Why You Should Care About the Supreme Court Case On Toner Cartridges

rmdingler quotes a report from Consumerist: A corporate squabble over printer toner cartridges doesn't sound particularly glamorous, and the phrase "patent exhaustion" is probably already causing your eyes to glaze over. However, these otherwise boring topics are the crux of a Supreme Court case that will answer a question with far-reaching impact for all consumers: Can a company that sold you something use its patent on that product to control how you choose to use after you buy it? The case in question is Impression Products, Inc v Lexmark International, Inc, came before the nation's highest court on Tuesday. Here's the background: Lexmark makes printers. Printers need toner in order to print, and Lexmark also happens to sell toner. Then there's Impression Products, a third-party company makes and refills toner cartridges for use in printers, including Lexmark's. Lexmark, however, doesn't want that; if you use third-party toner cartridges, that's money that Lexmark doesn't make. So it sued, which brings us to the legal chain that ended up at the Supreme Court. In an effort to keep others from getting a piece of that sweet toner revenue, Lexmark turned to its patents: The company began selling printer cartridges with a notice on the package forbidding reuse or transfer to third parties. Then, when a third-party -- like Impression -- came around reselling or recycling the cartridges, Lexmark could accuse them of patent infringement. So far the courts have sided with Lexmark, ruling that Impression was using Lexmark's patented technology in an unauthorized way. The Supreme Court is Impression's last avenue of appeal. The question before the Supreme Court isn't one of "can Lexmark patent this?" Because Lexmark can, and has. The question is, rather: Can patent exhaustion still be a thing, or does the original manufacturer get to keep having the final say in what you and others can do with the product? Kate Cox notes via Consumerist that the Supreme Court ruling is still likely months away. However, she has provided a link to the transcript of this week's oral arguments (PDF) in her report and has dissected it to see which way the justices are leaning on the issue.

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‘Moore’s Law’ For Carbon Would Defeat Global Warming

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MIT Technology Review: A streamlined set of goals for reducing carbon emissions could simplify the way nations approach the quest to reduce human impact on the planet. A group of European researchers have a refreshingly straightforward solution that they call a carbon law -- or, as the Guardian has coined it, a "Moore's law for carbon." The overarching goal is simple: globally, we must halve carbon dioxide emissions every decade. That's essentially it. The rule would ideally be applied "to all sectors and countries at all scales," and would encourage "bold action in the short term." Dramatic changes would naturally have to occur as a result -- from quick wins like carbon taxes and energy efficiency regulations, to longer-term policies like phasing out combustion-engine cars and carbon-neutral building regulations. If policy makers followed the carbon law, adoption of renewables would continue its current pace of doubling energy production every 5.5 years, and carbon dioxide sequestration technologies would need to ramp up in order for the the planet to reach net-zero emissions by the middle of the century, say the researchers. Along the way, coal use would end as soon as 2030 and oil use by 2040. There are, clearly, issues with the idea, not least being the prospect of convincing every nation to commit to such a vision. The very simplicity that makes the idea compelling can also be used as a point of criticism: Can such a basic rule ever hope to define practical ideas as to how to change the world's energy production and consumption? The study has been published in the journal Science.

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Microsoft Delivers Secure China-Only Cut of Windows 10

Earlier this week, CEO of Microsoft Greater China, Alain Crozier, told China Daily that the company is ready to roll out a version of Windows 10 with extra security features demanded by China's government. "We have already developed the first version of the Windows 10 government secure system. It has been tested by three large enterprise customers," Crozier said. The Register reports: China used Edward Snowden's revelations to question whether western technology products could compromise its security. Policy responses included source code reviews for foreign vendors and requiring Chinese buyers to shop from an approved list of products. Microsoft, IBM and Intel all refused to submit source code for inspection, but Redmond and Big Blue have found other ways to get their code into China. IBM's route is a partnership with Dalian Wanda to bring its cloud behind the Great Firewall. Microsoft last year revealed its intention to build a version of Windows 10 for Chinese government users in partnership with state-owned company China Electronics Technology Group Corp. There's no reason to believe Crozier's remarks are incorrect, because Microsoft has a massive incentive to deliver a version of Windows 10 that China's government will accept. To understand why, consider that China's military has over two million active service personnel, the nation's railways employ similar numbers and Microsoft's partner China Electronics Technology Group Corp has more than 140,000 people on its books. Not all of those are going to need Windows, but plenty will.

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Favorite tools of Danielle Applestone, CEO of Other Machine Co.

Our guest this week on the Cool Tools Show is Danielle Applestone. Danielle is a material scientist, co-founder and CEO of Other Machine Co., the leading manufacturer of high-precision desktop CNC milling machines. Formerly, Danielle ran a DARPA project to develop digital design software and manufacturing tools for the classroom. Danielle's team took that technology and launched Other Machine Co. in 2013.

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Show notes:

monarch

Monarch Instrument Examiner 1000 ($1,200)

"I came across this electronic stethoscope as part of our manufacturing process. We would get motors from a manufacturer that looked balanced and met a spec, but once we put the whole machine together, sometimes a machine would have a lot of vibration and we didn't know how to quantify that vibration or to know what was good or what was bad. … There’s a lot of intuition when you're putting something complicated together like "Well, it feels right," or "It doesn't feel right." That's really hard to do so we found this amazing thing, which cut a ton of time out of our manufacturing process and now we have beautiful graphs of everything. We know exactly what things vibrate and which ones don't. You can use it on musical instruments. It's an amazing tool. Once you have one you realize how much you needed one in your life.”

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Bicycle inner tubes with holes in them

"I came across bicycle inner tubes with holes in them through a friend who had made a sail boat that was attached only with these bicycle inner tubes —it was a catamaran. The reason why they’re so important is they are waterproof, they stretch, and you don’t have to tie them in knots, so you can latch things together really quickly and then undo them, and make a new configuration. … They’re used a little bit like a bungee cord, but bungee cords are really expensive and you have to make do with the hooks whereas if you take a long inner tube that has a hole in it — you’re not going to use it anyway — slice it up into strips. It’s like a variable length bungee cord, but it also doesn’t have the hooks so you can just wrap it around itself and tuck it under and it’ll stay put.”

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The Encyclopedia of Country Living ($20)

"This is a great tool. This is so comprehensive for every little thing. I moved out into Kentucky and lived on 1200 acres for a while and didn't have much. It was the go-to for, "Okay, we need to build a shanty for chickens. We need to learn how to clean a chicken." It has everything, like “How to bury your own dead.” … The thing that’s magic about this book is it has the right level of detail, just enough to get yourself in trouble. … It’s just enough to get you going and then you can kind of DIY the rest. I still use it. The pages are all rained on, and moldy, and whatever, but it’s well loved.”

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X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer

“Yeah, well we just went from just about the lowest tech to the highest tech thing I’ve ever laid my hands on. … What's great about this tool is it's super useful for telling what's on the surface of materials. I used to be a material scientist and I worked on lithium ion batteries. The surface is where all the action is. There's not a lot of techniques out there that are nondestructive. Usually, if you invent a material, you have a sample, you have to crush it up or put it on a slide, you have to do something to it that mixes the surface in with the bulk. Sometimes, you don’t want that. … The X-ray Photoelectron Spectrometer is amazing because you can just put a sample in and it’s nondestructive …. How it works is you take a beam of x-ray, so you shoot photons at the surface of your material and those photons have enough energy to pick off electrons. A photon goes in, ejects an electron, and then there’s a collector that collects that electron and measures the kinetic energy, measures how fast it was moving. Then, if you know the energy of your x-ray going in, and the energy of that electron that you caught, you can just subtract and figure out how tightly bound was that electron to my surface. What's cool about that is if you know how tightly a molecule was hanging onto it's electron, you can tell what that molecule was. Whether it was a sulfur dioxide, or sulfur monoxide, the electrons that are swimming around those molecules will be held differently depending on what those molecules are. … The place that I used one was at the University of Texas at Austin. They’re quite common, but they’re usually at universities, or national labs … They’re millions of dollars.”

US Scientists Launch World’s Biggest Solar Geoengineering Study

In what will be the world's biggest solar geoengineering program to date, U.S. scientists part of the $20 million Harvard University project are going to send aerosol injections 20km (~12.4 miles) into the earth's stratosphere "to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption," The Guardian reports. From the report: Scientists hope to complete two small-scale dispersals of first water and then calcium carbonate particles by 2022. Future tests could involve seeding the sky with aluminum oxide -- or even diamonds. Janos Pasztor, Ban Ki-moon's assistant climate chief at the UN who now leads a geoengineering governance initiative, said that the Harvard scientists would only disperse minimal amounts of compounds in their tests, under strict university controls. Geoengineering advocates stress that any attempt at a solar tech fix is years away and should be viewed as a compliment to -- not a substitute for -- aggressive emissions reductions action. But the Harvard team, in a promotional video for the project, suggest a redirection of one percent of current climate mitigation funds to geoengineering research, and argue that the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10 billion a year. Some senior UN climate scientists view such developments with alarm, fearing a cash drain from proven mitigation technologies such as wind and solar energy, to ones carrying the potential for unintended disasters. If lab tests are positive, the experiment would then be replicated with a limestone compound which the researchers believe will neither absorb solar or terrestrial radiation, nor deplete the ozone layer.

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Tokyo travel tips, day 1: Airbnb in Shinjuku and an adorable curry restaurant

Carla and I just returned from a one-week trip to Tokyo. It was my sixth visit to Japan's capital, and it was my favorite. For the next few days, I'll be writing about recommended things to do there. See them all here.

We arrived at Narita airport about 1:30pm Tokyo time. At the airport, I noticed a lot of vending machines selling SIM cards with high-speed data. You can get a week's worth of unlimited data for less than $10 a day. If your phone is locked, you can rent a wi-fi hot spot for about the same amount. I used a wi-fi hotspot to consult Google Maps many times every day to navigate around the city. Google Maps will also tell you which trains to use to get from one place to another. We also used Yelp to find restaurants and learn when they open and close.

There are several ways to get from Narita to Tokyo (about 50 miles). A taxi or Uber costs almost $300 and you will have to deal with traffic. There are also luxury buses, which can take you right to your hotel (provided you are staying in one of the major ones.) My favorite way to get to Tokyo from the airport is by train. Both the Narita Express ($28) and the Skyliner ($22) have terminals inside the airport. They are convenient and fast. The Skyliner is faster and cheaper, but stops only at the Ueno and Nippori stations. The Narita Express stops at more places, including Shibuya and Shinjuku. We took the Narita Express because we were staying near the Shinjuku Station.

At Shinjuku station we took a taxi to our Airbnb. I've taken a lot of taxi rides in Japan, and in 100% of the cases the following five things were true:

1. The driver didn't understand a word of English. (Hand your phone to him with the address displayed on the screen. He'll enter the address in his navigation system.)

2. The car was immaculate inside and out.

3. Th driver was a man.

4. The driver got confused if I tried to tip him.

5. The driver automatically opened and closed my door for me. Do not try to open and close the yourself because it will strain the mechanism and annoy the heck out of the driver.

Cars drive on the left side of the road in Japan, by the way.

We took a very short ride to our Airbnb (right next to Yoyogi Park, home to the famous Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine) and took the elevator to the 9th floor. Here's what the place looked like, along with views from the balcony:

At $225 a night, (here's a referral code you can use to get a $40 Airbnb credit. I'll get $20 in credit if you use it) it's much cheaper than many hotels in the area. It has a kitchen, a loft with two futons, a bedroom with two large beds, a dining area, a Japanese style tub, and a washer/dryer. It also includes a wi-fi hotspot that you can take with you as you travel around Tokyo.

By the time we got settled in and took a shower after 16 hours of travel, we were hungry and sleepy. I looked on Yelp and found a place called Vegetable Curry Camp just a few minutes walk from our place. It was a cute tiny restaurant in the basement. They had boxes of fresh vegetables next to the front door, and the decor was "1960 American campground." We got sizzling skillets of fresh vegetable curry and plates of rice. The bill for both of us was less than $20. (In fact, many of the restaurants we went to were a lot cheaper than places in Los Angeles).

On the way back, we stopped at one of the ubiquitous konbini (コンビニ, short for convenience store) to buy eggs and onigiri (rice filled with fish or other fillings) for breakfast the next morning. We slept like logs.

Stayed tuned for day 2, to find out about Meiji Jingu and the interesting little stores in Harajuku.

Venezuelan Developers Are Using Bitcoin, Rare Pepe Trading Cards To Fight Against a Dismal Economy

According to Crypto Insider, Venezuelan developers have been selling "rare pepes" -- trading cards that contain unique illustrations and photoshops of the character Pepe the Frog. While the trading cards started out as nothing more than a joke, many of them have been traded for thousands of dollars on the Counterparty platform, which is built on top of Bitcoin, and have provided a way for many developers to sustain themselves in Venezuela's poor economy. From the report: The basic idea behind the issuance of rare pepes on top of the Counterparty platform is that it enables scarcity in a digital world. Each rare pepe card is linked to a little bit of bitcoin through a practice known as coin coloring. Whoever owns the private keys associated with the address where the bitcoins that represent a specific rare pepe card is located is the one who owns that particular trading card. Now, a group of developers in Venezuela are building games similar to Hearthstone and Pokemon where the rare pepe trading cards will play an integral role. If you go to rarepepe.party right now, you're mainly presented with a video of what the first game based on the Rare Pepe digital trading cards will look like. The concept is similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering where players essentially do battle with their opponents via characters on trading cards, which have specific stats and features. In this case, the characters are various rare pepes. With many rare pepes already released (you can view them in the official rare pepe directory), the developers behind Rare Pepe Party are attempting to provide a use case for these new trading cards. While some rare pepe cards already have stats on them, the developer who chatted with Crypto Insider says those stats may not mean much when it's time to play the game. While rare pepes are nothing more than fun and games for much of the developed world, they're a matter of survival in Venezuela. "We're based in Venezuela, and our business has been saved by bitcoin many times," said the developer. The developer claims roughly 80 percent of the offices around the area where Rare Pepe Party is being developed have shut down over the past year. The biggest businesses on their street have also dropped as much as 90 percent of their employees.

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South Korea Finds Qualcomm Prevented Samsung From Selling Its Exynos Processors

According to the South Korea Trade Commission (SKTC), Qualcomm prevented Samsung from selling its Exynos processors to various third-party phone manufacturers. "The Commission's report claims that Qualcomm abused its standard-essential patents -- which define technical standards like Wi-Fi and 4G -- to prevent Samsung from selling its modems, integrated processors, and other chips to smartphone makers like LG, Huawei, Xiaomi, and others," reports Digital Trends. "The Commission reportedly threatened to file suit against Samsung, which had agreed to license the patents for an undisclosed sum, if the South Korean electronics maker began competing against it in the mobile market." From the report: That bullying ran afoul of the South Korea Trade Commission's rules, which require that standard-essential patents be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. "Samsung Electronics has been blocked from selling its modem chips to other smartphone manufacturers due to a license deal it signed with Qualcomm," the commissioners wrote. The report provides legal justification for the $853 million fine the SKTC placed on Qualcomm in December for "anti-competitive practices." Qualcomm intends to appeal. "[We] strongly disagree with the KFTC's announced decision, which Qualcomm believes is inconsistent with the facts and the law, reflects a flawed process, and represents a violation of due process rights owed American companies" under an applicable agreement between the U.S. and South Korea.

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