* Posts by Andrew Katz

15 posts • joined 3 Sep 2007

Seagate's flash-disk hybrid crosses the chasm

Andrew Katz
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MacBook Pro

I've had one (500GB) in my MBP since about a week after I bought it around 8 or 9 months ago. It's as 15" unibody pro (the version before they introduced Thunderbolt) and it works absolutely fine, and is nice and snappy. I'm looking forward to the enhanced one coming out so I can upgrade.

I did initially try upgrading the MBP to a WD 1TB HDD (the thick ones do fit), but it was terribly slow, so I thought I'd trade capacity for speed and got a Momentus XT, and I'm very pleased with it.

- Andrew

US Supremes add 'willful blindness' to patent law

Andrew Katz

This is about Inducing Patent Infringement, not infringing patents

A subtle difference, but an important one.

If I make a sell and product in the US which infringes a US patent I will be in breach of that patent, irrespective of whether I knew about the patent or not. Nothing in this judgment changes that.

However, if I I make something, outside the US, and flog it to someone who imports it into the US and infringes a US person, then I will be liable for contributory infringement in the US if I knew it infringed a US patent, or if I wilfully turned a blind eye (known in English law as "Nelsonian knowledge").

Contributory infringement is a big problem for software companies: it means that if I distribute software outside the US which potentially infringes a US patent, then I can be liable for contributory infringement if I was aware it infringed, or if I turned a blind eye to infringement. This is problematical for a number of reasons:

1. If it's open source software, for example, then I am making it available for anyone to download, irrespective of their location.

2. If I can be found liable because I copy the source code (which some commentators have suggested might be the case), then essentially I am simply providing instructions for how to create the infringing invention: WHICH IS EXACTLY THE POINT OF PUBLISHING THE PATENT AT THE PATENT OFFICE ANYWAY.

3. How can I become non-infringing, if am not doing anything which infringes the patent itself in the first place? I'll never be able to get a licence from the patent holder which says I can induce people to infringe with impunity. So I suspect the only option is to say something like "this product may infringe patents in your jurisdiction. I don't know. But I am not encouraging to use it unless you are sure it doesn't infringe." I don't know if this works or not: on the one hand, by letting someone have your software with this incantation, it's pretty clear you are not encouraging to them to infringe a patent. On the other hand, the incantation is so simple, that the US courts might just see this as a transparent effort to avoid liability.

What is undoubtedly the case is that it seems to confirm that the US considers that it has jurisdiction in relation to (this aspect) its patents outside the US, even thought patents are supposed to be strictly limited to the jurisdictions in which they were granted.

- Andrew

GFI wraps its hands around Sunbelt

Andrew Katz

Well Done

Vipre's a solid product, and we're very pleased with it.

O2 to step back from unlimited mobile data deals

Andrew Katz

Well from O2's perspective it beats investing in some INFRASTRUCTURE

Try using an iPhone somewhere, like the Isle of Man, which actually has a 3G infrastructure that works, and you'll find it an order of magnitude more useful.

Frankly, O2 should be banned from selling any more 3G handsets until it upgrades it to something with slightly more data capacity than someone yelling "one one nought one nought nought" through a piece of string with a tin can at each end.

Ofcom, as usual, are supine and useless.

Murdoch threatens to yank News Corp. from Google News

Andrew Katz

So where does that leave the Sky EPG?

Sky charges channels a fortune to appear on the Sky electronic programme guide. Which is a sort of index: you click on a channel, and end up watching it. Hmm. Anyone see a parallel here? So, for consistency, Rupe is either arguing that he should pay the channels for the pleasure of being to show their listing content on the EPG, or alternatively, that he should pay Google for the pleasure of being listed.

Interestingly, when BSkyB was originally established, the European Commission insisted that Sky enable any compatible satellite channel be visible through the BSkyB box, without BSkyB acting as gatekeeper, or receiving any payment. BSkyB implemented this requirement as narrowly as possible, by making it possible to access non-epg channels by going through a complex menu structure requiring the entry of frequency and other information: an order of magnitude more complex than just selecting "BBC4" from the EPG. Sky were fully aware at that stage of the value of the EPG, and essentially sidestepped the regulations by this sneaky ploy.

Wheels come off O2's data network

Andrew Katz

O2 - Best customer service

I called O2 a few months back to complain about crap coverage and data rates.

The guy at the call centre said "Yeah, it is crap, isn't it. That's why I'm with Orange".

I then asked him whether there were any plans to increase capacity.

"Of course not, " he said", there's a recession on. All infrastructure spending has ceased for the foreseeable future".

Well, at least he was honest.

SDXC memory card spec launched for 2TB capacity

Andrew Katz

@E: re. Reiser FS "killer"

I can't believe I'm so sad I actually got this joke. But it was funny

Norway's national broadcaster breaks Beatles download deadlock

Andrew Katz

Not, apparently

I gather they are already removed, owing to a misunderstanding over the licence the broadcaster thought it was getting.

Mattel bemuses gamers with 'brainwave' toy

Andrew Katz

If I was inventing a "mind control" headset

I'd start by having an elasticated headband with a few straingauges (or even just switches) embedded in it, so it could detect movements of the facial muscles. I'm sure that would be a hell of a lot cheaper to manufacture, more reliable, and give the user a better illusion of mind control, than anything which purported to detect actual brainwaves.

iPhone 3G finally unlocked

Andrew Katz

@Ross Fleming and Jamie Hylton

It did occur to me that that signal strength/connection mode info might not be available in the API, but in practice I'd be stunned if there's any way Apple would allow such an app into the app store anyway. So Ross, you're right about having to jailbreak it. I must admit I didn't know enough about the configuration of the OS to realise that you also have to jailbreak to run the app in the background (which to be any use it would clearly have to do), although what you have said makes sense: my favourite app is last.fm, and it really bugs me that it won't run in the background like the ipod app. It also needs 3G (or wifi) to work properly - hence my irritation with the crappy 3G coverage.

Andrew Katz

Rubbish coverage

Yep - anonymous coward. Dead right. Orange was miles better on 3G.

I just had an amusing conversation with an O2 call centre operative, who freely admitted it that their 3G coverage was crap. And it seems pretty unlikely to me that, absent more pressure from Ofcom, O2 is likely to want to spend any money to do anything about it.

I'm waiting for someone to produce an iphone app which monitors signal strength/type, records it alongside GPS data, and periodially calls back to base to update a coverage map, which can then be viewed as a google maps mashup. Crowdsourcing loads of iphone users in this way would give a great and realistic coverage map - which I suspect is a lot patchier than the maps that O2 uses to submit to Ofcom.

Ofcom has already threatened to dock O2's licence if it fails to meet coverage thresholds. I suspect some real coverage data would put a lot more pressure on them.

- Andrew

Samsung Omnia 16GB smartphone

Andrew Katz
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It's dreadful

I get one of these recently from Orange, and after battling with it for a day or so I gave up and sent it back. I've got an iphone now, and while that's infuriating in its own way, it's in a different league to the Omnia.

To be fair, the thing feels relatively well made, and it syncs effectively with Outlook. The camera is surprisingly good. The ability to add memory using micro SD cards is great.

However, Windows mobile is a nightmare. This is the the third incarnation of a windows mobile device I've had. Never again.

Connecting to my access point at work and home is very unreliable (I have no other problems with any mobile device, and my iPhone is fine). Battery life is pretty dreadful. Getting a GPS lock is difficult. The accelerometer doesn't work too well. Trying to get the thing to switch from WiFi to cellular data when you are out of range of your access point is a real trial. And in common wth all windows things, it crashes frequently, necessitating a "battery out" reboot three times during the less-than-24-hours I had it.

It won't pair with my car bluetooth system reliably (Pioneer Avic X1-BT).

There really is no comparison between the Omnia and the iPhone. On paper, the Omnia's functionality is streets ahead, but in the real word the iPhone is significantly better in just about every way. The interface is a work of genius, and while it's still pretty frustrating at times (limited bluetooth functionality, annoying lack of compatibility with previously purchased ipod accessories) its good points prevent you from being frustrated with it. I'm far from an Apple fanatic, but I have to say, Apple has got it right and Microsoft fundamentally misses the point.

DNA sequencing for the masses

Andrew Katz
Black Helicopters

Why Moore's law is relevant...

For two reasons. To understand why you have to understand how whole genome shotgun sequencing works (the Venter approach). You basically take a genome and blast it into loads of little pieces of random length. The smaller the pieces, the easier they are to sequence. However, you've got to work out where all the sequences go in the genome. If you've only got one copy of the genome, it's impossible, so you blast, say, five copies of the genome, sequence them, and because each copy is split in different places, you end up with areas of overlap which you can use to figure out which piece goes where.

Moore's law is relevant, because although a lot of little pieces are (relatively) easy to sequence, it required a sodding enormous computer to calculate where all the overlaps go. Thus, Moore's law is directly relevant, because the more powerful the computer, the quicker the sequencing can be done, and the fewer original genome copies are required in the first place (because the fewer copies are available, the more computing power is required).

The other reason relates to the sequencing machines themselves. I'm a bit more hazy on the technology here, but basically, something like Moore's law is relevant, because the more dna samples you can fit onto a sample carrier (one technique involves placing them in a square pattern), the more sequences you can do in one go.

TrafficMaster sells clients' location info to UK.gov

Andrew Katz

The Mail. You gotta love it.

Errm.. your article gives the impression that the Daily Mail is somehow against a surveillance society. Surely it's only those who have something to hide who should worry about this?

On the other hand, doublethink is yet another Orwellian characteristic for which the Mail is famed.

I wonder how many people who read this will assume that my first paragraph is an accurate representation of my own views, rather than a summary of the Daily Mail's usual stance?

TV makers go ape for 100Hz LCDs

Andrew Katz

Barking up the wrong tree

For my eyes, the major issue with 50Hz CRTs was thir incessant and annoying flicker. I seem to be super-sensitive to this: I always found it difficult to watch old-stylee 50Hz CRT TVs, and whenever I sit at someone else's PC with a CRT monitor, I can't bear it if the refresh rate is anything less than 70Hz.

Flicker is never a problem with LCDs. Even if the refresh rate is only 50Hz, a lit pixel does not have enough time to go dark (I suspect it never goes dark at all) between frames to make the flicker visible.

So once the flicker problem is solved, then next biggest problem for me is black levels. I've never seen an LCD TV which ever goes darker than a dullish grey, no matter how it's set up (strangely, even if it's switched off...).

So forget about hyping refresh rates. The biggest sales-draw for me is black levels. And, at the moment, that means plasma. The second a 1080p plasma comes out at a reasonable price, I'm off down the shops....

- Andrew


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