[GEEKY] Even the simplest things are complicated

I love this article revealing the beautiful hidden complexity of the lowly magsafe connector.

Ken Shirriff’s blog: Teardown and exploration of Apple’s Magsafe connector:

Have you ever wondered what’s inside a Mac’s Magsafe connector? What controls the light? How does the Mac know what kind of charger it is? This article looks inside the Magsafe connector and answers those questions.


Patents: Innovation Nation

An interesting view on patents from Judge Posner:

“In Posner’s view, many patents are unnecessary. Patents, he believes, are important for drug companies that spend hundreds of millions of dollars bringing a new drug to market — a drug that can easily be copied by a competitor. Without the protection that a patent affords, pharmaceutical companies would have far less incentive to come up with new drugs.” (from New York Times)

In another article that discussed Posner’s view on patents: “Why there are too many patents in America” (from The Atlantic)



How do you feel about Software Patents?

I am not dead set against software patents, although I’ve been on both sides of the issue.

I am the proud inventor listed on 3 or 4 patents. Some are more worthy in my opinion that others. I was also leading a development team that had to stand on its head to avoid conflicting with a patent that everyone agreed should never have issued, but we didn’t have the nerve or resources to contest.

So I was interested to see some behind the veil of “Intellectual Ventures”, Nathan Myhrvold’s IP/Patent company:

“…But IV is not buying inventions. It’s buying patents. And most software engineers will tell you, at least when it comes to software, a patent and an invention are not the same. Lots of patents cover things that people who write software for a living wouldn’t consider inventions at all… (from When Patents Attack)

Patents and perpetual motion machines

An interesting commentary on a couple of patents that issued from the US Patent Office:

“The US patent office no longer grants patents on perpetual motion machines, but has recently granted at least two patents on a mathematically impossible process: compression of truly random data” (from Gailly.net)

Also you might be interested in the topic, there’s a second patent that seems also to be fatally flawed — It is analyzed here.

I am not opposed to software patents as a matter of principle. And of course a patent that describes something that is mathematically impossible is harmless inasmuch no one is forced to use it. But it does shine a light on the problems with Patents in general. Is it mathematically impossible though?

I wonder how the inventors of these patents would respond to the allegations above. Well it turns out that he has devoted a whole web site to the topic: “Michael Cole, Inventor of Recursive Data Compression Patent 5,488,364 created andy utilized a recursive data compression structure.” The site has lots of details and mathematical symbols. I have not taken the time to try to understand either his arguments or the counter arguments.

I mainly got fascinated by the conflict.