IBM-Amazon Patent Spat

As Tim Bray (I believe) correctly points out, it appears that Zdnet’s David Berlind is the first one to really address this scary issue.

Even Groklaw, which should be all over this one, is silent on this issue.

This issue is far-reaching: IBM is suing Amazon for patent infringement, and the patents – to me, not a lawyer – appear to cover almost all forms of e-commerce, from ads to online catalogs.

Take a step back, and you’ll see that if IBM is successful against Amazon (not a given, obviously), IBM can require licenses for just about any site that displays ads/sells product.

That’s scary.

So what’s really going on here? IBM has championed open-source software (OSS), and – as the patent leader in the software industry – has “donated” hundreds of patents to the public, pledging to never enforce them so the internet can flourish without worries that come up from SCO nuisance suits.

The suit against Amazon – while it could lead to a pot ‘o gold (and IBM is a for-profit business) – seems at odds with what it’s been doing over the past few years re:patents and OSS.

I think this action by IBM is a shot across the bow to Amazon regarding Amazon’s ridiculous 1-Click patent (even iTunes has to license this so-called technology).

To me, it’s IBM’s way of telling Amazon to either: 1) Donate the patent to the public, or 2) At the very least, don’t pull any shit like this in the future.

Why do I think this?

  • As I mentioned, this patent nonsense is not in keeping with IBM’s recent behavior, so it’s suspect.
  • IBM has more to lose by winning this battle than by keeping Amazon in check. IBM is services and hardware/software – the more people who use it, the better. If Amazon keeps forcing licensing to the 1-Click (or other obvious patents), the barrier to entry will be higher. So IBM will sell less services and product. Ditto if IBM wins and erects toll booths.
  • If they win – and it’ll cost a bit to get there – they really can’t afford to go after too many deep pockets, because – again – it’ll put a chill on the industry and, again, IBM’s sales will take a hit.
  • IBM is years deep in its defense against SCO’s charges of some sort of Linux tampering (alleged tampering varies by the day almost). From the beginning, SCO’s attempt to, essentially, put a toll booth on Linux has cost the Utah-based company dearly in a public relations manner (and other ways, was well); IBM has gained a lot of respect and kudos for not backing down to these ridiculous charges and fighting to keep Linux open and free. It well understands the PR firestorm toll booths could potentially create.

There is one dark horse in this battle: Let’s assume IBM goes ahead with the litigation, wins, and it turns out IBM’s patents are prior art that nullify Amazon’s 1-Click patent.

What happens then? Amazon takes a huge hit, as all the licensing fees for the patent are gone (retroactively?), and IBM puts the patent in the public, so they can sell more services, hardware and software.

I don’t think IBM is going after Amazon to really set up toll booths on the internet, as Berlind has postulated.

They are trying – in one way or another – to make sure no toll booths exist, so the company can keep making money on everything else.

Remember – In business, sometimes it’s better to have something and make no money off it than to have a competitor have same and they’re making money off it (or has the potential to, somehow, monetize it).

I think this is one of the major reasons Google purchased YouTube: So no one else could.

Think about that.

Concentric Blues

I host this site at Concentric; this was my first domain, and I’ve not moved the site in the 10 or so years I’ve had it at Concentric.

However, Concentric has screwed me twice now:

  • They lowered the price and increased the benefits of my package without notifying me. When I called, they told me they would only give the better deal (on existing package) to people who called. I.e., who called them on it.
  • This week, I saw my disk space was getting tight – for me – so I checked to see what more disk space would cost. I did this through my admin account. When I did the same just logging in to the page, it was…different. My plan offers 250M of disk space. My plan – as currently offered on the Concentric page – offers 2,000M of disk space for same cost.

I called up and (after a little discussion) was switched to the (same) plan so I got more disk space, at no additional cost.

Two strikes against Concentric.

Hell, I was shopping around to see if I could move the domain so I could get more stuff, mainly disk space. They could have lost me (and my $XX/mo) because they didn’t tell me I actually could have more disk space. Why wouldn’t they trumpet this? Disk space is cheap; sent out an e-mail saying how Concentric is improving your life, instead of me writing about how, basically, I feel Concentric has screwed me over and could have lost me?

But I’ve never been a marketing guy. I see the other side of the coin, but I just don’t “get” the obverse.

Firefox 2.0 – Excellent

I’ve installed the Firefox 2.0 browser on both my Windows XP and 2000 boxes; seamless install. (Yep – early adopter – 2.0 update came this PM)

And it looks better. I’ll have to see – over the next few days – if it’s better other than graphically.

But a nice update. No pain, and THAT’s a good (unusual) thing.

Juggling Domains

About a Boy
Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, directors

A Hugh Grant vehicle in which Grant plays the character he always plays: The boorish, self-centered womanizing cad.

But it’s way more than that. At times just a comedy, it’s also filled with pathos, insights into “how did we get here and why?” and what relationships mean.

It’s about, on many levels, the human conditions.

Understated, very funny and with great performances all around, About a Boy is difficult to classify but enjoyable to watch. It’s based on a book by Nick Hornby, who also wrote the John Cusack vehicle, High Fidelity.

Music, by Badly Drawn Boy, works extremely well with the movie.

All movies

One of the things I really enjoy doing (duh!) is web work.

However, with my job doing the same, my work on my various personal sites has, well, suffered.

As in, I have not done a damn thing with any of them over the last year or two.

I just renewed the domain name for one of my sites ( – I’ve been wanting to move this domain to a Linux platform for over a year, but I just don’t have the time to recode the site from Cold Fusion to whatever language I pick (PHP, I’m sure, to start).


And, back in April(!), I picked up a new domain that I’ve wanted for some time to use as a wild experimentation site.

Still nothing there.


One of these fine days…

On the plus side, many of the tools I’ve written over the last few years still power large parts of these sites, silently and consistently updating various sites with RSS feeds, review and gallery updates.

That’s way cool.

I just want to do more, dammit!

Credit Where Credit is Due

I’ve pointed out how my upgrade from iTunes 6.x to 7.0 was a complete disaster, but Apple did come out with a patch (7.0.1) that has resolved all the issues I had.

This has created a lot of ill-will towards Apple, however. This is how Microsoft handles upgrades. You always wait for the service patch.

YouTube Snafu

Stephen Gaghan, director

A very complicated, very interesting, very involved and – ultimately – very disappointing movie.

The movie was about the stability of the Middle East and the behavior of the companies/governments that use the oil from its fields. The message was simple: Nothing is as it seems. The people who run this don’t, this that seems like white is black, doublespeak is the language of all, and it all comes down to the almighty buck.

Could be compelling, but – as presented here – it was just overkill and (possibly intentionally) confusing. I thought Three Kings (also with Clooney) did a much better job of showing how the craziness in the Middle East was oil/money/power based – with that religious wildcard, of course.

All movies

One of the big tech stories – probably the biggest – of the week is Google’s acquisition of YouTube.

This aquisition (see the story), needless to say, lit up the blogosphere like a Christmas tree. Everyone had something to say about it. (I guess today it’s my turn.)

Late last week, a few days after the purchase was announced, Robert Cringely weighed in.

Now, I like Cringely – he has a long history in Silicon Valley, many contacts and comes up with some strange, yet plausible conclusions – but I think he missed the boat on this one.

In his PBS column, Cringely says that YouTube is not (yet) the future of television.

I don’t think anyone ever really thought it was, did they?

To me, YouTube is the video version of Flickr (Flickr tagline: The best way to store, search, sort and share your photos) combined with Tivo for the Tivo-less.

The first point you can probably understand, the second may be a little harder to understand.

Let me give an example.

A co-worker was telling me about Stephen Colbert’s Green Screen challenge. I’d heard nothing about it (I haven’t seen The Colbert Report for about a month).

Colbert put a green screen version of him doing a Star Wars light sabre routine up on YouTube and invited people to download and modify it. Ove the next week or so, he ran clips of some of the contenders and so on.

I went home, hit YouTube, and saw the set up, some examples, and the winners (including an entry by one “George L”[ucas], who appeared on the show).

It was like I Tivoed it, but I don’t have a Tivo.

Now does it make sense?

I don’t think YouTube is really trying to be television, it is doing – ironically – much of what Google is doing – INDEXING video, including television.

I can’t go to my TV and type in “Law and Order” and get a list of all (14 million) Law and Order shows currently running.

But, by going to YouTube and typing in a couple of keywords, I was watching all the Colbert green screen silliness (pretty damn good, by the way).

This is powerful.

Think of the next possible step – where you view a trailer on YouTube (through the not-yet-invented Home Media device) and you can click throught to the whole show, which is an on-demand download for pennies, and includes the commercials, possibly targetted ads based upon your viewing choice and/or past views.


YouTube becomes Tivo (with teasers) and the video version of the TV Guide. The possiblities are endless. The more I think about it, the more I see the purchase really making sense.

Which is why I think Cringely missed the point.

Define Progress

After circling the Baghdad airport for 40 minutes because of mortar and rocket fire, traveling by helicopter to the Green Zone to avoid the deadly bomb-strewn highway into the city and holding a meeting with President Jalal Talabani in darkness because the power was suddenly cut off, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice held a news conference Thursday to talk about all the progress being made in Iraq.

This kind of clueless happy talk in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary might produce great material for political satirists, but it’s not very encouraging for those looking for signs of hope in the Middle East.

Rice’s Baffling Mideast Trip, L.A. Times Op-Ed, 10/08/2006

If this is progress, I’d hate to see what slippage looks like.

And this is an LA Times Op-Ed, not some random leftwing/rightwing wingnut out on the web. From one of the better papers in the U.S., and one that actually tries to do national/international coverage.

The Hungarian Clockmaster

A few weeks ago, our cuckoo clock stopped working. I knew my dad knew an older guy who worked out of his house fixing clocks – my dad had used him – so I got the number and gave the guy a call.

This clock guy lives only minutes from where I work, so I called and asked when I could drop off the clock; he was free then.

So I ran over.

He looked at the clock, diagnosed, fixed and oiled the clock in about 10 minutes.

Cost? $5.


And then I made a blunder – as he was marking the clock to indicate when it was oiled, I asked him where he learned the craft (he does watches and clocks). He said back where he was born, in Europe.

I asked what country (he sounded German, but not really).

He replied “Hungry,” and then the floodgates opened.

This guy works out of his house in a little room which I assume was once a bedroom, and he probably doesn’t see many people during the day (he had pictures of grandkids, but I don’t know if his wife was still alive) – so when I asked him what country, I proceeded to get his life history. Honest. Here is just some of what I can remember:

  1. The house he grew up in had only three rooms, the main room dominated by the pot-bellied stove, which was used for cooking and heat.
  2. One small room was used as a pantry of sorts, to store produce. Carrots they’d stick into the sand that was the floor, and pull them out and use as necessary.
  3. 10 people lived in this house – seven children, mom, dad and grandpa. Everyone slept in the main room around the stove.
  4. House was made of abode, with walls about 15 inches thick. The front of the house, while adobe, was covered with stone.
  5. Very hot in the summer, and they’d have to take the Hungarian equivalent of a a siesta during midday. Too dangerous to work outside at this time.
  6. He violated this siesta rule once and was sun-struck. He almost died.
  7. Dangerously cold in the winter too; people outside could freeze to death.
  8. His grandfather froze to death. He was going to another town although his parents begged him to not go at that time. He didn’t listen; he froze.
  9. Water was pulled from the well and poured into shallow wooden troughs for use.
  10. He moved to the Dominican Republic at some point.
  11. Very hot in the Dominican Republic, too – everyone wore broad-brimmed straw hats to shield from the sun, plus – when you moved – the brims would flap up and down, stirring up a little breeze for your face.
  12. He saw then Vice President Richard Nixon while in the Dominican Republic.
  13. After coming to America, he was drafted right before the Bay of Pigs Invasion.
  14. He couldn’t fill out his draft form because he only spoke/wrote Hungarian and Spanish, not English. Some Sargent tore him a new one for not filling it out, but he can only guess he was sworn at because he didn’t speak the language.
  15. They gave him a Spanish form to complete, and they told him he’d be going to Cuba, but that never happened.

A remarkable torrent of tales.

So Much For Checks and Balances

Patti Smith

I first heard this album – on a record – in the apartment of a friend in college (~1980). She liked Patti Smith; I’d heard of her, but – shrug – whatever.

I heard the full album and quickly bought same.

I recently purchased the CD and am totally enjoying same. Patti Smith is not to everyone’s taste, but damn she is good:

“Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine…”

All music

The Dictator President of the United States has made, to me, another end run around the whole constitutional process with his recent bill signing:

President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department’s reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency’s 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the President’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”

Associated Press, via MSN

Yet, with all the FoleyGate press coverage, this privacy issue is buried.

As are we.