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Comment Re:First link in the first article (Score 1) 525

It is a bit more than "users are saturating their own links". Jim Gettys' point is that the combination of large packet buffers at numerous points in the chain (OS, home router, routers at ISPs, etc) have effectively broken TCP's previously very effective congestion avoidance mechanisms, because the TCP stack doesn't get a timely notification of dropped packets when one particular link in a data path becomes saturated. And because you don't necessarily know where the bottleneck is going to be between any two end-points on the Internet, or what your share of the bandwidth of that link is going to be, you can't do effective bandwidth limiting in advance. It would be much better if the flow control built in your machine's TCP/IP stack could handle the situation.

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 (

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."

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