Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Sep 2008 23:23 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces The US patent might be a bit daft, especially when it comes to software, but it does offer some interesting insights into what crazy things the big companies might be working on for future products. One such patent emerged today: Microsoft applied in 2005 (and was granted in 2008) a patent which describes how different windows may be coloured differently, or that they may have different transparency settings. This sounds a bit weird, but it may actually prove to be quite useful.
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Member since:

Isn't that..umm, like, what we've had for years? I personally know only of Beryl/Compiz/etc which allow that, but I am quite sure it has been possible a lot earlier than that too, just not perhaps under Linux.

Reply Score: 5

mtzmtulivu Member since:

kde can do that too, you can go to any window bar, right click -> advanced -> special windows settings -> preferences and set active window and inactive windows opacity to whatever % you want ..

you can have as many windows as you want with different transparency ..

the above procedure is in kde4, the same functionality is there in kde3, it might take another route to get there though

Reply Score: 4

Bending Unit Member since:

Real transparency has been available in Windows at least since 2000.

Reply Score: 4

by matthekc on Tue 9th Sep 2008 00:03 UTC
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While being annoyed by the obviousness of the patent and the breadth of the prior art I think my hair began to fall out and recede faster

Reply Score: 6

RE: Irritating
by kajaman on Tue 9th Sep 2008 05:57 UTC in reply to "Irritating"
kajaman Member since:

Well, american software patents (ans software patents in general) could be funny if they were not so scary.

Reply Score: 2

Member since:

They are not patenting the concepts of opacity or colored windows. It's just one specific method of providing such functionality and from what I understood, Windows dependent.

They even state that similar feature exists on other OSs and this is basically a different implementation of the same idea.

I'm perfectly fine with patenting "methods", as the real danger is when a "concept" gets patented. IBM and Microsoft and other multi-billion dollar corporations are delicious targets for patent trolls. Stuff like this are more about protecting themselves.

Edited 2008-09-09 00:40 UTC

Reply Score: 3

WereCatf Member since:

Reading it a little bit more carefully it still doesn't specifically say anything about this method being only about Windows. As such, it can always be used against other software/OSes that boast similar "glass framed windows". I hope it never comes to that, it's still a possibility however.

Reply Score: 8

abraxas Member since:

I'm perfectly fine with patenting "methods", as the real danger is when a "concept" gets patented.

The problem is that methods aren't supposed to be patentable just as concepts aren't supposed to be patentable. Specific implementations are patentable and was the original intent of the patent office. What we have now is a gross perversion of patents.

Reply Score: 5

Soulbender Member since:

Methods are exactly what is supposed to be patented,

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abraxas Member since:

Inventions are patentable, which means a specific implementation. Ideas are not patentable. Methods can be simple ideas. They are not patentable. Don't be fooled by the perversion that is the present system. It wasn't always like this. I agree that a new implementation's specific methods are patentable but methods alone cannot be. They must be implemented.

Reply Score: 3

Member since:

I've used Xfce for a couple years. While it's a distant third compared to KDE and Gnome judging by how well it's supported by major distros, it's had a compositing window manager for a while now. This compositing manager allows you to change the transparency of active windows, inactive windows, title bars, menus, etc. I always found this distracting, so I didn't use it much, but it's there.

I now use a Gnome-based distro with full support for Compiz-Fusion. While I'm sure it supports the above scenario (if I really wanted it), it also has a tendency to (by default) make any programs that are extremely busy or locked up fade to a dark gray. Let me just say, I'll take the good old hourglass or similar mouse pointer and keep the window as is. Windows fading in and out just begs for attention and is the perfect way to distract... even worse than the above scenario.

On the other hand... why the hell can something as obvious as changing the shades of windows be declared a patent to begin with? This one appears to me to have prior art against it and seems to be destined to fail the "obvious" test miserably. Just another patent for the Ballmer crew to add on to their list... 235+1. Now if this is not a potential hindrance to the further advancement of GUI design, then I don't know what is.

Edited 2008-09-09 01:15 UTC

Reply Score: 4

by PipoDeClown on Tue 9th Sep 2008 04:48 UTC
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in 1998 os/2 workplace shell gave unresponsive programs a thicker border to indicate their uhm well unresponsiveness.

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Member since:

Trusted Solaris has used colour coding to represent security zones and I am pretty sured those trusted extensions were fed back to gnome. To be honest i haven't read the patent but if it is simply the concept prior art is abundant.

Reply Score: 2

My new patent
by agrouf on Tue 9th Sep 2008 05:42 UTC
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My new patent is about the desktop background that you can switch between mauve and green. It adapts to your mood. It you feel more green you click on the button on the task bar and the background changes to green. When you feel mauve, you can switch to mauve. All hail me!

Reply Score: 2

RE: My new patent
by PlatformAgnostic on Tue 9th Sep 2008 06:45 UTC in reply to "My new patent"
PlatformAgnostic Member since:

I feel kinda periwinkle... what you're going to sue me?

Reply Score: 2

quite useful
by stooovie on Tue 9th Sep 2008 07:33 UTC
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Contrary to all experts here, I actually think this is a pretty good idea, and it really doesn't matter if OS XY had this in 60s.

MS has something similar already with IE8 - tabs coloring by from what parent did the new tab open. This can really help finding a tab and having an idea of what tabs adhere to certain issue. Having this OS-wide could help focusing and removing a little from a need to continuously think about what window belongs to what app.

Anything that can relieve from excessive micromanagement that plagues today's OSes is welcome.

Reply Score: 0

Is this the right patent?
by chaosvoyager on Tue 9th Sep 2008 07:43 UTC
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Is it just me, or is the patent linked to completely different from the one described in the article?

The linked patent describes graph/shape insertion.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Is this the right patent?
by stestagg on Tue 9th Sep 2008 20:35 UTC in reply to "Is this the right patent?"
stestagg Member since:

Yes, I noticed that.

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Patenting ideas
by irbis on Tue 9th Sep 2008 20:51 UTC
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it is fun to theorise over what such a user interface patent could be used for (...) a patent which describes how different windows may be coloured differently, or that they may have different transparency settings. This sounds a bit weird, but it may actually prove to be quite useful.

The general idea or the actual software patent? I'm sure you must mean the idea in general but one could get a false impression.

As to software patents, it is hard for me to understand how they could be useful or support innovation? Quite probably it would be better for the whole world if software patents were completely forbidden everywhere. But I guess some big boys in power may think they can better guarantee their riches and power by supporting the software patent system - regardless of how ridiculous and impossible that system may usually look to practically everyone...

Reply Score: 2