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Patents

IBM Wants Patent On Finding Areas Lacking Patents 151

theodp writes "It sounds like a goof — especially coming from a company that pledged to raise the bar on patent quality — but the USPTO last week disclosed that IBM is seeking a patent for Methodologies and Analytics Tools for Identifying White Space Opportunities in a Given Industry, which Big Blue explains allows one 'to maximize the value of its IP by investigating and identifying areas of relevant patent 'white space' in an industry, where white space is a term generally used to designate one or more technical fields in which little or no IP may exist,' and filling those voids with the creation of additional IP."
Power

Submission + - Solar Panels at $1 per Watt are cheaper than coal (solveclimate.com)

Nesster writes: "A Silicon Valley start-up called Nanosolar shipped its first solar panels — priced at $1 a watt. That's the price at which solar energy gets cheaper than coal. So far, there have been 83 bids and the price has reached $10,300. The auction is over on December 27th at 17:13:10 PST. Essentially, they've figured out how to print solar cells on thin sheets of aluminum with a printing press."
The Courts

Submission + - Disbarment case for Jack Thompson (gamepolitics.com)

An anonymous reader writes: GamePolitics is reporting that the disbarment case for our favorite lawyer, Jack Thompson, is moving forward. The Bar has reportedly set aside a week for the hearing and Judge Tunis has until December 21st to issue a ruling.
Hardware Hacking

Submission + - Video of wild crow tool use caught with tail cams

willatnewscientist writes: "Scientists from the University of Oxford have recorded New Caledonian crows using tools in the wild for first time after attaching tiny cameras to their tail feathers. The wireless cameras weigh just 14 grammes and can be worn by the crows without disturbing their natural behavior. The trick has provided the first direct evidence of the birds' using tools in the wild and may represent an important development in animal behavior studies."
Space

Submission + - Gas Station in Space Could Change NASA's Moon Plan (popularmechanics.com)

mattnyc99 writes: Rand Simberg has a report from the Space 2007 conference about a new proposal from Boeing that would upend NASA's expensive plan to return to the moon by building a propellant refueling depot in sub-orbital space—saving tons more time, weight and money for the new lunar base. From the article: "How the propellant would reach such a pitstop in the sky is really the beauty of Boeing's concept. NASA has been seeking ways to involve both international partners and the commercial sector — Michael Griffin, the agency's administrator, said recently that such a 'private/public synergy' was 'crucial for the future' — but NASA has been reluctant to put any partner on the critical path. The good news? Anyone can make propellant, and anyone can deliver it." Sounds like NASA and the space billionaires might finally be able to help each other...
United States

Submission + - New city law impounds cars with loud stereos 3

SaDan writes: On August, 20th this year, a new law was passed in Rockford, IL, that grants police the authority to impound any vehicle reported for having a stereo turned up too loud:

"Cars taken will be held until fines of $150 to $750 are paid — in addition to a $75 towing fee, a $15 to $20 per day storage fee and a $60 per hour charge if the police officer has to wait more than an hour for the tow truck."

Anyone who has their car impounded is in for a long wait, in addition to the fees previously mentioned. After requesting a hearing, the city can wait up to 45 days before going to trial, accumulating around $1100 in impound fees. An article, with PDF of the recently passed law, can be found here.
Sci-Fi

Submission + - Heinlein archives to go online (mercurynews.com)

RaymondRuptime writes: "Good news for fans of the late SF master Robert Heinlen, 2 months after his 100th birthday celebration. Per the San Jose Mercury News, "The entire contents of the Robert A. and Virginia Heinlein Archive — housed in the UC-Santa Cruz Library's Special Collections since 1968 — have been scanned in an effort to preserve the contents digitally while making the collection easily available to both academics and the general public... The first collection released includes 106,000 pages, consisting of Heinlein's complete manuscripts — including files of all his published works, notes, research, early drafts and edits of manuscripts." You can skip the brief article and go straight to the archives."
Windows

Submission + - Autopatcher shut down by Microsoft? (autopatcher.com)

kimvette writes: "Apparently Microsoft wants users to choose alternatives to Windows, since they are now shutting down third-party tools which help make deployments and maintenance of Windows easier. From autopatcher:

Sad day Posted by Antonis Kaladis on August 29th, 2007 | Today we received an e-mail from Microsoft, requesting the immediate take-down of the download page, which of course means that AutoPatcher is probably history. As much as we disagree, we can do very little, and although the download page is merely a collection of mirrors, we took the download page down. We would like to thank you for your support. For the past 4 years, it has been a blast. Unfortunately, it seems like it's the end of AutoPatcher as we know it. Antonis Kaladis


If you're on dialup in rural areas and want to update Windows, or are in a commercial setting where you have a Cable connection with an unpublished cap, you're pretty much screwed when it comes to Windows updates.

Thanks, Microsoft. It's great to know that you have your paying customers in mind, as usual. Making the Windows experience worse, that is."

Security

Submission + - Data breach generates class action lawsuit (networkworld.com)

coondoggie writes: "The fallout from Certegy Check Services (CCS) data breach has reached the courts. A class-action lawsuit has been filed by a California law firm against Fidelity National Information Services, accusing it and its CCS subsidiary of negligence, invasion of privacy and breach of implied contract, on behalf of the 8.5 million customers whose sensitive information was sold to direct marketers by a former employee of the check verification service. The complaint alleges that Certegy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), did not institute adequate security controls to prevent the breach. The suit does not specify damages. William Sullivan, the former Certegy senior-level database administrator alleged to be responsible for the theft. Sullivan is named in the legal complaint as one of the defendants, as is a Largo, Fla.-based company he reportedly owns, S&S Computer Services.Data breaches have maddeningly become commonplace. Some 85% of 700 C-level executives, managers and IT security officers revealed in a recent survey they had experienced a data breach event, and about half of those admitted they had no incident response plan in place. http://www.networkworld.com/community/node/18598"
Biotech

Submission + - Barry Bonds' HR Record Tainted by Elbow 'Armor'? (editorandpublisher.com)

solitas writes: "An interesting article for the mechanical engineers and baseball fans on /. about the guard Bonds wears on his right elbow, and the possible physical and mechanical advantages it gives his swing.

Beyond his alleged steroid use, Barry Bonds is guilty of the use of something that confers extraordinarily unfair mechanical advantage: the "armor" that he wears on his right elbow. Amid the press frenzy over Bonds' unnatural bulk, the true role of the object on his right arm has simply gone unnoticed."

The Courts

Submission + - Court: Web contracts can't be changed w/o notice (computerworld.com)

RZG writes: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on July 18th that contracts posted online cannot be updated without notifying users. "Parties to a contract have no obligation to check the terms on a periodic basis to learn whether they have been changed by the other side", the court wrote. This ruling has consequences for many online businesses, who took for granted their right to do this. (See for example item 19 in Google's Terms of Service)
Software

Submission + - Lawyers shafted by windows on NY bar examination

An anonymous reader writes: Over 5000 aspiring lawyers who took the New York bar examination on laptops using windows, word and a software from a company called SecureExam ended up with lost essays and computer problems. The New York Board of Bar Examiners released a statement and the company responsible released a second statement. Possibilities at this point might entail a software company being held liable for licensed software under a EULA for the first time. Bar examinations in Georgia reportedly had problems as well. It seems the software created a single file with all the answers and either discarded the file rather than upload it or mixed parts of the essays together.

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