By Michael Huang on April 28, 2008 9:42 PM
Last week, TIME: Nerd World blogger Lev Grossman broke up with Kotaku, giving some awesome reasons for why he's not going to read Kotaku anymore. I haven't looked at Kotaku in months for many of the same reasons; while the writers on Kotaku are really good, they just cover too much stuff that I don't care about.
Which brings me to the two gadget blogs that I once read on a daily basis: Engadget and Gizmodo. As gadget blogs, they tend to cover the same stories, but the editors and writers put different spins on how the news is presented; Engadget tends to present their stories in a much more journalistic style, while Gizmodo news tends to be presented like a bad stand-up comedy routine.
Wired did a story on the rivalry between these two blogs, entitled Gear Blog Rivals Engadget and Gizmodo Turn the Competition Up to 11, ending with the turmoil that Gizmodo caused at this year's CES with the TV-B-Gone remote control. Gizmodo is just too much like gadget news run through a juvenile filter, and I've had enough. This month I've barely touched the Gizmodo feed, letting the numbers pile up, and today, it's unsubscribed from Google reader;
By Michael Huang on April 23, 2008 7:52 AM
I'd never heard of P.A. Semi until I read a headline this morning that Apple had purchased them for $278M. Interestingly enough, this buyout of a semiconductor company which makes power-efficient embedded computing chips has met with positive reaction on Apple's stock price. While it's likely that these new chips will be destined for Apple's lineup of portable devices, usually news of a purchase has a reaction on Wall Street in the downward direction as cash is depleted.
Apple is also due to make an earnings report after the bell today, which may be pushing the stock higher. Apple's continuing success with the iPhone following price cuts internationally may also be responsible for this movement, as well as optimism about the upcoming 3G iPhone.
By Michael Huang on April 20, 2008 8:55 AM
parakkum and I hit the Shadowmoor Pre-Release yesterday, participating in both flights of individual sealed deck competition. With two booster packs and a sealed tournament pack the players are given time to make the best deck they can with the randomly cards they receive. Being able to do well in this format requires a degree of skill in recognizing how to compose a competitive deck, as well as a certain amount of luck.
For participating, we received a foil [Demigod of Revenge] with alternate art. The deck list as well as my matches are below in the extended.
By Michael Huang on April 10, 2008 4:22 PM
Yesterday afternoon, while I was writing up my entry on the Lorwyn-Morningtide Tournament, I realized that I didn't have an easy way of posting decklists to the blog with links to the appropriate card in Gatherer.
For a normal 60-card deck, this isn't too bad, as there are usually between 12 to 15 unique cards, which is quite doable by hand; however for sealed deck, with a card pool of 90 cards (not including basic lands), there will be few, if any duplicates, and linking it all would be a major undertaking.
The first thing that occurred to me was to write a MT text filter plugin to translate the card names into links. The very first iteration used curly-braces, but about 5 lines into adding curly-braces into the decklist, I decided that square brackets would be better since I didn't have to hold down shift. Using square-bracket based markup made it much quicker to go through a decklist, and further examples can be seen below:
For numbers,  through  generates through and [X] becomes .
Hybrids and other symbols are also available: [ub] for symbol [ur] for symbol [gu] for symbol [gw] for symbol [rg] for symbol [rw] for symbol [br] for symbol [bg] for symbol [wb] for symbol [wu] for symbol [2B] for symbol [T] for the symbol [Q] for the symbol
In order to use square brackets, [S1] is the left bracket [, and [S2] is the right bracket ].
Put MagicAssistant.pl into the plugins directory of Movable Type Installation. The images should be copied to mt-static/plugins/MagicAssistant directory of the Movable Type installation, so that the complete path to the images looks like mt-static/plugins/MagicAssistant/images/.
When you go to the Entry Editor, under the Formatting dropdown, there should now be an option for Magic Assistant. Magic Assistant will also automatically convert line breaks.
By Michael Huang on April 10, 2008 4:19 PM
The one minor fix made to Magic Assistant is making the image links have an absolute path rather than a relative one.
This should make it easier for RSS readers to handle the images.
A feature I forgot to document for version 0.1 were the large mana symbols, which are useful for headers and such:
[S1]BL[S2] = [BL]
[S1]UL[S2] = [UL]
[S1]GL[S2] = [GL]
[S1]RL[S2] = [RL]
[S1]WL[S2] = [WL]
One other common problem with RSS is due to older Movable Type RSS templates, which include convert_breaks="0". Having this included in the template will effectively disable text filtering. Also, it doesn't appear to enjoy working with Atom; I'm going to need to do a bit more research to see how to fix this.
By Michael Huang on April 9, 2008 4:26 PM
Flickr has just entered the user-upload video market with short-form video: 90 seconds or less. On the whole I've found Flickr to be much more friendly than YouTube both in terms of uploading and the community as a whole; with the emphasis on user-created, safe viewing content, it should make a better alternative to YouTube for videos.
By Michael Huang on April 9, 2008 4:24 PM
Gabe and Tycho have started a new venture called Greenhouse, a games distribution channel for independent games developers. Originally it started off as a way to digitally distribute their Penny Arcade game, but they realized it could be much more. There's a highly entertaining interview with them at Wired.
Particularly telling is their business talks with GameStop, in which Gabe describes a metting between their business manager Robert, and GameStop:
We had a meeting with GameStop to talk about selling a boxed version of the game. Once we had a bunch of episodes together, we would collect them and put them in a box, you know? And GameStop said, oh, that's fantastic. We'd love to do it, we'd love to carry the game... but it's not going to be available anywhere else, is it?
And Robert said, well, we're going to digitally distribute it first.
They got really upset. And they said, no, you can't do that. We can't have it in our store if it's coming out digitally first. And he said, well, I'm sorry, that's the way it works. We're publishing our game and we can say where it goes. And so the deal that they tried to strike with Robert was okay, well, listen: If you cut us in on the profits from online distribution, and XBLA, and everything it comes out on, then we'll think about carrying it in the store.
The games business is fundamentally a three step process: development, publishing, and retail; some companies, like Blizzard, manage to do all three; others rely on publishers like EA to aid in the development capital or in the marketing push to get it into retail stores like GameStop or Wal-Mart. GameStop, fundamentally is the mall store for games, and holds tremendous power as a retailer. Not being carried by GameStop pretty much kills any hope of a boxed retail release for a traditional publisher, however I find it hard to believe that anyone would accept the terms and conditions offered to the Penny Arcade guys.
For the average, small, independent developer trying to get a title into the retail outlet, digital distribution is the only way to earn a reasonable rate of return; production of boxes and media as well as shipping them to the retailer, taking returned inventory and all the rest takes a large chunk out of their profits; going directly to the consumer means that they can price at retail without a large portion of the revenue going to the middleman. With the fanbase that Penny Arcade has, it should be no problem for them to distribute digitally and make a profit, and with them potentially distributing other indie games on their network, I can see Greenhouse being both lucrative and successful in achieving their goals.
By Michael Huang on April 9, 2008 4:23 PM
With version 2.5 of Magic Online shutting down this morning, I logged in last night to play one final Premiere Event of Lorwyn-Morningtide Sealed. The event started at 6PM PDT, and I opened my packs to build a deck centering on Treefolk and Shaman, making use of the Leaf-Crowned Elder. But as I looked at the cards while waiting for the other players to submit their decks, it felt as if my Kithkin and Merfolk were also really strong, and I began to compose a deck using those elements.
I massacred my opponent in the first game with the Merfolk, and was looking forward to the second game when the server crashed. It was down for over an hour before the server returned, and the event was canceled. After submitting a refund for the canceled event, I joined the replacement premiere event, a Lorwyn-Morningtide Sealed 2X, with a Zero Ticket entry fee.
By Michael Huang on April 7, 2008 8:26 PM
The first comic I ever bought was in 1982, Marvel Comics' G.I. Joe, issue #6, an issue in which G.I. Joe goes to Afghanistan to make a deal with the Afghan rebels for a downed Soviet aircraft.
I still think that the cover art is awesome (but perhaps that's just imprinting), but I found the material hard to understand as a 7-year old. As an 11-year old, it all made perfect sense, and as an adult reading the issue now, the inclusion of the mujaheddin and their CIA operative indicates that Larry Hama was very much aware of the conflicts going on in the world. The writing still sometimes makes me cringe, as when he writes out the name and the acronym in same breath as well as the over use of exclamation points (which seems to end every sentence, unless it uses a question mark), such as "I'd rather be moving fat in my VAMP -- Vehicle: Assault Multi-Purpose!" and "This is our Rough Terrain Vehicle -- the AR-TEE-VEE!"
Back in those days, Marvel also had the budget to run TV advertisements for their comics:
In 1982, I had little idea of how to take care of a comic book, and as a result, the comic book was probably drawn on, cut out, or torn apart; I have vague memories of seeing it a few years later in the garage, having seen better days. I have no doubt that it likely ended up in with a pile of newspapers destined for recycling, or as a part of a school papier-mache project.
I had thought my affair with comics had ended there, a one-time experience that didn't really entertain me for more than the amount of time it took to read the comic and look at the pictures, which was likely less than hour.
Interestingly enough, it was G.I. Joe that got me back into comics; issue number 47, which to be honest, other than remembering that Wet-Suit on a boat is on the cover, I have very little recollection of the actual comic, but I knew I wanted to read the back issues and continue reading the series, which I did for a few years. Of course, going into the comic book store bi-weekly meant that my friends would introduce me to other series and I'd start reading those too. Wolverine had just gotten his own series, and Excalibur had just started up, which meant that I was reading through X-Men, as well as The New Mutants, and this continued up until I started high school, where comics had become speculation and investment and foil, variant covers; where comic book stores would need to put little placards up by comics which read "Limit 1 Per Customer" to stop the craziness of some guy going into the store and trying to buy out the store of a "hot" issue.
Those days are over, and I've found tons of those same "hot" issues in the bargain bins of modern comics shops. Because the market has moved away from the speculators, for the comics reader, the collected graphics novels are often a better deal, saving both space and money. Marvel has caught onto this, and has even put 40 Years of the X-Men out on CD-ROM. Manga is now collected and bound in graphic novel format, which is a vast improvement over the American style 26 page single issue treatment that used to exist.
I was reminded of all this because this weekend, I helped neverthere reorganize his comics collection; his collection of comics ranged from mainstream to eclectic to downright embarassing (Codename: Spitfire). He has over 10,000 modern age comics from his days of working at a comics distributor; lots of garbage, and a good collection of solid gems.
It's incredibly hard to explain just how many comics 10,000 is; even pictures don't do justice, as we never really had all 10,000 out at once, as we'd work on hundreds at a time before separating them out to be shelved, but this picture of 5 grown men sorting and organizing should give some sense of scale to the operation:
One of the oddities was this Terminator Pop-up comic:
The finished drawers for the keepers:
and neverthere sits with the books that are destined for disposal (around 6,000 comics):