Patent troll Lodsys, LLC is threatening iOS devs with ridiculously worded patent

Lodsys, LLC has recently sent letters to several iOS devs, claiming the devs are infringing on a patent for in-app purchases. The patent, number 7222078, is titled “Methods and systems for gathering information from units of a commodity across a network.” Below is the patent “abstract”:

In an exemplary system, information is received at a central location from different units of a commodity. The information is generated from two-way local interactions between users of the different units of the commodity and a user interface in the different units of the commodity. The interactions elicit from respective users their perceptions of the commodity.

Reminds me of those signs and ads in Japan that are in English, but clearly written by someone with a very poor grasp of the language. The full patent description is much, much longer, but unfortunately, just as poorly written. I’m no patent lawyer, but it disgusts me that patents like this are ever granted—especially when the “inventor” is not actually implementing the idea.

Shame on Lodsys. Double so for targeting devs instead of Apple.

(h/t: Marco Arment)

Tweetbot review: good, but not great

Since Tweetbot for the iPhone came out on April 13, 2011, I’ve been using it as my main Twitter client. It’s good, and the interface is slick and gorgeous, but I already find it lacking in some significant ways compared to Echofon, my main Twitter client for the past several months.

First, it doesn’t have inline photo previews. I absolutely love this feature of Echofon and it’s one of the first things I look for when trying out a new Twitter app. I tap on most of the photos in my Twitter feed anyway and view them full-screen, but occasionally I’ll see the thumbnail of a photo someone posted and know that I don’t need or want to enlarge it. This may seem insignificant, but when not on wifi it can sometimes take a while for photos to load, and I can skip all that if I get enough information from the thumbnail. And sometimes I’m just interested in the photos people have posted, and it’s really nice to be able to scan my feed for posts that have photos. And it’s not just photo previews, it shows a little thumbnail when people post links to YouTube videos, also. The one drawback that I’ve noticed is that the thumbnails are only in your main Twitter feed, so if you drill down to someone’s timeline, the photos and videos are just links.

Second, the method Echofon uses when you want to @ reply (or “mention”) someone in a tweet is more efficient for how I use it. The idea is that the app will present you with a tappable list of options based on the letters you type after the “@” symbol. Echofon only displays people you follow, and that’s who I’m usually going to mention in a tweet. But Tweetbot displays much more than just the people you follow, from testing it it seems to display people you follow, people who follow you, people you’ve @ replied to in the past (whether or not you follow them), and even some people who’s Twitter account I’ve simply viewed. To be honest, there are so many people in the list that I’m not sure what the criteria are.

How it works is this: When composing a tweet, you type the “@” symbol and then begin typing the Twitter name of the person you want to mention. In Echofon, a row of tappable buttons with the Twitter name and picture of people matching the letters you’ve typed will appear at the bottom of the compose window. Depending on the length of Twitter names displayed, you can usually see between three and four options, and the options begin appearing when you type the first letter after the “@” symbol. In Tweetbot, a small icon (looks like the silhouette of a head and shoulders) appears under the cursor immediately after you type the “@” symbol. Tapping on the icon activates a slide-up panel with a search field at the top, a keyboard at the bottom, and a scrollable list of options in the middle. Keep typing letters to narrow the search results, and tap on the Twitter account you want to mention when you see it in the list. The Tweetbot implementation may be more powerful because it doesn’t limit you to the people you follow, but it also takes more taps to get it done. For me, the simplicity of how Echofon does it works best.

Third, there’s no companion Mac app that syncs to your first unread tweet. I use this all the time since in a typical day I’ll read my Twitter feed on a minimum of three devices (iPhone, iPad, MacBook), and sometimes on five (iPhone, iPad, MacBook, work Mac, and wife’s Mac). Say you open Echofon on your iPhone during breakfast and read all your unread tweets, making your way to the top of your feed. Then you close the app. At lunch you open Echofon on your Mac and there are 30 new tweet. Echofon for Mac will auto-scroll to the first unread tweet, based on where you left off hours before on your iPhone. Then say you close the Mac app and don’t check your Twitter feed again until after dinner, this time on your iPad. Now there are 45 new tweets since you last checked on your Mac, but Echofon is syncing every time you open it, so the app on your iPad knows to mark the 30 tweets you read on your Mac as read, and auto-scrolls to the first of the 45 new tweets. I follow less than 70 people, and this feature makes sure I can always pick up where I left off, no matter what I’m using to view my Twitter feed.

With Tweetbot, the only way to pick up where you left off is to always use Tweetbot. If you use it to check Twitter in the morning then use a desktop app all day at a desk, Tweetbot won’t know you’ve already read all those tweets from during the day, and you’ll have to scroll up looking for the first tweet you don’t recognize. If Twitter would add an element to their API that synced read status of your timeline, maybe this third issue could be eliminated (assuming developers all update their apps).

I could definitely live with Tweetbot’s @ reply method, but until they address and fix my first and third issues with the app, I’ll stick with Echofon as my main Twitter client.

Americans slain by U.S. forces on hijacked yacht, according to CNN

Via CNN: Americans slain by captors on hijacked yacht; pirates killed, arrested

Very sad news, but based on one of the CNN Staff writer’s paragraphs, you’d think the Americans were actually killed by U.S. forces:

Ship owners Jean and Scott Adam and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were found shot by U.S. forces who boarded the vessel about 1 a.m. ET, officials said

Emphasis added.

I know what the writer meant—that the Americans who were shot were found by U.S. forces—but it definitely does not read that way.

UPDATE: And look at that, CNN has already edited the paragraph to the following:

Ship owners Jean and Scott Adam and Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle were found shot after U.S. forces boarded the vessel about 1 a.m. ET, officials said.

Definitely better.

WikiLeaks is not the problem

Mark A. Thiessen, an apparently ignorant columnist for The Washington Post says: “You’re either with us, or you’re with WikiLeaks

Some say attacking WikiLeaks would be fruitless. Really? In the past year, the Iranian nuclear system has been crippled by a computer worm called “Stuxnet,” which has attacked Iran’s industrial systems and the personal computers of Iranian nuclear scientists. To this day, no one has traced the origin of the worm. Imagine the impact on WikiLeaks’s ability to distribute additional classified information if its systems were suddenly and mysteriously infected by a worm that would fry the computer of anyone who downloaded the documents. WikiLeaks would probably have very few future visitors to its Web site.

As Matt Honan said, with regard to the above quote, it’s “one of the dumbest things ever written about the Internet.”

Thiessen sounds like a scared little man, afraid to stand up for himself. Afraid that the world he lives in is too scary. So afraid that he’s willing to put all his trust in the same government that has been embarrassed by the documents and videos of WikiLeaks, showing what terrible things the US government is capable of. Thiessen only shows how narrow-minded he is. The discussion should not be about WikiLeaks, it should be about the information the site has brought to our attention.

(via Darring Fireball)

Could WikiLeaks have prevented 9/11?

WikiLeaks and 9/11: What if?

Thoughtful and intelligent article by Coleen Rowley and Bogdan Dzakovic.

WikiLeaks is good for the US, and your soul

Ex-Intelligence Officers, Others See Plusses in WikiLeaks Disclosures

From the news release:

So shame on Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and all those who spew platitudes about integrity, justice and accountability while allowing war criminals and torturers to walk freely upon the earth. … the American people should be outraged that their government has transformed a nation with a reputation for freedom, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights into a backwater that revels in its criminality, cover-ups, injustices and hypocrisies.

At the very least, if you’re someone who thinks WikiLeaks is harmful, watch these videos first. After that, let’s talk.

Don’t ever talk to the police

I was reading online about a book called The Criminal Law Handbook, by Sara Berman and Paul Bergman. It seems to have some good information in it, but while reading a “Free Chapter” on the http://www.nolo.com website, I came across this:

10. Can it ever help me to answer a police officer’s questions?

Yes. Police officers may be as interested in clearing the innocent as in convicting the guilty. People can often clear their names as well as help the police find the real perpetrators by answering a few straightforward questions. For example, assume that Wally, a possible suspect, can demonstrate that “I was at dinner with Andre” at the moment a crime was committed. Wally both removes himself as a suspect and enables the police to concentrate their efforts elsewhere.

And legal rights aside, the truth on the street is that people often can make life easier for themselves by cooperating with police officers—so long as they don’t have a good reason not to. “Contempt of cop” has resulted in the arrest and even physical injury of more than one innocent person. When innocent people who are pulled over or questioned by police officers stand on their rights too forcefully, events can sometimes get out of control rather quickly.

I’m surprised to see two JDs actually saying—in print, no less—that talking to the police can be a good idea. I’m not saying they’re wrong that it could sometimes possibly help, but I am saying that the risk is to great that, even if you’re 100% innocent, you still may end up screwing yourself by talking to the police. The authors say that “[p]olice officers may be as interested in clearing the innocent as in convicting the guilty.” Well yeah, they may be. What if they knock on your door and tell you they think you’re innocent (which you are), but they just want to rule you out as a suspect. You don’t mind answering a few questions, do you? Only you find out later that they were lying and were really trying to get incriminating information from you. Then, while you’re being questioned, maybe you misremember something or the police ask a bad question and they get confused (see this video for a more exhaustive explanation of why even innocent people should never talk to the police). Do you want to take that risk?

What about the passengers?

U.S. Dept. of Transportation Wants to Disable Phones in Cars (via Phonescoop.com)

Ok, but what about the passengers? Are their phones disabled too?

Path and Instagram

Path

I’ve been using Path a little lately, but I’m not convinced yet that I need ANOTHER photo app on my iPhone. I do love the way it collapses all the photos, though, and I wish more apps had this feature.

I’ve been using Instagram a lot lately, but it really bothers me that the EXIF data seems to be stripped from the photos. I send most of the photos I use in Instagram to my flickr page, and one of my favorite flickr features is that it automatically shows the location of each photo, and the type of camera that shot the photo—and it uses the EXIF data to do this. I sent the Instagram folks a message on twitter asking them about this, but they haven’t responded.