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Comment: Patent "reform" (Score 2) 139

by tambo (#47223493) Attached to: Why United States Patent Reform Has Stalled

I posted an article describing the "why" a month ago. Totally not surprised that the current reform efforts exhibited the same arc.

That general model is exactly why this initiative collapsed as well. Several aspects of this reform - such as "attributable owner" rules, i.e., implementing laws that require patent applications to reveal the real party of interest in the case, as a measure addressing shell companies - were supported by large interests that benefited from them, and opposed by large interests that didn't. The result is stalemate, just as we've seen countless previous times in the patent "reform" discussion.

The only measures that make it through the "reform" system are mild improvements that don't affect some entities differently than others. And even those can be difficult - e.g., the first-to-file change in the America Invents Act is great for well-funded enterprises, but more problematic for small businesses. In that case, large enterprises simply steamrollered the opposition with lobbying cash.

The upshot is that the "reform" sytem is, itself, deeply dysfunctional. An additional tragedy is that efforts that would objectively improve the patent system for everyone, such as giving examiners more time to perform their examination and implementing more accountability for technically incorrect arguments, get lost in the struggle.

Comment: An easy choice... (Score 5, Insightful) 829

by tambo (#45759519) Attached to: Microsoft's Ticking Time Bomb Is Windows XP

The key to this dilemma comes down to one word:

"Microsoft will face an unenviable choice: Stick to plan and put millions of customers at risk from malware infection,"

I don't think that Microsoft actually considers these people "customers." I think MS very distinctly considers them non-customers of their flagship product, since they have not purchased any of the four latest versions (Vista, 7, 8, 8.1). All of Microsoft's customers should have followed its exhortations over the last five years to spend a few bucks and upgrade dump their now-13-year-old OS.

It's indisputable that across the computing industry, the perceived mandate of legacy support for next-gen OSes is increasingly feeble. In non-desktop markets - e.g., consoles and phones - the presumption was never there to begin with (starting with the Super Nintendo!) Web programming exhibits similar tendencies - how many Java applications from back in the day won't run on modern browsers? And won't that include the entire Silverlight platform in a few years? The tendency is that the river of upgrades will carry all projects of significance along in its current, and the projects that gather on the banks (i.e., don't receive newest-OS upgrades) are... detritus. For right or wrong, that's the view.

Comment: Re:Ugh (Score 2) 169

by tambo (#44845369) Attached to: The Post-Lecture Classroom

> Flipping the classroom and making you work in teams are completely different things.

That's true, but you've missed my general point, which is: For students who are good at learning on their own - i.e., the cream of the crop - class time spent on verifying that they are learning the material is a complete waste of their time.

That is actually my biggest complaint. Typically, I would spend two hours in a traditional lecture learning, and four hours outside of class with independent learning and skill development. Instead, I now spend six hours outside of class learning everything on my own, and four hours in class proving it.

One of the most important skills to be developed in academia - particularly at the undergraduate level - is the ability to learn independently of a classroom agenda. Being asked to spend several hours per week in class working problems for the instructor, so that he/she can help with problems (or, as in my case, baby-sit the progress of the class), is not only inefficient for people who can learn on their own - it actually discourages the development of this skill: students don't need to be diligent about mastering their skills on their own if the classroom time is solely used to push them through the process.

Comment: Re:Ugh (Score 2) 169

by tambo (#44845361) Attached to: The Post-Lecture Classroom

> It seems to me you have only learned half the lesson this method of pedagogy is meant to teach. Why don't you find the other well-prepared and conscientious students in your class, work with them, and shut out the losers?

Because the teams are assigned arbitrarily and we can't switch. We are required to sink or swim with the other schlumps in our team, irrespective of any differences in effort or intelligence. End of story.

Comment: Re:Ugh (Score 1) 169

by tambo (#44845349) Attached to: The Post-Lecture Classroom

> Count your blessings. You never understand the material half as well as you think you do until you have to explain it to someone else.

I would love to have the option to develop that skill - e.g., voluntarily forming or joining study groups, or signing up as a tutor or teaching assistant. But in my case, I'm essentially required to teach slacking students to protect part of my grade. Thanks to the group structure, there is absolutely no recognition that some students are bailing out other students.

I am working three times as hard as my teammates - learning the material on my own, and then spoon-feeding it to them - and yet, we are all getting the same grade. Please tell me how I am "blessed" to be in this situation.

Comment: Re:You have to reevaluate your goals (Score 1) 169

by tambo (#44845331) Attached to: The Post-Lecture Classroom

> You think, you could learn material just by consuming and memorizing them. This is often thought by students just out of high school, sometime even with older students. However, this is bullshit.

I think I can handle independent study just fine. I passed two bar exams through study-at-home materials.

MY point is that one of the most important skills to be developed in academia - particularly at the undergraduate level - is the ability to learn independently of a classroom agenda. Being asked to spend several hours per week in class working problems for the instructor, so that he/she can help with problems (or, as in my case, baby-sit the progress of the class), is not only inefficient for people who can learn on their own - it is actually a handicap for this skill: students don't need to be diligent about mastering their skills on their own if the classroom time is solely used to push them through the process.

Comment: Ugh (Score 5, Informative) 169

by tambo (#44842877) Attached to: The Post-Lecture Classroom

I'm currently three weeks into a Physics class that's modeled on this concept. Let me tell you what it's like.

In theory: Students review the lecture material on their own time. In class, the instructor presents some Physics problems on the topic. The students work through them together in teams and learn from each other, and the instructor reviews each team's work to help them get past sticking points.

In practice: I review the lecture material on my own time. My classmates do not. They show up largely unprepared, and when presented with a basic problem, simply stare at it until someone else explains the entire problem to them. Typically, that means that I end up teaching my classmates Physics, and then showing them how I solved each of the problems. I need to do that, because a significant part of my grade is based on the performance of my team - i.e., the average of individual quiz scores of the members of my team.

The instructor routinely harangues students to come to class prepared, and is assigning increasing amounts of busywork to be performed outside of class to ensure that work is being done.

So for me - a very reliable self-starter and independent studier - this class model means that in addition to learning all of the material on my own, I also have to (1) spend several hours in class teaching the material to my classmates, (2) have my grade dragged down by my team members' poor performance, and (3) have to complete additional work outside of class to prove that I'm keeping up. In other words, of the 10+ hours a week that this class is requiring, LESS THAN HALF is spent learning the material and honing skills; the rest (including the 4+ hours of class time) is simply wasted, thanks to this poorly implemented learning model.

Comment: Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss. (Score 1) 58

by tambo (#44098295) Attached to: Analyzing Congress's Multiple Approaches To Patent Reform

1) News flash: Competing patent reform bills have been trudging through and/or stuck in Congress for most of the past two decades. It's a constant race among snails to see which one actually crosses the finish line.

This isn't surprising, because patent law serves multiple industries that widely differ in their characteristics and ideal uses of patents. The result is competing bills by big pharma, GMOs, big oil, the semiconductor industry, software companies, etc. The big players in each industry want to skew the whole system in their direction, and don't much care if it adversely affects other industries. (Contrast this with the copyright industry, which is a struggle between ALL media owners and ALL consumers... guess which side wins those struggles, every time?)

2) Like any piece of hotly contested and highly profitable legislation, many of the "reform" bills are intent on "reforming" the patent system straight into the trash. case in point: Many of the initiatives suggested by Barack Obama a few weeks back would rapidly exacerbate the troll problems that they suggest solving.

Comment: Re:Really! (Score 1) 333

by tambo (#42958411) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

> Sounds like an ugly hack to avoid modifying software to call the 'set expiration time' function.

Often, what looks like an "ugly hack" turns out to be an elegant, lovely solution for a peculiar scenario.

In this case, the solution doesn't require modifying software, the file system, the network protocol, or other metadata. That might make it more appealing than the "obvious" solutions to the problem.

Comment: Re:I'm Sorry, but... (Score 2) 333

by tambo (#42955985) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

> Sure, but automatically deleting temporary files ?!?

Is every book entitled "Pirate Adventure" about the exact same story?

You can't just read the title - you have to read the claims. There's a whole lot more specific detail in the independent claims than "automatically deleting temporary files."

Comment: Re:I'm Sorry, but... (Score 1) 333

by tambo (#42955967) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

> The USPTO is supposed to support itself with fees [uspto.gov]. The largest fee is for reexamination, creating a financial incentive to grant bad patents (which are likely to be reexamined).

That makes no sense when you look at the statistics. About 1,000 reexamination cases are filed every year. By contrast, the USPTO receives about 500,000 new patent applications every year. The total revenue from reexamination wouldn't even put a dent in the examination process.

Here's how it actually works. When you file a new patent application, you pay an examination fee. That examination fee gets you a little ways down the road (typically two office actions), and if the case isn't allowable by then, you pay another fee for a Request for Continued Examination, which gets you another two office actions. Etc. If you reach the point where the application is ready to be issued, you pay an issue fee, and you get your patent.

In other words - the USPTO funds itself by charging you every time it needs to do something for you, and the costs line up with the amount of work required by the PTO. It's exactly like a car mechanic, right? A mechanic has no interest in doing bad work now in the hope that you'll come back with more expensive work later. It just charges you, today, based on the service that you're asking for, today.

Comment: Re:Or the summary is misleading propaganda (Score 2) 333

by tambo (#42955895) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

> There's a fine line between clever and stupid. If an average programmer reads the explanation, and "Doesn't get it", it could be either. Most patents are very poor explanations for what they are about.

But the "average programmers" here aren't motivated to try to understand it. They are motivated to find that the patent is worthless, because that's what the submitter wrote about it, and that's what they are predisposed to believe. So they are prone to glance at the application and say, "well, the claims have been mangled by lawyer-speak, but it's basically something about deleting temp files, which has been known since the 70's."

Comment: Re:Or the summary is misleading propaganda (Score 2) 333

by tambo (#42955849) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

> When someone advocating a position lies to me, as this submitter did, I figure the reason they are lying about the issue is because they realize that the truth doesn't support their position.

I don't think it's flat-out lying. I think it's an example of the echo chamber effect.

The community believes that patents suck, that patent examiners are inept, and that patentees are using clever tricks to patent things that aren't new. So upon encountering any new patent, the submitters here don't do the hard work of reading the patent, parsing through the difficult claim language, and determining what it's all about. Instead, they read the title, maybe glance briefly at the abstract and the claims, and come up with a "basically, it's (something really simple)" summary, and post it as evidence of their beliefs about the patent system. A bunch of commenters then accept that summary without consideration, since it's yet another example of "bad patents," so they post a supporting rant about patents and increment their mental "bad patents I've seen recently" counter by one.

Of course, that process is flawed if the summary is an oversimplification of the claimed technique. Like this submitter concluding that the very specific technique presented in the independent claims is "basically, it's deleting temporary files," or "basically, it's deleting temporary files based on a modification date." But it's accepted without question because it supports the beliefs of the group. Hence, echo chamber.

Comment: Re:Really! (Score 1) 333

by tambo (#42954873) Attached to: Google Patents Staple of '70s Mainframe Computing

> If you had a distributed file which kept a timestamp on each of several separate chunks, how would you go about deciding when to automatically delete it? My guess is that the solution you would come up with quickly is basically the one in the patent.

Well, there are several ways you could deal with that problem. Here are some of them:

  • * Deal with each chunk separately. Just let each machine decide when to delete its chunk.
  • * Consider all of the chunks to have been modified as of the latest modification date on all of them. Sort all of the temp filed by modification date, and cull the oldest ones first.
  • * Consider all of the chunks to have been modified as of the earliest modification date on all of them. Sort all of the temp filed by modification date, and cull the oldest ones first.
  • * Consider all of the chunks to have been modified as of the average of the modification dates. Sort all of the temp filed by modification date, and cull the oldest ones first.
  • * Consider all of the chunks to have been modified as of the file date listed in the shared filename. Update the modification dates accordingly, and then let each machine deal with its chunk independently of the others.
  • * Consider all of the chunks to have been modified as of the file date listed in the shared filename. Update the modification dates accordingly, sort all of the time files by modification date, and cull the oldest ones first.

...etc. There are many, many variations on this technique that you might imagine. The one described in this patent is different from all of them:

deriving a file time to live for the file from the path name; determining a weighted file time to live for the file by reducing the file time to live by an offset, where the offset is determined by multiplying the file time to live by a percentage of memory space storage quota used by the user profile; selecting a latest modification time from the modification times of the plurality of chunks;...

...which is why the patent was issued.

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