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Mailbag: Microsoft Cleans Up Gaming, Piracy Protection Rants, More

Most of you had few qualms about Microsoft's idea to censor online gaming dialogue "on the fly":

Great! Especially if they can apply it to the game characters, as well. There are actually some people out here who enjoy a good, violent game but can't stand the gratuitous profanity. We still watch our language and have found ourselves having to avoid whole game franchises because the swearing is so prevalent for absolutely no good reason.
-Steve

I like the "censors on the fly" idea for gaming. As an educator in a community college, I use gaming as an educational tool. My classroom is aimed at PG-rated content. When I do not have such confidence, I avoid using the games.
-Jack

I'm all for it. A technology used to be available for doing that based on the closed caption stuff and built into certain models of TVs. I think it's a great idea but they killed it due to altering copywritten material. If we could edit it out, then we would watch a lot more of the trash they put out and play more games, but due to the language, I don't want or let my kids play it and can't even do it myself. I'd spend more money if this were available.

Then again, they could just clean up the language in that stuff in the first place instead of making us buy a technology to do it for us.
-Ernie

The danger I could see in such a technology (and now that it has been invented, it will be deployed by someone) is not in using it to censor out objectionable words, but to insert objectionable words of a different sort. We are in the last days of a presidential election. Each election has become more contentious, more strident and more divisive. If we currently have even a few people so worked up that they are publicly threatening to kill one candidate or another, what will we have when spin masters can use software to change "on the fly" live statements by the candidate they oppose by substituting incendiary words for innocent ones? Will anyone hear or care about corrections made after the fact when they have heard with their own ears a "live" statement which confirms the fears whispered to them in earlier ads? We should be very afraid.
-Gary

A person's free speech rights allow them to say anything they want. I support that. They do not, however, have the right to force me to listen to it. I reserve the right to flip a switch and turn off what they are saying within my own domain. As I understand it, that is what the Microsoft real time censor tool provides.
-Dana

There's been a lot of buzz lately about Microsoft's Hyper-V, but Jonathan isn't wowed:

I went to an MS presentation the other day on Hyper-V and I am afraid I saw nothing which made me want to use it. One, it's not free -- it just comes with Windows 2008, which you have to pay for. Two, the VDisks are just files on the host's NTFS file system. They haven't been bothered to develop a dedicated file system. So you have defrag problems and all. Three, the management console (SCOM) is hopeless; it crashed twice during the demo I went to. Four, you can't migrate virtual machines live between hosts, which you have been able to do with Xen for years.

In short, there is no reason to use it. If you want something free, Xen performs and is reliable. There are even GUIs around if you really want one. And if you want all the features as well, there is VMware. It's expensive but if you have a lot of VMs (and we are running at around 10 per host) it does not work out as much per VM.
-Jonathan

Mike's still looking for the bright spot in the midst of Yahoo's slump:

I bought Yahoo at $26. They say buy on bad news; I did and unfortunately it's still bad news. Maybe Time Warner will offer them $14 per share?
-Mike

Earl thinks that the pricier, the better -- when it comes to Apple products, anyway.

Apple is right to only sell high-end products. Only selling their computers with top-quality hardware makes Macs more stable. Not making new operating systems backward compatible makes Macs more stable. Limiting hardware choices makes Macs more stable. Keeping market share low makes Macs less inviting to exploiters, adware, viruses and spyware.

Apple's pricing maximizes profits and limits complaints. It is a great business model.
-Earl

In the spirit of Microsoft's Anti-Piracy Day, Dennis shares his thoughts on piracy protection, including a run-in with the piracy police that did more harm than good:

I too have found that the "cure" for software piracy can be worse than the illness. I think there is a need for some sort of software police. However, I also think the folks doing the software licensing enforcement should be free of any conflict of interest that may affect their due diligence during the process. I also think whatever organization is involved should be aware of the software licensing models so they can correctly assess the information they are given. I think at the very least, it's unprofessional to not be knowledgeable about the licensing models that you are purporting to protect.

We were "turned in" to the BSA, the self-appointed software piracy police, for non-existent infractions by a former employee that was terminated. The former eployee accused us of using 16-plus copies of Autodesk and several MS Server software packages in a manner that was out of compliance -- which we were not. Over the next three months, I was in close contact with the BSA attorney regarding this matter. It was very apparent that they didn't really care whether the software we had was in compliance. They were righteous when we were out of compliance and got upset, bordering on verbally abusive, when we reported that we owned licenses that they assumed we did not. In my verbal communications, I was never offered any help from a BSA representative regarding how the licensing should be set up. I was only given the opportunity to speak with my assigned attorney. Their entire focus from beginning to end was on what they would collect.
-Dennis

And finally, in the Reader Rant of the Week, John shares his experiences navigating Microsoft's various software authentication hoops:

Piracy protection...bah! I've had it up to here with being treated like a criminal, being made to prove the legitimacy of my ownership (or should that be licenseship/rentalship/bent-over-ship?) by everyone that writes code for the Windows landscape.

You buy Windows. You install it. You jump through the hoops of activation to prove it's real and authentic, and that you actually purchased the real deal. That should be the end of it. But, no! Want to update? Prove it again. Want to download something from MS for Windows? Prove it again. Et cetera, ad infinitum. And as if that wasn't bad enough, if you want to use MS's update site but you don't like exposing your genitals to the world by using Internet Exploiter, too bad. You absolutely must use Internet Exploiter, the single greatest exploit gateway in the known universe, to utilize their update system. Want to download something from MS but don't want to use Exploiter? Prepare to jump through flaming hoops while wearing gasoline-soaked shorts with your legs tied to your shoulders, all because you have to prove, again, that the copy of Windows installed on your machine for the last couple of years, the copy that has been activated, the copy that has been authenticated as genuine countless times, is -- you got it -- genuine.

Or, another scenario: The newest game comes out in your favorite series. You rush to the store, plunk down your left one, break traffic laws getting it home, tear into the packaging and...damn! A 652-digit product installation code. So you get it installed, bang the icon and up pops the registration program. Damn, part two! I don't want to register! Close! Bang the icon...registration. AAARGH! OK. My name is...address is...phone number is...date of birth is (why do they need that?)...mother's original hair color? What the? Finally, the game's loading. Yes! No! It won't go into the game until it's checked for updates. It won't complete the check for updates until I create an account and register it on the game's update server. My name is...username already in use?! Somebody else already used "BiteMeUAnnoyingBastards"?

Microsoft, Adobe, Ahead, Roxio, Intuit and a host of others are, bit by bit, shoving me ever closer to the Linux camp. These companies made hundreds of billions of dollars by giving pirates a wink and a nudge, using them to increase their market share. Sure, some of that share was illicitly acquired, but the overall outcome was an increase in purchases and revenues. Now that they're big enough and famous enough, they think they can get along without the wink/nudge approach, resulting mainly in pissing off the hand that's fed them all along: the paying, legit customer. They haven't stopped the pirates, or made much of a dent in piracy. All they've done is piss the rest of us off. In fact, the only people who don't seem to be affected by these anti-piracy annoyances are the pirates. They hack 'em out and never think about 'em again.
-Dr. John

Need a place to vent? Do it here! Leave your comment below or send an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on October 23, 2008 at 11:52 AM


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