Cagey

March 19, 2017
 by Paul McGowan

There are two camps when it comes to protecting intellectual property: cagey/secret, and open/forthright.

Most companies producing technological equipment fall into the first camp, cagey/secret. They dance around their consumer offerings, extolling the advantages of unexplained mystery technology. They never reveal their magician’s tricks.

Then there’s the few who do their best to be open and forthright. These are the technical innovators openly sharing discoveries and proprietary process so that when they tout the benefit of their miracles, people can more easily make informed judgments on the IP’s merits. Their magician’s tricks are always revealed after each performance.

We’ve always been party to the second group, open and forthright. No, we don’t always give recipes and step-by-step instructions on how to copy what we’ve worked hard to achieve, but enough information that others can choose to follow if they wish.

I have never understood the need for secrecy.

Perhaps I was never a good magician’s apprentice.

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18 comments on “Cagey”

  1. Thumbs up for Chuck Berry.

    Yah Paul…I like cagey and secret …. I think everyone does :). Ok. So I lie. The big elephant in the room for your last several posts has been MQA I would think? Haha. I can feel it thru this thing we call the internet. But – I am completely in your camp on MQA – If you have a camp. I have so much on disc right now of DSD and hires pcm – I just don’t have an interest. I also have no interest in signing up for a monthly fee to stream music. I have anything I have ever wanted in my current collection – and if something else comes up by an artist I like – I buy it.
    The rest can listen to the unfold this unfold that wrap this put a bow on it …these bits don’t matter music. But hey – if their main source of music is tidal I guess I dig that. :).

  2. Proprietary knowledge, intellectual property, trade secrets, industrial secrets, military secrets, privacy, unreasonable search and seizure, patents, copyrights, there’s almost nowhere to hide. China may be able to steal our secrets for military weapons, Russia might have stolen the way to build an atom bomb, US intelligence agencies have records of every phone call, internet entry, tweet everyone in America and many others around the world have made, can see you, hear you through your phone, TV, computer all the time, spy satellites can track you anywhere in the world but there is one secret no one has managed to steal yet. It’s the premiere product of the world’s number one brand, the formula for making Coca Cola. There is almost nothing that cannot be stolen and copied. This goes for every piece of hi fi equipment that exists, and every consumer product ever made that can still be found. All they need is one example working or not or access to the internet if it is in any electronic document anywhere. Beware the cloud.

    When I built my house I asked the builder for a set of plans. He refused saying it was a trade secret. I said, c’mon, any second year drafting student could draw this house up in a few days right down to the last nail and an exact copy could be built anywhere in the world by any competent home builderr. In the early 1990s, US West, the phone company bought software from ??? and installed it in their network. It shut their whole network down. They came to my employer Bellcore and in less than one day, hundreds of experts went through millions of lines of code of their competitor’s product and found the bug, fixed it and got US West up and running again. I hate to break it to you folks but audio equipment, all of it, by industrial standards is “low tech.” There are no secrets.

    I’m fascinated by the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. I just happened to be working at Lockheed when the contract was awarded around September 2001. The criticisms of a self appointed “expert” named Pierre Spray who falsely claims to have had an important role in developing the F16 Fighter and the A10 Warthog ground support aircraft is nothing short of totally uninformed. With six million lines of computer code, the actual combat code not installed yet, the F35 is a flying array of sensors, computers, and is intended as an element of a swarm including many types of components completely interconnected by networks to all other elements in the swarm as well as practically every element of intelligence the US military has. Nothing like it exists and it will be very hard to steal. Developing comparable military weapons systems will be very expensive, difficult, and time consuming. Don’t worry, if an F35 is ever sold to or captured by an enemy of the US, the military can with one command turn it from a fifth generation fighter into a third generation fighter according to one Russian military expert who is awed by the network. He can be seen discussing it on YouTube with English subtitles.

    So in the little world of hi fi speakers, amplifiers, CD players, cables, and the like, there are no secrets. 37 years ago when I worked in Silicon Valley, in one company that built hard drives and controllers for mainframe computers, they wanted to “disassemble and analyze” components they purchased from other manufacturers, their suppliers. They were remarkably capable and well equipped. To examine ICs, they started by removing the outer case with a dentist’s drill, went at the semiconductor layers with glacial acetic acid, and wound up with electron microscopes. Today they’d probably use MRIs and advanced X-Ray techniques. They can disassemble most things now molecule by molecule, atom by atom if they want to. You and everything you are, own, and did are an open book to someone who wants to find out badly enough and has the money to do it. Why don’t they steal your BHK amplifier or D/A converter and manufacture it in China to sell at 1/10 the price? Only because they don’t want to.

    1. I guess your proprietary audio system ranks right up there with Coca~Cola, Soundmind. Very cool. Thanks for sharing your enlightening global perspective.

      When hiking in Colorado I always keep an eye on the cloud. It can become overwhelming in a matter of hours. And when hiking in the Tetons, I always keep an eye out for grizzly bears. Similar danger.

  3. I used to work for a business owned by a world renowned chef. In off season he would sometimes offer cooking classes to the locals.

    I was watching one class while one of his assistants was standing next to me. He explained to me. You can show them everything that needs to be done. But, if everything is not done at the exact right time, in an exact right way… and in the right order … it will not end up being the same.

    It was an art form in motion. I guess I can assume that the same principle applies to equipment designers disclosing what they have done.

    1. No. Not at all. I expect food scientists to one day manufacture the world’s greatest wines on an industrial scale at low cost. Recently discovered, a way to manufacture spider silk cheap and fast. A remarkable material.

          1. Graphene seems to be having some early positive returns, particularly with a few of Synergistic Research’s products. I expect there is a lot going on with this material in other spheres.

    2. Genez – I get your point. I think in order to create, you need to be able to work in the moment, then subject the inspiration recieved in the moment to the rigors of repeated application.

      Scientists, and others with both feet firmly in the shifting concrete of the “real world” (vs. the worlds of art, music and cookery, e.g. me) might see it otherwise. They might feel that if one cannot create a list of components that can be assembled according to certain procedures – like a reciepe – it is not a valid, reproducible experiment. This leave the cook out of it.

  4. Paul – forgive me, but I can easily picture you as the Apprentice with the mop and bucket, slogging away – who couldn’t help but pick up the wand, and start waving it around to the music in your head. And good thing, too – the rest of us have benifited from that : )

  5. Agreed always better to be open, I think with Hi-end audio where the high cost demands justification explanation is better than magic. Taking this further with my own Jaikoz/SongKong software I opened sourced the file reading/writing library early on to improve standards, although you could argue Ive helped out my competitors by providing them with a free very useful library its has also benefited me, I benefit from extensive user testing and code improvements at no cost to me.

    Some element of sharing knowledge without giving everything away totally for free benefits society.

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