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NBC got a clue!
And they say only Muslims are terrorists...
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So much for Battlefield 2142...
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 Saturday, 19 May 2007
Saturday, 19 May 2007 17:10:19 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

I am impressed. First, the show Heroes absolutely rocks, and NBC didn't f*ck it up as the season went on. It is amazing to think that a network TV show could be this incredibly good, but there you have hit.

Even better, their fall lineup includes two more SciFi shows: a time travel show, and a retake on the Bionic Woman. Not that BW was a great show originally, but if they take a similar approach with it to what they've done with Heroes you never know. Same with time travel. The only one that was really worth watching was Sliders, and it wasn't really time travel at all.

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 Friday, 27 April 2007
Friday, 27 April 2007 09:09:10 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

If you cruise many conservative, evangelical Christian blogs or web sites you'll rapidly discover that they generally view all Muslims as culpable for all terrorism. Many call for the erradication of the religion, viewing it as fundamentally violent and flawed.

Totally unlike Christianity, which is entirely peaceful and is purely good.

Yet those same people are the ones who count terrorists among their number. Yes, it is true, there are Christian terrorists too. Christians who feel just as powerless, just as unheard, just as hopeless, as the Muslim terrorists. Christians who plant bombs in cars, just like their Muslim terrorist counterparts.

It is sad that hypocrisy runs so rampant through the ranks of conservative evangelicals. If they were truly honest with themselves they could, perhaps, be a force for good. But as it is, they are merely a vehicle for driving fear and hatred: which means they are a breeding ground for terrorists...

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 Friday, 20 April 2007
Friday, 20 April 2007 21:08:07 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

We've had DirecTV with Tivo for a long time now - perhaps 3 years. Tivo is a life-changing technology, not unlike the telephone. And I'm not kidding.

We like a number of television shows, mostly science fiction: Stargate SG1, Battlestar Galactica, Smallville, Stargate Atlantis, etc.

It used to be that we'd schedule our lives around the need to be home for a certain hour of a certain evening. We passed up many other opportunties for fun or fulfillment just to meet the arbitrary schedule of the TV networks.

But Tivo changes all that. All of a sudden it doesn't matter when a show is on, we just watch it when we have time. And given how much I travel these days (around 40% of my time), I actually get to watch all the shows I care about. They are just waiting for us when we have time to watch them.

Even better, a 1 hour show is actually only 42 minutes long. A 30 minute show is just 21 minutes. The ability to easily fast-forward through commercials saves an incredible amount of time!

Unfortunately a few weeks ago the hard drive on our Tivo crashed. Remember, it isn't just a Tivo - it is a dual tuner box integrated with the DirecTV service. So I called DirecTV and they were very nice (we're essentially charter subscribers, so they like us quite a lot). As I knew however, Tivo and DirecTV had a falling out a while back, and so the replacement box is not a Tivo.

I figured that by now, nearly a year after the falling out, that DirecTV would have a DVR comparable to Tivo. But it is not so. Sure, the basic features of recording and watching shows is similar. But this new DVR is not even in the same league with Tivo - and that's very sad...

My primary issues:

  1. The user interface was obviously designed by a geek, not a normal human. Now I am a geek, and this is the kind of UI I'd create - and it sucks. Common features are buried in obscure menus, and little used features are easy to find. Many powerful capabilities are hidden behind arbitrarily colored buttons rather than behind buttons that have some intrinsic meaning. Even for a geek like me this UI is totally crappy.
  2. Any interaction with the video (fast-forward, pause, jump back 6 seconds) causes skipping and sync issues between audio and video. This makes it very difficult to skip forward or backward, or even to pause and resume, because the result is almost always odd skip/sync issues that last for a few seconds.
  3. Along the same line, but more irritating, is the fact that skipping forward 30 seconds a couple times, and then back 6 seconds a couple times, will often cause the DVR to think I want to totally stop watching the show. This happens a lot, because we use the skip 30 seconds button to skip commercials, and when we overshoot by a few seconds, the skip back 6 seconds gets us back to the resumption of the show. At least 1-2 times a day the DVR just decides that we've pressed the Stop button instead, and stops the playback. Serious PITA!!
  4. Numerous times I've had to turn the DVR off and on again to get it to play back a show. Otherwise when I try to start the playback I just get a black screen. Turning it off/on makes it work again.
  5. Last week Stargate SG1 totally messed with the DVR. The jump forward 30 seconds went in slow motion. Turning the device off/on had no effect - it still did the jump 30 seconds in slow-mo... No other show has done this, but that particular episode of that show totally fubared the device.
  6. Last night the Colbert Report also messed with it. The DVR did its "you pressed Stop" bug and so I was fast-forwarding back to the spot where we were before the foobar, and the fast-forward went into an infinite loop. Seriously. It got to a point in the video and jumped back about 10 seconds, then it got to that same spot and jumped back 10 seconds - over and over and over. I had to watch in normal speed to get past that point in the video, then I could fast-forward again just fine.

Tivo had none of these issues. Tivo's UI is elegant and clean and intuitive. Tivo never skipped in odd ways, or had sync issues with audio/video. The issues are almost certainly all software, and it is simply clear that DirecTV needs to find a new DVR software vendor that actually has a clue about things like quality, testing and usability...

It is sad that Tivo seems to be having a lot of trouble getting their business model under control, because it looks very likely that the best product will die, leaving us all stuck with a load of crap instead.

On the other hand, even with all the stupid issues this DVR has, the life-changing effect remains. We are still in charge of our own lives rather than allowing the TV networks to control our schedules. It is just frustrating that we had perfection, and lost it due to a hard drive crash and some poor business decisions on the part of Tivo and DirecTV.

 

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 Saturday, 27 January 2007
Saturday, 27 January 2007 14:24:01 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

A few minutes ago I recieved an unsolicited (and thus illegal) phone call from Card Services Incorporated. Normally this wouldn't be a huge deal, I'd get connected to an operator and tell them to remove me from their list, along with at least some level of threat of federal legal action.

But this time something odd and interesting has happened. I did get connected to an operator, who almost instantly rejected my call. But she did in in such a way that I'm in a netherworld where I am "piggy-backed" on other calls. One after another, I get to listen in on their conversations!!

Now I am only hearing the operator's voices, not the inbound callers (all of whom are women thus far). I keep waiting to get some juicy personal info like a phone number or credit card number, but all the callers thus far have been smart enough not to provide any such information to the operators.

One can only assume that "Card Services Incorporated" is a relatively incompetent scam. Though I've heard at least four operators now, so they are big enough to have a number of employees and a (somewhat buggy) automatic phone system.

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 Friday, 15 December 2006
Friday, 15 December 2006 10:59:38 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

A couple months ago I posted some negative information about BF2142 due to their in-game advertising. Subsequent to posting that entry, I read more information that led me to believe it wasn't as onerous as it sounded.

So I bought the game.

No ads. None. Yes, there are billboards where the ads should be, but I get no ads.

Even if there were ads it wouldn't be onerous - they'd just appear on some billboards here and there, so that seems pretty easy to deal with.

But I don't get them. And I'm sure the reason is that my home network is entirely behind a firewall/router. Odds are that BF2142 configures the Windows XP firewall on my actual desktop to open the necessary port for the ad software to work. But it can't reconfigure my primary firewall, because that's a totally separate device; a device I'm pretty sure is blocking the download of the ad content.

So I've been playing BF 2142 quite a lot of late. Yes, my life has been incredibly hectic due to family health issues, work issues, yard work in the fall, getting new windows in our house and selling Christmas trees as a fund raiser for the Optimist Club of Eden Prairie. But I've chosen to give up some sleep to play BF2142 - it is that good!

There's just nothing like walking across the battlefield in a three story tall tank, blowing the crap out of the enemy as you go!! :)

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 Tuesday, 17 October 2006
Tuesday, 17 October 2006 22:28:51 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )
This sucks. I was seriously looking forward to Battlefield 2142, and if this blog post is correct I won't be able to buy it.

It is bad enough for them to include product placement and commercials in a game for which I pay a ton of money. Which is, btw, to say that if they gave the game away I wouldn't complain about some ads (Though I still might not play the game if the ads were too annoying. It is worth noting that I don't watch television shows unless it is on Tivo or DVD - or I'm trapped in a hotel room and am using the TV as background noise.)

But for me to spend a huge amount of money to buy a game that is going to advertise and spy on me is entirely unacceptable.

And that sucks, because otherwise this looked like a rocking good game that I was planning to buy tomorrow...


Update: it maybe isn't quite as bad as it originally sounded. According to this article, they are not collecting cookies or browser history, just your IP address. Since every web site you ever visit records your IP address, this is pretty much a non-issue.

It still bothers me that I'm paying a huge amount of money just so they can advertise to me, and I think the price of the game should be reduced due to this. The model should be more like magazines, or newspapers, where the subscription price covers the cost of delivery, and advertising covers the cost of the actual content.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2006 21:48:23 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )
Rarely does network television come up with anything worth watching - even with the power of Tivo... The only network show I've watched in a very long time is Smallville, and that's a love-hate relationship that will come to an end soon if they don't sh*t or get off the pot (preferably by killing off the Lana character).

But I can now say that I'm hooked on an NBC show: Heroes (wikipedia).

(Though at the end of each episode thus far I've said (and I quote) "I sure hope they don't fuck this up." because I fully expect NBC to totally ruin this show. But not so far, and thus hope remains)

I'm a huge fan of JMS - creator of Babylon 5 - and absolutely loved the Rising Stars comic series he authored. And I love Astro City.

Heroes, thus far, has the darkness and gritty realism (if you can use that term with comic fiction) of both those comic series, but created entirely for the small screen. Unlike attempts to translate existing comic properties to television, Heroes appears created for the medium. Coupled with good production values and decent special effects, the result is very compelling.

I'm not ready to say it is up there with Babylon 5 or the new Battlestar Galactica, but it is (thus far) better than the best Smallville has had to offer in its 5+ seasons.

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 Wednesday, 26 July 2006
Wednesday, 26 July 2006 11:23:47 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

Apparently there's the possibility of new Babylon 5 in the future - how cool is that!?!

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 Monday, 24 July 2006
Monday, 24 July 2006 11:10:48 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )
OK, I think I've had it.

A couple years ago I bought an album and a couple other songs through Best Buy's web site - from a service called Liquid Audio. A few weeks later, my license files quit working, and Liquid Audio was entirely unhelpful - unsympathetic even! I believe they've gone out of business though, so they got what they deserved.

About a year ago I bought some songs from the new Napster. A few weeks later I had a hard drive crash and lost my license files. Fortunately Napster was more helpful and I was able to get my license files restored (though I think it used up the second of my 3 machine licenses).

But today my Napster licenses are just gone. No system changes, nothing. They just quit working. And yes, I'm sure Napster's helpful service people can get them back for me, but that is no longer the point. The idea of downloading music and more importantly dealing with the DRM is unacceptable.

All I want to do is listen to music I purchased, and I can't do it. That sucks. And spending time calling around or emailing to get support to be able to use my own damn property isn't acceptable at all.

So I'm done buying music online. It will be a lot cheaper for me to just go buy the CDs at a store and rip them, and then never worry about this shit again. If I figure it based on my hourly billing rate it is a LOT cheaper to just avoid the DRM.

And when the CD's are DRM protected? Well then I guess I'm done with commercial music. Most of it sucks anyway, and if I can't listen to it on my PC while working then it has no value anyway, so it just doesn't matter.

Yes RIAA, you can protect your precious resource. But in the end you may be your only market, because the rest of us are getting fed up with all the bullshit...

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