jackofallgeeks: (Geeky)
I just read a document that repeatedly referred to "electronic email." It
made me cry.
jackofallgeeks: (Wrath)
I'm getting really irritated with my program manager. Every time we
have a meeting, he has me running around trying to find a room. That would
be all well and good if it were just when I suggest a meeting, but a lot of
the time he'll say, "I think we need to meet on X, choose an open time on my
calendar and find a room for us to use." I'm not his effing secretary (he
doesn't have one), and this menial scheduling carp is so low on my list of
priorities...! It really gets me angry.
jackofallgeeks: (Saddened)
In Freshman year ogf High School, we were going through grammar -- in
particular, sentence diagraming. I'd done diagraming before in middle
school, and I kind of liked it because it was rather like a game.
One random monday our teacher gave us a test on diagraming. I was never a
modle student, and as such didn't apply much effort into studying over the
weekend. When the grades came back, our teacher said she was really
disappointed because of the low grades, except for one paper that god 100%
correct. Then she turned to me: "Mr. Portner," as she called me, "tell the
class how much you studied over the weekend." I sheepishly responded with,
"you don't want me to do that," and she said, "no, that's the wrong answer."

I like the memory, though it earned me few points with my peers (with few
exceptions I didn't care that much), but I bring it up now because... It's
probably nothing, and it's probably not the big deal that it feels like to
me, but there have been rumblings that I'm giving my younger brothers a bad
example. That is, I'm too successful too quickly with too little effort.

I never planned to be where I am, at all. I don't think I thought
about college much at all before half-way through Senior year. I applied to
three schools: Xavier (a Jesuit school practically next door to my three
favorite paternal cousins), CUA (a Catholic school located conveniently
close to my maternal grandparents and cousins), and Drexel (a tech school my
buddy Louis was looking at, and the only thing that hints that maybe I was
thinking 'computers' more than I let on). I got accepted to all three,
though Xavier offered me almost no financial aid. CUA won out in my mind
because it was close to "home" and in my (parents') pocketbook because they
tacked on a little extra scholarship money (before that Drexel and CUA were
tied down to the dollar).

Interest in Drexel aside, I didn't always want to do computers. A large
enough part of me thought I wanted to be an English Major, though in truth I
think I was interested in Linguistics. My disdain for literary analysis (at
the time) saw me write that off, and computers were my second choice. I
took to programming like a fish to water and ended up graduating at the top
of my class (despite not feeling like I was terribly taxed by the

I had no plans for after graduation. If things had gone differently maybe I
would have made plans, but they went exactly as they did. In the Fall of
senior year I was handed (and subsequently filled out and turned in) an
application for a Master's degree program. In fact, a scholarship, where
they would pay me to go to school. I had no real drive to get a higher
degree (not really, anyways), and the driving force was the memory of how
hard Beth H.'s brother had to fight to get a job after he graduated with a
BS in CS. The only down side (and it was a major down side to me) was that
the school was out in California, but the benefits outweighed that one
negative. Even at that, if not for the intervention of one of the ladies on
the other end (Tanya Raven), my application probably would have been quite a
bit weaker -- I'd made a half-hearted attempt at the essay under the
mistaken belief tyhat they cared about the answer as opposed to my
demonstrating my writing ability. After submitting a REAL essay I was told
me application was "a lot stronger."

Despite doing well in Undergraduate and Graduate computer programs, I've
never felt very confident in my technical skills. I think I'm much more
valuable for my well-roundedness and my ability to bridge the communication
gap between people who are actually technical and people who really

I was able to get a nice paying job right after graduation, and was able to
buy a house in a very favorable market. I get paid probably twice what
common wisdom would expect me to at my age. Yeah, I have a Master's Degree
and maybe most guys my age don't, but... I didn't even *plan* to have this
job. I pursued it as much as I did because it brought me back home, and I
wanted to be home more than pretty much anything.

So, yeah. I'm setting a bad example because my dumb luck had placed me --
accidentally, from my perspective -- in a very favorable position. studied
computers more-or-less on accident, and it turns out that's a very
marketable skill set, especially when it gets refined through Graduate
School. It wasn't EASY, but it wasn't planned, either. I don't feel
like I exerted much effort at all, I just did what was needed for the next
step. I didn't even have a plan for the second step, it just showed up.

And this rumbling bothers me because it touches on two sore spots for me.
The first is that part of me things I really shouldn't be where I am,
that I haven't had to fight hard enough for the rewards I've been given.
And the other bit is that I really do care about the impression that I give
to people, particularly the role modle I present to my brothers. I'm not
prepared to deal with the idea that I might be having a negative effect on

Anyways, like I said, it's probably not as big a deal as it feels to me.
The people who said these things, almost in passing, probably didn't mean
them the way I've taken them. It just strikes much too close to my own
fears and demons, and it's something i'm having a hard time shaking off.
jackofallgeeks: (Integrity)
So, life is pretty crazy.

This last weekend was quite a trip. On Friday I drove down to my sister's
place for Shawn's birthday party. It was a sorta surprise, but neither of
them are terribly subtle. At that, though, Jenny was still able to 'get'
him with a very unexpected appearance from an old friend. It was a good
time (it always is, with my family), but I had to leave early because I was
staying the weekend with [livejournal.com profile] surichan in Virginia Beach.

Visiting with Leslie was the driving force behind my trip south. We've just
rediscovered an old psychological thriller video game from the late '90s
(TLC, or Tender Loving Care, an "interactive movie," if any of you are
familiar with it), and we spent far too many hours on Friday night playing
through it. On Saturday we went out for breaksfast with her boyfriend Carl
and ran a few errands before she went off to a wedding and Carl and I went
to a Sci/Fi yardsale and met his housemates to check out a new thrift shop
they'd found. Most of the rest of the day was pretty non-notable (except
for a trip to a video store that was trying to sell VHS along with
more-interesting fare -- though, A+ for having copies of Denver the Last
Dinosaur on the shelves).

Saturday night was, simply put, awesome. Leslie, Carl, and I met some
friends (most notably Nicki, appologies for misspelling, who was at least
three shades of awesome) at a Tapas bar for a late dinner and then out to
Carl's friend Cat's place for "Prom Night." Which is exactly what you'd
expect: a few dozen twentysomethings (and older, I guess), more-or-less
dressed to the nines with a DJ and balloons and a theme (and alcohol, which
wasn't at any highschool proms *I* ever went to) laughing and dancing and
having a great time. It was awesome. I remember mostly Meghan, Kim (who is
apparently my younger brother's age), Cat (who seemed to be mocking my
laugh, but Leslies said she liked me), that dude in the high heels, and
whoever decided to come as The Joker (and apparently didn't make much of a
positive impression on either Leslie or Nicki). It was loads of fun, and if
I get around to it I'll post the pictures I got.

(As an aside that won't mean anything to anyone but me, Nicki resembled my
friend [livejournal.com profile] raen a whole lot. They're both very pretty ladies.)

Sunday brought me to my second reason for being in Virginia Beach, and the
bit that initiated the whole thing. Back in highschool I was in a youth
group called YOA, and a week or so ago I got an invitation to an end of the
year picnic thing. Lots of old-timers were invited to come and catch up and
give the new kids an example of what happens after highschool. For me,
that's probably the closest I would ever get to a highschool reunion, so I
went. Unfortuinately, it ended up being rather abbreviated (only 2.5 hours
instead of the projected 4) and only a handful of old-timers showed up.
There was Chris Traub and his girlfriend; Katrina Traub and her daughter;
Kim and Matt Hamrick (married now), neither of whom remembered that we'd
known each other once; and Becky Croft, though Emily was laid up in bed
after having her wisdom teeth removed. It was nice catching up with Becky
and Mrs. croft (the Crofts are the only ones I've really kept any contact
with since leaving the area 7 years ago), but I think I spent more time
chatting with Jill Croft (Becky and Emily's little sister, who's a rising
senior now which is odd because I knew her when she was eight) than anyone
else there. It was a little disappointing, but it was alright.

So, there you go. TLC, Prom, and a little highschool reunion. All in all,
not too bad.
jackofallgeeks: (Contemplative)
So, the Boy Scouts' stand on homosexuality is in
the news again
today, with the City of Philidelphia saying they can
change their policy of excluding gays (and atheists, apparently), or they
can remove their organization from publicly-owned land (technically, they
could also pay $200k/year rent). Now, I don't really care to get into the
details of whether a private organization can set discriminatory standards
for membership, or whether the fact that the scouts built the building at
their own cost has any bearing on the fact that they don't own the plot of
land, or any of the other bits in this bin. But one thing that struck me is
that this conflict is being framed as a "free speach" issue, and I don't
think that's appropriate. This isn't about what the scouts are saying, it's
about who they let into their club, and those aren't the same thing. I
think more to the point is the question of whether this is a case of the
government coersing a private institution through financial pressure, and
think that's more problematic, too. The city does have rights to operate
it's property as it sees fit, but it's still troublesome to me when the
government swings it's influence around to force people to do things like
jackofallgeeks: (Wrath)
So, gas around my house is about $3.90 a gallon. This
article parrots what I've been hearing from Europeans for the last 18
months, that they wish they had it so good: the article says that gas prices
in the Uk are about $11.50 per American gallon! But what's even more
stunning is that it casually remarks that taxes and fees make up about 70%
of the price of fuel in the UK and France. What that means is that if not
for the taxes fuel in the UK would cost $3.45 per American gallon!.
That is NOT a small difference. Add on a small margin for more-reasonable
taxes and fees and the Brits would be paying about what we are. If their
prices are so bad, they have only their government to blame.
jackofallgeeks: (Moof)
I am angry with myself because (1) my air conditioner is broken, (2) it's
broken because I didn't know enough to prevent the break, and (3) I can't
fix it. I am consistently and unreasonably disappointed in myself for my
inability to be self-sufficient.

I also get cranky when I'm hot.
jackofallgeeks: (Gendo)
The other day someone was talking about "doing things in tangent." I'm
fairly certain that they meant tandem, as in working together or
coordinating, rather than tangent, meaning diverting from the original
course or being irrelevant.

Also, regarding something that they were really ambivalent about, someone
said that they "could care less." No, you couldn't. You couldn't
care less, indicating a complete lack of concern. If you could care
less then that means you do care, which isn't the intended meaning.

These little things bug me a whole lot more than they really should.

A monolog

May. 23rd, 2008 09:59 am
jackofallgeeks: (Gendo)
So I was going over to my friend's page to reply to a comment thread we have
going. I'm at work, so I'm not always signed in. When I got to hetr page,
though, I hit a warning from Livejouranal that said, "This page may contain
material that is unsuitable for minors," and then asked me to check a box to
confirm that I was 14 or older.

The page in question is a post my friend made discussing, in part, watching
the movie "Teeth," which is an apparently "clever, thoughtful, but gorey"
horror flick about vagina dentata. The only thing that I can imagine might
be 'objectionable' is that the post uses the word vagina once (three times
if you count the comments).

This actually kind of infuriates me a little bit. Especially lately, my
dissatisfaction with society's attitude toward sex has been irritated by a
number of little incidents and articles, none of which merit individual
mention but all of which just build up on the same reaccuring theme. Why is
the word vagina objectionable? I'll concede that maybe it's an attempt to
'filter' on key words, but one (or three) mention is the threshold? Is this
a zero-tolerance policy? It's dumb. What especially gets me is the age
limit of 14 or older; who pulled that one up? You need to be 18 to know
about sex and human annatomy, 13 to be allowed to use the Internet, and 12
in order to get pregnant -- funny, that. It's dumb, is what it is.

I had more to say, but my ability to be coherent is steadily dropping. It's
a mind-numbingly dull day at work, but at least I get off at 1pm today.
jackofallgeeks: (Default)
So Here
is an interesting idea. The online shoe shore Zappos apparently sees it's
main service as keeping it's customers happy, and as a way of ensuring
quality customer support they offer new employees $1000 to quit after
their first month. If you think about it, it's a pretty great idea. If you
don't like your job you're not going to do it well; you can just take the
money and run, because if you don't want to be there they don't want you
there. But on the flip side, if you like your job enough to pass up $1000
to keep doing it, you'd think you'd be motivated to do it well. Zappos also
doesn't do a lot of things other customer support lines do, like hold to a
script or try to limit call times, and their operators are actually
empowered to do what's needed to make the customer happy. That's pretty
awesome, and as I hate shopping for shoes anyways, maybe I'll give this
place a try.
jackofallgeeks: (Default)
is an amusing komment in an otherwise-unremarkable article on a new hacking
attack (which will probably never be attempted in it's current form).
jackofallgeeks: (Default)
Of marginal interest: the bastardized son of the original Napster, the new
Napster is now offering
all it's songs as mp3 downloads
at 256bps for 99 cents. Just one more
place to go, I guess, to see if I can find a song as a more-useful mp3
before crawling to iTunes and the drm'd m4a.

As a note, I've finally read up on what the FLAC music format is and would
really like to see that come into favor. It's a compression format in the
way mp3 is, but mp3 encoding loses a lot of information: you can't recreate
a CD-quality track from an mp3. The opposite is true for FLAC: no
information is lost and full quiality can be retrieved from the FLAC file.
Until then, though, mp3s work for me.
jackofallgeeks: (Contemplative)
So today I was glancing over some articles and one -- talking about
rethinking what it means to be 'green' by embracing nuclear power and
genetic engineering -- had a line that said, "to win the war on global
warming may require slaughtering some on environmentalism's most sacred
cows." And though they're just being theatrical (well, maybe not; nuclear
power has had a bad reputation since before I was born) it made me think:
exactly how far are you willing to go to reach your goal? I meant it as
kind of a thought experiment, "in a world where..." sort of movie-preview
kind of way, but it's an interesting thing to think about.

Completely off-topic for anyone except for [livejournal.com profile] xiombarg or [livejournal.com profile] dikaiosunh, I'm playing a game (Butrning Empires) which purports to
tackle this same question. It's couched in a cool-in-itself "invasion of
the body-snatchers" sort of storyline, and some of the easiest things to do
are to directly contradict the player's character's stated goals, but I
think an equally compelling (if not more compelling, but not everyone is me)
tact might be to offer the character's what they seek at the cost of some
other similarly important goal or principle. But then, I've always been a
fan of the devil's bargain, where you gain the world but lose your soul. I
love that kind of faustian tragedy.

Bad Idea

May. 14th, 2008 11:45 am
jackofallgeeks: (pl4y with 3vil)
I need someone (everyone?) to remind me why trying to get back in touch with
Suzannah would be a Bad Idea (tm).

Have Pity?

May. 14th, 2008 09:58 am
jackofallgeeks: (Gendo)
is an article about the RIAA's methods for 'finding' file sharers.
Apparently there are two differect tracks: the takedown notice and the
pre-litigation letter. With the takedown notice nothing is downloaded: the
files are simply observed on a user's computer. This makes we wonder what
flags something as infringing -- are they just looking for files named
"Backstreet Boys - Larger Than life.mp3"? -- but a takedown notice is not
-really- legal action. It's just a letter saying we thing you're
infringing, stop it.

For the pre-litigation letters, files are actually downloaded from the user
and listened to. On one hand this gives them a bit of validity, in that you
have verification that "Yesterday.mp3" is actually a copy of a Beatles' song
and not an entry in an audio blog. It's been noted
in court cases, however, that "making available" is not necessarily the
equivalent of infringment. The idea the RIAA is resting on here is that
Copyright has a provision giving the owner exclusive rights to distribution,
and that p2p file sharing constitutes infringing distribution. The trouble
is that if Media Sentry (who does all the investigating for the RIAA) is
authorized to download these songs, then their downloading doesn't
consititute infringing distribution -- nor does it establish that the
file is being distributed elsewhere
. If Media Sentry is the only one
who downloads from you, then you haven't distributed anything. If the file
sits in your folder untouched, then you haven't distributed anything. And
of particular note, there doesn't seem to be anything that says
downloading a file constitutes infringment, just uploading
it. Yeah, if no one shares the whole p2p thing kind of goes under, but it
means that just having mp3s isn't an offense.

What's more, Media Sentry isn't doing anything special. They log onto
Limewire or KaZaA or whatever, look for appropriate files, make the
download, record the IP, do a DNS-lookup, and send off notices. It's all
automated by a script, sure, but they don't have any more knowledge that an
average user. There's no magic to how they find people or how they identify

Anyways, I know you all care so much. What got me to post, though, was at
the end of the first link Ars makes a comment about how their source spoke
under anonymity for fear of hate mail, that some poor guy has to actually
listen to the retrieved files, and how the RIAA machine is often hated but
the people behind it are rarely pitied. And I just wanted to say: no, I
don't pity them. Not in the least. It's work I certainly wouldn't want to
do, it's ire I certainly wouldn't want to be on the recieving end of, but
it's work and ire that they've accepted. "I'm just doing my job," is not a
valid excuse. Pirates may not be right in breaking the rules, but the RIAA
is wrong in their vicious spray-and-pray legal tactics, and their attempts
to weild copyright as more of a weapon than it was intended to be. I hate
the machine, and the people driving it get none of my sympathy.
jackofallgeeks: (Contemplative)
Overhearing a conversation here in the office, a thought occured to me: a
prime virtue in Black culture is respect; the corresponding virtue in White
culture would be obedience. I'm not sure how valid the claim is, or what --
if any -- difference there is.
jackofallgeeks: (Default)
really sums up the piracy problem, and it's solution, rather nicely. Piracy
springs up in the face of draconian limitations; they tell us what we can
and can not do, and we buck agasinst it. Someone begins to pirate. The
pirated product is more useful than the retail product in terms of price
and, in most cases, either quality or convenience based on what we aren't
allowed to do with the retail version. In response to piracy companies have
been making their products worse, adding in things like DRM which
further degrade the quality or convenience of the retail product -- and
presumably raining the cost, too. That's dumb. By adding on these
'anti-piracy' mechanisms they're just making the pirated copies that much

If instead they worked to make their product comprable to the pirated
version... Let's be honest, if the only difference were price most people
would by it retail rather than get it for free just to have confidence that
they know what they're getting and to have recourse if they're wrong. And
if all a pirate can offer is the same product minus DRM, then removing the
DRM takes away all of his advantage. DRM is dumb.
jackofallgeeks: (Goofy)
In disecting the tech industry, This
article concludes: it's just like High School.
jackofallgeeks: (Contemplative)
So, I pay attention to copyright law. At least a little bit, mostly where
it crosses paths with thechnology like with digital music and movies. The
production industries in music and movies are in a bad space because,
traditionally, they've had a lot of control over their content. If
you wanted music, you bought CDs. If you wanted movies, youi got the VHS,
or the DVD, or bough a ticket to see it in theaters. Now, though, all that
content is digital, and can be sent all over the place -- and more to the
point copied -- very easily.

These industries want to paint unauthorized copying as theft. They say
illegal downloaders are stealing. This is a bad application of theft
because, traditionally, when you steal something you deny it to some other
person. If you steal my car, I can't use it. If I steal your bread, you go
hungry. Property laws, of which 'stealing' is a consequence, it based on
the fact that physical items are limited by their very nature. But if I
copy a song no one loses it, I just gain it. it's like a flame which can be
passed along infinitely without diminishing anyone's possession of it. It's
like a thought: I don't lose it by giving it to you.

Still, some people I argue with hav e this perception that if you get
something for free when it's being sold elsewhere then you're stealing. You
are obligated to buy it from the seller by virtue of the fact that they're
selling it. But this doesn't hold up. Imagine someone comes out with
FooBar candy, a delectible snack. Target sells FooBar for $1.00 and Walmart
sells it for $0.50. Is Walmart stealing from Target? What if
Walmart starts giving it away, are they stealing now?

Now, imagine FooBar is made of a gooey substance which is able to
reconstitute itself, so that if you break one in half each half will
'regrow' into a full FooBar bar. Say I buy one of these, and then start
breaking off pieces and giving all the regrown pieces to all my friends. Am
I stealing?

Now, don't get me wrong, I believe in playing by the rules - if a band says,
"please don't share my music," I do my best to comply out of respect for the
artist, though I think it's dumb. If I share the music then they get new
fans, and I think most bands would rather be popular than not. Now, it does
present a troubling business problem: how do you make money if you're giving
music away for free? But the point it that it IS a business model problem,
and there ARE ways to fix it. Nine Inch Nails has been doing some really
interesting stuff, all of which takes advantage of having a loyal fan base
(which can be grown and cultivated by giving away your songs, much like
little advertisments that people will willing watch again and again). NIN
has shown that you can still sell CDs (which, peing physical, ARE limited
and not easily reproducable) as long as you can make having the CD worth
it. The point is using your infinite product to spread the flame, and then
use the blaze that results to drive sales on things that are *actually*
jackofallgeeks: (Tears)
A few years ago, I heard the first bits about the game Spore. It was
going to be everything SimEarth wanted to be. It would run through
several genres of gaming in one continuous arc, starting at the
lowest single-cell level in what was reminiscent of flOw, and moving up
through the evolution of your own user-built creature, and on into the
eventual creation of a global civilization and finally galactic conquest.
And one of the coolest things was creature creation: you could make your
creature look however you wanted, and the game could figure out how it would
walk and attack and eat. Plus, with the Internet being as pervasive as it
is, everything users made would be able to be sent back to a big database in
the sky and redistributed to every other user as in-game content. The
creature I make could become the galactic rival for some kid in Asia.

It was going to be great.

I have been waiting years for this game. Years.
Entertainment-wise, there's nothing I've wanted more; I'd buy a new computer
if I had to just to run it. So you can only imagine the soul-crushing
disappointment I feel when I say I will not be getting this game. I'm not
going to buy Spore.

Saying that hurts a lot more than it should, I think.

So, what happened? Did the game run out of budget and get canned? Was it
moved to console-only status? Did Will Wright die and in honor of him
memory they decided to kill off his legacy (if you ever played Ani-Mayhem
you know what I'm referencing)? No, nothing so positive. EA, who's
publishing the game, is shipping
it with DRM
which requires an internet check at installation and every
ten days after that. After twenty days without a check, the game will not
run unless it makes a successful check.

But Andrew, why's that so bad? You said yourself that one of the cooler
aspects was the online, user-generated content anyways. Why would
you, of all people, ever go a month without the Internet? It's not
that I don't expect to be online, it's that I expect EA to not be there when
I need them. Even if this were a 100% system that denied pirated copies
always while at the same time allowing legal copies always with 0% error
(hell, even if it just always let legal copies in with 0% error), which I'm
sure it's not because no such system exists (or probably can exist) -- even
if that were the case, how long will EA's servers be up? Microsoft just
killed their PlayForSure DRM servers (so if you have PlaysForSure music it's
basically dead space now); how long before EA decides it's no longer
profitable for them to support Spore's DRM? PlaysForSure is, what, 5 years
old? Maybe? I'm still playing StarCraft over a decade later. I would want
to be playing Spore while bouncing grandchildren on my knee. EA deies me

What's more, they system will only allow 3 installs. THREE. Do you know
how many computers I've had in the last two years? Three. That's it, no
more than two years of enjoying Spre before I'm denied use of my
legally-paid-for product. All because EA wants to crack down on
piracy. And you know what drive piracy the most? Piracy-deterence
mechanisms like DRM. They add DRM to kill piracy; pirates crack the DRM;
legitimate users get pissed off by the DRM and get the cracked version;
piracy rises so developers add MORE DRM -- lather, rince, repeat. I don't
want to pay for a game that expects me to be a thief. I don't want to pay
for a game that I can't enjoy when I want. I don't want to pay for a game
that I can reasonably expect to not work in a handful of years.

I really want to get Spore. But I won't be.


jackofallgeeks: (Default)
John Noble

August 2012

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