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The Most Amusing Images from the SOPA Strike

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On January 18th, websites across the internet went on strike to protest the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the related Protect IP Act (PIPA). Some sites were completely blocked; others added censorship graphics to their banners, and some posted about the strike. The point was to make all internet users aware of the bills before Congress and to encourage reader participation. A few sites went above and beyond the call of duty and made the strike itself entertaining. If you didn't see them, I saved a few of the best.

Cheezburger Network

Ben Huh runs a large network of sites ranging from I Can Has Cheezburger to The Daily What. All of them were blocked. The splash page that ran instead featured this song that struck all LOLcats fans right where they live.

The Oatmeal

Cartoonist Matthew Inman at The Oatmeal has been a victim of copyright infringement a few times, but he is opposed to SOPA because it goes way too far in curbing the freedom of the internet. For the occasion, he created a wonderful animation to show instead of his site. I would have posted the whole thing here, but some parts may be considered NSFW.

The Joy of Tech

The geeks at The Joy of Tech could think of nothing to do when so many sites were down. Or maybe they could!

Kids on Facebook

Those of us who work on the internet have been well aware of these bills -and the strike- for some time now. However, my three teenage daughters had no clue until they saw the black banner of the Google logo this morning. The thought of not being able to access Wikipedia horrified them -but also made them a little more politically aware. Jimmy Wales warned them to do their homework early, but how many high school students follow the Wikipedia founder on Twitter? The anguish of the blackout was expressed by many teenagers all across Facebook.

Fark

Fark had a splash page that explained why you should support SOPA/PIPA:

Produced by Farker Joe the Peacock. Fark knew ahead of time that content would be thin on the 18th, so head Farker Drew Curtis said something that was translated to mean anything within reason would be approved and posted. The site ended up with a lot of discussion threads that didn't even have a linked story.

NewsHounds

The word SOPA itself lends itself to puns. Dee, PbD created this graphic for NewsHounds.

xkcd

On any other given day, Randall Munroe at xkcd has the funniest stuff on the internet. However, during the blackout, he became quite serious. This is one internet business we would hate to lose.

BizweekGraphics

Some people felt the loss of even one day of Wikipedia. I don't think I've even seen an Encarta CD since the mid-'90s! It didn't take long for Encarta to respond.

reddit

No list of amusing SOPA graphics would be complete without the little guy who led the charge. Known as so brave, he's the reddit alien dressed as William Wallace as portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart.

From Internet Users

And then there are the images that get passed around, telling a story in one picture. This one was featured on a string of Tumblr blogs. We get the message!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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iStock
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Here's How to Change Your Name on Facebook
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iStock

Whether you want to change your legal name, adopt a new nickname, or simply reinvent your online persona, it's helpful to know the process of resetting your name on Facebook. The social media site isn't a fan of fake accounts, and as a result changing your name is a little more complicated than updating your profile picture or relationship status. Luckily, Daily Dot laid out the steps.

Start by going to the blue bar at the top of the page in desktop view and clicking the down arrow to the far right. From here, go to Settings. This should take you to the General Account Settings page. Find your name as it appears on your profile and click the Edit link to the right of it. Now, you can input your preferred first and last name, and if you’d like, your middle name.

The steps are similar in Facebook mobile. To find Settings, tap the More option in the bottom right corner. Go to Account Settings, then General, then hit your name to change it.

Whatever you type should adhere to Facebook's guidelines, which prohibit symbols, numbers, unusual capitalization, and honorifics like Mr., Ms., and Dr. Before landing on a name, make sure you’re ready to commit to it: Facebook won’t let you update it again for 60 days. If you aren’t happy with these restrictions, adding a secondary name or a name pronunciation might better suit your needs. You can do this by going to the Details About You heading under the About page of your profile.

[h/t Daily Dot]

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