I think I need a new irony meter

•December 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Quoth everybody’s favourite Attorney-General, Michael Atkinson:

“This is a question of a small number of very zealous gamers trying to impose their will on society. And I think harm society. It’s the public interest versus the small vested interest.”

(H/T: The Escapist.)


•October 23, 2009 • Leave a Comment

This could be bad.

While it is noteworthy that Hamilton claims his primary focus to be climate change, it should not be forgotten that he has long been a proponent of “protecting teh kittehs!” by censoring the internets. (In fact, the Howard Government’s initial trials were instigated as a direct result of a paper co-authored by Hamilton. He got the facts wrong about the internet then, and he’s still spouting the same nonsense 6 years later.)

Worst Age-Verification System. EVER.

•October 22, 2009 • Leave a Comment

As part of my new life as an intrepid reporter for R18+ Games Australia, I check every few days on the classifications website for any new developments. As anyone who has checked the site would know, it employs the age-old CYA policy of age-checking before allowing access to the latest classification decisions. All well and good — I’m a good decade over 18, so “OK” is the obvious answer.

But what happens when you click “Cancel”? Are we redirected to the Disney channel?
Continue reading ‘Worst Age-Verification System. EVER.’

Subversion and Vim

•September 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

After finally getting sick of receiving

svn: system('vim svn-commit.tmp') returned 256

every time I tried to commit without using the -m option, I found some good advice:

cd ~/.vim
mv doc/rails.txt plugin/rails.vim ~/.Trash

Since I still like my Rails plugin, the option in the comments of using

SVN_EDITOR="vim --noplugin"

finally fixed the problem without killing my Vim setup. Just add/change that line and run source ~/.profile.

Bad iTunes. No!

•September 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Don’t get me wrong, iTunes is a great piece of software. But does Apple really have to change the user interface with every fucking release? I quite liked the view I had before — two columns at top (Artist and Album) and the list of songs pared down by the selection from one or each of these.

I disabled the Genre column, since my music doesn’t classify easily. But why the hell should I have to use

defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-genre-when-browsing -bool FALSE

to disable something so obvious? This to me seemed like the sort of thing that should be able to be changed either via the preferences pane, or, even better, by right clicking on the heading bar. Give me a list of options and a little tick.

While we’re at it, why should I have to use

defaults write com.apple.iTunes show-store-arrow-links -bool FALSE

to disable the store links?

Thirdly, why the fuck would I need a store link to a song I already have?

Yet in spite of its faults, I quite liked iTunes 8. So what does Apple do? Changes the user interface. Again.

I’d started using Songbird on my PC as my main media library, since

  1. I hate the way Media Player organises my media (seriously, Disc 1 and Disc 2 as separate entries?)
  2. I hate the way iTunes tries to install every last piece of Apple software, especially since I don’t even own an iPod

The only thing I’d really like to see is the ability to rip CDs in Songbird. Other than that, it is, to me, the best media player around.

So thank you, Apple, for convincing me to switch to Songbird on my Mac as well now.

Update: I notice that CD Ripping is included in the Roadmap for the Kanye release, scheduled for October. Given that the Jackson 5 release is a month overdue, I’m not expecting it on time, but hopefully by the end of the year it will be available. Songbird FTW!

Update Update: Ooh, transcoding, too.

RedCloth and WordPress

•August 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’ve been a bit lax posting anything substantive programming-wise; I think it’s largely because I have found myself reiterating the same code over and over at work, so there hasn’t been anything new to contribute (at least nothing that hadn’t already been contributed by programmers far superior than I). I thought this might be worth sharing, however. It’s a little script I put together today to generate an HTML file from a textile input. Nothing groundbreaking, I know, but I find it useful for blog posts, and here’s why.

  • I don’t like writing in HTML. It’s cumbersome.
  • I’m not really a big fan of the visual editors, since I find myself wanting to alter the HTML output anyway. (I think it offends my programmer’s sensibilities.)
  • I really like using textile for markup.
  • Writing programs is fun, and makes you a better programmer.

I found myself consistently writing the articles in TextMate or Vim using textile formatting, then manually converting the output to HTML, etc. I figured my output would be improved with some minor automation and so, with the joy that is Ruby, I set it up. All my posts are stored in a single directory (Articles) with a subdirectory for each website to which they get posted (e.g. intouchwiththeobvious.wordpress.com), each of which then has an ‘out’ directory for the HTML. The textile source goes in, and the following script in the base directory:

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

require 'rubygems'
require 'redcloth'

unless ARGV.empty?
  # Set up the files for conversion
  input_file = ARGV[0]
  directory = File.dirname(input_file)
  # FIXME: Retaining extension on filename
  filename  = File.basename(input_file).gsub(/(.*)\.#{File.extname(input_file)}$/,'\1')
  output_file = "#{directory}/out/#{filename}.html"
  File.open(input_file, "r+") do |input|
    File.open(output_file, "w+") do |output|
      # TODO: Unescape HTML codes?
      output << RedCloth.new(input.read).to_html
  # Fail gracefully if no input file is specified
  puts "You need to specify an input file"

Then I just call ./prepare.rb intouchwiththeobvious.wordpress.com/this-article.textile and voilà! HTML output to /intouchwiththeobvious.wordpress.com/out/this-article.textile.html. Copy and paste to the HTML editor in WordPress and it’s ready for any final customisation, or just posting.

I’m still tweaking it to remove the original extension from the filename (I wrote this script in less time than it took to write this article) and I was thinking of adding --[no]-escape as a command line option for whether RedCloth or WordPress should handle HTML escape codes. This can be achieved by changing the RedCloth call to

output << RedCloth.new(input.read).gsub(/\&\#8217\;/, "'").gsub(/\&\#822(0|1)\;/, '"')

and so on for the remaining escapees. Hell, I haven’t really looked at the RedCloth documentation much — there may be a way to do it already.

Now, before I get a dozen (I wish!) comments telling me how there’s already a way to do this with [insert plugin/editor of choice here], let me state this clearly: this is about writing code. If there’s a simple job to do, sometimes it’s more fun to create a custom solution than to search for an existing one. I’m enjoying (and getting better at) command-line Ruby and scripting, and I’ve got something that does exactly what I want it to, no more, no less!

Oh, and you’ll need to chmod +x prepare.rb to make it command-line executable, but you knew that already. 🙂

Support the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009

•August 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Australian Marriage Equality is calling for support for the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009, which would alter the wording of the Marriage Act 1969 to allow unions between same-sex couples.  The inquiry has recently been flooded by anti-gay submissions by the Religious Right. Do your bit to redress the issue. My submission is below the fold, and may be used in whole or in part by anyone wishing to support the amendment.

The submissions close today so you need to get in quick!

(Hat tip: John Wilkins.)

Continue reading ‘Support the Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2009’

9am with David & Kim is a threat to public safety

•August 25, 2009 • 2 Comments

I’ve always found 9am with David & Kim inane. It represents the worst of morning television at the best of times. (Just look at the current poll: “Should underage teenagers be allowed to drink alcohol under parental supervision?” How about, “None of your fucking business.”)

A segment on yesterday’s programme (Monday, 24 August 2009), however, went above and beyond stupid into the realm of dangerous.

This needs a response.

At approx. 3:00:

The one advantage with (sic) the homeopathic option is that, because it works on different principles, it’s not an attempt to mimic vaccination. The remedies which are prepared, provided the symptom profile of the disease doesn’t change greatly, can still be used.

Conversely, the major disadvantage is that you’re just getting really fucking expensive water.

Isaac Golden is a smug bastard and this is not helped by the fact that David and  Kim are gullible idiots. They both accept without question the efficacy of the homeopathic treatment. This has been presented on national television as a viable alternative to vaccination.

That is not just incompetent.

It is grossly negligent.

Write to 9am at Channel 10 to complain. As Chris H commented on the YAS blog, write to Media Watch as well.

(Hat tip: Richard Hughes at Young Australian Skeptics)

My letter to Channel 10 and Media Watch:

The morning show, “9am with David & Kim”, on Monday, 24 August 2009 featured “Dr” Isaac Golden promoting an homeopathic alternative to swine flu vaccination. Both hosts of the show accepted unquestioningly the homeopathic remedy as if it were a viable alternative to vaccination for the swine flu.

“Dr” Golden also presented as facts a number of points relating to the efficacy of homeopathic treatment which can be (and have been) shown conclusively to be false.

By presenting this as a medical segment (the other guest was Professor Nicolai Petrovsky, chairman of Vaxine) and presenting a bogus remedy in such an uncritical light, Channel 10 and the hosts of the show have done a great disservice to the Australian public. This is not just incompetent; it is grossly negligent.


Congratulations, IFPI

•August 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

You’ve fucked up again.

Eircom has agreed to block access to The Pirate Bay as of 1 September. Assuming the deal with GGF goes through, this will be approximately 1 week after the site becomes a ‘legal’ operation,* complete with the backing and ‘good will’ of the entertainment industry.**

If you were interested in doing anything other than protecting an outdated business model, you would leave the fuck alone.

* Legality of the current incarnation of TPB notwithstanding.

** Meaning, of course, that no-one will use it anymore, preferring to use any number of the clones which have (or will have) popped up as a result of a torrent of TPB’s content.

‘Risen’ Refused Classification

•August 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Several sources have been reporting on the ban of Risen, and now Gamespot has the full details of the Classification Board’s report. I thought I’d support Risen‘s developers by providing a little ‘prior art’ where a similar depiction of the banned elements has existed in a game given an MA15+ rating (or below). Anyone interested should feel free to list more games with similar properties in the comments. (This list was compiled from memory; I didn’t do any research for it, so it shows how prevalent the prior art is.)

The game contains ‘quests,’ which a player may choose to complete by acquiring the sexual service of prostitutes. Though it is purportedly not a necessary element of the gameplay, players gain rewards or advance through the game more easily by engaging in sexual activity with prostitutes.

The first game that came to mind here was Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines. In Los Angeles, there are three possible solutions to the ‘Romero’ quest.

  1. The character may fend off the zombie hordes while Romero heads off to solicit a prostitute.
  2. The character may solicit a prostitute on Romero’s behalf and lead her back to the graveyard.
  3. The character may (if female with a high enough charisma attribute) perform the deed herself (which has the reward of allowing you to feed on Romero periodically; options 1 and 2 reward you with money and/or a weapon).

So VTM:B has a clear-cut case where prostitution (or the solicitation of prostitutes) leads to a reward. In addition to this, there are numerous instances where the character may ‘seduce’ NPCs to gain rewards.

The next game that came to mind was The Witcher, where the player is rewarded with ‘trading-cards’ of his female conquests. Frequently, sexual interaction with the characters is the reward of a quest (often very minor); sometimes it may be a traded item; in one or two cases, it serves to advance the plot.

[Brugleweed is] commonly referred to in text and dialogue as ‘weed’ or a ‘weed reefer’ and rewarded players who used it with experience points, failed to meet acceptable classification guidelines. In Risen, a player can both trade and smoke this drug, which mirrors an illegal ‘real-world’ drug in its terminology, use, and depiction.

Apart from the ‘terminology’, that description also essentially applies to tobacco. But enough semantics, onto some examples.

Velvet Assassin, which somehow got through the censorship process unscathed, allows Violette to enter ‘morphine mode’ which enhances her abilities. (And places her in a nightgown — does that count as a sexual reward?)

Fallout 3, although the name had to be changed from ‘morphine’ to ‘Med-X’,* features the use of this drug as a painkiller, complete with addictive properties.

Bioshock has you injecting shit into your arm, visible on the fucking screen.

VTM:B features a quest early on, in which one is required to steal painkillers to provide aid to a quest-giving NPC.

(Although it doesn’t depict the use specifically, Assassin’s Creed has the character ‘meditate’ before going out on assassinations; anyone with a little background in history and/or linguistics knows exactly what that means.)

The fact that Australia is still lacking an R18+ classification for games is ridiculous in and of itself; however, the arbitrary nature of the Classification Board’s rulings is even more bizarre. The complete lack of consistency (Fallout 3 vs Velvet Assassin being the most obvious clash) makes me wonder if there isn’t just some giant ‘wheel of censorship fortune’.

Knowing our current luck, upon seeing this list, the Classification Board will probably decide to ban retroactively all these games.

* I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: How is the use of a ‘real world’ name for a fictitious drug in an overtly fictitious setting any worse than using a fictitious name for a fictitious drug in an overtly fictitious setting? The properties and context are identical.