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Believe·in·Robots


Mozilla's Existential Crisis Is The Web's Existential Crisis

Back in May of this year (2014) Mozilla announced it would be partnering with Adobe to make sure Firefox users would have a way of loading a binary closed source, proprietary EME module. EME, Encrypted Media Extensions are essentially the mechanisms for baking DRM into the web.

This is pretty much the antithesis of Mozilla’s mission statement. Which is why they have been vocal infighting EME’s formal inclusion into HTML as a standard. Even promoting digital watermarking and investing in technology to implement it as a viable alternative.

Mozilla appears to have receded from this position because they viewed themselves as a loosing end of a a battle they fought before.

“If Mozilla didn’t enable the possibility of installing the Adobe Access CDM for use with EME, we’d be in a situation similar to the one we were in when we did not support the H.264 codec in HTML5 video. Instead of moving away from H.264, Web sites still delivered H.264 video to Firefox users—but did it via the NPAPI using Adobe Flash Player or Microsoft Silverlight rather than via the “video” tag.”

source


“We very much want to see a different system. Unfortunately, Mozilla alone cannot change the industry on DRM at this point. In the past Firefox has changed the industry, and we intend to do so again… …We’ve contemplated not implementing the new iteration of DRM due to its flaws. But video is an important aspect of online life, and a browser that doesn’t enable video would itself be deeply flawed as a consumer product. Firefox users would need to use another browser every time they want to watch a controlled video, and that calls into question the usefulness of Firefox as a product.”

source

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Posted by trashHeap on Thu, 21 Aug 2014

On Values, Technology and the Consumer

It shouldn’t come as a surprise the things people make, tend to reflect them. When an author writes a book, there is a little of themselves in the text. When a carpenter builds a table, their pride and attention in detail finds it’s way into the furniture. When a widget is assembled on an assembly line the details of fabrication end up reflecting values of its designers. Where were the parts sourced? What were the labor practices involved? Is it sustainably built? What is its carbon footprint? Did the designers side with price over quality?

Software often has its own sets of values that can be embedded into it. Does the software impose restrictions on the user? Is it hostile? Is it easy to use? Does it ship with malware? Will it inter-operate with files from other programs? Does it force a user to work with a sole company by design?

Consumer by and large vote with their dollar even if they do not realize it. They spend their capital on the products which appeal to them. Part of that appeal is often is due in no small part to the values embedded in the technology.

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Posted by trashHeap on Sun, 10 Aug 2014

Tomodachi Hetero-normative Collection


Let’s talk about Tomodachi Life Collection, The game has largely been referred to as a life sim in the west, and that is not an entirely inaccurate description but it is remarkably different in a number of ways. The game features Miis (avatars) of the player and the player’s friends and acquaintances from the console’s network features. The game in some capacity assigns semi autonomous personas to these avatars. The game play mostly revolves around the user thrusting their character into scenes and mini-games, while watching their Mii interact with random avatars in unexpected and humorous ways. The lack of control over one’s avatar is a central part of the game as the unexpected and often hilarious emergent behavior of the Miis is the core game.

The game has had multiple releases in Japan and western commentators were a bit interested last year, when Nintendo seemingly patched a bug that occurred when importing one’s save game from the older DS game into the newer 3DS release. The bug prevented the user from saving their game after the import, but also seemingly had some chance of accidentally creating same-sex relationships in the game. (Or at least this is what Nintendo told one game journalist about five weeks back.)

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Posted by trashHeap on Wed, 21 May 2014

Brendan Eich, Mozilla and the Paradox of Tolerance

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich was the center of a lot of controversy shortly after his promotion to the position of CEO.

Brendan Eich had donated to Prop 8 back in 2008 which made political active LGBTQ folks and allies within and without Mozilla uncomfortable. Wide spread criticism and boycotts followed. Developers of Firefox OS applications even pulled their apps.

Brendan Eich was slow to comment and when he did the damage control was honestly pretty terrible. At one point seeming to imply that championing marriage equality might hurt Mozilla’s chances at expanding into Indonesia with Firefox OS.

The spectacle ended with Eich’s stepping down.

The whole state of affairs left me feeling very uneasy. For the first time in my memory two causes I champion were in seemingly direct conflict. The open web v marriage equality. Part of my uneasiness int this conflict was derived from the fact that the open web itself can’t really take to many serious punches. It is facing a number of threats and Mozilla is one of the few last defenders still standing (former open web allies like Google have not looked like terribly good allies as of late.)

Mozilla itself is also facing an existential crisis of its own. Firefox has finally slipped below Chrome in popularity and of the four major desktop browser vendors in play (Internet Explorer by Microsoft, Chrome by Google, Firefox by Mozilla, Safari by Apple) three of them have essential cornered the mobile browsing market through the mobile ecosystems they control. Its becoming more apparent with every passing day being a successful browser means having a mobile ecosystem. Firefox OS is Mozilla’s attempt to safe guard their future in that vein, but it is by no means a sure thing.

I whole heartily endorsed the criticisms and the boycotts of Mozilla but privately felt uneasy about joining along in promoting a boycott of Firefox itself and privately winced when OK Cupid started pleading with its users in mass to switch to proprietary browsers.

When Eich stepped down I had a sigh of relief.

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Posted by trashHeap on Sat, 26 Apr 2014

Exult for the GCW Zero

Good Old Games had the whole Ultima VII Collection on sale for the holidays dirt cheap this past week. I ended up picking it up with an eye towards getting it running Exult on the GCW-Zero (Exult being a free software implementation of the game engine, and the GCW-Zero being a handheld shipping an almost entirely free software stack. )

I had some problems wrangling the libraries in the GCW SDK. However, with a minimum of trouble I was able to get it running. The biggest problem was getting a configuration file together for the GCW’s resolution, as Exult tends not to expect it’s host environment’s resolution to come close to the original. It fought me a little bit to turn off the scalers.

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Posted by trashHeap on Thu, 19 Dec 2013