Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Not an Abomination at all

There is something interesting happening in the gaming industry right now.

Valve software is using the hype around the release of Portal 2 to promote a selection of indie games available through steam.

The idea is if enough people buy and play games from the “potato sack” http://store.steampowered.com/sub/7586/ they’ll release Portal 2 early.

It’s an interesting strategy, using excitement for a long anticipated product to push 13 titles by independents.

The execution has been great. The community first got wind that something was up on the 1st of April, when they were playing these indie games and Portal 2 themed levels started popping up. They could then follow clues in those games to clues in the real world! It seems quite intricate http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1824635

Then supposedly once enough clues we found Glados@home came online. The idea then being that if enough people played the Portal2 themed content we could reboot Glados sooner.

I must say at first I was offended that they wanted me to spend more money and time to try and get portal 2 early. But hearing the Defence Grid guy having a conversation with Glados was just too funny to miss!

It’s a very interesting promotion and reinforces Valves position as a leader in the ongoing development of gaming in an online world.

Oh yes just FYI - that title won't make sense to anyone but the person to whom it does.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I guess they didn't see my last post

Clearly they're not reading my blog!

I'm sorry but stuff like this doesn't work on those with critical thinking abilities.

Pushing propaganda for a physical product onto a market where the user can instantly get what they want, is a desperate strategy.

Please can we just move on from DVD already?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Swashbuckling Scoundrels

OK it's been a while since I've had a rant so please indulge me. There's a lot of news buzzing around about piracy and Intellectual Property legislation at the moment. I'm not really going to argue the ethics and philosophical elements of both sides of the debate. What I'm interested in the reality of the situation as it stands.

That is; The pirates have a better product!

It’s already entirely possible for a person with average computer literacy to never watch free to air TV again. It's all there available to be delivered over your net connection! There are legal streaming services running right now that make it possible to catch all your favorite shows with just a little organistation.

Some of these services are facing backlash from the established media industries which may result in a contraction of the sphere of available contentThe thing is, this path, the streaming service path, is a great solution to the media industries concerns. You see those services make it easy for people to get their content legally. Remember how if you make something easy, more people will do it!?

What the content creators are failing to grasp, is that users with sufficient technical sophistication are  able to locate and acquire any content they desire. That's the simple reality. This is the market they're finding themselves in and they're not liking it at all! The "pirates" have a better product.

If you want to legally watch a movie in the comfort of you own home you need to wait until that movie is released in a format you can consume, these releases come months or years after the theatrical release. The pirates don't have to wait at all. They can watch the latest block buster movie when it's still in theaters. The quality is often poor, but it's important to note that people are willing to suffer low quality just to experience the new content in their homes, that says a lot for making the content easier to access. Doesn't it?

If you want to legally watch a movie or TV show that has gone out of print you've got to scour the bargain bins or spend time looking for second hand DVDs and we all know what old DVDs add to the movie viewing experience don't we? It's not a positive contribution either is it? So while you're polishing scratches out of your optical disks. The pirate types the film title into a search box and starts microwaving his pop corn!

If you want to legally watch a DVD in a developing country you need to pay a substantially greater proportion of your income than you would in a first world country. There's been an excellent report produced on this that is well worth a look.

http://piracy.ssrc.org/the-report/ it's free if you live in a developing country... $8 if you don't.

Part of the problem is a lot of people in the content creation Industries lack technical sophistication. They may see the online world as a new channel for distribution but not much more than that. They've heavily invested in traditional scarcity based economics and this blinds them to the obvious reality that the game of content distribution has changed forever. Have a look at this poor Canadian Rock band. They thought they'd experienced massive loses due to piracy, turns out they'd been fooled by a clever script on an advertising site and no one was listening to their music, pirated or not! 

Attempts to legislate in order to protect old scarcity based business models may create problems for innovators in the future. Not to mention the fact that there may not be enough money in the world to cover damage claims in some cases based on the existing laws! 

The reality is the pirates have a better product. Users who are willing to ignore IP law are already able to watch whatever they want whenever they want. Attacking streaming services that can legally come close to that level of convenience seems misguided and a step in the wrong direction. Legislating to bring scarcity economics to the Internet where abundance was the fundamental key to it's success risks stifling innovation and even worse is likely to drive more customers into the arms of the pirate community.

If you want to beat the pirates you must make a better product! Over the past 2 decades the current value proposition from established content industries has been casually undermined by groups of loosely orgainised enthusiasts who just want to enjoy their media content on their own terms. This isn't an attack of the Media industries it's just society evolving and making use of the new technologies in order to entertain themselves.

The challenge for the content creators is to set a price point so that for the majority of consumers the value proposition of legal content outweighs the effort required to acquire free content.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What’s Your Alignment?

Ok this is really nerdy and not useful at all… Or is it!?

When looking at personality types there are many systems for codifying and documenting a person’s world view. But none work as well for me as the Character alignment system from Dungeons and Dragons. I won’t explain it here it’s been done far better elsewhere...


I was having a think about it today and realised I was Chaotic Good, my boss is Chaotic Neutral. Our GM is Lawful Neutral. It goes on…

Our network admin is Chaotic Good like me. Of our two helpdesk staff one is True Neutral the other Lawful Good.

The organisation as whole reflects the values of the GM and is Lawful Neutral.

I was pleased to see that no one in my life is actively evil…. But that’s not to say there aren’t evil people in my life, just that if there are, they’re hiding it well. Wouldn’t you if you were Evil that’s kind of part of whole the “evilness” of evil, right?

I don’t know why I’m just realising this now but it’s so clear that the organisational values in my workplace don’t mesh well with my own world view. Anyone know of a fun Chaotic Good workplace? I’m looking to make some changes and DnD Alignments seem like a good criteria for decision making.

As a management tool this is works far better than it should. As a framework for helping a nerd understand the people around him it’s dam near indispensible!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why do these things excite me so much?

There are a few factors the can really influence the performance of your internet browsing experience. Some of them we can’t influence, like those porn torrents, yeah no one can stop them. I know they’re not yours! It’s all for someone else, your roommate/brother/niece/cat is really into this or particular kind of rare German stuff. And hey!? It’s all good right? Of course it is, but whatever happens no one can mess with the porn torrents!

But the good news is there are some factors that you can control. I’m talking about DNS.

We all know a DNS lookup occurs every time we do pretty much anything online. (Yes that’s an over-simplification but just go with it… it’ll be worth it ;) So it makes sense that if we can improve the performance of our DNS we’ll improve the overall web browsing experience.

That’s where Name Bench comes in. http://code.google.com/p/namebench/

It’s pretty cool. It benchmarks your DNS! Give it a crack and see if it suggests a different DNS server. If it doesn’t at least you’ll know you’re already getting the fastest possible name resolution AND get some interesting info to boot!

I know I was surprised when I was advised that TPG’s DNS servers were 26% faster than my own ISPs. Yup I was surprised BUT I did change my DHCP settings to give these new servers a crack. Didn’t really notice a difference, but at least I KNOW I’ve spent some time optimising my DNS resolutions.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Existential Crysis

You know that moment when you become certain it’s time for a PC upgrade? Well if you do, you may find this familiar territory. If you don’t this may be enlightening. Either way I hope to entertain you, gentle reader, with a tale of woe and existential crisis!

This story centres on Crysis 2. “Ah ha!” I hear the gamers among you proclaim. “He’s going to complain about poor performance forcing him to upgrade, just like the rest of us when the first Crysis launched!”

Good guess, but you’re wrong. This has nothing to do with performance.

My beast handled everything the new fangled Cryengine could throw at it, to start with.

Being a graphics junkie my standard operating procedure when experiencing a new game is to set everything to stupid high settings the run the game until I loose my patience with poor frame rates.

In this case I was pleased that everything ran pretty well and I was able to experience the first few levels of Crysis 2 at my chosen “stupid high” detail levels. My rig is built for stuff like this I smugly think to myself, my raided SSDs performing admirably reducing load times and getting me into the action faster. Then before I know it I’m lost in the excitement, blasting the Cell security forces that currently have Manhattan under martial law. Then the aliens turn up and it’s truly engaging. It’s all good clean fun with that hint of self satisfaction that comes along with being a PC hardware enthusiast, running the latest game at stupid high settings and not feeling the need to adjust any of said stupid high settings. Ahh good times.

About 20 minutes in I did notice some loud fan noise. But all up it’s just nicey wicey smoothie woothie. (I know this techno babble needs to stop right!?)

So playing playing playing. I eventually got to a stage where I needed to sneak through a Cell checkpoint, which is guarded by a bunch of guys (no problem) and an Armoured Personnel Carrier (requires concentration).

So I switched to stealth mode, killed all the guys, then found a good position to snipe the gunner in the APC.

BAM take him out with a clean headshot.

Unfortunately I forgot the golden rule of staying alive as a sniper… You absolutely must relocate after you take your shot. My rookie error had revealed my position to the gunner INSIDE the APC.

The turret turns ominously to face my position...

Oh shit I think, mashing Q to switch my nano-suit to armoured mode. I glance at my energy and realise all that stealth action had depleted my suits power supply, so I’m feeling decidedly squishy when the APC fires.



I find myself looking at a blank screen in a silent room. My PC had powered off! Not a BSOD. Not a baldy configured sleep timer. PC. Just. Powered. Off!

That APC gunner blasted me so hard he shut my PC down!

I’m guessing there was some pretty graphical effect about to be displayed as a result of my total annihilation, which was the final straw for my poor power supply. Rather than keep going and risk meltdown it’s just given up and stopped supplying me with power.

I booted my PC up again an all was good. But, out of sympathy for my hardware, I've not loaded the game again. If his primitive AI routines were capable of it that gunner would be feeling pretty smug right now. He managed to defend his checkpoint from an entirely different dimension!

It’s an interesting experience to be engaged in mortal combat only find yourself sitting in a suddenly dark and silent room, defeated by an entity via a glitch in wholly separate reality. A reality said entity couldn’t even hope to comprehend. Even if he were programmed to “hope”, or be aware of any “reality” (his or mine), or even to be aware of himself as an “entity” rather than what “he” is, a collection of matrices, algorithms and subroutines, it’s just not possible for to him to understand how utterly he defeated me. Obviously in his victory he also utterly annihilated himself and his entire reality, but frankly that irony does little to console me.

So when I find myself thinking;

That APC gunner might be safe for now… But when my new power supply arrives… I’m finding myself a rocket launcher and I’m putting a rocket right through his window into his existentially challenged bastard face!

Now, that’s what I call motivation to upgrade my PC!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When Service Packs Attack!

Installed Windows 7 SP1? Good for you, you're keeping your shit up to date! (3xU combo!!)

Noticed that your machine won't wake from sleep? Yeah? It has to be powered on, like with the power button, and then whinges that Windows was not properly shutdown! But I put you to sleep you little shit!

So you start troubleshooting, right? Have a dig around in POWERCFG, thanks to your old mate Ben you got access to a sweet how to. Nope nothing there.

Better see this for yourself aye? So you set the sleep timer to 1 minute and wait...

Ahhhh there she goes off to sleep as she should... Isn't she cute as she's going to sleep.. Then, BAM! BSOD!

I bet that's what happened for you! That's why you're here (or you got my email telling you to come read my blog) well let me help out here, because I can.

Basically if you are totally leet OR want to be massively attractive to the opposite sex you'll be booting your OS from some kind of RAID. Well there's your problem!

Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 has introduced a bug that causes this issue. Basically if a machine is booted from a “SCSI Miniport driver" it will BSOD when it is put to sleep. 

Good news though there is a fix. http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2495523

Happy patching you RAID loving nerds!