Archive for July, 2006

MPAA finally sues the wrong person

July 26, 2006

Shawn Hogan, Hero:

Last November, Shawn Hogan received an unsettling call: A lawyer representing Universal Pictures and the Motion Picture Association of America informed the 30-year-old software developer that they were suing him for downloading Meet the Fockers over BitTorrent. Hogan was baffled. Not only does he deny the accusation, he says he already owned the film on DVD. The attorney said they would settle for $2,500. Hogan declined.

Now he’s embroiled in a surprisingly rare situation – a drawn-out legal fight with the MPAA. The organization and its music cousin, the Recording Industry Association of America, have filed thousands of similar lawsuits between them, but largely because of the legal costs few have been contested and none have gone to trial. This has left several controversies unresolved, including the lawfulness of how the associations get access to ISP records and whether it’s possible to definitively tie a person to an IP address in the age of Wi-Fi.

Hogan, who coded his way to millions as the CEO of Digital Point Solutions, is determined to change this. Though he expects to incur more than $100,000 in legal fees, he thinks it’s a small price to pay to challenge the MPAA’s tactics. “They’re completely abusing the system,” Hogan says. “I would spend well into the millions on this.”

It had to happen eventually, I applaud this guy for being willing to fight it. Hopefully it’ll bring an end to this madness.

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Monkeys learn to use money; invent prostitution

July 25, 2006

Keith Chen’s Monkey Research

But do the capuchins actually understand money? Or is Chen simply exploiting their endless appetites to make them perform neat tricks?

Several facts suggest the former. During a recent capuchin experiment that used cucumbers as treats, a research assistant happened to slice the cucumber into discs instead of cubes, as was typical. One capuchin picked up a slice, started to eat it and then ran over to a researcher to see if he could ”buy” something sweeter with it. To the capuchin, a round slice of cucumber bore enough resemblance to Chen’s silver tokens to seem like another piece of currency.

Then there is the stealing. Santos has observed that the monkeys never deliberately save any money, but they do sometimes purloin a token or two during an experiment. All seven monkeys live in a communal main chamber of about 750 cubic feet. For experiments, one capuchin at a time is let into a smaller testing chamber next door. Once, a capuchin in the testing chamber picked up an entire tray of tokens, flung them into the main chamber and then scurried in after them — a combination jailbreak and bank heist — which led to a chaotic scene in which the human researchers had to rush into the main chamber and offer food bribes for the tokens, a reinforcement that in effect encouraged more stealing.

Something else happened during that chaotic scene, something that convinced Chen of the monkeys’ true grasp of money. Perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of money, after all, is its fungibility, the fact that it can be used to buy not just food but anything. During the chaos in the monkey cage, Chen saw something out of the corner of his eye that he would later try to play down but in his heart of hearts he knew to be true. What he witnessed was probably the first observed exchange of money for sex in the history of monkeykind. (Further proof that the monkeys truly understood money: the monkey who was paid for sex immediately traded the token in for a grape.)

The world’s oldest profession.

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Sex in space!

July 25, 2006

An article on MSNBC examines the scientific reality of the best fantasy ever (zero-g sex):

However, off-Earth romantics will have to cope with some practical challenges:

* Sex in space would likely be “hotter and wetter” than on Earth, Bonta said, because in zero-G there is no natural convection to carry away body heat. Also, scientists have found that people tend to perspire more in microgravity. The moisture associated with sexual congress could pool as floating droplets.

* The physics of zero-G make the mechanics of sex more complicated. Bonta said it was challenging even to kiss her husband during a zero-G simulation flight they took recently. “You actually have to struggle to connect and stay connected,” she recalled. Partners would have to be anchored to the wall and/or to each other. To address that need, Bonta has come up with her own design for garments equipped with strategically placed Velcro strips and zippers.

* Although zero-G could be a boon for saggy body parts, Bonta said males might notice a “slight decrease” in penis size due to the lower blood pressure that humans experience in microgravity.

* Romantics will also need to guard against the type of motion sickness that space travelers often encounter, especially if they get too adventurous right off. “Save the acrobatics for post-play vs. foreplay,” Bonta advised.

For all these reasons, Logan said spontaneous sex in space could be “a little underwhelming.”

Boo!

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Why the UK is my ideal place to live

July 24, 2006

People are bitching, actually bitching, about having to work 44.6 hours a week.

Martin Spence of Bectu points to a recent UK jobs survey as proving that such conditions exist in England, as well. “The results debunk some of the glamorous myths about working in media,” he says. “The hours are long and although on face value the average salary looks high, when you consider the costs of living and working in London, which most media professionals do, it’s not a huge income.” But how long are those hours, exactly?

The Skillset survey (PDF) to which he refers show that media professionals work 44.6 hours a week—not particularly long by US standards, but well above the UK’s 33.8 hour average for all workers. Video game developers, in fact, actually work less hours than any other group in the entertainment industry: 8.6 hours a day, on average. Web designers put in 8.8 hours, while those designing and producing commercials put in 11.1 (see p. 64).

Many Americans would no doubt prefer to be spit out of such a mill; more than 40% of them work above 50 hours a week already, regardless of their industry. The fact that putting in 8.6 hours a day feels like a heavy workload to UK workers says much about the cultural differences found on opposite sides of the Atlantic. While US workers may be the most productive in the world, if you break that productivity down by the hour, Americans come in behind the Norwegians, French, and Belgians.

The time poverty that most Americans live in has been a pet peeve issue of mine for a long time. 33.8 hours seems like an impossible dream in this country – and that doesn’t even bring up the depressing reality of vacation time (five weeks vs. two weeks).

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Is it okay to scream “Oh, God” when having sex with an atheist?

July 22, 2006

This cartoon answers the question.

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37 years ago today

July 21, 2006

Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin became the first human beings to step foot on the moon; and to this day remain two of only twelve who have ever done so.

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Yoda Rap!

July 21, 2006

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Bed sharing makes men stupid

July 21, 2006

BBC:

Sharing a bed with someone could temporarily reduce your brain power – at least if you are a man – Austrian scientists suggest.

When men spend the night with a bed mate their sleep is disturbed, whether they make love or not, and this impairs their mental ability the next day.

Ah, so now I have an excuse!

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Yahoo wants to sell mp3s

July 21, 2006

What’s the most universal digital music format out there, that will work on almost any system and play on almost any device, while allowing for the easiest conversions to CD audio and other formats?

Yahoo Music Blog:

You can buy a personalized version of the new Jessica Simpson song “A Public Affair” from Yahoo! Music’s Web Site (Music.Yahoo.com) for $1.99, and it’s an MP3. Dear digital consumer, even if you’re not into Jessica Simpson, and you’re not excited about spending $2 for a song, let me tell you, this is a bigger deal than you might think.

As you know, we’ve been publicly trying to convince record labels that they should be selling MP3s for a while now. Our position is simple: DRM doesn’t add any value for the artist, label (who are selling DRM-free music every day — the Compact Disc), or consumer, the only people it adds value to are the technology companies who are interested in locking consumers to a particular technology platform.

We’ve also been saying that DRM has a cost. It’s very expensive for companies like Yahoo! to implement. We’d much rather have our engineers building better personalization, recommendations, playlisting applications, community apps, etc, instead of complex provisioning systems which at the end of the day allow you to burn a CD and take the DRM back off, anyway! And on the consumer end there is certainly some discount built into that $0.99 download for the fact that you can burn a limited number of times, can’t play it on your Squeezebox, can’t DJ it with your DJ software, and can’t make a movie out of it with iMovie? I certainly hope so. Un-DRM’d content is implicitly more valuable to a consumer.

I’m not about to buy Jessica Simpson music, mp3 format or not, but if they start to offer good music in that format I’ll definitely jump on board. It’s nice to know some people in that business have their heads screwed on straight. I hope they are successful in their bid to convince the RIAA idiots of the above.

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Another world

July 21, 2006

Sometime I’m just awed by the fact that I can get a photo taken on the surface of another planet delivered to my desktop. To say nothing of the fact that the photo itself is hauntingly beautiful. Link. (Go to the site for uncropped, high resolution version)

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