Saturday, September 06, 2008

Trade secrets (updated)

Relevant to Canon trying to intimidate into not using the word Canon in a domain, is the case where Apple sued for "knowing misappropriation and disclosure of Apple's trade secrets".

The lawsuit was later settled amiably as revealed here, but this older article has more information.
"...the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, versions of which have been adopted by about 45 states, including California, prevents third parties from exposing information knowingly obtained from sources bound by confidentiality agreements.
"Just because you don't have a relationship with the company doesn't necessarily immunize you, if you publish what you reasonably should have known was a trade secret," Beckerman-Rodau said. "The First Amendment has been asserted more and more against intellectual property rights, but it's not faring well. Most courts haven't accepted it."

Isn't that a strange law? So if somebody mails me to tell me that Nikon will reveal a 300-megapixel pocket camera next week, and I publish it (and it's true), I am liable to get sued by Nikon? That's just nasty.

If a company wants something to be secret, that's their problem, it's not mine. If I have signed an agreement with Apple to keep something secret, that's another kettle of fish. But seriously, how can somebody be legally bound to protect somebody else's secrets?

Update: "Noisy" has a perspective, based on Chuqui's comment.
I don't know, I don't really see how it hurts a company, except it's pride, by news of a product being leaked a few days early. I mean sometimes products are announced months before release. Hell, Samsung just announced a product which they say will be available in the spring of 2010!

Bert added:
Assume for an instant that you are working under a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for a client, say ABC corporation. You hit a snag and need some advice from Charlie. Normally, before disclosing any significant amount of sensitive information to Charlie, you should have him sign an NDA protecting you and your client. In practice however, pulling red tape every time you need to talk to a colleague would quickly bring everything to a halt, so you don't always do it. Military projects are the exception, everything bears red tape; as a result, being 3~5 years late on delivery is pretty much average...

It has therefore been acknowledged by the courts that it is normal and in your client's best interests to allow you to communicate freely with colleagues, within reasonable limits.

Now, what if Charlie can't be trusted? He is not bound by an NDA with your client, so he could, in theory widely diffuse any information you gave him. This is where the law you are referring to comes in play: if you clearly stated to Charlie that the information is confidential, then he can be held accountable for disclosing the said information.

The world and the American justice system being what they are, laws like this one, which exist only to plug holes in other laws, will be perverted by literal interpretation and end up being misused in a wide variety of contexts.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Coney Island circa 190

Nice pitcher. Coney Island circa 1903. "Luna Park at night."
Get it even bigger here.

This one is also awesome.
And this one. Huge too.

Socotra Island

An isolated island; darwinism in play. More.

This cool town is on mainland Yemen.

Also via Darkroastedblend:
Cool art from the Burning Man festival.
Christian Bale and Kermit the Frog, separated at birth?
At the olympics, there's nairy a logo to see which is not a sponsor. Even toilet fixture logos were taped up.

A portrait lens

I just bought a Nikkor 85mm F:1.8.

For non-photo-geeks:
"Nikkor" is Nikon's name for their lenses.
85mm is considered a good length for a portrait lens for a 35mm camera (or slightly smaller, like most digital cameras with exchangeable lenses are).
And F:1.8 means it's a "fast" lens, which signifies that it has big-diameter lenses which take is a lot of light, so you can use it in low light situations. Also a "fast" lens is good for blurring backgrounds, which again is good for portraits.

All reviews hint this is an excellent lens, and it is not even very big or expensive. I'm much looking forward to using it.

Also, this may be just photo-nerd stuff: it's just a beautiful lens. Such a huge "hole" through such superior optical arrangements, it's gorgeous. It may only seem beautiful because I know what it is, but it is still a nice experience.

Thinking about it, I doubt you can build in image stabilization in a lens like this. I wish Nikon would get their act together and put the durn thing in the camera bodies. Other makers sell such cameras at competitive prices, so it can't be all that expensive.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sony A900

Somebody finally beat Canons looooong-standing king-of-the-hill position in resolution terms in the DSLR arena. Sony did.

The Sony A900 has over 24 megapixels. That is really packing them in, even in a full frame sensor. It will be interesting to see how it deals with noise.
It's also interesting that Sony seems to have kept the very boxy look of this camera, instead of going for the soft, "melted" look which has been in vogue the past many years. Good for them.

As you know, I'm not eager to get on board with all those megapixels, but I'm interested because developments like this always push technology further. Like back when Kodak invented that awful "Kodak Disc" camera/film with a negative the size of a quarter of a postage stamp (literally!), then they had to invent a film emulsion with grain fine enough that some kind of picture could be produced by the tiny negative, and these emulsions then came to the aid of more serious formats like 35mm.

Similarly, I would not be surprised if the breakthroughs in low noise that resulted in the brilliant Nikon D3 actually came from research done in order to make a 20+ megapixel sensor with reasonably low noise.

R.I.P. Pandora

OK, Pandora customizable internet radio is not dead yet, but it does not look good.

I was very happy when I found it last year, because it quick order it introduced me to more than one cool band I'd never heard about before, which I then went and bought.

But now it's no longer available outside the US.

And worse, the RIAA is strangling it.

I don't get radio. Music publishers is paying money to have their music played on radio. But this is apparently illegal. But if they do, then radio is clearly great promotion. So how come radio stations have to pay percentages to to RIAA? And what about musicians who are not members of RIAA?

Similarly, having a song in a movie can be a big boost for a band. But most music has become so expensive for movies to use that it's a big problem for movie makers. Friggin' weird. It can even be too expensive to just have a character hum a couple of bars from a well-known song!

Samsung X360 is lighter than Air

Samsung X360 is lighter than Air, ArsTechnica article.
And it has a lot more connectors too.
Of course, then it runs Windows Vista. :-( So it's only the hardware which is not bloated.

Dell has just released a subnotebook. Quite reasonably priced too, but less interesting to me due to small keyboard.

Del's Beautiful New Wooden Machine

Here's something to do on a rainy afternoon.
I am amazed that this dang video is getting a new comment every twenty seconds on its youtube page!

Oh, and this one below is pretty cool. I actually built something similar one day as a kid, only with rubber balls and made in big sand heap. It had a long, winding track which even had tunnels in.

There are some other fun marble machines, like this one and this one. It strikes me that with some artistic talent added, this might be something.

It seems Pascal is "in the trade":
I got a toy for the kids which is precisely a marble machine, and they love it. I'll send you a photo. The only trick is, you have to think how you connect the hollow tube supports and back-and-forth ramps, if you really want the marbles to have a good trip and go where you intended them. Basically, you could say it's a glorified open-air rattle. Makes the same sound. :-) Given the amount of planning required to build one with three complete intertwined circuits from top to bottom, I take photos of my best ones so I can reproduce them again. And for the children, it's like a miniature Waterland Super Slide! Shrieks of ecstatic laughter when the cascade starts.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

DSLR camera review map

Here's a useful feature, somebody made up a DSLR camera review map. It lists all significant web reviews of the DSLR cameras out there.

Google Chrome and Scott McCloud (Updated)

Update: TTL said:
Google has released a couple of quite watchable videos about Chrome.

Google hired the brilliant Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics) to explain their new browser. Good call.

Ivor said:
Just one small point. Shouldn't the comic format have been landscape, then I wouldn't have had to keep scrolling.

Funny you should say that. In one of McCloud's own web comics, this one, about making web comics, he makes the point emphatically that it gets his goat when somebody makes portrait-oriented pages for web pages. :)

Scott McCloud tells me:
We're working on a side-by-side, landscape, screen-fitting version. It was a actually a *printed* comic by design, this is just an online adaptation. Still, should be more readable, I agree! :-)

It may be related to the fact that the comic book was sent out too early by mistake, so perhaps it was scanned and put up in a rush in lieu of a proper web version.

TTL commented:
Nice to see someone applying the software development methodology called Clear Thinking™ to web browsers. I will certainly switch to Chrome as soon as it becomes available.
Now, if you had asked 100 Unix engineers in, say, 1988 whether separate browser sessions should have their own OS processes, they would all have thought it's a rhetorical question, for it is so obvious.
It's good that 20 years later at least one of the big players actually figured this out. Maybe all is not lost and sometime in the future we will start seeing some overall progress in computing again.

New Nikkor

Nikon's new kit lens tested. Seems it's good. I suspected so. It's remarkable the progress which has been made in lenses since the millennium, I suspect it's as much about production methods (like cheap aspherical lenses) as it it about design.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Video primer

Video primer.

"From the perspective of the still photographer looking to explore the world of video and motion for the first time there is a temptation to string together a sequence of still images."

"Note that in terms of bandwidth, 1080i and 720p require almost the same amount of data. With 1080i it is being allocated to spatial resolution, while with 720p is it allocated to temporal resolution."

1938 underwater photography by Bruce Mozert

1938 underwater photography by Bruce Mozert
[Thanks to Bert]

A file sharing virus?

I wonder if there a file sharing virus which creates a file on the fly when somebody searches for it?
I am looking for an MP3 (or CD) version of an LP from around 1980, called "Chinese Highway" by the long-defunct Danish band "Repeat Repeat".
I searched for these terms via Acquisition, they did not exist, except a minute later, they suddenly did. Just one file. And similarly, with other obscure titles, they turned up, just one, after I searched.
... Yes, I just tested with "jerfowlsjerwiojjfowejfo", random nonsense, and bingo, a file turns up, 5.5MB it says it is, and MP3. Bait.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Low light

At the risk of beating a dead horse:
Some people calling the new Nikon D90 and the new Canon 50D mere evolutionary upgrades, read: "boring".
Some are excited about the video capability of the Nikon.
Surprisingly many don't even mention what for me is the most important development: high-ISO capability.

As an owner of a web site publishing girly pictures, I have seen so many otherwise nice shoots ruined by bad noise in the pictures when they were shot indoors. You really don't want excessive noise in skin tones. And I've seen even more sets ruined by badly managed artificial lighting, because that's a whole science in itself.

Maybe two years ago I got a set which was indoors, but yet which had the liveliness of handheld shooting. I thought "how did he do that?", and found out he had used the then-new Canon 5D. It was new to be able to get smooth images at 1000 ISO, which was just what he had done. This was a big step up for this kind of photography.

And the new cameras are amazing because they take this even further. The Canon has not been tested yet, but I'm sure it's tops. The Nikon I've seen, and it's a small camera at just a thousand bucks, which can take quality photos at not 1000 ISO, but 3200 ISO, nearly two stops more.

For photographers who know how to leverage this, it's big.

Help and business

In the wonderful film As Good As It Gets, the Jack Nicholson character ask the heroine, who earlier had been helped by him, for a big favor. He hints she owes him. She says: "are you saying that accepting your help obligates me?" He answers: "is there any other way of looking at it?" She has no answer for that.

But actually I think there is another way of looking at it. A wise friend of mine once said that there's no obligation to pay back help, if there was, it wouldn't be help, it would be business.

"I'll cook dinner if you'll drive me to the airport tomorrow" is a business transaction. "I'll cook dinner, you seem tired" is help.


"My Dark Side likes Mary Poppins. No wonder I was bullied in school."
- Dr. Jackmann, from the TV show Jekyll

Just rented this, and it's nicely done. Powerful performance by James Nesbitt.

Funny by the way how a woman can seem different in different circumstances. I saw Gina Bellman as Jane in Couplings, and she did not seem all that hot, but in Jekyll she is gorgeous.
Same with Tamsin Greig, in Black Books I was nuts about her, in other shows much less so.