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.”

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<nothing else – just this photo>

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

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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!

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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.

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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.