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Monthly Archives: October 2008

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Windows 7 Killed Vista

Despite attempts to promote Windows 7 as a better version of Vista, if there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that Vista has been murdered by Microsoft. It’s particularly baffling that Microsoft would push the Windows 7 rollout just after starting their big campaign to promote Windows Vista. It screams of one Redmond hand not knowing what the other Redmond hand is doing, because if there was one sure way to convince customers not to upgrade to Vista, it was by promising that a much better operating system would be on the way soon and then showing enough of it to convince people that was the case. But maybe the whole Vista publicity campaign had less to do with Vista and more to do with Microsoft spending a few hundred million as a show of confidence, something arguably worth more than mere Vista sales. After all Vista has its 100 million plus install base and Microsoft is pushing Windows 7 along. What’s far more vital than selling 20 or even 100 million more copies of Vista is demonstrating that Microsoft is not yesterday’s news, that it’s not down for the count and waiting to be put out its misery by Google. And Microsoft is set to do that now with a vengeance. Vista was the sacrifice that Microsoft made to that end.

Our Political Culture is Now Hopelessly Retarded

Political informercials in prime time used to be the refuge of rich but crazy third party candidates like Ross Perot or Lyndon LaRouche, but now Obama has taken it mainstream. There’s something sad but inevitable about that, the loss of any dignity left in a Presidential campaign. Politics was never pretty but there was an effort to keep some class in the business of choosing a President. And then it became routine for Presidential candidates to stop by Oprah and Saturday Night Live. Now it’s routine for them to use viral videos and infomercials. We’ve taken the Presidential race right to the front pages of celebrity magazines and Paris Hilton releasing her Funny or Die comedy videos is now reported on as political news along with Obama girl and whether Joe the Plumber will get a country music contract. Things aren’t just bad, they’ve reached the point where issues aren’t an issue anymore. Not when the press would rather cover Palin’s wardrobe or Obama’s beach photos or where Michelle orders her clothes or how much Tina Fey looks like Sarah Palin. If there’s one reason I wish Obama and Palin would both vanish where they came from is that they’ve made our political culture as hopelessly retarded as our celebrity culture.

Preacher Headed to the Movies

It’s been a long, long and long time coming but Preacher finally seems to be headed to the big screen under the reign of Sam Mendes. It’s been a long wait obviously but considering that comic book movies are almost as hot as 80’s live action cartoon remakes were up until the Speed Racer disaster (we’ll see what Watchmen and The Spirit do there since each one has the potential to be a Speed Racer too) it was all but inevitable that somebody would pick up Preacher and now it’s finally happened. Sam Mendes is a somewhat odd choice though of course he had adapted Road to Perdition which is near enough to the same territory. The problem is that Sam Mendes makes pretty but tedious movies. Combine American Beauty, Road to Perdition and Jarhead and you get an extended snooze sessions. All three, well the first two at least, are good movies as far as performances and the lensing go, but there’s no real life or force to them. Still it’s a much better prospect than Kevin Smith and James Marsden, there is no telling what a bland mess that would have been after all.

End of the Election

The one thing you can count on is that between the smug cult of personality on one side and the mudslinging on the other, anyone who isn’t a member of the faithful for Obama or McCain is either confused and turned off this election, probably both. There was no chance in hell this would be an issues oriented election, those only exist in Science Fiction anyway, but we’re in the last weeks of the election and we get more pompous speeches from Obama this time delivered as a Sermon from the Mount infomercial and more claims that Obama is a terrorist from the McCain people. Right now I want a serious third choice even if it’s leaving Bush there for a third term. At least it would avoid dealing with the consequences of this election. Or maybe aliens could hover over Washington D.C. and proclaim to both parties, you screwed the pooch royally, start over and try again. I’ve done my best to tune out the nonsense, which is hard what with every site feeling the need to either promote Obama so obnoxiously that it makes you want to vote for anyone but him, or smear Obama until you want to move to Mexico to get away from it all. I’m torn between being unable to wait for this election to be over and be afraid that one of them will win and I’m not sure which one scares me more.

Windows 7: Does Microsoft Finally Get It?

The early round of pre-Beta previews has brought forth mostly positive word on Windows 7. Of course it wasn’t that tough of a row to hoe, after all Windows Vista sets a pretty low standard, but it’s worth remembering that early looks at Vista also produced their share of praise. There are of course simple reasons for that, tech journalists much like entertainment and gaming reporters, are hired to hype products when they’re in the development stage and shoot straight when they’re actually released (and this is actually how the somewhat ethical outlets do business) after all tech journalism runs on hype. And considering the issues of access and trust, few tech reporters are going to sit down and bash Microsoft as long as Microsoft puts down something working in front of them and touts a few features.

Then there’s the fact that stability and functionality is not that hard to come by when they’ve stacked the deck. It’s why Windows “Mojave” can provide users with a seemingly positive experience, until they’ve taken it home and tried to install it on their system and then used it for a few months in their own personal way.

But with all that out of the way Microsoft is at least making an effort to show that it gets it. For starters the key emphasis is on functionality with the point being pressed home that Windows 7 handles memory and system resources better than Vista and will let you do more with the same system you already have. It’s a bit of a comedown from Vista which was meant to drive hardware upgrades, but it’s a refreshing sign that Microsoft finally gets it, and is tackling the bloat.

What users want most of all are things like compatibility and functionality in their daily workflow rather than touch screens or wacky mouse gestures. Those things make good video, but it’s how well an OS actually works that matters. And if Microsoft gets that and is committed to turning out the OS equivalent of Firefox 3, so much the better.

Oblivion’s Ten Worst Mods

10. The Curious George Mod – After a long session of glue sniffing and a four page discussion thread on the official Oblivion forums, finally a mod that sticks every character in a long yellow coat. May involve some clipping with horses, weapons, cities and other gear.

9. Redneck Daedra – This Mod turns every Daedra into a hillbilly accompanied by grunting sound effects, caged pigs and names for sections of Oblivion such as, “Billy Bob’s Moonshine Saloon” and “NASCAR Oblivion Racetrack.”

8. Gold Coins to Dollars Mod – This Mod turns gold coins into dollars resulting in a constantly falling value for your money. Better buy that Elven mace or Advanced Life Detect spell fast because it will cost twice as much a month from now.

7. Gay Oblivion – Guards follow you around everywhere making constant comments about how muscular you are and how well you can handle a blade. No actual Mod needed.

6. Goblins to Congressmen – If you’re bored of killing Goblins, this Mod transforms the Goblins of Cyrodil into current US Congressmen through some sort of wacky time portal. Not recommended for people already under investigation by the authorities.

5. Drunk Mod – If you want the fun of staggering drunk through Grand Theft Auto IV but in Oblivion, this Mod will let you get legally and illegally drunk. Avoid driving horses under the influence.

4. More Annoying Oblivion – More leveling, more giant rats, more copycat dungeons, more annoying characters pestering you!! Moar annoying Oblivion more! Also comes with Lolcats.

3. Ron Paul Oblivion – You play a heroic elderly gynecologist on a quest to convince the foolish Imperial authorities to go back to the “Beads of String” standard and re-enslave the Argonians and Khajit.

2. The Good Oblivion Mod – Here’s your copy of The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind. Enjoy it.

1. Jib Jab Oblivion – Now that’s more like a real hell.

The Boys 24 We Gotta Go Now part 2 comic review

The Boys 24 We Gotta Go Now part 2 has Hughie going undercover at G-Men this universe’s warped version of the X-Men who are busy having a Toga party, there’s drinking, the word Dude is screamed many times and there’s even a John Belushi stand in. Basically it’s a frat house complete with a pornographic movie theater complete with tissue dispensers for every seat. Hughie is there to plant the bugs that Butcher uses for eavesdropping thanks to some phony papers from the Legend with Frenchie and the Female eavesdropping. But that’s only the beginning for a visit to the X-Men headquarters or the G-Men headquarters.

But first after a little drinking the G-Men crank call the Seven resulting in an accidental exchange between Annie and Hughie that neither of them can quite believe. Meanwhile the investigation into Silver Kincaid’s death continues. And that’s it. So keeping in tune with the way The Boys has been playing out, The Boys 24 has virtually nothing to offer except a few of the usual gags and if you think Animal House in cartoon form is hilarious, but then you might love this. Otherwise not so much.

In the background there are hints of something in a chat between Butcher and the Legend which suggests that Garth Ennis has still yet more backstory to heave up on us, despite five issues of pretty much nothing but backstory before. Next issue Garth Ennis should have some fun with a caricatured version of the X-Men which based on the closing illustration of the gang, including what looks like a dwarf Wolverine with hammer hands, should be funny, but this does little but remind you of why The Boys is so lightweight in the first place and why Garth Ennis isn’t to be taken too seriously or seriously at all.

What is the Value of Facebook Anyway?

With Facebook riding high now it might be time to remember Newscorp’s dubious MySpace buy at a time when MySpace was the ultimate social networking franchise. Today MySpace certainly isn’t gone, but it’s not looking nearly as good as it used to for the long term value context.

The problem is what do you really get when you buy something like Facebook or MySpace? The answer when stripped down to the core is basically a subscriber list, minus the part where subscribers actually pay any money. The AOL Time Warner merger was probably the most notorious case of a fortune being spent for what amounted to a long list of subscribers nationwide. The case is even worse with sites such as Facebook or MySpace because they have a built in sell by date.

Number portability was one of the big issues for cell phone providers. When cell phone number portability was enabled, cell phone companies lost much of the ability to lock in customers and instead had to depend on contracts and Early Termination Fees to do it for them. But there’s no ETF for social networking sites and the very evolving nature of the internet insures that the social networking site you were using a few years ago will soon be dated. And not in a good way.

No social networking site has the real ability to lock in its users because none of them provide a real service except access to other users. Like a nightclub where people go to meet other people, social networking sites have to stay on top of a trend or burn out and be taken over by the Russians or the Finns or the Argentinians. But staying on top of a trend is impossible, especially on line where trends have a half life of weeks or months.

EA’s DRM Problems

With the releases of Mass Effect and now Spore, it should be pretty clear to the gang of morons at Electronic Arts that even critically acclaimed games that have had a lot of love on their side will generate a huge backlash over annoying DRM. The smug folksy reply from Cary at Maxis widely ignored the real problem, which is the limited number of activations and the fact that legitimate buyers of Spore were being subjected to hassles over Spore while pirates were not. Mass Effect’s DRM was defended by the claim that pirates didn’t initially manage to crack Mass Effect. I don’t follow piracy news but I imagine Mass Effect has long since been hacked anyway. Spore though was hacked a day later, making the exhaustive DRM another punishment for the legitimate consumer.

This isn’t just EA to blame. When playing Sim City I remember that Maxis’ idea of copy protection at the time involved a four page dark red booklet with black text written over it listing in small print a few hundred cities and a code comprised of color levels inside boxes. It was about as bad as copy protection ever got in those days and it could take you a good minute or two of squinting to handle. And while that doesn’t sound like much to complain about, it was annoying enough to spend 50 dollars at a product and then to have to leaf through a few hundred cities and try to match them up with the little boxes on the screen before you could play the game.

Yes the piracy issue is a crucial one for PC gaming, but the current DRM tactics being used by the game industry are not the answer. They’re failed copies of a model adopted by software companies that doesn’t work. Microsoft introduced online activation and registration with Windows XP and limited activations. Almost a decade later XP and Vista are still widely cracked and pirated. So EA and Maxis could know ahead of time that they were going down a blind alley.

The holy grail of anti piracy still remains a way to deter pirates while not unduly inconveniencing paying customers. Because doing that just promotes the rewards of piracy.

The Office 5×05 Crime Aid

The Office 5×05 Crime Aid continues The Office’s success at returning to its roots in the early seasons with an episode that keeps it simple by focusing on the small interactions of the show’s characters. The episode’s concept is simple enough and grounded in the kind of thing that is an entirely plausible event in an office as Michael and Holly developing relationship leads them to a liaison that leaves the office wide open for a robbery that picks up Oscar’s laptop and Kevin’s surge protector among other things.

The second half of the episode does however revert to type by having Michael come up with a wacky event inspired by his misunderstanding of pop culture to deal with the problem which in this case involves throwing a Crime AID auction based on tickets to Bruce Springsteen that don’t actually exist. Still The Office S05xE05 Crime Aid handles even this fairly well with only a few clumsy attempts by Michael to do an auctioneer routine, which unlike the more complicated routines we’ve been treated to is more true to life and to Michael’s talents, and provides a decent save with Bob buying a hug from Phyllis for a cool grand as he’s competitively bid up by Dwight and Andy, both of whom feel the chill from Angela.

While The Office 5×05 Crime Aid showcases Michael and Holly’s developing relationship, Angela, Andy and Dwight’s triangle and Jim and Pam’s deteriorating connection, both real and telecommunicationwise, they’re full of small quiet moments that ground them in reality unlike the more soap opera relationship centric episodes of the previous two seasons. Whether it’s Phyllis giving Dwight some relationship advice or Jim turning back on the highway or Michael and Holly planning for what they’ll do on their diet, The Office 5×05 Crime Aid is full of quiet rhythms that play a familiar song.

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