin when the fan gets irritating. Small size is nice, but space for a 2½" disk would have added some value. (USB3 is fast enough, but it is so wobbly that one peck for a passing platypus causes the file system to get remounted read only).

Intel have demonstrated they are still good at expensive, loud and excessively fast. To compete with ARM, they need to go for cheap, silent and fast enough. If marketing insist the box has to be under 10mm thick, Intel could ship NUC's with two different lids - a thin one for marketing and a thick one with space for a pair of 3½" disks mounted with big rubber washers.

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Coming in 2014: Scary super-soldier exoskeleton suits from the US military

Flocke Kroes
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Bounding over the highest buildings

Terminal velocity (velocity when force of air resistance equals weight) for a human is about 32m/s. Double that if you try to land feet first instead of lying flat. You should increase it even more for metal armour, motors and batteries/petrol engine. You will get most of the way to 32m/s from a 50m building (16-25 storeys). Wakypedia has a list of 299 buildings over 240m, so reaching terminal velocity does not require Burj Khalifa (828m).

When you land, you go from terminal velocity to 0 while travelling the distance you curl up. If that distance is 2m (standing in armour to lying flat), your acceleration from 32m/s is 26g - but that is an impossible combination. If you were vertical, your velocity was 64m/s (104g). If you want 32m/s, then you are falling flat into a press up, so you have to shed your velocity in 1m (52g).

The actuators on the armour do not help - the best they can do is minimise the shock by spreading it over the whole 2m. Without the actuators, you would only lose a little velocity in the first 1.5m. Most of the velocity would go when you change shape from human to pancake. The armour itself is completely useless. Instead of hitting the ground, you hit the inside of the armour - and you hit harder because the density of the armour increased your terminal velocity. The armour may preserve your human shape, but bones at the bottom, meat in the middle and lungs on top is not treatable with modern medicine.

The record for a human is 46.2g. That caused broken limbs, broken ribs, detached retinas, and burst blood vessels in the eyes. Fighter pilot seats are rated for 32g because pilots can walk (well hobble) away from such impacts. Unborn rats can survive accelerations of 100g. Filling the lungs with water, 100g of impact followed by resuscitation might be survivable - at the cost of your eye-sight.

Plan B: polystyrene armour. A thick layer of polystyrene can increase the distance available to shed velocity. It will also increase your air resistance without adding much mass. Enough polystyrene would reduce the danger of the landing to bungee jump level. The down side is the jumping up part of your bound over a high building. Without air resistance, the jump requires surviving the same impact acceleration as the landing. In real life, you have to get your velocity well over terminal velocity so air resistance does not stop you before you get to the top of your building. The jump up is much harsher than the landing, and polystyrene armour would make it far worse.

If you want to bound over high (not highest) buildings, get a jet pack.

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Google's patent chief slammed the US patent office – now she's the agency's acting director

Flocke Kroes
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Backlog!

More please! This is one of the few things the USPTO does well. I look forward to the backlog getting big enough for patents to expire before they are granted.

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