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France’s DGSE also collects comms metadata

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 20:36 by John Sinteur in category: News


France’s intelligence service, the DGSE, systematically collects metadata on electronic communications by phones and computers in France, as well as exchanges between French citizens abroad, Le Monde reports. The revelation comes in the wake of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposing the US government’s Prism programme. Information on millions of calls, SMS, e-mails and faxes is processed at an underground supercomputer at the agency’s Paris headquarters in a database named innocuously the “mutualisation infrastructure”.

Officially, such a system does not exist, and while its purpose is to fight terrorism, it can be used to spy on anyone, writes Le Monde. Other French security agencies can access the database in secret, with the source of information undisclosed as “anonymous information” in criminal investigations. French law on wiretapping forbids the use of a system such as Prism, according to data protection authority Cnil.

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Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 17:08 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon

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Police Commandeer Homes, Get Sued

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 16:40 by John Sinteur in category: News


Henderson police arrested a family for refusing to let officers use their homes as lookouts for a domestic violence investigation of their neighbors, the family claims in court.

Anthony Mitchell and his parents Michael and Linda Mitchell sued the City of Henderson, its Police Chief Jutta Chambers, Officers Garret Poiner, Ronald Feola, Ramona Walls, Angela Walker, and Christopher Worley, and City of North Las Vegas and its Police Chief Joseph Chronister, in Federal Court.

Henderson, pop. 257,000, is a suburb of Las Vegas.

The Mitchell family’s claim includes Third Amendment violations, a rare claim in the United States. The Third Amendment prohibits quartering soldiers in citizens’ homes in times of peace without the consent of the owner.

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The Weather

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 15:32 by John Sinteur in category: Joke

The weather has been very Muslim recently.

Partly Sunni, but mostly Shi’ite.

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  1. You must be living in Caliphornia.

  2. I hope you’re sharia about all these puns. Jihad enough of them!

Plan would make tuition free at Oregon colleges

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 9:50 by John Sinteur in category: News


The Oregon Legislature this week gave its final approval to a bill that might someday allow students to attend public university without paying tuition.

The concept, called Pay It Forward, calls for students to pay a small percentage of their future income into an education fund to support the next generation of students.

Pay a small percentage of their future income? We already have something like that. It’s called taxes.

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  1. Either that, or if this is limited to those who actually used the service being funded, it’s called “loan payments”. It’s all in how you market it. :-p

The Top F2P Monetization Tricks

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 9:07 by John Sinteur in category: News


Purchasing in-app premium currency also allows the use of discounting, such that premium currency can be sold for less per unit if it is purchased in bulk. Thus a user that is capable of doing basic math (handled in a different part of the brain that develops earlier) can feel the urge to “save money” by buying more. The younger the consumer, the more effective this technique is, assuming they are able to do the math. Thus you want to make the numbers on the purchase options very simple, and you can also put banners on bigger purchases telling the user how much more they will “save” on big purchases to assist very young or otherwise math-impaired customers.


A game of skill is one where your ability to make sound decisions primarily determines your success. A money game is one where your ability to spend money is the primary determinant of your success. Consumers far prefer skill games to money games, for obvious reasons. A key skill in deploying a coercive monetization model is to disguise your money game as a skill game.

King.com’s Candy Crush Saga is designed masterfully in this regard. Early game play maps can be completed by almost anyone without spending money, and they slowly increase in difficulty. This presents a challenge to the skills of the player, making them feel good when they advance due to their abilities. Once the consumer has been marked as a spender (more on this later) the game difficulty ramps up massively, shifting the game from a skill game to a money game as progression becomes more dependent on the use of premium boosts than on player skills.


Research has shown that humans like getting rewards, but they hate losing what they already have much more than they value the same item as a reward. To be effective with this technique, you have to tell the player they have earned something, and then later tell them that they did not. The longer you allow the player to have the reward before you take it away, the more powerful is the effect.

This technique is used masterfully in Puzzle and Dragons. In that game the play primarily centers around completing “dungeons”. To the consumer, a dungeon appears to be a skill challenge, and initially it is. Of course once the customer has had enough time to get comfortable with the idea that this is a skill game the difficulty goes way up and it becomes a money game. What is particularly effective here is that the player has to go through several waves of battles in a dungeon, with rewards given after each wave. The last wave is a “boss battle” where the difficulty becomes massive and if the player is in the recommended dungeon for them then they typically fail here. They are then told that all of the rewards from the previous waves are going to be lost, in addition to the stamina used to enter the dungeon (this can be 4 or more real hours of time worth of stamina).

At this point the user must choose to either spend about $1 or lose their rewards, lose their stamina (which they could get back for another $1), and lose their progress. To the brain this is not just a loss of time. If I spend an hour writing a paper and then something happens and my writing gets erased, this is much more painful to me than the loss of an hour. The same type of achievement loss is in effect here. Note that in this model the player could be defeated multiple times in the boss battle and in getting to the boss battle, thus spending several dollars per dungeon.

And several other methods to separate users from their money.

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Initial 1978 Boba Fett Costume Screentest

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 9:03 by John Sinteur in category: News


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Mass protests planned over web NSA spying revelations

Posted on July 4th, 2013 at 8:14 by John Sinteur in category: News


Some of the web’s biggest names have backed mass protests over internet surveillance carried out by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

The Restore the Fourth movement – referring to the US constitution’s fourth amendment – said it wants to end “unconstitutional surveillance”.

Reddit, Mozilla and WordPress are among the big web names backing the action, due to take place on Thursday.

Almost 100 events have been planned across the US.


In reaction to the revelations made by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Mozilla, maker of the widely used Firefox browser, launched stopwatching.us – a petition calling for full disclosure of the US’s “spying” programmes.

If petitions ever changed anything, they would be illegal by now – take a look at the fake White House petitions. What have they changed so far?

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  1. John – that is too cynical. Petitions are a starting point. It is part of the education process to get people off the couch and understand the issues. That is important especially in an apathetic society like the U.S. Of course, the rubber meets the road with mass street protests. That is what will be needed.

  2. Petitions only work when a lot of other forces of change are aligned. When Gray Davis was recalled, it was caused by a few poorly-handled disasters, a couple of controversial bill-signings, and an already thin margin of victory during his last election. Those circumstances coalesced for petitioners and they were able to gain enough momentum to get the recall election. That’s as it should be. Extraordinary actions should be preceded by extraordinary events.

    John isn’t cynical here. He’s realistic. The petitions by Mozilla and others are largely symbolic. They don’t have the other forces of change on their side. There is not nearly as much outrage over NSA activities as some suggest and what outrage there is should be downgraded because too many are outraged over everything Obama.

  3. “There is not nearly as much outrage over NSA activities as some suggest” — not quite sure about Rob. Maybe in cowering America (and this may change), but outside the U.S., the show is just getting started. That may feedback to the U.S. and get the apathetic masses off their fat asses.

  4. America isn’t cowering, Mykolas. There are some big deals elsewhere that just aren’t big deals here. I know that just galls some people. Let’s meet back here in a year and see how far this petition has gone. It’s not going to die because we’re apathetic. It’s going to die because it was a dumb idea to begin with.

  5. Petitions only change things if someone fears they won’t win the next election, imo. Activists on the left and right are vexed. I’d say it was more-or-less elector-neutral.

    What is probably concerning some people is that their most interesting secrets will be leaked. Apparently the US government and intelligence services aren’t very secure with secrets. Who knew?

  6. “What is probably concerning some people is that their most interesting secrets will be leaked.”

    That’s exactly it, Sue. Present company excepted, you’d really have to think a lot of yourself to think that your secrets are that interesting. 🙂