April 2009 Archives

One of the nice things about Steam has been that it allows smaller indy games to find a bigger audience; another is their frequent sales on games that make it impossible to pass some of them up (notice, for example, the recent $9.99 sale on The Orange Box that finally got CK to try Halflife 2).  A while back they had a sale on indy games, and one of the ones I picked up was Audiosurf (at the delightful Deidei's suggestion), which is a "racing game" of sorts, where the game creates a track based on a music file, and then you have to race along it and collect colored blocks.  It might sound a little lame on the surface, but it's a lot of fun once you get into it and start trying to beat the high scores, and the different challenge levels and types of racers give it some added depth.

Well, this weekend I finally got my Linux box set back up as my mp3 server and copied all my old files over from the old fileserver I had, and I decided to try out some of the Juno Reactor tracks I have.  Techno in general tends to make really fun tracks to play -- I have had a lot of fun with BT and Pendulum tracks, for instance.  But neither of those really prepared me for what I was in for.

I can't find a video of the specific track I want to show (which is Samurai), but here is Komit:



In comparison, Samurai is about as long, and almost entirely downhill -- and completely relentless.  Great fun.  If the game looks at all fun to you, I suggest checking out the demo on Steam sometime!
"No, but I did get my pants pulled down."
"I'm not especially hairy.  I mean, I don't have hair like...outside my underwear area."
      -- woman on cell phone sitting in front of me on the bus

"We all heard you."
      -- woman on bus seven rows up to previous woman
Those of you who subscribe to E-ON have probably already seen this, but the latest issue has a short profile of my character in it -- I got my copy today (after two weeks of waiting -- I didn't know it shipped from Sweden!) and am rather pleased.  It's always nice to be noticed, after all.

This may push me over the edge to the point where I actually subscribe, though I have to admit 60 bucks a year for 4 issues (even very, very nice looking and rather substantial issues) is a bit hard to swallow.
A joke for my fellow Caldari:

A Caldari CEO calls his three top executives into his office -- a Patriot, a Liberal, and a Practical.  He slams a box of the company's widgets on his desk and says, "Gentlemen, we have a problem.  A Gallente company has put out a widget that is better than ours and it's about to dethrone us from dominating the market.  How do we beat them?"

"It's obvious," the Patriot says.  "Get the CEP to raise the tariff on foreign widgets 20% and ban them from our enclaves.  Besides, people should know that it's unpatriotic not to buy Caldari."

The Liberal looks at the Patriot and shakes his head.  "That's only putting off the inevitable.  Eventually we'll have to compete -- we should get started now and invest in widget research."

"And you?" asks the CEO, looking at the Practical.  "What do you think we should do?"

The Practical thinks for a minute, then takes a sticky note from the CEO's desk.  He writes "NEW AND IMPROVED!" on the note and sticks it to the box of widgets.  "That should do it," he says.

Frugality

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So today I made the decision to cancel both my landline phone service and my satellite service, largely in order to save a hundred bucks a month I'd rather spend on something else.  Cutting out those two saves me almost $1200 a year, which is enough to pay for a new computer, a trip to Iceland, or about a zillion other things I probably will enjoy a lot more.

The landline was pretty much a no-brainer.  Honestly, I probably shouldn't have bothered keeping it around as long as I did -- I haven't gotten any actual calls that weren't telemarketers on that line for years, so keeping it just didn't make much sense at all when I have a cell phone I use for pretty much everything else.

My satellite service was a little harder to kill.  I have to admit I've been fairly happy with DirecTV, and when I first got it and tasted the sweet, sweet nectar of TiVo for the first time, I was pretty damn impressed.  Over the last year or so, though, I've come to feel like I'm just not getting $60 worth of entertainment out of my TV a month -- or, at the very least, that what I want I can get elsewhere.  I watch most of the TV I watch now on Hulu or one of the networks' sites, and their shows go up there the next day; if I want to watch older shows, I don't need to watch something in syndication, I can just Netflix it.  I don't have a giant HDTV like more and more people I know -- if I did, I admit I might be more interested in getting HD content for my TV, but my nearly ten-year-old 28" CRT does not need 1080p programming, and it still works just fine for playing DVDs.

So here we go.  Goldsmith, if you're reading this -- I'll never make fun of you again, man.

CLI is not a crime.

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Every once in a while I see something like this:

"Mr. Calixte uses two different operating systems to hide his illegal activities.  One is the regular B.C. operating system and the other is a black screen with a white font which he uses prompt commands on."
Yes, you read that right.  The police considered the fact that this guy used a command line interface as probable cause for the seizure of all his computers, in order to investigate the "crime" of outing another student (which, as far as I'm aware, is not actually a crime, despite arguably being in bad taste).

Whenever I see something like this, I think two things.  First, I thank the heavens that the EFF exists.  If you don't know what the Electronic Frontier Foundation is, or how its history is intertwined with the gaming industry, you owe it to yourself to at least read about Steve Jackson Games vs. The United States Secret Service, the case that spawned the EFF in the first place.  If you're at all familiar with the gaming industry, Steve Jackson should be a name you're intimately familiar with, as one of the RPG industry's old guard -- the creator of GURPS and many other games.

The other thing I have to think is, how the hell can the police be so fucking stupid?  I understand that not everyone is as computer literate as I am -- but jesus, if you are investigating computer crimes (or "crimes"), you really need to know something about computers.  Of course, if you're even more cynical than I am, you could say the police do know, but the general public (and possibly judges) don't, so they use the flimsiest pretexts to get overreaching warrants and confiscate thousands of dollars in equipment from someone who can't really afford the spend tons of money fighting things in court.  I'm not sure which is more frightening.

I have immense respect for people in law enforcement -- most of them are dedicated individuals who have volunteered to risk their lives to protect the rest of us.  Unfortunately, I think they have become a victim of the same culture of fear that seems to plague a lot of the other more conservative parts of society, and that makes it easy to demonize anything new that they don't understand.  It doesn't help when people like the RIAA and MPAA start hijacking law enforcement to enforce ludicrous copyright lawsuits for doing things that, for good or ill, probably a majority of the general public does not consider a "real crime."

As the years wear on, and we get further into the Information Age, I hope to god we see the end of this kind of insane overreaching and computer stupidity, but I'm not holding my breath.  While it's true that the first generation of cops that have grown up with the internet since their childhood is going to start hitting the beat very soon now, I suspect most computer science majors or even just Linux enthusiasts aren't really going to be signing up to walk a beat.  Part of that is because being a cop is frankly a high-stress, largely thankless and underpaid profession, even compared to the sometimes hectic IT professions (where at least your life is not usually in danger), but I think another part of it is the antagonism that has existed now, for decades, between law enforcement and much of the "computer nerd" community.  That doesn't even address the problems with encroachment on civil liberties that were taken over the last decade in the name of "protecting us from terrorists," which is bigger problem.

I dunno.  I don't want to point the finger entirely at law enforcement here, because I don't think it is all their fault, but until there's a general increase in the computer literacy of the police and other law enforcement agencies (even the FBI and Secret Service have a pretty poor record with this stuff at times), this is a problem that isn't going to go away.

This Charming Man

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I went up to Chicago this weekend for Gracie's baby shower, which was a lot of fun, despite the fact that it's a little freaky to me to be going to my friends' baby showers now (weddings were bad enough) and the fact that the ceiling decided to leak on me in the middle of it.

After the baby shower, I went downtown to meet with Marc, who had picked up a pair of tickets to see Morrissey at the Aragon Ballroom.  This was the first time I'd seen Morrissey live and the first time I'd been to the Aragon, and I have to say I was impressed by both.  The couple sitting in front of us in the balcony had seen him quite a few times, and they manged to really make me look forward to the show.

As far as the venue itself, the acoustics left something to be desired (though I noticed the sound for Morrissey himself was a lot better than for the opening act, so I don't know if that had something to do with it), but it's a pretty impressive place.  It must have been gorgeous when it was built; it's still quite elegantly appointed, but it does seem very much like something from another age (at least before the lights go down and things kick off).

The opening band, the Courteeners, was pretty decent; they're very much in the "indie mold" so to speak, but for an opening act I thought they did their job pretty well and the crowd seemed to get into at least a few of their songs.  I don't think I'm going to run out and buy their CDs right away, but I can't complain about them.

The main event, though, blew them away.  While it seems like some reviewers were not too impressed, I thought it was really good -- and if this is a weak performance by Morrissey, I really want to see a good one, because it must be pretty crazy.  It seemed pretty obvious to me that he really likes performing and playing for a crowd, and even though I have to admit that I didn't know a fair number of the songs (mostly the ones from last couple CDs), I had no problem getting into it.

I was a little disappointed there weren't too many Smiths songs in the set, but it's not really fair to expect him to play a bunch of stuff from 20 years ago when he's promoting a new CD.  And really, what there was couldn't have been done much better.  The version of "How Soon Is Now" that they played, complete with a brutal drum solo at the end, brought the house down (and I was kind of surprised it came as early as it did in the evening).

Overall, while relatively short (I think he only played for maybe an hour an a half), he was just belting out the songs and plowed through twenty tracks in that time.  I would like to have heard more, but I certainly don't feel like we were cheated.  I'll definitely be looking for a chance to see him again when he comes back to town.

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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