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Posted on 2012-03-17 by IceBear

11:00 AM, a nice Saturday morning, nothing planned for the day, got plenty of time to surf the net and find out about missed stuff during the stressful week. Time to relax.
Oh hey, a new game has been released. "Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning". Let's give it a try and download the demo on Origin:

"Unfortunately due to youth protection laws in Germany it isn't allowed to download this game during 6:00 AM and 11:00 PM." ("Leider darf dieses Spiel aufgrund des Jugendschutzgesetzes in Deutschland nicht zwischen 6:00 Uhr und 23:00 Uhr heruntergeladen werden.") - Origin Store

Seriously? I mean... seriously? I can't download it between those times? Am I allowed to play it at least once I downloaded it outside those times? So if a kid downloads the game during the night it's also able to play during the day then? What the fuck?
Hey, have you ever heard of SKIDROW? OK, let's not go there, yet.

It's not Electronic Arts' fault right? It's a German law, so it's the German government's fault. After reviewing the German law for the protection of the youth I didn't find anything that would clearly and definitely explain this ban of download during daytimes, though.

The USK rated "Kingdoms of Amalur: The Reckoning" 18+, so nobody under the age of 18 is allowed to buy the game in Germany. Aka only adults are allowed to buy it. Or in this case, download the demo? That's not even buying, what are we talking about here then? Distribution in general? Actually it's a digital distribution, so let's see.

The way I see it we have the following laws that are relevant:

Section 12 JuSchG subsection (3) basically says that every medium (film or game) that is rated for adults only is not allowed to be made available or sold to anybody under the age of 18:

"[...] dürfen einem Kind oder einer jugendlichen Person nicht angeboten, überlassen oder sonst zugänglich gemacht werden [...]" - Section 12 JuSchG subsection (3)

Section 12 JuSchG subsection (4) says something about limitations of "vending machines" which make films or games available, like location and access control. It also states that adult content (18+) is not allowed to be made available through "vending machines" at all in public spaces accessible by kids and teenagers:

"[...] nur aufgestellt werden, wenn ausschließlich nach § 14 Abs. 2 Nr. 1 bis 4 gekennzeichnete Bildträger angeboten werden [...]" - Section 12 JuSchG subsection (4)

Looking at this and assuming that Origin is a "vending machine" they wouldn't be allowed to make such games available at all regardless of the time since the Internet is public. Assuming it isn't considered a "vending machine", they aren't allowed to make it available for anybody under the age of 18 which would therefore conclude that they'd need some kind of age verification before making such games available.

Are you honestly saying that everybody under the age of 18 is always asleep during 11:00 PM and 6:00 AM? This is an age verification? Seriously? But hey, others do it exactly the same way:

"This show is unsuitable for teenagers under the age of 12. This clip is therefore only available between 8:00 PM and 6:00 AM." ("Diese Sendung ist für Jugendliche unter 12 Jahren nicht geeignet. Der Clip ist deshalb nur von 20 bis 6 Uhr verfügbar.") - ARD Mediathek

Where is this coming from? Am I missing something? Not to mention that "teenagers" under the age of 14 are not even considered "teenagers" by German law but are considered kids. What are "teenagers" under the age of 12 then? They are kids.
And not to mention that GeoIP, the whole concept and idea to find out from which country a certain website visitor is coming from is totally unreliable. There have been reports of people getting those messages even though they don't live in Germany or connect from within Germany. These laws do not apply to them.

Fuck GeoIP, fuck "national Internet" and get your head out of your asses. This is fucking ridiculous. Unless of course you don't want to make money?

Coming back to my previous question: have you ever heard of SKIDROW?

Update: Kreuvf found out where those ridiculous time periods are coming from. They are actually defined in a treaty, the State Treaty on Youth Protection in the Media ("Jugendmedienschutz-Staatsvertrag") which is also regulating digital distribution like the Internet. The JuschG apparently is only regulating physical media.

Posted on 2012-01-11 by IceBear

This article is a follow up to Germany's E-Pestbeef. I suggest reading that in case you haven't already.

I found a flyer for Deutsche Post AG's E-Postbrief in my mailbox the other day. I've found some of those there before but always tossed them immediately (with the rest of the advertisement crap I don't need). This time I actually went through it however. The idea was to have a laugh. Instead I ended up raging.

It is just ridiculous what claims they make in there. What upsets me the most is how they try to deceive normal people who have no clue about the matter into registering and using their "secure" system. I will comment on some quotes taken from the flyer. The original quotes are in German and I will include them in brackets after the translated quote. Let's take a look:

"Conventional emails are too insecure - you never know who else might be reading. Michael's solution: the E-Postbrief." ("Einfache E-Mails sind zu unsicher - da weiß man nie, wer alles mitliest. Michaels Lösung: der E-Postbrief.") - Aktuelles zum E-Postbrief 12/2011 page 8

So conventional emails are not as secure as the E-Postbrief. I beg to differ. First of all it depends on how you define "conventional email".

Let's say "conventional email" means unencrypted emails then I'd say conventional emails and E-Postbrief are pretty much on the same level. Yes, E-Postbrief uses encryption. But what encryption? We don't know. Who encrypted it? Not you.
Update: Actually this wasn't quite correct to prove my point. It's more like: Who decrypts it? Not you, they decrypt it for you on their system.
Meaning: a third party being not you nor the recipient knows how to decrypt the message. Insecure crap.

Let's say "conventional email" means an encrypted email with GPG/PGP. You created your key, the recipient created their key, there is no third party involved. The message has been encrypted with well known and proven security standards.

Which would you choose now? Of course they're not telling you that, though. This is exactly what makes me rage: they're telling people their system is secure and some who don't really know a lot about the matter will believe and trust them. However in reality their system is NOT secure at all. It's a freaking lie.

"Your documents are stored permanently and securely like in a giant safe at www.epost.de." ("Ihre Unterlagen sind bei www.epost.de wie in einem riesigen Safe dauerhaft und sicher abgelegt.") - Aktuelles zum E-Postbrief 12/2011 page 5

Yes, permanently alright. Since once you delete something it actually is not deleted. Securely, huh? Let's see...

"The high quality and security standard of the E-Postbrief platform is even approved and certified by TÜV." ("Der hohe Qualitäts- und Sicherheitsstandard der E-Postbrief-Plattform ist sogar vom TÜV bestätigt und zertifiziert.") - Aktuelles zum E-Postbrief 12/2011 page 5

This one actually makes me laugh and die a bit inside. Security certified by TÜV. Want to know software that has also been certified by TÜV?
Internet Explorer 8 and Internet Explorer 9 (OMFG, are those spaces in the URL?)
What a guarantee for security and quality! Trollolololol.

DON'T USE THIS SERVICE. I can't say it often enough. It is NOT secure, it is NOT private, it's all a big freaking lie.

Also have a look at this nice list of companies who apparently seem to be as incompetent as Deutsche Post AG (since they are all already using and supporting E-Postbrief).

At least they're maintaining a handy blacklist. Vote with your wallet.

Note: Due to copyright I'm not publishing the whole flyer on here. I have a copy however, in case you want to have a look at it, simply contact me.

Posted on 2011-12-03 by IceBear

Welcome to the United States of America (USA)! Please step right through our national mascot: the Stars and Stripes metal detector, probably made in China, India, Pakistan or some (other) third world country, who cares! We are proud of it and thus you have to be too!

I've been to the USA recently and I am rather disappointed with that trip. It's not the first time I visited the USA, I've been there before a couple of times, first in 1993 in fact. What I want to talk about is mostly my opinion of the USA turning into a police and surveillance state, which surely is getting worse and worse by the day. My last trip before this one this year was in 2007, where they already took fingerprints and a photo of everybody wanting to get into the USA, be it vacation, business trip or anything else. You want to come in? They shall have your fingerprints and a photo. Now if I recall correctly, back in 2007 they "only" wanted your thumb prints of both hands. This time they wanted prints of every finger of both hands. Do I have a problem with that? Yes, I do. In my opinion it is ridiculous to have everybody under this general suspicion of whatever they are afraid of (TERRORISM! OMG!) and justify taking prints this way.

What is also new for me is their online registration form (Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)) which you have to fill out, basically to apply for entry in the first place (instead of a visa). Enter all your personal data into it, including passport number and answer some questions. Like for example:

"Do you have a communicable disease; physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict?" - ESTA

Or my favorite:

"Have you ever been or are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide; or between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?" - ESTA

Why, yes, of course! I've been born after 1945, which I just told you, but surely I was associated with Nazi Germany. But hey, before even answering these questions, check this out:

"On March 4, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Travel Promotion Act (TPA) of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-145. The Act directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a fee for the use of the ESTA system, comprised of $10.00 for each VWP applicant receiving authorization to travel to the United States and $4.00 for the processing of the ESTA application. Applicants who are denied authorization to travel to the U.S. under the VWP will only be charged $4.00. The fee may only be paid by credit card. Applicants may save the application data and return to the application at a later date to enter the payment information. However, the application will not be submitted for processing until all payment information is completed." - ESTA

Nice. $14 going directly to the U.S. Homeland Security. And of course it may only be paid by credit card, what else? That way they also have your credit card info and can check all your previous transfers. After all you might be funding Al-Qaeda and just don't want to mention it.

Oh well, first rages were had. But anyway, finally I arrive there. The usual patriotism is the first thing that hits you at the airport: big USA flags, a store with all kinds of patriotism items (more on that later). Don't get me wrong, patriotism to a certain degree is not that bad in my opinion, however in the case of the USA it just seems hypocritical. Why? More on that in a bit. The patriotism obviously continues when I was at an American football game: "Please rise and take off your hats for the national anthem of the greatest nation in the world." (something along that, not an exact quote). Even the stadium logo, which was illuminated only in green before, turned into a Stars and Stripes animation. Of course it wouldn't be a proper American football game without some U.S. Army veterans showing up during small breaks so everybody can cheer for them.

What made me rage the most, though, is the fear of terrorism (OMG!) everywhere. Go up the Empire State building? Metal detector, x-ray! Go up the Rockefeller Center? Metal detector, x-ray! Hence the new national mascot of the USA: the Stars and Stripes metal detector. Visiting a museum? Backpack check! Visiting an American football game? Backpack check! Look up the ceiling in any building: security cameras! Look up the sky in New York City: security cameras on light poles! Oh, if you could just see this George Orwell...

Something that also made me shake my head was the American Museum of Natural History. At one point they show a movie how humans are destroying the earth with their lifestyle, logging rain forest, etc. And then there is the planetarium show "Journey to the stars" which shows how great our universe is and how it was created. In the credits of the show it mentions that it was "made possible through the generous sponsorship of"... wait for it... Lockheed Martin! One of the world's largest "defense" (read: military weapons) contractors. How ironic is that?

Anyway, coming back to my previous point about hypocritical patriotism. Let's just have a look at those two products:

Product #1  Product #2

Which of these products was proudly made in the USA? Which wasn't? Click the products to find out. (Sorry for the bad image quality)

And this is something you will find everywhere all over. Buy a model Statue of Liberty for your living room at the patriot store at the airport, or anywhere else, it doesn't really matter: it is made in China. Obviously most products these days are made in China or (other) third world countries since the actual labor there is way cheaper and capitalists always want to have the most profit they can get. I get that. But how can you justify producing patriotic products like a model Statue of Liberty or fan equipment for American football teams there? Pure hypocrisy.

To sum everything up with some nice words by Trey Parker: America, FUCK YEAH!

Original article photo cc by-sa Daquella manera

Posted on 2011-08-17 by IceBear

What's the first thing you do when you want to buy a product? Read reviews? Assuming you already know that the product is awesome and you really want it, what's the next thing you do? Comparing prices of course, since you're not going to march to the next open store and simply buy it where you might have been able to save a buck or two instead.

Now since we've got the Internet and everything got pretty global due to all the connectivity we're having, there's also the possibility to buy products in other countries. Since other countries might have other currencies, laws and tax regulations, there's a good possibility you might save quite some money when importing your product from another country.

That idea goes even further when we're talking about video games, since those nowadays in pretty much every case also come as a digital download. So you don't even need to buy a physical product anymore. No more shipping, no more customs (whereas this is another story from a legal point of view).

Now there are some publishers who think it's a great idea to have their games region locked. Meaning you can only play/activate them in certain countries, mostly limited to the one you actually bought the product in. That makes you unable to import the game for less money. That's an idea that actually came from video gaming consoles. Back in the days this was due to different TV systems being used in different countries, simplified: PAL and NTSC. So it made some sort of sense back then.

Having this kind of region lock on a PC doesn't make any sense at all however. Yet, some publishers do exactly that. Latest example: Deus Ex: Human Revolution by Square Enix:

"The PC version of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is region-locked. Please be sure to purchase a copy from your own region, otherwise you might not be able to register the game." - Square Enix FAQ

I love their suggestion what to do when you can't activate the game and play even more:

"If you should not be able to register your copy due to a region conflict, please return the game to your retailer. Square Enix cannot offer assistance in replacing incompatible registration codes." - Square Enix FAQ

Epic.

What's that about piracy you're saying? Well, why give people a reason to buy your game when you can give them one not to?
Instead of all that stuff about region locking they could've also said:

"Please don't bother about buying our game and download a cracked version for free instead. That way you definitely won't be bothered with any online activation or region lock."

Yes. Exactly that.

Posted on 2011-07-17 by IceBear

Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end. The days where you opened your multiplayer game, opened the server browser, ordered the servers by their latency, added some more filters like preferred map, players, and so on to your liking and finally selected the server you wanted to join. Back then people still knew what latency or ping meant. Back then game servers were running on dedicated machines which had more bandwidth and resources available than usual personal computers. When a server started lagging and your ping got too high, you simply looked for a server you had a better connection to.

Those were the days on the good old personal computer. Today unfortunately video gaming consoles took a major place in video gaming and with them came the average dumbed down casual gamers who simply want to play with the push of a button.

Ping? You mean those fancy colored bars which go green, yellow and red according to my connection? Oh yes, yes. I know those from my phone, too. It's like the reception to the server, right?

Dedicated servers you say? I don't know, I simply press "join match" or "start match" and that's it. But I prefer games where that function is combined by one button, sometimes called "instant play" or also "inb4 ragequit".

But even when games actually do get dedicated servers, often they're only released for Windows. Now you might be saying "Linux is not meant for gaming anyhow, right?". Well, even though most major video games don't run on Linux as a client, the majority of people are running Linux dedicated servers and not Windows dedicated servers for games. And no, I'm not going to back that with some fancy statistics now but simply state my own experience there. Just think about it for a second, it makes perfect sense. What kind of server administrator needs some freaking graphical user interface (GUI) on their server? And Windows always comes with a GUI, that's why it's called Windows after all (duh). It's a waste of resources that could be used otherwise. Not to mention the overall system stability, licensing costs (none vs. too much) and open source vs. closed source.

So thanks to video gaming consoles we either get no dedicated gaming servers at all or crippled ones. Let's see what games are made for the average dumbed down casual gamer:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - No dedicated servers available at all

Call of Duty: Black Ops - Dedicated servers operation limited to GameServers.com

"If players want to run a dedicated Ranked or Unranked server on the PC, they will have to rent one through GameServers" - Josh Olin

Battlefield Bad Company 2 - Dedicated servers operation limited to "trusted partners"

"DICE will have trusted partners with datacenters worldwide that you'll be able to rent a dedicated server from [...]" - Battlefield Blog post

And now some games where developers and publishers don't care about Linux dedicated servers:

  • Brink (work in progress, so far not released)
  • Crysis 2
  • Dino D-Day
  • Duke Nukem Forever
  • Monday Night Combat
  • Plain Sight

And many more... It's saddening to see how the video gaming world is dumbing down and how publishers and developers don't think it's very important to have Linux dedicated server support or dedicated server support at all. Look at those games and their number of active players. Look at those games and ask the number of active players how they're fed up by simple matchmaking functions that don't work very well. They'll probably tell you that they often ragequit because they ended up on a server somewhere far, far away with a latency beyond anything that could still be considered enjoyable.

And if there is dedicated server support but it's limited to "trusted partners" only that means that whether you own a dedicated server yourself somewhere doesn't matter. Because you can only directly rent a game server from those "trusted partners". Those of course come with a higher price since you probably would've been able to host several gaming servers on your dedicated server but instead you have to rent them for more cash than you pay for your dedicated server.

Why is that happening? Why do companies treat their customers like they're complete idiots? Why do we have to dumb everything down? We don't need some fancy colored bars where we had our latency shown as a number before. Going from a number to a colored bar is a reduction in information which we used to have before. How come private individuals can't host dedicated gaming servers anymore? Why would that even be limited to certain "trusted partners"? Is some cash flowing there?

The first thing I do when I want to buy a new multiplayer game is to check whether Linux dedicated servers are supported. That's because I always like to host my own server. I know the setup of that server, I know when it's reachable and I can always enjoy playing on it when I want. So to me, when a multiplayer game does not support Linux dedicated servers can be a reason to not buy the game. And that means the company will have a potential customer less which equals to less money for them. Now, I'm just a single individual but I'm pretty convinced there are more people thinking just like me. (Just search for "Linux" on that page)

Think about it.

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