A Geek With Guns

Chronicling the depravities of the State.

Speak English or Else

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Be mindful of what language you speak in the land of the free:

(GREAT FALLS) Two U.S. citizens were stopped and questioned by a Border Patrol agent early Wednesday morning for speaking Spanish at a gas station in Havre.

Ana Suda – who was born in Texas and now lives in Havre – stopped with a friend at a Town Pump store to buy milk and eggs.

They were speaking Spanish when a Border Patrol agent asked them for their documents.

Speaking Spanish? Ihre Papiere, bitte!

In all fairness, I understand how this situation occurred. Put yourself in the agent’s shoes. You’re an American of moderate intelligence who hears two people speaking a language other than English. You can’t imagine that anybody would actively invest their time into learning another language so you’re fairly certain that those two people are from Mexico. You also know from your training that anybody from Mexico is probably here illegally. With this knowledge in hand you decided to do what you were hired to do, harass people.

The United States, like many superpowers before it, is decaying and the rulers are looking for somebody to blame (besides themselves, of course). As is tradition in decaying superpowers, the rulers of the United States has decided to place the blame firmly on the shoulders of barbarians outsiders. This has lead to the establishment of policies meant to seek out barbarian infiltrators and remove them and their immoral influence from this great nation. In other words, there’s a witch hunt on for outsiders and anything that isn’t considered expressly American is a sign of a witch.

Open Source Software and Private Property

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I’ve lamented periodically about the fact that consumers don’t own the software they “buy.” When you “buy” a piece of software, you’re usually entering into a license agreement, and an extremely one-sided agreement at that. However, there is respite from this onslaught against the concept of ownership and, ironically, it comes from a model that is usually claimed to be communistic by both its proponents and critics. That respite is open source software.

Open source software is the only software that you can seriously claim to own. While not all open source software licenses are equal, most of them do allow you to modify the code in whatever way you desire. With the source code in hand and the right to modify it at will, you can make whatever changes you want to an application. If a developer drops support for the application, you can either continue to support it yourself or hire a third-party to continue supporting it for you. If you’re not happy with a change a developer made, you can remove that change while still potentially including other added functionality that you did want. If the application is designed to be run on a server, you can host the application on your own server if you so desire.

In this way a movement that is usually considered communistic has done a better job of enabling private property rights over software than the model that is usually considered capitalistic.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 22nd, 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in News You Need to Know

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Hardware is Cheaper than Developer Time

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Is your application performing poorly? Just throw more hardware at it! This attitude has become mainstream thanks to the widespread availability of cheap hardware and the high cost of developer time. Why pay a team of developers tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve the performance of an application when you can buy a handful of relatively cheap servers and still be able to provide the performance your customers need?

What’s interesting about this equation is that consumers have been mostly shielded from it. However, when this equation does impact consumers, it usually raises some important questions:

Capcom will give Japanese Switch owners a chance to play last year’s Resident Evil 7 on the Switch later this week. But the port will only be playable as an online stream running on Capcom’s own servers, rather than a downloaded version that would run directly on the Switch’s relatively low-powered hardware.

[…]

But such a port would have required time and programming resources that Capcom might not have been willing to spare. With cloud streaming, on the other hand, getting the game onto the Switch is likely just a matter of setting up some servers to run the existing PC version, then writing a simple client to stream inputs and video/audio to and from the Switch. Streaming to the Switch means not having to compromise on graphical detail, but it could lead to stuttering and frame rate issues if the Internet connection isn’t absolutely solid.

Nintendo has been at a disadvantage for the last several console generations. Its consoles have been less powerful than its competitors, which has contributed to developers not porting games to Nintendo’s consoles. When games have been ported, developer time had to be invested in down scaling the game enough to run on the less powerful hardware.

With the widespread availability of high-speed Internet connectivity, an alternative strategy to porting a game directly has become possible. Instead of porting the game itself, the game can be run on more powerful hardware and the video can be streamed to the player. This would theoretically allow any game to run on almost any platform. A user could just as easily stream the game on their Switch as their phone.

But the universe abhors perfection so this strategy naturally has trade offs. The most obvious of these trade offs is latency. If the game is being run on a remote server, every button pressed by the player must be transmitted to that server. Even with a high-speed Internet connection that latency can be noticeable, especially for extremely fast paced games. But the more sinister trade off in my opinion is the fact that players can’t own the game since it exists exclusively on remote servers. At some point Capcom will decide that continuing to operate the Biohazard 7 servers is costing more money than the game is making. When that happens, the servers will be turned off and the players who paid for the game will no longer be able to play it.

I’ve lamented about the fact that consumers own fewer of the products they “buy.” The idea that paying a producer money for a product resulted in exclusive ownership has been replaced by the idea of licensing. You don’t purchase a tractor, you pay to license the software that runs on it and John Deere just happens to throw in the hardware for free. In the case of Biohazard 7, gamers aren’t buying the game, they’re paying for the privilege to stream the game for as long as Capcom allows.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 22nd, 2018 at 10:30 am

Posted in Technology

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Beatings Will Continue until Morale Improves

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Government schools and prisons have a lot in common. Schools and prisons are often architecturally similar and attendance isn’t optional. The latter similarity has, not surprisingly, lead to a lot of students who are unhappy about being held against their will. Worse yet, many unhappy students show their displeasure, which can make the school as a whole look unpleasant. Fortunately, one school has a plan to combat this problem:

Northern Lebanon School District students in Pennsylvania must smile while walking the hallways at the institution or they will be punished, according to a report.

Students who do not smile in the hallways between periods will be instructed to, and if they refuse, they will be sent to the guidance counselor’s office to talk through their problems, reported Lebanon Daily News. Meanwhile, parents claim that reports of bullying in the district are mostly ignored by administrators.

A school is finally teaching children a real-world skill: how to bottle up emotions until they can manifest themselves in the form of a nice, healthy mental illness!

I guess it’s easier to threaten students with punishment if they don’t pretend to be happy than it is to make students legitimately happy by making the oppressive conditions in schools less oppressive.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am

Monday Metal: Kai Tangata by Alien Weaponry

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This week for a change of pace we’re listening to a New Zealand thrash metal band that creates a lot of music in the Māori language.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 21st, 2018 at 10:00 am

Posted in Media

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Misplaced Children

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The United States government has a difficult time keeping tracking of things. The Pentagon misplaces trillions of dollars; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives misplaces a lot of guns; and the Department of Health and Human Services misplaces over a thousand children:

Federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year after a government agency placed the minors in the homes of adult sponsors in communities across the country, according to testimony before a Senate subcommittee Thursday.

The Health and Human Services Department has a limited budget to track the welfare of vulnerable unaccompanied minors, and realized that 1,475 children could not be found after making follow-up calls to check on their safety, an agency official said.

Are these kids living happily with their sponsors? Have they been sold to human traffickers? Nobody knows, especially not the government agency tasked with knowing exactly this. Of course, as always, the failure is being blamed on a lack of funding. Government agencies are the only entities that I’m aware of that expect or outright demand a pay raise when they perform poorly.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 11:00 am

Milking All of the Tax Cattle

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While I still stand by my ruling that Atlas Shrugged was a poorly written book with dull two-dimensional characters, I will admit that it was also prescient. The United States appears to be entering the part in of the book where the infrastructure is in a constant state of deterioration. Even the parking ramps are falling apart. And you know what that means! Soak the tax payers a little more:

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter ordered the shutdown of a major downtown parking ramp Thursday, the day after a chunk of concrete fell on a parked car and two days after he and other local leaders launched a public campaign for $58 million in state money to replace the aging structure.

Strange, I didn’t realize that a parking ramp in St. Paul served the entirety of Minnesota. But it must otherwise Carter wouldn’t be asking the entire state to pay for his city’s shitty infrastructure, right?

Unfortunately, when infrastructure fails, it serves as an excuse by the political class to steal more wealth from those they rule. To compound this problem, even though the political class is stealing more wealth, the infrastructure never improves. So a vicious cycle of failing infrastructure leading to more stolen wealth followed by more failing infrastructure persists.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 10:30 am

The World’s Most Expensive Homeless Shelters

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Government choo-choos are all the rage these days in the Twin Cities. While they’re stupidly expensive, advocates for government choo-choos claim that they enable the poor, which is true. However, when those advocates claim that the choo-choos will help the poor, they mean that they will help the poor find jobs in wealthier neighborhoods. It turns out that the choo-choos are really mobile homeless shelters:

Grassrope is part of a chronic homeless population living on the Twin Cities light rail system. Authorities estimate some 200 people are using the system for shelter each night and the number is rising at an alarming rate.

Hey, at least somebody is riding it!

But this raises another question, is $2 billion a bit steep just to build another homeless shelter?

If the line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie is built, Hennepin County will bear the brunt of the local cost. With the overall tab now projected to be just over $2 billion, commissioner Jeff Johnson, a Republican candidate for governor, said it’s time to stop approving cost increases.

Obviously I’m being a bit tongue in cheek here. I know that the new line won’t serve as a homeless shelter. Now that government officials are aware that homeless individuals are using the choo-choos to shield themselves from the elements, the fares will be raised. If there’s one thing government officials hate, it’s homeless individuals having an ounce of additional comfort. But $2 billion is a lot of money. While advocates for government choo-choos claim that they more than pay for themselves, I have a difficult time believing that more public transport (a bus system already exists) between Eden Prairie and Minneapolis is going to bring $2 billion of additional economic activity anytime soon.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 18th, 2018 at 10:00 am

Tracking Your Pieces of Flair

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Some people mistakenly believe that if they don’t carry a cell phone, government agents can’t track them. While cell phones are convenient tracking devices, they aren’t the only tool in the State’s toolbox. Law enforcers have been using license plate scanners for years now. Such scanners can track the whereabouts of every vehicle in the department’s territory. And since license plate scanners are technological devices, they are improving in capabilities:

On Tuesday, one of the largest LPR manufacturers, ELSAG, announced a major upgrade to “allow investigators to search by color, seven body types, 34 makes, and nine visual descriptors in addition to the standard plate number, location, and time.”

Plus, the company says, the software is now able to visually identity things like a “roof rack, spare tire, bumper sticker, or a ride-sharing company decal.”

Even obscuring or changing your license plate won’t work if you have, like so many Americans, covered your car in unique pieces of flair.

I’m sure some people, thinking that they’re very clever, have already come up with the strategy of not driving their vehicle. After all, if you don’t have a cell phone or a personal vehicle, the government can’t track you, right? Wrong again.

Missed Opportunities

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Toys ‘R’ Us is one of many victims of the recent retail apocalypse. Now that its assets are being liquidated, we’re learning that the company missed some potentially significant opportunities:

Among the URLs purchased by Toys ‘R’ Us and now up for sale are sex-toys-r-us.com, kinkytoysrus.com, and aforementioned adult-toys-r-us.com. There are also more benign domain names, like toysrussucks.com, burgers-r-us.com, and cigars-r-us.com.

If Toys ‘R’ Us had associated businesses for those URLs, it probably wouldn’t be in its current financial situation.

Written by Christopher Burg

May 17th, 2018 at 10:30 am