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Comment: Re:So everything is protected by a 4 digit passcod (Score 1) 375

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47940045) Attached to: Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

If they want it to be admissible in court, then it doesn't work so well.

The trouble with that argument is that it relies on legal rather than technical barriers, and the same guys who want to get you (generic "you") are the ones making the laws.

For example, right now in the UK, the law is effectively that you can be required to provide either decrypted data or the encryption keys to various authorities, and if you don't then that is in itself an offence that can in theory get you two years in jail. Naturally this is controversial, because like many laws relating to privacy and surveillance there clearly are real dangers that the law could help to protect against but there are also real civil liberties concerns.

Regardless of the ethics of the situation, right now that is what the law in my country says. They don't need a £5 wrench, and they don't need evidence gained using that wrench to be admissible in court. All they need, essentially, is suspicion and your silence.

Comment: Symmetric gameplay is all we get now (Score 1) 290

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47916435) Attached to: The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming

I find many games where the AI is just too dumb for it to be fun. Overall, it's not smart, and it works for a casual player, but for hardcore games, it's just too dumb.

I agree. The thing is, I'm not a 19 year old student any more. I don't want to be a hardcore gamer today. I don't have time to learn FPS maps well enough to navigate them with my eyes closed and still lob a grenade/rocket everywhere the respawn/power-up/camper is likely to be. I can't sustain multiple keyboard/mouse actions per second over a half-hour RTS game. I have no interest in playing against an arena where 1 in 3 opponents is a bot that never misses, nor installing so much mandatory crapware to prevent this on my computer that something outside the game breaks.

For symmetric competitive games, things like arena-based FPS or RTS genres, the "single player" has been going up against bots on PCs since at least the days of Quake 3 Arena, which was around the turn of the century. The big RTSes of that era often had some sort of contrived plot and a series of preplanned missions, but the replay value as a single player was all in open gaming against bots. In each case, playing against real people on-line was always the natural successor; this is not a new thing.

But there used to be asymmetric games as well, where the storyline and gameworld made for a much more compelling experience that could feel more like being in an interactive movie than playing round 17 of laser tag. Classics like the Baldur's Gate series or the original Deus Ex come immediately to mind. They avoided the boredom of facing what you called "pattern AIs" by having actual progression through the game, so the situations and capabilities you'd face would be changing. You can't really do this in a multiplayer gameworld when everyone wants to start with everything and the game only ships with 2 maps. (*97 more maps are available as DLC. Payment required.)

AIs have improved since those days anyway, but the biggest problem for single-player gaming is that the industry has so completely given up on games that require actual progression and development that fighting AIs on the same handful of maps is all the replay value they've got.

Comment: Re:Well now. (Score 1) 102

The argument about committing crime being outlawed would be more convincing if basic copyright infringement were treated as a crime and was actually investigated and punished in some proportionate way by the authorities when it occurs. The reality is that copyright is in most cases a civil matter, which means that while the cumulative damage to a genuine victim can be significant, they are essentially responsible for their own protection, without any police or public prosecutors to help them the way a victim of say theft or fraud would have. And the costs of bringing an action to recover losses are disproportionate in most cases, because copyright infringement kills with a thousand cuts.

Also, we're talking about the EU. Everything your wrote about fair use doesn't apply here. We tend to have more specific exemptions to copyright in our national laws in Europe, often including certain special privileges for libraries because of their unique public service role, and that is the matter at hand.

Comment: Re:Well now. (Score 2) 102

The thing is, as many a Slashdotter has pointed out, you can't accomplish the same thing virtually. If you let people download material from a library then there are only two realistic options. One is that you provide the material with huge amounts of DRM and interfere with readers' own systems in dubious ways. The other is that you create a blatant avenue for copyright infringement and inherently give it special legal blessing that is intended to protect the public resource of a library for entirely different reasons. It is highly unlikely that libraries would support the former, and there is no way the latter was going to fly legally.

Comment: Re:Anthropometrics (Score 2) 814

I would agree with you, except that a free and competitive market can only work this way if it's also an informed market.

If you can lawfully sell someone a ticket for a flight, which they purchase with reasonable expectations in terms of promptness, comfort or whatever else, and you can then fail to meet the customer's reasonable expectations when they bought their ticket without their having any recourse, then you aren't really in a competitive market at all. The customer has no way to know when, or how, to vote with their wallet.

You can certainly make a reasonable argument that this is more about transparency and advertising standards than it is about needing heavyweight industry regulation, but either way the current market dynamics evidently are not sufficient to protect the customer alone.

Comment: Re:One Sure Way (Score 1) 275

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47876969) Attached to: California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

I don't have a fancy name for it. For essentials like shoes and food I'm lucky enough to have plenty in the bank these days to buy what I need, so I have the luxury of choosing quality without sacrificing timeliness. But for something that costs a significant amount by whatever my financial standards are today, I'd rather wait and buy something good.

Comment: Re:One Sure Way (Score 1) 275

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47876171) Attached to: California Tells Businesses: Stop Trying To Ban Consumer Reviews

Perhaps you'll find a company out there that can afford to not skimp monetarily and yet compete at the same time, but I seriously doubt it.

Why? I for one will happily pay a higher price, even a much higher one, for good quality and service. I don't think this costs as much as it seems, because for example a good pair of shoes will last much longer than a bad pair that you'll have to replace much sooner. In any case, I prioritise value for money over cost, so for any non-essentials I'll usually prefer to save up for something nicer than buy cheap consumer tat that I won't really enjoy or find useful.

Comment: As a BBC "customer" in the UK... (Score 5, Interesting) 362

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47860573) Attached to: BBC: ISPs Should Assume VPN Users Are Pirates

The irony of this discussion is that as someone who lives in the UK and pays his licence fee, I still sometimes run into content on the BBC that I'm told I'm not allowed to see because I live in the wrong place.

This is why I lack much sympathy for the Beeb when people use VPNs and the like to circumvent geographical restrictions. I do understand that there are commercial agreements and licensing conditions at work here, and I do understand that the BBC Worldwide commercial arm is not the same as the BBC itself (though it is a wholly owned subsidiary).

Just to be clear, I think the BBC is a borderline national treasure. It is certainly not perfect, but the range and quality of programming it has produced over the years is so much better than the apparent norm on commercial television channels that I pay my licence fee gladly, even if it is a bizarre pseudo-tax based on archaic rules about who has to contribute.

However, if you're going to take primarily public funding, with only a relatively small amount coming from BBC Worldwide's commercial activities, then not sharing the results with those members of the public who are paying your bills is not on, IMHO.

Comment: Re:Anthropometrics (Score 1) 814

Keep saying it's the people's fault, and they'll keep squeezing until they find your particular threshold.

Which is an argument ethically akin to car companies knowing they have a potentially fatal defect but weighing up the cost of actually fixing it and saving lives vs. the expected cost of compensation lawsuits and not fixing it if the latter is lower.

The solution, of course, is to structure the law and/or regulate the industry so that the cost of screwing people unreasonably is always substantially greater than the cost of behaving more appropriately. Passenger suffered unreasonable discomfort on any flight? Automatic 100% refund, with a presumption in favour of the passenger if your provision is significantly below the industry average (or minimum regulated standards if the industry colludes to reduce the average).

Comment: Re:Anthropometrics (Score 1) 814

I would have a lot more sympathy if budget airlines didn't keep pulling so many obviously shady moves to try to look cheap yet acceptable quality while actually charging more that customers expected and not always offering the experience people thought they were buying. This has become so bad that we literally have new consumer protection laws taking effect in Europe around now precisely to make a bunch of the tricks that some of these airlines pull explicitly illegal.

It should have been a reasonable and simple solution to offer transparent pricing and mid-range options, but I think that ship sailed^W^Wplane departed already. Now the industry, particularly on the budget end, needs to clean up its act or face increasing levels of customer dissatisfaction at a time when people are already looking to alternatives where viable ones exist.

Comment: Re:Stupid design, appalling (Score 3, Informative) 131

Makes me think: is auto-playing HTML5 video a possibility?

Yes, there's a standard way to specify autoplay for HTML5 videos. However, not all browsers will respect it. For example, Safari on iOS won't play unless the user specifically starts the video, and this was a deliberate decision on Apple's part.

Comment: Re: Stupid design, appalling (Score 1) 131

In some ways, I wish more sites would do stuff like that. It would stop my mobile ISP from "helping me save bandwidth" by intercepting all the images on sites I visit and compressing them so horribly that they are often useless. I didn't ask them to do that, I don't get anywhere near my bandwidth allowance, and they aren't providing the service I pay for.

Comment: Re:Probably not. (Score 1) 546

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47824333) Attached to: Does Learning To Code Outweigh a Degree In Computer Science?

Because even non-degree programmers aren't stupid, and this kind of general knowledge about their profession is acquired as they go.

Is it? I've worked for plenty of employers who said they offered things like on-the-job training, but in practice that often meant they had a book shelf and sometimes a senior developer would give a 45 minute talk. Compared to attending multiple lectures every day for a few years... well, it's hardly a comparison at all, it's a completely different depth of study.

As I wrote elsewhere, I firmly believe that studying for a degree is not the only way to acquire this level of theoretical knowledge, but I find the idea that any developer would just pick up the same material as a normal result of day-to-day work in a typical programming job implausible. It's not about being stupid, it's about being ignorant (in the literal sense, not the derogatory one), and it takes a lot more than reading a few chapters in a book from the office library and a couple of blog posts to meet the standard.

The number of times you are dealing with stuff that was learned in a CS degree is minimal.

Perhaps, if all you do is join-the-dots programming for CRUD front-ends. Personally, my clients pay me to create new data structures and algorithms that solve problems no-one ever solved before. I can't just write result=solve_my_problem(), because I'm the guy they hire to create that API.

Remember all that theory about space and time complexity, and which guarantees you can and can't achieve in distributed systems, and formally proving algorithms correct, and how compilers and virtual machines and run-time environments work? I use this stuff all the time.

Every programmer has a bunch of stuff that they already know and a bunch of stuff that is new to them and they need to research before doing a task. The proportion is mostly dictated by amount of experience, not whether they have CS degrees or not.

Yes it is, but the quality of that experience -- what you know and how you think as a result -- matters. As has been noted many times in this industry, there is a difference between someone who has had ten years of experience and someone who has had the same year of experience ten times.

A good CS degree course is one way to gain a lot of useful experience in a relatively short time. There are others, but a job where you spend all day writing glue code that joins up someone else's library and framework APIs isn't one of them.

Comment: Re:Still having misery with Firefox. (Score 1) 220

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#47821779) Attached to: Firefox 32 Arrives With New HTTP Cache, Public Key Pinning Support

We're talking about Slashdotters and other geeks who have no real excuse to not help out in this way

What do you mean "no real excuse to not help out"?

I think FOSS is great. I appreciate the work that a lot of people in the community do, and I'm happy to help out a bit myself if I can. I also think competition is healthy in the browser market, and I'm glad that Firefox is out there.

But the last time I tried to be helpful by following a Mozillian's bug reporting advice, it took me several hours to fix the damage after their instructions resulted in damage to my normal set-up. That was time I was not then billing to a client, which ultimately reduced my income by a few hundred bucks that month. Setting up a VM on my normal (Windows) PC as suggested a few posts up is not a trivial undertaking either. This is more than I'm willing to do as a favour on personal time, and it's not what my clients pay my company to do.

Mozilla Corporation is a commercial organisation. It has over 1,000 employees, it brings in millions of dollars in revenues, and it reportedly pays its CEO more than most of us here are ever likely to earn. I'm a professional, and my company is available for software development and consultancy work. If you want me to do your testing or bug fixing for you, there's a line from Goodfellas that comes to mind.

Given my own past experience with trying to help, and my position on why I won't do it myself any more, I do find it irritating when Firefox developers/fans start writing as if anyone else has some sort of moral obligation to follow onerous procedures to help out. I rarely write about this myself, but since you've pressed the issue, I thought a few facts might bring some perspective.

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley