Weeknote – 19/03/2021

Standard

Reading:

A modder known online as T0st published details of how they found and fixed an issue in Grand Theft Auto V. Their solution reduces the loading times of GTAVs online mode by 70%. As a result, Rockstar Games (the GTA developers) rewarded T0st with $10,000 and incorporated parts of his solution into an official update.

https://www.pcgamer.com/rockstar-thanks-gta-online-player-who-fixed-poor-load-times-official-update-coming/

This chain of events has received mixed responses. On one hand, its great that Rockstar listened to T0st’s solution and used it to improve the game. The financial reward was also something they didn’t have to do – Rockstar’s bug bounty program rewards people who find and report crucial security or privacy flaws, and they chose to make an exception for T0st and award it to them as well. Given the size of the online GTA playerbase, a 70% reduction in loading times translates into thousands of human-hours saved in future too.

The criticisms of Rockstar are also merited, however. GTAV has been out for 7 years, been released across 3 console generations, and has also been referred to as the single most profitable piece of digital entertainment in history.Yet Rockstar didn’t do anything to implement what was apparently a simple fix until someone unrelated did the work in their spare time. A lot of people are cynical about whether their response was solely about avoiding bad PR, and I understand where that view comes from.

Adobe, on the other hand, are definitely being criticised due to this illogical action:

https://torrentfreak.com/adobe-goes-after-27-year-old-pirated-copy-of-acrobat-reader-1-0-for-ms-dos-210315/

Really, Adobe? I know that copyright is complex, and that brands have to actively protect their copyrights or their legal right to them can be made null. But applying a DMCA takedown here seems excessive, especially as the tweet was only a link to another website rather than the direct source of the software. Also, Acrobat Reader 1.0 is 5 years older than the DMCA legislation itself, which makes this feel even more unnecessary.

Video:

When articles were published in 2016 about the large carbon footprint of streaming video, the numbers involved caught many people’s attention. However, more recent investigations of that data have shown the initial research was flawed. Here, Simon Clark explains the two main errors which caused the original figure to be overstated by up to 90x – firstly, a conversion that mistakenly mixed up bits and bytes, and secondly an overestimate of how much energy data centres require to function. He also discusses whether the positive effects of educational video can compensate for some of the carbon produced, which is a really interesting question to explore.

I looked into this a bit further after watching the video and found that the Shift Project, who produced the original research, have listened to and responded to the raised criticisms. They also explained how some errors came from the way the results were communicated: many news publications jumped to explaining the problem using a single example, such as “every time you watch half an hour of Netflix, you produce this much carbon”, which the original research was not designed to do.

Gaming:

I didn’t play much this week beyond revisiting the Zombies part of the most recent Call of Duty – I’m not the biggest Zombies fan, but the current version is fun to play with friends, especially now that characters can bring a special ability into matches. Being able to heal/revive other players even from far across the map means I can be part of the game for longer and avoid the death > equipment loss > more death loop that often happens in Zombies matches.

I also posted a game review a few days ago, for the coffee-shop-based visual novel Coffee Talk.

Work:

My work week was surprisingly peaceful, as the main project I’m involved in decided to turn our daily meetings into twice-weekly meetings. This meant I had time to delve into the data side of things (mostly) uninterrupted, so that I could make sure that the volunteer data was being stored and updated properly while it’s still stored across our old system and new system. Annoyingly, I also figured out that one issue reported by the volunteer coordinators was caused by a mistake I made a couple of weeks ago!

So I did have a fair bit of manual data moving and tidying to do this week, but I don’t mind that when I’m in control of it, because I’m making something logical and as it should be.

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