Patent Trolls don’t live under bridges!

Patent Trolls don't live under bridgesIn the last year I’m sure you’ve read about the end of companies like Nortel and the scramble to buy up the patents. Apple, Microsoft and Google were among the companies that bought the patents as part of a consortium. Now I’m sure that you are thinking that they wanted them in order to create new and better products or technology with these items? Unfortunately, it was more of a protection measure.

In a term coined by Peter Detkin patent trolls are companies that buy up patents with the expressed intent of using them to sue other companies.  The term applies to companies that do the following:


  • Purchases a patent, often from a bankrupt firm, and then sues another company by claiming that one of its products infringes on the purchased patent
  • Enforces patents against alleged infringers without itself intending to make the product or supply the service that the patent covers
  • Enforces patents but has no manufacturing or research base, often they are just a P. O. Box
  • Focuses its efforts solely on enforcing patent rights, meaning that is their only business
  • Asserts patent infringement claims against non-copiers or against a large industry that is composed of non-copiers, meaning, they just sue someone because it is so expensive to even go to court, so often companies pay a settlement to make it go away, when in fact both parties know that they haven’t infringed any copyright.

Laws are being looked at and implemented, but they will need to be make so that they help small start ups and not the Patent Trolls and lawyers that seem to make much of the money at the moment.


Deal Book



Recently my niece and nephew were visiting for a few days and my nephew (who is ten) was playing a lot of video games.  But he wanted to download something to my computer and I wanted to check out first what it was.  It was a little animation program called Pivot Stickfigure Animator.  It is a very simple to use animation program that has been around since 2004 and I was quite pleased to let him spend time on it as it felt more that he was creating something, rather than just shooting at something or racing through an imaginary track.  You can download it here.

I’ve looked into this since and there are two other animation programs that are free and then a more advanced one that is fairly inexpensive, but can make some impressive animated videos.  Stykz  is another animator that is free, and is compatible with Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux.  Finally there is TISFAT (This Is Stick Figure Animation Theatre).  This is a bit more advanced in that it shows the timeline of each object you create.

Anime Studio Video Gallery

Grampian Horn: Lost in Longmeads from Alex Morris on Vimeo.

This is a video made with the Anime software.  It is a program that you need to pay for, but you can have a 30 day trial to see if you or your kids are interested enough to want to use it.  The website had tutorials on how to use it, and a lot of animations that were made with this software.

I know that summer is coming to an end for kids off school, but this is software where you don’t mind them using as it is teaching them something that they may even use in their careers!


What is Chrome and where did it come from?

I am asked from time to time to look at client or friend’s computer and “clean it up” as it has slowed down and they don’t understand what all those icons on their desktop are. Often, they will have numerous different browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, as well as their standard Internet Explorer and they have no idea how they got there, or what they are for.

downloading programsHow they got there

Whenever you install a program from the internet or update a program, it is important to read all the windows that come up during the process. It is often here that you get these programs installed onto your computer. They aren’t viruses and aren’t harmful, but if you didn’t ask for them, it is a bit daunting to wonder how this strange stuff ended up on your computer. Imagine if “stuff” just started appearing in your home when you went to the grocery store, without you actually asking for it!  Not free nice stuff, just more clutter.  That’s often how people feel about it.  And it makes me laugh as they always claim that they didn’t put it there.

When you install an update or a program you are often given the option to do a Standard or a Custom installation. And they usually recommend the Custom unless you are an advanced user. Don’t be put off. It isn’t complicated and most of the options you can just accept (and click NEXT), but this is where you can often cancel these extra sneaky programs. Just take a good look at each window as it advances through the stages. Often those added programs are included with a little box that you need to untick in order to avoid it downloading.

What they are

Often the programs are different browsers. Browsers are programs that allow you to, well, browse the web. The most known one for PC computers is Internet Explorer, but Mozilla Firefox is quite popular now. For Macs it was Safari, but you can download that for Windows now as well. But Google has come out with Chrome. Then there is MaxthonRockmelt  (no, I don’t know where they get these names from either), SeaMonkey, and Opera.

Reasons to choose something different from IE

I first started using Firefox because of the increasing threat of viruses that targeted that browser, and shared files in your computer that made it easier for it to infect more of your whole computer. A program that was separate from the Microsoft operating system was a good idea. Plus, previous versions of IE were just awful at letting me choose how a web page printed, while I could often get the whole page or a page and a quarter to print on one sheet. Each of these browsers work in basically the same way but have different features that you may like better than another. Chrome claims to load faster, has an integrated address bar and search engine (which means if you type in a word in the address bar, and it isn’t a domain it will search for websites and has more space for the screen itself rather than the various tabs and buttons.)

All of these are free, easy to download and if you don’t like them, you can delete them again from your computer. Just know that when they ask the question “would you like “X” to be your default browser?” say no. If you say yes and end up not liking it, every time you click on a link in an email or other linked document it will open this new browser rather than your standard one.

Now you know where those “stray” programs came from.

Do as I say, don’t do as I do

I always advise my clients to back up their computers.  Even if they just back up their images, it could save heartache down the road.  Often they don’t and are devastated when something happens to their computer and all pictures of their grandchildren, pets and documents that they’ve done are lost.

I should listen to my own advice.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t backed up my own computer since December!  I used to do it once a month, but that chore has slipped to the back burner.  I got a rude awakening yesterday when I did what I thought was a standard update for Windows 7.  I had a brief thought that I should back up before I did it, but I had done the same updates on my lap top the day before with no ill effects.  I should listen to what I tell others.

The update went smoothly enough, but when it was time to re-start the computer it just sat there.  The lights were on, but no one seemed to be home.  That’s not good!  With the help of my technical hardware hubby over the phone (my hero), I switched monitor cables (apparently the video card often gets changed and it doesn’t like the new HDMI cable).  Sure enough, after scrabbling around under my desk (with the dust bunnies) I turned on the computer and it turned on.  It had to go through some repair, likely due to my turning it off when it wasn’t doing anything, but all is well.

If you have any documents, pictures, programs that would inconvenience you or hurt you to lose, please set up a time each month to back up your computer.  I have a Terrabyte removable hard drive that I use, but if you don’t have that much you can just back up to a USB drive or burn a CD or DVD.  I would have been majorly inconvenienced (okay, screwed) if I had lost my work, so I’m listening to my own words now.

I’ll also be vacuuming under the desk a bit more often too!

Cloud Computing

Have you noticed mention of doing things “in the cloud” or just the term “cloud computing”? It’s the new buzz expression. Well, you use the cloud in your every day computer life already. Cloud computing is a system whereby data storage, applications and to some degree processing power are available via servers (or computers) other than your own. Those space hogging office programs not longer sit on your computer using up your finite resources, but online where they can expand and contract depending on how many people are accessing them at once.

We use cloud-based services already to some degree. If you use web based email services (hotmail, gmail) photo sharing sites, chat to friends, and on various machines, phones, PDAs and netbooks.


Sharing is easier of documents, video or images, eliminating the need for them to download anything. It allows you to use programs without having to have them on your computer, or purchase anything.


You have to be careful though. As you don’t really know where your data is being held, there is always the chance of losing it. And if it is sensitive information, security should be a worry. If you use a service like Google Docs, you have to figure that none of your documents are going to be particularly private.
And an important disadvantage is that if your work is online, you are stuck if you need it when you are out of range of the Internet, or it just isn’t working at any particular time.

Examples of Cloud Computing

Email – obvious examples are google mail, hotmail, yahoo.

Data Storage – Rather than backing up to a portable drive, there are internet based systems such as Humyo, ZumoDrive, and Dropbox

– There are sites that you can use that you can use for web conferencing, online meetings or remote support. Your family can have a calendar that everyone has access to in order to co-ordinate events, holidays etc. With services such as Mikogo , Stixy, it makes it easier than emailing back and forth.

Virtual Office – Google’s online suite of office applications (docs, one of the companies offering the online creation of word processor, spreadsheets and even presentations. Thinkfree Online, Zoho. and Microsoft Live are other examples of this type of service.

Attaching the attachments

Do you ever do this? You write a long email to someone explaining something and then say that you are going to attach something and totally forget to do it? Yep, me all the time. I’m sure I have hundreds of emails that say “oops” in the title.

Today I was emailing someone via Gmail and said I’m attaching a spreadsheet to show you my figures and clicked on send, and instead of me just sending it and getting a message from someone later saying “Where was the attachment?” instead, I got a message saying “your message mentioned that you were sending an attachment, but you haven’t, do you still want to send the message?” I was amazed!

I didn’t know whether to be thrilled that things are so smart that they are reminding me of things I should do, or that they have put phrases into their coding to search for things that you may write in your emails. I know when I use Gmail that the sponsored ads at the right of the mail always sort of correspond to the subject (sometimes with hilarious result) but I didn’t really think about how much they are reading. What they say is true, nothing on the internet is truly private, so we need to always keep that in mind.

Good thing my email wasn’t something more sinister, the message may have said “we think you are a lunatic, we are calling the police now, are you sure you want to send that message?”


Just to mention that AVG has released AVG version 9. You can download it here at That is faster than the numerous windows you have to go through to find the free version at their own site. Just go to that site and another download window should open. Save it to your computer (desktop is best so you can easily find it) and then double click to install. You can install it without un-installing your previous version of AVG, but if you have any other type of virus program installed on your computer, pleased un-install it and restart your computer before you install AVG.

A client gave me her computer to find out why it was running so slowly. She hadn’t loaded the most up to date version of AVG, but some viruses are easier to delete if you run your virus program while your computer is in “safe mode”. Make sure your virus program has the latest update and then restart your computer. When it is restarting, press the F8 key at one second intervals until a black screen appears. Use your arrow keys to choose “Start in Safe Mode”. What this does is only load on the essential files that Windows needs to operate. This is good as a virus will often masquerade itself as a legitimate program while it is running. Or be able to jump elsewhere as the virus program deletes it. In safe mode, the virus program is easier able to delete it as it isn’t running.

That solved a major problem as trojans and other viruses generally use your computer in some way when they are active. So they are using it’s resources while you are trying to as well! That will definitely slow it down! Another aspect to her slow PC was that a lot of programs that she had installed, were set up to load on start up. This meant that it was taking her PC longer to finish the initial start up as well as using resources on her computer. We went to the options of the various programs and stopped them from loading as soon as she turned on her computer as well as taking many programs off her start up menu.

And if you use Skype (which I do and really like) it is good to know that it takes up quite a bit of bandwidth (on your internet connection) even when you aren’t using it. You can always arrange with friends to email you if they want to Skype you and you can turn it on again. I generally keep it on all the time, as I don’t notice the difference, but if you are on dial up and have Skype installed, it may be making a slow situation even slower!

I found this website as well called My Slow PC and they have this really handy tool that you can download that analyses your computer and gives a report (within a few minutes) of your operating system, what versions you have of IE, whether you have a firewall working. Then it gives advice on what to do about any areas that need work.

To clean up temporary files on your computer in Windows 98 or higher:

1) Click Start, Programs (or All Programs), Accessories, System Tools, Disk Cleanup
2) Choose the correct drive usually C:\
3) Check the boxes in the list and delete the files

Here’s to a cleaner and more efficient computer!

Canada falling behind

The OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) released a report that revealed that Canada has one of the slowest and most expensive consumer broadband networks in the developed world. Canada was compared with 29 other countries on a range of metrics. These included broadband availability, pricing, speed and bandwidth caps. At first our numbers don’t seem so bad with Canada ranking 9th out of 30 countries for broadband penetration.

“Yet, the situation becomes far more troubling once the OECD delves deeper into Canadian pricing and speed.
Canada is relatively expensive by OECD standards, ranking 14th for monthly subscription costs at $45.54 (US) compared to $30.46 (Japan) and $30.63 (UK). This high price may explain why many Canadians with access to broadband are choosing not to subscribe.” Michael Geist

Mixhael Geist has gone before the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications to discuss the state of telecommunications in Canada. And his speech is posted here. As he says, “Canada was once a global leader, yet today the marketplace suffers from high prices, slow speeds, and throttled services that have led to a decline in comparison with peer countries.”

When price and speed are compared, that is when Canada slides to the bottom of the list, ranking 28th out of 30 countries, only ahead of Mexico and Poland.

To read the OECD press release (but not necessarily understand it the first time round) click here.

More interesting websites

Finding out information on the internet is sometimes like looking for a needle in a haystack. You have to be very good at searching, using the right keywords, very persistent, trying different combinations of words or phrases, and sometimes just lucky. It’s nice to hear about sites from time to time that are handy, should you ever need them.

Under the category of “I wouldn’t have even have thought of that” is a site dreamed up by a guy who saw an obscure comment on a site about secrets. From this he created a blog called I Found your Camera What a novel idea. If you find a SD card or an entire camera, and don’t know who it belongs to, you can send a couple of photos from the camera to the blog and the designer will post the images and a little message about where you found it.

Gas Buddy is a site that you can go to if you want to find out what the prices are and whether or not they are going up soon. You can look for the cheapest gas in your area.

The last site is a new one with an awkward name. It’s called It’s a site where you can put in mathematical formulas and get the answer, put in your birthdate and find out what was happening on that day or how many days you’ve been around. It’s no real competition for Google, but the maker of it claims to cut the haystack a bit and get to the information you want a bit faster. This site is interesting if you are into math and science, but the jury is out on whether the rest of us would find it useful.

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