Posts Tagged ‘apple’

iPad Novelty Group to Appear in Stores for Holidays

October 9, 2012

Apple is rumored to have ordered 10 million displays for the probably not vaporous iPad Mini.  It could be in stores as early as November 2.  While the Pixie Dust Storm surrounding the pint sized tablet approaches category 5, industry analysts are beginning to talk about other iPads that may find their way to Holiday stockings this December.  Sources at the Cupertino Fortress of Solitude who spoke only on condition of anonymity say that shortly after the pico tablet appears, the Maleficent Malic Empire will release a line of novelty iPads as an homage to Steve Wozniak, the inventor of the Apple I computer.  Wozniak, before he hooked up with super salesman Steve Jobs, tried other ventures including a Polish Joke of the Day phone number.  (Seriously, you could look it up.)  This line’s theme will be based on the Woz’s sense of humor and will emulate some of his favorite childhood toys.

Leading the pack will be the iPad Squirt.  This little content consumption device will feature a bit of content creation.  The Woz loved his squirt flower.  The Squirt comes with a 100 ml tank and an ultra low energy consumption pump that reportedly will reduce the battery life over the standard model by only a few seconds per charge.  It will be able to use most any fluid from distilled water to ultra high or ultra low pH solutions of powerful acids or bases.  With an extra cost attachment it will be able to deliver sour milk without clogging the nozzle or the internal plumbing.  It will come in a less expensive rear nozzle model for those who want to squirt their friends and the top of the line front and rear nozzle model that allows nerds to lend their iPad to unsuspecting friends and co-workers who’ll get a little surprise.

Also slated for pre-Holiday release is the iPad Whoopee.  No, it’s not that kind of whoopee.  It’s a high tech version of the famous red rubber cushion kids and Shriners have placed on the chairs of unsuspecting victims for what seems like thousands of years.  It will come in two models, the Sound and the Sound ‘n’ Scent.  The sound model will allow the user the choice of ten prerecorded lifelike sound effects as well as the ability to create his or her own using Garage Band.  New sound effects will be available on iTunes.  The Sound ‘n’ Scent model will give nerds the option of delivering chemical sprays.  It will come with a hydrogen sulfide and lactic acid cartridge.  Reportedly butyric acid  and ethyl mercaptan will hit the market soon.

The third member of the Novelty Group will be the iPad Chunk.  It will mimic the time honored plastic vomit pool beloved by kids the world over.  The case will have an irregular simulated vomitus theme which will continue on the nauseatingly realistic Iris display screen saver.  No one will sit on your chunk if you leave it on your chair.  Again, two models will be available, the Sight and the Scent.  Release of the more expensive Scent has been delayed by butyric acid supply chain problems.  If the Chunk takes off, by next spring the Klowns of Kupertino may release the iPad Poo.  The name says it all.

The final member of the Novelty Group is the iPad Joy.  It features a small, energy efficient, low amperage generator that will deliver 10KV.  Not only will it deter theft, but it will provide hours of fun for nerds everywhere.  The question “Wanna try my iPad?” could be a laff riot for geeks.  Old time mini/mainframe users will be delighted to find that the Joy will include an Increase_Keyboard_Voltage utility.

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Apple vs. Samsung–Musings on Software Patents

October 9, 2012

Recently Apple won a billion dollar plus judgment in its suit against Samsung about patent infringement on smart phones and tablets.  I’m not an intellectual property attorney so I can’t offer an expert opinion on the law in this case.  I’m more concerned with the idea of software patents in general.  Patents come from an era when technological advances were mechanical, electrical, electronic…  Although there are some examples of patents being granted for some questionable things, patents of this sort generally do cover a new way of doing something that either couldn’t be done before or is so much better than existing ways of doing it that it’s an obvious departure from what the law calls “prior art.”  It’s not enough to have an idea.  You have to develop a concrete technique to implement the idea.  Software patents don’t seem to have to meet this criterion.

Software is different.  Anyone with a programming or computer science background can tell you about a few things that are unique advances.  The one almost all programming students learn about is the quick sort.  It’s a way of sorting stuff that’s not intuitively obvious and is very efficient.  In fact it’s not easy for many students to understand without spending a fair amount of time studying it.  Tony Hoare, the inventor, was a student when he came up with the idea back in 1960.  He either decided not to patent it or didn’t think of patenting it.  There are other algorithms, recipes for performing computing tasks, that are the result of original ideas.  Most of them are in the public domain.

IBM was probably to first company to patent software on a large scale.  It is still one of the biggest software patent owners in the world.  Most big software companies own a lot of patents, which are either things developed by their own employees or existing patents that they bought.  There are also companies called “patent trolls” who exist solely to buy software patents and sue companies that might infringe on their patents.

A lot of the Apple vs. Samsung suit relates to “look and feel,” meaning how programs look on the screen and interact with the user.  In the 1990s Lotus sued Borland over Borland’s spreadsheet software that looked a lot like then market leader Lotus 1-2-3.  Lotus lost eventually although by the time the Supreme Court declined to reverse a lower court decision Microsoft had taken over the spreadsheet market with Excel.  The Lotus suit was over copyright, not patents although there are some similarities to the Apple vs. Samsung case.  Among the things Apple has patents on are a method of zooming in by tapping the screen and an interesting way of moving back to the top of the screen.

The thing that would probably strike most programmers here is that moving around on a screen is one of those tasks that can be performed in a wide variety of ways.  It depends on the operating system and the hardware, but there are few programming tasks that have a single best solution.  If it were up to me, I’d need to see proof that Samsung implemented the patented features exactly the same way that Apple did.  I’d be very surprised if that were true.

Speaking more generally, I think software patents do more harm than good.  I can’t think of any sensible reason to prevent people from developing a different way of doing something even if the result looks the same on the screen.  If a company copies another’s original software exactly, that’s wrong.  If a company develops a technique that produces a similar result on the screen but works differently from another’s, that’s implementation of an idea.

As I said above, I’m not an intellectual property attorney.  I’m just a programmer.