Saturday, August 30, 2008

PAX Overload

Lines! People! Halo 3! MMO's! "No filming"! Structures in which to hide games! (Like a castle for Dragon Age.) Thousands of people. Did I mention the lines?

Buzz, Identity

People are wearing their badges at 8:30am on the street. Lots of them. The show does not open until 10am. Other releases getting buzz, none of which are a surprise, include Fallout 3, Gears of War 2, Starcraft 2... hmm all sequels.

5 Senses

The Internet, and games, don't do smell. Smell is an amazingly powerful sense for humans in terms of visceral response. The market (Pike Place) smells really good, too (besides the colors).

PAX Classic Gaming

Vectrex from 1982. Also, Atari 2600, N64, Dreamcast, a Jaguar (amazing), others. It's not the graphics, it's the gameplay.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Know Your Audience

Yes, gamers will sit to listen to real human beings talk.

Huge Lines!

Wil Wheaton. The man. Huge line. Also, lines and crowds for LittleBIGPlanet, all the band games (several music stages), and several others.

Gaming Rigs

The PC gaming room. There were many cool case mods and a few cool production machines throughout the show. Who knew HP made cool machines?

PAX 10

Ten cool small studio or independent games. Good for the industry, good for gamers. Encourages diversity across several measures.

I could plunder, steal, copy and paste and re-type the list and the links, but why don't I just point you to some people who have already written about them?

Battle in Seattle?

At least someone cares about the 1st Amendment.

Subaltern Discourse

If you overhear five young guys discussing "Amazon triple shots", are
they talking about last night at the bar or the game Diablo? (Depends
who they are - true story.)

Yes They Do

Like chocolate and peanut butter almost. Seattle. Coffee. Go figure.

The Gamecube Lives!

You already knew about the PS2...

AM Gamers

Who says gamers sleep until noon? There is at least one conversation
by people who do not understand the market for the Wii. (It is 7:56am


Cheese. Almost.


Some of the signs around town were really funny in-jokes. "There are doors to the convention hall in front of you." Followed by: "> enter doors"

At the Sheraton

Yes it is. One of those Microsoft Table things. Unfortunately it is more like a lame version of a giant iPhone. The interface is gimmicky, less functional: sometimes it zooms and pivots when I am only moving it, not zooming or pivoting it. They didn't get it right. And sadly these ones aren't Internet capable. Really it's just a big, poorly done iPhone. Don't need it. If they did it right, and made them affordable, then maybe we could all have cricks in our necks from looking at the floor - oh bad ergonomics. But the interface really isn't new, although many features are not widely available they've been around in academic labs for quite some time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

$4 Snapple

Kennedy airport is indeed terrible. Too small, too crowded, too ugly. The board at the gate had contradictory information. Conflicting PA systems. We stood for ten minutes, not moving, in the jetway, a small space that gets warm when full of people. No explanation. And $4 Snapple. Bad design! I hate bad design. Fix it.

The Seattle airport is clean, functional, and not crowded. It is great.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


It's official. I'm headed out to cover (as a freelancer) and enjoy PAX. Liveblogging from the iPhone will be positively normal. And, I've never been to Seattle. I'll be waking up around 5am local time, so maybe I can catch the fish market (humor of "catch" fully intended -- on TV they always throw giant salmon there). Items I hope to catch from the schedule:

  • Wil Wheaton
  • Spore
  • The Keynote
  • Jonathan Coulton
Of course the one thing I didn't do was pre-register so I will have to hang out in line to get in. And, given that I am on East Coast time, I don't know if I'll make it until 3am (aka 6am) for the late-night. (I'm kidding, I will not be bringing you coverage of that, I will be sleeping.)

How Professors Spend Their Time: It Is True

Monday, August 25, 2008

"To The Day"

Some cutting edge blogging out there (brought to my attention c/o the NYT). Sure you've heard of sites dedicated to those who have passed away, but here are two blogs published day to day, decades after they were first written. George Orwell, currently in 1938, and WWI soldier Henry Lamin, currently in 1918. 

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Language and Identity

Nice article about the interplay between language and identity in South Ossetia. Of course, the land has been called several different things over the course of history. (Hmm, maybe I need a linguistics tag...)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ghost Ships of Staten Island

So, I was dragging around Google maps to observe the entire outline of Staten Island, looking for a sister ship to the Nobska, the New Bedford, which was "was moved to a Staten Island junkyard in 1968, where her remains continue to rust away today."

If you are familiar with Staten Island or the waterway between it and New Jersey, this may not surprise you, but there are several possible contenders for where the New Bedford might be.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Because It's A Mac!

So, as you can see, here is my vintage 2002 G4 Powerbook, connected to a Microsoft mouse, a Dell monitor, and the Internets at work. What you didn't see, and what I didn't either, was the Mac complaining, or telling me it had detected new hardware, or asking for drivers, or asking about anything. It just works. The mouse is fully functional, the resolution on the Dell is optimal (and windows resize when I drag them to the smaller screen on the Powerbook), and it just does its Internet thing (no need to worry about the servers and such). Reminds me of almost every cableco phone tech person when your cable modem isn't working: they tell you to reboot your Mac. If I call tech support, I've already done that. I tell them no, I don't have to. They insist (so it can pick up a new IP number, which you don't need to do on Macs, they just do it). The last guy (Comcast, this is you) wanted me to leave my Mac off for a while. I told him he was wrong and I wasn't doing it. He hung up on me. I rebooted the cable modem (for the third time) and not the Mac, and the problem went away. Annoying when you know more than tech support people when your monthly goes to their salary... But, the Mac, it just does it.

And yes, for the purists, it's a G4 PowerBook, but I like Powerbook better. (And yes, that's a companion cube, like a NeXT cube really. Oh, now I miss my NeXT cube, but it is in a good home.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Cory Doctorow on the Information Economy

A great introduction to those who don't deal with the Internet in the way we analyst/academic/activists do, or just a good reminder of what's what. Cory covers many topics, but keeps them all related because they are. I would describe them, or give an overview, but you should watch it instead. 

Cory Doctorow speaking at the inaugural Cambridge Business Lecture on July 22nd, c/o BB:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The iPhone Has Arrived

Yes indeed, I am talking the app store and the applications. I have expressed excitement about this previously, and now it is time to back that up. Now that the apps have been out for a while, I have finally hung out with some of my iPhone relatives (MRP, RDP) who use their iPhones more than I use mine, and they put me on the road to some apps. All of these ones are free, too.

  • Facebook - now it's like Twittering.
  • Jott - voice records a memo, sends it off, and it comes back as text.
  • myLite - admit it, you've used your cell as a flashlight.
  • Shazaam - wow. More below.
  • Sudoku - I hope you know what sudoku is! (Several versions are available.)
Shazaam bears some explanation, because at first it sounds unlikely. We tested it, it works. It is amazing at first. It may not actually be useful, but it is awesome. 

It recognizes music.

We tested it at home with decent fidelity and low interference. We tested it in the wild, where it worked in a shake shack in Hell's Kitchen but not at a coffeeshop with too much noise and poor fidelity. The iPhone will listen to the music that is playing somewhere, and it does a Fourier transform of it (I understand that part, but I am not entirely clear on the sampling time frame -- Wikipedia will not help you). Basically it does a frequency analysis. It sends the (small) analysis off, the central Shazaam servers analyze it and compare it to the all-important database, and replies with the answer. It also links to the iTunes store where you can buy the song and YouTube where you can watch the video.

It got Underground, Buena Vista Social Club, and Tricky. We were impressed! It failed at U2 but that was due to too much noise, where the voices and the music were all overlapping in terms of frequency. I tried it with the Portal song but apparently that is not in the database. But try it, it really shows the awesome capability of the iPhone when linked with a much larger database and more processing power (notice this is similar to Jott, in terms of offloading the heavy work). Mixed mobile cloud computing? Powerful, when combined with a relatively open platform so lots of people can code for it. Let a million flowers bloom.

The Anglosphere

The Anglosphere is the term I have been wanting for quite some time now. It is an amazing term that perfectly summarizes an important Internet issue. Apparently it was coined by Neal Stephenson in 1995, so I admit I am late to pick up on it. (Notice the laptop in the picture is a... it's a Mac, of course!) But that is an issue I have been poking at academically for a while now.

Google language tools have vastly improved and expanded, both in terms of languages and functionality. You can search in one language (probably your own), have GLT translate it into another language, and then search on the translated words. Awesome. Versatile! But wait, there's more. It two-columns the results, the left column is the results translated into your language, and the right is in the results in the other language. It also does mouse-overs with the original when you mouse over a translation.

Some friends were in Japan (since they are from Japan), and brought me back some CDs. So nice! One came with a DVD, so, after ripping the CD into iTunes with no problem of course, I stick the DVD in to check out the content, just like with the CDs. (You know where this is going, don't you? I was too wrapped up in the benefits of globalization to see it until it happened.) But no. The anti-global, anti-free market, illegal and horrible DVD Region Code issue rose up and stopped me from viewing content that I have every right to view. Every rightOne drawback of the new Intel Macs is that I have yet to find a piece of software that lets me control my machine -- let me stress that, allows me to control my machine -- so that I can view legally obtained content. (This means I can't find software to control the region switching on the DVD player, or to work around it in some manner.) I am under the impression VLC won't work, although it did on my G4. This is unacceptable. My machine. My legal content. Flawed by design. It's not a Mac problem, of course, it's the DVD cartel, forcing DVD player manufacturers to abide by their contract. In Europe they laugh at this. In Asia they laugh at this. Maybe I'll go to Chinatown and get a cheap region-free player, which is not illegal for me to do. One thing to note about the DVD regions is that they cut up the Anglosphere.