Lesson number one – don’t piss off the gamers

By Mark O’Neill

I have never really got into the whole gaming thing. Despite giving it my best shot more than once, I have often found PC / console games to have a very limited attention span for me. Once I’ve shot one person, the thrill kind of wears off and I suddenly want to surf the internet. I had a Gamecube for 3 weeks and then never used it again.

But I know enough gamers (my girlfriend’s brother for one) to know one sure fact – never seriously criticise the games or the people who play them. The people who love playing these games love them as if they are related to them by blood. Criticise the game and by extension, you’re criticising the gamer. This is not good if your aim in life is to live peacefully and not bring any attention upon yourself. Gamers tend to take criticism of their pastime rather personally.

This is a fact that Cooper Lawrence is learning the hard way. The author of “The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace With Your Inner Overachiever” has seen her Amazon page wrecked by irate gamers. The gamers went on the virtual rampage after Lawrence went on Fox News and criticised a X-Box game called “Mass Effect“. The game is apparently one of the most popular games of 2007 but Lawrence made the rather foolish decision to trash the game on-screen – despite admitting she had never played it or seen anyone play it.

The game apparently has a romantic sub-plot and supporters have asserted that what you see is no more risque than evening television. But that didn’t stop Lawrence who sneered the game and its “full-frontal nudity and explicit sexual activity”. But she didn’t stop there. She decided to dig an even deeper grave for herself by continuing with :

“Here’s how they’re seeing women: they’re seeing them as these objects of desire, as these, you know, hot bodies. They don’t show women as being valued for anything other than their sexuality. And it’s a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with.”

This was too much for the dedicated gamers. They decided to get their revenge by going to Lawrence’s Amazon page and giving her a one star rating for her book along with some fake nasty reviews. At one point, there were over 400 one star reviews. Then Amazon wised up to the situation and began removing the fake reviews, leaving about 80 to go. The book was even tagged with keywords such as “hypocrite” and “trash”. Ouch.

One reviewer said :

“I, for one, am appalled that such slanderous filth would end up on bookshelves where any child could walk into the store, drop a couple dollars, and leave this store with this trite, poorly written, racist bible for the Neo-Nazi consortium of modern America.”

Whatever happened to writing a letter of complaint, sticking a stamp on the envelope and mailing it in?

Lawrence has now decided to eat humble pie by declaring she was wrong about the game. She now claims to have seen someone “play it for about two and a half hours”. Her take now on the “full-frontal nudity and explicit sexual activity”? “It’s not like pornography” she now asserts, “I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”

How to: Backup and Restore your WordPress Blog

In the past few weeks, I’ve tested a few disaster recovery procedures for [GAS], and I thought that sharing those with the blogosphere could be of value to a lot of bloggers out there. If you’re among those who’ve been religiously backing up their WordPress blog since day one, let me ask you a question: Have you ever tried restoring a backup of your data on a non-production box? After a data-loss disaster, this procedure could make a huge difference between losing everything you’ve worked on since your blog went online, or being up and running in under an hour.

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Geek Lair: Five ways to accessorize your setup (Part 1)

After reading the last installment of Geek Lair, you’ve probably been waiting to find out how to complete the perfect den of Geekdom. As we all know, the epicenter of a cool cave is the computer desk; that place where you keep your most valued possessions. The setup is home to your monitors, computers, gadgets, expired Bagel Bites, and most of your free time. Obviously it should be decked out for maximum comfort and productivity.

Click on for awesome ways to pimp your lair, but tread softly, and keep your credit card in the freezer.

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Anonymous Versus the Church of Scientology

In the past, I have been a vocal critic of the Church of Scientology. Like many of you, I saw the video of Tom Cruise, wide-eyed and cackling, talking about how only Scientologists know what to do when they pass a car wreck. It made me pray to God that, should I actually be involved in a real car wreck, to please prevent any Scientologist whackos from slapping an e-meter on me. God should instead dispatch a firetruck with the jaws of life.

Last week, the Church of Scientology began to legally threaten those that posted the Tom Cruise and other initiation videos. The leagues of “Anonymous” who inhabit the /b/ channel of 4chan.org issued a battle cry and decided to DDoS Scientology websites as a response.  You can see their declaration video against CoS here.


So how successful was their campaign of cyber-terror against the CoS?  It was disruptive, causing lengthy periods of unavailability for many of the Scientology sites.  The CoS responded to the attacks by “repositioning their Internet posture” by hiring a content-distribution company that will load-balance their servers, preventing the effects of the DDoS.

The attack statistics, according to Jose Nazario at Arbor Networks here:

  • Number of attacks measured: 488 in the past week
  • Attacks by date: 488 on January 19, 2008
  • Maximum PPS rates seen: nearly 20000 pps (packets per second), with an average attack size of 15,000 pps
  • Maximum bandwidth seen per attack: 220 Mbps, with an average attack size of 168 Mbps. This is on the high side of an attack, but significantly smaller than the largest ones we commonly see nowadays
  • Maximum duration of a single attack: 1.8 hours, which is on the long end of common, but the average attack lasted just under half an hour
  • Number of reporting ISPs: 1, indicating that this is not a huge, broadly sourced attack (ie it may not have registered on other ISPs systems)

I have read many of the forums and threads that discussed the attack as it was ongoing from members of “Anonymous.”  Most of the attacks seemed to be scripted by individual users.  Some were merely sending ping floods with multiple command prompts.  It is unlikely anyone was using a botnet.

This means that “citizen volunteers” can still knock over internet sites as part of hactivism or to make a point.  And in this case, I think Anonymous made their point.  They certainly scored well in the press coverage.

Internet circa 1996

By Ilya Kochanov
Contributor, [GAS]

As early as 10 years ago the web was a terribly unproductive place to be. Animated GIFs were all the rage and HTML ruled supreme. Forget about funny cat videos or managing your calendar online. Blogging? Shopping? Material of questionable origins? No, no, and unfortunately not.

Web 2.0 is a common buzz-word for sites which provide cool services; but do you remember what Web 0.5 was like? Apparently a service called the “WayBack Machine” has been archiving web pages since 1996 and is used simply by typing in a desired web address. Give it a try for yourself and see what you can dig up. They’ve archived about 55 billion pages thus far so finding something cool is easy.

The outcome is pretty funny considering modern sites such as those of Microsoft or Apple appear as if they were created in a middle school computer class.

It’s interesting how just over a decade ago we viewed these monstrosities as state-of-the-art developments in human communication. Now they are fossilized remnants of a different age, immortalized in history along with dial-up, Arpanet, and Rick Astley.

Internet ’96

Rumor of the evening: MacBook Pro update March 17?

By Ilya Kochanov
Contributor, [GAS]

If you’re contemplating on buying a MacBook Air solely for the Multi Touch interface, it may or may not pay to wait just a little bit. According to an unidentified source, CrunchGear has reported that the MacBook Pro will receive a Multi Touch trackpad and a possible price drop on St. Patrick’s day.

These claims are unconfirmed as of yet, so take them for what they are. It’s almost obvious that Apple plans to upgrade the entire MacBook line shortly as many people are excited about the new technology… The only question is when.

New MBP’s on St. Patricks day? [CrunchGear]

Windows 7: Screenshots and video

Windows Vista hasn’t been the most successful operating system. Since day one it has been plagued with poor support, dwindling sales, and even users who are downgrading to XP after forking over the cash for Microsoft’s latest blunder.

Apparently the boys in Redmond have misunderstood the anguished cries of countless Windows users and have decided to make what looks like a whole new version of the same product.

As of yet it seems like nothing short of a repackaged version of Vista with a few improved media features and a new boot screen. However, the early beta releases of ‘Longhorn’ looked like XP too. So the images and video might not be an accurate representation of what 7 will look like. On the outside it seems like little has changed, but until someone does a top-down analysis of the system, there’s no telling exactly what changes have been made.

The whole thing doesn’t look too interesting at the moment unless you’re a Microsoft exec. looking to punish those who leaked this ‘gem’ onto the internet. In which case, don’t even bother. No one is really looking forward to it anyway.

Click on for a few screen shots.

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