31 January 2006

Speaking of the law

Again, made me laugh....



Something Awful got sued. In 2004. Lowtax just decided to respond to it. Do yourself a favor and read the intro, then skip the end and read the letter he sent to the NY AG. I laughed so hard I had tears.



Link

Stupid Business Tricks - StarForce

I'm filing this one under "Made Me Laugh", mostly because you'd think they'd know by now.



StarForce, who apparently tried to install crap-tastic DRM software on my computer when I bought Silent Hunter 3, decided that they would threaten Cory Doctorow over his post which called them on their, well, crap-tasticness. Seems the wonderful piece of software they wrote tends to cripple if not outright break some CD and DVD drives. (Nice work, by the way StarForce.)



What's a company to do in the face of this? Talk to the author and plead their case? Post their own rebuttal on their website or blog? No! Threaten to sue someone! Which, in this case, turned out to be an author on one the most heavily trafficked blogs in the world. Brilliant. Since StarForce hasn't caught onto this whole Internet thing, I'll put this in terms they can understand. Instead of talking to their critic, they implied that Vinny, their legal goon, would come and break the critics fingers. (Note to actual StarForce Vinny; that's called sarcasm and a metaphor, respectively.)



The outcome of this brilliant strategy? Well, I'm talking about it. I realize I'm like 7,430,882th on the list of importance on this topic, but I heard about from Boing Boing (2). And Nelson Minar. And Darren Barefoot. And the Consumerist. And Broadband Reports. It has over 1500 diggs right now. It made the front page of Slashdot. And TechDirt. And Kotaku.



By the way, if you run into any problems with their software, it's your fault. To wit: "According to our research those of users [sic] that do run into compatibility problems are beginner-level-hackers that try to go around our protection system." That's Dennis Zhidkov, StarForce PR Manager. PR Manager?!?! Who the hell hired this idiot. Let's see, our business model includes selling products to companies that target high-end computer users. That group has, well, high-end computer systems, which these days normally includes some type of high-speed Internet connection. With all that bandwidth, those people might read lots of websites. Good thing no website will dare publish how craptacular our software is after we threaten to sue them. From Russia. *hand to forehead*



Note to whoever runs StarForce: Fire Mr. Zhidkov. He cost your thousands of sales today and you deserved to lose every one of them. You certainly lost mine. You can find a list of games that contain this ridiculous software here. Removal tool is here. If you're feeling particularly grumpy, you can email Dennis Zhidkov at denis.zhidkov@star-force.com



If you feel like trashing a system for $10,000, StarForce is running a contest for you.

The Pee Tree

As a society, we have accomplished quite a bit: cured diseases, created works of art that move people to tears, stood on our nearest satellite. But today, we have reached the pinnacle of what we can accomplish. Yes, today, men (and soon, I’m sure, women) can urinate on a tree. But not just any tree. No, our technology now allows us to pee on a tree made of bright, white, ceramic, hands-free. It even stands tall so it “can be seen from far – making it accessible when in urgent need.”

Oh, did I forget to mention that now, since we are so advanced, it is no longer necessary to take this magnificent creation indoors. Yes, the Pee Tree will stand proudly in public areas, available for any passing urinator’s use. I can't wait to see the Central Park installation.

pppppppe.jpg

Link

30 January 2006

Monday in an IM

I don't know why, but I found this conversation suprisingly lucid (and funny) for 8:30 on a Monday morning.

J-- [8:34 AM]:
ok
Me [8:34 AM]:
ok?
J-- [8:34 AM]:
so this girl is totally my doppelganger...
http://anchorednomad.blogspot.com/
J-- [8:34 AM]:
i was SO looking at those sheets
Me [8:35 AM]:
really...
J-- [8:35 AM]:
until i decided they weren't chocolatey enough for my color sceme
J-- [8:35 AM]:
and the ikea kitchen bar..it's just creepy
other than her terrible taste in artwork
Me [8:35 AM]:
weren't chocolatey enough?
J-- [8:35 AM]:
but that's pretty subjective anyway
J-- [8:36 AM]:
meaning....all chocolate - no white
J-- [8:36 AM]:
do you like her sheets?
Me [8:36 AM]:
and the huge circles
Me [8:36 AM]:
if I say yes, do I get in trouble?
J-- [8:36 AM]:
no
Me [8:36 AM]:
no
J-- [8:36 AM]:
LOL
J-- [8:36 AM]:
well good. i 'll stick with all chocolate then
Me [8:36 AM]:
doh
J-- [8:37 AM]:
what?
Me [8:37 AM]:
i'm blogging this conversation btw
J-- [8:37 AM]:
you are?
Me [8:37 AM]:
well, i will
J-- [8:37 AM]:
why? is it that funny?
Me [8:37 AM]:
is to me... if you want something witty for the world to see, now's your chance
J-- [8:40 AM]:
er, no, that's too much pressure for a monday morning

28 January 2006

Build Your Own T-Shirt Folding Machine

.. out of of corrugated.



Ok, granted, big points for the geeky factor, minus a few points for the geeky factor, multiplied by a hell of a lot of geeky factor. I think that equals geeky, but I was never that good at solving math problems.


Warning, annoying music ahead.



Link [via digg]

Benford's Law, the Fraudster's Friend

In 1938, Dr. Frank Benford, a physicist at GE, noticed that pages on a logarithm book were dirtier if the pages contained digits starting with 1. After studying more than 20,000 data sets, he derived a theory that says real statistics have a preclusion to begin with the digit 1. So, for instance, a normal person trying to fake an amount on, say, their taxes, would probably pick 5 or 6 to start the fraudulent number ($584 in deductions, say). Statistically, however, a real deduction might be something like $1,097. This even works with different scales so the theorem holds true for dollars, yen, half-lives of radioactive elements, town populations, etc.



They're even writing software to run through tax and accounting data looking for patterns that don't fit. It's not perfect, but what a weird thing to fall out from someone who was observant enough to notice dirty pages on a book.



Link [via digg]

25 January 2006

Truth Hurts

IF KANYE WEST HAD BALLS, he'd pose as Mohammed, instead of Jesus. But he doesn't. Efforts to be controversial have become so predictable. Yawn.


Check.



Instapundit

Authority Figures

Part of the joys of owning a home is interacting with your local municipality. Mine happens to be Chelsea, MI. One of the services offered to the city residents is free curb-side pickup of recyclable materials. It's a pretty good program; I get a majority of my consumables taken away for free and the city gets to sell these materials to whoever they want. I hear recycling makes some money, not a lot, but enough to keep it going.



Well, I'm sick of dealing with the people they send to "pick up" my recycling. I use quotes there because rarely, if ever, have they taken all of my things. In fact, I often find things they deem unacceptable left either in the bucket I put out or, usually, in my driveway. I can deal with that (really I can). It's not a glamorous job, I get that. I'd probably be pretty pissed if once a week I had to tool through town and pick up other people's garbage, no matter how non-organic it is.



But when these anonymous people start leaving me meaningless notes in the containers, which still contain the items I put out, I'm pretty much through. I'll still recycle, but I'll do it myself. I got this in my paper bucket today (with paper still in it).



Click for full size


First, let's break down the message here. I'm supposed to separate "paper, magazines, and cardboard". Which is fine, except that if I take my recycling (as I will be doing) to a drop-off I don't have to do that. I can shove all the newspaper, printouts, shreddings, napkins, paper plates, magazines, and tech manuals I want into the same slot. It's called "Miscellaneous Paper". The other slot is "Cardboard". (Side note, it's corrugated paper; cardboard is not the same thing.) I digress... I can handle that, that makes sense to me. What doesn't make sense is this OCD-like need to separate newspaper from other "paper". Why do I have to do that at the curb-side, but not at the bloody huge collection dumpsters located everywhere? And while the technology for paper recycling is up to snuff that I can leave staples and tape on the cereal boxes I put out, it's not sophisticated enough to differentiate between white office paper and newspaper.



Second, why the hell is every friggen line on the page highlighted? How does that accentuate the message? And what the hell is a bottle "with a thin neck"? What's the threshold for necks on plastic bottles? I don't know, but I know it's somewhere between a milk jug (which they'll take) and a bottle of Pom (which they won't take). Or, maybe it's closer to a bottle of Planter's peanut oil, which got picked up the second time I put it out. Maybe they should issue micrometers with the recycling buckets so we can spec our recyclable containers. Don't even get me started on numbered plastics.



So, I'm done with curb-side recycling, at least here. I'll still bring my stuff to the dumpster recycling stations; apparently that's the Wild West of recycling; anything goes (and I'm not kidding, you should see the crap people dump there). My only question is, now that I've scanned this leaflet, does it go in with my office paper or, since it apparently was to me, the news?

24 January 2006

Google to censor results in China

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country's free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet's fastest growing market. [AP Story]


I await the outrage and venom aimed at Microsoft and Yahoo! to be dealt to Google with much greater enthusiasm. Scoble should have a permagrin on his face for all the egg his "critics" will have to eat.

23 January 2006

Gates of AQ open on World of Warcraft, servers take the night off

Ok, this is a confession/rant. I'm a WoW addict. I would play all day, every day if I could. The fact that I don't is a testament to myself of my own committment to things other than WoW. (Note, others may disagree; this is not about them!)

That said, I couldn't have cared less that Blizzard made this contest in the latest release for servers to compete in order to earn the right to have a new instance opened on their server. That is, until I realized what they had created. What they created was insanity. Thousands of people logged onto the server to see the Gates of Ahn'Qiraj open; I happend to be lucky enough to be on that server. My wait went from 20 to over 800 in a week. Let me repeat that: I'm now waiting for over an hour to log onto the server for which I pay monthly fees to use. Now, in the FPS world, this isn't an issue usually because I can go to a different server and take my character with me (see BF2 for a good implementation). WoW doesn't allow that. If I want to go to a different server, I have to start over.

So, last night, as the gates got closer to opening, the whole realm decided to take a crap and start crashing. Granted, the whole realm didn't go down. No, you had to be lucky enough to be in specific areas. Half the world disappeared around 11pm, which is when I found a place to log off.

I see on Slashdot today that it only got worse from there. The whole thing was a disaster from a technical and PR standpoint, with a few dozen other servers to go.

I work on a web app in real life, I get how hard it is to scale, I really do. That said, Blizzard has been doing this for over a year and knows what kind of traffic they have to deal with. Building a contest that could foreseeably increase the load on one realm should have been managed ahead of time. Blizzard eventually disallowed new accounts to be created on Medivh, but only a few days prior to the contest closing. The patch should have done this. The sharp uptick in people on the realm has made the point of spreading users across servers worthless. Blizzard actively encouraged people to create level 1 characters and run then cross-country to the gates. The response of porting players under level 30 away from the area should have been unnecessary in the first place. It's not a purely technical problem; it's a change management problem (man, someone at work would die to read that).

I'm disappointed, I really am. I expected a lot more from the game and from Blizzard. They're very smart people; I hope they realize that all problems aren't solved with sys admins.

Foxtrot does "A Million Little Pieces"

Demonstrating once again why it's one of the funniest comics today, Foxtrot today takes a passing (and deserving) shot at James Frey, author of "A Million Little Pieces".

Frey, who's supposedly autobiographical book details his drug-fueled binge of violence and self-destruction cum salvation story, has come under some pretty severe criticism. While this isn't normally a big deal, this book got an Oprah endorsement which guaranteed its meteoric success. Frey may have made up pretty much everything in the book, but that hasn't stopped Oprah from standing by her cashcow endorsement.

Link to Foxtrot

22 January 2006

Make your own Simpson



Perhaps bordering on "too geeky", but what the hell. Make your own.



[via DataWhat]

Patychkys!

I made patychkys today (well, yesterday and today with the overnight marinating) based on the recipe from Mr. Anchovy (which I found via Garlicster). Wow! I used steak for mine since I didn't feel like running out to buy a pork loin, but I'm sure picking one up next time out because these things are awesome.



Basically, you marinate 1" cubes of pork, chicken, or beef in an insane amount of garlic (I used around 30 cloves) and beer or sherry (I used beer). Let them marinate overnight, skewer them, into an eggwash, coat in breadcrumbs, brown all sides lightly and then bake them at 3500 for an hour. Dead easy, but what a great snack. A new favorite around here.

Jack Thompson is an attention-mongering, religious nutjob

I know I've posted on him way too much already, but this couldn't go without comment. Jack Thompson, the same crusader who thinks that he'll sue his way to infamy, has started a new tack; gamers are involved in a “masturbatory activity, meaning senseless self-stimulation”, but one that’s an affront to God. In a letter to MetalGearSolid.org’s, a forum where a gamer recently made his suicide threats reality, Jack decided that what really needed to be said at a time like this was “Sad, sad for all of you.” Only, he wasn’t expressing sympathy for the loss of a community member. No, he was sad that the gamer who had committed suicide had chosen a thing “not of God.” (See the whole letter here)



Yep, gamers are evil, and not in the selfish, shoulda-done-something better for an hour. Nope, they are actually Evil with a capital E because they decided to do something ungodly. Between insulting the entire board and the memory of an far-too-dead kid, Jack decides that now is the time to insinuate a little Jesus into the argument. The extended entry has a letter to Jack; it does contain some coarse language.


18 January 2006

13 January 2006

A little bit of me

A former job allowed me to play outside of my standard work responsibilities for a while, namely letting me dabble in some graphic design. I spent a little time drawing and a hell of a lot of time drafting before moving into corporate America, so I loved branching out into a little more design-oriented on someone else's dime.



Part of the fringe benefits of the work was the non-work doors it opened, specifically for a friend of mine. His band was in desperate need of a website update so I volunteered (I'm not going to link there since I don't do the website anymore.) In the design phases of the site, I sent the band a demo sheet of a grouping of logos for their group. I basically tore through a six-pack and a couple evenings, music blaring, singing off-tune to get a few designs to a presentable stage. Below is a thumb of the result; click for a larger version.



I was pretty attached to a couple designs, neither of which they chose. I didn't mind the one they picked, but it wasn't my first choice and I didn't think it fit their image as well, but who am I, their manager? Anyway, I put this up for a) pride and b) feedback. I'm not a designer, which should be obvious from a few of these. But I like the process of trying to visualize information, whatever that information is. Their information was music, which makes it that much more difficult. I know I missed the message on this one, but I'm not sure how I could have captured it.



I also miss having a reason to draw. I know I don't need a reason, but it sure helps motivate you to bust out the sketch pad or fire up Freehand/Illustrator/Photoshop. Is that a plea for work?



Dear Windows development team

Will you please, please, update the Install Font dialog box. Whatever control you have decided to maintain in the naviagtion pane is straight out of Windows 3.1 and is frustrating as hell to use, especially if, say, the font you want to install is on your desktop.


Thanks,
ryan

Tips for Getting To Sleep Faster

For practically all my life I’ve had trouble going to sleep. I’m not an insomniac…I just think a lot. I’ll lie in bed thinking about what I want to do tomorrow or what I should have done today or how much I love eating cold pizza or how absurdly messy my desk is….you get the idea.


I think I know this person. The rest of the linked post talks about strategies and tips for getting around the racing mind.

Tips for getting to sleep faster & sleeping better [via Lifehacker]

12 January 2006

Repeat After Me... You Are Not Special

Flame me if you want, but today's iteration of breast feeding mom asked to stop (courtesy of the Ann Arbor YMCA and resident/member Kelly Fuks) pushed me over the edge.

This is what drives me bat-effin crazy about Ann Arbor. Repeat after me: You are not special. You are not entitled to do whatever strikes you as "OK" whenever you feel like it. You know, like whipping a teat out because junior is hungry. I'm not saying don't feed the kid, but maybe you could, oh I don't know, walk 100 yards to somewhere secluded and knock that task off your list.

Someone please explain to me the thought process that justifies just popping a nip out to suckle your kid at any random place. You hear this crap all the time: it happens at the mall, at amusement parks, at restaurants. Who the hell do you think you are? An incredibly huge majority of the population manages to care for their children, perhaps even breast-feeding their young, without calling the papers or TV news. How is it that people like Ms. Fuks can't?

Sorry for your case, lady, but you don't have my support. The Y can tell you that you can't do it because the light is harmful for your breast skin for all I care; keep it in your shirt. Either that, or stop breeding.

11 January 2006

Firefox tricks

I just stumbled onto something (which I'm sure is well-known, just not by me). If you hold down Shift, then mouse over a link in Firefox, the link text and URL appear in an enlarge tooltip-ish window. Very cool accessibility tool (for visually impairments, anyway).

Easter Egg in Foxtrot

From Stupid Evil Bastard, we get an Easter egg in today's Foxtrot strip.

For the lazy, the binary in the strip is 01011001010011110101010101001110010001010101001001000100. Relavent tool here. I bow to Les' geekiness on this one. And Bill Amend's.

09 January 2006

Why oh why can't I watch Family Guy?

I missed Family Guy last night (damn you WoW). I did, however, manage to catch the new episode of Battlestar Galactica on Saturday. So, of course, due to my proclivity for having everything backwards, I can get that episode of BSG through iTunes the day after it airs but I can't get Family Guy at all. Fox, please pull you head out of... wherever you're currently storing it... and get on board. Note: I don't even have an iTunes with video (I have a 3G) and I still want to buy Family Guy. Getting this?

Yahoo Buys Webjay

I would have posted this regardless of the last post, but, in another move that shows Yahoo "gets it", they have acquired Webjay, a very cool social music playlist site (and excellent source of free, legal, MP3s). Expect much gnashing of teeth in the indie/emo/overly-committed music fan crowd (ala Flickr), and then, hopefully some cool investment from Yahoo (ala Konfabulator cum Yahoo Widget Engine).

BetaNews | Yahoo Buys Webjay Playlist Community

I'm a Winner!

I needed the affirmation today. Apparently, I may have just won a contest, this one to be precise. The author of Yahoo! Hacks, Paul Bausch, asked "In what month/year did Yahoo! publicly launch their Search Web Services?". Yahoo! dutifully searved up the answer via their Yahoo! Search blog as Feb 28, 2005. The prize is a copy of Paul's book, which is getting great reviews on Amazon. Is it wrong that I'm geeking out over winning a book about hacking Yahoo!? (And can we drop that exclamation point, eh Yahoo?)

Edit: It's true, I really am a winner!

06 January 2006

You Have Got To Be Kidding - IRS Wants to Tax Virtual Barters

I read this article twice looking for the joke, then realized there isn't one.

...IRS advisers specializing in the arcane field of barter income recently offered the opinion that any trade of one virtual item for another--gold pieces for thick leather, uber drops for plat--could very well constitute a taxable, income-generating exchange according to the IRS's rules on barter.


This is insane. Just because some people sell these things on eBay doesn't mean that I should have to pay tax on a virtual item, given to me for free by a virtual character and sold (at below market value) to a virtual, non-playable character. I don't buy or sell MMO items, why should I be taxed on them? And how exactly am I bartering with a virtual NPC? The NPC is not open to bartering; it's programmed to give me the equivalent amount of coin for the item that the same code gave me for free. Isn't that a gift?

But, government being how it is, it will take years and millions of tax dollars (in the form of salaries, trips, and meals for IRS staff) to find out that, in fact, it is not feasible to do this. Either that, or the questions in TaxCut are going to be hilariously sad. "Has your MMO character increased in experience level more than 10 levels? If so, please refer to page MMO-34 for a table that calculates the relative worth of the increase in level."

Terra Nova: The Taxman Cometh?

Sellout

Buried in the announcement about Google Video content being available for sale (see the last sentence in this article) is the fact that Google either created its own DRM scheme to "protect" the videos. And the fanboys are suffering from some serious cognitive dissonance issues right now. This thread at Digg is hilarious as the apologizers and excuse makers start to justify Google's use of DRM when they comment about how easy they hope is will be to break.

The day after Anil Dash lays out the Dos and Don'ts for beating Apple at their own game, Google follows the path of least resistance. Boo to Google; no evil indeed.

05 January 2006

LoTR as WoW

This may be a dangerous fusion of two, too-large, geeky aspects of my personality, but it made me laugh.

Note: Large GIF file ahead, requires l33t and previous viewing of LoTR. If you don't know what any of those acronyms mean, skip the link.

Link [via Screenhead]