Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All good things come to those who wait

Oh sweet holy of holy holies. Bestoweth upon me with great benevolence your glorious powers of exceptional GPU performance.

How did this happen? Who! What? When?

Was I walking around with my head in the sand all this time? How did NVIDIA manage to sneak this new line of graphic cards by me? I've been fixated on the 8800GTS, GTX, Ultra and Black Pearl, but just yesterday I learned that there's another line of the 8800s coming out. It looks like they just launched.

Insert your dork comment aimed in my direction here.

Why is this so cool? Well, NVIDIA first put out the 8600 series to try and capture the market space that didn't want to fork over upwards of $400 for a card, but the 8600s aren't all that spectacular, especially when considering the new games that are coming out, or when considering the bloated needs of the new Vista OS.

The 8800GT line is going to be the sweet spot for gamers who want the DirectX10 capability (and who are brave enough to be running Vista without SP1), who want to be able to run all their games with high settings so as to take advantage of all the texturing, shading, and steady framerate, but don't want to drop 4 bills to make it happen. Games like Crysis, BioShock, and Unreal Tournament 3 are going to devour older cards. Transistors and subpar boards will lay strewn in the wake of these resource hungry beasts, which, if tamed, will grant the player with an unparalleled experience.

It's not surprising to see that practically all vendors are presently sold out of these cards.

BCCHardware has a great review of the 8800GT compared against the 8600GTS, and Tech Report has another one comparing the 8800GT to the big boys, although I haven't yet seen the card priced between $199 and $249, but from the vendors I've seen it's close.

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus...

Dog Shoots Man

You might've heard of Man Bites Dog, the Belgian film from '92, in which documentary film makers follow the activities of a serial killer. Well this movie has nothing to do with the recent shooting of a man by his own dog. The AP story provides pleasant details, but for some reason it reminded me of another relatively recent 'hunting accident' involving Satan, I mean ol' Dick. Cheney.

In case you didn't see the John Stewart Show in which the eponymous host presented the topic, I highly recommend its viewing.

Accidentally shooting someone in the face. I'm actually not surprised to hear it coming from the man who drops eff-bombs on his fellow politicians. I'm wondering if we can pair up this trigger-happy dog* and our respected veep so the two can enjoy a relaxing pheasant hunt together.

[scene: crossing a stream, the dog and he come upon an open meadow]
(Cheney): What a wonderful effing day. I love bringing death. Sparky?
(Sparky): Woof.
(Cheney): Sparky...what are you doing with that shotgun?
(Sparky): Woof.
(Cheney): (silent confusion permutes to understanding then horror) No...
(Sparky): Woof.
(Cheney): SPARKY!! NOOOOO!!!!!
(Sparky): Woof. (shotgun discharges)
[fade to black]

* I'm aware that dogs are not sentient beings, and although they are completely lovable in all their tail wagging goodness, they would never shoot another person on purpose. Actions such as those are relegated to higher lifeforms such as ourselves. Food for thought or just more reason to love the fact that we have opposable thumbs, which improve our gripping ability on the deep earth tones of the walnut stock on our collective pappy's 30-06.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Crysis Trailer

The gaming gods have been good to us this year, and have blessed us with titles such as BioShock and the Half-Life 2 Orange Box. Next up will the spiritual successor for FarCry: Crysis, developed by Crytek and published by EA. The recent trailer demonstrates the beautiful in-game graphics, which come at a cost.

The specs to run this game are steep:

Recommended System Requirements
OS - Windows XP / Vista
Processor - Intel Core 2 DUO @ 2.2GHz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+
Memory - 2.0 GB RAM
GPU - NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS/640 or similar

Minimum System Requirements
OS - Windows XP or Windows Vista
Processor - 2.8 GHz or faster (XP) or 3.2 GHz or faster (Vista)
Memory - 1.0 GB RAM (XP) or 1.5 GB RAM (Vista)
Video Card -256 MB
Hard Drive - 12GB
Sound Card - DirectX 9.0c compatible

What looks to be one of the cooler features of the game is the Nano Suit. It allows the player to enhance strength (you can knock people 20 feet back with a punch and jump onto rooftops), initiate camouflage, speed (you can run like a gazelle...but you have high tech firearms), and armor (bullets bounce off your suit).

Similar to BioShock, we see how abilities such as this allow the player to dictate strategy and play style using either brute force, stealth, or a symbiosis of the two in order to negotiate obstacles.

I've heard this somewhere else, but soon these games will look so good that we'll be saying the graphics on real life aren't as good as those in the game.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I like this Cheney

It looks like Cheney's recent heart surgery left him with the ability to love, so reports The Onion.

Here he is quoted at a recent GOP fundraiser:
"If the events of Sept. 11 have taught us anything, it is this: We need to learn to love one another," Cheney said. "We are all entwined in an unbreakable braid of human brotherhood. Each of us has something good and special to offer. If we work together, we can make the world into a most wonderful place where we can turn our attention to the truly important things, like snuggling."

During a C-SPAN-televised appearance at the Senate Tuesday, Cheney, in his role as Senate president, announced he had brought doughnuts for everyone, and encouraged the legislators to be more sensitive to one another's feelings.

"I've wasted so much of my life on a mindless quest for power and outright destruction," an increasingly emotional Cheney said. "What about all the sunsets I've missed?"
Amazing what modern medicine can do. Now all we need is Dubya to visit the Emerald City to visit Oz, so he can grant him a brain.

I'm going to miss this administration. They're so easy to make fun of. What's going to happen when we have a new boring and [hopefully] competent team in power? Well...they'll be cleaning up the whole Iraq thing for decades to come (thanks again Dubster! You da man!) and bailing the U.S. out of Chinese coffers (that there Eeracky War is a might pricey!), so we'll undoubtedly have something interesting to talk about, but nothing near as much fun as Cheney's good 'ol shotgun shootin' antics, or good ol' upside down book readin' from W.

Harder Better Faster Sleeper

I need sleep like Kenny Rogers needed Dolly Parton for 'Islands in the Stream'.

Like Burt Reynolds needed Lori Anderson.

Like Oates needed Hall.

Like Michael Jackson needed Bubbles.

Notice the 80s-enhanced comparisons? More on that later...

Sleep. UC Berkeley just finished a study on sleep deprivation. The data suggests that people who don't get enough sleep can suffer various degrees of emotional imbalance.
"It could even help explain road rage, said Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory and senior author of the study, which was coordinated with researchers from Harvard University.

"One of the functions of sleep is to reset and replenish the emotional integrity of our brain circuits so we can approach the day's emotional challenges in appropriate ways," Walker said. "If you don't get a good night's sleep, you'll be making irrational choices.

In the UC Berkeley study of 26 young adults, half of the subjects were kept awake for 35 hours straight and the other half were allowed a normal night's sleep in that same time period. Then all of the subjects were hooked up to an MRI and shown a series of images, some of them disturbing pictures of graphic violence or gory injuries. Researchers monitored what happened in their brains as each image was shown.

When shown the disturbing images, the sleep-deprived subjects had a significant jump in activity in the amygdala, the section of the brain that puts the body on alert to protect itself. At the same time, activity slowed down in the prefrontal cortex, which controls logical reasoning.

Subjects who had gotten a full night of sleep showed normal brain activity.

What this means for most people is that a sleepless night can cause them to overreact to emotional challenges that they would otherwise be able to tolerate with no trouble, Walker said."
This is sooo true for me. If I don't get enough sleep, I become a cranky, nasty, and volatile person. I'm a racecar running in the red, and all I'm saying is that it's not good to have a racecar in the red. I eat sleep. It's my dessert.

I can go for a couple days with a subpar amount of sleep, but if I don't catch up on the third day, I will be evil incarnate. I will intentionally break unopened rose blooms in my neighbor's yard before I leave for work. I will push someone out of the BART train as the doors are closing so they have to wait for the next train. I will fart on other BART patrons and then walk around, further dispersing the stank. Industry insiders call this move 'crop-dusting'. Once I get to work, I will need to drink a carafe of coffee to be mildly abrasive. I'll sit down at my desk, and ignore emails. Instead, I'll register those colleagues for sweepstakes on sites that vomit spam uncontrollably. At lunch, I'll go outside and kick pigeons. Pray I am not in your midday meeting. I'll doodle to keep from launching spitballs on the whiteboard as you draw out some fantastic metadata management model in which global changes can be effected across hierarchies in multiple parent-children structures. Then I will go home, and be a pleasant person because I know that while I'm tired, at least I can be tired in shorts and a tank-top and play with my son and wash dishes used to serve my wife's savory and delicious meal before I lose consciousness at 8:30pm.

This being said, let's sleep on this: the 80s are back.

On my way to work this morning I listened to the new Kanye West album, Graduation Day, which bleeds Al Pacino-Scarface synth undertones. Then I go on the train, and saw this woman dress like Pat Benatar and sporting the Farrah Fawcett feather hair-do. It wasn't Oct 31. This wasn't a costume. She was going to work. She was making a fashion statement. She was telling everyone on that car that the 80s are back, and she was ready for them.

Maybe Kanye will do an 'Islands in the Stream' remix...meanwhile, check out 'Stronger' for more interpolation on 80s flavor (sampled Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why people hate Microsoft

Tons of users out here love Word and Excel. There might be fewer who feel the same way about Visio, Powerpoint, Project, Outlook, Exchange, or Access. But the main reason why people don't like Microsoft, I'm contending, is because the company's operating systems are so crappy that users must postpone adopting a new platform until a service pack AND additional hotfixes are released.

XP had the same concerns. Now it's finally a robust mature service pack 2 plus the additional hotfixes that are rolled out on a relatively frequent basis.

But Vista. Oh man. What's the deal? I was so fired up to take advantage of the DirectX10 graphics and the cool 'aqua' interface (yet another jacking from Apple), and then all the horror stories about the OS started sprouting like mushrooms in Kevin Costner's field of poo, which as you know, is used to fertilize his other, more recognized field.

Computer sellers like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and others are offering consumers the option to buy computers with XP pre-installed instead of Vista. Chortle. What did Microsoft have to say to the issue of the strong demand for XP in the face of the new OS?

"We wouldn't term it strong," said Kevin Kutz, a director in Microsoft's Windows Client unit. "We would describe this as accommodating a certain element who needs more time."

M'kay. That reads as, 'We wouldn't call the smell shitty, but rather we have a certain, and might I add, LAME and ARCHAIC contingent who fail to recognize the beauty of our fecal matter.'

Anyone using Vista? Am I wrong? Did anyone have to request the special hotfix (that's have to REQUEST it) because you ran out of memory while copying files?

What about using the diagnostic tool? Did anyone have any luck resolving the 150 problems that Vista identified?

Walt Mossberg gave it a pretty fair-handed review and I'm sure that Vista will eventually be as good as XP if not'll just take a couple service packs.

It would be nice if there were hotfixes for real life...hmmm...a hotfix for the Bush administration? Actually, the best fix in that case would probably require a reinstallation of the OS, plus prompt updates via all available service packs, and a rehaul of the security measures to include more robust internal auditing measures.

Friday, October 12, 2007

BioShock Complete

I finished it. Just now.

Not the best of endings, but an ending. I'm glad I saved the Little Sisters.

Can I sum the game up in one or four sentences? It's straightforward tale of crafted identity woven into the elaborate tapestry of mankind's struggle for dominance over mankind. You play the protagonist, whose true purpose only becomes evident in the latter chapters of the story. And you get genetic upgrades like telekinesis and the ability to emitt electro-voltaic, fire, and subzero currents from your body in order to assist your struggle. Can you develop Natural Camouflage to allow you to stealth in your strategy: yeah, that's possible.

BioShock's design and 'emergent gameplay' style will no doubt be emulated by others. The replay value alone gives you at least 2-4 playthroughs, as there are different strategies and approaches one can take.

This was by far one of the best games I've ever played, and which spurred my interest in writing a blog entry on IGN's competition to win a copy of the new Orange Box in the Half Life 2 series. BioShock got me thinking about how 'successful' elements evolve from title to title. Check out the blog on IGN and have a think.

Noble Nobel Prize

Dubya will be known as a great president. Great in the sense that:
  • his butchering of the English language was complete and pronounced
  • he consistently marred the global perception of American democracy and liberty
  • his drinking and drug habits rivaled those of coca lords portrayed in Miami Vice
  • he probably did more to widen the chasm between the rich and poor, a more than any other president since Reagan
  • he ushered in a new wave of privacy violations (I'm looking at you Patriot Act and illegal wiretapping)
  • he exuded the general complacency and smug attitude that afflicts Americans, thereby maintaining the status quo, and (it could be argued) accelerated the process of dumbening that we've witnessed in recent years
  • he unswerving demonstrated his lack of interest and responsibility in global warming (remember the 1997 Kyoto Protocol?) and essentially whored himself out to corporate sponsorship and 'market-based' solutions.
I could go on...okay, let's at least honor the wonderful contributions he made to the state of Texas in his 1994 term as governor when he made it legal to carry concealed weapons and supported laws against sodomy. I think this was also the same term in which he so famously mocked the soon-to-be executed Karla Faye Tucker. Classy G-Dub! You da man!

Yes, folks, he was the 'compassionate conservative'.

But you know who was the greatest un/almost-President of recent years? Al Gore. You know the guy who won the popular vote but lost the electoral college votes back in the 2000 election? Yeah that guy. It might've been the best thing that ever happened to him, and to the issue of global warming (eff that politically correct 'climate change' nonsense).

Today Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2006, he won an Academy Award for his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Here he is from Barbara Boxer's fundraising event this Thursday in San Francisco. You can see what he has to say about his nomination, which was ratified today.

It's like the rest of the world is saying, we know, America. We know 2008 and the future years will be better. These past 8 years have been hard on us all, but we know that we're going to be able to get on with our plan to make this place better for everyone, and it's people like this who are going to be instrumental in making this happen.

Friday, October 5, 2007


That was today's headline in my daily email notification from the NY Times.

Null. Null, I asks myself?

Was there an intern at the Times who neglected to update a field in some arcane script that populates the subject line of an email? Was there a solar flare aimed directly at the mail server at the Times? Did Blackwater spew a horrible cocktail of Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears' bathwater all over the MIS group, thus incapacitating the staff with their collective egregious funk and prevented every one of them from pressing the 'Enter' key at a crucial moment? The world may never know.

What is even bigger news is that I won the captioning contest at my work. We get a company-wide bi-monthly email in which a wonderful cartoon by the late great Bill Keane is presented sans caption. Employees are invited to provide a witty comment, preferably relevant to the search industry, specific to the company, and must give the reviewers a decent chortle.

What brilliant humor earned me a $25 GC for iTunes, Starbuck's, Peet's, or a local coffee house? Well here it is...and's dork humor, so put on your dork hat and dork it up, dorky!

I haven't been this happy since I found that handful of Milk Duds at the bottom of my backpack.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

UCB on YouTube

While Keenians may loathe the content of YouTube because (as they see it) it softens truth, allows any slack-jawed yokel to publish his momma fallin' on the kitchen tile while the dogs lick the cake from her limp fingers, and essentially dilutes expert commentary from renowned USC film school instructors who think only they should be able to post such content because only they can enjoy the humor on so many levels, apparently UC Berkeley finds it to be a tool that will help garner more mindshare and promote its innovative and open image.

The school, which "joined" the YouTube community in May of 2006, recently started posting videos of classroom videos. The topics range from biology, physics, intellectual property (IP), comparative literature, chemistry and more. Google co-founder Sergey Brin does a session on search engine technology and IP.

What an awesome way to share polished expert instruction on various topics for anyone with a broadband connection to see.

This means that would-be students won't need to study for the ACT or SAT to gain entry to this prestigious school...ok...I kid...BUT this sharing of intellectual material could be seen as having concurrently enrolled students' tuition subsidizing the cost.

There is no Dana only Zuul

Zuul (a 'real-life' Sumerian god of destruction) being the evil omnipotent internet and all things digital, of course.

Is the obscure Ghostbusters reference throwing you off? Remember in the movie when Bill Murray's character, Dr. Venkman, goes over to Signourey Weaver's apartment and finds that Dana Barrett is possessed? While Dana is in the throes of possession he asks to speak to Dana to which she replies: there is no Dana only Zuul.


Well, the point is that I've finished that Keen book, and have to say that while it raised some interesting and valid points, for the most part I found it to be self-serving sensational hyperbole with an elitist spin. The internet is Zuul.

Keen seems to have a decent understanding of today's internet technology, but only to the point where it serves to bolster his arguments. He falls victim to the same behavior he describes in his book in telling how people only go to blogs that mesh with their ideologies: because they're biased and looking to have their own views reflected back which allows them to reify their contentions or creeds.

I'm assuming this is why he crafted his own blog, but I find it ironic given that he mourned the fact that so many blogs (and splogs) litter the ether, but then comes to the conclusion that he's mature and responsible enough that he can pepper one more on the digital landscape.

With the nature of the internet and digital technology changing so quickly, one major issue he had with regards to privacy are now moot with search companies like leading the way by being the first search engine that will allow users to opt-out of data collection and have that information deleted within a few hours of their searches. Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo are all following suit so that search history can either be eliminated or completely anonymized.

For the most part, he highlights cases where Web 2.0 and the digital age have hurt those who are either lax or uninformed with regards to the permeable and ubiquitous nature of the information economy. He highlights the woes of Wikipedia, and how it's detracting from efforts exerted by experts.

His solutions are mostly common sense:
  1. become better informed on Web 2.0
  2. if you don't like something you see on the internet, then don't visit it again
  3. parents need to rally in order to shield their kids from bad inter-neighborhoods.
  4. if you have a router, you can configure it to restrict access to sites, or you can use software to monitor your child's usage.
  5. don't put personally identifying material on the web if you're concerned about privacy
Bottom line: the tools and information to protect yourself are there.

Now I can finally pick up something interesting from the library, Cormac McCarthy's The Road. For my son, I've got one from my childhood: Island of the Skog.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I'm making good on my commitment

I mentioned a while ago this book, The Cult of the Amateur, by Andrew Keen. I've not been writing much because I'm trying to burn through this thing so I can comment on should I describe it...provocative expose on how the digital age, Web 2.0, the internet are causing a process of cultural retardation.

The basic premise is that the nature of the internet is allowing people to dilute truth, and we are to blame for our own infatuation with ourselves, hence, the cult of the amateur. He raises some valid points about Wikipedia and its 'questionable' editing and (non-existent) vetting process, but then he states that Craigslist causes people to lose their job because of the fewer dollars spent on advertising.

My garage sale posting must've done horrible things for DoubleClick.

I'm withholding final judgment until I finish, but I find it difficult because as I find myself agreeing with some points, for the most part he sounds like an elitist who wields his research like a Protestant orator on the pulpit warning of the fires of hell that will consume non-believers. He delivers bitter tirades on bloggers and his generalist derisions liken them to negligent parents. In his eyes, every blog's link subsequently linked to another blog (aka: an unreliable source of information) muddies the water of truthery as the ensuing circle of misinformation threatens to drown us in confusion and mindless noise.

What's that, you ask? Does Andrew Keen have a blog? Why, yes he does! That magnanimous fellow conveys a upon himself a mantle of praise and humble awareness (he earned his stripes in Silicon Valley, and nonchalantly deemphasizes their significance while simultaneously giving a knowing wink as they offer credence to his tale), while providing links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble where you can buy his books. I think he's secretly jealous of the Daily Kos and is trying to generate swirl for himself.

It's an interesting read for certain, and he does circuitously make the point that you need to be careful about what you find as "fact" on the internets, but for the most part it's a hypocritical and somewhat myopic treatise with periodic nuggets of critical thought.

If you don't like what's out there in the ether, then stay out of those neighborhoods and stay abreast of events from reliable sources. It's like TV. Don't like it? Don't watch it, but stay aware of it...the whole "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" bit. Blurbs from Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of salt...of course you could always see who made the edits before you quote the site's articles in your term paper.

More later. Must finish reading tirade on the evils of YouTube and search engines and how horrible it is that Clear Channel or Viacom, two of the largest communication and media giants that control cultural mediums such as radio, cable stations, movie production houses, internet properties, and more have to "let go" of smaller underperforming stations. It's too bad that a handful of companies can't maintain a stronger grip on the vehicles by which we receive our news and entertainment. I'd prefer that one company have control over all my media because one opinion is better than a varying point of views.

Down J...must...reserve...judgement...only halfway through...maybe he'll start proposing solutions or alternatives as opposed to pointing fingers.