Green Man Gaming web site experience

I wanted to buy the XCOM Enemy Unknown Pack, but this was a major pain:

  1. Checkout and login both result in a HTTP 403 Forbidden error in the latest Firefox. Switched to Chromium.
  2. You have to register with the site before being able to buy anything.
  3. After registering, receiving the confirmation email, clicking the confirmation email link, logging in, re-adding the game to the basket, clicking “Checkout”, ignoring their “Rewards” page, filling in the delivery address (it’s a flipping Steam game!), ignoring their “Trade-in Info” page, filling in the payment info, clicking “Make Payment”, and waiting for the “We are processing your order” page to redirect, I was sent back to the front page with no message of any kind. The payment was apparently not registered. Fffffffuuuuuu

At the second try the purchase went through, but damn!

And after a bunch of cutting and pasting the game is now active. I can see how buying Steam games from third parties is a lot more of a pain than the original shop.

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Review: Liars and Outliers by Bruce Schneier

tl;dr An enormously important book about understanding and optimizing security in the 21st century.

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. I don’t know Bruce Schneier, and he certainly doesn’t know me. Even so, when he announced a heavily discounted signed edition of Liars and Outliers he was effectively testing the main hypothesis of the book: That in any society it is reasonable to uphold a non-zero level of trust even in complete strangers:

  • Schneier trusted 100 (or at least many enough to make a net gain) random strangers to reciprocate the offer by writing and publishing a review of the book.
  • 100 random people trusted him to sign copies of the book and send it to the correct addresses upon receipt of the money.
  • All 101 of us trusted essentially the rest of the human race not to interfere in the transaction, even when interference could mean easy money with virtually no chance of retribution.

Schneier goes on to explain, with his famous lucidity and reference to much contemporary research, why this trust is essential to all human interchange, how trustworthiness is highly dependent on the situation and not just the person, how a society with 100% conformity is not just a terrible goal but literally impossible, the human and artificial pressures to cooperate or not, how more severe punishments are often ineffective or even counter-effective, and how social and technological evolution is too fast for democracy to stabilize the overall level of trust.

[At this point I wanted to double-check the scribbled-down criticisms below, but the book is 3,000 km away with a nephew. Please take the following with a grain of salt. And now that I’ve lowered your expectations, let’s continue!]

In some very few places I found the wording misleading. For example, the iTunes store doesn’t allow you to buy music, merely to license it for your personal use. As far as I understand from what very little I’ve read of this, when iTunes shuts down, there are many jurisdictions where you would not be allowed to download songs which are audibly indistinguishable from what you had paid for.

The graphs are generally informative, but sometimes confusing. For example (pages 72-73):

  • Traits/Tendencies and natural defenses are both in the social pressures box, while the text says neither is a social pressure.
  • There’s an incentives line and a separate box.
  • Why are some of the lines double? If they’re strong, a thick line would be clearer.

One note is terrifying: On average, 7% of terrorists’ policy objectives are achieved? What method could conceivably be considered more effective than 7% for a (usually) tiny group of what is often foreigners? Compare it to normal bureaucratic channels, where usually only billionaire citizens or corporations have the slightest chance to change policy within a reasonable time.

Conclusion: I wish this had been compulsory reading at high school. With entertaining anecdotes, scary implications of human nature, and scientifically grounded careful optimism it’s the most dangerous book everyone should read.

Social contract – Fulfilled!

Tesla Roadster vs. SAAB

Since I first found the website of the Tesla Roadster, the electric supercar has never been far from my thoughts. It’s about time I got to making some calculations of just how far this dream is from reality. Don’t worry, there are anyways too many confounding factors for this to be really serious.

SAAB 9000 2.0 CSE fuel efficiency
Unit Value Comments
L/100km 9.5 According to the dashboard, not calculations
/L 1.1 Cheapest gasoline around here
Work days/Y 230 ~6 weeks vacation+holidays
km/day 130 Work is too far away
€/Y 3125 =9.5/100*1.1*230*130
Tesla Roadster fuel efficiency
Unit Value Comments
W·h/km 110 From Wikipedia
€/kW·h 0.1092 From EDF
€/Y 359 =110/1000*0.1092*230*130

With a minimum price of US$80,000, and an exchange rate of 1.28468 against the Euro, it would take 80000/1.28468/(3125-359) = 22.5 years to break even when only counting the gas.

Confounding factors include

  • Transport price (they are not selling to Europe yet)
  • Taxes
  • Efficiency in cold weather
  • The ultimate coolness of the Tesla
  • Cheaper electricity because of increased use
  • Change in mileage
  • Longevity / MTBF
  • Repair costs
  • Resale / collectible value

All in all, still under consideration. That is, until I revolutionize alchemy.

If someone has done more comprehensive studies of the cost of this car compared to a gas-guzzling giant, please leave a comment. Thank you!

Tire shopping in the Geneva / St. Genis area

For those only interested in the result, please skip to the last table.

So, the time for winter tires has finally come. As a clueless car newbie, I asked someone with very long experience at Northern Norwegian roads, and was adviced to take a look at Michelin. With this and the current tire dimensions (205/55R15) I had a look at a few of the shops in Saint Genis. The results were as follows (all prices should be including VAT, mounting on wheel, and calibration):

Shop Where W/wheel W/O wheel
Citroën St. Genis N/A €152.98
Point S St. Genis €206.72 €156.82

During this walk, I had a look in VIMA as well. There I was told that the winter tires did not necessarily have the same dimension as the summer tires. So I went home and checked the all-knowing World Wide Web. One of the first things I came up with was a reference in a newsgroup posting to the website of The Tire Rack. This site seemed to be teeming with information, and I could readily find what sizes other drivers were using for their SAAB 9000s. According to my search criteria, the original configuration seemed to be 205/60/15, so I used this for searching further. It seemed that Michelin Pilot Alpin PA2 was very popular amongst previous owners, so I went with that. Now was the time to check on the shops again. I called the ones I had been to previously (except VIMA), and found a nice list of Geneva (Genevose? Genevan?) tire retailers. The results were as follows (same conditions as the previous table; exchange rate €1 = CHF1.55):

Shop Where W/wheel W/O wheel
Citroën St. Genis N/A €140.38
Point S St. Genis No answer
Garage Pelletier St. Genis €246.00 €198.00
Speedy Auto Service Carouge €209.68 €143.55
Euromaster Balexert €178.06 €110.32
Adam Touring Geneva €187.10 €135.48
Touspneus Geneva €176,77 €127,74

It should be noted that this is naturally a small subset of the available tire vendors in the Geneva / Saint Genis area, that the exchange rate of swiss francs may be off a bit, that none of the prices have been “verified” in any way, and that this only regards two very specific tires. However, it should be clear to anyone that you may save quite a lot by checking with several retailers.