February 19, 2011

This week in Guild Wars 2 news

Filed under: Gaming, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:27

I’ve been accumulating news snippets about the as-yet-to-be-formally-scheduled release of Guild Wars 2 for an email newsletter I send out to my friends and acquaintances in the Guild Wars community.

  • GuildMag has an article on the revelations from the military forces of Kryta post last week.
  • Closed Alpha and Beta for 2011: More information/speculation about the recently announced closed alpha and closed beta programs for later this year.
  • Rounding up “Humanity Week”: Rubi rounds up last week’s information from ArenaNet on humans.
  • An ode to love in Tyria.
  • Inside the Quality Assurance group at ArenaNet.
  • Rumour of a GW2 team working on “console” development. Expect this to be quashed by ArenaNet soon: UI changes between PC and various consoles alone would make this a very difficult addition to their existing plans. (Later: Regina Buenaobra had apparently already posted this message to dispel these rumours: “I just want to reiterate that the development team is fully focused on making GW2 the best PC MMO ever released. We have a very small team exploring the possibility of console, but there are no definite plans for a console version at this time. The core of Guild Wars 2 development is fully focused on delivering a fantastic PC MMORPG experience.”)
  • The promised Guild Wars Dervish update has been released. This is, as promised, a major revision to many Dervish skills. I expect to have to rebuild all my Derv’s builds, eventually. It’ll take a while to absorb the scale of all the changes.
  • Developer notes on the Dervish update.
  • If you liked “Humanity Week”, you’ll probably be very happy to hear that next week is going to be “Norn Week

When “hacker army” is not an exaggeration

Filed under: Britain, China, Government, Military, Russia, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:07

Strategy Page counts noses of the various semi-organized hacker armies out in the wild:

Despite spending over a billion dollars a year defending their government networks, Britain recently complained openly of hackers getting into the communications network of the Foreign Office. The government also warned of increasing attacks on British companies. The recent attacks government and corporations were all targeting specific people and data. While China was not mentioned in these official announcements, British officials have often discussed how investigations of recent hacking efforts tended to lead back to China. There is also a strong suspicion, backed up by hacker chatter, that governments are offering large bounties for information from foreign governments. Not information from China, but from everyone else.

China one of many nations taking advantage of the Internet to encourage, or even organize, patriotic Internet users to obtain hacking services. This enables the government to use (often informally) these thousands of hackers to attack targets (foreign or domestic.) These government organizations arrange training and mentoring to improve the skills of group members. Turkey has over 45,000 of hackers organized this way, Saudi Arabia has over 100,000, Iraq has over 40,000, Russia over 100,000 and China, over 400,000. While many of these Cyber Warriors are rank amateurs, even the least skilled can be given simple tasks. And out of their ranks will emerge more skilled hackers, who can do some real damage. These hacker militias have also led to the use of mercenary hacker groups, who will go looking for specific secrets, for a price. Chinese companies are apparently major users of such services, judging from the pattern of recent hacking activity, and the fact that Chinese firms don’t have to fear prosecution for using such methods.

It was China that really pioneered the militia activity. It all began in the late 1990s, when the Chinese Defense Ministry established the “NET Force.” This was initially a research organization, which was to measure China’s vulnerability to attacks via the Internet. Soon this led to examining the vulnerability of other countries, especially the United States, Japan and South Korea (all nations that were heavy Internet users). NET Force has continued to grow. NET Force was soon joined by an irregular civilian militia; the “Red Hackers Union” (RHU). These are nearly half a million patriotic Chinese programmers, Internet engineers and users who wished to assist the motherland, and put the hurt, via the Internet, on those who threaten or insult China. The RHU began spontaneously in 1999 (after the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Serbia), but the government has assumed some control, without turning the voluntary organization into another bureaucracy. The literal name of the group is “Red Honkers Union,” with Honker meaning “guest” in Chinese. But these were all Internet nerds out to avenge insults to the motherland.

You have to wonder how many script kiddies ever thought they’d end up being government operatives.

QotD: “Would Shakespeare Have Survived Today’s Copyright Laws?”

Filed under: Law, Media, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:05

Turow, along with Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken and Authors Guild board member (and apparent Shakespeare expert) James Shapiro, have an op-ed piece in the NY Times that a whole bunch of you have been sending in, in which they assert that Shakespeare might not have been able to survive the web era, because of all of this “piracy.” The argument is quite a bit stretched, but see if you can follow me: because playwrights had physical scarcity, in that they could keep people out of the playhouses unless people paid to enter, it allowed playwrighting to flourish. They call this a “cultural paywall.” Then there’s some sort of bizarre leap about how copyright is really the same thing. It’s not. And, then it leaps to something about how stricter copyright laws are, ipso facto, better. The evidence for this? Shhhh, don’t bother the Authors Guild bosses with logic! And, of course, the inevitable punchline is the idea that Shakespeare wouldn’t have survived in this online era with all this piracy and stuff.

Of course, it’s difficult to think of a worse example than Shakespeare for this argument (and sort of bizarre that Shapiro would sign off on an op-ed that so thoroughly misrepresents Shakespeare). Of course, as most of you know, an awful lot of Shakespeare’s works are copies (sometimes directly) of earlier works. Sometimes they’re derivative, but other times, he copied wholesale from others. So the bigger question might not be if Shakespeare could survive all the file sharing going on today, but whether or not he’d be able to produce any of his classic works, since they’d all be tied up in lawsuits over copyright infringement.

Mike Masnick, “Would Shakespeare Have Survived Today’s Copyright Laws?”, Techdirt, 2011-02-18

“If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long”

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

An interesting look at the epic battle between the perfectionist urge and the first-mover advantage:

There is a dark time in WordPress development history, a lost year. Version 2.0 was released on December 31st, 2005, and version 2.1 came out on January 22nd, 2007. Now just from the dates, you might imagine that perhaps we had some sort of rift in the open source community, that all the volunteers left or that perhaps WordPress just slowed down. In fact it was just the opposite, 2006 was a breakthrough year for WP in many ways: WP was downloaded 1.5 million times that year, and we were starting to get some high-profile blogs switching over. The growing prominence had attracted scores of new developers to the project and we were committing new functionality and fixes faster than we ever had before.

What killed us was “one more thing.” We could have easily done three major releases that year if we had drawn a line in the sand, said “finished,” and shipped the darn thing. The problem is that the longer it’s been since your last release the more pressure and anticipation there is, so you’re more likely to try to slip in just one more thing or a fix that will make a feature really shine. For some projects, this literally goes on forever.

[. . .]

Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world. It’s even worse because development doesn’t happen in a vacuum — if you have a halfway decent idea, you can be sure that there are two or three teams somewhere in the world that independently came up with it and are working on the same thing, or something you haven’t even imagined that disrupts the market you’re working in. (Think of all the podcasting companies — including Ev Williams’ Odeo — before iTunes built podcasting functionality in.)

By shipping early and often you have the unique competitive advantage of hearing from real people what they think of your work, which in best case helps you anticipate market direction, and in worst case gives you a few people rooting for you that you can email when your team pivots to a new idea. Nothing can recreate the crucible of real usage.

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