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Submission + - US kills controversial anti-terror database (

coondoggie writes: "Long criticized for keeping track of regular everyday citizens, the government's anti-terror database will officially close Sept. 17. The Threat and Local Observation Notices or TALON, was established in 2002 by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz as a way to collect and evaluate information about possible threats to U.S. servicemembers and defense civilians all over the world. Congress and others protested its apparent use as an unauthorized citizen tracking database. The TALON system came under fire in 2005 for improperly storing information about some civilian individuals and non-government-affiliated groups on its database. The Air Force developed TALON, or the Threat and Local Observation Notice system in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as a way to gather data on possible terrorist threats. Anti-war groups and other organizations, protested after it was revealed last year that the military had monitored anti-war activities, organizations and individuals who attended peace rallies."

Submission + - Google will drive searchers to new iTunes rival

maubp writes: According to Forbes and the BBC, some of the world's biggest record labels including Universal and SonyBMG have begun selling music through a new download service, challenging Apple by offering DRM free mp3 music at 99 cents per song. Gbox will also be getting traffic from an ad campaign on Google (who will not be getting a cut of any sales).

Sadly (from the average Slashdot reader's point of view) Gbox are only supporting Windows XP and Vista right now...

Submission + - Sunflower Oil + MeOH + Fungus Pellet = Biodiesel (

BioDomez writes: Biodiesel is usually made by mixing vegetable oil with methanol and a sodium hydroxide and then heating it to make esters. An enzyme called lipase can do it at room temperature without a strongly basic catalyst. Unfortunately, lipase is not cheap. Researchers at IICT in Hyderabad, India have a simple solution. Why bother purifying the lipase? It would be easier to just find an organism that produces plenty of the enzyme and squish it into pellets. In this case, the fungus Metarhizium anisopliae does the trick.

Submission + - Blackboard patent Flash tutorials from both sides (

Michael Feldstein writes: "D2L has posted the Flash-based technology tutorials that both sides prepared for the court (for viewing by the Judge? The Jury?). The presentations are intended to give summaries of their arguments and evidence in relatively non-technical terms and with a minimum of legal jargon as well. Finally, we have clear statements on what each side thinks the patent means. I hope that decision-makers in universities will take the opportunity to review these arguments and make their own evaluations regarding the merits of the patent and its prosecution. D2L's is here and Blackboard's is here. However, D2L warns, "Note that the Blackboard tutorial was not designed to run on the web, and lacks a preloader. Please be patient until the initial file is loaded (15-30 seconds or more, depending on your connection speed). For similar reasons, the audio file may be inconsistent. Although Desire2Learn obtained permission to post the file, we do not have the source files to correct the situation. Our apologies for any inconvenience.""

Comment The algorithm argument (Score 2, Informative) 331

According to United States law, you can't patent algorithms for the same reason that you can't patent blueprints, i.e., patents apply to useful inventions, to things that work in the world, as opposed to abstract ideas.

To get a sense of the distinction, it may be helpful to think about the Supreme Court's *other* big patent ruling today, i.e., Microsoft v. Alcatel-Lucent. In this case, both companies admitted that Windows infringes on Lucent's speech recognition patents. Normally, these patents would not apply to products in other countries, which are governed by their own patent laws. This explicitly includes cases in which somebody sells a blueprint to somebody else in another country, who then uses that blueprint to manufacture a product that infringes on a US patent. The exception in US law is if you ship components of an infringing product overseas and then have them assembled over there. Congress correctly perceived such an act as an attempted end-run around US patent laws and said that, whether or not it is assembled in the US, a product that is manufactured in the United States and infringes on US patents is subject to US patent law.

Microsoft ships a master DVD overseas, where it is duplicated and installed on computers there. Alcatel-Lucent argued that this is fundamentally similar to assembling a US-manufactured product overseas and that Microsoft should pay damages. (A lower court awarded them $1.5 billion.) Microsoft argued, however, that shipping a master DVD is more like sending a blueprint for products that are then manufactured overseas. The Supreme Court concurred, ruling in favor of Microsoft 8-1.

Now here's the key twist. In an Amicus brief that was probably not appreciated by Microsoft and apparently not embraced by the court, the SFLC argued that *all* software is like a blueprint or an algorithm, as this weird test case of installing it overseas versus installing it domestically demonstrates (in their view). Therefore, software should be fundamentally unpatentable.

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