386 or Higher

Written on August 31, 2010 – 11:49 pm by Ding

For as long as I can remember, my computer has been on the very edge of technology.  It has always been just a few steps away from being obsolete, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

That’s a lie, I would have it another way and I intend to very soon, but it’s a convenient lie that makes me feel special, or at least that it’s on purpose.

I remember being very excited about the release of “Lemmings 2”, not really because it was an amazing game; it wasn’t, they tried to improve the original’s purity by adding in more pointless skills in what was to become my first experience with something suffering from feature creep, but it was a game that would run on the family computer.  This was a time where every (very large) game box I picked up had the words “requires a 386 or higher” that disheartened me so much to the point that I believe “386 or higher” became a running joke with my parents because it had become one of those stupid borderline meaningless phrases that I thought might have more meaning than it did.

I’ve always bought and built middle of the range PCs (because to go for the most technologically advanced is a fools errand for anyone that needs their money to eat) and always found myself very quickly having to trick it in to playing certain games, but lately I’ve found a few titles manage to run below the recommended specifications that they list.

What this boils down to is a very roundabout and drop-in-the-ocean love letter to Blizzard and Starcraft 2, which has listed on the back of the box “2.6 GHz or Higher” and yet runs perfectly well (with perfectly meaning all the graphical settings reduced to zero) on my barely-scraping-2.3GHz-if-I-had-the-guts-to-overclock-it-but-last-time-I-tried-something-like-that-there-was-fire-so-closer-to-2.2 machine.

The game itself is fantastic (the description “chess on steroids” is apt), the design is near flawless, the multiplayer is fair and challenging, and the single player storyline has accurately been described as “something a twelve year old would enjoy” which makes me feel guilty for enjoying it so much, because I suspect they’re right.  The fact that Blizzard have spent the time to ensure that it will run smoothly on a machine that is now pushing six years old is unbelievable and a testament to their professionalism.

The first thing that popped into my head when I got Starcraft 2 working however was “I wonder if Sim City 2000 WOULD have worked on the 286 after all and why didn’t I at least try?”.  Maybe the lesson here is I should stop believing everything I read.  Maybe it’s that the more things change the more they stay the same.  Maybe it’s that I ramble about things nobody is interested in when I’m hungry.  Regardless, technology is ever evolving, but it’s refreshing to see that not everyone is trying to dismiss everything that’s for the most part considered obsolete.

Spin

Written on August 20, 2010 – 10:59 am by Ding

From the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) website, I read the following:

“The UK is recognised as a leading user of CCTV”

This seems like a very nice way of saying “they’re always watching you” and I love how they’ve managed to make this sound positive and almost something we’re meant to take pride in as a nation.

I recently saw a very passionate speaker from the ICO give a talk at a data security conference. I’m not 100% sure what he was talking about, partly because I don’t think his talk had a point, and partly because it was about 4pm at this point and my brain had gone numb out of what I would favorably call crushing boredom.

The main thing that I picked up from him however was how much he was pushing the ICO as a force for good and a powerful defender of rights and justice and that it Should Be Taken Seriously.

It is probably my before-my-time cynicism that doesn’t allow for me to believe that an individual could enjoy his job so much that he genuinely felt this way about the organisation that he worked for, but I put this down to spin, which I feel has been confirmed by them referring to the UK as a “leading user of CCTV”.

The impression that I get with the ICO and certainly the message I take from their website is that they’re trying too hard and they don’t know what they are. On the one hand they’re trying to be like the big-scary FSA with their quasi-enforcement notices and auditing, but on the other hand they seem to be trying to appeal to a teenage audience for some weird reason. I suppose part of that is that fact that the ICO is set up for corporate and consumer purposes, so it has to cater to both, but that doesn’t stop the fact that I’ve spent that the last 10 minutes poking around trying to see how long we have to keep records for our answer phone messages  without any success.

I suppose none of this is any real surprise. Our data protection laws are notoriously inconsistent and variable, bordering on the chaotic. A speaker earlier on in the conference I attended that I was fully awake for mentioned that even law firms specialising in data protection will be breaching the legislation because it is literally impossible to keep up with due to the dynamic nature of the issue.

I have perfectly illustrated the nature of someone not having a point in this blog post, as I’ve rambled all over the place too, but I think what I’m driving at is that I’m sick of spin. It’s cute as a game, and hilarious as a play on words amongst friends to make something sound the complete opposite of the reality with just a turn of phrase, but when it has become a profession and institution in and of itself, I think we’re in trouble.

I’m not naïve enough to assume that everyone should tell the truth all the time no matter what, but maybe a little less of the spin mongering would pull us from the brink of double-think-induced collapse.