Archive for ‘Technology’

06/21/2014

On rumors that Microsoft’s terms of service are anti-gun

by wfgodbold

Though the Firearm Blog and Lyle voiced their concerns about Microsoft being the latest in a line of companies to refuse their business to those engaged in lawful commerce in arms, I think their criticisms are, for the most part, unfounded.

The currently-in-force agreement incorporates the code of conduct that bans the sale of firearms and ammunition (the 2009 code of conduct referenced by TFB). However, MS has updated its terms of service (as of June 11, 2014), and the new terms–which go into effect on July 31, 2014 and replace the current terms–do not incorporate the reference to the 2009 code of conduct. If you wish to read the outgoing terms, they are listed halfway down the page under the heading “Archived Microsoft Services Agreement.”

The new terms also do not ban using the products to sell firearms or ammunition; instead of a long list of prohibited conduct, they have cut it back to general principles:

i. Don’t use the Services to do anything illegal.

ii. Don’t engage in any activity that exploits, harms, or threatens to harm children.

iii. Don’t send spam or use your account to help others send spam. Spam is unsolicited bulk email, postings or instant messages.

iv. Don’t publicly display inappropriate images (e.g. nudity, bestiality, pornography).

v. Don’t engage in activity that is false or misleading (e.g. attempts to ask for money under false pretenses, impersonating someone else).

vi. Don’t engage in activity that is harmful to the Services or others (e.g. viruses, stalking, hate speech, advocating violence against others).

vii. Don’t infringe upon the rights of others (e.g. unauthorized sharing of copyrighted music, resale or other distribution of Bing maps, photographs and other Content).

viii. Don’t engage in activity that violates the privacy of others.”

Those are all of the restrictions in section 3.6: “What type of Content or actions aren’t permitted?

So while it is technically true that the Microsoft Services Agreement–as it stands right now–prohibits using its products in conjunction with the sale of arms or ammunition, at the end of July it will not.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Rely on it at your own risk. I wrote this mainly because I needed a break from studying for the bar exam.

12/18/2012

Those proposing bans on semiautomatic firearms* want to take us back to the ’80s

by wfgodbold

The 1880s.

Those of you who are good at math will note that that is closer to the 1791 ratification of the Second Amendment than to today (~90 years vs. ~130 years). Certainly far closer to the framing than TV, or the internet, but about on par with radio.

Proposing that somehow the arms protected by the Second Amendment are only those in existence at its framing and ratification is the first step down a dangerous road. If that logic applies to the Second Amendment, there’s no reason it couldn’t apply to any of the others.

Twitter? Facebook? The entire internet? TV? Movies? Video games?

Not protected under the First Amendment because at its framing and ratification you had to own a printing press and print pamphlets or stand on a soapbox and shout at passers-by to be heard.

Email? Cars? Your computer? Cloud storage?

All searchable without a warrant, probable cause, or even reasonableness, because the framers did not have any of that technology.

If you don’t like the Second Amendment, you’re welcome to try to repeal it, but consider: Would repealing the First Amendment mean that we no longer have the freedom of speech, or the press, or religion? Rights are not conferred by the government–they are, in the words of the Framers, unalienable.

Self-defense is a human right, and the best, effective means of self-defense is a firearm. A firearm puts the weak, the infirm, and the small on equal footing with their attacker.

To abrogate that right in the face of media-driven hysteria would be wrong, particularly when that hysteria is based on several false assumptions: (1) Mass shootings are not becoming more common, (2) An assault weapons ban would not have stopped the CT shooter, (3) Anything that would have prevented the CT shooting would have serious constitutional problems, and (4) America has already had a conversation about guns, and the gun control side lost.

I understand the drive to do something, but gun control proponents are focused more on doing anything, whether it would work or not, and whether it would be constitutional or not.

*Including, among others, the NY Post, which somehow fails to note (probably because of the pearl-clutching) that the AR-15 was invented in the late 1950s. The NYT notes that the AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America (and yet disingenuously posts a picture of a rifle that would be illegal under CT law, instead of one that was legal, like the shooter actually used). In Heller, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment protects arms in “common use.” (554 U.S. at 627) The most popular rifle in America surely falls under this “common use” umbrella.

12/04/2012

In which I respond to aspersions cast by an internet necromancer

by wfgodbold

Nearly two years ago, I posted an overly long and verbose piece on why, despite my preference for region-free consoles and gaming, consumers don’t have the right to region-free games. This was mainly in response to Nintendo’s decision to region-lock the 3DS. Early this morning, through what I can only assume was the use of the necromantic arts, someone responded to that post. Because my response to that comment would have been far longer than a comment has any right to be, I chose to respond in a new post. Consider this a sequel to that original post.

In the two years since my original post, Nintendo launched the 3DS (region-locked), and then had to drop the price because it was too expensive and no one was buying it. I still have not bought one (the last Nintendo console I bought was the DS Lite–I haven’t bought a Wii and have no plans to buy a Wii U), though I have bought a PS3 and PS Vita in the meantime (both of which, you will notice, can at the very least play out-of-region physical games).

This, dear reader, is a little thing I like to call The Market.™

Sony has made choices with which I agree, and to support those choices, I am willing to pay for their consoles and games (and I have games for both systems from both the US and Japan).

Nintendo has continued to region-lock their consoles and games. The prices of those consoles and games have not dropped to the point where I would be willing to forego the ability to play games from all regions on one console, so I have not bought them (even though I would dearly love to play Tales of the Abyss with load times that aren’t measured in geologic time, and Project X Zone looks ridiculous enough to be awesome).

Sullivan, in his comment, says,

And Nintendo doesn’t owe you anything? You are a customer. Neither Nintendo nor their shareholders would make ANY money without the customers. They sure as hell owe you. And what you get for your money is that they patronize you and severely restrict your freedom. It is not okay. And telling people not to buy the system because of that is just stupid. It is not a solution. It was not the game developers’ choice to make games region locked.

In response, I would like to point out that Nintendo does not owe me anything.

I bought a DS Lite. Nintendo fulfilled its side of the bargain bye delivering what was promised–a region-free handheld gaming system. Since then, I have not been a Nintendo customer–I haven’t bought anything because I don’t want to pay them to restrict my gaming options. If you buy a 3DS/Wii/Wii U knowing that it’s region-locked, Nintendo still doesn’t owe you–you’re still getting exactly what you paid for.

I don’t owe support to game companies. Game companies don’t owe me good games, bad games, mediocre games, region-free games, or region-locked games. If a game company has a game I want to play, I buy it, and the relationship ends there.

Not buying the system because it’s region-locked is not only the solution, it’s the cheapest solution (it’s certainly cheaper than trying to get a big enough block of Nintendo stock to control the company’s decisions). If you’re not willing to give up the ability to play the games that come out despite the region-locking that Nintendo has foisted upon consumers, then you’ve made an economic decision that region-free gaming is not worth as much to you as it is to someone who chooses not to buy a Nintendo console because of the region-locking.

Nintendo is free to choose to region-lock their consoles and games. Sony is free to choose not to region-lock their consoles and games.

And the consumer is free to vote with his wallet and support whichever philosophy he agrees with, if he even cares. Sadly, I suspect most consumers don’t care about whether or not their consoles are region-locked.

09/24/2012

Sigh.

by wfgodbold

The latest Ig Nobel Prizes are out, and some of them are pretty entertaining.

One, though, was just depressing:

LITERATURE PRIZE: The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.

It’s reports all the way down at the GAO!

08/20/2012

The right to exclude…

by wfgodbold

Is the whole point of patent law.*

The sovereign grants the patentee an exclusive right to make, sell, import, etc. into that sovereign’s jurisdiction the subject matter of the patent.

In this case, that means Lewis Machine and Tool, has the right to exclude others from making, selling, importing, or using monolithic AR-15 upper receivers of their design.

Linoge is upset by this, and thinks it removes competition from the market.

He’s right, and he’s wrong.

It removes competition for this particular item until the term of the patent has ended (which should be in ~2029 or so; patents last 20 years, and if prosecution takes more than 3 years, patentees get additional time added to their patent duration).

However, it also encourages competition–LMT’s competitors will have to innovate, find ways around the patent specifications (because a patent only protects what is claimed; if another company were to make a product that was similar, but not substantially similar, the patent wouldn’t protect it), or go in a whole other direction.

Linoge also sounds miffed that LMT was forward-thinking enough to apply for the patent back in 2002. That’s not necessarily the case.

The law of patents is fraught with peril–when you apply for a patent, two dates are important: the application date itself, and the critical date. The critical date is exactly one year prior to the application date.

If you have published anything, made public use of your product, offered it for sale, or anything else** before that critical date, you’re shit out of luck. You can’t patent it.

The law encourages filing as early as the inventor possibly can; if you have an item that you think you can get a patent on, you should apply as soon as you can–when the invention is reduced to practice (the prosecution process allows for amending your application, so long as the prospective patentee only narrows claims).

In theory, patents protect inventors against the market; without patents, inventors would lose out on their inventions as soon as someone else with enough money to take advantage of economies of scale figured out how to reproduce it.***

I have no idea why this LMT patent took ten years to prosecute. If the system had worked (instead of being typical government bureaucracy), LMT would have been issued their patent in 2005 at the latest, and they’d be halfway through the duration of the patent by now. Instead, the public loses out by not getting the invention put into the public domain as early, and the inventor loses out by not getting the exclusive rights to his invention when it would have done the most good.****

If anyone is to blame for the headaches that the patent system causes, it’s the Venetians.

*Once again, I emphasize that I am a lowly law student–if you take anything in this post as actual legal advice, you do so at your peril. Especially since this is mostly info I learned over the summer in the Patent and Trade Secret Law course I took.

**Experimental testing is allowed, provided it’s actually experimental (records, strict inventor control, no more use than absolutely necessary, etc.). In Lough v. Brunswick Corp., the inventor (Lough) lost because he gave out several copies of his device to friends of his for testing, but he never asked about it again, or asked for its return, or anything else. Because this was more than a year before he filed for his patent, Brunswick got it invalidated and didn’t have to pay for the license.

***Patent law protects inventors by giving them a right to exclude in exchange for making their new and useful contributions to the art public; once the term of the patent has expired, anyone can make/use/sell/import the invention. Trade secret law is different; it relies on absolute secrecy (NDAs, non-competes, etc.). If you don’t want to patent your invention, and if you can keep it secret, then the only way your product can be legally reproduced is if someone else either develops it on his own, or reverse engineers it (reverse engineering doesn’t allow you to infringe on a patent, however; if you reverse engineer a patented item, you can remake it and sell that, so long as the resultant remade product is non-infringing). This is a common mistake in TV shows (cough Leverage cough). Patents are public information. Trade secrets are not. (This is why Coca-Cola ripoffs never taste right (the recipe is a highly protected trade secret), and why no one knows the secret blend of herbs and spices the Colonel uses to make his tasty chicken.)

****I get the feeling I had more to say on this, but I got distracted by footnotes and forgot it all.

07/31/2012

I love the New York Times

by wfgodbold

Well, not really. I don’t even like it.

I am a big fan of their half-assed coding, though*.

Apparently they decided that to keep freeloaders (like me) from just reading online articles all the time, they would limit people to 10 free articles per month. If you hit the limit, you see this:

This locks out the scroll bars and prevents you from reading the article without subscribing.

But I was not deterred! It turns out that if you select the bit in the URL after the .html, like this:

And then delete it and hit “enter,” you end up with a pop-up-free article:

Now you can read the New York Times to your heart’s content!

Which, if you’re like me, is not very far.

Especially given this nonsense about algebra.

*Seriously. It’s like they weren’t even trying.

 

 

 

06/27/2012

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing*: Science fiction, or science fact?

by wfgodbold

In the light of the recent news regarding the LDP’s plans to build an actual working Gundam**, I started thinking about our own mecha warfare capabilities.

Sadly, we’re heading down the mobile doll route instead.***

Of course, more level heads think this is just a blatant ploy by Japan’s Liberal Democrats to gin up support from the youth.

Which as such doesn’t actually bother me; it’s far more appealing a ploy than nonsense like “We are the change we seek.”

*For those of you who had better things to do than watch mecha anime on the Cartoon Network in the 90s/early 00s, or better things to spend your money on than the DVDs, a big part of Gundam W focused on using human-piloted mecha as opposed to autonomous robot mecha. Also, angst and teenagers and lots of impressively animated mecha fights (which is generally enough by itself to justify watching Gundam). As far as I’m concerned, pretty much anything can be made better by judiciously applying mecha (and you do get bonus points if those mecha transform).

**Which I saw last night, and instead of posting, I put it off, and now it’s olde news. This summer has really done a number on my already lackluster blogging skills.

***I say sadly, but that’s my romantic streak coming out, I think. Sure, it’s disturbing, by Treize Khushrenada makes some compelling points about the use of robots in battle. Practically, though, robots in battle are great. Less danger**** for our side is always a good thing.

****Assuming we come up with some way to stymie the inevitable robot revolution.

*****Odaiba Gundam image from Wired. Yes, it’s an actual, life-size Gundam. No, this one isn’t functional, but IIRC the arms and head could move, and it obviously lit up.

******I don’t actually have anything to say, I just wanted to add another string of asterisks. I’ve got a few weeks worth of links coming in a tab clearing post, and hopefully I’ll be able to return to a more normal update schedule. I’ve slacked off enough.

05/07/2012

More tabs than a Coca-cola plant playing catch-up with Diet Rite

by wfgodbold

If you want to watch a sport with the pace, play, and violence of basketball, watch basketball. Don’t make football over into basketball lite. I tend to think the clash of football gets us right in the part of our collective psyche that makes us prefer the clash of heavy infantry to lone warriors dueling, but maybe I’ve just read too much Victor Davis Hanson.*

Of course the FBI wants backdoors into social networks. It’s the FBI!

Buying experiences is a good way to find happiness? No wonder the video game industry is kicking the shit out of Hollywood.

Speaking of video games, Microsoft has decided to sell their Xbox 360 & Kinect via the cellphone model. They’re not doing it right, though; if they were serious about this, they’d screw the customer even more.

The second series of the BBC’s Sherlock started airing on PBS Sunday (with episodes 2 and 3 to follow next Sunday and the one after). If you missed it, you can stream it here. (If you missed the first series, those three episodes are on Netflix.)

I only played part of the first Assassin’s Creed, and skipped the trilogy set in Renaissance Italy, but I might have to pick up Assassin’s Creed III. With that cover art, and the news that the people you’re sent to kill all died when you were sent to kill them in real life (that doesn’t parse quite right, but you probably know what I meant), it looks amazing. Especially in this teaser video:

*I played football in junior high and high school on the offensive line, so that might color my opinion a bit. I think it just means I’m more right, though. For more, see Open Blogger’s post at Ace of Spades.

04/26/2012

Damn you, Woot!

by wfgodbold

In case you were unaware, woot.com is doing one of their periodic woot-offs right now, and so when a new item is posted, the image loads a few seconds after the item’s name.

When I saw “AR iPod/iPad Docking Station,” I got my hopes up. Surely this would be some kind of rail-mounted doohickey for hanging your phone off your AR!

Unfortunately, the image at right loaded.

The AR is the brand name abbreviation: Acoustics Research, and it’s just a regular old docking station/stand.

I should have known better, but given woot’s propensity for putting weapon lights up, I didn’t think I could rule it out.

Maybe next time!

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02/23/2012

Well, it works

by wfgodbold

Though posting on wordpress is annoying, and it won’t let me upload media (wordpress must use flash).

So, after transferring them to my computer, I have some screenshots of brand new PS Vita fun!

Tales of Innocence R is as good a place to start as any...

 

I even managed to hit PS + Start while fighting to get an action screenshot.

Even Twitter works!

I downloaded the Netflix app, too, but it’s very laggy. I’ll get in more play time tomorrow and over the weekend; for now, it’s back to the law school grind.

I suppose I should thank Lexis Nexis and their student rewards program; if it weren’t for the points they give for research and training, I would have had to pay for this myself! Instead, I traded my points in for Amazon credit and got a huge discount.

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