Monthly Archives: September 2005

The “Creative” Patent

I continue to receive periodic email newsletters from Creative, hoping that eventually they will update the firmware for my poor little Zen Touch MP3 player. Today’s email included a teaser subject that I couldn’t resist:

Creative patents industry-standard MP3 player technology

If you guessed that we have another example of patenting the obvious, you’d be right! Here are some choice excerpts from the press release (emphasis mine):

Creative’s invention for the user interface for portable media players enables selection of at least one track in a portable media player as a user sequentially navigates through a hierarchy using three or more successive screens on the display of the player. One example would be the sequence of screens that could display artists, then albums, and then tracks. When the user selects an artist, the player displays a list of albums for that artist. Selection of one of the listed albums then displays a list of tracks on the album.

“The user interface covered by the Zen Patent was invented by Creative research and development engineers in our Advanced Technology Center in Scotts Valley, California,” said Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative.

“I am very excited that we were awarded the Zen Patent, which helps to protect our invention and recognizes our innovation in portable media players,” said Sim. “After a major investment of time and effort by a group of our research and development engineers, we developed a way for a user to efficiently and intuitively navigate and select tracks from a significant number of tracks stored on a player. Before this invention, there was no intuitive and efficient way to deal with the large number of tracks that could be stored on a high-capacity player.”

Talk about patenting the obvious. Hmm, let’s see…select artist, then album, then track…genius! I wonder what the “major investment” consisted of? It would be nice if Creative would instead create firmware updates for their existing products like the Zen Touch to support Windows Media subscription services and fix their playback problems.

And of course, there are plenty of mentions of the iPod and how this Creative patent covers work that predates the successful audio players from Apple. Anyone smell a lawsuit coming?

Read more: Technorati

'Zen Patent': a new product or just a scam?

FeedBurner

I’m back to trying out FeedBurner again, primarily to see if their stats capabilities are helpful for my RSS and Atom feeds. I notice a lot of people change their “advertised” feed to be the Feedburner URL, but I think it’s cleaner to use a URL on your domain and just redirect (assuming you have this capability with your web host). That way, you can try FeedBurner for a while and return back to your original links if you want.

Here’s the sequence I used:

  1. Create two new templates in Movable Type (rss_fb.xml, atom_fb.xml), filling with the same content as the existing templates (we’ll give these URLs only to FeedBurner)
  2. Sign up both of these new feeds on FeedBurner
  3. Wait a day to make sure FeedBurner is fetching feeds correctly
  4. Use .htaccess to redirect feed requests to the FeedBurner URLs:
    RedirectTemp /rss.xml http://feeds.feedburner.com/cantonirss
    RedirectTemp /atom.xml http://feeds.feedburner.com/cantoniatom

Now I’ll check back in a couple days to see if the stats provide anything interesting.

SplashBlog 2.0

Earlier this year, I discovered SplashBlog, a really nice mobile photo blogging client for PDAs. At the time, I thought:

A gave this application a quick test … and it looks like a great solution for mobile picture blogging. In fact, this could be a great moblogging application in general if they allowed posting without images. … Currently SplashBlog supports TypePad or SplashBlog.com sites, but promises to add support for more in the future. If support for standard XML-RPC / MetaWeblog API sites like MovableType and WordPress become available, this application could really take off.

It looks like the 2.0 release included significant software as well as business changes. Now the application is free (was about $20) and you get a free SplashBlog.com account good for 100 picture uploads. To use more, you subscribe to the Pro account for about $30/year.

I was hoping that other blog software (like MovableType, WordPress, Flickr, etc.) would be supported, but it looks like they are going to focus on their own online service. I checked with SplashData’s customer service to confirm; they replied:

That’s correct, we have stopped supporting TypePad since version 1.5,
because we found it impossible to add the features needed to grow SplashBlog
and still support 3rd party blogging.

What we do offer now is a photogrid javascript feature, that allows you to
generate code to drop into your personal website: http://www.splashblog.com/portal_photogrid.aspx

I guess I can see the value in the SplashBlog-focused change and I have seen some nice mobile photo collaboration shown (at PalmSource conference, for example). But, if you want to capture a large number of users, supporting things like Flickr would seem to make sense. Maybe even at $20/copy, you can’t make a business out of selling Palm blogging software?

(Note: I was going to point to my SplashBlog account as an example, but their site is down at the moment.)

Palm Windows Treo

“Palm smartphone experience, meet Windows Mobile platform” — Yesterday Palm finally announced the Windows-powered Treo smartphone, to be launched on Verizon sometime in 2006. I’ve been anxiously waiting to see what kind of reaction this would bring, but so far it seems fairly muted. Maybe with all the rumors floating around, everyone was already expecting this move.

It’s curious, though, that the announcement was made so far in advance. Back in the day, it wasn’t so cool to preannounce. In a related move, Palm sent an email to registered developers:

Development resources for the Treo on Windows Mobile will be posted to PluggedIn once the product is commercially available, in early calendar 2006.

Looks like developers are getting the shaft again. I hope they plan to release some developer info prior to the actual product launch (if they want any 3rd-party software to be available for it).

Read more: CNET Feedster Palm Press Release

Kate Winslet and American Express

Tonight while vegging out watching some “must see TV” (well, at least Lost is finally on again), I caught again the Kate Winslet American Express commercial. I appreciate commercials like this — smart and subtle. It wasn’t until the very end (when Kate picks up a hook) that I figured out who it was.

A little digging on IMDB helped me piece together (I think) the movies with the dialog:

“At 17 I went to prison for murder” (Heavenly Creatures, 1994)

“By 19, I was pennyless and heartbroken” (Sense and Sensibility, 1995)

“I almost drowned at 20” (Titanic, 1997)

“My mind started to go at 24” (Iris, 2001)

“Then I had my memory erased at 28” (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, 2004)

“And by 29, I was in Neverland” (Neverland, 2004)

For more celebrity commercials, check out the American Express site.

Update 2005-10-20: The Fort Worth Star-Telegram just published a column mentioning my breakdown of this commercial.