This article is more than 1 year old

Virtual War: readers fire back

Plus German Wiki, Dutch maths and Swedish nymphs

Letters Our recent analysis on "virtual war", certainly got the keyboards rattling among the Reg readership. No further comment is required. Read on:

Your article "Virtual War is worrying" was an interesting and enjoyable read. However, I would suggest you have some misconceived conceptions about the gentility of World War II, or certainly its portrayal to the public. You wrote:

"Back in the World War Two days, combat was respectful and life was valued, at least in public...the loss of life on either side was never trivialised and a sense of humanity was always maintained."

Whilst the British propaganda was usually restrained - even the black propaganda - one cannot make the same statement for the American propaganda. Contemporary posters and comic book covers used derogatory portrayals of Japanese people and often included slogans tantamount to inciting genocide.

Ultimately it is the American audience that today's war games are developed for, so the 'gung-ho' attitude you object to is sadly nothing new. It has merely carried over to a new medium.

Yours faithfully,

Crispin Giles Walker-Buckton

Sorry Will but although I can kinda see what you're saying in your article 'vitual war is worrying' ...

"Back in the World War Two days, combat was respectful and life was valued, at least in public" a pretty fantasy-land remark. You're referring to the 'great' war where vast lines of men were made to climb out of trenches into the teeth of machine gun fire to get mown down like blades of grass. This was also the war where chemical agents were first openly used as tactical weapons. Life was valued? Combat respectful? This hasn't been so since the days when the opposing commanders met on horseback in the middle of the battlefield to negotiate terms of engagement prior to kickoff of conflict.

Personally I welcome the new generation of first person combat games - while thrilling from an action perspective, they also give me a very real sense of how quick I'd end up dead in the dirt if it were a real situation, which in a way makes me think of all those blokes of my granddads generation who were there in the thick of it.

Sean Healey

What makes a war game in bad taste is the music. There's no music out there in the "field," where the taste of fear sits in your mouth like a steel knife. Turn off the music, turn up the difficulty, and then play it like your life was on the line. If you play it to experience what the real soldiers went through, then it isn't in bad taste.

My uncle received a bronze star for his service in WWII. His company was being persued by the German army. They needed someone to hold off and distract the Germans while they escaped. My uncle volunteered for it. He holed up in a farm house, and put up such a barrage of fire that the Germans thought they were up against the entire company, and dug in. His company escaped, and then he escaped.

Brian Miller

Interesting article. Yes WW2 was a long time ago, and so i would agree that it would also agree on "the temporal gap" and the distance from reality. This is also reflected by the notion that the war then was more human and respectful than the war now. This is plainly wrong. Not forgetting conscription world war 2 saw blanket bombing of civillian towns. This was on the British side, by the way, Churchill sanctioned the death of over 35,000 civillians in one raid alone (Dresden). Then theres 270,000 by just one of the American atomic bombs. Thats just the Allies, the good guys. No way was WW2 less trivial or more humane. It was uglier, dirtier and more painful. No doubt then, as now, the soldiers wished unspeakable things on the enemy. But time clouds everything.

Today we see the "good guys" apologising and explaining pretty much every accidental civilian death.

Now, to your article :) I played soldiers in the playground at school. We used to take turns being british or germans. There was also a huge amount of movies about the second world war, Nazi's were killed left right and centre - we didnt see how their lives meant something, how their wives grieved for them, they were mown down on the silver screen by our heros. Same with vietnam war movies. Of course of the buddie of the hero died, well that was another matter. - and this is where I also agree with you about the games, its not the same. Deaths on both sides come too cheaply, and much too cleanly. I want moaning wounded men. Screams. Corpses disappear from the screen. I want the corpses to be left there for me to trip over later on. I want to play a game where i have to drag my buddie off the field and tend his wounds.

I wonder if the kids today play Iraqis and Americans on their school playground? Or even actually think about it.

Also, to be fair, I would agree that playing a game about Iraq now, whilst its still going on, is in bad taste.

Tim Waters

Nice to see someone airing a viewpoint on war games similar to my own in the IT press. I don't like war shooters for the reasons you mention, whether theyre WW2, Vietnam or more recent I feel these games trivialise the suffering of the people who were actually involved and are in bad taste. Unlike my friends I only play Doom and Quake style shooters where the enemy is a demon or an alien and the events aren't based on real life. Whenever my friends say "Have you played Tour of Duty 2 yet" or similar they all look at me bemused when I say "No, I don't play those kind of games."

Personally I thought 'Saving Private Ryan' was in bad taste, but then I don't immediately think a film is great just because it's directed by Spielberg. (Have I mentioned that ET is the worst film I've ever seen in the cinema.) The portrayal of the war wasn't my problem but the use of real corpses being shot at for the special effects. What did that add to the film exactly? Why should we be doing / watching that?

Thanks, Dave Murray

Of course, people getting killed, whether on screen or in real life, is as nothing compared to that matter of earth-shattering import - Wikipedia

"According to Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales, content from the web site may also be burned onto CDs and DVDs for computer users in places like Africa, which lack access to the internet."

'kin hell, haven't they got enough problems??

Colin Jackson

So difficult to know what to do. Get the DVD, or put the €9.90 towards the Holy Potato going on eBay. Decisions, decisions.

Peter Alexander

Wow ! To have the priviledge of actually paying for all the inane babble and unfounded pipe dreams of the lamest bloggers of the planet. My credit card is tingling with anticipation ! After all, why bother subscribing to Universalis when you can get Wikipedia ? Universalis is only a well-respected, properly documented and historically truthful publication that happens to be available online. Universalis, with its long and proven process of verification, doesn't stand a chance against the army of the Wiki who type out new articles faster than the Internet can publish them. And Universalis does not have a complete treaty on Klingon either - which is a must-have in today's wired world. All hail the Wiki !

Pascal Monett

Dear Sir,

Although I consider Wikipedia on DVD being a bad idea, or Wikipedia being a bad idea full stop, then "according to Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, content from the web site may also be burned onto CDs and DVDs for computer users in places like Africa, which lack access to the internet," ought to be considered morally irresponsible becasue people who have no exposure to the Internet may confuse Wikipedia with a real encyclopedia and end up with a distorted picture of the world and its history.

Lets see how the Germans do. Perhaps they'll be some cases of slander.

Yours faithfully, S.L.

I'll concede that Wikipedia isn't "polished" like some other "professional" encyclopedias. But to charge that it is useless is simply false, unless you think free, factual information covering subjects such as Calculus, Physics, and the whole gamut of other technical information contained within the body of work put out by Wikipedia is of no interest. Of course, I have yet to see the Wiki-bashers bang on the technical coverage (not to say that it is outstanding or complete - it is neither). Niggling and sniggering at the unsophisticated Wiki-fiddlers seems to be all you oh-so-superior "professional" writers can do in regards to the Wiki. Shame on you for your cynicism at what has been a monumental achievement, with much more to come, carried out by individuals much less practiced at nursing their own egos as the flatulent staff of the now notorious (in this readers mind, anyway) "Reg".

You've lost a reader.

jesse clark

In which case, you'll have plenty of time to trawl your way through Wiki, passing "m" on your travels...

Though it is possible there was no such entry (due to the inherent nature of the Wikipedia) at the time of the writing, there is in fact a wikipedia entry for 'moral responsibility'.

A simple search will reveal it, as shown here:

Charles Mandeville

Moving as rapidly as possible away from the topic of Wiki, we have a few comments on the Dublin server bug kerfuffle. The name of the firm in the first missive has been removed, for obvious reasons:

This reminds me of an incident at X...

A mass mail of over ten thousand email addresses was attempted, using nothing more than a simle Exchange Server. This, despite the fact that we had a perfectly good 'Lyris' system, for sending out mass mails, in house. The team responsible for doing the mailout, however, were determined not to use the Lyris system, because it ran on Linux - and there were a good many senior people at X who maintained a powerful reality-distortion field, of hostility, when it came to open source software (the same individuals maintained a similar reality-distortion fiield about the merits of wearing leather trousers to the office).

So, they tried to use Exchange Server, wiithout realising what they were asking of it: without understanding that the SMTP portion of Exchange's software is essentially based on Sendmail and, like Sendmail, it forks when given multiple jobs to do. Over ten thousand HTML mail messages where therefore launched by (cough) *someone*, who had seen fit to log in as 'administrator'... Nothing could stop it: memory was immediatly consumed, of course, and the paging file bulged, and splurged across the hard drive, wiping the system out.

The entire company was withouut email for a fortnight, after that, I kid you not (but it didn't really matter, because we were bankrupt within two and a half months, anyway).

There ain't half been some clever bastards.

Name supplied

Just to let you know, the same thing happened to our company recently.

A colleague sent a bulk email to our customers, and accidentally put all the recipients into the CC field and not the BCC field, and the nasty bug in about 6 of our customers SBS mail setups started chucking out millions of mail messages.

It took me 3 days to track down all the culprits buy checking mail headers.

I think we accounted for a decent percentage of all of UKs internet traffic that week along with successfully taking down 2 small ISPs ;-)

To be honest, this sort of thing shouldn't happen at all. We had legal threats made against us, even though we werent the source of the mails!

Nasty business this, communications....


The recent Excel vuln auction on eBay was, of course, pulled by the fun-loving powers that be at the world's favourite tat bazaar. Richard Kay raises the following related point:

If any consensus exists about how long a vendor should be given before public disclosure of a vulnerability, giving a vendor 30 clear days to patch their products seems reasonable. If they can't fix and distribute patches in this amount of time their products are effectively unmaintained or too expensive to maintain effectively.

It also doesn't seem reasonable for a security researcher to be expected to forgo the benefits of this kind of work, in connection with the reputation that comes with identification of vulnerabilities, based on which future research services may become legitimately marketable for a higher price . If the vendor of the vulnerable product wishes to compensate the researcher adequately to cover future expected loss of earnings they should be willing to do so in exchange for an extension of the 30 days period of grace.

Releasing vulnerability information into the public domain giving the vendor less than 30 days to distribute patches seems irresponsible. It would also be irresponsible to regard those who discover flaws in products vendors are unable, or unwilling to maintain as being responsible for exploitation of these flaws if the vendor is unwilling to pay the market price for non-disclosure by the researcher beyond the normal period of grace which should reasonably be given to enable the vendor to evaluate the flaw and to enter into negotiations concerning the value of non-disclosure.

Right, that's enough serious. Down to the truly frivolous:

Re: Dutch Piracy Site Returns

Sorry to query you but how in heaven's name can "Eight people in nine different locations were arrested on suspicion of..."?

Usually a person can only be arrested in one location... Unless there is something about the Dutch that we really don't know. :)

Cheers - Virgil

Yes - they can't count. Enough said.

Something useful now in the Firefox department, courtesy of the many, many readers who wrote in to recommend it:

Re: /2005/12/14/39_mega_pixel_camera/

There is a far superior plugin to IEView. It is called IETab. Same idea, but rather than opening IE itself, it re-renderes the page in a Firefox tab, but using the IE engine. And you can create a list of sites for which it will do this automatically. Very clever stuff and works a treat.

Tom Richardson

Good work. IETab cab be found right here.

Where, we wondered was the mass clustering of geeks at which blonde nymphs cast aside their apparel and throw themselves on networking hardware?

RE: Swedish nymphs The answer to your first question looks like it's tattooed on her tit .... coach trip to the Isle of Man anyone ?


I guess the pictures of the swedish nymphs where taken at Dreamhack. The worlds biggest LAN-party. So drop by next time you're around. :)

take care wille

Ta very much. Mark us down for five tickets.

A miraculous crucifix in a humble spud? Bah, that's nothing:

i was peeling potatoes for sunday lunch, 11th december 2005, and cut the potato only to reveal a star of bethlehem, i have still got the potato which is in my deep freeze. It is like a 3d image, and is much more realistic than the american holy potato.

Karen Kendall

Good, we look forward to seeing it on eBay.

And finally, a concerned reader writes:

can't help noticing that at about the time your fragrant science correspondent Lucy Sherriff went off on a three week shoe buying expedition, a certain Mr Snoop "The Rotting Dog's" Bollocks became a semi-regular pundit. Are these two events in any way connected?

ps I believe I might have a photo of Mr Bollocks; see . Presumably you'd tell us if you were regularly employing journalists who looked like this at Vulture Central?

Nice one: yes, we can see a certain resemblance. More silliness next week. Have a top-notch weekend. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like