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hartsickdiscipl Blog

Please stop debating gun control and listen.. just for a moment

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When looking at big issues like gun control, we seem to argue and throw conflicting data about what does and doesn't work to reduce violence in various countries. Everyone is sure that they're right. I think we're missing the bigger picture. That's not even the real issue that we should be looking at.

I abhor violence, and hope that I never have to harm another human being. I don't want to shoot anyone, ever. I am compelled to look at history for answers, and accept the lessons that I'm taught. Isn't that what we should all be doing? Humans have always killed other humans. Can we at least agree on that?

So, who has been the biggest perpetrator, historically speaking? The answer should be obvious to all of us. Powerful governments which limit the rights of their citizens are unquestionably the worst murderers in history. I'm not talking about countries invading other countries. I'm talking about countries killing their own citizens. Right now there is a regime in Syria putting down tens of thousands of their own people. We can look at Nazi Germany, China under Mao, Russia under Stalin, the list goes on.

http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/MURDER.HTM

What did these nations have in common? Their leaders, often through executive powers, disarmed and/or weakened the armaments of their own populations. Mao himself said- "political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." He was very effective in proving this, when he was able to oversee the murder of between 60 and 80 million unarmed Chinese civilians.

Surely we don't think that somehow the US is immune to falling into the same trap. Human governments have followed this pattern forever, and it was never more apparent than in the 20th Century. That wasn't long ago.

In my perfect world, all guns would be gone. All weapons would be done away with. We don't live in my perfect world. We don't live in anyone's perfect world. We live in a world where those in power, due to human nature, will exercise that power in the worst way possible when they feel that they can. There just aren't any perfect solutions. When we look for solutions to problems like mass shootings, consider the larger issue that hangs over all of our heads. We are not immune to the rise of tyranny in the 21st century.. not even in the US. The military, under the command of our government.. increasingly the president, has a massive technological advantage over the population. With the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and their ever-increasing powers and armament, there is yet another tool. The gap in technology wasn't so wide in 1776. No matter what tragedies befall us, do we really want to widen that gap even more? Is that the real answer, taking into consideration the history of forcibly disarmed populations?

Please ask yourself those questions. Remember that historically, we have much less to fear from crazies amongst us than we do from powerful centralized governments. This is the bigger picture... the universal issue.

This is why internet pre-hire screening assessments are junk.

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First I'd like to apologize up front for any spacing errors in this post. I run in to this problem all the time when I use Gamespot. It doesn't happen on any other websites that I've used. I've tried Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, and Firefox.. I get the same result with each browser.

This has nothing to do with video games, consoles, computers, etc.. Just a warning before my rant begins. I'm posting it here because if you post things like this on Facebook, etc.., you're even less likely to be hired.

I have roughly 5 years of experience in the wireless industry. This includes a 4+ year stint with Verizon Wireless, and a 5 month stint with Clear (Clearwire's 4G Wimax branch), all in the retail environment. I've done customer service, commissioned sales, and managed my own store. When I started with VZW, I was a temp employee, acting as a greeter in a busy store location. From 2005 through 2009, I was promoted 3 times, and ended up running my own store. I didn't kiss ass, I didn't cheat my customers, and I wasn't always the #1 top-performing sales rep. I worked hard, I was honest, ethical, reliable, and I was clutch. You could always be sure that you were getting my best effort.

Why am I talking about all this, you ask? Because recently I've been out of a job. In fact, I've been unemployed for over 10 months now. I could print out pages of job listings that I've applied for. I've had a few interviews, but not as many as you would think for someone with my qualifications. I've had so much time on my hands that I've gotten into better shape and learned to play guitar and sing in the time that I've been unemployed.

Of course, there comes a time when a person needs some income to go along with all the extra time they've had. I recently applied to work for Sprint as a Retail Sales Rep.. as position that I held with Verizon Wireless and Clearwire for over 3 years combined. I had ups and downs at VZW, but enough ups to get me promoted into management by a local DM that didn't even seem to like me all that much. My time at Clear didn't work out, mostly due to their product not being ready in my market. You can sell all you want, but it doesn't matter much when over 25% of your sales come back with major issues (such as the internet NOT WORKING) within the first 2 weeks. When you're the low man on the totem pole, they're bound to cut the fat in corporate America. Blame the salesman for not being good enough when the product fails to deliver.

I'll cut to the chase- I am not even being considered for a Sales Rep position with Sprint. The reason? Because they have a 30-minute internet assessment that you must take the complete the job application process, and I've failed it twice now. I failed it once about 8-9 months ago when I first took it, and I failed it again today. They make you wait at least 6 months before you can take it again and re-apply. This isn't the type of test where you add 2 and 2 and then subtract 6 from 33 to prove that you're a math whiz. The one that I failed is the type of assessment that has begun to dominate the internet application processes in the retail industry.

They first ask you to describe yourself (all the way back to school) in a series of mulitple-choice questions, many of them not even having an option that I found suitable to my life. These are meant to determine if you are "driven" or "goal-oriented" enough to work for them. At the end of 140-150 questions like this, you then have to take a short 4 or 5 question test that can also determine your fate. This portion involves watching a short, animated scenario in which a fictional customer comes into your place of business. The scenarios range from a basic "customer wants to return their phone" situation to a "customer doesn't trust you because they think you're trying to sell them something they don't need" one. These are situations that I've been in many times in my career. I've obviously handled these situations pretty well in the past, considering my employment record. In fact, I consistently had some of the best customer feedback surveys of any sales rep in my district when I worked at VZW. When I managed my own store, we were always #1 or #2 in customer satisfaction.

Unfortunately, none of that matters to Sprint. They won't even look at me because I didn't answer their questions the way they wanted me to, and/or I didn't select the "best responses" for their simulated customer scenarios. Now usually I'm pretty good at being able to tell which option the potential employer wants me to select when I take these tests.. but not this time. In fact, as I was taking the simulated scenario portion, I came up with 2 or 3 excellent ways of handling the interactions that weren't even listed as options! Frankly, the best options often weren't even available. Based on my years of success in customer service and sales, I selected the given options that I felt were the best. Someone like me shouldn't even have to take these assessments. Someone from Sprint should see my Resume and References come in to their computer system, and be eager to talk to me. I'm actually overqualified, but not so much that they should be scared of hiring me.

So there you have it. Not only are companies like Sprint keeping me out of a job with their bogus internet screening filters, but they're shooting themselves in the foot. They won't even give some of the best-qualified applicants a chance at a face-to-face interview if they don't get through the fishnet. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been severely hampered by these things, but I'm the one who has to pay my bills. This whole thing makes me want to puke. What the hell am I supposed to do?

A no BS explanation of why I don't like Digital Distribution and DRM in gaming.

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Imagine this- You're car shopping. You've looked all over the city to try to find that one car that you want. Strangely enough, you haven't seen 1 used car, or 1 used car dealer the whole day. Since this strikes you as odd, you stop in at one of the new car dealers to ask them a question.

"Why are there no used cars for sale?" you ask the manager. He looks at you like you're crazy, and then replies- "Congress outlawed the resale of motor vehicles. Didn't you hear? They decided that the automakers really own the cars, and that despite the fact that you pay the full MSRP for the vehicle, you cannot resell it once you're done with it."

What would your reaction be? Shocked? Appalled? Dismayed? Even scared? I know I would be all of the above. The reason? Because when you buy something (not rent), you own it, and you should damn well have the right to resell it once you're done. The company that makes a product should be happy that you decided to spend your hard-earned money on their product, and buy it new.

Why, you say? (moving on to the PC games industry) Because the publishers and developers profit from new game sales. The game publishers and developers make nothing when you or I sell a game on Craigslist for $15. They're upset that a person would have the audacity to buy used games because they're cheaper. They're furious that you think you own something that you paid full price for.

Now let's go back to the car scenario. Obviously we can buy used cars at this point in time. The market for used cars is massive, and key to the US economy. But what options do we have, other than to buy a car? You can lease new cars, which means that you are essentially renting the car under a specific set of terms that dictate how you can use it. When your lease is over, the dealer will either take the car back, or you can buy it outright for a reduced cost.

You see.. that makes sense to me. The dealer (and automaker) realizes that they can still make money by allowing you to use the car for a set length of time. It's a long-term rental. When you're done, they take the car back, and you haven't paid as much as you would have to buy and OWN the vehicle.

What we have in the video games industry is a scenario where the devs and publishers are essentially leasing, or renting out games for the full retail price, without any chance of them buying the games back from you. Does that seem right to you? It certainly doesn't to me. Resale is a huge part of our economy, and the US government is allowing stingy, greedy companies to interfere with the resale market of games (PC games in particular).

If PC game publishers and devs want to keep "ownership" over their games once they hit the street, they need to offer better options. There's no reason why I should be pay 40, 50, 60 dollars for a game, be done with it in a few days, and then have to hold onto it. That's just plain stupid. I see a few possible options here.

-How many places rent out PC games? I've never seen one. Why not? Because they're afraid of software piracy? Because PC games aren't popular enough? I don't know. Never mind the fact that you can copy a PS3 or an Xbox 360 game nearly as easily as a PC game. If places rented out PC games (or if the publishers did this directly), we would have a much more fair and equitable situation for gamers.

-PC game buyback program. This is essentially the same as the "rent" option, but with a small difference. With this option, the publisher would agree to buy back the games that they sell if the original buyer is done with it. A person buys a game for $50 or $60, plays it until they're done (within a reasonable amount of time), and then the publisher buys it back for a reduced price. If the buyer chooses not to return the game, then they have to option of selling it (without criminal DRM restrictions) to another private party. What would the publisher do with all the used games that they buy back? Well, they could rent them out to people and keep making money on them that way.. Or they could sell them outright for a reduced cost.

-Just get rid of the damn DRM and let people resell all their PC games. This is the best, least complicated option IMO. This is what this whole blog entry has been driving at. This would get the used PC game market rolling again, and generate lots of positive attention for the devs and publishers.

Of course there's going to be piracy. But what you DON'T do is punish the whole class for what a few bad kids did. Face it devs/publishers- most PC gamers aren't pirates. When I buy something, I damn well better be able to resell it. That's the very spirit of free trade. When you hurt that, you're ultimately hurting yourselves.

Get rid of the DRM, get rid of the restrictions on how many times a CD key can be used, etc.. Accept the risks of your industry. Yes, there are going to be pirates. Yes, plenty of people are still going to buy your product, if it's good enough and advertised well enough. Either that, or get ready to buy your products back, because you still own them, right?

Remember this- You don't really own something unless you can resell it. So if you can't own it, why should you buy it?

The Force Unleashed games fall far short of older SW action games.

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So lately I've been playing through some older games that I've had for quite some time. 2 of those games are- Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy. I may at some point go back and play through Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight again, as it has been many, many years..

The point of this is to say that despite the fact that The Force Unleashed 2 was just released, and I am a huge Star Wars fan, I have not rushed out to buy it. I bought the first Force Unleashed game, and.. horrible port job aside, it just wasn't all that great a game. To be honest, I felt like I was playing God of War in the Star Wars universe. If you've played both games, you might know what I mean. It was nothing but a shallow hack and slash action game with a serious case of consolitis.

I'm sorry, but when you've experience the greatness that is the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series, you expect something better than reaction-time based button-combos and stiff animations to make up your badass Jedi experience. I cannot stand the fact that Lucasarts decided to stick with the "press X, then Y, then C," or whatever CRAP style of gameplay. I know that this type of stuff doesn't make up all of the gameplay in The Force Unleashed series.. but it's too much for me. Not to mention that basic attacks and movements are stiff.. and virtually uninterruptable once your character is in mid-motion.

You can't say the same for Jedi Outcast and Academy. Those games had story, atmosphere, outstanding production values, good graphics for their time, and top-notch gameplay mechanics. AND they were equally-good as a first-person shooter, should you choose to put away the lightsaber for awhile. I understand that they are trying to show off their fancy physics and graphics engine with all of the over-the-top action and force powers in TFU, but it's just too far IMO. The Jedi Knight series did such a better job of capturing and implementing the force powers from the movies. Jedi have reasonable powers consistent with the Star Wars canon in the JK series. The crap going on in TFU is as far from that as possible. Pulling Star Destroyers out of the air? Grabbing TIE fighters and slinging them around like a tiger by the tail? What is this crap?!

I'll tell you what it is.. It's a developer getting away from what made great Star Wars/Jedi games in the past, and going for the glitz and glamour that sells to this "next-gen," consolized generation. I feel sorry for the kids who have just come into the gaming world in the past 4-5 years.. I really do. There have been some great games in that time, but I think overall developers are forgetting to make their games FUN.

Jedi Outcast, Jedi Academy.. thank you for reminding me of a time when Star Wars games were great, and games were just plain fun.

Major GPU makers continue to confuse consumers with product naming schemes.

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What is going on in the heads of the people in the marketing departments at AMD (ATI) and Nvidia? I've been buying gaming graphics cards for the last 11 years, and I've never been as confused as I have been over the past 2-3.

I think it all started with Nvidia's great G92 revision of the venerable, and still very capable G80 GPU. First there was the 8800gt, which was the price/performance champion of it's day... and still running strong in many gamer's rigs today. The "GT" branding usually meant a product placed just below the "GTS" line, and well below those high-end monsters branded as "GTX." However, the 8800gt changed all that. In stock form it outperformed both variants of the G80-based 8800 GTS, and came damn close to matching the 8800GTX in many situations. So the precedent was set- Nvidia had released a product that was branded as a member of the 8800 series, while using a different GPU, and performing above it's price. Then came the 8800 GTS 512mb. When most consumers look at graphics cards, and see that there are 320mb, 512mb, and 640mb variants of a GPU branded with the same name (8800gts), they would naturally think that the 640mb version is the best. Once again, Nvidia fooled the common man, because the 8800 GTS 512 was not only faster than the 640mb version, it was quite a bit faster. In fact, due to it's full-fledged 128 stream processor G92 core, it matched or exceeded the 8800 GTX in many cases. Yes, that's right.. the 8800 GTS 512 is comparable to an 8800 GTX. 2 cards named as part of the same product line, but clearly not.

Why didn't Nvidia call the G92-based cards the 8900 series? The precedent had been set with ther prior generation of GPUs. The G70 core was revised, and the G71 was born. Hence the 7800 series being replaced by the 7900 series. It made sense.

Not confused enough yet?

Nvidia took their same G92 core (and it's less powerful G94, G96, etc.. bretheren), and produced the infamous "9-series." The 9800 GTX was nothing more than an overvolted, overclocked 8800 GTS 512. That's right. If you had an overclocked 8800 GTS 512, you had a GPU equivalent to the single-GPU king of the 9-series. They then took the 112 SP (stream processor) 8800gt and rebranded it as the "9800gt." Now, eventually the 9-series would be differentiated from the G92 8-series parts by a change to the 55nm fabrication process, resulting in numerous "low power" versions of the 9-series. Then the 9800GX2 was released, which was essentially 2 underclocked G92 cores sandwiched together on 2 PCB's. Nothing wrong there, that was an original product.

But the G92 wasn't done changing identities yet. Nvidia released it's "200 series," and the "GTS 250" was born. This was a midrange product, offered in 512mb and 1gb versions, but STILL based on that same 128SP G92 GPU.

So, in case you weren't keeping track, here it is-- An 8800 GTS 512 is essentially equal to a 9800 GTX, or 9800 GTX+, and the GTS 250. That's 3 generations of renaming what was essentially the same card.

Let's skip ahead to Nvidia's current "Fermi" line of products. There's no more G92-rebranding to be found here. However, there is still plenty of confusion to be had. The first 4 products from this line that Nvidia released were known as the "GTX 400 series." Seems simple enough, right? It might have been, had Nvidia not named the GTX 465 as they did. You see.. the GTX 465 is a cut-down version of the original GF100 Fermi GPU. Why did they not name this card "GTX 460?" They named the first 2 cards in the series "480" and "470," but for some strange reason decided to lower the number 5 instead of 10. Why is this a big deal, you may ask?

Because Nvidia did shortly thereafter release a card that they call the "GTX 460," and the 1GB variant of this card actually outperforms the "GTX 465" in most situations. The GTX 460 is based on a revised "fermi" GPU, which is smaller and less power-hungry than the original. Why on earth would you name the original, inferior Fermi variant the "465" just a couple of months before the release of a more refined part? It would make so much more sense to the consumer had Nvidia just named the original 3-string Fermi card GTX 460, and then named the GF104-derived part GTX 465. To me, Nvidia's current nomenclature indicates to me that the GTX 460 would be one of the original Fermi GPUs.. but it's not. Not even close.

I'm done bashing Nvidia's naming schemes for now.. Now onto AMD/ATI :P

I thought AMD "got it." I really did. The HD3870, HD 4870, 4890, 5850, and 5870 were all high-end parts. It was relatively simple to look at their product line and figure out which was better. Until now.

Here is a link to the GPU's that ATI/AMD have released-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_ATI_graphics_processing_units#Northern_Islands_.28HD_6xxx.29_series

If you go to the section regarding their new "Northern Islands" graphics cards and compare it to their 3800, 4800, and 5800 series cards, you might see what I mean.

No longer is the 6800 series the high-end. Apparently AMD has seen fit to demote the 6800 series to the midrange segment, completely confusing the relative strength of these cards in comparison to their 3 prior generations of GPU. Do you remember the 4770 and 5770? Great mid-range cards, right? Well, don't go looking for a 6770 any time soon. What you want is a 6850 or a 6870. The number of hours that I spend looking at PC hardware reviews and and comparisons is unhealthy, it really is. The sad part is that if I didn't spend a lot of time doing this, I wouldn't be able to make heads or tails of what AMD is doing with their new series. Apparently the "HD6950" and "6970" will be the high-end, single GPU parts from this series. That sucks, AMD! The 5970 was the dual-gpu powerhouse from the last generation! What does this mean for us consumers? It means that a 5970 is likely more powerful than a 6970. Does that make sense to you? Are not naming schemes supposed to be easy for the consumer, as opposed to confusing?

Do you see what I'm saying? Please, Nvidia and AMD.. if anybody from your camps happen to be reading this (and I know the odds are incredibly low), know that I am not alone in my complaints. Most gamers don't spend nearly the time and effort looking into these things, but I know I'm not the only one confused. There have been whole forum threads dedicated to the confusion caused by your product naming schemes. Why can't you just make it make sense? You've shown that you CAN do it, as demonstrated by prior successive generations of products. Help us out here guys.. and you'll probably help yourselves out too.