16 September 2005

Random Ramblings: More Books

Another book that I picked up in Portland was J.D. Lasica's "Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation" (Wiley, 2005). While the subject matter should be self-explanatory from the title of the book, it's the numerous stories told inside that's truly revealiing. Basically, the book posits that there is an insidious movement afoot to strictly control the use and proliferation of digital content (well, analog content too). The result is that laws permitting fair use of copyrighted material are being weakened by laws such as the "Digital Millenium Copyright Act" (see: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DMCA and https://www.anti-dmca.org) and by hardware vendors who are either in cahoots with or being arm-twisted by special interests to implement measures that work against the best or fair interests of consumers.

Like anyone who is fascinated by electronic gadgets and who doesn't have many other expensive habits/sins to cater to (fast cars, wine, women, song), I've bought and used more than my fair share of these new fangled digital toys (game consoles, MD players, iPod's, Tivo/ReplayTV PVR's, DVD recorders, etc.). I can also attest to having bumped my head more than once against what I consider to be unreasonable limitations on usage. Given this, it's probably best to be aware of this creeping trend towards absolute control while there's still time to do something about it.

For more/related information, check out the author's/book's website at https://www.darknet.com. While the site has snippets from the book, it's no substitute for a full and thorough reading of the book, which I highly recommend.

11 November 2004

Random Ramblings: Gaming Again

Sigh, still busy with the website, although Phase 1 should be up and running in a few days. In case you didn't realize it, I'm not particularly fond of doing websites.

An expected side effect of all this work is that I have to unwind every now and then. My diversion du jour happens to be a computer chess program. In truth, I'm not much of a game player, but every blue moon I do manage to find something worth playing for a few months (e.g. Wizardy on my old Apple II, Lode Runner and Commander Keen on my early PC). But it's been more than 10 years since I did any serious gaming.

Anyway, I recently read Matt Leppard's review of the 10th Edition of Chessmaster in the November 3, 2004 issue of Post Database and was intrigued. I started playing chess when I was a child (my father taught me), and I even played on my high school team, not to mention a tournament or two. But I was never a hard core player and it's literally been 30 years since I played a serious game.

Back in the good old days of computing, a good chess program was one of the Holy Grails. When a program called "Sargon" came out for my Apple II, I excitedly grabbed a copy. But even back in those days, computer chess programs were able to whup me pretty good. Not being a glutton for punishment, I decided to retire myself from most things chess (except for following the exploits of Deep Blue vs Gary Kasparaov and an occasional viewing of "Searching for Bobby Fischer").

This time, I decided to download a time-limited (8 hours of play) trial copy of Chessmaster first (be forewarned, it's 60MB!). The program comes with a lot of bells and whistles, although on the demo, the opponents were limited to real easy players or the Chessmaster himself. Anyway, after a few rounds of routing the minions and being routed by the Chessmaster, I decided to splurge for the real thing. Matt Leppard wrote that the selling price was 799 Baht, but I managed to buy it for 599 Baht, a definite bargain (especially given the fact that the U.S./online price is US$40).

So, have I returned to my chess playing heyday? Hardly. My play is pretty sloppy, no thanks to poor concentration and lack of patience. Still, I plan to gradually play myself back into shape. If nothing else, chess has the wonderful ability to focus your mind and that should come in useful in my ... umm, website work.