TrueJournals

Tag: thoughts

VERY Subtle Humor

by on Feb.10, 2010, under life, thoughts

My high school put on a production of Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile” for its winter play, and I made the mecca back to my hometown to see the show.  I brought two of my friends from my college life with me, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the comedy.  I’d highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to see it.  Ever since the three of us saw it, however, we’ve been quoting it, and laughing, because we get the jokes and no one else does.

There’s been one joke in particular we’ve been quoting quite a bit.  Originally, we were quoting it because it didn’t really make sense to any of us, and we thought it was just kind of stupid.  In the play, only one character (Albert Einstein) actually laughs at the joke.  Perhaps, though, we though, we were just missing something.  Before I go any further, I should probably share the joke.  It goes like this:

A man goes into a bakery and says, “Can you mail a pie?”  The baker says, “Yeah, I think we could.”  Then the man says, “Well, could you bake me a pie in the shape of the letter E?”  And the baker says, “Yeah, I think we could do that.  Come back tomorrow, and we’ll have it for you.”  So the man comes back the next day, and the baker shows him the pie.  The man says, “You idiot!  That’s a big E.  I wanted a small e, a small e.”  So the baker says, “No problem, come back tomorrow, and I’ll see what I can do.”  So the man comes back the next day, and the baker shows him the pie.  The man says, “Perfect… it’s perfect.”  Then the baker says, “So where do you want me to send it?”  And the man says, “You know what… I think I’ll eat it here.”

By the silence on stage, it’s immediately clear that none of the characters understand the joke.  By the silence in the audience, it’s clear that none of them get it either.  Alright, there was some laughter… due to not thinking the joke was funny, and a humorous situation being created due to a non-funny joke being told.  I’ll even admit that at first, I didn’t get it.  In fact, I’m not even sure if it’s a joke that’s meant to be “got.”  But, there are some interpretations we can take that make the joke funny. (continue reading…)

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Apple Disappoints All

by on Jan.29, 2010, under technology, thoughts

Well, I wasn’t sure I was going to make a blog post about this, but I feel I have to.  As I’m sure you’re well aware, Apple announced on Wednesday a new product that they guaranteed would once again revolutionize computing.  It was the product people have been waiting for Apple to make, and Apple finally delivered.  What is this “magical” product?  It’s none other than Apple’s new tablet computer: the iPad.

But… if you’ve seen any of the press about the iPad, you might be confused by what I just wrote.  Almost every tech blog I know is bashing the iPad for being an all-around crappy product.  Considering myself a technology enthusiast, I can only say this: I agree.  Apple had the potential to dip into a market that no one’s really gotten quite right, and create a booming industry for themselves, like they did with the iPod.  It seems, however, that they’ve ruined their chance to do that.  So, where did Apple go wrong?  I’ll start with the obvious and most-touted answer, and I’ll try to work down to some more original points, but pretty much everything’s been covered already.  However, if you do really like the iPad, keep reading to the end of the article, and I’ll try to point out what Apple has done right. (continue reading…)

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Humans vs. Zombies: A Social Experience

by on Jan.27, 2010, under life, thoughts

Last semester, some students from my university worked with university officials to get a game of Humans vs. Zombies going.  After hearing about the game, I decided I wanted to join up to play the game.  It was going to be a two-day game: starting Friday at 5 PM, and ending Sunday at 5 PM, as a trial for the university.  Unfortunately, I was going to be off campus that weekend, so I wasn’t able to sign up.  However, as soon as I heard they were doing another round, I knew I had to do my best to be on campus for the game.

So, working with the university some more, these students organized a three day game: starting Thursday at 5 PM, and ending Sunday at 5 PM.  The students wanted to have a week-long game, but the university wanted to see how the game would work with people travelling between classes before they allowed that.  I got a Nerf gun for Christmas, and was eager for the game to get started.    I attended the necessary meeting to sign up for the game, and just had to wait until Thursday to start playing.

Now, after the game is over, I have this to say: I can’t wait for the week-long game which is planned for some time in April.  Humans vs. Zombies is not only a great excuse to run around campus with a Nerf gun, shooting people for the fun of it, but also a great way to be social and meet new people.  The teamwork and strategy involved is amazing, and I definitely met some great people I would have otherwise never said hi to.  Needless to say, I’ve been disappointed to find out that some college campuses refuse to allow the game to happen. (continue reading…)

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Why You MUST See Avatar

by on Jan.09, 2010, under life, thoughts

By the time of this writing, I have seen Avatar three times: twice in IMAX, and once in RealD 3D.  The first time was for the midnight premier in IMAX.  Then, I decided I wanted to see it again, so got a bunch of people to go see it in IMAX.  The third time, a couple people I knew were going, and I wanted to see the movie a third time.  I’m contemplating going to see it a fourth time.

Now, after reading this article and seeing the movie, you may feel the movie isn’t good enough to see it three or four times, and that’s fine.  But if you go see the movie and think it was bad, then I think you’re just looking for something to complain about, so you found something.  The only people I’ve heard of not liking this movie are comments I’ve read online.  Every person I actually know that saw it thought it was a fantastic movie.

But, really… Why should you go see Avatar?

1. The plot line

This is the complaint I see most often, so I’m going to address it before anything else.  I’m also fairly certain that this complaint comes mostly from people who haven’t seen the movie.  I’m not going to argue that the plot isn’t cliché, because… well, it really is.  But, that’s a terrible reason to not see a movie.  First off, if the only complaint you can find about a movie is that the plot line/story has been done before, then I’d say it’s a pretty damn good movie. Overall, the basic plot line has little to do with whether a movie is good or not.  Let’s face it: almost all movies have a clichéd basic plot line.  The reason you like a movie is how the plot line plays out: character development, how the end is reached, tests that characters have to go through, etc.  Most people would rather see a story they already know because it’s less confusing, and less to follow.  You know what’s going on, you just have to sit there and go along for the ride. (continue reading…)

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Re: Re: Zune or iPod Touch?

by on Aug.07, 2009, under thoughts

Brian (@jotkeybrian) has responded to my post, and I have a couple comments after reading his response… This seems like a good place to do it!

Actually, Microsoft has been pretty cool lately with formats.  Take a look at the Xbox 360, before you could only play wmv, wma, mp3, and wav.  Now you can play xvid, divx, wmv, mp4 (h.264/mpeg), mp3, and mp4/m4a (unprotected aac).

That’s very interesting, actually!  I don’t own a 360 personally, so this is the kind of thing I’m not personally aware of.  I made some assumptions for the sake of my argument.  That’s good to hear, and you’re right, it sounds like Microsoft’s being pretty good about this.  I’ll talk more about Microsoft codecs vs. Apple codecs later.

You also have to realize no-one-uses FLAC from Microsoft’s perspective.

And why is this?  Because nothing supports it!  Why would I use FLAC instead of WMA lossless if nothing I want to play my media files on supports FLAC?

Now Apple on the other hand… They are fucking bastards, they don’t support SHIT. No divx, no xvid – the only formats/codecs they really support are AAC and mp3 for audio and H.264 for video.

You’re absolutely right.  After going over my post again, and thinking about it more, Microsoft is much better with codecs and library organization for letting you keep your music.  Media players that support Microsoft’s “Plays for Sure” often support quite a few codecs.  (Note: I don’t have Windows running currently, so I can’t double-check this!)  When you import music into Media Player, it can move it to the My Music folder, and keep it organized, or leave it where it is.  Apple on the other hand… supports very few codecs on its media players.  When you import music into iTunes, it can move it to My Music/iTunes Library/iTunes Music, and keep it organized there (a strange path for people who want their music files), or leave it where it is. (continue reading…)

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Zune or iPod Touch?

by on Aug.06, 2009, under thoughts

There’s been a bit of news about Microsoft’s newest addition to it’s Zune PMP line, the Zune HD lately.  It’s a device created to directly compete with the iPod touch, carrying a capacitive touch screen, and giving the ability to play HD video, listen to HD radio, and browse the web.  Oh, yeah, it plays music, too.  A recent review on CNET makes the device sound quite enticing.  This review was posted on digg, where I saw it, and proceeded to read the comments.

I noticed a couple people requesting a feature that I immediately knew wouldn’t be in the Zune HD: the ability to play FLAC.  To me, this seemed kind of silly.  Why would a product made by a big-name company like Microsoft or Apple, be able to play a free and open audio format, when they’ve already invented their own?  As I started to think about it, that should be precisely the reason a device SHOULD be able to play FLAC: it’s free and open, and therefore, easy to implement.  But, this is a move Microsoft and Apple will never make, because they’re fighting for more than your pocket.

They’re fighting for your audio format.  (continue reading…)

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The Downfall of Spymaster

by on Jul.19, 2009, under thoughts

Spymaster has gone downhill since it has launched.  Recently, especially, some changes have been made that should not have been made.  There was nothing wrong with the way spymaster worked, and the way the game was played, but it was modified anyway.

The first change that was made was the one that really annoyed me.  Spymaster added another currency, “points”.  You can either purchase points, or get them by completing “free” offers (just give some company all your personal information), and points can be used to purchase “special items”.  These items give some players a huge advantage in the game.  This comes in the form of getting more spymasters, getting better odds of winning an assassination, or having your energy instantly rejuvinated.  The problem, once again, is that you can buy these points.  The one with the most real money wins.  This puts someone who has been playing spymaster and building up a social network on the same field as someone who has $100 to spare.  This is not what the game was designed for.  It was designed to help social network move forward, help meet new people, and have fun while doing it.

Recently, another change was made.  Instead of being exclusive with twitter, you can now log in to spymaster through facebook.  While this isn’t as bad as being able to buy your success, it seems like a bad move.  Being twitter exclusive gave spymaster an interesting edge.  What was so special about twitter?  I can’t quite say, but twitter seems more the place for short spymaster updates.

Perhaps, though, spymaster was destined to make this move.  Adding spymaster to twitter made it more like facebook.  Facebook recently introduced applications that can add updates to your feed and serve to annoy your friends because they now have to see the results of the quiz you took of “What Harry Potter character are you?!?”.  Twitter was free of this muckery.  If you were following a person, you were following an actual person, and the updates were soley their thoughts, whatever they were up to.  Now, spymaster is forcing twitter to follow in facebook’s footsteps.  Spymaster updates are just plain annoying.  I have enjoyed the game, and still think spymaster sending updates to twitter is counter-productive.  It annoys the people who are following you, and can cause close friends to stop following just due to the annoying updates from spymaster.

Maybe that’s why they added facebook.  They saw that they were killing twitter, and thought “Hmmm… facebook users are accustomed to this!”  So, spymaster is just contributing to the downfall of facebook, which has become less about social networking, and more about annoying your friends.

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Changing Password Every x Days

by on Jun.13, 2009, under life, thoughts

This will be the second in my series of security topics from a non-security expert, I suppose.  I just calls ’em hows I sees ’em.

As you may or may not know, I will be attending Valparaiso University this Fall as a Freshman.  When I attended Valparaiso’s Freshman orientation program, they taught us a lot about their online systems.  One thing I learned was that I will need to change my password every 185 days, and when I change it, it can’t be similar to whatever I had last time.  The idea here is that this will be more secure, because hackers will never know your password for an extended period.  However, I see a problem with this.

Forcing me to change my password to something completely different means forcing me to memorize a new password, something completely different, too.  Now, personally, I don’t think this will be much of a problem, because I’m pretty good at memorizing things.  However, if you aren’t that good at memorizing, this could cause a big problem: the urge to write down your password.  As anyone could tell you, writing down a password immediately creates a security risk, because anyone could see it written on a piece of paper, or take the paper, etc.  The safest place for a password is in your brain, and in your brain only.

So, is forcing users to change their password really more secure?  For some people, I think it will help, but I think it’s a practice that could only hurt others.  A better idea would be to enforce good password practice: have users create a nice, good length, password, containing at least one letter, number, capital letter, and special character.  Want to go for more security?  Force it to start and end with a letter.  Don’t just let the user tack an exclaimation mark on an otherwise easy-to-guess password.

Overall, I don’t think there will ever be a formula for password security.  There is no one end-all be-all tip I can give for keeping your password away from hackers.  Perhaps forcing people to change their password every x days really does help security.  But, I’d like to see some concrete proof of this before I believe it.

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BREAKING: Microsoft’s New Controller Lacks Rumble

by on Jun.04, 2009, under thoughts

Rumble is a pretty hot topic among game controllers.  When the Sony announced that the PS3 controller wouldn’t have rumble, gamers and bloggers got angry.  Joystiq gives a perfect example of this, summarizing the opinions of others.  And while the general consensus was that rumble wouldn’t hurt Sony, it would just help them if they had it, it’s still a shame to see a company remove such a nice gaming feature.

Three years later, in walks Microsoft.  Perhaps you’ve heard of Project Natal.  It’s an interesting concept.  Instead of forcing you to hold a control, sit down and play your video games, we’ll FORCE you to stand up and fight your opponents like a man.  Microsoft looked at the success of the Wii, and basically said, “We can take this one step farther…”  If it works well, and Microsoft can keep the price point low, then I have a feeling it will go over big.  If not, then it’ll flop and be part of gaming history, much like the Power Glove and Sega Activator.

However, there’s a strange point that all the articles I’ve read have been missing.  Without a controller to hold, there will be no rumble, no force feedback.  And while, for the most part, this is really just a novelty… There are some games that might be lacking without this crucial detail.  Yet, the blogosphere hasn’t exploded.  In just three years, the Internet has gotten over the joy of having rumble in a controller.

Maybe we never really needed it to begin with, and Sony just showed us this by removing it.  Personally, I’ve never used a PS3, but if the consesus was that it wasn’t a critical point, then that’s not what’s hurting its sales.  Or, maybe, Microsoft just can’t do any evil in the gaming world.  Sure, Microsoft is evil in the computing world… but they seem to be a god in the gaming world, much like Apple is a do-no-evil god in the computing world.

So, what will come out of this?  Maybe we’ll start to see more controllers without rumble.  Rumble hit it big, but maybe the novelty is dying off now, and we realize that we don’t really need rumble to play a good video game.  Or, perhaps Microsoft’s “controller” will flop, and systems will still keep rumble in their controllers.  Of course, Natal could always flop AND we lose rumble in controllers.  Only time will tell.

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The Facebook Virus

by on May.31, 2009, under thoughts

Facebook is starting to become MySpace.

When facebook started, it was a great idea: provide a way for college kids to easily find and communicate with their old high school, and current college friends.  A simple, easy form of communication to link people who physically know each other.  Then, they opened up registrations, a little at a time, and, now, anybody is free to join Facebook.

This was OK at first too, though.  It was still a great way to communicate across generations, or with people in other states or even countries that you physically have met.  It enabled people to plan events, and share what’s on their mind, all while keeping a standard layout, something which MySpace never guaranteed.  It would seem that the reason MySpace died in popularity, and the reason Facebook gained popularity, was the customization of MySpace profiles, the communication aspect of Facebook, and the reputation that MySpace had recieved over the years.

But, it seems that Facebook is drifting away from its innovation.  The first step towards this was e-mailing you when something happens.  This has always annoyed me.  The settings for e-mails in facebook are “E-mail me if X happens” or “Don’t e-mail me if X happens”.  So, if I want to be notified if someone replies to a thread that I’m part of, I will be sent an e-mail any time anyone replies to that thread.  If I don’t, I won’t be notified at all, and will have to visit Facebook (which I often forget to do).

This creates a lot of spam in my inbox.  In a thread even just between five people, if thoughts are flying back and forth, my inbox gets filled up with e-mail from facebook quickly.  So, facebook needs to take a hint from forums.  Offer a third option: notify me on the first event.  This should send you an e-mail saying “Someone replied to thread X” when someone replies to a thread you’re part of.  Then, it should wait until you actually view the new messages in the thread before sending you another e-mail that someone replied.  On top of that, take into account things you’re notified of when browsing the site.  If I’m on facebook, and someone writes on my wall, the website tells me this.  Don’t also send me an e-mail, it just gets annoying.

But this isn’t the only way facebook is becoming a virus.  I noticed something interesting happening the other day.  A friend of mine took a quiz, and I saw it in the “news feed” on my main page.  So, I took the quiz to see what my result would be.  Soon after, another three or so of my friends had also taken that same quiz.  It’s hard to say whose quiz-taking inspired these others, but this spread of wildfire is very virus-like.

Some, though, might call this the wonder of social web.  That things are happening this quickly, and that we can see them in real-time is a miracle of modern technology.  But, have we gone too far with this?  When something exhibits the qualities of a virus, how long does it take for us to break down and just call it a virus?

This type of action is, in my opinion, what caused MySpace to fail.  I think Facebook is a needed hub of communication, but I think that if it continues on its current trajectory, it will just wind up in a crash landing.

So, it seems that Facebook has become the new, and is taking the path of, MySpace.

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