Tales of the Sausage Factory

Go Writers Guild!

Although as Writers Guild of America reminded its members, the strike is still on until the votes are counted, WGA has suspended picketing and it looks like they have a firm deal. The deal links writer compensation to advertising and other revenue derived from streaming media, an elegant solution to the problem of monetizing a product so new no one knows how it will make money and is extremely likely to be given away (you know, like broadcasting).

I don’t have much to add here by way of analysis, but I wanted to give a huge shout out to the writers and the guilds and the actors that supported them for holding out and getting a fair deal. If we are indeed a country on the verge of change (as I keep hearing), I can hope that one change will be to reverse the sad downward slide of organized labor. Unions have been one of the most positive forces in our country for economic progressivism. Perhaps a high profile win or two will remind people why it pays to join and why they should look for the union label . . . .

Stay tuned . . . .
(Former member National Treasury Employees Union)

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General Exception

Microsoft Patents a System to Tell if You're Using a Microsoft Product


Ars Technica
has a report about a Microsoft patent application that is supposed to detect user frustration. The patent wording (as with most patents) is obscure and difficult to decipher. They’ve probably spent a huge chunk of money on the research… but I could have given them an exceedingly simple algorithm to detect user frustration:

Allow me to demonstrate in pseudo-code:


if (program.author == “Microsoft”) Then {
user.isFrustrated = true;
}

A more serious discussion, after the break.

Read More »

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Inventing the Future

Intel adapting to OLPC, and graphics accleration on mobiles

My read of this money.cnn.com article, and the linked presentations for investors, is that Intel’s fairly near-term strategy:

  • Includes major specific responses to the OLPC. (E.g., a focus on lower cost and marketing in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.) OLPC has changed the game.
  • Suggests that graphics acceleration must be included in Intel’s products for mobile computing. (E.g., noting that “the most important applications…including Second Life” won’t run on a mobile phone, and that the “uncrompromised” “full Internet” has to run on mobiles without delay from when it is available on desktops.)

Nothing to be surprised at, but this is the first time I’ve seen this officially from Intel.

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Inventing the Future

Open-Source Curriculum

M.I.T. decided couple of years ago to put their entire curriculum on-line. Anyone can use it for free. They feel that the value they provide as an institution is not threatened, but enhanced by making their materials publicly available.

Our preschool, Little City Kids, is now doing the same thing. There’s a lot of stuff we do charge for – individual child-care, franchising to help you run your own Little City Kids, and educational toys that for schools or for home. We have a lot of folks using our curriculum, and quite often, it brings them to our other services as well. That’s plenty. For example, we have quite a few home-schoolers use our curriculum, and they buy toys to go with it.

One of my themes in software development is that platforms tend to not directly make money for their creators. I think a curriculum is the equivalent of a platform for schools. It’s expensive to produce, but necessary if you’re doing something different that doesn’t let you use someone else’s. However, I no longer think it’s wise to expect open-sourcing to reduce costs. It can happen in some fashion, but it shouldn’t be the driver. Instead, you produce the platform because you need to, and you share it because it’s a good idea for helping you with your real product. I think wider use can help improve the quality of the platform, and that this applies to our curriculum. But we are not, at this time, trying to provide a means for people to directly contribute to the curriculum content itself. (More about this later…)

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Inventing the Future

To the Thief Who Has Stolen My Sign

[Next week’s election includes an amendment to the Wisconsin state consitiution. The amendment excludes homosexuals from whatever protection they might otherwise have, in that it prohibits the legislature from granting any civil union or other benefits except for couples defined on the basis of gender. Specifically, each couple is prescribed to be one man and one woman.

A friend asked me to put up a small sign that reads “A fair Wisconsin votes No …on the civil union ban.” Two days later, the sign had been stolen from my lawn on a non-through street.

I’ve replaced the sign, and attached the following letter.

I welcome comments and improvements, as I think I might share this letter with others, the local papers, etc.]

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Satellite Radio Has Good Political Sense, NOT

Normally I like XM and Sirius just fine. But this rather sad attempt to claim they complied with the terms of their license by designing interoperable radios, but not producing them, makes me laugh.

Normally, I wouldn’t care (much) if XM and Sirius want to go all anticompetitive against each other or if the FCC lets them. But with a Senate bill pending to cut off satellite radio’s traffic and weather service, I’m not sure I’d pick this moment to look like I’m flouting the law. But hey, what do I know?

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Of Folk Tales and Intellectual Property

As the year winds down, I’ve been thinking how a traditional folk tale illuminates the folly of expanding copyright, trademark and patent rights. In particular, I find this explains why I find the lawsuits against Google Library so annoying and wrong-headed.

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My Thoughts Exactly

Hitchhikers and Acts

RIGHT NOW on KFJC, the best radio station in the universe, they’re playing the original Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio show.

Later on in the show Ann Arbor will be reading from my Acts of the Apostles (look left for free download), and will continue to do so in weekly installments through August.

In case you’re not reading this entry RIGHT NOW, I think you’ll be able to download archived shows. Look for Ann Arbor’s UnBedtime Stories.

(Also, mind you, it’s also OK to buy printed copies for dollars money.)

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My Thoughts Exactly

Quaint

From the “Constitution of the United States of America”

Article I.
Section. 8.

Clause 1: The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Clause 11: To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

Clause 12: To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

Clause 15: To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

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Inventing the Future

Intellectual Property Is Not An Enforceable “Right”

Internal problems in Brie. Some nasty, some trivial, all annoying. We’ll work ’em out, but time to think of something else for a while. How about huge cultural paradigm shifts?

Clearly, something’s going on in the area of intellectual property. The old models are not serving. Everybody’s got something to say. (Here and there are some current MIT community examples.) On the one hand, Apple tries to sue companies for using a Windows-Icons-Menus-Pointer (WIMP) look-and-feel that they themselves didn’t invent, and they won’t let me rip the songs I legally bought from them. On the other hand, they want to use the name “Apple” despite clearly being in competition with Apple Records in the music business, and they produce a variety of devices in the new-cultural rip-mix-and-burn chain. Are they schizo, or is it just opportunistic business? I think it’s another data point towards the conclusion that we’re waiting for Thomas Kuhn (in a broad sense) to point the new way.

How can we understand intellectual property rights in a digital age? I propose that we try to get at what we really mean in terms of some established axioms.

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