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Comment Re:It happened to me (Score 1) 334

Tools are an area where this seems to be a real problem. Another I've noticed is razor blades. I bought some Gillette Fusion blades last year which turned out to be very, very dodgy counterfeits, with obviously-fake packaging and blades that were downright dangerous to use.

This isn't just about shoes.

Comment Re:Who? (Score 3, Interesting) 153

Could be worse, they could have been bought out by a Chinese chicken-supplier.

Softbank may not be well known to the Western public, but it is at least an institution with a genuine track-record and a long-standing interest in the tech sector. Some of these Chinese acquisitions recently feel like attempts to manipulate China's tax or criminal codes and I worry for the future of the companies which have been acquired.

Comment Re:Wow, the UK is even more screwed up than the US (Score 2) 238

The UK has a tradition going back decades of deciding major constitutional issues via referendum. Political parties are traditionally nervous about making major constitutional change part of their manifesto, because of the potential for this to overshadow a General Election. Moreover, there would be doubts about whether a party that was elected on such a manifesto really had a mandate to take through the changes, as elections are fought across a wide policy spectrum and some of their voters may not have supported the specific change in question.

So basically, when there is an issue that fundamentally changes "the rules of the game" as it were, we usually have a referendum. We had one on remaining in the European Common Market in 1975 (having entered it two years earlier). More recently, we have had votes within the last five years on whether to change our voting system and, for Scotland only, on whether Scotland should leave the UK. Both of those came down in favour of the status quo.

Arguably, the Governments of the day should have held votes on the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties, as both had significant consequences for how the UK is governed. As somebody who voted "Remain" in the most recent referendum but who held his nose while he did so, I like to think that this would have given the UK population the chance to put the brakes on European integration without actually leaving the whole circus. But both treaties needed to be passed under weak Prime Ministers (Major and Brown respectively), who were too afraid of any challenge to their position to allow for something that could have undermined them.

Comment And the irony is... (Score 1) 81

The funny thing here is that paying for this pre-release coverage was probably unnecessary for this game anyway. Shadow of Mordor was a pretty decent game, which received good reviews across a wide range of outlets and good feedback from players. It wasn't a ground-breaking game, or even a stunning example of its genre. But it was well put-together, competently executed and made good use of its licence. It basically took the open-world elements from the Ubisoft/Far Cry template, mixed them with the combat from the Batman: Arkham games and added a new twist with the Nemesis system (which imbued procedurally generated enemies with a degree of character and allowed for some neat emergent storytelling).

Moreover, it released at a time when the games line-up for the PS4 and XB1 was, around a year after their launch, still very disappointing. Aside from a handful of launch-exclusives, their lineups were mostly composed of games initially developed for the PS3/360 and hastily ported across to the new hardware, or outright messy failures like Watch_Dogs. Compared to these, Shadow of Mordor was a very attractive proposition.

I suspect WB resorted to "dirty tricks" because their cack-handed pre-release marketing of the game had managed to create unnecessarily bad publicity for it. A pre-launch trailer which implied an outright rip-off of Assassin's Creed (which actually misrepresents Shadow of Mordor quite considerably) and a failure to communicate what the Nemesis system was particularly well had given rise to low expectations.

But those don't have to be fatal for a game. The new Doom launched against a backdrop of rock-bottom expectations, following a troubled development and a poorly received multiplayer public beta. However, when the game hit shelves, it quickly won both critical and public praise for its singleplayer campaign and has been a sales success. Other games have also overcome low expectations to become commercial and critical successes; South Park: The Stick of Truth was another fairly recent example. The gaming scene is relatively forgiving in this sense; week 1 sales are only a small part of the picture and a good game will usually get the sales it deserves over time.

So chances are that WB here have managed to take a self-inflicted wound for marketing dirty tricks over a game which would have done just fine without them.

Comment Re: Rebellion against political consensus (Score 1) 1592

Scary doesn't always have to mean bad. Jumps into the unknown are always scary and this is a huge jump for the UK. But jumps into the unknown aren't always the wrong move (and with today's vote, it is just too soon to judge). Worth noting that the Remain campaign was slick, disciplined and, by conventional standards, much better than the Leave campaign. But Leave, after spending most of the campaign fighting among themselves, won back a lot of ground in the last fortnight. In essence, they took ownership of the "scary" thing and flipped the table by asking "what is so great about the status quo?" This is a long way from business as usual politics.

Comment Rebellion against political consensus (Score 5, Insightful) 1592

I voted "remain" in the end, but it was a close run thing. I'm philosophical about the results; we won't know the real implications for some time. But be under no illusions, this was not just about the EU. Indeed, the EU never really dominated the campaign. It was a rebellion against a long standing political consensus and, in particular, the legacy of Blairism. In essence, Blairism was the marriage of Thatcherite economics to social mores which had previously been the concern of the far left; basically free markets plus multiculturalism. The intention was that over time, the population would buy into that. In London and Scotland, it more or less happened. But in much of the U.K., the population went the other way. An unbalanced economy dependent on financial services squeezed their finances and living standards, while mass immigration forced down wages and created visible, angry, unassimilated immigrant communities in their midst. Moreover, the usual channels of democratic restoration were blocked. Blair's biggest achievement was to foster a media environment which labelled any questioning of the social consensus as racist and a legal system which in some cases made it an arrestable offence. Meanwhile, too many of our institutions changed their ethos from public service to "thought leadership"; trying to reform the population rather than meeting its needs. The vote, I think, needs to be seen as a rebellion against that. I wish the result had been different, but I accept that it wasn't. I live and work in London and my whole circle voted to remain. My parents live in the suburbs of a northern city and they and their circle voted to leave. I had been warning colleagues for weeks that I thought a Leave win was likely; I thought the polling was both running into "social acceptability bias" and underestimating the likelihood that the lower income groups would vote. This, incidentally, is why I would bet on Trump winning in November, scary though that is. And things feel scary in the UK this morning. But a proper discussion of why the vote went the way it did and an acceptance that we need to at least accept and tolerate our divisions rather than widening them would be good first steps.

Comment Re:am I missing something legally here? (Score 1) 104

You're right, of course, that there is criminal activity here and that getting law enforcement involved would in theory be a better idea than just complaining on the internet.

However, for quite some time there's been a level of criminality around the margins of games-reselling - and I'm not talking about piracy here. As others above have pointed out, what is likely going on here with G2A is money-laundering; people are probably making "unprofitable" trades using the service to convert "dirty" (and hard to use) money from stolen credit cards into "clean" money. This isn't exactly a new concept; when a "bug" in MS's phone-support protocols allowed a large number of Xbox Live accounts to be compromised a few years ago (it got little media coverage, because it wasn't a fancy, high profile attack like the Sony one), the major use of this exploit was to launder money via FIFA Ultimate Team transactions (unique at the time among XBox games for allowing players to monetise and trade in-game rewards).

Hell, even on the high-street, there's a well-known UK brand of second-hand games and movies stores with a distinctive red logo which is (un)affectionately known as "The Fence's Friend", being a favourite destination for smack-heads looking to turn stolen goods into cash quickly. I even spent an afternoon back in 2014 walking around a medium-sized English town with a friend as we hunted its (three) branches in that town for his stolen laptop and games console. And yes, we found them and, as he had proof they were his and was able to find a police officer (who was definitely having deja vu about the situation), he got his stuff back.

Comment Re:Perfect timing (Score 3, Interesting) 159

The point of the Slashdot moderation scale is to control the visibility of posts. More highly moderated posts are more highly visible, but you can still see the low-moderated ones if you want. It's not really about measuring your e-peen. For the purpose for which it's intended, a 7-point scale is absolutely fine. Capping negative moderation at -1 means that posts which get "unfairly" moderated down soon after going live can be "rescued" relatively easily.

I've seen sites which use uncapped community-moderation scales (e.g. Eurogamer). My experience with them is that they tend to have a much stronger culture of "+1 means agree, -1 means disagree" with less regard for the quality of the post than you get at Slashdot. They give a bigger incentive to try to tailor your posts to the group-think, by allowing users to aim for "high scores", where posts are moderated +100 or something silly like that.

Comment Re:Perfect timing (Score 1) 159

The Reddit thing was pretty toe-curling, wasn't it? I'm always inclined to suspect cock-up rather than conspiracy, and I do think that's the most prominent explanation here. But to be clear, that's not absolving specific moderators of outright malice; the "cock-up" here is in how Reddit gives so much power to badly supported volunteer moderators.

Forum moderation is difficult. Some people are good at it, some people are bad at it. Not everybody who volunteers for it has the best of intentions; some see it as a way to force their own agenda on the conversation (and lose interest and wander away if they are restrained from doing so). My own preference is for sites to have a code of conduct, or at least a cultural expectation, that moderators participate in actual discussions as little as possible - when a moderator gets dragged into the mud alongside the people he or she is responsible for moderating, things tend to go downhill fairly fast.

Slashdot's solution to this, which largely democratises comment moderation, has many flaws, but arguably remains the "least worst" model. You do get bad moderators - those who use -1 to mean "disagree" - but they usually get counteracted by the majority. So there's a groupthink risk, but it's actually less than the risk that exists on a top-down moderated system, where the moderators are often the ones who impose the groupthink.

Comment Hmm... Alienware (Score 4, Interesting) 82

The display in TFA looks fairly nice. A bit on the small side for a gaming screen, but still, that's pretty decent quality and it's interesting to see OLED spreading in the laptop market.

That said, I'd have serious reservations about buying Alienware. I used to be a fan; in fact, I continued to be a fan some way into the Dell-ownership era. Even as the mark-ups started to rise, the build quality of their desktops remained extremely good; sufficiently so to justify me going for their machines rather than a self-build.

That changed a few years ago and they started to cut corners, while continuing to send the mark-ups soaring even higher. In particular:

- Their customisation options became more limited, generally restricting choices to just CPU, graphics card, RAM and storage. That wouldn't be so bad per se, but at the same time, they started to massively cheap-out on the components you couldn't customise. The motherboards they started using were pretty awful, the power-supplies didn't leave much headroom and were hard to upgrade (more on this in a minute) and while you could choose how much RAM you wanted, that was as far as it went - the RAM they used tended to be cheap and nasty.

- They started using components with non-standard dimensions. In particular, the PSUs in their desktop cases did not conform to any standard set of dimensions, so if you had a wonky PSU (and Alienware PSUs do not have fantastic reliability), then you were either scouring eBay for a replacement and hoping you weren't getting one that had already failed for somebody else, or making use of Alienware's own support. This all felt like an attempt to push the (very expensive) warranty services, by making self-repair of systems harder.

- Oddly for a premium supplier, the latest and greatest kit often wasn't available from them. There was a period of around 6 months where it was widely acknowledged that the Nvidia 980ti was in the sweet-spot of power and cost at the top end of the graphics card market... but Alienware wouldn't sell you a PC with one. Their default configuration had a bizarre 3x Nvidia 960 configuration; fine for games which have well-optimised multi-GPU support, but those are pretty rare (and still capped at 4GB of VRAM, which isn't really enough). They'd sell you a Titan X for a huge mark-up, but it was widely know that the Titan X was only a tiny bit faster than the 980ti, despite being hugely more expensive.

- While Alienware's systems remained blessedly free of the commercial bloatware that a lot of OEMs ship with (including "regular" Dells), their Command Centre software (which manages the case-lighting and cooling) bloated over time and had some stability issues. Moreover, they shipped quite a few PCs, both laptop and desktop, with wonky BIOS versions that caused very odd behaviour, despite their bugs being known at the time (and more stable BIOS versions being available). You could flash the BIOS, sure, but that isn't really an operation you should be expecting the end-user to undertake unless there's a desperate need (and their BIOS flash tool, which runs within Windows, is frankly terrifying to use).

- Oh, and the mark-ups eventually went beyond the "premium" range into the "you must think I'm stupid" range.

So yeah, while the laptop in TFA looks quite nice, I would treat it with great suspicion for the time being.

Comment Re:Alleged to be one of two new models (Score 1) 144

Yes, that's the most plausible explanation, isn't it? I wouldn't be surprised if the XB1-S also had lower manufacturing costs than the default XB1, so it's a way of keeping the lower-spec model in circulation at a lower price-point.

Also, not a comment about your post, but... aren't the AC fanboy horde out in unusual force today, by slashdot standards? Is there something in the water? Large parts of this comments section read more like Kotaku than slashdot.

Comment Re:Alleged to be one of two new models (Score 1) 144

I have a high-end PC (i7 6700k and 980ti) and a 4k monitor. Right now, unless you are willing to tolerate very shoddy levels of performance, most of the latest games are not really practical in 4k. 1440p remains the sweet-spot. There are exceptions - Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, Overwatch (if you're willing to drop detail a bit), but those are generally games with low polygon counts and few lighting effects.

Detail levels are not all that much lower in console games these days; Eurogamer's regular Digital Foundry series finds that most console games equate to "high" settings on PC. There is no way on earth the PS4 Neo is driving those settings with a playable framerate at 4k. 1440p... maybe, in some cases (though not the most challenging games, such as The Witcher 3 and Assassin's Creed Syndicate).

Comment Re:Alleged to be one of two new models (Score 3) 144

Might be right.

One thing it certainly won't be is 4k gaming, despite some of the more excitable comments around this and the PS4 Neo. We know what practical 4k gaming requires on PC (even the new Nvidia 1080 paired with an i7 6700k isn't quite there in terms of consistently acceptable performance) and the PS4 Neo specs fall far short of that. I doubt there's a new iteration of the XB1 on the way that will be significantly more powerful than the PS4 Neo.

Comment Alleged to be one of two new models (Score 5, Insightful) 144

If credible reports are to be believed, the XB1-S is the first of two successors to the current XB1. There is a second machine, rumoured to have significantly upgraded internals, which is apparently due next year, to compete with the PS4 Neo. This might, of course, all be proven wrong within the next few hours following MS's E3 presentation.

But if the reports are correct, then things start to look very odd. The XB1-S described in TFA looks like a pretty normal mid-generation hardware refresh, similar to the 360-S or the PS3-slim from the last generation. It reduces the form-factor and apparently adds support for 4k Blu-Rays (the current XB1 can do 4k video output, but there is currently pretty much nothing that makes use of it), but doesn't do much else. So far, so sane. But then this is apparently only going to be given a few months on the market before a significantly more powerful "XB1.5" is released, which will offer a significantly bigger step up.

There's something not quite right with this current console generation. It's hard to put a finger on precisely what - the sales numbers (even for the XB1) are pretty great compared to the last generation - but there is definitely something that isn't quite gelling. Despite being over two and a half years old, the software libraries for the PS4 and XB1 remain fairly thin, being light on the major exclusives that have powered previous generations and heavy on "HD remasters" of old games. If, like me, you prefer to game on a PC, the reasons to own the new consoles look pretty thin (and I sort-of regret my own purchases).

I don't know whether there is something sinister emerging in the financials which the public can't see, but both Sony and MS seem to be spooked in a way that the numbers don't quite support (MS's position isn't what they wanted, but is also by no means bad). I still can't work out why, at a point in the cycle when they should be enjoying the huge third-party licensing fees that should be rolling in thanks to their large installed base, Sony are taking a massive gamble and splitting their user-base with the PS4 Neo. Slightly more understandable is why MS would feel the need to follow suit, but even that doesn't quite feel right. All the omens for Nintendo's NX look pretty dire, so I doubt it's that which has Sony or MS spooked.

As I say, hard to put my finger on it, but there is definitely something odd going on.

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