Naughty and Nice ’13: The year in geeky news

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Another December is upon us and we must deck our halls!

The holiday season is a time of tradition, and one of the traditions at Damage Control is kicking off our Naughty and Nice feature series with a look back at the year’s geeky news.

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1. Heroes of Cosplay
It’s possible many already know the realities of “reality” television, but it’s at its worst when it invades the realm of geekdom. What could have been a quality show examining the realities of cosplaying at conventions was ruined when SyFy’s decided to invent and force drama to make it more entertaining for a larger audience. This is hardly the only “reality” show guilty of this, but Heroes of Cosplay represents the pinnacle of how awkward the results can be.

2. DC Comics is Run By Silly People
DC has been making a legion of stupid decisions since “The New 52” series of comics launched in 2011, and that didn’t stop this year. The worst incident involved preventing one of their creative teams from allowing Batwoman to have a lesbian wedding, leading to most of them leaving the company in protest. In response DC provided an awful, contradictory reason for why they wouldn’t allow it, saying comics simply shouldn’t focus on the personal lives of their superheroes. So much for progress in comics, huh?

3. New York Comic-Con Hijacking People’s Accounts
Someone in the NYCC’s staff got the bright idea to hijack people’s Twitter accounts to promote the convention while it was occurring, and thought they could get away with it without facing serious criticism. People noticed something suspicious when they saw the exact same messages exclaiming praise over the convention across various accounts, and their owners subsequently directed their bile in the NYCC staff’s direction. Their efforts to promote it backfired, but hopefully this teaches people an important lesson: don’t trust a company with your login information for social networks or email account.

4. R.I.P. Blockbuster Video
Blockbuster had been suffering for a few years now, after being late to the video streaming craze. Their relevance was slowly dwindling, but time finally ran out this year when they announced the closure of all remaining stores. It was inevitable, sure, but this announcement made many remember the huge role they had in the 90s, where the company nearly had a monopoly on movie, anime, and video game rental market. They were partly responsible for making anime popular in America, in fact, even if their selection wasn’t the greatest around.

5. Ever-Pervading Sexism
Though steps have been taken to get geek hobbies out of the “Boys Only” club — especially video games and comics — we still have a ways to go. Some of the most embarrassing incidents this year occurred at a conference called TechCrunch Disrupt 2013, in two different presentations. The first featured an app called “Titstare,” (yes, as in “staring at tits”) which let mobile phone users view pictures of people staring at cleavage. The second was for a game called “Circle Shake,” which involved shaking your device up and down. The presenter demonstrated it with a masturbation-style motion, and pretended to groan, as if they wanted to make it uncomfortable for everyone. TechCrunch editors apologized for the presentations, but they both showed that we still have a lot of boys in our tech industries, instead of men.

1. Life after retirement for Miyazaki
It was a sad time when Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement from filmmaking at Stuido Ghibli earlier this year. But it appears he has a different definition of “retirement” than many of us, as he’s started work on a new manga series about a samurai living in Japan’s “Warring States” period. Clearly the man can’t stop providing entertainment (this isn’t the first time he’s “retired”), but that’s good for the rest of us.

2. The New Ms. Marvel
Now that the former Ms. Marvel has become Captain Marvel, Marvel Comics will be filling that void with a new heroine taking the mantle. The twist is that she’ll be a Muslim American from New Jersey. While it’s receiving a sizable amount of criticism, most of which is of the deplorable variety, most plan on welcoming it with open arms when the comic series begins early next year.

3. How Disney Got Its Groove Back
Disney’s animated movies were struggling for a while in terms of quality. But in the last few years, they’ve found that itch again. Forget about my thoughts concerning their switch to CG over 2D animation for a moment, as what matters most is the resulting quality of their films. Their recent works, including Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen, come close to matching their films from the 90s, and hopefully they’ll keep going from there.

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1. Big brother’s still watching you
I don’t know what’s worse, the massive warrantless, unchallengeable citizen-monitoring efforts of the NSA, or the fact it was easy as pie for accidental Fourth Amendment activist and low-level private subcontractor Edward Snowden to use social engineering to get critical security clearances in this top-secret agency. And, from what we hear of his “doomsday file,” the most shocking revelations are yet to come.

2. Big Brother’s REALLY still watching you
Even more damaging is the ripple effect the government’s post-Snowden fishing expedition is creating. useful, secure web services are dropping like flies instead of complying with Uncle Sam’s demands for access. The most famous example is Lavabit, an encrypted email service Snowden is said to have used, which chose to die on its own sword rather than betray the trust of their customers. Since then, other secure email providers like Silent Mail and Cryptoseal have shut down too, some going as far as to do so preemptively to avoid any possibility of dealing with the NSA or the secret FISA court.

1. Graphics card price wars
While Nvidia more-or-less dominated 2012’s discrete graphics market, AMD has struck back with their new R-series cards anchored by their GTX Titan-busting R9 290X. While AMD isn’t taking the crown on architecture maturity (the R-series gets its horsepower from high power, causing high heat and high fan noise), the performance results combined with a price 40% less than Nvidia’s flagship Titan cards ignited price cuts thought their competing GTX 700 line. Score one for the open marketplace.

2. Steve Ballmer stepping down
While even the most ardent fans of Microsoft probably never foresaw his presence on a “nice” list, Ballmer no longer calling the shots as CEO of the company he helped create is big news for the company. Seen by many (everyone) as lacking the technological vision of Bill Gates (I almost threw up writing that), Ballmer couldn’t business-sense his way through changing technology, leaving the mighty Microsoft constantly last to the party to each new device or market under his tenure. We might not see the results of the regime change for some time (he’s not even retiring until next summer), so it’s not known if the new leadership will be an improvement, but for now the opportunity is tantalizing.

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