back to article What did we learn today? Microsoft has patented the slider bar

Microsoft has capped off a bumper year of epic patent stupidity all round with an award from the EFF for claiming ownership of a simple slider bar design. slider The design patent ... Some of Redmond's finest work apparently Graphical slider bars like this – used for setting audio volume, fill color, or the zoom scale of a …

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  1. Pompous Git Silver badge

    The real focus of the legal challenge is on copying the design of the Microsoft Office ribbon bar.

    The Microsoft Office ribbon bar is "patently stupid". I paid to get my menus back in Office so I could work the way I'm used to.

    Then I discovered that Libre Office lets me do the same. And it's free :-)

    1. tin 2

      patently stupid

      Yes indeed. And now I know the reason that it was invented, so it could be patented, "migrate" everyone over to it and then sue anyone that tried to copy.

    2. aidanstevens
      FAIL

      The problem I find with LibreOffice is not so much functionality, which is adequate, but performance, which is absolutely pitiful!

      1. keithpeter
        Windows

        Performance...

        "The problem I find with LibreOffice is not so much functionality, which is adequate, but performance, which is absolutely pitiful!"

        1 million row Monte Carlo simulation in LO Calc 4.x, re-calculation time around 25 sec, same in MS Excel 2010, around 10 sec (core-duo/3Gb ram) so yes slower on bulk arithmetic I'll grant you.

        What kind of stuff are you doing? Are we talking factors of 2, 10 or 100 here? Does the time scale as O^2 or higher?

        Not trolling just actually interested...

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Performance...

          For most usage and users the performance difference is nil because the real performance is user dexterity (how fast they can type, etc.) than speed of execution.

          1. Tim 11

            Re: Performance...

            For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office.

              Could this be because, like the case was/is with IE ("loading" much faster than other browsers), Windows has a lot of the libraries required by MSO already open, where LO needs to load a large number of them that aren't?

              Also, don't confuse "time to show screen ready for input" with "time to ready for input".

            2. Chemist

              Re: Performance...

              "Also 350k spreadsheet loading over wifi from fileserver ~2-3 secs."

              That time includes starting LO BTW

            3. Chemist

              Re: Performance...

              "For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office."

              Try it either with the internet connection turned off or load an .xls file - I certainly have this weird problem when traveling (not on my home wifi) where starting LO whilst connected produces a VERY long lag before the sheet is ready. Easy to work round and only applies on first opening of an .ods file.

              From memory it seems to be that it goes looking for my networked printer - which at home it finds - as to why ? ?

            4. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Performance...

              "For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office."

              Yes me too, because I constantly open and close my office suite all day, rather than start it once in the morning and then close it once at the end of the working day !!!!!

            5. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              "the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office"

              Microsoft preload the office libraries at bootup - something they pulled with MSIE to get startup advantage over firefox and were thoroughly thwapped over a decade ago.

            6. P. Lee Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              >For me, the performance difference is real because the startup time of Libre office is much longer than MS office.

              I'm pretty sure you can set LO to do the trick MS-O does - preload everything into a cache at boot time. If you have ram to spare and use LO a lot, its probably worth doing.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Performance...

                I've been playing with my first word processor for the PC: Borland's Sprint. It was pretty nippy running on a 4.77 MHz NEC V20. In a VM on a 3.5 GHz i5 it's blindingly fast. It's also still the most powerful word processor I ever used 28 years after I purchased it.

          2. petur

            Re: Performance...

            Not to mention the time lost due to the ribbon bar... I could never get used to it at work, so I ended up installing LO to get my productivity back

          3. chasil

            Re: Performance...

            I haven't used extensive spreadsheet functions since Lotus 1-2-3/Symphony on PS/2-class-class machines, which were 80386s at best.

            That said, sometimes automatic recalculation is disabled because it takes too long for every cell. In particular, 1-2-3's /(D)ata (T)ables, or Symphony's "multiple pass reports" would sometimes render a system unresponsive for hours on a big data set.

            In the old days, these operations were FAR SLOWER than my typing speed. This experience might have no relevance to modern MS/Libreoffice, granted.

            p.s. Microsoft - I hope any victory that you find in this is Pyrrhic, and that your market share burns, not just for your overpriced office suite, but for the rest of your core products as well. There was hope for you in these last days, but your spyware, greed, and maliciousness has truly shown that the Windows platform is a self-correcting problem.

        2. Blitterbug
          Happy

          Re: What kind of stuff are you doing?

          Can't speak for the other guy, but on my clean Surface, LibreOffice (which I love) has a sluggish UI and laggy loading speed - just generally feels clunky.

          As I said, I love it but if you want to DV an honest observation based on opening and manipulating the same docs in Word 2010 to test compatibility, go fer it!

        3. Chemist

          Re: Performance...

          "1 million row Monte Carlo simulation in LO Calc 4.x, re-calculation time around 25 sec, same in MS Excel 2010, around 10 sec (core-duo/3Gb ram) so yes slower on bulk arithmetic I'll grant you."

          Can't compare with Excel but 400000 sine calculations here too quick to measure. Also 350k spreadsheet loading over wifi from fileserver ~2-3 secs.

          That's on an 8GB i7 OpenSUSE 13.1 LibreCalc 4.1...

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Performance...

          "1 million row Monte Carlo simulation in LO Calc 4.x, re-calculation time around 25 sec, same in MS Excel 2010, around 10 sec (core-duo/3Gb ram) so yes slower on bulk arithmetic I'll grant you."

          If you're doing this kind of shit in a spreadsheet then you need to be tarred, feathered, set on fire and drummed out of town on a rail.

          Just because you can run a regional health authority on MS Excel(*) Doesn't mean you should.

          (*)Yes, really(***) - and when my business used the same programmers at insistence of one of the directors(**), we found 20% discrepencies in accounting answers vs using quickbooks after it was realised the Excel system was a hopeless piece of crap for a business less than 1% of the size of the RHA. (and it didn't produce output acceptable to any accountant, unlike QB)

          (**) "Quickbooks is expensive. We can't afford it." etc etc etc

          (***) I've been informed that the RHB in question is not the only one to do so.

          1. keithpeter
            Pint

            Re: Performance...

            "If you're doing this kind of shit in a spreadsheet then you need to be tarred, feathered, set on fire and drummed out of town on a rail."

            @ Alan Brown

            Why?

            Seriously, 5 minutes it took to think it out on the back of a payslip, set up the formulas and run the simulation with 10k rows. Then about 10 more minutes to get the macro sorted and collect 30 data points, then about 2 minutes to graph the lot. Answer back on viability of project within the hour.

            How long would an alternative take? And what would be your alternative?

            Genuinely interested, not trolling.

            I see the humble spreadsheet as a sort of doodle pad for numbers. A way of getting the *logic* sorted and then take it further into something with a bigger overhead if needed.

            This is mathematical modelling, not your corporate 'business application'

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Performance...

              Even for doodling we find that errors creep in when compared to proper tools like mathematics.

              When spreadsheets are used as live accounting systems one of the biggest problems is the lack of audit trail.

              Spreadsheets are useful for simple stuff but the problem becomes such simple stuff grows without proper design.

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: Performance...

                Odd then that my brother-in-law managed the financial modelling for the Australian branch of a US-based company here in Australia using Excel. What he was doing (as I understand it -- I'm not an accountant) was constructing a financial representation (model) of various aspects of the firm. The model performed mathematical calculations, and was used to make recommendations based on that information.

                To say that "proper tools like mathematics" do a better job seems to be a non sequitur.

              2. Chemist

                Re: Performance...

                "Spreadsheets are useful for simple stuff but the problem becomes such simple stuff grows without proper design."

                Spreadsheets are useful for very complex modeling and calculation - the caveat is that they are not short cuts, require as much thinking as anything else complex and need as much care and checking as is necessary. For example using large sheets to manipulate /calculate large datasets I used to be paranoid and always added large amounts of known good data with known outputs into the set to check. All of this is especially important if macros are used - I try to avoid their use personally.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Performance...

                  '..Spreadsheets are useful for very complex modeling and calculation - the caveat is that they are not short cuts, require as much thinking as anything else complex and need as much care and checking as is necessary...'

                  I don't know if it's still the same (been away from the game for a while) but back when, the only spreadsheet software I recall anyone using for anything serious was Origin, certainly not Excel, with the heavy lifting being done with either IDL or Matlab.

                  (ISTR the argument made for the purchase of a site license for Origin was to do with accuracy, i.e. the output from Origin could be trusted to be accurate [for a given value], whereas Excel... I can't comment, for the little modelling and number crunching I did back then I used Mathcad & Matlab)

                  As to the subject of the article, I was surprised/amazed to see that Corel are still selling an Office suite..I thought they'd gotten out of that game and that Wordperfect had finally gone the way of Wordstar.

                2. P. Lee Silver badge

                  Re: Performance...

                  >Spreadsheets are useful for very complex modeling and calculation

                  The biggest problem with spreadsheets which I've come across is that they are really easy to modify accidentally and very difficult to verify.

                  A recursive piece of code is far easier to get right *over time* than a calculation which ripples across hundreds of rows and multiple sheets, any one of which may be accidentally altered.

                  May I recommend, the perl hash... or perhaps that newfangled php or ruby or JS or whatever the kids are using today.

                  1. Chemist

                    Re: Performance...

                    "The biggest problem with spreadsheets which I've come across is that they are really easy to modify accidentally and very difficult to verify."

                    So those of us that use them extensively have to develop working practices/ mitigations to ensure that we do stay safe.

                    If any data transformation becomes a standard requirement I code it in c

        5. Aqua Marina Silver badge

          Re: Performance...FIX

          A lot of the performance issues can be fixed by changing one group of settings. The original settings for OOO / Libre were decided in the late 90's, when 32 MB of ram was considered high.

          Open up Calc, and go to Tools - Options - Libre Office - Memory.

          Simply multiply all the values on this page by 10 then restart. Your OOO / Libre will be a lot quicker than it originally was.

      2. Lord_Beavis
        Coat

        RE: Perfomance

        I find Libre Office damn quick on my Ubuntu laptop, but dog ass slow on a Windows desktop that is inherently faster than the laptop.

        It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out Microsoft is sapping clock cycles from the CPU when Windows tries to run LO.

        Mines the one with the aluminium hat in the pocket...

      3. kryptylomese

        Have you optimised it?

        https://www.organicweb.com.au/17237/general-technology/libre-office-slow/

    3. Amorous Cowherder
      Happy

      I once read that if you find the speed of your spreadsheet calculations cause you to need to make a coffee while you wait for them, that's the sign that it's time to dump your spreadsheet and move to a proper database.

      1. keithpeter
        Pint

        Performance

        "I once read that if you find the speed of your spreadsheet calculations cause you to need to make a coffee while you wait for them, that's the sign that it's time to dump your spreadsheet and move to a proper database."

        In the example I gave above, it would be time to write a program in a compiled language. Spreadsheets are still easy for 'quick' doodles and getting the logic sorted. Quite often, I just get the answer anyway and don't write the proggy.

        OP hasn't come back to me. <Gallic Shrug>.

        @Chemist: possibly doing egg-sucking tutorial here but is that calling sine with same argument or random/varying argument? LO and Excel can cache results &c.

        @Blitterbug (chap with the Surface): Have a look at Data Smart by John Foreman. Basic model making with a spreadsheet - you can run the practical activities in both LO > 4.xish and MS Excel. Not too much difference between a 4Gb core-duo desktop / win7 /Excel 2010 at work and a Thinkpad core-duo X200 / LO 4.something at home, except for macros (who ever designed the macro dialog for LO needs an award - preferably in N. Korea and collected in person with return journey by boat) and some aspects of value dependent formatting.

        Happy new year all

        1. Chemist

          Re: Performance

          "possibly doing egg-sucking tutorial here but is that calling sine with same argument or random/varying argument? LO and Excel can cache results &c."

          That's having 400000 sines each dependent on a previous cell's value and then changing the first cell manually but at random. and waiting for the last cell to change.

          So as far as I'm concerned if forces 400000 sequential sine calculations and spreadsheet output refresh. I'm sure better benchmarks could be used but for the sort of numbers I use ~~100K rows with calculations ~~ this complex it's plenty fast enough. Anything more complex and I have a number of programs written in c to handle the data.

          Mostly retired so I don't need this so much but I do find it all so amusing when people complain about LO's speed.

          1. keithpeter
            Pint

            Re: Performance

            "That's having 400000 sines each dependent on a previous cell's value and then changing the first cell manually but at random. and waiting for the last cell to change.

            I accept no caching under that scenario.

            Mostly retired so I don't need this so much but I do find it all so amusing when people complain about LO's speed.

            I'm beginning to notice a trend: global evaluative statement about oOo/LO but then when engaged with I can never get any detail...

            Pint: I'd better stay offline for the next 24 hours as, you know, that will be safer.

            1. Chemist

              Re: Performance

              "I'm beginning to notice a trend: global evaluative statement about oOo/LO but then when engaged with I can never get any detail..."

              As someone else mentioned Office is one of MS's cash-cows - they and their 'friends' shall we say will probably do a lot to protect it.

              A further note on performance. I used Excel extensively for data manipulation/modeling a few years ago but when I first started using OO I was disappointed with Calc's performance. It was much slower than Excel for the size of dataset I was manipulating. That's all changed - it's now very fast.

    4. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Stop

      Copying the design of the Microsoft Office ribbon bar.

      So MS are suing Corel because Corel used the class that MS make available so that anyone can have standard-looking ribbon bars in their own programs?

      MS are really going downhill these days...

    5. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Me too ( except the paying bit)

    6. Holleritho Silver badge

      Libre of Open

      I used OpenOffice, jumped to LibreOffice after a friend enthused, then jumped back to OpenOffice when Libre couldn't do stuff I wanted, or did ot so weirdly or slowly that I threw up my hands. Sorry that Open has been thrown into the fade.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: Libre of Open

        when Libre couldn't do stuff I wanted, or did ot so weirdly or slowly that I threw up my hands

        Might be a better strategy to go hunting for a solution; throwing your hands in the air tends to be an indication that you are surrendering. Took me the best part of an hour of Googling/Gaggling/Goggling [delete whichever is inapplicable] to discover the reason for Chrome suddenly slowing to a crawl. It required turning off hardware acceleration (go figure!). Despite its manifest shortcomings, Google can be a very good friend indeed.

  2. elDog Silver badge

    Does Bill Gates feel any remorse whatsoever?

    I realize that he is considered a very bright businessperson but his company's shredding of decency over the years puts him in the realm of vulture capitalism.

    Yeah, I know that he is no longer in operational control of MS but, just like Jobs and Sculley and Ellison and everyone up there; you have to first be a real prick to make all those bucks.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can you patent the volume control from a stereo just because it's digitally represented?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      It seems you can. There's a probably another separate and different design patent for one "on a mobile device" too. Apple probably got that one.

    2. Adam 1 Silver badge

      what next?

      Patenting digital versions of a slide lock latch for a gate?

    3. jonathanb Silver badge

      Yes, adding "on a computer" or "over the Internet" to anything makes it patentable.

    4. Tromos

      When it comes to design patents, seemingly anything goes. After all, Apple got rounded corners for their phones which were a feature of 1950s 'Old Holborn' tobacco tins to name but one example.

      1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Have an upvote

        Old Baccy tins are essential recepticals in any decent Model Engineers Workshop.

        I have around 100 that contain things like 8BA Nuts. Naturally, they are clearly labelled using Dyno Tape

        1. The First Dave

          Re: Have an upvote

          Dy_M_o tape.

          1. PNGuinn
            Joke

            Re: Have an upvote - dyno tape

            He was probably using the (patent expired) prehistoric version ...

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Have an upvote - Dy_M_o tape.

            Emo tape is better.

            It cuts itself

            I'll get my coat ........

      2. Mike Bell

        Old Holborn may well have a design patent on the appearance of their product, as they are entitled to do so. Such a patent would include a visual depiction of the particular form factor, typography etc. Although it makes for amusing (and regular) reading, Apple do not have a patent on rounded corners. They have design patents for devices that incorporate specific form factors which, in conjunction with many other elements, contribute to the overall design. The Coca Cola corporation doesn't have a monopoly on bottles that have rounded elements, but they do have a design patent that covers the specific implementation of their Coke bottle.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Not only Holborn tobacco tins

        Holborn computers also have rounded corners

    5. Franklin

      A design patent isn't the same animal as a utility patent. A design patent is only a patent on the exact look of something, and it has to be on a look with no practical utility to the underlying thing.

      Which makes me believe that had Corel put the + and - widgets at the end of the slider inside squares rather than circles, or made the design of the slider bit look different, they wouldn't have this mess.

      Not that the patent is anything but bonkers, but still.

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