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March 09, 2012

Head of Warner thinks you should pay a fee for every DVD you want to rip

Warner Bros. Embarrasses Self, Everyone, With New “Disc-to-Digital” Program | Public Knowledge
The entire program is designed to give consumers a way to take movies they already own on DVD and turn them into more portable digital files. If this entire thing sounds familiar, that may be because it is exactly what Public Knowledge is currently petitioning the Copyright Office to let people do on their own. It may also sound familiar because this is exactly what people have been doing with music on CDs since the Clinton Administration. As reported by the LA Times, the first phase in this process is to let DVD owners bring their DVDs to a store that will handle the digital conversion. Tsujihara described this process as allowing consumers to convert their libraries “easily, safely and at reasonable prices.” You did read that last paragraph correctly. The head of Warner Home Entertainment Group thinks that an easy, safe way to convert movies you already own on DVD to other digital formats is to take your DVDs, find a store that will perform this service, drive to that store, find the clerk who knows how to perform the service, hope that the “DVD conversion machine” is not broken, stand there like a chump while the clerk “safely” converts your movie to a digital file that may only play on studio-approved devices, drive home, and hope everything worked out. Oh, and the good news is that you would only need to pay a reasonable (per-DVD?) price for this pleasure.

March 02, 2012

Sometimes humans use their cunning machines to do the most terrifyingly lovely things

Robot Quadrotors Perform James Bond Theme - YouTube (via good...

How three German brothers are ripping off American websites for millions

Isn't it time we had an international patent law that would stop this kind of bullshit from happening? How Three Germans Are Cloning the Web - Businessweek
Bamarang is the creation of Oliver, Marc, and Alexander Samwer, a trio of German brothers who have a wildly successful business model: Find a promising Internet business, in the U.S., and clone it internationally. Since starting their first dot-clone in 1999, a German version of EBay (EBAY), they’ve duplicated Airbnb, eHarmony, Pinterest, and other high-profile businesses. In total, they’ve launched more than 100 companies. Their Zappos (AMZN) clone, Zalando, now dominates six European markets and is estimated to be worth $1 billion by Financial Times Deutschland. Through their venture capital firm, the European Founders Fund, they also invested in European knockoffs of Facebook and YouTube (GOOG), which sold for $112 million and $36 million, respectively. The Samwers’ base of operations is a startup accelerator in Berlin called Rocket Internet. Rocket launches companies, hires staff, and provides marketing, design, search engine optimization, and day-to-day management until the startup can fend for itself. Rocket’s executives won’t disclose revenue, but a former high-level employee estimates the company is worth at least $1 billion. Oliver Samwer, the middle brother and de facto head of the operation, says the firm has offices in at least 20 countries and has created 20,000 jobs over the years. “I’m in love with startups,” says Oliver, who, like his siblings, rarely talks to the press. He elaborated in an e-mail: “The power of Rocket is really this huge galaxy of stars.” Groupon (GRPN) got cloned by the Samwers two years ago, and the results were expensive for the daily-deal site. In November 2008 Groupon went live in Chicago and soon became one of the fastest-growing Internet businesses ever. In January 2010 the Samwers launched a knockoff called Citydeal. Within five months it was the top deal-of-the-day site in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Turkey. Groupon could have fought Citydeal in the marketplace. It also could have filed an intellectual property lawsuit, though the chances of winning would have been slim. Companies can’t be patented, and trademarks apply only within the countries where they’re registered. Perhaps taking the path of least resistance, Groupon in May 2010 bought its German clone for 14 percent of Groupon’s shares. (Rocket now owns 6 percent of Groupon, a stake worth about $1 billion.) The Samwers are revered for putting Berlin’s startup scene on the map and despised for sticking Germany with a reputation as the copycat capital of Europe. Not that the brothers take offense at the label. “There are pioneering entrepreneurs and execution entrepreneurs, and maybe we belong more to the execution entrepreneurs,” says Oliver, who speaks at a rapid clip, frequently punctuating thoughts with a rhetorical “ja?”

March 01, 2012

The Speechjammer

Language Log -- SpeechJammer
In this paper we report on a system, "SpeechJammer", which can be used to disturb people's speech. In general, human speech is jammed by giving back to the speakers their own utterances at a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This effect can disturb people without any physical discomfort, and disappears immediately by stop speaking. Furthermore, this effect does not involve anyone but the speaker. We utilize this phenomenon and implemented two prototype versions by combining a direction-sensitive microphone and a direction-sensitive speaker, enabling the speech of a specific person to be disturbed. We discuss practical application scenarios of the system, such as facilitating and controlling discussions. Finally, we argue what system parameters should be examined in detail in future formal studies based on the lessons learned from our preliminary study.