Archive | August 2012

eBooks Lawsuit Reveals the Ugliness of Digital Pricing, and a Sour Apple

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A few months ago, a lawsuit surrounding the pricing model of ebooks was filed against Apple, and the five biggest publishers in America. Three of the five publishers quickly bowed out, agreeing to pay the damages demanded, $0.25 to $1.32 per ebook sale, depending on how old the book was. What makes the lawsuit interesting is that it isn’t the publishers that must pay, but the online vendors that made the actual sales. This is effectively passing the buck to Amazon, Google, Sony, B&N, and Apple, the only vendor named in the suit. To simply answer why Apple was named, it was because the timing of the publishers deciding on the ebook agency pricing model coincided with Apple’s deal with them to start selling ebooks on iTunes.

So what does this mean to consumers? Well, according to this article, all ebook buyers from the past three years will be getting a refund, at some unforeseen time in the future. This date could hinge on the remaining contenders agreeing to pay up, but they seem content in fighting for money they won’t be losing. The publishers, in fact, only stand to win, since the refunds will mostly be given as store credits that will most likely only be able to be spent on more ebooks. That leaves Apple, whom seemingly has gone sour over this whole thing.

Apple is claiming they did nothing wrong, and had no hand in the agreement to go to the agency pricing structure that ebooks are now sold under. What is vexing is that Apple is fighting over refunds that would directly go back into their pockets as iTunes credits, which the high probability that the items purchased will be more than these tiny amounts. It does nothing except show their refusal to admit they can do any wrong, even at an expense much greater than these refunds.

So it’s time for consumers to get angry. Not only should we be angry over the agency pricing that has set ebook prices, but we should be angry at Apple and the last two publishers, Macmillan and Penguin, for holding out. While the publishers may have something real to fight about, it is Apple that is doing this simply to save face. They would rather play the victim than give the millions of people that made them what they are today a quarter.

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America the Wasteful

Having been born and raised in America, I’ve been exposed to quite a broad spectrum of personalities, cultures, and walks of life. Being a prosperous nation in the thick of the global rat race can make it pretty easy to let things fall to the way side.

The past decade has been full of initiatives and messages towards going green, recycling, saving energy, and producing less waste. I’ll be the first to admit that I have not been active in this movement, but I do try to produce as little waste as I can. So I am rather neutral in this issue, but what I saw today really irked me.

I am sitting at Starbucks as I write this, having finished yet another wave of job applications and cover letters. What I have been watching is customer after customer using 2-3 wooden stirrers for their drinks. I really have to wonder where this kind of wasteful behavior comes from where a person grabs an abundant amount of anything to do a simple task. These same people are taking handfuls of napkins to wipe the smallest spills, as if the thought of their hands getting a little damp from using only one is unacceptable. One of these people is even wearing a t-shirt proclaiming they drive an electric car. Is that a proclamation of pride, or defensive message to show he’s balancing the wastefulness he’s displaying right now?

I don’t mean to come off as some kind of pro-earth nut, but I love my planet, and I love being in a clean city. So exercise some common sense, and use only what you need. I think your hand can afford a couple extra twists to mix in that non-fat milk.

Obama’s Attack on Romney Makes This Election a Fool’s Game

The presidential election is always a pllace of ultimate scrutiny, and 2012 is┬ámore of the same. While we would like to think the presidency is about leadership and policy making, it is a candidates personal qualities that seem to fall under the microscope. Obama’s recent attacks on Romney, pointing at the lack of tax disclosure, however, is a Fool’s game

It’s no secret that to win an election the candidates need to swing the masses in their favor. Rather than play on their own strengthens though, it is more common to see the the players attack their opponents’ apparent weaknesses. Obama’s attacks on Romney has done just that, but the people being moved are being fooled.

Lack of disclosure is a weak argument to knock someone down. In doing so, Obama’s camp has offered no evidence of wrong doing, instead simply claiming that Romney “must be hiding something.” This gives Romney’s camp a lot of room to maneuver, as they don’t have to refute any evidence. The coming days could prove the folly ofthis tactic. It is up to Obama’s camp to use this time to prepare something real to talk about.

Finishing What Began in 1996

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Sixteen years ago, I went on an 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. It was a special four day trip that only students with clean records and good grades could attend, and was my first long trip without family. This trip took us touring the DC Metro and surrounding area to see all of the museums, monuments, and historical sites. It was a wonderful trip, and one that stands out in memory, especially for one detail. There was one thing I never saw on that trip, the Lincoln Memorial.

I was supposed to see it on the final day along with the White House, Smithsonian, and Washington monument. However, due to the White House tours being severely behind schedule and a gas leak that led to the evacuation and containment of the Smithsonian, there ended up being no time to see the memorial before our bus left for the airport.

Finally, 16 years later, I journeyed through a mile of heavy rain to see this last monument at Washington D.C. It is perhaps as wondrous as the Washington Monument and its reflecting pool. It’s a towering statue of the man that declared freedom for all people in this country within a massive building filled with natural light. Growing up in the bubble of suburbia, it was hard to really understand the impact of this man’s moment in time. Having come of age, and seen more of the world, I can be much more grateful for his bravery and the sacrifices made 150 years ago.

Once More Unto the Breach

ImageA lot has changed over the past decade. I’ve gone through two phases of life, and the same can be said for online gaming. What once was a small niche among select FPS, strategy, and a very small group of MMOs has now become one of the biggest ways to game for any genre. Now you can play along or challenge other people around the world on just about every game being made today. This process has been one of trial and error, finding what works, and what doesn’t.

MMOs grew during this process from their toddler stage to what can now be seen as a mid-life crisis. In the wake of World of Warcraft’s unprecedented success, the MMO landscape shifted. Wanting a piece of that 11 Million subscriber pie, a lot of MMOs gradually shifted to WoW’s bread-and-butter model. Leveling through quests, auto-matching groups, and raids, raids, raids. That model has endured for well over seven years now. This is a model I’ve experienced in several MMOs, but I never did play WoW.

My days of playing MMOs started in 2003 with Final Fantasy XI. While I had some experience playing Everquest whenever I visited my cousin, FFXI was the first MMO of my own. It was a game that captivated me for four years. Since quitting, I’ve tried many other MMOs in hopes finding another title with the same pull. This brought me to Guild Wars, Atlantica, Vindictus, SWTOR, and Tera, among others that didn’t last long enough to really mention. All of these games were fun in their own way, but none came close to FFXI for me. So now, nearly five years after quitting, I find myself rejoining the world of Vana’diel.

Things are quite different now from five years ago. The level cap is 99 instead of 75. There’s probably twice as many areas now than there were when I left. Most striking, however, is the shift away from group play. In order to address complaints that solo play was nearly impossible, Square-Enix has implemented a few changes over the years. First, the experience table has been greatly increased. What once was worth 12 xp is now worth 80. The result is someone playing solo on easy targets can earn xp faster than a traditional party did the last time I had played. Additionally, field books were added to all of the pre Treasure of Aht Urgan areas as a means of fighting over crowding popular grinding spots. These books give training quests tasking players to kill six to eight mobs of certain types. Completing these tasks gives the players experience points. Indoor areas will also give buffs, as well as increased rewards each time a task is repeated.

This has drastically changed the game. In a week’s time, I got my first job to level 50, unlocked my first advanced job, did two level cap quests, and got that new job to 56. My first time through this game, doing all of this probably took me half a year. This was done almost entirely solo, as the new xp tables and field books have rendered most traditional grind parties obsolete. It’s not until the 30s, when kill times start becoming longer that parties come back into play, but even those have changed. Instead of having six people fighting hard monsters for maximum experience per kill parties involve having as many people possible killing easy targets for fast kill times to do what is called “book burning”. The result is getting 2400xp in four minutes in Garlaige Citadel. That used to take an hour. All told, I went from 37 to 56 in about four hours.

Indeed, a lot has changed. The new frantic pacing has me jarred, yet newly motivated. While it’s true to nostalgia isn’t quite there, the same enjoyment still manages to creep in through the cracks.