Been busy

It is a nice change of pace that my days are going by so fast that I don’t have time to blog. However, there are a number of topics I would like to blog on (I won’t list the links as I still hold out hope I can make time over the holidays), so I wish I had more time.

Well, it looks like my vanity patent will be for naught. The USPTO finally picked it up, but then rejected all of my claims. Because I have got to little interest in backing the R&D effort to validate and commercialize the idea I haven’t made the time to do a detailed analysis of the examiner’s response, but after a brief review I agree with my patent lawyer that the examiner has my concept conflated with that of the nanopore idea and thus doesn’t see the distinction. I had the _exact_ same problem with my lawyer when he found some IP he felt was prior art and I had to make the trek into DC to draw pictures and wave my arms about face-to-face to convince him of the difference. I believe the issue boils down to the unavoidable similarity of the drawings for both approaches. When you take something inherently three dimensional and reduce it to two dimensions sometimes you lose information. I feel fairly comfortable that I (and my expensive lawyer) could convince the examiner that my idea is novel, but it will cost money and time and given the glaring lack of interest in the concept I have found among those companies I expected to be most interested in providing support, my small investor and I decided not to put any more money and time in this project. There is still a small window of opportunity, we have to respond by Jan 6th (or could pay fees and extend that date to April 6th) so could decide to pick it up again, but I lack money, my investor is pretty well committed elsewhere, so unless an interested party pops up out of nowhere, come Jan 7th I will have officially wasted about 2,000 hours and about $7,000 of my time and money on this project.

Of course, just because the odds of success are several orders of magnitude better than playing the lottery, it isn’t like the odds are incredibly in my favor. I felt that I had a 50/50 chance of getting backing and I was in several serious discussions, so perhaps a wee bit of luck and things would have gone the other way.

I have been working on a laser tag concept for a while and had been working with DaWei (my major commenter) but haven’t heard from him the last month or so. DaWei, if you are still out there, did you get my emails? Anyway, DaWei has helped me (really, he did all the work) design a circuit for the laser portion and gave me information on actually fabricating the thing. Sadly, I have been too damn busy to try to assemble the parts, in any case I am not clear on how to ‘modulate’ the laser yet, something I presume can be done via a control chip, but I would need to experiment. Our last communication was shifting to the design of the target of the laser and I sort of flooded him with a bunch of ideas. My latest was/is to actually go with an ASIC, but perhaps the most basic design you can get: the wafer would be doped to become a giant photodiode, then diced into centimeter square chunks, then wired up as a 2d array and then a controller would sequentially sample each square to determine if it is being illuminate by a laser or not. The only real drawback is getting something like this custom fabricated for a reasonable price means I get to do all the engineering (if I pay someone else, the costs are on par with that of patent lawyers!). I haven’t been spending the required time to sort this out since I have been ‘distracted’ by a revival of my retro game.

When I was discussing what to do regarding my DNA sequencing patent with my investor, he suggested that I spend my time on my idea for the retro game since it was something that cost very little (so far, nothing but time) and as such didn’t require any outside investment. My son occasionally nagged me about the game and I thought about it from time to time, but until my investor gave me a push, I never made any time. Well, with his push I got motivated to work on it again, though sometimes it is just 3-4 hours a week. Initially I had to get it to run again; I had been using Apache web server and interacted with the program via CGI, but it seems in my latest OS upgrade Apache also got upgraded and now it is so ‘secure’ it is no longer useful. As an optimization I had been planning on making the program into its own web server (this amortizing the substantial startup costs over all the subsequent connections) so I figured, after a number of frustrating hours being unable to get Apache to change its webroot, that I would develop an ’embedded’ web server. I spent a few hours searching for open source implementations and found GNU’s libmicrohttpd and decided to give it a try. I was extremely grateful when it compiled and installed without any fuss or muss and all the examples worked as advertised. However, when it came time to integrate it with my game code I found it as difficult as getting Apache to be useful, so decided to write my own HTTP server. I studied HTTP before and have written a few servers so I didn’t see it as a major deal. The only real wrinkle was the changes between HTTP 1.0 (when I last spent any time on the protocol, yes it does date me) and HTTP 1.1: in 1.0 the connection closed by default after each page transmission, in 1.1 it remains open by default. It didn’t take me too long to figure this out, but it did add some complications to my server and right now it only really works on localhost since running it over the Internet adds delays that cause problems. I will sort it out eventually, but since I have something that works now I shifted my program from being hard-coded to run in a database (I am a fan of Postgresql, free and high performance!). Not quite done with that yet, but I have been fairly consistent the last couple of weeks in putting an hour or two almost each day (during the week, on the weekend I am generally too tired from the construction efforts). I am cautiously optimistic that in a few months I will actually have something playable and can ask my reader(s) to be alpha testers.

I have been recovering from my ‘creeping malaise’, thankfully. Not back to jogging yet, but I am walking briskly and am going up 4 floors of stairs at work, so hopefully in another couple of weeks (just in time for winter! (though we have already had Jan temps)) I can get back to jogging. My health improvement hasn’t resulted in any noticeable increase in output on the weekends, though. We have been working on lots of little things and have only been putting in a handful of hours of work lately. We have pretty much given up our fantasy of being able to swim over the Christmas holiday (we had already given up hope of swimming on Christmas day), we are now ‘unofficially’ discussing being able to swim on our boy’s spring break in April. Lack of progress is now battling with lack of money as we near the end of this project. Our credit cards are almost all close to being maxed out, yet until we get this done we can’t refinance the house to pay it all off. Fortunately our credit is good enough that we pay reasonable interest rates, but it is getting tiresome to have to juggle nearly every decision due to financial considerations.

It is hard to believe that next week is Thanksgiving. Just a few short weeks later is Christmas, where has all the time gone? I guess I shouldn’t complain, for so many years I have watch each second crawl by like an hour, but sometimes I wish I had some of that time now…

I may have some time to blog over the holidays, but then again, I might not. If not, then happy holidays to all my reader(s)!

Now the GOP must put up, else be shut up in two years

Another rambling post…

Lots of talk about a GOP landslide with the last election (man I was getting tired of those damn ads!), but I believe the reality is that if the GOP can’t make something positive happen for the bulk of the American voters, they will be wiped out in the next election. Since the Presidential elections heavily favor Democratic turnout (with midterms favoring GOP turnout) I am willing to put a few bucks on the line that if we have yet another 2 years of dysfunction in our government that the Republicans will take a beating that will be decades in the repair. They already have massive deficits in women and minorities and old white men are on the verge of becoming minorities themselves, so the GOP only has a few years left to recruit new converts before they become a fringe group (or rather more fringe than the Tea Party is now). I doubt that Obama will be any less effective (really, can he be less effective than the last 2 years?) with a GOP controlled congress and in any case, the Democrats in the Senate have 6 years of education on how to be a minority and still gum up the works. My expectation is that if the GOP can muzzle their Tea Party wing they might have a chance at the Presidency in ’16, if not, they will for sure continue their loss streak on the White House and will probably lose both houses of Congress to boot. Not that Obama did a damn thing when Democrats had control for two years, maybe Hillary will be different, though I am hoping that Elizabeth Warren will run, she will have my vote.

I have been suffering from some strange ‘creeping malaise’ for the last several months. After a whole lot of tests the doctors think I had Epstein-Barr virus. Fortunately it allows me to work without any real impact, I am fine as long as I sit in a chair. It has, though, had an impact on our construction efforts. I am probably at half speed or a bit slower. I often have to take naps after several hours of relatively light-duty work. I have been Xray-ed, CAT scanned, stress tested and echo-ed in my chest as well as lots of blood tests. Except for barely being able to walk up stairs or hills, I am fine.

I got my first feedback from the USPTO regarding my vanity patent, the reviewer rejected every one of my claims. I am not sure I want to bother fighting with the reviewer (my lawyer thinks the reviewer is conflating my application with existing IP, despite our efforts to address that in the application), particularly given the $675/hr rate I have to pay. The main issue is the unwillingness I have been finding in getting anyone to fund the research. Since patent applications to most of the relevant countries world-wide would cost around $100K (and that money needs to be paid by Sept 15 of next year) and I can’t get less than that to do the research to prove the concept, what chance I will get the green to cover the global patents. I am meeting with my investor tomorrow to discuss it, but unless he wants to fight I may just fuggedaboutit.

I have actually been enjoying work these last few months (a significant reason for my quiet on TFOUI), lots of interesting, intricate programming, though the flaws I am discovering in the program that I am testing are not being addressed because the developers are ‘too busy’ right now to take a look. Oh well, such is life. It isn’t without frustration though, I discovered today that a bug I had been beating my head over for the last couple of days was getting two symbols backwards (variable =+ value instead of variable += value). I hope tomorrow will be a better day now that I think I got that one solved. The day sure does go by a lot faster when you enjoy your work!

Just a few days ago I revived an idea from over a decade ago: the atmospheric satellite. It is a plane that flies at around 100K ft where the winds are very stable and thus appears stationary from the ground, just like a geostationary satellite, but with much faster turnaround times. A decade ago I wanted to fly them over the continental US, but the politics was just too much for me to consider fighting the powers-that-be. What changed? The realization that there is a significant market for cruise ships and air planes. Of course, it is almost certainly going to go the way of all my other ideas, meaning nowhere, but at least it keeps my brain active.

I have been working on an idea for fabricating my own laser tag systems because the prices for the ones we have been finding run around $200 a pop. Interestingly, as we move along in the process, I am developing the thought that the price point for such a system has to be in that range even though the parts would probably total to under $50. I have been enjoying thinking about how I could use ASICs to make the parts cheaper, but naturally with higher startup cost. We might wind up spending a few thousand to save a few hundred, but such is life. At least we should wind up with something I understand and can repair/enhance as needed.

BTW, as a totally unrelated matter, if you are interested in intellectual comics there is this interesting online strip that details how AIs interacts with humans as they becomes self-aware:

It has a squid-faced alien that is a compulsive thief, an engineered dog who is also an engineer and a planet with 450 million robots all becoming self-aware with only 20K adults. I find it amusing as well as thought provoking, perhaps you will as well if you are into that sort of thing (it was a sad day when Calvin and Hobbes ended!).