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Archive for August, 2010

Broadband Policies Compared

 
Broadband Policies Compared
 
Following on from my last rant about the NBN, our friends at SMH have summarised the policy differences quite nicely. This might help people at the polls tomorrow but since I’ve already voted I couldn’t care less at this point.


The NBN and Why Democracy Fails

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy
 
As a rule, I don’t care for politics and piss away civic rights like voting. My rationale is both that issues on debate don’t directly affect me and my say also isn’t worth much when weighed against those of the 22 or so million ignorant voters out there. The whole National Broadband Network issue is both the exception and proof for me.
To summarise, the incumbent government promises if reelected to line fibre-optic cabling (not the garbage Hybrid-Fibre Coaxial a certain telco is flaunting as ‘superfast’ at the moment *cough*) underground not only to nodes but to individual premises. This is significant because a lot of the speed, latency and general signal quality of internet comms is lost in the ‘last mile’ to houses due to old tech. In Australia some 80% of households connect to the internet via copper phone lines and technologies like DSL essentially place more of a signal burden on them than they were ever designed to carry. Fibre will connect these homes to the internet at a much faster speed than currently available. However it comes at enormous taxpayer expense. At $43 billion or more, this is one of the largest infrastructure rollouts Australia has ever seen. The boasted 100Mbps isn’t much compared to Verizon’s FiOS or the fibre networks in South Korea or Japan, but if it is really 1Gbps-capable cabling going into Telstra’s ducts then it will at least help keep the country in step with those others.
Whether or not this rollout goes ahead will depend on who is voted into office this coming weekend. The problem? This election isn’t being fought on this issue. Our PM was just ousted, just weeks before the government’s end of term. This has already polarised voters and will absolutely determine the outcome of this election. Nevertheless, this outcome will dictate whether we enjoy ultra-fast broadband in 8 years or a mishmash of market-driven, slowly-evolving technologies.
So, I take issue with the following;
- Voters don’t know, or care about the right things. This election will decided based on which of the candidates are more popular. Yet voting is mandatory here and all the poor saps, who likely wouldn’t give a damn either way otherwise, are forced by law to go out and ‘cast’ a vote.
- Politicians desperately scramble for policy differentiators with little regard for merit or even feasibility. Despite its strengths the NBN is splash-spending (hallmark of the Australian Labor Party) at its most reckless. The alternative is an ill-conceived and confusing opposing solution that raises more questions than it answers.
- Neither our infamous communications minsters (pictured above) nor the opposition leader have a sound technical understanding of what either scheme actually entails. Quotes referencing scams through the portal and high fiber come to mind.
As it happens, this is an issue that interests me for a change. Too bad then that it’s being trivialised by squabbling and factional nonsense like everything else in parliament. If anything this all just drives home the fact that democracy doesn’t work, voting isn’t a liberty that should be forced on an apathatic and tech-illiterate public, and that any faith in these processes, people – nay – politics in general is misplaced.
Too dramatic?


StarCraft II is tiring

A Zerg Hive in StarCraft II
 
You all probably noticed when this Goliath (joke, haha) of releases hit shelves the other week and subsequently sold out. SC2 has monstrous production values and yet a plotline that hardly seems as epic or impactful as its 10-year-old predecessor. It also boasts a brilliant, vertically-integrated networking service that cannot host LAN games or private custom maps. People are probably arguing about these things elsewhere and I don’t care- what bothers me is how tiring playing StarCraft is.
I’m going to digress into a bit of an immature exploration of how this game works. As far as I can see there is the mechanical skill (macro, micro, hotkeying around) and awareness, and then the knowledge of the meta game. You can get both of these with time. But I don’t have time. Nor, really, the inclination to take a 15-minute beating in order to maybe glean a single piece of information about what works and what doesn’t. The problem is that you really need both these skills at a high level to function properly in this game but it just takes too darn long to get there, and it’s a painful slog until then.
Example: I hear a safe build for Zerg is 14 Pool, 15 Hatch. But I need to watch out to see if my Toss ally is teching up. If I see a Forge, I’d better tech switch to fast Zerglings and rush some in to disrupt the workers because I’d be getting Roaches and Immortals rape Roaches. Right? I’m not sure. Even if these assumptions are correct, I’d need to be super fast. If I scout late, I’m denied all this and my knowledge doesn’t end up meaning squat. Alternatively I’d better guess right because if my Zerglings run into some Collossi on high ground then there goes a whole bunch of minerals. Also even if I guess right, and mass up a nice army of Roaches unopposed, I could just as easily be beaten by something Roaches normally hard-counter just because I was too slow. Or because I macro-ed to hard early on. Or because I spent too many larvae on Drones and got starved for minerals…
You could say those are all noob problems, play more games and man up. Or that I just don’t know what I’m talking about. The problem is if my mechanical skills are failing I can know the correct moves to make and still lose the match. Conversely I can macro up a swarm lightning fast and then lose them all to a hard counter because I didn’t know Marauders owned my units. Or even worse, it could be a combination of the two, and despite the decent build order studying and replay features it is never quite clear what exactly is going wrong with one’s play.  Such a broad and overall knowledge of the game is required, and attaining it is a head-banging frustrating experience for the new player.
And this is meant to be a game.
But I digress- I’ll often be the one to tout the virtues of an ultra-competitive and deep game with a steep learning curve and a rewarding competitive vector. Maybe StarCraft II’s barrier of entry is just too high for me? I will press on for a while longer but fear this game is one who’s shining gemmed innards are hidden below far too many layers of shale and pyrite. Enough waxing poetics and more 2v2ing the Hard AI. Very Hard is too fast for me. Case in point, I suppose. I know I’m going to get rushed by a bunch of Tier 1 and 1.5 units but can’t really do jack to stop it. And then there’s Insane… heh…


I want a Droid X

Motorola's New Droids
 
I’m one of those people who feel dirty using an iPhone. Contract terms being what they are, I’ve found myself attached to that device across its transition from a one-off and amazing device to the reviled pillar of conformity that the annoying locked-down plastic iTunes-tethered PoS is now. All this in 24 months or less. Needless to say I’ve been looking for an excuse to switch to Android and the Droid X is that excuse.
Why the Droid X? The looks. It’s big with a hi-res screen. I also think ‘retina’ is all marketing garble. The DX also has some pretty impressive specs although reports vary as to whether these are murdered by the stock Motoblur layer.
Several questions are raised; will I live without iTunes? Hell yes. But can I bear to part with the likes of SF4, DoDonPachi and Rage on the iOS platform? Hmm.
Maybe it’s time to carry around one of those new 4th gen iPod Touches. Actually I never really play these games anyway so who cares…


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