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Comment: Re:Alternate view (Score 1) 354

by Warhawke (#47508595) Attached to: Netflix Reduces Physical-Disc Processing, Keeps Prices the Same
That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Do you work for Comcast, by chance? Do you know how many evil corporations would kill to have customers like you? "Sure, they may have killed a significant chunk of their service that they already provided at a certain price threshold, but at least their prices didn't go up!" It's not bad customer service, it's just "not raising the price!"

Comment: Re:Warrants are supposed to be narrow (Score 5, Insightful) 150

by Warhawke (#47502509) Attached to: New York Judge OKs Warrant To Search Entire Gmail Account

That's not completely correct. The Fourth Amendment was enacted specifically to prevent writs of assistance, which were commonly used in Britain to give law enforcement officers broad, nearly unlimited power to conduct searches for contraband or smuggled goods. The Fourth Amendment was enacted to prevent law enforcement officers from having this broad power to search anywhere and everywhere, even if there was reasonable evidence of a crime.

Part of the danger of broad writs or warrants is that (1) they unduly invade a person's fundamental right to privacy, and (2) the adoption of the plain view exception to the exclusionary rule will make you liable for anything the police uncover, whether it's related to the crime being searched for or not. So if the police go searching your hard drives for child pornography and uncover evidence that you bought some pot from a friend via e-mail, that evidence can and will be used against you.

You are correct in that a search may be so broad as to search for evidence of the thing to be seized. However, the presumption is and should always be tailored as narrowly as possible. Simply saying that the police do not know where the gun is does not give the police powers to search any property the suspect owns. The police may search his house and anywhere in it, but the boundaries must be narrowly tailored so as to survive constitutional scrutiny. In the case of e-mail, any communications with people not directly implicated or otherwise material to the crime should be excluded, as there is relative certainty that material information will not be communicated with these parties (for example, you aren't going to find evidence of child pornography in my weekly Mint financial statement updates or newsletters I receive). As such, it is likely that the scope of this warrant is over-broad.

Comment: Before we go down the misinformation rabbit hole (Score 2, Insightful) 415

by Warhawke (#47397241) Attached to: Police Using Dogs To Sniff Out Computer Memory
Let's get this out of the way. Search tactics using dogs is always going to be prone to abuse. However, dogs have been sniffing out electronics for years now. Additionally, and this should be obvious, the dog isn't sniffing out hard drives that contain child pornography, it's merely sniffing out all hard drives. In this case, the dog was deployed as the result of a search warrant that undoubtedly allowed for the seizure of all electronic devices within the home. Use in this manner is much less controversial than using the dog to find the drive, thus establishing probable cause to bypass a warrant entirely.

Comment: Re:The FAA lacks jurisdiction (Score 1) 199

by Warhawke (#47309769) Attached to: FAA Bans Delivering Packages With Drones
The FAA has attempted to levy more than one fine against people. Pirker was just a high publicity case because of the fact the administrative judge overturned the fine. They have appealed that case and are continuing to issue fines in the meantime to other commercial operators. The FAA is also fining hobbyists as well (look up "Zablidowski"). All of these fines are based (poorly) on a 1980s-era Advisory Circular that sets forth guidelines for hobbyists. Now the FAA is using the advisory guidelines as actual law, as if it had passed a comment and review period, to enforce its fines. The theory goes that a commercial operator cannot be defined as a hobbyist, so the guidelines do not apply, meaning that no law exists on record for drone operation, therefore we can construe that the absence of law means the activity is prohibited. It's obviously legally ridiculous, but it's not completely far-fetched. Congress has authorized the FAA to regulate drones, and has repeatedly require them to write administrative laws for drone operation. The Congressional mandate even goes so far as to require the FAA write privacy rules, which I would like to keep the FAA away from my Fourth Amendment rights, thank you very much. But that is an argument for another time. The premise is that the FAA has the authority to regulate drones by Congressional mandate -- they just keep missing the deadline, and are using their absence of rules as an enforcement mechanism.

Comment: Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (Score 1) 220

by Warhawke (#47278579) Attached to: US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

No, this ruling essentially makes "on a computer" claims go away. The only way something can be patented is if it's sufficiently novel to warrant patentability; the Court in this case said that an idea performed "on a computer," absent any practical benefits other than the computer itself, is not patentable. Also, your frustration with the Supreme Court is unwarranted; SCOTUS has been very good about limiting patents in the wake of the Federal Circuit's pro-patent agenda.

Of course, you also forget that (according to Internet memes' interpretations of SCOTUS) corporations are people, too.

Comment: Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (Score 5, Informative) 220

by Warhawke (#47273661) Attached to: US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent
This ruling extends the basic rule of Bilski that you can't patent an idea to the computer. Essentially, Alice Corp. states that you can't patent a general idea simply by appending the term "on a computer." What the case doesn't say is that all software patents are invalidated. Rather, the software has to be more than just a generic business idea expressed "on a computer."

Alice Corp. was the assignee of several patents for mitigating "settlement risk" via software. Software claims in patent law usually occur in two parts: a method of performing the claimed function and a system for performing the prior claimed method. This basically lets a patent holder guard against people manipulating their way around the system or method claims to perform the exact same function, such as by using a remote server instead of a local hard drive, or querying before step A as opposed to after step A. Alice Corp. had both a system and method patent for mitigating settlement risk. Specifically, the claim contemplated two parties using a third-party intermediary, in this case a computer, to create account ledgers (or "shadow accounts," as the patent called them) based on the accounts of both primary parties, determining available versus unavailable funds, calculating a risk for a given set of transactions, and then issuing instructions to the parties telling them what transactions are permitted and what transactions are too risky to engage in.

The patent itself was to "facilitate the exchange of financial obligations between two parties by using a computer system as a third-party intermediary." If this sounds like an abstract business method, that's because it is. Alice Corp.'s patent was basically a claim to mitigating settlement risk by employing a third party on a computer. The intermediary was just the computer in this case. The district court found that the patent was too vague, because it really only contemplated an idea. The Federal Court on first hearing reversed, saying that it wasn't "manifestly evident" that the patent ideas were abstract, so the case should be litigated rather than dismissed on summary judgment. On second hearing en banc (i.e. with all the Federal Circuit judges present, the Federal Circuit changed its position and determined that the method claims were invalid. There was some internal dispute, however, as to whether the system claims -- i.e. a claim over a computer that performs the function -- was valid.

The Supreme Court determined, in an opinion written by Justice Thomas, that both the method and system claims were abstract and therefore invalid. The rule under a cased called Mayo Collaborative Services v. Promethius Labs requires that an abstract idea, to be patentable, must have some practically beneficial application to either the computer system implementing it or to some other kind of technology. For example, it might be common knowledge that plucking a guitar string emanates a harmonic frequency, so I can't patent plucking a guitar string, but if I find a new, beneficial use for plucking a guitar string, such as a patent on plucking guitar strings to encourage the growth and development of plants (yes, it's nonsensical -- I can't invent good, patentable things on the spot!), then I could patent that. Here, though, the court asked "whether the claims at issue here do more than simply instruct the practitioner to implement the abstract idea of intermediated settlement in a generic computer." Laconically, the Court concluded, "They do not."

So what does this mean for software patents? Well they still are valid as more than just math. Though the Court didn't address the issue directly, it has been generally held that software is sufficiently transformative to warrant patentability. While not a favorite opinion here on Slashdot, that's not altogether nonsensical; if software is sufficiently artistic enough to be copyrightable, then it stands to reason that it has been sufficiently transformed from some natural state to warrant patentability as well. That said, algorithms are not patentable. A software claim that only protects against doing specific math, as opposed to being comprised of math, is not valid and will be (and has been) invalidated. What's the difference? You have to take your tech beanies off and look at it from the perspective of very intelligent, but non-technical 60+ year-olds.

What this case does do is extend Bilski to the software world. You couldn't patent an idea. Now it's articulated that you can't patent an idea on a computer. So finally, all of those irate claims we've made about "that's just a patent for doing X on a computer!" has some valid case law supporting it.

Law school graduate, not a lawyer (yet), who works in a patent law firm. This isn't legal advice. Blah, blah.

Comment: This is exactly what musicians want. (Score 1) 197

I understand that Google-bashing is pretty popular in these comments, but speaking as someone connected to the music industry, this is exactly what musicians have been trying to achieve, though they may not know it. Musicians have (foolishly) been trying to deregulate music licensing to allow for fair market rates, negotiable, as opposed to statutory licensing models currently used. Never mind that the publisher takes a greater share off the top, this is what a fair market rate looks like. Publicity isn't a right; it will either be worth it to musicians or not to accept new licensing terms. If enough say no, then Google's services will be devalued in turn. This is exactly what musicians and songwriters wished for, and now they're getting it.

Comment: Re:NSA is a Federal Agency (Score 2) 96

It will slow the Feds down about as much as a mild speed bump would slow down an Abrams tank. State agencies cannot preempt a federal administration's scheme. The DOJ would only need to take California to court for enacting a law that obstructs the general scheme and scope of authority of the National Surveillance Agency, and the law will be struck down as unconstitutional. States cannot issue laws that bind or obstruct federal activities, well-intentioned as those laws may be. This is the same reason Arizona's bill to enforce immigration standards, even though under the same general framework as the national immigration laws, were nevertheless held unconstitutional. You might get it tied up for a few months, but the same could be accomplished by simply having state employees voluntarily refuse to cooperate. It's a feel-good PR law, and perhaps a needed one, but it's clearly unconstitutional under the modern regulatory agency / separation of powers framework.

Comment: Repeating something does not make it true (Score 1) 297

Pretty much every third comment in this thread has someone claiming that all U.S. airspace falls under the control of the FAA, but that is patently untrue. The FAA, as a regulatory agency, only has the authority that Congress has granted it in the CFR under the FAAA. That authority extends to overseeing the safe operation of interstate aircraft travel. That concept extends the FAA regulation to in-state travel as it reasonable affects interstate travel through U.S. airspace. However, this is not without limitations. The FAA does not control buildings under a certain height, ground operations, municipal airport operations until planes enter federal airspace, and more. Additionally, the FAA does not control non-aircraft. The FAA cannot regulate your vehicle, or a flying bullet, or even an rc flyer. The only regulatory statement ever published about RC (drone) operations is an advisory opinion published in a circular. The industry has self-policed under a different, unofficial ruleset published by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. The FAA, other than through an advisory opinion - which is not authoritative as a rule of law - has never attempted to regulate R.C. operation below 250 feet. Nor did it ever insist that it had the authority to do so. As such, until the FAA issues administrative laws regulating the operation of drones and Congress authorizes those rules, assuming those rules are even constitutional (which they won't be if they promote the same blanket prohibition standards the FAA is applying now), the FAA has absolutely zero authority over recreational drone use and arguably no authority over commercial drone use. Please learn administrative law before posting blanket false statements about what federal agencies can and can't do.

Comment: Re:The Safe Bet Here (Score 1) 173

by Warhawke (#46272343) Attached to: Federal Smartphone Kill-Switch Legislation Proposed

It's not about having "a phone" killed. It's about the ability to have phoneS killed. Plural.

No. I intentionally decided against the paranoid option.

What purpose would it serve for the NSA to brick a bunch of phoneS at one time?

Other than making a very big, very public story? Which would get a LOT of airplay in the media.

If the NSA needs service cut in a specific area they can already do that.

You mean like how the installation of clothes-penetrating image scanners wouldn't need to be implemented when dangerous objects can already be better detected by more conventional screens and selected pat-downs? It's for the same reason the U.S. has toyed with the idea of an Internet kill switch and a way to disable cars remotely: when one becomes addicted to power, the ends of power obtained justify the means of obtaining it.

The federal government does not particularly care what temporary effect such measures will have on media and the general public; the ability to do it at all justifies (to them) its implementation.

Comment: Re:FCC Shouldn't Ban It, But Airlines Should (Score 1) 340

by Warhawke (#45989449) Attached to: Americans To FCC Chair: No Cell Calls On Planes, Please

Time, place, and manner restrictions. If there is something about the location, time, or manner in which the speech is made that is compelling enough to warrant a restriction, the government has the right to restrict such speech. Critics consider this to be a carte blanche to government regulation of content and speech, but it is also what prevents you from violating city noise ordinances and from screaming incessantly in a court room. It also is what creates so-called "speech-free zones." I personally would like to see the issue left in the hands of airline policy, but because airlines are common carriers and there is something compelling about being trapped in an aluminum tube with hundreds of potential chatterboxes, I can definitely see the government believing it has the right to regulate speech to prevent common-law based nuisances.

Case in point, a bill has been proposed to prevent phone use on airplanes despite the FCC's proposed lift on restrictions. The bill is co-sponsored by Lamar Alexander and Dianne Feinstein. Any topic that can get those two muppets to agree and side with one another must be a topic of nuclear concern.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (10) Sorry, but that's too useful.