Starting March 9, 2000
Lessig speech at PC Forum 2000, Recovering from the conference, More PC Forum 2000 pictures, PC Forum 2000 starts, Patents again, PC Forum 2000, Wireless is like batteries
Tuesday, March 21, 2000
Lessig speech at PC Forum 2000
Professor Lessig posted a copy of the speech he gave at PC Forum. Entitled "The Code in Law, and the Law in Code", it is well worth reading. An excerpt:
Many believe the net was born from a world of no regulation; many resist regulation in its future...
Many think this — and many are wrong. The net was not built in an Eden of non-regulation; instead it was a heavy handed form of regulation that made the Internet possible. Nor will we escape regulation in its future. The only question is what form that regulation will take...
I've described the [Internet] architecture of end-to-end, and I've argued that it inspires innovation. But end-to-end is not a law; it is not a crime to build technologies that would violate its rule...But there is one place on the net where in effect, the norms of end-to-end are a law. One place, that is, where to deviate from this principle is to violate a regulation. And in my view, but for this rule, we would not have the Internet we have today. This place is, ironically enough, the telephone network...We didn't get here because enlightened businessmen chose to re-architect their telephone network to “allow the creation of a competitor to themselves.” We got here because an activist DC Circuit couldn't stomach the excuses that the AT&T/FCC offered for their conspiracy against competition, and because a Reagan justice department finally brought this conspiracy against competition to an end. We got here because government broke the telephone company up, and forced upon it a set of regulations which together in effect replicate the principle of end to end...It must do this not because it chose to impose this limit on itself; it must do this because a regulator forced it to.
Prof. Lawrence Lessig, March 2000
Read the whole text on Prof. Lessig's web site, The Code in Law and Law in Code (Lecture at pcForum 2000). It's in PDF...
Friday, March 17, 2000
Recovering from the conference
I'm back in the office, using today and yesterday to get back into the swing of what's going on, debriefing people, etc. I've been showing off the new "toys" I got, which I'll report on later.
I'm sitting here with notes on 6 hours or so of speeches, much of it with something worth talking about. Let's hope I can get to present some of it over the next few weeks.
Some random thoughts from the conference:
Wireless is very hot and useful. The wireless LAN adapters we used were great. The 1Gb of backbone IP connectivity it went to was great. The GoAmerica email/web browser pagers given out were useful. Outside the US, where PCs are not that common and cell phones are, wireless Internet connectivity will be huge -- even without much in the way of graphics.
Everything is still growing. Backbone/fiber technology is growing in speed/capacity at 2X every 9 months, faster than Moore's law. Search techniques keep getting obsoleted by bigger disks and faster CPUs that make new algorithms possible. In both hardware and software you have to plan for frequent obsolescence. All of the Internet public companies together are worth just 3 times one of the large "regular" companies (like GE).
The rich in the industry are looking how to give back to society. There was a panel just on how we can make the rest of the world better. Our dinner speaker brought it up to great response.
Identity, brand, and trust are important issues. "Who are you in terms of your biases?", "What do I know about you that says I should trust you?", and "How do I find the 'you' I trust?" were issues that came up time and again.
Microsoft needs to say why it is relevant. That was the point of Ballmer's talk. Microsoft was rarely mentioned as a major issue in the looming way they used to be.
Infrastructure will matter. Infrastructure that adds value will continue to be built and money will be made there. Bandwidth, bandwidth, and more bandwidth. The more we get the more we'll find valuable uses for it and the bigger the market will get.
Content and the channels to deliver it should be held by different companies. It is bad for innovation when the monopoly owners of a channel control the content that it carries.
The government has always been involved and will continue to be involved. Patents, breaking up AT&T, laws, judicial decisions, etc. It's not a question of whether there is regulation, said Prof. Lessig, but only a question of what form of regulation.
That's enough for now. (I put a copy of the above in the "Observations" page of the PC Forum 2000 Album.)
Thursday, March 16, 2000
More PC Forum 2000 pictures
I spent a little time on the plane getting Tuesday and Wednesday pictures into my PC Forum 2000 Album.
Yes, that's me with Whoopi Goldberg; audience at Web Applications panel run by Dave Winer
Monday, March 13, 2000
PC Forum 2000 starts
I made it to Scottsdale Arizona for the PC Forum 2000 conference. I've started posting lots of people pictures in the PC Forum 2000 Album. I'm not spending much time checking names or linking to affiliations. I figure sleep is more important at this conference. I got to talk to Dave Winer and Tim O'Reilly a bit about patents. Hopefully we'll get to talk about other things, too. I got to explain the Trellix business model several times to others.
Dave Winer and Tim O'Reilly at PC Forum 2000
Friday, March 10, 2000
All the discussion about patents and software brought on by Amazon.com is a real deja vu for me. Ten years ago this week, on March 7, 1990, Mitch Kapor and I testified in front of the Intellectual Property subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC. I decided to look at the video tapes I have of that day for the first time this evening. Things haven't changed much. We said many of the same things then that people in the software industry are saying now. We were both on the side of less protection rather than more. Our warnings are still valid and coming to fruition.
The question before the committee was how intellectual property protection, copyright and patents in particular, relate to the software industry. I gave a short tutorial on the software development process and we both made statements. The testimony was about an hour long, and I haven't had time to digest it all or figure out a way to make it available on a streaming server. I'll try to make a copy of the video tape and bring it with me to PC Forum. I did try to transcribe one thing I said:
There is great concern in the software industry about the Patent Office and that it is not set up to adequately examine software, in many parts due to the lack of experience [at that time due to hiring rules] that the examiners would have as well as the prior art they have access to.
Dan Bricklin, 3/7/90, testifying before Congress
Last year I posted some of my feelings on this web site in an essay titled "Patents and Software". (Note that all of this was even before business process patents became popular.)
Commenting on today's uproar:
Learn as much as you can about the details of patent law. Some reactions I've read show little understanding of issues or legal terms that have been argued since before the Constitution. Otherwise, to legislators and the Patent Office you will appear quite uninformed and be dismissed. This is not as simple or straightforward as many think. Intellectual property protection is not all bad, nor are patents all bad. Even Richard Stallman uses copyright law to help enforce the GNU General Public License. (To further his arguments, Richard has become very well versed in intellectual property law.)
Why is Amazon.com such a catalyst? Is it because they are a "good guy" that let you down? Was Stac any worse when they sued Microsoft? Did you defend Microsoft? (Have you read Stac's patents? Are they more valid than Amazon.coms?) What about other software patent litigation over the last 19 years: Did you stand up for Novell? Do you boycott AT&T because of their various controversial software patents? Is this patent just closer to home because it may affect your business, or is it because you understand the patent better?
Many of us have been pointing out the problems of software patents for years. To the new people: Welcome.
Despite all this, let me re-post what I said last year:
That said, I also feel that no matter how much you might feel that patents don't work for the software industry, and how much you may take up the torch to change the law, it is the law today and a fact of programming life as much as Microsoft, the instruction set of the machine we write for, the turning of the century number, and the need to pay for food. Ignoring them won't make them go away, nor protect you from those that do not have the same beliefs.
Dan Bricklin, 1999
If I were a shareholder of Amazon.com, I think I'd feel that they are now doing the right thing: doing what the law encourages (applying for patents), and trying to help the country reexamine the application of those laws in light of the realities of software.
Thursday, March 9, 2000
PC Forum 2000
I will be attending Esther Dyson's EDventure Holdings' PC Forum 2000 conference next week. Check back here for postings that I hope to start no later than Monday morning. One of my first web photo journals was about last year's PC Forum: PC Forum 1999 Album. They're holding the conference at the same place.
Wireless is like batteries
Driving to work today I saw a small video camera attached to an overpass on I-95/128, probably used as a webcam. It had conduits going across the bridge frame and into the ground. It struck me that this was an example of what Judith Hurwitz was saying about wireless (see March 3, 2000 entry). Wireless is not about cell phones people carry. It is about removing the need for wires for anything to "work".
Let me elaborate.
Mechanical power used to come from water: mills had to be next to rivers. Steam and internal combustion engines removed that need. Factories could be anywhere. Railroads were possible. Cars were possible. Lawnmowers can be powerful.
In the electrical world, power came through wires, but batteries removed the necessity of being tethered.
The microprocessor removed the need to be connected to computing power. You could put computing power anywhere. Together with batteries, you could use it anywhere in anything, in almost any physical form.
In our new world, being "connected" (by IP) is as much a part of a device "working" as having electrical power or computational abilities. Wireless removes the requirement of being connected physically with an unbroken wire. Just as batteries and microprocessors let us create watches, calculators, cell phones, digital cameras, CD players, game machines, blood sugar testers, etc., wireless connectivity to IP will open up whole new possibilities. (IP is for communicating data; the Web is just one application built upon it.) Letting any device with computing power take advantage of being able to communicate with other devices and "applications" running on "servers", without building specific infrastructure for that application, will be the revolution. The applications that are mainly people reading screens will be in the minority. (Already my cell phone probably communicates more frequently with base stations telling them where I am than I do making calls.) Wireless will not just be for browsing web sites anymore than internal combustion engines were just for giving us home grain mills.
(I have no pictures of the cameras I saw: I was driving alone...)
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