Friday, November 28, 2014

This trailer is not inspiring a lot of faith in Star Wars VII



But I will try and reserve final judgement until the next one.

A moment of opportunity, a #gamergate slapfight, and the end of another bitcoin myth - What I am reading 11/28/2014

Quartz -  With oil prices plunging, OPEC and Russia are on their knees -
Iran, Iraq, Angola and Venezuela pushed hard for a cut, but finally they were made to understand—probably with patient explanation by Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali al-Naimi, OPEC’s effective leader—that no cut would remove the threat. If OPEC managed today to raise oil prices, that would improve the profit picture for US shale, too, and encourage American drillers to send even more supply into the market; before long, OPEC would be back at the same point of having to cut.
As a result, OPEC decided to wait for the market to balance. But this wait could be years
...
For consuming nations, the prudent posture is to view this time of lower prices as a temporary window—a period to last, say, through 2020 or 2022. And, wherever you are sitting, to pose the question—strategically speaking, what do you want?

I don't think Putin is onboard with this line of thought yet but it's a nice dream.

Slapfight 

Bloomberg Business Week - The Gaming Industry's Greatest Adversary Is Just Getting Started -
The videos last about 20 minutes to 30 minutes each, with Sarkeesian narrating, often using dense terminology imported from feminist theory (“building off of philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s work on objectification theory …,” etc.). She focuses on the darkest, most violent and sexualized parts of the games and the limited range of their female characters, whom she terms “nonplayable sex objects”—often barely dressed streetwalkers, pole dancers, and barmaids spilling out of their corsets; helpless mistresses outfitted in shredded dress-bits with double-D cleavage; and the ongoing parade of women who are stabbed, shot, and mutilated in service of plots about heavily armed male antiheroes.
Essentially this article is a long glowing review of Anita Sarkeesian and her work with the "Tropes vs. Women" You Tube series.  Pretty much all her assertions are accepted at face value and very little examination of her theories or the criticism of her is offered.  The article itself is kind of hard to excerpt, but I think one pull quote is pretty important:
If we're going to grow up as an industry, we're going to need the consumer to grow up a bit as well
Remember that for later.

Naturally Milo Yiannopoulus, probably the best known voice, outside Adam Baldwin, in the #GamerGate movement at the moment, has a bit of a problem with the tone of the Bloomberg article:

Breitbart - An Open Letter to Bloomberg's Sheelah Kolhatkar, on the Delicate Matter of Anita Sarkeesian -
Anita Sarkeesian is not a brave warrior for women, fearlessly paving the way for a theoretical future that is less "misogynistic" and "sexist." Nor is she a delicate wallflower in need of close protection. She is an intellectually dishonest professional malcontent, who has misrepresented criticism and rejection of her work in order to garner pity and sympathy—and for financial gain. Worse, she is a bully with an extremist ideological agenda who picks on some of the most marginalised and misunderstood people in society.
Unlike the Bloomberg article Yiannopoulus leaves very little doubt about where he stands, as evidenced by the excerpt above, and he presents numerous examples  of what I am sure he considers withering refutations of Sarkeesian's work. Unfortunately they really don't.  Yeah, they make good points in some cases, but in a tit for tat exchange Sarkeesian and her crew win because a) they have the narrative, b) they have the credentials, and c) they have the support of both the gaming and mainstream media. 

 These volleys just confuse things.

This fight can really be summed up by the quote I pulled from the Bloomberg Business Week article earlier:
If we're going to grow up as an industry, we're going to need the consumer to grow up a bit as well
Sarkeesian, Quinn, Wu, and their supporters in the games media want the gaming industry to change.  I would say partly for philosophical reasons and partly for more selfish reasons.  Specifically they realize that there are no customers for the games they want to produce.  So instead of producing games people want to play, they instead try and force the change by marginalizing gamers.  You can tell this is happening because the game companies are continuing to produce the games that sell, i.e. Grand Theft Auto and Assassins Creed.  You can also tell by the way Sarkeesian et. al. have tried to redefine the gamer identity:
The industry’s main trade group, the Entertainment Software Association, tries to emphasize how mainstream the industry is, even as many of the games themselves undermine its message. The ESA trumpets the fact that the proportion of women playing all video games—not just on Xbox-style consoles, but also on tablets and other devices—has grown to 45 percent, and that 51 percent of U.S. households own at least one video game console. The range of games being produced overall has grown, with a far broader swath of the population engaging in online play as it’s become a fixture of smartphones and iPads. 
The gamers don't want to be redefined, they just want to enjoy their games and spaz out on XBox or PS4 or whatever and be left the f**k alone and that is really what's at the heart of #GamerGate.  And that's the message that is getting lost.  If Sarkeesian and her ilk would back off a bit they might be able to find their niche market and everyone would be happy, but that's not going to happen as long as she keeps finding a media audience.

Note:  One of my two to three readers will say, "But Chad you didn't talk about the threats and misogyny".  Correct, because while unlike many I am not going to try and deny they exist or have happened I view them as s symptom rather than a root cause.  Again for the record I condemn any threats against anybody on either side of this debate.  Also again let me note that while I do play some video games I don't consider myself a gamer in the way most people understand the term, and I don't really support #GamerGate.  I just dislike the anti-GamerGaters more.  As I said before I read Sarkeesian's thesis back when it was released and watched a couple of her videos and didn't find her arguments convincing.

End of Slapfight portion

Slashdot - Bitcoin Is Not Anonymous After All -
In their new study, researchers at the Laboratory of Algorithmics, Cryptology and Security of the University of Luxembourg have shown that Bitcoin does not protect user's IP address and that it can be linked to the user's transactions in real-time
I keep telling you guys Bitcoin is an NSA plot but you won't believe me.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

My Thanksgiving Celebration

Not going up to Seattle for a number of reasons - chiefly I'm lazy so my Thanksgiving is going to be pretty low key.

I have spent most of the morning making a quick run to Walmart and then watching videos like this -




and that is probably what the entire day will consist of - Maybe an episode of Alpha House thrown in.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Two from Instapundit

TOP GOOGLE ENGINEERS: Renewable Energy Simply Won’t Work.

A COUPLE OF IDEAS FOR THE GOP IN RESPONDING TO OBAMA’S IMMIGRATION INITIATIVE: These would be embarrassing for Obama to veto, popular with the public, and a good idea anyway.

I'm not sure but I may have seen these stories before.

OK, the details on the H1B thing are different, but the concept is the same.  Force the pain back onto the idiots driving this clown car called immigration reform.  I am pretty sure I linked something on remittance taxes back in 2008 or so too.  The point is WORSHIP MY BRILLIANCE!!!!!  I know I am brilliant because, as these links prove, like a stopped clock I have now been right twice.  


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Another day another incredibly powerful piece of spyware - What I am reading 11/23/2014

Articles

(T)his malware "displays a degree of technical competence rarely seen." The researchers refer to Regin as being similar to the Stuxnet computer worm, also discovered by Symantec in 2010, that was allegedly used to attack Iran's nuclear centrifuges. The only conclusion is that this tool was developed by a nation with some considerable technological means
...
(N)o reported instances of Regin have been found in the U.S. Symantec's provided geographic breakdown shows Saudi Arabia and Russia as primary targets of Regin spyware, taking up more than half of all recorded cases. Other countries include Mexico, Iran, Afghanistan, India as well as European countries like Belgium and Ireland.
Well we have to keep an eye on those damn Belsh (or is it Belgians? I prefer Belsh) no telling what they will get up to otherwise.

TechCrunch - SF Has An S&M Problem -
It’s a Friday night, and I am on the prowl. I’m with my friend Edgar, and we are looking for evidence of the increasing S&M problem among the denizens of America’s startup capital. We all know the story the past few months: it’s really bad right now, but don’t worry, everything will get better in time. But it is not getting better, and it’s time to call out our collective dirty little secret.
Our Sales and Marketing costs are killing us.
What did you think S&M meant gutter mind?

Washington Post - Foreign powers steal data on critical U.S. infrastructure, NSA chief says -
Several foreign countries, including China, have infiltrated the computers of critical industries in the United States to steal information that could be used in the planning of a destructive attack, the director of the National Security Agency said Thursday.
Nuke 'em!

Books

Jeff Edwards - Dome City Blues -

Los Angeles: 2063

David Stalin was one of the best detectives in the business, running head-to-head with data-jackers, organ thieves, and the tech-enhanced gangs who ruled the shadowy streets of Los Angeles. He could do no wrong, until what seemed like an easy case got out of control, and left his wife dead among the abandoned ruins of old LA.

After four years of self-imposed retirement, David suddenly finds himself back on the job, struggling to unravel a crime far worse than murder. This time, he’s not the hunter. As he’s about to discover, the past isn’t finished with him yet.
Just loaded this into Kindle but it looks like the most promising cyberpunk novel I have seen in awhile.

Kim Zetter - Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the World's First Digital Weapon -

Not much to say about this.  If you haven't been living under a rock you have heard of Stuxnet.  This is the background on it's discovery and investigation.  Competently written and pretty interesting.







Saturday, November 22, 2014

Interesting Read- Coding Malware for Fun and Not for Profit

Here

Very nice explanation of the Windows XP Boot Process. That knowledge can also be leveraged for later systems.  Specifics have changed but the general flow of the process hasn't.

Another plus, the author promises if you read his blog you will get laid more.  He doesn't promise it won't be in a FFMUTA prison though.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Examining Obama's Immigration Overhaul - What I am reading 11/21/2014

Josh Blackman - Eight Observations About OLC Memo on Constitutionality of Executive Action on Immigration -

The TL:DR version.  The program appears legal, but the details will matter.  If it becomes a rubber stamp and all applicants are automatically approved then it becomes an exercise in executive overreach and therefore illegal.  At least that's how it reads to my non-lawyer eyes.

The Verge - Obama's immigration plan comes up short for Silicon Valley -

"If this is all there is, then the president has missed a real opportunity," Russ Harrison, of the IEEE, tells Reuters. "He could have taken steps to make it easier for skilled immigrants to become Americans through the green card system, protecting foreign workers and Americans in the process."

Reuters - Obama's immigration tweaks leave Big Tech wanting more -

The president's moves will make it easier for entrepreneurs to work in the United States and extend a program letting foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees from U.S. universities to work temporarily in the United States.
But tech industry insiders said the changes, while positive, were limited.

I think you all know how I feel about H1B visas.  There mat be some (limited) value to them but in general they are a scam for tech companies to avoid paying higher wages to US workers while not having to relocate to someplace like India, Bangladesh or the Congo.  Given that, I was not disappointed at all that Obama didn't expand the program.  As I said last night - If the Republican Congress really wants to hold Obama's feet to the fire on this they should let Zuckerberg and FWD.us do the heavy lifting.  Simply refuse to authorize any H1B visas for the next 3 years and no green cards for current H1B holders.  Hit the Silicon Valley types in the pocketbook.  They supported Obama overwhelmingly, let them face the consequences.

My standard disclaimer - Don't take this as an anti-immigrant statement.  I think legal immigration is a good thing.  In general I welcome anyone who wants to come to America, assimilate and work.  My problem is with illegal immigration, both because it is illegal and because of the negative economic consequences and with the gaming of the immigration system (use of H1B visas.)

Public Service Announcement - 

Lifehacker - PSN, 2K, and Windows Live Allegedly Hacked, Change Your Passwords Now -

 CNET and Geek.com report that hacker group DerpTrolling claim to have 7 million logins and 500,000 credit card data—including Comcast, Twitter, Facebook, and other sites.
Well I guess I know what I will be doing this weekend.  Again.  At some point we need to be able to sue these fuckers for not properly securing our data.




Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to think like a Gorean Googler - What I am reading 11/19/2014

Boing Boing - Unpublished Gor Books -
Rob Beschizza presents these delightful and unexpected finds in the long-running saga of female humiliation and slavery.      
This article is intended as satire obviously, but when you attack the classic that are the Gor books, then you sir have gone too far.

Lifehacker - The Tech Skills and Courses Google Recommends for Software Engineers -
Software engineering is one of the most in-demand and best paying careers, but learning computer science can also pay off even if you don't do it professionally. Google has a guide on the courses and experiences future software engineers should consider.

Most of these courses are free, or extremely cheap.  They may not get you a job at Google, but as I keep telling my nieces and nephew, if you are going to move forward in life anymore you have to continually be expanding your base of knowledge. If you can spend 45 minutes a day cranking out a lesson or watching a couple videos then do it.  (It would be nice if someone would do something similar with infrastructure.)

Quartz - Why Amazon will never lose the book war -
Over time, there is a path for Amazon to become an author’s first-choice platform. It’s a peerless distributor that has already harnessed its prowess in warehousing and distribution logistics to its on-demand printing business, which lets it act as a wholesaler as well as a retailer of books. Bolt on a data-gathering publishing platform like Medium, or simply better integrating Kindle with Good Reads, and Amazon would have a low-cost business development sandbox, a platform that aspiring authors without followings could use to build their audiences.
I kind of agree with the author.  One of the things he misses though is Amazons ability to bring previously unpublishable authors to the marketplace.  I have read quite a few Kindle Direct Published books over the last two years, and a surprising number of them are actually very good.  They would have been better if they were more polished, but as that market expands I believe that void will fill itself.  I think that in and of itself will start cutting into the traditional publishing marketplace.