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Comment He violated his clearance agreement. (Score 4, Interesting) 172

If you don't have a security clearance, then posting such a link may not be a big thing. However, this gentleman did, and every time there is a major Wikileaks release we are reminded that the fact that it's released on Wikileaks does not change a clearance holder's contractual responsibility to protect classified information and that even linking to Wikileaks or talking about it at work could lead to our dismissal - and furthermore, that just because it's available on Wikileaks does not mean the information has been declassified.

Sometimes this is taken to ridiculous extremes - I once went to a public conference where we were informed that all US citizens had to treat a certain presentation as classified information - meanwhile, as a public conference with people attending from all over the world, those other people could do whatever they wanted with the information. It was clearly public knowledge, but US citizens present with clearances had to treat it as classified because the government said it was.

He may not go to jail, but he definitely violated the agreement he made with the government in exchange for his security clearance and will likely lose it. Unfortunately, that's something that will follow him around, and in many industries simply makes you unemployable.

Comment Re:Already ran into this BS (Score 1) 223

I do not know about the PS3 (I recall an article that said that a PSN purchase usually allowed 5 downloads, so people were sharing them?). On the Xbox 360, any content you purchase is "tied" to you in two ways - one, to the account (gamertag) that purchased it, and two, to the console on which it was originally purchased.

If you are on the console on which the content was originally purchased, then anyone can use it. It is on that console, and the purchaser does not have to be signed in to access that content (games, addons, whatever). If for some reason you upgrade the hard drive or re-originate the console, that doesn't change the embedded serial number or hardware code or whatever, and Xbox Live will let you redownload it to that same console at no cost (if you had to send in your console for RROD issues, as many of us did, if MS sent you a different console back, they usually remembered to add that new console's hardware code to your account so it would "count" as an original console for your purchases).

However, if you're not on the original console, you are still able to download any content that you have purchased. When I'm at a friend's house, I can download, for example, Peggle to his console if I log in with my gamertag, and we can play to our heart's content. However, because it won't be also tied to his console, as soon as I log out of his console, he will no longer be able to play it (unless he too purchases the game).

I'm guessing this would be similar for these VIP codes - at least, that's the way it has worked with some of the various one-time use codes I've had so far. Perhaps someone with the PS3 can say whether it's similar there (I hope it would be, as I'm looking to pick up a PS3 in the not too distant future).

Comment Serves a Useful Purpose (Score 4, Insightful) 555

One would note that most of the time, the things that governments fight so hard to keep secret are things that aren't so much of national security interest but rather things that are embarrassing or things they're keeping secret not because of the enemy but because their own citizens might be upset if they knew. Wikileaks has shown many useful things, from drafts of ACTA, to the spying on citizens in violation of any numbers of laws, hypocritical actions by governments all over the world, and clear violations of treaties. In fact, very little of what Wikileaks posts is "top secret national security information" from almost any country - they're often things that governments want to suppress because they don't want to face reprisal from their own citizens for undertaking them, or are trying to hide actions they undertake that they know are otherwise illegal - not because they're afraid some other country is going to use that information against them.

Consider this - decades ago the US Supreme Court affirmed the State Secrets Doctrine, allowing the government to argue that trying a court case would reveal national secrets (and that the case must therefore be dropped without a hearing), because the government argued that revealing information about what was I think a plane crash would hurt national security. Decades later, when the files were unclassified, it turns out that there were no real secrets involved, certainly none that would have been revealed in a trial - the government was simply trying to hide the fact that there was government negligence involved. They wanted to avoid embarrassing themselves, not protecting secrets. Remember that next time the US Government invokes the doctrine (which they do with ever-increasing frequency).

Comment The Taxicab Story in Washington, DC (Score 5, Insightful) 232

In Washington, DC, taxicabs used to charge via a "zone" system - it didn't matter how far you went (necessarily) - the city was divided into multiple "zones", and the rate was charged based on how many zones you had to travel through to get to your destination.

People (particularly tourists) complained about this system because it didn't make complete sense and a tourist, or even just someone not familiar with the zone map, wasn't going to be able to look at the map and see where the zone boundaries were. As an example, if I was in a hurry, I could take a taxi from my home, to work. The total was 3 zones (with a minimum, of course, of 1). However, if I walked 1 block south from home, hailed a taxi, and had it drop me off 1 block north of work, it would be 1 zone. That would save a good percentage of the cab fare.

However, a tourist getting in the car would have no idea - furthermore, if a tourist was being dropped off, say, right near a border, if the cabbie says "Hey, traffic is bad here, mind if I drop you off across the street?" most people would say "OK", figuring that in most cities, that's probably nothing, or maybe an extra quarter or so. In DC, it could be an extra $2.

A little over a year ago DC switched to a metered taxi system, as mandated by Congress. Prior to the switchover, taxi drivers in DC went on strike, saying they'd lose significant money in a switch, despite the fact that the rates were set such that the average metered trip would actually net more for the driver than the old zone system would - but only under the assumption (which the people setting the rates were using) that the zone system was being used fairly and customers were not being diverted, sometimes only short distances, in order to add zones (sometimes, near zone borders, moving a few blocks could be two extra zones!).

You'd get a constant circle:

Taxi Driver Committee Representative: "We'll lose tons of money switching to meters!"

Taxicab Commission: "But under this new system, a driver would actually be getting more money on an average trip than before, unless they were routinely cheating customers in a way the new system would prevent. Look, we'll open the books to you, examine the whole thing."

Taxi Driver Committee Representative: "Ah. I see. We, of course, have never cheated anyone. But notwithstanding that, we'll lose tons of money!"

The change took place anyway, and the world hasn't ended, although the data does seem to reflect that cabdrivers are making less than before, yet somehow the data also shows that they're making more per trip than before. How? Because before they were manipulating the system to charge more.

I doubt this is any different. Most people in the cab in NYC aren't going to notice if the fare is $X or $X+4, unless they're a native. Just like I could tell my cabdriver in DC "No, drop me off here" whenever they tried to move an extra block near a zone boundary, a native might catch it. But someone unfamiliar? No. Thus, I'm going to side with the GPS on this one.

Comment Re:False analogy. (Score 5, Interesting) 664

When I taught electrical engineering at the college level, I pointed out to students that, given the cost of tuition, and the class being X units (depending on the class) it meant that each lecture was essentially costing them (or somebody), $Y. And that given it was their $Y to spend, I didn't really care how they spent it, but that as long as they were registered for the class, it was a sunk cost, so I recommended they pay attention or try to get their money's worth the best they could.

But, if they felt it was more worthwhile spending that $Y and skipping the class, I told them that was fine - but don't ask me for a review of the lecture afterwards. I flat-out told them if they were out late the night before and fell asleep in the class, fine (as long as they didn't snore). It was their money they were spending (or someone was spending on them) and they could get value from it, or waste it, as they saw fit.

However, I made it quite clear that I wouldn't allow them the liberty to interfere with other student's spending of that $Y. So I was quite stern with students whose cell phones rang, and while laptops for taking notes were fine (and I didn't care about IM either, hell, I would give students a special IM account I setup to ask questions on homework as due dates crept up), movies, games, things that could easily attract eyes (because the eye is naturally drawn to motion, and bright colors can also be a distraction, it's the way we're wired) were out. Loud discussions were not acceptable - not because of me (after all, I'm paid for the students registered regardless of how many of them show up), but because other students are spending their $Y and they deserve the opportunity to use it to actually see and hear the class they're paying for. It was rarely an issue.

If you treat people like adults, most respond in kind. Furthermore, putting it in the perspective of the money being spent by each student made some students realize why I cared about distractions - it didn't distract me, nor did it affect the money I got, nor the time I spent, but it did affect other students who had spent time and money to be there.

Comment Re:Oversaturation of the Brand (Score 4, Insightful) 134

They should, but they do not.

If there's anything that the last few years of watching the American corporate world could teach us, it's that the days of building a business that can stand the test of time, build a brand, and ensure that they are set for the future are essentially over. That used to be the way to make a successful corporation and to run a successful business, and for a small business, it generally still is.

However, taking a look at "big business" these days, it's all about "What can be done to maximize profits NOW, even if it means sacrificing more later?" (Or even, in the case of some of the big banks and such, even if it meant completely destroying the future prospects of the company).

Sometimes that makes sense - making $X now is better than $1.5*X two years from now. But with some of these franchises - Guitar Hero for example - you're talking about making $1.5*X now vs. $X every year or so for the next long while.

In the past year or so they've released what, three Guitar Hero games? Or is it four? I've lost count. Since Guitar Hero 3, anyway, they've released Guitar Hero Metallica, Guitar Hero Aerosmith, Guitar Hero World Tour, Guitar Hero Van Halen, Guitar Hero Smash Hits, and Guitar Hero 5. It got to the point that last year they announced a deal where if you bought Guitar Hero 5 within the first month of release, they would send you Guitar Hero Van Halen, when it was released, -for free-. The brand has been diluted to the point that no one gives a damn about it anymore. It was the goose that laid golden eggs and they whipped it to death so they could get two eggs today instead of twenty over time.

Will this happen with Call of Duty? It can. And when it does it happens quite suddenly, and given Activision's recent stated goals of simply taking franchises and running them into the ground, while not really developing new ones, they may find they suddenly have nothing left that will make money. At least EA has their sports games that they know will sell yearly. If Call of Duty and Guitar Hero go down the drain, then you are left essentially with the Blizzard titles keeping things going.

Comment Re:$X profit $0 profit (Score 1) 278

I think, in their addled brains, they think of it this way.

1. We're making $X right now for doing nothing by providing music to these services, and there are people listening to that music and enjoying it.
2. Those people must not just be casual listeners, instead they must be so excited about listening to Warner music that if we cut it off they'll pay WAY MORE to listen to it from a service WE provide (this would be the fallacy in their reasoning).
3. Therefore, we should stop the streaming and maybe set up our own much-more-expensive service that all those rabid listeners are guaranteed to pay for!

And of course, the eventual:

4. No one signed up for our super-expensive, probably lower-quality service! BLAME IT ON PIRACY.

Comment I smiled today, I must owe somebody money. (Score 4, Interesting) 278

I like this line..."Bronfman contended that this revenue comes nowhere near what they need in compensation for each individual's enjoyment of each work" - it's a complete summary of the way the labels are thinking. Each time you do something - anything - that resembles enjoyment, their feeling is that somebody - somewhere - should be getting money from you. If you're thinking about a song but it isn't being played, in his mind, you owe for those few seconds. Consider that this is an industry that sells you a ringtone, then says you owe extra money when your phone rings because you just broadcast music in public. Stunning.

I guess the question is, what amount of money would he say is the right amount of "compensation" for each individual's enjoyment of each work? Because very few of these streaming services are making much money at all, and while I know executives in his industry have the feeling of "If we cut off access, people will pay us 100x more to listen to it! They'll be dying to listen to our music!" (how well did that work for online newspaper sites that decided to go behind a paywall?), the reality is, most people I know that enjoy listening to Pandora or would be perfectly fine if everything of Warner just dropped off it - they'd just continue listening to whatever it serves up on the various stations they've created and enjoy. They certainly wouldn't start paying big bucks to a Warner Music Station. The labels have tried that, they lose their shirt every time.

Comment All the News You Want to See (Score 4, Interesting) 396

The reason people are less informed, IMO, is not because there's not enough news out there, it's that there are far too many.

That doesn't necessarily mean that there should be less. However, the pervasiveness of "news sites" and aggregators means that people can make sure that the news they are exposed to is stuff they know they will likely agree with, and furthermore, omits any details that might make that news less positive or shed any negative light at all on the causes and groups they favor. People can ensure, today, that they are only going to receive the kinds of news they want to hear and that reinforces their already-held beliefs.

My mother would keep Fox News on every television in the house so when walking from one room to another, she wouldn't miss a thing. She'd turn it off only to listen to Rush or the like on the radio, and she got her online news and opinions from Fox, Townhall, etc. This meant that everything she was exposed to not only was something she was likely to agree with, but it reinforced her beliefs, leading to her implicitly trusting everything they said - even if it was demonstrably untrue.

My aunt is the opposite, reading DailyKos daily and Rachel Maddow. It doesn't matter whether it's the left or the right - what matters is that with so many news sources today, you can make sure that the news you see, read, and hear, is news that the source knows you'll agree with, and they can take advantage of that.

A great example is getting on the Metro to go to work this morning, I was handed both the Express (slanted left) and the Examiner (slanted right). The Express cover story was on the State of the Union address. The Examiner cover headline was "GOP Governor Challenges Obama on National TV", with a big picture of said governor, and you'd never even know that the reason was the State of the Union address and they were highlighting primarily the Republican response.

The problem with this is that it leads to severe polarization - my mother trusted Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to the point that even when it could be proved beyond all doubt that something they said was 100% false (or even contradictory), it instead led to her shouting at the person because she agrees with so much of what they said on other topics that they can't possibly be wrong. The fact that almost anything positive done by the "other side" would be ignored, never reported on, twisted into having "her side" take credit for it, or the like.

If someone dislikes gay people, they can be sure to find a news organization that will only post negative stories, ignoring all else, even if a gay person cured cancer or saved a thousand children from a fire. And they go on happy that their opinion is being reinforced because hey, look at all these nasty people, and don't have to feel uncomfortable by being exposed to stories that potentially might challenge that worldview. If they dislike organized religion, there's sites out that that will make sure to only point out the negatives thereof.

The polarization this leads to is tearing not just this, but many countries apart, with sides that, day after day, are hearing nothing but awful things being said about the "other side", and nothing but good things said to them about "their own side", daily reinforcement of something they're already predisposed to believe. This ends any possibility of compromise, of discussion, of reasonable governance, because the other side is not just wrong, but evil, and compromise with evil is abhorrent. The left can't just be to the left, they must be Communist and Socialist, and the right can't just be to the right, they are Fascist and Authoritarian. No wonder we can't get anything done.

Comment Buy points 500 at at time, use 400 at a time (Score 3, Insightful) 107

I don't mind that they sell points instead of using money directly - in fact, because you can buy "Points Cards" at various brick-and-mortar or online retailers (rather than buying points directly through the Xbox) it isn't that uncommon to see cards carrying $20 worth of points on sale for $15 or less. This couldn't really happen if the system was simply a dollar-for-dollar transaction.

The thing that bugs me is that most of the content on the Xbox Live Marketplace - at least in the way of games - costs something that is a multiple of $5. A Live Arcade game might be $5 or $10 (which is 400 or 800 points, respectively, unless the points are bought at a discount), while an Xbox or Xbox360 game for download might be 1600 ($20) or more. In essence, 400 points = $5.

However, when you buy points, you buy them in multiples...of 500. If you only want a single 400-point game, you have to buy 500 points, and have 100 points left over (and 100 points may as well be 0, unless you're buying an item for your avatar, or perhaps some video downloads, or you're gonna buy more points).

Please, MS, sell the points in multiples of $5. I know that selling them 500 at a time means people have leftovers and that's money in your bank, though, so it's not going to happen.

Comment Re:Writ of Certiorari (Score 2, Informative) 272

A writ of certiorari is a request from a higher court to a lower one informing it that it wants to review the case at hand, and that all records and transcripts from the trial should be sent from the lower court to the higher one.

Filing a request for writ of certiorari with the US Supreme Court is in essence a fancy way of saying "We're attempting to appeal to the US Supreme Court". There is, of course, no guarantee that the Court would take the case, the success on petitions for certiorari is something on the order of 1%.

Comment Re:The Trinity (Score 4, Interesting) 362

Ding! We have a winner.

MMORPGs that have classes have tried to have other archetypes (and in games where there are "skills", players end up CREATING the archetypes out of the skills, so it becomes functionally similar. In the end, it doesn't work out, because unless those classes are useful, and useful often, there's going to be complaints from both sides:

1. The people playing that class complain that they can't get a group a lot of the time because most of the content doesn't require them to be there (why take along someone who can debuff the enemies if for all the battles you're fighting this time, you can kill them without those debuffs? Just take along another DPS).


2. The people that do the 95+% of the content that doesn't require those classes complain that they have to go and find someone of that class for that ONE moment when they are useful.

If there are hybrid classes out there that are only 50% as good as a Warrior tank and 50% as good as a Cleric healer, no one, at high levels, will want to use them for either role, and the people playing those classes, who may have chosen them early on because they sounded neat, end up feeling robbed when they get to high levels and realize no one finds them useful (EverQuest tried this with the ShadowKnight and Paladin, and had to buff them both significantly). If there's a class out there that has a special buff that's great for a few boss battles, but isn't necessary in most other cases, and it means they're a 25% less effective healer than the other healing classes, no one will want them except during those boss battles, and even then, they'll just take along one. EverQuest started with the intention that the Shaman, the Druid, and the Cleric were healing classes, but the Cleric was clearly better - guess what happened? A large group might have one Shaman, for slowing down the attack speed of the enemies, but had to have a large number of Clerics, you know, to do the REAL healing. Solution - the healing ability of the other classes was buffed substantially until they were nearly equivalent.

And let's not get started on the Enchanter, a class that for crowd control could be amazing, but in many mundane encounters with no need for crowd control, was used for Clarity and little else. Solution? Give 'em more ways to do damage.

In World of Warcraft, the new "random group" ability lets practically anyone join a group that the game puts together as "Tank, Healer, 3 DPS". In the game, in "standard" dungeons, the effectiveness of the tank, healer, etc. in those groups is determined more by their gear (and their individual skills) and less by which class they happen to be. Replace a DK DPS with a Hunter DPS in your average dungeon and assuming similar gear you'll end up with similar DPS.

In raids, sure, it's good, often essential, to have a mix (for example, when Onyxia is flying, you need ranged DPS to be able to, you know, hit her). But if there was a 4th archetype there, right now they wouldn't be needed. Any game would have to be designed from the group up with that 4th archetype in mind as one that is integral to the game. Right now, it's hard to envision what that archetype might be.

Comment The major worry? Pricing. (Score 2, Interesting) 281

IMO, what they're most worried about are price points. The consumer mindset for cell phone games seems to top out at about $5, and a lot of games that, were they released on Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network might be $10, are $1-2 on the App Store.

The Nintendo DS version of Civilization Revolution was $30 at release. The Xbox 360 version was similarly priced.

The iPhone version is currently $5. It's essentially the same game. The controls aren't as good - and no one is saying that the other two don't have their place, because you don't always want to stare at a tiny screen. Developers have tried to put games for $10 on the App Store. While there's the occasional success, most of the time the reviews are filled with 1-star "$10 for a phone game?" reviews, and the game quickly shoots down the charts and out of the rankings and "Featured" lists.

Peggle for PC is still available for $10. It's the same price on the Xbox 360 (Live Arcade).

The iPhone version is $5.

The iPhone is causing people to shift their view as to an appropriate price point at the same time that many companies are trying to rip out a third of an otherwise complete Xbox or PS3 game so they can sell the rest as "Downloadable content" to squeeze that extra $5-10 out of each buyer. That, I believe, is terrifying to the marketing droids and finance people that actually run these companies.

Comment Get rid of Economic Man (Score 5, Interesting) 300

While I dislike how suddenly the financial markets have gotten back into these windfall risky investments, there's little push to stop it, so I guess taking into account the kind of behavior that, you know, actual people would do, is better than nothing.

Most 'risk analyses' done by these things almost go as far as to assume everyone involved acts as Economic Man - the theory that everyone will always act in such a way as to best improve their position, in a 100% rational way. This is a pipe dream put up in economic theory and doesn't always work. If you assume everyone involved acts that way, then some possible outcomes - like the ones we saw in the past year - can't be the slightest bit possible, therefore the models that were being run at the time disregarded them. Of course, the models were wrong - because people don't act that way.

Consider what is sometimes called the Ultimatum Game - everyone's heard of it. Person A has a pile of money to divide between themselves and Person B. They split it, and Person B can either accept the division, in which case each gets their share, or reject it, in which case neither player gets one red cent and the money is lost.

Economic Man theory would say Person A should give the smallest possible amount (let's say 1%) to Person B, and keep 99%, or whatever the maximum share is, and that Person B should then readily accept, because they're better of taking something rather than nothing. In reality, when this "game" is tested, it doesn't work that way - if Person A doesn't offer enough to B (say, 20%), Person B tends to reject it, whether out of spite, or a sense of fairness. The responses change depending on how much money is involved, and culture (different countries and regions have different thresholds) and everyone seems to have their own threshold of course - but very few Person B's say "OK, I'll take one penny and Person A can have $99.99" even if that's what Economic Man would do.

Likewise, Economic Man doesn't see that much of a difference between, say, 10% chance of loss, or a 5% chance of losing double that amount and a 2 1/2% chance of losing quadruple - while real people tend to disregard a small chance of large losses, but be quite averse to a reasonable chance of smaller losses - they'd probably go for the last option, even if percentage wise the "odds" are the same.

Most of these financial models, in essence, assume people are Vulcans, when they're not - they're people, and no amount of economics saying "You should act like Economic Man!" is going to change that.

If they're going to continue using these models, a push to start getting them better is at least some progress.

Comment Does it matter whose fault it is? (Score 4, Insightful) 362

I guess my thought is, it really doesn't matter if it's the user's fault or not.

If you're a company selling something - a product or service - it's up to you to make it simple to use for the people that are trying to use it (or at least, the people in your target market that are trying to use it), or lose their business. It doesn't really matter if they're doing it wrong. If they come to your site with the same browser and system they have always used and suddenly it doesn't work, well then the fact that it's the browser that's implementing something wrong doesn't matter to them because the site worked well before. Maybe it is. Maybe there's a minor thing the site implements wrong.

I look at this and feel like this is simply a classic case where you have a team of developers that are doing the website at eBay, or any major corporation, and they like having jobs. So at some moment in time there is a necessary site redesign, and they spend months, perhaps years, working on it. Then the site goes live, they spend the next few months to work out the bugs, and there's the question "OK, so, what do we do now?"

So the obvious question is "We start work on the NEXT-NEXT generation website! We'll start on it right away!" And this cycles over and over, because if you say to management "You know what? The website we have is pretty damn good, functional, and we've worked most of the bugs out - there's no need to upgrade", the next thing to say is "So we don't need a gigantic web development team, right?"

This is the only reason I can think of for some of the upgrades I've seen at major websites the past year or so - websites that were previously functional, easy to use, fast, etc. and are now buggy, overladen with crap, etc.

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