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Balancing Choice With Irreversible Consequences In Games 352

The Moving Pixels blog has an article about the delicate balance within video games between giving players meaningful choices and consequences that cannot necessarily be changed if the player doesn't like her choice afterward. Quoting: "One of my more visceral experiences in gaming came recently while playing Mass Effect 2, in which a series of events led me to believe that I'd just indirectly murdered most of my crew. When the cutscenes ended, I was rocking in my chair, eyes wide, heart pounding, and as control was given over to me once more, I did the only thing that I thought was reasonable to do: I reset the game. This, of course, only led to the revelation that the event was preordained and the inference that (by BioWare's logic) a high degree of magical charisma and blue-colored decision making meant that I could get everything back to normal. ... Charitably, I could say BioWare at least did a good job of conditioning my expectations in such a way that the game could garner this response, but the fact remains: when confronted with a consequence that I couldn't handle, my immediate player's response was to stop and get a do-over. Inevitability was only something that I could accept once it was directly shown to me."

Zynga and Blizzard Sued Over Game Patent 179

eldavojohn writes "Thinking about developing a game involving a 'database driven online distributed tournament system?' Well, you had better talk to Walker Digital or risk a lawsuit, because Walker Digital claims to have patented that 'invention' back in 2002. The patent in question has resulted in some legal matters for the makers of 'Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 1 and 2, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Call of Duty: World at War, Blur, Wolfenstein, DJ Hero 2, Golden Eye 007, World of Warcraft and its expansions, Mafia Wars, and many others.' Walker Digital (parent company of Priceline.com) said it's not sure how much damages are going to be, and requested that through discovery in the court. If you think Walker Digital is not a patent troll, check out their lawsuit from two months ago against Facebook for using privacy controls Walker Digital claims to have patented. It would seem that any online competitive game that uses a database to select and reward contestants in a tournament could potentially fall under this patent — of course, those with the deepest coffers will be cherrypicked first."
The Courts

P2P Litigation Crippled In DC District Court Ruling 114

An anonymous reader writes "In a stunning defeat for the US Copyright Group, DC District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer is forcing copyright holders to sue only those over whom the DC court has personal jurisdiction. The USCG has sued in the DC court more than 4,500 people on behalf of a German producer that created the Far Cry movie. But the Judge is having none of that; in her ruling [Friday], Judge Collyer stated that only those who are in the DC court's jurisdiction can be sued — shrinking what could have been a windfall of defendant's cash to perhaps a mere trickle."
The Courts

Microsoft Sued Over Vista-To-XP Downgrade Fees 479

Krojack writes with this excerpt from Computerworld: "Los Angeles resident Emma Alvarado charged Microsoft with multiple violations of Washington state's unfair business practices and consumer protection laws over its policy of barring computer makers from continuing to offer XP on new PCs after Vista's early-2007 launch. Alvarado is seeking compensatory damages and wants the case declared a class-action suit. ... Irked at having to pay a fee for downgrading a new Lenovo notebook to XP, Alvarado said that Microsoft had used its position as the dominant operating system maker to 'require consumers to purchase computers pre-installed with the Vista operating system and to pay additional sums to "downgrade" to the Windows XP operating system.'"
It's funny.  Laugh.

1,234,567,890 Seconds Since Unix Time Began 187

os2man was one of many readers to let us know that later on today, at 23:31:30 UTC (30 seconds after this story went live), the number of seconds since January 1st 1970 will be exactly 1234567890. January 1st, 1970 marks the start of the clock for the Unix operating system and many other operating systems. Here is a list of celebrations of the moment around the world.
The Courts

Pirate Bay Operators Stand Trial On Monday 664

Anonymous Pirate writes "Operators of The Pirate Bay stand trial on Monday in Stockholm. The four defendants from the popular file-sharing web site are charged with being accessories to breaking copyright law and may face fines or up to two years in prison if found guilty. The four defendants have run the site since 2004 after it was started in 2003 by the Swedish anti-copyright organization Piratbyrån. The Swedish public service television announced that they are going to send a live audio stream from the trial. It will be broadcast without editing or translation."

How To Keep Rats From Eating My Cables? 1032

An anonymous reader writes "I am curious to know what vermin prevention/eradication methods are used in other locations. I am working at a dealership and we have an exterminator man who puts out glue traps and bait stations, but they still come and eat my cable. The latest was a couple of fiber runs — very expensive. I have threatened my boss with a cat for the server room (my office), going so far as to cruise the local Humane Society's website and eye-balling a nice Ragdoll-Siamese mix. Even if I do feel like dealing with a litter box, cat hair in the equipment and pouncings on my keyboards (and I'm not sure I do), that only covers the server room. We have multiple buildings on the campus which get locked up to prevent theft, but it isn't secure enough to keep out the critters and the latest chew spot was in the ceiling. Any ideas?"

Submission + - YouTube Banned Again: Time to RethinkWeb 2.0

vikrantsharma1 writes: "After Brazil & Turkey, YouTube seems to have got a similar treatment in Thailand. Beginning past Friday till Saturday evening, YouTube users in Thailand got redirected to website of MICT, the government agency responsible for Internet censorship. The site was later restored. The ban in Brazil and Turkey was lifted only when YouTube removed the videos which lead to the controversy. The kind of reaction YouTube has faced from government and judges looks bizarre.

This series of bans on YouTube and subsequent judgements raises certain concerns in mind about user generated content and the future of web 2.0 companies. The freedom for users and user-generated content around which the entire Web 2.0 concept revolves goes for a toss when sharing and viewing is banned by force. Users should be deciding what should be shared & seen and what not; however, the democracy of Internet takes a backseat when interest of government or authorities comes forward. Like in case of Thailand, Mashable reports that, the ban could be related to clips from a CNN interview featuring Thailand's ex-Prime Minister Thaksin who was ousted by the Thai military. It seems that the current regime is not happy about the media exposure Thaskin is getting.

This does not imply that there should not be any censorship on the content but solutions need to be explored to involve users in filtering objectionable content. Although, the voting system used by Digg and other sites is a similar soulution but that does not seem to be enough. Suggestions are welcome...!

If we look from a Web 2.0 company's perspective, these kind of situations are really discouraging for startups and headache for established ones. When a giant like YouTube could not stand their ground, in a situation which should not have lead to a ban in the first place, what will happen to a smaller companies. Startups, generally, don't feel comfortable entering areas with lot of legal hassles. If these kind of bans keep coming in, not many startups
will dream of getting into video sharing arena.

I will not be surprised if these kind of activities and judgements, which have set a precedent now, are used as weapons by companies to pull their competitors in court or probably getting banned!!!

Let me know your opinion on this and probable solutions to content moderation if any has come to your mind.

http://vikrantweb.blogspot.com/2007/03/youtube-ban ned-again-time-to-rethink.html"

Submission + - Open Source: What's It Good For

An anonymous reader writes: InformationWeek blogs about an open source panel at the South by Southwest conference:

My first planel for South by Southwest was titled, "Open Source: Tell Me Why I Care." Four advocates discussed the reasons for using open source. Pleasantly, there was almost no Microsoft-bashing, and only a little discussion of using open source because it's socially the right thing to do. "One of the myths that keeps people away from open source is that it smells a little bit like patchouli," said one audience participant. Instead, the panel offiered hard-headed, practical reasons why using open source makes sense. The arguments will be pretty familiar to open source advocates, but they'll be compelling to anyone who's sitting on the fence, currently committed to proprietary software and worried about the risks of using open source.

Submission + - Global Warming- A swindle?

An anonymous reader writes: A few days ago the BBC aired a show in the UK under the title "The Global Warming Swindle" (which soon after became available for download from sites like the Pirate Bay). In a nutshell, a panel of people with apparently solid credentials in the discipline of climatology claim the following: 1) Gore gets it back to front in "An Inconvenient Truth": Although there seems to be a correlation between increased atmospheric temperature and CO_2 levels, the increase in CO_2 concentration is caused by the temperature increase — not the other way around. 2) Humanity's contribution to CO_2 levels in the atmosphere is negligible when compared with natural phenomena such as volcano activity and the oceans — by far the major contributor. 3) There is a clear correlation (as far as historic data is available — some 400 years worth of it) between solar activity and atmospheric temperature increase. 4) The abundance of clouds (which is indirectly determined by solar activity) has a direct influence on atmospheric temperature — above and beyond what realistic CO_2 levels can do. 5) Some scientists (it's not clear how many) who contributed to the recent United Nations' IPCC report explicitly asked that body to withdraw their names from the report, on the grounds of their disagreement with its contents. Apparently the IPCC would not comply without further pressure or even threats of legal action. 6) By imposing stringent restrictions on exploitation of some natural sources of currently cheap energy (oil, coal) and pushing them towards using currently expensive and inefficient ones (solar, wind) instead, western countries are putting a break to the economic development of Third World nations. 7) There is a vested interest in the media to magnify the nature of climate-related problems (this one is very easy to believe, for the media have a tendency to exaggerate everything) and also in climate research circles — the jobs of thousands of people depend on the current global warming scare (apparently the resources allocation for this kind of research has ballooned from some $170M a year in the US in the early 90s to some $2B now). In the face of it, the show is a pretty thorough debunking of the global warming claims that one can witness on the media daily. It would be interesting to see how members of the global warming camp refute this, other than dismissing it as the makings of scientists prostituted to corporate interests (which might, or might not, be true, regardless of the quality of the data) or resorting to personal attacks and summary dismissal, without attempting to contest the evidence on a rational basis, like Greenpeace and other groups have done with Lomborg's "The Skeptical Environmentalist". Feedback from contributors to this forum is very welcome.
Linux Business

Submission + - Why Dell won't offer Linux on its PCs.

derrida writes: "Jack Schofield explains in his article why Dell won't offer Linux on its PCs. Quoting from there: "The most obvious is deciding which version of Linux to offer. There are more than 100 distros, and everybody seems to want a different one — or the same one with a different desktop, or whatever. It costs Dell a small fortune to offer an operating system (it involves thousands of driver compatibility, peripheral testing, certification, staff training, administration, advertising and support issues) so the lack of a standard is a real killer. The less obvious problem is the very high cost of Linux support, especially when selling cheap PCs to naïve users who don't RTFM (read the friendly manual) and wouldn't understand a Linux manual if they tried. And there's so much of it! Saying "Linux is just a kernel, so that's all we support" isn't going to work, but where in the great sprawling heap of GNU/Linux code do you draw the line?""
The Courts

SCO Says IBM Hurt Profits 174

AlanS2002 sends in a link from a local Utah newspaper covering the SCO-IBM trial. The Deseret News chose to emphasize SCO's claim that IBM hurt SCO's relationship with several high-tech powerhouses, causing SCO's market share and revenues to plummet. "[A]n attorney for Lindon-based SCO said IBM 'pressured' companies to cut off their relationships with SCO. And 'the effect on SCO was devastating and it was immediate'..." As usual Groklaw has chapter and verse on all the arguments in the motions for summary judgement.

Submission + - NZ objects to Microsoft Open XML standard

kumachan writes: According to a Standards New Zealand spokesperson, the objection is that "the ISO [The International Organisation for Standardisation] has already developed a standard for XML open format [that is, Open Document] and the committee does not believe that there is a need for another standard, and that Microsoft's [standard] is in conflict with the existing one." http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/news/82AF97DEB BAFD057CC2572990006C14C

Subliminal Messages Might Actually Work 172

GrumpySimon writes "New research indicates that subliminal messages may actually work. In a paper titled Attentional Load Modulates Responses of Human Primary Visual Cortex to Invisible Stimuli, Bahrani et al. demonstrate that even though stimuli may not be available to consciousness, they are processed by the visual cortex. While I'm sure that marketing agencies all over the world are rubbing their hands in glee at this news, the authors report that there's no evidence that this can make people buy things against their will. So with any luck the use of subliminal messages in advertising will remain an urban legend."

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