Pygame Subset For Android FTW!

Pygame Subset For Android FTW!

I was looking to port some things I’ve written over to run on Android – in particular, I decided to migrate this yesterday. I have done it as of today, albeit as a working prototype, using the Pygame Subset for Android. The only thing I had to modify was to rename the main script as main.py and rewrite a little of the main game loop. Total time from learning that PGS4A existed (about 11am this morning) to having a working prototype on my Android Tablet is 7 hours. That includes about 6 hours of being away from my desk doing other things and maybe 30 minutes of downloading, installing PGS4A and its dependencies. Actual coding changes took maybe 5 minutes for roughly 1200 lines of code (excluding blank lines, comments etc). That said, now I have to hook up the multitouch interface and it has some unexplained (and critical) pauses when played.

PGS4A is a really quick and cheap way of getting an existing pygame based application onto Android.

Why is wrapping paper so expensive?

Why is wrapping paper so expensive?

Quick comparison of wrapping paper pricing:

width length price price per m^2
John Sands 0.7 2 $6.00 $4.29 Incredible rip off
Wrapco 0.5 60 $44.00 $1.47 used for store wrapping. Presumably good weight
$2 shop 0.7 2 $2.00 $1.43 Thin paper
White paper A4 0.21 0.297 $0.01 $0.16 5 reams = $24.45
Coloured paper A4 0.21 0.297 $0.02 $0.35 1 ream = $10.98
Coloured paper A3 0.297 0.42 $0.06 $0.50 1 ream = $31.14

Maybe I’ll just buy coloured A3 paper from now on and forego the gloss finish?

UK Govt to ditch MS Office?

UK Govt to ditch MS Office

Apparently so, according to the Guardian:

‘Maude will add: “Technical standards for document formats may not sound like the first shot in a revolution.

“But be in no doubt: the adoption of compulsory standards in government threatens to break open Whitehall’s lock-in to proprietary formats. In turn we will open the door for a host of other software providers.”‘

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Review

I recently received a Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), fresh from the US.  I had earlier used an ASUS Slider.

Summary

A good, light device with great potential for note taking and use as a portable sketch book.  Marred by poor hardware and suboptimal UI decisions.

[Update: despite the problems I encountered, it is still a great device.  Cloverpaint is my sketch app of choice. I have the US bundle, which included $25 of Google play credits.   The AU version looks like it doesn't come with this.  Most of the rest of the bundles looked to me to be useless.

Update 2: For the past month or so (as at Feb 14) the SD card reader seems to be working with a low capacity SD I bought as a test, but I haven't tried removing/replacing it.]

Discussion

I have a complex relationship w my note. When I first received it its apparent heavy reliance or Wifi was a big turn off. I want the device primarily as a mobile sketchpad. I would also like to get work stuff (reviewing and drafting documents) done on it. Overall I am happy if the tablet despite its many failings. I do not propose to focus on its strengths, other than to say I am quite happy w| the tablet as a sketch book and am confident I will be able to use it for work on the go. Rather, let me list some of the issues I have faced with the tablet in my first week of use.

Issues with note 10.1

Many application features are difficult to discover.  Always press the menu button, just in case!

It is good to be able to take hand written notes w/out them being converted into text (conversion takes too long, particularly correcting mistakes).  The handwriting recognition is not good enough – at least fed my writing.   The virtual keyboard is bad for ‘ ” () because each time you want one of these characters it requires 3 key presses.  This is a very serious problem for me. These are commonly used glyphs. It makes me wonder whether this software is used by actual people before being released. Also of concern is the lack of arrow keys or the virtual keyboard. I assume the designers decided you could just tap the screen with your s pen.  This is an exercise in frustration.  Hunting the screen for the right tap spot is much harder than hitting the arrow keys a couple of times. Autocorrect generally works well – but sometimes quite poorly. No easy way to correct a bad autocorrect.  The hardware buttons are no good. I hit them too often, esp using the device flat on a table. Turning the device upside down doesn’t quite solve the issue because you obscure the light sensor and the screen goes dim.  Using handwriting is slow compared to typing on the virtual keyboard.  That, in turn, is slow compared to typing on a proper keyboard.

The s note application uses a weird page size – apparently you’re supposed to keep adding these tiny pages (note taking size is roughly equivalent to card file cards).   When you turn the tablet from landscape to portrait mode, you just get the small card across the width, rather than a full portrait screen to do your note taking on.  [Update: you can choose portrait mode templates when creating a new note, but not via the default widget.  Open the S Note app instead - and press that menu key! - to set the template ]   Export to text is not available(!)  You can get the text by selecting it and copying it to the clipboard though.  Turning a page takes a tediously long time (although still only a second or two).  Annoying because it is presumably deliberately included for effect.
Polaris office was woeful the last time I tried it. It looks like the new version has improved dramatically.  I haven’t used it extensively though.

It is hard to get a soft touch with s pen.  I would like to be able to configure the pressure curve for the s pen but this seems to be impossible.  Light pressure seems better in Clover paint than in  Galaxy sketch.

The device doesn’t come with an epub reader installed (?!)
Sd card issues – apparently a known issue w/ Samsung tablets – google “SD card unexpectedly removed”. I have tried it with 2 SD cards now. lt corrupted the first one. The second one is new and it will not read the card or even recognise that a card has been inserted. Yes, I have tried reformatting it – to within an inch of its life. lt makes no difference.  BTW these cards work in my ASUS Slider and on my computer.  In fact, they even work in the note if connected as a mass storage device through a usb-otg cable to a card reader.

The device mounts as an MTP device when plugged into a Linux computer.   Developer options are hidden in recent versions of Android tap the build number repeatedly to become a developer.

The note doesn’t work with my ethernet dongle connected to a usb-otg connector.  Instead it insists on using wireless <sigh>.  I don’t like wireless as I’m not comfortable that it’s secure.  The wireless supports WPA2 among others.
The Knox system looks interesting. I may use it but it is more designed to allow you corporate IT staff to quarantine data. Eg. I’d actually like to be able to move files from the Knox container to the public one, but I can’t. Rather I have to email the file to myself, using up my data allowance.  What I really want is a per-file or per-directory encryption system.  If the SD card reader worked I could apparently use that as an encrypted container <sigh>.  There are only a handful of apps available for use in the Knox container – and, strangely, S Note is not one of them which is annoying.  Taking meeting notes is an obvious use for the Note, but the lack of S Note means you have to do this in the personal container of the device.  Dumb.

Conclusion

Despite the very annoying failure of the sd card reader my general impression of the device is very favourable.  I am concerned that it will either tie me to online services or lock my data in weird formats.  That said I am reasonably confident that I will be able to keep my data free.

Proposed submission to ACIP on Innovation Patents

Licensed under: CC BY 3.0 AU

Dear Secretary,

I make the following submission.  It primarily focusses on question 11: “Should the excluded subject matter for an innovation patent be amended to include computer software? Why or why not?”

Summary
Computer software should be excluded from the scope of innovation patents (and the patent system generally). More generally, the patent law ought to be modified such that, if it is possible to infringe a claim by running software on a general purpose computer no patent or innovation patent ought to be issued in respect of that claim.

About me
I am a solicitor.  I practise in the area of technology and telecommunications law and have done so for about 20 years.  In that time I have represented individuals and large and small companies with a broad spectrum of interests from start ups through large companies, and for both customer and vendor organisations.  In the overwhelming majority of matters I have been involved in issues relating to copyright, patent and similar laws have been an important component.

Discussion

The US experience is that patents on software inventions have been very problematic.  There is currently both legislative and judicial movement there to reduce their scope.  Part of the problem is that it is difficult to maintain the quality of software patents with many patents being held invalid at trial (“… software patentees overwhelmingly lose their cases, even with patents that they litigate again and again.  Software patentees win only 12.9% of their cases, …”[1]).

An additional problem is that multiple software patents may read against a single software implementation.  While it is possible for multiple patents to read against the implementation of a physical article, the issue in relation to software is much more pronounced.  By way of example, the MPEG LA list of patents which read against AVC/H.264 patents runs to over 60 pages (and they will not guarantee that this list is complete). [2]  Allowing innovation patents in this area will make matters worse.

Patent systems impose compliance costs on all participants in the economy.  Getting advice on codec licensing, for example, would be cost prohibitive for a start up.  Start ups, rather, simply either avoid the issue or sign up for a licence whether or not it covers their proposed implementation. In one negotiation in relation to a software development project I was told by the other side that they costed the provision of a patent indemnity at 25% of the development cost per jurisdiction in respect of which an indemnity was sought.  Therefore, if a patent indemnity was sought in respect of four jurisdictions, the software development cost would double.

These compliance functions do not contribute anything to the economy and kill marginal innovation – even where that innovation is non-infringing (since the infringement will not be known until after the compliance search is completed).  Given that patent benefits accrue to only the patentee but compliance costs are multiplied by the whole community which bears them it is difficult to believe that the extension of patentability would result in a net increase in innovation. In this regard I note that I am yet to see a review of the patent system which takes account of the compliance costs it imposes.

There has been repeated and increasing litigation in the US against large companies in respect of software related patents.  That large companies are unable to develop in a patent-compliant fashion is evidence that patent compliance is a difficult, if not impossible task.  My belief is that it is most common for software patent infringements to arise as a result of independent invention rather than copying.  If this is the case, the grant of patents over software serves no purpose in either promoting innovation or the dissemination of such innovation.

Finally, because software is implemented through source code and source code is typically not disclosed inventors of software related inventions already have sufficient protection for their invention through their ability to publicly exercise their invention without disclosing it.  Indeed, for most software related inventions there is very little scope for proving secret use.

Notes
[1] Allison, Lemley and Walker, Patent Quality and Settlement Among Repeat Patent Litigants, The Georgetown Law Journal Vol 99:677 at 680.

[2] http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/avc/Documents/avc-att1.pdf

Getty Museum’s Open Content Program

The Getty Museum is making heaps of images of its collection available on line.  They call it “open content”.

Tony Abbott is NOT “the Prime Minister-Elect”

Tony Abbott is NOT “the Prime Minister-Elect”

It has been all over news sources over the past few days that Mr Abbott is now the “prime minister elect”.  The term “-elect” indicates that a person has been elected to a position but is yet to fulfill formality requirements (eg swearing in).  However Mr Abbott has not been elected to the position of Prime Minister.  Rather, he’s the “Member for Warringah”-elect.   This is because citizens don’t elect Prime Ministers in Australia.  Rather, after the elections the person who can command the confidence of a majority of the Lower House can approach the Governor General to be appointed to that position.  While Mr Abbott will no doubt be able to do this, that only makes him the Prime Minister presumptive or similar (Wikipedia suggests -designate).

I wonder whether this is a by product of US reporting (where, by the way President-elect is an entirely appropriate description)?


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