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Comment Re:Hmmm... (Score 4, Insightful) 218

But, if the original poster's speculation were true, it would put Google in the traditional role of a technology patent holder who holds a defensive arsenal of patents: if MPEG-LA makes a fuss about aspects of VP8 which they claim infringe MPEG-LA patents, then Google can threaten to retaliate by suing everyone in the world who is currently shipping an implementation of H.264 for infringement of the On2/VP8 patents (and so publicly demonstrate the fact that being an licensee of the MPEG-LA H.264 pool doesn't protect one from all patent claims, and provides no insurance or indemnity).

Stalemate. Mutually-assured-destruction stand-off. Result: VP8 available for royalty-free for use, without MPEG-LA interference.

But only if Google really have inherited some killer On2 patents as part of their acquisition. I hope they have - it would make sense of their strategy and confidence in VP8 if this kind of thing were going on in the background.

Comment Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (Score 1) 247

The patent holders rights in the US will be rooted in the US Constitution and US law. MPEG-LA looks after patents which originally belonged to many multi-national corporations, including many European and Japanese companies, and they attempt to enforce these licensing deals and royalty payments around the world. Anyway, my understanding was that the US Constitution authorizes the legislature to enact laws to create a patent system for the express purpose of encouraging invention and advancement - the patent system is supposed to sweeten the deal just enough to make it worth-while for inventors to properly document and disclose their ideas, not enshrine moral property right over ideas or guarantee a massive revenue stream from from them.

I don't claim to be particularly knowledgeable about patent law, either in the US or elsewhere. I basically just wanted to vent a shriek of personal outrage at the idea things are "supposed to be like that". Law needs to be felt to be fair and equitable at some level, if it is to be effective. If law simply becomes a tool of commercial interests who lobby for laws that further enrich themselves, without reference to the citizens who will be bound by those laws, then the law will fall into disrepute.

My feelings don't really alter based on the financial thresholds needed to trigger "commercial licensing" requirements on the end-user. I have a visceral objection to the idea that if I buy a camera from (say) Sony that I then have potential financial and legal obligations to MPEG-LA when using that camera for the kind of purposes that it was designed, built and sold. MPEG-LA should have extracted their pound of flesh in the form of a one-off royalty payment from the manufacturer, and the manufacturer should have factored that cost into the purchase price that I payed.

Comment Re:MPEG_LA Isn't the devil (Score 1) 247

Your camera shipped with the generic end-user consumer license.

But that is the problem . You say this like it was a reasonable and explicable thing .

The idea that an end user of a consumer product needs a "license" to use the piece of hardware that they have bought in good faith, or is in the slightest way obliged to pay heed to any usage restrictions or fees that some patent holder tries to levy is completely at odds with natural justice and common sense. The patent holder's legal and commercial relationship is with the manufacturer, which involves the manufacturer's right to embody the invention. The manufacturer has a completely separate legal and commercial relationship with the consumer (or with a retailer), which involves transfer of ownership of the physical goods in return for payment.

If a patent system is going to exist at all, it should provide the legal framework for the payment of any royalties from a manufacturer to the patent holder for the right to embody the patented idea in a manufactured product, it should create a civil liability in the case that royalties for manufacture aren't payed, and that should be the end of it.

Comment Re:Ugh.. (Score 1) 558

The original BBC Microcomputer stored 100kbytes on 40-track single-sided single-density 5.25" floppies, which is a reasonable match to the factor of 15 estimate if they are comparing with a 1440kbyte double-sided high-density 3.5" disk.

Comment Re:[citation needed] (Score 1) 667

That struck me as really odd - publicly saying "we're going to release something that the Pentagon really doesn't want you to know in two weeks time" seems to be positively inviting attempts at suppression by the authorities.

If they really have leaked information that they think people should know about, then surely they should just "publish and be damned" - not engage in what appears to be news management in an attempt to create a sensationalist media buzz about it?


Submission + - Expanding the Electricity Grid May Be A Mistake (technologyreview.com)

Al writes: "An article in Technology Review argues that plans to string new high-voltage lines across the U.S. to bring wind power from the midsection of the country to the coasts, could be an expensive mistake. What's needed instead are improved local and regional electricity transmission, the development of an efficient and adaptable smart grid, and the demonstration of technology such as carbon capture and sequestration, which could prove a cheaper way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions than transmitting power from North Dakota to New York City."

Submission + - Massive VisaBuxx $23 Quadrillion "Glitch"

myob1776 writes: Visa Buxx is a funded debit card program that allows parents to give their kids Visa debit cards that are funded from parent accounts. Parents can monitor the spending and funding, etc. Our kids travel a lot for sports and so we find the cards useful.

There appears to have been a massive software problem with the Visa Buxx system yesterday. I received an email from Visa Buxx informing me that my son's account was overdrawn, due to a purchase he'd made from Applebees — in the amount of $23,148,855,308,184,500.00 (that's 23 quadrillion — I had to look it up).

After checking with him to make sure he really hadn't purchased 23 quadrillion dollars worth of food from Applebees — he's really not that big an eater — I called to dispute the transaction. A tired-sounding customer service rep interrupted me: "Are you calling about the $23 trillion dollar charge?" I corrected her "Actually, it's 23 quadrillion. I looked it up." According to her this was the result of a "glitch" that affected many, many other accounts. Until it's worked out — meaning, until Visa figures out why it happened and confirms that my son did not really spend $23 quadrillion dollars at Applebees — the accounts are frozen.

Comment Re:Huh??? (Score 2, Interesting) 503

The BBC report that I heard on the radio this morning didn't suggest that the "soliciting purr" sounded recognizably like a baby's cry - but if you stick a recording of it through a spectrum analyzer you find that it has some of the same frequency components as a baby cry embedded in it. So the sound puts humans on edge and plays on their subconscious in such a way that they want to satisfy the cat and make it stop.

Operating Systems

Submission + - Google Announce Chrome OS Plans

Neil writes: "The official Google Blog features an announcement this morning that the company is going ahead with plans to develop the Chrome browser into a fully-fledged operating system distribution, targeted at x86 and ARM netbooks. The project is separate from Android, but is also based on a Linux kernel and will be open sourced. It is lated for release to consumers in the second half of 2010."

Comment Re:Apple and Xiph (Score 1) 459

Respectfully disagree - codifying existing practice and getting the browser developers to buy into incremental improvements to the status quo is what got us to HTML4 and the original CSS specs, which I would suggest is basically the last time non-trivial improvements to the standards used to deliver web pages saw wide-spread adoption.

In contrast, whenever the language designers have tried to forge a path without involving the people who will write the web pages and develop the software the new standards have been largely ignored - for example: HTML3.0 and XHTML (and I write that as an XHTML fan).

Comment Re:If you give up the inch, they'll take the mile (Score 1) 901

It is intended as a consumer protection measure - it is only legal to offer to sell beer by the pint, half-pint, or third-pint (a rare measure, though it has become popular at real-ale festivals in recent years) because it makes it trivial to compare pricing from one establishment to the next. It is more difficult to gauge value for money (especially when tipsy!) if you've got to look at the menu or a notice to find out how many centi-litres (or whatever) are supposed to be in a bar's beer glasses and then do mental arithmetic to compare that with the place down the road where the measures are different.

The fact that the mandated measure is pints rather than half-litres is mostly down to the fact that the laws regulating these things are very old (though the fact that there would be a "little Englander" backlash against changing the traditional measures has no doubt put governments off revising and updating the legislation!).

Comment Re:Of course this calls for (Score 3, Insightful) 307

What if the original poster has an high definition display which doesn't have HDMI inputs (many such "HD ready" TV sets were sold before HDMI was standardised a couple of years go)? The fact that he/she checked the capabilities of the analogue component output with the manufacturer and the seller before purchasing suggests this might well be the case ...

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