From The Erbo Files
Tuesday, February 28, 2012

  • Obama belts out "Sweet Home Chicago" with B.B. King, Mick Jagger, and Buddy Guy. I knew Jake and Elwood Blues. I liked Jake and Elwood Blues. I looked up to Jake and Elwood Blues. Barack Hussein Obama, you're no Jake and Elwood Blues.

  • Jamie Zawinski stuck a "Y2K bug" into his popular Dali Clock a prank. Hilarity ensues.

  • Remember those faster-than-light neutrinos CERN supposedly found? Yeah, not so much. It was a timing error caused by a faulty cable. There go all those science-fiction theories...

  • Speaking of things faster than light, Jeff reports that Jimi's Faster Than Light (known to his hoomans and friends as "Dash" ) is now a champion. Way to go, little fluffball! Now here's hoping he doesn't develop a 'tude like his packmate, Ch. Jimi's Admiral Nelson (aka "Aero" )...

  • Must read: Open Letter to Chris Dodd, from ESR. He shoots, he scores! (Bill Quick thinks that, if Dodd and his ilk are smart enough to read this at all, they'll respond by finding a way to co-opt enough technologists to circumvent ESR and those who stand with him. I doubt that's possible, though. Every man may have his price...but if the MAFIAA tries to co-opt me, for one, they'll find my price too high for them to pay...)

  • Another must read: Francis W. Porretto, the Curmudgeon Emeritus, with The Smoking Qur'an. Includes a lengthy fictional scenario in which a President with some balls responds to the deaths of two American soldiers at the hands of an Afghan soldier upset because of the burning of Qur'ans containing communications between extremist fighters. Stephen Graham Sumner should join the list of "ballsiest fictional American Presidents," right up there with James Marshall, as portrayed by Harrison Ford in Air Force One.

  • Somebody here loves that bag of Purina Cat Chow we got her. Maybe a little too much. I'll just let Sabrina tell the story.

  • Some thoughts on indie game development, from David Amador. At one time, I thought I was going to do something like this...I was writing games on my old TI-99/4A in high school. Somehow I don't think Rush Hour on Poway Road would go over very well, even on the Apple App Store or Android Market. Perhaps that's a dream best left by the wayside. (Via JavaLobby)

  • Latest claim from the Glowbull Wormening hysterics: Now it's going to cause humans to shrink, or some malarkey like that. Cue the voice of Peter Gabriel: "This is an announcement from Genetic Control, It is my sad duty to inform you of a four foot restriction on humanoid height..." (From the Genesis song "Get 'Em Out By Friday" )

  • Finnish software company Rovio has been milking its popular Angry Birds franchise for all it's worth; now reports that they're working on something else. They lead the article off saying, "At this point Finland is known largely for two things, Nokia and Angry Birds." I take exception to that...what about Nightwish? Or Linus Torvalds? Or kicking Soviet ass in the Winter War? Show some respect, Swedish dudes.

  • Yahoo has decided on a different tack to try and earn money, according to PandoDaily: it's served Facebook with knowledge that they may be infringing on a bunch of their patents. So, not only is Yahoo patent-trolling, they're biting the hand that feeds them; Yahoo News traffic has more than tripled since they rolled out their (annoying, IMHO) Facebook integration. Congratulations, new Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson! Your reputation is about to descend to Darl McBride levels.

  • If a bargain price for an E-reader and a crapton of E-books looks too good to be true, it is probably neither. (Via John Scalzi)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I can't believe I've had a blog up for nearly a month and haven't spoken about Nightwish, in my opinion the best example of the "symphonic metal" genre on the planet. Of course, most people here in America have no idea any such thing as "symphonic metal" even exists; it's rather more popular in Europe than it is here.  There's still a dedicated following here in the States, though, of that I can assure you.

Ironically, it was the young man that's now married to my ex-wife that introduced me, indirectly, to their music; when he came over here to visit us and look for work, he brought along a lot of Finnish music for her, mainly metal of one sort or another. I don't have the affection for death metal that he does, but the Nightwish tracks certainly caught my attention. So I wound up losing a spouse but gaining, indirectly, a new world of music.  (Yes, I do lead an interesting life, did you doubt it? :-) )

More on the band, including some music, below the fold.

[Read More]
Monday, February 20, 2012

  • Apparently, not only has Google figured out how to bypass security settings in Safari, they've been able to do it in IE as well. Micro$oft has countered by publishing a "Tracking Protection List" that blocks all Google embeds. At least, in Internet Asploder. I'm inclined to respond by saying that anyone who's still using Internet Asploder deserves what they get...and, as a Chrome user, I'm not particularly worried.

  • Interesting factoid from ZeroHedge: by being perceived as hostile towards gun owners, President Obama has helped the firearms industry tremendously by driving record sales of guns and ammo. I'd almost be inclined to think Obama was pulling a Xanatos Gambit and is ready to claim credit for the "stimulus" to the gun industry...but he's probably not that smart.

  • A lengthy but informative piece here on the art of salary negotiation. Via Chris Byrne, who offers some pointers of his own to supplement that article. Sad but true fact: "We [engineers] overwhelmingly suck at it. We have turned sucking at it into a perverse badge of virtue." Sigh...he's right, especially since my own philosophy is closer to "Be thankful you have a job, shut up and do as you're told."

  • Valorna Edgeworth from Second Life and EVE pointed me to the things MakerBot Industries is doing. I'd read about some of their stuff on TechCrunch, this, for instance. This sort of technology will just become more pervasive; what happens, for instance, when it becomes affordable to have your own CNC milling machine in your garage? It almost is, now, if you buy a used one you can adapt to control via a standard PC...

  • And speaking of disruptive technologies, how about a DNA sequencer the size of a USB key? Expensive now, but just wait. The future is now, folks.

  • This Android tablet is available for $139 for a 7-inch model or $250 for a 10-inch model, runs ICS, does not have any bootloader locks or other obstructions, and comes with optional source code disk. Might be worth getting to hack around with. (Via TC)

  • If you haven't followed Ken White's "Anatomy of A Scam" at Popehat, it's worth a read. It's almost a HOWTO for investigating and reporting scammers, using Google, PACER, and court records searches. Suffice to say, the principal scammers in this tale look like they're in a world of hurt...

  • PandoDaily: Stop Trying to Make F-Commerce Happen. Seriously? "F-commerce" meaning "commerce via Facebook"? That's as bad as "m-commerce" meaning "commerce via mobile," maybe more so. Whoever thought to call it "F-commerce" should be F-slapped around. ( Never forget!)

  • CBS, which now owns Paramount, is putting Star Trek: The Next Generation out on Blu-ray starting this year with Season 1. I just got the "teaser" disc with three restored episodes, and boy, do they look beautiful. Any TNG fan should have it, particularly as one of the remastered episodes is "The Inner Light" from Season 5, universally acknowledged as being one of the best TNG episodes ever, and one of four Star Trek episodes to win a Hugo. The only drawback is, the episodes were all filmed in 4:3 for the TV sets of the day, and so appear pillarboxed on a modern HD set. (JMS was thinking ahead when he filmed Babylon 5 in widescreen...)

Sometimes I think that the greatest enemy of "free time" is gaming.

Recently, here at Erbosoft Galactic HQ, we've been exploring a game that's been out for awhile: Fable III.  Originally, I had bought a used copy at GameStop, intending to check it out myself, but Sabrina found out I had it, and commandeered it for her own Xbox.  I wound up having to buy another one.  (And then, since it was a bit uncomfortable to play games while lying on the bed, I moved my Xbox from there to the computer room...and bought a cheap 19" TV to act as a HD display for it.  Now my desk feels like the bridge of the Enterprise.  Oh well, the TV does have a VGA input, so I can use it as a backup monitor if need be, too...)

Fable III, as with the earlier games in its series, is noted for having a "moral choice" system, where you can make choices between "good" and "evil" options (such as, at one point, to either protect a beautiful lake, or drain it to create a mine for needed resources).  Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, purveyor of the fabulous Zero Punctuation game reviews you can find on The Escapist Web site, tends to criticize "morality choices" in gaming, because, in order to get the "best" endings to the game, you generally are forced to choose all one or the other (i.e., either be Mother Teresa or Bill the Slasher, to borrow terminology from an old 2600 article), but his review of Fable III, rather than rehashing that stance, goes into more detail about the difference in this game.

The storyline of the game puts the player as the younger sibling (pick "brother" or "sister," it's all the same) of King Logan of Albion, a tyrannical monarch by anyone's stretch of the imagination.  The player is called upon to assume the Heroic mantle of his father (her mother) and lead a revolution against Logan.  However, it turns out that Logan knows of the impending invasion of an eldritch horror called "The Darkness," and his harsh rule has been the result of focusing single-mindedly on building an army to repel the Darkness.  He's more than happy to hand off the burden to you, with a year to go until the invasion, and from then on you're trying to both make sure your treasury has enough money to pay an army to put down the Darkness and to make the population happy by reversing all the bad decisions your brother made (which acts as a further drain on the aforementioned treasury).

Most of the "moral decisions" as this point seem to equate "good" with "liberal" and "evil" with "conservative" (gee, I wonder what game designer Peter Molyneux's personal political beliefs are?), but, as Yahtzee points out, "conservative" decisions aren't necessarily "evil" if they make the difference between a year of misery followed by survival, or a year of happy times followed by Armageddon.  And the threat here isn't some nebulous "terrorism" threat, either; each of the loading screens at this point is telling you, "X Days Until Attack; Treasury Balance Y; Estimated Casualties max(6,500,000 - max(Y,0), 0)." And, post-victory, the NPCs you didn't manage to save appear as dead bodies on the ground all over the kingdom.  When you look at it that way, it's easy to start thinking that perhaps Logan was right.

Still, this association left a bad taste in my mouth on occasion.  For instance, one of the "good" choices you're faced with is to--wait for it--bail out Albion's banks.  Now, I didn't like the fact that the Federal Government bailed out U.S. banks, but, in order to stick on the "good" path, I had to bite the bullet and drop the 500,000 gold. (Fortunately, my treasury, unlike the United States one, could afford it. How? Two words: Real estate.) And Yahtzee's criticism that the ending kind of "sneaks up" on you, jumping from "121 Days Until Attack" right to "1 Day Until Attack," is well-founded; in Sabrina's first game, she hadn't realized the issue and had been deficit-financing all the social reforms, which led to a "good but everybody dead" ending.  I avoided her mistake by starting early and aggressively on developing a personal income (again, real estate) sufficient to bolster the treasury to the extent that I could spend freely and still have enough margin to save everyone with room to spare.  (Another two words: Strategy guide.)

As flawed and simplified as it is for the purpose of gameplay, though, the storyline system of Fable III is light-years beyond, say, the DOOM series of games, which basically boil down to "If it moves, shoot it; if it doesn't move, shoot it anyway." Or, say, the Modern Warfare games Sabrina likes so much, which are pretty much "We're the good guys; here are some bad guys; go shoot 'em." It's not quite as open-ended as the so-called "4-X" games or "God Games," of which the Civilization series is one of the trope codifiers (and which are so compelling to me that I often actively avoid them to avoid the syndrome where I start playing one at 8 PM and next thing I know, "Hey, is that the sun rising?" ), but it's in-between enough that it can suck you in.  Hence my not having posted anything since I planned to several days ago.

Some days I think I oughta just stick to solitaire on the iPhone.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I've tweaked the stylesheet for the blog a bit; the default Bootstrap styles for paragraph tags and the like were leaving a tad bit too much whitespace between my paragraphs.  There's still a bit too much, especially within list tags, but at this point, if it ain't too broke, don't worry too much about fixin' it, is what I say.

I also revamped the meta description in the "permalink" pages to "excerpt" the blog post by clipping the initial substring of it.  All the SEO pages I've seen tell me that you should use no more than 160 characters in this tag, as search engines discount anything beyond that length.  I set the length to 140; if it's good enough for Twitter, it's good enough for me. :-D Fortunately, I have quite a bit of experience editing Velocity templates; Aspen's ABC software used them for page formatting, for instance.  Mainly because I wrote that...

This should also mean I start seeing better post descriptions when I post links on Facebook.  I'll be checking that out soon. 

Via Michelle Malkin, I hear that Hussein al-Chicago is establishing a new "Truth Team" aimed at "responding to unfounded attacks and defending the President's record."  In other words, another left-wing snitch squad, just like Attack Watch!!! before it. Honestly, this is getting real predictable, and real old, real fast.

Somebody better point Ogabe's chief of staff, Jack Lew, at that team, because he could use a dose of the truth:

“You can’t pass a budget in the Senate of the United States without 60 votes and you can’t get 60 votes without bipartisan support,” Lew said. “So unless… unless Republicans are willing to work with Democrats in the Senate, [Majority Leader] Harry Reid is not going to be able to get a budget passed.”

That’s not accurate. Budgets only require 51 Senate votes for passage, as Lew — former director of the Office of Management and Budget — surely must know.

Of course, we know what he meant.  60 votes is the requirement to pass a cloture motion that breaks a (presumably GOP-led) filibuster. So...I guess what he meant to say was something along the lines of "You can't ram through a lopsidedly-Democratic budget in the Senate of the United States over the strenuous objections of the Republicans without 60 votes and you can't get 60 votes without peeling off a few squishy RINOs who think disagreeing with the NSDWP is 'unhelpful.'"

Of course, the Donks could try, instead, proposing a reasonable and prudent budget that both they and their loyal opposition could see the merits in and pass without needless drama...

Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahahaha! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Who are we kidding? Those numbnuts haven't managed to pass A budget, let alone anything anywhere near "reasonable and prudent," in the past three years! (And most of their attempted budgets, in the meantime, have been closer to "complete fiduciary misconduct." )

And the new proposal headed their way from the desk of King Putt isn't any better, with deficits and additional national debt as far as the eye can see.  Aside from the obvious pitfalls in this approach (see "Greece" for an example), the budget mess also, as Karl Denninger points out, makes it impossible for law enforcement to go after the banks for their systematic looting and asset-stripping of the American populace...because those same banks make it possible for the Federal Gummint to keep kiting checks, and even to keep rolling over the existing debt.  Lose that capability, and the Feds either have to quit deficit spending in a hurry (good luck with that!) or collapse, literally, within hours.  This is what is commonly known as "having someone by the balls."

And that's a bit of truth that will never be acknowledged by Sir Golfsalot and his "Truthiness Team."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Recently, I was asked to answer the question posed in the subject line on Quora, and I figured I'd repost my answer here for reference by readers of this blog who don't get onto Quora much.  The original poster said:

I like the idea of USENET, especially the fact that it's decentralized. So I'd be interested to know if people are still using it for discussion, and if it's worth exploring it.

My reply is:

My first inclination was to dismiss this question with my usual statement about Usenet these days, which is, "Usenet is a sewer." But, upon further reflection, I realized this would be a disservice to both Quora and the fellow who asked me to answer the question. So, I strapped on my pith helmet, shouldered Google Groups, and took a skim through some recent Usenet activity to better judge the current state of things there.

I confined myself to groups from the original "Big Seven" hierarchy, and omitted moderated groups, as they're likely to be of higher quality than most anyway. (My old college roommate used to be moderator of comp.sys.amiga.announce. Haven't heard from him in awhile.)

So here's what I found:

  • comp.os.linux.advocacy - Flame wars galore. OK, this was an "advocacy" group, I should have expected this. Bad example.

  • comp.lang.fortran - One decent discussion, about the best way to use certain extensions for linking to a C routine from FORTRAN (both standardized and compiler-specific), and a whole lot of threads marked as "flagged for abuse."

  • comp.lang.javascript - A mixed bag of technical information and flame wars, with, for some reason, an awful lot of spam about pharmaceuticals.

  • comp.lang.c - Much like the previous group, except the flame wars tended to take the form of overly pedantic discussions, in some cases quoting chapter and verse from the specification. So a bit more technically inclined, perhaps. (At least once, a citation to Stack Overflow was made, indicating that there could be some crossover to Web-based discussions.)

  • comp.protocols.time.ntp - Plenty of technical information here, a lot of it having to do with GPS (since GPS makes a good stable time reference for NTP servers). Little in the way of spam.

  • - Another mixed bag of decent material, spam, and "abuse." One poster complained "does nobody read this group anymore?" and a responder said "yes, but I only check it like once per day, the traffic isn't what it used to be."

  • rec.arts.sf.written - Surprisingly high signal-to-noise ratio here! Not very much flamage or spam at all. It was the kind of discussion I could visualize taking place in a consuite.

  • - Spam galore, as well as a couple of jerks trolling about Whtney Houston's death. Maybe one thread I could see with any worthwhile discussion. I suppose it's hard to come up with new material for a newsgroup about a band that's been disbanded for over three decades, and of which only half the members still survive.

  • - Except for a couple of reposts of bulletins from elsewhere (such as from ARRL), this group was nothing but spam and flame wars. As a ham myself, I am disappointed.

  • - NANAE has been ground zero for discussions about E-mail spam for decades now. As such, the discussions can get pretty heated, but one might find good material here still. Virtually no spam here, and only a few threads flagged for abuse; I expect someone's actively working to keep it that way.

  • sci.physics.relativity - The discussion seemed less heated in general, and more technical. Some of it gets hard for me to follow, it's so specialized. As for the spam, there was little, and even it tended to be on a "higher level" (advertising solutions guides for science textbooks, for instance).

  • talk.bizarre - This group was as WTF as I remember it being from my college days in the late 80's. I guess some things never change...:-)

So, to summarize: Is it still being used for discussion? Undeniably yes. Is it worth exploring? As long as you go in with your expectations set at the right level, probably. It's clearly seen better days, but it refuses to die, despite all the posts about "Imminent Death of Usenet Predicted" over the years. I would advise you to pick your topics carefully (Usenet was a big time sink for me back in college!) and read a lot before posting; your post may not cost "hundreds or even thousands of dollars" to propagate around the world anymore, but the group's regulars will thank you. (Am I tempted, like I was back in college, to set up my own news server and get a feed from somewhere? Not really, but I can see dipping in via Google if I needed to research something.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I got an odd E-mail from an old friend of mine the other night; no subject line, a number of other people on the To: line, and the text body consisting of just one thing: a URL from a site with a .cz domain (the Czech Republic).  Anyone who's been on the Internet for more than a week should either have alarm bells going off in their subconscious at this point, or shouldn't be allowed out without a keeper.  Best hypothesis: her machine or E-mail account was compromised somehow and is sending this mail out as an attempt to infect others.

Actually clicking on a link you get in an E-mail like this is about as wise as wandering down Skid Row, grabbing a hypodermic needle from a random junkie you find passed out on the sidewalk, and jamming that needle into your own arm. Fortunately, I have some techniques that are the equivalent of working from behind leaded glass and fishing at it with tongs, namely, using the wget command on a Linux box to fetch the contents at that URL to a file without executing it, and then using a text editor to open the file, again without executing it.

The contents of that first file I pulled from behind that URL were roughly like this:

<script type="text/javascript" src="(another Czech URL)"></script>
<meta HTTP-EQUIV="REFRESH" content="0; url=(a URL in Russia)">

Right away, it's obvious someone's trying to play games. That <meta> tag is trying to force the browser to read from another site almost immediately. Trying to pull from the Russian site, however, got no results; the site returned no data and timed out.

But what about that JavaScript?  Pulling it revealed some other trickery:

if (top.location.href==self.location.href) {
document.writeln('(an entire HTML document, pretty much)');
document.write('<script type="text/javascript" src="(a Google Analytics JavaScript URL)"></script>');
document.write('<script type="text/javascript" src="(a URL loading a script with the same name, but from a Czech site)"></script>');

More deliberate obfuscation, and what looks like an attempt to hijack Google Analytics, perhaps to make the site seem more popular than it is. (Any function declared in the presumably-legit Google Analytics script, but then re-declared in the Czech script, would use the latter definition.) The document being written in that first document.writeln() call contains a lot of obfuscation, too. (The most obvious obfuscation was that it was written all as one line, defying easy viewing; I had to pass the script text through fold -80 to get it into a state where I could read it.) It has a lot of CSS styles, both in an embedded stylesheet and inline; many of the styles are marked as !important, meaning they override any built-in stylesheet the user has set up in the browser. (This could also be a trick to divert attention from the rest of the contents of the file.) Some of the links in this file have code like this attached to them:

onmousedown="javascript:void(myImage = new Image());void(myImage.src = \'(a PHP URL with some query string parameters)\');"

This is pretty obviously click-tracking. Ignore the use of an Image object here; the important part is to generate a GET from the browser to that URL whenever someone clicks down on the link. There's also more conventional calls to a JavaScript function urchinTracker from within onClick handlers.

There are some foreign-language strings visible in the text, too: a quick check with Google Translate found that they were, indeed, in Czech, reading something like this:

  • Sports betting on the Internet - Get up 1000 Kc!

  • Original gifts and gadgets for men and women!

  • ACTION! From November 14, 2011 fantastic prizes domain!

  • Mona furniture co. - furniture and special offers with 40% discount

  • Dedicated server for 450 Kc

  • Download and send files for FREE!

  • File download FREE!

Various sales pitches, in other words. ("Kc" is most likely the abbreviation for the Czech koruna, the local currency.)

To sum up: Classic spam E-mail, with a lot of deliberate obfuscation to try and evade spam-detection schemes. And who knows what other stunts this site is likely to pull, with all that garbage in the way?

I sent an E-mail to my friend warning her that her machine had been compromised, and she should either check it out or get it checked out. This would be a good time to point out that downloading and running just two programs will clear up almost any malware installed on a Windows system: Malwarebytes, and Spybot Search & Destroy. Also, make sure your antivirus is up to date. The More You Know.™

"Surfing safety."
"Keep breathing."
Roadkill and Y.T., Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

farmville.jpgAnyone who's friended me on Facebook knows that sending me a request from inside one of the many games that are offered on that platform generally results in that request disappearing into a black hole...usually because I've blocked that game, or, if I hadn't previously blocked it, it's damned well blocked now. I've put up a note on there to the effect that "it's nothing personal," I just don't care to partake in what I've referred to in conversation with Sabrina as "those wanky-wank Facebook games."  I have to tell you, I was mightily disappointed when I saw Google+ start to offer games, too; there went my hopes of a games-free social networking haven...

And yet a lot of people play those games; so many so, in fact, that Zynga, one of the biggest makers of Facebook games (even if they just steal most of their ideas from competitors) was able to pull off a gigabuck IPO on the strength of their revenue from these games. (Their stock price took a nosedive initially, but, according to the charts, has been steadily appreciating recently.) Facebook, seeking a huge IPO of its own just months from now, in turn, depends on Zynga for a bunch of their revenue...and other game makers contribute their share, too.  Heck, for awhile there, Sabrina was pumping money left and right into games like Farmville and Frontierville; it was all the begging she did for me to get her more prepaid game cards, in fact, that finally made me just get her a prepaid debit card from Walmart into which I load more money each time I get paid.

Obviously, these games appeal to a lot of people, to the point where they could be considered addictive, as one of Cracked's famous "list" articles will tell you.  And they pretty much all have a "premium" currency that you can only get by paying real money (such as "FarmCash" in the case of Farmville), which you can use to get all kinds of goodies that aren't available any other way, or "short-circuit" some quest or task and get to the rewards faster (TV Tropes calls the latter "Bribing Your Way To Victory";).  And here's where I start doing one of two things:

  1. Start singing (to the tune of a famous French folk song), "Monetization, all across the nation, monetization, let's all make some cash!"

  2. Go "Damn! Why didn't I think of this shit? I coulda made a fortune!"

Because these games really aren't all that complicated, when you come down to it.  (Mostly they're written in Flash, with some server-side components somewhere.)  Ian Bogost proved that when he created the Facebook game Cow Clicker, purely to spoof the Zyngas of the world.  The game was so friggin' stupid as to make Farmville look like EVE Online by comparison...and yet it garnered fifty thousand users and actually earned money.  There's a moral to be drawn from this story... (Hint: What did P.T. Barnum say was "born every minute"?)

wizard-101-elements.jpgSabrina's latest game addiction, Wizard 101, is kind of like what would happen if Blizzard and Zynga had a one-night stand and wound up getting pregnant with a "kid-friendly" MMORPG.  The game uses a lot of the standard World of Warcraft-style tropes, and it purports to be the story of a young wizard in a magical academy (yeah, stop me if you've heard this before). The combat system involves playing "spell cards" like a simplified version of Magic: The Gathering, and there's a crafting system, and pets, and quests (both the "FedEx" type and the "kill ten rats" type).  But where it gets all Zynga-like is the fact that there's, you guessed it, a "premium" currency, "crowns" as they're called, which is only purchasable with real cash and is the only way to get certain things like henchmen to help you win battles.  (This is on top of the monthly subscription fee you pay to get into any areas of the game beyond the initial one, even though the game is allegedly free-to-play.) And, boy, does Sabrina bite...not only blowing much of her biweekly money allotment on crowns, but begging me to get her their prepaid cards (some of which come with bonus goodies).  Since the game's publisher, KingsIsle Entertainment, is privately held, I have no idea what their financials look like, but they claim 20 million registrations and 12 million unique visitors per month, so I gotta think they're doing pretty well.

And now the "Zyngaization" meme is starting to affect even other established MMOs; a case in point is EVE Online, with its "Noble Exchange" and its new premium currency (Aurum), that has generated plenty of backlash from the player base but also has to be earning CCP at least some money.  I wouldn't put it past, say, Blizzard to do much the same thing, if not in WoW itself, then maybe in Diablo III when it comes out.  Like it or not, game companies are scrambling to make money, and if they think this will help, then they'll roll it out without a second thought.

Just try to keep the presence of mind to block it out once in a while. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

I'll bet a lot of people who are reading this right now will be going, "What? A blog? Dude, 2004 called, they want their publishing medium back. Don't you know all the cool kids are Facebooking and Tweeting and Youtubing and Tumblring and Instagramming and Pinteresting and all those other cool things that seem to get cranked out of little startups in the Valley at about one per day?"

Well, yeah. So?

The thing that's wrong with all those sites is that none of them are really conducive to saying what you want, in thestyle you want to say it. You have to live with the style the engineers at Facebook or Google or whatever imposed on their site, or, at the very least, pick one from a range of strictly limited choices of styles. Great for promoting their services; not so great for promoting you. (The original MySpace let you customize all you liked; however, this took it to the opposite extreme, in that you had to live with the poor taste--and poor Web-design skills--of thousands of hyped-up Twilight-fan teenage girls. And the emos. Oh, God, the emos...)

No, if you've got something to say, and you want to say it in your own, inimitable style, the best way to go is with the old-fashioned blog. And lately, I've realized that I've got a few things to say, that don't quite deserve to be lost in the shuffle on Facebook, and can't be shoehorned into a 140-character Tweet.

So why go this route, rather than just opening up yet another blog? Because this site--by which I mean as a whole--is intended for more than just a blog. Since this site actually runs Java, it can be a place for me to host other projects and other bits of code. (And gain some experience with blogging software other than WordPress, for that matter...) There's lots of room for expansion, even if it says "under construction" up at the top levels at the moment. But the other blogs I have up at the moment--Evans Avenue Exit for Second Life and the Ralpha Dogs' corporate blog for EVE Online--won't go away; in fact, they will get a slight makeover, and be rebranded as part of the "Erbosoft Blog Network." And, if I have something to say about SL or EVE, it'll go there--with pointers leading there from here.

This is the main one, though, the high-level site where I can stick all the rants about politics, technology, or just plain life in general. Facebook will still be a good place to post all the random YouTube videos I scrounge up, and the short notes that don't really require this format. And it will also point here. So will Twitter, which I've been promising myself to make more use of. But this place...this is mine. You're not seeing the designs of Silicon Valley engineers on this screen (well, a bit...more on that later); you're seeing me, fresh, hot, piped out at fifty thousand watts from the Rocky Mountain High.

It's already February, but my major New Year's resolution--that I've told no one about up till now, not even my fiancee Sabrina--was to take the domain and make some good use of it. This is the first. I hope it's the first of many.

I've got somethin' to say,
It's better to burn out
Than fade away....
Def Leppard, "Rock of Ages"

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