Tech Nonsense

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chrome "about:..." pages

From the chrome blog:

* about:version
* about:plugins
* about:cache
* about:memory
* about:stats
* about:histograms
* about:network
* about:dns
* about:crash
* about:internets


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is it possible to patent a joke as a "method for making people laugh"?

If I understand the patent system correctly (and I'm not sure I do), then it might be possible to patent a new joke (assuming you're the inventor of the joke, no one has documented a very similar joke before, and you haven't told it to anyone yet). Any such specific joke should probably be patentable as "A Method for Making People Laugh".

For an invention to be patentable, it must satisfy 3 requirements: novelty, utility and non-obviousness. Let's see:

Novelty: If we're talking about a new joke, then it's certainly novel.

Utility (i.e., usefulness): making people laugh is certainly useful. Professional comedians and clowns make money from doing this. Even politicians find making people laugh a useful thing.

Non-Obviousness: this might be the most difficult thing to defend here. If you've ever tried to invent a joke, you certainly know it isn't easy. However, it's a bit tricky to prove that "someone trained in the art of inventing jokes" wouldn't have thought of your joke as "trivial to invent" given some prior art. Still, I think that most good jokes aren't obvious, since if they were obvious they wouldn't make people laugh.

So what's the point of patenting a joke? I think that this would be a great way to demonstrate the absurdity of the patent system. Just imagine the reactions if a senator told a patented joke and got sued by the owner!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Software patents

I had just read an interesting post at codinghorror about the problematic situation in software patents .

The author, Jeff Atwood, says

Something has to be done, or else we truly are staring down a coming software patent apocalypse

This reminded me of a crazy idea I had a few years ago: an automated system for generating prior art. If it works, it would be a sort of a "denial of service" attack on the patent system.

A patent is only valid if the invention has not been previously described to the public ("prior art"). If a description of an invention has been published before the date claimed by the patent, then the patent becomes worthless.

What if an automated system were to create (and publish over the web) such a huge amount of "prior art" that only really really good inventions would not exist in its database?

The algorithms could be "designed" randomly by the system. They could be random changes to known algorithms, or just plain random. It doesn't even matter if most of them don't really work or do anything useful, as long as some of the randomly generated "inventions" would deny patentability of other inventions.

To create such a system, you'd need a formal way to represent algorithms, plus a mechanism that describes this formal representation in human readable form. The output of the description mechanism doesn't even have to be very good (have you ever tried to understand the software described in a patent?).

Anyone up for the challange?

Monday, July 03, 2006

IFrames in Buttons

This is really silly - but quite amusing: did you know you can put an <iframe> inside a <button>??? I just stumbled across this by mistake...

Here's an example:

It works for me in IE6 and Firefox 1.5. I wonder what other browsers will do with it - and if there's anything actually useful that can be done with this capability :-)

Sunday, May 08, 2005 0.2.2 uploaded - fixes broken 0.2.1

Update: tagSense doesn't work anymore. changed their API, and I don't have the time to update it. Sorry.

If you're using Firefox, I suggest the Bookmarks addon instead.

Seems 0.2.1 wouldn't run on some PC's. A corrected version is here.

This version includes another small improvement: the list of related tags on the right pane is now updated as you type, showing tags related to the URL's displayed in the left pane.


Thursday, May 05, 2005 0.2.1 uploaded

Added support for:
  • Connecting through a proxy
  • UTF-8 (i.e. non-ANSII) descriptions

Note that I didn't test the username/password parameters for proxy connections, so I'll be glad to know if they work or not!

Also, there's a currently a problem with when retrieving non-ANSI tag names. Joshua has promised to fix it soon.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I have moved the tagSense download page

It's now at

Thanks for the encouraging comments and e-mails, btw!

Andrei - I'll see what I can do about Unicode.


Hosting problems

Turns out that a free geocities account is not a good place to host a 1.3MB download. Apparently, their "hourly data metering" system creates a 3 downloads/hour limit, so the site keeps exceeding its allows bandwidth.

I've moved the actual downloadable file to a temporary (low speed) location, and will try to find a better solution soon.