Thursday, 28 July 2011

On Ubisoft and DRM

I have a couple of Ubisoft games. I LOVE the rayman series - I think Rayman 3 is fantastic, and I've played it several times. I've got the Assassins' Creed games. I probably have a few others floating around that I'd not even noticed or registered as being Ubisoft.

But no matter how much I love their creations, I weep at their absurd insistence that their DRM policy is the ideal and perfect way to go.

Ok, so it's like this. Piracy is a problem. I get that. Companies do their best to counteract it: EA tried it (failing miserably) by limiting the number of times you can install a game that is officially your own property; games bought through steam have to be played on your account and your account only, though it can be from anywhere (I have nothing against this form, myself) and Ubisoft have decided that you must have a constant internet connection to play the game. Well, yes, it has kept piracy down on those titles, but it's also alienated a lot of their main customers.

Ubisoft, if it were a case of registering online and having to do what Steam does, nobody would object. Sure, you claim that steam games get hacked, but let us not forget that they are not hacked nearly as much as your or EA or other bastard DRM locked games are. People respect steam a lot more, because they are fair in their DRM policies. That and the sale is amazing.

I am no saint. I have plenty of music that I've yet to get around to actually buying the physical cd for, or the odd film that I got because I was waiting for the dvd to come down in price. Hell, I even "pirated" films I owned at home, but wanted to watch whilst at uni... I'm sure there's a bilaw about that somewhere. Should be, anyway.
I don't pirate games, because I like the box and the benefits having the legit game can bring. (Ok, I tried out The Sims 3, but I hated it, so I'm glad I didn't pay for that. I don't have it any more anyway)
However the general feeling now that Ubisoft has declared that this customer-punishing DRM policy is "successful" is that people should pirate the hell out of the game purely out of retaliation. If I had the internet connection to do so, I'd probably join in. =/ And I'm not even interested in Driver.

Book Clubs, Jobs, Technology and all the baggage.

So I was going to keep going on about Too Much Happiness, but as it got nearer the point I would have a new computer, I thought "I'll just do a big entry when I've got a new computer". I was busy, see, fighting off all my admirers who'd ridden hundreds of miles on a white horse complete with lance and heavy armour and graduating at what have you. (Ok, the former isn't strictly true, but it's a nice day out and I'm feeling fanciful.)

Yes, I've graduated. It was mildly stressful, the build up to the ridiculous ceremony. I even got my damn certificates hours before hand! Could have just left, we could! But then we'd have missed out on the sheer silliness of the pomp that our academics are forced to go through every year. <3
And I'm just recovering from the weight of the robes and morterboard on my struggling posture. BUT I also got the most adorable runt-and-not-quite-right bear from the student shop, which I've named Sir Belmont (or Monty, for short) after the building I lived in the past 3 years. (Kudos to my friend Mel for that brilliant brain wave.)

<-- Here's me with my granddad, who was the one who decided Monty be in the picture, by the way.
I know the picture's a bit dark, but I've not got any editing stuff installed yet. Games were my priority. (Nerd)

So now that I've graduated I have to go on the dole - oops, I'm supposed to do that as I type - and look for jobs, until I can start my PGCE course (pending application) in 2012. I tell you what, there is nothing more demoralising to a cynic or pessimist than to be constantly rejected from jobs which offer training,but won't take you on because you don't already have the knowledge of a trained employee.
The way of the world sucks.

My new computer is nice and shiny though, and that'll keep my occupied when I'm not with my friends. Real beaut. Runs beautifully. <3 I might get a new monitor - either as a primary with my old as a secondary or just as a full-on replacement. Not sure yet. I can take my time and wait for a good deal to come along.
I've got a 2gb Nvidia GTX460, so it'd be a shame to not use it to its full potential on a wide screen >_> Gorgeous, it is. And with all the hard disk space I've got and the RAM, I've never experienced a computer starting up so quickly. <3 Might not last in a few years, when I've filled it up more, but you know. Enjoying it whilst I can.

My first attendance to the book club I joined was fun. The group is friendly and largely around my age, which is nice. I think one girl possibly even went to my sixth form... that or she just has one of those faces. I shall use that as a conversation starter. Our next book is for September, because this month is the Shakespeare festival. They're going to see Macbeth. I'd go, as much as I dislike the play, but I'm unsure yet as to how it'll work with my evening transport. :(
The book I'm reading (along side the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman) is Nicole Krauss's The Great House, which is a novel set in three time periods or locations: New York, London and Jerusalem. I've had a gander at it, and the writing style appeals to me, so I should finish it quite quickly.

RE: Too Much Happiness - It's a good selection of stories, though I grew a bit lethargic towards the end. None of us had actually finished them all, but on the whole there was agreement that the last story (the title story) was a bit out of place in the collection which were set in Ontario, whilst this one was set in Russia. It's interesting though, and would have made a good novel.
I'm not a huge fan of short story collections, unless they're fairytales or something, but the writing style is so fluid and engaging that you enjoy being thrown mid-life-story each chapter.

I've actually got a massive cross stitch pattern to do for the 29th September, but I've not started it yet *eek*.
It's for my grandmother's birthday. Might take me a while... I'll get her a second present as compensation.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Too Much Happiness: 'Fiction' and 'Wenlock Edge'

These next short stories were a little less coherent, in my mind.

'Fiction' is about broken marriages, and, I suppose, about how one person's experiences with someone is viewed differently by the other person. If that's not clear, I'm sorry.

We are told the story of Joyce and her first marriage, and how it collapsed when Jon falls for his apprentice, making a family with her and her daughter.
It is pretty standard: Joyce is of course waiting for Jon to realise his mistake, and to witness Joyce as the sparkling socialite she has been forced to become in order to prove that he's missing out, but also that she's not just going to sit around waiting for him. Of course, he never does.

The story skips forward to when she is married to her current husband, who'd also been married before - twice before - and they are having a house party of some sort, with various other couples and broken marriages involved. At the party, Joyce encounters a teenager whom she vaguely recognises. She learns that she is a newly published author, and so investigates her book. It is a sort of biography, and it becomes clear - to Joyce, at least - that this girl was the daughter of the woman Jon left her for.

Or was it? There are some things she doesn't remember at all, but a lot of it "seems familiar". Perhaps her story is just something that commonly happens with people, or perhaps it is viewing it from the perspective of the child striving for her stepfather's ex's affection as a violin teacher that made it both familiar and strange.

The story is not really resolved, other than Joyce sees the girl at a book signing, but is unrecognised or acknowledged, leaving us and Joyce musing on the idea of stories and life, and how a person's life will appear fictitious to other people.

I wasn't entirely sure what Munro's point was with this story. Perhaps I've hit the nail on the head (urgh, I'm talking in clich├ęs!) or perhaps I've missed the point entirely. Or maybe I'm being over analytical.

Wenlock Edge
This story  is entirely different. I don't quite know what the main moral of it is, but it was certainly different to all the other stories I've read so far in this book.

The narrator is at university, and through her we experience her strange relationship with her maternal uncle, Ernie, and the life of her mysterious and worldly room-mate, Nina.  The narrator is an English major, and lives in her literature. Nina however has been married and had three children - whom she has left behind her - and has a strange benefactor and has experienced more of the real world than the narrator, which leaves the narrator feeling a little foolish.
Despite this, it is clear that the narrator is somewhat judgemental of those around her, sizing them up to what she expects them to be from her literature. Nina doesn't know where all the countries she has visited are on the map, and the girls downstairs don't behave or discuss things that students 'should', rather they behave like common 'bankers' or 'accountants'.

Reality is thrust upon her however when she has to take Nina's place at dinner with Nina's benefactor. She is told to strip naked, and to prove that she is not "just a book worm", she does so. The almost casual way that she has dinner with this elderly and fully clothed man is actually quite stark. (I had to use the word stark in a nudity context, I'm sorry.)
When she reads a poem to this strange man, she feels at ease - comfortable with the poem and its words, as it is one of her favourites. In a way, she emerges herself in her literature to the point where she can not understand what reality is. This entire story is so surreal, that after a while the narrator becomes uncomfortable with what she has done, and the reality of that evening.

Nina, in the meantime, runs off and lives for a short while with the narrator's uncle, and even mentions marriage. But the narrator, unhappy with this turn of events, gives the strange old man her uncle's address, knowing that Nina would be retrieved and taken away. In some ways, she tampers with other people's lives, as though they were fiction and she was writing their lives the way she thinks they ought to be written.
For more on this idea and the idea of metafiction, which this is vaguely touching on, see this blog entry.

The whole story is of a different tone to the others I've read so far, though I'm not sure it's the least enjoyable. I'm not even sure it's the strangest one in the collection, either.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

"Freedom of the Press"

Freedom of the Press is a term that is thrown about a lot - either when an oppressive country is suppressing the press from publishing the truth, or when a celebrity tries to get a legal gagging order.

On the face of it, freedom of the press is something to be proud of. Our papers are allowed to say what they like about the way our country is run, it's allowed to expose the hypocrisy and lies of our leaders, and it is able to publish stories that encourage human rights movements. It's also allowed to publish complete and utter trash, if it wants, and as many pictures of naked women as it can fit into a two page spread, but that's another matter.

I should be proud of our press, or 'the media'. And of some sectors, I am. I think the BBC is a fantastic organisation, no matter what Cameron and the Tories think. But right now I am less than proud of certain kinds of publications that litter our streets and paper stands.

Yes, I am of course referring to the disgusting behaviour of tabloids and 'reputable' companies such as News of the World.
Don't get me wrong, I do fall prey to the odd front page story on a magazine about So and So getting back with his/her Ex. But only to tut, sigh and shake my head, and then move on with my life. It's not my business, really, though sometimes I might empathise with a celebrity.
Sometimes it can be a good thing for a complete rat in society to be ousted, if necessary. However the big furore about Super Injunctions and its coinciding with the 'damage control' Catherine Zeta Jones was forced to pursue because she'd been photographed leaving a mental therapy home, has made me question the legality  and the ethicalness (wow, apparently that's a word) of the Freedom of the Press act.

What I believe: Human Rights are fundamentally important. Each person is entitled to a lot of basic things - the right to live, die, privacy, safety and good health. There's a lot more there, but that's the basic lot.
Each person's right to do what he likes and says is restricted by how far it affects the rights of another person.

Example: Person A has the right to not be murdered. Person B technically has the right to do what he likes, however this vastly infringes on Person's A's human right to live and safely. If Person B takes away Person A's right by force and murders him, then his own rights - freedom to do anything he likes and to live as he chooses and with the above basic things - are forfeited, and he spends his days in a cell with very limited 'living'.

Bit of a crude explanation, but it's after 11.30pm and right now I'd rather get back to what I think of the press.

Catherine Zeta Jones, and other celebrities, like any other person, has the right to privacy. How much privacy a celebrity has is often debated. Should they be allowed their privacy when they're having an affair, or should they be exposed for the love rat that they are? Should they be allowed to keep their latest trip to rehab quiet, or should they be exposed in the hope that public ridicule will help them stiffen their resolve?
Catherine being forced to make a public statement as to why she was photographed leaving such an institution should not really have happened: she was legitimately seeking help during a stressful time in her life, similar to any body else. The way the Paparazzi shadows celebrities and just takes a photo of them doing anything, anywhere, and then criticise or praise them for how they are dressed, made up or what they are doing is actually intolerable, and I do not support magazines by buying them.

If somebody has sold their story to the magazine or paper, then they are fair pickings, really. They're being paid for the attention they are getting.
Hacking people's phones or lurking outside their bedroom windows in the bushes with a camera however is a crime.
Unless you have a court order and a warrant, phone-tapping is a crime in any country. I hope that News of the World gets shut down, frankly, and that Andy Coulson and his stupid deputy editor woman get brought to court. Not only have they hacked celebrities phones - a crime in itself - but the latest scandal, the hacking and tampering with Milly Dowler's mobile phone messages is simply disgraceful. Disgraceful isn't even a strong enough word. I can not quite phrase how indignant and angry I am that they even considered it 'ok' to do this. Not only did they provide false hope in a MISSING PERSON case, by making it seem that Milly had accessed her own messages, but it was done in order to get the latest scoop, somehow. And it was entirely illegal. If it were anybody else, then the hacker would be in custody right now, at the very least on charges of perverting the course of justice or tampering with evidence or something.

I've already commented in an older post on the Super Injunctions - I think that if Cameron is seriously upset about the way the courts are "making the law", where gagging orders are concerned then he should suck it up and make sure that changes are made to the way the Freedom of the Press Act contradicts and undermines elements of the Human Rights Act, in Parliament. I'm sure Ed Milliband is jumping on the bandwagon with this, though it's entirely plausible that he believes in what I've said as well, but I'd back his current proposals that reforms are made to make sure that the press only prints what is relevant and legally obtained information.

I don't care what people say about how it's "good to know that Rio Ferdinand had that affair and is a hypocrite because Terry lost his captaincy after his affair", because overall the way the paparazzi and the press have been behaving all these years needs curtailing. It just isn't 'news', or 'good' journalism, and it needs curtailing - celebrities are just as entitled to a degree of privacy and freedom from harassment as any other citizen. The fact that News of the World felt that it was perfectly acceptable to use methods that others had been convicted for (such as the hacking of Sarah Palin's email, or hacking other websites) just shows that certain branches of our press are taking the 'freedom' part of the Act far too liberally, at detriment to everybody else's freedoms.
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press should not and does not provide immunity to illegal practices and stalking methods.

I am also entirely against everything Rupert Murdoch stands for, and I am against his bid to gain further control of the British media.
If you agree with anything I have said in this post, please click the following link and sign the petition.
Avaaz.org: Stop Rupert Murdoch - 3 days to do so.