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Someone must have poured a lot of stupid in the water of corporate tech America this week, because I haven't counted this many blunders and -ups in awhile. It still amazes me to no end that big businesses can have these great ideas literally dropped on their doorsteps, and yet they still manage to somehow make the most lamentable decisions one could ever dream of. But don't let me be the arbiter of all things asinine. Judge for yourself!
First on the list is the target of my scorn both every time I flip on my TV and every time I get one of their delightful, overcharging monthly bills. Good ol' Comcast, the bane of my media existence. When I'm not being billed out of the butt for service -- which, to note, is an utter monopoly in my living area -- I'm apparently getting my "unlimited" Internet service cut to ribbons. At least, that's if you believe the mountains of evidence being put out by TorrentFreak.
Allegedly, the issue occurs whenever you fire up one of those newfangled BitTorrent clients. TorrentFreak maintains that Comcast is now using a program called Sandvine to screw with your downloading and uploading capabilities. In a nutshell, Sandvine makes it impossible for you to seed a file by keeping a watchful eye over any of your computer's outgoing packets. If your P2P traffic tops a predetermined Comcast limit, Sandvine intercepts the packet and responds with a perfectly fake packet of its own, instructing your computer to kill the connection. Humorously, this only happens if you're trying to seed files to a non-Comcast user. Bandwidth is supposedly fine if the peer is on your network.
Even better, Comcast swears up and down that it's not adjusting Bandwidth in any capacity. Right. Exactly why, the day this story broke, the few BitTorrents I was running dropped to less than 1.0 KB/s, and rarely jumped past that level -- must have been a Comcast user connecting, if so. Check out some other videos for further proof.
I don't blame Comcast for wanting to keep BitTorrent somewhat restrained on their networks. But they don't need to lie about it. Of course, it's all a moot point anyway. I'm willing to put solid money that Comcast is somehow working on a way to block the protocol entirely in the interest of "network preservation." And for users who just need their World of Warcraft patches and Linux distros over BitTorrent -- hey, guess what! Just like their cable packages, or their stupid "TurboBoostSuperFastInternet" option, that'll be an additional monthly fee!
No, this isn't a typo. Comcast wins another "loser of the week" award for something completely unrelated to its sketchy Internet practices. The company's television division dropped the ball this time around by encouraging an outside firm to astroturf various NCAA-themed message boards and flame against the new Big Ten Network.
The controversy centers on the fact that the Big Ten Network, as the name alludes, is a new channel for nothing but the best of sporting events from... The Big Ten. The network wants this channel to appear on basic cable for all providers, whereas Comcast wants to include it as part of one of its fancier, more expensive sports add-on packages. For what it's worth, Comcast alleges that the Big Ten Network wants Comcast to pay them a small fee per customer -- $1 or thereabouts. So it's a price war on each side.
But I could care less about that. If Comcast refuses to carry the Big Ten Network, I'll more than happily switch to DirecTV. What can I say, I love Ohio State and I love my alma mater. I'm not that worried about finding games for the former, but for the often-losing latter. Well. It's impossible.
I'm miffed because Comcast is violating the sacred trust of the Interwebs, in that they're trying to drum up grassroots support in a totally shady (and obviously cut-and-paste) fashion. If you have a salient point to make as a company, then make it in the public forum. But apparently, someone high on the Comcast food chain never learned that 'net folk are rather savvy. And once a company's unscrupulous methods of communication have been outed as a total farce, it makes one wonder about the truthfulness behind the original message to begin with. Way to take the low road, Comcast. I can't wait to get my hands on a sweet, sweet DirecTV dish.
What? There's a newspaper in this list? I'm biting the journalistic hand that feeds me, but I swear, someone dropped the ball by letting Steve Adams publish a worthless article about BioShock. Rather than report about publisher 2K's legitimate difficulties with the game -- the worthless SecuROM protection that, as shipped, restricts you to two installed copies at one time; or the "clipped" widescreen that actually shows you less of a picture than an extended 4:3 display -- Steve Adams instead chose to explore the horrible connotations behind the Little Sisters.
To keep it simple, Little Sisters are the somewhat-twisted inhabitants of the game's setting, the underwater city of Rapture. You can't hurt them in any fashion, as you do battle with their large protectors instead -- the Big Daddys (as seen on Bioshock's cover). Should you kill a Big Daddy, you're presented with two options. As Little Sisters carry the lifebood of the underwater world, ADAM, you can harvest it from them, which kills the Little Sister, or you can "rescue" them. You only get half the ADAM you would have received, but the rescue option obviously leaves the Little Sister alive.
By tracing this choice to video game violence, Steve makes a choice of his own. And it's called "the low road." A Little Sister is a false creature in a fantasy world -- were she an outright zombie or something, styled in the manner of Rapture's other psychotic inhabitants, there would be no moral dilemma in the first place. You'd kill the creature and that's it. End of story. The game presents you with a choice, and the emotional qualifiers surrounding a Little Sister's behavior force you to consider her right to live. The beauty of BioShock is that the game is designed in such a way as to actually make you reason with yourself regarding what's a better option for you the player, you the character, and the rest of Rapture's inhabitants. For example, if you kill a Little Sister, who might very well be evil regardless of what you do, perhaps that's the very bit of extra energy you need to save one of the Rapture's trapped, functional families.
But Steve isn't content with discussing the obvious moral quandaries of the game's presentation -- the interesting decision-making that one rarely finds in the first-person-shooter genre. He'd rather tie BioShock to the video game violence issues we always see -- the "devil made me do it" phenomenon that turns a CounterStrike player into a real-life terrorist, a Call of Duty gamer into a sniper-in-training, and a Little-Sister-killer into. Well. A jerk. It's a weak way to pull a unique piece of art into a tired discussion that we've all talked about ad nauseum. Video games aren't responsible for stupid behaviors, blahblahblah. Way to go, Steve. Way to miss the point.