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Patents

Oprah Sued For Infringing "Touch and Feel" Patent 249

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Oprah Winfrey, or to be more precise, Oprah's Book Club, is being sued by the inventor/patent attorney Scott C. Harris for infringing upon his patent for 'Enhancing Touch and Feel on the Internet.' So Oprah's Book Club is now one of many people and entities being sued over this patent because they allow people to view part, but not all, of a book online before purchasing it. Mr. Harris also sued Google Books for infringing upon this patent. He actually was fired from his position as partner at Fish & Richardson for that, because Google is a client of that law firm and they had conflict of interest rules to uphold." It would be entertaining to see Oprah give very wide and mainstream publicity to the abuses enabled by our current patent system.

Update: 01/07 22:03 GMT by KD : The blog author Joe Mullin wrote to point out that the lawsuit was not filed by the inventor, Scott C. Harris, but rather by the shell company Illinois Computer Research, which seems to exist for the purpose of filing lawsuits based on this particular patent.
Wireless Networking

Using Your BlackBerry As a Modem On Linux 135

ruphus13 writes "Now, the suits and the geeks can unite — Barry allows BlackBerrys to serve as modems for Linux machines. From the news post, 'Barry, created by open source software vendor Net Direct, lets you not only sync your contacts and calendar but also use your smartphone as a computer modem. Sure, it's not as fast as T1 or cable, but you can't beat it if you're stuck somewhere with no Internet access. Currently, there are packages available for Ubuntu, Debian, Mandriva, and Fedora (although syncing is not supported on Fedora 9). Most older BlackBerrys work just fine with Barry, but the newest generation of devices — the Storm and Bold — are not yet fully supported.'"
Transportation

Volvo Introduces a Collision-Proof Car 743

carazoo.com sends along a story on Volvo's upcoming crash-proof car. The company will introduce a concept car based on the S60 this month at the Detroit Auto Show, looking ahead a few years to the goal that by 2020 "no one should be killed or injured in a Volvo car." The concept car will have forward-looking radar as a proximity sensor, and the ability to brake if a collision is imminent. When the car senses a collision, a light flashes on the windscreen display along with an audible warning. If the driver doesn't act, the car will brake automatically.
Earth

More Evidence For a Clovis-Killer Comet 210

fortapocalypse sends word that a new paper was published today in the journal Science on the hypothesis that a comet impact wiped out the Clovis people 12,900 years ago. (We discussed this hypothesis last year when it was put forth.) The new evidence is a layer of nanodiamonds at locations all across North America, at a depth corresponding to 12,900 years ago, none earlier or later. The researchers hypothesize that the comet that initiated the Younger Dryas, reversing the warming from the previous ice age, fragmented and exploded in a continent-wide conflagration that produced a layer of diamond from carbon on the surface. While disputing the current hypothesis, NASA's David Morrison allows, "They may have discovered something absolutely marvelous and unexplained."
Microsoft

The Secret Origins of Microsoft Office's Clippy 263

Harry writes "Most folks think that Microsoft Office's Clippy, Microsoft Bob, and Windows XP's Search Assistant dog were perverse jokes — but a dozen years' worth of patent filings shows that Microsoft took the concept of animated software 'helpers' really, really seriously, even long after everyone else realized it was a bad idea. And the drawings those patents contain are weirdly fascinating." The article, a slide show really, spreads over 15 pages.
Data Storage

Why Not To Shout At Your Disk Array 125

Brendan Gregg of Sun's Fishworks lab has an interesting video demo up at YouTube demonstrating just how bad vibes, if expressed with sufficient volume in front of a rack full of disks, can cause a spike in disk latency. White noise, evidently, doesn't do them much harm. (Maybe they just feel awkward to get yelled at on camera.)
Internet Explorer

IE Market Share Drops Below 70% 640

Mike writes "Microsoft's market share in the browser dropped below 70% for the first time in eight years, while Mozilla broke the 20% barrier for the first time in its history. It's too early to tell for sure, but if Net Applications' numbers are correct, then Microsoft's Internet Explorer will end 2008 with a historic market share loss in a software segment Microsoft believes is key to its business."
Music

At Atlantic Records, Digital Sales Surpass CDs 273

The NYTimes reports that Atlantic is the first major label to report getting a majority of its revenue from digital sales, not CDs. Analysts say that Atlantic is out in front — the industry as a whole isn't expected to hit the 50% mark until 2011. By 2013, music industry revenues will be 37% down from their 1999 levels (when Napster arrived on the scene), according to Forrester. "'It's not at all clear that digital economics can make up for the drop in physical,' said John Rose, a former executive at EMI ... Instead, the music industry is now hoping to find growth from a variety of other revenue streams it has not always had access to, like concert ticket sales and merchandise from artist tours. ... In virtually all... corners of the media world, executives are fighting to hold onto as much of their old business as possible while transitioning to digital — a difficult process that NBC Universal's chief executive ... has described as 'trading analog dollars for digital pennies.'"
Role Playing (Games)

New EVE Online Expansion Detailed 96

Eurogamer reports on the EVE Online Fanfest, at which developer CCP revealed details on the game's next expansion, due out in March. It will be the biggest expansion yet for EVE, and it will "introduce 'Tech 3' modular ship designs, branching epic mission arcs, further improvements to the new player experience, and exploration of uncharted space through unstable wormholes. ... The focus of the expansion will be 'true exploration,' with players using new skills and modules to travel through wormholes into all-new, unconnected space." CCP also hinted that further graphical upgrades would be coming, and a standalone first-person shooter based on EVE may be in development for a console release.
The Almighty Buck

How To Make Money With Free Software 81

bmsleight writes "The Dutch Ministry of Finance organized an architecture competition to design not a building, but rather the new 5-Euro commemorative coin. The theme was 'Netherlands and Architecture'. The winning design was made 100% with free software, mainly Python, but also including The Gimp, Inkscape, Phatch, and Ubuntu. The design is amazing — the head of Queen Beatrix is made up of the names of architects based on their popularity in Yahoo searches (rendered in a font of the artist's own devising). In the end the artist, Stani Michiels, had to collaborate closely on location with technicians of the Royal Dutch Mint, so all the last bits were done on his Asus Eee PC. Soon, 350,000 Dutch people will use and enjoy the fruits of free software."
Space

Submission + - Massive star burps, then explodes

gollum123 writes: "Tens of millions of years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a massive star suffered a nasty double whammy ( http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2007/0 4/04_supernova.shtml ). Signs of the first shock reached Earth on Oct. 20, 2004, when the star was observed letting loose an outburst so enormous and bright that Japanese amateur astronomer Koichi Itagaki initially mistook it for a supernova. The star survived for nearly two years, however, until on Oct. 11, 2006, professional and amateur astronomers witnessed it blowing itself to smithereens as Supernova (SN) 2006jc. All the observations suggest that the supernova's blast wave took only a few weeks to reach the shell of material ejected two years earlier, which did not have time to drift very far from the star. As the wave smashed into the ejecta, it heated the gas to millions of degrees, hot enough to emit copious X-rays. The Swift satellite saw the supernova continue to brighten in X-rays for 100 days, something that has never been seen before in a supernova. All supernovae previously observed in X-rays have started off bright and then quickly faded to invisibility."
Biotech

Submission + - Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality

sas-dot writes: In an earlier New york times article reported here in slashdot, threw up many interesting questions like Which is the better biological explanation for a belief in God — evolutionary adaptation or neurological accident? Is there something about the cognitive functioning of humans that makes us receptive to belief in a supernatural deity?. Now Scientists question the Philosophers and Theologians hold on the subject of Morality as reported in this new article. They find Chimpanzees social behaviours as precursors for Human morality. So now Biologists holds the rules for morality?
Power

Submission + - Thorium the Key to Non-Prolfieration?

P3NIS_CLEAVER writes: Nuclear energy has been proposed as an alternative to coal power plants that generating carbon dioxide and emit mercury. As we are seeing now in Iran, the desire for nuclear energy has created a gray area that places peaceful civilian power generation at odds with nuclear non-proliferation. An article at Resource Investor claims that thorium reactors can be used to replace existing reactors without creating isotopes that may be used in nuclear weapons.
Databases

Submission + - Free global virtual scientific library

An anonymous reader writes: More than 20,000 signatures, including several Nobel prize winners and 750 education, research, and cultural organisations from around the world came together to support free access to government funded research, "to create a freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe. The European Commission responded by committing more than $100m (£51m) towards facilitating greater open access through support for open access journals and for the building of the infrastructure needed to house institutional repositories that can store the millions of academic articles written each year. From the BBC article: "Last month five leading European research institutions launched a petition that called on the European Commission to establish a new policy that would require all government-funded research to be made available to the public shortly after publication. That requirement — called an open access principle — would leverage widespread internet connectivity with low-cost electronic publication to create a freely available virtual scientific library available to the entire globe." Isn't this the way its suppose to be?

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