March 30th, 2009


Dis Iz Kaos...We Do Not Downsize Here!

THQ has been shedding a lot of studios and people.  Besides the previously mentioned Volition, Maryland studio Big Huge Games just got whacked.  No buyer was forthcoming.  BHG was founded by for people who cut their teeth on some of the biggest strategy games in PC-dom, including Alpha Centauri, Civlizations 1 and 2, and Gettysburgh.  They carved their own identity with the release of Rise Of Nations and were in the middle of developing an RPG with Ken Rolston, the lead designer for Elder Scrolls IV:  Oblivion.  Also, THQ has spun off Heavy Iron and Incinerator into independent studios.  Heavy Iron was created specifically to make games based on licensed properties like Scooby-Doo and Fairly Oddparents and several recent Pixar films.  Incinerator ported Cars over to the Wii.

However, not all is gloom and doom.  THQ's Kaos Studios, makers of Frontlines -- Fuel Of War, is putting out the call for all kinds of creative staff for a mystery project.  So dust off those resumes.

Not With A Bang, But A Whimper

Today, TomTom and M$ settled their patent disputes.  Both sides did.  Although the terms are not readily available yet, what I've seen so far is....

Well, officially, I have to applaud TomTom for not knuckling under and remaining GPL compliant.  They are happy with the settlement.  It's their money, if they don't want to spend it on litigation, they shouldn't have to.

Unofficially, I'm pissed.

TomTom is basically doing what Samba did.  M$ presented Samba with a list of the patents M$ had that Samba might be infringing on.  Jeremy Allison, head of the SAMBA project, basically said, "No problem, we can work around these," and Samba was re-engineered to work without any of these patents getting in the way.  TomTom is going to drop support for long file names.  You can read from VFAT with a long filename, but you can't save to it with a long filename.  8.3 is all they have.  Now, the internal file system is still fine, and can probably be switched to ext2 or something (and a driver to connect it to a Win machine?  No problem, ext2 is Open Source).  They have two years to remove these patents from their system.  M$, meanwhile, has five years to remove their infringing patent stuff from Streets And Maps.

So, it sure seems like a victory, right?  No.  Here's what I see:

1)  TomTom has to end support for an invalid patent.

2)  TomTom has two years to get rid of it.

3)  M$ gets access to TomTom technology for five years.

4)  TomTom pays M$ a licensing fee for the settlement.

5)  M$ doesn't pay a dime.


It is theorized that the license agreement, which supposedly won't violate the GPL, will just be another covenant not to sue, like what M$ ginned up with Novell (the Linux build used by TomTom is still GPL v2.0, so it can happen).  My guess is that TomTom's own patents were just as fragile as the VFAT patent, and faced with patent war MAD, the two sides shook hands so M$ doesn't have to lose its precious sabre for rattling.

I'm sorry, but this stinks.  It's like Babylon 5, where the Minbari are about to conquer Earth, and then surrender.  TomTom suddenly had more prior art than they knew what to do with, and the MoFo's on their side...wait...the MoFo's...lawyers for Novell, who entered into a covenant with M$ to get an unfair advantage over other companies using Linux....things that make you go, "Hmmmmmm...."

I can't really criticize.  It is TomTom's decision to make, and for all I know, this is on the up and up.  It is very strange for M$ to give up a fight before it even gets to court.  Another possibility is that M$ realized a bigger mistake -- they were suing TomTom over the long filenames provided by the Windows interface, not the TomTom firmware, and realized they didn't have a leg to stand on legal while TomTom had its counterclaims ready to go.  Or maybe it just validated the existence of the Open Invention Network.

All I know is this....

When TomTom filed its countersuits, I was suddenly jealous that I owned a Garmin instead of a TomTom.  Now?  I'm glad I never ditched the Garmin.

Boom! Boom! Out Go The Lights!

Today, the latest hearing in SCO's bankruptcy trial happened.  They have been putting together half-hearted plans just to keep Novell and IBM and the US trustee from taking over.  Today's hearing was about extending exclusivity again, to keep SCO trying to come up with a plan and keep Novell, IBM, and the US trustee out.

The docket said this:

"#1 Denied.  Hearing will be set after motion is filed."

That was the "Please extend our exclusivity."

I say again....


According to a Grokbot who attended the hearing, the judge says the hearing date will be set after motion for Conversion to Chapter 7, motion for appointment of trustee or motion for appointment for examiner is filed.

Harken!  Do I hear paper shredders firing up and drills being applied to hard drives over in Utah?
Peter G

A Gift From The Gods!

So I'm watching the Madagascar Penguins, and during a commercial break I saw something so... beautiful... fabulous... wonderful....

The Nerf Vulcan EBF-25.


My prayers!  They've been answered!

Readers of the comic strip User Friendly know that Erwin has a Nerf gun with a belt feed.  Before this, I had to make due with my Nerf Rapid Fire 20 (which I have immortalized in an upcoming Stress Puppy strip as the "Overclocker").

But this.... wonderful.