I want to pre-sue my distant future self... the ridiculously rich and famous one. I could really use the money now, and I won't miss it later on. Hey, maybe the reason I have so much money in the future is because I filed suit against myself today. Makes sense to me... /s
While this type of thing may not be uncommon, it's a fantastic example of how absurd our copyright/trademark laws and practices are.
I see a completely valid point to NAMCO's complaint... Little Johnny's program has prevented me from going out and buying my brand new copy of PAC-MAN. This does irrevocable harm to the PAC-MAN empire, and places the average stupid consumer at a total disadvantage. I mean, what if they get confused and think Little Johnny created the idea of PAC-MAN on his very own? Don't worry though, I hear that NAMCO has been even-handed in it's decision to pursue unauthorized PAC-MAN material -- Their lawyers will also be sending a cease and desist order to Little Sally for the crayon drawing of PAC-MAN she did, which was later posted to her mother's Facebook account. Also, they have issued a licensing update, and will be charging us all $0.05 US each time the word "PAC-MAN" is rendered.
In all seriousness though, I think the belligerent enforcement of Trademark is ridiculous, but also understandable from their perspective. NAMCO didn't build the variable mine-field that is copyright law, but they've had to exist within it. I think the real shame here is the lack of vision on the part of the owners. With a character as iconic as PAC-MAN, there's real opportunity to embrace these types of educational / non-profit characterizations and elevate themselves to a new level of relevancy to a whole new generation -- an overall move I think would be much more profitiable to them moving forward.
To be honest, I'm not completely sure where I stand on this topic. On one hand I see that patents can in some instances hinder building upon ideas or honing existing inventions to be more practical and useful, but at the same time I see the need to protect ones idea for a time in order to turn a reasonable profit; especially in instances where large amounts of funding into research may have been involved. In the end I think I've decided that the underlying issue is not the functional concept, but rather the potential misuse of the system by frivolous and shady entities. I find disclosure a reasonable middle-ground between the two schools of thought, measured by a bit of common sense.
Just expanding on this a bit more for the sake of conversation... Throw in some substantial tax write-offs and awesome PR for a wireless phone company (insert Verizon/AT&T, etc.), and each unit could be provided with an acceptable level of connectivity for students even when the units were not in proximity of an available open network.
You know, ideally, this is the perfect example of a very large potential market for a few smart investors.
1) Form a company/division of existing company that's goal is to specifically cater to the 1-to-1 initiative for schools nationwide.
2) Build a very specific, low cost, thin client unit that could be licensed on a per-student basis to the school board (even a low-cost yearly license fee per unit)
3) Sell the server, and X number of units licenses to schools
4) includes basic maintenance on the units as a part of the license
a) Hardware failures could be simply handled by replacement of unit with another working unit, moving the broken unit into a slower-paced repair flow, and providing an immediate fix for the client
5) Install a GPS-oriented security device/firmware into every unit (LoJack comes to mind as an example) and have the on/off, monitoring, tracking handled by an independent security firm when a unit is stolen -- since technically it's just licensed to the schools, it remains the property of the vendor.
This would provide a sustainable, budget-friendly solution for schools to move their curriculum's into the 21st century, remove "privacy" concerns (such as the very topic of this article), remove the responsibility from the IT departments to maintain the individual units. Also, since, without the server, the units are virtually useless, it would negate the largest incentives for theft.
I'm sure there's fodder for a hefty government grant in there somewhere due to the focus on the education sector.
Honestly, I wish I had the time and resources to dedicate to this concept, I see it as a fantastic opportunity.
Also wanted to follow up with one of your points that I felt perhaps was valid, that I didn't respond to in my previous post. Thin client network accessibility would indeed be inhibited by thin clients... however, in this case, so would the web cams that were use for monitoring ;)
Considering the web-cams were such a impactful part of the school boards overall deployment plan, I'd assume that likely network accessibility was not one of the considerations.
"In this architecture, technically, any system that utilizes a central server for application deployment and the bulk of processing is a thin client. -- Anom"
The discussion was indeed about physical hardware, and continued to be so. Perhaps a re-read yourself might help. The entire point was that by utilizing the thin client architecture, that less expensive hardware could be utilized with the same results. If you're using RDC/VPN, the your hardware needs little to no processing/storage ability -- it's all handled at the server level.
"What such a definition as that, the distinction between thin clients and other clients becomes virtually meaningless because full/fat/thick clients (even mainframe super computers) can also function in that way, which is why most people don't use such a definition. The machines that most people consider to be actual thin clients are incapable of functioning on their own, and that is the main distinction. -- Anom"
No true. Your argument is flawed. Yes, technically you could run a super computer as a thin client, but what would be the point. Per a Google Definition search, such individuals/service who use the identical definition that I have used: wikipedia, wiktionary, oasis management, netc.org, 64-bit migration, daeja.com, msms.org, IBM.com. So, if my definition is flawed, at least I'm in good company in my misunderstanding and misuse of the definition.
"And as to why they didn't use actual thin clients, did you ever consider that reliability (elimination of a single point of failure), performance (network delays) and flexibility (the ability to operate in the absence of network availability) might have been considerations? -- Anom"
The "single point of failure" is a very outdated point of view and displays a lack of understanding of modern client/server environment. Software platforms such as Microsoft Office, Visual Studio, and even Google have moved in the direction of cloud computing (do a search, there are hundreds of other industry leaders moving onto the cloud). This allows the bulk of the processing to be handled at managed multi cluster server level. There are many reasons that this is the trend in the industry. 1) Affordability, 2) Maintainability, and 3) Dependability. The thin client/server architecture is no different: Use an inexpensive device to utilize the power of a cluster. It's cheaper to buy/maintain a very powerful server cluster than it is to purchase/maintain multiple stand-alone systems.
Which gets us back to the point. The units supplied to the students could have been around 1/10th the cost, thus reducing the financial impact of lost/stolen units that provoked the perceived need for monitoring software that led to this issue to begin with.
Rose, you are correct. I was providing just one example of how it could be accomplished without any custom hardware configuration. Also, my reference to thin client is specifically intended to represent the concept of a thin client architecture; not the concept of some sort of physical hardware device. In this architecture, technically, any system that utilizes a central server for application deployment and the bulk of processing is a thin client. All the hardware is used for is connecting to the server. This could be a mini (as in the example provided), or virtually any other device. I selected the mini as an example because they fit the criteria of "small, portable, self-contained, including wireless connections w/ screens that students could take home" and also because they were a convenient and accessible example that can easily be researched by anyone.
Also as far as the price for the discussed mini's goes... I've confirmed that, as of today (as the pricing/estimate fluctuates) that the cost per unit for the mini given as an example would be approximately $129 per unit. In fact. The general retail for one of the units, including OS software, is $299. I work for a firm who is also a Dell Certified reseller, so it made the research a bit easier on my part.
To remain on topic, the point being is that had the school been fiscally responsible and been informed properly, that they could have avoided the very issue that prompted them to authorize the installation of the monitoring software (technically theft, since if it's sitting in some misplaced book bag somewhere, the web cam likely won't be of much use).
At $1,000-a-pop, I refer back to my initial comment that started this line of discussion.... Had they invested smartly, there would have been far less incentive for the school board to authorize said "spying" technology on the computer systems, which they openly admit that they failed to inform parents and students about before issuing the units. With a $721k budget, if most of the budget was spent on units they could provide only about 700 units to their listed 6,900-count student body. Using thin client architecture (utilizing the confirmed pricing for the mini's), they could have provided well over 5,000 units on the exact same budget.
On one hand I commend the LMSD for embracing technology, and realizing that 20th century criteria isn't going to be of much use to 21st century students. They took the proper first steps in the right direction, but then took two steps back with this monitoring program.
Rose, just to be helpful. Here's how to get a portable, wireless thin client with screens for about $100 each...
Dell Inspiron Mini 10 (1012) - OS Software + Educational Discount = Thin Client for borderline $100.00.
And, that's just one example of how it could be done.
Make a single image of your desired RDC/VPN platform pre-configured, and your IT department can pop out as many working thin clients as they need in about 5 minutes each. Pass them out to students, and they can take it home.
Funny. ;) But last time I checked, in this country school is neither a privilege or a right, but a requirement. Less the truancy officers come knocking at your door. Whether your comment was said in jest or not, I think it may have inadvertently hit the core nerve of the topic. We are American citizens, public schools are government funded, students are required to attend school, for the majority of students home school/private school/charter schools are not currently an option, these cameras were issued to the students to take into their private homes where said "spying" took place. So to sum it up, you have a government funded organization forced upon American citizens issuing equipment to be placed in private homes where unauthorized monitoring took place. It's a constitutional nightmare and the lawyers will have a field day with in the courts.
Rose, a gaming laptop for $1k? Sign me up! But that's beside the point. If we're talking $300, $500, $1000, or $3000 as the price of said laptop. Thin clients are many times cheaper in every case, and don't have to be individually maintained by the IT department on a regular basis (since all the software and files reside on a server). Plus, they have fewer parts for kids to break.
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