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 Battle.net 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 Battle.net 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."

Link

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."
Link

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.

Link

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 newsday.com 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)