from the calling-rosie dept
- Personal Robot
by Mike Masnick
Sat, Jan 24th 2015 9:00am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 23rd 2015 1:37pm
Respondent agrees to pay $1,100.00 (the "settlement proceeds") by January 22, 2015, to the FAA in full and final settlement of this matter.From a financial perspective, I'm sure it makes sense for Pirker to settle this agreement for $1,100, rather than having to pay a lot more to go to court. But for the rest of us, this kind of sucks. It would have been good to have at least been able to test whether or not the FAA's rules are really legal. Or, at the very least, put more pressure on the FAA to stop dragging its feet and to start issuing actual rules that allow drones to be used for commercial purposes. The longer we wait, the more likely it is we cede innovation on this important area to other countries.
It is understood and agreed that neither the Respondent's execution of this settlement agreement nor payment of the settlement proceeds constitutes Respondent's admission of any of the facts or regulatory violations alleged in the FAA's June 27, 2013 Order of Assessment or the Amended Order of Assessment that will issue pursuant to this settlement agreement.
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Jan 17th 2015 9:00am
This week's awesome stuff takes a look at some tools (and toys) for different creative types.
Many a modern writer has, at one time or another, fantasized about getting a good ol' fashioned typewriter. The appeal of the beautiful old machines is easy to understand, but writers who follow through on this dream often discover that the romance isn't quite worth the hassle of jammed keys and broken letters. Enter the Hemingwrite: a "digital typewriter" with an e-paper screen and a tight, compact design. It serves the main purpose most people see in typewriters — a dedicated, one-purpose machine that lets you lock yourself in a room and hammer out that novel free of distraction — but without all the baroque (and breakable) mechanics.
There's no shortage of portable microphones and recording devices out there, but the Mikme seems like it could be one of the best offerings around. In addition to functioning like a standard USB microphone, it can also wirelessly connect to iOS and Android devices or record in standalone mode to its internal 180-hour storage. Audio wonks will be pleased to know it records up to 96kHz/24 bit, as well. That's a lot of recording power packed into such a tiny unit, and its versatility means there's never a reason to miss snagging the audio of a good jam session or conversation.
The Wallet Capo
"Anyone have a capo?" is not an uncommon request when guitarists gather. Sure, there's usually one kicking around in the case, but guitars are nomadic instruments and the accessories don't always make the trip. The Wallet Capo uses some smart design to solve this problem and bring capos closer to the level of picks — i.e. something you've always got wedged in a pocket somewhere. This initial crowdfunding project is for the 3D-printed "beta" version of the device, but with enough backing will expand into new laser-cut production models.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Jan 13th 2015 1:10am
Techdirt has written often enough about applications of DNA sequencing -- the elucidation of the four chemical "letters" A, C, G, T that go to make up genomes. But things have moved on: the new frontier is not just analyzing DNA, but synthesizing it. A fascinating article on SFGate describes the activities of one company working in this area, Cambrian Genomics, and some of the tricky ethical issues it raises:
In Austen Heinz's vision of the future, customers tinker with the genetic codes of plants and animals and even design new creatures on a computer. Then his startup, Cambrian Genomics, prints that DNA quickly, accurately and cheaply.
Printing the new DNA is the easy bit; increasingly, the hard bit is deciding what should -- and shouldn't -- be printed:
"Anyone in the world that has a few dollars can make a creature, and that changes the game," Heinz said. "And that creates a whole new world."
The 31-year-old CEO has a deadpan demeanor that can be hard to read, but he is not kidding. In a makeshift laboratory in San Francisco, his synthetic biology company uses lasers to create custom DNA for major pharmaceutical companies. Its mission, to "democratize creation" with minimal to no regulation, frightens bioethicists as deeply as it thrills Silicon Valley venture capitalists.
Right now, employees check each order to make sure that a customer isn't printing, say, base pairs of Ebola. But staff won’t have time to do that if, as Heinz predicts, orders dramatically increase in the next two years. In that case, he said, Cambrian might first ship the plates to an independent facility where experts would put the DNA inside cells, film and analyze it, and make sure that it is safe before releasing it.
That may be true, but as this technology spreads, and becomes cheaper, more and more companies around the world will start to offer similar services, making it harder to oversee their working. And then there will be the backstreet labs that intentionally try to avoid any kind of control. Soon, if you can model it, you will be able to synthesize it. Cambrian Genomics is already helping to drive the spread of its tools and ideas:
This facility, he envisions, could be run by another company, not necessarily the government. Because Cambrian wants to keep government interference to an absolute minimum, its CEO insists that behaving well is in the company’s best interest.
Cambrian will also share its technology with startups in which it holds a 10 percent equity stake. One is Petomics, which is making a probiotic for cats and dogs that makes their feces smell like bananas. Another is SweetPeach, which hopes to take samples of users' vaginal microorganisms and send back personalized probiotics to promote vaginal health. (Contrary to Heinz's description of SweetPeach at a recent conference, the products will not make vaginas smell like peaches.)
Given the rapid advances in synthetic biology, that certainly seems likely. The question is: will the next few hundred years be good amazing, or bad amazing? Where -- and how -- do we draw the line here?
Heinz seeks to help create "thousands" more startups in this vein. On top of that, he wants to replace lost limbs, fight viruses and develop alternatives to antibiotics. Maybe someday, he said, scientists will even print DNA on Mars. "It’s going to be an amazing next few hundred years."
by Mike Masnick
Sat, Jan 10th 2015 9:00am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jan 7th 2015 9:07pm
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jan 7th 2015 1:00am
Back in 2011, we wrote about the fascinating culture of "shanzhai" production -- Chinese companies manufacturing counterfeit goods that ignore intellectual monopolies like patents. The post drew on insights from the open hardware hacker Andrew "bunnie" Huang, who has been following this world closely, drawing on his first-hand experiences of visiting and using shanzhai companies. In 2013, Huang gave the shanzhai approach to sharing -- like open source, but not quite -- a name: "gongkai". In a long and fascinating new post, he explains the background to the term:
["Gongkai"] is deliberately not the Chinese word for "Open Source", because that word (kaiyuan) refers to openness in a Western-style IP framework, which this not. Gongkai is more a reference to the fact that copyrighted documents, sometimes labeled "confidential" and "proprietary", are made known to the public and shared overtly, but not necessarily according to the letter of the law. However, this copying isn't a one-way flow of value, as it would be in the case of copied movies or music. Rather, these documents are the knowledge base needed to build a phone using the copyright owner's chips, and as such, this sharing of documents helps to promote the sales of their chips. There is ultimately, if you will, a quid-pro-quo between the copyright holders and the copiers.
This contrasts with the Western approach, where explicit permission to use every patented invention or extract of copyright material must be obtained in advance before progressing further. The resulting "patent thickets" and copyright analogs are a growing problem for complex digital products that depend on multiple technologies built out of small incremental advances, most of which are patented, and which therefore require separate licenses and negotiations. The more flexible gongkai approach offers an interesting alternative. Huang goes on to explore the important differences between what he calls "this fuzzy, gray relationship between companies and entrepreneurs" and the way things work with the Western system:
The West has a "broadcast" view of IP and ownership: good ideas and innovation are credited to a clearly specified set of authors or inventors, and society pays them a royalty for their initiative and good works. China has a "network" view of IP and ownership: the far-sight necessary to create good ideas and innovations is attained by standing on the shoulders of others, and as such there is a network of people who trade these ideas as favors among each other. In a system with such a loose attitude toward IP, sharing with the network is necessary as tomorrow it could be your friend standing on your shoulders, and you’ll be looking to them for favors. This is unlike the West, where rule of law enables IP to be amassed over a long period of time, creating impenetrable monopoly positions. It's good for the guys on top, but tough for the upstarts.
This "network IP" results in an elevated rate of product innovation:
Chinese entrepreneurs ... churn out new phones at an almost alarming pace. Phone models change on a seasonal basis. Entrepreneurs experiment all the time, integrating whacky features into phones, such as cigarette lighters, extra-large battery packs (that can be used to charge another phone), huge buttons (for the visually impaired), reduced buttons (to give to children as emergency-call phones), watch form factors, and so forth. This is enabled because very small teams of engineers can obtain complete design packages for working phones -- case, board, and firmware -- allowing them to fork the design and focus only on the pieces they really care about.
The fact that many of those products fail, or are "whacky", misses the key point here: that the gongkai system, with its low barriers to entry, allows experimentation and improvement to be iterated so rapidly that bad ideas fall quickly by the wayside, to be replaced by better ones, until a winning combination is achieved. As patent thickets and copyright maximalism tie up Western companies in fruitless and debilitating legal battles, the shanzhai companies and their nimble gongkai culture may soon emerge as the true heirs of the innovative startups that created Silicon Valley and the Internet before intellectual monopolies started to throttle both.
by Leigh Beadon
Sat, Dec 20th 2014 9:00am
For this week's awesome stuff, we take a break from the usual crowdfunding campaigns to look at three creators raising money on Patreon, the platform where you can sign up to make regular monthly contributions towards the creation of new content.
This is a podcast that's right up Techdirt's alley. Brad Guigar, Scott Kurtz, and Cory Casoni — some or all of whom you may recognize from their webcomics, videos and other projects — discuss the challenges of building a business as a content creator online. The first episode, appropriately, features the creator of Patreon itself:
With 103 patrons it's just getting off the ground — but if they hit a goal of $500 per episode, they're going to live-stream them all, and at $750 take the show out on tour.
I know I'm not the only retro video game fan around here. If you too love our pixellated heritage, check out the videos from PushingUpRoses, who exclusively makes retro videogame reviews and related content. Here she is discussing an all-time classic and personal favorite:
PushingUpRoses has already hit her critical milestone goals, with nearly 200 patrons giving just over $1000 per month — but you can still support the project, and if it hits $2000 she'll be, in her own words, "overwhelmed".
The Numberphile, aka Brady Haran, creates videos all about the world of math and numbers, in which there is no shortage of fascinating and important topics. The videos bring in a variety of experts to talk about things ranging from the lofty to the down-to-earth, like this discussion about infinity:
With over $2,000 in monthly funding, the Numberphile is going strong — but every new pledge just adds to the production quality and depth of these already-excellent videos.
by Leigh Beadon
Thu, Dec 18th 2014 1:40pm
This week's episode of Techdirt Podcast is all about thinking outside the box (and the atmosphere) on the subjects of broadband and global connectivity. There have been many attempts to build practical satellite-based internet access over the years, and though so far they have all been multibillion-dollar failures, there's still a huge amount of potential in the concept — not to mention other innovative concepts, like internet from balloons, blimps or floating platforms. This week, Mike, Hersh and Dennis discuss the past and future of such ideas, and the revolutionary disruptions that they could usher in.
If you still haven't subscribed, you should follow us on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or simply plug the RSS feed into your favorite podcatcher app (we have a few recommendations). Of course, you can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.
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by Mike Masnick
Thu, Dec 11th 2014 3:38pm
Explore some core concepts:
|14:39||GAO Study: Broadband Usage Caps Can Hinder Innovation, The FCC Might Want To Actually Pay Attention (7)|
|12:43||Newegg, Troll Hunting, And The Fight For Patent Reform (2)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Documentary Day (1)|
|14:44||Defining The Patent Troll (24)|
|12:04||One Year Since The Innovation Act, And Still No Patent Reform (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Podcast Apps (17)|
|14:57||Why New York's Sharing Economy Is A Win For Job Creation And Innovation (8)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Sound The Alarm (8)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Hoverboards Are Real! (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Repurposing Skateboards (5)|
|21:12||Departing EU Digital Commissioner Warns Against 'Analogue Europe' Blocking Digital Innovation (11)|
|14:48||Have Drone Will Travel: Slow-Moving Regulators Force Innovation Overseas (10)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Portable Standing Desks (14)|
|09:14||Neil deGrasse Tyson Attacks 'Startup Culture,' Demonstrates Lack Of Understanding About Innovation (106)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Time Travel (13)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Simple And Small Stuff (10)|
|15:52||Why Industry Vets Should Play Nice With Startups (8)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Rethinking The... Trash Can? (8)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Supersuits Are The Next Wearable Tech? (10)|
|17:00||DailyDirt: Better Keyboards (9)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Rethinking Retro: Rocket Skates, Coolers And Tickers (6)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Not Quite A Smart Watch (13)|
|11:58||Elon Musk Destroys The Rationale For Patents, Opens Up All Of Tesla's (65)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Alternative Energy (12)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Portable, Modular Computer Stands And Furniture (6)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Pets Need Innovative Technology Too (7)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: People Powered Vehicles (7)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Stand While You Work (19)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Functional Fashion (5)|
|09:00||Awesome Stuff: Mainstreaming Augmented And Virtual Reality (9)|