Monthly Archives: August 2012

Authors hate soldiers who lend books to cats and other tales from the twilight zone

A couple years ago Ubisoft, a video game publisher, under the claims of rampant piracy turned to an always-online form of DRM.  For those who do not understand, Digital Rights Management (DRM) can be thought of as an electronic lock that is “supposed” to keep “pirates” from copying and distributing things they did not “buy.”  The problem is most times most times when a company thinks of some brilliant way to stop piracy, it usually backfires in some horrible way and has to be removed at a later date.  The history of DRM could fill a couple articles for me, but for now I want to stick to this one instance of it.  Ubisoft thought they had the solution to stop pirates, their games would only work when an end user was connected to the Internet.  The only problem was that Ubisoft (a French company) would be accused of something else.

More on that later.

This past week a history lesson was about to be sprung upon my eyes.   Out of the blue a small story about people not understanding technology was seen in the wilds of my RSS feed.  I do not know why, but I chose to read the story and the cyclical nature of humanity was before me.  Much to my surprise those words from my days in public education came back: Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Thus this week a new word was born, ladies and gentleman, children of all ages, I present you the dawn of the: TWITMOB!


[twitmob] Show IPA noun, adjective, verb, twitmobbed, twit-mob·bing.

1. a disorderly or riotous crowd of online twitter people.

2. an online twitter crowd bent on or engaged in lawless electronic violence.

3. any group or collection of twitter persons or things.

4. the common twitter people; the twitter masses; twitter populace or multitude.

Last week a group of authors took to twitter to express outrage over a website they claimed was pirating their material.  While details are sketchy at the moment, two authors started a modern day rolling ball of witch hunting.  As the nature of the quickness and real time of online sites like Twitter, the ball got rolling very quickly.  Within a few hours, a web site was shut down without as much as a whimper from the site owner.  Turns out he was blindsided by the deluge of hate e-mails he was received.  The web hosting company that hosted the site was also deluged with hate e-mails, but these were of the legal kind.  The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA,) Cease and Desist (C&D) notice kind that demanded the site be taken down for illegal activity.

After the dust was cleared it was proven that the site in question did nothing wrong and was ambushed all over authors who could not take the time to read contracts they had signed.

LendInk (the web site in question,) provided a simple service to users, lending E-Books.  E-Readers like Kindle and Nook have the ability for the user to lend their books to another user for a period of time (usually 14 days.)  The book is lent similar to how it works in real life; you lend the E-Book and lose access to the book until the lending period is over.  This is the electronic form of the library.   Lendlnk provided a way of letting users on the internet meet up virtually and swap books through Amazon and Barnes & Nobles respective services.  Another interesting note to make is that authors having a choice of making their books lendable or not through contract.

Amazons terms state that “Kindle books can be loaned to another reader for a period of 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Kindle—Kindle books can also be read using our free Kindle reading applications for PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android devices. Not all books are lendable—it is up to the publisher or rights holder to determine which titles are eligible for lending. The lender will not be able to read the book during the loan period. Books can only be loaned once, and subscription content is not currently available for lending.”

That is the major take away from this lesson: Read contracts you sign.

Instead of reading their contracts a few authors took to Twitter in outrage with legal guns blazing.  The truth did not matter, they were going to right the imaginary wrong they had created.  Even after the twitmob had dissolved, some are still defending what they had done.

But once a few hair-on-fire, sky-is-falling types of indie authors got wind of LendInk and found their books listed there, they jumped right to the WRONG conclusion that this was some kind of illegal Napster for ebooks and went on the warpath. Rather than take a few moments to read the site’s FAQ, where the specifics of the site and the legality of it were addressed clearly and in detail, these authors immediately started posting warnings to all their author friends about this new ebook pirating site, LendInk. It became an online game of ‘telephone’, with well-meaning people re-posting incorrect claims about LendInk, and the claims about LendInk getting more distorted as they were passed around and new posters added their take on the situation. In a matter of just THREE DAYS, it went from an online campaign of spreading hysterical misinformation to LendInk being shut down.

It is not surprising but this whole episode brought to my attention how humanity, still, remains the same.  We jump to conclusions without thought, we rather point fingers then take a moment to ponder.  It made me also realize the damage how much a few moments of rage can cause.  I am not infallible, neither is anyone who reads this article, we can all give into blind casuistryThat one moment of lost clarity is going to cost the authors in the end.  All because they could not take the time to question, what they thought was wrong.  Instead, they came guns blazing, shooting first and asking questions later, with the assumption that collateral damage was okay.

I think we all can forgive other human beings for making mistakes.  The problem here is we still have those who do not understand the damage their actions have done to their own careers and also one of the LendInk owner, who is a disabled Army Veteran.

Going back to Ubisoft, that great DRM plan they had led to them hitting a snag they never saw.  Or in the eyes of one commentator:

Ubisoft’s PC DRM is decidedly anti-soldier

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Technology


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I want that…

As a follow up to last week’s post on the printed gun, I wanted to share this video I found this past week.  I think it is easy for people to say technology is destroying culture without fully looking at both sides of the coin.

When you seek to disparage technology, just think of those words: “I want that”

As an interim to the next section, here are some Jedi Squirrels!

A while back, I share my thoughts on the current Bullying trend and this week a new study came out.

“These results suggest that the new electronic media have actually created few ‘new’ victims and bullies,” Olweus said in a release. “To be cyberbullied or to cyberbully other students seems to a large extent to be part of a general pattern of bullying where use of electronic media is only one possible form, and, in addition, a form with low prevalence.”

One of the thoughts I have had about bullying was the fact that the “new found world” of the Internet was not really giving birth to new bullies, but just becoming an extension.  Years ago, there was an outcry that pedophilia was abounding because of the Internet.  That the number of people engaging in child porn was increasing.  The truth was that the instead of increasing numbers, they were staying the same, simply put people were moving their activities online and in some cases discontinuing real life methods.

Now again this is not to say bullying is right, but to point out that those who are in the business of pushing agendas are wrong.  I do not know if we can ever get rid of bullying, but I have to wonder which is worst being bullied in real life or online where I can choose to turn off the device.  Yes, again someone will be quick to say any kind of bullying is wrong.  As I asked before is this just another crusade?

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Technology


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Here is the cat, and here is the bag…

When I was High School, I had the fun of going to Vo-Tech to study computers.  My teacher decided it was my time to learn some problem-solving skills.  He presented me with a computer that would not work.  It could be software, it could be hardware, and it could be the outlet.  Simply put he told me to fix it and I was given a short time period to give him a report.  I tried turning it on, to no avail, I looked at the outlet and saw the power to the monitor and computer was plugged in.  The monitor worked so the outlet was getting power.  After staring at the computer, I shrugged my shoulders and returned to him to express my enigma.  We walked over and turned the computer around to show me the power cord was unplugged.  I was embarrassed, but he took that opportunity to teach me a valuable lesson.  When you are trying to solve a problem, always start at the root and work your way out.

When the Aurora shootings happened, I had thought about writing about the incoherent rantings of some experts about social media and video games.  Because we all know, inanimate objects tell their users what to do with their lives.

Actually, I do contend if video games had that power over users, this world we be a better place.  Because I cannot tell you how many times I have saved the world, helped others and saved more money then I knew what to do with, in most video games I play.

Oh well…

Of course with Aurora came the call for more gun laws and as usual I tried to ignore the coverage.  For me I find most of the coverage grating, filled with experts who provide more FUD then good insight and knowledge.  And it is not that the experts are not qualified to talk about the subjects they are called upon to give insight, it is the fact that a fresh incident cannot be commented on that quick.  And it is not that much fun to watch people conjecture about what laws we should make, and what thing we should ban when an incident like Aurora happens.

There are certain issues in the country I may have opinions about, but talking about those issues are futile.  One such is the laws governing guns.  Not that this is something that may or may not affect us all, but because I find the arguments ground in the middle of the sun.  Both sides are so far away from reality that I cannot find myself supporting either side, because of lack of reality.  It’s when I read something like this:

So, can you print a gun? Yep, you can and that’s exactly what somebody with the alias “HaveBlue” did.

I have to pause and see if people will accept reality, or simply still argue their points.

Sadly, they are still arguing their points…

3D Printers are starting to gain traction in the mainstream.  3D Printers are a technology that allows you, in the convenience of your own home, produce items with all sorts of materials (mainly plastic) right now.  The technology is not exactly new but it is now picking up steam.  3D Printers are very tantalizing to my passion, game design, as it allows me to create board games for lower prices and from the comfort of my own home, versus outsourcing that side of production.

What 3D Printers represent is the idea Star Trek presented with Replicators.

“No more shipping huge amount of products around the world,” according to the blog post. “No more shipping broken products back. No more child labor. We’ll be able to print food for hungry people. We’ll be able to share not only a recipe, but the full meal.”

This technology is going to change our world in the near future.  Revolution here we come.

Getting back to guns, the reality is the cat has been out of the bag for a long time, if you want to make a gun, you can, albeit a slow or long process depending on what you want to make.  Now with 3D Printers people are experimenting and succeeding at making low cost guns.  Now the catch right now is they are not able to make certain parts of the gun yet.  However, eventually this technology will allow anyone to print any type of object they want to, with the right materials at a cheap price.  The reality is passing a new law or hoping for people to change is wishful thinking.  People will find ways to do what they want, regardless of laws.

As has been shown over and over again, there will be calls for regulations and bans.  In addition, the business this type of technology disrupts will be forefront in calling for its ban and regulation.  And such is life.

The real question is there a solution to problems such as Aurora.  That answer is not as simple.  However, with problems like Aurora we seem to want to place blame on everything but the root cause.   Sure plenty of things could have contributed to why someone decides to commit crimes but still the root lies at them choosing to do such a thing.  And blaming the shoe maker, will not do much to stem nor solve similar crimes from happening.


Posted by on August 1, 2012 in Technology


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