Driving Blind: Stalinists and Kafka

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Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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  1. Avatar zic
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    says:

    I’ll add another piece on PRISM from Mother Jones.

    Among the revelations made last week by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, few were more jarring than the suggestion that private security contractors have the capability to monitor your every online communication seemingly on a whim, in real-time. As he told the Washington Post, “They quite literally can watch your ideas form as you type.”

    (snip)

    But Sanchez points to a program like Google Search, which transmits data to a server with every keystroke, as an example of what the NSA might be capable of, if they had access to a specific target. “If they have back-end access to a device there then there is no reason that that would not in principle be possible,” said Sanchez. “I don’t know whether it is literally something that is done on a regular basis. it sounds like for the most part what they’re doing is querying a database for stored record.”

    “It’s sort of a combination of him using flowery language and the one pull quote from that session with him that’s a really good shocking tidbit, but this is more about inference,” said Hall.

    “But then,” he added, “I’ve been surprised quite a bit lately.”

    http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/06/edward-snowden-said-contractors-can-watch-your-ideas-form-you-typeReport

  2. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    The PS4 reveal was absolute *GENIUS*. They slapped the ever-living crap out of Microsoft.Report

    • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      I’m really confused about the Xbox One. It appears to be an attempt to leverage the Xbox into another market.

      But what confuses me is what that market is supposed to be, why they’re going to pay 499 for it, and how/why Microsoft thinks they can de-leverage the actual “gaming” side of it.

      The Xbox brand is “gaming console”. Which means “good” or “bad” is going to, at first glance, be determined by how it performs as a gaming console. “it’s a great console AND it does all this other awesome stuff” could work, but “It’s a crap console that does this other stuff, get a PS4 instead it’ll do Netflix and HBO-GO as well” doesn’t work.

      And a quick glance at the technical stats show the Xbox, despite having VERY similar architecture to the PS4 (they both went with PC-style architecture, nothing proprietary or unique), the cuts they made mean the Xbox is unlikely to be able to push true 1080p graphics in games, and everything is just going to work flat-out better on the PS4.

      Better graphics — or the same graphics at a better framerate, less caching, lower load times, etc.

      I’m just…I’m honestly not seeing how this ever got green-lit. My best guess is MS still wants to basically replace your cable box, streaming box, and basically create something that’s seen as a must-have part of your TV.

      Which is great and all, and maybe someday they’ll succeed, but what they’re selling is a gaming console. Against a competitor with a better product at a lower price.

      And that’s before all the used-game stuff. Which i think might actually be illegal in Europe. I’m pretty sure the EU has some pretty pointed first-sale laws.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20
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        says:

        I think that Microsoft knows that, somewhere out there, there is a Steam Box. This box no longer requires CDs/DVDs to play games. A box that does nothing but download games and patches and updates automatically. This box is always plugged into the internet.

        Indeed, the desktop box of many folks is like this now. (I know mine is. I play a handful of games on my computer and it’s always connected and I haven’t purchased a physical computer game since… well, it’s been a while. Heroes VI, I think.)

        Microsoft was attempting to introduce The Steam Box.

        Except it was trying to do that in a way that still used physical media… in the face of a group of people who very much see physical media as one of the reasons to prefer a console to a desktop.

        The closest thing I can think of as an analogy is a Divx player.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          With the new XBox and Windows 8, is it fair to say Microsoft has lost its freaking mind?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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            says:

            I kinda understand Windows 8, kinda. “We want a uniform Operating Experience across our smartphones, our tablets, our game system, and our desktops!”

            The problem is that people have compartmentalized their computing something awful. Phones are for tweeting, tablets are for media consumption, game systems are for game consumption, and desktops are for media creation.

            Windows 8 told people that they could use their desktop like a smartphone and this appealed to approximately no one with the disposable income to do so.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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              You can use the same interface on your old desktops that you use on the new tablets, Too bad it doesn’t support any of the programs you’ve been using for years that are the main reason people stick with Windows.Report

            • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Jaybird
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              Windows 8 is also bizarrely awkward and confusing to me. For Christ’s sake, what asshat sat around and thought, “I bet all our customers want us to throw a whole new learning curve at them, right while they’re in the middle of work.”

              We bought the kids a laptop and i’m just appalled. My office laptop is near death, everything limping along, taking far too long to startup programs or even activate commands, and every now and then it shuts itself down of its own accord. I’m promised a new one if I’ll just talk to IT, but dammit, I don’t want to relearn how to do what I already know how to do!Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird
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              There’s also the fact that the interfaces are different between phones, tables, laptops, and desktops.

              Windows 8 is optimized for touch controls. I am not going to use touch controls on my desktop or laptop. Typing and a mouse is faster, more familiar, and flat-out superior.

              Now, touch is great for tablets and decent for smartphones (although to be honest, smartphones are so small you lose a lot of fine control).

              Microsoft wanted one unified interface for devices that demand different input devices, and then got shirty when we didn’t all replace our laptops with tablets and our desktops with Surface, because you know, we’re all freaking rich AND want to ditch the faster keyboard/mouse combo in favor of having a giant, awkwardly placed tablet as the new ‘desktop’.Report

        • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Look, if they wanted to do a Steam box — which I can get — they designed it all wrong.

          Kinect? Should be optional. TV Integration? Toss it — develop later.

          Take the base PS4 stats, throw in the largest hard drive you can bargain for, and ensure you can run a 360 VM so you can still sell not only your entire Arcade line, but your previous 360 titles. Throw the entire 360 line online. Anything bought online — like Steam — can be deleted or redownloaded as needed.

          Their 512 MB cloud stuff for live? Make it unlimited for game saves only, automatically backed up, for Gold players.

          Leave in a Blu-ray player for movies and make it a dual CD/Blueray so you can use your old physical titles and for people that just want discs. If your old stuff has unique digital IDs, let them ‘scan’ it into the system so they can ditch the disk and use their Live/Arcade copies. (Can’t otherwise, or they’d just scan and sell them).

          New Xbox One stuff comes signed, so if you buy a physical copy it unlocks the Live copy — so if you break the disc? You can get it again. Heck, keep your DRM — if you want to sell your physical copy, you have to authorize it on your account and it’s removed. So yeah, dead resale market STILL — but preserves your right to resale your items (a legal requirement in some places) and no, MS doesn’t get a cut but most people won’t bother.

          Because most people will buy digitally, like I do on Steam.

          But it’s the “Must have Kinect” that drove their prices up AND canned their hardware, PLUS the DRM (with fees, as opposed to simply taking the ID and throwing in a quick website that would allow Gamestop to see if you’d clicked on the “I’m selling this game, deauthorize it” before buying it), AND all this useless TV integration nobody wants.

          Microsoft seems to have developed a TiVo/DVR/CableBox/Streaming Media player that you can play games on (poorly, compared to it’s competitor), and then wants to sell it to their gaming market at a premium. .

          Whose entire view is “I want to play games, not that other crap”.

          Your 360 practically IS a Steambox now. What was wrong with a 360 with better hardware, a VM for backwards compatibility, a blue-ray player and optional kinect?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20
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            says:

            I imagine that the XBone is how we will be gaming in, oh, 2025. We won’t even think twice about it. (Yes, even privacy-issues-wise.)

            The Kinect/TiVo/DVR/CAbleBox/Streaming stuff is intended to be icing… but the timing is wrong.

            I don’t think that it’s a *BAD* idea as much as a bad idea in 2013.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird
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              says:

              I dunno. I think someone at Microsoft is still dreaming of owning TV’s like they do desktop OS’s and managed to sell it through the Xbox on the strength of Neflix and other streaming use on the 360.

              Which people use primarily because it’s easy to use (some TV’s have it built in, but those aren’t that common and it’s often kind of hassle).

              Which is fine — good synergy or whatnot. They probably kept a lot of Gold subs by people who didn’t need it for their games but used Netflix that way.

              This is…dumb. Half of it’s just raw money grubbing (the resale stuff), half of it’s stuff people would accept as options or add-ons (Kinect, some of the overlay stuff) but is being sold as ‘core’ to a group that doesn’t really want any of them in a major way. And it’s all shoved into what’s clearly a second-rate console sold for a higher price.

              Which just insults their core market. “We think you’re not paying us enough, so our upgrade is a piece of crap we’re charging more for, all for stuff you never wanted. Also, you can’t resell your games or play your old ones. FORK OVER THE CASH”.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20
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                says:

                Hey, I’m right there with you. This is part of why I thought PS4’s reveal was so brilliant. It laid the smack down upon the booty of Microsoft.

                I was debating whether to buy a next gen box or wait until I ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY HAD TO HAVE ONE and I’ve come to the conclusion that I will support the PS4 and shun the XBone.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I scratched Xbox off — as did two of my friends, both of whom have ONLY owned Xboxes — the second we saw the price and no backwards compatibility and no transfer of Arcade/Live purchases.

                I’m considering buying a new 360 this summer, as mine is quite old and I have a large backlog of games to work through, but unless something seriously changes it’ll be the PS4 — probably a year after it launches.

                Sony was quick to stick the knife in MS, and good on them for doing it. Smart move.

                (I really wish someone knowledgeable about the topic would address MS’s used game stance, both in terms of American law and overseas. I’ve heard from several sources that the EU’s views on the first-sale doctrine make it really questionable as to whether the Xbox One’s setup can possibly be legal at all there, and I know it’s…somewhat iffy…here).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Morat20
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                says:

                If it’s based on more than “they checked the box the first time they turned the system on”, I’ll be surprised.Report

  3. Avatar zic
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    says:

    And here’s a lemonade stand story if I’ve ever seen one:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/is-tesla-a-threat/

    In which NC auto dealers try to prevent on-line auto sales in an effort to shut Tesla out of the market.Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic
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      says:

      Yep. That one’s been catching my attention lately. I have no idea if Tesla can really be successful or not, but apparently auto dealers think it can be, and god forbid they’re not given a cut of the action!Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        My brother-in-law has ordered one, my sweetie and younger sprout will go out to witness it being built and tour the factory.

        Sprout would very much like to work there.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic
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          says:

          Please give us a report on it (the car, more than the tour) at some point. But this is what has me skeptical.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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            says:

            The big step here is the drive train; with a cheaper batter it works as a ‘people’s car.’ Before that, it’s a luxury car for those who can afford it.

            I suspect this is why it will be worth mining asteroids. Some of those babies have more platinum then the entire planet.Report

            • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to zic
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              says:

              In case I’ve misrepresented myself, I wish Tesla all the best and hope they’re successful. I think we’ll transition past internal combustion driven cars eventually, and I imagine it will involve some notable failures as well as successes, but the fewer failures the better, and the quicker the transition the better.Report

          • Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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            says:

            My company does a lot of work with Tesla & other electric car companies. Battery modeling is a tricky business right now, but there is a lot of research going into developing mathematical models for batteries that will help our ability to simulate them accurately. Once we have those, expect the development of batteries to begin making larger leaps.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to zic
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          says:

          Lucky! They won’t let us order ’em here in Pittsburgh.Report

    • Avatar Tel in reply to zic
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      says:

      Although the article is about Tesla, the idea of online sales is not really related to Tesla, nor even the automotive industry. Every mass manufactured good is facing this.

      Think about it, if I see a widget on the showroom floor, then I know from the brand and model that the exact same widget will be delivered regardless of supplier. That’s what mass manufacture is all about; identical items. Thus, every “bricks and mortar” business is facing doom from online competition, regardless of what they sell. Online has massively lower overheads. It happens to be that the automotive industry tends to have a close relationship with their dealers, and Telsa happens to be an upstart unencumbered by history, but that’s coincidence.

      This is not about a secret conspiracy against electric cars, it’s about conservative business management hanging onto old models, because they have worked for a long time.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to Tel
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        says:

        “This is not about a secret conspiracy against electric cars, it’s about conservative business management hanging onto old models, because they have worked for a long time.”

        Note that auto dealers are politically very well-connected and powerful. The only reason that GM was able to close a bunch of dealerships was that they went bankrupt.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Tel
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        says:

        Yes, but the online auto business model is doomed because a car can’t fit in the back of the UPS or Fed Ex truck, so how can they deliver it?Report

  4. Avatar NewDealer
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    says:

    Christopher Reeve will always be superman to this inbetween viewer. I was not even born when the first Reeve superman came out but it was the Superman of my childhood.Report

  5. Avatar Chris
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    says:

    Moreover, it creates a power imbalance between individuals and the government.

    Creates?Report

    • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Chris
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      says:

      Heh. Without such a power imbalance, there is not really government, is there?Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch
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        says:

        I’d say that without a power imbalance between (groups of) individuals there is no government.Report

        • Avatar J@m3z Aitch in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          I’m not sure I follow. I can see three potential meanings.

          1. One of your groups is government, and of course it has more power. But that’s not really different from what I said, so I doubt that’s your meaning.

          2. In any given policy issue some group ultimately influences government more successfully than others. That’s a truism, and theoretically those groups could be impermanent, temporary aggregations for the purpose of pursuing a particularized goal, rather than permanent definable groups with multiple long-standing differences of interest. Perhaps you mean this, but I suspect you’re trying to say more than that.

          3. There are permanent definable groups with multiple long-standing differences if interest. But while that’s certainly the real world case, I can’t see why it would be theoretically necessary for the existence of government. I suspect this is what you mean, but in that case I don’t follow, and perhaps you can clarify what I’m missing.

          Or there’s a 4 which is what you really mean and I wasn’t sharp enough to discern it.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Stillwater
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          says:

          I’m not sure I follow.

          It’s that the causal source of government is power differentials between individuals. One groups of individuals has the power (for whatever reason, by whatever mechanism) to impose a set of conditions on another group of individuals. That’s what gives life to what we call “government”. Once government is up and running, power differentials between individuals can be sustained, promoted, or reduced.

          I’m not disagreeing with the claim that the mere existence of government provides individuals with disproportionate power a mechanism to further their own interests. And I’m certainly not saying that government isn’t as powerful as individuals.Report

  6. Avatar Kolohe
    Ignored
    says:

    “Bradley Manning’s trial, closed to the public, will nevertheless be made into a comic book.” (em added)

    I’m not aware of any unit in the Army that routinely wears black t-shirts turned inside out with the word “truth” printed on them. Somebody needs to update the heraldry website.Report

  7. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    says:

    Prediction: older viewers will generally dislike the movie for “changing” Superman, while younger ones celebrate it for doing just that.

    While grownup viewers will say “Jesus Fishing Christ”, another fishing superhero movie?”Report

  8. Avatar Barry
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    says:

    For those who have no problem with these secret programs:

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/10/193546/new-layer-of-secrecy-emerges-at.html#.UbhTbJy0JDd

    ‘ GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — When the war court reconvenes this week, pretrial hearings in the case of an alleged al-Qaida bomber will be tackling a government motion that’s so secret the public can’t know its name.

    It’s listed as the 92nd court filing in the death-penalty case against a Saudi man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded by CIA agents.

    And in place of its name, the Pentagon has stamped “classified” in red.

    It’s not the first classified motion in the case against the 48-year-old former millionaire from Mecca accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed in the attack, and the prosecutor proposes to execute al-Nashiri, if he’s convicted.

    Also on the docket for discussion this week is a classified defense motion that asks the Army judge to order the government to reveal information “related to the arrest, detention and interrogation” of al-Nashiri. By the time he got to Guantanamo in 2006, according to declassified investigations, CIA agents had held him at secret overseas prisons for four years during which, according to declassified accounts, he was waterboarded and interrogated at the point of a revving power drill and racked pistol.

    But what makes the no-name government motion so intriguing is that those who’ve read it can’t say what it’s about, and those who haven’t don’t have a clue. Not even the accused, who, unless the judge rules for the defense, is not allowed to get an unclassified explanation of it – and cannot sit in on the court session when it’s argued in secret.’Report

  9. Avatar Barry
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ve been posting this to multiple threads, so please skip if you’ve read it – it’s aimed at all of those people who are just fine with secret government programs:

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/06/10/193546/new-layer-of-secrecy-emerges-at.html#.UbhTbJy0JDd

    ‘ GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — When the war court reconvenes this week, pretrial hearings in the case of an alleged al-Qaida bomber will be tackling a government motion that’s so secret the public can’t know its name.

    It’s listed as the 92nd court filing in the death-penalty case against a Saudi man, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who was waterboarded by CIA agents.

    And in place of its name, the Pentagon has stamped “classified” in red.

    It’s not the first classified motion in the case against the 48-year-old former millionaire from Mecca accused of orchestrating al-Qaida’s October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen. Seventeen sailors were killed in the attack, and the prosecutor proposes to execute al-Nashiri, if he’s convicted.

    Also on the docket for discussion this week is a classified defense motion that asks the Army judge to order the government to reveal information “related to the arrest, detention and interrogation” of al-Nashiri. By the time he got to Guantanamo in 2006, according to declassified investigations, CIA agents had held him at secret overseas prisons for four years during which, according to declassified accounts, he was waterboarded and interrogated at the point of a revving power drill and racked pistol.

    But what makes the no-name government motion so intriguing is that those who’ve read it can’t say what it’s about, and those who haven’t don’t have a clue. Not even the accused, who, unless the judge rules for the defense, is not allowed to get an unclassified explanation of it – and cannot sit in on the court session when it’s argued in secret.’Report

  10. Avatar Barry
    Ignored
    says:

    Sorry for the double post.Report

  11. Avatar Eric Mesa
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    says:

    Came here via Pophat’s blogroll. Seems like I ended up at the perfect place as the posts are right up my alley – like State Surveillance, Metadata/Civil Rights, and the Wrigley field post. You’re now in my RSS feeder. Keep up the great blogging.

    Also, I love your theme! The use of the 19th century people (especially in the footer) is so fun!Report

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