Stupid Site Registrations

After being frustrated at the fact that if I want to read The New York Times online I must register to actually read any article. They say it’s because they are tracking for ads and targeting ads at different user bases. The thing is, I’m not the only one who doesn’t truthfully answer those invasive questions as to who I am and where I’m from.

Another site, Bug Me Not, has also taken a great approach to the matter. If you have an account on one of these places, submit it to Bug Me Not and other people will be able to use the logon as well. They’ve got a ton of sites in there as well as a plugin for Firefox (my new browser of choice). Go try them out, if you come upon another annoying site that forces registration to read content. You’ll like it, and it keeps your privacy intact. Very good.

BBS Documentary

BBS – The Documentary. I cannot wait. In much the same way that I had to purchase Mindcandy (the PC Demo DVD), this is a must purchase item. It represents a big chunk of my childhood, and a big chunk of my learning about how computers worked.

Looking through the site, I see that he’s interviewed 200 people and done some great collecting of all the old BBS programs accross tons of different systems. It’s impressive, and fun to go down the list and find the different board software that I remember logging into. I even tried to setup my own WWIV board back then, and I had a friend create me a few ASCII graphics to put up on it. Ahh.

These kinds of niche documentaries and collections are wonderful. They bring back the memories that for the most part are long gone and tenderly present them with the love and respect they deserve. Thanks.

RSS Fiendish?

I found this article on RSS while reading Slashdot.

In it Chad Dickerson, of InfoWorld, talks of the growing pains of RSS (Really-Simple-Syndication) as the number of users of feeds go up, and the clients that they use are not “smart”. He likens the hits InfoWorld gets at the top of every hour to a DoS (Denial of Service) attack, because of so many different clients from all over all asking at the same time.

He makes an interesting observation in that but he doesn’t take it further or offer solutions. He gave the problem and left it at, “If RSS is going to go from fairly big to absolutely huge, we?re all going to need to do a little more work on the plumbing.” I’m a more recent convert to RSS “feeds” and getting used to using them instead of going from site to site to site and checking for updates. It’s usefull and wonderful, but not if the tool can’t be managed correctly.

I’ve heard solutions to the problem, and many of them have to do with making the RSS clients smarter, in that they only download the feed if it has been updated and not everytime. Doesn’t sound hard does it? The other major solution is fixing the users. I’ve had people tell me they have their RSS reader check their list of feeds once every 15 minutes, and then there are stories of people doing it every 5 or less. Please people stop. Sure the amount of data exchanged is small, if you are doing a small thing many times it adds up quickly, and especially for smaller sites (I’m really not worried about this one for any time soon) their bandwith bill most likely comes out of their pocket.

I’m not an expert by any means, but I think RSS has a great potential in the future, and I see a combo of it and something like BitTorrent could be an amazing way to publish writings and files in the years to come. Go the future.

Book – Marching Powder

Marching Powder : A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest JailMarching Powder : A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America’s Strangest Jail

My wife, Jess, picked up this book while we were on a trip in an independant bookstore. The back of the book pulls you in with this crazy story of a prison in Bolivia where the inmates must buy their own cells, and in many cases their wives and children live with them. Anything can be bought, and you can bribe your way out of almost anything. The book was the story of Thomas McFadden, a drug smuggler, who was caught and imprisoned for over four years in this prison.

The first person narritive of the book is amazing and surreal. You almost feel at times the book is fiction and that the scenes come out of a movie. Thomas is likable, and though not a saint, he draws you into his story and how he became the unofficial tour guide of the prison, and ran his own restaurant amoung other things to make money inside.

Linky linky

– Cnet has a great article on how the iPod is undermining Microsoft’s efforts at being the DRM king (DRM = Digital Rights Management). With iPods being the hip new accessory these days, people are complaining that the Microsoft encoded files included on some newer releases, won’t play on their iPod. When consumers speak, sometimes, just sometimes, the industry might listen. Not that having Apple as a DRM overlord is better than Microsoft though.

– From the design culture has nothing better to do dept.: a coffee mug with a key so you can prevent others from using your mug while you are away. Don’t you feel better now?

– Looks like the Windows XP Service Pack 2 will be late. Should we be suprised? It’s optomistic that Microsoft says its next generation of Windows will be out by 2007, but really, shouldn’t we fix what we’ve got before making new holes?

– You must go to Orisinal. This guy has a knack for flash games that are easy to play, wonderful to look at and cute without being “cute”. Play a few, worth the time.

Links to random nerd crap

– Over at The Ur-Quan Masters, you can find the latest in the remix packages for the music of the game Star Control 2. Some of the original composers of the music for the game, and others, have taken it upon themselves to update the memorable tunes to the 21st century. This just released third pack is not as strong as the first two but still more that worth the download.

George R. R. Martin, author of “The Song of Ice and Fire” series of books, has updated his site with progress on the fourth book in the series, A Feast for Crows. To sum it up, “When it’s done.”

– When you see that a cell phone blows up in a girl’s pocket, it’s kind of interesting. But when you recognize the phone as the one your wife uses, you ask her never to put it in her back pocket, ever.

– I’ve decided to start experimenting with Firefox, the open source browser. After putting it off for ages, I’m going to start using it and then eventually convert my family over to it. As much fun as it is to keep spyware and other malware off my parents computer, I think this might be a much better solution in the long run. Much.

The Perils of Rosella

Feeling a wave of nostalgia after the fact that Sierra is being ?downsized,? I went and looked through old folders of older games that I hadn?t played in a while. King?s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella, the game that consumed me for months and months of my childhood, said play me and I obliged willingly.

I remember seeing an early screenshot for King?s Quest 4 in an old computer games magazine, and I knew I was going to be hooked. After experiencing the King?s Quest I, Space Quest I and II and such, I knew that this new amazingly colored and detailed game had to be mine! It was on the top of my Christmas list in 1989, and my parents put up with my constant stream of information about Sierra On-Line and the amazing new game they had. Just look at these pictures on the back of the box!!

When I got it for Christmas that year, the family was visiting my grandparents (who owned a Mac) and so I poured over each and every page of each and every insert. Just biding my time until I could arrive back at home and pop disk 1 of 9 into the A: drive and type the ?sierra? to get things rolling. 9 disks. This game was huge! Our home computer didn?t have a hard drive, just two handy 5.25? drives with a good old 640k of ram. MS Dos 3.2 and GEM desktop if I wanted to draw with the painting program.

The game?s opening with King Graham looking old and gray, getting sick and Rosella (his Daughter) going off on an adventure to save him. The plot was great back then and now ends up just a little simplistic and cute. Skip past it all and Rosella stands on a beach, alone. Waves lap up on the shore. This was heaven and it was only beginning. I soon discovered the problem of having a 9 disk game with no hard drive. Walk one screen, ?Please insert Disk 4?, walk two screens north, ?Please insert Disk 2?. You get used to it quickly, and the excitement of playing disk that had never entered your drive until that request before was great. You were making progress into unknown territory.

I spent months traveling around the land, talking to the natives, getting fishing poles, and true to a Sierra game, dying constantly while climbing circular stairs. My friends soon had their own ?copies? of the game and we gave each other hints, and exalted over new areas and puzzles as we made it further in the game. My sister would join me in the quest, offering help and advice, but mostly watching me die by the hands of the troll, or the blind witches. Eventually it all came to an end with my father saved, and the family happy again. The ending of the game never really mattered to me, but it was more the experience of the game that stuck with me. From there I continued my Sierra love affair with Space Quest and Manhunter: New York.

Sad as it is to admit, I wrote fan letters to Roberta Williams when I was a kid. Twice. I received letters back from her both times. As a kid, having your game designer idol write you a personal letter back was thrilling, and I had the envy of my peers. I was even thanked for my game design ideas, and told they preferred to use their own in-house ideas, rather than those from their fans.

When replaying it this weekend, it was amazing to see how quickly the typing and the interface of walking around came back to me. It was like it never left. I remembered where things were and where I had to use them, and where random little things lay. I also quickly remembered to save often and really save in a few different save files. The game will let you get to places without the items you need to get out of them, and end up in a dead end. I really only forgot one piece (giving the book to the minstrel) but all of the other puzzles came back to me like I had never left the game.

The thing that surprised me was the lack of sound and music. Sierra helped to pioneer sound cards for the industry, just like ID did for video cards with Quake. Kings Quest 4 doesn?t really seem to show it so much. There just was a lack of ambient noises (aside from opening a door or getting a point) and music was severely limited. Maybe it was still early in the days of the AdLib card (ohh how I drooled for one of those, and ended up getting a Sound Blaster Pro a couple of years later), but the music was just a slightly upgraded version of the PC speaker sound. Maybe the MT-32 sound would blow me away, but I don?t think they hit their stride with the music till King?s Quest 5 and onward for full use of sound cards.

Go find it, play it, ignore the dated graphics and the lack of a mouse interface. Save often and play it. You?ll feel all warm and fuzzy if you like adventure games. One of the finest in a series that died in its later incarnations. It?s the pinnacle that was all downhill from there.

The Blog

Why blog? It’s not as if there arn’t 2,000,000 other blogs out there pertaining from the mundane to the profound. This is more of a learning experience and a way to express thoughts on whatever is happening around.

I’m not verbose like some people seem to be, typing and typing just to hear the sound of the keys, and LoL hoping that somewhere in the midst of all that a nugget of sense might pop out. Short and sweet. We’ll see what happens.

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