27 February 2008

Best Game I've Played In Awhile

Grid 16

Summary: Play 16 simple game mechanics one at a time, constantly switching between them at an ever increasing rate.

How awesome is Grid 16? So awesome. The simple game play and lightning fast recognition and reflexes are reminiscent of Wario Ware, yet you're playing it as a challenge to yourself rather than as a party game. This is a similar concept to something I want to see in GameTap... wouldn't it be cool to use save states to jump between the top ten boss battles among all the emulated games on GameTap? Maybe have a timed score based on how long it takes you to beat all the bosses?

I think so... *wistfully gazes to the future*

Jerry Holkins is One of My Heroes

Today's post at Penny Arcade is both laugh-out-loud funny and heartily poignant.

The back-and-forth argument of PC vs Console is a tired, fruitless effort. It's clear that industry folks and netizens alike are growing weary of the battle. At first glance, Jerry's post has anti-PC sway, but re-reading gems like "hand-built, precision twiddled machine" and "The 1.5 million sales of Orange Box on the console are, to them, something like a rounding error" make me laugh so hard that I know from where his roots grow.

The clash of Jerry and Mike's backgrounds at Penny Arcade will never get old for me, but it's because they make light of what is truly a never-ending crusade of fanboyism, rather than furthering the ridiculous tirades of forums around the net.

22 February 2008

My Ideal Laptop

2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Merom chip
2GB DDR2-800 RAM
120GB 5400RPM HDD, partitioned to OSX and WinXP
nVidia GeForce 8600 mobile
12"-14" screen, 1650x1050 resolution
802.11 b/g/n
~3lbs
<1" thick closed
4hrs of battery life
$850

Where are you, my love?

I've owned a Dell Inspiron E1705 since August 2006 and it has served as my primary personal computer. When I specced it out, I knew it would serve as my gaming PC for at least two years. As such, it is more of a portable desktop in terms of weight, size, and power consumption. Its specifications aren't too far off from what I've listed above... but what I've designed above ditches many of the cumbersome aspects while maintaining flexible computing strength and much improved power consumption. It wouldn't serve as a high-res, high-fidelity gaming PC, but plenty of great games are playable with those specs. (Good PC games are now diverging into two big camps. One for "zomg grafix" and the other for intelligent, fun game design. Go go indies!)

Anyway, the current standard definition of what a laptop should have is dated. Apple is making progress towards the "new portable" that should replace current laptop concepts. More on the future of computing soon.

Edit: Naturally, seconds after I post this, I see this deal on SlickDeals. It's close, but short on RAM speed and size.

Edit 2: Ha, I configured the system to how I would like it and the total came out to $1,337. That is some kind of omen. After the $500 coupon it comes to $837. The timing of this is frightening. The only thing I'm sacrificing from my build up top is the 800MHz RAM (Dell is stuck on 667MHz). If I didn't own a laptop, I would hop on this deal so fast.

Edit 3: Of course it's a stupid idea to spend money on a slightly better laptop to get a smaller size. If I knew I could manually upgrade the RAM to DDR2-800 later, which is super cheap at Newegg, I could get this computer for myself and sell my current laptop to Lisa for very little and give her a sweet upgrade. Decisions, decisions.

Edit 4: OK OK, not buying a new computer that is virtually identical. Even if I could upgrade the RAM, another $100 makes the price less attractive. Whew.

14 February 2008

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm so happy to have a loving girlfriend on V-Day! I decided to surprise Lisa and show up the night before at her apartment. I flew in to Denver around 930pm and took a shuttle up to her place. All the while I was being sneaky and sending her text messages and instant messages as if I were at home getting ready for bed. I stood outside her 2nd level apartment in the courtyard and sent her a picture from my phone of her front door with the message "Look familiar?" Within a minute she came out of her door and saw me down below. It was so romantic and movie-esque!

As a special treat, I brought her some strawberry-frosted donuts with sprinkles from Dunkin Donuts. She has been longing for one a long time since they don't have DD here in Fort Collins. Her present to me was a pack of Skittles that requires some explanation...

We discovered we both had a funny history with Skittles... liking the red and purple Skittles best, sharing them with her dad and me with my mom... So I thought it was sweet when she got me a pack for V-Day. Little did I know there was more to it! Today I'm sitting here on the couch with my laptop and the TV on watching classic romance movies on AMC. I decided to open the Skittles and enjoy. I'm fanatical about looking at Skittles as I eat them so I know what flavors to expect. So I was pleasantly surprised when the first two I pulled out were both purple. Then the two after that were both red. Good start! Then a red and a purple... wait a minute. I looked into the pack and saw nothing but red and purple Skittles. WTF?? At first I thought maybe all the red and purples were on the top, but that didn't make any sense. Then I started looking at the pack, wondering if it was some special order package where you pick the flavors you want... no it's definitely a regular pack of Skittles. How the hell did she get nothing but red and purples in there?! Upon close inspection, I discovered the top of the package didn't quite line up perfectly. Touche, Lisa, touche.

11 February 2008

En Guarde, Part Deux

Tonight was week 2 of my beginners' fencing lessons. I asked David to take a couple pictures of me =)



I sparred with a guy tonight who has been fencing for five years... but was using his right hand due to an injury ("Why are you smiling?" "Because I know something you don't know..."). He went pretty easy on me, but I still got in three good points. It's a small world- turns out he was an old work buddy of the founder of GameTap!

I'm still digging the fencing lessons immensely. I'll have to evaluate how to continue training when my month of lessons is up.

10 February 2008

Do I Need a Calling Plan Anymore?

With all the marvels of my Pocket PC (an HTC 8925), lately I've been questioning whether or not I need true calling service with AT&T. Could I cancel my phone service, stick with just an unlimited data plan, and get by using VoIP for my calls? The monthly savings are tempting, so I decided to research the benefits and drawbacks of using only Skype for calls.

Cost
As of November, I've had service with AT&T to provide 450 Anytime & 5000 nights/weekend minutes and their Unlimited data plan. The total monthly bill is $65 (Time Warner perk). The break down is more or less half phone plan, half data plan. So theoretically, switching to all VoIP would be cost effective for anything less than $30.

Skype Pro costs $3. That's it. You can make calls to other Skype users (worldwide), and to U.S. land lines and mobile phones for $3 a month. If you want to receive calls, too, you'll need a Skype online number for others to dial. Total cost of that (for Pro users) is $30 a year, or $2.50 a month. Yikes. Financially, this is a much better deal.

Usage
The big questions reside around how you use your mobile phone service. Skype has three major limitations: you must be in WiFi or 3G network coverage, no free SMS, and emergency calls don't work quite as well.

SMS... this isn't a deal breaker to me, since you can send SMS for pennies if you need it. MMS should be less affected because any device capable of receiving an MMS can probably check e-mail, too. I know other people who live and die by SMS. Skype is not the service for them.

The problem with making emergency calls, such as 9-1-1, from a VoIP device is that the responders have no idea where you are unless you can tell them. With a cell phone, they can calculate your position with cell towers or look up your carrier and access your address. To make your only phone a VoIP device means taking on a significant risk that you might be in trouble and have no way to contact emergency services.

That leads into the other limitation- range of service. If you aren't in a WiFi hot spot or inside 3G network coverage, you don't have a phone, period. I personally haven't tried to use Skype in an EDGE environment, but the Skype website says 3G is a requirement. 90% of my time is spent at the office, at home, or in the perimeter of Atlanta... so this shouldn't be a problem for me, but I'm still concerned. That first time I'd want to make a call and can't would really tick me off. I wouldn't be out of contact, far from it, and odds are good that I'm with other people who have phones, but it's still a severe inconvenience. Though I suppose to save $25/month, it may be worthwhile.

To summarize, the cost benefit is there in spades. I'm looking at saving $25 x 12 = $300/year. I'm locked into a 2-year contract which expires this summer. Before then, I'll have to give Skype Pro a thorough review. If it passes the test, I'll discontinue phone service in July and attempt to get by on Skype and AT&T 3G alone.

Thoughts?

Tell Me What You Mean

Has anyone else noticed the growing trend of the verbal pause "I mean..."? I first became aware of its use in the speech patterns of my community of friends about a year and a half ago. It seems to have replaced the use of "like" as an opening to a statement or as a pause to collect thoughts and organize a sentence. It's typically pronounced very quickly, but with a drawn out emphasis on the "e" sound. Like any verbal pause, it serves no purpose in communication and adds no meaning to a sentence, yet I'm hearing this phrase pop up everywhere.

It's interesting to think about trends in verbal communication... how does such a trend get started? Why "I mean" ? Did someone start doing it one day and it just caught on?

I know I personally adapt my speech patterns and vocabulary based on the people I hang out with and how they speak. There are certain people who hear me say "oh snap!" and others will hear "hey-oooo!" as a response to the same situation. I'm certain that my use of "I mean..." developed from others using the phrase. It tends to bother me when I hear myself use it, but only because I favor being brief and concise when I speak. Now and then I'll notice a person use it several times in a short conversation and it gets on my nerves =)

For the next few days, set a mental flag for use of the phrase "I mean..." and see how many times you hear it used in conversation.

05 February 2008

En Guarde!

I started fencing lessons yesterday! My folks bought me a month of lessons at a local fencing school that has trained Olympic competitors. I was waiting for February to roll around so I could start with a new beginners class.

I showed up at least a half hour early and bristled with excitement for the class to begin. Most of the students there were long term members and sparred most of the time I was there. Only two other guys had signed up to start that day and they were pretty cool guys. The coach we had was amazing. He's my age, but has been fencing since he was eight. He was a lot of fun to exercise with and get training from.

The class was 1.5hr and we spent about 20 mins exercising and warming up. Then we received 20-30 mins of instruction on stance and moving. Then the rest of the time we spent actually fencing each other!! =)

We even got to fence the instructor to three points! The first point went to the instructor... I didn't even see him move. The other two points went just as fast.

Fencing is amaaaaaaazing! It's great exercise, perfectly safe with the proper gear, very fast, and full of mind games. I'll have to get a picture of me in the gear next week.

p.s. while getting our gear on, one of the new guys says "hey david, when do I get a foil?" david, our instructor, replies "man they aren't foils, they're sabres." to which the guy says "ahhh, foiled again." yes, he said it with italics. and it was hilarious. david didn't think so =)