Sunday, June 28, 2015

Still in war, very lethal world, yet Gay Marriage sounds justified to the government

The President should be impeached, because the judicial branch cannot make laws.  Only Congress can make laws.   This is tyranny, because  Like Marxism-Leninism (New Party, Committees of Correspondance for Democracy and Socialism, the Democratic Party wants an atheist state so the executive branch and judicial branch cannot make laws, but do so regardless.

Now, Muslims, on the other hand …

The dhimmi left largely refuses to mention it, so I will. Homosexuals are, right now, actually being “lawfully executed” in Iran and other Muslim nations across the globe. To my fellow followers of Christ, I say this: They need our fervent prayers, deepest sympathies and unconditional support. Not in affirmation of their sexual sin, which the homosexual lifestyle remains, but because they are victims of Islam – because they are deeply loved by their Creator, Christ Jesus, who wants desperately for them to repent, accept Him and believe upon His Holy Name.

It’s a strange dichotomy. “Progressive” propaganda notwithstanding, and absent the rare anecdotal exception, homosexuals are decidedly not being persecuted in the West. In fact, homosexual activists wield unparalleled political power in both Europe and North America. This power, and its universal abuse, is on display for all to see. Truth be told, if someone, anyone other than a Muslim that is, even looks sideways at a homosexual, it becomes a liberal cause célèbre. It’s front-page news.

Indeed, the self-styled arbiters of “tolerance” and “diversity” are the most intolerant and monolithic among us. Their anti-Christian bigotry is well documented. Homosexual activists are frequently the crème de la crème of these left-wing extremist goose-steppers. Their hatred and intimidation of any who dare disagree are especially nasty.

By contrast, in the West it is Christians and conservatives who are discriminated against, bullied, hated, publicly mocked, fired from jobs and even threatened with jail time for acknowledging God’s natural design and moral mandate for human sexuality. It’s tyranny of the minority, and it’s reaching unprecedented heights.

Still, in Muslim nations both Christians and homosexuals are persecuted. That’s Islam. Each are systemically jailed, tortured and even executed. Curiously, it’s the same cowardly leftists who disingenuously accuse Christians of “anti-gay hate” at home who remain silent while homosexuals are, in point of fact, tortured to death by Muslims abroad.

Now that is hate.

Both this silence, and the burgeoning anti-Christian persecution by “progressives” in the West, is due, in part, to the fact that orthodox Christians, who are Spiritually imbued with the love of Christ, are perceived as soft targets, while orthodox Muslims, who are spiritually imbued with the hate of Muhammad, are not.

In other words, bullies steer clear from picking fights with bigger bullies.

But it’s also because Christ is Truth. Truth is the enemy of “progressivism,” just as Truth is the enemy of Islam. They each derive from an antichrist spirit.

Even so, Muslims in the Middle East missed the “Hey-we’re-on-the-same-side-here!” memo. While politically correct “progressives” will trip over themselves to avoid criticizing Islam and, with perplexing incongruity, even promote it, adherents to “the religion of peace” will gleefully murder them while they do so.

Islamic apologist and suspected Muslim Barack Hussein Obama is exhibit “A.” If Islamists blew up the White House and the Pentagon (my bad, they already nailed the Pentagon), he’d blame it on the Christian Crusades, the Inquisition and “right-wing extremists.”

No, really, he would.

A few years back, homosexual columnist Andrew Sullivan declared Barack Obama to be “the first gay president.” While this was intended to be a compliment, meaning that Obama had fully embraced and unilaterally implemented the political demands of “LGBT” pressure groups, it turned out to be a premature accolade. Consider the indisputable fact that our “gay president’s” BFFs in Iran summarily execute those they suspect of practicing homosexuality. Whether they catch you cold in the bathhouse, or you simply walk with a wisp and speak with a lisp, if they even suspect you’re a homosexual, the Iranian government will publicly hang you as a matter of official government policy. These are the evil tyrants with whom our own evil tyrant chooses to play footsie – the Islamic terrorists he intends to arm with nuclear weapons.

Pick a side, Barry. Is it the “gays” or the Muslims? You can’t swing both ways on this one.

Recently, CNN reported similar details on the Islamic State. ISIS is now executing suspected homosexuals with even greater fanfare:

“Three men on top of a building, faces covered in black balaclavas, stand on either side of their victim, while a fourth seems to be taking a photo or video.

“Their victim is thrown off the building. In the last photograph, he is seen face down, surrounded by a small crowd of men, most carrying weapons, some with rocks in their hands. The caption reads ‘stoned to death.’

“The victim brutally killed because he was accused of being gay.”

This weekend I am honored to once again share the stage with the who’s who of America’s Christian leadership at The Awakening 2015 Prayer and Patriotism event in Orlando Florida. Among the featured speakers is the Rev. Franklin Graham. In recent years, Rev. Graham has emerged as one of the Christian world’s foremost defenders against threats posed by both radical Islam and radical “progressivism.” He’s also a loving defender of the self-described “LGBT community.” I say defender, because, rather than enabling them in their self-destructive, sin-centered lifestyle, he fearlessly shares with them the truth of where that lifestyle will inevitably lead and to whom, exclusively, they can and must turn to escape its spiritual dead end.

“A recent news report shows Islamists throwing gays off rooftops and then stoning them when they hit the ground,” Graham recently posted on Facebook. “Does this sound like a peaceful religion to you, as the president has said?”

While refusing to waiver on the biblical truth that homosexual behavior is sin, Graham went on to share the hope found in Christ alone.

“I love gay and lesbian people,” he wrote, “and I want them to know that God loves them too, and He is willing and eager to forgive sin – all sin – however, we must repent and turn from our sin and believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Amen, Rev. Graham. This is our prayer for homosexuals, the Muslims who kill them and every other living soul on earth.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Electronic Entertainment Expo: Nintendo's losing.


You know a company has had a particularly miserable E3 when, before the show is even over, one senior executive finds himself having to officially deny that another senior executive has apologised for the state of their E3 offerings. That's exactly the situation Reggie Fils-Aime found himself in earlier this week, as the disappointment at Nintendo's extremely weak showing crystallised around a single tweet sent by company president Satoru Iwata. The tweet was in Japanese; various translations floated around, some more accurate than others, and the media gleefully seized on an interpretation which had Iwata promising to "do better" at E3 in future. It was the perfect stick with which to beat Nintendo for failing to live up to the standards accomplished by Microsoft and, even more spectacularly, by Sony on the previous day; look, even the company's own president thinks it was rubbish!
As it happens, Fils-Aime is quite right; Iwata did not apologise for Nintendo's conference. He said that the company was listening closely to feedback and would work hard, in future, to meet the expectations of even more people. This was prefaced with a comment related to the extremely late hour at which the show was broadcast in Japan (it didn't start until 1am JST; the Sony conference the previous day was at a rather more comfortable 10am JST, and nobody in Japan really cares about the Microsoft conference). In context (and context is king in the Japanese language), Iwata's comment is clearly a generic "thanks for your feedback, we'll work hard in future too", coupled with a tacit promise to try not to mess up the scheduling for Japanese viewers in future.
"Nintendo said 'we're not playing the E3 game' and attempted to dodge the inevitably negative contrasts with Sony and Microsoft... It didn't work"
Iwata didn't apologise. Of course he bloody didn't; the Nintendo boss is often frank and refreshingly direct in his manner, but the content of his statements is always, always on-message. The idea that he was going to take to Twitter to say "sorry, that was a load of old bollocks wasn't it?" after his company's event is ludicrous. Yet, at the same time, the fact that it seemed plausible to so many people is a reflection of something troubling; Nintendo's event was genuinely bad enough to make an apology from Iwata himself seem, if not realistic, then at least not ridiculous.
Nintendo, or at least a part of Nintendo - perhaps the Japanese part - didn't want to be at E3. That's partially related to NX; the company is the only platform holder which has acknowledged that it's working on future hardware, but isn't going to say anything further about it until 2016. It's also too early to talk about its mobile titles (and E3 probably isn't the venue for that anyway), and Iwata confirmed prior to the event that it wouldn't talk about its health, lifestyle and education related projects at a purely gaming event like E3. Nonetheless, there's plenty that Nintendo could have talked about but didn't. The choice to reveal only games that are locked in for release within the next 10 months or so isn't confirmation of a time-of-death being decided for Wii U (they did the same thing for 3DS, which has an installed base twice the size of the PS4 and isn't going anywhere any time soon), it's a decision which was taken, along with the decision to do an online broadcast rather than a live event - cutting out the whooping crowds and the spectacle that usually defines an E3 conference.
These are decisions which say, "we're not playing your game" - the game in question being E3 itself. Nintendo doesn't feel like it fits well with E3 right now. It's not just troubled by the dismal sales of the Wii U, it's also deeply uncomfortable with being the only major company in the industry that's still seriously committed to family entertainment. It knows that no matter how wonderful its software and franchises are - and I maintain that Nintendo is in a genuine golden age regarding the quality of its games - they make problematic bedfellows for the mainstream of distinctly adult-focused games and the monetisation of violent nostalgia for thirty-somethings. I think it's genuinely wonderful that the games industry's wings are spread so wide, even in the AAA space, that it can accommodate both the charming, gentle fun of Yoshi's Wooly World and the gut-wrenching, visceral violence of the Doom reboot; at the same time, I can understand why the creators of the former don't see much value in investing heavily in promoting it alongside the latter. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong audience. It's no accident that one of the very few third-party games to appear in the Nintendo event was Skylanders, a hugely successful franchise that's equally uncomfortable standing shoulder to shoulder with Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed.
By going digital rather than having a staged event, by replacing its executives with loveable puppets, by giving developers lengthy, meandering videos to chat about their creative process after showing off their new trailers, by refusing to talk about anything but the immediate future of its software line-up - by all these decisions and more, Nintendo said "we're not playing the E3 game" and attempted to dodge the inevitably negative contrasts with Sony and Microsoft.
It didn't work. It didn't work because it's an intrinsically dishonest approach, one which not only failed to establish a "Nintendo difference" that denied negative contrasts, but which also robbed the company of the chance to make a decent fist out of its showing. Nintendo hobbled its own event, making it even more disappointing than it needed to be, and all it achieved was to make itself look even weaker, even more troubled, next to the might of Sony and Microsoft.
Here's what Nintendo should have done - should have had the courage to do - nothing. They should have held no digital event. Some of Nintendo of America's activities, like the entertaining and light-hearted Nintendo World Championships, fit nicely with the week, but the digital event shouldn't have happened at all. The company is absolutely correct to think that its approach and its products don't fit E3 as it stands, but absolutely wrong to think that it can avoid the resulting negativity by just downscaling its involvement. Pick a lane and stick with it; given the choice to go big or go home, Nintendo's decision ought to have been "go home", not "can't we just go a bit small and hope for the best?"
"It failed so miserably that the Internet spent a few hours genuinely believing that Iwata had apologised for the whole sorry affair"
This would not be unprecedented. Faced with a similar disconnect between their games and much of the rest of the industry's direction, Nintendo - by far the largest games company in Japan - has spurned involvement in the Tokyo Game Show for many, many years. Being at TGS makes no sense for the company. It can achieve better exposure for its games in a more positive environment by holding its own event, digital or otherwise, at a different time; a month or two before the show, or after the show. This decision has never hurt Nintendo one jot - not in the way that a rubbish, half-hearted TGS conference every year would have.
Precisely the same logic applies to E3. Imagine if Nintendo had skipped E3 entirely; sure, there would have been a bit of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching in the media over it, but it would have been over soon, and a few people writing "Nintendo were conspicuous by their absence" in their show reports is hardly the end of the world. Then this week's digital event could have been held as an ordinary digital event a month or six weeks later; call it "Nintendo's preview of the next six months", or whatever. In that context, it would actually have been a pretty great show. Tack on a few seconds of new footage from the upcoming open-world Zelda game and one of Miyamoto's work-in-progress Gamepad titles, and you'd have a digital event that everyone would consider pretty strong, instead of an E3 show that everyone considered awful and weak.
To make this work, though, Nintendo needs to commit to the strategy. This year, it tried to have its cake and eat it; to participate in E3 without committing to it, without making a big deal of it. It failed so miserably that the Internet spent a few hours genuinely believing that Iwata had apologised for the whole sorry affair. Skipping E3 entirely - or at the very least, dropping all pretence of holding a conference during E3 week - would have been preferable, and ought to be the company's strategy for the future.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Android games catching up to iOS games


Global consumer spending rose 50 per cent on Android in the first calendar quarter, comfortably outpacing the 30 per cent growth on iOS.
The gap in total spending may still be very much in favour of iOS, but Android has made up significant ground since Q1 2014. Android's share of the hardware market also grew by 4 per cent in the last year, finishing Q1 2015 with nearly 75 per cent of the global installed base.
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And multiplayer games are a driving force behind that increase in spending, with 6 of the top 10 games in Q1 2015 allowing group or team play. Among the top 50 games in the quarter, 60 per cent of all consumer spending was generated by multiplayer titles, even though they only accounted for 30 per cent of downloads. In both cases, that majority share has increased significantly since Q1 last year.
App Annie also nodded to Steam as proof of the benefits of multiplayer games, not just in terms of revenue, but in their stickiness and the levels of user engagement they inspire. In May 2015, 88 per cent of the peak concurrent daily users for Steam's top 50 games went to multiplayer titles.
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The Apple Design Award-winning Vainglory is an example of these trends playing out in mobile. Super Evil Megacorp's target audience was core gamers like those playing League of Legends and Dota 2 on Steam, who haven't yet embraced mobile hardware as a primary gaming platform.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz last year, CEO Bob Daly said that the imminent transition of core gamers from PC and console to mobile and tablet will be, "the next big sea-change in terms of the industry," and, "potentially larger than anything that we've seen in games in a while."
"Right now they see consoles and PCs as their primary gaming platforms and they're also playing on mobile and tablet," added COO Kristian Segerstrale. "Increasingly tablets are outselling PCs, and people are shifting from PCs to tablets, there is an incredible opportunity to create games that ultimately will convince core gamers that these are worthwhile primary gaming platforms."

Friday, June 12, 2015

Linux Mint 17.1 review

The Linux Mint team recently released Linux Mint 17.1—a somewhat minor but still welcome upgrade to the Ubuntu-based ecosystem. And while Linux Mint 17.1 arrives as it usually does (a few weeks after the release of a new version of Ubuntu), version 17.1 is not based on Ubuntu's latest effort, 14.10. Instead, this edition of Mint remains tied to the last Long Term Support (LTS) release, Ubuntu 14.04.
This marks the first time Linux Mint has not used the newest version of Ubuntu for a release. But if you paid attention to the curious approach of Linux Mint 17.0, you'll know that was the plan all along. These days, Mint will not be changing its Ubuntu base again until the next LTS release—Ubuntu 16.04—arrives in 2016. And at first glance, it might seem like a bad thing. After all, Mint is missing out on whatever new stuff is in Ubuntu 14.10 (in this case it's not much, but 15.04 will have plenty of changes). However, Mint 17.1 is in fact a very good sign for fans of the distro's own tools, like its homegrown Cinnamon desktop. By relying on a consistent LTS release, Mint developers can more or less ignore the base system. Instead of spending all their time and effort making sure whatever Ubuntu has changed works with Mint, they can focus on what makes the ecosystem great—namely, its two primary desktops, MATE and Cinnamon.

Linux Mint 17.1—a new leaf

While most of what's new in Mint 17.1 will be seen in the updated desktops, there are some common components to both Cinnamon and MATE. While accessing some of these new tools varies slightly by desktop, the results are the same in both. Right away, you'll notice the login screen is among these new and improved elements.
If you start the Mint installation process and walk away, you'll likely come back to an image slideshow that's slowly flipping through all the various wallpapers that Mint 17.1 offers. The choices are vast, since Mint 17.1 contains not only wallpapers that are new with this release but all the options that came with every previous Mint release. Suffice it to say that if you need an aesthetic desktop refresh, Mint 17.1 has you covered.
Enlarge / The new Mint 17.1 login screen, complete with slideshow controls.
The slideshow is a nice touch, and you can control how it behaves with the Login Window Preferences menu. This menu now has Theme, Auto Login, and Options items to access different settings. There's also a theme preview button to test out other available choices (or any options you install yourself).
While the newly polished login screen is nice, a far more useful change comes in the form of a revamped Update Manager. Mint has been refining this for some time now. The last release saw the introduction of some new icons and a numbered rating system that lets you know which updates are essential and which can be safely ignored. Mint 17.1 builds on those improvements with a new feature that groups package updates together based on source package.
That is, rather than just list every new package that's going to be updated, Mint 17.1 will group everything you need to update in a single package—say, LibreOffice—into one line in the Update Manager. Select the update and you can see the individual packages listed in the bottom pane. If you want more information on what's new, there's a Changelog tab that will download details on what's new in that package.
Enlarge / Mint 17.1's Update Manager.
The new grouping system will help users avoid selectively updating packages and potentially breaking the whole because not every necessary part is up to date. Mint's lead developer Clement Lefebvre described how it used to be on the distro's site: "When a developer fixes a bug or writes new features, the source code is modified and all packages which are related to it become available under a new version... it is therefore futile and sometimes dangerous to apply some package updates and not others within the same source package." But because Mint 17.1 groups updates, you'll never apply something incomplete. It's now considerably easier to review exactly what's being updated in each source package because everything is shown together in one place.
Among other notable tweaks, the Update Manager in Linux Mint 17.1 features a redesigned kernels menu that makes it easier to see security updates and any regressions in each kernel update. Linux Mint 17.1 also ships with a new font, Google's Noto font, which is Google's attempt to create a font family that supports all the world's languages. And while the trademark minty green is still the default, Mint's theme gets quite an overhaul in this release. Those that don't like the default green can banish it in favor of quite a few new colors, and there are a number of dark-on-light theme options available if the default light-on-dark interface isn't what you want.
As noted previously, this release sticks with the Ubuntu 14.04 base, meaning the kernel is v3.13. That's a little behind what most distros released in the last couple of months are using. If you're already running Mint 17 without issues, then you'll likely be fine with 3.13. The main issue you may run into is if you have any brand new hardware that requires a newer kernel for full support.
On the other hand, one bit of hardware that does get some love in this release is the single-button trackpad (like, for example, those used in Apple laptops). If you're planning to run Mint on a Macbook of some kind, this release is a must-have. Be sure to check out the new Mouse and Touchpad panel in the System Settings, which now allows you to configure which actions apply to two-finger and three-finger clicks (by default it's right and middle click, respectively).

Cinnamon is Mint's homegrown flagship desktop. If you're not interested in new approaches to the desktop like those being pioneered by Ubuntu's Unity or GNOME 3's Shell interface, Cinnamon offers a more traditional interface based on familiar ideas like a task bar and main menu. Cinnamon is not breaking any new ground on the UI front, but it's polished, fast, and reliable.
We've been using Cinnamon nearly full time for quite a few releases now. When it first arrived, it was the desktop you knew had potential, but it was buggy enough to create a bash alias to restart things after a crash. Thankfully those days are long gone, and Cinnamon has been rock solid in use ever since Mint 15.
For Mint 17.1, Cinnamon has been updated to version 2.4. This release focuses on reducing memory use and speeding things up. While Cinnamon will never be as lightweight as something like LXDE or Openbox, Cinnamon 2.4 is considerably snappier than its predecessor, even on underpowered hardware like my aging Asus EeePC 1005.
When you install the Cinnamon version of Mint 17.1, once you get past the slideshow login screen you'll be greeted with yet another new animation—a GNOME-inspired desktop zoom that gives the Cinnamon boot experience a more polished feel. It's a small thing, but it sets the tone quite nicely for Cinnamon 2.4. The Cinnamon interface remains light-on-dark by default, but as noted earlier, there are numerous new theme options and colors to customize things to your liking (most GTK 2 and 3 themes should work as well).
Among the more visual changes in this release are a slew of new features in Nemo, Cinnamon's file manager. The latest version of Nemo adds support for colored folders, new ways to customize the sidebar, and what Mint calls "emblems."
Enlarge / Adding color and emblems to the Documents folder.
The emblems are little sub-icons that are displayed on top of the base icon—for example, the musical note emblem overlays the Music folder by default. You can now apply any emblem to any folder or file. The emblems make it a little easier to find the folder or file you're looking for in the sidebar or list views (as do the new colored folder options). The emblems and colors would be even better if they showed up in open/save dialogs in other apps, but unfortunately they do not.
Nemo's toolbar has been redesigned, and its buttons are now configurable. For example, there's an especially handy button that will open a terminal window in the current directory. It's not there by default, but you can enable it under Edit > Preferences.
Enlarge / Customizing Nemo's toolbar.
The Cinnamon settings panel has been revamped for this release, with panes now displayed in alphabetical order within each section. There are also a couple of new panes, including one for controlling notifications. The Privacy pane is particularly of note, as it's based on the same tool in GNOME 3 and allows you to control how long recent items are stored.
Other improvements in Cinnamon 2.4 include support for multiple panel launchers, improvements in the sound applet, and the usual slew of bug fixes that come with any major update. Between the new features, themes, added polish, and speed improvements, Cinnamon 2.4 feels (to at least one Linux enthusiast) like simply the best desktop to use on any OS, including Windows and OS X.

Linux Mint 17.1 MATE desktop

The MATE desktop began life as a fork of GNOME 2, a response to GNOME 3's radical departure from GNOME 2. Since then, MATE has gone on to become very much its own thing
That's not to say that the latest, MATE 1.8, has strayed too far from its GNOME 2 roots. This release is still aimed at GNOME 2 fans and those looking for a lightweight but full-featured desktop. In fact, those GNOME roots are strengthened in this release with the addition of Compiz support. Yes, it's true, MATE and Compiz can be joined for a return to the halcyon days of rotating cubes and wobbly windows.
Enlarge / Compiz and MATE, together at last.
To keep MATE true to its lightweight past, Compiz is not enabled out of the box, but turning it on is just a matter of opening Desktop Settings > Windows and switching from the default Marco window manager to Compiz. MATE will warn you that Compiz's Settings Manager is a powerful tool capable of rendering your desktop unusable, but once you ignore that, you'll be able to tweak and break Compiz just like you did when Ubuntu 8.10 was the best thing in Linux.
Enlarge / Compiz and MATE... you've been warned.
That said, we would not recommend using Compiz with MATE. We found the Compiz support to be a bit buggy, and of course Compiz requires more powerful hardware, which negates part of the appeal of MATE. If you want more bang for your desktop buck, go with Cinnamon. That is, unless you really love rotating cubes and wobbly windows. In that case, perhaps you'll have better luck.
The Mint-X theme options mentioned earlier give you a few new ways to customize MATE, and the new font provides better support for some languages (CJK in particular). Under the hood, this iteration comes with some bug fixes and stability improvements as well.
If you pine for the days of GNOME 2, complete with Compiz wobbly windows and the rest of the desktop effects that once said "this is a Linux desktop," then MATE 2 fits the bill. If you prefer a lightweight desktop that just stays simple and out of the way, MATE is still a great choice... just stick with the default Marco window manager.

Mint 17.1 software stack

When Mint first announced its intention to stick with an Ubuntu 14.04 base for a few years, many users were concerned about what that would mean for application updates. As noted, the kernel is not as up to date as what you'll find in the latest version of Ubuntu, openSUSE, or the upcoming Fedora 21.
On the application front, though, things are looking much better. Mint continues to ship with just about everything you need for all-around desktop use, and it even includes some useful apps often left out of other distros by default (like GIMP and VLC). Note, however, that this does make the Mint DVD a little on the large size (1.4GB for the Cinnamon DVD).
Both the Cinnamon and MATE versions of Mint 17.1 ship with the latest stable versions of all its included apps: Firefox, LibreOffice, Banshee, VLC and other common applications. Apparently Mint can keep its base system and eat its application updates, too.

Small, but upgraded for a reason

Mint 17.1 is well worth the upgrade, though as Lefebvre writes in a post on how to upgrade from Mint 17, you should "upgrade for a reason."
"As excited as we are about 17.1, upgrading blindly for the sake of running the latest version does not make much sense, especially if you're already happy with 17 and everything is working perfectly," the post says.
That refreshing bit of pragmatism is worth keeping in mind regardless of which distro or desktop you use. But again, we had no trouble at all upgrading from Mint 17—everything is once again working perfectly. All you need to do is open Update Manager and head to the Edit menu, where you should see an option to "upgrade to Linux Mint 17.1 Rebecca."
The only problem we've encountered so far in use is the known bug involving problems with Skype on 64-bit versions of Mint 17.1. Fortunately, there's already an easy fix.
Linux Mint 17.1 will receive security updates until 2019, and until 2016, all Mint releases will continue to use the same base package system, AKA Ubuntu 14.04. So far, abandoning the newest base for an LTS option looks promising. Moving from 17 to 17.1 has proved painless, which means that upgrading to 17.2 and beyond should be more of the (delightful) same.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Videogames are bigger than Hollywood

The majority of video games in the U.S. are purchased and played by adults. The largest titles make money that Hollywood films could only dream of raking in, and the biggest players in the industry run multibillion-dollar multinational operations that employ thousands of people. Yet many consumers still think of gaming as a kid’s thing that doesn’t merit serious consideration or scrutiny. In an age where our culture recognizes previously sniffed-about industries like professional sports as much more than child’s play, it’s time to get over that same hump about video games.

Games, like film, TV, and literature before them, are commercialized art and products of our culture. They can be great or terrible, memorable or forgettable, and everything in between. They can be five minutes of dreck you play on your phone on the bus, or 500 hours of life-changing tramping around a richly imagined virtual world.

In 2013 alone they were also a $21 billion business in the U.S. And still, in the rare instance that the nightly news even mentions video games, it’s likely to be an ill-informed pundit grandstanding about violence in games, or video footage of “booth babes” and cosplayers at a convention, without considering the huge amount of money, time, and people involved.

This week, as they do every June, about 50,000 video game industry professionals and game-focused media will descend on Los Angeles for E3.

Nominally a trade industry conference, E3 has for nearly 20 years been not just a trade show but rather, a caffeine-fueled orgy of blazing virtual guns, polygon-count comparisons, and top-volume trailers for the Next Big Game.
By the numbers…

• 59% of Americans play video games

• 51% of all American households have a dedicated video game console

• 58% of all American adults have a smartphone

• 71% of players are over age 18

• 81% of young adults ages 18-29 play games

• 23% of seniors over age 65 play games

• 48% of players are girls or women

• 36% of players are women over age 18

• 17% of players are boys under age 18

Sources: Nielsen, Pew, and the ESA.

Large international companies dominate the show floor, with smaller developers scattered through hundreds of side-rooms, all of them holding endless screenings, demos, and interviews, clamoring for attention.

Major tech companies like Sony and Microsoft use the event not just to show off their games but also to announce major hardware launches, like last year’s PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

But why does it matter, you might ask? Why do so many people get so caught up in the announcements, the trailers, the projections, the marketing, and the hype? Why should anyone except the most hardcore of console enthusiasts care about a single word that comes out of the L.A. Convention Center this week?

Because despite the lingering popular conception of video games as child’s play — and, specifically, boy’s toys — they are anything but. The business is, well, serious business.
What Does A Gamer Look Like?

There is a tendency almost toward ethnography in the mainstream media whenever video games come up.

Earnest news anchors and reporters approach “the gamer” as a heretofore unknown species, a sub-type of aggressive young man whose befuddled mother doesn’t understand his “Nintendo” but who nonetheless stands a very good chance of growing up to be a productive member of society.

And sure, teenage boys like to play video games. But the truth of the matter is, they are far from alone.

In 2014, one might as well talk about a “TV-er” or a “movie-er” as a “gamer.”

About 59% of Americans play video games, according to estimates from the ESA (the gaming industry’s major trade and lobbying group).

Some quick math says that in a country of about 315 million, that’s just shy of 186 million players.

How does that compare to other media?

    Movies: about 68% of Americans (214m) see movies in the theater (MPAA – PDF)
    Cable: roughly 100 million Americans have paid-TV (cable/satellite/fiber) subscriptions
    Premium cable: Game of Thrones, considered wildly successful, has about 18 million viewers per week.
    Broadcast TV: The top-rated show the week of May 19 (ABC’s Dancing With The Stars) drew 15.5 million viewers
    Netflix: Had a little over 33 million U.S. subscribers at the end of 2013.

Games now are at least as mainstream as any other pop culture in our fragmented media landscape.

Who’s playing? Pretty much everyone.

Having “a Nintendo” just isn’t what it used to be. In 2014, there are lots of players competing in the video game space — but the biggest competitor is one that makes the smallest devices.
It’s Not Just Shooters

The following list of 2013’s best-selling console games makes it clear that while big-budget, violent blockbusters are big business, so too are plenty of other kinds of games:

    Grand Theft Auto V
    Call Of Duty: Ghosts
    Madden NFL 2015
    Battlefield 4
    Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
    NBA 2K14
    Call Of Duty: Black Ops II
    Just Dance 2014
    Minecraft
    Disney Infinity

According to ESA data, 32% of 2013’s top games were “action” and another 20% were specifically shooters, meaning half of all top-selling games fell outside of those two categories.

For PC-only games, strategy (38%) and casual (28%) titles take the day, while shooters and action titles together come to less than 10%.

Enter Apple, and the more than 500 million iPhones they’ve sold since 2007. Sure, mobile devices let us use Facebook and access mobile boarding passes and stream video and all the rest — but what they mostly let us do is play games.

In 2013, the most-downloaded and highest-grossing iOS app — ahead of YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, SnapChat, and Instagram — was Candy Crush Saga.

Candy Crush has seen its star fall a bit since it dominated the mobile airwaves last year, granted. But when publisher King prepared for their IPO this March, they claimed 408 million monthly active users.

That’s not 408 million people who downloaded the app once because some friend told them to and forgot about it; that’s players who actually open it and play the game somewhat regularly.

Predictably, Candy Crush and other “casual” puzzle, card, trivia, and social (think Words With Friends) games dominate mobile gaming. But what of all the “traditional” console and PC players out there?

Back in the land of “traditional” or “hardcore” gaming, the field is more evenly split.

Microsoft has sold about 83 million Xbox 360s, Sony’s sold a similar 80 million PlayStation 3 systems, and Steam, the most heavily-used PC gaming service, has over 75 million users.

Specifically tracking who’s playing what and where can be very difficult. Although every publisher knows exactly how many copies of every game it’s sold, the numbers are rarely public. And while the numbers of physical retail copies — the actual discs– of games sold are closely tracked, physical copies now account for less than half (47%) of estimated video game spending.

Although in 2014 the major industry market research group has started tracking digital sales, for the most part that remaining 53% remains largely mysterious, as each digital storefront — including Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, Steam, and other, smaller outlets — keeps its own numbers proprietary.
Billions… With A B


There is a whole enormous world of cheap and free small, independently developed and produced games out there.

But, as with movies and books, the big-budget blockbusters tend to make headlines and grab attention.

    When Grand Theft Auto V launched, it reached $1 billion in sales in three days.

Seeing a large studio spend between $50 and $100 million on a video game is no longer uncommon. The most expensive video game produced so far is Grand Theft Auto V, which cost a reported $265 million to make.

That puts the big-budget blockbuster games about on par with big-budget blockbuster films, money-wise. Legendarily pricey Avatar probably cost Fox about $280 million, and three years later Disney spent a reported $220 million on The Avengers. So GTA V fits right in that range.

But gaming publishers, like Hollywood studios, are finding that the rate of return on that ludicrously large investment can sometimes be worth the risk.

In the history of the American box office, there are 18 movies that have grossed $1 billion or higher. The fastest to do it was Avatar, which hit the 10-digit gross mark in a scant 17 days.

When Grand Theft Auto V launched last September, it reached $1 billion in sales in three days.

That’s three days. Less than a week. The game hit store shelves and digital storefronts on Tuesday morning, and by Friday had sold $1 billion worth of copies.

Even acknowledging that many of the sales were pre-orders that took place over the months beforehand, and even accepting that a $60 game reaches money-based milestones faster than a $10 movie ticket does, that’s ridiculously fast. The previous record-holder was 2011’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II, which cruised to an easy 15-day billion after making the first half in just 24 hours.

But smaller-budget games, in the mobile-friendly era, can make bank even more reliably than their big-budget cousins. Those “free” Facebook and mobile apps, laden with microtransactions and $0.99 shortcuts, are cash cows for their publishers.

The specific numbers are tightly-guarded, but back in February, a hacker released what was allegedly the financial information from mega-hit Clash of Clans (the new Candy Crush Saga, as these things go).

Nobody verified the data, so it’s worth taking with a grain of salt, but the images released claimed that developer Supercell takes in $5 million per day from its free-to-play games.
How The Game Makers Fail Gamers


Whenever there are billions of dollars at stake, there are companies who will try to make a few million more by cutting corners and not caring how it harms workers or consumers.

For example, video game publisher EA managed to take Consumerist’s Worst Company In America trophy two years running before losing out to Time Warner Cable (and ultimately, to Comcast) this spring.

That’s a lot of ill-will for an entertainment media company to have built up over a few years, particularly as their games remain generally well-liked top sellers. But when consumers vent their hostility at the way EA has treated them, they have ample targets just from the last 2-3 years:

    The class-action price-fixing suit in which EA was found to be “anticompetitive” with its sports games
    The complete and utter debacle of the always-online (until it wasn’t) SimCity (2013) launch
    Using college athletes’ likenesses without their permission to sell more sports games
    Slyly trying to discourage negative reviews of a (pretty terrible) mobile game
    Allegedly knowing ahead of time a $60 game was shipping with game-breaking bugs and lying about it

As games become more popular, more ephemeral, and more and more part of a streaming on-demand or rental-access future, consumers have more chances to get screwed over and less opportunity for recourse, meaning game publishers will only continue to ship more titles that are broken and incomplete.

If the movie studios sent films to theaters with missing reels and promised to send out the missing minutes a within a few weeks of release, it would be front page news.

If book publishers knowingly sent out books with screwed-up page numbers and chapters in the wrong order with the promise that you’d get a fixed version in a month or so, and another fixed version a few weeks later, then another, and another, no one would buy books anymore.

We should be holding video game publishers to the same standards.