Tag Archives: George Orwell

Hammer hits anvil

Yes, that is the foundation of an idea, the idea is voiced, in the ear, the hammer hits the anvil, the anvil vibrates the wires and the lightbulb in your brain lights up the room and the idea is born. The setting is the same for all, the only difference is that when the hammer hits the anvil, not everyones wires vibrate, and as a result in some people the lightbulb never lights up that room that is known as ‘skull space’, still my setting was that I did not come up with one idea, I came up with three. It is an idea that was someone else’s idea, but that foundation can still be used today and in a cloud space game setting.

Lets go back to 1984, George Orwell was making noises in regards to government oversight (of everyone) and in that same year Mike Singleton had an idea and created ‘the Lords of Midnight’, now even as the setting was nice, it was set to computers with a limit to 48KB (ZX Spectrum) and the 64KB that the Commodore had. Yet what happens when we take that idea and use the map of the UK (that island left of France) and set ourselves in a stage of riding, stealth and travel to collect the alliance of a minimum amount of keeps to secure the safety and unity of one region, each keep is in one county. The stage is all set, so to change it and make it a real challenge, the stages vary, the keep is not always in the same place (sometimes they are), and we aren’t always starting in the same place, so there will always be more than one option. The area is all in a stage where there is an enemy, not always visible, but as we align, we are given who is not our enemy and they will give the information of what is against us. A stage that is more alike the old days, when communication took days, not seconds. We need to adjust our way of thinking without removing the first person challenge. Even as it is based on that game, it will be a completely new game, it will be a larger setting based on the entire UK, all with optional awards (virtual diploma’s) of achievement and a retirement award. A game that shows time in a new setting if you like.

The setting of a cloud will allow a larger setting of randomisation, as the server does all the alignments, as such if 10 players play it, there is a chance that 2 players have close to the same setup, but not completely. A game where you need to do the work and not rely on some wiki solution where the one solution fits all. 

About a decade later someone made a game called Virus! It was an original game and even as it never made any headlines, I never forgot the originality. Yet in this day, what can we do to innovate? For example, a shooting game is one completed a game that has been completed, but it does not need to be like that. What if the opponents and the level of play is determined by a QR code? In the game Virus! It was Windows and your hard-drive, which in those days was innovative, yet today it does not work like that (or at least it should not). QR codes are everywhere and any level completed will be one we have already seen, yet what if we had on any mobile the option to save the code and use it to transfer the image to the cloud game? It does not matter whether it is a spaceship with an environment, a soldier with an urban or rural setting, it is about the fact that we are not in control and the maker cannot be creating levels again and again, and random generators tend to be less random than you think. Yet the setting of a QR code is out of our control and we can decide what every dot means, we merely are in the dark whether that dot is used. A game with almost infinite levels and a never ending stage of challenges, a lovely idea for any shooter with drive to compete.

Yes, I agree that it is in fact an iterative idea when we revisit an old idea, but the people seemingly forgot about the idea and as such it becomes a new ballgame. When we are given “Assassin’s Creed Valhalla – Known Issues [Updated Feb 5]”, in a stage when Ubisoft gave the laughingly statement that the game would be released days early and we see 3 months later that there are well over a dozen issues with impacts on a dozen missions that cannot continue, is it such a bad idea to look at the past when these kind of screw ups would never make the cut of publication?

And a lot could have been prevented from day one by properly testing a game. In this I tend to fall back to Skyrim, a game that has issues, no one denies it, but in all the years (since 11.11.11) that I have played it, I only witnessed 3-4 bugs myself on any console (Xbox360, PS3, Xbox One, PS4, PS5) and a dozen or so glitches, yet glitches do not break a game. And that was made almost 10 years ago. I think it is time to reconsider what we love to play and what maker consider to be a good game. When we consider the size of Skyrim, my only issue with the game (after playing it again and again at least 8 times, is that the missions are always the same, yet the openness of the game allows for a lot of exploring and doing things your way. But what gives when the QR code resets the opposition and changes what you face in every dungeon, crypt or hollow? 

And that gives me another idea, I reckon that there are a few nordic directors with a grasp of the dark side of tinsel town, and when you consider Troll Hunter (2010). I thought it was awesome, André Øvredal took a folktale and pushed it and us into another direction. I am certain that it can be done again. So, what happens when we take that part of Skyrim that is based on Nordic legends and create a new horror movie, but one that is close to the folktale of the Draugar “Draugar usually possessed superhuman strength, and was “generally hideous to look at”, bearing a necrotic black colour, and was associated with a “reek of decay” or more precisely inhabited haunts that often issued foul stench”. Lets not forget in the academic world where people hunt academic recognition, stupidity (read: shortsightedness) is found a dime a dozen and when we see the people’s admiration with the zombie apocalypse, the idea that it had already happened is not the weirdest idea to consider, so what happens when someone opens up the wrong thing (tomb or urn) in Malmo and before the authorities have any clue what actually is going on, the issue has spread to Norway, Denmark and Germany. So as we need to rely on folklore, folklore that is specific to Scandinavia, what will those do who have no knowledge? The military will merely grab bigger weapons, weapons that have some effect, but the stage is different, you can hunt cockroaches with a flamethrower, yet what happens when that roach is somewhat heat resistant? The option are nearly endless and it could make for an entertaining 2-3 hours with a box of popcorn. As you see, these AAA game designers are all about being cool and having hot items (riddled with bugs), I needed one salad to get three ideas on paper. I wonder what I will be able to think off with a decent cheese pizza (with extra oregano).

Have a great Monday!

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Fear is a tool

It started with a thought, one I have had for a little while and one that had been voiced in the past. Today, in the Guardian we see part of this in the article called ‘How we sold our souls – and more – to the internet giants‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/17/sold-our-souls-and-more-to-internet-giants-privacy-surveillance-bruce-schneier). I respectfully disagree with parts of this.

The first premise is the important one.

Did we sell our souls, or were governments on a global scale lacks and slow regarding the rights of privacy?

That is an important question as it is linked all over the place. We tend to look (as I have mentioned numerous times) regarding the information the intelligence community gets, but at the same time we allow ourselves to get mined and exploited by every social network available. A nice example that the article uses is the Hello Barbie. The Washington Post gave us loads of information in March (at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2015/03/11/privacy-advocates-try-to-keep-creepy-eavesdropping-hello-barbie-from-hitting-shelves/), but it did not get the global visibility it required to have.

You see, there is nothing wrong with an interactive toy. I reckon that as programs became more and more interactive, then so would toys and the Hello Barbie doll is the premium evolution for children. The big issue is not the toy, but this simple line: “As the doll ‘listens’, audio recordings travel over the Web to a server where the snippets of speech are recognized and processed. That information is used to help form Hello Barbie’s responses” Why? Why use the web? Why not connect to a device that has the software installed? The answer is simple, this is only in one part about the doll, it is a lot more about collected data and data is value (their marketing department will come with some “it’s  all so much easier via the web answer”). Collecting the questions of children gives way to trendsetting and to marketable exploitation. Of course, in that light the adult edition, where the answer to every question becomes “not now darling, I have a headache” is likely only 6 months away.

You think I am kidding? Data is the core of value, marketability of data is the new ‘O’ for industrials. Knowing how to push the button by answering the not asked questions in advertisement is the rage, the El Dorado of the marketing industry. So when we see the quote at the end of the article “Mattel and ToyTalk, the San Francisco-based start-up that created the technology used in the doll, say the privacy and security of the technology have been their top priority“, we should state that if security and safety were such important parts, you would have kept these issues local and not via the web. As for security, if hackers can take down Sony, then Mattel might not be that much of a challenge and in that light, that collected data would be worth a fortune, so people will get that data one way or another.

Beyond the toy need of a child is the need for health. That part is dealt with in “Many medical devices are starting to be internet-enabled, collecting and reporting a variety of biometric data. There are – or will be soon – devices that continually measure our vital signs, moods and brain activity“, now we get to the juicy stuff! You see in the UK there is the Data Protection Act 1998. Yet here we see the following issue:

Section 36 gives us: ‘Personal data processed by an individual only for the purposes of that individual’s personal, family or household affairs (including recreational purposes) are exempt from the data protection principles and the provisions of Parts II and III’. So Barbie is already exempt in this case.

Even though section 2 gives us in section 11 ‘Right to prevent processing for purposes of direct marketing’, which is in part II, so Barbie is again exempt.

However, we do see protection under part one section 8. Here we see: ‘Personal data shall not be transferred to a country or territory outside the European Economic Area unless that country or territory ensures an adequate level of protection for the rights and freedoms of data subjects in relation to the processing of personal data’. Yet the danger here is that this regards ‘personal data‘, the definition under part one states: “personal data means data which relate to a living individual who can be identified”, which is not the part that is transferred, so it does not count. The personal data is what mommy, daddy or junior enter within a website or social media, outside of the UK (or Commonwealth), so that they can receive a much more personal ‘experience‘ with Miss Barbie. This is at the core of the problem, but it is only one factor. The same applies in 99% of the cases to healthcare and fitness equipment that connects through the Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and the web link. All this gets collected. So when we wonder regarding the excuses on software on cheaper through the online experience, several parts give clear indication that this is about collecting data, because data is the new gold. How much do you think a health care provider is willing to pay, so that they have data that allows to cut off, or additionally charge the riskiest 10%? Even though those people are already paying premium, to have a check on the safest group and to flag the least safe group is worth a bundle. Anyone selling that data for less than a 9 figure number is getting royally screwed.

And it goes on beyond the mere computer and the internet. More precisely your smartphone. The apps you install track you here as well. They track your location and sometimes download your address book, calendar, bookmarks and search history. Not to mention a host of other parts. The most annoying part of it all is that you the user gets to pay for your bandwidth, so if your data gets downloaded, you are likely to see background usage of the data and the bandwidth used goes to your total usage.

The gem of the Guardian article is shown near the end “And it’s all possible because laws have failed to keep up with changes in business practices

This has been the number one issue for well over 4 years now and the lawmakers have basically been sitting on their hands, pretty much all over the commonwealth I might add, because data is money and those captains of industry require overhead (read data profits). It comes down to the same issue with the laughingly disturbing discussion on movie piracy. Telco’s rely on bandwidth, without that, there profits go down to the basement, in that same light their reliance on data seems to hinder governments to react in a timely manner. Research, investigations and commissions. We have seen data issues since before Edward Snowden. Yes, in all these years, how many successful alterations were made to the Data Protection Act 1998, via either legislation and/or the House of Lords? You do the math, yet the answer is simple. As I see it, look at your two hands and do not use the 10 fingers that is how often, a mere ZERO times! Just like the internet consumer change, the internet data change has seen just as many evolutions.

The worst is however yet to come!

You see, the newer mobile phones often have the capacity that surpasses many laptops and tablets. I witnessed just 4 days ago how a friend used his mobile as a SharePoint because he had to update his PS4. What He had not realised is that the PS4 also started to update his installed games. It took him less than two minutes to realise this and in that time his 2GB bandwidth was gone! Welcome to 4G bandwidth!

He’ll lose an additional $10, so he did not think it was a biggie, but now consider how much data can be passed over to wherever the applications decides. So when we get these small messages, when we are lulled into a sense of ‘security’ consider where your data is and who else has access. That is at the heart of the matter, as well as the heart of the legislative failing. Who else has access! When data is stored at any third party provider, the app maker might guarantee that THEY will not allow access to the data, but that does not state that this is the case, you see, if they have the data parked in any other provider, what does the rules of those providers stipulate? Only they? Only the executing service agents? The world of data is quite literally the new Wild West of Business and IT, a reasonable untapped frontier and we all forgot that we think that data is there and only we can access our little field of data, whilst in reality and corporation with a tractor can get to any part of that data field. It is all nicely settled in the line “are exempt from the data protection principles”, so as we consider our data and why we are not keeping it local, consider one final ‘deletable’ part, which is also in the Guardian article “In 2009, Amazon automatically deleted some editions of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four from users’ Kindles because of a copyright issue. I know, you just couldn’t write this stuff anymore ironically“, yet even though the irony is out there, consider that your data is also on the cloud. So what happens when that gets deleted? Not by you or by the provider, but by a third party who got around it all? You might wonder why that is an issue, if you do then consider the final question in this dilemma: ‘Who is the owner of a deleted file?’

So here is the fear part:

Where is your data?
Who ‘owns’ it?
Who has access to it (besides you)?

These are one side of the fear equation, on the other side you have the data local storage, which you must personally manage, you must backup this data and you must keep track whether it is all backed up. Some users feel uncomfortable with that. A nice example can always be found when someone in your vicinity cries over a crashed mobile and all contacts lost (I saw that a few times happen to people I know in 2014).

One fear or another, they’re gonna getcha!

So you the user have gone with the flow and the privacy for billions is up for grabs because no one wondered, asked or pressured, now that part is almost indefinitely gone, only by adjusting the laws can we see a restoration of proper privacy of data and information, but those who rely on the value of data are extremely intent on not letting those changes happen. Consider this part from an earlier Guardian article “Facebook places tracking cookies on users’ computers if they visit any page on the facebook.com domain, including fan pages or other pages that do not require a Facebook account to visit“, do you think Google is any different? So as you are tracked and as data is combined from social media, from websites, devices and even toys. How much privacy do you think you are enjoying at present?

Now we get to a truly speculative part. Consider Google with its Nexus range. Now the new Nexus 6 looks nice (way out of my budget range), there is a 32GB and a 64GB version. No issues here! In all aspects a decent game changer for the Nexus fan. Now we get to the Nexus 9, the tablet. Before I give my view, let’s refer you to Forbes, here we see some interesting details (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/ewanspence/2013/01/29/apples-128GB-ipad-just-gave-every-android-tablet-manufacturer-a-headache/), an important fact is that this is a January 2013 review, so more than two years old! In that regard the specs do not seem to have changed! So this ‘new’ tablet is only to be begotten in a 16GB or 32GB version. So it has a lot less storage than the Nexus 6 mobile phone. It has a few more weaknesses, but basically, as Apple already had a 128GB edition, Google remains at 25%. In my view this was intentional! The machine was released late November 2014. Why would they not have a version that is at least 64GB? My iPad 1 (yes version One) which I bought in 2011 already had 64GB). This is not a mere oversight from a bungling manager, as I see it this is an intentional drive to get people towards Google drive, with data stored in a place where some might have access (the non-user that is). Remember, this is pure speculation on my side! Google could have made a contender and is offering nothing more than a consolation price. Offering it at a very competitive price, but it comes with the foresight that people will be driven to the Google Drive, sooner rather than later!

Please feel free to reject this notion, but ask yourself, in the fight between IOS and Android, why would Google not offer a machine a lot more competitive? This is at the heart of the matter, this is as I see it the crux of it. There is of course a danger that we make ‘relationships’ between fiction and facts in events that are a figment of our imagination, but in the competitive industry that is called ‘mobile devices’ to remain behind to this extent to that degree calls for questions, does it not?

There is one part to add, the Guardian article was originally adapted (by the Guardian) from ‘Data and Goliath’ by Bruce Schneier, Bruce Schneier is a security technologist and CTO of Resilient Systems Inc. He can also be found tweeting his heart out as @schneierblog.

 

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The Hunchback of the NSA

We have been hearing information in this regard for some time now. I added my thoughts in my last blog, and as this is such a growing story, let me see if I can add some details to this by looking at a few issues from another side. (Source: www.NOS.nl , www.Guardian.co.uk , et al).

Edward Snowden, His view is that it is up to the people to decide what is to be done. Is it?

2003: Edward joins the Army to deploy to Iraq. He suffers injuries during (basic) training and cannot continue the training.

200?: Edward has been selected into the sanctum and becomes an IT specialist with the CIA, placed in Geneva. Well, that is a nice handle up from basic training isn’t it. Some people dream of opportunities like that all their life.

He gets a dose of disillusionment. (Not my words, just quoting here). The CIA methodology does not sit well with him. As a data analyst with a few decades of experience, including some not to mention data depositories, I can tell him now, that there is method to their madness. I know where he is at this point, because when it is all about data cleaning, integrity checks and verification, whatever you do feels like carrying a bucket of water towards the ocean, but hey, that is what it is. He then decides to quit. That is fair enough! Not all are meant for that lifestyle (including unappreciative bosses that we see by the container load in the commercial world), and as such we should recognise that some of these jobs have a decidedly larger chance of burning out.

2009: He joins the NSA. Really? After he left the CIA? That is an interesting step. Especially knowing that one worries you, the other would not?

Well Edward, this is what you signed up for! But fair enough, you wanted to give it a go. He then becomes NSA’s own Arnold Benedict. Oh joy! (I say in a slightly sarcastic voice) and he ends up feeding the information to the PRESS. I will add that this is slightly better than dumping all this on Wiki-leaks. I will also applaud him for going to the Guardian as I personally see these people as slightly more devoted to Ethics then anything Rupert Murdoch has at present in my humble opinion. Still, Arnold, oops, I meant Edward goes out into the limelight. Consider that his job was to make sure that the American people remained safe. Did he? Many people including terrorists knew this was likely to happen. Now they have confirmation and they might employ new methods, making it harder for the NSA to find them. So who did Edward Snowden actually service? From my point of view it was not the American people. Oh, and Hong Kong of all places? It seems to me that he preferred to be bankable to several potential donators. (But that is just my view).

The NSA has an uncomfortable job that must be done. The terrorist (or perhaps better stated the extremist) threat is real, and as such organisations like NSA, GCHQ and DSD need to look at information as it flows to keep its citizens safe. There is an ugly looking sterile approach to information. It has no emotion; it is simple collection of data. Yes, if anyone gets the wrong phone call we could be checked. Yet, the data is up to a point so complete that these organisations can easily see whether this is a fluke, or if there is more. Is that not the best solution? Most people have this illusion that we have some kind of privacy. The reality is that our information had been collected and data mined by large corporations well over a decade before governments started to collect data.

Do you think that I am kidding?

Take a day in your life. You fill up the tank at a gas station. You use your tank pass to get the 3% extra discount. You pay with either ‘their’ card, or your card. Nowadays it is rare that people pay cash. You go to work. Lunch means that you get lunch at some place. You get a snack and you get 1-2 extra items. Anything at these points that have a pass, or card is in 70% of the cases collected data. Now you go home, get dinner, use your customer loyalty card and you go home. Whenever you did not use cash (and in some cases even if you did) your details were recorded. EVERY day of your life! Whenever you use your mobile, your mobile carrier knows roughly where you are (with some smart-phones they know exactly where you are). All that data has been collected in one way or another.

Yes, even beyond what Orwell contemplated, you are a data collection point, you are marketable!

This is the ugly reality that has been happening since even before 2001. The big problem for you is that many of these companies need to survive, they need revenue, so to survive and you are for sale. Whatever you did is for sale. No matter the amount of cleaning you think they do. It takes but one linkable fact to your raw data details to know exactly who you are, where you are and where you are likely to go. People like the NSA only want to know whether you are a danger to the nation and the people around you. Are you? The others want to make money off you? Only you know how ‘dangerous’ you are, the others want you to spend cash where they like it. It is a never-ending story of greed. So who do you really need to worry about?

So when we see the news on how politicians are all about worries, all about what was done, then ask yourself, what questions have they been asking, investigating and contemplating when it came to the data handed by all to commercial facilities.

Getting back to Edward, whatever his views are. If he was TRULY for the people, and TRULY doing something to make the world better, then he would have done something about the real issues and all those e-mails from bankers and so on. That did not happen, did it? Didn’t Julian Assange ‘vanish’ to Ecuador before he could make good on that promise? So when people are driven by who hold the usage of their credit card, what do we call them then? As for bankable matters, seems that his move to Hong Kong could be all about bankability, but who is banking who?

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