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Seer Systems Considering Releasing Reality Code as Open Source

Posted on : 10-09-2009 | By : admin | In : Technology Licensing

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Seer Systems released the acclaimed Reality software synthesizer in 1997, at which time it was supported on Microsoft Windows 95, and eventually on Windows 98. Over the years, a recurring question has been “When will Reality be available on newer operating systems?” A decade later, Seer has not yet announced plans to release an upgraded version, a situation which many find confusing.

What the general public may not know, is that Seer has considered not only upgrading Reality to newer versions of Windows, but releasing the Reality source code to the public. For various reasons, however, Seer has done neither. A recent email exchange between a Remixer user and Stanley Jungleib, presented a new opportunity for the Seer Systems founder to update the legal and technical issues:


I’m a musician in Mexico City. I love the seer ReMixer, it sounds incredible. I sometimes use Vanvasco’s but it just does not compare.

Now, that said, I hate you guys for not making the windows XP upgrade! Who the heck uses Windows 98 anymore? When the screen in my old Compaq Armada (old laptop) died on me, I basically lost your awesome program. I’m now stuck with a very crappy one I use in my new laptop and I just hate it.

It’s like a masterwork gone totally to waste.

Seer Systems responds:

Thank you, my friend. I understand your frustration — although many still happily run Reality on Win 98 desktops with digital output.

The SeerMusic® technology (U.S. Pat #5,886,274) which defines the Remixer system has been licensable. But that is a separate matter from the body of assembly and C code upon which the Reality 1.5 real-time engine (the superset of all the products) is built.

One of the reasons you distinguish and love its sound is that Reality is (to my knowledge) still the only synthesizer that runs at 80-bit resolution.

Briefly, from 1993 when we invented the 486 synthesizer for Intel (within Win 3.1), and Pentium-rewritten for Win95 and Win 98, we utilized unique interrupt techniques to operate ‘outside’ the standard OS, if you will. Windows NT blocked our ability to do this. So, even were we to shoehorn Reality into a 64-bit system like Vista, it could not deliver the distinct audible results you appreciate in Win 98! (By the way, 80 vs. 64 bits is an entire CD’s worth of extra filter precision from 1999’s Reality, compared to virtually all other contemporary host-based systems.)

Seer has wanted to release the code to the open source community that may be preparing for 128-bit operating systems. But that is not simple either, because the engine contains other patented elements—most notably Sondius® physical modeling—that can’t just be ripped out with a delete key. No matter the disclaimers, warnings, and license terms clarifying the difference between technology and code, at this time open distribution would seem to create abundant opportunity for misunderstandings. Can the community recover the techniques which clearly contain a great heritage, while respecting the remainder as owned exemplifications?

Seer Systems welcomes suggestions to resolve this dilemma so that the development community can indeed learn from this “masterwork.”

– Stanley Jungleib

Seer Systems Demands Retraction from the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Posted on : 19-08-2009 | By : admin | In : Technology Licensing

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Stanley Jungleib, Chairman

If free speech depends on the judgment and methods of EFF’s current leadership, then they endanger everyone’s freedom.

I began working in music synthesis in 1979, through the next two decades emerging as an acknowledged industry leader who among other things brought to realization the host-based software synthesizer now standard on all computers. Yet, since 2004, EFF has put significant resources into discrediting Seer Systems, its patent, and me personally as part of its campaign on behalf of huge corporations to destroy the legal protections available to the individual inventor, via its ongoing “Patent Busting” project. In early 2009 I demanded that they retract their baseless and defamatory attacks, so far to no avail.

Accusing my single-person company Seer Systems of “threatening small companies trying to innovate,” EFF responded with truly Orwellian logic by aligning itself with Microsoft, Yamaha, Sony, Nokia, the Mayfield Fund, and Beatnik. For the record, founded in 1992, Seer Systems has to now received $1.2M in funding. In contrast, the “small company” Beatnik that Seer supposedly threatens has burned $40M while selling to the entire cell phone industry. Thus, Beatnik is small compared to Seer only in terms of relative success.

EFF claimed that Seer’s patent “could stifle new innovations in online music distribution”. Seer IS the innovator. All that is going on here is industrial competition. On one side is the ultimate extension of Seer’s unique software engine realized in 1995, forged in concert with Opcode through 1996, applied for patent protection in 1997, after detailed rejections granted in 1999, commercially deployed and defended since. On the other side are simply those who, with the benefit of a decade of hindsight, now realize I had a damned good idea.

EFF said that “Enforcement of the illegitimate Seer patent also threatens to compromise at least two public media standards, MPEG4 and XMF.” Those standards are not public: both are protected and controlled by fee-sponsored industry bodies (that is, corporations). MPEG-4 commands strict terms. From the weaker MMA, XMF was simply the rubber-stamped public face of Beatnik’s’ RMF (similar to the way General MIDI 1 was the rubber-stamped public face of Roland’s GS).

EFF has claimed that 274 is illegitimate because of prior art, insisting that “Mr. Jungleib extensively publicized techniques for music distribution in his book, and he did not seek a patent until after the methods entered the public domain.” First, whether I did or did not submit my book to my patent attorneys at the time of application, and what they did or didn’t do with it on what bases are all facts that can only be found in a file to which even I do not have access. So EFF can have no factual basis for this personal attack.

Second (and ignoring their confusion about copyright and public domain), whether the book itself is prior art is not a fact but their predetermined opinion. And it is an opinion which over five years of expert corporate litigation has not been supportable. So where does EFF find expert guidance in these highly technical matters?

From the dubious and disintegrating firm of Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder, now distinguished in Silicon Valley intellectual property by having six of its attorneys sanctioned by a U.S. Magistrate judge for withholding evidence in a patent infringement trial! Do EFF members know or simply not care that their leaders bet their reputation on a legal firm considered so corrupt that its founders have been forced to disassociate themselves from it?

Finally, the lady doth protest too much. While crowing of a great victory the simple fact is that in litigation of this order, re-examination is an anticipated, common defensive technique. As well, to refine their claims, inventors may themselves request re-exams.

So, Seer’s demand and warning to EFF has virtually nothing to do with their prompting a re-exam on 274. Seer Systems draws the line with EFF because they have been hijacked by corporate and Republican interests.

Ignoring any lessons from Journalism 101, the EFF refused to contact Seer, preferring to source a single complainer. There is a history to the relationship between Seer Systems and Headspace/Beatnik. Our work complemented each other and Thomas Dolby knew it. In 1999 discussions with Mayfield Fund which might have merged our two companies, I gave notice that the 274 patent was going to be issued within a few days. Mayfield made the informed decision to ignore Seer and deliberately develop Beatnik into an infringer. Thus again, naïvely supporting EFF and Beatnik in this issue is tantamount to supporting the irresponsibility of the Mayfield Fund specifically and its stable of corporate associates, as well as future corporate infringers, against the acknowledged innovator.

In case of any doubt about their collusion, it should be noted that within days after the re-examination was announced, Beatnik wrote Seer that under the current conditions it would no longer pay its royalties, parroting from EFF’s 2008 press release “Beatnik may well have paid money for a license to an invalid patent.” Since Beatnik’s license agreement specifically stated the contrary, questions arise for Seer about whose uninformed advice Beatnik was taking.

Since 1997, all attempts to disqualify Seer’s patent from prior art and other standard objections —encompassing a roster of national experts— have failed. Nevertheless, casually throwing around words, EFF utterly disregards and disrespects the extensive process of claim construction by which the federal courts have already rendered the specific meaning, applicability, and merit of every single key term and claim at issue within the 274 patent.

Never wishing to let mere facts stand in the way of self-serving headlines, EFF instead unleashed a Rovian strategy of name-calling and smear tactics. When challenged to substantiate their claims, EFF simply fell back on their timeworn “free speech”—the final refuge for the tabloids, and e-pimps it defends on behalf of craigslist and its 25% parent, Ebay. Conservative Republicans might want to know that a demonstrable percentage of their gubernatorial candidate’s income are dividends from well-publicized illegal activities on craigslist. Interestingly, while the Republican DOJ acquiesced, Eric Holder has made it clear he is not buying EFF’s clichés.

At least I have some good company: EFF is now suing even Apple for protecting it’s IP, as well. But in view of EFF’s recklessness, crumbling credibility and legislative losses, the question for the public and perhaps courts to decide is not whether EFF has the right to lie and slander. The important question is: when given all opportunity to reasonably do otherwise why does the EFF rely so much upon that freedom? Then necessarily, how can a group habituated to dissimulation and defamation really serve the public’s interest?

Every organization needs to clean house periodically. None is immune from the creep of arrogance and self-righteousness; of revolutionary ideals devolving into groupthink and moral hazards. Obviously, those who care to restore the EFF to its charter and potential need to take seriously President Obama’s call for everyone to re-examine their ideologies.

2004 January

Posted on : 01-01-2004 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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Reality Check:

www.buildorbuy.org: “Wavetable & Software Synthesizers”

What Exactly Is the “274” Patent?

Posted on : 22-03-1999 | By : admin | In : Seer History, Technology Licensing

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On March 23, 1999, the US Patent Office issued Patent #5,886,274 to Seer System. The title of the patent is “System and Method for Generating, Distributing, Storing, and Performing Musical Work Files.” (Check out this scan of the patent from the Seer Systems archives.)

Due to the EFF’s “Patent Busting” campaign, there seems to be considerable confusion around what exactly the “274 patent” describes. The EFF has gone so far as to call it “bogus” and “illegitimate,” but when pressed for their justification, the EFF respond that “free speech” is sufficient justification. They also point to Seer Systems’ founder, Stanley Jungleib’s book General MIDI as “prior art” that makes the patent invalid by describing the same music publishing system (in the section titled “GM2000”).

Does General MIDI describe the system described in the 274 patent? Does it even describe the SeerMusic system that Seer Systems released three years after General MIDI’s first publication?

Not at all.

In 1994 when Jungleib completed the first draft, and even in 1995 when the book was finally published, the devices with which musicians worked were still hardware devices – mostly keyboards and drum machines. Computers were used for sequencing and for editing synth programs, and Internet access was becoming increasingly commonplace, but software synths were simply not the sort of thing you could buy at a retail music store.

Jungleib wrote GM2000 to help synth manufacturers understand the difficulties facing composers and to encourage manufacturers to support General MIDI. GM2000 proposed a future version of GM in which a playback device could help hardware devices determine the most appropriate sounds for performing a composer’s work. If all else fails, the synths would have GM-mapped sounds to fall back on. In other words, the system would make the “worst case” a bit less bad.

Jungleib did not describe an end-to-end software solution that ensures that a composer’s work will sound identical on another system. Jungleib envisioned that system in October of 1995, months after the release of General MIDI. He then reassembled the Seer Systems design team and began work on Reality, the first step towards the SeerMusic system, in which he implemented the system that would eventually be protected by the “274 patent.”

If you’ve ever considered publishing a MIDI file of your own, but gave up on the idea because of all of the variables between you and your potential listeners, the difference between GM2000 and the 274 patent are obvious.

BTW – If you don’t have a copy of General MIDI, you can read it for free online and see for yourself.

Evolution of the Seer ’274 Patent

Posted on : 26-09-1995 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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In recent years, the software synthesizer market has come into full swing and digital audio is something that consumers have come to expect in everything from personal computers to mobile phones and cars. In many cases, the manufacturers of these devices have been licensing technology from Seer Systems, whose intellectual property is protected by US Patent #5,886,274. (For details, see What Exactly Is the 274 Patent?)

By the time Seer was awarded the 274 patent, it had developed software synthesizer products for Intel and Creative Labs for the consumer market, and a suite of music production and playback tools for the professional musical instrument market. (As detailed in “The Best Audio Helper App You Never Heard in Your Life.”)

Seer’s retail products have not been upgraded in nearly 10 years and are still only available for Windows 95 and Windows 98. So, why did Seer shift its attention from producing synthesizer products to protecting their intellectual property? The answer is that a combination of powerful technical and business forces caused Seer to drastically shift strategy were it to survive.

First, supporting Microsoft Windows NT and 2000 was impractical. Seer’s line of professional software synthesizers used 80-bit processing and relied on access to the CPU interrupt, to which they had access until Microsoft released Windows NT. In other words, an upgrade of Reality would require more than an upgrade, it would require a rewrite with no guaranty that it would provide the same sound quality as the 80-bit resolution their customers had enjoyed. Seer considered releasing Reality as an open source product,  but legal issues have complicated that path as well. (See “Seer Considering Releasing Reality Code as Open Source.”)

By 1997, Seer’s finances were in trouble. Creative was not actively selling Seer’s software synthesizer upgrade for the Sound Blaster, so royalty payments were nowhere near their projections. Seer founder, Stanley Jungleib recalls, “I was looking for markets. I felt my job was to build something that was investable, so I didn’t work closely on Reality as a product. My product was the company.”

Jungleib had written extensively on music production systems, and even speculated about systems that could leverage General MIDI to adapt to a composition, but until Jungleib heard Seer’s new Reality engine working, even he had not envisioned the comprehensive potential of a software-based music distribution system. “I wrote it down in October, 1995: A Painful Plan for Painless MIDI. I knew it was the Grail but still too early; at the time I didn’t make a big deal about it within Engineering, because they were having enough issues dealing with Creative Labs and Windows as it was.”

Jungleib recalls how discussions with Opcode’s founders, Dave Oppenheim and Chris Halaby created the synergy to most efficiently realize the system. “They had a great sequencer with a great audio handling system and we had the best software host-based synthesizer and Windows realtime engine. We were going to use their suite of Galaxy Editors as different ‘skins’ over the Reality engine. Melding our technologies could make a tool that would solve all these distribution problems for the professional musician.

“So I wrote this 120-page specification on how that would work. How our synthesizer would interface to their sequencer to deliver a totally predictable experience for the user. I had commands such as ‘preload by bar,’ ‘preload by sound number,’ ‘unload by bar number,’ ‘unload this range of bars’…. Breaking it up so the musician would have total control over the music, over what was allocated, when, and how it was delivered. You could draw resources on-the-fly from anywhere on the net, there was a bandwidth simulator … And very importantly as a response to what was going on with mp3 theft, provision was made for the musician to protect their creation. (What you might now call DRM.)”

Unfortunately, in 1998, Opcode was purchased by Gibson, and the joint venture stopped altogether. Sales of Seer products were still suffering, and between the software piracy, and continuing issues with Creative, Seer’s ability to provide livelihoods for its staff of 25 was in jeopardy.

“Only after the company was in really dire financial trouble did I decide to ask my lawyers ‘Can I patent this?’ That was in 1997. The patent was finally awarded in 1999 after several rounds of rejections.”

Ten years on, Jungleib continues to protect Seer’s intellectual property, though some companies underestimate the extent of Seer’s investment in the technology and the validity of the patent.

“There’s a difference between imagining something (like a time machine), and actually committing resources to specifying and building it,” says Jungleib. “At the time, everyone else was committed to their own little hardware platforms. Many still are. But, with Intel as my hardware department, and a synthesizer and effects engine that could redefine itself every 10 milliseconds, I was liberated from all those arbitrary limitations.”

#5,977,469 Real-time Waveform Substituting Sound Engine

Posted on : 02-12-1994 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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Date of Conception 19941202.
Application 08/784,372

A sound engine in a processor-based system utilizing real-time synthesis optimizes synthesis time, maximizes the number of fully-synthesized sound requests and preserves currently excessive sound requests. During synthesis, the sound engine attempts to full-synthesize all requests. If the sound engine determines that remaining sound requests are excessive and cannot be fully-synthesized, it preserves each excessive request by synthesizing a substitute waveform segment. If the sound engine determines that limiting the number of preserved requests is required, it synthesizes a concluding waveform segment for and then discards selected requests during selected synthesis intervals. Both substitute-synthesis and discarding of sound requests are achieved with minimized detrimental impact on ongoing sound performances.

Issued 19991102.
This was basically a vanity patent of questionable value that I allowed, and allowed to expired.

1992 December

Posted on : 01-12-1992 | By : admin | In : Seer History

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19921214 Seer Systems Incorporated
19921215 Satie 93 Initial Development
19921215 Stanley Jungleib (SJ) President
19921215 Dave Smith (DS) Eng Mgr
19921215 David Roach Staff Eng
19921215 Frank Kurzawa (FK) Staff Eng
19921215 Alan Fitzgerald, consulting sound designer
19921231 Intel Product Development Agreement for Satie signed
19921231 Satie Contract Specification