What Happened at the Hearing for New Hampshire's Free Software Law?
What happened after a New Hampshire state representative proposed legislation either encouraging or
requiring free software in much of the state government? The
Concord Monitor writes, "It's been three decades since Linux launched the modern world of free, open-source software, but
you'd hardly have known that at a state legislative hearing Tuesday.
Gallager said the two bills were developed separately. "The fact that you've got people in both parties thinking about this issue independently shows there is a wide range of support for it," he said.
The Executive Department and Administration committee sent both bills to subcommittee.
But what's interesting is the arguments that were made — both for and against:
Tuesday's hearing drew the state's most prominent free software advocate, Jon Hall, a programmer whose legacy in the field dates back three decades... Among his arguments, Hall said that studies have shown that free and open-source software is cheaper in the long run than software from Microsoft or other vendors because you don't have to buy regular licenses or be forced into software upgrades or have to ditch equipment like printers because they are no longer supported. Even when free and open-source software has higher costs due to training, he said, those costs have benefits. "Where does the money that you spend go? You can send millions of dollars to Redmond (Washington, home of Microsoft) or Silicon Valley, or pay local software developers," Hall argued.
On the other hand, Denis Goulet, commissioner of the Department of Information Technology, said Gallager's bill would put large and hard-to-quantify costs onto the state. "It would take a year, two years, to figure out what it would cost" due to training on new systems, he told the committee. "It wouldn't be small." Goulet, who opposed Gallager's bill and did not speak on Berezhny's, said the state already uses open-source systems as appropriate, pointing to its web content management system.
"I estimate 85 percent of systems contained one or more open-source libraries," he said.
The lead developer and founder of Libreboot
tweeted video of the hearing, where you can also hear the first opponent of the legislation — state representative Stephen Pearson.
Click here to read some of the highlights from Tuesday's hearing:
Is It Wrong To Mock People Who'd Opposed Covid Vaccines and Then Died of Covid?
DevNull127 shares a transcript from
a recent segment on CNN:
CNN: Here's a moral question peculiar to these days: Is it wrong to mock people who publicly crusade against the Covid vaccine, and then die of the disease?
Or does it drive home the message about saving lives?
There are entire web sites that are devoted to such mockery. Sorry Antivaxxer.com gleefully tales stories and photos of anti-vaccine advocates who end up in the ICU, intubated, or dead from the disease.
One recent case of this kind of tasteless taunting spurred two dueling opinion pieces in the Los Angeles Times. Orange County Republican Kelly Ernby, a former assistant D.A. and state assembly candidate who had lobbied publicly against the Covid vaccines, passed away earlier this month at age 46 from Covid complications. She was unvaccinated. Ernby's death unleashed a torrent of reaction on the internet. On her own Facebook page under a Christmas collage that she had posted, there are now more than 4,600 comments. Some are sympathy notes; many other are not.
In response to the piling on, Los Angeles Times columnist Nicholas Goldberg wrote, "I don't understand how crowing over the death of others furthers useful debate — or increases vaccination rates." But a few days later, Goldberg's colleague Michael Hiltzik published a column expressing the exact opposite. "Mocking anti-vaxxers' Covid deaths is ghoulish, yes — but may be necessary." Michael Hiltzik joins me now, he's the L.A. Times' business columnist. He's also a Pulitzer Prize winner. Michael let's make clear at the outset: you are not talking about the everyday people who don't get vaxxed, sadly contract Covid, and die. You're talking about people with a platform, right?
Michael Hiltzik: That's correct... In my column, I pointed out that the unvaccinated really fall into three categories. There are those who can't get vaccinated for legitimate reasons — small children, people with genuine medical contra-indications of vaccination. Then there's a fairly large group of people who I think have been duped into resisting the vaccine, duped by misinformation and disinformation about the vaccines, and sort of nonsense about preserving our freedoms in the face of this pandemic.
The real targets who are important here are those who spent the last few months or years of their lives crusading against sensible, safe policies such as vaccination and social distancing and what have you — and ended up paying the ultimate price for their own — basically, their own folly.
[CNN puts a pargraph on the screen, highlighting Hiltzik's comment that "Mockery is not necessarily the wrong reaction to those who publicly mocked anti-Covid measures and encouraged others to follow suit, before they perished of the disease the dangers of which they belittled."]
Michael Hiltzik: You know, we have sort of a cultural habit of not speaking ill of the dead, of treating the good deceased — looking at the good that they've done during their lives. I'm not sure that in this case that's entirely appropriate, because so many of them actually have promoted reckless, dangerous policies.
And as I wrote there, they took innocent people along with them.
So is mockery the only response? Well, I don't know — but as I wrote, every one of these deaths is a teachable moment. And unfortunately we haven't been learning from the lesson that we should be hearing from them.
In his column, Hiltzik had argued that "[P]leas for 'civility' are a fraud.
"Their goal is to blunt and enfeeble criticism and distract from its truthfulness. Typically, they're the work of hypocrites."
Library Intentionally Corrupted by Developer Relaunches as a Community-Driven Project
Last weekend a developer
intentionally corrupted two of his libraries which collectively had more than 20 million weekly downloads and thousands of dependent projects.
Eight days later, one of those libraries
has become a community controlled project.
Some highlights from the announcement at fakerjs.dev:
We're a group of engineers who were using Faker in prod when the main package was deleted. We have eight maintainers currently....
What has the team done so far?
1. Created a GitHub org [repository] for the new Faker package under @faker-js/faker.
2. Put together a team of eight maintainers.
3. Released all previous versions of Faker at @faker-js/faker on npm.
4. Released the Version 6 Alpha
5. Almost completed migrating to TypeScript so that DefinitelyTyped no longer needs to maintain its external @types/faker package.
6. Created a public Twitter account for communicating with the community.
7. Released the first official Faker documentation website....
Faker has never had an official docs website and the awesome Jeff Beltran has been maintaining a project called "Un-Official faker.js Documentation" for the last 3 years.
He gave us permission to re-use his work to create fakerjs.dev
8. Cleaned up tooling like Prettier, CI, Netlify Deploy Previews, and GitHub Actions.
9. Done a TON of issue triage and many, many PR reviews.
10. We've gotten in contact with the Open Collective and discussed a transition plan for the project.
We fully intend to extend Faker, continuously develop it, and make it even better.
As such, we will work on a roadmap after we release 6.x and merge all of the TypeScript Pull Requests in the next week....
We're now turning Faker into a community-controlled project currently maintained by eight engineers from various backgrounds and companies....
We're excited to give new life to this idea and project.
This project can have a fresh start and it will become even cooler.
We felt we needed to do a public announcement because of all of the attention the project received in the media and from the community.
We believe that we have acted in the way that is best for the community.
According to the announcement, they've now also
forked the funding so the project's original sponsors can continue to support the community-driven development in the future, while the original developers Marak and Brian "were able to retain the $11,652.69 USD previously donated to the project."
Friday the official Twitter account for the new community project
announced "It's been a week. We've merged all of the active forks. Currently at 1532 stars. Looks like everything is settling."
[It's now up to over 1,800 stars.]
One of the new maintainers has posted
on Twitter, "I'm just grateful to the faker community that willed itself into existence and stepped up."
Walmart Appears to Be Planning Its Own Cryptocurrency and NFTs
"Walmart appears to be venturing into the metaverse with plans to
create its own cryptocurrency and collection of NFTs," reports CNBC.
"The big-box retailer filed several new trademarks late last month that indicate its intent to make and sell virtual goods. In a separate filing, the company said it would offer users a virtual currency, as well as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs."
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Walmart filed the applications on Dec. 30. In total, seven separate applications have been submitted.... "They're super intense," said Josh Gerben, a trademark attorney. "There's a lot of language in these, which shows that there's a lot of planning going on behind the scenes about how they're going to address cryptocurrency, how they're going to address the metaverse and the virtual world that appears to be coming or that's already here...."
[B]oth Under Armour's and Adidas' NFT debuts sold out last month. They're now fetching sky-high prices on the NFT marketplace OpenSea. Gerben said that apparel retailers Urban Outfitters, Ralph Lauren and Abercrombie & Fitch have also filed trademarks in recent weeks detailing their intent to open some sort of virtual store.... According to Frank Chaparro, director at crypto information services firm The Block, many retailers are still reeling from being late to e-commerce, so they don't want to miss out on any opportunities in the metaverse. "I think it's a win-win for any company in retail," Chaparro said. "And even if it just turns out to be a fad there's not a lot of reputation damage in just trying something weird out like giving some customers an NFT in a sweepstake, for instance."
Microsoft Detects Lurking Malware On Ukrainian Computers
"Microsoft warned on Saturday evening that it had detected
a highly destructive form of malware in dozens of government and private computer networks in Ukraine," reports the New York Times, "that appeared to be waiting to be triggered by an unknown actor...."
Times reports that the malware "bears some resemblance" to NotPetya, the widespreading 2017 malware which "American intelligence officials later traced to Russian actors."
The discovery comes in the midst of what the
Times earlier called "the security crisis Russia has ignited in Eastern Europe by
surrounding Ukraine on three sides with 100,000 troops and then, by the White House's accounting, sending in saboteurs to create a pretext for invasion."
Long-time Slashdot reader
14erCleaner shares the
Times' latest report:
In a blog post, [Microsoft] said that on Thursday — around the same time government agencies in Ukraine found that their websites had been defaced — investigators who watch over Microsoft's global networks detected the code. "These systems span multiple government, nonprofit and information technology organizations, all based in Ukraine," Microsoft said.... The code appears to have been deployed around the time that Russian diplomats, after three days of meetings with the United States and NATO over the massing of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border, declared that the talks had essentially hit a dead end....
Microsoft said that it could not yet identify the group behind the intrusion, but that it did not appear to be an attacker that its investigators had seen before. The code, as described by the company's investigators, is meant to look like ransomware — it freezes up all computer functions and data, and demands a payment in return. But there is no infrastructure to accept money, leading investigators to conclude that the goal is to inflict maximum damage, not raise cash.
It is possible that the destructive software has not spread too widely and that Microsoft's disclosure will make it harder for the attack to metastasize. But it is also possible that the attackers will now launch the malware and try to destroy as many computers and networks as possible.... Warnings like the one from Microsoft can help abort an attack before it happens, if computer users look to root out the malware before it is activated. But it can also be risky. Exposure changes the calculus for the perpetrator, who, once discovered, may have nothing to lose in launching the attack, to see what destruction it wreaks.
So far there is no evidence that the destructive malware has been unleashed by the hackers who placed it in the Ukrainian systems....
The new attack would wipe hard drives clean and destroy files. Some defense experts have said such an attack could be a prelude to a ground invasion by Russia. Others think it could substitute for an invasion, if the attackers believed a cyberstrike would not prompt the kind of financial and technological sanctions that [U.S. President] Biden has vowed to impose in response.
Ukraine's Ministry of Digital Development issued a statement that "All evidence indicates that Russia is behind the cyberattack. Moscow continues to wage a hybrid war and is actively building up its forces in the information and cyberspaces." While the Associated Press
reported the statement, the
Times notes that the ministry provided no evidence, "and early attribution of attacks is frequently wrong or incomplete."
Times also cites U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan as saying "If it turns out that Russia is pummeling Ukraine with cyberattacks, and if that continues over the period ahead, we will work with our allies on the appropriate response."
When a Decades-Old Email Provider Used by Millions Suddenly Goes Down
Mail2World hosts mailboxes for 2,150,000 different domains,
according to its web site, offering both "free, reliable email for everyone" and a $29.99-a-year "premium" service with a terabyte of storage (instead of the free level's 25 gigabytes), an ad-free inbox, and "premium"-level support.
"We appreciate your understanding as we
work to fully restore email service as soon as possible," reads their most-recent tweet — from Thursday.
C4st13v4n14 is not a happy customer:
Since Tuesday evening local time, I haven't been able to access my primary email account. This is an alumni email account I've had for the last 22 years that's tied to all my accounts ranging from not only social media and IOT devices, but also banking, access to health services and contact with local and countrywide government authorities.
My country is highly digitised and virtually everything from taxes to buying or selling a house, paying bills, access to health records and correspondence with hospitals and GPs, driving licences, applying for welfare, and starting a business are online. I don't even get snail mail anymore, everything is sent to a digital mailbox I can access through a browser or app with two-factor authentication. Fortunately, all access control for public-facing services is via two-factor authentication or smartcards with secure certificates for the highly sensitive stuff.
Regardless, the ordeal has been quite distressing as I was unable to find any information about the outage; a little detective work was only giving vague ERR_CONNECTION_RESET and DNS errors. My main thought was that my account had somehow been compromised and even more worryingly, there were no reports online about it. Turning to Reddit, I was able to gather that the provider, Mail2World, had suffered a ransomware attack but had been very uncommunicative about the event. In terms of news coverage, there was basically none. Only one random news site had a short article about it. During the days without access, I was painstakingly moving accounts to my Gmail address and updating contact information for the really important stuff like governmental services. This morning, I got a tip that Jesse over at BlueScreen Computer had reached out to Mail2World and has been documenting the outage.
Since then, some email has started to show up in my mobile app and I'm able to access the web portal again, but I can't help but feel like the damage has been done. This is an account that I pay an annual fee for and have trusted to work until now. I also find being kept in the dark about something so fundamental in today's world like email to be both very concerning and completely unacceptable. In that regard, I'm hoping this will bring some coverage to the event.
I would also like any input you Slashdotters have on migrating to and navigating Gmail. The interface is unfamiliar to an old-school user like me who still uses Eudora to check and save a backup of everything.
By the way, I'd should also like to point out that both POP and SMTP are handled by servers at pangia.biz, and their website has also been unreachable during this. Instead of Gmail, maybe you would recommend a different provider or service altogether? My work email is fortunately completely separate as of a couple years ago and handled by one.com as they host my website. It works, but they aren't anything special really.
It's interesting to imagine the scope of this particular outage. "Our company's growing list of customers includes prominent organizations from around the world," brags
the Mail2World web site, "such as publicly-traded corporations, leading academic institutions and some of the largest and most-recognized service providers."
But long-time Slashdot reader
OtisSnerd has experienced even worse:
This happened with Newsguy.com's email and NNTP offerings back in early September. I had my email address with them for 25 years, and my wife's email for almost 22. It turns out that Newsguy went chapter 7. Luckily we were using pop3 with MS Outlook, so we both still have all the old email. I already had another email account elsewhere, but my wife didn't. Took days to get all her changes made.
1.7 Million People Live for a Week on 100% Renewable Energy
1.77 million people live in South Australia, speading across 984,321 square kilometres (or 380,048 square miles),
according to Wikipedia. Today the
Sydney Morning Herald announced that South Australia "sourced an average of just over
100 per cent of the electricity it needed from renewable power for 6 and a half days leading up to December 29 last year."
They're calling it "a record for the state and perhaps for comparable energy grids around the world."
The state's previous record was just over three days, says Geoff Eldridge, an energy analyst who runs the website NEMlog.com.au, which tracks the operations of the National Energy Market covering Australia's east-coast states and South Australia.
His analysis shows that for the six days identified, the state produced on average 101 per cent of the energy it needed from wind, rooftop solar and solar farms, with just a fraction of the energy the state used being drawn from gas, in order to keep the grid stable. At times during the period, slightly less renewable energy was available and at other times renewable capacity was higher than needed, he says.
Bruce Mountain, director of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, said he believed that aside from some small island grids such as those in Hawaii and Tasmania, it was likely that South Australia's six-day run on renewables was a record for a grid supporting an advanced economy.
During the unprecedented 156-hour renewable run, the share of wind in total energy supplied averaged 64.4 per cent, while rooftop solar averaged 29.5 per cent and utility-scale solar averaged 6.2 per cent, clean energy website RenewEconomy.com.au reported, using Mr Eldridge's data.
(Thanks to Slashdot reader betsuin for sharing the article)
Decades of Research: the Story of How mRNA Vaccines Were Developed
Long-time Slashdot reader
fahrbot-bot wanted to share this New York Times article which makes the point that "The stunning Covid vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna
drew upon long-buried discoveries made in the hopes of ending past epidemics..."
They remain a marvel: Even as the Omicron variant fuels a new wave of the pandemic, the vaccines have proved remarkably resilient at defending against severe illness and death. And the manufacturers, Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna, say that mRNA technology will allow them to adapt the vaccines quickly, to fend off whatever dangerous new version of the virus that evolution brings next.
Skeptics have seized on the rapid development of the vaccines — among the most impressive feats of medical science in the modern era — to undermine the public's trust in them. But the breakthroughs behind the vaccines unfolded over decades, little by little, as scientists across the world pursued research in disparate areas, never imagining their work would one day come together to tame the pandemic of the century. The pharmaceutical companies harnessed these findings and engineered a consistent product that could be made at scale, partly with the help of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration's multibillion-dollar program to hasten the development and manufacture of vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tests to fight the new virus.
For years, though, the scientists who made the vaccines possible scrounged for money and battled public indifference. Their experiments often failed. When the work got too crushing, some of them left it behind. And yet on this unpredictable, zigzagging path, the science slowly built upon itself, squeezing knowledge from failure.
The vaccines were possible only because of efforts in three areas. The first began more than 60 years ago with the discovery of mRNA, the genetic molecule that helps cells make proteins. A few decades later, two scientists in Pennsylvania decided to pursue what seemed like a pipe dream: using the molecule to command cells to make tiny pieces of viruses that would strengthen the immune system. The second effort took place in the private sector, as biotechnology companies in Canada in the budding field of gene therapy — the modification or repair of genes to treat diseases — searched for a way to protect fragile genetic molecules so they could be safely delivered to human cells. The third crucial line of inquiry began in the 1990s, when the U.S. government embarked on a multibillion-dollar quest to find a vaccine to prevent AIDS. That effort funded a group of scientists who tried to target the all-important "spikes" on H.I.V. viruses that allow them to invade cells. The work has not resulted in a successful H.I.V. vaccine. But some of these researchers, including Dr. Graham, veered from the mission and eventually unlocked secrets that allowed the spikes on coronaviruses to be mapped instead.
In early 2020, these different strands of research came together. The spike of the Covid virus was encoded in mRNA molecules. Those molecules were wrapped in a protective layer of fat and poured into small glass vials. When the shots went in arms less than a year later, recipients' cells responded by producing proteins that resembled the spikes — and that trained the body to attack the coronavirus.
The extraordinary tale proved the promise of basic scientific research: that once in a great while, old discoveries can be plucked from obscurity to make history.
Do CS Teachers Need To Know CS?
"I'll say it over and over until I retire —
CS teachers really do need to know CS," says Mike Zamansky, a coordinator of CS teacher certifications. He was criticizing groups that instead provide teachers with scripted content and short-form "training".
Long-term Slashdot reader
theodp summarizes the issue:
A problem with out-of-the-box scripted solutions, Zamansky explains, is that "teachers are less and less expected as much to know their subjects, their students, and how to teach but rather to follow the script. This approach might get those students past the standardized exam but in the long run it's not giving students what they need nor deserve.
"I've seen this every year in my undergraduate CS classes. Since APCS Principles was launched many of my students have come in having taken the classes and 'passed' the exam. Truth be told, the majority of them come in basically knowing nothing. This wouldn't be a problem if they didn't come in thinking they knew quite a bit. [...] School supervisors don't know any better so they see that they can check off the computer science box. Many teachers probably don't know better because their short term training is focusing on how easy CS is and how you don't have to learn anything to teach it rather than the truth — it's just like anything else, it takes time and effort to really master."
Law Enforcement Agencies Recruit Rare People Who are 'Super-Recognizers' of Faces
An anonymous reader shared
this report on "Super-Recognizers" from a series of articles in the
Guardian called "Meet the Superhumans."
As a child, Yenny Seo often surprised her mother by pointing out a stranger in the grocery store, remarking it was the same person they passed on the street a few weeks earlier. Likewise, when they watched a movie together, Seo would often recognise "extras" who'd appeared fleetingly in other films... A cohort of just 1-2% of the population are "super-recognisers" — people who can memorise and recall unfamiliar faces, even after the briefest glimpse.
The underlying cause is still not entirely clear — it's a new field, with only around 20 scientific papers studying super-recognisers. However, it is suspected genetics plays a role because identical twins show similar performance, and it has been shown that cortical thickness — the amount of neurons — in the part of the brain that supports face recognition is a predictor of superior ability. Because it's such a rare phenomenon, in 2017 Dr. David White, now a lead investigator at the Face Research Lab at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and his colleagues designed a publicly available online screening tool to try to unearth the world's best super-recognisers. Seo, then in her mid-twenties, gave it a go — and her score was so high, White invited her to come to Sydney for more testing.
With more than 100,000 people now tested, Seo still ranks in the top 50....
Over the past decade, security and law enforcement agencies around the world have started recruiting people with superior facial recognition capabilities. London's metropolitan police has a special team who examine CCTV footage from crime scenes — they were used in the investigation into the poisoning of a former Russian spy with the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury — and several years ago Queensland police started identifying super-recognisers in its ranks. A proliferation of private agencies has also sprung up, offering the services of super-recognisers.
Seo has no interest....
Pine64's 'PineNote' E-Ink Tablet Now Available for $399 for Developers
PineNote is a tablet with a 10.1 inch grayscale E Ink display and pen support,"
"It's designed to be a hackable, Linux-friendly device and it's one of the latest products from the makers of the PinePhone and PineBook line of devices."
First introduced last summer, the PineNote began shipping to developers in limited quantities in December. Now it's available for anyone to purchase for $399 — no invitation required. But it's probably only a good idea to buy one if you're a developer or very early adopter because there's very little software available for the PineNote so far. At this point, Pine64 is shipping the PineNote without an operating system installed. It will have only a bootloader, allowing developers and enthusiasts to load their own software... [D]evelopers have already made some progress in getting builds Alpine and Debian Linux to run on the E Ink slate, and according to Pine64, there are ports for NixOS and other operating systems on the way.
There's already a partially working display driver, but it's still a work in progress. The goal is to allow developers to port mainline Linux operating systems and applications to play well with a monochrome display with a slow refresh rate. Developers have also figured out how to enable support PineNote's touchscreen, audio playback, and USB port, making it possible to use USB keyboards, storage devices, and other peripherals.
Pine64's Newest Linux Smartphone 'PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition' Now Available for Pre-Order
"Linux fans rejoice!"
writes Hot Hardware. " Pine64's newest smartphone is officially
available for pre-order."
PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition pre-orders opened up Tuesday. Devices that are pre-ordered before January 18th will be shipped from Pine64's Hong Kong warehouse by January 24th and should arrive by early February.... According to Pine64, the PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition is the "fastest mainline Linux smartphone on the market." It uses a Rockchip RK3399S SoC that is composed of two ARM A72 cores (1.5GHz) and four A53 efficiency cores (1.5GHz)....
Consumers will also likely be pleased with the price of the device. The PinePhone Pro Explorer Edition currently rings in at $399 USD. The production run is purportedly "large" and interested consumers should therefore be able to easily purchase the device at this price.
While the PinePhone Pro has better hardware than the original PinePhone, Pine64 plans to continue selling both phones indefinitely. The first-gen phone will continue to sell for $150 to $200, offering an entry-level option for folks that want to experiment with mobile Linux, while the higher-priced PinePhone Pro should offer a hardware experience closer to what folks would expect from a modern mid-range phone....
In addition to the PinePhone Keyboard, the recently launched PinePhone wireless charging case, fingerprint reader case, and LoRa cases should all work with either phone.
But the new phone has a faster processor, more memory and storage, higher-resolution cameras, a higher-speed USB-C port and support for WiFi 5 and Bluetooth 4.1. And those features should make it a little more viable as a replacement for an iPhone or Android device... if you're comfortable running work-in-progress software.
They also add that "Thanks to the recent launch of
the $50 PinePhone Keyboard, you can also think of the PinePhone Pro as a $400 phone that can be used as a $449 mini-laptop...."
the Pine64 site's January update also points out that "Pico 8 Raspberry Pi port works on the PinePhone," adding "yes, it does run DOOM."
Angry Gamers Have Scared Some Game Companies Away From NFTs
"In recent months, at least half a dozen game studios have revealed plans to add NFTs to their games or said they were considering doing so," reports the New York Times.
Then they were
confronted by gamers like 18-year-old Christian Lantz, who for years has played GSC Game World's first-person shooter game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
Mr. Lantz was incensed. He joined thousands of fans on Twitter and Reddit who raged against NFTs in S.T.A.L.K.E.R.'s sequel. The game maker, they said, was simply looking to squeeze more money out of its players. The backlash was so intense that GSC quickly reversed itself and abandoned its NFT plan.
"The studio was abusing its popularity," Mr. Lantz, who lives in Ontario, said. "It's so obviously being done for profit instead of just creating a beautiful game...."
[C]lashes over crypto have increasingly erupted between users and major game studios like Ubisoft, Square Enix and Zynga. In many of the encounters, the gamers have prevailed — at least for now.... Players said they see the moves as a blatant cash grab. "I just hate that they keep finding ways to nickel-and-dime us in whatever way they can," said Matt Kee, 22, a gamer who took to Twitter in anger this month after Square Enix, which produces one of his favorite games, Kingdom Hearts, said it was pushing into NFTs. "I don't see anywhere mentioning how that benefits the gamer, how that improves gameplay. It's always about, 'How can I make money off this?'"
Much of their resentment is rooted in the encroachment of micro transactions in video games. Over the years, game makers have found more ways to profit from users by making them pay to upgrade characters or enhance their level of play inside the games. Even if people had already paid $60 or more for a game upfront, they were asked to fork over more money for digital items like clothing or weapons for characters.... Merritt K, a game streamer and editor at Fanbyte, a games industry site, said gamers' antagonism toward the companies has built up over the last decade partly because of the growing number of micro transactions. So when game makers introduced NFTs as an additional element to buy and sell, she said, players were "primed to call this stuff out. We've been here before."
That has led to bursts of gamer outrage, which have rattled the game companies. In December, Sega Sammy, the maker of the Sonic the Hedgehog game, expressed reservations about its NFT and crypto plans after "negative reactions" from users. Ubisoft, which makes titles like Assassin's Creed, said that it had misjudged how unhappy its customers would be after announcing an NFT program last month. A YouTube video about the move was disliked by more than 90 percent of viewers. "Maybe we under-evaluated how strong the backlash could have been," said Nicolas Pouard, a Ubisoft vice president who heads the French company's new blockchain initiative.
Game companies said their NFT plans were not motivated by profit. Instead, they said, NFTs give fans something fun to collect and a new way for them to make money by selling the assets. "It really is all about community," said Matt Wolf, an executive at the mobile game maker Zynga, who is leading a foray into blockchain games. "We believe in giving people the opportunity to play to earn."
The article also rounds up examples of game companies it says have "come out against crypto."
- "Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft's Xbox, told Axios in November that some games centered on earning money through NFTs appeared 'exploitative' and he would avoid putting them in the Xbox store."
- "Valve, which owns the online game store Steam, also updated its rules last fall to prohibit blockchain games that allow cryptocurrencies or NFTs to be exchanged...."
- "Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic Games, the maker of the game Fortnite, said his company would steer clear of NFTs in its own games because the industry is riddled with 'an intractable mix of scams.' (Epic will still allow developers to sell blockchain games in its online store.)"
- The blowback has affected more than just game studios. Discord, the messaging platform popular with gamers, backtracked in November after users threatened to cancel their paid subscriptions over a crypto initiative."
Host of Youtube-dl Web Site Sued by Major Record Labels
"As part of their growing battle against popular open source software tool youtube-dl, three major music labels are now
suing Uberspace, the company that currently hosts the official youtube-dl homepage," reports
According to plaintiffs Sony, Universal and Warner, youtube-dl circumvents YouTube's "rolling cipher" technology, something a German court found to be illegal in 2017.... While the RIAA's effort to take down youtube-dl from GitHub grabbed all the headlines, moves had already been underway weeks before that in Germany. Law firm Rasch works with several major music industry players and it was on their behalf that cease-and-desist orders were sent to local hosting service Uberspace. The RIAA complained that the company was hosting the official youtube-dl website although the tool itself was hosted elsewhere.
"The software itself wasn't hosted on our systems anyway so, to be honest, I felt it to be quite ridiculous to involve us in this issue anyway — a lawyer specializing in IT laws should know better," Jonas Pasche from Uberspace said at the time.
In emailed correspondence today Uberspace informed TorrentFreak that, following the cease-and-desist in October 2020, three major music labels are now suing the company in Germany... According to the labels, youtube-dl poses a risk to their business and enables users to download their artists' copyrighted works by circumventing YouTube's technical measures. As a result, Uberspace should not be playing a part in the tool's operations by hosting its website if it does not wish to find itself liable too....
The alleged illegality of youtube-dl is indeed controversial. While YouTube's terms of service generally disallow downloading, in Germany there is the right to make a private copy, with local rights group GEMA collecting fees to compensate for just that. Equally, when users upload content to YouTube under a Creative Commons license, for example, they agree to others in the community making use of that content. "Even if YouTube doesn't provide video download functionality right out of the box, the videos are not provided with copy protection," says former EU MP Julia Reda from the Society for Freedom Rights (GFF) to NetzPolitik. "Not only does YouTube pay license fees for music, we all pay fees for the right to private copying in the form of the device fee, which is levied with every purchase of smartphones or storage media," says Reda.
"Despite this double payment, Sony, Universal and Warner Music want to prevent us from exercising our right to private copying by saving YouTube videos locally on the hard drive."