The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has tied up with Google to make bulk trademark and patent data accessible online. The latter has agreed to host roughly 10 terabytes of data free of cost for two years, by when the USPTO hopes to enter into a proper arrangement “with a contractor to retrieve and distribute USPTO patent and trademark bulk public data.” In fact, this is the first time that USPTO's public data in bulk form is being provided free of cost.
“The USPTO is committed to providing increased transparency as called for by the President’s Open Government Initiative. An important element of that transparency is making valuable public patent and trademark information more widely available in a bulk form so companies and researchers can download it for analysis and research,” said Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos.
The data that can be accessed online at the moment includes patent grants and published applications, trademark applications, and patent and trademark assignments etc.
Even a company of a pleasant disposition like Google can become a touch nettlesome when its rivals are busy playing a high-stakes game of musical chairs, where the winner gets to be the world's leading tech company – Apple snatched the honor from Microsoft on Wednesday. Probably feeling left out and dejected, the company even missed a key deadline yesterday. The German authorities had asked it to hand over the unauthorized Wi-Fi data it had collected during an image-collection campaign for its Street View service. But the internet giant let the deadline pass.
It was kind enough to offer a clarification, though: “As granting access to payload data creates legal challenges in Germany, which we need to review, we are continuing to discuss the appropriate legal and logistical process for making the data available.” This excuse appears untenable given the fact that Johannes Caspar, the Hamburg data protection supervisor, claims to have been assured by the state prosecutor, Lutz von Selle, that the requested data will not be used to compound Google's legal problems.
However, Google's failure to comply with the request has actually compounded its problems, as it has given rise to a criminal investigation against it. The company also enraged regulators in Hong Kong by missing a Monday deadline for furnishing similar data collected in that neck of the woods.
The ruckus began when Google fessed up to “inadvertently” collecting 600 gigabytes of “fragmentary data” from open Wi-Fi networks in more than 30 countries, and offered to destroy the data instead of making it available for scrutiny. Although data protection watchdogs in Australia, Ireland and Denmark gave the nod for the data to be destroyed, most countries have requested that it be preserved for the sake of possible legal action in the matter.
About four years ago, Bryan St. Germain, then 22-year old son of Bob St. Germain, used his Verizon cell phone to connect to the Web. What Bryan didn't know at the time was that the two-year promotional plan his father signed up for -- a plan which allowed for free downloads -- had passed, and he was now being charged per kilobyte.
The result? Little St. Germain racked up a $12,000 phone bill on his father's account, and then another $6,000 to be added to next month's bill. Apparently Bryan had been tethering his cell phone to his laptop because it was quicker than his father's dial-up service, but certainly not less expensive. Now four years later, Bob's debt incurred by his son sits in collections and the dispute between him and Verizon rages on.
"If there's extreme activity on your account, they should let you know," Bob said. "Nobody should get surprised like I did."
Sounds reasonable, but is Verizon really at fault? The wireless telco begs to differ, pointing out that it goes to "great lengths to educate" customers about their products and services so situations like this don't end up happening. But it did happen, and the question is, should Bob be forced to pay off his debt, which Verizon offered to cut in half?
"The wireless industry is extraordinarily competitive and customers have choices," Verizon wrote in a letter to the Boston Globe. "We work to win, and keep, customers every day--and we understand our customers don't like surprises. Neither do we--it's bad business. Which is why we clearly explain service plan details in brochures, during the purchase process, in our customer agreements and again through confirmation letters. We provide access to tons of account information through the MyVerizon Web page, and by dialing #BAL (balance information), #DATA (data usage), and #MIN (available minutes)."
Verizon went on to explain that customers have "numerous tools through the Internet" at their disposal to manage their family's cell phone usage, such as setting voice and messaging allowances and receiving free text alerts when a family member near or reaches their limits, among other things.
Should Bob be forced to pay the four-year-old bill, or should Verizon drop the charges? Hit the jump and sound off!
How jaded have we become when we automatically assume that an "unlimited" data plan isn't really unlimited at all, but capped at whatever amount the ISP deems is high enough that no one will notice? So imagine our surprise when we caught wind that AT&T's Mark Siegel told GearLog.com that "unlimited is unlimited" when asked about the iPad's 3G data plan.
That's great news for soon-to-be iPad owners holding out for the 3G version to ship. Watch Netflix videos around the clock if you want, and never worry about receiving a letter that you've exceeded your "unlimited" quota. It's hard to believe that we're actually excited about this, but blame it on the ISPs who up to this point had us questioning what the definition of "unlimited" is, never mind what the definition of "is" is.
Apple will begin shipping 3G-capable iPads later this month for $629 (16GB), $729 (32GB, and $829 (64GB). AT&T's 3G data plan for the iPad runs $30 per month.
Double the screensavers, double the fun. Right? That's the proposition offered by FoxSaver, a unique extension for the Mozilla Firefox Web browser that separates the application into its own, separate display platform from your desktop. That's a bit of a tongue-twister, so let me spell this out: FoxSaver, as suggested by the name, is an add-on that builds a separate screensaver into your browsing session.
You can use the add-on to pull images from a huge online gallery of pre-submitted pictures (akin to Flickr). If you're not into the random element, you can also set up FoxSaver to use images from a number of folders on your local hard drive or specific RSS feeds that you've already set up. The add-on will even display the contents of Web pages during the animated screensaver process--take that, data-driven RSS feeds.
I have Windows Vista on my desktop computer and I’m stuck on what to do about backing up my more than 500GB of videos and music. I’ve read that external is the way to go, but I’m a little iffy because of expense and the fact that the backup drive can crash. DVDs are not a bad idea, but it takes forever to back up that much data. I use these files every day and want easy access to them. The most reliable method, plus easiest to access, would be an online site, but that costs a lot of money. Please help me make a decision so I can install Windows 7 worry-free.
Read the Doctor's recommendation for Tony after the jump.
Network and storage vendor Buffalo Technology said it is getting in the saddle with NovaStor, a data protection and backup software specialist. The plan is to bundle NovaStor's NovaBackup data protection software with all of Buffalo's network attached storage (NAS) products.
"Data protection is extremely important and providing first-class, cost-effective backup solutions has always been a top priority for Buffalo," said Ralph Spagnola, vice president of sales at Buffalo. "This strategic partnership with NovaStor not only strengthens our product portfolio, but it strengthens our committment to delivering useful, all-in-one solutions that exceed our customers' expectations."
This is the second partnership this month for Buffalo, who earlier announced it was teaming up with NewMedia-NET to bring DD-WRT based software as part of the standard configuration for all of Buffalo's high-power routers and access points.
Buffalo said NovaBackup will be offered on all TerraStation and LinkStation NAS solutions beginning in May, 2010.
I've been a relatively fortunate mobile phone owner. I've dropped various phones countless times throughout my geek life, including the extended cleaning of my first-ever iPhone by accidentally introducing it to my apartment complex's pool. I've broken countless critical features on my phones as a result of this clumsiness, the smashing of a phone against the car keys in my pocket, and the general wear-and-tear of a semi-busy lifestyle. In college, I had a flip-phone that was anything but, the exterior having been beaten up and bruised enough to transform the phone's external screen into a strobe light of-sorts whenever anyone called. Awesome for parties; useless for caller ID.
I've never lost my phone, though. And every day I board a train to head to work, sit in a taxicab, or go about my business without really paying much attention to where I last put my dialing device, I wonder: Is this it? Will today be the day that some unscrupulous person gets a hold of my iPhone and, by proxy, my entire online life?
In some ways, someone already has.
This isn't some kind of "won't somebody think of the children" scare tactic. It's a simple reality: You're hearing a lot about the wonders of cloud computing at this year's CES. And while that has different applications for the enterprise level than consumer, the practical reality of it for most PC users (and laptop users especially cough-cough-Chrome OS-cough) is that you're taking the data that would otherwise reside on a system within your control and placing it in the hands of another entity.
Cloud applications can be super-useful when you let others run the services that improve your geeky life. Your data, however, is your own--the more consumers coalesce their computing lives into access points, the more this data becomes ripe for abuse... or worse.
A rising number of data flubs has caused some to question whether the benefits of cloud computing truly outweigh the risks, but is that really a fair assessment? The eggheads at Kroll Ontrack don't think so, who point out that the recent spike in data losses with corporate enterprises is simply the result of human error.
"While advanced storage options such as virtualization and cloud computing offer corporations storage optimization, human processes are still at the root of these solutions, instructing the technology as to how to perform," said Phil Bridge, managing director at Kroll Ontrack UK. "The complextity of these systems often requires a steep learning curve. With reported IT spending at a low, human error is increasingly common."
According to Kroll Ontrack, some of the biggest mistakes attributed to the human element include pulling the wrong drive while trying to pull a failed disk in a RAID array, accidentally deleting a business-critical database and restoring it with a corrupt or incomplete backup, attempting to force failed drives back online when rebuilding a bad array, accidentally deleting files, volumes, virtual machines, or a SAN LUN with no backup in place, and reformatting the wrong SAN LUN during a server migration.
A coalition of some of the biggest names in the OSS world have banded together to create Open Source for America, a brand-new advocacy group that's going to try and highlight the advantages of open-source software to help achieve the goals set out in President Barack Obama's push for an open-data government. But as we pause to "ooh" and "ahh" at the list of companies and open-source celebrities contributing to the new group--Novell, the Mozilla Foundation, the EFF, Tim O'Reilly, and Mark Shuttleworth, amongst many others--let us not forget the uphill battle that the concept of "openness" tends to face in the government sector.
I just can't find myself getting that excited over open-source software when we still have fundamental issues of transparency and openness in governmental data. There's a wealth of information out there that's free and easily accessible to the public. But that doesn't mean that legislators, agencies, and departments are going out of their way to make this information as useful as it could be. In fact, it was only as recently as two months ago that the U.S. Senate itself opened up its own voting records for third-party applications and mashups.
Click the jump and put on your safety helmet--we're going data diving!