Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A top ten list of fantasy series

Here's a list of 10 fantasy novel series for 2010.  Its obligatory for such lists to include Lord of the Rings, and strive to find a reason not to put it in the number one slot.  This list is no exception.   But that's OK.  For a new decade you want to read a new series, and this list puts a few good candidates forward.

The 10 Greatest Fantasy Series Of All Time
Martin rises above the crowd, and that's why, even if he never does get around to finishing it, we think A Song of Ice and Fire is the greatest fantasy series of all time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yo Ho Ho

Compare and contrast.

The Pirate Bay Tracker Shuts Down for Good | TorrentFreak
Despite this success, The Pirate Bay operators today decided to pull the plug and close down the tracker permanently. The evolution of the BitTorrent protocol has made trackers redundant they say, as BitTorrent downloads work well with trackerless solutions such as DHT and PEX.
The Boat That Rocked (2009) - Plot Summary
It's about a band of rogue DJs that captivated Britain, playing the music that defined a generation and standing up to a government that, incomprehensibly, preferred jazz.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Copyright Time Bomb

Wired has an interesting article on the fine print in existing copyright law that is about to go off.  Well worth reading.

Copyright Time Bomb Set to Disrupt Music, Publishing Industries | Epicenter |
At a time when record labels and, to a lesser extent, music publishers, find themselves in the midst of an unprecedented contraction, the last thing they need is to start losing valuable copyrights to ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s music, much of which still sells as well or better than more recently released fare. Nonetheless, the wheels are already in motion.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where to watch free movies online

Quite the list.  Enjoy.

Free Movies Online: Where to Watch Them | Open Culture
Where to watch free movies online? Here’s a list that will get you started. We’ve listed 20 sites that feature a wide range of films. Classics, international, film noir, documentaries, indies — they’re all here. Most of these films should be available in every geographic region. However, there will be some exceptions.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Google Audio Launching Soon?

Well, TechCrunch says so ... and it could be an interesting alternative to Last.FM ...

New Google Music Service Launch Imminent
Google will soon launch a music service, we’ve heard from multiple sources, and the company has spent the last several weeks securing content for the launch of the service from the major music labels. One source has referred to the new service as Google Audio.

Google To Partner With iLike And LaLa For New Music Service
Google will partner with iLike and LaLa for their new music service, we’ve learned. And the announcement date is Wednesday, October 28, 2009.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Magic Wand Remote

Who wouldn't want one?

Magic Wand: Accelerometer + Remote Control - O'Reilly Radar
The wand has a total of thirteen gestures that can be programmed to output IR signals. The gestures can be re-programmed at any time when you have the original remote. Their website doesn't list all of them, but the names are quite suggestive of the motion. They include Rotate (for volume), Flicks (for advancing tracks or channels), and Taps (I would think for Playing and Stopping).

Friday, September 25, 2009

New Fossil Links Dinosaurs and Birds

Four-winged dino may be missing link in bird debate - Yahoo! News
It was found in rock dated to the early part of the Late Jurassic, between 151 and 161 million years ago, which means it is clearly older than Archaeopteryx.

Rather than be considered a bird, A. huxleyi is a late member of the Troodontidae, a category of dinosaurs closely related to avians, the study argues.

"This new find refutes the temporal paradox and provides significant information on the temporal framework of theropod divergence," it says.

Monday, September 14, 2009

CBS to field a Last.FM powered HD radio station in major markets.

Crowd-sourced commercial on-air radio programming.  Its a long way from Jack and Bob robot programmed stations, let alone WKRP which was programmed by a crew of quirky humans.   The question is ... can Last.FM users game the programming?   

CBS to Launch HD Radio Stations in Top 4 U.S. Markets | Epicenter |
Listeners in those cities (who own HD Radios) will be able to tune in to the channel, to be comprised of “an eclectic mix of music aggregated and influenced by the service’s user-generated weekly charts, combined with live performances and interviews from the studios in New York, and event updates,” according to Friday morning’s announcement. The station will also be available as a webcast on and other CBS websites, of course, as well as through mobile apps for the iPhone and Blackberry.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Name that Tune

Top of the list in this article was a site I'd never tried before: Midomi which asks you to "hum a few bars" and they'll guess the song.   So my first inclination here - as in so many cases where a web site claims to be able to guess what you're thinking  - is to toss Gilligan's Island at them.   I figure its something that's rarely on people's minds, yet it is familiar to almost everyone.  In this case the theme song.  They request 10 seconds, so I started with 3 seconds.  No dice.  Then I tried whistling for 10 seconds.  No dice.  Then I followed instructions hummed for ten embarrassing seconds and ...

Now you can try this yourself, and perhaps you'll find the "near misses" just as interesting.  In my case, Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" turned up as a close match to Gilligan's Island.

HOW TO: Find the Name of That Song
In our usage of Midomi over time, we’ve found it to be startlingly accurate. Of course, it depends a bit on some esoteric factors such as how faithfully you can reproduce the sound (or conversely, how tone-deaf you are!) and how obscure the track is you’re trying to identify. You’ll also need to give the search engine some core identifiable piece of the song to work from, which means knowing enough of the lyrics or melody to trigger a match.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Analysis of the Spotify business model

An analysis of the economics of Spotify reveal its not as artist friendly as previously believed.

Behind the music: The real reason why the major labels love Spotify | Music |
No wonder the majors speak so highly of Spotify – they receive 18% of shares in the online streaming service. It's justy a pity that artists won't get to see any of this

The mathematical model for a zombie attack.

Convincing, although unsurprising, results from guys who know how to model infectious disease.

Marginal Revolution: Mathematics of a Zombie Attack
Zombies are a popular figure in pop culture/entertainment and they are usually portrayed as being brought about through an outbreak or epidemic. Consequently, we model a zombie attack, using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies. We introduce a basic model for zombie infection, determine equilibria and their stability, and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions. We then refine the model to introduce a latent period of zombification, whereby humans are infected, but not infectious, before becoming undead.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Scary Editorials about Health Care

TalkingPointsMemo captured a truly ironic editorial over at Investor's Business Daily, before it was patched up (the evidence is still in Google's cache).  The editorial was highly critical of the proposed U.S. health care reform legislation.  Since reform is not expected to be a "good thing" for investors if it passes, we can understand their point of view.

Instead of pointing out the financial risk to investors, however, they decided to scare people by warning that the bill would usher in the same terrifyingly low level of health care quality as is available in the U.K. 

They went a little over the top, though, when they suggested that Stephen Hawking would have perished of neglect under the U.K.'s health care system.   Hawking is, of course, a Commander of the British Empire and has held the Lucasian Chair at Cambridge (Isaac Newton's old job) since 1979.

Don't Need To Be a Rocket Scientist | TPM
People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the U.K., where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless.

Friday, August 7, 2009

14,000 year old map discovered

World's oldest map: Spanish cave has landscape from 14,000 years ago - Telegraph
A stone tablet found in a cave in Abauntz in the Navarra region of northern Spain is believed to contain the earliest known representation of a landscape.

Engravings on the stone, which measures less than seven inches by five inches, and is less than an inch thick, appear to depict mountains, meandering rivers and areas of good foraging and hunting.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Associated Press wil give you a license to quote Thomas Jefferson.

Yet another reason why newspapers are utterly doomed.

Associated Press will sell you a license to quote the public domain - Boing Boing
I picked a random AP article and went to their "reuse options" site. Then, when they asked what I wanted to quote, I punched in Thomas Jefferson's famous argument against copyright. Their license fee: $12 for an educational 26-word quote. FROM THE PUBLIC FREAKING DOMAIN, and obviously, obviously not from the AP article. But the AP is too busy trying to squeeze the last few cents out of a dying business model to care about little things like free speech or the law.

Hacking Life

Here you go.

 J. Craig Venter, genetic entrepreneur extraordinaire, points out that the efficiency of sequencing genomes has recently outstripped Moore's law for computers by about an order of magnitude for the last four years.  Given that pace... do you think that natural or artificial intelligence will be getting the next big upgrade? 

Synthetic Life - TierneyLab Blog -
The rate at which this technology is now improving puts silicon to shame. Dr. Church noted that between 1970 and 2005 gene sequencing had taken place on a Moore’s Law pace, improving at about 1.5 times per year. Since then it has improved at the rate of an order of magnitude, or ten times annually.

Amelia Earhart

 A new expedition hopes to use modern DNA analysis to confirm the last location of the famed aviator.

Solving the mystery of how aviator Amelia Earhart disappeared | World news | The Observer
Gillespie said that modern DNA analysis techniques meant that any other human artefacts recovered could now be swabbed for the tiniest traces of DNA and compared to the Earhart family sample. His team will be looking for traces of mitochondrial DNA, which breaks down less easily than the chromosomal DNA of a cell's nucleus.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Map of Ancient Roman City Unearthed

Ancient Roman City Rises Again -- Curry 2009 (730): 1 -- ScienceNOW
Altinum was eventually abandoned entirely. Most of the ancient city's stones were stolen in the Middle Ages to be reused elsewhere. Land-reclamation efforts in the 19th century turned the area from marsh into farm fields. "Altinum is unique because it was not built upon in later times," Mozzi says. Previous archaeological excavations have focused mainly on the city's necropolis, located outside the walls; this is the first-ever glimpse of the city's layout.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

T. Rex Proteins Again

The Scientific Method in action.  Repeating the previous experiment supports the results: proteins isolated from a T. Rex fossil appear genuine.

Reexamination of T. rex verifies disputed biochemical remains
The scientists describe reanalysis of the T. rex data and also report finding evidence of substances found in collagen. "In summary, we find nothing obviously wrong with the Tyrannosaurus rex [analysis from 2007]," the report states. "The identified peptides seem consistent with a sample containing old, quite possibly very ancient, bird-like bone, contaminated with only fairly explicable proteins. Hemoglobin and collagen are plausible proteins to find in fossil bone, because they are two of the most abundant proteins in bone and bone marrow."

Monday, July 27, 2009

How do you mend a broken heart?

Sounds preferable to having your chest cracked, no?

Stem Cells Not The Only Way To Fix A Broken Heart
Researchers appear to have a new way to fix a broken heart. They have devised a method to coax heart muscle cells into reentering the cell cycle, allowing the differentiated adult cells to divide and regenerate healthy heart tissue after a heart attack, according to studies in mice and rats reported in the July 24th issue of the journal Cell.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Neanderthal speared by a human

It looks possible that 50,000 years ago, at least one human threw a spear at a Neanderthal, hit him and perhaps lead to his death weeks later.

Human Stabbed a Neanderthal, Evidence Suggests | LiveScience
Newly analyzed remains suggest that a modern human killed a Neanderthal man in what is now Iraq between 50,000 and 75,000 years ago. The finding is scant but tantalizing evidence for a theory that modern humans helped to kill off the Neanderthals.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Benedict XVI on Intellectual Property

I wonder how he feels about copyright?

Patent Law Blog (Patently-O): The Pope on Patents
In a recently published encyclical letter, Pope Benedict XVI has taken a stand against strong patent rights because of they way that the exclusive rights of patents tend to promote wealth inequality at the expense of development in the world's poorest countries.

"On the part of rich countries there is excessive zeal for protecting knowledge through an unduly rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property, especially in the field of health care."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Pandora Caps Free Streaming in Response to Royalty "Deal"

The terms of the deal swill allow Pandora to continue ... but at a price their listeners may not be willing to pay.

Lifehacker - Pandora Caps Free Streaming at 40 Hours per Month - streaming radio
The bad news, at least for daily streamers, is that free accounts will be limited to 40 hours per monthly period. Users can then pay $0.99 to unlock streaming for the rest of the month

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ornitopter Video

Cool: artificial humming bird.

'First-ever' flight of robotic ornithopter announced • The Register
Vid Famous crazycraft company Aerovironment has won a $2.1m contract to further develop its robotic "Nano Air Vehicle" (NAV), which flies and hovers using flapping wings like a hummingbird. The company has also released a video of the innovative craft in test flights.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Dogfish Time Machine is running again

Another batch of Chateau Jiahu plus a public offering of Sah'tea and Theobroma.  Also try the more regularly available King Midas.

9,000-year-old brew hitting the shelves this summer: Scientific American Blog
Called Chateau Jiahu, this blend of rice, honey and fruit was intoxicating Chinese villagers 9,000 years ago—long before grape wine had its start in Mesopotamia.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Neanderthals, where on Earth did you go?

It seems they found a Neanderthal skull, with butcher marks, in a human bone midden.  

How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans | Science | The Observer
But not every team member agrees. "One set of cut marks does not make a complete case for cannibalism," said Francesco d'Errico, of the Institute of Prehistory in Bordeaux. It was also possible that the jawbone had been found by humans and its teeth used to make a necklace, he said.


"This does not prove we systematically eradicated the Neanderthals or that we regularly ate their flesh. But it does add to the evidence that competition from modern humans probably contributed to Neanderthal extinction."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hobbits may have evolved from H. habilis

This article has a good description of recent results based on foot structure.  It also has a family tree diagram with Hobbits included. 

Palaeoanthropology: Homo floresiensis: from head to toe : Article : Nature
These features suggest that H. floresiensis evolved from a species that was anatomically more primitive than classic H. erectus from Asia. One possibility (Fig. 2) is that H. floresiensis evolved from H. habilis, whose skeleton is poorly known but is australopith-like in many respects. Another is that H. floresiensis descended from an earlier type of H. erectus, whose body may have been much less modern than we currently credit, and which perhaps deserves a separate species designation (H. ergaster).

Transplant advances

Just phenomenal progress.

BBC NEWS | Americas | First US face transplant revealed
Surgeons at a clinic in a Cleveland, Ohio, replaced 80% of Ms Culp's face with that of a dead female donor.

"I guess I'm the one you came to see today, " she told reporters but added that "I think it's more important that you focus on the donor family that made it so I could have this person's face."

The transplant is only the fourth to be carried out. Two operations have been conducted in France and one in China.

Man gets first double hand transplant in U.S. : Scientific American Blog
Kepner, who lost both hands and feet to a bacterial infection a decade ago, will need intense physical therapy before he is able to use his hands effectively, according to Rose.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The problem with growth.

NYT had an article a couple days ago about the demographics of web growth and the associated economics.   I was thinking that they would surely mention ... but they didn't.  Still its a good read.

Internet Users in Developing Countries Drag on Sites’ Profits -
Facebook is booming in Turkey and Indonesia. YouTube’s audience has nearly doubled in India and Brazil.

That may seem like good news. But it is also a major reason these and other Web companies with big global audiences and renowned brands struggle to turn even a tiny profit.

Call it the International Paradox.

Lessig's infamous talk

Here's your daily dose of irony.  One of Lessig's talks on how copyright should be adapted to remain viable ... received a take-down notice from Warner music.

I hadn't seen the talk before.  You can watch it below.  Well worth the time. 

update on Warner Music (Lessig Blog)
As you may have read me tweet, the organization that hosted me for this talk:

Received a notice that Warner Music had objected to its being posted on copyright grounds. Apparently, YouTube's content-ID algorithm had found music in the video that they claimed ownership to. The organization is apparently responding by disputing the claim

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Judge in Pirate Bay case had conflict of interest

Downloading pirated movies is wrong.  But publishing a web index is not (see the activities of a company called Google for example).   

Nevertheless, if the judge in the Pirate Bay case were designing laws, Eric Schmidt would be looking at a year of jail time right about now.

That's the deal the owners of Pirate Bay got from him, anyway.  

But it looks like the judge may have been a card-carrying member of pro-copyright groups lobbying for tougher copyright laws.  Justice is so not blind.

Pirate Bay judge and pro-copyright lobbyist accused of bias • The Register
The judge in The Pirate Bay trial has been accused of bias, after Sweden's national radio station revealed that Thomas Norström was a member of the same pro-copyright groups as several of the main entertainment industry reps in the case.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

What keeps you awake?

Xkcd is sometimes wickedly funny.   If you don't get it, you'll probably sleep easier. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Things that count as Fair Use

Who knew that a court would actually side with the public's interest on fair use of copyright?  Refreshing.

Fair Use, Turnitin, And... Why Google Never Should Have Caved On Book Scanning | Techdirt
While O'Toole rushes through these points, they're actually pretty important, since they're quite often misunderstood by people (even copyright lawyers) who claim that commercial use isn't fair use, or that using an entire work can't be fair use or can't be transformative. In this case, the court lays out why none of that is true.

via Slashdot

Legislation to help musicians

Here's an interesting way to level the playing field between terrestrial and internet radio:  make terrestrial radio pay the same high royalties as streaming internet stations. 

But it turns out that the National Association of Broadcasters and the RIAA are against it (go figure) claiming that paying the higher royalties will hurt the artists.

This is ironically the same argument used by the same people in support of higher royalty rates for the internet stations.  

Bono: Radio Should Pay for Songs, Like Web Does - News and Analysis by PC Magazine
Should traditional radio stations have to pay the same royalty fees that are imposed on Internet and satellite radio stations? If pending legislation is successful, that could become a reality, but the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is hitting back at the bill's high-profile supporters to make sure that doesn't happen.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Funniest April Fool's Page

Google is always a class act on April Fool's, but this one is obvious enough to prevent any confusion about its authenticity.  At the same time, the humor is wickedly subtle. 

Its only mildly funny, in a geeky way, until you check out the FORTRAN SDK.

Don't get it?  Well I guess you had to be there.

Google App Engine Blog: A Brand New Language on Google App Engine!
If you're an enterprise customer and want to take advantage of Google App Engine, but have a large and cumbersome legacy system, we want to make it easy for you to port to the cloud. By providing a Fortran 77 runtime, along with a familiar, easy-to-use deployment mechanism, we hope to make this process efficient and straightforward.

Want to give it a try? Download our SDK and deploy your application by mailing punch cards to:

Google App Engine, C/O APPCFG
1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy
Mountain View, CA 94043

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama teams up with RIAA

Its now clear that our new high-tech administration is not in favor of easing access to music, so much as it is easing access to our private medical records.  The Wired article points out that this should come as no surprise.  To be fair, though, the President may have to pick his battles these days.  Why irritate your political backers in Hollywood when it looks like they are already starting to cut up their bedsheets up into easy-to-wave rectangles on their own?

Obama Sides With RIAA, Supports $150,000 Fine per Music Track | Threat Level from
The Obama administration for the first time is weighing in on a Recording Industry Association of America file sharing lawsuit and is supporting hefty awards of as much as $150,000 per purloined music track.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reverse engineering a dinosaur from a chicken

Oh like you're not secretly hoping it works.

'Dinochicken' Scheme Puts Evolution in Reverse : Discovery News
Some of the world's leading paleontologists are attempting to recreate a dinosaur -- or something a lot like a dinosaur -- by starting with a chicken embryo and working backward to engineer a "chickenosaurus" or "dinochicken," project leader Jack Horner told Discovery News.

Monday, February 23, 2009

New Self Portrait of da Vinci discovered?

Check out what could turn out to be only the second authentic self portrait.

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci discovered in Basilicata - Times Online
At one time thought to portray Galileo Galilei, the great astronomer, it shows a man in three-quarter profile wearing a hat with a feather in it. Mr Barbatelli, who found the painting by chance while researching the history of the Templar Knights and the First Crusade

Mr Barbatelli said: “I could see at once it was not Galileo. The posture, the style and technique were reminiscent of the portrait of Leonardo in the Uffizi”. He too stressed that the painting needed to be “subjected to more tests”, adding “we are only at the beginning”.

Milky Way still ringing from an impact 2 GYA

New Scientist has an article about a computer simulation created by Ivan Minchev of the University of Strasbourg, France of the distribution of velocities of billions of Milky Way stars.  From the model, a pattern of "ripples" emerged; streams of stars at high velocity. He suggests these stars were jolted by a shock wave from another galaxy merging with ours about 2 billion years ago.

[0902.1531] Is the Milky Way ringing? The hunt for high velocity streams
By matching the number and positions of the observed streams, we estimate that the Milky Way disk was strongly perturbed ~1.9 Gyr ago. This event could have been associated with Galactic bar formation.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Dealing with EULA's

Step by step instructions on how to make sure your kitty will take the rap for any EULA violations.

The Agreeable Cat by Anne Loucks
How often have you been presented with unplesant click-through license agreements like this one from the Adobe website:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pride and Predator

Yep,  it seems to be exactly what you'd expect, providing Variety was not duped or hacked.  Perhaps not as compelling as recent literary adaptations of Austen, it does make you sort of wonder how Mr. Darcy will fare.  Probably a box office hit.

Rocket launches 'Predator' - Entertainment News, Film News, Media - Variety
Elton John's Rocket Pictures hopes to make the first Jane Austen adaptation to which men will drag their girlfriends.

Will Clark is set to direct "Pride and Predator," which veers from the traditional period costume drama when an alien crash lands and begins to butcher the mannered protags, who suddenly have more than marriage and inheritance to worry about.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Neanderthals lactose Intolerant.

First draft of the neanderthal genome was announced.  Very little evidence for interbreeding with humans, and the following tidbit.

First draft of Neanderthal genome is unveiled - life - 12 February 2009 - New Scientist
The new sequences suggest that the Vindija Neanderthal lacked the ability to digest milk sugar in adulthood - a trait that became common among northern Europeans and Africans only in the last 10,000 years.