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.