Why Blizzard Sucks

Okay, I stopped playing Diablo II after Blizzard nerfed the Necromancer character and after getting tired of finding new ways around the copy protection on the game CDs.

Now the suckers — I mean customers — who kept on playing the game are witness to more Blizzard nonsense. Okay, the original version of Diablo online was hack central, so this time around Blizzard used a client-server model with characters being stored on Blizzard’s servers. They said this would give greater security, and it did.

But then somebody within the past couple weeks figured out how to hack the system. The hack lets someone login and take control of another player’s character. The hackers are going through and systematically killing characters that people worked hundreds of hours to get to high levels by simply taking control of the character and then intentionally getting it killed.

No system that can be accessed publicly is safe from hacking, and Blizzard did a pretty decent job considering it took about 9 months for someone to figure out this particular vulnerability. What is not excusable, however, is Blizzard’s complete reticence to talk about the issue. To my knowledge they haven’t issued a single statement saying “This is what’s happened, this is what we’re doing about.” They’ve stuck to the modus operandi they established when people had problems shortly after the release of the game. Blizzard staff simply post “Servers will go down at XXX” and “Servers are back up now” messags without ever explaining what they did.

This apparently burned a lot of people who assumed when the servers went down last night and then back up today that the bug had been fixed. It hadn’t, and people who had been hiding high level hardware on mule characters were victimized by the hackers.

And based on what’s been happening the ladders that rank people, Blizzard didn’t have very recent backups of their servers. Ouch.

As a customer, I have come to expect that there will be bugs and problems with software. What separates good from lousy experiences with companies is their willingness to be up front and provide detailed information about problems and possible solutions with software. Blizzard’s tight-lipped approach really sucks.

Nothing New Under the Sun?

Phillip J. Longman laments that the pace of technological progress is slowing. According to Longman, if the typical middle class 1950s family (exemplified in his article by the atypical Ozzie and Harriet) were whisked to 2000, they would see only incremental change rather than any technological revolution.

Longman, like a lot of other commentators, fails to note that sufficient incremental improvement can itself be revolutionary. When I was a kid, we had a phone but I still thought Star Trek communicators were an impossible science fiction invention. Now everybody and their brother seems to carry around miniscule cell phones. Who would have thought that the first calculators would eventually morph into a super computer on the desktop.

Even without the incremental change, however, Longman ignores one advanced made well after the early 1950s that would certainly have shocked Ozzie and Harriet and is certainly one of the top 10 most important inventions of the 20th century — the birth control pill. Love it or hate it, cheap, effective chemical birth control profoundly changed American culture so thoroughly, that I would argue only the automobile had a more far reaching effect.

Dawn Carr Receives Probation for Miss Rodeo America 2000 Pie

Last year animal rights activist Dawn Carr, 31, cowardly threw a pie in the face of 21-year-old Brandy DeJongh immediately after DeJongh’s crowning as Miss Rodeo America 2000. Carr intended the pie in the face as a commentary on rodeos and animals.

Not surprisingly, Carr is a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

In December 2000, Carr pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery in Las Vegas, Nevada. She received one year’s probation and was ordered to pay $1,700 in restitution to DeJongh for damages done to the dress DeJongh was wearing.

Source:

Sentence set in activist’s pie incident. Las Vegas Review Journal, December 5, 2000.

Peggy McMartin Buckey, 74, Dies

Peggy McMartin Buckey, 74, was found unconcious at her California home and prounced dead on December 15, 2000. McMartin should have lived the last years of her life peacefully but instead was one of the victims in a witch hunt that claimed too many lives.

Buckey helped her family operate the McMartin Pre-School in Manhattan Beach, California. In 1983 children who had attended the McMartin Pre-School began telling fantastic tales of ritual sexual abuse directed at them, much of which allegedly took place in secret tunnels beneath the pre-school. Ultimately 349 of 384 students at the pre-school told investigators that they had been sexually assaulted at the pre-school. The fact that there simply no secret tunnels and that the claims of the children proved false in many details did not deter prosecutors from charging McMartin Buckey and others with sexually assaulting children

The case helped kick off a nationwide hysteria about Satanic and ritual abuse of children, helped on by a gullible media. McMartin Bukey was charged with sexual assault, but the case against her fell apart after it became clear that the testimony of the children had been improperly shaped and coerced by social workers who acted as latter day agents of the Inquisition. McMartin Buckey was acquitted on all charges, but was shadowed by the destruction of the business she helped run and the stigma attached to those even accused of sexual abuse of children.

Investigator’s relied on the highly specious belief that children always told the truth about such acts and could not be coerced to give false testimony or fail to remember accurately. In a series of experiments, memory expert Elizabeth Loftus demonstreated that it was relatively easy to get young children to falsely believe in events that had never happened.

Unfortunately there are still many people in jail based on testimony gleaned under such coercion or based on psychologists who used false memory techniques on their clients. The hysteria is largely over, but the effects still remain.

Source:

McMartin Case’s Legal, Social Legacies Linger. Ted Rohrlich, The Los Angeles times, December 18, 2000.

Woman Who Sought Asylum Turns Out to be a Fake

Adelaide Abankwah’s request for asylum in the United States made headlines and earned support from politicians such as Hillary Clinton and actors such as Julia Roberts and Vannessa Redgrave. Abankwah claimed she had been chosen “queen mother” of her tribe in Ghana and would be subjected to female genital mutilation if forced to return to that nation. She eventually won her asylum case, but now it turns out her entire story was false.

The woman’s real name is Regina Norman Danson, and she made up the story after being caught trying to enter the United States illegally in 1997. Somehow the real Adelaide Abankwah’s passport ended up in Danson’s hands, and Danson decided to assume the woman’s identity in an effort to stay in the United States. The real Abankwah says she didn’t come forward to dispute Danson because she was fearful of being deported due to unrelated immigration problems.

The Washington Post reported that prosecution of Danson was hindered by bureaucrats who didn’t want to embarrass the Clinton administration officials who had championed her asylum claim.

Source:

Hillary’s asylum queen was a fake. The Times (UK), December 21, 2000.

Missing Link Fossils Found — Assuming They’re Not Fakes

The BBC reports that remarkably well preserved fossils of tiny winged dinosaurs may be the missing link to resolve the debate over the origin of birds. But the real question is: will anybody believe the fossils are genuine?

As recently as 1999 gullible paleontologists put up $80,000 for an alleged winged dinosaur fossil from China that was featured on the cover on National Geographic. The only real problem was that the fossil was a fake.

Now the BBC ominously reports that,

We drove between parched brown fields and passed low mud-brick farms. An icy wind blew from Siberia to the north. The farmers buttoned up their coats against the chill as they gathered every last scrap of vegetation in the hope that they could keep their donkeys alive through another winter. Two years of drought have also meant these are impoverished people.

But as we came to the little village of Sihetun, there was a subtle difference. There were a few modern villa-style homes and some of the young men were riding new Japanese motorbikes. Clearly, there was an additional source of income here.

With the additional source of income coming from selling the many fossils being removed from nearby hills. We’ll see if these new “missing link” fossils stand up to scrutiny over the long term (and personally the whole story has a “too good to be true” feel to it).