Thomas E. Hutchins; Go back to Elementary Social Studies.

Posted in Political with tags , , , , , , on October 9, 2008 by Freyar

Another case of overreaching powers.

This little number was e-mailed to me by my father today, and while I knew I’d be furious about it, I didn’t think I’d end up as blatantly flustered as I am.  Thomas Hutchins authorized a program to place peaceful activists on a “terror watch” list, as well as organizations these people belong to.

Between 2005 and 2006, these people were spied on, followed by officers, recorded, and all sorts of information added to their ‘files’ that are kept on various police databases including ones related to drug trafficking.  Once Hutchins was actually faced with this little scenario he claimed that it was a necessary program and the most ridiculous quote from any politician or police officer’s mouth was given.

“I don’t believe the First Amendment is any guarantee to those who wish to disrupt the government”

… Let’s take a moment…

There have been a lot of precedents in the 1960s expanding the powers of the First Amendment to cover anti-war protesting. Most interesting in this case is Brandenburg v. Ohio, where a speech advocating violence to another group was still held under the First Amendment. The interesting part, still, is that these protesters specifically had no intention of participating in violent protests, or instigating violent acts in the first place!

The discussion to overthrow the United States government is one that is rather frequent in the United States. It is something that continued to be discussed, and something that will always be on the mind of people. However, branding people as terrorists for having this view, or even (in this case) something as simple as an anti-death-penalty protest is not only wrong, but it is concrete evidence of the totalitarianism we are heading to as a country, and it’s even more disturbing now that the people at the state level of government are instigating these things!

The people that were under surveillance were given a letter stating that they were welcome to view the record that the government agencies had on them prior to them being purged. Good thing they are getting purged, but what about the wrong-doing made against these people in the first place? The Maryland State Police violated these people’s First Amendment rights and the police are hoping to say “Oh we don’t have it anymore, no harm no foul.” Sorry, no.. I hope the Police Department, as well as Hutchins himself find themselves in the middle of a lawsuit.

Keep in mind, “Suspected Terrorist List”[s] are known to destroy careers, income, and reuptation. This is absolutely unacceptable on the State’s side, and the United States government as a whole.

————

As if that was not enough.

Harassing Advertising Fails To Deliver

Posted in games with tags , , , , , , on September 26, 2008 by Freyar

Playing Warhammer Online. Good game. Even better launch.

Same Problems.

Gold selling has already exploded between two major companies. This results in a massive number of “whispers” (a private message sent in-game) with broken statements like “www.******.com ^^ Warhammer Online Gold Price ^ 10G==5.5USD^ ,Fast Power-Leveling 1-40 sale $299. ~~Welcome to ( www.******.com)”

Yes, these are so frequent that it is enough to destroy my sentance flow on my own blog. I sent an e-mail to the contact addresses. Who knows.. I’ve never done that before. What’s the worst that can happen? They subscribe my address to a bunch or pornography sites that are blocked by Google anyway?

To whom it may concern,

I am a player of the recently launched Warhammer: Age of Reckoning MMO. As I am sure you are aware, many accounts so far have been banned for harassing players with unsolicited advertisements to random players using automated scripts and bots, as well as using tactics to avoid and get around ignore filters put in place by Mythic and EA. I am sorry to say that as a ‘potential’ customer, I am not happy with your advertising methods.

I pay EA/Mythic to have access to Warhammer: Age of Reckoning in order to enjoy an immersive experience, even moreso on a Roleplaying server. However I am increasing furious that after numerous rejections that your advertisers and bots continue to harrass me, my family members, my guild, my friends, and others. Barraging them with the same non-english message about buying gold every thirty to fourty-five minutes is unacceptable, and while I understand the need to advertise it is not going to get ****** any good reputation for pure harrassment.

I have considered in the past of buying virtual goods. I have considered buying power-level services despite the problems associated with account hijackings, account bannings, and other negative aspects of entering into this kind of arrangement. However ******’s over-the-top advertising has convinced me as a customer to not buy from your company purely due to the lack of being friendly and respectful.

It is akin to going to a theme park, where tickets are used to buy prizes, and many of your advertisers walk up to me every fourty-five minutes speaking in broken English that you are offering to sell tickets for cash instead of having me earn them myself. While I, or some others, may want to buy these tickets without the risk of losing time or money at the carnival games, it still comes down to outright harrasment which would (in any phsyical place) result in the ejection of the offender.

In closing I ask for the basic respect that a potential customer of ****** is (over)due. Stop spamming me in-game with messages regarding your current pricing. Stop circumventing my ignore filters, and flat out stop advertising to me. The harassment is one of the major reasons I don’t buy gold, or purchase power leveling services. Please improve your company image by adopting a policy that is not so abusive.

I don’t expect much from it, but we will see.

——–

UPDATE:

Didn’t expect much, and looks like my expectations were met. The response was of course from overseas.

Dear sir or madam:
hello!
we r so sry about the trouble we brought to u ,we will try to improve it,hope u r fine :)
ty for ur email and advice!
Best wishes!

Glad to see that they are certainly the ‘professional’ company they claim to be.

Let’s Consider: Activation Limits

Posted in games with tags , , , , , , on September 25, 2008 by Freyar

You get home, you look at your pretty thin SPORE case, tucked neatly beside your newly purchased case holding your purchased copy of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky. You eagerly open it up, start the installation process, clicking next at each prompt until the question about where to install it pops up. You change it to D:\Games, since that is where you put all your games, then continue on to wait for the 10.5 GB worth of stuff to be dumped to your hardrive. Only you don’t know that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky is installing a driver for its copy protection, and neither do you realize that SPORE is installing a new version of SecuROM as well.

After whichever you chose first is finished installing, you go about to see if there are any patches, especially since you have noticed that a lot of PC titles these days have patches even before they were released, and install the one that you expected to be about.  You then start the title and watch it load, but something odd hits you. The cursor for your mouse changed to something you haven’t seen before. A disc with rotating blue bars circling it. You shrug and continue on only to crash with a very un-helpful Microsoft ‘this-program-has-crashed-and-I-can’t-tell-you-why’ message.

You waste a good hour trying to look up problems that other people have, and find just a few here and there with the same problem. You sigh and go to sleep for the night as it looked like a re-install would be needed. The patch you installed failed.

Wake up the next morning, and you feel relatively better. You uninstall the game, re-install it to the same place, and this time skip the patch. You plug in your USB headphones that are also their own sound-card, and start it up again.  It sounds really good as the intro videos flash by, and without too long you are start playing whichever game you chose.

Too bad it’s a little choppy. You consider that you haven’t upgraded your video card in awhile, so after a good thirty to fourty-five minutes you take off for work, with the intention of buying newer video card within your budget on your way home. After a good eight hours of work, and a quick stop at a friendly small hardware shop you get home, and install the card, updating the drivers.

You start it again, your headphones at the ready and find that the performance is so much better, despite being imperfect. You spend the entire night playing your game until you nearly pass out on the keyboard. The next morning you get up, go to work, come back, and decide to play it again. The only difference is this time you opted for your speakers instead of your headphones. You start your game up again, the alien mouse cursor shows up and suddenly your speakers blare the unmistakable sound of a Windows error.


“You have exceeeded your activation limitation for this license. Please purchase a new liscense.”

Surprised? Yeah, it’s a neat little trick that publishers have been pulling as of late. Having you pay for the software, only to have it unusable (for some) less than a month after. It is akin to buying a car, having to authorize it with the dealer when you first drive it, and then having to re-authorize it each time you replace a part. Of course the only difference (which is the kicker): It costs almost nothing to make a copy of a piece of software.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the games that you pay for these days are in general secured with what is labeled as “Digital Rights Management” (commonly referred to as DRM by officials, and “Digital Restrictions Management” by critics such as myself). These pieces of software are intended to prevent someone from copying and using a title that have not been paid for, or so they claim.

DRM has been in the news mainly about EA/Maxis Title: SPORE. Being labelled as the number one most pirated title in recent history as a result of the copy protection schemes implimented by EA. The lesser known S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky, while not pirated as much, is taking a huge credibility hit just the same.

SPORE uses a new version of SecuROM, a copy protection method developed by Sony in an attempt to prevent people from copying and reverse-engineering the game. This new version of SecuROM was the first that was to allow people to play without the disc after installing, with the requirement that they authorize their game first online. On top of that, there were limitations easily pushed into it. Originally only five installations total, SPORE would require an activation any time the ‘hardware thumbprint’ would change as well as potentially disabling hardware in the name of protecting their title.

With the combination of activation limits, online activation, thumbprint changes, and even re-installations, you would assume that by uninstalling the title, you would be able to have one of those “credits” back for you to use. Unfortunately this isn’t true. After uninstalling the game, you end up leaving behind every trace of SecuROM, and the processes it leaves behind. This causes conflict with hardware and other drivers, as well as a negative impact of system performance.

The sad thing is: these schemes do not deter piracy. SPORE was cracked and distributed roughly seven days before the release of the game on retail shelves. Even more dissapointing is that the End User License Agreement (EULA) did not mention anything of activation limits, type of copy protection, or whether there was any at all.

After you buy and open the box of the PC title, you can kiss the money you paid for it goodbye. No retail stores in their right mind take PC titles back after they are opened because of this percieved threat of piracy. So, in the end the perception of a good deal of consumers returns to a “Consumers get a crippled version, while the pirates, the ones that these crippling schemes are meant to stop, get an unfettered free-riegn copy to enjoy all they want.”

This isn’t just about retail titles either. The Steam versions of Crysis, Crysis Warhead, and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Clear Sky all come with activation limits resulting in a possibility of a lost license. Considering that with Steam’s ease of use, and the habit of picking and choosing what you want to play at the time, it can render not being able to use your purchased (excuse me, rented) title out of use within a week. What’s worse about this scenario is that you cannot buy a new license through Steam anyway, as a license is already attached to your account.

Point being: DRM is bad, it makes copy protection look good these days. Activation Limits result in games not being sold, but being rented.

A Test For EA

Posted in games with tags , , , , on August 25, 2008 by Freyar

I have had many times where I have just begged for EA to go back to it’s older ways of doing it’s own work, and making them good. The sad thing is that the last game that I was overly appreciative for by EA’s own doing (keep in mind, I’m not counting the good folks at DICE, just EA itself) was Need For Speed: High Stakes released in March of 1999. Since then, EA has become a major power-house, and made highly controversial (and even hated moves) such as acquiring my beloved Bullfrog Productions in 1995, and officially killing the studio in 2004.

Call me bitter, but I take a very cynical view with a hell of a lot of things related to EA. Warhammer Online? Not sure it’ll pan out, either by totalitarian methods of enforcing their EULA, by refusing to fix bugs that are detrimental to gameplay, or by requiring high-end systems so that no one with low-to-midrange hardware can play it.   Need For Speed: Undercover? Sure I’m as excited as a schoolgirl for it, but at the same time, I can’t help but hold in the pit of my stomach that somehow EA will manage to screw it up.

Now, to the main ‘test’ that I was talking about.  Most of the people I talk to have heard about the horrendous EA Link, and it’s replacement EA Downloader. Horrible software that just flat-out gave people headaches with DRM restrictions, etc. The new revision (third time’s the charm?) EA Download Manager has appeared and rather than trying to take on the superior Steam platform, it was toned down to just act as it sounds: A manager for EA Store purchases.

The downside is that the DRM crap is still there, which can potentially give problems. There are download time limits involved with it as well, which is never a good idea if you want your customers to come back. (Hey! I want to download my game again.. ooh, there’s something new too!)

With all that said, I decided to finally give them a try. This afternoon I was installing Battlefield 2142 in hopes of being able to play on a server with unlocked Titans. Ever since the huge problem involving titans melding together, I have yet to find a server that actually had them unlocked. Regardless, I also noticed that the Northern Strike expansion pack had dropped to ten dollars. I remember back with EA Link that it was pretty notorious for wanting to know exactly what you were running at the time, and after I found out that the system was replaced with a lighter method, I decided to give it a try.

Purchasing the expansion was easy enough. I was more frustrated when I was shown the strangely popular “Extended Download Service” that places like Digital River and what-not ‘offer’. Again, as I said above, I am quite curious why these companies don’t see the length of time and offering as an investment to bring their customers back, rather than severing them off from their purchased licenses.

Bought it, easy enough, and had it install through EA Download Manager. I will say that this is the one aspect that got me to (shamefully) exclaim out loud, “Woah”. I never expected any EA server, or service associated with EA to actually offer a decent speed. I saw surges of over 1.3MB/s, while it averaged out at just under 1MB/s.

After, I had the “woah” knocked out of me with a request to “activate” my purchase. Activate my purchase? What the hell? The ‘Unlock’ key is already registered to my Battlefield 2142 account, why would I need to activate it? If someone else where to TRY and use my purchase, they’d have no luck with it, considering that I have the permissions applied to my account, not theirs.

Activating was quick, but made me ask the obvious question: “Just how many times can I activate?” I’m sure there’s some sort of limit outlined in the Terms of Service or agreements, but let’s face the fact that all of that stuff is just a bunch of legaleze that no regular person would be able to read within a decent time frame.

We’ll see what happens after, EA. Hopefully this little test proves to be worthwile for your sake.

The United States “Watch List” and the Ever Expanding Powers

Posted in Political with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2008 by Freyar

Yet another case of rediculous government strong-arm tactics, mis-identification and all-and-all stupidity.

Erich Scherfen, a 13 year Army Infantryman, having served in the Gulf War, and then became a helicopter pilot for the National Guard could possibly see his career going down the faster than an autorotation. According the article I found, his civillian employer Colgan informed the pilot that he was on a government watch list, and that he would not be allowed to work until the issue was resolved, with the possibility of being fired if it was not resolved by September 1st.

Obviously the guy had done what he can to get attention to his case, but with so many people mis-identified it’s taking forever for his complaint to even be read. The TSA says that it seeks a “Meaningful Resolution”. I can’t help but let out a chuckle, maybe even a sneer at that. It’s a rediculous notion.  The TSA/NSA continue to make false positives that do in fact impact people’s livelyhood.

Mr. Sherfen has in fact contacted the ACLU, and hopefully the ACLU will be successful with it’s lawsuit. The United States government seems to be taking more and more liberties with restricting movement, with expanding it’s own power to be able to do more to further whatever goals it has.

On a side note the real question comes down to: What is the NSA and TSA’s goals? What are their mandates? Why do they feel the need to infringe on individual rights of citizens in order to continue to expand their power?

  • You get on a list you can’t get off.
  • The list damages reputation and careers.
  • The TSA intends to use a new ‘x-ray’ machine to see just under clothing.
  • The TSA continues to impliment more and more restrictions on luggage and shipping
  • The TSA and law enforcement continues to abuse citizens if they question authority.
  • The TSA damages aircraft in order to carry out ‘tests’ to ensure the safety of the aircraft.
  • TSA employees are exempt from their own regulations.

"I want everyone to remember why they need us!"

Even still, we now have the FBI deciding they can start investigations (as of October) without judicial oversight, without the proper warrants and paperwork, without the same rights of the citizenry that we used to have and cherish in the 1990s. What, may I ask, has happened here? How have we as citizens allowed our United States government to have such a strong foothold in our daily lives that they can just as easily destroy a long-established career even with time served under the (albeit previous) administration?

Am I outraged? Yes. Should you be? Yes. More and more people are getting affected by these government programs, and it seems that people either hold the belief of “Done nothing wrong, have nothing to hide,” or have just become apathetic.

Nigerian Diplomat: “Jail ‘greedy’ scam victims.”

Posted in Political with tags , , , , on August 21, 2008 by Freyar

So it’s been over a month.. how evil of me. Having a lack of motivation to write lately has had me push this off for far too long. I hope to get back into it a lot more frequently, might as well right?  I guess for now I’ll just get back on track.

A Nigerian diplomat by the name of Olu Agbi responded to a newspaper article written in Australia that reported over $36 Million dollars per year was lost due to “Nigerian” scams. His response is something that makes you wonder if this gentleman is is either not paying attention to the types of scams that are coming from his area, or whether he is only thirteen years old.

Click to read this example...

Mr. Agbi’s response was, in effect, “Jail those who are victims of Nigerian scams because they are greedy.” This stems from the belief that all Nigerian scams are based on illegal pretenses such as someone having embezzled money from a government or employer, through blackmail, or other illegal means. However what this diplomat does not realize is that a lot of the scams are based on the legal aspects of an inheritance, or a tax refund.

Even then, I have to ask what crime have the victims committed? Absolutely none in the court of law. They did not try and defraud the government, or deceive anyone. These victims were deceived by people that orchestrated this scam. Just because someone fell for it does not mean they are criminal.

Olu Agbi, let me pose a question to you. Why is it that these types of scams are referred to as “Nigerian”? Why is it that the Nigerian government has failed to respond with the force required to stop these kinds of things from happening? Why do you feel that the victims ought to be jailed for greed when greed itself is not a crime in it’s own?

I don’t expect a response, but certainly he has made himself the laughing stock for the next week.

A Comment On Discrimination

Posted in Political with tags , , , on July 1, 2008 by Freyar

A few days ago I came across this little gem of insight regarding a Swedish school that decided to confiscate birthday invitations because they weren’t passed out to everyone. Just for some additional background, there was a recent bash on father’s day as well, declaring that it would emotionally harm children who are raised by a single mother, or a same-sex couple.

People have been throwing out this ‘discrimination’ word out a lot, in defense of what these schools so far have put restrictions on, and against. The schools saying that it would be discrimination and a violation of children’s rights if each student didn’t get an invitation, as well as a violation against kids who don’t have a father.

It’s really become a huge joke. Schools not only are forgetting about their importance and the end of their authority (for example: edumicating) and are in effect turning to the ‘kid police’. I’ve had a bit of a revelation myself about discrimination and it is a bit of a double-edged sword, a gray area if you will, despite the white and black of politics. (No pun intended.)

Humans use discrimination everywhere. We use it when we decide what to eat, what to drink, what to play, where to work, who to talk to, and who to spend our time with. We discriminate based on factors such as our personal taste (I like reading a book over watching television), what is available (I’d like to go to Hardees, but it is closed so I have to go to McDonalds), how expensive it is (I can’t afford that model, but I can for this one), and past experience (That broke on me last time, it’ll break again.)

Point being is that not all discrimination is bad. A police officer, judge, or any other civil servant must use these kinds of things daily. In fact, it seems that discrimination itself has just become the word to encompass basing decisions on things that cannot be changed and are of no fault of the discriminated person.

Age (debatable), Gender, Race, Orientation (debatable) are the most common forms ‘bad discrimination’. These types of discrimination are protected by (admittedly, United States) law and punishable by fines, and even jail-time. Most people agree that discriminating on these factors is something that should be always avoided, and even looked down on. However, let’s consider this: Am I violating someone’s rights by not liking them? (It seems like the extremist left like to think that.) No, I just don’t like that individual. Why would I spend time and resources for him/her/it if I don’t enjoy being around that person.

Discrimination isn’t bad inherently.

Discrimination on uncontrollable factors is.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.