Saturday, December 29, 2012

Why European Computers Predicted Sandy First

Ars Technica has a nice article on weather prediction services, and explains why the European weather models predicted Sandy days before the American ones.

Seven days before Sandy made landfall in New Jersey, the atmospheric crystal ball was partly cloudy. The US National Weather Service forecast model showed a chance that Sandy might come ashore, but indicated that it was more likely the storm would spin off into the Atlantic. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) model, however, definitely pointed the storm ashore. It would be about three days before the US model totally converged on the Europeans' forecast.

Essentially, the Europeans:
- have a bigger, better supercomputer...
- that specializes in medium-range predictions, and
- takes continuous data for half a day for their simulations;

As opposed to Americans who:
- have a less powerful computer
- that does short, medium, and long range predictions, and
- only take "snapshots" of initial conditions and have to run with that.

Ars Technica: Why European forecasters saw Sandy’s path first

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Hobbit trailer cut


All the Hobbit trailers, cut together into one.

Monday, November 19, 2012

6-yr-old writes to Hasbro for lack of girls in Guess Who game

Male-normative thinking usually gets pointed out these days, but it's not very often that you have such a slam-dunk argument like in the following story:

A 6-yr-old wrote to Hasbro to complain that there are only 5 female characters in their Guess Who? game, vs. 19 guys.

Dear Hasbro,

My name is R______. I am six years old. I think it's not fair to only have 5 girls in Guess Who and 19 boys. It is not only boys who are important, girls are important too. If grown ups get into thinking that girls are not important they won't give little girls much care.

Also if girls want to be a girl in Guess Who they'll always lose against a boy, and it will be harder for them to win. I am cross about that and if you don't fix it soon, my mum could throw Guess Who out.

My mum typed this message but I told her what to say.

Feminism has never been so adorable.

Of course, big companies being big companies, they offered the following flat explanation:

Guess Who? is a guessing game based on a numerical equation. If you take a look at the characters in the game, you will notice that there are five of any given characteristics. The idea of the game is, that by process of elimination, you narrow down who it isn't, thus determining who it is. The game is not weighted in favour of any particular character, male or female. Another aspect of the game is to draw attention away from using gender or ethnicity as the focal point, and to concentrate on those things that we all have in common, rather than focus on our differences.

Well, that's not patronizing at all, is it? I mean, seriously? Do you even hear yourselves? The whole point of the game is to point out the differences in order to discover the character, dammit!

The girl's mom was obviously not impressed, and I think she really hits the nail on the head when she asks:
Why is female gender regarded as a "characteristic", while male gender is not?

Via Jezebel.

Friday, November 16, 2012

One of the Internet's hobbies is calling people out on their bullshit.

From cheezburger:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Anonymous defends bullied twitterer

Your half heartwarming, half enraging news of the day: How Anonymous helped prevent a teen's suicide

A suicidal 15-year-old girl, a pair of trolls, Anti-Bullying Day, and Anonymous: They all came together overnight in a perfect storm of swift, social media justice.

It doesn't take a whole lot to scare those teenage trolls away, and the ones involved here have received a thorough ass-whoopin'.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Pic: Genius!

MEGA: the plot thickens!

A week or so after announcing his new domain, Kim Dotcom has seen me.ga suspended and hacked.

First, and just hours ago, came news that the Communications Minister of Gabon, the African country where .ga domains are based, would be suspending the Me.ga domain.

“I have instructed my departments to immediately suspend the site www.me.ga,” announced Communication Minister Blaise Louembe.

“Gabon cannot serve as a platform or screen for committing acts aimed at violating copyrights, nor be used by unscrupulous people,” the minister said.

Of course, Kim Dotcom sees conspiracy in this, and it's hard not to think there was some kind of outside pressure, given the harsh words of the Gabonese Minister aimed at a cyberlocker service. Moreover, '.ga' is administered by Gabon Telecom, which is owned by Vivendi, one of the largest entertainment & telecom companies. They own Universal Music, and if you've been following the story, you know they don't exactly see eye to eye with Dotcom...

On top of this, me.ga was redirecting for a while to ome.ga, a self-claimed anarchist group who wants to sell the me.ga domain to Dotcom's detractors...

from: TorrentFreak

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Apple loses iPhone trademark in Mexico

Since we're on the subject of trademarks, news just came out that Apple lost a court case in Mexico over its iPhone trademark.

it's really rather fun to watch Apple have the trademark stick wrestled from their grips and get beaten over the head with it, such as when Mexico invalidates their use of the "iPhone" mark in commerce within their country.

The story is that in 2003, a Mexican company registered the "iFone" trademark, then got sued by Apple, who filed for "iPhone" in 2007. The court then ruled in favor of iFone.

It's nice to see a court standing up against Apple, and one hopes there could've been a similar result in the Chinese iPad case had the court been willing to rule on the issue.

In other Apple news, bOINGbOING has a post about Apples take 2 at publishing their non-apology in the Samsung case: Slippery web designers at Apple hide court ordered apology perpetually below the fold. Hopefully the judge will see through this again.

Friday, November 02, 2012

OMIGAWD they wanna trademark the "@" sign

via Techdirt: German Company Wants To Protect Its Use Of The '@' Sign: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Der Spiegel is reporting that someone wants a German "wordmark" on the "@" sign (original in German). The company involved has the rather unusual name "@ T.E.L.L.", where the initials apparently stand for "Tradinghouse for Exclusive Luxury Labels".

Trademark has such a bad reputation these days that the above news is bound to elicit some knee-jerk reactions along the lines of "OMIGAWD they're gonna take control of that word/letter/sign/color" and "what could go wrong?".

First off, the answer to "what could go wrong" is "everything", and it applies pretty much everywhere, not just trademarks. There's always bound to be some entitled jerk who is going to take the whole arm when you give them a hand. IP just happens to be talked about a bit more these days.

Second, it is important to understand that trademark gives you exclusivity in specific domains, and in connection to products. It's not like they're given blanket ownership of the "@" symbol for every use everywhere forever. If they use the "@" symbol to mark their products, and their customers recognise their products, then why shouldn't they get some protection?

It is important to note, though, that trademark, when applied correctly, is not supposed to protect the company from its competitors, but to protect customers from confusion.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Italy: six years in jail for failing to predict earthquake

BBC News reports that the 7 members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks who were on trial for manslaughter for failing to predict a major earthquake in 2009 have now been sentenced to 6 years in prison.

They will probably appeal.

Earthquakes are notoriously hard to predict, and you'd think that in 2012, people would have enough common sense to NOT engage in the kind of witchhunt shown above.

If the verdict stands, anyone working in seismology should just pack their bags and leave. Hasta la vista, no more predictions for you, fools!

Or they can decide to not issue any warnings anymore. Their jobs will be to study earthquakes, not predict them. You're on your own from now on.

Or they can start giving a warning every time a small tremor happens, and let the people do their own analysis.

Either way, it doesn't sound good for the people.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Public Citizen needs $$ to hire someone to sit outside Charles Carreon's house

Just thought I'd put it out there:

Public Citizen is defending the blogger suing for declaratory judgement that his blog satirizing Charles Carreon (of suing-the-oatmeal fame) is legal. Unfortunately, Carreon is hiding out and trying not to be served court papers.

Unfortunately, Carreon seems to be working the system effectively. Because even with all of these obvious attempts to avoid having to actually deal with the lawsuit against him, the judge is asking the blogger and his lawyers to "try harder:"
The process server could easily wait outside the fence for defendant to enter or leave the residence and could then leave the papers in the defendant's presence. Alternatively, the process server may choose to wait near a location defendant is thought to frequent, such as an office or grocery store. If the defendant still refuses to accept the papers, it will be considered sufficient if the “server is in close proximity to the defendant, clearly communicates intent to serve court documents, and makes reasonable efforts to leave the papers with the defendant.”
- Techdirt: Charles Carreon Still Dishing Out Threats & Intimidation... While Hiding From Court Summons

So there you have it. Public Citizen is now looking for public donations to help them hire some guy to site outside that other guy's house.

Public Citizen's Donations page

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm not insured, I've got socialised healthcare...

Amanda Palmer is generating quite some chatter on Twitter these last few days with her hashtag #insurancepoll.

i asked everybody on my feed what their current situation was:
quick twitter poll. 1) COUNTRY?! 2) profession? 3) insured? 4) if not, why not, if so, at what cost per month (or covered by job)?

The feed is a fascinating snapshot of the healthcare coverage situation of people both in the US and abroad.

One thing I found particularly interesting was how every once in a while, someone living in a country offering socialized healthcare would answer "no" for question 3.

(1st and 3rd tweets in pic above)

There seems to be people in some places in the world for whom socialised healthcare is such a basic service that when asked "are you insured" they would think you mean whether they have private health insurance.

I chuckled a bit, but when you think about it, it's not such an unreasonable assumption...

Indeed, in many places, the public program does not cover all health-related expenses. For instance, in Quebec, drugs, dental and eye care are not covered past a certain age. Private insurance companies offer coverage for these services, and many of the Canadians responding "yes, insurance covered by employer" are actually referring to the complementary coverage.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Book blurb: The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

I don't usually do book reviews, but given I've had a lot of time on my hands lately, I've been picking at some books in my roommate's book pile (he receives more books for review than he can read).

Now, my roommate specializes in SFF, which isn't really a genre I'm THAT into, to be honest, and it seems SFF these days is mostly vampire romances, and, well, blergh.

The Twelve is about vampires, -ish, and it's NOT one of those sappy romances, so rest assured. I had not read Cronin's other book, the Passage, although I might just check it out now.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world where government experiments with some strange virus has unleashed a catastrophe of biblical proportions, quite literally. 80 years later, a small group of survivors must hunt down and kill the original twelve test subjects in order to rid the world of the plague.

The book is an interesting mix of Sci-Fi and literary fiction, the result being a detailed world and rich characters. However, the lengthy descriptions can sometimes be a little overwhelming, and the writing really leaves nothing unsaid.

If you are willing to push through till the end, though, the story is relatively satisfying

Friday, October 05, 2012

Chinese people: not happy, but will be amused

Chinese people are a weird mix of docility and irreverence. Many of them will not hesitate to poke fun at the government, sometimes in the most unusual ways. You just don't expect the CCTV to show it on TV.

On September 30, when asked “do you feel happy?” (你幸福吗), an elderly migrant worker literally could not believe he was being asked about his well-being and answered instead, “My surname is Zeng,” apparently mistaking the question to mean, “Is your surname Fu?” (你姓福吗)

When Chinese State TV Asks, “Are You Happy?” Some Literally Cannot Believe It

Monday, October 01, 2012

These days in file sharing

Torrent Freak: File-Sharing for Personal Use Declared Legal in Portugal

We couldn't expect better from a country that has one of the most progressive drug enforcement laws in the world.

Portuguese anti-piracy group ACAPOR hoped to come down heavy on file sharers, reporting 2000 IP addresses to law enforcement. Law enforcement tells them to get a life and quit whining.

On the other hand...
Anti-Downloading Law Hits Japan, Up To 2 Years in Prison From Today

While Japan already has the legislative muscle to hit uploaders with up to 10 years in prison and a 10 million yen ($128,300) fine, this new legislation makes criminals of mere downloaders.

From today, knowingly downloading copyright infringing material can result in a two-year jail sentence or a fine of 2 million yen ($25,680).

Obama's got 99 problems, but Mitt ain't one

Friday, September 28, 2012

Your tax dollars at work

For those of you who are tired to see the TV ads for Canada's Economic Action Plan (why do they advertise it in the first place is beyond me), be happy to know that your tax dollars have been hard at work.

Yes, an ad banner for the EAP has been recently spotted on The Pirate Bay, of any places.

(image shamelessy hotlinked from the Ottawa Citizen article.)

The above image tells you a number of things:
- the EAP is about as sketchy as Find-a-chinese-bride services
- new season of Dr Who has begun a few weeks ago
- Mac users still don't know how to print screen.
- irony: an apple OS in a Samsung monitor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Droit: Prise en paiement et enrichissement injustifié

Dans nos cours de droit, on s'est souvent demandé si la prise en paiement n'était pas un recours un peu abusif, dans les cas où la dette est relativement petite comparé au bien pris en paiement, et si cela ne constituerait pas de l'enrichissement injustifié.

La cour s'est récemment posé la question dans le cas Agalakov Sheloykina c. Syndicat des copropriétaires Les Habitations Poupart, 2012 QCCA 1620, où un syndicat de copropriétaires a pris en paiement un condo dont la propriétaire n'a pas payé les frais.

Le condo valait environ 150 000$, alors que le total des frais non acquittés n'était que de 2 019,68 $.

Au lieu d'en appeler de la décision, la propriétaire a intenté un recours en enrichissement injustifié.

Du juge:
Le Code civil du Québec prévoit diverses mesures permettant au débiteur hypothécaire de faire échec à la prise en paiement, mais la requérante n'a utilisé aucun de ces moyens. [...]

[9] La prise en paiement, on peut en convenir, est le plus draconien des recours mis à la disposition du créancier hypothécaire et, comme on le voit ici, il peut causer un préjudice réel au débiteur hypothécaire. Son usage, cependant, est permis expressément par le législateur (sauf circonstance dont aucune ne paraît ici applicable ou n'est soulevée par la requérante) et le préjudice qui peut en découler, étant inhérent au recours, le débiteur ne peut s'en plaindre. Ce préjudice ne saurait donc ordinairement être le fondement d'un recours en enrichissement injustifié au sens des articles 1493 et s. C.c.Q.

Lien: Le Blogue du CRL: Lorsqu’un syndicat de copropriétaires devient propriétaire d’une unité de condo de 150 000$, pour une dette de 2000 $, sommes-nous en présence d’un cas d’enrichissement injustifié?

Twitter user meets his troll

Very interesting blog post about a guy who was driven off Twitter by an internet troll and hater, who eventually found out who the troll was, and met with him.

Traynor's Eye: Meeting a Troll

Guerrila Grafting brings fruits to cities

Meet the Guerilla Grafters, a group from San Francisco who secretly graft fruit tree branches to city trees.



I think this is a really cool idea, although I'm not sure how I feel about vandalising trees. Also, I wonder how safe the fruits are, given the pollution in large cities, which might cause toxic substances to accumulate in the fruits.

via Boing Boing

Friday, September 21, 2012

NYPD's new plan against iPhone theft

in New York, the local constabulary will be hanging around the flagship 5th Avenue Apple Store and will be encouraging new iPhone 5 owners to register their phones' serial numbers with them. This is part of an initiative the NYPD calls "Operation I.D." It's an excellent example of law enforcement embracing the extra anti-theft capabilities offered by today's smartphones.
Ars Technica: The New York PD wants to help find your iPhone

OK, look, I don't want to be a party pooper, but does anyone else find it creepy that they want your phone's serial number?

Police all over the US and Canada don't exactly have a good track record handling smartphones, which usually involves arresting the innocent bystander filming a police operation. So forgive me when my first reaction is not joy at their embracing new tech, but rather suspicion. Is that some backdoor way to collect data on iphone ownership?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I remember reading a short story way back, about an explorer who comes back from Russia and claims the existence of a gigantic diamond (yes, a single one) somewhere in Siberia. The diamond was formed when an meteorite hit a coal deposit, and the resulting heat and pressure turned the carbon into a giant "diamond lake".

Well, this just in:
Russia has declassified a large deposit of super hard diamonds which are twice harder than usual ones. The sensational statement was made by Novosibirsk scientists of the Institute of Geology and Mineralogy at the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The deposit is located on the border of the Krasnoyarsk region and Yakutia in the Popigai crypto-explosion structure- a hundred kilometres’ meteorite crater formed 35 million years ago. Back in the 1970s, Soviet geologists discovered there the first extra hard "diamonds" - impact diamonds having unusual features. They were two times harder than regular ones and had a different structure. (source)

Via BoingBoing

Monday, September 17, 2012

YouTube

I just wanted to add that whenever anything interesting happens, there's always going to be a bunch of loud Chinese people in the background.

I will admit that my textbook woes were never this bad...
Techdirt: University requires student to pay $180 for art history textbook that has no photos due to copyright

Canadian Mint wants to charge you royalty to for picture of penny

Seems like our public officials are getting bored these days, because Nova Scotia musician warned by Mint for using pennies on CD cover.

Long story short: Musician puts picture of pennies on his album cover, Canadian Mint asks for $1200 royalties, public outcry, Mint eventually backs down.

And of all the things they could've tried, copyright infringement? Seriously? There was nothing, nowhere, in any of the coins-related legislation that would've made a bit more sense?

This is the offending cover, by the way:


I count about 14 or 15 pennies on that cover, for 2000 albums, so quick math says they're charging about 5 cents per penny per album. I wonder what the going rate is for the nickels and dimes ... Actually, if you look at the change on the cover, it does come down to about 60 cents, so maybe that's what they're charging him.

And here's the kicker, after backing down on their claim:
“We have helped this guy out by giving him a break,” Alex Reeves, communications manager for the Royal Canadian Mint, said Tuesday.

Seriously? Well, how generous of you. I'm sure this is in line with the current government's support for the arts and all that.

And if you're not happy, well
Reeves said if Gunning can’t afford the royalties if and when he produces more CDs then he can always remove the soon-to-discontinued penny from the cover.

Okay, well I guess that settles that. Only the pennies require royalties. Also, does anyone else see the humor in this? The album is called No More Pennies and the Mint wants him to remove the pennies...

So there you have the official line: be happy we're not suing, and if you're not happy, well shove it.

Pro tip: re-shoot with US pennies. Nobody will be able to tell.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

France: Hadopi fait une première victime

La loi Hadopi adoptée en France en 2010 pour contrer le piratage informatique vient de faire une première victime la semaine dernière.

La semaine dernière, verdict de la première poursuite pénale selon la loi Hadopi: le juge à imposé à un quadragénaire de l'est de la France une amende de 150 Euros.

Tout le monde s'entend sur l'innocence de l'homme en question, sa femme ayant avoué que c'est elle qui a téléchargé les fichiers en question. Cependant, la loi Hadopi impose la responsabilité au titulaire de l'accès Internet, et non à la personne ayant effectivement téléchargé le contenu.

Lien (TorrentFreak)

On the other side of the Atlantic, a California judge has just decided that the owner of a WiFi network has no duty to secure it without an explicit law to that effect.

Link (TorrentFreak)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

US: Intercepting open wifi packets not wiretapping

A US federal judge has ruled in a preliminary motion that
the interception of communications sent over unencrypted Wi-Fi networks is permissible.

This runs contrary to the Google Streetview case from last year, where a judge was of the opinion that
While Plaintiffs plead that their networks, or electronic communications systems, were configured such that the general public may join the network and readily transmit electronic communications across that network to the Internet, Plaintiffs plead that the networks were themselves configured to render the data packets, or electronic communications, unreadable and inaccessible without the use of rare packet sniffing software; technology allegedly outside the purview of the general public. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiffs plead facts sufficient to support a claim that the Wi-Fi networks were not "readily accessible to the general public" [...]

The judge in the current case did address the Google ruling, stating that
the proposition that Wi-Fi communications are accessible only with sophisticated technology breaks down. As mentioned above, Innovatio is intercepting Wi-Fi communications with a Riverbed AirPcap Nx packet capture adapter, which is available to the public for purchase for $698.00. [...] The software necessary to analyze the data that the packet capture adapters collect is available for down load for free. [...] With a packet capture adapter and the software, along with a basic laptop computer, any member of the general public within range of an unencrypted Wi-Fi network can begin intercepting communications sent on that network. [...] In light of the ease of "sniffing" Wi-Fi networks, the court concludes that the communications sent on an unencrypted Wi-Fi network are readily available to the general public.

The judge did point out, however, that the standards applicable to the two motions are different, which leads to contradicting decisions. For now, all we can say is that for the purposes of a motion to dismiss wiretapping charges, open wifis are NOT publicly accessible, whereas for a preliminary ruling on admissibility of evidence, it is.

Hopefully there will be a sensible final ruling at some point to make sense of this.

Cute pic of the day

One of the things I realized after going through a year of bar school is that little things help you keep your sanity. Especially, cute cat pictures.

Or, in this case, KOALAS!

Friday, September 07, 2012

Ars Technica: Wikipedia told Philip Roth he's not "credible source" on book he wrote

Roth tried to fix the error that his novel was "allegedly inspired by the life of the writer Anatole Broyard.” [...]

When Roth tried to give Wikipedia the true origins of the novel, he says he was told by a Wikipedia administrator on Aug. 26 "that I, Roth, was not a credible source."

“I understand your point that the author is the greatest authority on their own work, but we require secondary sources," were the exact words of the Wikipedia administrator, according to Roth.

Yep, that sounds about right. One of the many annoyances of trying to contribute anything to Wikipedia these days is facing the mods. Wikipedia entries are ridiculously hard to change sometimes, and most people at Librivox have basically given up trying.

One must remember that Wikipedia's motto is "Verifiability, not truth", so one just has to live with it.

XKCD has something about that:

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Woah, I can't believe it's been over a year since I've posted her. Well, bar school done, passed, and I'm now looking for an internship. I hope job posting will start coming in soon, because it kinda sucks if you don't really know anyone in the legal community and you have to rely on the listings on the Bar School website...