Apr 10, 2014

The Real Software Rebels

Rereading a book about the beginning of the computer revolution is very interesting. In this case it's Glenn Moody's "Rebel Code: Linux And The Open Source Revolution" from 2001. There you can read about the "rebel heroes" such as Linus Torvalds and Richard M. Stallman. But the real software rebels are the users, the early adopters, that using the software under complicated circumstances.

When I installed my first GNU/Linux-Distro, Slackware, looking at the terminal prompt, I knew it will be awesome. Later, the X11 and xvwm GUI was great. At that time, I didn't contribute anything. I was just using it. Wait a second. Using it? Well most of the time I was busy on keep things running, and to figure out how I could do something on that system, that was a "install" away in Windows. The software that was missing. But didn't we keep it running? Against all odds, the early users of GNU/Linux, kept using an OS that was used because it was there. And while we adored the leaders of the new software movement, away from the big money sucking companies, we totally missed the fact that WE were the revolution.

It took long to understand, that without support of the people that took this OS because it was different, the movement never would have been a movement. The fact that you can get a GNU/Linux distribution that is a one click install, coming with almost all the software you'll need, is not because a few men made an OS, it's because the people accepted it. It was 2003 when it was obvious that GNU/Linux is going to be a recognized competitor. In October 2004, Ubuntu released 4.10. And while the hardcore Linux-User, shook their head about this system that you could use just like that, it was inevitable that Ubuntu was going to be a success story.

The real push into mainstream was not made by Canonical, but by SuSE GmbH. The SuSE-Linux was remarkable in many ways, and made the system useful for many people. And again, they adopted it. The thing that made Ubuntu different was the huge community and the repositories where you could find and install software without compiling it. This was a key moment. Users want to use stuff. And Ubuntu made it so easy. In the coming years, I see one Windows installation going after another. Replaced by Ubuntu. Unfortunately at some point, Ubuntu went a wrong path with the integration of online shops and commercial elements which drove the original userbase away. Mostly to derivates of Ubuntu like Linux Mint. Again, the software applications offered by the repositories made the different imho.

Now the discussion if only a 100% free software GNU+Linux is the real deal, or if proprietary drivers, and programs installed afterwards is okay, shows that GNU+Linux has changed. For good or bad is only a matter of the standpoint of view. One thing is sure however, with the users that made this system interesting at all by just using it, there would have been no Ubuntu or Mint. If there were never users that demanded a GUI like Gnome or KDE, it wouldn't exist. And it never would have took off.
Is GNU+Linux on the peak? No. Not even near. Even if you count all the Android phones and embedded devices in. it will be great in the future. On your desktop computer and on your tablet...

Mar 4, 2014

Sleep is the thing evolution did wrong

Do you ever wonder why we need to sleep? Think about the great potential if we wouldn't stop our live every day for several hours. Sleep is like being temporarily dead. Out of order for a big amount of our live.

I can't argue with the sense of sleep. Our body needs sleep, no question. So please don't take this to look for a way to stop sleeping. We are not build to go without sleep. People that sleep more, are generally more calm, intelligent and healthier, than people that are forced to go with the minimum amount of sleep. My argument here is, that evolution made a mistake, apparently.

If you sleep an average of 8 hours a day, that means at the age of 80 you have wasted ~26.6 years of your precious life.
26.6 years of time. If I think about how my time plan for everyday is, and I have almost never spare time left, this is a whole life. I answer myself, why the body didn't evolve differently to bear the permanent awakening. It's not logical. If you sleep you are very vulnerable. At the beginning of mankind this was a critical factor. And more, in that time you can't be productive to do necessary things to survive. Today, these problems are not as big as they were before. We have nice and warm bed, relatively secure, in a more or less protected area. In the beginning of mankind it was not. Dangerous animals, other humans that threaten the existence, and the run for every hour to get food to survive at day.

Does every creature on earth needs to sleep?
Almost everything that lives need sleep. Even insects were monitored and found to have sleeping cycles where only extreme triggers provoke them to awake. Mammals generally sleep. However, some kind of animals, like a Giraffe, only needs 30 minutes of sleep over day in small portions, while some bats sleep about 20 hours a day.
According to Animal Planet, it's not scientifically clear why organism need to sleep at all, despite everyone knows the effects if you don't sleep enough.

It remains a mystery why humans need to waste so many time doing nothing and being vulnerable and inactive. Would you rather stay awake if there was no need to sleep at all in the future?
I would. But I'll guess after some time even then, I wished the day would have 48 hours or more.

Jan 20, 2014

The Full Price Freemium Rip Off is Here!

A strange thing that probably made people laugh some years ago. You buy an expensive game, and to get improvements quicker to play the game with joy, you have to buy another full price range offer. Yearly.

Freemium. Well known in the smartphone space. You download an app for free and you can enable more features by buying stuff, or the full license inside the game. But without recognizing, another kind of this sneaked in to our gaming consoles and PCs. The full price freemiums. You pay like 50-70 bucks for a game, which is okay for big titles like "Battlefield 4" or "Call of Duty: Ghosts". But then you will see, if you pay another 49 bucks per year, you'll get bettrer weapons, faster upgrades, and special items.

I think this is a very sad development in the gaming scene. And it disrupts game play very well. If you can, or want, to spend nearly double the price you get unfair advantages, while for the other in the game, the experience is pretty much ruined. Skill to buy.
If the game was free, this would be really good, but if you pay insane prices, you want the full game. Everything.

It's just another way to try to squeeze out as much money as possible out of the gamers. And yes, not that the games are bad. They are very tempting. Especially if you get shot by noobs with special weapons. And besides, especially on the military shooter games, can you imagine you have to buy upgrades in the Army yourself only to get a special equipment to fight a war?
"Hey I need a FLIR 2x and an ACE Carabine", "Well, you have to make 800 Kills with your crappy Scar-H or buy an expansion pack", "Okay, I'll come back if I survived" :)

Strange, right?

Dec 14, 2013

More than Porn: Cease and Desist Scandal in Europe

It happened a lot this week in Europe. Many viewers of movies from Redtube found a not so nice mail in their snailmail-box. A lawyer firm sends out mass cease and desist letters, and insist to pay quite some money, for streaming copyright material over this streaming portal.
Now wait a minute, you say. Streaming? How can this be illegal? Mind that porn movies are not illegal for the kind of movies in most EU countries. It's only about the copyright. Now Europe has a problem.

The whole process was wrong from the beginning. First the judges that gave their okay to allow this firm to get name and addresses from the visitors via the IP-address. It never should have been allowed. Many Lawyers say that streaming, and not downloading to keep, is not illegal. In fact, to be illegal, in Germany e.g. it needs to be from an obviously illegal source. This is not the case. So they never should have get the name. What was that about privacy?
Then there is the method of this firm to get the IP. It's strongly discussed at Heise.de. In an article they claim that the law firm got the IP with illegal methods. The company sits outside the EU. So you have to sue them in Switzerland. Almost all lawyers being interviewed said that you should not apply to this cease & desist letter. You're chances seem to be good to win a trial.

And what does that mean in general?
This is a very dangerous situation. If this methods are becoming the standard, we all will be flooded with c&d orders. No matter what you watch. Do you know how many illegal material is on YouTube? It's a lot. Illegal in this or that country. If simple streaming is illegal, or even if c&d lawyers have the slightest chance to win a trial, you can never ever watch something online again, until you have the permission from the author or rights-holder. This is insane. it would be the end of videos on the net. Anyone could sue you anytime.

So the courts missed to make their homework.This is the true scandal. If streaming goes illegal, it could affect videos internationally. And the politicians need to intervene here quickly. It's not about porn. It's about users of the Internet have no safety against this kind of cease and desist-lawyers or criminal blackmailing.
This problem even goes beyond the Internet. This is a new example of why a first cease & desist letter must be free. No money should be paid. Otherwise some lawyers always make things up and bet on the fear of people , quickly paying just to get in no trouble. with the first letter "free", they can still keep their clients copyright interests, but will think twice if it is really a matter. And maybe, if you get a cease&desist without a real substance, a fine should be put against the law firm. Mass sending those letters does shows the real intention. This must stop.

Btw. Redtube itself is fighting against the "blackmailing", so they say, of German viewers from this law firm. This is a little light. But nobody knows what that exactly mean. Both the law and the politics however, have to be clear about this, for the future of the Internet.

More Info on how you can react if you are a victim of such firms can be found and irights.info. Especially for this case with Redtube, you can found help in a dedicated article.

Dec 4, 2013

Upgraded to Linux Mint 16 Petra

I upgraded my Linux Mint 15 installation with Linux Mint 16 via Package upgrade. There I followed the instructions from "Upgrade Linux Mint 15 (Olivia) to Linux Mint 16 (Petra)"

It's easy but I ran into a problem.
So after that:

sudo sed -i 's/raring/saucy/' /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo sed -i 's/olivia/petra/' /etc/apt/sources.list
sudo sed -i 's/raring/saucy/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list
sudo sed -i 's/olivia/petra/' /etc/apt/sources.list.d/official-package-repositories.list 

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
sudo apt-get upgrade  

It took a while and after the reboot (used
sudo shutdown -r now
because the dialog to restart was no longer readable), I ran into a requester saying "There was an error loading the theme BlackNBlue".
Yes, you guessed it, I installed a theme on Olivia and it didn't survive the upgrade. I couldn't log in, and there was no way to getting to the GUI. So I started an editor and changed the HTML-Theme to "Clouds" at /etc/mdm/mdm.conf (see screenshot).

After another reboot the login-screen appeared and worked as intended.

However, I found the settings and panel-entries for the settings were all doubled. One started the gnome-control center and the other the cinnamon settings. I edited the menu to get rid of the gnome-panels. Uninstalling would have brick some of my installed programs, which might be the reason they are here at all. 

So no big deal in the end, and now I'm enjoying a new Mint system, hopefully without the "Dummy Output" sound bug appearing randomly after booting, like Olivia did.

Nov 16, 2013

Retro Feeling - Only a Few New Games Can Compete

I'm having a retro game trip at the moment. Is it only me to have that kind of good feeling playing this old games? Apparently not with all that stuff on the Internet.

Why does so many people appeal to ancient games? Is it for the same reason people watch classic movies? I don't think it's that easy. Sure, you watch old movies when you have watched them before. On the other side, some rare classic movies are attracting young people lately.
In games, many more old games appeal to young players. You could even speak of a trend to old games.

Game conventions like in Cologne in Germany lures with big floors of retro games and showing off ancient hard- and software. And people storm those places. So something must be tempting.

I think there are a couple of reasons for this. First, almost everything you see in gaming was invented in early video games times. Believe it or not, motion sensors, real 3D gaming, and most of the gaming concepts, if not to say all, were already here decades ago.

Then there are the essences of the games. Not only the game concept as a whole, but the sense you are playing for. No matter if score, level or coins, the reason people play are almost the same than in the 70s & 80s, but without the clutter. Yes, a clean and easy concept. People understand these games and know what to do without even reading a word about the story.
And here is a point. We have all these new games, with basically only few real new innovation, but a very complicated gameplay and an arguable story.

Radar Rat Race (VIC-20)                      Space Taxi (C64)

The few really new game concepts set their own retro status later on. The most important game types imho was the first person shooter. Doom and Duke Nukem did it, but there were 3D shooter, as it were called in the early days, before these two. Wolfenstein 3D which got banned in Germany and had a massive success everywhere. But Doom pushed everything forward. Those 3 were the inventors of a genre that is one of the few still very alive in PC gaming.
The second game type that was invented later, is the concept of Grand Theft Auto III. A world were you can act freely and decide when and where you make missions. For the first time you find yourself not playing for a new highscore, despite that you have a percentage meter to solve everything in the game, but to end up driving around the city, doing this or that, shopping in stores without any sense, or caring about your outfit within the game.


Last but not least you have the MMORPG-genre. It was a phenomenon from the beginning. World of Warcraft did the job. The concept however is old. It's an roleplay-game where you fit in a carefully created world. Quests and social interactions with real players did change everything. For the first time you had to think about manner and behavior in a game, to play together well with other real people instead of dumb computer generated chars.
However this genre seems to be on the decline. It's time intensive and you have a conceptional problem: How can new players be attracted when old players have the world under control? New servers only lead to "twinks", old players that knew the game very well, leveling up new chars. New gamers are stranded if they don't have friends already in the game. And the beginner areas are ghost cities. Gone the times were nice people helped each other to solve a quest or fight an instance boss. Now they were demanding in-game gold for their "services".
Even the introduction of Free-to-Play games without a monthly fee to play, has little success so far, even with big brands like "Star Trek" or "Star Wars".

Runes Of Magic

And now all of these games are somehow beaten by some horrible graphics, no or very basic and fishy stories, and extremely simple game concepts. That shows one thing for me: Games are still for fun. Players are getting tired of extremely complicated stuff and insane concepts based on the basics of a decade old game. Just more shiny. GTA is simple to play, first person shooters are a simple concept, and Angry Birds is a simple game. The retro games got a push from the touchscreen game scene. Simple games are very famous on smartphones and tablets.

People begin to ask themselves, what does a game really need to get you banned on the monitor or display? The answer is fun. No matter if a strange looking sprite is about to eat dots the screen, or a power-sucking 3D graphic engine rocks the desktop and your wallet.
In our minds, the Pac-Man is as real as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the movie. We just need to have imagination. And luckily it seems it's still there.

Related articles:
Why Retro Games Rule
30th Anniversary of the Commodore C64
Frodo brings your C64 Games to Android