Pray for the blue swamp -- and other Microsoft mysteries revealed

Who's feeding the patent trolls? What's inside Google's ships? What else smells besides a Dell? Submit your conspiracy theories below

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For whom the patents troll

In "Rockstar vs. Google and Samsung: The patent war goes up to 11," I wrote about the crazy amounts of patent trollery allowed by our current legal system. Software developer J. B. has the inside view on patent insanity and summarizes the problem far better than I did.

From personal experience I can tell you that writing a patent for software takes a lot longer (and might cost more) than developing the software. And when we write software patents we try to make them so broad that they really don't serve the purpose for which they were intended. Same goes for business processes. Software and business process patents can be filed without actually having a product to demonstrate and test the idea, in fact some patents are just theoretical ...

Patent trolling with software and business patents is legal extortion in my opinion. Lawsuits from 'non practicing entities' should not be permitted.

However, as reader R. W. pointed out in the comments, I used the term "patent troll" incorrectly. Technically, a troll is an organization that owns a patent portfolio but makes no actual products (the non-practicing entities mentioned above). Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and the rest obviously make products, so "troll" is technically inaccurate. What's a better term for this? You tell me. (But please try to keep it clean -- some of my readers are exceedingly immature.)

Barging ahead

In "Shipshape or dead weight? Google's secret project sets sail," I floated some ideas about what Google is really building inside those containers in San Francisco Bay and Portland, Maine, and asked readers to offer their own guesses.

Cringester S. P. F. serves up one theory:

It is the beginning of "Googleland" -- Google's own offshore country where companies can do "Double Irish with Dutch sandwich" deals to avoid taxes.

I've read that Ireland may soon pass laws to negate some or all of the "double Irish" tax benefits. So Google is creating its own tax haven so that it doesn't "do evil" to stockholders.

J. L. counters with three of his own:

* Housing/offices for engineers without visas

* Ground relay stations for Project Loon

* "Pirate" wireless for countries with restrictive internet (a la Voice of America)

Google has since officially weighed in, declaring the barges "an interactive space where people can learn about new technology," presumably Google Glass. I'm not buying it -- I'm thinking they're condos for our alien overlords (which I, for one, welcome).

Give me a P

Finally I heard from Stephen G., founder of Write Brothers Inc., makers of screenplay writing software. S. G. first made an appearance in Notes From the Field a year ago, when discussing how Apple's iCloud randomly deletes entire documents containing certain phrases (like "barely legal teens"), severely inconveniencing several of his Hollywood scriptwriter customers. Four months after my original report ran, it became "news" across the Webbernets.

This time S. G. wrote to me to talk about cat pee -- or, rather, things that smell like it. This was in response to my story "Urine luck: Dells may smell, but don't blame the Intercats." Apparently, it's not just Dell laptops that have the distinct aroma of feline excretion; New Balance running shoes suffer the same fate when wet. He writes:

I had assumed, since I do have indoor cats, that they had somehow decided to use my shoes as a litter box. Strange behavior for female spayed cats, but OK -- what else could it be?

I tried all manner of enzymatic cat urine cleaners and deodorants -- NOTHING worked. So I bought NEW shoes and vowed to keep them away from any place the cats could get to -- including never leaving them outside where outdoor cats might find them. Amazingly -- the smell came back!

After several rounds of returning shoes and getting new ones, only to have the telltale "Morris Has Been Here" aroma return, he finally Googled the problem -- and discovered hundreds of other New Balance users who've been stinking up the joint. As with the malodorous Dell machines, the culprit was an adhesive used in the manufacturing process.

See? It's not just the high-tech industry that sometimes stinks.

What's that smell? Lord only nose. Post your aromatic thoughts below or email me:

This article, "Pray for the blue swamp -- and other Microsoft mysteries revealed," was originally published at Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, follow Cringely on Twitter, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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