The Well-Heeled Gamer

Bloomberg News recently posted their look at how much it costs a family of four to be gamers. They apparently believe a family of four to be composed of members of Michael Bloomberg’s family, because they came up with some whoppers for their hardware choices.

They believe that gamers pay $3000 for a gaming PC and $800 for the monitor, in addition to having an Xbox 360 with surround sound system attached to a 60″ television and paying $200 per month for internet service. WTF?

I can play every game out there for Windows, and I built my machine over a year ago for $800, plus (generously estimating) $250 for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Today, you can easily buy a gaming PC or laptop that will play Crysis 2 or Arkham City or Skyrim for under $1000, all in.

They don’t stop with just a few ridiculous assumptions, though. They also believe we gamers routinely pay $250 for headsets. We all own iPod Touches, $250 chairs with built-in speakers, and pay full MSRP for 70 games per year (30 Xbox, 30 Steam and 10 iPod).

All of this stupidity leads them to say it costs $17000 per year to be a gamer. They are smoking crack. I buy at least a dozen or so games per year, but I never pay full price. I maybe drop $200 on games for the year, not the $2000 that Bloomberg thinks I do. And how many gamers who don’t work for a magazine actually own a steering wheel or other exotic add-ons? Nuts.

Stoopid Suddenlink

While playing Cityville and checking GearDiary for new geekery, suddenly the internet stopped. DNS requests are failing as unresolved for such smaller and little-known sites as Google. As of now, 20 minutes later, I cannot get to Google or Facebook or Youtube or GearDiary. Somehow, I can get to Woot and LOLCats and Livejournal.  Yet another example of high quality Suddenlink service.

SOPA

There are some people who are expressing incredulity that anyone believes the Internet Blackout scheduled for the 18th is a good idea. The argument goes something like this, “Not producing content on Wednesday is like not buying gasoline on Wednesday. You’ll just do the writing on Tuesday or Thursday, so what do you gain?” This fungibility theory of content is, I think, missing the point. While boycotting Texaco for one day is relatively pointless and unnoticed by the corporation you’re trying to hurt, that is not at all like blacking out Wikipedia for one day.

While gasoline boycotts are intended to send a message to the big oil companies (who don’t even notice the blip), the Internet Blackout is intended to raise awareness among the non-geek set. Those of us who read Gizmodo or Slashdot are very well versed in SOPA/PIPA and DMCA and all the other acronyms we hate to see pop up in a news story. But, think about your less-geeky friends who don’t know that DMCA is evil and don’t know what DRM is. They are like Jon Stewart, who only last week had someone in his audience ask him about SOPA and he had to profess complete ignorance. The normal folks in the world have not been following the SOPA debate and they aren’t mad about the United States attempting to erect the same sort of censorship plans as China (with the added benefit of giving corporations nearly unilateral police powers to shut down any site they don’t like).

How to get those non-geek people to add their voices to those of Vint Cerf and Eric Schmidt (who have already been ignored by Congressional committees because they don’t understand all that computer stuff)? You need to get their attention in a way that is hard to ignore. Since most people use Google regularly and Wikipedia frequently, slapping a giant black banner on those sites with, “Imagine if this site was down forever” will make at least some of them pay attention to what our elected representatives are proposing to do in our names. SOPA is bad legislation, it’s bad information security, it’s bad business. And, it won’t stop one damned pirate anyway.

Andysocial.com will be offline tomorrow. I know nobody will notice, since I have virtually no visitors, but it makes me feel better anyway.

Shredding

Dear former coworker,

I see you printed a lot of material for your online-only classes from University of Phoenix. Was it really necessary to do that at work and leave it in the shred bag? Also, have you ever tried to shred crumpled paper? Did you even attempt once in your two years of working here to shred anything yourself or just leave it all for me?

Fuck you very much.

Guns Don’t Kill People, Video Games Do!

Much as Goldie Lookin Chain satirized in their great 2004 song (look it up), Norwegian game stores have taken to blaming tangentially related things for a violent act. The store, Coop, has removed such games as Call of Duty, Homefront, and World of Warcraft from their shelves after Anders Breivik expressed admiration for the latter and claiming Modern Warfare was a great training tool for his shooting rampage. Yeah, that will work.

Compromise…I do not think it means what you think it means

So, once again, we see the great Change agent deal with a recalcitrant GOP by a complete and utter capitulation. What does the President point to as a vital program which he has protected during this Great Compromise? Even Medicare and Social Security, which were considered sacrosanct by both parties not that long ago, are going to be looked at by the new and improved bipartisan debt reduction commission later in the year. Apparently the first debt reduction commission didn’t provide the correct answers that anyone wanted last year.

Meanwhile, the GOP gets to claim success in all their areas. No tax increases, even on the wealthiest people (they aren’t Job Creators just because the GOP says so; they need to actually create jobs to be worthy of that title) or greediest tax-dodging corporations (which have already taken their profits off-shore, so what threat do they have left?). And, the debt debate will continue through the election, providing a nice millstone for Obama to drag around.

Yay for change.

Counterproductive Security Measures

The base computer network seemingly doesn’t trust any security certificates from any signing authority other than Verisign. This means that every web site that uses any other registrar (which is to say, a truly stupendous number of sites) gets an error message that the site’s security certificate cannot be verified to a trusted issuer. This happens with my company timecard system, as one rather important example. Since the network doesn’t trust Entrust or others, this means there is no way to be sure that the sites I connect to which are not Verisign-approved are real sites or phishing expeditions. This means that every site which is not Verisign-approved is a giant red beacon of “ignore this security warning because it’s really not a problem after all.” Every non-Verisign site adds one more item to the list of things to ignore which good security practices tell you NOT to ignore.

Although the Air Force has decided (for reasons which escape me) to allow Youtube and Facebook access on-base (but not Google Plus or even Google Calendar), this week Flash is broken. This is a security configuration issue, as the flashing error bar on the top of the page says the addon has been disabled, not that Flash is literally broken. So, one more flashing error bar to add to the list.

Again, this just encourages users to assume that every error message is, in fact, in error itself. If we get inundated with false positives, we are being trained to ignore actual positives. This also applies to the wave of “helpful” messages which greet us whenever we log in; I challenge any user here at Goodbuddy to honestly claim they read those every time they log into the network. Just more noise to ignore, and train people to ignore all messages because most of them are trivia or wrong.

Free-ish Speech

Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham agree that the United States government must Do Something to address Terry Jones’ burning of a Quran. Several days after Jones burned a book in Florida, the duly elected (stop laughing) president of Afghanistan fomented some dissent about it, and some clerics in Afghanistan called on the USA to arrest Jones and prosecute him to the full extent of the law. And then they rioted and killed some completely unconnected civilians, just to prove how reasonable their demands were.

Terry Jones is an asshole. Fred Phelps is also an asshole. I don’t ever want to hear what those people, or others like them, have to say about anything. Their voices are irrelevant to my life and counterproductive to the causes of acceptance and tolerance and peace. However, they have the right to be assholes and say shitty horrible things and even burn a book (assuming the book is not stolen and they abide by fire regulations for the local municipality, of course). Popular speech, by definition, does not need to be protected; only unpopular speech needs such security.

How in the world do two United States Senators of no little seniority decide to promulgate a view that the rioters are not to blame for a riot, the murderers are not to blame for murders? Instead, in twisted “we’re at war” land, the person burning a book in Florida is responsible for the deaths of UN members in Afghanistan. Considering that the Undeclared War On A Specific Tactic is impossible to define in time or space, claiming that free speech must be curtailed because the USA has soldiers in harm’s way means that free speech is curtailed for all time. The UWOAST is a war (never declared so therefore not really but “police action” or “military excursion” doesn’t have the right ring to it) without end, and these two men, who have sworn to uphold the Constitution, think that same Constitution doesn’t apply unless they want it to? Fuck them too.

Shining City on the Hill

President Obama this week:

We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people that there will be no mercy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Benghazi and Mizrata, where innocent men and women face brutality and death at the hands of their own government.

Unless, of course, those people live in Sudan, Darfur, Somalia, Congo…

Glenn Beck’s Site Takes on O’Keefe Video Accuracy

In some sort of strange reversal of normality, the first group that seems to have really dug into the NPR “sting” video in any detail appears to be The Blaze. The Blaze is a conservative website, which you can tell because every headline is in all-caps (seriously, Righties, why do this?). Although not agreeing with Ron Schiller’s statements, the writer of this piece shows very clearly that some of the statements are taken so far out of context that it boggles the mind. One example -he replies to a statement that isn’t shown in the edited video, but it makes it look as though he’s countering a completely different statement.

It’s really quite interesting and a good piece of investigative journalism. Schiller was still obviously unwise in making some of the statements he did to these near-strangers, but in context it appears to be yet another James O’Keefe cut-and-paste mess. That guy makes Mike Moore look like an honest videographer.

Fun with Filters

I’m always amused and somewhat aghast at the random nature of the web filtering on-base. My personal homepage is accessible, but not my wife’s (both on the exact same server). I can get to Google Mail, but not Google Calendar. Facebook is accessible, which is obviously official use. And, of course, the messages on the Access Denied pages are of no help or just stupid. My personal favorite is when the “reason” line has something like “Blocked Because: Reference/Education.” We definitely want to discourage that sort of thing.

Although I can get to NPR’s website, I can’t get to my local NPR affiliate (Reason: News/Media). Of course, whenever I run into a nonsensical block, I always try to get to two of my favorite notorious crank sites: Rush Limbaugh and G Gordon Liddy. As always whenever I’ve tried this experiment, both of those sites loaded just fine on the military network (with no conceivable official use, as well as questionable value to human beings in general). Odd.

Dating Shenanigans

There are many pitfalls associated with dating. The possibility of wasting hours of your life while your date complains about his/her ex is one that I recall vividly from many years ago. Some of the pitfalls only occur with online dating. Those photos on the site may be from some years ago, as you only discover when you get to the restaurant and wonder how someone could age so rapidly. And then there are the more extreme frauds.

A woman in Britain met a great US soldier on a dating site, and he was so smitten with her he talked about moving to the UK when he got out, and using his severance pay to repay her for the ten thousand Pounds of loans he’d asked from her over the months of their courtship. First red flag – who gets a giant severance package from the Army, and why didn’t anyone offer me one? Second red flag – loan what now?

A man in Illinois was dating a girl online for two years. He stopped hearing from her recently and asked the police to investigate the potential kidnapping of his girlfriend in London. He knew she was a very well-traveled woman, because he’d sent money to her in Nigeria, Malaysia, the US and UK. Needless to say, his $200,000 is gone for good.

It’s so hard to understand how someone could be hoodwinked to this degree. Both of these people are in their mid-40s, and apparently desperation and loneliness beat out suspicion pretty heavily. I’m glad the only unexpected result from dating Kat was the transition of my underused dining room into some sort of mammal sanctuary. 🙂

Miss him yet?

Dubya’s autobiography is out this week, so he’s finally come out of hiding to discuss his legacy. I thought that was something he was going to let historians do, but he just couldn’t wait or something.  You’ll never guess what he considers the worst moment of his presidency.  Maybe when the towers fell? Nope. How about when the banking industry just about ate the economy? Not that either. When the entire world found out that Rumsfeld has been supervising torture of random foreigners? Not even close. Oh, how about when one of the oldest cities in the country was erased by a flood which could have been prevented by decent maintenance and the people were forced to stay in the city at gunpoint while mercenaries roamed the streets looting people of their own firearms? Not that either.

Amazingly, George W. Bush believes the worst moment in a presidency filled with bad moments is when Kanye said he didn’t care about black people. He’s not tormented in his post-President retirement by the things he might have done differently or the thousands of people who died while he was in nominal charge, but by the fact that someone said something mean about him on television. WTF?

MATT LAUER: You say you told Laura at the time it was the worst moment of your Presidency?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And — it was a disgusting moment.

What an infantile and self-centered view of the most powerful office in the world.

Halloween Not Scary

Halloween is this weekend, and with it come all the various modern changes to the traditional Trick or Treat. We have “Trunk or Treat” where kids wander a parking lot. We have “Safe Trick or Treat” where kids make a lethargic loop of the mall, behind a veritable conga-line of hundreds of other children. We have a bunch of sanctioned, known-safe haunted houses. We don’t have the near-universal Trick-or-Treat participation that most of us adults remember from our own childhoods, though. Although to watch any evening news broadcast would lead you to believe we live in a ridiculously dangerous time, the opposite is really true.

The rate of violent crimes is the lowest it has been since 1973, the rate of property crimes the lowest since 1968. Children are almost never kidnapped by anyone, and when they are it’s almost always by a non-custodial parent (about evenly split between women and men). The only time a child has been poisoned by Halloween candy, it was his own father who gave it to him to collect the life insurance money (father of the year was executed in 1984).

If you’re avoiding taking your rugrats out to beg for candy because you think your neighbors are going to try to kill them, don’t worry.  Have fun, try not to eat so much sugar in one sitting, and have a great weekend!

TV Networks Hate You

If you’re a geek, you’ve thought of or maybe even built a home-theater PC – that strange device which is a full-fledged computer hooked up to your television. Most of the rest of the TV-watching public, however, is utterly uninterested in such geekery. They do want to see their Youtube videos and Netflix streams on the bigger screen, but they’re not interested in doing the hard work necessary to put them there.

Enter Google TV and Roku boxes and Apple TV. A simple, somewhat affordable (Logitech, why 300 bucks?) device, hooked up to your television and your internet connection, enter some passwords and usernames, BAM! Internet media on your television. That’s the dream, right?

Google TV has been blocked from streaming ABC, NBC, and CBS shows from the networks’ web sites. Think about this for a minute, and you may begin to see the point of view of Network Neutrality advocates. Google TV uses Chrome, the web browser, to access ABC’s website. The user on his couch sees the web site just as he would see it if he were using his regular PC to view that site. The same ads load. The same content is there. But, because the machine he’s using says (as it’s supposed to), “I’m a Google TV browser” – no soup for you.

Still here?  True, this is not an actual case of network neutrality being violated, because the ISP is not the one blocking content from flowing over their network. The content provider has the right, no matter how irrational, to prevent anyone from watching their content in any manner. They could capriciously decide that only certain blocks of IP addresses could view their shows online. They could browser sniff and decide that they don’t like Opera, even if Opera is perfectly capable technically of watching their content. They’ve decided they hate Google this week. By extension, their viewers, the ones who care enough about How I Met Your Mother to go to the CBS website and seek it out, the most avid viewers with the most brand loyalty – fuck them.

Interesting business decision.

Joe Miller’s Private Police Force

Another in the list of strange things from Alaskan politics – Joe Miller’s security guards think they can arrest people. At a public event in a public school, private security guards handcuffed and detained a journalist because he had the audacity to ask the candidate questions. The Anchorage police were called, and told the security detail to uncuff the journalist (and hopefully to stop thinking they were cops). The guards even threatened to arrest other journalists for trespassing.  At a public school. During a “town hall” meeting. Open to the public.  WTF?

EA Tech Support Run by Morons

I’ve been playing Burnout Paradise on my computer (the old one and the seemingly cursed new one) since August 6th.  As of last week, the game started giving me an error that I couldn’t buy any downloadable content, due to one of four possible reasons:

  1. I was too young.
  2. My account was not allowed to purchase content.
  3. The content was not yet released.
  4. I was not signed in to my account.

So far as I could tell, none of those things applied.  I’m certainly above the age where I need permission to purchase anything, I was signed in and the content was not only released a year ago, I’d seen it offered for my purchase just last month.  I certainly hadn’t blocked myself from purchasing anything, but I also could find no information about that in my account one way or the other.

After 3 days of email, and one 40 minute chat, here are the tasks which I’ve been asked to accomplish under EA’s direction, while telling them at every step that my ACCOUNT must be borked on their end and maybe there’s a setting in there which they could check:

  • Clear the cache of my internet browser.  Since they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me which browser engine is used for the in-game store, I cleared ALL of my caches in all 3 browsers (and both the 32- and 64-bit versions of IE).
  • Buy content from the Playstation store. Neat trick for a PC game.
  • Delete everything from my Windows temp directory. Sure, whatever.
  • Kill every process running on my machine other than Explorer and Taskmgr that weren’t owned by System. Right, let me kill 90 processes – some essential – just for fun.
  • Open 50 different ports in my firewall. Sure, whatever.
  • Uninstall and reinstall the game, erasing all traces from the registry as well.  That took a while.
  • Log in to the game. Duh?

Not only are some of those things bad ideas, some are even impossible or ludicrous.  If I killed every process owned by me that wasn’t Explorer, I’d effectively kill the browser I was using to communicate in the chat, as well as destabilizing my audio, video, and other hardware that has helper software.  Buying content from the Playstation store for my Windows game seems bizarre in the utmost.  I did uninstall and clear all registry bits and reinstall, as that MAY have been of some use.  I also cleared my caches, although the utility of that option still escapes me.

Naturally, after all this time and effort, including re-downloading a 3 gigabyte file, the game still won’t allow me to purchase any DLC.  I’m not even really planning to buy anything right now, I just figured after three days of seeing an error which I hadn’t seen the previous three weeks, there must be something WRONG that might need seein’ to.  This morning, they finally elevated this to second-level tech support.  WTF?  You would think my telling them that purchasing Playstation content for my Windows machine was ludicrous would cause them to elevate it, but no.  What finally put it over the top is when, on email #10 or so, the tech dork actually said I had to log in with my email address to access the game.  This is after I’d told them many times that the GAME was fine, the online-gaming portion was fine, the in-game browser was fine, it was just the in-game store which was broken, and gave an error indicating an ACCOUNT problem.  Finally, after that email where I told them they were ridiculous for thinking that I’d somehow logged in with someone else’s email address (which the game won’t allow and the game doesn’t use email addresses anyway), they finally said, “Oh, let me elevate this.”

I think the takeaway from this experience is, “If you buy an EA game, hope you never have problems.”

We’re not as bad as the other guys

I found it disturbing when people would defend some of our mistakes in Iraq by claiming we were better than Saddam, as if our goal was merely to be somewhat less evil than an authoritarian dictator who gassed his own people and ran rape rooms in his torture prison.  It appears the Democrats are using a similar strategy going into November: at least we’re not as bad as the GOP, right?

When DNC chair Tim Kaine was on the Daily Show a week or two back, Jon Stewart rightly lambasted him for the absurdity of their “Don’t give them the keys” approach.  Kaine had no real retort other than the tired statements of GOP perfidy.  Sure, the GOP did a lot of stupid venal petty shit during their years in power.  So, Dems, what are you doing different? They don’t seem to have a very compelling argument in their favor.

I could list all the ways in which I’m disappointed in the current administration and the Democrats in Congress, but Glenn Greenwald has a great piece today which has many nice links and great points to make.  Unlike some of his articles, this one is not biased against the GOP.  Greenwald is very clearly documenting the failures of the Democratic party, and even if you’re happy to see the Dems fail, it’s interesting to see in one place all the many ways in which they are using fearmongering and low expectations to try to hold onto power (power they haven’t really taken advantage of while they had it).

Change you can…definitely not see.