Look before you hack

28 02 2008

NewsA new and horrible past time known as SWATting has recently increased in popularity. A step above normal prank calls, SWATting involves informing the police of a volatile hostage situation at random residences. As a result, hundreds of people have been confronted by SWAT teams charging into houses yelling and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

However, a recently arrested gang of SWATters has labeled a mastermind 17-year-old hacker as one of the co-conspirators. The catch: he’s blind. Often in the cases of people born without the ability to see, other senses become much more acute, and memory becomes much more important. As a result, Li’l Hacker, as he is popularly called, can identify types of computer modems on the phone by ear as well as dial-tones and other sounds, and has had a great interest in telecommunications for years. He also owns a screen reader, a newer technology spreading in popularity that can convert text into either braille or speech.

Reader

He also asserts that he was not involved with the calls. Li’l Hacker claims that he helped turn the men responsible in to the authorities and would never help them due to personal conflicts in the past. Friends of his family are worried, because he turns eighteen soon and could potentially be tried as an adult for the crimes. Personally I hope he gets off the hook. I do not see how a blind teenager still in school would ever make such a ridiculous choice unless he was somehow blackmailed, which is not yet out of the question.

I also fail to see how a blind teenager could be so adept at hacking, so there is plenty of potential for this case to only get weirder and more convoluted.

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I wish to patent the patenting process

23 02 2008

NewsApple has filed over 200 patent applications for the iPhone, raising questions about how much control the biggest industries in the U.S. should be given. Most of them involved the touch screen, interface, and many gestures involved with interface manipulation. If these patents were to go through, Apple would be nearly home free in creating a monopoly of the business. The patents would not just affect similar phones, either. Many of them would affect all user interfaces on machines and computers for years to come, forcing other companies to try and work around ridiculous obstacles.

iPhone

For example, they wish to patent the gesture of pinching for zooming in and out. Double tapping causes a “smart zoom” that zooms in to a particular part of the screen. Doesn’t it seem just a little ridiculous that a company would try to patent double-tapping to zoom? Unfortunately, the business of patents is out of public hands and has been for years, causing controversy more often than not. All we can do is pray that the ridiculous patent claims fall through and Apple is left to do business like the rest of world, without a crown and throne.

Bad patents are nothing new as the technology industry continues to grow. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has begun the Patent Busting Project to bring attention to injustices occurring among businesses. Here is a list of what the Electronic Frontier Foundation considers the top ten worst businesses with patents. All have threatened or sued small businesses, individuals, or non-profit organizations.

  • Acacia Technologies – for patents covering a widely used process of streaming audio or video files over the internet, cable and satellite.
  • Clear Channel – for patents covering the recording and burning of after-concert CDs.
  • Acceris Communications – for patents covering telephone calls over the internet.
  • Sheldon F Goldberg – for a patent covering the playing of games, such as card games, upon a network.
  • Ideaflood – over a business method patent for managing sub-domains.
  • NeoMedia Technologies – for a patent covering the “automatic access of a remote computer over a network”.
  • Test.com – for a patent for a method of taking and scoring tests on-line.
  • Nintendo – for a patent covering Gameboy emulation.
  • Firepond – for a patent “covering the use of natural language processing to respond to customers’ on-line inquiries by e-mail”.
  • Seer Systems – for a patent for the creation, storage, distribution and performance of musical work files.

“Patents are meant to protect companies against giant competitors, not to help them prey on folks who can barely afford a lawyer,” said Schultz, who leads the Patent Busting Project. “We hope our project will not only assist the victims of these abusive patents but also help make the case for global reform of the patent system.”

For more information on the Patent Busting Project, visit their website.