Tag Archives: Adobe

In case of your death

I was surprised to see a Eurogamer article on the steam account of dead people (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHLFUbU5ceI). The article is interesting and puzzling all at the same time. You see a view that is interesting, mainly because Eurogamer is merely voicing issues that the audience bring to their attention. Now, let’s be fair, the maker Chris Bratt also mentions the bulk of other users of this approach.

It is puzzling because I reckoned that people should have known better. You can leave your physical products behind, but digital products will not transfer. That part has been a clear issue for decades (yes, not years, but decades) it comes with clarity that certain services, especially digital services are services, not goods with a clear setting of ownership. Digital ownership tends to remain with the maker of the product and you the gamer, or user are merely ‘leasing’ that product for the length of your life and in plenty of cases not even that long (read: annual fee).

That is a clear situation in the sight of the worrying owner (the maker) of the product. So in case of software products like Adobe, Microsoft and other players, the digital arena is granting access to, to the person that paid for these services. So when that person dies, the service will be gone, because the service is no longer required for the person who bought it. In my view it is simple and clear, because this is how it has always been. Now that people are actually thinking for the first time on what happens ‘afterwards’, only now are they considering the consequences of their initial forward thinking part to embrace Steam (as a first example). So, even as their might have seemed to be an advantage, having the physical copy will always be better. So now we see that people are catching on. Yet in light of a growing nagging population, do they have a case? You see they purchased a service, not a product, the difference is not what they do, but it is the stage of physicality, the lack of a media carrier. Even then it is not a given that you have any options. The history of software products has had the setting for the longest of time that the purchased products were not transferable. Ashton Tate with dBase 3 and 3 plus (1979) is one of the earlier examples in Software, the bulk of all Microsoft products, although Windows was usually not linked to a person, but a computer. So the phenomenon is not new or unique. So why is it now getting more and more limelight? Well, people are now starting to catch on that their thousands of dollars of games are linked to their identity, to their account and when that is gone, what has been bought is gone too. We can argue on it and also argue on how valid any discussion is on the products that do come with a physical element. What is a given is that as time progresses, the option to own for life a product will fail too. You see, there is a valid case that a product bought is set to the original buyer and no further. The greedy players like Electronic Arts, Microsoft and Ubisoft have been playing with that setting for the longest time. And let’s face it; they do have a point (to some degree). They promised to service your gaming needs, not those of your children and grandchildren. Now, when this is a single player game, a case could be made to transfer the disc to whomever it ends up with, yet there is also a clear case that the services and support are set to the original buyer and without it the game cannot continue. It might be regarded as an open and shut case, but is that truly the case?

We have seen it be done for decades, but was that a legally acceptable reason? I am merely leaving the point of view open to debate. Should a game be allowed to be transferred? Is it fair on the makers of the software products for this to happen? Nowadays we are waiting for the maximised utilisation, the greed driven makers on the minimum option and to some extent the truth tends to be in the middle. This is not because it is fair, but because it is expected. We grew into the expectation of ownership from books and gramophones. Only when the time of digital installation began, only at that point did we see the change towards the expectations that the makers had on ownership and with the age of parchment and gramophones behind us, the consideration of set service terms were not truly on the scale it needed to be. Yet now, with the cloud, with digital ownerships and with downloadable content we are seeing the shift where we are no longer the owner, but the authorised user of the digital product. Now we have the shift that the industry wanted and perhaps in the view of some was entitled to.

In all this we need to realise that the power of creation is not merely remastering of older versions it is the need of revenue for the makers to continue their development and is it fair or unfair to allow for this path? It is at times depending on the point of view that the person has, and n that setting the software industry and the user are unlikely to see thins eye to eye. Some like Sony have the option to link one account to all the devices, so three people could be playing at the same time (each on a different system), some give options for multiple users for a few dollars more and some will try to fetch cash from every user. It is as I personally see it linked to where our expectations are and through history they have been set in favour of the user, now with the cloud and with digital versions that ‘advantage’ is lost to the users and it is largely depending on the others on how they allow us to set this in motion.

Eurogamer is all set towards the need of a champion with references towards Bruce Willis, but is that fair? The best setting is one that Microsoft tried (best for them that is). They wanted to disable the option of pre-owned players and that got buried real fast. Now, I am on the gamer’s side when it comes to a physical product. But in case of Mass Effect, can we truly expect that multiplayer accounts are transferred? Is it fair to continue digital server service ‘ad infinitum’? I personally do not believe that to be fair. Yet in that same push, I think that a physical copy should not be linked to one person, to one owner, but in that as the future comes pushing us, the wrong stance to have. I believe that the intertwining of services, physical and non-physical will stop or enhance the push for limited authorised access.

It is merely my view and perhaps a wrong one, but I am willing to consider that we as users must accept this shift. In this it will become more and more important to have a full physical game. We see the setting of patents in the requirement of manufacturing and physicality, yet now with the cloud and distributed usage (including cloud gaming) we see that every unit is part of the whole, so as such person X with license Y will become part of the whole implying that person X2 with license Y is another entity altogether, I will go one step further that as each player becomes a mere key of the machine, we see that physicality is set in hardware and software and as such, the combination becomes its own dimension, meaning that transfer of ownership becomes a thing of the past. Yet this also spells dangers in other ways, because as non-repudiation becomes a larger issue, any element (like email address) becomes an absolute setting, so that we are in danger of stopping ourselves to move forward with a second email address, a thing we saw with Ubisoft in the past. So once we lose our e-mail address through hackers we could in theory lose whatever we purchased through that medium. Now, most have their own registration system, yet what happens when that depository is lost, damages or altered? That is the part that is not fixed and is unlikely to be properly addressed for some time. It is even more conceivable that our children will in their lifetime see the need and growth of identity implants. Perhaps even more than one and it is at that point that the digital age of ownership takes another leap, perhaps a much larger leap than we have seen in the last 25 years. It opens up whole new ranges of opportunities and dangers. The question will sooner become, which one tips the scales of balance and how will it affect all?

So in case of your death you might be confronted with the implants of your parents, the implants of peers and siblings. In this the law is actually not ready and it is not as simple as what will happen with your games. Because as the setting is fixed it will be about bank accounts, available funds and set funding of growth and wealth. In all this we will see shifts and we will ponder where the rights of services will be set. In this it will go beyond commercial versus NGO, it will be about the shift that identity enables us to hold and that will shift the movements that we are able to do. It will be a new level of hindrance and perhaps even a step towards global discrimination, because when you realise that the age of implants is already here, consider the impairment that some people will have by allowing these changes to the body and to the external extremities.

For those in IP it is a great time to get involved with block chains and non-repudiation, because the game of games, gaming and software will be changed to much larger degrees than people realise and the initial changes as some realise them to be at present are only the tip of the iceberg.

Enjoy the weekend.


Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Gaming, IT, Law, Politics, Science

What we waste away

This is an issue that bugged me for a little while. Even though it started small, the near exponential growth of waste is now looking towards me, looking at me as I look into an abyss of squandered opportunity. You see, this is in part the Monday morning quarterback speaking, whilst in that same view I should hold a mirror to my own choices. Just like you should do.

The idea for this article started small, it started when I realised that Huawei was willing to sacrifice its Australian market share by tweaking the skewing profits they have. They are now making short-sighted decisions and as they do that, they stand to lose close to 10% of the Australian market share. So why waste that? Let’s not forget that before the P7 Huawei was almost synonymous with ‘whazzat?’ and now after the P7, which was and still is awesome, after a less appreciated P8, Huawei is close to being a global household name. Now with the Nexus being a little outdated (Nexus 6P), the 9P could have been ready to gain a decent market share, hurting both the iPhone to a lesser degree and the Samsung phones to a larger degrees. So what does Huawei do? They decide to not release the 64 GB in Australia. Now until recently, we could have expected that, yet when you consider the exponential demand for mobile games that Pokémon GO is pushing, the fact that we now see ‘Apple plans to invest in augmented reality following success of Pokémon Go‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/26/apple-earnings-pokemon-go-augmented-reality-steve-cook), whilst the players are not thinking their decisions through could be regarded as a larger (read: massive) act of wasting away opportunity.

So why is this a waste?

Until Pokémon GO, the need for storage had not been visible to the degree we thought we needed. Even I did not see this coming and I have been connected to games and gaming in excess of 30 years. Forbes (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/bensin/2016/07/25/these-photos-show-how-crazy-the-pokemon-go-craze-is-in-hong-kong) gives us a clear view with the quote “special phone plans from local companies offering unlimited data usage just for the game“, which shows the amount of users, but not the need for storage. The fact that millions of people are now getting dozens of screenshots every day (more than before) of every Pokémon they caught and even more interesting where it was caught. Of course the average teenager is also feeding the image streams on how they caught a Diglett on their boxer short, so the wildfire of images is growing. All these images require storage and this is only the first game, within a year I expect close to a dozen games with features requiring storage, because there will always be copycats. So do you really think your 32 GB phone will suffice? I think not, with all the other needs your mobile life has, buying any phone less than 64 GB from this point onwards is a massive flaw. It is short-sighted, even if you are not a gamer, this market is erupting into new fields and the chance that this will not affect you is near impossible. So as the difference should be no more than $100, sticking with the 32 GB is in my view for the nuts and fruits, the fibre based mobile user needs 64 GB, yes there is in some cases a 128 GB, yet this is except for the very few really overkill, you need to be a seriously intense user of large files to really need something this big, but by 2019, who can tell?

In my view, you need to consider a mobile phone for the next 2 years. 32 GB will not cut it, especially as Android OS is also growing and will require more space.

Now it is time to take a look at the Apple side, the Guardian gives us “The comments came during an earnings call to discuss the results of the company’s third financial quarter, the three months ending 30th June, in which the company earned $42.4bn in revenue, a 15% decline from the same period last year“, so as Tim Cook is making claims towards Augmented Reality (AR) he seems to have forgotten that Nintendo, with their 3DS got to that point 5 years ago. So, not only did he miss that entire cycle, we can conclude that 3 iterations of new Apple products were not near ready either, so he is running behind the ball, whilst someone saw the AR on the 3DS and game it a little more thought. As we see how Microsoft has been bungling some of their projects, in all of those steps Apple wasn’t just absent, they had no clue where the gaming world was, so as they are trying to pick up the pass, we see the lack of innovation and shear absence regarding the creativity of options that Apple happily avoided. Now as some ask questions we see a sudden mention of AR whilst none of the hardware is ready to facilitate innovation for this track.

As I stated that all (including me) missed the hype this caused and yes, it is a hype but one that is creating a beachhead, not one that is fading away. So Nintendo has options and opportunity here. Beyond the IP needs that are now rearing its ugly head, we need to realise that Apple is now moving to the shallow end of the pool. They moved from innovator to facilitator and until they change the mindset on what a gamer wants and what a game needs to be Apple is now the one barking up the wrong tree. In that regard evidence of their hardware is simple enough. Only the iPhone 6 started to have 2GB or RAM. The issue is that games tend to be memory hungry and no matter how good the swap architecture, the fact that you need it will drag gaming speed and swapping speed down, which makes for a bad solution. The fact that Huawei is skewing profitability by limiting storage is less on an impact, but knowing full well the impact on mobile gamers, the fact that Huawei has not adjusted it view means that they will not be able to keep up. That last one is a little incomplete for Australia, because it is one of the few places where the mobile phone providers do not offer a 64 GB edition, whilst the models do exist. Here we get that Kogan.com is the only open provider offering 64 GB phones, in the non-open field it is only Telstra that offered it (their iPhone 6S), the rest is now trailing storage land with a dangerous backlash that could come their way.

So how important is storage? It might not be that big on one side, until you run out. Ask yourself, when was the last time you deleted pictures, removed MP3 tracks and removed APPS you never use? The moment you run out of memory and as you suddenly see that you do not have enough storage you will freak out like the short-sighted PC users who used to think that 20 GB was enough for their PC. Most of those people ran out of resources less than a year after getting their PC, when they did not know how to clean up their PC they started everyone except themselves. That is what you now face with your upcoming needed Mobile, because that moment with your kids, or your partner who just made that one gesture just as a bus passes by and the water pool near her feet became the inverted waterfall covering her, that moment when you miss it will introduce you to the term ‘frustration’, which is the moment as you realise that storage was everything at some points.

Yet these were not the only parts, just the directly visible ones.

There are more options and several are being missed out on. I am currently sitting on a billion in revenue, yet until the right person comes along. I can’t afford to move towards it without leaving it open for others to pick it up. I just need to get lucky. In that same way, some game developers are sitting on optional IP, some are now finding its way towards us in other ways, some through redesign, some through the mini console gadgets, yet they are coming. Is it enough? That depends on your point of view. For those coming with the mini console, it is a way to cash in on old IP in an easy way, a way where the seasoned gamer will get joy from. Just remember that this $99 solution, with the original games which would have come at a price of almost $1900 when the games were initially released, yet I digress.

You see, the need for gaming is still growing and it is moving away from consoles and moving towards the mobile realm of gaming needs. AR is only one field and it is not the only field. Ubisoft had initially created a small wave with a brotherhood app, one that interacted with the console/PC games and soon thereafter stuffed it up with the AC Unity versions by not proper testing and considering options. Yes, that Ubisoft! Still, they are not done! Consider the options they still have. For one, they have the IP of Just Dance. How long until they get the idea to push songs to the mobile and kids in schools and colleges start holding a little Just dance marathon? Sydney of all places is one place where a dance app could make it big not just in the parks, but on the streets too and summer is coming!

How long until that Just Dance would evolve to work in selfie video mode, so that you can get a rating? This would require storage and some of these speculated options could be just around the corner. Even though Ubisoft dropped the ball initially, they are leading the way of combining gaming with mobile gaming. So there are more options that AR games, even if everyone is running that direction (which is not a bad idea), it will require an open mind to find something that could create the interest that the tsunami of Pokémon GO gamers crave. I will let the developers work that out.

The final part can be seen outside of the economic requirements of technology. It is found in the overly eager acceptance of ‘speculative estimation’. It is not based upon what could be, it is not set on the prediction of what already exists, it is seen in the quote “Shares plunge 10% as revenue falls short of analysts’ estimates amid modest gain of 3 million users“. In this case it is Twitter, you know that great tool. A connectivity tool that link you to existing interests, both professional, personal as recreational. No matter that it is limited to 144 characters, it enables you to get the information you care about. An invention that is profound and its value drops as revenue falls short of what a limited group of people expects it to make. So as we see a solution that is making “Twitter forecast current quarter revenue of $590-$610m“, we get the cold shower because some people claim that it is “well below the average analyst estimate of $678.18m“, so we have half a billion profit and someone says it is not enough. This is the waste, reduction in value, reduction of what those who do not create anything is just not good enough. Yet, this picture that the Guardian initially paints is not accurate either. We see should consider this when we take into account Revenue and Profit, no matter what the profit was, it did beat the expectations of some, making me wonder why analysts cannot get their act together.

Some of those are pretty much the same types who would increase the value of Nintendo by 10 billion, even as Nintendo themselves did not make Pokémon GO. Those same category of people who seem to expertly know that Twitter is supposed to have up to $70M more in revenue, did not realise that “Tokyo Stock Exchange has plummeted 17% in one day, apparently due to investors belatedly discovering that the company doesn’t actually make Pokémon Go, the latest mobile gaming phenomenon“, even as we all knew from day one that Niantec is an American development company in San Francisco, they were not making any mention when Nintendo stock went through the roof. So is this just plain playing the field or just short-sightedness? Even as shares went up 13 cents per share (up 3 cents), they had no good news on Twitter. It seems to me that there is a massive waste coming from analysts predicting values, setting targets that are a little too weird even as Twitter had achieved 20% revenue gain, it still missed targets (according to analysts). The pressure on false targets and fake values is dragging down people and it is dragging down quality of life for those who still made well over half a billion dollars. How is that not a waste?

It seems to me that we need to make large changes, not just on the way we think, but on the way we accept certain values. How is pushing by externals in any way acceptable? Let’s consider the following parts. These analysts we all about predicting the ‘opportunities’ for Greece in the era 2009-2012, even as we saw misrepresentation in more than one way. How did that work out for the Greeks? Brexit was never going to happen, they did not catch on to that part until the day of the election, how again did Wall Street overreact? Now consider the following definitions: ‘Slavery existed before written history, it continues through such practices as debt bondage & serfdom‘. Now consider debt bondage, where we see ‘a person’s pledge of their labour or services as security for the repayment for a debt or other obligation‘, our debts, our essential need to work, the pledge of labour as analysts seem to chasten Twitter (and many other companies). Serfdom is another issue. It is not the same as it was. As the description might be seen as: ‘Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the lord of the manor who owned that land, and in return were entitled to protection, justice and the right to exploit certain fields within the manor to maintain their own subsistence‘, many might deny that this still exists, yet in an age with high levels of unemployment we seem to push out own boundaries to do whatever it takes to keep levels of ‘protection‘ (read: not being unemployed) and ‘rights to exploit your position‘ (read: additional work requirements), even as we might disagree with parts of this (which is fair enough) the similarities are close to undeniable. In all this we see an iteration of analysts changing predicted needs, raising expectations, after which their errors are released through waves of managed ‘bad news’. Now, this might be just my speculative error of insight. Yet the evidence is all around you. In that regard, many analysts also get it wrong the other way. When we see Facebook exceeding ‘expectations’ by 59%, can we at that point agree that the analysts making the predictions have no real clue? In this age where we can all miss a trend, the fact that we see a 60% miss is not as much as a miss, as it is a massive inability to read your market, which is how I would see it (https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/27/facebook-ad-sales-growth-quarterly-results).

You are now wondering how the latter part connects to the initial part. As I personally see it, we are receiving more and more hindrance from places that make one claim, yet in reality they are mere facilitators towards profitability to ‘satisfy’ the greed of ‘investors’ on the terms of analysts. I have nothing against profit and profitability. No company forsaking its ROI will live for long, yet when we see a company surpassing the 600 million revenue and they are turning a profit, everyone seems to have this surrealistic love affair with ‘Number of Users’. This gets us to what is behind the screens, you see, when we see the blind focus on number of users, is it about the product you have, or the data you collect? Those who are still about mere virtual profit through acquisition of personal data, those who proclaim comprehension, those are the same people who were unable to comprehend the value that products like Minecraft and Pokémon GO. Even if I got one wrong, I did not get both wrong, in that same light I can see that No Mans Sky will raise the bar for gaming and even as some proclaim the word ‘disappointment’ with the initial Alpha release of ‘We Happy Few’, I believe that this game can be a lot of fun and can end up being a decent game with a 90% score. Now, it is important to mention that this view was from a reviewer with a good reputation, it is a good review and as such it should not be ignored, yet in all this, it is still an Alpha version and as such there is plenty of space for improvement. This is possible, because the initial engine does look good.

These elements are all linked, the link is imagination and creativity. Not the imagination of hope in the view of ‘I have the winning ticket‘, no it is in the path of ‘What can we do to make a change‘. It is about the imagination to employ creativity to achieve a result. In the first case it is for Huawei to adjust its incorrect (as I see it) stance of that what they make available and for which nation at the bequest of whatever Telco. This is a mere adjustment of policy, it comes with the smallest requirement of creativity and a decent comprehension of data.

The second case with Tim Cook, which requires both immense creativity and imagination (and a good development team). We can make whatever claim we want, but the reality is, is that too much value is given to reengineering, and way too little towards actual true innovation. Where is the creativity and insight that brought us the iPod, iPhone and iPad? Oh, right, I forgot, he died! Yet, should Tim Cook be any less than his predecessor? So why are they not looking at raising the bar and instigating a different mode of gaming? Perhaps the next hype is not gaming at all. I might not have the answer here, but the bringer of the next challenge that will create a real hype might know, for Apple the need of finding that person makes all the difference.

Pablo Picasso once said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up”. I wonder if that is still just the case. So far I have learned that “Any innovator will soon after their first big success become the pawn of the needs of Wall Street”. If you doubt that, then consider Adobe, Apple, Coca Cola, IBM, Microsoft, Nintendo and Twitter and let’s not forget that they all started through true innovation.


1 Comment

Filed under Finance, Gaming, IT, Politics

Dark side of the moon

The Guardian ended up with an interesting article on Friday. The title ‘Malware is not only about viruses – companies preinstall it all the time‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/22/malware-viruses-companies-preinstall), it is a good article and Richard Stallman is a great man, but there are parts in this article that I have an issue with. Mind you, the man is not telling stories or lying, but he is showing one side of the coin. He is also reinforcing other sides to the software industry that are a definite issue.

The first part is a part I am completely in agreement with “In 1983, the software field had become dominated by proprietary (i.e. non-free) programs, and users were forbidden to change or redistribute them“, a side which I do not oppose. In addition there is “But proprietary developers in the 1980s still had some ethical standards: they sincerely tried to make programs serve their users, even while denying users control over how they would be served“, I have a partial issue with the last bit ‘denying users control over how they would be served‘. I disagree for two reasons.

The first is based on resources. In those days, an IBM PC was a massive behemoth, it had 256Kb memory and if you were really really rich, you also had a 10Mb hard drive. So, yes, the expensive personal computer had less resources then the cheapest $39 Non-smart Nokia phone. Go figure! By the way, that 10Mb hard drive was priced at $1499 in those days. So, user control was an issue, because resources did not allow for them, but soon thereafter, the 512Kb PC was released and there was so much we could do then! No sarcasm here, it was true! In those days I learned and mastered Lotus Symphony an excellent program! This was also a time when we started to get some choices in control, control remained limited, but some control was gained.

Next we see the first part that is an issue, even though he makes a nice point on End User License Agreements. I would like to add the Terms of service as a clear point here, but overall there is a part that is too coloured. The quote “So many cases of proprietary malware have been reported, that we must consider any proprietary program suspect and dangerous. In the 21st century, proprietary software is computing for suckers“.

I cannot completely disagree that Microsoft soured the market by a lot, it has done so in several directions, yet Corporate Earth is at times too stupid to consider growing a brain, which is also part of the problem. It is an element that is shown all over the place. The Netherlands, Sweden, UK, France, Germany, Denmark and even Australia (I worked in all those countries). Instead of sitting down and considering a switch to LINUX with open office, the IT and other elements are just too lazy and too under resourced to push for a change, so the users are no longer people, they are for the most mere meek sheep following the ‘corporate standard‘, which means that they too use windows and Office.

Another direction is the hardware world. Windows comes preinstalled, more important, Windows and Microsoft have been a driving force, forcing people to buy stronger and more expensive computers. Even though many users have not needed any need for more powerful and stronger hardware, Windows forced them to upgrade again and again. Anyone not into gaming and using their computer merely for office activities and browsing mail on the internet should not have needed to upgrade their computer for the better part of 10 years, but that is not the reality, go to any computer shop for windows hardware and we see how the ‘old’ ASUS, ACER, Lenovo, HP or Toshiba no longer hacks it. Which is actually weird, because if you reinstall your old laptop with LINUX and Apache Open Office there is a high chance that you will work in 90% of the time just as fast as with that new $2000 laptop on Windows 7. Setback? You have to install and configure it yourself. Upside? LINUX and Open Office are both free software, no costs and no fees!

Is it not interesting how companies are not jumping on that free horse? Why is that you think? In addition, with all the needs for government costs to go down, why are they not more pro-active to push for a shift towards LINUX? Is it security? This is also odd, because with the massive amount of non-stop security patches, Windows is not that secure to begin with.

So where do I disagree? Well the first clear quote is “Some are designed to shackle users, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM)“, I believe that if a firm makes software, it has every right to prevent illegal use, for a long time, how many people do you know that have a LEGAL version of Adobe? Even when the stars are in your favour. In many Universities, Adobe offers the entire master collection (all their software) for $400, which is an amazing deal! I got my legal versions of both Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Ultimate for an additional $199. Why not buy it? No many just find a download place and get the software for free, in addition you can get the codes. It goes even further that I stumbled on a place in Germany some years ago where they were offering the OEM stickers for PC complete with license key for 20 Mark. I could not tell the difference from the original sticker in the software box I had bought. Do you think that DRM would have been such a push if people just bought their software? I will take it one step further, I feel certain that if every person was charged $275 a year, we all would have the complete Adobe, Windows and Office programs free to download, with no need to illegally copy anything.

But there is still that other side. You see, I still believe that Microsoft and hardware providers have been forcing a technological armistice race upon the consumers, which now adds up to us all wasting resources on iterative junk we should not need. So even though I do not completely agree with Richard Stallman here, he does have a point.

Now we get to an issue that I actually faced without knowing it “Even Android contains malware in a non-free component: a back door for remote forcible installation or deinstallation of any app“, you see, I thought I was bonkers (which I actually are) but for some reason one of my apps had suddenly be removed and not by me. It was not something I needed. I had just downloaded it from Google play out of curiosity, but suddenly it was gone! In addition, on more than one occasion it just decided to update my apps, without my permission. When you have bandwidth issues, seeing a force upgrade which could cost you is not that nice a moment.

Yet, for the most, I remain a loyal fan towards Android, even though at times programs use background resources for reasons unknown, or are they unknown?

We get the next part from the quote “Even humble flashlight apps for phones were found to be reporting data to companies. A recent study found that QR code scanner apps also snoop“, there is a lot more at http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/ejsmith/scan.this.or.scan.me.2015.pdf; now we have ourselves a massive issue, although the paper shows that there is a prompt for GPS and the sending of GPS, none of them has the situation where they do not prompt for GPS and still send it. Eric Smith and Dr Nina A. Kollars who wrote the paper give us another consideration on page 8. There we see “Moreover, contemporary privacy norms are increasingly threatened as what initially appears to be signals of consumer preference slide further into determining bigger-picture life patterns and behavior. The term most commonly used to address this creeping phenomenon is the literature on consumer panopticism“, which now refers to ‘Gandy, Oscar H. The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information‘. Before getting the book (which is worth the purchase), you might want to take a look at a paper by Adam Arvidsson, from the Department of Film and Media Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (at http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/articles1(4)/prehistory.pdf), you see, my partial issue with the article by Richard Stallman becomes slowly visible now. He is right in his view and his vision as he sees this, but you the user did this to yourself! You think that Facebook is ‘free’, that these apps are there merely for amusement (some actually are), their goal is income! Some work the Freemium game market, where games like ‘Book of Heroes‘ gives you a free game, but if you want to grow faster and better in the game, you will have to invest. For the most, these games will rely on the investment from $10-$25 to truly open up, which is, if you consider the amount of hours played still great value. Freemium games also come with that ‘try before you buy’ approach, as you can play the game, but to enjoy it, to get more moves and more joy a few dollars will be essential. The other part that relies on ‘captured data’ did they inform you? If not, there is an issue, but the app programmer will get his pound of flesh, either by cash of by data!

Yet the other side is also true, you see, as Richard mentions and as Adam Arvidsson report on, there are places like Red Sheriff, that rely on hidden script, which is more advanced/intrusive as it keeps track of ALL your online movements. You get this script as a ‘present’ when you visit one of its affiliated sites. Did you the internet user sign up for that? When we see the reference on who pushes this. We see “since most major commercial sites use Redsheriff“, which means that nearly all will somehow be tracked. I for one do not really care that much, but I never signed up for any of it, so should we see this as an invasion to our privacy?

This is where we see that freeware is almost never free.

Yet Richard also alerts us to another state of freedom, or lack thereof! In the quote “If the car itself does not report everywhere you drive, an insurance company may charge you extra to go without a separate tracker“. Can anyone explain to me why it is ANY business of the insurer where we are?

In the end, Richard states three parts, which are fair enough, but overall the issue is missed. The issues reported are:

Individually, by rejecting proprietary software and web services that snoop or track“, here I do not completely agree! I used Adobe as an example for a reason, there is simply no viable alternative, it only became worse when Macromedia bought Adobe (I know it is the other way round, but I will remain a faithful Macromedia fan until the day I die!), there is in addition, no tracking done by Adobe, other than keeping track whether you have a valid license, which I never opposed.

Collectively, by organising to develop free/libre replacement systems and web services that don’t track who uses them“, which I whole heartedly agree with, I am even willing to devote time to this worthy cause (not sure how I could ever size up to the hundreds of Richard Stallman’s, but I am willing to give it a go!

And last there is “Democratically, by legislation to criminalise various sorts of malware practices. This presupposes democracy, and democracy requires defeating treaties such as the TPP and TTIP that give companies the power to suppress democracy“, this is the big one. The political branches all over Europe and the Commonwealth have sold us short and have not done anything to properly enforce the rights to privacy. In addition, Google and Apple remains in a state of non-clarity on what data these apps capture and what they convey. In that regard Facebook is equally guilty. Facebook goes further that it does not even proper police those who claim to give a free app, only to no longer work, but when you went to the install the data is as I see it already captured by the app provider, which gives wonder to where that data went.

In regards to suppressing democracy, which is perhaps partially overstated, there is an issue with the TPP that seems to empower large corporations and nullify the protection to smaller innovators and even governments as the TTP wants to enforce “where foreign firms can ‘sue’ states and obtain taxpayer compensation for ‘expected future profits’”, how long until we get an invoice for overinflated ego’s? Especially from those people in the entertainment industry claiming the loss of so many billions in an era when the bulk of the population can hardly pay their rent!

I regard Graham Burke of Village Roadshow to be one of the greater jokes this era has brought forth. Consider who he is supposed to ‘protect’, he goes on regarding “‘crazies’ whose hidden agenda is the ‘theft of movies’“, which is not that far-fetched a statement, because movies will be downloaded and not bought, it happens, yet not to the degree Graham Burke claims it is! So we get him soon enough to claim billions from losses due to the massive download of ‘the LEGO movie’ perhaps? Yet in the public forum on copyright infringement, we did not hear him utter a word on bandwidth, perhaps the response from Telstra’s Jane Van Beelen would likely have been a little too uncomfortable Mr Burke?

You see, in my view it is less about the democracy as Richard Stallman sees it. The legal protection seems to be massively delayed as bandwidth is income, and when piracy is truly stopped bandwidth will simmer down. If we accept the word of Village Roadshow with global revenue of 13 billion since 1997. Yet, I wrote about movie piracy in ‘The real issue here!‘ on June 17th 2014 (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/06/17/the-real-issue-here/), in the calculation, which I kept very conservative, Telstra could lose up to 320 million a month in revenue, due to diminished bandwidth, which gets us 4 billion a year. Consider that Village Roadshow is global, which means that Australian revenue is a mere fraction of that, how soon until they see that Village roadshow might only get 5-10 million a year more, against the 320 million a month loss for Telstra? So Mr. Burke is not regarded as a serious party as I see it (yet he is not an invalid party), Telstra would have too much to lose, not to mention the loss Optus and iiNet could face. However, if the TPP changes that with ‘expected future profits’, whilst there is absolutely no quality data to prove that the loss is nothing more than there ego’s talking.

There is the crunch that politicians are too afraid to touch!

Yet, in light of many factors, legal protection (including protection for Village Roadshow) is essential, yet the large corporations seem to hold the game to the need of their bottom dollar, which is the dollar, not democracy or decent rights. If it were decent rights than telecom companies would properly monitor abuse of digital rights, because the movie is for Village Roadshow to sell, or to stream for a fee via Netflix. I do not deny this at all, I just oppose the outlandish income some of them claim that they ‘lost’!

So on the dark side of the moon we see that (actually we do not see any of that) things are not right. I do not completely adhere to the idealist view that Richard Stallman validly has (we are all entitled to our views), but he touches on several parts that definitely need change and until we see a governmental push away from Microsoft solutions, we will see that the government will spend loads of money on never-ending updates to hardware and software. We all agree that such a change is not easily made, but in light of the cost of living, the fact that nearly no one makes that change is equally worrisome.

When we stare up to the sky we always see the same side of the moon, the dark side is wild, and is covered with impact craters, impacts we never see. It is a lot more reminiscent of the chaotic wild life of malware, a side that is constantly lacking the exposure it should have, mainly because it affects the bottom dollar.


Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics

Another online danger

It seems that we the consumers are soon in danger of being left out in the offline cold. You might not realise it, you might not even worry, but your money, your payments online are finite!

You see, not only are the events of last week troubling (not the UK election mind you), the consequence of allowing this to move forward unanswered could be a costly one.

With online presence there is the additional danger of non-online absence.

For this I will emphasize it with one example. The game is from Enix and the title is ‘Order of War: Challenge‘, if you had bought it from Steam, then you have a possible issue, because the game has been wiped of your account. Now, this is not a massive issue of today, this is an issue from the sheer point of view called ‘You paid for it!’ and now it is no more and you can never play it again. An important fact is that this issue played in 2013, so you might wonder what gives!

That is an excellent question. I for one would not care too much for Steam, I never did. Yet the issue of yesterday is now quickly progressing towards issues out today and even more important those who are out tomorrow and after that. This goes far beyond the wiping of a ‘Silent Hill Playable Demo’. Some changes are made because the circumstances changes, which is fair enough. That is not the true issue (even though the Silent Hill fans who missed out would be miffed).

The issue is found in the mobile and console games out now and more important those released after tomorrow.

Let me give you an example.

The mobile/Tables environment has a game called ‘Dungeon Keeper’. Many of those who loved that game when it was originally released on the PC went nuts the moment that game reappeared. Yet, in hindsight this new game was a massive failure on many levels. The game had actually destroyed the image the masterful game maker Peter Molyneux had built. The game is now all about delaying events and forcing people to make very expensive purchases online in the form of Gems. As micro transactions go, this game is the one example why micro transactions should be illegal. A nice view is given at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpdoBwezFVA. Yet compared to the pc edition of the second game (at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DJmS7prcmE), the mobile game is horrendous.

Now we have an additional side, I cannot tell when this happened, but several people (including me) have only had access to the game once in the last two weeks, there have been ongoing server connection issues. In light of the issues that have been mentioned in the past there is now a matter for other cause. You see, if there is an issue with a game, if you had purchased enough gems, the issue at hand is not just that you are forced to a server, the fact that the server is no longer there and the player can no longer play gives weight to the question whether there should be legal consequences for those eager to sell a micro transaction relying game. Can something offered as ‘freemium’ but will only work smoothly when purchases be made, should that game be allowed to be non-functional?  Should the makers not offer an offline side to the game? That is at the foundation of what is wrong. The danger of consumers paying for something that can be removed as soon as the exploiters no longer consider the product to be viable and it stops working for various reasons.

What are those reasons?

Well Dungeon Keeper is a first example. The fact that a server is down is one thing, the fact that the server cannot be reached for two weeks is an entirely other matter. Which leads us to the question, should games that only have online server options be allowed? Beyond that, when gameplay is removed, are those who paid for additional gaming experience be entitled to credit vouchers?

This is the loaded question because basically it is payment for a service, which should be regarded as temporary, however, was that clearly communicated to those buying the service? Now we have ourselves a different video game altogether!

You see, this part will be a growing issue as people are dependent on downloads and could storage of games that are not played on a daily basis. There is the added consideration that these providers never did anything wrong as they might have specified that in the terms of service, yet who reads them? This is not a business agreement, or isn’t it?

Let me move on (for now to another example).

Now we have (or better states we used to have) the PlayStation 3. It has the option of PSN and PlayStation Home. PlayStation Home was discontinued, but what about those people who have spent money for years on the locations there? There had always been an implied assumption that there would be PlayStation Home in PS4. Clearly implied is not correct, too many sources stated most options in silence. Then when the PS4 came it was initially incomplete and in 2014 the verdict was final, no PlayStation Home on the PS4. And recently PlayStation Home was also removed from the PlayStation 3. There was no fault here, there was never any clear agreement that PlayStation Home was to be ported to the PS4, but to lose it on PS3 would never be an acceptable option to those who like it.

I thought it was a cool place, it was partially useless, yet it had the option of being a playful marketing tool. Trailers, unlockable extra’s for games and so on, there were even a few decent games in that environment. Because it had channels so that people could chat, it was something that is out there that would forever be an option. Now it seems that Sony is mostly rejecting the social media, or it is partially doing that. PlayStation home is not the only place, the profiles are a second part, but here we are forced online and in an almost ‘anti-social network’ situation.

This is where the wheels come off the wagon, you see there is another side to all this!

This all links to the previous as there is a real danger that someone at some point will deactivate a service, then what? There is currently an uneven, unequal and a dangerous push to force people online. There is now a second part that has massive consequences for gamers on a global scale. I have made references with the TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership) before, and it seems that several other sources are now on the bandwagon regarding the dangers here, gaming is only one aspect (and not even close to the biggest one, but because of the global setting of gamers a lot easier to spot). It is not just the ‘profile’ issue, that is the least of it all, but it is a driving force around it. More important, the cost of being ‘online’ could soon be another matter altogether.

It would be too simple to state that the TPP is just a bad consequence of a group of utterly incompetent politicians, mostly staying presently at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but that would be not entirely correct either. You see, their inadequacies resulted in a group of industrials to change the premise on Digital Rights Management (DRM) on a massive scale. For the most, I have mixed feelings. I believe that it is perfectly legit for a corporation to protect their product from being illegally copied. Now, the internet providers (ISP’s) are all about bandwidth, so as such, they like people who copy movies, they love it even better when people copy Blu-rays, because 100,000,000 people going for 2-3 blu-rays every night is a massive amount of bandwidth. There is to the smaller extent that a DRM is all about setting up who can legally use something and who cannot, but that seems to be the smallest tip of the iceberg.

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald gives us ‘http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/politicalnews/trans-pacific-partnership-will-push-medicine-prices-up-review-finds-20150303-13sxty.html‘. This is not entirely correct, but not wrong either. If we take this quote “The leaked treaty text also reveals new American and Japanese proposals designed to enhance the ability of pharmaceutical manufacturers to extend and widen their patents on drugs and medicines“, it is the word ‘extend’ that is the issue. Because some pharmaceuticals are all about prolonging, we see more and more new patent additions to give any drug a longer exclusivity, which means that generic medication will be less and less of an option. There is in addition the quote “Jeffrey Bleich, accused Australian consumers of habitually stealing copyrighted content and of being some of the worst offenders with amongst the highest piracy rates … in the world“, that statement makes Jeffrey Bleich an idiot to some degree (not the worst he’s ever been called), because his peers in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden say exactly the same and he should properly investigate these matters before making those statements.

Now, he was not being too bright (or massively misinformed) and a mere voicer for large corporations, which is to some degree his job I reckon, but he could have been a smudge more thoughtful in that regard. You see, the American side has been utterly stupid for a long time. Because it was always American first, then ‘whomever is left’! We have seen that in Movies, Music and games. Although music not as much. It started in the mid 80’s when Greed took over and American corporations were utterly clueless on global corporate actions from day one. I am not just talking about Games, or movies (even though they are the most visible ones). No the utter consumer disrespect shown by Ashton-Tate, IBM, Lotus Development Corporation, Oracle, Novell and Adobe was beyond belief in those days. You would actually look forward to meeting with Macromedia, WordPerfect and Corel to see that humanity in IT was an option. Now many of them changed tunes over time, the movie and games industry stayed behind for a long time, it is only recently that the US is seeing that the money of their blockbusters are coming from outside the US in some cases in excess of 75%. Now we have ourselves a ballgame! Now we see the shift some are making, but in other ways.

You see, there is a reason why some people have an aversion to buying a game at 40%-70% more. In my early days, I had no options, a game advertised in the American magazines at $19.95 would cost me $69, that’s a not so nice 300%, so America changed the environment from the very beginning. Even today, Australian gamers will pay 40%-70% more for a new game. Now, we will see casual mention on how it is all about shipping. Well guess again. PSN (PS4) was offering games on day one in a shop for $89, On Amazon it was $59 and guess what, the download in Australia was priced at $99.

How do these elements link?

There are two parts. First the quote by Julian Assange “The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies“. It is actually not that far a stretch, you only need to consider the legal disagreements between Apple and Samsung to see the dangers here.

After which the following claim is made “The leaked text shows that this agreement is more about corporate power than “free trade”. Investor-state dispute settlement is really a form of corporate sovereignty“. That part can be found here (at https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/WikiLeaks-TPP-Investment-Chapter/page-1.html).

Basically, in there you can find the issue “where foreign firms can ‘sue’ states and obtain taxpayer compensation for ‘expected future profits’“, this now reverts back to the earlier mention of games, movies and especially music. A false dimension of revenue has been maintained by corporate ‘baboons’, claiming ‘loss of revenue’. Relying on incomplete information from Napster, Kazaa and a few others players in the peer to peer networking solution. They basically went on the premise, one download means one sale lost. I believe that this was never a reality. People might download and listed, but would never have bought the bulk of it in the first case. That same premise of certain lacks is seen when we see the quote “Attorney-General George Brandis has signalled his intention to introduce more stringent copyright laws to crack down on online piracy“. In that regard the attorney general does not seem to strike too high on the academic scale of logic (on any given day for that matter). I posted an article on September 10th 2014 called ‘Changing topics?‘, in there the issue is better shown, you see it is not just about copyright, because that could have been dealt with quite easily. It was about Malcolm Turnbull’s anti-piracy forum. You see, if copyright was truly the issue, which would have been easy. But in that event the words ‘revenue‘ and ‘bandwidth‘ were very much skated around. Telstra was extremely cautious (and eager) to steer clear of that because in the case of Telstra, monitoring bandwidth, people actually stopping copying movies will cost Telstra billions! Now we see the consequence!

You see, America is figuring out that it cannot deal with its own ISP’s and they definitely cannot deal with the others like Telstra, Tele 2, Com Hem, KPN, TDC and a few others. They are doing it stepwise and the TPP will give them some options. Now back to that term that is laughingly referred to as ‘expected future profits‘.

One source states: “Losses to Video Game Makers Due to Piracy: $8.1 Billion“, based on what numbers? ISP’s state they cannot monitor. Then we get “Pirated Software Impact to Businesses: $63 Billion“. Again on what premise and how?

Well the first one gives us: “Video game piracy of hand-held games leads to the loss of about $8.1 Billion a year, as losses due to pirating of Sony PSP and Nintendo DS games between 2004 and 2009 lead to worldwide losses of nearly $42 Billion“. Here we see an interesting side. These are only two consoles. More important, these consoles have again and again limited legitimate access to games released in US and Japan again and again. So is this truly about piracy, or is the decision as seen here “Monster Hunter 3rd is the best-selling PSP game ever in Japan with 4,780,000 copies sold. Its PS3 HD remaster sold an excellent 500,000 copies as well, yet neither version is scheduled for an international release“. By the way, is the maker not guilty of discrimination? Let me be frank, I will not and have never condoned pirated games. I believe in getting a game and playing the original (I rarely buy games, so when I do, I will go for the VIP options that an original game brings). So, is this about piracy, or about segregation?

That part is harder to prove in the business case. The source “Business Software Alliance, “2011 BSA Global Software Piracy Study,” May 2012” is an issue. I cannot be certain how they got to $63 billion, but with so many illegal versions of Office, that number seems a lot more plausible. It is funny that there, US and China are the biggest transgressors representing a little less than one third of the entire lost stack. The UK is set at 1.9 billion and Australia less than a billion, yet how were these numbers achieved, through ‘rough’ estimation perhaps?

Now we get to the monkey’s banana moment “Losses due to Music Piracy: $12.5 Billion“, which is stated “According to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA)“, yes, they wanted the number to be as high as possible, because it made bad productions and louse representatives look a little better. In addition, some of these numbers cannot be decently vouched for in any way, shape or form. It boils down to well over 500 million CD’s, in a numbers game that number on a population of 7 billion seems small, but here is the kicker, that same source had the following, which I found illuminating: “In a survey of over 6,000 people in Finland between the ages of 7 to 84, researchers found that on average each person who downloaded pirated content online had about 2,900 pirated music files and 90 pirated movie files. The researchers who conducted the study believes that downloaders have more music files is due to the ease of downloading pirated music. According to the study, downloading movie files require faster internet speeds, more digital storage space, as well as a higher technological ability to playback movies“.

The term ‘each person’ now becomes really interesting, because 90 movies boils down to 360 Gb, and 2900 songs come to an rough (very rough) estimation of 14.5 Gb. A person downloading that much would be visible on the ISP counter. You see, you buy bandwidth monthly and downloading this much, as well as watching online and perhaps stuff they no longer have, you are looking at $80 a month, however, only 6 years ago, I paid $70 for 25Gb. you see how the picture changes? That is centre here. By the way, if you think that 25 Gb is little, consider that I have only hit that maximum once during my entire contract with my ISP and that was because on a Friday my system decided to update Windows 7, Office 2013 and my Adobe Master collection, which was quite the resource drain that evening.

Your online presence is now a danger in more than one way. In the first more and more ‘providers’ are forcing us to save on the cloud, forcing us using bandwidth. Now, I understand the first download, but many systems are now gearing towards less memory and more reliant on cloud drives. Which was my issue with the Microsoft Xbox One even before that system was launched.  Are those not streamed services? More important, my issue there was that once a service is disconnected, would we just lose it all overnight? Consider your movie and TV series collection. What happens when your old versions of Star Trek, Dexter and Game of Thrones are discontinued?

In addition, if online presence is essential for our services to run, how will that be monitored? I only need to refer to the Sony hack, to give you a first fright that certain owned items could be lost by a mere scripted command. Again, a situation the consumer is not ready and not prepared for. Now, in the case of PlayStation Home, there is some understanding that certain services will be lost, could a local copy have solved it? (I am asking, not telling). There are unresolved issues, mainly because the new technologies move so fast and to be quite honest, some considerations are new, we never had to make them before. We the consumer must accept that some parts are lost to us at some point. Yes, I loved HERO on the Atari 2600, but to expect that game to function 30 years later is not that realistic either. In that regard, we have attached to software (especially games) to the same extent we hold onto a book. They are not the same, which is a simple reality.

But the dangers of online remain, or do they? In that regard, the issues I raise are mostly about time. We see the failing of a game and losing out on what we spend within a year totally unacceptable, yet in that same notion, we should find peace in the notion that nothing lasts, it is all a mere matter of time. Yet, there we see a partial solution, we cannot realistically expect the provider to give ‘eternal’ support, but is a local version (no servers) after a while, or before the service is pulled a possible solution? That I have yet to see and it is not that far-fetched, because in the end, with the amounts of products and the change of IP, that part is slowly but certainly becoming an essential step to consider, especially in light for the business model of any software corporation. Consider you the player with your game of Halo, or Gears of War. I reckon that at some point, you will accept that online mode falls away, but how would you feel is the single player option falls away too, especially if you still have the console or PC to run it on?

A gaming dimension that will fall away at some point, but are we ready to let go of those moments? Now consider that your console/PC can no longer link to the service, even though you have the original disc. In the new DRM, it is entirely possible that no online verification means no playing the game. This is the certainty that we face and the TPP will push us there a lot faster than you realise. Should you doubt any of the last part, then consider the site gog.com. It holds some of the most brilliant games ever created (sold at very low prices), people still revere these games and many of them (especially the original dungeon keeper) will find a place in the heart of gamers. Moreover, several of these would make fine console games when adapted (higher graphics in most cases). I believe that the MSDOS Dungeon Keeper could be a hit 3DS game (like many other games on that site), even today.

Gaming is not about the latest game (decent graphics and sound aside) it is about joy and the games on that site are most pure joy to play.

Now you might all think that this is about games and many of you readers do not care about games, but now consider that same step when you look at your Office 365 account and the fact that you are pushed away from a version that works perfect for you (like the nightmare Office 2007 users faced in the past). There is an abundance of programs that offer a similar scary outlook.

Now translate this to collections you do care about. Your music, your TV shows, perhaps even your digital books. Do not take the word of those stating that it will not happen, because it will, it has happened in the past, it is happening now and it will happen in the future. The DVD and book on your shelf are a touchable item, that part is (if you treat them properly) secure, something online can be lost by merely removing a server or damaging its data. If someone states that this can never happen, then look at Sony, they experienced that event first hand.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics

The Toothless tiger

It is roughly 1,544,400 minutes since we saw this message “The newspaper and magazine industry today takes the first steps towards setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation, the new regulator for the press called for by Lord Justice Leveson” (at http://www.newspapersoc.org.uk/08/jul/13/independent-press-standards-organisation, in July 2013).

So when I saw the words ‘press’, ‘regulator’ and ‘sham’ together in one sentence (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2014/sep/07/victims-press-regulator-ipso-leveson ) I was not that overly surprised. Let’s not forget that the implied innuendo in regards to the press cleaning up its act was never a reality.

You see, after all that visibility, on March 25th we see the report from the Daily Telegraph with the headline “Flight MHG370 ‘suicide mission’“, was anyone even surprised that the press regards themselves ‘beyond the law’?

Yet, if we are to properly assess the situation, we must therefore also allow matters of defence. So what is the issue that bites us so much? The letters from the 30 victims of press intrusion stated to Sir Alan Moses the following (as stated in the article of the Guardian):

By rejecting the majority of Lord Justice Leveson’s recommendations, the paymasters and controllers of Ipso are rejecting due process

In its current form, Ipso retains no credibility with us or with the wider British public.

It furthermore states: “it was not truly independent, breaches of the industry code of practice would go unreported and unpunished, and there would be no effective and transparent investigation of serious or systematic wrongdoing“.

Now, after what happened in the hacking scandal, I am all for bashing the press, but let us all be honest, if we are to convict a group, let us do it for valid and preferably legal reasons.

About these pictures!

This all links to several issues that I wrote about in the past few days, Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton might be the most famous ones, but they are by no means to most important ones (I feel for these victims, but reality shows us bigger problems). Yes, there is an issue that links to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian. If we go by the words of Reddit, we should use the quote “The site, which had an online forum named ‘The Fappening’, was one of the main places the hacked nudes were being posted and the website has now banned the page, six days after the photographs of the Hunger Games star first surfaced. It is thought the main reason bosses have finally pulled down the forum is NOT because of the J-Law snaps, but because photographs of Olympian McKayla Maroney which were also posted on the site are believed to show her underage.” which came from the Mirror. These places have been hiding behind the ‘innocent disseminator‘ flag for far too long. Their income is real and based upon bandwidth. If we want change, then perhaps forcing a tax bracket on bandwidth, especially with a bankrupt America, might be a novel way for debtors to get their coin back. Yet this is not about that. The fact that Jennifer Lawrence is now partially safe is only because another victim was a minor when the pictures were taken. This makes for a massively inhumane disaster and one that also affects the press. It is interesting that when we look at the name McKayla Maroney we see two events, both the hacked ‘under-dressed’ images as well as the Gamergate reference to Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian.

Vox Media stood alone

It is Vox (at http://www.vox.com) who seems to be on top of it, so we see one place, which might be regarded as ‘trivial’ by some covers the real issues that many ‘major’ papers have been ignoring all over the US and in places far beyond the US. You can read their words in depth at http://www.vox.com/2014/9/6/6111065/gamergate-explained-everybody-fighting. It is well worth reading; however, there are a few parts I do not agree with. Let’s go over those, for they are all linked.

Here is the first part: “If it was just to bring attention to Quinn’s personal life, that’s, as stated, already happened. And if it was to create better ethical disclosures in online journalism, that’s happening, too. The Escapist is drafting new guidelines, while Kotaku is now forbidding its writers from financially supporting independent designers on Patreon, a popular method for backing independent artists, unless the site’s writers need to donate to Patreon for coverage purposes (since many developers release material first to their Patreon backers). And Vox sister site Polygon requires disclosures of this sort of support“.

I do not agree for the following reasons:

  1. If we look at the press at large, Quinn’s plight is less than a hot drop on a plate. “Jennifer Lawrence”, “Nude” and “shoot” gives us 41 MILLION hits when we use all the keywords. “Zoe Quinn” gives us 70,000 hits with less than a dozen reputable sources (including Vox Media). So, I think we can safely say that visibility is not even close to being a factor there.
  2. Better ethical disclosures in online journalism? Sorry, but are they for real? Most of these writers have never seen a class in ethics, it is also likely that some of them cannot ever write ‘ethics’ correctly. That being said, many of them write for mere passion on games, their transgression of alleged ‘corruption’ usually goes no further then receiving the free game. How corrupt is that? In all this, my issue with Gamespot has almost forever been with the open sponsor Ubi-Soft. They are not hiding it, so that is good, but I seem to colour my faith to any Ubi-soft review. Overall the writers and makers like Carolyn Petit, Jess McDonell, Danny O’Dwyer, Justin Haywald, Chris Watters, Cam Robinson and Kevin VanOrd do an interesting job. Depending on their ‘preference’ of gaming we tend to favour a certain person, whilst not ‘liking’ another one. The sad news that some of these writers are leaving as Gamespot is changing should be sad news to all gamers.


This all goes towards “forbidding its writers from financially supporting independent designers on Patreon“, why? Is the likely fact that reviewers would have the inside track on a game and by personally backing a developer they will have a scoop? Is that not what pretty much every newspaper does? If not, how about cancelling ALL advertisements from Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo and Adobe? How long until they are missing out on scoops? I think support should not hidden, but if I was still in the business I would be funding No Man’s Sky or Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar (I have been a lifelong Ultima fan), if it gives me a scoop days in advance of others, than so much the better. The question becomes is this truly about implied corruption or about mainstreaming a 100 billion dollar plus business? You see, the gaming groups was for a long time ignored (especially in the time I was involved)

True Scenario: “I went to the ‘Efficiency Beurs’ (a Dutch IT/Technology trade show) in the RAI in Amsterdam in the early 90’s (1991/1994), I forgot the exact time. Anyway, I was already deep into the gaming world and sound would be the next big issue. PS speakers were no good, Adlib was an option, SoundBlaster was the new kid and those with real money (read wealthy parents) there was the Roland card, which costed a fortune. This is the age when the PC was a wild market, CBM-64 and Atari were on a high and the PC was relying on blips and bleeps. So, I walk to the IBM representative and asked him on the new PS/2 PC’s and whether the soundcards in the growing gaming market was a field that IBM was looking at, as well as, whether IBM had considered adding a sound card to the PC-Private projects (which was a tax deductable PC scheme in the Netherlands). I was ‘walked off’ the stand with the response that IBM was for ‘professional’ use only. This same IBM is now advertising ‘Smarter Serious Games’ (at http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/gaming/)“.

So, these ‘losers’ (just to coin a phrase), who would not consider this industry for a long time are now trying to leech of a 100 billion dollar industry by ‘Simming’ (Sims joke) it on, so nice of IBM to join the party almost two decades late (they did however join the party decently before 2013). So now we get this escalation on several fields and interestingly enough all at the same time. Several approaches of wild growth is seen, personally I reckon this all truly took off in high gear in September 2013 when one game made one billion in only three days and passed the 2 billion mark this June making a videogame more successful then the most successful Hollywood production in history. Now nearly everyone wants to jump on board and it also seems to allow for a ‘wild growth’ of certain ‘elements’. IBM is not a party to this (they move in different circles), yet, those growing wildly on our shores hoping for their billion are learning hard and fast that gamers can easily spot the quality from the chaff and as such we see escalations. Whether we take Forbes article (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/03/21/gaming-the-system-how-a-gaming-journalist-lost-his-job-over-a-negative-review/) for granted or not, it seems that the name Sony and the possibility of pulling away advertisements apply in several corners (like the PS4 release and Terms of Service issues). So, to avoid ‘ethical’ issues, it seems to me that newspapers at large just ignored the plight of over 60 million customers and any link to ‘changes to the terms of service’. So how does this all link to ‘corruption’?

That is the part that seems to elude many, it is not ‘just’ about corruption, it is about alleged corruption with the writers (emphasis on alleged), implied corruption with their bosses in what they publish but more importantly what they DO NOT publish. The last part is on streamlining it all. If anything, GTA-V shows us that a billion plus revenue takes more than just a good game, it is about marketing and advertising, which shows now exactly the issue on visibility.

I am not alone with these views; some of them were discussed by Ashton Liu in her blog at http://rpgfanashton.tumblr.com/. She has an interesting view I had not considered. She writers “It has been no secret to the gaming community that many video game news sites have been employing increasingly extremist and reprehensible tactics to gain site hits and forward their ideology“. In that regard she seems on top of it all, I saw the harassment of Quinn and Sarkeesian as idiots who should go the way of the Dodo yesterday, if at all possible. Yet in her view, we are dealing with more than just blatant ‘ranters’, it is entirely possible that there is a corporate push behind it all. If we consider the actions by Sony and the market they need to ‘rule’ is that such a far-fetched statement? If people are willing to sell their souls for a niche market, what is Sony willing to do to remain the number one on the market, especially if you can motivate non-journalists (read non-accountable people) to speak out loudly?

What makes a Journalist?

It is a side, that until the article of Ashton Liu I had ignored. Ashton is like me, an ideologist, we seem to share a passion for RPG games and we are willing to put some time into sending the message of the Role Playing Game, hoping to introduce it to others. Yet, part of the view she offers seems incorrect, is this all about true gaming journalists? Many of them are not journalists at all, they do not have a degree in journalism, so let’s all agree that unless the person has a degree in Journalism that this person is just a games reviewer (I myself am a games reviewer), I have degrees in Law and IT, but not in Journalism, which makes me a non-journalist!

This is where the issues become (slightly) clear. Many are not journalists at all, so journalists are compared to ranters and outspoken ideologists, whilst not getting painted on grounds of evidence, which is almost slander (I said almost). We are all in need of more clarity, clarity I am asking for, whilst trying to remain clear, clarity Ashton is trying to give the readers and there are the additional thousands online, ranting all over the place. So what is a reader to believe?


Perhaps that is the part we all forgot about? We seem to ignore the corporate site. Is that the background of those who remained with Gamespot? Is CBS changing the gaming area by starting to cut away the ‘non-professional’ staff? I do not know, I am asking this. I have no issue with any writer at Gamespot (even if they cater to games I never play), their passion has for a long time been without question, yet, if this streamlining requires the presence of education, not just knowledge, then those without Journalistic skills to be ‘relocated’ and not all end up within the CBS structure.

So as Ashton made the statement I disagreed with “These journalists behave terribly and browbeat anyone whose opinions don’t fall lock step with their own“, the question “which are the real journalists” come to mind. This is where we return to Leveson, the issues that IPSO is accused of and how this relates to Journalism.

IPSO is regarded as a toothless tiger (perhaps correctly so), yet as papers are more and more online and as we see more and more ‘contributions’ from critics and reviewers, we will see that their painting of a group ‘as ignored’ as stated by the phone hacking scandal victims, we see a corporate move by many newspapers that employ reviewers and critics who are likely non-members of the official Journalistic core, but in the online mash no one can really tell anymore. This is at the heart of several issues, next to the editors relying on people whose family name tends to be “well-placed sources within”; I wish I had a relative like that.

This all gets me to the only part of the Vox article that I have an issue with. It is not really an issue, it is more a disagreement. They stated “Because what #GamerGate is all about isn’t who is or isn’t a gamer, or what role the press should play. It’s about what games should be and who they should be for. And that’s worth a real discussion, not just a hash tag“. I think that anyone enjoying a game is in the smallest extent a gamer, and as his or her passion grows, so will the Gamer part of that person. I think it is MASSIVELY important the part the press plays and to some extent they need to be judged on what they publish and to some extent even more on what they ignore, not unlikely for favours from the advertisers. You see, what happens when it is no longer them, but also the stakeholders? Consider the stakeholders for projects of Ubi-Soft and Electronic Arts. The moment they start ruffling feathers on ‘their’ dividend and the press ‘obliges’ that is the true moment when we will no longer see whatever ails a gaming community. When it goes through a journalist we do end up with the smallest protection, but ‘small’ beats ‘none’ every time.

It is ‘what games are and who they are for‘ is as I agree an important discussion, yet the implied evidence at present gives little support that that true vision will come from #Gamergate, because anyone willing to develop a game, no matter what gender, what topic and what ethnicity of graphics we are presented with should be a reason for bias and/or discrimination. These are parts #Gamersgate seems to be ignoring.

Streamlining is also all about who owns the IP, that is the one part they all seem to ignore, if the future is about IP (Intellectual Property), then it is the novel idea that has the future of gaming fortune, which is all about streamlining in the eyes of EA, Ubi-soft and Sony (to name a few big companies in this field), you see, who owns the IP will continue and not unlike the flaccid economists of Wall Street, larger companies have been all about continuing a brand and less about the new idea, which makes indie developers the future (consider the massive success of Mojang with Minecraft), that is the streamline part all ignored. This is why I think it is important to protect them! This is seen in the slightly dangerous statement by Vox Media in the article as they state “Some argue that the focus on harassment distracts from the real issue, which is that indie game developers and the online gaming press have gotten too cozy“, is that true, or are the larger players realising that they passed the buck for too long and driving a wedge between the press and the Indie developer is essential to their survival as they try to ‘rekindle’ the press and push indie developers towards the ‘cheap’ deals where they can take over the IP. That part is at large ignored by most. If we look at 2014 we see a massive host of new versions of the same brand, whilst none of the truly new games are coming out in 2014. Splatoon, ignored by many is the new kid and so far it seems that it might largely drive sales for Nintendo. You see these larger houses have forgotten to cater to THEIR audience (not just bring a cool presentation about something not due for 15 months) and as such are under scrutiny facing an endangered future. When we see a headline like this ‘Battlefield 4 – It’s so bad, its actually funny!‘, they know that they are in trouble, no matter how much you pay marketing to focus on the small stuff and micro transactions, which some call ‘Blood Money‘. In my view this is partially the result of letting ‘Excel users’ anywhere near the gaming market and when these investments do not pan out panic will be the natural consequence.

Back to IPSO

Yet, this also reflects on IPSO, because is the story ignored not as irresponsible as calling a tragedy a suicide mission? I wonder if the two elements would have been anywhere near as extreme if IPSO had not been toothless. I cannot state this for America, but I am certain that many gaming issues would have been a lot more visible, which might have reduced the risk and abuse of both Quinn and Sarkeesian. If you do not believe the press to have any influence, then consider the Art ‘expose’ called “Fear Google“, which is exactly the method of News the Sun used to rely on for at least one page (a page 3 joke only the British understand), or as we could call it, how Rupert Murdoch got through his early years. So here we see the beginning of the future, as Jennifer will end up getting shown to the world in states of non-dressing, her stolen pictures are less likely to be stopped as they are not getting sold, even if sold, the chance of enough people getting convicted becomes a serious question.

We can safely say that there is a group of toothless tigers, law partially became toothless as it catered to business enterprise and as we see more and more ‘free’ services we see an abundance of innocent dissemination that no one seems to be able to stop, ‘oh yes’, for some reason many were ‘suddenly’, within hours, able to stop the film where a Journalist ‘suddenly’ lost his head. It seems that ‘sudden’ acts are at times possible, so why this entire system is not better regulated is to be perfectly honest beyond me, but you better realise that someone is making loads of money, not just the hacker (read: thief) that got a hold of the pictures.


Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Gaming, IT, Law, Media, Politics

Tax evasion, copyrighted by Vodafone?

If we look at copyright in the UK, then according to the UK copyright service, which states that “In the case of business ideas, it is again the recorded work rather than an intangible idea that is protected. Copyright would apply to items such as written documents, artwork, etc. – i.e. a Business plan, promotional literature, website, logo, and such items could certainly be registered.”

From that point of view, the creative tax efforts by Vodafone could be seen as an original work of ‘art’ (by lack of a better word), yet are they alone and are they really the first?

Yes, there is so much frustration in voices of people all around me as I hear them complain about the too fast rising cost of living. The fact that I saw an article last week in a newspaper stating that the minimum income for getting a mortgage in London now exceeds a million pounds, which I reckon is some new record to fight. So as many, who dream of a place around Swiss Cottage or Bond street (to keep the Lord’s Cricket grounds within walking distance), we see that this new price tag makes London an affordable place, mainly for Bankers and dealers in amphetamine based chemicals and that is pretty much it. So when these realities hit us and we see that a deal is struck with Vodafone for hundreds of millions of revenue (for the goal of non-taxability) made by what was described as an empty office in Ireland, waves of anger hit many people. This could be seen as a sign that the rich will get richer, at the expense of everyone else.

But is that the actual truth? It seems more a sign of the time than anything else. Vodafone is in pretty good company. They are actually one of the smaller players when we consider grocery shop sized companies like Google and Amazon. It gets to be a lot more hilarious listening to MP Margaret Hodge complaining about it to Google (in May 2013), whilst she is directly connected through family to Stemcor who is having the very same artistic approach to the payment of taxation (or lack thereof). The Telegraph in November 2012 reported that Stemcor, which reported revenue around 2.1 billion with a reported profit of 65 million paid a mere 163,000 pounds in taxation.

Whoever came up with that idea was worth his weight in gold and gemstones in the eye of these corporations.

It does not end there and it goes far beyond the borders of the UK. Consider the following. A software company has an item prices at ‘X’ and then adds consultancy valued at ‘Y’ and the total being ‘Z’ is charged.

So let us take a basic approach. The customer wants the package which requires software and a consultant and is willing to pay 100, consultancy is set at the basic price of 80, which means if the disc could be valued at 20, the price is met, and as such the customer is a new and happy customer. Yet, the books would reveal that even though 100 is truly placed in the books (as a package deal), the disc value is now set at 70 and the consultants at 30, 100 remains the fixed set price. It is interesting that the 70 is set towards the foreign owner of the program and a value of 30 remains behind. Of course the consultant was more (a lot more) expensive, and as this is all within one corporation the consultant will get his monthly income. Yet, was there a case of tax evasion?

It becomes an interesting debate, more important, it becomes the environment of global corporations and even more interesting is where the revenue and taxable revenue should be placed. I would share the view that this is more than a sign of the times; it is now fast becoming THE sign of the future.

In the age of technology today, many government types (PM, MP’s and exchequers alike) might look at certain developments of ‘new technology’ moves, as corporations go to the cloud and digital distribution, yet there seems an apparent lack of ‘comprehension’ is not the right word, perhaps it is ‘realisation’ that all these revenues would no longer be taxable and Microsoft is not even close to being a frontrunner. At present Adobe is far in the lead there. Consider all these advertising and publications houses, they are in abundance in the UK and those houses have moved to some extent, or are largely moving to the Adobe creative cloud, software, that is no longer sold in the UK, costs that are paid for in the UK and are therefore tax deductable revenue, which is shrinking the UK government revenue pie chart by a lot, especially as revenue from the other side of that equation is no longer in the UK for any level of taxation.

Whether we realise it or not, the old tax deduction scheme was designed on some level of equilibrium. We had tax deductions on one side, because we bought certain items like hardware and software. Hardware is now no longer the expensive post it used to be and the software part that is still steep in some cases is no longer bought, it is leased. As such the equilibrium is gone and a nation cannot continue on one side to hand out deductions as the other side of the scale no longer exists. This gives us two dangers. The first is that certain parts would lose deductibility as the other side stops existing; this should be seen in the light that the cost of business is going up, whilst revenues will not get better. This approach is set by the bulk of cloud providing ‘solutions’ and that group is growing really fast. If the UK government (not just them) loses out on taxable revenues exceeding 15 billion pounds on software alone, where will they get the money from? When we consider the trillion pound debt, then we should worry about such changes and it is not just the UK who is facing them. These companies as mentioned before are doing this on a global scale, which means that Europe is getting hit hard all over the place and it is not unlikely that as cloud servers are placed all over the planet these companies will move into new group that could be labelled as ‘the global non-taxable core of corporations’.

In the past I proclaimed strongly that when we saw the information about Microsoft with their Xbox One approach and the cloud was not about gamers. Gamers do not warrant the implementations of over 300,000 servers. Yet, add the earlier mentioned events to the equation and we end up with a global customer base of software and as Microsoft stated it themselves, an entertainment provider of TV, Movies and Software, all in the cloud! As we see the situation now, likely less than one tenth of a percent might end up being taxable. In that same light should you wonder why NTT DoCoMo was so happy to get into the Indian market, then here is the evidence. Out of a very rough estimation (by me) of a total value of entertainment products that is cloud distributable which exceeds 350 billion (business and entertainment products), consider that these products would in future yield less than 0.5 billion in tax revenue on a global scale. This means that national infrastructures on a global scale are about to get hit really hard (unlikely before 2014). So as NTT DoCoMo starts streaming 4G based entertainment solutions, a massive amount of taxable revenue would no longer end up being taxable at all. So long Tax department of India!

It was exactly for these reasons that I advocated an approach where taxability of services are charged on the consumers side, to avoid the pitfall many governments are about to get faced with. That approach would end the dangers of Google, Amazon, Vodafone et al to walk away with a ‘non-taxability’ based commission solution.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics