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I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but a lot of modern (and by modern, I can really go back nearly two decades, which is kind of sad) video games have this annoying tendency to reward failure. When you fail at something, rather than letting you try again until you learn how to succeed, they instead make the game progressively easier. The idea is to prevent people from getting "stuck" and allow them to get to the end of the game. Of course, what it really does is prevent you from learning how to meet the challenges the game has and instead encourages you to simply keep on failing until the game gives up and just lets you win.
I really, really wish game developers would stop with that crap. I want to be given a challenge, the tools necessary to figure out, and then the chance to learn how to meet the challenge. I don't want games to just "let" me win because they've decided I'm too dumb to play them, which in turn is caused by them never giving me a chance to learn to play them properly.
Enough with dynamic difficulty. Enough with rewarding failure.
When the iPhone 4S was released, people wondered why the new iPhone didn't support 4G. The answer is, apparently, that it does, it just wasn't enabled in software. This new update enables 4G support under AT&T. Along with that support comes absolutely abysmal battery life. Since running the update, my phone is now a little pocket-warmer. Three hours after my phone was charged to 100% after updating, my pocket is nearly on fire and the battery is now 50%. So I went looking for a way to disable 4G. You can't. I had to disable cellular data entirely.
But wait, there's more! Does the 4S really do 4G? Nope! It just lies about it.
Which means that the battery issue is apparently a new bug, entirely unrelated to lying about 4G, since the only actual change is that the iPhone 4S claims 4G under AT&T despite the fact that it's using the same 3G connection it's always used.
Of course, iOS 5.1 also claims to contain battery-life fixes that plagued the original iPhone 4S launch. Whoops.
Finally, string-base64 fails. Given the complete lack of debugging utilities for the PS3's browser, I have no idea why.
So I ran a local copy of SunSpider with those three tests removed. The final score is 98 seconds. Keep in mind that this figure is missing three tests.
So, there you have it: Sony's PS3, about as powerful as a second generation iPod Touch. At least when it comes to their browser.
But in any case, after calling up customer service and being put on hold for about an hour, he finally succeeds. But he's still upset. So he complains to his state representative about the process, and his representative then proceeds to push through a law requiring "game service providers" to allow you to cancel online.
I'm somewhat torn. It seems kind of silly, especially because you apparently can cancel Final Fantasy XI subscriptions online. Just don't ask me how. I don't know. Last I checked you had to do it through the game software, which does make some amount of sense if you're playing one of the console versions.
On the other hand, it seems almost like something that should already be a law for any service provided online. If I'm allowed to sign up online, shouldn't I be allowed to cancel online? I already run into plenty of services that allow online account management, but stop short of actually allowing you to cancel online. Instead you have to call up customer support and be put through to an "account retention specialist" who attempts to annoy you enough that you decide it's not worth the effort of canceling. (AOL comes to mind for some reason...)
So why stop at "game service providers?" Why not require anything that can be subscribed to online and managed online to also be able to be canceled online? I mean, the whole point behind this consumer protection law is to prevent companies from basically making it impossible to cancel your contract. You shouldn't have to waste an hour of your time just to stop being automatically billed every month, whether it's for a video game or for phone service.
So iTunes apparently decided to crap out and destroy its own library.
What does it do? It crashes on loading its XML backup, overwrites it preventing me from reimporting it, and then proceeds to wipe my iPod clean.
Leaving me with absolutely no way to restore my playlists. (Which I'd really miss, along with other things I'd like to have like the play counts and ratings.)
You'd think they could import the metadata from the iPod, but of course not. It just deletes everything.
Thanks a lot, Apple.
Thankfully Vista Business/Ultimate aren't useless, as they have a feature called Shadow Copy that automatically backed up an old copy of my iTunes library. (Sadly the interface for Shadow Copy freezes every five seconds for a minute at a time, but hey, at least it works. Well, for the most part.)
So for once, Vista actually saved me from crappy Apple software. What is the world coming to?
Unfortunately this feature is only available on Vista Business or Vista Ultimate. So if this happens to you on a Vista Home edition, you're screwed. On the other hand, if it happens on Mac OS X 10.5, you're saved, no matter what edition you use.
Shadow Copy should be a standard feature. (Especially for people like me who are a little too rm -rf happy.)
Oh well. That's Microsoft for you.
I've been looking into buying a PS3 recently (hey, I need to do something to pass the time before Super Smash Bros. Brawl is finally released...), and I've noticed that the 80GB PS3 seems to be disappearing.
It's no longer available from Best Buy. I asked a blue-shirt at a Best Buy if they had any 80GB PS3s. When they looked it up on the computer, I noticed that the "deleted" flag had been set on its entry. Apparently Best Buy no longer expects to carry 80 GB PS3s.
Other stores still carry it, so it could be that Best Buy is just out of stock, but I think they may know something the rest of us don't. Speculation is that a new 120GB PS3 model will be released "real soon now."
I'm wondering if the new PS3 might be released at the same time Devil May Cry 4 is released. It might make sense, since DMC4 is no longer a PS3 exclusive. They might be able to trick the press into equating DMC4 with the PS3.
Who knows. If we're lucky, and Sony is sane, this new PS3 model will come with a price cut. But given Sony's past, well, that seems to be a bit unlikely.
But I can hope...
Well, partly has to do with the fact that they removed some of the things I listed that I'd want like the email client. But ultimately, it comes to this: largest version is 16GB, and my current iTunes library size is 20GB.
But assuming the next generation iPod Touch has a 32GB version, I'll be grabbing one when it comes out. It sounds like exactly what I'd want. Email support would be an added benefit, but not necessarily a requirement.
With the recent announcement that the iPhone will include a custom YouTube application, my interest in the phone has increased 100%. Or 400%. Or 25%. Or -30%. They all wind up with the same initial and final value.
That's not to say I wouldn't want something like the iPhone, I just don't want the iPhone itself. In fact, if you remove the phone part and just leave everything else, I'd love to have that gadget.
Think about it. Strip out the phone part, and make it into a "widescreen iPod." The current 5G iPods already play video. Add in Wi-Fi, keep the browser and other apps, and you've got a device that can surf the web, read email, play music and videos; all in one handy little package. And, what the hey, keep the camera too. The only thing it can't do is be a phone - which is fine.
I don't want an all-in-one thing for my phone. I'd rather be able to use the phone-less iPhone as an iPod all day, draining its battery, while leaving my real phone to act as a phone, and only heavily drain it when receiving calls. I already don't use most of the extra features of my current phone. (This may seem strange, but my most common use of my phone is placing and receiving calls. Weird, I know.)
So here's hoping that the 6G iPods will be 80GB iPhones minus the phone part. (I'm also willing to lose the camera part for extra storage.) I'd buy one.
After a total of two hours of playing FFXII, I've apparently managed to screw up to the point it's no longer worth playing the game.
Apparently, if you open certain chests in the game, you lose the ability to get the best equipment in the game. One of these chests is very early in the game.
After opening, there's no point in playing any more. Just restart, it's done, you'll never be able to complete the game.
Someone has to explain to me why anyone would want to play a game like that?
I already put off buying this game until I found it in the bargain bin, but with crap like that, I'm already regretting buying it a mere two hours after starting to play it.
Seriously, what the fuck, Square-Enix?!
Mac: I'm a Mac.
PC: And I'm a PC.
Pull out to reveal tubes hooked up to Mac's head.
PC: You OK, Mac? What's with the tubing?
Mac: Oh, it's nothing, just getting read to upgrade to Leopard. Backing up the files in case something goes wrong, standard stuff, really. Unlike your upgrade to Vista, I don't have to worry about going under the knife like you did.
PC: [skeptically] Really?
Mac: Oh, hey, sounds like I'm ready to be upgraded.
Mac walks out of the scene. After a pause, a loud shotgun blast is heard. A New Mac walks into the scene, in the process of putting on Mac's clothing, which has been splattered with blood.
New Mac: Hi, I'm a Mac!
PC: And I'm a PC. Uh, what just happened over there?
New Mac: Oh, nothing much. Unlike PCs, it's easier to just replace a Mac when moving to a new system.
PC slowly backs away from New Mac.
I recently attended a talk on Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle. I'm going to skip the usual Microsoft bashing, and most of the stuff talked about (if you really want to know more about Microsoft's SDL, read the book) and jump straight to the amusing statement made by the presenter.
One of Microsoft's biggest security problems has historically been Internet Explorer. People are well used to Internet Explorer having flaws, with some people going as far as to tell Windows users to use alternative webbrowsers.
One of the aspects of the SDL is that if a product hasn't successfully passed their security tests, they should delay the launch. With the release of Windows Server 2003 almost ready, Internet Explorer still hadn't passed Microsoft's internal security tests. So they had to make a decision. Looking at the target audience for Windows 2003 Server, they realized that the people using Internet Explorer on a server likely wouldn't need to be able to, as the presenter put it, "browse porn," and therefore set the default security permissions such that most websites would break (since scripting was disabled).
So, keep this in mind. If you plan on browsing for porn on Windows Server 2003, you aren't in Microsoft's target audience. You'll have to use a third-party solution for your porn browsing needs on Windows Server 2003.
Also makes me wonder what happened to allow Windows XP to be released if they considered Internet Explorer to be too broken to enable "unnecessary features" on for the launch of Windows 2003, but I said I'd skip the Microsoft bashing...
So I recently switched my work laptop over to Linux, because Windows XP was running incredibly slowly. Now I know that the usual cause of "Windows XP is running incredibly slowly" is simply "spyware" but in this case, it's "corporate required spyware" (Norton Antivirus, asset tracking software, etc.). It's slowing the thing to a freaking crawl.
It turns out that there's an official way you can get out of having to run the asset software and all that other corporate software: run Linux. (This also gets you out of having a supported PC, but I can cope.)
So I installed Debian Testing on it. And the laptop boots much, much faster now. (We're talking a good two minutes to load everything versus something like 20 minutes under Windows. Not kidding.) It runs faster. About the only thing slower is that, for some reason, GNOME feels slower than Windows. (KDE too, but Debian defaulted to GNOME, and I haven't decided to change it yet. Eclipse and Firefox both use GTK+, so, I'm basically just using GNOME software anyway.) But it's really not that big a deal, because minor things like compiling and running the software are faster.
Which brings me to the title of this post. I have two machines on my desk, currently: the 2.2GHz laptop running Debian, and a 3.0GHz Xeon machine running Windows XP Professional. Guess which one boots faster? That's right, Debian gets me to the logon prompt first.
But there's an added bonus. Windows XP hasn't actually finished booting when you see the login prompt. It's still loading crap. By the time GDM starts, Debian has already finished loading all the various services it's running. The Windows XP machine hasn't. It's still grinding away, loading whatever it needs to load.
(To be fair, the Xeon machine takes longer to make it through POST than the laptop, and I'm currently counting POST time. However, if I counted until Windows XP finished loading stuff versus Debian finished loading stuff, it'd still lose.)
In the end, Debian just works better for what I'm doing. The one problem is that I'm missing IE, which means I have to still test things on the Windows XP machine. But other than that, for the work I'm doing, Debian is just flat-out better than Windows XP.
(Ignoring minor glitches, like the fact that Debian doesn't appear to support docking and undocking of a laptop, even with hotplug. Although I may simply not know how to configure that.)
So I'm looking over my Slashboxes, and notice a new little box I don't remember, labeled " Vendors
Apparently, as of today (January 27th, 2006) there is now an official section for Slashvertisements - the vendor section. So far, everything is from AMD.
I wonder how long it will be until those make it to the front page...
Nothing interesting. Just wanted something different at the top of my user page.
Well, after giving up on Linux for quite a bit, I've gotten around to reinstalling Gentoo Linux. I'm using a Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 2.0 Wireless mouse, connected to the USB port.
I'm pleased to report that this time, using a USB keyboard and a USB mouse, I was able to get the system actually working. The mouse actually works this time! Apparently I was using the wrong USB module.
Now all I have to do is get the desktop up and running. But it looks like Firefox is working, so that's all good.
My mouse doesn't work any more. That's odd, because I haven't replaced it since I first installed the system, and it's a standard HID compliant mouse. My USB keyboard seems to be working fine, so I jump over to another virtual terminal and start attempting to fix it.
Well, I succeed in getting X to lock up hard when I restart it. OK, so I can't use the keyboard anymore. So I press the ATX power button in the hopes that Linux would be intelligent enough to trap this interupt and shut down the system cleanly. Nope: it just immediately powers off.
Oh well. So I continue mucking around with the configuration file. I still haven't gotten it to work. There's apparently no "auto-detect" option either - I'm expected to configure my mouse by hand. Uh, right. This is 2004. There's no excuse for me to have to configure an HID complaint mouse. Period.
For comparison, the installation proceedure to install the mouse under Windows 98+ (note: also works with MacOS since like 8 or so):
The same proceedure under Linux:
It's a USB mouse! It's worked in Windows since like 1997! It's not rocket science!
Not only that, but there's no reason I should even have to tell X about my mouse. It's an HID USB mouse - the system should be able to find it and use it with no user interaction - that's the entire point behind HID USB devices! You plug them in and the computer starts accepting input from them - what a concept.
I shouldn't need special drivers. I shouldn't need to configure X to recognize a USB mouse. I can understand if I'm using some random PS/2 mouse that uses a non-standard configuration, but it's a freaking HID-compliant mouse!
So, anyway, I never got to actually use any of the new desktop programs (since, apparently, they haven't bothered with something minor like keyboard interaction), so I have no idea if a working Linux desktop compares to a Windows desktop.
Of course, the fact that to get a USB mouse to work involves editting a random configuration file in
(For the pedantic: note that I cannot confirm that this wasn't really a problem with the way the Linux kernel itself handles USB. It really could be a true "Linux problem" - a problem with the Linux kernel itself.)
If Slashdot hired a site designer to fix the horrendous look and color scheme that Slashdot currently uses. It's actually painful. I've even had a dream about Slashdot using a nice new design, but alas, it never actually happened...
No one uses Netscape 4 anymore. Everyone has access to a better browser than that. We have Opera and Mozilla/Firebird, as well as everyone's favorite, Internet Explorer. Move into the modern web, please, Slashdot, and create a nice, visually attractive site that I don't feel the need to hide every five minutes to allow my eyes some time to rest.
Please, Slashdot, please... fix your design.
Although on a serious note, give us something more than just "ad free Slashdot" for subscribing. Honestly, I don't care about the ads. I don't really notice them anymore. Sometimes I actually am interested in the ThinkGeek ones (although I have yet to actually buy something). The *? Lame. Being able to read stories before they're "posted"? Not enough. (And limiting comments to just my friend list? No one reads this anyway, why would I want to do that?!)
Start a monthly subscription to a "nice" version of Slashdot, and then maybe, just maybe, I'll consider subscribing. As it is, there's really no reason for me to subscribe. Give a monthly subscription for a few bucks with actual reasons to subscribe (a Slashdot e-mail address, access to "special content," added functionality in the posts, infinite mod points in my own journal, anything), and then maybe I'll think about subscribing. As it is, I just don't see a reason to.
Oh, and here's an idea: stop logging me out every five page views. Fix that, and maybe I'll subscribe. I almost lost this journal entry thanks to that.
So I install PlayOnline and start the registration process. I'm most of the way through, and then the program crashes. Why? Well, because I hit ALT-TAB to view another program. OK, so I can't do that. Never mind that any modern DirectX game since DirectX 7 was released should be able to accept losing the graphics context.
After completely the registration process - a second time - and now I can finally start to try and play Final Fantasy XI. OK - it needs to "update" - kinda strange for a game that's been out all of three days, but whatever. I suppose things could have changed since it was RTM. It starts scanning through all 7,200 files, and after ten minutes or so starts the two hour download for all the updated files.
After an hour and a half, I discover that the download has failed part way through. So I restart it, and it has to scan all 7,200 files again. After another ten minutes or so, it continues where it left off, downloads three files, and fails again. Third times the charm, though - it makes it through the remaining 150 files, and finally starts "installing" the update.
So, three hours after I installed the game, I can finally play it. Ignoring the efforts that I made to get onto a specific server, which was my own stupid efforts, I finally get to start playing.
And the fog's backwards. Seriously - everthing near me is grey. I can't see anything except buildings that are far away. Nothing. After fiddling with graphics options for a couple of hours, I give up. (Not to mention the time I accidently logged off by having the gaul to hit the Windows key, which crashed the program because it lost full-screen mode. Give me a break.)
So here I am. I can't play the game because the world is just a giant grey screen with my character in the middle. I go online looking for help, and can't find any. The support is no help. So I have no idea what's wrong. The FFXI benchmark runs fine on my system - the high resolution is a little choppy, but acceptable for a movie (although not for game playing).
If anyone can tell me how to fix this, I'd love to know. Otherwise I just blew $50 and am 30 days away from blowing $14/month.
This is with a GeForce FX 5600 on a Windows XP system, if that matters to anyone. Buyer beware...
Update November 2: Disabling Bump Mapping fixed the fog issues (uh, ok, whatever), and allowed me to actually play the game for all of a minute before my computer crashed. *grumble*
Update November 11: Well, it hasn't been crashing since, and it seems to be a fun game. I'll just have to wait and see...
Update February 14: I've been really bad at updating this - I've been happily playing FFXI for the past four months and haven't updated it in ages. No more crashes - I dunno why.
This is all well and good - BitTorrent is very useful to a content distributer since it moves bandwidth restrictions off of their server and on to those who want the file. It allows people to help share the burden of distributing something.
Unfortunately, BitTorrent is a little too good at utilizing clients bandwidth. In fact, it quite happily takes up all the bandwidth that it can. Since BitTorrent is an "always on" system (since it does uploads/downloads at the same time) it can easily completely fill up an Internet connection up to the bandwidth available on most PCs. Since most new PCs and modern networks use the 100Mbit/s standard, this makes it quite possible for a single BitTorrent user to completely flood most Internet connections.
The average broadband user has an internet connection of around 1MBit/s if they're lucky. Many larger sites (like educational institutions and buisnesses) will have connections with larger pipes, some of which may exceed 100MBit/s, but even if a site has a 300MBit/s connection to the Internet at large all that means is that three BitTorrent users can completely flood that connection. And with sites that require more bandwidth, more users can be expected, easily reaching the critical mass required to completely flood the local network.
To state it simply, BitTorrent is a bandwidth hog just like most other P2P services. And because of this, many sites have found it necessary to block BitTorrent to ensure bandwidth for other uses. (Blocking BitTorrent is fairly simple - you only need to block connections to the tracker, and then the system cannot connect to peers. The site I'm at blocks BitTorrent connections to/from peers.)
This defeats BitTorrent's purpose - actually making it cause the problem it was supposed to solve. (BitTorrent was supposed to allow a server to survive many users wanting the same file - but it instead swamps the local network, acting as an effective DDOS system against all other users on the network.)
The solution can be stated simply: BitTorrent needs to allow throttling. This is not an easy task, a router would need a software update to allow "intelligent" throttling of BitTorrent connections to a reasonable percentage of total bandwidth usage. If it were possible to simply tell BitTorrent that it cannot exceed a given download rate for a given network, then it could be safely unblocked without worrying about it flooding the network. (A given client can set a bandwidth cap for themselves - the problem is forcing all users on a network to set a reasonable cap. Some user will likely decide to remove such a restriction; other users might not know about the restriction when they start using BitTorrent for the first time.)
A better plan then might be to set up a "proxy" for a given network, creating a server on the network edge that handles BitTorrent connections out to the Internet and throttles them to a reasonable amount but encourages peers within the local network to utilize each other and not the Internet link. (This still has the problem of flooding the internal network, but bandwidth on an internal network is usually cheaper than to the Internet at large. This problem can be solved using internal infrastructure.)
The proxy solution is probably the best solution if it can do so transparently. This allows internal connections to remain at full speed and external connections not to flood the system. (At the very least, it creates a "choke point" where BitTorrent connections cannot progress beyond the bandwidth alloted to the proxy.) It also prevents clients from finding ways of circumventing controls on the network, since they are automatically routed through the proxy regardless of their actions.
There is another problem, though: the BitTorrent tracker sends "random" peers back to the client. For the proxy to work optimally, it needs to know about all clients on the network currently linked to a given tracker. This can probably be solved as well, given some sort of smart proxy.
BitTorrent is a worthy project and has a good goal. It is unfortunate that it has an unintended side effect of flooding the local network, and this problem needs solving in some fashion. If it can be done through the client, that would be great. However, unscrupulous people likely would try and maximize the bandwidth they receive, so a solution would most likely need to be forced upon all users so that all clients must obey the restrictions. If this problem is not solved, though, more and more sites will find it necessary to block BitTorrent to prevent their networks from being flooded by only a few computers.