Thanks To Oprah, No Kindle For You

 amazon_logo

From the WSJ:

For the second holiday shopping season in a row, Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle e-book reader is out of stock, and more of the devices won’t be available until mid-February, at the earliest.

Amazon thought it had plenty in stock, but then the most powerful person in book publishing intervened. In late October, Oprah Winfrey described it as her “favorite new gadget” on her TV show. And just as Ms. Winfrey’s reading selections turn no-name books into best sellers, the demand for Kindles soon overwhelmed Amazon

Originally met with a heavy dose of skepticism last year, the $350 e-book has quite a batting average right now is doing quite well thank you very much. My sister received one for her birthday recently and just fell in love with it.

While it hasn’t quite hit a home run with this clunky gadget, they have at least a standup double to its credit. Nice play Amazon.

Geeky Christmas Gift – Dr. Horrible @ US$9.99

Dr Horrible

Looking for a cheap geeky Christmas gift? Then look no further than Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on DVD. At US$9.99, this one’s gotta go on my wish list! 🙂

Not familiar with Dr. Horrible? Here’s the synopsis:

Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) stars as Billy, A.K.A. Dr. Horrible, a budding super-villain whose plans for world domination continually go awry.  His two goals: getting accepted into the Evil League of Evil, and working up the guts to speak to his laundromat crush Penny, played by Felicia Day (The Guild).  

The only thing standing in his way is Captain Hammer, Billy’s superhero arch-nemesis played by Nathan Fillion (Firefly).  With one big score, Billy could get into the E.L.E. and earn the respect of Penny, but only if he can keep her away from the dashing Captain Hammer…

Good Old Games for Sale!

Have you been wishing you could get your hands on a copy of your favorite old game from years gone by?

Go to GOG – Good Old Games! They seem to have quite a spectacular assortment of old games that were great fun back in their day.

At the moment they have a promo running… If you buy two $9.99 games you get a $5.99 game free.

And In UFO News Today…

karen-harper Will Barack Obama open the X-Files (UFO investigations) to the public? [Examiner] – The Extraterrestrial Phenomenon Political Action Committee is gathering signatures in the days leading up to President-Elect Obama’s inauguration in an effort to get the new President to disclose military “contacts” with UFOs.  The EP PAC believes that it is time for the US to open the so called “X-Files” to the American public, following Britain’s example last year.

ufo-xbox  Xbox 360 Logo Spotted in 1697 UFO Sighting Sketch [Gizmodo] – November 4, 1697, the citizens of Hamburg, Germany spotted “two glowing wheels” in the air. To some, it was just further proof of another civilization visiting Earth. Clearly Microsoft has some sort of time travel machine that resembles a giant Xbox 360 logo.

Mysterious object More UFO sightings over UK skies [FenladnCitizen] – Dozens of people reported sightings of UFOs in the skies over Fenland,UK following last week’s front page picture of some unexplained lights spotted over Wisbech.

 

Roswell  TV’s “UFO Hunters” to feature one of the last eyewitnesses of Roswell Incident [Suwannee Democrat] – The History Channel will feature an interview with Earl Fulford. He was one of the last remaining eyewitnesses to what some say was the wreckage site of a UFO

WoW’s Out of Box Experience Is Not "WOW!",…It’s "Crap!"

WoW

Sensing that World of Warcraft is not the years long, multi-million user flash in the pan I expected it to be, this last weekend I partook in a holiday discount deal from the local GameStop. I picked up the World of Warcraft Battlechest for half off the MSRP (came to US$19 if you must know).

During my install of the product, the setup from the DVD was flawless.

However, I was expected to accept the mother of all End User License Agreements. For the love of all that’s holy, their legal department probably puts Microsoft attorneys to shame. This behemoth of a document consists of:

  • 7 Pages
  • 37 Paragraphs
  • 275 Lines
  • 3634 Words
  • 19035 Characters

Who the hell is going to read that thing? Oh, I gave it the old college try and plowed through the first one and a half paragraphs then supplemented with scanning for keywords of interest in a handful of other paragraphs, but sheesh!

Later, while scanning through my hard drive to look at all the crap the installer left, I stumbled upon a newer version of the eula that is a year newer than the one i accepted. Blizzard managed to extend that large document by 2 pages, 3 paragraphs and 149 words. Needless to say, I’m not more educated on this one than the first.

OK, so far my positive WoW out of box experience went from positive to neutral, not bad, but let’s login to the server and see how it fares.

I find a desktop icon, nothing too fancy, big ‘W’, clean and crisp and to the point:

 WoW icon

What followed that mouse clicky was the beginning of a 4 hour descent into hell that would not see me creating my first character until the following morning.

It appears that Blizzard doesn’t believe in rolling up their updates. The program detected there were updates to be installed before the game could begin. So it promptly downloaded and installed the first update. When that was done, i clicked Play and again it detected another update…same process followed. I had to install update after update after update for about 30-45 minutes before the sh*t really hit the fan. Some were pretty small, others ~256MB. It was turning into a real pain in the arse, what would have helped is to know how far I had to go through this user interface until we’re done. Maybe it could tell me “Andy, you are on update #6 of 10”.

After 30-45 minutes, the process wasn’t done, it was just getting started. Because then I learned it needed to download and install a 2GB update! WTF is this all about? It took 4 hours to download, this old man needed to get some shut eye so I hit the rack while the installer did its thing and unpacked/installed itself. So I was fast asleep while the unpacking and updating actually occurred; given it’s size and complexity it’s probably best I wasn’t watching it tear its innards apart and rebuild.

The next morning, I sit back down in front of the PC, click the ‘Play’ button and learn that *another* update had to be installed. Thankfully, I could tell that the date of the package was released just a few weeks before so I must be near the end. And sure enough it was over after that last turdlet was dropped on my system.

So after 4+ hours of downloads and installs/updates of WoW on a clean system, I could finally get it on and start the click fest with millions of other nerds.

Freylok iconAnd now, after having played Freylok the Druid Night Elf for about 12 hours over 3 days, I get it. I understand the appeal of the game and I’m looking forward to more, but it’s unfortunate a new user has to go through hours of hassle just to get logged in. Even Windows rolls up updates between service packs, why can’t a game as popular and ubiquitous as WoW do the same?

 Things I’ve learned from this weekend experience:

  • Blizzard’s OOBE (out of box experience) sucks bad if you’re a new user like me. Be prepared to hand hold your PC through hours of updates if installing on a clean PC. I will file a bug to Blizzard this week.
  • WoW is one kick-ass game. The graphics are great, the size of the worlds is just unbelievably large. I knew it was massive, but sheesh, this is big and detailed. Tip of the hat to the development team and the IT Pros that have to maintain the servers.
  • Even a hard core anti-social introvert like myself doesn’t mind interacting with strangers in this new world. Unlike Sim City or Second Life, the attraction to interact with strangers in WoW is that you probably have a lot in common with the thousands of characters hacking and slashing around you as you both fight on to achieve your quests or save your sorry arse from the ‘black hats’.

Down with the Horde! Long live the Alliance! 😛

Insight into Recession Woes

No huge posts from me today… but interesting nevertheless!

MSN is reporting on the video games industry and how the recession is effecting it.

In an unusual turn of events the video game industry is being heralded as being strong and growing in the face of a recession. Mostly due to the fact that we gamers tend to want to play games instead of spending money on other junk… At least that’s my take on it!

Snippage from the conclusion of the article (for you people who don’t like reading the whole dull thing):

“In the short term, then, there is ample evidence that the video game business may well prove to be stronger than most others. No one is going to do better than companies producing cheap liquor, of course, but in the technology world, it may be tough to identify a sector that could better persevere than video games.”

Go forth and enjoy the read, if you’re the type to enjoy long winded ramblings of the market analyst style…

What Is That?

Feast your eyes on this device, my friends.  What can it be?  Even I had trouble identifying it, until I was let in on the secret.  And of course then I ran down a hallway yelling “Whyyyy….?” 

WIT212

Drop in some comments, there might be a cookie in for the first correct guess 🙂

Expert Expectations – Colin McRae: DiRT 2

Racing games. You either love ’em or hate ’em. I’m one of those people who loves them. But only if they are done right. There is nothing more annoying than a racing game that portrays beautiful cars travelling at high speed without any illusion of speed! Or the beautifully rendered car handles more like a racing yacht than a vehicle!

DiRTy Details

Codemasters released the first version of DiRT over a year ago and manauged to surprise everyone. They actually made a few mistakes with the game, but over all they came up with a well rounded winner.

One of the down sides of DiRT was the fact that it had a pretty arcadish feel to it. That seriously impacted my experience negatively at first, but once I was able to take a breath and get over it I found a beautiful looking game with a lot of simple fun behind it.

Another thing that DiRT fell short on, as a lot of reviewers agreed, was the lack of a good multiplayer component. Quite frankly I’m not sure why you would even attempt to release a competitive racing game with out a solid multiplayer component! But Codemasters did exactly that and ended up getting a lot of negative attention as a result. Silly programmers…

So what about DiRT 2?

DiRT2 Muddiness
DiRT2 Muddiness

Codemasters is bragging that they have beefed up the graphical engine from DiRT, which incidentally wasn’t one of DiRT’s weak areas at all.
Secondly there is supposed to be a beefed up physics engine. Can’t complain about that! DiRT had a pretty good physics engine but at times it just didn’t feel right. Here’s hoping they can put more than a bandage on that bleeding wound.
They’ve also stated that they are looking at an improved online gaming component, so maybe they learned something from the scathing reviews on the last go-round.
Additionally there will be the normal round of new cars and tracks for everyone… As anyone would reasonably expect.

The official word from Codemasters is located here: Clickity-Click

Stay tuned for more information on DiRT2… It’s definitely something we’ll keep in our scope.

Santa Gets Intel on your Friends and Family

 iamstnick

Yeah you heard me, Santa is lending himself out as a force recon operative, so you can get some valuable intel on your friends and family.  Bounce on over to IamStNick.com, plug in your targets phone number and your e-mail.  Then an automated service will call the target number and play a premade message asking them for their wishlist.  After the recording is made, you receive an email from the website with your targets wishlist!

Sounds pretty nifty to me!  Go try it out…I know I will 🙂

Scientists Solve Evolutionary Puzzle on how the Turtle Got its Shell

Ancient turtle

Scientists believe they have cracked a long-standing mystery of evolution – how the turtle got its shell.

It follows the discovery in south west China last year of the oldest known turtle fossils, believed to date back 220 million years.

The three adult specimens were discovered remarkably intact and with characteristics never before seen in turtles – including teeth and an incomplete upper shell.

The Daily Mail has details.

Supercombo Hits One Out Of The Park!

supercomboZ 

Say hello to Supercombo, a UK startup that sells high quality shirts specifically designed for the nerd in you!  I contacted them a few weeks ago to see about reviewing some of their products, and was received very well.  Check out this quote from their website:

Supercombo is the brainchild of two like minded geeks (Pete and Olly) who both enjoy illustration. We sell unique, high quality clothing inspired by our love of videogames, anime and general nerdyness.

Sounds like guys after my own heart!  After a few e-mail exchanges, and a short wait, I was in possession of some shirts, flyers and stickers for review 🙂  Check out these images:

dattebayoteeTrip 010zz

  trifarce Trip 016

Now I’m a gamer, so I recognized the Zelda triforce design on the green shirt right away.  The other shirt I was actually clueless as to it’s Naruto origin until one of my models (who is a virtual font of anime information) posed for the pictures, and pointed out what the words meant.  Dattebayo!  Regardless, both are of fine, well crafted material with the designs perfectly proportioned to the shirt area.  I was impressed with the ingenuity of the designs, and received many direct remarks from people that happened to be walking by that they liked the shirts and how easy they were on the eyes.  Certainly a positive remark in Pete and Olly’s favor!

Here’s a couple of other things sent along in the package – a few flyers, no doubt used to promote Supercombo at various locations, and a handful of round stickers (pictured below).

sccombopack  scstickers

In all, a unique experience in reviewing this material, but a rewarding one as well.  These guys have a good product, and will no doubt gain momentum as they add to their repertoire.  Be sure to visit their website and check out their other unique designs!

At Long Last, It’s Finally Coming… Armed Assault II

ArmA2_RescueOp

Editor’s Comment: Dan Van Nattan is a new contributing writer for Geeknews, this is his first article for us and we’re looking forward to seeing this collaborative effort grow.

The name itself certainly does not ring out with any cleverness or ingenuity. But anyone familiar with the first Armed Assault game will know that there’s nothing lightweight or lackluster about the sequel. It might help the knowledgeable reader to know that Armed Assault (ArmA) was the sequel to Operation Flashpoint, one of the great military simulations of the last 10 years.

Now we’re staring straight down the barrel of ArmA2. Riding on the success of ArmA, this sequel needs to make sure that it doesn’t fall short in the same areas it’s predecessor did. To bring everyone up to speed on what those previous failings were, I’ve compiled a short list of things that most reviewers agreed on when writing their articles about ArmA.

  • BAD Squad control UI
  • Terrible vehicle control
  • Poorly varied missions
  • Very high difficulty and brutally hard missions
  • Poor AI
  • Game controls were complex and clumsy
  • Several annoying graphical bugs and glitches
  • Simulation paced gameplay not to everyone’s tastes

Now obviously some of these aren’t massive gameplay issues, but all the issues combined were definitely a drag on the experience!

There were some major things that ArmA did very right. One of those was incorporating MASSIVE maps and play area. Unlike Joint Operations the play area of the maps was an enormous, highly detailed, usable area!

Another excellent factor in ArmA’s success was the very detailed weapon physics. Bullet-drop over distance was rendered very well. Weapon firing kick was also a factor you had to consider when trying to spray lead at the enemy. Some players found these aspects quite frustrating, but those of us who had grown tired of being sniped with pistols from extreme range were delighted with the change!

Having improved hugely over Operation Flashpoint, I think that Bohemia Interactive will be quite capable of improving ArmA2 over and above ArmA. If they can just address the problems listed above, they’ll not only end up with a best seller again, but they could easily end up witha game that raises a very high, new standard for other developers. With all the “arcadism” that seems to get dumped into every combat game on the planet, I can say that realism would be a welcome change in this genre!

All these things being taken into consideration, I leave you with ArmA2. Make your own assumptions based on what you see.

Bohemia Interactive: Official Website

Watch this site for more information about ArmA2 in the future.

ArmA2_RazorTeam ArmA2_Ingame-35

After Suicide Streamed On ‘Net, Should ‘Duty to Rescue’ Law Be Enforced?

Internet

Several days ago Abraham Biggs, 19 years old, took a cocktail of medications after he had chatted online about killing himself for most of the day during a video conversation with strangers. He died. While some of the folks in the forum pleaded with him to get help, some of them urge him on, laughing at him, calling him “faggot” and “coward.”.

Now the police are looking at the role played by the site, Justin.tv that hosted the video and BodyBuilding.net that hosted the chat bulletin board and whether the moderators and discussion board members acted inappropriately. Apparently one of the moderators at BodyBuilding.net called him an attention whore which certainly could be interpreted as contributing to the delays in trying to get this kid help.

One of the threads Abraham started discussing his suicide was on BodyBuilding.net, on this thread (“I’m gonna have 40 2mg bars of Xanax Tonight!“) he uses the alias CandyJunkie, and starts soliciting people to watch him online.

In my opinion, the streaming provider may not be culpable, but I’d need to see more details on when they learned of the event and the actions taken or not taken. Bodybuilding.net on the other hand appears to be more at risk here to legal action from the family. Also, I suspect any individuals that may have spurred this event along can or should be held accountable under the “duty to rescue” laws (note: i’m no experts in Torts law, there appears to be wiggle room in the interpretation of this).

An Epic Story Told Through Verse

uniman

A while ago, Andy asked me to review a book, The Unicorn Man, a collection of stark poetry and short stories with a skewed view toward the (supposed) coming apocalyptic end in 2012.

To be honest, not my bag of tea.  But, in order to give it a fair shake, I read through the book with a feeling of trepidation, and a cocked eyebrow to the intense nature of the authors’ focus on the prevalent darkness forever omnipresent in man.  Unless your state of mind closely follows the author, don’t expect this to be an easy read.  I found it difficult to keep a constant train of thought throughout the read, and had to break it up into several pieces, allowing myself to absorb what I’d read before continuing on.  Despite the content, I actually did enjoy Vox Anon’s writing style; it will be a bumpy ride in the beginning, but after figuring out what’s going on, its easier to follow.

So, first you follow the protagonist through three short stories – first as he has to deal with the spontaneous growth of a unicorn-like horn from his forehead, and the trials he has to deal with in trying to have it removed, and then finally realizing what significance it may bring into his life and society around him.  The second reads like a mythical tale following the conventional idealisms of a fairy tale unicorn and his tenuous relationship with a beautiful princess.  And finally, the third tale is a journal of the unicorn man in the future that describes his actions and events leading up the final moments before the end.  In all, very well written, provided you can follow the rhythm and intent of the tales.  In my opinion, the author uses these as a springboard to launch the reader into the fantastic worlds of grotesque and suicidal situations of the poems that follow.

Definitely the poems are the product of a mind entirely sunk into a dark process that has been bent by an imagination that I had seen very seldom to date.  Get ready for a journey through the mind of a person that holds nothing back!  Also of note are the last few dozen pages full of mystical collages of images ranging from the simple, to ultra-confusion with the unicorn as the main theme.  Truly a glimpse into the mind of a person with a lot of time to contemplate the future as he sees it.

Grab your copy at Amazon.com!

News Links That Matter – 11/18/08

Pocket Protector

Just Geeky:

New Visa Card, Generates Random Security Codes [Switched] – In response to popular concerns with online credit card fraud, Visa Europe has announced a newly designed credit card, complete with a keypad and digital number display, according to the Daily Mail.

Ubuntu to run on ARM-based netbooks [ZDNet] – Canonical has announced it will be developing a version of its Ubuntu Linux desktop operating system specifically for ARM’s Cortex-A8 and Cortex-A9 processor architectures.

Science

Science:

Doctors hoping for new era of artificial ankles [Physorg] – What was left of Dan Sivia’s ankle simply didn’t work. He limped through his 30s by sheer force of will, one foot almost completely immobile from repeated broken bones and surgeries. Then a doctor offered his last hope: An ankle replacement. A what? Sivia knew about hip, knee, even shoulder replacements. But ankles?

‘Jelly balls’ may slow global warming [Sydney Morning Herald] – VAST numbers of marine “jelly balls” now appearing off the Australian east coast could be part of the planet’s mechanism for combating global warming.

Detecting Disease In Less Than 60 Seconds [Science Daily] – Chemists and immunologists devised a new rapid system for detecting and identifying viruses. It uses surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy to measure the frequency of near-infrared laser light as it scatters off viral DNA and RNA. After a swab of a person’s nasal passage, the technique can detect individual virus particles quickly and identify many types.

Games

Just For Fun:

Marvel is Developing Animated Thor Series [SuperHeroHype] – Marvel Animation is developing and self-producing a 26 half-hour episode series based on its long-running comic book “Thor,” with the series targeted to launch in fall 2010, following Marvel’s live-action feature Thor , which hits theaters on July 16, 2010.

Lego Batman Demo Impressions [The Download Munkey] – An enjoyable romp through a bright and shiny Lego (Legoized / Legofied ?) Gotham City with excellently animated Lego minifigs of familiar characters from DC Comics’s Batman universe.

Pocket PC

Gadgets:

Asus to Launch World’s ‘Fastest’ Smartphone [PCWorld] – Asus is calling its new P565 smartphone the “fastest business PDA phone in the world.”

Lunar Baby Thermometer [Forever Geek] –  A simple temperature checking device for the mother or father, aunt or uncle; whoever’s doing the placing of the hand on the head. Check the child’s temperature without uncomfortable placing of glass sticks in places of discontent.

Christmas Gifts For Geeks – 11/18/08

Wild Wild West DVDs

We have another gift idea, in fact if the wife is reading this maybe I’ll be lucky enough to receive it! 🙂

A few weeks ago on Nov 4 2008, The Wild Wild West TV Series on DVD was released as a complete series in a single package and Amazon has it on sale for $90. That’s all four seasons on 27 disks / 104 episodes, including the 2 television movies with original cast that aired in 1979 and 1980.

The Wild Wild West TV series aired on CBS from 1965-69. If you’re not familiar with it, it can be described as “James Bond on horseback”. The show incorporated classic Western elements with an espionage thriller, as well as science fiction/alternate history ideas and plenty of comedy.

James West and Artemus Gordon are two agents of President Grant who take their splendidly appointed private train through the west to fight evil. Half science fiction and half western, Artemus designs a series of interesting gadgets for James that would make Inspector Gadget proud. A light hearted adventure series that is still a fan favorite today.

New Nano Coating Boosts Solar Efficiency

Green Earth

Researches from the Future Chips Constellation have developed an anti-reflective film for solar panels to take efficiency from 67% today up to 96% within a few years. The film is made of seven layers of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide nanorods positioned at an oblique angle. These nanorods effectively bend the light down towards the next layer, each one taking its part to reduce the solar loss of ultraviolet, infrared and visible light.

Highlights from the CNN article:

  • Scientists create a new coating that could make solar panels more efficient
  • The coating boost sunlight-absorption rates from 67.4 to 96.21 percent
  • The seven-layer, anti-reflective coating also captures sunlight from all angles
  • Researchers hope to have the product on the market within two to three years

The World Has Never Seen Such Freezing Heat

Global Warming

NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) announced that last month was the hottest October on record. At the same time in October, countries from America to China to New Zealand and more have reported over a hundred record low temperatures and snow storms aplenty. Is it a cock-up at GISS? Yes, and it appears their data collection assumptions that were also used by the UN and Al Gore have been exposed with a significant flaw they failed to previously report.

From the Telegraph:

GISS’s computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all.

A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with. This is an astonishing admission