Saturday, September 08, 2007

some of the MOST AWESOME HDR photos that I have seen and a slideshow/grid of her work


Varenna HDR from 3 exposures handheld (I never use tripod :) 82mm - 1/500seg - f/5,3 - ISO 100 Nikon D80 with 18-200 VR

Read More... - Firefox, browser of choice


Stuff We Like: Power Your Gadgets From An Airplane Headphone Jack

USB.png The Inflight USB Power Unit connects directly to the headphone jack found in the armrests of most commercial airplane seats and passes power to your gadgets via a USB connection. It would be convenient as hell to have outlets at every seat instead of headphone jacks, but now you can get the best of both worlds. The unit won't power anything as big as your laptop, but should be able to supply a charge to any device that natively supports USB charging (like your iPod, cell phone, or PSP). The basic Inflight USB Power Unit will set you back $35, and you can optionally purchase iPod and mini B connectors. Anyone planning on adding this to their Go Bag?

Inflight USB Power Unit [Inflight Power Recharger Cables via Windows Fanatics]


How To: Add a Web Interface to Your Homemade DVR

SageUI.png When it comes to recording your favorite shows, you made the smart move and decided to roll your own DVR with SageTV instead of buying TiVo or paying recurring monthly fees to rent a DVR from your cable provider. Besides automatically pushing your recordings onto your iPod, you can put other DVRs to shame by adding a web interface to SageTV. With SageTV's Web UI you can schedule and manage recordings, set your favorites, access your recordings and even stream live TV over the web. Let's get to it!

Install your tuner card and SageTV Last year, Adam gave you the skinny on how to install a TV card and start kicking homebrew DVR ass with SageTV. If you haven't already, you'll need to follow the exact same process to get started with SageTV before you install the web interface. SageTV will cost you $80 and comes with a 15-day free trial if you want to make sure everything works before purchasing. For those of you who already dropped the ducats on SageTV, it's about to become the best $80 you've ever spent on a piece of software.

Download and install the web interface The SageTV web interface is a run-of-the-mill Windows executable that you can download from Sourceforge and is very simple to install. The only setup required is to choose a username and password. I have found on more than one occasion that I wanted to share my username and password with friends and family so they could check it out—or even so they can schedule recordings of their own. (I recommend choosing a username and password that you'd be comfortable sharing, but that's your prerogative.)

On the "Installation Options" screen, leave all of the defaults enabled and choose "Install." When the installation completes, make sure SageTV is running and pull up http://localhost:8080/sage/Home in your browser of choice. After entering your username and password you'll be greeted with your sparkling new web interface for SageTV.

Open a port on your router In order to access your web interface from outside your home network, you're going to need to enable port-forwarding for port 8080 on your router. Port forwarding will differ from router to router, but typically you should add an entry that looks similar to mine below. Be sure you to substitute your own IP address for the computer hosting the web interface (your homebrewed DVR). Port-Forwarding.png

Assign a domain name As long as you're going to access the web interface from outside your home network, you can go ahead and assign a domain name so you don't have to track and remember your computer's external IP address whenever you want to log in. Remember that the Web UI installs itself into subdirectories on port 8080. So after you assign a domain name you'll need to point your browser to http://yourdomain:8080/sage/Home.

Schedule recordings Scheduling recordings over the internet with the Web UI is a breeze. The Web UI syncs with your existing SageTV program listings so you can peruse listings and schedule recordings with one-click. The Web UI has many different views you can choose from. In my opinion, the most intuitive is the "EPG Grid View" (see below), which can be found under the "Program Guide" drop down. Grid.png

Setting SageTV to record a show for an entire season is as simple as choosing the show, and clicking "Add Favorite." SageTV has a whole slew of management options like which channels you want to record the show on, how many episodes you want to save, whether you want the recordings to expire and much more. Favorites.png Download your recordings You can download and watch your recordings anywhere. Under the SageTV heading, select "Sage Recordings" to download and watch any of your recordings. Keep in mind, however, that these downloads will be rather large, so make sure you've got some time and a fast internet connection before you decide to download an hour-long show. If you don't need the show in full broadcast quality, streaming may be a better option. Files.png

Stream your recordings or live TV My favorite feature of the Web UI is the ability to create a playlist and stream live TV or your recordings. The one drawback to streaming is that you are limited by your upload speed. When you're on your local network you'll have no problem, however, when you leave the network you'll need to reduce your stream quality so the playback isn't choppy. Soup.png

Extra help for the SageTV Web UI (should you need it) is available in the SageTV forums. Besides the satisfaction of completing a fun DIY project, a home grown DVR with a web UI gives you instant access to your favorite television shows no matter where you are in the world. Also sharing, burning and transferring your videos becomes that much easier since you don't need to physically interact with the computer running SageTV. For the total price of $80 you can't go wrong with SageTV and a free web UI.

Kyle Pott is Lifehacker's Contributing Editor who can't dream of returning to a world without SageTV and its Web UI. He has never ever purchased any third party applications for Windows except SageTV.


3G iPod nano review roundup

Well, that was fast -- just two days after Steve pulled one out of his pocket, reviews of the newest iPod nano are filtering in, and they seem to be overwhelmingly positive. Everyone seems to be digging the fatty's battery life, price, and diminutive size, but the overall proportions dictated by the 2-inch screen drew some complaints. That screen also received praise for its clarity and sharpness, but watching video on such a small device seems to invite some awkward neck angles -- shocking, we know. Overall, however, it looks like Apple's got another hit on its hands -- fatty pride, y'all.

Read -- PC World
Read -- CNET
Read -- ZDNet Australia


Featured Firefox Extension: Automate Repetitive Web Site Actions with CoScripter

coscripter.png Windows/Mac/Linux (Firefox): Script repetitive web applications—like filling out forms and paying your bills—with the CoScripter Firefox extension. CoScripter is very similar to the previously mentioned iMacros extension but offers users a much friendlier interface for creating new macro scripts, meaning you shouldn't need any programming experience to create your own scripts (be sure to check out the video demo on the site for a good introduction). CoScripter is free to download (though it requires an unfortunately convoluted registration with IBM), works wherever Firefox does.



Solar Installer SolarCity Raises $21M

We’re already feeling a bit sunburned from all the solar funding over the past few weeks. But serious folks, there’s even more that we’ve learned about. On Monday SolarCity, which provides solar systems for homes and businesses, plans to announce they have closed $21 million in their third round of funding, led by Draper Fisher Jurvetson, JP Morgan and Elon Musk. The Foster City, Calif.-based company has now raised over $31 million.

The cleantech industry might not want to talk about a clean tech bubble, but solar overindulgence? Seems so. Earlier this week solar concentrator company SolFocus raised $52 million, while solar financing company Tioga added $4 million. The week before solar photovoltaic company Solarcentury raised $27.2 million, solar cell developer Solexant raised $4.3 million, and Plextronics raised $20.6 million for its organic semiconductors, which can be used for thin film solar applications.



Notepad toaster burns handwritten messages into bread

Designer Sasha Tseng (unlinkable Flash site here) has created this prototype toaster/notepad. Scribe your note on the tablet over the toaster, and it will burn the message into the bread. Link (via Cribcandy)


Friday, September 07, 2007

Gadgets: Cradlepoint CTR-350 Spreads the Broadband from Cellphone to Wi-Fi

Augustine:  just what I wanted with my new iPod. My existing cell serves as WiFi hotspot for the iPod to connect to the internet and surf via Safari!

cradlepoint_2shot.jpg You never know when you might want to spread your connectivity love, and that's why this Cradlepoint CTR-350 travel router might be able to keep you and all your buddies online when nothing else will. If your broadband-enabled cellphone can connect, then this little black box can turn that connection into a Wi-Fi hotspot.

This baby lets your EV-DO cellphone turn into a modem for Wi-Fi, letting everybody tap into that signal. Plus, you can button that sucker down to be as secure as you want, using WEP and WPA encryption and its built-in firewall. And, if your phone supports charging-via-USB, it'll charge up that cellphone as you go. It's $149. [Cradlepoint]


Jobs’ Mea Culpa is Apple’s Victory

Steve Jobs is sorry. He wants to give you $100 back for what you paid when you bought your iPhone too early. Provided, of course, you spend that $100 in one of his stores.

I disagree with Om on this. I get this feeling that this is exactly what Steve Jobs had planned all along? The chances are high that that extra $100 you would have saved, had the iPhone been appropriately priced to begin with, would have been spent outside an Apple (AAPL) store. Now it's staying in Apple's coffers. And Steve Jobs looks like a caring, responsive CEO who didn't mean to hurt anyone's feelings.

So Apple wins again. Forget the news stories that say Apple cut its price because sales were sluggish. On Tuesday, iSuppli, a research firm, said nearly one in 50 mobile phones sold in the U.S. was an iPhone, and that Apple was on track to sell 4.5 million iPhones this year. Today, iSuppli reiterated that view:

The iPhone outsold all competing smart-phone and feature-phone models in the United States in July on an individual basis. iSuppli�s teardown research indicates that Apple was generating a robust hardware margin at its previous pricing, and will still be profitable at the new pricing.

I suspect the money Apple makes off the iPhone will be a wash: What it loses in the new discount it will easily make up in holiday-season volume. And it will end the year with an even higher market share in handsets.

But what about Apple's stock? It fell to $132.93 this morning from a high of $145.73 Tuesday, a drop of nearly 9%. Again, the press has been quick to assert that Wall Street was disappointed with Jobs' announcements yesterday, particularly the iPhone price cut. But look at the 5-day chart, and it's clear that Apple is actually up. It was a classic case of buying the pre-announcement hype and selling on the news. It may even offer a last-chance to buy in at this level.

aapl 5 day chart

Over at Barron's Tech Trader Daily, there is a nice summary of analyst's preliminary reactions to the iPhone news. Bottom line, analysts were taken aback by the timing and the degree of the iPhone discount, but overall they remained "fairly enthusiastic" and few dared to lower their ratings or price targets.

Apple does not take pride in disappointing investors, and it may be that this iPhone discount, coming sooner rather than later, is a way of signaling that iPhone sales have been strong enough that it can lower prices without missing targets.


Simple hackery enables free iTunes ringtones

Well, this is a handy (and well-timed) find! User Cleverboy over at Macrumors has discovered a simple trick to get your own music onto your iPhone using the just-released iTunes 7.4, and it'll cost you precisely nothing. To get this to work, we hear you only need to rename an AAC track to .M4R, then double click it and iTunes will automagically load it into iTunes for you. Next time you plug in your iPhone to sync up, just check off the song in the Ringtones tab and voila, instant tone gratification. Thanks, Apple -- free ringtones for the songs we already own or ripped from our own CDs, this is how it should have been from the get-go. On a happy note, Macrumor's forum users are reporting the magic works via both Apple and Windows flavors of iTunes, but feel free let us know how you all get on.


Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation

By Roger Highfield, Science Editor Source:

Last Updated: 1:41am BST 08/08/2007

Levitation has been elevated from being pure science fiction to science fact, according to a study reported today by physicists.

Beijing saleswoman demonstrates toy which levitates by magnetic force; Physicists have 'solved' mystery of levitation
In theory the discovery could be used to levitate a person

In earlier work the same team of theoretical physicists showed that invisibility cloaks are feasible.

Now, in another report that sounds like it comes out of the pages of a Harry Potter book, the University of St Andrews team has created an 'incredible levitation effects’ by engineering the force of nature which normally causes objects to stick together.

Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing this pheneomenon, known as the Casimir force, so that it repels instead of attracts.

Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate But they say that, in principle at least, the same effect could be used to levitate bigger objects too, even a person.

The Casimir force is a consequence of quantum mechanics, the theory that describes the world of atoms and subatomic particles that is not only the most successful theory of physics but also the most baffling.

The force is due to neither electrical charge or gravity, for example, but the fluctuations in all-pervasive energy fields in the intervening empty space between the objects and is one reason atoms stick together, also explaining a “dry glue” effect that enables a gecko to walk across a ceiling.

Now, using a special lens of a kind that has already been built, Prof Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin report in the New Journal of Physics they can engineer the Casimir force to repel, rather than attact.

Because the Casimir force causes problems for nanotechnologists, who are trying to build electrical circuits and tiny mechanical devices on silicon chips, among other things, the team believes the feat could initially be used to stop tiny objects from sticking to each other.

Prof Leonhardt explained, “The Casimir force is the ultimate cause of friction in the nano-world, in particular in some microelectromechanical systems.

Such systems already play an important role - for example tiny mechanical devices which triggers a car airbag to inflate or those which power tiny 'lab on chip’ devices used for drugs testing or chemical analysis.

Micro or nano machines could run smoother and with less or no friction at all if one can manipulate the force.” Though it is possible to levitate objects as big as humans, scientists are a long way off developing the technology for such feats, said Dr Philbin.

The practicalities of designing the lens to do this are daunting but not impossible and levitation “could happen over quite a distance”.

Prof Leonhardt leads one of four teams - three of them in Britain - to have put forward a theory in a peer-reviewed journal to achieve invisibility by making light waves flow around an object - just as a river flows undisturbed around a smooth rock.


DivX sues Universal Music Group over Stage6: some analysis

Serial entrepreneur Michael Robertson , who founded the famously RIAA-sued, shares some thoughts on a lawsuit filed this week by DivX against Universal Music Group. UMG is also in a tussle with the online video service Veoh, over similar issues.

Michael says:

Divx filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against UMG asking courts to affirm the legality of their Stage6 video hosting site. This is the second San Diego based company to engage media companies in court. The first was Veoh who also sued UMG. What does this mean? I would speculate the following:

- UMG must be sending out threatening demand letters to many companies.

- Tech companies are getting more savvy wih legal options and realizing the value of playing offense, not just defense.

- San Diego is building some institutional expertise. DivX was started by Jordan Greenhall, who worked at in the early days. Other former people are at DivX. One coincidence is that divx has occupied the last 2 office buildings that used. They watched MP3's unsuccessful legal battles and maybe learned some things. Veoh was founded by Dmitry Shapiro, a friend of mine who is very smart.

Be interesting to watch this play out. I predict it won't be the "lamb to slaughter" that was, for many reasons.

Link to DivX's press release today, with the headline "DivX Requests Federal Court Affirmation of DMCA Protection for Stage6." (via pho list, reposted with permission)


Is this Creative's full-screen Zen Vision?

Augustine: HD on handheld, output to TV is here

Sit down, we're going to take you for a bit of ride which might just end with Creative launching the next generation Zen Vision model sporting HD video and GPS navigation. Some forum jockeys on have put 2-and-2 together over at the 3DLABS Semiconductor site. See, 3DLABS -- a former subsidiary of Creative -- has a DMS-02 media processor with DMScaler technology which can playback 720p, H.264-formatted video on the small screen without transcoding or upscale it for output to your 1080p television. It also features high-end 3D navigation which looks pretty damn responsive even when slicing through fully textured maps overlaid with satellite images. What has Zen Vision fans now in a tizzy -- uh hmm, nearly 4 months after the video and pictures were released -- is that 3DLABS is demoing their wares on a touchscreen device sporting a Zen Vision video cable. As speculative as all this is, devout Creative fanboys who may have recently lost their way should be stoked by the prospects of a full-screen device they can call their own.

[Via Epizenter, thanks Dan]


Screenshot of Adobe Photoshop Express - Web Based Photoshop

Augustine: pioneered by web startups, "adopted" by 800-lb gorilla

online adobe photoshop

Screenshot of online Adobe Photoshop Express, edit images in the Web Browser [click to enlarge]

Fauxto, Picnic and other online photo editors may soon find the going very tough is Adobe is all set to introduce a very cool online version of Adobe Photoshop (called Photoshop Express) that's free and requires just a web browser with the Flash plug-in.

Bruce earlier said that the web version of Photoshop may not be as feature-rich as the desktop Photoshop but still offers better image editing options than the existing desktop image editors - Photoshop Express is something in between Picasa and Photoshop.

John Loiacono, senior VP of creative solutions at Adobe, showed this screenshot of the Online Photoshop application at the ongoing Photoshop World conference in Las Vegas. Thanks John Nack.

Related: Adobe, Give Us Photoshop Lite for Free


NYTimes: The Essence of Nearly Anything, Drop by Limpid Drop

The Curious Cook

The Essence of Nearly Anything, Drop by Limpid Drop

Published: September 5, 2007

MANY new ideas bubbling up in restaurant kitchens aren't of much use to a home cook without a machine shop and acres of counter space. But some are simple and flexible enough that they just may trickle down to everyone else. In the case of an easy technique called gelatin filtration, that would be a very slow trickle.

Scott Menchin

Gelatin filtration is a way to make sparklingly clear liquids that are intensely flavored with ... well, whatever you like: meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, any and all combinations of ingredients.

Why would anyone want to make such a thing? Think of such liquids as essences. They have no fibers, no pulp, no fat, no substance at all. They're just flavor in fluid form, perhaps with a tinge of color, like a classic beef consommé. In fact chefs are calling these essences consommés, and they often use them the same way, as a soup or a sauce. And they can be delightfully surprising, because their appearance often gives no hint of the pleasure they're about to deliver.

A traditional consommé is made crystal clear by stirring in and then skimming off a foam of egg whites, which trap solid particles. The new technique uses gelatin instead. The process, though it takes two or three days, is simple. First you make juice or flavorful broth and strain it to remove any particles. Then you dissolve gelatin in the liquid, but only a little bit — just a fraction of what you'd use in a set gelatin dessert. (You don't need to add gelatin to meat stocks, which already contain it.)

Then you freeze the liquid overnight, place the frozen block in a strainer over a bowl and let it thaw in the refrigerator a day or two. Liquid slowly drips into the bowl. This is the consommé.

It's ingenious. As the jelly freezes, the water in it begins to form solid ice crystals, while the gelatin, the solid food particles, the droplets of fat and the flavors are concentrated in the remaining liquid. The long gelatin molecules bond to each other to form an invisibly fine net that traps everything else in its crevices.

The refrigerator plays a key role. It keeps the net cold enough so the gelatin doesn't dissolve and the fat doesn't melt. But the ice crystals do, and as they do they wash the dissolved flavors out of the net. Meanwhile the net's crevices act like a microscopic filter, trapping particles, solid fat and other impurities. What drips out of the thawing mass is a clear, flavorful liquid.

The idea of clarifying gelatin-rich meat stocks in the cold originated with a German food technologist, Prof. Gerd Klöck of the Hochschule Bremen, who spread the word at a 2004 meeting of Inicon, a European consortium for culinary innovation. In early 2005 the New York chef Wylie Dufresne saw a freeze-clarified venison stock in the kitchen of the Fat Duck in England, and immediately thought of a way to take the technique one giant step further: adding gelatin to flavorful liquids that don't already contain it. He soon succeeded in making a crystal-clear carrot juice.

He took the technique back to his Manhattan restaurant, WD-50, where as he recently recalled, "I went crazy with it." The possibilities were endless.

Mr. Dufresne now has at least two gelatin-clarified consommés on his menu at all times. Currently he serves seared scallops in an essence of clams and smoked grapes, and lamb loin with an elixir of pretzels. At Blackbird in Chicago, Mike Sheerin, the chef de cuisine and a WD-50 alumnus, serves pork belly in a consommé that he makes from his mother's recipe for barbecue sauce.

A blog called Ideas in Food (, written by two chefs, H. Alexander Talbot and Aki Kamozawa, is sprinkled with suggestions for an impressive variety of gelatin-clarified consommés including Parmesan and Roquefort, foie gras, olive oil, caramelized banana, ranch dressing, butter pecan, kimchi, pumpernickel and baked potato "with all the fixings." Mr. Talbot likes to keep consommés handy in the freezer, like one he brews from brown butter, soy sauce and Tabasco.

"They're great with seafood, asparagus — anyplace you would want those flavors without all the fat," he wrote in an e-mail message. "We also use consommés as brines and braising mediums. Artichokes cooked in horseradish consommé are remarkable."

At Jean Georges on Central Park West, the executive pastry chef, Johnny Iuzzini, makes a strawberry soda as part of his strawberry dessert course. "I clarify a purée of strawberries and the water I cook them in and get a beautifully clear red liquid with a bright, fresh flavor," he said. "I don't have to add any sugar. I carbonate it and top it with a birch-beer foam and diced strawberries."

Mr. Iuzzini also uses the technique to make an even more surprising dish for his chocolate course. He makes separate "stocks" of dark and white chocolate by cooking them in water, then clarifies them into fat-free liquids, one brown and one colorless. He then adds sugars and xanthan gum, a thickener, to give the two liquids different densities and a slight cohesiveness. This allows him to build a two-story drink, a layer of cold white chocolate consommé riding on a base of hot dark chocolate consommé.

So far I've used gelatin clarification to make tomato, Parmesan and chicken consommés. The flavors are so distinct and appealing that I've been content just to sip them straight, alone or mixed with one other.

Interestingly, fans of the new consommés differ about the best way to make the original. Mr. Dufresne likes to freeze and thaw his beef stock to remove the gelatin and avoid the stickiness that develops when the stock is reduced. Instead, he gives his consommé a slight viscosity by adding xanthan gum.

By contrast, David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, Calif., serves many imaginative consommés, but draws the line at modifying the classic meat version. "To my hopelessly romantic mind," he said, "if you remove all the gelatin, you remove the seamless integration of flavor and consistency that you create by carefully cooking the stock in the first place."

They both sound good to me.


Making food essences with gelatin filtration

Harold McGee writes in the NY Times about gelatin filtration:
200709061916 -- a way to make sparklingly clear liquids that are intensely flavored with ... well, whatever you like: meats, fruits, vegetables, cheeses, breads, any and all combinations of ingredients.

Why would anyone want to make such a thing? Think of such liquids as essences. They have no fibers, no pulp, no fat, no substance at all. They’re just flavor in fluid form, perhaps with a tinge of color, like a classic beef consommé. In fact chefs are calling these essences consommés, and they often use them the same way, as a soup or a sauce. And they can be delightfully surprising, because their appearance often gives no hint of the pleasure they’re about to deliver.

Link (Thanks, Carl!)


LuLL Flowering Lamp Concept



Lawmakers Take Aim At Boom In Frivolous Patent Disputes

UPDATE: Lawmakers Take Aim At Boom In Frivolous Patent Disputes
Dow Jones

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones) -- When Apple Inc. released its vaunted iPhone in June, critics were intrigued by its cutting-edge form touch-screen technology. Barely a month later, a doctor from Iowa publicly claimed he'd actually come up with the idea first, and he filed a patent-infringement lawsuit.

Apple (AAPL) and other big technology companies have long complained that such suits are frivolous -- and are becoming far too commonplace. They've taken their case to Congress, which will soon consider legislation intended to rein in patent litigation and its related costs. The House is expected to begin debating the proposed Patent Reform Act on Friday, while the Senate is expected to take up the issue soon.

Passage of patent reform would certainly placate many technology companies, while angering critics who fear a trampling of the property rights of relatively powerless inventors.

But its effect on occupants of the space in-between -- the holding companies thriving on gathering patents and enforcing them with lawsuits -- is uncertain. Branded by big technology companies as "patent trolls," for supposedly buying up patents for no reason other than to threaten lawsuits and collect cash settlements, these companies aren't easily legislated out of existence, attorneys and experts say.

"The legislation will lessen their threat to defendants, but it won't lessen it to the extent it will go away," said Bruce Rose, a partner in the intellectual property practice at Alston & Bird LLP in Charlotte, N.C.

Patent holding companies range from high-profile operations such as Acacia Technologies Group, to lesser known SP Technologies LLC -- which holds Des Moines, Iowa-based Dr. Peter Boesen's patent in the disputed case against Apple. A lower-profile, but nonetheless prominent, player is Plutus IP LLC and its various affiliates, which have drawn the ire of firms from Intel to Toyota by blanketing hundreds of defendants with patent suits.

Versions of patent reform working through the House and Senate include limits on districts where plaintiffs may sue, and on the amount of damages that may be awarded for infringement claims. The Coalition for Patent Fairness, a group whose members include Apple, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and others, has been an outspoken proponent.

"Every once in a while an issue comes along where a consensus emerges that something needs to be done, and this is now in that category," said Mark Isakowitz, a spokesman for the group.

But the drive to enact new laws has raised questions about what constitutes abuse of intellectual-property principles, and whether the government can, or should act against patent trolls.


Kelly Hyndman, an intellectual-property lawyer with the Washington firm of Sughrue Mion PLLC, argues that the Patent Reform Act would weaken patent rights in favor of big corporations.

"No one looks at real-estate investors who speculate as trolls," he said. " They're admired for what they do."

Hyndman said companies that seek out high-quality patents have a right to maximize their value -- in court, if need be. And, he said, there should be no requirement that the patents be used to make products. "Other people shouldn't have the right to tell you what to do with your intellectual property," Hyndman said. "This is America."

In effect, Hyndman said, the legislation could water down the value of all patents, and in turn hinder the sort of original thinking and competitive drive that went into them in the first place.

Patent-holding companies often legitimately lay claim to simply maintaining the value of patented ideas.

But there's also "a cottage industry of people who go out and acquire patents solely for the purpose of bringing these suits, and with the hope that they will never have to go to trial," said Rose, the lawyer wit Alston & Bird LLP. Instead, he said, such holders hope for a high volume of settlements from companies wishing they'd just go away.

However, the proposed patent reform in Congress would, at best, "lessen the impact that patent trolls have," by limiting settlement amounts they can demand, he said.

For example, one proposal advanced as part of the legislation is to calculate damages based only on the specific contribution of a patent to a product. Under existing practice, awards are often based on the value of whole products.

Microsoft, for example, lost a $1.5 billion jury decision in patent litigation with Alcatel Lucent last February, which was based on worldwide sales of it Windows software, not just on technology within that software related to the patent. That decision was later reversed.

Critics say that by addressing problems that patents create only after they've been issued, the Patent Reform Act misses the point. "A lot of these problems go away if you clean up what's coming out of the Patent Office," said Greg Aharonian, a patent consultant in San Francisco.

Patent Office examiners are overwhelmed and work under less than ideal conditions, Aharonian said. That's a factor in the issuance of low-quality patents, which leads to proliferating infringement suits, he said.

In July Aharonian went as far as suing Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, for appointing a deputy director of the Patent Office who Aharonian and fellow plaintiffs say has an insufficient background in patent or trademark law.

The Patent Office has said it is now aggressively hiring examiners to increase the quality of issued patents, at a rate of more than 1,000 new examiners per year.

In a prepared statement Thursday, the Bush administration said it supported some elements of the Patent Reform Act, including the establishment of a limited period during which a patent's validity can be challenged outside of a costly court dispute after it's issued. It criticized other elements, such as blanket directive that would limit damages.

A 'form of hold-up'

Companies in the pharmaceutical industry, which relies heavily on the value of a relatively small number of patents, have actively opposed the reforms. Even the technology industry is divided, with some companies that rely on patent licensing joining the opposition.

Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM) , for example, is a member of The Innovation Alliance, which opposes the Patent Reform Act. It holds an extensive portfolio of patents in cell phones, and has litigated extensively in an effort to uphold that portfolio's considerable value.

Shortly after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a modified version of the measure in July, the Innovation Alliance complained that "the bill will still erode, not strengthen, patent protections, thereby dampening innovation and stifling entrepreneurship."

But proponents of reform say the real aim is to curb what they say is an illegitimate, and growing, form of business.

Many patent holders know that the large companies they sue are willing to pay out settlements in the $1 million range -- because going to trial can often cost them "on the order of $4-to-$5 million," said Mark Lemley, a Stanford University law professor.

"It's a form of hold-up, and it results from the fact that patent litigation is expensive," Lemley said.

Still, the legislation may have limited effect on such tactics, said Kristie Prinz, an attorney in Los Gatos, Calif.

"The reality is there's not that much proposed yet to significantly damage this business model," Prinz said. "It's the litigation system, not the patent system, that is fostering this."

Some observers say it would be easy to circumvent the legislation's limits on venues where plaintiffs can sue. That's because a plaintiff could establish at least a nominal office in a district where they would like to litigate in the future. Plutus IP, for example, established offices in Texas and Wisconsin court districts, prior to filing patent suits there.

Hyndman, of the firm of Sughrue Mion, acknowledged that "a reasonable market correction" may be called for in the patent system. But passage of the Patent Reform Act, he said, moves too far away from inventor rights, and in favor of corporate rights. Adds Hyndman: "Whether it goes too far remains to be seen."

  (END) Dow Jones Newswires
09-07-07 0541ET
Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

IPhone: TV Out on iPhone Coming Soon via Software Update?

tvout.pngThe Apple Store page for the component AV cables—which up until now only supported the iPod classic—lists both the iPod touch and the iPhone as supported devices. What's up with that? The iPhone doesn't support TV out. Well, seeing as the iPod touch is also there, and since the touch and the iPhone are almost exactly the same, it makes sense that while adding TV out to the touch, Apple will go ahead and add TV out to the iPhone as well. Either that or this is just a mistake in the page. [Apple via Wired]


iPhone Rebates & Power Of The People

The $200-price cut announced by Apple (AAPL) yesterday turned into a bit of a PR disaster for the company. The cuts penalized the fanboys (including yours truly) for being early adopters, and prompted iPhone owners to express their outrage across the web and beyond. In an interview in USA Today, Steve Jobs remarked:

That’s technology. If they bought it this morning, they should go back to where they bought it and talk to them. If they bought it a month ago, well, that’s what happens in technology.

Now there’s a way to annoy the people who have stuck by the company through thick and thin. Today, realizing that Apple’s goodwill was at risk, Jobs announced a $100 credit to all early iPhone buyers, promising to do the right thing.

Is it really the right thing? Not in the classic sense, because unlike the 14-day-returnees, you aren’t getting cash back. It’s a sop, really — albeit an admittedly good-natured one — since the $100 you get back is only good for another Apple product.

Therefore, we have decided to offer every iPhone customer who purchased an iPhone from either Apple or AT&T, and who is not receiving a rebate or any other consideration, a $100 store credit towards the purchase of any product at an Apple Retail Store or the Apple Online Store. Details are still being worked out and will be posted on Apple’s website next week. Stay tuned.

I wonder if Steve Jobs’ open letter, and the $100 credit, would have happened in another time when social media tools weren’t as prevalent as they are today. Regardless, the good thing is, Apple listened.


Polls: Facebook Picks an iPod

Augustine: talk about real-time stats...  these products were announced yesterday and we are getting real user data which corroborates iPod Touch will do great for Apple, men most prefer the Touch while women most prefer the Nano, and customers of all ages prefer the newly released iPods (with screens) to the Shuffle

ipodtouchthewinner.jpgAfter weighing all of the GB options and touchscreens versus scroll wheels, we're still not completely sure which iPod or iPhone to get yet, but those profile-happy kids over at Facebook seem to know. With a commanding 31% of the votes the iPod touch is the victor this time around. Although that doesn't tell you the whole story does it? Now for the poll breakdown.


• By Gender•

While the iPod Touch did win in overall votes, women actually preferred the iPod nano more. The tiny competitor received 32% of their votes. And the poor shuffle, no matter what gender, only picked up 4% of the votes with either sex.


• By Age•

With the 13-17, 18-24 and 25-34 crowds all favoring the iPod touch, there seems to be a trend going on here. Although the aging Facebook'ers, 35-49, gave the finger to the iPod Touch (Get it? The Finger. Touch. Sorry-BL) and heralded two new winners, the iPod nano and the iPhone both coming in with 30% of the geriatric vote.

Picture%209.png[Facebook ]


The Tech Industry Wants You To Support The Fight For Fair Use

Popout Listen very carefully to the copyright statement in this clip. Thinking about discussing last weekend’s game with family and friends? The NFL clearly states that viewers cannot talk about the game to anyone without permission

Insane statements like this, and others, are the target of a FTC complaint by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a group backed by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Oracle and a range of other leading tech firms (full list here). The complaint argues that statements made by groups such as the NFL are illegal and deceptive, as ultimately viewers have rights under the US Constitution by way of Fair Use.

The CCIA isn’t stopping at a FTC complaint alone: they want your support in backing consumer rights to fair use. A new site, Defend Fair Use, has been launched and comes complete with copyright abuse examples and a petition that can be signed in support on the CCIA’s case before the FTC.

For those not familiar with the term, Fair Use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders*, or in laymen’s terms it allows anyone to use a clip, extract, or part thereof of copyrighted material in our own works, for example quoting a book in a blog post, displaying a snippet of a presidential debate in a video etc. The concept of Fair Use is based on free speech rights provided by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Commonwealth equivalent of Fair Use is Fair Dealing.

There are any number of causes floating around the tech industry. The more left wing inclined may support movements including Creative Commons; many of these movements tend to be anti-copyright. The fight for Fair Use is not one that is anti-copyright; fair use does not disown copyright nor seek to overthrow it and replace it with some sort of Utopian socialist vision of a free for all where content creators would no longer be able to own their works. Fair Use is about allowing, as the name suggests, fair use of copyrighted materials in a free and open society, be that by the press or by content creators such as bloggers and others. It’s a noble cause, if only because the alternative is absurd. Would we want to live in a society where you would need permission to discuss a football game due to copyright restrictions?

Those interested in signing the petition can do so here.

(in part via Ars)



Hulu Translates To “Cease” and “Desist” in Swahili. Oops.

Congratulations are in order to YouTube-competitor Hulu, which took just five months to come up with a name after announcing itself in March. CEO Jason Kilar says the name “captures the spirit of the service we’re building” in an open letter published today.

Just don’t translate that name to certain languages, because the name may capture significantly more of the spirit of the service than NBC and News Corp., the media giants behind Hulu, intended.

Hulu means “butt” in both Indonesian and Malay. But that’s nothing compared to Swahili, which 80 million or so people speak in sub-Saharan Africa. In Swahili, Hulu means, among other things, both “cease” and “desist.” See here as well.

Given the litigious nature of online video, that is some serious irony. And you can bet that Hulu, and its parent companies NBC and News Corp., are going to be sending out one heck of a lot of cease and desist letters as soon as this thing launches.

Perhaps they should have just stuck with Clown Co. after all. And someone should ask for a refund from the very expensive consultants that this billion dollar startup undoubtedly used to help them come up with a name.


Toshiba's new 1080p REGZA LCD lineup gets official in US

You know those oh-so-sexy RF350U LCDs that Toshiba has slated for Japan? Yeah, they're heading stateside, too. According to Tosh, the latest duo of REGZA LCDs boast 1080p resolutions, the "world's thinnest LCD TV bezel" at less than one-inch wide, and PixelPure's 14-bit internal processing. The duo will be available in 40- and 46-inch flavors, and will tout a "high-gloss black with chrome trim," xvYCC signal support, DynaLight backlighting, an uber-slim SoundStrip2 speaker system, and a trio of HDMI inputs with CE-Link control. Both of the REGZA Super Narrow Bezel (SNB) models will be landing this month, and while the 40RF350U will cost $1,899.99, the 46RF350U tacks on another $600.


An A to Z of the Biofuel Economy

We've written plenty about the growing biofuel market and the rising concern over the sustainability of corn or wheat ethanol and soy biodiesel production. Here's an A to Z of alternative materials and innovative processes that can turn that biomass into fuel. From milk-based ethanol, to termite intestines that help make biofuels, check out these 26 sources.

Apples: Fructose, the sugar found in apples and other fruit, can be converted into a fuel that contains more energy than ethanol, say scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The fuel is called dimethylfuran or DMF, and it supposedly has a 40 percent greater energy density than ethanol.

Beer: Researchers at The University of Abertay Dundee's School of Contemporary Sciences are investigating ways to turn waste residues from beer- and whiskey-making processes into biofuels. Meanwhile, the New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colo., teamed up with Solix Biofuels to make use of the waste CO2 from the booze.

Coffee: Starbucks brand biofuels? Well, maybe. Apparently, coffee grains have enough sugar content to be turned into ethanol. Research paid for by Columbia's Federación Nacional de Cafeteros (National Coffee producers Federation, Federcafé) found that coffee has an even higher sugar content per bushel than corn. If accurate, coffee prices could soar, and Starbucks might be in trouble.

Dairy: Gull New Zealand, a small oil company, is selling a petrol blended with ethanol made from milk. Yes, the white frothy stuff. The Gull's Force 10 biofuel contains 10 per cent ethanol produced by dairy cooperative Fonterra.

E, that is, Vitamin E: Scientists from the University of Toronto and Michigan State University have figured out that Vitamin E helps a plant's ability to transport nutrients and reproduce in cold temperatures. "The surprising finding… has the potential to be applied in the development of biofuels and cold-tolerance in crops," says

Fungi: Wired reports that scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found a more efficient way to make biodiesel. Instead of wasting energy heating ingredients for hours, an enzyme produced by fungi, at room temperature, does the work.

Grass: From prairie grass to switchgrass, the green stuff that adorns sprawling rural fields might hold the key to our nation's energy independence. Others are betting on Miscanthus to be the superweed that cracks the cellulosic ethanol code.

Hemp: The stalks and seeds of hemp can be made into biofuels, though it's illegal to produce the crop in the U.S. These North Dakota farmers are trying to convince the Drug Enforcement Agency to legalize cannabis farming in order to grow industrial hemp. The Sacramento News & Review calls hemp "one victim of the war on drugs," noting that it is "an energy-efficient producer of ethanol for biofuel."

Intestines, from termites?: It turns out termites could aid in cellulosic ethanol production. Last year, Diversa* scientists discovered that termites' intestines have "cellulose-degrading enzymes" that convert biomass into fuel. Other scientists, like those at the Department of Energy, are also interested in the potential of termite guts. *Note, Diversa is now part of Verenium Corp (VRNM).

Jatropha: Hailed by some as "a biofuel panacea," this potent plant spread globally from Central America by Portuguese settlers in the 16th century, according to the BBC. Developing nations like India and Africa have high hopes for the plant's potential, as it could provide a needed spike to local economies. The Wall Street Journal says that Jatropha might be cheaper than corn for biofuels production.

Kelp: Seaweed is yet another potential biofuel option, according to The Herald. In Europe, where land for growing biofuel crops is limited, researchers are trying to figure out if producing ethanol from Scotland's large kelp population would be commercially viable.

Lignin : Zeachem, a Menlo Park, Calif. company which raised $4 million in Series A funding last month, has developed a new way to create cellulosic ethanol. The process converts lignin and other non-fermentable materials derived from wood chips and additional biomass into hydrogen, which is later mixed back in with the parts of the biomass that were able to be fermented. The complete mixture is then turned into ethanol.

Mushrooms: The common mushroom that you'd find at your local grocery store is genetically blessed, say researchers, as it might be able to aid in the creation of biofuels. The 'shrooms are talented "secondary decomposers" of plant material, breaking down tough materials that other fungi can't handle.

Nuts: Philip Rutter, the CEO and chief scientist of Minnesota-based Badgersett Research Corp., is a cheerleader for hazelnuts as the next biofuel source, writes "BRC has measured several of its NeoHybrids as having crop production potential nearly 300 percent that of soybeans, in terms of oil," says Rutter.

Organisms: Synthetic Genomics , a Rockville, Md.-based start-up, believes that its synthetic organisms will be useful in the production of biofuels and hydrogen.

Poop: Algae grown on sewage ponds might sound gross, but it's a business for New Zealand-based startup Aquaflow Bionomic. Meanwhile, at Virgina Tech, researchers have turned chicken litter (including waste) into oil.

Q Microbe: Amherst, Mass.-based start-up SunEthanol is trying to figure out how to commercialize its "Q Microbe," a natural microbe that can convert cellulose directly into ethanol without using costly enzymes.

Radish: Wild radish seeds contain up to 48 percent oil content that humans wouldn't want to eat, so it might be a viable source of biofuel. At Purdue University, a team of researchers are looking at radishes as potential hosts for their "cloned mutant gene" that was designed to collect large amounts of oil in vegetable roots. The team will test a variety of crops with their gene, looking at its potential in the biofuels market.

Sawdust: Researchers at The University of Minnesota have developed a process to convert sawdust and other waste biomass directly into a mixture of gases that can be made into liquid fuels such as diesel.

Tropical sugar beet: Syngenta (SYT) is bringing the sugar beet to India for both processing sugar and biofuel production. "The faster growth of tropical beets increases annual ethanol output over sugarcane," says the company.

Unknown: There are, of course, many other biofuels that will pop up in the future, and it's possible that important ones haven't even been discovered yet. (To be honest, we found out that urine doesn't work as a biofuel, and couldn't figure out any other cool materials or technology that starts with "U.")

Vegetable Oils: Of course, there's still the option of using — almost — straight-up vegetable oils to power your car. The Web is full of guides that explain how to turn vegetable oil into a substance that works as a fuel replacement.

Wine: The European Union just opened a tender to sell unwanted wine from France, Italy, Spain, and Greece for bioethanol production. Don't auction your leftover pinot just yet, however. The EU tender is part of "crisis distillation" to correct supply imbalances.

Xylose: Xylose sugars are typically difficult to ferment. DuPont (DD), in collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, has developed a fermentation process that helps turn "C-5 xylose sugars" into ethanol at high yields, according to Green Car Congress.

Your… Chopsticks: Japan will try to turn the abundance of wooden chopsticks that go discarded each year into biofuel to ease the country's energy shortage, country officials said last week. "Each of Japan's 127 million people uses an average of 200 sets a year, meaning 90,000 tons of wood, according to government data," reports Yahoo News.

Zeolite: Mitsui has developed a technology that uses a zeolite-based membrane to "separate water and ethanol." The technology is important because it provides a low-energy way of separating water from ethanol in bioethanol manufacturing facilities.