Ongoing "Fallout 3" Commentary

11/20/08 | by Adam | Categories: Whining, Games

Great game so far but there are two significant issues I have with it:

  • When laden down, you move slowly. In and of itself, no big deal, but it also disables the quick move between two locations on a map. This means you need to control your nice 3D character through the entire route, footstep by footstep. It takes ages.
  • Shopkeepers follow working hours. If you turn up at, say, 6:30 pm they're closed and won't serve you. This means you now have to kill an entire night waiting for them to open up again or spend lots of money in Megaton on a bed for the night. Just buy my stuff and be done already.

These design decisions may be more "realistic" but it's incredibly annoying to spend more time running and waiting than actually playing...


"Meh" gains dictionary recognition

11/17/08 | by Adam | Categories: Potpourri


Sometimes new word need to be created to express a particular concept and the source is generally unimportant, so like "DOH!" the Simpsons get another credit. "Meh" fits into the same space as "Whatever" but it's shorter and -- for me at least -- lacks the Valleygirl connotation.

Good work, HarperCollins! OED, we're now looking at you.


Fallout 3 has landed!

10/29/08 | by Adam | Categories: Games

This means no blog updates coming for the next few weeks, unless Ritchie or Dena get bored...


Review: Apple Airport Express's AirTunes

10/27/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Music, Reviews, Macintosh, iPhone


Recently I picked up an Apple Airport Express which is their little doodad that acts as a 802.11n extender, USB printer host and -- most importantly to me -- an AirTunes source. One of the problems I've been chewing on for a while is how to get my home theatre to spool music from my MP3 collection without needing to turn on the projector to see what I'm doing. As the speakers there are by far the best in the house, it's the most appropriate place to listen.

Elsewhere in the house I'm using the Creative Soundblaster Wireless which sticks the display onto the remote but it's always been a little disappointing in practice; besides, it's been out of production for years so I couldn't buy another one even if I wanted to.

For a while I used WinAMP on the HTPC and just learned my way around the keyboard, but when I moved to the Microsoft BlueTooth Wireless Entertainment Desktop 7000 keyboard I lost the priority settings for WinAMP; this meant that when I pressed "play" on the keyboard, the PC wouldn't start WinAMP and therefore no music. There's also some issue I've been unable to troubleshoot where if there are no active tasks on the PC, it'll go into a hibernate mode and require a power cycle to reactivate. Basically, it's no longer a workable solution.

The second option was to use a PS3 with its media streaming. In practice, it's terrible. The support for remote filesystems on the PS3 when dealing with large music collections is unusable as there's a two to three minute delay when trying to choose songs or just navigate the hierarchy. This is as true on a gigabit connection as it is on a wifi one. Beyond that, the interface is sufficiently complicated that it's impractical to do without being able to see what you're doing. Natch.

In the end, I settled on the AirPort Express. This uses an iTunes installation as its data source. I already have one up 24/7 to drive Radio Adam which means I have full access to my music collection without having to install any further server software. Check 1. The arrival of the iPhone/iTouch with the Remote application gives me the ability to pick and select what I want to listen to without firing up the projector. Check 2.

The setup was pretty simple. I plugged in the AirPort to the power socket, connected up the optical wire between it and the amp, and then plugged the gigabit network into its port. The MacBook automatically detected the AirPort when it was added to the network and brought up the configuration tool. The default settings were basically correct and the only thing that was required was to disable its wireless support. I told iTunes on the server to look for external speakers at which point it added a new menu option to the GUI. This permitted audio redirection to both the regular USB RocketFM (which is what broadcasts RadioAdam) and to the AirPort. That was it: music now played cleanly through the amp. A quick change to the display on the amp so that the MD selector now reads "iTunes" and I was done.

I used a borrowed iPhone to fiddle around with changing playlists and jumping around between songs. It worked well with the exception that sometimes there was a bit of a delay selecting playlists. I figure that's due to the old G4 Mac Mini just creaking a bit at the seams. Eventually I'll replace it with a newer Intel one but for the moment it's doing fine.

The AirPort Express isn't that cheap at $100 and it is an audio-only solution, but for my purposes it's perfect. It's small, discrete and does exactly what I needed. It has added a new item to my technology budget though: an iTouch to act as the remote control so I don't need to borrow the iPhone all the time.


You want your money? You're going to have to pay for it

10/21/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

A few months ago I decided to get a new credit card due to, well, greed really. Anyway, I kept the old one for emergencies such as when I left the new one at a Houston restaurant like Pappadeaux (most excellent crab cakes by the way) shortly before flying home.

A bit after I moved to the new card, I cancelled an online order due to the vendor being unable to deliver. Since I'd paid using the original credit card, that was the one it was credited back to. As I wasn't using the card, this credit has sat on it, unused, for months. Eventually I figured I'd just use the online banking to transfer the balance to the new card. Well, you can't do that; y'know, not allowed to use one credit card to pay off another. It makes sense when it's credit (i.e. money you owe being used to pay off other money you owe) but a bit less when it's money owed to you. Still, rules are rules so I transferred the balance back to a savings account.

Today I found the $2.50 cash advance fee on the credit card. Yup. Bringing my balance on that card to $0 counts as a cash advance, and that they charge for.

All I can say is that I am stunned the financial industry can lose billions because they clearly have billing their loyal customers down pat.


Interesting requirements for selling used CDs

10/19/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright


This is not a law you want to see coming north of the border:

In Florida, for example, anyone attempting to sell used CDs to a retailer must present identification and be fingerprinted, and any retailer looking to sell those same CDs must apply for a permit and submit a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Human Services.

While the article states that online and personal sales aren't included in that rather interesting piece of legislation, it's a pretty good wedge when it comes to restricting resale of audio material.

(Via BoingBoing)


Wired on telecommuting

10/18/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


Wired has an interesting article on the advantages of telecommuting rather than centralized offices.

I partially agree: there are many excellent reasons to work from home. However, the article has clearly been written for a US audience and there are certain assumptions built into the article like 2500 square foot houses and $1200 commuting bills which simply aren't true up here in Calgary; well, not unless you work in a senior role for an oil company. On top of that, personal experience has been that I'm still more productive in the office than at home due to much easier access to those I work with: think outsourcing to India but just make the roundtrip a bit shorter. Beyond issues like that, you run into problems with non-centralized network infrastructure (e.g. reliance on residential internet connection and personal computers, servers still need a co-location facility with the additional difficulty of access and maintenance), a number of costs are pushed onto the worker (extra electricity consumption due higher heating during the day and usage of work machines, telephone bills that need to be reclaimed from the employer),and the somewhat significant fact that this concept still only works for white collar employees.

I do like working at home, but I prefer working at the office where I can leave my work concerns quite separate from my life when I go home in the evening. That lack of separation is something that's rarely raised in pro-telecommuting articles and it does significantly add stress levels to one's home life if it becomes the norm, rather than the periodic.


Yeah, that's slow

10/14/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Recently I had a need to access a remote machine over the internet to pull down some files. Alas, that machine was an Windows box running under Parallels on a 1.83 GHz MacBook access via VNC from a gateway machine itself accessed via Remote Desktop.

If that sounds slow, just try using it.


Background updating tasks

10/13/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology


ZDNet has a brief article on how a good idea can become an excessively annoying one. In this case, it's applications that run in the background in order to check to see that the version of software one has is the most recent one. On your average computer, it doesn't take long until boot time is doubled and memory is consumed by large numbers of applications that do nothing but increase the footprint. Disable them as you will, you just know they'll be back next time there's an update.

To me the answer seems simple but neither Apple nor Microsoft have done it: create a central registry program that does this. The program -- just the one -- checks through a list of programs and associated URLs looking for updated. When it finds one, the user is prompted, much as the Apple software update works right now. New installs can be added to the list and old ones removed. Make it a standard API and you're done.

So, industry standard operating system providers, why not?


The incompetent hand of the marketplace

10/10/08 | by Adam | Categories: Politics


Truly I don't understand what drives financial markets and currency fluctuations:

Canada's dollar broke southward through 85 cents US in morning trading, slipping to 84.87 cents, down 2.41 cents from Thursday's close of 87.28.
Other currencies have been hammered as well as investors buy American dollars despite the weak economic indicators coming out of the United States.

Why would people seek refuge in the US dollar given that it's the US economy causing the financial instability in the first place? Shouldn't they be looking at the Euro instead?

It's not as if the Canadian economy is collapsing: employment is good, the banks are stable, there are no dramatic changes to the business world other than those directly caused by the financial shenannigans in the US in the first place.


Maybe IT security blowhards have a point

10/03/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Recently at work we found that one of our workstations had been compromised and was acting as a spam server. The primary user of that machine swore blind that he hadn't done anything wrong like visiting iffy websites and installing dicey software. As no other machines in the office -- that we've located at least -- have had a similar problem I'm rather not inclined to believe him.

For a long time, I've held it as a fundamental requirement that users (at least in a development environment) should be able to administer their machines in order to be as productive and capable as possible. I'm now beginning to change my mind on that, at least in this specific case...


Cardboard duvet

09/28/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


There's something strangely appealing about this duvet and pillow set silkscreened to look like cardboard boxes.

(Via BoingBoing)


"Hamlet" through the prism that is Facebook

09/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


Another fine McSweeney's outing. Oh, here's the New Facebook graphical representation of the same.

(Via Ezra Klein)


Redecorating a basement with a Sharpie

09/25/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly


This has to be the ultimate in graffiti.

(Via ihb)


Escape from reality

09/24/08 | by Adam | Categories: Games


World Of Warcraft:

Nothing eases the tension after a long day of putting up with other people's bullshit while running around completing repetitive tasks like logging on to Warcraft to put up with other people's bullshit while running around completing repetitive tasks!"

Yet somehow it does...


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"Ready, Aye, Ready" was a slogan used by Canadian politicians to indicate Canada's willingness to assist the British Empire in any conflict. It remains in use as a motto for some of the Canadian military. It has almost nothing to do with the content of this blog.


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