US 20050044565 A1
The present invention provides a method and system for accessing services in a television system. In one implementation, a DHCT presents a user a menu containing a plurality of selectable link representations corresponding to separate services or applications offered by the cable television system. The user navigates the menu with a remote device and selects a desired service by choosing the selectable link representation corresponding to the desired service or application. The DHCT receives the user input, translates the selectable link command into an executable call, and activates the service or application corresponding to the selected link representation from the menu chosen by the user.
1. A method to create a menu for a user to access a plurality of services by a client device coupled to a server device, comprising the steps of:
presenting a system operator a graphical list of the plurality of services provided by the server device for incorporation in the menu;
implementing the server device to incorporate a selectable link representation in the menu for each of the plurality of services designated for incorporation in the menu; and
communicating to each of a plurality of client devices the plurality of selectable link representations designated for incorporation in the menu.
2. The method of
implementing the menu to enable a user of the client device to add one or more selectable link representations.
3. The method of
implementing the menu to enable a user of the client device to disable one or more selectable link representations.
4. The method of
implementing the menu for activation by the user of the client device upon inputting a channel mapped to the menu.
5. The method of
implementing the menu for activation by the user of the client device upon selecting the menu denoted by a channel in an interactive program guide.
6. The method of
implementing the menu for activation by the user of the client device upon the client device receiving a remote input mapped to the menu.
The present application is a divisional of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/565,931 entitled Navigation Paradigm for Access to Television Services filed May 4, 2000, the disclosure and teachings of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
This invention relates in general to the field of television systems, and more particularly, to a user interface for accessing services in television systems.
Historically, television services have been comprised of analog broadcast audio and video signals. Cable television systems now receive broadcasts and retransmit them with other programming to users over land-line networks, typically comprising fiber optic cable and/or coaxial cable. With the recent advent of digital transmission technology, cable television systems are now capable of providing much more than the traditional analog broadcast video. In addition, two-way and advanced one-way communications between a subscriber and a cable system headend are now possible.
In implementing enhanced programming, the home communication terminal (“HCT”), otherwise known as the settop box, has become an important computing device for accessing video services and navigating a subscriber through a maze of services available. In addition to supporting traditional analog broadcast video functionality, digital HCTs (or “DHCTs”) now also support an increasing number of services that are not analog, but rather digital; are not basic broadcast, but rather two-way communication such as video-on-demand; and are not basic video, such as e-mail or web browsers. These are all in addition to the host of other television services that are increasingly being demanded by consumers, examples of which include audio and audio/visual programming, advanced navigation controls, impulse pay-per-view technology, and on-line commerce. In addition to the interactive services, the increased bandwidth available through a digital television system has made it possible for a subscriber to have access to hundreds, or even thousands, of channels and/or services. Thus, in order to provide these more powerful and complex features, the simple conventional channel abstractions need to be extended beyond those that have traditionally been provided.
Each HCT or DHCT (collectively hereinafter “DHCT”) is typically connected to a cable or satellite television network. The DHCTs generally include hardware and software necessary to provide the functionality of the digital television system at the client's site. Preferably, some of the software executed by a DHCT is downloaded and/or updated via the cable television network. Each DHCT typically includes a processor, communication components and memory, and is connected to a television or other display device, such as a personal computer. While many conventional DHCTs are stand-alone devices that are externally connected to a television, a DHCT and/or its functionality may be integrated into a television or personal computer, as will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art.
Because many separate services may be offered by a single cable television service provider to each individual subscriber, including television viewing channels as well as other applications, there is a need for the DHCT to not only be able to provide each service or application that the cable television system provider offers but also be able to flexibly control access to services that are denoted as premium services. As system operators of cable television systems continue to add services and applications, a problem exists in both making the subscriber aware of and also in providing quick access to the new services and channels. Because of the large number of viewing options presented to a subscriber, a problem also exists in providing the subscriber a quick and efficient method to access the most popular or commonly viewed services.
Briefly described, the preferred embodiment of the present invention provides a method and system for accessing services in a television system. In one implementation, a DHCT presents a subscriber a menu containing a plurality of selectable link representations corresponding to separate services or applications offered by the cable television system. The subscriber navigates the menu with a remote device and selects a desired service for viewing by choosing the selectable link representation corresponding to the desired service or application. The DHCT receives the user input, translates the selectable link command into an executable call, and activates the service or application corresponding to the selected link from the menu chosen by the subscriber.
Many objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to one with skill in the art upon examination of the following drawings and detailed description.
The invention can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The components in the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the present invention. In the drawings, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.
In one implementation, a memory portion 29 of the DHCT 16 includes flash memory 31 and dynamic random access memory (DRAM) 32 for storing the executable programs and related data components of various applications and modules for execution by the DHCT 16. Both the flash memory 31 and the DRAM memory 32 are coupled to the processor 24 for storing configuration data and operational parameters, such as commands that are recognized by the processor 24.
Basic functionality of the DHCT 16 is provided by an operating system 33 that is contained in flash memory 31. One or more programmed software applications, herein referred to as applications, are executed by utilizing the computing resources in the DHCT 16. The application executable program stored in flash memory 31 or DRAM memory 32 is executed by processor 24 (e.g., a central processing unit or digital signal processor) under the auspices of the operating system 33. Data required as input by the application program is stored in DRAM memory 32 and read by processor 24 from DRAM memory 32 as need be during the course of application program execution. Input data may be data stored in DRAM memory 32 by a secondary application or other source, either internal or external to the DHCT 16, or possibly anticipated by the application and thus created with the application program at the time it was generated as a software application program, in which case it is stored in flash memory 31. Data may be received via any of the communication ports of the DHCT 16, from the headend 11 via the DHCT's network interface (i.e., the QAM or out-of-band tuners) or as user input via receiver 26. A type of input data fulfills and serves the purpose of parameters as described below. Data generated by application program is stored in DRAM memory 32 by processor 24 during the course of application program execution.
The flash memory 31 also contains a platform library 36. The platform library 36 is a collection of functionality useful to applications, such as a Timer Manager, Compression Manager, Database Manager, Widget Toolkit, String Managers, and other utilities (not shown). These utilities are accessed by applications as necessary so that each application does not have to contain these utilities thus resulting in memory consumption savings and a consistent user interface.
A Service Application Manager (SAM) provides a model in which the user can access services available on the system. A service consists of an application to run and a parameter, such as data content, specific to that service. The SAM handles the lifecycle of the applications on the system, including the definition, initiation, activation, suspension and deletion of services they provide and the downloading of the application into the DHCT 16 as necessary. Many services can be defined using the same application component, with different parameters. The SAM includes a SAM server (not shown) in headend 11 and a SAM client 37 in the DHCT 16. The SAM client 37 (hereinafter referred to as SAM 37) is a part of the platform 36. As a non-limiting example, an application to tune video programming could be executed with one set of parameters to view HBO and a separate set of parameters to view CNN. Each association of the application component (tune video) and one parameter component (HBO or CNN) represent a particular service that has a unique service ID.
An application client is the portion of an application that executes on the DHCT 16 and provides the application's services to the user typically through a graphical user interface. Also contained in flash memory 31 is a navigator application 35 that provides a navigation framework for the user to access services available on the cable system. Examples of the services include, in one implementation, watching television and pay-per-view events, listening to digital music, and an interactive program guide, each of which is controlled through separate applications in flash memory 31. The navigator 35 also allows users to access various settings of the DHCT 16, including volume, parental control, VCR commands, etc.
Interactive program guide (IPG) 38, Watch TV 42, and pay-per-view (PPV) 44 are all resident applications in flash memory 31. The IPG 38 displays a program guide to the user and populates the guide with program data for selection. Watch TV 42 enables a user to simply “watch television” while PPV 44 enables viewing of premium television services. These applications, because they are in flash memory 31, are available to the user and do not need to be downloaded each time the DHCT 16 initializes.
The applications that are stored in the DRAM 32 may be applications that are loaded when the DHCT 16 initializes or are applications that are downloaded to the DHCT 16 upon a user-initiated command using an input device such as the remote 27. In this non-limiting example, as shown in
The applications shown in
Other forms of entering input commands, such as voice-activated commands in a DHCT 16 with an input communication port that receives signals from a wired or wireless microphone and circuitry to process and compare digitized speech signals, would be subject to similar configuration so that DHCT 16 does not respond to input commands reserved for the navigator 35. In this alternate embodiment, the audio input port (not shown) in the DHCT 16 is a single receiver device. Additionally, the DHCT 16 has digital signal processing capability that implements a subtraction filter to effect subtraction of the audio generated by the DHCT 16 from the speech signal received from the user.
Another application shown in
References to the selection of a service or entry from the multiplicity of services and/or entries displayed by the service guide 39 on display 21 comprise the process of interactively navigating by moving the highlight cursor and transmitting input commands to DHCT 16. The processor 24 processes data extracted and/or interpreted from the input commands to effect visual cursor position and visual feedback of the user's selection on the display 21. When the user inputs a selection, the processor 24 invokes communication between internal components in the DHCT 16, including software components such as the navigator 35 and SAM 37, to activate the selected service. The processor 24 employs the messaging services of the operating system 33 to effect the communication between any two or more of the internal components.
One of the selectable link labels 56 is highlighted to visually identify the current cursor position 58 so that the user can enact cursor navigation functionality and move among the selectable link labels 56, as shown in step 64 (
In the preferred embodiment, the selectable link labels 56 are written in a customized version of the middleware markup language HTML. The selectable link label 56 is only one type of link representation that may be displayed to the user by the DHCT 16. Moreover, a link label 56 may be displayed as text only, text plus an icon, or an icon only. The selectable link labels 56 are rendered based upon HTML (or XML) hyperlink definitions. Therefore, the link definitions are comprised of an anchor <A> to define the start and destination of the hypertext link definition, and the text between the start and an end tag defines the label for the link definition. The label can include graphics defined with IMG or OBJECT elements. One example link definition expressed in HTML includes the following syntax: <A HREF=“tv://destination_service”><IMG SRC=“graphic_icon”>text label</A>. In this example, “tv://destination service” is the destination definition (also referred to herein as a destination address, destination reference, service reference, or universal resource locator (URL)) and Is “<IMG SRC=“graphic_icon”>text label” is the label definition (also referred to herein as one type of link representation definition or label reference). Also in this example, the label definition includes an IMG element and text, both of which will be used to generate visual representations that are selectable by the user. The IMG element further defines the location of the image file, as a URL.
A system operator at the headend 11 uses a service guide server 48 (
In an alternate embodiment, a user customizes his/her service guide display 52 by calling a telephone number that guides the user through a series of automated voice menus. The user enters account information and a personal identification number received from the cable service company and uses a brochure as a reference to make selections through an automated phone menu system.
In another alternate embodiment, the user accesses the Internet through a computer, PC, DHCT 16, or similar device and logs on to a specified secure and encrypted web site facilitated by the cable service company to select the set of services that the user desires in the service guide display. The user enters account information and a password or personal identification number to navigate through a set of menus and make customized selections that are routed from a secured web site to the service guide server 48.
In another alternate embodiment, the user configures the service guide menu 52 similarly in an interactive fashion by navigating through a series of menus generated by a configuration application (not shown) running in the DHCT 16 and presented on display 21. The user can re-customize his/her service guide preferences in the future by calling the automated phone menu system, logging on to the specified secure and encrypted web site, or through the configuration application running in the DHCT 16. Regardless of which method is utilized to create the service guide menu 52 in the service guide server 48, the information is communicated to the service guide client 39 executing on each DHCT 16 in the network 20 for display to the user.
The service guide 39, in the preferred embodiment, is communicated to the DHCT 16 when the DHCT 16 initializes as part of a power up sequence, but, in alternative embodiments, the service guide 39 could be a resident application in the DHCT 16 or could be downloaded to the DHCT 16 upon command by the user. The service guide client executable 39 is received from a broadcast file system (BFS) carousel that continually broadcasts it and the service guide HTML file(s) 52 across the network. This BFS system (not shown) provides a mechanism for delivering various types of media or data from a group of servers to a BFS client 41 in the operating system 33 for each DHCT 16. This data can contain practically any type of information. Applications on both the server and the client can access the data via the BFS in a similar manner to a file system found on disk operating systems. In an alternative embodiment, the HTML file(s) are retrieved via HTTP from the service guide server 48.
The service guide menu 52 (
The underlying link definition, or syntax, that comprises the selectable link labels 56 (
Examples of services that can be included in the service guide menu 52 include, but are not limited to, those provided by the following applications: watching TV, listening to digital music, impulse pay-per-view, interactive program guide, DHCT settings, E-mail, video-on-demand, games-on-demand, videophone and/or conferencing, ticker tape data services, web browser, home banking, billing, calendar, calculator, context-sensitive help applications that display help text depending on the current channel service, downloading digital music into an MP3 device attached to the DHCT, uploading images from a digital camera attached to the DHCT, e-commerce, etc. In the preferred embodiment, any service available to the user in the cable system 10 can be accessed via the service guide menu 52, as configured by the system operator and/or in the respective alternate embodiments as configured by the user to reflect a user's own customization and preferences.
As discussed above, graphical icons and text representing the services can be included as part of the selectable link labels 56, as shown in 56 a, 56 b, and 56 c. For example, the HTML link definition syntax <A HREF=“tv://service/ipg”><IMG SRC=“bfs://images/ipg_icon.jpg”>What's On</A> would be used to create the selectable link representation in 56 a. This embodiment is shown in
An alternative embodiment enables additional information about the selectable link labels to be incorporated in the link definition itself by specifying a title for the information to be displayed. As a non-limiting example, the link definition <A HREF=“tv://service/wnbc”TITLE=“information about the link”>IMG SRC=“tv://service/logo/215”></A> instructs the service guide 39 that additional information exists for this service and may be presented to the user in a variety of formats depending on the layout of the service guide menu 52. The “TITLE” attribute describes the object specified with the HREF attribute. If the service guide menu 52 is arranged in a horizontal toolbar format at the bottom of the screen (see
If, as in one example, the title information for all selections is not already shown to the user upon initial presentation of the service guide menu 52, the information display about each selectable link label 56 may be accessed in several methods. As a non-limiting example, an information key on a remote device 27, such as the “INFO” key 72 (
The underlying link definition for the selectable HTML link label 56 may additionally include information regarding activation of the target service in a specified screen state and location. As a non-limiting example, the selectable link definition <A HREF=“tv://channel/32”>NBC</A> uses the full screen in tuning to the channel that is assigned to the target service. Upon selection of the link label 56, for example, though not shown, corresponding to the link definition <A HREF=“tv://channel/13”>ABC</A> from the service guide 52 (
Some applications may be configured so that they are presented to the user in only a portion and/or relative spatial position of the display while another service or application is presented to the user in another location of the display 21. For example, a selectable link definition such as <A HREF=“tv://service/email;env=fullScreenObstructed (location)”>E-mail</A> (where location is a set of xmin, ymin, xmax, ymax coordinates) indicates to the service guide 39 that the E-mail service is to be activated in full screen obstructed mode and that the current TV program 59 is to be shown in a reduced location. A user is able to utilize the E-mail service while the DHCT 16 presents a current TV program 59 in a reduced screen portion of the display. Similarly, the selectable link label 56 in the service guide 52 may also specify activation of the target service in a reduced portion of the screen while retaining the current TV program 59 in the remaining portion of the display. For instance, a sport ticker tape may be designated to be displayed in the bottom of the TV display while a stock ticker tape may be designated to be displayed on the top. Thus, as a non-limiting example, the selectable link definition <A HREF=“tv://service/stocks;env=reducedScreen(location)”>Stock Ticker</A> instructs the service guide 39 (
As discussed above, it is possible for the service guide menu 52 to include a link label 56 to a specific channel number accessible by the user. For example, the link definition <A HREF=“tv://channel/13”>ABC</A> can be included in the service guide content. When selected by the user, the service guide instructs the navigator to tune the DHCT to channel 3, thereby activating the service (i.e., ABC) defined for that channel.
The service guide menu 52 is additionally configurable to control the behavior and presence of the links based on the service authorization status of the DHCT 16. As a non-limiting example, the XML syntax <META UNAUTHORIZED=“display_mode”> in the header of the service guide customized HTML file, sets the display format of the link according to the level of authorization for the user. Service authorization information is available to the service guide via the SAM API. If the “display_mode” is “activeIfAlternative,” the link label 56 is selectable (shown active) even if the service is unauthorized as long as an alternate unauthorized service is available. Thus, the user may select the link label 56 to the target service, but the service guide 39 will activate the alternative service if the service specified in the service guide menu 52 is not authorized. Additional information regarding activation of alternative services to unauthorized services may be found in related U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/542,484 filed Apr. 3, 2000, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety. If the “display_mode” is set to “inactive,” links to services that are not authorized for the DHCT 16 are displayed to the user in a “grayed out” format so that the user may see the link label 56 but may not select the link label 56 for activation of the underlying target service. Alternatively, unauthorized services may not be displayed at all. Alternatively, unauthorized services are coalesced into a service category such as “Other Purchasable Services” or “Other Available Services.”
Either the system operator of the cable television system or the user of the DHCT 16 may configure the display status of the link labels 56 with respect to authorization status of the target service. The system operator may designate the display status with respect to service authorization status for a link by a graphical user interface that graphically configures the service guide 39 XML/HTML code. The user, through a settings menu (not shown) may configure the service guide menu 52 so that the display mode of one or more selectable link labels 56 is “inactive” or “none” so the display of the selectable link label 56 conforms to the display modes described above.
The service guide menu 52 is additionally configurable to control the behavior and presence of the link labels 56 based on the parental control status of the DHCT as maintained by the navigator 35 application. As a non-limiting example, the syntax <META BLOCKED=display_mode”> in the header of the service guide customized HTML file directs the service guide 39 to set the display format of the link label 56 according to the level of parental control set by the user. Service parental control information is available to the service guide 39 via the navigator API. If the “display_mode” is “active,” the link label 56 is selectable (shown active) even if the service is blocked. Thus, the user may select the link label 56 to the target service, but the service guide will display a pop-up barker (not shown) indicating that the service is not available because it has been blocked by parental control. If the “display_mode” is set to “inactive,” links to services that are blocked by parental control are displayed to the user in a “grayed out” format so that the user may see the link label 56 but may not select the link label 56 for activation of the underlying target service. Finally, if the “display_mode” is set to “none,” links to services that are blocked by parental control are not included in the service guide menu 52.
Either the system operator of the cable television system or the user of the DHCT 16 may configure the display status of link labels 56 with respect to parental control status of the target service. The system operator may designate the display status with respect to service blocking status by a graphical user interface that graphically configures the service guide 39 HTML (or XML) code. More likely, the user, through a settings menu (not shown), may configure the service guide menu 52 so that the display mode of one or more link labels 56 is “inactive” or “none” so the display of the selectable graphic 56 conforms to the display modes described above. Alternatively, the user can configure the service guide menu 52 by calling the automated phone menu system, logging on to a specified secure and encrypted web site, or navigating through a configuration application running in the user's DHCT 16 as described above.
The service guide 52 may allow configurability by the user so as to include one or more favorite links so designated by the user to appear in the service guide menu 52. While the system operator may configure one or more selectable link labels 56 to always be presented in the service guide menu 52, the system operator may configure the service guide menu 52 to display selectable link labels 56 to services chosen by the user for incorporation in the service guide menu 52. As a non-limiting example, the system operator can include the syntax <A HREF=“tv://favorite/favorite_number”> whereby a user may choose to designate a frequently watched channel, such as ESPN, to appear on the service guide menu 52 through a settings display (not shown) so the user can quickly access the ESPN channel upon activating the service guide menu 52. The user may designate any channel or service as a favorite for inclusion in the service guide menu 52 for quick access. The user is limited to the number of favorite selectable link labels 56 as permitted by the system operator in configuring the service guide display, as specified in the “favorite_number” in the non-limiting example.
In an alternative embodiment, multiple favorite entries are allowed in the service guide menu 52 and the user is allowed to edit and rename the entry specifying a favorite set. Furthermore, any service included in a favorite set can appear in one or more favorite sets as the user desires.
In an alternative embodiment, selectable link labels 56 may be added to the service guide menu 52 by the service guide 39 itself for services most frequently activated by the user. The navigator 35 or other software in the DHCT 16 may be configured to tabulate the frequency of activation for services channels or applications and include one or more selectable link labels 56 for the most popular or frequently activated services. Thus, as a non-limiting example, the system operator can configure the service guide menu 52 to include one or more link labels 56 to frequently accessed services by specifying the syntax <A HREF=“tv://frequent/frequent_num”>. If a user frequently utilizes, for example, a Cyberdeli service (an interactive service supported by the DHCT 16, but not shown, for ordering delicatessen foods), the service guide 39 will include a selectable link label 56 referencing the Cyberdeli service in the service guide menu 52. Alternatively, the DHCT 16 may present the user the tabulated list of most frequently activated services for the user to choose which services to incorporate on the favorites list.
The display order and the number of most frequently activated services by the user may be programmed by the cable operator or alternatively configurable by the user during any of the user configuration sessions described above. In an alternate embodiment, the set of services most frequently activated by the user is displayed in the service guide menu 52 in chronological order from top to bottom. Alternatively, the displayed chronological order is from bottom to top. In yet another alternate embodiment, the finite set of services most frequently activated by the user is displayed in the service guide menu 52 in an order programmable as a function of both chronology and the amount of time of use of each service. For instance, a first service that was frequented fewer times than a second service within the past few days may be displayed with higher precedence in the display order or retained for a longer period of time in the set of most frequently activated services if the accumulated time usage of the first service is significantly higher than the second service over the same span of time.
The service guide menu 52 may be configured to additionally display a selectable link label 56 to services or channels in a time-specific manner. The service guide 39 may be configured to switch as time progresses from a first configurable service guide menu presentation to a second configurable service guide menu presentation according to a schedule that specifies the time interval when each of two or more respective service guide menu presentations is to be active. Two or more from a multiplicity of configurable service guide menu presentations are each configured to be active for one or more intervals of time in a recurring schedule. Only one configurable service guide menu is active at a time throughout the configurable recurring schedule but a first configurable service guide menu may be active throughout one or more distinct and non-overlapping time intervals of the configurable recurring schedule. The recurrence of the schedule is configured to one of a multiplicity of choices such as a weekly, daily, or a monthly recurring schedule.
In one embodiment, the system operator configures a multiplicity of time-adaptive service guide presentations for each of a multiplicity of recurring schedule choices. For instance, the system operator may configure six different arrangements to choose from for users that opt for a time-adaptive service guide on a daily recurring schedule. On the other hand, the system operator may configure more than six different arrangements to choose from for users that opt for a time-adaptive service guide on a weekly recurring schedule.
In another embodiment, in addition to having the choice of selecting one of a multiplicity of time-adaptive service guides pre-configured by the system operator, the user can additionally configure a time-adaptive service guide according to the user's preference for a user-selected recurring schedule from the set of recurring schedule choices. The user can enter the user's preferences through an interactive configuration session in the DHCT 16 or in alternate embodiments by calling the automated phone menu system or logging on to a specified secure and encrypted web site as described above.
In one embodiment, a time adaptive service guide 39 running a weekly recurring schedule may include selectable link labels 56 to, for example, news and financial programming for one or more specific time intervals (e.g., 7:30 to 8:00 A.M. and/or 11:00 to 11:30 PM for news; 1:00 to 5:00 PM for financial services) during weekdays. During weekends, the weekday selectable link labels 56 become inactive. Examples of selectable link labels for weekend days include sports programming (i.e., football on Sundays from 1:00 to 7:00 PM), videos-on-demand (i.e., Saturdays from 8:00 to 11:00 PM), or pizza delivery. This is accomplished by configuring the service guide server 48 to include different HTML files for each day, such that the service guide client 39 receives a different set of link labels 56 depending on the aforementioned time criteria.
A user may access the service guide menu 52 in several ways.
The service guide 39 may also be activated by the user upon entering a channel input corresponding to the service guide service 39, as defined by the system operator.
When the service guide service is assigned to a channel, the layout of the service guide covers the entire screen, similar to that shown in
Alternatively, the <OBJECT src=“tv”> tag could be removed, and the navigator 35 could be configured to activate the service guide service in the fullScreenObstructed mode. This would also cause the current channel to be displayed in the specified obstructed rectangle, rather than determining the location based on the location of the “tv:” OBJECT in the service guide HTML content.
The service guide 39, which comprises an ordered listing of executable instructions for implementing logical functions, can be embodied in any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution system, apparatus, or device, such as a computer-based system, processor-containing system, or other system that can fetch the instructions from the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device and execute the instructions. In the context of this document, a “computer-readable medium” can be any means that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport the program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution system, apparatus, or device. The computer readable medium can be, for example but not limited to, an electronic, magnetic, optical, electromagnetic, infrared, or semiconductor system, apparatus, device, or propagation medium. More specific examples (a nonexhaustive list) of the computer-readable medium would include the following: an electrical connection (electronic) having one or more wires, a portable computer diskette (magnetic), a random access memory (RAM) (magnetic), a read-only memory (ROM) (magnetic), an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM or Flash memory) (magnetic), an optical fiber (optical), and a portable compact disc read-only memory (CDROM) (optical). Note that the computer-readable medium could even be paper or another suitable medium upon which the program is printed, as the program can be electronically captured, via for instance optical scanning of the paper or other medium, then compiled, interpreted or otherwise processed in a suitable manner if necessary, and then stored in a computer memory. Furthermore, any process descriptions or blocks in flow charts should be understood as representing modules, segments, or portions of code which include one or more executable instructions for implementing specific logical functions or steps in the process, and alternate implementations are included within the scope of the preferred embodiment of the present invention in which functions may be executed out of order from that shown or discussed, including substantially concurrently or in reverse order, depending on the functionality involved, as would be understood by those reasonably skilled in the art of the present invention.
It should be emphasized that the above-described embodiments of the present invention, particularly any “preferred embodiments” are merely possible examples of the implementations, merely set forth for a clear understanding of the principles of the invention. Any variations and modifications may be made to the above-described embodiments of the invention without departing substantially from the spirit of the principles of the invention. All such modifications and variations are intended to be included herein within the scope of the disclosure and present invention and protected by the following claims.