* Posts by Bob

34 posts • joined 7 Dec 2007

Apple eyes patent for web silence

Bob
Jobs Horns

Wanted it yesterday, but...

what happened to the "non-obvious" test for patents? Just about every application that emits sound has an audio control, it doesn't take a genius to think of slapping one on a web browser as well.

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iPhone beta OS cracks before release

Bob
Stop

Misrepresentation

This article grossly misrepresents what jailbreaking is all about. The point of jailbreaking is to do with an iPhone what we've always been able to do with our computers --- to install whatever software we like. It might be software that (for whatever reason) Apple doesn't want to sell through iTunes (The Reg has discussed several such apps in the past). It might be open source software that doesn't have the corporate structure to pay Apple a cut of the "revenues." There are a million reasons why someone would want to run software of their own choosing on their own piece of electronics.

To equate that with software piracy is misguided and disingenuous.

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Bob
Flame

Reasons for lack for freedom

I think Apple's argument of "it's a dangerous world, so we'll only let you buy apps from our store" wears thin. If that were really the only motivation, Apple could just as well say "it's a dangerous world, if you want to be safe, only buy apps from our store." That gives users a choice whether they want to live within the "safe" Apple world, or venture out and watch their iPhones crash.

That's the experience we've had with every major desktop operating system, Linux, MacOS and Windows alike. Windows Vista users can use all-MS products if they like, or they can choose to run OpenOffice or WordPerfect.

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Google tosses free texting

Bob

Another solution?

You can already SMS for free by going to the website of T-Mobile, Verizon, etc. depending on the cellphone provider of the person you're trying to reach. Why not make an app that figures out the cellphone provider of a phone number (there are websites that can do this) and then sends the SMS message via the appropriate web site?

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Pirate Bay prosecutors get jiggy with charge sheet - again

Bob
IT Angle

Only Vague Understanding of BitTorrent?

If they're spending all those millions on lawyers, you'd think they would get a clue on BitTorrent technology. Maybe even try it out a few times, use it to download RedHat Linux or something.

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Rail companies roll out barcode ticket standard

Bob

On-Train Purchases...?

You could prevent people from buying tickets on the train just as the conductor comes by by checking timestamps. The ticket would have to be purchased before the train leaves the station.

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Apple more closed than Microsoft

Bob

...and Google Too?

Interesting article. The same can be said of Google --- a company that has done an excellent job of portraying a "warm and fuzzy" image, but is actually quite closed, quite secretive and quite arrogant --- all the while while they strangle us with their monopoly.

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Daft list names Firefox, Adobe and VMWare as top threats

Bob

Unified Updates

The OS vendors (Apple & MS) need to take some leadership here and provide a common platform that all apps can use to provide updates. That way, all apps on a computer will be updated through one standardized (and corporate-controllable) platform. Apple has this already for their own software, but not for third-party software. MS doesn't even have it for their own stuff --- Office is updated through a different channel than Windows!

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McCain begs for YouTube DMCA takedown immunity

Bob
Coat

Their Own Medicine

Wow, this is great news. Finally, the politicians who voted for this inane law now have to endure its consequences. Politicians are not above the law, that is a fundamental tenant of democracy. Does this mean that if McCain becomes president, he will promise us a DMCA repeal? Wishful thinking...

On the other hand, why doesn't McCain just make his own video website and point people to that? Oh yes I forgot, this guy doesn't even read email.

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Federal judge halts Defcon talk on subway card hacking

Bob

Sue NXP Semiconductor

The MBTA (and all MA residents) has a legitimate interest in having secure fare collection systems. But clearly, they should be suing NXP Semiconductor, not the MIT students. I expect that over the next year, as it dawns on them that the cat is out of the bag, that they will get around to this.

Otherwise, what is the purpose of security at all? Why not just have unencrypted farecards and sue anyone who talks about them?

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Bob
Thumb Down

They Did Violate the Law

I reviewed the slides that were to be shown at the conference. Apparently, these students did violate the law:

1. They claim to have engaged in social engineering techniques that included trespassing on MBTA property.

2. They used some equipment to remotely monitor communications going on inside the MBTA building.

Both of these have nothing (directly) to do with farecard security, and they are illegal, it is Keven Mitnick-style hacking. This is NOT a good test case to maintain free speech rights on pointing out security vulnerabilities.

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Driving some value into Google's Street View

Bob

Copyright Law...

It's not clear to me that taking street sign names off of Google Maps would not be legal. In the US at least, copyright (supposedly) covers the expression of an idea, not the idea itself. The fact is that particular street has a particular name whether or not Google has a picture of its street sign (and Google never invented the name either).

How is this different from using Google Street View to find a pub?

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BSA: Software piracy's 'tragic' impact on US society

Bob
Jobs Horns

Open Source Software Destroys Civilization

Yes, the tragic loss to society due to the use of open source software is even worse. Think of all that lost Microsoft revenue from all those Apache installations out there. Or, how much better off would Microsoft be if Google had not been allowed to use Linux on their 150,000+ computers?

Sounds like NebuAd's recent claim that they're doing everyone a service by finding a way to make money on the Internet. Would it really be so bad if people don't try to "own" that right? What if the Internet just connects people without making money?

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Wife-slaying Linux guru may have 'developmental disability'

Bob
Gates Halo

Aspergers...

Hey, I'm Aspie. Reiser is like me in many ways. But there's one big difference... he killed his wife. I don't believe he's disabled or insane, he's just stupid crazy and very difficult to deal with. It's very sad, he probably would have done better (i.e. not killed his wife) if he'd had better socialization as a child.

Reiser is clearly NOT the poster child for the Asperger awareness campaign.

(Bill Gates, because they say he's Aspie too).

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Hummer glummer on high oil price bummer

Bob

What GM SHOULD do

Selling the Hummer brand seems like a bad idea, since I can't imagine anyone who would buy it for much.

Instead, I think they should keep the "premium brand" concept of Hummer and its military styling, while moving toward smaller, more fuel-efficient SUVs with those characteristics.

Imagine a unibody-construction hybrid Hummer about the size of a Ford Explorer that gets maybe 20-24 mpg and has all the goodies inside. I believe that's entirely possible. Maybe consider diesel as well. Hummer would continue to be a niche player for people who want a (relatively) large, military-styled, total-luxury vehicle.

As for myself... I've been driving small cars for a LONG time.

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Apple blocks cheaper UK iPod sales

Bob
Boffin

Ownership Rights

It's a longstanding legal principle that if you buy something, you now own it and can resell it. I find it hard to believe that Apple could actually prevail in court in this battle. Even if they do, they won't stop the million-and-one iPond resellers on eBay.

It would seem a more likely outcome would be for Apple to cut off these retailers from its official distribution network. Or maybe they'll find a way to design iPods that don't work on iTunes running from Europe.

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US court waves through border laptop searches

Bob
Stop

Computers are Big

It takes only 5 minutes to search a brief case. Upon conclusion of the search, agents can be certain that they found everything in the brief case. And you can only store so much in a brief case. None of these features is true with laptops.

Any serious criminal will use one of a thousand ways to encrypt and/or hide nefarious data. And border agents certainly are not going to have the skills, tools or time to do a serious search of any laptop. It's MUCH easier to think of how to hide data than to find it once it's hidden.

Looks to me like another invasive but useless ruling.

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Sun may shut off high-end MySQL features

Bob

C'est la vie

When the likes of Microsoft complain about copylefted software because they're not allowed to incorporate it in their proprietary products, my response is --- if you don't like it, don't use it.

Well, this is no different. MySQL owned the code, and now Sun owns the code. They can do whatever they like with it (except un-license code they've already released under GPL). It is entirely within their rights to release a proprietary version of the code, as long as they own the code. That's just a fact of life of our IP laws and how copylefted software fits into them. So... if you don't like it, don't use it. There are plenty of other high quality open source databases available today.

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YouTube divorce rant vid wows the crowd

Bob

Pre-nups

Sounds like the pre-nup was kind of one sided, drafted by his lawyer alone. That significantly weakens its enforcibility. She could walk away with a big pot of gold. His mistake.

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AJAX patent threat to giants under the hammer

Bob

Worthless Patent

It looks like there's a ton of prior art here. And MS and Google have deep enough pockets (and heavy interest) to fight this one to the grave. Looks like a worthless patent to me, unless you enjoy getting run over by armies of lawyers from megolithic companies.

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Google's riches rely on ads, algorithms, and worldwide confusion

Bob
Jobs Horns

Mergers...

This is why we need Microhoo! They may not be any less evil. But remember George Orwell: "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely."

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Buffett falls for free ride Google

Bob

What Makes Business Sense?

This reality of high infrastructure costs could ultimately put the lid on things like Google Apps --- office suites run just fine on home PCs without networks, there' s no need to run them "in the clouds." On the other hand, storing and searching large databases (like Google's web index) is what data centers are really good at. There will certainly be a need for these kinds of services. But I would not be surprised if Google+MS+Yahoo are overbuilding the infrastructure at this point.

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Free software lawyers warn over Microsoft patent pledge

Bob

DVDs vs. Office Documents

The difference between a DVD and an office document is that everyone produces zillions of documents and spreadsheets, but only a small number of organizations produce DVDs or USB devices or whatnot.

It is important that every software developer be able to write software that reads and writes office documents in the standard format. Why? Today we all have OpenOffice and MS Office, and this debate is too often framed in terms of a contest between those two applications. But that misses the issue. Everyone produces office documents, and in the future there will be zillions of pieces of software to read them, analyze them, write them, index them, transfer them, etc. For example, the database application I wrote does a simple mail merge, producing an ODF file as a result.

Some of the software that processes office documents is GPL'd, some is under commercial licenses, some under public domain. Excluding an entire class of software from being able to read and process office documents would not be good for society. What would things be like if commercial software were able to do mail merges, but GPL'd software was not able to do mail merges, at least not in a document format that anyone can read with their other programs? That's kind of like what we have today in terms of commercial OS's being able to play DVD's, but not Linux distros.

But it's worse, because processing office documents is an essential feature for computers, while playing DVDs is not. You put a lot of work in making your documents, and you should be able to use any software you wish to process them. After all, they're YOUR documents, not Microsoft's.

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MIT plans to roll out 'folding' car

Bob

Market Forces

Whether or not these "work" is an issue of market forces. They don't have to replace all current automobiles, or even most, to be successful, or even be useful to anyone on this board. If they can find a market niche, then all power to them.

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Bob
Go

Think Again..

Similar rental bike systems have been implemented in recent years in some cities (Portland, OR, I believe, plus Paris, Amsterdam, etc.) From reports I've read, they seem to work reasonably well. I assume CitiCar would work like a motorized version of the bikes.

Also, consider Third World cities. Some things that may not have a market in the US or UK could be marketable in, Nigeria, Thailand, India, China, or any of a number of other developing nations. How does CitiCar compare with the new Tata Mini?

As for pollution: most people live in the cities. The same amount of pollution causes much worse effects if you're breathing it out of a tailpipe, rather than if it's 100 miles away in a sparsely populated area. Also, single source polluters (such as power plants) are easier to control. In spite of their bad reputation, power plants still produce more power with higher efficiency and less pollution than personal automobiles.

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Bob

About Shared Cars...

Shared car services like ZipCar have also been around a while. Zip Car is rather popular in Boston and many other places. You reserve a car, pick it up from a Zip Car lot, and when you're done, you put it back. All those comments about getting your car full of McDonald's wrappers from an incontinent former user don't seem to be destroying ZipCar's success. CitiCar looks a lot like a stackable electric Zip Car.

Zip Car isn't for everybody, of course. But that's OK, it's for enough people that they have a viable business.

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Mobo maker builds 'powerless' processor cooling fan

Bob
Boffin

Nearly Perpetual Motion...

Really, this translates 70% of the heat power into mechanical energy in the fan? There must be a mistake. This is a heat engine, and heat engines are never 70% efficient. Large electric generation systems --- some of the most efficient heat engines out there --- are only maybe 40-60% efficient MAX.

I would believe that this Stirling engine is 7% efficient.

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Can Microsoft teach tots digital-age virtue?

Bob

FSF

Any serious unit on IP issues must also include the concepts of open source, copyleft and the idea of a shared community resource. It also needs to include alternative models for artists (make money off the live performances) and how that could change the art and our consumption of it in the future. There are many many viewpoints and approaches, all of which conform to copyright laws.

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Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! play pots-and-kettles 2.0

Bob
Gates Halo

Google Counterweight

I was concerned about the MS hold on the markets for a long time. I'm less so now. They won the wars of the 80's and 90's, and we must not keep fighting them. MS will lose OS and Office market share slowly over time as their monopoly dissipates. They have been regulated, and increasingly compelling open alternatives continue to develop. The appearance of Google was the final element that convinced me that we were not going to live in a tech world controlled by Microsoft.

But now, I am worried about Google. They're similar to MS, and now hold a commanding and growing share of Internet search. Search is important. It defines what we see and perceive on-line. Objectivity of search is important. Google is not objective, and it's becoming increasingly less objective as it seeks to add more content creation units and drive traffic toward them. Privacy is another big concern. Meanwhile, people by and large are still enamored by Google because it makes warm-and-fuzzy AJAX interfaces; they're fighting last decade's battles, not next decade's. I am very concerned about Google.

It is clear to me that we need an effective counterweight to this Google juggarenaut, and we need it soon. MS and Yahoo are both distant thirds in the Internet search market. A MS-Yahoo merger seems to me to be the most effective way to compete with Google, but even that would not be a sure-fire bet. If it works, it will increase competition in Internet Search from one company to two.

And this is all written by me, a confirmed long-time granola-eating, Linux-loving, Mac-using Windows hater! Or put another way, I can't believe I just chose the Gates-halo icon. We need additional icons featuring halos and devil horns for Larry and Sergey.

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Spammers dive into Google's lucky dip

Bob

Not Just Google...

This isn't just a Google problem. TinyURL could be used for similar purposes. I'm sure there are plenty of places that do URL redirection. And if not, the spammers could start making their own.

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Malware authors target Mac emerging markets

Bob

Live CD's

The only way to build a secure machine that's good for on-line banking, etc and is free from (technological) Trojans, keyloggers, etc. is to run an OS off a Live CD that you trust. Even if you get "infected", the infection is wiped out every time you reboot.

Of course, this is a pain...

There's also the problem of malware-infected routers. Other than the standard buffer overrun bugs, etc, in routers, a similar approach to locking down the router hardware is needed as well. Like... the software should be stored on a removable SD or CF card in the router, and the only way to upgrade the router is to remove the card and re-flash it, then put it back in. Allowing a router to re-flash itself via the web interface is insecure.

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Apple cripples Sun's open source jewel

Bob
Jobs Horns

Isn't it copylefted?

I don't understand. I did a little bit of looking, at it looks like DTrace is copyleft protected, and thus the source code with Apple's modifications is all available. If someone wants an un-crippled DTrace on Macintosh, why don't they just take the source code of Apple's DTrace and remove the crippling elements and then recompile? This is exactly the kind of freedom that copyleft is supposed to preserve?

Or am I missing something?

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Western Digital drive is DRM-crippled for your safety

Bob
Unhappy

It's the Video!!

I don't know anyone with 1Tb of doc files and photos. The whole point of a 1Tb drive is to store and process video. Like you're a videographer, you have a lot of video footage you took with your Hi-Def DV camera and you're using iMovie, Final Cut and iDVD on a Mac to produce movies and video segments to be distributed by DVD and online by Quicktime.

It's really too bad that the aspiring videographer who purchases this drive will find after getting it home that it's a nice paper weight. That videographer will learn to avoid WD in the future. Hopefully the store he/she got it from will have a good return policy.

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Wikipedia black helicopters circle Utah's Traverse Mountain

Bob
Boffin

Authentication Problem

Wikipedia's core problem is they really don't know who has posted what articles or made what edits, and they have no way to prevent people who have been banned from coming back under new usernames, etc.

The solution would be for them to have a process of vetting and verifying the identity of anyone who wishes to edit Wikipedia. Something like the way SSL Certificate providers verify your identity. Sure, it would cost money, but it would also save oodles of time wasted on problems like this one.

Once Wikipedia has a good grasp on the identity of its editors, it can set up policies to avoid conflict of interest. Basically, it would identify for each author a set of articles for which that author has a conflict of interest. And in such cases, it would restrict or prevent edits by that user.

This would be done systematically and automatically, BEFORE problems arise. For example, Joe Schmoe would not be allowed to blithely edit the article on "Joe Schmoe", whether or not he's ever mis-behaved. A process could be set up to add and remoe conflict-of-interest restrictions as appropriate.

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