NEWS: “10 Reinvigorating Facts About Microsoft’s Profits”

April 30, 2007

Joe Panettieri writes an interesting article.  Amid all the cries that Microsoft is dead, and that its online services are failing and its gaming console is bleeding the company and Google’s comin’ to get it…

10 Reinvigorating Facts About Microsoft’s Profits
http://software.seekingalpha.com/article/33932


Guess what my guilty pleasure is?

April 28, 2007

Everyone has a guilty pleasure.  For some people it’s watching American Idol.  Some guys like Playboy magazines.  I used to know a girl that liked reading the National Enquirer.  And yet another gal that had a stash of Harlequin novels.

I heart CSI: Miami.  I like the eye candy.  I like the psuedo-science used in the show.  Even with my dislike for Florida (tougue firmly planted in cheek!), I like the Miami scenery.  I like David Caruso’s cheesy one-liners before they play the show’s title sequence.

I think it’s the same part of my brain that loves things like Las Vegas, Sunset Blvd., and videos of people getting absolutely pwned.  It’s banal and silly, but who cares? 

Incidentally, I read somewhere where there’s been a sudden surge in Caruso imitations:  People doing an imitation of David Caruso’s character "Horatio Caine" – here’s the general procedure on "how to be Horatio/Caruso":

  1. Stand up with feet parted by about 9 inches with hands on hips.
  2. Stare down at the floor with sunglasses off in on hand and say just the first part of some cheesy line.  (Jim Carrey’s variation on this goes, "I before E…")
  3. Look up, put on your sunglasses and say the rest of the phrase:  "… except after C."
  4. <Insert the entry music for the Who’s "Won’t Get Fooled Again" here>

THE RETURN OF CARUSO
I actually think it’s kind of nice – that a guy like David Caruso, who effectively tanked his career by leaving NYPD Blue for a failed movie career - could resurrect things with a hit TV show many years later, and totally commit himself to the show, kind of like a grand awakening.  In an interview he did, in TV guide that he’s totally wrapped himself in the Horatio Caine character from how he lives his life to the amount of time he puts into the show to ensure it’s a success. 

And additionally, he dedicates himself to having a successful run on CSI: Miami to ensure that he can enjoy his time with his son, whom he’s apparently ridiculously devoted to.  I believe the quote he said was, "I look at my son everyday and am reminded of how unimportant everything else I’ve been pursuing has been."  I’m sure this was in reference to his prior "aggressive" pursuit of fame & fortune in his acting career earlier in life.

It seems pretty clear to me that this guy’s learned one of the most important lessons in life.


Some Useful Windows Tools or “My Top 10 Favorite Software Products”

April 28, 2007

I just saw some guy who posted his top 10 most useful applications on his blog.  He lists, among them "Mozilla Firefox", "Wallpaper Master", "Eudora", and "Partition Magic". 

Wow.  It struck me that his list wasn’t anything like what I’d list out as my own most useful applications which I suppose goes to show how different people’s interests & priorities are.

MY TOP 10 FAVORITE SOFTWARE PRODUCTS
So instead I compiled a list of my own Top 10 Favorite Software Products in no particular order, however to give you an idea of my mindset, these are the tools in which I say to myself, OMG if I didn’t have this tool, I’d be slummin’ it.  I’ll even write a little explanation of each below.

  1. CCleaner 1.39 & Diskeeper 2007 for Windows Vista (TIE)
    If your PC is slow, you’re gonna be unproductive. 
    I really max out my laptop.  The hard drive’s full, I have memory loaded up, my CPU gets pegged a lot, the NIC is constantly sending and receiving.  And my pet peeve is watching Windows grind to a halt – that happens 3 times out of 4 because the hard drive is creating a bottleneck.  Too much clutter, too much fragmentation, too much space unnecessarily used.  Ultimately, degradation in performance of my PC is the biggest timewaster for me.
    Enter CCleaner which upon every boot, clears out the Temp folders of all major applications, IE temp directory, any dump files or installation turds, cookies, etc. etc.  It’s the ultimate free housecleaner.  Then after finishing the housecleaning, keep everything organized for fast access on your hard drive by continually defragging the file system using Diskeeper 2007 for Windows Vista.
    (Note:  In all fairness, I might also add Raxco’s Perfect Disk 8 which is another really great defragging product.  It’s just that Diskeeper’s folks sent us copies first and thus their product got installed on our new Windows Vista laptops before I ever tried Perfect Disk so I just haven’t had the time to do my own personal little shootout between the two tools but I can tell you that their previous product for Windows XP was pretty awesome.)
  2. Applian Replay AV 8.1 & ZuneIT
    I hate having to be "online" to do research or learning… because when you’re in a car or on a plane, that’s not really an option.  (Although the short lived Internet service on Boeing airliners was sooooooo cool.  Oh I wish they’d bring that back.) 
    Replay AV in a nutshell allows Windows Vista to record & convert any non-DRMed video you find on the Internet or interally on your corporate LAN. (Real, Windows Media, Quicktime, or Flash)  In other words, if you ever want to view a seminar, a LiveMeeting/WebEx, or a broadcast offline or you want to archive it for rebroadcast later, this is the tool for you.  I personally depend heavily on this tool to watch internal presentations & seminars when I’m not connected to the corporate network.  And it works with Windows Vista.
    And ZuneIt falls into the same category.  It allows the archival of content from any number of video sites for offline review by downloading the content in the background and converting it to Windows Media .WMV files in the background.
  3. SlingMedia Player for Windows Mobile
    What?  A TV playback tool can’t be "the most useful" tool you have!  Au Contraire – let me explain.  Imagine sitting next to an executive from one of your customers, and he’s using a Blackberry to read mail.  Now imagine showing them RSS Feed reader on your Windows Mobile device… access to a Sharepoint portal site…. a executive broadcast of Steve Ballmer using Windows Media …then capping it all off with live TV from your DirecTV dish at home.
    Yep.  It’s that effective.  SlingMedia is a closer and it works… it really does.  Not to mention it lets me watch "Heroes" while I’m eating lunch in the commissary of my customer.  <grin>
  4. Deepnet Technologies Blackjack Counter
    I like tools that help me make money.  Even in my spare time.
    A guy named Dan Pronovost wrote a series of applications that allow you to "train" yourself how to count cards in Blackjack, leveraging multiple systems and multiple strategies.  It has the original Thorp HighLow system along with Ken Uston’s count and it even has multi-level counting with the appropriate indicies if you’re really that good.  You can buy Knockout and a few other systems to plug in for a $10 fee each.
    This is a helluva application because it’s available for both Windows & Pocket PC and it’s both a trainer as well as a simulator.  And they support Frank Scobelete’s Speedcount:  An amazingly easy to learn counting system that is far an away better for beginners than any other counting systems I’ve ever seen.  Heck – it’s probably better for a lot of experienced folks being that it doens’t burn out your brain like HighLow can… but I’m not Stanford Wong, so what do I know.
  5. RemotelyAnywhere LogMeIn Free
    Some of the best advice I’ve gotten came from Steve Wynn of Bellagio fame at a recent talk he did at UCLA, and it goes something like this: 
    "Always stay in control.  Always be ready to take complete control on a moment’s notice.  Don’t let anyone else determine your fate."
    Have you ever wanted to be able to remotely control ANY of the 5 or 6 computers in your home from work over a dynamic DHCP cable connection?  Have you ever wanted to be able to provide tech support for your Mom and Dad’s home computer through their PPPoE DSL connection? 
    Enter LogMeIn Free.  This is a free remote control tool+service that you install on PCs & secure with a password.  Every time the computer boots up, it registers with a central directory on the Internet and it’s this registration that enables you to connect to any one of a set of remote computers BEHIND NATTED FIREWALLS & ROUTERS for free.  No other product provides this for free and in fact, it’s so convenient, it’s crazy:  All the machines you have access to are listed on a web page on the Internet and are remotely controllable simply with a mouse click and a password.
  6. Microsoft Foldershare
    Computers are supposed to do work for you, so why should I have to access a remote computer to get a file?  Why should it have preemptively brought the file to me the night before?
    Imagine being able to dynamically & on-the-fly synchronize any folder to any other computer you own and imagine this works across port 443 (SSL) meaning it’ll penetrate most firewalls.  Now imagine this synchronization working bidirectionally so that a change on any one of the computers in this group of PCs will automatically replicate that change to all the other computers – peer-to-peer.  Now imagine it’s free.
    That’s Foldershare.  It’s a piece of software that loads at boottime and it keeps any folder you want in sync with any other folder on any of your other PCs… at home or at work or both.  It’ll keep your "Internet Favorites" in sync across all machines.  It’ll keep your My Documents in sync across all machines.  It’ll keep your Music, cookies, Outlook PST files, Word dictionaries, etc. all in sync across all your computers.  All you have to do is set it up.
  7. DUMeter & Network Utilization Gadget (TIE)
    I’m one of those people that likes to know what the heck’s going on with my computer and one of the things I’m constantly asking is, "Am I getting any I/O over my network connection?  Is it working?"  If I run IE, I expect to see some network traffic and if IE’s slow to respond, I question if it’s the web site, my workstation, or my network config itself.
    DUMeter (for WinXP) is a tool that loads at boottime that tells me in a little windowed histogram if I’m getting any network I/O up or down.  the Network Utilization gadget (for Windows Vista) is probably just as good and it’s free for Windows Vista users.
  8. Spacemonger 1.4
    Have you ever asked yourself, "Where the heck did all my disk space go to?"  Usually it’s occupied by just a few folders containing either a LOT of data or a few individual files that take up a LOT of space.  Sean Werkema’s Spacemonger give you a heatmap so to speak of your hard drive.  It visually maps out your entire hard drive and represents directories & files with rectangles of proportionally large sizes relative to their actual byte size.  It gives you the ability to drill down into directories and delete files & folders that are no longer necessary.  Having free hard drive space is so important to the performance of your computer, this tool is an absolute dream to have available and the 1.4 version is free.  I’ve used it for probably 5 years faithfully and it’s a good piece of software.  There are others but this is lightweight, requires no installer, and is free.  (Note:  I bought the 2.1 version of Spacemonger which is NOT free, however I really don’t use it.  I bought 2.1 exclusively to show my support of Sean’s work and the value I’d gotten out of Spacemonger 1.4.  In fact, I wish we’d just acquire his technology, make him rich, and build it into Windows.  I just wish he didn’t seem so anti-Microsoft at times…)
  9. Microsoft Outlook 2007
    Yeah, this might seem like a colossal "duh", but Outlook 2007 gets the official G4TV XPlay designation of "bitchcakes" from me.  Outlook 2007 is my life.  It contains all my business information and it’s the center of my communications with my friends and clients.  It’s fast, it’s flexible, and it’s intuitive.  And it’s a favorite of mine for certain.

    Here’s just 7 of the reasons I love Outlook:
    - NO VPN NECESSARY:  It can securely access a corporate Exchange mail server without a VPN using RPC over HTTPS.
    - DELEGATION:  It’s got delegated access to calendars, inbox, etc.. NO ONE ELSE provide anywhere near the support for delegated access that Outlook 2007 does.
    - FORMS:  It’s got standards-based XML forms!  It integrates with Infopath to enable you to send forms for other people to fill out directly within email and have the results exported into Excel or a SQL database!  Bitchin’!
    - ADDONS:  It’s got a TON of software addons & 3rd party support & it’s easy to program because it’s so extensible.
    - POSTMARKING:  In a phrase, postmarks protect you from SPAM.  Postmarks are computationally intensive calculations that have to be executed on the sender’s machine relative to the content of an email, and if you receive an email that has a postmark in it (the results of the calculation), you know that the email is not likely SPAM because it took a lot of CPU power to create the postmark.  The end benefit is that Outlook users can send and receive email amongst each other without getting their email thrown into JunkMail.  Spammers aren’t likely going to try to postmark their SPAM because it would be too inefficient.
    - RSS SUPPORT:  Keep up to date with the world by using RSS, but have the content downloaded for reading on an airplace while having it indexed for rapid content searching using Windows Vista Search.
    - RIGHTS MANAGEMENT:  Wanna make your email self-destruct after 30 days?  Wanna make your email unforwardable?  Wanna prevent people from cut-and-pasting or printing out your email?  Wanna keep an emails contents internal to the company, never to be forwarded externally?  Outlook’s Rights Management makes that possible.
    I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better mail personal information manager out there.

  10. Zagat-to-Go 5.0 for Windows Mobile
    Have you ever been in a new city and wondered, "Hey – I wonder where there’s some good eatin’?" 
    The Zagat-to-Go application is a program that installs on your Windows Moblie Pocket PC or Smartphone and allows you to sort through the best restaurants in a given city.  The ratings work just like sorting an Excel spreadsheet – even with the 1000+ restaurants in Los Angeles, and all the contact information you might need is in the database.  And the databases for every city are downloadable and updatable as they get revised… all over the cell connection on your Windows Mobile phone.  It has maps, phone numbers that dial straight from the interface, it adds contact information to Pocket Outlook, and it even allows you to add your own notes to each restaurant. 
    It’s great for the person that’s on the road a lot.  Or the chowhound.

BTW:  I have to give that first guy props… on his list of Top 10… he went to "11" just as BBSpot does in tribute to Spinal Tap. <grin>


Xbox 360 Revenue Streams

April 27, 2007

I was reviewing a Powerpoint that a co-worker of mine put together and I noticed an interesting slide in there with some stats that I wasn’t aware of.  It was on Xbox Revenue Streams… i.e. where does Microsoft get and/or plan to get it’s revenue from on the Xbox product line.  Here it is:

  1. Game license revenue
    1. 4.5 games sold per console in the US
    2. Xbox library = 825 games and growing
  2. Downloadable content
    1. 24 million pieces of content downloaded from XBox Live
    2. Content providers = CBS, Viacom/MTV, Paramount, Warner Bros, Lionsgate
      (and he left out several others including NBC, ABC, FOX, Comedy Central, UFC, WWE, etc.)
  3. Subscription fees & points
    1. 57% of Xbox 360 owners connect to Xbox Live, up from 10% of XBox "Original" owners
    2. 3 billion hours of online gaming
    3. 6 million members by June 2007
  4. Add-on hardware
    1. 2.9 accessories sold per console in the US

And then there was this slide:  FUTURES (as in future revenue streams)

  1. Massive
  2. Microsoft Casual Games/Games for Windows
  3. Live Anywhere
  4. Microsoft TV

I’ll explain these latter 4 in another post when I have time but it is very exciting from a Xbox-supporter perspective, because the more money Xbox 360 makes, the more successful it is and its success feeds on itself in a vicious circle.

  1. Microsoft provides seed money to Xbox to R&D consoles & games.
  2. Consumers initially buy consoles & games.
  3. The more games & consoles are bought, the more developers are willing to invest in and create more games.
  4. The more games availble, the more valuable the console is to consumers.
  5. The more consoles & games sold, the more profitable Xbox is to Microsoft
  6. The more profitable it is, the more money Microsoft invest in Xbox to grow its capabilities for consumers, to make developers more powerful, and to compete to stay ahead of other consoles.
  7. Consumer buy more games; developers write more titles
  8. Go to step 3.

Something to save in the” WTF” folder

April 26, 2007

Nuff said.


INFO: HD DVD vs. Blu Ray – a Feature Comparison

April 20, 2007

I wrote this up a while ago in response to some moron that was spewing inaccuracies about HD DVD relative to Blu Ray.  The content has floated around the Internet a couple times so I figure I might as well post it on my own blog.

Bear in mind that I don’t actually CARE in a religious way one way or the other which "company" wins.  I just look at the two specs and see that from a consumer standpoint, it seems very clear to me that Toshiba’s HD DVD standard is by far and away a much better collection of functionality than BluRay in providing high quality video and more interactive capabilities.

———————-

Technical Differences Between HD DVD & BluRay High Defnition DVD formats:

1) CAPACITY
HD-DVD will be 30GB. Sony has openly admitted that Blu-Ray discs will continue to be published on 25GB platters for numerous movies, 50GB for others.

2) LAYERING
This is an important point:  HD-DVD will support playback ‘layering’.  This means that motion picture directors will be able to talk about a movie while it’s playing, and highlight (or "tellustrate") ON SCREEN things going on, like mistakes, bloopers, or rendering errors in computer animation. They’ll also be able to play two movies side-by-side to show two different cuts of a movie in-synch to make better use of film takes.  Or they might have a movie reviewer or commentator talking in a "picture-in-picture" window at the bottom right hand corner of the movie, "layered over" the movie itself.  Or maybe you might want to show a map in a little window on screen that shows where geographically, the scene is taking place.  (Fast & the Furious Tokyo Drift for example, provides a GPS navigation "window" at the top left corner of the screen to show the viewer where the cars are in Tokyo as they drift throughout the city)  BluRay doesn’t support any of this.

3) DUAL FORMAT DISCS
HD-DVDs can be produced easily to support the older MPEG1 format of a standard definition movie on one side of the platter and the newer High Def version on the opposite side.  This is known as the "Combo Format" and is prominently labelled on many HD DVD’s.  BluRay can not do this and thus, you never see this "Combo Format" label on any of their disc cases – even though the cases are similar.

4) PLAYER PRODUCTION
HD-DVD has been churning out production units successfully. BluRay has been suffering from production problems because of the accuracy needed for the blue laser and the purported, increase storage. Production problems = higher costs & later release = fewer playerssold = fewer discs sold.

5) DISC PRODUCTION
Because of the new laser in BluRay, discs must be thinner and are more prone to production problems, meaning fewer discs off the production line will be functional. Additionally, duplication accuracy will be diminished in BluRay for commercial movies. HD-DVD uses the same relative technology as today’s DVDs resulting in no increase in production errors.  This is a very important point because it’s one of the reasons BluRay discs are more expensive to produce and thus, publishers are less committal to the format.  For example, the Adult movie industry announced that because of the higher cost and difficulty of publishing for BluRay, they would be publishing only to the HD DVD format.

6) MENUING
HD-DVD uses iHD, a menuing system based on DHTML which is a lightweight definitive specification for interactive presentations ("menus" similar to web pages on the Internet) that can be guaranteed to be implemented on every HD-DVD player through strict standards. HD DVD publishers can absolutely verify with complete certainty that every HD DVD disc they make will play in every HD DVD player produced.  On the other hand, BluRay requires the usage of a flavor of Java called JEM that because of the varied implementations of Java on players depending on licensing, it will be impossible to guarantee that a BluRay disc’s menuing system will run on all players.  For those that doubt the importance or accuracy of this statement, all you have to do is wait.  Right now as it stands, people are paying a premium for both HD DVD & BluRay players (even though HD DVD players are substantially less expensive) and thus Java licensing costs aren’t a factor.  However as the platforms evolve, it’s easily foreseeable that as cheap players are released from China, Taiwan, and Korea, cost of goods shortcuts will be made – one of which is the Java license fee.

7) MANAGED COPY
This is a HUGE point. While there are more studios signed up for BluRay than for HD-DVD, this is pretty irrelevant:  The studios will publish to whatever format people are buying. What’s WORSE for BluRay however is that Fox Studios has demanded a higher level of DRM protection than what is available in the BluRay or HD-DVD spec.  BluRay caved in and said they’d do it making managed copy a virtual impossibility, while HD-DVD has not. This means among other things that HD-DVD will enable people to copy and play their movies through stored copies on Home Video Servers, Portable Media Players, Home computers, etc. while it is extremely unlikely that BluRay will.

8) RELEASE DATE & COST
HD-DVD will definitively release their player through Toshiba at $499 and $799 in March 2006.
BluRay is supposed to release their first player in May 2006 through Pioneer at $1,800 however it is very likely that that release date will slip.
UPDATE:  Since releasing their players, standalone HD DVD players are now going for as low as $329.  And the Xbox 360 HD DVD Player is $199.  In contrast, even the cheapest BluRay Players remain at $489 and the Sony Playstation 3 while having wider distribution than standalone devices, has a $599 pricetag on it along with having only 2M devices sold.


The XBox 360 kiosk in the Taipei train station (or “Why I love our company”)

April 12, 2007

No.  Seriously – I do.  I love this company. Everytime I start to get down from all the terrible, snide remarks people make, the industry critics, the religious technology zealots, the Macintosh users I deal with (although at times, all 4 of these could be one in the same) something happens to make me smile and remind me of why I love this company.

My best friend, Ted, is in Taiwan right now.  He’s taking a vacation to see what life is like back home (he was raised in Taiwan for most of his childhood) and he started taking photos of the Taipei train station.  Yes, you read that right:  All this Xbox 360 stuff is located at the Taipei train station. 

What’s more, this is apparently our spokesperson there.  

She’s a walking billboard.  I believe she’s got the words "XBOX 360" plastered on every piece of clothing she’s wearing.  And judging from what Ted writes, it sounds like even the photo doesn’t do her justice.

It reminds me of the days when we marketed Windows 3.0 to Comdex attendees in Las Vegas by buying the advertising on every cab in the city and bribing every hotel cleaning employee to use a specially created pillowcase with the Windows logo on them on their guests beds when they changed the sheets.

Guerrilla marketing.  Except this time it’s in a train station where we have a captive audience.  And we have a beautiful girl doing the pitch.  And as you can see by the crowd in the picture above, it works. 

Man, I love this company.


BBS: The Documentary & the “ARC vs ZIP” Compression War

April 11, 2007

I think most computer users have no idea where ZIP files came from, the terrible war behind the ZIP standard we know today, and how it evolved.

It’s chronicled in an incredible documentary called "BBS:  The Documentary".For those of you who didn’t get to see this amazing documentary, (I ordered it as soon as I heard about it) it’s really, really good. If you were at all part of the "BBS revolution" back in the 80s, you’ll really smile when you see some of the topics they go over like Fidonet, PCBoard, Mustang Software, 2600, X/Y/Zmodem, Operation Sundevil, etc. They even talk about Blue Boxes, Phrack Inc., and the FBI’s arrest of Knight Lightning.

AMAZON:  http://www.amazon.com/BBS-Documentary-Jason-Scott/dp/B0009NN6EA/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-9630540-7928131?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1176340357&sr=8-1
($50 for a 5 disc DVD set)

ARC VS ZIP
Again, one of the stories is the epic battle between ARC and ZIP (aka SEA vs Phil Katz). The back story on this fight is a really interesting tale about intellectual property theft, smear campaigns, and ultimately things I didn’t know about that era until I saw it. Fortunately, Thom Henderson, one of the 3 people that made up SEA and the creator of ARC, was interviewed for the documentary and talked about the issues he had with Phil Katz (who BTW died in 2000) and the way things happened.

Thom Henderson also wrote a small story about his thoughts on the ARC vs ZIP battle and Phil Katz here:
HTML: http://www.esva.net/~thom/philkatz.html

VIDEO CLIP
Additionally, the ENTIRE video portion of the ARC vs ZIP documentary is available for download in .WMV in case you want to see what the 3 DVD disc set of "BBS: The Documentary" is like. The video is 20 minutes long and certainly worth viewing for no other reason than personal education.

And if you were truly around during the early days of bulletin board systems when file swapping & FidoNet were the norm, you’ll likely think fondly of this time.

 

DOWNLOAD: http://www.esva.net/~thom/arczip.wmv


Microsoft employees are a-buzz about Guitar Hero 2

April 6, 2007

We have discussions internally within Microsoft about products on specific discussions lists just as any company does (although we’re quite liberal about it – we have discussion lists for everything under the sun.  Discussion lists for Xbox owners, discussion lists for Verizon Motorola Q owners, discussion lists for graduates of UCLA, discussion lists for marathon runners, discussion lists for musicians… etc. etc.) and one of the bigger topics recently on the Xbox discussion lists has been Guitar Hero 2.

There’s so much glee around this game, I think we’re going to overload the Exchange Servers.  Here’s a sampling of some of the chatter I’ve read about Guitar Hero 2 on Xbox 360:

My only complaint is that after I play for an hour or two, I look away from the TV and my vision continues to scroll. The first time it happened I thought “Hmm… that’s probably not good. I should stop. … Nah, it will probably go away when I fall asleep. Just one more song.”

—————–

<nothing else – just this photo>

http://img255.imageshack.us/img255/3836/nostairway1xi.jpg

—————–

Me and my lady have been playing it all afternoon and it’s fantastic.  She actually turned on the home theater to play by herself….that’s a huge milestone!

—————–

Why don’t the credits mention how easy this game is after a bottle of gin?

However, who out there is really playing this game in expert mode? Come on now. Expert mode is stupid and ridiculous, as in if you can pass expert mode and don’t play a real guitar you are stupid and ridiculous.

—————–

Your brain just needs to get the hang of processing the information.  What’s really interesting is when you realize that you’re no longer even seeing them as just notes but as entire patterns, and you’re not even thinking about it, just doing it.

—————–

You do know that hammer-ons and pull-offs can only be done on certain notes, correct?  The ones without the black lines around the top of them can be done that way – the rest cannot.

—————–

I then went by the Fred Meyer in Totem Lake and picked up a couple controller extension cords (6” if you’re in Spinal Tap, 6’ for the rest of us) for $5.  Useful for those of us who are too old to rock standing up and need to use the couch.

[...a moment later, someone else posted...]

Speaking scientifically, it’s impossible to “rock” while sitting on the couch.

—————–

Yes, and all the Audio settings go to 11. There are some really nice touches in the game.


And yet another reason not to buy a Playstation 3

April 6, 2007

Tilt axis motion is coming to the Xbox 360.  So to get gyroscopic tilt motion control, all you need to do is get this add on.

On the upside, this is going to be a great add on that won’t add any cost to the existing Xbox 360.  If you want it, you can get it, and it’ll implicitly work with any games that already use the joystick for controls. 

The downside is that there won’t necessarily be any games designed specifically for it.  But then again, there really aren’t any games specifically designed for the Sony PS3 SIXAXIS controller as far as I know.  Not in the same way that the Wii has games designed for it.

THE OG GYROSCOPIC CONTROLLER:  THE SIDEWINDER FREESTYLE PRO
For the record, Microsoft had a gyroscopic game controller LONG BEFORE Sony Playstation or Nintendo Wii did.  We just developed it for Windows and it was called the Sidewinder Freestyle Pro that works with your hand/arm movement.

So no, Nintendo can’t possibly have a patent on gyroscopic game controls, being that we released the concept before they did.


The one thing PC users can do that Mac users can’t… and other recent web sites

April 6, 2007

I arrived at work this morning and as I’m checking my mailbox, our mail clerk says, "Hey – you gotta this out."

The One Thing PC users Can Do That Mac Users Can’t
http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=macs_cant

OMG… laughing… too… hard… can’t… type!  If you think that’s funny, try reading the comments left on YouTube around Maddox’s videos.  It’s priceless!  I’m gonna be in a good mood for the rest of the day.

————————

Week of Vista Bugs
If you think that’s good, check this one out:  Recently a web site popped up called "The Week of Vista Bugs" which purported to release one Windows Vista bug every day for a week to prove it’s falliability.

So of course the irresponsible participants of the media crossposted it like the lemmings they are.  It seems that even some of the most reputable news sources are willing to cross post and talk up anything that might cause controversy in the name of clicks and subscriptions.

And that’s exactly what this site was apparently trying to prove:  The media has an irresponsible glut of reporters and bloggers that are willing to post anything without verifying the accuracy of their claims or do any sort of research to validate a source. 

In an explanation of what they were trying to do (out the media), they reveal the site as a hoax:
https://www.securinfos.info/english/the-week-of-vista-bugs-the-truth.php

Judging by the cross linking, I’d say they were QUITE successful.  You have morons at certain big publishers who just HAD to post something about the site in their blogs and articles, then see them scrambling to blurt out after being outed that, "Yeah well, we knew it was a fake." 

So if it was test of the media’s credibility, and it’s something that they don’t want to encourage for fear of perpectuating the idea of "pentesting" the media, why the hell did you write about it then?  Because to them:

CREDIBILITY < CLICKTHROUGHS


In Memoriam: Richard Jeni – Comedian

April 5, 2007

I was watching Carlos Mencia’s Mind of Mencia – it was his season premiere and despite all the hub bub about his joke stealing, I still have to watch because… heck, it’s comedy.  Anyway, Carlos signed off the episode saying to Richard Jeni that he knew that he was up in heaven making God laugh.

I stood up and said, "Wh… wha… WHHHHAAT?"

I quickly typed in RichardJeni.com, a web site that I’d visited several times before… just not recently… because I really loved that guy.  I would without hesitation say he was probably my favorite comedian of all time.

Richard Jeni passed away from an apparent suicide.  And for the first time in a very long time, while reading the words that his family placed on his web site, I cried quietly.

HOW I KNOW RICHARD JENI
Richard Jeni, as I’d said before, has been my favorite comedian.  And it’s more than just because he was a hilarious guy & a brilliant performer.

In 2000, Microsoft had our annual national sales meeting in Miami.  It was an hot, poorly run, unremarkable event, and frankly one of the reasons I to this day hate Florida.  The convention center was overcrowded, the clubs were pretentious and being that I was from out of town and had no hook up, it took C-notes to get into anywhere worth getting into, and even then, it wasn’t enough without the right look or the right crowd.

But there was one thing that I’ll always remember:  Richard Jeni opened the final night of our event.   We’d hired him to do 30 minutes of stand up in front of 7000 people – 7000 people drinking, talking, eating… did I mention drinking?  And he was supposed to grab everyone’s attention and get people in the mood to party.

Let me put this into perspective here:  These are 7000 Software Salespeople.  This has got to be a comedian’s nightmare.  I mean, first of all, half the crowd’s a bunch of geeks.  The other half are slick salesfolk that are more raucous than the average frat house.

But Richard started doing his latest material and got the crowd laughing.  And laughing.  And laughing some more.  Finally, the audience was fixated on him as he ripped a hole in Los Angeles natives calling them vain and pretentious, which frankly left our geography all in stitches, being from Los Angeles.  He left the stage to thunderous applause and the show went on.  We didn’t see him again for the rest of the event.

HUH?  SO HOW DO YOU FIT IN?
Well, on the way back to Los Angeles, I found myself in an airport eatery near my gate.  I’d ordered some snacks to eat and was waiting in line to pay for it all when I noticed an individual a little taller than me with dark sunglasses on. 

"Uh, excuse me?  Are you Richard Jeni?"

He smiled, took the glasses off and said, "Yeah… yeah, I am."  I muttered something embarrassing about how I was a big fan, and asked him about whether he was on his way to LA too, and he said that he’d just finished doing a corporate "gig" in town and was going back home.

"Oh!  Yes, I know – I’m with Microsoft and I was at your performance!  It was absolutely fantastic."

He said, that he was glad I liked it.  It was an easy set for him and he thought it went pretty well.  Then he said:

"Hey – do you want to sit down with me?"

A CHAT WITH THE PLATYPUS MAN
Now, this is what threw me.  Most actors & entertainment folk I know, would have just gone off on their merry way and thought to themselves, "Another fan.  Whew.  Glad I didn’t have to take too much time with him."  (In fact, I ran into someone recently of D-list fame that really didn’t want to give me the time of day and seemed quite annoyed that I’d recognized and dared to speak a word in public to him)

But not Richard.  He actually wanted to talk to me.  And little did he know at that moment, how much that meant to me.  Y’see, I’d been following Richard Jeni since I was in college – which was a lonnnng time ago.  He used to have bits on Short Attention Span Theater on Comedy Central where they’d show maybe 2 or 3 jokes in a sequence of 30 seconds then switch to another comedian.  (Hence the Short Attention Span part.)

I watched so much of that SAST stuff, I knew his early stand up very well.  And I also knew he had a TV show that was cancelled called, "Platypus Man".  The premise was simple:  Man was awkward and evolved from different experiences.  He is ridiculed for being out of place and odd looking and that’s very much like the platypus.

In any case, I asked him if he minded doing corporate gigs like ours and he said that it was actually something he liked to do because it was easy money and he just had to do his bit once and that was it.  Fly in, perform, fly out, that’s it.  (I later discovered that he REALLY liked corporate gigs – his schedule was littered with them.  He must have had a helluvan agent!)

I don’t think Richard wasn’t quite prepared for my "reiteration" of his earlier bits.  Mid sip of my coffee, I launched into a recitation of one of his earlier bits about how flight attendants sometimes translate instructions into multiple languages on airplanes and how they constantly say the words, "At this time" after and before every sentence they say.  It’s like a filler phrase they use to prep themselves for the next thing they’re going to say to the cabin.

Richard seemed delighted that I remembered that bit – so much so that we started doing the bit together("… por favor, kiss your butt, buenos noches"), vocalizing each word together and concluding with "AT THIS TIME".  And we both laughed at the absurdity of two middle aged guys telling each other one guy’s jokes in the middle of a cafe.

Our flight had arrived, and so we got up to leave.  I bid my farewell to him and told him I’d look him up at his next gig which you’d always see on http://www.RichardJeni.com

I NEVER DID SEE THAT SHOW
I was supposed to see him a gig he was doing in the South Bay, but I never made it.  I was really disorganized then and I just forgot about it.  I wish I’d gone.

So now Richard’s gone. 

I’ve got a rather cynical view of most entertainers.  My experience with them hasn’t been particularly good.  I’ve supported entertainment companies for a long time as a salesperson and I can say that most of the folks I’ve met haven’t been particularly nice.  Many of the things you hear about celebrities is true and generalities are made about these folks because, in general, they’re right.

But Richard was different.  I didn’t know the guy very well, but in my mind, I remember Richard Jeni to be a nice guy, with an observant eye for comedy, and a kind heart.

Richard:  I know you’re up there somewhere making God laugh like Carlos says, and if it means anything, this guy wants to say, "Thanks for the memories… uh… at this time."


HOWTO: Play Vegas Blackjack tables on casino credit

April 5, 2007

While on my last trip to Vegas, it dawned on me that I’ve never seen a discussion online about playing on casino credit, which is unusual considering it’s a sure fire way to make sure your play is noticed.

Credit?  Isn’t that bad?  Do you really want to play on "credit"? 

Well, it’s not really credit but rather something similar to a secured Mastercard.  It’s actually a personal check that you’ve written to the casino against a real bank account with the full funds in it that’s been verified by the casino with your bank.  This implies that the casino has the ability to inquire about specific funds in your bank account and that’s true.  They verify that you’ve got the money you are applying for before you get the green light.

Why would you want to do this?  Easy. 

  • It’s more convenient.  Instead of withdrawing cash from your bank account, or getting a credit advance from your credit card at ridiculous rates, which not just have the casino loan you the cash and if you make the cash back, you pay back your loan.  If not, the casino takes the cash out of your account – no muss, no fuss.
  • It’s a record of your play level.  If you get authorized for $50,000 in credit, it’s a signal to the casino that that’s the level of play – or the amount of money – you’re willing to gamble with/at.  Appropriately, your gambling is rated and viewed in the appropriate light by casino management.  A person that’s playing at the $50k credit level (and actually playing at those levels) is certainly more valuable to a casino than someone playing at the $1K level.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. APPLY FOR CREDIT
    Go online (or call the casino) and apply for credit before hand.  Casinos like the Venetian have applications online that allow you to apply for credit over the Internet.  They’ll expect some key pieces of information such as the bank you do business at, the amount of money you’d like to have on credit, the bank ACCOUNT in which you have these funds, your personal information like your address, etc.

    The most important piece of information you can give them however is your Player’s Club card number.  This is also known as your CompCard.  This associates your credit with your rated play at the tables and is important to linking your bankroll to your casino play, so be sure to have a Player’s Club card number before applying.

    Note:  Some places may ask for your Social Security Number.  YOU DO NOT HAVE TO GIVE THIS TO THEM.  There is no reason for them to have your SSN so by God, don’t give it to them.  They usually want this to check your background but there’s no reason for them to have this:  They can check you out through other means other than your social so don’t enter that into any form or provide that information over the phone EVER.

  2. WAIT FOR APPROVAL
    You will normally get a confirmation of your credit in the mail, telling you about how much you’ve been approved for and what to do next.

    Usually, if you have the funds in the bank before you’ve applied, you’ll be cleared for play and all you have to do is show up to the casino at that point.

  3. CONFIRM YOUR CREDIT APPLICATION
    Once you get to the casino, you’ll need to go to "casino credit".  This is usually a office or booth that is near the cashier that will look you up in their computers and verify that you’ve in fact been approved for credit play.  They’ll draw some paperwork and have you sign it.

    At this point, usually all you’ve done through the paperwork is agreed to "pay them back" if they loan you some cash.  Nothing’s actually happened yet – although you may want to check the paperwork you signed before you sign it.

  4. ASK FOR A MARKER
    Once you’re ready to play, simply go to a table and either ask to see the pitboss or ask the dealer for a "marker".  A "marker" is essentially a secured loan:  It’s a check that they’re having you write, payable to the casino, for whatever amount you’d like to play with.  They will ask you how much you’d like the marker for then draw up the "check" for that amount.  Once you’ve signed the check, they’ll give you the chips for whatever amount you’ve asked for.

    Remember:  They don’t cash that check in until either the day’s over or you leave the hotel at the end of your vacation, (depends on the hotel) so nothing will be drawn against your account unless you leave the casino without paying.  If you wish, you can "buy back that marker" after you’re done playing.

    NOTE:  Once you start playing, it’s generally expected that you’re going to PLAY IN THEIR CASINO.  This is the weird part:  It’s conceivable that you might play a little, get up from the table, and then cash in the chips and go play somewhere else.  This is frowned upon by the casino being that you’re playing with money on the credit they’ve extended to you.  Frankly, it’s a trick for moving money into Vegas without actually transporting cash into the city that I’ve learned from other players but it’s not something that I’d recommend being that you could piss some people off… and remember:  They’re always watching.

  5. BUYING BACK YOUR MARKER
    Once you’ve finished playing, you can buy back your marker.  This can be done in two ways.  The first way, and most common way, is to simply go to the cashier, provide your Player’s Club card, and have them look up your marker.  They’ll ask you to provide funds equal to the marker’s value, then they’ll go back into the "cage" and retrieve the check that you signed. 

    These markers/checks are stored in the back of the casino usually about an hour after you’ve played.  It’s possible that you’ll ask for a marker, then complete playing before the marker leaves the pit.  This is the second way you can buy back your marker:  Simply ask for the marker back and hand over the chip value equal to the marker.  The pit boss will usually do the transaction right there eliminating the need for you to go to the cashier.

So there you have it:  That’s how to play with credit in Vegas.  It’s an easy way to get cash into Vegas without actually carrying it on the plane making the process a lot safer as well, and it’s a great way to keep a record of your play with the casino. 

Incidentally, I’m told that there may be a way to leverage this system to write off your gambling losses being that it’s all on-the-record.  This would be very interesting and once I get the details on that, I’ll post them.


Hate Florida, hate Florida… HATE FLORIDA!

April 5, 2007

I hate that state.  I hate their retirees.  I hate their businesses.  I even hate South Beach and their ridiculous bars, clubs, and really lousy pice o’ crap convention center.  Y’all are on crack - you’ve got nothin’ on LA.  Hell, I had to support the Walt Disney Company for 6 years as a vendor, and besides making some of my better friends at the "Great Mouse", I had to travel out to Orlando… a hot, sticky, muggy, locale that was prone to flash torrential downpours that would last exactly 10 minutes:  The exact 10 minutes in which you as a vendor are moving your demonstration gear from the Walt Disney parking lot to the building, arriving with whitepapers soaked, and equipment waterlogged.

And most of all, I hate Florida universities.  I hated Miami for beating our football team in 1998 and I hate Florida State for beating us in the WhateverBowl in 2006…

BUT I REAAAAAALLLLLY HATE THE FLORIDA GATORSThis isn’t just a small level of hatred.  We’re talkin’ Duke Blue Devil levels.  We’re talkin’ Sacramento Kings levels.  We’re talkin’ USC Trojan levels. 

Florida beat UCLA – again – in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four to win the National Championship.  And I am forced to admit: 

You friggin’ Gators have a hands-down better team.

It’s said that on any given day, one team can beat another.  The standard deviation in play & luck is so wide that it’s conceivable that one big team can get beaten by a little team.  But that just wasn’t in the cards for us this year.  UCLA had a great team without a doubt carried through the tournament not on the wings of a single unstoppable player as in 1995 with Bruin great, Ed O’Bannon (all Bruins should at this time bow their heads in reverence for the great Eddie O) but on the backs of their nearly impenetrable defense.  Even Florida will admit that they were stymied in the first part of the game by our absolutely raucous 40-minutes-of-hell defense in which there were nearly 10 turnovers committed by Florida with crowded passing lanes and panic-inducing double teams that we’ve become known for.

But we had to play a perfect game to beat Florida.  The inside out talent of Florida was frankly astonishing.  They don’t have the same quality defense at UCLA does, even though they do slow down opponents. 

What they have are better players.

THE PERIMETER
Lee Humphreys, Corey Brewer, Taurean Green… in order to stop these guys, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison & Josh Shipp would have to play stick-um defense.  Instead, Arron got into foul trouble with 3 fouls each after only 5 minutes of play in the first half, effectively taking him out of the game.  So naturally we had only two on-ball defenders to cover 3 lights out 3-point shooters.  Big surprise:  Corey Brewer, the player Arron Afflalo our best defensive player was supposed to cover, had a team high 19 points with 6 three-point field goals.

THE KEY
Meanwhile the inside would have to be dominated by a combination of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Alfred Aboya, and Lorenzo Mata against the all-star group of Al Horford, Chris Richard, and Joakim "Butthead" Noah.  And for most of the game, they did.  They did a very admirable job locking up the inside, keeping Joakim Noah in particular, below his season average – a stark improvement over last years final game where Joakim Noah ran roughshod over the Bruins.

But again, the referees called 3 fouls after again only 5 minutes of play on both Lorenzo Mata & Luc Richard taking them out of the game for the most part.  Ben Howland literally started playing players like Ryan Wright to get some breathing time for Alfred Aboya and the remaining other players.

THE REFEREES?
It could be asserted that after a measly 5 minutes of play, when you call 3 fouls on 3 starting players of a given team, leaving 35 minutes left in the game for each player to accrues 2 fouls before they’re ejected, that’s a little slanted.  It just cripples a defense from making good blocks and solid defensive moves. 

To put this into perspective, 3 of UCLA’s 5 starting players only played for 1 half of basketball.  The other 20 minutes, they had to sit down while other 2nd & 3rd stringers played for them. Ryan Wright, James Keefe, and Michael Roll… reasonably good players, yes, but they’re not starters for a reason.

YOU GOTTA OVERCOME… YOU JUST GOTTA
But the bottom line is that the best team simply has to overcome these obstacles no matter what the issue.  And UCLA, while I believe they performed admirably, couldn’t do that against a Florida team that just plain executed flawlessly.  When their interior got locked up, their backcourt shot – AND MADE – 3 point shots.  I mean, they really made them:  What do you do when the opposing team shoots 41% from the arc when your team doesn’t shoot more than 39% OVERALL, and that includes 3 point shots?

So I tip my hat to the University of Florida Gators Basketball team.  They’re the best team in the nation, and I told my friend from Ohio State, "I’m sorry buddy – but your Buckeyes are gonna flatout LOSE."

And lose they did.  To a team that we proved could be stopped in one area, but they’d just change their game to play better in another area.

Oh yeah… and Arron:  Please come back.


I HEART Guitar Hero 2 for Xbox 360!

April 5, 2007

I preordered my copy of Guitar Hero 2 for Xbox 360, and sure enough it arrived in the mail along with not one, but TWO guitar controllers – the unique only-on-Xbox360 white-with-beige Gibson "Xplorer" guitar which isn’t just cooler than the red guitar that the PS2 has, it’s fret buttons have clearly been adjusted for more comfortable play.

AND there’s a really cool feature coming only for the XPlorer – a Wahwah pedal!  That’s right… there’s going to be a Wahwah pedal accessorie to allow you to adjust your guitar mid-song.  What’s the big deal you say?  Well, it means that there’s going to be new songs that take advantage of this upcoming accessory and that means that Guitar Hero 2 ALREADY HAS THE CODE IN IT for the wahwah pedal.  Either that or there’s going to be an update for the game that will enable the wahwah pedal which you’ll download likely over Xbox Live.

Either way, it also means that there’s going to be downloadable songs for this new accessory and that’s WAY cool, because as we all know, PS2 doesn’t have any of what I’ve discussed so far:  No Xplorer Guitar, no wahwah pedal accessory, (much less expandability for a wahwah pedal), no updatable software, no downloadable songs…

And look at the OTHER STUFF that ONLY the Xbox 360 version has:

  1. 10 new songs that the Playstation 2 version doesn’t have, in addition to the original songs
  2. 1080i high definition graphics to accompany the awesome 5:1 digital stereo audio
  3. Leaderboards, or "online rankings" that automatically stack rank you against not just the other players in the world, but your other friends that are playing Guitar Hero 2 – and these rankings are per song, per career, and per difficulty level!
  4. Downloadable themes and picture packs to accompany the downloadable songs that the PS2 doesn’t have
  5. Multiplayer!  Rock out cooperatively with another player or compete head-to-head with someone else.
  6. Practice Mode… so you can play without affecting your career scores.  And you can slow down the song so that you can get that solo riff correct that’s been kicking your ass during your career mode

Without a doubt, this game is an absolute MUST BUY for anyone that owns an Xbox 360.  It’s head and shoulders better than the PS2 version and it’s just plain a lot of addictive fun:  Dare I say it, it’s as addictive as HALO, and those are so big shoes to fill.

No wonder XPlay gave it a 5 out of 5… and Xbox Magazine gave it a 9.5 out of 10.  (They wanted XboxLive Coop & Head-to-head modes which aren’t in the product… yet.  I’ve heard that it might get added as a downloadable feature which would be wicked cool.)


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