Fed2 Star - the newsletter for the space trading game Federation 2

The weekly newsletter for Fed2
by ibgames

EARTHDATE: July 24, 2016

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An idiosyncratic look at, and comment on, the week's net, technology and science news
by Alan Lenton

This week’s Winding Down has material on Yahoo!, Pokemon Go, NY Public Libraries questions, a novel fire extinguisher, the French v Windows 10, the French back Google and Bing (yes, really), Apple taken to court (yawn), pictures of the Horsehead and Pencil Nebulas, and a trip to the Bank of England Museum. Scanner URLs include pointers to material on plate tectonics, Windows 10 and Microsoft metrics, Google funded speakers, scamming Microsoft Office, paying for a CitiGroup bug, and George Orwell on politics and the English language. Enjoy.

And while you are enjoying your Sunday Morning read, I plan to contemplate the latest thing to be banned by the Chinese authorities: “Eating bananas seductively in front of a camera”...


Well it looks like the end of the line for Yahoo!, once the darling of the Internet. Verizon are about to buy it for a cool US$5 billion. It’s not been formally announced yet, but yesterday Yahoo! told the other bidders that Verizon was the winner of the beauty contest. The formal announcement is supposed to be tomorrow (Monday).

With a value of US$118.75 a share at the height of the dot com boom, Yahoo! was the poster boy of the era. Just how typical it was of its milieu became clear when the bubble burst and its share price dropped to a mere US$8.11. No wonder it has an exclamation mark as part of its name. It’s been staggering along ever since.

I’m not clear exactly what Verizon think they are getting for their US$5 billion. I expect that in a year or so I will be telling you that they’ve written it off, or maybe found another sucker to sell it to at a loss!

And talking of disasters, here are a few more Pokemon Go stories to add to last week’s piece on the dark side of the game.

In Bosnia, players are having to be warned not to walk into minefields while playing the game. Bosnia still has uncleared minefields left over from the 1995 war.

In the UK, the Coastguard (the coastguard over here is a search and rescue organisation, rather than a border protection organisation) was called out when a group of about 20 teenagers piled into a rowboat to chase a Pokething across the water...

And my favourite PokePerson story, comes from Baltimore, where a driver playing Pokemon Go while driving managed to crash into a police car! I can but quote the driver’s take on the whole thing: “That’s what I get for playing this dumb-ass game.”



Now here’s a little something for New York readers. Did you know that the public library has its own, publicly available, ‘human Google’ type service? You can ring up, ask a question and a live librarian will use the library’s massive archives (120 years’ worth) to try to answer questions which have in the past included such gems as “Does the Pope have to be a virgin?” and “Does anyone have a copyright on the Bible?”.*

The service started in the 1960s, and is currently staffed by nine librarians. Since July 2015 there have been 60,000 phone calls, 20,000 emails, 17,000 chat messages, and 500 text messages).

If you want data you can get it from the internet, but if you want a meaningful answer – ask a librarian!

Geek Stuff:

Now this is brilliant! A fire extinguishing ball. All geeks like to play with fire when they get the chance. Now there’s a geek style toy that will deal with it if you lose control! It’s called the Elde Fire Extinguishing Ball. You just toss it into the fire and the heat triggers it off resulting in a flurry of fire extinguishing chemicals. Really, really cool, just take a look at the videos.


French regulators are not known for their friendly attitude to things Anglo-Saxon, but the latest ruling from one of the regulators, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), is difficult to disagree with. The CNIL is an independent data privacy watchdog with the power to levy fines against companies. That sounds a bit weird to me, but this is the French.

Anyway, according to the Register (I was kicked out the French and Latin classes at school after a year, so I can’t translate myself) the CNIL is claiming Windows 10 collects excessive amounts of personal data, ships information out of the EU illegally, and has lousy security. CNIL clearly have some people who know what they are talking about. They’ve given Microsoft three months to clean up their act, or else face fines.

That’s fine (so to speak) as far as it goes. The real problem with dealing with companies the size of Microsoft is making the fines big enough that paying them doesn’t become just part of the cost of doing business. I’ll be interested to see if Microsoft do make any changes.

 But that’s not the only thing pending this week on the French front. The High Court in Paris has ruled that Google and Bing can’t be required to block the word ‘torrent’ from their search results. An excellent and common sense ruling. Would that there were a few more such rulings in other legal systems! An appeal is probably in the works already...

And one other thing to keep an eye out for. A court case has been filed against Apple [This is news?- ed] for replacing damaged or faulty gear with factory reconditioned stuff, rather than brand new kit. Hmmm. That sort of thing isn’t confined to Apple, but I guess given the premium people pay for Apple iThingies, you can understand them getting uptight.

I guess this will all come down to definitions. I dread to think what fun the lawyers are going to have with this one, so it’s one to watch.


A couple of astronomy pictures this week. A superb picture of the famous Horsehead Nebula from the Hubble Telescope, and a nice picture of the filmy, lesser known, Pencil Nebula.


I took a trip down to visit the Bank of England Museum on Friday. Yep! The Bank has its own museum, open to the public. Lots of original material on display, telling the story of the Bank, and material helping understand its role as the UK’s central bank. It even includes an explanation of the much maligned term ‘quantitative easing’ (and no, it’s not the name of a laxative).

US visitors will, I’m sure want to see the original letter from George Washington and his wife instructing the Bank on what to do with their dividends. The security section has an interesting display of muskets with fixed bayonets, and other weapons. After the Gordon riots, responsibility for the security of the Bank rested with the Army until quite late in the 20th Century.

Best of all was a gold bar that you could get your hand round and feel the weight of – 28lb of gold. Unfortunately, they don’t let you take it away with you...

Well worth an hour or so of your time if you are in London, especially at the moment, because schools are out and lots of people are abroad on their holidays.


Plate tectonics just a stage in Earth’s life cycle

Windows 10 – a failure by Microsoft’s own metric

CfA Report reveals Google-funded speakers dominate key policy conferences

How to scam $750,000 out of Microsoft Office

Google is adding new ways to track you for ads, but it’s letting you call the shots

Software bug costs CitiGroup $7m after legit transactions mistaken for test data for 15 years

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

*Answers: No he doesn’t have to be a virgin, and only for editions of the bible published after 1923.


Thanks to readers Barb and Fi for drawing my attention to material for Winding Down.

Please send suggestions for stories to alan@ibgames.com and include the words Winding Down in the subject line, unless you want your deathless prose gobbled up by my voracious Thunderbird spam filter...

Alan Lenton
24 July 2016

Alan Lenton is an on-line games designer, programmer and sociologist, the order of which depends on what he is currently working on! His web site is at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/index.html.

Past issues of Winding Down can be found at http://www.ibgames.net/alan/winding/index.html.

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