The mad ramblings of a scientist
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Monday, February 20, 2012
Everquest Mac, Now With Eight Lives
Everquest Planes of Power

It is ironic that just a few weeks after I wrote about Everquest for the Mac, Sony officially announced that they are shutting down the server forever. Needless to say, the small cadre of loyal Macintosh players were quite upset.

Rumor was that Sony has decided that it cost too much to pay their support people to keep the old server running, especially since much of the anti-cheating code that was long ago written into the PC servers did not exist. To make matters worse, there was basically only one person who knew how to keep the client up and running, an unacceptable situation for any publicly available game platform.

The player base, in a desperate push to save the server, started a letter-writing drive. Soon after, the president of Sony Online Entertainment, the infamous John Smedley, responded with a personal apology and hints of the option of porting the current PC client to the Macintosh, allowing the Macintosh server to survive in an upgraded form.

Then the truly amazing happened: just a mere fourteen days after the initial shutdown announcement, John Smedley personally announces that the Mac server will be converted to free to play and kept up indefinitely.

It is not clear what changed this decision, but I doubt it was the passionate pleas of the player base alone. I imagine that someone decided that, perhaps, it might be worthwhile porting one or more Sony online games to the Macintosh, and that these loyal Macintosh players might be invaluable in any public relations push.

Posted at: 2:02 PM
Categories: Gaming
Saturday, January 28, 2012
The Wall Street Journal, Brought Down to the Level of a Tabloid Rag

Here are two recent letters on global warming:

Which sounds more reasonable to you?

Now the big question: why was the first letter published in the Wall Street Journal in the first place? Either the editors are morons, or they are pushing a specific agenda. And I sort of doubt they are morons.

Posted at: 8:40 PM (Edited: January 28, 2012, 8:51 PM)
Categories: Science and Policy
Sunday, January 15, 2012
The PROTECT IP Act and Why Politics Still Surprises

I was a little surprised to learn the other day that my two senators, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are both on record supporting the PROTECT IP Act. This bill, along with the better known house version Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, are incredibly poorly thought out and, from a technological prospective, utterly naive. And, yet, the PROTECT IP Act currently has the bipartisan support of over 80 US senators.

The remarkable question is: how can two bills that are so woefully inept garner so much support? I don't expect every congressman to have an technical understanding of the internet, but don't they have any staff? Is this simply a case of, for all practical purposes, outright bribery? Is the political system this corrupt?

I can understand why the media moguls would like to destroy the Internet. They want everyone to obtain their media the old fashioned way, strictly under the control of their business interests. I just don't understand why our politicians, who are supposed to be working for the general good, would give them any help.

Today I took the time to compose a nice, old fashioned, but firm postal letter to my senators explaining my opposition. If you care at all about the internet, contact your legislators and let them know. If your legislator is a SOPA or PROTECT IP Act supporter, maybe you can even ask why they would collude with big business to dismantle the Internet. Just don't expect to get an answer.

Posted at: 3:33 PM
Categories: Science and Policy
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The Game Server that Refused to Die

By all accounts, Everquest for the Mac was a failure. Released in 2003 and originally planned to expand into multiple servers, the gamed ended up serving only a small population on a single server (Al`Kabor). Oddly enough, though, this one, unique Everquest server has remained up and running ever since, serving a small but fiercely loyal Macintosh fan base. Meanwhile, the PC version of Everquest (which was always incompatible with the Mac version) has received multiple expansions and a completely rewritten client.

The Mac client, originally written for Mac OS 8 and the PPC processor, received only one update early in its life. It continued to run, however, on Mac OS X, and, later, on intel processor, thanks to the Carbon and Rosette compatibility environments provided by Apple. That is, it ran fine until Rosette was discontinued in the latest version of Mac OS.

Finally, eight years after it's release, Everquest on the Mac no longer ran on new Macintosh computers. It seemed that the game was doomed.

But then something very odd happened. Someone high up at Sony Online Entertainment decided the game was worth saving, despite its tiny player base. So, after eight years of neglect, a new port was approved. In a era when online games collapse and fail in an eye blink, one odd, strange, and somewhat exclusive online game manages to hold on to life.

Posted at: 11:10 PM
Categories: Gaming
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Danger of a Self Fulfilling Prophecy
Sybil poster

I am often surprised by the interesting things I hear on NPR , which I regularly listen to while commuting. I was not disappointed earlier this week when I heard a review of a new book by Debbie Nathan on the Sybil story that made multiple personality disorder a household word. According to Nathan, Sybil never had the real disorder and the entire story was a fraud.

News like this might not be very surprising to psychologists, since multiple personality disorder has been controversial from the start. What surprised me in the review of Nathan's book was how Sybil's psychoanalyst (Dr. Connie Wilbur) was so keen on diagnosing multiple personalities and how Sybil (whose real name was Shirley Mason) took advantage of this need. Here is a quote from NPR:

"Shirley feels after a short time, that she is not really getting the attention she needs from Dr. Wilbur," Nathan explains. "One day, she walks into Dr. Wilbur's office and she says, 'I'm not Shirley. I'm Peggy.' … And she says this in a childish voice. … Shirley started acting like she had a lot of people inside her."

—Real 'Sybil' Admits Multiple Personalities Were Fake, NPR, October 20, 2011

So, now Dr. Wilbur gets to study an interesting, new, diagnosis of a disorder of particular interest and Mason gets all of the attention she craves from the doctor. And so the fiction continued as Dr. Wilbur started injecting Mason with sodium pentothal and more and more personalities were "uncovered".

How long was Dr. Wilbur fooled? Nathan doesn't say, but suggests that once the book was drafted, the potential financial reward was so big that Wilbur couldn't turn back even as it became clear the personalities weren't real. Plausible, I suppose, but I wonder if Wilbur knew in the back of her mind that she was accidentally manufacturing the whole diagnosis from the start.

Posted at: 10:07 PM
Categories: Science and Policy