Tuesday, February 28, 2006

An Optimistic Take on Vista

Things are not well at all in Eltonland. I got my score on my Computer Architecture test today, and it's much lower than I expected. You know that things are crazy when your easiest test is Diffy Q (for which my grade has been revised up to a B+, which is well above the average). Tomorrow is my second physics test, and I have no idea how much sleep I'll be able to get tonight so I'm going to make this post short. I wish I could talk more about all this, but I don't think this is the place for it. Today's Apple event was underwhelming that I've relegated it to the second paragraph in favor of talking a little bit about Windows Vista. Many people have been doggin' it (myself included), but Extreme Tech is actually pleased with it and brings up many reasons why. It's true that they've stolen many ideas from Mac OS X, but this article brings up stuff that most people haven't talked about (at least not in a while). Restructuring the kernel after so long is really their best kept secret (only because everyone has been so pessimistic about Vista) because while it doesn't promise a completely secure machine it does represent a major stride in closing up holes that should've never existed. This has also led to improvements in power and memory management to help developers churn out better stuff and keep down your electricity bill (and wait time thanks to a better sleep mode). DirectX 10, which is unfortunately Vista-only (tsk tsk), could spur a revival in PC gaming as we know it. Then there's the built in Media Center functionality for home users, which will advance their cause against Apple's iMac and Mac Mini offerings. I haven't decided whether it's worth upgrading as soon as it comes out, but I think it's a bigger leap than between Windows 98 and XP (though I still don't buy it as a leap between Windows 3.1 and Windows 95). We should definitely give it a fair shake though.

So what did Apple pull out of its bag of tricks? You're looking at it. An Intel-based Mac Mini: yippee. There were other things, like a stupid leather iPod case and a ridiculously expensive iPod WiFi boombox rig, but neither were very important or impressive. This means that the event at the end of this month will have some really big stuff, and all our predictions were way off (though a couple of mine were right). Strangely, I didn't see anything new from M$, but BetaNews did talk to the creator of Paint.NET, and I always like reading about humble developers like him. Sony has decided to release their Blu-Ray format on May 23 with 8 movies, which doesn't mean much for you and me right now, but it will several months from now when it has really gained steam (or bowed out to HD-DVD). Lastly, Chris Holland put up a look at an alternate P2P distribution format called Dijjer, and I don't get much about it except that it's protocol just learned some lessons from BitTorrent. What I really got out of it was a link to the Democracy Player, which allows you to watch free, online television based on torrenting, and it's actually kind of neat.

Quint over at AICN saw Dave Chappelle's Block Party and, much to my surprise, he really liked it. I thought he wouldn't like it because of all the hip hop, but I guess even he could understand how cool it all is. Yahoo Movies has a good clip of him doing some funny poetry, which fans of his show should really check out. The Superman Returns game has a cool cg trailer if you're interested, but you should note that it's not in-game footage. Lastly, IGN has some information on a chase scene from X3, but it doesn't really get me going.

Now for the Ten on Tuesday meme:

10 Things You Want, but Don't Need
10. Ice cream
9. A parking pass for UT
8. A better cell phone (that lasts more than like 10 hours)
7. A 19" flat screen monitor
6. A new Volvo (fully loaded with an in-dash CD changer)
5. A Nintendo DS
4. A big-screen, DLP television
3. A really nice apartment
2. A 60 GB iPod
1. A MacBook Pro (the high-end one, not the cheap one)

Monday, February 27, 2006

Tomorrow is a Big Day

It turns out that I got a B on my Diffy Q test, but the average was a 66% so I think that I'm sitting pretty. Plus, I think it might be higher since I believe the grader made an error. Anyway, tomorrow is the day for Apple's special event. What are my predictions? I can predict with 100% certainty that you will see new Intel-based Macs (likely a Mac Mini since they've held back shipments of that, but that could be a fake-out) and more Mac software ported to Universal binary (maybe Adobe sped up their porting?). With the iTunes music store on a healthy rise in sales, I think we may see movies added to the mix, which would obviously be started off with Disney movies. If this did happen, then we could see a new touchscreen iPod as early as their 30th anniversary, or I guess even tomorrow (though very unlikely). They may throw out some fun accessories though (even a boombox add-on) or even another limited edition iPod (like the U2 one). There was a big announcement they had to stifle for MacWorld due to supply issues, and I personally think it's an instant-on machine (i.e. boots up almost instantaneously to pressing the power button) but insiders assure us that it was something pretty damn cool. Oh, and note that I'm not reporting on that "leaked picture" of a 6G iPod because I think it's a fake (big ups to Robert for the URL). If I find a live feed of the Apple event tomorrow, I'll likely post it.

There's another reason why tomorrow is a big day though: Microsoft has called a surprise event together for tomorrow night, which I think is an almost blatant stab at competing with Apple's new announcements. So what do they have up their sleeves? Well they've already announced six versions of Vista (officially), so it can't be that. Just one quick comment on that: what pothead in Microsoft marketing thought up the name "Window Vista Ultimate Edition"? A video was leaked a few days ago on Digital Kitchen about a device called Origami, and subsequently taken down. It's back on YouTube now, so you'd better watch it before Microsoft finds it. In my opinion, this is the coolest thing they've come up with in a long while. A lot of digg users have been slamming it for being too big, costly (no price announced yet, mind you), and similar to a PDA. I love its possibilities for remote connectivity and on-the-fly ease of use, and I think the size is great. I would consider it as their answer to the Mac Mini and iPod in one, but we're sure to learn more about it tomorrow.

I have a few other tech things to talk about, mostly about games though so it should go quick. You'll recall that Google submitted its concerns to the Justice Department last week about the Government's request being an unwarranted violation of Google's users' privacy rights, but they were overruled because the information would have people's personal information removed before being handed over. It looks like they're facing an steep, uphill battle. Sony has finally admitted that they're likely to delay the launch of the PS3 in Japan to possibly even October because the Blu-ray format may not be finalized in time for their target release date, which would definitely be a big setback in shipping it without a way to, you know, read discs. They should've come out with this earlier rather than propagating a lie. RocketBoy put up a list of games (and their descriptions) that pushed their respective consoles to the systems' limits, and I agree with all the picks for the platforms I've used. It's a must-read for video game fanatics. Lastly, if you want a great way to waste time, try out something from Gamespot's list of the 101 best free games.

Click to enlargeIt should come as no surprise to you that I adore the Silent Hill series, and so naturally I'm inclined to post the winning poster from the contest that Sony was running, and it wasn't my pick but it's still cool. To balance the overload of tech news, there's not much going on in movies. Kevin Smith gave IGN some behind-the-scenes footage from Clerks II, and it's as fun as most of the special features you find on his DVDs so fans of View Askew stuff should check it out. Vince Vaughn has accepted the lead role in a movie called Fred Claus where he plays Santa's doppleganger of sorts. Lastly, Yahoo Movies has some alright clips from The Hills Have Eyes if you're interested.

I'm too engrossed in the Monday's a Bitch deadly sin series to stop now:


1. How long can you sit in front of the tv without wanting to kill yourself?
About two hours or so probably. I usually only sit in front of it that long at a time to watch a movie, and that's usually with other people anyway so I don't feel as guilty.

2. Describe your ultimate day of relaxation.
Being in a another place (like someplace outside of Texas) with cousins or friends just hanging out and trying out new things. Anywhere far away from my schoolwork would be really nice, and I love seeing new things.

3. Do you prefer your work environment to be fast paced and stimulating or comfortably routine?
Definitely fast-paces. It makes the day go a whole lot faster, and you have a greater feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. Plus, it lets your mind wander less.

4. Do you do laundry on a regular basis, or do you wait until you're turning socks inside out?
I never let it get that extreme, but I only do it every two weeks. So I'll use my towel at least 12 times before I wash it, but it's not that big of a deal.

5. Do you prefer to take the stairs or wait for the elevator?
I'll take the stairs for up to three flights of stairs before I decide to succumb to an elevator. Using stairs is good exercise anyhow.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Meet the Octopiler

Do you ever have days when you do a lot but you don't have a lot to show for it? I spent nearly 3 hours working on Diffy Q homework, but I kept getting wrong answers and trying to understand it, and so I still have to see the professor during office hours to get myself squared away. Anyway, those of you who are tech-savvy have no doubt heard of a compiler, which turns high level code into assembly. IBM is apparently working on an octopiler, named such because their Cell processor (included in the PS3) has 8 Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs), which is what they're initially building it for. In a nutshell, this is meant to optimize code compilation for eight processors rather than the standard one processor most programmers are accustomed to. How far along are they? They've written a pretty little paper about it. How well will games run without this? I can't imagine it being done before next year, and even estimating its completion at next year would be wishful thinking. The good news about this is that while it's pretty likely you won't see a quantum leap between PS2 and PS3 games, a couple of years down the line you will start seeing some magically awesome stuff, and it's likely to blow the Xbox 360 out of the water at that point. Of course the completion of such a compiler would lead to more research on such technology and better systems for scientific and mathematical purposes. We may even be able to crack more RSA encryption keys quicker.

It's only a mockup, don't get too excited
It's clear that Nintendo's offering won't be able to compete power-wise with the likes of this Cell processor, but EA has hinted that the Revolution controller will have touch sensitivity. This may be falsified or she may have mean to say "pressure sensitivity" or something like that, unless Nintendo really does have an ace up their sleeves. Maybe they'll have a big reveal at E3. Speaking of Nintendo, Gamespot put up a cool 40 minute video feature all about the original NES to celebrate it having come out about twenty years ago. It really does bring back some memories, especially of Nintendo Power and having to blow the dust out of those cartridges. Do you remember Dvorak's little piece on why Apple will switch to Windows? One techie put up a rather well-supported rebuttal of it that pretty much lays to rest all of Dvorak's key arguments. I still think that Dvorak is a loon, but then again, he always has been. Google has denied rumors that it would be competing with Paypal as soon as they arose, and yet they now have a vehicle for transmitting credit card payments for items on Google Base. I guess they could just keep it as a localized service, but they're almost too ambitious for that. Lastly, Paint.NET has finally come out with a 2.5 release, and the only drawback is that you have to follow the yellow brick road to installing a couple of pieces of Microsoft software for it to install, .NET being more prominent. However, I'm still recommending it to you because it's worth it to swallow the extra installs to enjoy the easy-to-use interface and sickeningly fast load time (at under 5 seconds, it puts Photoshop to shame). If you don't want to shell out for Photoshop, settle for this.

In an astonishing turn of events, the number one film in America this weekend was Madea's Family Reunion with over $30 million despite abysmal reviews (for being too scattered in genre) and very little marketing (at least here in Austin). Another big shocker was that Running Scared (featuring Paul Walker) got $3.1 million despite being most people's pick for #1 this weekend, and Doogal didn't do much better at number eight. My pick for next weekend is Ultraviolet because its action and hot leading lady will probably attract people. Todd MacFarlane revealed that he's been working on an animated Spawn movie to redeem the series, and while he's hoping for it to be picked up by a television network and split up, he's also willing to go direct-to-DVD with it. I don't know if that series has enough pull for that to do well on DVD. AICN put up some improvements to the Spider-man 3 picture released last week that fans will appreciated. Lastly, Apple Trailers has the new trailer for a movie called Stick It, which, despite its similarity to the title of Bring it On, is rooted in gymnastics and I have to admit that it looks like it could be much better than most teen movies (just ignore the trailer voiceover and you'll see it, too).

Now, predictably, for some Unconscious Mutterings:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Baby step:: Pink (as in baby clothes)

  2. Wasted:: Trashed

  3. Reggie:: Bush

  4. Pitiful:: Merciless

  5. Acting out:: Rage

  6. Tomato:: Hamburger

  7. Bad night:: Bad week

  8. Trip:: iTrip

  9. Finance charges:: Accounting

  10. Sport:: Fitness

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Past and Future Generations (of games, that is)

All the news I'm going to talk about today were from yesterday since I was too busy last night to post, and you'll get today's news in tomorrow's weekend edition. Confused? Good. This morning was our Texas Revue audition, and I'd say that it went well though the judges were largely expressionless. I have a feeling that they aren't allowed to laugh, but we'll know the results in two weeks so cross your fingers. An article that really caught my eye today (i.e. yesterday) claims that the best video game console is the SNES. Though I still vote for the PS2 as the best console, he makes some really convincing points. It really was a revolutionary system with games that we'll never forget (and I saw some guys play through middle school in the late 90s). He's correct in stating that we don't have as many original games, as you see a lot of remakes and sequels now, but I disagree with games lacking plots and character development. Just look at Metal Gear Solid or any of a number of new RPGs or Half-Life, etc. I also disagree about systems having more media functionality being a bad thing. The next PSP will have a camera built-in, which would mean video chat and I'm sure other kinds of functionality with games as well (and the PS3). I think it just enriches the experience. What would SOCOM be without online play? Speaking of the PS3 though, one editorialist believes that the rumors of the delay will only really be played out in Japan, which will likely have its release of the console around the same time as ours (this fall). Connecting this back with the original article: it's sad that it really has become too competitive and is almost squeezing out small studios from making groundbreaking games. If the Xbox 360 didn't rush itself so much maybe we'd have better games for it now rather than this bottom shelf crap and lackluster ports. The PS3 may be subjected to this, all because of the money they'd lose with delays. I've already spent too long on this topic, but gamers should really read the first article I cited.

Do you remember the videos you used to watch in middle school with JFK or space flights and other historic footage? Well, Google is working with the National Archives to put as much of this stuff as they can on Google Video, which is almost suspiciously nice of them. While you'll there, you'll probably also noticed that they've better integrated categories in the Google Video UI, which is definitely a step forward for them. Windows Media Player 11 is just around the corner, and CNet put up a short video showing off all its new features, but I'm still not really thrilled with it. It just doesn't scream simplicity in the same way that iTunes does. It turns out that the Japanese are fans of the iPod as well, which won't last for long given that cell phones over there that play mp3s are already well into the mainstream and getting better and better. It's funny to compare our market to theirs because rivals like Sony still have plenty of legroom to vie for market share there, whereas they've lost a ton of ground here in America, which is where I'm sure Apple (being California based) will continue to focus. Lastly, if you want to see a really freaking big LCD TV, check this out. It's the largest in the world with the best picture quality possible, and I want to watch 24 on it so bad.

That's just one of a few new pictures Mysan.de has from Silent Hill, but they also had some from other movies, including Dead or Alive. That movie looks the exact opposite of Silent Hill: I'm estimating that it will be even worse than Mortal Kombat seeing as how it has even less of a story to go off of from the games. AICN was sent some new candid shots from the Casino Royale shoot, which I thought I'd mention for fans of Daniel Craig. I personally have no qualm with him being Bond, but I still hold it against MGM that they didn't let Tarantino direct (especially since he would've done it for less money). I'll admit that I would probably like to see Hugh Jackman as bond than Craig though. IGN has a rather lengthy interview with Kevin Smith that starts out talking about Doogal (for which he's doing a voice) and then expands into his older stuff as well as Passion of the Clerks. I think that eventually, he's going to have to stop making interconnected movies because it's going to become too much. Lastly, I'm sad to relay the news that Don Knotts died Friday night at the ripe age of 81. I don't know how anyone can ever forget him on The Andy Griffith Show or Three's Company. There was never a substitute suitable for him as the landlord in the latter.

I decided to do Friday's Feast since it's so much better than the Saturday memes:

Choose one: moving to another state, having triplets, or never being able to eat chocolate again.

Moving to another state. I like Texas, but I have no qualms with moving to California or New York or Washington or something.

Name a news story that truly shocked you.

Don Knotts's death. Granted, he is pretty old, but I grew up watching this guy!

What was your very first job?

I was a Teaching Assistant at a museum for this summer camp they had for kids (ages 6-12). I think it was a much better and more fulfilling first job than most high school jobs, though the pay was sadly only minimum wage.

Main Course
If you had the chance to read the diary of someone you're really close to, would you? Why or why not?

Probably not, because I'd probably let loose something that I shouldn't know. More importantly, for the same reasons I hate self-serving blogs: I should be able to talk to them about this stuff, not read it. And if they aren't ready to talk about it then I shouldn't be reading it.

What's something you're looking forward to?

Spring break! I miss seeing my brother and some of the comforts of home. The pressures of school have definitely gotten to me and it'll be nice to finally have a real break from it all.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

iTunes News Takes Over

The sun came out today! I'm sure that many of you up north would think this weird, but people in Texas start worrying when they don't see the sun for an entire week! It's like walking around one day only to find no cars on the roads. My Computer Architecture was difficult, as I expected, but I feel like I did well overall (especially compared to others) so we'll see what happens when the curve comes around. I definitely tried my hardest. It's a bit strange how much of today's news was related to Apple, so I figured that I may as well pick one to talk about as my main topic: iTunes. Some dude in Michigan ended up buying the one billionth song from iTunes (it was "Speed of Sound" so he has good taste) and gets a new iMac, several iPods, a lifetime's worth of free music, and more. This is as good a time as any for iTunes to make another evolutionary step (the last being in October with music videos and TV shows), and one small thing is the ability to buy iPods straight from iTunes. Not exhilarated yet? Well what about the prospect of buying movies from iTunes, which would really need a new name if they did so because it's getting farther and farther from "tunes." There's no doubt that more Intel-related stuff will come out of their little event next Tuesday, but they could be looking towards offering movies. I know what you're thinking: who wants to watch Crash on that dinky iPod screen? Well, what if this is to set up the release of a touch screen iPod (i.e. full screen, no click wheel) for their 30 year anniversary? Given his close ties to Disney now, Jobs could probably squeeze some content from them and then if it does well have more of it for sale by April. We don't have anything concrete to derive this from (you can't trust analysts that much), but it's still a fun thought.

Steve Wozniak actually had a few words to say to one online magazine about Apple's direction, and it appears that his vision is quite different from the other Steve. He thinks they should go back to focusing on computers, not iPods, and he's not thrilled with this Intel switch (wake up Woz, Motorola doesn't rule the roost anymore). It just makes you wonder what it would be like if he still cared to help run the company. Macworld has an introductory review on the MacBook Pro, and it just has a few benchmarks for those of you dying to know as well as further approval of Rosetta as working well. I wonder how long before people start bemoaning nitty gritty things? The MacBook is still in its honeymoon period, for now. Sony has quietly announced that they're going to be launching online services for the PS3 first in Asia, and it's called Wa! PS3, which may sound weird but it's very much geared towards Asian consumers. Apparently, you'll be able to download games to your console (assuming you get a hard drive, I guess), and of course they just had to push that it would be "better than the Xbox 360's features." For anyone who is bemoaning the tech job market as being weak, eat this biatch. The market is very much alive and kicking (which I've known for a while now, but reinforcement is nice), and only people who aren't experienced don't get jobs; it's not because Indians are stealing them. Lastly, one blogger put up a rather vehement argument against HD DVD players and is quite riled up about the AACS copyright protection protocol. I agree with him: if they can change the rules of how it works and what content you can get (and actually "own") after the fact, then that's a total ripoff. If you read the comments for that post, you'll find more reasons to be pissed off (such as remote deauthorization), don't worry.

Click to enlarge, you know you want toIf that teaser picture (not poster, picture) from Spider-man 3 doesn't make you want to jump up and down, then you're probably not a Spidey fan. This could be trying to following newer issues of the series where he starts getting darker powers, or it could be Venom, of course. It's not a filter, it's a black and white costume, and it looks kickass. Warner Brothers has announced that they will be moving forward with sequels to Batman Begins and Superman Returns with their original directors, and they're targeting 2008 and 2009 release dates. Let the excitement and casting rumors begin! Moviefone has a clip from V for Vendetta where Natalie Portman's character gets her head shaved, and I'll warn you that it may be too intense for teenage boys used to seeing her, you know, with hair. I hope she lets it grow back! Inside Line has a clip from Cars themselves, but I still can't really get into this movie. IGN claims to have a new trailer from Silent Hill, but I think it's the same one as before. In any case, they do have a set visit, which only serves to make me want to see it even more. Lastly, Adam Sandler's next movie has lost its director, which is sad because I was hoping to see him in a better role than his usual fare. Actually, the director supposedly left because Sandler wanted it to be like his other movies, which I think is getting kind of tiresome.

Now for the 3x Thursday:

1. Name 3 projects you'd like to accomplish (they could be anything).
I'd like to create a map application for UT (kind of like mapquest so you can find the best route between classes), revamp the NSC site, and learn Python.

2. If you could plan a lengthy trip/vacation, where would you go and what would you do?
I would probably go to London and just take in the city. I'd have to do a lot of touristy stuff. If I wanted to just go somewhere to have a lot of laxed fun, I'd head to India with my cousins to chill with our other cousins.

3. If you could start (and keep up) 3 hobbies, what would they be? Why?
I'd love to play football, bake deserts (I don't care how gay it sounds, I have a sweet tooth), and I'd like to take up dance classes and learn more moves.

Bonus Question: Do you believe that you live your life the way you want to/have always dreamed of/etc? Why/Why not?
I do think so, but I think I'm too early to much about it right now. All I can do is continue to get good internships so that I can start off at a great job right out of college, and try dating rather than studying for ridiculously hard tests.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Little Bit on Piracy

Thankfully, there's not a whole lot to talk about today. This is good because I have a Computer Architecture at 9:30 AM tomorrow morning and I can't see myself going to be before 2:00 AM, but I'm sure it'll be later than that. The only thing that was worthy of a main topic was a couple of short articles on piracy. Apparently, some of Samsung's DVD players have had a glitch that allow them to bypass certain DRM encryption stuff. In other words, it makes it a lot easier for pirates to do their stuff. These players have not been in production for over a year now, and yet several movie studios are suing because of the oversight. Personally, I think this lawsuit is a stupid plea for more money for the movie studios to compensate for them investing in horrible projects. Samsung stopped making them when these concerns originally came up, and I don't recall there being a law requiring this to be built-in to the players (though I could be wrong, I'm no IP law expert). Terry Gilliam, of Monty Python fame, agrees that the studios are being rather greedy and has actually supported piracy of his work as long as its done in high quality. Why? Because he doesn't get paid what he should for it, so he has no problem with people screwing over the studios. I think its rather funny, and analogous to what record label does to its artists in album sales. I'm not saying that piracy isn't bad, but there really is a limit. And in Gilliam's case, aren't they kind of pirating him out of all the money he should be making for his own original ideas?

Click to enlargeThe next step in the release of a new, popular gadget like the MacBook Pro is to pull it apart, and that's just what this guy has done. I don't know how anyone could not be fascinated by looking at that and then using it and seeing how powerful all that tiny hardware is. Of course if you want to see ten things that will change our lives in the future, Forbes has a rather good slideshow detailing just that. I agree most with the $100 laptop one, which would be pretty crazy but also really awesome for low-income families. My dad had to actually buy his sister (in India) a computer so that they could keep maintaining their photo studio with the rising popularity of digital photography because they just couldn't afford one. PC Magazine put up a plethora of pictures from Windows Vista Build 5308 showing off many of the features that will ship with the product when it's first released. Their shots don't cover many of the things that aren't ripoffs of other products, but, in Microsoft's defense, there actually is some neat new stuff. And at least it looks slick. Lastly, if you've always wanted to scrub down your keyboard (you know it's filthy, don't lie) you should check out this article with the proper way to thoroughly clean out all that dirt and hair and stuff. I wish I had the time to do all that stuff.

The movie news is surprisingly weak today. JoBlo landed an interview with Hugo Weaving about being V in V for Vendetta, and he doesn't say a whole lot about the movie, but instead transfers more of an appreciation to the art department since the V mask is fixed and talks about other random stuff (like his hardest scene). I don't know why people keep seeing Scary Movie, but there are some pictures up today from the fourth iteration that make it look less vulgar than the previous ones. There's a poster up for Steve Buscemi's directorial debut, Lonesome Jim, and I would hope that given the movies he's been in that he would have a lot of exposure to great directing. It looks like it will be a romantic comedy in a less traditional sense, so I'm interested to see what he comes up with. Lastly, one horror geek has given The Hills Have Eyes his approval as a really good horror movie and even spoke with Alexandre Gans about his cuts for the R-rating. It has spoilers, but I'm sure that won't deter you.

Now for some Wednesday Mind Humping:

1. Name five famous Georges
George Carlin, George Burns, Curious George, George Washington, and Eddie George.

2. How many one-dollar bills do you have in your wallet/purse right now?
At least 8 of them, because I'd rather carry small bills than large bills for stuff like tip and church donations and stuff.

3. Ever been to Washington, D.C.? How about Washington State? Tell us a little about your trip to either of those places. And if you haven't been to either place, tell me what Washington, D.C. monument, institution or tourist attraction you most want to see if you ever go there.
Yes, but not Washington state. It was a family trip (ours and my uncle's family), and we basically just tried to hit all the tourist hot spots like the Smithsonian and the monuments and stuff. The subway was a lot of fun (my first subway trip), and I was first acquainted with Panda Express (which became a regular dinner thing since it was open later than other places at our subway station). There are way too many Smithsonian museums in D.C.! We had to wait too long to get into the Capitol, but it was pretty neat.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Let the Wild Speculation Begin!

My Diffy Q test today was a little tougher than I thought, but I can't imagine having gotten any lower than a B on it (though I'm hoping for an A, of course). I didn't skip any questions and I even corrected mistakes while checking my work so that's comforting to have caught them. Since I still have to face my Computer Architecture test on Thursday and a project due Friday, I'm going to plow as fast as I can through this post so bear with me. The topic of today's post was inspired by a comment on a short announcement from Apple that they would be hosting a special event on Tuesday, February 28 at 9:00 AM (which I presume would mean 11:00 AM CST). This is still over a month in advance of their anniversary so I wouldn't expect anything too extravagant, but I'm sure that it'll help set up whatever their next big thing is. Following up on the MacWorld Expo, most people who preordered their MacBook Pros have been receiving them and the box looks like this. The packaging is simple and clever as always, and it makes me insanely jealous. Don't get me wrong, my current computer is great, but it's huge. Also, some people are claiming that the iMac gets really good power consumption figures, as low as 80-85 watts in typical usage and around 95 watts at peak (including the monitor). It won't be long until we find out about the MacBook Pro power consumption.

I didn't really address the main topic all that well though, huh? Someone has made the claim that Apple will have programmable LCD keys on their laptops by next January, and I assume that they have an anonymous insider feeding them this information. I guess in the end, speculation is just gossip. Still, I think we all just like to dream of what could and should be. A vulnerability in Safari has been exposed, hot on the tracks of a Mac virus from last week, and it makes me wonder if these are the first of many woes for Mac users since they've been so cocky for so long about security? EA has decided to drop the pricing on some of their new current generation games to $40 (namely, The Godfather and Black), which I think is pretty awesome. I think I may actually buy some greatest hits (Devil May Cry 3 and Metal Gear Solid 3) for the summer break since for the first time in two years, I won't have homework to do! Now I can get new EA games to boot. Lastly, 1up has put up a great little feature on what we love (and a few reasons why we are annoyed with) The Legend of Zelda in honor of its 20 year anniversary. It is definitely one of the five best video game franchises ever and anyone who doesn't like it is a loon.

Click to enlargeOh Keira Knightly, why do you tease us so with your seductive glances? That's one of a couple of character posters from Pirates of the Caribbean 2, and there's actually another regular poster for the movie (which I could've sworn I've seen before) over at IGN. If that isn't enough media for you, then IGN also nabbed a lot of pictures from V for Vendetta, and they're just there to remind you that this movie will, in all likelihood, kick some major butt. We're hoping that Indiana Jones 4 will rock our world as well, which has been made all the more likely due to word that it will be Spielberg's next project with production beginning later this year, and I believe that Jurassic Park IV will follow that. This should really be the final Indiana Jones film (unless they decide to do prequels), because Harrison Ford is just getting too old. Lastly, Liv Tyler and Jada Pinket-Smith will be joining Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle for a movie called Reign O'er Me in which Sandler's character has lost his entire family in 9/11 and he's just coping with it. It's going to be hard to see Sandler is a serious role, but I hope he does well with it.

Now for the Tuesday Twosome meme:

1. Do you have a collection of anything? If so, of what?
Other than music CDs and DVDs, not really. Neither of those collections are especially extensive, but I do like being able to listen/watch them whenever I want since I love all of them. I used to collect pennies, but I only do that casually now.

2. What is your favourite book? How many times have you read it?
My favorite book is Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, but I've only read it like four times because I've been trying to read more Stephen King (and failing miserably). I may read it again this summer.

3. Do you usually prefer books or movies?
In general: movies, just because it forces me to finish it off in one sitting. I usually separate out book readings, and so I tend to get confused. As for books that become movies though, the book is almost always better.

4. Do you tend to believe immediately what people tell you or are you cautious?
I'm usually pretty cautious, unless it's someone extremely trustworthy (as in my brother or my parents). I prefer to not just be an unknowing sheep, though sometimes my brain is fried that I just succumb to being completely gullible.

5. Where do you get your news information (TV, newspaper, internet) and why?
I get most of my news from the Internet and the Daily Texan. The former because it makes blogging easier, and the latter because it's free and fun to read on the bus. The television media is typically too biased to my taste, but I am partial to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Furtive PS3

This post is going up early tonight because I have a Texas Revue practice at 10:00 PM tonight. I'm feeling pretty craptacular right now because I bombed my CS 337 test simply because it was too long. If I had like 30 more minutes, I could've totally aced it. I should've budgeted my time better, and it's sad to know that my GPA will finally falter so it's tough to deal with that. It's just always been a nice cushion for me, but I guess I have to just accept not being perfect (unless I make a 100 on the remaining tests in this class). The Diffy Q test looks like it will be much easier (tomorrow) in comparison. I totally forgot to mention this yesterday, but Merrill Lynch came up with some figures for the PS3 components and came up with an $900 price tag. The also claim, quite reasonably, that the console won't ship until late this year or next spring, which would really Sony (according to them). It sounds like t heir reasoning is just based on lesser revenues for this year, which I think is flawed logic if they can squeeze the system price down and have better games out at launch. It's not surprising that Sony commented on it today saying that they're sticking to their target release (this Spring), but no specifics to address the pricing information. Many people (myself included) are still skeptical about them shipping so soon, and it has been discovered that it will only support 720p resolution, not the full HD 1020p in order to save CPU cycles. This whole situation is a big mess for Sony, and while I think they will take a heavy loss on the sale of each console (at least as much as what Microsoft is currently stomaching), I don't know that $900 reflects the discounts they must be getting. E3 isn't too far off though, so expect more as May approaches.

For a game that you can play right now, check out Blueprint, which is an addictive puzzle game that I just blew 10 minutes on. I must say that it's the most fulfilling time killer I've played in a while. Google has secretly been building a Trusted Tester program to give priority to friends and family members of Google employees to try out their betas. I don't know that these people are much more trustworthy than normal techies, but it should make for an interesting experiment. The mp3 format has been around since before the Internet even became mainstream, let alone the advent of Napster, but doesn't that make it a little outdated (especially since it is a lossy format)? There has been a failed attempt to improve it, and now one mp3 licensing group is working on a surround sound mp3 format to satisfy audiophiles, and supposedly current consumer electronics can easily be upgraded to read it. I think that if they get big players to go along with it (like Samsung and Apple and the like) that it could be huge, especially since its licensing price is zero. Lastly, the British podcast "The Ricky Gervais Show" has become the first podcast to offer pay-for-download episodes at $7 a season (edited: thanks to anonymous comment for the correction; this price point sounds much more worthwhile), and apparently it's quite popular (though I don't care much for it). This will undoubtedly spur more if it does well, but I hope that my favorites still stay free (with ads). If I wanted to pay for podcasts I'd just get XM or Sirius.

Click to enlargeWarner Brothers has a pretty good marketing team behind A Scanner Darkly, and they just released this one that seems to stand out from its predecessors. What doesn't look good are the new covers for Empire magazine featuring some X-men 3 characters in their horrid-looking costumes. I can't begin to imagine what Ratner was thinking. There is some pretty decent comic movie news though: the lead role Silver Surfer is slated to be Keanu Reeves, who has become slightly better with each movie he's done in recent years and I think overall can do great with this role. If you want to see what the next Bond car will be, take a look at the prototype for the Aston Martin DBS, which is derived from the DB5 (also on that page). I've shown a sketch of it before, but this one is much better. However, I personally feel that they should go with the DB5 to better fit the time frame in the novel. There's a trailer up for Open Season if you're interested, but it's extremely lackluster. Lastly, if you like Super Mario and you like Kill Bill, then you must see this.

I'm going to keep on with Monday's a Bitch this week because of its interesting series on the 7 deadly sins:


1. Do you have a problem admitting youÂ’re wrong?
Only when I strongly argue my case only to have it all fall apart. It's a bitembarrassingg, but I won't blindly continue on with a false argument. I'll cede defeat when necessary, despite a little struggling with it.

2. Would you rather watch someone important to you walk out of your life or beg them to stay?
Probably beg them to stay. If I let them walk out I'd probably be consumed with guilt and/or sadness like 30 seconds later. I don't like being in bad terms with people; it throws off my karma.

3. Are you the kind of person who would rather try your best and fail, or not try for fear of failure?
I'd rather try my best and fail in academic issues, but in many social issues I find myself not trying because of rejection. I'm trying to change things, but I've been too swamped lately to think more on it.

4. Have you ever expressed interest in someone high above your status, where your chances of being rejected were very high?
Not yet, and I doubt I will. I guess we never know what the opposite sex could do to us, but rejection really sucks more than people may claim it does.

5. If you made a contribution to a charity would you want credit, or would giving be enough?
The selfsatisfactionn is good enough. To be recognized would be superfluous since the benefit is really in increasing your positive balance with the universe in a sense. I like to think of it as accruing nice points to save for a rainy day (like today for me) when you have a difficult situation to face.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Subpoena Response

There are certain weeks in our lives that push us to our limits and really show us what we're made of. This week will be one of them as I have 3 tests and Texas Revue practice every single day (the audition is on Saturday). It will all be worth it if I ace the tests and we make the cut. In any case, I'm going to go through this post as fast as I can to get back to studying. Moving along: Google posted the letter that they sent to the U.S. Department of Justice in response to their demands for two months' worth of search data to be used as evidence in a pornography case. As I've stated before, I completely agree with Google's position as not only would it compromise their trade secrets but it would lead to a slippery slope of privacy violations. Is this information really necessary enough to warrant a possible thread of demands from search engines catalyzed by this one case? If they can't accrue evidence against child pornographers on their own, then isn't that kind of sad? I don't think the search records of all should be compromised for the sickness of a few. What if all our homes had surveillance equipment just because some jerks hit their wives? There's no doubt that it sucks, but does it sound reasonable to monitor everyone because of a small minority? The ACLU is actually offering to analyze the data and then hand it over to the DoJ so as to protect Google's trade secrets, but that really doesn't sound a whole lot better. Now we just wait and see how the government responds.

While I'm on the subject of privacy violations, I should bring up that Sony is actually requiring you to either provide some personal information or pay $2 to play Fight Night Round 2 online on your PSP. If they're going to have a fee it should be required for everyone through the initial price tag, not an ultimatum for not getting spammed. Shame on you, Sony. Google may be planning to add voicemail and Evite integration to Gmail in the near future as speculated upon by web developers who analyzed the Javascript. Both would make a lot of sense, and these people predicted the addition of offering Gmail as part of your domain's e-mail service, so these extensions are pretty likely to happen. Apple may be slated to release something pretty soon themselves: a 17-inch MacBook Pro. The current hold-up is predictably the challenge of squeezing a SuperDrive in there, though I think they could probably have it read by their 30th anniversary. Lastly, one PCWorld writer thought up ten reasons why you should buy Windows Vista when it comes out, and while half of them are current Mac OS X features, I do have to cede that the peer-to-peer collaboration and parental control functionalities are pretty neat.

The only noteworthy item in movie news is the box office report, in which the documentary Eight Below reigned in the #1 spot with just below $20 million. Date Movie followed close behind, which I thought would actually win, but I was surprised that no romantic comedies came out recently (in light of V-day and all). The other big surprise was that The Pink Panther managed to clutch the #3 spot with only a 15% drop in ticket sales despite bad reviews. Maybe it isn't so bad if everyone keeps seeing it! Oh, if you care, the HD-DVD format may make its March target release, but likely without all the bells and whistles.

We went on a scavenger hunt for ACM yesterday, so I might as well post a fun picture from that (you wouldn't get any of the scandalous ones, most likely):

I love boba!

Now for some Unconscious Mutterings:

I say ... and you think ... ?

  1. Right time::Right place

  2. Funeral::Arcade Fire

  3. Calculate::Math

  4. Believe me::Cher

  5. Chat::Room

  6. Anniversary::1st

  7. Let you down::Never

  8. Shout::Scream

  9. Sweatsock::Jogging

  10. Prayer::Church

Friday, February 17, 2006

Government Backlash

All of a sudden, the government thinks that it's an expert in the affairs of technology. There's a couple of issues they've now gotten uppity about, and neither of them should come as much of a surprise to you. One of them is the major search engines bending to the will of Chinese authorities in censoring their searches, and, in Yahoo's case, releasing information on dissidents. While I don't think the latter is reasonable in any situation, I don't think our government has any business telling them how they should conduct themselves in foreign countries. We can't force our culture on them and we can't force multinational companies to do so either. Other companies are doing much worse things than these search engines are. The other thing that has them up in arms is the production of rootkits, which they're now seeking to outlaw. This is something that I do agree with because I don't think it's fair for software to install itself on your computer without you knowing about it. What would separate it from a malicious virus or piece of spyware?

I actually have one more case where the government is trying to get involved: cable television. They've become concerned with unreasonably high cable television prices caused by monopolies that are restricting many homes from subscribing to the service. The prices have caused dead weight loss (i.e. it's against society's well-being), and the government can help alleviate the problem by taking more actions to regulate local governments protecting these monopolies. I want to see them put their money where their mouth is. In an amazing move, Microsoft has actually admitted that it screwed up! A flaw in some of their drivers has caused USB devices to sap battery life in more recent Intel processors, which has become a huge issue for notebook users, and they're working on a convenient patch for the problem while Intel looks to prevent the problem from occurring in future chips. I wonder how a driver designed to work well in sleep states goes so terribly awry? Lastly, if you want to know more about the history of the Xbox, Elite Bastards has a good article summing it up and talking about evolutions in the Xbox 360.

Click to enlargeI don't have any particular fascination with Ultraviolet, but I think that Milla Jovovich is hot so I thought that I might as well showcase one of the many new pictures that IGN has uploaded. The big news today is actually the first real trailer for A Scanner Darkly, and it definitely looks awesome. It's going to be pretty trippy watching a whole movie in that animation style. Also pretty big is word from major distributors that they're going to stop producing movies on Sony's UMD format (for the PSP) due to weak sales (which I knew would happen) and piracy issues. Sony is still going to keep pushing for it, but without a wider user base I don't know what they can really do. James Cameron has announced that his next project is a movie that has been speculated on by movie geeks for a little while now called 880 that has remained very hush-hush. Michael Bay has spilled a few beans himself regarding Transformers 2 stating that the Pentagon is going to cooperate with the movie's production to introduce more credibility in the film (because giant robots are commonplace, of course). I don't get why Bay keeps releasing his updates on a forum rather than in a video diary or a news page. Frank Miller has confirmed that the next Sin City film will cover at least "A Dame to Kill For" (featuring Rosario Dawson's Gail and Clive Owen's Dwight) and a brand new story he's writing featuring Nancy Callahan after what happens in the end of Sin City (I won't spoil it for you, don't worry). As long as Jessica Alba comes back I'll be a happy camper. Lastly, IGN put up their opinion of the Green Goblin making his appearance in Spider-man 3 through Harry Osborn, although Gwen Stacey does complicate matters. I personally feel like this one will set him up more for the fourth movie, but we'll have to see what happens.

I'm going to go with Friday's Feast this week:

If you were a color, which color would you be, and why?

Probably blue, because I can be construed as sad/contemplative sometimes and bright/fun other times.

When was the last time you went to the doctor, and what was your reason for going?

I think the last time was when I got sick a couple of summers ago and nearly vomited an internal organ. Obviously I'm exaggerating, but it was pretty crappy and I had to go to the emergency room for that. I don't think I've seen a doctor since because my body's immune system is surprisingly efficient.

What do you collect?

Not much of anything anymore, though I still keep some pennies in my penny bank. Collecting money is always fun. I guess I can consider my music CDs and DVDs a collection as well, but I'm sure that other people are much more into it than I am; I'm a casual shopper.

Main Course
What were you like in high school? Name one thing you miss and one thing you don't miss about those days. (If you're still there, imagine how you'll remember it in the future.)

For half of it I was rather standoffish and subservient. I think I grew into someone slightly more self-confident and much less of a loser by the end of it all.

Pretend you're standing in front of your home, with your back towards your home. Describe the view - what can you see? Trees? Cars? A zoo? Wal-Mart?

At my parents' place there's just another house, and here it's just another building of apartments. Nothing really exciting about either of them, sorry.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Apple Switching to Windows?

Jack Bauer can get McDonald's breakfast after 10:30.

I just watched this week's 24 and it was so good that I just had to put up one of those. Anyway, would Apple really abandon Mac OS X for the likes of Windows? In a highly controversial article, John Dvorak claims to think so. I never put much stock in his editorials, but every once in a while he has some well-founded thought. I knew this one was coming because he spoke about it on TWiT, and I was expecting a little more out of it. His main points are that it would be compatible with more devices and it would allow them to just specialize in the look and feel rather than the whole kernel. Still, it would almost be like them flushing all the R&D they've put into the Mac platform down the drain, and so it's more than just an issue of pride. Additionally, why would they have gone through the trouble of fostering the Universal binary format and promising the ports of major programs by this summer if they were planning to renege on it? Then there's always an issue of whether they'd make a pact with the devil here. This is a company they've had run-ins with on copying Mac features, and doing this would almost be like ceding defeat to them in the OS arena. More importantly, the Macs will lose their whole identity without that Linux-based OS that makes people so happy. It's not altogether impossible, but I just weight more negatives against positives for them.

Speaking of Apple, it appears that the first Mac virus (or at least the first in a long while) was discovered today and Mac users everywhere are already up in arms about preventing its spread. However, the spread is inevitable; they just have to stay protected. Microsoft has announced that it will release multiple versions of Office 2007 (which is presumably the official name now) in the second half of this year, and as opposed to multiple Vistas I feel that this would work well if they all offered different price points. Students don't need as much as enterprise users, for example, so they shouldn't have to pay for it. Hopefully they didn't strip out too much though. An Engadget columnist believes that meanwhile, deep inside Microsoft, there's a conspiracy to bring down the HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats to bring digital distribution to the forefront. The idea is that they would end up in a deadlock and neither format would win, and his arguments are better than Dvorak's for an Apple switch. I half wouldn't be surprised if this was true because it really would mean a lot of good things for Microsoft, though I feel the end result is a bit unlikely. Good news SOCOM fans: SOCOM 4 will be coming out for the PS3 (most likely at launch) and will show up at E3 this year! There will also be a God of War sequel for the PS3, which is no surprise given its enormous critical acclaim. Nintendo fans have something to be happy about, too: a DS was shown off in Japan with a web browser and TV tuner. The latter sounds pretty cool, but until we get some footage in English I don't really know what to make of it.

I'd better just start a new paragraph here to talk about today's music news. The RIAA is clamoring for extensions to the Digital Music Copyright Act (DMCA), and in that same vein they have shunned music users who backup their music as not falling under "fair use." This same song and dance is really getting tiresome, and they need to stop getting greedy or people are going to start organizing against the music industry for pushing its customers too far. They claim that if you lose or break a CD that you can "affordably" get another copy, which is moronic because I'd rather just download illegally what I had previously bought rather than buy it again. There's a light at the end of the tunnel: Amazon.com is secretly organizing their own music service to rival iTunes and their own line of mp3 players. I know it may sound like another Napster or MSN Music, and I'm not a fan of subscription-based music services myself, but it could lead to bad things if Apple controlled the whole market with FairPlay and effectively shut out competitors. If anyone has the clout and resources to compete with them other than Microsoft, it'll be Amazon, who already has an enormous base of customers and may give hope to other online music services with a true competitor to the iPod.

There are several videos to be shared today in movie news. There's a trailer up for The Woods, which is about a very special boarding school for girls, though I think it will be more creepy than scary. If T&A is more your style then you may like the trailer for Basic Instinct 2 more, though I personally think it will flop and I also think that Sharon Stone is too old for this stuff. Yahoo Movies managed to snag some behind-the-scenes footage on the training that goes into the soldiers for 300, and it's more intense than any workout I've seen before. Another Da Vinci Code clip has popped up on the MSNBC site, but it's only viewable in IE. If you don't want to open an IE window for it then don't worry because it's only like 20 seconds long. IGN has a number of mock Peter Jackson production diaries from the cast of Date Movie, and they're actually rather funny if you've seen the Click to enlarge Eva GreenKong video journal entries. The Bond girl has finally been announced to be this lovely lady to the right: Eva Green (from Kingdom of Heaven). She's relatively new to movies, but that doesn't mean she can't be good. Lastly, Brett Ratner is spreading around all kinds of nonsense that X3 will be the last X-men movie, which I'm betting is a marketing ploy to get people to go and see it to compensate for the fact that this movie blows. I'll bet you that someone makes a movie that ignores X3 altogether because of how inconsistent it is with the first two movies because it really would be hard to make a sequel off of that one.

Now for some 3x Thursday action:

1. How much TV (movies not included) would you say you watch a week? What type of programs do you watch?
I probably watch 6 or 7 hours directly, but another 5 hours (Seinfeld and Simpsons syndication) are listened to while I do other things in my room. I watch a healthy mix of dramas and comedies usually.

2. What are your favorite shows? Are there certain programs you just can't miss?
I'm going to go with Family Guy, The Daily Show, and 24. I can't miss 24 or Lost, that's for sure.

3. Even if you're not a big TV watcher, are you taking the time to watch any Olympic coverage this week and next week? If so, which sports are you interested in watching?
I don't care about the Olympics at all really. I only used to watch them with my parents.

Bonus Question: What's your movie watching like at home? Do you watch a lot of movies? Do you have a Netflix/Blockbuster type thing going? If so, do you like it? Why/why not?
We rent movies occasionally, but usually I borrow from friends or just rewatch my own movies.

Oh, and thanks to the Google Blog for linking back to me, because I got more hits today than I've ever gotten in the history of this blog (163 hits, 126 of those being uniques)! When I talked about Measure Map they automatically linked to that post, and I'm wondering whether it will increase my readership (probably not though).

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

That New Vista Build

Today was a predictably tiring day, and I'm really dreading the next 7 or 8 days of my life. In addition to a scavenger hunt for ACM this weekend and Texas Revue tryouts being next Saturday, I have three tests next week in addition to homework for most of my classes being due. Alright, that ends my rant, now on to the good stuff. Dl.tv put up a new video podcast today (which is bi-daily), and in it they showcase the latest build of the Windows Vista beta. Once again, I have to comment on how similar to Mac OS X some of these new features are. I have to talk about one of their original (as far as my knowledge of other OSes go, at least) additions though: added parental control. I stand skeptical on parental controls, partially because parents can be too harsh and partially because it will end up making the kid more curious, but after seeing the effects of technology on my spoiled little cousin, I can't help but endorse it. Not only can you restrict what they can navigate to online (through a number of very specific checkboxes), but you can also specify the times they can go online (with striking similarities to uTorrent's scheduler), the programs they can use, and the regular user privileges as well. The other stuff that they showed off wasn't all that impressive, and the presence of Windows Defender was very confusing as I'm almost positive that they said a couple of weeks ago that no anti-virus software would be packaged with Vista.

It turns out that the Playstation 3 will not have a built-in hard drive, which is the official word from Sony's PS3 specs. A hard-drive will be sold separately, but I wonder how they'll fit a dock in there for it. Oh well, it's still just a prototype. Google has been working on a web application to glean web statistics specifically for blogs, which sounds pretty cool because I currently use Statcounter and while I think it's great it's definitely targeted more towards full-blown websites. I signed up to get an invite to use it, so I'll report back if I get one. If you've wondered how Newegg works, AnandTech got an inside look at a factory where all the magic happens, and it's actually cooler than you may think. They even use an algorithm to sort the products on their shelves so that it can stored in the most efficient way. Lastly, if you've been exposed to a lot of programming myths, you should check out this list of facts separated from fiction, such as the debatability of programming style.

I've got to go pretty soon, so I'm going to have to rush through today's massive amount of movie news. Click to enlargeTo your right is the French poster for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which actually looks pretty good. If you just can't get enough of the Bourne Identity series, then you'll be happy to know that there may be two more on the way if Matt Damon agrees to do them. I personally think that it's pushing the franchise too far and will leave a bitter taste in people's mouths. There's a trailer up for The Break-Up (Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston), which actually looks like it may be a funny movie. IGN has some behind-the-scenes footage for The Hills Have Eyes, which all you horror geeks will be interested in. The rest of us will prefer to watch a new entry in the video blog for Clerks 2 about 360 degree angle shots. The Casino Royale villain has been officially cast as a near-no-name Danish actor (Mads Mikkelsen), which I felt was a strange choice. So they won't let Tarantino direct, but they'll pull in random actors? The HD-DVD and Blu-Ray formats have now been delayed to the point of almost simultaneous release as the AACS standard has been delayed by a month, which complicates matters greatly for HD-DVD (who were prepared to launch very soon). Lastly, there's now a new TV spot for Mission Impossible: 3, and it may not have new footage, but it can still get you pretty pumped for it.

I'll go with a quickie Wednesday Mind Hump today:

1. Valentine's Day - love it, like it, tolerate it or hate it?
I tolerate it, but I haven't had much reason to love it in the past. In elementary school we would exchange those cheap little cards, but my mom made me feel guilty about making her go through the hassle of buying the stuff for them, and I never found them all that worthwhile since I wasn't a very popular/cool kid at all.

2. Who or what is on your "love list" right now?
24 is right up there as is sleep and guitar (as always). As for girls: give me some breathing room here!

3. What does your own personal candy heart say?
Love is not fleeting.

4. Will you be my valentine next year? If you're a guy, just say which female celebrity you want to be your valentine next year.
I'm going to go with Jessica Alba, because it may be impossible to be hotter than her.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

An IT Manifesto

I hope you all had a good Valentine's Day, but I'm not going to talk about such matters today. Instead, I have a technologist's manifesto, which details the most important things that IT employees should know about the industry. One of things that spanned multiple items was that IT professionals shouldn't be arrogant, which is actually a true stereotype (propagated by Nick Burns). Why does this happen? Well, when you learn a lot of big words and understand things that most people don't it tends to make your head big. I'll admit, that I conscientiously have to make sure that I don't fall into this trap. Anyway, it can cloud your decisions and design things for yourself rather than your users. Another big thing is calling something "good enough" way too quickly, which leads to shoddy code, security holes (especially the ever popular buffer overflowing), and a less appealing experience for users. If iTunes didn't have so many easy-to-use features, it wouldn't have usurped so much market share from players like MusicMatch and Winamp. It seems like another big pitfall is not accepting simplicity, which can lead to obfuscated code or just complicated solutions to easy problems. I think that the better technology companies weed out this train of thinking in technical questions during interviews, but it still lurks around out there. If you plan on (or currently are) working in computing, that article is an essential read.

I actually do have one V-Day article today, and that's Apple's gift to its customers: anyone who pre-ordered a MacBook Pro will have their machine ship this week with an upgraded processor! The higher-end one will have a 2 GHz Core Duo and the cheaper one will feature a 1.83 GHz Core Duo chip, and customers will now be able to upgrade their MacBooks to 2.16 GHz when they buy at the Apple Store. Definitely a welcome present for most fans. Some guy believes that Apple may truly be working on an iPhone, and I'm citing it because he has some good points with regards to patents Apple has filed and alliances that its chip-making partner has made. Having an always-connected iPod would be pretty sweet, and it's what I've always claimed that I've been waiting for Apple to come out with. While I'm on music, Franz Ferdinand has said that they support ripping songs to mp3 players and downloading songs legally, which tends to shake out artists who just produce albums with a hit single and lots of filler. What's even better is that they're a good band and are awesome live. If you use Firefox, then it's likely that you've noticed memory leaks upon extended sessions and opening many tabs, and apparently it's because they cache your immediate history in RAM for faster browsing. I personally think that it compromises their image among most computer geeks as making a lite browser, and it should be a feature that you can turn off. Lastly, the Nintendo Revolution logo has leaked thanks to a clumsy game developer, and it doesn't look all that great but doesn't look like a hoax. Some gaming outlets are claiming that it's unofficial and even the name is tentative, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is what they went with, though the Gamecube and N64 logos were much cooler.

Click to enlargeThis shot is one of a few new ones Sony has released for The Da Vinci Code, which also includes some of Jean Reno and Ian McKellen, but they didn't look as cool as this one. I was rather tempted to post one of the many new ones for Silent Hill, but I felt that the best ones may be a little creepy to force you to look at. All you Die Hard fans may be disappointed to know that production on a fourth installment has been forestalled by Bruce Willis's desire for a better script, which is good because at least he still has his standards. There is a chance that this movie won't get made, because I can't see them going forward without Willis. Meanwhile, we've discovered that Transformers is closing in on the end of pre-production and may start shooting by the end of May, which would mean that it could go head-to-head with the Fantastic Four sequel. I would hope that Bay's movie would turn out better. Avi Arad has been hinting that a Captain America movie may be in the works, which would hopefully redeem the franchise from the 1992 film that tanked. Lastly, if you didn't see enough King Kong in theaters, then you'll love the Extended Edition DVD that will hit stores at the end of March. God only knows what scenes he actually cut from the film.

I thought that I'd try out Tuesday's Tales this week:

What is your most treasured material possession?
Probably my classical guitar. It never can/will fail me,and it's always entertaining (not just for me, but for a group of people).

What is the best advice that you've ever received?
"Don't ever let someone else make your world for you, because they'll always make it too small."

What characteristics do you think youÂ’ve inherited from your parents?
I'd say my ambition, my temper, my sensitivity, and my meticulous nature.

Is there one piece of criticism that sticks in your mind?
People saying that I'm too thin or that I should eat more or something. It pisses me off because back when I was fat they were all critical of me. You just can't make some people happy.

What ambitions do you still have to fulfill?
Almost all of mine! A good family, a steady (high-paying) job in a good city, creating a video game, and making a product that changes the way the world sees some aspect of technology.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Security Tech Talk

I went to a Microsoft Tech Talk tonight because it offered free food (O's actually served some good stuff: cheesesteak slices and cheesecake), which I gorged myself with because I was starving by then, and there was a raffle for fabulous prizes, none of which I won. I still think I came out on top though. The speaker was Jesper Johansson, who's a big security guru at Microsoft who formerly taught for a long time and has more recently just been touring the world for random conferences and workshops to elicit his wisdom. I haven't been so glued to a speech about technology in a good while, especially having been pretty tired at the time, and it was really cool understanding terminology that I've actually learned in the past year here at UT. A lot of his speech was based off of him showing us different forms of attack, and it has really cultivated an interest in me in software security. For example, one company spent over $18,000 on a database management software suite that he cracked in under 15 minutes. When they "fixed" the problem, he just had to type in a few extra characters at the login prompt to effectively comment out the password field and log himself in. It's amazing how easy it is to unknowingly write unsafe applications. Another big thing I didn't realize is that biometric scanning is pretty bad for authentication. If you have a fancy new Mercedes with biometric engine starting, a carjacker could cut off your thumb to turn on the car. Even just for normal computer stuff though, it doesn't take much to copy a fingerprint to use, and then you're basically screwed. The best part is that all the tools he used was freeware (all available here or built into Windows). If you're interested more about hacking, this site has some good stuff as well. I guess we're not as safe as we all naively think.

It wouldn't be a complete blog post if I didn't mention something about Apple. A Mac user put up an article about what Windows users switching to Mac should know ahead of time (most good, a few bad), and it's actually a pretty clever list. This is in light, of course, of the Intel-based Macs that are luring so many away from Wintel boxes, and will hopefully make for some interesting dinner conversation. Oh, and some dude's antitrust lawsuit against iTunes and the iPod's chokehold on digital music has been approved. I think it'll be hard for him to prove his point, unless he can really hammer their protectiveness of FairPlay. If you're more interested in Google, Time put up a long article (though you have to click through some dumb ads) about the Google founders, culture, and secrecy of their strategy, and it kind of helps remind us that they're not really as bad as all the press they've had recently. The engineers really do run the company, not the guys in suits, which is quite refreshing. Sidenote: that's one of the big things that made TI more attractive to me than Goldman Sachs. If you don't know where you stand on the war of the Internet browsers, InternetWeek has a good comparison with brief writeups on each of the big browsers, including side-by-side pictures. It may be unfair to talk about IE7 while it's so unstable though. If you ever need to convert your documents (or even a web page) to PDF, this site can help you out, and all for free. Any documents published online should really be offered in a PDF format. Lastly, there are some fun Valentine's Day gift ideas over here for the geek girl if you're dating one, though a couple of them are rather pricey. Of course the only date I have tomorrow is with my CS 337 partner to work on our RSA encryption project, which is cruelly due the same day as our test in that class (next week).

Click to enlargeWhile World Trade Center is filming, we don't have much to go on other than this teaser poster. There is a report from one extra of the set, but it's not all that exciting. There's also a poster for See No Evil, but I just can't get into this one. I felt more interested reading about Before the Fall in today's Daily Texan. IGN put up a video interview with Bryan Singer (from ComicCon), and, while it's not anything new, it's always nice to hear him talk about the movie. We all need our daily dose of his faith in Brandon Routh. It looks like Martin Scorsese will be working on a movie aptly titled The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt all about good old Teddy Roosevelt, and I'm really curious as to what he'll come up with. Lastly, it looks like Bollywood has recreated Fight Club in what may be their worst American film adaptation yet. It's important for my dignity that I never watch that movie's trailer again.

I'm going to go with Monday's a Bitch this week:


1. Who do you aspire to be like?

In some ways, like my father. In other ways, kind of like a young Bill Gates. My dad has all the moral strength, intelligence, and sense of filial duty I'll never need. However, Bill Gates basically jumped off a cliff onto a mound of gold with Microsoft, which took a lot of guts and genius.

2. Does it bother you when your significant other is friendly with members of the opposite sex?
My computer doesn't care much for other guys, it only has eyes for me.

3. Does the amount of media attention that someone like Paris Hilton obtains seem unjust?
Not really, because it really just makes her look even worse in most cases.

4. Has your own unhappiness ever caused you to unintentionally resent the happiness of another person?
Not outright, but secretly I'll admit to it. When good things happen to the wrong people, it just kind of makes you wonder.

5. Have you ever changed to fit in with a desirable group?
Not that I know of. I'm not all that great at being anyone but myself.