Friday, September 01, 2006

Alternatives to Antiproperty Incubation

Really common question:

"Does the patent system do more harm than good?"

Just about everything I read assumes that the answer is: "No - most patent systems are a net good for societies, but we can do better."

After all, patents are just antiproperty with a 20 year incubation period as a government-granted intellectual property franchise. In other words, patent systems carry a lot of baggage.

Assuming that the common wisdom is true - the next question is:

"What's better?" Or more specifically: "Are there systems that can be developed alongside the patent system that can provide us with additional IF?"

I was recently alerted to a paper by Tom Bell discussing one such potential parallel system - scientific predictive exchanges. (spex) I like the idea, and I can see how predictive markets could not only encourage research, but, were the claims to be "bet" upon collaboratively developed, they would potentially expand IF.

SPEX aren't all that different from your company's internal office pool on "what product Google will announce next?" or "when will the release date of your own next product will finally arrive?". These predictive games may not change the world, but good ideas and good data can come out of them (and you might make a few bucks, too!).

A little extra investment in the implementation of a SPEX, however, might make all the difference in its utility. As I alluded to previously, if someone can come up with a good predictive scientific exchange that encouraged collaborative development of scientific claims, then well defined, high-quality ideas might develop that did not previously exist. Exactly what the patent system is supposed to do, without the abuses and high transaction costs.

To restate the last question in light of this new system, assuming SPEX ideas are cheaper to society than patented ideas (and we have no reason to believe otherwise):

"Can a SPEX be designed to encourage the generation of useful ideas, especially those that would qualify as prior art?"

A SPEX that answers that question in the affirmative might not be designed so much as a "market" as a collaborative tool. This train of thought brings me a conclusion I come to often: Keep working on on-line collaborative tools. They hold rare potential as technological solutions to social-political problems.

Anyone up for a predictive market plug-in to MeidaWiki?

UPDATE: HFS, Batman! An idea incubator website thingy! This is almost totally unrelated to anything else I've discussed here, but so cool that I can't help myself from linking to it.

Actually, Cambrian house is just a web apps company that encourages anyone to post ideas for them to develop, and anyone to help develop them. If they are successful, well...I would like to say that they will encourage the documentation of a lot of useful, high quality antiproperty. The initial stage ideas are very thinly described, however, and Cambrian house is not capable of implementing more than a few of them. The thing is, given two generally useful ideas, the very well documented idea will be very useful. Most patent systems do a reasonable job of encouraging good documentation.

On the other hand, Cambrian house does publish specs as they work, so that others can contribute labor for royalty points. Cambrian house is just starting out, and they are highly involved in the voting process, so maybe they can encourage something closer to patent quality work.

I love this idea.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Intellectual Antiproperty

I submit to the court as interesting a recent discussion with my friend David Rowe. He asserts that the creation of an intellectual work, protected from monopolization by design, will more evenly distribute wealth-creation that would otherwise be centralized, were that same intellectual work held as property. That's a mouthful.

If you can put up with my naiveté, you may find my response intriguing:

> > I also have an economic theory I am working on " if closed IP makes a
> > small amount of people a lot of money - does opening the IP make a
> > moderate amount of money for a large amount of people". The latter
> > seems better to me. I would be interested in your thoughts on this.
> Maybe Intellectual Property (IP) is not the right term. I say you are
> creating Intellectual Antiproperty, or expanding Intellectual Freedom.
> IA sounds kind of like a pinko communist plot, so lets use that. ;-)
> IMHO, the idea of IP is borderline unethical. IP is a promise from
> the government to punish people for using ideas. Freeing IP - putting
> it in the public domain (expanding IF or creating IA), makes it more
> difficult for governments to punish people, and allows people to have
> better lives by making peaceful use of information they posess.
> IA and IF as ideas, are arguably beyond moral reproach.
> This IP stuff is all tied up in government corruption. You hear this
> one a lot: Would we not have great drugs without a patent system?
> Huge amounts of money have to be spent to create great drugs, and we
> know that governments, given any amount of money, can only bumble. So
> it is said that pharmaceutical companies must be compensated with IP,
> and those who cannot afford drugs must not be allowed to make them.
> This leads to vast profits for pharmaceutical companies, who only
> spend a tiny portion (10-20 percent) of their revenues on reearch.
> I'm not railing against capitalism - it's great motivation. But
> patents suck. Not only do people get hurt by patents, but whole
> industries are very inefficient.
> The solution to that one, unfortunately, involves big bucks and
> stamping out corruption, a difficult pairing. Big governments, or
> lots of little ones, have to reward companies for actually solving
> problems of their citizens by finding new drugs, and collect taxes to
> pay the rewards. The rewards have to be greater than the cost of the
> research. Then anyone can build and sell the drugs. It's a radical
> change. And governments these days are difficult to change.
> There is some happy medium in which some IP can exist, and some IA can
> exist. I don't have much beef with 20 year copyright grants, and
> copyright is a cornerstone of viral IA licensing, like the GPL.
> However, I am totally unconvinced that patents are beneficial to
> society.
> So I think you are dead on ethically, and I think you are expanding
> the IA domain, which encroaches on the IP domain. Under most patent
> law, all that is necessary is that prior art exist to free ideas.
> So you know what I think about what you are doing, but the root
> question is: how is financial benefit from IA distributed? We have
> experience with this situation, and there is a good bit of data out
> there. We know what has happened already in similar cases - lots of
> people will use your free software and free hardware, and get great
> benefit from it. This will improve their lives, and allow them to
> spend money on other things. Lots of service industries spring up
> around IA, and small businesses combining IA and IP. I like small
> businesses. So I think this is an excellent outcome. Well, back to
> work on our patented software!

One of my goals was to introduce suitable terminology to allow us to accurately discuss David's theory.

Introducing suitable terminology to solve problems is enjoyable and useful. It's almost a habit for myself and many of my friends, and it has got me interested in morphology in general; I can't help but analyze this. So we're looking for something that solves our problem in such a way as to be unique, useful, easy to use, and clear.

Intellectual anti-property is actually a more useful term for broad consumption than anti-property because it is a compound noun. When the average person looks at the term anti-property, they probably see a compound preposition and interpret it as meaning "against property". However, if you use the term Intellectual Anti-Property, or IA, no such misinterpretation can be made. Either term holds up on the usefulness test for our purposes, the acronyms being particularly easy to use.

I have since done a little research and have found little coverage of the concept of IA, so I would like to discuss this further with anyone who is interested. There are lots of related concepts, like copyleft, Open Content, among others, but none that plainly and simply refer to intellectual works protected from becoming intellectual property by design.

Intellectual freedom is used commonly in a similar context.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Testing Apple Upgrades

When I left the Apple store with my MacBook, I was carrying a 13 inch MacBook and an AppleCare warranty. I'm happy with my MacBook, and happy to pay 250USD for a 3-year comprehensive AppleCare warranty.

Apple upgrades are overpriced. As a rule of thumb, you can get a better accessory with a better warranty at half the price anywhere else. Let's test that.

The Test

To complete my home setup, I needed an external monitor and a couple gigs of RAM for the MacBook.


Eric recommended OWC for the memory. I checked it out.

Total price charged my card with FedEx 2-day shipping: $236.64
The order went through at about 6PM on a Tuesday.

Response to warranty question:

Duane Crago: Good evening. All memory has a lifetime replacement warranty.

Rich Bodo: Cool. thanks. is there a web page that states that?

Duane Crago:

Rich Bodo: thanks. I'll blog you guys if this works out!

Well, I didn't get the best deal out there. There are better deals coming up every day. But here's a page that lists some better ones. Still, I did meet my goals, and it looks like princeton chips with good manufacturing quality on the board.

The memory arrived on Friday.

I simply followed the instructions in the supplied macbook manual to get it installed. Read and follow along with that manual, but bear in mind these notes: NOTE 1: The manual asks you to listen for a "click" when inserting the memory. You *might* feel a click, but you won't hear anything. Just make sure it's in as far as the old memory was, taking into account it's dimensions. NOTE 2: the levers don't retract into the memory compartment, the cover pushes them back in place. NOTE 3: If you can't find your set of jewlers screwdrivers, frys has a great little pocket screwdriver for two bucks with everything you need to work on your mac.

External Display

Apple wants 799USD for a 20-inch external monitor. Their monitors are nice, so this may not be easy to beat in quality. It took me a while to find a monitor that looked better to me than the 20-inch, but I found one. The one I bought was a ViewSonic OptiSync VX924 Xtreme Gaming 19" LCD Monitor (Black/Silver) Although it's slightly smaller, it looks a lot better to me personally, and it's got a better included warranty (3 year) at less than one third the price of the Apple monitor. I would much rather look at the VX924 all day, so this is an acceptable deal. Right now it's selling at Amazon for 259.99USD after rebate. I am waiting for it to arrive. To be fair, I don't think there are any monitors out there that are exactly comparable to the Apple monitors feature-wise. They are in a class by themselves. But since this is a subjective thing, the ViewSonic passes my test. If you are looking for a monitor that is half the price of the Apple, and very, very similar, there is a monitor from Dell, the UltraSharp 2007WFP 20.1-inch Widescreen Flat Panel LCD Monitor with Height Adjustable Stand, for 390USD that might fit the bill.

Approximate total for my home setup:

MacBook: 1100.00

AppleCare: 250.00

2 G RAM: 225.00

19" External LCD Mon.: 260.00

Screwdriver: 2.00

miniDVI to DVI cable: 20.00

Or, about 2000 bucks after tax and shipping, plus a little bit of my time. You won't have to put up with another blog post from me on laptops for the next 3 years.

Monday, June 05, 2006

SHDH Day 2 - lessons

I really didn't get the chance to have a Day 2, having to fulfill responsibilities for my friends and family. All unexpected stuff.

I arrived at France Telecom at 8PM, and found that most of the teams didn't get much of a chance to spend a second day on the job, either.

Unexpectedly, I think the contest was actually too long. Everyone thought they could get something done in two days, but didn't factor in that they would not be able to actually spend two days on the project. My project was a two-day project, maybe a three or four day. What I really needed was a one-day or even a half-day project idea.

I was able to help some other projects with tiny scripts, and I still plan to finish up a couple scripts for yet others.

The teams that placed were teams that just did the best project/time management.

Everyone I spoke with had a blast. Personally, I learned enough about Mac OS X Tiger and the new MacBook that I went out an bought one. I'm typing on it now.

My next post will detail where to get a good deal on a memory upgrade for this thing (Definitely NOT from Apple). After that, I'll post my parallels config for Mac OS X, Ubuntu, and Win2K.

If you haven't seen Parallels, you should check out any of the myriad of fast os switching videos on-line. That and a tour of a MacBook from someone who has one should convince you that an extra 1000 bucks for a MacBook is no big deal. Not to mention that, with the demise of thinkpad service, the AppleCare protection plan is the last decent insurance policy for a laptop.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

SHDH X Day 1 - Like work, only better

So I had a revelation this morning. After spending four work hours on TurboGears filing bugs on SqlObject, working around poor documentation, and chatting with the only other responsive person in the chatroom, I have thrown in the TurboGears towel. I had a sort-of working todolist example, plus bugs. If I'm going to get anywhere with the 16 work hours or so I have left, I'm going to need a more "rapid" development environment, like CGI, maybe. I'll revisit TurboGears when they are a bit further along.

This morning I woke up wondering how I was going to get things done. Not that there is any real pressure to do so. The whole thing has a sense of humor about it, and no one has anything invested, so if anything does get done, bonus.

Anyway, I picked up the mail this morning and David Heinemeier Hansson was looking back at me from my Linux Journal magazine, as if to say..."Give in yet?". Yeah. I give. I'm installing rails on my laptop as we speak. It's about 1PM, and having already gone through a rails tutorial, I know this is going to get me there.

So SHDH X is being held at France Telecom in S.San Francisco. I'm in a beautiful corner office with a developer from another team. Everyone is running Ubuntu. Anyway, a bit of a late start but better late than never. I have the simple goals today of:

* finishing the design of the basic app
* fixing my eterm colors and learning a few more screen commands
* getting a rails app with the correct data model installed on my laptop.
* getting a basic rails app installed on the competition server.
* go to a barbecue for dinner.
* meet a few more people.


So far, so good. Notes:


Eterm is very old. The last checkin was years ago. There is probably something better. If you install Ubuntu eterm, the config file you want to modify is in:


To figure it out, you will need to open the man page for eterm,, and an advanced search page on the sourceforge "enlightenment" project mailing lists. Anyway, I've successfully changed a few minor things like foreground and background color, and consider myself lucky. Anyone who has a good Eterm user.cfg with a lot of font configs let me know.


Someday soon I'm going to write the best damn article on screen, ever. But for now, I have picked up a couple new screen commands. "Control key [" puts you in copy mode, which gives you access to the scrollback buffer. This is important. In my .screenrc, I have added these emacs key bindings:

# ------------------------------------------------------------
# ------------------------------------------------------------

# emacs keybindings for navigation in copy mode
markkeys h=^B:l=^F:0=^A:$=^E
markkeys " =^ "

# special hack for C-e, since it should go *past* # the last char. -m means this is for copy mode only. bindkey
-m ^e stuff "$^f"

# C-g and other keys just quit copy mode. Esc does nothing. markkeys 033=015=^G=^D=h=j=k=l=H=M=L=G=g=y=c=v=a=x=
b=e=B=E=w markkeys @=033

# control arrows move by words. (set B, e, and w to F keys so that i can use # them to move by words, but they
themselves still quit copy mode.) markkeys B=[:E=]:b={:e=}:w=> bindkey -m ^[Od stuff { #"[[}" bindkey -m ^[Oc s
tuff ] #"}]^f"

So it's only 3:34PM and I have met a few new people, and made screen and eterm more tolerable. That's a little under an hour each for those enjoyable tasks. Oh, one more thing about screen, remapping the crontrol key is a must - the default is Ctrl-A, which of course interferes with readline bindings.

Friday, June 02, 2006

SHDH Day 0

At SHDH day 0, which is a four hour get together. My goals for the weekend:

1) Learn some Python
2) Learn some TurboGears
3) Write a useful web application

That's right, I'm probably the least skilled programmer here, and I've decided to give TurboGears a try instead of rails as everyone else seems to be using. Hopefully I'll get it installed on the competition server. I just got it installed on my laptop last night, which was a small victory.

I'm starting with the todo-list application from Brian Beck.

First thing I noticed is that there are several gotchas in the wiki that will prevent the app from running on an up-to-date version of TurboGears. All the tutorials look broken this way. That is, bugs in the latest version prevent the tutorial instructions from being valid. I'll file documentation bugs for the tutorials.

O.K. I made the mistake of having a beer and it's looking like I'll get the todolist app up tonight, at best.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Incredible Secret Money Machines

The Incredible Secret Money Machine is a book by Don Lancaster. It was the first business book I was ever exposed to and it probably gave me the business bug. My older brother was in high school, and probably on his third or fourth business at the time. I was a skinny kid into Dungeons and Dragons who dreamed of writing video games for a living. I came across a dog-eared copy of TISMM underneath my brothers home-made workbench in a pile of sawdust and solder drippings. I immediately started thinking "scungy" (a sniglet coined by Don Lancaster that means, roughly "inventive and frugal"). Somewhere along the way, we lose sight of the fact that we like to sit under homemade desks in piles of sawdust and lab scrapings reading unusual books, and start thinking that what we really want is a pile of money.

This is why I must go to superhappydevhouse X on Jun 2-4. I'll be there most of the weekend. I have been there before and it's a lot of fun. This time, the contest is irresistable. You have to build a money-machine. That is, a website that is fully automated and accepts paypal. Once you have that in place, you have to not touch it for a month. No email, no nuthin'. If your site is crap, it's crap. If it goes down, it goes down. At the end of a month, all the money goes into a pot and most of it gets donated to charity, or something like that. If you win, you get to be a winner for a day. Then everyone goes their seperate ways with their incredible not-so-secret money machines. Pretty neat, huh? I can't wait.

I also started a team. We've got a few people in it. We're going to try to find a lab bench to park our asses under and write a really unusual website. At least that's the plan.

Friday, May 19, 2006

How I Sold My Car in One Hour on Craigslist

My car was overheating so I took it to a shop. By way of background, my car was a beloved Camry wagon worth no more than 2000USD. My guess at the problem was that it's 10 dollar thermostat was sticking. So when my mechanic estimated 750 bucks to do some repair work, I moaned before approving the work.

Later in the day, my mechanic called me and told me he needed to do another 900 bucks worth of work to get the car running.

Needless to say, I wrote my draft demand letter, grabbed my shop manual, and the pink for the car, and prepared to kick ass. When I arrived at the shop, however, I found that the guy was honest and dead on. It had overheated for too long. The car was toast. It needed a complete rebuild. He had done everything right. Crap. I offered to sell the car to him for 1KUSD instead of completing the repairs. No sale.

A little down, I thanked my mechanic and walked across the street to the nearest web browser, put my car on craigslist for 1KUSD with absolutely full disclosure of its condition and no pictures.

Two minutes later, my cell phone is ringing off the hook. One hour later, I have 1KUSD cash in my pocket and my car and pink slip are gone. It sold that fast.

Taxi? Take me to the nearest web developer. I've got 1000USD in my pocket.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

<announcement>Open Telephony Hardware

The first GPL design for an asterisk-compatible analog card was published a week or two back by the ucAsterisk project. It's a four-port FXO design. I haven't been blogging so I missed reporting this. It's still in a design review stage, so it hasn't been tested yet. If you are so inclined, check it out and provide some input!

This is a good stage at which to get involved with a good project. The design link above actually includes a design review checklist and helpful links for reviewing the design with open source EDA tools.

Update: In the time it took me to post this, the ucAsterisk project had put out GPL designs for primary rate hardware as well. Looks like the CTI hardware front is pretty well GPL'd. </announcement>