Stupid Business Tricks – StarForce

I’m filing this one under “Made Me Laugh”, mostly because you’d think they’d know by now.

StarForce, who apparently tried to install crap-tastic DRM software on my computer when I bought Silent Hunter 3, decided that they would threaten Cory Doctorow over his post which called them on their, well, crap-tasticness. Seems the wonderful piece of software they wrote tends to cripple if not outright break some CD and DVD drives. (Nice work, by the way StarForce.)

What’s a company to do in the face of this? Talk to the author and plead their case? Post their own rebuttal on their website or blog? No! Threaten to sue someone! Which, in this case, turned out to be an author on one the most heavily trafficked blogs in the world. Brilliant. Since StarForce hasn’t caught onto this whole Internet thing, I’ll put this in terms they can understand. Instead of talking to their critic, they implied that Vinny, their legal goon, would come and break the critics fingers. (Note to actual StarForce Vinny; that’s called sarcasm and a metaphor, respectively.)

The outcome of this brilliant strategy? Well, I’m talking about it. I realize I’m like 7,430,882th on the list of importance on this topic, but I heard about from Boing Boing (2). And Nelson Minar. And Darren Barefoot. And the Consumerist. And Broadband Reports. It has over 1500 diggs right now. It made the front page of Slashdot. And TechDirt. And Kotaku.

By the way, if you run into any problems with their software, it’s your fault. To wit: “According to our research those of users [sic] that do run into compatibility problems are beginner-level-hackers that try to go around our protection system.” That’s Dennis Zhidkov, StarForce PR Manager. PR Manager?!?! Who the hell hired this idiot. Let’s see, our business model includes selling products to companies that target high-end computer users. That group has, well, high-end computer systems, which these days normally includes some type of high-speed Internet connection. With all that bandwidth, those people might read lots of websites. Good thing no website will dare publish how craptacular our software is after we threaten to sue them. From Russia. *hand to forehead*

Note to whoever runs StarForce: Fire Mr. Zhidkov. He cost your thousands of sales today and you deserved to lose every one of them. You certainly lost mine. You can find a list of games that contain this ridiculous software here. Removal tool is here. If you’re feeling particularly grumpy, you can email Dennis Zhidkov at

If you feel like trashing a system for $10,000, StarForce is running a contest for you.

The Pee Tree

As a society, we have accomplished quite a bit: cured diseases, created works of art that move people to tears, stood on our nearest satellite. But today, we have reached the pinnacle of what we can accomplish. Yes, today, men (and soon, I’m sure, women) can urinate on a tree. But not just any tree. No, our technology now allows us to pee on a tree made of bright, white, ceramic, hands-free. It even stands tall so it “can be seen from far – making it accessible when in urgent need.”

Oh, did I forget to mention that now, since we are so advanced, it is no longer necessary to take this magnificent creation indoors. Yes, the Pee Tree will stand proudly in public areas, available for any passing urinator’s use. I can’t wait to see the Central Park installation.



Monday in an IM

I don’t know why, but I found this conversation suprisingly lucid (and funny) for 8:30 on a Monday morning.

J– [8:34 AM]:
Me [8:34 AM]:
J– [8:34 AM]:
so this girl is totally my doppelganger…
J– [8:34 AM]:
i was SO looking at those sheets
Me [8:35 AM]:
J– [8:35 AM]:
until i decided they weren’t chocolatey enough for my color sceme
J– [8:35 AM]:
and the ikea kitchen’s just creepy
other than her terrible taste in artwork
Me [8:35 AM]:
weren’t chocolatey enough?
J– [8:35 AM]:
but that’s pretty subjective anyway
J– [8:36 AM]:
meaning….all chocolate – no white
J– [8:36 AM]:
do you like her sheets?
Me [8:36 AM]:
and the huge circles
Me [8:36 AM]:
if I say yes, do I get in trouble?
J– [8:36 AM]:
Me [8:36 AM]:
J– [8:36 AM]:
J– [8:36 AM]:
well good. i ‘ll stick with all chocolate then
Me [8:36 AM]:
J– [8:37 AM]:
Me [8:37 AM]:
i’m blogging this conversation btw
J– [8:37 AM]:
you are?
Me [8:37 AM]:
well, i will
J– [8:37 AM]:
why? is it that funny?
Me [8:37 AM]:
is to me… if you want something witty for the world to see, now’s your chance
J– [8:40 AM]:
er, no, that’s too much pressure for a monday morning

Benford's Law, the Fraudster's Friend

In 1938, Dr. Frank Benford, a physicist at GE, noticed that pages on a logarithm book were dirtier if the pages contained digits starting with 1. After studying more than 20,000 data sets, he derived a theory that says real statistics have a preclusion to begin with the digit 1. So, for instance, a normal person trying to fake an amount on, say, their taxes, would probably pick 5 or 6 to start the fraudulent number ($584 in deductions, say). Statistically, however, a real deduction might be something like $1,097. This even works with different scales so the theorem holds true for dollars, yen, half-lives of radioactive elements, town populations, etc.

They’re even writing software to run through tax and accounting data looking for patterns that don’t fit. It’s not perfect, but what a weird thing to fall out from someone who was observant enough to notice dirty pages on a book.

Link [via digg]

Authority Figures

Part of the joys of owning a home is interacting with your local municipality. Mine happens to be Chelsea, MI. One of the services offered to the city residents is free curb-side pickup of recyclable materials. It’s a pretty good program; I get a majority of my consumables taken away for free and the city gets to sell these materials to whoever they want. I hear recycling makes some money, not a lot, but enough to keep it going.

Well, I’m sick of dealing with the people they send to “pick up” my recycling. I use quotes there because rarely, if ever, have they taken all of my things. In fact, I often find things they deem unacceptable left either in the bucket I put out or, usually, in my driveway. I can deal with that (really I can). It’s not a glamorous job, I get that. I’d probably be pretty pissed if once a week I had to tool through town and pick up other people’s garbage, no matter how non-organic it is.

But when these anonymous people start leaving me meaningless notes in the containers, which still contain the items I put out, I’m pretty much through. I’ll still recycle, but I’ll do it myself. I got this in my paper bucket today (with paper still in it).

Click for full size

First, let’s break down the message here. I’m supposed to separate “paper, magazines, and cardboard”. Which is fine, except that if I take my recycling (as I will be doing) to a drop-off I don’t have to do that. I can shove all the newspaper, printouts, shreddings, napkins, paper plates, magazines, and tech manuals I want into the same slot. It’s called “Miscellaneous Paper”. The other slot is “Cardboard”. (Side note, it’s corrugated paper; cardboard is not the same thing.) I digress… I can handle that, that makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is this OCD-like need to separate newspaper from other “paper”. Why do I have to do that at the curb-side, but not at the bloody huge collection dumpsters located everywhere? And while the technology for paper recycling is up to snuff that I can leave staples and tape on the cereal boxes I put out, it’s not sophisticated enough to differentiate between white office paper and newspaper.

Second, why the hell is every friggen line on the page highlighted? How does that accentuate the message? And what the hell is a bottle “with a thin neck”? What’s the threshold for necks on plastic bottles? I don’t know, but I know it’s somewhere between a milk jug (which they’ll take) and a bottle of Pom (which they won’t take). Or, maybe it’s closer to a bottle of Planter’s peanut oil, which got picked up the second time I put it out. Maybe they should issue micrometers with the recycling buckets so we can spec our recyclable containers. Don’t even get me started on numbered plastics.

So, I’m done with curb-side recycling, at least here. I’ll still bring my stuff to the dumpster recycling stations; apparently that’s the Wild West of recycling; anything goes (and I’m not kidding, you should see the crap people dump there). My only question is, now that I’ve scanned this leaflet, does it go in with my office paper or, since it apparently was to me, the news?

Google to censor results in China

Online search engine leader Google Inc. has agreed to censor its results in China, adhering to the country’s free-speech restrictions in return for better access in the Internet’s fastest growing market. [AP Story]

I await the outrage and venom aimed at Microsoft and Yahoo! to be dealt to Google with much greater enthusiasm. Scoble should have a permagrin on his face for all the egg his “critics” will have to eat.

Gates of AQ open on World of Warcraft, servers take the night off

Ok, this is a confession/rant. I’m a WoW addict. I would play all day, every day if I could. The fact that I don’t is a testament to myself of my own committment to things other than WoW. (Note, others may disagree; this is not about them!)

That said, I couldn’t have cared less that Blizzard made this contest in the latest release for servers to compete in order to earn the right to have a new instance opened on their server. That is, until I realized what they had created. What they created was insanity. Thousands of people logged onto the server to see the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj open; I happend to be lucky enough to be on that server. My wait went from 20 to over 800 in a week. Let me repeat that: I’m now waiting for over an hour to log onto the server for which I pay monthly fees to use. Now, in the FPS world, this isn’t an issue usually because I can go to a different server and take my character with me (see BF2 for a good implementation). WoW doesn’t allow that. If I want to go to a different server, I have to start over.

So, last night, as the gates got closer to opening, the whole realm decided to take a crap and start crashing. Granted, the whole realm didn’t go down. No, you had to be lucky enough to be in specific areas. Half the world disappeared around 11pm, which is when I found a place to log off.

I see on Slashdot today that it only got worse from there. The whole thing was a disaster from a technical and PR standpoint, with a few dozen other servers to go.

I work on a web app in real life, I get how hard it is to scale, I really do. That said, Blizzard has been doing this for over a year and knows what kind of traffic they have to deal with. Building a contest that could foreseeably increase the load on one realm should have been managed ahead of time. Blizzard eventually disallowed new accounts to be created on Medivh, but only a few days prior to the contest closing. The patch should have done this. The sharp uptick in people on the realm has made the point of spreading users across servers worthless. Blizzard actively encouraged people to create level 1 characters and run then cross-country to the gates. The response of porting players under level 30 away from the area should have been unnecessary in the first place. It’s not a purely technical problem; it’s a change management problem (man, someone at work would die to read that).

I’m disappointed, I really am. I expected a lot more from the game and from Blizzard. They’re very smart people; I hope they realize that all problems aren’t solved with sys admins.