Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Don't Bite the Hand That Feeds You

That should go without saying, right?

Funny thing - in the FOSS community it's so easy to take everything for granted. All software is free or usually very cheap to acquire, and people use the software in various ways - often publishing extensions of their own to it. This example works really well with the Doom community - ever since the Doom Source was released, a lot of people have been working on various projects, and after 23 years it is still going quite strong. While this little post focuses primarily on Doom and Doom-related stuff, this could probably easily be applied to any moddable game - like Saints Row, or even the Fallout series.

23 years strong, though - that's saying a lot for a really old game. Who knows what draws as many people as it does to it. Is it a AAA title that every teenager is going to go begging their mom to buy on their very next paycheck? Of course not. Doom is very easy to acquire - just go on and you can get yourself a copy very cheap. And then comes the best part - you can even use a source port to play it - such as ZDoom.

And therein lies the focal point of this little story. On the ZDoom community, we've proven time and again that Doom is simply the gift that keeps on giving. If you get bored with your fancy AAA titles with their flashy graphics and excessive graphic shader abuse with the color brown all over the screen all in the name of "ermuhgerrd REELISM" you can always go back to the ZDoom forums and occasionally you'll find a mod that's worth playing - something you can sink hundreds of hours of your time into, and by the labor of love alone is worth far more than any of those fancy market $60 games. And I really believe that's more than just an opinion - try it yourself (and this really is only one example! There's hundreds more!). What is the price of that? It's free. It's a mod. But by so many standards - a damn good one. Sure - the graphics aren't up to today's standards, but there's a million games that offer that alternative and most probably aren't that fun to play, anyway.

So what am I getting at? Well - it's funny, because, as has been stated a number of times in this post - the word "free." I am talking about $0 free, as well as "free to do with what you want." Nothing on ZDoom is ever restricted by DRM, or online-only play, or those other fancy things that modern games like to do nowadays. But people still like to treat it like it's a corporate entity. Oh - that's where the fun really begins. That, my friend, is the whole point of this blog post.

It's funny that when you offer something for free to other people - if it becomes popular, inevitably you come upon those demanding folks who always want more. Well - actually, that's a bit encouraging in a way, because knowing you made something that someone got hooked on is quite satisfying. But wow - the way they go about it, you'd think they were born with a silver spoon glued to their mouths.

That's not to say I am not guilty of this, too. But like many, I've learned from my mistakes. Honestly - it's so easy to take what you get for free for granted. You never even know the hours of blood and hard sweat and labor that goes into these things - especially the source ports, themselves. But then you get involved. You start doing it yourself. And you start realizing just how frustrating it is to work with this stuff. Computers are stubborn - because computers don't understand the way you think. All they understand is 1's and 0's and "this means that" - so invariably when something goes wrong, it's because you did it. (Or someone exploited a security hole and did it, but that's beside the point) Nevertheless, that point applies quite equally to both the modding aspect as well as the source development aspect. Computers always remember the finer details better than we do - in fact, every typo is plain as day to everyone who looks closely enough at it, and obviously we don't ever remember making them ourselves.

So getting a computer to work with you is very satisfying. In fact, it's a bit of a game itself, for some people, or even a challenge, or just something to pass the time. Some folks even make a living of it, and software development is what puts bread on the table for them.

But boy - let me tell you - some people just do not understand this at all! They are spoiled by the idea of "free" and they think that they can demand work from others - the very people who were KIND ENOUGH to GIVE AWAY their work for free! And it's never one isolated instance where this happens - it happens all over. When a developer (working for free, mind you) disagrees with their feedback, they blame the developer for being unwilling to listen to them. I've even seen it escalate several times to highly abusive and hostile reactions from both sides. But one thing people always seem to forget - it was the developer who got no compensation for sharing their work - for free - who really deserves all the credit for it.

Yeah, this is something I feel very strongly about. It's very hard to detach myself from the situation because I personally know the sacrifices that people make in giving away work for free. Sometimes it's a labor of love, but sometimes it's just a desire to give back to the community. But whatever the case may be - I can tell you this - they do not deserve to be pestered, bossed around, or told that this is the way they need to do something. Let their own creativity thrive. In most cases, if you don't like something, you can change it yourself.

And before you come at me with "I don't have time to learn it" - let me tell you something - with ZDoom, the barrier for entry is so low, you will be able to enact the exact changes you want to see within a day, even knowing nothing. It's not that hard. You just need to be willing to learn and apply yourself. I did it - many times over - to the point where I am now, maintaining a source port of my own that is growing in popularity. There is absolutely nothing I can do, that any other person can't, if they are willing to learn. I personally know - if I can do it, anyone can.

"But you should listen to my feedback! My opinion matters a lot and it helps you!" That actually is true - only to an extent. What good artist doesn't want feedback for their work? But there's a fine line between what is valuable feedback and what is white noise. An artist has their vision for how they want things. Your feedback isn't that valuable if it's repeated, especially after having already been rejected, and even more especially if you start getting hostile about it.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Should I upgrade to Windows 10?

This post is for those who are uncertain about whether they should upgrade to Windows 10. If you've already made up your mind, I don't expect this post to have much merit for you.

Microsoft's free offer for Windows 10 is going away on July 29th. A lot of people keep asking me - should I upgrade before this offer goes away?

As many people know, Windows 10 is far from perfect. There are still a lot of issues, and it shows a general trend going towards a state of SAAS rather than simply install-it-once-and-be-done.

But despite these issues - yes, you should upgrade. If you are unwilling to upgrade right now, at least make a partition for it, install your legitimate copy of 7, 8, or 8.1, activate it, and upgrade that, instead, to at least keep it legal.

Here's the frightening truth about Windows 7-8.1: In about 5-10 years, all those old operating systems will no longer be supported. Only Windows 10 will be. 7, 8, and 8.1 are all going the way of Windows XP. Gone. Extinct. Defunct. No longer updated. That's it.

You might as well take this free offer while you can, even if you keep your existing Windows install the way it is. It will save you money down the road (if you want to stay legit, that is). Windows 10 is not that hard to get used to, and there are more and more programs becoming available that will help you customize it to your liking (and perhaps even bringing back features that have been lost).

If you don't like it, you have at least a month (perhaps 3?) to go back. You simply remove it like you would a program.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Differences between Sweden and America

(Flags in this post used from
So, having been in Sweden for a few weeks now, I figured I would try and come up with a few major differences between Sweden and America that I have personally noticed, possibly for those who are curious who have never left either. :)

Most of these come from my own personal experiences, some of them also come from my girlfriend who is Swedish (and who, herself, visited the United States to see the differences on her own). This list is not all inclusive, but will be updated as I think of more things.


Food A) Less additives in food to promote health, and proves quite well that such additives are not needed to make food tasty.
B) Food is typically cheaper than in the States, and more frequently focuses on health and necessity than sales.
C) Frozen and ready-made food is less commonly sold or bought in Sweden - most people prepare their own food and buy the ingredients directly.
D) Kinder Eggs are sold in Sweden and prominently display a warning not to eat the toy contained inside, and that it is not intended for children under three years old.
E) Dishes in Sweden tend to be smaller. Smaller glasses, smaller plates, smaller bowls. It may not be the intended effect but it definitely helps with portion control.
F) Sweden does not leave chlorine in its tap water. This makes it taste differently than the American version, and is arguably healthier without the bleaching component that comes with chlorine.
A) More additives in food to enhance taste and promote sales.
B) Food is a bit more expensive but offers a much bigger variety on the shelves, especially in bigger stores.
C) Frozen and ready-made food is more frequently bought, sold, and used in America. Ready-made food is available with fresh ingredients (sold in delis), however it typically costs more.
D) Kinder Eggs are banned in America.
E) Dishes in America tend to be a little bigger.
F) American municipalities typically treat tap water with chlorine and leave it in the final product. In the actual drinking water this does reduce microbe infestation, however, the health effects of chlorine are not proven to be so great over the long term. It is very common for American faucets to have a carbon filter installed to remove some of the extra mineral deposits as well as the chlorine.
Friends and Strangers A) In Sweden, it is rude not to take your shoes off at the door. Do not go far in a person's home with your shoes on. 
B) Most people speak Swedish but have also learned at least a year of English. This allows you to interact with quite a lot of citizens without learning Swedish; however, learning it is really necessary and still offers a huge benefit. The federal government has set Swedish to be the official language and legal documentation is written as such. English is mostly a courtesy for tourists or used for trade/business. 
C) Swedes are, for the most part, very proud and patriotic - however they are also very humble. They will not wave their nationality in your face whenever the opportunity presents itself and try to be accepting of all peoples.
D) It is rude to criticize people in Sweden. If you are nice no one will point out your flaws.
E) Swedes will hug each other in greeting and departure if they know each other.
A) Wipe your shoes off at the door if a mat is provided; take off your shoes if it is wet outside.
B) Many people born in America speak English exclusively. Those who do not will often speak English plus their home country's language. Since the only non-English country bordering the United States is Mexico, this causes Spanish to become somewhat a "secondary" language. The federal government has not mandated an official language. Most things are written in both English and Spanish but English is widely accepted as the dominant language and all legal documentation and contracts are written in English.
C) Americans are very patriotic and many do not try to hide it. They are seen as very arrogant because not being proud to be American is looked down upon - and seen as unpatriotic.
D) In America, it can be considered rude to not point out issues when it can cause major problems to the person.
E) Americans usually shake hands in greeting acquaintances, but in casual meetings will often not touch the other person. Hugs are usually reserved for more intimate and closer relationships.
Home and Public Life A) In Sweden, there is a lighter attitude towards nudity and it is allowed and shown in outdoor art.
B) LGBT and ethnic diversity is widely accepted in Sweden - and bigots are generally outcast and frowned upon.
C) Houses and apartments are mostly constructed out of bricks or concrete. Some drywall and wood is used, but the danger of fire, while still quite present, is lower than American homes.
D) Swedish home bathrooms usually have a drying rack above the tub to facilitate hand-washing of laundry.
E) Toilets usually focus on functionality rather than quietness. You can pour additives into a toilet tank, but the tank itself is usually inaccessible other than a very small hole. Swedish toilets only have enough standing water to plug the sewage hole, and are flushed with a button on the top.
F) Swedes get out and walk a lot more. There are more walking paths and people socialize together quite a lot. Courtesy is rampant, and it is rare to absolutely ignore a stranger.

A) In America, art with nudity is very rarely, if ever, shown, and almost never outdoors.
B) LGBT is very contentious in America. Some people are accepting, some are not. Racism is a problem on all fronts, and all ethnic groups are guilty of it to some point.
C) Houses and apartments and other residences are almost always constructed out of wood and drywall unless they are inside a major city. Wood is easier to manage, and cheaper, however it is prone to fires.
D) American home bathrooms usually do not have a drying rack above the tub. Most people have their own washing machines, use a service, or the local laundry mat.
E) Toilets are sometimes weakened for using less water per flush. American toilets also usually feature a top lid that allows a plumber (or the person using the toilet) to service or repair the toilet or add things to the water. American toilets also keep a bowl of standing water in addition to what is in the tank, and are flushed using a  push lever on the left.
F) Americans usually only go out for a purpose, but some will go out to walk. Sidewalks are less common except on bigger roads, and indifference is rampant. It is very common not to greet a stranger passing by (though many still do).
Government A) Airports are run more casually, with not as much security or threat of terrorism. The Swedish airport security was actually really confused I took off my shoes, but understood why when they were told I came from America.
B) Poverty, crime, and other issues are mostly hot topics for the people concerned with it, but are not such a problem that you see it every day on the news.
C) In Sweden the government is strictly federal, with the local municipalities to help enforce the laws. There is a central Riksdag which carries out the functions of an executive as well as the legislative branches of governments (which in English would be called a parliament). Courts, however, are similar to the United States, in that there are multiple levels of courts. There is a king, which also means it is a monarchy, however he does not set the rules since that is the function of the Riksdag.
D) Traffic signals are the same as they are in America - however, they have one additional state that America does not. Just before a light goes green, it will turn "Red-Yellow" - indicating that it is time to get ready to pass through the intersection.
E) Sweden is a lot better with social programs, having a welfare system that is a little more forgiving than what is in the United States, however, still requiring the recipient to search for a job.
A) Airports are high security areas. Restrictions on where you can go inside the airport. Cannot meet passengers at their drop-off points.
B) Crime is a major news event that happens a lot in more populated areas and is almost always reported about on the news. American crime is so popular, it is often reported overseas.
C) In America, there is a government at multiple levels of jurisdictions. The federal government is ruled by the constitution and, as mandated by the constitution, there is a congress, an executive branch, as well as the judiciary. Each progressively lower government carries out its own versions of these higher-up functions. States have their own legislatures and courts, as do counties, and in some cases cities themselves do as well. Each government also has its own elected officials and representatives.
D) Traffic signals only have 3 different states - Red, Yellow, and Green. They have the same meanings as in Sweden, but do not offer the courtesy of letting you know that the light is going to change soon.
E) Social programs in the United States are very tightly controlled and are often de-funded by congress for fear of people living off of the government and being too lazy. Welfare is harder to get, and unemployment insurance only lasts a year or two before you go completely broke.
Stores A) Sweden has smaller stores, less chains and franchises, latter of which usually stick to areas with more population (bigger cities or downtown areas).
B) Stores close much earlier in the day to allow employees to spend time with their families and rest.
C) Stores often have foreign import shelves (usually American). European imports are sold inside the store proper, however, since Sweden imports a lot of goods from other parts of Europe.
D) In Sweden it is not customary to open or taste merchandise before you buy it. It is very uncommon to bring used merchandise to the register and stores frown upon it.
E) Non-food items (especially electronics or clothing) are typically more expensive than in the United States, sometimes by a factor of double.
F) In Swedish stores you may have to use a coin to get a cart. This is to prevent theft of the cart (which is often used by the homeless). The coin is returned to you if you return the cart directly to the store itself. There are no cart returns in the parking lot.
G) In many Swedish stores, especially grocery stores, you must bag your own goods, and you must pay for every bag you use (typically 2 to 5 kronor per bag).
H) Swedish stores often (but not always) charge for the use of the public restroom. Restrooms are not always segregated by gender.
I) Alcohol is almost never sold in stores in Sweden that are not exclusively dedicated to it.
J) Sweden usually has dedicated pharmacies to fill prescriptions, which are not built into local grocery stores or markets. However, grocery stores may sell over-the-counter medicines - well, "over the counter" - literally. You have to ask for it at the check-out.
A) America has a lot of bigger stores, and more chains and franchises. These stores proliferate suburbs and drive many smaller stores out of business.
B) Stores stay open longer for the convenience of customers (and to drive sales).
C) Foreign items are mixed and matched with any other merchandise. Most merchandise is imported from Asian countries, anyhow, to save major corporations on labor costs.
D) In America it is acceptable (in most stores) to eat and drink merchandise before you buy it - however this mandates that you must buy it (or it is considered stealing). You may bring your empty bottles and food containers to the register without issues.
E) Non-food items are a bit cheaper than they are in Sweden.
F) In American stores, carts are free to use, and may be returned in one of many cart returns in a store's dedicated parking lot.
G) In American stores, you will either have a dedicated bagger, or the cashier will bag your merchandise as you ring it up. You do not need to pay for the bag. Bags are given for free, and heavy merchandise is often double-bagged for convenience to prevent breakage of the bag.
H) Public restrooms are almost always free, and sometimes offer condoms or tampons for emergency use (which may, themselves require payment). Public restrooms are usually, but not always, segregated by gender. Some restrooms also offer diaper changing stations.
I) Light alcohol can be sold outside of liquor stores, usually in grocery or discount supermarkets. Regulations for it vary from state to state.
J) Almost every grocery store or discount retailer has their own pharmacy with licensed pharmacists available to fill prescriptions. Some of these stores also feature their own walk-in clinics that are typically more costly than local doctor's offices.
Medical Care A) A hospital visit might cost you about 250-300 kronor, depending on what happens or what you need, more if you need extra services such as an overnight stay but is usually affordable.
B) There are programs available to cover the cost of medicines, tests, and other medical necessities. Nothing is completely free, but nothing will break the bank, either. There is a "high cost card" for both medicine and health care that ensures you only pay a certain sum before you start getting services for free for the remainder of the year from your first payment.This only applies to Swedish citizens or citizens of certain countries, however.
C) Access to specialty services is far more limited and is your own responsibility. There is often a limited window in which you may call and schedule appointments.
A) A hospital stay will break the bank without insurance. Hospitals are extremely expensive and a single trip to the ER can cost upwards of $2,000 USD. This can escalate to the millions for extended stays.
B) What services you get or have to pay for is tightly regulated by insurance, and insurance is a battlefield of its own.
C) Access to specialty services is far more open and can often be done by the referring doctors, themselves. There is a more open window (usually during business hours) in which you may call and schedule appointments.
Television A) Television shows adult content - brief, light nudity is allowed, swearing is not censored unless it is done so at the source. If you are offended, you are expected to change channels.
B) Television commercials are often of a lighter tone and will frequently parody popular music, TV shows, or movies, such as the Matrix or James Bond.
C) Television programs are frequently imported, daytime TV often shows more foreign programs than it does Swedish programs. When a program is in a language other than Swedish, it will be subtitled. Children's programs will, however, be dubbed in Swedish, instead.
A) Television is strictly regulated, and during daytime hours may not show nudity or swearing whatsoever during daytime shows, and only cable stations can show swearing or nudity past prime-time hours. Actual pornography is allowed but must not be freely accessible.
B) Television commercials are often focused on the company backing the advertisement, and far less frequently will, if ever, parody popular media.
C) Television programs are mostly produced in America with very few foreign programs shown. Anything that is not in English is subtitled, similar to Sweden.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Blame the objects, or blame the people?

(Doom is copyrighted in 1992 by id Software)

One thing I see a lot of with more "left-wing" views (at least, using American terms) is that when problems occur, they tend to blame the tools by which the problems were created, and not the people themselves using them.

This, in my opinion, is very dangerous, and it can only lead to hardship down the line. Want to know why? Because you are attacking the symptom of the problem - and not the problem itself - and when you do that, the problem itself will always find a way to manifest again in another, and even harder to control way.

Some examples of this are blaming video games for school shootings - instead of poor parenting. Blame the guns used in said shooting - instead of the trigger-man who's firing them. People go so far as to go after the companies who make these things - when those companies clearly are not at fault.

Here's a little anecdote for you - and don't worry, it ties all together later on. The European Union has actually been trying to stop the United States from using their manufacturers' drugs in lethal injections. Bear in mind, we're talking about state-backed killing here - yes, executions. Who are we blaming for these executions? The prisoner himself? Maybe. The prisoner's victims? Hopefully not. The state? Maybe sometimes. The prison themselves? They're the ones doing it, so it would be the logical choice. The companies who manufacture drugs to these prisons? Hardly an afterthought.

The whole point is - the medicines are just a means to an end (pun not intended). Their manufacturers are barely an afterthought and often never even talked about. In fact, they themselves are often even patsy to the whole process - they have no control over how their drugs are used after they've been purchased, and often have very strong objections to how they are used.

So, let's face it - yes, many corporations are evil, heartless, money-grubbing bastards who don't give a crap about the people or the environment that they affect. However, sometimes even the most "heartless" seeming corporations may have a whole lot of heart. And if any shred of you is slightly human, it's never fun to find out that something you've made has caused anywhere between ten thousand to a million deaths. Imagine being the CEO of those drug companies. Now try to imagine being a CEO of a gun manufacturer. Now - try to imagine being the CEO of a simple video game company. You get where I am going with this?

The problem is - people like to blame anyone or anything but themselves for their problems. No one likes to take responsibility. And many people have never learned to. This, right here, is the root of a lot of these problems. This is why there are school shootings, suicides, church massacres, gangs, and even serial killers. Our own society is responsible for these things, and it's not because the tools are available - trust me, you can kill someone just fine without a knife or a gun - it's because no one cares about the people using them before they get used - no one is telling these people - this is wrong - they will not come back - you are wrong - and killing is wrong. Parents let their kids run rampant on video games without properly educating them about life and death. They let their kids run rampant on video games without ever explaining how precious a human life is. And instead of blaming themselves, they blame those very same video games. Shame, because they are among the best and most interactive forms of expression and art, and there is nothing wrong with them at all.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Internet Piracy - The Scum of the Earth, or Just Human Nature?

Piracy is everywhere. There is no disputing that. It wouldn't be arguable that everyone has done it at some point, but there isn't a single country or state that hasn't had at least somebody do it somewhere. Unless you just outright don't have internet.

The fight against piracy is just as intense. So much so, that companies have not minded hurting their legitimate users. But sometimes, such efforts can actually do more to encourage piracy, and in turn, hurt your brand even more.

So how do you stop it? Seriously, how do you stop that?

Well - many people have their own ideas. I am sure there are many more who will argue that their own ideas are the right ones on this issue. It pretty much comes a clusterbomb of big egos, pissed off customers, and very little effective mitigation.

Most of these methods, however, attack the symptoms of the problem, but very few ever go to the cause. It would be like dumping a bucket of ice on a fire - it may or may not work, or the fire may just ignore it entirely and melt all the ice. It's a hit and miss and it really depends on what caused the fire in the first place.

Well - what about going to the source of the problem? What causes it in the first place?

Ironically enough - part of it comes from the human spirit of giving and sharing. Awwww, isn't that sweet? But there's more to it than that. A lot of it may actually stem from a perceived need or necessity. *GASP* Oh, wait? Wait, did I say that right? Yes, I sure did.

I don't see a whole lot of websites putting up polls simply asking users - "why do you engage in piracy?" Of course, such a poll could be incriminating for users - because answering it might mean that they would admit to doing something illegal. But with so many people doing it, it does seem a bit silly that anyone would go after just one single person? However, sometimes they do, and it's often just not worth the risk.

Well - let's break it down ourselves, then. I think there are several possibilities as to why some person might be involved in piracy:
  • Do not want to pay for it at all.
  • Price may just be too high for it.
  • Just because they can.
  • To share something already paid for with a friend/family member.
  • To bypass software restrictions. (This includes DRM as well as "Edition changing")
Let's make one thing clear - This blog is not to advocate the virtues of piracy. It is not to encourage it, nor is it to argue that all media should be free. I do not believe it will ever be completely stopped, either. But I think the only way it will ever be reduced is if we look at why it happens, and try and fix the problems that cause it in the first place. Only then, I believe, will piracy fade into a more "specialist" kind of thing - be more prosecutable - and be less prevalent and less of an issue than it is, today.

So let's look at these problems, and see what we can do about reducing it, then, eh?

Do not want to pay for it at all.

Some people pirate because they believe they should not have to pay for any media at all. Honestly, I believe this category is the only category that classifies a true thief - this is someone who does not want to compensate someone else for their time making their lives easier (or at least more entertaining). They have no interest in donating, supporting, or otherwise helping out the person who created whatever it is they are pirating.

Unfortunately, not much can be done about it. Thieves exist. They're everywhere. You don't have to keep a store open more than a month to see one. Sometimes, they get caught. Sometimes, they don't. That's just the way it is.

But sometimes, such criminals can actually be politically motivated. And truthfully, some of these politics do have moral ground. There is a huge wealth inequality in this world - so great, that the crimes of one thief are felt as less than even a flea to their marks. Is it truly right that people who are so destitute have to give up everything they might own (literally) just for one thing they might need? That's a question of morality and it is beyond the scope of this blog post, but it is nevertheless something to consider. As Spock would say - "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Truer words were never spoken, even in an old television show. That alone doesn't make piracy right, but with the prevalence of thievery in the world, it's a hard ground to break, and doing so could alienate a lot of potential legitimate customers.

Price may just be too high for it.

This is a pretty big category, and I think it actually encompasses the majority of piracy. Have you looked at software prices lately? Sure, it's nowhere near as bad as it was in the 80's, but the prices are still pretty steep. Adobe is a big offender in this category, in my opinion, but others such as Microsoft and Apple are guilty as well.

The thing is - the higher the price, the more a person has to give up to legitimately own a license. Unlike what some people are used to - money does NOT grow on trees, and some people have to work really hard for their own. Even more so when they have family members to support - which, in this troubled economy, has become even more of an issue.

So why are film makers charging $30 for a new film? Why are record companies charging $15 for a new album? Why are software giants charging $60 for a new game? $100 for a new operating system? $500 just for a system that is even somewhat decent for running games? Well - fact is, entertainment goes far for the human soul. We are willing to give up a lot for it. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that - but there is a point where we are just giving up too much for it.

The costs all add up. In the end, we probably spend more on entertainment - which is a luxury - than anything else. But is entertainment really a luxury? For some people, it might be. For some, it may be a means for living. It all depends on the person. But if you can't embrace a little bit of it, then you may as well be dead on the inside.

I would argue that lower prices on the whole would do a LOT to curb this problem. There just isn't much need to spend $60 for a couple weeks worth of entertainment. I think more reasonable prices - like $8 for a new Blu-Ray, and possibly about $15 for a new high-stakes studio game - would shake piracy itself to its very foundations - enough that companies would start seeing profits soar. Imagine that - affordable entertainment! What a novelty, right?

Just because they can.

Yes, some people do it just because they can. Like the theif category, not much can be done about this, because to them pirating is more of a hobby. And as long as DRM exists in software, there will always exist people who will crack it. And many more who will make the cracks available to everyone. As long as any media is locked behind a price gate, there will always be someone who gives away free copies. It's human nature. But those things CAN be discouraged, and those things can mostly disappear in time if nothing is done to encourage it.

To share something already paid for with a friend/family member.

This is probably another one of the more common reasons why piracy is done. And it's something companies absolutely hate. But is it really so evil?

When you buy a toy at Walmart, you can give it to your kids, and they can share it with each other. It is truly unnecessary to have one of every toy for each one of your kids, just as much as it is unnecessary to have one refrigerator for every family member, one stove for every family member, and one dishwasher for each one as well.

Yes, our neighbors and friends come over to our houses all the time. So does our extended family. They all use our food, they all use our stoves, our refrigerators, and our dishwashers.

So why can't we do that with media?

One argument - and a legitimate one, too, I might add - is that while you can share stoves, refrigerators, and dishwashers with your family members, you only need one item to be able to share it with all those people, and such things often work well because you never need more than one. Media, on the other hand, can be copied, and when it is you are essentially making two of one item with its full functionality, and in effect not requiring the same kind of time-sharing that is required with refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashers. Many publishers want to be paid for that new copy - which, completely beyond their control - appeared out of nothingness. So, in order to solve this from a legal standpoint, software is licensed - either to individual computers or to individual users (or sometimes, their organizations). And sometimes licenses are written in such a way that sharing - even with family members - is strictly prohibited. But this really does not solve the problem.

I am not going to waste time trying to argue about what can be done to curb this. I am sorry but this is where I draw the line. I think it's pointless to try and stop friend and family sharing and it goes against the very essence of cooperation and human spirit. But if you engage in such pursuits, best of luck to you.

To bypass software restrictions such as "Editions" or DRM.

This is a big one, and it is near and dear to my heart. I'm going to be perfectly straight-up blunt about this, and I am not going to say this in any nicer way:
DRM is evil evil evil evil!
Want to know how evil? That line was the first 6 results from a Google search. I think the fact that it can come up with 6 relevant results in a row (possibly more but I didn't bother checking) supporting my argument says something, and it says it quite clear: People don't like DRM. It is evil. It is not good, it doesn't protect you, it doesn't protect them, it doesn't promote sales, it is just plain evil. That's it. That's all. Evil. Nothing more to it than that.

Have I made my point clear yet? Yes? Good. Because if you have missed it, then there is no hope for you to understand this blog and you will never be able to understand human nature or why piracy happens. Trust me - you won't be able to stop it, either.

I am sure a lot of people cling to DRM for fear that if they do let it go, it will only encourage more people to pirate their software. But ultimately, that is not true. Those who would've done it, have already done it, and those who will do it, will always find a way. DRM does nothing to protect your software. Nothing, whatsoever. And if your software is truly free of piracy, it probably was never worth being pirated (or even bought) in the first place.

In fact, DRM encourages piracy. I know this point is a bit of a quagmire to hold to, but I believe it is still valid. I actually believe that people are so sick and tired of DRM that, rather than going through the trouble of legitimately spending their hard-earned money for software, which has restrictions and inconveniences, they'd rather find a way to use it for free - and free of DRM. Remember - these people are not evil - that is human nature and piracy offers a path of far less resistance for those people.

From a political standpoint, people also actively boycott software which has DRM in it. Funny, I know, isn't it? The fact that it's done far more harm than good should have lent no surprise to that.

Another thing a lot of software developers do - for strange reasons, I might add - is they release the same copy of their software with different price points calling each difference a different "edition" - with progressively more expensive editions being tailored for business use and having more features and software freedom than the more restrictive home license counterparts. But piracy easily breaks the bonds of such "restrictions" and allows a "home user" the ability to use a fully featured version of the software - ironically enough, using only very few of the extra features that they cracked for in the first place.

Way to stop that? Just give everyone the same software for a reasonable price. Without silly DRM restrictions. I think the digital media world would be a much happier place.

So how DO you deal with piracy?

So - you've made it this far. I bet you wonder just how would I deal with piracy, myself?

Simple. Don't charge outrageous prices for it, don't introduce DRM, and ... *drumroll* encourage people to buy it. Yes - put a statement - or a notice - not a nag box (because somebody will just remove that, anyway) - give your contact info, your mailing address, and simply state "if you like this software, please purchase it, it will go a long way to supporting development!" And follow through with that. Focus on the positive sales of your software or media and use that to make it better, and make more. Don't threaten the consumer with legal consequences, and don't inundate them with 10-page license agreements - just be straight and simple. If a person feels more like a person, than a robot, then it will be how your customers relate to you.

Will that stop piracy? You bet your sweet ass it won't. But at least it won't create all the ill will with your users that encourage it in the first place. I think the first step to stopping piracy at all is to stop upsetting your customers in the first place to the point where they resort to such things.

And remember this, above all else - Most of your customers have done nothing wrong. Why are you punishing them for something other people have done?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Why do we even need AdBlock?

Everyone's done it at one point or another. You're browsing the web, you're hoping to find the information you need, whether it's the latest fashion trends, the newest tech gadgets, how to work your 30-year-old VCR (no one even uses those anymore, right?), or maybe even just to find out about what's happening on Capitol Hill in Washington. It's no doubt, of course, if you're reading this, you're using the internet. And nothing's more annoying than clicking on a link and seeing an advertisement for a new pair of underwear, or a flashing fake warning that your computer is infected with a virus and you need to clean it right now, generally something that has nothing to do with what you are trying to get to, and even worse, is pretty darn shady to boot.

Advertising is by itself fairly harmless - somebody somewhere wants your money, so they pay someone else money so that you can get your stuff for free - all you have to do is tolerate a few flashy images and, if you're interested, well, you can click on it and find out what it's all about. But where we generally draw the line is when this content is forced on us. Adfly - I am looking at you.

The HTML protocol was originally never designed with advertisement in mind, so content hosts and advertisers alike had to build around the restrictions for it. At first it was pretty harmless - it got annoying at times, sometimes even deceptive, but it wasn't a big deal. But then, the first of the nuisances started - pop-ups. When it was first realized that the Javascript engine of every modern browser (at the time, anyway, they'd be considered ancient now) could open up new windows to any page, advertisers took advantage of this. Suddenly, it wasn't just images inserted into the document - now they loaded right over your page. They started becoming intrusive and unwelcome. Just for visiting a page, now, your computer is forced to open a brand new window to a completely foreign website that you never had any interest in going to in the first place, in the hopes that you would buy something.

Let me tell you something - I don't like to spend money on a practice that is that intrusive and conceited on the part of the advertiser. Especially when knowing that if I do, it would continue funding this atrocious practice.

But things went downhill from there. Suddenly, it was pop-up hell. There were hardly any websites you could go to without getting a pop-up. Sometimes closing a pop-up would open a new one. Sometimes closing one opened three! It got to a point where if you didn't know how to use the task manager to close the web browser, and you weren't brave enough just to pull the computer right out of the AC socket, you could easily wind up spending more time exiting the internet than getting the info you needed to start with!

So, advertisers - consider this. Why is AdBlock even necessary? It's because you think that by being annoying, we spend more money. And it works. That's the worst part. There's always some idiot that will spend money on something that's shoved right into his face. The sales climb, and the profits roll right in.

There are those of us who don't use the internet to buy your garbage, however. And having it forced into our face just makes us even more averse to it. I get to a point at times where I outright refuse to buy from a merchant who engages in such practices with their advertising.

Consider that, for a moment.

If you want a customer, the best way to do it is by building trust and loyalty. This has been the tenant of successful businesses for a very long time. Now - how is shoving pop-up ads - FORCEFULLY - in someone's face accomplishing this goal?

Adfly. Now here's an odd mystery if ever there was one. Authors use it, typically with download links but sometimes also with exit links, to try and gain revenue for content hidden behind said links. Now - I have nothing against authors wanting a little compensation for their work. It's how they're getting it that's upsetting me. Adfly not only forces you to view an advertisement, but if you have your browser configured in such a way for safe browsing (i.e. scripts turned off, plug-ins on confirmation only, ad blocker turned on), it doesn't even work at all. You get no advertisements - but worst of all you get no content. And why? For no reason other than the ridiculous 5-second timer. Which it will not allow you to skip. Oh, the endless war that is fought with that one. Because Adfly wants to FORCE you to view an ad for 5 seconds, they intentionally make it incompatible with browsers that are capable of skipping this ridiculous timer. And if you dare try to install browser extensions that either skip the timer or bypass the ad entirely, they will work to break that extension and force you to turn it off in order to get the page you want. Why? Because to them, serving an ad is more important than anything else. I think it's reasonable to guess that they actually have a staff employed 40 hours a week just to break those things.

Adfly - you make me sick. I would love to see you guys go bankrupt. You - and all of your customers, too. Anyone who lists an ad with you. The practice is annoying, and there's a reason why Ad blockers exist. YOU ARE THAT VERY REASON. If you want my money, (which will ultimately come from your advertisers anyway, if I ever even buy something from those despicable weirdos), try a less intrusive and less forceful form of advertisement.

Additionally, it would benefit any advertiser greatly to know that AdBlock intentionally whitelists ads that it deems are "non-intrusive." Take the time to research it. I promise you, it's well worth the read, because if you make your ad "acceptable" - it will be viewed by a great many more people than the ones you are FORCING to view it. And better yet, your advertisers will be viewed much more favorably. Wouldn't you prefer to show your advertisers in the best, most favorable light possible? Do you ever think it could possibly be damaging, not only to your own company, but to your advertisers, when the user is upset and agitated about what they have to deal with, in seeing those ads?

Food for thought.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are the author's own views, and are formed from her own experiences and opinions. These views and commentary are not representative or intended to be representative of other people, including the hosts of this blog.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Making Life a little easier in Windows 8

Screenshot: Vista VS with Classic Shell enabled, using a Windows 7 Canada theme background.

So, yeah, recently I had a friend who was kind of "forced" to use Windows 8. Most people I know find Windows 8 to be a pain in the rear, but there's some programs you can use to ease the pain.

Note that I did not upgrade to Windows 8.1, for 2 reasons:

1) I am using the Enterprise evaluation version currently - which I downloaded before 8.1 was released - which for one reason or another seems to have Windows Update disabled - still trying to work on fixing that.
2) My CPU just does not support it. Windows 8.1 (and later) requires a more modern CPU, and my system is just too old for that.

So - to the list of programs!

1) Classic Shell: (Usability)

This program, quite simply, brings back the start menu. It does a whole host of other things too, but if you're transitioning from any older version of Windows to Windows 8, you want that start menu back. It also plays around with your Explorer settings and brings back a few bells and whistles so that you can get some classic Windows functionality back. On Windows 8 itself it also enables boot-to-desktop, so that you don't have to find the silly Desktop tile on the Metro screen. Basically, as far as usability goes, this is a must.

2) 8GadgetPack: (Optional, Usability)

This program brings back the sidebar gadgets introduced in Windows Vista (and included in 7 as well). 

3) WinFlip: (Optional, Usability)

Remember the Windows+Tab key flipping through your windows? This will bring it back. This program was made for Windows XP but works fine on 8.

4) Glass8: (Eye Candy)

This program re-enables the "Aero effects" from Vista/7. It does so with a simple tweak to the DWM. Note that your video card still has to support the blur and transparency if you want to get those back, but this is needed for the themes.

5) UxStyle

This program allows the use of custom themes in Windows 8. (And other versions, obviously) If staring at Windows 8 vector arts make you sick, installing a custom style will help, and this program is needed for that.

6) VistaVS (Optional)
Windows 8.1:
(no adfly)

This makes Windows look and feel more like Windows Vista. Installation is simple, just read the included files. You will need to use Administrator access to drag the files into the proper place.

7) Aero Glow (Optional)
Windows 8.1:

This seems to be the closest I can find to making Windows 8 look more like Windows 7.

8) Royale (Optional)
Windows 8.1:
(no adfly)

This is a Windows XP-like skin.

Author's note: The links have been updated as of June 25, 2015. "No Adfly" links are included for users who do not wish to download things behind compulsory Adfly links. If such links are intentionally broken, the listings for each project will simply be removed entirely; I do not support compulsory Adfly downloads and never will. If a user decides to support your work, it should be of their own good will - not because you forced them to.