Four short links: 10 December 2009

Open Source CMS and OPAC, Timely SQL, A Bid Secret, Basic Research

  1. Scriblio — open source CMS and catalogue built on WordPress, with faceted search and browse. (via titine on Delicious)
  2. Useful Temporal Functions and Queries — SQL tricksies for those working with timeseries data. (via mbiddulph on Delicious)
  3. Optimal Starting Prices for Negotiations and Auctions –Mind Hacks discussion of a research paper on whether high or low initial prices lead to higher price outcomes in negotiations and online auctions. Many negotiation books recommend waiting for the other side to offer first. However, existing empirical research contradicts this conventional wisdom: The final outcome in single and multi-issue negotiations, both in the United States and Thailand, often depends on whether the buyer or the seller makes the first offer. Indeed, the final price tends to be higher when a seller (who wants a higher price and thus sets a high first offer) makes the first offer than when the buyer (who offers a low first offer to achieve a low final price) goes first.
  4. WiFi Science History — Australian scientist studies black holes in the 70s, has to develop a way of piecing together signals that have been distorted as they travel through space. Realizes, when he starts playing with networked computers in the late 80s, that this same technique would let you “cut the wires”. A decade later it emerged as a critical part of wireless networking. As Aaron Small says, it shows the value of basic research, where you don’t have immediate applications in mind and can’t show short-term deliverables or an application to a current high-value problem.
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  • Martin Haeberli


    The WiFi Science History story has another side – complex patent litigation by CSIRO vs many parties enforcing patent claims, that many have argued are invalid, against users of IEEE 802.11 standards.

    See, for example:


    With respect to an earlier 802.11 standard (802.11a, as I recall), CSIRO gave the IEEE 802.11 committee a letter of assurance that it would license its 5,487,069 patent under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

    The patent’s claims relate to using OFDM (orthogonal frequency division multiplexing) in “confined multipath environments” (confined – think “indoors”).

    In the original Australian patent, which was the basis for the priority of the US issued patent, all independent claims had a limitation “in excess of 10 GHz”.

    For some reason, only some of the independent claims in the US have that limitation. If that limitation had been present, the patent’s claims could not have been asserted against 802.11, as current 802.11 systems all operate well below 10 GHz. The preferred embodiment, by the way, was a system that ran at 50 GHz +.



    P.S. – I’m all for basic research; my dad is a (Emeritus) physics professor who did research and taught for over 50 years.