Microsoft patents spying on you with your TV's camera and fining you if there are too many people watching

Kotaku's Luke Plunkett delves into a newly disclosed Microsoft patent that covers spying on people in their homes using cameras attached to their TVs, in order to levy fines against them for allowing too many people to watch movies at once:

Basically, when you buy or rent something like a movie, you’ll only be granted a “license” for a certain number of people to watch it. If Kinect detects more people in the room than you had a licence for, it can stop the movie, and even charge you extra. So if Microsoft has its way, you won’t just be renting movies any more. You’ll have to decide how many people are watching, and no doubt pay more. And if one extra person turns up to your movie night? So help you God, you are going to pay.

Of course, big companies patent all sorts of stupid ideas, many of which never get incorporated into products. But hey, now you know that researchers at Microsoft sit around spitballing ideas like, "Wouldn't it be awesome to spy on our customers in their homes so that we could fine them for having too many people over to watch movies? Wonder if anyone is Hollywood would give us preferential access to movies if we could promise them that they could do nose-counts of people in their own homes?"

This Kinect Patent Is Terrifying, Wants To Charge You For License Violation Read the rest

"When quants tell stories," or why Nate Silver didn't win the day with awesome math alone

Felix Salmon at Reuters: "If you think that the value of Nate Silver is in the model, you’re missing the most important part: there are lots of people with models, and most of those models are pretty similar to each other. The thing which sets Silver apart from the rest is that he can write: he can take a model and turn it into a narrative, walking his readers through to his conclusions." Read the rest

Time-lapse animated GIF of NYC subway recovery post-Sandy

At WNYC's Data News, MTA subway-recovery maps compiled into one handy animated GIF. Read the rest

Why AT&T's flip-flop on FaceTime matters

Great piece over at The Verge on why AT&T reversed its effective ban on the use of FaceTime over cellular networks. Why are they unlocking it, finally? They faced FCC complaints. Read the rest

Manga plates turn your food into comics

Francesco sez, "In my blog on I posted a new series of wonderful 'manga inspired' plates created by the Japanese designer Mika Tsutai. Positioning the food in the right way Geek Chefs can tell a story or almost make the food more fun! Each plate costs 2980 Yen and for now is available only in Japanese design stores."

La cucina invasa dai manga!! (Thanks, Francesco!) Read the rest

Now with an orchestra: Drunk woman on YouTube upset over Obama

Ethan Persoff has remixed the "Drunk Lady on YouTube upset about Obama's reelection;" now she has an orchestra to match the tinkling ice cubes in her shot glass. Read the rest

Mommy and Daddy fairy-wrens sing "food passwords" to teach their eggs to sing

"Superb fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) mothers sing to their unhatched eggs to teach the embryo inside a 'password' — a single unique note — which the nestlings must later incorporate into their begging calls if they want to get fed." Zoë Corbyn in Scientific American, on a very unusual example of avian communication. Read the rest

Privacy Matters On

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Imagine you have an account with a major free webmail provider. You log into your account via your web browser and notice ads in your inbox and when you read a message. Now imagine that these ads are displayed based on what you write in the email you send as well as the content of the emails you receive. Oh, and the ads are also influenced by the videos you watch, the stuff you search for and the files you upload while on your webmail providers network of sites and services.

Sound unlikely? In 2009, Carnegie Mellon researchers conducted a study about behavioral online advertising and nearly 60% of the participants didn't believe that email providers (like Gmail) could serve ads in this fashion. In fact, a third of the participants thought laws or consumer backlash would put an end to this kind of advertising before it even started. doesn’t force you to trade your privacy for a free webmail account. Read the rest

US criminal probe of WikiLeaks is 'ongoing,' reveals judge

David Kravets at Wired News writes about the 2-year-old federal grand jury probe into WikiLeaks, which is still “ongoing,” according to a brief ruling by a federal judge in Virginia this week. The statement is the first official word on the investigation since Assange's Ecuadorean asylum plea last August.

U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady of Alexandria, Virginia, noted the investigation in a legal flap surrounding three WikiLeaks associates who lost their bid to protect their Twitter records from U.S. investigators. The three had asked the court to unseal documents in their case. In May, O’Grady ordered the documents remain under seal for six months. On Wednesday he renewed that order, based on a government filing.

“For reasons stated in the memorandum of the United States, unsealing of the documents at this time would damage an ongoing criminal investigation,” O’Grady ruled. (.pdf)

The Justice Department served Twitter with a records demand in December 2010 as part of the investigation into WikiLeaks. The targets of the records demand are WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account, and the accounts of three people connected to the group: Seattle coder and activist Jacob Appelbaum; Birgitta Jonsdottir, a member of Iceland’s parliament; and Dutch businessman Rop Gonggrijp. Jonsdottir and Gonggrijp helped WikiLeaks prepare the release of a classified U.S. Army video published last year, “Collateral Murder,” and Appelbaum was the site’s U.S. representative.

Read more at Threat Level. Read the rest

Inside John McAfee's Heart of Darkness

At Gizmodo, Jeff Wise writes about antivirus firm MacAfee founder John McAfee’s bizarre life in Belize, holed up with heavily-armed gang members, "garbage bags full of Viagra," 17 year old local girls, did we mention lots and lots of guns, and many unanswered questions. Read the rest

NYT op-doc on medical pot grower in MT who faces life in prison

At the NYT, a video "opinion documentary," ‘The Fight Over Medical Marijuana’, by Rebecca Richman Cohen.

"Our federal marijuana policy is increasingly out of step with both the values of American citizens and with state law," she writes. "The result is a system of justice that is schizophrenic and at times appalling."

After the elections, medical pot is now legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C., and pot is legal for adults to use for recreational use as well in Colorado and Washington State. But the federal government plans to continue its draconian enforcement approach, regardless of state voters' choices. Read the rest

Firefighters in Tiananmen Square at the ready to douse self-immolators

Writing at the Washington Post, Max Fisher explains a creepy photo making the foreign correspondent rounds: "This week’s very public display of firefighters in Tiananmen – noticed by McClatchy’s Tom Lasseter, who posted the photo to his McClatchy China blog and kindly granted permission for me to reproduce it – is meant to deter potential self-immolators, or at least to put them out as quickly as possible." Read the rest

After Mitt Romney's loss, another blow: Secret Service detail says buh-bye

"Of all the indignities involved in losing a presidential race, none is more stark than the sudden emptiness of your entourage. The Secret Service detail guarding Governor Romney since Feb 1. stood down quickly. He had ridden in a 15-car motorcade to the Intercontinental Hotel in Boston for his concession speech. He rode in a single-car motorcade back across the Charles River to Belmont. His son, Tagg, did the driving."—GQ. Read the rest

Disney may be eyeing Toy Story 3 writer to pen Star Wars: Episode VII, so get ready for space tears?

Nothing is official yet, but Vulture is reporting that a possible candidate to write the screenplay for Star Wars: Episode VII is Michael Arndt, an Oscar winner for writing Little Miss Sunshine and a nominee for the emotionally-charged Toy Story 3. Arndt, according to Vulture, wrote a 40-50-page treatment for the next installment of George Lucas' classic franchise and Disney/Lucasfilm liked it a lot. Even better, the writer had been working on this before the merger last week, so they didn't have to vet a bunch of losers first!

But seriously -- Michael Arndt might be perfect for this. Read the rest

Positive pregnancy test diagnoses man's cancer

The science behind the story of how Reddit saved yet another life.

Lord Huron "Time to Run" (free MP3)

Every once in awhile, though, an indie artist is brave enough to put their music up against the 4th quarter sludge heap. Lord Huron’s record came out about a month ago and it’s all I want to listen to.

New Portlandia clip: Will Meditation Crush exceed your expectations?

IFC's wonderful sketch show Portlandia, created by and starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, is returning for its third season in January, but they have provided a new clip to tide us over. If you've ever quietly leered at someone during yoga or meditation, you will relate. If you haven't, things aren't what they seem. Did you read Pacific Maladroit yesterday? Did you read it? It was in there. Yeah. (via IFC) Read the rest

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