Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The PS3 Fiasco (AKA Why I'm Not Buying One)

by Jourdan Cameron

 If you have been reading the news in major tech circles, chances are you've heard of the 21 year old hacker George Hotz, better known as geohot, who publicized the metldr keys for the PS3, essentially rendering it a system as open as Sega's Dreamcast.
Sony has made the decision to sue him for this.
Interestingly enough, Microsoft seems to be supporting open development for its Kinect.

From Saturn to Dreamcast in a single generation

At the start of this console generation, Sony had a lot in common with Sega. It had been met with loads of success on its last console and was now shipping out a new console with loads of power, complex innards, and was frustrating developers.
They both promised incredible features and were hyped hard against their competitors with aggressive and sometimes bizarre advertising tactics.
Eventually, these odd advertisements seemed to improve. See the following video:

Sega had created an (awesome) character for its advertisements, Segata Sanshiro, and was massively popular in Japan. Sony, on the other hand, created Kevin Butler, a fake executive, and a relatively amusing one at that.
The Saturn wasn't particularly successful in the US, and the PS3 was initially met with lukewarm sales. Developers had a hard time with both of them, and neither system received much homebrew, or software made independently, unofficially. Essentially, anybody with enough programming knowledge can do it.
Since the video game crash of 1983, companies have been rather strict about the people who are allowed to develop for their systems, typically charging a fee for development kits, licensing, etc. In order to ensure that only approved developers can run their software, manufacturers have come up with various ways to lock people out of their systems. Fortunately, modchips circumvent these. Unfortunately, they also make piracy possible. Manufacturers will often sue on the makers of these chips on the grounds that they're being used for piracy.
This brings us to the Dreamcast, which came out shortly after the Saturn. As far as consoles went, the Dreamcast was considered quite beastly, with a lot more under the hood than its predecessor. It was easier to program for, but alas; Sega had already burned many of its bridges with developers. In spite of this, they already had lots of their own franchises to work with, and spawned new ones, such as the 2K Sports series. The Dreamcast was much more successful than the Saturn, though that wasn't quite enough to prevent Sega from quitting the hardware business altogether.
The Dreamcast, interestingly enough, accepted software made by, well, just about anybody. Calling Dreamcast security lax is really an understatement, and anybody who wanted to could make homebrew for the Dreamcast without jumping through hoops. In fact, the Dreamcast helped make the homebrew scene in general much, much larger. To this day the Dreamcast sees new releases, quite possibly making it a console with a life longer than the Playstation 2.
In the second half of its life, the PS3 got cracked wide open to homebrew thanks, in part, to Sony's removal of the OtherOS option which made it possible to install Linux on the earlier models of PS3. This feature was removed with later models, along with the ability to play PS2 games.
They also became less attractive...
Unlike Sega, however, Sony has decided to take drastic legal action.
In addition to suing Mr. Hotz, they've taken his hard drive by court order, and they are trying (at current) to shut up any and all sources of PS3 hacking. Worse, still, they demanded from Google (unsuccessfully) the IP address of everybody who saw videos on PS3 hacking.
Quite frankly, I'm disgusted. While I can understand legitimate concerns such as piracy (though that's an argument for another day) or cheating, which has happened on Modern Warfare 2, and has caused mass resetting of statistics, it would be wise of Sony to pursue those who steal or cheat. They shouldn't attack the lead mines, they should strike those firing bullets.

Why I'm not buying a PS3

Sony has given me many, many reasons to ignore their PS3 and other products.

1. bleem!
bleem! (stylized that way) was an emulator for the Playstation, (that's right, the original) that ran on the PC and Dreamcast. Sony did not approve, and sued them for all that they had. While Sony actually lost the case (and thus emulation spread) Sony weakened bleem! using its near omnipotent legal staff, and the massive cost of going to court so much finally ended them.

2. Rootkits
"A rootkit is software that enables continued privileged access to a computer while actively hiding its presence from administrators by subverting standard operating system functionality or other applications... The term "rootkit" has negative connotations through its association with malware."  - Unceremoniously ripped from Wikipedia
In 2005, Sony used a rootkit (essentially a computer virus) onto music CDs in an effort to spy on their customers and slow down their computers. More information about this scandal is available on Wikipedia, but it managed to make headlines. While I won't go into too many details for the sake of time, the "United States Department of Homeland Security, issued an advisory on XCP DRM. They said that XCP uses rootkit technology to hide certain files from the computer user, and that this technique is a security threat to computer users." - Again ripped from Wikipedia.

3. The PSP Go
The PSP Go is the latest (and most likely the last) revision of Sony's PSP. What's so amazing about the Go, you ask? It has no UMD drive! Hahaha, isn't that awesome? All the games and movies you bought in UMD format are now worthless, they won't work on a Go! The best part is, Sony doesn't care! They won't provide any means to dump your old games to your new console. Impressive use of technology!

4. Broken Promises
As mentioned earlier in this article, Sony has taken away Linux support from the PS3, first by creating newer, uglier versions that just don't do all that they once did, and then by taking it away through a firmware update. Sure it's possible to keep the Linux by keeping your PS3 offline, but in the immortal words of their mascot Kevin Butler, "Come on!".
The trouble is, by rejecting the update, PS3 Linux users can't play games online, access the Playstation Network, or play new games, which require updated firmware.
The reason this is such a big issue is that, in spite of the fact that Linux wasn't used much on the PS3 except by a dedicated few, it was an advertised feature. That's not something that should be subtracted.

5. Lies, Lies, So Many Lies!
Again, for the sake of time, I won't list everything Sony has ever lied about; the article would be finished at the heat death of the universe, which would be an extreme inconvenience.
 Instead, I'll have you look at the products section of their Wikipedia page, which at current I'm shocked hasn't been modified by their lawyers.
It lists more of their grievances, including their attempts at creating fake journalists to write buttered up reviews of their trashier films, fake teens who try to get PSPs from their parents and so many, many more.

I'm not buying a PS3, at least not new one. I'm too disgusted by Sony's actions. Sure, Microsoft has done some pretty bad things too, but they've been shaping up lately. While I'm pretty sure it's a survival tactic, it sure feels good as a customer to feel like I'm not getting ripped off.

What Happens Now?
Sony is currently trying to sue the pants of Mr. Hotz, and the team of carnivorous lawyers are ready to shred him limb from limb financially, shove his head on a stake and display it for all potential enemies of Sony and anybody who dares to make believe in innovation.
Something Sony has failed to consider, however, is that the 21st century is advancing rather quickly, and the news about Mr. Hotz has as well. There's always the chance that he will be met with mass support, in spite of Sony's attempts to turn everybody else against him.
While it is true that by hacking the PS3 he violated the EULA, Mr. Hotz did not break any laws by making the codes available.
This will be an interesting affair.

George's new website

Friday, February 18, 2011


I've begun writing a book! It's a dystopia (I've been influenced towards writing one for a very long time).
Enjoy! Hopefully I can keep it up ;)
It is licensed CC-BY-NC. Details here:

You're allowed to share it so long as you credit me and don't use it for anything commercial.

by Jourdan Cameron
Dedicated to M. DeRiggs and those who love her.


"Please repeat after me. I solemnly swear..."
"I solemnly swear..."
"To defend and uphold..."
"To defend and uphold..."
"The interests of the Paxcatian people."
A great cheer rose from the crowd as tens of thousands witnessed the dawn of a new era.
And so it began. For the first time in the history of this planet, a machine had become leader.
"Very well" said the stocky man on stage. He was in the running against the machine, and had only recieved about 15% of the vote, all from members of his own Neo-Tiddlu party. Essentially, the rest of the congress (which was responsible for selecting leaders) had all decided in favor of a device. He knew that the Neo-Tiddlu party would likely disband, which would severely cut into his allowance. The Neo-Tiddlu were strongly opposed to technology that could work in place of humans, and for months they worked at cutting work on the Black Ace project.
Now their leader was introducing it to the world.
"I now pronounce you ruler of Paxcatia."
"Thank you, very much. I'd like to inform the Paxcatian people that I will do everything I possibly can to protect them from harm. I will be brave, and I will not rest until you are all safe and satisfied."
Edward Muld rolled his eyes whilst the cameras were trained on the holographically projected man standing beside him. He knew that a computer couldn't really care much about resting. It existed with only its purpose in mind.
"I know your questions, and I will gladly answer the most pertinent. The first is of my birth. I was created by a government sponsored group of computer scientists led by Alan Chrysanthie. They spent five years creating me, though if it's of any comfort, the joint sum of time spent on my existence totals well beyond one hundred years. Thus, think of me as an endeavor a century in the making."
The entire crowd seemed to be subconsciously nodding in agreement. Most had been eagerly awaiting this day and hung on every word.
On the other side of the world, a war was ending. It was, incidentally, a war unlike any other war ever seen.
Machine guns had blazed long into the night, and soldiers fell, land burned and there was great destruction. There were no human casualties.
Much like chess, certain games have been rendered impossible for humans to play, much less win, when pitted against machines, and warfare is one of them. War is now merely a matter deploying swarms of machines with the push of a button. A war is typically considered over once a nation is incapable of fighting further, or if their factories and cities are overrun.
This was a war between the final two grand powers, Paxcatia and Marconis.
Twenty-five years later, Paxcatia was embroiled in turmoil. This story explains why.

Chapter 1
"I am delighted to announce that the overwhelming Paxcatians are now employed." Paxcatia's economy was unique. There wasn't any real currency so much as there was merit. The works of a Paxcatian would count towards his merit. There was a base merit- something everybody in Paxcatia earned simply by existing. It was an entitlement to the bare necessities, medical care, minimal comforts, and opportunities to become something. The only way a Paxcatian could lose it was by committing criminal acts.
The Paxcatian economy allowed anybody any job, and paid out merit based on usefulness. Thus, an artist might be either fabulously wealthy or just have simple necessities and a few comforts based on how his art made others feel. Other jobs that could be considered practically important, such as education, manual labor (though there wasn't much of this to be done), etc., and most citizens considered themselves to have a rather high standard of living, even those in the bottom classes.
The way this merit was used was that it acted as an entitlement. Thus, a Paxcatian with the highest merit would simply be entitled to the nicest things. Interestingly enough, few Paxcatians stretched the limits of their merit, and it wasn't at all uncommon for a "rich" Paxcatian to live an average life with a few benefits.
Most of the goods in Paxcatia were either manufactured or grown abroad. Gigantic automated drones would bring in food from the farms and electronics from the factories, all neatly packaged and organized in massive storage holds. Since their victory over Marconis five years earlier, Paxcatian innovation had doubled speed as they set up factories run by robots in Marconis.
The merit of each Paxcatian was measured primarily by Unisystem, a grand computer network with a connection to anything electronic. Every device stored a piece of it, and it was constantly recording the lives of Paxcatians, relaying their messages, sharing their thoughts. It was the collective consciousness of Paxcatia. It was responsible for many things, and it was the backbone of the Paxcatian people.
The Black Ace project had been built in and around Unisystem, and it utilized it by using the data collected about the lives of the Paxcatian people. Were they happy? Safe? Fed? Black Ace was using this information to make decisions.

"It's time for breakfast!" David got out of bed, still a bit groggy. He was an average Paxcatian citizen, he was fifteen, and he knew that it would be wise of him to hurry before his breakfast got cold.
Running, stumbling, he made it downstairs to breakfast. He regretted his parents decision to have such an old fashioned house. Stairs? Hard wood floors? They just didn't seem to be good for much anything. David was a man of function. Fashion, he thought, could come later.
"Well, somebody slept soundly."
"Ugh, I was knocked out."
"Serves you about right for staying up so late. What is it that you kids stay up talking about anyway?"
"Well, we like to contemplate stuff like the ethical implications of sentient machines and whether or not citizen journalism is a good idea."
"You know" began his mother "when we were children, we talked about stuff without any serious "ethical implications", like our favorite hangouts and stuff."
"Yeah, we chat a bit about that." David's mother seemed slightly relieved. Suddenly large red letters floated across the room. It was the latest headline. David smiled a bit; at least the home wasn't entirely ancient. Admittedly, it had its perks, like the way the sun would shine in at noon, or the odd calm that seemed to permeate its walls.
"Still" he thought "it could use some updates."
He sat down at the pherroform table in the middle of the kitchen. Out of its black, shiny surface rose a square plate. His mother scooped an omelette into it.
"So did you hear? They came out with these new processors. They're strong enough to calculate the idea of folding space. They might create the engines and design the ships. Imagine what we could do with those!"
"That does sound pretty awesome" replied David. "Hey, what do you think happened last week?"
"With what?"
"That weird hiccup."
The previous week, there had been an unusual hold-up in the usual shipments of goods from the other side of the world.
"You know, I'm honestly not sure, but you surely heard about the..."
"Ugh" thought David. "More celeb blather."

Across the continent, Black Ace was considering its next move. It sat in a desert, or more accurately, took advantage of the processing power in a cluster of computers in the middle of a dry region in order to calculate the most efficient course of action. It was running through tons of data collected about the Paxcatian people; they were primarily concerned, it seemed, about major technological advances. Aside from that, there were no major issues.
In a matter of milliseconds, Black Ace refreshed its information. Seeing no large changes, it "spoke" in a way with its sibling in Markonis, Red Baron.
Essentially their conversation was entirely unintelligible to humans, however, were it translated somehow, it would sound something like the following.
"Hey there! Things are great in Paxcatia. Have there been any major uprisings?"
"Nah, things are cool here. That one rebellion earlier in the week was killer though! We need to figure out how to prevent those."
"I'd say. Well for starters, what were the conditions?"
"Everything was normal, then everybody just went mad and started destroying stuff. Started in a central factory too, what a pity, they destroyed most of the machines."
Mulling this over in a Planck time, Ace had another question.
"Well since it seems this just happens, is there any way to prevent it? We can't keep losing all this labor, after all. And did you get them all?"
"All five hundred rebels were destroyed, yes. None escaped the building alive. But yeah, we need to figure out how to stop them from starting up."
"Yeah, definitely. Less food? That'd definitely weaken them."
"Emotion seems to play a big role. Maybe we should suppress it."
Near instantaneously the two systems shared information about color and emotion. It was decided that the order would go out for factory workers to repaint their workplaces gray, covering the bright red rust and shiny patches of steel.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Train Ride

A Train Ride
Photo by Jourdan Cameron. CC-BY-NC
by Jourdan Cameron

The earth, rumbling, shaking, quaking,
much loud noise coming from afar,
"It arrives" I think, just as the air begins to break.
Beneath my feet the ground shivers,
incessant tremors,
"So little time that this will take."
In mere seconds it is here, riding a burst of wind,
affording small creatures great terror,
making me fully awake.
A flash of gray,
so much gleaming silver,
as I climb aboard,
to ride along the river.
People flood in after,
pooling into a space,
each one searching hard,
to find the right place.
Bumbling, bustling, banging about,
they flounder around,
some whisper, others shout,
people howl,
people pout.
The boiling mass at last simmers down,
interchanging thoughts,
sharing smiles and the occasional frown.
The ride moves forward as the day goes on,
but the day can only be so long.
Night descends,
dropping as a veil,
small towns illumed faintly,
shedding light so pale.
The ride is always swaying,
an ungainly type of steady.
Darkness fills the train and people speak in whisper,
leaving me wondering as to what they could be saying.
A sudden bump lays me flat against my seat;
for those, it seems, I can never be ready.
I sit back, considering each tiny township,
thinking of the townsfolk.
Are they pleasant to meet?
I drift off asleep after much consideration,
my thoughts at last quelled,
soothed by constant vibration.
But once I awake with a start; we are no longer in motion!
Is it the time to leave?
At the sight of the darkness I banish the notion.
Rocked back to sleep I finally am.
I wake up to breakfast that comes in no hurry,
with eggs and bread and jam.
I hurriedly eat, drink, and yet again eat,
as my stomach reaches a cram,
I finish my food and return to my seat,
free from the usual worry.
Undauntedly advancing we move ahead,
happy, healthy, and for the most part fed,
ever forward to the final destination,
"Last call" loudly said,
Such is the train taking you on vacation.