But what do I know? I'm just a twice clicken brown shirt teabaggin tjroll. Right? --PatP

Not now. There are dirty, swaying men at my door. They’re looking for Brian. I need to go deal with that. --Thor

If Joss Wedon was near me, I'd of kicked his ass. --PaulC

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The etymology of piracy

This was the second half of my reply to PaulC’s comment on my previous Pirate Bay post, but I thought it was an interesting enough thought to warrant it’s own post instead.

Taking something that doesn't belong to you is called theft. Thieves can be sympathetic individuals with all kinds of potential motivation. They could be nice guys with no job and eight kids. Stealing bread makes me a thief, because I took your stuff.

Declaring the unjustness of the government and saying "we're not English anymore" is called rebellion (not revolution). A rebel can also be sympathetic, depending on his motivation. A rebellion can be started "because taxation without representation isn't fair" or because a bunch of guys who want to be the new aristocracy want to stir up the public to make it happen (hmmmmm...). Saying "I don't live by your rules anymore" makes me a rebel.

The dissemination of intellectual property without compensation to its originator is not called "theft." It's not called "rebellion." It's called "piracy." Pirate = bad. There's no ambiguity. Pirates are drunkards and rapists who take what they want and will probably kill you to get it. They are motivated by greed 100% of the time. Making a backup copy of a movie to which I have bought the right to view makes me a pirate. Removing the copy protection from a computer game so I don't have to swap CDs every ten minutes makes me a pirate.

So because I'm guilty of what ought to be considered a "white-collar" crime (but I'm not taking anyone's money, no one’s life is being ruined because of me, and I don't drive a Porsche), I'm the same as those guys who hi-jacked that boat a couple months ago. I guess that makes sense, since they killed a bunch of people and stole a bunch of stuff, and I... killed a lot of... time. And I stole... umm... nothing. And I hurt... nobody. But because the government is a slave to the MAFIAA (their real name), who wants me to shell out fifty bucks every time I scratch a disc, I'm a pirate. I guess I should feel lucky they're not calling me an "intellectual property rapist."

Pirate Bay. Again.


This is getting ridiculous. Yesterday, thepiratebay.org was down for about three hours. That’s not ridiculous. They’re a target of anti-piracy propaganda and deal with all kinds of crap all the time. When they go down, I don’t think “TPB, get your act together.” I think “aw crap. Swedish anti-piracy vigilantes have won a huge court case that I somehow didn’t here about and TPB got whacked.” Then I google “thepiratebay” and the first three results always provide a reliable read on what really happened.

So what I read last night was this: a Swedish court ordered TPB’s ISP to cut their service. At this time I thought “this is getting out of hand.” They can’t touch TPB because TPB doesn’t do anything illegal, immoral or unethical, by any definition, so they go after their ISP for enabling them to enable criminal activity.

It turns out, that’s not what happened. There was a lawsuit. MAFIAA sued an ISP. But it wasn’t TPB’s ISP. It was TPB’s ISP’s ISP. From TPB’s blog.

Amen. This is the same (not similar, the same) as prosecuting Nike’s rubber-supplier’s rubber-farmer (rubber’s from a tree, right? So there gotta be rubber farms, right?) because the guy who kicked you in the face wore Nikes.

Okay. It’s not the same. It’s almost the same. The difference is that when you get kicked in the face, that wound on your head is what is called “actual damage.” When I download a movie or a video game from thepiratebay.org, there is “no damage.” I don’t download something I would otherwise pay for, and despite the propaganda to the contrary, I am convinced that my attitude is the prevailing one.

Anything I download from TPB falls into one of three categories.

1. I own it and want another copy for my own personal use. This includes “my Crackberry doesn’t have a DVD drive (Iron Man, Galactica episodes),” “this video game is copy-protected (Diablo 2, Warcraft 3),” and “I’m taking this to my parents’ house and they don’t have a blu-ray player (Iron Man, Watchmen, Wall-E).”

2. I’m getting it for free or I’m not getting it. This includes “they didn’t release this movie in region 1 and aren’t likely to (Color of Magic),” “I’m not paying money for something that’s probably going to suck, but if it’s free I’ll give it a fair shot (GI Joe, Crank 2),” “you just can’t find this anymore. Even on EBay (Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, Diablo, Starcraft licensed expansions, old Disney movies),” and (my favorite) “this was never actually made commercially available, and never will be (Warwick Davis’ RotJ film project, Starcraft: Ghost, unaired episodes of… you name it).”

3. I’m going to buy it, but haven’t yet. This includes “This movie isn’t released until next month (Two Towers),” “This movie hasn’t been released in region 1 yet (Hogfather, Wyrd Sisters, Color of Magic),” and “I’m not paying 50 bucks for that. What if it sucks? (Sims 3, Dawn of War 2, Diablo 2, Starcraft, Warcraft 3, Jedi Knight 2, Jedi Academy, C&C Renegade, Fable, Sim City 4, Morrowind, Red Faction 2, Half-Life, half-Life 2, Supreme Commander, all of which I now own legally, and all bit two of which I would not have bought if I had not pirated them first)”

So, getting back to the story: MAFIAA sued TPB’s ISP’s ISP, because they enable someone else to enable thepiratebay.org to provide a service that can be used in a manner that is decidedly illegal.

Let’s be clear. Joe Public breaks the law when he uses TPB’s tracker to find someone from which to download something he’s not supposed to have. TPB is a service with a myriad of legal uses. There is an ISP that sells them bandwidth. That ISP is not Black Internet. Black Internet is the company that sells bandwidth to the ISP that sells it to TPB. Black Internet is also the company that was ordered to shut down access to TPB.

An airplane crashed last week, so GE should stop making LEDs.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Okay. So it turns out I'm going to Alaska next summer, and I got an idea. I'm gonna try a geocaching experiment. I'm gonna take a hike somewhere, and hide/bury a cheap-ass digital camera with a huge-ass memory card in a weatherproof container with a note: "take a picture of yourself and put the camera back exactly where you found it."

I need a camera that is cheap, uses a standard memory card (ie, SD or CF), and uses a standard-size, commercially available power source (ie, AA batteries). I don't want to spend a lot of money, I don't want to be upset about the equipment getting damaged, and I want it to still be there when I go back for it, and who knows when that will be. I'll also need a weatherproof container. I'm going to do some tests on different containers in the rain, snow, cold, hot... I think that's it. I suppose some kind of marker would be a good idea as well. So I can say "go to these coordinates and look for the cat-shaped paperweight." I suppose it would be smarter to mark a tree or something that can't be moved.

So I'll post on my website, and on geocaching websites, and do whatever else I can think of to make people know about my camera, and when I go back for it (or get somebody I know who lives in Alaska to mail it to me), I'll post all the photos on my website. Just sounds like fun.

Anybody have any ideas/suggestions about any aspect of this undertaking?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Go Team Venture!!!

So here are the Team Venture pics I promised. I’d like to have better ones, and I’d like to tweak the twins a bit, but I haven’t figured out how yet. I will though. And I’ll have pics of Brock soon as well. Then I’m going to make Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. Enjoy!

If somebody can’t view the album from that link, comment and I’ll do something about it.

If anybody else bought Sims 3, Brock and the Ventures are available here and here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Sims 2: Re… Priced

So I was at the mall today for a follow-up with my optometrist (yep. My eye doctor is in the mall), and I finally broke down and bought The Sims 3. I’ve been excited about it for a while, and I decided today was the day.

So I got home and installed it on Kerry’s Vaio while watching George Lazenby muddle through the most boring Bond movie ever (seriously. That dude gets a bad rap. That movie was terrible and he did a damn fine job with very little to work with). My first order of business after installing the game: create Team Venture.

So I did. I started with Rusty (who looks amazing, if I say so myself), and cloned him (pun intended) as a starting point for the twins (who look less awesome, but are easily identifiable as themselves). That was a horribly rewarding experience (photos will follow). It was easy, and it was fun. Then I started playing the game.

After playing the game for a full ten minutes (at least twice the amount of time I need to established a fully-formed opinion of any game), I have little good to say about it.

It's only barely an upgrade from Sims 2. Sim creation = better. Sims look more polished, and finally custom colors are available right from the start. In Sims 2, you had to use a separate application to create custom hair/clothing colors and save them as textures to open in the game. You really needed to have some know-how. In Sims 3, there is a full color palette available every step of the way. Props to EA for implementing that.

But I still can't import and export easily. Specifically, I can't create a family and export a single sim from it without a work-around.

Stuff available for your sims to buy out-of-the-box (clothing, furniture, etc.) = WAY less. Sims 2 had “tons” of options for both clothing and decorating. The number of options in this new game can best be described in one word: “some.”

Graphics = mildly improved.

If all the other stuff I'm reading in the forums is true, this game is really more of a downgrade than an upgrade.

But my biggest beef? I was really looking forward to having more and better clothing options than in previous games. Better? Perhaps. More? Hell no. I paid fifty bucks for this game, and now EA wants me to pay another hundred to unlock all the content that came standard with Sims 2. Shameless gouging is what that is. I won't be doing that.Thank God for pirates.

Bottom line, this is The Sims 2: Re-Polished and Bug-Free. With all the content taken out. Based on the improvement between Sims and Sims 2, this game is an enormous disappointment. Sims 2 added so much depth to the game, and this adds almost no functionality and subtracts so much content.

Just like they did with Command & Conquer, EA has destroyed a beautiful franchise by watering it down for the masses and then over-charging for it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Steve Jobs’ Magical Time-Freezing Machine


This was a conversation from Facebook that I thought I could blog about, and it’s been far too long since I last blogged. Just so there’s no confusion, I’m not calling anyone stupid until they comment, even those of you who are mentioned in this post (and don’t read my blog anyway). So here we go.

My Dad asked me if Newegg sells Apple laptops (they don’t). So I looked at him like it was 1999 and said “Umm. Who cares?” Apparently, a friend of my sister wants to buy an Apple computer, to which my immediate response is always “you really don’t.”

So I sent of a Facebook message explaining exactly why. An Apple computer is different from a PC in that it has an Apple logo on it and costs twice as much. They use Intel CPUs (which are already over-priced), ATI graphics cards, and all other parts that are the same as you can get in a non-Apple PC for roughly half the price.

It used to be that Apple had better hardware, better software developers and more innovative software. In short, Apples were better computers and were priced as such. Now they’re the same computers with mildly different (and in no way better) software and they’re still priced as though they were better all-around.

The response she sent me said that her boyfriend had his eye on a particular machine and she’s sure he’s done his research and if Apples and iPods aren’t as good as their competitors, why are they still so popular?

Macs are popular because they're pretty. Just like ipods. Neither is any better than their competitors. They just look nicer (I guess). Neither of them are bad. They're just overpriced. When you buy an apple product, half of your purchase price goes to putting the Apple logo on it.

Just to be clear: there is nothing wrong with Apple. They just charge more than everybody else does for exactly the same thing because they can because people will pay it because apple = chic.

It's mostly because they used to be the rebel alliance to IBM's evil empire. But that was ten years ago. Ten years ago (five years ago, for that matter), Apple was better and cost more. They had more powerful hardware, better software developers and easier-to-use, more innovative, more powerful software.

None of that is true any longer. IBM is virtually non-existent in the realm of home computing, and Microsoft has come of age and really is not the evil empire they once were. Apple has become the establishment. When iPods first came out, they were pretty cool. By late-nineties standards, they’re still pretty cool. I have one device that I plug into my computer that links up with one application on my desktop and plays all my media. Ten years ago, that was more than anyone could ask for. Now, it’s exactly what I want to get away from. iTunes, while once the cutting edge of a consumer interface, now feels a lot like Big Brother.

In Apple’s defense, it’s not iTunes that changed (and to their great shame, neither has the iPod). It’s me. I don’t want to go to one website anymore to get all my music and movies. I want to get lossless audio from musicishere.com and rip my movies from my own DVDs. I don’t want DRM, I don’t want MP3’s, and I want to play my media wherever and whenever I want, not only on devices that Apple says are okay for me to use.

As for the iPod itself, aside from the ability to play videos, nothing has been added to its functionality since generation one. The only thing I see is cosmetic surgery. The current iPod classic sure does look nice. But for $250, does it do anything all of its predecessors didn’t? Not that I know of.

Now it's Google's turn to play Princess Leia to Apple's Darth Vader.

But enough history lesson. Bottom line: apple is popular because they retain the momentum of five years ago. There are enough people who still see Microsoft and IBM as the evil empire and will buy Apple just to spite them, and enough people who still think iPods and iPhones are competitive products. That momentum might carry them another five years, but I really doubt it. Then apple is over, unless they go back to their old mantra, "think different." When buying Apple meant thinking different and having something cool that not everybody else on the block even knew about, they were the best thing in the world. Now everybody has an iPod, and my PC eats your Mac with cheese and a nice chianti.

iPod = overpriced junk. It’s a poor-man’s music player that’s priced to include all the features it will never have (support for multiple lossless audio formats, an intuitive software interface and developer and community support, to name the biggies).

iPhone = Blackberry wannabe. Looks like a Blackberry. Tastes like a Blackberry. Priced like a Blackberry. No GPS (does the new one have GPS?), no developer support (thus, no developer community), no consumer-centric mentality, and no DIY anything. Nothing is free in the land of the iPhone. Okay. The SDK is free. But to use it, you have to be running an Intel-powered Mac with Safari. So even if I wanted to, I couldn’t develop for the iPhone.

Mac Computers = Dells with Mac OS. Just as an exercise, I went to store.apple.com and customized a MacPro. I then went to Newegg.com and built an identical machine (different monitor and different case), just to see what the price difference would be. When I say identical, I mean it. Same over-priced Intel CPU, same ATI video card. Of course with things like RAM, motherboard and hard drive, I just had to pick something that was the same thing with a different name on the box, since I don’t know what brands Apple uses. Here’s the breakdown:



  • 1 2.66GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon CPU
  • 6GB (3x2GB) RAM
  • 1 Mac Pro RAID Card
  • 2 1-TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s internal hard disks
  • 1 ATI Radeon HD 4870 512MB Video Card
  • 1 18x SuperDrive DVD/CD burner
  • 1 Apple Wireless Mighty Mouse (still with just one button)
  • 1 Apple Wireless Keyboard (English) and User's Guide (with no numeric keypad)
  • 1 24” “LED” monitor
  • 1 Stand-alone USB numeric keypad (from Newegg)

MacPro Killer


  • Intel Core i7 920 “Nehalem” 2.66GHz Quad-Core CPU
  • 6GB (3-channel DIY kit) DDR3 1066 Crucial RAM
  • 2 Western Digital Caviar Black 1-TB SATA 3.0Gb/s 7200-rpm internal hard disks
  • 1 Sapphire Radeon HD 4870 512MB Video Card
  • 1 Sony Optiarc Black 20x DVD+R, etc.
  • 1 Logitech RX650 Black 3-button USB cordless optical 1000-dpi mouse
  • 1 Sony Vaio Silver 104-key USB wireless slim keyboard
  • 1 NEC Black 24” LCD monitor
  • 1 Foxconn FlamingBlade Intel LGA 1366 ATX Motherboard
  • 1 Apevia X-Alien Black Steel ATX full tower case with 500-watt power supply
  • 1 Copy Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit edition w/ free upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate

Before I reveal unto ye the total costliness, let me explain the discrepencies. Obviously I didn’t have to buy a case, motherboard or OS for the MacPro, since those are all part of the package. I chose what I did for those parts on the MacPro Killer because they were the perfect fit for the components that match the MacPro internals. In order to get a wireless keyboard with the MacPro, you have to lose the numeric keypad. Since such a thing is unheard of in the real world (and since I couldn’t buy a keyboard like that for the PC), I tacked on a USB keypad from Newegg. For the non-Apple PC, I bought the most expensive version of Windows Vista. I bought a Sapphire video card because ATI doesn’t make their own cards anymore and Sapphire is a brand I trust. I couldn’t find a DVD burner with specs as poor as the one offered on the MacPro, so I bought basically the lowest-end one I could get. I did not buy a RAID card for the MPK because the motherboard has on-board RAID capability. Honestly, I had never heard of a RAID card before today. I don’t know why you would ever buy a board that won’t RAID all by itself.

All told, the Apple MacPro in this configuration would cost a whopping $4927.99. The non-Apple PC, with the exact same specs (or as near as I can make them), weighs in at a belt-tightening $1777.88. That’s roughly one third of the MacPro’s cost.

Just for fun, I also priced out a top-of-the-line, eats the entire interwebs for a light snack, don’t bother getting out of my way because I’ve already crapped you out PC. Bottom line, including monitor, mouse, keyboard, headset and Windows (all what I consider to be the best): $2251.56. That’s inarguably the absolute, most powerful single-CPU computer I could possibly own tomorrow (meaning literally the day after today). It has roughly 150% of the power of the MacPro, for less than 50% of the price. It’s also about what I paid for my top-of-the-line PC that I built about ten years ago and only just got rid of last month.

Okay. Flame on!!