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Comment: Re:Better idea (Score 1) 564

by rilister (#49174417) Attached to: Why We Should Stop Hiding File-Name Extensions

Strongly agree. It seems odd that desktop UI designers haven't taken that route (although if you look at the default MS Office icon suite, there's a clear intent to consistently visually separate data and executable files.) Ultimately, the user doesn't want to decode a three-letter extension, so why are we even considering forcing them to? The actual problem is simple and only needs to deliver a simple binary distinction between two specific classes of file.

The days of computers being 'for' techies are long, long gone. I strongly suspect that the .TLA solution wasn't invented for the non-technical user's benefit but created by coders, for programming/filesystem ease. Just because people at Slashdot have it imprinted on their subconscious doesn't make it the best solution, just an arbitrarily chosen decent solution from decades ago. Could you possibly explain to a regular human being why that was the best possible way of distinguishing data from applications? Images are rich and information-dense: that's why icons exist: you can understand the meaning of them much more quickly than text.

Remember the way old iOS icons used to use a very distinctive button shape and highlight across all iOs apps? That kind of approach would work well to make applications stand out, and then do something similar, but distinctively different for all data formats. Apple have had no problem with setting strong UI guidelines in the past. I'm not advocating the specific glossy-button - just a consistent aesthetic approach.

Comment: Re: Another value of anonymity (Score 1) 282

by rilister (#47581817) Attached to: UK Government Report Recommends Ending Online Anonymity

I took exactly the opposite approach: rather than relying on Slashdot's it admin for my anonymity (they probably have the IP address you posted from for a start), I figured off I'm safest posting with my real name and assuming no anonymity in the first place. That way I protect myself by thinking about what I'm saying and always remembering that just because a site tells me that I'm anonymous, it doesn't mean I really am, or will stay so.

Comment: Re:Useful Idiot or Russian Agent (Score 1) 346

by rilister (#47196153) Attached to: Did Russia Trick Snowden Into Going To Moscow?

I don't see any need to invent anything beyond what's in the public domain:

Snowden reckons as Hong Kong as the most developed/politically-stable/safe place to be when the shitstorm blows up, from which extradition will be the least likely. Seems like a reasonable guess. If he'd been working with Russia, it'd be easier to go to Russia - they've extracted agents from the US before.

Say what you want about Russia (economy/industry/military) but they have a large, competent spy agency in the FSB. As soon as this blows up, they are certain to try and get some of their agents as close to Snowden as they can, just in case. I mean, they aren't going to sit back and watch CNN with an asset this big: they don't know what he has, but it's clear he's valuable given the noise the US is making.

Things unfold and it becomes clear China are not as resilient to US pressure as Snowden hoped, and he needs an exit. Cue FSB/SVR offering him a way out. They aren't going to announce themselves as "Hi! We're spys" but as diplomats, the time-honored cover for spying. But unless Snowdenn is naive (he's not) he would have been pretty clear that a spy agency was behind it: it's what they are for.

Now the FSB/SVR really want to rub it in to the US and there's few enough success stories they can bring to the Russian public these days. Spying tends to be secret. So spin the story this way. It's pretty close to the truth, except you make Snowden sound a dumber than he is. What do they care?

Comment: Re:Dialup? Windows 95? (Score 2) 126

by rilister (#46575071) Attached to: Adam Carolla Joins Fight Against Podcast Patent Troll

Oops. my bad. Just noticed that under "Related US Application Data" it calls out that this is a division of another patent, filed Oct 2, 1996. Now that *is* interesting.

Are you sure that this idea was 'obvious' in 1996? I was in college studying bending beams at that time and sure as heck hadn't thought of downloading episodes of comedy podcasts. I can't say what everyone else was up to.

For reference, the claim on this patent is pretty much the same:
1. A player for reproducing selected audio program segments comprising, in combination:
means for storing a plurality of program segments, each of said program segments having a beginning and an end,
means for receiving and storing a file of data establishing a sequence in which said program segments are scheduled to be reproduced by said player,
means for accepting control commands... means for continuously reproducing said program segments in the order... [+ bunch of controls for navigating media]

Again, IANAL, but this seems to be a description of something that might well have been a new idea in 1996. I dunno. The obviousness test is an interesting one, and I still can't figure why they can go after media producers, when the patent sounds like it would result in Apple, Sony and the software/device people infringing.

Comment: Re:Dialup? Windows 95? (Score 1) 126

by rilister (#46574957) Attached to: Adam Carolla Joins Fight Against Podcast Patent Troll

(IANAL, but) that's not how patents work: you're reading the preferred embodiment, which apart from showing that they've figured out *a way* to do this, doesn't really matter at all. The important bit (what determines infringement) is the claims, starting on page 32 (col 46), of which there are 35.
To make it even easier, you only really have to read the independent claims (1, 13, 23, 31). Every numbered claim that includes the text "as set forth in claim X" doesn't matter unless you're infringing claim X.

So let's look at independent claim 1:
"What is claimed is: A media player for acquiring and reproducing media program files which represent episodes as said episodes become available, said media player comprising: a digital memory, a communication port..., a processor..., an output unit for reproducing ... the media files."

Sounds like iTunes. Version 4.9 of iTunes, launched in June 28, 2005 was the first to have podcast support (according to Wikipedia). I don't even slightly believe that iTunes was the first podcast player.

I'm guessing claim 31 is the one that they're attacking Adam et al with, but it does seem like this patent talks about the enabling technology, but the people who product the content. Still, I'm sure they have lawyers that can reasonably read it that way.

These things are (sometimes) intentionally broad, but it's the job of the examiner at the USPTO to figure out if these claims pass the usual tests: obviousness ("to one skilled in the art"), novelty ("prior art") and eligibility (ie. not a matter for copyright, like, say, a trademark). Obvious to you because you've been using podcasts for a decade is not the same as obvious to someone at the time this was filed, but the priority/filing date here is Mar 4th 2009.

Hmm. Well, is the claim obvious for 2009, given iTunes 4.9 was launched in 2005? Seems so to me, but like I say, IANAL.

Comment: Re:But that's the way Microsoft does things... (Score 1) 222

by rilister (#46299481) Attached to: Sony's Favorite Gadget Is Kinect

Funny, since that's what Sony themselves did by stuffing Blu-Ray into the PS3. They sacrificed a ton of market share by conceding the price-point (and arriving late to market) in the interests of forcing the market to adopt own their proprietary storage media format. It completely worked, and in the long run I imagine it'll turn out in their interests to have done so...

Comment: I see his point (Score 4, Insightful) 312

by rilister (#46241745) Attached to: Good Engineering Managers Just "Don't Exist"

Having worked as an engineer and a manager in Silicon Valley, I see his point. But I've also worked in Germany, and it's interesting to see how many senior business leaders in Germany are engineers. I personally think that as a culture we (American engineers) devalue and even laugh at leadership skills. We think they're irrelevant to being a good engineer: call it Dilbertism.

Culturally, German engineers (in comparison) see leadership of people and teams as one of their natural requirements. Engineers are reknowned for their high-handedness and taking lead in any given situation. I remember trying being in an informal situation setting a large number of tables for a party: when I started suggesting a plan, two german language students started saying "look at the engineer, taking over as usual".

So, again, as an ex-engineer, I think our mutually reinforced disparagement of managers is part of the problem. Leadership is something we should be naturally good at, and all engineers offended by Juan's assertion should take it as a challenge, not an insult.

Comment: Re: Really.... (Score 2) 524

by rilister (#44836661) Attached to: Yahoo CEO Says It Would Be Treason To Decline To Cooperate With the NSA

They don't even have to say anything: she knows her job depends on co-operating. Bottom line is that she doesn't own Yahoo, she is a servant of the shareholders - she is expected/obliged to put their interests first.

OK, she could decide to not comply, or blow the NSA's cover on the extent of spying, but if she took Yahoo into direct conflict with the Federal Government over a personal opinion I doubt she'd stick around in the job for 24 more hours before the board decided she had to go.

It's the kind of kind of grandstanding that Jobs might have got away with (what you gonna do, fire me?). Zuckerberg is an interesting case: he still owns nearly 25% of Facebook, so his chances of being summarily fired are less. Still, I find it hard to imagine a CEO deliberately risking jail and being allowed to continue to serve (as the share price plummeted)

No need for threats and blackmail: the market does it for you...

Comment: Re:Actually I wouldn't be surprised. (Score 2) 692

by rilister (#44554387) Attached to: Larry Ellison Believes Apple Is Doomed

I think people are quick to fit the evidence to the theory, although I agree that some of the iOs 7 design is surprising. Personally, I like surprising, but I'm curious to see how well it works in practice.

On the more general point, the back of the iPhone 3G was plastic. The original iPod is made of plastic (for, like, a decade). As is the MacBook. and the original iMac was too, which essentially defined Jobs/Ive's design first approach. Jobs never had a problem with a plastic, properly applied. He had a problem with screws, but that's another story.

He also blessed precisely this route to diversification, cannibalising the heck out of the iPod (very expensive, and a huge money maker at the time) with the Nano and the Shuffle to spread downmarket and dominate the market. Worked pretty well that time around. I think they have to compete with the cheaper devices - they learned the lessons of the 90's. Owning the upmarket is fine, but you'll get squeezed year by year and people catch up with your quality (think Windows). Pay the same attention to detail for a cheaper product and you can outflank the cheaper providers by applying your brand halo.

Comment: Re:Non-rounded, often obscure and "deathdays"... (Score 2) 104

by rilister (#43142281) Attached to: Google Doodle Celebrates Birthday of Douglas Adams

"Google Doodles like this do rub me up the wrong way. For a start, the person concerned is often an obscure one (or at least obscure outside the US - the US-centric doodles end up on Google UK, where they probably don't belong)."
I'm confused: you object because you learn something? Maybe I misunderstood.
Personally, I prefer the ones I don't know... (sorry if this seems snotty - I'm perfectly sincere.)

"You're a creature of the night, Michael. Wait'll Mom hears about this." -- from the movie "The Lost Boys"