This is a collection of mini-rants that aren't yet big enough for their own page.
At least one of these is bound to be on-topic in a large percentage of discussions on a general geek interest web forum such as Slashdot. Feel free to copy-and-paste links to sections into Slashdot comments. If you have any questions or comments, add them to the talk page.
Originally retrieved from Wayback Machine;
The "Contents" section, as well as the bulleted list under the "Mini-essays" heading, have been removed in favor of the table of contents generated automatically by the MediaWiki software.
Some of the original external links have been replaced with Wayback Machine archives or Wikipedia or TV Tropes entries. Some may still be broken.
I prefer still ads over animated ads. I want to block animated ads, but I don't want to block all ads because I want to reward sites that respect my preference for still ads. Until now, Flashblock has worked, using the heuristic of correlation between SWF and annoyance combined with a user-maintained whitelist of sites with desirable SWF. But as ad networks and advertisers shift from SWF to DHTML, HTML5 audio, and HTML5 video, blocking animated ads without blocking still ads or legitimate uses of HTML5 technologies becomes harder.
Myth: "Vinyl is inherently superior to CD."
Fact: See CD quality.
Bargain bin gaming
The price of video gaming in current dollars has gone up: from $300 per PlayStation console, $20 per controller, and $50 per game in 1995 to $600 per PLAYSTATION 3 console, $50 per controller, and $60 per game. Video games are even more expensive in Europe due in part to content rating, localization, and tax differences. Some people like to cut costs by buying video games from the bargain bin or buying them used. But some games never hit the bargain bin, and their used prices stay high. For example, Harvest Moon was first published in 1995 at a price around 60 USD. In 2007, it's still 60 USD on half.com. So how can I tell whether a game will hit the bargain bin or become a collector's item?
The other problem is DNAS error -103. Sony has a habit of pulling the plug on the matchmaking servers needed by online multiplayer features of games for PlayStation family platforms after a couple years. So I buy a game, pull it out of the shrinkwrap, put it in my PS2, try to go online, and "This software title is not in service."
C++: The plus stands for bloat
- Moved to C++ vs. C#iostream
Most major broadband providers technically do not allow servers to run on residential connections. They offer "business class", but at one time, a few appeared to require a "business class" customer to be a partnership, LLC, or corporation in a commercially zoned area. Even nowadays, some local cable companies have trouble setting up a residential account for home TV and a business account for business Internet at the same address.
In the United States, the providers (the telco for DSL and the cable company for cable modem service) generally have monopolies or duopolies on the last mile in the local market because wireless broadband (satellite or cellular) is cost prohibitive: $60 per month for about 5 GB of transfer per month. In October 2012, there were still plenty of rural in the United States that couldn't get wired broadband at all. People in Great Britain as well are still relying on satellite and cellular for home Internet access despite the single digit GB per month transfer cap of a typical plan, or bringing desktop PCs into Starbucks and Panera to download service packs or large games. Expect not to be able to watch more than one or two movies a month on Netflix or your country's counterpart, and if a quarter-gigabyte operating system service pack lands, don't expect even that. Some rural households in the United States still use dial-up because wireless broadband is so expensive.
Do you really want to spend tens of thousands of dollars to pack up your belongings, buy a new house, move your family to another location, and try to find a new job, just to get a better Internet connection? The consensus is that moving is not practical, despite some disagreement.
Windows XP contains a Secure Audio Path, and Windows Vista and Windows 7 have Protected User Mode Audio. Applications send encrypted data to Windows Media APIs, and codecs that run in kernel space (SAP) or a process in the Protected Environment (PUMA) transform encrypted compressed audio into cleartext PCM and send it to the audio driver. Only drivers signed by Microsoft with copy protection permissions will receive copy-protected data; to be signed, a driver has to conform to Microsoft's DRM requirements, which include disabling all digital outputs within the machine (such as to files) and encrypting any digital outputs (such as adding HDCP to HDMI) while playing a copy-protected audio stream.
But is analog reconversion of audio really that bad? With a good DAC on one end and a good ADC on the other, both external from the electrically noisy PC case, the artifacts of Vorbis, WMA, or AAC perceptual modeling will outweigh the -90 dB noisefloor of 16-bit PCM.
High-definition video, on the other hand, isn't so easy to analog reconvert. But given that people are more than willing to watch low-definition (240p or 360p) video on YouTube and download overcompressed SDTV cams on pirate networks, pirate audiences may not care about pristine video.
are not necessarily a bad thing. Copyleft, which keeps free software free, is built on copyright.
The bad thing is the use of copyright to interfere with the First Amendment. Entertainment franchise owners sue the operators of fan sites. Paramount treats Star Trek fans with little respect. I was twice cease-and-desisted about a Noddy fan site I ran.
The bad thing is also the pattern established by acts of the United States Congress in 1976 and 1998 that have effectively made copyright perpetual by adding 20 years to all copyrights every 20 years. The bad thing is also corrupt legislatures that take millions of dollars in campaign contributions from the Walt Disney Company and other major publishers of proprietary works to do so.
Digital Millennium Copyright Act
The wording of the DMCA's circumvention ban (17 USC 1201) is a bad thing.
Several companies produce add-on devices (called "mod chips") that deliver boot code to a PlayStation console. These are used in software development and can be used to run free software (or backups of lawfully acquired copies of software) on a PS1 or PS2. Sony has attacked those companies because the devices also allow pirated games to run.
Not to mention the DVD and eBook problems. See also DMCA in Plain English.
Is not illegal, no matter what Nintendo says. If you are running free software on your emulator, or you have burned free software to a CD or flash cartridge to play on your game console, whose copyright are you violating? Even if you use a cartridge copier to copy cartridges that you have purchased into your computer, you're probably covered under the format-shifting precedent in the RIAA v. Diamond Multimedia case (which grew out of the Betamax precedent set in Sony v. Universal case) as long as you don't redistribute the ROM dumps. Some people will complain about the ruling in Atari v. JS&A that backup copies under 17 USC 117(a)(2) are not needed and therefore not authorized, but ROM dumps used for emulation are not backups; they are an essential step in the use of a program under 17 USC 117(a)(1), and Vault v. Quaid appears more likely to apply.
Some game software companies try to thwart emulation and development of independent software by copyrighting a magic cookie used to authenticate products to other products. For instance, Game Boy and Game Boy Advance software needs to contain an exact copy of the Nintendo logo, or the system's BIOS will not start the program. Even worse, Sega Dreamcast games must have 14 kilobytes of copyrighted boot sector code that matches byte-for-byte a copy in ROM, or the system will not boot the game. It's a good thing the Sega v. Accolade decision has recognized copying such "magic cookies" as fair use. Chamberlain v. Skylink and Lexmark v. Static Control have upheld the principle even in the age of the DMCA. Heck, under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act of 1975, the console maker can't even void the warranty if you use independently produced hardware or software with your console.
But please don't use NESticle for NES software. Try Nestopia, FCE Ultra, or Nintendulator instead.
EULAs vs. statutory rights
Some compare buying a copy of a computer program to buying a piece of paper with a copyrighted work printed on it. Such a transaction does not give you a license to do whatever you want, but under United States law, it does grant you fair use rights and first sale rights in your copy of the work, and for computer software, such rights include the right to copy the software into RAM and to make backups. However, if a contract presented before the sale specifies that instead of buying a copy, you are perpetually renting one, then you are not "the owner of a copy," and none of this applies.
GNU software on Microsoft operating systems
Yes, you can run GNU software and other software from the "Linux ecosystem" on Windows without needing even virtualization. The Cygwin and MinGW/MSYS environments provide a minimal GNU environment, including Bash and the GCC toolchain, though apps that depend on them might be hard for a first-timer to install. Even KDE applications are being ported.
But even without GNU software, the command prompt in Windows XP still has tab completion.
Open up a command prompt, type
cd , and start hitting the tab key.
(If it doesn't work: Open regedit, search for "CompletionChar", and change its value from "0" to "9".)
If you want more, you can install Windows PowerShell, an interactive shell and scripting language for the .NET framework.
The Free Software Foundation has called using free software on Windows "the first step towards freedom." The second is switching to a free operating system such as GNU/Linux once you've found free applications for your whole work flow.
See also: Android pod touch
The problem with making video games for mobile phones and then distributing them to the public is thus:
- Many entry-level phones sold in the USA run BREW apps. The BREW platform, its fee structure, and lack of standard terms for distribution of applications through a carrier appear to have been specially designed as a barrier to entry so as to discriminate against individual developers and smaller companies. For all its faults, even Apple's iOS developer program is more open than BREW.
- Nokia phones running Symbian, Maemo, or MeeGo are more capable and have a far smaller barrier to entry. But in the USA, most people buy phones through their carriers, and Nokia has had a very hard time getting the major carriers in the USA to carry its products.
- T-Mobile, the fourth largest of the major carriers in the USA, is the most open among the top four. Unlike Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T, whose service plan structures strongly discourage up-front purchase of the handset without a 24-month service commitment, T-Mobile's "Even More Plus" plan embraces separate sale in much the same manner as the major carriers in mainland Europe. T-Mobile also has a wide selection of phones running the Android operating system and, unlike AT&T, doesn't disable installations of applications obtained outside Android Market. However, T-Mobile's service coverage reportedly lags behind that of Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T.
P2P music sharing
Pointless in most cases. Virtually all music controlled by the major record labels is all-rights-reserved, and sharing it with the world is copyright infringement. Sharing cover versions is copyright infringement, as the songwriter and music publisher aren't getting the royalties that they are due. Even sharing recordings of independent artists' own compositions is also likely to be copyright infringement as well: see Songwriting.
are not always a bad thing. The Lempel-Ziv-Welch patent (U.S. Patent 4,558,302 and foreign counterparts) used in GIF did not cover lossless image compression; it covered a specific bytestream compression method. Other non-patented bytestream compression schemes exist; the Deflate algorithm (used in such apps as gzip and zip) was selected for PNG, and 7-Zip uses the LZMA algorithm.
The bad thing is overly broad patents. U.S. Patents #5,715,314 (electronic shopping carts) and #5,960,411 (single-action purchasing over WWW) cover both known ways to handle online shopping. Other patents such as #5,253,341 (compressed images) and #4,873,662 (hyperlinks; read more) seem to cover the basic concept of a World Wide Web.
The bad thing is patent examiners not doing their job. Patent #6,061,680 on using a hash of a compact disc's table of contents as a database key (i.e. how CDDB works) had prior art; CDDB existed two years before the patent was filed. (In the United States, an inventor who does not file a patent application within twelve months of publicly disclosing an invention loses eligibility for a patent.) All Amazon's patent #5,960,411 added to prior art was "using HTTP"; is that really such a non-obvious invention?
The bad thing is patents on something that any undergraduate could have come up with, such as requiring one second of inactivity before and after an escape sequence to distinguish it from data (look up Hayes Smartmodem). The worse thing is a Congress that siphons needed funding from the Patent Office. Left to its own devices, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is fully self-sufficient from trademark and patent filing fees, but Congress uses the USPTO as a revenue source, making the USPTO unable to pay patent examiners to do their job.
The only thing in a patent that has legal force is the claims. You have to make, use, or sell a device that uses all elements of a given claim to infringe it, but infringing even one claim is patent infringement. To view claims, enter the patent serial number (e.g. LZW patent is 4558302) at the US Patent Office Full Text Database.
PC vs. console gaming: Multiplayer
So you've got a home theater PC or a MAME cabinet. Now what are you supposed to play?
Or you've developed a multiplayer video game for one PC. Now who's supposed to play it?
In the United States, the FCC's monopoly on broadcasting prevents independent music from getting played on the radio. For a long time, Clear Channel owned a large stake in XM satellite radio; it and a few other big players own most of the FM radio stations in most markets. It's hard for a new independent radio station to get a broadcasting license in the FM band (88.1 to 107.9 MHz), and without a sizable number of independent stations, radio listeners hear what Clear Channel wants them to hear, and the RIAA member labels pay a puppet promoter to pay Clear Channel to play RIAA music and only RIAA music. These bribes often come not in the form of cold hard cash but in free non-conforming promotional discs and free tickets to live performances. True, Internet radio that plays only freely licensed music isn't subject to the Clear Channel monopoly, but playing this in the car requires smartphone service that still costs hundreds of dollars per year as of 2012. Recording artists unaffiliated with a major label have to find other ways to market indie music.
Using the region coding features of game consoles and DVD players to keep Japanese films and games out of American hands, especially when not a lot of text is involved and the community accepts bad translations as humorous, is a result of outright greed.
Region coded video game consoles: Famicom/NES, Mega Drive/Genesis, PlayStation, PS2, GameCube, Xbox, Xbox 360, Wii
Region coded video game consoles known not to distinguish Japan from America: Super Famicom/Super NES, Nintendo 64
Video game consoles known to be free of region lockout for games: Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, PSP, PLAYSTATION 3
Reverse engineering entertainment
Here's how to get around perpetual copyrights and trademarks: Abstract the copyrighted expression away from the uncopyrightable idea by finding antecedents from before 1923 (or which are otherwise Free). For example, derive Precious Moments from the Eloi people in chapter 4 of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine, and derive Enid Blyton's Noddy from Pinocchio renditions.
Another way to avoid copyright and trademark infringement is by taking a stereotype (uncopyrightable under Capcom v. Data East) and "making it yours" by changing all the names and appearances so that any copied expression disappears into scènes à faire, or elements common in prior works. For example, the setting of Nintendo's Animal Crossing video games involves a lone human living in a forest populated by furries. These elements have appeared in works dating back to A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh (copyright expires 6 years left in USA, 2027 in EU), and to Lego's Fabuland sets from the 1980s.
Video calling can replace a corded phone, not a cordless one. One has to sit in front of a computer instead of hanging a phone off a belt, donning a headset, and continuing to do chores around the house. Another problem is that a lot of people don't want to be seen without their makeup and presentable clothes on. And that's why my grandmother doesn't Skype.
Write a song. Put a recording on the Internet. Get sued.
The Handel v. Silver precedent recognizes a four-note match between two musical works as "substantial similarity" that constitutes prima facie evidence of copying. In the Western musical scale, there exist only 50,000 melodies four notes in length. The fear of accidentally copying an existing melody and facing a lawsuit from a major music publisher seems to put a chilling effect on creation of original works. So sharing recordings of independent artists' own compositions may infringe copyright, as those songs that aren't direct covers may be inadvertent, subconscious, yet still infringing copies of all-rights-reserved major label musical works. See also "A Chilling Effect on Music" by Damian Yerrick and "Three Chords and the Truth Part II" by Peter C. Lemire, Esq.
In the place where you live, unsolicited commercial e-mail ("spam") may or may not be legal. In the United States, the CAN-SPAM act set guidelines for legitimate direct marketing, but it failed to have much of an impact as spammers moved their operations offshore to botnets of compromised home computers in such countries as Brazil and the Republic of Korea.
There's more than one way to make a free GUI app that runs on more than one major desktop computer operating system. Cross-platform toolkits for GUI applications include GTK+, Qt, wxWidgets, and GNUstep. Cross-platform toolkits for games include SDL and Allegro, both of which can interface with OpenGL graphics.
Occasionally, trademarks have been used to authenticate products to other products. For example, Mattel Intellivision, Nintendo Game Boy, and Sega Genesis and Dreamcast consoles have a "Trademark Security System" (TMSS). The BIOS either won't start the program or will lock the video chip unless the program includes an instruction string that produces "PRODUCED BY OR UNDER LICENSE FROM" the console manufacturer, with copyright and trademark signs all over the screen. However, circumventing this is not an infringement of trademark. Use of a trademark as an ersatz patent is barred in the United States by the functionality doctrine, as interpreted by the Second Circuit in Sega v. Accolade (1992).
- Rob Pegoraro. "Rural options for speedy Internet still tough". USA Today, 2012-10-07. Accessed 2013-06-10.
- Stewart Mitchell. "Report: more users turn to satellite for broadband". PC Pro. 2012-06-21. Accessed 2012-06-23.
- Paul Ockenden. "Why 3G broadband can be better and cheaper than ADSL". PC Pro. 2012-05-11. Accessed 2012-06-23.
- Meanwhile, At Starbucks; WoW on an iMac in Panera; iMac in a coffee shop; Slashdot comment from July 2011; Slashdot comment from June 2002
- KDE Windows Initiative
- Authentic Document IDs for BREW
Articles by Damian Yerrick, published here
- DMCA in Plain English
- Dumb Patents
- Nintendo DS vs. PlayStation Portable (historical)
- The problem with PC multiplayer video gaming
Pseudonymous articles, published here
- CAPTCHA Hall of Shame
- Animal Crossing Population Growing: Guides to the Nintendo GameCube game. Currently covers the golden statue, the golden shovel, and the golden axe.
Articles by Damian Yerrick, published elsewhere
- The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act and Perpetual Copyright
- The Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Politics of Copy Protection Technology
- The Dangers of Disabling the Right-click in Web Browsers
- AOL Is Not the Internet
- Review of Nintendo's Dr. Mario 64
- Common Video Game Design Flaws
- A Chilling Effect on Music
- Spreading Myself Too Thinly
- Satire: Cher Patent Term Harmonization Act
- Barely Legal: Copyright Civil Disobedience
- More stuff by Damian Yerrick