Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mercury

Another pic from NASA. It is always interesting to see what our tax dollars are doing. It is a compelling photo.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Value of Patents

Some sixty years ago when I first started some semblance of academic pursuit, I got involved in my first patent discussion. A friend's mother was a telephone receptionist. In those days when you called Mr Smith or Mrs Jones at a company the call went to the switchboard and then to a telephone receptionist, the person who placed the call. Back then these people, all women as far as I could tell, wore official Bell System issued head gear. It was heavier than a sonar operators ear phones during WW II. After all it was Bell System. These women wanted something lighter and not as destructive to their expensive hair styling. I suspect Bell System engineers were all male and most likely never even noticed their spouses.

Thus one of these women suggested a new head set. I wrote a patent application and then it was suggested we send it to AT&T. Yes, not my idea, but we "trusted" them. We naturally got a letter back saying "thanks but no thanks". Five years latter that very same head set came out from, you guessed it, the Bell System. Coincidence? You guess.

Now what did this teach me? That patents may very well be useless unless you have a large pool of money for lawyers, since any good idea can be copied and unless you can sue and win, if and if, you are wasting time. Might just as well tell the world, get visceral credit and block the big guys patents.

Now why all this old stuff? CRISPRS!

In Nature they discuss the current battle which we had anticipated. They state:

Much of the focus is on the teams centred at Berkeley and the Broad Institute, whose ‘foundational’ patents cover a wide swathe of CRISPR–Cas9 applications. Although Berkeley’s team filed for a patent first, the Broad opted for an expedited review process, and its patents were granted earlier. The Berkeley team then asked the USPTO to declare a ‘patent interference’, launching a complicated process to establish who first came up with the invention. Since January, the two sides have been making their case in filings to USPTO patent judges. The Broad asserts that Berkeley’s initial patent filing described using CRISPR–Cas9 in prokaryotes such as bacteria, but did not sufficiently describe the procedure in eukaryotes such as mice and human cells. That distinction is important: CRISPR’s most lucrative applications are likely to be in medicine, and several biotechnology companies have already licensed patents from either Berkeley or the Broad. Berkeley argues that the application of CRISPR–Cas9 to eukaryotic cells was obvious and that “persons of ordinary skill”, such as a postdoc with relevant expertise, could have made the leap. Berkeley points to the swift success of several teams — led by Doudna; Zhang; Church (at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts); and genome engineer Jin-Soo Kim at the Institute for Basic Science in Seoul — that applied CRISPR to human cells. The Broad countered that these scientists are all leaders in their field and could hardly be considered ‘ordinary’.

Yes this is a proverbial "p.....g" contest. Broad (MIT and Harvard) versus Berkeley (California). And in the middle the USPTO. Now the PTO is not the brightest set of bulbs on the rack, especially when it comes to litigation. This is Administrative law and we don't have a bunch of Harvard and Stanford lawyers. They are patent types. That means GS-11 thru 13s.

How this will end is uncertain. What will be of interest is how the Nobel Committee handles this.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Microsoft and Cancer

From the folks who brought Windows 10 upgrade we now have it that they want to cure cancer. From Microsoft they say:

Microsoft’s research labs around the world, computer scientists, programmers, engineers and other experts are trying to crack some of the computer industry’s toughest problems, from system design and security to quantum computing and data visualization. A subset of those scientists, engineers and programmers have a different goal: They’re trying to use computer science to solve one of the most complex and deadly challenges humans face: Cancer. And, for the most part, they are doing so with algorithms and computers instead of test tubes and beakers.

They continue:

One approach is rooted in the idea that cancer and other biological processes are information processing systems. Using that approach the tools that are used to model and reason about computational processes – such as programming languages, compilers and model checkers – are used to model and reason about biological processes. The other approach is more data-driven. It’s based on the idea that researchers can apply techniques such as machine learning to the plethora of biological data that has suddenly become available, and use those sophisticated analysis tools to better understand and treat cancer. Both approaches share some common ground – including the core philosophy that success depends on both biologists and computer scientists bringing their expertise to the problem.

Trusting these folks to cure anything is highly unrealistic. Just try seeking help on a Microsoft site. No way. It was not until Google came along that people could wend their way through the horrific complexity of Microsoft. Customer friendly? Not. So guess how they would treat patients! 

Just a simple example. Almost 2 months after the Anniversary W10 release, one cannot use their H.264 cameras, a global standard. Would Microsoft perhaps blind the world! How could anyone realistically trust these people to do anything in medicine!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Trigger Warnings

The NY Times has give space to some student at U Chicago to protest the letter from some Dean there about not paying deference to "trigger warnings".

As this poor young thing states:

A safe space is an area on campus where students — especially but not limited to those who have endured trauma or feel marginalized — can feel comfortable talking about their experiences. This might be the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs or it could be Hillel House, but in essence, it’s a place for support and community. This spring, I was in a seminar that dealt with gender, sexuality and disability. Some of the course reading touched on disturbing subjects, including sexual violence and child abuse. The instructor told us that we could reach out to her if we had difficulty with the class materials, and that she’d do everything she could to make it easier for us to participate. She included a statement to this effect on the syllabus and repeated it briefly at the beginning of each class. Nobody sought to “retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,” as Dean Ellison put it in the letter, nor did these measures hinder discussion or disagreement, both of which were abundant.

Now back in the late 50s and early 60s most of us who went to College went to get a job. Thus I spent time on Advanced Calculus, Thermodynamics, Organic Chemistry, Electromagnetic Theory and Applications. I even too Philosophy and Logic. I managed to go through tend years of various studies without a single trigger warning. Then I got a job!

Perhaps the issue is that if these young folks took say Accounting, Finance, Biochem, then there would be no need for such trigger warnings and they would be more terrified of making the grade. You see your opinion has zero value in analyzing a Banach Space or a Wierner Process, not that guy in New York who spells his name differently any how.

Trigger Warnings are a result perhaps of wasting your time on things that you would be better off just watching on your iPhone.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

FCC 600 MHz Spectrum Auction

Watching the Kentucky Derby is worth the time. Nice clothes, good horses, and the outcome is generally uncertain. The race is a simple thing. A bunch of fast horses, good riders, and round track. The first across wins. Simple.

In contrast the FCC auctions are now one of the most bizzare systems ever. Let those academics loose and you get backward and forwards low and high and so forth. Imagine a Kentucky Derby where you run backwards the first time around, then the top ten horses run forward, but only after three months. Oh yes and the riders may change mid stream and even the horse may be replaced by a camel if it is Thursday.

The current FCC 600 MHz auction is worth a watch. The players are the big guys are their surrogates. You see, we condemn the Russian oligarchs but we have our own, the incumbents. Thus even Google does really play here. This is despite their long awakening to the problems with fiber.

It is worth watching this facade, a tax collection process of tens of billions into the Government coffers spent even before it is collected, many times over.

Yikes, Another Poor ISP

I have been a customer of Verio for well over fifteen years. They gut bought by some conglomerate (see this Site) and some moron decided to switch all servers the day before the Labor Day weekend. Guess what? Crash....

Then you try to get some support....well it is 12 hours off in India and they keep telling me what a wonderful day it is...it is 3AM in Delhi! What day?

So off we go for a ten day set of business meetings trying every configuration under the sun to get and hopelessly try to send emails.

There is a fantastic market here for some company willing to render service. All I wanted was mail in and mail out. Then they also deleted all my history. And not s single warning...and we have had dozens of sites hosted on them and hundreds if not thousands of emails.

Have this folks no shame? In fact try and find out who they even are! Thank God for Google....

There used to be a time when quality was not just some abstract concept but a way of doing business. Not any longer.

No wonder one of the Candidates had their own server...who would trust the Government to secure anything...and the commercial folks are now even worse! It was probably a wise move after all.

I gather that the new parent is Endurance in Burlington Mass. A massive collection of poorly inter-managed ISPs with what appears to be an ever growing collection of disgruntled customers.