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Comment: Original implementations for obvious things are ok (Score 2) 182

by billstewart (#48657151) Attached to: Uber Pushing For Patent On Surge Pricing

If you believe in a patent system at all (which is a separate argument), an original implementation for a relatively obvious concept can still be patentable. Most patents I've seen start out by claiming something fairly obvious (a wheel) and have several progressively less obvious claims before getting to the core invention (a specific axle mounting design, etc.) and then maybe some variations. Most articles about patent abuse focus on the more obvious claims being obvious; that's separate from whether the more abusive actual cases are somebody getting a patent for the less obvious parts and then suing people for violating the much more obvious claims.

Since Uber's lost about 10 previous attempts, they may very well be trying to patent something obvious (charging more when it's busy), or may be trying to patent more specific things about their implementation (but maybe still obvious to the patent examiners, who've actually taken taxis before, even if they haven't written compilers or optimized databases.)

Comment: Cable to Cuba (Score 2) 114

by billstewart (#48649629) Attached to: Cuba Says the Internet Now a Priority

The politics that mattered weren't the ones with Chavez, it was the US pressure on anybody else. Cuba's a really convenient place to run cable, and there's some cable there, but the amount of actual service that it was carrying was very tightly restricted because of the US embargoes. The telcos would have been happy to run a lot more of it, but weren't allowed to.

Comment: Modern Cellular is the way to go (Score 2) 114

by billstewart (#48649621) Attached to: Cuba Says the Internet Now a Priority

It's not completely wireless; to get any reasonable bandwidth out to the users, you need fiber to the towers, not just T1 or radio uplinks, but that's not too hard to do. (As another poster says, the telco's run by the government, so they shouldn't have a problem getting permits, just the usual issues with new construction in old cities.)

No reason to use old phones - the newer standards are much more efficient at spectrum usage.

And there's been fiber to the island for a long time; the problem has been that the US embargoes on trade with Cuba severely limited the services the telcos could provide. To the extent that that was caused by Treasury regulations (which Obama can change for two years) rather than law (which requires the Republicans in Congress to cooperate), they can get some of that service running quickly.

Comment: Agreed: Transactional Currency, not Investment (Score 1) 144

by billstewart (#48628899) Attached to: Will Ripple Eclipse Bitcoin?

Sure, some people will invest in Bitcoins, and other people will invest in racehorses. (I avoid the problem by mining Dogecoins, which are almost totally worthless.) That's missing the point of Bitcoin, which is that it's intended to be a currency for relatively-private transactions.

Unfortunately, the markets that most wanted a currency for relatively-private transactions didn't do as good a job as they should have about being relatively-private on their own end (i.e. Silk Road got busted), but there is still a market for legitimate transactions, as you've pointed out.

Comment: Good Voice-only Interface for Phone (Score 4, Informative) 229

by billstewart (#48628547) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Can I Really Do With a Smart Watch?

What you need is a good voice-only interface for your phone, and if possible in your clean-room environment, some kind of Bluetooth headset. Phone rings, you tell it "answer". If you want to do something, tell Siri or equivalent, and get voice feedback. Not being an iPhone user, I don't know if Siri's good enough. (The Android stuff I've used so far hasn't been, but my car's phone-dialing interface is at least a start.)

Comment: Re:I hate funerals for a friend (Score 4, Informative) 70

by billstewart (#48607425) Attached to: Webcast Funerals Growing More Popular

Get used to it, you'll have more of them as you get older.

One thing I hadn't really thought about before my mother-in-law's funeral was that, if you die when you're old, most of the people at your funeral other than your family will also be old - mobility and transportation were difficult for some of her friends, there were more people with wheelchairs than the restaurant we went to afterward really knew how to handle, and there were people who didn't come because it's just too difficult, and this might have helped them some. It's not the same as being there, but sometimes you can't.

Comment: Fonts make you very identifiable (Score 4, Interesting) 160

by billstewart (#48598543) Attached to: How Identifiable Are You On the Web?

Standard Mozilla behaviour last time this question came up is to include a list of fonts that your browser can display; I don't know whether other browsers do the same, or if they've changed it, but it's the kind of "feature" that hopelessly breaks your chances of non-uniqueness if you've ever installed fonts.

My work laptop has a font that's the Official Corporate-Branded font for $DAYJOB's corporate logo. Almost every Windows machine at my company has that (at least, every physical machine and the virtual machines running on the hosted virtual desktop cloud; there may be some lab machines that don't, and maybe some contractors, etc.) You might work for a smaller company that does the same. In my case, I've installed all sorts of other random fonts, either to see what they looked like, or simply because back in the 80s of course you wanted Elvish and Dwarvish fonts on your computer, or because I wanted a better monospaced programming font than the default MS one or Courier New.

Lots of other things leak information as well (cookies, etc.), but fonts are a quick and dirty way around identifying people who block those.

Comment: Re:Just downsized to 256GB SSD, Arrgh! (Score 1) 127

by billstewart (#48592189) Attached to: Samsung SSD 850 EVO 32-Layer 3D V-NAND-Based SSD Tested

Laptop, not workstation; I'm usually not connected to a work LAN, so network drives are for backup and file exchange at best, not for data I actually use. (Email's theoretically also backed up on a server, though I'm not convinced that's reliable for anything older than a month or two.)

There's a project to get everybody to move to VMware-based Hosted Virtual Desktops, but I haven't bitten that bullet yet; it would let me access my stuff from different machines, but needs network connectivity to be usable and I lose control over some of my storage. (If Google Chromecast supported HVD, it might tempting to just leave the PC at work and use TV+Chromecast to telecommute :)

Comment: 3D printers at TechShop, Shapeways, or Kinkos (Score 1) 175

by billstewart (#48587743) Attached to: 3D Printer?

3D printing technology is changing much faster than I can come up with things I want to 3D-print, so it doesn't make sense to buy my own. If I want access to printers, there are places like TechShop that have them (hey, Bay Area Privilege is useful if you've got it), and I've heard that FedEx / Kinkos copier shops were also doing a pilot project with them (though it may have been in the Netherlands or Belgium and not the US yet.) Also, for slower turnaround, you can send your printer files to Shapeways and they'll print them and mail them to you.

But if you do want to buy one, I was in Home Depot the other day and there was a guy there demoing them, plus they have a whole display rack or two of Lasers, and probably a Robots section that didn't notice. It's really getting to be the Future!

"When the going gets tough, the tough get empirical." -- Jon Carroll