September 2009 Archives

Another Playstation 3

Last week, I picked up another Playstation 3.

Yes, you read that right, another Playstation 3, as in one more in addition to the PS3 I already own. While some might consider this an act of insanity, there is actually a very good reason for owning a previous generation Playstation 3 -- PS2 backwards compatibility.

When the Playstation 3 was released, it contained hardware which enabled the PS3 to play PS2 games. When the second generation of the PS2 was released a year later, the hardware chip was removed, and the PS2 games remained compatible through the use of a software emulator. With the third generation PS3, they removed the PS2 backward compatibility altogether. No hardware chip, no software emulation, PS2 functionality was removed entirely. My hope was that this was merely something temporary; that backwards compatibility could be re-introduced in the form of a PS3 software update.

Earlier this month, Sony dropped the price of the PS3 and introduced the fourth generation PS3 - the PS3 Slim. Boasting a reduction of physical space, along with a smaller energy footprint, the PS3 Slim lacks a feature that the previous three generations had: the ability to install an alternative OS on the game console, in addition to PS2 functionality.

In July, I bought a third-generation Playstation 3, a 80GB model with 2 USB slots. While I was impressed with the quality of the output of Blu-ray discs and the high resolution available on the games, the third and fourth generation PS3 lacks the ability to play Playstation 2 games. Strangely enough, it can still play ancient Playstation One games.

Conspiracy theorist that I am, I suspect Sony's plan is this:

    Step 1: Develop PS2 Software Emulation. Step 2: Phase out PS2 Compatibility from PS3 consoles. Step 3: Offer PS2 Titles for Download on the Sony Store.
Steps 1 and 2 halve already been completed; U.S. Patent #7,568,189 establishes that Sony has the technology to emulate the Emotion Engine on the Cell processor, while their two latest generations of PS3 both do not include backwards compatibility, and Sony has gone on record as saying that "It's not coming back".

While Sony has not yet put PS2 games available for download on the Playstation store, given their recent trend of trying to make games download-only (such as Patapon 2) and their game systems doing away with physical media (PSP Go), it seems likely to me that if they have the ability to encapsulate the emulator with the game download that they can then cut out secondhand retailers such as Gamestop from selling old games to be used on newer consoles.

There are still a lot of great Playstation 2 games out there, and while my ancient PS2 is still alive and kicking, the benefits of playing PS2 on the PS3 -- wireless controllers, virtual memory cards, HD upscaling, and a much crisper HDMI interface all make for a better gaming experience.

Gamestop still has refurbished units for sale, although they are slightly more expensive than one might think for being a used console. The following units are PS2 compatible:

These old used units are selling for more than 90% of the cost of a new boxed system, and in the case of the 60GB PS3, 10% more over the cost of a new system. Originally when Sony released the PS3, they anticipated phasing out the PS2 quickly, but as the PS3 did not gain in popularity, the PS2 console became their main breadwinner, and as this trend continued, the necessity of replacing the PS2 in the Sony lineup with the PS3 diminished. It is only when PS3 console sales overtake PS2 console sales consistently that the talks of removing the PS2 from the lineup will occur, but until then, I predict that PS2 compability will be a not-included feature of PS3s going forward.

Which Line is Faster At the Grocery Store?

Dan Meyer recently did an experiment, in which he observed checkout clerks and obtained data from a 6 hour shift at a local supermarket. He found out that the line that is fastest at a grocery store is the one with the least people in it. This is for the most part regardless of number of items each person has, and apparently adding an additional person in line is about equal to adding 17 items to a person's cart.

H1N1 Outbreak At PAX '09

Those of use on the convention circuit know that a lot of fanboys plus convention center equals an epidemiologist's nightmare; in conventions where people are in close proximity and in constant flux, moving from one room in the hotel or convention center to another in an hour and then making way to the ever crowded dealer's room means that all it takes for one person to be sick, and then suddenly, before you know it, it's a massive outbreak of ConSARS, or as I prefer to call it, Nerd Flu.

Today the internet is abuzz, because nerd flu has jumped from being a way to talk about getting infected at a convention to an actual outbreak of H1N1 flu at PAX '09.

So far, the confirmed H1N1virus has been found on the following flights:
Departed Sunday, September 6:
JetBlue #498, Seattle to Boston, Departed Sunday Night
United #356, Seattle to Denver, Departed Sunday Afternoon
Departed Monday, September 7:
Alaska Airline #12, Seattle to Boston, Departed Monday Morning
Delta #1050, Seattle to Atlanta, Departed Monday Morning