Tag Archive for News

Left 4 Dead 2

The big news out of E3 for zombie afficianados so far is Left 4 Dead 2.  Hopefully this doesn’t mean that Valve is abandoning the original and keep releasing content for it.  Anyway, the new game has four new people and the setting is New Orleans.  I can’t wait to fight the living dead while running through the graveyards of this town…

Here is the trailer.

Oh, and its releasing in November.

Print is Dead

Personally, I’ve never been a big newspaper reader.  Mostly, though, its because I never wanted to spend the time reading the news, not for any dislike of newspapers themselves.  I wasn’t replacing the newspaper with TV, radio or websites, I just avoid most news outlets since they tend to report primarily bad news.  If I had the inclination and the time, I probably would subscribe to and read the newspaper, because I do like the format.

But like the title says, print is dead, or at least is dying.

The thing I like most about newspapers that is lost as they move to the Internet is that they are a snapshot.  You can go to a library and pull up a newspaper for 40 years ago, or even just a month ago, and see exactly what was considered news on that day, exactly what was fit to print.  Try doing that on CNN, or even the sites of print newspapers.  You might be able to gather a collection of stories that were published on the site a month ago, maybe piece together an idea of what was newsworthy on a particular day, but not really.  With news websites’ penchant for “updating” stories and new information breaks, often rewriting rather than just appending, news reported on a Monday might carry the date and time stamp of Friday when the story stopped developing.

I would absolutely love to see news websites that mimic print news papers.  Big publications of stories once a day, with an archive so you can always pull up a previous issue, and then maintain a “breaking news” blog type feed that puts out mini stories and facts and things happen throughout the day, all of which will be rolled up into full stories for the next day’s issue.  But I suppose, perhaps, I am in the minority about this, seeing as how every news website out there is following the CNN.com style layout of “news now” and anything that doesn’t make the front page that minute is lost to the search field, which even defaults to a web search instead of a site search.

A man can dream though…

Smiles, everyone… smiles!

Being born in 1974 means that my impressionable youth is crammed with the television and movies of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Chief among my earlier memories are those of watching Fantasy Island on TV.  I am dismayed that only season one has been released on DVD.  I’ll likely purchase it someday, but I don’t have the heart to rush out and get it since no further seasons have been released.

Even more disheartening though was learning of the death of Ricardo Montalbán.  He brought to life both Mr. Roarke of Fantasy Island as well as bringing us, arguably, the best villain of the Star Trek franchise in Khan Noonien Singh, from both the TV series and the epic Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.

Rest in peace, Señor Montalbán, in soft Corinthian leather.

Synchronicity

Oddly enough, on the same day that a Democrat member of the House of Representatives announces that he’d like to legalize casual personal use of marijuana, Cheech & Chong announce they are planning to go back on the road.

Life is funny like that some times.

The Real Harry Potter

Back in 1986, or it may have been 1987, I didn’t realize that a simple trip to the local video store was going to introduce me to one of the most widely known names in the world today.  In fact, I didn’t even realize that such a momentous thing had occurred until my brother told me about the recent developments earlier this week.

You see… my brothers and I, as kids (who am I kidding? nothing has changed really as we grew up), liked to watch really awful movies.  The Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror section of the video store was the best.  And in 1986, a little movie called Troll was released.  It is the story about a boy named Harry Potter (Junior, his father is also Harry Potter), who learns to use magic to fight a troll who is attempting to take over the world, or at least to turn it into a place full of magical creatures.

The only reason this has come up is that it seems the original writer and director of Troll, John Carl Buechler, wants to remake his film, with a larger budget (£20 million) and according to various sources Warner Bros. is trying to stop him from infringing on their copyright.  The question is, can you copyright something you did not create first?

Its not as if this is some random director trying to make waves by making a film with a character named Harry Potter.  This is a man wishing to remake a film he made 22 years ago and utilize the same character names he used 22 years ago, 4 years prior to the 1990 bolt of inspiration that J.K. Rowling claims began her endeavour of the now more well known use of the name.

As far as I know, Buechler has made no attempt to sue Ms. Rowling, to force her to change the name, nor to ask for any monetary compensation, he only claims that since he used the name first in a copyrighted work, but didn’t copyright the name specifically, it places the name “Harry Potter” in the public domain where anyone can use it.

Who is going to win?  Personally, I feel that Buechler is right, at least in the case of his movie.  He used the name first and should be allowed to continue to use the name in remakes of that work.  But we’ll have to wait and see what the courts decide if Warner Bros. continues to head down that path.

All in all, it makes me paranoid about the things that I write.  Now I’ll probably have to make sure I google every name I make up just to make sure that no one else made it up first.

Gender in Gaming

By now, you may have read about the following news snippet:

Shanda (Nasdaq: SNDA) subsidiary Aurora Technology has frozen game accounts of male players who chose to play female in-game characters in its in-house developed MMORPG King of the World, reports 17173. Aurora stipulates that only female gamers can play female characters in the game, and it requires gamers who chose female characters to prove their biological sex with a webcam, according to the report.

Most of the news revolves around decrying the company for trying something like this, or as expected from the crass Kotaku commenters the CEO of the company must have had an encounter he isn’t proud of…

But let’s take this off in another direction. The game is claiming to be an MMORPG, the key being RP. Role Playing. The problem, as I see it, is that most (and I’d feel safe saying at least 70%, or in the case of World of Warcraft 99.9%) players of these games do not role play beyond the simple fact that their avatar is not a picture of themselves. Would people be as upset if the company had announced that they will be banning players who announce their true gender, breaking the role play?

Intent versus Action

I admire the sentiment, and I even respect the effort… but seriously, who are they kidding?

The parts that I like about it is that people should do more to conserve. I recycle, I replaced as many lights in my house as possible (and tolerable) with low energy bulbs… I try, and I’d like to think I succeed, even if just a little. My ongoing battle with junk mail isn’t just about trying to stop getting junk, but also doing my part to reduce how much of that wasteful crap they print. At least with junk email, there is no real waste, except the couple seconds a week I spend reviewing the junk folder before deleting it. And any effort to raise awareness has its merit.

The line that really gets me, though, is this one:

Organizers say the concerts will be as green as possible, with a tally of energy use being kept and proceeds from ticket sales going to distribute power-efficient light bulbs and other measures that will offset the shows’ greenhouse gas emissions.

This is what I mean by “Who are they kidding?” Directly from their quote, they will be distributing power-efficient light bulbs as part of their emissions offset. That’s a laugh, because 90% of the bulbs they give out at the concerts will be left on the ground or tossed into the trash (ironically, creating more waste than if they’d just not handed them out at all), and of the 10% that make it home with a concert goer I’d guess that maybe 10% of those will actually get used. So we are looking at 1 in 100 bulbs given out being put to use. That’s 99 bulbs in the trash or sitting unused in a garage or closet.

That’s almost as bad as the idea of buying emissions credits. “Well, we’d really like to help the environment, but rather than change our product or production, we’ll just write a check each year to pay for the offset.” Umm… what? The only possible way this works is if the money used to purchase credit is spent preventing or removing the exact amount of or more pollution the credit is buying. Otherwise, you just end up with the same pollutions and a bunch of money sitting in someone’s bank. I feel like I should have heard about buying emissions credits on Snopes where they would promptly debunk it as yet another email chain letter like that Nigerian gentleman who wants to give me millions of dollars.

It all just doesn’t make any logical sense…

Music to the Masses

Let me just get this out of the way… I like Kelly Clarkson’s music. There, I said it, now let us move on.

CNN has a story up today about Kelly canceling her tour. And on one hand I feel bad for her because she was having poor ticket sales and I feel bad for her fans because the ones who did buy tickets won’t get to see her (No, I didn’t buy tickets), on the other hand I’m kinda glad to see another arena tour fail.

Don’t get me wrong… I love a good arena show. But there is a certain type of arena show I like. For example, in August I’ll be going to see Def Leppard, Styx and Foreigner. And whenever Poison puts on one of their Glam Slam Metal Jams, I’m there. I love a good festival show, like the local radio station 99x’s Big Day Out. But a huge arena show needs bands that demand it, or needs to feature a few bands. U2, prime candidates for a solo arena tour. Same with the Police on their current reunion. Not only do they have a huge library of their own music which will easily fill two hours on stage (plus an encore or two), but they have the current pull to fill the seats. While each band on my 3-band August show ticket could have at one time filled an arena on their own, these days they haven’t had a whole lot of hits.

Kelly Clarkson is a pretty good artist. She sings well, performs well, and all in all I like her. I would definitely go see her live… if it were a smaller show. For her Atlanta date, she was playing the Arena at Gwinnett Center, half house (which is actually more than half), running her about 8,000 seats, give or take. For $50 to $70 (plus handling fees), that’s just too much to wind up being in the nose bleeds for an artist with only her third album coming out and a handful of top 40 songs. Now, put her down at the Roxy or the Tabernacle and drop the price to $15 or $20, I guarantee she’d be a sellout. Heck, in a smaller venue I might actually be willing to pay that $50 or more for an artist who is know to hang around and talk to the fans or put on an awesome show. For $50 I expect to be able to watch the artist perform, not to watch the artist perform on a giant TV because I’m too far away to watch the artist.

I see the draw of the arena show, the same draw it always has had: more money and less time. You play one show, 5,000+ people at $30+ a head, even if you only take home 25% of that, its $37,500+ for one night. Do a tour of 20 or 30 of those and you can probably net near a million dollars. Plan it right and you can do that tour in under 3 months, and take the other 9 off to work on songs and plan your next tour, or maybe do a leg through Europe or Asia. Meanwhile if you do the little shows, you have to do more of them, you have to stay on the road. A year, 18 months at a stretch maybe, at least that’s what those guys on Behind the Music always say. It would be hard work… like, I don’t know… working retail every day, or sitting in a cubicle punching out programming code. Except, you’d be in music, and seeing the world, and making a living entertaining people and putting smiles on faces. Arenas always seemed to me to be a way to facelessly rock as many people as possible.

Maybe I just need to catch more bands on the upswing. I went and saw No More Kings play down at Smith’s Olde Bar, and I and my friends chatted with Pete Mitchell for nearly a half hour. But that doesn’t cover it entirely… I’ve seen Better Than Ezra in concert a half dozen times, once or twice they were part of a festival where I got to see twenty bands, but mostly they’ve been at places like the Roxy, or Underground, or even in the Centennial Park, and even though I’ve never met the band, their shows felt more personal, they were better.

Anyway, enough of my rambling. Ms. Clarkson, if you or your people read this, come to Atlanta, play a small show, I’ll be there and I’ll sing your praises.

Woes of a DVR Owner

Not mine… I have no woes. My 6 Tuner Medusa PVR using Snapstream’s BeyondTV works wonderfully. But a guy I know has issues.

Its a problem I see many people with DVRs complain about, that oddly scheduled programs or late changes often get missed because the show listings on the DVR don’t get updated. That’s one thing I love about my Medusa. BeyondTV, however they manage to do it, is always up to date (as long as my internet access hasn’t failed). I’ve never missed a show because it ran a few minutes long, or even when the President decides he wants to assure the nation that he is not an idiot (or confirm to the nation that he is an idiot, you can never be sure which he is going to do).

The only time I’ve ever missed a recording was when the power went out while I was on vacation. Usually, power outages come in twos or threes. Power off, power on for a few seconds, power off… then it either comes back on again or stays out for a while, but its that little flicker that causes the problems. Sometimes its just the once like I describe here, sometimes its two or three flickers before its out for real. I set up my Medusa, all my PCs in fact, not to reboot on power failure because I don’t want them powering on and off repeatedly during the flickers.

Oh, and I missed a show once when a channel broke in with breaking news. Of course, I didn’t see the breaking news until three days after it had happened, so all it did was annoy me.

But back to the DVRs… I don’t think I would put up with that, it being wrong all the time, as it kind of defeats the purpose of it. Is it a failing of the software? of the service provided? Is it the DVR or the cable company? I’m going to have to look into it, because unless they roll out the CableCARD 2.0 standard and start supporting it, I’ll have to get an in-box DVR to be able to record digital cable channels. But there’s no rush, not until they decide to stop providing the analog cable feed.

Very Non-Idle Hands

Time magazine has run a story about the Best Invenstions of 2006.

Their cream of the crop is YouTube. Obviously the runaway success (company sold for like $1.6 billion) of it all had an impact on their placement on the list. Sharing things on the internet isn’t new, but it really has never been more easy. Consider YouTube the ultimate of the “right place, right time” set. It could never have happened five years ago.

Now… my opinions on the rest of the list…

As a proof of concept, the Horizon Fuel Cell makes me kind of giddy in a “Wow, not that is a giant leap forward” sort of way. Sure, this is just a toy, but it proves to more than just science geeks that an engine really can run on water. Awesome.

Yeah, the Tesla Roadster 100 costs $100,000, but the sheer fact that Tesla Motors put out a fully electric sports car that can do 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. Well, its just cool, and in a weird way its them finally living up to the Tesla name.

The Clever car is an ideal… its great, until that idiot in his Hummer literally turns you into a chunky paste. Perhaps one day when cities become more compact and the roads aren’t so full of people rushing to get somewhere they live too far away from. The Mark V falls into that category too, and 3,145 miles per gallon just sounds too good to be viably true unless society changes to allow such flimsy vehicles.
First to enter in on the “Duh” category, the Black & Decker Simple Start answers the question of “What if my car battery dies in the middle of nowhere?” as directly as possible. Nice.

I’ve never really been on a boat, but part of me always glorfies life at sea. I would either want an old wooden pirate ship, or a sun21. Maybe a combination of both. Oh, and I’d also need an Innespace Sea Breacher. SeaQuest DSV here we come!

My wife really needs a Loc8tor. The hovering bed, however, I don’t think anyone needs. And as cool as the concept of the Wovel is, you would just look like such a dork using it. My older brother and his soon to be wife have ruined a section of carpet in their home, which would have been prevented by the self-lifting Oliso iron.

I hate seafood, and really I had never considered that it took two minutes to kill a lobster when you boil it, but if you have, don’t worry, with the CrustaStun you can now electrocute them in 5 seconds. I imagine the lobster tank at the local restaurant to be like a miniature death row leading to the electric chair now. And while faster isn’t always better, something inside me both cheers and cringes when I read about the Moo Bella icecream machines. There is no doubt about my cringing when it comes to the pudding-like coffee espesso. But the fruit and vegetable Lotus Sanitizing System definately looks cool.

First in the “man, I wish I had that” category is the NanoNuno umbrella. Adding to that in the “man, I wish I had that as a kid” subcategory is Nike’s Macro React clothing. No, I didn’t wish I had a dress, they make shirts for men. And just as I’m getting my hopes up, they make me weep for the future with the Hug Shirt. Why is it that I imagine this being sold by Apple, it being called the “iShirt” and them adding music and videos to it?

I’m not even going to bother linking to any of the crap in the Toys section of the invention list. Its all crap. Okay, the talking mirror is kind of neat, but really if you have a talking automated house, the talking face isn’t really any better than the disembodied voice, because, honestly, unless you install like 40 of these things, what are the chances you are going to be in the room with the mirror when stuff happens? Oh, and NASCAR sucks.

The new drunk driver test that measures skin’s light reflectivity scares me just a little. Part of me is scared by the possibility of being falsely identified as drunk with it, and part of me is scared by the possibility that its never wrong. “No, Officer, I’m just a naturally dull person.” I can’t, however, say anything bad about Gardasil, a vaccine for a virus that can cause cancer. Good work. On the other hand, I’m a little weirded out by Allerca’s hypoallergenic cats, bred for your comfort. And in the “one step closer to cyborgs” bin goes Realive, a suit that helps people with muscle rehabilitation by triggering the affected arm to mimic the movements of the “good” arm. Cool stuff. In the “but can they be trusted to use it for good” category comes a water-harvesting machine that sucks clean water right out of the air.

Woodshop teachers of the world rejoiced at the invention of SawStop’s finger saving saw, when it detects that the blade is sinking into flesh, it stops and retracts, leaving the user with only a nick. People trying to dispose of bodies were not amused. Another entry in the “Duh” category of inventions that just make sense and its just so F-ing cool that someone actually invented the damn thing, the LifeLine, so that no firefighter has to simply jump and pray again when things go bad.

The military, of course, invents stuff all the time, and a few of their items made it on the list… first up is the Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (BEAR), go figure, the military invents robots and they save lives instead of ending them. Next we get the M80 Stiletto, a boat that weighs 45 tons and only draws 3 feet of water (for you non boat people, that means only 3 feet of the boat hull is submerged, so it can go in really shallow water). Lastly we get the StrawJet, a machine that takes straw and turns it into quality building material.

I really see no good purpose for the Power Flower, I mean, I think it looks ugly. On the other hand, solar cells that are so thin that they are printed directly onto building materials like this solar skin is just awesome. And the paper-thin, flexible lightbulbs from CeeLite make me hope they will replace ugly disgusting flourescent lighting in office buildings everywhere… not to mention my own kitchen.

And that is the end of their list, and this is the end of my post.