What’s in a name, tiger?

As reported on AppleInsider and Slashdot:

AppleOnline retailer Tiger Direct has reportedly sued Apple over the use of the Tiger name just one day before the Mac maker is scheduled to roll-out its next-generation Mac OS X 10.4 ‘Tiger’ operating system, according to an article at AppleInsider. TigerDirect, which owns trademarks on the names Tiger, TigerDirect and TigerSoftware, has requested an injunction that could prevent Friday’s launch of the Tiger OS. Tiger Direct is also seeking damages and legal fees. ‘Apple Computer has created and launched a nationwide media blitz led by Steven Jobs, overwhelming the computer world with a sea of Tiger references,’ Tiger Direct’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

Far from the first time Apple Computer has run into alleged trademark infringement – back in the day, they were sued by Apple Records (of the Beatles fame). That suit was thrown out under the following guideline (quoted from an Overview of Trademark Law off the Harvard University Web site):

The standard is “likelihood of confusion.” To be more specific, the use of a trademark in connection with the sale of a good constitutes infringement if it is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods. In deciding whether consumers are likely to be confused, the courts will typically look to a number of factors, including: (1) the strength of the mark; (2) the proximity of the goods; (3) the similarity of the marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) the similarity of marketing channels used; (6) the degree of caution exercised by the typical purchaser; (7) the defendant’s intent.

No one in their right mind would think that Apple Computer’s latest operating system version has anything to do with a mail-order company that never authored, distributed, or sold its own operating system (i.e. TigerDirect). Now if the name of OS X.10.4 was “Amazon” that would be another story — Amazon is associated almost universally with online sales and products and could cause some brand confusion. However, unlike Amazon, TigerDirect doesn’t have the same household name recognition, and one would venture that the word “Tiger” as used in branding has even less name recognition.

Who wins? The lawyers. They’ll make money at the expense of the companies, their respective shareholders, and, ultimately, you and I – the consumer.

The end of analog TV

As reported on MSNBC in Michael Roger‘s article, The end of analog TV:

Depending on the outcome of discussions in Congress, television as we know it may end at exactly midnight Dec. 31, 2006.

That?s the date Congress targeted, a decade ago, for the end of analog television broadcasting and a full cutover to a digital format… Back when the legislation was written, New Year?s Eve 2006 probably looked as safely distant as the dark side of the moon. But now that date is right around the corner and Congress and the FCC are struggling mightily to figure out what to do…

The really big question: What will happen to all those old-fashioned television sets we?re still buying when the analog transmitters go off the air? To continue to receive free broadcast television via antenna, you?ll have to buy a digital converter box; cost estimates range from $100 or so in 2006 down to $50 by 2008…

The real problem is the 15 million or so U.S. households whose only television service comes over the air. For these people, predominately lower-income and disproportionately black and Hispanic, the cut-off will be bad news indeed…

Congress can ignore the end-of-2006 cut-off if fewer than 85 percent of households have digital television sets…

Most discussions in Washington contemplate some sort of free or subsidized converters for low-income households, paid for by the government, perhaps with the help of broadcasters or consumer electronics manufacturers…

So let’s think about that:

  • Congress obviously came up with some brilliant legislation in 1996 thinking that all U.S. consumers would either buy a new television that had a built-in digital converter, or buy the separate digital converter. They neglected to recognize the practicality or likelihood of this, nor did they encourage the market to advertise this pending need.
  • They decided they could avoiding the pending shutdown of analog television if “fewer than 85 percent of households have digital television sets [in 2006].” In other words, they are willing to abandon the 15 million households that didn’t decide to (or know they had to) upgrade their old reliable TV.
  • A proposed “fix” to this is for the government to subsidize the purchase of converters for “low-income households” who would be left in the dark. If you’re middle class, you have to buy a new television. If you’re “low-income” the government will give you one. Assuming that 10 million of those 15 million households fall into this category, and that these set-top boxes cost about $100, we’re talking $150 million, not to mention the endless administrative and bureacratic costs. I’d estimate it would cost $300 million to “fix” this problem.
  • That same $300 million is about the Federal tax burden of about 50,000 middle-class families – a drop in the bucket that we call the Federal budget. It’s really not a lot of money to an organization that spends trillions of dollars a year. Maybe it isn’t a bad idea?

What a wonderful world Congress has brought us. They made legislation to bring the wonders of high-definition television to the masses, at a cost of $300 million. Odds are if they did nothing the market would have eventually implemented high-definition television on its own, phased it in without alienating its existing customers, and saved us $300 million. No media company would ever look to abandon 15 million customers. Congress thinks it is no problem to do so – because they can bail themselves out by spending your $300 million. Remember, it’s not the government’s money, it is your money. And that $300 million won’t give anyone high-definition television — it’ll just make sure the same old picture they see today will still be there tomorrow. So why bother?

We can only wonder.

California’s proposed video game legislation (again!)

As reported on Gamasutra, Feb 17 2005:

Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), California’s Speaker pro tem, has introduced a bill into the California legislature that would prohibit children under 17 from purchasing videogames that depict serious injury to human beings….

“When you push a computer button, you are pulling the trigger,” Yee said, explaining the need for such strict labels on the games industry as opposed to movies or TV. “Children are developing the skills to stalk, maim and shoot people.” …

Doesn’t the network news often depict stories and content about stalking, maiming, and shooting? An interesting sociological study would be to understand the impact of “news” stories depicting violent crime, and “games” depicting violent crime. We all understand that exposure to something can make it more bearable, even acceptable (such as the tendency of domestic violence to span generations). However, exposure to something can also make you more aware of the negative aspects of it (such as the tendency to avoid drug addiction after watching the same destroy a friend or family member).

Food for thought… Millions of people play “violent” computer games every day, and the overwhelming majority of them clearly suffer no adverse affects. Perhaps this proposed legislation is best left on the drawing board and off the books.

Wasting time with junk e-mail

I received an email today from a friend that set off the BS detector. Here’s a snippet:

Sorry, guys, it’s quick and for a kid’s school project! This is for a science fair project. If you could do this I would appreciate it! DON’T ASK, JUST PLAY! Copy and paste this letter into a new email (PLEASE do NOT hit "Forward"), then read the list of names. If your name is on the list, put a star * next to it. If not, then add your name …

No, I didn’t look to put a stupid little star next to my name. Instead, I went to Break the Chain, a Web site dedicated to stopping junk mail and misinformation. Sure enough, this chain e-mail has been around for a while in a few different varieties. It’s pure time-wasting junk.

My corrective action: reply (only!) to the misinformed friend who sent me the original email with a link to this blog entry. With any luck, I’ve eliminated one person from the list of e-mail chain propogators.

The reliability of Verizon

As if anyone who’s ever dealt with Verizon before didn’t know, their customer service and reliability are the pits.

Due to the recent grief with my current DSL line, I’m in the process of getting a new line through a new ISP, TransBeam. Verizon was scheduled to install the local loop on Monday June 7 between 8AM and 5PM. I took the day off and Verizon never showed up.

On the next day my contact at TransBeam told me that according to Verizon the local loop was installed. This is possible considering they just run the line to the outside of the house. This is unlikely as I would have noticed a Verizon truck in front of my house and my dog would have noticed someone in my yard. (She always has before.)

Later that same day (around 11AM now), I received a call from Verizon. The caller said, “You have an appointment scheduled today for a technician to install a line?” No, they were supposed to be here yesterday, and they never showed up. I was told they’d come by tomorrow.

The interesting part is that I’m not Verizon’s customer, and they are not supposed to call me. But they did, and the best I can presume is to cover their ass for not showing up the day before and lying to my service provider.

Don’t worry, when I get all the information I’ll file an FCC complaint. I’m sure it won’t be the last time…

When DSL and your ISP go bad…

Why has this site been unavailable for over six days? Read on for details.

Friday, May 21, 11:30PM

While on the phone with Wayne, friend and collaborator, working on improvements to my online baseball game, CSFBL (Computer Simulated Fantasy Baseball League), we noticed that the DSL line went out. Resetting the router didn’t bring things back. Since this is not very uncommon with my ISP, Intercom, we finished up our work (which was a nice improvement to the statistical normalization in the game, but I digress), expecting the line to come up shortly.

Friday, May 21, 1:30PM

I leave the house to drive up to Kingston, NY for another friend’s weekend wedding. The DSL line is still out so I ask a friend to call in a ticket to the ISP.

Sunday, May 23, 2:00PM

I get back home and the line is still out, so I try calling the ISP again. I leave a message with the answering service, who gives me a new ticket number.

Sunday, May 23, 4:30PM

Some support rep from my ISP calls and tells me they are looking into the problem. Yeah, right, and I’m an international man of intrigue.

Monday, May 24, 10:00AM

Getting more and more angry by the hour, I speak to another person at my ISP, who insists that I need to disconnect all LAN cables from the router so they can run a line test. It’s among the most ridiculous and pointless things that someone can test. Unfortunately, the only one home during the day is my dog, who lacks opposable thumbs and doesn’t know what a LAN cable is if it’s not drenched in beef gravy.

Monday, May 24, 8:00PM

After doing the pointless tests recommended and testing the cables to make sure it’s not something simple (it wasn’t), I decide to self-diagnose the problem. The first thing I notice is that the router is no longer responding to internal IP traffic. I connect to the router over a serial cable and notice a screen that says “Power-On Self Test Halted: CONFIGURE UNIT.” I’ve seen this before; it happened to me in December 2003. The router is fried; it needs to be replaced. I e-mail my ISP the info, which includes a copy of the message I sent them the last time the exact same problem occurred.

Tuesday, May 25, 10:00AM to 12:00PM

Two hours of successively aggravating phone calls to my ISP ensue. It’s clear that the problem is a fried router. Unfortunately, the ISP insists that they still must do testing to make sure the line is good. To do that they need someone to disconnect the WAN from the router. Again no one is home to fix this because unlike unemployed people, my family works (the dog is retired). They don’t understand that a bad router still needs to be replaced whether or not the line is bad. I demand someone comes to my house on Wednesday to fix the problem. They insist on running their pointless test.

Tuesday, May 25, 5:00PM

I call the ISP and tell them to run their pointless test and to get someone at my house the next day. They call back in 15 minutes and tell me that someone will be at my house between 10AM and 2PM the next day.

Wednesday, May 26, 12:00PM

A very friendly DSL tech gets to my house with two new routers. (He was the same guy who fixed the identical problem at my house six months prior.) Unfortunately, he can’t configure the new router because the ISP never sent him the configuration information and they can not give it to him over the phone because their systems are down (whatever systems they are). We finish off hoping their systems come back online in which case he will come back to try and finish the job.

Wednesday, May 26, 5:30PM

I get a call from my ISP stating that a tech will be out again on Thursday morning at 9:00AM. Their systems are back online. One vacation day wasted for nothing.

Thursday, May 27, 9:30AM

No tech yet, so I call my ISP, leaving a message saying that if the tech doesn’t show up in 15 minutes I’m leaving and from this point on they can send someone before 8AM or after 7PM because I’m not losing any more work. (Actual words used have been edited by the censors.)

Thursday, May 27, 9:45AM

Incredibly the tech shows up right before I walk out the door. Within 15 minutes the new router is configured, the line is back up. A very helpful person at DSL.Net (not my ISP, but they provision the line for my ISP, so I’m not their customer but they support me with direct indirection) even configures the router and makes sure it is operational.

Thursday, May 27, 10:30AM

We’re back online, and I start changing DNS settings to move services back to production.

The lesson? When shopping, make sure service comes before price. The best part of the story is signing up with a new provider, Transbeam, who will provision a new DSL line in the next 30-60 days. They gave me more service at the same price and with better service guarantees. They even monitor the line every 15 seconds. Had I only found them in the first place…