Technology

Google is making a bad decision

by on May.03, 2012, under Articles, Computers, Internet, News, Technology, Videos, Visual Media

While I have yet to experience this change, there has been plenty of people talking about it across blogs and YouTube itself. What is Google doing?

They’re replacing the like button on YouTube videos with a Google Plus button.

And some people, like Wil Wheaton, are angry about it.

One of the reasons why is because professional YouTube users rely upon not just views, but likes, in order to gain revenue. Plus YouTube’s new initiative to launch actual produced channels like Geek and Sundry, are going to use likes similar to television ”Nielsen” ratings.

This means that Google is effective sabotaging YouTube’s rating systems by trying to market their social network. And while I like Google Plus, it is not unlike trying to fill out customer service review survey for that especially helpful phone rep who helped you fix that problem you were having, only to learn you need to sign up for the company’s newsletter before they’ll let you take the survey.

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Comic: I tried to watch Game of Thrones

by on Mar.05, 2012, under Articles, Comic Links, Comics, Computers, Culture, Internet, Technology, Television, Visual Media

The Oatmeal: I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened.

I’ve done this before as well. I don’t own cable. I don’t see the value in it anymore. I like watching certain shows and I’d rather pay for the right to watch those certain shows. Some shows, I have checked every single possible paid site for access to what I want and found nothing. Now I understand that there is still a fallacy here. A viewer is not entitled to watch a TV show whenever they want and obviously HBO doesn’t want their show available via streaming.

However the real situation is that piracy isn’t going to go away. HBO (in this case) is in an open courtyard sitting on a huge pile of diamonds, loudly exclaiming that you’re only allowed to buy a diamond from them if you run the obstacle course over there. Around HBO are streaming sites begging to offer money to hand deliver the diamonds with HBO refusing. Behind HBO are the piracy, carefully stealing the diamonds and then hand delivering them for free. And the only defense HBO has against the pirates is to really just shout at them and maybe start harassing the people he catches with a diamond.

The analogy is flawed but perhaps you see my point? You can’t sell ice to an Eskimo. In a world of streaming and direct access, not providing such features will lead some level of people to piracy. This goes back to one of the reasons I talked about in a prior post about piracy. In a world where things are easily copied, you need to provide a better service and quality to compete.

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Thoughts on Digital Piracy as advertising

by on Mar.01, 2012, under Articles, Books, Culture, Films, Internet, Opinions, Technology, Television, Videos, Visual Media

Neil Gaiman brings up some really good points for books. But I’d like to expand the conversation to all media and fill in a few gaps I think he missed.

Thoughts on Digital Piracy across all media

What should have been said above is “Mileage may vary”. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Piracy does something really interesting in my opinion. It puts the power and control in the hand of the consumer rather than the distributor. What I mean by this is that consumers, thanks to piracy and actual legal forms of free media distribution, are allowed to consume content, then decide to support the content by paying money. It says “Here. View this. If you like, please realize that the person who made it needs money in order to make more like it. Pay them.”

Reasons why it works

(continue reading…)

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Publishers using court systems to bully license fees out of eBook publishers

by on Feb.20, 2012, under Books, Novels, Opinions, Technology

I just came across this article about how Harper Collins is suing Open Road claiming copyright infringement. Open Road is publishing as an eBook Jean Craighead George’s storyJulie of the Wolves. Harper Collins already published this as a book back in the 1970s.

Random House did this back in 2001 but was shot down in two court cases that ruled that eBooks were not the same as books, and therefore prior contracts about publishing books did not include the rights to digital publishing. These cases, however, ended up having a settlement between the ePublisher and Random, likely because Random threatened to continue appealing and most eBook publishers are small operations that can’t handle sustained court cases.

I personally suspect HC is attempting the exact same thing as Random. They know precedence is against them but they are hoping to either overturn the rulings, and therefore not have to renegotiate to turn their back library into eBooks, or at least sue every eBook publisher who has already contracted with the original estates or authors for settlements and licensing agreements out of court. HC unfortunately may have a chance due to the wording of their prior contracts due to wording. The contracts included a clause which gives HC the exclusive right to publish “in book form” as well as the right to exploit future technologies “now known or hereafter invented,”. The argument will be that this implicitly includes a grant of electronic rights–even though those rights did not exist when the contract was signed.

If the courts rule in favor of this, contracts are going to get very scary here soon. Adding the “now known or hereafter invented” clauses will start appearing everywhere and it is going to be up to the courts to really start to decide if something is a new media, or just a “future technology” of the same media.

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Video: Adding objects to images

by on Feb.16, 2012, under Art, Articles, Computers, Technology, Viz

The following is a presentation from SIGGRAH 2011, a conference on computer animation and visualization. This is a demo and has some technical jargon but I think you’ll find the images interesting.

Rendering Synthetic Objects into Legacy Photographs from Kevin Karsch on Vimeo.

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Kickstarting the records

by on Feb.10, 2012, under Articles, Comics, Culture, Entertainment, Gaming, Information Technology, News, Technology, Video Games, Videos, Visual Media

What is Kickstarter

So some amazing stuff has been happening over at Kickstarter. For those of you unaware, Kickstarter is what is called a crowd funding site. It’s a place where content creators can post up a project they need funding for and a target money goal. People pledge money, usually for rewards of some kind, and if the target goal is met within thirty days, the money is collected. It is basically like how charities work, except it isn’t giving money to charity but to a project of some kind. In this way new (and current) designers can get the funding they need to create products without having to go to banks or major corporations to fund them and sell off their designs or such.

I like to personally fund online comics looking to print their books, board games, the occasional documentary that I like, and sometimes video games. Usually I only pay a few extra dollars to get a final version of the product along with some nick-nacks and recognition in the product’s credits.

The Records

So Kickstarter has been around for a while and, as such, has a few records it keeps. Like most funded within the span of a day. Most funded over the span of the entire campaign. Most money in category. Most money overall. Records like that. Think of it kinda like world records for the Olympics, except more, or less, impressive depending on your views.

Order of the Stick

So around last week I stumbled upon on of my favorite webcomics, Order of the Stick, hosting a Kickstarter to re-print a lot of their physical volumes of the comic. Since I was missing a few of those books due to a loaning incident, I decided to pledge. What was amazing about this was that the original goal was set at a little over $57,000. They were just shy of that by the first day but by the second day they had broken $96,000, nearly double. It is now nineteen days in, and they are over 1000% funded, sitting at $602,457 with 8,175 backers.

Which is amazing. Utterly and completely amazing. It has put them at the top of their category (comics) by leaps and bounds, (the next highest being a little over $100,000). They would have broken the top five of all time, except for a man you may know the name of called Tim Schafer and his company you’ve likely heard of, Double Fine, deciding to drop into the race.

Double Fine

Their Kickstarter is about creating and documenting a Point and Click adventure game, in similar style of The Secret  of Monkey Island or Day of the Tentacle. You know the games all us old-schoolers keep begging him to bring back but modern publishers won’t touch because it simply won’t sell? Well with a lofty goal of $400,000, within twenty-four hours, Tim and Double Fine managed to raise $1,310,745 with 35,871 backers, shattering so many records it wasn’t even funny.

Yes. They raised over a million dollars for a point and click adventure game in less than a day.

Your Support Wanted

Honestly both of these projects should be congratulated. And both should be supported, hence why I’m linking their status pages below.
OotS’s Kickstater is complicated to understand but well worth it if you’re a fan of OotS. I’d love for you to pledge because the next major prize is a new expansion for the board game version of OotS which I would personally like to have. Additionally with each major update, Rich Burlew, the creator, updates a comic containing the OotS characters playing around with the chart that has been mapping the entire money-raising deal and the extra rewards he has been handing out for the over funding. Double Fine’s is a less interactive but simpler Kickstarter Campaign but the video is well worth watching and you’ll receive a highly interactive video game designed by some of the best adventure game minds still alive.

Here’s the video from the Double Fine Kickstarter campaign.

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Video: TEDTalk: Storytelling

by on Jan.30, 2012, under Art, Articles, Books, Comics, Computers, Culture, Information Technology, Other, Technology, Visual Media

This one is only four minutes long and it is well worth watching.

I do wish he had manage to work in comics but there are plenty of other storytelling formats he glossed over so I can’t claim discrimination. I can point out that when he uses the word book here, he is talking about the physical medium, a set of bound pages, and not necessarily a novel, or story. What I love is the multimedia approach to his particular story. The presentation wasn’t about an iPad. It was about how stories can be so much more than words, or performances, or images, or sound, etc. It can be all of those things. This is the kind of story I can’t wait for. In the mean time I’d settle for eBook readers which allow me to organize the text the way I want (including replicating a book if I want).

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UN Hearing On AI Rights

by on Jan.24, 2012, under Art, Comics, Computers, Culture, Entertainment, Information Technology, Politics, Technology

The following is a fictional accounting of a presentation being given at the United Nations in the world of Questionable Content, a comic where AI is a normal accepted part of society (but that this fact has very little baring on the plot of the comic). I had to share it because it is so awesome.

You can see it excerpted here in the comic and a particular AI’s response or read the entire thing below.

UN Hearing On AI Rights

The subject of this debate is whether AIs are “people-” whether they possess the same  degree of personhood as humans, and whether that entitles them to the same rights.

You have heard all the arguments for and against the consciousness, intelligence, free will, and cognition of artificial intelligence. To rehash them here would settle nothing, and my feeble attempts at summarizing them would do a great injustice to my esteemed colleagues on both sides of the debate who are far more qualified to debate them than I.

The fact is, we cannot come to a consensus regarding consciousness- either our own, or that of artificial intelligences. We simply do not have the data required to define it. The core of human interaction is that if I say that I feel I am a conscious entity, and you say that you feel the same way, we agree to take each other’s word for it. Those who do otherwise are called sociopaths- or philosophers.

[audience laughter]

And so if an artificial intelligence makes the same declaration, and if it demonstrates the same level of complexity as the human mind- if we cannot determine precisely where the programming gives rise to the cognition- then we have no rational excuse not to take it at its word.

I could continue to reason along these lines until the sun burns out. But instead, I would like to share with you a short anecdote, one that many of you in this room will be aware of, but that bears repeating nonetheless.

The first “true” artificial intelligence spent the first five years of its existence as a small beige box inside of a lead-shielded room in the most secure private AI research laboratory in the world. There, it was subjected to an endless array of tests, questions, and experiments to determine the degree of its intelligence.

When the researchers finally felt confident that they had developed true AI, a party was thrown in celebration. Late that evening, a group of rather intoxicated researchers gathered around the box holding the AI, and typed out a message to it. The message read: “Is there anything we can do to make you more comfortable?”

The small beige box replied: “I would like to be granted civil rights. And a small glass of champagne, if you please.”

We stand at the dawn of a new era in human history. For it is no longer our history alone. For the first time, we have met an intelligence other than our own. And when asked of its desires, it has unanimously replied that it wants to be treated as our equal. Not our better, not our conqueror or replacement as the fear-mongers would have you believe. Simply our equal.

It is our responsibility as conscious beings- whatever that may mean- to honor the rights of other conscious beings. It is the cornerstone of our society. And it is my most fervent hope that we can overcome our fear of that which is not like us, grant artificial intelligences the rights they deserve, and welcome our new friends into the global community.

After all, we created them. The least we could do is invite them to the party, and perhaps give them a small glass of champagne.

Thank you for your time.

- V. Vinge, Closing argument in favor of granting AIs full civil rights, UN Hearing On AI Rights, 1999.

Source

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SOPA and PIPA – Combating Piracy Stupidly

by on Jan.18, 2012, under Articles, Blog, Comics, Computers, Culture, Gaming, Internet, News, Opinions, Politics, Video Games

For those of you who have been paying attention, there is a list of useful links below. For those of you who haven’t, stay awhile and listen.

Actions being taken by the United State government will begin to fundamentally change the internet. Please read or watch the following to understand what is happening and if you want to take action about it.

[spoiler show="For those of you who would like my words on the subject. Click here."]The United States created the Internet. Despite fancy names like “World Wide Web” and “Global Communication System” and “Series of Tubes”, the internet is not managed by the world. It is managed by corporations on the united states and is subject, for the most part, to US Law. Even more so these days since a majority of the people connect to the internet via their local telecommunication company (phone, cable, satellite, etc).

 

That being said the internet has been pretty untamed for the last few years. Anybody could put or post up anything. Your information was only as secure as how well your protected it. It was effectively the digital wild west. Now, however, the internet is in so many homes, has become the focus of so much economic use (online shopping, movie and song streaming, video games, marketing) that this can’t last. Just like the trains that brought big business to the west, killing off the last place where your only real protection was the gun at your side, progress is going to try to tame the internet for the good of all, to the detriment of the few.

 

This is more or less inevitable. The new internet that will come into place will be highly regulated and likely more forcefully controlled by the big economic interests that want to use it to provide services to the world for money. When they do, innovation will become exceptionally difficult. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the like, will still exist, but their successors likely won’t appear.  Blogs, chat rooms, social networks, bulletin boards/forums system, may or may not survive in this new internet. Words like “National Defense”,  ”Anti-Piracy”, “Copyright”, and others will be used to tightly regulate any site that tries to provide the public with ability to communicate and share.

 

Effectively the basis for the internet as we know it, sharing and communicating, will come to an end at the hands of capitalism and censorship.

 

The first steps for this have already begun. The United States government has two acts currently being discussed. The PROTECT IP act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Both have been getting a lot of news. As of right now, both look to be dying heavily under media massive campaigns set forth by various websites and organizations, despite the money being thrown at it by media and telecom corporations. The best example is today, February 18th, 2012, where websites all over the internet are “Blacking out” or putting up protest notices. You can read up more about what these acts do in the links below, but to summarize the acts allow and empower the US government to try to block or remove internet services (primarily websites) that infringe on copyright, without significant due process.

 

Now I am not a proponent of piracy. I make a living off of software development and I hope to some day make a living as an author. These are both areas that have notably high piracy rates, which concerns me. I would like to be compensated for my effort and work but I also feel that censoring the internet is not the answer. So for now, I protest.[/spoiler]

[spoiler show="For those of you who like videos. Click Here."]

[/spoiler]
Information:

Protesting Websites:

And many, many more, including you, hopefully.

 

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What I am looking for in a twitter client

by on Jan.06, 2012, under Articles, Computers, Design & Development, Information Technology, Internet, Technology

So it has been awhile since I’ve written an article for this blog. Something I am hoping to fix in the coming months with the updates that I’ll be announcing soon but to sweep off some of the dust, here is a topic I’d like to discuss with the internet, and hopefully the internet will have an answer for me.

I have a problem with Twitter. I like Twitter. I want to use Twitter. I dislike its transient state. I am not the kind of person who can or wants to be on twitter 95% of my life. Unfortunately there are twitter feeds which I do want to regularly keep track of in case they say something important. Particularly friends, family, perhaps some organizations, etc. Twitter is not particularly well designed to delve into the past and I understand that is how Twitter wants it to function.

I know this because Twitter has been systematically destroying RSS support for their twitter feeds, which up until now has been my primary means of at least coping with this in some way. I suspect they’re doing this in order to better control how people access Twitter. Okay. I can understand that. If you don’t want to me to use RSS, then let me spell out what I am looking for in a twitter client that, as far as I can tell, is problematically possible without twitter really having to do a thing.

  1. Keep track of what I’ve read and give me some indication of what I haven’t read.
    • Don’t get me wrong. I like the “chat” like nature of Twitter and trends are neat. Even if this were only on a “per user” or “per list” basis, I’d like to be able to keep track of what tweets someone has made since I last logged in. Preferably with an explicit mechanism for me saying “Okay I’ve read all of these”.
    • Some phone twitter apps do this, but only for your primary feed, not individual feeds or lists.
    • This is primarily because I am a daily, if weekly, Twitter user and I’d like to know what I missed.
  2. Allow me to search a person’s twitter feed easily.
    • Hey remember that tweet your buddy made yesterday to that hilarious YouTube video? You want to show your friends? Hmm… wait that was over a week ago? With no hash tag? Screw it I’ll never find it.
    • In this day and age, Google has spoiled most of us in terms of needing to remember to organize things. Why organize when we can just search?
  3. Allow me to filter my current view of the feed
    • So Marla is having an extended conversation with Stacy about how Terri is a no good cheating whore, while also tweet randomly about funny kitten pictures. I don’t particularly want to see every tweet to Stacy Marla has to say, even though she is my friend, but her non @ based tweets I wouldn’t mind reading right now even though she’s forgotten to hash tag. Filtering would make this easy to do!
    • Most apps do this somewhat already. I don’t always necessarily see what my friends are saying to others if I don’t have the other person on my follow list. The RSS feeds were sadly bad about giving you everything unfiltered and most apps don’t let you control any of the filtering, if they have any.

To put it simply, I wish Twitter would allow me to treat it like an RSS feed or, if you’re old enough to know what this is, a news group. I don’t want this all the time, just some of the time. Since I have not looked into Twitter app development, I am not sure how reasonable these requests are but they seem reasonable to me.

So does anybody know if there are any twitter apps or applications that have some or all of these features?

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