Posts Tagged “annoyances”

The Sleazy World of Professional Reviews

Published on November 30, 2007

There’s currently a lot of buzz about the supposed firing of Jeff Gerstmann, a long-time editor at GameSpot (Penny Arcade! even has a comic about the incident). He was apparently fired based on a poor review he gave for “Kane & Lynch: Dead Men,” a game for the xBox 360. Eidos, who publishes the game, currently has a large advertising partnership with GameSpot for the game. This move indicates to me that Eidos was attempting to buy a good review, which they didn’t get. I have no trouble believing that they had a hand in getting Mr. Gerstmann fired.

It’s really sad to see when professional reviewers are forced to say one thing or another, but it’s not surprising. The almighty dollar seems to make most of the decisions these days. Years ago I subscribed to Computer Gaming World magazine, but I canceled my subscription after the quality took a nose dive. The “larger” gaming websites are starting to head in that direction as well, especially after shenanigans like these. I do most of my game review reading through Metacritic, checking out what reviewers as a whole have to say about various games. I also try to seek out independent reviews, from people like myself.

This kind of story is one reason that I decided to post my own reviews here on this website. Although I don’t have as much readership or visibility as the big review websites, I try to provide an alternative to the paid endorsements that publishers try to shove down our throats. Hopefully you find my reviews to be useful and honest. If so, then I’m succeeding where the large sites are failing. And that’s good enough for me.

Cyber Monday is a Sham

Published on November 26, 2007

I really hate how news outfits continually refer to Cyber Monday as ‘the busiest online shopping day of the year.’ If you take a look at the Wikipedia article, you’ll see that the term “Cyber Monday” is actually a neologism, undoubtedly created to generate public interest (and therefore, boosted sales figures). A number of online retailers point out that early December is actually a busier time than today supposedly is.

That being said, I love shopping online, and I try to do most of my holiday shopping through online outfits (though some things just have to be bought locally). How about you? Do you do your holiday shopping online, or do you head to the brick and mortar stores?

One More Reason to Avoid Best Buy

Published on October 30, 2007

So a guy goes into a Best Buy, purchases a Western Digital hard drive, and finds out later that the box is filled with bathroom tiles. He tries to return the hard drive (since it wasn’t what he thought it was), and the manager says that they can’t do that. Instead, he should take up the complaint with the manufacturer. How is this even legal?

I’ll just add this story to the ever-growing list of reasons why I don’t shop at Best Buy. Amazon.com FTW.

Google Maps Frustration

Published on June 4, 2007

I am growing increasingly frustrated with Google Maps. In the past month, on two separate occasions, Google Maps failed to find my intended destination. What really gets under my skin is the fact that Google’s competition found each place without any problems.

Example 1
My family checked out the Clarksville Station restaurant in Roxboro, NC for my sister’s graduation. It’s a steak-house built inside of an old train station and a couple of dining cars from an actual train. It’s located at 4080 Durham Road, Roxboro, NC. Let’s see what the mapping services show for this query:

  • Google Maps: Only locates Durham Road, not the 4080 address.
  • MapQuest: Shows the location as expected.
  • Yahoo! Maps: Can’t find the exact location, but interestingly enough, centers the map at the exact location. Weird.
  • Microsoft Live Search: Gets it exactly right.

Example 2
My car needed service recently, so I took it to Jay’s Automotive, a repair place not too far away from where I live. They are located at 3510 Highway 70 West, Efland, NC. Let’s see how the various mapping services do with this one:

  • Google Maps: Wow. This is so far off, it’s not funny.
  • MapQuest: Again, MapQuest gets the location exactly.
  • Yahoo! Maps: Again, they cannot locate the address, but the map is centered at the correct location.
  • Microsoft Live Search: Again, Microsoft got it exactly right.

What gets me even more steamed is the lack of aerial (or satellite) images for example number 2. Google Maps only has images beginning at zoom level 6 (levels 1 through 5 are all “unavailable”). MapQuest has color images down to zoom level 3 (1 and 2 aren’t available), which is very close. Yahoo! Maps has color imagery at all zoom levels, while Microsoft Live Search has images to zoom level 3 (just like MapQuest, though the image quality is very poor).

Google needs to stop spending money and effort on cheap gimmicks like their recent Street View (is that thing worthless, or what?), and instead beef up their location database and aerial photographs. I can’t even see my house on Google Maps! All the other mapping services have it, so it’s certainly possible to do.

Get with the program, Google. Until then, I think I’ll stick to your competition (at least when satellite photographs are involved).

Winter Weather Letdown

Published on February 1, 2007

We got hit with a “winter weather storm” here in North Carolina, and it was a colossal disappointment. A forecast 1 to 3 inches of snow (with a 1/4 inch of ice on top of that) turned out to be a light dusting, most of which melted in a few hours time. It seems like every state in the US has gotten tons of snow this winter; it even snowed in the Arizona desert! But does North Carolina get anything? Not around here. It’s like we’re cursed or something.

Cable Artifacts

Published on January 21, 2007

Some time ago, my family tried out digital cable. We were thoroughly unimpressed at the ‘digital quality’ and subsequently dropped the service. But strangely enough, the digital artifacts that annoyed us so greatly are now showing up in the analog signal. We routinely see compression issues and dropped areas in the picture, and it only seems to be getting worse. Is Time Warner digitally encoding the signal before they send it out on the analog line? It sure seems like they are, but I don’t see the benefit in doing that. Maybe it’s cheaper on their end? Does anyone else with cable see this problem?

Rear Ended

Published on December 11, 2006

I had the great fortune of being rear-ended tonight while coming home from work. What a wonderful Christmas present, delivered early for my enjoyment! I wanted more than anything to spend the next several days dealing with insurance, collision shops, and going without a car. Whee!

Darn It, Jim!

Published on October 12, 2006

It turns out that DreamHost does not allow system() calls to be executed from PHP. This nugget of knowledge essentially throws a gigantic monkey wrench into my plans for the photo album software I’m writing. I was planning on allowing the large thumbnail creation process to run in the background, while the user continued to do whatever else they wanted. Since I can’t spawn another process, these plans are shot. 🙁

So here’s what I plan to do for the time being: instead of using two thumbnails (100 x 100 and 640 x 480) and a base image (1024 x 768), I’m switching to one thumbnail (100 x 100) and a base image (800 x 600). It’s not what I had planned, but it’ll have to do for now. Thoughts? Suggestions? Sympathy?

How (Not) to Sell Fast Food

Published on September 5, 2006

I’ve been meaning for some time to comment on several fast food commercials that have been airing on TV. I find each one quite repulsive, and each motivates me to stay away from its respective establishment.

First up is a McDonald’s ad. In it, a team of girl soccer players plays a game on an incredibly muddy field. I guess that the McDonald’s folks are trying to appeal to those who have a thing for mud-covered young women. But what really gets me is what the narrator (one of the girls in the ad, presumably) says. She tells the viewer that she is someone. And not just someone, but someone like you. So, are they trying to say that if you work at McDonald’s you’re a nobody? Or some kind of freak? I’ve certainly never thought that way of McDonald’s employees. While I do consider McDonald’s among the lower echelons of the job pool, I don’t go around each day making fun of those people. It’s sad that McDonald’s own self image is so poor. I guess it’s somewhat deserved, however.

Next up, is any Hardee’s ad that’s aired in the past few years. Hardee’s has tried vigorously to change its image, after suffering incredible setbacks a number of years ago. Their new image strives to be “tough” or “macho.” But, at least to me, they end up being homoerotic. There’s something about listening to two scruffy guys chew that’s just not appealing. I get a major case of the jibblies any time I see one of these. Jibbly jibbly.

Finally are the recent Wendy’s ads. What’s up with the off key whistling that goes on? It’s not musical and it’s incredibly disturbing. I really miss Dave Thomas; his ads were simple and to the point.

I don’t know what it is with ads these days, but the quality has really gone down the toilet. Not that ads were that good to begin with.

Worst Buy

Published on July 24, 2006

It’s time for a rant that I’ve been saving for some time now.

I spend more time these days walking the virtual aisles of Amazon.com than I do the aisles of a brick and mortar store. And I couldn’t be happier. No lines, no travel, and no hassles from the sales staff. But I have become startlingly desensitized to the actual shopping experience. I recently went into the local Best Buy in the hopes of looking at a Canon A620. Not only did they not have a Canon A620, their camera selection was literally worse than the Wal-Mart next door (I know because I drove over there to look).

Immediately upon entering the Best Buy camera department, one of the oh-so-helpful sales staff came up and, unsurprisingly, asked if I needed help. I said no, he said OK, then followed that with something which I have yet to fully understand (he said it all so fast). The only part I truly remember were the words “non-commission.” After realizing they didn’t have what I wanted, I began to wander around the store aimlessly, pondering the Best Buy shopping experience as a whole.

The particular store I happened to visit is surprisingly small. As a result, each aisle is, quite literally no more than 2 or 3 feet wide. Two people can barely pass each other on any given aisle, making it difficult to even browse their merchandise. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more obese shoppers occasionally get stuck, requiring the aid of the local rescue squad and the Jaws of Life to extract them from their predicament.

As I’m wandering around, I casually glance at their CD collection. They have absolutely nothing from my wish list. Which isn’t too surprising, considering that I’m into some rather obscure music. But I’ve been to Best Buy stores in the past looking for the staples, stuff like Abbey Road and Pet Sounds, and they didn’t have either. How shocking is that?

As I’m leaving the store, disappointed in my quest and vowing never to return, a Best Buy manager busily chased after another guy who was also leaving. This particular individual had a bag with what looked like both an item and a receipt, but the manager kept insisting on writing him a citation. If the local police force is turning to Best Buy employees for help, we’re all doomed. Doomed I tells ya!

This final little charade a least brought a smile to my face. Something that the Best Buy shopping experience has never done. Or never will do. Why go to a store that doesn’t have what I want, charges higher prices, is cramped, and has surly employees? Until I can find an answer to that question, I’ll be doing my best to avoid all Best Buy outlet stores. I couldn’t be happier.

Note to Self: Never Pre-Order Again

Published on June 12, 2006

This week, Circuit City is selling Half-Life 2: Episode 1 for $8. You read that right: eight dollars. I paid $17.95, thinking I was getting a “pre-order discount.” Although I am aware that I recently said I’d gladly pay $19.95 again for another episode, I’m afraid that this revelation has changed my mind. Never again will I pre-order a game from Valve. It’s highway robbery, plain and simple.

Another thing that I’m mildly annoyed with is that episodes 1 through 3 are Half-Life 3, according to Gabe Newell. What? So why aren’t they being called Half-Life 3: Episode X? Well, it seems that the folks at Valve screwed up. Things seem to be getting a little sloppy over there. Could this be the beginning of the end? I certainly hope not.

How Digg Punishes Its Users

Published on March 29, 2006

I surf Digg.com nearly every day. And the more I use the site, the more problems I see with it. Granted, the experience has improved over time, but we’re still a long way from perfection. One side effect of the democratic approach to news posting is the introduction of stories not worthy to be labeled news. Sensationalist stories show up there all the time, undoubtedly posted by people who know absolutely nothing about the topic. Recent headlines to this effect include “Autistic or just a geek? Take the test!” and “40+ suggestions for better desktop” (yes, that headline is grammatically incorrect). Do you see where we’re headed?

An internet “test” isn’t news, nor is it a scientific way of determining whether or not you have Asperger’s Syndrome. Likewise, a collection of suggestions for improving desktop software is purely opinion, not news. “So vote against the story,” you say. “It is, after all, a democratic process.”

Well, not exactly.

To “digg” a story, a user need only click once (after logging in) on the associated “digg it” button. But to vote against a story, a user has to click three times: once to open the “problem?” drop-down menu, once to select the problem, and then once on the JavaScript alert that pops up, indicating that the story has been “reported.” Reported? To whom? I thought this was a democratic process!

So, voting against a story requires three times the effort. No wonder so much crap makes the front page. If Digg would make it easier to vote against a story, using only a 1-click process, I predict things would get much better.

Internet Explorer Sucks

Published on December 7, 2005

I’m taking part in a Qt class this week at work, and the only web browser installed on each computer in the classroom is Internet Explorer. And the more I use IE, the more I realize why I switched to the best little browser in the world. While browsing through my web statistics before class, I clicked on a strange referral link (some sort of poker site), and was immediately drowned in a sea of pop-ups. I had forgotten that IE doesn’t support pop-up blocking natively (although it may very well do so in Windows XP – we’re running 2000 here in class). I had quite a difficult time getting out of the site without a million more pop-ups appearing. And the site didn’t even have a link back to my website (so how did that referral string appear in my stats?).

And oh how I miss tabbed browsing! I must have tried to open a new tab at least a hundred times or more. Why anyone still uses the hunk of junk browser out of Redmond is a mystery to me. If you haven’t switched to Firefox yet, please do so today. Won’t you think of the children?

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