Thursday, February 28, 2008

Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks, Oh My!

I read the Techdirt blog every day, generally via the RSS feed. Their usual themes are business models, law, and economics, with a US bias. One of today's posts is one of their best ever (IMHO), giving decent definitions of the above concepts: Patents, Copyrights and Trademarks. Oh my, indeed! It's nice to see these terms laid out simply and straightforwardly.

Patents: grant a monopoly to an inventor for 25 years.

Copyright: protects your creations from unauthorised copying, in order to incentivise future creative effort.

Trademarks: protect the public from confusing Bob's Cola with Coca Cola.

One of the most interesting points on the post though, is the 7th comment, where "Jerry in Detroit" points out that property is subject to property taxes, so why isn't so-called 'intellectual property" subject to property taxes? Default on your tax payments, and have your patents/copyrights/trademarks put into the public domain.

How interesting.

I wonder why we've never heard of such a concept from the US government? Perhaps Rep. Howard Berman (the "Representative from Disney") would like to bring such a bill to Congress?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Three weeks!

An update to a post I made on Jan 29th.

My replacement Netgear Ethernet-over-power (or HomePlug) unit has arrived. As expected, it's an XEPS103 unit - with built-in power supply for a Netgear router like my DG834G. This has the benefit of meaning you can plug the router into a socket, and get it's ethernet connection from the same socket.

The whole process was a bit more painful than I'd hoped, but no more than I'd expected. I ended up phoning A-Novo (Netgear's UK rep. for this recall) three times. The first time, the person who picked up the phone immediately dropped it again, putting me to the back of the queue! I was therefore, not a very happy bunny by the time I got to speak to a real person. At which point I discovered that Netgear had failed to supply A-Novo with sufficient replacement kit to cover the returns they were getting. How helpful. Not only that, but A-Novo were getting (& giving) mixed messages about when they had (or had not) been sent kit, and when they were expecting more.

However, all in all, another week of waiting, and on my third call I was informed that my unit had been shipped. Being as I don't live in London (or anywhere close to it!), I didn't believe the girl on the phone who said I would be receiving it 'today'. I received it two days later, but given my location, that was acceptable. So, now, 48 hours later, my network is still working, and I no longer have long cables trailing around doors, and up stair-wells.

I will have no problem choosing to buy Netgear equipment again in the future.

Inaccurate Journalism

I've said for many years that, as soon as you find a news story about which you have first-hand knowledge, you'll find that the journalists reporting it have made fundamental errors, and will often have failed to check their facts.

My Dad appeared on local radio in the city where I grew up, commenting on pre-Christmas retail trading (funnily enough, he worked in retail, and so knew something about this subject!), and usually found, when listening to the recording later, that his comments had been mis-edited, or mis-interpreted by the journalists. There have since been other cases in my own experience, though nothing all that important.

Now I get to point you to a detailed example in someone else's life. Joel on Software was interviewed on the subject of Microsoft's recent release of API documentation, and he has posted a correction for the benefit of anyone unlucky enough to read the journalist's mis-interpretive garbage. Mind you, Joel himself had to later post correction to his own correction! Which perhaps just goes to show how easy it is to screw up in this media business.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The opposite of the Wii-mote

Nintendo are pushing the Wii as a vehicle for increasing gamer fitness, by use of whole body movements, so how about this new Emotiv device (from Kotaku and the BBC news sites) as a complete antidote to all this bouncing around in front of the telly.

A fourteen-point sensor net, plus a gyroscope, are supposed to pick up 30 basic commands direct from the head, face and brain and transmit them wirelessly via a Bluetooth dongle to the computer. Seems an obvious choice for Prof. Stephen Hawking and many others with various bodily paralysis conditions, not to mention people who have difficulty with keyboard, mouse or game-controllers. But what will the rest of us do? Sit there drinking coke and eating nachos whilst thinking about killing the next Zombie?

Intriguing technology all the same, and not as expensive as I'd expected: $299... no price in GBP, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was £299, but that's a topic for another day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Google's answer to MicroHoo

From a comment on New York Times BITS:

If i were google, i’d prepare to spend 44 billion on a counter-attack, not to buy yahoo, but to develop a wifi-enabled mini-laptop running an open-source OS (like the asus eee) and giving it out free of charge to every man woman and child in the USA. With one bold move google could break microsoft’s back overnight.

— Posted by stephan baishanski

Hell, why doesn't Google just buy Asus and give away 250 million eeePCs? (Okay, so 250 million times $300 (retail 2GB model at is $75 billion, not $44 billion, but surely that's pocket-change to Google, and the cost wouldn't be the retail price anyway.

My only question is, so what about the rest of America, Europe, Africa, and Australasia?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Flashy product promotion

Now this is what I call a good use of Flash! (give it a moment to load)

HEMA is an international retail organisation with stores in the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg and Germany, but it's pretty clear from the above linked site (as opposed to their normal site) that someone there has an excellent sense of fun.

It's rather reminiscent of the world's greatest car advert or one for the gourmet, or student's of automotive dance.


Monday, February 04, 2008

Superbowl XLII

On Friday I found out that this weekend was Superbowl Weekend - the XLII (42nd one, to be precise). Now American Football used to be one of my few indulgences with respect to the culture of the USA, way back when Channel 4 used to show it around 11PM. It later moved to the early hours, at which point, (surprise, surprise) the viewing numbers dropped so much that they decided to stop showing it altogether. So now, in the UK, we get one dose of gridiron a year on terrestrial TV.

In the recent past, the event has been broadcast by ITV, so I went searching around the commercial TV station listings for Sunday, and could no find no sign of the event. Oh dear, thought I. Yet another year where I go without. So imagine my pleasure when I discovered, quite by accident, on the page on Superbowl XLII, that it was going to be on BBC2! No commercials need apply!! Yes, I know many citizens of the USA watch the Superbowl just for the ads, but, frankly, I couldn't give a damn for ads, US or UK.

So, for once, my TV license fee has gone to pay for something I actually want to watch! (soap-opera producers, soccer companies, 'reality' show makers, go spin!)

Finally, the game itself? Brilliant.

In the run-up to the event, the New England Patriots have had an amazing season - unbeaten though the regular season, and the play-offs. They were even taking pre-orders for 19-0 merchandising before the weekend! (19 wins, no losses - the full 2007/8 season)

Every pundit out there though the Pats would walk it. The New York Giants, on the other hand, had a poor start to the season, but ended with a 10 away-game winning streak, but are led by a much criticised quarterback, Eli Manning.

In the game, it became clear quite early on that both teams were up for this. (In the past, the Superbowl can be an anticlimactic conclusion to a tense and exciting series of playoffs). The Giants defensive team (and their defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo were absolutely stunning. The Pats might have been leading 7-3 by half-time, but the Giants were winning the ball game! Then, in the last two and a half minutes of the last quarter, the Giants and Eli Manning were given their moment to really make the winning plays. They made over 83 yards in 12 downs, to score a touchdown (received by Plaxico Burress) with 35 seconds on the clock. The Pats just couldn't bring it back from there, though, to give them credit, they tried very hard!

All in all, a game that had me awake throughout (not an easy task when it starts at 11:30PM and goes on until 2:30AM!), and on the edge of my seat (absolutely literally) for the last 5 minutes of play (that took about half-an-hour to play because of timeouts, etc).

Go Giants!

(trademark lawyers, please take note, I am not infringing the NFL's trademarks because I'm not trying to convince any member of the purchasing public that what I have here is the Superbowl XLII event - no consumer confusion, no trademark violation)