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Apple Files Patent for Translucent Windows 845

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the nobody-does-it-better dept.
jpkunst writes "John Kheit at Mac Observer reports on US Patent Application No. 20040090467, published on May 13, 2004, in which Apple filed a patent application for 'Graduated visual and manipulative translucency for windows.'" Begin the hunt for prior art! It's a challenge to find a non-Apple translucent window that isn't just a snippet of desktop wallpaper pasted in the background.
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Apple Files Patent for Translucent Windows

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:30AM (#9160868)

    Apple is every bit as bad as Microsoft -- worse even because they control both the hardware and software. Apple is not your friend. It's not your pal. It's not your bestest buddy who really supports you when things aren't going well. It's a vicious company who uses bullshit lawsuits, pitiful IP abuses and supports DRM.

    Shun them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:30AM (#9160870)
    when moving windows around. Would having a window always transparent be a natural extension from that?
  • by boref (765647) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:31AM (#9160878)
    Its not that difficult to find past art...I can goto work and just use the job tracking application I've been writing off and on for the past year. Its setup to allow users to choose transparency levels in 10% increments from 100%-10%.
  • by ErnstKompressor (193799) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:33AM (#9160905) Homepage
    and the announcement that Longhorn will feature a heavily translucent interface -- Aero Glass [geeknewz.com]?
  • by whovian (107062) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:34AM (#9160908)
    Translucency has been around for a while, but Apple is filing for time dependent translucency. E-term had that?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:38AM (#9160958)
    (take from MacSlash.com comments)

    "it's my understanding that apple has a powerful patent on the use of "alpha" channels. the claim is that alpha-channels were invented by the NeXT team back in 1988.

    apple of course now owns NeXT, which may explain why they think they can beat the prior art.

    K."
  • Everquest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blunte (183182) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:48AM (#9161030)
    I hate to offer this as prior art, but Everquest has had time-dependent transparency for over a year. I personally think it's a pain in the ass, but it works.

    You mouse over a window and it becomes however opaque you want (based on your settings). Then if you move your mouse off the window, after a user-defined period the window becomes as much more transparent as the user has defined. Defaults were something like 100% opaque, then after 5 seconds, 50% transparent.

    There's probably prior prior art, but I don't know based on time.

    There was a tool for Windows called Vitrix or something that would allow the user to easily set transparency, but now I can't find it. And it wasn't time-dependent.
  • by Fulkkari (603331) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:51AM (#9161044)

    Sounds like a new feature to be included in the next Mac OS X, 10.4 Tiger. Interesting to see what Apple has come up with this time.

  • Re:IANAL (Score:4, Interesting)

    by akeru (15942) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:52AM (#9161052)
    Nope, even if Apple had translucent windows before anyone else, they would have had to apply for a patent on the technique within 1 year of public release or even that is valid prior art for the current patent. Of course, as another poster said, they aren't simply patenting translucent windows (well, not entirely clause 26 is), but fading out windows over time. One of the comments on that page also pointed out that this is out virtually every On Screen Display menu works. And even that is bloody obvious to someone mildly skilled in the art.
    And "spring loaded folders" I don't know how many times the topic has come up on the nautilus devel list by non-coders who have no idea that such a feature is implemented on the Mac. So not only is that particular patent obvious to a practitioner of the art, but to a complete novice in the art. Stupid USPTO.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:53AM (#9161062)
    I see a simple solution to the patent problem:
    * license it or your patent will expire
    * if you allow a patent to be used for a public standard then your patent will expire

    Seriously. It would get rid of submarine patents like GIF and JPG and people who patent things defensively won't mind their patent expiring since it will be "prior art". It would also get rid of the patent portfolio trading that has allowed big players to lock out small inventors. Also, since you the "submarine" aspect is gone, there will be fewer patents and the ones that are filed will be contentested close to the time of filing.
  • by CdBee (742846) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:55AM (#9161079)
    So we go from click-through EULAs to click-through windows

    What they seem to be suggesting would make windows that shouldnt be in the foreground move to the background by sinking through any more active windows behind them, but which would be stopped by clicking the window before it reached a lower transparency than the window behind it

    It'd be a bitch to get used to but immensely useful once you understood it.. think mail.app coming up nearer the top level as an email arrives while a safari window of porn sinks to the hidden background if the user dashes away from the screen for some reason :-|
  • by roady (30728) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:03AM (#9161142)
    If Apple really did do it first then no one else can patent it anyway (prior art).

    This is not true.

    The proof being that it it was, we wouldn't be looking for prior art in the first place. Don't expect the guys at the patent office to do it correctly.

    That said, it is far easier to get a patent than trying to fight somebody suing you for patent infringement and trying to prove you have prior art.

  • by Xhad (746307) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:03AM (#9161143) Homepage Journal
    No, that's a mistake a lot of people make. If Apple really did do it first then no one else can patent it anyway (prior art).

    Ideally, that's what's supposed to happen. In the real world, someone might get a patent passed even if they're not legally entitled to it, then force Apple into a litigation battle to prove prior art that will cost them money whether they win or lose...whereas if they get the "defensive" patent, they can simply say, "We patented this too, and we patented it first," which is simpler.

  • Innovative? How? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:03AM (#9161148)
    The concept of fading by decrease or increase in alpha-channel, but based on a timeout value? Genious!

    Fight the Patent [fightthepatent.com]

    The law is at fault, not the blood-sucking corporations, who go unpunished for way too many things because of, you guessed it, the law. Who makes the law? Hmm.. I wonder..
  • Re:Uh, well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:04AM (#9161153)
    Well the general idea is that Apple isn't abusing their patents from ten to twenty years ago either, despite almost certainly having the capability to do so.
  • Re:Uh, well (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dhovis (303725) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:06AM (#9161162)

    for example, Aqua skins for other OSes-- they tend to choose to base their legal complaints on means other than patents, other forms of intellectual property.

    Actually, in the case of the Aqua skins, I believe Apple's complaints had to do with copyright and trademark, not patent. In fact, I think the Aqua skins that they C&D'd were ones that actually copied the bitmaps of the elements directly from the files in MacOS X, which is pretty clear copyright infringement. I believe that Apple doesn't care if people try to recreate the Aqua look on their own, they just don't want people copying their files.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:10AM (#9161198)
    You're saying when Apple patents something obvious, its okay because they're not a monopoly?

    So its okay when Amazon patented one-click because they're not a monopoly? Probably not.

    Lets face it. You're talking like an idiot because its apple. If something is "bad", its simply bad. In this case, there is no moral relativism. This is just bad.

    Its okay to criticize apple. The magic juju won't go away.
  • Re:Everquest (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blunte (183182) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:12AM (#9161207)
    Ahh you're right, I missed that detail.

    Of course, with my pretty extensive experience dealing with "typical users", I can tell you it's a disaster waiting to happen. I think Apple is totally going the wrong direction in terms of usability if they plan to make that a common feature. Many users still can't understand resizing and above/below placement.

    Now, if they make that patent THAT specific, great. Really it should be "you can click thru windows that are X% transparent" and that be it.
  • I'm not a huge fan of software patents myself. I'm not 100% against them either, though. I just think they need to be better controlled. I don't think that its fair for someone to plunk down the cash (and effort) to do R&D and come up with a great idea only to have some one else rip it off. That's unfair.

    Imagine if you spent a year of your life developing a new task scheduling algorithm. You incurred expenses, etc because you were inventing and developing rather than working a 9-5 job. You donate this to Linux and the community loves you. Then Microsoft says "Hey, that's a neat idea" and implements it in Windows. They didn't copy it, obviously since the apis are different. Copyright offers no protection here.

    Another example: Apple pays some of its developers to solve a UI problem, namely how to display speech recognition confirmations without reducing the usable focus-space of the screen. These developers work hard and come up with the idea that was so poorly summarized by the editor who posted this article. Microsoft steals the idea and uses it to compete with Apple. What motivation does Apple have to continue innovating? If they think of something neat (spending money to do so) then their competition will just re-implement it but with out the burden of paying for R&D.

    Copyright is broken. It lasts too long and only protects against duplication of content, not of methods.
    Patents are the only other option. They need to be fixed too, but they are currently the only reason that companies can justify R&D spending. They are also the only way for inventors to reap a reward for their work. The patent system needs to be updated to fit better in a world in which implementing an invention can be done in digital form rather than the slower manual way, but some protection for inventors must be retained.
  • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:36AM (#9161326)
    So, the windows fade with time (if they are not used much), and the windows below are phased above the fading window...

    More importantly, once the window fades "enough" (for some arbitrary and time-dependent value of "enough") it becomes transparent not only visually, but also to user input. You can click "through" it, in other words, once it's faded to a certain point.

    I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly how such a feature should be used, but it's not hard to imagine how it could be used.
  • prior art (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hak1du (761835) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:38AM (#9161336) Journal
    It's going to be a lot harder to find prior art for this one.

    Yes: that's because it's probably a bad idea. People have looked at use/time-dependent changes of window state or appearance before, but they have never become popular. You can probably still dig up some prior art from the HCI literature if you really care. Many bad patents are just not worth fighting, however.
  • by KingJoshi (615691) <slashdot@joshi.tk> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:38AM (#9161342) Homepage
    To focus on whether they're patenting translucent windows, or time-dependent translucent windows misses the point!

    It's almost like someone saying, "They're not patenting priority-queues, they're only patenting priority-queues that are sorted by integer value which holds when the job started." Oh great, that just makes it so much better. Yeah, I know there is a big difference between data-structures and specific implementation of some idea that uses multiple algorithms and data-structures. But you should still get the point.

    Copyright already covers specific implementations. The patents are unnecessary.

    I mean, you have DirectX and OpenGL as competing APIs and one of them gets vertex shaders, but then the other isn't allowed to. That'd just be retarded (again, even if my analogy is inaccurate, the point remains).

    As a computer scientist, I read papers regarding many ideas and algorithms on how people attempted to and did solve problems. I use their knowledge and I try to work off of it. The idea that some company or person can patent such a trivial difference is absurd.
  • Duh! Berlin! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Morthaur (108553) <slashdot at morthaur dot net> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:41AM (#9161375) Homepage
    Why has no one mentioned the Berlin project?!?!

    Doesn't this look like a transparency?
    http://www.fresco.org/data/screensh ots/xggi-xchat. png

    The project had full window transparency at least as far back as 1999, which is when I first saw it. Check out http://www.fresco.org/ and see if this pre-dates Apple's work; I would guess that it does.

    If I found the prior art, what do I win? A big kiss? A sock in the mouth? World peace?
  • by emilng (641557) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:43AM (#9161385)
    There are applications that can turn transparent over time.
    There are applications that you can click through if they are transparent.
    If you can find an application that does both then go ahead and submit it as prior art otherwise as far as the patent office is concerned, it's a "novel" idea.

    BTW those ideas of yours are GREAT!

    *runs to go patent them*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:46AM (#9161402)
    Actually if you RTFA you'll see that APPLE CLAIMS MORE THAN JUST TIME DEPENDANT TRANSPARENCY in this NEW applciation!?!?! Sheesh. Look at claim 26.

    26. A computer-readable medium for providing a graphical user interface for a computer, the computer-readable medium comprising: means for rendering a window on a display; and means for varying a level of translucency associated with said window in response to a predetermined event.

    A predetermined event is ANYTHING! Not just time. The earlier 1999 patent may be limited but this is a translucent patent land grab.
  • by FlynnMP3 (33498) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:57AM (#9161471)
    Totally agreed. When /. first started out, they seem to have a self impuned edict to be at least correct in the stories that were posted - regardless of the viewpoint.

    Now all it is push something onto the voracious readers to satiate their needling desire to comment about shit.

    The moderation system is a joke, people who feel the need to fill an empty desire to impress equally dipshitty people know how to abuse it. These things need to be tracked on a user by user basis and those users banned. But even worse is the god damn story editors. I read at +4 and the amount of garbage on this site has sky rocketed. The same jokes are recycled and only funny to the small community (such as it is) that is /. And the self deprecating 'humor' to favor mod points is equally annoying.

    Who in the hell in their right mind would pay to read this site is beyond me.
  • by Wavicle (181176) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:58AM (#9161476)
    The only reason most implementations of 'transparency' isn't 'real' (only one layer and/or non-realistic blending and/or not affecting certain surfaces (such as video) is because the CPU/GPUs haven't been fast enought to implement it, not because no-one thought of it.

    Very true. In 1999 (.com boom heydey) the company I was working for hired a graphic design company to come up with a new "look" to our product. The designs that came back looked kind of average, but notably included windows with alpha blended backgrounds. Since I was the lead Human Interface / User Interface guy, it fell on me to prototype the design.

    IIRC I just extended JInternalFrame and used Graphics2D's alpha-blended drawing capabilities. It took me maybe two hours from when I started thinking about it until I had a working demo.

    It didn't seem that novel at the time. I don't know of anybody else who did it. But it didn't make it out of the prototype phase because, well, Java - at least back then - was dog slow at doing this sort of image processing.

    This isn't exactly what apple patented, but I know at least 5 years ago I was toying around with the idea but stopped for exactly what you said: The CPU just wasn't fast enough.
  • Re:Uh, well (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ad0gg (594412) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @11:59AM (#9161481)
    Last I checked the anger around here doesn't seem to be outrage at companies holding patents. It's outrage at companies using patents.

    WTF website your been reading? Any time there's article about microsoft filing a patent, people go on a rampage. When was last the time you saw MS use their patents? Most of the large companies file defensive patents, IBM, Microsoft, Sun etc. Yet slashdot gets all stir crazy whenever its microsoft.

  • by MosesJones (55544) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:01PM (#9161492) Homepage

    In 1992 I was working on a Radar Display project which used Barco graphics generators on Sony 20kx20k displays with two screens, front and back.

    The back screen held the flight information, and the front held the information windows. It was possible to make the front windows fade to invisible if required (outline only left). Sounds like a graduated window to me.

    This was an absolute piece of piss in X using the PEXLib extensions BTW.

    Having transparent or translucent windows was pretty common in Radar Display system, both commercial and military.
  • by roard (661272) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:26PM (#9161639) Homepage
    The possibility of acquiring a patent, and thereby a guaranteed source of revenue, is what spurs innovation.

    Wrong. It's the idea, but it's not what actually happend. In fact, patents were NOT created to incite inventors to invent, because, face it, inventor invented things well before patents. Patents were created as a tradeoff with inventors, because at the time (industrial revolution), there was a big problem : inventors invented things, but kept the recipe secret, to have an edge over the competition. Thus, patents was a deal with governments : "give us the secret (the patent) and you'll have a state monopoly for a certain period". Patents were created so inventors explained their invention. Patents were NOT necessary as an incentive to innovate, but as an incentive to SHARE the discovery with the society.

    Now, in our modern world, you should perhaps understand that it's quite rare to have people looking for patents in order to understand a discovery. Nineteen century patents were wonderfully done, for most of them. Now patents are legal giberrish totally encrypted for a normal engieneer. In fact, in most companies, the motto is to NOT look at patents, for fear of legals battels. Explain to me then what's the goal of patents !

    Plus, in the case that interests us, it's not "normal" patents, but Software patents. With software patents we're in a totally different realm, the one of pure thought. Instead of describing a method of doing something, people now describe the idea of doing something. This shift is absolutely scary. Add that the fact that the application process is incredibly bad (many patents are accepted dispite prior art, or dispite an innovative part), and the fact that the software "industry" innovations works at the scale of months or a few year, not the twenty-something years awarded by a patent... And you have a BIG problem as a software engineer. Frankly, look at the actual history of software engineering and show me how many cases where a patent actually profited to the whole industry ? (and even if it could happend, is it worth the price ?) And, will you argue that the software industry perfectly innovated before software patents ?

    In fact, if software patents were 1) awarded by real experts 2) limited to say, 4-5 years 3) and submarine patents were illegal 4) and describe actually a method and not an idea, then, yes, perhaps software patents would be a good incentive to innovation (even if we innovate perfectly without them). But face it, it won't happend, and with their current state, they actually do more harm than good. I also fear something, if SP pass in EU, big companies will have a clear field, and I think that's when the situation will run amok.

    But for the most part, the profit motive is what drives innovation. Patents are essential to that process.

    Sure, but protifs rarelly involves patents.

  • by kasperd (592156) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:37PM (#9161706) Homepage Journal
    This is a VERY SPECIFIC method of USING translucent windows. Not just "a patent on translucent windows."

    Just to sumarize, the idea of translucent windows certainly isn't new. People have tried doing something that would resemble translucent windows. But because of performance considerations and limitations in the graphics system used, the result wasn't perfect. But I think even a nonperfect implementation would qualify as prior art as far as the idea is concerned. Had the patent been about a specific algorithm to implement translucent windows more efficiently, it would certainly have made sense. Actually I think what it takes to make efficient translucent windows is hardware, not software. So I have mentioned two things the patent could have been about: The idea of using translucent windows or an efficient way to implement them. But it turns out there is really a third option, the patent is actually about an application of translucent windows. AFAIK there are some minimum requirements to patents, you shouldn't be able to patent something obvious. And personally I think the efficient translucence is a better invention than some application of it.
  • by Anne Thwacks (531696) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:43PM (#9161728)
    If Apple really did do it first then no one else can patent it anyway

    Well, NO if they did, they would have had to do it before 1990, when I saw it done by people working at Cambridge University Maths Lab, and whoever did do it first, the patent would have run out by now.

  • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @12:53PM (#9161810)
    The major barrier to entry in the field of software development is inherently intellectual, not financial. I don't need to spend money on scarce resources like raw materials and factories to produce software; I need time, a computer, and a brain.

    Time costs money, either directly or through opportunity costs. Who's going to pay your rent while you sit around all day and gaze at your navel? Your computer and related resources obviously cost money: at the lowest level, even electricity is not free. And your "brain," i.e. your education, certainly cost you money. Have you paid off your student loans yet? If so, who gave you the money to do so? If not, where do you plan to get it?

    The barrier to entry in software, as in everything else, is financial. This will be true as long as time and effort have a dollar value associated with them.

    Therefore the natural initial outlay for software development is much lower than for the production of tangible goods.

    Perhaps, but it's definitely not zero.

    This means that the development of software is not inherently restricted to those with money - rich people, and companies.

    We can test this hypothesis. Look at the world around you. Where does most useful software come from? Companies. Yes, a good deal of software, some of it quite useful, comes from hobbyists, for lack of a better term. But most of it comes from commercial development.

    So no, the development of software isn't inherently restricted to those with money, but it is practically restricted to those with money.

    The good news is that there's nothing stopping you, for sake of argument assumed to be a person of little means, from getting the money you need. All you have to do is find a rich person and convince him that you've got a good idea. Because the world is chock full of stupid rich people, you don't even have to necessarily have a good idea in order to pull this little trick.

    All your talk about "intellectual commons" is summarily ignored. The idea is morally bankrupt, as has been discussed at exhaustive length elsewhere.
  • by PeterPumpkin (777678) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @01:46PM (#9162117) Journal
    It is shockingly short of evidence that it actually motivates anyone in the software industry, if you discount mere assertion like your post

    That is so much bull!

    I'll give you a (shamelessly plugging ;) ) example. I work for a small company, Sector Medical [sectormedical.com], and we've been developing an innovative, economical way to diagnose sleep apnea (unhealthy holding breath during sleep).

    Do you thing we'd spend the extreme amount of cash to develop all the fancy analysis algorithms, the computer program, database, the firmware for the device, and get that thing FDA approved without some assurance that other people can't jack our work and sell it as their own? No way!

    The good idea that is now a product would have remained just an idea without the existance of patents.

  • Re:prior art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @02:03PM (#9162220) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I would like a windowing system whose windows sank or rose to different levels, reordering themselves based on which applications had the most interesting content. Applications steal focus all the time so that wouldn't change anything; Perhaps in a system like this you could more easily enforce a rule about applications not stealing focus. The focussed application would always be pulled immediately to the top, with a title bar button provided to send it back to its rightful place in the hierarchy so you can get back to what you were doing. Windows could be scaled, dimmed, and made translucent to varying degrees to convey the impression of depth, up until the point when the retinal scanning interface becomes the norm, making it easy to project quality stereo images. (I hereby abdicate all copyright on this idea and place the concept in the public domain. That ought to take care of any of those pesky patents. Will someone please implement this now?) :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @02:05PM (#9162233)
    But, if company X really wanted to get a patent for defensive reasons, then why not get the patent through a shell company whose sole purpose is to hold patents neutrally.

    I mean, we could have a company called Openpatents.

    What you do instead is to publish your invention. That way, you don't have to pay the fees to the patent office or to the specialists who typically write the acual prose of the application; but nobody else can patent it.

    (Yes, I have invented things and had US patents issued for them. I have also published some inventions.)

  • by TerminalInsanity (720167) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @02:35PM (#9162361) Homepage
    3. The computer system of claim 1, further comprising: a cursor control device for coordinating user input via a cursor displayed in said graphical user interface; wherein said cursor operates on contents of said window when said window is in said opaque state, and said cursor operates on objects underlying said window when said window is in said first translucent state.


    They are trying to patent the ability to turn one window transparent, and manipulate the windows under it, without the transparent window 'dropping' below the ones you are manipulating.

    I dont think that type of thing has ever been done before...

    Perhaps software patents should have a much shorter life span? (say, 3 years?) it would give the company that 'discovered' it time to develop the 'technology' first, but wouldent blanket the whole computing industry for too long
  • by merdark (550117) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @03:30PM (#9162623)
    How about this. Apple implemented this feature, and has patented it. If you think they don't derserve it then find prior art.

    Apple does not have to prove anything to you, and people who admire apple don't have to apologise for anything.

    I can't stand people like you, always whining that company X is evil and then claiming that people who admire company X are *apologising* for the company. People who admire Apple do so because the company produces impressive and usefull products.

    Honestly, if you FOSS people would take your head out of the ground for just one second you might realize that this is a sound business decision. If I ran a company I too would patent everything I could. It costs little compared to the protection and potential revenues patents can give.

    Apple is not out to be your friend, they are out to make money. No company is out to be your friend. If you don't like patents take it up with the government and stop whining and bitching on slashdot. You'll soon realize that the rest of the world could care less about your holier than thou attitude.
  • by Lehk228 (705449) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @04:30PM (#9162916) Journal
    Actually I used to have a little Clock app that sat as a translucent window that the mouse clicked "through". I got rid of it because it had issues with games (it stayed on top and translucent)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 15, 2004 @05:06PM (#9163067)
    Weird but true. Outlook 2003 shows small windows in the bottom left corner of the screen with just the subject and sender when an e-mail arrives. That small window starts solid then goes increasingly translucent until it disappears. If you hover your mouse over it, it goes solid again and starts fading again if you move your mouse away.

    Regardless, it's not worthy of a patent. For Apple or Microsoft.

    But (unrelated) the real genius comes once more from PARC: magic lenses. Which isn't even new.

    They do so much more than being translucent: they change visual properties of the data underneath.

    It may not serve as prior art (because they don't fade over time), but certainly makes Apple look like a fool for trying to patent something so basic and stupid.

    http://www2.parc.com/istl/projects/MagicLenses/

    And there's a nice Java demo:

    http://www2.parc.com/istl/projects/MagicLenses/S im pleDemo.html
  • by Twirlip of the Mists (615030) <twirlipofthemists@yahoo.com> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @05:12PM (#9163089)
    Ever heard of leisure time - why can't I work in a bar _and_ write software whan I get home?

    You can. You just aren't going to be very successful at it.

    Or temporary unemployment or disability or any number of reasons why you cannot blithely and naively equate time and money?

    If you're unemployed, you need to spend your time finding a source of income, not on counting angels on the head of a pin. And if you're disabled, I'm sure you're going to have enough trouble finding a way to pay for your medical needs.

    Your flawed logic implies that everything worthwhile ever accomplished by any human being should be measured in dollars alone and that all intellectual works should be patentable too.

    Oh, please. "It's not about dollars, man! That's just your greed talking!" Whatever. The point is that time, tools, and intellect do not grow on trees. They are not free. There is an opportunity cost, and almost always a direct dollar cost, associated with each. Who's going to pay your mortgage while you take a year off to write the Next Big Thing in software?

    I for one have no non-free, commercial software and the fact that most people do is hardly a proof that it is necessarily so.

    I submit to you that you're not doing anything particularly interesting with computers then.

    How is it that there are 1000 or more packages in the larger GNU/Linux distros?

    How many of them are novelties like "fortune" or redundant like the endless stream of window managers or command shells or email clients? Quantity alone is not a virtue, my friend.

    To say that the idea of an intellectual commons is morally bankrupt would set every great thinker that has ever lived spinning in their grave.

    Got a monopoly on the insights of great thinkers, huh? I humbly suggest that you might want to read a little more before making such sweeping statements.

    Let's start with a little thought-provoking dialogue. Question one: Would you agree with the statement that property rights are a fundamental aspect of our culture? Question two: Would you agree with the position that the seizure of property by the state as a matter of course is neither morally nor ethically justified?

    Discuss, Colossus. Exercise that great big brain of yours and see if you can't squeeze a thought or two out of it.
  • by bullitB (447519) on Saturday May 15, 2004 @06:25PM (#9163434)

    The software industry was thriving before patents were allowed, and there's no particular evidence they help any actual innovaters now, either, except again, mere assertion.

    Patents have been allowed since the 1700s. Software, let alone a software industry, has existed since perhaps the 1940s. So, I'm going assume you're referring to Diamond v. Diehr, making the first "allowed" software patents begin in 1981.

    Well, let's look at the industry. For the 30 years before 1981, not a lot happened. The industry was relatively small. Since then, there's been the desktop computing revolution, the rise of the internet as a publicly usable medium, and the software industry has gotten perhaps an orders of magnitude larger in two decades. It's seems to me, anyway, that this is pretty good evidence for patents encouraging innovation.

    Now, would this explosion have happened even if software patents were strictly banned? Impossible to tell, but there is certainly some evidence it wouldn't have been as big as it was. One major effect of patents is that once a patent becomes extant, its holder has an interest in the technology being used as much as possible. So, when it became in the MP3 patent people's interest to get every machine in the world to have an MP3 decoder, well...you know...

  • by Peartree (199737) <idl3mind.gmail@com> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @08:12PM (#9164008) Homepage
    I wonder if this will have an adverse effect on Sun's Project Looking Glass [sun.com]?
  • by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis.gmail@com> on Saturday May 15, 2004 @10:49PM (#9164678) Homepage
    You missed my point though. As a customer I don't care if my cpu has NetBurst or that my ram has "pipeline burst" or that my sound card has a 96-bit DAC [well some would care about that... but...].

    I just care that it enables me todo what I do. In my case that's www+email+music+tv+games+develop+write.

    w.r.t. Apple's sales and technology I bought an x86 box because it's reliable enough for me to accomplish my goals, cheap enough to work in my budget and earned my respect through past observations.

    For me to buy a Mac there would have to be either something really compelling [e.g. x86 vendors dried up].

    Let's not forget that for the most part Apple doesn't make specific pieces of hardware. They buy their ram, cpus, mobos, etc from third parties just like Dell, Gateway and the other brands.

    Again, Apple didn't lose a sale because I can put the Aqua theme on my desktop, or that I can watch QT movies without buying QT but because their overpriced desktops are not worth the purchase.

    Put it another way, it's like if Pepsi doubled their price then blamed low sales on the fact that Coke copied their recipe.

    Tom
  • Prior art (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 42forty-two42 (532340) <bdonlan.gmail@com> on Sunday May 16, 2004 @08:40PM (#9169902) Homepage Journal
    How about this [sourceforge.net]? Or this [freedesktop.org]? That took only about a minute of googling to find.

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