October 14, 2004

Garmin Sucks

garmin.gifDon't buy the Vista C or Legend C GPS Units from Garmin. I used to like Garmin, but it's hard to when I hear news like this, and as of November 7th, Garmin has still to call me as promised regarding this problem. Garmin really does suck.

Garmin's most recent outdoor GPS units sport a USB port instead of the strange proprietary connector they used to have. That sounds great, except that Garmin's gone more proprietary on the protocol they use to send location data over that connection, abandoning NMEA in favor of Garmin's own protocol - exclusively. [Simon St. Laurent / O'reilly Dev Weblogs]

What does this mean for you and me? GPS tracklog and waypoint downloading on Linux and Macintosh will not work. As Simon St. Laurent says, "Garmin will not work with a Macintosh and there does not seem to be an alternative according to the technical support at Garmin".

I called up Garmin myself, and spoke to Ben, a supervisor from technical support. Here is my summary.

Q: Do you consider Garmin a company that embraces the community?
A: We embrace technology.

Q: What efforts have Garmin made to get the GIS community to define an open standard?
A: I can't comment on that because Garmin is a publicly traded company.

I'm looking forward to finding out how or if they've made any attempts to embrace an open standard, or get the opinion of the GIS community at all. I think this is a stupid move on their part, and I will not buy any more Garmin products until I get an acceptable answer. I have a feeling their Public Relations department will not answer any of my questions.

Posted by nym at 09:01 AM | TrackBack

October 02, 2004

Xybernaut IP Followup

I did a previous writeup on Xybernaut's Patent on a Collar Computer, which had a ton of prior art in my opinion. It's not that I don't like wearable computer manufactures, but it just seemed very creepy that such a 'generic' idea could be patented. I did no more than 1/2 an hour of research to find my sources on prior art, and I would expect Xybernaut and the Patent Office to do the same.

I forwarded it over to /. since they seem to like patent issues, and it got published. Here's an interesting tidbit about this company from MichaelH (puddingbowl.org):

"I interviewed Xybernaut's CEO several years ago at COMDEX. The interview was set up for the purpose of talking about his company's use of Linux on its gear, but he only half-heatedly showed me a few models, then launched into his spiel about Xybernaut's patent attorneys, which he had all over the world. I think he claimed over 60 countries.

He told me Xybernaut could see the downturn coming and that it had decided licensing and royalties were where it's at. To demonstrate the company's "innovative" strides in patent gamesmanship, he pulled out a unit that a hinged and retractable slot cover for a PCMCIA slot. It was a slot cover: It closed when the card was in place, and opening it caused the card to eject.

He said no one had patented anything like it, and that his crack team of attorneys were now vigilantly monitoring dozens of countries to make sure that if anyone did anything like it, they'd be on hand demanding royalties and a cut of the action.

When Xybernaut announces patents like this, I suppose we can take comfort in its consistency: It's going on four years of taking out patents and then watching for someone to run afoul of them so it can get down to its real business, which is making sure the only "useful art or science" left is patent litigation."

I had a similar conversation with the JonesCam people, except they didn't say anything blatantly stupid, like trying to patent closing covers. Hell, my floppy drive closes automatically. I understand companies try to protect themselves from heavy handed lawyers driving them out of business, but it really bothers me when I hear about companies that I would like to be a patron of- are more concerned about making money off of their heavy handed lawyers driving others out of business.

I welcome Xybernaut's response. I really haven't head any cool R&D out of that company in ages, and I think IP bullying is why.

Posted by nym at 12:38 PM | TrackBack

July 31, 2004

Big Brother Awards

xing.gifHaven't had much time to write this week, as this site is still just a hobby, my little passion. I did get to watch the news this week and saw several cool things hit the radar. If they're old news to you, sorry, I'll be publishing more rapidly next week.

The UK's Big Brother Awards, the annual contest and expose for most awful companies and individuals when it comes to privacy.


"MP Margaret Hodge, the NHS and the Office of National Statistics have all won prizes in the annual Big Brother awards organised by Privacy International.

Ms Hodge won her award as Worst Public Servant for her backing of intrusive government databases and desire to monitor children by pervasive tracking systems.


Ms Hodge, MP for Barking and Minister for Children, has supported controversial proposals in the Children's Bill that aims to set up a database that will, among other things, hold data about children deemed to be at risk of becoming criminals." [BBC]

I really wish they'd expand their coverage to the United States, we have a bunch of nominees over here too.


[Link via near near future]

Posted by nym at 03:57 PM | TrackBack