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Grand Theft video gaming

Gta5-official-trailerTake-Two says its video game Grand Theft Auto 5, already the most expensive game to develop at reportedly $265 million, took in $800 million within 24 hours of going on sale.

Can you believe it? GTA5 is not yet available for PCs, only top-end Playstations and XBoxes. In North America over 8000 stores opened at midnight to sell the update from 2008, which cost $100 million, according to Mashable.


Twittering for democracy

Twitter's implications for democracy — fast distribution under big media's net, plus the magnification of errors — receives a much-needed analysis by John Naughton in The U.K.'s Observer.

He notes that in the debate over Syria both M.P.s and Congressional reps cited emailed opposition from constituents, conflating Twitter with emaling, but points out that Twitter makes it possible to give representatives real-time feedback. Why they don't is an interesting question for research. My gut response: because we don't trust politicians to react im our interests.

Get the Bible right

Gizmodo helps all Bible readers with a piece entitled This Comprehensive Map Traces 463 of the Bible's Contradictions. It's at The creator Daniel G. Taylor covers acientific absurdities and historical innacuracies, cruelty and violence, mysogyny and violence to women, and discrimination against women. Fuel for both sides.


The three eras of spam

The Tedium is the Message: Finn Brunton’s “Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet”If you haven't yet checked out this review at the LA Times, try it now: The Tedium is the Message: Finn Brunton’s “Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet”. Kevin Driscoll's piece on 11 August notes that Jon Postel in 1975 anticipated spam but thought it would be due to malfunctioning software. Find out about Brunton's three eras of spam and amaze your friends…


The Newsroom: the addictive TV show journos love to hate

You may agree with Jeff Jarvis at The Guardian about The Newsroom but don't skip the invitation to watch the State Department briefing on Edward Snowden for a hint of what real journalism can do to evasive and bullying governments.


Who’s fattest? Guess who!

I've just discovered, a feast of comparative statistics.

My first port of call: which country has the highest percentage of obese people? You guessed it – the USA, with 30.6%. Surprises? Germany is 14th, with 12.9%. Switzerland is 27th, with 7.7%, behind France (23rd with 9.4%), but I guess I've put up the figures. Japan, by the way, has 3.2%, despite all those suomo wrestlers.

Tap on any country name and it takes you to a raft of health statistics about that nation. Tap on the statistic title and it will tell you the source. Tap again and will give you the country comparisons for that topic.

There's the rub. I tried suicide statistics and found that top-ranked Bahrain has almost three times the world average rate, and almost nine times the figures for Hong Kong. Then I saw that the statistics date from 1994.

Truth told, i first visited it because of a link that promised the figures for cinemas per 1000 population. Armenia came top, while the US was sixth. That noted immediately that the figures came from the 1990s. So I looked for something likely to be more recent among the top stats.

After the trouble with suicide stats, I looked down the page on the obesity report: figures from 2002 and 2003.

It's a dilemma. You want up-to-date figures but, as I found in reporting on AIDS, countries tend to drag their feet if the stats aren't going their way.




You may be breaking the CFAA without knowing it

Yet another case of the U.S. government going after the person rather than the crime: hacker Weev is serving a 41-month jail term in federal prison for snaffling 114,000 email addresses from AT&T and then telling journalists.

The irony is that he got the emails by doing something that wasn't what most people would have considered illegal. In fact, he did it to expose a security hole in AT&T's system.

But because the prosecution concentrated on his boastful hacker reputation rather than the details of the “crime”, according to Hanni Fakhoury at Wired, the jury found Andrew Auenheimer guilty of “obtaining information from a computer without authorization” under the notorious Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Guilty, despite the fact that AT&T made the information publicly available without requiring a password, which Fakhuoury considers a stretch of the CFAA's terms. The security hole was that anyone with an iPad who submitted their machine's identification number to the AT&T would obtain their email address from AT&T.

Weev and his partner spoofed their browser to imitate an iPad and gave AT&T random numbers. AT&T has now closed the security hole.

Could that be all this case is about?

This is why activists are drawing the similarities to the Aaron Swartz case (he was downloading scholarly articles he had access to).

Weev's lawyers filed an appeal on 1 July. Their argument: Weev had not cheated and deceived the AT&T servers. They were doing exactly what they were programmed to. The cheating, the lawyers add, is irrelevant. He could have done his “crime” from iPads.

And none of the people whose email addresses he obtained were injured by his actions. He did not distribute them. AT&T didn't even bother to give a “victim” statement to the court.

The larger issue affects all Internet users, argues Fakhoury; “How’s a person surfing the Internet supposed to know when they can or can’t view information if there’s no technical barrier to access?”