02 Feb 2012 @ 2:15 PM 

Bloomberg News recently posted their look at how much it costs a family of four to be gamers. They apparently believe a family of four to be composed of members of Michael Bloomberg’s family, because they came up with some whoppers for their hardware choices.

They believe that gamers pay $3000 for a gaming PC and $800 for the monitor, in addition to having an Xbox 360 with surround sound system attached to a 60″ television and paying $200 per month for internet service. WTF?

I can play every game out there for Windows, and I built my machine over a year ago for $800, plus (generously estimating) $250 for the monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Today, you can easily buy a gaming PC or laptop that will play Crysis 2 or Arkham City or Skyrim for under $1000, all in.

They don’t stop with just a few ridiculous assumptions, though. They also believe we gamers routinely pay $250 for headsets. We all own iPod Touches, $250 chairs with built-in speakers, and pay full MSRP for 70 games per year (30 Xbox, 30 Steam and 10 iPod).

All of this stupidity leads them to say it costs $17000 per year to be a gamer. They are smoking crack. I buy at least a dozen or so games per year, but I never pay full price. I maybe drop $200 on games for the year, not the $2000 that Bloomberg thinks I do. And how many gamers who don’t work for a magazine actually own a steering wheel or other exotic add-ons? Nuts.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 02 Feb 2012 @ 02:15 PM

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 27 Jan 2012 @ 2:59 PM 

While playing Cityville and checking GearDiary for new geekery, suddenly the internet stopped. DNS requests are failing as unresolved for such smaller and little-known sites as Google. As of now, 20 minutes later, I cannot get to Google or Facebook or Youtube or GearDiary. Somehow, I can get to Woot and LOLCats and Livejournal.  Yet another example of high quality Suddenlink service.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 27 Jan 2012 @ 03:00 PM

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SOPA

 
 17 Jan 2012 @ 9:08 PM 

There are some people who are expressing incredulity that anyone believes the Internet Blackout scheduled for the 18th is a good idea. The argument goes something like this, “Not producing content on Wednesday is like not buying gasoline on Wednesday. You’ll just do the writing on Tuesday or Thursday, so what do you gain?” This fungibility theory of content is, I think, missing the point. While boycotting Texaco for one day is relatively pointless and unnoticed by the corporation you’re trying to hurt, that is not at all like blacking out Wikipedia for one day.

While gasoline boycotts are intended to send a message to the big oil companies (who don’t even notice the blip), the Internet Blackout is intended to raise awareness among the non-geek set. Those of us who read Gizmodo or Slashdot are very well versed in SOPA/PIPA and DMCA and all the other acronyms we hate to see pop up in a news story. But, think about your less-geeky friends who don’t know that DMCA is evil and don’t know what DRM is. They are like Jon Stewart, who only last week had someone in his audience ask him about SOPA and he had to profess complete ignorance. The normal folks in the world have not been following the SOPA debate and they aren’t mad about the United States attempting to erect the same sort of censorship plans as China (with the added benefit of giving corporations nearly unilateral police powers to shut down any site they don’t like).

How to get those non-geek people to add their voices to those of Vint Cerf and Eric Schmidt (who have already been ignored by Congressional committees because they don’t understand all that computer stuff)? You need to get their attention in a way that is hard to ignore. Since most people use Google regularly and Wikipedia frequently, slapping a giant black banner on those sites with, “Imagine if this site was down forever” will make at least some of them pay attention to what our elected representatives are proposing to do in our names. SOPA is bad legislation, it’s bad information security, it’s bad business. And, it won’t stop one damned pirate anyway.

Andysocial.com will be offline tomorrow. I know nobody will notice, since I have virtually no visitors, but it makes me feel better anyway.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 17 Jan 2012 @ 09:09 PM

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 11 Jan 2012 @ 7:50 AM 

Switchblade playing QuakeLast year, Razer introduced the Switchblade mini-PC concept at CES. The idea was that you’d have a netbook-sized device which was primarily aimed at gaming, costing under a grand. It had a keyboard backed with a backlit LCD, so the keys would change to reflect whatever game you were playing. Something always felt off to me about this concept – what about the mouse? Every demo was behind glass or on video. Nobody actually saw this thing being used by a real human. It had a touchscreen, but no trackpad (nor room for one). And yet they told everyone that it would be great for playing first-person shooters as a gaming PC on the go. If you’re on the go, do you really want to bring along a mouse that is half the size of the computer itself? Or, do you want to poke the little bitty screen to move, thereby obliterating your view of the game?

Razer BladeEventually, Razer announced an actual product with Switchblade DNA, the Razer Blade. This is a full-sized laptop, and it still has some might morphin’ key action (for ten special keys), but they added a trackpad where the number pad would go on a normal PC 104-key keyboard. This seems like a great location for a trackpad for right-handed people and a complete deal-breaker for lefties. Also, that trackpad has a screen under it to allow the “screenpad” to reflect game-specific details. Nifty. Of course, it also costs over two thousand dollars.

Fiona Render

This year, Razer is showing off the Project Fiona concept gaming device. Instead of a tiny laptop, it’s a largish tablet. Unlike any tablet you’ve ever seen, it includes gaming sticks bolted to the sides. Using an analog stick to replace the mouse is at least plausible, although I wonder how it would work in action. Fortunately, many FPS games include gaming controller support, so they should work well with this device. But, it’s still not going to work for those games which really need a mouse, like strategy games and war games. Just like the Switchblade before it, Razer claims to be aiming at prices below a grand for this Windows 8 tablet with a Core i7 CPU and otherwise secretive parts.

What do you think, does this make sense to you? And do you think anything close to this design will ever be available for anywhere close to this price?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 11 Jan 2012 @ 08:28 AM

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 09 Nov 2011 @ 10:13 AM 

Due to the relative paucity of information regarding precisely what applications will be available for the Kindle Fire, speculation was rampant. The biggest question for many people: would Netflix be allowed to compete with Amazon’s own video offerings? This morning, the answer arrived: yes.

Rest easy, pre-ordering early adopters; the Fire will not be a complete walled garden for you. Considering that B&N also has a curated app store for the Nook Tablet, this puts them on a relatively even footing in the app battle. That still leaves the subtle differences: Nook is somewhat more powerful and has significantly more storage, but costs more and isn’t named “Kindle.” Does Amazon also benefit from their giant PR blitz, which garnered them a million or so pre-orders before the Nook Tablet was announced? How many people will cancel a Fire pre-order to jump over to Nook? Seems unlikely to me.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 09 Nov 2011 @ 10:14 AM

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 07 Nov 2011 @ 10:16 AM 

Barnes & Noble just finished their big reveal of the new Nook lineup. The press conference seemed like a lot of poking at Amazon, which is fun to see. The e-ink Nook Simple Touch is getting dropped to $99, which brings it inline with the Kindle Touch. There are a few differences, though – the Nook doesn’t support audiobooks or text-to-speech, but it also doesn’t come loaded with “special offers” at that price. The Kindle costs $40 more to nuke the ads.

Of course, the big story is the new Nook Tablet. Surprisingly, they aren’t putting the Nook Color out to pasture; it becomes their entry-level color device instead. The Nook Tablet gets twice the RAM and twice the storage of the Kindle Fire, as well as an expansion slot. Those are the most obvious differences in the hardware. The screen is supposed to be slightly better, and the CPU is 20% faster, but those differences are a bit harder to notice I’m betting.

The ecosystem is one of the deciding factors for these semi-mobile devices, and that’s going to be interesting to see work out over the coming months. Now that both retailers are going to have similar devices on the market simultaneously, the head-to-head competition will heat up more than it has in the past. When there was no color or touch Kindle, it was easy to dismiss the competition as being too dissimilar to really count.

Ecosystems…Amazon has their Prime program, which gets them an annual subscription fee and which gives the customer a variety of benefits. There are streaming videos from TV and movies, as well as free two-day shipping of many tangible products from the Amazon behemoth. Most recently, they added a free book “loan” per month (based on the explanation at Good E-Reader, it sounds more like they’ve paid for the books and are giving them away to entice more brand loyalty). Amazon also has their own Android app store, as well as the books they’re known for and their Audible book subsidiary.

Meanwhile, back at Barnes & Noble, they are touting the relative openness of the Nook Tablet in contrast to the curated experience at Amazon. You’ll be able to stream Netflix videos and Pandora music, as well as many other Android apps from the Nook app store. The Nook Color has become well known for being easily rootable; there’s no reason to predict the Tablet will be harder to root as B&N doesn’t try to lock people in as much as Amazon does.

So, the Fire gets you one location with all your media paid for annually and bit-by-bit. Nook gets you several services with their own payment systems and subscriptions, but with more storage and speed for $50 more money upfront. Which model becomes the big winner will be hard to predict, but it sure makes this holiday shopping season more entertaining to watch.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 07 Nov 2011 @ 10:17 AM

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 06 Oct 2011 @ 11:34 AM 

It seems the internet has decreed that all geeks must post some essay or braindropping to commemorate the passing of Steve Jobs. I would be remiss in my geek role if I were to avoid this responsibility, so here goes: a memorial for Steve Jobs from someone who has never owned an Apple product.

I know, my various geek and media brethren, the very idea of not owning an iPod or iPad or iPhone or iWhatever is impossible for some to comprehend. But I come here not to praise Jobs but to bury him. Or something like that, anyway. Regardless of my complete lack of Apple ownership, there is still a great deal of Jobsian influence in my life.

More »

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Oct 2011 @ 11:38 AM

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 28 Sep 2011 @ 10:19 AM 

Amazon just made life difficult for several competitors, but not Apple. Sorry, anyone looking for the iPad Killer, a 7″ tablet just isn’t the same category.

But, Barnes & Noble – you’ve been served notice now, beyotches. The cheapest Kindle is on sale right now, today, for $79. Cheapest Nook? $139. Oh, that’s gotta hurt. Coming in a month, the Kindle Fire competes directly with the Nook Color. Fire costs $200, or $50 less than the less-powerful Nook Color. There’s another stinging sensation right there.

Meanwhile, the ereader vendors who come out with alternatives, such as the ECTaco, Pandigital, and even venerable Sony brands are going to have a hard time finding buyers when they compete against a $79 Kindle backed by the Amazon bookstore, or the $99 Kindle Touch edition. Heck, the new top of the line e-ink Kindle is only $189 with 3G and wifi (save forty bucks if you don’t mind ads when the screen is “off”). None of the new models from the Amazon competitors include 3G free, and the “but I like to borrow from the library” folks got that problem answered last week when Overdrive’s Kindle support finally went live.

It’s really hard to believe that in November of 2007, $400 bought one of these ugly things, with 250MB of memory:

And in 2011, you can get this for only $79, with 2GB of memory:

I can’t imagine what magic Sony and B&N will have to pull out of their hats to have a chance of competing with Bezos’ latest babies.

Oh, and if you really want a Kindle with a keyboard, the Kindle 3 with Special Offers just got dropped 15 bucks to $99.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 28 Sep 2011 @ 10:23 AM

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 20 Sep 2011 @ 12:44 PM 

To read the tech press the past couple weeks, you’d think Microsoft had created some sort of magical portal to a realm of unicorns and rainbows and cakes with zero calories, rather than a dual-mode operating system.

Even when reviewers and developers talk about traditional desktop/laptop computing in regards to Windows 8, they somehow miss some of the more glaring questions that power users may have. For instance, why in the world would I want a full-screen Facebook application on a 24″ monitor? How does the ludicrous number of icons installed in a typical Windows machine’s start menu align with the new “start page” model? They say there are groups of panels, which would be somewhat analogous to the folders of icons in the hierarchical menu, I presume. But, there are several dozen icons in about 15 folders on my work computer, which has not much installed on it.  On my home computer, I have literally hundreds of icons in the start menu. I have at least 20 games; if each one takes a bloody giant panel on the start page, it will take ages to scroll through.

This bizarre start page debacle is partially ameliorated, to be sure, by the ability to search easily within those icons. This is an ability carried over from Windows Vista and Windows 7, and is certainly something I use quite regularly, when I know the name of the program I want to launch. But, when I am looking for something, it’s a great deal more convenient to have 30-pixel high rows of icons to scroll through instead of 300-pixel blocks. I realize that the strangely non-flyout default start menu in Windows 7 only shows about 20 programs at a time, and the Windows 8 start page also can show approximately 20 programs at a time. But, the overall effect of the hierarchical model in the start menu means that I don’t scroll through EVERY icon to get to one at the bottom of the list. I scroll through twenty folders, and then open one folder and then maybe scroll through twenty icons to find the one I want – this is TWO scrolls. From what I can tell of the Windows 8 Metro model, I could be swiping left-to-right dozens more times to get to one particular program, if I didn’t remember its name. This is better?

And don’t even get me started on the Metro business model, where every single program available for the new interface must be sold only through Microsoft’s store. I know Microsoft envies Apple’s deathgrip on its market, but one reason why Apple only has 10% of the desktop and laptop business might be due to that deathgrip. Paying Microsoft 30% of the retail cost of a program might not be a business model that some developers can swallow. How do freeware programs and shareware programs fit into this model? Is there any room in Microsoft’s brave new world for anyone who can’t pay to play?

Another fun fact – Metro applications are not supposed to run in the background. If they get minimized, they go dormant. So much for powerful multitasking 8-core processors – we only need the one core, thanks.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 27 Sep 2011 @ 09:13 AM

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 07 Sep 2011 @ 8:15 AM 

Way back in 2002, Palm was the PDA and smartphone OS in the USA. They decided to split their company into a hardware and a software company, and then licensed their own OS from themselves in 2003. It’s all very weird and confusing, and would seem to serve well as a warning to future generations of geeks how not to run a company.

Now that HP has fully digested their Palm acquisition, they are repeating this move. They intend to spin off their personal systems group into a separate company (or just sell it, depending on the rumor). Meanwhile, they are holding onto WebOS (what might be considered PalmOS V7), perhaps intending to license it to their spunoff hardware division at a later date. That worked so well ten years ago, why not?

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 07 Sep 2011 @ 08:15 AM

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 06 Sep 2011 @ 12:15 PM 

Amazon is going to release a color ereader in the next couple months. Everyone says so, and they may have the best chance to be a Android tablet of any manufacturer due to their content store already in place. Some folks really dig the iPad’s application market system, and Amazon probably already has your credit card information on file, so they’re ready to go.

This week, they’re rolling out a new version of their Kindle PC and Mac software, which adds support for a book file format that is incompatible with their existing Kindle hardware ereaders. If that’s not a giant clue they’re planning new hardware, I don’t know what is.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 06 Sep 2011 @ 12:15 PM

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 02 Sep 2011 @ 9:06 AM 

Oh, this is so unnecessary, but so neato. Just need to add a robobutler to add butter and syrup…

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 02 Sep 2011 @ 09:06 AM

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 11 Aug 2011 @ 9:11 AM 

I need some inspiration for GearDiary posts. I started writing for Judie back in May, but I can’t come up with a huge number of ideas. The first few posts were a mish-mash of reviewing my watch, talking about geocaching, a how-to on getting free blogs on your Kindle, and a series of reviews about open-source media catalog/player software. I recently wrote an op/ed piece about the coming “impulse buy” era of ereaders.

But, since I am a poor person who does not have every new gadget to review (anyone who wishes to send me free stuff, I will happily review it), I run into stumpers of what to write that hasn’t been done to death by every other gadget geek out there. It’s the rare day that I come up with something insightful or interesting that Gizmodo, Engadget, Techcrunch or someone else hasn’t already beaten to death. To be fair, those people are actually paid full-time gadget geeks and people send them information leaks and new toys.

So, any ideas on geeky topics that I might write about? I’d write about building my own DVR, but since the advent of HDTV (another technology I do not possess), my experience is no longer all that relevant. What to do, what to do…

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 11 Aug 2011 @ 09:11 AM

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 10 Aug 2011 @ 8:06 AM 

Just another way in which normal procedures are training us to be bad computer security risks. As illustrated by the always-excellent XKCD, the theory that really hard-to-remember passwords are good is easily refuted. Anyone want to tell the USAF?

Password Strength

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 10 Aug 2011 @ 08:22 AM

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 02 Aug 2011 @ 8:16 AM 

Much as Goldie Lookin Chain satirized in their great 2004 song (look it up), Norwegian game stores have taken to blaming tangentially related things for a violent act. The store, Coop, has removed such games as Call of Duty, Homefront, and World of Warcraft from their shelves after Anders Breivik expressed admiration for the latter and claiming Modern Warfare was a great training tool for his shooting rampage. Yeah, that will work.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 02 Aug 2011 @ 08:16 AM

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 12 Jul 2011 @ 9:40 AM 

The base computer network seemingly doesn’t trust any security certificates from any signing authority other than Verisign. This means that every web site that uses any other registrar (which is to say, a truly stupendous number of sites) gets an error message that the site’s security certificate cannot be verified to a trusted issuer. This happens with my company timecard system, as one rather important example. Since the network doesn’t trust Entrust or others, this means there is no way to be sure that the sites I connect to which are not Verisign-approved are real sites or phishing expeditions. This means that every site which is not Verisign-approved is a giant red beacon of “ignore this security warning because it’s really not a problem after all.” Every non-Verisign site adds one more item to the list of things to ignore which good security practices tell you NOT to ignore.

Although the Air Force has decided (for reasons which escape me) to allow Youtube and Facebook access on-base (but not Google Plus or even Google Calendar), this week Flash is broken. This is a security configuration issue, as the flashing error bar on the top of the page says the addon has been disabled, not that Flash is literally broken. So, one more flashing error bar to add to the list.

Again, this just encourages users to assume that every error message is, in fact, in error itself. If we get inundated with false positives, we are being trained to ignore actual positives. This also applies to the wave of “helpful” messages which greet us whenever we log in; I challenge any user here at Goodbuddy to honestly claim they read those every time they log into the network. Just more noise to ignore, and train people to ignore all messages because most of them are trivia or wrong.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 19 Jul 2011 @ 07:29 AM

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 10 Jul 2011 @ 2:34 PM 

I’ve uploaded a boatload of photos to randomly rotate through the header in my blog. All are my own photos, so no more stock photography in the header. Of course, those viewing these messages through FB or LJ will just have to imagine.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 10 Jul 2011 @ 02:38 PM

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 04 Jun 2011 @ 9:56 PM 

The foreshadowing at the beginning was a little too obvious, but the cold open had some great explodey bits and fabulous lines for Rory. But, once again, damn you, Steve Moffat! We’ve got to wait until September to get the second half of this two-parter? Holy frackin’ Sontarans!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 04 Jun 2011 @ 09:56 PM

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 02 Jun 2011 @ 12:22 PM 

Hey, Kindle users, I have a question for you. The Kindle has this cool feature where you can email things to it (either paid over 3G or free over WiFi). Do you use that feature much, if at all?

This is part of my continuing curiosity about all things ebook, and it seems that Amazon is the only one with an email address the user can shoot things to. With all the reviews for the new touch Nook this week, it just made me wonder if this is a feature that few people would even miss, or if it’s something really important.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 31 Aug 2011 @ 12:22 PM

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 24 May 2011 @ 10:02 AM 

Kobo announced the Kobo eReader Touch on Monday; Barnes & Noble announced the Nook Touch on Tuesday. Both use similar technologies, to the point I almost wonder if they’re basically the same device, except for the store each connects to.

Both weigh 200 grams, use a 6″ Pearl eInk screen, have one button on the bottom bezel, and use the nifty infrared touch screen technology that Sony introduced last year. If not for the four buttons on the Sony PRS-650, I’d wonder if both Kobo and B&N hadn’t just nicked Sony’s design. Well, that and the fact that Sony costs twice as much and doesn’t include wifi. The Kobo is $130 and the Nook is $140, while the Sony is $230.

So, this summer you’ll have four different 6″ Pearl eInk ereaders to choose from. Three are infrared touch-screens, and one has a keyboard and is a bit bigger than the other three. The Kindeal is $114 and has a great store integration. Kobo and Nook are in the ballpark and have their own stores as well as compatibility with ePub stores of old. Sony is odd man out, which is par for the course over the past fifteen years.

I can’t help but wonder what Amazon will do next in the ereader war.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 24 May 2011 @ 11:20 AM

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