Freesteel Blog » Machining code at Surfware Inc

Machining code at Surfware Inc

Monday, December 1st, 2008 at 12:49 am Written by:

If you want to look at a picture of successful constant scallop algorithm, you can see it here on the Surfcam Inc website where they call it “3D Offset Milling”.

With the names Alan Diehl, Stephen Diehl, Bryan Diehl, and Larry Diehl listed as some members of the Surfware team, one can be forgiven for believing that this is a family business.

Now, I’m all for family businesses, but as a programmer who has suffered years of writing these constant stepover scallop algorithms, it would be nice see a kind word about the poor sap in the back room who has experienced similar suffering to me in their attempt to perfect the same miserable algorithm.

This is a note to him (or her): You think you’re doing well, because everyone in the company knows you and thanks you for your work. But when you get another job, no one will know who you are or what you’ve achieved. You won’t realize this at first, but eventually you’ll discover that you are a nobody. People like us need to develop a presence of some kind that connects our name to this hard work, or we’re screwed. Because we’re not writing Open Source Software, our employment contract robs us of access and ownership of our work. And without a public note acknowledging our existence, our authorship and credibility is stolen too.

This isn’t Surfware’s fault. It’s the way things are done, and the way we, as programmers, seem to have gotten used to putting up with. It’s not like this in the movie business, where every fourth tea’s maid for the assistant lighting fixture technician’s gaffer taped best wardrobe opener gets his name in the credits.

What is Surfware’s fault is that they’ve applied for, and received on 11 November 2008, a software patent for their Engagement Milling technology embodied in TrueMillTM.

They don’t include a link or host a copy of their patent documentation on their website, so here it is, US Patent No. 7451013. They also hold Patent No. 6704611 of 8 March 2004, proving that they’re making a habit of it. They claim:

This patent protects the intellectual property and proprietary technology that we have developed over many years… [It] provides strong protection for current and future versions of TrueMill.

According to my records, I’ve been all over this case since 2005, as well as the wider threat of software patents, even to the extent of determining that Vero Software, who are no wish-washy liberals, doesn’t like them.

I wonder what they say over at Celeritive Technologies where Surfware’s former VP of Product Design, Glenn Coleman (named in both patents), former Surfware’s Systems Architect, Dr Evan Sherbrooke, and former Surfware CEO Terry J Sorensen have been holed up Cave Creek, Arizona with an online implementation of their version of an engagement milling algorithm known as VoluMillTM.

I touched on their business model at length in this post in May, following the bringing to my attention of it during last year’s Euromold 2007.

I always felt it appeared on the market a little too quickly, but never expressed it in words. And knowing what I know now, having authored a fast and reliable engagement milling type algorithm of my own that actually works, I can report that there isn’t enough money in it to make a living.

Nevertheless, on their website appears some news:

Celeritive Technologies, Inc. files a patent covering the key technical innovations in VoluMillTM, its revolutionary toolpath engine.

As usual, no link. I wonder how they had time to write it instead of developing their code. Let me see…

… Nope, I can’t find it. However, the fine list of inventions emanating from Cave Creek, Arizona includes a Method and System for Parsing Languages (check out the random rambling at the bottom of the page), and a Cat tower with separable transportable bed, inset corrugated scratch pad/fabric base, and washable woven fabric covers. My God, what progress!

Note to the US Patent Office: You’re not helping! You’re as bad as those sub-prime credit rating agencies who marked all the Wall Street Ponzi-style financial instruments as triple-A-star investments owing to deep conflicts of interest due to being paid per item rated. Unfortunately, with software patents there will never be a day of reckoning. The damage caused will always be too distributed. The problem will get worse and worse, but there will not be a crisis that…

Oh… What’s this? My search engine queries seemed to have hit something

Plaintiff: Surfware, Inc.
Defendant: Celeritive Technologies, Inc., Terry Sorensen, Glenn Coleman, Evan Sherbrooke and DOES
Case Number: 2:2008cv06753
Filed: October 14, 2008
Court: California Central District Court
Office: Western Division – Los Angeles Office
County: Los Angeles
Presiding Judge:
Referring Judge:
Nature of Suit: Torts – Property – Other Fraud
Cause: 18:2510 Wire Interception
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
Jury Demanded By: Plaintiff

Unfortunately, I can’t get any more because I don’t have a PACER account which would allow me to get billed 8 cents a page. If this is how it is in the legal system, no wonder they don’t see the point of net neutrality.

Still, I’ll find out what’s going on another day. Or a good friend can look them up and mail me the documents.


  • 1. anders replies at 1st December 2008, 9:06 am :

    Now you see why those evil academic professors publish in the even more evil academic journals. It makes them a somebody, and it gives them a bit of job security. Papers are the currency of that world.

    I guess in an ideal world greedy people who only like to make money and sit in meetings shouldn’t employ technical people (programmers). Maybe the evil companies should focus on marketing only and buy their algorithms from universities or somewhere. As you describe it the reward for being a good programmer is you get fired! You’ve created this cash-cow for the marketing/meeting-types, and so you’re not needed anymore.

  • 2. Adaptive Toolpaths –&hellip replies at 25th August 2011, 1:45 am :

    […] that Surfware website does not mention Coleman and Sherbrooke as co-inventors… maybe because the Surfware family filled a lawsuit against Celeritive […]

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