Archive for November 2009

Google Reader Usage?

Published on November 25, 2009

How many people here use Google Reader to follow RSS feeds? I use it as my primary surfing mechanism now, and I’m curious as to how many others use it. Although it has some quirks, I’ve gotten used to it. Google Reader has made surfing the ‘net way more efficient, so much so that I often look for new sites to troll. If you do indeed use Reader, let me know if you’d like to friend me up. I share stories on the service routinely.

Buying Search Results

Published on November 24, 2009

It is being reported that Microsoft is trying to pay News Corp. to “de-index” their search results from Google. Rupert Murdoch (billionaire tyrant) has hinted that he’d like to prevent Google from spidering the websites for the companies that News Corp. controls. Ironically enough, what he wants can be done today for free using the appropriate rules in robots.txt.

If this report is true, it sure seems like a desperate attempt to gain search engine market share by Microsoft. What might really happen if this deal goes through? I’ve got to believe that viewership at the various sites would drop considerably. “The masses” know how to use Google to find stuff. If the stuff they’re looking for disappears, will they be willing (or knowledgeable enough) to use Bing to find it? I’m not sure that’s the case. Should this scenario play out, I can see things going one of two ways: either Microsoft wins and gains market share, or both Microsoft and News Corp. lose big time.

Gizmodo has a good take on this situation, claiming simply that, in the end, we’ll all lose. This will definitely be an interesting thing to watch in the coming months.

Serious Sam HD

Published on November 23, 2009

The “high definition” remake of Serious Sam: The First Encounter is being released tomorrow on Steam! Watching the trailer for this game should bring back some fond memories for anyone familiar with this title. I’ll probably pick it up very soon, as I remember having a blast with the original. At only $20, what is there to lose?

Speaking of $20 games, I still highly recommend Torchlight. I have yet to beat it, simply because I did a terrible job of creating my original character, therefore making her too weak to defeat the final boss (as embarrassing as that is to say). Oh, and the “Hard” difficulty is just that. It was a breeze early in the game, but the final levels are murder! Anyways, I created a new character and have pumped her up with all the right stats (she’s now a death-bringing tank). The other character classes are just as fun to play, and I look forward to spending more time with them.

Hopefully other equally great games will come out at this price point. With the price of most games today eclipsing $50 or $60, it’s hard to justify not picking up a cheap, fun title to play for the upcoming holidays.

Useful Tool: BlueScreenView

Published on November 19, 2009

Ever been bitten by the blue screen of death on a Windows box? Who hasn’t? It’s often hard to see just what caused the blue screen to occur, and the machine usually reboots before you can properly note down the information being provided. Thankfully, BlueScreenView is a helpful little utility that will provide information on your past crashes. It scans the mini-dumps that are generated when your system blue screens, and reports the problem. I’ve used this a time or two to track down troublesome drivers (usually the cause of these nefarious crashes). Be sure to add this helpful, free tool to your collection.

Fun With Time

Published on November 17, 2009

Time is a bother when programming. Doing time calculations is always way more complicated than it may seem, especially when your calculations have to go out into the distant future. Having been bitten by time related bugs in the past, I can only smile and nod in understanding when I read that the camera auto-focus bug in the Motorola Droid is due to an unfortunate time calculation. Why they use a date stamp in their auto-focus routine is beyond my understanding, but thanks to the wonders of rounding, auto focus will toggle between working correctly and not working correctly every 24.5 days. Terrific!

Time is making fools of us again. ~J. K. Rowling

Wasp Automotive in RTP, NC

Published on November 16, 2009

A month or so ago, I looked on the Car Talk website (official web home of the popular radio show) for a recommended mechanic in my area. One of the highest rated shops happened to be just up the road from my workplace, at the corner of NC Hwy 55 and NC Hwy 54: Wasp Automotive. I’ve been to them twice now, once for my 120K tuneup and once today for a check-engine light problem (which turned out to be a problem with my car’s emissions system).

I can’t say enough positive things about this shop. At my 120K tuneup, the mechanic pointed out that my brakes had about 8 or 10 thousand more miles on them, so he recommended holding off on changing them. He gave me the same advice for my timing belt, which had about 15,000 more miles on it. It’s the rare place, especially in today’s economy, that would advise you to not give them your money.

Today, while waiting on my complimentary ride to work (a nice perk), I fired up my laptop and discovered that they have a wireless access point! I quickly started my company VPN connection, and hopped online to check my email. Incredible!

The folks at Wasp automotive are friendly, the service is extremely fast, and the prices are very reasonable. If you’re in the Triangle area of North Carolina and you want a great mechanic, check them out. You won’t be disappointed.

Pets in Torchlight

Published on November 12, 2009

Last night, I purchased Torchlight on Steam, based on the positive reviews I’ve been reading about the game. At only $19.99, it’s a definite bargain. I’ve only played about two hours worth so far, but man is this game fun! Torchlight is an action-style RPG, much in the vein of Diablo (in fact, it’s made by a bunch of old Diablo developers). The graphics are beautiful and cartoony, spell effects are fun to watch, and the voice acting is pretty decent. But what I want to focus on in this post are the pets your character can have.

When you start a new game, you get to choose a pet (either a dog or a lynx-style cat), which you can then name. Your pet travels around with you and can aid you in battle. It will attack enemies if you put it into an aggressive stance, it can carry loot for you, and it can even wield items: a couple of rings, two spells, and an amulet. You can even send the pet around to gather up loot on the dungeon floor!

By far the best ability, however, is that your pet can travel back to town to sell items for you! Can you believe that? No longer do you have to teleport back to town to sell your unwanted loot. Just load up your pet with the stuff to sell, tell it to go back to town, and it will. The obvious downside to this is that you lose your pet’s abilities and assistance for a while, but it’s oh-so-worth it in the long run.

I’m having a blast so far with this game, and I’d much rather be at home playing it right now than at work. I definitely recommend checking it out. For only $20, it’s a great value!

Going Cell Only

Published on November 8, 2009

I have a land line telephone at home, along with a really old cell phone. I’m thinking about ditching the land line and going cell only on a smart phone (I’m looking at the Motorola Droid). Has anyone else here gone cell only? If so, what do you think about it? There are a few edge cases I’m mildly concerned about in migrating to a cell only scenario:

Emergency Contact at Night
Let’s assume someone else needs to get a hold of me late at night. Do I simply keep my cell phone on all the time? I’m assuming I would (it would be connected to the charger overnight). With a land line, this is obviously not a problem.
Loss or Theft of Cell Phone
Suppose the cell phone is either lost or stolen. Replacing it is a no brainer, but in the mean time there would be no fallback plan (right?).
Cell Phone Outages
Rarely, cell phone outages occur (say, from a hurricane). This is, admittedly, an extreme edge case. Land lines can similarly go out in these cases. But what is the fallback plan for outages? Is there one?

I know these are edge cases, but I’m trying to think about all the possibilities before I make the plunge. Any other advice on going cell only?

Bottom of the Barrel

Published on November 7, 2009

In a recent study, the Pentagon has found that nearly 75 percent of potential military recruits ages 17 to 24 in the United States are unfit to serve due to obesity, lack of a high school diploma, or serious criminal history. This is mildly surprising to me, only in that the figure is so high. The US military has had recruitment problems for years now, so I was already aware that they are willing to hire some pretty shady and dangerous people.

What happened in Fort Hood a few days ago is very sad, and I certainly can’t pigeonhole the shooter into the demographic mentioned by this study. However, when you’re willing to hire criminals, you’re bound to get burned at one point or another. A report released in July of this year showed that major crimes have been on the rise at all military bases since 2003. In addition, arrests among soldiers for murder, arson, and rape rose sharply between 2007 and 2008.

I don’t know what the solution to these violence problems is, but I really feel like we’re straining the folks in the military too much. Having to serve multiple tours year after year is bound to make even the sanest people among them break down. The fact that criminals are let in only makes things worse in the long run. Hopefully someone will come up with a clever solution to this issue. Otherwise, our country is in for a rude awakening when the supply of competent recruits dries up.

Three Strikes and You’re Out

Published on November 6, 2009

Last night, I tweeted some dark thoughts about The Office. This morning, I stand by them. As painful as it is for me to say it, this television show is becoming a chore to watch. Laughs have been few and far between this season, and last night’s episode was the second in a row where I didn’t laugh a single time. Not once! What happened?

Nearly all of the characters have lost their charm. Pam, for example, used to be an enjoyable second-tier character. Now, she’s just a cranky, two-dimensional bitch. Every episode this season has seemingly revolved around her being unhappy and depressed (even the wedding episode). This is getting really old, really fast, and it needs to stop.

Here’s my idea on how the show can recapture its greatness by the end of this season: Michael needs to fire Pam, Jim, or possibly both. There’s no tension in this show anymore, and shaking things up big time is the only way I see it coming back in a legitimate way. The first few seasons of this show captured the awkward tension that made the original British series so wonderful. Sadly, that tension has been lost (though it was oh-so-briefly revived in the “Lover” episode from this season). If Pam were to be fired, a whole new tension would arise: between Jim and Michael at work, Jim and Pam at home, and things may even spill over onto the rest of the cast (by the way, has anyone else noticed how little air-time the secondary characters have gotten this season?).

For the past two weeks, I’ve diligently watched this show and not once have I laughed. The Office, I’m putting you on notice. Three strikes, and you’re out of my TV lineup.

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