Friday, November 30, 2012

Game Over 'bug' in Dishonored - the Pendletons

So after Doom 3 I've been playing Dishonored, definitely a Thief vibe to it, but still not as good. Anyway I was on the second main mission to kill two brothers and was offered a non-lethal method to do so - acquire a safe combination for Slackjaw the Gang Chief and he'll take care of them quietly.

One combination retrieved and I hand it over to him; up pops the 'targets eliminated' info and I head back to my pickup point. I get halfway across the yard when it jumps to a game over screen informing me that apparently I have "made an enemy of the one person who can eliminate the Pendletons" and offering to load up the last save.

This is bad for two reasons - firstly how have I made an enemy here? Secondly the game autosaves when I enter a new district  and then when I've 'completed' the quest which means I don't have a save that will take me back to the location where I can kill them myself.

Roaming around after my quest 'completed' autosave some of his gang attacked were attacked by members of his own gang who had the plague; what's that got to do with me? Turns out you make that enemy if one of the gang gets killed and when the two groups attacked each other I got the blame for the outcome.

This is seriously bad as after I first acquired the non-lethal option the gate where the plague victims are being kept opens by itself so someone is likely to get killed while you're present. So in theory it's possible to get a game open when I first returned to the district with the combination before even reaching the leader.

Through total skill (okay with some major luck) I managed to circumvent this bug. Using the Blink ability I can travel long distances. Blinking multiple times back to the district entrance I exited before anyone died. As this freezes and resets the district no-one got killed so no game over.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Mad Twitterer

I've taken the plunge and got a Twitter account, this news won't be a surprise to at least two readers who somehow managed to follow me before I'd even made an announcement or my first tweet I suspect magic on their part, either or its just that my name and footprint appear on it and it showed up in a search :-)

Of course my first picks had already gone so I have the_mad_ranter which has underscores that may not be apparent. I'm still not sure what (if anything) I'm going to do with it, but then again I wasn't sure exactly what I'd be doing here and yet here I still am 6 years on (yeesh) with 2,701 posts and 218,808 page views and 37 (listed) followers.

Oh well I'll come back to it in six years time and see.

Wyre Forest Politics in full view

With the new Single Site (officially named Wyre Forest House though Tenko Towers, Campion Towers, or various less flattering names have been offered) comes a bonus - council web casting. The first full council meeting was cast on the 21st and all 2 hours is available to view here. Amazingly the option to view the webcast can be found on the council's front page though it is tucked away near the bottom on a tab.

I've been slowly plodding through it with the quick links on the side making life so much more helpful; as I've yet to finish at this time I'll constrain myself to technical commentary.

I'll start in a highly technical manner by pointing out that this uses Adobe Flash rather than the newer HTML5 video element; I suspect this is done for comparability reasons. In theory there's no reason not to have both but that would generally require encoding the video in two different ways.

Secondly the fullscreen icon does not display the video fullscreen, rather it displays a clickable item on the video which them needs to be selected.

Rather nicely the timeline to the left updates as the video is played with the person currently speaking being displayed both to the left and above the video. The left hand timeline also acts as a shortcut jump.

Likewise choosing any of the tabs above to access additional information moves the video off to the right and continues playing. As an aside it would therefore be nice if the PDF'ed Agenda could be displayed in frame rather than as a separate tab or programme. Feedback seems to be offline; whether that only works during a live broadcast I don't know. Live Chat on the other hand seems to be a Twitter feed. Sadly the polling for that doesn't seem to work correctly as it will constantly repeat the same one and only tweet tagged #wfdclive

Minor tweaks - volume is set far too loudly on my system; it's a system thing, so difficult to get right, but with system volume set to 100 I have to drop the volume down to the single dot for it not to be too loud. It would also be nice if alongside the speaker timeline/heading their affiliation was displayed, possibly even their represented ward. I know that in theory it shouldn't matter, but given the general disinterest in politics the option to be able to jump to when 'your' representative is speaking may aid the casual viewer.

On the whole a promising start. Given the time frame in which most meetings seem to operate this is a welcome opportunity for anyone to at least see what their council is doing and no excuses not to get the tiniest bit involved.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Consequences of the Living Wage

I posted a entry about how the people who determined the current minimum wage really didn't know what they were doing, however at the last district council meeting an agenda item was raised regarding the "living wage" currently set to £7.44 an hour. Disregarding at the moment the full breakdown of exactly how this is determined what the definitions of "reasonable" are etc. I'll approach this as I did before.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Doom 3 BFG review PS3

Doom 3 was released some time ago for the XBox and PC, but this is the first time for the PS3 and is part of a wider re-mastered anniversary collection that adds in the the new game along with the two expansions and, nicely enough, the original Doom and Doom II campaigns. Is it any good though?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Votes for prisoners

I have to say I'm confused about all the fuss regarding prisoner's "human rights" when it comes to voting as it seems a rather simple solution exists.

As it stands prisoners don't get to vote. The logic being that as they've decided not to adhere to the tenets of society they should have no say in how that society forms; I can see that and I can agree with it. The converse is that they are still people and as voting is a right of people they should be able to vote; expect people also have a right to free trade and movement and no-one's giving them that.

A Tesco in Stouport?

Far too many conflicting whispers flitting about that Tesco are pulling out/have pulled out of building on the Carpets of Worth site; that building is all set to start in the middle of next year; the latest sliver to reach my ears is that a supermarket will be built, but it'll be a Morrisons instead.

My bet is that Tenbury will have their (far better positioned) Tesco before construction even starts in Stourport.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New planned Marina Quays in Stourport

Ah good the plans for the new marina complex down on Sandy Lane has gone public. This is something I've known about in general for over two months now but I was asked not to comment until things firmed up. Nicely the information I have is a match for the information made public for the initial public consultation so I don't have to scan in my sheets.

This post is classified.

I pointed out how I don't like the current use of the word "Tragedy" and Dan kindly pointed out that the OED has had the (IMO) wrong definition since the beginning; so I suppose I  can't blame people for using it to simply describe an unpleasant event even though I still hate it. I also mentioned "alternate" being used for "alternative", but hopefully the error in doing that is obvious to readers. This all got me thinking along these lines and I have another peeve - classified.

Twitter, Libel, and how to think of new media as old media

Various legal quakes are hitting Twitter as of late; there has of been the use of section 127 for malicious communications, but the mainstay seems to be forming around libel. To take a hypothetical case imagine a rumour spreading about the actions or character of a person given the current Saville situation let's say that they're a paedophile. Some publication alludes to "a person in power" as being one and Twitter becomes abuzz with people asking who they could mean.

Twitter A: Does anyone know who [publication] is talking about?
Twitter B: Yeah it's [person]!

Then everyone starts retweeting and spreading [person]'s name about with little thought to consequence. But what if this wasn't Twitter. Consider that Twitter B was a person wearing a Sandwich Board stating "[Person] is the paedophile that [publication] was talking about!" pretty easy to see that would be libel. The retweets - more people making their own sandwich boards. Still libel. People grabbing their friends and pointing out the sandwich boards to them - distribution of libel.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Family Fluxx review

I watched a recent episode of Tabletop in which they played a game of Star Fluxx. It seemed an easy and fun game so I checked out the price on Amazon. It seems there are many different 'flavours' available and after checking reviews I decided that the Family version with its bright cards, 6-Adult age-range and quick play would probably best suit my needs. I ended up playing it with the Bratii - Minor (10) and Major (16) and that's all we ended up playing.

The Police and Crime Commissioner election demonstrates the falsehoods of No2AV.

Remember we had a referendum some time ago about changing our election method? Remember how those who wanted to keep the First Past the Post system bombarded the electorate with various negative claims about the the Alternative Vote system? It was too complicated so no-one would understand it; it would take to long to count the votes so millions would have to be spent on specialist counting machines; that the person who came last might end up winning.

So how did the recent Police and Crime Commissioner elections that used the AV system turn out? With no problems reported whatsoever.

Okay it took longer to count with some areas taking several days rather than the normal overnight process, but then again this was an area not just a district. In West Mercia we had a 134,850 votes that's over 2.5x the number who voted in our General Election; it was also a new process. No machines required.

Who won in our area; did the loser end up winning?

Adrian Blackshaw (Conservative) - 49,298
Bill Longmore (Independent) - 50,900
Simon Murphy (Labour) - 34,652

In First Past the Post Mr Longmore would have won, but only with 38% of the vote. But with AV Mr Murphy name was dropped and the Alternative Vote counted. Surprisingly 5,201 of the Labour voters voted for Mr Blackshaw bringing his total to 54,499, but 21,055 did so for Mr Longmore bringing his total to 71,995 and a win with 56.9% of the vote.

In other words had the choice been between just Adrian and Bill; Bill would have won.

Okay before anyone says anything this wasn't really a true Alternative Voting system in practice it was Supplementary Voting regardless of the number of candidates only one 'extra' vote was allowed. Still it showed that the principle was fine and all the doom-mongering of those clinging to the FPtP system sound hollow.

We now have a Police and Crime Commissioner who was actually voted for by the majority of those who chose to vote. Okay so turnout was half that of a normal election so it was to an extent a total waste of time in that respect, but still an actual win.

Friday, November 16, 2012


The results for the elections of Police and Crime Commissioners are trickling in and so far turnout has been very low. This isn't a surprise, however this outcome has resulted in some amusement for me in terms of talking heads trying to encourage people to vote.

The first inevitable point is due to the closeness of Remembrance Sunday - people fought and died so you would have the freedom to vote and you should honour their sacrifice. How often does this get thrown down as a challenge at every low-turnout? It's a bad point.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Via my news feed from the Shuttle

AS Wyre Forest prepares to remember its road accident victims this weekend, drivers are being urged to take extra care on dark nights and cold mornings to avoid further tragedies
Okay disclaimer yes I'm a pedant at  times, but I try to keep a lid on it as much as I can. This however just gets me annoyed* because of what it really means and how it is being used almost constantly to describe any unfortunate event.

The word "tragedy" is of Greek derivation used to describe a genre of play in which a mistake of the protagonist sets them down the path of misfortune. The mistake is supposed to be easily seen by the audience, but remain unknown to the protagonist. Moreover the audience is supposed to enjoy the play based on this premise. It's a form of schadenfreude; the taking of pleasure from the misfortunes of others.

What that means is if someone describes the death of someone as a tragedy or simple being tragic what they're saying is that they saw this death coming and did nothing to stop it because they gained more pleasure from being able to say "I told you that was going to happen" after the death.

Except they're not because tragedy now simply means "really bad thing" due to linguistic drift and evolution. We just seem to be losing the depth to our language due to simplistic definitions of words.

*Oh and don't get me started on the Americans' use of the word alternate instead of alternative in the SF genre. "Oh it's an "alternate universe" does that mean it changes back from one to another?"

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Google Play Music UK launch

Huzzah the Music section has finally arrived to these shores; not only do we now have the ability to purchase music from Google directly, but we now have access to Google's Music cloud. Upload your music and be able to download and play from any device you can log in to.

Given this has been around in the States for quite some time I was surprised to discover a couple of oddities though.

Firstly it doesn't seem to be able to handle .m4a music files despite these being natively recognised in Google's own Android operating system. Annoying, but work-aroundable. However the biggest oddity was sorting by Artist.

I have quite a few compilation albums and the Album Artist is set to either "Various Artists" or "Soundtrack"; a method that follows Google's own policy. If I were to examine the very first album of such a type in my collection it would be "Anthems Electronic 80s 2" the first track would be "Don't You Want Me?" by "The Human League" all present and correct.

If I were then to examine my list by Artist and scrolled to the H section I would expect to find "Human League, The" and I don't. Oh no they're not using the "The" are they? Well yes they are - crap; "The Beatles", "The Kingsmen", "The Rolling Stones" all under T. Wait though no "The Human League"; oh of course silly me it's filed under V for "Various Artists"

So not only do they not ignore the "The" prefix but they're using the Album Artist field to sort rather than the, actual, Artist field.

Ah but that's the web interface, the actual Android App might be better. And it is in that it ignores the "The"'s, but still uses the Album Artist field to sort by. Oh and introduces a new error in that it can't recognise accented characters in the Artist field, but oddly enough can in song titles. So "Motörhead" which displays correctly under M in the browser interface is now an "Unknown Artist" in the Android App, but "The Dark of the Matinée" by "Franz Ferdinand" displays correctly.

[Update - It appears the artist character error was from the tracks already on my phone; those from Play displayed and sorted correctly]

Given how long this has been active for... those are kind of stupid mistakes not to have been picked up.

A problem with the Samsung GT-S5690

Just had someone pop-in asking for help regarding a bit of kit that something needed to be downloaded from. It's been a while since I've used it and I mentioned that rather than use a CD-R it could be done with a USB Flash Stick "Hell if it and your phone supports it you might be able to download it to that"

At this point he mentions problems with his phone not connecting to his Windows Vista computer to download pictures; it needs a driver. This is where it got strange. He whips out a Samsung Galaxy Xcover GTS-5690 clearly running Android.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Traffic lights start to fail.

They came on line sometime Friday afternoon and as of yesterday the uppermost red light has failed. In terms of usage they are definitely weighted towards the Mitton Road side. I sat at the Severn Road exit watching nothing driving up that side until finally they registered that fact just in time to stop the traffic.

So far I've driven through the main Mitton-side set 19 times and on all but two occasions they've either been red or switching from red with queues forming in the right-hand lane back to the Chinese takeaway. So not bad but that's with only the normal levels of traffic and without the addition of both a superstore and a new housing estate being added next year.

On the plus side the new bridge is indeed open and is a pleasant enough short-cut with the wait at the lights not being far too dissimilar to waiting at the island. Of course one has to sit in the queue to reach the turn-off in the first place and once this new route becomes established as an alternative no doubt queues will start to form up from here too. Likewise in theory this provides an alternative to Vale Road and the dreaded Gilgal, with the only downside being trying to get out of Discovery Road at the other end.

Will the planned rise in fuel duty be scrapped?

With a planned rise in fuel duty of 3p set to come in the vote against it has been defeated after heavy hints that the government will cancel it. What I'm sure won't be cancelled though is the government's spin about 'thinking of the people' and all the hard work they're doing for us.

Yep once again I'm sure they'll be expecting us to thank them for not deciding to take more money of us. Once again they're the guys holding the big club and stating "Well we could have beaten you over the head and taken your wallet, but we've decided not to; isn't that nice of us!"

As an aside this wouldn't be a 3p rise. Taking my local's unleaded price of 135.9p what would the price be if fuel duty was increased by 3p? If you answered 138.9p congratulations you're wrong; VAT needs to be added too. That would be 3p in fuel duty and 0.6p in VAT so the price would be...? If you answered 139.5p congratulations you're still wrong; when was the last time you saw a price that didn't end in 0.9p? The price would have become 139.9p with the government making an extra 3.6p per litre and the petrol companies an extra 0.4p.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Burning poppys

It's our good friend Section 127 of the Communications Act rearing its very ugly head again, this time aided and abetted by Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act. This time it's someone posting a photo of a burning poppy on twitter who's been arrested by Kent police on suspicion of "malicious telecommunications". But why has the Malicious Communications Act been brought into play?

Well under the 127 CA the communication can be classed as offensive if it is so deemed by other people; under 1 MCA it's whether it was intended to cause distress to the recipient. In both cases it doesn't matter whether or not it was actually received it's the sending that counts as an offense.

Except there's a problem here with using MCA. There's no intended recipient so it's impossible that the message was sent with intent to cause distress to a non-existent person. Simple use of the CA would have (sadly) been enough, but that would leave the decision up to a group of peers. Using MCA anyone who received who found it caused distress could be enough of a case under that Act.

Now this is where it turns good - this application of MCA opens up a whole can o'fun because it covers "sending to another of any article which is indecent or grossly offensive, or which conveys a threat, or which is false" Just read that last bit again "which is false". How many newspapers now have an online version; how many 'send out' their articles via newsfeeds etc.? Any newspaper that exaggerates a story or just sends the first (and most eye-catching) parts via a feed may now face charges under the MCA for sending a "false" article.

Now, of course, one may argue that there was no intent involved as they send these things out to anybody who asks for them including their subscribers so it's not a targeted article... oh hey that's just like Facebook and Twitter; oh forget that then - get them arrested as quickly as possible.

On a completely unrelated topic I have a sudden urge to browse the Daily Mail website; can't think why.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Irrelevant person appointed to irrelevant position

Today some person you've never heard of has been appointed to a position you didn't know was vacant and will be now be instrumental in telling everyone exactly what his invisible friend says we should all be doing.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Could asteroid belts help us spot extra-terrestrial life?

A story had popped up for no apparent reason in a few places including the Daily Mail, but I'm not going to link to them so instead here's the RAS page.

Upon reading the title I thought "Hmm I wonder if they meant looking for a depleted asteroid belt (compared to mathematical models) that might indicate extensive mining of it for resources indicating, at the least, a intra-system space-faring race?" Nope it's a having just the right type of asteroid belt could evolve intelligent life.

Okay really? We're still getting this. For a more in-depth look at my take on these stories check my posts on Reporting not parroting - Earth type planet; Theoretical physicist plus biology equals?; and Goldilocks planet.

In this instance we have Dr. Rebecca Martin with her PhD in "Theoretical Astrophysics, Warped and Twisted DIscs" and BA in Mathematics and Dr Mario Livio with his PhD in theoretical astrophysics M.S. in theoretical particle physics and B.S. in Mathematics and Physics both interpreting Punctuated Equilibrium, an evolutionary biology theory, and extending it into the realm of the xenobiologist.

While I could hold that the odd asteroid hit might have aided the rise of intelligent life on this planet the assumption that this would hold true for others is hilarious. I mean it's not been that long since the presence of our gas giants was supposedly crucial in deflecting asteroid hits along with our own satellite; so is 'life creation' being narrowed down so much to exactly the right type of asteroid field with exactly the right type of deflection hitting a planet that is just the right distance from the sun?

Again sure if you're looking for life that's evolved via pretty much exactly the same process we did than oddly enough looking for pretty much the same conditions would be a given. Assuming that's the only way intelligent life could evolve... I'll stick with hilarious.

Monday, November 05, 2012

When is an incentive not an incentive?

A post from the local Labour Party about ATOS led me to have a look around. In an attempt to avoid legal matters I'm going to present a hypothetical situation that in theory could be applied to multiple situations.

Consider a government department that pays out money to claimants who present specific conditions. To determine if their claims are true the department outsources the checking to a private firm who employ experts to assess the claimants.

Both the department and private company state that there are no quotas involved regarding payment or bonuses. In theory therefore the company is free to assess fairly and honestly and not expect to be penalised if the results do not match the department's expectations.

That's the theory. Now I'll throw an extra into the mix - the very reason that the department outsourced these checks is because they believed that the previous system allowed too many "scroungers" in that is claimants falsely presenting the conditions that would allow them to gain monetary assistance from that department.

Given that extra consider a hypothetical situation in which the department's assumption was wrong.

The private company performs their task honestly and reports back that although there were a few scroungers (and there always will be) by far the previous assessments were accurate. The department now has two options

1. Accept the results.
2. Deny the results.

In the first instance the question is likely to be raised about how much money was spent on a private company to confirm the in-house results. The checks are likely to be returned in-house and the company not retained after the expiry of their contract.

In the second instance the government is assuming the company has failed in their checks and a new company will be brought in to do a 'proper' job'

Therefore if the company wishes to retain its contract there is an implied incentive for the results they present to adhere to the departments stated assumptions.

But wait it's not the company who do the reports they simply employ experts and compile their results. However as above so below. If the company, whom I've already ascertained wishes to retain its contract, hires two experts one who passes most claimants and one who fails most claimants which of the two is most likely to remain employed?

There is therefore an implied incentive on the experts to keep both themselves employed with the company and with the company being contracted by the department and therefore for them to adhere to the government's assumptions.

Considering it in reverse there is an incentive for the company not to check the experts' work provided it matches expectations and there is an incentive for the department not to check the company's work provided it matches expectations.

Worse yet even if independent experts were brought in to check they'd still be employed by the department and therefore they'd be exactly the same incentives on them to sign off on the work of the company.

So how can this be avoided? The flaw lies in the department's announcement of why it's outsourcing this work and what it expects the results to be. This is why I've tagged this with "Science" because that's one of the fundamental points of work carried out - you don't start it by stating what you expect the results to be because it's far too easy to nudge or cherry-picker the data to match your expectations.

The start of the traffic jams

At some point on Friday afternoon the traffic lights at the junction of Severn Road and Mitton Street were switched on; about time to. Now we can all get an idea of how much of a problem this is causing without the added traffic from a housing estate and a supermarket.

I will say the change from amber to red seems far too quick given their positions. I approached the corner on green, started to turn it on amber and came to a halt on red. In this case the red light was to allow a vehicle out from Severn Road... except they weren't exiting they were parked outside a house. I can see that being a problem.

On the other hand in a spot of good news the lights that block Mitton Street and the lights that block the entrance to Severn Road seem to be linked so their hopefully won't be a case when the lights on Mitton are red and the lights to Severn are green; on the downside if they're also linked the other way it means all of Mitton being blocked when someone wants to cross Severn Road. If they're not linked in that way it'll block off the left-hand side of Mitton should someone be wanting to turn.

Well now they're up and running we'll see how they fare.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The EU budget

With the news just in of a government rebellion over the proposed increase to our contribution to the EU budget perhaps a summation of the current budget situation as derived from the information contained within the "EU budget at glance" [sic].

Contained here is the contribution of each member and how much is essentially returned to the country. Plugging the fields into a spreadsheet what's the outcome.

The country that gets the most back is... Lithuania. They contribute 257.4m Euros and receives 1,652.8m Euros; that's 642%. They are closely followed by Hungary who contributes 836.4m Euros and receives 5,330.9m Euros; 637%

The country that gets the least back is... The Netherlands who contribute 3,933.3m Euros and receives 2,064.3m Euros or 52%. In second place is the UK contributing 11,273.4m Euros and receiving 6,570m Euros or 58%.

But we get a rebate; if we didn't we'd be contributing 14,869.3m Euros which would mean a return of 44% putting us in last place.

If that wasn't enough if all the contributions and spends are added up the EU has a 14% overspend equal to 14,120.1m Euros. So how much more is being spent on the EU functions themselves?

And they want a 5% increase.

Also of interest is the report regarding this from the BBC that states we are "one of 12 EU members which makes a net contribution to the EU budget" except using the EU's own figures we're one of 9 and that the "UK's net contribution was 7.25bn euros" except, again using their own figures, it's 4.7034bn Euros.

So whose figures do we believe; the EU's or the EU's?