Pinging the first hop

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In a previous blog post, I described that I had set up a smart plug that pings a pre-arranged IP address, and if the ping fails, the smart plug will power-cycle our modem and main router in our office.

The world we live in is enriched because there are smart people around us (not only smart plugs!).  One of those smart people is alert reader Manuel Fortin, who commented:

Very interesting, but I see a problem with the ping feature. What address will you use? If the address is unreachable for any reason that is unrelated to your modem and router, you will just end up with an endless loop of resets. Pinging an address within your network will not reset the system in case you lose internet access. Pinging an address outside of your network would completely disable your network if that address only, or a subset of the internet, cannot be accessed. It happens that servers, even from the most reputable companies, experience problems, or that problems make some part of the internet impossible to access.

Of course he is exactly right.  It is the Goldilocks problem.  Ping a host that is too close, and the ping result tells you nothing of interest.  Ping a host that is too far away, and the ping result might get overwhelmed with noise from Internet connectivity failures that have nothing to do with any good reason for power-cycling of your own modem or router.  It needs to be “just right”.  So how to do it “just right”? Continue reading “Pinging the first hop”

Examiner’s Statement of Reasons for Allowance – why we care?

The other day we received a Notice of Allowance in one of our US patent cases.  In the Notice, the Examiner provided an Examiner’s Statement of Reasons for Allowance (ESORFA).  We did what we usually do in such situations — we reported the Notice to the client, along with a suggestion that the client may wish to consider whether it is comfortable with the ESORFA.

(Yes, yet another six-letter initialism being coined.  You saw it here first, folks!  You might think it is an acronym but it’s not.  See this blog article.)

Often the reporting of the Notice of Allowance is the end of it.  The client never offers any comment one way or the other about the ESORFA, we pay the Issue Fee, the patent issues, and no one ever give’s another moment’s thought about the ESORFA.

But in this case I was absolutely delighted when the inventor responding by saying he was not sure what he should be looking for, and wondering how or why he would be uncomfortable.  It is always welcome news when an inventor makes the time and the energy to get involved in the details of the patent process, whether it be the drafting of the claims at the outset or a review of ESORFA at the conclusion, or at points in between.

How does one explain to an inventor how to react to an ESORFA?  I gave it a try. Continue reading “Examiner’s Statement of Reasons for Allowance – why we care?”

Power cycling your main router and modem

Everybody nowadays uses smart plugs.  A smart plug is a thing that you plug into the wall and then you plug something (maybe a lamp) into it.  The smart plug typically connects to your wifi and from there to the Internet.  Using an app on your smart phone, or using Alexa, you can remotely send a signal to the plug to tell it to turn off the lamp.  Later you can send another signal to the plug to tell it to turn the lamp back on.  Smart plugs are a lot of fun and you can do lots of interesting things with them.

Now let’s talk about the cable or DSL modem that connects your office to the Internet (see figure at right).  There is a main router the WAN port of which connects to that modem, and the LAN ports of which connect (directly or indirectly through ethernet switches) to all of the devices in your office.  Although one hopes that it does not happen very often, the real-life situation is that every now and then one feels the need to power-cycle the main router and modem.

Suppose you were to use one of the smart plugs of the kind that I just described, as a way to control the electrical power (shown by dashed lines in the figure) to the main router and modem.  It turns out this would be a really unwise thing to do.  Do you see why?

Think about it.  Suppose you were to use the app on your smart phone to send a signal to the smart plug, telling it to turn off the main router and modem.


The situation at this point would be that you would never be able to send a signal to the smart plug, telling it to turn on the main router and modem.  The reason being that the main router and modem are off.  Meaning that the smart plug does not have any connection to the Internet.

Meaning that if you had sent the “power off” command from some remote location, then to get things turned on again, you would have to travel in a car or airplane or train to the office location to turn things back on.


So this explains why if you know what to search for, you can find a very specialized kind of smart plug, a smart plug where you can send a single command that tells the smart plug to turn off the controlled devices and then turn them back on.   My favorite smart plug in this category is the EZOutlet2, shown at right.

This smart plug connects to your network with a wired ethernet cable, not wifi.  And you can send it any of three commands — turn the outlet off, turn the outlet on, and reset the outlet (which means turning the outlet off and then back on).  The reset command is the only command that makes any sense if you have the smart plug connected to a main router and modem.  To say this another way, if you were to have this smart plug connected as in the diagram above, you would never never never be using the “turn the outlet off” command (because that is irreversible).  And you would never never never be using the “turn the outlet on” command (because that is impossible).  The only command you would ever actually use is the “reset the outlet” command.

Yet another really nice thing about this smart plug is that if you like, you can configure it so that it pings some predetermined IP address from time to time.  You can configure it so that if the ping fails, the smart plug will power-cycle (reset) its outlet.  In the setup portrayed above, Ihave it configured so that the smart plug will be power-cycling the main router and modem if a ping fails.  Hopefully this reset will restore Internet connectivity to the office.

The smart plug can also be configured to carry out a scheduled reset, say once a week on Sunday morning.  It seems to me that there are pros and cons to setting up scheduled resets of critical equipment like main routers and modems.  I have never actually used this “scheduled reset” feature.

Do you have such a smart plug set up in your office?  By this I mean a smart plug that can respond to a single command by power-cycling its connected equipment?  Maybe a smart plug that can do this in response to a failed ping?  Maybe a smart plug that simply resets the equipment once a week regardless of whether the equipment actually needs to be reset?  Please post a comment below.

Setting up a tripwire for new filings in EFS-Web and Patentcenter

(Note:  this tripwire feature is feature request FR7.  The “last 30 ack receipts” feature is feature request FR4.)

(Update:  Ideascale does not seem to work any more.  For example this very suggestion by the person mentioned below is no longer to be seen in the Ideascale system.)

In this posting I will talk about three things — a feature that USPTO ought to implement in EFS-Web and in Patentcenter alpha — and a reminder of the existence of the Ideascale system which USPTO has set up for receiving suggestions — and a thanks to a member of the patent community who used Ideascale to offer up the feature that I am now going to write about.

The feature is, USPTO ought to set it up in EFS-Web and in Patentcenter so that it is possible to set up tripwires.  By tripwire I mean a function so that in an automatic way, any new filing of a document by a filer would get communicated to some particular pre-established email address. Continue reading “Setting up a tripwire for new filings in EFS-Web and Patentcenter”

Wow I am an Ideascale Occupier!

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(Update:  More than a year has passed and few, if any, of the Patentcenter bug reports that I posted to Ideascale have been acted upon by USPTO.  So I have stopped posting to Ideascale.)

USPTO uses a system called Ideascale as a way to collect suggestions and comments from users of PAIR and EFS-Web and the alpha-test of Patentcenter (which will eventually replace PAIR and EFS-Web).

There is a small but fairly dedicated community of USPTO customers who are users of these systems, who regularly post things to Ideascale.  I am one of them.  And I am astonished to learn that I have been awarded the status of “Occupier” in the Ideascale system at the USPTO. Continue reading “Wow I am an Ideascale Occupier!”

Save the date: PCT Seminar in San Jose on April 4

The Schwegman firm, carrying on a tradition of many years now, will offer a full-day live PCT Seminar in San Jose, California on Thursday, April 4, 2019.  Schwegman provides a wonderful service to the patent community with these seminars, which it provides free of charge.

Yours truly will be teaching this all-day seminar which will take place at the San Jose Marriott hotel.

Save the date!

Not only does this seminar provide a full day of training on the Patent Cooperation Treaty, but it offers invaluable networking opportunities during the breaks.

New topics since last year’s Schwegman PCT seminar will include a discussion of the five types of PCT Declarations, and best use of the DAS system.

When the registration web page becomes available, I will post the link in this blog. This seminar always sells out!  So you don’t want to miss the opportunity to register for this seminar.

If you want to make sure that you hear about the availability of the registration web page right away, make sure you are subscribed to this blog.