Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Fair(y) Use Tale

In the fun category, Professor Eric Faden of Bucknell University has created a video review of copyright principles.

You're probably thinking, "How could anyone make a video about a legal concept even mildly entertaining?" But Faden's truly inspired video works on many levels because it consists entirely of extremely short clips (often no more than one word) from a wide variety of animated Disney movies.

It's thanks in large part to Disney that copyright - which was designed to encourage creativity by giving the creator control over copying for a limited time - now lasts for the life of the creator plus 75 years, or, for a work of corporate authorship, 95 years.

But thanks to the short length of the clips, its non-profit educational nature, and the fact that it would in no way affect the potential market for the copyrighted works, Faden's video undoubtedly falls under fair use.

Download available

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Human Computation

From captchas, to labeling images, to providing basic facts, humans are helping computers to help humans...and some are having fun while doing it.

Image recognition is an easy task for people, but something computers are not yet good at.

Here is an approach to help computers get better at it, help the visually impaired understand what is in the images on a web page, and help search engines serve better image search results. You make fun games out of it, so it doesn't seem like work.

Games with a purpose...a great concept, and one that could be quite profitable if you can design a game that will solve some sort of problem that a computer can't solve on its own, yet. Depending on the problem you are solving, the data you acquire from the players of the game could be worth more than any ads you could possibly place on your site.

The following video presents the concepts behind some of these games.

Play time: 51 min, 31 sec

Luis von Ahn is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University, where he also received his Ph.D. in 2005. Previously, Luis obtained a B.S. in mathematics from Duke University in 2000. He is the recipient of a Microsoft Research Fellowship.

Play the games:

And for a more interesting challenge, try 3form Free Knowledge Exchange and see if you can help provide solutions and answers to some of life's challenging problems and questions...or maybe get a solution to a problem or question you have. (warning: 3form is quite addictive!)

I, personally, find it more enjoyable and thought provoking than Yahoo Answers, and it provides much better answers to your questions.

reCaptcha: Stopping spam while digitizing books

We have all seen captcha text...everywhere.

Carnegie Mellon University has come up with one with a bit of a twist that they call reCaptcha.

While helping to stop spam and ensuring that a human is actually submitting a response, it is also helping to digitize books. (currently helping Internet Archive)


To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then, to make them searchable, transformed into text using "Optical Character Recognition" (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

But if a computer can't read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here's how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

The service is free, and they even have one specifically for protecting your email address on a website.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tip of the Day

my tea mugReplace the burned out bulb in your fridge as soon as possible...or at least turn on the kitchen light when you go in there...otherwise you may end up putting orange juice in your tea instead of milk.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Verizon's Prepaid $0.99 a Day Theft Plan

So, I am just sitting here, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I get an IM from a friend of mine that just needs to be shared. (he wanted me to, which is why he told me about it.)

byte: I was checking out prepaid cell phones today online..
byte: and while I was at verizon's site, this popup thing came up on my end...
byte: wanna see the convo?
byte: lol
app: sure


Please wait for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order. Thank you for your patience!

A Verizon Wireless online pre-sales specialist has joined the chat. You are now chatting with Kelly.

Kelly: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service. How may I help you today?
Kelly: Are you an existing Verizon Wireless customer?
You: No
You: I'm looking over the prepaid plans, and I'm wondering how Verizon thinks they can get away with charging $0.99 per day even if I were to not use the cell phone.
You: that's theft
Kelly: That is the access fee for that plan.
You: access fee for accessing nothing?
You: theft.
You: do you have a legal degree, or is there a lawyer present?
Kelly: No, there is not lawyer here.
You: I was honestly considering a prepaid phone through Verizon - until I read that your company will be stealing $0.99 per day EVEN if I DON'T use the phone. Then, unfortunately for you, this jackassy pop-up came popping up, asking me if I wanted to talk to someone.
You: sorry you were there to catch the brunt of it.
You: I have STRONG reason to suspect that I will be going with another provider OTHER than Verizon.
You: sheerly due to the fact that no matter if I use the phone or not, I'll be charged $0.99 each day.
You: a $15 card would last how long at that rate?
You: just shy of 15 days?
You: yet it expires in how many days?
You: that's gotta be deceptive advertising
You: a $15 card will NEVER last 30 days.
You: not with you all stealing $0.99 each and every day even if the phone ISN'T USED!
You: Cingular at least is kind enough to not commit such theft.
You: TMobile is nicer as well
You: what do I get with Verizon?
You: what is the "party-bonus" that I get if I go with Verizon and your theft plan?
You: *prepaid plan
You: my mistake
Kelly: We do offer the in calling and night calling free with that plan.
You: ok - anything else?
You: what are "ringback tones?"
Kelly: That is tones that the person calling you hears before you answer your phone.
You: alright
You: well, I have to say that it seems as if Verizon's prepaid plans are, for lack of a better word, flat-out theft from the pocket phones of the prepaid world.
You: even if I don't use it, I get charged?
You: what the fudge?
You: who was smoking what when this idea came around?
You: You see, I'm not a phone addict like you would wish I were... are there any plans which won't charge me even if I don't use the phone? prepaid plans?
Kelly: WE do have the Easy pay plan that allow you 350 minutes for $50.00 per month pre pay.
You: do you have any plans comparable to the $29.99 prepaid cards (which aparently, with your company's theft of $0.99 per day even if the phone isn't used, would only last 1 month anyhow)?
Kelly: No, unfortunately we do not.
You: ok, well thank your supervisor for this jackassy popup appearing on my end, and for your company offering what appears to be crappy prices and theft. in the mean time, I would like to thank you for working for complete and total morons who probably figure no one reads the fine print.
You: I hope you have a very nice day - honestly I do.


byte: that poor gal prolly never expected it
byte: damned jackassy popups
byte: "Do you want to talk with a representative?"
byte: no, but since you're bothering me with a popup, fucker, sure.
byte: right now, I'm thinking about Cingular for a prepaid
byte: I haven't talked with tmobile yet
byte: not extensively enough to decide
byte: it's gotta be better than Verizon's theft plan
byte: *prepaid plan


I really do need to start another blog...a group one...for the occasional ranters among my friends. That way they can have their own place for this and won't have to borrow my blog. (lol)