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Friday, April 03, 2009

For Sunday: Alien Trespass Trailer

I am so there.

April Fools: Zelda Movie Trailer

Normally don't post much April Fool's stuff after the day is done, but somebody went to a lot of effort for this one...

Thursday, April 02, 2009

David Horowitz Is A Spam Happy Jerk

You know what, I almost don't care that the jackass is a fundamental right wing nutjob, I just wish that after multiple emails, multiple unsubscribe attempts, reporting him to goverment agencies that supposedly regulate this kind of thing, attempting to convince Google that he might be a phishing threat that he would stop emailing me.

Just tried a regular unsubscribe one last time. It doesn't give me any confidence that the email he uses ( ) doesn't even have the right domain.

I get one more email from him, I swear I will find his personal account and start signing up for catalogs.

Board Games: History Of Catan

Every once in a while, he would bring the new game upstairs to test it out on his family. They would play along, but Teuber could tell that the game wasn't working. Sometimes, in the middle of a match, he would notice his youngest son, Benny, reading a comic under the table. Other times his wife would suddenly remember a load of laundry that needed immediate attention. After each of these sessions, Teuber would haul the game back downstairs for further refinement. He repeated this process over the course of four years.

Eventually, Teuber whittled his invention down to a standard pair of dice, a handful of colored wooden houses that represented settlements and cities, stacks of cards that stood for resources (brick, wool, wheat, and others), and 19 hexagonal cardboard tiles that were arranged on a table to form the island. He had hit on something with this combination—the enthusiasm on family game night was palpable. During nearly every session, he, his wife, and their children would find themselves in heated competition. The game was done, Teuber decided. He called it Die Siedler von Catan, German for "The Settlers of Catan."
-- Monopoly Killer: Perfect German Board Game Redefines Genre

TV Watch: Lost - Whatever Happened, Happened

A good, solid episode and probably my favorite Kate episode for some time. It feels like the show has gotten the hang of both time-travel-as-plot-device and flashbacks-as-plot-device, and they can even juggle them at the same time. Leaving the gaps before the flight back makes it pretty easy to know where they're trying to fill in the story, and the show doesn't feel like it's fishing-with-Jack-in-Singapore for more material.

I loved Hurley debating with Miles, although the explanation that becoming an Other requires some kind of a memory wipe felt a bit forced - but whatever, at least they're acknowledging something the fans have been questioning all season long. Although having Miles explain the time travel just reinforces the question of where Faraday went.

And I guess now we can get back to asking about Claire as well.

That Jack is the most direct impetus for Ben becoming, well, Ben is the real moral to the story (although we can also thank Sayid, Kate, Sawyer, etc.). Ben getting othered seems like a specific moment for DHARMA, but I'm curious as to what's next. Swan hasn't been built yet, the Purge is years away, and Locke is still way off in the future. It would be interesting to see the Losties use DHARMA to investigate the island better, things like the Frozen Donkey Wheel, etc., but it's difficult to tell even how much DHARMA knows at the moment.

When Alpert tells Kate and Sawyer that to save Ben, he'll "lose his innocence" in the process, The Girl openly asked what that really meant - and I have to say I have no real good answer. Interestingly, we know Ben, unlike Richard, will still age (unless he comes out of the temple an adult - which I guess explains the phrase).

We also know, from the quick sidebar by red shirt Other #4 that Widmore is still in connection with the island.

All good stuff, looking forward to next week.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Amazon Announces Floating Amazon Cloud Environment

The FACE uses durable, unmanned helium-filled blimps with a capacity of 65,536 small EC2 instances, or a proportionate number of larger instances. The top of each blimp is coated in polycrystalline solar cells which supply approximately 40% of the power needed by the servers and the on-board navigation, communication, and defense systems. The remainder of the power is produced by clean, efficient solid oxide fuel cells. There's enough fuel onboard to last about a month under normal operating conditions. Waste heat from the fuel cells and from the servers is used to generate additional lift.

There are two options for ground communication, WiMAX and laser. The WiMAX option provides low latency and respectable bandwidth. If you have the ground facility and the line of sight access needed to support it, lasers are the way to go. The on-board laser doubles as a defense facility, keeping each FACE safe from harm. Using automated target detectors with human confirmation via the Mechanical Turk, competitors won't have a chance.

Update: Based on popular demand, we will also implement RFC 1149.
-- Up, Up, and Away - Cloud Computing Reaches for the Sky

News Sidebar is out of commission

I don't really know what's up with, but probably won't have time to look at it right away.

A Movement Of John Cage's 4'33'' Free On iTunes

For today only, the first movement of John Cage's controversial 4'33'' is free on iTunes.

Thanks, kottke.

Super Smash Brothers Brawl X Extreme Announced

Rent A Monkey - Now Even Cheaper!

We reach adulthood the day that we realize we will never go to space or own a monkey. With today’s Groupon, you’ll wish you never stopped believing: Monkey For a Week gives you your very own monkey, to do with what you please, for a full week. And today, you can get any of their 40+ monkeys for only $49 - that’s a staggering 75% off the normal price of $199.

Since its founding, America has been engaged in a passionate, seemingly futile love affair with monkeys. While they are widely regarded to be superior pets to cats or dogs, innumerable practicalities stood in the way of the monkey’s journey to the American living room. What do you feed them? How often do they need to go outside? Can’t they get kind of messy? Star crossed lovers, Americans and monkeys solemnly accepted their fate to be forever apart.
-- Rent a Monkey For A Week - $49, Normally $199 (via Gapers Block)

Did someone call the monkey store?

Banking Site Users Go Lynx

"Following the recent Pwn2Own competition, in which Firefox, IE8 and Safari all fell quickly to exploits, Netcraft has observed a surge in popularity of the text-based Lynx browser. Netcraft points out that Lynx supports the latest cryptographic ciphers, and at least one online banking site has seen Lynx usage overtake that of Internet Explorer and Firefox. To boost Lynx's excellent security history, Netcraft has even developed a version of its anti-phishing toolbar for Lynx."
-- Online Banking Customers Migrating To Lynx

How are these nautical jokes working for ya?

All your personal World Wide Website belong to CADIE

Meet Google's latest project.

The Economist Opens Theme Park

NPR always has a good story for today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Movie Watch: Twilight

Vampires as a movie motif have always, to be quite honest, kind of bored me. The whole thing really crested around, um, Nosferatu for me and since then they've basically just been repositories for frilly outfits, leather and expressions that would look out of place pretty much anywhere but vampire flicks and porn since then.

Yeah, I'm a Buffy fan - but Buffy was only marginally a show about vampires. I only wish Twilight was the same.

It's not that Twilight is bad. It's actually good in a beach read kind of way - but only if you can slug your way through line after line of dialogue that would seem ridiculous if it wasn't being delivered by two seventeen year old characters. Again, it's not that the writing is bad - it's that you better be aware that you're in for more than a spoonful of teen angst romance before getting that bucket of popcorn.

If I have any problem with Twilight, its that it is so much about vampires, and the struggle of being a teen vampire in particular - but doesn't really dish out a lot of vampire goodness. There's the brief scene with the van (you've probably seen in the trailer) and lots of jumping-around-as-heavy-petting scenes, but the good stuff is withheld mostly until the end. The rest is "I love you", "I want to bite you" kind of stuff.

I get that the franchise has its fans, and I can see where the book is probably much better than the movie itself. For the fans, I am actually quite glad you'll get a second movie out of the deal.

I just doubt I'll be watching it.

Dave Perry On OnLive

The good news is that as each user logs off, another can log on, so (using their numbers) if you take the average month has 30.417 days, and you multiply by 24 hours, you get 730 hours of server time per month. They estimate 60 hours per user, per month, so one server covers 12 gamers, with a little bit spare.

So the cost of each server is divided by 12. Let’s say the actual server + GPU cost is $1500 each, using AMD blades for example. They get 36 months to amortize the cost. So they are down to $42 per month, that amount needs to be covered by 12 people. That’s $3.50 per month. With their massive bandwidth discounts added on, they will probably end up around $7-ish per gamer, per month.
-- My "feelings" on Streaming Video Games (via Wonderland)

Dave's co-founder of Gakai, essentially an OnLive competitor. Apparently he got a lot of flak at GDC from the OnLive guys, which seems kinda bad since he comes off as pretty reasonable here.

I'll agree with Dave on a couple of points. Namely that cloud gaming will happen, in some form, at some time. As I said before, there's nothing technically impossible about the concept, most of it not even really being technically difficult - until you factor in the scale of it. So the impressive part isn't one computer logging into one server and playing Mirror's Edge at 60 frames per second ... it's a bit of a neat parlor trick, but it's basically a credit to bandwidth and compression.

The real trick is getting these mythical twelve people per server. Now Dave has done a lot more research on this, since it is apparently his job - I'm just writing based on conjecture and guesswork. But my guess tells me that twelve people on a $1500 piece of hardware seems like pretty curious math.

Server hardware is designed to do some pretty specific things, and it is definitely not allowing twelve people to play games at even 30 fps at the same time. The thing is, I'm not sure what hardware is designed to do that. Remember that once your fancy graphics card is done with all that processing, the data from it has to go somewhere. This is why things like the bus on your motherboard still matter, RAM has to not just be large, but quick, for applications like gaming. An $800 computer with a $300 graphics card can probably reasonably do it well for one person, but most $1500 server blades aren't going to be good at even that task.

The thing people seem to be missing is that games are the most intensive things personal computers can perform. The reason why so many other applications are making successful moves to the cloud is that even the cheapest computers on the planet are about a hundred times more powerful than the apps require. Word processing? I did word processing on a what, an Apple II? My iPhone is what, a gazillion times faster than that? Of course I can do word processing on my phone, or even my browser.

And the truth is - browser still don't even do that very well.

Dave uses this math and comes up with a $7/month subscription figure. That's roughly what I pay for web hosting, so I'm going to have to hit that number with the doubt hammer. I think to be reasonably profitable, we're probably looking at a number about ten times that figure.

I remember being pulled into a meeting about how video on the web was going to be next big thing and we needed to figure out how to be a part of it. That was about a decade ago, and five years later YouTube would launch. But a lot changed in that five years, including high speed adoption, Flash software and compression technology. I'm getting a sense of deja vu from the debate over OnLive.

But as I said before, I'm armchair QB'ing this. So as usual, anyone who wants to correct my logic should feel free with great haste.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Netflix taxes Blu-ray users 20%


You are receiving this email because you added unlimited Blu-ray access to your account for $1 a month. The number of Blu-ray titles has increased significantly and will continue to do so. As we buy more, you are able to choose from a rapidly expanding selection of Blu-ray titles. And as you've probably heard, Blu-ray discs are substantially more expensive than standard definition DVDs.

As a result, the monthly charge for Blu-ray access is increasing for most plans and will now vary by plan. The charge for monthly Blu-ray access on your 5 DVDs at-a-time (Unlimited) plan will increase from $1 a month to $6 a month. The price of your 5 DVDs at-a-time (Unlimited) plan is not changing and remains at $29.99

It comes out to about a 20% hike across the account, so the more discs you can have a month - the more you pay. I just had a long post I deleted detailing the math on it, but the short version is that if all of Netflix's 7.5 million users or so switched to Blu-Ray, Netflix could easily buy over a million Blu-ray discs a month without losing a dime. I suppose I could see Netflix's point if they had a large amount of 8 disc/month types planning to go all Blu-ray, but considering we're 5 discers and we usually have only one out of five being one with blue label, I'd say that's unlikely.

Short, short version: Netflix is heavily covering their costs here, and their power users will be shouldering most of it. It stinks, it's infuriating - but there's not much we can really do about it. The moment The Girl logs into Netflix and finds her Watch Instantly gone, she'd probably file for divorce.

Which is the real battle here. Netflix would love to kill physical distribution. But I still say, I love me my Blu-ray. I prefer the quality well over the convenience of distribution, and since I don't see my bandwidth increasing by tenfold any day soon - I don't think that's going to change.

For Sunday: Saturday Morning Watchmen

I haven't even watched it yet, and I just know it's awesome.

Game Play: Burn Zombie Burn! (PSN)

I actually thought this would be the weekend I'd properly bust into Resident Evil 5, but instead I got hooked on this PlayStation Network title, Burn Zombie Burn!. Dual stick shooters are becoming practically a genre on itself, but BZB has a few tricks which make it at least slightly inventive.

The basic strategy goes like this: zombies are afraid of fire, unless they're already burning. Burning zombies increase your multiplier, but they're also not afraid of you anymore - so the more burning zombies, the more of a fiery mob with which you need to contend. It's a bit like someone got just a bit of The Last Guy stuck in my peanut butter. And by peanut butter, I mean my boomstick.

The game itself it a cartoony parody-pastiche of zombie flicks, from a big chinned hero named Bruce to settings ranging from the shack in the woods to the evil lab where all of this probably got started. In general the game is pretty damn fun and highly addictive, my only real complaint is that some of the weapons are actually pretty useless for most situations. Your standard gun is actually pretty effective and there are times when you'll curse the game because you just ran into the somewhat-unique-and-entertaining-but-leaves-you-without-a-way-to-kill-zombies Brain Gun.

Oh, and the constant left stick/left shoulder push had a tendency to pull my tendons out of whack. Ouch. Pain aside, though, safely recommend for the $10 entry fee.