Mike’s Playing Ingress! Are You?
For the past few of months, I have been playing a great new game on my mobile phone called Ingress. At first I knew relatively little about the game, other than my sister and her boyfriend like to play it, and that they recently went to Cardiff to play with others in a large scale battle called an Anomaly. Well that was three months ago. I am now level 9 and ready to rumble! I got all geared up for another large scale battle called Persepolis, an Anomaly in Liverpool which was lots of fun!
I shall start at the beginning, for all you people not already playing Ingress, it began in 2012 with a company called Niantic Labs, who are made up of ex-googlers.
If you want to find out more about Ingress check out the wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ingress_(game
I would recommend the main website, https://www.ingress.com/ but it is a little story heavy, to just find out the basics and see if it is for you, I suggest you read the wiki. Essentially, it is a GPS location based game that is a turf war between two opposing factions, an MMORPG where the player is struggling for personal growth as well as team scores as is the case with other RPGs. Each team must capture either uncaptured portals, or those held by the opposing team, either way you gain experience (AP) and a little bit of local notoriety. Anyone on your team coming across your portal will know that you captured it, and either add modifications, or upgrade resonators or hack it for items (read the wiki if this bewilders you, or for more info on in game terms check out http://izziebytes.net/ingress-slang-lingo-terminology-guide/ ). If someone on the other team happens across it, they can also hack it for items, but they get zapped and lose XM (Exotic Matter, the "Energy" in the game)! They can also use weapons called XMP Bursters, or Ultra Strikes to neutralise your portal and then capture it themselves. You can link portals to each other into little triangles called fields and these are what determine the team scores. There are also lots of acheivement badges, which aren't essential to the gameplay, but help keep track of your progress in increments rather than simply having AP and levels.
New Portals are user submitted, and are usually places or structures of some historical or cultural interest or importance. Even particularly interesting graffiti is considered “portal worthy”, and good graffiti does tend to stay where it is, especially in cities like Manchester, where I live and play. I have had a lot of fun playing the game, and get a real kick out of submitting portals, and missions as this is a digital legacy that will live on long after I’m gone (in theory!).
What I like most about the game is the social element, I have met up with dozens of people all thanks to being out playing a game on my phone, which is usually a solitary and isolationist experience. Much like golf has been for hundreds of years, it is a great way to network and a great icebreaker to talk about with strangers. https://xkcd.com/1143/
You can chat with other players on either team in the comms, and find out about local players by checking activity on your scanner, or if you play for a while, you may get invited to chat on a third party app (most commonly used is hangouts, which links well with Google plus). You can even DATE other Ingress players! http://ingresssingles.com/
Other games like this, such as Facebook games, have an element of social chat, but mostly, this is so that the makers of the game can make more money, however, there is very little money involved in Ingress. So far, there have been various deals with high street shops that have not gone well, and some sponsored items in the gameplay, such as the AXA shield, or the MUFG capsule and the Soft Bank link amp. These are the ONLY ADS IN THE GAME! It is not a freemium game, or a game that lets people, who can afford to, level up faster or buy better gear. It is open to anyone, and also available for Android and the Apple iPhone IOS.
When I first started playing, I was unemployed, and only able to afford to play for half an hour a day on the FreeBee wi-fi you can get in Manchester for free for 30 minutes. Now I am working, I can afford to buy data bolt ons and it does tend to end up costing a fair amount every month, so I would recommend a decent data plan for people who play a lot.
If you would like an invite to play, leave a comment with your email address and I will send you one, you don’t need one, but I will get my recruiter badge if I invite you first!
What is the real difference between a cyclist and a "Pseudo-Cyclist"?
As a passionate cyclist, I take to the roads frequently and am amazed by the amount of other people who happen to own bicycles, who ride them like idiots. I must preface this with the fact that as a teenager, I did my cycling proficiency test at school. I learnt how to ride a bike safely, how to make sure drivers don’t kill me due to my own lack of care and attention. I check behind me and indicate each and every time I make a turn, often for up to 20 metres before the actual turn and use the appropriate signals to pull out or slow down to stop at lights. I don’t hop on and off the pavement at my own convenience and I don’t run red lights. I wear high visibility clothing; I have a front and rear reflector, front and rear lights, and a helmet of course.
I say of course, but the majority of "people who ride bikes" I see are riding around aren’t even a wearing a helmet. I use the term "people who ride bikes" instead of cyclist, because I believe that these people are not cyclists. In fact, they make cyclists look bad. We who make every effort to be seen, and to ride safe are undermined by these lunatics. My personal checklist for finding out if you are a cyclist or not, is as follows:
1. Helmet: If you are not wearing a helmet on your bicycle then you are a fool.
2. High-Visibility Clothing: If you are riding a bike on the roads, it makes a lot of sense for you to stand out to drivers, who are going to kill you if they don’t see you. Don’t let them get away with saying they didn’t see you. Not "essential" unless you enjoy being hit by cars.
3. Lights: I try to avoid riding my bike at night in the dark, but it is not always possible. I have a light set that cost very little compared to replacing a bike that has been mangled under the wheels of a car. Of course I will include front and rear reflectors, pedal reflectors and spoke reflectors here too, these are LEGALLY MANDATORY!
4. Bell: By law, all new bicycles are sold fitted with a noise making device or bell. If you do not have one on your bike, get one, fit it and ring it at pedestrians who walk in the bike lane and whenever you are about to overtake a fellow cyclist out of courtesy. I have a polite ding bell, and a klaxon for when people are still in my way after their second bell.
5. Bike Lock: I have seen obnoxious bicycle owners take their bikes into shops and fast food places and leave them in other people's way because they can't be bothered buying a bike lock. Inconveniencing others for the sake of one's own convenience is what narcissists do. Let alone kids who leave their bikes sprawled across the pavement outside shops while they go in to shoplift sweets. If you don't want your bike stolen, lock it, don't bring it everywhere you go.
Why Do I Care So Much?
I do care. I care too much really; because I feel like I have to explain myself to everyone I tell that I cycle to work. People immediately think I am part of the growing majority of bike owners they have seen on the roads/pavements. I just told a colleague that I bike to work and her immediate response was "You're not one of them annoying obnoxious £#%@s are you?”. I had to explain, that no, I am not; I am one of the good ones. I should not have to do this, I'm not saying proper cyclists should be revered or honoured in some way (medals would be cool...) but certainly not disrespected due to the bad behaviour of a few members of our peer group. I'm talking about anti-cyclist discrimination! I have heard drivers talk about the fact that we don't pay road tax therefore should not be on the roads, and that we don't deserve our own special lanes and why do we get so much publicity (aherm, we were on the roads first!). As if we are a nuisance! I have encountered nuisance bicycle owners; they have nearly knocked me off my bike! Hopping from pavement to road without taking the time to look behind them and check to see if I would have to brake hard and swerve dangerously to avoid rear-ending them! That is what prompted me to write this blog. Then it happened again. Then I noticed how many of the people I would have previously considered "Proper Cyclists", run through red lights, or pavement hop to get through them. I couldn't believe how few cyclists seem to signal and indicate properly, or even know which side of the road to ride on.
If you want to drive a car, you first must obtain a license and insurance and tax the vehicle. To ride a bike on the road, you just buy a bike and are let go on an unsuspecting public. I am not insinuating that there should be a test, there already is a test, it is called the cycling proficiency test, but there should be some form of governance. It is clearly not just their own lives they are risking, I have experienced my own life being staked on the ignorance of these pseudo-cyclists swerving in front of me like lunatics!
Other bad cycling habits I have covered in other blog entries such as wearing headphones, not using the handlebars on the road, texting/using the phone, there are plenty more I haven't covered as I had thought they were obviously wrong. Carrying shopping on the handlebars, trying to walk a dog whilst riding a bike (illegal by the way!), or trying to have a coversation with another pseudo-cyclist, cycling two abrest or worst of all, cycling the wrong way on a roadside bike lane.
There are also people who own bikes who are beyond "pseudo-cyclists" and have earnt themselves the title of "Suicyclist", people who are clearly trying to get themselves killed. Wearing all black clothing at night with no lights or high visibility clothing, no/obfuscated reflector, like some sort of bike ninja. Invisible to the naked eye, these cretins are definitely self nominated Darwin Award candidates.
So, I used to be proud to have a website. I used to bring it up in conversation with strangers, shamelessly link back to it from other sites. A blog, a place to vent my opinion, creativity and wisdom. Alas I seem to have completely forgot about it. My password was lost I couldn't log in and I lost interest. I think maybe because I was never putting in enough effort. This time will be different.
Is Capitalism A Malevolent Force For Control Of Consumption?
I personally really dislike capitalism, let us just get that out of the way. That is my opinion, it is based on the fact that its principles of wealth acquisition causes a massive disparity between richest and poorest. The stark contrast between the consequences of success and failure leads to a control over material resources that we all need equally. Then there is the fact that resources are seen completely objectively, no matter how destructive or costly it is to obtain them. There is no greater example for these factors than the oil industry. At each stage in the process of extracting and selling petroleum products, there is some form of evil added. Land is acquired many times under duress, defended militarily and the sea itself is plundered. Workers in some countries are threatened with violence and intimidated into working in poor dangerous conditions and for very little money. Oil as a toxin is released into the ocean, the by-products of petroleum refinement are toxic. The consumption of petroleum produces carcinogens which cause cancer and excessive amounts of heat and carbon dioxide, which scientists theorise may be causing a greenhouse effect; gradually heating the earth leading to freak weather and eventually melting the poles and flooding coastal areas. Oil is bad. It causes conflict everywhere it pops up, it probably has done for aeons of human history. Wars have been fought over oil for thousands of years, people have been killed, blown up, assassinated, assimilated, executed and oppressed. Does all this bloodshed and environmental damage increase the price of oil? No, it makes it a lot cheaper. Oppression and control of supply enables the worlds largest buyer and distributor of oil to keep prices down and maintain market control over any would be competition. When the price does go up due to a manufactured shortage, or any other kind of false scarcity tactic to drive the market, we all complain and moan, not truly wanting to face the reality of where the product comes from and what the true cost is.
Oil is a source of energy, other forms of energy are less easy to commodify and therefore market for a profit, therefore in a capitalist environment these energy sources are ignored. Solar power is not terribly efficient, but wind and hydroelectricity are both incredibly efficient and found in almost every populated area on the planet. The most efficient use of these technologies is on a distributed network amongst homes and businesses themselves, cutting out the energy companies. They spend a lot of money on massive windmills in the countryside and off-shore to prove that you still need them, but for a fraction of the cost they could individually kit out thousands of homes in a distributed network that would power thousands more. Companies would never do this though because they would be losing consumers. As much as it is the best strategy for resource efficiency and the best application of the technology to protect against power failure, it isn't very capitalism friendly.
Consumable commodities are the most profitable, products that your customer needs to replenish their supply of and therefore return for repeat business. Food is the best example of this, we buy it, we eat it, we want more. Due to a constant consumer demand for a variety of cheap food, we have begun to cut back on the ethics of the industry. The quality of the food we take into our bodies has suffered due to capitalism, whatever is cheapest and most profitable to produce, packaged in a way that has a greater market life and value. Our food comes from all over the world, more and more oil is used to transport our food over hundreds, even thousands of miles. Preservative chemicals are added to our diets, in order to allow for such mass transport over such vast distances. People in the countries that grow our food rarely see much profit from their efforts, and are often bullied and intimidated into growing a cash crop rather than food for the region. More and more people are becoming aware of where their food comes from due to public pressure from famous chefs, who have a higher standard than the average supermarket consumer.
(Due to technical difficulties I.E. the hacking of the admin area of my Wordpress installation the rest of this blog was written between 13/02/2012 and 29/02/2012)
Occupied: Update; The Internet Takes Over Real Life As Predicted!
Once again Capitalism is in the direct gaze of the public consciousness, the one percent are under direct scrutiny by the ninety-nine percent. So as far as I can understand, the Occupy movement is the public reaction to finding out that the people who caused widespread unemployment, poverty, repossession, fore-closures and bankruptcies, were bailed out of their debts with tax money from our governments and then they want to pay themselves huge bonuses out of that money. Money itself is the worst single product that capitalism spews out. Capitalism needs money to survive, if we all used barter, it would be difficult to acquire much wealth,(or create wealth from doing nothing more than picking up a telephone and barking coded messages to an underpaid underling).
The world could do without money I think, with a little science and technology. The Venus Project has aspirational ideals and hopes and dreams that seem very far removed from reality, however there does seem to be a global shift in aspiration towards a sustainable, fairer future. Technology is being developed all around the world that seems to make all our lives easier, robotic assistants around the house are a great start, but robots have been taking over jobs and reducing the cost of manufacturing for decades. It won't be long until there are fully automated machines doing 99% of jobs while humans become the 1% on them. The futurists of history imagined humanoid robots that could do all of the jobs a human could do, but the current trends signify a shift towards specialisation. Automated vacuum cleaners, self parking cars, automated checkouts, driver-less vehicles, and even vending machines (not an entirely new threat, but more and more products are coming out of the bottom of them these days!) are all replacing human tasks in succession. We may well have servile humanoid robots in the future, to serve us personally, but the majority of labour will be divided between scores of devices engineered around their tasks.
The Internet shopping trend has also cost a lot of people their jobs. It's true, it is a sad fact. Retail and sales is a huge sector of the workforce globally, this sector is the most critically hit by Internet. As much as the Internet has created jobs for many highly trained and skilled professionals, these professionals created code to make a lot of jobs redundant as they created online shops. It was great for the capitalist model, it fit perfectly; you see a product on the internet, the place you spend so much more of your time now, you like it, you buy it and it gets sent out to you from a warehouse, PROFIT! What will people actually do for jobs in the future? Will there be any jobs in the future? What if every process could be automated, if every human effort could be replaced by an efficiently designed machine? What need of capitalism would we have then?
All those "middle men" cut out of the consumer experience have been racking up, but the capitalist model still seems to be making profit. Or is it? The juggernaut of capitalism is definitely slowing down and weakening. The need for a fairer system is ever more urgent, the money men, the ones who control vast wealth, are unscrupulous. They use our money for the manufacture of their fortune from speculations they make on our lives, our successes and failures fuel their extravagant lifestyles while we scramble for a pittance.
Globally the iron fist of capitalist oppression is squeezing tighter, most reccently on the Occupy London, it won't be the end of the movement. May is traditionally an excellent month for anti capitalist protests and planning is going on right now to make this years Mayday protests even bigger. I'm really upset by the news of School of Ideas, how do we explain to children that we live in a big angry state that will come and get you if you threaten to oppose it, especially if you are trying to expose it's corruption and greed. In our country we are not really doing anything new. We are using new tools, like the internet and tent cities, but the tactics employed by the Occupy Movement, to me, are like an urban version of the environmentalist forestry protests where protesters occupy treetops. The main difference is our knowledge, we have serious amounts of information about the inadequacies of the economic system used to control us. We know how crooked our politicians and how morally bankrupt our journalists are. We have Wikileaks and Anonymous to thank for that, and maybe even our morally bankrupt journalists a little too. It is like the darkest parts of society all turned on each other, the media, the government, and the financial greed machine are all devouring each other in a bid to rule us supremely. In this moment we must seize our opportunity to stand as one and say "No, we shall not be ruled over by leaders with agendas and objectives for us. If we allow a state to exist, it must serve our agendas and objectives, it must serve us. "
The likelihood of humanity rising up against the archaic control systems imposed upon it for millennia , may have seemed insignificant even a decade ago. This decade though seems to be one of serious thought towards the future, and why we're not there yet? What systems have been holding us back for personal gain and what should we do about it? A global revolution towards Utopian Anarchy could be great, but as long as there are haves and have nots, there will always be a threat of capitalism and greed. We need to figure out the limitations imposed on us by corporate entities, we need to provide for ourselves. Then we can survive without them.
What Is Going On With All Of This Internet Dramatica?
The internet is revolting. It is full of people, with radical ideas and it's hard to navigate the web without being directly exposed to other people's creative juices. Right now you are reading the thoughts and opinions of an individual adult European male called Michael Wharton, who has strong "opinions" and "theories" about the world around him. The internet is the only real forum for every literate, intelligent individual or organisations of like minded individuals to openly voice their views to the entire world (except China obviously).
The internet has been successfully, and unsuccessfully, used as tool for political campaigning. A great example of this was the recent British election in which several successful Twitter "#hashtag" campaigns went viral and may have contributed to the resultant hung parliament (well there is always a theory!). This shift towards a Twittocracy will have to retain its neutrality, especially with the huge budgets some parties have for online campaigns. Luckily, the people at Twitter have declared that, at least for now, they aren't promoting paid political trends and tweets
Cool Story Bro! What Happen? Whose Responsible This?
Well, yeah, the internet used to be fun and frolics. It used to be Lolcats, Rick Astley, Badgers, Porn and Pies, but now the internet is serious business. Internet activism (or as I like to call it interactivism!) has been observable for a while now, but in the recent months it has been going through a renaissance and surge in popularity. Sites dedicated to particular humanitarian causes have attracted support through their own means for years. Now with the advent of social media and social networking sites, these causes can be spread much faster and wider by their own supporters, eliminating a lot of expense.
With this torrent of the masses flowing to these social networking services, like Twitter and Facebook, the spread of ideology and philosophy is incredibly easy. The ability for people to instantly share opinions and feelings with friends and strangers is a boon to most, but there are those who fear information overload. It's all down to personal choice, free will is essential on the internet.
Interactivism, Twittocracy Fine; But WTF Is Hacktivism?
Hacktivism is the last measure of interactivism; when petitions and protests and hashtags don't work. There are many forms of hacktivism being carried out all the time; whether it's journalists using illegal techniques to garner information then posting to Wikileaks, or members of elite hacker groups organising online raids or exploits (sploits) of particular targets. Although the former is the most publicised recently due to Wikileaks getting better at what they do, and various personal attacks upon its founder, the latter is the fastest growing.
Anonymous Hacktivism: Operation Payback Is A Bitch!
Anonymous (so named due to their frequent use of message/image boards such as 4chan where most users post using the default username "Anonymous") are now the self proclaimed last line of defence of the internet and self appointed guardians of net neutrality. They hide their personal identities to strengthen their group integrity, as an idea is impossible to destroy. Anonymous have also been successful in many past instances of hacktivism aimed at various nefarious parties; from Operation Chanology against the church of Scientology, to Operation Titstorm/Freeweb against the DMCA and ACTA laws in Australia and USA. Their most recent campaign; Operation Payback Is A Bitch! the main targets have been law firms (such as ACS:Law) based in Europe and the UK, law firms who have been encroaching on the personal freedoms of many innocent citizens. The legitimacy of these targets is debatable, but it is undeniable that in order to catch a copyright infringer, they have and will infringe all of our human rights. Anonymous have also aimed the Low Orbit Ion Canon at the Ministry of Sound website along with the RIAA, the MPAA and Gene Simmons as part of Operation Payback. Future plans for DDoS targets are discussed in a fluid manner on IRC channels and voted on democratically on affiliated Operation Payback sites. There is actually a precedent for this type of cyber-protest, back in 2004 the internet group Lycos launched; Make Love Not Spam a campaign against internet spammers using a similar DDoS method. News of these Operation Payback attacks does keep coming from certain affiliated sources such as Torrent Freak, but mainstream TV news sources (especially in the UK) have, at best been practically ignoring it, at worst misreporting it completely. There is always a theory that this is intentional, to prevent more people joining the cause and quell the fire storm coming from the internet. This will not work. When dealing with an internet phenomenon, there is no real way to keep it quiet if it is a popular enough idea. The latest news from the front is promising, as a result of ACS-Law's inability to keep data private, BT have recently deleted user data, much to the annoyance of the Ministry Of Sound.
Anonymous ACTA Video From The Operation Payback Site
How Does Interactivism Lead To Twittocracy / Cyber Anarchy?
Quite simply put, we are coming to a very crucial point in the development of humanity. We have several paths ahead of us, and we must exercise our free will and choose the right one (in my opinion Anarchy is hard to avoid). Down one could lead to a dystopian future with information being tightly controlled like George Orwell's 1984. Down another path we might find peace and unity through the free sharing of ideas and free expression of creativity. Maybe I'm being idealistic, but I'd rather live in a world where all my information is in the public domain than one where we are being lied to constantly and refused information.
The choices are being made now, by our politicians, but there are other forces at work other than plain old politics. Money is a major factor in the information war, the others are power and control. Artists and those who create digital media are not the primary benefactors of their work. The big production companies and corporate bosses make so much more than the actual creators that it sickens most people. We find it harder and harder to justify why these people deserve to live in luxury while we live in fear of repossession. This hacktivism will not be the last shot fired as long as the freedom and neutrality of the internet is threatened still. The anonymous legion will keep firing their lasers until they achieve great justice, maybe we will praise them as honoured brethren.