The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Tag: Apple

Edge (TM)

Words and symbols are funny things and some people attach particular significance to them. By some people I mean lawyers, obviously, and I also mean consumers. Trade marks are an important part of business and some times it’s amazing what has been trademarked – Intel has a common law mark in 5 musical notes and a famous, formerly British chocolate company has trademarked the colour purple. I don’t think I need to name the company because I told you their distinguishing trade mark – it’s obviously Cadbury’s. Although perhaps my sweet tooth is showing through there. You’re not allowed to wrap your chocolate bar in Cadbury purple and put it on shelves because consumers, fairly reasonably, would associate your product with the goodwill built up in the real Cadbury’s chocolate products and be confused into thinking that your product was a Cadbury’s product. Emotive writers would say it’s effectively using deception to steal their customers.

There are some exceptions in what you can trademark – there’s the Barcelona.com v Barcelona cases in which a city council tried to assert proprietary rights in the name of their geographical location. That didn’t fly and http://www.barcelona.com remains in private hands. But even very common things, like a sound or a colour or the first word you learn in school can be trademarked till the cows come home – just ask Apple Computer and Apple Music.

What about ’Edge’ ?

Therefore in principle there’s no reason why you couldn’t have a trade mark in the word ’edge’ and, in fact, quite a few people do. However one guy who almost certainly doesn’t is Tim Langdell who has suffered quite a substantial setback to his campaign of, a lot of commentators think, pretty ludicrous patent (technically also trade mark) trolling in the decision of Langdell v EA not to grant Langdell an interim injunction against EA’s rather successful video game ’Mirror’s Edge’.

The judge, unfortunately for Langdell, seems to have been persuaded by EA’s argument that this guy is kind of full of it. They showed a poorly Photoshopped cover of Edge magazine (presumably a trade mark of… Edge Magazine) which was used to show how Langdell had good will built up in the mark.

Pro tip: if your application for IP protection involves shoddily Photoshopped covers of magazines that belong to other people you should generally reconsider your business model.

Langdell’s angle

He seems to have got by thus far by simply telling people who use the word edge in a product that he has something similar and it’s always been easier and cheaper to just buy him off. The something similar can be laughably poor, and often effectively taken from someone else and retrospectively licensed to him, but it creates enough doubt in the generally very small companies that he targets that the only thing to do is avoid a crippling intellectual property court battle and settle. It seems to have worked out really well for him.

The issues involved in working out if a trade mark has been infringed are complicated. You need to work out pretty exact figures for loss, confusion, competition, scale, distribution and so on. The general independent (indie) games producer just can’t afford to fund a legal battle as well as make a game that will sell and make the money spent on it back for the creator and it is a crippling thing. There is a company called Ad-droid which is being sued by Lucasarts for infringing on the Droid trademark they have from the Star Wars movies – ’These aren’t the droids you’re looking for’ etc – and that’s just hanging over the company because they don’t know what will happen and if they can afford it. You need to be a pretty large company just to be able to defend a full intellectual property case.

Fortunately Electronic Arts (EA) is one of the biggest games companies in history, certainly the biggest video games company, and they looked at this request to stop selling a multi-million dollar game and pay damages to him and decided they wouldn’t do that. Instead they took him straight to court where they’ve won a major (though not decisive) victory.

EA is also one of the most hated video games companies in history, so seeing them throw around their considerable corporate might in a David versus Goliath legal struggle and not appear to be quasi-monopolistic bullies must be a wonderful change for them. Please keep it up EA, this is really good of you.

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Apple iPad

Here’s one that’s been sitting my drafts for a fair while so here is some light of day for it.

Apple has released a new internet device yesterday (relative to when this was written) which has pretty much filled Twitter ever since. You have probably heard of this if you used the internet in the last year or so.

I particularly like the built in iBooks program. I actually own an iBook so I find this slightly confusing, the iBook was a laptop and iBooks is an online ebook store. I really think that having such a big player in the market will really change what we see in the ebook market. I hope it means that we will have the sort of really amazing media features that you can do with computer technology. The New York Times has already shown off an application where you can read their newspaper and have inline video content. I think that’s really very impressive. Apple is not a publishing company, it wants to sell books so that people have a reason to buy their iPad device. Therefore things which are good for selling the iPad will be pushed for. I think that bodes well for user experience and possibly price if not necessarily choice. Also they’re selling them in ePub format and more stores should do that.

There’s been a real internet backlash against it. I think this is probably because it’s been the single biggest tech story of the decade. The “Apple Tablet” was the big non-surprise of the year. People expected it to just about make your tea for you. The main complaint is that it’s just a big iPhone. I think this seems to forget that people really like their iPhones. Saying something is just a bigger pile of happy drugs won’t mean it isn’t awesome.

I think the comments that the name is stupid because it sounds like a feminine hygiene product are just facile. That gives the anti Mac brigade a bad name. When it says pad think “of paper” and “oh, that’s a play on iPod” not “that’s a lady thing” and snigger to yourself. It’s not a good look.

I haven’t used one (of course I haven’t) but I think it goes without saying that it will sell like hot cakes and some market will be affected by it. But I went to the Glasgow Apple store on launch day and I have used one by now – it’s smooth and very impressive. I didn’t get one, I didn’t see the need it would satisfy and I’m not earning enough just now to spend £400 on fun things.

The big news is that they’ve ported iWork to the new device which means that you can actually do pretty honest work on what is primarily a music, book, movie and photo browsing device. I don’t know how much work will be done on it but the potential is there and that’s a good reason to consider buying it. I think that you shouldn’t buy it just to make documents in iWork (especially if you have a laptop already) but that it is a nice to have feature, a little bit like how my phone works as a torch in a pinch.

The Guardian has come out yesterday (relative to when this post was posted) with a scathing review about how it’s so expensive to buy the big model. I’m a big fan of having quite small storage in my mobile devices (2GB seems to work well for my phone and mp3 player) because it’s massively cheaper and there is a genuine limit for how material much you can physically consume in the periods between plugging it back into your computer to charge it up anyway. I think at around £700 for the ultra high end 64GB model with 3G and GPS it’s nice if you have the money but it’s not going to be any better that the small model. I personally don’t see the benefit in getting the 3G upgrade but I can see how it would be useful to a certain group of people (lorry drivers are experimenting using it as a huge satnav for example).

It just seems like a very expensive way to be connected on the move but, then again, it’s a £400-£700 internet appliance so frugality isn’t the overarching principle to begin with.

Needless video

I own an iPod Nano. This is not to show off about my latest toy, it’s actually one of the very first iPod Nanos from 2005. I keep using it because it still works and it was quite a lot of money at the time. It does sound, photos and it plays Brick. On the other hand it doesn’t have a touchscreen and it doesn’t run Apps. These are things that I’d probably use if my iPod had them but I’m not bothered enough to buy a new one. The one thing that I’m currently disappointed about is that it doesn’t do video.

the original iPod Nano

The original iPod Nano has a tiny 1.5″ screen and really is only supposed to let you see the name of the song that is currently playing. I don’t really want to watch video on the thing. What I do want to do is copy video podcasts to it. I think this is acceptable because in many cases the video podcast is just a podcast which has a video with it. The video element is seeing the speaker talk to a camera or something else which is nice to have but not enough to add extra content.

A podcast is effectively a recorded radio show which you can download. It can have interviews, fiction, non fiction and so on as long as it is recorded and published as a digital file for download. CharonQC does a very regular, good legal podcast – “law casts” naturally – which illustrates the concept very well. A video podcast – tenuously a “vodcast” – is simply a video file rather than an audio file.

Quite a good example is the really good, highly recommended David Mitchell’s Soapbox which can be effectively summarised as the guy from Peep Show complaining about things. They are speeches which are jazzed up by superimposing Mitchell onto a thematically suitable background, for example in “Waste” he is pictured sitting in a bin. Beyond that the real meat of the content is the speech. It’s just that it could work as a audio file too and if it was an audio file I could put it on my iPod and listen to it while I’m out and about.

This simply comes down the issue of choosing your medium when you prepare a presentation. A podcast about learning to paint is something that benefits from having a video whereas an audiobook does not (an audiobook which adds enough visual content to benefit from having video is called a movie). I think most people’s work will fall in the middle of those extremes and the judgement call has to be made. The take home lesson for today is that it’s important to realise that there actually is a judgement call to make.

The broadband revolution, improved processing capacity and the reduced cost of data storage means that the technical difference between making a podcast and making a “vodcast” is now reasonably narrow – downloading a 20MB video file is now only a couple of minutes, will disappear into a terabyte hard drive and will not strain a quad core processor. If you’re in this position, technologically you really may as well point a camera at stool in front of a blank wall and talk into it. I’d encourage you to avoid picking video because you may as well instead of because it’s better for what you’re doing. A good option if you want to have the best of both worlds is simply to do both, strip the video using your favourite video editing software and just post the sound in a separate download.

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Taking a laptop to school or college

Mac Observer has published an article on the tips and details for students wanting to deal with the hassle and benefits of bringing a laptop to university. I think he makes some good points, although the advice certainly doesn’t depend on the brand of the laptop.

Transport

Transport is the biggest concern for students who stay at home and commute to university. Those living in dorms get away with, generally, less travel but with the concerns of possible theft.

I think the best way to transport a laptop at uni is a lot like how you’d do it with a bike. You want to immobilise it to stop it swinging about as you move and stressing the components.

Another good tip is to get a case which you can slide the laptop straight into – so a top opening, padded, laptop compartment in your bag is pretty brilliant. I use a padded neoprene slip case which fits in my backpack like a document wallet. It works and it protects my computer for less than a new bag but at the cost of being slower to unpack and pack when I want to use it, for example in lectures and tutorials. This needs to be added to the time needed for the laptop to be ready for you to use – starting up and loading programs. In this regard good and reliable sleep/suspend modes are a great asset.

Weight

Weight is an important issue but I think it can be overstated. Even for those who will never play prop on the university rugby team it is unlikely that any laptop you decide to pack in your bag will be cripplingly heavy. Today’s laptops are considerably lighter an d smaller than those of yesteryear. At the very worst you may find your bag works as weight training and you build some muscle. Obviously avoid a huge laptop because besides being weighty it will also be unwieldy. Most laptops are still portable enough for university without spending more for an ultraportable model. I think Mac Observer’s suggested MacBook Air is a lot of money to spent avoiding 680g of extra weight and the difference between that and a regular MacBook could probably be spent better elsewhere. Obviously if, on reading this, you realise that your MacBook Air is unsuitable for your university backpack please get in touch with the Scots Law Student MacBook Air Re-homing project because I haven’t got one. You will most likely find the extra weight pretty unnoticeable, especially when you add a single textbook or bottle of water (always an idea to have in your bag) and neutralise that hard bought weight saving.

Security

The security tips are a good move – if you have a couple of thousand. pounds (potentially) worth of computer equipment in a desirable and inherently portable product it is necessary to consider the risk that someone might take it.

This is particularly important for students living in dorms and halls because losing a computer is both a loss of corporeal movable property but also a significant loss of information, work and time.

Think Geek sells, for a lot of money, a wall mounted laptop safe which lets you bolt the laptop, secure inside a metal case, to the firmament of the building itself. I have no doubt this would be an pretty effective anti theft measure.

For people less worried about the threat of theft a cable lock is probably all you’ll need. These bike chain like devices attach to the rectangular slot on most laptops and then loop around a sturdy piece of furniture. This will protect you from people up to the point of lifting furniture / cutting the chain. If these methods both fail you could follow the example of an American law student who simply fought off his robber with a warcry of “not my case outlines!”

I think their encryption tips – encrypted disc images in particular – are worth noting but personally don’t use it myself. I don’t feel I have all that much in the way of files that need protection, I have an encrypted password database and that does me instead.

Insurance

If your laptop is still stolen the best option is to make sure your computer has been insured – you may lose your computer but you report it as stolen (as it may well be), and then replace it on, ideally, your parent’s home contents insurance and you offer to pay the excess. I wouldn’t be a law student if I didn’t point the need to check that your belongings are indeed protected under the policy while you are away at university.

Backup

If your computer is stolen you’ll probably lose a lot of your work. I keep a lot of notebooks, files and boxes of notes but I still have a considerable amount of work on my computer that I would desperately not want to lose. This differs from trying to keep possession of your computer, but is just as important.

Backup doesn’t need to be difficult. Mac Observer points its readers to the Time Machine feature on recent versions this provides versioning backup for all of your files with very little configuration. All that needs is a suitable Mac and a big external hard drive. Apple offer their own Time Machine wireless wireless hubs which are obviously wireless and convenient but any external hard drive will work and with Misco.co.uk offering a 1 terrabyte one for £67.8 – or under 7p a gigabyte (I have used just about 2 GB in my entire university career) so they are becoming very reasonably priced.

Backups don’t need ts be particularly fancy, just as as long as they are regular. Copying your home directory (Mac/Linux) or My Documents folder (Windows) onto a portable hard drive, assuming it’s done regularly, can be just as effective as buying a professional, automated product to do it for you.

A good backup protects your data from accidents that destroy your computer like battery fires etc and even robbery assuming if it isn’t taken along with the computer.

These tips apply to the lowliest netbook to the shiniest boutique gaming laptop, from the sveltest ultraportable to the chunkiest mediacentre. Get a good bag so you can carry it healthily. Get a security setup, make sure losing it isn’t irretrievable and be able to continue with your studies without, it even temporarily. This is particularly important around assessment time.

Reading the Manual

I’m going wildly off topic today but I was reading a post by Danny Sullivan about his new MacBook Pro.  Now, I love Macs and I make no secret of this but I cannot afford one.  I also love computers and make it a point of pride to develop an all round understanding of how they work, I’ve dabbled in everything from DIY radio frequency networking (actually not as interesting once it’s finished as when you’re researching the regulations, sourcing parts and generally getting it working) to a spot of programming and now I write a legal blog so I consider my proficiency in most areas to be pretty high.  I consider my proficiency directly related to my willingness to sit down and read documentation, whether that be a glossy user manual or a UNIX man page, if I want to learn something I’ll look it up.

“First challenge. How to get the software into the Mac. See, the Mac DVD player is cool. Nothing slides out. You just shove the disc in. But I wondered if it was working since the disc didn’t get “grabbed” until it was almost entirely in. But nice — it’s a pain having the disc carriers slide out. Ejecting was another issue. I could not figure it out. Totally lost.”
(http://daggle.com/080312-192557.html)

Yes, I understand that this man is indulging in a bit of comic excess here and I’m cherry picking (he later installs an entire virtualised operating system, so he’s not a novice user) and blowing it out of all proportion but the fact remains.  He got a disc stuck in his fully functional and highly expensive laptop and I find that slightly surprising.  Even without owning a modern Apple computer I happen to know:

  1. There’s a key on most, if not all, Apple keyboards since about 1998 marked with the internationally recognised eject symbol*  and pressing it will make the drive spit its contents out. I’ve not looked at the new MB/MBP closely enough remember if it does and I suspect the MacBook Air might not need one but I’d be comfortable assuming for now.
  2. I also know that dragging the CD’s desktop icon to the Trash will make the disc eject.  (Not the most intuitive step, I know but if you’re used to it it’s very fast and that’s just how Macs do it)
  3. Pressing and holding F12 for 2 seconds will eject the disc.
  4. You can even perform a Command-Option-O-F boot and type “eject disc”.
  5. If all that fails you can push a straightened paperclip into the little hole next to the drive slot to trigger the physical button.
  6. The old versions of Mac OS (not checked this way in years, never needed to, see 1-5 above) had an eject disc option in the Special Menu

That’s purely from my computing general knowledge which has been picked up from my general life experience as someone who is reasonably willing to fix a friend’s computer.  I wouldn’t expect someone else to just instinctively know all that, I didn’t – I had to go out and learn it, but I would be comfortable expecting them to know what the quick start guide says about ejecting discs.  They don’t have to read it religiously before the computer is even unpacked but when they have a problem perhaps it’s worth a look.  I believe in trying to help yourself and a good way to do that is letting the manufacturer help you.  Apple knows that most laptops have buttons on the side that makes the CD come out and that theirs are different.

The odd thing is that this post has triggered a surprising reaction of what I suspect is jealousy in me.  I simply cannot afford a MacBook Pro if I factor in ongoing financial commitments like buying food and I understand that.  Instead I use a cherished collection of primarily hand assembled and carefully tuned computing equipment which serves my purposes extremely well and I’d only like a Mac because I used one as a child and the marketing has brainwashed me and they’re nice.

That said, I’d like to think that I’d read at least the quick start guide for my new couple/few thousand pound laptop (if not the full manual) even if only for the sake of checking there wasn’t some feature I didn’t know about.  The reaction of my enthusiastic amateur self to the mental image of someone sitting in front of a shiny new computer that’s out of my economic league and idly poking at it with a murmured “Huh, look at that, it’s eaten my CD” is unexpectedly shocking.  That’s slightly worrying food for thought I think.  I’ll have to seek out a glamour model using one of the high end MacBook Pros to check their MySpace for comparison.

Is this the scotslawstudent admitting he’s a closet sociopath and voracious reader of technical documentation?  Well, kinda actually. But really I’m trying to make a point about the best move a computer user can make if they find themselves in an unfamilar environment is to stop, take stock of what they want to do and dig out some of the paper they previously ignored in the box. It’s often very, very helpful. Also, MacBook Pros are awesome, aren’t they?

The internationally recognised eject symbol

*The internationally recognised eject symbol