July 29, 2005

Bushnell starts uWink

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, most famous for Pong, is starting a new venture: an adult version of Chuck E Cheese, called uWink.

Really, it's not as bad as that sounds.

The concept is to put diners in the restaurant and have them play games, alone if they want, or in ad hoc competitions. Bushnell says that people are social animals and need the interaction with other people, equating the notion of this new restaurant/video game parlor with another successful venture: the martini bar. While it's true you could have a martini at home (and far cheaper) most people go to martini bars to socialize with others, espeically others who share the same interest -- even if the others are strangers.

This notion seems to have some merit. While it's true that people can play video games today on any number of devices in their home, and can even challenge strangers via online play, most of this is anonymous. Bushnell's new venture puts the social aspect back into it, by having the venture involve a night out, and by having you actually able to see the other person you're playing against.

You know, this concept just might work. If there were one near me, I'd try it out.

From Palm to Pocket PC

Nope, I'm not abandoning my Palm Tunsten E yet, nor can I afford either the Lifedrive or the Dell Axim that I might like to replace it with. I did however, just see this article, How to Put Palm data on a Pocket PC and found it pretty informative. At some point I may be due for an upgrade and if the Pocket PC camp lures me away, I'll need to migrate lots of data.

Update: Hmm...I just did some poking around and there is one somewhat inexpensive unit that has everything I want: the Palm Zire 72 Special Edition. Just something to keep in the back of my mind.

Board = Fried

That machine I was working on for my friend Harold turned out to be fried. I did get it to turn on once, but that was it. It shut down at one point, then never turned back on. Tons of debugging, involving disasembling the entire machine and cleaning it, proved fruitless. I even tried plugging the mother board into a separate power supply, and also plugging the hard drive into another computer. Neither worked.

I think it was all the dirt and grime inside the case and on the components, including the motherboard, which was to blame. Here's some hints and a video from CNET which discuss this.
Seems like the dirt inside, if it gets on the case, can actually create a short in the board, and then the board and the whole system short itself out. I'm pretty sure that's what happened.

Also, here's a page detailing a similar computer problem in a machine shop.

July 28, 2005

Computer from hell

So my friend Harold has an automotive shop and his diagnostic PC is having persistent, but intermittent problems. Shutting down for no reason, especially when the table it's on gets bumped. It reboots and sometimes never comes back.

He brought it to me and last night I worked on it. Got it to boot up once, then as a test i knocked the case a little. It immediately shut down and started to reboot.

But it never came back.


I worked on it until 1:30 in the morning, removing wires, checking connections, trying to identify the problem and bring the system down to it's least common denominator. In the end, I had everything unplugged except the power supply to the board and I had the CPU and it's fan still installed, and the RAM. This is the minimum configuration, and I should have at least been able to get to the BIOS. No good. It still won't come to life.

So then I took one step further: I removed the board from the case itself, thinking the board was getting shorted out somehow. I put it on a magazine to keep it from sitting on the metal case. Still no good.

I'm running out of tricks. Today I'm looking at it by hooking it up to a different power supply to see if that's the problem.

This thing is a pain in my ass.

July 26, 2005

Shuttle Launch - redux

Watch again as the Space Shuttle prepares and then finally lifts off, all live via the net. Some of the pre-flight checks and commentary you won't see on regular TV.

July 25, 2005

USB Devices: Security Threat

A new report states that USB devices, such as memory sticks and other add on peripherals that seem to be common lately can be a threat to the security of your computer and can leave you open to an attack. The devices load with miminum security restrictions and usually load with administrator priviledges. A new attack discovered allows a specially modified device to launch an attack just as soon as the device is inserted and the Windows PC loads the correct driver for the device.

While I do think this is a credible threat, I'm not too worried. For the most part, this attack needs to be done in person, at the actual computer. When I'm not using my PC, it's in locked state, and if anyone comes up to it and tries tampering with it, they'll get my password screen and nothing else. Inserting a USB memory drive won't change that. Physical security is often the most overlooked, but easiest way of securing your data.

July 24, 2005

Windows XP CD Burning

Yeah, the internet is a great place. You can find answers to those questions and problems that plague you. In today's case, I've been having a problem with my computer for quite some time now. I burn CDs a lot using my CD recorder. As soon as I upgraded to Windows XP, I discovered the new built-in CD Burning wizard. I loved it. It made burning CDs that much easier. Well, after a year or two of using that (hmm...how long has Windows XP been out anyway?) suddenly it stopped working. I haven't had time to really debug it, and plus I could always go back to using Nero, which was still installed and working. I could always create the CD that way.

Tonight though I put in the time to find the fix. Turns out there's a Services category of Windows that I really hadn't played with much (Start / Settings / control panel / Admin tools / Services).
There you can turn various things on and off. Guess what? One of them is the CD Burning ability, marked as IMAPI CD-Burning.
On my system it was turned off, and set to Manual. Damn! Well, at least I know now and can re-enable it.

At the moment, I'm happy.

July 20, 2005

MP3 restrictions

I feel their pain. I've recently become very soured on the online music shops such as WalMart's music service and Real since I've bought music from each store and can't play it the way I want. One one occasion, I wanted to use a song I bought from Wal Mart as part of a digital photo slide show. I couldn't, because it was marked "restricted". I bought an album on Real's music service, and couldn't play it in my car, which Real had said was within the guidelines. Yet, it wouldn't work.

As stated in the story referenced and linked above, the lure of the cheap music found at the online music stores sometimes doesn't work out in your favor. Sure, you've got the music, but can you play it where and when you like? For my part, I've pretty much gone back to physical CDs. Oh yeah, and then I rip them into MP3s and use them as I please.


Zoom the Moon

Check it out and zoom all the way in.

July 19, 2005

Also Funny: AP's Blog

Pretty funny: AP's Blog

Star Wars Props

Star Wars props to be auctioned off. I want the lightsaber.

No, really. I do.

One more

Yeah, I've got a real problem tonight. Reading and blogging, reading and blogging. I'm going to bed after this. Check out this blog too: I'm on the Bandwagon. You know, if you don't have a life or don't like to sleep, the latter of which seem to be my current affliction.

Blog: What I am Thinking

Trolling around and stumbled across this blog, What I am Thinking.

Fantastic Four Review

I know I said I would post a review the night I saw the movie or at least the morning after. Wrong-o. Things sometimes get in the way and then it's almost a week later. Bad bad bad. Here's the review I promised. No fluff, just the facts you need in case you haven't seen it yet.

The movie is basically good. Fans of the comic will definitely want to see it, since it naturally brings their favorite heroes to life. What it also does, and which will irritate fans of the comic (the yin the yang) is that they've messed up the origins just a tad. For one, they've included Victor Von Doom on board the space station (yes, it's a space station now, not a rocket as in the 1960's original story) and he gets clobbered with cosmic rays along with the rest of the FF. In the original comic, Doom was an old classmate of Reed Richard's who had a laboratory accident that terribly scarred his face and became bitter and bent on using his knowledge for evil. Not so in the movie. He's in space with the rest of the crew, and he's the financier to boot, paying for the whole thing.

Another change is the whole Susan Storm thing. She's immediately made out to be Von Doom's love interest, which to my recollection, NEVER happened in the comics. There was a love interest who was also a villain, and it was Namor, the Sub Mariner.
As the movie goes on, it becomes more and more apparent that the love interest was one-sided, with Von Doom having feelings for Sue, but not having those feelings returned. She eventually sides with Reed Richards, the way things were always meant to be.

So, what's good about this movie? Just about everything else. The acting is OK, but not great. Hey, it's a superhero movie. Deal with it. You want oscar-nominated performances, go see Cinderella Man (it's great).

The transformation from Ben Grimm into the Thing is well done. The whole Invisible Woman thing is played tongue in cheek. Perhaps her true power will be more played up in the sequel, as will the stretching ability of Mr. Fantastic. The Human Torch is played very well and gets lots of screen time, being the charismatic, hot head this tends to work well toward lots of good action and tension. A nice touch is the bickering between Ben and Johnny, who certainly had their share of fights over the years in the comics. This is portrayed well here, such as when Ben crumples up and hands Johnny's Porsche to him in a big metal ball. Funny stuff, and taken right from the comics, in spirit if not from an actual story.

Also taken straight from the comics is the conflict in Ben Grimm. He's the only one of the group that was adversely affected by his newfound powers. The rest all kept their normal looks but gained new abilities. He changed completely, both in abilities and appearance. And the movie, as did the comics, spends much of it's time delving into that.

One of the shockers of the movie is when Von Doom himself starts changing. In the comics he creates his suit of armor and mask to hide himself from the outside world because of his scarring. In the movie he slowly changes into Doctor Doom, his skin oozing out a metal substance that slowly becomes his skin due to the cosmic radiation. A small change but one which made the film feel less true, in my opinion.

To sum it up without giving all the plot points away, it was a good use of less than 2 hours of my time, and I walked away feeling pretty good about it. I definitely see room for improvement, but it was nowhere near the slog-fest I thought it would be from reading all the negative reviews. If you're inclined and on the fence about going to see it, my advice is give it a shot. It's not that bad.

July 14, 2005

Burnout Revenge

Story, pictures and the review of the new Playstation 2 racer Burnout Revenge. For those not in the know, this is the fourth installment of this game franchise, shaping up to be one of the best racers ever, albeit with a slightly evil twist: you get points not just for finishing first in the race, but also for the amount of damage you do to your opponents' cars. This newest installment adds better graphics and more obstacles to the roadways. Burnout 3 was the benchmark so far; Burnout Revenenge is looking promising so far.

July 13, 2005

Shuttle Launch Scrubbed

The space shuttle launch has just been scrubbed....a fuel line mechanism was not sending information to the control center, so today's launch was scrubbed (cancelled).

More details on www.nasa.gov.

Oh, by the way, I seem to be the first site to carry this news. I've even beaten the official nasa site, referenced above. Nice!

Watch the shuttle liftoff...live

I'm curently watching the space shuttle preparations...live on the internet.
Under a deal with Yahoo, there is a live streaming feed of everything going on with the space shuttle, in both RealPlayer and Microsoft Media Player formats. It's like being a fly on the wall; you're able to be a witness to all the preparations and see the astronauts getting ready. It's great. And, of course, this then leads directly into the shuttle launch at 3:38 pm today.

Join me and see for yourself.

July 12, 2005

Stonehenge Mystery

Scientists say they've uncovered how Stonehenge was built and where the stones were from. The theory is that the site was constructed by a teenager and 3 children from Wales and they carried the stones (which are HUGE, by the way) 240 miles from the quarry to where they set up the circle of rocks now known as Stonehenge. You know what? This theory doesn't hold up. A teenager and 3 children? Huge bluestone slabs? 240 miles? Nope.

July 09, 2005

Flame On - tonight!

OK, so maybe I'm really getting into this whole blogging thing. When I start blogging on little things like going to see a movie, I know something's happening. Call it what you will, but I'm really starting to dig it.

Tonight I'm to see The Fantastic Four. It was an idea that was presented to me, so I agreed. Do I care about the crappy reviews? Yes, but it's still a night out. I'll just see how it is. Seems appropriate since I posted yesterday about the reviews it's getting. I'll post my own review later tonight or tommorrow morning.


July 08, 2005

Fantastic Four

I just went to the site for the Fantastic Four movie. The movie itself is getting hammered critically, but I did manage to find a pretty awesome picture of the Human Torch.

July 07, 2005

Steelers Fan Last Game

It's important to know how you want to be remembered in this world. This guy knew, and his family made sure his wishes were carried out. Seems a little bizarre to me, but hey, who am I? This was definitely different than your usual wake/funeral.

Update: Another site has this story and the pictures to go with it.

Fish Story

Another picture for today. This will make one heck of a fish story to tell later on. No one will ever believe it.

Picture of the Day

A war protester becomes the picture of the day.

July 06, 2005

What's That Word Mean?

Ever wonder what a specific word or phrase means? Some examples come to mind, such as to "kick the bucket" or putting the "kibosh" on something. Check out this site for the answers.

Hmm...after yesterday's Jurassic Park mystery solved and now this tidbit, maybe I should change the tag line of this site: (loud booming announcer voice) "The Revision Bar - explaining the mysteries of the universe, one blog post at a time".

OK, maybe not.

Summer Reading

Courtesy of Fast Company magazine, What type of books do you read during the summer?

  • Books my friends recommend

  • Fun books to escape reality

  • Interesting books to further myself

  • Business books to develop my career


Just plain stupid.

July 05, 2005

Jurassic Park Mystery Solved

There's a scene in Jurassic Park where the security systems go down and let all the dinosaurs out, including the mighty TRex. The park founder's grandchildren try to help out, and the grandaughter boots up the computer and says "this is UNIX...I know this!". And she proceeds to re-enable the security system. To anyone who's ever been a UNIX system administrator, myself included, this didn't look anything like UNIX. As a matter of fact, the filesystem shown didn't bear even a passing resemblance to UNIX, since most of us use the traditional black screen and navigate the file structure that way, using the good old ls -F command. That is to say, NON-graphically.

Well, the mystery can now be solved, as the filesystem shown in the movie has been allegedly identified as belonging to Silicon Graphics.
So, that's one mystery solved. Now if only I can get my hands on that video game shown in The Last Starfighter, I'll be all set. I hear that there is a musical, which is kind of funny in itself.

Google Tips

Now that we're all back and recovering from our July 4 activities, I guess it's back to work. If you use Google to do any of it (and really, who doesn't?) here's a handy page of Google tips and tricks, some of which aren't documented too well if at all on Google's own site. I love having the inside information, especially when it helps me do things faster or easier.
And while you're surfing around, check out this blog: Casual Friday.