Gun Control Advocates Rejoice!

Let me say up front for the record that I do NOT support gun control measures implemented by the government at large. I shall not be rejoicing with them in this news that surely will help make their case all the stronger with Americans-at-large who cannot critically think for themselves.

On 26. October 2008, an eight year-old boy fatally shot himself in the head with an Uzi while his father was nearby. This occurred at the Westfield Sportsmans’ Club in Westfield, MA. As of this writing, their website is down, likely due to traffic from morbidly interested folk. That was the boy’s first (and obviously last) time firing an Uzi and he was unable to control the recoil.

So, let’s look at some key words and phrases in the description of this event. Eight years old, shot himself in head, Uzi, father nearby. It’s hard not to blame the parent on this one, regardless of what policies the club “should” have had to prevent such a thing. With a responsible parent in the picture, why should the club be required to disallow a child from shooting an Uzi. Personally, I don’t believe there is any reason. if the parent thinks it’s a good idea, so be it. Now, not only am I anti-gun control, I also firmly believe that the best way to prevent gun-related accidents involving children is to teach them to respect weapons at an early age. Most of the fatal gunshot victims who are children are city-dwellers. In the rural areas, where many kids grow up hunting with their fathers from a ripe young age, you don’t often see such things occur.

Despite the above, I think common sense should kick in involving young children and machine guns. it’s one thing for junior to fire his .22 at a tin can, and wholly another for him to lock and load an Uzi and fire downrange.

Apparently, the local DA there is looking into filing criminal charges, probably negligence of some sort, in regards to this incident. What? I’m fairly certain stupidity is not illegal (though I’ll be damned if i don’t believe it should be). The family lost their child. I’d say that’s pretty much the punishment right there, wouldn’t you?

At any rate, I’m sure that Gun control advocates are just peeing their pants in anticipation of how this plays out in the courts if it does actually go to trial. That, boys and girls, is just sad!

Updates in the World of Xepherys

I think posting here more than once every quarter might be helpful to my head. Let’s see if I can stick with that plan. In light of that, here is the update on me!

I’m back to work, finally. Performing contract IT work for IBM, making a decent wage and enjoying my time there. I’m also back to school… full time no less! Working and edumacating myself, both full time, is quite a task I must say. I had originally changed my major to Physics before the semester started, but I have changed it again, for likely the last time, to Writing and Rhetoric. I think it’s a good fit!

Last weekend, TM and I went to Theatre Bizarre. The easiest thing I can say about it is that it is aptly named. Think about a very dark, devilish Moulin Rouge and you’ll be on the right track. For any of you in Southeast Michigan, I highly recommend buying tickets to next year’s event. It’s money well spent.

Well, I plan to start blogging here a bit more coming up. Let’s hope that works out.

Call For Donations…

As some of you may (or may not) know, I recently returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.  During that time, I made many wonderful contacts in the computer and gaming sector via email and was able to bring in donations to our unit for gaming and computing (including consoles, components for three full gaming PCs and more games than I could shake a stick at… and I tried).  It really did make things more tolerable over there.  After a long week of fighting the good fight, it’s nice to be able to kick off your boots and frag your buddy in Halo 3.

Now, more on point, I am beginning a drive for donations to other units in Afghanistan that are related to ours.  For as much love as the troops do get these days, sadly troops deployed to Afghanistan are often overlooked due to some odd out of sight, out of mind mentality.  My mission now that I’m home is to drum up video game donations to send to these units in areas similar to the one I was in, meaning remote Afghanistan.  Currently, across these units I know of many laptops (PC Games, software), a couple of Xbox 360s, at least one PSP and one DS.  I’m not currently aware of any PS3s out there, but I’m sure there will be one.

What I’m looking for is your kind donations of new or used video games for the above mentioned systems or hardware that you think they may be willing to use (extra controllers, batteries, memory cards…  systems?  :p).  They don’t have to be in GREAT condition, just usable.  If anyone is interested, please email me  X E P H E R Y S(@)gmail(.)com for more information.  Thanks!

Penny Arcade: On the Rainslick Precipice of Darkness

So, for those of you who are fans of Penny Arcade, and also for those of you who are not, the first Penny Arcade video game has been released on Xbox Live Arcade, Windows, Mac and Linux (and demos are available for all, AFAIK). The game, called On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode I, is a comic-style 3D/2D Adventure RPG. It takes place in a 1920-esque town, replete with nasty enemies (most Fruit Fuckers and hobos to begin with). The game itself is in 3D, with fights running akin to Final Fantasy combat… except with the required d20 roll for initiative. Weapons vary greatly, with your character beginning his adventure armed only with his trusty rake. Of course, the FF robots have attacks such as leg-humping and “juicing” on your pantleg. The humor is pretty wild, the graphics interesting and not over-done. Cutscenes take place via animated comic strips (each cell of the strip animates for a bit, then goes to the next cell for further animation). I HIGHLY recommend the game to anyone looking for something a bit different. Of course, I recommend XBLA if you have it… you know, 200 Gamer Score plus support of XBLA. But that’s just me. Anyone else play the game yet? I give it a 8.5/10. After I finish the game, I may change my score, but I doubt it’ll go down. 🙂

Call for Pledges (Bike MS)

Hi Everyone!

As some of you may know my mother, Lisa, has Multiple Sclerosis. She constantly suffers from vision loss, muscle spasms, cramps, or even temporary paralyzation of whole limbs. Some days her fatigue is so extreme that she can’t even get out of bed. Jen and I are doing this bike ride for her and for everyone else that suffers from MS. We want to raise money for research that will hopefully lead to more effective treatments and perhaps even a cure for MS (currently there is none). We need your help! Plus, hey… the donations are all tax-deductible!

Please feel free to forward this email on to family, friends and coworkers that you think might be interested in helping this very important cause.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is dedicated to creating a world free of MS but they can’t do it without our help. It’s faster and easier than ever to support this cause that is SO important to me. Simply click on the link at the bottom of this message, enter my name and complete the brief donation form. If you prefer, you can send your contribution to the National MS Society, Michigan Chapter at 21311 Civic Center Dr. Southfield, MI 48076. Please make sure you indicate my name so my account can be properly credited.

Any amount, great or small, helps to make a difference in the lives of people with MS. I appreciate your support and look forward to letting you know how I do.

(link to donate now button or to the donors Participant Center)

Thank You!!

Jesse Williams
Team Williams

P.S. If you would like more information about the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, how proceeds from Bike MS are used, or the other ways you can get involved in the fight against MS, please visit www.nationalmssociety.org.

***The bike ride is May 31, so please hurry!!***

Click here to visit my personal page.
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Click here to view the team page for Team Williams
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Click here to view the company page for J.S. Williams Photography
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DRM, Copy Protection Schemes and the Evils of Business

This is a topic that has had me a bit upset for awhile due to several different major issues that have cropped up. However, recently reading about the “two install” scheme from 2K Games regarding Bioshock and the recently changed scheme of “5 by 5”, I have to throw my arms in the air and ask, “WTF?”

For those not in the know, the shipping version of Bioshock for the PC will allow the game to be installed on up to two PCs. This alone isn’t a horrible thing, however these schemes generally work using a hash from various parts of your computer. When you upgrade components, a lot of these schemes break, thinking you are installing on a new PC. As a geek, I upgrade my computer fairly regularly. I’ve been burned by this in the past, personally, and know other who have as well. Perhaps 2K Games does not care if you play Bioshock in two years, but that alone seems rather short-sighted.

The new “5 by 5” scheme allows installation to 5 PCs, and a reinstall up to 5 times on those PCs. That’ll kick my ass immediately! I tend to reinstall my OS and games about every three months. Why? Well, because thee’s nothing quite like a freshly installed OS, clean desktop and better running PC. It’s the gamer-geek equivalent to rolling around in sheets fresh out of the dryer with the Snuggle sheets just having been removed. It’s wonderful. But much less so if at some point you can no longer install games you paid for even on the same damned computer.

My only possible assumption is that someone on the business side felt that money could be made or lost by restricting use of a game. While this is perhaps partially true, it also brings with it the plague of unhappy users, feeling the bane of protection schemes.

Though I have not yet been able to try it first hand, I wonder if the 360 version of the game can only be played on a single 360, or two, or five? Legitimate reselling of console games has to account for as much profit loss to the developers and publishers as does copying and such. Besides, in the end, anyone that is a gamer or is in the gaming business knows that there has yet to be a type of DRM or protection scheme that some vigilant cracker has not overcome. In the long run, it’s the people who KNOW such things exist and where to get them that are more likely to download and play pirated games. The people who don’t understand such things are the ones who ultimately buy their own copy anyhow, and often get burned by such schemes. Does this really seem good for business to anyone who thinks about it for more than a few minutes?

What was the last game that had a single-disc multiplayer offering? I thought that was a fair compromise. You install the game on one PC and install a game clone on a second. You put the CD in the first machine and as long as it hosts the game, the second machine may play along. I don’t recall seeing it anytime recently, but it was a novel approach to copy-controlling.

Of course, there are always copy protection schemes that are outright horrible, such as Starforce. I don’t recall even Sony’s Rootkit/Unlawful Redistribution DRM getting quite as much bad press as Starforce has. Starforce, in at least some iterations, has been known to compromise Windows security to make sure you don’t copy and play pirated games. Except it still doesn’t work (or rather there are still workaround). That sounds like a great customer service move. Of course Ubisoft has dumped them twice. The aforementioned Sony Rootkit on certain BMG label music CDs caused quite a commotion, not ONLY for installing a rootkit on your PC to prevent copying the music, but also because they used licensed code improperly in doing so.

“Hey, I know, we can use this code, unlawfully, to protect people from listening to our music, unlawfully”… I wish I could say it was only at Sony that such thoughts occur.

In the end, I tend to watch for such things. Games and music CDs that use copy protection such as this that can actively affect my systems are not purchased by me, EVER! When I hear of a game that does not have any copy protection or DRM at all, I almost always buy it, even if I’m not terribly interested, to financially support my cause. DRM isn’t really all that great for the content producer, but it is all too often problematic for the end user. How many CD copy protection schemes have made music CDs unplayable in certain CD players? Ugh! I just don’t understand why business types think potentially alienating the consumer is ever a good option.

If you’re reading this and you are one of those business types, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t.