Mar 12 2016

Remorse

Adel Gabot

tc-the-division-original-game-soundtrack-cover

10:22AM

I was going through my Twitter feed, which this morning had grown to its overnight average size of around 600 tweets. (I try to keep my “following” list to under a hundred; I don’t understand how others can have close to a thousand of them and stay sane following them all.)

I came across a tweet announcing that the original game soundtrack of my new game The Division was now available on the iTunes Store for purchase.

Without thinking about it, I immediately went to my browser and opened up my torrent indexer, changed the search criteria to Music, then put The Division in the search window. It coughed up a list of items. Then I sorted them by most recent date, and out popped on top a torrent for the new soundtrack.

I fed the torrent to Vuze, my torrent downloader of choice, and within five minutes, I had a new, fresh copy of the album, 18 tracks of FLAC-level soundtrack music by Ola Strandh of Tom Clancy’s The Division.

Then I proceeded to my audio conversion software to change it to ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec format—iTunes doesn’t do FLAC), converted it, and then created an iTunes playlist for it. Then I proceeded to listen to the album while continuing to peruse my Twitter feed again.

Halfway through the first track, I caught myself and realised what I had just done. I had just casually stolen intellectual property without even thinking about it. What the hell have I done? Has this world gotten to this stage where people can just do things like these without properly acknowledging and compensating the rightful creators? Yes, of course it has. Damn.

Sure, I’m not beneath downloading torrents of currently showing TV shows, but only those that already air on the many channels of my cable provider. I figure I’m just getting them ahead of time. That’s ok, isn’t it?

But I don’t usually watch shows that are on cable that I don’t have access to. Mostly.  The point is, we as a people have gotten to the stage where we don’t normally think downloading things we’re supposed to be paying for is bad, when it really and truly is.

So I went back and erased The Division soundtrack: the FLAC files, the converted ALAC files that were in an iTunes playlist and the original Torrent file I used to download them with.

Tomorrow I’m going to buy some iTunes credit and purchase the album legally and download it. Speaking as a creator of content myself, that’s the least I could do.

Dang it, I really hate it when I catch myself doing stuff like that.


Jan 2 2016

Lightsaber sounds?

Adel Gabot

YouTube_logo-old

8:22AM

It might seem a bit indelicate to start the new year off with a complaint post (well, technically, I did start it off with a new year greeting yesterday, so there’s that), but here goes.

I effing hate hate hate the lightsaber sound effects YouTube puts on every video you try to watch there, or from associated sites like Digg.

Granted, I stupidly signed on for this during the height of the pre-Force Awakens hype where they ask you decide to join the Light Side or the Dark Side on Google, and one of the side effects is the institution of that damn sound effect on every YouTube video you watch.

More often then not it lingers on for too long, or worse, the sfx hangs around the entire length of the video, overlaying it with an irritating loud lightsaber hum that all but obscures the audio. The few times it does work properly and just hangs around for just a second or two in the beginning is still frigging irritating, and now three weeks into the release of the film, the sound effect is still there, making my life hell.

Damn it, YouTube, will you quit already?

 


Jun 2 2015

The Dark Web

Adel Gabot

Screen-Shot-2014-09-05-at-5.40.24-PM

12:40PM

Ross Ulbricht, creator and administrator of Silk Web, just got sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole just yesterday. (That’s him in the picture above.)

Ulbricht is a clean-cut, all-around good boy, by all accounts. Whether he was guilty of the charges or not is still a contested matter, and I imagine the years of appeal this will entail. But it’s not contested that Silk Web dealt in selling lots of drugs online on the deep dark web, with anonymous bitcoins for currency. That is not in question, and Ulbricht will have to stand for that, no matter what. But as far as the other charges against him, like soliciting murder-for-hire and being the leader of a massive drug cartel, I’m not too sure.

I just saw a recent documentary this morning, Deep Web, about the issues surrounding Silk Web and Ross Ulbricht, and this under-the-hood internet that a lot of people have been using, and I’m convinced Ulbricht wasn’t given a fair shake.

The documentary was written, produced and directed by Alex Winter, whose main claim to fame was playing Bill in the old movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and incidentally narrated by the guy who played Ted, Keanu Reeves. There’s a more then a bit of irony that this film was created by guys who played stoners when they were young—precisely the type of people that would be involved in a modern day drug setup. But Winter is an excellent documentarian in this case, and Reeves is surprisingly authoritative with his somber take on the narration.

Deep Web is obviously partial to Ulbricht, and strongly makes the case for his “innocence,” at least with some of the charges. The documentary covers a wide range of key witnesses and experts in the case, and presents the facts calmly and objectively. It makes the case that Silk Web actually made buying drugs safer because it took out the middleman and the violent criminal element, while also saying that the drug-selling was an incidental consequence of the nature of the site, owing to the freedom afforded by the dark web.

 

This anonymous and secretive layer of the net is accessed by people who value privacy in their online communications, usually using anonymized browsers like Tor. Regular people who would like to remain incognito in their dealings with the internet, like journalists, businessmen and spies, and people with more sinister agendas, like child pornography addicts and drug dealers. You can’t avoid these things, they’re as much a part of it as anyone, unfortunately.

screenshot_13

I’ve had the Tor browser on my Macs for a couple of years now, but haven’t really gotten around to using it heavily, if at all, as I have no reason to. Tor effectively makes the entire internet anonymous for everyone, and the authorities (or anyone for that matter) can’t track your activities when you’re on Tor, as opposed to Safari, Firefox or Chrome. That’s why some people love using it.

screenshot_14

As the title card says, “Committed to you, your privacy and an open Web.” I guess it’s just one of those things where you take the good with the bad. In the case of Ross Ulbricht, things went very bad, very fast.

I’d just like to wish Ulbricht all the best, and good luck. You’re sure gonna need it.