Venting in an old fashioned blog rant

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Its time for a rant and a collection of annoyances from over the past few days.

They say its better to express it rather than bottle it up, so if I can entertain you at the same time then that will be an added bonus.

My first annoyance from this week is Youtube. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to sit through a forced 30 second commercial.  The main offender here seems to be Microsoft pushing its new console.  I’m fed up with it.  Sales for the Xbox One must be really dire.  Youtube has become somewhere far less appealing to me, I now find myself frequenting its treasure trove of goodies far less.  I suppose that’s no bad thing.  I should be getting on with work instead.

The professional troll.  Ever since vile people found they could make money on television, there are pretenders popping up all over Twitter.  Hiding behind their computer screens and an ethos of “It’s free speech, if you don’t like it don’t read it” they spread their abuse around the web in the hope that someone will give them a job. (Thats my theory anyway).  These bastions of bile have not yet realized that we do have freedom of speech, just with that freedom comes a little personal responsibility.  As adults I think we accept that actions have consequences, but these cowardly trolls who seek to upset people under the guise of faux “campaign” can’t grasp that its possible to put your opinion over without insulting complete strangers.

I’ve already ranted about Google Glass.  Its now been seen on Prince Charles, which I assume is some sort of endorsement.  For me a recommendation about tech from the Prince is akin to a recommendation for an antiperspirant deodorant by Steve Ballmer.  Google glass fan boys/girls can be a funny lot (and sometimes quite aggressive in their advocacy) there’s a good name for them which I saw on the net “Glasshole”

Here’s one thing that made me chuckle:

Microsoft has launched a buyback program to try to get MacBook Air owners to part with their laptops and replace them with new Surface Pro 3 devices.

Source: Computer World

Really? Trade in a Mac for Microsoft’s offering? That’s like swapping a Lotus for a pedal cycle.  At least it shows Microsoft is getting a sense of humour.

I feel better after that.  Thank you for your time.

Linux Distro’s, FOSS and the advocates behind them – Some food for thought?

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Since 2008 when OpenBytes was created as a platform to highlight the benefits of GNU/Linux and FOSS itself, little did I know that even though I’ve always kept a foot in the door for the new user (and certainly not gone down the “all or nothing” route some advocates have taken) I too was guilty of forgetting that a “simple to use Distro” is maybe simple to anyone who has had more than a small interest in computers, but the vast majority of people who use their computers have no interest in what’s going on under the hood.   They have no interest in source code (if they even know what it is) and do not see the advantages of FOSS because in their computing lifetime they will not see any benefit to them.  Of course you can argue that even if the end-user is unaware of what FOSS is, they are still unknowingly, gaining benefits of updates, forks or whatever in the future.

I would hope people read the whole (if somewhat long) article because these are my conclusions of many years advocating FOSS and Linux, talking to (and forming good friendships) with the people involved.  I think you will find, if you look back over my years of views that my opinions documented here are no different from those in 2008.  Is this a closure article now my writing interests are diversifying? No, not at all.  For those that don’t know, I’m currently awaiting a release date for my novel and I’m still focused on technology and FOSS, I merely now have less time to dedicate to a subject which is very dear to me.  Over the years I’ve met many advocates of free software, some good and some rather bad.  Bad for many reasons but I do notice a large amount of self claimed “advocates” who have no online presence (except for their posts in forums) who would have you believe in an all or nothing approach and if you can look past their hypocritical (and sometimes vulgar) opinions, I find these people as harmful to would be new Linux and FOSS users as the ones who do anything they can to prevent people using it.

This article has been inspired somewhat by a group of people who for many years (for reasons unknown) have targeted Linux newsgroups and forums with the sole purpose of disrupting the advocacy that occurs.  These “people” will use any means necessary in order to do that and looking at the amount of posts they make all day every day, one has to conclude that either they have a financial interest in free software being hobbled in the eyes of the mainstream, or worse, they merely have nothing else to do but post all day.  One chap in particular who I believe falls into the later category has recently (on top of thousands of words in posts daily) taken to making videos to highlight these “major issues” with Linux.  Now just what an allegedly married man with kids and a computer business is thinking of spending so much time in this way is anyone’s guess but it did help to inspire this article.

Let me give an example of this “man’s” work.  Recently he took to posting a video showing that using KDE and Dolphin file manager, if you put a file to trash then replaced it back to where it came from (in that example the desktop) you couldn’t edit it because of its privileges been changed to read only.  Having not had a need in the past myself this came as a surprise, so I tried it on one of my rig’s.  XFCE DE and PCManFM.  The issue was not emulated and the read/write privileges for that file remained intact, however this example proves two things.  Firstly the depth some people will go to in order to discredit free software and two, for the casual user of tech, did you even understand what I meant by all this?

Who is Linux aimed at?

Most distro’s would boast that they are aimed at new user and expert alike.  Now there are many types of Linux user – the seasoned expert, the casual “know enough” user and the brand spanking new non tech interested user who merely wants to do whatever they do on the computer without having to think about whats running underneath.

Most distro’s hit two of those groups well.  The expert doesn’t need any assistance at all and the casual user has usually dabbled enough to know exactly what they need to do.  The brand new user is a completely different kettle of fish so to speak and this is where Linux fails.

Lets look at Peppermint which is a distro I think very highly of.  Installation was very simple, however it was very simple to someone who has installed Linux before and been presented with less user-friendly options.  Think of one of your non-tech interested friends who use computers regularly – that might even be you reading this article now.  What’s a proprietary driver? Peppermint for example makes it very easy to install these, but if you are not interested in computing, would you know what this meant?  – This is but one example where advocacy and Linux distro’s need to take ownership and realize that if they are to appeal to the mainstream user, these things must be clear, simple and to the point, otherwise it’s another facet of Linux which is a barrier to a new user adopting it.

Whilst the example of file permissions video is an extreme example of a business owner (allegedly) who seems to have more free time than business, it does highlight another issue of Linux – conformity.  I am unclear as to if his discovery is a bug, or maybe some well-intentioned feature, but if indeed it is a feature which the mainstream user wanted, it’s a barrier straight away.

But Linux choice is great?

Absolutely.  I like the fact that I can use KDE on my higher spec’d machine and XFCE where resources are limited – And see? There we go again, advocacy of choice – baffling to anyone wanting to try a different OS for a better experience.  Lets give another example.  I had a friend who wanted to try Linux – mainly because they had been told the experience would be faster than the one they were experiencing currently.  They had performed a little research themselves beforehand and discovered that Linux is sometimes called Ubuntu, sometimes Mint, maybe Sabayon – You get the idea.  Now if the concept of  “flavours” of Linux is not baffling enough, you then have mention of DE’s, file managers and all manner of choices. – All this is great for people who know what this stuff is, but I’d suggest that about 90% of the desktop users have no interest in these things and merely want their computer to perform a task, they may want a faster experience or a more secure one, but as to what is going on underneath, whether the software is proprietary or not, is of no concern.  The majority of users have one computing requirement: “It does what I want it to as quickly as possible and no problems”.  Anything less than this from an OS that is different from the one they’ve used for years and they will go running back to that which they previously used – better the devil you know.

Ethical Software

Proprietary drivers are a good example.  Lets forget about gaming, but on all the rigs I’ve run and installed Linux on, the better performance comes from using proprietary drivers.  Sorry if that offends some people.  Sorry if that’s “evil”, but its the fact.  In fact my experience of the free drivers has been a hit and miss affair.  Whilst I advocate free software, I’m not prepared to gloss over the fact that (certainly on all the set-ups I’ve used) proprietary drivers have performed better.  Now you tell me, if you were to introduce Linux and free software to your Windows using neighbour, would they be interested in listening to a talk on free software and then not having proprietary software in favour of “ethical” software?  I’m sorry – The mainstream are not interested.  Who cares? It’s software? – To be fair to their apathy towards software ethics there are more important things in this world to have a conscience about and even for me, an advocate and user of free software, the “evils” and the “ethics” of free software are well down the list of important issues in the world.

Richard Stallman – A help or hindrance?

There are fewer people who have done more to promote the benefits of free software than Richard Stallman.  Anyone who has followed Mr Stallmans work over the years will see that not only does he have a firm opinion but also sticks with what he says and lives his computing life exactly to his viewpoints with software – that in itself is something worthy of much praise and I hope in the future, he plays a very large part in the computing history books.  But in his dedications I certainly think there are flaws, not flaws in what he says, more flaws in what is expected by him.

In my view, the very last person to appeal to the mainstream non-tech interested user is Mr Stallman. This is not because he is rude or aggressive in his delivery, nor is he aloof or patronizing, its more his unswerving view towards everything which he regards as “ethical”.  For users of free software, Mr Stallman is interesting and provides much food for thought.  For a new user, I would guess he’s baffling, restrictive and certainly not promoting a desirable alternative to say Windows or Mac.  Let me explain.

If we agree that around 90% of the computer using populus have no tech interest, I think we can also say that the vast majority of those non-tech interested also like “fluff” – the bells and whistles that are provided on a new machine when they first switch it on.  Proprietary drivers running in the background, a few proprietary games.  I think you can imagine the type of system they will be running.

Now lets consider what RMS would “approve of” this is rather difficult for me since through the hours of footage I’ve seen of Mr Stallman, he seems more geared around what you shouldn’t use.  But lets imagine something which Mr Stallman would approve of, now imagine presenting that to your Windows using neighbour who doesn’t care about software ethics (or having source code to anything) once you imagine that, I would hope you can see the problem.

The Linux and FOSS world seem to me to be intrinsically linked together in a sort of “all or nothing” type world.  I argue that the reverse should be true.  Why not use Linux yet use proprietary software?  Why not say have a proprietary Operating System and use free software? – If I go to an open air music festival it doesn’t mean I want to wear flowers in my hair and live in a caravan near to Stonehenge.

So what is my answer?

Firstly I think that Linux advocacy needs to be directed at the new user who knows absolutely nothing and has no real interest.  Anyone who does know and you’re merely preaching to the converted.  It’s all well and good RMS talking about software ethics, but the only people he is reaching out to in my opinion are the ones who are already in the know and have made their own decisions.

I think the mainstream distro’s have a responsibility (even with their simple to use installation) to explain and take the users through the steps – the proprietary drivers being an example.  Maybe even have a two option installer, one for the total beginner and one for people whom are comfortable or already know?

I think we also need to speak softly in the ear of the “all or nothing” folk who preach the ethics of free software.  These people whilst get the favour and ear of those in the know do nothing to show the mainstream the value of coming over to Linux.  The aim should be to introduce new users slowly, not throw them in the digital deep and see if they sink.  People (believe it or not) can make up their own mind on where they stand on proprietary, after they have moved from a Windows or Mac machine to Linux.

Hypocrisy? – The Linux gaming and other questions.

Open source gaming can offer many hours of entertainment.  I have reviewed and played many RPG’s which are open source and they have been great.  But when considering the value of open source software, gaming should not be used as an example and I don’t think open source gaming will ever get mainstream penetration for the reasons I list below:

Most of the “popular” open source games are WIP’s.  Whilst the source is open for everyone, how many people have the skills to benefit from it? and why would a hardcore gamer (or a user whom gaming plays a large part in) want’s to play a game whose code (and game is in a state of flux).  People don’t go out and get Grand Theft Auto 5 with a promise “Don’t worry you’ll be able to ride motorcycles in the next version” or “We’ve got someone working on some great features, I know your gun doesn’t shoot straight, but next version we’ll have that sorted”.  Sure, proprietary gaming does have updates, there are sometimes massive problems with proprietary gaming, but as a rule, when you get the latest Grand Theft Auto or similar you get a complete game thats ready to go.  Todays gamer wants it now.  They want it complete.  Open Source gaming does not offer this and even if it did, if we take the popular Alien Arena (FPS) and put it on the PS3 against proprietary alternatives, would it be given a look in? I’d say no.

Many that call themselves open source advocates would disagree with me and list games which are open source and popular and I’ll agree, there are popular games but with todays gamers, can we honestly say Tux Racer offers something more than the experience they would get with say Mario Kart? Is there any benefit Tux Racer has being open source which would appeal or entice the mainstream gamer? I’d say no.  Sorry – the game has a team of dedicated hard-working contributors, the game itself is fun, but it in no way compares to a proprietary equivalent at all.  Want to argue? Try showing Tux Racer to your WII owning neighbour who plays Mario Kart, see what they say.

Now we come to the hypocrisy of some advocates of free software.  Free software is great? Open source is great? Well I’d agree and one of the most popular examples of free software is the emulator.  Retro computing from yesteryear that’s open source. Good idea? Well of course it is.  Emulators are being used in many Linux distro’s and in fact Puppy Arcade dedicates itself to emulating a plethora of old systems that you’ve heard of (and some that you havent).  The trouble is for the open source world is that whilst the popular emulators are open-source, the software which they are designed to run isnt.  A fact which gets conveniently overlooked by some.  It also highlights my point that if open source gaming is so great, how is it that emulators are far more popular and the software being run is proprietary?

The Raspberry PI has been hailed by many as a great piece of kit (and it is, without doubt) but even the PI is running (in some cases) proprietary software with use of emulators.  If your emulator is open source does that discount the “evil” proprietary? I’d say in the case of many of the FOSS advocates it does since they remain very quiet.  I’d expect a boycott of emulators (for the reasons stated above) from them, but instead we don’t get it. (Maybe they are too busy playing SNES Super Mario?)

The market share of Desktop Linux is always up on debate – and I care not for the actual figure.  For the purposes of this article, lets just say it’s between 1-10% (please don’t debate this figure it’s merely for illustration purposes of the point) and I think the contributing factor to the share remaining quite small is that the unrelenting “all or nothing” view pushed by some of the more vocal advocates.

“But open source software is better for the user because  there are no back doors people know exactly what the program is doing!”  Rubbish.  Let me take a current example to highlight this.  But lets firstly remove this myth.  Whilst yes, having the source available enables any back doors to be identified, for the majority of users how do you know that the software your package manager has installed is the same as the source? and even if it is, would you be able to trawl through the code and identify a back-door? I’d suggest the vast majority of open source users (even the experts) would have neither the time or expertise to do that.  It’s ok if you are running a simple little Python script to identify anything untoward, but a binary with thousands of pages of accompanying code? Best of luck.  The other myth about back doors (as current news shows) is that its nothing to do with the software you are running on your machine.  For example, if my Google Mail is being looked at by a government agency, the fact I use Linux and FOSS has no effect on that what so ever.  If my Google drive is being examined, do you think it even factors in that I use FOSS? Of course not.  In addition, if someone wanted to monitor my online activities, then with a court order this could be done at an ISP level. The fact I run Linux or FOSS software again would have no bearing.

In closing

There will never be (in my opinion) a world where there is only open source software and unless the consumer (and that’s a key word here) demands it, there will be no dramatic shift (certainly in the gaming market) towards it.  You only have to look at the most popular BitTorrent client on Windows – it’s not open source, its proprietary, now with the plethora of choice even on Windows for the BT client, why is it that the one which is proprietary is the popular one? It’s because the mainstream don’t care.  You won’t convince them.  So if Linux is to gain further adoption on the desktop (which itself is seeing a decline) then you need to cut back on your “ethics” and consider the “market” in which you are introducing it.  You don’t need to tell me about the benefits and ethics of FOSS.  You probably don’t need to tell most of the people who are reading this (as we already know).  But above all, you certainly don’t want to be preaching it to uninterested potential new users.  You’ll drive them away and back into the arms of a welcoming proprietary environment, that doesn’t baffle them or preach ethics and merely presents them with what they want.


All change at Microsoft? – Or admitting defeat?

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Poor Microsoft, having to release its software on other platforms because only a few are buying theirs.....
Poor Microsoft, having to release its software on other platforms….

Three pieces of news from Microsoft today, which signal to me a change in the companies view of itself and maybe now realizes that as well as having no foothold on the popular markets of today such as smartphones, net services and search, see’s itself more providing software for others in its future.

First up is that on July the 1st there are to be big changes at Microsoft.  Now we could speculate, but I think the time has long since past where Microsoft will regain its former “glory” and now can only sit back and watch itself being ridiculed and its market share in a plethora of services, software and tech be eaten away by competition.

The changes are reportedly being overseen almost solely by Ballmer, with an end goal of changing Microsoft into a “devices and services company”

Source: Independent

And if Ballmer has a hand in these “changes” then I expect them to be out of touch and beneficial to the competition and choice.  And because its Ballmer, we’ll probably get a chuckle out of them too.  Microsoft will be a considerably smaller software only company in the not too distant future – mark my words.  I suppose Microsoft will always have the portfolio of patents in which to fleece money from others – that is until such time as the issue of software patents is handled correctly.

There’s the news that Xbox games are coming to both iPhone and “smartphones” it must really hurt Microsoft just to have to say the “Google” word – especially now that it will be relying on Google’s customer base to buy Microsoft wares.

Through a licensing deal, Klab will bring Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows-based computer games to the iPhone and smartphones using Google Inc’s Android operating system, according to the Nikkei


Bing is due to release “Bing for schools” which allegedly is an ad free and adult free search engine.  Wow…. and suggests that Microsoft really wants to try and save its future by at least indoctrinating the young with their search engine (after all the latest form factors which the younger generation are using certainly do not have the Microsoft name on them).

“We see the program as something we can build alongside teachers, parents, and visionaries to create the best possible search experience for our children….”

Source: Cnet

So really its just going to be a search engine where only approved sites (and I assume approved by humans not bots) will be listed.  Of course how Microsoft would police those approved sites in order to prevent any “accidents” as a result of a comment or link from them is anyone’s guess and the fact that a young person may find a “safe” site as a result of Bing but then link onto something unsuitable, sort of defeats the whole object of the exercise.  Talking of the whole object of the exercise, I think in Bing for Schools its more a case of trying to indoctrinate young people into at least one Microsoft product before they go into employment using Android and Apple products and saying the word “Google”.

Contact points:

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights on

The writing is on the wall? Microsoft wants to play nicely now?

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It’s often said that Microsoft doesn’t play nicely with others.  Look for example towards its Android “licenses” which allegedly see Microsoft making more money from Android than its own AOL emulator (or Windows Phone). ;)

With that in mind, Microsoft does still very much rule the roost in Office utils and whilst the mainstream consumer moves to different form factors (Apple and Android) it appears Microsoft wants to ensure it can still cash in on its only future product line.  Why do I refer to Office as future product line? Well simply we have consumers (and industry to a lesser extent) switching to form factors which are not “powered” (for want of a better word) by Microsoft.  If current trends continue and the desktop does all but disappear in all but the most tech dedicated homes, then the Office suite means little.  Google are also making large strides with their Office suite and since its webbased apps will run happily on any platform or form factor, Microsoft may be worrying.

It’s reported that Microsoft is releasing its Office software for Apple Phones, this is what Cnet reports:

Office Mobile for iPhone includes access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The programs aren’t meant for document, spreadsheet, and presentation creation. Rather, they are aimed at helping Office users make quick fixes to existing work, and share those files. The files, like all Office 365 documents, will sync with Microsoft’s SkyDrive Web storage service. Users won’t be able to store files using the app on Apple’s iCloud service.

Source: CNet

So whilst you have to be a Office 365 customer in order to take “advantage” of this free app, for me it suggests the start of an admition by Microsoft that users are no longer going to be tied into it’s ecosystem.

Looking further afield we see Xbox One (already slated and given a derogatory name of Xbone) being upstaged by Sony and the PS4.  We see the smartphone market little more than apathetic to Microsoft’s products and we also are seeing the traditional Office coming under attack by alternatives, which seem to be well received.  Even Skype (which was a Microsoft purchase) seems to have had the Microsoft anti-Midas touch of late and how much longer is Skype going to be relevant when again there is so much choice in VIOP services?

The picture is not too great for Microsoft and its future.  I’ve said recently that I believe the reason Microsoft plugs away with its phone efforts is so that it can’t be accused of patent trolling when it rakes in the profit from it’s Android licenses and as some people will probably agree, if Microsoft does have a long term future, it will be in the area’s of patents.

The worrying thing about this is (and the Microsoft Advocates are keen to point this out) is that Microsoft is not going anywhere – this is very true.  It has a massive warchest of cash, a library of patents and in my view a opinion of “do it our way or not at all”.  I think on the way down, Microsoft will bring many others down with it.

Microsoft play nicely with others? In my opinion, there’s more chance of Steve Ballmer spontaneously growing a full head of hair than Microsoft playing nicely with anyone.

Contact points:

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights on

Freemium – Unfair business model or unfit to be parents?

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How things change over the years, what was once a phone is now a computer.  Who would have thought that the migration from solid state media would be so rapid? When it was clear which way the wind was blowing where did the vocal writers disappear off to when the Android Market Place, Netflix and the online stores of the consoles appeared?

It seems the migration away from solid state media is all but complete, with the exception of the console users.

A business model that always causes a heated debate is that of the “freemium” one, the app that you download and pay for extra usage – for example the games which “lure” you in for free then produce barriers which require payment (not my words there).

Whilst for every one person who has a good experience of freemium, there are plenty that don’t, but I suggest that the fremium model is nothing new, we’ve always had it, except in this world of app stores we seem to have forgotten our computing roots.

Cast your mind back to the 80’s.  Home computers were not the common item in the home, interest had only begun to grow in the industry and certainly pre-internet days, the ability to go online and converse/play as we do today was something of the remit of the “l337” (BBS’s I am referring to)… I fondly remember the /atd 0816448714 I faithfully typed for many years (the Cheam Amiga BBS) and along with these happier days of computing we also had “fremium” of sorts…..a pay as you go business model for games.  If I am judging my words correctly, then about now you should scratching your heads and asking yourself what on earth I’m rambling about….

The coin-op Arcades are probably the best example of “pay as you go” computing and maybe the most similar to the freemium software we have today.  During those days, nothing was free and in order to progress through the game (unless you were very good) required you to push more money into the systems.  Think this was cheaper than today’s freemium titles? Think again, for the latest games (even in the early 90’s) it was 50p a go and you could easily use up £3.00 to get any amount of decent time on the latest titles at the arcade.  Now compare that to the freemium prices we have now (on average) and compare that to the price of the 90’s…..doesn’t look so bad now does it?

I cannot remember people calling for the boycott of arcades in the 80’s and 90’s.  If you didn’t like the way they charged for play, you could purchase the “lesser” home computer version or you didn’t play at all.  The same I’d suggest would go for today’s freemium titles and at least in todays world, you can get a better idea of what a title is like BEFORE you part with any money.

Here in the UK, it takes one horror story out of millions of users and next thing you know, Freemium is the digital devil incarnate

I thought it must be a mistake, so I checked my bank balance online and nothing had been taken out.

I thought nothing of it until I my credit card advisor phoned and told me they had authorised the transaction.  

Danny had bought dozens of in-game weapons and keys on the iPad 3 including 12 purchases of ‘333 keys’ at £69.99 a time and seven ‘333 ecstasy bombs’ at £69.99.  

He also bought five lots of “9000 darts” each costing £69.99, five lots of ‘4200 darts’ at £5.49 each and additional ecstasy bombs totalling £3.22.


What these comments fail to draw much attention to is that “Danny” (the child) had been given the password by his parents so was able to gain access to the in-game shop and make these purchases.  It’s claimed she was told by Danny her son that the game was free, but Danny is 5 years old and for parent to take the word of the 5 year old and give them access to make purchases then they have little sympathy from me.  No, its not the child’s fault, its the parents.  In a similar way if a child has access to a parents bank card (and giving the password on the app store is the same thing) then you can’t claim innocence when the child unknowingly runs up a massive bill.

For me this is not an example of the evils of Freemium, its simply bad parenting by lack of supervision.

If I give my lad my wallet and let him loose in the amusement arcades, should I be surprised when I find my wallet depleted of change? Of course not, that’s why I wouldn’t do it.  Online its even easier since you don’t see the money and the spending thereof is simply a click of a button.

The Office of Fair Trading is also looking into Freemium titles (although who, what, when) is not revealed.  I would suggest that maybe (if such a thing existed) that there be an investigation by the Office of Good Parenting instead.

For me freemium titles work very well.  I don’t have oodles of time to spend on a smartphone or tablet playing games, I want to test out a game and get an idea for it.  Once I like a title, I am happy to pay to expand the game – although in my experience a little more patience will get the same rewards without spending any money.  The freemium title I am playing with my son at the moment is Monster Warlord (reviewed previously on OpenBytes), I have no fear of him going off on a spending spree if left unsupervised whilst playing.  Why? Because he doesn’t have the password.  Anyone who cannot grasp such basics really shouldn’t own a smartphone, or certainly shouldn’t moan when a large bill is received.

The OFT are quoted as saying:

In particular, the OFT is looking into whether these games include ‘direct exhortations’ to children – a strong encouragement to make a purchase, or to do something that will necessitate making a purchase, or to persuade their parents or other adults to make a purchase for them.


To which I’d ask why? If the parents (and lets be fair here, to have a debit card in the UK you should be an adult) are the ones with the control of the password, then the games can be as addictive or aggressive in marketing as they like because the kids won’t be able to make any purchases.

Of course its in the OFT interests to be doing something about this.  After-all its a way to justify their existence – play on the few horror stories by parents who’s common sense seems to have been given away as easily as their passwords.

We are concerned that children and their parents could be subject to unfair pressure to purchase when they are playing games they thought were free, but which can actually run up substantial costs.


Unfair pressure? Like the advertising on TV? Like the placement of products in supermarkets designed to lure parents and their children into more purchases?   This is an excellent example of a larger issue at play in society today – its always someone else’s fault.  People are very quick to claim nanny state, but with people like the OFT policing Freemium it seems very much like people want to be nannied.  Want to hear about prssure to purchase? Any parents around during the Pokemon trading card craze? Again though, for responsible parents it wasn’t a problem to deal with.

I am an adult.  I am a responsible parent.  I do not need groups like the OFT trying to protect me from anything.  I’m probably far more aware of the plethora business models available online than they are and to be blunt, if parents need “protecting” this way by the OFT, then one has to question their suitability of being parents in the first place.

Should in the case of Danny the parents be responsible for the purchases? Yes of course.  If “Danny” had watched his parents type in the password and then made purchases that way, then maybe not; but in this case the password was given freely, therefore I’d say the parents are fully responsible for the transactions.

Tim W

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TechBytes Audiocast – Episode 77 – 06/11/12 – “Greedy Car Thieves”

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Intro music: “I fought the troll” by Tom Smith.  You can find more of his work here.

Hosts: Tim (OpenBytes) Roy (Techrights)

Another episode from myself and Roy.  In this show we focus around an interview with the developers of the Indi game “Greedy Car Thieves”.

From Roy’s Site:

Today’s show is primarily dedicated to a video/computer game called Greedy Car Thieves (GCT), which is similar to Grand Theft Auto (GTA) 2. We talked to two of the game’s developers. Tim has played the game and Roy tried to install it but faced a dependency barrier. We spoke with the developers about the technical aspects of the game, distribution of the game through various channels including the Humble Bundle, and we also spoke about licence in the context of compiling for Linux. Later in the show there was a long discussion about dirty tricks against Linux and its proponents. This discussion was focused on Microsoft. After the interview we play “It’s Because of People Like You” by Obi Best and at the end of the show we play “Washington Heights” by Glenn White’s Sacred Machines.

You can download/stream the latest episode over on Roy’s site:

Tim (Goblin)

If you are new to this blog (or have not yet read it) please take time to view the OpenBytes statement, here.

Skype: tim.openbytes
I can also be found in #techrights, #techbytes on

Microsoft Surface midnight release – Seriously?

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I think queues like this are the last thing we will see for a Microsoft product and after it’s attempt at a “midnight release” of Surface, I think, yet again another PR stunt by Microsoft will leave them with egg on their face.

One thing Microsoft has is a thick skin.  Over the last few years they have put me in mind of that person probably most of us know.  The one who whilst doesn’t get invited to parties always manages to invite themselves.  The one who lives off past “glories” with a big, brash attitude that always claims to be doing something better than everyone else.  The friend who whatever you are doing is always doing themselves – and claiming to do it better.  Of course when examined more closely the truth is rather different and whilst this friend is talking about all the great things they will do, others are actually doing them.

Despite it’s apparent failure to grasp the Smartphone market with its WP7 – which to this day I have found is rarer to observe in the “wild” than a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Microsoft moves pasts the apathetic consumer who are far more interested with the new form factors hosting platforms from Apple or Google with news of its midnight release (on the 26th of October) of its surface tablet.

Steve Ballmer may be convinced that the Surface systems will fly off the shelves, and Redmond will beissuing around 93,000 to full-time employees, but a midnight launch could be overdoing it, in The Reg’s opinion.


We’ve heard about Steve Ballmer’s “thinking” before.  Remember his comments on the iPhone? or how about the allegation he once said he was to “f*cking bury Google”? – I expect this will be another case of what Steve Ballmer thinks, doesn’t quite tally with reality.

One commenter from Usenet on  comp.os.linux.advocacy (Chris) makes the following observation:

I’m sure Microsoft will pack the gallery with willing shills who will, aided by the unwitting press, convince the “marks” that this things is a “must have”.

To which I agree, furthermore it will be presented in a loud and brash Steve Ballmer package that will attempt to push it onto the consumer.  Of course in the real world, people don’t seem to be talking much about Microsoft’s offerings.  They certainly didn’t like the Kin, the WP7 sales figures are what? poor at best? And Windows 8 is not exactly being anticipated with great excitement (unlike with 7 which came off the back of Vista) Windows 7 (if people are even off XP yet) is not really in need of the fix Vista was.

My sceptical mind has me thinking that people turning up to this midnight launch of Microsoft’s, will certainly be more than just “average consumers” but for the camera, I’m sure they will be hyperactive, happy, Microsoft consumers.  Lets hope if Microsoft is making a PR stunt of sorts out of this that they fair far better than when they tried it with the “iPhone funeral” stunt.

Are you going to queue up at midnight or at any other time for this Microsoft effort? – From listening to others I’d say no and in a few months time, the Surface scheme of Ballmer’s will be languishing in the same place as WP7.  Apathy by the consumer as a whole.  There’s no doubt Apple and Google have the hearts and minds of the consumer on a whole, infact I would go so far as to say that with the current high Apple are on, they could probably sell a wet toilet roll with the Apple logo on it and have people queuing up all day.

This year has already given us some excellent tablets, from the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 to the Google Nexus 7 – and don’t forget those iPad Mini rumours that, if proved, could seriously scupper Microsoft’s plans.

With that in mind, a midnight launch could be a risky strategy. Although we’ve no doubt Microsoft are aiming to build up some inertia for the Windows Phone 8 launch on October 29, a mere four days later.


And where is the WP7 now? Where will it be in Microsoft’s mind when they want to sell you 8? – I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.


Skype: tim.openbytes