Boing Boing 

MSFT's FAT shakedown suspended by Patent Office

Congrats to Public Patent, a patent-busting org that targetted Microsoft's bogus patent on the FAT file-system. Today, the Patent Office revoked disallowed claims in MSFT's patent, which means that Microsoft can no longer shake down technologists who want to make tools that use FAT (like digital cameras and USB card-readers).
Relying predominantly on evidence provided by PUBPAT when the reexamination was requested, the Patent Office made multiple rejections of the Redmond, WA based software giant's patent. Microsoft has the opportunity to respond to the Patent Office's rejection, but third party requests for reexamination, like the one filed by PUBPAT, are successful in having the subject patent either narrowed or completely revoked roughly 70% of the time.

"The Patent Office has simply confirmed what we already knew for some time now, Microsoft's FAT patent is bogus," said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT's Executive Director. "I hope those companies that chose to take a license from Microsoft for the patent negotiated refund clauses so that they can get their money back."

Link (via Lawgeek)

Updated: Paul Hoffman sez, "Only the claims were rejected, and even that is probably temporary. Most patent applications have some or all of their claims rejected; the applicant then goes into a game of footsie with the examiner, coming out with either fewer claims or the same number of claims with a narrower focus. Sometimes the examiner simply says 'oh, you're right' and un-rejects; sometimes the examiner says 'no, you're actually hosed', but that is much less common than it should be.

"If Microsoft is left with a single claim out of the four, even if it is narrowed, they will still most likely be able to flog it against anyone using the FAT filesystem. Narrowing claims is only interesting in cases where someone makes something *like* the patent; then they hope that the claims are narrowed to less than what they are possibly infringing on. In the case of FAT, unless the claims are somehow narrowed down so far that you can implement FAT and not infringe on what Microsoft might end up with, PubPat's effort is not useful to the folks who want to implement FAT."

Strangerhood: Sims 2 sitcom from Red vs Blue creators

The Strangerhood is a new machinima sitcom from the creators of the brilliant Red vs. Blue (a series of comedy shorts made by adding synch audio to screen movies of characters in the Halo video-game running around onscreen, AKA "machinima"). Strangerhood is based on the Sims 2 engine, and the video clip of the credit-reel looks fantastic and witty as Red v Blue. Can't wait for this one to start. Link (via /.)

Court trashes fair use

A court in St Louis today ruled against EFF in the "BNETD" case, in which we were fighting for the right to write and use your own game-servers that run with the games you buy. We're appealing, but this sucks: it's not much of a leap from this to deciding that tools used to tweak a game's performance for creating machinima (see below) is also a crime.
BnetD is an open source program that lets gamers play popular Blizzard titles like Warcraft with other gamers on servers that don't belong to Blizzard's service. Blizzard argued that the programmers who wrote BnetD violated the DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions and that the programmers also violated several parts of Blizzard's EULA, including a section on reverse engineering.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), co-counsel for the defendants, argued that programming and distributing BnetD was fair use. The programmers reverse-engineered purely to make their free product work with it, not to violate copyright.

EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz said, "Consumers have a right to choose where and when they want to use the products they buy. This ruling gives Blizzard the ability to force you to use their servers whether you want to or not. Copyright law was meant to promote competition and creative alternatives, not suppress them."


Neiman-Marcus's 2004 gifts for squillionaires

The 2004 Neiman-Marcus Christmas Catalog is out, and with it comes this year's crop of insane multi-million-dollar gifts (say, a $10MM, 230'-long zeppelin, or a $1.5MM bowling alley -- real-estate not included). This stuff isn't even drool-over material; there's no world in which I would buy a bowling alley, even if I were richer than god. No, the attraction here is more about finding out what the retail cost of building a bowling alley from scratch is, or what the zeppelin manufacturers are charging these days. Like idly looking up the cost of a hundred-mile run of suboceanic fibre-optic or a Rosicrucian mummy (one of the mummies in the San Jose Rosicrucian Museum came out of an old Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book). Link (Thanks, Mia!)

EFF kicks Diebold's ass

Diebold, the slimeballs whose faulty voting machines threaten the basis of US democracy, tried to silence its critics, a group of activists who were publishing leaked memos detailing the company's malfeasance, by falsely claiming that they were violating Diebold's copyright.

Now a court has ruled that Diebold knowingly abused copyright and the DMCA when it sent nastygrams to the activists' ISPs, and has awarded the activists damages and court costs.

EFF represented the activists' side here. Man, we're winning some important cases these days. I love my job.

In his decision, Judge Jeremy Fogel wrote, "No reasonable copyright holder could have believed that the portions of the email archive discussing possible technical problems with Diebold's voting machines were proteced by copyright . . . the Court concludes as a matter of law that Diebold knowingly materially misrepresented that Plaintiffs infringed Diebold's copyright interest."

Sony ditches DRM CDs

Sony -- which recently added MP3 support to its walkman devices -- has abandoned publishing music on DRM-laden CDs. They say that it's because of an "increase in awareness by music consumers," which Engadget interprets to mean "they’ve succeeded in educating everyone that copying CDs is a bad thing."

But I took it differently: I think they mean that their customers have grown aware of what abad deal these DRM discs are and don't want them anymore. IOW, we complained loud and hard and Sony blinked. Link

Canadian Creative Commons licenses launched

Congrats to the Canadian Creative Commons project on launching its license today! Now Canadians have an easy way to license their works so that others can re-use them, share them, and improve on them.

The only fly in the ointment for me is this: I really wish they'd set up the licenses so that they constituted a blanket waiver of Moral Rights, but I can't fault them for making it optional.

Still, if you're Canadian and you're CC-licensing your work, please consider the moral-rights waiver; otherwise, people who use your work run the risk that if you take it into your head that they've offended you, you could force them to destroy the new art they've made with your stuff.

By the same token, I will never, ever incorporate a work with a "moral rights asserted" clause into any of my works -- it's not worth the risk to me.

A lot of the world's copyright systems have the concept of author's moral rights -- I really hope that waivers of these rights become the norm in international CC licenses. Link (via Michael Geist)

Review of Typeit4me

Mark Hurst of Good Experience reviews a very useful-sounding OS X application called Typeit4me. Basically, it lets you create shorthand for any text phrase. When you type in the shorthand (such as "bb" for "Boing Boing") and hit the trigger key (such as the space bar), the shorthand will be replaced by the full text. The important thing is that it works in any application.
Types in HTML phrases: I've defined "ahr" to yield "". Whether I'm in BBEdit, or in a TypePad form within a Web browser, I can get these key HTML strings out quickly and error-free.

Types short phrases: This is great in e-mail. I've set it up so that "tf" becomes "thanks for"; "tfy" becomes "thanks for your"; "tvmfy" becomes "thanks very much for your"... and so on. You can be as polite as you want, and optimally efficient, at the same time.


SpaceShipOne's second Xprize flight set for Monday, Oct. 4

The Ansari XPrize foundation just announced that the scheduled time for SpaceShipOne's second launch is now confirmed for on October 4th, 2004, at 7:00am. If this attempt goes as well as yesterday's, Burt Rutan and Paul Allen's team will win the $10 million global competition. Link to announcement.

Image: on-ship footage from yesterday's launch -- webcast link. Previous BoingBoing posts: Xeni's NPR report, and snapshots.

Spaceblogger, infojunkie, and BoingBoing reader Brad Neuberg was part of the X-Prize volunteer team. I met him at the launch, and he's been doing a terrific job of blogging live from the event site. Keep your eyes on his blog Monday, I'm sure he'll do more. Link . And here's another live XPrize blog maintained by an event volunteer: Link to Mike Taht's blog. BoingBoing reader Susan Kitchens also attended, and posted some cool photos and details about the festive "X-stock" scene around the airfield, here: Link

Reuters hires psychic to write about debate hours before it starts

The person who wrote this photo caption can see into the future! "U.S. President George W. Bush shakes hands with Senator John Kerry (D-Mas) at the start of their first presidential debate, at the University of Miami, September 30, 2004." Link to screen capture

George Soros' speech about President Bush's disastrous Iraq adventure

The neocons paleocons have worked hard to portray George Soros as a fiendish international drug dealer*, which means they're afraid of him. And they should be. He's stupendously wealthy and he spends his money on promoting democracy in the world, instead of earning the hatred of the world by pretending to promote democracy as a cover for nefarious plots. Soros just published this lucid, easy-to-understand speech about the President's reckless invasion of Iraq, and why it is so important to vote him out in November.
We went to war on false pretences. The real reasons for going into Iraq have not been revealed to this day. The weapons of mass destruction could not be found, and the connection with al Qaeda could not be established. President Bush then claimed that we went to war to liberate the people of Iraq. All my experience in fostering democracy and open society has taught me that democracy cannot be imposed by military means. And, Iraq would be the last place I would chose for an experiment in introducing democracy - as the current chaos demonstrates.

Of course, Saddam was a tyrant, and of course Iraqis - and the rest of the world - can rejoice to be rid of him. But Iraqis now hate the American occupation. We stood idly by while Baghdad was ransacked. As the occupying power, we had an obligation to maintain law and order, but we failed to live up to it. If we had cared about the people of Iraq we should have had more troops available for the occupation than we needed for the invasion. We should have provided protection not only for the oil ministry but also the other ministries, museums and hospitals. Baghdad and the country's other cities were destroyed after we occupied them. When we encountered resistance, we employed methods that alienated and humiliated the population. The way we invaded homes, and the way we treated prisoners generated resentment and rage. Public opinion condemns us worldwide.

(*If Soros really was making money off the sale of illegal drugs, why is he pushing to decriminalize them? That would destroy his profit margin. Did bootleggers try to overthrow prohibition?) Link (Thanks, Kevin!)

ResFest in San Francisco this week

The amazing RESFEST Digital Film Festival comes to the Bay Area starting tonight with an opening program of shorts and a reception featuring a performance by the group Midnight Movies. (Click the image for a better view.)
resfest-e-cards-sanfrancisc"RESFEST 2004 kicks off with a survey of state-of-the-art storytelling that mixes animation, live action and graphics-oriented work, giving viewers a taste of the festival's unique blend of filmmaking techniques. See the retelling of the tragic fate of Oedipus in luxurious cinematic splendor redolent of '50s era epics--with a case of vegetables. See what happens when the inexorable thrust of time slows, then stops, allowing three characters to transcend their destinies in Daniel Askill's visually stunning philosophical mindbender WE HAVE DECIDED NOT TO DIE."
...and so much more eye/braincandy tonight and over the next few days. Of course, if you're not in the Bay Area, RESFEST 2004 is hitting more than a dozen other cities around the globe before the year's end. Link

Stop buying food -- become a "freegan"

Chris sez: "There's an interesting article over on regarding the 'Freegan' Movement. The idea is basically this: Instead of paying for food, a group of individuals have decided to get their nourishment from that which would have otherwise become waste. These urban scavengers troll the garbage bins of health food stores and other eating establishments in urban areas in an effort to not only reduce the amount of society's wasted usable resourses, but to also benefit from that which you throw away. One Freegan, Luna Tic, even took the concept a step further and converted his car to run on cooking oil discarded by restaurants (he says he gets 12 miles to the gallon). Link

ABC news reports on "debate" that hasn't happened yet

The rules for tonight's poor-substitute-for-a-debate are so restrictive, and the sound-bites that will come out of the mouths of both men are so easy to guess, that ABC news was able to file a story about the results of the "debate" several hours before it takes place. Link Story removed by ABC, but you can find copies here. (Thanks, Certron!)

Scientists review films

This summer, the American Chemical Society's Chemical & Engineering News magazine started running movie reviews. From their critique of The Day After Tomorrow:
"To a scientist, the film is interesting because it compresses everything that could happen under an abrupt climate change scenario (and much that could not happen) into a few days, rather than the more realistic decades. A collapse of the thermohaline circulation is a low-probability, but high-impact event. If it did occur in the early 21st century, it would have a huge impact on weather.

Some data suggest the thermohaline circulation has already begun to slow. Certain parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet are shrinking 10 times faster than they were a few years ago, losing an average of 10 meters of elevation annually, in contrast to the previous 1 meter, and reducing the salinity of the North Atlantic."
Today's New York Times has a feature about C&EN's new "Reel Science" section. Link (registration required)

Cosplayer photo gallery

cosplayMainichi Shimbun has a collection of 260 cosplay photos from this year's Tokyo Game Show. Link

Solar gear jacket

img_03SCOTTeVEST announced a solar-powered version of their sporty mobile gear jacket. Global Solar's thin-film photovoltaic cells on the back of the jacket charge a small battery pack that provides juice to MP3 players, phones, cameras, and other devices stashed in more than 30 hidden pockets. The coat is outfitted with a "Personal Area Network" of wires running through the lining. Link (Thanks, Mark Riedy!)

Music of the sphere

A mysterious low-frequency hum emanating from the Earth is likely caused by ocean storms. First discovered by Japanese seismologists in 1998, the vibrations have a frequency between two and seven millihertz, inaudible to humans. UC Berkeley scientists propose in the journal Nature that the hum is produced by interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, and seafloor. From a BBC News report:
The daily release of energy required to generate the hum is equivalent to a magnitude 5.75 to six earthquake, say Junkee Rhie and Barbara Romanowicz of the University of California, Berkeley.

Xeni on NPR: report from SpaceShipOne launch at Mojave

On today's edition of the NPR program "Day to Day" , I report from the Mojave airport spaceport on yesterday's launch of SpaceShipOne. The craft was funded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen and designed by Burt Rutan's team at Scaled Composites.

"SS-1" is the top contender in the race for the Ansari X-prize, a global competition to build the first viable commercial spaceship. The winning team will receive a $10 million award. For SpaceShipOne, that amounts to only half of the $20 million or so Allen invested -- clearly, the competition is about more than a cash prize.

Jason DeFillippo joined me and Day to Day producer Nihar Patel for the trip to Mojave -- Jason took some absolutely terrific photos of the launch, flight, landing, and the surreal scene around the airstrip. Link. In this photo, I'm one of a number of silly-looking reporters all squinting intently at the sky and holding their hands against the sun. We were trying to catch a glimpse of a distant SpaceShipOne during its ascent. Vetern tech and space journalist John Schwartz from the New York Times is there in the blue shirt (here's his story: Link). Right about then, Nihar yells out, "HELIOS, THOU ART MY LORD" really loud, which made everyone crack up because we really did look goofy. Like we were participating in an ancient sun-cult ritual, or at least a Planet of The Apes episode.
Link to archived radio segment: NPR Day to Day "First X-Prize Flight a Success for SpaceShipOne", with some of Jason's photos. Link to previous BoingBoing post on yesterday's event, and Link to more of Jason's awesome images.

WSJ reporter confirms authenticity of her letter to friends about horrific conditions in Iraq

Farnaz Fassihi, a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Iraq, confirmed that a widely-redistributed letter she emailed to friends about the nightmarish situation in Iraq was indeed written by her. Too bad the WSJ doesn't allow this reporter to write these kinds of stories for the paper.
Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity," Fassihi wrote (among much else) in the letter. "Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler." And: "Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

...Making clear what can only, at best, appear between lines in her published dispatches, Fassihi concluded, "One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle."


(Note: there's an advertisement for the University of Phoenix on the right column of the page featuring a scary looking unshaven man with a blinking problem who starts TALKING VERY LOUDLY after the Flash file loads, so you might want to mute your computer's speaker before clicking on the link)

P2P usage stats you can rely on

Cachelogic has posted a very good, in-depth study of network traffic using data gathered from a variety of large ISPs. They conclude that P2P use has not dwindled; that P2P systems are the main use of bandwidth today ("the killer app for broadband")l that P2P is used to move lots of kinds of files, including ones that are noninfringing (strong market-demand for symmetrical connectivity); and that P2P's impact on ISP bandwidth charges are largely the result of anti-detection design choices that make it hard for P2P systems to efficiently use bandwidth. So much for the salutory effect of extreme copyright laws, lawsuits and "eduction" campaigns. Link (via Waxy)

Half the men on small island charged with rape

Pitcairn Island is a tiny, remote island off the coast of New Zealand (thanks to everyone who pointed out that Pitcairn isn't close to NZ at all) with only 46 people living on it. Seven of the men there -- more than half the adult male population, including the mayor -- have been charged with over about 100 counts of sexual assault, including the rape of a five year old. The charges arose after a British policewoman visited the island and met some of the girls, who told her what had been going on. This blog entry has links to articles from various news-sites on the trial.
The residents of the island are descendants of the mutineers from the HMS Bounty and the local Polynesian population in 1790.
Link (Thanks, Cyrus!)

Industrial nations to WIPO: less IP, more global well-being

Thiru Balasubramaniam from the Consumer Project on Technology is taking notes at the General Assembly of the UN's World Intellectual Property Organisation. Yesterday was the opening, and it kicked off with a bang, with a group of nations (comprising the 15 original European Community states, Japan, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and some others) excoriating the Organisation for pursuing IP Rights over the other goals of WIPO such as fostering creativity and transfering technology to the world's poorest nations.
...believe WIPO's work should help support the multilateral development of intellectual property, not as an end in itself, but as a means to help achieve the economic, social and cultural well-being of individuals and societies across the planet. In that light, we are pleased to see paragraph 6 of the Secretariat's Performance Report emphasize that "WIPO's strategic goals should also be viewed in the larger context of the UN Millenium Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2000, placing the eight Millenium Development Goals at the heard of the global agenda."
Link (Thanks, Thiru!)

Voter Information Guide by Kottke and co

Kottke and his blog-readers have been assembling a Voter Information Guide, which they've been turning into one-page handouts and outher interesting and useful forms that explain how to register and vote in the upcoming election.
- 1-page PDF version by Trevor Filter
- HTML version suitable for printing by Ryan Brill
- text-only version by Chuck Welch
- an audio version by Ben Yates

Google Answers: Is Google on fire?

Danny's wife, Quinn, drove past Google HQ yesterday and noted smoke rising from the building. She rang Danny, who leapt into motion, going to Google Answers and posing this question:
Is Google HQ on fire right now? My wife drove your campus and saw smoke. Are you guys okay? I can probably get a ladder if you need it.
The question remains unanswered. Silly Danny -- Google Answers staffers work offsite! Link (via Oblomovka)

ASCII movies of the Bush SotU addresses

ASCII Bush has ASCII-mation videos of both Bush I and Bush II's State of the Union addresses as Quicktime files. Filthyape sez, "The basic goal of this project is to make art from the debris of our culture by recycling these dreadful and painfully long presidential oration. The speeches are not edited--just digitally filtered. And like I said, they are very lengthy. ASCII BUSH is definitely boring enough to be interesting!!!" Link (Thanks, filthyape!)

SpaceShipOne / Xprize snapshots, part 3

SpaceShipOne pilot Mike Melvill gives the universal sign for a successful flight after today's touchdown. Link to full-size. Link to another snapshot of Mr. Melvill standing on top of the craft, speaking to reporters.

The X-Prize webcast of today's flight includes some incredibly beautiful footage from an on-ship camera -- this must be what Melvill saw, gazing out of that little round window. A giant blue dome below, and a black sky with bright stars above. I'd sure like to see the snapshots he said he took up there. Anyway, go ahead and skip through the hoo-ha and just stream the good stuff -- but there is definitely some good stuff: Link

SpaceShipOne / Xprize snapshots, part 2

The whole thing felt a little like Burning Man with more money and fewer naked hippies. Squint through the dust (which at times almost blew as hard as it does on the playa), and those big sponsor signs could almost pass for theme camp tents. Instead of bad trance music blaring in all directions, we heard bombastic symphonic overtures on the PA system every time SS-1 was about to do something important, like lift off or move from climb mode to glide mode.

The craft is fueled by nitrous oxide and rubber. I suppose this proves what many Hollywood clubbers have known for years -- that with a little latex and laughing gas, you can get to heaven.

Here, Scaled Composites' Burt Rutan and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen sit in the back of a pickup truck towing SpaceShipOne along the runway, after pilot Mike Melvill's successful flight. Mr. Melvill is still inside the craft. This sight made me laugh. I mean -- come on. A pickup truck towing a spaceship. Garage geekery, grand goals. Link to full-size image. Link to a snapshot moments later, in which Melvill addresses the crowd on the ground, while Rutan and Allen grin widely.

SpaceShipOne / Xprize snapshots, part 1

Just got back to LA from the Mojave Airport -- er, spaceport -- where Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne completed the first of two flights that may result in its developers winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize.

Today's successful flight included a dramatic series of unplanned rolls during ascent. Developer Burt Rutan attributed them to known engineering problems that caused excessive dihedral effect (the way an aircraft reacts when wind hits it from the side). That corkscrew-spiral flight pattern on the way up looked terrifying from where I stood-- as if SS-1 were about to suddenly spin out of control to disaster at any moment. Judging from the gasps I heard in the media corral, others agreed.

Regardless of how risky that portion of the flight may have appeared, or indeed was, pilot Mike Melvill later said the rolls "felt cool" from where he was seated some 337,500 feet above the earth. He said he could see stars above, once he departed Earth's atmosphere. There was enough of a pause at the top for him to take a break from piloting, peek out the windows, and take some snapshots with a little camera he'd stowed on board.

I've been up since 230am today, and there's still work to do on tomorrow morning's NPR "Day to Day" report about today's flight. So for now, just a series of quick snapshots I took at the event. Here, SpaceShipOne at dawn: Link. Here, SpaceShipOne taxis out pre-flight, attached to White Knight: Link. Here, White Knight takes off: Link

Nigerian spam used as Quicktime soliloquy

Dylan sez: "A movie clip of someone doing a Nigerian email scam monologue - complete with mispellings and bad grammar. It's a hoot." Link (via Good Experience)