The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on June 29, 1994 · Page 19
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 19

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Wednesday, June 29, 1994
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LOS ANGELES TIMES WASHINGTON EDITION WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29, 1994 B7 Cubing Edge Attorney Invents Help for Processing a Patent By PAUL KARON SPECIAL TO THE TIMES There are just two absolute requirements for be- ; coming a successful inventor: a certain amount of creativity and enough money to pay the legal fees and other expenses for obtaining a patent. Inventors still have to supply the creativity, but a new personal computer program may help with the financial end. Called "Patent It Yourself,'' the software guides users through the entire patent application process, right up to mailing the paperwork to the patent office. It also purports to free inventors from the need to hire a high-priced patent lawyer. Between filing and legal fees, a U.S. patent usually runs a minimum of $5,000. Some cost thousands more, and most of the money goes to legal fees. The software is the brainchild of David Pressman, a San Francisco patent attorney with more than 30 years' experience. He is also the author of the book "Patent It Yourself," first published in 1979 and then updated and reissued in 1985. It ' was the basis for the software, and its entire contents are available in the program. "The main purpose of the software is to lead people through the patent and demystify what is a mysterious process," Pressman said. ' Most of the "Patent It Your-. self program is designed to help inventors with the all - im -portant task of properly de-', scribing their creations. That's the best way to ensure the i maximum legal protection for ! the creation, Pressman said, i. The software contains all the bnuiw grrfv.huu. bus v.iavoaai Chips May Vinyl records long ago took a back seat to the compact disc. , Now it looks as if videotapes may go the same route. Texas Instruments has introduced a set of chips that could make video compact discs as common as audio CDs. The company's three-chip set produces VHS-quality video aid CD-quality $ound for the emerging Video CD standard developed by JVC, Matsushita, Philips and Sony, f , Video CD builds on the popularity of audio CDs and adds full-motion video and VCR-like features, - such as fast forward, freeze frame ,and reverse. The Texas Jnstru-jnents chip set uses compression technology that delivers video images comparable to videotape but yrith better sound quality. 't Full-length movies pr music videos can be played from one or iwo five-inch CDs, giving video enthusiasts the same digital quali- . ty, ease of use and greater durability provided by audio CDs. Because pf the random-access nature of the .digital technology, music video albums would seem a natural for the irst Video CDs. While Video CD does not provide as sharp an image as laser disc, the CDs will cost considerably less. That's because Video CD can take advantage of the major manufacturing cost reductions achieved for audio CDs. Movie companies, including MGM, Paramount and Columbia, as well as major record ' labels have announced plans to offer Video CD products. Texas Instruments says production quantities of its chip set will be available sometime late this year. - The first hardware, which could be in the stores by year's end, will be audio CD players with Video CD as a premium feature. Early re-, ports suggest that the players could sell for less than $500. Conventional audio CDs will be playable on Video CD. , ' ; ; " Y' 4 v ' ' Y Softening the Blow: Children think that games involving falling down are fun. But for anyone over age 65, falls are no laughing matter. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that a third of all people over 65 fall at least once a year, with the annual cost of medical care for hip fractures (the most .common fall-related injury) estimated at $7 billion. . As a result, researchers at Penn - official forms needed to apply for a patent and is filled with examples and explanations. "Initially it helps the inventor evaluate the invention and write a preliminary written record so you can prove you invented it," Pressman said. "It also helps you evaluate the invention in terms of patenta- -bility and commercial value." Pressman wrote the software package with programmers from EDS Corp., the computer firm founded by Ross Perot, and Berkeley-based Nolo Press, publishers of both the book and the software. ; Some patent attorneys warn against the dq-it-yourself approach. ., - "It's dangerous," said Stephen Strauss, a partner at Ful-wider, Patton, Lee & Utecht, a Westwood intellectual properties law firm. "Lay persons often won't i understand the complexities' involved, and sometimes with these how-to books you can make a mistake early on that can really hurt you." . r , vV- Patent examiners will reject improperly worded applications and will sometimes even advise an applicant to hire a lawyer to clean up the mess, Strauss said. For inventors who plow ahead on their own despite such warnings, "Patent It Yourself" still won't remove all the pain. Between the basic application and licensing fees, a patent will set you back at least $900, and' "Patent It Yourself" sells for $230. It runs on personal computers equipped with Microsoft Windows 3.1 or high-' er, .1 ivj ;;:,,T: v;t-:' r y y . - v Usher in Video CD Era ncri i sylvania State University are working on flooring that would be softer on older bones. The design involves two layers of urethane elastomer, a highly elastic materi-al, separated by small columns of the same material. The floor can withstand someone walking or rolling a Vheelchair on it. But when someone falls on it, the columns between layers buckle momentarily, cutting the impact by as much as 40. - Building Blood: One of the worst side effects of intensive chemotherapy is the sometimes fatal drop in blood platelets the treatment can cause. Since platelets are the blood cells responsible for clotting, low platelet counts can lead to excessive internal bleeding. This condition, known as thrombocytopenia, is currently treated through platelet transfusion or by lowering chemotherapy doses. But transfusion carries the risk that the immune system will build up defenses against what it perceives as foreign objects and reject the platelets. Lower chemotherapy doses might not be as effective. But researchers at ZymoGene-tics, a Seattle -based subsidiary of the Danish firm Novo Nordisk, in collaboration with the University of Washington, have cloned a hormone called thrombopoietin, or TPO. TPO belongs to a group of proteins known as cytokines, which stimulate the production of certain blood cells. While the TPO clone is a long way from commercialization, researchers report that it has stimulated the production of platelet levels in laboratory mice Rockwell Goes Outside for Computer Help Technology: Its space systems unit will save up to 28. But about 60 workers lost their jobs. By DEAN TAKAHASHI TIMES STAFF WRITER ' Rockwell Space Systems got a doozy of a request from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration 18 months ago: Cut maintenance costs for the space shuttle fleet by 20 or risk losing the contract The Downey -based division of Rockwell International Corp. decided that one place it could save was on computer costs, which exceed $30 million a year. In a bold step, it decided to buy computing services from an outside firm instead of the corporation's internal computer department. The winner was Software Maintenance Specialists Inc., a Santa Ana company with $10 million in annual revenue. It focuses solely on supplying computer processing needs for its 30 corporate customers, which range from restaurant chain owner Denny's Inc. in Spartanburg, N.C., to clothing maker Esprit in San Francisco. SMS won the three-year contract by beating Rockwell's internal cost projections for providing computer services to the space systems division, promising that quality of service would not be sacrificed. It replaced 70 people with 11, taking out layers of managers such as buyers, who did nothing but order equipment. The losers: an estimated 60 Rockwell employees at the company's computer center in Seal Beach, who lost their jobs. The human toll makes outsourcing a soul-searching experience for any company contemplating it, said Mike Winder, president of SMS. "It's emotional for one group, the one that may lose the jobs and a way of doing business," Winder said. "It's a kind of housecleaning for another. It's a way of relating costs and benefits. The market place is global, but it's cruel." Rockwell's transition to outsourcing is a case study in how a big company shaved its' costs withr out starting a civil war among its by more than 400. Eye Control: For most of us, ' the mouse was a big step forward when it came to controlling our computers. But if you think voice recognition will mean a great leap forward, guess again. Three Boston College faculty members think that maybe the eyes have it when it comes to making computers sim- . pier to use. Knowing that eye muscle movements generate electrical signals, the researchers attach a series of electrodes around the user's eyes. The electrodes measure eye movements; the potential difference measured between the electrodes indicates the vertical and horizontal position of the retina. Focusing on the cursor causes it to move to wherever the eye moves. In one application a person could sort through a large data bank by simply-"looking" the cursor to the right entry. An auto in a simulated road race video game would move when you moved your eyes. People with limited use of arms, hands or fingers could benefit. But forget word processing for the moment: A single sentence requires moving the cursor around on an alphabet pad. It takes three minutes to write "It is working." Machines on a Chip: Silicon-based semiconductors have found their way into almost every kind of machine. But now machines are finding their way onto silicon chips. The same etching process that is used to put transistors on a silicon wafer can be used to etch tiny diaphragms, beams and other structures measuring only a few . thousandths of an inch or smaller. While much of the work on micro-machines is still being done in the laboratory, one area has shown commercial potential: sensors. Boston -based Analog Devices, which recently received a $3.4-million grant under the federal Technology Reinvestment Project, has been providing micro-machined accelerometers for air bag deployment. But the company sees future automotive uses in sensors for anti-skid braking, yaw control and active suspension. KATHLEEN WIEGNER -. V. J" .V !-3 1 Ji..- ,r-n..: y -.. ft ... ROBfcRTulcHMAN Los Angeles Times Software Maintenance Specialists' Schuster, seated, and systems data center employees, who are non-union. For SMS, the $5-mil-lion annual contract is a foot in the door at Rockwell and a chance to showcase its cost-cutting prowess. "Five years ago, outsourcing was viewed by corporate computer managers with great fear," said Marcia Blumenthal, editor in chief of CIO magazine, a Framingham, Mass.-based periodical aimed at corporate chief information officers. "Now it's business as usual." CASE STUDY How technology changed a business Rockwell eased the process by requiring the new firm to interview its data center employees and offer them jobs if possible. Before the layoffs, Winder recruited 11 Rockwell employees to work at SMS' data center in La Mirada. "Many of them had the impression that the only way we could do it cheaper than them was by running a sweatshop where you work 16 hours a day," Winder said. "But we surprised them." v, , , . , ; , v Harvey Schuster, a former space systems employee, was one of the COMPUTER RLE RICHARD O'REILLY The Newest Color Ink-Jet Printers Catch Up With Color Computing Color printing has finally caught up with color computing. You can print exciting documents with colorful logos, graphs and photos on any of four modestly priced color ink-jet printers for Windows or Macintosh computers. ' Y The best of the bunch, Epson America Inc's. brand-new Stylus Color Printer, is not only capable of a stunning 720-dots-per-inch resolution on special paper, it can turn out a full-color, full-page photo in less time than its Hewlett-Packard competitor can print the same image at 300 dots per inch. And in its 360-dots-per-inch mode, the Epson is more than three times faster than the H-P printer. For a full-page color photo, that is the difference between five minutes and 18 minutes. . ' Still, excellent print quality and more robust construction is available from H-P's DeskJet , 560C color ink-jet printer and Apple Computer's Color Style Writer Pro. Canon Computer Systems' BJC-600 color ink -jet printer, which I haven't tested, is essentially the same as the Apple Color StyleWriter Pro and can be expected to deliver similar performance. (Although the only Macintosh color printer I tested was Apple's, that is not your only choice. The Hewlett-Packard Desk-Writer 560C is configured for ,the Macintosh. A Macintosh version of Epson's printer is due out this fall.) You won't find much difference in price among the H-P, Apple and Canon printers and, depending on where you shop, all can be bought for less than $650. Street prices of the new Epson should be similar. If you mainly print color graphics such as charts, graphs, logos and the like, rather than color , photos, you'll probably not see much difference among any of them. Unlike some earlier color ink -jet printers, such . as H-P's DeskJet 500C, all. of these printers have four colors of ink: black and the three printing process colors of cyan (blue), magenta and yellow. That assures that you can print true black plus virtually any other color in the spectrum. (The DeskJet 500C, lacking black ink, simulates black by adding equal amounts of the three process colors, which creates a greenish black and uses three times as much ink.) A significant advantage offered by the Apple and Canon printers is a separate ink cartridge for each color. You replace only the color that runs out Both the HP and Epson printers have a separate black ink cartridge, but the three process colors share the second cartridge. When one color runs dry, you pay to replace all three. Many people will find these printers adequate substitutes for laser printer when printing black-only documents. They are a little slower than most laser printers, but it is hard to see any difference in print quality. The Hewlett-Packard printers have an edge in black -only printing because they have a higher resolution in black of 600 by 300 dots per Rockwell account manager Harvey programmer Bridget Huseman. lucky ones at Rockwell. He saw the writing on the wall when notices went out in December about anticipated layoffs. He called SMS. By mid-February, he was hired as SMS' lead manager on Rockwell contract. Instead of a sweatshop, Bridget Husenan, a systems programmer with nine years of experience at Rockwell, found that under SMS, she had more responsibility to make her own decisions without bureaucratic obstacles. For her, that was a better alternative than being "downsized." , Now she deals with Rockwell's Space Systems unit as her customer. She has had to learn more technical jobs so she can pitch in to help others in a crunch. She says shifting from being a specialist to a generalist has tested her skills. Winder said his company provided comparable pay and benefits to the Rockwell employees it hired. Such moves are often necessary because studies show that computer professionals who move from their parent corporation to the outsourcing company often leave after a short time, Blumenthal said. SMS saves Rockwell money by spreading the cost of maintaining its data center among 30 different companies, or the other companies that feave tyred. SJtfS,Miqhael No-zaki, who heads the ; project at Rockwell's Space Systems unit, estimated outsourcing will save 20to 28on the division's computing costs. Rockwell pays only for the computing functions it uses, not the costs of maintaining a center with several mainframe computers and storage equipment. SMS also pays lower costs for licensing software and computer hardware from vendors by driving harder bargains, than Rockwell's people could. As IBM and other companies pioneered mainframe computer systems in the 1960s, the functions of computing became concentrated in centralized machines at large Companies. But that trend reversed in the 1980s with inexpensive personal computer networks, which enable computing power to be decentralized. Rockwell has a complicated patchwork of older centralized computers and newer PCs from a variety of vendors. About 500 people manage the system. Since February, Schuster's team has been planning how SMS will take over the computer operations. To handle the job, SMS spent $500,000 on new computer equipment, added employees and beefed up its security. - The project got its real test last weekend when Rockwell Space Systems transferred control of its computerized manufacturing processes to SMS' data center. Winder and others involved described the 107-step process as intense and precise as a countdown to launching a space shuttle. "I get a real feeling of exhilaration from this conversion," said Schuster, who spent 23 years at Rockwell.' Essentially, SMS will maintain Rockwell's owner's manual for the six space shuttles, or critical information that NASA won't tolerate falling into the wrong hands. SMS computers hold the space shuttle maintenance records as well as payroll, finance, inventory management and other data. SMS now controls the flow of information from 16,000 computer storage tapes in the data center to nearly 4,000 personal computers, workstations and larger business computers throughout Rockwell's space shuttle pperatkjrisin; Florida, Texas and California. -, t inch. Color resolution is limited to 300 dots per inch vertically and horizontally. One characteristic that all of these new printers share is the much greater sophistication of software control they bring to the printing process, compared to earlier color ink -jet printers. Whether in Windows or on the Macintosh, the printer "driver" software that comes with these printers enables you to fine-tune the printer's behavior according to what kind of file is being printed. Hewlett-Packard's Windows printer driver has something called ColorSmart that can automatically alter the way various sections of a page are printed according to the kind of data being printed. A color photo gets one kind of setting to emphasize detail, while a simple color graph gets another treatment to make the colors rich and smooth. The Epson Windows driver has a special "microweave" setting, which you must invoke manually. It intersperses the ink droplets with two passes of the print head to eliminate unwanted patterns of print head movement, called banding. But highest-resolution prints were marred slightly because the first quarter-inch of the image received only one pass of the print head and the color was noticeably lighter than the rest of the print. The other weakness of Epson's printer is a flimsy paper tray. The upper tray, which holds paper after it is printed, looks especially fragile. I couldn't actually break it, however. It is so flexible that it deforms easily without breaking, then snaps back into shape when pressure is released. Maybe that's the idea. But there is nothing flimsy-looking about the Hewlett-Packard or Apple and Canon printers. ' Although all of these printers will produce good results on plain paper, it takes special paper to get the best out of them. And it takes different special paper for all three. Epson has two different coated papers with flat finishes, one for 360-dot-per-inch work and the other for 720 dots per inch. v H-P. has a semi-glossy plasticized paper for its highest-quality work and it looks very good. But that same paper is too slick to feed properly in the Epson printer and produces washed-out images when it does go through. Bear in mind that getting the best out of any of these printers requires high-quality, 24-bit color image files, which in turn require large disk storage and high-performance photo manipulation software: Computer Hie welcome your comment but regrets that the author cannot respond Individually. Write to Richard O'Reilly, Computer File, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles CA 90053, or message orelllylatlmes.com on the Internet. '

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