The Truth about NTP

NTP is the group which is suing Research In Motion, the makers of Blackberry wireless handhelds. They’ve won a $450 Million judgement and are threatening to “shut down” Blackberry. They did this because they hold a few key patents in the wireless messaging arena.

So who is this NTP? No doubt they are a struggling, small startup just doing their best to bring their own products to market while being bullied by the huge conglomorate RIM, right? Well, not exactly. Actually, NTP is a holding company that has no assets except for a couple of patents. They’ve never built a product and have made no indications that they ever plan to. Instead, their plan is to just sue anyone else who actually does build things.

Also in the news today is that NTP (via Visto) is now suing Good Technology. Good has been a competitor to RIM for a while. Last year, in order to make sure that Good was not hit by NTP’s legal shenanigans, Good and NTP inked a deal for Good to license the patents. Good was proactive in seeking out this arrangement. Although I don’t personally think NTP should have this patent in the first place, our legal system lets it be, and Good did the right thing by legally licensing with NTP. Keep in mind that Good is a small company doesn’t have the deep pockets that RIM does. This was an easy deal for NTP, as it lends credibility to their patent, and yet doesn’t represent nearly the magnitude of dollars that suing RIM would represent.

Nonetheless, NTP’s greed remains unquenched, and they’ve now decided to go after their licensee Good under the Visto name.

Do you remember Visto? Of course not. They are basically dead now. They are a small, Silicon Valley startup that made some semi-interesting, but not-too-revolutionary sync products for wireless devices. Unfortunately, like many startups, they found that their biggest impediment to success was running out of money.

Thanks to our vulturous legal system, however, the corpse of Visto is still sputtering. NTP and Visto just announced last month that Visto has given NTP an equity stake in the company in exchange for use of NTP’s patents. The San Jose Mercury News ran an article titled, NTP ally Visto sues Good over wireless patents. But I thought Good was NTP’s ally that had licensed their patents? I guess that was last year!

This whole case with RIM, Good, and NTP is such a travesty. RIM is building a great product – millions of people use it daily. NTP, by contrast, builds nothing of value. The man who originally filed the patents NTP now holds is already dead, and the lawyers that remain at NTP are suing only to get rich. In the meantime, the poor guys at Good are trying to play by the rules with their meager startup budget. As a payback for helping out NTP, NTP goes and partners with another Good competitor, and then sues Good.

I hope NTP loses big time.

Backup your Backups

Popular blogs today are reporting that your CD-R backups of your photos and precious data may have a lifespan of only 2 to 5 years. Ack!

There is probably some truth to the story. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if CD lifespans are shorter than we think. But what bugs me is that there is absolutely no data provided in the article. How about some tests? Did they use different types of CDs? Different types of CD writers? Did they store the CDs differently? Did they use the CDs frequently for reading? Who knows. They provided no data. Wouldn’t a responsible journalist at least provide a few crumbs of facts?

I know first hand that I have some CDs I’ve burned which I’ve used for more than 2 years. In fact, I regularly play a CD in my car that is dated 2001.

It’s probably all just dramatized yellow journalism. Or maybe we need to make backups of our backups. I haven’t done any studies, so don’t take my word for it!

Structured Blogging, Microformats, and XML

I’ve been paying attention to “building blocks of XML” as a mechanism of standardizing dataformats for a while. XML certainly is the tool which is supposed to be able to solve this. And in a few isolated spots it has worked. But for the most part, applications still don’t share a lot of data types for a lot of reasons.

A group called StructuredBlogging has some interesting ideas around doing this within blog. They have an interesting demo for MovableType or WordPress. They are also supporting the notion of Microformats.

Microformats is brought to us by a group of folks from Technorati and other places.. It’s an interesting concept. They basically claim that XML formats will never get used much due to the fact that you have to build a whole slew of tools to actually make it usable by any large audience. So, instead, they’ve reverted back to using XHTML, which is a form of XML, and then using conventions for how to describe objects. This has the advantage that microformat objects are instantly usable on basically everyone’s desktop – because they work well in the browser and can be manipulated using javascript and stylesheets. More interesting is how well they work with AJAX, because AJAX is already a client->server interaction of HTML.

Its a bit of kludge, though, because it is shoehorning in XML data types into HTML which wasn’t really intended for it. It makes the syntax a bit obscure, and you lose namespaces and need to be a lot more careful about what XHTML class attributes you use. But, if it gets past the adoption problems of XML, those are minor issues.

Worth reading about if you are interested in this kind of stuff…. I do wonder if the real issue is that too many businesses think they don’t want to share data types at all… (Look what happened with Oodle/Craigslist when they shared data via RSS) I hope that is not really the case.

Finally, if you are interested in this, definitely read what Tim Bray has to say about inventing XML languages.

Hasta-la-vista Adobe Acrobat!


I so like using my new PDF reader that I have to post this article. Thanks to Marc Orchant for first posting about it.

If you’ve been surprised by Adobe’s staggering 50MB of size, or annoyed by its slow load time, or annoyed by its nagging “upgrade me” notices, then Foxit’s PDF reader is for you. From what I can tell, it loads up every PDF you can throw at it. And, it is faster than blazes. I’ve often used Google’s “translate from PDF to Text” feature to avoid using Adobe’s slow Acrobat reader, but with Foxit, you don’t need to do it anymore because it loads so quickly.

Foxit’s reader loads instantly. It’s only a 1MB download, and it is free! Get it while it’s hot!

Further, if you create PDF documents, Foxit has their own editor for sale too. I haven’t tried it, but the price tag is $99 compared to Adobe’s $449…