Microsoft has patented the process of shutting down your computer, which as a former Windows user I find surprising as everyone knows Microsoft’s real innovation was the Blue Screen of Death. Microsoft may have shown admirable restraint in not patenting the computer crash, but the film industry has shown no such restraint–in fact it is hiring the cybermafia to crash Web sites with offending material. via Byline An anonymous reader writes “You would think that shutting down software could be fairly simple from an end user’s view. If I ask you to shut it down, would you mind shutting it actually down, please? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, because you need to ask the user if they really want to shut down and if unsaved documents should be saved. And that warrants a patent that also covers Mac OS X. Next time you shut down Windows, remember how complicated it is for Windows to shut down. Perhaps that is the reason why this procedure can take minutes in some cases.”

Meanwhile the film industry has come up with it’s own unique method for “shutting you down”: hiring cyber hitmen to take down services that happen to have copyrighted material on their Web sites. via Byline thelostagency writes “Girish Kumar, managing director of Aiplex Software says his company is being hired by the film industry to attack online pirates. He says if a provider did not do anything to remove the link or content hosted on its site, his company would launch what is known as a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the offending computer server. From the article: ‘Kumar said that at the moment most of the payment for his company’s services came from the film industry in India. “We are tied up with more than 30 companies in Bollywood. They are the major production houses.” As for Hollywood films, he said they, too, used his services.’”

I say release a swarm of rogue phospholipids on the Deepwater Horizon and let ‘em barnacle it over. And let some loose on Tony Hayward while you’re at it. dhj writes “MIT scientists have developed a self-assembling photovoltaic cell in a petri dish. Phospholipids (think cell membranes) form disks which act as the structural support for light responsive molecules. Carbon nanotubes help to align the disks and conduct electricity generated by the system with 40% efficiency. The assembly process is reversible using surfactants to break up the phospholipids. When filters are used to remove the surfactants the system reassembles with no loss of efficiency even over multiple assembly/disassembly cycles. The results were published September 5th in Nature Chemistry.”

It’s hard to believe that a high-schooler wouldn’t know about copyrighted music–but then it’s amazing what high-schoolers don’t know these days. Not to mention how little the recording industry seems to know about public relations, given how much they are asking per song. (At least it’s not the full $150,000 bizarrely permitted them under US copyright law. Is this a kinder, gentler RIAA, settling for a mere $30,000 because the defendant is a cheerleader?) via Byline droopus writes “The U.S. Supreme Court is weighing into the first RIAA file sharing case to reach its docket, requesting that the music labels’ litigation arm respond to a case testing the so-called ‘innocent infringer’ defense to copyright infringement. The case pending before the justices concerns a federal appeals court’s February decision ordering a university student to pay the Recording Industry Association of America $27,750 – $750 a track – for file-sharing 37 songs when she was a high school cheerleader. The appeals court decision reversed a Texas federal judge who, after concluding the youngster was an innocent infringer, ordered defendant Whitney Harper to pay $7,400 – or $200 per song. That’s an amount well below the standard $750 fine required under the Copyright act. Harper is among the estimated 20,000 individuals the RIAA has sued for file-sharing music. The RIAA has decried Harper as ‘vexatious,’ because of her relentless legal jockeying.” As one Slashdot commenter runs the numbers:

Downloading 24 songs -> 1.92 million dollars

Producing wilfully misleading documents in regards to royalties owed to the natives who’s land you are pumping gas from (for 25,949 violation days) -> 5.2 million dollars (65 songs)

Filling falsified audits for 4 years overstating pre-tax income by more than $1 billion (really was 1.4bill). -> 7 million dollars (88 songs)

Causing more than 300 oil spills (the largest being 100,000gallons into Nueces Bay, TX), illegally discharging crude oil totalling 3million gallons of crude leaking into ponds, lakes, rivers and streams across 6 states over a period of 7 years. All due to negligence and improper maintenance. -> 35 million dollars (437 songs)

Seems fair to me. 229 gallons of leaked crude oil into natural environments per mp3 copied. That means that my personal music collection is as bad as dumping 1.15 million barrels of oil across the countryside. To try to imagine how much that is: It is 357 average sized US homes filled with oil.

The new rules for technology that every kid should learn. They’re surprisingly cautionary (“Every new technology will bite back”), coming from former Wired editor Kevin Kelly. Could he be returning to his Whole Earth Catalog roots? (via Bill Kuykendall)

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Animation is all about time, right? Well, these animations demonstrate that time can be a box you can break out of, thanks to stop-action applied to simple 3d CAD files.

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19livescribe Popup v 2 thuIt’s a pen! It’s a voice recorder! It’s both–and Livescribe’s advocates claim it will revolutionize note-taking in class.

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Net artists never die, they just find new networks. The latest platforms for digital art? iPhones and iPads, not to mention Google headquarters.

Could the iPad be the new canvas for artists? 400,000 downloads for a single artwork say “Yes, it is.”

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I’m sure the author meant to justify TV’s endless parade of cliched storylines, but to me the article simply justified why I don’t own a TV. That said, his view of creativity is provocative and could spur an interesting art project. via Byline Let’s embrace the standard semantics of tropes found on TV and in film, says Wired’s Scott Brown. Let’s call it what it is: a programming language….

You’re looking at the source code of television writing itself, basically a TV genome map. Far from being a tedious cliché roster, it’s rapturously fascinating (arguably more so than many of the programs actually mentioned). Start with your favorite show….You’ll pull up a list of the tropes it contains, starting with the obvious (the Cowboy Cop, the Red Shirt marked for death) …the Captain Obvious, an authority figure who vocalizes stuff that doesn’t need saying; and the ever-popular Genre Blindness, where characters have clearly never seen the kind of TV show they’re in. (If they had, they wouldn’t be having sex in the woods with a killer on the loose.)

In an age when the Canadian government is muzzling scientists, religious groups are using special search engines like Jewogle to filter out unwanted results, and one in five Americans believes the earth is at the center of the solar system…you might just want to hear Randy Olson speak.

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Student Administrative Aide wanted–apply by September 17 2010.

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10orono Without Borders Bells smaSeason seven of this venerable intermedia festival finds newly minted U-Me MFAs mixing it up with the likes of Fluxus mainstay Dick Higgins and DJ paul j. bosse, the “junky but funky beat mechanic.”

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Your dorm room can be contributing to a greener planet. Just don’t tell your RA. via Byline hex0D points to this “interview with Aaron Baum explaining why people growing algae at home for food can help the environment and their health, and what he’s doing to facilitate this. ‘We’d like to create an international network of people growing all kinds of algae in their homes in a small community scale, sharing information, doing it all in an open source way. We’d be like the Linux of algae – do-it-yourself with low-cost materials and shared information.’ And one of the low-cost materials is your household urine.”

Most students just “rent” textbooks anyway, so why not rent them digitally? via Byline With the rise of tablets and e-readers, software developers and textbook publishers are making yet another effort to take textbooks digital. The latest entrant is Inkling, a textbook app for the iPad. via Byline

… psychologists have discovered that some of the most hallowed advice on study habits is flat wrong. For instance, many study skills courses insist that students find a specific place, a study room or a quiet corner of the library, to take their work. The research finds just the opposite. In one classic 1978 experiment, psychologists found that college students who studied a list of 40 vocabulary words in two different rooms — one windowless and cluttered, the other modern, with a view on a courtyard — did far better on a test than students who studied the words twice, in the same room. Later studies have confirmed the finding, for a variety of topics.

The brain makes subtle associations between what it is studying and the background sensations it has at the time, the authors say, regardless of whether those perceptions are conscious. It colors the terms of the Versailles Treaty with the wasted fluorescent glow of the dorm study room, say; or the elements of the Marshall Plan with the jade-curtain shade of the willow tree in the backyard. Forcing the brain to make multiple associations with the same material may, in effect, give that information more neural scaffolding.

“What we think is happening here is that, when the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” said Dr. Bjork, the senior author of the two-room experiment.

Varying the type of material studied in a single sitting — alternating, for example, among vocabulary, reading and speaking in a new language — seems to leave a deeper impression on the brain than does concentrating on just one skill at a time. Musicians have known this for years, and their practice sessions often include a mix of scales, musical pieces and rhythmic work. Many athletes, too, routinely mix their workouts with strength, speed and skill drills.

No, we’re not talking piercings. The latest in interactive installations are on view at the 2010 Ars Electronica, the same festival where NMD students Kristen Murphy, Max Langton, Matt James, and John Bell presented in 2002. via Byline Robots, phantom limbs and a nostril-powered digital painting take center stage at Ars Electronica 2010. Organizers for the digital arts festival, a longtime magnet for madcap interactive designers, describe this year’s exhibition as “a response to impending doom….”

Italian artist Sonia Cillari exhales through a cable connecting her left nostril to the center of a big screen. Her breathing defines the contours of a digital creature called “feather.”

HTML5 tigerThe HTML5Rocks site may be slanted toward Google’s implementation of HTML5 (and works best in Google’s Chrome browser). But it’s an impressive compendium of demos and how-to’s for everything HTML5, from 2- and 3d animations, to instant text columns, to building databases in the browser (“Web Storage”), to drag-and-drop with a single line of code. Web designers, prepare for HTML5 to rock your world.

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At least according to Bruce Sterling (and Radical Simplicity author Jim Merkal, among others). Sterling was among many commenters to note how Kelly Sutton’s choice to do more with less was not some freakish counterculture choice but an increasingly desirable mainstream lifestyle. via Byline *I enjoy watching people freak out over the cognitive dissonance provoked by this guy’s contemporary lifestyle.

*Just for the record, this is the avant-garde. Corny notions of dollar-savings and/or materialist minimalism have never worked and are never going to work against consumerism. However in short order, there will be big favela-chic smart-mobs of real-life people living like he does.

*Why? Because he’s enjoying it.

Meanwhile the US Centers for Disease Control all but declared car overuse a disease. via Byline The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is on a mission to promote walking, cycling and mass transit in an effort to build healthier communities….

The agency, which promotes and protects public health and safety, is pushing active transportation systems in a big way, and it’s fitting in light of the undeniable fact that the United States is getting ever fatter. The number of states with an obesity rate of 30 percent or more tripled, to nine, between 2007 and 2009.

Active transportation systems promote pedestrian mobility, bicycle usage, connectivity to mass transit and so-called complete streets that make room for all modes of transport. The CDC outlines the ambitious goals in its Transportation Recommendations. The focus is on developing more efficient transportation systems while improving Americans’ quality of life and health.

The Apertus is an open-source high-definition movie camera. New media programs (not to mention governments like Brazil and the state of California) have been looking to save cash by using open-source software like Open Office or Ubuntu. So why aren’t schools buying up open-source hardware as well? via Byline osliving writes “This article takes a tour of the hardware and software behind the innovative Apertus, a real world open source project. Led by Oscar Spierenburg and a team of international developers, the project aims to produce ‘an affordable community driven free software and open hardware cinematic HD camera for a professional production environment’.”

While the Apertus may not have the most professional-quality lenses and sensor yet, its users may benefit from the lack of an implicit video format license, namely the h.264 codec. From a Slashdot commenter:

MPEG-LA [the organization that controls h.264] basically claims certain financial rights over your project in exchange for the right to use the h.264 codec. This means that if you shoot a scene in h.264, but switch to something else to release on the web, they still have rights over you. If a contractor shoots in h.264 but sends you the video in a different format, they still claim rights over you. As far as I know, pretty much all HD cameras shoot in h.264.

Some of this is definitely winnable in court, some isn’t. But if you’re an independent filmmaker, you don’t have the money to go against one of the biggest legal groups in filmmaking.

So yes, this particular situation is a bit Orwellian.

mongoliadFamed science fiction author Neal Stephenson has unveiled a digital novel platform created with a cabal of interactive fiction / martial arts enthusiasts. To judge from initial glimpses of their first interactive novel, The Mongoliad, this “new” platform is more of a combination of older ideas: part interactive CD-ROM (Voyager in the 1980s), part paid subscription (the New York Times in the 1990s), and part user-generated content (Wikipedia in the 2000s). At least the authors have given up on DRM from the get-go.

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Touched by the expression of a dying baby Orangutan, Willie Smits and the Orangutan Survival Foundation regrew a destroyed rainforest in Borneo using satellite imagery and permaculture (though he doesn’t use the word in his TED talk). Why was the project so successful and long-lived (still going after twenty years)? The key, according to Smits, is not to swoop in like an environmental missionary with no regard for the economic plight of local people, but to factor human economic activity in the complex ecological solution.

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