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10 Facebook Status Updates Gone Horribly Wrong

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Facebook is usually just a running feed of pictures, talk about the weather and inspirational quotes. (Mine is, anyway; maybe your friends are more exciting.) But sometimes Facebook status updates are a little more interesting. And by “interesting,” we mean “criminal.” Here are ten.

1. Anthony Elonis discovered his wife was cheating on him. After she left, he began posting all manner of horrifying things to Facebook, which were then reported to Lehigh Valley authorities and the FBI, including threats against his estranged wife, a former employer who fired him, an FBI agent, and most frightening of all, a plan to attack schoolchildren: “Hell hath no fury like a crazy man in a kindergarten class." Elonis claimed the updates were rap lyrics he wrote, but jurors were unconvinced. His conviction comes with a maximum 20-year sentence (determined in January 2012) for four counts of violating the interstate communications law, which prohibits threats of violence across state lines.

2. Keeley Houghton terrorized Emily Moore for four years—including damage to her home and a physical attack by Houghton and two friends—but it was a Facebook status that got her arrested. After posting a death-threat tirade against Moore on her own wall, Houghton became the first person in the UK jailed for Internet bullying. She served 3 months in jail in 2009.

3. "Has any1 else eva thought bout strappin a bomb on n walk n a police department n blowin da (expletive) up." If so, you might want to consider not talking about it on Facebook, unlike Montigo Arrington of Tarrant, Alabama, who went ahead and clicked ‘Post.’ Jefferson County deputies were anonymously tipped-off to Arrington’s update and showed up at the man’s house, where officers allegedly discovered child pornography on Arrington’s computer. His bail is set at $20,000. The deputy involved had some great advice for would-be provocateurs: “Do not post something stupid on the Internet for all the world to see. Most especially, a blatant threat to law enforcement."

4. Hazel Cunningham was drawing income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, citing single parenthood and unemployment. But then a city investigator noticed that the woman’s Facebook page was filled with photos of Cunningham with her children enjoying vacations to Turkey and an elaborate wedding in Barbados (to the husband she said she didn’t have). In addition to her 120-day prison sentence, Cunningham was ordered to pay back the £15,000 she’d swindled from taxpayers.

5. Don’t tell the Internet you’ve kidnapped a woman… especially if you haven’t. Douglas Martin of Riverdale, IL, did, and the cops received a tip from a concerned acquaintance. No unwilling resident was found; the updates were apparently “part of a creative writing project,” but the heroin residue, bag of marijuana and bathroom “covered in white powder” were very real. Martin has been charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

6. During the London riots is probably not the best time to set up a Facebook event to start a similar riot in your own town, but two teens did just that, inviting friends to a “Smash down in Northwich Town.” Unfortunately for Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan and Jordan Blackshaw, only the police showed up. They were each sentenced to four years in jail for inciting public disorder via social media; both intend to appeal.

7. A teen inspired by the film Shank, in which gangs take over London, posted a series of updates encouraging his Facebook friends to “kill a million Fedz” and one taking requests for a planned looting trip. “Rioting 2nyt anyone want anything from Flannels?” earned Amed Pelle 33 months in jail.

8. Craig “Lazie” Lynch walked out of a minimum security prison, where he was serving a seven-year sentence for armed robbery, nearly a year before his scheduled release. Instead of keeping a low profile like most escaped convicts, Lynch became the Facebook Fugitive and spent his days posting literal and figurative one-finger salutes to authorities, collecting over 40,000 fans and inspiring a theme song (NSFW) in the process. The four-month search for Lynch was a media frenzy, which Lynch helped fuel with Facebook updates daring police to “do what they’re payed [sic] for.” He was recaptured in January 2010 by Scotland Yard and his Facebook page has since been deleted.

9. During a Scottish Cup replay game, Stephen Birrell posted “religiously and racially motivated comments” about Catholics and Celtic supporters in a Facebook group called “Neil Lennon Should Be Banned.” His remarks, most about killing Catholics, were deemed a hate crime and “unacceptable in modern Scotland" by the country’s solicitor general and he was sentenced to eight months in prison. Birrell is also banned from attending football events for five years.

10. It’s not unusual for hunters to take pictures of their catch, but if you’re breaking state game limits then you might want to reconsider sharing them online. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries cited Brandon Lowry of Norco, LA, for hauling in 64 ducks on a recent trip—well over the maximum eight allowed during teal season—after he posted pictures to Facebook. If convicted, Lowry’s looking at fines between $400 and $950, up to 120 days in jail, or both.

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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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Why Your iPhone Doesn't Always Show You the 'Decline Call' Button
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When you get an incoming call to your iPhone, the options that light up your screen aren't always the same. Sometimes you have the option to decline a call, and sometimes you only see a slider that allows you to answer, without an option to send the caller straight to voicemail. Why the difference?

A while back, Business Insider tracked down the answer to this conundrum of modern communication, and the answer turns out to be fairly simple.

If you get a call while your phone is locked, you’ll see the "slide to answer" button. In order to decline the call, you have to double-tap the power button on the top of the phone.

If your phone is unlocked, however, the screen that appears during an incoming call is different. You’ll see the two buttons, "accept" or "decline."

Either way, you get the options to set a reminder to call that person back or to immediately send them a text message. ("Dad, stop calling me at work, it’s 9 a.m.!")

[h/t Business Insider]

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