Am I “Old Skool” Or Just Old? (Revisited)

It’s been eight years, 2 months and 18 days since I first wrote the words below, and it’s either a sad commentary on gaming, or perhaps on me, that as I approach 34 years of age (in October) I still lament the state of modern video games as I did when I was a tender 25-year-old..

Of course, what makes things worse is that I regularly see our children playing video games only to turn them off when things get challenging and the shiny isn’t enough to compensate for the lack of truly great and addictive game-play.

It’s not the fault of or a commentary on the children, just like you wouldn’t blame kids for not understanding why they have to rewind a VHS tape (they’ve never seen one), but I can’t help but wonder if they’d be more appreciative and critical of today’s games if they had started out like this old fart did. Sadly, we’ll never get to find out, unless one of us deliberately excludes our kids from experiencing modern technology and forces them to only use a C64 as some sort of weird social experiment.

Anyway, back to my 8-year-old rant about the state of video games

It’s a sad fact but at 25 years of age I am starting to feel very old when it comes to the computer games that appeal to me.

I started out with computers at the tender ages of 5 and have owned everything from a ZX Spectrum, VIC20, C64 all the way up to the wall of PC’s here in my house. My primary interest in computers has always been coding, but I’ve always been a gamer as well.

There must be community of people who, like me, have been using computers for 20 or more years, and could be considered the old timers of gamers. Now, what I was to know is –  is the old timer “old skool” or just old?

I find that when I’m playing games today, they look great, sound great and generally play OK to crap (with some very notable exceptions!). But I miss the times when games were great. Not good, but great! When all you had was 16 colours, and 2 or 3 tracks to mix 8 bit audio with. You had 64k of memory.. Hardly enough to store 64 desktop shortcuts on todays PC’s.

They looked bad (for the most part), they sounded bad but they had something that most of todays games don’t. Playability! The were simply great fun to play, and you wanted to keep coming back and playing them even though they took up to 30 minutes to load in off of tapes that sometimes didn’t work.

In general todays games don’t have that, and in general most people don’t want to wait for the game to load, if 30 seconds went by without it loading they’d think it had crashed, much less 30 minutes.

What people seem to want is the quick fix of instant action. I like that too, but I prefer to make an investment of my time, and that’s what playing computer games is.. An investment. You spend money and buy a product and then invest your time in it. Well I like a good return on my investments and back in the “old days” that investment required waiting 30 minutes for it to load, so you wouldn’t just boot up for a quick game… You’d boot up and go make a cup of coffee while it loads because you know you’re going to playing this all evening.

Maybe I’m just getting old, and games don’t hold the same appeal for me (and I just don’t realize it) but I want that again today… The investment. The money I spend on the product should not just get me pretty graphics and sound, but something that I’ll spend hours of my time on.. will lock the door and pretend I’m not home, just so I can try “that bit” again… sleepless night… cold sweats.. the addiction of an enthralling game with great gameplay..

Now don’t get me wrong, I still love playing games, and I play everything from MMORPG’s, to FPS, to C&C style games, and there are great examples of truly awesome games with everything I want in all categories… It’s just that considering the money we spend in games, I don’t want to have to find the exceptions in order to play a great game.. They should all be good…

Take a lesson from the time when we had no choice but to have crap graphics and sound. When code had to be had optimized to maximize the amount that could be gotten into 64k… Just forget about the 30 minute loading times, okay!

So which am I? Old or “old skool”?

America – I Can’t Wait For You To Wake Up And Be Great Again

Anybody who’s been following my twitter stream probably knows that I’m disturbed by recent events here in the U.S, such as the introduction of the E-PARASITES / PROTECT-IP act and the Stop Online Piracy Act – “SOPA”.

I’m not the only one concerned, and Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm even went as far as to say that “congress has declared war on the internet“. Strong words, maybe not strong enough.

As a damn dirty foreigner, lefty European, filthy liberal, foreign bastard who is leaching of the U.S. and contributing nothing and who should gtfo out of America if he doesn’t like it a technology buff and an “outsider” living in the U.S., I’m increasingly concerned at the apparent erosion of the rights of the individual in favor of the rights of the corporation.

Growing up in Ireland (in the 80’s) I watched the great innovations that were happening here, learnt about the formation of the United States in school, read about the U.S. Constitution, and everywhere I turned we were bombarded with concept of the “American Dream”.

Much (95%) of this bombardment came from American media.

Back in the 80’s Ireland was broke. Our tiny population wasn’t able to afford to create much in the way of TV, so our radios were full of American and British music and our TV’s showed countless re-runs of American classics, and occasionally a high pressure weather system would come in, and with a little fiddling of the antenna, we’d pick up ITV or some other station broadcasting out of Wales.

We were bombarded with the best and worst (RTE, the national broadcaster, couldn’t always afford the good stuff) of American culture. We learned to love the American dream, but to loath the “Hollywood” version of America that was being pushed, with it’s thinly veiled veneer of style, racial undertones and obvious xenophobia.

We loved the idea of freedom of speech, particularly in a country that was still under the boot-heel of the Catholic Church, freedom from religion (although a secular Ireland would take another 15 – 20 years to arrive) and the idea that with lot of work and determination, somebody in America could achieve almost anything they desired.

Man, how times have changed. Seriously, the internet fucked things up royally for America when it comes to how Americans are viewed abroad. Maybe not the internet on it’s own, but certainly as up to the minute news became available, the veneer of America’s greatness began to get severely scratched.

As the results of America’s foreign policies filtered into our lives, as the fruits of America’s xenophobic attitude to education (there is America, and the sun orbits America), became readily apparent in discussions, forums, international politics and filtered into the lives of the common man – as we watched the once great nation succumb to fear, political shenanigans, religious bigotry and relinquish more and more personal freedoms for that ever elusive “hope” that you might be a little more safe, we’ve found ourselves asking how could this happen?

How could a country, founded on people wanting a better life for themselves, let things get so out of hand? How could the yoke of religion take such a hold in a country that prided itself on having separation of church and state written into the constitution? It’s perhaps ironic to note that England, who’s head of state is also the head of the Church and armed forces is today, essentially secular.

How could people willing give up basic freedoms, day in day out and allow themselves to fall prey to, heck, ask for and demand, a nanny state that serves only the corporate interest?

I don’t really have an answer to many of these questions, except to postulate “greed”.

There’s really not much wrong with America that you can’t trace back to simple greed.

Religion is huge in America. Ridiculously huge. To the rest of the western civilized world it’s bordering on insanity. It’s greed. Religion is a big, big, tax exempt business.

All political decisions are made by people on corporate payrolls. Talk around it anyway you want, but the simple fact is that bribery, by any other name is still bribery, even when it’s wrapped up nicely and spun as lobbying.

Education receives cutbacks and CEO’s making millions receive tax cuts, breaks and exemptions. Industries that should have been allowed collapse and the individual players absorb each other, which makes way for new start-ups, new innovation and new business, get hand-outs in the billions.

Again the problem is greed. An educated American instinctively shirks off certain intellectual shackles. Educated people tend to push away from religion, which is bad for the business of religion, which in the U.S. and lets not beat around the bush here, is the business of making money. It’s the great con. It’s not about saving your soul so that you can be rewarded in some divine after life, it’s about lying to you now so that those who peddle religion can reap the rewards in this life.

Educated people also tend to question things – purchases, advice, media, authority and none of those things are good for big business. Big business would prefer that you know just enough to make money and to spend it on what they tell you to, but not enough that you question them, their motives or authority.

They want you to be sheep.

I don’t blame them (the corporations) for that. If I were in charge I’d want exactly the same thing. It makes perfect business sense.

So, what do education, religion, greed and corporations have to do with PROTECT-IP, and SOPA?

Education, or more importantly, the limiting of access to information by essentially creating the “Great Firewall of America”. Despite what you may be told by those people introducing these bills, the fact of the matter is they are far more wide reaching than just blocking access to pirate sites outside the U.S.

…law would not only require ISPs to remove websites from the global network at the request of the government or the courts (by blocking any requests to the central domain-name system that directs internet traffic), but would also be forced to monitor their users’ behavior in order to police acts of copyright infringement. Providers who do not comply with these requests and requirements would be subject to sanctions. And in many cases, legal hearings would not be required. As Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) said of the PROTECT-IP Act:

At the expense of legitimate commerce, PIPA’s prescription takes an overreaching approach to policing the Internet when a more balanced and targeted approach would be more effective. The collateral damage of this approach is speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.

In effect, the new law would route around many of the protections in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, including the “safe harbor” provisions (a number of law professors have said that they believe the proposed legislation would be unconstitutional because it is a restraint on freedom of speech). The idea that ISPs and internet users can avoid penalties if they remove content once they have been notified that it is infringing, for example, wouldn’t apply under the new legislation — and anyone who provides tools that allow users to access blacklisted sites would also be subject to penalties.

It gets worse:

Techdirt’s Mike Masnick notes that the new bill actually expandsthe range of websites that could be targeted by the bill: the previous version referred to sites that were “dedicated to infringing activities” with no other obvious purpose, but the new law would allow the government to target any site that has “only limited purpose or use” other than infringement (by the government’s definition).

The bottom line is that if it passes and becomes law, the new act would give the government and copyright holders a giant stick — if not an automatic weapon — with which to pursue websites and services they believe are infringing on their content. With little or no requirement for a court hearing, they could remove websites from the internet and shut down their ability to be found by search engines or to process payments from users. DMCA takedown notices would effectively be replaced by this nuclear option…

Great firewall indeed. More liberties being eroded, (and don’t give me the bullshit that this is just about piracy.- this goes WAY beyond piracy and hits your freedom of speech directly) and there doesn’t appear to be a peep about it from mainstream America.

Perhaps mainstream America doesn’t care… right now. But they will care if one day they wake up and find that core parts of their online lives which they take for granted are gone.

But caring only goes so far as the uneducated (and that’s how they are trying to keep America) tend not to question things for long (if at all) and just move on.

I’ll wrap this post up with this sound bite from Hillary Clinton which she gave during a BBC Television interview recently (thanks to No Agenda for the clip), where she’s talking about training people to bypass the Iranian regimes control of the internet:

[audio http://assets.scrwmedia.com/hillary_clinton_iran_bbc.mp3|width=450|bgcolor=0×000000|titles=Hillary Clinton Talking About Iran On BBC|bgcolor=ffffffff|animation=no|remaining=yes]

This is one of my highest priorities. I’ve spoke out repeatedly about the right of people to have access to the Internet. It is freedom of speech and expression and assembly – values that we think every human being is entitled to.

How can American politicians say those kind of things about the need for internet access in other countries, about it being a basic human right, and then allow the introduction of such bills on their home turf?

I think you know the answer.

Why not do something about it? Make your voice heard. Take a step towards being great again.

Blogging to Infamy

You may have noticed some of the negative blog posts which have been floating around the web today with regards to Blogging to Fame, a project run by Indian blogger Divya Uttam!

It all came to my attention when Antman from Cre8buzz messaged me this morning asking for my opinion on his post “A scam or not a scam…

I was going to launch into a devastating attack and lay waste to all in my path but stopping to open a nice bottle of wine gave me the time to finally pause today and think about all this.

The resultant thought may not please anybody.

Okay before I get to explaining that thought (probably the only one I’ll have for the week) I’d best give a little background.

Sara from Suburban Oblivion believes that Blogging to Fame is a scam of some sort.

Antman does a fairly decent job of surmising her argument:

Spelling mistakes
Poor grammar
Only contact info is in India
Chicago Seminar Link is dead
Copyright is Worldnet Labs, and she can’t find em on Google
See’s Blogging To Fame as an SEO and Linkbait site

Needless to say Divya, from BTF, had her own things to say about this. She posted comments in multiple paces but I’ll just post the email she sent in reply to me asking her about the posts:

Hi Paul,

I know about the negative attention Blogging to Fame is getting from a few in the blogosphere, I had put in comments clarifying the doubts Sara had but guess she was in no mood to publish it. We started Blogging to Fame at an early stage to get the things rolling. As for World Net Labs, we are coming up with the site which will be there in two days. We had also put in about our team, and specified our States Representative’s address. I have been constantly in conversation with many of our members and would be putting Jury section soon, which would include good names of internet. I think that will bring enough credibility to the contest.

I cannot put at stake the love I have got from my readers for a linkbating technique, and my team has worked day and night for this project. I do not know what they think when they compare junk emails shot to millions of accounts from an anonymous yahoo email address to a site we had put our hard work into. Anyways registration is free, we do not compel to put widgets to be in the competition, People who trust us can be in the contest and be a part of revolution.

I have put in a Comment at: http://www.cre8buzz.com/blog/2007/06/05/a-scam-or-not-a-scam/
You can have a look at it if you wish to. I am thankful to people who trust me and believe in the project. I promise that this Contest and Seminar would turn up in a big way, the way it is being projected by us.

 
Thanks Paul for your support,

If you have any further specific queries be sure to contact me, and best of luck for the contest.

Regards,
Divya

Now, I don’t know Divya personally.

My only exchanges with her have been via email after I had registration problems with BTF (she fixed the problem personally) and we’ve crossed sabers on some blog posts in the past.

My impression of Divya is that she is on the level and I believe that this is not a scam.

People do nut usually invest as much time and effort in a scam as she has in BTF. Divya’s blog used to be awesome. It’s suffered a terrible decline in quality since she’s diverted her attention to BTF.

So, who’s wrong here?

EVERYBODY IS!

Divya’s is pouring her heart and soul into BTF but has made a few mistakes a long the way.

Those mistakes could justifiable give rise to concerns expressed by Sara at Suburban Oblivion.

Sara got it wrong as well. Her post is a little xenophobic and shows a complete lack of research before announcing to her readers that BTF is a scam.

I’m not picking a fight here. I’m guilty of not doing as much research as I should from time to time.

I’m going to climb on to the back of a moral horse here. It’s a horse on which I do not deserve to sit myself, but there is a point to be made here about dealing with this.

Sara’s concerns are genuine, but her handling of it was off.

Contacting Divya is really easy to do and one or two exchanged emails, or a quick phone call, would have cleared all of this up without any of the drama.

Also, Sara didn’t approve the comments Divya posted to Sara’s blog in response.

This was wrong. Yes Sara did repost the comments in a post all of their own but she should have let them stand where they were as well.

Worse still is that Sara did not approve Antman’s comments and also re-posted them in a post along with Divya’s.

Antman’s comments were then somehow, misunderstood by a host of Sara’s readers and Sara herself, resulting in yours truly having to step in and clarify after a number of Ant bashing comments were made.

The reason for Antman’s post not being allowed to stand is, apparently, because he is “an online acquaintance of” Divya’s.

That’s just not right!

If you’re going to call somebody out you have to allow them make their statement and their comments, right or wrong, just like everybody else.

You shouldn’t treat people some peoples comments differently just because it disagrees (or you think it does in this case) with your theory.

We’re bloggers. As a group we’re always complaining about how we should be taken seriously and how we should be given more mainstream acceptance.

This incident is exactly why we, as bloggers, should NOT be allowed main stream acceptance.

It’s proves we are sitting at the back of the class only to be let out into a fantasy world where we can play journalist / reporter.

A little research, an email or a phone call would have gone a long way to resolving this issue.

It’s something that we, as bloggers, tend to neglect to do in our hunt for the next big Digg or Techmeme traffic rush! (I’m not suggesting that was Sara’s motive. She appears simply to have been concerned BTF may be a scam which people could get sucked into)

Divya made mistakes with BTF. Sarah made mistake with handling this.

That is the nature of things.

Divya has already admitted to her fault. I can only hope that Sara will, at least, tell her readers that another side exists to this story.

As for me? Well, I wish Divya the best with BTF. I believe it “does exactly what it says on the tin”.

I also wish Sara the best. I’m going to subscribe to her blog once I’ve finished writing this post.

I just hope that we, the blogging community, learn from this. I hope that we, don’t repeat the same mistakes.

We have a responsibility to our readers to check the facts as best we can before printing. We’ll never be taken seriously other wise.

Do we want to the blogosphere to be considered the equivalent of a  bunch of tabloid rags relying on titillation, innuendo and shock to maintain an audience or do we want to be consider on par with the Times?

I know which I’d prefer! How about you?

O’Flaherty Episode #12 – Blizzard bashing!

Blizzard Bashing!

I’m in a ranting mood today bashing everything within reach.

Great music from The Joules.

Links

Credit

Download Podcast MP3: O’Flaherty #12 7.4 Mb 0:15:30

Ostracize the Xenophobes – AmericaNet

Note: April 4th 2017 – The problems outlined in this post become even more of an issue since the introduction of more top level domains such as .audio, .blog, .biz. Also, rather depressingly, 10 years after since I wrote the original article and America is still the #1 source of spam according to Spamhaus.

Lifehacker had what I can only call a xenophobic post yesterday: Stop spam from foreign countries.

The short post deals with a method of eliminating spam from Outlook by using top-level domain blocking.

It’s known that most spam (particularly malware such as keyloggers) originates overseas (Estonia, Moldavia, China, Poland, etc.) By blocking email from most of the undeveloped world, I’ve successfully reduced spam by 95 percent in the past year. In Outlook, click Actions > Junk E-Mail > Junk E-Mail Options. Click the International tab, then the Blocked Top-Level Domain List button. Now select the countries you wish to block.

Let’s just look at the two major problems with this approach quickly.

The first major problem is that most people who use this method (Lifehacker readership) will most likely block all domains except “.com” and “.us” and any other us centric domains and automatically be treating any legitimate emails from other top-level domains you block as spam.

So, if you live in the U.S., use top-level domain blocking and subscribe to either to either the comments or the daily digest of this blog by email then you won’t be receiving the information you’ve subscribed to.

You’ll be automatically blocking all email from this blog and any personal emails from me as this site is on a  “.dk” (Denmark) domain.

The next major problem with this approach is that it’s simply bullshit to assume that the majority of spam originates outside the US.

According to Sophos, the United States is the number one, NUMERO UNO, #1, spam relaying country in the world.

Sophos aren’t the only ones to come to this conclusion.

Spamhaus, have a much more up to date count of which countries are the worst spam offenders. Once again the U.S. is out in front.

It really bugs me that a lot of people who live in the U.S. act like the internet only exists in the U.S. and for U.S. centric activities.

There are WAY more people online in the rest of the world that there are in the U.S.

Let’s look at language. According to Internet World Stats there are approximately 1,114,274,426 internet users and only 29.5% of them use English online.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that the 29.5% represents the Americans online either. You have to think about all the other English speaking countries out there.

Wikipedia has a list of 74 countries which have English as an official language. It also lists their respective populations.

It might surprise to realize that the US is only second on the list in terms of population (300,007,997) behind India which has a population of 1,103,600,000.

Obviously, not every one of the 2,174,387,694 people in these 74 countries speaks English even though it’s an official language.

But the same is true of the U.S.

Using the Wikipedia numbers we can see that the United States only makes up 13.79% of the English-speaking world.

Now, the United States may be the biggest internet using country in the world with 69.9% penetration, but it still only accounts for 18.9% of the worlds total internet users (assuming everybody with internet access actually uses the internet).

China accounts for 12.3% of world internet users but only has 10.4% penetration. What will the internet be like when China attains the same percentage penetration as the U.S?

Or how about India which has over 800 million more people than the US does and only 3.5% penetration. When India reaches similar levels of penetration it will account for over 789 million internet users.

You see, the U.S is just a small part of the internet and as other countries catch up in terms of internet penetration the U.S. centric nature of the web will disappear.

U.S internet users need to come to terms with this, and quickly. The internet does not exist just for the U.S. and it has grown far beyond its humble beginnings to become something that no country or nation can or should claim as theirs.

For the U.S. users who can’t accept this and who believe that following the advice in the Lifehacker post will be productive, I propose that we build a separate internet just for you.

We should build an an internet just for the xenophobic section of U.S. internet users so they can be safe in their delusional paranoia and self-imposed exile from the rest of the world.

You can even call it AmericaNet if it makes you feel more patriotic and safe!

To the rest of the U.S. internet users that are smart enough to realize that the internet does not exist for U.S. interests alone and who like to get an outside opinion, you’re more than welcome to hang out with the rest of us on the plain old internet.

O’Flaherty Episode #09 – Spaten München

Spaten München

I’m pissed of at Apple iTunes. Microsoft makes good with Firefox. Facebook may yet grant my wish. You too can own a social network  and my podcasting glass is revealed.

My voice decides to disappear mid way through the podcast. Thankfully a drink from my official podcasting glass brings it back and I can continue.

Awesome music from Surfact.

Links

Music

Credit

Download Podcast MP3: O’Flaherty #09 8.33mb 0:18:16

O’Flaherty Episode #08 – The OFlaherty Doctrine!

The O’Flaherty Doctrine!

Tim O’Reilly’s proposed Bloggers Code of Conduct provokes a rant from me.

One or two minor audio jumps. Sorry folks!

Great music by The Joules!

Links

Music

Credit

Download Podcast MP3: O’Flaherty #08 11.91 mb 0:26:07