The famous British comedy group Monty Python was sick of finding bad-quality uploads of their comedy sketches on YouTube, so they decided to do something against it.

It is unknown if they considered calling Metallica for advice on how to start a proper crusade against the Interwebs, but what is known is that they started their own YouTube channel, publishing their works in high quality for everybody to see. And the best part, it's free.

In their video about starting the channel, they explain some of their reasoning and ask for one thing in return: to buy their products.

And this plan may just work: Watching such classics as the "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" scene (below) is making me want to pick up a copy of the Life of Brian right now, that's for sure!

On a more serious side note, it is good to see that there is an improvement how some authors work with the Internet. Monty Python went down this road, by offering older content for free, yet asking the viewers to consider their higher quality DVD box sets and similar products, and lately also HD BluRay discs. A similar approach was taken by Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog which was shown for free online before going on sale on iTunes and similar channels -- many people bought it from there (and still are); the same goes for the soundtrack, which I bought on Amazon MP3 just recently.

Another example is, a website (unfortunately yet again only available in the US) streaming recent TV series for free (with some ads) -- a system that will, I believe, encourage rather than discourage viewers to spend money on their favorite TV shows once they come out on DVD.

Compare that to the aforementioned Metallica, who were scared off their socks when they realized people were enjoying their music over a distribution channel they had failed to consider before--and instead of calling their record company and asking "what on earth are we paying you so much money for, why are we not using the internet right?", they decided to sue a file sharing company along with three major universities: A step that consequently (and rightly) brought them an honorable spot on the list of "the biggest wusses in Rock" as published by "Blender" magazine in 2006.

Now, as promised: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Read more…

The ultimate expression of indifference, "Meh.", made it into the dictionary:

Meh, which can mean unimpressed, mediocre or boring, was chosen as the public's entry for the 30th anniversary edition of Collins English Dictionary which will be published next year.

While the term is probably not another term originating in "the Simpsons", it was prominently featured in an episode:

Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries, said: "This is a new interjection from the US that seems to have inveigled its way into common speech over here. "It was actually spelled out in The Simpsons when Homer is trying to prise the kids away from the TV with a suggestion for a day trip. "They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV; he asks again and Lisa says 'We said MEH! - M-E-H, meh!'

Does that make "meh" a perfectly cromulent word? I think so.

"Meh." fortune cookie picture CC by-sa licensed by Rick Harris on flickr.

Read more…

The "One Laptop Per Child" laptop ("XO-1") is due to go on sale in Europe tomorrow, November 17:

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) organisation is planning to sell the devices via online store Amazon's European outlets from 17 November. The machines will be sold under the Give One, Get One scheme that the OLPC organisation has already run in the US. Under that scheme, buyers get one machine for themselves and the other is donated to a school child in a developing nation.

The OLPC laptop is a fabulous little device and I had a chance to play with it a little--both with its interior only at the OSL, as well as a full-blown device at Mozilla--and I really liked it.

Let's see how it picks up during the holiday season. The article says, only 600.000 items were sold so far, less than the makers had hoped. But maybe Europe is just the market for it? Of course, at an expected price of about 300-something Euros, it has to compete with a lot of the new mini-notebooks on the market (Acer Aspire One and Asus EEE, for example), most of which are much more "beefy" than the small OLPC. Nonetheless, it's a great "first computer" for the little ones -- and since each bought one will give a child in a developing nation one too, the whole concept is very "Christmassy" indeed, so let's see how it sells during the holiday season.

Read more…

Funny picture from leungski on flickr:

Rumor had it she was genetically modified

From the description:

Chrystie realized this was more than a growth spurt, and there was no such thing as "big boned." Rumor had it she was genetically modified.

(thanks to whoever posted this on IRC, and sorry for forgetting who it was)

Read more…

CMU's newspaper "The Tartan" has an article about Carnegie Mellon University's tuition being the 11th highest in the nation:

Tuition is on the rise, according to a new College Board list citing Carnegie Mellon as having the 11th highest tuition in the U.S. (...) Tuition costs are not the only concern for prospective students. Ranked 11th as the college with the highest tuition, Carnegie Mellon is also ranked 11th by the College Board for the highest total cost. Factoring in room and board, the estimated total cost for the 2008–2009 year is $49,200 according to the College Board website.

That is even higher than the so-called "Ivy League" schools:

Interestingly, the Ivy League schools were not featured on either list in a ranking higher than Carnegie Mellon. Neither Harvard, Yale, Stanford, nor the University of Pennsylvania were listed in the top 25 highest tuition or total costs. Harvard placed as the 118th most expensive college in tuition and 108th in total cost.

Will these people be able to pay off their college loans before they retire?

Read more…

A "GOOD" poster illustrating the first 100 days of the presidency of every American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. (It's CC by-nc-sa licensed, awesome).

I like what different ideals are expressed by the inauguration speeches, and all the details, such as the popular vote.

By the way, if you are fast enough, allegedly this can be bought at Starbucks up until today.

(via Jason Kottke)

Read more…

Unbekannter Fehler. Betreff '', Konto: '', Server: '', Protokoll: SMTP, Serverantwort: '501 Duad mr loid, ohne ESMTP ghad hier gar nix', Port: 25, Secure (SSL): Nein, Serverfehler: 501, Fehlernummer: 0x800CCC63

Eine schwäbische Fehlermeldung aus einem Stuttgarter Studentenwohnheim. Höflich sind sie ja schon, die Schwoba.

Read more…

World leaders have hailed the election of Senator Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States.

... writes BBC News and expresses what I am sure at the very least most of Europe thinks: That Obama's election for president is not only good for the United States, but good for the world.

German politicians are also thrilled about the outcome of the US elections and both the Chancellor and the Minister of the Exterior are "looking forward" to working with Obama and his government. The German president reassured Obama in a letter that the US "can count on Germany as a dependable partner and long-time friend".

Still, the international expectations are high. Some of them are justified, others not. For example, the Europeans need to realize that Obama was not elected in order to solve the world's problems in a way that conforms with the ideals of the European Union. I expect him to pursue first and foremost the success of his own country, as is his legitimate job, of course. And while he is greatly popular in my country (some people call him the "next Kennedy", as a reference to the major popularity of JFK in Germany: Remember "ich bin ein Berliner"?), he'll not use his power to make the Germans' life easier. The financial crisis, for instance, may have been "brewed" in the USA originally, but Germany will have to carry its share of it like everybody else, and not even a president Obama will change that.

So I sure hope that the German disappointment is not too big once they land back on the hard asphalt called "reality". One of the first times this is bound to happen may be when Ms Merkel's phone rings and Obama asks her to send more German soldiers to Afghanistan. But, as Michael Zürn (a professor for international relations in Germany) says in an interview with, maybe this is even helpful for the German discussions on what role we even want to play internationally, and what we are willing to invest.

This, however, leads to another problem: In September 2009, Germany is due to vote for a new parliament (and, consequently, a Chancellor). With so much focus on and excitement about the U.S. elections, it almost seemed like the Germans forgot their own reality: That we need change in our own country as well. That our government is busy selling out our constitutional rights instead of establishing trust. And that as of now, there's no "German Obama" in sight who is likely to glue the constitution together again.

("Obama campaign poster" picture CC by-nc-sa licensed by Anthony Baker on flickr; "Day one" comic by Mike Luckovich on

Read more…

I just implemented a little eye candy for my blog: Language icons in front of links.

Actually, it's only one language so far, German. The reason I am doing this is because on occasion I link to German articles that are no use clicking on for people who don't understand a word in German -- or at the very least it makes them aware of that behind this link, they'll find a German page.

I left English hyperlinks unmarked so far, but if you guys like it this way, I will do it the other way around as well, marking English links as such when I blog in German. Obviously, there's no use flagging links that have the same language as the article itself.

For the geeky readers, I used a CSS32 selector in order to "flag" only the links whose "lang" attribute I set to "de". Consider me a fan of CSS (2 and 3, alike). Now it can only take a decade-or-so until its features are available in Internet Explorer as well. In fact, any reader out there who cares telling me if my language icons work in IE? Leave a comment :)

Update: As a few commenters point out (thanks!), this is a CSS 2, not 3 selector. Nonetheless, it won't work with IE 6, but with IE 7. That's fine with me.

Update: In the comments, Michał notes that the hreflang attribute would be more appropriate than lang, as it denotes the language of the link target, not the language of the link text itself. He's right, so I changed it. Thanks!

Update: Some commenters pointed out a better way: Taking the hreflang attribute and displaying it behind the actual link text. That removes possible confusion about the flag icons, and hopefully doesn't disturb the reader. I found the approach very nice so I adapted it instead. This is how it looks:

On a side note, even IE 7 users won't see this. Sorry.

Read more…

Nice: About a week ago, world-class trumpeter Wynton Marsalis was on the Colbert Report, and here's a video of it:

If you don't care about them talking, forward to 5:10ish and listen to Steve Colbert and Wynton Marsalis in a duet version of the US national anthem.

By the way, that's one fine horn Marsalis is playing there. It's made by Dave Monette from Portland, Oregon. Incidentally, I was there once and got to play Wynton's trumpet (the same kind only, obviously) and it's the heaviest trumpet I've ever played: It felt like a solid chunk of metal. Believe me, making that sound good takes some serious skills. Needless to say, Marsalis has them.


Read more…