Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

29
Nov
10

Net Neutrality

Network Neutrality in the United StatesJoshua Dean

The debate over network neutrality laws in the United States has been a long and bitter one. The first bill was introduced into congress in 2006, The Internet Nondiscrimination Act of 2006, failed; just as every other bill that has been introduced since then. But what exactly is net neutrality? Why is it such a divisive topic?
Net neutrality is the concept that internet service providers (ISPs) should not discriminate or favor one type of traffic over another in their routing. What does this mean in layman’s terms? This means that ISPs shouldn’t be able to charge more for access (or increased speeds) to certain websites or other internet services. Net neutrality is against the idea that ISPs should be able to implement a “tiered” internet plan, similar to plans in place for cable and satellite TV.
Currently, there is net neutrality in the United States, but there is no law enforcing it. It is the fear of some companies and consumer rights groups that telecommunications companies could begin implementing a tiered service structure. It is for this reason that there is a large push by several giants in the internet world, such as Google and Amazon, to pass legislation to make net neutrality the de facto law of the land. Net neutrality legislation has met fierce opposition, mainly from large telecommunications companies that want the ability to impose such a pricing scheme if they want. It has also came under fire from conservatives and libertarians because they say that it will allow government control, and censorship, of the internet.

Should we have a net neutrality law though? Which side of the debate gives a better argument? In my opinion, I think that a well written, flexible net neutrality law is needed to keep the internet the same place that we know and love. What do I mean by flexible and well-written? I mean that the law must be written so that it fosters the internet, both today and in the future. This means that the law needs to be able to adapt to changing conditions to the internet, but still remain useful. It also must be written intelligently enough that it does not keep the ISPs from doing security and safety routing of their traffic.
Normally I am against the government interfering too much with private businesses, but I believe that in this case it is warranted. The internet is the largest repository of information that the world has ever known, it has given untold numbers of people access to knowledge that they would never have known otherwise. It has changed the nature of communication so completely in less than 20 years that it almost makes the quick adoption of older technologies like electricity, phones, radios, and telephones seem slow in comparison. Do we want our access to this amazing resource to be left solely in the hands of a few corporations that seek to limit our ability to use the internet to its fullest, unless we, and the websites, pay them more money?
Right now, my family pays $60 for our internet access. The internet that we get is the exact same as the internet that the person down the street gets, or the person in Florida, or Alaska, or Britan, or Africa. All of that is thanks to net neutrality. Without it, I would have to pay more, probably a lot more, to get the same service that I am receiving now. The person down the street might get access to sites that I can’t, because I am not paying for them, or maybe it is the other way around. I think that would be a travesty of the highest order if that happened. The bad part of it is, it could happen at any time, and with there being no law against it, and there being very few choices between ISPs in most communities, there is very little that the consumers could do about it. It would not be as simple as switching ISPs, many communities only have access to one or maybe two different providers, and so their choice is severely limited. They could either accept the tiered plan, or not have internet access at all.
I also object to some conservative commentators likening net neutrality to government takeover of the internet. A well-written bill would give the FCC or equivalent agency power only to fine or otherwise punish ISPs that are found to be acting against net neutrality principles. How is that a government takeover of the internet? Chuck Palm, in a nigh-incomprehensible recent article published on Glenn Beck’s website (cited below), makes the claim that net neutrality is a takeover of the World Wide Web (he keeps pointing out that word, I guess because it shows a liberal conspiracy to create a New World Order) by the US government, and that it will actually hurt the companies and “Grandma”. He goes on to claim the reason that large internet companies are for this service (like Google, Amazon, Ebay, and Yahoo) is because they are huge bandwidth hogs, and so that they would benefit most from this. He seems to ignore the fact though that regular consumers would be receive HUGE benefits from continued net neutrality, namely, they would continue to receive high-quality, unlimited internet access, instead of a crippled, expensive service like the big ISP companies are wanting to switch to.
One thing that I find very ironic when opponents of net neutrality say that it will cause government censorship of the internet, yet they remain mute in the wake of the Homeland Security Administration (!) seizing the domains of over 70 websites in the past weeks, most o them having nothing to do with national security, instead they were file sharing sites, or search engines. But it is all for national security right? Don’t want those nasty pirates stealing the RIAA’s music!

We need sane, and well defined laws protecting user’s access to the internet. NOT ill written regulation that gives government entities power to control the information on the internet.With the recent power shift in congress it is unlikely that any type of net neutrality will be passed anytime soon. That does not mean that the debate will not continue to rage both in and out of Washington. Hopefully someday, before it is to late, a net neutrality law will be passed. Until that day, consumers must be proactive in letting both their congressmen and ISPs know that they will not stand for a tiered internet access system.

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26
Jun
10

Toy Story 3 Review

Before I begin, I would just like to make perfectly clear that I had an acute case of allergies when I watched the movie, which caused me to have wet, puffy eyes and a runny nose.

Oh, who am I kidding? Yes, I got misty-eyed from this movie.

I grew up with the toy story movies. I was about Andy’s age when I saw the original Toy Story, and about his age again when I saw Toy Story 2 (yes, I didn’t see them when they were originally released). Now I have seen Toy Story 3 and I am once again Andy’s age; and almost at the same point in my life. Because of this, the movies have taken on a new meaning for me, I can see myself in Andy like I have seen myself in few other characters in any other movie. Andy is the quintessential boy growing up today.  He loved his toys, but he has moved on to other things, leaving behind things that once brought him such great joy. He is all children, and since his growing up is told through some 6 hours of the best animated film (actually any film for that matter) we can truly experience it. It is not some montage that is raced through in one movie, we see it happening all through the eyes of the things that he is quickly leaving behind.

This forms the basis for the simple story in this final installment of this series. Andy has finally grown up, and is getting ready to head to college. Over the years between TS2 and TS3 he has gotten rid of most of his toys, with only the very core of the cast still there. Now, he must decide what to do with these final reminders of his lost childhood; he decides to pack them all away in the attic, but due to a mistake they are all instead donated to the local daycare center. What follows is what is basically a jailbreak movie, but a damn fine one at that.

Several new characters are introduced, all of them brilliantly done, from the very feminine Ken (which was, in my opinion, a great  personification of the doll) to the old teddy bear Lotso. The aliens from the original make another appearance, which was suitably awesome also.  All the original voice actors return to reprise their roles, except for the late Jim Varney, who was replaced by Blake Clark as the voice of Slinky Dog. The change was not that noticeable,  but it has been a while since I saw that others, so it might be more obvious if you have recently seen the other two movies.

The one thing that I really liked about Toy Story 3 was the way that it was not just a kid’s movie. It was a movie for everyone. It speaks to different people on different levels. For the younger kids, they see the colorful and funny characters in exciting situations, but for older audiences it is something completely different. Toy Story 3 isn’t just about toys trying to get back to their rightful owner from the clutches of a daycare, it is about a story of loss and letting go. It is a story about how all things must come to an end, and how you must accept them, and move on. Toy Story 1 was about the fear of replacement and jealousy- Woody felt like he was being replaced by Buzz. Toy Story 2 was about growing up, and choosing whether to make the best of a short time, or move on to other things- Woody again had to choose between spending a few more years with Andy, and then have to deal with not being played with ever again, or being preserved indefinitely so that all could see.

Because of these themes, people will notice that this installment is noticeably darker than the other two. There is no light at the end of the tunnel that the toys can see, Andy is gone, and they can only hope that one day, sometime far in the future, Andy will give his kids the toys. The main bad guy does not see the light and turn from his evil ways, he does not get away scot-free, but still isn’t “saved” so to speak. Near the 3/4 mark was the darkest part of the movie, and it was also one of the most heart-wrenching scenes, but the worst was yet to come.

I won’t spoil the ending, but the entire last 15 minutes was just one big tear jerker, that if it didn’t cause you to tear up at least a little, then you are a heartless jerk, and I don’t want to know you. Don’t worry, you can admit it guys, it was sad, and girls love guys that show their emotional sides. I am glad though that as the credits rolled, their was a short epilogue that was significantly lighter than the ending, allowing everyone some time in the theater to wipe their eyes and blow their noses before having to go out into the light of the hall.

Seriously, go see this movie as soon as you possibly can, it is worth every penny that you have to pay for a ticket. It is the best movie of the summer, and will probably be one of the best movies this year. Pixar has once again proven that they are masters at their craft, and somehow beaten the normal curse of sequelitis, to make one of their best movies ever. You can’t find a movie playing that can match Toy Story 3 in characters, writing, or laughs. Don’t get me wrong, this movie still has some utterly hilarious moments, from Ken to the “Mr. Tortilla Head”.

Now, go see this movie.

Now.

01
May
10

May is Here! [NSFW]

21
Apr
10

Introducing Sketches

I have decided to try to make another game.

Scary, I know.

I have tried several times, but have always lost interest, and moved on to something else. But hopefully, this time, I will actually finish one. And by “one” I mean my latest project, called Sketches.

Sketches is a self-described “art game” where the focus is more on the visuals, the music, and the story rather than on the gameplay. What gameplay there is will be simple point and click. I am particularly excited about this project because of the art direction I have decided to go with, which is a hand-sketched pencil drawings of the environments. This is justified in-game by explaining that the main character has drawn these pictures. The only thing I did to them once I scanned them into my computer was to change the colour slightly, and then later in the engine add animated elements and hotspots.

And speaking of engine, I am only on day 2 and am on my second engine. Originally, I was going to do the game in a program called AGS, which is what the very excellent John Defoe Quadrilogy was made in. But after downloading the program, and starting to fool around in it, I quickly discovered that it didn’t really have the features and capabilities that I wanted and needed to create the a game that was true to my vision. So, after a little poking around, and some sheer luck, I found another engine called Wintermute which seems to be just what I need. I have only used it for a couple of hours, but it does seem to fit the bill nicely, and is in some ways easier to work with than AGS. I have high hopes, and am nearing having my first room done in it. I haven’t tried scripting in it yet, so I should be able to talk more about that in a later post.

Anyway, that is all for tonight, but you all can expect a more fleshed out design statement tomorrow. For now, I’ll just share the very first screenshot of the new game!

09
Apr
10

Year of the Black Rainbow by Coheed and Cambria- Review

For those of you that have never heard of the band Coheed and Cambria, it is a progressive rock band that has punk and metal influences. It was formed in 1995 and has released several studio albums and numerous live albums. But enough of the history of the band, you are here to learn about their newest release, entitled Year of the Black Rainbow.
The album starts off with the very quiet, but haunting track “One”, with nothing but ambient sounds and a single piano playing. But after that brief intro, the album jumps off with the song “The Broken”, which, in my opinion, is one of the best tracks on the album. Here is the first time that a newbie to Coheed will hear Claudio Sanchez’s vocals, which will definitely turn off many people. If you are looking for your low-pitched metal growling, you best look somewhere else, because Sanchez has a high-pitched voice that will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea. Although if you liked the higher-pitched voices in your music, then you will not be disappointed.

The track “We are Juggernaut” is another hard-rocking track with heavy bass and it exhibits some of the punk and alternative rock influences. Another great track on the album, and another one of my favorites. A few tracks later we get the song “Pearl of the Stars”, a softer song which is a refreshing change from the normal high energy playing of the earlier tracks. It serves as a nice “breathing point” before the next track, “In the Flame of Error” picks the pace back up and keeps it up through “Where Skeletons Live”. The final, title track, “Year of the Black Rainbow” is another softer song, in the beginning, before speeding up in the middle and continuing until the end, where it gently fades back into the same sounds that populated the beginning track.
I have listened to all of the Coheed and Cambria albums, and I can say that this is definitely one of their best, in my opinion. They have a variety of songs that draw from different genres, and I think that any fan of progressive rock or metal should find that they like the band. Although I have to say that most Metallica, Dragonforce, or similar band fans would not like this album. They don’t have the extreme technical proficiency of bands like Dream Theater or Dragonforce, but that is to say they are not very talented, just not on the same level as some.
I am not a big fan of screaming vocals, and there are instances of them being used on this album, but do not be fooled, this is not a screaming/growling band. So, if you like Metallica-style singing, then you will be disappointed by Coheed. On the other hand, if you like cleaner vocals like those found in bands like Dream Theater, then you will only be slightly disappointed (although if you like DT’s new stuff, like Black Clouds and Silver Linings, and the vocals in part of those songs, then you will like this).
I think the best thing you could do to see if you will like this band is go out and listen to a few of their songs, since while I can say that it is great, it is certainly not for everyone. You can find the album in your favorite music store, available 4/12/10.
19
Mar
10

Adding Flash to your Portable Chrome

I was using a school computer today, and I wanted to use this neat little service called bubbl.us

The problem? The site requires Adobe Flash Player to function, and to try to combat the playing of bubbleshooter when students should be working, the school decided to not have Flash installed.

If you are having a similar problem, the solution is very simple, and basically anyone can do it!

So let’s take a look at how to accomplish this magical computer trickery!

WINDOWS ONLY!!!

Requirements:

A flashdrive (256mb+)

How to do it:

1. Download a portable copy of Chrome (you can use other browsers for this, but I will use Chrome for this tutorial)

Link

2. Then, you should download the latest version of Chrome

Link

3. Then, copy your new version of chrome (the “/Chrome/” directory only!) and overwrite the /Chrome/ directory in your Chrome Portable installation. For some reason, you can’t use just a normal chrome installation on a flashdrive, not sure why.

Now that you have your portable chrome up to date, the next step is to “install” flashplayer.

4. Download this file from the official flash site:

Link

5. Rename the file and change the extension to .zip

6. Open the file and copy the files flashplayer.xpt and NPSWF32.dll to your /Chrome/Application/Plugins/ directory

7. Enjoy your flash applications anywhere!

Hope that you found this tutorial helpful, and if you have any suggestions, comments, or questions, just leave them in the comments section, I will try to help.

15
Mar
10

Alice in Wonderland

When I first heard that Tim Burton was doing an Alice in Wonderland movie, I rejoiced. I thought that Burton would take the strange world of Wonderland and make it his own, giving it a new, darker look, and ushering Alice into this century.
Did Alice In Wonderland live up to my expectations and the hype that surrounded it? Not quite, but it was still a pretty good movie. And really, that is the only way to describe the movie in whole, it was okay, nothing more, nothing less.
Story-wise, the movie is more of a sequel to Through the Looking Glass instead of a straight-up adaptation of the original story. I thought that it plodded along at times, and there was no great twist, but it was not too predictable. I got the impression from this movie it was more of a “Look at the pretty visuals and don’t worry about the story so much” (although it certainly isn’t as bad as Avatar in that area). It might have been the needlessly long panoramas of landscapes that happened at times, instead of focusing on the actors.
The animation was fairly good, except I thought that in a few parts it looked less than perfect. The CGI capture’s Burton’s unique art style perfectly, and it is unmistakably one of his films. All the creatures and environments where completely computer-generated, except for the few scenes that took place in the real world at the beginning and end of the movie. Even Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter had his eyes digitally widened.  I thought that in particular the Red Queen was well done, along with the Chesire Cat.
The acting in the movie was okay, although I have seen much better. Depp was great as the Hatter, and he really stole the show for me. The Red Queen, played by Helena Carter, also had a good performance. I didn’t think that Mia Wasikowska as Alice really was able to hold up when on the screen with Depp; although few actors can do that. I felt that the story was more about the Hatter than about Alice, because of her relatively low-key performance. Unfortunately, Alice had easily the worst performance in the movie. I remember one particular scene that was unintentionally hilarious. During the penultimate battle, she ran up to the very top of an ancient ruin, and when she reached the top and almost fell off the edge, she seemed very surprised that the building ended there, even though it was clearly visible from the ground. I also thought that
Tim Burton did do well directing the movie, it has his signature style and strange characters. This movie is certainly not his best, far from it, but saying something is not one of Tim Burton’s best is not saying a lot. I was hoping for one of Tim Burton’s finest, maybe not equal to The Nightmare Before Christmas but up there. I would place this movie slightly better than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and much better than Planet of the Apes (yes, he directed the remake of the 1968 classic), but below most of his other movies. I am glad I did not spend the extra money to go see it in 3D, since I do not believe that it is worth the $12 that it costs. Same thing when it comes out on DVD and BluRay, I would hold off on it until the price comes down some. It is not a waste of your $9 (or $7 if you are cheap like me and go see it as a matinée) and two hours. You could definitely be spending it it in less entertaining ways. As a final bit of perspective, from the group that I went with, three people (including me) gave it positive reviews, and another gave it a negative review.




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