Wins and Fails This Week in Geek v 15

What do you get when the DHS, trivia ‘bots, Facebook stress and comets collide? You get the wins and fails this week in geek! Read on to discover the best and worst this week had to offer.

FAIL: Doing Your Homework
…which is precisely what the Department of Homeland Security failed to do when it yanked some 84,000 sites offline during a massive Internet raid for child pornography and counterfeit goods. To be fair, they got it right with a whopping 10 sites which deserved that increasingly infamous DHS seizure image. But the 84,000 which did not have received little to no acknowledgment of the fairly substantial “oopsy”. The problem came when DHS seized the entire domain of DNS provider FreeDNS. For the most part the problem has been fixed, so all is once again well. Except for the lack of a simple “our bad” for the inconvenience.

WIN: Trivial AI
In case you missed the headlines, Watson wiped the floor with two Jeopardy contestants, ending the three day tournament with $77,147 (the human contestants, two of the best in the show’s history, racked up $24,000 and $21,600). Who’s Watson? It’s IBM’s stupidly expensive trivia computer named after the company’s founder Thomas J. Watson. Watson’s mechanisms are unique; it answers questions based on the nuances of human language rather than keyword searches like you’d expect from the AI behind Google. Watson’s database of journals, newspapers and other reference sources was scanned based on questions typed while Alex Trebek spoke them aloud, and Watson buzzed in if it was confident its answer was correct. Of course, it’s not the first time IBM’s tried to prove that AI pwns humanity – their Deep Blue project in 1997 was a major step forward. But what’s the point? Watson’s technology could someday be answering your customer service questions – and let’s face it. Watson can’t be much worse than the average customer service we receive from most major companies now.

FAIL: Perspective
It’s Facebook, people. It’s not life or death. And if it makes you feel uncomfortable, stop using it. But according to a Scottish study, Facebook users with many friends are more likely to feel anxiety about using the site – whether it’s performance pressure or some form of social anxiety wasn’t exactly clear. The bulk of the study concentrated on how the study respondents felt about the in’s and out’s of maintaining a friends list – such as angst over rejecting a friend request. But a large number of respondents also reported feeling anxiety about not checking the site regularly to keep up with their news feed. Given that the study focused on students, doesn’t it seem like they should have more important things to feel anxious about?

FAIL: Free Software
News picked up this week that Microsoft’s license for anyone distributing Windows or Xbox-related software through their version of Apple’s App Store is decidedly anti-open source. So much so that one developer and Red Hat employee has decreed on his blog that Microsoft is clearly against free software. My question is…is this really a surprise to anyone?

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WIN: Stardust
No, not the Ziggy variety (because Ziggy Stardust is always a win). Mission Stardust-NeXT, or New EXploration of Tempel-1, brought the Stardust probe on its closest swing to comet Tempel-1, making it the first time a comet has been revisited. And Stardust swooped in at an impressive 10.6 kilometers per second, one of the fastest probes in history. The point? Perhaps boring to laymen; Stardust was busy taking measurements of the dust in the comet’s coma. As the comet and Stardust are 209 million miles from Earth, it takes a full 18 minutes for Stardust’s results to be received. Why is it a win? Well, why not? It’s human ingenuity at its best. Onward and upward, NASA.

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