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Comment Re:Fait Acompli? (Score 1) 227

The 2008 Supreme Court decision in Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics, Inc., arguably leaves unclear the extent to which patentees can avoid the exhaustion doctrine by means of so-called limited licenses (...) At least two district courts have concluded that Mallinckrodt is no longer good law after Quanta.

It's bizarre that the case has made it this far. The Mallinckrodt ruling has been consistently invalidated at the district level; the US Federal Circuit continues to uphold it, though. SCOTUS had a chance to invalidate it earlier when it overturned the Federal Circuit's decision on Quanta, but sidestepped the whole Mallinckrodt issue.

Comment Re:The ESP8266 microcontroller costs less than $3, (Score 1) 112

I'm guessing the $3 price is in volume (10k or 100k+). There are a number of eBay listings under $3, but I wouldn't rely on eBay as a steady supply stream or for good documentation and support.

My preferred hobby vendors (because they've been supportive to me over the years; I'm not affiliated with them) are SparkFun and AdaFruit. SparkFun has them for $6.95, while AdaFruit has a hacker-friendly version for $9.95 and a surface-mount version for $6.95.

Comment Re:Why BASIC (Score 4, Insightful) 112

Whose idea was to choose an interpreted language for the extremely slow 8-bit home computers?

Because fitting a compiler into the tight memory constraints was next to impossible. The BASIC ROM on the C64 was 8 kB; per Wikipedia, this is what forced Commodore to revert to v2.0 BASIC, which lacked even disk directory listing commands (remember LOAD "$", 8 and how it would clobber whatever you had in memory?).

Applesoft BASIC, which had these features, used 10k of ROM by comparison. Apple's earlier Integer BASIC was about the same size, but gave up floating-point support.

BASIC made it easy for beginners (like myself) to get something working. If Commodore had only included an assembler, for example, this would have been too steep of a learning curve for most folks and they would likely have bought something else that did have an interpreter. That said, anyone writing "real" programs wrote them in assembly; you had to resort to extreme tricks to get decent graphics on these systems. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Racing the Beam , which documents all the trickery that programmers for the Atari 2600 (which had weirder hardware but still was 65xx-based) had to resort to in order to make even halfway decent games.

Comment Re:I love my Packard Bell (Score 5, Interesting) 417

Makes you wonder what type of constraints they were working under to come up with a solutions like [the power switch rod]...

If memory serves, this was to meet UL certification rules. For some reason, line voltage was not allowed to cross the case to the switch. That said, my first PC was a whitebox clone that completely violated these rules, so don't be surprised if your no-name PC from that era also lacked the Rube Goldberg rod linkage.

The ATX form factor solved this by using a low voltage signal to control the power supply -- the wires crisscrossing the case for this carry no more than 5V (with a large series resistance). Shorting that to ground turns the power supply on; this (plus a 5V standby signal powering a small supervisor microcontroller) is how your motherboard can control the power to the system.

Comment Re:Right Place (Score 1) 448

It's called an Antenna....

Increasingly, no. Many sports are switching to subscription channels (ESPN, Fox Sports, Root Sports, CNBC/MSNBC, etc.) with limited or no legal options for streaming. MLB is there today and has a decent product; Olympics are ok; NFL is pretty much absent. I'm not sure about the NBA or NHL.

Most of the channels I can receive over the air (networks) don't carry much of interest to anyone in my household. But we watched so little TV that we went ahead and got rid of cable anyway. I did subscribe to, though (and am much happier than what we had from basic cable since I can now watch the teams of interest to me).

I suspect cable companies will be in trouble should the NFL decide to start streaming their games. I doubt this will happen, though; they're getting a ton of money from ESPN to stay right where they are (and most folks are resigned to just keep paying for cable to watch NFL games).

Comment Re:Repeat after me... (Score 1) 315

However, if I reach that limit I'm pretty sure I can pick it up like every other programming or markup language that I've needed.

Unfortunately, this is only sort of true. The basic syntax is easily learnable and readable -- certainly easier than mentally parsing most regular expressions.

But, oh god, does CSS have a ton of implicit modes. Are your sizes content box or border box? Is this div we're positioning being displayed as a block, inline, or inline-block element? Is there a float active? Has it been cleared? Did we duplicate the appropriate styles with -webkit- and -ms-? Why is it working in Firefox but not Chrome? ...

Layouts that would be a simple command in Tk (button .foo; pack .foo -expand both -fill 1) end up being head scratchers.

The purists then snootily point out, "Well, your problem is you're trying to build a GUI from a markup language." Fine, then: Give me a freaking proper GUI toolkit already. I'm reminded of Jamie Zawinski's quote (though he was referring to XWindows): Using these toolkits is like trying to make a bookshelf out of mashed potatoes.

Comment Re:Quick tip - USB logo is always on the top (Score 3, Interesting) 208

So when you plug in a cable, the logo on the top is always correct. When it is a sideways plug, you are on your own. :)

I have a few cables which violate this spec (despite the USB spec being quite clear on this point). I'm not sure if it's a manufacturing error (cable assemblies sent to the molding process upside-down) or the manufacturer just being egotistical ("We want our logo to be visible to the user"). Western Digital, I'm looking at you...

I really ought to toss them (along with my collection of USB 1.1 cables and hubs).

Comment Re:I used to have an FTA Setup (Score 1) 219

I have a FTA system which is half setup, cobbled together from some spare parts plus a new receiver and LNBF.

The terrain near my house has proven to be unfriendly. I live on the west side of Puget Sound, so the satellites are already fairly close to the horizon. We're in a old-growth forest area; most of the trees around my house are around the 100' mark. We're just on the other side of a few hills which block antenna reception from any of the local networks, hence my tinkering with FTA equipment.

Even so, Satellite AR shows that I should just be able to pick up AMC 6 which has the NBC feeds. Alas, despite a few hours of trying, I haven't been able to get a signal.

Comment Re:Why are they posting old source code? (Score 4, Insightful) 224

Why not DOS 6.22? They're not making a bundle on that, either.

Distributing the source code to a proprietary product has a number of potential legal hurdles. If there are parts of the source which were licensed from another company (as would be the case with MS-DOS and SCP, IBM, Stac, and possibly others), those agreements need to be revisited and you may need to get permission from that company (or its successors) to do so. (I include IBM because, I believe, they took over much of the development for the 4.x series.)

MS-DOS 2.x might be the latest version they (currently) feel confident in being able to release free of these restrictions.

Comment Re:PhD thesis or display server? (Score 1) 241

This brings a different kind of problem, which is that there becomes a whole new management level of keeping the two groups in sync. Otherwise, the "Canonical Labs" group might run off and do all kinds of things that are great, but which never get integrated into the main project.

But PARC was so successful! Oh, wait... ;-)

Your point is well taken. I believe it's a problem they already have, though: the Mir slip, shipping Unity before it was really ready, etc. Reorganizing -- even if it's done purely in Shuttleworth's mind and not on paper -- would bring these issues to the forefront.

Comment PhD thesis or display server? (Score 5, Interesting) 241

I've found (as a rule of thumb) that, when asking a grad student "How much time do you think you have left before you can write up your thesis?", if the answer is two or more years out then it really means "I don't know." The student honestly believes this answer, but in reality he/she doesn't know how much he/she doesn't know.

I'm starting to feel about the same with Mir and Canonical here. Shuttleworth is the tenured but aloof professor who casually coaxes his students (employees) toward completing milestones but without too much urgency. Money's not plentiful, but the professor has enough contacts and contracts to keep his lab going and give a stipend to his students. They put out a few papers (releases) each year, and each time the students think this grand project is "almost done"... only to discover that there's still more left to do.

There's tremendous value in this kind of exploratory research. I'm just not sure it makes sense to package it up for end users.

If I were Mark Shuttleworth's technical advisor, I'd suggest examining RedHat's Fedora model. Create a small group called Canonical Labs where stuff like Mir and Unity can flourish, with continuous releases and without the artificial constraint of a set release date. (If this makes the environment too lackadaisical and development isn't progressing fast enough, find some other way to instill discipline and/or motivation; don't make it the threat of moving alpha code to end-users.) When it's stabilized (no longer shuffling menus and window icons around, for example), then integrate it with the main Ubuntu branch. Something a bit more edgy and up-to-date than Debian Stable or RHEL, but not so much that it constantly upends your users.

Comment Re:Wrong (Score 1) 312

I've know a lot of really food engineering managers.

Obviously you meant "good" here, but it made me pause: is there a correlation between food and good managers? I've been reading more than a handful of materials (e.g. Peopleware ) which have mentioned eating together as a helping to build strong teams (arguably the most important job of a manager). A number of companies have caught on, from the big (like Google) to startups (one of my favorites, The Omni Group here in Seattle even has a full-time kitchen staff who are listed by name on their about us page).

Obviously, it's not a catch-all solution; heck, I suspect it's more correlation (that is, the managers who get their teams to eat together are more likely to care about their teams) than causation. But still gave me a pause.

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