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And now, for something completely different


Microsoft Pledges, Avoids Waxy Buildup

So, The Boys from Redmond have now crossed their hearts, hope to die, promised not to enforce their patents on 35 web service standards. Of course, one can begin by wondering how much of a standard something can really be if there was a proprietary standard attached to it. The actual legalities of the announcement would make a lawyers eyes water, but a few folks have tried to decipher it. This does lead to the question, if Microsoft planned to make these standards available to anyone all along, why spend all the money to patent them in the first place, which would cost around $100,000 just for the filing fees. The lawyers' fees, of course, probably dwarf that by orders of magnitude.

Or, having gone to the trouble to patent them, why not donate the patents to the OSDL Patent Commons Project. To many people, a legally complicated announcement from Microsoft is bound to be judged as suspect.


Rumsfeld Barada Nikto

I was watching The Day The Earth Stood Still with my son last weekend, and it struck me much it parallels current global political events.

The plot of the movie (and given it is one of the all-time classics of science fiction and over 55 years old, I feel safe that anyone suffering from this spoiler deserves it for not having seen it sooner) is that an alien comes to Earth. He is met by typical 50s xenophobia (he is almost immediately shot by a trigger-happy soldier), and after many adventures (including being killed by more commie-fixated militia), he finally delivers the message he has been trying to communicate to the leaders of the world since he landed.

It turns out that the universe is a peace-loving place, so much so that they've developed a race of indestructible robots to police it, and wipe out any civilizations that are dangerous, defined as becoming capable of space travel without having solved the problem of war. So, essentially, they will destroy Earth if we don't become peace loving and disband our weapons.

So, let's see... vastly superior technological civilization threatens to destroy more primitive one, because they are seen as an eventual threat to the more advanced one, even though they have taken no concrete actions against the sophisticated society. I can just imagine the coverage on Galactic Network News:

Anderstar Cooper: So, Klaatu, what basis do you have for the ultimatum you've delivered to the Earthites?

Klaatu: Well, Anderstar, as you know, the Earthites have been developing Weapons of Mass Destruction for over 10 years now, and have even used them against their own species. We have satellite photos showing these devices being tested to this day.

Anderstar Cooper: But what of the critics who say that by using violence or the threat of violence against another civilization, we are lowering ourselves to their level?

Klaatu: That's nonsense. Remember, if you don't support Gort, the Rigelians win.

It should also be noted that while the acting and plot of the movie are excellent, the science is rilllly rilllly bad. Consider that Klaatu comes (by his own words) from nearly 250 million miles away, and it took him 5 months to travel that distance. That puts him (best case) as living in the Asteroid belt. It also means he travels barely faster than modern space probes. Assuming that he can accelerate instantaneously, he'd need to average around 70,000 MPH to make the trip in that time. The Voyager probes are currently clocking in at around 32,000 MPH and the Space Shuttle manages 18,000 MPH in low earth orbit (by comparison, Klaatu's ship could only manage 4,000 MPH in LEO.) And the New Horizons space probe will eventually hit 47,000 MPH on it's way to Pluto (poor, demoted Pluto).

So Klaatu's ship is a bit faster than what we've got today, but not a lot. And our TV sets don't get all the static that his seems to. You'd think he'd be able to get the Dish Network...


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