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Comment: Post-War on Drugs peace dividends (Score 1) 323

by acb (#45896213) Attached to: Cartels Are Using Firetruck-Sized Drillers To Make Drug Pipelines

I'm wondering whether, once the War On Drugs is over (and legalisation/harm-minimisation is likely to do to the cartels what the end of prohibition did to bootleg distillers in the US), one of the results will be places like Colombia and Mexico having highly competent engineering industries directly traceable to the need to build drug-smuggling submarines and tunnel boring machines. Perhaps in a few decades' time, a city somewhere in North America will start building a subway and, instead of Germany or Japan, will go to Mexico for the boring machines?

Comment: Re:How are the Guardian's offsite backups (Score 1) 301

by acb (#45093235) Attached to: Guardian Ignores MI5 Warnings, Vows To 'Publish More Snowden Leaks'

That was a piece of theatre; the Guardian's staff destroyed the hard drives/laptops, ensuring that they didn't fall into the hands of the government. Everybody knew that, other than costing the Guardian a few thousand pounds (i.e., a blip in the expenses), it achieved nothing. If Rusbridger keeps waving a red rag in the face of the bull of the Deep State, the next raid will not be quite so innocuous; more like APCs cordoning off the road, troops pouring in with submachine guns under cover of snipers on adjacent rooftops, nobody allowed to leave without a body search for data-bearing contraband, and anything capable of bearing data either taken back to GCHQ for analysis or placed in a pile on the lower floors of the building, ringed with thermite charges. And the following day, the Times and Telegraph leading with “well, what did they expect?”

Comment: How are the Guardian's offsite backups (Score 2) 301

by acb (#45090451) Attached to: Guardian Ignores MI5 Warnings, Vows To 'Publish More Snowden Leaks'

Hope the Guardian has good offsite backups outside the UK, and preferably a backup newsroom in, say, Reykjavik or somewhere they can use.

I can see this ending with the Met Police and special forces (under MI5 command) raiding the offices, making sure nobody takes anything out and then torching the whole place with very carefully placed thermite charges.

Comment: Re: "...not disclosing....where the base is locate (Score 1) 237

by acb (#44650341) Attached to: Report: Britain Has a Secret Middle East Web Surveillance Base

Too obvious. Besides, none of Israel's neighbours expects anything but the worst from it and takes appropriate precautions.

I'd guess it's a moderate Arab state trying to balance between vociferously criticising Israel/the West and doing deals with them. Possibly a former British colony, like Kuwait, Egypt or the UAE.

Comment: Re:I can't wait . . . (Score 1) 449

by acb (#37195372) Attached to: Russia Approves Siberia-Alaska Railway

To be pedantic, calling the Russian broad gauge the Soviet gauge is somewhat inaccurate, as it dates back to Czarist Russia. At the time when railways were being built in the 19th century, the Czar was paranoid about invasion from Prussia or the Habsburg Empire, and deliberately decreed an incompatible gauge as not to make moving troops rapidly into Russia easier. Finland (which was occupied by Russia at the time) has the same gauge.

Comment: Soviet precedent (Score 1) 300

by acb (#35856892) Attached to: Armenia Makes Chess Compulsory In Schools

Didn't Lenin make chess a compulsory part of the Soviet educational curriculum shortly after the Russian Revolution, on the grounds that it taught the kinds of strategic thinking that are invaluable to revolutionaries? I don't know how long chess remained a school subject, but the USSR did produce a lot of chessmasters.

Comment: Anachronistic expectations (Score 1) 267

by acb (#33361812) Attached to: The Misleading World of Atari 2600 Box Art

To call early-1980s video-game box art "misleading" is to apply the expectations of the 21st century to society back then. Back then, everybody knew that computers and game consoles couldn't do realistic-looking graphics, and that video-game graphics were minimal and functional; good enough to play the game with. The idea of a video game, of images responding to joysticks and paddles, was novel enough, and it didn't occur to players to expect elaborate graphics. Meanwhile, since pixellated graphics were new, there was no nostalgia for them, and the age of pixel art hadn't yet arrived, so a frame grab of a game on a box would have just confused people.

The box art was in the same tradition as cover art from scifi/fantasy novels of the time: lurid, superficially exciting, and only tenuously related to the content of the product being sold. A dragon or spaceship could give a reader an idea of what kind of world the book is set in, without necessarily being from the same story. Similarly, racing cars or fighter planes on a game box would give some idea of the ostensible theme of the game.

Comment: Britain = bad example (Score 1) 1139

by acb (#33299102) Attached to: Is a US High-Speed Railway Economically Feasible?

In Britain, railways are expensive and slow, and most people catch coaches or fly. Mind you, this is not due to the inherent suckiness of railways as a technology but due to an unsympathetic and ideologically-driven privatisation of the state railway. The Tories in the 1980s hated public transport, seeing it as a form of socialism; Thatcher ran down British Rail, and Major finally privatised it, selling it off to several different companies. Rail fares went up, while the system continued to be dependent on government subsidies to keep the operators from leaving. (For some years, the annual subsidies amounted to three times as much as the entire British Rail budget of the last year of its operation.) Meanwhile, budget carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet have been running cheap flights between British provincial cities, undercutting the railways.

A better model for what railways can achieve would be found on the continent. France's state-run carrier, SNCF, manages to make a profit (its high-speed lines subsidise slower provincial lines), and internal flights in France are all but unknown. In Spain, meanwhile, the AVE high-speed rail system has all but killed the market for internal flights.

Comment: Sony properties and competing platforms (Score 1) 268

by acb (#32742700) Attached to: 36-Hour <em>Lemmings</em> Port Gets Sony Cease and Desist

The likelihood of Sony allowing a new port of Lemmings to non-Sony platforms is exactly the same as Nintendo allowing a Mario Bros. port to the iPhone or Xbox: exactly zero. The name, trademark and visual art of Lemmings is a valuable asset, and by making it exclusive to Sony hardware, Sony can claim a minor marketing advantage when the iPhone is eating their lunch. (Granted, few people would buy a PS3 for Lemmings these days, but exclusive ports to new Sony Ericsson phones or the next iteration of the PSP could be a selling point.) Even if someone at Sony wanted to play nice and allow some third-party developer to produce a Lemmings game for competing platforms, the legal department would quash that if they were doing their job.

However, the answer is simple. Games cannot be patented, and the infringing content is merely the name and the art/music. Rename the game, redraw all the graphics and replace the levels with new ones, and you're no longer taking off a Sony property. (Disclaimer: IANAL.)

Comment: Why it'll probably get through (Score 1) 152

by acb (#31258332) Attached to: AU Internet Censorship Spells Bad News For Gamers

It's not quite a done deal, but has a smooth ride through Parliament. Party discipline in Australia is absolute, and any Labor member who votes against party lines (except during a declared "conscience vote") will be deselected automatically. Kevin Rudd, a self-defined social conservative, supports it. Meanwhile, the Coalition are headed by Tony Abbott, a hardline religious authoritarian culture-warrior often nicknamed the "Mad Monk"; for it to not get through, he would have to not only oppose it but exercise party discipline across the Coalition to prevent anyone from crossing the floor. And there are certainly enough social conservatives there to make up the numbers easily. The Greens, Xenophon, &c. are irrelevant at this point.

So if it gets to legislation being tabled and voted on before the election, it's as close to a dead certainty as can get in politics. The main chance of stopping it would be for the Labor Party to realise that they're making a terrible mistake and to kill or neutralise it. Which also looks unlikely; Rudd and Conroy are both ideologically committed to it, and polls show that opposition to it could only make a political difference in two electorates: the inner-city seats of Melbourne and Sydney, both safe Labor seats. So politically, it's not a liability (and probably an asset, given the legendary apathy of the Australian electorate).

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