Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gadget of the Year, 2011

If there's something that's proliferating like cockroaches it's handheld gadgets, otherwise known as "smartphones", but I refuse to call them that until I see them doing something smart.

The winner for me this past year was:

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung seems to have found a good formula for making these gadgets, since many specialty sites considered the second iteration of the Galaxy series to be superior to many other Android based phones, and even superior to the grandaddy of them all, the iPhone.

I got to have one of these in my hands not long ago and played with it a little bit, and it was pretty good. This however hasn't changed my opinion that people who don't need most of the features (and certainly being in Facebook 24/7 is not something anyone really needs) shouldn't spend a small fortune on one of these things.

 Originally, the S II was shipped with Gingerbread Android and now it's upgradeable to the Ice Cream Sandwich version, keeping it up to date, until the S III is launched (to be announced in February this year).

The honorable mention goes to the iPhone and it's wonderful auto-correct feature, which gives us laughter every day.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Where's Megaupload?

So as many of you know, the sharing site Megaupload was forcefully closed by the U.S. Justice Department yesterday after an investigation into alleged copyright infringement. It's founders were detained in New Zealand and will be shipped to the US where they will await trial.

The reasons for this raid are simply ridiculous, far fetched and unjustified; at points, it's borderline crazy or paranoid. It's just corporate America wanting to limit the sharing freedom of the people: Megaupload was previously targeted by large corporate copyright sharks such as Universal Music Group.

The legal document released is full of complete garbage that doesn't justify such drastic action. Read the whole thing here, if you wanna subject your brain to injury. If you don't, I did it already... read some excerpts below and what I think of them.

Calling the owners of Megaupload "The Mega Conspiracy", a worldwide criminal organization whose mombers engaged in criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a massive scale, with estimated harm to copyright holders well in excess of $500,000,00"

Well we're off to a good start. Let the paranoia begin! A file hosting service is not such thing, not even a conspiracy. It's the Mega Conspiracy against those honest hard working copyright holders that are losing so much money because of the Internet, it's intolerable and has to end ! </sarcasm> is a commercial website and service operated by the Mega Conspiracy that reproduces and distributes copies of popular copyrighted content over the Internet without authorization. 

No, it's a site where anyone can upload anything at any time and where as there are files which are intellectual property of some, it doesn't mean the primary goal of the site was to host illegal files. was at one point in its history estimated to be the 13th most frequently website on the entire Internet. The site claims to have had more than one billion visitors in its history more than 180,000,000 registered users to date (...).

So being successful is a crime?'s income comes primarily from two sources: premium subscriptions and online advertising.

Like many websites nowadays.

In exchange for payment, the Mega Conspiracy provides the fast reproduction and distribution of infringing copies of copyrighted works from its computer servers located around the world.

No, that's nowhere on the site and are bogus conclusions of what someone CAN do with a megaupload membership, not what they were designed for. 

Subscription fees collected during the existance of the Mega Conspiracy from premium users are estimated to be more than $150 million. 

Good for them...?

Any internet user who goes to the website can upload a computer file. Once that user has selected a file on their computer and clicks the "upload" button, reproduces the file on at least one computer server it controls and provides the uploading user with a unique Uniform Resource Locator ("URL") link that allows anyone with the link to download the file.

Thank you for explaining how someone can host ANY file in megaupload, not only copyrighted material.

For example, a link distributed on December 3, 2006, by defendant DOTCOM links to a musical recording by US recording artist "50 Cent." A single click on the link accesses a download page that allows any internet user to download a copy of the file from a computer server that is controlled by the Mega Conspiracy.

A link from 2006? Damn, these guys talk like most of the content in is copyrighted material, and all they could find is a 50 Cent mp3 from 5 years ago? 
It must have been a huge deal though. That poor guy must be living on the streets because megaupload deprived him of so many dollars. The poor fella. advertises itself as a "cyberlocker", which is a private data storage provider. However, as part of the design of the service, the vast majority of users do not have significant capabilities to store private content long-term. Unregistered users (referred to as "non-members" by the Conspiracy) are allowed to upload and download content files, but any Non-member-uploaded content that is not downloaded within 21 days is permanently deleted. 

Surely deleting old unused files can't be because hosting files costs them money. Oh no, it's a conspiracy. 
Yes, if you want your files to permanently occupy space on a server rented and paid for by, you must pay some cash to help with the bill. Is this proof of criminal activity or just something that makes sense?

Once a user clicks on a link, the user is generally brought to a download page for the file. The download page contains online advertisements provided by the Conspiracy, which means that every download on provides a financial gain to the Conspiracy that is direcltly tied to the download. The more popular the content, such as copies of well-known copyrighted works, the more users that find their way to a download page; the access of these additional users, in turn, makes the Mega Conspiracy more money. 

Another good idea they didn't have which they wish they did, probably. To pay for the costs of freely-hosted files, those which are not supported by the paying members, Megaupload displays ads and generates some revenue which goes to paying hosting costs for those files. Again not an illegal thing to do. 
The argument that most popular files are copyrighted material is debatable and no actual evidence was shown for this claim.

Though the public-facing website itself does not allow searches, it does list its "Top 100 files", which includes motion picture trailers and software trials that are freely available on the Internet. The Top 100 list, however, does not actually portray the most popular downloads on which makes the website appear more legitimate and hides the popular copyright-infringing content that drives its revenue.   

So at least some honesty in the middle of this witch burning circus. Megaupload is NOT searchable, so that makes it not a reliable means of getting copyrighted material. Saying the Top 100 files is a façade hiding the illegal pirating scene is just going complete bananas at this point.

A non-premium user is limited to watching 72 minutes of any given video on at a time, which, since nearly all commercial motion pictures exceed that length, provides a significant incentive for users who are seeking infringing copies of motion pictures to pay the Mega Conspiracy a fee for premium access.

Again, someone forgot that hosting video and streaming that video is very expensive both in server capacity and bandwidth prices, and pushing people into buying the premium access is also a way to paying the bills and making a little money, which is what most sites actually aim for, right?

It goes on and on with useless points that anyone with a shade of intelligence could tear apart in just seconds.
What's really scary about this event is that if SOPA passes, we will be seeing this everywhere. Again, I urge everyone to do whatever they can to speak up and stop this complete nonsense.

Car of the Year, 2011

As you all know, I love cars. But what I love the most is a car that goes much faster than what it looks. Huge backwheels and exposed, fire breathing engines don't impress me, but if a normal looking car drives as fast and as nimbly as a supercar, then that's a big plus in my book.

So my car of the year is one that does exactly that.

BMW 1 M Coupé

I have to admit I was never a big fan of the BMW 1 Series. I always thought they looked a bit wrong, and were a bit pretentious. As usually BMWs are, the 1 series was much more expensive than similar products from other brands. The back side was all wrong and it looked like a giant had parked it's butt on the roof and squished the sides.

However the 1 M styling follows a more aggressive line, as it should be for a performance model, and uses the coupé model instead of the hatchback (the difference is the ugly rear is gone in favor of a more traditional boot).

Powered by a very quick 3.0L Inline 6, twin turbocharged engine, producing 335 horsepower, it deals with the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in under 5 seconds, and will keep steadily accelerating to it's electronically limited top speed of 250 km/h.
One of my favorite features is that the only available gearbox is a 6-speed manual, making this a proper driver-car.

(read more in this excellent piece on TopSpeed)

Other mentions go to the newly updated Nissan GT-R, for the same reason of being much quicker than many more expensive models.

And finally the McLaren MP4-12C, which is completely asphalt burning quick, but lacks a bit of supercar flair and passion.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fail of the year, 2011

And the winner is:


Sarcasm at it's best.

Yeah, I know it's been failing since 2008 but the fact that it keeps doing it deserves recognition. Not many entities have this kind of commitment towards failing, and it should be rewarded.

Other nominees were the iPhone 5 turned out to be just the 4S, and Duke Nukem Forever.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The 2011 Awards

Another year has gone and a heck of a lot has happened in this past one, as I've shown in the last post. Now it's time to reward the biggest and best, sometimes worst, of 2011. I'm going to dish them out in the next few days, and starting today with:

Game of the Year

This one should come as no surprise. It's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

But I haven't even reviewed it, you might say? Well, I was too busy playing it, and that is what is trump card is. It's so immersive, you lose yourself in the beautiful landscapes, adventuring in deep dungeons, ancient Dwarven ruins, and fighting fire spitting dragons with your mighty shouts.

Of course, as any other game, it has it's downsides, but unlike many others Skyrim has a distinct advantage: it's completely mod friendly, which means users can create their own content, and the amount of modifications circulating is huge, and when a developer's kit becomes available, mods will increase even more in both quality and quantity.

If you're not convinced yet then think of this... Which other game was so huge as to spawn an internet meme of it's own?

My special mention goes to Portal 2. I enjoyed it, but because of some weird crashing bug I couldn't proceed from a certain point in the story. It was a great game while it lasted for me, although not as engaging as the first one.