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Comment: Re:I call shenanigans! (Score 1) 337

by whitis (#32317436) Attached to: H.264 and VP8 Compared

Considering that the blog post which complains about the awful spec gives as its primary argument that (unambiguous) copy and pasted C code was used instead of (ambiguous) English, that argument doesn't carry much weight. You can mechanically compare any alternative implementation with the results of the C code and see if it complies. Ppsuedo-code (or real code) is a valid form of specification.

What the code as spec doesn't allow you to do is come up with an alternative implementation that does not produce the exact same results but produces results which are good enough (but possibly much more efficiently). But that would alter the contents of your reference frames vs the reference frames generated internally by the encoder and since the same algorithms can get repeatedly applied to the same pixels, a difference that might be perceptually insignificant the first time could possibly mushroom into a serious error.

Comment: VCR history (Score 1) 399

by whitis (#32303858) Attached to: MPEG-LA Considering Patent Pool For VP8/WebM

JVC didn't invent the VCR. VHS didn't even come along until 5 years after the first home videocassette recorder with TV tuner and timer, and reel to reel units without tuner/timer existed before that.

First there was audio reel to reel tapes. Those were more or less replaced with audio cassettes.

There were various generations of video tape recorders.

First video tape recorder, 1956, Ampex, commercially produced in 1961, with 2" video tape, transverse scan
1964 Phillips 1" reel to reel video tap recorder domestic/professional
1965 Ampex 1" reel to reel video tape recorders were released, 1" helical scan. domestic/professional
1967 Sony 1/2" reel to reel video tape recorders
1968 Phillips 1/2" reel to reel mass produced domestic
Then (1971) there was sony u-matic which used a 3/4" tape, helical scan, and a cassette. mostly pro use.
1971 Phillips N1500 with 3/4" tape cassettes, first TV tuner and timer
Then (1975) there was sony betamax. 1/2" tape cassette, 1 hour/tape initially. 1 loading pole.
Then (1976) there was VHS. 2 hour/tape cassete initially, trading quality for recording length. 2 loading poles. Note that they had been working on videocassettes for 6 years.
Then (1979) Phillips introduced V2000 which they had been developing for 15? years. 4 hours per side.
Then (1980) RCA introduces a play only format

Matsushita/Quasar/Panasonic, which was developing a competing format (working on video tape for 15 years), dropped it in favor of VHS. Matsushita was part owner of JVC, Quasar, and Panasonic. Telefunken, Thompson, Thorn, GE, and RCA licensed VHS. Sony and Phillips eventually did as well. JVC profits increased tenfold by 1982 and the video division went from 6% of company sales to 69%.

The very success of VHS was dependent on JVC encouraging companies to compete with it and on cutting margins to the bone. JVC wasn't big enough to supply the demand alone.

Not that there was actually that much original technology that was new to VHS.
        - The two loading pole mechanism
        - DL-FM system
        - PS Color process.
Basically, a not-so-innovative tape load mechanism and analog video compression.

The video-cassette would have happened without JVC. There were 4 companies working on it. And I suspect JVC could have paid off their R&D costs without collecting a dollar of royalties from other companies. JVC's strategy was to have a piece of a bigger pie.

Note that many of the other formats were superior for recording original material. VHS was good enough for home consumer use with over the air or commercial tapes.

I seriously doubt they spent a billion on VHS R&D. But they apparently made billions off of VHS.

http://www.ieeeghn.org/wiki/index.php/Milestones:Development_of_VHS,_a_World_Standard_for_Home_Video_Recording,_1976
http://books.google.com/books?id=rgvGFiiYCXYC&pg=PA49
http://www.rewindmuseum.com/home.htm

Comment: Re:Epic Fail (Score 1) 128

by whitis (#32223336) Attached to: NIST Releases Updated Handbook of Math Functions

No, copyright doesn't stop at the particular format in which it is presented in the handbook. Mechanically derived works are not exempt from the original restrictions. Copyright is limited to the expression of an idea rather than the idea itself but there is more to the particular expression than the formatting or even the words. If you translate a book into a foreign language, the original expression of the idea and copyright remains even though you have changed all the words and some of the sentence structure.

Individual formulas might be exempt from copyright, as "facts" or as fair use, not to mention they weren't really created by Abramowitz and Stegun or NIST. But a sequence of formulas in a mathematic proof might not be exempt. theories and hypotheses may be considered "ideas" not "facts". Exemption may not apply for a collection of facts - i.e. which facts are included vs which are not, if the criteria are non-obvious. A list of all listed phone numbers in the state of Virginia, is a collection of facts with an obvious boundary between what is included and what is not, but some subsets may not be exempt.

Suppose you were to create a set of flash cards from DLMF with all the formulas on one side and the names on the other. Suppose you sell them. Is this even covered by the copyright? You still maintain their selection of which facts are included and which are not. You still have their selection of which variable names are used for placeholders, which are not inherent to the facts expressed in the formula. Are you allowed to do so under the Educational/Academic clause of the license or prohibited under the no-comercial use clause? What if your customers are private users vs public schools (which are allowed to use the material under the commercial clause). What if some of the formulas are in error and therefore not facts? I knew a jerk who deliberately included transcription errors (when transcribing a public domain autobiography) in an attempt to assert copyright. Well, it apprears that errors can be used to trace the origins and have lead to lawsuits but errors in fact are no more copyrightable than facts. What if instead of selling them, your intent is to give them away online for anyone to use in any way the please, including printing them and selling them? If it is that confusing in such a deliberately trivial example, what about something more complicated like a symbolic math program or the documentation for said program?

Suppose you were to copy from DLMF into wikipedia on a scale beyond fair use. That uses the nightmarish GNU Free Documentation License, which does not allow you to incorporate the restrictions imposed by the original license. Viral licenses (copyleft) are particularly nasty as they dictate the terms of other works. They not only put onerous restrictions on the terms under which you can distribute your work if their material is incorporated, they can be incompatible with the terms of other third party materials. So, even if you are allowed to incorporate viral licensed work A and non-viral licensed work B with your own materials C to produce derivative work D in your intended application and license, the inclusion of A can prevent the inclusion of B.

Comment: Re:Copyrighted unlike the original (Score 1) 128

by whitis (#32222778) Attached to: NIST Releases Updated Handbook of Math Functions

Should all the government's classified information be made public domain immediately because it was created with public money?

Protection of classified materials is done through a mechanism separate from copyright, with much higher penalties. Likewise, private information is protected by privacy laws. But what is published by the federal government for the consumption of he general public is supposed to be public domain.

Should members of the public be able to reproduce without attribution my scientific papers because the research was supported by tax dollars? I hope not. (This is what "public domain" means: far more than free access.)

You appear to work for a contractor. Your work was supported by tax dollars but not performed by employees of the federal government. The copyright status depends on the contract terms. There is also a specific exemption for scientific papers written by contractors. But there are some serious erosions of the publics rights with more and more work being contracted out (due among other things to a foolish cap on the number of government employees). In some cases, contractors double dip and charge the government the entire price of producing a work, then turn around and charge the public to use the intellectual property that has already been paid for. For example, maintenance of the DOD public domain MIL-HDBK-5J was turned over to the FAA and multiple agencies pay the cost of maintaining it and was renamed MMPDS-01. The FAA contracted the work out to Batelle, who asserts copyright on it, restricts its use, and charges the public for it. As far as I know, batelle is not even footing a portion of the cost. I have been in the situation of having a government agency trying to hire me through a contractor and the contractor was trying to claim ownership of the work I would be doing entirely funded by the government.

Be aware that frequently authors, illustrators, and photographers do not receive credit, even in the original work, when that is done for an employer. For example, most product manuals.

I tend to look favorably on attribution-only licenses and would not have much trouble with such a license on government works, but even attribution can become a burden when you are compiling from many sources or using the work in an area where there isn't an ability to display the attribution. Where is the attribution, for example, on pieces of code contained in your car's cruise control? You could technically put it in the car's owner's manual, but in practice this is never done. In practice, government agencies in some cases ask, but do not require, that you provide attribution.

The online version of the handbook is free and provided in a convenient form. What would we gain if it were placed in the "public domain"?

Free-for-use-in-its-original-form-only-for-limited-purposes isn't free. It is only free of charge for certain limited uses. In no way is this an acceptable substitute for public domain. You can't, for example, use it in commercial software and you can't use it in permissively licensed or copylefted software because those do allow commercial use.

Comment: Re:Epic Fail (Score 1) 128

by whitis (#32222400) Attached to: NIST Releases Updated Handbook of Math Functions

You keep using words that I don't think you quite grasp the true meaning of.

Oh, I understand the contextually appropriate meanings of the words. You failed to identify the words you thought were misused or what your (mis)understanding of their true meaning is.

"Digital Library". Their choice of words, not mine. This could refer to a library of books, movies, sound recordings, documents, etc. stored in a digital format. Not here. Calling a updated version of a single book a library is quite a stretch. And we were not promised a digital library of books or documents about mathematics, we were promised a "Digital Library OF Mathematical Functions". The objects in the library, therefore, are mathematical functions, not documents. Consider libraries of software functions, schematic symbols, printed circuit board symbols, other CAD libraries (such as for mechanical parts), VHDL/verilog libraries, standard cell libraries, spectral libraries, etc. These tend to have sufficient semantic information that you can automatically search, extract the appropriate objects, link the objects together, evaluate, execute, transform, analyze, synthesize, compare, display, validate, etc. A digital library in the technical sense, not the lay usage, is a collection of objects in a form that can be processed using the specialized tools appropriate to the trade, not merely cut and pasted. Sure, you can do a little processing on MathML but as the math and the processing become non-trivial, it is likely to break down due to the lack of high level abstract information.

"semantics"/"presentational": The OpenMath creators, who have significant overlap with the MathML creators (I.E. many worked on both projects), use the same two words to describe the difference:
"MathML deals principally with the presentation of mathematical objects, while OpenMath is solely concerned with their semantic meaning or content. " You can mix MathML and OpenMath.

And special fail for bringing up OpenMATH.

It was relevant. Even many of the folks who worked on MathML also saw the need for OpenMath and worked on that project as well.

Comment: disaster tracking/many already tagged (Score 3, Interesting) 108

by whitis (#32217136) Attached to: Taiwanese Researchers Plug RFIDs As Disaster Recovery Aids

The continuous wearing/implanting of RFID tags has extreme privacy issues and enormous ability for abuse. But most of us are already tagged and trackable, and many don't realize it (see below).

To be fair, I did suggest something similar back during Hurricane Katrina, though with some level of privacy controls. Boat comes up and rescues you, dead or alive. You are given a numbered wristband with RFID/barcode. You are given a chance to enter, or not enter, identifying information and select which info is searchable and which is viewable. GPS based point of rescue information is recorded. The boat relays that information up to the next helicopter that flys over via a ad-hoc store and forward WiFi network or any other stationary or mobile access point in range. When you reach a shelter, hospital, etc. you are scanned in. When you leave to go on a bus/train, you are scanned out of the shelter and onto the bus/train. You are basically tracked like a package for as long as you want to be and friends and family inside or outside the disaster zone with the right information to search by can find out where you are. Rescue/shelter/hospital personnel can spend more time helping people and less time trying to locate missing persons. Less load on cell phone networks. If you have a stalker or outstanding warrants, you don't give any identifying info. Still lots of subtle issues with privacy and technical implementation.

Today, you might just do a mobile update of your facebook status; facebook being a whole different set of privacy issues, and use direction finders on cell phones.

And we are already tagged and trackable via our cell phones (hackers can access GSM network location and ID info). And many of the RFID attacks can be applied to any active cell phone, only worse. SIM number, bluetooth/WiFi/WiMaX MAC addresses. A cell phone is an RFID chip from hell with a long range and even a preexisting network which can be exploited to further extend the range to the entire world. At least you can yank the battery when you really need to disappear.

Comment: Re:It really is delicious irony (Score 1) 222

by whitis (#32214096) Attached to: What the Mobile Patent Fight Is All About

Thermostats: One is a marginally valid, but still pretty trivial, claim of a specific application within a technology to a specific problem. The other is an attempt to patent the application of an entire field (embedded computing) to a specific application area (thermostats). It is equivalent to patenting the very idea of using ANY mechanical system to control temperature or ANY application of the physical properties of materials to control temperature.

Any idiot knows that it is possible to make money selling a touch screen phone. That doesn't mean that anyone who tries will succeed. User interface patents are ridiculous. Image what would happen if we pattented the use of a steering wheel, brake, and accelerator pedal for controlling an automobile. We would have ended up with gratuitous incompatibilities in user interfaces for cars, with massive amounts of trouble as a result.

Comment: Epic Fail (Score 3, Interesting) 128

by whitis (#32211898) Attached to: NIST Releases Updated Handbook of Math Functions

I have been waiting for this to come out for a while but I see a number of reasons for disappointment.

First, a big part of the reason for having a library of mathematical functions compiled by a government agency is to have a public domain source that can be reused for any purpose in any field of endeavor. They screwed that up royally: "© 2010 NIST". Commerfcial use is specifically prohibited. Ironic considering that NIST is part of the US Department of Commerce. And since comercial use is prohibited, it can't be used in software distributed under a permissive license which allows commercial use.

Second, they call it a "digital library" but it isn't. It is more or less a book in html by chapters. They used MathML instead of OpenMATH. MathML is too presentational and not sufficiently semantic. You should be able to configure OpenMATH or MathML or PNG produced from the OpenMath and you should be able to download OpenMath content dictionaries.

It is still useful as a free-for-viewing-only ebook, but that is only a tiny fraction of what it should have been. Tax payers got gyped. We paid perhaps 90% of the cost for 20% of the result, and the copyright even interferes with someone else finishing the job.

Comment: camera interdiction (Score 1) 442

by whitis (#27803487) Attached to: Portables Without Cameras?

And in the end, all this inconvenience to cell phone, PDA, media player, netbook, and laptop users (not to mention American's with Disability Act violation - some people need cameras) will be about as successful as drug interdiction at the border.

Joe consumer can buy a camera (still and video with audio) disguised as, for example, a working ball point pen (doubles as a 4GB USB flash drive) for $35.17, delivered (lower end model under $20). Another is rather poorly disguised as an ID badge (required in many places where cameras are banned); poor implementation but you can see where that is headed. Another is disguised as a wrist watch. Another as a necktie. Another small model. Miniaturization has made camera interdiction at the border all but impossible. Unless you are going to strip search and body cavity search everyone, provide them with substitute clothing, and prevent them from taking anything inside, cameras will get in.

Ironically, before all this stuff was available to the consumer for the price of dinner, there were government facilities that had these kinds of no camera security precautions while on the inside engineers were developing spy cameras that were small enough to circumvent the exact same security provisions at the other country's facilities.

Miniature equipment has been available for over a hundred years if you had the cash. And if the stakes were high enough to justify banning cameras, the camera cost was minor compared to what the pictures were worth.

The only difference with your portable electronics gear is plausible deniablity if you get caught before you snap the pictures.

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