Saturday, July 29, 2006

This week in Video Games

Greatest 10 years in Video Game History
A compilation of the greatest single years in the history of video games.

The List

Halo 3 is the End (XBox 360)
Halo 3 will be the end of the line for this loved FPS series. Can't find a working link for this story, but it's true, I read it earlier.

Opera Browser for the DS Tested... (Nintendo DS)
...and the results don't look that grand. Slow loading along with poor page rending (and missing Flash and probably other plugins) means that the web experiance is probably just a bash at the PSP and it's ability to surf the web. Will it be worth it? Probably not. (As a side not, at least the DS lets you use the stylus to navigate, really the only thing it has over the PSP.)

1Up's test of the Opera Browser for DS

Final Fantasy III Trailer Released (Nintendo DS)
Final Fantasy III is shaping up to be a very cool looking game. It will be nice to have a real RPG to play on the DS in true Final Fantasy fashion.

Final Fantasy III Trailer on YouTube

Hideo Kojima and Super Smash Brothers (Nintendo Wii)
Stuff about the Wii keeps getting better and better. It seems that Hideo Kojima will be creating the stage for Snake in the Wii's Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Can this game get any better?!

Hideo Kojima to create Snake's Super Smash Bros. Brawl Stage

And to round out the news...

Developers don't really like the PS3
It seems that developers also think that $500-600 for a gaming system is a bit much these days. If they and the target audience think that people aren't going to shell out that much cash on the PS3, the developers won't make any money off of PS3 ports or exclusives. Developers are therefore focusing their attention on the 360 and the Wii. Lemme go grab a hammer to put in this new nail into the coffin that the PS3 has built for itself.

Developers are steering away from the PS3

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Amazing Screw On Head

It looks like the SciFi channel has picked up the pilot to a new show from the creator of Hellboy called 'The Amazing Screw-On Head'. It's a great combination of Lovecraftian mythology, vampires, the undead, action, comedy, and Abraham Lincoln (sadly, not Evil Lincoln, but Good Lincoln more than makes up for it). Watch the pilot and fill out the survey. Don't let this show die!

The Amazing Screw-On Head

'Products Featured' Updated

In case anyone cares, the 'Products Featured' list has been updated to include some of the books recently reviewed as well as other stuff I've talked about it. If you get an inkling to purchase any of those items, feel free to use the links in the posts or on the Products Featured page!

Friday, July 21, 2006

'Hot Coffee' has Finally Cooled

So it appears that the FTC Investigation over the whole 'Hot Coffee' mod is finally over. Take-Two Interactive got a slap on the wrist and was told not to do it again. I think that this was the right decision.

I think this because really Take-Two and Rockstar didn't do anything wrong. Yeah, it was a poor decision to leave the code in the game, but aren't many other programmers (game developers or otherwise) susceptible to leaving unused code hidden away either via comments or just completely unused blocks of code? I can't imagine that, with all the developers used to create GTA: San Andreas, they would rather rip out vast chunks of code that could result in errors, or rip out the ability to activate the code. When there is a deadline on something that everyone is waiting for, it's easier to take the shortcut.

If anyone would really want to get technical about the situation, if Take-Two did get in trouble, couldn't they legally go after the mod's creators? Most EULAs in this day and age (and laws such as DMCA) could make modding illegal if the right spin is put on the reading of those two texts. I saw this great comment on Slashdot which really makes sense:

"For example, let's say that I included the following type of code in a huge program that I'm writing. (No comments about the Perl. I'm just making an example.)

$ESRB = "Neutral";
if ($ESRB eq "Evil") {
print "The ESRB is a bunch of fucking, holier-than-thou, moralistic morons.\n";
print "And you're mother's ugly, too.\n";

Obviously, that code is never meant to be seen because $ESRB is being explicitly set to bypass the if statement. So, I compile the whole program, with the code that was never meant to be seen, get a "T" rating for the whole program, and release the program. In my EULA is an explicit statement that no one is allowed to modify the code.

Then some moron sees it in the compiled code and releases an unauthorized hack to change $ESRB to "Evil". Suddenly, there's a big bruhaha because it should have been "M" due to the language of the code.

Now the ESRB and Thompson are on my case for not revealing the code that was in there. WHY? The code was never meant to be seen - not even as an Easter egg. There is no reasonable expectation of me letting the ESRB know that the code was in there because there was no reasonable expectation that it would ever be seen. Someone went in without my permission and modified the code to see something that was never meant to be seen.

This also helped shed light on what society itself is ultimately turning into. Sure, it's OK for little Billy Elevenyearold to beat up hookers, firebomb random groups of people, hear vast amounts of profane language, and commit innumerable acts of violence, but god forbid he see two polygonal people (fully clothed, mind you) engage in a sex-like act! Were they afraid that the mini-game was too hard for him to mash the buttons quickly enough and he would be disappointed?

But it's not the parents fault! Take-Two Interactive should have never let such a game be produced that little kids could play! What, almost all stores are required to see a driver's license and put in a year of birth to purchase 'M' rated games, but little Billy cried until his mom wanted him to shut up and bought him the game? It's all the store's fault! They should have told Billy's mom that this wasn't a game for children! She didn't care when the clerk said the game wasn't really for children as the clerk, being old enough to play the game, witnessed the scene of Billy whining to his mom and knew who she was buying the game for? It's still not his mom's fault! It has to be someone else’s!

When I have children, I'm not going to just plop them down with a game to shut them up. I hope that they have a healthy appetite for video games, but I'll pay attention to what they play or what they watch on TV. This would be a non-issue if parents actually took the time to keep track of what heir children are playing, watching on TV, doing on the internet, etc.

I'm glad the Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar didn't get in trouble. It sounds like something great and wonderful has been achieved and this will never happen again, but it's going to be business as usual once again.

Mike Nelson to give mainstream movies the MST3K treatment

Do you feel that some of the movies coming out of Hollywood are just, well, missing something? RiffTrax are downloadable audio tracks that you play in sync with your DVDs. They are written and performed by Mike Nelson, former host and head writer of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Columbus, Here I Come!

So one of the perks of my new job in IT is training and conferences. I'm not even past my first 90 days, so hopefully what I learned today is a good thing for my future - I'm being sent to Ohio Linuxfest 2006! I'm missing out on the SANS Conference in Las Vegas, but hey, there are more things that I'll hopefully get to end up doing.

The website is sparse about what all will be dgoing on this year at Linuxfest, but one thing that I will gain, besides a better knowledge of Linux in general, is swag.

If anyone who reads this blog is going to be attending, feel free to drop me a line and let me know. We'll tally up how much stuff we got and see who wins "King of Swag."

Ohio Linuxfest 2006

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Erik Mongrain - Kick Ass Guitar Soloist

With my new job and the accompanying new 25 minute drive to work every day, I've gotten a lot more time to listen to podcasts (I'll eventually link them over on the side). While listening to the latest Diggnation they had a link to this guy playing a guitar in a very unique way. I checked out the other videos that he has on Youtube, and if you are a fan of acoustic guitar (I love any guitar, but acoustic is my favorite), you would do well to check out his videos.

According to Erik's Youtube page he has a CD coming out soon. Hopefully I'll get a chance to get it and take a listen.

Erik Mongrain's Youtube Profile

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Goodbye Vista

Well, it didn't even last a day. Not because of incompatibilities or anything of that nature, but of little annoyances that just grew over time.

Administrator Authorization
While it's a far cry from the 'It takes 10 steps to delete a shortcut', it gets in the way of everything. You can't make the simpliest change without it popping up and bugging you. Yes, it's in the name of security, but at least with OS X and Linux, they keep the authorization long enough for you to do multiple tasks. Vista seems to drop the authorization as soon as it finishes that one task.

Deleting Files
This could just be my machine, but when I went to delete a bunch of files off of a second partition, it took me over 30 minutes to delete 10 folders. For some reason, it would delete all the files inside, and then turn around and tell me that it couldn't find 90% of the files inside the folder, and if I wanted to create them. Telling it 'Yes' put it in some sort of cyclic deletion where it would create, delete, not find, and then start over. Telling it to 'Skip' would work after manually telling it to skip almost all of the files that used to be in there (if I told it to remember my answer, it acted like it was doing something for about 30 seconds and the dialog box would disappear without doing anything). This occured while emptying the Recycle Bin or doing a shift-delete.

Slowness of the Classic Theme
I don't know how or why, but the Classic theme was slower than the Aero theme. Vista started getting really slow after it rebooted this morning, so one of the things I did was switch to the Classic theme, and it was worse. Granted, using Aero without the transparency made Aero faster, but Classic was still slower than that.

Program Installations
Some programs that used an autorun front-end to do the installation (such as you put in a CD, and if asks you what you want to install), which die saying that I needed elevated privileges. Apparently Windows didn't want to ask me to authorize the install, and it goes back to Vista dropping the authorization bit after the current task was done.

So, right now XP is reinstalling on my machine since I found the CD. It may not be perfect, but there are less annoyances than with Vista.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Vista (vs XP vs Ubuntu Desktop vs OSX) installation

Vista just finished installing. I thought I would put it up against XP, Ubuntu, and OS X to see how everything stacked up.


Windows Vista

Looks nice and didn't give me any hiccups. It's a vast improvement over the XP installer. It didn't seem any faster than what XP seems to take while installing, so Vista (at least Beta 2) still took around 40 minutes. It still does everything, and is cryptic about what it is doing. It's hands off, requiring only me typing in the serial key and clicking 'Next' a few times. It could still use a bit of polishing around the edges, but I assume it will be cleaned up before Vista officially ships.

Windows XP

The same installer look as NT4 and Windows 2000. It's familar and not hard to use at least, but compared to newer OSes like OSX, user-friendly Linux distros, and Vista, it looks extremely dated.


Quickest install of the three. Only about 15 minutes to run through the installer (compared to my 1ghz PIII machine which took a whopping 20 minutes, still beating the Vista and XP installs). And, while it's installing, I can still get online, chat, and use a basic desktop as Ubuntu Desktop now installs via a LiveCD interface.


Very pretty install. Not hard to do at all. Took a long time on my iMac, but it's an older model. Took over one hour to install, which was really my only gripe.

Winner: Ubuntu Desktop 6.06

First Reboot into Desktop


It found all my hardware. I wasn't expecting that from a beta OS. Soundcard, Video card, NIC, it was all there. The only thing it didn't find was my onboard NIC (3com gigabit ethernet) which is dead anyway, so I never count it. It asked me to set up my first user, what background I wanted, and then the time. After that, it gave me my login screen I logged in. Very, very impressive. I lowered the Aero-glass effect to help speed some things up, but that was it. The only gripe is the security pop-ups in Vista. That is annoying as all get out, especially when you were asked by Vista to confirm something (such as network info), and then it asks if you authorized the change.

Windows XP

Thank God it at least found my NIC. Now I get to hunt down drivers (but not before turning on my firewall, just in case). Out of the box the only thing that worked was the video card only in SVGA mode, and my USB at 1.1 speeds.


Everything is there minus accelerated video drivers from ATI. It at least makes the effort to install the Ubuntu ATI drivers which work fine for everything but that requiring 3D acceleration. Sound, network, and everything else works. Now onto the updating phase.


Everything worked. I had to do nothing but change the resolution from 800x600 to 1024x768.

Winner: Tie between Vista, OS X, and Ubuntu


Windows Vista

There was a section during the install that said 'Installing Updates.' I didn't see any massive network traffic at that time, so either there are no updates, or they were small. There was one optional update, and that was it.

Windows XP

This is, hands down, the worst part of installing Windows XP. Not only do you have to install updates out of the box (which is forgivable, all OSes are like that), but then there are updates for the updates! And I don't mean installing SP2 and then the updates for that, I mean installing a security update, and then installing another update because that previous update broke something else. It takes longer than the first two phases (install + driver install).


I got a pop-up telling me to update. I clicked 'Download Updates' and continued using my computer while everything downloaded in the background. Had to run the update only once. It required a reboot at the end, but did not make me do it until I was ready.


Pretty much the same as Ubuntu, minus the reboot. Took forever as it reindexes the harddrive, and it was too slow to use while it was installing the updates (again, a problem due to my machine's age).

Winner: Ubuntu (No Vista as there are no updates)

Windows Vista: 1
Windows XP: 0
Ubuntu: 3
OS X: 1

So, Ubuntu wins, at least this round. So far my only gripe with Vista is the stupid security pop-ups. I understand that Microsoft wants to make security a big issue with the new OS, but this is paranoia. Even OS X and Ubuntu do not ask for this many confirmations.

Vista Beta 2 - Will I Like It?

So, my Windows install has started doing some very funky things. Live Messenger refuses to run, even after an install, as does Money 2006. The Sims 2 has started to randomly lock up when it loads things (such as families, lots, etc). Overall Windows XP is just acting weird, and making me mad. So I'm formatting.

I'd really like to switch to 100% non-Microsoft in the house, but things like The Sims 2 are keeping me from doing just that. All of my machines are running Ubuntu 6.06 (in the case of my servers and my remote desktop machine thanks to FreeNX), and my wife's computer is the Mac OSX machine (which is the machine I'm currently writing this post on).

So, I can't find my Windows XP install disc. I've got this copy of Windows Vista Beta 2 laying here that I signed up for but never installed, so I think I'm going to give it a shot. My hardware isn't brand-spanking new by any means, but it's generic at least. Realtek, Soundmax, ATI, AMD, and ASUS are the parts that are in my main box, so even Vista shouldn't have an issue. Ubuntu never has, so this should be interesting.

About the only special things I need Vista to do correctly is play games, mostly from The Zone and other websites like Yahoo! (my wife loves those games), and Sims 2. If it does that without giving me a fit, I may upgrade to Vista when it comes out. In reality, if WINE is up to snuff and running DirectX by that time, I'll probably be using Linux, or I'll have another Mac in the house to replace my Windows machine.

I'll be using Vista for as long as I can stomach it, and get back to everyone on how it runs.

If nothing else, the install program is pretty.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Zombies - They WILL Eventually Come

I recently finished The Zombie Survival Guide, by Max Brooks (yes, the son of the great Mel Brooks). I've been reading a lot, sue me.

My rational fear of a zombie attack is given even more ground by this book. The world is woefully underequipped for a zombie attack. Hell, I'm apparently underprepared for the day that the dead will arise from their graves (or the zombie disease will begin to spread, whoever it comes). Don't make the mistake thinking that the undead won't appear at your doorstep at some point and demand a bite of that warm, delicious brain that sits inside your skull.

I now have a leg up over the vast majority of you people. My wife thinks I'm crazy, but I'll be the only one still surviving after society has been turned upside down by the undead menace. If you value your brain, life, and continued existance, at least start preparing.

Don't let the following happen to you (from Shaun of the Dead):

"[Coming across zombified Pete] "Ah! Sorry, Pete, sorry... listen, we're gonna borrow your car, okay, hope you don't mind and - ah - later on, if you're feeling better, w-we're going down to the pub, so you're m-more than welcome to, to... [whispered] join us.""

As a side note, I love the drawings in this book. They lend even more credence to the subject matter.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

New Atari 2600 Game Released

The game, called "A-VCS-Tec Challenge", fits into 8K, graphics, sound and all. It is being released as a limited-edition cartridge for 2600 enthusiasts who still have working consoles.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Book Review: Amber and Iron - The Dark Disciple Volume 2

Amber and Iron - The Dark Disciple Volume 2

Amber and Iron picks up where the first volume, Amber and Ashes, left off. Chemosh, under the impression that Mina is in fact dead (thanks to an illusion spell cast by Nuitari's mages in the Tower under the Blood Sea), has moved into his Castle Beloved near the Blood Sea as he awaits his Children of Chemosh to gather and become the perfect army.

With the help of the death knight Ausric Krell, he discovers Nuitari's trick. Nuitari had faked Mina's death in an effort to find out what it was that the gods wanted with her, and in the process discovered a few interesting tidbits.

Rhys Mason, the former monk of Majere, continues his quest to track his brother Llue and find a way to stop him. In the town of New Port he does, but the price to stop the Children of Chemosh is terrible. The news makes it to the Conclave of Mages and spreads throughout the clerics of Ansalon, but the debate rages on about the best way to deal with the Beloved.

Mina reunites with Chemosh as Zeboim attacks the Tower under the Blood Sea, overcoming the two archmages in the tower, and finding her way to the secret of the Tower. Chemosh is angered by Mina's lack of artifacts brought back, and eventually shuns her after trickery caused by Krell.

Mina vows to return to Chemosh's favor, and with a stunning display of power the gods are stunned. Majere, the ever patient god of Light, ends this chapter of the tale with the true news of Mina.