* Posts by Azrael

26 posts • joined 1 Jun 2007

Microsoft demos creepy car stalking system

Black Helicopters

Y'know, while I usually wave my hands and cry about how the sky is falling whenever I see something like this, I'm surprisingly comfortable with it this time.

I have huge issues with toll roads storing data on who went through and using it to track movement (rather than just track who hasn't paid), issues with the government reading emails, and all that jazz.

But I'm OK with an opt-in ability to monitor my own car, to see where it is, and what it's doing.

I'm OK with someone being able to see where I'm driving *if I'm driving their car*, I'm OK with parents being able to see what their kids are doing with the car, and I'm OK with companies being able to see where their company car is being driven.

Because I can easily bypass this by buying my own car, or taking public transport.

If parents want to micromanage their kids... that's not how I'd like to parent, but it's their choice.

If the kids don't want their parents tracking them, then they can choose to do without their parents' car. They can get a part-time job, buy their own POS car, or try to reason with their parents and get the monitoring turned off. If their parents insist on monitoring, well, who am I to tell someone else how to manage their family? No abuse is happening here.

Freedom goes both ways. Sometimes we have to give people the freedom to micromanage things that they own, including their own cars.

Now, if the government wanted a backdoor password to also be able to monitor the cars, or worse, insisted that the monitoring was installed in all new cars and couldn't be turned off... yeah, I'd be VERY unhappy about that.


Qantas trials iPad in the sky


And then...

... if you don't bring your own iPad, they can charge an extra rental fee.

Which you'll pay, on a long flight, since you won't have any other entertainment options.

And if you do bring an iPad, then they don't need to cover the hardware costs.

So it's win for them.

But if it gives the consumers a better entertainment experience, then it's a win for the consumer too. Last flight I was on, one of the entertainment devices didn't work, and another worked but the buttons were stiff, making game-playing hard. Not to mention the latency on the games. Playing on an ipad would have been much more pleasant. (I'm not staring a gift horse in the mouth - I appreciate that they gave us games & movies. I'm just saying that the current iPad technology is a nicer experience than what they had.)

It might be different elsewhere, but these days everyone seems to have an ipad or similar device. I wonder what the current % of flyers already carry one?

I like win-win situations.

And I'd have REALLY liked to be able to take a few movies with me, when I had a 2 hour wait between flights, no access to my luggage, not enough time to leave the airport, and not much else to do.


In-flight fight for stubborn iPhone-loving teen


You guys really don't see the problem with hitting other people?

Wait, what?

OK, I'm all for being respectful to the flight crew, and obeying instructions. But so many people are congratulating the guy that threw a punch? Mr Miller became angry - how did he respond? Did he ask the kid to stop? Did he point out that the flight attendants had told him not to? Did he call a flight attendant, and point out the kid was still using the phone? All valid options. Or did he swing his fists.

The fact that the guy is old, and was hitting a presumably-stronger-than-him teenager has nothing to do with it. The fact that the teenager was disobeying instructions has nothing to do with it. If I'm travelling on an airplane, I do NOT have the right to punch another traveller, even if I feel justifiably angry. Even if they aren't obeying the instructions. If the kid needs a punch, there should be an air marshal on the plane that the flight attendants can call over.


UK gets final warning over Phorm trials


Am I the only one...

Who is alright with the idea that you should be able to "snoop" if you have "reasonable grounds for believing" that consent was given?

Seriously, I think that's alright. As long as there are "reasonable grounds."

I had someone call me a few days ago, upset that us techs had "loaded the contents of her hard disk onto the network server" - the reason is because her mapped drive didn't connect and decided to show her C: instead. So I assured her that was likely what happened, she was still concerned, so I pulled open her account and said "I'm looking at it now. There's nothing that's been put in there, other than the files we worked on last week" - yes, officially I just violated her privacy (although I'm allowed to because it's a work account, etc.) - but really I did have "reasonable grounds to assume consent was given" since I was previously working with her on the files that were in her account, and we were discussing files in her account. I could have said "Mind if I look in there?" but that can sometimes be a (minor) annoyance - if she wasn't on the phone I'd have looked, then sent an email with the same information, rather than asking for permission, waiting hours, looking, sending the mail, and perhaps having a much longer delay before she gets her answer.

For me the question really should be what "reasonable" grounds are. Set some definition, make it reasonable, and things will probably work out reasonably well.

For example, is it reasonable to do snooping, if the data is anonymized as it's recorded? That would potentially allow companies to provide better service without impacting their users privacy.

Privacy is good. It's important. But if we don't have reasonable privacy laws that let people gather appropriate information, then the *important* laws will be either ignored or removed to get rid of those barriers.


Gmail users howl over Halloween outage


Even if it's free...

It offers a service. And when deciding whether to use that service, I'm basing that decision on what I think I'm getting. I'll enjoy and appreciate a free gmail account, until it becomes worth my while to use another option. Whether I stay with it won't be based on price, it'll be based on price AND service.

So gmail does have to provide a reasonable level of service, or loose customers.

They aren't obligated to keep customers - but if that's their objective, it'd be sensible for them to consider it. So the "it's free" argument goes a fair distance for me, but doesn't go all the way.

All that said, 30 hours downtime still leaves, what? 99.7% uptime. My maths might be off, and that also doesn't take into account other downtimes through the year. It's not "five nines" uptime that you get from some places - but if we could get our university mailserver to provide even 99% uptime I'd be *very* happy. So it still looks like they're providing very respectable, solid service. On top of being free. Pretty awesome stuff.


Microsoft howls as Google turns IE into Chrome


@Martin Nicholls

"Maybe what google should be doing is not supporting IE where it doesn't render something properly, like for example if something is insanely slow in IE but isn't in other browsers - let it be slow, if it renders like a dog's breakfast in IE7, but is fine in other browsers - let it render like a dog's breakfast.

It's the only way to force users to use a real browser, let them see how the sausage is made as it were."

Problem is, most users won't realize. They will just think "Oh, this Google site thing is really slow and looks ugly." and not give it a second thought. So it'll hurt google, not MS.

What they'd need to do is, instead, give the user some sort of message like "You're on IE, which has problems running webpages like this. Install this plugin to fix the problem or better yet, install a better browser. But if you want to stay on IE like it is, you can. Continue at your own peril."

If they did that, then people would be more likely to put blame where it belongs, and make their own choice about what browser to use.

But... uh... isn't that exactly what they're doing? So you get your wish :)


Secret teen hacker army ridiculed


Why all the hate?

Why the comments implying that these "kids" must be stupid script kiddies?

I'm working in IE at a university here, and I could point out maybe five people who'd make good potential "security experts" - and would investigate based on knowledge and understanding rather than just downloaded exploits. And would *also* be able to read security advisories and download exploits, to see what those do (hey, no sense ignoring it if someone has already identified weaknesses.)

I could probably find ten universities, and there would be someone in a similar position to me in each of them. That's 50 potential hackers with no criminal record, and easy references to see if they're malicious or not. (Yeah, you don't think malicious uni students with hacking abilities wouldn't try to squeeze something extra out of the uni networks?)

Not hard to check if they've been trying to install rootkits, bittorrent, or virii. Not hard to decide that one of those three is not like the other. Not hard to talk to their lecturers and see if they approach class with a thirst for knowledge and a love of the topic, or a sullen disregard for others and focus on their own ego. It's even easy to tell if they've been helping classmates on tests or not.

So with a bit of research, you'd get a pretty good idea if they've got the skills and temperament that you're looking for.

And it's simple enough to set up an insecure system with reasonable ways to figure out an entry point, if you want a hands-on test. Although testing hackers kind of misses the point, since if you can test them on a specific topic, you already have the knowledge of that topic. It's what they know and you don't yet know that is valuable.

Not that I expect a government organization to necessarily handle things like that, of course. I also regard these claims of a "hacker army" with suspicion.


Australia mulls botnet takedown scheme


Am I missing something?

OK, I know the topic is a lot more tricky/involved than this...

but... instead of doing deep packet inspection on all outgoing traffic, why not just block ports for each individual user? Leave the "obvious" ports open for traffic, IM, etc. that the average non-savvy user will use, but block ports for VNC, mail servers, etc.

Then have a handy webpage where the user can specifically unblock those ports. Individually. That way if I *want* to run a mail server I can, but if I get infected and a mail server installed, it's blocked.

Wouldn't that allow us to be protected from the malware-infected-grannies, while not forcing the grannies to do anything different, while not risking slippery slope?

I know there are still ways to hide the malware signals through http traffic and similar, and that requires packet inspection to detect... but... wouldn't we have at least cut out a large chunk of the problem?


E-tailers can't claim on returned goods


Huh? Catch22?

So... wait. If they don't know about their right to return something (because you didn't tell them) - then they can return it. Even if it's 8 months later.

If they DO know (because you told them) then they can't return it (after the reasonable week)

So they have the rights, but only if they don't know about them? How... interesting. And if they happen to know the rights but you never told them, then they get to exercise the rights for longer? No wonder everything I order comes with more unnecessary paperwork than product.

I understand that the intention is to pressure the retailers into informing their customers of the right to return. Which isn't a bad thing. It just seems silly when it obviously wasn't a case of "Oops, I got a defective product, and only just discovered it"

Also, returning with no questions asked? No requirement on it being in the same condition? So I can order a book, and as long as I read it within a week I can return it, no questions, for a full refund? Rinse and repeat? What about if I order a PDF book online?


Parallel importer jailed for up to nine months in Microsoft case


Re: In defence of protectionism

> Suppose I'm a software developer and decide I want to support developing countries by giving my software away free there, while still charging a hefty license fee for the same product in Western countries that can afford it. Should a grey importer be allowed to gather free copies from Africa and sell them here for a profit (if my license explicitly says he can't)?

This is already resolved. Many companies release educational copies of their software, with different licensing requirements. Heck, I'm allowed to give away free copies of some MS software, as long as I'm giving it to a currently enrolled student, and they don't re-install after they are no longer students. Doesn't mean I can give away free copies to other people, nor that I can sell them. I don't see how allowing parallel importing would restrict this charity-level work, that is already happening within countries where the software is sold.

>What if rather than giving it away free I just sell it much, much cheaper in developing countries, why is that wrong?

It's not. Same as the educational pricing on many software items.

> Or supposing I decide I want control over who I'm going to let use my software. Maybe I have a policy of not selling it to the military, not selling to Israel, or to Russia, or to Libya, or whatever. Shouldn't I have the right not to sell it in particular countries, or impose special conditions if I choose?

Perhaps. Let's remove countries from that question. Suppose you have a policy of not selling it to Asians or Latinos. Should you have the right not to sell it to people of particular skin tone, or impose special conditions if you choose?

There is the legal issue when selling in various countries. Your legal obligation concerning your software may vary from country to country, making it necessary to release country-specific versions, or perhaps making you choose to not release your software in a specific country. Even so, I still don't see that as an argument against grey importing, as I presume you'd be covered by saying "That software was sold for country X so it's reasonable to only fulfill requirements for country X."

> Or maybe I've employed a local agent or distributor to sell and support my product in a particular country because I need someone who speaks the local language and that's costing me a lot of money. Shouldn't I be allowed to charge more in that country to recoup some of my costs there?

I don't know. Are you making losses while selling in that country? Ouch! In that case it's not good business. Are you making profits, but maybe lower than in other countries? Fair enough, sell it for a higher price. Are other people able to parallel import your products and sell them there? Well, those importers still bought the products from you (and from a place that didn't need a local importer) - so you can still increase the costs with your local importer AND allow parallel importing, without taking any additional costs that aren't recovered. The only way you'd loose out would be if you charged *more* than the additional costs. Which is what people take offense to.

People don't like being singled out. People don't like having to pay more for reasons such as their skin colour, their religion, their political beliefs, or the country they happen to be in.

I don't think there's much objection to paying more to cover shipping costs, language translations, etc. - but when those costs can be covered by the importer and *still* sold cheaper? I think that's when people feel singled out and cheated.


McKinnon lawyers push for UK trial


If the crime happens "where the computers are"

... does that mean that I can watch pirated music and videos if they are hosted in a country with no copyright laws?

Does it mean I can (disgusting as I find the thought) watch child pornography if the computer is in a country with no pedophilia laws?

Or does the country where I'm sitting still matter?

What if there is a forum which you know is in a middle eastern country, and some Brit or American posts some anti-religious message on it? Should they be extradited to be executed (or whatever)

What if I criticize the Chinese government in this post, and don't realize that the Reg hosts their server in China? Have I committed a crime in China? Should I be extradited?

What if I hack into the microsoft webserver? I'm in Australia. I *assume* the webserver is in the US, but it's pretty likely that there is some sort of mirror server here in Oz. So if I pull down confidential information... if I get it from some cache, or mirror site here in Oz, did the crime happen here? If I get it from the US server the crime happened there? What if I tried to get it from the US server, but due to load-balancing trickery I got it from the Aus server? What if there was no Aus server, and due to load-balancing trickery I got it from the Azerbijan server without realizing? And what if the Azerbijanis just happen to have the death sentence for unauthorized access to information?

Hey, here's a fun one. One of the laws the Americans want to charge McKinnon with is something along the lines of "accessing confidential information that was protected" (regardless of how shoddily it was protected) and one of the pieces of information he discovered (and they want to charge him with) is discovering the IPs of various military computers. I downloaded the court documents, which has the IPs listed - but they are blacked out. I did "select all" "copy" "paste into notepad" - and there were the IPs, clear as day. I'd bypassed their military security. I could potentially be tried as a terrorist. Where should I be tried? I'd downloaded the pdf files, so... did that crime happen in Australia? But I downloaded them from a US webserver. So did the crime happen in the US? (It was legal to download. Just not to copy/paste) - what if I was viewing it through a web browser rather than downloading first? The file was still downloaded to my computer. So where did that crime happen?

The *ONLY* sensible way to judge where a crime happened is to use the location of the person doing the crime. Everything else is too ethereal, and the user doesn't always know what country the servers are in. Things are crimes in some countries and not others.

McKinnon broke the law. He broke a British law while in Britain, and should be charged in Britain. Especially when it's very clear that the US govt. intends to make a scapegoat of him.

Or would you Brits be happy with America's RIAA extraditing you to face trials for mp3 downloads?


Homework late? Blame Russian hackers


I faced skepticism with my tech-excuse

"I tried to print it at lunch time. The printer driver in the labs wasn't working."

When told by the teacher that she didn't believe me, I pulled out my stack of papers from my satchel, and dropped it on the desk. "Uh. There it is. You'll notice that each word is written on a line amongst that code. You'll have to read down the list. Or, y'know, I can just print it at home and hand it in tomorrow. Or if you want I'll do a collage during class."

Strangely, despite having it in front of her, she still assumed I was trying to pull some sort of a scam. Oh well, can't win 'em all.


McKinnon UFO hack 'looked like cyberterrorist attack'

Dead Vulture

y'know, I'm a terrorist, too

So, when this first came up, I was curious. I looked for the published files about the case.

It seems that, amongst other things, McKinnon is being charged because (despite how easy it was) he gained access to information that the US Military had taken action to secure from the public.

Reasonable enough.

So how am I a terrorist?

Well, the document I was reading included the IP addresses of some computers that McKinnon accessed. But the addresses had been blocked out with a black box - obviously information they intended to secure. I wondered how secure it really was. I copied the text (ctrl+a to select it all, ctrl+c to copy it) - opened nopepad, and pasted the text (ctrl+v)

There were the IP addresses, clear as day. Oops. Looks like I bypassed some of their (admittedly feeble) security. Looks like I am guilty of terrorism, too.

Now, I have an inkling of how McKinnon got in. I now have a list of IP addresses that were previously vulnerable. Makes me want to test them, to see if either I'm right about my guesses, and whether anyone has bothered to actually secure the computers. I wouldn't have done anything bad (maybe poked around just from curiosity then left.)

I never tested this, since I'm assuming the hole would have been plugged (if it's what I'm thinking, it'd be plugged pretty easily)

Anyway... yeah... hopefully this story goes some way to showing that we can't compare apples and oranges. A lack of security on the internet *can* be seen as an invitation.

I could have been copying/pasting that information for legitimate reasons and expecting the censored information to be missing. Or I could have been doing exactly what I did, and knowingly searched for a way around their security - but when security is so lax...

... ugh. It's like putting a "do not steal" sign up on a shopfront then hoping.

Except that's not really the right metaphor. Unless something was damaged... it's like putting a "do not peek" sign on a mostly-closed door. Then filing charges of industrial espionage against someone walking past, who looks through the door.

Leaving a door unlocked does not give anyone the legal or moral right to steal your things. It doesn't even give them the legal or moral right to walk through the door. But in a building where people *do* have the right to walk around (say, a university) - leaving a door unlocked still doesn't give people the legal right to walk in, but it hardly seems like an extreme case if they do. There are many students who'll walk into an unlocked room, sit down quietly, and do their study. Should we sue them for trespass?

For me? I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't want to damage anything. I don't want to steal anything. I *do* have a sense of curiosity, and I love understanding how things work. I love to read unusual spam mails and try to figure out what the con is. I love to calculate how best to count cards in a game of blackjack (but have never considered doing so in a casino where I can profit from cheating). And I love making computers do things they weren't intended to. It's a game. I stay on the legal side (working in IT, I have many systems that I'm the administrator of, so I can hunt out these weaknesses as a productive way of improving our systems)

Now, don't get me wrong. I am entirely against criminals. I am entirely against people who use computers to "bully" others. I truly, passionately HATE all the trojans and email scams that play on the users ignorance. But any large company? They should have at least one competent IT person who can secure their system. If they don't? They should hire someone to look it over and give advice. Because, although an unlocked door isn't an excuse for thieves to take things from your house, we don't see companies that leave their warehouses unlocked all night.

Let's switch this around, and remove computers and "the internet" from the discussion (since people overreact about any crime involving computers). Imagine if the US left their weapon stores locked (but only with a locker padlock, which can be picked using a paperclip) and McKinnon walked in looking for alien technology. And saw all their missiles, torpedoes, nuclear bombs, and who knows what else?

Yeah, he'd be breaking the law, but who would we be outraged at?

And if they said it cost $700,000 to fix his damage (if he didn't take anything. They just spent that much investigating what happened, putting in new locks, etc.) - would we be more or less skeptical of their case?

Dead vulture for a culture that is crushing our sense of exploration and wonder.


Stretchy 'bucky-gel' promises touchscreen video-stockings



Bucky O'Hare? So instead of worrying about ROTM it'll be Rise of the Toad Empire?

I want wearable computing. I enjoy being away from the computer, but there are some aspects I'd like to take with me. As we get more and more access to wireless and handy tools like google maps, there are more reasons why I'd want a computer with me. I'd love to be able to glance at my wrist and get a map of the nearby streets along with my location.

As I don't like mobile phones (and people tend to carry those with them everywhere) a mobile computer with my IM on it would be quite handy.

I considered building myself a wearable computer, but wanted an interface that only required one hand to use, and couldn't figure out a method to make a chording keyboard and a hands-free mouse that wouldn't cost me a fortune. Certainly too expensive for a side project.


The 'green' car tax grabs that don't add up

Paris Hilton

Put a price on a life

For all you people saying that you can't put a price on a life... let's do a thought experiment where *you* put a price on not just *a* life but on *your* life.

Ever flown somewhere in an aeroplane?

Next time you're going to fly somewhere, find two airline companies that fly to that location. Find out the airline crash statistics, and how likely that a passenger is going to die. (fortunately, it will be very unlikely)

Calculate the difference between the two. So one is probably a slightly safer bet.

Now... how much cheaper would the ticket need to be for you to fly on the less safe option? You're putting a price on that risk of dying. If you're willing to fly with an airline that's 1% likely to end up with you dying, and you're doing it to save $100, then you've just put a price of $10, 000 on your life. (obviously, the odds will be much lower)

If you don't fly, you can do the same. Calculate your odds of dying in a car accident. Calculate how much you earn when you go to work.

Every day of our life is a series of calculated risks. Usually we go by gut instinct rather than putting numbers on it - but the numbers *are* there. There's nothing wrong with putting a number on things. You might be surprised about what risks you take without realizing, and what risks you are unwilling to take but are quite safe. I know people who are afraid of flying, but will run across a road near a blind rise to save themselves a few minutes walk to the pedestrian crossing.

So economists have to make these choices, they have to put a value on things (including human life) so that we (or our governments) can make sensible decisions. Maybe if we charged 99% tax rate and better funded the police force we'd have less deaths. But that's probably a monetary cost that's too high to pay for the (relatively small) increase in safety.

Economists aren't bad when they put a value on lives. They're just doing their job. They're doing what you do every day without knowing it. What's bad is when the economists do these calculations, then it's ignored by the governments.

Paris (my first time using that icon!) because... well... she's got more money than me. If she donated some of it to medical research she'd save lives. And you can't put a value on lives.


Oz burglar had sex with Hoover


Aussie Aussie Aussie!

Oi Oi Oi!


Movie pirate forced to ditch Linux


I'm just tired

...of this all.

He probably did wrong. He may be a fighter for the rights we should have, or a dirty thief. I don't really care.

He probably got punished way harsher than he should have. I don't really care.

What I *do* care about is the hypocracy. I mean... who really knows the laws? I do, but the general population doesn't.

And yet every time I put in a DVD that I paid money for I get a little video (that I can't skip) telling me that copying movies is a crime. Um. Obviously whoever made that video either doesn't know the legal status of copyright infringement or they are intentionally misrepresenting the situation to their own benefit.

We're going to keep having cases like this where people argue over whether someone has been treated unfairly or not until the general population *knows* and *understands* the laws involved - including the *reasons* for them.

Personally, I think the people forcing me to watch their dubious legal statements should be fined for misrepresentation or whatever would be appropriate.

Once we start protecting the consumers we can then (justifiably) come down harshly on those that abuse copyrighted content. Right now it's just hit and miss, with both sides playing dirty.


Intel revolted by its own 'insensitive and insulting' ad


It strikes me that...

...the message I got from this advert was that intel can provide you with *power* - raw power and computing abilities. Make your business work well, harder, better.

I interpreted it as them representing this strength, power, skill etc. of the intel product by showing the black sprinter. He's a sleek athlete, strong, fit, ready to explode into action. He's a sprinter, he has this ability that "normal" people don't have. He can run faster. (he's also multiplied, which is why there are many copies)

They also decided to show the "normal" manager. He's a soft white guy, wearing smart casual clothes. He's not special. He's not large or strong like the "powerful" black guy working for him.

So yeah, it has the black guy "serving" the white guy. Possibly racist. But it also has the black guy representing the strength, power, all the *cool* things that intel are offering. And the white guy representing the soft geek, all the lame things that you are. Except he's smug. He has intel/this black dude on his side.

Strikes me as just as racist. Why is the soft geek chosen to be white? Why is the strong guy chosen to be black? Why is intel implying that black people are sleeker, sexier, stronger, fitter than white people?

Wow, re-reading this comment it really sounds like I'm planning to bat for the other team, doesn't it?

p.s. thanks for the discussion of "black" vs "african american" - I'm Australian but my parents came from South Africa. We are *highly* aware of racism, and I was raised to judge people by their actions not their skin. Even so, I'm never really sure how to refer to black people since the South Africans call them "blacks" and - well - it just seems wrong to take my cue from that. There aren't that many african-australians of black skin tone that I interact with, since we're so multicultural that when you include the greeks, italians, lebanese, indians etc. your chances of running into an african are proportionately reduced. So I've never had someone to take my cue from, considering the other races seem to refer to themselves based on their country of origin. My "indian" friend was born here. Ironically, I did grow up with a black friend. I still didn't know what term to use since I referred to him by name and, in the years I was friends with him, I never had need to refer specifically to his race. Strangely enough, years after we stopped seeing each other, and I'd moved house, I started running into him again, as he started hanging out somewhere that I'd pass through. He would always be with a group of black friends. I never said anything, or asked anything about it, but I did always wonder why. Is it racism? Probably not, he was raised by white parents and never displayed any racism towards me or anyone that I observed. Was he just more comfortable with them? Was it coincidence? Was it that they had something in common, a shared history and culture and pride (despite growing up in Australia)? Was it that he was searching for his cultural heritage? Was it that he suffered racism, and so he sought out a group where he didn't have to worry about that? - so many possible reasons for *his* behavior, there's no need for me to assume that he was racist. And most people wouldn't think twice about his choice of friends. Just seems like I *could* have seen racism in his actions if I was *looking* for it. Same with the intel advert.


Second Life turns on screams of horror tool


The real challenge...

...will be making it sound like the avatars are the ones talking.

When I walk into a room of five (or fifty?) avatars, and hear someone say "Hey, welcome to the club" I want to know who said that.

Will they be able to pull it off using stereo sound and speech indicating bubbles easily enough?

Or some sort of filter, so the more people in the room, the softer their voice gets as they move away?

It'll be interested to see if they can pull this off. If they can, it *will* bring new life into second life, by making it a more convenient way to meet people for voice chat. Sure, Skype may be better, but you need to already know the people. Going to a virtual bar to "pick up" has a certain appeal to a large section of the computer savvy youth. You just need to make sure that the technology helps, rather than getting in their way.

As always, the success of a social system comes back to how well you enable people to do what they already do, socially.


Virtual narcs boot Second Life casinos off the island


Re: This has been coming for years

You're right, the sky hasn't fallen in yet.

And I do think that, broadly, the interpretation that games "relying" on chance are the ones on the axe make sense. I don't think that's the whole story, I bet the lindens will be unhappy about gambling card games, even ones that are largely about skill. It's more about the gambling than the chance, to my understanding. But you're right, if we made a racing game where you could win money, even if there were elements of chance, I doubt there would be any problems.

I don't think the sky has fallen in. They will never want to ban people from making games in SL, and rewarding with L$


but... doesn't that exclude *most* games?

"(1) (a) rely on chance or random number generation to determine a winner"

Ok. No random number generators. Fine. So we can't play 2-up.

But blackjack? Alright, that's also obviously gambling. It doesn't rely *entirely* on chance or random numbers, but does rely *partially* on chance considering the cards you get.

But what does that leave? Obviously, it leaves *all* games that don't give linden dollars as rewards, but linden dollars are the primary reward in the game. What else can you give? Skins, clothes, etc. for the avatars. But most players have already customized their characters.

My study of game theory makes me want to point out that *all* games are, to a greater or lesser extent, gambling. That's part of the psychology that makes it fun. But... I'll resist that urge, and instead ponder more.

So a game like Diablo wouldn't be acceptable? We can't have second life people killing creatures and collecting the gold (linden dollars) that they drop? Because there are random number generators involved. Would it be acceptable if the creatures are deterministic?

We *can* give jigsaw puzzles, or riddles. We *can't* give everyone a different jigsaw puzzle. That would involve randomness. So we can give everyone the *same* game that can be solved the *same* way every time. And give linden dollars as a prize.

Or we can have voting games ("who has the coolest costume", etc.)

If we remove "chance" would things be acceptable? Could I cheat? Could I make a game of blackjack which doesn't pick cards "randomly" - it picks cards due to a formula based on the time as the cards are shuffled? I could even publish the formula. See? Entirely player actions, no chance at all!

Uh huh. Yeah. This sounds really workable.

But to be fair, does anyone have a more workable definition that seperates "winning gold from playing cards or lotteries" from "winning gold from killing monsters in WoW"?


Google tells TV execs where they've gone wrong


...And this is why I pirate my tv shows

We bought a house. (yay us!) The owner, when showing us around, apologetically told us there is no TV aerial. Neither of us cared. For years we haven't watched any free to air tv. My time is valuable enough that I'd rather pay for the DVD set, and watch tv when it's convenient to me. No adverts, and when I have an evening off I can watch four episodes, then go two or three weeks without watching anything. Then pass on the DVDs to my friends, and borrow theirs. The industry is still getting money from me (probably more money, now) and the good shows are being rewarded, instead of the prime-time-shows that happen to be on.

It's a good theory. Except when it doesn't work. Not watching TV, I don't know what the good shows are. Having handed over hundred(s) of dollars for a series or two, and found them to be utter crap, I can be a bit gun-shy about giving new shows a try. That's where the internet comes in. Despite being Australian, I tend to like british shows, so I occasionally browse through the BBC website, and read about whatever is showing over there, then use good old bittorrent. If the show is good, available here, and reasonably priced, I'll happily put down my money for season 2. My girlfriend likes having "complete sets" so usually buys season 1 as well... which sits in plastic wrap on the shelf.

Hmm, still a good theory... but I said there are times it doesn't work, didn't I? Well... it bugs me when I put a disk in, then walk to the kitchen to get myself food. Eat the food. Wander back in. And about that time the menu is appearing. I don't want to sit through their "don't pirate movies" spiel. All that does is makes me think "if this was a pirated DVD, I'd already be watching the show". I don't want the unskippable menus. I don't want to watch the advert for the stargate computer game on *every single disk* as I'm watching the series. Sheesh! Show it to me on disk 1, then give me a free pass for the rest! - so, by doing the right thing and handing over my money, I am being *inconvenienced*! Why? I could sit at my computer, schedule the season worth of episodes to download. Sure, it takes a few days, but I can queue up enough of what I want to watch, and I go weeks between watching anything. In terms of effort and inconvenience, downloading my tv and movies is pretty close to zero. It's a lot less effort than going out to the shops to buy the dvd, and that's before I even consider the cost. Then you add the forced adverts on the disks that I've already paid for. Oh. And that's assuming that it's even been released here in Australia. I've spent weeks asking different stores if they have a particular show, asking if they can order it in, until I got fed up, downloaded it, and started watching that evening.

So it comes to a very simple choice for me. Do I want to pay my money for inconvenience, with the (small) moral benefit of feeling like I'm supporting the industry and the shows I like? Or do I want to get on with whatever I want to do, and have the shows appear there, with little to no effort on my part, and no annoying adverts?

Every time I hand over my money I feel *bad* about it. And I'm reminded of that, every time I sit there trying to skip to the starting menu. Before worrying about money from adverts, try making the things that we pay for *at least as convenient as what we can get for free!* - threatening jail doesn't help. Be positive. Let me pay to download my dvd, if I don't want to go to the shops. Let me *choose* if I want to watch the adverts on the dvd, or put them after the show. Or at least let me skip them if I hit the button. Let me skip to the starting menu unless there's a *very* good reason why I need to see it. Get the DVDs into the shops *before* they are aired on tv. Basically, give me the convenience that I have when I download an avi. I'll pay my money, if you do that. I have no objection to paying for what I get, I only have an objection to being "punished" or inconvenienced when I do the right thing, and pay.


Speedy evolution saves blue moon butterflies


But Danny, wait...?

I thought you explained that:

"The scriptures do not need to be interpreted at all, for God is well able to say exactly what He means. They need simply to be read as the writer intended them to be read, then believed and obeyed. Morris's words, while sincere, are simplistic."

Right. So from that, I can understand that anyone who reads the scriptures with good intention as a Christian will understand "what God truly means"

They "simply" need to read it as the writer intended.

But then you point to:


With a question about Cain's wife that many Christians can't answer. And that article tells us:

"Many Christians cannot answer the question about Cain’s wife because they focus on today’s world (and the problems associated with close relations marrying), and do not understand the clear historical record God has given to us."

Again, that's saying God gave a clear record... but people don't understand because they focus on todays world. So... uh... which is right?

Will people, even ones growing up in todays world and not understanding the historical context "simply" understand God's word...

...or do they need to first learn about the historical context before trying to understand?

Am I missing something?

Is answersingenesis telling me that the Christians that don't instantly understand about Caine's wife aren't "reading as the writer intended"?

Or do you not agree with what answersingenesis said on that page you linked?

Or maybe, as Ian points out, things might not be as clear as some like to make it seem, and words can be translated differently, and have different meaning in context?

Anyway, are we giving up on the idea that this is a scientific discussion? Quoting that there will be naysayers to the Lords word is well and good, but has no place in a scientific discussion. Just like yelling out E=MC^2 has no place in church.

I know we've obviously left the realms of science long ago when we started discussing Cain and Abel, but I'm interested in whether you would consider Adam & Eve, and all that jazz "scientific" or not, and if you would, how you'd justify their inclusion with the scientific method. Or is it fully accepted that this has nothing to do with science, and we are just discussing religion?


Religion vs Science


This again.

For me, it's easy. Can it be falsified? Yes. Great! You have a scientific theory.

Is it impossible to falsify it? Ok. It may be true, but it's not (yet, at least) scientific.

And yes, I say "scientific theory" because, to put it in ultra-simplified terms, there is no such thing as "scientific fact" - only very very strong theories. Unlike religion, science always accepts the possibility that it could be wrong. That's why science can be "corrected" and it...heh... evolves.... over time.

Science may not be perfect, but it can *become* more perfect. With every new discovery, and every new theory (even the theories that are rejected) - religions kind of need a God figure to step in if they need correction.

Unfortunately, J is right. People here, both the evolutionists and the creationists, aren't interested in considering the other side of the argument, only in pushing their side of the argument. I've long ago realized that's pointless. I'll just be happy if we can argue using common rules.

Is it an argument about science? Use the scientific rules and foundations for arguments.

Is it an argument about philosophy? Use the philosophical rules and foundations for arguments.

Which is it, guys?


Spyware mum foils pervert


I'm disgusted

Honestly, I'd glad this worked out for the best, and her son is safe, but I'd disgusted by the invasion of privacy.

Everyone seems to think that she was just being the "responsible parent" and should know what he's doing online, just like they should know who his real life friends are. Or she has the right, since it's her computer. Rubbish!

Recording what he's doing on the computer, to read at a later date without his knowledge is spying. That may be legal for her to do, but it is *NOT* the equivalent of knowing who his friends are. It's the equivalent of hiding a microphone and camera in his bedroom before his friends come over. Or before his girlfriend (if he has one) comes over.

Or do you ask to be introduced to the friends? Ask them to spend their time in the lounge room, instead of closed in the bedroom? Or to keep the bedroom door open? Everyone has their own parenting style, but still...

She happened to unveil a crime, but unless there was good reason to believe that a crime was happening before, this sort of invasion of privacy disgusts me. I don't care that it happened to be her own child who's privacy she was invading. If I had discovered my parents spying on me like this when I was 15, that would have seriously shaken my trust in them.


Creationists open biblical history museum


Church of pure awesome!

So I was talking to my catholic friend over IM, she was telling me that this church teaches that all animals (including dinosaurs) were vegetarian before Adam's sin ("then T-rex turned into a meatasaurus")

The amusing part?

She started the conversation by saying "T-Rex used to eat planets" before correcting her typo to be "plants"

A universe-roaming planet-eating T-Rex? Sounds awesome! I'm converting religions already!