Wednesday, April 11, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (4/11/18): A few typographic questions?


I was looking at some type samples the other day... 

... and I ended up with a bunch of questions that seem like basic typography, but I didn't know the answers!  

Can you help figure these out?   (They seem simple, but might be more complicated that you'd think.)  



1.  What's this part of the numeral 1 called? (That is, the thing sticking like a flange off the front.  Here I've circled it with a yellow dotted oval.) 
       


2.  What this line that connects these two characters called? 




3.  You often see elaborate / decorative characters in type.  Collectively, what are these kinds of characters called?  (This is handy to know if you want to search for them.) 





4.  Every so often I want to use a character that I KNOW exists, but I don't know the name, so it's hard to find and I'm reduced to manual search.  Here are a couple of such characters.  What are they?  More importantly, how did you find out their names? 




Good luck with these Challenges.  They're mostly for fun, but you just might find that the things we learn here are useful in your future typographic explorations.  Enjoy! 

And... as always, be sure to tell us HOW your figured out the answers to these Challenges.  Tell us how you did it! 

Search on! 



Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Answer: Can science fiction stories be used to demonstrate prior art in patent cases?


How to find vague concepts? 

Searching for something as vague or open-ended as this week's Challenge can be tough.  How can we find examples of science fiction being used to invalidate patents?   


Was this image from 2001 used to nullify an iPad patent? 


As you remember, I wrote about "prior art" that was first shown in the film 2001: a space odyssey.  (See the artwork for the movie above.  Is that astronaut holding an iPad?)  

This led to two Challenges--#1 is a specific question about a specific prior art, and #2 is the more general question. 

1.  Is it true that there was a lawsuit about iPad technology that claimed the movie 2001: a space odyssey as prior art?  
This led to two Challenges--#1 is a specific question about a specific prior art, and #2 is the more general question. 

My first query worked surprisingly well.  I just did: 

     [ prior art 2001 iPad ] 

and found all kinds of hits to the Samsung / Apple lawsuit.  

9to5Mac points out that Samsung presented a still frame from 2001 to illustrate that the design of the iPad was preceded by the "artwork" in the movie.  



As another, tech patent-watching site (Foss Patents) observed, Samsung says that: 


"...As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, [a design patent by Apple filed in 2005] the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor." 


The story here is that Apple filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to remove Samsung's devices (in particular, the Infuse 4G, Galaxy S 4G, the Droid Charge, and Galaxy Tab 10.1) from the US market.  The claim is that these devices infringe on the 2005 design patent.   

In order for a movie or a novel to qualify as “prior art” that disallows a patent (including a design patent) it must be “enabling.” This means that an average person skilled in the relevant art (industrial design, for example), could actually construct the device based on the fictional description. In this way, the transporter on “Star Trek” would not be considered prior art, because the series doesn’t detail how it works. 

This is particularly interesting to me because when I worked at Apple research in the late 1990s, my team built a prototype of a flat tablet computer (with built-in Wifi, a camera, and a multitouch screen).  We called it the Vademecum (Latin for a book that's always kept with you).  It looked like this in 1994:


As you can see, we built a handle on the thing (so people wouldn't drop it), and mounted the movable camera on the corner.  You can ignore those two potentiometers hanging out of the top on black wires, they were for testing.

This was an early prototype, so it's fairly thick and heavy... but you can see the direction we were heading.  Towards an iPad-like device, as that's the natural direction for such gadgets.  

Interestingly, we later discovered that in 1992, another group at Apple had created the Penlite tablet (which required a pen for touch, and had no camera or integrated Wifi):  



But in 1994, I was told that "there's no market for a tablet computer," and so Apple declined to go forward with it... at the time.  

FWIW, we were also inspired by the multitouch tablet computers that were commonplace on Star Trek, the Original Series (TOS):  

Star Trek tablet, around 1969


I left Apple in late 1997 to join a startup that was making.. tablet computers.  We designed, and built, something that might look familiar.  This is the tablet we built at Uppercase, a startup that was sold to Microsoft in late 1999.  



So, while the movie 2001: a space odyssey was used in the legal arguments, had the lawyers done a bit more of a search, they would have found all KINDS of prior art... within their own company.  

In the final analysis, YES, the movie of 2001 was used in a patent lawsuit.  (FWIW, if you do a Google Scholar search for [ Samsung Apple iPad 2002 film ] you can find that the preliminary injunction was denied on December 2, 2011, which is why you see all kinds of tablets on the market today.)  


2. Have there been other lawsuits that have given similar arguments?  (That is, that technology that was first drawn / filmed / written-about in science fiction invalidated a patent because it was prior art?)  More generally, HOW would you search for such things? 
This could be a bit more tricky:  How can we do a decent search for this broad concept?  (Science Fiction being used to invalidate patents in general) 

My first search was for the two concepts in general: 

     [ "science fiction" as "prior art" ] 

I quoted them both because I wanted those two concepts as entities, and not just accidentally next to something else.  

Somewhat to my surprise, this search led to a number of articles about the legal basis of artwork (especially science fiction) as prior art.  To wit, the Ius mentis legal website says that ".. A patent cannot claim something that already exists, nor can it claim something obvious. To determine this, patent examination always involves looking for prior art, earlier publications that show the invention is not new or is obvious." 

They go on to point out that any publication, in any form can qualify as prior art.  Previous patents are usually used, but in fact, anything--newspaper articles, books, illustrations, movies (and presumably stone carvings)--can be used to demonstrate that someone could build the device given that prior demonstration.  

Prior art must be enabling--that is what we found before: that an average person could, given that prior art, build the invention as described.  Table computer, yes.  Transporter, no.  

With this fairly general search, I was able to find a couple of legal sites that agreed--SF could be used to invalidate inventions as prior art, so long as they could be implemented by an "average" person skilled in the arts.   

So while there's some dispute about how much detail needs to be included in the depiction of the art, if that average Joe could figure it out without too much additional research, it will stand!  

Search Lessons 


Here, the biggest lesson for me was how quickly we could go from something fairly vague, to some fairly detailed information.  

In the query [ "science fiction" as "prior art" ] gave fairly quick access to an entire collection of useful documents and books that bridged the two topical areas.  In the future, we'll have more examples like this--search Challenges that require linking two (or more!) vague concepts to get to something definite.  Imagine finding the connections between any two random concepts... How would you do that?  More soon!  


Search on! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (3/28/18): Can science fiction stories be used to demonstrate prior art in patent cases?


Icons can be more, much more... 

... than just small pieces of art that signify an app.  

Icons can also be works that are so rich in meaning, so deeply embedded in our culture that they stand for more than just the thing itself. They can represent an entire zeitgeist and aspirations.  

When I was young, the year 2001 was such an icon.  2001 was the year when the future would officially begin.  

I remember saying things like "...in the year 2001..." which was synonymous with the far future.  "In the year 2001, self-flying cars will be common."  Or, "In the year 2001, we'll all have computers with 20 megabytes of memory."  (How wrong we were!)   

Of course, like the book 1984 (which is an icon for authoritarianism), the movie 2001: a space odyssey represented the grand and glorious techno-future, complete with moon bases, artificially intelligent computers, and regularly scheduled flights lifting from Earth into orbit.  For Regular Readers of my age, 2001 (the movie and the year) is iconic.  



Of course, now it's 2018, and even the sequel to 2010: a space odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke's book (and movie) 2020: Odyssey 2 is set 8 years in the past.  

So it was with a certain amount of dismay that I heard about a lawsuit that argued the technolog of Apple's iPad was actually preceded by "prior art" that was first shown in the film 2001: a space odyssey.  (See the artwork for the movie above.  Is that astronaut holding an iPad?)  

Really?  Does it make sense that a science fiction technology first shown in movie could be claimed as prior art?  (If so, what would this mean to any other tech that was shown in an early film?) 

This week we have two Challenges: 

1.  Is it true that there was a lawsuit about iPad technology that claimed the movie 2001: a space odyssey as prior art?  
2. Have there been other lawsuits that have given similar arguments?  (That is, that technology that was first drawn / filmed / written-about in science fiction invalidated a patent because it was prior art?)  More generally, HOW would you search for such things? 

I'm primarily interested in US legal issues, but if you know about European (or other countries) legal issues like that, I'd love to hear about it.  

I'll give my answer next week, and give a bit of background about handheld tablet computers.  

Let use know HOW you figured this out.  As I mention above, we'd love to learn a general method for searching out these kinds of legal actions.  

Search on! 




Thursday, March 22, 2018

Answer: How to find dimly remembered things?


And we remember... sometimes with help... 



If you're like me, you probably constantly re-searching for things you only vaguely remember.  A few years ago, my friend Jamie Teevan of Microsoft Research did a study about how often people try to re-find information that they'd already found.  She found that 33% of the time, people are doing web queries that they'd done before.  That suggests that people really are looking for memory support--a way to find things they've already found, and need to recover from the dusty halls of memory.  


We all have moments like this--a bare memory of something that you'd like to recover.  But how can you do it? 

This week is about how to do that.  Let's start with the first Challenge.   

1.  I remember visiting a bunch of colleges in the Eastern US with my daughter (who was checking out different institutions as a prospective student) and hearing a remarkable story at one of them.  The story was that this concert hall was the one that staged a concert of a piece of music by a slightly crazed but rather famous composer who wrote a piece for orchestra and a complicated color-light display keyboard.  The thing is, his vision exceeded the ability of the tech at the time.  So, roughly a century later, this institution was able to ACTUALLY perform the piece as written--orchestra, light-show performance, and all of the special effects.  Questions:  What was that piece?  Who was the composer?  And what university concert hall held this event? 

Here's a real problem:  I remembered some things about this.  It's easy for me to remember things around the thing I'm trying to remember.  I remember that I'm in the Eastern US, with my daughter, at a university.  


All that context information might be useful IF I was looking for a photo, or trying to pin down the date of my exposure to this piece of music.  In this case, I also remembered some things about the music itself (around 100 years ago, it's orchestra + light-show, with a complicated color-light display keyboard, performed at a university).  

For a question like this, I'm going to start with a simple search for a piece like that.  Here was my first search: 

     [ orchestra piece university light-show keyboard 1900..1920 ] 

Note that I included a number range (1900..1920) because I wanted documents that mentioned possible dates in that range.  (A subtle point: This is a number range, not a "date range" restriction.  I'm just hoping that people who write articles about this will happen to include the year in their articles.) 

The very first result is a link to an article about Yale's 2010 performance of Scriabin's "Prometheus," with full light-show in the Woolsey Concert Hall.  As it points out, this will be the "...first full-production of this multimedia work to benefit from contemporary lighting technology and the recent discovery of the composer’s hand-written directions for its execution."   

Checking my memory:  Yes, Yale is a university in the northeast, and now that I see it, I remember walking through Woolsey Hall and hearing this story about Scriabin.  Wonderful that can then look up my notes and find an image from that visit.    

Woolsey Hall, place where Scriabin's "Prometheus" was performed with full orchestra and a working luce device.

A little background... Scriabin was a well-known, if controversial, composer and pianist.  (I first learned about him in my piano studies.  His works are fairly difficult.)  

In 1978, a first-edition score from 1913 was found with Scriabin's hand-written annotations, intended to give guidance for the performance of Prometheus: Poem of Fire.  In it, Scriabin gives detailed annotations for the luce (the keyboard that drives the colored-light special effects) part.  These instructions gave directions for color and lighting, along with special effects as tongues of flame, lightning flashes, and fireworks.  For obvious reasons, this piece has been difficult to perform.  It was probably beyond the technology of the time.  

It's worth watching (link to YouTube performance of "Prometheus" in Woolsey Hall from 2010), if only to get a sense for what the future of music looked like from 1910.  



I have to admit that I got lucky with this dimly remembered memory.  It was the first hit, and then seeing the front of the concert hall tickled my memory.  Yes, it WAS there that I first heard about it.  The rest was easy. 


2.  You probably remember that childhood song about "Four and twenty blackbirds, baked into a pie."  Question:  Was that for real?  Or is it a corruption of some other song / phrase from the older parts of our culture?  (I mean...  blackbirds?  Really?)  
One thing I know about old nursery rhymes--they're complicated.  Things are rarely as they seem.  So I know I'm going to want to find a number of different sources on this.  

      [ four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie ] 

The first thing I learned is that the name of the poem is "Sing a song of sixpence," which gives me a whole other thing to search for.  

But as I read the Wikipedia version of the poem, it seems to give a reasonable analysis, particularly in its breadth and cautionary notes.  

The article also pointed out that the first couple of stanzas of the poem are:

Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye.
Four and twenty blackbirds,
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king.

There are more verses, but I want to point out that in the poem, the blackbirds begin to sing once the pie was opened.  That's encouraging--I had horrible visions of 2 dozen tiny birds in a strange version of a chicken pot pie.  But since they're singing, maybe it really IS, as the Wikipedia article has it, merely a fake crust with the birds inserted from below just before serving.  It's a kind of joke pie that has live birds inside, so when the unsuspecting diner cuts into the pie, birds sing and fly out.  

And there ARE recipes and notes from the Renaissance about such goings-on.  Birds, frogs, and even dwarves could appear from pies.  (Not unlike the modern equivalent of having someone pop out of a large cake!)  

Interestingly, there is a Snopes.com article asking if this nursery rhyme was a secretly coded pirate recruiting verse.  (See Snopes.com on "Four and Twenty Blackbirds") The big surprise is that this is listed as a big TRUE!  However... if you read carefully (something I always recommend), you'll see a "More information about this page" link at the bottom.  




Whenever you see a link like this, always check it out...   In this case, the link take you to a cautionary page on the Snopes site:  


This page explains that 

"... If you’re reading this page, chances are you’re here because something about one or all of the entries in The Repository Of Lost Legends (TROLL) section of this site struck you as a tad suspect, if not downright wrong.
If any or all of the stories in this section caused your internal clue phone to ring, we hope you didn’t let the answering machine take the call. That niggling little voice of common sense whispering to you in the background was right — there was something wrong with what you read.
You’ve just had an encounter with False Authority Syndrome.
Everything in this section is a spoof."

I've had more than one of my students get caught by this.  Mind you, Snopes has these pages as an object lesson.  They are explicitly telling you to be cautious of all authority--including theirs!  

In particular, their tale about the "Four and twenty blackbirds" pie is one of these "Lost Legends," and utterly made up.  Do not be fooled.  


3.  I have a couple of tools that I use every day to help me find things, particularly when I'm searching through my personal content. What tools do you use to search your personal content?  (Of course, we all use the search engines of the world--Google, Bing, Baidu, Wolfram Alpha, etc.)  But if you're looking through YOUR stuff, what tools do you use to search through that?  
 The comments in last week's post are pretty interesting.  People made all kinds of good suggestions (such as Michael Michelmore's suggestions on folder naming and structuring your personal data, or Debra Gottsleben suggestion to bookmark things).  

I have a problem (maybe you do too) that my "personal content" is spread across 2 email systems (my personal and my corporate), two Google Drive accounts (personal and corporate), and my hard drive.  

My strategy is to first search my hard drive using Apple's Spotlight search function.  This is a wonderful application that gives very fast access to everything on my drive. 


With the query [ Journal IBM ] it lists all of the documents and folders that have both IBM and Journal in them.  Note that this includes file names as well, so if I dimly remember the name of a file, say, that PDF with the Google logo, I can do a Spotlight query like this: 
[ Google logo .pdf ] 


I use this probably 50 times / day, particularly to look up people's names and places in my Work-log like this query I used to look up the first time I met my friend Nadiene Zylstra.  (I could have looked in my email as well, but I wanted to see what year I should check.  As you can see, it's 2013.)  



This is on the Mac, but there's a similar app for the PC universe as well.  I've used  X1 in the past, and completely loved it. (I really wish I had it on the Mac--hint-hint!)  It is as fast as Spotlight, but lets you do all kinds of metadata filtering as well..  

Truthfully, I'm not sure what I'd do without Spotlight.  It definitely makes everything I do on the Mac just that much faster.   


Search Lessons 


1.  Remember number range!  In my first query I searched for numbers in the date range I was interested in.  It's not YEARs we're searching for, but NUMBERS in that range (which will very likely be years in a text document).  

2.  The Snopes spoof reminds us to read carefully.  When you read think that don't seem to make sense.. check carefully! Or, as Roman Mars (99% Invisible), always read the plaques.      


Search on!  


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

SearchResearch Challenge (3/14/18): How to find dimly remembered things?


We forget, of course


... and that's part of the reason we have search tools--to help us find and recover what we've forgotten.  

I don't know about you, but I'm constantly re-searching for things I only vaguely remember, and I need all the help I can get.  

This week's Challenge comes in three parts.  

First, a question of something I once heard about, but have forgotten.  

Second, a question of something we have collectively forgotten (or somehow misplaced) in our cultural memory.  

And third, a question to you of what tools you use to help find things forgotten or misplaced in memory.  

1.  I remember visiting a bunch of colleges in the Eastern US with my daughter (who was checking out different institutions as a prospective student) and hearing a remarkable story at one of them.  The story was that this concert hall was the one that staged a concert of a piece of music by a slightly crazed but rather famous composer who wrote a piece for orchestra and a complicated color-light display keyboard.  The thing is, his vision exceeded the ability of the tech at the time.  So, roughly a century later, this institution was able to ACTUALLY perform the piece as written--orchestra, light-show performance, and all of the special effects.  Questions:  What was that piece?  Who was the composer?  And what university concert hall held this event? 
2.  You probably remember that childhood song about "Four and twenty blackbirds, baked into a pie."  Question:  Was that for real?  Or is it a corruption of some other song / phrase from the older parts of our culture?  (I mean...  blackbirds?  Really?)  

3.  I have a couple of tools that I use every day to help me find things, particularly when I'm searching through my personal content. What tools do you use to search your personal content?  (Of course, we all use the search engines of the world--Google, Bing, Baidu, Wolfram Alpha, etc.)  But if you're looking through YOUR stuff, what tools do you use to search through that?  


I managed to find the answer to Challenge 1 already.  I think I have an answer for Challenge 2.  And I know what I do for my personal search.  But tell us what you found in the comments.  Be sure to tell us HOW you found it (what path led you to the answer).  

And I'll give you my answers next week.  

Search on! 



Friday, March 9, 2018

Excellent research tool -- the Wayback Machine browser extension

Hate 404 errors?  

I do. 

If you do active online research (which is pretty much the whole point of SearchResearch), you fairly often run into web pages that are 404.  When this happens, it means that the link you're trying to follow leads to a page that is missing.  It might have been removed by the author, or just moved elsewhere.  In any case, the link you've got doesn't work any more.  

This actually happens more often than you'd like.  

Normally, I'd just use Google's cache: operator like this: 

     cache:my-broken-url.html 

and Google will serve up its cached version of the page. 

But every so often, that cached version is missing as well.  THEN what? 

A friend told me about a Chrome extension called WayBack Machine that watches your browsing activity, and if you get a 404 error, it jumps in and offers to search for that URL on the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (which is an incredibly useful archive web page, including ones that have disappeared).  

In my case, I was looking at an old SearchResearch post which referred to the 


Alas, the cache: operator doesn't retrieve anything for this page.  

BUT the WayBack Machine operator jumped in and offered to find it for me.  The extension pops up a mildly annoying interstitial that looks like this: 



-->
When you click on the "Click here to see archived version" it finds that web page when it was last archived by the Internet Archive.  

In this case, it brought up the archived page beautifully.  Now I can read what was once deleted.  

Here, it's gone all the way back to July of 2010.  


There is also a Firefox version and a Safari version.  (I don't know what to do in Internet Explorer.  If someone tells me, I'll update this post.)  


If you do much online research, I recommend this extension.  It'll save you a bunch of time.  

Search on!