And We’re Back In The Room


That’s better. My apologies; following an entry titled ‘Last Post’ with the sudden and total disappearance of this blog may, just possibly, have created a misleading impression. Don’t worry. The blogging will continue until morale improves.

The fact is I’d decided that, as I am pretty much specialising in creating and hosting WordPress sites these days, it was kind of embarrassing that my own blog was still hosted by someone else. Up to now it’s been a free site. This is a fantastic service if you just want to blog, but if you install WordPress on your own server you can create a really capable website. Which is exactly what I’m doing for a lot of people these days – in fact I’m on the verge of officially launching it as a business. More of this… shortly.

Anyway I hit a snag while changing the domain name to point to the new version, which meant that most readers could see neither. It was a simple problem, but I’d no time to fix it because it happened just before I left on a visit to the Netherlands to see the big Heironymus Bosch exhibition. Of this too I hope to speak in the near future.

But for now, a happy Paddy’s Day to all of you in places where it’s still Paddy’s Day. Here in Ireland it’s been over for some hours, and I’m off to bed.


Patents – The New Rock ‘n’ Roll

Phone patent litigation in US courts alone ©The Daily Beast

With what I want to believe was ill-disguised glee, Samsung has taken out injunctions against sale of the iPhone 4S in France and Italy over alleged patent infringement. Why just there? It’s difficult not to believe that they’re keeping it commensurate with Apple’s blocking of Galaxy Tab sales in Germany and the Netherlands, that basically they’re saying “If you want to go there, we can go there”.

Do they have a case? Who can tell. The only thing certain is that patents are the new Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And not in a good way. Like Rock ‘n’ Roll in its heyday, the mobile technology world is turning into a filthy quagmire, with pretty much everybody accusing everyone else of stealing about everything – as the illustration shows. The main reason Google purchased Motorola‘s mobile arm was that otherwise the two companies could have sued each other out of existence¹. R&D is rapidly becoming the new A&R, with phone makers patenting about anything in the hope of finding the one elusive hit technology that will rake in unimaginable sums. This wasn’t very good for music, and it won’t be so good for technological innovation either.

While being able to profit from research and invention is a good thing, current law allows companies to charge exorbitant fees or even refuse to license their patents, essentially granting them a monopoly to a lucrative technology. While this was fine in the days when you might patent a tangible device like a mousetrap, now they can be used more or less as intellectual property land-grabs, claiming rights to possible designs. A cause célèbre of course is the granting to Apple of patents so fundamental to a multitouch interface on a mobile touchscreen device that it is hard to see how anyone can now create one without infringing them. Yet Apple did not invent either the multitouch interface or the mobile touchscreen, they were merely the first to put one on the other. Does that really mean they deserve to control the entire concept for the next twenty years?

What might work much better is a short period – maybe only a year or two – of exclusive use. That would decrease the incentive to take out speculative patents on everything, and greatly increase the incentive to, you know, innovate.

  1. To give the actual science of this: When two corporations collide at sufficiently high financial energies, they either fuse into a single entity or annihilate one another in a shower of fundamental business particles known as “happy lawyers”.

More Fun With QR Codes

€5, though you'd hardly know it

I’ve been looking out for people using these things in unexpected ways – and finding surprisingly few. There’s this fairly effective decorative example. Or this portrait made up of thousands, each of which is a link to a video. Or the guy who proposed via code – God would he have looked like a loser if she hadn’t accepted. But I think the prize goes to the Netherlands, which to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its royal mint is circulating €5 and €10 coins with codes on them that link to a *surprise*.

I’ll save you the trouble of pointing a phone at the screen (yes, that works), it goes here. Though to be honest, the surprise isn’t all that.

But the coins are kind of funky, even if they’re not really Euros in that they aren’t legal tender outside the Netherlands. (Perhaps just as well. How would you react to finding that weirdly realistic image of Queen Beatrix in your change?) And even at home, the €10 ones won’t be seeing a lot of circulation. Made of gold, they’re worth more than their face value.

Naturally there was a brief insta-panic about having ‘tracking codes’ on money that might secretly be scanned by vending machines, etc. But as every coin has the same code, all it actually tells you is that €5 has been spent. Which, let’s face it, you probably knew already. So it’s a rather pointless and gimmicky application of the technology really. Now if all the coins had a different one you could have some fun. Prizes maybe. Or say one in ten thousand links to a really fierce porn site.

Just one thing still bothers me. If the Dutch Royal Mint is only a hundred years old, what the hell did they use for money before?

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