Awesome sig tag

Some times you're reading a post on a forum and you find just the perfect gem of a signature line. Like this one.
For you Unix geeks: chown -R us ./base
And it's all mine now, ya hear me? All mine!!!! :-D

Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft) LAMP Server Installation

Automatic LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) In about 15 minutes, the time it takes to install Ubuntu Edgy Server Edition, you can have a LAMP server up and ready to go. This feature, exclusive to Ubuntu Server Edition, is available at the time of installation.

The LAMP option saves the trouble of installing and integrating each of the four separate LAMP components, a process which can take hours and requires someone who is skilled in the installation and configuration of the individual applications. You get increased security, reduced time to install, and reduced risk of misconfiguration, all of which results in a lower cost of ownership.

Ubuntu LAMP server Install the following Versions

Ubuntu Edgy Eft 6.10
Apache 2.0.55
Mysql 5.0.24a
PHP 5.1.6

First you need to download server version of Ubuntu version from here...

Read the rest of the article.

CERTStation Threat-Level Aggregator

Just spotted, the CERTStation Threat level Aggregator displays the current threat level, in real-time, as assessed by 8 of the Internet's leading vulnerability watch services such as Symantec Threatcon, ISS Alertcon and SANS Infocon on one publically accessible Web page. Well, that saves a lot of daily trudging! (Warning - site is heavy on the flash...)

PC World's 20 Most Innovative Products of 2006

PC World has put together a list of their choices for the 20 Most Innovative Products of 2006. The List includes Office 2007, Nintendo Wii, Sony Reader, Sony PlayStation 3, the BlackBerry Pearl, and some other interesting choices.


FSF Launches "BadVista" Campaign

Article on Slashdot Saturday on the launch of the FSF's BadVista campaign against Microsoft's new operating system. BadVista's aim is to inform users about the alleged harms inflicted by Vista on the user and about free software alternatives. Quoting program administrator John Sullivan:
Vista is an upsell masquerading as an upgrade. It is an overall regression when you look at the most important aspect of owning and using a computer: your control over what it does. Obviously MS Windows is already proprietary and very restrictive, and well worth rejecting. But the new 'features' in Vista are a Trojan Horse to smuggle in even more restrictions. We'll be focusing attention on detailing how they work, how to resist them, and why people should care.


Quick Update

So yeah, been pretty busy since I started the new gig. Work has been very good, keeping fairly busy and most importantly, it's been rewarding while in the office and once I leave the office, I'm off the clock. What a novel feeling. I could definitely get used to this.

The commute is definitely a drag however. Bright spot is that I only drive for 15 minutes each way, and public transportation does the rest. Catching up on my reading and sleep along the way. Unfortunately, it's so daggone LONG!! An hour on the bus and an hour on the Metro, each way, minimum. I leave the house by 4:40am to get into work by 7am, and leave work by 4pm to get home by 6:45pm. Ugh. Starting January though I'm going to try and start taking the MARC train again. There's a stop right at Silver Spring Metro, right where I work, so that's nice. I can't swing the schedule from Martinsburg though (besides the fact there's no parking to be found, I wouldn't get home till 7:15pm at the earliest). So I think I'll be driving to Monacacy (45-min drive) and then taking the train from there. If I swing it right, and can catch the 4:03pm train out of Silver Spring, I could be home around 6pm. That would be a tremendous improvement, besides the fact that I wouldn't have to switch transports halfway, and I wouldn't have to wait out in bad weather (Monocacy has a covered platform, and I wouldn't be at the one at work very long prior to the train arriving).

So that's work. Home life, even busier, with all the school plays and recitals and the Nutcracker and such. Last performance of the season is tonight, at Carrie's school.

Then we get to really gear up for Christmas... be nice to have sort of an open house before the holidays but I don't see that happening with the time we have... Also it's really important that I get a weekend away with Donna. Time spent together lately is close to nil.

And there you have it. Bored ya to tears yet?

On the gaming horizon, we have the World of Warcraft expansion, Burning Crusade released mid-January, and the newest Command & Conquer is due out 1Q 2007 as well. W00t! I know what I'm spending my Christmas money on...


Every Time You Vote Against Net Neutrality, Your ISP Kills a Night Elf

Perhaps one of the more overlooked problems that could arise out of a bad Net Neutrality decision is the impact to online gaming. In fact, any interactive communications could stand to take a dive (VOIP, streaming video, etc) with the advent of Net Neutrality legislation. RampRate has an interesting look at the possible fallout and where we are headed. From the article:
What will be murdered with no fallback or replacement is the nascent market of interactive entertainment - particularly online gaming. Companies like Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Sony Online Entertainment, and countless others, have built a business on the fundamental assumption of relatively low latency bandwidth being available to large numbers of consumers. Furthermore, a large -- even overwhelming -- portion of the value of these offerings comes from their 'network effects' -- the tendency for the game to become more enjoyable and valuable as larger number of players joins the gaming network.


Good News

So I went on my first interview Wednesday, and by the end of the day had a verbal offer, which I negotiated up in salary yesterday enough that I'll be accepting it. It's a position with a contracting company, Keane Federal Systems, who are managing the AWIPS (Advanced Weather Processing Information System) for NOAA in Silver Spring. It's a bit of a hike, but I'll be able to take public transportation again like I did when I worked in Bethesda. And, there's no on-call or work outside business hours as it's mostly testbed support. Very similar to what I was doing at AOL, but much more on-hands like at NEGT. I get to play in a server room again, yay.... Forgot how much I missed the loud hum of multiple servers running...

And yes, I'm still in shock at the quick turnaround, I've never found a job that fast. Sheer luck and goodly amounts of blessing involved there.


Who Knew McDonalds Made Good Broccoli and Cheese Soup?

Well, been a little over a week now of unemployment. Though technically I'm still employed until 11/15, and just on semi-vacation. Haven't gotten a tremendous amount of job seeking done, but got my Monster resume updated, already got one call and a couple of emails. It seems little is posted to Monster anymore, most employers use it as a resume database instead of a job posting one.

So I've gotten quite a bit behind in emails and Slashdot news for the past week. Decided to take a quick break from the job front to catch up and archive some stuff out of my Gmail inbox.

CEO Nabbed for Identity Theft From Own Employees
And you think your boss is a jerk? Check out this VARBusiness story about a tech CEO the feds say was using his employees' personal information to apply for loans and credit cards to the tune of $1 million. Somewhere a whole lot of businesses who bought this guy's managed-services pitch are cringing with the thought of who is taking care of their data now. And 50 employees are gonna have to sweat out their credit reports even as they look for new jobs. Now that's a lousy boss!

Why the World Is Not Ready For Linux
While many users reading Slashdot embrace Linux, ZDNet is running an article on why the rest of the world isn't ready. One note for Linux developers: 'Stop assuming that everyone using Linux (or who wants to use Linux) is a Linux expert.' While a lot of these topics have been brought up as both stories and comments on Slashdot, this article pretty much sums up why Vista could be absolutely terrible, and people would still believe there is no other option.
From the article:
The one area of Linux ownership and use where it becomes apparent that there's an assumption that everyone who uses Linux is an expert is hardware support. Your average user doesn't have the time, the energy or the inclination to deal with uncertainty. Also, they usually only have the one PC to play with. Hardware just has to work. There's a very good reason why Microsoft spends a lot of time on hardware compatibility — it's what people want.

OpenSourcing Yourself, Are You Ready?
Many people love and use open source software. Open source has made an impact in just about every place imaginable; education, hardware, coke, beer, cell phones, pharmaceuticals, search engines and encyclopedias. However, OpenHuman takes it one step further and invites you to open source yourself to experiment with the open human idea. This may sound crazy and rife with privacy concerns but as the author asks, do you still believe in Internet privacy in the age of blogs, MySpace, LinkedIn, Meetup, and Flickr?

Last up are a pair of articles about NVIDIA's newest graphics card. Droool.....

GeForce 8800GTX Benchmarked
The card does not launch for another week, but DailyTech already has benchmarks of the new GeForce 8800GTX on its website. The new card is the flagship GPU to replace GeForce 7900, and according to the benchmarks has no problem embarrassing the Radeon X1950 XTX either. According to the article, 'The GeForce 8800GTX used for testing is equipped with 768MB of GDDR3 video memory on a 384-bit memory bus as previously reported. Core and memory clocks are set at 575 MHz and 900 MHz respectively.'

Nvidia Launches 8800 Series, First of the DirectX 10 Cards
The new top-end GeForce 8800 GTX and GTS from Nvidia launched today, and Loyd Case at ExtremeTech has done two articles: an analysis of the new GPU's architecture, and a benchmark article on PNY's 8800 GTX. The GPU uses a unified scalar-based hardware architecture rather than dedicated pixel pipelines, and the card sets the bar higher yet again for PC graphics.
The world and his dog has been reviewing the NVIDIA 8800 series of graphics cards. There is coverage over at bit-tech, which has some really in-depth gameplay evaluations; TrustedReviews, which has a take on the card for the slightly less technical reader; and TechReport, which is insanely detailed on the architecture. The verdict: superfast, but don't bother if you have less than a 24" display.


Here We Go Again

So yesterday I called in sick, and received a call in return informing me I was a victim of the latest round of layoffs. So, unemployed once again, this makes the big ole layoff number three.

Funny thing is, instead of an overwhelming sense of dread and depression like the last two times, this time around I am mostly... well... relieved! I actually feel as if this enormous weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. Didn't realize just how stressed that my employment and commute were making me.

So this is for the best. I've been AWOL from my wife and girls for the past year, now I have the time to catch up on things. Hell, I just spent the past two days running errands with Donna, and I am buoyantly happy about just getting to spend time with her.

Oh, and it's not just me, AOL laid off a significant number of Northern Va employees yesterday, including one other from my group.

So there we go. I'm in the job market again, I think I'm going to concentrate on the federal sector this time, but definitely something closer to home. Or, barring that, a well-paying one close to a Metro stop so I can take public transportation again.


Upgrade Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake) to Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)

Ubuntu 6.10 is the current development version of the Ubuntu operating system. It was released October 26th. The common name given to this release from the time of its early development was "Edgy Eft".

Today I have upgraded my Ubuntu Dapper laptop and workstation to Ubuntu Edgy.
This article uses two methods to upgrade Ubuntu Dapper to Edgy:

1) Using GUI
2) Using apt-get

Upgrading Ubuntu Dapper to Ubuntu Edgy


WoW Burning Crusade Delayed until January 2007

Blizzard today announced that the release date for World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, the first expansion for World of Warcraft, is delayed until January 2007. From the article: 'By adding a few extra weeks to the development cycle beyond its original target date, Blizzard will be able to extend the closed beta test and further refine the new content that will ship with the game.' While disappointing now, what will this mean for the yearly WoW expansions long term? As Blizzard COO Paul Sams revealed plans in August that 'Starting with The Burning Crusade, every year thereafter we plan on bringing out a new expansion set.' 2008, 2009, ad infinitum?
In somewhat related news (and offered as an explanation as to why the testers are dawdling so long), Slashdot reports that the Male Blood Elves, from the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion Burning Crusade, have been made more masculine by their Blizzard overseers. Which totally makes sense, because when we all think elves we think of paragons of masculinity. From the article:
You changed it because your constituency is a bunch of capslock-riding asshats who are threatened by bishy player characters. The reason Blood Elves were Horde in the first place is because everyone was whining about all the Horde races being ugly juggernauts. The point of Blood Elves was to inject some swish into a very physically intimidating set of races. They're not exactly chunky now, and I do not begrudge a game company making prerelease aesthetic changes, but their reasons for doing so are pathetic.
Nice. Before and after photos are available in their post. Though I must admit, I about fell out of my chair after reading a comment, Dear Blizzard,
I feel that the female blood elves wear far too much clothing. This expresses an extreme imbalance in the WoW gameplay. It is completely unfair that male night elves may go topless, while female night elves cannot. This imbalance in gameplay must be addressed, or else i will cancel my subscription.

Whiny Blizzard Customer


Blocking Ads in BF2142

Original thread is shown here, but I'll reproduce it in case it vanishes.
If you run bf2142 along side software like TDImon free TCP/UDP monitor, you will find that one of the remote connections that BF2142.exe uses is to

If you go to NetworkSolutions and WHOIS the IP Address you will get:

WHOIS Record For

Record Type: IP Address

IGA Technologies, LLC RSPC-68993-1122139655 (NET-72-3-184-144-1) -

IGA is IGA Worldwide and they handle the ads.


Possible solutions is to block port 17475 or better yet block ip address range -

I did and the game ran fine. Please note that they maybe using other ports and ip addresses so in the upcoming days I'll do more testing.
Worth a shot anyways. Still haven't bought the game myself, suspect I will be doing so eventually...


It's lunchtime again...

...And so time for more newsbits. Yes, still playing catchup here.

Is the Botnet Battle Already Lost?
Researchers are finding it practically futile to keep up with evolving botnet attacks. 'We've known about [the threat from] botnets for a few years, but we're only now figuring out how they really work, and I'm afraid we might be two to three years behind in terms of response mechanisms,' said Marcus Sachs, a deputy director in the Computer Science Laboratory of SRI International, in Arlington, Va. There is a general feeling of hopelessness as botnet hunters discover that, after years of mitigating command and controls, the effort has largely gone to waste. 'We've managed to hold back the tide, but, for the most part, it's been useless,' said Gadi Evron, a security evangelist at Beyond Security, in Netanya, Israel, and a leader in the botnet-hunting community. 'When we disable a command-and-control server, the botnet is immediately re-created on another host. We're not hurting them anymore.' There is an interesting image gallery of a botnet in action as discovered by security researcher Sunbelt Software.

Google Campus to Become Solar-powered
Reuters is reporting that Google is equipping its headquarters with a solar panel 'capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 1,000 California homes.' This will make Google's Mountain View campus the largest solar-powered office complex in the United States.
Now that is very cool. Maybe a trend to come? My old company, NEGT, operated a wind generating farm out in Mountain View, it was pretty large but not effective in regards to the ratio of space used to power generated...

Sun To Unveil Project Blackbox

Now here's another really cool idea:
A year ago, Google's secret plans for a portable data center in a shipping container were being revealed by Robert X. Cringely. Sun Microsystems is about to officially unveil its 'data center in a box' concept. Project Blackbox will involve the full-scale production of data centers in 20-foot-long cargo shipping containers.
From the article:
The idea eliminates several major hurdles facing data center customers: finding an appropriate site, arranging the servers and cooling mechanisms in the most efficient manner, and waiting for construction to be complete. The company is touting energy efficiency as a crucial benefit of the confined space, as its patented cooling features can more accurately target hot spots than in giant warehouses. The box can hold hundreds of servers and save thousands of dollars per year in energy costs, the company said.
Yes, but will there be room in the back of the trailer to park KITT?

Listening for Cancer Cells
According to researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia, it's now possible to detect skin cancer cells present in blood samples by listening to the sound of melanoma cells. The scientists have used a method named photoacoustic detection, which uses a laser to make cells vibrate and ultrasound techniques to pick the sound of cancerous cells. This technique is so precise that it's possible to identify the spread of cancer even if there are only ten melanoma cells in a blood sample. Still, large clinical tests must be done before this method can be widely used.
That's simply amazing. Wonder what this will do for other types of cancer research? Right now the methods my wife must undergo every few months to check for any new cancer growth is pretty painful, though at least not invasive.

How Warcraft Really Does Wreck Lives
There's a great blog post about how World of Warcraft can ruin lives, it's written by a person that was for a long time a member of the largest council on what is now one of the oldest guilds in the world.
Last story for today. This is a "cautionary tale about the pull an escape from reality can have on you." Familiar theme for many people, I know I've discussed such before. I do find the escape within WoW to be strongly addictive, but not to the point (I don't believe) that I've neglected my family or my job. Perhaps my sleep though... Note the author began with some different circumstances - essentially much more free time to devote to the game, which may have turned into a lack of control or moderation which would be harder to obtain.

I may be able to justify my own WoW experience as different from many others who have been well and truely addicted to WoW. I am able to go away for a weekend and not get the "shakes" when not playing. Do I think about it? Sure, I daydream about the escapist world I left behind, but I have an active imagination, and I would do the same with books I was reading at the time. I am also able to work on tasks that need done, whether they be house chores or time with the kids (not a task per se, but you understand what I mean) - and not feel cheated out of WoW time, or long to be back at my computer.

Also, though I have dived into the game with both feet, my highest level character is only a lvl 40. Many people which have played for a few months as I have, at least have a lvl 60. If not a few. But I do play the game for enjoyment, not levelling. And I still take time off to play other games with my clan buddies.

So by his description, I'm not nearly hardcore enough, and that suits me just fine:
What does this mean? Well, to our average "serious" player this equates to anywhere between 12 hours (for the casual and usually "useless" player) to honestly 10 hours a day, seven days a week for those "hardcore" gamers. During my stint, I was playing about 30 hours a week (and still finding it hard to keep up with my farming) and logging on during my work day in order to keep up with all the guild happenings and to do my scheduling and tracking for the raids.
I'm not being down on this article though, far from it. This is an excellent read, and anyone who is a gamer, especially with MMOs, should read and understand the pitfalls of doing anything to the extreme.
The game also provides people with a false sense of security, accomplishment, and purpose. Anyone can be a superhero here if they have the time to put in.
There's a follow-up to the article, with clarifications on authorship and some of the more interesting/bizarre comments.

In the end he does make the point that "WoW did a lot of things right," and that he met some great people in the game. Perhaps I should lay this out in the open, and in plain terms: Don't read this as a condemnation of WoW, or any type of gaming. Read it as an advisory against taking anything, be it gaming or social activities or whatever, to extremes.
I agree that moderation and self-control are the keys here. There are ways to enjoy the game for less than 10 hours a week. But I also think that the amount of time required for the very highest levels of endgame raiding can not be balanced with a healthy lifestyle. Before you crucify me, yes, there are exceptions. There are exceptions to every rule. But you're probably not one of them.

Battlefield 2142 Adware?

This really, really frosts my nether regions.

I was apprehensive enough about the new BF2142. I've heard some about the advertising that would be included in-game. EA promised it would be non-invasive, but how realistic would a futuristic battlefield game be with billboards blaring out the features of the new Dodge Neon? (Arguments against really caring about in-game adverts run to the extent of, if you're paying attention to the adverts you're likely to get fragged anyways, so just ignore them.) But the bigger picture is, would this save the consumer anything in costs for the game? Are we going to get the option to pay full-price for a copy of the game that doesn't include the advertising? Oh wait, you mean the game with the ads costs the same as a regular game? You mean (surprise, surprise) EA is only doing this to generate more profit for themselves?

So I downloaded the demo anyway and gave it a spin. Completely unplayable at first (and by that I mean it crashed to desktop, no errors given, every time I tried to fire a weapon). Wouldn't run at all without a DirectX upgrade, that's fine and expected. Realized I forgot to check for video card upgrade, whoops nVidia just released a new one (most likely to adapt to the new game in question). OK, video driver upgraded, all settings down to minimum. Can play through a round, and then partway through a second round, CTD again. Aha, audio drivers, still had the original embedded audio drivers from when I built the box almost two years ago. (Funny how this was the first game to notice that, even BF2 didn't mind.) Right, new updates, no CTD. Crank up the settings... hm. No visible difference. Though on the Titan maps I do tend to CTD every 4-5 rounds or so.

Alright, but that was just the demo, the retail versions might be better. (Forgetting for the moment, how many patches BF2 took to ensure playability...)

But now that the retail version has arrived, we have new reports of EA shenanigans. Posted on several spots around the net, but specifically one bit on Shacknews reports:
So. In the latest CGW podcast, they received retail boxed copies of BF 2142.

When you open the box, a big slip of paper falls out first, preceding any discs or manuals. The slip of paper says, essentially, that 2142 includes monitoring software which runs while your computer is online, and records "anonymous" information like your IP address, surfing habits (probably via cookie scans), and other "computing habits" in order to report this information back to ad companies and ad servers, which generates in-game ads.

Now, I can live with certain in-game ads (though apparently there will be Dodge truck and Neon ads in the bleak, futuristic world of 2142), but including a lengthy description - outside of even the EULA - seems to indicate even EA knows that this is some shady borderline spyware shit. I don't support it and won't be buying 2142 (for a host of other reasons, too).
Now, this is taken with a grain of salt as I haven't seen a retail version yet. Actually, it would be a bit hard for me to do so, as in order to read this EULA addendum you would have to buy the game, open it up and thereby nullifying almost any chance of returning the software if you disagree with this addendum. However, some intrepid poster managed to dig up the actual text about the spyware/adware (again, take with a grain of salt, note the numerous misspellings such as "anonymouse", though it may have just been retyped from a hard copy):
The Software may incorporate technology developed by IGA Worldwide Inc. ("IGA") (the "Advertising Technology"). The purpose of the Advertising Technology is to deliver in-game advertisements to you when you use the Software while connected to the Internet. When you use the Software while connected ot the Internet, the Advertising Technlogy may record your IP address and other anonymouse information ("Advertising Data"). The Advertising Data is temporarily used by IGA to enable the presentation and measurement of in-game advertisements and other in-game objects which are uploaded temporarily to your personal computer or game console and changed during online game play. The Advertising Technology does not collect any personally identifiable information about you, and EA will ont provide IGA with any of your personally identifiable information. The servers used by the Advertising Technology may, from time to time, be located outside your country of residence. If you are located within the European Union, the servers may be located outside the EU. By installing and using the Software, you agree to: (i) the transfer of the Advertising Data to servers located outside your country of residence and, if applicable, outside the European Union; (ii)the collection and use of the Advertising Data as described in this Section; and (iii) the delivery of advertising and marketing content by the Advertising Technology. IF YOU DO NOT WANT IGA TO COLLECT, USE, STORE, OR TRANSMIT THE DATA DESCRIBED IN THIS SECTION, DO NOT INSTALL OR PLAY THE SOFTWARE ON ANY PLATFORM THAT IS USED TO CONNECT TO THE INTERNET.
Reportedly this is a heated topic over at the official forums for the game, but it seems they're deleting threads on the spyware subject every 5 minutes. (Now that may just be pure conjecture, and I haven't verified the latter tidbit.) All this, of course, has been explained away by EA and DICE as nothing so sinister:
Originally Posted by [DICE]CKMC

Data will only be gathered from in game. Web browsing and other profiling data is not being gathered.

Squib has essentially nailed it. The purpose of the gathering is to determine if an ad is viewed by players.
So maybe there's nothing to worry about, no "Big Brother" type monitoring of anything outside of the game (though I did like the one reference to BF1984) - but wait, hasn't something like this been done before?

Online advertising for the gamer generation
After updating my version of SWAT4 to the latest patch from Vivendi, I soon discovered that the game was phoning home to grab posters to place in the enviroment of the game's levels. Not only did it do this for every level that was played, but it also informed the advertisers of how long each poster was viewed, and by which gamer. Expect to see this kind of advertising and brand placement becoming standard fare in the very near future.
Ah yes, there's the article I remember from last year when this type of BS started. This is a fascinating read of the first iteration of in-game adverts with associated monitoring. In order to track just what was being reported by the game back to the ad servers, the authors loaded up their favorite packet dumper.
The most shocking part was next. The client contacted madserver to tell the advertisers how long the gamer spent with each advert in their view. This is mapped to the gamer id, so they know which player in the game saw the advert, and when, for how long, and from how far away (by virtue of the size attribute). Even the average viewing angle is passed back.


If this stuff is just first generation, then who knows how invasive and/or detailed this technology could become. It should be made clear that this advertising format doesn't just simply mean putting posters on the walls of levels, but also objects, such as vending machines in the game could be branded by advertisers. For further reading, check out http://www.massiveincorporated.com/. Also take note of the plethora of game publishers they have already signed up, as displayed at the base of their website.
Now they did offer a solution for this game, essentially modifying the host file to point the ad servers back to (basically, /dev/null). But back to BF2142, where the severs (if ranked, like BF2) are closed-source to the point of no modifications (which is reasonable, and prevents exploitation), would the advert reporting be done at the server level or at the client level? Can such a thing be blocked?

I'm talking around the point here now. What I'm trying to get at, is that if this is server-based, then fine, the basic objection is that of in-game advertising alone. Any tracking would be done solely to report to the advertisers what's hot and what's not.

Now, is this tracking client-based? Will my already overloaded and struggling DSL connection have to accommodate ad tracking along with the game streams? Will EA really only pass the ad info along, and nothing else (including ip address and user id) to the advertisers? And is this a precursor to more? If we all accept this behavior, is that a blank check to EA and other big game designers to push the envelope more? What's to really prevent the game from quietly monitoring my out-of-game activity to more accurately report my interests to the advertisers, thereby "improving" the "quality" of my in-game adverts?

I know I'm not the only one concerned about these developments, judging from the online activity at gaming news sites and forums. But so far, it is all unverified hype and conjecture. I would really, really like to hear from someone I know, who can reliably tell me what the EULA addendum is, and how it affects their gameplay...

UPDATE: Ha, somehow I missed this making the frontpage of Slashdot on Tuesday as well...

UPDATE REDUX: Posibly much ado about nothing. But still it would be a good idea to keep an eye on it...

Thread with some results of retail installations:

EA clarifies Battlefield 2142's IGA spyware:


Pure Pwnage Ep 12 Premeire 10/28

So everybody I'm sure has heard of the PP crew and their videos... What?? Have you been living under a rock? Surely you've seen vids of FPS Doug around, right? Right??

Anyways, so looks like a party up in Calgary come 10/28:

Calgary is the hometown of most of the cast & crew. This will be the first time we reveal our real names and who we really are. We thought it would be great to do this in front of our many friends and family there. The Calgary theatre is also the smallest of the three venues at just half the size of the Vancouver and Toronto theatres. This will provide a more intimate and personal world premiere to unveil not only ourselves but the season 1 finale of Pure Pwnage!

What will be happening at the premieres?!

Aside from the screening of episodes 10, 11 and 12 in full DVD quality, we will have contests to win Noobstore gear and for the first time ever there will be an out-of-character meet and greet with the cast!

What happens if I dress up like Jeremy or Doug or Tagi?!

You might find some special opportunities opening up for you...

Tickets for the screenings are available online until October 26th or at the door. We recommend buying tickets online to guarantee seating. These will be events that no fan will want to miss!
Hmm, wonder if Great Big Sea is touring around then, could be a double-header for a road trip... yeah right...


Weekly News Roundup

Yep, it's that time again. I've emerged from under the haze of sickness with WoW-glazed and reddened eyes to venture forth with small glimmering shards of newsworthy items... As usual, mostly from Slashdot, but I'll start off with a gaming article from IGN and work my ways back chronologically.

Gold Messiah of Might and Magic

Ubisoft announced back on 10/9 that Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is officially gold, meaning work on the Source-powered first-person RPG is complete. The game is scheduled to arrive 10/24.
Developed by Arcade Studios (Arx Fatalis) and Kuju Entertainment using Valve's Source engine, Dark Messiah is a first-person action-RPG set in the Might & Magic universe. The game's single-player action spans 12 levels, while Dark Messiah's multiplayer mode supports up to 32 combatants playing across expansive maps.
There is a single-player demo version available via Steam (the distribution engine for other Source-engine games such as HL2 and CS:S), so I assume the final game would be distributed by the same. Check out the movies, this looks pretty cool actually... Got kind of a Battlefield 2 feel to it, but with swords and magics... Methinks this would be worth a gander when the demo is available...

Virtual Economies Attract Real-World Tax Attention
Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day... People who cash out of virtual economies by converting their assets into real-world currencies are required to report their incomes to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service or the tax authority where they live in the real world... 'Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise - taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth,' said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.
Ah yes, Uncle Sam wanting its share of the pie. Yet I fail to see how anything good can come of this.

Who Cares If Privacy Is Slipping Away?
This morning MSNBC's home page is topped by the opening story in a series, Privacy Under Attack, But Does Anybody Care? Privacy rights have been debated to death here on Slashdot, but this article attempts to understand people's ambivalence towards the decline of privacy. The article discusses how over 60 percent of Americans - while somewhat unable to quantify what exactly privacy is and what's being lost - feel a pessimism about privacy rights and their erosion. However, a meager 6-7% polled have actually taken any steps to help preserve their privacy. The article's call to action: '...everyone has secrets they don't want everyone else to know, and it's never too late to begin a discussion about how Americans' right to privacy can be protected.'

Androids at China's Robot Expo
China's 2006 Robot Expo has wrapped up. Even though there is little information on it online, there has been much attention given to Zou Renti's android. It seems that everyone cool is making androids of themselves these days. There's a decent article on the state of androids in Japan but unfortunately, the concentration isn't on functionality, it's on fooling the humans the robot interacts with: "The key to a successful android, according to Dr. Ishiguro, is both very humanlike appearance and behaviour. One of his early android creations was cast from his then four-year-old daughter. While it looked like her, it had few actuators and its dull facial expressions and jerky movements proved so uncanny that the girl later refused to go to her father's lab because her scary robot double was lurking there." The latest robot he's built has 42 actuators, allowing it to wow many spectators at the expo. I wonder how much longer it will be before we see Blade-Runner-like cases on the evening news?
Perhaps we can finally answer the age-old question, do androids dream of electric sheep?

911 Call Tracking Site Stirs Concern
This story comes from the Seattle Post-Intellegencer. For the past year, John Eberly has operated Seattle911.com, a site that until this week took real-time feeds of 911 calls from the Seattle Fire Department and plotted them on Google Maps. But on learning of Eberly's site, officials cited 'security concerns' and altered the way they display 911 calls on their Web site, changing the format from text to graphical, preventing Eberly from acquiring the raw data. (Several programmers are quoted musing how trivial it would be to work around this evasion.) Fire officials worry that allowing others to display where fire crews are on an Internet map could make things easier if terrorists were planning an attack. That logic left Eberly and others scratching their heads, as the information continues to be publicly available on the Fire Department's site. 'We're not obligated to provide this information. It's something that we did for customer service in the first place,' a Fire Department spokesperson said. So is this public information? Should the data be available to the public in real time?
I find this whole debacle ridiculous from the start. The story ends with a quote from Bruce Schneier: "The government is not saying, 'Hey, this data needs to be secret,' they are saying, 'This data needs to be inconvenient to get to.'"

Airport To Tag Passengers With RFID
A new technology is to be trialled in Debrecen Airport in Hungary that will involve tagging all passengers with high-powered RFID tags. From the Register article: 'People will be told to wear radio tags round their necks when they get to the airport. The tag would notify a computer system of their identity and whereabouts. The system would then track their activities in the airport using a network of high definition cameras. "[The tags] have got a long range, of 10m to 20m," said Dr. Paul Brennan of University College London's antennas and radar group which developed the tags, "and the system has been designed so the tag can be located to within a meter, and it can locate thousands of tags in one area at a given time."' The system is being touted for 'Improving airport efficiency, security and passenger flow by enhanced passenger monitoring.' BBC is also reporting this story, and brings up such hurdles to the project as 'finding a way of ensuring the tags cannot be switched between passengers or removed without notification.' As for any mention of the 'hurdle' of people's rights, the article vaguely and briefly states that 'The issue of infringement of civil liberties will also be key,' but doesn't bother to go into any pesky details.
Gooooood little sheep. Move along now. Maybe they'll finally abandon all pretence of civil rights and just staple the RFID to our ear?

This Rare Friday the 13th

For those of you who hadn't noticed, last Friday was indeed the 13th. This note appeared on Slashdot that day, pointing out a Washington Times story about how special this particular Friday the 13th was. The digits in the numerical notation for the date add up to 13 - whether you write it in the US or the European form (10-13-2006 = 1+1+3+2+6 = 13). From the article:
The phenomenon hasn't happened in 476 years, said Heinrich Hemme, a physicist at Germany's University of Aachen who crunched the numbers to find that the double-whammy last occurred Jan. 13, 1520.
Now don't you feel more enriched for having known that? And if you had realized it on that day, would it have freaked you out, or at the very least made you stay indoors?


Lunchtime Slashdot Roundup

Here be the news from the last few days as garnered by Slashdot.

2006 Ig-Nobel Prizes Awarded
The Ig-Nobel Peace Prize went to Howard Stapleton for his groundbreaking research in teenager-repellent technology. D. Lynn Halpern won an award for research into why fingernails on a chalkboard are almost as annoying as teenagers. Ivan Schwab garnered his award for research into avian headacheology. Two French researchers cooked up a medal for spaghetti research. Read more about these and other prizes here and at the Improbable Research official web site.
Working from a Third Place

As sort of a tie-in from a recent blog post of mine, Krishna Dagli wrote to mention a USA Today report on the social and business ramifications of working from a third place - somewhere that is neither home nor office. From the article:
An estimated 30 million Americans, or roughly one-fifth of the nation's workforce, are part of the so-called Kinko's generation, employees who spend significant hours each month working outside of a traditional office. This rootless army is growing 10% annually, according to Gartner Dataquest research. The reason? Corporations are increasingly supportive of teleworking for reasons that range from saving money on office space to needing a backup in the event of a natural disaster or terror attack.
Though it may very well be that working out of a third place would alleviate some of the distractions you might encounter at home (like visiting your MMO third-home) I would imagine, even if you are lucky enough to be in a spot with free wireless, that the hourly drink/snack bills would mount up... $5 for a glass or orange juice at that CA cafe?? Yikes!

Fusing Design with Technology
Since the creations by Walt Disney of Space Mountain and EPCOT, progressives have attempted to show us a picture of how technology will affect our future lives. More often than not, these pictures become laughable after 20 years. Not for Royal Philips Electronics, who at their Simplicity Event in London unveiled their picture of the seamlessly technological future, including e-blackboards, cosmetic skintone scanners, and (sure to make the mouths of geeks water) the amBXT Immersive Gaming Experience.
Interestingly enough, I don't see any mention of these specific features like the amBXT. There is, however, a sponsored blog for LiveSimplicity. Maybe I'm just not digging far enough...

The AOL Roller Coaster
There's a lengthy article at Information Week about AOL's history. A lot of us are familiar with AOL's history but few of us realize that it sits at a crossroads today where it could potentially find its way back into consumer's pockets - something it's tried to do before in a hit-or-miss fashion. From the conclusion of the article, one analyst states: 'Ironically, although you'd think AOL should dump its family mentality in light of its competitors like Yahoo, the key to AOL future branding success vs. Yahoo could be to actually capitalize on its family friendliness alongside targeting the tech-savvy community currently owned by Apple.' AOL has been met with many problems as of late, but can they pull themselves out of the hole this time?
Standard disclaimer: I am an AOL employee, yadda yadda... Bottom line from the article:
Will AOL make it? Focusing on its core strengths of community and ease of use, using its video and music capabilities, and then getting the word out to users who realize they can't live without you are enormous tasks. Still, time will tell whether AOL has the stamina to get back on top, or if it will simply run out of gas.
What Are Your Top Five 'Comfort' Games?

Via GameSetWatch, an article at The New Gamer talking about comfort games. These reliable, fun titles are the old favorites you consistently look to for amusement and solace after a bad gaming session, a bad day, a bad week. From the article, with the author's comfort games:
Mega Man 2 - This Capcom classic has been with me since I was a kid, and I know it like the back of my hand. I'm sure that, if blindfolded, I'd somehow intuitively be able to maneuver through the levels, but I'd much rather be able to view it in all of its 8-bit goodness and remind myself of the good times.
I guess my top comfort games would be the ones I currently play (World of Warcraft, Battlefield 2) plus maybe that old standard CRPG I go back to every now and again, Temple of Elemental Evil.


tactical hand signals

Some News Bits

Just a quickie, a trio of articles gleaned from Slashdot yesterday. (Trying a new format with it...)

Linux Cell Phones Coming Q1 2007
Prepare to salivate. D-Link has announced plans to put an unlocked Linux phone on the market in early 2007. Some features: Dual-mode WiFi and GSM/GPRS. Up to 24 MB of memory for user file storage, such as music and videos. 2-inch, 176 x 220-pixel color display. Opera browser. Email client. 3.4 ounces (95 grams). Tri-band (900/1800/1900) GSM radio - meaning it should work with any GSM-GPRS SIM card, including pre-paid SIM cards as well as those from traditional GSM service providers. Will it really be this easy to wean myself from the Microsoft mobile teat?
The phone is expected to list for $600. Even at that price, this would just be cool as anything if it would only work with my Verizon service...

Top Ten Geek Wallets
Productdose.com has a rundown of the the top ten wallets for geeks, including an RFID blocking wallet and a wallet made out of Tyvek designed to look like dot-matrix paper. Its an entertaining read that even includes a DIY illuminating wallet.
Very nice, though I don't see my Ducti wallet on there... it does have a nice stainless-steel one (made of soft fibers tho), and I've admired the Tyvek ones before...

Google Gadgets Come to You
Yahoo is reporting the release of "Google Gadgets", 1,220 dynamic applications for use on your web pages, without needing to connect to Google. 'Google Gadgets range from a miniature look-up for Google Maps or Google Calendar to independent applications ranging from financial information to sports to communication tools and jokes, horoscopes or geometric puzzle game Tetris.'
OK, so apparently it's really Reuters reporting this, Yahoo is just syndicating it (though perhaps the poster was going for the irony factor?), and such widgets have been around for awhile on the personalized homepage on Google. And though the article seems to imply you can stick these up on regular websites, looks like for right now it's still just the widgets you pop up on the personalized Google homepage. So, not as much a big deal right now, but would be nice to geek up my own web site with some of these...

UPDATE: OK so I did a little more digging around, they sure don't make it easy to find... but yes you can add content directly to a third-party site.


The Nerd, Geek, or Dork Test

Which are you?

Pure Geek
39 % Nerd, 73% Geek, 39% Dork

For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.
You scored better than half in Geek, earning you the title of: Pure Geek.

It's not that you're a school junkie, like the nerd, and you don't really stand out in a crowd, like the dork, you just have some interests that aren't quite mainstream. Perhaps it's anime, perhaps it's computers, perhaps it's bottlecaps, perhaps it's all of those and more. Your interests take you to events and gatherings that are filled with people you find unusual and beyond-the-pale, but you don't quite consider yourself "of that crowd." Instead, you consider yourself to be fairly normal.

Which, you are.

Congratulations! You're the one on the RIGHT!


MMOs As Your Third Home

Article and discussion from Slashdot yesterday morning: What is a third place? The first place is your home, the second place is work. Howard Schultz, founder of Starbucks introduced third places as somewhere besides home or work where people can socialize and feel comfortable. Think Cheers. Massive multiplayer online games are third places as defined by their characteristics: neutral ground, leveler (no not that kind), conversation, accessibility, regulars, low profile, playful mood, and "home away from home". Online games also contain social capital, which like financial capital, can be acquired and spent, but for social gains instead of financial gains. In a social relationship sense, bridging provides breadth (diverse information and resources) while bonding provides depth (comfort and advice). In online games, players come from a diverse background so they are usually bridging social capital but bonding can occur for long time players.


The News As I Noticed It

Pinky: Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?
Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!
Well there's been a lot going on recently, personal and worldly. My brother and his wife got back from Australia safely. My dad officially retired. Donna had her first official Girl Scout meeting as Katie's leader (they have 14 girls, enough for 3 troops... yikes...). And I just got off of a particularly gruelling week of on-call duty.

Yesterday I was sitting at a BBQ wings place with my team when the TV's started showing live coverage of the coup in Bangkok. Helluva thing.

So let's go through my daily emails from the Slashdot roundup and see what was interesting... I'm a few days behind...

From last Thursday there came an article about one of my favorite TV shows (even though I have it Tivo'd I still don't get to watch it much...) - The Mismatched 'MythBusters':
Most fans of the MythBusters would agree that the two hosts of the show, Adam and Jamie, are 'diametrically opposed in every aspect of their lives'. The Christian Science Monitor story about the MythBusters explores the connection between the backgrounds of the hosts (who knew that Jamie had a degree in Russian literature?) and their creative differences on and off camera.
From the article:
It took Hyneman a of couple years to feel comfortable talking in front of a camera, let alone to strangers on the street. 'You have to remember that I'm a guy who is happiest in a dark room just thinking,' he says. 'I'm not a sociable person. I don't like to talk.' Savage, on the other hand, is outgoing. They're clearly the Oscar and Felix of myth busting ... 'Jamie is all about total, complete, and utter control. Thinking first and then acting. Adam is about acting first and then thinking.'

Next we have a "Giant 'Leap' for Robotics":
An AFP article is reporting that Toyota has developed a robot leg that can jump like a human's, an evolution from today's stiff-jointed machines. The leg is a strange-looking standalone device and Toyota claims it will enable robots to jump about, run faster and handle unpaved roads more smoothly.
Personally I think this is the next step towards true synthetic limbs, if they can be miniaturized enough. More than synthetics, though, think along the lines of the Bionic Man... ("We have the technology... we can make him stronger, faster...")

On Friday we have more robotics news, with NASA testing Linux-based Exploration Robots (from the penguinnnnnss-innnnn-spaaaace dept...):
This week NASA is testing a Linux-based lunar rover called K-10 in the Arizona desert. To cut costs and promote maintainability the K-10 runs Linux and uses commercial off-the-shelf parts where possible. The robot rover's control and communications system is based on an IBM Thinkpad X31 and attaches to subsystems with standard PC interfaces. Real-time tasks such as fine-grained motor control are offloaded to a distributed network of microcontroller-powered control boards. Maneuvers can be watched through a live webcam.

Also from Friday, Advertising Comes to DVR Owners, a.k.a. The Advertising Twilight Zone:
According to Reuters, television studios are finally trying to target DVR viewers with advertising. The effort, however, seems rather backwards - They are extending the same exact image across the entire 30 second commercial so that TIVO Viewers will be forced to view at least one frame. Wouldn't it be better to add value to the viewing experience instead?
From the article:
The advert for its new drama 'Brotherhood' will show a single image on the screen for the entire 30-second slot, and therefore retain its "sales message" when viewed even at the 12-times speeds enabled by Sky+ and other digital recorders, also known as personal video recorders, or PVRs. Advertisers have been racing to find ways to get messages through as higher numbers of consumers watch TV programs when they want using such recorders, often skipping the commercials.
Oh yeah, THAT will get my interest. /rollseyes Seriously, who's crackbrained idea was this? That's just going to encourage people to skip the ads - and at a higher track rate, I might add...

Monday found aninterestingg article concerning "Pipeline Worm Floods AIM With Botnet Drones". (Full Disclosure: Yes I do work for AOL. No I don't intend to offer any opinions one way or the other. So don't take anything contained herein as an opinion. 'Nuff said.) Several readers write about a new AIM threat dubbed the "AIM Pipeline Worm" that uses a sophisticated network of "chained" executables to attack the end user. Security Focus has a brief note.
Using this method, there is no starting point for the attack - a malicious link via IM can send you to any given file, at which point the path of infection you take depends entirely on the file you start off with. The hackers can then decide which order to install malicious software, depending on their needs at the time. At a bare minimum, you will become a Botnet Zombie - if you're really lucky, you might be Trojaned, have a Rootkit installed on your PC, and be used for spam, file storage, and DOS attacks. Unlike similar attacks that have been attempted in the past, the removal of a file from the chain will not stop the attack - you will simply end up with something else installed instead, in the form of a randomly named executable dumped in your system32 folder. You'll still spam an infection link to all your contacts.
Ugh. Makes me want to go back and block all users again other than who's in my buddy list.

Now here's some bright bit of sunshine on the horizon. There's a New Tolkien Story To be Published by his son:
CNN reports that Christopher Tolkien has edited and will release a new book by his father. From the article: 'Christopher Tolkien has spent the past 30 years working on "The Children of Hurin," an epic tale his father began in 1918 and later abandoned. Excerpts of "The Children of Hurin," which includes the elves and dwarfs of Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" and other works, have been published before.'

And more news on the AOL front, "AOL Opens Video Search Engine to Developers". (Full Disclosure: Yeah, you already know.)
CNet is reporting that AOL has opened up their video search engine to developers. This push is being made in the hopes that it will drive more websites into using their service.
From the article:
The goal for the APIs is different than the one that AOL had in mind when it opened up a number of its other applications to developers - notably its instant-messaging client AIM and IP telephony service AIM Phoneline. The AIM and AIM Phoneline toolkits were designed to enable modifications to the existing software, whereas the purpose of the new video-search APIs is to spread its video search engine to sites other than AOL.
I actually hadn't heard about that. There's some open platforms info for AIM developers (new project of mine to handle within production), but even though the ops guys from search sit in the next row over this is all news to me. Pretty nice though. (Dangit, there I go, just offered and opinion.)

Here's another interesting tidbit, this one from yesterday's postings. Net Neutrality is something that I should know more about, and yet I'm apparently just as clueless about it as many Americans, as a recent "Poll Says No Voter Support for Net Neutrality":
A survey conducted by the Commerce Committee says that Americans don't know what net neutrality is, and they don't want it. Ars Technica reports that only 7% of respondents had ever heard of net neutrality, but the report questions the fairness of the survey, which was crafted by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to assess support for the current version of the Telecommunications Act of 2006. The survey suggested to respondents that net neutrality would prevent ISPs from selling faster service or security products, both of which are not true.
This really is an issue everyone should try to educate themselves on, or at least retain a passing familiarity on the terms. From the article itself:
The very brief net neutrality description used by the pollsters is somewhat misleading insofar as it suggests that net neutrality would bar Internet Service Providers from selling faster service than is available today. Strict net neutrality does not concern itself with ultimate transfer speeds available to subscribers, but instead focuses on how different kinds of Internet traffic could be shaped by ISPs for anti-competitive purposes. For instance, strict net neutrality would not prevent an ISP from selling extremely fast 35Mbps connections, but it would prevent ISPs from privileging traffic for their own services for competitive advantage, or degrading the traffic of competing services.

What Came First, the Violence or the Videogame? Is it just me or does there seem to be little data but much hyperbole surrounding this issue? And does anyone else my age recall the doom and damnation portended over those who were wicked enough to be into RPGs like D&D? (So far I haven't turned into a mass murderer, but the day is still young...)
Another wave of video-game-violence panic is upon us. The pressed suits who read the pop news on television are wagging their so-called neutral fingers at an industry they have never understood. Planet Xbox 360 considers the many games they have played and the real-life murderers they have known in their own lives, and how little the talking heads know about either.
My buddy Mike did pass along an link ("Senate To Study Gaming's Effects on Kids") that shows the government is finally taking a definitive approach to fact-finding regarding this. Finally. And here's more info on the CAMARA act.

Finally, a very belated "Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, Me Hearties" from yesterday:
Avast, me maties! Today be th' International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Fer today only, ye lubbers no worthy 'nough t' enjoy th' noble vocation o' Pirate can join th' ranks! Firs' ye'll need t' lern t' talk like a pirate, then find yer pirate name, doonload yer ringtones, an' finally sling back some grog. Be smart aboot it, fer today's th' day ninjas fear...ever'one's a pirate! Arrrr!
I need to find an English-to-Pirate translator so I can submit my weekly status report in Pirate. Arrr indeed... And thus, I leave you with this:

My pirate name is:

Mad Sam Kidd

Every pirate is a little bit crazy. You, though, are more than just a little bit. Even though you're not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from piratequiz.com.
part of the fidius.org network


What is your battle cry?

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Striding amidst the fields, wielding an oversized scalpel, cometh Dongyrn! And he gives a vengeful bellow:

"Brace yourself, oh human speck of dust! I bring darkness and mayhem until my glands are satisfied!!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys

Aaaahh, the memories...

I got my twelve sided die and I'm ready
to roll with a wizard and my goblin crew.
My friends are comin' over to my mom's basement
bringing Funions and the Mountain Dew.
I got a big broadsword made out of cardboard
and the stereo's a pumpin' Zepplin.
It's that time of the night, turn on the black light.
Let the Dungeons and the Dragons begin.

Fightin' with the legends of yore.
Never kissed a lady before (Nope. Nuh uh)

Now the Lord of The Rings, the Dark Crystal and things
we use these as a reference tool.
And when we put on our cloaks and tell warlock jokes
we're the coolest kids in the school (No we're not. I know)
Now attack's a real bastard, but a fair Dungeon Master
has hitpoints and charisma to lend
I rehearse in my room or what I call the Dragon's Tomb
when I'm not out with my girlfriend.

IT'S D an... Wait wait, whoa, whoa. You got a girlfriend?
Yeah... Yeah... No.
Warriors who terrify
Virgins, till the day weeeeeeeeeeee DIEEEEEEEEEEEE!

"Dungeons and Dragons" by Stephen Lynch


Commentary: Bush still fighting the last war

Do you feel safer than you did five years ago? Republicans hope the answer is yes and that you'll give them full credit.

Of course, on a related note, they also hope you've developed full-fledged amnesia.

They hope you've forgotten all about immigration reform and how the White House and GOP-controlled Congress were going to fix a broken system and seal a porous border -- things that make many Americans feel less safe and less secure.

Five years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration is still fighting the last war.



Lunchbreak Weekend Roundup - Slashdot and more

News roundup from the weekend. First up is The Science of eBay:
Professors of marketing, economics, management, and psychology have published dozens of papers to try to explain how and why eBay users buy and sell online. At the same time, there is no shortage of people offering helpful hints online. Kerry Miller takes a novel approach, offering 10 tips to maximize your profit that are based on a summary of these scientific analyses, rather than just 'educated' guessing.
Might be worth looking into. Especially since Donna's contemplating opening up an eBay storefront.

Next up we have MythTV Compared with Windows Media Center (I really need to try out MythTV one of these days, especially as DirecTV will be changing the way they implement TiVo at some point):
Tom's Hardware has a nice comparison of MythTV and Windows Media Center Edition, and it seems that they preferred MythTV by quite a margin: 'Enter MythTV, a grand unification of personal digital video recording and home theatre technology, and a magnum opus of modular design, freedom of expression and personal entertainment.'
And then we have an interesting piece from the Game Politics site, via the Games department of Slashdot. Saturday they revisited the question, 'Can videogames be considered art?'. They touch on the words of Roger Ebert, and discuss a recent piece on the subject in the Sydney Herald. From the article:
"Brendan McNamara, game director for Team Bondi, makers of the upcoming film noir PS3 game L.A. Noire, has no doubt his team is creating art. With a project plan that includes 170 pages describing cinematic moments, and 1,200 pages detailing interactive events, the game has a Hollywood-like budget of more than $30 million. 'We control the delivery of the information ... We give players a setting and a framework, we control what they see and do. So how are we not authors?' McNamara wonders if video games are stigmatized because they are a mostly commercial venture. At the same time, he believes that being driven by sales is a good thing."
Slashdot poses the questions: Are games too different from other form of expression to be considered art? Is Shadow of the Colossus comparable to Leaves of Grass or Citizen Kane?

On the personal front, we spent Saturday staining the fence and deck. As I was concerned with permanent damage to my shoes, I did so barefoot and subsequently got about an inch worth of wood stabbed into the bottom of my foot. I think some of it is still in there, as my walking around King's Dominion on Sunday seemed to aggravate it and it hurts like the dickens now. Heading out soon to have it looked at... Hopefully no tetanus shot needed...


Do-It-Yourself Robotics

(Side note: I should start calling this the Lunchtime Break Blog, as that is when it seems most convenient for me to catch up on news and post.)

Slashdot article on robotics with more than just Lego Mindstorms...
Imagine Legos and Erector Sets on crack. The fruit of a collaboration between Lego and the MIT Media Lab, the Toronto-based startup Playful Invention Company is offering the PicoCricket, "a kit of parts that can be used to build an infinite variety of robotic inventions." The kit contains an assortment of pom poms, pipe cleaners, and other craft materials reminiscent of a summer camp art period. It also includes a collection of Lego bricks and electronics: the Cricket "brain" and a motor, colored lights and a soundbox, a digital display, and an infrared beamer that allows the Cricket to communicate with a PC on which kids write the programs that control their invention's behavior. Perhaps the most important parts in the Cricket kit are the four sensors, which detect light, sound, touch, and electrical resistance. "It was lots of fun making things and controlling their action," says Grover Venkatasubramaniam (age 10). "The most fun was programming the robots. It felt like giving life to lifeless bodies."
Someday I shall get to play with a Mindstorm. Oh yes. Someday I shall.


RIP Steve Irwin - and a New Site to Visit

I'm sure everyone has heard the news, and seen the commentaries about the passing of Steve Irwin. I usually don't make comments unless an event affects me in some momentous way (self-centered view, I know), but in browsing the web I came across a site I hadn't before. This guy is effing hilarious, mature readers only tho, so be forewarned. Anyways, he did a piece on Irwin, and I'm right there with him.
I guess on some level, sure... we were all laughing at him a little. You can't run around in khaki short-shorts smiling as innocently as Steve did, or get as unabashedly excited about kangaroo poop as Steve got, without inviting at least some measure of ridicule. Yet simultaneously, there was an unspoken understanding among us that, even if he did perhaps owe most of his bravery to having the emotional development of a functionally retarded ten year-old, the dude had balls the size of Ayers Rock. It's probably an unwritten rule of male machismo that once you've got "Put crocodile in headlock" on your resume, you're pretty much allowed to act and dress however the [heck] you like. Steve earned the right to be ridiculous.


We'll miss you, Steve. Hopefully you're in a better place now, with all manner of dangerous and poisonous mythical creatures - all of which are patiently waiting for you to walk up behind them while you yell excitedly at a camera, before lifting up their tails to prod curiously at their genitalia.
God bless ya, Steve, and all my condolences to the family you left behind. We will indeed miss you.

But do check out Jay's site. Some of the comics on there, and fake ads, made me almost fall outta my chair.


Slashdot News Roundup

Been a little while since I've caught up on the interesting tidbits I see around the web, so I thought I'd take my lunchbreak today and consolidate the news from yesterday.

First up, we have the Google release of their online office suite (plus lots more).
Google Apps for Your Domain is Google's entrance into the office productivity world, but contrary to popular expectations, the company is not shipping word processor or spreadsheet for corporate use just yet. Google, Inc. bundled e-mail client (Gmail), shared calendaring environment (Google Calendar), instant messaging client (GTalk) and HTML page generator (Google Page Creator) to be used across specific domains. The service will be ad-supported, reports the Associated Press.
From that article:
The free edition of Apps for Your Domain is, like Google's main site, supported with ads. By the end of the year, the company also plans to launch a paid version that will offer more storage, some degree of support, and likely, no ads. A price for this edition hasn't been set. Providing e-mail and other applications for businesses moves Google closer into what has traditionally been turf occupied by Microsoft Corp. Earlier this year, Google released a program that builds simple Excel-type spreadsheets but lets users access them on the Web.

I gave it a try and signed up for the Beta, not sure exactly how I can incorporate it all into what we run at home, or how it might look, but it will be interesting to see.

Next up, something amusing to pass the day, as Apple has released new "Get a Mac" TV ads.
Klaidas writes "Apple has introduced 3 new "Get a Mac" TV ads: "Accident", "Angle/Devil" and "Trust Mac" " Normally, posting ads would be make me cry, but these are genuinely funny and well done.

From the woomp-there-it-was dept. comes a story that reminds me why I only buy retail from Dell, and prefer to build my own boxes for performance. Slashdot article entitled "New Alienware PC an Overpriced Underperformer".
Alienware has jumped on board the Core 2 bandwagon and rightfully so, but their new Area-51 7500 loses out to cheaper and faster solutions from other companies. From HEXUS.net's review 'No matter which way we dress up the Alienware's performance and feature-set, it's relatively poor in comparison to SKUs that we've reviewed recently. Value for money may not be the greatest concern in this sector of the pre-built market but when you can get substantially more for less, it becomes impossible to recommend this particular Area-51 7500.'
They've always looked cool, but if I want cool looks with performance I can easily build my own for less with more quality components. But, to each their own. (And yes, I do know that Dell bought Alienware.)

From the gaming front, we have "How Strategy Guides Affected Gaming".
2old2play has another great story up looking into how games have become more complicated due to strategy guides. From the article; "Strategy guides have affected gaming by making games harder for all of us. That's right, it's not a typo -- strategy guides have created more difficult games. Lend me your eyes and attention spans, and I'll explain. Admittedly, it may be a rambling explanation, but bear with me and we should get there eventually.
I've a tendency to use strategy guides, same as CmdrTaco, "because some puzzles are just ridiculous and I have no interest in trial & erroring for an hour when I'd rather kill monsters." There's also the question of just how much time you are able to invest in one sitting to a game. Sometimes you just want to get to the (perceptually) fun stuff.

And next we have news from the World of Warcraft front, as the official WoW Expansion Talent info from their upcoming "Burning Crusade" expansion nears release.
smartidiotaz writes "Blizzard has finally released more information about the talent trees after leaks broke out over the internet. " As typical, every class thinks every other class got a better deal, but the Pallies get to mean it.
Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth commence. (See, this is why I play multiple classes...)

Finally we have "17 Web Based Competitors to MS Office".
Red Herring magazine takes a look at 17 projects in the Web 2.0 space competing with Microsoft Office for the attention of the office workers worldwide. The table lists Thinkfree, Zoho Writer, Writeboard, Google Writely, Rallypoint and JotSpot Live as Microsoft Word competitors, JotSpot Tracker, Numsum, iRows, Zoho Street as Microsoft Excel alternatives, S5, Zoho Show as PowerPoint contenders, ThinkFree, gOffice and Zoho Virtual Office as suite offerings. Even Microsoft Project has its fair share of Web 2.0 competitors: Basecamp and JotSpot Project Manager made the list.

Have a nice day!


My Hero

We all had 'em when we were growing up. Role models, heros, thos we aspired to become or at least live by their code. So here's mine. And yeah, he's still my role model.

How to Remove Startup Programs

Though it's a bit on the basic side, this is something I often get asked by people, basically why their computer is sooo slow compared to what it used to be... Typically the culprit is a program that's started up by Windows that you don't realize is there or even running, and there's no entry in the Startup folder or an icon in the taskbar. So from today's O'Reilly Network Newsletter, comes an article called "How to Remove Startup Programs":
Got a PC that takes a week and a day to boot up? It's most likely filled with programs that start at bootup --- programs you don't need. Mitch Tulloch shows you all the secrets of how to ferret out and remove these time and resource wasters.
Since I read that, I also got an email newsletter from Steve Bass of PCWorld, who talks about the egregious amounts of crap he had to, well, de-crapify from a neighbor's new Dell. If you think about it, Dell and other PC manufacturers aren't really profiting from hardware. Instead, they're making their margins by picking up a few bucks when buyers renew or upgrade the trial versions they dump into their new desktop images, or use a recommended ISP. He mentions a program I haven't had a chance to look at, the PC De-Crapifier, which was reviewed by Denny Arar, PCWorld's "Consumer Watch" editor. You might, however, be as leery as I am about using an unknown third-party invasive tool...
But let's say you're the DIY type. Then you'll love Andy Brandt's recent "Step-by-Step," in which he tells you in excruciating detail how to remove all the useless gunk from a new system and set it up to your specifications:
So go forth and cleanse.


40 Percent of World of Warcraft Players Addicted

Um, yeah. Right off the bat I can see I'm going to have to take this article posted via Slashdot five days ago (yes I am behind) with some serious salt.
MMORPGs and game addiction. If you're suffering from dry eyes, headaches, back aches, erratic sleep patterns, it may be more than just your average hangover: according to Dr. Maressa Orzack, you could be suffering from video and computer game addiction. A clinical psychologist, Orzack is founder and coordinator of Computer Addiction Services at McLean Hospital in Newton, Mass., and is also an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Computer Addiction Services is one of the few outpatient clinics in the U.S. that provides specific treatment for game addiction.
There were many reader comments left on this thread. Mostly summed up by Spad who scoffs at the source of the claim:
"Doctor with vested interest makes sensational statement to support business model" Shocker.
Some readers' horror stories about their gaming lives strain credulity, but Dirtside was one of many who described getting too far into a game:
I was addicted to WoW. It got to the point where it was interfering with taking care of other things around the house, and occasionally paying attention to my kid. I finally quit cold-turkey a few weeks ago, and I'm glad I did. The game's fun, but it's just a game; I kept looking at it as "gotta accomplish more, gotta get all these characters to 60, etc."
"Anything can become an addiction," though, asserts diamondsw:
It is true that MMORPG's (World of Warcraft being far and away the more successful) encourage this. You have monthly fees that (aside from paying for the infrastructure, bandwidth, etc) entice you to play to justify the ongoing and mounting expense. Grouping makes sure you show up at given times, etc. The random rewards of epic loot in advanced dungeons is similar to random reward studies (which show it's the most powerful form of behavior shaping - see slot machines). You have to set limits on it just like anything else, whether it's drinking or TV.

However, there are some differences here [compared to] to other addictions. There is no physical addiction, and hardly any psychological one. You can put it down, and other than mild obsession (what's going on in Azeroth?), it has no ill effects. Hell, you can discontinue your account, and they keep all of your character info, so you can completely unplug, and return at some point in the future when you're interested again, much like an offline game. There's also a limit - you may play a lot to reach level 60, but then you do stop. Sure, you can join raids, get gear, but the drive to constantly improve falls away (other games, like Disgaea, are far, far worse in this regard).

The most important difference is that if handled well, it can be a positive social tool. I play, but only with people I know in real life. That way we can talk about other things and it allows a set time for us to get together, without having to drive out to each other (I live over an hour away from many of them, and that's just suburban sprawl!).

Mostly, this is a lot of fuss over nothing.
That's more along my line of thinking, but I believe reader cculianu hit the nail on the head:
What the hell is wrong with our society? I don't believe that such a thing exists as being addicted to non-narcotics (such as games, sex, your friends, a good book). I think that's just called enjoying life!.

For example: Would we have called Leonardo Da Vinci addicted to science because he spent long 20 hour days cutting up cadavers or studying mechanics?

Would we have called Einstein a hopeless physics junkie?

It's called having a passion. Doing what you love. What's so bad about it?

In this work-obsessed culture we live in, if you aren't working and doing something THE MAN tells you to do, you must be doing something wrong. You don't see clinics popping up for people that work at overtime at McDonalds because they can't pay their bills -- we find it absolutely OK to not see your family most of the week because your job makes you work from 8 till 8, but when a person comes home and wants to spend 3-4 hours doing something they want to do you have people thinking its some sort of a disease.

I don't get it. Where are the priorities? I really am an advocate of being a professional idler and trying to get out of wage slavery. What's so bad about playing a game for 40 hours a week (something you choose to do, and enjoy)? Compare that to working which is something you HAVE to do or else you get evicted by some property owning assholes and end up living on the streets and going crazy!
So there you go. Addiction or not? Though I might jokingly refer to my "addiction" to WoW, I don't really mean it in the sense that the good doctor does. After all, I do still go to work. I was able to go on vacation for a week, WoW-free, without any ill effects or withdrawals. But I still believe it is a really, really great experience and I cannot wait to enter into the WoW universe whenever I am able to. So take it as you will.