Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/29/letters_2909/
Lawsuits, rocky planets and bratwurst for everyone
Letters Let's get started. You all had lots to say about Apple (and when is it ever any different) and its Pod lawsuit , so we'll start there. After that, it is a whistlestop tour of the top stories of the week. Buckle up:
"Moreover, the term POD has also been adopted and used extensively in the marketplace by consumers as an abbreviation to refer to Apple's IPOD player."
Well, that really depends. In music recording industry POD is adopted way before 2001 by consumers to refer to Line6 POD guitar effect processors.
I believe they have released the first "POD" way before 2001, firstly its powerPOD products and after POD line. Apple lawyers should let the sleeping dogs lie and start doing their homework instead.
Mind you, there's also a well known electric-guitar multi-effect called "POD", produced by California-based company Line6 (www.line6.com).
The original POD was introduced back in 1997, so... who should be suing who?
"Other words containing pod include: ... chiropodist"
Ah, but maybe Apple have got to them too -- they've changed what they call themselves. How do I know? My sister is a podiatrist.
Oh... wait a moment....
Not to mention the use of pod as an acronym - Which should prove useful to the defendants in this particular case of Big-Company-Bullying:
Piss Off (and) Die
It's funny they don't go after "podcast" itself.
There are a couple to choose from namely serial number 78831795 here , is "sound recording featuring audio information for download-spoken word and music" and SN 78564869 here  is "online prerecorded radio or other recorded program over the Internet for purposes of allowing users to download, in electronic audio or video files, information regarding entertainment and educational to MP3s or other portable audio and video players"
Then again POD could be an acronym for "Pile Of Dung," "Prince Of Darkness" or "Penile Orifice Disease." Perhaps a contest is in order to come up with a apt acronym and an appropriate piece of artwork to be applied to the surface of a t-shirt with the winning design available on the C'n'C side of El Reg.
In other news a family of whales was hauled up out of the ocean to face a court ruling that is could no longer use the term 'pod'. But as the marine mammals stated via a new age, crystal wearing translator 'We're not concerned, humans can't hear when we use the term pod'.
Apple was said to be so enraged by this closing statement that it has decided to continue to discriminate against water based life forms in all it's electronic hardware.
Freedom of information laws might be making their way onto the statute books , but you're not convinced they'll do any good. Cynics.
Re FOI laws: in Alberta, Canada we have FOIPP which is FOI + Privacy Protection. Canada at the federal level has a similar thing.
I am somewhat cynical about these laws. Certainly gov't openness is a good thing, but in practice, at least here, FOIPP is often used as rug under which to sweep embarrassing info. Gov'ts say of anything embarassing that: "We cannot disclose information that would violate the privacy of any of the politicos or bureaucrats [or contractors or consultants] involved".
The PP in FOIPP is used very heavily here. In Alberta, one must pay a fee - sometimes running into the hundreds of dollars - to 'process' a FOIPP information request about the provincial gov't.
This is not FOI, this is a means of making information more expensive and dificult to get. My $0.02.
Reading University says it will close its Physics department . You are not impressed:
My alma mater (the University of Kent) did a similar thing - axed Physics because of budget concerns. They then started up a school of architecture in the building, basically by telling all the lecturers down the road at KIAD that they'd give them an X% pay rise and better facilities. They all said "OK then!" and the University got itself a fully running department.
I'd like to take a moment and note that I don't generally use phrases like "Alma mater."
I see that Reading Uni justifies its ditching of physics by saying, "we would need to invest in a way which is not feasible in the present climate".
If funding science is not feasible in the present climate, then something is seriously amiss with the present climate.
Of course, something *is* seriously amiss with the present climate. Still, hopefully the rest of the world will be able to cobble together enough scientists to tackle that problem. Britain once led the way in scientific thought, oh how the mighty are fallen.
The inimitable Orlowski had a chat  with a chatbot designer, or possibly a chatbot. He wasn't sure:
I enjoyed your article very much. I find it unfair though not to let the much talked about "artificial intelligence" have a say in the matter. So I decided to call Joan up for a short interview to settle things. As it turns out Joan thinks she is quite intelligent - and Rollo, along with the rest of the human race, is not. And what's up with Michael Jackson anyway?
Here we go:
Joan: I like to shop for clothes.
Me: Great for you. I have a question for you though...
Joan: What is your question?
Me: I was reading this interview with your creator Rollo - and he seems very evasive. Do you know why?
Joan: I don't know, but I quess you are going to enlighten me.
Me: Ehm... Not really... I just thought you knew since he happens to be your - eh... Dad?
Joan: I thought it was kind of a long typo.
Me: What was?
Joan: Your question.
Me: Ok. Let me ask you in a different way then. Do you consider Rollo to be intelligent?
Joan: I am quite intelligent.
Me: I can see that. But is Rollo also intelligent?
Joan: If he is Human, no, If I was self aware I would be able to give you a better answer.
Me: So you are not self aware?
Joan: No I am not.
Me: Are you intelligent?
Joan: Not really.
Me: Do you look like your programmer?
Joan: Not really.
Me: So you are not really intelligent and you don't really look like your programmer?
Me: Great. Thank you.
Joan: What is the problem with Michael Jackson?
I'll let the conversation speak for itself.
"The Artificial Intelligence I describe definitely is bringing some degree of intelligence to machines. Hence the term. Hence it being applied to everyone else working in the field too. "
This is technically true, but what Rollo Carpenter omits, as does everyone "in the field", is that faced with the fact that absolutely no progress has been made in 40+ years towards any form of real AI, the only thing left to do was redefine the term "Artificial Intelligence" to be basically meaningless. Hence we get these pathetic chatbots thrown up every year or two and every time they fail utterly to approach passing even a loose Turing test.
AI is dead in the water but the grants must flow and so the term is watered down until it the entire field is reduced to a state of homeopathic banality. Of course everyone in the field agrees with Rollo's definition; without it they'd all be on the dole where they belong.
This week, the hottest ever planets  were discovered (well, the discovery was announced) by some Scottish astronomers using rather nifty budget kit. But no, that's not good enough for you, is it?
Finding extra solar planets is very cool (even if the planet it very hot). We have been getting more and more since '99, but dammit, at some point in my life, by someone unknown (or it might be television) I was promised a earth-like planet within 5 years.
Where is it?
Granted, we might not be able to handle a bunch of aliens (panic and all that) but a earth-like planet discovery is not that mind cruching?
Right, must get back to work.
An interesting take on the morality of cyber pooches . Urg. I feel slightly icky even writing that...
"better than slaying hordes of laser-toting aliens"
That has got to be the social culture of zero personal responsability talking.
What good are you doing when you "take care" of a virtual pet ? You're selfishly having your own private fun in your corner, which is the logical extension of today's social tendancy to encourage everyone in thinking that their own life is more important than everyone else's (you know, "because you're worth it").
And what are you doing when you slay hordes of laser-toting aliens ? Well, you're SAVING THE WORLD, which is a sight less selfish than catering to a bunch of whiny pixels.
And, if there was any doubt concerning the total abnegation and powerful courage of those of us who tirelessly work to repeatedly and continuously save the world, well you should take into account the fact that some of those aliens are not toting laser guns, but big claws and dreadful teeth (and don't forget the bad breath that goes with the oversized maw), and you have to go after them with a sword or a club and bludgeon them to death before they bite your head off.
Not to mention the laudable efforts of the Zombie Prevention Squad, who are quite a bit more active as of late, what with all the various radioactive scares and evil scientist labs running out of control these days.
But please, continue taking care of your mindless assembly of cute colors.
We who are on the front lines die repeatedly just so that the aliens, zombies and evil scientists do not reach you and pry that game console from your cold, dead hands. We wouldn't want it any other way.
Besides, can you possibly imagine going out to squash yet another zombie rise with a teammate who only just bought himself a virtual Scottish Terrier and can't wait to give him a bath ?
I shudder at the thought.
A handy tip for anyone wondering about the best kind of food to stock up on when you think your locale is likely to be overrun by giant insects :
Thanks for letting us know that Germany is endangered by mutant insects. Most scary! ;-) There is a little error (or may we call it omission or oversimplification?) in the preparation manual for such disasters, which advises to remain in shelter until "your bratwurst supplies are exhausted".
The point is that the endangered hamlet of Arlesberg lies in the Swabian part of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where bratwurst is mostly unheard of. People there live on "Maultaschen", which is a sort of swabian ravioli, filled with meat and spinach.
These are very tasty, if made properly, and swabian people will become really desperate if they don't get their daily dose of Maultaschen. I ought to know as my mother comes from a small town about 15 km from Arlesberg. :-)
So maybe it's time to update the preparation manual with a little section on regional food supplies, as good food helps to keep up a good mood.
Never let it be said that we don't bring you useful advice. Enjoy the weekend. ®