Artwork provided by my daughter, who said it was okay to post despite our very sad Christmas Eve.
Everybody should have a happy holiday if they can.
Right now, I’m pretty bored with all games
-Mark Pincus, former Zynga CEO in a Wall Street Journal interview
On the one hand, his longing for the early days of FarmVille, to which he claimed to be “addicted,” is an understandable emotion, at least to me. I certainly long to relive the early excitement of some games.
On the flip side… really, FarmVille is the pinnacle of your gaming excitement?
But I think it is clear from his history that Mr. Pincus was looking for a way to make money in life, not a way to make games. I particularly like this old quote:
I did every horrible thing in the book, too, just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar which was like, I don’t know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it
Well he made money and left his mark on an industry. I still wonder what Lord British thought we was getting into before Zynga pretty much fell apart.
Hat tip: Game Politics
Reblogging this to illustrate a WordPress.com feature that I am going to complain about in the next post. Picking on Tesh for his 600th post. Also, dice!
This is my 600th post. Seems like it ought to be an occasion of some sort. So let’s see… Dice, Rats and Dragons, Oh, My!
I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign for my “Rusty Fudge” Tinker Dice and their siblings (I have the numbered designs, fudge designs and a lead on metal and plastic printers). Yes, it’s not the BIG campaign for the playing card deck, but that’s still in the pipe, I’m just ramping up to it. In the meantime, there are a handful of reasons I’m doing the dice first. At least, once I get the last few bits of paperwork sorted out.
One, it’s smaller in scope ($3,000 primary goal), so I’m hoping it is fulfilled and then I can make sure I know how to make the whole process work, start to finish. It seems relatively straightforward… but that’s why I want to take…
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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!”
We recently finished refinancing our home again. It is part of the homeowner’s tradition in the US.
The dance is a little different these days. Back in 2006 when we bought the house, the loan company was happy enough to let me finance it 100% before we had even sold the old place. For a month or so I was in debt in the seven figure range. Do I get an achievement for that?
Since the boom, interest rates have come down. The last time we refinanced, the rate was low enough that we told the finance guy we work with that he would probably would only ever hear from us again via a yearly Christmas card.
And then rates went down even further, so that we could shave off more than a full percentage point from our rate, which in turn would peel a decent chunk of money off of our monthly payment. Some of that comes from resetting the 30 year clock and the fact that we have paid off a chunk of principle as well, but the low rate helps too.
Getting documentation together took more effort this time around, all the more so because I had been self-employed for the last couple of years. I had to document where all the money came from since 2010. The years of really easy money are over. It is back to the way it was in 2000 or so, and then some. But we managed it.
The whole refinancing effort culminates in the signing “ceremony” at the title company. You go sit in a conference room with your loan guy and a title company representative and sign all the documents the loan company wants you to sign. The title company verifies this, tells the loan company you have jumped through all of their hoops, gets the money, pays off your old loan, and gives you whatever is left over. That is pretty much how escrow works.
We had our daughter in tow this time around, and while I had the iPad handy for her to play with, she wanted to sit and watch what we were doing. So I asked her to count how many times I had to sign my name during the process.
The answer: More than 60 times.
That number includes pages I just had to initial. For every multi-page document, I had to initial each page and then sign the final page.
But given my scrawl of a signature, writing out my initials takes about as much effort as signing something.
Some of it was the usual stuff. The multi-page document with all of the loan details. The special document with the interest rate, which includes an explanation of how interest rates work, for people who missed it in the previous document. The line in the notary ledger. The detailed list of where all the money was going.
Some of it though was kind of silly. I had to sign no fewer than three documents that basically said that the house being financed was my primary residence. There were a few cases of signing documents that seemed to have the same purpose as some other document. And at one point I had to sign a photocopy of a signed document I had submitted on a previous occasion in order to verify that I had indeed signed it.
My wife had to sign and initial nearly as many documents. There were a few just for me, but she was still over the 50 mark.
This is what happens when you make people accountable for their practices. They make you sign a bunch of forms to “prove” that they have done everything required by law, whether or not you know the law or the relevance of any given document. I recall back when a federal regulation came out saying that doctors could not share you medical history without your express written consent. At my next visit to the doctor, I had to sign a form authorizing the doctor to share my medical history with whomever he damn well pleased or they would simply refuse to treat me.
That is how it always plays out.
Anyway, during a lull in the signing, I asked the woman from the title company if I could ask her a stupid question.
She laughed and asked me if I wanted to know why I had to sign so many documents.
I said no, my question was much sillier. Besides which, I have worked at big companies, I know about papering over processes with documents and signatures to CYA.
What I wanted to know was why title companies seemed to be staffed entirely by women.
This was my sixth or seventh time to the title office for signing papers in my lifetime, and I could not recall there ever being a man working in any of them.
At this point our loan guy said he hadn’t actually noticed that in all his years of hanging out at title companies, but that in hindsight I seemed to be right.
The woman from the title company told us that, basically, the job involves getting yelled at a lot. Pompous real estate agents, shady loan officers, cranky buyers, they all seem to target the title company staff when things aren’t going right or closing fast enough or what not. She said that they do get men in the office from time to time, but that they do not have the temperament for that sort of thing, so do not last very long.
At least that was her theory. And it certainly has some merit.
Based on what she said, I suspect that pay enters into it as well.
In financial organizations, the people who actually do the customer facing work tend to be paid poorly. Go ask a bank teller how much they make. This, along with the fact that she said that the sales end of the business (where commissions come into play) and management over a certain level (where the pay is good) were heavily staffed with men makes me think that, among the things she and her colleagues have to put up with, mediocre compensation might very well be on the list.
But I did not say the part about pay aloud. That is just my theory.
And my sample set is just title offices in Silicon Valley, so it could be a regional thing.
Anybody out there with title company insight that can confirm or deny my theory?
No chilly New Year’s Eve for us!
Happy new year from a sunny, warm location. Back to colder weather tomorrow, at which point I’ll think about what passes for new year’s predictions around here.
He grew up just a couple miles from where I did in the Valley of Heart’s Delight, the valley that became Silicon Valley in his youth, and in mine.
He was one of the founders of a company that influenced me greatly.
There was a small Apple II lab at my junior high school, which backed up to Apple’s Mariani Avenue campus, back in 1978. It had been donated by Apple.
I was 13 at the time. He was only 23.
Being able to use that lab, loading programs with cassette players, was a seminal experience for me.
I finally wrangled my own Apple II a few years later. It was the gateway into my future.
But even as I acquired that precious machine, the next wave at Apple was emerging, the machine shaped by him, the Macintosh.
My goal was to some day work at Apple.
My own career followed the Macintosh, and I worked closely with Apple at different companies, but never for Apple.
At times that was a disappointment.
At other times that was a relief.
It was especially a relief in the dark days of the mid 90s, when Apple was faltering. The companies I worked for started slowly developing Windows products. At low ebb, in early 1996, having a resume with all Apple focused experience was a serious liability.
And then he came back to Apple.
Micheal Dell at the time said of Apple, “I’d shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.”
But Apple flourished. Michael Dell has since had to eat those words.
Legends were born, stories oft repeated in the valley, rumors and the like, about him. There was Fake Steve Jobs, which gave voice to what we thought was going through his head, and the legendary reality distortion field that seemed the only explanation at times as to the fierce loyalty people had for Apple products for people who failed to grasp the “less is more” design philosophy.
And while I moved away from Apple products professionally, I do not have to look far around our home to see things that he influence, my wife’s iPhone, the iMac in the family room, a selection of Pixar films on the shelf.
And, of course, the memory of half a lifetime’s worth of influence.
So when my wife called me at the office to tell me that Steve Jobs had died, it was a blow.
It was like somebody in the family had gone.
It is hard now to imagine a world without Steve Jobs.
It is hard to think of someone who has had as much influence on my life.
My daughter will turn 10 before the end of the year.
For her, what happened 10 years ago today is just part of the reality of her world. There is no before and after, there is just the way things are. Onerous security check points and having to remove your shoes at the airport, or getting pulled aside for a full pat-down and luggage inspection because it is a slow period at the check point and the TSA people find it easier to meet their quota of such checks when they are not busy, that is just part of her world.
There has been a war going on in Afghanistan forever as far as she knows and there was another one in Iraq, which I guess we won in the end. It is the Middle-east and just because something looks one way on a given day doesn’t make it the long-term reality. And the Afghan conflict is the just pointy end of a whole global war on terrorism that has bred an anxiety that we might be victims at any time.
And I think about this and wonder how strange that is as essentially a starting point for ones own personal reality.
How different from my own.
And yet how similar.
Because when I was nearly 10, planes were being hijacked in the Middle-east. Security checkpoints were being put into airports to keep people from getting on to planes with weapons. Granted, things were less serious. I remember coming back from a trade show about 15 years ago and one of my co-workers realizing he still had a 4″ folding knife in his pocket while we were at the check point. The agent looked at the knife, unfolded it, and held it up so his supervisor. The supervisor looked at it and shrugged. The agent folded it, handed it back, and away we went, better armed that any of the 9/11 hijackers.
And there had been a war going on in Vietnam forever for as far as I knew. It was there on the evening news every night. But that was just the pointy end of the stick in relation to the whole cold war, a war that we seemed to be losing. Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle-east seemed to be falling in line with the Soviet Union while NATO quibbled over details as the French tried to distance themselves from the whole thing.
And over this hung the specter of nuclear war, sudden instant death that might fall on us with at most a 30 minute warning.
It wasn’t until I was in college that I was able to make sense of much of what was going on when I was 10. There I was able to see how hollow the advance of the Soviet Union in the third world really was. Turns out a lot of people will mouth your philosophy if it legitimizes their dictatorship and gets them some guns.
And there was plenty of stupidity to go around in the west as well. There were plenty of examples demonstrating that merely being against something, like Communism, was not a viable political philosophy. Being an enemy of our “enemy” should not necessarily make you a friend, as any number of our past friends should indicate. The same goes for some of our current “friends.”
But all that was only easy to spot after the fact. Hindsight is a much more exact science than seeing into the future. At that moment in time in the past, as with any given moment of time now, the government felt the need to be “doing” something and most people accepted that something needed to be done. But did we do the right things?
The judgement of history takes time. And for something like 9/11, a polarizing event like Pearl Harbor, history almost has to wait until all of those affected… which is almost every one of us… have passed on before a real assessment can be made. Those of us with an emotional point of view to defend cannot write an objective history.
So I wonder how the history of this time will be written, though I will no doubt be long gone before the whole thing can be seen in a broader context.
And I wonder what the children of my daughter’s generation, those to be born 10-30 years from now, will see as normal facts of life as they are growing up.
Englishman: I don’t really like the Welsh. A nation of whores and rugby players the Welsh!
Neighbor: My mother was Welsh.
Englishman: Really… What position did she play?
-Paraphrased from Dave Allen at Large
I’m going to pick on Syp for a moment because he sent out a tweet that illustrates one of those basic problems we face when talking about games.
Of course, I’m a WoW player and felt I was being unjustly accused of being defensive.
Which made for a self-fulfilling prophecy as I was then feeling defensive for being accused of being defensive merely because I play WoW.
But I still felt he was wrong, tarring a player base of millions of people with a trait to which they neither demonstrably share nor hold any exclusivity over.
In this situation there is always the temptation to reply in kind.
Syp plays Rift! And I am going to guess that this tweet had something to do with Rift and WoW.
Oh, and SynCaine plays Rift! And so does Bhagpuss! And none of them play WoW!
It is a conspiracy!
The Rift player base is made up of WoW haters! I find it amusing how Rift players all hate WoW!
And look how defensive they are! See those Rift players going after Tobold for saying he doesn’t want to play Rift. Defensive! Totally!
And so on and so forth.
But that would just be demonstrating that the same silly coin has two sides. And while it serves as a quick attention getting device, it hardly changes anybody’s mind about anything.
So, on the list of rules for being taken seriously as a member of the community, right after the one about not pretending you speak for the community as a whole, can we put in something about not generalizing about a given community?
Players of a given game are not a mass of like thinking/ like acting people. If we were, we wouldn’t get on each others nerves so much in game, now would we?
Of course, this rule would be covered by the umbrella clause that allows use in special circumstances, such as attempts to make a point via humorous or satirical means. (Appropriate tagging is still recommended.)
We must, after all, protect our peers who eschew the simple declarative sentence and who choose instead to communicate solely via over-wrought analogy or heavy sarcasm.