Ramblings of this guy you know!

Tech Stuff and random observations on life as I see it….

Tag Archives: Apple

Are we in a bubble? Patently we are!

I have been resisting it for a while but it has just got so stupid I can’t stop the rant any more. This story is going to center around the giants of tech and starts with the auction of the Nortell patents and will end up with a claim of infringement based on a sci-fi movie.

Battles over patent infringement is nothing new, this is no beginning but it is an escalation. It has become a time when companies are forced to buy more and more patents just to defend themselves from lawsuits by countersuing with their own list of infringements. It seems to me to be like the cold war of a couple of decades back where countries stockpiled a nuclear arsenal with little intention to use them but to use them as a deterrent against anther country attacking them. Then, as now, we find these large tech companies buying up stockpiles of patents to assure one of two things, a deterrent against attack or at the very worst each others mutual destruction. No longer are the giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple (and the hardware companies like HTC and Samsung that have been dragged into the battle) able to dedicate the same level of time and investment to innovation. Surely, if you have faith in your product and your user base you should be able to compete in the open market and not resort to the courts to decide which product is the best.

I am no patent lawyer (not even close) and I can understand a need to protect your idea but when it gets out of hand like this, something in the system is broken, whether it is the system itself or whether the patents granted truly can be called justified will require many clever heads in the industry to sort it out,

At the point where we begin, we What follows is a summary of the news that has really dominated tech throughout August.

Nortel patents 1st July 2011
This is the tipping point for the recent bout of madness. Up until now, Google has been trying to sidestep all the patent issues and carry on the development of Android. However a constant stream of litigation against the successful mobile OS forces Google to look to purchase some protective patents of their own. However they misjudge the situation quite badly offering sums based on mathematical variables like Pi. They end up losing the patents to a consortium of 6 companies made up of the most unlikely set of allies: Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, Ericsson and EMC. The 6000 patents are sold for $4.5bn.

Apple files against HTC – 12th July
HTC and Google have been partnering together with Android for a while now and in their ongoing battle against the copycat designs of their mobile and tablet devices, Apple sued HTC for infringing on 20 of their patents. HTC denied the allegations and immediately counter-sued against Apples infringements of their own designs. It’s not the first company that Apple has tried to stop imports of their products, the previous month they had made the claims against Samsungs designs of phone and tablet

Google whines about everyone not playing fair – 3rd August
In what I felt was a very uncharacteristic for Google, they posted on their blog about how unfair everyone was being to Google and Android in particular. The post was titled When patents attack Android and was posted by David Drummond, Senior Vice President and Chief Legal Officer.

Rather than rant at the blogosphere, I think that Mr Drummond’s energies would have been better off directed at solving the problem rather than cry about it. Google simply looked like were sulking about losing out on the Nortel deal even though they didn’t take it as seriously as they should have.

Microsoft replies to Googles post publicly on Twitter – 4th August
Google’s assertions were swiftly contradicted by Microsoft. The firm’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, tweeted: “Google says we brought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

Frank Shaw, one of Microsoft’s top PR men, then tweeted an image of an email between Smith and Kent Walker, Google General Counsel, which appears to confirm that Microsoft offered to team up with Google.

David Drummond then goes on to update his blog post from the previous night to explain why they didn’t team up with the group and instead highlights the fact that the DOJ overturned the ownership of some of the patents and forced them to be handed over to the open source community.

The rest of the consortium opt not to join in the public slagging match and stay quiet.

Apple seeks injunction preventing Samsung galaxy tab in Europe – 10th August
In a mini-saga in itself, Apple files an injunction to ban sales of the Galaxy range of smartphones and the 10.1″ Galaxy Tab. This is initially granted despite controversy surrounding the doctoring of The Tab’s dimensions. The injunction is later lifted after courts decide that the only infringement is that of how the two devices scroll pages.

Google buys Motorola – 15th August
It’s a Monday morning, the markets haven’t even opened yet and Larry Page was announcing to the world that it has bought Motorola Mobility for $40 a share… In cash. This is of course the mobile phone arm of Motorola that was spun off as a separate company 8 months previously. In a deal for $12.5bn (£7.7bn), Google gets not only the ‘Mobility’ arm, which makes phones and tablets, but it also has a ‘Solutions’ division, which develops technology systems for industry. Analysts speculate that Google’s primary motivation was not for the hardware but also arms them with over 17,000 patents of protection for themselves. Although other handset manufacturers like samsung and HTC were falling over themselves to say what a good move it was for them, you can’t help but wonder how they really feel now that Google has a dedicated hardware platform that they can produce for.

The deal has yet to be completely finalised but Google expects the purchase to be completed by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

Microsoft tries to ban Motorola imports – 22nd August
Microsoft filed a suit on the above date accusing Google’s new besty, Motorola Mobility, of infringing on seven of Microsoft’s patents that just so happen to cover Android. Before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, Microsoft requested an import ban on a number of Motorola smartphones.

Microsoft is “confident that the ITC will rule in [its] favor.” Meanwhile, Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson said in an email to Bloomberg that Motorola is “vigorously defending [itself] against Microsoft’s patent attack business strategy.” And a business strategy is exactly what it is.

Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex will release his findings to the public on November 4.

Samsung tries to claim “prior art” on Apples patents – 23rd August
You can tell that Samsung is getting desperate in it’s fight against apple’s lawsuits. They made the claim that iPad-like tablets have already been established as “prior art,” thanks to a scene in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

In one of the Space Odyssey scenes, two astronauts are eating together. Each has a thin, tablet-like display next to his meal tray. Because the film was released in 1968, long before Apple designed the iPad, Samsung argues that Space Odyssey establishes iPad-like tablets as “prior art” and invalidates one of Apple’s patents.

“As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table’s surface), and a thin form factor,” Samsung’s legal team writes.

That’s it to date… Actually it’s not, there’s more looming over the horizon but if I don’t post now, I never will cos this is going to rumble on and on and on.

Apple forces app store rules affecting book stores – The stores reply

At the end of July Apple was set to enforce their rules on selling books and magazines from in-app purchases. The new policy stated that all in-application purchases must go through iTunes, because Apple gets a 30% cut of the sales there. As if wasn’t bad enough, Apple took it further to state that it would not allow the app to link to a website store and then totally overstepped the mark to state that there was not even allowed the mention that there was a store within the app.

One of the book stores, Kobo tried several times to update their app and it was continuously rejected until they fully complied with the requirements. Jim Dovey the IOS app developer lead for Kobo said:

The store was removed because Apple rejected any updates which included it, period. They also rejected any updates which stated that Apple required its removal, or indeed any mention of ‘compliance with App Store guidelines’. It was further rejected for the cardinal sin of allowing users to create a Kobo account within the app. Then it was rejected for providing a link to let users create an account outside the app. Then it was rejected for simply mentioning that it was possible to sign up, with no direction on where or how one could do that. Then it was rejected for making any mention of the Kobo website. Then for any mention of ‘our website’ at all, in any language. We additionally cannot make any assertions that Kobo provides content for sale, however obliquely.
What’s interesting is that it wasn’t the App Store review team that rejected Kobo’s attempts at getting their application update into the App Store – they actually approved each of these changes, only to have the approvals rescinded “from above”. What’s interesting about this is that Apple is specifically doing this to block competing content stores, further forcing people to use iTunes, and locking them into it even more. This is especially annoying for me in The Netherlands, since the iTunes Store is completely useless here – no movies, no television series (local or otherwise), barely any books, nothing. It’s a digital wasteland.

Despite the news that this was going to happen from tech journalists, those that were not in-the-know were very upset when the latest update to their app, as far as they were concerned, was broken as they could not get access to new books. Although the stores could have made more of an effort to notify their users that it was going to happen, the blame lies firmly in one companies court and thats you Apple.

Now Kobo has stated that they will be concentrating on developing on HTML5 from now on and will be leasing future releases of it’s e-reader there. They are hoping that by providing the user content this way they will be free to add more features without limitation.

Other books stores such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble have been quiet about their response to all this until yesterday when with very little fanfare Amazon beat everyone to the punch and released its HTML5 Kindle Cloudreader, a web-based version of their Kindle eBook reader app. It allows you to read your books from the cloud or to download your books for offline reading thanks to the magic of HTML 5 (or a Chrome browser extension). I haven’t tried it myself yet but the feedback from others has been massively positive so far.

The app is officially supported under Chrome and Safari and this includes the iPad… In fact Amazon highlights that it is optimised for try iPad on their site. IPhones are not currently supported so those users still have to negotiate the strangled app process but I think that it will come along sooner rather than later.

One thing I have read and is worth noting is that the cloud versions (and obviously the downloaded version) of the Kindle books are still limited to a set number of devices. So if you have your books downloaded to your Kindle, iPad, iPhone, etc, you may be over the limit and will not be able to read them in the cloud.

It seems to me that one of two things is happening here:

1) Apple is only concerned about profit. If this is so the only people they are hurting with this are iOS users. If they are prepared to go to such lengths for it then wait and see if they cripple HTML5 support on mobile Safari just to further frustrate Kobo’s, Amazon’s and others’ experiences.

2) In the beginning of the iPhones existence there were no apps and none were encouraged. Then, Apples direction was to get people to develop web apps for accessing through Safari instead. It may well be that Apple now considers HTML5 mature enough to develop on and push people away from App development.

Recent Tech articles 4th – 10th July 2011

It’s been another week of Google+ V’s Facebook. With more people gaining access to Google+ by fair means or foul and Facebook making their ‘Awesome’ announcement. The jury seems out whether Google+ will be a mainstream hit or just be a tech haven for geeks. The full global opening of the gates is likely to happen later this month. I finally managed to get my own invite and have been roaming about the site… I do have a limited amount of invites for anyone willing to subscribe to the blog.

Google started the week off a announcing that Blogger and Picasa would Be renamed. They then finished off the week announcement that YouTube, although not being renamed will take on the new design style.

During the early part of last week it seemed that each day was bringing a new security hack. A fresh one for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Post: https://cbeagrie.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/antisec-attacks-the-gathering-storm/

On Tuesday, a Global team was set up to fight global cybercrime. This has taken a while to set up and through other previous treaties. Recent AntiSec events have promoted a push to get it up and running.

There was a call this week from Google to the UK Government to open previous closed door discussions on the website-blocking debate to the public. In a later post, Ed Vaizey responds to reports of ‘conspiracy’ on industry web-blocking discussions.

Facebook announce that it was introducing video calling as their ‘awesome’ announcement.. Half a week later, Spammers swoop in to try and catch people out.

Apple filed a patent for an Augmented Reality device, so what is it? Plus some examples

Recent Tech articles 4th – 10th July 2011

It’s been another week of Google+ V’s Facebook. With more people gaining access to Google+ by fair means or foul and Facebook making their ‘Awesome’ announcement. The jury seems out whether Google+ will be a mainstream hit or just be a tech haven for geeks. The full global opening of the gates is likely to happen later this month. I finally managed to get my own invite and have been roaming about the site… I do have a limited amount of invites for anyone willing to subscribe to the blog.

Google started the week off a announcing that Blogger and Picasa would Be renamed. They then finished off the week announcement that YouTube, although not being renamed will take on the new design style.

During the early part of last week it seemed that each day was bringing a new security hack. A fresh one for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Post: https://cbeagrie.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/antisec-attacks-the-gathering-storm/

On Tuesday, a Global team was set up to fight global cybercrime. This has taken a while to set up and through other previous treaties. Recent AntiSec events have promoted a push to get it up and running.

There was a call this week from Google to the UK Government to open previous closed door discussions on the website-blocking debate to the public. In a later post, Ed Vaizey responds to reports of ‘conspiracy’ on industry web-blocking discussions.

Facebook announce that it was introducing video calling as their ‘awesome’ announcement.. Half a week later, Spammers swoop in to try and catch people out.

Apple filed a patent for an Augmented Reality device, so what is it? Plus some examples

AntiSec Attacks – The gathering storm?

Since Lulzsec downed their tools, those in the security community have been waiting for the AntiSec community and now we have the first warning shots across our bows. The LulzSec group were highly active for a period of 50 days claiming that this period of activism was planned to wake up the AntiSec community.

Monday 4th July – Apple servers hacked.
Hacker group Anonymous claims it has hacked one of Apple’s servers and posted usernames and passwords to prove it on their Twitter account, together with a warning that Apple could be a target of one of their attacks.

“Not being so serious, but well (…) #Apple could be target, too. But don’t worry, we are busy elsewhere”, tweeted @AnonymousIRC

Along with the tweet there was a link to a text file on Pastebin reported to be from one of Apple’s servers that contained a list of user names and passwords. As the passwords are encrypted so it will require some work to try to extract information from the tables (it would be possible for instance if someone has used a weak password for that to be recovered through a brute force hack… This may give hints to the encryption key). The server hacked was related to managing surveys and has been taken offline since the attack.

At the same time that the Anonymous tweet was posted there was another post from a lone hacker named Idahc claiming the he had found an SQL vulnerability in Apple’s servers but did not release any data from the hack.

It may well be that the upcoming cloud storage solutions of iTunes and iCloud may be looking like rich pickings from hacking groups.

Tuesday 6th July – Fox news political Twitter account hacked.
On Tuesday, the Fox News political Twitter account began posting suspicious messages including tweets that said that the US president had been fatally wounded in a shooting. A hacker group calling themselves Scriptkiddies claimed responsibility for gaining access to the account. The group gained control of @foxnewspolitics, bragging about it on several Twitter accounts (now suspended).

“BREAKING NEWS: President @BarackObama assassinated, 2 gunshot wounds have proved too much. It’s a sad 4th for #america. #obamadead RIP

Fox News said that they were working with Twitter to address the situation “We will be requesting a detailed investigation from Twitter about how this occurred, and measures to prevent future unauthorized access into FoxNews.com accounts”, said Jeff Misenti, vice president and general manager of Fox News Digital.

The US Secret Service are also looking into the attack.

Tuesday 5th July – PayPal UK Twitter Account Hacked
Also reported on Tuesday was news of another hack, the Twitter account of Paypal UK this time. The hacked account was then used to post links to a. Anti-Paypal site called paypalsucks.com which describes itself as “exposing the nightmare of doing business ‘the PayPal way.”

“This account was hacked earlier. We have it in our control now. Your personal data is still 100% safe, hack occurred on Twitter not PayPal,” tweeted PayPal UK after regaining control of the account late Tuesday.

The tweets were later removed by PayPal UK.

Recent Tech articles – 6th-12th June

Last week there was a quiet hum going on in the Tech World. It wasn’t as if there was nothing going on, it was just that a lot of the Journalists were either at the WWDC or at E3.

The E3 covers consumer electronics so other than to mention that the New Playstation Vita and the Nintendo Wii U shows us the advancement of new tech, I’m not covering it here, I will however make mention of the WWDC and you can read my overview and underlying posts on that starting here…. There is more in depth coverage of the main highlights of Lion, OS5 and iCloud too. It wasn’t mentioned in the original post but it’s worth mentioning that us here in the UK are just going to have to wait for iCloud to fully come to us as the record labels over here have yet to settle on a deal…

Moving on to social media, Twitter announced that they were gong to be providing their own link shortening service for the Twitter web service… No announcement for third-party applications. Once again Facebook this week was in trouble again this week over privacy issues when it was announced (quietly), that facial recognition would be promoting tag suggestions on your photos.

More Apple news with more on the Lodsys patent suit where developers bite back and Apple tries to get in between them an Lodsys. Also, Apple settles with Nokia over long standing patent infringements.

An article and video worth watching on the BBC Click website is about concerns that schools and universities are not teaching the basic programming skills that are required and the introduction of a £15 tiny PC on a circuit board called Rasberry Pi… Thanks to Daniel for that one… See it here http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/click_online/9503255.stm

I’ll close out this week with a Mac app for you to look over, iTerm2 is a feature rich terminal app. If you spend time at the command line on Mac, it’s well worth it.

Apple to pay Nokia as the two companies settle outstanding litigation

The roots of this story actually go back to late 2009 when Nokia alleged that the iPhone infringed on several of Nokia’s patents.. A year later and Apple fire back saying that Nokia infringes on some Apple patents. The in December Nokia filed suits in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands over 13 patent infringements. Nokias claims were over the inner workings of the iPhone and Apples were over the UI and design of the Nokia phones
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Lodsys Patent infringement suit – Developers bite back and Apple steps back into the ring.

Lodsys, the company pursuing Apple and Android developers in a very widely reported patent infringement suit, increased the amount of companies they were chasing last week to include Adidas, Best buy, Black and Decker and several others. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise as they havent been seen to be backing down against the might of Apple so far.
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WWDC 2011 highlights – Apple OSX 10.7 – LION

There was a lot in Lion that a lot of people knew about , there are a lot of machines out there with the developer edition already sitting there as their secondary boot partition or (hush now) Hackintosh setup. Just to recap, this means greater integration with the Mac App Store, full screen support for applications (works like it would on an iPad) and a heavy use of multi-touch gestures. Lion also introduces the Launchpad, an iPad-like home screen with rows of icons or groups for launching apps and Mission Control which enhances what is currently Spaces and Expose
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What happened at the WWDC 2011? Keynote highlights

It was almost like there was no other tech news. It seemed like every tech journalist had gone on holiday at once… Why was this? Probably because everyone who was anyone in the technology world was at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference 2011 to see what Steve Jobs was going to say about Lion, IOS5 and the much anticipated iCloud.
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