This just in: FOX News is stunned that smartphone cameras can be used to record the police.

Help me out here, the year is still 2018, right? I only ask because apparently the folks at FOX & Friends First are very alarmed by the fact that smartphones have cameras on them. Cameras that can record video clips. Cameras that can record video clips of police officers. Almost like, *GASP!*, BODY CAMERAS!

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!

To be fair, they’re freaking out over a shortcut some dude came up with for the iPhone that makes recording an encounter with the police very easy by simply saying  “Hey Siri, I’m being pulled over.” 

Here’s why this is stupid: First, cell phones have had cameras capable of recording video since at least 2005, though video recording capabilities wouldn’t become commonplace until a few years later. The original iPhone, for example, had a 2MP camera and couldn’t record video. Still, it’s easily been doable for over a decade now. 

Second, being able to start recording a video with a voice command has been a thing since at least 2014. With my Pixel 2 in my shirt pocket all I need to say is “OK Google, record a video,” and it will launch the camera app in video mode and start recording immediately. In most of my shirt pockets the phone is just tall enough to peak over the top of the pocket. This makes it trivally easy to start a recording without making it obvious that I’m doing so. At least so long as the target is out of earshot as I have to issue the command and the phone acknowledges that it’s launching the app. Once I stop recording my phone is set to immediately back it up to my Google Photos account. The one drawback to this is that if it’s been awhile since you unlocked the phone then you may need to unlock it before it’ll start the app, but with the fingerprint reader that’s pretty easy to do.

Third, this isn’t something that can only be done on the newest iPhones as the report above suggests. It’ll work on any iPhone running iOS 12 and the Shortcuts app. It’s not even the only shortcut that’ll do this. The I Got Pulled Over shortcut is also available. 

The big innovation here is that the Police shortcut pauses music you may be playing, turns down the brightness on the iPhone, turns on “do not disturb” mode, starts recording with the front facing camera and sends out a text message to a friend letting them know where you are and that you’re recording a police encounter. Guess what? There have been apps that will do similar things for quite some time now.

On Android there’s Legal Equalizer which will text a contact of your choice, record the encounter and upload it to cloud storage, advise you of your rights and what to say, and even help find a lawyer.

Also, there is the Mobile Justice app developed in association with the ACLU which has been around since 2012. There are multiple versions of this app as each is specific to a state (here is the link for Mobile Justice: Michigan on Android and here’s the iPhone version). This app is more for activists as in addition to recording video and uploading straight to the local chapter of the ACLU, it has the ability to let you know when someone else is involved in a police encounter nearby so you can act as a witness.

That’s just two examples of dozens of apps. The point being that this isn’t anything new. So why is FOX acting like this is some shocking new affront to the police? Well, it turns out that lots of news organizations are reporting on it because the shortcut has shot up to become the third most popular one available at the moment. Business Insider did an article on it where they even show you how to make the shortcut yourself, USA Today wrote about it, Car and Driver got in on it, etc. and so on. The difference here is that FOX & Friends First decided to play it off as something bad because it’s FOX News: Propaganda Arm of the GOP since 1996.

Video gamers are so spoiled today.

As many of you know, I cut my video gaming teeth on the original Atari 2600 — or at least the Sears branded version of it — so I remember the good old days (ha!) of 8 bit gaming. Had you shown 10 year old me what current generation video games would be like, I wouldn’t have believed it possible. 

These days, video games have advanced to the point where highly detailed 3D worlds full of NPCs and tons of interactive objects are the norm. Naturally, our expectations of what a game should look and play like have risen accordingly, but there are times when I think we’ve gotten a little spoiled by the riches of modern gaming.

Take, for example, Marvel’s Spider-Man. Which has a brand new game launching on the PS4 today. I’ve been licking my chops waiting for this title to drop as the E3 demo from last year looked fantastic and it’s going to be a bit before I can get my hands on it. Probably not until Christmas as we’re at that point in the year that I tend to stop buying games for myself lest I screw up someone’s Christmas gift for me. It’s gonna be difficult to be patient because the demos I’ve seen are amazing. Which is why I’m surprised to find out some gamers are complaining that the game has been downgraded. 

Apparently, it all started with a post on Reddit that was just the screenshot I’ve included below. As you can clearly see, Spider-Man’s suit isn’t as shiny in the shot from the release version of the game as it was in the E3 demo. Also, where’d all that water go? 

It’s a Spider-Scandal! Click to embiggen.

Thus started the conversation about how the release version of the game had been “downgraded” graphically. Presumably for performance reasons. I say “conversation”, but that’s probably being way too generous. Basically, some fans went apeshit and proclaimed loudly that they were going to cancel their preorder and so on and so forth.

Eventually someone took to Twitter to send the screenshot to the developer, Insomniac Games (who are responsible for some of the best Playstation games ever including the Ratchet & Clank and Resistance series) and asked why they downgraded the graphics to which Insomniac replied that they didn’t downgrade anything.  Which didn’t really help and the “debate” raged on. 

To be fair to the folks crying foul, there is a rich history in the video game industry of final releases that didn’t live up to the demos that developers had used to build up hype for the game. Probably one of the best known examples, that also helped sell a lot of PS4s in anticipation of its release, was Watch Dogs which allowed players to live out their super-hacker dreams in a GTA-style open world. When it was unveiled in 2012 the graphics in the demo were amazing, but the final release looked more like a port from the PS3 than the next gen title it was supposed to be.

Another example is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The initial footage wowed gamers in 2014 so gamers were surprised when the 2015 release had graphics that had been pared back. It was still an incredible looking game and it went on to great success, but there was no denying it didn’t live up to the initial footage even after developers released a patch that improved things. 

Maybe it’s because I’m old and I come from a time when ads for games often didn’t use actual screenshots or had simulated representations on TV, but even with the examples above I think folks are being nitpicky and this is especially true with the just released Marvel’s Spider-Man. Sure, I was underwhelmed by Watch Dogs once I got my hands on it, but that was due more to the fact that the gameplay wasn’t quite as varied as they had suggested. As for The Witcher 3, I had no problems with the release version’s graphic fidelity, but that hasn’t stopped me from only playing it for a few hours. For fuck’s sake, I played Spider-Man on the Atari 2600 and it looked like this:

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does some of the things a spider can.

Granted, that’s an 8 bit game written in just 4K memory circa 1982, but it wasn’t half-bad for what it was. It played a bit like the arcade game Crazy Climber in that it had bad guys showing up in windows who would cut your web lines and bombs from the Green Goblin you had to defuse while scaling the building. By comparison, the amount of detail and just sheer things you can do in Marvel’s Spider-Man is insane. Who the fuck cares if it isn’t quite as detailed as the E3 demo from last year? You get to swing from spider webs around a detailed 3D recreation of New York City beating the shit out of bad guys, finding collectables, and enjoying a narrative story that is more than a blurb on the back of the box the game came in. OH NOES! THE PUDDLES AREN’T AS DETAILED AS THE DEMO! I’M NOT PLAYING THIS CRAP!

There’s a group out there called Digital Foundry that came together in 2004 specifically to analyze video games and settle arguments such as the one about downgraded graphics in the final release of a title. A couple of days ago they released their video on Marvel’s Spider-Man and they argue that not only is the final release not downgraded, but it’s an improvement over the E3 demo in a lot of areas.

I don’t watch a lot of their videos, but I thought I’d check this one out given all the noise that’s been made about it. It was during that viewing that it occurred to me that video gamers have gotten spoiled. The DF folks do an amazing job of pointing out all the details that are in this game and the methods used to achieve those effects. You don’t have to fully understand what a Cube Map is to appreciate what it adds to the visuals when it’s pointed out to you. For a game that expects you to spend a lot of time swinging between buildings high in the air, there’s an amazing amount of detail at street level when you opt to just walk around a bit. From the number of unique and varied NPCs to the amount of traffic to the various storefronts, this looks and feels like a living world.

The DF folks show where you can see how the underlying game engine works to compromise between realism and playability in areas such as the reflections of other buildings in the windows of the one you’re climbing up and it’s the sort of thing you’re only likely to notice if you were looking for it. In the heat of gameplay it’ll probably never catch your attention and it shouldn’t matter that much if it does if the gameplay is fun. That stupid Atari 2600 game was as basic as you can get, but it was Spidey’s first video game and it kept us entertained for awhile and it’s nothing compared to this. Here, check out Digital Foundry’s video for yourself:

Holy shit! We have come a long way since 1982.

Isn’t that amazing? The detail on his costume alone is something that would’ve been impossible 10 years ago. It’s also a detail you’ll probably notice once before your eye is overwhelmed by all the visual candy on display. Now we’re on the verge of having real-time ray tracing in video games that only looks to make for another big leap in visual quality as it’ll help to eliminate some of the limitations current games have to work around. 

All of the reviews I’ve read for Marvel’s Spider-Man have it pegged as arguably the best Spider-Man game ever made.  So quit yer bitchin’ and appreciate what you’ve been offered here. While you’re at it, get the hell off of my lawn!

Thoughts on the Call of Duty: WWII PC Beta and Activison’s problem with cheaters.

This past weekend Activision gave fans of CoD on the PC a chance to try out the upcoming Call of Duty: WWII game in beta form. This was open to anyone with a Steam account as opposed to the console beta tests, which were limited only to folks who had preordered the game. I suspect this was in part because the last few CoD games have had very limited player populations on the PC compared to their console counterparts and the hope was that by allowing anyone to try it out they may convince a few more folks to slap some money down for it. At one point there was over 35,000+ players checking it out mid-day Sunday according to Steam Charts.

Overall I thought the game felt pretty good for being a beta. It ran smoothly on my machine and it looked pretty good doing so. It was a big adjustment to go from the wall-running jetpacks of Infinite Warfare and Black Ops 3 to the limited sprint and boots-on-the-ground of WWII, but it only took a few games to get acclimated. There were a number of graphical flourishes I noticed that enhanced the immersion a bit. On one of the maps with a lot of trees if a grenade went off next to a tree the tree would actually shake from the explosion.

Here’s a YouTube video I made of one of the matches I did pretty well in:

One annoyance that I hope gets fixed before the final release was that I couldn’t hear my own character’s callouts. As you run around the map you and your teammates will automatically call out enemies they see such as “Sniper in the upstairs window!” which can be helpful, but there were a couple of times where I thought I had snuck up on someone only to have them whip around and kill me. I couldn’t figure out why until I watched the killcam and realized my character had made a call out about the dude I had just tried to sneak up on alerting them to my presence. Other than that I have no real complaints about how the beta played.

Which isn’t to say I don’t have any additional complaints. One of the drawbacks to playing games like Call of Duty on the PC is that there will always be people who cheat at the game. On consoles this is usually limited to people who exploit glitches to get outside or under the map so they can get kills while being more or less immune. On the PC it goes a step further with third party programs called aimbots and wallhacks that allow the people using them to see where you are through walls and automatically aim and fire at your head with a simple button press.

Because each iteration of CoD is built upon the versions that came before it’s often trivial for the folks who create such hacks to modify them to work with the next game in the series. It took less than a day for an aimbot to show up in the WWII beta and in a 24 hour period I literally got placed into 5 different matches that had an aimbotter in it in spite of there being tens of thousands of people playing at the time.

I made a YouTube video of the first aimbotter I came across. You’ll note that for the first couple of minutes I don’t realize what’s happening and don’t bother to watch the killcams, but if you pay attention to the text chat in the lower left hand corner of the screen you can already see people arguing over whether or not someone is using an aimbot:

It takes until about my fourth or fifth death to watch the killcam and realize what’s going on. What really amazes me about this clip isn’t the guy cheating, it’s the person on his team telling others to shut the fuck up about it and go back to playing Minecraft if we don’t like it. As though he wouldn’t be upset if he were on the opposite team. I didn’t stick around long after realizing there was a cheater which is why the clip is so short.

Remember how I said the PC beta was open to anyone who wanted to check it out? Turns out this was a terrible idea because anyone who wanted to cheat just had to set up a brand new Steam account and install the beta with the hack and have at it without fear of repercussions.

A little later in the same day I was in a group with Giddy Wraith, who I often play CoD with these days, when we came across another aimbotter. I’m not sure if the cheat was using a crappy hack or if he was overseas, but you can see his character stuttering as he moves around the map. Before the end of the round he ends up timing out and being kicked from the match which allowed us to rally and end up winning. I had my mic on for this one so you get to hear me bitch about it:

I didn’t upload that video right away. I ended up having some minor insomnia and got up around 1:30AM Sunday morning and decided to edit the video and upload it to YouTube. Then I thought I’d see if anyone was playing the beta.

Literally the first match I got into after uploading the above video had another aimbotter in it. I decided to play out the whole match so I could record as much of it as I could. Again, I do a fair amount of bitching about it in the video and you can also hear the cheater laughing about it at one point:

As a PC player none of this is unexpected. There’s always gonna be some assholes out there who are willing to ruin a game experience for other people. Activision maintains an enforcement team specifically to deal with cheaters like the ones above. The folks who make the cheats are always working to improve them and there are enough people willing to purchase stolen game keys and the hacks that the ability to eliminate the problem completely is probably nil, however, this wouldn’t be a big deal if Activision did a decent job of policing their games.

On the PC they don’t seem to be doing much of that at all. In Infinite Warfare there’s an asshole who goes by the name “xihucoatl” who has been aimbotting for months without repercussions. He’s never bothered to set up his Steam profile probably because he assumed he’d be banned pretty quickly, but so far that hasn’t happened.

I first reported him in-game back in April and then I contacted Activision’s support folks on Twitter about him a month later. Their response was to report him in-game, which I and a lot of other people have done. I’ve contacted them repeatedly since then and they always give the same response. It’s now October and here he is still aimbotting away:

Anyone who watches the video can clearly see he’s cheating. At one point I use an ability called “phase shift” that puts you into an alternate dimension for three seconds making you impervious and invisible unless someone phase shifts at the same time. You can clearly see him following me and firing in the killcam while I am phase shifted and he gets a headshot as soon as I phase back in.

He’s been doing this for months. He’s managed to reach Master Prestige 11 with this account which suggests he’s got at least a hundred hours into the game. I have 759 hours in the game and I am Master Prestige 21.

To be fair, there are other aimbotters in IW that we have reported who do appear to have gotten a ban, but it took months for it to happen. When the game is only averaging 802 players world-wide a day that becomes a big problem. There are days where it can be difficult to find a match that doesn’t have a cheater in it which results in my not playing the game for long that day. I don’t know if cheating is so rampant on the PC that Activision is overwhelmed trying to deal with it or they don’t bother with the PC as much because we have such low player populations.

It didn’t help that when Infinite Warfare was released it was incomplete. Standard features such as leaderboards and the emblem editor didn’t come out for a couple of months and a number of challenges weren’t registering properly. Add in the rampant cheating that goes undealt with and it’s no wonder the player population dropped off so quickly. At its peak just after launch there were 15,312 players on the PC with a daily average 4,995 for the month of November. Certainly not a record number, but not bad. The daily average for December was only half that with a peak of 5,496. It’s only gotten worse from there.

I stopped playing the WWII Beta mid-day Sunday because by then I had ended up in an additional two matches with an aimbotter in them and it seemed unlikely that I was going to find many matches that didn’t have someone cheating. For a while I considered canceling my preorder of the game which would make it the first CoD I didn’t play. In the end I opted to stick with it as it is my favorite FPS series and I’ve yet to find another that I enjoy as much. At least when I can find a match that doesn’t have someone cheating. I hope Activision does a better job of policing cheaters on the PC, but given the example above, I am worried they won’t.

Why Christians are seen as the bad guys: Santa isn’t real edition.

Meet Christian pastor/asshole David Grisham of Last Frontier Evangelism. David isn’t happy with parents telling their kids that Santa Claus is watching over them and judging whether they’ve been good or bad and then rewarding them appropriately because that’s Jesus’ job. That’s why he took it upon himself to head to his local mall where parents and kids were lined up to visit Santa and tell everyone the truth about how he’s not real:

Of course the irony here is that Pastor Asshole is insisting that folks should substitute one myth for another. Regardless, he’s another example of a Christian who isn’t happy that some folks are celebrating Christmas in a manner he doesn’t approve of and he’ll be damned before he lets anyone get away with that.

He’s not all that different from the Christians who demand that people say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings.” Upset that someone, somewhere isn’t acknowledging the Christ is CHRISTmas, they post indignant Facebook memes insisting “Merry Christmas” is the only acceptable greeting as though there aren’t a multitude of religious holidays that take place this time of year and that someone might be something other than Christian.

Christmas is one of the best bits of PR Christians have going for them. It’s been embraced as a national holiday in a number of countries and is seen as a celebration not just of the birth of their imaginary friend, but as a celebration of peace and goodwill towards others. It encourages folks to reconnect with friends and families, to be kind and generous, and to aspire to being better people. Regardless of whether anyone buys into the idea of Jesus, the holiday goes a long way to making people be better than they usually are.

At least up until some Christian gets annoyed because they think the people celebrating aren’t putting enough emphasis on the Christ part and decides to ruin the goodwill by pissing all over how other people choose to celebrate. You guys need to realize this is as much a secular holiday as a religious one and has been for a very long time. More importantly, you should stop to think about how you look like an asshole every time you insist others should conform to how you think the holiday should be observed.

You can say Merry Christmas all you want and most folks you say it to are going to take it as a gesture of goodwill. There’s no need to ruin that by insisting everyone must celebrate the holiday the way you do.

Conservatives seem to have a bad memory of their own behaviors.

I keep seeing this meme pop up on my Facebook wall:

republicanriotmeme

I’ve already been blocked by one die hard Conservative for daring to reply to it when they posted it and I’ll probably be blocked by a few more before I’m done.

Yes, this is technically true. Republicans didn’t riot when Obama won in 2008. They did rush out and buy a shitload of guns because they were scared shitless that Obama was going to try take away their second amendment rights — something he never even so much as tried to do in all of his time in office — but they didn’t technically riot. They did the same thing again when he was re-elected in 2012 driving gun sales to record levels in the process.

However, this meme ignores an important distinction: Obama’s wins in no way threatened the well being of white people. Unlike President-elect Trump, Obama never threatened to deport white people or ban Christians from entering the country or take away white people’s right to marry. Obama didn’t insult and denigrate his opponents constantly or talk about how he would like to punch a heckler in the mouth. He didn’t talk about imprisoning his political rivals despite the fact that a good case could have been made that George W. Bush was guilty of war crimes. In fact, he made a point of saying he wasn’t even going to look into the idea of prosecuting anyone involved in the disastrous Iraq war. He ran a campaign not based on fear, but on hope and change for the better. Whether Conservatives want to believe it or not, they faced no real threat from Obama winning other than having to live with some policies they didn’t agree with. So why would they protest in the streets?

Which isn’t to say they didn’t protest. How many years did we have to put up with Conservatives whining about how Obama wasn’t born in America so he shouldn’t be eligible to be President? Hell, there were books written on the topic and even Trump himself kept questioning Obama’s status as a citizen right up until he started campaigning. The fuckers are still screaming he’s a socialist/Muslim/dicktator/fascist/traitor every chance they get.

On social media Republicans are crying about folks using the #NotMyPresident hashtag ignoring the fact that many of them were saying the same damned thing about Obama for the past eight years. Suddenly the act of declaring Trump as “not their President” is offensive to Republican sensibilities.

Then there’s this:

WE'LL TAKE TO THE STREETS IF TRUMP DOESN'T WIN!

WE’LL TAKE TO THE STREETS IF TRUMP DOESN’T WIN!

And then this:

Why I do declare, I don't understand why people are taking to the streets in protest! We Republicans would NEVER do such a thing.

Why I do declare, I don’t understand why people are taking to the streets in protest! We Republicans would NEVER do such a thing.

There was no shortage of Conservatives threatening armed revolt if Clinton won the election. We’ll never know what would’ve happened had Clinton won, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if it were Republicans in the streets crying “Not My President” because the irrational hatred of Clinton among those folks is deep after 20 years of demonization by the Republican party. For fuck’s sake, you shiftless bastards were talking about impeaching her as soon as she took office before the election was even decided.

And don’t cry to me about how some of the protestors are rioting when this sort of shit is coming from your side of the divide:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

I could go on and on, but you get the point. So, yes, technically the meme I posted at the top of this entry is correct. Republicans didn’t take to the streets to protest Obama’s election wins. That doesn’t mean the folks protesting Trump’s win don’t have good reasons to do so. If you honestly can’t understand why folks, particularly minorities, are upset about Trump winning then either you haven’t been paying attention or you’re just a heartless bastard.

And before you even suggest it, no, I’m not saying they should be rioting and committing crimes, but by and large most of the protests have been peaceful. Yes, some have turned violent. That happens sometimes when a lot of emotional people are gathered in public. We can’t seem to get through a national sports championship without some idiots setting shit on fire, which is an infinitely stupider reason to riot than what is motivating these folks.

At the very least, if you’re going to bitch about it then try not to be such hypocritical fucks while doing so.

I miss drinking cola.

I gave up drinking regular sodas in my early thirties and diet colas in 2011 which means it’s been 5 years since I’ve last tasted a cola of any kind.

I really miss it.

Most days I’m fine and it doesn’t cross my mind, but then something happens and I’m reminded how much I loved Coca Cola in particular and colas in general. Today it’s my cubemate sitting across from me with a Diet Coke. He’s not flaunting it or anything, it’s just sitting there on his desk and he’s taking occasional sips from it.

And it looks so good.

These days 98% of what I drink in a day is plain old tap water. I start the day with a cup or two of coffee and then it’s my 32 ounce water bottle for the rest of the day. Anne’s been including small cans of tomato juice in my lunch the last week or so and that’s made for a nice change. Occasionally I’ll have some milk with dinner. Otherwise it’s lots and lots of water.

I hate water. It’s so fucking boring. Putting lemon in it or one of the various flavoring mixes doesn’t help so I just drink it plain, but I hates it. I know I’m better off having given up sodas and drinking more water, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

I don’t really have a point with all of this, I’m just feeling a bit whiney so I thought I’d get it out of my system.

cocacola

A lesson in avoiding the question by Rakuten.com.

Twitter can be a great method for contacting a company for help with a problem. Often when I have a problem with some business that has a presence on Twitter I’ll take the time to compose a small rant in 140 characters or less and send it off into the Interwebs where I know someone associated with said company will see it. There’s a good chance I’ll get the help I’m looking for pretty quickly.

Twitter is also great for tweaking companies doing stupid things even when you don’t expect them to actually do anything to fix the problem. I did this recently with Rakuten.com. I bought something from them way back when they were still Buy.com and I’ve been getting daily emails about stuff they have on sale ever since. That purchase was easily 5 years or more ago and I’ve not been compelled to purchase anything from them in that time so I figured I may as well unsubscribe from the emails.

When I did I was notified that it would take 5 to 7 business days before the change would take effect. I blinked at the note and tried to figure out why the fuck it should take that long to unsubscribe me when signing me up was near instantaneous. Almost all the other online stores whose email ads I’ve unsubscribed from managed to do it within moments with maybe a couple saying a day or so. What the fuck was Rakuten doing that it takes 5 to 7 business days? This prompted me to send out this tweet:

It took them a couple of hours to notice the tweet at which point they replied with this:

I was amused by the fact that rather than answer the question they simply assumed I was an idiot who didn’t know how to unsubscribe from their email advertisements. So I sent the next two tweets in reply:

It took them a few hours, but they came back with this reply:

Well that’s reassuring I suppose, but it still doesn’t answer the question so I tried again:

I figured at this point they’d give up and it looked like they had, until about 26 minutes ago:

I’ve not bothered to reply again as it’s clear that they’re not going to answer the question. Probably because the person running their Twitter account doesn’t know what the answer is. I thought that maybe I could prompt them into saying that they were working to improve their system for a speedier result in the future, but no such luck.

Like I said, I didn’t really expect them to do much about the situation, but I thought they’d at least offer some sort of explanation for the lengthy delay. Maybe some poor sap has to look at each request and approve it? Maybe they have so many people trying to opt out of their emails and they have a shitty server that’s overwhelmed by the load? Maybe they’re hoping I’ll change my mind before it actually stops sending me emails?

Nope. It’s going to take 5 to 7 business days and fuck you for asking why.

More people are using ad-blockers. Here’s one reason why.

An article over on Mashable talks about the increasing number of people using ad-blocking apps in their web browsers and how various sites are fighting back against the trend:

Websites know you’re using ad-blockers, and they’re coming for you.

Thanks to software that can detect whether a site visitor is using a blocker, websites can now direct messages at these readers, jam ads through to them anyway or even withhold stories. Uneasy publishers are increasingly turning to startups that give them the ability to detect and pierce through ad blockers, such as Sourcepoint and Pagefair.

Now, as a general rule, I don’t run an ad-blocker because I understand that it costs money to run a website in part because I maintain several myself; not the least of which is this blog. In fact the account I maintain to host blogs for my mother, sister, and a couple of friends costs me about $120 a year and its annual renewal is due this week and that’s not counting the monthly cost for the virtual server for SEB. You may also note that I have a couple of ads on SEB including a promo for Amazon on the sidebar and some Google Adsense ads at the bottom of each page. I also make use of Amazon affiliate links when talking about a product. None of that generates enough revenue to pay for the sites (I’m lucky if I get any money from them in a given year), but it makes for a couple bucks here and there.

So I can understand and I’m fine with a page having ads on it, but I’d be lying if I said that I never run an ad-blocker. I keep one installed because advertisers aren’t satisfied with having a rectangular banner at the top of the page or a square ad in the sidebar. Increasingly there’s been this trend of slapping a huge, full-screen ad right in the middle of whatever the fuck I’m trying to read 5 to 10 seconds after I started reading. I’m talking bullshit like this:

YOU WILL WATCH THIS AD FOR TEA REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WILL EVER BUY OUR PRODUCT!

YOU WILL WATCH THIS AD FOR TEA REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU WILL EVER BUY OUR PRODUCT!

I don’t drink tea. You could come up with a tea that causes multiple orgasms and piles of gold to spontaneously appear at my feet and I still wouldn’t drink it because tea is disgusting, but you’re going to insist I watch your fucking tea ad.

HEY! STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND WATCH THIS PROMO FOR A COMPANY YOU WILL NEVER DIRECTLY DEAL WITH YOURSELF!

HEY! STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING AND WATCH THIS PROMO FOR A COMPANY YOU WILL NEVER DIRECTLY DEAL WITH YOURSELF!

I’ve never understood why Boeing feels the need to advertise to the general public. Do they sell anything to the vast majority of people? They seem to have a rather niche market. What the fuck happened to the idea of targeted ads?

WE'RE KFC! CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS AD WITH OUR NEW FAKE COLONEL SANDERS IN IT! WHY IT'S SO FUNNY IT'S LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE!

WE’RE KFC! CHECK OUT THIS HILARIOUS AD WITH OUR NEW FAKE COLONEL SANDERS IN IT! WHY IT’S SO FUNNY IT’S LIKE WATCHING A MOVIE!

I like KFC. I shouldn’t because I’m fat and it’s not healthy, but I like it just the same. You don’t need to hard-sell me, or probably very many other fat people, on KFC. All this does is make me not like KFC as much because they’re getting in the fucking way of the article I’m trying to read.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn't give less of a shit about some billionaire's girlfriend.

The first link is bullshit just from the headline alone and I couldn’t give less of a shit about some billionaire’s girlfriend, but this is still better than a full screen ad.

It’s bad enough that a lot of the small, square ads these days feature auto-playing videos with the sound at full volume. That’s annoying enough without it taking up the ENTIRE FUCKING SCREEN. When I come across these ads the first thing I look for is the close button and I hit it before it has a chance to get more than 5 seconds into its spiel. I don’t care what you’re advertising. Even if it’s something that I might be interested in, the surest way to make certain I don’t hear about it is with a giant popup ad in the middle of a webpage. No close button? Then it’s the reload page button. Ad comes up again? Out comes the ad-blocker and now you’re not getting any revenue from my page visit because fuck you and your giant fucking ads in the middle of the content.

This is coming from a guy who will put up with multiple ads along the top, bottom, and sides of a webpage. Hell, I’ll put up with them being wedged awkwardly between every two or three paragraphs of the content itself — like some sites I visit currently do — so long as I can still read the content I went there for in the first place. I’ll even put up with the obvious bullshit click-bait ads being repeated over and over and over again on so many sites like the one here to the right despite the fact that I will never, in a million years, ever click on that ad.

According to one estimate sites are losing out on some big cash thanks to the increase in ad-blocker usage:

A widely cited report from Adobe and anti-ad blocker startup Pagefair estimates that ad blockers could cost the industry $21.8 billion in lost revenue this year — though the figure may have been overinflated by faulty economic reasoning — and that usage grew 41% in the last year.

So it’s no wonder they’re trying to fight back, but surely there’s a compromise that can be found between no advertising at all and loud and obnoxious full screen unstoppable auto-playing video ads. There are a handful of sites I’ve stopped going to altogether because it’s such a pain in the ass wading through all the popup advertisements to get to the content I went there for in the first place. I don’t want to turn my ad-blocker on, but some of these websites are making it harder and harder not to do so. And that’s not even getting into the topic of how many ad services these days are doing a piss-poor job of keeping malicious malware spreading ads out of their systems.

Scale it back a bit and I think you’ll find more people will shut off their ad-blockers. Keep going the way you’re going and it’ll just be an arms race to see who can out program the other.

Jimmy Kimmel pokes fun at YouTube Gaming. Gamers freak the fuck out.

Last Friday comedian Jimmy Kimmel — host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! — did a bit on his late night talk show about YouTube’s recent unveiling of YouTube Gaming. For those of you who are not aging gamers like myself, YouTube Gaming is Google’s attempt to take on Twitch, a site that allows gamers to live stream themselves playing video games. YouTube already has a pretty big video gaming community of players who post videos of them playing/critiquing/trolling and/or otherwise spending way too much time playing video games with PewDiePie being not only the most popular gamer making videos, but the most popular person on YouTube as a whole. YouTube Gaming allows you to organize all of those offerings in one spot as well as provides a streaming platform for games to compete with Twitch.

Anyway, Kimmel’s bit was about how he just doesn’t understand why anyone would sit and watch videos of other people playing video games. He compared it to being like going to a restaurant and watching someone eat his food for him. Here’s the bit:

Now I’m not unsympathetic to Jimmy’s argument. I wrote about the trend back when it was first getting started and I was amazed there were that many people out there content to watch someone else play a video game.

However, that was years ago and the folks making videos have evolved over that time such that it’s not just about watching someone else play video games. PewDiePie is probably the best example of this as his videos tend to be entertaining not because he’s so good at the games he plays, but because he’s goofy as fuck while playing them. There’s also been the rise of MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 that involve quite a bit of strategy as well as skill and can draw crowds that rival any major sporting event. It’s no longer just watching some other random dude play a game, though there’s plenty of that out there for those who are into that.

Personally, I don’t watch much of that sort of thing though I’ll indulge in the occasional video put out by Tony “Tobuscus” Turner on his gaming channel because, frankly, he’s an amusing idiot. I also watch videos by Drift0r and TmarTn for tips on Call of Duty class builds and strategies. So I can relate to both sides of the argument.

What I can’t relate to is the ridiculously vitriolic reaction from some parts of the gaming community to the light-ribbing Jimmy Kimmel gave YouTube Gaming. It’s been so bad that Kimmel has covered it on two different nights on his show. Check it:

Holy shit, what the fuck is wrong with you people?

While I’m sure most of that is hot air, there’s still no excuse for wishing fatal diseases on the man just because you didn’t like his comments about watching other people play video games. And there’s certainly no reason to imply you’re going to put a fucking bomb in his car and that you’re going to do terrible things to his wife and daughter.

And it’s not just Kimmel. Video game developers regularly get death threats when they make changes to their games to try and balance things out. It’s doubly bad if you’re a woman in the video game industry and don’t even think of being a Feminist trying to critique video games.

It’s tempting to suggest that this is just the perils of having a hobby that also includes way too many 12-year-old kids who shouldn’t be on the Internet unsupervised, but then you look at the profiles for a lot of these assholes and you realize this isn’t just a bunch of kids trying to look mature by being dickheads. It’s a bunch of adult assholes who really should know better by now. You want to know why people still look down on you when you say you’re a gamer? This is why.

I’ve been playing video games since the days of the original Atari 2600 and I love this hobby. Some of my best friends are people I’ve only known over the Internet, chatting through a headset while shooting up zombies or blasting away at Nazis or working together to take down a dragon. As an older gamer* I feel a bit of responsibility to tell you fucks to stop being so fucking butthurt over someone else not understanding your hobby and poking fun at it.

Your enjoyment is not dependent on Jimmy Kimmel understanding why you like to watch others play video games. You certainly shouldn’t be making death threats just because you’re not happy with something he (or anyone else) said about it.

(*As a side note, it’s really kind of weird to learn that I’m a couple months older than Jimmy Kimmel. He’ll turn 48 in November. I’m not used to being older than the hosts of popular late-night talk shows.)

No reasonable discussion seems possible with the pro-gun folks.

gundiscussionAll the pro-gun folks flip the fuck out as soon as anyone mentions the possibility that perhaps it’s a little too easy to get ahold of one these days and they start screamin’ that THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ALL OUR GUNS AWAY!

Fuck, they’ve been making that claim about Obama since before he was elected President and he’s been in office 6 years, 155 days, 20 hours, and 36 minutes (as of this post) and he has yet to propose even the smallest of gun legislation. That won’t stop the nuts from screamin’ he’s gonna do it any day now!

I think there is a reasonable discussion to be had on gun law reform, but we can’t have that discussion because of the knee-jerk reaction from the other side. It’s always amusing when I see the pic of the carpet knife show up with the quote about how the 9-11 hijackers used it to kill 3,000 people but no one is calling for a ban on carpet knives.

carpetknifecontrol

It’s just a tool and a gun is a tool and it’s the people that use it wrong that are the problem. That ignores the fact that when used properly a carpet knife doesn’t result in someone’s death whereas a gun when used properly is intended to kill something. Also you don’t have the high rates of suicide and accidental deaths with carpet knives that you have with guns, but, hey, other than that they’re exactly the same!

It is right about one thing: Gun control laws are about control. You’d think that would be obvious from the fact that we call them “gun control laws”, but apparently this is a stunning revelation to the pro-gun crowd. Also there’s more at stake than crime committed with guns. There’s also suicides and accidental deaths both of which are way more common with a gun in the home than with a carpet knife. When was the last time you read about some kid finding his dad’s carpet knife and accidentally slicing a sibling to death with it? Kids accidentally shooting each other happens almost weekly. We don’t even bat an eye at it anymore. So long as it’s not my kids killing each other than who cares? Those were obviously all irresponsible gun owners so they deserve what happened!

Back in 1996 after a mass-shooting at Port Arthur, Tasmania — a popular Australian tourist spot — left 35 people dead and 18 people seriously wounded the folks down under finally had had enough. Deciding that a decade of gun massacres that left over 100 people dead was more than enough, they enacted strict gun control laws. They outright banned rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, put in place tighter licensing requirements and set a uniform national standard for gun registration. They didn’t ban all guns and responsible people can still get a license and own guns.

The result? The risk of death from gunshot fell by 50% and has remained as such since. Gun buyback programs helped reduce the amount of suicides by firearms by 80%. In the 19 years since there hasn’t been another mass shooting. You’ll note that this doesn’t mean all gun violence has been eliminated, but it has been reduced significantly. The most recent incident they’ve had with an armed gunman was the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis where an armed man took 18 people hostage at a Lindt chocolate cafe for 16 hours. Near the end a gunshot rang out and the police stormed the cafe. Two hostages were killed, one by the gunman and one from a police bullet that ricocheted, the gunman was also killed. Four other folks were injured. So, yes, some gun violence still happens, but the outcome of that situation was a far cry from the Port Arthur massacre nearly 20 years before.

Among the wealthy, industrialized countries of the world — Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (England and Wales), United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and United Kingdom (Scotland) — the U.S. has a gun homicide rate 15 times higher than any of them. Some of those countries have some pretty strict gun control laws, but in most of them it’s still possible to own a gun. Our gun control is the loosest in the world and it shows.

As long as we continue on this path we will continue to have events like the Aurora theater shooting and the Newtown school massacre and the AME church rampage. I thought for sure that after 20 kids got killed in their school it would finally get the pro-gun folks to feel a little empathy, but nope! Fuck those kids! I ain’t givin’ up my Bushmaster rifle just because somebody else’s brats got shot up cause FREEDOM! What about the carpet knives?? Why aren’t you banning those? And cars! You can kill someone with a car! I ONCE SAW A MAN CHOKED TO DEATH WITH A MAGAZINE! WHY ARE WE STILL ALLOWING THESE DANGEROUS WEAPONS TO BE SENT THROUGH THE U.S. POSTAL SYSTEM????

Reasonable discussion is right out and until then it’ll be more of the same. Maybe someday the number of dead will be high enough to shock some sense into people, but it looks like there will be an awful price to be paid the way things are going.