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Apple Patents GUI Theme Engine 252

Posted by timothy
from the what-*will*-they-think-of-next? dept.
SirFlakey writes: "Just browsing the Patents database at delphion I came across this patent from a couple of weeks back. Apparently Apple Computer has patented a method of theming the OS. I wonder how this affects theming on Linux ?" Perhaps unsurprizing, considering Apple's general unhappiness with Apple-like themes, and that they convinced themes.org to remove Aqua, AquaX and others. Apple obviously has a lot tied up in their look-and-feel, but the patent's actual claims strike me as pretty thin. Sounds like Apple wants to be the sole owner of complex desktop customization, which I think some people might object to.
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Apple Patents GUI Theme Engine

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If this was applied for in 1998 then that was the point where Apple was preparing to release themes that worked inside the Appearance Manager control panel (namely Hi-Tech, Gizmo, and Drawing Board). Apple was preparing for the release of Mac OS 8.5, which was going to handle themes above and beyond the standard Apple Platinum - there is supposedly an SDK somehwere and various themes Apple never released. They weren't readying for a challenge by WinXP or trying to attack Linux - they were trying to protect the Mac OS itself from third party developers using the OSs theme abilities.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No. You are wrong. Apple can survive just fine without Microsoft products. That is just like saying Linux can not survive without Microsoft products. Most of the people I know using Macs don't use Internet Explorer or Office.
  • why would you want to theme cde?

    Dunno. Why not ask them [openmotif.org]?


    1st Law Of Networking: Loose ends are bad, termination is good.

  • I suspect this is a defensive patent. One of those "we should see if the PTO will grant this, cause if they give it to anyone else we are screwed" patents.

    It does sound like it - this was definitely pitched as a big deal for Copland, and even when the Appearance Manager was spun off for Mac OS 8 themes were still being mentioned. One of the constant reminders when the Appearance Manager was introduced was that you shouldn't hand-roll your own UI components in case the look and feel changed again in the future (and if you must hand-roll them, to use the built in brushes and primitives so that you'll look somewhat right).

    I seriously doubt it'd be resurrected today, but I guess it looked like a prudent idea at the time.

    -dair
  • And Platinum was, in turn, based on a theme prepared for Apple's Copland OS

    Yep, I was a bit vague - Aaron was based on the then Copland look (since that was his name :-), and the name "Platinum" came along later.

    -dair
  • Legalese not being my forte, I had imagined...
    A CLI <-> Explorer <-> HTML browser <-> Finder
    When selecting themes.


    Going by the then planned OS (Copland, which is where this patent will have come from), I don't think so. The behavioural changes that were present in the build of Copland that was half-released were all pretty trivial - menus flipped over vertically like some kind of paddle when you moused over them, dragging windows around produced sounds, etc.

    It's arguable if these are really 'behaviours' as such - but irrespective of the theme your buttons were still buttons, zoom boxes were still zoom boxes, etc.

    -dair
  • ...the integration of Classic and Aqua? Someone's comment about "multiple theme engines running side-by-side" caused me to think of this.

    When Classic is running under OS X, its windows behave exactly like OS 9 windows, even when among Aqua windows. They also have different behaviors (no buffering, no soft shadows, windowshade feature) from Aqua windows.

  • Try plig.org/~xwinman. It's an older windowmanager, afaik lisp-based.
  • Yes, there is definitely prior art.

    gtk-themes beat them out by at least two months. If you look at the GNOME CVS log for gtkthemes.c [gnome.org], you'll see that it was first checked in in March of 1998, which is before that May of 1998 application date for Apple's patent.

    Of course, Enlightenment also beat the Apple patent (by an even larger margin), however, IIRC, Enlightenment use pixmaps and scripts to do its work, while gtkthemes uses plugins (one of which can load arbitrary pixmap themese, but others, like Notif and Redmond95 are full-blown shared objects).


    ---
    The Hotmail addres is my decoy account. I read it approximately once per year.
  • Prior art must be 1 year in advance of the filing date of the patent.

    Interesting.

    So I can see a product in the marketplace, run off to the good old USPTO and apply for a patent for an idea that is used in that product, and then sue the maker of that product and there is nothing they can do about it?

    The US patent system is even more screwed up than I previously thought...


    ---
    The Hotmail addres is my decoy account. I read it approximately once per year.
  • Part of the agreement between IBM and Microsoft was that Microsoft would be able to retain the right to resell MS-DOS to others. (I remember reading somewhere that Microsoft wanted this fact to be very clear to IBM, and IBM accepted it.) If IBM had told Microsoft that they would only license MS-DOS if Microsoft would agree not to license it to anyone else and Microsoft agreed, then Compaq would have faced a much greater and more costly (financially and time-wise) challenge: to have to clone and reverse-engineer MS-DOS in addition to the IBM PC BIOS. I doubt Compaq would have had much incentive to do this if that were the case.

    So, yes, in a sense the Microsoft OS "helped Compaq [to] clone the IBM PC."
  • by cirby (2599)
    You see, that cross-licensing deal means that Microsoft has to pay for the stuff they use from Macs. So if Apple has a patent on the interface, Microsoft is contractually bound to pay for their use of it...
  • date of the patent: 8 may 1998.
    date of themes.org domain registration: 25 april 1998.
  • After skimming the patent, I think it is reffering to behavioral models, such as the Simple Finder (Mac users will know what I mean), whereas different levels of useability are associated with the interface. This can be very useful, especially for new or young users. It allows for varying degrees of sophistication. An example might be a window, where in Level 1, you just have a close button, Level 2 might have a minimize/maximize button, and Level 3 might include the first two plus a button to bring up preferences for that window (color, transparency, etc.)

    Just my $0.02

  • Actually the windows 95 plus pack had themes. Even though it wasn't the greatest in the world it did allow for simplistic chang of cursors, sounds, icons, graphics, fonts...all the things that can take 20 min or so to change...

    Although this is not as complex it is still called theaming and was around in 1995, which does predate the pattent. Not that I am implying this is M$ created but they did come out with it.
  • Its Aston Martin [astonmartin.com] and Austin Healey [austinhealey.com], you heathens. Get yer British cars right...geez
  • Of course, changing the behaviour, could also just mean switching scrollbars from athena-style to motif-style. Does this deserve a patent???

    bye
    schani
  • Apple has lots of patents it does not enforce. In fact it was one of the loosest companies out their when it comes to their IP. So isn't better to have a friendly company like Apple patent something like themes. Then have soemone else do it for them. And possibly take a unfriendly bent?
    Cheers,
    Tomas
    ===========
  • where did you find that date?
    In the patent I see filed May 8 1998, maybe I looked somewhere wrong??

    but if May 98 is right, forget that patent... previous art... Remember that 'MS Plus' for win95... Too bad that KDE was only 1.0 in June 98.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Looks like apple has violated my patent...

    on SUCKING.
  • Ask the folks over at Kaleidoscope.net what Apple's attitude is to the theming of its OS?

    Interestingly, one of the authors of the patent (Ed Voas) worked at one point with Greg Landweber, the author of Kaleidoscope, on Aaron. This was the precursor to Kaleidoscope, which restyled System 7 to look like the current Platinum appearance.

    -dair
  • I'm not sure about KDE, but I know that GNOME (actually the underlying GTK widget set) already allows for multiple theme engines. In fact, even the Sawfish window manager allows multiple theme engines.

    I'm guessing that there should be enough prior art to overturn this patent, or at least to make it an obvious technology.
  • Enlightenment has always been able to change the behavior of buttons based on the theme used. You could also change (for example) the ability to windowshade on a per-theme basis. Those abilities pre-date the filing of the patent by 6 months to a year.
  • IIRC, trademarks have to be defended and used... patents don't.

    The Bible is not my book, and Christianity is not my religion.

  • Apple is worse. I've said it elsewhere, I'll say it again. Microsoft has not sued anyone for imitating them - there were no lawsuits against RedHat for having *dead-on Win9x clone* FVWM95 screenshots on their *shrink wrapped products.* Microsoft fights dirty in the market, but they fight *in the market,* not with a mob of lawyers. Apple has a history of doing this sort of litigious crap.

    Repeat after me: theming is obvious. There is nothing innovative or complex about it. Theming 'engines' are also obvious. People were and are theming without any reference to Apple at all. And Apple isn't going to be going after Microsoft with a lawsuit (which they would lose) - they are going after the people they can intimidate and overwhelm.

    I wish a lot of people would get over their instinctive, blind hatred of MS. I dislike them for the reason that I dislike any closed-source vendor: they are a closed-source vendor relying on the unnatural and invasive enforcement of IP laws against sharing in order to turn their development-service in to a unit-product. But they really are no worse than any of the others that are doing it, and far better than many. Including Apple. (Case in point: we can play Windows media content in Linux using the avifile libraries, but we can't play the Sorensen-codec Quicktime files.)

  • You are insane if you think this is the case. Have you actually used NeXTStep? How are they similar? The model for the objects in the UI is different, the bindings are different, the placement of widgets is different, the integration of file manager and desktop is different. And the lack of originality hasn't kept Apple from patenting theme engines.(It has been pointed out that Apple simply owns the patent - I don't know how to decipher the patent database well enough to determine how they got it, so that element is still in suspense.)
  • In both cases, MS did these things without suing anyone. They used their market clout in a dirty way in both these cases, but that's not as bad as beating the crap out of people with lawsuits. (And it has been noted that the Kerberos affair is often mistated - they correctly used an implementation-defineable field for purposes especially for their implementation. Nothing is broken.)

    It's known as the Evil Empire because people sheepishly parrot what they've heard from their friends.

  • Back when I used windows (long, long time ago, but I can still remember when the crashes made me frown . . . ), I remember that there were "theme engines" for the pathetic amount of customization Win95 let you do (basically backgrounds and sounds).

    And what about Java's Swing toolkit, which lets your application look like a Windows program, a Mac program, and so on. I dunno exactly when it was released, but I'd guess that it was in development before the patent was filed.

  • The patent is specific in what it claims. For prior art, you need to prove that something already existing worked exactly the same way.

    Then you need a lot of money to fight it. Apple has plenty. Have fun.

    Plus, Apple changes its mind all the time. This is from 1998, and may have to due with the themes they never really used in Mac OS 9. You're reading way too much into it when you bring up Whistler.
  • I think OS/2 does a blue-screen-white-background core dump or something.
  • Are you serious?!!!

    Ask the folks over at Kaleidoscope.net what Apple's attitude is to the theming of its OS?

    I would love to look at the "prior art" search conducted by the patent examiners. This is a particularly brain-dead patent -- granted I will note -- just one month before the release of a new OS that touts its use of Open Source derived software elements.

    Typical. And Hypocritical.
  • That statement is based on the assumption that MS looked at OS-X and then decided to use the same image. It's entirely possible (and more plausible) that both teams, earlier in development of their respective OS's, made a similar design decision--without knowing what the other team was doing.
  • The "theme engine", as I see it, would be an X window manager.

    If the X Window manager is the theme engine, then X is a graphical user interface. If I was in the jury, you'd have a tough time selling me on the idea that X is a grapical user interface.

    The claim 1 is:

    1. In a graphical user interface, a method for rendering objects and handling behavior of said objects comprising the steps of:

    o providing a plurality of themes, each theme controlling an appearance and behavior of objects rendered on said graphical user interface, wherein at least one of said appearance and said behavior is controlled differently for an object when said graphical user interface is operated in accordance with one theme than when said graphical user interface is operated in accordance with another theme;

    o providing a plurality of theme engines, each theme engine associated with a different theme type, wherein at least one of said theme engines is hard-coded and at least one of said theme engines is a data-driven, parametric engine; selecting a theme from among said plurality of themes;

    o identifying one of said plurality of theme engines associated with said selected theme; and loading, by said identified theme engine, theme data for operating said graphical user interface in accordance with said selected theme.


    MOVE 'ZIG'.
  • Geoworks' patent that affects WAP is for flexible UIs -- essentially themeing on crack. They've had the patent for a very long time. Since the mid-80's I think...

    I wonder if Geoworks will try and bitch-slap apple over this?

    -JF
  • How long do you really think it will take before someone figures the scheme out?

    And how long after that before the latest bug in IE or Outlook allows a virus that effectively (to use the word in its real meaning, instead of its DMCA legal meaning) scrambles the user interface like spaghetti. I hope Whistler has a 'Safe Mode' since it doesn't have the ability to boot to DOS to fix things up.

    Oh, and the reason that MS isn't releasing the specs? So they can say "Oh those terrible hackers! Those awfull Open Source people!" (yes, we'll be lumped in there). "They went ahead and went around our backs to break our Theming Scheme! We did this for YOUR protection, and what did they do? They stole our scheme and made viruses to harm you! Its all THEIR fault!"

    And the public will buy it, instead of wondering why the bugs existed, and without wondering if an open review of the structure could have prevented this mess.
  • Hrm...would the Themes that came with MS Plus 95 count? I recall getting this CD, along with the Windows 95 upgrade, back on December 25, 1995. Spent a while after that digging up new themes from across the 'net. What can I say, I was a relative newbie to everything digital at the time.

    When was the Windowblinds project started?

    For that matter, how long have KDE and GNOME been around? Could GTK apps be themed before GNOME, or is that just a result of the GNOME project? How about Enlightenment, or other window managers?

    The filing date on the patent is May 8, 1998, so anything before that is fair game for prior art, I think. Emphasis on the "I think;" patent law is such a quagmire to outsiders like me, I'm never quite sure what's legit and what isn'
  • As evidenced by the Flower Power iMac [akamai.net], Steve Jobs is certifiably insane. He deserves your sympathy and pity, not criticism.

    As for the patent, hell, even Apple has published prior art (i.e., more than a year before the date of filing of the patent), and they're aware of it. If you look at the patent, you'll see a list of references that include volumes of Inside Macintosh from 1988. To a large extent, I think this patent is a defensive patent. Perhaps there is some legal patent mumbo-jumbo we're not aware of, too.

    The only original innovation here seems to be the idea of having widgets behave in an entirely different way in different themes. Not a big step, or one that (IMHO) should be patentable, but the blame for allowing such a patent (and thus forcing companies to apply for them to avoid losing control over their own innovations) lies on the USPTO.
  • Upon reflection, I realized what demographic this is targeted at: Asian girls whose families have lots of disposable income. There are lots of them at UBC, and the Flower Power iMac is exactly the kind of thing they go for (along with arcade games like Dance Dance Revolution, and those photo sticker booths)... That iMac was released at Macworld Japan, so it all sort of makes sense.

    I know computers aren't just for guys, but you should realize that I would think a computer with Transformers written on the side would be equally silly and tacky.

    Aesthetically pleasing computers are one thing, but these are the hi-tech equivalent of shag carpet.
  • Ok, by birth I'm a Mac fan. (Doesn't the nick make that obvious? I love Apple.) I love their hardware. I love their software. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things that Apple does to piss me off. Can anyone say One-Click (tm)? That's a big black eye as far as I'm concerned. This themes shit is just as big a black eye in my opinion. Not only is it a black eye, but it's a bloody nose, cut lip, and a kick to the cojones. As a Mac guru, I'm embarassed as hell at things like this. How am I supposed to evangelize the Mac platform if Apple fuels the fire of the opposing team? Come Apple, quick fscking around. You don't have to act like others in the industry to win over new clients.

    --

  • And Platinum was, in turn, based on a theme prepared for Apple's Copland OS which was being worked on even while Apple was still using Motorola 680x0 chips instead of PowerPC. Apple's been themeing for a LONG time.

    ----
  • Yup. And I was just pointing out that Apple's actual work on themes predates the first public appearance of Copland---which was October of 1996, iirc, in MacWorld. I'd venture the conceptual work goes back as far as '92 or so, maybe farther.

    Typical with Apple: they get the great idea, but they just implement it before the world is ready. ie, the Newton.

    ----
  • Even so you'd think they would take a chance at being original and use some other picture.
  • I think it's much more plausable that they simply copied it. I imagine MS does incredible amounts of industrial espionage and they knew full well what was going on in cupertino.

    Even if what you say is true once they found out what icon the competition was using (whose screenshots came first?) they should have switched the icon. How hard is it for chrissake.
  • I think the adage, "The enemy of your enemy is your friend" applies in this case.
    Slashdot is definately linux, or at least OSS -centric. Both the Macintosh and Linux/OSS have the potential to affect Microsoft's consumer and server OS markets.
    Microsoft is, in fact, somewhat schizophrenic towards Apple, and vice-versa, since 1) Microsoft knows that Apple is a lucrative market for selling Office, and Microsoft makes more money selling Office than it does their OS. 2) Apple knows that Microsoft and Intel comprise their main platform competition, but also know that many people would NOT buy a Mac unless Office was availible for it.
    Despite the fact that Apple and Microsoft "kissed and made up" a few years ago, and Microsoft made an investment in Apple, I believe that APPLE would have the most to gain if Redmond got phase-shifted into another dimension, since Apple currently offers the --ONLY other practical solution for a consumer computer--.
    So, I think it's pretty obvious to most people here that Microsoft and Apple are still, basically, 'enemies', and that since the OSS community usually views Microsoft as the 'enemy', that makes them a -mutual- enemy.
    Additionally, one could say that Apple is even 'Open Source Friendly', and has yet to take any legal action against any open source project that is not blatently flaunting its disregard for Apple's ownership of its own artwork (sorry, folks, but cutting and pasting Apple's buttons/widgets and turning them into a theme for E, I don't think reasonably qualifies as 'fair use').
    Therefore, if Apple gains a piece of ammunition to potentially use against Microsoft, I think the crowd here would be more accepting of that, than if Microsoft had gained a piece of ammunition against Apple (for example, if Microsoft claimed the same patent before Apple had).
  • Hard coded? What do you mean by that? That you can add code snippets to Widgets? This would allow you to code much more complicated effects than the simple pixmap switching that most skins allow you.

    I think that sawfish has some of that ability (being a dialect of lisp it is turing complete, but you know what I mean), with some themes generating all their images on the fly (gotta use those cycles for SOMETHING).

    Anyways, I wanted to steer the discussion back towards code; display postscript -- as used in (NeXT? NeWS? I forget) -- was massively powerful for this reason; its UI was driven by a [restricted?] postscript dialect. This allowed you to basically push alot of nift into the display logic. Now this would all be of historical interest only if it were not for the fact that PDF is a restricted form of Postscript, and apple's display technology is based on PDF.

    the only caveat is that AFAIK, pdf is so restricted that it is back to being a file format and no longer a turing complete programmign language.
  • If you want to spend your time browing for patents that companies any large hardware/software corporation holds you will find *many* frivolous patents just like this one, most of which probably won't hold up in court. Does that make the patent holding company (in this case, Apple) the bad guy? Not if they don't actively sue other companies using their patent.

    There is such a thing as a defensive patent. It is in the best interest (due to the USs moronic patent and legal systems) for companies to seek out as many frivolous patents as possible, on the off chance that some other company may sue them for violating some other frivolous patent. Instead of dealing with the hassle and monetary cost of taking it to court, they just exchange a bunch of their frivolous patents and everyone is happy.

    Please stop shouting that Linux has had theming "engines" for years. We all know that, and Apple probably knows that too... and until Apple starts suing random companies for patent violations based on this patent, no one really cares.

    So please stop shouting every time someone sees a frivolous patent owned by company X. Unless company X starts suing company Y over a frivolous patent, it doesn't really matter to anyone.

    Derek
  • The Windows 95 user interface by itself had a series of somewhat unrelated Theme organizers.

    A theme for the coloring, typefacing and sizing metrics of common controls.

    A theme for the background and standard icons.

    A theme for the sound events that could be invoked by apps in a standard way.

    A theme (or profile) for various recurring hardware enumerations, such as 'docked' or 'undocked' for laptops.

    This patent by Apple appears to discuss a generalized system that combines all of these classes of "theme engines" into an over-arching "theme engine" that controls them all at once.

    Windows 95 did not have a central theme manager, but the Windows 95 Plus Pack (released almost simultaneously) did. The sounds, icons, wallpapers, colors, fonts and metrics themes could be controlled centrally by choosing themes with the Plus Pack theme manager.

    Also, if you specified that different login names had their own private preferences, then Windows 95 managed all of those settings separately for each user. (Much as Unix systems do with .bashrc, .emacsrc or other shell login preference ~/.foorc files.) Switch users and all of these preferences are changed automatically (albeit shutting down all foreground tasks).

    It looks like Apple has a high hill to climb when Microsoft attacks on this. Of course, Microsoft has been laying low and settling cases out of court to keep the litigation threats to a minimum these days. Then again, Microsoft's bloc of non-voting shares in Apple (circa 1996?) may still be a strong deterrent against Apple's wielding this particular patent over them.

  • If I were to dissect it a bit, it's more than just *skinning*, which is to redefine the appearance of the buttons and widgets. The first claim mentions the method of rendering objects and handling behavior of said objects, as related to the appearance and behavior of bojects rendered by the theme. It specifically mentions that either appearance *or* behavior is controlled differently for an object when the theme is changed.


    Of course it is. And enlightenment, when a new theme is applied, has different widgets on windows, with different functions mapped to them, and also can have different pull-down menus.

    Just because Windoze, KDE, GNOME, and Winamp themes are only skins doesn't imply other windowmanagers/applications are incapable of changing more than just appearance.
  • Mod parent up !! Themes were available in linux at that point. Heck, my RedHat 5.2 release has themes for fvwm2, and that was before the patent filing date. I am pretty certain enlightenment had themes at that point too. GNOME's introduction of themes occured in very close time proximity to the patent filing as well.
  • Actually, Microsoft has no plans to allow third party developers/users to create new themes for Windows XP. Microsoft fully intends on keeping the format proprietary to Microsoft to prevent this. The only themes you'll be able to get for Windows XP will be officially created ones from Microsoft. Too many people are getting excited about the ability to 'theme' Windows XP's GUI without reading the fine print that's attached. Pretty sad, though. Yes, ugly broken themes that crash applications or your computer will be created, but that's not really different from any other software out there, is it?
  • Even though his wording was a little harsh, I feel asackett has a valid point.

    When we hear of stupid patents from comapnies like Amazon, Cisco and Microsoft, we get upset. Usually we express ourselves with harsh words, boycotts and sometimes inappropriate actions.

    Yet Apple seems to be an execption. They have made people remove Aqua and AquaX themes, created patents for themes, and done some very, very nasty stuff in the past. Yet we still view them as "good" overall.

    Can someone explain why Apple is an execption to this rule?
  • I think Linux people aren't the only ones that are going to be upset about this. Anyone think Mr. Gates might have something to say about theming an OS? Clearly, this is something that makes Apple look bad in our eyes, but is not something we should worry about because theming has been done for years and years.

    MyopicProwls

  • Let's dissect this and see what Apple is really trying to kill:

    a processor yadda yadda yadda

    Athlon.

    a display blah blah blah

    X11 and your video card and monitor.

    a plurality of theme engines

    These are called Enlightenment, Sawfish, IceWM, Blackbox, Window Maker, etc. Any themable window manager can be considered a "theme engine" under this patent.


    All your hallucinogen [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • the theme only affects the window manager, not the windows being managed

    Except the step from "changing the behavior of titlebar widgets" to "changing the behavior of widgets inside the window's content region" might not pass the "non-obvious" test in patent law. But then again, with our corrupt USPTO...


    All your hallucinogen [pineight.com] are belong to us.
  • I read throught the patent, and reading through the legalese, I'd say that there's absolutely nothing in this patent for which there isn't prior art. Basically, it claims a system in which there are multiple "theme engines", at least one of which has a hard-coded theme, and at least one of which has themes user-configurable through data files, and that themes customize either or both appearance and behavior. Now, the key is in the definitions, which aren't adequately given.

    The "theme engine", as I see it, would be an X window manager. Obviously, there's more than one of these, so that requirement is met. FVWM has a hard-coded theme, so that requirement is met. AfterSTEP has data-driven themes controlling both appearance and behavior. Thus, most Linux distributions prior to 1998 are valid prior art. This patent doesn't have a chance of holding up in court.
    ------------------
    A picture is worth 500 DWORDS.
  • I don't think it's ridiculous at all. The duck? The placement of the recycling bin is definitely a good point. I think it's quite obvious that MS is leeching design elements. The two operating systems one generation ago looked quite dissimilar. Now I can barely tell them apart.

    Here's a translation of what's in the pic:
    • "also an icon from the Sherlock family"
    • "what a coincidence...M$ also uses a flower to demonstrate the new surface"
    • "yellow files = Win; blue files = Mac"
    • "oh, look at the place where the garbage pail now stands"
    • "Apples Sherlock icon from MacOS 9"
    • "clearly pure coincidence"
  • Actually, they purchased Q-DOS

    You are quite right. I stand corrected.
  • Actually, Microsoft has no plans to allow third party developers/users to create new themes for Windows XP.

    Personally, I have no intention at this point of ever running XP, but this sounds like FUD. Care to back this up with some facts? A link to an MS FAQ on XP, interview with an actual MS employee? Anything at all?
  • Let's take a look at this from a purely cash flow point of view. Apple needs MS for their browser and office suite. MS feels that Linux and open source software is it's biggest threat, yet can't act directly to attack it without the justice department all over their ass.

    Now Apple goes and actually tries to enforce this patent at some point in the future. In the process, the ask for a ludicrous royalty to be paid for the right to do theming. Who really loses?

    Well, Microsoft can afford the licensing without breaking a sweat. On the other hand, this patent sounds a LOT like what Mozilla does with it's themes. Damn near describes exactly the operation of Gnome and other Linux style window managers. Furthermore, who do you think is going to be able to pay for the lawyers to fight this thing? A bunch of hackers working out of their bedroom? They going to be able to pay the licensing for thinking a certain way?

    Microsoft isn't going to fight this. In fact, if they weren't somehow behind it they're certainly celebrating. They've got somebody else to go out there and fight for their market leads in both the OS and Browser fronts without having to get their own hands dirty.

    Think Different!
  • If my deciphering of that is correct, you're saying that the MS OS helped Compaq clone the IBM PC.

    Your deciphering is not quite correct. Compaq certainly worked alone on hacking the BIOS. Then what? They've got themselves a BIOS that's all hacked, but no product to put on the market. MS comes into play after this point, bringing the other piece of the puzzle into play. Neither company could have done this alone.

    And there's always the allegation that Gates & co. didn't even write DOS, but stole it.

    What allegation? Hell, MS didn't even want to do the OS for them PC's. They referred IBM to GDR to put CP/M on there. It wasn't until after GDR refused to sign a non-disclosure that MS was faced with either coming up with an OS or lose a ton of market for their programming languages.

    They purchased QD-DOS (Quick and Dirty DOS) from a fella working at a computer store. They put $50,000 cash in his hands for all rights to it. More money then this guy ever saw in his life. You also have to keep in mind that neither this fella nor Microsoft saw the huge cash cow that selling an OS would become.

    Nothing was stolen, nothing even underhanded. There are no allegations, other than those dreamed up by folks who thought "AntiTrust" should have been an Oscar nominee.
  • Right. History has shown the superior product always wins over the inferior one with superior marketing.

    Are you meaning to suggest that Apple didn't pour big bucks into marketing? They ran a LOT more ads on both TV and in movie theaters for the Mac when it came out then MS did for Win95. Today Apple has another huge marketing blitz on the iMac and now the new G4's. Somehow, I don't think MS is especially worried about it.

    Apple sells hardware and software as a single package because it makes the final product far more coherent.

    Eeyup, that's the standard line for ANY proprietary hardware platform. So?

    Microsoft isn't probably going to open source anything anytime soon, but Apple has open sourced all kinds of stuff.

    Oh really? I guess all that XML that MS was integral in the development of must all be "closed source" then. How about USB devices, which again MS was a major player in the development of. Both of which are readily evident on free OS's and software right now, today.

    With all that Apple is doing for open source software, I suppose I should be able to load up some of them things on my FreeBSD box. Like a QuickTime player, or a Firewire adapter, or something! Hell, at least the Linux world got a journaling file system out of IBM.

    Oh, and doing a quick search through the FreeBSD ports collection (that's the OS that Apple is giving SO much back to with the single developer on staff with commit rights to the FreeBSD tree) no sign of a QuickTime server actually produced by Apple. One server is in there that somebody hacked together... the web site was dead though.

    By contrast, a substantial amount of OSX is built on open standards -- TCP/IP, Apache, NetInfo, OpenGL, I/O Kit, Java, BSD, Mach.

    OpenGL was out for NT LONG before Mac, which was a serious problem for Apple as they were losing market share in the graphics realm for a while due to this. All the rest is JUST now going in, on layers behind the fluff that was the older Mac OS's without any of that stuff.

    With Windows, you have to deal with NetBios, WINS, IIS, DirectX, ActiveX, and kernel source that nobody can look at.

    You got the source code to Mac OS9? Wow! And you don't have to deal with AppleTalk, Network Seeding and all that? Get real. Also, you're not gonna get much of a peek at anything but Darwin for MacOSX anyway.
  • When IBM went a shopping for a DOS for their IBM PC, everybody and their brother fully expected it to sport a CP/M DOS since IBM made it known that they weren't going to develop their own. Lo and behold, Microsoft emerged with the contract using a CP/M rip-off they bought for a paltry $50K

    One more try at bat here. First off, nobody knew that IBM was shopping for an OS for a new PC platform. IBM was very strict about non-disclosure agreements. Folks had assumed that if such a project were going on CP/M would be on there. Those folks included Microsoft. In fact, it was Microsoft that referred IBM to GDR for CP/M. It was GDR that turned IBM away, not MS stealing anything.

    The only reason MS took on the project at all was to have a platform to sell their development languages on. They didn't have the man power or time to do it, so they bought it. No evil conspiracies, just a major screw up by GDR that changed history.

    They did? Do you use a mouse? GUI? Memory mapped graphics? Multiple monitors? Synthetic sound?

    The notion of a GUI, MM Graphics, and synth sound easily pre-date Mac, and out in the general public I might also add.

    Virtually everything you take for granted on your desktop machine is there because Apple developed it. And don't whine about how they "stole" it from Xerox PARC because (a) Apple paid for the privilege of examining what PARC was doing

    If it was all so clean, why did Xerox end up suing Apple then? Xerox lost, pretty much on the same grounds that would decide a defeat against Apple when they tried the same on Microsoft. Sorry, Apple is not the Alpha and Omega of all things GUI. They did some very interesting things based on the work of others, as has Microsoft, Gnome, KDE and others. That doesn't excuse them for being assholes with lawyers.

    Uh ... yah. Sure. What were you doing during the 1980s? Sucking your thumb and soiling your diapers?

    No, I was actually putting a lot of the platforms you mentioned to use first hand, to include the Mac. I know, if I refer to the crap things that Apple has done in their past I must either be 15, ignorant of computers, or what not. How can anyone not see the true glory that Steve Jobs has brought down from the mountain to us? Yes, I'll drink the kool-aid!
  • GTK+ has several different theme engines that behave differently. On my Gnome 1.4 machine right now there are these engines:

    - metal (libmetal.so)
    - notif (libnotif.so)
    - pixmap (libpixmap.so)
    - raleigh (libraleigh.so)
    - redmond95 (libredmond95.so)

    These engines (at least most of them) support skinning. What most people think of as GTK+ themes are simply pixmap theme skins.

    It's important to note that more changes than just graphics with these themes. Different themes have different capabilities, and some significantly alter the behavior of widgets, such as listboxes, scrollbars, and pane separators.

    Maybe you believe that Apple has done more than this. Maybe they have. The problem is that what they have done is EVOLUTIONARY to what the Gnome and KDE folks have done with their theme engines. There is no true innovation here, its just the obvious next step forward. I'm so sick of a brick wall being built in the way of the natural path of a technology by a patent.

    The way the patent system works right now, there is probably no legal piece of software out there that isn't more than seventeen years old.
    ---
  • Sigh...You might be interested to know that Microsoft was using the duck icon in an MSN Explorer beta before it was shown in any OSX context. And the designer of MSN Explorer, Craig Hally, used it in design mock-ups about a year before that. It's just a stock photo. Calm down screwballs. :-)
  • IM sorry - who the hell is working at the USPTO? This is beyond ridiculous. Not only is there tonnes of prior art but the idea that a method to change themes is *not* obvious to a average person trained in the arts is also ridiculous. Are the USPTO taking bribes directly? What the heck is going on?

  • Apple has been promising themes since the first glimpses of Copland hit the news media (read: Mac magazines). At the time, everyone thought it was a great idea... let the user decide how they want their interface to look. This was when the "Platinum" look that OS 8 and 9 currently have was initially released. There was a "kiddie" scheme and another "Techno" scheme, in addition to the Platinum one. Some of the fonts from those schemes did make it into OS 8.

    At any rate, Copland promised this and Apple denied it to us. However, the Appareance Manager calls were there, and developers slowly implemented them (some wrote their own, which defeated the whole purpose). Then Greg Landweber and Arlo Rose wrote Kaleidoscope [kaleidoscope.net] and brought themes to the Mac, thanks to the Appearance Manager hooks (which they wrote, IIRC).

    But Kaleidoscope has been a third party product, and has had its various conflicts with programs. Had it been an Apple program, there would not have been these problems, as developers would have written their program to support it.

    Now, with their Carbon base, Apple will finally have full Appearance Manager support under OS X, and they have a much greater ability to force companies to write 100% Appearance Manager compliant apps (this is good). Apple wants to have a coherent user interface (whether it be Aqua or something else), and now it is finally available in the Appearance Manager.

    However, while themes are something that CAN be done, they will likely not be. Again a third party developer will have to come along and write an app to allow themes. My guess is that Kaleidoscope will be updated for OS X. Maybe not... but one can only hope.

    This brings up an important issue. Apple may have a patent (in fact, the patent is from the Copland era), but if they don't use it, don't they lose rights to it?

    With Windows XP built for themes, and OS X using the Appearance Manager, Apple needs to include themes with their final product.
  • (Washington, AP) Apple Computer, Inc announced today that it is patenting the design of the "apple shape"(tm). Other existing products that resemble the apple shape as used on the company's merchendise are being issued "cease and desist" warnings.

    First to come under fire were greengrocers all over the world. Apple Computer's co-founder, Steve Jobs said today: "Apple Computer, Inc. has invested a lot of time and effort in designing the apple shape(tm) and it's simply not fair that these so-called 'fruit retailers' in every country are making a huge profit from what is essentially our design".

    Once the competition from orchards is over, Apple Computer plans to move on to products in any way derived from the "apple shape", citing Del Monte as a major competitor.

    Reacting to earlier comments from the Pope that "The apple was designed by God, not man" while citing the book of Genesis as proof, Jobs pointed out that "Though our legal team is looking in to these claims, two points seems obvious. Firstly, that the word apple is never mentioned in the book of Genesis, and secondly, that, whatever role he claims to have had in the design, God neglected to patent the apple shape(tm)"

    Steve Jobs is mad.

  • According to the article, the patent was filed on May 8, 1998. There is most certainly prior art existing if Apple even tries to take out Linux theming in any way. In fact, I really don't think they have plans to go after themes in Linux. I merely think they're more concerned with Microsoft "stealing" their ideas, and coming out with new customizeable guis with different types of setups (whistler, hint hint).


    47.5% Slashdot Pure(52.5% Corrupt)
  • The claim in the patent is that the theme engine can change not only the appearance(skinning) but the behavior(?) of an application.

    I don't know if that is 'obvious' but I can't think of prior art, either ^^

    My example is a CLI going from bash to zsh, or Explorer styled browsers, or Finder styled windows, when a theme is selected.

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • http://delphion.com/details?&pn10=US05959624

    This one was filed in Jan 97,
    Systems and methods for providing a user with increased
    flexibility and control over the appearance and behavior of
    objects on a user interface are disclosed. Sets of objects can
    be grouped into themes to provide a user with a distinct overall
    impression of the interface. These themes can be switched
    dynamically by switching pointers to drawing procedures or
    switching data being supplied to these procedures. To buffer
    applications from the switchable nature of graphical user
    interfaces, colors and patterns used to implement the interface
    objects are abstracted from the interface by, for example,
    pattern look-up tables.

    Seems to have been granted in 1999 and covers the concept of theme switching by changing resources in look-up tables.

    As opposed to the patent in the current story, which covers the theme engine, which is the process by which themes are changed.

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • The enlightenment I've played with lets me redefine buttons, skins/bmps/images, and mouse actions/events/menus.

    I was definitely overzealous in my responses to the initial flurries of theme posts.

    The real question is whether Enlightenment's implementation of behavioral changes based on themes is the intent of Apple's patent.

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • Alternative screen shots for Open Source environments.

    This [themes.org] is Microsoft Whistler.
    This [themes.org] is OS X.

    "LiQuid" isn't as bad as it looks, I use it myself - Am I breaking the law?
    --

  • Well, if you're talking about this [mac.com] comparison, I think it's absolutely rediculous. Comments?
  • "Dont steal our ideas...Think different"

    I don't blame them for their latest MS like behaviour, after all, they'll need a source of income of some kind...OSX won't bring in much.

  • I wonder if Microsoft has a patent on the blue screen? You don't see it in any other operating systems that I know of.

  • Please, do! To have the install fests, you have to buy the hardware, and Apple could really use the sales right now!

    Apple is a hardware company. They might like you to use their OS, but it doesn't hurt them one bit if you don't. Don't they pay people to help make the very Linux that you want to punish them with? ;)

    Mothra 1961-2001: Her heart can reach!
  • Many user interfaces have allowed the user to change not just appearance but also behavior on the fly. Apple's and Microsoft's user interfaces have been the exception with their static, hardcoded, cumbersome appearances and behaviors.

    Furthermore, even if there didn't exist decades of prior art, this kind of "themability" is a natural result of using standard object-oriented design principles and using dynamic object-oriented runtimes: creating separate software components communicating via abstract interfaces for appearance, user interaction, and behavior is a natural evolution of library design for graphical user interfaces.

    What this patent mainly demonstrates is incompetence and ignorance on the part of the Apple engineers that applied for it.

    It's also part of another disturbing trend: companies like Apple and Microsoft have depressed the quality of software libraries and software engineering so much that things that used to be pretty simple and straightforward might now be considered major breakthrough inventions in their systems.

    There isn't much one can do about the patent office. But what you can do is examine patents critically when people apply for jobs. A long list of patents is not necessarily a recommendation, in particular when a closer list at the patents suggests that the people who wrote them simply aren't familiar with key developments in their field.

  • I wasn't talking about open source, I was talking about 20 year old commercial technology: Motif, Smalltalk, and others. Those systems allowed users to change both appearance and behavior dynamically. In the case of Smalltalk and similar platforms, you could even replace parts of the actual code at runtime without restarting applications, allowing you to change both behavior and appearance in radical ways.

    MacOS and MSWindows originally sacrificed flexibility in order to lower resource requirements. That's nice, but it is wrong to let them patent all sorts of features now that their platforms have caught up in terms of performance that used to be commonplace on high-end machines. (Incidentally, I don't think KDE or Gnome are much better in this regard than MacOS or MSWindows, which is too bad, since they had a chance to do a better job.)

  • Apple helps push the proverbial envelope of technology; often this is done by taking what geeks like you and i would consider simple technologies and advertising them as its own, touting impressive UI design and whatever other features we already know it for. by adding it to its systems [ after patenting it, of course ], Apple takes great ideas and publicizes them. a good example is Apple's inclusion of several shareware utilities, incl. WindowShade and Extensions Manager, in its System 7.5. although they were considered essential technologies to macaddicts, most end users had never heard of them. by including them in System 7.5's default installation, Apple pushed innovative products into the mainstream.

    for this service to society, along with Apple's rebel facade, we think that it's a company on our side.
  • I understand you all have your panties in a wad over this, but do you know, for certain, that projects like enlightenment were doing theming before Apple? Perhaps apple really was the one to do it first. And if so, they should get the patent.

    How do you expect a company like Apple to compete with something like Microsoft without leveraging whatever IP rights it has a right to?

  • This sounds a lot like QT2's method of themeing, used in KDE. For example, certain widgets have their behaviors changed when switching from theme to theme. In the Windows-like theme, scrollbars are just like the scrollbars we all know and love, but in some other themes, the scrollbars have both buttons (up and down) at the bottom of the scrollbar. I believe it would also be possible, using QT's theme engine, to create an entirely new method of operating a scrollbar (or any other widget) by replacing the actual code in QT that draws and operates the widget, on the fly. QT's theme engine does just what this patent describes:

    > providing a plurality of themes, each theme controlling an appearance and behavior of objects rendered on said graphical user interface, wherein at least one of said appearance and said behavior is controlled differently for an object when said graphical user interface is operated in accordance with one theme than when said graphical user interface is operated in accordance with another theme;
    <QT2 does this.

    > providing a plurality of theme engines, each theme engine associated with a different theme type, wherein at least one of said theme engines is hard-coded and at least one of said theme engines is a data-driven, parametric engine;
    <This sounds exactly like KWin's theme management, and it probably applies to QT2 as well.

    > selecting a theme from among said plurality of themes;
    <The new Theme manager in KDE 2.1 does this.

    > identifying one of said plurality of theme engines associated with said selected theme;
    <KDE Theme manager again.

    > loading, by said identified theme engine, theme data for operating said graphical user interface in accordance with said selected theme.
    <Yeah, that's sort of necessary for themeing, now, isn't it!

    This is disturbing. If Apple actually enforces this patent, KDE would be the first to go (And they're just finally starting to get some good themes on kde.themes.org)! Hopefully QT2 came out soon enough that it was before this patent took effect. I'd hate to see TrollTech sued over this dumb patent!

    [me@localhost]$ prolog
    | ?- god.
    ! Existence error in god/0
  • by Quarters (18322) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @02:18PM (#404226)
    The duck is an image from a stock photo archive. So what if both Microsoft and Apple paid money for the rights to use the same image?

  • by Quarters (18322) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:45AM (#404227)
    Beveled buttons and soft colors? This is what you are using to say that MS is copying the Aqua theme, beveled buttons and soft colors?

    Yeah, *nobody* used pastels or embossing in design ideas before Apple came along!

    (rolls eyes)

  • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @12:37PM (#404228)
    'at least one of said theme engines is hard-coded and at least one of said theme engines is a data-driven, parametric engine' and 'providing a plurality of theme engines, each theme engine associated with a different theme type, wherein at least one of said theme engines is hard-coded and at least one of said theme engines is a data-driven, parametric engine;

    It looks to me like what they have here is more than just theming or a theme engine, or widgets that change behaviour, but rather they are claiming a system that support multiple theme engines. That means functionality on the order of an OS that allows plug-ins that act as theme engines.

    If so, I think Apple does have something totally new here. Imagine an architecture that would allow you to plug in a theme engine, i.e. have KDE, Gnome, Win95 GUI etc all as theme engines running side by side.

    The flexibility of this seems to me to be terrific. It means a theme engine for each of a different class of GUI implementations.


    MOVE 'ZIG'.
  • by TheInternet (35082) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @12:37PM (#404229) Homepage Journal
    It's time for Apple to drop thier foolish patents. Enlightenment, even fvwm did desktop theming first

    Read the article before you comment on it, or at least read some of the other comments.

    1) Apple didn't file this patent, Ed Voas and his colleague did. Ed worked on the Kaleidoscope shareware theme-switching software prior to coming to Apple. Though I don't know if the filing or the employment came first.

    2) The patent was actually filed nearly three years ago -- in May 1998! It was just recently transferred to Apple, though.

    3) As somebody else pointed out, the patent affects more than simple theming, it's about changing UI behavior based on theme (not just where the widgets appear)

    The truth is without us hackers Apple's attempt to regain the Education market will fail.

    Apple's VP of Software Engineering was one of the key architects of Mach. I think he has some right to use his own code.

    They sucked enough information out of us, and Apple has not given anything back.

    Ummmm... ever heard of QuickTime Streaming Server? Darwin? NetInfo? I/O Kit? Go to publicsource.apple.com [apple.com]. They've given all sorts of stuff to the community.

    - Scott

    --
    Scott Stevenson
    WildTofu [wildtofu.com]
  • by A moron (37050) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:34AM (#404230)
    This patent was filed on May 8, 1998 before M$ even had time to copy the heck out of Mac OS.

    Here's a bunch of screen shots from M$: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/guide/newlook.a sp [microsoft.com]

    And here are some Mac OS X screens: http://www.apple.com/macosx/usingosx/desktop.html [apple.com]

  • by Greg Merchan (64308) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @12:50PM (#404231)
    Xt or Intrinsics upon which Xaw and Motif are built can provide a ludicrous amount of appearance and action. Just look at x.themes.org for some examples. GTK is also prior wrt some claims. As for the extra utilities to aid in theming, there's editres and probably a few collections of shell scripts et al. that change the xrdb (X Resources Database); I had one that adjusted the colors of an app based on which workspace it was opened on.

    (Hmm, has anyone patented multiple desktops/viewports/workspaces/etc.?)
  • by PhatKat (78180) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:43AM (#404232) Homepage
    In a groundbreaking engagement today that has left many constitution signers spinning in their graves, Apple has finally stopped beating around the bush and patented style.

    The patent reads as follows:

    Systems and methods for providing a user with increased flexibility and control over the appearance and behavior of objects on a user interface are described. Sets of objects(read: clothes, accessories) can be grouped into themes to provide a user with a distinct overall impression of the interface. These themes can be invoked by calling a corresponding theme engine(read: wife, girlfriend, mother). Theme engines can be hard-coded(naturally stylish) or data-driven(Cosmopolitan, GQ).

    Carrot Top was among the many celebrities concerned about this patenet and was, astonishingly, available for comment. "Oh man, I just made a milkshake machine out of a remote control submarine and a spatoon! That's got style, right? Right guys? Oh man, they better not try to patent this bad boy! I've got prior art, and it tasted like crap! Man, if they sue me, I'll finally get a spot on Extra or ET again like the one I got for beating the boy out of Gary Coleman!"
  • by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:26AM (#404233) Homepage
    At first, I thought that perhaps (ironically) Microsoft's own Windows 95 Plus Pack! [microsoft.com] would have been prior art (the patent filing date is May 8, 1998. But then I read the patent. The only thing remotely novel I see is that a theme can be hard-coded rather than data-driven. In that case, I would think that Sun's Java JDK, with its Pluggable Look And Feel (PLAF) would suffice as prior art.
  • by Trepalium (109107) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @02:47PM (#404234)
    According to a page on the MSDN site [microsoft.com] under the subheading 'A New Look', six paragraphs down:

    At first glance, the potential for multiple Windows XP styles may look like the skin functionality in such applications as Window Media Player, but there are differences. Themes change the visual style of the operating system, but still provide a consistent UI with earlier versions of Windows. This is important since themes are applied system-wide. The changes applicable to an application skin, such as removal of buttons, are not appropriate at the operating system level. The theme file formats are not public; Microsoft retains the design control for themes, to allow a consistent user interface and the able to ensure design continuity. A theme developer's kit will not be available with Windows XP.
    Indeed their concerns are valid -- many applications are not tolerant to widgets changing size or shape (or sometimes even colour, although that can be considered a bug). No FUD here, just geniune concern for compatibility. Many applications would become unusuable if a standard widget were to grow even by one pixel over the norm. Most of those same applications are broken if you use anything other than 'Small Fonts' (96dpi) instead of 'Large Fonts' (120dpi).
  • by RedWizzard (192002) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @02:14PM (#404235)
    Take a look at claim 4: 4. A computer system comprising:
    • a processor for performing control functions and processing data;
    • a display for outputting data received from said processor and for receiving input from a user of said computer system via a graphical user interface; and
    • a plurality of theme engines each capable of rendering a theme by drawing an object on said graphical user interface, wherein a selected one of said theme engines is commanded to draw said object based upon a theme selection coordinated by said processor.
    That sounds extremely broad to me. Looks like they're making a claim against any system which includes data processing capability and has UI themes. Note that they don't specify changing behaviour in this claim. And they talk in terms of themeing a particular object so an argument could be made that this would apply to themes within a single app (e.g. WinAMP skins). Of course the prior art on this one would be voluminous.
  • http://delphion.com/details?&pn10=US05959624

    They actually have a patent that already covers theme switching by changing resources or drawing procedures.

    09/074,543

    That one (can't find it, but it's referenced) covers sound effects in a GUI.

    So I don't know that there is anything 'wrong' with this patent, given that there are other similar patents in the system, or that this is anything other than 'business as usual' for corporate America...

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • I am curious however where you found info about the patent being transferred

    My mistake. The scanned in documents are hard to read. Turns out it was invented by Ed Voas, etc. but it belongs to Apple.

    However, the bottom line is the same: the Slashdot version of the story is extremely misleading. It makes it sound like Jobs just marched down to Apple legal the other day and asked them to patent themes.

    - Scott
    --
    Scott Stevenson
    WildTofu [wildtofu.com]
  • by TheInternet (35082) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @03:08PM (#404238) Homepage Journal
    How about they actually produce a better product for a reasonable cost to consumers?

    Right. History has shown the superior product always wins over the inferior one with superior marketing. Yep. But this really doesn't have anything to do with the topic. Microsoft has patents on theming stuff as well. Big deal.

    I just find it constantly amazing how anyone who can even entertain the notion that freedom and computing have ANY relationship to Apple Corp.

    Apple sells hardware and software as a single package because it makes the final product far more coherent. For them, the money is in the hardware. This is why they can give away iTunes and all the web-based iTools services for free (with no banner ads). However, it's the integration of the hardware and software that makes the machine easier to manager and provides the value proposition.

    Microsoft isn't probably going to open source anything anytime soon, but Apple has open sourced all kinds of stuff. QuickTime Streaming Server, NetInfo, I/O Kit, OpenPlay/NetSprocket, and of course, Darwin. While Darwin it is based on Mach 3.0/BSD, Apple is continually pouring money into Darwin development as the core of OSX, and the community reaps the benefits. Also note that Apple's VP of Software Engineering (Avie Tevanian) was one of the core architects of Mach.

    Bash Microsoft all you like, but let's not forget that it was those evil folks that made it possible for the seperation of the hardware from the OS.

    Out of the frying pan into the fire...

    Microsoft is doing everything in their power to lock you into a single software platform. Long term, the hardware is probably irrelavant. Oh sure, you'll have all sort of hardware to choose from -- handhelds, desktops, laptops, cell phones, appliances. But if Microsoft has its way, they'll all run Windows.

    By contrast, a substantial amount of OSX is built on open standards -- TCP/IP, Apache, NetInfo, OpenGL, I/O Kit, Java, BSD, Mach. With Windows, you have to deal with NetBios, WINS, IIS, DirectX, ActiveX, and kernel source that nobody can look at.

    It is a good thing that there are open hardware platforms available? Yes. Is Apple evil for having a standardized hardware/software platform? No. It's just a different approach that has distinct benefits for both the developer and the user. Look up some of Carmack's comments on how much more cost effective it is to develop and test for the Mac because of the standardized hardware.

    I wouldn't want a world in which Apple sold all computers, nor would I want one where either Windows or Linux is the only only OS.

    - Scott

    --
    Scott Stevenson
    WildTofu [wildtofu.com]
  • by victim (30647) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:26AM (#404239)
    This was applied for May 1998. This is years after Apple published the Copland whitepapers describing themeing.

    I'm looking at my dusty copy of "Copland Technical Overview" by Apple Computer, copyright 1995. It seems to describe the task fairly well.

    The claims seem to be a set of permutions of "data-driven" and "hard-coded" applied to the elements of implementing themes. Of course the devil and the legal bills are in the details. All in all, if you asked someone to implement the scheme described in the Copland overview the claims are the obvious ways to do it.

    I suspect this is a defensive patent. One of those "we should see if the PTO will grant this, cause if they give it to anyone else we are screwed" patents.
  • This patent was filed in May 1998 by Ed Voas and Arnaud Gourdol, at least one of which I believe worked on the third party Kaleidoscope [kaleidoscope.net] theme-switching apparatus for Clasiic Mac OS. However, it appears (from looking at the documents) that the patent ownership was recently transferred to Apple. I know at least Ed Voas went on to work for Apple, specifically contributing to the Appearance Manager software in Mac OS 8.

    - Scott
    --
    Scott Stevenson
    WildTofu [wildtofu.com]
  • by harvardian (140312) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:18AM (#404241)
    Maybe this is an attempt to stop Windows XP from looking so ridiculously similar to OS X. If anybody's seen a picture of Whistler you'll know what I'm talking about. They have the pleasingly soft colors, the bevelled buttons, and even the duck cursors.

    Does anybody have a picture of Windows XP that they could share to illustrate the point? I can't find the copy I saw.
  • by Metrol (147060) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:39AM (#404242) Homepage
    How do you expect a company like Apple to compete with something like Microsoft without leveraging whatever IP rights it has a right to?

    How about they actually produce a better product for a reasonable cost to consumers?

    I just find it constantly amazing how anyone who can even entertain the notion that freedom and computing have ANY relationship to Apple Corp. Bash Microsoft all you like, but let's not forget that it was those evil folks that made it possible for the seperation of the hardware from the OS. No, some mainframe at MIT doesn't count either, nor does some kit machine. Before MS-DOS hit the streets, darn near any machine available to us consumer types had a closed architecture with a closed OS.

    Because there was a Microsoft to provide an OS to them machines that Compaq managed to hack away the IP rights from IBM we all enjoy hardware advances we would have never seen otherwise. All this, at costs WAY below what would otherwise have been available.

    I thank the computer gods daily that way back in the day Apple decisively lost the battle for the desktop. As is in constant evidence by their actions, they have no interest in allowing the rest of us lesser folk decide what we want in a machine or what OS will run on it. We sure as hell wouldn't have seen anything like a Linux come around.
  • What is claimed is:

    1. In a graphical user interface, a method for rendering objects and handling behavior of said objects comprising the steps of:

    • providing a plurality of themes, each theme controlling an appearance and behavior of objects rendered on said graphical user interface, wherein at least one of said appearance and said behavior is controlled differently for an object when said graphical user interface is operated in accordance with one theme than when said graphical user interface is operated in accordance with another theme;
    • providing a plurality of theme engines, each theme engine associated with a different theme type, wherein at least one of said theme engines is hard-coded and at least one of said theme engines is a data-driven, parametric engine;
    • selecting a theme from among said plurality of themes;
    • identifying one of said plurality of theme engines associated with said selected theme; and
    • loading, by said identified theme engine, theme data for operating said graphical user interface in accordance with said selected theme.


    If I were to dissect it a bit, it's more than just *skinning*, which is to redefine the appearance of the buttons and widgets. The first claim mentions the method of rendering objects and handling behavior of said objects, as related to the appearance and behavior of bojects rendered by the theme. It specifically mentions that either appearance *or* behavior is controlled differently for an object when the theme is changed.

    So skinning falls under appearance changing when theme is changed. This would be like WinAMP skins, in which the appearance and buttons can change by selecting skins.

    But then there's behavioral changes. By changing themes, the behavior of the application changes as well. So let's speculate an example: An xterm window. Change from Theme A to Theme B. To simplify, let's say the appearance doesn't change, but the behavior does. This could be as simple as shell shifting from ksh to tcsh, or DOS. Or it could mean changing from bash to a graphical terminal window, in which icons appear when you type ls, and selecting an icon is the same as copying, and double clicking a folder works the same as typing 'cd "new folder"'.

    It could also be that changing from theme A to theme B changes the terminal window into a Windows styled explorer, or a Mac styled finder, or a Netscape styled web browser.

    For other applications, like a CD player, that could mean a change from cli to floating button box to hybrid of the two.

    This is all just speculation, but it's more than just skinning!

    Geek dating! [bunnyhop.com]
  • by Derwen (219179) on Sunday February 25, 2001 @11:31AM (#404244) Homepage
    ...and in related news Apple [TM] yesterday served notice to every fruit seller in the country that the time had come to stop infringing upon its trademarked name.

    Signs appeared at farmer's markets over the weekend, offering Malus domestica for sale. Apple [TM] responded swiftly that these fruit still had an "Apple-like theme."

    To avoid costly litigation fruit-growers accross the temperate zones of the planet are currently grubbing up their orchards while tree nurseries are bulking up pear stocks and looking to a bumper year.

    Some confused orchard owners are reported to be installing Linux PPC on their apple [TM] trees.

    ....cuts to shot of banner draped over a building in Cupertino, Ca., on which can be made out "All your trees are belong to us."....

Nothing succeeds like success. -- Alexandre Dumas

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