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17 Ancient Abandoned Websites That Still Work

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The golden age of dial-up is over, but these Internet fossils will make you feel like it’s 1996 all over again.

1. Space Jam (1996)

A starry background, cheesy graphics, and Michael Jordan? It’s like 1996 left us a time capsule of awesome. 

2. Internet Explorer is EVIL! (1998)

When Microsoft made its users install Internet Explorer One, one customer wasn’t happy about the change.

3. Ask Dr. Internet (1996)

Ask Dr. Internet is one of the oldest question-and-answer relics on the web. Take that, Jeeves.

4. Three Rivers Stadium (1998)

Once home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers, Three Rivers Stadium had a date with the wrecking ball in 2000. The website remains in denial.

5. Fogcam! (1994)

The oldest continuously running webcam on the interwebs, FogCam has loomed over a San Francisco State University courtyard since 1994.

6. You’ve Got Mail (1998)

Warner Brothers still won’t close the book on the movie’s website.

7. Strawberry Pop-Tart Blow-Torches (1994)

Are you worried that your Pop-Tarts will turn your toaster into a flamethrower? There’s a site for that. Thanks, 1994!

8. The Robert Deniro Page (1999)

Stay updated on what Robert Deniro was doing 14 years ago.

9. Klingon Language Institute (1996)

From the beginning, the Internet has been the best place to nerd out.

10. CNN’s O.J. Simpson Trial Page (1996)

As eyes glued to the O.J. murder trial, CNN collected all of its coverage in this web portal.

11. Welcome to Netscape (1994)

Netscape may be gone, but the original communications site lives on. But remember, “To get around, just single-click on any blue or purple word or phrase.”

12. Fantasy Baseball Home Page (1996)

For those of us hoping that Fred McGriff, Greg Maddux, Tino Martinez, and Mo Vaughn will make a comeback.

13. Washington Post’s “Year in Review” (1996)

When the Macarena made front-page news.

14. Arngren (2004)

Includes: helicopters, Santa Claus, hovercraft, dinosaurs, robots, and one big design headache.

15. Bob Dole/Jack Kemp Presidential Campaign (1996)

In case Ross Perot is all you remember.

16. Amanda Please (2002)

Penelope Taynt’s obsession hasn’t waned, please.

17. Zombo (1999)

Wait for it, wait for it…

For more vintage websites, check out the archive of Internet fossils at {404} Page Found!

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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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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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief
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What Happened to Jamie and Aurelia From Love Actually?
May 26, 2017
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Nick Briggs/Comic Relief

Fans of the romantic-comedy Love Actually recently got a bonus reunion in the form of Red Nose Day Actually, a short charity special that gave audiences a peek at where their favorite characters ended up almost 15 years later.

One of the most improbable pairings from the original film was between Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz), who fell in love despite almost no shared vocabulary. Jamie is English, and Aurelia is Portuguese, and they know just enough of each other’s native tongues for Jamie to propose and Aurelia to accept.

A decade and a half on, they have both improved their knowledge of each other’s languages—if not perfectly, in Jamie’s case. But apparently, their love is much stronger than his grasp on Portuguese grammar, because they’ve got three bilingual kids and another on the way. (And still enjoy having important romantic moments in the car.)

In 2015, Love Actually script editor Emma Freud revealed via Twitter what happened between Karen and Harry (Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman, who passed away last year). Most of the other couples get happy endings in the short—even if Hugh Grant's character hasn't gotten any better at dancing.

[h/t TV Guide]

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