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Journal Journal: Where is there decent Internet? 1

A few of you have often noticed my signature, in which I mentioned that my current ISP offers 100 mbit fiber-to-the-home for $65/mo, no installation fee. Recently, I've discovered that while they do not filter, they do have a 20 gig/mo cap, alongside a vague policy about "more than five hours of video per week".

Of course, they sell a TV service, also. I would bet that is where this limit is coming from -- to prevent YouTube, Netflix, etc, from competing with Lisco TV.

Being unemployed, and as this is a small town, I would not mind relocating to find a job. The question is, where to? Is there anywhere which has similarly priced Internet, unthrottled, and uncapped -- or at least, with a significantly higher cap? (Alright, there's Japan. Anywhere in the US?)

PC Games (Games)

Journal Journal: Open letter to EA (and other publishers)

Obligatory, pre-emptive MFD strip -- I know it's unlikely anyone from EA will read this. But I'm not the only one, I hope.

I live in a small town, with low cost of living. I'm single. I make a reasonable wage, so I have a ton of disposable income.

I'm a computer professional and enthusiast. I tend to spend a decent amount on hardware, and I do game. I also tend to download custom mods and such, even toy with level design from time to time -- in other words, I take full advantage of the fact that I'm on a PC, and not a console.

Now, I could tolerate most games being Windows only -- I don't have to like it, but I tolerate it. After all, I can always put it in a virtual machine, and even if I'm running it on the bare metal for performance, I don't game 100% of the time, and I generally don't do anything else when I'm gaming.

You have lost me as a customer because of DRM.

I'm not just talking about Spore.

I'm not fanatical about this. I happily buy Valve games over Steam, play them on Windows, and spend money to do so. I'll jump on anything decent coming through Penny Arcade's Greenhouse project. I play an MMO -- that means I pay a monthly fee, I have to use their software, and they can pretty much terminate my account whenever they want.

I want to give you money.

Here's what you did, in response to Spore -- and in your next game, apparently, not in Spore itself:

  - You upped the number of allowed installations from three to five. Some of us have more than five reinstalls per month.

  - You removed the need for the game to stay online -- that's only needed during activation. I'm sure some users are grateful -- but these users likely see it as exactly as small a gesture as increasing the number of installs. Why force them to be online in the first place?

  - You removed the CD copy protection. I haven't bought a game in years that used CD copy protection. What took you so long?

Here's what else is still a problem, for me:

  - Blacklisted programs. Daemon Tools, among other things -- it has legitimate uses other than piracy. I should be able to run whatever software I want on my machine -- it's mine, after all.

  - Reputation. SecuROM is widely known as the worst, and it isn't getting better. Many people report that it has trashed their system. Why should I trust it this time?

The freedom to do what I want, how I want, without having to solder things, is why I'm a PC gamer in the first place. DRM, by its very nature, limits that.

That's the damage. Here's the impact:

Your DRM, in the long run, does nothing to secure your product. Spore is one of the most widely pirated games ever, despite everything you did to inconvenience legitimate users. A skilled cracker can defeat all of these measures relatively quickly -- sometimes before the game is even released.

And that's the choice it has come to.

I want to play Mirror's Edge, badly. If there's ever a version of it for the PC, I've got money in hand to buy it, and a new computer, and a controller if needed -- I'm not sure how well the unique movement would map to a mouse, but maybe it will.

If Mirror's Edge comes, say, as a Steam game -- not like Bioshock, but actually just a Steam game, with no additional protection -- I'd buy it in a heartbeat. On opening day. Make it DRM-free, and I'll consider preordering.

If it comes with anywhere near the level of DRM you're currently requiring for Spore, even this "relaxed" version, I will head over to the nearest torrent site and download a copy. I have plenty of money to spend, yes, but not plenty of time to waste proving that I own something.

And I am not the only one who feels this way. Keep in mind: An unprecedented number of people gave Spore a low rating on Amazon because of its DRM. An unprecedented number of people have pirated Spore, mostly via torrent. Coincidence?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Of Saphir and Whorf 2

I think I finally "get" Web 2.0.

It occurred to me when I started talking about The Cloud -- both loving the idea, and hating myself for using such an obvious buzzword. But I think I get it now.

It's about language.

Read 1984. And read about the Saphir-Whorf hypothesis. Maybe you'll see it, too -- our use of language has a profound impact on how we see the world.

There was a great story about how, when Europeans first came to America, some of the natives actually couldn't see the ships, because it was like nothing they'd ever seen before. They didn't have a word, or a frame of reference, for the huge cloud-like things they saw on the horizon -- so they just didn't see them.

I kind of doubt that story is true, but I do think it applies. How long did dynamic websites exist, with the ability for users to alter content, and no one "got it", until we started calling it "Web 2.0"? How long did virtualization exist -- how long did CPU-power-on-demand services exist -- and, while there was some buzz about virtualization, no one really got it until we started calling it The Cloud.

This isn't new -- it's existed, really, as long as abstract concepts have existed, because language is the medium through which we understand and communicate abstract concepts. For an obvious-example, take "Pro-Choice" vs "Abortionist" (or "Baby-Killer!"), and "Pro-Life" vs "Anti-Abortionist" (or "Woman-Hater!"). Quite often, people make the mistake of using the opposition's language in their argument, trying to show its flaws, but really, that only strengthens their argument. Who really wants to argue against choice, or life?

It's not always a good thing, and we should not always embrace new language. But neither should we be so quick to dismiss it as a "buzzword" -- after all, the Internet itself is perhaps the godfather of the modern buzzword. What we're really talking about is just another network -- which is really just a bunch of computers with wires running between them -- but now that we know it's something called "The Internet", our view changes, and it really becomes a world-changing phenomenon.

Understand: Not just appears to be, or appears to become. A random network of computers cannot change the world. The Internet can and has.

I now understand why RMS and friends insist on calling it "GNU/Linux", though I still don't agree with it. But you see... RMS understands the power of language.

(Edit: This could probably be applied to Memetic Engineering, if we ever implement that concept. The Anti-Meme would have to be very clearly defined in language for it to work.)

User Journal

Journal Journal: Scientology

I occasionally read the Bible. Never all at once, just interesting pieces with which to frighten door-to-door evangelists. I love finding little pieces with which to end a conversation, and put the believer completely on the defensive -- "Seriously, you believe in stoning rape victims? For being raped? Jesus says you have to..."

I've got a brand new one, though, to end conversations about the importance of religion, or the definition of religion. I'm talking, of course, about Scientology.

Well, that or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or the Invisible Pink Unicorn, but reductio ad absurdum works so much better when you can actually point to said absurdity in the real world. There is actually a large and vocal group out there which believes an evil emperor named Xenu sent aliens called Thetans to earth on DC-8s (which fly through space), and then nuked them in volcanoes.

Note to religious people: Yes, I do think it's stupid of you to believe in religion. Understand two things:

First, it doesn't mean I think you're stupid. Smart people do stupid things.

Second, I won't attack you for it. I'm a bit trigger-happy with my atheism, but still, if you don't bring it up, I won't. It's a bit like homosexuality -- I really don't care what you do in bed (or elsewhere), or who you do it with. It only becomes a problem if you start hitting on me -- or evangelizing to me.

User Journal

Journal Journal: My signature

For awhile, I've had this signature:

DRM? Trusted Computing? Fine, but not with my code.

I do start to feel like a hypocrite looking at that. After all, I'm now working as an HD-DVD developer, making quite a bit of money, enjoying what I do, and not at all close to wanting to quit in outrage about the DRM.

But while I don't have to deal with DRM every day, I do have to deal with it often enough. While I have not personally written any code that does DRM, all my code will eventually be DRM'd on-disc, and one of my co-workers has, in fact, written some utilities to manage AACS stuff.

And, in general, I still feel that DRM is useless and should not be done, but I also have seen it done in ways that aren't really that bad, and even seen some things which benefit the consumer. Steam, for example, allows me to download the same game (unless it's Bioshock) anywhere I want to, anytime, so long as I remember my password and only log in at one place at a time. (So that's one download and/or game being played at a time.)

Steam is actually an example of "not that bad", as everything they do which benefits the consumer, they could've done without DRM. No, an example of something which benefits the consumer are the "music rental" services. After you get to a certain amount of music, it just makes more sense, financially, to simply rent your music rather than buy it. If the service goes away, and the DRM isn't cracked, then yes, you lose a bunch of music -- so you join another service and download the same music again.

I prefer to own my music, but I'm a bit of a fanatic.

So, while most days I'd rather see DRM go away forever, this signature is starting to be a bit hypocritical. After all, DRM is being done with my code, and most of what I write is not GPL'd.

So why do I have it?

Simple: Since I started using this signature, I've seen almost none of the retarded arguments against GPLv3 -- the arguments which talk about the GPL being used to attack DRM, that it's overstepping its bounds as a software license and attacking hardware... Whatever.

Because this statement makes all of those arguments go away. Licensing software under the GPLv3 is not directly attacking DRM, it's not even saying that you hate DRM and want to abolish it. It's simply saying that you may not use it with this code.

People point to the TiVo as an example -- shouldn't I want to license my software such that people can make cool stuff like the TiVo? Well, why should I, unless I'm getting a cut? It's simple: TiVo can either have my code for free, on my terms, or they can go somewhere else. There's plenty of GPLv2 or even BSD-licensed stuff they could have for free, or they could buy some commercial software -- maybe even from me.

I don't see that as inconsistent with what I do for a living, but this whole essay doesn't exactly fit in a signature. So I am posting a consistent position here:

I don't like DRM, and I don't like closed software that I don't have access to. Therefore, software which I release for free will have no part in this. If you're willing to pay me a living wage to develop software, I will develop pretty much whatever you want, so long as it's not wholly unethical (I won't write Lotus Notes for your Killbot). But if I release something as free and open, it's probably because I intend for it to stay that way.

So, if you have a problem with me using the GPLv3, either hire me or use somebody else's code.


Journal Journal: Good ISPs?

I live in a small town in Iowa. An ISP here is offering fiber to the home for $60/mo, free installation. That's 100 mbits, and they do support net neutrality -- meaning that if they can't build enough bandwidth to support everyone on YouTube (or BitTorrent), they'll simply move to a metered model, but apparently they don't have to yet.

We spend enough time talking about the ISPs we hate -- which ones do we love? Anywhere else with fast, cheap, neutral Internet?

Hardware Hacking

Journal Journal: Cheap hardware for home/theater automation?

I've got a server in my house, which always stays on. I can use cron and WakeOnLAN to wake my desktop, and with a bit of hacking, I can probably feed KOrganizer reminders from my desktop into the server's cron, and set my desktop to do something once booted, such as play some loud music. The one missing component is speakers -- how can I turn them on programmatically? (Thinking programmable power strip here.) Even better, are there some cheap, decent-sounding speakers I could get which can be entirely software-controlled, including volume and forceably switching to speakers, even if I leave my headphones plugged in?
The Media

Journal Journal: Memetic Engineering

I've heard quite a bit about frightening memes lately, particularly neo-conservative astroturfing. It's become pervasive enough that Occam's Razor tells me that it can't be wholly astroturf, it must be a successful meme.

I think of myself as mostly immune to memes. By that I mean, it takes more than a catchy slogan or a bit of thought to make me adopt a meme. I'm immune to advertising, peer pressure, etc. And of course I realize it's impossible to be completely immune and still remain human and relevant.

And yet, far too many people aren't even close. I have a good friend who is one of the smartest people I know, and yet he has at least a couple of memes he's accepted and never questioned thoroughly. He thinks very well about them, too, builds on them, and his beliefs are self-consistent, but choosing that memeplex over another is, as Spock would put it, "not logical."

What we need is a powerful immunizing meme. A meme that is more than a fad, that is potent enough to spread as easily as MySpace or emo/anti-emo, but which carries a payload that immunizes against other, similar memes. A meme that tells you to stand up and think for yourself, and to fight for your beliefs, never relax and stop caring.

With people actually thinking for themselves, it should be much easier to accomplish most political goals I share with most people reading this. For instance, a demand for verified voting would be much easier with people actually thinking -- we know they at least claim to care about democracy. Ditto to a boycott of high def media (DRM), a mass exodus from Windows where possible, or voting for the candidate who's actually an honest man, instead of the one who has the most corporations to finance his campaign.

In fact, I think much of my political beliefs can be distilled to a simple and effective meme, but I'm thinking of this like democracy. The original reasons for any democracy could've been solved with a monarchy -- with the American Revolution, we could've done away with the tea tax, stamp act, etc, and still made George Washington King, instead of President. But we chose democracy to make it last, based on the theory (if I may theorize) that if the new government had a flaw, or developed one, democracy would correct it without the need for another revolution.

Same for memes -- if we, as a species, can become fundamentally resistant to being so easily subverted by advertising, politics, astroturfing, and dishonest memes, and develop a habit of thinking for ourselves, and questioning our every assumption, then we get an automatic benefit: If any aspect of our government or society has a flaw, we will correct it, without the need for a massive grassroots, campaign, mememetic engineering, whatever. If the flaw is as blindingly obvious as, say, Diebold, then we will independantly and automatically reject it, Stand-Alone Complex style.

Oh, it won't eliminate the need for these things. People do disagree, so we will need to construct memes or campaigns for, say, Linux vs Windows. Some of you will be on one side, some on another side, each calling the other a fanboy, and that's ok. But I would much prefer an intelligent dialogue than the willful ignorance of the majority.

That is the ultimate goal here: Eliminate ignorant apathy. By the time young John Doe buys his first gas-guzzler, he should be making a definite statement that he doesn't care about the environment. He should not simply buy it by default because he didn't know about hybrid cars. By the time Jane Doe buys her first Dell, she should either be making the statement "I like/need Windows and don't mind supporting MS" or "This is the best value I can get for this kind of hardware." She should not be buying it by default, because Dell advertising has given her a subconscious assumption of "computer==dell". Nothing done by default, or if you do, make sure it's consciously by default: I got the default Ramen because it's not worth my time to choose Ramen flavors, when they taste so much alike.

Comments! I want to know if this can work!


Journal Journal: State of the Slashdotter 2

I haven't been here since the beginning, but at 1060 comments, it's really time for me to explore a bit more about Slashdot, such as the social networking bit.

Looking over my own stats, I only have one friend, and I can't remember when I added them. I've also got no foes. I guess I never thought it was worth it to add trolls to that list.

I do have the Profanity Blacklist as a freak, and have for a long time -- what a fucking surprise, that!

What seemed weird to me was, I have no other freaks, and I do have five fans. Seems odd -- either I've been doing pretty well, or I've just kept my head down. I know others have a long list of freaks. I've been looking at that list to try and find some insight as to why these people picked me, and whether I should add them.

There's a very large part of me that wants to ignore the whole thing, and call it something only MySpacers would do, but looking through some of these people, I do find interesting discussions I'd have missed otherwise. I guess it's something to do when I feel like reading Slashdot, but there've been no updates.

Woah. Maybe I'm an addict.

Anyway, no particular point to this exercise, but I've left comments enabled. Drop me a note. And no, this will not be a weblog, but until I decide to get something like that set up, I may as well post Slashdot-related rantings on Slashdot.

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