Hardware Updates – Headphones, Video Cards, and Connectivity October 10, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
Tags: 8800GT, AT&T, Comcast, GTX 650 Ti Boost, Internet Connectivity, LagBuster, U-verse, Xfinity
A while back I wrote a post looking for recommendations for several real world things.
I haven’t gone with a new video editing package as yet, but I haven’t had the yen to do much in the way of new videos recently in any case.
I did, however, make headway with the other items on the list. So it is review time I suppose.
This is a long block of text and not very gaming related, so I am going to put it behind a cut.
If you are not interested in a discussion of my experiences with headsets, video cards, and internet connectivity options, you are excused from going further.
PlayStation 4 Wins June 11, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
Tags: PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One
Microsoft went first. I think this sums it up.
Remember that Sony had all day to soak in MS's presentation and KNOW they were about to destroy them. How good a day was that for them?—
Chris Hanel (@ChrisHanel) June 11, 2013
It is hard to come to a conclusion besides “Total Victory for Sony” at E3.
The PlayStation 4 will:
- have a base price of $399, $100 less than the Xbone
- support used/traded/rented games
- not require an internet connection to play
- not have that creepy always on Kinnect watching your every move
I am not in the market for a next generation console, but if I were I know which way I would be leaning.
Still, it is only June and the PlayStation 4 isn’t due out until the holiday season. There is still time for Sony to follow its tradition of screwing something up with each console launch.
Meanwhile, I thought I heard somebody mention something called a “we-you” or some such. It was hard to tell with Shigeru Miyamoto sobbing in the corner.
Xbox One – What’s in a Name? May 23, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
Tags: Consoles, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Also today, I went to GameStop. Me: "How do you guys feel about the Xbox One?" Store clerk: "We don't sell those anymore."—
Scott Nichols (@Duckols) May 23, 2013
But I have to admit, when it comes to naming, I’m with that clerk. Shouldn’t “one” be the first in line? Isn’t that what we could reasonably call the original Xbox?
I get the all-in-one entertainment center symbolism and such, having paid at least a little attention to the announcement. But still, you know some parent somewhere is going to disappoint their child by coming home with an original Xbox they got off Craig’s List for “really cheap.”
Sony will never has this problem with the PlayStation 4.
Sega Genesis Jams – 1992 April 26, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
Tags: Marv Albert, NBA Jam, Sega Genesis
Dammit, I meant to pick Mullen, not Hardaway!
-Heard in the test lab, circa 1994
After last week, I figured it was time to fill in the gap in my posts about consoles I have owned.
Is It The Shoes?
Then there was the Atari 2600, which brought video games home one Christmas many years ago and probably saved me a mountain of quarters.
And then, in 1983, after much longing, I made the jump to gaming on the personal computer.
While there are no hard lines between these events… I did not throw my Atari 2600 away the day the Apple ][+ showed up, and I still went to arcades with my friends well into the mid 80s... these were points of transition. My main focus moved from one to another. And by the time I was playing online games like Stellar Emperor or Stellar Warrior in 1986, arcades were a thing of the past and I had given away my Atari 2600.
The depth and complexity of games on a personal computer surpassed what was possible in the previous two mediums and I paid little attention to them.
Time moved on, as it insists on doing. There was college and a job and then another job and then a layoff and a job in a computer store where the employee discount caused be to spend more than I actually earned, and then finally the job which, when viewed from more than 20 years down the line, begins a haphazard chain of events events, populated by unlikely set of interconnected characters, that somehow looks like a career when I put it on a resume.
And I don't even have to fudge things, except to make them all fit on two pages in a typeface readable without a magnifying glass.
It is like I MEANT to do all that... like I sat down and planned it out in advance.
But back to 1992.
At this new company I was immediately involved with a project that ended up quite successfully, made the company a bunch of money, and put us in a new market. As a reward, everybody in engineering involved with the project was given a card. Each card had either an "N" or a "G" on it. The letter was an indication of what present you would be given at the company Holiday party. (My temptation was to title this post "Christmas 1992," but I relented. Unlike the other two posts, the bulk of this happens after Christmas.)
Our boss, one of the key founders and an insanely dynamic and inspirational character, thought it would be great fun to keep things a mystery and taunt us with possible meanings for the two letters in the build up to the party.
Eventually it was the night of the party. There was a big pile of wrapped boxes. Each box had either an "N" or a "G" on it. And, after dragging out the announcement as long as possible, our boss finally handed out the first two boxes, one of each letter.
I had a card with a "G" on it, and I was disappointed.
I had, at that point, never really heard of Sega. Nintendo was at least a name I recognized.
I offered up mine in trade for a Nintendo, but there were no takers, which just confirmed my theory that I had gotten the lesser of two choices.
I was totally unaware of the console wars that were raging, where Nintendo was the 800 lb. gorilla and Sega was the plucky upstart.
Puts Up A Brick!
I took the unit home and set it up. It came with Sonic the Hedgehog which was a bright and colorful game. It was a huge way forward from my Atari 2600 days. But Sonic was not really my style. I pressed on with it for a while, but never really got engaged.
I purchased a few other games for the system, but of them I can only recall Desert Strike and F-15 Strike Eagle II. And even those two are only hazy memories. Sonic is more vivid in my mind, though that might be because I bought the Virtual Console version for our Wii. (And it turns out I had only gotten worse at.)
The Sega Genesis languished in the family room while I went back to my computer. The games looked good and played well. But I had Civilization to play obsessively. What did I need with shiny by shallow arcade games?
Can’t Buy A Bucket!
Meanwhile at work we kicked off a big project for an iconic fruit flavored computer maker just up the road. Our boss had used his contacts to crash a party and get us in on their upcoming laptops, one ultra-light and one ultra-cool. Basically, he talked us up while denigrating the internal team in Paris that was slated to do the project for the company. The icing on the cake was claiming we had a working prototype for the required device.
In the end, this all worked out and became one of the most lucrative projects ever for the company.
In the short term it was a scramble, starting with making a prototype. There were actually two deliverable, one critical and one slightly less critical. We worked all summer and delivered the first one on time, but we had an issue with the second.
In November, when we looked to be within striking distance of finishing the second phase, I declared I would not shave or get a haircut until we shipped. We were in serious crunch mode, with long days and weekends being the norm. We just needed to power through and finish.
Is It The Shoes?
To cut to the punch line, I shaved off my very thick beard the following May.
In the mean time, a group of us were at the office pretty much all waking hours. However, it wasn’t like there was always something to do. We would run tests trying to capture this one catastrophic failure scenario that would not allow us to ship. We would find one way to make it happen, then it would stop happening. Then another way would be found. And when it would happen, we would have to analyze what was happening on the machine, which was difficult as the “catastrophic” end of things really meant that the power manager would shut the system down. So there was a laptop hooked to a logic analyzer where, once we had a scenario, we had to repeat it. And it wouldn’t happen. Or it would happen, but the logic analyzer would fail to capture it, having reset itself to another mode or some such. How I hated that damn thing.
So there was a lot of waiting involved. At one point one of the devs said we needed a video game or something. I mention the Sega and knew that my girlfriend at the time had a 13″ TV sitting around doing nothing. I said I would bring them in.
He’s Heating Up!
I brought in the Sega and TV. We found a spot on one of the racks in the back of the lab where the TV fit in. The Sega sat on the rack below.
I only had the RF connector that came with it. Somebody noticed that the TV had an S-video port on the back and brought in a cable for it, at which point the video quality took a huge leap.
While I had two controllers, the games I had were all single player focused. Sonic would allow two players, but you had to take turns. But there wasn’t much interest in that. The Sega sat there and got occasional use, though it mostly just went through the Sonic demo mode.
And then somebody brought in the game.
At this point in time, I cannot even remember who brought it in. But one day we had NBA Jam in the lab.
And everything changed.
That game was the savior of our sanity. We were there, in the office, in the lab, every single day from January 2 through to the end of May in what became the never-ending crunch time. In at 9am, break for dinner at 6pm, back at work at 8pm, home at mightnight. Sleep and repeat.
And whenever possible, play NBA Jam.
I am not a basketball fan and rarely indulge in sports based video games. But there was something very special about NBA Jam. It was an funny, engaging, over-the-top game.
The graphics were very good for the time and the controls were simple, leading to that “minutes to learn, ages to master” magic that keeps people engaged.
We all ended up with specific “claimed” players. Mine was the Warriors player Chris Mullen whose in-game version could hit a 3-pointer from the sideline with incredible regularity. I had to fight to keep hold of him. And was I ever pained when, in a hurry or just blurry from the long days, I accidentally ended up with Tim Hardaway instead. I have no idea how he played in real life, but he was the suck in the game.
We became very good. And very competitive.
We played no other game on the system. It was NBA Jam all the time.
And the catch phrases from the game, done in a very Marv Albert voice, became the catch phrases for the project. The key ones are in bold in this post. We would shout them out all the time.
There is a picture of the team at the end of the project.
We look tired but happy. I am down front with the long hair and a thick beard. We have beers in our hands and the device itself, problem solved after all those months, front and center. One of the special, durable Sega Genesis controllers somebody bought… we had worn out the originals… and the NBA Jam cartridge appear as well, having been deemed vital to the project.
He’s On Fire!
And then we went outside, looked around at the mid-day light, and wandered home to see what was left of our personal lives.
My girlfriend had been asking pointedly about when I was going to be done with her TV. When I asked why she needed it, I was told that wasn’t the point.
The point was that she had checked out of the relationship and was seeing somebody else (which given my almost continuous absence for all those months was pretty reasonable) and was collecting things up before announcing it. I gave her back the TV and we went our separate ways. Somehow I ended up with her cat.
Meanwhile, nobody had a spare TV to replace the one now missing in the lab. We stopped playing the game.
We stopped doing almost anything.
We were slated to work on a new project almost immediately. However everybody was so burned out that project status meetings all summer were basically announcements of no progress. The lead developer took a weeks vacation after the project and didn’t show back up in the office for almost two months. He would call in every Monday and apologize, saying he just couldn’t come to work.
This is what happens when the idea of crunch time is abused. You pay for it later. I have carried that lesson with me ever since and have fought back against every project manager notion around “couldn’t we bring in the ship date if we assumed people were working Saturday?” Weekends are often the only slack time you have to make up slips, so if you schedule them, you lose that buffer. I have also categorically refused to let myself or my team ever work seven days a week again.
Back at the office, work was shuffled around. Despite our dazed lethargy, sales went so well that we were able to hire new people, so we brought in some new faces to actually get some work done that summer.
Then we moved buildings. A lot of the team moved on to other jobs. I hung around for a while. Those who remained were eventually all as productive as before. I sold the Genesis to a co-worker, having gone back to PC games. One of the new kids would bring in his new Sega Saturn so we could play Virtua Fighter on the overhead in the cafeteria. That was pretty cool. But I didn’t want to actually own one. And since the move included a network upgrade so that we had Ethernet in all the cubes (a serious upgrade from all those PhoneNet connectors strewn about the old place), we moved on to playing Marathon and Bolo at the office.
And thus ended my second video game console era. It was short, but it left an impression. For years afterwards if I ran into anybody on the project team, saying something like, “Is it the shoes?” in that right tone of voice would bring up laughs and memories of those days.
Our Wii Lingers, Waiting for Retirement April 18, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, Nintendo, wii.
It was at the height of the Wii’s popularity. People were talking about it. Wii remotes were breaking TV screens. It was fair game for humor. It spawned hilarious peripherals. It was practically a meme on its own.
The previous Christmas season you could not find one for love or money… well, unless you wanted to spend a LOT of money on eBay… while competing consoles were sitting on the shelves, primarily due to their high price tags. My wife was able to score one in the post-holiday season, but it had to stay under wraps for a couple months because we were moving.
But once it was out of the box, it was a hit in our house. My daughter and I played a lot of Wii Sports and Mario Party 8 and LEGO Star Wars, various flavors of Mario Kart (though never Mario Kart Wii), and old classics from the Wii Virtual Console. Miis were created in imitation of friends and family.
It was a time of excitement, as the Wii represented something new.
It was also perfect timing in our lives. My daughter was just five years old when the Wii showed up, which was just about the perfect age for the games we were playing.
It became a Saturday morning tradition. My daughter would wake me up early… before 7am early… and we would get up, jump in the giant Love Sac not-a-bean-bag-chair in the family room ( I really miss that thing… one of our cats was constantly peeing on it, so it had to go), and play games for hours.
Later, the Nintendo DS and Pokemon took over our Saturday morning focus, though the Wii still found ways to stay a part of the picture. There was Pokemon Battle Revolution, which was deeply integrated with Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (but not any of the subsequent Pokemon titles) and Pokemon Ranch, which let you store and track your Pokemon collection.
Time went on. Pokemon began to fade. My daughter got a Nintendo DSi XL, which could download demo software on its own, without having to connect to the Wii, a restriction we faced with the DS Lite units.
But there were still things to do. Rock Band was a big hit. We actually had adults coming over to play.
And my daughter started playing Wii games that I did not like, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, or at which I simply sucked, like Super Mario Bros. Wii. But her friends liked those games and played them with her instead.
At that point I was pretty much done with the Wii aside from Netflix streaming service, which at the time was free for any Netflix subscriber.
Time passed, the old TV died and we got a new, high def TV. That, in turn, prompted me to get a PlayStation 3, as the Wii does not support anything beyond 480p. We could now stream Netflix in HD and watch movies in Blu-Ray. The Wii started to get used less and less.
Then Little Big Planet showed up on the PlayStation 3. That became pretty much the only console game getting played.
My daughter’s interests are better served with by her iMac. She has PhotoShop Elements and a Wacom tablet hooked up for art. She has Minecraft. WoW doesn’t thrill her any more, though maybe if Runic could get to work on Torchlight II for the Mac as they promised, that might be of some interest. I already bought her a copy.
But my daughter, now very much a pre-teen, is not so interested in the Wii, or even the PlayStation 3. It is all about her phone, her Nook Color, and her iMac.
And I am a PC gamer from way back, so console games, which always feel limited to me, have little pull.
I think the Wii went from Christmas to Easter without getting used once. At Easter we had friends over, and their kids have a Wii, and Super Mario Bros. Wii is still on the list for them, so we broke that out. Our Wii got played with a little bit. But it will likely make it from Easter to Thanksgiving without much of a workout in between.
Its days are numbered. Even Nintendo is beginning to shut down services on the Wii as they try to push people towards the Wii U. We have no interest in the Wii U around our house, which seems to be a common theme.
It is probably just the small size of the unit in the entertainment console that is keeping it around. And the fact that the Wii Fit balance board fits under the whole setup.
At some point it, the controllers, and its games are going to get boxed up and stored away, waiting for somebody to get a pang of nostalgia.
The Wii was a fine console for our family, and showed up at just the right time.
Wii Sports was great, Mario Party 8 and its mini games were lots of fun, and all the LEGO games were great until they started doing split screen, which gave me a headache.
But that time seems to have mostly passed at this point.
I have said in the past that I get a game console every 15 years. There was an Atari 2600 in 1977. A Sega Genesis in 1992. And then the Wii in 2007. The PlayStation 3 doesn’t really count as it only gets used for Blu-Ray, streaming video, and, since I set up the NAS service with a hard drive on our router, a bit of music streaming now and again.
So I guess the next stop is in 2022. What will we have then?
Looking for Recommendations on Real World Things March 1, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, General, Hardware.
Tags: AT&T, Comcast, Internet Connectivity, Plantronics, Turtle Beach, U-verse, Xfinity
I am going to lump together a few things I have been looking for into a single post to see who recommends what in the hope that it might help break a log jam or two. Normally I save these sorts of “not quite gaming related” posts for the weekend, but I figured I would try to catch some of you bored at work on a Friday.
USB Headset Replacement
I have a five year old Plantronics .Audio 510 USB headset that performs very well. The sound is good and the mic boosts my very quiet voice so that people can actually hear it. And it kills background noise very well. Using it was a requirement when appearing on podcasts, back when I was getting invited to appear on podcasts.
And as a unit, it remains simplicity itself. One USB plug and you’re done.
The only problem with the whole thing is that they are a bit too small for my head in just about every dimension. I can wear them for an hour at a stretch no problem, but after that they start to annoy, irritate, and eventually hurt at about the three hour mark.
I replaced the Plantronics set with a Turtle Beach Ear Force X11 set a while back. The new set was very comfortable, I could wear it for hours on end. The mic was decent and sound was okay, even if connections were a bit more complex. It isn’t just a simple USB plug.
So I started using that at home while I brought the old set to work where having the USB powered mic helps with speech app work I do and lets people actually hear me on conference calls.
The problem is that the X11 has not proven to be a very durable unit, and less than two years down the road, the headset was coming apart, the mic was crackling (much to the annoyance of the rest of the instance group), and the volume adjust/mute fob on the cable was clearly on its last legs, feeling loose and likely to break at any moment when I used it.
So the X11 set had to go.
As a stop gap, I now drag the Plantronics set back and forth with me to work. But I would really like to get a headset that works as well and is as durable as the Plantronics. I would buy another one of the same model, except that they don’t make it any more (I am not buying used) and all of the new Plantronics models are different enough that I won’t buy them sight unseen. And, of course, there is no place I can go to try them on. I am not one of those people who can rip open sealed boxes at stores just to see if something fits, and my wife won’t return things to Fry’s for me.
So, I am looking for, high quality, durable, USB powered, headset with noise cancelling mic. Comfortable for fat-heads like me would be a bonus.
Video Editing Software Upgrade
Over the last couple of years now I have have created a few video for YouTube related to gaming. They have tended to be pretty simple Part of the reason for that was because simple was what I wanted; import video, trim video, add credits, add music, and upload to YouTube. But another part is that the video editing software I use, Windows Live Movie Maker is really geared towards simple. It doesn’t do much more than I have already done with it.
But now I feel I want to do more.
That means going out and spending some money on some better software.
However, within my budget, which is the ~$99 price range, there are a number of options, and choosing between them is hindered by my inability to articulate what the “more” I want to do really is. I’ve only been in the video editing kiddy pool so far, so I am not sure what the options really are. The only aspect I am pretty sure I don’t need is any high end audio editing, as I have a couple of such packages for doing just that sitting on my shelf already. Audio I do at work.
And, of course, I don’t wholly trust the end user reviews (when did shipping problems become a reason for a 1-star product rating?) or the glossy data sheets one finds at the company web sites. So if you used a video editing package in my price range and are happy (or even unhappy) with it, let me know.
Should I Sell My Soul to U-verse or Xfinity?
I think I have a quorum now that agrees that our seven year old DSL plan is not giving us the bandwidth we clearly need as a household. Basically, even my wife is complaining about interned speeds now, while my daughter thinks YouTube is a radio and streams videos just to listen to the music while she draws on her iMac.
Due to where we live… Silicon Valley FFS… I cannot just call up AT&T and ask them to boost my DSL package. I have all they offer for losers like me who dare live so far from their local CO.
So, to get a speed increase, I have to buy into one of the separate upgraded services. This leaves me with only two choices at my address, AT&T’s U-verse and Comcast’s Xfinity. Both can theoretically bring me an internet only upgrade, though I wouldn’t be surprised to find strings attached or other barriers in place.
The question is, which one to choose. Having the phone company on one hand and the cable company on the other is clearly a no-win situation. I have no love for either company, neither the reassembled AT&T deathstar nor the Comcast cable anaconda.
So the question probably is, which one will hurt me the least? I have heard bad tales about both running with “up to” bandwidth numbers that are nowhere near what you end up getting or that either company will screw you on bandwidth if you try to order without their TV package.
Thoughts and/or experiences with either service?
Anybody have any experience with devices like the Lag Buster that Cringely wrote about a while back?
And, to totally leave computers and electronics, is anybody else in the market for a new dog kennel… I mean a new mattress? My wife’s work and research has come up with the Simmons Beautyrest as the most likely candidate for us at this time. But to me, buying a mattress seems to be somewhere just behind buying a car in anxiety about making the wrong choice. The end result, in this case, is literally “you made your bed, now sleep in it!”
In the Hardware Doldrums November 26, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware.
When Wilhelm saw the breadth of his rig, he wept for there were no more peripherals to covet.
-A parody or a rewrite of a made up mis-quote
Much of the last 30 years or so of my experience with computers can be summed up with the phrase “hardware envy.”
Hardware envy predates my getting my first computer. The envy then was to have any computer hardware at all.
Eventually I did secure my own computer, an Apple ][+.
And then, like any good addiction, it became about getting more, even though I was ahead of the game, really. I had the coveted DUAL FLOPPY DRIVE configuration. And look at that digital watch on one of the floppy drives. We used to think those were pretty neat too!
But really, paddle controllers? And so the upgrades began.
I had to get a CH Products joystick.
(And why is there no Wikipedia article detailing the whole CH Products line from the beginning of time through today? Clearly somebody is slacking.)
Then there was the cooling fan/power bar on the side to make sure the upgraded power supply held on.
Eventually I wanted crazy things, like a 80 columns of text and lower case letters, so I had to upgrade to an Apple //e.
And so it went. There was always some piece of hardware to obtain. Modems. Sound cards. High density floppy drives. Color monitors. Bigger monitors. Hard drives. Processor upgrades.
I went from Apple ][ to Macintosh to Windows PCs over that time. At various stages I could discuss, with an annoying amount of detail, the relative merits of modems, hard drives, hard drive interfaces, digital optical drives, 24-bit color accelerated video cards, 3D accelerated video cards, Motorola processors, Intel processors, ISDN terminal adapters, and the many flavors of monitors available at any given period of time.
But over time all of what we used to discuss over lunch, or would rage about in the aisles of Fry's, or laugh about while sorting through the piles of junk over at Weird Stuff sort of just faded away.
Modems became a commodity and then pretty much disappeared for most people. The broadband and phone company incompetence killed ISDN. USB and cheap CD/DVD RW drives killed floppy drives.
Hard drives have gotten so cheap and so fast and capacity has grown so much that barely notice them any more. I have 4.5 terabytes of fixed disk storage hooked up to my computer at home. I remember practically wetting myself seeing a 1GB hard drive back in 1990. It was the size of a cinder block, made as much noise as a hair dryer on the low setting, and created enough gyroscopic force to give you a better workout than any DynaBee.
Video cards went from huge performance gains with every other generation to the point that all my needs are pretty much satisfied by a 3 generation old mid-range card. (An nVidia GTS 450, if you care.)
And CPUs pretty much went the same route. It is a long way from that 8-bit 1MHz 6502 in my Apple ][+ to the eight core, 64-bit 3.06 GHz Intel i7-950 processor that is in my current machine. And somewhere along that path, the CPU stopped being the bottleneck. It used to be that two years down the road buying a new computer would give you a noticeable performance boost. Now I have more processing power than the whole space shuttle fleet combined, but most of the software I own cannot take advantage of it. I am always surprised to find software that doesn't just latch on to core 0, and heaven forbid I run into something that is actually 64-bit.
And then there are monitors. The quest for more desktop space used to be an epic one... often epic in terms of budget. I remember when not only did a 20" Trinitron monitor have a suggested retail price of $2,499, but the 24-bit accelerated video card to drive it cost about the same. (And that wasn't 3D acceleration, that was just acceleration to make 24-bit color usable.)
But monitors, like everything else, got better and cheaper. I remember the generations of my monitors by resolutions. 512x384. 640x480. 800x600. 1024x768. 1280x1024. And, finally 1600x1200.
That last one, which came with a reasonable 20" Dell Monitor, is where I have sat for some time now.
That is a picture I took for a post on the site more than five years ago, and the monitor was probably a year old even then. It still sits right there in that very same spot… with the same keyboard and trackball and speakers and, frankly, a lot more paper. The iPod dock has moved on though.
I actually had hope for monitors. Those seemed to be growing at a steady rate, while always coming down in price.
And then HDTV came along and screwed everything up. Then, suddenly, 1920×1080 seemed to be the biggest screen that anybody wanted to make. Unfortunately, that ends up being a few more pixels than 1600×1200, but in a 16:9 configuration rather than the 4:3 aspect ratio I prefer. I prefer 4:3 because a surprising number of things I do requires scrolling vertically. So wider often makes no difference at all to me, but shorter annoys me almost right away.
But when I look at monitors in my price range, they are all 16:9, 1920×1080 models. They can be up to 27″ in size, but that just means bigger pixels when, frankly, I want more pixels.
Sure, if we stray out of my price range, we can start talking about 30″ monitors that actually have more pixels. But for those of us without the discretionary income of single, childless people, they remain maddeningly out of reach. And they don’t seem to be falling in price, which I gather is because every body thinks 1920×1080 is as neat as digital watches. The demand is low, so the prices stay high.
But the real catch is, I am not even sure I want a bigger monitor. And I could always add a second monitor if I really needed more space, though I would want another one like the one I have, which is no longer available.
And so I seem to be sitting at the end of personal computer history. Or at least the hardware end of it.
Will I, like Alexander, find that in a short 30 years, have come to the end of things?
Are computers… the classic desktop and even the laptop… finally moving towards a more appliance-like existence. Are they waning in the market due to the newer devices that offer computer power… phones, tablets and… um… refrigerators?
Or am I just getting old and set in my ways?
Maybe I could find a nice new set of USB headphones…
Remembering Spaceship Warlock September 10, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Hardware, Humor.
Tags: CD ROM, ComputerWare, Macintosh, Spaceship Warlock
Back, more than 20 years ago, there was an interlude in the succession of jobs that somehow became my career, where I had to take some time out and work retail. Again.
It was the early 90s and the Cold War was over. My classes in the Soviet studies program were turned into a few semesters of obscure trivia. (Details of the organization of GOSPLAN anybody?) And one of the first results of the so-called “peace dividend” was a recession in Valley. Before there was Fairchild Semiconductor to rebel against or the high tech boom that renamed the Santa Clara Valley from “The Valley of Heart’s Delight” to “Silicon Valley,” it was aerospace defense contractors who provided the economic power to build the houses and strip malls over the orchards of my grandparents. It was the influx of companies like Lockheed that took the cheap farm land of the valley and turned a pack of sleepy little farm towns into a carpet of tract houses. A hundred suburbs in search of a city as they say.
Anyway, I was out of work not because of the recession but because my previous company lost a lawsuit that caused to boss to call us all into the production area to tell us to clear out or desks and go home. We were all laid off.
The recession came into play in finding a new job. With the idea that any job was better than no job, I applied, and got a position, at a local computer retailer called ComputerWare, which specialized in Macintosh computers.
Okay, I swear I will actually get to the game itself, but there is a stage to be set for this. There will be pictures and links to videos, all after the cut and some more background text.
Joining the Tablet Generation January 17, 2012Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, iPad.
Tags: Apple, Kindle, Nook
In the end, it came down to my eyes no longer being able to focus on the type in your typical paper back book.
But being something of a Luddite at times, I clung to books in their physical form.
Until this past summer when middle age struck again, and I ceased to be able to focus on anything within “book range” of my face without a pair of 1.25 diopter reading glasses. Getting old sucks.
Oddly, I do not have problems with text on the computer screen and am able to read the default teeny-eyestrain-o-vision font used in EVE Online without having to blow it up into human proportions
Glasses are a pain. I have not built up a lifetime of eyewear management like many of my family and friends. I have to have multiple pairs of sunglasses just to ensure I can find one pair when I need them. And even that isn’t always doable.
So an ebook reader, where one can increase the size of the type to read, seemed like an idea whose time had come for me. But I wanted something backlit, light for reading being a rare commodity in our home, which left the standard Kindle devices off the list. As for the Nook Color and Kindle Fire, those 7″ screens seemed a bit wee. I like to get more than a short paragraph read per “page.”
Which left me with a muddle of Android based tablets and the iPad.
But with the holidays and money being tight, I didn’t want to face another $500 on the already potentially scary credit card bill. So my wife managed to piece together an array of gift cards that were all redeemable at one local Target that also happened to be in a Westfield Shoppingtown mall. I only had to pay the tax out of cash in my wallet.
So that was my post-Christmas present, a base model iPad 2.
I immediately downloaded the Amazon Kindle app for the iPad. I have a nearly 15 year relationship with Amazon, so that seemed the best place to start.
A couple of books in, I have to say that the iPad works find as an ebook reader.
I also grabbed the Barnes & Noble app, which lets me download any books my daughter has on her Color Nook. While all of those Warrior Cats books are not so interesting, I have been reading The Hunger Games trilogy with her.
I haven’t done anything with iBooks yet, though I see that a number of publishers have an option to buy ebooks directly that can be imported into iBooks.
Of course, with this brand new tablet, I could not just read books. I had to get some apps.
And there are apps out there for everyone.
There are lots of apps in the Apple store. But as with iTunes… and frankly almost all online shopping… browsing is a pain. If you know exactly what you want, you can get it, but just sifting through the lists of apps… not so much.
I refused to get Angry Birds, since I think we have that on enough devices already. I did indulge my daughter and let her get Fruit Ninja, a game at which I am comically bad.
And there was, of course, the Games for Cats app pictured above. A simulated laser pointed works as well as the real thing, though sometimes Trixie starts digging under the iPad when it goes off screen.
I also grabbed a few reference apps, such as the ones for NPR, BBC, PBS, WordPress, and the Internet Movie Database. I am semi-disappointed in the lot of them, as none seem to improve much (or at all) on just using their web sites with a browser.
There was a nice EVE Online app, EVE Universe, which I grabbed. It just shows information based on your API Key, but it looks good.
On the science front, among the many astronomy choices, I bought Celestron’s SkyQ app. I can stand in the family room now, waving a 10″ diagonal window around, showing my daughter the sky we would be able to see if the city lights were not so bright that they blot out pretty much anything dimmer than the moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Sirius, Polaris, and Orion’s Belt.
But so far the most entertaining app I have downloaded has been the iPad version of the board game Ticket to Ride. I actually own the physical game, but the iPad version is so good that I may never use that again. It translate the game to the tablet very well, picks up all the minor administrative tasks, and offers solo play against bots, local play via hot swap or wireless connection, and online play against strangers. (Though, par for the course, people still disconnect the moment they are going to lose. I hate that.) More games like this please, as opposed to the EA games which, if I read the reviews correctly, you pay for and then they pop up ads during play that obscure the game. Nice.
I also grabbed the Rift Mobile app, which is somewhat limited in functionality, but which does give me palanarite lotto scratcher every hour, up to a maximum of six queued up, that have been helping to feed my planarite needs in the game.
And, finally, I resubscribed to NetFlix stream and have streamed some movies and TV shows to the iPad with very good success. I have used it ala the Syp method, allowing me to watch a show and play EVE Online.
All in all, I quite like the iPad. I have to take it away from my daughter now and again, who will sit in her room and stream Futurama if I don’t keep an eye on her. Mostly it gets used for reading and playing Ticket to Ride. I have hit something of a wall when it comes to apps though. Not that I need a lot more. But every time I use the iTunes app store, I just feel in my bones that there has to be a better way to organize and display apps.