Episode 67 – Garmin Goes After A Patent Troll

Welcome to the Citizens of Tech podcast, show 67. We’re of the nerdy sort. Essentially, we’re IT geeks who plaintively pontificate on perturbations about our passions requiring power. That’s right – tech! Because tech devices need electricity. See what we did there?

Eric, what have we got today?

Solar power, a new EV from Honda, Patent trolls, How Many FPS can the human eye actually see?, Haiku, Nintendo, Content I Like, and Today I Learned.

Solar power hits economies of scale.


  • “In 2002, the International Energy Agency forecast suggested that, by 2020, global solar capacity would still be hovering at around 10GW and still barely register on the global energy markets.”
  • But we’ve done way better than that. The revised forecast is for 400GW by 2020, and even that might be too conservative.
  • The issue about growth is now a money problem. Investment money has got us to this point, but it will take more to ramp up manufacturing volume and to do more research into new solar tech.
  • IF more money comes in, that could result in more efficient and more durable (longer lasting) panels made at a higher volume, which would drive down the cost per megawatt hour of solar overall.
  • So, at the moment, we’re at a spot where solar is still pricey and spiky. Batteries would help with that, though…but again, pricey. However, “by 2030, projections of battery tech and costs, combined with their projections for solar power, would leave solar + batteries competitive with current coal prices.”
  • Grid-aware infrastructure could also help stabilize demand and reduce spikes, making renewables with battery storage a more reasonable supply option as time goes on. For instance, “being able to set your washing machine to start its run once electricity prices drop below a set point, to over-cooling or heating buildings overnight, allowing them to use less power the next day.”

Honda’s Half-Hearted Hybrid Hopes


  • Honda is finally joining the Plug-in Hybrid scene
  • “The Honda Clarity is aimed at accelerating the deployment of advanced electrified powertrain technology and bringing electrified vehicles further into the mainstream. The Clarity series also heralds the advancement of our Honda Electrification Initiative, representing our investment in the full spectrum of electric-vehicle technologies.”
  • Range, range, range
    • 1.5 Litre 4 cylinder range extender engine
    • Total range of 330Mi / 530km
    • That’s just not enough for a $35,000 car, is it?
    • The Honda Clarity is a PHEV with 42 miles (~67 km) of EV range
    • The all EV version is good for around 80mi / 130km
  • Oddly enough the PHEV version of it sounded similar enough in specs to my Volt that I did some digging, and sure enough, GM and Honda recently entered a business arrangement to work together to, according to insideevs.com, “expand the companies’ collaborative efforts beyond fuel cell vehicles to include plug-in hybrids/EREVs.” http://insideevs.com/breaking-general-motors-honda-partner-develop-future-plug-hybrids/
  • 105 MPGe – which is slightly behind the Volt, but it is a larger car.

Patent trolling as a business model runs into the Garmin legal machine.


  • Leigh Rothschild has a patent holding company called Rothschild Connected Devices Innovations LLC (RCDI).
  • At least some of his patents are non-specific. Essentially, he creates a patent out of an idea and generic diagram. Nothing specific enough to merit patent treatment.
  • RCDI initiated a lawsuit against Garmin, citing his “customized mixed beverages” patent.
  • Early settlement offer of $75K. Keep it out of court by paying a fee that’s small to Garmin, big to RCDI if enough people would go for it.
  • Garmin didn’t go for it, instead pointing out that his generic patent is in violation of Section 101 of US Patent Law, which means you have to be specific.
  • Drop the lawsuit, or Garmin would file a motion that the patent be invalidated.
  • Garmin isn’t done. They are going after RCDI for legal fees, and questioning company residency, as there is some confusion about where the company, patents, business owner, and legal address are, a mix of Florida and Texas addresses. A technicality, but legally enforceable one.
  • “One of the two patents asserted against Garmin was featured in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Stupid Patent of the Month” series, in which EFF lawyer Daniel Nazer noted that the patent amounted to nothing more than an “Internet drink mixer.” In its lawsuit against Garmin, RCDI says that Garmin activity trackers like the Vivoactive device infringe its claims on a “personalized consumer product.” RCDI has used the same patent to sue Toshiba (PDF), seeking a royalty over the remote operation of cameras. It also sued Sharp (PDF) for sending scanned documents to a mobile device.”
  • This guy is a clown that should be stopped. Making money from bogus patents stifles innovation. I hope Garmin has some success here.

And now, a nerd haiku.

Vlad The Tech Support


  • Working the nightshift
    No calls, no sun, no people.
    Vampire tech support.

Content I Like

Zelda on Nintendo Switch

  • Is the game all that? The one that is going to drive sales of the Switch?Eric, proud Switch owner, tells all.
  • Related. How stupid is Nintendo for cancelling the NES Classic in North America?

Content I Hope To Like

MST3K Reboot On Netflix


  • Kickstarter raised millions.
  • Netflix picked it up.
  • Big names tied to it. Patton Oswalt, Felicia Day. Wil Wheaton shows up.
  • Not 100% the same if you’re used to the old format, but pretty close.
  • I don’t get Netflix, but I’m thinking about getting it for a month so I can binge.

Today I Learned

The setup–high refresh rate TVs and the “soap opera” effect. Now to the question. How many frames per second can the human eye actually perceive?




10 to 12 images per second look like individual images. Higher than this looks like motion. But the human eye is analog. It doesn’t perceive in FPS. The question is really, ”At what point does is the human eye no longer able to see a difference in increased frame rate?” And anecdotally, that answer is somewhere between 60 and 120 FPS.

Lake Nyos disaster


“The Lake Nyos disaster occurred on 21 August 1986, when a limnic eruption at Lake Nyos, in northwestern Cameroon, produced a large cloud of carbon dioxide (CO2), which descended onto nearby villages, killing 1,746 people and 3,500 livestock.

The eruption triggered the sudden release of about 100,000–300,000 tons[1] (some sources state as much as 1.6 million tons) of CO2. This gas cloud rose at nearly 100 kilometres per hour (62 mph) andspilled over the northern lip of the lake. It then rushed down two valleys, branching off to the north, displacing all the air and suffocating people and livestock within 25 kilometres (16 mi) of the lake.[4]

A degassing system has since been installed at the lake, with the aim of reducing the concentration of CO2 in deep waters and therefore the risk of further eruptions.

It is not known what triggered the catastrophic outgassing. Most geologists suspect a landslide, but some believe that a small volcanic eruption may have occurred on the bed of the lake. A third possibility is that cool rainwater falling on one side of the lake triggered the overturn. Others still believe there was a small earthquake, but as witnesses did not report feeling any tremors on the morning of the disaster, this hypothesis is unlikely. Whatever the cause, the event resulted in the supersaturated deep water rapidly mixing with the upper layers of the lake, where the reduced pressure allowed the stored CO2 to effervesce out of solution.[citation needed]

It is believed that about 1.2 cubic kilometres (0.29 cu mi) of gas was released.[6] The normally blue waters of the lake turned a deep red after the outgassing, due to iron-rich water from the deep rising to the surface and being oxidised by the air. The level of the lake dropped by about a meter and trees near the lake were knocked down.”

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