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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The New York Times reports (free registration may be required) on plans from the U.S. patent office to ensure better, more accurate software patents. Two revolve around tools to keep those who are interested involved in the process by making them aware of new applications in their area of interest. A third invovles whats sounds like a “best practices” document on how to file a good software patent. Many companies involved in open source, as well as universities and others were involved in the discussions. The solution, it seems, will be open source.

by Adena Schutzberg on 01/10 at 08:24 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

The St. Petersburg Times (Florida) took third place in the Philip Meyer Awards which recognize the best uses of social science methods in journalism. Reports Editor and Publisher:

Third Place: The St. Petersburg Times, for “Vanishing Wetlands,” which demonstrated that 84,000 acres of Florida wetlands have been destroyed by development since 1990 when President George H. W. Bush declared a national policy of no net loss of wetlands. Reporters Matthew Waite and Craig Pittman penetrated beyond the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ poorly-documented records of development permits by using before-and-after satellite imagery and geographical information systems software to accurately measure the loss.

Well done!

by Adena Schutzberg on 01/10 at 07:34 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

The LA Times reports on a situation where a car stolen with a baby inside has prompted local officials to try to prevent future Sprint cell towers going up in Riverside County, California. When the child’s mother contacted Sprint to get the location of her husband’s GPS-enabled cell phone which was in the car, the company representative refused. When a county detective called, a representative insisted on a subpoena and a $25 payment. The police found the car and baby safe without help from the carrier. Sprint officials report that this was an isolated incident and that in an emergency, such requests go through more quickly.

by Adena Schutzberg on 01/10 at 07:15 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

A press release from Forest Issues Group confirms that On December 19, 2005, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Forest Service must provide “Geospatial Information Systems” data free of charge or at a reduced rate to members of the public who are eligible for a fee waiver under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). That overturned a federal district court opinion to the contrary.

The issue here was not that the groups in question (FIG and Environmental Protection Information Center, EPIC) were not eligible for the reduced rate/free data, but rather whether the data fell under the provision. Says the release: “To qualify for a fee waiver under FOIA, a requester must show that ‘disclosure of the information is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of government and is not primarily in the commercial interest of the requestor.’”

by Adena Schutzberg on 01/10 at 06:40 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

I’m a sucker for press releases that include the term GIS for no particular reason. Case in point: a release about a new tool to find a local vet. It’s offered by a company offering pet health care insurance. I immediately clicked through to the locator page to see what technology was used (frankly, I expected Google Local). But no, I knew immediately: the sample address/ZIP Code near the input boxes reads:  Your address (optional): (e.g., 380 New York St) City, State, and/or ZIP: (e.g., Redlands, CA, or 92373).

No further research required! I suppose that’s a type of subtle advertising since if folks put that in, they will see where ESRI is located, even if it’s not labeled on the map.  By the way, there were five vets listed in ESRI’s ZIP Code.

by Adena Schutzberg on 01/10 at 06:26 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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