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Comment given enough eyeballs, all claims are hollow (Score 2, Interesting) 191

This could all be fixed by issuing the original patent provisionally, and mandating a second, more thorough review by the patent office when the decorative sabre is first unsheathed.

Maybe the target of the action files an application for second-stage examination and ponies up a small fee on the order of $1000, then the patent office adds the patent to their public "notice of re-examination" board for sixty days to solicit any other public input. After the examination, the target recovers from the patent holder $250 for every claim shot down and another $5000 if the entire patent falls (the patent infringement action could permit the patent holder to exercise only certain claims, so as not to place themselves on the hook for the claim-reversal penalty award on every frivolous claim, but they still owe the $5000 penalty award if claims associated with the infringement action is reduced to the empty set).

Second-stage ratification doesn't need to be a big thing. It only needs to be as big as what the first-stage examination was originally presupposed to accomplish when this whole system was first set up, back when it was possible for a patent examiner to have his or her finger on the pulse of innovation to any extent at all, before human knowledge blue-shifted by a further six orders of magnitude.

To a first approximation, given enough eyeballs, all claims are hollow.

What we really need is a mechanical turk to challenge claims of novel art and claims of application (which should be separated). If the patent holder wished to instigate second-phase examination without filing against an adversary (so as to increase their litigational certitude before uncasking their powder), they would need to post $10,000 as a bounty fund. The public would be invited to submit arguments against any particular claim (much like a bug-tracking system). Maybe there's a $5 fee per hundred words (minimum $5) for each argument filed. The first argument (by filing time) to unseat a claim is awarded a $250 refutation bounty from the bounty fund.

Even better, people are allowed to pay $5 to click "me too". All the "me too" payments are funnelled to the person who originally filed the item (small profit, same day). All parties split the bounty (including the item owner) if that item scores (the incentive to be the fiftieth person to click "me too" is not attractive; by interpolation, the "me too" button functions as a prediction market).

I think we just need to bring a mechanical turk free market processes to bear on the patent approval system, and abuses would soon be dramatically scaled back.

If a company just wants to accumulate patents it could potentially waggle, nothing changes, and all the same press releases can still be penned (mentions of patents pursued would mean less, now being more frail in the waggling, but this is the usual erosion of sense anyone shrewd has long observed).

Comment parses like a teaspoon of sugar (Score 2) 129

I've been parsing this kind of press release for a long, long time now. I can pretty much tell what we're dealing with by how hard it is to state the advantage of a new approach in narrow and precise language.

That this blurb doesn't even disclose the error model class (error correction is undefined without doing so) suggests that the main advantage of this codec lies more in the targeting of a particular loss model than a general advance in mathematical power.

Any error correction method looks good when fed data that exactly corresponds to the loss model over which it directly optimises.

The innovators of this might have something valuable, but they are clearly trying to construe it as more than it is. This suggests that there are other, equally viable ways to skin this particular cat.

Comment suspicious circumstances (Score 1) 389

Snowden is going to be the first person in human history to have a suspicious death at the age of one-hundred and five.

There's a big difference between what these agencies do under cover of darkness, and what they do under the glare of a public spotlight. Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia after two decades in exile, whereupon he continued to criticise his homeland for another fourteen years, before dying of heart failure under suspicious circumstances at age eighty-nine.

There's a good reason they get mighty twisted about having their darkness aired: no more summary judgement, no more page 13 obituaries of A-list adversaries.

Hurricane Lolita:

I once read of an interview given by Roman Polanski in which he described listening to a lurid radio account of his offense even as he was fleeing to the airport. He suddenly realized the trouble he was in, he said, when he came to appreciate that he had done something for which a lot of people would furiously envy him.

No, Snowden's exile is something different: a life not envied, not one little bit. That much his button-down steampunk adversaries can manage under the broad light of day.

Comment the crutch of determinism (Score 4, Interesting) 125

I must respectfully disagree with you on every point you raise.

A randomised stack would cause certain types of bugs to manifest themselves much earlier in the development process. Nothing decreases the cost of a bug hunt more than proximity to the actual coding event.

Such an environment rewards programmers who invest more to validate their loops and bounds more rigorously in the first place. Nothing reduces the cost of a bug more than not coding it in the first place.

There's nothing that stops the debugging team from debugging against a canonical build, if they wish to do so. If they have a bug that the canonical build won't manifest, they wouldn't even have known about the bug without this technique added to the repertoire. If many such bugs become known early in the development process—bugs that manifest on some randomised builds, but not on the canonical debug build—you're got an excellent warning klaxon telling you what you need to know—your coding or management standards suck. Debugging suck, if instigated soon enough to matter, returns 100x ROI as compared to debugging code.

Certainly the number of critical vulnerabilities that exist against some compiled binary can only increase in number. So what? The attacker most likely doesn't know in advance which version any particular target will run. The attacker must now develop ten or one hundred exploits where previously one sufficed (or one exploit twice as large and ten times more clever).

If the program code mutated on every execution, you would have some valid points. That would be stupid beyond all comprehension. An attacker could just keep running your program until it comes up cherries.

The developer controls the determinism model. It's an asset in the war. There can be more when it helps our own cause, and less when it assists our adversaries.

Determinism should be not reduced to a crutch for failing to code correctly in the first place. Get over it. Learn how. Live in an environment that punishes mistakes early and often.

Comment even a gorilla must somedayshit or get off the pot (Score 1) 211

The Amazon share price demonstrates that investors anticipate profit from the Amazon business model at some point, which they will point very loudly when it begins to appear that growth has reached a plateau. (It's only mildly conceivable that this whole thing is a Ponzi scheme held afloat by successive ranks of the greater fool.)

By some weird co-incidence I breezed through The Everything Store by Brad Stone yesterday afternoon (and following up, just an hour ago, MacKenzie Bezos's misguided one-star review).

I wanted to get a better sense of the author, so I also watched Discussion: Author Brad Stone on The Everything Store, hosted by Daniel Siciliano, professor at the Stanford Law school, who turns out to be sharp, engaged, articulate, and charismatic. Brad largely stays on script with his own book.

Brad did take certain liberties with his book (small ones) of the kind an author is pretty much forced to take if he wishes to have a readership. Mr Bezos would not be so principled as to fact check his profit into oblivion. MacKenzie needs to get a grip on her entitlement double standard.

Brad regards his critical chapter as the one entitled Expedient Convictions. His recap was the best bit in the entire Q/A: "Amazon [aka Jeff] rationalise their customer focus to excuse a lot of things. This paper-thin rationalization is actually naked self-interest."

No shit Sherlock. He then goes on talk about how Amazon engineered their operation to pay no sales tax at the state level by claiming not to operate in any of those states, which is only true in the narrowest legal sense. Amazon runs huge operations in those states structured as legally independent subsidiaries (which are nevertheless totally under Amazon's thumb).

In the book Jeff is quoted as saying they don't use any services provided by those states, so why should they pay a sales tax? Their subsidiaries are using plenty of government provided infrastructure in those states to make those products and services possible. The whole story is just an accounting shell game. Their products come from somewhere, somehow. I don't think you find out at the center of the nested Russian dolls that the Amazon fulfillment center is a Xen machine instance on EC2. In mathematics, Mr Bezos, this analysis is known as the pigeonhole principle, which in layman's terms says you can't ethically pay tax nofuckingwhere on $74b dollars in revenue. But you know that already, don't you? And MacKenzie knows that you know that, doesn't she? Right, I though as much. Pity Brad got the influence of Remains of the Day on your regret minimization framework misplaced in time by about a year in his origin story. How will we ever trust another word this man says?

Which of those two errors concerns a million dollars or more? Bzzzt. Looks like Jeff wins the milliravi award for speaking with forked cheek.

Anyway, this story today is nothing new, and hardly the worst. Anyone interested can check out how Amazon sat on Lovefilm in the UK/EU. It was brutal.

Stone makes Amazon's internal culture sound like The Passion of the Christ which I think was dramatised by Stone somewhat, but hardly given the full Oliver (the answer to my fey verbal riddle is Natural Born Killers if anyone cares).

As I recall it from an early chapter, among the fringe whingers MacKenzie complains are insignificant and overrepresented was one Shel Kaphan whom Bezos himself described as "the most important person ever in the history of Amazon.com" as part of his great and commendable summing up of a valued resource so totally no longer needed.

Quick, someone hand me a gold pen, I want to stick it down my throat.

Comment you can't judge a theory by its quacks (Score 2) 339

Jules Verne envisioned the submarine. Does that make a submarine impossible? Does the concept sink on the basis of its sci-fi roots? Oh, lordy, what a fucked up standard of evidence on which to accuse any theory of being faith based.

* [http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/02/pictures/110208-jules-verne-google-doodle-183rd-birthday-anniversary/ 8 Jules Verne Inventions That Came True]

The guy predicted pretty much everything but the click trap.

Comment sidesight is 50/50 (Score 1) 304

I also have the landscape/portrait combination. It would take far more than this to tempt me to switch. My gutter has a slight fold, so my visual perpendiculars are about six inches apart, and I'm not viewing the wings at some weird oblique angle (or buttock balancing, which can only end badly if like many software developers one is treadmilling the 50/50/50, where 50 is the new 40).

My landscape screen hails from the era where 1680x1050 was king, and a godly stout and square king at that. It's not quite wide enough to triple tile, so I had to solve the console problem differently.

I configured Tilda terminal to pop up (always on top) in the bottom 1/3 of the vertical display, where the pixels begin just two inches above the top of my desk. The vertical display always has my primary browser, maximized. When Tilda pops up, I still have as much vertical height for my browser than on the landscape screen, so I just have to scroll the web content to the top portion of the browser window while I'm using the console (like hell I'm going to manually demax my browser window every time I pop up Tilda with my Windows menu key).

The problem that drove me nuts is that the content at the bottom of a web page won't scroll up to the top of the window. FF just doesn't think the user ought to be able to scroll past the point where the bottom pixel of the content is any higher than the bottom pixel of the display window. No empty bottom margin allowed! The right side of your screen can taper into nothingness, but not the bottom. That makes it pretty clear already that there's an industry-wide potato famine for vertical real estate: they didn't even consider that it might be ergonomically more acceptable to scroll the portion of the content you're actually reading up to eye level, because to a first dipshit–designer approximation nearly every screen is a horizontal slit (I chose the ndash rather than a hyphen in that compound modifier, by a nose).

One loses pretty much nothing running a browser in portrait mode if combined with NoSquint. On 80% of web sites (denominated by the sites I willingly chose to visit) I just magnify the fonts until all the loopy cruft blows off the sides of the screen, leaving that portion which I wish to attend gloriously enlarged on my jumbo page. It is certainly true that some sites are coded in relative units where it's impossible to achieve a horizontal enlargement of the main content column by fiddling with NoSquint. For these, there's always Stylish. If even Stylish fails (mainly because the selectors are too cluttered and generic) I either (A) actively seek an alternative resource better behaved, or (B) switch that specific page into Chrome. Yes, I treat the web like a kindergarten full of unruly children (and graphic designers) forever requiring a heavy thumb. It's worth the effort. One font to rule them all!

I've long lived by the adage that for primary reading, fonts should be large enough that the user can lean back and operate the Page Dn key with your big toe. Your own spine will thank you on the home stretch of the 50/50/50.

That mainly leaves the annoying scrolling problem. Fixed with Stylish.

body:after {
content: 'Tail';
color: #505050;
display: block;
text-align: center;
font-size: 1vmax;
padding-bottom: 40vh !important;
}

Yes, this breaks a few web layouts and the word 'Tail' shows up sometimes in the strangest places (this is how I know when it's my own diddle—and which of many—breaking the layout). Easy enough to switch off if the need arises.

The 40vh is empirically just big enough to cause web pages to scroll above the top of my Tilda terminal.

I love this desktop configuration. It rocks. Even my black gutter, slightly crooked like the spine of a book, is more of a feature than a bug.

One sees those big flat screens in a different light after one multiplies by the love-slave vector 50/50/50. The applicable units are hours, weeks, years. Not seconds, minutes, and dazzle.

Comment stupidity escalation (Score 1) 288

The entire premise of this post is built on stupidity escalation.

Corporations often pass off short-term financial hardship (mainly of the cash flow variety) as a legitimate reason to prune staff—generally fooling no-one, yet successfully biding time in the PR war saying nothing much at all until some new outrage of the moment shifts the spotlight to a different circus ring. Among the best-paid professionals in our society are the engineers of running issues aground against the acidic shoals of going nowhere fast with the greatest expense (first, we kill the injunctions). Business as usual, on both fronts.

This is irritating, so we pretend to become stupid as bricks in turning the table, as if the converse contains the least shred of cognitive viability: that any company not under present fiscal duress could not possibly benefit under best management from another round of lay-offs.

If anything, the converse is even dumber than the original stonewall, and about 100x more bloody minded. God forbid that by such asinine manoeuvres we return Karl Marx to the rank of essential reading, who at least spat upon the pathos from a viable view of systems.

Comment the zipper and the bee (Score 1) 254

Ruminant self-castigation concerning my previous post.

Fingers and foghorn were clearly operating at different stages of rubbing the sand out of their eyes. Waking up is hard to do. Harrumph. Nothing burnishes one's wit like mucking up one's determiners twice in two sentences.

I blame it all on eliding the apostrophe from the all-caps. That small joke went against the soul of my being. It was like The Scream welling up inside me.

It just struck me that we should change the name of the apostrophe as used in contractions to "the zipper mark". Do up your zippers boys and girls. First lesson on the first day of middle school every year through grade seven, eight, nine, and ten.

Then this brief public service announcement concludes with the disclaimer that surfaces sometimes deceive: the zipper mark and the dangling participle have nothing in common, but if you'd like a good example of the DP to think about until we get there, consider this:

Flitting gaily from flower to flower, the football player watched the bee.

Comment water cooler guessing game (Score 1) 265

I'm guessing he wasn't meeting expectations

You're never seen a person be fired because the ranks of management are equally vile?

Have you never seen a manager go to jail because he deliberately fired or drove away the company's most competent employee on fabricated allegations in order to exact revenge for a perceived slight, prior to his own dismissal or resignation?

No, I didn't think so. The master retributivist of eternal liberty sabotages human systems instead.

Comment silly words (Score 1) 113

With a small herd of these pet pandasauri—and an enormous harvest of coprolignum—one could well up the Great Wall of China in record time. It would still required great hordes or workers, but the workers would be highly obedient. Anyone who slacks off would have their highly-prized long-handled trowel promptly confiscated. With no hall pass, it's crenellation duty for you. From there it's years fighting your way up the rank just to obtain the corner-pocket edge-finishing tool.

Comment I wank, therefore nothing much (Score 1) 189

Would any consciousness be able to deal with such a relative delay?

Interesting to frame the story in such a way as to bring the existence of human intelligence itself into doubt.

Roger Penrose believes that human creativity is rooted at quantum effects, effects which probably play out at the Planck scale, where the ratio between the Planck scale and the reconfiguration of a single molecular bond in a gathering neurotransmitter pulse likely exceeds the ratio of a CPU cycle to a trans-continental ping.

Shall I continue wanking, or should we put this bizarre speculation to bed?

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