The night I became a pirate

Tonight it became known to me that a certain controversial political party had extended its arm to this country.

piratepartyOriginating in Sweden earlier this year, the Pirate Party are actively campaigning for changes in Copyright structure, Patent Laws and Freedom of Speech. The main goal is to allow the non-commercial sharing of digital content without crippling restrictions, otherwise known as DRM. Whilst doing this they want to make sure that the creators of the content get the fair payment they deserve, instead of it all feeding down the greedy rights holders, otherwise known as the record and film companies.

They also want to remove some of the unecessary patents on potentially life-saving drugs. As I wish to pursue a career in Pharmacy, I am strongly interested in this. I feel that it is our right as healthcare professionals to ensure that such drugs are accessible to those who need them – we shouldn’t control the distribution of drugs just based on the depth of the recepient’s wallet.

You can get more information, or sign up and become a member at the Pirate Party UK’s official website.

Before I go, I’ll just leave you with a quote from the bottom of their page:

“Outdated laws must change, and will change. The only question is when will we change them. Join our cause, and help make this change happen now!”

Chasing the online dragon

A thought occured to me this very evening (well, morning) as I was sat at home after coming back from work, with iTunes catching all the latest Podcasts, RSS feeds letting me know of anything new and (obviously, since you subscribe to feeds yourself) interesting happenings, and TweetDeck letting me know that I had at least 104 unread tweets — although I don’t use TweetDeck all the time, so it doesn’t know if I’ve already read them or not.

There’s something very exasperating about having so much information to catch up on, that at times I just can’t be bothered to work my way through it all and I let it all pile up until one day I’m forced to just to get it out of the way (hmm… a bit like tidying my room then!). But at the same time, because all of this information that’s flooding itself over me like an avalanche is content that I actively subscribed to, and thus relevent to my interests, it can be enjoyable to do – I quite like waiting around until the end of the day to catch up on all the news — obviously this only applies when I’m not around to catch it as it occurs.

But then when I’ve caught up, the number of new podcasts/feeds/emails reads ‘0’ and all the news has slowed down because it’s the evening, it’s quite possibly the most bored I can ever get (apart from General Studies back in College) – I’ve ran out of things to catch up on, and wouldn’t my time have been better spent doing something more productive, or even making some of this news for myself? As the internet reaches out into the future, we’re just going to be catching up on past events more and more.

Does anybody else experience this, or does it mean that I’m turning into an internet addict?

How Xbox LIVE Games on Demand can improve

I’m here to offer some constructive criticism on how I think the Games on Demand service can improve itself. A new Dashboard update was rolled out to the public yesterday (August 11) and, among some other trivial tweaks, Microsoft introduced a new ‘Games on Demand’ service, where you can download full Xbox 360 games right to your HDD without the need for physical media.

GoD

There’s a few issues with the service though. I’m going to address a few of these, and offer my suggestions as to what they can do to improve them.

Firstly, they need to do something about the pricing structure. Games such as Assassin’s Creed are on the Marketplace for £19.99. In fact, all Xbox 360 games on the Marketplace are this price. Even worse, the US prices are $19.99, meaning they’re paying roughly £12, which is STILL more expensive than a physical copy of the game! (game deal provided by Frugal Gaming)

I’m happy that they haven’t gone with the ridiculous points system for the games, as they do on the Arcade, Add-On and Avatar marketplaces because I don’t have to pay more than I have to, and then have a silly amount of points that I can’t get anything with — but they really need to think about the pricing structure. Nobody’s going to pay double the price for a DRM copy of a game that you can’t sell or trade in once you’re done with it. Want to take it round to your friend’s house to show him what he’s missing? Sorry, you’re either going to have to take your 360 along for the ride or he’s going to have to buy it. (well, he could come visit you too I suppose…) What I’m trying to get to is: variable pricing structure – it’s ridiculous to think that a flat-level price is a good idea.

My next issue is with the size of these games. These games are on DVD, output in 720p/1080i HD. I tried installing Halo 3 onto my HDD to make my 360 run a little bit quieter (most of the noise comes from the disc drive spinning). I can’t really say that I was surprised when I discovered it would take up 6.3GB – needless to say, my 20GB HDD just didn’t have enough space on it. I assume that all the other game downloads are of equivalent size, which means that unless you have the 120GB HDD that made its début with the Elite, you’re going to run out of free space very quickly. Considering most games have add-ons, map packs, etc. and can take up around 2GB without even being installed on the HDD makes this even worse.

Microsoft require you to use proprietary storage mediums on their system – to store game data and the like you need to have either an HDD or a Memory Unit (akin to the PlayStation’s memory cards)

360HDD

The largest HDD you can get is the aforementioned 120GB model. The Xbox 360’s main (and only) ‘rival’ in this generation, the PlayStation 3, uses standard 2.5″ SATA HDD. So theoretically you can get as much storage as is available at the time – 500GB onwards if you so desire. The prices for Microsoft’s proprietary HDD are also atrocious — for less than the price of a 120GB Microsoft HDD, you could have 500GB in your PS3. Until they allow us to use external data storage, I can’t see their Games on Demand service being a big hit – because at this moment in time, all you’re doing by purchasing content from it is crippling both your wallet and your 360. And that’s not good for anybody!

Developer Opression? There’s an App Store for that

appression

The Apple App Store. Quite possibly the main reason the iPhone is outselling most of the competition. Over 50,000 Applications, with over 1 billion downloads since it launched last July. It’s quite simple to develop applications for the iPhone, as Apple supply an SDK. You can upload whatever you want to the App Store, but Apple ask that you don’t upload “objectional material”. This is where the problem lies.

Since its launch there have been many controversies regarding certain applications. One of the most common reasons for app disapproval tends to be foul or offensive language that search features within the applications can return. These search features are more often than not provided by something other than the application itself (read: the internet) so it leaves me utterly bewildered why Apple can block some applications for this reason despite its own web browser being capable of the same ‘heinous crime’ </satire>. The first application that I know of that fell foul of Apple’s double standards is Tweetie, but since there’s been so much coverage over it and the application has since been approved without alteration I don’t see the need for me to comment further.

NinDic

One of the most recent issues the App Store has had to face is with the Ninjawords Dictionary App, from Matchstick Software. Over two months it was rejected three seperate times because people were able to look up objectional material and words. In the end the application was approved, but only after all such words were removed, including standard words that can have an objectional meaning (ass, etc.) and even then it was still slapped with a 17+ rating, meaning anybody with parental controls on their iPhone/iPod may not be able to download it. Meanwhile, Dictionary.com have an application on the app store, free to download, with all the objectional words included – go on, download it, search away!

That’s my main problem with the whole fiasco – you had to actually do a search for the objectional material. If you’re consciously searching for such words, then you’re hardly going to find them objectional, are you?

As far as I know, Ninjawords is still censored on the App Store. But this week Apple approved another app, that’s loaded with “objectional material”: Texts From Last Night. Just take a look at the picture preview Apple offers up:

TFLN

Everyone can see this image, without even downloading the application. On those grounds, shouldn’t Apple have banned its own App Store? Apple need to change their approval methods, instead of approving and rejecting similar apps like Hitler playing with a Yes/No spinner.

Are we seeing the return of Horse Armour?

The date is April 3, 2006; Bethesda have released some new Xbox 360 Downloadable Content for their latest best-selling title in the Elder Scrolls series: Oblivion. Only it’s not as exciting as you may think – the content in question? A now infamous little “mod” called Horse Armour.

“What does it add?” I hear you asking in wonder.

In 8 words, It’s a couple of new textures. For your horse.

horse-armor

“Oh, that’s alright, I suppose. I’m guessing it’s free then?”

Well, see for yourself!

HOW MUCH

200 Microsoft Points (roughly £1.50, although you can’t really tell because of Microsoft’s stupid Points system), for a couple of textures that have no other effect in-game other than aesthetically. That screengrab has just been taken, so Bethesda haven’t even bothered to make this DLC gratis, even after 3 years! There’s not been many debacles like this on the Marketplace since, and that can only be a good thing, right?

Well, I’m a pretty big fan of the RPG genre, I’m not stuck to liking JRPG but I consider them to be one of my favourites (Final Fantasy X, in my opinion, is one of the five greatest games ever made)

Over a week ago I ordered Tales of Vesperia (despite it taking just over a week to actually get to my house – cheers, Tesco!). It’s a solid title in its own right, but I was wondering if it had followed the same vein as (another Bethesda title) Fallout 3, drip-feeding DLC expansions for players who wanted something fresh to do in the game. So I decided to take a look on the Marketplace, where I promptly had my retinas burned in bewilderment:

Tales

There are 35 of such DLC, all of which contain this handy message in the “More Details” tab:

WTF

Oh, well thanks for that. I could spend (I have worked out) 6,000 Microsoft Points (roughly £51.00! ) on items for my game, or I could just, y’know, fucking play the game and earn them that way, for free.

I truly don’t feel sorry for anyone who had the stupidity to throw away money on these pointless downloads.

Going Postal

Here’s my scenario. I ordered a new Xbox 360 Wireless Controller from GAME’s website around this time yesterday, after discovering that they were currently selling them for £19.98. I selected free delivery, meaning it should get sent at least 2 days after ordering and no later than 7.

Imagine then, if you would, my surprise when I got home and discovered that I’d already recieved it? I hadn’t even chosen next day delivery!

Now I’ll get to my point – on Saturday I ordered an R4 Adaptor for my Nintendo DS and paid for first class postage. As of now I still haven’t recieved it, making it nearly 7 days since the order, and 5 days since it was posted. Sometimes I don’t understand how they can be so inconsistent – I know it’s not really their fault, but logic would suggest that something you ordered a week ago would arrive before something you ordered 24 hours ago (remember, I didn’t pay for next day delivery).

The new Facebook layout…

newfb1

…SUCKS!