Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A case of duty

I often get asked by people I know why I often vote *for* taxes, or vote against reducing them.
I think this election season thats a particularly salient question.

My answer: I feel it is my duty.

To often, we have let the right wing coopt that word and use it when its convenient to their goals and interests only.

Its time to take it back. Here are duties I feel strongly I have to my country and my countrymen:

(1) To support my fellow Americans in their hours of need
Right now we are in tough economic times. Some of us are lucky enough to still have gainful employment and I am among them. I consider it my duty to help those not so fortunate and cutting the taxes that support the social services (as meager as they may be) that form what little safety net they have would be beneath my conscience.

Similarly, to let my fellow Americans die from exposure because they cannot afford shelter, or of disease because they cannot afford proper medical care, is something I again cannot conscience. If we truly are one people, then we owe it to our less fortunate to share some modicum of our good fortune with them, even if its just their basic needs.

(2) To support my country's economic future
We will never again be a manufacturing power. That is a reality of economics. All we have left to bargain with in the world economy is our skilled labor and skilled labor requires learning skills, which means education. I support education and education spending as vital to our country's future and as another duty of being a beneficiary of this country's economy.

(3) To support the American Dream
This country is built on a promise, that someone who wants to work, can work and someone who wants to work hard can be rewarded for that effort with a reasonable standard of living. This can only be true in an economy with an ample place for a middle class. For the past thirty years, the distribution of wealth in this country has been shifting more and more to the wealthy and that wealth has come out of what is available to the middle class.

The right likes to accuse the left of "class warfare" but the fact of the matter is that its a war that both sides have been engaged in for a long time, and the shift of wealth shows who is is winning it and it isn't the working man or woman.

(4) To support a government By the people and For the people.
The sad fact today is that our government is bought and paid for with money spent on advertising (and "news-vertising") that tells lies to the voting public. One look at who is paying for those ads tells you which side is which. The right is funded by large for-profit corporations and very wealthy people. The left is funded by organized groups of working men and women (that's called a "union" by the way), not-for-profit social justice groups, and more and more by middle-class individuals of conscience.

I believe that as is, it is fundamentally unstable and that there is no mistake that the rise of the over-bearing power of the rich coincides directly with the rise of the importance of advertising driven mass media in our society. I believe the system today is fundamentally flawed, distorted past recognition by a media-power our founders could never have anticipated. In the short run, it is my duty to be part of that mobilized shrinking middle class.

In the long run, I believe the system is terribly unstable today and major change is needed to ensure that this government by and for the people does not perish from this earth.

We are headed straight back into aristocracy and I believe it is my duty to fight that.

(5) A duty to create Liberty and Justice for All
The American Dream of the middle class is something we had and have just about lost. This dream, I am afraid, we have never had. The good news is that it is one of the few parts of that grand promise that actually is getting better. We have our first President of Color. We edge closer and closer to equal rights for the LGBT community. Racial distinctions are blurring as our country "browns" through mixed race relations. All this is good.

But it is still true that there are two standards of justice in this country, one for those who can afford the costs of courts and another for those who cannot. It is still true that people of color live in poverty in statistically far greater numbers then those not. And we still have a court system that cares more about convicting somebody, anybody, for a crime then about seeing justice done.

These are fundamental duties of citizenship and success.
These are why I am a progressive and proud of it.

It's a case of duty.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Apple: An iMac is NOT an iPad with a keyboard!

In a number of moves in the past few weeks Apple has tipped their hands on a new strategy-- they want to turn iMacs into over-sized iPhones.

They are shutting down Java

And Flash

And launching an online Mac "app" store:

This is a whole lot like Ford selling a lot of pickups and deciding every car has to have a flatbed. What is appropriate for one market (iPhone and iPad mobile computing ) is not necessarily appropriate for another (desktop computing).

But there is no denying that Apple has made a lot of money in their closed iApp market. A LOT of money. Google-like money.

So a decision to try to take back total control of their desktop apps is not surprising.

Greedy, stupid, and destined to push them back into single digit market shares.

But not surprising.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Good news for Apple, bad news for Apple users

Apple has topped 10% of the US market


If you are an Apple user and you aren't running virus protection software, you are officially a fool.

At not just 10% of the market, but a very complacent 10% who are used to believing they are "virus proof" you have become a very viable target.

My Advice: Don't be one of those who learns that the hard way.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Why I don't care about "The Social Network."

So, the big buzz right now is the Mark Zuckerberg biopic "The Social Network."

Its been called "Citizen Kane for the ADD, I wan't it NOW generation", but I think even thats been overly generous.

The thing is, Citizen Kane, the thinly disguised biopic of Willam Randolf Herst, was about a character who was sympathetic in many ways and who had actually lived a life. While not in all senses a nice man, Kane is a hard working, driven man who we see work and sacrifice to make his way to the top. He puts in a life of determined work in order to reach the pinnacle he does. And the ultimate lesson of the movie, that you can't expect to understand a man or his drives from one or two isolated facts about him, is a deep and meaningful thing to think about.

And then we have Zuckerberg, by all accounts (including this movie) an obnoxious self-obsessed late adolescent. Mr. Zuckerberg, you HAVE no life to write about. You are 26. When Kane is 26 he's still a struggling junior reporter. At 26 he is still far lower on the economic scale than you were at birth. And what this movie says is that your motivations are so thin, juvenile, and simplistic that they can be adequately explained by a handful of life events.

And thats why I don't care about you or your "story".

A spoiled rich kid goes to Harvard, feels like an outsider, and gets rich himself. No big surprise. Money is power and, like Bill Gates, you started out with a lot of it. Power brings power, money brings money. If you had had to work flipping burgers to pay your way through a state school, like many people I know, would you have had the time to create your "brilliant" invention? I bet there are plenty more brilliant inventions out there that could be created by college students without the need to actually pay their way through life.

Your story, such as it is, is pedantic, predictable and maybe just a bit pathetic. The rich get richer. Thats a story I see every day in the news for free.

Get them to make another movie when you have actually lived some life, say maybe when your 70, and maybe I'll go see that.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Preparing to be a third world country

Lots to rant about this week. Today its going to be about US economic development policy.

As in, we have none.

I have had the opportunity to talk to people from many different countries and governments about startup funding for a new business in the past year or so. Its a software infrastructure project that has the potential to have a major developmental impact on the countries electronic entertainment industry.

Canada, Singapore and Scottland all have programs where they will pay 50% of the salaries of engineers hired in their countries to pursue this project.

Germany and the EU have programs where they will pay for the costs of commercializing university research.

What about the US? The US has the attitude that anything that is useful for industry should be funded solely by industry. In other words, we have no policy of support for the development of our high tech industry in this country. At all.

This is frightening. We have effectively lost all manufacturing in this country. When I was at Sun a common idea floating around was that this was okay because we would always be *the* center of intellectual property and new ideas.

I thought that was hubris then, I think its provably false now. With other countries actively investing in their high tech industries the way we once invested in a space program I am afraid our time at the top of the heap is coming to an abrupt close. Of the three top game consoles today, the only one that was created in the US i the one that doesn't make money. I am referring of course to the XBox360 and the huge sums of money Microsoft has poured into buying the number two console spot.

We have Apple still making innovative product, but that innovation is almost immediately copied and then riffed on by companies in Asia. I wouldn't peg our hopes to that particular horse. Apple's lead is primarily in industrial design, and thats a talent that can be developed anywhere with a little bit of effort. And at still less then 10% of the PC market and a seriously threatened position in mobile computing, they are hardly a drop in the world market bucket. The other 90% of the PC market? Thats already majoratively owned by Korean and Chinese computer makers.

Other signs of our retreat into third world status are the growing gulf between the rich and the poor and the evaporation of the middle class. With every step in that direction we are look less and less like a modern industrialized nation.

They say a laurel wilts the fastest when its sat upon. And we have planted our posteriors smugly upon ours for far too long. Either we snap out of it and remember that a rising tide rises all boats, and a falling one drops them, or we cede our place in the world to countries that need no reminding.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

The Dysfunctional Family of Open Source

So, I have had the honor this week of working with a set of some of the smartest, most cutting edge game researchers in academia this week putting together a research agenda for the National Science Foundation.

This has given me a chance to immerse myself in a world I normal only touch on the edges, and in the process something has struck me. It is one of many many places I have been where there is an institutional double standard on open source software.

One of my frustrations in life has been how badly we do information transfer in this country. There are all sorts of interesting research projects in our universities that could lead to either interesting one off games or potentially whole new tools or genres. That transfer however seldom happens and the reasons come down to economics. The researchers need funding to do their research. The universities need funding as well. But the game industry isn't like the telephone industry where a few big companies dominate the market and are brimming with money to throw at Universities. Even the biggest game houses are really just large collections of individually accounted for projects, each of which has to make an immediate decision about where dollars for the currently in development game goes. If it doesn't make THIS game cheaper or better NOW, there is no room in the budget for it.

But where is this double standard? The answers is that university researchers *love* free and open source game engines. They find them incredibly useful in doing their jobs. But raise the idea that they should in turn open source their software artifacts and you better duck.

This is not specific to academia. I've seen this double standard over and over. Lots of people use open source software today without any interest in returning the results of that use to community ownership. Big software companies will use open source components freely in their products, but have no interest in giving away the products of their own labors.

But it seems to me a fundamentally dysfunctional relationship. As a socialist revolution, it seems pretty one-sided, opportunistic, and ultimately unsupportable.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The power of connotations

Its funny how even intelligent engineers can be easily swayed by the connotations associated with a name.

Periodically, we get asked "why does Darkstar (now RedDwarf) use pessimistic concurrency, wouldn't optimsitic concurrency be better? Optimism is better then pessimism right?"

Well, not necessarily. Unbridled optimism can be a very bad thing. Optimism about the housing market created the economic situation we are all in now. But more to the point, the connotations of the words "optimistic" and "pessimistic" don't really say anything about how the software functions. As it turns out neither is "better" then the other. It depends on what you are trying to optimize, where and when.

To quote wikipedia:

"In the field of relational database management systems, optimistic concurrency control (OCC) is a concurrency control method that assumes that multiple transactions can complete without affecting each other, and that therefore transactions can proceed without locking the data resources that they affect. Before committing, each transaction verifies that no other transaction has modified its data. If the check reveals conflicting modifications, the committing transaction rolls back.[1]

However, if conflicts happen often, the cost of repeatedly restarting transactions hurts performance significantly; other concurrency control methods have better performance under these conditions."

So called pessimistic concurrency checks for conflicts when an object is first accessed for read or write. If there others out there using the object in a conflicting manner, it can cause the thread to pause while it waits for the other thread to finish its use of that object. In the event that there is such a contention, this is a good thing. It means you don't waste CPU doing calculations based on a 'stale' object and throwing all that work away at the end and having to start all over again. This reduces CPU load. While the blocked thread is waiting, other threads get to use the CPU. The end result is that more users can be processed in parallel with less total CPU usage.

However that check does come with some small cost. In an environment where you are accessing hundreds or thousands of objects in a thread this way, it can add up. Thats where so-called optimistic concurrency comes in. It doesn't take those costs but just acts like the object is always free. It keeps its own copy and, at the end, checks for consistency. If it finds a conflict, it dumps all its investment and starts over. (No government bailout applies.)

SO, which is better? It depends on your expected usage. If you expect a high volume of data accesses to data processing with very little contention, optimistic concurrency makes sense.

In Darkstar/RedDwarf however where we expect maybe a few dozen data access per thread, and where we expect our data processing (game logic) to be of significant cost, its better to be safe (and pessimistic) then sorry.

Monday, August 30, 2010

A one sentence rant

Letting students use a calculator in math class is like letting them use a boom-box in band.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another report from the Bureau of Meaningless Statistics

"80% of all statistics are meaningless. 73% of all statistics are made up." -- Anonymous

The F2P area really abounds in meaningless statistics. This months choice example comes from the president and cheif flogger for Live Gamer via The Edge online:

""We're seeing average revenue per paying user top $28 per month across the 145 titles that Live Gamer powers around the world."

Sounds impressive doesn't it? But what exactly does "average revenue per paying user" mean? The answer is, by itself, absolutely nothing. A game with 10 million users where only one spent anything, and he spent $100, would have an "average revenue per paying user" of $100!!

Is that a game to invest in?

I often quote Mark Twain at moments like these:
"There are 3 kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies, and statistics."

The iWeasel

Well, Apple continues to insert more and more weasel wording into their iPhone developer's agreement. Their latest loop hole to allow them to selectively enforce their rules was added at WWDC to section 3.3.2, the prohibition against interpreted code:

"Notwithstanding the foregoing, with Apple’s prior written consent, an Application may use embedded interpreted code in a limited way if such use is solely for providing minor features or functionality that are consistent with the intended and advertised purpose of the Application."

IMHO this latest change was specifically to allow Unity based games, without which they would lose most of their best game content.

The agreement is passing from insulting to outright laughable as Apple squirms and twists to do what they want to without violating their own rules and creating potential legal issues for themselves.

I think the time has come for Apple to issue a "plain language" agreement. I offer the below as my suggestion:

Apple iPhone Developer Agreement Mark 2:

Section 1.1: Restrictions

No application or development tool is allowed that, in our opinion, in anyway competes with our economic interests. These interests include but are not limited to direct sales, ad revenue and total control over any hardware or software running on or attached to our product.

See? I just saved Apple hours of legal fees ;)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Apple trying to force Google out of the iPhone ad business

Here's an interesting development in the on going saga of Apple's overly restrictive developer policies...

To my mind Apple is flirting dangerously with "restraint of trade" with all these new, very targeted developer restrictions. And Google has the bucks to give Apple a real good fight in court. Especially if, as I suspect is coming, the government gets involved on a federal level.

Edit: My suspicion seems confirmed...

Everyone remember this ad?

Who knew that the big face on the screen was, in fact, Steve Jobs?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Dear Steve, (an open letter to Apples CEO)

I love my iPad. Its a wonderful bit of kit. The hardware is top notch and the software smooth and elegant.

I've been a software developer for more then 30 years. I already have an Android app on the market. I will not, however, be developing anything for my iPad. And the reason is your latest restrictive developer rules.

Its is unfathomable to me that you, as the platform maker, feel you have the right to restrict what tools I can use to develop my application. No platform maker has ever demanded such of their developers.

This is like your Chinese assembly plant dictating to you what trucks you could use to carry the resulting product or how you could sell them. Manufacturing is their business, sales is yours.

And software development is *ours.*

Even Microsoft, when they decided they wanted to own the PC compiler market, did it by devious competition and not through direct arm-twisting of their developers. They understood how much they needed their developers. Do you?

This is a dangerous time to be playing such games. Android use is on the rapid rise in cell phones, far out-pacing current iPhone sales and Android pads are about to break into the market. All it will take is one that feels as comfortable to me as my iPad and you will have lost not just a developer but a customer.

Regardless of whether I keep my ipad as a consumer or not however, one thing is certain. Until you retract your ill-considered language and tool mandate, the only way I will be personally developing iPad software is if the iPad version happens to come free as a by product of a tool I am using to reach another market.

And given the fact that your position is now to reject applications created by such tools, this isn't very likely.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Objects Considered Harmful


Its time for a programming vent.

As many of you know, I wrote the "Early Access" version of what would become the Project Darkstar server. When that project transferred to its eventual team in labs, the team there spent well over a year debating and re-creating what I had already created. As I watched this I comforted myself with the belief that this team of specialists would produce a better result each in their own area then I had the time or ability to do, doing it all.

Well, I am now deep in the client/server transport and protocol sections of the code right now... and I have never seen a more overly complex, totally obfuscated mess in my life.

The thing about protocol stacks is, they map beautifully to a simple, proper, structured coding approach. What we used to call top-down design/bottom up implementation. Each layer of the protocol is a layer of structured code with a well defined interface, calling the level below it. PDS (now RedDwarf) has two layers of fundamental abstraction-- a transport that moves packets around and a protocol that interprets them. To be fair and give credit where credit was due, that idea was implicit in my original implementation and the author of the re-write did pull that out as an explicit organization principle and observe that there should be a plug-in interface for each.

That, however, is where my praise of this code ends.. It is an unholy mess of calls and callbacks on passed objects running up and down the stack in higgeldy-piggeldy fashion to the point where so much of the logic is spread out in so many places the total execution is virtually untraceable.

This is not the first time I've seen this in code in recent years. I think the culprits are primarily University professors and CS programs who are so in love with concepts of "Object Oriented" programming that they are failing to teach the basics, which still come down to data structures, interfaces and layers of code. Those of us who WERE taught such concepts recognize an "object" as just a convenient packaging of data structure + interface and continue to write clean, clear encapsulated code.

But it seems the kids these days don't have those clear organizing principles in their heads. As a result they write their code as a whirling cloud of disorganized interacting objects. This chaotic swirl is virtually impossible to statically trace on paper as we had to, instead they count on debuggers to show them run-time behavior and praying that what they saw in this limited sample really represents most if not all possible interactions.

I think its time for a harsh remedy. I am calling for teachers of coding everywhere to rip those
Java and C++ books out of your students hands. Give them C, or if your nice, Pascal, to learn their basics on. Teach them what data structures are and how to do top-down design/bottom up implementation. Take away their debuggers and make them debug with trace calls.

When they can do that with aplomb, they are ready for the objects. But when you put power tools in the hands of someone who has never used a saw or screw-driver, you get messy accidents. And thats what were getting in code today.

Or to paraphrase a common witticism I never agreed with anyway as a statement I CAN agree with...
"There is no problem in Computer science that cannot be totally obfuscated by the addition of too many levels of abstraction."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The soundbyte generation

I have noticed in the past few years that I am getting more and more flooded by people sending me web-links. Sometimes its just because they find something interesting, often though it seems as if they think I should take it seriously as intellectual discourse.

So its time for my soapbox again:

Forwarding a web link is to intelligent discourse what "Mama, look I found a bug under that rock!" is to biology.

If you are going to cite references and be taken seriously by anyone with any sort of intellectual training, you need to do at least 4 things that are generally never done when people send links around:
  1. Validate the veracity of your source. The most heinous offenders of these are people who send me either press releases or marketing speeches. We used to have a saying at Sun while I was there: the only difference between sales and marketing is that sales *knows* its lying. A source that has something to gain from convincing you what it is saying is true is never, ever a reliable one.
  2. Read the damn article yourself first. I have a friend who just loves to link quote, and more then half the time if you read the article he's quoted fully, it defeats his own argument.
  3. Differentiate statements of fact from statements of opinion. Lots of people believed the world was flat. That didn't make it any more true then if only one person did. Common wisdom is seldom wise and almost always suspect.
  4. Differentiate serious arguments from propaganda. Propaganda is inherently a manipulative form of communication. It is *built* to persuade and not to enlighten. There are standard social and linguistic techniques employed in propaganda, none of which standard up to a serious test of logical correctness.

    In a moment of deliberate irony,l I'm going to give you a URL link to the most complete list of the standard fallacies of propaganda I've come across.
Link-wars are, I suppose, the inevitable result of a sound-byte culture. Its argument by sound-byte. And it has just as much depth of thought.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Winners and Losers in Oracle's Sun Picks

Now that the dust has settled in the Snorcle merger, we can see some of what Oracle has kept and not kept in the Sun portfolio. This is my own set of calls on what were good and bad choices, time will tell if I am right or wrong...

Good Call: Keeping Glassfish 3
There seems to have been little impact on the Glassfish project. It is still open and going strong, Although there have been project management issues in the past (Glassfish2 was buggy and never fixed) in general this is a central enterprise technology in major use. There was some concern that they might suffer from being in competition with Oracle's own database-integrated app server but so far that hasn't seemed to have happened.

Bad Call: Keeping Java FX
Larry, what are you thinking??
The final and ultimate shot in Sun's pointless and already lost battle with Action Script. This is a whole lot like Japan deciding to invest half its GNP in a war effort *after* the bomb fell on Hiroshima. A huge expensive boondoggle that no one but Sun cares about. Even if Sun *could* win this war (which they can't), the entire future of the segment is now under *serious* threat from Apple and Google with HTML5, which basically makes both AS3 AND JavaFX unnecessary.

Good Call: Keeping Sun Labs
Sun Labs is where most of Sun's strength has emanated from. A highly efficient group, they get more done with less man-power then most of Sun.

Bad Call: Screwing with Sun Labs Portfolio
Look at it this way, Larry. Suppose some hairy engineer today had an idea for a brand new, never seen before, language on top of a brand new, never seen before operating environment that he wanted to write for a tiny-device market that didn't exist yet.

What would you say in portfolio review?

That, my friend, was Oak, which later became Java, which you paid HOW much to own???

Think about it.

Bad Call: Screwing with the Sun Culture
I have my ear to the Sun grapevine. You are leaking top talent right now like a rowboat made out of pumice. Why? Because if Sun people wanted to work in an Oracle environment they would've joined Oracle to begin with, not Sun. In case you haven't read yesterdays WSJ, the tech sector is in major hiring mode again. They have lots of options and they are taking them. I suspect you will find them very hard to replace.

Surprise Good Call: Keeping Netbeans
Honestly, I'm on the fence on this one. Two years ago I would've said Eclipse had it beaten dead rights and you should just port whats of value from Netebans to Eclispe plugins and kill it. But Eclipse seems to be running out of steam, weighed down by its own success and a panoply if increasingly incompatible plugins. Meanwhile, Neteabs 6.8 has managed to leapfrog Eclipse to be the better dev environment. It has better support for the most modern language trends and is easier to keep functioning.

Kudos to the Netbeans guys, in any event, for a surprising last-lap come-back.

Good Last Minute Decision Reversal: Keeping Kenai
In a clear last minute reversal of policy, Oracle reversed its position on Sun's competing open source environments, saying they would keep the java.net name but migrate to the Kenai backend.

Good call. OReily's software that Java.net runs on has always been a weak player in the field and Java.net's greatest weakness. Kenai is a modern hosting site well-integrated with Netbeans. mering the Java.net brand and exisiting project base with Kenai's technology is a best-of-both-worlds solution.

Worst Call of All: Buying Sun
I blame this more on the Sun board then on Larry Ellison, honestly. Sun is just not a good culture fit for Oracle and Oracle hasn't learned the IBM lesson that, when you buy a company you are also buying the culture so don't mess with it any more then absolutely necessary.
IBM was a far better culture fit. In the end, the Sun board had a chance with IBM to save all that was good about Sun and threw it away or the sake of 50 cents more a share.

When the dust settles in a few years, oracle will find all they bought was a few by then aging technologies and an aging brand. What was truly valuable about Sun, the holders of future-vision, will have all drifted off to other opportunities.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just got my IPad

Quickie review


great form factor, about the same size as my Clio was. (The Clio was fantastic, well ahead of its time hardware, crippled by crappy microsoft abandoned software.)

Handles books very very well, including PDFs. A nice surprise is that there is a free Amazon reader for it so I can get all my Kindle books on it, too. IBooks + Amazon Kindle + the free Good reader app for PDFs makes a pretty darn complete reading solution.

Video playback is superb... but ti only natively supports MP4 so you'll have to do some laborious converting of other formats to play them from memory. When done however it does a beautifuol job.


Doesn't multi-task. I didn't realize how much id miss this, but it means that, although Pandora is available for the machine, I can't listen to Pandora and read a book at the same time :(
The only exception is their own Ipod app which *will* run in background... figures, huh?

Screen smudging. I tend to have oily hands. I'm going to be wiping this thing down pretty often. That it didn't come with a wiping cloth is mildly annoying.

App limits. Where there are apps, its great, but where there arent, life sucks. I cant play Hulu for instance on this device because Apple hates Flash and wants everyone to use HTML 5 instead. While I appreciate the sentiment, unless/until the world DOES go all HTML5 this will be a real limit on the Ipad's usefulness.

Edit: Discovered one more plus/minus over an ebook reader. Plus, it looks great in the dark. Minus, its pretty much unreadable in direct sunlight.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Nothing is more meaningless or misleading then a statistic without context.

For instance, take this one:

Virtual Products & Goods Sales Reach $5 Billion in China vs $1 Billion in US in 2009

This article goes on to blather about micro-transactions and virtual object sales as a primary monetization model. But the link between these two ideas is never really established or demonstrated.Consider THIS statistic in light of the one above...

Over One Million Gold Farmers In China

So, how much of that 5 billion dollars above is in fact being driven not by F2P/virtual object transactions at all, but by the sale of gold coming out of traditional MMORPGs? And not actually being sold to Chinese but, in fact, to the west?

Based on the numbers above I'd hazard to guess a lot.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Emperors new clothes and suits made of suede

On numerous occasions I've heard it claimed that Free to Play (F2P) games are generating Average Returns Per User (ARPU) per month in the double digits.

I've always doubted these claims. They make no sense. Its well known that less then 5% of the users of these games pay *anything* at all. In order to return a monthly ARPU of even $10, this means that the average spend of those who DO spend money must be at least $200 a month.

How many people do YOU know that spend $200 a month, month after month, on micro-transactions? The very idea boggles the mind.

Where then did these inflated values come from? I found the answer in this article.

The answer to the mystery is in a footnote... almost an afterthought....

"* Note that this is based on monthly users. Many MMOGs calcuate their average revenue per user (ARPU) based on Peak Concurrent Users. On this basis, ARPU can be more than an order of magnitude higher than the $1.40 guideline."

This is nonsense. An accounting trick. The Peak Concurrent Usage (PCU) of a paid for game is only 5% to 10% of the user account population. If WOW (or most other pay to play MMORPGs) calculated their monthly ARPU this way, it would be between $150 and $300!

The PCU of free games is, logically, an even lower % of their account population as the incentive to come online is lower then if you are paying monthly for the privledge, and accounts of people who quit the game are never removed.

The F2P Emperors' new clothes, it turns out, are far less then their tailors' would have you believe. And as for suede suits, that goes to an old crude aphorism about gullible people I will chose not to repeat.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Saying goodbye to Sun

Today, Sun Microsystem officially ceased to be.

Sun was a great engineering company that was responsible for some great innovations. It will be missed by myself, and I expect many others.

Through Oracle's official announcements as well as what I am hearing from various friends in Sun, whatever gets folded into Oracle will not be the Sun we knew and loved. Frankly, I find some of Larry's choices to be a bit bizarre, but he bought the right to make bizarre decisions with his cold hard cash.

I do think there is a lot of gold being thrown out on the street in terms of both people and projects. It is my fondest hope that both get picked up by others with the vision to make them the successes they deserve to be. And in terms of what is being kept, well, I predict some indigestion in 18 to 24 months, but I could be wrong there, too.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kenai to the rescue

I don't know if this has anything to do with the oracle Sun acquisition or not, but Sun has a new community development site up in beta and its HOT.

I never cared much for java.sun.com. I felt the Oriely software it ran on was ugly and ill fitting to my sorts of projects. But Kenai is awesome. Its a modern interface, has every feature I could imagine I'd want AND has full Netbeans integration. Best of all, its really a site for the community.

Unlike google code, who want to force you into releasing your project under licenses they like, Kenai supports every OSI license that exists. PLUS if you want to use your own license, you can. Now thats what I call community service.

Speaking of Netbeans integration, Ive gone back to NB with NB 6.8 and must say, I am VERY impressed so far. They may have leap-frogged eclipse again. The Scala plug-in needs some work still but is definitely better then the one for eclipse.

Which brings me around to the Scala work I've been doing. But thats for another post...

Conclusion: If you need free open source project hosting I'd *strongly* suggest you look at http://kenai.com

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Google Code


Just when I thought I had found a single provider for 90% of my net needs I could be happy with, I came across the following thread:

Particularly this...

"Basically the answer is when I, Fitz, Greg or the team think it is
popular enough. I know you guys think we don't like it for nefarious
reasons, but what you're missing is we dislike -all- new licenses that
are unpopular. They lead to bifurcation of the open source development
world and that is a high price to pay.

I personally think the AGPL is deeply flawed, and I've commented on
that on my own blog and on others, but that really -doesn't- matter.
If the AGPL gets to be popular, like lgpl or bsd popular, than we'll
certainly offer it as an option on code.google.com, "

The other posters go on to show that AGPL is used on a great many sites and ask how many it takes to pass the "popular" test ... and "Chris" just stops answering.

Now GoogleCode is supposed to be a community site, but here is a google-person stating that a license has to meet *his* particular standards or they won't allow community members to use it

Now I don't know who Chris is, For all I know, he could be a Google founder, but I don't really care. The point of community is not to arm-twist everyone else into doing what you individually want. The idea that google finds such an attitude acceptable has to make me seriously rethink just how google-dependant I really want to become.

As for my AGPL project, I guess I'm headed back to SourceForge who use the yardstick that, if its recognized by OSI, its an okay license. Frankly, I've never been thrilled with OSI either, but its a better yardstick then Google's.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I am Joe, Dragonrider of Deathworld

So, we went and saw Avatar last night at the 3D IMAX.

It is a beautiful movie. It absolutely sells the mix of 3D animation and live action on a level I haven't seen before. The art direction is simply stunning and highly imaginative. The 3D is used not to poke you in the eye but to immerse you in the space. It was well worth the few extra bucks we paid to see it in large format 3D. It is, in a word, breathtaking.

The story is well written and executed but is mostly a mix of semi-standard science fiction plot vehicles. I wont go into spoilers here beyond the title of this blog, but suffice it to say there are no ideas here that will excite or surprise anyone with a decent knowledge of classic speculative fiction.

I wouldn't call it a great movie, in the way, say, The Godfather is a great movie. This is, in the end, B movie fare. But, of course, thats what Cameron has always been good at. It does have stupendous A-plus production values and is worth watching for the visual spectacle alone. That the story is decent and competently told, is an added bonus.