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The Almighty Buck

EA Flip-Flops On Battlefield: Heroes Pricing, Fans Angry 221

An anonymous reader writes "Ben Kuchera from Ars Technica is reporting that EA/DICE has substantially changed the game model of Battlefield: Heroes, increasing the cost of weapons in Valor Points (the in-game currency that you earn by playing) to levels that even hardcore players cannot afford, and making them available in BattleFunds (the in-game currency that you buy with real money). Other consumables in the game, such as bandages to heal the players, suffered the same fate, turning the game into a subscription or pay-to-play model if players want to remain competitive. This goes against the creators' earlier stated objectives of not providing combat advantage to paying customers. Ben Cousins, from EA/DICE, argued, 'We also frankly wanted to make buying Battlefunds more appealing. We have wages to pay here in the Heroes team and in order to keep a team large enough to make new free content like maps and other game features we need to increase the amount of BF that people buy. Battlefield Heroes is a business at the end of the day and for a company like EA who recently laid off 16% of their workforce, we need to keep an eye on the accounts and make sure we are doing our bit for the company.' The official forums discussion thread is full of angry responses from upset users, who feel this change is a betrayal of the original stated objectives of the game."

Comment How valid does it turn out to be? (Score 2, Insightful) 84

There's a fair amount of research on the performance of memory and how our recall of events and things is affected by the very act of being questioned about and actively recalling those memories. Before I relied on this for much of anything, I'd want to see some pretty well controlled studies on just how accurate it is. For example, they should put the test subjects under some kind of stress, have them look at the person they will have to describe and have sketched, then put them in front of the software (do a control group using traditional sketch-artist techniques, while you're at it. You should be able to do an objective evaluation of the accuracy of the sketch by mathematically comparing it (using existing algorithms developed for facial recognition) to determine just how close the resemblance is.

Comment Re:RealClimate has a big reply on this (Score 4, Insightful) 882

The e-mailer says: "if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC..." (emphasis added). "Say" sure sounds like he's free-handing it to make it fit better. Where does he ask "what do you think might have caused this blip"? Where does he in anyway try to determine what's caused it? Perhaps there's more e-mails in there where they struggle with this issue, trying to figure out what's really causing the blip. But they sure don't do it here.

He says he chose the .15 degC figure "deliberately" and then explains the consequences of that choice... but all of the consequences are focused just on how it still leaves a blip, because he thinks "one needs to have some form of ocean blip to explain the land blip." The next sentence, about other blips showing a land blip of 1.5 to 2 times the ocean blip, fits a bit with your theory, but he doesn't appear to be calculating backwards from the 1.5 to 2 times figure, he doesn't seem to have applied any particular adjustment formula that can be consistently applied to all blips. He just thinks that this one particular blip should be adjusted by .15 degC, to make it fit better.

Sure sounds like he's free-handing it to me.

Comment Re:RealClimate has a big reply on this (Score 5, Insightful) 882

While we're demanding completeness, let's look at this quote from the e-mails (that's not a pinpoint cite to the comment; you'll have to search for the text):

Phil, Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip. If you look at the attached plot you will see that the land also shows the 1940s blip (as I’m sure you know). So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 degC, then this would be significant for the global mean — but we’d still have to explain the land blip. I’ve chosen 0.15 here deliberately. This still leaves an ocean blip, and i think one needs to have some form of ocean blip to explain the land blip (via either some common forcing, or ocean forcing land, or vice versa, or all of these). When you look at other blips, the land blips are 1.5 to 2 times (roughly) the ocean blips — higher sensitivity plus thermal inertia effects. My 0.15 adjustment leaves things consistent with this, so you can see where I am coming from. Removing ENSO does not affect this. It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip, but we are still left with “why the blip”.

When you read a large number of the e-mails, it becomes clearer and clearer just how much their data must be massaged and adjusted in order to reach the results they have. I don't say that their adjustments are good or bad, simply that the mere making of so many free-hand adjustments reduces the possibility that their conclusions are in fact correct. It's very hard to tell, without digging into the raw data which they won't release, how much of the claimed warming is really real, and how much shows up only because of the assumptions and conclusions and adjustments they have chosen to use.

Comment Re:Utter bullshit. (Score 4, Insightful) 882

Got nothing to do with experiments in progress. Dr. Phil Jones, the head of the organization whose e-mail was hacked, once said:

Even if WMO agrees, I will still not pass on the data. We have 25 or so years invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it.

They are hiding behind alleged confidentiality agreements they supposedly have with scientists who, according to them, provided some of the data. But they won't even so much as identify, as best I can tell today, those scientists, so that the data could be requested from them directly. Scientists who refuse to release raw data when serious questions are raised about their conclusions are not real scientists, and their work is entitled to no credibility whatsoever. As for due time, the House has passed an enormous "cap and trade" bill based on the conclusions of the global warming scare crowd... these scientists who refuse to release their data. I've got no problem waiting for more research... so long as we don't enact massive tax increases and other major interference in the economy while we wait. They are the ones demanding immediate action, however, so they have no right to say "let's wait for more data and more research" before releasing the data which they claim supports their fatalistic conclusions.

Comment Re:Utter bullshit. (Score 5, Insightful) 882

Part of the problem is that the global warming proponents whose e-mails were hacked have REFUSED to release the data upon which they rely. In fact, the e-mails discovered are chock-full of references to their efforts to fight against any disclosure of much of their data. Other e-mails routinely discuss efforts to manipulate and massage the data to account for various political difficulties the data are causing them. For example, one e-mail discusses using a particular modifier to minimize a warming "blip" in the 1940s, without making the "blip" go away entirely, because it appears in both the sea temp and the land temp data. So you're right, e-mail isn't data. But that cuts both ways, and in this case particularly hard against the global warming fear-mongerers.

Comment Re:Why are you surprised? (Score 1) 175

YOU should really read the patent. It claims:

A computer-implemented method, comprising: associating a sparkline with a location in a document to provide a visual representation of one or more data values included in the document; associating with the sparkline a data source within the document including the one or more data values;

That's part of Claim 1. Here's Claim 6 in its entirety:

6. A computer-implemented method, comprising: associating a sparkline with a location in a document to provide a visual representation of one or more data values included in the document; associating with the sparkline a data source within the document including the one or more data values; generating the sparkline by generating the visual representation based on the one or more data values with a matrix of points to be presented at the associated location in the document; presenting the sparkline at the associated location in the document; and configuring the sparkline to be regenerated when one or more of the data values in the data source change.

Putting a graph in-line with text. What a really novel concept! In fact, sparklines, as described by Prof. Tufte, are primarily for the purpose of being included in a particular location in the document, in-line with other text. There's no novel "method" of doing this presented. The flowchart for the process given in the illustrations provided with the application is the same as any flowchart for dynamically presenting data in graphical form: generate the chart; look to see if the data has been changed; if yes, change the chart and regenerate. Frankly, I don't see what the patent covers that's any different from what MS' charting functions already provide. The examples given with the patent all show data embedded in a cell (which would be a welcome change, and perhaps is novel), but the text of the claims simply says "a location in the document" and surely current Excel charts are placed in some location in their document, though not actually within a cell. If the novelty is the method for embedding graphs generally in a cell, then that would really need to be spelled out more, and of course the "sparklines" label would be inaccurate.


Submission + - Why ATT Should Dump iPhone's Unlimited Data Plan 1

pickens writes: Pickens writes:

Farhad Manjoo has an provocative story at Slate asserting that while the iPhone has prompted millions of people to join ATT, it has paradoxically also hurt the company's image because all of those customers use their phones too much and ATT's network is getting crushed by the demand. The typical smartphone customer consumes about 40 to 80 megabytes of wireless capacity a month while the typical iPhone customer uses 400 MB a month so as more people sign up, local cell towers get more congested, and your own phone performs worse. Manjoo says the problem is that a customer who uses 1 MB a month pays the same amount as someone who uses 1,000 MB and the solution is tiered pricing. "Of course, users would cry bloody murder at first," writes Manjoo. "I'd call on AT&T to create automatic tiers--everyone would start out on the $10/100 MB plan each month, and your price would go up automatically as your usage passes each 100 MB tier." Manjoo says the key to implementing the policy is transparency and that the iPhone should have an indicator like the battery bar that changes color as you pass each monthly tier. "Some iPhone fans will argue that metered pricing would kill the magic of Apple's phone--that sense of liberation one feels at being able to access the Internet from anywhere, at any time," writes Manjoo. "The trouble is, for many of us, AT&T's overcrowded network has already killed that sense, and now our usual dealings with Apple's phone are tinged with annoyance."

Submission + - Penny-Sized Nuclear Batteries Developed 1

pickens writes: Pickens writes:

Nuclear batteries that produce energy from the decay of radioisotopes are an attractive proposition for many applications because the isotopes that power them can provide a useful amount of current for hundreds of years at power densities a million times as high as standard batteries. Although nuclear batteries have been used for military and aerospace applications for years their large size has limited their general usage but now a research team at the University of Missouri team has developed a nuclear battery the size of a penny that could be used to power micro- and nano-electromechanical systems. The researchers' innovation is not only in the battery's size, but also that the batteries use a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor. "The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor," says Jae Wan Kwon. "By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem." The batteries are safe under normal operating conditions. "People hear the word 'nuclear' and think of something very dangerous," says Kwon. "However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites and underwater systems."

Submission + - Google Native Client: Second Coming of ActiveX? (

snydeq writes: InfoWorld's Randall Kennedy questions whether Google's Native Client can be anything other than the second coming of ActiveX — one that IT organizations will rightfully reject. 'IT veterans are understandably squeamish about any idea that smells of ActiveX-like integration. And so far, Google is doing little to allay their fears.' Supported by the latest developer release of Chrome, Native Client, which some consider Google's craziest idea yet, is purportedly protected by a combination of sandboxing and static analysis that Google feels will be sufficient enough to deflect threats from the majority of attack vectors. Kennedy, however, argues that the mere thought of what a malicious Native Client app might do is enough to send a shiver down IT's collective spine. 'When it comes to the separation of browser and OS, we IT folk like the status quo. It keeps us sane. And the harder Google tries to pry that Pandora's box back open, the tighter our grip becomes on the edges of the lid.'

Comment Re:Huh? (Score 1) 387

Yes, since I was providing the link, I didn't list the specific details in my summary. And yes, running over somebody while driving drunk is vehicular homicide, a different crime, which carries a substantially lesser penalty. Accidentally shooting someone while illegally trespassing on their land would probably be classified as manslaughter under La. law, which covers both intentional killings made in the heat of passion (i.e., you catch your wife in bed with another man, snap and kill them both... but do it right away; if your blood has time to "cool" before you shoot them, it'll be murder) and killings made accidentally while in the course of committing any felony not listed in the murder statutes or any misdemeanor "directly affecting the person." If you hit somebody with you fist, say, that's simple battery, a misdemeanor directly affecting the person. If the guy falls down, hits his head on the edge of the coffee table, and dies, then you're guilty of manslaughter. Trespass is generally a misdemeanor, and probably wouldn't be considered to be "directly affecting the person," so your second example would probably be negligent homicide, but only if you were grossly negligent.
GNU is Not Unix

Stallman — 20 Years of Explaining Free Software 218

H4x0r Jim Duggan writes "The first recorded talk by Richard Stallman on free software was in 1986, so I've picked from the 2006 recordings and have made a transcript of a recent talk: The Free Software Movement and the Future of Freedom. Those two are the only transcripts of his general free software talk. Others that exist are on specific topics such as patents, GPLv3, copyright, etc. For those who've been reading Slashdot during the gradual evolution of Stallman's pronouncements, it's interesting to see what has changed over 20 years."

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. - Voltaire