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Comment Re:Not flash drives or free software (Score 1) 377

Very well said.

The best gift I ever received was a portrait of my great-grandfather on the eve of World War I in his Russian army uniform. He had died when I was a kid, and it felt like he had just been given back to me.

I'm hoping to do the same for my father this year for his birthday. My plan is to give him a copy of his father's World War II record (my grandfather passed away earlier this year). Neither of these are expensive gifts, but they're the sort of gifts that will always be remembered.

Comment Not flash drives or free software (Score 2, Insightful) 377

Okay, I know some other people have mentioned this - and been voted down for it - but this has to be said: both free software and flash drives are terrible ideas for stocking stuffers on general principles.

Look, there are two reasons for this. The first is that any worthwhile gift has to be about the person you're giving it to. It has to be something THEY will appreciate. And, ideally, it should be something they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. When it comes to holiday shopping, even the friends of mine who are techies I wouldn't give free software or a data stick to. The ones who are into free software likely already have what I'd give them, and the ones who aren't would probably prefer something more non-technical, or more difficult to come by. It doesn't matter if you think it's cool - it's what THEY think.

The second is that, well, the gift should be something out of the ordinary. A flash drive is a basic computer accessory, and free software is, well, FREE. If it was software you created, then it would be worthwhile, as it was something you made. But otherwise, it would be like giving somebody a box of tissues.

If you're looking for gift ideas, be creative and stay away from the free software. If you've got a wine lover, give them a bottle of ice wine; if you've got somebody who loves the cute stuff, an interesting plush toy or the like. And if you absolutely have to give somebody software, make it something you created yourself or something that they would have to go shopping and pay for to get otherwise.

But if you go with flash drives and free software, the only thing you'll end up coming across as is some boring, thoughtless, self-obsessed cheapskate. Believe me, you don't want that.

Comment Re:I stand corrected on Greenland (Score 1) 1105

Ah...just my luck to come across a bona fide Greenlander... :-)

And that's not a complaint by any means - frankly, it's fascinating to hear what's been going on over there. I think you may be wrong about the settlements. As far as I understand it, there were two Viking settlements, with the earliest founded around 980. There is a growing settlement, but it starts to decline in the 13th century, around the time of the end of the Medieval Warm Period. The Western Settlement is reported abandoned around 1350-60, and the last written record of the Vikings in Greenland is from 1408 (a wedding). By 1480-1500, ships going to Greenland are reporting that the Norse settlements have completely disappeared.

Jared Diamond has a good section on why the Greenland Norse probably disappeared in his book "Collapse." As I recall, he theorized that part of it was the cooling climate, a large part of it was the fact that the Norse thought that because the soil looked like Scandinavia, it was just like Scandinavia (it wasn't), and as a result destroyed the topsoil, and a large part of it was conflict with the Greenland Inuit combined with an unwillingness to adjust their lifestyle and diet to the changing conditions as farming became untenable.

Comment I stand corrected on Greenland (Score 1) 1105

Actually, I just checked that, and you're correct - there is nascent farming again around the vicinity of what was once both Viking settlements. Nice catch, and I stand corrected.

That said, you are wrong about the permafrost being long gone - this appears to be a development in the last five years or so (compared to the centuries of permafrost). Considering the Vikings were farming there for about 500 years before the settlements were confirmed abandoned, what we have here remains evidence of the commencement of a warm period - which, as I mentioned, is right on schedule.

Comment Here's your solid evidence (Score 1) 1105

Perhaps most scientists agree, but the historians disagree. The historical evidence for a warmer MWP is overwhelming.

Where shall we start? The fact that there was increased agriculture? The fact that Greenland had arable farming settlements on what is permafrost today? The fact that vineyards in Eastern Europe were found at higher altitudes and latitudes than is possible today?

Or how about the hundreds of peer-reviewed proxy studies from the time that show a temperature ranging from .5 to 2 degrees higher than today? A database of those can be found at the Medieval Warm Period Project at

The truth of the matter is that we are right on schedule for a warm period - they happen about once every thousand years. The last one, the MWP, was about .5-2 degrees warmer than today. The one before that, the Roman Warm Period, was about 2-4 degrees higher than today (and during that time, there were passes through the Alps that haven't been usable in close to two millennia). The idea that we're about to enter a climate apocalypse is fear-mongering.

Comment Re:Sucks (Score 1) 314

Well, you had my sympathy right up to: "Now without those Disney movies, well, I will honestly probably go right back to piracy since I can't afford to buy every Disney movie that comes out. (I know not every movie was on Netflix)."

Now you just come across as spoiled and self-entitled. By your own admission, you have at least two other easy and legitimate sources for this content - so use them.

Comment Re:What about sales? (Score 1) 199

Tweakguides did that:

Also, the entire article is worth noting:

Basically, when they crunched the numbers, they found that the determining factor for whether a game sees large-scale piracy was popularity. For the popular games, the piracy rate came out at around 1 pirate copy for every six copies sold for the consoles, and 10-12 pirate copies for every legitimate copy sold for the PC.

Comment Re:Question about method... (Score 1) 199

Well, the difference can be a source of uncertainty, but there are trends based on general similarities that can be calculated. For example (pulling numbers out of my hindquarters), if the average sales for an RTS by company X is 400,000, and they've not only produced several RTS games, but they've got a consistent ability to hold off piracy for two weeks, then they do have a reasonable expectation that if they release an RTS with the same level of quality and they can hold off piracy for two weeks, they will sell around 400,000 copies. If this new game has zero-day piracy and only sells 50,000 copies, then they can draw some legitimate conclusions about the impact the piracy had.

Comment Re:Question about method... (Score 1) 199

As I mentioned in another reply, Tweakguides did some research on this, and crunched the numbers. The article (which is long, but worth reading), is here:

To answer your question, they found that the DRM only had a negative impact on piracy, and that was when it was successful. Lack of DRM (or light DRM) showed absolutely no impact on piracy rates whatsoever. So, either the people who are pirating to get away from DRM are an insignificant minority, or it's just an excuse.

Now, with PC game piracy at a rate of around 10 to 12 pirate downloads per copy sold (both download and disc), the highest percentage of illegal downloads that can be accounted for by people downloading pirate copies to circumvent the DRM on copies they bought is 10% (1/10), and that's assuming that no copies sold match up with a pirate copy downloaded first (eg. somebody downloads the game, tries it, and decides to buy it). So that's a basic rough estimate based on the numbers I've got.

Comment Re:Question about method... (Score 1) 199

Tweakguides did some research on this, and crunched the numbers. The article (which is very long, but very worth reading), is here:

As far as methodology goes, I think that's covered here:

But, in brief, for the console market, the numbers for a popular game (they used Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) in the console market was 1 pirated copy for every six copies sold. For the PC game market over the same period, it was 10 to 12 pirated copies downloaded for every legitimate copy sold (both download and CD/DVD).

Loss is a bit more complicated, but measurable. The most measurable part is the freeloader effect - pirate copies using authentication servers and technical support (and some of the supporting data is the number of copies authenticating on the servers vs. numbers sold, which can be over 10:1 at times), and that's costs of time, server bandwidth, etc.

As far as lost sales, that requires an understanding of the game market. You have hard core fans, who will buy the game no matter what - that's a small core of guaranteed sales. You have hardcore pirates, who will never pay for the game, so there's no point in even trying to market to them. The lost sales take place in a third group - call them "casual gamers." This group is interested in playing the game, but they aren't particular on how they get it. So, if they can't download it, they'll buy it. Most of the sales for a game tend to be in this third group. So, the longer the piracy can be held off, the more sales occur in this group. Zero day piracy wipes any sales from this group off the map.

Now, again, this makes it very difficult to measure exact numbers of lost sales, but you can get a sense through trends. So, if a game had 400,000 sales with piracy held off for two weeks, and the sequel to that game had 50,000 sales with zero-day piracy, you can draw some general conclusions about lost sales, as well as the sizes of the various market groups.

Comment Re:Most of the Data is Freely Available (Score 1) 507

Okay, seriously, I'm a historian and an AGW skeptic - and _I_ say that we're in a warming trend.

The question is not "are we warming?" - we're right on schedule for a warm period, just as we had a thousand years ago, and a thousand years before that. The question is "to what degree is human activity influencing this warming?"

And for that, I only know of one real-world study comparing UV coming in vs. UV bouncing out compared with CO2 content in the atmosphere using EBRE data, and its results came in at the opposite of what climate computer modelling had suggested. But, this still has to be reproduced.

Comment Re:also (Score 1) 249

There's a difference between ignoring something and contesting it. Your post had some merit, but it also missed the Salafi ideology and the war of ideas, both of which have a tremendous impact on this discussion.

When you leave Muslims alone to govern themselves in a democratic system, they do tend towards liberalism and secularism. That's the actual trend - you can see it in the Muslim majority democracies in the Pacific Rim. The Salafi ideology out of Saudi Arabia does not want either - they want a totalitarian Caliphate based on the Koran. It's no accident that Saudi Arabia is one of the most oppressive countries on Earth. The Arab Spring is one of their worst nightmares - it's a popular movement valuing democracy and liberalism over theocracy.

You cannot solve the problems leading to Islamist terrorism without confronting the ideology behind it, and part of that is recognizing that there is a war of ideas, that there is a well-funded and vocal totalitarian ideology behind the Salafi Jihad, and that issues like Israel are being used as a smokescreen to keep Western democracies from interfering with them. The more you get caught up in the smokescreen, the harder it is to get at the heart of the issues in play, and the easier it is for the Salafi Jihad to indoctrinate new members and keep the violence going.

Comment Islamist propaganda (Re:The way I see it.) (Score 1) 249

Israel is no saint - frankly, there are no good guys there at this point - but it is NOT the root of our problems with the Muslim world. And Israel is not the political master of the United States - that's just Islamist propaganda.

You talk about its ethnic cleansing - but I know at least a bit about that situation, and I cannot think of a single Israeli example. So, WHAT ethnic cleansing? Where are the mass graves of Palestinians murdered because of their race? And what about Darfur? What about all the Islamic ethnic cleansings, which are far greater, and for that matter, REAL (remember the Armenians in Turkey during WW1, or the Kurds in Iraq, or the 120,000 murdered by Salafi Islamists in Algeria in the 1990s)? What about the fact that the Salafi Jihad wants to create a totalitarian caliphate with Taliban-style rule, and uses Israel as an issue to create a smokescreen so that the world won't take a close look at the totalitarian nature of Islamism?

Put simply, our problem with the Muslim world comes from the Salafi Jihad, which is an aggressive, expansionist, and totalitarian political ideology that wants to create a caliphate with Taliban-style rule. Israel is very much a convenient sideshow for it that allows it to play the victim role when it is anything but one, and keep promoting liberalism and democracy as bad guys when the reality is that they are the threat.

Comment Re:also (Score 1) 249

And I fear that you're being caught up in the Salafi smokescreen. In a lot of cases, they don't have legitimate grievances, but it is in their best interests for creating their totalitarian Caliphate that we believe that they do.

There's a very good book on this subject titled War of Ideas, by Walid Phares. Basically, there is a section of Islam called the Salafi Jihad, which is the most conservative form of Islamism (as opposed to Islam - one is a religion, the other is a totalitarian political ideology, and while there is occasional overlap the two are not the same thing). Based primarily in Saudi Arabia, it has spent a lot of oil money to create a smokescreen with the goal of presenting the Muslim world as a unified whole (it isn't) that has been the victim of Western imperialism (it has been, but not nearly to the extent that they claim), and that the Muslim complaints by the Mullahs should be seen as a reaction to Western actions, with the West at fault (it isn't).

And, so long as we believed this, they were free to attempt to impose religious totalitarianism without us taking any measures to stop them. They would talk up issues such as Palestine so that we wouldn't look at atrocities in places like Darfur and try to stop them. They worked very hard to prevent us from engaging with Islamic countries so that the people of those countries wouldn't see democracy or liberalism as an option to Islamism.

They are very good at propaganda too. Take those big anti-west demonstrations that pop up whenever an incident such as the Danish Mohammed cartoons occurs. They don't happen because lots of Muslims have a hair-trigger temper whenever anybody criticizes them. They happen because a number of Islamist news stations grab onto them, propagandize them, and keep building them up as more than just an isolated incident until enough Muslims are upset enough to come out. And there's a clear message being sent to the West: back off.

So, while there are some areas who have legitimate grievances, it is also very important to understand that the Salafi ideology coming out of countries like Saudi Arabia is NOT a reaction to Western imperialism - it is an expansionist totalitarian ideology that has existed since the 1920s, and it is advancing itself through propaganda and psychological warfare. We are the enemy to them, and we are in the middle of a war of ideas. Fighting and winning that war must be part of any solution.

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