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How the Internet Didn't Fail As Predicted 259

Lord Byron Eee PC writes "Newsweek is carrying a navel-gazing piece on how wrong they were when in 1995 they published a story about how the Internet would fail. The original article states, 'Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we'll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.' The article continues to say that online shopping will never happen, that airline tickets won't be purchased over the web, and that newspapers have nothing to fear. It's an interesting look back at a time when the Internet was still a novelty and not yet a necessity."

Comment Re:VHS, x86, Microsoft Windows (Score 2, Informative) 206

Yea, I thought it was weird that a review of PHP IDEs omitted Dreamweaver; I have tried at least 4 of the IDEs they list, and used Coda on Mac until I got Dreamweaver. My preference is still Homesite (the old Allaire product that morphed into DW after macromedia bought it). But, homesite only runs on windows, so on a mac IMO Dreamweaver CS4 works better than all of them and allows me to do a lot of pretty fast validation and integrity checking. /mike

Comment Re:statically linked? (Score 1) 270

See and the next answer. "If the program dynamically links plug-ins, and they make function calls to each other and share data structures, we believe they form a single program, which must be treated as an extension of both the main program and the plug-ins. This means the plug-ins must be released under the GPL or a GPL-compatible free software license, and that the terms of the GPL must be followed when those plug-ins are distributed." and "If the program dynamically links plug-ins, but the communication between them is limited to invoking the ‘main’ function of the plug-in with some options and waiting for it to return, that is a borderline case."

IMO this conflicts with existing jurisprudence on the meaning of a "derivative work" because merely referring to another work without modifying it can (almost) never be a derivative - at least I am aware of no case saying so. Unfortunately the people who wrote the GPL use words like "combine" which have no meaning under copyright law. So, you have ambiguous language, and even worse ambiguity in the GPL FAQ.

- mike oliver

Comment A couple of thoughts from a lawyer (Score 2, Informative) 270

I am a lawyer and practice primarily in software. I tried to read through this thread and responses - and as is typical here, at least for me, it is hard to separate the valuable insight from really really bad advice. I enjoy /. mainly for the comical signature lines most of the time.

First - no venture, no product or service, is risk free. There are ways to minimize the risk - and often small changes can make a big difference. The post you made here is itself possible evidence. By merely posting in a public area like this, and describing your intent, you have increased your risk.

Second - no software, and I mean none of it, is IP infringement free. Your objective should be to modify or avoid areas that increase risk, and then proceed.

Third - a common misconception in software development of related software is the idea that because you do not have the prior code, you are not making a derivative work. There are a number of copyright cases in other areas (they principally deal with "plots" in movies and books) that will apply to software development, because a game in the end is an interactive audiovisual work that is also a story that the player writes. So, you have to apply these older cases in the theater world to software. Those cases distinguish between going too far in plot duplication, from taking only what is known as "scenes a faire." That doctrine translates in English to "common element" or "building block." So, for example, copyright law will not prevent one author from using a common theme, element or building block gained from the knowledge of a past work. Otherwise, copyright would protect the idea - and copyright law cannot protect ideas.

So, you need to go see a lawyer, and show the lawyer the prior game. A good lawyer who knows copyright law can then tell you what elements are "building blocks" and which are core plot or thematic elements. In the cases, one component of this analysis is how well a character is developed. For example, "Lara Croft" was a very well developed game character. In the games she killed people and blew things up etc and had grand adventures. So, the idea of a woman in a game doing these things cannot be protected by the owner of the Lara Croft games. However, as a subsequent game character approaches expressive elements of Lara Croft's character . . . infringement is likely.

It is even more complex than this, though. Because assuming you can hurdle copyright law, now you need to deal with trademark law. In short . . . this is a complex issue and you do need to see a lawyer.

I have been engaged to both prevent, and to correct, errors made during software development. It is VASTLY less expensive to hire a lawyer and prevent errors. Once an error is made, the cost is astronomical to fix it. The last jury trial I did was a game development gone bad, and I represented the developer trying to get paid. We won and the jury gave us 100% . . . but since that time, I have devoted the last 15 years to doing only transactional software development law and licensing. Please find a lawyer and pay them for some advice. There are things you can do on the front end to really minimize the likelihood that the prior game owner will sue you.

A final thought - many people have suggested contacting the prior game owner. That is definitely something to consider IMO only if the advice is that your game is likely an infringement of the prior game. When development would be easier this way we advise this - but be prepared for negotiating a royalty deal. In most cases, a developer will simply "design around" the prior intellectual property and not seek permission. However, depending on the IP owner, sometimes permission is easy (for example, it is fairly easy to get permission from the estate of Jimi Hendrix; it is next near impossible to get it from the estate of Jim Morrison of the Doors - and figuring this out is rather easy - also, a lawyer can do this for you anonymously).

- mike oliver

Comment Politically correct incorrectness (Score 1) 703

A friend and I worked at a major law firm (we have both since left there). He left before I did. About 6 months before he left, the firm decided to do a marketing brochure to show how ethnically diverse we were. They located one of each ethnicity they could find (about 7 lawyers as I recall), and did a photo shoot.

He left voluntarily (was not fired), but I recall that coming in the morning after he left, there was a photocopy picture of the 7 ethnically diverse lawyers at the firm, and he (or someone) had cut himself out of the picture. No note - this was years before email, the web etc.

I thought it a poignant statement, made without words, which of course to my knowledge not a single senior partner understood (or accepted). It would be hard to do that so anonymously today via an email - no one really knew whether he did it or someone else did.

This lawyer today is very, very successful and has a very important position in internet law policy making at the federal level.


Apple Awarded Patent For iPhone Interface 449

Toe, The writes "Apple's 358-page patent application for their iPhone interface entitled Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics has been approved after more than two years of review by the US Patent Office. Apple's claims include: 'A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.' As Apple seems eager to defend their intellectual property, what will this mean to other touch developers?"

Comment This article is useless (Score 1) 303

The cited article fails to either list the tested firewall software, list the tests performed, or even link to some place where that information is available. It is a statement of the obvious, well known facts that: (i) some software fails to perform even its designed function, and (ii) correctly designed software is often misconfigured to the point where it cannot perform as designed.

The article further makes suggested solutions we have heard a thousand times, nothing new.

To meaningfully talk about security on a the average Joe's winbox, the focus has to come off average joe and be placed on the OS software companies, and on laws and rules (at least in the US) that utterly fail to require any software publisher to be responsible for either designing securable software, or providing adequate notice of the risks associated with installing or using software (or a website). Of course, malware and greyware writers will not follow those requirements ... but if average joe wanders down some dark internet alley without a condom on, its his own fault, whereas when average joe is going to a regular business site or using regular business software, the onus really should be on the publisher to disclose fully the risk, and to provide some tools to allow the user to understand what is going out.

With respect to malware that attaches without user intervention, IMO, all outbound traffic ought to be opt in, not opt out by default on OS install, and turning that off ought to be as hard as cancelling AOL (i.e. next to impossible).

I don't have a sig line, sorry.

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Real Programmers don't write in PL/I. PL/I is for programmers who can't decide whether to write in COBOL or FORTRAN.