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Comcast To Buy Time Warner Cable In $44.2 Billion All-Stock Deal

thomst Re:SEC block? (303 comments)

swalve insisted;

There are only two signals you can send to your cable company: giving them money or not giving them money. When you keep giving them money, you are telling them that you approve of their behavior and wish them to continue. Continuing to pay them for a service you don't think is worth the money is utter stupidity.

So, your proposed solution is that I either give up Internet access altogether, or switch to using my ILEC (which means giving up my VoIP landline) for access?

Purely symbolic personal actions are easy - as long as you don't care about self-harm.

The problem is that I have no other choices of ISP. This is not just my personal problem. It is a problem of US national policy. Depriving TW of my monthly fee won't accomplish ANYTHING useful. Changing national policy - making cable ISPs common carriers, being the most obviously useful immediate change - WILL. So I argue in favor of that change, because pursuing that change by publicly advocating it as a response to Comcast's bid to become an effective monopoly player in the US cable industry IS useful.

Denying Comcast's attempt to acquire TW would also be useful - but only in the short run. Making acceptance of common carrier status for their combined ISP business a condition for approval of their merger would be more useful, long-term.

about 6 months ago
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Comcast To Buy Time Warner Cable In $44.2 Billion All-Stock Deal

thomst Re:SEC block? (303 comments)

swalve sneered:

Then cancel your service.

Is English not your natal language? Because I thought I was pretty clear about being stuck in a local duopoly where the alternative is the ILEC - whose upstream limit on DSL is ~100 kbps.

So, basically, you're suggesting I trade a shit sandwich for diahrrea soup?

Kindly fuck the hell off and die.

about 6 months ago
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Comcast To Buy Time Warner Cable In $44.2 Billion All-Stock Deal

thomst Re:SEC block? (303 comments)

TrekkieGod warned:

In terms of competition, verizon buying time-warner is a much bigger deal than the blocked attempt of at&t buying t-mobile. This purchase can't possibly be allowed to proceed.

I agree.

An earlier version of the NYT story quoted Comcast's CEO as stating the combined company would only control 30% of the US pay TV market - a claim which purposefully conflates cable MSOs with SATELLITE TV providers. The difference (and it is crucial) between those two delivery models is that virtually every member of Comcast's customer base, and the 8 million net subscribers they expect to acquire from TW also depend on their cable operator as their broadband ISP, whereas almost NONE of DirectTV's customers also use it for Internet service. There's an excellent reason for that: their satellite Internet service is VERY expensive, AND IT SUCKS. It's dogshit slow, monthly data transfer quotas are ludicrously tiny, it's unusably laggy for online gaming and VoIP service (plus, your uplink requires POTS), and rain- or snow-storms make it impossible to use altogether.

Still worse, Comcast has already been caught extorting money from Level 3 Communications to keep Netflix from being throttled, and it counts Netflix streams against customers' monthly data caps, but does not do the same for its own Xfinity app for the Xbox.

Nor, in all fairness, is TW anything approaching a model corporate citizen. This month TW raised my Internet access bill by $5, from $39.99 to $44.99. That's in excess of an 11% increase. Has TW's cost of providing service increased to my rural duopoloy increased by any even marginally-significant amount recently? Oh, HELL NO. That increase was shoved down my throat purely to pump up TW's stock price, SO THAT COMCAST WOULD HAVE TO PAY MORE FOR THE COMPANY. And, of course, Comcast will insist on additional ratepayer robbery to increase the stock price of the combined company, because increased, short-term shareholder return is the ONLY goal of capitalism.

Just ask any MBA.

This scumbaggery must not be allowed to spread.

about 6 months ago
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Google Earth's New Satellites

thomst Re:Deliberately crippled (118 comments)

icebike conjectured:

But it probably gets Google the sats it needs for free.

If google can build it, but only the military can use the full resolution, it sounds like google is probably getting huge piles of money from the US Military.

The summary is completely wrong (surprise!)

Google is NOT building the satellite (note the singular) in question. It will merely be a customer of DigitalGlobe - one of many, including the US government.

Not that the US goverment needs DigitalGlobe's images. After all, the NSA has a fleet of its own satellites with far better image resolution capability than the DigitalGlobe effort.

Slushdot: come for the misleading summaries, stay for the uninformed commentary!

about 6 months ago
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How the Black Hole Firewall Paradox Was Resolved

thomst Re:I always thought... (118 comments)

wonkey_monkey pointed out:

I maintained:

In the Standard Model, black holes are singularities.

To which wonkey_monkey responded:

Really? I always that the presence of the singularity is what causes the black hole to be, but they're not actually one and the same.

Comological Doctor AC agrees here.

Thanks for calling my attention to his post.

about 7 months ago
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How the Black Hole Firewall Paradox Was Resolved

thomst Re:I always thought... (118 comments)

An Anonymous Coward commented:

(I do have a doctorate in cosmology and I've a contention with what you've said: a black hole is not a singularity, whether by definition or otherwise. A "black hole" is simply a region in vacuum shrouded by an event horizon, and this situation occurs when a body is compressed enough that it lies entirely within its event horizon. In classical GR there are a few ways to get to this situation, with perhaps the most common being the collapse of a supermassive star. In classical GR there is also a singularity at the centre of the black hole, but a quantum theory of gravity would be expected to smear this out. What this does not imply is that a quantum theory of gravity would destroy the concept of a black hole entirely -- instead it seems very likely that in a quantum theory of gravity we would retain an event horizon, merely a somewhat "smeared" and non-absolute form of one (a distinction that would seem heartlessly academic to any poor sod falling into a hole). Hawking's conjecture, which is eerily similar to an equally unproven conjecture he advanced a few years back to "prove" that the information paradox was solved, is that ultimately there are no "black holes" because they are not an infinite state -- eventually they will dissipate, which immediately implies that their "event horizons" are actually apparent horizons. So far as this goes, it strikes me as eminently non-controversial.

Anyway, the concept of a singularity and a black hole are therefore rather distinct.)

I sit corrected.

However, I'd like to point out that nothing in your analysis validates wisnoskij's contention that the mass of a black hole has to be considered as existing entirely within this universe, therefore preventing it from acting as a "wormhole" to another one. As I understand it, whether the event horizon is actually a hard boundary or a more diffuse one, we don't currently have a solid cosmological model of what's "on the other side" of that boundary. AFAIK, Hawking's position on the issue of whether information is, in fact, lost once it passes an event horizon has evolved over the years, and his most recent thoughts are more conceptual arguments than mathematical models. (That's apparently more a factor of his increasing communications disability than necessarily a weakness in his logic, but still ... I don't believe he's provided the math to back up his current mental model, yet.)

I'd be happy to have my grasp of the subject debunked by those who truly do understand the math involved. I make no claim whatsoever to that ability, myself - I just contend that wisnoskij was harumphing ex cathedra on the subject from the depths of his hat./p>

about 7 months ago
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How the Black Hole Firewall Paradox Was Resolved

thomst Re:I always thought... (118 comments)

wisnoskij blathered:

The problem with that is that black holes need the mass they suck in to exist.

The mass cannot both be in the black hole and shot out the other side into a new universe.

So unless you can come up with a theory that has black holes creating mass out of nothing, that is simply impossible.

Sorry, but you can't prove that contention. Period.

In the Standard Model, black holes are singularities. BY DEFINITION, the laws of physics as we observe and understand them break down in singularities. The SM can't explain what is going on inside a black hole, AND NEITHER CAN YOU.

Unless you have a doctorate in cosmology or astrophysics, you doubtless are profoundly unqualified even to have an OPINION on the topic ... so, kindly STFU.

Thank you.

about 7 months ago
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Edward Snowden and the Death of Nuance

thomst Fundamental disconnect between reality and opinion (388 comments)

The article to which this piece points is an opinion piece. The author points out that Snowden's "latest revelations" may compromise current field operations and/or operatives.

The central problem with that claim is that SNOWDEN HAS MADE NO NEW REVELATIONS. *All* of the revelations from "Snowden" are actually revelations made by one or more of the journalists to whom Snowden gave copies of his stolen documents. All of them. Snowden himself has refused to reveal ANYTHING that THEY have not already published, on the grounds that he considers himself to be unqualified to properly strike the balance between preserving national security and revealing information that is clearly in the public interest. Instead, he has left it ENTIRELY up to the journalists to whom he gave the information to make those decisions.

But don't take my word for it. Listen to the man himself.

about 7 months ago
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What Killed the Great Beasts of North America?

thomst God DAMN Elselvier! (214 comments)

Seriously.

It's not bad enough that these scumbags have a stranglehold on scientific research publishing. The primary website to which the summary points requires the reader to allow so many third-party scripts to run that I simply gave up on the article altogether.

Oh, and FUCK SLASHDOT for pointing me to such a piece-of-shit website in the first place.

about 7 months ago
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Why Whistleblowers Can't Get a Fair Trial

thomst Re:One and the same (441 comments)

an Anonymous Coward plaintively asked:

Will there ever be a President that I can respect?

Yes.

about 7 months ago
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PC Shipments In 2013 See the Worst Yearly Decline In History

thomst Re:Current PCs are good enough. (564 comments)

In response to my comment about the Alienware M17X, roc97007 commented:

I've never even seen one, outside The Big Bang Theory.

A friend of mine who does process control automation for a living is working on his second (the first one was stolen from his truck). Gorgeous machine. Top-notch graphics performance, full-HD display, dual quad CPUs, 7200 rpm data drive and a 256 GB flash memory boot drive. POST to Windows 7 desktop in 3 seconds flat. And built like a tank. Plus a full 101-key keyboard, mad I/O, and cool, customizable lighting zones.

Weighs a ton and drinks a battery dry in 2.5 hours or so - but, man, what a beautiful muscle machine!

about 7 months ago
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PC Shipments In 2013 See the Worst Yearly Decline In History

thomst Re:Current PCs are good enough. (564 comments)

Orthancstone observed:

There's nothing sexy about a laptop

You've obviously never driven an Alienware M17X.

about 7 months ago
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Africa, Clooney, and an Unlikely Space Race

thomst Re:Wow, really? (137 comments)

Posting to undo an inadvertently-incorrect moderation. Still getting used to the "glide" feature on my Synoptics touchpad. I meant to moderate VortexCortex's comment +1 Funny.

about 8 months ago
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Hotel Tycoon Seeks Property Rights On the Moon

thomst Re:Good Grief (248 comments)

jythie speculated:

I suspect that even though the point that it feels far off has probably delayed reexamining the treaty, another big problem is it represents a rather significant can of worms that governments just do not want to deal with right now, not unless one of them has something significant to gain from it.

I suspect you're right.

That doesn't alter the fact that it's important to the future of the human race that the issue be addressed.

about 9 months ago
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Hotel Tycoon Seeks Property Rights On the Moon

thomst Re:If you can defend it .. it's yours (248 comments)

newcastlejon remonstrated:

pigiron quipped:

The moon is a harsh mistress.

That's not a quip, it's the title of a book. A rather well-known one.

Yes it is. One I read the year it was published.

But pigiron was trying to be funny. (I think he succeeded, btw.) That makes his post a QUIP. From Goggle's search page for the term:

quip
/kwip/
noun
noun: quip; plural noun: quips

1.
a witty remark.
synonyms: joke, witty remark, witticism, jest, pun, bon mot, sally, pleasantry;
informal one-liner, gag, crack, wisecrack, funny
"the quip provoked a smile"
archaic
a verbal equivocation.

verb
verb: quip; 3rd person present: quips; past tense: quipped; past participle: quipped; gerund or present participle: quipping

1.
make a witty remark.
"“Flattery will get you nowhere,” she quipped"
synonyms: joke, jest, pun, sally;

about 9 months ago
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Hotel Tycoon Seeks Property Rights On the Moon

thomst Re:Good Grief (248 comments)

MightyMartian sneered:

It's rather irrelevant what you think, Mr. Bigelow. There are currently international treaties banning any nation (and by extension any citizen of a nation) from claiming extraterrestrial territory. So bugger off and do something useful with your money.

There ARE current international treaties banning ownership of an extraterrestrial body. They're foolish and outdated, and they need to be amended. Bigelow is attempting to persuade the US government to begin negotiating that process.

I think Bigelow is a swine - but he's right about what it will take to give private capital the incentive to invest the blood and treasure necessary to colonize and exploit extraterrestrial resources. We're getting ever closer to the day when companies like SpaceX will be capable of creating conglomerates that possess the technology and financial resources to do exactly that - but they won't commit them until they see the possibility of getting sufficient return on their investment to make the risk worth taking.

I'm all for government funding - NASA, the ESA, and so on - for space exploration efforts. But we can't COLONIZE the Moon without first modifying the existing Moon Treaty. Nor can we conduct commercial operations (such as ice mining) without amending it, because that 50-year-old treaty prohibits them.

Anybody - including people you despise - can have a good idea. Ideas should be considered on their own merits, rather than being dismissed out of hand, simply because you dislike their source.

about 9 months ago
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Hotel Tycoon Seeks Property Rights On the Moon

thomst Re:If you can defend it .. it's yours (248 comments)

pigiron quipped:

The moon is a harsh mistress.

And Bob Bigelow is a slumlord.

I've lived in one of his bigger "residence hotels". It was a hellhole. Cop cars day and night, shootings and stabbings, bloodstains on the carpet.

I understand Bob Hsieh, co-founder of Zappos, has bought up a big chunk of Fremont Street, and is steadily redeveloping it into a pretty decent area - but, five years ago, downtown Vegas was a complete slum. And Bigelow helped create that slum.

BTW - I think he's probably right about private property rights being the key to giving private capital the incentive needed to invest in colonizing and economically exploiting Luna. That, however, does not change who he is.

about 9 months ago
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EFF Says Mark Shuttleworth Is Wrong About Trademark

thomst Re:frivolous (103 comments)

Sesostris III noted:

There is also Apple Corps Ltd, owned by the Beatles. There have been trademark disputes between Apple Inc and Apple Corp Ltd, none of which will affect you buying apples (the fruit)).

And Apple Computer was forced to negotiate a settlement with Apple Corps Ltd in every suit the Beatles' company filed. (They were all related to iTunes, which is all about music - and the Beatles worldwide trademark was established in 1968, so Apple Computers' conflicting mark had no legal leg to stand on.)

Trademarks are, for the most part, geographically limited, and apply fairly narrowly to the product or service to which the mark applies. Thus the Saturn automobile company, the Sega Saturn console, and Saturn Internet Services ALL had trademarks on the name Saturn. None of them conflicted with each other, because each represented a different category of product (cars vs. game consoles) or service (an ISP). Very few trademarks are global. Apple Computer is, and so is Apple Corps Ltd. The conflict arose when Apple Computer decided to get into the music business - and ran into a trademark the Beatles had established more than thirty years earlier. So Steve Jobs changed the service's name to iTunes, paid Apple Corps an undisclosed (but clearly substantial) amount of money, and signed a quitclaim agreement to make it all go away. Once that happened, negotiations began between Apple Corps and Apple Computer to make the Beatles' music available on iTunes - which it now is.

In other news, Shuttleworth over-fucking-reached in a major way. The EFF has set him straight. Let's hope he stays that way.

Unless, y'know, he's gay.

about 9 months ago
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Square Is Discontinuing Monthly Pricing On February 1, 2014

thomst Re:Off-topic, but ... (114 comments)

krs440 stated:

Sorry, you lost me. I did read your reference.

The aside was directed at the peanut gallery - not at you. (Your user number indicated that you ought to be familiar with the /. habit of responding to postings without having first read the article to which they refer. It's practically an article of faith around here. The notion that the gallery would bother to read a link posted within a comment is still less likely. Your research citation made it pretty clear that you're the exception that proves the rule.),/p>

Yes, it mentions the variation, which is what cause me to do a little searching to see the earliest documented reference I could find with minimal effort. I'm clearly not the expert you are on attribution. However, as a layperson, crediting Paul Mellon for a minimally reworded version of a phrase doesn't seem much better than crediting someone who bothered to use it for a book title.

Again, they're not the same quote. "I love it!" and "I'm lovin' it! (tm McDonalds) are not the same statement. They may well MEAN the same thing, but they are not the same quote.

I'm not a particular partisan of Mr. Mellon. If you can find an earlier citation for his exact statement, I'll happily acknowledge it. I'm equally sanguine about accepting that the "ain't" variant came first. My concern is with /.'s fortune file being RIFE with shit like this. Mis-attribution and non-attribution are equally bad things. The editors take a lot of heat for maladroit editing, but nobody (except me, and now thee) seems to have noticed that the fortune cookie database is as full of crap as the articles - and then some. It bothers me more than somewhat, and I thought it was overdue that someone pointed it out.

As it happens, that someone turned out to be yours truly.

about 9 months ago
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Square Is Discontinuing Monthly Pricing On February 1, 2014

thomst Re:Off-topic, but ... (114 comments)

krs440 noted:

Attribution can be tricky. You seem pretty sure that the original statement should be attributed to Paul Mellon, and mention it's from January, 1942. What about this? http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1144&dat=19380705&id=ZysbAAAAIBAJ&sjid=BE0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=1516,6094461 It's the July 5th, 1938 edition of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, specifically, a story entitled "Economics in Eight Words". The last line is "There ain't no such thing as free lunch". I assume that the difference of "There aint" vs "There's" and the missing "a" aren't terribly important. I have no idea if this is the first occurrence of it either.

If you read the reference I cited (pause for derisive laughter from the peanut gallery), you'll note that IT draws a distinction between the two formulations. Like Friedman with the more formal phraseology, Robert A. Heinlein is frequently credited with "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." In fact, he DID come up with the acronym TANSTAAFL (in his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress), which is now widely used, but, as you point out, he certainly didn't coin the parent observation.

So, yes, proper attribution can be obscure. But I still say that's NO excuse for obvious mis-attribution, and no excuse whatsoever for leaving out attribution of living authors' _bon mots_ altogether - especially when the source of those IS indisputable.

about 9 months ago

Submissions

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Sophisticated Spy Tool 'The Mask' Rages Undetected for 7 Years

thomst thomst writes  |  about 6 months ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Kim Zetter of Wired's Threat Level reports that Kaspersky Labs discovered a Spanish-language spyware application that employs "uses techniques and code that surpass any nation-state spyware previously spotted in the wild." The malware, dubbed "The Mask" by Kaspersky's researchers, targeted targeted government agencies, diplomatic offices, embassies, companies in the oil, gas and energy industries, and research organizations and activists had been loose on the Internet since at least 2007, before it was shut down last month. It infected its targets via a malicious website that contained exploits — among which were the Adobe Flash player vulnerability CVE-2012-0773 — that affected both Windows and Linux machines. Users were directed to the site via spearphishing emails."
Link to Original Source
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Supreme Court declines case on making online retailers collect sales taxes

thomst thomst writes  |  about 9 months ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Robert Barnes of the Washington Post reports that the US Supreme Court has declined to hear petitions from Amazon.com and Overstock.com requesting that a decision by the New York State Supreme Court permitting that state's 2008 law requiring sales taxes be collected on Internet sales, even if the seller has no "business presence" in New York. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that Amazon’s relationship with third-party affiliates in the state that receive commissions for sending Web traffic its way satisfied the “substantial nexus” necessary to force the company to collect taxes, and New York's Supreme Court had affirmed the ruling. The Federal high court's refusal to hear the petitions leaves the state law in effect, even though it appears to conflict with the Court's 1993 decision in Quill v. North Dakota."
Link to Original Source
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Executives of health-care Web site lead contractor from troubled IT company

thomst thomst writes  |  about 9 months ago

thomst (1640045) writes "The Washington Post's Jerry Markon and Alice Crites report "The lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act is filled with executives from a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show.

CGI Federal, the main Web site developer, entered the U.S. government market a decade ago when its parent company purchased American Management Systems, a Fairfax County contractor that was coming off a series of troubled projects. CGI moved into AMS’s custom-made building off Interstate 66, changed the sign outside and kept the core of employees, who now populate the upper ranks of CGI Federal."

Link to Original Source
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Artificial self-healing skin can sense touch

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Science Magazines's Tim Wogan reports that chemical engineer Zhenan Bao of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, and her team have increased the conductivity of a self-healing polymer by incorporating nickel atoms. The polymer they have produced is sensitive to applied forces like pressure and torsion (twisting) because such forces alter the distance between the nickel atoms, changing the electrical resistance of the polymer. Their work is published online in the November 1 issue of Nature Nanotechnology (abstract here, full article paywalled). Now Bao and her team are working on making the polymer more flexible."
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Judge to review whether foreman in Apple v. Samsung hid info

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Cnet's Greg Sandoval is reporting that Lucy Koh the Federal judge in the Apple v. Samsung patent infringement case is reviewing whether jury foreman Velvin Hogan failed to disclose his own patent suit v. Seagate during the jury selection process. Samsung, which lost the suit filed by Apple has complained that Hogan's failure to disclose his own status as a former patent case plaintiff constituted misconduct serious enough to invalidate the jury's verdict in the case."
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Google Says It Won't 'Manually' Review YouTube Vids for Infringement

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "David Kravets of Wired's Threat Level blog reports that Google has clarified its change in policy on automatic takedowns of YouTube videos for copyright infringement. On Wednesday, Thabet Alfishawi, rights management product manager for YouTube, said in a blog post that Google had "improved the algorithms that identify potentially invalid claims. We stop these claims from automatically affecting user videos and place them in a queue to be manually reviewed.” In its clarification, Google now says that videos flagged by its Content ID algorithm will be placed in a queue for "content owners" to review, if they decide to do so. In other words, the "manual review" is entirely optional, and the review, if any, will be done by the "content owner", rather than by Google itself — all of which begs the classic question, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?""
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Google Gives Up Fair-Use Defense, Settles Book-Scanning Lawsuit With Publishers

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "David Kravets of Wired's Threat Level blog reports that McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Penguin Group, John Wiley & Sons and Simon & Shuster have struck a deal to end those companies' lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement for its Google Books search service. Kravets reports that Andi Sporkin, a spokesperson for the publishers has said they've "agreed to disagree" on Google's assertion that its scanning of books in university libraries (and making up to 20% of the scanned content available in search results) was protected by the fair use defense against copyright infringement. The terms of the deal are secret, but the result is that the companies in question have dropped their lawsuit against Google. However, the Authors Guild lawsuit against Google on the same grounds is still stuck in the appeals process, after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin rejected a proposed settlement of the suit in 2011, on the grounds that its treatment of so-called "orphaned works" amounted to making new copyright law — a power he insisted only Congress could exercise."
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YouTube Alters Copyright Algorithms, Will 'Manually' Review Some Claims

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "David Kravets of Wired's Threat Level blog reports that Google's Thabet Alfishawi has announced YouTube will alter its algorithms "that identify potentially invalid claims. We stop these claims from automatically affecting user videos and place them in a queue to be manually reviewed.” YouTube's Content ID algorithms have notably misfired in recent months, resulting in video streams as disparate as Curiosity's Mars landing and Michelle Obama's Democratic Convention speech being taken offline on specious copyright infringement grounds. Kravets states, "Under the new rules announced Wednesday, however, if the uploader challenges the match, the alleged rights holder must abandon the claim or file an official takedown notice under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act." (A false takedown claim under the DMCA can result in non-trivial legal liability.)"
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The Algorithmic Copyright Cops: Streaming Video's Robotic Overlords

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Geeta Dayal of Wired's Threat Level blog posts an interesting report about bot-mediated automatic takedowns of streaming video. He mentions the interruption of Michelle Obama's speech at the DNC, and the blocking of NASA's coverage of Mars rover Curiosity's landing by a Scripps News Service bot, but the story really drills down on the abrupt disappearance of the Hugo Award's live stream of Neil Gaiman's acceptance speech for his Doctor Who script. (Apparently the trigger was a brief clip from the Doctor Who episode itself, despite the fact that it was clearly a case of fair use.) Dayal points the finger at Vobile, whose content-blocking technology was used by Ustream, which hosted the derailed coverage of the Hugos. The good news — such as it is — is that Ustream has apparently suspended their use of Vobile's software. Vobile isn't the only player in the content-cop software space, and Dayal's article includes links to Vobile, Attributor, Audible Magic, and Gracenote (but ALL the links in the article go through contextly.com, so you'll need to enable scripts from contextly to get to the actual web sites in question — boo, Wired)."
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YouTube Flags Democrats' Convention Video on Copyright Grounds

thomst thomst writes  |  about 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Ryan Singel of Wired's Threat Level blog reports that the livestream of Michelle Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention was blocked by Youtube after a bogus claim of copyright infringement was lodged — almost undoubtedly by Youtube's own copyright bot, acting pre-emptively on behalf of its big-media advertising clients."
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What's Wrong with American Ninja Warrior

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "What’s Wrong with American Ninja Warrior

by Thom Stark

I’ve been a fan of the program the G4 channel calls “Ninja Warrior” since I first encountered it in mid-2005. For those who are unfamiliar with the show, it’s a re-edited-for-American-TV version of a Japanese show called “Sasuke”, with often-snarky English commentary and graphics overlaid on the Japanese original. “Ninja Warrior” is a fast-paced, wildly-entertaining program in which 100 contestants of varying skill levels pit themselves against a 4-stage obstacle course that grows ever more fiendishly difficult with each passing season. There’ve been 27 such seasons to date, and the most current incarnation is has become so incredibly taxing that Batman himself would have trouble completing it.

Now G4 has teamed up with its corporate parent, NBCUniversal to bring the world’s toughest obstacle course to America, and the resulting show, “American Ninja Warrior” turns out to be distinctly inferior to its Japanese progenitor. Tonight, July 9, 2012, is the final broadcast in a series that has run for six previous weekly installments, with segments on both G4 and NBC; and I thought it was fitting that I mark the occasion with a critique of what I believe to be “American Ninja Warrior”’s fatal philosophical and production missteps, and contrast them with the original pitch-perfect product.

First, it’s important to understand that the Japanese program’s name has nothing to do with either ninjas or warriors. “Sasuke” means something like “excellence” in Japanese. It has much the same flavor as the Greek concept of arete, the pursuit of excellence as a defining life goal. G4's marketeers clearly decided that their ADHD-addled core audience of video gamers was unlikely to find a show called “Excellence” compelling enough to warrant paying attention, so they decided to jazz it up by invoking ninjas, instead. Oh, and warriors, too, to make it more appealing to the World of Warcraft fanatics. And that was fine, as far as it went, because G4 had the good sense not to mess with the program content itself (other than poorly to translate much of the Japanese-language commentary, again in an apparent attempt to inject some good ol’ American zazz).

As a side note, commentary is not the only translational sin of which G4 is guilty. The competition takes place at Midoriyama, a Japanese place name that G4 insists on referring to as “Mount Midoriyama”. The problem with that is that “yama” is a Japanese suffix meaning “mountain”. Thus, “Fujiyama” means “Mount Fuji” and “Midoriyama” means “Mount Midori” — which, in turn, means that G4's translation is not only redundant, with its repeating of the word “mountain” in both English and Japanese, it’s wildly inaccurate, because the Japanese word means “Mount Midori”.

But I digress.

“American Ninja Warrior” — the strictly-domestic production — suffers badly from human interest bloat. The Japanese program (at least as it is presented on G4) frequently features mini-portraits of the competitors, but these segments are very short — typically under 20 seconds — and they help to put a human face on the often-superhuman efforts of the program’s contenders. In “American Ninja Warrior”, the corresponding segments too often are near-epic mini-documentaries that run a minute or longer, and they seriously impair the program’s flow — especially because there are so flinkin’ many of them. The producers badly need to rein in their out-of-control bathos machinery and reduce both the number and the running time of their athlete portraiture.

But the worst mistake that the brainiacs behind “American Ninja Warrior” have made is to Americanize the competition. The most endearing philosophical quality of “Sasuke” is that the participants compete, not against each other, but individually against the course itself. There is no zero-sum in the game of Sasuke. Should more than one contestant complete the nigh-impossible series of obstacles (an outcome that has never yet occurred on “Sasuke”), both would be equally celebrated, both would be equally entitled to claim the title of “winner”, and the accomplishment of one would in no way diminish the glory of the other. To the contrary, such an event would be cause for national celebration, since winners of “Sasuke” are considered national heroes in Japan.

By contrast, not only have the American producers chosen to have the participants compete against each other in regional qualifying events for a spot in the “finals” competition in Las Vegas (not an unreasonable choice, given that they needed to whittle the field down to a managable number of contestants for the trials at the actual Mount Midori course), but they’ve made it a zero-sum game. Like the Highlander, there can be only one American Ninja Warrior — which reduces the exalted pursuit of excellence to just another athletic competition, with the top prize of half-a-million dollars going to the one contestant who not only completes the course, but does so in the fastest time. Anyone else who makes it to the top of Mount Midori is, basically, just another chump. An also-ran. A footnote.

And that’s what’s really wrong with “American Ninja Warrior”."
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Court Clears Samsung Galaxy Nexus For Sale But Patent Battle Continues

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Nathan Olivarez-Giles of Wired reports the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh's injunction banning the sale of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus in the U.S.. The Appeals Court's decision could be reversed on appeal (Apple is due to file its appeal on July 12), but, for now, the Galaxy Nexus is once again available for pre-order via the Google Play store."
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Ask Slashdot: Can this Kickstarter project be rescued?

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst writes "With just less than a week to go, it seems inevitable that the Kickstarter project for my post-nuclear-terrorism disaster novel American Sulla will fall well short of its funding goal. That's disappointing, because I thought I'd covered all the promotional bases: I created a web page that offers free, downloadable copies of a 38,000-word preview of the novel, I put the Kickstarter pitch video on Youtube, I uploaded a torrent to The Pirate Bay with the pitch video and the preview version of the novel in a variety of ebook formats, I set up a Facebook group, and, of course, I sent out an email announcing the project to all my friends and acquaintances. I even published the preview version of my novel as a $0.99 Kindle ebook on Amazon.com (where, thus far, two people have purchased copies, despite the fact that it's available directly from both my web site and The Pirate Bay for free).

So the question arises, "Can this project be rescued?" Or, to put it another way, "What have I overlooked?" Or even, "What did I do wrong — and is there any way for me to correct the error in time to save the project?"

This novel is important to me. I immodestly think it's decently well-written, and in it, I attempt to come to grips with some pretty important issues the events that followed the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center raised for me: the willingness (hell, the eagerness) of U.S. lawmakers to abdicate Constitutional protections in the name of national security, the metastatic growth of Executive Branch power, the ovine complacency of the American people, the legitimacy of resistence to these trends, and the influence of galloping conspiracy theorism, to name a few of the most prominent. At the same time, I'm doing my best to wrap my presentation of those issues in a tense, fast-paced, and (I hope) entertaining narrative.

So, I put it to you: can this project be rescued? And, if so, how?"

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Space Tourist Trips to the Moon May Fly on Recycled Spaceships

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Rob Coppinger of Space.com reports that UK-based private company Excalibur Almaz plans to offer commercial lunar-orbital tourist missions based on recycled Soviet-era Soyuz vehicle and Salyut space stations, using Hall Effect thrusters to power the ensemble from Earth orbit to the Moon and back. The company estimates ticket prices at $150 million per seat (with a 50% profit margin), and expects to sell about 30 of them. Excalibur Almaz has other big plans, too, including ISS crew transport, LaGrange Point scientific missions, and Lunar surface payload deliveries. It expects to launch its first tourist trip to the Moon in 2014."
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Nanoparticles found in moon glass bubbles explain weird lunar soil behaviour

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "A team led by soils scientist Dr. Marek Zbik of Queensland University of Technology has discovered that samples of Moon dust contain nanoparticles that may explain the dust's notoriously strange properties. Moon dust is famously abrasive, sticky, and subject to puzzlingly-high electrostatic charges that cause it to remain suspended above the lunar surface for long periods of time, despite the virtual absence of any atmosphere on the satellite's surface. Dr. Zbik examined a sample of the dust via synchrotron-based nano-tomography, which uses high-energy X-rays to produce 3-D images of nano-scale particles. Dr. Zbik discovered that Moon dust includes a large number of glass "vesicles" or bubbles that contain interior networks of nanoparticles. He theorizes that, when the vesicles are ruptured by micrometeorite impacts, the nanoparticles are released, producing a mixture of "regular" lunar dust and nano-dust over time. According to Dr. Zbik, it's the nano-dust component that accounts for Moon dust's unusual properties, because nano-scale particles are small enough that their behavior is partially determined by the laws of quantum physics, rather than the Newtonian physics that govern larger-scale structures. The team's article in ISRN Astronomy and Astrophysics explains the technical details of the study, and Dr. Zbik has posted a 3-D video of a fractured lunar regolith vesicle on Youtube, as well."
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Old Branch on the Tree of Life Newly Discovered

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "LiveScience writer Jennifer Welsh reports that a group of Norwegian researchers has discovered a single-celled organism that shares almost none of its genetic structure with any of the currently-known kingdoms (animals, plants, fungi, algae and protists) of life on Earth. Their study, first published in the January 6, 2012 in the online edition of Molecular Biology and Evolution (the abstract of revision 3 of "Collodictyon—An Ancient Lineage in the Tree of Eukaryotes" is available here, the full text is paywalled), compared the organism's genetic structure with data from hundreds of molecular biology databases around the world, and discovered only one partial match with an organism from Tibet. Welsh quotes study researcher Dag Klaveness, of the University of Oslo as saying, "We are surprised" at the uniqueness of the species, adding, "It is conceivable that only a few other species exist in this family branch of the tree of life, which has survived all the many hundreds of millions of years since the eukaryote species appeared on Earth for the first time." The researchers think the organism, called Collodictyon, could be the progenitor of both amoebas and protists (each members of a different eukaryotic kingdom), with which it shares some physical characteristics. "So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species," study researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, also of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said in a statement."
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Baboons Learn to Read (sort of ...)

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "Seth Borenstein of AP reports on a story in the April 13 edition of Science (abstract here, full article paywalled) about a study of baboons at Aix-Marseille University in France that demonstrates the primates are capable of distiinguishing between short, but real English words and gibberish letter combinations of similar length with an average of 75% accuracy over the course of 300,000 trials. One particularly talented subject named Dan, a 4-year-old baboon, is capable of 80% accuracy.

The study's lead scientist, Jonathan Grainger, explains that a simple change in the study's methodology — allowing the subjects to work the training machine at times of their own choosing, rather than on a schedule determined by the researchers, made all the difference. When they are shown a sequence of letters, the subjects must choose between pushing a blue "button" on a touchscreen (for a nonsense combination), or a green one (for an actual word). If they choose correctly, they get a food reward.

Borenstein writes, "The key is that these animals not only learned by trial and error which letter combinations were correct, but they also noticed which letters tend to go together to form real words, such as SH but not FX, said Grainger. So even when new words were sprung on them, they did a better job at figuring out which were real.

"Grainger said a pre-existing capacity in the brain may allow them to recognize patterns and objects, and perhaps that's how we humans also first learn to read."

Bill Hopkins, a professor of psychology at the Yerkes Primate Center in Atlanta, who wasn't part of the team conducting the baboon study, told Borenstein, "We tend to underestimate what their capacities are," noting, "Non-human primates are really specialized in the visual domain and this is an example of that.""

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Supreme Court throws out human gene patents

thomst thomst writes  |  more than 2 years ago

thomst (1640045) writes "The Associated Press reports The Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling allowing human genes to be patented, a topic of enormous interest to cancer researchers, patients and drug makers. The court overturned patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. The justices' decision sends the case back down to the federal appeals court in Washington that handles patent cases. The high court said it sent the case back for rehearing because of its decision in another case last week saying that the laws of nature are unpatentable. In that case, the court unanimously threw out patents on a Prometheus Laboratories, Inc., test that could help doctors set drug doses for autoimmune diseases like Crohn's disease."
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