August 2008 Archives

Hillsdale Apple Store - Coming Soon

Yesterday, I was at the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo, and saw this black under construction storefront:
Obviously, it's for a new Apple Store, and from the size of the storefront, it appears it should be a pretty big one. When I was working in Redwood City, I would have really appreciated this location, as it would have made it closer than the Burlingame or either of the Palo Alto locations. (Burlingame has an annoying parking situation near the Apple Store, which made it impossible to utilize their Genius Bar, as it made for running out to feed the meter or move the car every so often.) I think at this point, nearly every mall on the Peninsula has an Apple Store -- the notable exceptions are Sunnyvale's somewhat deserted Town Center, and the newly remodeled Cupertino Square (Formerly Vallco). However, given that Apple Stores per quarter bring in on average $8.5 million in revenue per store, it makes sense that they would want to select locations with sufficient traffic; Vallco, even after the remodeling has a hard time attracting businesses.

E For All 2008 - More like P for Peripherals

There are a number of reasons why E For All just isn't as good as the old E3 that it replaces, and part of that is that it costs money to attend E For All, and everyone can attend, whereas the old E3, though it may not have seemed like it, has a fairly exclusive bunch of insiders, most of which were getting free admission, either by dint of having an exhibit on the show floor, or through professional courtesy. E For All, in comparison is open to anyone willing to shell out for the pass. The biggest problem E For All has facing it is that game companies can't be bothered to show up and show off their games -- which is, of course, the main attraction of the convention. Part of this is due to IDG, which has a great deal of experience running trade shows, but not a lot of experience running conventions, which is what E For All is, but that IDG doesn't seem to understand -- for a successful convention, it's not enough to have an exhibit hall -- you actually also have to have events that will draw in people -- special guests, special panels, special presentations, special events. People need a reason to go to E For All, and at this point, they know that what they'll be seeing at E-For-All can already be seen on any one of a dozen different gaming sites on the internet. When E3 started, the only way to get gaming information was through game magazines, which usually ran the E3 stories a month or two later or through the word of someone who was actually there; with the internet, information is passed nearly instant now, and even companies know that there are far more effective ways of reaching their audience than running a booth in the LA Convention Center for three days.

E For All's Exhibitor List is pretty sad, with a whole 32 exhibitors commited to showing up; of those 32, only EA and Microsoft have any real reputation with gamers; even professional game player Fatal1ty has a booth as an exhibitor. For a full list of the exhibitors and a short summary of what they do, see the extended.

Total Exhibitors: 32 Game Companies/Publishers: 5 Educational Institutions: 4 Retailers: 3 Peripherals: 9

Is it any wonder why companies are putting their marketing resources into PAX and conventions like BlizzCon sell out in hours? E For All is seriously missing the gamer market -- at E3 in the years past, the peripherals section of the show was the least visited, next to the International Pavilion -- I can't imagine that a show that nearly outnumbers the game companies 2 to 1 with peripherals is going to do well.

links for 2008-08-24


The Dark Knight Slides into #2 Box Office Gross

When I saw The Dark Knight on opening weekend, I was surprised when the 9am showing was packed, and even more surprised when I came out of the theater that lines had already formed for showings starting two hours later. After last weekend, the Dark Knight slid into the #2 Box Office Gross position at $477 million, surpassing Star Wars at $460 million, and just below Titanic at $600 million. But what is it that keeps bringing audiences in droves to see this movie, week after week?

Now, I saw the The Dark Knight, but honestly, I had a much more enjoyable time watching Iron Man. Of course, it just may be that people need something to watch, and something good like the Dark Knight must be better than some of the crap in the movie theaters right now (I'm looking at you, Clone Wars).

Movable Type 4.2

While I've been running the Beta version of Movable Type as the back end for this blog for months now, with the release of the official release version last week, I've upgraded and since then notice that quite regularly the perl processes will spike the CPU to 70-80% when doing MT related functions (such as posting, rebuilding, etc), but I suppose a momentary spike during rebuilds is slightly better than running that constantly. Total rebuilds are much faster than before, and search results are quite quick. However, the high CPU usage for rebuilds paired with the time (an hour and 9 minutes for my blog initially, but successive rebuilds only take about 5-6 minutes) probably means that those on hosted servers will like earn the ire of their sysadmin for them sapping out the capacity of their systems.

Why Go Doesn't Use Cellphones

Screenwriter John August, talks about Go's lack of cellphones:
    The answer, of course: the film came out in early 1999, and cellphones weren't yet ubiquitous in Los Angeles. They existed, to be sure, but they were relatively expensive and rare. We hadn't even settled on the lingo yet. Here's how I describe one early in the script:
      Adam's friend ZACK is behind him in line, YABBERING into a cellular phone.

    Even my mother wouldn't call it a "cellular phone" today. Later, Simon uses the current term to refer to the Ferrari's built-in phone:

      It's a cell phone. They can trace where we are even if we don't answer.
    (There's still little consistency between cell phone, cell-phone and cellphone.)

Obama and McCain's Tax Plans

The Washington Post has a great graphic of the tax plans the two presidential candidates have in mind for the United States:

Most citizens are going to benefit more from Obama's tax plan than from McCain's.

Here's a lesson to learn folks: if you're running for President of the United States, don't plagiarize and steal a scene from a famous novelist and take it as your own wartime experience, because someone on the internet will call you on it.

Here's more on the story of the cross, and how it changes over time.

In response, Michael Goldfarb, campaign blogger for McCain writes:

    "It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others."
Of course, disrespecting gamers will get you nowhere, especially since nerds have managed to successfully invade pop culture, and Goldfarb quickly sought to retract his insults with a lame apology:
    If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American.
In the meantime, Wired has asked for users to submit McCain DnD creatures for your viewing entertainment.

Meet Emily: She's Not Real


I still think the eyes are a little off on Emily, but at least it doesn't recoil in horror as much as Beowulf or Polar Express. They used a video of an actor and then mapped those actions onto a CG model, but they also claim they won't be able to make them realistic until 2020.
via Times Online

Go Go Bionic!

One of the best games ever made for the Nintendo Entertainment System was Capcom's Bionic Commando. Taking control of "Spencer", a soldier with an grappling bionic arm, you fought your way through "Badds" (renamed from Nazis) to rescue Super Joe (the hero of the Capcom classic Commando) and assassinate Master-D (Hitler) . As a platformer, the game was unique in that the character could not jump -- to ascend vertically or cross ledges and chasms, Spencer had to use his bionic arm to grapple and swing himself to the other side. The game, while being very popular in the United States and Europe, wasn't much of a success in Japan, so no sequels were ever made for the game. After almost 20 years of letting this license languish, Capcom set out remaking the game as a XBox Live and PSN game, and the result is Bionic Commando Rearmed, a retro-styled updating of the classic NES game. At ComicCon this year, they premiered the anime-style trailer for the game, which is a parody of anime openings of that era:

The normal trailer makes me yearn for a system to play this on:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince no longer in November

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince moves to Summer 2009.
    "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment in the blockbuster film franchise about boy wizard Harry, is moving from its planned Nov. 21 release to July 17, 2009, distributor Warner Bros. said Thursday.
I was really looking forward to watching this film this November. Stupid greedy studios. This revised schedule means that they have optimum timing for summer release, followed by dvd/blueray/home video sales just in time for the holidays. If Harry Potter 5 made records for their summer release, expect this one to bust the box office.
Simplify Media is free for a limited time as a download from Apple's App Store. This application (which will be $3.99 after 100,000 downloads) allows your computer to stream your iTunes library remotely to your iPhone or iPod touch; this works over WiFi as well as EDGE and 3G; DRM'd iTunes purchases can't be played, but everything else can be. Potenitally, this app may be a controversial one, as it allows users to share their libraries with other people; however, the library is shared via a list of users to be allowed on, so I don't see too much of a problem; the program allows for sharing for up to 30 people, but I'm guessing that performance will suffer before that limit is reached.

Two Pads, One Pen

I think WACOM's pen technology is some pretty interesting stuff; about a year ago, I set about constructing my own Cintiq using whatever was available to the average consumer. In doing so, I learned a lot about how a WACOM tablet works, and what can interfere with the reception of the pen. While I never completed construction of my own Cintiq, I did play around with the WACOM Intuous on a Powerbook for a short time after seeing a video of someone who had crammed a WACOM Graphire inside a 800mhz Titanium Powerbook.

I had started this project in January of 2007, and lazily worked on it until stopping in October, when the announcement of the Cintiq 12WX was made in the UK.

A few months ago, I purchased a WACOM Cintiq 12WX Pen Display. After using it for a few hours, it became very clear to me that even if I had managed to hack the hardware together to make a Cintiq, the software would still be lacking in the functionality that the Cintiq provides (such as a way to calibrate the pen to the screen, and quickly tabbing between screens).

Lenovo has produced a Thinkpad that has a WACOM tablet built in. Rather than using the WACOM Penabled technology that most Tablet PCs use, they are instead making it a traditional WACOM tablet, meaning that right next to the trackpad is a larger pad for the WACOM pen to draw on. The Lenovo W700 has a rather interesting looking wristrest:

The Lenovo W700 features a 17" display, a 512MB or 1GB graphics card, Pantone Color Sensor, and a Core 2 Duo T9400 (2.53GHz 1066MHz 6MBL2) with 2 GB of RAM (expandable up to 8GB) for $2900 -- this is a serious machine aimed at graphics professionals, but I have serious reservations over the actual use of the built-in WACOM tablet. While most artists I know use WACOM tablets, most of them use nothing smaller than a 6x8 pad, and the Thinkpad's is a small 120mm x 80mm (4.73 x 3.15 inches), which is smaller than their smallest tablet available, the old 4x3 (147.6mm x 92.3mm) , which limits the W700's WACOM use to little more than a novelty. Also, notice that there are no extra ExpressKeys for customization, nor any TouchStrips which normally are on the professional-level Intuous models of their WACOM Tablets. Considering the size of the laptop, Lenovo would have better off with a WACOM board that fit under the screen of the laptop, making it a Cintiq-type tablet. For $99, one can purchase a small WACOM Bamboo Fun which is larger than the built-in pad, and includes a mouse in addition to the pen and tablet at a cost less than the cost of the W700's upgrade to the Wacom Tablet. The additional $51, of course is in convenience; you never have to carry a Tablet with your laptop, and the pen is stowed away Nintendo DS style in the base of the computer.

iPhone 3G to land in Best Buy on Sept. 7

Readers of this blog will know that I hate Best Buy with a passion; I think their business practices are downright shady, and their customer service non-existent, so it pains me to find out that Best Buy will be a third party retailer of the iPhone 3G. For Apple, this is a major win for them; AT&T and Apple Stores already do their share of selling through inventory of iPhone 3G very quickly, but Best Buy is everywhere, and I suspect the iPhone 3G will perform just as well at Best Buy.

Of course, I think Best Buy will be the only place that you can get an extended warranty for your iPhone 3G that isn't Applecare. If anything, having one more location to sell iPhone 3Gs may actually help quicken the queues at the Apple and AT&T stores.

James Jean: XOXO

At Comic-Con this year, James Jean brought a few advance copies of his new book, XOXO which quickly sold out quickly. Unlike his other books, this one is a postcard book containing 30 illustrated postcards. His two previous books Process Recess, and Process Recess 2 : Portfolio are out of print, and both fetch prices substantially over their cover prices now. I suspect that the same thing may happen to this wonderful book as well, and at $10, it's pretty reasonably priced.

Totoro Forest Auction Tickets Now On Sale

totoro_card.jpgThe Totoro Forest Project is an international charity effort to save Sayama Forest on the outskirts of Tokyo, which was Hayao Miyazaki's inspiration for the film "Tonari No Totoro" (My Neighbor Totoro). They will be auctioning off works from over 200 international artists to raise funds for this charity on September 6th at Pixar in Emeryville, and tickets for the Totoro Forest Auction are now on sale.

Forest Friend - $100 - includes regular admission book. ($40 tax deductible)
Forest Sponsor - $200 includes admission book, signed limited edition print ($135 tax deductible)
Forest Champion - $300 includes middle VIP live auction seating, book, signed limited edition print, gift certificate to Blowfish Sushi ($185 tax deductible)
Forest Hero - $500 includes front VIP live auction seating, book, an original drawing by one of the artists ($340 tax deductible)
Some of the original drawings that the "Forest Hero" ticket gets can be seen here, and include works done by Ronnie del Carmen, Dice Tsutsumi, Bill Presing, Scott Morse, and Enrico Casarova.

The book will be available for sale online after the auction, as well as at the Cartoon Art Museum with the artworks go on display.

BlizzCon 2008 Sold Out

A few years ago, when the first BlizzCon was hosted at Anaheim Convention Center, it took a few days to sell out; At $100 per ticket, people were rather unsure whether the convention would be worth that kind of money. Last year, at the second BlizzCon, I think people decided that it was worth the trip to Anaheim, if only for the cool factor of the Murloc Suit in the goody bag; this year, the goody bag includes a polar bear mount with a flag waving murloc, and apparently that's a good enough goody that some ticket scalpers are already selling their extra BlizzCon tickets for $400.

Consider for a moment that people were going nuts for the Murloc suit, an inventory item that gave no stat enhancements, but did change your avatar into a flag-waving Murloc. Murlocs are the love-hate villain of World of Warcraft -- you fight them as a newbie, all the way up to the high level undead murlocs -- I often joked that WoW really should have been WoM - World of Murlocs, just because of the sheer number of the amphibious reptile men that need to be slaughtered in the name of the Horde (or the Alliance). Mounts, even after all this time are still one of the most desired items in WoW -- they look cool, and are sure attention grabbers (especially if you have one of the ones that you can ride at any level, but may not necessarily give a speed boost).

With BlizzCon 2008, the convention sold out in less than a day; while we aren't talking Comic-Con crowds of 130,000+, we are talking about 10,000+ tickets sold in a matter of minutes.

Yesterday at around noon, BlizzCon sales went live; it became quickly clear that their servers could not handle the amount of users hitting their site, buying up tickets, and they promptly took it down. They brought it back up, and the server died again, going down for an hour or more. They did this a few more times up until 6pm when they brought down the server until the next day at noon. Today at noon, there were close to 10,000 tickets available, in a matter of minutes, those tickets were sold, the server died a few times, and the server was closed for ticket sales until 8PM tonight. At 8PM, the server promptly died, and came back 10 minutes later, and sold out the remaining tickets in the next five minutes. This process was a major fiasco; instead of a escrow system to buy the tickets, the tickets required several steps before you were given the option to confirm your purchase, and at each step required the server to send a message back to the potential purchaser; however, when the server can't handle all the requests, it sends back errors, and one is forced to hit reload over and over again; at the same time the potential purchaser has no idea what's going wrong, or if their order is going through. I tried to purchase tickets 4 or 5 different times; in all cases, the batch of tickets sold out as I was putting in my credit card information. How did I know they sold out? The shopping cart kindly told me so AFTER booting me back to the front page of the store.

Here's the thing -- I can almost guarantee you that almost 50 - 75% of those tickets sold may not actually be used for admission, but rather for the purchase of the goody bag for resale, so Blizzard is fully capable of overselling the convention, because even with the crowds of people at BlizzCon 2007, I'd say there were no more than 3,000 to 5,000 people in attendance; the convention floor never got so full of people that one felt crowded. However, this year's BlizzCon should be a good one: Diablo III, Starcraft II and Wrath of the Lich King all make their appearance this year, which are all upcoming products with a massive fan-following.

links for 2008-08-11 []


One More Reason Why the iPhone is Better than iPhone 3G


A few years ago, I added Pioneer's first-generation iPod adapter to my car's stereo system. One of my original gripes about the iPod adapter was that the iPod cable was hardwired to the iPod adapter box. This is good for a couple of reasons, as it does ensure that that cable won't come loose during or after installation, but it's also a pain the butt if Apple decides to change the iPod cable to something different. The iPhone was just on the cusp of that; for instance, data sync via my iPod's Firewire cable doesn't work, only charging. The new iPhone 3G apparently takes it one step further by disabling the 12V charging through Firewire, which is how most car audio manufacturers chose to power the iPod (this is because the car's electrical system is 12V already, so there's no need to convert it down to 5V for USB).

When I hooked my iPhone into my car today, it popped up a screen I hadn't seen before, which said that the device (Pioneer iPod adapter) was not designed with the iPhone in mind. This is expected, so while I can't access all the iPhone's capabilities through the Pioneer headunit (nor would I expect it to) it does seem to function fine as if it was just a normal iPod. My Pioneer iPod adapter also still charges my first-generation iPhone, which is something it won't do for the new iPhone 3G.

Keeping in mind that the iPhone 3G needs more power than the iPhone, compatibility with chargers seems like it should have been one of those things that Apple would have paid more attention to. Of course, perhaps this was all a clever ploy on Apple's part to be able to drive manufacturers to pay for the "Made for iPhone" logo.

Zombie Harmony

This is one of the more clever things I've seen for driving traffic to a domain, a humorous parody of their own site: ZombieHarmony... because the apocalypse doesn't have to be lonely.

iPhone 2.0.1 Updated

Apple has released version 2.0.1 of their iPhone / iPod Touch software. Apple has simply stated that the update fixes some features and some bugs.

Apple hasn't posted what exactly the changes on this new version entails, but some users have discovered the following changes after installing the update:

  • You can now drag an app icon across multiple pages in one motion, rather than having to drag it, drop it, pick it up again and drag it over to next page, and repeat.
  • Contacts are now more responsive.
  • After installing 2.0.1, each successive backup is much faster.
  • Apple may have changed the calibration of the iPhone's reception "bars" while connected to a 3G network to reflect a stronger signal than before.
  • Keypad loads quicker.
  • Screen rotation in Safari appears to be smoother.
  • Some apps may ask to be updated after the firmware upgrade.

New Macs on the Way?

When Amazon starts handing out $25 - $200 rebates on Macs, one starts to suspect that some new Macs may be out soon. Traditionally, new Macs arrive in early September, just past the end of Apple's "Back-to-School" promotions (in which students can get an $299 iPod Touch 8GB for free). Interestingly enough, Amazon is offering a 5-8% discount on all the iPods as well, which haven't had a model refresh in some time.

Comic-Con 2008: Triumph The Wonder Dog

They sent Triumph the Wonder Dog to Comic Con to promote his new DVD, and he returned with 10 minutes of making fun of con-goers. Scott Kurtz of PvP is one of the targets, who manages to pimp his Skull, Troll plushie.

Triumph also had a panel for TV Funhouse, and gave a rousing speech:

In looking at the con floor footage, it feels as if even the pro cameramen had a hard time filming in the packed convention center.