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March 02 2011

Developer Week in Review

Coming to you from 24 hours in the future, it's this week's Developer Week in Review.

All your news cycles are belong to us

We're using the O'Reilly Tempro-Spatial Distorter to send you back news of Today's's iPad 2 launch before it's even happened. Who could have predicted that the iPad 2 would have both a 3D Retina display and Smell-o-vision? But the real shocker had to be the announcement that the iTunes store was finally going to have the long-missing catalog of Up With People available for sale.

Ok, so we don't have a time machine, and deadlines dictate that this will be going to edit before the Big Announcement today. I'm sure one or two other news outlets will be covering the event, so you can probably find out what happened sometime later this week. For those keeping score, this is something like the 3rd or 4th Big Announcement so far this year, and we're only through February. It must be truly depressing to be anyone else in the industry, and have to compete with Apple's PR machine.

Unnoticed in all of this is that Google has replaced their Gingerbread Man with a more insectile sculpture, as Android Honeycomb begins to appear in the wild. Remember folks, Honeycomb's got a Big Big Byte.

New patents pending?

Once upon a time, I did an article on patent reform, and as part of it I interviewed a staffer in Sen. Patrick Leahy's (D-Vt.) office, since Leahy sits on the Judiciary Committee. Ever since then, I get at least one press release a week from the Senator's office about the never-ending progress of patent reform legislation (and with no opt out link ...). I ignore the stuff most of the time, but this week I got notice that some very interesting provisions have been added.

The first is an item entitled "Create a pilot program to review the validity of business method patents." It goes on to explain:

Many business method patents are of dubious validity because they are not truly inventive. This provision will create a temporary, limited proceeding at the USPTO to challenge business method patents.

So it looks like Bilski lives on, and maybe some of the truly junky software patents may finally get a second look.

The other item that caught my eye is: "End fee diversion at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; establish a revolving fund to ensure that funds collected by the USPTO can be used at the USPTO." This is a long-standing sore point, in that the USPTO is regularly raided for cash, leaving them underfunded to hire examiners. This, in turn, leads to the junky patents mentioned above.

Of course, as the press release baldly states:

Congressional efforts to reform the nation's patent system first began in 2005. The Senate Judiciary Committee has reported patent reform legislation to the full Senate in each of the last three Congresses.

In other words, don't hold your breath.

P <> NP, at least for now

The world held its breath recently as word came that there may have been a breakthrough in the long quest for P = NP. The world started breathing again this week, as word came that the promising line of attack wasn't so promising after all.

P = NP is one of the most vexing problems left in theoretical computer science, and also the one most likely to make a lay listener's eyes glaze over. As assistance to anyone trying to explain P = NP to their mother (for whatever reason), may we suggest the following one sentence description, courtesy of Wikipedia?

Suppose that solutions to a problem can be verified quickly. Then, can the solutions themselves also be computed quickly?

This will almost certainly leave her just as confused as before, but will lead her to believe the $50,000 she spent on your CS degree was worth the money.

Got news?

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