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Archive for March, 2006

An interesting discussion on the futility of internet censorship.

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This is without a doubt the most important and interesting thing I’ve posted in this blog’s (admittedly brief) history. Excellent discussion on Gilmore’s Law.

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Right after the recent findings that Starforce will reboot your computer when it find “suspicious” activity, it has now been found it also travels across networks. This means Starforce has FULL access to the internet as it is a ring0 driver, so it could potentially be sending information back to their servers and wont show up on firewalls.

Not two full days after I post explaining why I don’t like Starforce, this comes out. This keeps getting better and better – at this point there’s no more doubt in my mind that Starforce is pure garbage. I wonder if Ubisoft will ever come to its senses.

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Not only is this Arkansas science teacher prohibited from saying the “e-word” in class, but he can only say that 300 million year old rocks are “very, very old”.

More nonsense. I’ll say it again: this is going to compromise these students’ education and these attitudes are going to cost the US its world dominance in science and technology.

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On Starforce

Having had an extended discussion with my brother over the Christmas holidays regarding the merits of Starforce copy protection (included on a large number of games) we now learn (possibly, this is mostly from forum postings) that Starforce appears to reboot your machine when it suspects you are doing something ‘inappropriate’ (nowhere is it mentioned how it can tell that what you are doing is actually wrong). See also Lart44’s post at this Gamespot forum explaining exactly how it works.

Starforce is infamous for what it can do to your PC. While it’s not clear how widespread any problems are, it’s been dismissed as minor hackers trying to circumvent the copy protection (for whatever reason, not all of which are illegal) by both Starforce and Ubisoft, which is known to use Starforce in some of its games (see this list). But there are far too many complaints about Starforce protected games for this to be a simple matter of a low ratio of people experiencing problems, which is considered acceptable for most types of software, or for it to be primarily confined to people attempting to circumvent it. Users have reported system instability, problems with their CD/DVD drives to the point of breaking the drive, and possible security holes (granting super user access to user programs). Now we learn it might prevent you from doing what you want with your PC by rebooting whenever it wants to. If these allegations are true, then I wonder what could possess any game publisher to use Starforce on their games – all it seems to do is irritate users with its overzealous copy protection, and creates a great deal of ill will among customers. The problems with Starforce, whether real or not, are now being widely publicized and I doubt it is a good business decision for any game publisher to opt for Starforce. I, for one, will not be buying (or bittorrenting) any Starforce protected games out of fear for what it will do to my hardware. Should any game developers see this post, you now know what your chances of getting me as a customer are if you go with Starforce. It will be very difficult to convince me otherwise, unless subsequent releases of Starforce fix its tendency to break hardware and hijack your machine.
Not that many people read this blog, but I’ve cast my vote.

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We had a potluck last Saturday in honour of St. Patrick’s Day (no it wasn’t technically St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday but never mind) at Kelly’s. Nice time, first time really I’ve seen the new kids outside of Stirling. I brought a pasta salad whose only connection to Ireland is that the colours of the pasta matched the colours of the Irish flag. Actually it was not bad, but I’m not particularly fond of pasta salads as I find that oil and vinegar belong on leafy greens and pasta is just kind of gunky with it – even when it’s made with fancy walnut oil and has blue cheese and bacon in it. I really hate cooking bacon. I would have thought food science would have given us bacon that need not release copious amounts of water and fat while it cooks. Apparently not, we still have to deal with gunky, liquidy raw bacon, splattering as it cooks and finally leaving you with a big fatty mess that is mostly confined to the pan if you’re lucky. Don’t like vinegar much either, never buy it. And then my apartment smelled of bacon and vinegar for two days.

But I digress. After dinner we went to the Toucan (downtown pub) which was quieter than I would have thought and I realised that I am the only person in the entire astro group who does not drink at all. Everyone else had at least a pint of foamy yellow liquid. When I first came to Queen’s about half the group were non-drinkers, but that has not been the case for a long time.

From now on, I replace bacon with pancetta in all recipes. Cleaner, less watery, less fatty, and tastier.

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Google Wins!

Google will not have to hand over any user’s search queries to the government. That’s what a federal judge ruled today when he decided to drastically limit a subpoena issued to Google by the Department of Justice. (You can read the entire ruling here and the government’s original subpoena here.)

Nice. I wonder if the DOJ will appeal…

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Here’s a working link.

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According to several reports a London-based ISP has been fined by a Human Rights Tribunal for allowing the posting of hate material on a hosted website. There are two problems with this.

First, it sets a dangerous precedent to fine an ISP for content that it hosts but is not responsible for posting. In this case, the owner of the ISP was also one of people who posted the objectionable material; however, according to the above-linked article the owner and the ISP were fined separately. I may be ignorant of the legal interpretation of such a decision, but if the ISP is separate from the poster and it too was fined, it would seem to imply that the same could apply to other ISPs that may host objectionable content even where the ISP owners are not the ones who posted said content. (Any readers who know more about this than I do should correct me if I’m wrong.) This case sets an unacceptable precedent that ISPs could be held liable for hosting content that is deemed objectionable, when they should legally be obliged to treat all content they host (or carry through their pipes) neutrally. The growth of the internet and its emergance as a platform for communication, political discussion, free expression, innovation, and all those good things is founded on technology that does not discriminate on the basis of the content that flows through the wires. It’s not a large step to go from this ruling to arguing that ISPs should also be responsible for objectionable content passing through their pipes. If ISPs are forced to watch for objectionable content, it will seriously cripple the main benefits of the internet. The internet has empowered individuals to express their own opinions, to create their own content, and to take advantage of new economic opportunities, and that depends on keeping it free of interference from anyone who wants to prevent the spread of objectionable material.

Second, as a matter of principle hate laws in Canada are incompatible with free speech. Free speech is not protected in this country; as a poster in an internet forum correctly pointed out, this type of speech is precisely the sort of speech that needs to be protected. If people can be prosecuted for publicly expressing hate towards a particular group, it’s an indication that hate speech laws are too restrictive. These particluar individuals were not, so far as I know, advocating specific acts of violence, only generic violence (I’ve been to the website via archive.org though I haven’t been through the whole thing). As such, in the absence of a specific threat, there is no reason to restrict this speech. Suppressing it only drives it farther underground; keeping it public and legal allows it to be debated, questioned, attacked, and that will ultimately do far more to defeat such speech that driving it down with hate speech laws.

Free speech is more important than tolerance.

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