York student BlackBerry developer is in patent firm’s sights

One of the most sprawling patent disputes in the world has now ensnared a BlackBerry app maker, raising the prospect that Research In Motion Ltd., the company behind the BlackBerry, may intervene to protect its developers from patent-licensing demands, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 31.

Yissachar Radcliffe, a York University student who runs a one-person app development shop called Rotten Ogre, received a patent-infringement notice from US licensing firm Lodsys on Thursday. The letter asserts that Rotten Ogre’s lone app, a BlackBerry PlayBook game called Lonely Turret, infringes on a Lodsys patent relating to in-app payment and purchases.

"I never thought they were interpreting the patent so broadly," Radcliffe said, adding that the free version of Lonely Turret simply contains a link to a BlackBerry app marketplace, where users can buy the premium version of the game. "It’s just a link…the two apps are entirely separate."

Myriad developers, who build apps for Apple and Android-powered mobile devices, have already received similar letters from Lodsys. However, Radcliffe believes he is the first BlackBerry developer to do so. Apple and Android’s developer, Google, have already taken steps to fight Lodsys in court and in the US Patent and Trademark Office – in large part because both companies worry that the Lodsys patents could eventually apply to thousands of apps and threaten the entire mobile ecosystem on iOS and Android platforms.

Now, RIM may be forced to take similar steps. Radcliffe said he has contacted the Waterloo-based BlackBerry maker about the infringement letter, and is waiting to hear back. RIM did not respond to a request for comment by deadline Tuesday.

The bulk of those licensing demands centre on a patent Lodsys owns relating to in-app payment methods. Lodsys interprets the patent as not only covering payments made within the app environment, but also apps that contain links to payment methods that are entirely outside the app itself – for example, a link to a third-party payment website where users can buy and download premium versions of the app.

Not only has Lodsys become involved in sprawling court cases with more than 30 large companies, including Best Buy, adidas AG and The New York Times Co., it has also sent patent infringement and licensing demand letters to dozens, if not hundreds of small-time app developers. For the most part, those developers simply don’t have the money to fight back.

"It’s pretty much impossible for me to do," said Radcliffe, who has not yet decided what his next move will be. "Even an hour or two of an attorney’s time would wipe out everything I’ve made from the game."

Record number of students off to university

A record number of students – about 2,000 more than in the double cohort year – will be entering Ontario universities this fall, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 31.

The Council of Ontario Universities announced that enrolment has risen beyond 2003, when Grade 13 was eliminated and two grades graduated at the same time. This fall, as many as 90,000 first-year undergraduates have confirmed acceptance to universities in the province, the COU reported.

These days, postsecondary education is a prerequisite for most employers. "Two of three new jobs require postsecondary education and from 2004 to 2010, employment growth for university graduates outpaced all other levels of education," the COU noted as it released enrolment figures.

At York University, first-time enrolment is at the highest ever, President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri announced. He said more students are attracted to York because of the quality of programs, faculty and staff. The numbers – about 55,000 students in total – exceed the university’s goals for 2011-12.

  • President Shoukri also spoke about York’s best-ever fall registration, on Global Television Aug. 30.

Air Canada facing turbulence

Air Canada’s labour woes just won’t go away, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 31. The airline’s flight attendants have overwhelmingly rejected a tentative deal negotiated by their union and unanimously recommended for approval, echoing a similar rejection by the airline’s pilots this spring.

York University Professor Fred Lazar [Schulich School of Business] believes Air Canada must quickly win over both the flight attendants and pilots if it wants to get [its new] discount carrier off the ground. "Air Canada has to somehow cut a deal with these unions. They have to explain their position and the necessity of starting this low-cost carrier much better than they have," Lazar said, suggesting open house forums with small groups of employees across the country.

"They have to come up with better offers for the current employees, the pilots and the fight attendants, such as job guarantees, so they will buy into a second tier of employees for the low-cost carrier," he said.

Adding some playtime to your work schedule

There are many reasons company owners may want to host a business event for their employees, wrote the City Centre Mirror Aug. 30 in a story about The Amazing Chase, a team-building event hosted by Canadian Outback, Adventures and Events, a business event planning company with a location in Toronto. It could be to celebrate a specific sales goal met or to help eradicate conflict with their employees, said Mary Waller, professor of organizational behaviour at the Schulich School of Business at York University. "One way to help a conflict or coordination situation is to have an event, program or task away from work, off-site away from the work environment," Waller said.

She said putting your employees in a fun environment that mimics what they have to do within the work environment, like working towards a common goal together, there will be a difference in your employees with interpersonal conflict issues, camaraderie and morale. "There are lots of reasons why people get locked into a routine of being uncooperative with each other," she said. "To pluck them out of that environment and put them in a new one where no one is an expert, but you’re setting up a fun environment for them to sort of work together, it’s really effective," Waller said.

Waller said another benefit for small business owners to host an annual event is to reward your employees in a more cost-effective way. "You can’t afford to permanently increase their salaries, but you may be able to afford an event like that, and that can go a long way," she said.

Jews divided over new umbrella group

After nearly a century, the Canadian Jewish Congress has been wound down and merged with several other advocacy groups – a move that has left the Jewish community divided, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 31.

The CJC, the Canada-Israel Committee, the University Outreach Committee and the Quebec-Israel Committee are all disappearing in favour of a new entity, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

In an opinion piece in The Canadian Jewish News, Sally Zerker, professor emeritus at York University, maintained that lumping several groups into one will instead diminish the community’s ability to defend itself and Israel. "I believe we need multiple voices, strong and aggressive voices, out in the open and certainly not hidden behind some mythical behind-the-scenes operation," she argued.

It’s time to think about locking in mortgage

The gap between short-term and long-term rates has shrunk enough that it might be time for anyone renewing a mortgage to consider locking in, wrote the National Post Aug. 31.

Moves last week by the major banks to reduce the discount on variable-rate mortgages comes as the discounts for long-term mortgages have gotten as steep as they have ever been.

Moshe Milevsky, the York University finance professor [Schulich School of Business] who wrote the oft-quoted study that variable-rate mortgages do better than fixed-rate mortgages 88 per cent of the time, said if you start thinking about it like insurance, it comes down to your risk tolerance. "There are people who pay a lot for protection on their portfolio; there are people who pay a lot for life insurance," Milevsky says. "If the premiums are low enough, you might say, ‘Sure, I’ll pay.’ But if you have a tight budget, every basis point counts, and it might not be worth it.

"I still don’t get why more Canadians don’t split their mortgage," Milevsky says. In other words, locking in half of the mortgage and floating with prime on the other half. "When is a bank going to come to the realization Canadians hate making this choice?"

Sidestepping Cupid’s arrow

It’s an inevitable rite of passage in childhood: the first crush. But many parents aren’t prepared for it to happen at seven or eight years old, as seems to be the case – at least anecdotally.

It’s not uncommon these days to hear children in grades two or three talk about their “girlfriend” or “boyfriend”, wrote DurhamParent.com Aug. 30.

My son’s teacher says the attraction used to begin around Grade 4, then the end of Grade 3 and, these days, near the beginning of that grade. Is it anything to be concerned about?

Not necessarily, says Jennifer Connolly, a professor in psychology at York University in Toronto [Faculty of Health]. “There are people who say passionate attractions, or crushes, can happen at any age,” she explains. “They can be in children as young as Grade 1. They’re not sexualized at that point but they can be passionately attracted – very fond – of another child.”

Connolly says research on romantic feelings in younger children is scant, however, studies have shown that it’s normal for children in the middle school years, around Grade 6, to develop feelings for the opposite sex. She says the difference between these first crushes, and those that come in adolescence, is in the “quality of the attraction.” She says it’s sexualized by the time children become teenagers.

“When we think about young children’s passionate attractions to another child, we tend to put it in sexual terms, but I don’t think it necessarily has to be,” she says.

It’s a bit of an uphill battle, however, in the face of pop culture. Connolly says parents are working against many messages. “There’s modelling, for sure, and popular media is where kids turn to for learning about new relationships,” she says. “They’re not going to ask their moms and dads about girlfriends and boyfriends. They learn it from TV, from movies, from the music they start to listen to at that age, from video games.”

Israel must reform its economy: think-tank

With a social protest movement sweeping across and gaining ground in Israel, an Israeli think-tank has released a report urging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to articulate a new set of principles for economic growth, wrote the Canadian Jewish News in its Sept. 1 edition.

The Reut Institute, a non-partisan policy organization based in Tel Aviv, recently unveiled a set of proposals designed to defuse tensions. The document, “New Social Contract for Growth, Inclusiveness and Community Building”, is intended to stimulate debate and engender change.

Shirlee Harel, the institute’s director of development, will be in Toronto this week to discuss the protests that have prompted Israelis to take to the streets and set up tent cities. “After two decades of growth based on a totally free market approach, mixed with deep privatization that caused extreme social gaps leading to tremendous pressure on Israel’s middle class, a spark was lit in Israeli society,” said Harel, who will be accompanied by Martin Ben-Moreh, the institute’s director of Judaism and Renewed Zionism.

Harel, a 28-year-old graduate of York University and McGill University who made aliyah three years ago, said the institute has taken a leading role in responding to the wave of protests that have convulsed Israel in the past month.

A York student remembers 9/11

Ten years ago I mapped out my life goals, which consisted of Plan A and Plan B, wrote Hazel Lorraine [BA ’02] Aug. 31, in a first-person account on the Yahoo! Contributor Network. Plan A was this: upon graduating with my BA in psychology and communications from York University in Toronto, Canada, I was going to move to New York and get a day job related to my degree. Plan B was this: after securing a psychology day job in New York, my plan was to network my way through the New York entertainment scene and land acting jobs while writing. Unfortunately, Plan C happened – the 9/11 terrorist attacks – crushing the lives of thousands of innocent people and hindering the life plans of foreigners who dreamed of coming to New York thereafter.

Ten years later, life has changed dramatically. I live as a Canadian expatriate in Europe and although I’m no longer in North America, I have become a writer. Life in Europe gives me the excitement of experiencing different cultures and the biggest thrill ever – the inspiration for writing. But nothing compares to my time in New York.

I had visited New York before the 9/11 attacks on Sunday, Aug. 26. I stayed for a week, until Sept. 3, and clearly remember driving by the World Trade Center during my last night in Manhattan. The next morning I didn’t say goodbye to New York, I only said see you soon. It never dawned on me that I should have said goodbye to the Twin Towers because that was the last time I would ever see them.

When the Twin Towers were terrorized on that sunny Tuesday morning, I was sitting in my 8:30 am social psychology lecture sipping on my morning coffee and taking down notes. By the time the lecture had finished at 10 o’clock, word had spread around campus that the Twin Towers had been attacked and immediately everyone felt tense. By lunch time all the students and professors had gathered in the student square to watch the live news coverage on one of the campus’ televisions.

I didn’t tell anyone that I had driven by the Twin Towers just last week because I didn’t want to believe they were gone.

Wendy Babcock

Community activist, law student, writer, mentor, sister, mother, friend. Born May 29, 1980, in Toronto. Died Aug. 9, 2011, in Toronto of unknown causes, aged 31.

Wendy Babcock had a tough, amazing, terrible, wonderful, all-too-short life. It could even be said that she lived several different lives in her 31 years, wrote Holly Kramer in a Lives Lived column for The Globe and Mail Aug. 30.

Wendy’s childhood was less than idyllic, and she suffered sexual abuse at a very early age at the hands of a relative. Eventually she went into the foster care system. By eighth grade she had been raped. By ninth grade she had run away, dropped out and, of necessity, become engaged in prostitution to survive.

You’d hardly expect that, before the age of 25, a young woman with her history would have the wherewithal to turn such experiences into something good, but that’s exactly what Wendy did. She became a harm reduction worker, a mother and, ultimately, a student at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Wendy’s goal was to be in a position to effect real change in the lives of some of the most marginalized people in society. With her uncanny ability to zero in on the fault line of any argument, the wisdom borne of her life experiences, her capacity for critical analysis and her persuasive powers, there can be no doubt that she would have been one hell of a lawyer.

On Sept. 15, Wendy’s life will be celebrated by a huge gathering of her friends and colleagues. We will continue her work to fight stigma and discrimination, and toward social inclusion for all, in her memory.

Cottager makes Canadian water ski hall of fame

There is water skiing royalty in Haliburton County, wrote the Minden Times Aug. 30. Earlier this month, Boshkung Lake cottager Andy Murdison [BA ’69] was inducted into Water Ski and Wakeboard Canada’s Hall of Fame.

[A member of] the Lake Boshkung Skiers, Murdison took part and did well in serious competition and became one of the top-ranked water skiers in the world. In 1965, he made the Canadian team and skied in his first world championships in Australia. Murdison won four boys’ and four men’s national titles in his career and Canadian water ski company Sea Gliders even manufactured a signature series of slalom skis bearing his name.

In 1969, everything changed when Murdison graduated from York University and went off to live in Europe for a while. "I guess we all had to get real jobs," he said.

While water skiing for a living was not something that was economically viable, Murdison’s teenage passion would still inspire his career and he got into the sporting goods business. He and wife Bev currently reside in Newmarket. The couple has two sons, one of whom manages a wakeboard shop in Toronto. Murdison water skis to this day.

On air

  • Paul Lovejoy, professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and director of the Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on Global Migrations of African Peoples, spoke about an initiative to add 11 Canadian historic sites to UNESCO’s Slave Route Project, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Aug. 30.