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Comment: Maybe this is for our parents? (Score 3, Interesting) 192

by Schnapple (#47265775) Attached to: Amazon Announces 'Fire Phone'

The Fire Phone runs Mayday, Amazon's live tech support service for devices.

I haven't experienced it myself but when I see the Amazon Kindle Fire commercials where they demonstrate you can talk to a live Amazon person to help you use your tablet, my first thought was "that would be great for my parents", especially since it would lessen the number of calls I would get from them on how to do something with their technology device du jour.

You would think that something locked down like an iOS device wouldn't lend itself to needing this kind of tech support help, but in certain areas - especially phone calls - there's a certain level of resistance to technology complexity with the older crowd. It sounds like I'm being mean with regards to age but I have known several older people over the last few years who went out and bought an iPhone because it was the new shiny thing and then took it back because they couldn't figure out how to use it or didn't like how complicated it made things. As much as it makes perfect sense to you and I that the phone is a more generalized computing device nowadays and wanting to make a phone call is basically launching a program, the older set knows that you used to just open the fucking thing and start dialing.

I'm not sure if the Fire Phone will make all that better (in particular I can almost guarantee my parents in particular would fucking hate the 3D screen thing) but I do think perhaps there's an untapped market out there for people who want a less-smartphone. After all, isn't that basically what "locked down" Android tablets like the Kindle Fire and the Nook are? Google, Apple and Microsoft are all trying to outdo each other on technical whiz-bang, and this entry from Amazon doesn't seem to impress the Slashdot crowd at all. Maybe this one is for our parents?

Comment: Re:Lol... (Score -1) 329

by Schnapple (#46983275) Attached to: EA Ending Online Support For Dozens of Games

Or state very clearly (not in the fine print) that said device or software will likely cease to work past some date, but is guaranteed to work until that date.

They have done exactly that for many many years.

Look at the back of the Battlefield 1942 box - the game was released in September 2002 and it states that they only guarantee it can be played online until September 2003. This isn't in the fine print, it's on the back of the package like you said it should be, so that you can read it before you buy the game.

This caused quite a stink back in 2002 because people thought it meant that they absolutely would cause the games to stop working at that time but really EA was just covering their ass because they had been sued already by people who didn't get that Ultima Online required a subscription fee because it wasn't spelled out on the box well enough

Instead, EA has supported online for BF1942 through GameSpy for close to 12 years now. And you think they're assholes for going way beyond what they promised and don't release source code. And your other suggested fix is exactly what they did over a decade ago when they fucking released the game but you're too goddamn stupid to know what you're talking about.

Comment: Run, Print, Wait (Score 1) 230

by Schnapple (#46881445) Attached to: One-a-Day-Compiles: Good Enough For Government Work In 1983

My first gig out of college was for the same University I graduated from, and I worked on a mainframe doing COBOL programming, and some scripting in a proprietary language called NATURAL which I've never seen used anywhere else, ever.

One project I was handed was to update the 1098-T form. It's basically the IRS tax form for tuition writeoffs. Every year we had to produce a 1098-T form for every student which basically detailed what they paid in tuition. Every year the form was a little different (of course) so every year our generation program had to be updated.

What I got handed was basically a program which drew the form and then printed the data on the correct parts of the form. And when I saw drew the form, I don't mean we had a PDF or JPEG or whatever of the form, we actually recreated the form with whatever bog standard graphics package we used. Like, you would literally say go to (X1,Y1) and draw a line to (X2,Y2), then a line from (X2,Y2) to (X3,Y3), etc. It was like programming in LOGO, but for a legal purpose and without the cool turtles.

This doesn't sound like such a big deal, and it wasn't too bad, but what was tedious was the fact that you would program all this in, then run the program against a single fake student's data, and then you headed to the printer. The printer, in this case was the print room and it was three floors down and a few hallways away. Then you waited for the printout. Which would print as soon as anyone else's job who was in (virtual) line in front of you was done. The time it took to accomplish this was basically random.

And when you found out whatever small change you made didn't work, had the wrong effect, got the numbers backwards, etc. you got to do this all over again. Make small change, compile, run, wait hour(s) for result, lather, rinse, repeat. All with no GUI, no preview, no nothing. Oh, and the program I had, comparing the form printed last year to the actual 1098-T form from the IRS' site was not a 1:1 recreation - it had basically the same info as the source form but it wasn't a dead-on match. I'm guessing this was good enough for the IRS, and either no one had ever bothered to make this thing picture perfect, or the motivation to do so got lost along the way. Lord knows I wasn't going to do it either.

Over time of course you started to average out how long it took to get the printout and you'd wait at least that long before going to get it. And of course this wasn't anywhere near as bad as "come back tomorrow to see if it worked", but that whole process sucked and I don't miss that job at all.

Oh, and this was in ~2002 or so. I didn't really want to be a mainframe programmer but I had little experience in a shitty economy and I was told/promised that they'd be moving to an "all new web-based system within the next six months". When I quit two and a half years later to move to a better gig, it was still "within the next six months". I learned a lot from that job, I guess.

Comment: Can we please stop asking this question? (Score 1) 306

by Schnapple (#46515827) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can an Old Programmer Learn New Tricks?

Look, I get that we're all getting older and that there's traditionally been something of an age bias in IT but can we please stop having a "hey am I too old do be doing programming?" story every fucking week?

No you're not too old. Yes you might have a harder time finding work at your age (whatever age it is) but there's so many other factors (choice of technologies, state of local technology scene where you're at, whether or not you have people/hygiene skills) that no one can really say what it is. Yes you have commitments and debt and maybe a wife and kids and the fresh kids out of college just have those to look forward to. But come the fuck on.

There's basically two things people worry about - is your age causing you to lose job opportunities and is your age making your mind slower/worse/etc. If you're asking for an absolute answer to either then it's no. We've established this over and over and over. There are just as many jobs out there looking for fresh faced kids as there are looking for seasoned professionals. The reason that the game industry, with its cutting edge technology, is mostly young people is not because young people's minds are more amenable to cutting edge technologies, but because the game industry overworks, under pays, and generally churns through most of its non-Carmack-level talent and causes people to switch to mundane business rules programming for 2x the salary and 100x the stability.

Now can we please move on to something important like whether or not Bitcoins cause Libertarians to commit suicide?

Comment: Compromise: actively sell the game or it goes PD (Score 3, Interesting) 360

by Schnapple (#46152163) Attached to: Why Games Should Be In the Public Domain

OK, see here's the deal.

The RPS author mentions 20 years. I'm assuming it's because 20 years is an arbitrary-ish figure he settled on.

It's 2014, so 20 years ago is 1994.

Really what he was getting at originally was that it was somewhat bizarre that computer games from the 1980's are still considered copyrighted and illegal to distribute, even if the original developers, publishers, etc. have long since gone defunct.

So I really think the author should have said 25 years or something like that but just for the sake of discussion let's stick with 20.

The game Super Mario Bros. from Nintendo was released in 1985. That's almost thirty years ago. So, by a blanket application of his proposition, SMB would have gone PD back in 2005. Anyone could do anything they wanted with the game and there would be nothing Nintendo could do about it.

But this smacks of unfair for one reason - Nintendo is still around. And they're still selling SMB. You can get it on Virtual Console on Wii, Wii U and 3DS.

The author isn't necessarily proposing that a developer should only get to make money off of his or her creation for 20 years, or at least that's not how I'm interpreting it.

Let's take another example - there's a critically acclaimed game called No One Lives Forever, a somewhat wacky spy caper with a female protagonist that has a parody of James Bond in the 60's thing happening. The game was developed by Monolith and published by Fox Interactive. Fox got bought by Activision, Activision merged with Blizzard, and Monolith got bought by Warner Bros. Long story short, no one can release the game on GOG because no one knows who owns it. But someone does, in theory. However it will be a long time before anyone sorts it out because there is, in theory, not enough money for anyone to care.

By the way copyright works today, NOLF will be illegal to distribute until 2090. Who knows what will happen by then? If we lived in a perfect world where piracy and copyright infringement didn't exist, then the only places NOLF would exist are on the hard drives of Monolith and the discs of whoever bought the game - what are the odds either would be functional in 2090?

But a dirty little secret is you can go download NOLF right now on torrent sites. Anyone can download it. Thanks to copyright infringement it will never truly go away.

This happens in other sectors, too. There's about a hundred of the original Dr. Who episodes from the 1960's or so which are lost because the BBC taped over them. I'm not kidding, they seriously never thought that anyone would want to watch them in the future. But every so often a few turn up - they put nine episodes on iTunes a few months ago - all because someone somewhere found some tape they were either supposed to return to the BBC, or someone taped them and didn't realize they still had them.

So going back to SMB, Nintendo is actually sort of doing the right thing here. Sure, they're basically selling a ROM image and an emulator, and the only people who get to play SMB are the ones who paid for it, but the point is they can get it, play it, and pay for it. It's available.

But if Nintendo had closed up shop in 1995 or something would it really benefit anyone to have to wait until 2075 to be able to play SMB again in our piracy-does-not-exist fantasy land?

GeorgeB3DR is getting upset about this because he is still selling those old games and still making a living off of it. The hard-and-fast 20 year proposal would fuck him over. But the point is he's still selling them.

Let's say that we had a different rule - if your game hasn't been available for ten years for sale it goes PD. GeorgeB3DR would be fine. Nintendo would be fine. And we could distribute NOLF all we want.

Of course, under this rule it's possible that ActiVendiFoxoLith would get their shit together and hash out who owns what and release it for sale on GOG or something. Sure, we wouldn't be able to just distribute NOLF for free that way, but isn't it better that we have a nice, convenient and (likely) cheap option to obtain the games now?

Like that release in December of the Beatles 1963 recordings. If EMI or whoever hadn't released those for sale then they'd be PD this year. But aren't we better off with those out there for sale than potentially lost forever or stuck in bootleg traders hell? Yes there's some people upset that they were *this close* to having PD Beatles stuff, but they'll get their wish in 20 years, in the meantime you can just buy them on your phone. Isn't that better overall?

Comment: Re:jerk (Score 1) 1440

by Schnapple (#44939747) Attached to: Georgia Cop Issues 800 Tickets To Drivers Texting At Red Lights
There is such a thing as Fire Fighting simulators. It's like a networked LAN game. The game is perfectly safe and can simulate situations that you can't get easily in live exercises. Due to its nature and limited market they're expensive (like $10K a license or seat) but they exist. They are no substitute for real on the job training and controlled exercises and no one's arguing anything to the contrary, but they do exist.

Comment: Re:Theory vs. Practice (Score 1) 191

by Schnapple (#44887157) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When Is Patent License Trading Not Trolling?
Yeah... you have no idea what you're talking about.

Listen to Act Two of this episode of This American Life. The example they hunt down to its conclusion has one guy, Chris Crawford, selling his patent to IV and in turn he gets 10% of whatever they get on it (which considering IV was settling with dozens of firms for fucktons of dollars in perpetuity, is not too shabby).

Once IV does your dirty work for you, you'll never need to make widget bolts again.

Comment: Theory vs. Practice (Score 3, Insightful) 191

by Schnapple (#44885813) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: When Is Patent License Trading Not Trolling?

In theory what a NPE does is actually quite admirable. You're an inventor and you invented something and you have a patent and big companies rip you off. They know you can't afford to fight them so they just do what they want. So you sell your patent to someone like Intellectual Ventures who goes after the big companies for you. Now no one can make your widget bolt without paying you, as it should be.

And look what's happened - even giant companies are scared shitless to defend against patent lawsuits. In that respect, the idea worked.

In practice though what happens is minute, even trivial things get patented and NPE's go looking for people to sue, using a byzantine series of shell companies and borderline gaming of the legal system. Whereas the inventor of the widget bolt has to make the exact specifications of how his bolt works open to the public (who could also just figure it out by looking at it) software companies don't have to make the source code of their patented inventions available to anyone.

NPE's to me are like the NRA or PETA - organizations/concepts which started out with noble intentions (responsible gun ownership, don't torture animals) and just strayed way off the mark.

Comment: Re:You are just joking, right? (Score 1) 108

I've tried about a dozen keyboards on mine, most didn't work, the others randomly repeated keystrokes. This was from $5 nonames to Logitech and Microsoft high end keyboards.

Your problem is your power supply. It's pretty much the culprit of just about any RPi issues. Get the right power supply and just about anything you plug in works.

The way to be sure is to plug the RPi in for power to one of the USB ports on your main PC. Yes that's counter-intuitive and not the long term goal but once you get the right power supply then everything should work. Speaking from experience here.

Comment: 486 20MHz? (Score 1) 189

by Schnapple (#43283621) Attached to: DOS Emulation Arrives For the Raspberry Pi

The emulation runs at a speed around that of a 20MHz 80486 [...] Perfect for playing old classics such as Doom

With all due respect, back in high school I owned a Packard Bell 486SX 20MHz. Every time I have ever told anyone that, even as a historical curiosity, I have had to follow it with "yes, they did make them that slow".

Did you know that DOOM had a "low detail" mode? I did, because that was the only way I was going to get the 486SX 20MHz to run it (after I upgraded the RAM to a whopping 6MB of course). It was unusuably slow otherwise. And when games like ROTT came out? They wouldn't even run unless they were in low detail mode. And lord help you if you accidentally hit the Turbo button, setting you back down to 8MHz.

So I hope for this thing's sake that it runs a bit faster than that otherwise DOOM is going to just flat out not work worth a damn.

Comment: Re:expensive and hard to get (Score 1) 74

by Schnapple (#43208755) Attached to: Review: Make: Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Also, his "it's been done before" example is an Android stick - so, basically, a cut down Linux aimed at cell phones and sealed in a box, with no GIPO pins. Maybe there's more to it and you can load up your own Linux distros on it but the Pi is closer to a "real computer" than this thing is. In fact, the original goal of the Pi was to be small and stick-based like this but it made accessing the pins impossible.

Comment: Re:Prices will come down? Hah! (Score 1) 393

by Schnapple (#42947249) Attached to: The End Is Near for GameStop

Remember when those same publishers got rid of big boxes, printed manuals and goodies that used to come in normal pc game editions -- with the excuse of going green and lesser price ? Yeah, what happened to those prices ? They went up, up and up.

Citation needed.

Seriously, I think this is something people have made up retroactively. Publishers have never said "oh we want to reduce the amount of packaging to pass that savings on to the consumer". They may have used the "green" excuse but really they're just trying to increase their profit margins.

Another thing I see is: Aren't we supposed to be getting savings passed onto us for the digital distribution?

No. I don't know where you got that idea or why so many people have misconceptions about this but no, the point of digital distribution is not to pass the savings on to the consumer and it never has been.

Cutting out all the middle men means that the publisher and developer make more money. This is a good thing, especially in the PC space. Games are already more expensive to make and the maximum price has been set at $50-$60 for some time now. The recent upping of COD6 on the PC to $60 incurred quite a wrath.

Publishers and developers making more money on the sale of a game because they cut out the middle men means that developers might make a decent living wage. It means there will be less layoffs. It means that the advance money is made back quicker so the developer might see a profit from a game.

If you think that Steam savings from the lack of physical materials should be passed on to you then you don't get to bitch when a developer closes or has a layoff. If you want to wait for a Steam sale that's fine, if you prefer having a physical game from a store, that's fine, too. But don't think that you should pay less because there's not a disc involved. You're wrong.

Comment: Holding style (Score 1) 32

You play the game by holding the 3DS upright, rather than sideways like a book, and it works so well I wonder why previous Brain Age games used the wacky book-like layout at all.

They did this with the original games because they were wacky (a polygonal head of a Japanese man in glasses laughs at you) and also because "smart" people read books so it makes sense that a "smart" game would also be used like a book. It was also conducive to the Sudoku puzzles.

My guess would be they abandoned it in the 3DS version because it wouldn't work with the 3D screen, which relies on you holding the screen at the right angle to get the effect.

"Engineering without management is art." -- Jeff Johnson