Google "respectfully disagrees" with €2.42 billion fine

Google expected to be punished by the European Union for anticompetitive shenanigans, but it didn't expect a slap this hard: €2.42 billion, the largest fine on record. The company says it "respectfully disagrees" with both the ruling and the amount and may appeal.

The commission believes it has struck a blow for consumers and for little firms at a time when online advertising - particularly on mobile phones - is dominated by Google and Facebook.

Google believes the regulator has a weak case and has failed to provide evidence that either consumers or rivals have been harmed.

In essence, it sees this as a political move rather than one based on competition law. You can be pretty confident that the Trump administration will share that view.

There's mounting anxiety in European capitals about something called Gafa - Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon - the four American giants that play such a huge role in all of our lives. That means we can expect further action to try to limit their powers, with the potential for growing political tension between Brussels and Washington.

Google abused its dominance of search to promote its own shopping services, the European Commission wrote, systematically shutting out competitors, distorting the market and hurting local shoppers.

Since the beginning of each abuse, Google's comparison shopping service has increased its traffic 45-fold in the United Kingdom, 35-fold in Germany, 19-fold in France, 29-fold in the Netherlands, 17-fold in Spain and 14-fold in Italy.

Following the demotions applied by Google, traffic to rival comparison shopping services on the other hand dropped significantly.

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Sean Hannity doesn't gargle piss

Sean Hannity, the conservative firebrand and one of Fox News' last remaining ratings-grabbers, does not gargle piss, reports Clayton Purdom. The cable news pundit had publicly responded to a tweet saying "Sean you should drink more!!!" with "I need one" only for his interlocutor to change his name to "hannity gargles piss", thereby creating the unfortunate impression Hannity had cheerfully agreed he hankered for a nice pint of warm urine. Hannity, made aware of the clever switcheroo, decided to delete his tweet, thereby making clear that he does not suffer from a thirst that can be slaked only with a long draft of his own bitter pilsner.

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Legal experts not impressed by the bogus threats Zillow used to silence real estate blogger

McMansion Hell (previously at BB) was a hilarious, incisive and explosively popular blog detailing and mocking America's dreadful suburban architecture. Zillow is a real estate site that exists to profit from it. Zillow used a grossly bogus legal threat to get McMansion Hell shut down, and everyone within sniffing distance of the law or media freedom is mad.

Zillow claims that McMansion Hell was 'violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and state laws prohibiting "interference with Zillow's business expectations and interests"', a claim augmented by a curious theory of copyright whereby Zillow has "particular rights" to images it doesn't own.

...The cease and desist letter was not a response to the type of content or commentary that [Kate] Wagner was offering, she said. Heffter went on to explain that Zillow does not own the photos it posts on its site and is not legally allowed to let others use them.

Zillow's not even the copyright proprietor of the images it claims to "enforce", but even if it was, a "fair use" defense would surely prevail. McMansion Hell literally obscures the images with editorial commentary!

The threat appears to be retaliation following Wagner's featuring in a Washington Post story that turned a sharp eye on the trend back to cheaply-constructed houses slathered in subprime financing, counterposing her criticism against a battery of smarmily self-promotional quotes from Zillow spokespeople.

Legal experts are not impressed.

"Zillow's suggestion that it's a CFAA violation to take pictures from their public website is very weak," Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, said in an email.

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$70 Hackintosh matches MacBook Pro

Snazzy Labs built a startlingly powerful Mac with only $70—editing the video above on it to prove it!

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This indistinct blob is supermassive star Betelgeuse

Imaged by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), this is the most detailed depiction yet of the enormous supergiant Betelgeuse, 600 light-years off in the constellation Orion and 1400 times the size of the sun.

The star is just about eight million years old, but is already on the verge of becoming a supernova. When that happens, the resulting explosion will be visible from Earth, even in broad daylight.

The star has been observed in many other wavelengths, particularly in the visible, infrared, and ultraviolet. Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope astronomers discovered a vast plume of gas almost as large as our Solar System. Astronomers have also found a gigantic bubble that boils away on Betelgeuse’s surface. These features help to explain how the star is shedding gas and dust at tremendous rates (eso0927, eso1121). In this picture, ALMA observes the hot gas of the lower chromosphere of Betelgeuse at sub-millimeter wavelengths — where localised increased temperatures explain why it is not symmetric. Scientifically, ALMA can help us to understand the extended atmospheres of these hot, blazing stars.

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Yep, the SNES Classic is real and it is coming in September

When Nintendo suddenly canceled the NES Classic, the surprise hit toy of last Christmas, the roar of anguish and outrage matched any the Internet had seen. Insane! Idiocy! There was only one smart take on the matter: the company must have a SNES Classic up its sleeve, playing even more and better classic games. And that was of course the case, as that exact product was today officially announced.

The SNES Classic will hit store shelves in September, Nintendo says, and include 21 games—including the unreleased and legendary Star Fox 2. In Nintendo tradition, it will be sold out in about four minutes and then be available only on eBay from dodgy importers for many times the normal price.

Here's the game list:

What, no Pilotwings? Outrageous! Read the rest

The $7 vertical ergonomic mouse is not awful

I suffer from mild RSI: a warning to stop, but one that goes away when I do stop. The trigger is using a mouse for extended periods. The alternatives for general everyday computer use aren't great for my work habits, which center on precise pointing and clicking, so I'm in the bad habit of mousing until the ache begins, stopping, then picking it right back up later. I'd never tried a vertical mouse in the past because my malfunction is mild, the ergonomic improvements aren't clear, and they tend to be expensive. But the OJA Wireless Vertical Ergonomic mouse is only $6.99 on Amazon, so I decided to give it an impulse-buy shot.

I imagined it would be an absolutely terrible mouse, but expected that I could at least use it long enough to see if the enormous vertical wedge shape of it would be good for my hand. As it happened, this thing is probably good enough to keep, with only a couple of slightly annoying issues holding me back.

From the design, it appears to be a knockoff of something by Logitech, with dark gray satin plastic, chrome trim on the mousewheel, and large dimensions all around. It's wireless (a provided USB dongle fits inside the mouse for storage) and charges via USB cable. There two thumb buttons in addition to the usual left, right and wheel buttons. There's a DPI switch and an a power toggle underneath. The photos on the Amazon page depict it with FCC and CE symbols that are not in fact present on the device. Read the rest

Brief history of Britain's brilliant LARP television shows

To celebrate the return of The Crystal Maze, Richard Cobbett recaps Britain's odd history of LARP shows, which pioneered chroma-key and VR-based special effects when such things were strange and expensive—and not as strange and expensive as the sets they were superimposed upon.

All were brilliant but many were dreadful, and classics such as Knightmare seem to hover perpetually on the edge of being rebooted for a new generation. First up, though, is Richard Ayoade as the third host of Crystal Maze, previously helmed by Richard O'Brien (of Rocky Horror fame) and punk rocker and actor Edward Tudor-Pole.

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Salvador Dali's corpse to be exhumed

A judge in Spain has ordered the exhumation of artist Salvador Dali's body for genetic testing, so that a paternity lawsuit may be resolved. Dali died in 1989; Pilar Abel believes the painter is her father, from an affair he reportedly had with a maid in 1955. From Agencia EFE:
Una juez de Madrid ha ordenado la exhumación del cadáver del pintor Salvador Dalí y la obtención de muestras de su cuerpo para la práctica de la prueba biológica de determinación de la paternidad de Pilar Abel, una gerundense que presentó una demanda para ser reconocida como hija del artista. Según indica en un auto la juez encargada del caso, "es necesaria la prueba biológica de investigación de la paternidad de Maria Pilar Abel Martínez respecto de D. Salvador Dalí Domenech", al "no existir restos biológicos ni objetos personales sobre los cuales practicar la prueba por el Instituto Nacional de Toxicología".
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Horrific video of a dozen victims crushed by shipping container

It's not often that police will post video directly from the scene of a crime or emergency, but this footage from Nicholasville, Kentucky's Officer Baker offers a harrowing and instructive warning about the dangers of poorly-secured shipping containers in transit. It's hard going: twelve casualties, all crushed beyond human hope. Read the rest

Pop music genres illustrated with Toto's Africa on a lightweight portable keyboard

Seth Everman (previously) reports on "when you try all the sounds and beats on your synth while only playing Toto's Africa."

"hello my dudes it has been 9 years but i have returned with some more garbage for you to enjoy."

Though the magic is in his brilliant performance (encore!), his weapon of choice is the Yamaha MM8 workstation, whose mid-range characteristics give it the loaf to model all the genres, but also the cheese to make them taste good on YouTube. Read the rest

Old games as standalone apps: no emulator necessary

Games Nostalgia is a retrogame site with a useful difference: instead of simply providing files which then must be fed to the often-difficult gods of emulation, it packages the classics as ready-to-click apps for Mac and PC. Examples to eat your morning: seminal Atari/Amiga RPG Dungeon Master, DOS blaster Doom, and 1990's original RTS Dune II. Then there's Populous, Archon, Shadow of the Beast...

Previously: Vast collection of Amiga games, demos and software uploaded to Internet Archive Read the rest

Who Americans spend their time with

Dan Kopf's Who Americans spend their time with is a chart—six of them—that show the number of hours a day people spend with n over the course of their lives. Together they tell a story. The sixth is a gut-punch. But not, perhaps, if you're introverted.

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The Apprehension Engine: custom musical instrument generates natural nightmare noises

The Apprehension Engine is a custom-made musical instrument designed to produce the scary, tension-building noises associated with horror movies, but without the all-too-obvious digital chopping and synthesizing invariably involved. The result is something organic and seamlessly natural—something that goes beyond fear and fright to nail you to some deep Jungian place so completely you become a part of it. And she says I'm hard to shop for!

Christopher Bickel at Dangerous Minds:

“The Apprehension Engine,” as it is called, was created by Canadian guitar maker Tony Duggan-Smith as a “one off” for Mark Korven, who is best known for his soundtrack work on The VVitch.

Compare to the classic analogue horror instrument, the waterphone:

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Review: bug-zapping lightbulbs are worthless

I got one of those bug-zapping LED lightbulbs, in hopes of murdering the flies drifting into my office during the increasingly warm and muggy Pennsylvania summer. I got mine from Home Depot, but the bulbs at Lowes, Wal-Mart and Amazon are all obviously identical. There are two lights in each bulb: an ultraviolet one inside an electrified bug-zapping cage, and a standard 60W-equivalent LED element to light the room. You can have one or both lit simply by turning the light off and on repeatedly within a second: it sounds clunky, but in practice is an ingenious way to cycle the options without adding interface elements.

But it doesn't matter, because they're useless.

I installed my bulb in three locations, moving it every couple of days until a week had passed. As a control, I moved one of those traditional gooey fly strips likewise.

Subjectively, neither did much to stop the flies, a job clearly best accomplished by closing the damn windows.

Objectively, the death tolls were as follows:

Traditional fly strip: 9 bugs, 3 large.

Bug-zapping lightbulb: 4 bugs, all tiny. (The bulb is pictured here, without cleaning)

VERDICT: Don't be tempted: they're not half as good as fly strips and are many times the price. The only advantage they have is not being quite so gross when you throw them in the trash. Read the rest

The White House banned cameras from press briefings, so CNN sent in a courtroom sketch artist

Bravo, CNN artist Bill Hennessy.

CNN equated the briefing to a Supreme Court argument -- an on-the-record event at which cameras are banned.

Hennessy has been a Washington-based courtroom sketch artist for decades. He has covered a wide range of cases, including the Clinton impeachment proceedings, terror suspect trials, and Guantanamo Bay detainee hearings. He worked for CNN at the Supreme Court on Thursday.

Hennessy's presence highlighted the significant change in White House access that has taken place recently. Press secretaries for Democratic and Republican presidents have held on-camera briefings on a regular basis for the past quarter century. But the Trump White House has been cutting back on the frequency and the length of on-camera briefings.

What's amazing is how angry conservatives are about CNN doing this. I'd call them snowflakes, but they've already melted into salty little puddles. Read the rest

Nazi cache hidden behind a bookcase

A secret passageway led to an trove of smuggled Nazi artifacts, say investigators in Argentina, and their collector is in trouble with the law.

They were put on display at the Delegation of Argentine Israeli Associations in Buenos Aires on Monday. Many Nazi higher-ups fled to Argentina in the waning days of the war, and investigators believe that officials close to Adolf Hitler brought the artifacts with them. Many items were accompanied by photographs, some with Hitler holding them.

"This is a way to commercialize them, showing that they were used by the horror, by the Fuhrer. There are photos of him with the objects," Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich told The Associated Press.

The objects include a device used to measure heads. Nazis believed that one could distinguish a Jew from someone belonging to the supposed Aryan race by head measurements.

[Thanks, Matthew!]

Previously: found a locked safe hidden at the back of a closet in my new house Read the rest

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