Saturday, July 26, 2008

Please, not Leonard Nimoy, again...

My son is a huge Star Trek fan. I liked Next Generation and Enterprise, but my son just drinks up all things Trek, including Voyager, DS9 and the original TV series. He watches episodes that our DVR records off satellite, and he reads Memory Alpha and Beta and he even watches fan vids on YouTube.

Well, today he somehow found the old video of Leonard Nimoy singing "Bilbo Baggins." (He actually told me that he thought that Leonard Nimoy was a great singer.) At the moment he's stomping around the kitchen singing it at the top of his lungs.

I've got to find a distraction for that boy, and fast.

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15 Great Games That Are Playable On Low-End PCs (Especially Blizzard Games)

This article on Digg made me slap my forehead in dismay. Of course I could install some old games on our old 800MHz PIII and I happen to have a couple of the ones on the list (I'm not including WoW - if my 1GHz G4 PowerBook can barely run it, it's too much for my PC. Hell, it even only runs middling-well on my dual 1.8GHz G5 with a 256MB RADEON X800).

So I went ahead and installed Warcraft III and discovered there was an unexpected - but in hindsight perfectly predictable - secondary effect: My son wanted to play.

He's 9 and he's played a little WoW in the past, but mostly it's just riding or running around the world of Azeroth with my characters. He did start his own pally, but the gameplay is still a little involved for him to really get into. Too many spells and abilities to learn and remember. He just wants to explore and be entertained.

Well, Warcraft III is actually a lot more his speed, it turns out. So far he's doing as well as you'd expect a 9 year old to do, and he does have the odd distinction of already knowing quite a bit of the lore from he and I talking about WoW (I'm a warcraft lore junkie - I actually have ready a few of the novels and have a few more that are just waiting for an opportunity to be picked up). We were watching the cenematic at the beginning of the human campaign and he was ecstatic to see the Lordaeron throne room. He immediately recognized it from the ruins above the Undercity.

I don't know if really turning him onto computer games at this age is a good idea or not, but I'm glad to see him so excited.


read more | digg story

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Ladders Commercial



I hate this commercial. The humanist and the populist in me just hisses with anger every time it comes on.

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Dammit!

I keep trying, and trying to stop using Windows on my old PC, but so far I've not found a Linux up to the task.

I inherited an old 800MHz PIII when my aunt passed away, and I set it up in the living room for my son to use to browse his Star Trek Wikis. I originally put Windows 2000 on it, but twice, now, Win2K has just randomly died and stopped booting. So twice I've tried to leave it completely behind and instead install Xubuntu. Or even Kubuntu or Ubuntu. Xubuntu naturally performs the best, but it's still dog-slow and frustratingly unresponsive when Win2K was pretty spry. Then add to the fact that FireFox hangs every 15 minutes, or so, and I've just about had it. I've never met a flavor of Windows I've cared much for, but so far the infrequent re-installs of Win2K are actually easier to deal with than the constant opening of a terminal in order to kill a hung process. Ideologically, I love Linux. But unfortunately my pragmatism is quickly overshadowing my ideals.

Now, of course, if I could get a copy of OS X running on it... Hell, even 10.3 or 10.2 would make me happy. But alas...

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Off and on but never given it up.

This post over at the Least I Could Do forums had me chuckling.

I've been an Apple partisan since 1994. I graduated from high school in '93, but my high-school was still using PETs and C64s. My first exposure to what I consider a modern PC was that fall when I started at the local community college and taking basic computer labs. These labs covered the ins and outs of Microsoft Windows 3.1 and Office.

I loved it. It made immediate sense to me. Then, a few weeks later, I was in the college library, and I found this tiny room in the back - almost a closet - that had four computers in it. Three of them were Macintoshes. Two IIfx's (yeah, really) and a Quadra 700. All running System 7. Something about those little machines seriously appealed to me. I found myself migrating back to that room all that semester. Eventually I met up with the other mac-users who told me that there were more macs on campus in the Art Department.

Next semester I took Art. I can't draw to save my life, but I took art. I also used a student discount to buy my own mac at the beginning of that semester: A blazing fast PowerMac 6100/60. I was cutting edge. Hard core. I played countless hours of Marathon on that machine (yes, I knew Bungie back when they only made games for Macintosh).

I ended up befriending the art teacher and also discovering the intricacies of the Macintosh operating system. The school had a few hundred PCs and about 30 macs (aside from the 3 in the library there were six in the art dept. and a couple dozen on the desks of the college staff). The PCs guys didn't want to deign to troubleshoot macs, so I ended up working part-time for the school doing mac support.

I was in heaven. Mac support is 1% hardware issues like foot-snagged, unplugged cables or third party drivers and 99% user support. Basically somebody would need help figuring out how to do something and my job was to figure it out and show them how.

This went on for a few years, and eventually I switched colleges and also bought my first laptop: A PowerBook 1400

Around 1998, though, I was starting to fall out of love with the Mac OS 9. I'd bought the BeOS betas and had toyed with some of the ever-maturing Linux distros for PowerPC. The only thing thing that the Mac had going for it was superior processors (PowerPC) and the professional software I was rapidly becoming reliant on (mostly Macromedia and Adobe titles).

Then Apple announced their acquisition of NeXT and I decided that NeXTSTEP looked worth waiting for.

I loved OS X from the start. I started running OS X full-time, on all my machines at version 10.0.2 and never looked back (by this time I had acquired a G4 Cube to add to the menagerie).

I had another dilemma a few years later, though, when I wanted to start gaming more. I'd been buying what mac-titles were available but it was impossible not to look with envy at the Windows world where games were released sometimes for years before they got ported to mac, if at all. But productivity, reliability and longevity were too important, and the release of EQ for mac sealed the deal. In it I had a never-ending game and it was on my OS of choice.

I have still caved from time to time to the itch to try something new and have put various Linux distros on my PowerBook G4 and the old Dell I have in the front room (it usually runs Win2000 so my boy can run his Star Trek Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual). But I always end up coming back to OS X because I like things to just work and I find OS X far, far more intuitive than any version of Windows I've encountered - and I've encountered them all.

Now, I'm on the edge of buying my first Intel Mac Pro and retiring my G5 workstation to it's new position as NAS for my house. At that point I'll actually buy a copy of Windows to install on boot camp in case I come across a game that I just have to play. Since I now mostly play Blizzard and iPhone games, though, that's probably going to be pretty rare, indeed.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Radio II

Last.fm just released an iPhone application. Beautiful.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

A brief, personal history of radio.

Like everybody else, radio has been a constant presence in my life. As a small kid in the 1970s, my father always listened to Country or Christian music because Rock 'N Roll was the devil's music (I'm not kidding, folks). Which was fortunate because those literally where the two stations available where we lived in Northern Arkansas: the Country station and the Christian station.

After a childhood of not really connecting to music, I ended up going to a catholic boarding school for my first two years of high-school (early 90's). The student body literally sampled every region in North America and sometimes even further afield, and they all brought amazingly diverse collections of music with them. Suddenly I was finally hearing not only music, but music that picked me up and carried me away. Epiphany. Music has been vital to me, ever since.

Radio, however, continued to frustrate me. Even if you find a station with a good format, you're constantly being barraged with ads. CDs weren't much better because you were limited to one album at a time, and by however many jewel boxes you were able to carry. The introduction of the iPod was a godsend because I was able to rip all my CDs to MP3 and basically fake my own radio station/jukebox. Except for one factor: new music. A music library will go stale unless periodically seeded with fresh material.

In the last couple of years, I've even found answers for that. last.fm and Pandora. Their only drawback? That I had to use them while sitting at a computer - which is not how I listen to music. I listen to music on my iPod (now iPhone).

Well, now we've completely broken down every barrier - Pandora is an iPhone 2.0 app, and it works over AT&T's EDGE (no 3G where I live and won't be for probably ages). I just took the kids out to lunch and drove through the rural country side listening to completely new and fantastic and high-fidelity music with Pandora over the EDGE network. Suddenly I have the world's best radio station literally everywhere I go.

I'm so excited.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Resistance is Futile

I had a little fun with my boy, today. I have a CoreDuo mac mini hooked to our HDTV so we can watch podcasts and iTunes movies. He was in the front room while my daughter was watching a movie so I decided to have a little fun.



He figured out it was me fairly quickly, but for a few moments there he thought the computer was talking to him.

(In case you're wondering what a doodle pad is. And, yes, I know it's supposed to be "you're". BASH doesn't like the apostrophe, though, so I had to use a homonym.)

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Vilayanur Ramachandran: A journey to the center of your mind



The more I learn about the human animal, the more amazed I am.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bumper Sticker

My MoveOn.org Barack Obama bumper sticker arrived, today! Now the question is whether I actually dare put this on my truck. I live in the NorthWest corner of Arkansas, and between Wal-Mart HQ and all the racist organizations and Christian Fundamentalist sects that have compounds, out here, it's almost a guarantee there will be somebody who'll try to damage the truck or me over it. 10 years ago I'd say, "bring it on," but now if I travel I have both my kids with me. Not only do they need a not-injured father, I don't want them near any ruckus.

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