Retro Gaming Lives!

Yep…I admit it, I’m a product of the old gaming generation 😉  Back in the day, Pac-Man, Frogger and Battlezone were my games of choice.  The Atari 2600 we had in our house was used to its limit!  I don’t remember how many times we had to replace those old Atari joysticks.  As a side note, my editor here once had a record breaking score to Missile Command on the Atari 2600!  W00t!

1980 Games

So you pine for those day of old, when CGA gaming ruled the land?  Look no further than 1980-Games.com for your retro refill!  Trust me when I say you can literally get lost in this website.   I spend hours here at a time 🙂  Have fun!

Tweaks For Vista’s Bubble Screensaver

The screensaver settings for Vista are pretty weak, luckily there are some known hacks or undocumented tweaks you can make to the system to enable different behavior in the bubbles.

The root key to apply settings below for the Bubbles screensaver is:
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Screensavers\ Bubbles]
The 4 magic reg data settings under Bubbles are:

  • MaterialGlass will determine if the bubbles are glass or not. 1 will turn the bubbles into glass-like transparent bubbles. A 0 will turn the bubbles into metallic non-transparent bubbles.
  • ShowBubbles is a boolena and will determine whether the bubbles are displayed on your wallpaper or a black background. A value of 1 will apply the bubbles on the desktop while a 0 will render the bubbles against a solid black background.
  • Radius determines the radius of the bubbles and is a floating point integer. A larger radius results in fewer bubbles.
  • ShowShadows can cast a shadow and is also a boolean. 1 will enable shadows below the bubbles, a 0 will disable shadows.

These settings will set the screensaver for many small bubbles (see screenshot below)

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Screensavers\ Bubbles]
“MaterialGlass”=dword:00000000
“Radius”=dword:42d12d00
“ShowShadows”=dword:00000001
“ShowBubbles”=dword:00000001

These settings will set the screensaver for metallic non-glass bubbles.

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software\ Microsoft\ Windows\ CurrentVersion\ Screensavers\ Bubbles]
“MaterialGlass”=dword:00000000
“Radius”=dword:41a00000
“ShowShadows”=dword:00000000
“ShowBubbles”=dword:00000000<
/p>

Here’s screenshots for the normal Glass (unmodified settings), followed by Radius for small bubbles and finally the metallic (non-glass) bubbles.

Bubbles with no tweaks Normal Glass Bubbles

Small Radius Bubbles on Black Background Small Radius Bubbles

Metallic non-glass Metallic (non-glass)

First Habitable Earth Like Planet Outside Solar System Discovered

Well, before we start running around wondering what this means about life outside Earth and how it will affect science and religion as we know it today, let’s just keep our cool and see if the mainstream media and scientific journals pick it up and run with it as a legitimate inhabitable planet.

The article states that the European Southern Observatory has found an ‘Earth-like’ planet about 50% larger than ours circling the star ‘Gliese 581’ about 20 light years away. And due to it’s proximity to the star it’s at the right distance versus radiation exposure to likely contain H2O.

And H2O might mean life. Life means rethinking our place in the universe and watching some of societies most cherished assumptions now up for debate. (I can only hope! 😀 )

Here’s the story, found it on reddit.com.

What Is That??

As the turn of events have it, noone was able to correctly guess the “What Is That?” picture from last week.  So, without any pause, I reveal to you it was a HEATSINK.  (insert bells and whistles here.)  Bah! We’ll just have to try again 🙂

So this is the new submission.  I’m looking for lots of guesses here folks.  Please feel free to flood the comments section of this post with your answers!  As usual, I’ll post the name of the first correct answer in next weeks WIT post.

What Is That?

Now the games afoot!

Wakka, Wakka, Wakka

Microsoft is kickin’ it old school and will be hosting a Pac-Man world championship.

Players from around the world will be competing over the next month to be among the finalists invited to NY City June 5 to play, not on the old arcade machines but on the Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Network.

The winner gets:

  • Free Quiznos sub sandwiches for 26 years (huh?) 
  • 100,000 MS Points to d/l content from Xbox Live (cool)
  • one of a kind Pac-Man embossed Xbox 360 (cool)

InformationWeek has the story. Go there to learn how to sign up.

VMware Player 2 Beta – Signup

I received a solicitation in my inbox just a minute ago from VMware for beta testers of ‘Player 2’. I’ve copied a portion of the mail below, I like the fact it has USB 2.0 support and Vista as a guest as well.

If you’re interested, go to the VMware Player Beta Program page, click the ‘download’ link, complete a form and you’re ready to party.

I have to give some props to VMware Player, I’m using it to host Ubuntu on my home Vista box and yesterday upgraded Ubuntu from 6.10 to 7.04 Feisty Dawn Fawn, it was actually a pleasant experience!

As an existing VMware Player software user, VMware is happy to announce that Player 2.0 Release Candidate is now available.

Included are several new and exciting features, such as:

  • Experimental support for 2-way Virtual SMP assigns more than a single CPU to a virtual machine.
  • Share data seamlessly between the virtual machine and host computer.
  • Windows Vista support as a host and guest OS.
  • Support for USB 2.0 devices allow you to use high speed performance peripherals within your virtual machine like MP3 Players.
  • Appliance view allows you to start a virtual appliance and review brief description and other relevant information provided by the appliance author.
  • New Home Page allows you to open existing virtual appliances or browse any of the 425 virtual appliances in the VMware Virtual Appliance Marketplace.
  • Broad host and guest OS support includes over 60 supported 32- and 64-bit guest OSs.

Questions or comments? Please visit the Discussion forum.

Math For Programmers

Steve Yeggie’s blog article on the math skills required for programmers leads into analysis of the math subjects presented in grade school through college for the average student and which may be considered superfluous or redundant.

It also includes some tips and tricks to buff up your skills, here’s a snippet:

I think the best way to start learning math is to spend 15 to 30 minutes a day surfing in Wikipedia. It’s filled with articles about thousands of little branches of mathematics. You start with pretty much any article that seems interesting (e.g. String theory, say, or the Fourier transform, or Tensors, anything that strikes your fancy.) Start reading. If there’s something you don’t understand, click the link and read about it. Do this recursively until you get bored or tired.

Adobe: Photoshop Is Not A Verb

Adobe is teaching us the proper use of the trademark ‘Photoshop’, and in case there is any confusion they’re providing its use in some very handy sentences, a few copied below:

Trademarks must never be used as slang terms.
CORRECT: Those who use Adobe® Photoshop® software to manipulate images as a hobby see their work as an art form.
INCORRECT: A photoshopper sees his hobby as an art form.
INCORRECT: My hobby is photoshopping.

Trademarks are not nouns.
CORRECT: The image pokes fun at the Senator.
INCORRECT: The photoshop pokes fun at the Senator.

RPG Fans Worldwide Decry Loss of Dragon/Dungeon

DnD News

Sad but true.

Wizards of the Coast has killed off the 30+ year old rag ‘Dragon‘ and its younger sibling spin-off ‘Dungeon’. They’ve ordered Paizo Publishing to cease production of the magazines after the September 2007 issue which would be DRAGON #359 and DUNGEON #150. If you have a subscription, Paizo wants you to start here: http://paizo.com/transition.

If you’re foaming at the mouth angry and want to get even foamier, read the entire press release. Or, for your venting pleasure, here are some threads on the subject in the WOTC forums you can jump into:

1) Dungeon/Dragon discontinued
2) What WoTC Products Have You Bought Specifically Because of Dragon and/or Dungeon
3) So I finally subsribed to Dragon
4) Why won’t Wotc respond?
5) WotC’s Response.
6) don’t expect the e-zine to be free
7) Wotc can suck the big one.
8) Stop overracting.

Why?

The primary reason given for this is because WOTC believes we prefer getting all that hard copy material online and that an e-zine is the way to go. They feel that since they’re disseminating so much material through their Wizards.com site anyway, publishing a hard copy of unique material isn’t as cost effective if they simply make their online location the one stop shop.

Maybe in some cases they’re right, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of laying down for the night before turning out the light and reading an article in a magazine you like so much. Printing out a copy of the e-zine PDF to take to bed with you just isn’t as satisfying.

Is it Hasbro’s fault?

WOTC is owned by Hasbro. Hasbro will be reporting their quarterly earnings Monday and there is speculation among Dragon fans that this decision to cease publication came down from the parent to cut spending to the bone. I can’t really argue with Hasbro’s financial performance (sym: HAS) at a high level, check out their stock’s 1Yr chart below, outperforming Dow and S&P by a significant margin:

HAS stock performance

What’s a good alternative RPG Magazine?

[whispering] The wife is surprising me for my birthday soon with a subscription to Knights of the Dinner Table. Oh yeah!! 😀

If you haven’t had the pleasure of reading these roleplaying comics published by Kenzer & Co, you’re missing out. I got into the comic about a dozen years late, so I’m playing catchup by reading the ‘Bundles of Trouble’ compilations of the issues dating back to the ’90s while also reading the latest issues coming out on the stands.

KODT 121 - You Get What You Slay For

Buy Windows XP for Three Bucks!

If you think Microsoft went totally nuts and decreased the price of retail version of Windows XP to $3, read further, and you’ll see it’s not exactly what the announcement implies.  Microsoft’s new strategy which should spread the usage of Windows in 3rd World countries is a lot closer to this: The firm wants to bring computing to a further one billion people by 2015. Governments in developing countries can purchase the cut-price software, if they provide free PCs for schools.

Windows XP Logo

The Microsoft initiative was launched by Bill Gates in Beijing under the banner of its ‘Unlimited Potential’ scheme, a program aimed at bridging the digital divide.  The scheme aims to bring the benefit of computing technology to the remaining five sixths of the world’s population, who currently live without it.

“Bringing the benefits of technology to the next five billion people will require new products that meet the needs of underserved communities,” said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. One of the first products, that is hoped will reach the next billion people is the Microsoft’s student Innovation Suite. The package includes Windows XP Starter Edition, Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007, as well as other educational software. The $3 package will start to be sold to governments in the second half of 2007. “This is not a philanthropic effort, this is a business,” Orlando Ayala of Microsoft told the Reuter’s news agency.

In many developing countries, pirated versions of Microsoft software are sold dirt cheap. Governments will be required to provide free computers to schools, capable of running Windows, to be eligible for the discounted software. It’s a real kick in the pants that Microsoft isn’t going to offer this price to common users.  I’m sure many endusers would invest the 3 bucks to extinguish those annoying “genuine windows validation” popups! 

VIA Scores A Big Win

Medion RIM 1000While Intel and AMD are locked in a vicious battle, it’s interesting to watch VIA off doing their own thing, innovating in the low power chipset market and winning business in the UMPC arena like Medion’s new RIM 1000 (left pic). It’ll have a 30G disk, wireless, webcam, QWERTY, 768MB ram and a 6.5 in. screen.

But wait, there’s more and that’s not even the ‘big win’.

VIA and HP have jointly announced the HP Compaq dx2020 enterprise desktop for a low power PC market in China. (pic below)

The dx2020 uses a VIA C7-D processor, which VIA claims is the first carbon neutral processor in the world with a maximum 20W power consumption and features DDR2 memory, SATA, USB 2.0, plus VIA’s UniChrome Pro II integrated graphics processor for multimedia support. Also, VIA’s StrongBox technology and PadLock security engine are also supported.

Congratulations VIA, continue to innovate, do your own thing and do that thing well.

HP Compaq dx2020

What’s Upcoming

When geeks need to know what events are upcoming, they can go to Upcoming.org. Don’t worry if you see it redirect, it appears that Y! is hosting their service right now.

Enter a city and let it return the events happening in the future to include conventions covering everything from Music to Festivals to Education to Commercial and more. Or you can also search by date.

Hey, before you know it, you can be hanging with geeks like these at a Trek Con or wind up like this lucky SOB at TicketSummit 06.

[via Scoble]

PCs vs. Consoles, Are You A PC Snob?

Gamespy has a handy guide to discover the PC elitist in you. Then again, if you’re reading this blog you’re likely a PC snob.

Some of my favorites from the list are:

– You believe that only chumps play first-person shooters with a gamepad. In your eyes nothing matches the precision of the good old keyboard and mouse combo..

– You constantly remind people how weak consoles are. Your PC has at least 2GB of RAM, far more than any piddling console and you’d pick an Alienware system over a PlayStation 3 any day…

– GamerTags are Overrated, who needs Xbox Live when you’ve got the Internet?

World’s Oldest Known Tree Reconstructed

Pieces of a tree were discovered in New York about a hundred years ago after a flash flood. The bits of tree were dated to around 385 millions years old but there were only pieces of stumps, so scientists were unable to get a good idea of what the entire tree looked like. Until now.

A few years ago in an area near the other location of the tree, archeologists found fossilized remains of the top of a tree dated from the same period.

The journal ‘Nature’ recently revealed the details of the reconstruction, you can read the article on LiveScience and check out the artist’s rendition below.

The oldest tree

Steampunk Keyboard

Steampunk…a genre in a category all its own. Riding the coattails of both old fashioned and sci-fi, this slick keyboard is sure to capture the essence of this growing revolution.  Jake von Slatt spends his spare time making steampunk creations out of all sorts of everyday items, the best (in my opinion) being this keyboard.  He documents his construction process on his webpage, including a video showing it’s use.

 Steampunk Keyboard

I never was one to jump on this bandwagon, but after seeing this, I might be convinced it’s worth looking into!

Regardless, I would love to see the looks I’d get if I toted this into my next LAN party 😉

Plethora of Links

A plethora of links, some geeky, most for fun but again I’m short on time as I head into the office so I’m just relaying the good stuff below:

– From one of my all time favorite developers Raymond Chen, ‘The Notepad file encoding problem, redux

– Apple announces the iPhone is still on schedule for a June release.

– 12 Ways to be a Security Idiot [via GAS]

– The Ultimate Geek Boxer Shorts

– This should have the ‘Obvious’ tag: “Nanoparticles can damage DNA, increase cancer risk”

– A teenager was inadvertently jailed for 12 days due to mixup over recent DST changes

– New Red Hawk 4.2 release of real-time Linux scales up to 32 cpu cores!

– I recently stumbled on LyteByte, check them out if you’re interested in tips and tricks. Here’s a recent post on how to ‘Remove the shortcut overlay in Windows Vista

– Last, but not least (via OSNews), one of my favorite topics recently regarding obsolete computers and the fun and profit you can have with them.

Mobile Phone Mania

We live for our cell phones.  Don’t deny it, you’re probably talking on it right now, or expecting a call!  And as such, the major market companies know it – so they do their best to develop the most intuitave and technologically packed units they can.  Plus – it doesn’t hurt for them to look good as well 🙂

Here’s a few examples of current newly released, or concept phones I’ve seen lately that show the current trend of cell phones, and future perceptions of our favorite mobile buddies.

Here’s the Butterfly, a visually pleasing concept phone created by a 15 year old with a obviously well thought out and tech-packed design.

Butterfly Cell

Modelabs  presents three different future designs that offer a circular alphanumeric keypad, a forcefeedback thumbwheel and a tachyometer/heart rate meter.

Modelab Designs

Now I’m a sucker for protptype designs, which is why I absolutely love Nokia’s idea of a “scrollable touch screen” phone. The idea is use a scrollable screen that features touch screen technology. The design calls for one main button that controls all the primary functions; while other interactions takes place on the screen. The flexible e-paper technology isn’t as far away as we think.  It’s called the “Nokia Open” and it’s the winning design of Nokia’s recent 4G concept cell design contest.

Nokia Open

Another resource, Egy Studio, although not a manufacturer, has developed some quite interesting designs for their ideas on future cell phones.  Check out the gallery in the link above!

Egy Studio Design

All of these designs have one trend in common – showmanship.  It’s all about presentation, and if it’s not cute, sexy, or just plain bizarre, it’ll be lost in the mass market like another pebble in the techno river.  It’s going to be interesting to see if designs like these become the standard.  We will just have to wait and see!