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  • Apr 17th, 2015 @ 10:38pm

    (untitled comment)

    This article is on point, and illustrates an issue I recently had while playing Grand Theft Auto V (I'm a member of the PC Gamer Master Race and never played it on consoles).

    I'd been playing for about 7 hours. I bought the game on Steam, and created a "Social Club" (what a name) account, assuming it was for my eventual online play (I know, how naïve). Some slight stuttering aside, the game plays and looks great, and I was having a blast. At this point I was playing the campaign and had not touched the online component.

    Then, mid cutscene, the game suddenly enters the loading screen and opens the Social Club window. It says my "credentials had expired." Why? It didn't like my password, and wanted me to add another character. Then, after I'd fixed it, the game started completely over. Not at my last save...from the very beginning. I was able to reload from my last autosave, but I had to completely restart my mission, including the tedious drive over.

    I was pissed. Livid, even. Not because the game crashed; a crash I could have forgiven (bugs exist). Not because I got kicked out of an online game due to server errors; I was playing alone. But because I had my game interrupted because they wanted to make sure I was still logged in. I assume if my internet ever went down I'd also lose access to the game.

    This behavior is getting more and more common, and it's completely unacceptable. I'm a paying customer. I already accepted a level of DRM by buying the game on Steam. And if I had pirated instead this issue would never have happened because I would have patched out their stupid social club.

    In other words, I paid $60 for service worse than the guys paying $0. And the game's website has this wonderfully pretentious sticky about how discussing piracy or "illegal activity" is a bannable offence and that we should keep our discussion "clean" (I have no idea how a game called Grand Theft Auto can demand its users not talk about illegal activity unironically).

    So now I face a choice. Should I illegally crack my legally purchased game so that I can keep playing it if my internet goes down (which happens occasionally) or should I suck it up and play another game if my ISP can't keep a stable connection or their servers crash?

    Why should I have to make that choice? I love watching the trolls jump at the "dirty, thieving pirates" but carefully ignore paying customers having their service disrupted to prevent someone else's potential illegal activity. Why is that acceptable?

    The really sad part? The DRM doesn't do anything. It was cracked the day of release. After holding out for a year and a half to play the version of the game I really wanted to play (PC), having it shut down mid session due to DRM that didn't even cause a hiccup to pirates feels extra crappy.

    For a game with such biting social commentary on the drug war, police brutality, the War on Terror, and massive amounts of illegal activity, Rockstar is surprisingly tone deaf when it comes to their own product. I didn't need their DRM as "incentive" to buy the game; I bought it because I wanted to support the creators. I could have pirated it easily, and would have had a better game experience by doing so.

    Here's a free tip, Rockstar: focus on your customers, not pirates. It's the people willing to pay you that you should be crafting your user experience for. Forget about the pirates; imaginary money lost is not worth the actual money spent on DRM.

    Give it a shot. If nobody buys your game I'll personally pay for your development costs. But you and I both know my money is staying right where it is.

  • Apr 17th, 2015 @ 9:18pm

    Re:

    Short answer: debug mode.

    It's not really an issue anymore, however, since Maxis (RIP) already patched the game to allow offline play.

  • Apr 17th, 2015 @ 8:43pm

    (untitled comment)

    Out of curiosity, what's wrong with pipes? We can make 2,500 mile oil pipelines, which is enough to distance to make a water pipe from San Diego to the Great Lakes and still have a couple hundred miles left over. I hear there's a couple of gallons of water up there (in fact, the lakes and surrounding rivers are flood hazards). And I imagine there'd be less concern over a water pipe's potential environmental hazards versus an oil pipe.

    Just a thought.

  • Apr 14th, 2015 @ 2:56pm

    Re:

    I did the same thing when I was 14. I "hacked" our school's advanced security system. Basically, the system prevented you from right clicking on the desktop or accessing the "run" command (Windows 95) to lock students into approved programs. So I opened Word, opened a "Open" dialog, and right clicked the C:\ drive and chose "Explore." A couple seconds later I found File Manager, which conveniently had a run command...yeah, you get the idea.

    Four player deathmatch Grand Theft Auto (yes, the original top-down game) is all I remember from my typing class. I ended up getting the "Excellence in Computer Science" award all four years in high school, even after finally being caught (well, someone else got caught and told on me). I ended up helping them out with the computers after hours, no big deal.

    Seriously, though, I've committed half the crimes students are getting criminal charges for in high school. I've hacked computers, wrote threatening messages, drew pictures of guns and knives, got in fights, and even proved teachers wrong. It sickens me that normal behavior has become such a huge deal.

  • Apr 1st, 2015 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality vs Competition

    You have a remarkably myopic view of history. Without government intervention we wouldn't have an economy.

    You conveniently ignore that the United States, widely considered to be one of the top technologically advanced countries in the world, spends more on R&D than any other country and has more total government spending on R&D than any other country (~$126 billion vs. China's $74 billion).

    You ignore that, during most of its history, the U.S. had some of the strongest protectionist policies in the world (as did Britain before it became a world power). Tariffs, strict immigration laws, public funding, and labor laws are all designed to benefit the local economy, yet under your logic this is "negative government interference" and new local industries should be left to fend for themselves in the international market. I'm sure it'll work out.

    You ignore that our entire current economic system is based on principles of risk that drive innovation and could not exist without government protection. The potential cost of starting a business without bankruptcy and limited liability, two mainstays of modern entrepreneurship, would not exist without government protection. If an individual trying to create a new business literally risked their entire livelihood in the process (and had no protection from banks) how many people would try something new? Our economy works because we have safeguards against being destroyed by failure, and in a competitive market, people are going to fail. Making them live in poverty does not help the economy.

    Every country in the world has economic regulations for a reason, and it's not just to make businesses stronger. It's to protect new and local industries from established foreign competition, allow people to take risks on new ideas, avoid excessive and harmful short-term thinking, and protect consumers and small businesses from massive market forces beyond their influence.

    Am I saying all regulation is a good thing? Absolutely not. There is plenty of harmful regulation out there, and much of it can probably be traced to corporations looking out for themselves at the cost of the public.

    And that's why a purely "free market" is a flawed concept. Of course corporations are going to try and tip the game in their favor. They do it right now, when we have a governing body and the possibility to appeal to people that don't have a personal interest in your abuse. Without that defense, when your only recourse to abuse is to "go somewhere else" (assuming somewhere else exists, is an option, and hasn't been bought or driven out of business by the ones you're having issues with), what do you do then?

    The government has flaws, but it's a group of people, just like corporations. I'd be very cautious about advocating to throw away your defenses against abuse because you think that the people in corporations are mystically going to harm you less than those in government.

  • Apr 1st, 2015 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality vs Competition

    Could you please show me where I stated that net neutrality is a Straw Man fallacy?

    Sure.

    The concept of net neutrality exists ONLY because Tim Wu postulated a workaround to the then (and still current) monopoly on broadband Internet access by a handful of providers.
    ...
    Stop going after the Straw Man fallacy & fight for more access through more choice through more competition.
    You start by discussing the concept of net neutrality, propose a series of questions indicating an alternative to net neutrality, and then you say "stop going after the Straw Man fallacy." If you weren't talking about net neutrality, what the heck were you talking about? You don't mention anything else it could be (unless you don't know what a fallacy is).

    Maybe I should just go back to your original assumption and challenge that:

    The concept of net neutrality exists ONLY because Tim Wu postulated a workaround to the then (and still current) monopoly on broadband Internet access by a handful of providers.

    Even the most basic research indicates a couple of problems with this. First, the concept of network neutrality existed before Tim Wu; he coined the term in a paper called Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination. In it, Tim Wu argues:
    Basic economic theory suggests that operators have a long-term interest coincident with the public: both should want a neutral platform that supports the emergence of the very best applications. However the evidence suggests the operators may have paid less attention to their long-term interests than might be ideal. A 2002 survey of operator practices conducted for this paper suggests a tendency to favor short-term results.
    His entire argument is in favor of regulation as a way to promote competition. His conclusion is that natural market forces will not remove these issues (and, as the next five years would demonstrate, he was completely right).

    I find it interesting that you would argue that the problem is lack of competition, not net neutrality, when the entire purpose of net neutrality is to protect competition. Hence the reason why Title II forbears nearly all rules except those that would interfere with competition, as stated in the FCC's press release. To say that the issue of competition is not a net neutrality issue is to fundamentally misunderstand the core purpose of net neutrality.

  • Apr 1st, 2015 @ 10:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Net Neutrality vs Competition

    Also a truly free market abhors monopolies and they are not sustainable and tend to break apart without regulations creating barriers of entry.

    This is completely false. Even a cursory look at the banking situation in the last 20 years demonstrates the opposite. The U.S. deregulated the banks to "help the economy" and they became "too big to fail."

    Either way, nobody wants a truly free market. A truly free market has no regulation, and no regulation means no tariffs, no public research funding, no immigration restrictions, and no protection from abuse. The U.S. economy would be owned by China, Mexico, and the U.K. in a few years and we'd become a third world country.

    I love it when the people who advocate for a "true free market" conveniently leave out the part where all the top economies in the world have never had one.

  • Mar 31st, 2015 @ 5:25pm

    Re:

    "It's on Amazon, but I'd only consider paying for it if I knew I could save permanent copies of the episodes."

    If only the content companies could read this and understand what it means. This is one of the biggest reasons why their crusade against piracy is meaningless. Pay attention: Piracy offers a product that is not available at all through legal channels.

    You cannot call DRM-laden and/or streaming video the same product as an HD .avi file. The video file can be converted for offline play on virtually any device and can be safely stored without worrying that the product you bought is going to vanish into thin air because a company went out of business or otherwise decided to pull your content. The value of the two things is not equivalent.

    If content was available at a reasonable price and in the same form (DRM free, local, and without release windows) as pirated content I would likely be much more sympathetic to publishers worrying about piracy. Also, I'd probably be broke, because I'd buy that in a heartbeat (especially if they offered a download subscription model, which would ironically lower their overall bandwidth requirements).

    Of course, if they did this, piracy would virtually disappear anyway. Too bad.

  • Mar 31st, 2015 @ 2:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The premise of the article is in the title: "Why Cable TV Beats the Internet, For Now"

    To make that claim you can't simply ignore huge portions of data. He makes the claim that "You'll miss some popular TV" by using the internet rather than cable, and scores it in cable's favor. That's like saying "my store is better than the store on the other side of the street because there's no crosswalk so you can't get to the other store." And most people are thinking "that's nice, I'll just walk across the street without a crosswalk." Sure, that option is illegal but how many people aren't going to walk across the street just because someone didn't put up a crosswalk?

    If the article had just been about legal options for getting TV on the internet that would have been one thing. But instead he made the argument that cable was somehow better than the internet, while ignoring the massive amount of utility gained from the internet that cable doesn't have.

    The entire premise is flawed, anyway. Cable has a single purpose; watching TV. The internet is capable of watching some (or most, if you're willing to pirate) TV, plus about a million other things, like work, communication, education...the list goes on and on.

    It's sort of like complaining that your smartphone doesn't have as good of a GPS as your Garmin, so therefore the Garmin "beats" your phone. One is a specialized, narrow tool for a specific purpose, and the other does so much more. Not only that, it would be hard to argue that the Garmin is in fact superior for everyday navigation, although it is better in the specific situation it was designed for (mostly outdoor exploration).

    The funniest part to me is that most of cable's "advantages" in the article only exist because the cable companies have created an artificial licensing barrier. They could easily release all their content online and cable would be virtually obsolete overnight; there's no technical reason they couldn't (and even the business reasons are suspect). When a technology's main advantage is "we've locked our stuff down so you need to be a criminal in order to access it any other way" it doesn't get a whole lot of sympathy from me.

  • Mar 30th, 2015 @ 12:49pm

    Re:

    Reading comprehension 101: "but it also may include using BitTorrent and a Plex media server to pirate all of their favorite HBO and Showtime shows.

    Note the key word, "and." The part before the "and," "BitTorrent" is the source of the content. The part after the "and," "Plex media server" is the method used to view the content. At no point did the author indicate that media servers were used to pirate the content itself, and even the most basic understanding of the terms used would make this obvious.

    It's sort of like saying he used a hose and a bucket to wash his car, and then you yelling "Hey! You can't get water from a bucket! It's up to a human to put water in it first!"

    Sigh, seconded.

  • Mar 30th, 2015 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: It's not just what they left out, but what they stuck in...

    Really? I've never actually found a rate where the internet alone options was literally cheaper than internet + cable, at least not beyond a short promotional period. Either way nobody is forcing you to hook up the TV portion.

    Maybe that's because I don't get the minimum internet access (my house uses a ton of bandwidth between my wife and me). We ended up getting a cable/internet package because it was only slightly more expensive than just internet, and we were switching from Time Warner to Hawaii Telecom, and even with the cable our internet was cheaper than our previous bill (yay competition). Most people aren't lucky to have two real options, let alone one that's actually better than the other.

    It's interesting to see they're giving out cable at a loss.

  • Mar 30th, 2015 @ 12:35pm

    Re: "I don't advocate this behavior (did I need to say that?)"

    Is this statement intentionally ironic? Because it broke my meter.

  • Mar 30th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

    Re:

    Right, but if your economics section ignored criminal activity's effects on your bank I think you might have trouble balancing your checkbook.

    Again, false equivalency. Comparing piracy to bank robbery is sort of like comparing jaywalking to grand theft auto.

  • Mar 30th, 2015 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re: Why?

    This. I live in Hawaii and Prime pays for its yearly cost in a few months.

    Streaming is just a bonus, although honestly I rarely use it (they never seem to have movies I actually want to watch).

  • Mar 27th, 2015 @ 3:19pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    And if China accused you of breaking one of their laws in a U.S. company you owned, I'm certain you would gladly walk directly into the PRC's court, right? I'm sure a country who's legal history includes the logic of "if you weren't guilty, you wouldn't have been accused of being guilty" will give you a fair trial.

    Either way your entire idea is stupid. He is on legal bail in New Zealand, one of our closest allies. If the USG had legal grounds to require extradition, he would be here. He's about as likely to get a fair trial as Edward Snowden would. If you think the U.S. courts aren't influenced by political pressure you are horribly naïve.

  • Mar 27th, 2015 @ 1:25pm

    Re: Net Neutrality vs Competition

    The real arguments should be –

    Well, those are all questions, not arguments. Were they intended to be rhetorical? That only works if the underlying assumptions of the question is assumed to be true (which in this case is very debatable).

    Why is COMPETITION to provide broadband Internet being quashed?

    Several reasons. First, internet access is a natural monopoly. Without getting into too much detail (before Austrian school psychos get up in arms) this essentially means anything with extremely high fixed costs and low marginal costs. This creates an severe disadvantage for any new company to enter the market as they first have to deal with the fixed costs. Google Fiber is an obvious counter-argument, but with Google's massive capital the fixed costs become significantly less of an issue and the horrendous, overpriced service offered by competitors is easy to defeat through marginal costs.

    Second, the existing broadband options have used legislation and agreements with one another to essentially remove competition. The economic argument against this is that a "rational and self-interested" free market will naturally gravitate towards favoring the small, consumer-friendly business as they can offer the best product and consumers will chose them over the competition. In practice, however, it's much easier for the big company to just buy out, make deals with, or use legislation to eliminate this advantage. It's basically a non-aggression pact; competition hurts both of us, so we'll agree to stay out of each other's way, and if everyone is giving crappy but necessary service, consumers will buy it anyway.

    Who is doing the quashing?

    The ISPs, with the assistance of well paid and/or extremely gullible government "friends." Make no mistake, the ISPs are not in competition, and have no natural incentive to be. They've divided up their territory and are finding more profit in abusing consumers than attempting to compete against each other (after all, they'd have to deal with the pesky fixed costs just like anyone else would to compete).

    How do we, as consumers, fight the identified forces that are limiting COMPETITION in the broadband Internet space?

    We can't. Unless you're in an extremely niche business or lifestyle the internet is a requirement for modern life. You need it for work, you use it for play, you use it to socialize. Around 80% of Americans use the internet and that number gets bigger every year (and virtually all have options for access).

    This is important because the two main economic weapons consumers have, choosing where to buy and if to buy, are removed by the current ISP situation. If you only have one real option for internet (or even a couple equally bad options) you can't choose to take your business elsewhere. "Elsewhere" doesn't exist where you live. Likewise, unless you're in the 20% that doesn't want internet access, choosing not to buy isn't an option. And that 20% isn't even a consideration for ISPs because someone uninterested in internet access is unlikely to buy in because the service or price improved.

    You say we need to "fight" for more choice and competition, but you don't say how. You can't improve competition by going to the competition; if you could, there wouldn't be a problem! And for the vast majority going without access isn't an option either (and clearly it isn't an option for you, considering you are posting this on a website).

    So what can consumers do? Start our own ISP? Good luck with that. If you can miraculously find the money and set up the infrastructure, and afford to offer a better, cheaper alternative to the local incumbent, and defeat an entrenched ISP with essentially unlimited money to destroy your business via litigation, legislation, and "temporary special deals" for existing customers, by all means, go for it. I'd be shocked if you got past the "I need a loan for this" stage.

    So really, what's your option? Consumers can't compete with the ISPs. Consumer's can't buy something else or nothing. We can talk bad about them, I guess, but the worst company in America and friends don't really give a rat's ass.

    Oh, right. There's an obvious one; we can petition the government to help. We can have a governing body that regulates ISPs to prevent anti-competitive behavior and remove some of those weapons ISPs have to abuse their consumers. The internet is a communications tool, so maybe the FCC should be the one to do it. After all, they already regulate phones, right? Makes sense. They'd need some sort of authority to regulate ISPs though, like, I don't know, Title II, the same one that authorizes regulation of cell phones companies.

    Someone should really suggest that. It may not be a perfect solution, but it's a step in the right direction.

    Sorry, I got distracted. Why is net neutrality a straw man fallacy that doesn't address competition again? I must have missed that somewhere.

  • Mar 25th, 2015 @ 8:12pm

    Re:

    I'm not 100% certain, but I'm fairly sure profit from space photography is not part of SpaceX's business model.

  • Mar 25th, 2015 @ 8:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Digital versus Physical goods.

    Or, you know, double that. Something around there. I'd check, but it's not like I have instant access to facts, now do I?

  • Mar 25th, 2015 @ 8:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Brick?

    Many newer systems capable of accessing online services (such as the Xbox One, Playstation 4 and iPhone) have internal hardware-based unique identifiers, allowing individual systems to be tracked over a network and banned from accessing certain online services. Banned systems usually continue to operate for purposes unrelated to the online service, but they are often considered "bricked" by users of the online service.
    And if a device loses expected functionality, for instance due to being banned or having its IMEI removed from the network, it is considered "bricked." In fact, the entire controversy over remotely "bricking" phones was to prevent them from accessing the network, not prevent them from booting.

    While using "bricking" may not be the common understanding of the word it is accurate to say a device that has expected functionality removed due to a firmware change or error is "bricked."

  • Mar 25th, 2015 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Brick?

    "Bricking" refers to a software issue that removes all functionality from a device, making it essentially a "brick."[1] Normally this applies to complete functionality removal, in other words, the device no longer works at all for any purpose.

    That being said, the "jailbroken" Kindle is being bricked by this update. After the update, the Kindle can no longer be rooted, which means that the core functionality gained by rooting is lost. If, for example, I had a smart phone that I expected to be able to surf the internet, but an update removed that functionality and only let me make calls, I would consider that a bricked phone; the partial functionality removes key uses for which I purchased the device.

    So if I bought a Kindle Fire expecting an inexpensive Android tablet with good reading capability and suddenly the "tablet" part of the equation was removed I'd be pretty upset, especially since the Fire is not really any cheaper than other equivalent Android tablets. They advertise it as a tablet, and while they mention their proprietary OS, it is "built on Android with enhancements." What if I want some of those enhancements, but not everything? What if I want stuff other than their 100,000 apps in their appstore? Their is nothing in their hardware that prevents me from doing so; it's purely a software lock.

    Therefore, if I bought the device knowing I had these options, and then the company removes those options, that device has lost its core functionality due to a software issue, not a hardware one. Which is the definition of "bricking."

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