Game maker Ubisoft has dropped its notorious DRM requirement that all games must be played on computers that are continuously connected to the Internet, even for single-player modes. This comes after many years of categorical statements to the effect that this sort of DRM is an absolute necessity, that it stops piracy cold, and so forth. Rock, Paper, Shotgun interviews Ubisoft spokespeople on the issue, and they just dodge and twist and refuse to give any substantive answers. It's a fascinating read -- a perfect example of corporate doublespeak. Kidos to RPS for sticking to the subject.
RPS: Do you acknowledge that always-on DRM has been extremely damaging to Ubisoft’s reputation?
Burk: I think that, as Stephanie said, I think this is where that feedback comes in. We’ve obviously heard from PC customers that they were unhappy with some of the policies that we had in place, and that’s why we’re looking to make these changes – why we have been implementing these changes, as Stephanie says.
RPS: Would you be willing to say that it was a mistake?
Burk: No, I wouldn’t say that. I’ll let Stephanie say what she thinks, but I wouldn’t use those words. This is a process, and we listened to feedback.
Perotti: I would say the same.
RPS: So you say you’re not talking about data. I find that quite interesting bearing in mind data is the one thing that’s lacking in this entire discussion, across all publishers, the whole spectrum. The one thing no one’s ever shown is any data whatsoever to show DRM’s efficacy. Why do you think that is?
Perotti: I think they are complex topics, and as a company we do not disclose this kind of data for confidentiality reasons. As I said earlier, the situation can be very different, from different games, from different territories.
RPS: Whose confidentiality is being broken by publishing piracy rates?
Burk: It’s internally confidential meaning competitive, not necessarily that we’re breaking anyone’s confidentiality. It’s competitive information and therefore confidential.
I love people who can educate and politicize in creative and entertaining ways. Prince Ea -- hip hop artist, activist and founder of Make SMART Cool -- shows us how it's done with his soon-to-be-released song "Smoking Weed With The President."
This epic 8-minute song is both a history lesson and an advocacy tool that will make you laugh and expand your mind at the same time.
Prince Ea is releasing a lyrical version of the song on Indiegogo to raise money to shoot a music video to accompany the track. You can support Prince Ea's project -- and in doing so reach hundreds of thousands of people.
Check out this great NASA video showing a coronal mass ejection—a burst of plasma thrown off the surface of the Sun—from several different perspectives. It happened on August 31 and it's really gorgeous. It's also rather huge, as far as these things go. Luckily, it wasn't pointed directly at Earth. Coronal mass ejections can affect our planet's magnetic field. There's a risk of large ones screwing with everything from our electric grid to radio waves.
Are pesticides helpful things that allow us to produce more food, and keep us safe from deadly diseases? Or are they dangerous things that kill animals and could possibly be hurting us in ways we haven't even totally figured out just yet?
Actually, they're both.
This week, scientists released a research paper looking at the health benefits (or lack thereof) of organic food—a category which largely exists as a response to pesticide use in agriculture. Meanwhile, Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring, which forced Americans to really think about the health impacts of pesticides for the first time, was published 50 years ago this month.
The juxtaposition really drove home a key point: We're still trying to figure out how to balance benefits and risks when it comes to technology. That's because there's no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Should we use pesticides, or should we not use them? The data we look at is objective but the answer is, frankly, subjective. It also depends on a wide variety of factors: what specific pesticide are we talking about; where is it being used and how is it being applied; what have we done to educate the people who are applying it in proper, safe usage. It's complicated. And it's not just about how well the tools work. It's also about how we used them.
“It is not my contention,” Carson wrote in Silent Spring, “that chemical insecticides must never be used. I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm. We have subjected enormous numbers of people to contact with these poisons, without their consent and often without their knowledge.”
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Unknown Fields (UF) is a design studio, originating in London’s Architectural Association, that "ventures out on annual expeditions to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies." Mark Pilkington, author of Mirage Men and publisher of Strange Attractor, has just led this busload of architects, writers, filmmakers and artists in an exploration of the mythic landscape of the American Southwest, and the stories that it has inspired. Their trajectory took them from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque New Mexico to Black Rock City, Nevada, via sites of military, architectural and folkloric significance. Mark sent us occasional postcards from the edge. - David Pescovitz
White Sands Missile Range Museum and National Park
America’s space program started here in 1946 with the aid of a few dozen German rocket scientists, imported as part of the highly-secret Operation Paperclip. The apex of their WWII achievements was the enormous V-2 rocket, which housed its devastating cargo in an elegant back and yellow casing. An original 1946 V-2, cut-away to reveal the intricacies of its thrust and steering mechanisms, forms the centerpiece of the museum collection. Over the next 20 years Paperclip team leader Wernher von Braun built ever-larger missiles, climaxing with the Saturn and Apollo rockets that took America to the Moon.
As its curator reassures us, White Sands’ on-site museum is “not your typical military museum”; as well as a housing a wealth of missile related technology and ephemera, it has sections dedicated to the local flora and fauna, including the African Oryx released into the wilderness in the late 1960s to entertain hunters and wreak environmental destruction; the indigenous peoples who once lived on the land, (many of the earliest inhabitants disappeared in the 16th century as the once verdant lands turned to desert), and a room of paintings by a survivor of the brutal Bataan forced march of WWII, in which up to 10,000 Pilipinos and 650 Americans died at Japanese hands. Outside is the rocket garden, housing a number of missiles, rockets and drones used in combat from WWII to Gulf War I, including personal favorites like the ever-reliable Ryan drone, the monumental Redstone Cruise Missile, and the saucer-shaped Viking Mars Decelerator.
Following the museum the Unknown Fields team engaged in workshop activities amongst the gypsum dunes of the White Sands themselves, formed from the remains of a 250 million year old shallow sea. As part of our training for future hostile environments, we fought off hordes of aggressive red ants, made sand circles on which to land our RC drones, buried one team member alive, and tested the effects of exposure on another as he ran naked across the shifting desert sands.
[Video Link] Here's the latest video from PBS Digital Studio's excellent "Idea Channel" web series. It's about the 5,000-page (and growing!) webcomic Homestuck.
You might not think that a 265,000+ word novel from 1918 and a webcomic started in 2009 would have a lot in common. But one trait they both share is that each work presents a real challenge to the reader -- in length as well as difficulty. Created by Andrew Hussie, Homestuck is over 5000 pages so far -- and still growing. It has a strong cult following and presents incredible challenges to its readers: a giant cast of characters, huge walls of text, and animated flash games that you must beat in order to continue. Likewise, James Joyce's Ulysses is a lengthy book full of dense language and crammed with literary references, requiring lots of previous education or continuous research to catch all meaning. The joy that readers of both works share relates to a bit of psychology known as "Effort Justification," which basically says that the more difficult an experience a person undertakes, the more satisfied that person will be once finished.
My latest Locus column is "Why Science Fiction Movies Drive Me Nuts," in which I propose that the reason the science in sf movies is so awful is that they're essentially operas about technology.
The reason that SF movies command such a titanic amount of attention and money from audiences is because they are brilliantly wrought spectacles. What they lack in depth and introspection, they make up for in polish and craftsmanship. Every costume is perfect. Not one polygon is out of place. An army of musicians, the greatest in the land, have picked up horns and stringed instruments by the orchestra-load and played precisely the right music to set the blood singing, written by genius composers and edited into the soundtrack by golden-eared engineers from the top of their trade. The product is perfectly turned out, and this perfection attracts the eye and captures the mind.
But although these spectacles look like movies, what they really are is opera – stylized, larger-than-life, highly symbolic work that is not meant to be understood literally. And it makes me nuts.
How else to explain the glaring inconsistencies that sit in the center of these movies, like turds floating in the precise center of a crystal punchbowl carved out of the largest, most perfect diamond in the whole world? I mean, look at Spider-Man again, and think for a moment about the absurdity of its set-pieces.
Drew Friedman says:
I just wanted to share my latest portrait of Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster, the creators of Superman. This is the latest in the series of portraits I'm creating of "Legends of the Comics."
It's my great pleasure to welcome Wendy and Richard Pini to Boing Boing, where they'll be publishing the next chapter of their long-running fantasy epic Elfquest—online-first for the first time!
You may also know Wendy from her anime-style retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's Masque of The Red Death — which even got her in trouble with Facebook over cartoon boobs.
The first page of Elfquest: The Final Quest's prologue will appear here at Boing Boing on Monday. In the meantime, catch up with the story so far (all 6000 pages of it!), free of charge, at the series' official homepage.
After the jump, I've pasted in part of an item I once wrote (for the late, lamented Ectoplasmosis (Update: reborn on tumblr!)) about why this comic series is so awesome. Then follows our press release. Read the rest
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Keep an eye out for crocodiles -- the islands of the South Pacific are teeming with them.
Marshall Headphones & Amplification have launched their first home audio product, an active loudspeaker that (surprise) looks just like a guitar amp. The Hanwell, named for the London location of Jim Marshall's first shop, has a wooden cabinet with the iconic Marshall vinyl wrapping and black/gold grill cloth. No word on pricing, or whether it goes to eleven. "Hawnell Revealed"
CNN suppresses its own award-winning doc on human rights abuses in Bahrain; has commercial ties to the regime
CNN sent its investigative correspondent Amber Lyon to produce an expensive documentary on the Arab Spring, including human rights abuses in Bahrain. Lyon and her crew were violently detained by Bahraini security forces, but soldiered on and made "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring," which went on to win awards and acclaim after its sole airing on CNN.
But CNN International, "the most-watched English-speaking news outlet in the Middle East," has never aired the doc. While cutting the doc, Lyon was pressured to include statements from the Bahraini government that she knew to be lies. And CNN itself under-reported the ongoing abuses in Bahrain. Now, CNN has threatened Lyon with sanction for her continued work to uncover the reason that her doc was blackballed by the international arm of her former employer. CNN itself has been remarkably friendly to the Bahraini regime, with which it has close financial ties.
Here's more from Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:
On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution", she wrote, "baffled producers". Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the "censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story." She posted a picture of herself with Rajab and wrote:
"A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain."
The following day, a representative of CNN's business affairs office called Lyon's acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.
This Saturday, September 8th 8PM, at the Fanatic Salon, Betty Thomas seeks to answer one of the enduring questions of improv: "Who was Del Close?"
Every student of Del, myself included, has their share of stories about working with one of the greatest minds in comedy. Del, a member of the Compass, director of the Committee, Second City and countless improv troupes, helped form the basis upon which modern improvisational theater stands. He was colorful, brilliant, inspired and inspiring. See the embedded video for a bit of Del describing his work and the improv form he created, called the Harold.
Accompanied by the musical genius of Fred Kaz, Thomas has gathered together an incredibly talented group of improvisors: Rob Janas, Dan Bakkedahl, Dan Antonucci, Joe Canale, Kevin Fleming, Matt Craig and Jay Leggett, Jean Villepique, Celeste Pechous, Molly Erdman, Carrie Clifford and Shulie Cowen -- all of whom have worked or trained with Del.
This insanely talented group will perform two Harolds, both formed around their own experiences and the audiences answer... "Who was Del?"
Ian Alexander Norman contributed his long-exposure pic of this year's Temple of Remembrance at Burning Man to the Boing Boing Flickr pool. The Temple is a huge, ornate structure that burners fill up with their regrets, grief, memorials and testaments to their dead, their lost, and their sorrows. Last Sunday night, we burned the Temple in near silence (one jackass in an art car broke up the silence by repeatedly blasting Freebird), and watched the sorrows go up in flame. I wrote a remembrance there for my good friend Possum Man, and it was cathartic to see it all burn, surrounded by tens of thousands of other people watching their own fires.
Update: Xeno Evil sez, "I just wanted to say that the rendition of Freebird that you heard was not a jackass. It was a tribute to a dear friend and solid DPW member who used to always play the song before he was killed a couple months ago in Austin. His name was Joey Jello and he was an exemplary human being, he actually made most of DPW take stock and try to be better people. He had 'Never Betray' tattooed on his neck backwards so that whenever he looked in the mirror, he'd be reminded of his commitment to live by his moral standards. When we play freebird (and I, personally, HATE the song) it's not to bother other people, it's to remind us to be better people because Joey was better than all of us, he was amazing, weird and great. His absence has left a void of awesome that all of us in DPW feel needs to be filled. Working DPW is weird and hard and it takes a certain punk rock lifestyle... it takes its toll and we all die a little too soon. Joey's not the first of us to die, but I'd like you to know why Freebird was playing,
Nathan Kensinger is an artist "whose work explores hidden urban landscapes, off-limits structures, and other liminal spaces." He told me about a project that he, Laura Chipley, and Sarah Nelson Wright are working on called The Newtown Creek Armada:
It's a public art installation that is using remote control boats and underwater cameras to explore the Newtown Creek, a federal Superfund Site in New York City.
The installation opens this weekend, when we will be inviting the public to pilot our fleet of nine miniature boats, and to film their own voyage on the Newtown Creek. We will also be presenting several videos of our voyages that document the more polluted parts of the creek, which is home to the second largest oil spill in the United States, and has been used as a dumping ground for heavy industry and raw sewage for over 150 years. Despite this history, nature is slowly returning to the area, as we discovered on our voyages.
[Video Link] Dead Europe, a new movie by Tony Krawitz, is premiering at the 2012 Toronto International Film on Friday.
Dead Europe, from the producers of Shame and Animal Kingdom, is a tense and moody mystery set on the turbulent streets of contemporary Europe. The film follows a young photographer named Isaac (Ewen Leslie in a breakthrough performance) who -- while taking his deceased father's ashes from Australia to Greece -- comes to learn that something sinister happened in his family's past involving a young Jewish boy. Despite an effort to distract himself with a mix of random sex and drugs, Isaac's world begins to unravel as he realizes that he cannot escape the ghosts of the past.
It's Anil Dash's 37th birthday, and he's asking his friends and fans to donate $37 to charity:water, to provide clean water for a whole village. His post gives the background on this: he grew up playing with cousins in India, and later in life discovered that the entirety of a neighboring village was wiped out by cholera, with 100 percent mortality.
* I'm running a charity: water campaign to raise $5000 to provide a clean water for an entire village. charity: water is well-known, reputable, efficient, trustworthy and effective in delivering new water wells to areas of the world that need them. I've sponsored wells before, and this is the most meaningful thing we can do. Your entire donation will go to funding water projects, not overhead.
* You should give $37. It's my 37th birthday, and that makes for a nice number. But it's also enough that you'll feel your gift. I don't want this to be a $10 pledge you absentmindedly send to a Kickstarter campaign, or a $5 gift that's "as much as you'd pay at Starbucks". I want you to make a choice, to spend enough money that you have to think about it and compare it to how much you pay for your own water bill. I know you are generous.
* I tell you the story of how the lack of clean water impacts people a part of the world where I have loved ones because I need you to understand that this isn't some abstract threat that happens to "those people over there" living some exotic life you only see in TV specials. People who die, or have their lives dramatically affected, by the lack of fresh water are exactly like me. Their family is from where mine is from, they speak English as well as I do, they use smartphones to communicate, they are like me in every way except their parents didn't get on a jet and come around the world. And as a result, they can be put in mortal danger by having a glass of water to drink.
I've just donated. Will you?
Here's an exclusive excerpt from Walking the Amazon: 860 Days. One Step at a Time. by Ed Stafford.
In April 2008, Ed Stafford embarked on a journey to become the first person to walk the entire length of the Amazon River. In what was supposed to be a year long journey, Stafford followed the Amazon River from its known source in the Peruvian Andes to its end off the coast of Brazil 860 days later, which eventually led to a two-part documentary on Discovery Channel.
In Walking the Amazon Ed Stafford recounts his thrilling, yet often dangerous, expedition across Peru and the Andes including:
- Drug trafficking trails of Colombia
- Navigating the densest parts of the rainforest in Brazil
- Near mental breakdown in the final stretches of the trek
- Threat of machete-wielding indigenous tribes
- food shortages, poisonous animals, injuries, tropical storms
Despite it all, Stafford was able to use his expedition to successfully connect with schools and raise awareness on environmental issues in result of the deforestation of the Amazon. Currently working with Discovery Channel on a new project, Stafford currently holds the Guinness World Record for completing the longest jungle expedition, named European Adventure of the Year and nominated as one of National Geographic’s “Adventurers of the Year” for what was previously thought of as an impossible feat.
Exhilarating from start to finish, Walking the Amazon is a true account of a world-first expedition that takes readers on the most daring voyage along the world’s greatest river and through the most bio-diverse habitat on Earth.
In 1905, the St. Louis post office built a two-mile pneumatic tube system to deliver mail between the train station and the post office. It was expensive to maintain ($17,000 per year per mile of tube) and ruined a lot of mail.
St. Louis's tubes ran a little less than two miles; by contrast, New York's system, the largest in the U.S., was 27 miles, not counting the tube that ran under the East River to Brooklyn. It was also the least efficient: Most of the time, the tubes, which were open from 4 a.m. to midnight six days a week, ran at only 26 percent capacity, except between 7 and 9 a.m. when the two big mail trains arrived. Then it was overwhelmed and the mail would be delayed for as long as 20 minutes. That was about five times as long as it took normally for the capsules to whiz their way from the train station to the main post office.
The tubes themselves were eight inches in diameter. The capsules were seven inches in diameter and 22 inches long; they could each hold about 600 letters. They didn't look much different from the capsules that are still used in banks. (Why mess with good technology?) Underground, they traveled at 30 miles per hour, propelled along by a system of fans and pumps that would either blow them forward or suck them backward.
Here's USPO's pro/con list of the system:
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Brian Krebs, who has written many excellent investigative pieces on ATM skimmers, spent several hours watching footage seized from hidden skimmer cameras, and has concluded that covering your hand while you enter your PIN really works in many cases -- and that many people don't bother to take this elementary step.
Some readers may thinking, “Wait a minute: Isn’t it more difficult to use both hands when you’re withdrawing cash from a drive-thru ATM while seated in your car?” Maybe. You might think, then, that it would be more common to see regular walk-up ATM users observing this simple security practice. But that’s not what I found after watching 90 minutes of footage from another ATM scam that was recently shared by a law enforcement source. In this attack, the fraudster installed an all-in-one skimmer, and none of the 19 customers caught on camera before the scheme was foiled made any effort to shield the PIN pad.
Krebs goes on to note that this doesn't work in instances where the skimmer includes a compromised PIN pad, and it seems likely that if covering PINs became more routine that crooks would take up this technique more broadly. But for now, covering your PIN with your free hand is a free, effective means of protecting yourself from ATM skimmers.
Musicians DJ Food, Cheeba, and Moneyshot spent three years recreating the Beastie Boys masterful Paul's Boutique from "all the original samples plus a cappellas, period interviews and the Beasties’ own audio commentary from the reissued release." This is a sequel-of-sorts to Cheeba and Moneyshot's "Beastie Boy Beats: Check Your Head." DJ Food's post on the project includes a full tracklist with source material references. "Caught In The Middle of A 3-Way Mix – a tribute to The Beastie Boys‘ ‘Paul’s Boutique’ album"
This is Joyce Coffey who was arrested four times in 26 hours last week. Reportedly, the first three times were for playing loud music, including AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." The final time was after she threw a frying pan at her nephew. "Police: Woman arrested 4 times in 26 hours" (AP, thanks, Rick Pescovitz!)