Blog Archive: 2011

Obviously wrong

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So Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble for patent infringement. Well, that’s what patents are for: the right to sue. And that’s what licenses are for: the right to avoid getting sued. The only thing is, if you’re going to sue someone with half a brain, you should at least make sure your patent is reasonably solid.

With that said, one of the patents that Microsoft claims that Nook is violating deals with annotating documents, an area I know a bit about. The patent, filed in December 1999, claims a system and method to associate annotations with a non-modifiable document. The idea is that file positions in the document associated with user-selected objects are used to retrieve annotations from some other location, and to display these annotations for the user.

Sounds obvious, no? So obvious, in fact, that when we built such a system in 1997, we didn’t bother patenting this.

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Deus XLibris

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For about 20 years the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 has been entertaining science fiction fans with funny commentaries of bad movies. The concept is strangely simple: mad scientists (at various times: Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl)¬†have launched a man (Joel Hodgeson and later Michael J. Nelson)¬†into space and are forcing him to watch the worst movies ever made. To keep his sanity, the unfortunate spaceman and his robot friends (at various times: Beaulieu, Weinstein, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett and Jim Mallon) make fun of these movies. The original show was canceled about 10 years ago but most of the people involved are still riffing on cheesy movies – “the worst they can find”.

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iAnnotate revisited

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about iAnnotate, a document annotation app for the iPad. On Friday, the folks who develop the app left a comment on the blog enumerating some of the changes made to program. In addition to redesigning the document view, the most significant change made it easier to import documents. Now not only can you download documents through a dedicated server that you run on the network (I run it on my laptop) but also from an integrated web browser. This makes it easy to collect PDF files and then to switch back to the reading mode of iAnnotate to read the newly-downloaded documents.

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Shared notetaking tools?

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I am about to start a significant research and writing activity with a co-worker. We will have to organize a bunch of documents, take and share notes, do some searching, etc. The tool should allow us to group and organize notes associated with each document, and perhaps generate some overviews of the collection.

I am looking for recommendations, including pros and cons. We would consider spending a bit of money on this, but obviously free is better. On the other hand, a well-designed, usable interface is worth some investment. Also, I would prefer simplicity to functionality.