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Comment Deduplication will definitely happen (Score 1) 539

"In that case the website stored one copy of each piece of music, required the user to verify they owned it, then allowed you access to their stored copy."

In the case of modern storage systems, this is almost certainly what will happen "behind the scenes" at Amazon. They will probably use a storage system which will be calculating hashes of each file or block, and deduplicating data invisibly, and hence having a vastly larger logical storage space than physical. So, in essence, if 10,000,000 store the same 10 MB MP3 file, it will only use 10MB (plus metadata, perhaps another 500MB? WAG) of actual storage. However, logically each user has a separate file. If I modify my copy's tags, it will "copy on write" and I will now have my own copy, causing Amazon to store more actual data.

On another topic, I personally would be extraordinarily wary of this service. (Or, for that matter, every single cloud-based storage service.) The RIAA, MPAA, or whoever now just needs to subpoena Amazon and ask for a copy of all their stored data for all users to go on a fishing expedition, rather than having to subpoena every user in the world. I'm sure Amazon would fight that, but who knows who would prevail?

If Amazon encrypted the data on the client-side and streamed only encrypted data, that might be better (no fishing expeditions possible without also breaking the encryption), as the data on Amazon's side would thus be gibberish. However, that would also mean they'd have a 1-1 mapping of logical to physical storage, and thus prohibitively expensive storage costs.


Submission + - Apple lifts ban on native Google Voice application (

SD_92104 writes: Following last weeks change to the iPhone developer agreement and publication of AppReview guidelines, Apple seems to have also changed its view on native Google Voice applications. GV Connect, an application that has been in approval limbo since last year (and has been available as a MacOS Dashboard widget for well over a year) is now available for download from the iPhone AppStore. Let's hope that Apple won't change its mind again and start pulling Google Voice apps again after a while

Submission + - Graffiti makes a comeback on Android (

zachinvest writes: Graffiti, still the most popular handwriting recognition software ever developed for mobile devices, is now available as a free application specifically optimized for Android. This new version includes Japanese input support. Graffiti installs as an alternate Input Method so once installed, you can easily switch into Graffiti mode for all of your text input-and you don’t need a stylus anymore! On today’s high-quality capacitive touch screens, Graffiti input with just your finger works great.

Comment Kindle DX is a very good PDF reader (Score 2) 167

I have been very impressed with the PDF quality on this device, and it does have (free) Internet access in the USA (coverage by Sprint).

Moreover, the form factor is just fantastic. It feels good in the hand (or in bed, or on the subway, etc.) and looks good too.

Search for the recent Ask Slashdot thread on the Kindle DX for more, or see my profile for my comments on the Kindle DX.

Comment I quite like the Kindle DX (Score 1) 263

I purchased the original Kindle a few months after it came out and was supremely underwhelmed. I ended up disliking the DRM (I can't view the books on my computer? I can't print them? I can't sell them to someone else?) and so it became nothing but a glorified New York Times reader. The screen was too small, the page turns too frequent (although they ceased being annoying after about an hour or two of use), and the lack of PDF made it of very limited use.

For some reason, despite my recommendation to everyone not to buy a Kindle, I nonetheless bought the Kindle DX. I think I just wanted to give Jeff Bezos another try, despite his hypocritical (OK, pragmatic) attitude on DRM.

The Kindle DX is great. I still won't buy any DRM books from Amazom, but here are the major pluses:

  • PDF works, very, very well. I only found one book so far which wouldn't render - a very pretty, multicolor Organic Chemistry textbook (Original PDF, not scanned PDF).
  • The large screen is an absolute joy. It's like reading a hardback with small print, which is just what I like. And, when it's dark or I'm not wearing my glasses, I can up the type size to keep it readable in any situation.
  • Newspapers are easier to read than the original Kindle. And, since you are probably like me in that you toss the issues when you're done, not having to do that saves time and effort. It's also a lot easier to read on the subway.

The Kindle DX does have a few drawbacks from the Kindle v1:

  • No expansion memory or swappable battery. Clearly, following Apple's (poor) lead here.
  • Does not automatically save each issue of the New York Times. I have to tell it to keep each issue individually, or it will auto-delete them. It's digital data; I plan to archive it permanently. (I paid for it, after all.)
  • Newspapers are locked to a single Kindle. You can't read the NYT on your iPhone and the Kindle, and if you lose the Kindle you have, you can't read the files on another Kindle.

The bottom line is that the PDF support is the game changer. I have quite a few documents in PDF that are now a joy to read (including my own LaTeX files). Want to read about Sotomayor from the CRS? Download the PDF to the Kindle. Too lazy to read WikiLeaks in Preview (or Reader, etc.)? Read it on the Kindle.

The other complaints relate to price. Amazon does not sell a "Print + Kindle" book bundle for a reasonable price (say a buck or so above print price), although I think they should. I would buy everything that way if I had the choice. Additionally, the Kindle book prices are way too high. $7.99 for a print book, or $7.99 for a Kindle book? Really? Even $9.99 (their "bestseller hardcover" price) is too much for a book you are basically renting until Amazon decides to cancel your account (which they have done, and causes you to lose access to all your books once your Kindle breaks). And there is no way I'm going to pay more than that for a technical/physics/chemistry book (which are the majority of my purchases from a dollar perspective if not volume).

Still, if only for the PDF, larger screen and and New York Times ($14/month Kindle vs. about $30/mo print), I finally actually like the Kindle and recommend the DX to anyone else who would avoid buying any Kindle books from Amazon.


Comment Just another form of DRM (Score 1) 737

This is another form of DRM. Another game I now won't buy that I otherwise would have. I never play multiplayer games (of this genre) except on the LAN. I don't want or need Big Brother watching me.

Aside from that, it also breaks first-sale; you don't own the game because you can't (in a practical manner) sell it to someone else who will be able to use it in full.

Comment Better Microsoft than... (Score 1) 346

At least if we gave Microsoft the money, we'd probably earn a positive return on it. Unlike, say, AIG or GM. I'm all for it.

$20 billion would be enough to buy 100 million licenses of Windows at retail rates. Maybe the string should be that all US citizens then get an unlimited number of non-transferable Windows licenses?

(Yes, I know it's a joke.)

Comment Re:I will never buy another Steam game: Dawn of Wa (Score 1) 159

Saying that "GFWL" and "Steam" are required don't really do justice to what that actually means. Furthermore, one only learns what it actually means after attempting to run the software, which then makes it nearly impossible to return the software.

The bottom line is this: it does not clearly state that you need to download the game from the Internet (although it does say "Internet Connection Required," which I thought meant for multiplayer), which seems to be what other people think happens, and that it is not included on the DVD.

The bottom line is that the software is not what one expects when one buys a game. I've been buying pre-packaged games since the days of Wizardry and Mystery House (for the Apple ][), and this new way of "buying games" is a perversion of that process and violates all expectations.

PS3 games are not much better anymore. I purchased HAWX (which surprisingly is an amazingly terrible game and bears absolutely no resemblance to any real flight dynamics in any plane I've flown and once again, proves that games should be returnable for ordinary consumer protection laws) and before I could play it I had to wait literally 90 minutes. First, it forced the PS3 to update it's system software. Then, it forced the game to update its software. Then, it forced me to copy the game from the DVD to the internal hard drive. And then, after 10 minutes of playing this useless piece of junk, I had to delete it all. Really? (This was the first PS3 game I bought purely for myself as opposed to my son, and it will be the last. What crap.)

I'm "this close" to junking computer games and console games entirely at this point. The current system is just plain broken. The only ones which seem to work the way you'd expect are Impulse games and MMOs, and the latter have mostly become too expensive for their entertainment value to me as a long-time gamer and parent.

Another example: I found this interesting flight simulator DCS Black Shark. It also uses Internet activation using a highly disregarded system whose name I forget after spending an hour researching it last night. Once again, a vendor has lost my $50. Buying the boxed version is $36 (at Amazon), but this also requires online activation. The number of activations is limited to 8, and you can also deactivate 10 times, but after that the vendor's FAQ basically says "you're screwed because that's more than enough for anyone." Right, and 640k too.

I apologize that I sound bitter: I am bitter. It is amazingly disappointing to me that I cannot participate in gaming anymore due to the greed and/or fears and/or poor design decisions of the gaming companies. That's OK, Bridge (and Go and Shogi etc.) is a deeper and more interesting game than almost all computer games anyway, and that's hard to restrict, and I still haven't read all Dan Simmons's books, and so forth.

Comment Re:I will never buy another Steam game: Dawn of Wa (Score 1) 159

I enjoyed Homeworld and Homeworld II, and I can play them any time I want because I still have the CDs and the manuals.

I doubt I would be able to do that in 6.5 or 9.5 years (II, I) with Dawn of War II, because I strongly suspect you're right:

a) There is probably no game on the DVD I bought (and subsequently returned)
b) There will probably be no more "Valve/Steam"
c) There will probably be no more "Windows Live"

I just don't see why I should "buy" something and end up not "owning" anything. I can't lend or give it to a friend. I can't re-sell it. It's completely wasted.

If the game were $5.00 or under I would probably buy something off Steam. Until then, no thanks.

Oh, and Stardock/Impulse just got another $10 for the Sins of a Solar Empire expansion this weekend. I can back that up to DVD and it will work forever...

Comment I will never buy another Steam game: Dawn of War 2 (Score 3, Insightful) 159

So I read about a new RTS game, Dawn of War II, and since Strategy games are my favorite type of PC game, I picked it up at Best Buy while on vacation.

I've been a computer programmer for 26 years (professionally for 22). I was part of the Microsoft team which put out the first version of Windows NT. I know how computers work, inside and out. I know how operating systems work, although I will admit I don't use Vista for anything except playing games so I'm not very good with it.

I go to install it on my MacBook Pro with 3G RAM and 512MB video card running Vista 32 Home Basic (I have MSDN with all the Vista versions, but this is the smallest install so that's what I used).

First, it makes me install something called "Steam." This is something I have assiduously avoided installing because I have heard it is very intrusive and prevents you from actually owning any game you own, but since I was on vacation and could easily wipe my Boot Camp if it did something unsavory, I decided to go with it. This Steam install seems to take a very, very long time (an hour or two) and forces me to create some sort of Steam account, which I do because it didn't ask for any information other than name and e-mail address. (I would have given it a fake name too, except for the fact that my e-mail address is a give-away for my name anyway.)

Finally, it gets Steam installed, which does lots of back and forth on the Internet and then keeps running in the background. Mind you, I'm trying to install a single-player game for which I own the DVD and it's sitting in the drive. But, the game is not installed, I learn, when I tell it I want to play the game and there are no games listed in the "My Games" section. Well, that's stupid, so somehow I figure out how to tell it to install the actual game Dawn of War II.

This goes amazingly slowly. I mean, it's already been over an hour and I don't even have a game installed. This takes about two hours - no joke - to install 3.6 GB of game from a DVD. I can watch a 2 hour 7 GB DVD in the same amount of time, so I have no idea why copying files takes 2x as long as viewing them. Hard drives just aren't that slow.

So, I eventually gave up and let it install overnight and came back to it the next day.

There is no desktop icon for Dawn of War II, so I hunt around the hard drive to try to run the installed game. I finally found it, and all it seems to do is run Steam, connect to the Internet and hang. I try running it a handful of times, and then I run the Steam program (which was actually running the whole time in the system tray, wasting my memory and CPU resources). There, it says Dawn of War II is installed so I attempt to launch it (with the launch button). It shows some multiplayer code on the screen and says I need to enter it into the game to get it to work. I ignore it because I couldn't give a damn about multiplayer, I just want to play the game already after several hours now in the second day of trying.

The game hangs for a long while. I cancel it and re-launch several times. Finally I just give up and let it sit there for like 30 minutes. It does something about patching, or installing, or updating, and pops up a command line window which then disappears again after a while, and finally dumps me back at the Steam games list which now has a button saying "news" and some comment about it being fully installed. You mean, it's only now fully installed after three hours?

Anyway, so I launch it again, and nothing. I kill the program, exit Steam, and try again. Still nothing. After a few more tries it turns out it was popping up an error message underneath all the other windows, saying that my Windows Paging File size must be at least 1.5GB. Wait, what? Why? I have 3GB of RAM and I don't want any virtual memory being used. But, it doesn't care, and eventually I give in and tell Windows that it can allocate a paging file anywhere between 16M and 1536M (1.5GB). I re-launch the game and, guess what... Same thing! So I tell Windows it can create a paging file between 1536 and 1600M and the game now finally launches. Mind you, now I also am wasting 1.5G on my hard drive for a paging file that will never get used, out of a 20G partition (half of which is the smallest possible Vista install).
So, guess what... The game finally launches!

I have to sit through 4 introductory scenes that I couldn't escape out of. Flying logos for THQ, Relic, nVidia, and another one I can't remember what it was. A waste of a minute. Then, it starts some sort of video cutscene. This is extraordinarily violent and my 4.5 year old son is sitting right next to me, excited to try the game out. I hit escape. Space. Click the mouse buttons. Hit every other key on the keyboard, but I can't get the intro video to stop playing, and it's only getting more and more violent. Finally, I turn the monitor off using the brightness controls, so my son doesn't have to watch it. Five or six minutes later the game finally gives me control back.

So, now it's been about four hours and two days of installing this game, and I get a menu that says three things: Campaign, Multiplayer and Options (oh, and Exit). Of course, I set the options first, which is no big deal. The opening graphic on lowest settings actually runs smoothly, but each time you change the options the game completely restarts. You're kidding me, right? At least it didn't replay the opening video.

Finally, I go to play the game after all this. My son is bouncing up and down excited to play a new game. (He plays all sorts of games with me, like Everquest, Guild Wars, World of Goo, Lego Batman, etc.) I hit the option for the single-player campaign and get a message saying that I need to have a Windows Live account to play. I click the button saying I don't have one, and it goes back to the main menu.


I can't play the game that I bought, that I have the DVD to and box to right here, in single-player mode with my son sitting next to me unless I give Microsoft detailed information about me, and create an account, and am connected to the Internet?

That's it. I'm done with this game.

In fact, I'm done with anything with "Steam" or "Windows Live." I tell Windows to uninstall Steam and Dawn of War II, and I'm going to return the game to Best Buy. If they don't want to take the return, then I will tell American Express to cancel the charge.

I would have loved to play the game. It should have worked like this:

1) Install game
2) Play game

That's the way every other game works, and how games should work.

This vendor has turned a customer who loves computer games, who is willing to pay $50 every month (and sometimes several times a month) into someone who will never buy another game from "Relic" or "THQ" or "Steam" ever again, and will assiduously avoid any game that says "Windows Live" on it.

I would say that I would go and find some Internet version of the game that has none of this crappy baggage (just unzip and run) and play it, except for the fact that they have pissed me off so badly and left such a terrible taste in my mouth (not to mention disappointed my son), that I do not ever want to play this game again. I can't believe I wasted four or five hours of my life - and my vacation - dealing with this piece of crap.

Well, my list of things I won't do on my PC is expanding; the above vendors join Electronic Arts and their SecuROM, limited install stuff. The PC gaming vendors are losing all my business.

The vendor that will have my business is Stardock. They have some great games (Galactic Civilizations II, Sins of a Solar Empire, World of Goo) and make it very easy to install on as many computers as I want, with or without the CD/DVDs. No SecuROM.

I cannot recommend to software vendors enough: Avoid DRM. Avoid Internet connections. Avoid anything other than having the DVD in the drive at the worst. (I used to hate that requirement but all the laptops I've owned in years have all had DVD drives so it's no longer a big deal.) I'm through with your abuse; I'm a paying customer and I am not going to pay for it anymore.

Conclusion: Do not buy Dawn of War II. Avoid at all cost.

Corollaries: Do not buy anything that uses Steam. Do not buy anything that uses "Windows Live." Do not cede your first sale rights. Make sure the DVD you buy actually contains the game you bought.

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