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The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming

Somebody Is Using My Re:Crouching Microtransactions, Hidden DRM (268 comments)

Overall the video game industry is dying

The industry isn't dying; it's just facing many of the same problems that the movie industry faced in the late '60s through the early '80s.

During the so-called "New Hollywood" period, there was a shift as many commonly-loved genres (westerns, musicals, big epics) started to fall out of favor, with a resultant loss of profitability. The big studios started floundering, especially as the increasingly lost control of the theaters. The independent auteurs took up the slack, and now-famous names like Coppola, Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas made their debuts. Giant epics fell from grace and smaller (and cheaper) movies became more popular. New technologies - often created by the independents, who didn't have the cash to do things the old - and expensive - way, brought new options to moviemakers. Old genres were reinvented and new ones created, reinvigorating the industry, leading to the era of summer blockbusters. Meanwhile, the old studios had to open themselves up to buy-outs from outside investors, and take on new lessons about proper corporate governance.

It is easy to see parallels with the game industry of today. Customers no longer find the popular genres of yesterday quite as fulfilling as they did a few years back and the big developers seem to be having trouble offering new options. Fortunately, the "indie" game developer is reinvigorating the market, and these days there seems to be more excitement about the indie games than big-name titles like Destiny or Call of Duty XXIV. The publishers are also struggling as their traditional means of distribution is changing from retail sales to digital. The indies are also proving it is no longer necessary to spend $100 million on a game, utilizing new technologies like procedural generation to create worlds as grand as those made expensively by hand.

The game industry is not dying, it is just in transition. And like the Hollywood Renaissance of the '80s, I hope the game industry will rebound to bring us bigger and better experiences in the next decade.


Oculus Rift CEO Says Classrooms of the Future Will Be In VR Goggles

Somebody Is Using My Re:Not likely. (181 comments)

Even if VR really was the awesome teaching tool that the CEO claims it to be, it still doesn't solve the real issue: teaching teachers to use them. And I'm not talking about the basic "dur, how I turn on?" technical issues but helping teachers understand how to use these new tools in their curriculum. What tasks is VR appropriate for (and for which tasks it isn't). When and how do you use VR to help students learn? Seeing as how films and TV are still of dubious use in the classroom, I suspect that by the time teachers would actually learn how to appropriately use VR in the classroom, it will be a long-forgotten fad everywhere else.

Mind, this is no complaint about the teachers or their abilities, who are usually hard-working, well-intentioned and struggling under often contradictory rules and goals. Rather, I take issue with the idea that you can just toss technology at the problem without first understanding how it can help in education (and do a better job than existing tools) and then magically expect educators to understand this new miracle tech. One of the great problems facing US education is that our teachers are not continually be taught and re-taught themselves. For most educators, once they graduate, that's it; they aren't required to update their skill sets throughout the rest of their careers (unlike, say, doctors or lawyers who have to attend continuing-education courses). If we expect our technology to assist the teachers in doing their jobs, we need to make sure the teachers themselves know how to best make use of it.

2 days ago

How Astrophysicists Hope To Turn the Entire Moon Into a Cosmic Ray Detector

Somebody Is Using My Waiting for the inevitabl (74 comments)

I'm just wondering how long before the anti-science crowd (or the news media, in order to drum-up readership) starts presenting this as some sort of dire threat, like they did with the CERN Large Hadron Collider. That had to be stopped because it might create black holes that would eat up the entire Earth.

How will this new development be presented? "It's focusing all the cosmic rays bouncing off the moon down to the Earth; it could boil us alive!"

Whatever they come up with, I hope they work quickly though; my terror levels are starting to drop. Any lower and I might start thinking again.

about a week ago

New Usage-Based Insurance Software Can Track Drivers Using Smartphones

Somebody Is Using My Re:Interesting, if optional (137 comments)

It's optional today. It'll be mandatory tomorrow.

Get the consumers used to the idea of being tracked and lead them in the direction you want to go with a carrot in the form of a tiny financial incentive (make up for the lost revenue by increasing insurance rates in general so these "savings" are swallowed up by higher average costs).

Then once you have enough people subscribed to the tracking, start making the tracking a part of any plan for /new/ users (possibly with an option to stop being tracked after a few years, with a substantial rate hike of course). After all, the insurance company has no idea if you are a good driver or not so it is only in their best interest for them to gather as much information on you as they can. After all, the company is taking a big risk by offering you insurance, you understand.

Later, force tracking on any existing users who don't already have it. Stop offering any discounts for its use; if the consumer wants insurance, they better prepare to have their every move tracked.

Meanwhile, make sure to use all this collected information for the company's maximum financial benefit. Sift it for every possible marketing use. Sell it to other companies. Deny coverage because it incriminates the user without checking to see if it is actually accurate. That sort of thing.

This is the way it always works, creeping slowly ahead to the detriment of the customer. The only way to stop this sort of thing is to squash it before it gets started.

about two weeks ago

Verizon Pays $7.4 Million To Settle FCC Privacy Investigation

Somebody Is Using My Re:That'll teach them (50 comments)

Regardless of how quickly the money keeps rolling in, I'm sure that this defeat will allow Verizon to hike their rates to make up the "deficit".

That this sort of thing is allowed as "opt-out" is ridiculous anyway. Obviously this data has value to Verizon; they should be bargaining with its customers for its use. "Want to save $5.00 per year on your cell-phone bill? Click here to let us market your personal information." That they can essentially just take it from people without recompense unless they happen to object (via an unlikely to be read clause in some fine print at the bottom of a bill) seems a lot like a robber being allowed to take a person's TV unless he actually complains while the theft is taking place. "Um, excuse me, I was watching that..."

If the FCC really wants to appear to be standing up to the telecom industry, they ought to just tell them to make this sort of thing opt-in.

about two weeks ago

Firefox 32 Arrives With New HTTP Cache, Public Key Pinning Support

Somebody Is Using My Looks Interesting (220 comments)

This stuff looks interesting. I can't wait until they fold it into Palemoon.

Because coolness of the technology aside, everything else about Firefox is increasingly pissing me off.

about two weeks ago

GOG Introduces DRM-Free Movie Store

Somebody Is Using My Watermarks? (126 comments)

While they have been true to their word about no DRM, I've always wondered if GOG games (and now movies) have some sort of digital watermark embedded in them so they can track any piracy of their sales back to the source. While this wouldn't be a foolproof method, it probably would catch the more common sort of file-sharing. It doesn't really seem to have any drawbacks for the customer either. If such a watermark does exist, it might make the major studios more willing to consider GOG as a distribution partner.

about three weeks ago

New Windows Coming In Late September -- But Which One?

Somebody Is Using My Counterproductive (251 comments)

Microsoft's rush to introduce a new OS every other year or so is a terrible strategy. While I understand the desire to bury the Windows 8 name, that is the only advantage and I'm not sure it is enough to counterbalance the disadvantages.

Microsoft seems to think they need to release a new OS to stay competitive. The thing is, people (with the exception of techies) do not BUY operating systems. They take what is on their computer, be it Windows98 or Windows8. Generally, people do not care about operating systems. Their care that their applications will run, and that their workflow will not be disrupted by a new GUI. Neither of these can be assured if Microsoft keeps pumping out new versions of their OS every few years.

Microsoft has a mistaken belief that they need to reinvent themselves every few years, that it is the chrome that sells their product. They are wrong. It is the 20+ years of backwards compatibility that maintains their dominance on the desktop. Their current strategy is directly threatening their core strength. It may not bring them yearly growth, but when you already have 90% control of the desktop, there really isn't that much to grow into anymore.

Of course, the market /is/ changing. Desktops are no longer the sole computing devices in use by the general public; tablets and smartphones are directly threatening that hegemony. Frequent changes to the core software of the desktop, however, is not going to revitalize the desktop market, however; it will only fragment and weaken it. If sales are declining, it is not because the OS is at fault but because people are buying fewer new computers overall. Microsoft should branch out into new markets with WinRT and WinPhone, sure, but do not do so by cannibalizing their main market.

Microsoft needs to focus on its core strength and not rush new versions to market in vain hopes of recapturing the glory days of the early 2000s. Incremental upgrades, not complete reinventions are the name of the game. Neither end-users nor businesses are clamoring for a Windows 9. Upgrade Windows8 to a usable state (e.g., kill Metro) and then keep it up to date with further upgrades throughout its lifetime. If they keep selling that for ten years they will do fine. Only release a new version of the OS when it is actually necessitated by the technology, not by marketing.

Microsoft, give us a Windows8SE, then live off the OEM sales for five or ten years. Take the time to create a new, stable and well-tested version of Windows instead of rushing into the next Vista or Metro. The users will appreciate having a platform that is not subject to upheaval every other year.

about three weeks ago

Net Neutrality Is 'Marxist,' According To a Koch-Backed Astroturf Group

Somebody Is Using My Re:What's so American (531 comments)

More important than whether a huge corporate site like Google or Netflix can get onto the fast lane(who can afford it as a cost of doing business) is whether smaller users and vendors have that opportunity. If access to the fast lane is only possible by paying large sums of money, then it effectively locks out "the little man" who cannot afford those rates. This effectively changes the Internet from a platform where anybody can put up a site dedicated to his hobby and - if it proves popular - hit it big (sort of like Google started out) to something curated by large corporations, like the rest of the media world. The Internet's great strength is that it gives everybody a voice - and a chance at the brass ring, if that's what they want - and not just those allowed to speak by the media conglomerates.

Without Net Neutrality, the internet would look like CableTV does today: a bunch of channels (websites) run by large corporations, all trending to a common denominatior, with a narrow channel dedicated to "public access" that nobody visits.

about three weeks ago

Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released

Somebody Is Using My Re:It all comes down to the OGL (203 comments)

There is no copyright possible on game mechanics, so you can pretty much write your own completely D&D compatible game, with the rules taken straight from D&D (but rephrased, of course, because the actual phrases are copyrighted).

Which, incidentally, has been done for 1st/2nd Edition and, to some degree, with 3rd/3.5th edition.

about a month ago

Your Phone Can Be Snooped On Using Its Gyroscope

Somebody Is Using My Whew! (96 comments)

My phone doesn't have gyroscope, therefore I am safe from people listening in to my conversations.

"Gee boss, we need to spy on this guy! Any ideas how we can do it?
"Well he has a smart phone; maybe we can leverage that to our advantage?"
"Oh, I see what you are getting at; we'll hack the firmware so we can use the oscillations of the GPS to crudely and inaccurately record what he is saying!"
"Actually, I was thinking we might want to use the attached microphone which is, you know, designed to pick up sound..."

about a month ago

Google Expands Safe Browsing To Block Unwanted Downloads

Somebody Is Using My Re:That would include Java then... (106 comments)

On the Windows side, there is one download site that I almost always get my programs from

Since I'm sure others are looking for a trustworthy archive of that sort (I know I am), care to name the one you use?

about a month ago

DARPA Wants To Kill the Password

Somebody Is Using My Re:presumably so... (383 comments)

Also, the various government agencies are increasingly working on gathering and archiving the biometric data of everyone they can. Right now they can collect fingerprints or DNA if you are arrested (and often this information is not purged if you are not convicted); I wouldn't be too surprised if they soon start gathering retina patterns as well. If devices start requiring biometric data over passwords, then the government (and any of their partners, or their employees or anyone who has hacked the database) will have access to anything secured by that data too.

The government can probably get my password too, but at least I can change the password every now and then to make things harder for them. Swapping out my eyeballs doesn't seem as appealing.

about a month ago

CIA Director Brennan Admits He Was Lying: CIA Really Did Spy On Congress

Somebody Is Using My Re:And no one will go to jail - just like bankers! (266 comments)

George W Bush said a lot of things. That doesn't mean what he said was worth listening to.

The attack on the US was not primarily because they "hate our freedoms", although they are radically opposed to many ideals of western culture. Rather, the attack was more motivated by our interference in the Middle East.

If the terrorists were just about "hating freedom", we'd see more attacks on Sweden or Iceland, which share many of the same ideals as the US but are softer targets.

about a month and a half ago

CIA Director Brennan Admits He Was Lying: CIA Really Did Spy On Congress

Somebody Is Using My Re:Then, Why isn't he being arrested and charged w (266 comments)

Or at the very least fired.

By his own words he has proven himself unfit for that position. Whether or not he has broken laws is for courts to decide and will probably take months - if not years - to play out to its conclusion. But in the mean time, that asshole needs to be removed from his position immediately.

about a month and a half ago

CIA Director Brennan Admits He Was Lying: CIA Really Did Spy On Congress

Somebody Is Using My Re:And no one will go to jail - just like bankers! (266 comments)

9/11 was the most spectacular win for the authoritarians, because they more or less kicked the foundations out from Western society, and have helped to create the worst form of surveillance state you can imagine.


9/11 was a very public strike against the West by the terrorists but it did little to benefit their own goals (in fact, given the increased US involvement and the general unrest in the Middle East it probably pushed back their goals somewhat). We got to the current state of affairs in this country by our own doing, thanks to our own home-grown corruption and power-hungry factions and an apathetic populace.

9/11 may not have been engineered by us, but the people in power certainly took advantage of it when it happened.

about a month and a half ago

CIA Director Brennan Admits He Was Lying: CIA Really Did Spy On Congress

Somebody Is Using My Re:When will we... (266 comments)

While I agree that it was more than just Berman doing illegal things, I think that by throwing him (and a selection of others) into prison it would send a message to the rest that this sort of activity is not condoned. This will make the rest reconsider taking the same actions.

Right now most people are "just following orders" because there are consequences to not doing so (losing their jobs) and no consequences to disobeying. We need to change that.

So yeah, throw him and his cronies in jail.

about a month and a half ago

How Gygax Lost Control of TSR and D&D

Somebody Is Using My I still don't get it... (183 comments)

The article says:

"This raised his total holdings to 1,371 shares, which fell just slightly below half (49.6%) of outstanding TSR shares, then numbering 2,761. But the 40 shares owned by Gygax’s son Ernie, when combined with his father’s holdings, secured controlling interest (51.1%) in TSR.

Then there is a bit about the Blume family wanting to sell their shares, Gygax not biting, and Williams et al. purchasing them instead. This suddenly gives them a greater controlling interest in the corporation.

But if Gygax already controlled 51.1%, it doesn't matter how many shares they buy; unless Gygax sold some of his own, they should never have more than 48.9% and thus never have been in a position to oust him.

So this article - and corporate finance - just makes me even more confused.

about a month and a half ago

UK Computing Student Jailed After Failing To Hand Over Crypto Keys

Somebody Is Using My Re:But it wasn't for "national security" (353 comments)

Except in the UK, you do not have the right to remain silent, or at least, you can remain silent but that may work against you in court.

Wikipedia explains,

"The right to silence was amended in 1984 by allowing adverse inferences to be drawn at a court hearing in cases where a suspect refuses to explain something, and then later produces an explanation. In other words the jury is entitled to infer that the accused fabricated the explanation at a later date, as he refused to provide the explanation during police questioning."

Furthermore, this is nothing new to the UK; there is precedent for being arrested for not providing your password to the police when requested, and the courts supported the action.

about 2 months ago

Airbus Patents Windowless Cockpit That Would Increase Pilots' Field of View

Somebody Is Using My Missing the point (468 comments)

I'm actually less worried about the view-screen failing than most are; given how robust the systems on these planes are, it is unlikely that is going to be a significant problem. If it gets to the point where the viewscreen itself no longer works, the pilots probably will probably have other much more important problems to deal with, like catastrophic hull damage or engine failure (having said that, I'm all for the addition of a periscope or small viewport that can be used in emergencies).

What does concern me is the image that is going to be projected onto these screens. It is going to be a mixed feed of camera images and sensors into one panoramic display. This raises flags for two reasons. First, cameras have fixed viewing angles, and windows do not. A pilot can lean a bit to the side while looking out a window to see just slightly more to the left or right; he won't be able to do so with a fixed TV image. Secondly, having worked with how computers merge panoramic images, I wonder how much lag there will be between the time the camera SEES its image and the time it actually is displayed on the screen; even a tenth of a second delay could be dangerous. I also wonder what information will be culled because the programs cannot make a seamless match between the different camera images otherwise. Programs that merge images can make some stupid assumptions sometimes and a detail at the border between two or more images is sometimes lost due to the algorithm.

A better initial use for this technology than completely replacing the cockpit windows, I think, would be to replace the PASSENGER windows. Those are far less critical to the plane. Giving each PASSENGER a small OLED screen in place of a window would greatly increase structural integrity and decrease fuel use while also allowing the technology to better mature before replacing the much more important viewports in the cockpit.

about 2 months ago


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