Category Archives: Random Shit

Amber doesn’t like my website

From my contact form, Amber wrote:

You’re website is by far the most disgusting thing I’ve read. I am talking about your article on anorexia. I weigh 93 pounds and am 18, I am not anorexic but I do have health problems because of my weight. It is not okay for you to tell people they are fat and ugly, you have a right to say what you would like and so do I. You are a terrible fucking person, people like you make others feel discouraged and down, I’d like to see what you look like. You are wrong and fucking disgusting. Thanks for the horrendous read.

So many things to mock here, where do I begin? Continue reading

Spammers: 2; Nerdmaster: 0

The spammers win again. This one is just precious:

Dear XYZZY,

I attached the clients' accounts for your next operation.

Please look through them and collect their data. I expect to hear from you soon.



Dwayne Lane
Managing Director Investment Banking
Tel.: (314) 860-41-26

This makes me feel like some kind of secret agent! My next operation? “collect their data”? AWESOME! I also like that Dwayne Lane attached the clients’ accounts. Not a list of clients or a spreadsheet of accounting data or something, but their accounts…. What does that even mean, you ask? FUCK YOU, I’m a secret agent, I don’t have to tell you!

I’m a little disappointed the message didn’t self-destruct, though.

Some footnotes:

  • No, I do not actually have an email address called “XYZZY”. A recent email breach has me paranoid.
  • Yes, they really did hyphenate the telephone number like that.

The nerd’s small heart grew three sizes that day

I’m removing all names, but I received a very disturbing email recently about my inappropriate but horribly funny anti-obesity page, “You are too fat”. The page, for those who are honestly too lazy to click the link (oh sorry iPad users, you can TAP the link, too), has a fake “ideal” weight calculator. And up until recently, it suggested things like 0% body fat…. Continue reading

Clarification about the unions

To clear up some things that seem contradictory between my “public employee apology” and my recent “OUS is ripping us off” posts, I offer a few bullet points.

But first, check out what software engineers get paid to understand why I feel OUS underpays us. The general IT positions are even lower, of course, but I don’t have as much of a frame of reference for those pay scales vs. the private sector. Continue reading

How the middle-class pirates stole Christmas… from the music industry

30-second recap:

So my friend, the pirate, doesn’t like to pay for things he can acquire free, unless paying for those things gives him a clear benefit. Stardock gives good benefits on software, with frequent updates and instant downloads. Sometimes Amazon’s “unbox” TV service is worthwhile (though torrents are really tough to compete with – they’re really only lacking in speed and sometimes quality of video). Sometimes, streaming episodes and movies (hulu, fox, abc, nbc, sci-fi, and many others offer this) are worthwhile, but lack of availability of all episodes often makes it far better to torrent anyway.

Music

The music industry is either slowly catching on or faking it fairly well. More and more DRM-free options have been showing up, and while there’s a long way to go, it is finally getting to be friendly for the consumer again.

DRM is generally just a poor way to treat the kind folks who actually pay for your stuff, so it’s really nice to see that iTunes has gotten more DRM-free options, and Amazon’s MP3s are fairly worthwhile as well.

There’s always a “but”

But the music industry is still going to suffer from piracy, and quite possibly more than the other industries. Why?

  • Getting high-quality pirated music is just so damned easy. The files are small, even for exceptional quality, compared to software and video.
  • People are used to their music being free due to radios, MTV (back when they played music every once in a while, mind you), and internet radio stations like last.fm and pandora.
  • There’s a very strong sense that “the little guy” doesn’t see anything from music sales, so it’s much easier to justify piracy.
    • In software, the developers usually get a meager, but not insignificant, royalty from the publisher.
    • In television and movies, the same perception of the big guys keeping all the money is there, but quality is sometimes iffy on torrents, the downloads are large, and the cost-per-minute is very cheap compared to music.
  • Music is often a background thing — you don’t focus all your attention on a song like you do software or a TV show, so the high price of music seems even higher.

I can’t stress those last points enough. A 5-minute song that costs me 99 cents is much harder to justify than a 45-minute episode of Battlestar Galactica for under $2. Yes, I’ll listen to the same song quite a bit over my lifetime, but it’s still such a passive activity that the cost feels really high. Most people will pay for songs at that price (in fact I think the music industry would have caved by now were that not the case), but this series is about stopping piracy. That will of course never happen, but slowing it down is possible, and I think the price is an important factor.

Internet radio stations are an okay option for some of us (I can’t get enough of Pandora), and Napster is all right for those who have a bit more money, but for the vast majority who want to own their music free and clear, the music industry really needs to raise the bar to make torrents a less attractive option.

They’ve done all right so far, but only time will tell if they can keep it up or if “piracy paranoia” will get the best of them.

Final Thoughts

Middle-class piracy isn’t destroying anybody or causing mass job losses. Does it cost some amount of money? Of course it does. But the figures we hear are complete lies. You cannot measure the true impact because you cannot trace piracy. The propaganda is entertaining for sure, but the real issue is the providers of the content. The only piracy they can turn into money is the middle-class lazy jerks like my friend, the pirate, who could afford to pay if it were of benefit to them.

So make your software suck less. Don’t treat paying customers like criminals. Offer up all episodes of your shows online, for free, supported by ads. Then make your paying customers feel “special” by giving them something extra when they buy those same episodes. Lower your music prices. And stop being so fucking greedy — pirates won’t feel remorse when they hear about the RIAA trying to cut royalties from artists in the name of bullshit piracy “losses”. (Yeah, sales went down, but there are a lot more reasons out there than just piracy) ((Yes, I’m well aware of the chronology of those two situations — my point is merely that sales go down for reasons other than piracy))


By the way, some moron contacted me via my main site’s contact form, claiming to be an FBI agent and claiming that I should hand over my friend, the pirate’s contact information.

Okay, first off you fucking tool, the FBI wouldn’t fill out an anonymous form. They’d probably just show up on my god damn doorstep. Furthermore, this barely-trafficked site wouldn’t attract their attention, especially from a blog entry about how to stop piracy.

I suspect this fucknugget wanted to get in contact with my friend to exchange \/\/@R3zzz or something. Can’t really figure the motivation otherwise.

But here’s the real kicker: my friend doesn’t exist (this is obvious when you realize I have no friends). As a couple people already figured out, he is a figment of my imagination, built by combining aspects of myself and various acquaintances and coworkers. He was built as the general epitome of what we all are when we justify piracy. I took the attitudes I have seen in myself and others, came up with a stupid label (middle-class pirate), and figured it’d be easier to explain a single person’s perspective than constantly saying, “and another person I know, call him John Doe 354, he pirates music because blah blah blah.”

So, no, you can’t have his contact details.

Middle-class Piracy in Movies and Television

To recap, I’ve written lately about middle-class piracy and how it affects the software industry. My friend is a pirate, but he pays for things when it’s convenient, and not riddled with anti-piracy measures that detract from the overall experience (say, Iron Lore Entertainment’s software method discussed last time, or limiting music burns to CD, etc).

Last time, I discussed the software industry, and how most vendors destroy a product in an effort to protect it from piracy — and how Stardock (and similarly, Steam) are actually doing things right to make legitimate customers feel appreciated.

This time – movies and television.

Cable Companies

My friend, the pirate, does not like cable companies. I don’t, either. Actually, I utterly despise them – he just thinks they’re annoying whereas I’d be happy to see them all utterly destroyed.

Why?

Because they FUCKING SUCK. Charter charged me $20 a month to get eight local channels, six random “basic cable” networks, two channels that told us about how awesome it would be to have Charter-on-demand, and FOUR channels devoted to infomercials.

We canceled our cable television. I haven’t regretted this decision.

My friend, the pirate, hasn’t had cable for something like four years. He says, “why pay for that colossal ripoff when you’ve got torrents?”

Torrents

I didn’t know much about these until recently (recent, in my lifetime, means about a year ago). They are like ++(Kazaa++). Sorry for the uber-geekism just then, but seriously, the technology behind torrents is pretty freakin’ awesome. For legal purposes, torrents serve as a way for a small company to get their product out to the world without using up a ton of bandwidth. Since the torrent is a peer-to-peer protocol, rabid fans actually offer up their idle bandwidth for the product in question.

For piracy, of course, this is a goldmine of free goodies. Apparently torrents are especially good for television. (I don’t know how that can make sense – it’s just digital file transfers – why would it be better for one file format than another?)

My friend doesn’t pay for cable television. He sometimes pays for a series on DVD. But mostly, he just downloads the shows he wants to watch.

Why? Because it’s convenient as hell. No worrying about the lame TV schedule. No trying to set up a VCR or DVR. No waiting for the episodes to come out on DVD. Torrent the episode the day it airs, and watch it before your friends do! It’s just too damned easy.

Hulu.com

Hulu seems like they have a chance to solve this. Actually, hulu.com is just one of many streaming television providers, and Amazon.com even sells episodes and seasons in their “unboxed” collections.

But I’ll focus on hulu, because it’s a pretty good “common denominator” in the streaming media world. They’re apparently a joint venture sponsored by FOX and NBC (hence so many shows (and movies) from those two). What they do is offer various full episodes of television shows, with very short commercials. Instantly. On demand. Watch what you want when you have time. Great idea, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of stuff there.

In theory, this is in fact the paradise that could stop middle-class television piracy. I don’t mean “slow” or “diminish” or anything similar — I mean “stop.” Middle-class piracy, once again, is primarily about laziness. If they can get their “fix” for free, instantly, and only have to deal with watching 2 minutes of commercials for a 45-minute show, they generally will prefer this over torrents. Torrents take time. Torrents have a small risk associated with them. Torrents released the same day as a TV broadcast are rarely high quality.

In theory, this combination gives a site like hulu.com the ability to completely obsolete all middle-class TV and move piracy. But why is it only “in theory?” Simple:

They dun fukk’d up, boy

I can’t blame hulu for the mistakes – I assume it’s the networks being morons (yeah, big surprise there eh?).

For most shows that are still airing, we get the last 5 episodes if we’re lucky. In the cases of Family Guy and The Simpsons, both featuring a wealth of old episodes to watch, we get the last three for FG and the last five Simpsons.

So people are expected to watch within a few weeks. For viewers who have been following a show since day one, I suppose it works out well enough. But for any show that hasn’t been seen in its entirety by everybody in the world, I call it a huge mistake — people may end up just torrenting the episodes they can’t find. Overall, it’s not a huge loss for shows like The Simpsons or Family Guy — newcomers can just start up anywhere in the series. But it’s not a huge gain, either. And what about story-driven shows?

Bones, something I’ve just started getting into (my friend, the pirate, says it’s kind of boring, but he’s an idiot so he can STFU), has all of season 1 available on hulu. They recently took down the few season two episodes they had. And season three? You guessed it – last five episodes. When I’m done with season one, I’ll probably ask my friend, the pirate, if he has season two for me to borrow. I won’t ask stupid questions like, “Hey, did you get this illegally?”

Then the networks make it worse. I’m a rabid Battlestar Galactica fan. But Charter, being the dimwits they are, want to charge me over $50 a month to get sci-fi (“extended basic” or something). So how does sci-fi make it better for me on hulu and sci-fi.com’s rewind? THEY DON’T. They pull this same “last-five-episodes” shit. And they show up online a full week after they broadcast. So if I want to start anew with BSG, my best option is a torrent. If I want to watch an episode that I know my friends will be discussing on Monday, my best option is a torrent. Way to go, network idiots.

They get it! …or do they?

I just can’t figure why the networks would do this when they seemed to finally get it! They’re getting you hooked just to pull the plug? It actually encourages piracy, if you ask me. You go from instant accessibility of television to total lockdown. So your options – buy episodes one at a time (around $1.89 per episode!) or torrent.

What do you think the average hulu user will do?

Hulu users are geeks. Right now very few non-geeks are willing to watch TV and movies from their computers. Hell, very few non-geeks even know that’s possible at this point. So basically we have a crowd that’s primarily geeky being screwed yet again by the networks. This geeky crowd, for the most part, is aware of torrents.

I’m betting enough of them will torrent that it’ll totally screw the brilliance behind hulu. All because of stupid networks making stupid decisions once again. And what’s more, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that streaming video is called a failure, even though the true failure, is once again the idiots in charge. The decisions of executives, completely out of touch with the middle-class consumer, will end up destroying a system that could actually end (or at least severely cut back) middle-class piracy!

It’s a win-win situation that appears doomed to fail.

Good news?

Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of good news here. Amazon sells episodes fairly cheap, but torrents are cheaper. And unlike software, TV and movies don’t suffer from being “poorly cracked” or needing updates, so to beat torrents in this industry, you need to be incredibly competitive. So far, the online experience falls far short, and Amazon’s prices definitely don’t come close for somebody who wants to watch a lot of TV.

The movies on hulu are nice – that’s good news, right? Well, only a little. There are only a few dozen movies up there, and it doesn’t seem like they’re adding movies fast at all. Plus, of the movies they have, maybe 10 are actually worth watching. So… not a big win in my book.

ABC shows all of Lost on their site. And in HD. Those episodes are about the clearest things I’ve ever watched in my entire fucking life. I think real life is no better quality. I’m not saying this as a metaphor or a hyperbole – those episodes are ridiculously amazing. Yes, and I have bad vision, so it probably doesn’t take a lot to impress me.

While that would seem like a piece of good news, it’s the only series ABC puts up in full – the rest seem to be the last few episodes, just like other networks. Makes me more than willing to watch Lost, but nothing else. And makes me think Lost is nothing more than a digital loss leader.

Netflix has this same concept as hulu, but with a better selection, no commercials, and a reasonable price! They’re the good news!! Except that the networks seem to castrate them as well. New episodes were not available last time I checked (only prior seasons’ episodes, if I was lucky), and in most cases they don’t even have more than a season of a given show. Dr. Who (the new one from 2005 or so) had season one available when I was a Netflix customer. To watch the other seasons I would have had to wait for DVDs to ship. I’m lazy, damn it! I’m not my friend, but I have his mentality. I canceled Netflix because the waiting time just wasn’t worth it. Had their on-demand service been better, I would have absolutely stayed with them. (again, not likely their faults as much as the networks)

So if anybody is doing it right, I have yet to stumble upon them. What a letdown. Here we are in an age where the cable companies should be completely obsolete! Television and movies should be easily viewed on demand (and made affordable – or at least worth their price). And yet, I think Fred Flintstone was doing about as well as we are. No wonder middle-class pirates are so prevalent here!

There are a slew of wonderful ideas for improvement here that I won’t even try to cover (go down that road and everybody whines about the ones you missed – so screw you all), and yet the networks are so trapped in the slowly crumbling business models of the past. It’s kind of sad, but mostly just makes me really not care when somebody pirates even good television (for the record, I tend to get annoyed about hearing good software get pirated).

Stay tuned!

“Stay tuned” is getting old. I’ll try for something more interesting next time…

…which is when I’m ending this series with a very brief piece about piracy in music, and my final thoughts. Just like Jerry Springer.

Yes, and since it’s my final article I guess my concern over the wording of “Stay tuned” is moot. I love when problems solve themselves.