A pattern of patent complaints

In what should come as no surprise to anyone, moments after Windows 8 was released someone claimed they put boring coloured squares on a screen first. The claimant is SurfCast and they say they did the equivalent of Live Tiles, what Microsoft is calling a coloured square you can click on or touch activate, first. Their patent from 2004 is for a "system and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources". If for example you look up a screen shot of Xerox's Windows equivalent that appeared before Windows 1.0 you will see what looks a lot like a Windows 8 screen that was designed a long time before the year 2000.

These "I did it first" lawsuits are fine for a technological marvel like the plastic sleeve on the end of a shoelace but patenting things like coloured squares, rounded corners, our DNA, the English word orange and the colour blue should be summarily dismissed. OK, yes, I did make up those last two.

In related news, Windows 8 is no longer called Metro, described as an internal name only and the new code name is, well nothing so far. The marketing gurus in Redmond seem to be stuck for a new name, so for the time being I guess it would be "the interface formerly known as Metro" with some strange symbol to follow in the near future, right? Perhaps they will have a public vote like they do for a baby animal born at a zoo.

The strange behaviour known as iPopularity where anything made by Apple is immediately snapped up by a percentage of punters in an almost Pavlovian response because, well simply because it is from Cupertino so it must be good. Until now that is. It appears Apple loyalty has fallen for the first time since the iPhone came out in 2007. Samsung has swept the market for the smartphone with models like the Samsung Note the most common device on the streets in Hong Kong and other models including the tablets pulling in huge numbers over the past quarter. The reasons for this change are fairly simple and they start with the iPhone 5 and the new iPad mini. Neither of these devices stack up against competitors like, say, the Galaxy S3 and the Kindle Fire HD in terms of either features or price. In this industry that could change in a few months but the rush to market reaction from Apple over its competitors has done more harm than good, this time around at least.

If you wander around a room filled with objects most of our children will never use, like a rotary dial telephone, a floppy drive, a vinyl record, a punch card and a set of encyclopaedias, the one device you will not see is a tape back-up drive. This piece of technology, not that much different from those 30 years ago, is still going strong in the storage market. People may be all enthusiastic about storing stuff in the Cloud but when it comes to backing up data and putting it somewhere physical in case of disaster the humble tape drive is still king. Optical disks are slow, unreliable and take up a lot of space. Other technologies that may have taken over have failed to deliver. In the future there may indeed be commercially available crystals that hold a light matrix but for the moment these are still only found in sci-fi stories. For the time being at least, tape libraries rule.

Microsoft programmers, the ones who write the applications I mean, are very strange. I was stuck trying to set the background colour of an Excel cell using code and kept getting the wrong colour for the selected hex code used to represent the red green blue (RGB) components that make up any colour. Finally in a post somewhere I found out that for Excel hex colours you need to swap the industry-standard RGB to BGR to make it work. Why? Who knows? Perhaps it is someone's idea of a joke. Not that funny really.

The National Broadband Network in Australia and the sale of the ISP (internet service provider) Adam to the local telco Telstra provides a cautionary tale to other countries who are thinking about in providing connectivity to the population. In Thailand you can get an unlimited monthly data connection for your smartphone for less than 1,000 baht. In Australia users can get a 600,000 baht phone bill for the same service. Adam provides ADSL+ connectivity and other services to the public at a certain rate. As the NBN rolls out and removes choice, the wholesale cost of providing a similar service is higher than the current delivered cost. The owners of Adam wisely decided to get out before their service became unprofitable. Bottom line, in comparison to Australia, Thailand enjoys far better connectivity at a much lower price.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at jclhein@gmail.com.

About the author

Writer: James Hein
Position: Database Writer