Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gold Membership

This is a song an internet friend of mine - cavalcade from The Society of Gamesplaying Gentlemen and Womenfolk, the internet's premiere Victorian-themed videogame discussion forum - put together, fed up spending £35 for a year's Xbox Live just to get verbal abuse from American teenagers. He's hoping to gain internet notoriety from this, so I'm doing my part.

Warning: contains lots of profanity.

The Doyouinverts - Gold Membership (demo)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Ja wohl

Why is everything in my blogger control panel in German?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


This is one man's backlash at the "lolcats" phenomenon that's taken the internets by storm recently.

I was a cute kitten/but then I got ugly and lost control of my bowels

Some of them are a hell of a lot funnier than some of the lolcats images, too.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Here goes...

In just over an hour, I'm heading to the airport to go to Scumdee Dundee. Flight's at 2.40, arrives at 3.30. I should be at the company apartment around 4.30 or 5.00, if everything goes smoothly. I doubt I'll have an internet connection there, and even if there's a port I won't have anything able to connect.

According to the contract, I'm supposed to start work tomorrow at 10am, so hopefully it'll be decent weather and I'll be able to walk in, just to familiarize myself with the route while I've got the time.

At this point, all I can think of are the negative things. Not even anything in particular; just general unease/nervousness and my natural pessimism. Fingers crossed it'll all go smoothly and I won't make an utter arse of myself on the first day.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Banjo Hero

My jaw is on the floor. It starts off pretty slow, but if he's really playing all that stuff (on a modded version of GH2, obviously) then my God he's awesome.

And, if other YouTube Guitar Hero videos are anything to go by, he's probably about eight.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm done

Just had my exit interview at my old employer, which means - more or less - that I'm free to go whenever. I'll probably hang about til the usual time anyway, though; not in any rush to get stuck in rush-hour traffic.

It's a weird feeling. I've been working in this building for four and a half years; the idea that I'm never going to be back in it after today is really quite alien.

Two weeks from now, on the 16th, I'll be flying into Dundee to start at RTW. That's a much more daunting prospect; it's been so long since I started a new job, I'm not sure what I'll have to do. I don't know what training to expect, what forms I'll have to fill in, or even how long it'll take to meet the people I'm going to be working with, hopefully for at least as long as I've been here. The fact that it's a completely new industry, with an entirely different type of product that's more complex by an order of magnitude than anything I've had to work on here, isn't too comforting either.

Still, I'm looking forward to the challenge. As busy as I've been kept where I am, it was rarely very taxing on an intellectual level - at least, not after the first few months.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Electric Unicycle

A pair of 18-year-old Canadians have designed and built an electric-powered unicycle with a top speed of 40mph, which uses similar principles to the Segway scooter to maneuver.

Dubbed the Tango (or Uno, depending who's talking), the bike is based off a Yamaha R6 and was designed and built by the high school students for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in New Mexico.

It looks dangerous as all hell, especially if you're talking about moving at 40mph, but I can see it being quite fun, so long as you're all padded up properly. The designers are hoping to get the Tango to market, with particular designs on bike-heavy areas like China and India - so long as they can get the investment to develop the thing.

This is a bit old...

...but John Oliver Olivier's Political Theatre review, of the recent Senate all-night debate over the Iraq War withdrawal, is still hilarious.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The cold, cold heart of Web 2.0

This article over at The Register is well worth the read, although I can't put my finger exactly on why.

It's an opinion piece by William Davies, a sociologist, about the application of economic theory onto the internet, specifically how the theories of a guy called Gary Becker relate to Web 2.0.

I realise that it sounds, from that description, very dry and boring, but in actuality it raises an interesting point about the flash-in-the-pan nature of internet trends and how that affects the impact of consumer-created content that's the flagship of modern internet business.

(Also, I know my post titles are getting less original - I'm resorting to stealing the title of the article I'm linking to - but it's better than having a bunch without titles.)

Copy killers

Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow has a new column with Guardian Unlimited about copyright issues, which he admits is basically to discredit DRM (Digital Rights Management)-based sales models in a digital society, and promote what he calls "copy-friendly" methods.

His first column is up today, and covers the most important stuff to know about DRM: why it will never work.
The companies that sell [DRM] are, at best, bunkum peddlers and, at worst, out and out fraudsters. Their wares simply can't work - not without changing the laws of physics, maths and information science.

DRMs are often designed by ambitious, well-funded consortia, with top-notch engineers from every corner of the industry. They spend millions. They take years. They are defeated in days, for pennies, by hobbyists.

Unfortunately for those selling DRM today we inhabit a networked world, where every customer is seconds away from a computer, a browser and a search engine. You don't have to be a genius hacker to get a copy of Ratatouille - you just need to plug "download ratatouille" into Google and get the copy that some more skilled person has thoughtfully made available to you.

Computers are machines for copying data. A good computer is one that copies well, quickly and cheaply. The internet is a machine for moving copies of data around. When the internet works well, it copies data quickly and cheaply.
It's hard to believe that companies still invest so much money in these systems, when even they admit that it's got little effect on anybody other than the honest consumers who wouldn't steal the movie anyway.

Flight's been cancelled

The flight to Dundee on Tuesday the 14th has apparently been cancelled - and if my previous experience with the airline in question is anything to go by, it's probably because I was the only person booked on the flight.

On the other hand, it potentially gives me a couple of extra days to get stuff together for moving; what with this weekend being spent housesitting (well, really we're looking after the cats and dogs rather than the house), and next weekend at Amecon, time's running very short.

To that end I've also booked off all of next week from work here in Belfast in an effort to get all - or at least most - of my stuff together before I have to move out of the house here. Although to be honest, I think it'll still be a little tight.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Drum mod

I'm not usually big into PC casemods, but this one looks pretty awesome.

Drum PC

Via Engadget

LG makes screen from water and oil

In the pursuit of a cheap flexible display, LG Philips have come up with a screen that's made with the help of oil and water.

The patent they've filed has the following, almost impenetrable, abstract:
A display is disclosed, which can be fabricated without a high-temperature process, and also realize color images, the display including a reflective electrode formed on a flexible substrate; a transparent insulation layer having a predetermined color formed on a surface of the flexible substrate including the reflective electrode; an opposite substrate formed in opposition to the flexible substrate; an opposite electrode and a black matrix formed on an inner surface of the opposite substrate; and an electrolytic layer and a nonelectrolytic layer formed between the flexible substrate and the opposite substrate, where the electrolytic layer is transparent, and the nonelectrolytic layer is nontransparent.
Thank God Engadget are on hand to translate this gibberish - their coverage manages to render that readable even to me.

Poor PS3 sales mean better profits for Sony

Another story that I can't read from work, but the little blurb is quite funny regardless.

Sony’s chief financial officer has revealed that the company’s recently reported games division losses were less than expected – because of the lack of PlayStation 3 consoles sold at a loss.

So basically, the poor sales of Sony's PS3 console means that they've done better, financially, than they would have done had the machine sold out.

Meanwhile, Nintendo's running away with a machine they've made money on since day one and continues to outsell the competition (no matter how much anybody says they're not competing) by staggering amounts.


I just came across this place - Freeway Blogger is essentially a list of photos of anti-war protest slogans that have been put up by members of the public on freeway overpasses.

Some of them are a little funny, but most of them are deadly serious, and more than a couple are incredibly sobering.

While it isn't the best word to describe it, this one is my "favourite".

As Bob Geiger points out, it's been more than 2,142 days since George W. Bush told the world that Osama bin Laden would be taken, dead or alive.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Just across the road from where I work in Belfast is St. George's Market, the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast and one of the oldest in the UK; the building opened to the public in 1890, but wasn't actually finished until 1896.

Every Friday, they still have a general market on; you can buy fresh vegetables or fish, there's all sorts of stalls for other food (the crêperie is a very strong recommendation).

They also have a good number of stalls selling various antiques, which range in quality from awesome and well-kept to crap and decrepit. There's an awful lot of old cameras, mostly from the 50's and after; but occasionally you get something really special.

When my better half and I were in this morning, we saw a fantastic old typewriter. The guy selling it said it was from the 20s and was asking £15 for it.

After umm-ing and aah-ing for a few minutes, we bit the bullet and bought it, eventually only paying £12 for it. The plan is to try to clean it up and maybe try to restore it if possible; if it proves too difficult, I have plans to cannibalize it for a steampunk keyboard - assuming the girlfriend will let me.

After some quick research on the 'net, we've discovered that the machine - a Bar Let typewriter built by the Barlock (1925) Company in Nottingham as "Model 2" - was probably built between 1930 and 1938. According to serial number records, less than 60,000 units were built in that period.

It really is a thing of beauty. Even if we can't restore it, a good cleaning will make a fantastic decoration out of it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

No PS3 cut for Europe?

According to, Sony President Ryoji Chubachi has said that they have no intentions of cutting the price of the PlayStation 3 in Asia or Europe.

Then again, the last time he said anything about PS3 price cuts was three days before they announced, at E3, that the American models would be dropping $100.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

No appropriate headline will fit.

I cannot possibly encapsulate this story in a headline short enough to get across all of the pertinent information without it being almost a paragraph by itself.
A consultant psychiatrist yesterday argued that a "delusionary insane" Tory donor had been "rational and logical" to leave millions of pounds to the Conservatives to fight "satanic monsters" and "dark forces" around the world.

[...]Branislav Kostic, Zoran Kostic's father, had been "delusionary insane" since 1985 when he divorced, broke off relations with his son and sister and claimed there was an international conspiracy of more than 100 people masterminded by sexually perverted pharmaceutical company executives to destroy "freedom, democracy and human purity".

Death-detecting cat

There's a story doing the rounds (on the BBC, The Register, and other places) about a cat living in an American old folks' home that can apparently tell when someone is about to die.
A US cat that is reportedly able to sense when a nursing home's residents are about to die is baffling doctors.

Oscar has a habit of curling up next to patients at the home in Providence, Rhode Island, in their final hours.

According to the author of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the two-year-old cat has been observed to be correct in 25 cases so far.

Staff now alert the families of residents when he sits down next to their ailing loved one.
Normally I wouldn't bother with this kind of thing, but the final line of the BBC article is just too awesome to pass up.
A doctor who treats patients at the home said she believed there was probably a biochemical explanation, rather than the cat being psychic.
I can has tombstone?

Alberto Gonzales: A Guide

By Mike Luckovich.

(Full disclosure: I love the AG's name. "Alberto Gonzales" is just so much fun to say.)

The Dude abides

I need these Big Lebowski action figures right now.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Common sense beats Copyright

Excellent news - the government has rejected plans to extend British copyright law beyond its current 50-year limit, although this Yahoo article doesn't give space to anyone who's positive about the decision - not even any of the MPs who made the decision get any column inches.

Instead, all the quotes are from wounded pot/kettle industry executives accusing the government of failing to respect artists and performers.
"The UK is a world-beating source of great music, so it is frustrating that on the issue of copyright term the government has shown scant respect for British artists and the UK recording industry," John Kennedy, head of the IFPI body which represents the international recording industry, said in a statement.

"Some of the greatest works of British music will soon be taken away from the artists who performed them and the companies that invested in them."

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, which represents the British recorded music industry, said the government had failed its test to show support for British music.

"We will continue to put forward the strong case for fair copyright in Europe," he said. "It is profoundly disappointing that we are forced to do so without the backing of the British government."
The Register, meanwhile, give significantly more time (that being any at all) to the 11-page government report, as well as the cash-grabbing disappointment of obsolete musicians and space-wasting executives.
The government disagreed, citing the independent Gowers Review, in which ex-Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers probed the issue.

"The review... concluded that an extension would not benefit the majority of performers, most of whom have contractual relationships requiring their royalties be paid back to the record label," said ministers.

"[Gowers] considered not just the impact on the music industry but on the economy as a whole, and concluded that an extension would lead to increased costs to industry, such as those who use music – whether to provide ambience in a shop or restaurant or for TV or radio broadcasting – and to consumers... the review took account of the question of parity with other countries such as the US, and concluded that, although royalties were payable for longer there, the total amount was likely to be similar – or possibly less – as there were fewer revenue streams available under the US system."

The government position attracted vocal opposition from some artists. The BBC quotes 63-year-old groovester Roger Daltrey - whose first works will go out of copyright in seven years - as saying that musicians "enriched people's lives", and that they were "not asking for a handout, just a fair reward for their creative endeavours".

The Guardian quoted Fran Nevrkla, kingpin of Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), the outfit which collects the rakeoff from clubs, restaurants, and broadcasters: "This announcement effectively makes all performers and record companies second class citizens," he said.

IFPI spokesman John Kennedy said: "[...]Extending copyright term would promote vital investment in young talent and new music, all of which will help to secure the UK's future..."

Monday, July 23, 2007

This can't be good

China has announced that its report on the environmental impact of the country's industrial development has been indefinitely postponed.

I assume that means it's worse news than anyone had predicted.

Sony: Price cut would "annoy" UK customers

You know what really irks me? When poorly-selling, overly expensive electronic hardware is given a price cut. Nothing bugs me more, seriously. At least, that's what Sony's David Reeves, the head of SCEE, thinks.

Just when I thought Sony's PR machine couldn't do or say anything even more stupid than their pre-release hype, they come out with this absolute gem.

Reeves has claimed that the reason the UK will not be getting a price cut on their £425 PS3 is because he believes that doing so would, "annoy a lot of people".

On top of that foot-in-mouth moment, Reeves also stated that he doesn't think a price cut in time for Christmas 2007 is important, but instead 2008 will be more of a critical time for dropping the PS3's RRP.

Finally, Reeves is quoted as saying, "I see [the PS3] more as kind of like a tsunami - it starts small and gathers speed, and eventually, after four or five years, it will start to take you over."

Now, it's been said before by PlayStation big-shots that Sony has a ten-year plan for the PS3, and they expect the machine to have the hardware grunt to last at least a decade before they need to start on the PS4. But it seems ridiculous to suggest that it will be "four or five years" until the machine starts to take over?

If Sony don't sell the machines - and they won't, at £425 - they won't sell software or Blu-ray discs, which is where the money's really at. After another year or so they might have gotten manufacturing costs down enough to turn a small profit on each box they sell, but by then the 360 and Wii will be even further out in front than they are now.

I sort of applaud Sony for having a long-term machine, rather than the usual rapid upgrades you expect from videogame generations, but at the same time it seems like a ludicrous strategy to launch with a machine that few people would deny is overpriced and has a lack of AAA titles. They've fallen so far behind thanks to that double-punch, it's hard to see how Sony could reclaim the top market share, especially against the sales behemoth of Nintendo's Wii.

Microsoft's hardware woes might put the brakes on their efforts a little, but the 360 still has a tremendous library of games, some of which are famous as PlayStation titles; in addition to the Grand Theft Auto franchise, Microsoft will be hosting the next installments of Devil May Cry and, rumour has it, Metal Gear Solid. The one weak point in Microsoft's giant enemy crab is the Japanese market, but even there the 360's doing much better than anyone would have expected, and it's not all that far behind the PS3 (compared to Wii, anyway).

It's easy enough to paint the PS3 as an investment - Sony don't have much choice with the initial outlay required of consumers - but so far there's been little to suggest that it's an investment that will pay off, in entertainment terms. Especially with high-definition standalone players falling in price faster than the PS3, the biggest selling point of the PS3 given it's current lack of software - that it's a cheap Blu-ray player - seems to only be getting weaker and weaker.

Famous poems as limericks

This is all at once awesome and horrific; someone has rewritten Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven as a limerick:
There once was a girl named Lenore
And a bird and a bust and a door
And a guy with depression
And a whole lot of questions
And the bird always says "Nevermore."
There's a whole bunch of others here.

Iran arrests 14 squirrels

Either Iran is getting really paranoid, or somebody tipped them off big-time about these things. I mean, what would cause you to arrest squirrels for spying?

What's even more incredible is that the animals were actually carrying espionage equipment, at least according to the Iranians.
"In recent weeks, intelligence operatives have arrested 14 squirrels within Iran's borders," state-sponsored news agency IRNA reported. "The squirrels were carrying spy gear of foreign agencies, and were stopped before they could act, thanks to the alertness of our intelligence services."

Iran claims the rodents were being used by Western powers in an attempt to undermine the Islamic Republic.
Apparently, information about what sort of spy gear the rodents were carrying is thin on the ground.

Edit: Boing Boing have also reported on this, with the awesome headline, "Cry havoc, and let slip the squirrels of war".

The internet as a subway

Following on from the periodic table of the internet, someone took Sen. Ted Stevens' (R-AL) "the internet is a series of tubes" analogy and decided to map out major websites onto a Tokyo Subway plan.

The Internet is a series of Tube stations

I'm not entirely sure who's responsible for this, but it's probably safe to say that they've got a lot of free time...

Via Boing Boing

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Job thoughts

Seems to be a bit of a slow news day - the fact that one of today's biggest stories is the revelation that some woman took drugs 25 years ago should be proof enough of that.

So, in lieu of any actual stuff to post (read: rip off) from other sites, I'm just going to ramble about my move to Dundee - skip this post if you're not interested.

I've resigned from my current post, and I've been given a final working day of August 10th, although I'm still debating whether to take some of my remaining holidays off before then to get out sooner. I've already got the 10th off for Amecon, so another couple of days to chill out would be appreciated.

After Ame, I'll be back in Belfast for one night before I hop on a one-way plane to Scotchland. I've never taken a one-way trip before; it's kind of a scary thought. I start at Realtime on Wednesday, August 15th.

It's going to be a busy couple of weeks, though - I'll be staying in a flat provided by the company for the first while, but I've got to look for places to live on a more permanent basis, and they aren't going to be cheap. I'll also have to fly back to Northern Ireland for Tomo-Dachi, after just a week in Dundee. All the while working as much as I can, for two reasons: to make a strong impression, and so that I get into the routine properly.

I've got a big list of scary thoughts as well - top of the list is the aforementioned accomodation search. While it would be much cheaper to just stay in the company apartment, I don't think they'd appreciate that kind of sponging. Still, it's not going to be much fun, and Lord knows what sort of place I'll end up being ripped off for. Searches online haven't revealed any awesome bargains, either.

Not sure what to do with all the stuff that's in the house in Belfast, either; looked into storage places 'round Dundee, but they're much more expensive than I was expecting. Might see if I can just stash stuff at the folks' and have them look after it until I get more permanent living arrangements. Of course, I've got to get round to packing it all away first, and I've got no idea how I'll get it out of that house, being sans voiture.

I'm looking forward to the new job, certainly - there's just a whole load of frightening stuff around it that I've got to take care of while getting used to a new company, new people, a new place, and even a new accent.

It's all very exciting, in an utterly terrifying kind of way.

Copyright as a Venn diagram

Patent and trademark attorney Erik J. Heels drew this diagram to help explain copyright to a friend's daughter, who was shadowing him for a school project.

In this drawing, I attempt to explain the wonderful world of copyright law. As an aside, I think that all intellectual property (i.e. patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret) lawyers like writing about copyright. Because we're all familiar with stuff that copyright protects - books, movies, CDs, DVDs, radio, TV, and the like. Even if, like me, they don't practice copyright law.

What most people don't appreciate is that there are three types of uses of copyrighted stuff. And not all of those rights are protected by (and hence can be legally controlled by) the copyright owner. Have you ever seen a copyright notice that says "It is illegal to make a copy of this copyrighted document." Well, that's not true, because it excludes fair use. I've often thought that the Copyright Act should be amended to say that all copyright rights are forfeit if an incorrect copyright notice is placed on a work. But that will never happen.
A complete explanation of the diagram, which is a simplification of the entire system, is along with the original drawing on Erik's site.

"I'll do another 15 months if he comes out here and rides along with me every day"

Another American soldier speaking out against extended tours in Iraq, Spc. Gabriel Vassell, has said he'd be happy to go another 15 months if the President will tag along for the full tour.
"We have people up there in Congress with the brain of a 2-year-old who don't know what they are doing, they don't experience it. I challenge the president or anyone who has us for 15 months to ride alongside me. I'll do another 15 months if he comes out here and rides alomg with me every day. I'll do 15 more months. They don't even have to pay me extra."
Guardian journalist Sean Smith has spent two months with American forces in Baghdad, and ABC News has a series of his photos and stories; it really drives home the point that these guys are just frustrated, tired and burning out.

Of course, I can just close the browser window and surf to something else, so I can't pretend to understand how they feel out there. It's quite distressing to read some of their accounts, though. I kind of feel an obligation to read their stories.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

On the plus side...

I tend to go on about it a little too much, but even I have to admit that on occasion copyright does bring a smile to my face.
Four inmates of Oklahoma's El Reno federal prison were yesterday indicted for what must rate as the most audicious prison break scheme in history, the Washington Post reports.

Clayton Heath Albers, Carl Ervin Batts, Barry Dean Bischof and Russell Dean Landers are alleged to have copyrighted their names then "demanded millions of dollars from prison officials for using the names without authorisation".

Periodic table of the internet

A full-size version (including links to all the sites on the table) is at Wellington Grey's Miscellanea.


Jonathan Aponte was so scared of going back to the war in Iraq that last week, on the day he was scheduled to be redeployed, he and his wife paid a hit man $500 to shoot him in the leg. Now Aponte, his wife of 11 days and the man accused of the shooting face a variety of charges, including assault, conspiracy, falsely reporting an incident and harassment.

Aponte, 20, told the New York Daily News that he couldn't get the images of death he’d seen in his 10 months in Iraq out of his mind: "I have nightmares all the time. I hear people screaming, gunshots, explosions, and I can smell burning flesh in my dreams." He described watching a fellow soldier shoot herself in the head in the middle of the dining hall, and said, "I was not going back one way or another. Some people can handle it mentally, but some can't. You have to know when to say enough is enough... I was desperate to stay home and at the end of my rope... I couldn’t deal with being in Iraq anymore."
From Salon, via Crooks and Liars

I like spam

Not the packaged meat product, the unwanted email kind. At least, I like the funny stuff. The viagra ads with odd, medical textbook penis diagrams creep me out.

This one is the good kind, though.
Hello my friend!

I am ready to kill myself and eat my dog, if medicine prices here ([url cut]) are bad.

Look, the site and call me 1-800 if its wrong..

My dog and I are still alive :)
It's been a while since I've seen a really innovative subject line, though - my favourite is still "tyrannosaurus en verde".

Monday, July 16, 2007

A-Levels "getting easier"

I hope to God this guy is about to say, "except in 2001", because my A-Level Physics was a mean bitch of an exam.


Does anybody really listen to what Michael Pachter has to say anymore?

Seems I can't turn around these days without more "predictions" from this mouthy bastard.

Common sense beats "Chastity Ring"

Some brief background: A 16-year-old girl, Lydia Playfoot, took her school to court after they told her she wasn't allowed to wear a "Chastity Ring" to classes. The ring is inscribed with "1 Thess 4:3-4", which is a bible passage about keeping yourself pure of sexual sin.

Playfoot's argument was that it was an expression of her religious beliefs, and since Muslim and Sikh pupils were allowed to wear headscarves and bangles then it would be discrimination to prevent her from wearing her ring.

That seems like a disingenuous argument to me, since Ms. Playfoot's ring is not a part of her religion, the way a crucifix would be. It's an expression of her personal beliefs and opinion, not a religious symbol.

It's possibly also important to note that Ms. Playfoot's parents are run the UK branch of the chastity ring group "Silver Ring Thing" from their church in Horsham; it originated in the United States (surprise!).

Anyway, she lost her court case, and in pessimistic fashion declares that this ruling signifies "that slowly, over time, people such as school governors, employers, political organisations and others will be allowed to stop Christians from publicly expressing and practising their faith".

Now, far be it from me to applaud someone's freedom of expression being limited, but I'm very glad to see her lose this case.

I'm utterly, utterly fed up with Christians crying foul and playing the underdog every time they think their religion is being trampled - even in cases like this, where it's clearly not.

I'm sure Ms. Playfoot wouldn't be so supportive of a Satanist pupil trying to express their spiritual beliefs in a similar manner, so to portray this as a religious dispute is a feeble and misleading attempt at drumming up sympathy for Christians - a religion that's gotten to a position of world dominance, in one denomination or another, by conquering the world and trampling over "primitive" belief systems.

So, lighten up, Lydia. Your religious rights are secure, and no amount of legal posturing is going to create a believable tale of Christianity Under Siege - not in a country with a Christian majority, at any rate.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Good Lord II: Gears of War

This Etch-A-Sketchist bloke is bloody mental. Following up to the outstanding Street Fighter sketch, he's taken on Gears of War.

Sony's price cut isn't so generous after all

When Sony announced that they would be dropping the price of the 60GB PlayStation 3 from $599 to $499, the internet rejoiced (even if some development studios weren't convinced).

But not so fast! Sony had an evil scheme behind their seemingly generous PS3 price cut. Now that the 80GB version has been lined up for the American market - at that good old $600 price point - Sony have announced that they'll be discontinuing the $499, 60GB version.

If you want a cheap(ish) PS3 with a sizable hard drive, you better snap one up quick - come August, the 80GB SKU lands and tolls the bell for the previous high-end machine.

Not that any of this matters to those of us in Europe anyway - we're not getting either the price cut or the 80GB machine!

HD DVD consortium declares premature victory in Europe

The European HD-DVD group has announced rather misleading figures that show the format's market dominance in several European countries. According to their statistics, Blu-ray only makes up 1/4 of the high-definition market in Europe.
HD DVD video players have outsold rival standard Blu-ray players by a three-to-one margin in Europe's main markets so far this year, according to a lobby group.

The European HD DVD Promotional Group claimed it had 74 percent market share in Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland for stand-alone players
Which all seems very open-and-close, until you read the fine print.

The figures for Blu-ray didn't take into account Sony's PlayStation 3 - only stand-along players for both formats were included. One commenter on the Engadget story about this annoucement points out (not sure where the figures came from) that if you include the sales of the PS3 and the Xbox360 add-on in the French figures through April, HD-DVD jumps from 2,600 to 10,000 while Blu-ray goes from 800 to 108,000.

The HD-DVD group declined to give any specific numbers of HD players shipped in their statement, and on top of that, Blu-ray discs are still selling significantly more copies than their HD-DVD counterparts.

As the Yahoo! article points out, the VHS/Beta format war took almost a decade before a winner emerged, and it's likely that a similar timeframe might be needed here before there's a clear victor in the high-def struggle.

We're still a couple of years away from mass-market pricing as well - it took DVD a few years before players were cheap enough that the general public bothered with the format. And there was only one DVD format; with two jostling for supremacy this time around, consumer confusion might drag the whole thing out even longer.

Forget the iPhone

I want one of these.

Stock shortages as PR hype

If there's one thing Nintendo can crow about, it's the rate at which their Wii system sells out every time a new shipment lands on store shelves anywhere. There are some concerns that it's more of an issue with Nintendo's manufacturing than purely retail demand, but that won't stop Nintendo hyping just how hard to find their machine is.
"There is no guarantee that we are not going to have 'out-of-stocks' this holiday season," says George Harrison, senior V.P of marketing for Nintendo of America. "If you see one, buy it. Don't assume that you can come back later and find one."


With the final episode due on Sci-Fi on Monday night, the BBC have just announced that they'll start showing the series on the 25th (that's a Wednesday), on BBC2 at 10pm.

Which is great even for me; I've seen the whole thing on Sci-Fi, but watching the BBC2 run will give me something to do while I wait for the second series.

And in the event that there's anybody reading this who hasn't seen the show, you have no excuse. Be warned that the first few episodes are a little dry, but persevere for the first few and you'll be rewarded.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Optimal copyright term is 14 years

According to a study by Rufus Pollock, an economics PhD candidate at Cambridge University, the most economically sensible copyright term is a staggering... fourteen years.

The entire paper, titled "Forever Minus a Day? Some Theory and Empirics of Optimal Copyright", will be presented in Berlin this week, but it's already available for download as a 256k .pdf file from Pollock's website.

Warning: I just had a quick flick through it, and there's a lot of Greek symbols in the latter half of the thing.

UK forces accused of badger panic

Locals in Basra, Iraq are blaming the British armed forces for an outbreak of what they're calling "strange man-eating, bear-like beasts". One housewife described the terrorizing animal as "swift as a deer... It is the size of a dog but his head is like a monkey".

In fact, the creatures are apparently an indigenous species of honey badger, which a local vet insists that the animals have been living in the area since 1986.

The best quote of the piece goes to UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer:
"We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area."
Although, the Iraqi man who claims to have seen a badger eating one of his cows is pretty damn close.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Both stolen from chorazin chorazin, although I'm not sure who did 'em originally.

Enough acronyms, already

I spend quite a bit of time every day reading videogame forums, of varying intelligences.

I'm fed up of the number of acronyms that people use - not just regular 'net slang, either. Some of them, like "GoW" can refer to more than one game depending on the context and the console being discussed, in this case the 360's Gears of War or PS2's God of War.

One post I just read, the one that actually inspired this complaint, reads "SMG, MP3, SSBB and MK should all be covered too [at E3]".

I read games forums a lot. I read games news a lot. It took me a couple of minutes to work out what games he was talking about. It doesn't help with the sheer number of titles coming out these days, of course, but is your time that precious, that typing "Smash Bros." would waste too much of it that could be saved by "SSBB"?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New job

Just over a month ago, I applied for a job at Realtime Worlds in Dundee, as a Software Test Engineer. It's the first job I've actually applied for in almost five years; when I quit University I started working in a callcentre in Belfast and through a series of contract changes moved into software testing.

Games Tester is one of those jobs that everybody who's ever played games dreams about getting. It sounds like a fantastic way to earn a living - you're paid for playing videogames all day, right? And it's a great door into the industry if you really want to do something else instead.

Although an insurance website is a far cry from entertainment software, I've been thinking more and more seriously about trying to move into games QA since I started testing here in Belfast. It's broken a lot of my misconceptions about testing in general and I know for a fact that without the benefit of the experience I've gotten in these three years I wouldn't have had the confidence to apply for the job.

On top of that, I quite enjoy testing. One of my favourite things about progarmming always was how to solve problems, and there's a lot of the same mindset needed for testing. Taking what's required and working out what should be provided by the software, as well as what shouldn't. I like working in QA, although the environment I'm currently working in is starting to get to me, and the variety of applications just isn't large enough. I've been staring at the same few screens for almost the entire three years, and it's just getting frustrating.

So, for the sake of a change of scenery in my professional life, and partly just to see if I could get another job (not a good idea to stake my entire reserve of self-confidence on this job application, but I did anyway) I decided to apply to Realtime Worlds.

I'd played Crackdown, of course. I'd never have looked on their website if I hadn't. I opened the Careers section on a whim; I'd never seen QA jobs actually advertised on a company website before, I assumed this would have the same "coders, artists, send in your CVs!".

That they not only had QA positions open, but ones that I could apply for without feeling like I was stretching plausiblity, was something of a revelation. It took me a couple of months to dust off and polish my CV and write a cover letter (which turned out to be what got my application a second look), and before I knew it I'd been sent a C# coding questionnaire (which scared the shit out of me, considering I'd not used object-oriented languages in five years) and then given a phone interview.

I had a face-to-face interview just over two weeks ago, and an hour ago got a call from the Realtime Worlds HR department offering me the job, with a significant increase (~9%) on my current salary.

Now I just need to serve my month's notice... and hand in my resignation first, obviously.

The Simplified Spelling Society

These motherfuckers have got to be stopped.

And this article, and the associated glossary, should make it obvious why.

I refuse, point-blank, to accept that the way to improve standards is to lower expectations and cater to the lowest common denominator.

Sanrio are whores

Or maybe pimps, considering they're willing to sell Hello Kitty to just about any product manufacturer wanting to plaster their stuff with Japan's favourite corporate mascot.

Baby Grand

Seven New Wonders

A worldwide poll to decide on the new Seven Wonders of the World (given that only one of the originals is still around) came to a close last week, with the seven winners announced on Friday.

The new Wonders are:
  • The Great Wall, China
  • Petra, Jordan
  • Christ Redeemer, Brazil
  • Machu Picchu, Peru
  • Chichén Itzá, Mexico
  • The Roman Colosseum, Italy
  • The Taj Mahal, India

Photos of all of them are available on the official site.

The one thing that surprises me is that the Great Pyramid at Giza in Egypt didn't make the cut - it's just one of the runners-up. The pyramid is the only surviving original Wonder, on top of which it's an astounding feat of engineering.

To be honest, I'm not sure why Christ Redeemer is in the top seven instead of the Great Pyramid. Yeah, it's a brilliant landmark and very impressive, but it was built less than a century ago. Compared to the Great Wall (built 5 BC), the Roman Colosseum (completed 80 AD) and even the Taj Mahal (finished 1648), Christ Redeemer is brand new.

I don't know that it inspires "wonder" the same way the others do.

Phallic bollards offend Oregon

A $20,000 installation of more than 50 concrete posts at an intersection in Keizer, OR has gotten a rise out of some residents, who are claiming the barriers look like male genitalia.
The City of Keizer is taking heat for installing a group of cement posts designed to protect pedestrians from cars, but which some say is a phallic symbol.

A total of 52 of the posts were installed at a busy intersection in Keizer and they are getting a lot of second glances.

A number of residents have complained to the city that the posts resemble male genitalia.

"I can't disagree with that," said City Manager Chris Eppley. "They certainly did not turn out the way we anticipated."
Some people are far too sensitive. Honestly, I wouldn't have looked at that and thought, "ha ha, cocks" if it hadn't been pointed out to me.

Monday, July 09, 2007

360 price drop "imminent" - but unnecessary?

I haven't been able to read the entire article thanks to the firewall here at work, but the RSS summary of this NextGen article is certainly interesting.
Analysts have weighed in on the PlayStation 3 price cut today, with one saying that Microsoft will be cutting the price of all Xbox 360 models this week.
The main question should be pretty obvious to anyone following Microsoft's recent annoucements:

Can they afford this?

The company has earmarked $1bn for their new three-year "red ring of death" warranty program (which I think I'll have to make use of myself shortly); sure, they were expecting the machine to turn profit by the end of 2007, but any price cut enough to kill Sony's $100 PS3 drop is going to really throw a spanner in that works.

The other, and perhaps more relevant, question is whether Microsoft need to lower the price of their machine. It's still cheaper than the PS3, and despite known hardware faults (with an undisclosed failure rate) it's got a sizable library of very strong titles - and Halo 3 is landing in November.

Besides, Sony have more PS3 troubles than just the price - they're hemorrhaging exclusives all over the place; Devil May Cry is multi-format, there's rumours of MGS3 going the same way, and Microsoft also have Grand Theft Auto. Japanese companies like SquareEnix and Mistwalker are releasing Xbox 360 exclusives.

And now, it looks pretty much confirmed that Beautiful Katamari will only be released on the Beast of Redmond's console.

Irony Alert

'Sequels are Dull & Threaten Industry' says EA
John Riccitiello, CEO of Electronic Arts, has said that companies need to move away from the strategy of releasing endless sequels in favor of offering more innovative titles.
Via NextGen

Make up your mind, Sony

Apparently, despite President Ryoji Chubachi either doesn't have the first notion what he's talking about, or was just engaging in some loathesome PR nonsense.

Either way, the now-confirmed price cut takes the PS3 down to striking distance of the XBox 360's price point. Should make things a little more interesting, but the question still lingers: is there anything worth buying it for yet?

Of course, all this is moot anyway, since Sony won't comment on any European plans in this area.

Yours Truly, 60 AD

The New Scientist blog has an article up about the oldest known programmable robot - all the way back in Alexandria around 60 AD.
In about 60 AD, a Greek engineer called Hero constructed a three-wheeled cart that could carry a group of automata to the front of a stage where they would perform for an audience. Power came from a falling weight that pulled on string wrapped round the cart's drive axle, and Sharkey reckons this string-based control mechanism is exactly equivalent to a modern programming language.
The post also has a (short) video of a version of this robot that the blog's writers built themselves.

There's a full report on the New Scientist site (subscribers only), or in this week's magazine (I think?) if you can find it.

RIAA strong-arms internet guitar teacher

The RIAA have instructed YouTube to pull over 100 guitar tutorial videos by a guy called John Sandercoe, because one of them features a "how-to" of a Rolling Stones song.

This is what's wrong with modern copyright law. Sandercoe, a guitar teacher from London, posts himself playing a song as an instructional tool, and the record industry tries to sue him. He wasn't distributing the actual song (not even as backing for his own performance!), just educating people on how to play it for themselves.

YouTube, and by extension Google, should be ashamed of themselves for giving in to this.

Friday, July 06, 2007

David Cameron can fuck off

This speech is nothing but lies, half-truths and PR spin.
If we increase the copyright term, so the incentive is there for you working in the industry to digitise both older and niche repertoire which more people can enjoy at no extra cost.

That's why, as we move on forward into the new digital age of the 21st century, I am pleased to announce today that it is Conservative Party policy to support the extension of the copyright term for sound recordings from 50 to 70 years.
How, exactly, would extending copyright to 70 years be better for the music industry?

For a start, we've got to look at why copyright exists in the first place.

The purpose of copyright is to encourage people to contribute artistic/literal/musical works by promising them a financial reward if their work is a success. However, the current copyright model means that, in addition to providing a reward for creation for the entire lifetime of the artist, the artist's family (or in practice, their publisher/record company) can also benefit from the work.

If a person has a successful enough work, they never have to contribute again, which it could be argued actually reduces the incentive to continue creating music or writing books or what have you.

It's utterly misleading of Cameron - or anyone else, for that matter - to suggest that increasing the duration of copyright would assist living musicians or writers more than it already does. And extension of copyright would do nothing but pay record label executives for the next 70 years.

I don't want to abolish copyright, but there's ways to make money by giving your stuff away for free, especially in this age of the internet. A musician can put an album online and distribute it worldwide for next to nothing (compared to CD shipping, at least). An author can publish online and have thousands of people read their work; if it's good enough, then enough people will pay for it to make you a profit.

Exposure is priceless, and copyright tries to limit the number of people who can read/listen to your stuff until they can pay for it. It should really be the other way around.

Crap peripherals

Continuing the theme of dumb posts about the Wii, is this one about a new peripheral due out Stateside... some time. I don't think I could possibly describe the thing better than Engadget.
Brando rod

Continuing on its mission to totally eliminate imagination from the gaming experience, inveterate Wiiccessory maker Brando is now hawking a fishing pole guaranteed to increase the destructive potential of the Wii remote. Featuring an actual string with a chinty plastic fish on the end, the pole collapses for easy storage -- which is good, because you'll be storing this thing for good about ten seconds after you realize that you just spent $19 to look like a complete fool.


The new, smaller (and, some would say, crapper) E3 is due to start next week, and aside from all the rumours and speculation, there are a couple of concrete announcements and stronger suggestions that are particularly interesting to me.

Firstly is Microsoft's annoucement that they're extending the XBox 360 warranty to three years for customers who experience the Red Ring of Death, which also applies to anybody who bought one before the announcement. Microsoft have even promised to refund anybody who had to pay to get their machine fixed.

For a company that was getting more and more bad press over their poor customer service record on this particular fault, this is a significant step in the right direction.

Secondly is the rumour that Sony will be dropping the price of the PS3 by $100 immediately following E3. This one's got to be taken with a pinch of salt, however - while it's true that at its current price, the PS3 is prohibitively expensive, Sony are already taking a big loss on each machine sold. Still, they've got to shift consoles in order to sell games (which are the real profit-maker), so from that standpoint it seems like a reasonable suggestion.

The reports vary on this one, though; some suggesting that it's only going to be in Circuit City stores, and others saying it'll be a nationwide drop. No word whether the European console will see a similar fall in price, but time will tell.

Even if we get a similar drop in price though, £375 is far too much for one console.

Edit:Sony president Ryoji Chubachi has denied that the company has any plans for a price drop.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Expensive cables

Why are video cables for consoles so expensive? I want an RGB SCART for my Wii so that I can play Resident Evil 4 with decent screen quality (it looks dire through the composite, especially at 60Hz), but they're apparently determined to rip me off. Both HMV and GameStop are asking for £25 for the thing, even though the RRP is apparently £19.99.

I still don't understand why they just wouldn't bundle a SCART lead in with the machine instead of the composite. Surely there's not that many people out there with a TV that can't accept it, in Europe anyway?


I've been skeptical about the iPhone pretty much since it was announced; the iPod's synonymity with "mp3 player" pissed me off, especially since it's tied into iTunes so completely. I was expecting a lot of the same PR flash and no actual bang from the iPhone, but to be honest I'm getting more and more convinced.

I'm still far from a sure sale for Apple, though. For one thing, I have a problem the lack of a 3G or GPRS data connection. If they really want me to use it as a portable internet/email device, it's got to be at least as quick as my current phone. There's plenty of software concerns too; there are strange limitations on what you can do. For instance, there's no way to delete multiple emails at once - you've just got to wipe them one at a time. I get 50 or 60 spam emails a day, thanks to my email appearing on my website; having to go through each of them one by one would just get frustrating.

So, on that front I'm going to have to wait for the next model, which will hopefully address some of the missing hardware and software functions. Which doesn't bother me, really; I'm not sure I could justify anything like £300 on a mobile phone.

But if it was available as a free upgrade, colour me very interested indeed. Shame that's not going to happen though; while it was rumoured for a while that my cell provider, Vodafone, was going to get the exclusive iPhone contract, it's now looking likely that O2 (my old provider, as it turns out) is getting it instead. TMobile got the contract in Germany.

Which is a pity. I might still see if I can get into an O2 store and demo the thing when it launches (or a couple of weeks after, once the hysteria dies down), but this first generation is a no-go for me, at least until the exclusivity deal passes and I can get one for much less than retail.

I really, really want one, though.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

More on Scooter Libby

Countdown's Keith Olbermann says it better than I ever could.
In that moment, Mr. Bush, you broke that fundamental compact between yourself and the majority of this nation’s citizens — the ones who did not cast votes for you.

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you ceased to be the President of the United States.

In that moment, Mr. Bush, you became merely the President… of a rabid and irresponsible corner of the Republican Party.
I can't tell, yet, how this decision is resonating with the American public. I'm sure Fox News Faux Noise will manage to gloss over the facts and try to sweep the significance of this act under the carpet, but I hope to God that this will wake people up.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"The Iranian government has declared war on us"

Sen. Joe Lieberman is calling for the United States to confront Iran with military force.

Iran is allegedly training Shi'ite fighters who then go to Iraq to attack American troops.
"These revelations should be a wake-up call to the United States about the threat posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran, as well as a reminder why Iraq is, in fact, the central front of the global war on terror," said Mr. Lieberman, a hawkish former Democrat who lost his party's 2006 primary because of opposition from antiwar groups, but then ran as an independent and kept his seat anyway.

"Although no one desires a conflict with Iran, the fact is that the Iranian government by its actions has declared war on us," said Mr. Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic nominee for vice president.
Regardless of the validity of those reports, it's painfully clear that the US military is stretched too much already with Afghanistan and Iraq - and it's difficult to see what there would be to gain from stretching it further.

Iran's probably itching for America to make that kind of move, too - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would love the justification to go directly after America, not to mention the PR opportunities it'd give him.

If the United States ever wanted to get away with attacking Iran, they'd have to do a hell of a lot to rebuild their foreign relations perception, which Dubya has left in tatters over the course of his administration. Without serious backup from across the world - diplomatically as well as militarily - the US would quickly find itself standing alone.

And while "patriots" (read: nationalists) like Lieberman would probably see no problem with that, it would be suicide orders to anybody moved to the front.

EDGE's top game of all time...

What a load of bollocks. I've never been able to understand what people see in Ocarina of Time that's good, never mind the fevered worship for Miyamoto's weak 3D adeventure game. I hate just about everything about it; the plot's atrocious, the level design is weak, the overworld is uninspired, characterization is abysmal, and the whole thing is just so boring. If it didn't have "Zelda" on the box, these same idiots would be up in arms complaining about how poor the whole thing was.

Didn't stop EDGE, the UK's bastion of self-important videogame wankery, from naming it their number one game of all time in a recent list (can we quit it with the lists, already?).

Other mentions go to Resident Evil 4 at #2, which is fair enough - although I think REmake on Gamecube was a more complete experience. Tetris only made it to 9 - immediately behind Halo, an abomination which shouldn't even be on the list. I'm surprised at Final Fantasy XII's inclusion as well; I'd have expected to see VII instead - not because it's better, but it's more like the faux-intellectuals at EDGE to bow to fanboy pressures like that.

There's a full 100 list due out in a future issue (apparently Crackdown's at 100), but Lord knows it's not worth buying EDGE for. I'll just read it via NeoGAF when one of them posts it.

Obstruction of justice

Bush gave I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby a pass on thirty months of jail time.

Here's the President's rationale:
Mr. Libby was sentenced to thirty months of prison, two years of probation, and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation.I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby’s sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.

My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant, and private citizen will be long-lasting….
Libby was convicted of outing an undercover CIA agent, Valerie Plame - which, from my perspective (and George H W Bush's) looks pretty close to treason.

That Dubya would undermine the justice system so brazenly just to protect one of his pawns is insane - not to mention, it puts a completely different meaning behind his promise that, "If there’s a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is... If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of".

Monday, July 02, 2007


I've been bristling a little over the last few days every time the news mentions these "terrorist attacks" in London and Glasgow - so, every 30 seconds or so. I couldn't place my finger on why exactly - from all the available information, terrorism seemed as good a label as any.

But then I read this article from The Register, which managed to put into words exactly what I'd been thinking all along.

We're giving these guys too much credit.
Frankly, if this kind of thing is the only backlash the West experiences for Iraq, we've got off pretty much scot-free: we should indulge in a spot of military adventurism any time we feel like it.

Conversely, if this is all al-Qaeda have to offer, we should never have lost a moment's sleep over them - let alone shoved our valuable appendages into the military meat-grinder of Afghanistan (I'm choosing to assume here that al-Qaeda only became a serious presence in Iraq after we invaded the place. Argue among yourselves as to whether Saddam was more or less threatening than Osama).

Getting back to here and now, these have to be some of the most pathetic terror attacks ever - difficult to distinguish from minor accidents. For goodness' sake, a car is full of petrol anyway; and gas cylinders too often enough. People drive cylinders of gas around all the time. Now and again - oh my god! - they probably carry boxes of nails, bolts, tools or whatever in the same vehicle. (Aiee!)

Sometimes these fiends crash their cars, and sometimes the vehicles burn out. It's one of the costs of living in the industrial world; if people couldn't get fuel - portable energy - easily enough to have accidents with it, most of us would still be dirt-poor, illiterate, shovelling muck for a living and dying like flies from disease - rather than dying very rarely in car crashes or gas explosions.

This kind of event happens on the motorways almost every day, at least the petrol fires and often enough with the other hazards added. The roads get closed off as a result, sometimes for hours - just like the Haymarket did on Friday morning. It causes massive inconvenience to lots and lots of people.

But the perimeter is manned by firemen and traffic cops, not bomb teams and terror-feds. And so this weekend a minor news story - one injured in bunt-out car / suicide attempt causes travel chaos - becomes a big international media frenzy, a "test of the new Prime Minister's mettle," if you please.
There's a lot more on the site, and it's worthwhile to read it all, even if it's just as a counterpoint to all the hysteria bullshit that's even being spread in the US.

UMG tries to bite Apple

I'm a big proponent of free (libre) software, and by extension of DRM-free media. If you want to take my money for an album or a movie (or office software), give it to me free first.

As a result, I'm not a big fan of iTunes. The EMI deal in April was a step in the right direction - better-quality songs without spyware for just a little more than regular songs. Still, the company's draconian approach to DRM in general (and the monopolistic iTunes/iPod tie-in bullshit that ties you to one player and one software app) irritates me.

Still, there's no question at all that iTunes was a step in the right direction. If the music labels had hammered out a deal with Napster back in the day, we'd not have to put up with all these crazy "CD sales are declining oh noes!" press releases from record labels. Labels who market their MAFIAA lawsuits as making sure the artists get their dues, all the while trying to reduce the amount of royalties they have to pay to those same artists.

Anyway, a legal download option has helped. For a start, it spread the truth about peer-to-peer filesharing's illegality. I'm rather astounded that some people still don't realise it's against the law (regardless of the moral standpoint).

But now, despite the fact that Apple's iTunes is the only really viable, legal music download vendor, Vivendi's Universal Music Group - the largest record label in the world, which includes Polygram, A&M, Geffen, Motown, Island, and Verve - has decided it doesn't like Apple's business and is pulling out of the iTunes store.

I think Cory Doctorow has a pretty good take on the whole thing:
But there's no denying that the iTunes Store is the only successful digital music seller that the majors have tried. They cry piracy all day long, and now Universal wants to shut down the only legit alternative?

It's clear that Universal wants leverage against Steve Jobs so that they can set their own prices, but brinkmanship won't win it for them. Universal already faces an increasingly tough time showing up in Congress and begging for more opportunities to strip everyday Americans of their life's savings (20,000 record industry lawsuits and counting). Going back to DC after shutting down the only successful online Universal retailer will be a fool's errand. "Help us protect our copyrights by suing people who take them without paying, even though we shut down the only store that anyone liked using."
This, of course, is the same Universal Music Group that wanted to sue MySpace and YouTube, and insists that everyone with an iPod is a thief.

Pulling out of the world's most recognised download store like this is especially insane when you consider that CD revenues are dropping off in a bad way - up to 40% in some markets. The former managing director of Island Records, Tim Clark, has described the CD business model as "fucked ... Physical revenues are going down like nobody's business and it's cataclysmic" - and this was in public, on record. He's got some pretty harsh words for the industry in general, which makes worthwhile reading.

There's more on the Universal story at The Register, with a slightly more reserved interpretation.

Upside uʍop

This is pretty cool, although it might get BoingBoing'd into oblivion pretty soon.

It's a little (java?) application that takes any input text and flips it upside down using Unicode characters that look like inverted letters.

Here's this entire post, upside down:

:uʍop ǝpısdn 'ʇsod ǝɹıʇuǝ sıɥʇ s,ǝɹǝɥ

.sɹǝʇʇǝ1 pǝʇɹǝʌuı ǝʞı1 ʞoo1 ʇɐɥʇ sɹǝʇɔɐɹɐɥɔ ǝpoɔıun buısn uʍop ǝpısdn ʇı sdı1ɟ puɐ ʇxǝʇ ʇnduı ʎuɐ sǝʞɐʇ ʇɐɥʇ uoıʇɐɔı1ddɐ (¿ɐʌɐظ) ǝ1ʇʇı1 ɐ s,ʇı

.uoos ʎʇʇǝɹd uoıʌı1qo oʇuı p,buıoqbuıoq ʇǝb ʇɥbıɯ ʇı ɥbnoɥʇ1ɐ '1ooɔ ʎʇʇǝɹd sı sıɥʇ

Via BoingBoing.

Not quite Sesame Street

Does anybody remember seeing this really weird news story? The Hamas-run al Aqsa TV station in Palestine used "Farfur", a Mickey Mouse look-alike character, to spread anti-Israeli propaganda to its children. The show featured a strong pro-Islamist slant, as well as encouraging young viewers to phone in and sing anti-Israeli songs.

The arguments kept going back and forward, with the Palestinian government eventually ordering the show off the air, although al Aqsa didn't comply in the end.

They did, however, kill the character off.
FarfurThe Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa channel aired the last episode on Friday, showing the character, Farfur, being beaten to death by an "Israeli agent".

"Farfur was martyred defending his land," said the show's presenter Saraa.

In the final broadcast an actor said to be an Israeli agent tries to buy the land of the squeaky-voiced Mickey Mouse lookalike.

Farfur brands the Israeli a "terrorist" and is beaten to death.

He was killed "by the killers of children", Saraa says.

In an earlier show, Farfur had said: "You and I are laying the foundation for a world led by Islamists.

"We will return the Islamic community to its former greatness, and liberate Jerusalem, God willing, liberate Iraq, God willing, and liberate all the countries of the Muslims invaded by the murderers."

Stupid petitions

Following the BBFC's refusal to certify Manhunt 2, some bright sparks here in the UK got together and thought, "Hey - the Prime Minister's website has an online petition feature! Let's get on there and complain that we can't play a videogame!"

So they did.

Here's the full text of the petition proposal, followed by my arguments for why I thik it's a stupid move and a missed opportunity.
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Restrict the powers of the BBFC with regard to the banning of videogames.

More details from petition creator
The BBFC have recently refused to rate the videogame "Manhunt 2". As such, adults in this country will never be allowed to play this game. Adults should be allowed to make their own decisions with regard to what videogames they want to play. We all understand that this game is extremely violent and unsuitable for children. As such an 18 rating should have been applied.
Why, for the love of God, did they restrict their complaint to just this one videogame? The BBFC should not, in my opinion, be able refuse certification of any media. If it's violent, slap an "18" on it and let that be the end of it. The BBFC should operate on the assumption that their ratings work, not worry that someone might get their hands on something deemed "inappropriate". In my opinion, that's just admitting that the system's broken.

Even aside from that, by only pointing out the games angle, the petition makes it sound like a bunch of petulant kids whining that they can't play Nintendo. I mean, if it was a commentary on the state of the ratings system and asking the Prime Minister to review the BBFC's powers and even the relevance of the Video Recordings Act 1984 in today's society, then it would possibly be taken seriously. As it is, it's just... weak.

I still signed it, though.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Still no word

The interview on Monday went pretty well, I thought. A very casual conversation, all in all, punctuated by the occasional awkward Interview Question.

I was expecting to hear back pretty quickly; they'd been really fast getting back to me at every other stage, but nothing about this yet. Every email notification I got this week, I got terribly excited and then disappointed immediately after.

It's not even the thought that I might not have gotten the job that gets to me either - it's the not knowing. I'd rather know I haven't got the job, than not know I have.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Good Lord

I could never draw anything on an etch-a-sketch; this is just taking the piss.

Ryu -v- Sagat

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Manhunt Debacle

I'm not the first person to offer my two cents about this, and I'm pretty sure I won't be the last. Still, I've had a hard time getting my opinion on the BBFC's decision to refuse classification to Rockstar's latest, and might as well use this space to try and put it as plainly as possible.

Firstly, I don't believe that the BBFC should be allowed to refuse classification to any material submitted to them. As a (legally) responsible adult, it should be my decision - not some quasi-governmental censorship body's - what I watch or play in my own home. Once you reach an "18" cert and keep cutting, you're telling me that despite being legally responsible for everything I do, I am not capable of making decisions about my choice of entertainment.

Now, some people have tried to stump this position of mine, attempting to fluster me by asking if I believe all content should be allowed in games without a censor's intervention. A couple brought up the notion of a game including player-controlled child abuse.

Honestly, I've got to say that - no matter my own opinion on the suitability of that subject matter in entertainment of any sort - I couldn't in good faith suggest that such material would be grounds for a ban of a game. So long as no real children were harmed during the production of the game, and are not harmed by someone (above 18, or who otherwise meets the age guideline) playing the game, what possible reason would there be to ban it?

My position on censorship in general is that it's a bad thing, which was also challenged by a brain trust insisting that, since I would be against a ban on violence in fictional entertainment, I must be for the idea of broadcasting real-life brutal murders (specifically beheadings) on the evening news.

The difference there, as I've explained to no avail, is that there's real harm involved there, as well as someone actively breaking the law. Willfully viewing or spreading footage of illegal activity should be viewed as complicity (except in terms of law enforcement professionals in the course of their job, obviously) in those acts. As a result I don't think the images themselves should be banned; rather, make it an offence to watch or broadcast them.

That's maybe a little more police state-ish than the idea of censorship, but there's my two cents on the whole issue.

In short: If it's not hurting anyone, why should I be prevented from watching or playing any TV show, movie or videogame I want?

Of course, Nintendo and Sony themselves made this all a moot point by saying they wouldn't allow the AO-rated game to be released on their machines in any territory.

Back from the dead?

I've deleted almost everything from this account (all of which is still on my LiveJournal), with the intent of starting a more regularly updating "blog". The two remaining here, I kept for no real reason except I think they cover things that might be important to know about me.

News:I'm currently waiting for word back about a job at a software company in Dundee; I applied for it three or four weeks ago, and have since had a telephone interview and a real face-to-face one which was on Monday.

Fingers crossed.