Depending on who you ask, the percentage varies, but it’s always high. Way too high.
Allegedly, 90% of internet traffic is spam. Or maybe it’s 95%.
Personally, I don’t see as much spam as I used to. I use Gmail and its spam-filtering is pretty good. I haven’t heard from any Nigerians in a long time—which kind of disappoints me, because I always regarded the Nigerian swindle as an opportunity to have some fun.
I learned a long time ago that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So when someone sends me an email telling me that if I will send them my bank account number, they’ll send me ten percent of forty million dollars, my BS alarm goes off big time.
I used to reply to the Nigerians with: “All of us here at the International Outreach Effort of the Institute for Homosexual Research are thrilled at your generosity. Your continuing donations will allow us to do important work all over Africa, educating people everywhere on the importance of gay liberation…. Please tell us how to proceed, etc.”
Why this? Because homosexuality is criminalized in Nigeria. Extremely so. So if someone is monitoring emails in Nigeria, this might very well put a few swindlers out of business in a very nasty way. As far as I’m concerned, swindlers are fair game. And no, I’m not a nice man. Why do you even bother to ask?
Actually, the issue isn’t piracy. It’s copyright law.
But let me backtrack a bit.
I’ve gotten several emails from one of the regular readers of this column, pointing out to me that writing is just typing, it’s not real work. Real work involves shovels and hammers and paint brushes. Real men do real work. Real men roll up their sleeves and build things. Real men sweat.
And while I might argue with the idea that the hyperactivity of a person’s sweat glands confers some nobility, I would never dismiss the value of actual physical labor. I put myself through school working in restaurants, everything from waiting on tables to washing dishes. I sorted mail for the post office. I learned important lessons about service. I took on other jobs as well to keep myself alive. I’d come home tired, but almost every night I sat down to write.
I had a typewriter (a big mechanical thing, kind of like a computer keyboard connected directly to a printer but without a CPU, you made it work by physical labor) and almost every day I would hammer at it for hours, not getting up from the desk until I was too exhausted to roll another piece of paper into it or until my back hurt so much I could barely make it to bed. When I sold my first novel, When HARLIE Was One, it was a validation that all that typing hadn’t been worthless.
I said that the RIAA and the MPAA had forgotten what business they’re in. They think they’re in the business of selling discs. They’ve forgotten that they’re in the business of delivering entertainment.
In the comment section that followed the piece, a poster identified as Mark17 asked: “Why should I pay for music, movies, or software when I can get them for free?”
I’m going to answer that question, Mark17. But I don’t think you’re going to like the answer.
First, send me your address.
I’m going to walk into your house/condo/apartment/trailer uninvited. I’m going to go to your fridge. I’m going to take out the steak you were saving for Sunday barbecue and grill it for myself. I’m going to help myself to a couple of bottles of beer and the chocolate ice cream in the freezer too. On my way out, I’ll take a few books from your shelves, maybe some DVDs I’d like to watch, and I’ll take your MP3 player too. Maybe I’ll pick up your car keys and drive off in your 72 Pinto, if I’m feeling suicidal.
And no, you can’t complain. Why should I pay for your property when I can take it for free?
What’s that you say, Mr. Mark17? That I’m stealing from you? That’s funny you should say that.
First disclaimer: Nothing that follows is intended to be read as an endorsement of piracy, only some thoughts about it as a social phenomenon, and what it might tell us about product demand.
Second disclaimer: I have published over fifty books and a few hundred short stories, columns, and articles, most of which I own the copyrights on. I’ve also contributed scripts to a dozen different TV series, and although I do not own any of those copyrights, I am entitled to residual participation on those television copyrights. And I have a financial interest in one movie, Martian Child, which is (loosely) based on the story of my son’s adoption. So I am not unbiased on the issue of copyrights and ownership.
Third disclaimer: I don’t like piracy, I don’t advocate it, I don’t endorse it, I don’t condone it—but despite my disapproval, people still keep downloading illegal copies of music, TV shows, books, comics and graphic novels, magazines, software, keygens, cracks, and hacks.
So, let’s look at all that downloading.
Start with the obvious. People download music and software and movies and TV shows because they want it. They want to listen to the music, watch the movie, play the game, use the software tool, read the book, look at the fanedit, hear or see the mashup, whatever.
The owners of the copyright don’t object to people wanting the product. In fact, they want you to want it. But they also want you pay for it. It’s how they stay in business—but sometimes it leads to shortsighted decisions, especially if you don’t know what business you’re in.
There’s a lot to like in Windows 7. I like the new taskbar best, I like the jump lists, I like that I can set up my own theme with changing wallpapers. I like the Devices and Printers page for its ease of use. I like the Readyboost cache. I like the Monitor Calibration utility. And I really like Microsoft Security Essentials.
But no operating system is perfect. There are things that I would like to see included in the next iteration of Windows. Most of them are easy. Some of them are obvious and it’s puzzling to me why they aren’t already a part of Windows. (And one is probably an impossible pipe dream.)
Some people think that science fiction writers predict the future.
No, we don’t.
We warn against it.
It doesn’t take a lot of smarts to predict a technological advance. Most are evolutionary. It’s easy to predict more powerful this and faster that. The research is already going on in the labs. It’s a little bit harder to predict a technological breakthrough—that’s revolutionary, not evolutionary. The internal combustion engine, cars, airplanes, radio, television, transistors, integated circuits, lasers—all of those are revolutionary technologies.
But the almost-impossible thing to predict is the transformative effect of bptj evolutionary and revolutionary advances in tech. It’s not that hard to predict the growth of computer technology, science fiction writers did it routinely in the golden age stories of the fifties. What was beyond the event-horizon of the time was the shift in human thinking that would occur when computers are incorporated into the common environment.
Frank Lloyd Wright built beautiful houses. He changed the way a lot of people thought about architecture and he was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. The Ennis-Brown house, which sits on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles was used in Blade Runner, Black Rain, and The House On Haunted Hill.
Frank Lloyd Wright is also credited with a rather odd quote: “I'm all in favor of keeping dangerous weapons out of the hands of fools. Let's start with typewriters.”
Depending on how you google it, you will find thousands of hits. I did not check them all, but 35 pages in, the quote is still credited to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Curiously, not a single one of those sites tells you when or where Frank Lloyd Wright said this.
At the 2009 CES, Sony and Panasonic showed 3D HDTV as product concepts. Nvidia showed off its ability to display games in 3D and several other smaller companies demonstrated various 3D technologies, some with polarized glasses, some with shutter-glasses. I liked Sony’s demonstrations the best because they used lightweight polarized glasses.
At the 2010 CES, Sony and Panasonic and other manufacturers demonstrated 3D television products that will ship later this year. Actually, any television with a refresh rate of 120hz or greater is ‘3D ready.’ You’ll still need synced shutter glasses and a 3D source, but the screen will be able to display both eye-images at a fast enough rate to avoid jitter.
At the 2011 and probably 2012 Consumer Electronics Shows, we’ll start seeing second-generation and third-generation 3D products, by which time the technology will have matured, the prices will have dropped, and we will have settled into a standard for 3D HDTV.
But some industry pundits have already weighed in, suggesting that 3D is a fad, isn’t something that consumers really want, and doesn’t lend itself to home viewing—particularly because the ‘goofy glasses’ are a hindrance. Plus the 3D sets are expensive, most consumers haven’t finished paying for their current HDTV sets, so why would they want to replace them this year?
The first stereoptic movies were shown in theaters in 1922 and used red and blue (anaglyph) glasses. The first public demonstration of the Polaroid projection of 3D movies was at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York in a promotional film for Chrysler.
In 1946, 90 million people a week went to the movies. Only a few years later, television had cut those attendance numbers almost in half. The studios were looking for ways to compete with this upstart industry. (Sound familiar?)
The first thing the studios did was to increase the number of Technicolor productions, because television was only black-and-white. They also began experimenting with various big screen processes. Cinerama had a wraparound screen and needed three cameras and three projectors. VistaVision used 70mm film at 30fps. Cinemascope used 35mm film projected through an anamorphic lens that stretched it sideways to fill a wide curved screen.
But in 1952 an independent producer named Arch Oboler brought Bwana Devil to the theaters. It was a pretty dreadful movie, telling the story of two lions that killed 130 people during the construction of an African railroad, but the novelty of 3D drew large audiences to the theaters and the major studios were quick to leap aboard.
Here are some of the arguments against overclocking: “It voids the warranty. It stresses the system components beyond their specifications, sometimes to the point of premature death. It requires additional expenditures of power and cooling—and if you screw it up, you can fry your processor.”
And here is the biggest case for overclocking: “It makes my computer run faster.”
Both of those positions are valid. And most folks who have experience in overclocking are well aware of the ones and the zeroes in the equation. But neither of those assertions is compelling enough to end the argument one way or the other—because both of those positions fall short of the real issue.