Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sticker shock

Robin posts about Dell griping about "having" to put 'Intel inside' or MS Windows stickers on their PCs.

Err... Having to?

[disclaimer: I don't know how MS's sticker program works. And while I have cursory knowledge of how Intel's program works, I wasn't involved with it. Nothing I'm saying here is trade secret, and can't be found on the web]

About the Dell sticker thing:

Dell’s never been “required” to put them on. Intel sells them a Pentium chip, and then says “hey, mr customer and co-traveller, if you want, you can participate in our Intel-inside marketing program. You put a sticker on your box, and a “ba-boo-ba-loo” at the end of your TV spot, and we’ll pay for a chunk of the TV spot”.

So they’ve never “had” to put the sticker. This griping is “we don’t want the sticker, but we still want you to foot the bill for our ads”.

Boo-freakin-hoo.

It’s a fairly significant amount of marketing assistance they get, from what I gather. Significant enough that AMD has sued Intel over it numerous times, saying it amounts to unfair competition (I disagree, but understand the arguement).

Anyhow, it irks me a little that the perception is that Dell is somehow forced into this. They are the ones that come to the table looking for some marketing money. They claim it costs money to put the sticker on the box, but clearly that's outweighed by the money they get in return, or they'd have stopped putting htem on long ago.

As an aside: If the gripe really is about the cost of applying the stickers in manufacturing, then, as will all controversy, I smell a business opportunity: A case manufacturer should work something out with Intel, MS, Nvidia, and the rest of the "sticker people" to pre-fab and pre-approve cases with teh emblems on them as part of the paint job.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Mother Nature

I haven't been watching the news over the past 2 days, so only this evening did I see the extent of the devastation in Louisiana.

Whew. My heart goes out to everyone there.

Now what?

State Farm's "Now What?" campaign is brilliant. Great way to target young people with a boring established brand - don't even mention the brand!

Take that, lizard!

Home Theeatahhh...

I forgot to blog this, but I bought an Onkyo SR602 receiver over the weekend.


I'm not an audiophile by any means, but had to go with one at this price point because of the features I needed:

  • Sufficient video inputs for DVD, ReplayTV, PC, PS2 and Xbox360 (when it comes out :-)
  • Powered "Zone2" amp to play CDs in living room while watching TV in media room
  • Svideo and Composite to component upconversion, for when and if I have to replace the projector in the future.

I looked at the Harmon Kardon (too expensive), Sony (didn't like some of the feature inaccessibility), and a few others before making my decision. YMMV.

A small plus (not that it swayed the decision) was that the blue LED "right" around the volume knob can be switched on and off. If left on, it will be like a beacon to Tom, who is attracted to volume knobs as it is :-)

Monday, August 29, 2005

It's a blog world after all...

Have a blog? Use Sitemeter? (see the little link I have bottom right)

They've added an awesome new feature where you can plot recent visitors on a world map. Here's my last 50 plotted.


WTF? Who's the African person reading my blog? So awesome!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

60% of game geeks blog

As surveyed from a show of hands at a dinner the other night :-)

A few people were in town for Pax, and so I had dinner Saturday with Mark Deloura (Sony), Chris Melissinos (Sun), Alison Kelly from ATI, and one of the guys from Valve (name also escaping me now...).

Someone brought up blogging, Alison asked "do any of you blog?", three hands went up.

Was interesting comparing notes about why we do it, what we've gotten out of it, etc.

BTW, it occurred to me tonight watching 60 minutes that Andy Rooney is the original video blogger :-)

[Thanks to Will for reminding me of Alison's last name so I could update the post]

Friday, August 26, 2005

Spammers have found me!

Grumble.


>:-(

Spambots have found my blog's comments section. It was only a matter of time. I've enabled word-verification to try and put a stop to it. Sorry for the inconvenience.

In the meantime, I have to go email Britney_Gurl about whatever it is she wanted, and then I have to go order some enlargement pills.

Doom movie trailer


Click here.

What's impressive is not that they made a movie
based on the license, nor that the movie is going to be good (I suspect it will suck), but rather how much the movie looks like the game.

This is the first time I've seen a movie based on a game that (appears to anyway) stays true to the original license. There are even first-person-shooter camera POV's! I wonder if they just borrowed the high-res source artwork for some of the creatures?

The saga continues

of unpacking that is.

I dropped Alisa off at the airport this morning with teh kids. She was flying to Toronto with the two of them, single handed. Which makes her The Bravest Woman On Earth as far as I'm concerned!

This evening I continued unpacking and finally tackled my office a bit, getting some walking room in there and getting my desktop out. (thus my posting).

Tommorrow if I'm feeling brave I'm going under the house to start thinking about where to run ethernet cable. Hmm... bandwidth!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What's that giant "splooshing" sound?

The world descending into the crapper, that's what!

The Chinese government sticks it's finger in your game design. Hooboy.

This can't be good. The government can't design games.

The only politicians I would allow design games would be Ahnold (to design FPS games), and perhaps RTS games designed by Maggie Thatcher ("Falkland Frenzy"?). Maybe an economics sim designed by Reagan that lets you lose to whatever degree you want, and the losses are passed onto the next player that logs on :-)

Behold the power of these fully armed and operational blogs!

From Scobleizer, regarding Dell's backtrack/hat-eating following reaction to a customer blog post griping about product offering

"See, something has changed over the past five years. The customers are in charge now. Blogs can go from obscurity to the front page of the New York Times in 48 hours or less. So, help the customers. Or you'll be helped out the door.
"

referenced post, "Dell learns a lesson".

I've said it before, I'll say it again: It's a great time to be alive. Janel agrees!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Sexy sexy gotta have!

Anyone who's been to Akihabara can tell you that you can get retro-action SNES console clones for a few bucks to play your old cartridges with.

But an updated slimline version with 2.4Ghz wireless controllers? Ooohhh.... gotta have!!

Do do do ta dah DAH da! Da da da, ta DA da da...

RIP Flipcode

"After more than six and a half years of game development goodness, flipCode is closing its doors"

http://www.flipcode.com/

Kurt, it was great while it lasted. Best of luck to you!

:-(

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Moved in

Exhausting day yesterday as we moved into the house, also shuttled kids & dogs from temp housing to the new place, unpacked as much as we could until about midnight, and then I spent an hour or two getting the cable modem & wireless internet up and running (wired will take a little longer!)

At least we took a break to jump in the pool! :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Artifacts

The other day I was walking the dogs and I saw a CD-R/W on the ground, littered on the street next to a sewer drain. I had a moment when I thought “hundreds of megabytes of data, just thrown away, like the cassette tapes we’d find on the street as kids and gleefully stretch out all their tape to see how far it would go.. or 12” LP’s we’d find in the garbage and throw like Frisbees.”

What do kids today do with the CD’s they find? And if they found a cassette tape or LP, would they know what they were?

Maybe they’d meet with friends in Halo or WoW universes and talk about it.

What a great time to be alive.

Darkwatch

Gamasutra does a round up of how the press receives some new titles, citing what critics agree/disagree on. This month they critique Darkwatch, who's lead character was featured on the cover of GPG5 (see link to it on the right).

This time we finish it! There can be only one!

Ok, it was my fault for giving Mark the link, but HE started this, ok?

Ok, it's ON!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Warren Spector interview

Great interview with Warren Spector at The Escapist.

My fave quote:

If you write much about the electronic game industry, you can save time by defining certain phrases as macros in your word processor: "risk-averse publishers," "spiraling development costs," "studios caught in the middle," and more. The terms pepper every discussion of the benighted state of electronic gaming.

Machinama Talk Show

I got a pointer to This Spartan Life, an awesome (Halo-based) Machinima-implemented talk show. Check out this episode, where there guest is, of course, a creator of other machinima (based in Tomb Raider).

Welcome to the only talk show that kills their guests at the end of the show :-)

[update: actually, just go to episodes-->episode 1, and watch the intro first. Hysterical!]

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Realty Rant

Today I took some time off work to pick up Alisa & the kids and go down to sign the Gigantic Pile Of Paperwork™ in order to close on our house. Yay! We’re moving in at the end of the week! Yay! I just shifted the decimal point on our bank account by several places :-(

As anyone who’s bought a house (or *especially* sold one) will tell you that the realty business and the sum of paperwork, involvement of other parties, and obfuscated terminology seems to be entirely designed with one purpose: Getting you so flabbergasted that you’ll sign off on multi-hundred dollar fees without questioning them.

It’s been quite frustrating, but fighting it is more or less pointless. Every question of “what is this for” is answered with a “that’s standard. We always charge that, it’s for blah…”, to which you’d have to put hours of research into disputing it, and even then, they can just refuse your business, and chances are you want to buy the house and move on with life.

The number of parties involved is quite astounding too. Mortgage brokers, mortgage lenders, insurers, escrow companies, title companies, realty companies and agents (buyer & seller)… the list goes on.

Additionally aggravating is the fact that the margins in each of these businesses (as judged qualitatively by the office d├ęcor, saltwater aquariums in their lobbies, cars the agents and other employees drive, etc, is very very healthy. [Aside: Last year when I bought a new road bike, I was looking at one place when the owner of the store pulled up in an $80k porsche. I left the store and shopped elsewhere. Any bike shop owner driving that car is padding his prices too much!]

These two facts add up to one thing for me: There’s a great business opportunity for someone to come implode the real-estate business.

This would be done primarily through 3 mechanisms:

  • Collapsing the food-chain: By combining many of these companies into one entity, you could sustain profitability on thinner margins, passing the savings along to the consumer. There might be some legal reasons why some pieces have be maintained as separate entities, but at the very least you could save “courier fees” currently charged every time something is sent from realtor to lender to escrow company to … you get the idea.
  • Live on thinner margins, especially for agents. Fifty years ago (so my daddy tells me), realtors lived of 3 point commissions, not 6 or 7. And that was before the internet, which has simplified their jobs in some respects. True, they’ve gotten harder in other respects, but still, realty is a more lucrative profession than it was fifty years ago – and it doesn’t have to be. Even more to the point, the agents are all commission driven. There were laws passed to ensure that they look out for your interests, but they are hard to enforce and teh commission structure still incents behavior that isn't always in their interest. (Example: Seller's agents will almost always push for a lower price than the house could fetch. Though their commission will be slightly lower (say by 5%), they are more likey to sell the house in 2 days vs 2 weeks or two months.)
  • Related to the above - Agents should not be commission based, but salary + bonus. Bonus should be scored on a *combination* of how well they make their employer money and on a customer satisfaction survey run by an independant third party.
  • Run a transparent business. Put the entire money flow in front of the customer, in terms they can understand, and state it all up front. No surprises. I think if you did this and marketed it well (call it the 'Saturn' model), you could win business even if you were 1:1 on price).

So, why hasn’t this happened yet?

Getting in and “undoing” the status quo in this space is difficult because typically, startups are small and need to work with other companies to get going in one area. This model depends on the “one stop shop” idea.

"So do it on the Internet!" You probably cry out.

Problem two. This is a local business. Customers want people that (a) know the area they are selling/buying in, and (b) want to work face to face, especially for what is likely the biggest purchase they’ll ever make. So local representation is also needed.

The only players I can see that might be able to address both is someone like a Price Club or Walmart. Price club already has a mortgage lending business, but they are basically a bulk-buyer and broker of mortgages .They probably did the math and while they could have a bigger business at a thinner margin, the math probably worked out that owning just one piece of it, in exchange for higher margins and lower risk, basically made sense.

So in the meantime, we’re screwed, but at least I got to vent. Maybe I should go make a pitch for MS Mortgages :-)

Pain in the Tushiba

So after years and years and years of using Big Blue’s Thinkpad’s (last couple years at Matrox, last 7+ years at Intel, so I've used nothing but for a decade), I moved to MS and got a new laptop: A Toshiba Tecra Tablet PC.

Not exactly new though, the one I got was a placeholder to use while I ordered a brand-spankin’ new one. The one I had was an M3, and the new one was an M4.

There were a couple pros with going with the M4:

  • Choice of touchpad and eraser mouse (the latter being called “nubbin” mouse or “C**toris” mouse in certain circles). The M4 gives you choice of both (and you can switch either of them off)
  • Bigger display (14.1 inch vs 12 inch)
  • In-chassis DVD drive (the M3 requires an external one).
  • Better CPU, GPU, etc

The downsides of the M4:

  • It’s GIGANTIC!!!! Starbucks-goer-giving-looks-of-“What does this guy think this is? A drive-in?”-big
  • It’s heavy (see above point)

Those things said, I went with the M4. The lack of nubbin-mouse (I use an external but not at coffee-shop, on plane, etc) was a show stopper, as was having to lug an extra drive around and squinting at the screen was no fun. The touchpads drive me nuts, as my thumbs brush against them while typing which results in accidental double-click, sending the cursor off to wherever... but I digress.

My back is not pleased though, and has vowed to stage a rebellion first chance it gets (probably on the way to TGS, with my luck).

The thing's so big it doesn't fit in my briefcase! Now I need a new one of those too!


Monday, August 15, 2005

Best CV ever!

Over at Gretchen's blog, I was pointed to Alexandre Gueniot's Flash CV , which landed him over 100 offers, of which he selected one from Microsoft.
Way to go! He was courteous enough to follow it up with this thank you animation.

Very original, and the bad singing with the French accent only adds to it's appeal.

WoW love ballad

View, reach for bucket, hurl.... rinse, repeat.

Truly the end of the world is upon us.

In other news, I'd wondered what happened to 80's cheezeball Rick Astley :-)

(Thanks for the link Adam... I think)

Nice things in Washington

I mentioned how a little while back we took the kids to the aquarium.

This weekend we went to Marymoor park, which amongst other things, features a velodrome, an RC airplan field, and 180 acres of free wireless internet(!)

We also took the kids to Kelsey Creek Park, which is huge, but has some really nice play structures and a FARM! Kids got to see cows, pigs, rabbits, chickens, horses ("Nay nay!") and goats ("Doggie!") - well, they can't get them all right, can they?

I'll tell ya another nice thing about moving here... I got my first paycheck today. Ah.... no state income tax. PSCHT! (sound of celebratory beer opening)

Friday, August 12, 2005

Latest addition to the Cahones Club

Trigger Gumm (not a product for hunters, but an insane dude) is the latest addition to the Cahones Club (previous members noted: Danny Way, Neil Jing).

Trigger - who's given name almost certainly lead to his choice of profession - Jumped a 500cc dirt bike 300 feet, going about 8 stories high in the process.

Check the pic:



See crazy-ass video here.

Jim Collins articles

Jim Collins' articles are all really good (well, the few I've gotten through so far have been top notch. I'm 3-for-3 so far). I *really* like the "Hitting the wall" article. Rock-climbing enthusiasts will love it (Adam, Brian, Robin, this means U!)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Und vis mein ahrmee ov robotic men....

Unfortunately, I didn' t make it to Siggraph this year, due to the move and the job change (I think I made the last 8 or so!).

And as a result, I missed this. Remote-controlled humans! Thanks for the link Adam!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Real time Fluid demo

Check this out:


Cool demo.

Thanks to Billy Z for the link

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Old sKooL

Before we moved, I grabbed this crappy phone cam pic of my old snowboard, which I gave to the salvation army before we left. If we weren't trying to clean up, I should have kept it for nostalgia sake.
Note the square tail. The board was at least 15 years old, as I bought it second hand 11 years ago. Bad-ass 80's colors, that's for sure!

Monday, August 8, 2005

Dum dum dum, ta-da-dum, ta-da-dum....

The best part about this gamasutra post is that someone had the stones to, *in their lawsuit-related press release*, call Sony "The Empire".

LOL!

(I'm not sure why The Empire has to sue, anyway. Can't they just terminate their distribution contract with Lik-sang, over failure to stick to terms of their disty contract?)

Opulence



MS provides a free membership at a place called the ProClub, and I went for the first time this morning before work. (pic snarfed from their website at right).

O.M.G. 24-fitness this is not!

Best way to describe it is that it's the health club equivalent of the poolside bar at the Viceroy in Santa Monica. My friend Marty will get this even if many readers don't.

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Flaming Byrne

David Byrne that is, and I wish I could, but his web journal doesn't have a comments section.

Flame is too strong a word, but I liked the pun.

His latest post (thanks Robin!)talks about games as a medium of deeper storytelling. He makes some good points but comes down kind of hard on the value of interactivity, and interactive storytelling.

If Mr Byrne was listening (Listening Head?), I'd tell him to read Raph Koster's fabulous book. Raph talks about games as one man's tool for learning, rather than for storytelling.

The truth of course, lies somewhere in between - scratch that, it implies compromise - the truth incorporates BOTH. When we are able to steer the plot of rich, involving, griping, moving stories, and change their outcome for better or worse, this will teach us things about ourselves.

Seattle outing

Took the kids to the Aquarium here today. Was fun. Salt water air is good for the soul, IMHO!



Experts agree. Jellies Rawk!

Who said casual gamers weren't hardcore?

My sister in law had a baby yesterday. Congrats!

In the hours beforehand, she send my wife the following in an email, after her water broke:

"the doctor has instructed me to head to the hospital in the next hour. My contractions are not too regular or close together - I was hoping to sit at home and play mahjongg until I couldn't stand it anymore."

That's more hardcore-gamer than any all-night lan party, that's for sure!

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Gamasutra QotW

I replied to the Gamasutra Question of the Week about classic arcade games. For what it's worth, here's the link.

And yes, I think I can stand behind my comment about Centipede & Millipede being the best designed games EVVAARRR!

Friday, August 5, 2005

Great new TV show

Last night I watched the premiere of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and really liked it. It's about four issue-ridden friends running an always-in-the-red pub in Philly. Premiere involved an offer from the barmaid's new african-american beau to turn it into a hopping club. They take him up on it, and he does. Only the barmaid didn't realize he was gay. So she's out of luck, and her three straight male friends each deal with their own separate issues in suddenly finding themselves proprieters of the hottest gay bar in philly.

Anyhow, I really liked it. I told Alisa it was "Friends, with the gloves off".

Check it out next Thurs!

Thursday, August 4, 2005

A better way of thinking of CS

Elizabeth Lane Lawley posts this nice summary of Robin's talk at MS Research last week. Sorry I missed it due to all the newbie stuff I had to do!

One thing that struck me is that in some ways, Robin's suggestion that CS be looked at as a tool, useful for all kinds of other disciplines, is like a return of computing to it's roots. Many of the "old school" people in the biz (at least some I've met around Intel & MS), got their start before there were CS programs in schools. They found their way into computers from other fields, either because they were useful tools for solving problems in their field of study (math, physics, engineering), or because there were jobs popping up in a new industry as an old one was waning.

Dove campaign

MSN has an interesting article on Dove's new ad campaign featuring "real women".

I find it an interesting campaign to observe as a "hobbyist marketeer". Do I have a comment on the campaign? No.

I am going to used CD store to find a copy of that Sir Mix-a-lot hit from the 90's though.

Now I've said too much...

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Bicycle Anarchy!

The Black Label Bicycle Club in NYC have to be the CRAZIEST bunch of people on bikes since Lucas Brunelle.

I need to get my bike out of storage so I can put on makeup, strap a jet engine onto it, and do some bicycle jousting!

Diversity

... a lot of companies pay it lip-service. However, since I've joined MS, I've noticed that they really walk the walk.

For one thing, I've heard that greater than 1-in-4 employees are women. Still a long way to go, but this is *pretty good* for any large company in the tech industry.

Another thing is that I've been astounded by the number of handicapped (is that term PC anymore?) people I've seen around the campus. I've seen two blind people, someone in a wheelchair, and this morning while I was going to get a coffee, a man with an artificial leg rode by me on a bicycle! COOL!

Up late

Movers packed up all our stuff today.

Holy crap, we have a lot of crap. I couldn't beleive they fit it into half of a 53' moving truck. These guys were real-world-welltris masters!

It was a bit sad to leave our first home, home of six+ years, our kids first home, etc. We didn't have much time to dwell on it. Perhaps it will sink in later.

Anyhow, it took way longer than we thought, and didn't get on the road till 8pm. Add construction traffic to our 3hr portland-redmond jaunt and we got in around 12. Then I had to unload our packed to the gills van, and then Tom had a meltdown and I had to spend 30 minutes getting him to sleep.

So it's around 1:30 now and I have stuff to do to get ready for work. Guess I'd better stop blogging.

Monday, August 1, 2005

(almost) Vindicated

A while back, I bought some Krispy Kreme stock. It was right before their accounting *ahem* snafus were brought to light and it dropped significanly right after I bought it.

Accounting practices aside, my reasoning was as follows: Like all diet trends, the Atkins craze was bound to end. And when it eventually does, all those meat-eatin' dieters ALL WANT A DONUT!

Today, the Atkins company filed for bankruptcy.

C'mon dieters. You know you want it. A nice cakey donut. Mmmm....

Sigh

First Twinky, now this.

We sold the pool table. Not a big deal, since I didn't have room for it at the new house, but am a little sad to see it go anyway. Good news is, I paid $150 for it 6 years ago, and sold it for $200. Either price is good for a full size slate table. Selling it was easy enough. The moving company sent a guy over to take it apart before shipping it, and he asked if we were selling it.

If we hadn't sold it, I'd considered bringing into work and putting it in the lobby. There's a ping-pong table there now, and I suck at ping-pong.

I don't have room for my arcade machines either, so I'll likely stick one of them in the new office. Everyone else at MS seems to have an arcade machine in their office. Seems to be very 'de rigeur' as Checker might say.