Some more XKCD

The Power

Being an IT professional, I'm consistently amazed by the level of power the IT staff has over anybody else in the company. We masquerade as simple support staff, running around being helpful, having to scold users for plugging their printer into their monitor (true story), and generally cleaning up after users. The vast majority of users don't realize how utterly open their computers are to even a lowly desktop support tech using the right tools. At any given time (including 3AM, if I wanted to), I can do the following on anybody's (CEO included) computer from the comfort and anonymity of my desk:

Turn it on or off

Most of our computers have a Wake-on-LAN feature, which means as long as the computer is plugged in to a network port, we can see it. Even if it's off. And we can send a command that will will turn it on. Once it's on, it's even easier to turn it off.

Take Everything

We have this term in IT called "Domain Admin." In layman terms, it's G-d Mode. Having that level of security permissions means a support grunt can go into anyone's folders and take/look/delete anything they want. Now, not everybody is a domain admin. But enough people are to make things scary.

See Everything

Through a slew of different programs, we can see anything on anybody's screen, whenever we want, for however long we want to. And you'll never know we were there.

Take Control

The ability to see everything comes with the ability to control any desktop as well. Microsoft calls it "Remote Assistance." I call it "Remote Superpowers."

The best part about all this is not that we can literally force this company to its knees if we so desired. It's that the entire time we were doing it, you would have no idea.

Be Afraid.
And don't make us angry.

But honestly, this is what we really do.



Virtual Property Rights

There has been much talk about the eventual role of virtual worlds in modern society. Games like Second Life specifically has caused various media storms around it's Linden currency and life-like economy, which some predict will be traded alongside the dollar and the euro sometime in the future. One of the biggest problems theorists have yet to solve is that of Virtual Property Rights. When I acquire land or items (resources of any kind, really) in virtual worlds such Second Life, World of Warcraft, or Everquest, can we enforce American property law on those objects? When I build a house in Second Life, are you liable for damages when you break in and steal something? John W. Nelson has written an eye-opening paper discussing the various forms of property law in America and whether or not these ideas can be applied in the virtual realm.

It's a long read, but well worth it. There are some really fascinating ideas in here that may change the way we look at virtual assets. Should virtual resources be considered Intellectual property or physical property? maybe it's both. Maybe the hardware the resources reside on is the physical property that the intellectual property of swords, houses, and in-game resources simply represent to the consumer?

He tackles the the idea of the Lockean view of property rights (man's toil + nature = ownership) and how it can't give second life users rights to their areas (after all, it ultimately started with the developers code).

If you don't feel like reading the whole thing, I'll spoil it for you. He doesn't think that physical property laws will ever make an effective policing system for virtual worlds. While it may seem like a great idea in theory, in practice there are too many differences to make it worthwhile.

This problem really makes one wonder what property is, anyways. Is it a title given to an object (this land is property), or is a right given to an owner (I have property rights to this land). Ultimately, I think this will be the deciding factor when it comes to virtual property. Since it is by definition not real, you can't call it property. But if you're referring to property as rights given to a user, then the fact that I can sell my high-level rare WoW sword for real money automatically gives legitimacy, real or imagined.

I like this kind of intelligent, informed, discussion about the world of games and geeks, and I hope to engage in more of that in the future.

Comic Strips

XKCD - One of my favorite comic strips. There will be more of these, don't you worry

Cat Proximity

Health Care Logic

Listening and absorbing all that has been going on with the Obamacare Health care "reform" fiasco is making me very sad. I watch the news and I listen to the radio, and I can't help but think that if people would stop and think logically for a moment, this would all go away. Consider these objective and perfectly logical points:

- The government wants to decide which healthcare options you will use. There is no denying this fact. The whole idea of a single-payer system is that one conglomeration of insurance will decide what is good for you and bad for you. Our country was founded on the principles of choice. Obama is taking it away.

- Stuff costs money. Somewhere in the recent past, we have fallen into a false dreamworld wherein we are somehow entitled to healthcare. Why? Where did this come from? Doctors, nurses and every other healthcare professional provide a service. Plumbers provide a service as well. Common Denominator? They both charge money for it. The big difference is that the innovative, cutting-edge nature of healthcare makes it cost more than plumbing. Enter the insurance paradigm, a financially sound win-win 3-way partnership that has served us well for a long time. It has made the cost of the best healthcare system of world become a manageable monthly cost that the vast majority of Americans can pay for. Unfortunately, the ubiquity of the insurance company has paralyzed us. Our total dependence on insurance companies has made us believe that it is their responsibility to pay for it. When faced with the rising cost of healthcare, we freak out. How can this system that has served us so well forsake us now? And instead of letting the sound business model of private insurance fix itself (as all good business models will do), instead of playing our part and leaving the plan when it gets too expensive, instead of being responsible for our finances and our health care, America is deciding to give their total trust to the government to run this thing. Because if government takes care of it, we won't have to. It's the trap most western societies have fallen into, and it's why government is almost always the primary cause of societal collapse.

- Never put all your eggs in the same basket. Anyone who invested their entire life savings in Bernie Madoff's scam knows this adage well. Anyone who succeeds in the stock market follows the saying religiously. The health-care industry should be following it as well. What if the government run system collapses under the weight of its own over-inflated deficit? Where will you go? Do you really want to entrust 1/6 of the nation's economy to one investor? Even if that one investor is a miracle worker, no responsible financier would recommend it.
This whole debate makes me feel helpless. How can you defeat the opposition when they aren't listening to common sense? If anybody has an objective and logical rebuttal to the above points, I'd really like to hear what you have to say.


Dropping out of school to play video games proffesionally: What we can learn

Let's get something straight before I go any further. I like video games a lot. I have been playing video games as a serious hobby since my parents bought an NES in my toddler years. I picked up that controller, made Mario jump, and never looked back. It has been, and continues to be, a serious hobby of mine, and I naturally take it pretty seriously. More on that in future posts. In the meantime, I'd like to direct you to a story that has polarized gamers around the world, started some of the most intense parenting flame wars (the best kind, btw) I have seen, and has a lot of people rethinking the nature of the video game as a hobby, an art form, and an industry.

Now, the article itself is not the greatest source of information here because, let's face it, the media as a whole is in agreement that Grand Theft Auto is corrupting our children and making them violent, psychotic murderers. Infinitely more informative is what this Blake fellow has to say for himself. In a forum on scorehero.com, a website devoted to Guitar Hero and its players, a flame war has erupted amongst the members (Really????) on the subject of Blake and his career plans. Right in the middle of the pyromania, Blake steps forward using a friend's username and talks a little about his decision. Read for yourself (his comments are at the end of the page).

This kid clearly has his head on his shoulders. It's a well-written, thought out approach to his decision and his parents' support. While this raises all kinds of questions about homeschooling, parenting, the public school system, video games, and competitive gaming, I hope it causes people to step back and take a more mature, intellectually honest approach to what video games are, and especially what they aren't. I think I've written enough for you to think about for now. I have a lot more to say on the subject, but not enough time to get it all out. More later.

First Post

Hi, boys and girls!! Welcome to my Kingdom! This here is wonderful world where I will direct you, my followers, unto things glorious and fantastic; Things I have stumbled upon in my journeys through the vast, intellectually empty wasteland that is the the Interwebs.

Have fun!!