Category Archives: Tech Shenanigans

Steam Does Not Have A Monopoly Over PC Gaming

I recently saw an article on Tom’s Hardware which asks if Steam has a monopoly over PC gaming. It should be noted that at in the headline of the article, Tom’s mentions that some “report” (I’m assuming it’s the linked Tech Radar article) says that Steam, “has a monopoly over PC gaming”. It points to preparation for a Mac version of Steam and explains that the eventual release twists the panties of conspiracy theorists and that fingers are all pointing at Steam saying, “You see! They did it!”

Tom’s links to this article in Tech Radar. While Tom’s declares that this “report” (again, Tech Radar?) says that Steam is a monopoly, Tech Radar merely poses to question to the reader while giving the POV of all sides. My take on this is simple, while Steam is the most successful PC game digital distribution platform, it’s not the only one. This already busts the myth without even mentioning that it’s fair to say that Steam does not control PC gaming. I say control, simply because this is what’s in the dictionary definition of a monopoly. I wouldn’t even be talking about this if Steam didn’t have competitors (like Games for Windows and Direct2Drive) and Valve was forcing game makers to allow it to distribute CDs and DVDs of the games it sells. Direct2Drive sells games for the Mac and PC yet no one will even mention monopoly because, simply, it’s just not as successful as Steam.

In other words, Steam is not a monopoly. So, go relax and have some dip.

Fear of a word

Over in the States, the fear buzzword of the day is Socialism. You’ll be damned if someone points their grimy little finger at you and shouts, “This one’s a socialist!” In the tech world, ever since the big anti-trust cases against Microsoft, if you are called a monopoly, you shit yourself. Just ask Google what it feels like when they become the target of someone’s monopoly rage. Of course, this is not limited to the tech world but my point is that if you repeat a word enough and sprinkle a dash of fearmongering, you’ll get any weak-minded sheep to believe whatever drivel you wish to spew from that hole in your mouth.

Free speech is a pain, ain’t it? 😀

iTunes == Steam?

It wasn’t too long ago that these same questions were being posed when talking about iTunes. Fortunately for Apple, they learned from the demise of the industry whipping boy (Napster) that you need to make deals with the Recording mafia err… Recording companies so you can sell digital files for mass consumption. You need to make it worth their while and you need to show them that it will work. Apple apparently did just that and they became the most successful digital distribution platform for music – and that was before they dropped the crappy DRM scheme!

If anything, people should be thanking Apple for iTunes because now other retailers have gotten their act together and are now selling DRM-free digital music. Places such as Amazon and CDON.fi here in Finland. I’ve purchased music from both iTunes and CDON. I believe the same thing will happen in the digital game area once companies get their act together and figure out how to compete against Steam. To call a more successful company a monopoly, when it doesn’t even fit the definition, is giving other competitors excuses and crutches.

Steam and I, Steam and you

So, am I biased about Steam because I use it? I don’t think so. I happen to believe that someone or something deserves a label when it actually fits the definition of that label. I have bought games from Steam and I have criticisms and questions that I do not believe have been properly addressed.

Some of the comments I read on the Tom’s article are a little silly. They refer to reasons why some do not use Steam:

“I don’t use Steam because I don’t want to re-download the games if something should happen to my computer and I have to reinstall everything.”

-You can make backup copies of your games you purchase from Steam by right-clicking on the game in the Games tab and selecting “Backup game files…” This will create a backup copy that you can store wherever you like. It also creates an installer which you can use to reinstall the game.

“Steam does not allow me to play games offline. I have to be online in order to play.”

-This has already been proven false for most games. This is the Steam support article addressing how to play games offline.

In closing

The whole point of this article was to basically say that Steam does not have a monopoly over PC gaming. In fact, the whole topic should not have even been addressed and it was ludicrous to have even suggested it. In my personal opinion (Read: not fact), both Tom’s and Tech Radar wasted everyone’s time writing fluffy, fear pieces intended to drive up traffic. While Tech Radar gets kudos for merely posing the question to it’s readers, Tom’s fails hard for a sensationalist headline that was not representative of the meaning behind the Tech Radar. Assuming, that is what Tom’s meant by the so-called “report”…


Has Facebook Been Slow For You Lately? (Updated)

(Updated: January 29th, 2010)

Facebook has posted an update in their security blog about the “Unnamed app” bug, which has been fixed. In fact, while I didn’t delete it from my Application Settings list, “Unnamed app” has been removed from the list. I have noticed that the site is working better for me. They also mention that people have been using this “scare” to try to get people to download malicious software.

Well it has been for me. Apparently I am not alone. One of my friends in Facebook, posted about something called “Unnamed app” in the Application Settings Profile. You can check to see if it is listed in your settings by going to Settings > Application Settings and select “Added to Profile” from the “Show” drop down box on the top right side of the page. In my account, “Unnamed app” was the first application listed.

I found information about the problem and the solution on Google by searching for “Facebook unnamed app”. According to this blog posting, this “Unnamed app” is NOT spyware or anything malicious. You may delete this application from the list. Other pages within the Google SERP testify that deleting this application does in fact increase Facebook performance.

According to this blog posting, this “Unnamed app” is the “Boxes Tab” and Facebook will be removing it from there system. This does explain why Facebook has been slow for me and the AJAX isn’t quite working correctly. My guess is that there’s junk code floating around the system clogging things up.

The bloggers I linked to didn’t know if Facebook was going to turn this “Unnamed app” into another program so you should delete this at your own risk!

Thanks to Ryan Schmidt for the tip!


Hey, Look, It’s A Hint!

Before Christmas, I received an early present in the form of the comment  left by an  Avid Consumerist.

A couple of months back, I wrote a post about Tom’s Hardware and their situation with MacPadd (QMS, Inc.). Tom’s Tuan Nguyen ordered a MacPadd from MacPadd.com for review but never received the order. The situation exploded as Nguyen provided tons of evidence supporting his claims that MacPadd and it’s owner, David Free were engaging in fraud.

The comment left by Avid Consumerist only has a link to a post on MacPadd @ WordPress. The post praises The Consumerist (I can only assume they are referring to this The Consumerist) for removing an article about the fight between Tom’s and MacPadd. I never saw this article myself as I don’t read The Consumerist so, I cannot comment about what was contained within it. But hey, I got the hint there guy err girl err… whatever! *wink*

My response to this comment is simple: I will not remove my article about Tom’s and MacPadd.

What makes this comment even more fun is that there is a link in the Avid Consumerist username linking to an article about how the Tom’s article was false and fraudulent. Let’s go through that article!

The Tuan Nguyen incident has been nothing more than internet fraud and deception notwithstanding the continuing attacks by Tom’s Hardware and Nguyen on the Mac Community.

I love this “Call To Arms, my brothers!” Rewriting history in one sentence to make it seem as though the Tom’s article was slandering the entire “Mac Community” is hilarious. There was no mention of the Mac Community in any of the three Tom’s articles written about this subject.

MacPadd has never been contact by Police or FBI for possible fraud activities as Nguyen would have you believe

There was no mention of the FBI in any of the Tom’s articles. Nguyen said he had contacted the RCMP Fraud Prevention Department but the only thing that was said was that they were “aware” of reports and asked for details concerning the Tom’s case. No where in the articles does it say that MacPadd had been contacted already by any law enforcement agency. Lousy spin.

MacPadd does not make false claims (Lysol ™ wipes disinfect our anodized aluminium MacPadd surface)

Unfortunately, this is not the false claim to which the Tom’s articles were referring. MacPadd.com claimed that the mousepad was resistant to the H1N1 virus (the virus that gives you Swine and Bird Flu). This scientifically untrue claim has been since removed. (Read the American CDC’s facts on H1N1 transmission here) But I saw the claim with my own eyes as did many commenters of the Tom’s articles. MacPadd also stated that the surface of the MacPadd is antibacterial. This claim was also removed. However MacPadd.com currently states that:

MacPadd can be instantly disinfected with a sanitary/alcohol wipe.
Clean your work station and MacPadd daily.
MacPadd does not contribute to the spread of dirt or bacteria.
MacPadd will help you keep your hands cleaner longer
MacPadd is ideal for work stations in hospitals or clinics that has multiple users.
MacPadd can be put into an autoclave and then ready for use after its cleaning (special non stick surface available)
Neoprene mouse pads collect materials that contribute to an unsanitary office environment

I would like to see the research done on the MacPadd which proves that the MacPadd does not contribute to the spread of bacteria and dirt. Preferably research that is not credited to a “… Spaceman, Ph.D.” Or maybe it’s referring to after it and the work station is cleaned, disinfected and Lysol is sprayed everywhere?

The blog posting also makes claims but does not provide any proof. Just because you say something is so, doesn’t mean that it is.
  • Apple is aware of MacPadd and have considered selling the product on their website
  • MacPadd met with and talked with several Apple representatives regarding the sale of our product. No concerns were expressed at the time of discussion.
  • MacPadd has sold over 8,000 customers
  • We have 8,000 customers that have not been deceived.
  • … I responded with my professional and academic background (MBA, Engineer, Certified Management Account, I sit on the Board of Governors for our profession)
  • Unfortunately that did not stop him or his and his friends or co-workers phone calls and harassing and abusive messages (We had the police trace all phone calls and emails).
  • I can assure you that because of this incident, the FBI, and Canadian Police Authorities (OPP) have been involved with respect to criminal harassment to Nguyen and his followers.
  • CANADA POST DOES NOT PROVIDE TRACKING NUMBERS TO THE USA.

Two things in regards to the last item on the above list. Canada Post does provide tracking numbers to packages delivered to the USA. I guess the MacPadd blog posting was hoping that the people reading the posting were idiots who did not know how to search for Canada Post’s website. The second is about this:

THEREFORE THERE IS NO TRACKING NUMBER. Despite identifying that several times to Nguyen it seems he just couldn’t understand.

The problem with this statement is that it contradicts the evidence presented. The screenshot of this email exchange shows that MacPadd sent Nguyen a Canada Post tracking number which, was for a package that had been delivered weeks before Tom’s ordered the MacPadd.

I could probably go on longer but I think that I have dedicated enough of my time to this subject. I will however, point out this one last thing that was mentioned in the MacPadd blog posting:

The only fraud that has occurred in this instance is the multitude of falsehoods by Nguyen on his website and the breaches of Tom’s Hardware Code of Conduct, and Terms of Service. We delivered despite the abusive and harassing character of someone who is even legally eligible to work in the USA (no Green Card).

So, what is being said here  is that Tuan Nguyen, staff member for Tom’s Hardware, is an illegal alien in the United States. Is there proof for this libelous statement?

The whole issue here is that Tom’s Hardware was well within it’s rights to publish the details of the situation. I and anyone else are also well within their rights to do so. David Free/MacPadd/QMS Inc. apparently also believe they are well within their rights to say something. However, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. You can’t deny someone the right to criticize your business methods, products, services while praising others who do so to other companies.

You are selling a product and public is trusting you to deliver. You allegedly did not deliver and Tom’s reported and provided evidence for the public. This was good journalism.


Twitter and Mowjcamp.org Hacked

ICA Mowjcamp Hack Defacement PageAs reported by TechCruch, Twitter was hacked this morning (EEST) by a group of tools calling themselves the Iranian Cyber Army. According to Twitter, DNS records for Twitter.com were altered to redirect users to a “defacement page”. Also, a second site, Mowjcamp.org/.com has also been hacked. To the right you can see the current (11:47 EEST) defacement page for mowjcamp.org. The page shows some text in red and a picture of the green flag with text in Farsi.

ICA Mowjcamp.org Hack, Google SERP

Along with the hacks, Google SERPs showed the hack in the results descriptions. While the Twitter SERPs have been restored, Mowjcamp’s have not. The Twitter Google SERP Farsi text description made reference to the U.S. government’s involvement in Twitter’s decision to delay an update during the mass demonstrations that happened in Iran after the recent presidential elections. The update would have disrupted services for Twitter users and apparently, Iranians were using Twitter to help organize and report on protests.


Tom’s Hardware vs. MacPadd.com (QMS Inc.)

Over at Tom’s Hardware, I have been watching a battle take place between reviewer, Tuan Nguyen and David Free of Macpadd.com/QMS Inc. Free is the alleged owner of QMS Inc the maker of the “Macpadd”, a custom mousepad for Macintosh computers. The problems began over two weeks ago when Nguyen order a Macpadd from Macpadd.com in order to review the mousepad for Tom’s Hardware.

No email, No answer

According to Nguyen, over the course of seven days he and others at Tom’s attempted to contact a representative of Macpadd.com. While they received an automated email response from Macpadd.com after the purchase of the mousepad, they never received shipping confirmation, tracking number or any kind of correspondence from Macpadd.com.

Eventually they stumbled upon the business contact number of QMS Inc. via the statement Nguyen received from PayPal. Nguyen attempted to make several calls with no answer.

Shots fired

With no communication from QMS, Nguyen filed a dispute with PayPal and explained to PayPal what had happened up to that point. About five minutes after the dispute was filed, Free responded via email explaining that they mailed the mousepad and that shipping from their location in Canada to California takes a while. Not long after that, Free called and once again explained. Nguyen requested the tracking number within an hour. Free responded by saying he would email the number. After three hours no call or email came so Nguyen called Free back. The rest of this story can be read here.

How not to respond to criticism of a product or a service provided

On November 2nd, the day that Tom’s published the report on the dispute with QMS, David Free updated Macpadd.com with this statement. (Note: this statement is no longer on the Macpadd.com site but it is now available here.)

Fraud or not, Free’s attempt to play the victim in this situation is exactly how you should not run your business. You don’t publish statements, responding to any criticism about your products or services. You improve on what you offer. At least this is what is supposed to happen.

Late yesterday, Finnish time, Tom’s published a third article about this subject. This time, Nguyen provided a detailed explanation why they have taken the actions they have taken. They even included the Canada Post tracking number Free provided. This number was for a shipment that had taken place three prior to the beginning of this saga. You can read the entire article here.

According to Nguyen, Free has completely stopped all communication with him about this situation. He has reported QMS to the Canadian Competition Bureau and the RCMP Fraud Prevention Department.

Some thoughts

While I am going to reserve my end judgment about David Free and QMS Inc., I will say that Free handled this situation with the grace of a collapsing building. Someone asking you to do your job is no grounds for verbal abuse, threats and providing false information to a customer. Every action that Free has taken in this matter has cast serious doubts and has made people question whether there might be some type of fraud going on.

I was once the victim of a scam involving a supposed seller on eBay years ago. Back then, the seller was offering a certain amount of copies of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun (Yes, it was that long ago!) via Dutch auction. Many people came out as winners. We all paid our money and received nothing in return. By time we all realized what had happened, the seller closed up shop and took off.

I have posted about this story not only because everyone should be aware of the potential of online fraud, but also because QMS is selling the Macpadd in the EU. I’m not going to tell you not to buy it, just consider your options.