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Seriously, Fuck You, “Kindle Unlimited”

I’m just quoting the f-bomb in the link, but I do agree with the sentiment behind it. Last week, Amazon informed us that for ten dollars per month, Kindle users can have unlimited access to over six hundred thousand books in its library. But it shouldn’t cost a thing to borrow a book, Amazon, you foul, horrible, profiteering enemies of civilization. For a monthly cost of zero dollars, it is…

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Apple faces threat of legal action over ‘in app’ payments

I haven’t taken the plunge and installed a new iOS app on a whim in quite some time, because so many of them require in-app purchases in order to be useful. Now I carefully read the reviews first. Among the issues regulators have highlighted is a default setting within Apple’s app store where, after a payment is made, there is a 15-minute window allowing purchases without requiring a password. The…

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The Surprisingly Savvy Weird Al Internet Machine

When he talks about his business being threatened by YouTube parody video-makers, he’s talking about the fact that the public’s yen for parodies is being met by amateurs. Earlier this week, a young woman turned an infamous recording of a Comcast customer service call into a belty ballad. Between the release of that recording and its conversion into digital video fodder, fewer than 24 hours had elapsed. This is an…

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The Truth About Test Scores

It’s not hard to design a test that has a high likelihood of producing just about any outcome desired. Let’s not forget that a test cannot possibly measure all that is taught. Therefore, designers rely on sampling what they believe are the most important concepts in any given subject. But suppose the mission is to sort out students (e.g., the SAT). If the test were heavily loaded up with items…

Creative Commons images of food.
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Busy NYC Restaurant Solves Major Mystery by Reviewing Old Surveillance

Restaurant studies surveillance footage to reveal how customers on smartphones take up waiters’ time. Customers fiddle with their phones before ordering, they ask their waiters to snap group photos, they take pictures of the food and themselves with the food when it arrives, they send it back because it’s cold. 14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they…

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We are the product that Facebook has been testing

Up to now, I refrained from posting anything on the FB “contagion” issue, but this article seems to have the right approach. Facebook has made no secret of the fact that its news feed is a manipulated version of reality. It selects the posts and links to display prominently that it has found through testing are the most likely to interest users, and encourage them to return and post themselves.…

The army of mechanical men no longer obeys my saxophone-issued orders! What will become of the noble workers!?
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Awesome 1935 Soviet Movie Deploys Saxophone-Controlled Robots to Crush Tophat- and Bowler-Wearing Capitalists

I wish I understood Russian, so that I could make sense of this 1935 Russian film featuring a mechanical man remote-controlled via saxophone. Apparently the capitalists take control of the invention and turn it on the workers, at least temporarily. The climax features the workers gaining control of the machines and using them to fight together against the evil capitalists. The story is obviously inspired by Rossum’s Universal Robots, the…

Lawsuit Against Warner/Chappell Music Claims Happy Birthday Belongs to Public Domain

20 years ago, I chose for my dissertation texts written from 1920 through 1950, expecting them to come out of copyright one after the other during my career as a professor, but the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 added 20 years. Disney has made dozens of movies based on characters that are in the common domain, but lobbied for a law to protect its own property. The story of…

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There are more museums in the US than there are Starbucks and McDonalds – combined

I have no particular problem with the plural of “Starbucks” being “Starbucks,” as “Starbuckses” would sound a little too precious, but how does the Washington Post get from the singular “McDonald’s” to the plural “McDonalds”? There are roughly 11,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, and about 14,000 McDonald’s restaurants. But combined, the two chains don’t come close to the number of museums in the U.S., which stands at a…

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We are in a golden age for journalism

Most handwringing about the state of journalism is done by journalists. They are worried about losing their jobs, so it’s not surprising that they tend to be fretful. But turn the issue upside down for a second, and think about the state of journalism from journalism’s audience. The real purpose of journalism, after all, is not to provide me a job, but to inform and entertain the public. And by…