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31 Mar 2007   04:59:57 pm
NPT Comic: Sing-A-Long Fascism and Extortion
Sing-A-Long Fascism and Extortion

New NPT Comic here (full comic)

NPT Comic forum here

Quote :

Extortion is a criminal offense, which occurs when a person either obtains money, property or services from another through coercion or intimidation or threatens one with physical harm unless they are paid money or property. Refraining from doing harm is sometimes euphemistically called protection. Extortion is commonly practiced by organized crime groups. The actual obtainment of money or property is not required to commit the offense. Making a threat of violence or a lawsuit which refers to a requirement of a payment of money or property to halt future violence or lawsuit is sufficient to commit the offense. The simple four words "pay up or else" are sufficient to constitute the crime of extortion. An extortionate threat made to another in jest is still extortion.

Source: wikipedia

To those who follow technology news, and track RIAA, their efforts to curtail music swapping is well known: hundreds of lawsuits filed against people they suspect of file trading. They do this, they claim, to protect the rights and profits of the recording artists. A very interesting claim when you consider that in this article, it states that RIAA is currently petitioning the federal Copyright Royalty Judges to lower the rates paid to the artists.

Actually, nowadays, RIAA often doesn't even bother to file a lawsuit against someone they think is file swapping, but rather, they threaten them with a lawsuit and then try to get them to 'settle' for a few thousand dollars (often around $3,500 from what I've heard). Note the definition of extortion above.

RIAA issues these threats based on ip addresses they claim are being used by the file sharers. It has been argued that these ip addresses are unique, and tie a specific person to a specific computer, sort of like a fingerprint. That couldn't be further from the truth. All RIAA can get from an ip address is the entity that was billed for internet access, and sometimes the internet access provider doesn't even know who had an ip address at what time. There have been numerous reports of cable providers accidentally reporting individuals to RIAA that never had internet access, only cable TV. Now that cable routing NAT cable routers have become common, many people can share a single IP address. In my place alone, we have several computers and game consoles hooked up to the internet; every single one of them appears to come from the same ip address.

Then when you Wi-Fi routers into the mix, you open up a whole new can of worms (is that phrase considered a clique now? Just wondering). Really, it does. If you, as a user, do not understand how to secure your wireless router, all of your neighbors could be piggy backing on your internet access point (WAP) unintentionally without you knowing anything. I've seen it done many times, usually unintentionally. If you have a laptop running Windows XP with a WAN adapter, it will usually automatically lock onto the highest quality internet signal it can find (if you haven't specified a specific WAP name). That signal, could be your neighbors. I know when I bring up my list of available wireless networks at home, I have at least six listed, with half of them unprotected.

Each one of those unprotected systems have left themselves open to being exploited, and possibly RIAA extortion.

Who do we blame for this epidemic of careless open internet access?

The ignorant users?

I would say not.

The public needs to be informed that they need to protect themselves when using Wi-Fi in their home. Who's responsibility is this then? Those that are pushing this technology out on the market. THE PEOPLE WHO SELL THE TECHNOLOGY!

By the way, here's a point I'd like to touch on: computer people, technical people, IT people, tend to be a little bit arrogant when dealing with non tech savvy people. I say this as a software developer and designer. I myself, tend to get annoyed when asked how to install a driver for something. That arrogance, or lack of patience (whatever you want to call), I believe has led to many numerous computer issues that affect the general public.

The people who write the literature, and design the interfaces for items like wireless cable routers, need to design them in such a way that my grandmother can use them. Often, setting these devices up can confuse even the best of us.

I have installed many versions of windows server operating systems, and I have compiled many a Linux kernel, but still it took me over two hours to figure out how to enable the security on my own wireless router! That's not counting the time it took me to RTFM.

Surely, with these items so difficult to set up, it's no wonder that so many WAPs in the home go unprotected.

I had wanted to link in article from about a grandmother who had been sued by RIAA for bootlegging songs, such as those by 50 Cent, but ultimately won her case because it appeared someone was using her Wi-Fi connection without her knowledge. I was unable to link to the article because recently redid their website, and really screwed it up. I am unable to find anything there though.

At least that was one positive RIAA story, one among so many negative.

-- B.A.
Category : Comic, Not Prime Time Posted By : B.A.
21 Mar 2007   08:49:51 pm
NPT Comic: Our Phantom Hope
New Special Edition NPT comic HERE!

Comic forum here.

Well, George Lucas isn't the only that can do special editions, is he?

Really, it seems Lucas is never really happy with what he's done with Star Wars. I mean, why else would he keep messing with a series that many consider to be the pinnacle of space opera? Surely not to sell more copies of a movie that many fans already own a version of? Many fans groan in pain when they think about the horrendous improvements George made when he released his first bunch of Special Editions. The pain of those changes, have actually dulled my own senses to the point that I can only recall two of the altered movie events of the ‘original’ trilogy that traumatized me. (And they all concern the, err... 'fourth' episode Special Edition).

1) Considering the resources of Lucasfilm, the Jabba insertion scene was done rather poorly. Jabba didn't look like the Jabba we know. Guess he was on Atkins then, I dunno. It doesn’t bother me that he was inserted in the first movie though, like it does some fans. He was, after all, in the original script. I just wish it had been done better.

In all consideration, this first event is a relatively minor complaint point.

Now, the second event is almost unforgivable:

2) Han Solo NOT shooting first. Yeah... right. Twenty years the movie viewing public has had to memorize that scene where Han smoked Greedo like a burnt piece of toast. A hacked up movie insert shouldn't be allowed to changed our beloved canon.

Yeah, I know this is a topic that has been beat to death by the fans already, so it it seems to be almost redundant in a cosmic sense that I repeat here, like I repeated it here. Well, then again, they say if you repeat something enough, whether it's true or not, people will start believe what you say. At least that's the way it seems to be in politics. Anyone up for a war? Hopefully, Lucas will open up his ears, hear what the fans are saying, and start to believe they know what is right.

Han was a rouge. That was his character. Of course he would shoot first if he thought someone was going to hurt him.

What was Lucas trying to address with this change? Moral ambiguity? Should a roguish character still act roguish after he has become popular?

Heck, if cleansing the movie of possible objectable material (20 years after the fact) was his goal, why did he leave the blood shown when Obiwan sliced off that aliens arm in the cantina? Hmmm?

That, by the way, brings up a point (or question as I phrase it) that the Artist brought up the other day:
Other than the Tatooine cantina scene in Star Wars IV: A New Hope, has blood ever been shown in any of the other Star Wars movies? Just curious.

Of course, with the release of the Special Editions, 'ol George wasn't quite ready to leave good enough alone, oh no. In the 2004 DVD releases, he had to go yank out Sebastian Shaw as Anakin, and stick in Hayden Christensen in the force phantom scene at the end of Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Nearly unforgivable. Considering the damage done by Attack of the Clones, this is a change that Hayden is most definitely not worthy of yet.

Actually, now that I think about it, one could rant on for hours about these changes, and never really accomplish anything.

So, with that in mind, as I mentioned previously in the post, we've put together our own little Special Edition NPT comic to show our love for the Star Wars franchise, and suggest some further movie corrections Lucas might want to consider… Nothing but love we have, we swear!

Category : Comic, Not Prime Time Posted By : B.A.
20 Mar 2007   09:17:59 pm
New Comic: Lord of the Flies, Part 4
The bugs are loose, and the members of the Insano clan are running for cover. You can see them here!

It is ever so tempting, to play nature against itself.

Or to attempt to.

Ok, mebbe robot flies fighting mutant flies don't sound all that natural, but here's an interesting story from the Beeb (BBC in the UK) about an attempt to use genetically altered mosquitoes to help combat malaria.

The general gist of the article goes like this:
Scientists have created mosquitoes that are resistant to malaria.
They hope to release these critters into the wild where, hopefully, they will over take the populations of the disease carrying type.

While not quite what most people would call proper 'biological pest control' (you know, like having ladybugs eat insects on crops), it is an interesting approach to handling a very dangerous situation for some people; that situation being of course, having to somehow co-exist with massive populations of diseasing carrying bugs.

It is encouraging to hear that people are still trying to fight the sources of these diseases. For the most part, the only bugs that the majority of the people I know worry about are of the computer variety. Nasty viruses those bugs may invite, but none that may cause one to fear for their life and stricken their village.

So, good luck to scientists on their attempt at controlling those filthy disease carrying mosquitoes.
Lotsa of luck.
But none of my luck, because, if they had my luck, they would just double the mosquito population!

-- B.A.
Category : Comic Posted By : B.A.
15 Mar 2007   09:12:45 pm
Site Update News
Ok, after a bit of chaos, things are getting back to normal here at the lab.

So, with that said, here are a few site updates:

I haven't seen any more server errors lately, so I've got my fingers crossed that all of the issues we've have to deal with over the past two weeks have been resolved. Of course, it might do me better to ball my fingers up into a fist instead of crossing them....

The Artist is feeling much better now. Thank you all. The next official Doctor Insano strip will be up soon (well, soon for us).

The Artist will be contributing to an NPT comic that we will be putting up soon (see above note about *soon*). This comic, we feel, will address certain issues we have with the Star Wars franchise....

The other two NPT series, the Stellar Cafe, and Cosmic Tools of Evil, will be continued after we finish this very special NPT.

For some reason, and much to my surprise, The Stellar Cafe has turned out to be fairly popular. What's the Cafe agenda? Just think: Kane, and Pikachu. No more clues for you! This series will be completed after the Cosmic Tools is done. (I'm not a doctor. There is no hard and fast rule telling me I have to work in order!)

Again, a note on the NPTs: these are just a learning process for your's truly here. hopefully, the art will improve!

See yah on the next update.

Category : General Posted By : B.A.
15 Mar 2007   08:44:34 pm
NPT Comic: Cosmic Tools Of Evil, Part 1 of 3
NPT Comic: Cosmic Tools Of Evil, Part 1 of 3

New NPT Comic here.
Discuss this comic on the forum here.

Ok, this update is running a little behind. This comic was actually posted three days ago. Ah, oh well. I've been sore. Keyboard hurt. Owie.

Anyways, as many of us probably know, the movie companies that produce those lovely DVDs that many of us tend to collect seem to take some perverse pleasure in finding new ways to irritate us, the movie viewing public.

Case in point: movie previews you can't skip.

Wow, these are really annoying. When most people load a DVD into their DVD player, there is generally an expectation to see the movie whose title the disc bears. They, typically, do not wish to sit through fifthteen minutes of previews for crap they have no inkling of. I mean, we have to suffer through enough disclaimers as it is: the FBI Warning, the Copyright Warning, the Anal Rape Warning, and that Interpol Warning. Sometimes, we are even treated to these warnings in up to SIX different languages, even though the movie is only dubbed into one, and maybe subtitled in two. Yay, lovely.

Nowadays, after the warnings, you often get stuck with a wave movie previews. Some of the movie studios actually make a game out of letting you skip the previews. After they wear you down with all of the legal disclaimers, they then have a menu pop up that asks if you want to skip the previews. You usually have about five seconds to respond (which is just enough time for your brain to register your options), than the damn previews start. Sometimes, when a studio is feeling particularly evil, they won’t even let you fast forward, or chapter skip the bastards. Ahg!

And, as if all of these effectively mandatory previews weren't annoying enough, the movie studios are now sticking ANTI PIRACY PSAs on the movies YOU BOUGHT! These PSAs (Public Service Announcements – harrumph!) are often rigged up like the movie previews so they are difficult to skip.

Could you imagine if on the first track of every audio CD you bought, there was a message like this:

  • This is the RIAA.
  • First off, let us say: we are dicks. That is why we screw with you.
  • Next, keep in mind, it's very naughty to file swap.
  • If you do, we'll sue the crap out of you, and sell your children and your mom too.
  • (The artists have to pay the mortgages on their private islands somehow)
  • Also, keep in mind, if you bought this CD used, the artist did not get a royalty payment.
  • Please send your check now.
  • Oh, and if you play this CD in front of too many friends, you owe us a royalty.
  • We have our eyes on you, party people.

Wouldn't happen. Nope. Nadda. There'd be so many bootleg CDs on the market, you could build houses with them. Not very reliable houses I imagine, but houses nonetheless. A new foundation for piracy. Literally.

To the studios, let me ask:
Why put these messages at the start of MY movie?
The pirates couldn't care less.
The only people that you annoy are the people who put forth their legal tender for your product.
No one feels guilty for you.
No one feels sorry, they only feel pissed.
If anything, this makes bootlegging seemingly more attractive.
Same product, sans guilt.

I can understand showing movie piracy PSAs at the beginning of a feature film, in an actual theater. You just might guilt that idiot with the camcorder into putting it down.

But not in my home, please.
I pray, the movie studios don't start putting movie theater type commercials on my DVDs too. Mebbe, they have already. Mebbe I have become numb because of all of the many diversions, and haven't noticed them.

Piracy PSAs, Legal Notices, and forced movie previews aside, there one thing I must request of the movie studios.

Something vital to the sanity of all humanity:

My god, please, please, don't start putting those Fanta commercials on DVDs too!

Category : Comic, Not Prime Time Posted By : B.A.
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Comic, Not Prime Time[19]
Forum Software Update
Sketchbook updated!
Happy New Year!
Happy Polly-Days!
Off for the holidays
New Doctor Insano Comic: Dorm Daze: Virtue Bracelet
Announcing Operation Vote Stuff!
Even more new Sketches in the Sketchbook! Brief site delay.
New Doctor Insano Comic: Dorm Daze: Idiot Missile!
New Sketches in the Sketchbook!
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