Friday, January 25, 2008

The story of the (patent) troll under the bridge

So the United States Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) has awarded another stupid patent.  A brief summary of the patent (as well as what the trolls did with it) can be found here.  Basically the patent is for  "a mobile entertainment and communications device." Yeah.

According to the article I linked above they're suing just about everybody that makes cell phones.  The patent was awarded on January 22nd (Tuesday) and the lawsuits were filed at 12:01 a.m. the same day.  I didn't know it was possible to file a lawsuit at midnight.

One of the funniest things about this is that in the abstract for the patent it states that the device contains" or more replaceable memory card sockets..." well not every phone has that.  For example they sued Apple - Apple doesn't make ANYTHING that fits that description.  The iPhone does not have "a replaceable memory card socket."  The patent was originally filed on November 20, 2003.  This probably won't get much more news coverage than it already has, as it will get drug out in court for a loooong time, but there is such a massive amount of prior art for this that there's no way anyone's getting any court-ordered penalties.  I could see some cash settlements to make the troll go away, but that's up to the parties concerned.  How long does stuff like this have to keep happening before we get some major patent reform?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

If you're going to San Francisco... sure to wear flowers in your hair!

Ok, so I went to San Fran today with my parents for their anniversary. I've been to SF several times, but I did do a few things that I've never done before. First of all I rode a cable car, that was kinda fun. I decided to hang out on the outside to get the full effect. That was pretty cool. It was definitely cold, not to mention the bizarre experience of having traffic going in the other direction go whizzing by 2-3 feet away. Oh, and the cable cars are REALLY loud.

We also drove through the Castro's one of those things that you do once, mostly just to say that you've done it. Lots of rainbow flags...lots of gay bars.

The other thing we did that I'd never done is we went to a really nice restaurant at Fisherman's Wharf. I've been to Pier 39 before, and Fishman's Wharf is about 1/3 of a mile further down the street. Fisherman's Wharf is very touristy, lots of little one-of-a-kind shops, as well as a few chains (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory was one). The thing that was really funny though were the two beggars that I saw. Not that beggars are inherently funny, but these guys made me laugh. The first one was just sitting there holding a sign that said "Why should I lie? I want a beer." At least he was honest. The second one had a sign that said "My wife was kidnapped and I need $1.98 to get her back." Then a little further down it said "P.S. my name is bone-head." I then noticed the nasty-looking bone that was tucked in his headband. He seemed to be in a pretty good mood all things considered.

The restaurant we went to was called Aliotos. Holy...cow. That was some good food. I guess it would have to be considering how much it was. With tip the total came to just shy of $200 for the three of us. I had their specialty Alioto Veal - yeah I know, but I don't care. That veal was amazing! I then made the mistake of ordering Tiramisu for dessert. Now I have nothing against Tiramisu, I love the stuff. But, I have only ever had Tiramisu at reataurants in Utah, and apparently (and unbeknownst to me) Tiramisu is usually served with some sort of coffee-based sauce and I happen to be Mormon (for anyone reading this that doesn't know me). So my $8.50 dessert pretty much went to waste. Took me a while to get the coffee taste from once spoonfull out of my mouth too.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ahhhhh the classics!

So I just discovered the other day that Apple's iTunes store now has 60 old Looney Tunes shorts available.  They're sold in 2-packs for $1.99 each.  They currently have 3 sections dedicated to Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig.  Of course the cartoons being what they are there are crossovers of Bugs/Daffy/Porky present.  They include some of the funniest cartoons ever made including my all-time favorite "Robin Hood Daffy" (yoiks and away!). If you've got iTunes installed click here to go to the Looney Tunes page.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What's going on here?

So I was just reading a blog post by David Pogue of the New York Times where he talks about the responses he got from a large group of college students about engaging in various forms of copyright violation.  I'm not going to rehash the whole thing here, but basically none of the students that that copying CD/DVDs or downloading music/movies off bittorrent or Limewire or whatever is wrong.  I'm not going to say whether I think it's wrong or not, but I am going to state what I think is the reasoning behind jusitification of said copyright infringement.

First of all - cost.  He was asking a group of college students.  I happen to be in my senior year of college and I know how tight money is.  If you go to the movies where I live (Utah) you'll pay around $8 per person for an evening show of a new movie.  If you bring a date you just paid for a copy of the DVD - and that's if you don't buy any popcorn or drinks.  Now things tend to get a bit murkier when you talk about music.

With music there is a different economic model (from the college students' perspective).  You have highly publicized lawsuits against grandmothers sharing stuff by Kanye West, as well as some of these same artists encouraging people to stick it to the RIAA.  Who do we listen to?  The big bad coporation or the guy who makes the music we like to listen to?

Second - we have convenience issues. There is a lot of confusion now about copy protected CDs after the well-publicized Sony Rootkit debacle. If I put this CD in my computer is it going to mess up my computer? I use a Mac, is the CD even going to play? Will I be able to listen to the music I just bought on my iPod/Zune/etc? Downloading MP3s mitigates the portability issue, but you do run the additional risk of downloading a virus. The other disadvantage to file sharing is that actually finding a good-quality copy of what you want can be very tricky at time. Plus why would I go to the trouble of going to Wal-Mart or Best Buy when I can just fire up Limewire and get the latest album from [popular artist] when I can just download it from the convenience of the high-speed connection at my student apartment? Especially when I just want the one track that is playing on the radio. This BTW is a case where I think Apple has a serious handle on consumer sentiment. With the iTunes store in most cases I can just buy the track that I want - plus they now have a feature where you can apply the purchase price of that one track to the entire album if you decide you want the whole thing (I think there's a time limit of a week on that though).

The issue becomes a little different when you bring DVDs/movies/tv shows into the mix. With high-speed internet being fairly ubiquitous now it is trivial to find and download a movie or tv show - often before the show has aired or the movie has hit theaters. Incidentally the bittorrent copies of the TV shows actually look better than the cable broadcast AND they are usually commercial-free. I got what I wanted - and that's what the real problem is here. The content producers/distributors are not making the content I want to see available when I want to see it, in the format I want to see it in, and at a price I am willing to pay. I know that my preferences are different from that of other people, so I believe that the content producers need to find out what people are willing to pay, and how they want to see that content, then cater to that. Apple's iTunes store again has a serious thing going here with the ability to buy episodes of TV shows the day after they air. Two of my favorite shows happen to be Heroes and Battlestar Galactica. These shows air on Monday and Friday nights, respectively. I actually go out and do things when these shows are on so I pretty much never watch them live. I used to buy them off the iTunes store the next day for two bucks and watch them at my leisure. Well with this last season of Heroes I found myself downloading the episodes off bittorrent that evening and watching a commercial-free higher-bitrate-than-iTunes quality copy. Before NBC/Universal pulled their TV shows out of the iTunes store I never downloaded stuff like that off bittorrent. Amazingly they actually drove me to P2P file sharing as a result of them having offered me a carrot (which I paid for) and then subsequently taking it away. As an interesting side note, I don't buy the DVD release of a TV show (generally), but I was willing to plunk down two bucks an episode to watch new episodes of Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, and The Office - which results in me spending about the same amount of money on each season of the show AND I'm not getting the special features included with the DVD sets. NBC is now losing money on me because I'm not buying the episodes in any form AND I'm not seeing the commercials since I'm not home to watch the show when it's on. I once had the ability to legally watch these shows at my leisure on my computer or iPod but that right has been revoked.

I recently downloaded a movie after its theatrical release but before the DVD release. I saw the movie twice in the theater (so there's $16), and then I found a DVD-quality copy on bittorrent. However, I didn't stop with just the copy I downloaded. When the movie came out on DVD I went and bought a copy. So did the studio lose any money on me? I'm going to say that they didn't (of course I was using bittorrent and I'm not a leech so I did upload some of it to other people). I was not watching my downloaded copy while the movie was still in the theaters - I was watching it when there was no other way to see it, and I had already paid to see it twice, AND I bought the DVD once it hit the shelves. Is that wrong? Legally it definitely is - morally, I personally don't think there was anything wrong with what I did. Now will anyone (other than the studios/MPAA and their lawyers) begrudge me the right to rip this movie that I have now paid $32 to view and watch it on my iPod or make a simple backup copy?

Copying technology is here to stay. Each time someone comes up with a new way to keep people from copying what they pay for the people will find a way around it. The only thing the studios and record labels have been able to accomplish in recent years is to alienate and generally piss-off their customers. They accuse us of being thieves - Microsoft is actually giving five dollars to NBC/Universal for every Zune they sell to cover some assumed cost of Zune users putting pirated content on the device. They try to play off copy protection technology as being good for the consumer, then they install a rootkit on your machine and tell you that it will help you listen to your music safely...and we (the thieves) continue to buy from the right-hand while fighting off a lawsuit coming from the left-hand. How dumb are we?

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Geek Squad - on crack?

So I'm in charge of tech support for the on-campus wireless network at my college. In the course of my job I see a lot of strange things on people's laptops. Today was one of the strangest.

This girl (kinda cute too) came in needing to have her laptop set up for our wireless. It's not actually that hard, but a lot of people aren't even willing to try. Anyway we noticed that her anti-virus was expired. I tried to uninstall what she had, but it gave an out of disk space error. I opened up My Computer and looked at her C drive and it had 60 gigs free. She also had a recovery partition (it's a Gateway) which was full. I pulled up the properties on a file that was on her desktop and it showed that it was located in D:\Documents and Settings\[username]\Desktop. Yeah, her Windows was installed over her recovery partition. I asked if she'd had anyone work on it lately, and lo and behold - it was the Geek Squad. She had a lot of viruses and spyware on it and took it there (believing the hype and commercials apparently) to have them fix it. Apparently the Geek Squad backed up her documents, and then proceeded to install fresh copy of Windows ON HER RECOVERY PARTITION - all 6.5 gigs of it. They then copied over her virus-laden files (which they didn't bother to try and clean) charged her $300 and called it good.

So not only is her recovery partition toast, but all of the viruses and spyware that were her original problem are actually still on the computer. Apparently they can fix cyborgs and giant asteroid pulling magnets (as per their comercials) but reinstalling Windows is just a little beyond Geek Squad's expertise.

Friday, August 31, 2007

No more NBC shows on iTunes

Open letter from ilounge to NBC.

So apparently NBC has decided that it wants more money out of the iTunes downloads. Apple said no. NBC is now taking their ball and going home. Now who is going to lose out here? Apple? I doubt it. NBC? They will lose the revenue from the episode purchases. The consumer? Ah...yeah...this sucks. I'm in my senior year of college. I have a life. I'm not going to structure my days around being able to watch Heroes, The Office, and Battlestar Galactica. Heroes was (and probably will be) on Monday nights. I've got better things to do with my evening than watch TV. Same deal for The Office. Battlestar Galactica is on Friday nights (you'd better believe I have better things to do with my Fridays than watch TV)...and I don't have the Sci-Fi channel. Unfortunately for me those are my three favorite shows. According to Apple NBC was asking for a price increase that would have resulted in a $4.99 per episode price and Apple wouldn't agree to it. I really don't think this is going to hurt Apple too much. It's been pretty well established by now that Apple doesn't make much on each download. They make about enough to cover the costs of providing the service. I don't like downloading files off of filesharing networks or bittorrent, I prefer to buy them from iTunes. But it looks like NBC is forcing me to download their shows illegally if I want to watch them.

Boy are these guys clueless.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Attack of the Clones - The right way!

So, my dad pointed this out to me (and no comments about how long it's been since I posted - I know), and I loved it. Anyone who's about my age (26) may be familiar with a mid-90s T.V. show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. Well Mike Nelson (one of the writers), and Kevin Murphy has been reviving the comedy stylings of MST3K.

Their website, Rifftrax, has commentary tracks available for purchase that do sendups of various movies, some new some old. Today I decided to buy the commentary for Attack of the Clones. Yes, the movie sucked, but with Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, AND Chad Vader (if you don't know who Chad Vader is you REALLY need to follow the link), it becomes a whole lot more entertaining.

Now the commentary tracks would normally be played alongside the movie which is a bit of a downside. The commentary is commentary ONLY, unlike DVD commentaries which include the movie sound as well. I have figured out a way to burn a new DVD with the commentary AND the movie soundtrack synched so that you don't have to worry about syncing separate audio and video. I may post instructions in the near future, however I'm not entirely sure it's legal and one of the tools I got a LOT of use out of is Final Cut Studio which is $1300. Since I do a lot of video editing I already had it, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are cheap or F/OSS products available that can accomplish the same thing. Instructions to come later.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wow I'm busy...yeah...busy

Hmmmmm...March 13, 2006 was the last time I posted here. Wow. I guess I just don't care as much about my blog as other people do about theirs. I'd like to use the "I've been busy" excuse, but that's usually a copout. So...I just haven't been posting - plus my most convenient method of posting is no longer working (Dashboard widget).

So, what's been going on since I last posted? I've got a year left until I get my degree in Digital Media with an emphasis on Digital Film/TV Production. I'm currently 1st Assistant Director on a short film that's being produced by the Digital Media department at my school and that's keeping me very busy...and that's about it. My life isn't terribly interesting. School is taking up most of my time and there's not really anything blog worthy going on with that. updated. Maybe I'll make this an annual thing...just kidding.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Although I doubt if that's true of my blog.  It's been quite a while since I've posted on here, mostly because I've been quite busy with school and work, so little things like blogging have become quite unimportant.

Well, nothing hugely earth-shattering to report really.  I've finally decided on a major.  I'm doing Multimedia Communications (don't let the Communications part throw you, it's a real education).  I think I'm going to put my emphasis into Digital Film/Cinema, that seems to be what I enjoy the most - doing digital video editing and effects work.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Just a bit of cheese

I know that I'm not a professional movie reviewer of any sort, but I saw an excellent movie over the weekend. "Wallace and Grommit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is an absolute delight!

Most people familiar with the Wallace and Grommit shorts remember the cute humor as well as a few mild sight gags. This movie goes well beyond the cuteness of the original shorts and produces an absolute laugh fest. I think that the longest stretch I had where I didn't laugh went for about two minutes. There is enough adult humor to keep anyone entertained as well as the kind of stuff that kids will love. The nice thing is that the more "adult" jokes a pulled off in such a way so that most children won't get the joke. The movie is absolutely full of sight gags and some absolutely hilarious dialogue.

There is also another reason for seeing this movie that actually occurs before it starts. Once the previews have ended there is a ten-minute short film starring the penguins from the movie "Madagascar." In the short Christmas has come to the central park zoo and the penguins are having a little party. One of the penguins (named "Private") notices that all of the other animals are enjoying the season with the exception of one lonely polar bear. Private sets off on a mission to cheer up the poor fella and ends up being purchased off a cheap stand in Times Square. The other penguins mount a rescue mission to save private from the elderly woman and her psychotic poodle. I went to a matinee and I thought that the money I spent to see Wallace and Grommit was well-spent just to see this short.

Go see Wallace and Grommit! I command you!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Much Ado About Nothing...

Well, it's been a while since I've posted here. I guess I'm more of a casual blogger than some people who post almost hourly...

Anywho, things are pretty standard. School is still school, and that's going well. I'm dating lots...and I'm going to Disneyland in less than two weeks!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

School Daze

Well, la dee dah...I'm just trying to while away the last few minutes I have at work. I've only had to set up a few people today. I've mostly been reading "David Copperfield" by Charles Dickens for my British Literature class. It looks kind of daunting, but the book itself isn't bad. It has a very conversational tone, almost as if you were talking to David himself...and he won't shut up. I'm not bashing the book by any stretch, it's just a little on the long side. I would highly recommend it, however.

In consequence of reading some of these difficult to understand tomes in my Brit Lit class I've stumbled upon a great resource. is maintained by Barnes and Noble, and it is a great resource of information on literature as well as other topics like math and history. You can go into a Barnes and Noble and just buy the SparkNotes, or they have them available on line for free. They have a full chapter-by-chapter summary, a plot summary, analysis of major themes, and a detailed description of each major character.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's all about the Adams...

My roommate Adam wants a blog here it is.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

More USPTO stupidity and say hello to the TWITs

Well, first of all Microsoft and their little friends the USPTO are at it again. Microsoft has filed a patent on smilies. That's right. If the patent is granted then any chat program that uses smilies (such as Yahoo! Instant Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, and any other clients like Apple's iChat) will be in violation of Microsoft's patent. I'm waiting for Microsoft to try and patent the wheel. At that point I'll be convinced that the boys in Redmond have lost their minds.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I would like to invite you to say hello to the TWITs! The TWITs are a group of people from the now-defunct TechTV channel. They've gotten together and are producing a Podcast pretty much every week. The usual people on the Podcast are Leo Laporte, Patrick Norton, Roger Chang, Kevin Rose, Robert Heron, and John C. Dvorak (yeah THAT John C. Dvorak). The Podcast is all about technology. It's not about Microsoft or Apple or any other company. They just dicuss the latest technology items in the news (like Microsoft's latest patent application), and how they affect us. I like listening to them (although Dvorak has a tendency to get on my nerves!) because they are all very well informed about technology and how it works and they often have some interesting insights into what's really going on behind the stories we read about.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Return of the King...

Okay, I don't really consider myself to be a king, but I am returning from a long absence from my blog. I've been away for three weeks, and boy has it ever been crazy. I went to my grandfather's house for the fourth of July. Independence Day is his birthday and my grandparents just happen to live a block away from the site of the biggest Independence Day celebration in Utah. So, that was fun.

We stayed for a couple more weeks after the fourth because my cousin was getting married on the 20th. I've never been involved in wedding preparations before, and I had no idea how much work it was. Being LDS the wedding required very little on our part. The wedding was held in the LDS temple in Salt Lake City, and there was no decorating or anything required for that (it also doesn't cost anything other than gas to get there). All we really had to do was get ready for the reception, and I couldn't believe how much work that was. I'm almost dreading when I get married just based on how stressful that was for everyone. I have also decided that I will not be involving my grandmother. She personally caused a good deal of the stress that we were all feeling as she was feeling stressed and decided that we all needed to share. But, it's all over now...until next month when another cousing is getting married. This time I'm not getting there until a few days before the wedding.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

USPTO Stupidity updated!

I know, I know. I haven't had any entries in a while. Well that's because nothing interesting has been going on, and I haven't thought of anything good to say. Maybe I'll have something good later. Anyway, just thought I'd cite another example for my rant about stupid patents being issued by the USPTO. about the USPTO granting a rather ridiculous patent to Amazon. It's something that is done by a lot of other on-line stores (including the iTunes Music Store). This is absolutely beyond stupidity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Of Computers and Copyrights...

Okay, here's my latest rant. Most of you should be familiar with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. They're the government organization that says who owns a particular invention or device. Well, the USPTO has a bad habit of granting patents for absolutely ridiculous items. In particular, I'm talking about software patents. This article on Slashdot from last year, states that Microsoft was granted a patent on the double-click. That's right. The double-click. So, that means that any version of Apple's operating system, and most versions of Linux that use a graphical interface are infringing on Microsoft's patent. Wanna know the best part, though? If someone actually tried to challenge this (like Apple) the patent would most likely be overturned due to "prior use." Which basically means "other people were using it before you got your idiotic patent." Patents like this really make me wonder about the USPTO's criteria for granting patents.

Another issue I have with software patents can be illustrated by a lawsuit that was filed recently against Apple which alleges that their iTunes music player software infringes on a patent held by Contois Music Technology. Here's a link to the article at From the article: "[The alleged infringements] include iTunes' menu selection process to allow the user to select music to be played, the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player, and search capabilities such as sorting music tracks by their genre, artist and album attributes." If I'm not mistaken I think that could be a description for pretty much every music player in use today. You can do all of this in Windows Media Player, and Musicmatch Jukebox which are two other widely used music players. In my opinion the whole reason that this company is suiing Apple is because Apple is the biggest fish in the digital music pond right now. If they sued Microsoft there is very little in damages that could be collected because Windows Media Player is not a direct source of income for Microsoft. iTunes, however, has provided a direct revenue stream for Apple since the inception of the iTunes Music Store. Also, isn't it interesting that iTunes has actually been around for quite a while, yet only now when it is providing revenue for the company that makes it, is Contois Music Technology seeking damages and an injunction. Why didn't they seek the injunction when the program first came into existence? It's been around for at least five years, and Contois is claiming that some Apple engineers looked at their product ten years ago at a trade show. One of the problems with patents like this is that they are so incredibly broad, that you can claim that just about everything infringes on your patent. I could get a patent on placing food items between two pieces of bread, and suddenly come out and sue any restaurant that makes sandwiches and hamburgers for infringing on my sandwich patent.

So, to summarize, I'm not against patents, I'm against overly broad patents. Especially when they deal with interfaces for computer programs. You could get a patent for "device for providing visual feedback to a computer user" and suddenly you could sue anyone who makes computer monitors and LCD projectors - of course your lawsuit would get shot down due to "prior use" but that's beside the point. This is simply idiotic. The USPTO needs to reexamine its criteria for determining if a patent should be granted before this kind of lunacy gets out of hand.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Fun With Photoshop

So, I've been playing around with Photoshop lately, and I decided to try and figure out how to stitch one person's head onto another person's body. I think I succeeded with a picture I took at Disneyland last year. The original picture is in this post. So, here is the new picture (my apologies to the lovely girl who was portraying Mary Poppins):

Oh, I also e-mailed this to Kyle's boss (that's Kyle's face).

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Good Morning Sunshine...

Well, my weekend was interesting. I was up at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday morning over at a neighbor's house. My dad volunteered both of us to help the neighbor put up his patio cover.

This was not a canvas cover. It is a very sturdy structure made (completely from scratch) of wood. It took us about 8 hours to get it fully assembled, and when we were done, it was a work of art! The only problem was that all of the wood was painted white. It looks nice, but it has a tendency to reflect all of the light and UV rays that hit it. I ended up being the only person able to crawl around on top of the structure to handle the finishing work that couldn't be done from below. My face is sunburned, my forearms are sunburned (including the backs of my hands) and the back of my neck is sunburned. At the end of the day I was exhausted, but I felt good. I had a good time helping out my neighbor with getting his patio cover set up, and I was tired.

On another note, I hope it doesn't seem like I resent my grandmother based on my previous post. I love my grandma very much, she just has a tendency do I put this? She thinks that she knows how everyone ought to live their lives. Grandma is never wrong. However, my mom seems to be always wrong. We're not really sure why grandma acts this way. She doesn't treat her other 3 daughters-in-law this way, but if grandma thinks that I'm wasting my time (or doing something else she doesn't like) my mom will get an earfull from grandma. Oh, well. I guess she's just getting old.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Electric Grandmother...

Anyone who's been here before (which may not be anybody) might notice the change in my URL. Here's a little piece of advice for everyone else considering writing a blog...DON'T GIVE THE URL TO YOUR GRANDMOTHER! Unless, of course, you want her to comment on how you're wasting your time, and should spend time getting in shape, losing weight, or just generally being "more productive."

Are you familiar with the show "Everybody Loves Raymond?" That's our favorite show because Ray's mom is my grandmother. She even looks like my grandma.