Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Eek! a Patent Troll

So, yesterday a patent troll in the form of a company called Kelora Systems, LLC came to my attention, for reasons which need not concern us at the moment. And having followed up on it a bit  I can now understand why so many companies are involved in the aparently insane pastime of suing and counter suing each other through nearly every court in the world. I'll tell you why in a minute, but forst to kelora.

What staggered me is that they claim that they hold a patent, 6,275,821, known rather familiarly as '821, which covers "a method and system for executing a guided parametric search"

What is that? I'll tell you in a few short lines what the patent takes pages to painfully struggle to express:

In order to help people select a product from a catalogue the system displays a list of products and product attibutes.
Then, on the user selecting values the list of products is filtered to show only matching products, and the available attribute values are filtered to only show ones which still apply to the subset of products.

Or more simply still, if your system shows a list of products and gives the user the ability to filter this list by price, or size, or colour, you are potentially infringing the patent. My favourite example can be seen in the left hand column of this page (on a website which isn't within the jurisdiction of the US courts).

I hear you, you just said OMGWTF, didn't you? Yeah, so did I.

So I dug into it a bit and uncovered some interesting bits and pieces, first of all these trolls are gunning for just about everyone you could imagine, and a whole lot of other folks too. And it seems like there are legal challenges afoot by a number of big hitters to get the patent overturned, this from last year which was only partially sucessful and another move in the federal courts to be heard in November (2011).

I know theres a lot of talk about software patents, but for someone to be allowed to use a patent for something as self evident as the "method" and as dated and stuck in the 90's as the "system" is a total indictment of the whole notion. I could understand the intention (but not necessarily agree with it!) if the company had invented a useful product which was differentiated on the basis of the method, and sought to protect their investment, and if it was limited to the field of use originally intended, but this is little more than a patent on the application of common sense to a well recognised pattern of problem (how do you let people browse an online catalogue).

If the US patent office allows people to patent things as non specific as this its little wonder the courts are filled with patent cases, this isn't protecting your R&D this is a land grab for the common sense of the future. And if the courts continue to uphold patents like this, and the patent offices of the world carry on granting them we may find ourselves in a situation where innovation is held to ransom by lawyers and patent trolls.

Note to self, how to get a list of recipients from the maillog

I spent a while figuring out how to get a list of email recipient addresses from the maillog, without duplicates, for a specific day on RHEL. In the end I distilled it into to one line.

I'm sure I will have to do it again, so I'm making a note of it here, meantime if you need to extract recipient addresses from maillog you're welcome to try it. just paste it onto the command line and hit the go button, its surpisingly quick.

cat /var/log/maillog | grep "Oct 19" |\
grep to= |cut -f5 -d":" | cut -f2 -d"=" | cut -f1 -d"," | \
sed 's/<//' | sed 's/>//' | \
sort | uniq > addresses.txt

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Penis seen from space IV

In my ongoing quest to keep you up to date with these important developments here's another one..
Penis Seen From Space  For the other stories check out seen-from-space

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dipping a toe in FCommerce

FStore Homepage
 Today AllSaints launch our Facebook store (US store follows next week), click the link to browse, view products and buy them directly from within Facebook.

We spent a lot of time looking at other peoples' facebook stores, and rather than try to cram everything in we decided that ours should not be only a replacement for our web store, instead we thought that as we have too much in our catalogue browsing it in facebook would be too cramped an experience. Rather it is intended to promote our web store to our facebook fans, and allow us to do more to monetize our investment in facebook.

FStore category view
We wanted it to blend in well with facebook, and to be a familiar environment for facebook users, not look just like our web store in an iframe. As we see with ASOS and JC Penney. I'm sure that works for those guys, but we wanted to take a more joined up approach to "fcommerce" and to augment and enhance our customers choices and their experience of our brand.

So we have created a place where we can showcase a selection of products, in a specially selected range of categories. Our visual merchandisers have full control of the catalogue, using the same systems that they use to merchandise our other online channels, and I hope that in the coming weeks we will see the facebook store take on a character of its own, seperate from, but complimentary to, our main web site.
FStore product detail

FStore embedded "cart"
And now our fans can buy things that we promote on facebook without having to find them again on our website.

Good Job Team!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

+1 button

As an experiment (and before I let anyone go anywhere that near my employers precious website with it) I added the google +1 button to this blog today.
Unfortunately while I understand the idea of giving a bit of content an Big +1 I can't see where anyone would know that I've +1'ed anything.
If you have more of a grip of reality than I do, do let me know!

UPDATE! I found out, you need to use not[1].. hardly had I done this and +1'ed things than +1's started showing up in my search results.. 

[1] I had to go to my google profile, enter a search term in the search box, then click "reset search tools" and I was on instead of

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Colleagues go mad for "cheap" TV

OMG, get-a-cheap-tv fever gripped the workplace today as my colleagues (who should've known better!) went on a fevered buying spree after woolworths appeared to be selling Sharp 37" & 42" LCD TV's for £150.
Sadly no-such-luck boys and girls, woolies T's & C's retain the right not only to cancel your order but also to ... ".. continue with the order at the correct price" which might embarrass those who chose to order several of the two grand machines!
There were reports of orders being cancelled, however the on-line price was still £150 as this post "went to press", so if anyone else fancies a go...
Pictured (left) are Colin (Products Development Manager), Kevin (Lead Technical Consultant) and Stuart (Technical Services Manager) at the height of the madness.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

note to self, MySQL query profiler

Update The original article mentioned in this post is no longer available, but if you are still interested in query profiling in MySQL, check out this
I will write up an quick start guide to profiling myself here, one day.
-- original post
this article is a great way to get started using the mysql query profiler.

If you've never used it before take some time to check it out, it will change the way you think about the database forever.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Note to self, how to get the top tens from MySQL slow query log

Use these two commands to get the top ten and top ten repeaters from MySQL's slow query log.

mysqldumpslow -t 10 ./slow-log > /home/danny/top_ten_slow_query.txt

mysqldumpslow -a -s c -t 10 ./slow-log > /home/danny/top_ten_repeat_slow_query.txt

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quote of the [specify period]

This [period]'s quote is from Nicola Morrison, ScottishPower online manager quoted on, here, in a piece which quite frankly looks like marketing blurb placed by a PR agent on a day when the editor was hungover.

Anyway, Nicola have an award for improving customer service not by answering customers questions but by analysing them!

Working with [tech co][1] has ... given us an unparalleled insight into our customers' requirements through the ability to analyse the questions they are asking.

[1] I'm not going to repeat the name of the company involved, I don't want to draw attention to them!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Note to self, how to delete files older than

Yes, yet another one that I always have to look up, I think it must be my age!

find /path/to/files* -mtime +5 -exec rm {} \;

I know nothing, I'm not a fortune teller, and you'd be insane to think that I am. This disclaimer was cribbed from an email footer I once received. It is so ridiculous I had to have it for myself.

Statements in this blog that are not purely historical are forward-looking statements including, without limitation, statements regarding my expectations, objectives, anticipations, plans, hopes, beliefs, intentions or strategies regarding the future. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from the forward looking statements include risks and uncertainties such as any unforeseen event or any unforeseen system failures, and other risks. It is important to note that actual outcomes could differ materially from those in such forward-looking statements.

Danny Angus Copyright © 2006-2013 (OMG that's seven years of this nonsense)