THEME: Halo 3 Theme for Windows Live Spaces

September 29, 2007

If you haven’t already installed it, and you have a Windows Live Space… grab it while you can.  These themes are nice!

A message from Don Matrick – Head of Microsoft Interactive Entertainment

September 27, 2007

Gates works the crowd

"What an opening for Halo 3!

After months of anticipation, the moment Halo fans were waiting for finally arrived at 12:01am, September 25th

More than 10,000 stores across the United States, and many more around the world, opened their doors at midnight for a worldwide launch that by week’s end will span 37 countries.  I spent launch night at the Best Buy near Microsoft’s Redmond campus with more than 800 eager fans, who were met by Bill Gates who checked out the first copies of Halo 3 personally. 

But the real star of the night was Master Chief, and Halo 3.  Beating all expectations, Halo 3 became the biggest launch in the history of entertainment in the US, grossing more than $170 million dollars on Day One alone.  In a year filled with blockbuster sequels, Halo 3 still stood out, passing both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ($166 million) and Spiderman 3 ($151 million).

Moving forward, we are currently tracking to a stellar level of Week One sales in North America, Europe, Japan and many other countries in the world.  By the end of the year, we estimate Halo 3 will push the combined revenue of the entire Halo franchise to eclipse one billion dollars."


Don goes on to also mention the upcoming Mass Effect & Project Gotham Racing 4 as the next two Xbox 360 EXCLUSIVES that will become blockbuster titles for this Christmas season, joining the already stellar lineup of Halo 3, Bioshock, & Madden 08… and recall that Madden 08 has been hailed as being much, much better on the Xbox 360 than on PS3 because of it’s smooth 60fps frame rate.

Not to mention Xbox 360 family games like Viva Pinata Party Animals (what appears to be essentially our response to Mario Party), Scene It! Lights, Camera, Action, and the ever popular, Guitar Hero 3 & the upcoming Rock Band from Electronic Arts.

Rock on, Xbox 360.  Rock on…

MIT pranks Harvard with a salute to Halo 3

September 27, 2007

"In recognition of the release of Halo 3, a highly anticipated video game by Microsoft and Bungie, MIT hackers adorned the John P. Harvard statue, in Harvard Yard, with a Spartan helmet. The back of the helmet, which is worn by the protagonist of the game, Master Chief, was labeled with “Master Chief in Training.” The statue was decorated with an assault rifle (bullet count of 2E), as well as a Beaver emblem on the right shoulder."



HUMOR: Halo – The Future of Gaming

September 27, 2007

Thank you 2K Games & Bioshock for Reinvigorating My Faith

September 22, 2007

 First of all, let me say this:  Bioshock is only available on Xbox 360 & Windows XP/Vista.  There’s no PS3 version.  There’s no Wii version.  There’s no Mac version.  And there sure as hell ain’t a Linux version.

BioshockWith that out of the way:
Thank you so much Bioshock, 2K.  You’re officially on my list of all time great game companies.  Bungie, Epic, Ubisoft, Bethesda, and now 2K. 

You’ve gotten me jazzed and excited again about video games.  I was going through a MASSIVE lull there since Gears of War, waiting for Halo 3 & Mass Effect to come out, and you guys filled the void.  And this is coming from a very jaded, spoiled gamer who’s got too much disposable income and can pretty much buy whatever damned game I want.  (Not having kids will do that, y’know.)

These guys know how to scare the crap out of you.  Let’s just skip the ‘scary zombie’ types and the ‘indominable’ monstrous opponents coming after your at warp speed:  There are things that just freak the daylights out of me in the game… like 1950’s music.  Something about listening to old 50’s music that’s eerie.  And being underwater… there’s a weird sense that there’s no escape’ because of the surrounding water.   (Oh by the way… best… water… ever!)

But most of all, the lighting:  Those bastards at 2K will put you in a shadow filled cooridor, where you know some bad sh-t’s going to happen… then they TURN THE LIGHTS OFF ON YOU.  Or those bastards will fog up the area with mist making it completely impossible to see.  DAMN I HATE THAT AND YET I LOVE IT.

And BTW, Amazon should thank you as well.  I’ve been so excited about Bioshock, how just absolutely Grade A cool it is to play these next gen games and how great gaming CAN be, that I went online and went completely medieval on my Amazon Prime account, in preparation for the onslaught of incredible games coming this season.  We’ll try to ignore Halo 3 and all it’s awesomeness for jusssssssst a second and focus on what else is coming for Xbox 360 over the next 2 months:

  • Half Life 2 Second Episode (with Team Fortress 2, Portal, & Half Life 2 First Episode… aka, the Orange Box)
  • Guitar Hero 3 (the Bundle – and no I could care LESS about it not being wireless.  I don’t know who these ‘tards are that absolutely positively have to have wireless guitars)
  • Call of Duty 4:  Modern Warfare (the first demo that I saw that surprised me… everything else I had expected to be mad awesome)
  • Assassin’s Creed (Jade Raymond’s hotness has helped to create so much buzz about Assassin’s Creed that I’m compelled to give it a whirl – even though I’m not sure that it’s really gonna rate next to Mass Effect & Halo 3)
  • Mass Effect (Only on Xbox 360.  And yes, Microsoft Game Studios is publishing it… but it’s so awesome that I… must… have… it… at… release!)

And by the way, anyone that hasn’t bought Amazon Prime that does even a few purchases from them is CRAZY.  Free 2 day shipping?  Criminies.  I’m going to single handedly bankrupt Amazon on all the single item 2 day shipping I’m doing.

This last shipment?  $400 worth of games.  Each shipped individually and for free.  Best deal ever.

Chugging Halo 3 “Limited Edition Mountain Dew Game Fuel”

September 22, 2007

I was walking the family dog a few weeks ago when just a block away from us, I saw this guerrilla advertising campaign:  Two stapled posters attached back to back enveloping the midsection of a lamp post.  Each was a mixture of odd fonts and monotone colors.  Great, I thought.  Another down and dirty ad campaign to "reach out to the peeps" and "get down with the hood".  L-A-M-E.

GameFuel1 Then I noticed:  It’s an ad for Halo 3 "Limited Edition Mountain Dew Game Fuel" telling people to go to their local convenience stores to buy a bottle.  Translation:  It’s Microsoft’s own co-marketed ad.  Oops.  Admittedly, I’d never even heard of the stuff.  According to the poster, it came in 16 ounce plastic bottles and special ‘limited edition’ aluminum bottles, all with Bungie designs on them.  Cool.

Well, it turns out the poster was one of about 6 populating the area.  So I walked the 30 feet around the corner to the local 7-11 to see if they had some of it.  They didn’t.  Now I’m a little pissed.  Here they have an ad for this stuff and yet the stupid 7-11 doesn’t even sell the beverage.

I pack the pooch up in the car and we drive to a couple other locations.  No Game Fuel.  To be fair, they apparently sold out at two locations.  Fair enough.  I finally saddled up and went to the largest 7-11 I knew of:  A store next to my old apartment 5 block away.  And sure enough:  Much Game Fuel was to be had there.  I bought 6 bottles.  Might as well give it a solid shot, right?  I drank a bottle as I went home.

SLURP.  Mmm.  This stuff is tasty. 

Seriously.  It’s no wonder that this thing is selling at convenience stores.  It reminds me of a Cherry Slurpee without the ice particles.  Y’know the good tasting stuff at the bottom of a Slurpee or an Icee?  That’s what this stuff taste like – except you get a whole bottle of tongue-reddening goodness.  And yes, all Halo marketing hype aside, I found it eerily compelling to drink.  I kept opening up the bottle again to take "one last swig".  It’s been a long time since I drank a sugar-ed up carbonated soda so this had the predictable result of getting me so amped and wired up, I buzzed through the day at Warp factor 5… gotta remember this stuff the next time I need to be productive.  Then I looked at the ingredients.

One bottle:  72g Sugar.

HOLY SH-T.  Are you f-ing kidding me?  72g of sugar?  Whaddyamean 72g?  As in 72 ACTUAL GRAMS?  Being that I’m supposed to be on a diet of sorts for what is hopefully a temporary medical condition, I don’t consume much more than 50g total of any kind of carb in a single day, much less 72g of raw sugar from a single bottle.  Jesus mother of mercy – 72g is like the sugar bomb you drop on your 6 year old nephew when the cable is out and you want to see some live action entertainment.

To put this into perspective, a single serving package of Oreo cookies (Mmm.  Oreo cookies.  These are some of the magical snacks that keep the Microsoft contigent wired throughout the day.  Ironically though – we get all-you-can-drink beverages but no Game Fuel in the company cooler.  Sad.) with 6 cookies in it has 22g of carb loaded sugar. 

Doing the math… carrying the ‘one’… That means that you could eat 21 Oreos and still not get the same quantity of sugar as in a single bottle of Game Fuel.

I found myself looking at the bottle going:  How do you liquify that much frickin’ sugar into a single bottle of liquid?  Not only is this stuff space-age colored and Halo3-packaged but it’s got a carb count that’s ‘out-of-this-world’!  (I’m sorry.  That’s awful.  I apologize.  It won’t happen again.  At least until the next post.)

Now if you’ll permit me, I’m going to the refrigerator to go get some hype juice.  Only 2 1/2 days left until Halo 3 and with the UCLA vs Washington football game going on today, I need to get a caffeine/sugar buzz on that’s gonna sustain me for the next 72 hours.

I Heart Xbox Live Marketplace (or “Cyberball 2072 rocks”)

September 12, 2007

Back during my sophomore year at UCLA, I spent my time between classes in one of 3 places:

  • Chomping away at snacks and edibles from the ‘coop’ (a local on campus eatery)
  • Flirting with this one girl that was always in my Engineering courses
  • Playing Cyberball 2072

image Cyberball 2072 was the most awesome quarter eater ever created.  Entire tournaments were created on campus and between colleges.  UCLA vs UC Irvine vs USC vs Long Beach State vs UC Riverside vs Cal State Northridge vs… you get the picture.  Top prizes were $500 for the people that won tournaments.

I won several tournaments and although, I was easily the best player in the arcade most of the time, I will admit that I was NOT the best at UCLA.  There was always this one guy that was better – a guy named Justin whom I’d beaten maaaaaybe twice in my whole life.  He was pretty much <sigh> better than me at every video game in the arcade.  (except for Sega Afterburner)

In any case, Cyberball was so much fun for me, it was like a dream.  Being only 5’3", I was never going to be play football, even though I knew the entire UCLA Football team roster up and down, and had a fifth of the playbook memorized by heart.  I played every day for at least an hour or two.

image Later in the late 90’s, after I’d had some success in my career, I actually bought a full upright Cyberball 2072 video game cabinet for $1000.  It sat at Microsoft in the kitchen area for over 4 years before one of the monitors fried.   I eventually sold it for $100 to a kid who refurbished video games.  He still has it to this day from what I understand.

What does Xbox Live Marketplace have to do with this?  Well, the released Cyberball 2072 on Xbox 360.  That’s right.  The real game.  It’s IDENTICAL to the original.  Trust me – I know every one of the 250 plays like the back of my hand and I can recognize the opposing teams play just by glancing at the formation and the movement of the backfield.

After playing 4 games, I’m ranked #6 in the world on Xbox Live when playing Cyberball single player.  Look me up:  BlueMax.  I have a score of something like 138… and that’s weak because I’m rusty.  Top score is 150 and In my prime I used to get 180.  (BTW:  By 180, I mean the margin of victory over the opposition is 180 points.  As in 180 to 0.)  Admittedly, even though it’s just as small old game, I’m a little tickled.  I’ve never been ranked on the front page of any of the Xbox Live rankings before.

I once walked into an arcade in San Jose, CA and started to play Cyberball.  Little did I know it was inhabited by a local gang.  Oops.

A large Mexican from the gang walked up to me while I was playing and said, "You think you can beat me?"  Not knowing any better, I said, "Maybe."  Before I knew it, 12 or so gang members surrounded me, this one fellow, and the video game.  Bad mojo.  They started laughing and saying stuff like, "Beat the @#$% out of him…", "Clean the floor with this chump…"

We played, and he was good.  Really good.  In fact, I lost to him by 2 points.  I remember being bent about it because I was pretty sure that on any given day, I could beat him just as well.  The funny thing was that the game was such a see saw battle, that the ‘audience’ actually had fun.  It was like watching a real football game where the lead was retaken over and over again with great play after great play.

When the dust settled, and he’d gotten the last touchdown, I stopped and turn to him and shook his hand and told him, "You’re a great player.  Good game."  He said, "Damn right… but you’re pretty good too.  Closest game I’ve had in a very long time."  Folks were slapping him on the back, whoopin’ and hollerin’.

I walked out with all limbed attached. 


Then there was this one time where a kid was playing at another arcade.  The arcade owner had been talking to me telling me that this kid had been taking other kid’s money in bets on Cyberball. 

So I just walked up and started playing on the same Cyberball machine – opposite screens.  Now if you’ve ever played the game, you know that if someone drops a coin on the machine on the opposite side, the player already playing has the option of "accepting the challenge" and starting a head-to-head match with you.  Well, this kid decided to challenge me without saying a word.  A few seconds later, he said:

"Hey.  Wanna put some money on this game?"

I said, "What?"

He said, "Money.  M-O-N-E-Y.  Wanna bet on the game?  $10.  Unless you don’t think you can win."

I cocked my head with a smile on my face and said, "Awright.  It’s your money."

At half time the score was 55-0.  I picked him off 5 times during the first half and most of his players were smoking and in disrepair already.  He just shook his head and gave me the $10 right there.  He didn’t even want to finish the rest of the game.  As he wandered away, I told him. "Hey.  Just remember… there’s always someone better, kid."

NEWS: Wall Street Journal tells your end users how to get around IT policy

September 1, 2007

As if, Walt Mossberg wasn’t sketchy enough ("iPhone is a breakthrough", "Windows Vista has little value", etc.) now we’ve got some floozy from the Wall Street Journal telling end users how to bypass your company’s IT Security & Usage policies. 

Check out the things that the WSJ tells your customers how to do in a recent article:

  1. How to send giant files
  2. How to use software that your company won’t let you download
  3. How to visit the web sites your company blocks
  4. How to clear your tracks on your work laptop
  5. How to search for your work documents at home
  6. How to store work files online
  7. How to keep your privacy when using web email
  8. How to access your work email remotely when your company won’t spring for a Blackberry
  9. How to access your personal email on your Blackberry
  10. How to look like you’re working

For a supposed business-oriented publication, I’m really skeptical as to the author’s motives. 

    WSJ is encouraging behavior that violates most corporate information security policies.  While there are other far lesser known sites that describe stuff like this, none are as well-known or well respected as the WSJ.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the author was a shill for people that produce software like Authentica or our own Rights Management Services to encrypt documents and enforce policy restrictions on them.
    People like John C. Dvorak use link-baiting tactics like these to create trackbacks to their site to grow the hit count of their web site equally importantly, create controversy over a topic that they originate to make themselves relevant.  While Dvorak can do this sort of thing because, well, you don’t exactly expect WSJ quality journalism from him.
    I get the feeling like WSJ, similar to the rebellious drug-laden hippies of the 70’s, think they’re "just keepin’ the man from oppressing the peeps" by breaking company rules.  Great – so if the WSJ thinks bypassing security protocol for America’s companies is "just fine" – so much so that they advocate it, what about these lovely topics:
    – How to get away violations of HR policies
    – How to use company office supplies for your own purposes
    – How to moonlight for another job during work hours

When I think about the creation of this article, I can only think of a quota from Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcolm, in Jurassic Park: 

"<They> were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should."

And NO, I’m not going to link to the page or name the author.  They don’t need the publicity.  If you want the URL, search for it, or contact me and I’ll send it to you. 

In other news:  One of my future posts will be entitled:

"Ten ways for IT to express it’s displeasure with a newspaper journalist"