Monday, November 22, 2004

Old prejudices die hard

On Friday afternoon I was at the dentist. I like him, I like the country he comes from, but there is something slightly worrying to anyone raised on the British diet of ceaseless World War 2 films and television about the hearing the words "I am now cleaning your teeth - from the inside. Another size 15, please." in a German accent.

Until it's all over, of course. Then you start thinking that there may have been good reasons for that rasping noise going on so long, and old cliches like "teutonic thoroughness" start to acquire a warm, comforting glow. Thank you, Ollie.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Love and patents

Esprit d'escalier time. My stepfather Ian, an accomplished and successful playwright, was politely listening to my rant about the iniquities of software patents. I didn't explain it very well then, but here's what I should have said (and probably will, assuming his patience doesn't run out):

Let's say you've just written a play for Radio 4 called Love with some unusual features - it's about an elderly couple, one of whom is an Anglican priest who has been deeply in love with the other, newly widowed, for the past 47 years.

Assume the play is (as indeed it was) rather successful, and Radio 4 commission another three episodes to continue the story. Now the twist: a letter arrives from an American attorney, stating that her client, who has never written a play in his life, has nevertheless done some valuable research into narrative science and has been granted a patent on the idea of any play which involves a relationship between two characters, one recently widowed, the other a cleric of any religion, where the cleric has been in love with the widow for at least half his lifetime previously.

Obviously the attorney must protect his client's intellectual property - she cannot permit highly visible figures such as the author or the BBC to commit intellectual property theft in broad daylight - and for a mere 50% of the royalties and a joint writing credit they will very reasonably permit the production of the remaining episodes.

Can't happen in drama, so far. Can happen, is happening, in software. And it's only going to get worse.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Use Linux and you will be sued, Ballmer tells governments

So, the gloves come off. Asian countries thinking of saving costs by switching to Linux will get sued for infringement of "more than 228" software patents says Ballmer, and having joined the WTO will have no choice but to enforce the very patents under which they get sued.

At the risk of mixing my clothing metaphors, this is also the sound of the other boot dropping, after MS recently extended its IP indemnity. If the software patent regime is powerful enough to override the policy choices of sovereign governments, how can it not be powerful enough to muscle independent vendors and in-house development - indeed anyone without a massive patent portfolio and war-budget - out of business?

As The Register points out, more ammunition for those arguing the case against them, which I hope to be doing on December 14th, provided my acceptance has been accepted, so to speak.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Landing on the wrong spot

During a meeting yesterday we discussed that recurring issue, what to do if a user lands on the wrong page of the web application we're currently building.

It was mid-afternoon, and I was a bit tired, and for one vivid moment I had a surreal vision of myself as a user, having landed on the wrong spot, being turned into a tree, like a male version of Daphne in the copy of the statue at Faringdon when I was a child - outstretched fingers turning into laurel leaves, mouth frozen in a comical "O".

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

E-pass patent absurdities continue

E-pass defeats HP, MS' case dismissal demand | The Register.

I don't normally bother my pretty little head about hardware patents, but the rulings in this case demonstrate just how lethal the inherent ambiguity of patent protection can be in general, not just in the case of software patents.

How was Palm to know that a PDA could be defined as a "multifunction electronic card" for the purpose of patent enforcement? What are the implications of such creative interpretations for any software developer who hopes to claim and retain ownership of the code they have in fact developed?

Jan Garbarek: In Praise of Dreams Music: In Praise of Dreams

So guess what I was listening when I decided to revive my ancient and unused blog account from the graveyard of dead links?

Music this beautiful shouldn't be allowed. Crying with laughter (at William Shatner's Tambourine Man) at work is bad enough, I don't want any chance of people seeing the real thing.
XML Files: Advanced Type Mappings -- MSDN Magazine, June 2003

Explains how .Net Serialization works under the hoods - could be the simplest solution yet to the thorny and persistent problem of how to serialize an unconstrained mixed-content element.