eldavojohn writes "Apparently the Samsung and Apple patent hoedown has received some uninvited guests that wish to troll with the big trolls — all over a built-in button for an emoticon. According to Varia Holdings (don't bother googling, you won't find anyone trying to license their patents to you) 'by asserting [its European] emoticon patent against Apple, Samsung has recognized the value of the type of invention embodied in [Varia's] '731 Patent.' And, thusly, Varia feels this provides grounds to sue Samsung and RIM. Techdirt provides commentary on the obviousness of said patent while raking the USPTO examiner over the coals (although, curiously, gives Samsung a free pass)."
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SonicSpike writes in with a story about the latest state contemplating raising revenues by taxing the net. "Downloading music, movies, e-books and Apps could soon cost Connecticut residents more as lawmakers consider a tax on digital downloads. The bill, proposed by the General Assembly's Finance, Review and Bonding Committee, would have consumers pay the 6.35% sales tax on any electronic transfer. Supporters say the bill would level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers in the state who are already required to charge Connecticut sales tax to consumers who purchase these products in their stores. About 25 states around the country have already begun taxing digital downloads."
An anonymous reader writes "Today Amazon announced that a science fiction writer has become the Kindle's all-time best-selling author. Last June Suzanne Collins, who wrote the Hunger Games trilogy, was only the fourth author to sell one million ebooks, but this month Amazon announced she'd overtaken all her competition (and she also wrote the #1 and #2 best-selling ebooks this Christmas). In fact, 29 of the 100 most-highlighted passages on the Kindle were written by Collins, including 7 of the top 10. And on a separate list of recent highlights, Collins has written 17 of the top 20 most-highlighted passages." It's pretty interesting to go through the top-100 list and look at the passages people think are worth highlighting. Taken out of context, many of them could be patched together and re-sold as a self-help book. None are quite so eloquent as #18 in the recent highlights.
theodp writes "Microsoft, reports GeekWire, is seeking a patent on monetizing the buttons of your TV remote. In its application for a patent on 'Control-based Content Pricing,' Microsoft explains how one can jack up the cable bill of those who dare fast-forward past a diaper commercial or replay a sports highlight. From the patent application: 'If a user initiates a navigation control input to advance past (e.g., skip over) an advertisement, the cost of a requested on-demand movie may be increased. Similarly, if a user initiates a replay of a sporting event, the user may be charged for the replay control input and for each subsequent view control input.'"
Stowie101 writes "Today is Dynamic Range Day, which is an event to educate the public about the 'Loudness Wars' that are compressing and harming the quality of today's music. Ian Shepherd, a mastering engineer and founder of Dynamic Range Day, explains why music lovers should avoid MP3 files. 'The one that springs to mind is to avoid MP3, especially if it's 128 kbps. Apple uses a more advanced technology called AAC, but if someone can get lossless files like FLAC that's a better place to start.' Shepherd says it's actually harder to make a good 'lossy' encode of something that has been heavily musically compressed. Very heavy dynamic compression and limiting makes MP3s sound worse, so the loudness wars indirectly make MP3s sound worse."
alphadogg writes "There are holidays, and then there are holidays for nerds, and March 14 (3.14) is one of those. Based on the mathematical constant number that represents the ratio between the circumference and the diameter of a circle, Pi Day has grown to become somewhat of a day to celebrate for mathematicians and techies. Here are 10 things to do on the big day."
MojoKid writes with an excerpt from an article at Hot Hardware: "Walmart's burgeoning partnership with the Ultraviolet DRM system backed by major Hollywood studios and their plans to 'assist' customers in registering DVDs with the Ultraviolet system, made headlines not long ago. Walmart has also since announced additional details to the program and it's a clever attempt to drive more users to Vudu, Walmart's subsidiary movie streaming service. Here's how the service works. 'Starting April 16th, 2012 in more than 3,500 stores, Walmart customers will be able to bring their DVD and Blu-ray collections to Walmart and receive digital access to their favorite titles from the partnering studios. An equal conversion for standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs will be $2. Standard DVDs can be upgraded to High-Def (HD) for $5.' Anyone who doesn't have a Vudu account will have one created for them as part of this process. That's part of the genius to the plan. If customers embrace the offer, Walmart signs up hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people for Vudu. Even better, from Walmart's perspective, is that first-time users who pony up $2 for a digital version of their DVDs are effectively paying to create Vudu accounts."
An anonymous reader writes "'The Hobbit,' a small pub in Southampton, England, has been threatened with a lawsuit by lawyers representing the Saul Zaentz Company in California. The pub, which has traded under the name for the last 20 years without incident, now faces closure if it does not change its name. It's yet another example of big business throwing its weight around to get its way. The pub's landlady said simply, 'I can't fight Hollywood.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at Cambridge University have used Lego Mindstorms robots to create an artificial bone-like substance. The toy robots proved to be much easier to set up and vastly more economical than more high-tech solutions. Their research is featured in a video for the 2012 Google Science Fair."
Stowie101 writes "Kaleidescape has lost its drawn-out legal battle with the DVD CCA. A judge has issued a permanent injunction that prohibits the sale and support, including product updates, of existing DVD movie servers. 'As part of the injunction, Kaleidescape and its dealers can no longer offer technical support for products that are already in the field, meaning existing servers can receive no updates or repairs.' Kaleidescape has filed an appeal and 'believes that under California law the injunction order should not come into effect unless the California Court of Appeal affirms Judge Monahan's decision.'"
Dr Herbert West writes: "According to io9, 'Today is an incredibly sad day for fans of comic books, concept art, and downright anything science fiction. Artist Jean 'Moebius' Giraud, who provided some of the most stunning scifi and fantasy art ever to grace a page, has succumbed to illness at the age of 73.' It's pretty hard to overstate the impact he had on film, comic books, and illustration in general. You can name most any fantasy or science fiction related piece of culture from the last 30 or 40 years, and chances are he provided concept art for it or was involved in some way. Alien, Dune, Heavy Metal, Tron (original AND the new one), The Abyss, Masters of the Universe, The Fifth Element, Willow... the list goes on. With the recent passing of Ralph McQuarrie, it's been a tough week for scifi and fantasy artists."
dkleinsc writes "The NYTimes ran a profile of the New York Jedi Club, an organization dedicated to teaching the ways of the Force. Jedi Grandmaster Flynn Michael, a sound engineer and (by his own proclamation) an 'over-the-top geek,' connected the ideas of the Jedi with dance, martial arts, sword-fighting and Tibetan Buddhism to form the curriculum."
DeviceGuru writes "Although generally overshadowed by the iPad 3 debut, Apple also introduced the third incarnation of its Apple TV streaming media players this week. Sporting a revamped icon-based UI, the third-generation Apple TV doesn't add much to its predecessor beyond a truly-HD 1080p video output mode. Although Apple TV is still not supported by an Apple Apps Store plug-in apps ecosystem, its new UI (available as a free update for 2nd-generation Apple TVs) does seem to imply that this capability is coming soon. Meanwhile, Roku is gearing up for a $50M IPO, so this cord-cutting story is far from over."