Archive for the ‘Hacking’ Category

Name that Ware December 2018

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

The Ware for December 2018 is shown below.

Finishing off the year with a (hopefully) easy one that’s slightly off the beaten path.

Happy holidays! Stay safe, and stay free.

Winner: Name that Ware November 2018

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

The Ware for November 2018 is a bias/control board for the HP 2-18GHz YIG-tuned multiplier. I really appreciate this fascinating ware, it reminds me that the MOS transistor is not the be-all and end-all of electronics. Of course, every day we encounter crystals as frequency references, and those are literally shaved pieces of quartz, but here is a sphere of Yttrium Iron Garnet (YIG) being used as a tunable RF filter. Thanks to phantom deadline for contributing this ware, and also congrats to Brian for nailing the ware. Email me for your prize!

You Can’t Opt Out of the Patent System. That’s Why Patent Pandas Was Created!

Friday, November 30th, 2018

A prevailing notion among open source developers is that “patents are bad for open source”, which means they can be safely ignored by everyone without consequence. Unfortunately, there is no way to opt-out of patents. Even if an entire community has agreed to share ideas and not patent them, there is nothing in practice that stops a troll from outside the community cherry-picking ideas and attempting to patent them. It turns out that patent examiners spend about 12 hours on average to review a patent, which is only enough time to search the existing patent database for prior art. That’s right — they don’t check github, academic journals, or even do a simple Google search for key words.

Once a patent has been granted, even with extensive evidence of prior art, it is an expensive process to challenge it. The asymmetry of the cost to file a patent — around $300 — versus the cost to challenge an improperly granted patent — around $15,000-$20,000 — creates an opportunity for trolls to patent-spam innovative open source ideas, and even if only a fraction of the patent-spam is granted, it’s still profitable to shake down communities for multiple individual settlements that are each somewhat less than the cost to challenge the patent.

Even though in practice open source developers are “in the right” that the publication and sharing of ideas creates prior art, in practice the fact that the community routinely shuns patents means our increasingly valuable ideas are only becoming more vulnerable to trolling. Many efforts have been launched to create prior art archives, but unfortunately, examiners are not required to search them, so in practice these archives offer little to no protection against patent spamming.

The co-founder of Chibitronics, Jie Qi, was a victim of not one but two instances of patent-spam on her circuit sticker invention. In one case, a crowdfunding backer patented her idea, and in another, a large company (Google) attempted to patent her idea after encountering it in a job interview. In response to this, Jie spent a couple years studying patent law and working with law clinics to understand her rights. She’s started a website, Patent Pandas, to share her findings and create a resource for other small-time and open source innovators who are in similar dilemmas.

As Jie’s experience demonstrates, you can’t opt-out of patents. Simply being open is unfortunately not good enough to prevent trolls from patent-spamming your inventions, and copyright licenses like BSD are well, copyright licenses, so they aren’t much help when it comes to patents: copyrights protect the expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves. Only patents can protect functional concepts.

Learn more about patents, your rights, and what you can do about them in a friendly, approachable manner by visiting Patent Pandas!

Name that Ware November 2018

Friday, November 30th, 2018

The Ware for November 2018 is shown below.

Thanks to phantom deadline for sharing this ware! I enjoyed reading up about it.

Winner, Name that Ware October 2018

Friday, November 30th, 2018

The Ware for October 2018 is an RFID transponder; this particular model was originally used in the early 2000’s in Colorado. Congrats to Barry Callahan for guessing it, email me for your prize!