Freesteel Blog » 2005 » December

Wednesday, December 21st, 2005 at 11:54 am - - Machining

A not so fun long evening getting pressure from Denmark about why the adaptive roughing is so much slower on their examples than it was last September.

I’ve done a lot of coding in the intervening period, so it could be anything. Rene started doing a binary search of the different versions, pulling them out of the SVN repository from different dates, compiling and running them, and isolated the point at being sometime between September 30 and October 10, when a job which used to complete in 6 minutes suddely went up to 17 minutes.

I think there’s something useful here about regression testing. Should we do it cross-versions, not only cross-examples? Rather than throw a whole set of archived examples at the newest version, we should throw the newest example at a whole set of archived executable versions.

Versions of the software are harder to archive because by its very nature its interface can change. Although, if you have lots of examples to work against, this is not so likely.

The bug in the end turned out to be in the following two lines:

boxesxrg = boxesxrg.Inflate(15.0);
boxesyrg = boxesxrg.Inflate(15.0);

That’s the danger of using cut-and-paste when writing your code. The implementation of the algorithm is robust enough that it gave out exactly the same result, only taking more time over it because it was falling outside the XY region of optimization.

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005 at 12:08 am - - Whipping 1 Comment »

A whole day and a night spent pushing the Lords parsing back to 1999-11-11, when all the Hereditary Peers were kicked out of the House and the database which a friend of ours gained access to began its records. The fruit of my labour is this list of XML files comprising 387 Mbytes of parsed speeches and, more importantly, votes.

Further processing is now set to happen in perl, SQL, and php.

Now we get to put them into tables and see what it all means. What do those Bishops stand for? And what happens to those captains of industry when they get elevated into the heart of our legislature whilst they still continue to run their multinational companies? Is there a conflict of interest? Or is government so much in the pocket of big business that it improves the efficient running of the system to have its leaders appointed into Parliament for life? Or do men like Lord Black and Lord Browne get their Peerages for the sake of prestige and never really turn up?

I do not yet know the answers. That’s the fun of gathering data that has not ever been seen in one place before. We will soon know all when we process the data. It’s going to make the webpage even more complicated than it already is, but there’s a price for everything.

Oddly, the new seagrass computer, for which I paid oodles of cash, seems to run at half the speed as my cheap laptop during the parsing process. Could someone have assembled the wrong chip inside?

Friday, December 16th, 2005 at 11:53 am - - Machining 9 Comments »

Come on you lurkers, write to us. You know who you are. We do keep an eye out on the Apache logs, so we know something is going on, even if we don’t know what it is.

Is it the chatty front page with its rarely documented historical facts that makes you nervous? It doesn’t look professional and corporate enough, does it? Do you prefer it when all companies in this industry drape themselves in a venier of business perfection which is wholly devoid of life-forces? What’s that all about?

For another project, I’ve recently been scanning through old issues of “Time” magazine, and “The New Yorker” on the open shelves of the Liverpool Central Library where they go back to 1947. I am disappointed to report that nothing whatsoever appears to have changed to the sound of the business news, which is almost all the news. They still took interviews from CEOs and top management only, and they still spoke in the same boring content-free way with no hint of what was happening then, or going to happen in the future, a future which thirty years after the articles were printed I could remember. It’s like there’s some kind of mask you have to put on when you work in a company which makes you measure your words or, better yet, not speak aloud.

Hmm. Maybe that’s is why the internet hasn’t made the political difference everyone expected it would, which is why all the attempts by governments to clamp down on it early on have largely gone away. Its great weakness and strength is that everything that goes through it winds up on the record, in the way that spoken conversations do not, so people subject themselves to extreme self-censorship. And except for management people, politicians, and official spokesmen, most human beings don’t have the confidence to know that they can talk in the absolute platitudes which can’t possibly get them into trouble. So they stay silent.

Meanwhile, I think I’ve halved the time it takes for the Adaptive Machining algorithm to complete in certain examples. Depending on the blood pressure of the salesman, this is considered either a 50% or a 100% improvement. But it doesn’t sound like anyone is particularly interested. Let’s get back to real things like gas prices.

(Rant continued at The Myron Ebell Climate.)

Wednesday, December 14th, 2005 at 6:56 pm - - Machining 2 Comments »

While at Euromold we got into a discussion with somebody about these problematic Software Patents taken out by Surfware.

They said that if the patent is still pending you can pay a fee and file evidence of prior art with the US Patent Office which they will take into consideration when they re-examin it before granting the patent. It’s always worth doing this, he said, because the patent office will do one of two things:

1) They will decide that what you have presented is prior art, and so the patent will be rejected.

2) They will decide that your work is not prior art and is not covered by the patent being applied for, and this is enough evidence to discourage potential litigation against the pursuit of your own work.

You have to be aware that patent disputes can continue in litigation until one side runs out of money or confidence, and caves in. It’s nothing to do with right and wrong and there is no legal aid.

It’s also true that the system is heavily skewed towards people who take out patents. After a lot of phoning around the different offices of the US Patent Office bureaucracy and some lucky online links, we found out how to make a Third-party submission in published application Under 37 CFR 1.99, which looked like it fitted the bill. We were even lucky to find that we were in the limited 2 month window when such things can be filed.

Unfortunately we then discovered that according to Section 1.52 of the same manual, we couldn’t submit our evidence as a third party in the form in which it was. You see, it needs to be on “sheets of paper that are the same size, not permanently bound together, and Flexible, strong, smooth, non-shiny, durable, and white”.

Our publications are in the form of a shiny one page brochure and a video.

Generally speaking, the Patent Examiners like to have their world properly organized. Prior Art, according to them, is only to be found in (a) Other patents which people have applied for, and (b) proper authentic academic publications. It is not to be observed among the chaos of activity that people in the world actually get up to, generally inventing and sharing ideas. All human creative activity is supposed to be moderated through the patent system and the academic system, and nowhere else. That’s the law. There is no such thing as learning and doing something yourself.

So our only recourse is to send copies of our material to Surfware and their patent attorneys Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, who appear to be a vast legal firm bloated on Iraq Reconstruction Contracts and other aspects of Washington DC corruption, and appeal to their duties under 37 CFR 1.555, which says:

“Each individual associated with the patent owner in a reexamination proceeding has a duty of candor and good faith in dealing with the Office, which includes a duty to disclose to the Office all information known to that individual to be material to patentability in a reexamination proceeding. The individuals who have a duty to disclose to the Office all information known to them to be material to patentability in a reexamination proceeding are the patent owner, each attorney or agent who represents the patent owner, and every other individual who is substantively involved on behalf of the patent owner in a reexamination proceeding. The duty to disclose the information exists with respect to each claim pending in the reex¬≠amination proceeding until the claim is cancelled.”

I really hope I don’t have to find out more about how corporate American law firms work. I really don’t. I expect it won’t be pretty.

Monday, December 12th, 2005 at 10:01 am - - Whipping

Most of last week, once I got back from Euromold, was spent working on publicwhip and living in Francis’s front room in Cambridge. I’m now trying to make work a new list of Lords, created from a database dump. Tricky. It appears to make no distinction between “Earl Sandwich” and “The Earl of Sandwich”. This will take some time more. I’m also shocked by the number of MPs who have suddenly been elevated from the Commons to the Lords over the summer since the last election. We will track their voting records.

Sunday, December 4th, 2005 at 1:04 am - - Machining 1 Comment »

So that was the Euromold trade show. I’ve never understood what these trade shows are for, since not more than a small fraction of the customer base would ever have the time to attend such an exhibit. But there’s an insatiable need to convene a physical embodiment of the industry all in one place. Athletes do so when they hold their competitions, but in business you can’t risk such an event with an unpredictable outcome. There’s too much at stake. It would have to be fixed and discredited in advance, because, if you lost, your business would be ruined. You wouldn’t have the money to redouble your efforts to go for the prize next time after a solid year of customers just buying from the winner. The fact is, if customers ever knew for sure what was the best product on the market, it would be a disaster. So, for the sake of fairness, it would be better to hold a carnival parade down Main Street, where every company could run a float and throw brochures, demo CDs and pretzles at the bemused public as they go past.

Euromold lasts four days. Normally we get terminally bored halfway through day two and sit around drinking coffee and cluttering up our associated company stand for the remainder of the days. But this year it was something else.

The cold I’d picked up in Yorkshire made me truly awsomely sore in the head that I went to bed in the hotel for most of the first day, before eventually walking over to the exhibition hall where I didn’t have a ticket. Martin wasn’t answering his mobile phone because he was too busy talking to a company director of his former place of work when I called, so I was left out in the cold for hours. My voice sounded deep and baritone once I’d spent the night coughing, and it was good.

Martin and I spent the second day attempting to hawk our Adaptive Roughing algorithm to various companies, expecting to get thrown off their stands as fast as it took people to understand what we were talking about. We had some brochures of our product as a Mastercam add-on, and Martin’s ibook laptop so we could show people what a computer looks like when the batteries are flat. Later on I began carrying around a freshly cut three kilogram lump of steel for demonstration purposes because there was no way it could fail to leave painful splinters in my thumb.

It should not have worked. Here’s what we were like.

Suppose you want to get into show-business, and you go down to Broadway where they have all the musicals, wearing your grubby street clothes and a scruffy backpack carrying your belongings. Out front they’re selling tickets from the box office for the evening’s show. You knock on the side door and some stage hand who’s very busy pokes their face out and you mumble that you’ve got a song and dance number that you’ve made up on your own while you were out of work and living with your mother, “would you think about putting it into your show?”

Only the ghost of Elvis could hope to be invited in for an interview with the director right away.

Something like this didn’t happen at the Tebis stand, because they are notoriously unfriendly, but almost everywhere else we tried we got a positive response. I couldn’t explain it. The absolute most I had hoped for was a level of polite curiosity. It’s rational, I think, for companies to learn as much as they can about competitors when information is offered to them, if only to know about what they might have to copy or discredit in advance.

Mmm. Time for some preliminary business management, in case there is actually some business to manage. I am now returning on the fast train back from Frankfurt to London. I drank no beer or wine and took only one free dinner while I was in Germany. That’s healthy. I dreamed up a 5-axis roughing routine on a walk along the river, but there was no one to tell it to.