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Comment: Re:cowardice (Score 1) 518

by RogueyWon (#48632109) Attached to: FBI Confirms Open Investigation Into Gamergate

There is no GamerGate. Not really. There are several amorphous bunches of people who hang around on some forums. There's a similarly amorphous bunch of people who use a twitter tag, often for wildly differing reasons. There are a handful of internet petitions. There's a fictitious mass-movement that some juvenile "supporters" have imagined up because it makes them feel good. And there's a fictitious shadowy, sinister organisation that a bunch of equally juvenile opponents have imagined up because it gives them a convenient straw man to attack. Really, nobody comes out of this well.

During my postgrad years (so going back to the start of the last decade now), I had two online roles back to back which gave me a fair amount of visibility to a lot of angry people online. First, I was the head admin of a major European Counter-Strike league. Then I was an oper (and one of the public-facing ones rather than the backroom code-tweakers) on a very large European-based IRC network. Both of those roles involved telling angry people things they didn't want to hear. Things like "somebody in your clan was caught cheating, you are now banned" or "no, I will not gline somebody just so you can have your usual nick back".

And so, on a pretty much daily basis, people threatened to kill me. They were going to find out where I lived and kill me, or maybe track down my parents and kill them or maybe rape my grandmother or my sister (I don't have a sister, but hey), or whatever, or something, or they just hoped I got CANCER or AIDS and would go away and DIE. To be honest, I suspect anybody who's done a similar role (or worked in customer service in certain types of company) also gets similar on a daily basis.

Were the people making those threats good people? Hell no. Even the fact that they were angry doesn't excuse behaviour like that. But what did I do about it? In the Counter-Strike role, if they clan wasn't already banned from the league, then it sure was the moment they made death threats. In the IRC role, it takes only a few seconds to apply a gline and suspend accounts with network services, but the warm fuzzy feeling that follows can last an hour or more. Did I ever actually feel in danger? Did I ever feel I needed to call the police? Hell no. Talking shit online is, unfortunately, pretty much as old as the internet itself and I had no particular political axe to grind.

So yeah, immature idiots on one side and professional grievance-mongers trying to inflate trash talk out of all proportion on the other. Nobody comes well out of this, for the most part.

Actually, the one thing that did strike me about this was how much the whole thing was a product of the indie gaming community. Almost every AAA publisher or developer out there either stayed silent or distanced from it as quickly as possible (which was the only sensible course of action). 2014 is really feeling like the year AAA gaming got smart and indie gaming got dumb.

Comment: Inherantly anti-first-world-consumer (Score 2, Interesting) 154

by RogueyWon (#48625491) Attached to: To Fight Currency Mismatches, Steam Adding Region Locking to PC Games


Region locks are vile practice. It's infuriating to see them creeping into PC gaming (historically a region-free platform) at a time when two of the three console developers have ditched them and the third (Nintendo) is considering dropping them. That said, it's worth reflecting on why they exist. There are, historically, two reason behind this.

The first is plain old-fashioned cultural stereotyping (which somebody being less diplomatic might call "racism"). This is the classic Nintendo reason. Big paternalist companies like Nintendo (they're not alone in this, but are the worst offenders) have this weird outlook that says that they should function as some kind of moral arbiter of what should and should not be available in each territory. Hence certain games are "not a good cultural fit for some regions" (usually a view based on offensive broad-brush stereotypes... or racism, if you prefer the more honest term) or "require alterations to be culturally appropriate" (meaning "we're going to cut the game to hell on release in some territories, because REASONS"). Happily, this particular driver behind region locking is on the decline. Sony used to buy into it every bit as much as Nintendo, but have completely washed their hands of it. Even Nintendo are considering getting out of this game. I should add that a few territories (a handful of religious-wacko countries, plus Germany and Australia - what good company they find themselves in) set up their own barriers that require these kind of locks on occasion. In those cases, the blame rests with the Governments of those countries, not the platform owners/publishers.

The second reason is more complex and is down to differential pricing. Not every currency is of the same strength or stability. The last few days have made that pretty clear, if it wasn't already. And by and large, a lot of those countries which have weak and/or unstable currencies also tend to have very high piracy rates. A lot of companies (Microsoft used to be particularly bad in this respect, but have been stepping back lately) operate under the delusion that if they sell their products really really cheap in those territories, they can get people to buy legitimately, rather than pirating their products (all the evidence to date shows this doesn't work). Problem is, when you do that, you create a huge reverse-import problem; why would a US or European consumer pay the going rate in their territory for a locally-bought copy, when they could import a Brazillian or Russian or Vietnamese copy for a fraction of the price (which probably has English-language support anyway)?

Now, in a pure free market, one of two things would happen. Either the company selling the product would have to drop its price globally, or else it would have to accept that customers in those marginal economies just couldn't, for the most part, afford its products. But we live in a world where they're allowed to circumvent the free-market at will - via region locks. So first-world consumers get to subsidise producers (usually fruitless) speculation in developing-world markets.

There's a curious mirror image of this around one particular market; Japan. See, Japanese consumers are willing to pay massively over the odds for media (movies, games, TV series both live action and animated), particularly when said media is domestically produced. Seriously, you think UK or Australian consumers pay over the odds? It's nothing to what they'll pay in Japan. And because Japan has a large media industry which has grown accustomed to being able to milk this unquestioningly loyal (and seemingly happy to be exploited) domestic market, a good chunk of it is desperate to keep said market behind a walled garden, with reverse importing from the rest of the world locked off.

So yeah... region locking... a few reasons for it, none of them good for the consumer. Truly sad to see it come to Steam (though it's been creeping in at the margins for a while now). The only alternative? Fix all regions' price to the dollar (allowing for differences in local sales taxes, which is the major difference, for instance, between US and UK prices). But then a good chunk of the world wouldn't be able to afford to buy anything like as many games.

Comment: Re:Is SONY breaking the law with this "defense"? (Score 5, Insightful) 190

by Artifakt (#48578701) Attached to: Sony Reportedly Is Using Cyber-Attacks To Keep Leaked Files From Spreading

If there are any legitmate files hosted on those servers Sony's hired guns are DOSing, a "second amendment analogy" means Sony just fired back at both their opponents and some innocent bystanders. How about that, posters defending Sony's right to use such tactics - does that right include unlimited collateral damage to random bystanders? If sony isn't breaking the law, then does that make the law right even if innocents get caught in the 'crossfire'?

Comment: Re:Please (Score 2) 416

by Artifakt (#48575037) Attached to: MIT Removes Online Physics Lectures and Courses By Walter Lewin

I'm far from sure this is just about protecting the public image of MIT or saving face. It's hardly outside the realm of possibility that MIT gets some economic benefits from having those videos on Youtube and has a contract with the professor that passes some of them on to him. For example, the videos are probably calculated in MITs taxes each year as an IP asset, and that makes some of the costs of producing them part of research credits and such that affect MITs filings for years after they are made.Actions such as giving things to the community create real good will, and something called goodwill for taxes, and while both will be reduced if some people find the misbehavior disturbing enough to offset the normal good feelings towards MIT this produces, the impact on the tax version is a real economic consequence.
      I think we are looking at a borderline case, particularly if this is just a single incident of online harrassment. Like where two 16 year olds send naughty photos of themsleves to each other and then a prosecutor says it's technically distribution of pedophilic images and we should immediately try both participants as adults. This situation at least technically counts as triggering a lot of consequences, now should it trigger all of them without any to whether it's really serious enough for that whole automatic process to be just? Or is that what we mean by zero tolerance - borderline cases all trigger maximum consequences.

Comment: Re:Watson is a scientist (Score 1) 235

by Artifakt (#48567251) Attached to: James Watson's Nobel Prize Medal Will Be Returned To Him

Actually, I think there are some good, sound, scientific reasons that intelligence differences along racial lines are not genetic (at least in major part). Simplest among these is that there is as much evolutionary pressure from problems such as tropical diseases as there is from survival during an ice age, or similar factors that are invoked to "scientifially "explain these differences.
          In general, Science frequently uses Occam's Razor in one of its classic forms "It is vain to explain with more what can be explained with fewer". Explanations that somehow give special weight to the selection pressures that supposedly improved European or Asian migrants and treat the human evolutionary period like Africa was some sort of peaceful paradise where people had no reason not to stay jolly, dumb and lazy, are perfect examples of needless and counter-scientific complexity.
        These are usually offered with pseudo-scientific claims that somehow attacks by diseases or parasites or large predators on the African proto-human population, are not sustained at the right frequency, or in some exact way that was needed, and only survival against one particular stressor caused evolutionary pressure. Sometimes these get very elaborate, with claims that only one thing, such as glaciers, produced the precise combination of stressors needed to trigger evolution - wars, for example, didn't count as an evolutionary driver, unless they were wars against a distinct species offshoot such as the Neandertals, or diseases didn't count because they didn't happen on a yearly cycle like glacial advances, etc. That's special pleading, not science.

With that said Watson did something very good for many people. I'll respect that even where I think he's wrong about something, and even where I might dismiss all somebody's other opinions otherwise.

Comment: Re:Of course and duuuuuhhh. . . (Score 1) 417

by Artifakt (#48566347) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

That's one of Iain M. Banks' "The Culture" novels. Understandable though, it's very easy to get Iain M. Banks and Iain Banks confused, since they even lived in the same city at the time of their unfortunate deaths from similar diseases.

Still, how can The Player of Games be the greatest when one of its sequels is The Hydrogen Sonata?

Comment: Re:programming (Score 1) 417

by Artifakt (#48566057) Attached to: AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us

People are probably going to claim that the AI can be programmed to avoid jeopardizing the economic interests of its owner to take care of such things. The problem with that is, such AI puts humans at risk, not because the AI itself will act against them, but the persons owning the AI will become more inclined to harm their fellow humans if those humans don't come with the useful feature of putting their owner's interests above self preservation. Having smart slaves with no sense of self may be possible some day, and even desirable for some applications, but what will it enable sociopaths to do?
          In some ways, AI without self identity is like a gun that automatically sends out press releases saying the target had a history of thuggish behavior and was charging at the gun owner. The things that could replace self identity are often things society has other problems with, such as fanatical devotion to a cause.

Comment: Re:How about a straight answer? (Score 0) 329

by Artifakt (#48562263) Attached to: Warmer Pacific Ocean Could Release Millions of Tons of Methane

Maybe, but there are reasons not to just go by the first thing you find on Wikipedia, and you've found a great example.

First, what's pretty definite about the Permian Extinction is that a really big meteor hit near Chicxulub, in the gullf of Mexico, at the right time to contribute to it. What's called the K-Pg boundry Iridium layer supports this.
Second, there's real doubt the big rock from space was enough to cause the known extinctions all by itself, so something else, such as Methane Clathrate release happening about the same time might be needed to explain some of it. That's two mights - we might need to consider more factors, and methane might be one. You're adding a third might, that the Methane might be a key factor, which I take to mean you think it's bigger than most, but not necessarily all of the suggested other factors.. There's lots of other possible factors, such as which continents were recently reconnected by land bridges after aeons of isolation at the time, or what did the evolution of flowering plants contribute, if anything. If you're right, Methane release is more significant than most such possibilities, but that's a long chain of mights, only as strong as its weakest might. .

I'll give you a countervailing wiki entry:
The part about the Deccan Traps gives an alternative source for tremendous amounts of Carbon with a source which could change isotope ratios. Also, while I don't think the meteor itself could have had enough Carbon in its composition to make much difference, it is a known fact that stuff from elsewhere in the solar system can have different isotopic ratios. In fact that's one of the things the recent cometary probe lander was supposed to measure, so I supposes somebody ought to do a few back of the envelope calculations to really rule that possibility out.

Comment: Re:Here is a link for 110C superconductivity (Score 2) 80

by Artifakt (#48557571) Attached to: High Temperature Superconductivity Record Smashed By Sulfur Hydride

It's nice, but the compound in question only seems to display superconductivity for a while immediately after annealing, and has to be kept away from water or this quickly stops. This still may lead to a sizeable commercial application someday, but that's not by any means likely.

Comment: Re:Ugh (Score 1) 125

by Artifakt (#48556949) Attached to: Unity 8 Will Bring 'Pure' Linux Experience To Mobile Devices

Your example would be better proof of your point if there had been similar switching to Kubuntu or any of the other 'buntus that don't use Unity. Especially since there were already people advising switching to Kubuntu over the Gnome 3 issues. Distrowatch only indirectly shows where there may be an actual use trend, and there's several possible reasons more people became/are interested in Mint (the Cinnamon desktop for one).

We will have solar energy as soon as the utility companies solve one technical problem -- how to run a sunbeam through a meter.