All the Vista You Can Eat...

...or at least stomach... Here's the roundup from Slashdot on the Vista news over the past week or so. Seems to be a regular plethora, and most of it still not encouraging me to consider an upgrade anytime soon...

4 GB May Be Vista's RAM Sweet Spot 2007.02.20
David Short, an IBM consultant who works in the Global Services Division and has been beta testing Vista for two years, says users should consider 4GB of RAM if they really want optimum Vista performance. With Vista's minimum requirement of 512MB of RAM, Vista will deliver performance that's 'sub-XP,' he says. (Dell and others recommend 2GB.) One reason: SuperFetch, which fetches applications and data, and feeds them into RAM to make them accessible more quickly. More RAM means more caching.

Vista Security — Too Little Too Late 2007.02.21
Thomas Greene of The Register has a fairly comprehensive review of Vista and IE7 user security measures. The verdict is: better but not adequate, and mostly an attempt to shift blame onto the user when things go wrong. From the review:
"[Vista is] a slightly more secure version than XP SP2. There are good features, and there are good ideas, but they've been implemented badly. The old problems never go away: too many networking services enabled by default; too many owners running their boxes as admins and downloading every bit of malware they can get their hands on."

Software Missing From Vista's "Official Apps" 2007.02.22
Microsoft has just released a list of 800 applications it says are 'officially supported' on Windows Vista. What's special about this list, however, are the programs that are not included: 'Popular Windows software that is conspicuously missing from Microsoft's list includes Adobe Systems Inc.'s entire line of graphics and multimedia software, Symantec Corp.'s security products, as well as the Mozilla Foundation's open-source Firefox Web browser, Skype Ltd.'s free voice-over-IP software and the OpenOffice.org alternative to Microsoft Office.' Another area in which Vista has found to be lacking is gaming, as discussed earlier on Slashdot.

Windows Vista - Still Fresh After 19 Months? 2007.02.23
"ZDNet blog Hardware 2.0 looks at the effect of having used Windows Vista for over 18 months. It Windows Vista the indispensable upgrade that Microsoft wants you to think it is? Writer Kingsley-Hughes says 'Having been using Vista for over 18 months I believe that it's a huge improvement over XP and even though I still use XP I find that I miss many of the features that Vista offers.' Just the same, he goes on, 'I wouldn't call any of the changes earth-shattering. When I'm using XP systems I miss some of the features but not so much that they push me to upgrade any faster.' He then goes on to give a feature-by-feature breakdown of all of the improvements Vista has over XP, and what long-term use of these features can net."
A possibly useful guide for gamers or administrators thinking about upgrading sometime soon.

And finally, on a more humorous note...

What Vista Is Really Like 2007.02.24
This waking dream has been making the rounds: what if you woke and found a strange and beautiful woman in your bed, and she was inscrutible, unpredictable, and dangerous... but oh so beautiful? That's Vista for you.

If you click on no other link, please do read that last tidbit. It is absolutely hysterical. Spoken like a true Windows user.

...And the Rest of the News

Here's the miscellaneous news bits, much of it gaming-related, gleaned from Slashdot over the last few days.

January Game Sales Explode, Wii Dominates 2007.02.21 14:46
GameDaily discussed the January NPD numbers for the games industry. In short, they're terrific. Software sales totaled $549 million for the month, up a staggering 53 percent over last year. Hardware sales were brisk as well, with the Wii selling around 436,000 units. Trailing behind were Microsoft and Sony, with 360 hitting 294,000 units sold and the PS3 selling 244,000 units. January had an extra week, which resulted in 'inflated' sales, but even after normalizing the data things were tremendous for the games industry in a month where there's normally a post-holiday slump.

A Unique Perspective on a 'Game-Related' Tragedy 2007.02.22
Penny Arcade has a letter from the stepmother of one of the kids who was recently charged with killing a homeless man. Her article is an extremely sobering tale of the problems dealing with troubled teen. She explains how, in this situation, the parents did everything they possibly could. And, in a refreshing twist, she absolves the games industry of any blame for the tragedy these kids perpetrated. From her missive: 'Video games DID NOT make this kid who he was, and it's unfortunate that the correlation is there. The thing that really gets me with this whole thing is that the kid knows full well that by equating what he's done to a video game, that he will generate controversy and media coverage. It makes me sick that the media is jumping all over this, because that is exactly the result that he wants. The only good thing (if there is such a thing) that has come out of this whole ordeal is that the kid is behind bars. That is exactly where he needs to be.' Her letter is a passionate, troubling story, but well worth reading.

World of Warcraft - The Burning Crusade Review 2007.02.23
It would be hard to argue that World of Warcraft hasn't been a huge success. Not only has it been a financial success in the MMO market, but it has introduced many new people to Massive gaming that might not have otherwise given it a shot. With their first expansion, The Burning Crusade, Blizzard has made huge advances in many areas of the game. Long-standing complaints have been addressed, and the structure of the popular title has been reinforced. The casual players have gotten a large injection of content that is both accessible and enjoyable to someone who doesn't have huge amounts of time to play. At the same time, hardcore players who thirst for new challenges on a daily basis have quite a bit of work ahead of them. This is not to say that The Burning Crusade (BC) doesn't have its pitfalls, but overall I get the feeling that this is closer to what Blizzard's World of Warcraft dream was meant to be. Read on for ScuttleMonkey's opinions of this new round of addiction.

This is actually such a nicely detailed review, I think I might reprint it on my gaming page, as I needed to do one for BC anyways. With full props back to the original author of course.

DRM Causes Piracy 2007.02.24
igorsk recommends an essay by Eric Flint, editor at Baen Publishing and an author himself, over at Baen's online SF magazine, Baen Universe. In it Flint argues that, far from curbing piracy of copyrighted materials, DRM actually causes it. Quoting:
"Electronic copyright infringement is something that can only become an 'economic epidemic' under certain conditions. Any one of the following: 1) The products they want... are hard to find, and thus valuable. 2) The products they want are high-priced, so there's a fair amount of money to be saved by stealing them. 3) The legal products come with so many added-on nuisances that the illegal version is better to begin with. Those are the three conditions that will create widespread electronic copyright infringement, especially in combination. Why? Because they're the same three general conditions that create all large-scale smuggling enterprises. And... Guess what? It's precisely those three conditions that DRM creates in the first place. So far from being an impediment to so-called 'online piracy,' it's DRM itself that keeps fueling it and driving it forward."

Pre-Installed Linux On Dells Coming 2007.02.25
When Michael Dell took back the reins of he company he founded, one of the first things he did was to launch the feedback site Dell Idea Storm. Following up on the recent Slashdot discussion of the early results of this experiment — an overwhelming expressed desire for pre-loaded LinuxDell reports on what it plans to do with this feedback. Quoting:
"[W]e are working with Novell to certify our corporate client products for Linux, including our OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks and Dell Precision workstations. [On the question of which distro to choose:] "[T]here is no single customer preference for a distribution of Linux... We want users to have the opportunity to help define the market for Linux on desktop and notebook systems. In addition to working with Novell, we are also working with other distributors and evaluating the possibility of additional certifications across our product line."

Weekend Roundup - A Tad Late

Meant to blog yesterday, but I got far too busy at work. My birthday was Saturday, and my wife took me off to a mystery location... which ended up to be Annapolis! We stayed at a bed & breakfast located in a row house above a deli called Chick & Ruth's - that was a fantastic experience, ate down there twice, kinda reminiscent of a New York deli, very tight spaces. Actually had the Annapolis mayor eating there while we were!

Saturday was a beautiful day for walking along Main Street in Annapolis and doing some shopping. Then we went to the second mystery of the weekend: Dinner at Medieval Times at Arundel Mills!

That was a very cool experience, actually much better than I anticipated. The choreography was nicely done, food was very tasty, and the hokiness kept down to a minimum. Plus, plenty of sharp & pointies abounded!! W00t!

We ended up driving back to Donna's parents, where we had deposited the children, during the surprise snowstorm. The drive back to Martinsburg was fairly uneventful tho.

All in all, I had a wonderful time, especially as I got to spend it alone with my wife. Now THAT'S a fantastic birthday present!

Speaking of phat lewt, er, birthday presents, my kids got me a new hoodie sweatshirt that says "meh" and a new bag for work (the very spiffy Bag of Holding). Donna got me a sweet new shirt that I'm wearing today, as well as an Office Space cubbie kit.

And still, the best birthday present of all was getting some quality time with my wife.


Pic of the Week 20070222

So this weekend for my birthday, Donna is whisking me away somewhere. Don't know where, she won't tell me. And yes the suspense is killing me, I want to badger her constantly but I'm trying to ignore it. I'm just excited I get to spend time alone with her for an entire weekend, I don't really care what we do or where we go, just no distractions but the two of us.

Anyways, as I'm off tomorrow, here's the Pic of the Week for ya. Enjoy!

Frank Herbert's Dune, classic series. As always, click on the pic to enlarge.

Entire City Wiped Out Each Year by Drivers

This is an incredible post made yesterday on CommuterPageBlog, an excellent site blogging about commuting options within the DC Metro area. This was posted by David Ausman from Arlington, Virginia. It's good enough that I'm going to post it here in it's entirety, but all credit goes to him.
Is it just me or has anybody else noticed that about 45,000 of our fellow citizens are routinely killed in so called car "accidents" each year? If a terrorist came and destroyed an entire town of 45,000 tomorrow would we be upset? Or how about this: multiply 45,000 by one decade. Oh, I'm so sorry, we killed 450,000 of our fellows in the last ten years because we felt the urge to drive. Say, what's 45,000 times twenty years? Well, now we are pushing 1,000,000 fellow citizens getting snuffed out so that we can avoid taking a bus. My time is ever so much more valuable than the lives of one million Americans.

Let me put it another way: would you be shocked if nine fully loaded Boeing 747 jets (3750 people) crashed each and every month here forever and ever? Or would you just sit passively by and say, oh, gosh, that's okay with me. Who cares about those people? Well, that's how many of our fellow citizens die each month so that we can make phone calls while driving, open a hamburger while driving, fiddle with an iPod while driving, get drunk while driving, or vent our rage, while driving.

We think it's perfectly okay to wipe out an entire American town each and every year so that we can feel the Freedom of the Road.

Take a look at a map someday in the near future and pick out the towns with 45,000 people in them. Then imagine all of them dead...and very soon, to boot.

I wonder which one of those people had the cure for cancer or HIV? Maybe one of them would have figured out how to travel in space faster than the speed of light. Maybe one of them could have cured spinal nerve damage and Superman would have recovered. Well, we shall never know because this year we are wiping out a town so that we can drive, and next year we are wiping out another entire town so that we can drive, and the year after that, we are agreeing to wipe out another American town so we can avoid changing our infrastructure to benefit all of us in positive, healthy ways.
Now, if that doesn't make you stop and think, just for a minute, then there's no hope at all.


Never, ever gets old...

Awesome geeky comic.

Courtesy of xkcd.com - a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language - by Randall Munroe. Funny stuff. You gotta know a little bit about the open-source movement to get this at all...

(Click on image to enlarge...)


Theme for the day...

Consider it an early Pic of the Week. And yes, I am home from work today... maybe tomorrow too? Guess we'll see what the weather does...


Statistical Accuracy of Internet Weather Forecasts

Interesting article linked from Slashdot last Friday, involves weather accuracy as reported online, and includes my employer the National Weather Service (NWS/NOAA).
Brandon Hansen considers the statistical accuracy of popular on-line weather forecast sources and shows who's on target, and on who you probably shouldn't rely. Motivated by a trip to a water park that was spoiled with hail despite a 'clear sky' forecast, he does a nice job of depicting deviations, averages, and overall accuracy in a manner that stats junkies are sure to love.
The entry has a lot of charts and is a little difficult to muddle through (unless you're a statistician) and seems to have a few drawbacks: It only measures over 14 days (not a long enough sample IMHO) and it only measures temperature accuracy, not the precipitation - which is what I thought his whole reason for starting this experiment.

One insightful commenter on the Slashdot page posted:
Kudos to this guy for the work he put into the effort but it is really comparing apples and oranges. A forecast is a time sensitive product. You can't look at the forecast provided on day x from two different sources and compare them unless the forecast was provided at the same time of day.

The National Weather Service collects all the weather data used by forecasters, they also provide the 1st forecast. AccuWeather and others take the National Weather Service forecast then watch the new data (using National Weather Service provided data) to offer a refined forecast a few hours latter. Who do you think is going to be the most accurate the guy who provides the first forecast or the guy who waits for more data and then refines the for cast? AccuWeather's has statistics that show they are more accurate then the National Weather Service but if you used the AccuWeather forecast then waited for the next National Weather Service update I bet National Weather Service would be more accurate.

I am surprised that this guy used the weather.com and not the National Weather Service for the actually temp for all his calculations. (It doesn't matter b/c I am sure weather.com is right from National Weather Service data). He did point out that AccuWeather is the only one who provides forecasts > 10 days in advance.

My preference for weather forecasts is:

National Weather Service
AccuWeather (easy to understand graphics and 2 week forecasts)
The Weather Underground (Years ago they were the 1st to provided free access to hurricane computer models)
Ever since I went to work for NOAA, I've started using their forecast site weather.gov, so far it's been pretty reliable. Not as fancy or customizable as weather.com (no cookies set to recognize your home town on further visits) but it has the raw tools you need.

Speaking of which, I need to go see if they've got any further predictions on the snow we're expecting tonight through tomorrow... maybe I can predict another snow day from work...


Pic of the Week 20070210

Ha, got so busy at work I didn't have the chance to post a pic of the week. And I know my audience waits for such with bated breath. Riiiiight. No idea why I haven't received a slew of emails about my tardiness....

Anyways, Carrie's birthday came early today and we surprised her and Katie with Disney Stars on Ice, celebrating 100 years of Disney. And so, in honor of such an auspicious occasion, I present to you:


GrC Forums and SupCom

First off, Gunrunner Clan update: I'm having trouble logging onto the forums. They don't really get used anymore, so I'm considering just turning them off (if I hear back from the guy hosting them) after saving some config stuff off like the theme. Maybe I'll bring them back some day if we think they could be useful again.

Next up: Supreme Commander. If you've ever played an RTS, you have got to check this out. The most innovative thing is the map navigation, and it puts games like C&C to shame - you zoom out of the battlefield with the mouse wheel, can go all the way to where units show up as icons, then reposition the mouse cursor and zoom back in. Incredibly easy.

Filefront has the demo for download (212.17 MB)

Some other innovations, if you're still interested: You play an actual role on the battlefield. Your unit is a giant robot-like vehicle that starts off the construction when you're dropped on the battlefield. It's pretty powerful, but if you lose it, game over. (It blows up like a nuke, btw. Nifty.) Also, if you play the single-player missions, at various stages your operational theater gets expanded and the map size increases, which is a nice change from rebuilding a base from scrap each time. In fact, your theater gets expanded three times per mission.

Also, the sheer size is staggering - up to 500 units per side, multiplayer is supposed to support 8 players. Enormous maps, you have to utilize transports to get your troops around. The game requires a bit of muscle to play, but if you've got the specs you can run it in very high resolution on a widescreen (it's optimized for multiprocessor) and have a split-screen tactical map, or better yet on dual monitors using one as the tactical. makes me wish for another 20" widescreen to sit side-by-side... mmmmmmm......

Anyways, I know not everybody is into RTS, but give it a try if you have some spare cycles. I took a snow day yesterday (by the time my street was plowed I missed the last train) and played around with it. I think I lost track of a few hours there...



NSFW thematically. Not for kids either. But really hysterical.

Responsible adults should always use sexual consent forms.


Vista Indicates A Shift in Microsoft's Priorities

Oh good, came across an article on Slashdot which reflected my ponderings of late...
After hundreds of hours of testing Vista, Scot Finnie is supremely tired of it. And of Microsoft. Although 80% of the changes in Windows Vista are positive, there is nothing about Vista that is truly innovative or compelling; there's no transformational, gotta-have-it feature in Vista. But the real problem isn't with Vista. It's with Microsoft itself. His opinion is that Microsoft has stopped focusing on end users. They 'now seemingly make many decisions based on these two things: 1. Avoiding negative publicity (especially about security and software quality) 2. Making sure the largest enterprise customers are happy.'
From the Computerworld article itself:
At least 80% of the changes in Windows Vista are positive. Microsoft took the extra time to smooth over some of the speed bumps noticeable in the prerelease builds of the OS... The single best advantage of Vista is that ergonomically, it's easier and just plain more satisfying... to use.

On the other hand, nothing about Vista is truly innovative or compelling. With the exception of security... there's no transformational, gotta-have-it feature in Vista.
He also links to another interesting article concerning how Microsoft snuck in a variety of copy-controls. Read it in Vista and Beyond: Piecing Together Microsoft's DRM Puzzle by Matt McKenzie. Computerworld's IT BlogWatch has also collected a series of Vista DRM-related commentary on the Internet, Vista DRM Diatribe. See, it's stuff like this that makes me perfectly content to sit back with XP.

Pic of the Week 20070202

'Nuff said.