Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another reason to drool over the N900 (Mobile Weave)

I had a N800, the first or one of the first mobile devices to use the Mozilla web rendering engine. I really didn't notice any difference between Mozilla's engine and the N800's stock engine, so it wasn't a big deal to me.

In addition, it wasn't a big deal to me when I heard that Firefox for Mobile would be used on the N900, either. Until I heard that it supports Mozilla Weave.

Weave is an addon for Firefox that syncs bookmarks and passwords like Xmarks, but in addition it also syncs history and tabs that are open on your other devices. I just started using it today (on my desktop and netbook, I don't own an N900 yet), so I'll have a more in-depth Weave post in a few days. Watch this short video to see Firefox's mobile browser in action on the N900 (Weave is only touched upon briefly), I'll talk about more after.

Imagine you're at your desktop, reading an article online, waiting for a friend to come pick you up. You get a text, your friend is outside. You go to a restaurant where there's a 30-minute wait. You can now pull out your phone and resume reading the article you were reading at home. After that, you can continue your browsing in full on the N900, because it supports the full web.

That's really cool. Another reason to buy one.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Games games games games!

When I start writing twitter post after twitter post, and am about to write a few more, I realize perhaps the subject in question is better suited to my blog. Between Steam's post-Thanksgiving sale and their Christmas Sale (going on until January 3rd), I have bought a ton of games, and only spent about $105.

In Thanksgiving I only bought Dead Space, I think for $10, maybe it was $15. I didn't know about the sale until the second day, so I missed Batman: Arkham Asylum for super-cheap. Oh well.

During this current sale, I passed on GTA 4 for $7.50 (I think it was $7.50), and I'm kind of kicking myself but it's not like I'm going to run out of games any time soon. I ended up buying Prototype (which I'd beaten on PS3 prior to purchasing), Torchlight (which I've played a bit and is pretty fun), and Far Cry 1 and 2. I bought Prey for $2.50, then they ran out of activation codes (they sold out after I bought it) so they put Bioshock up for $5 to make up for it, which I also picked up.

I also bought the Eidos Collector Pack, which contained Batman: Arkham Asylum, Deus Ex 1 and 2, 3 Hitman games (which I'm a little interested in), Thief, Kane and Lynch (which I played on PS3 with a friend and we didn't like it, though I'm still curious about trying it single-player). It also came with a handful of other games I'm not really interested in, some Tomb Raider games and a few others. This was all for $50, the non-sale price of Arkham Asylum by itself.

All these games for $105, give or take $5. I feel a little proud of myself for waiting it out and snagging all these games at such a great price. Of course, I'm going to be so busy with work over the next few months I think I'll only be able to get in a few hours of gaming a week, but at least I have something to look forward to.

Of course, the sale isn't over yet for another 5 days, so I may end up grabbing a handful of other games if I see any other deals too good to pass up, but I feel like all the games I really want I have now.

Thinking about all the games I own now that I haven't played, I also have to think about all the exciting releases due in 2010--Mass Effect 2 and Dark Void (Dark Void looks cool, though I'm waiting for some reviews) are due out in January. Bioshock 2 is due in February (although I probably still won't have played the first one by them). Just Cause 2 is due in March (another one I won't be sure about until I see some reviews). Those are just the games on my radar, I'm sure a lot of other non-hyped games will pop up and get some attention.

As a child, I was always overwhelmed by the immense amount of books and music out there that were probably good. And here I only have 100 years total in this life, give or take, not nearly enough to absorb it all. Add that to the fact that more people are recording music than ever, more people are writing books, more people are making games, more people are making videos--it's just too much to consider. There's more out there than one person could ever absorb. Consider the fact that every 60 seconds sees 16 hours of video uploaded to youtube (I think that's the figure). That's impossible. That's just a crushing amount of content.

People can moan about over-stimulation and low attention spans, but with so much information and entertainment out in the world, added to the widespread use of portable devices like laptops, phones and mp3 players, there's really no excuse to be bored again.

And I sincerely hope it's that clear-cut,


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Power outage

Got home from running some errands to find the power out for, not only my apartment complex, but for perhaps a mile east of it and everything North of that line.

I shrugged it off and lit some candles. Then I looked around for something to do. Let's see...

Work is out of the question, because the power's out! Yes! Maybe I could play some Team Fortress 2...oh, yeah, the power's out. Can't watch TV, can't play any games, can't work, can't surf the net...

Okay, I can and did surf the net. My router and cable modem were useless, of course, but I was able to tether my phone to my netbook and do some rudimentary surfing.

I decided to take my laptop to my friend's house, which is far enough away that it has power, and do some work there. I packed up my stuff, walked out of my room, said bye to my roommate and as soon as my hand touched the front doorknob, the power kicked on. It was out for at least an hour. That's right, all I have to do is threaten to leave and they straighten that out immediately.

But it made me think about some problems with my current setup.

First of all, I don't have a backup battery on my primary PC. Not a big deal, as, I do most of my work on my laptop, and I save obsessively. My netbook has a battery life of 5-6 hours, and it was charged up, so I could have done some writing on that, though I'm a bit past the writing stage. The problem was, how could I know how long the outage was going to be? This was the longest outage I've experienced since I was a child, when a big storm knocked out power (and water) for days.

I've always been thinking of ways to keep all my electronics charged when away from home--my bag has an AC cord in it that I can plug in anywhere, and it'll charge my phone, netbook, or whatever else is in my bag at the time. I also have a DC to AC inverter to charge all my devices in a car if needed.

But what if I have no place to charge these things up? It's practical to charge my netbook in my car during a long trip, but not to use it to supplement my apartment's power supply.

Now, having been in nomadic situations before, I know there are gas stations with booths where you can plug devices in, and if it's a good station they'll even have wifi and a grill. A lot of diner-style restaurants have exposed outlets, and if you're bold enough you can plug your devices in there (in my experience most places don't mind). I've been there, that's one of the reasons I set up this bag to charge everything conveniently and inconspicuously.

So what happens when the power goes out here at home? I live in an apartment, so it's not possible to have a generator. It's not practical to take my laptop to a gas station or diner for the majority of a workday. The library would be a good place to go, actually. They provide power and wifi, and I could stay there all day without disturbing anybody. Too bad there are no 24 hour libraries.

I've been thinking about those devices made to keep your trunk. You can use one to start your car un-assisted. Basically it's a car battery with a handle on it (leak-proof) and two terminals on top. I've seen stores use one of these with an inverter to power a LCD screen for an in-store display. It's something to consider. I would hope it could buy me at least a few days of power for my netbook and perhaps a half a day or more for my 17" laptop.

I have a lot of devices in my house, but how many do I need at one time? A handful of these portable batteries could probably keep me well-powered for a few days. If the phone lines are still up, I could even use one for my modem and router, though I could just plug my modem directly into my PC to save even more energy.

It sounds workable. Perhaps in the next few months I can but one and see how much power it provides.

Food for thought anyway.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Online Video -without ads

As I'm getting closer and closer to posting videos to an online video service like, I'm starting to pay closer attention to how a lot of major content providers, providing their content. In-browser. I'm looking more at how they handle ads, but I'll start my small observations with a few without advertising: Amazon, Netflix, and G4. More observations on other services in a later post.

Amazon VOD is built on a great idea but is crippled by DRM they use on downloaded videos. I haven't used it myself besides looking at some of their samples of online video (usually the first 2-minutes of many television shows and movies so you can see the quality). From what I saw, the SD quality is pretty good, the HD quality was, well, far from spotless. Not worth the extra money, in my book.

The service is interesting--you buy a video and you have the perpetual option to watch it online or download it. Even once you've downloaded it, you can still watch it online. That way, you do tangibly own it in case the service goes under, but you also have the perpetual convenience of watching it on demand whenever you have internet access. My favorite part, you can buy seasons of televisions shows that are airing right now, and watch them a little while after they air (I think you have to wait a day after most shows have aired to view them via Amazon VOD). You can keep up with your shows without having cable, which I think is cool. You can do that for many shows on their own sites or on hulu, but you have to wait longer and sit through ads. With Amazon VOD you're paying for faster availability and less ads and other hassles.

The problem with this service is that the videos you download are WMV and contains DRM. The problem with DRM is two-fold. One, it ties your hands: Can you watch it on a Mac? On Linux? Can you transfer it to other computers or can you only watch it on the PC that downloaded it? As someone with multiple PCs running multiple OSs, this DRM is stopping me from using their service.

Two, in 2, 5, 10 years will Amazon still use this type of DRM? Probably not. Since Windows Media Player needs to contact their servers to make sure you're allowed to watch DRM'd videos, it can be reasonable assumed that eventually these video files will be rendered useless, EXCEPT that in 10 years there'll probably be a easily found way to "free" these files of their DRM, and computers will be all the more capable to do it in 10 years (as they can with DVDs, which generally are encrypted but are very easy to unencrypt). It's still a hassle and, to be honest, most WMV files I've seen are crap anyways.

Quick side note, I've also just found out that you can send Amazon VOD shows to a Tivo box, perhaps a reason to use it if you have one. I also know you can use it with boxes like Roku, and many Blu-Ray players are starting to support it as well.


I just subscribed to Netflix. Like, literally a half an hour before writing this. I haven't watched any full programs yet, but I've tested a few shows and movies and they look okay. I watched some shows at my friend's house streaming over his HDTV and it looked surprisingly good. It also handled their crappy, throttled, Citywide-Wireless connection pretty well.

My main problem with Netflix is it's lack of Linux support. Really? Linux gets the multimedia short end of the stick. I know I can't easily or satisfactorily play Blu-Ray discs in Linux, and sometimes even playing a DVD is a chore, but something like this, that's in-browser, should be a snap. Of course, hitch number one is that Netflix uses Microsoft Silverlight. There is a--I'm actually not sure what it is--port, fork, emulator, something, called 'Moonlight,' which I was led to by Silverlight's own site, that lets Linux users view Silverlight content. My understanding is Moonlight can't yet handle the DRM that Netflix's player uses.

And a quick note on DRM. I don't like DRM on something I'm buying, something that I'm keeping on my own hard drive, because as I explained above it gives a false sense of security. If the servers that provide verification are shut down, all the files are un-playable (among other issues). However, everybody using Netflix knows they're 'renting,' DVDS, or 'streaming' videos and there's no real transfer of ownership. DRM in their streamed videos is fine with me, because I don't 'own' the content they're locking down. That said, it really bothers me that I can't view Netflix videos on Linux.

That aside, it's wonderfully convenient, and it's pretty easy to navigate which episode of a TV show you want to watch. Let the player load, and there's a drop-down menu that lets you choose a different episode. Works really well.


I watch Attack of the Show and XPlay on G4, and that's about it. Even though they have a lot of content on their website, you can't watch shows in their entirity on their website. I wonder if they're trying to distance themselves from all the tech-themed internet stations whose back catalog you can freely and easily download. Perhaps they're afraid that if someone without that channel goes to their website and sees you can download all their shows, they think, "That's odd, I thought G4 was a television station, not an internet station." Not that that would be a bad thing.

You can view certain segments online, piecemeal, but you can't watch whole episodes. G4's website has a lot of other content you can watch, online-exclusive versions of popular segments like "Fresh Ink," as well as vidcasts only available online such as a new personal favorite of mine, "Sessler's Soapbox."

The quality is okay, but I have the damnest time getting these videos to play smoothly in-browser on any computer other than my gaming supercomputer. My netbook? Forget it. They don't display a download link that I've seen, but they do provide a link to their RSS feed. If you click on that, you're taken to Feedburner's list of that vidcast's recent posts. Each post has, not an embedded player, but a link to an MP4 file which plays on all my computers beautifully. I can't say how much I appreciate this. Not only do they do a good job separating their content's RSS feeds (some sites throw them all together on the same feed, which is a nice way to get me to stop subscribing), but they provide a file I can play on any operating system with VLC.

Oh, and I know I said their in-browser player is resource intensive, and it is. Having it open in a window severely slows down my netbook. It does do something really cool though, it doesn't start loading anything unless it's actually visible in your browser. The links I provided above go to the vidcast's main pages, which has all their recent updates listed, with a video embedded in each post. Those players don't even initialize until you scroll down to them, so they don't all collectively eat up your bandwidth or CPU power. That's pretty cool.

Well, that wraps up the post on non-ad supported videos. I really was only going to touch on these three services before moving on the the ad-supported ones, all in one post. I've just got so many thoughts in my big ole head it's a rarity if any topic is ever restrained to just one post.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Team Fortress 2 Soldier/Demoman Update

I suppose, there being a new TF2 update, I should post a little about it. I would be playing it right now but my computer can't connect to VALVe's inventory servers, which means no weapon switching and possibly no weapons drops at all.

I got on a little last night, I was able to see my inventory and the crafting page, though I wasn't so brave as to try crafting while the inventory servers were overloaded. I played 1-2 hours and got 20+ items, including the Eyelander (sword), Targe (shield), and the Direct Hit (launcher with faster rockets). I'm really glad they dropped all three, as these were the three items I was most anxious to test.

I will admit, when these updates were announced I thought the Demoman got the short end of the stick. Soldier got a new, faster rocket launcher while Demoman got a sword and shield? Demoman got the option to be a melee class? But oh man is it fun. The Targe and Eyelander are awesome. The Targe lets you rush, and if you rush far enough at the end of the trip you get some crits. It also severely cuts down your fire and explosion damage. Of course, you don't get a sticky launcher anymore, either.

I found that with the targe on payload maps I could just crouch behind the cart, ignoring the rocket/sticky/grenade spam, because the cart would heal me faster than those things could damage me (crouching behind the cart it's mostly splash damage anyways). A few times Demos exploded a patch of stickies I was in the middle of, and I just got launched in the air, I didn't die. Okay, once the fall killed me.

This is a great time to play, because it's a free weekend and there are also a lot of new weapons to try. This means a lot of people are screwing around more, testing these new weapons, and the uber-serious assholes that occasionally populate the servers are nowhere to be seen or are at least biting their tongues. There's too much chaos, charging, and spam to take it seriously. That's not to say the objectives are being ignored, people are still mostly playing right, but it's a much more experimental and fun environment. Everyone's just having fun with their new weapons. Besides, you can't have a sword and shield and actually be mad if your team loses. You have a sword and shield! How can you be sad or angry after you've just charged someone and cut their head off?

**I've just tried to join a game. I could access my inventory in the game itself, but I got an error message that the servers I was playing on couldn't connect with Steam's item servers, so I couldn't use any of the new weapons. Other players on the server had the new weapons though, so I don't know what was going on. I guess the gaming gods are just trying to keep me off the servers.

**-30 minutes later =/-**This is starting to piss me off, and it epitomizes what's so great about single player games--none of this waiting bullshit. Of course, you'd think having independent community-run servers would solve that problem, and it does to a degree. I can still play even though Steam's own servers are overloaded, I just can't use any of the new weapons.

**Yet another 30 minutes later**...and, I officially give up. I've wasted too much time stalling, hoping I'd get to play with these new weapons some more and pick up some new items while they're being dropped at a pretty high rate. I'd try later, but I seriously doubt anything will be fixed in a few hours when everyone is home from work and the servers are even more overloaded. What a disappointment.

I really should have know better than to expect anything different.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Uberpix Ate My Day


Light Sabers
Ceiling Cat
Are you uncomfortable with this word?
Literally? Porked it.

So that's what I did with my morning.


Why are people such dicks about marriage?

"Marriage," is a term that historically has belonged in the social and legal realms. Now many people are pretending like it's a religious term. Hey, marriage ceremonies happen in churches, administered by religious leaders, right?

Is one required to get married in a church? No, you don't need a church or a religious leader to get married, you just need a license from city hall. Do you have to be a member of a certain religion to get a marriage license? Of course not. Some people are all of the sudden pretending that marriage is a religious term, probably because homosexuality gives them unease and they're not yet ready to accept it as legitimate. Don't be fooled though, people know that you get a marriage license at a city building, not a church.

Catholics, Protestants, Scientologists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, Atheists and Agnostics are all allowed to marry whoever they see fit, and call it a 'marriage,' so long as the resulting couple consists of 1 man and 1 woman. So which religion owns 'marriage?' Seriously, which specific denomination owns the term 'marriage'--tell me quickly, so that we can deny everyone that isn't a member of that specific religion the right to call their union a 'marriage.'

Most people would probably refuse to discriminate in that way, but some still claim that it's the privilege of the churches to define what is and isn't marriage. Okay, well they should know that it's the official stance of some (or all) branches of Judiasm, Unitarianism, Buddhism, Presbyterianism, Methodism and more I'm sure that same sex marriage should be allowed. All of these groups apparently hold rights to the term marriage, so that's settled, right? Churches have their say, and gays can get married, mission accomplished!

I understand that a lot of people who support civil unions are trying to be fair while also keeping the peace. I understand a lot of other people are trying to push something separate but equal out of their own fear and hatred of that which they do not know, which seems to fuel most segregation and bigotry.

Marriage isn't solely a religious concept. It was most probably a social concept first. Today, above all it's a legal construct. From a Libertarian perspective, the government gets it's rights from the people. Since no person has the right to tell any consenting adults whether or not they can marry, the government doesn't posses that right either. Churches can still make as many rules for it's congregation as they want. As with every other religious proclamation, those of us outside a particular church shouldn't be subject to any of it's doctrines.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Two things Steam needs to do

Steam is a cool community/online gaming middleman/distribution platform for the PC. It allows you to download games to as many PCs as you want, but you have to be logged in to play them. It completely erases the need for installation discs. As someone with a couple boxes of computer discs, it's a great boon.

Two things Steam should do though, to make their service that much better:

1) Backup game saves and sync them between all of a user's computers.

2) Remove the damn age-verification screens in their app if I'm logged in.

Number one has been discussed by them before, I've heard that it's in the works for a while but I haven't seen it in action yet. Maybe it's in effect for Valve games only, which I haven't played in a while so I wouldn't know. It's not that big of a deal to me now, I primarily game on my desktop. In 2010 though I want to buy an amazing custom gaming laptop. Whether I'll be able to, who knows, but I want to. My gaming will be equally divided between desktop and laptop (though eventually I may phase out my desktop entirely). I don't want to juggle save files on a USB drive. Maybe I can work something out with Dropbox, who knows. It would be so much better though, if Steam did it for me.

Number two is something that is getting more and more annoying as the days go by. It seems like every time I browse Steam I have to enter in a birthday (I would say 'my' birthday but come on, I quickly enter in any birthday over eighteen to continue as quickly as possible). What's worse is it doesn't work. I was younger than eighteen once, I remember how quickly I would click through that stuff. What's worst of all is that they already have my information. Most of my Steam-browsing is in their app, where I'm logged in. If I'm logged in, they know I'm eighteen, so couldn't we skip all that crap? It's just an annoyance, but the nuisance is growing as every other gaming site seems to be going in the same direction.

Why don't we just make a separate, dumber internet for kids and leave the current, semi-awesome internet for adults only, so we can avoid this crap? I'm serious. Making something accessible to and safe for kids is a damned sure way to ruin it. Not to mention any twelve-year-old is smart enough to enter in a birthday over eighteen.

That's my say anyway,



Blippy. A service currently in private beta that allows you to display your credit card transactions to the world, in real-time! No, seriously.

Since so many people scoffed at twitter, and look at it now, I imagine a lot of very strange things are going to start happening online, like this. A lot of social networking-meets-whatever. Social networking-meets-automobile-wheel-rotation. Social-networking-meets-blood-donation. Who knows?

That said, I could see the use for something like Blippy, but private. I've been thinking for a while that if you really want to cut credit/bank card fraud short, find a way to put posted transactions in your twitter stream--the stream you receive, not the one you broadcast to others.

Of course, there'd have to be some improvements in the descriptions of posted transactions. You never know what a restaurant is going to show up as on your statement. And then the common practice of 'take a dollar to authorize transaction, refund it later' could become pretty annoying if it happens enough.

Just some interesting thought. The good news, though, is that even though we probably will start to see a huge rush of off-the-wall spins on social networking, a few of them will be amazing innovations that no one saw them coming, and the world will be better for it.

Or we'll all go crazy.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Modern Warfare 2 for PC

A little over 2 weeks ago, I posted an article called, "But...I'm a PC Gamer," about Infinity Ward's direct porting of Modern Warfare 2 to PC, and addressing people claiming this could mean the death of PC games.

Generally, certain advanced options are given to PC games, such as use of an in-game command console and the ability to host servers for multiplayer games. On the PS3 and Xbox 360, online multiplayer games are usually populated using an automated matchmaking system.

I stressed that being able to choose what servers I play on is very important to me:

In server-hosted online games, any group can create a static server, for which they set the rules. They can kick off and ban cheaters and troublemakers, they can use experimental maps or weapons, or even ensure the game is as "vanilla" as possible. These benefits are what make online gaming fun for me.

However, I reasoned that match-made games are okay for console gaming, and I've played Uncharted 2 online without any problems, so matchmaking instead of hosted servers might not be so bad.

Then I saw this post by Les on Stupid Evil Bastard, entitled 'Infinity Ward has fucked over “Call of Duty” fans who play on the PC.' Guess where he falls on the issue? Unlike me, Les has actually played Modern Warfare 2 on PC, here's what he said about the experience:

This evening I joined and quit no less than two dozen games because the cheaters were out in force with no less than at least 4 cheaters in each game and one where half the players where cheating.

Earlier he says:

If we had dedicated servers this would be less of a problem as the admins can kick and ban by IP address at the first sign of a cheater. As things stand now not only are there no admins to deal with cheaters, but there’s no means of kicking cheaters at all. At the very fucking least it would’ve been nice to have the ability to call a vote to kick someone who’s being an ass in the game, but Infinity Ward won’t even let us do that.

So yes, I completely underestimated the potential for problems, having never played match-made online games on the PC before. The PC, being a much more versatile machine, allows for all sorts of hacks and cheats not possible on consoles. Since hosted servers can ban by IP address, it's much easier to weed out cheaters. You can change your IP address but it's not always easy, and there's usually a limited number of addresses available to you. As it is now, you're banned from playing Modern Warfare 2 online by your Steam ID. As Les points out, you can get as many Steam IDs as you want, so that's not a big deterrent.

My earlier post was more intended to address why I like PC gaming better that console gaming, and why I didn't think it was that big of a deal that Modern Warfare 2 didn't include the usual advanced PC options. When talking about online play, my conclusion was that both online matchmaking and hosted servers are possible within the same game. If there's any doubt, developers can include both methods. I think we been shown now that if you only stick with one method, on PC games it should be static hosted servers.

I really hope this gets sorted out soon, I'd like to get into Modern Warfare 2 eventually,


Friday, December 4, 2009


You know what I haven't posted in just under 2 months? This Maemo 5/N900 video:

Since the N900's out now, it just occurred to me to throw this video up again.

Because I like it.


Celtx 2.5.1

Celtx version 2.5.1 was released on November 15th. I want to talk about it, but I really hate being an asshole.

Okay, I'll talk about it.

First of all, I'm still using a portable version of Celtx I found, numbered Every time a new version is released, I install it, and then find that not only has it gotten much slower (especially on my netbook), but nothing I care about has been changed.

I have one big problem with Celtx, and a few small ones. The big one is autocomplete. Some people probably love it, but I type too fast for it. Sometimes it doesn't pop up until I've already finished typing a name, and sometimes it doesn't pop up at all, causing a lot of inconsistencies when trying to touch-type a script from handwritten notes. I found a workaround for this, where I leave a hanging period (or any other character) to the right of my cursor. It throws off autocomplete, because none of my names has a period at the end of it, and nothing is suggested. That solves the problem when I'm writing whole passages, but when I go back to fix errors, autocomplete is still as annoying as ever.

It's a fine feature, but I want to turn it off. Why can't I turn it off? Seriously, Celtx is at version 2.5 and it won't let users turn off autocomplete?

Then we get to the small problems. You should be able to turn pagination on for all documents, or at least have it enabled for new documents by default. It's really annoying to have to turn it on for all my scripts, and I've never not wanted it.

2.5, on my netbook, is slow as molasses. Especially while saving. In the version I currently use, I'm used to being able to hit 'save' and then close the program, quick as that. In 2.5 I hit 'save' and then have to sit and wait for it to finish saving, 10-20 seconds. Not terribly long, but if I'm waiting to pack up my netbook and go over to a friend's house, it's very annoying.

You can use the arrow keys to expand and contract folders in the Project Library sidebar, and you can navigate to items just like you'd expect to be able to. But for some reason, hitting the 'enter' key doesn't open a file. It's counter-intuitive.

You can't rename by hitting F2, which is pretty universal in all the OS's and programs I've used. You have to open the right-click context menu to rename an item.

I'd alto really like to see more hotkeys. It would help my workflow if I could only needed my keyboard while working on a script. It's true that for the most part, their method of choosing whether to format as dialog, character, action, etc is very well designed. However, sometimes when making revisions it's necessary to move things around or change a format that was set wrong. I have to mouse to change the format, type some, mouse to change another format, type, mouse again, etc. Giving a set of CTRL-WHATEVER hotkeys to change the formatting applied to a block of text would streamline things quite a bit.

Finally, they removed a context menu option. In the old version I'm using, I can right click inside the 'Project Library' sidebar to add items or folders. In the most recent versions (including 1.0, I think), you can't. Why remove extra functionality? Maybe it caused some problems, I don't know, but it works fine in my version.

I know I could go to their site and comment on any of this in their forums. I'm lazy. I'm mostly apathetic. The problems I have with Celtx are nuisances at best, and I'll always have my portable copy, so I can ignore whatever changes they continue to make.

They've been adding a lot more collaborative tools, which I'm indifferent to. I've been saving files as html and emailing them to friends to revise in AbiWord, but the new version of Celtx has visible revisions built in. It also has a built-in online chat client, the necessity of which I'm not sold on. Celtx does need an operating system to run on, correct? And I could install a chat client on said operating system? But then again, like I said, I don't use the collaboration tools so what do I care? It's not like it hurts anything.

Ultimately I was very excited when I first heard of Celtx, well before 1.0. I really didn't think that by 2.5 the few nagging problems I had would still be there, but the scriptwriting itself is still exceptional (except for autocomplete always being active). I could take or leave the scheduling and the collaborative aspects, which is why I have left them, I suppose.

That's my say,


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

5-minute Soapbox (Passwords)

You know, it really pisses me off when services make me jump through hoops when setting up a password. Hey site whose name I won't disclose, I just gave you a 20-character password using a random combination of letters, symbols, and numbers, but you won't accept it because I didn't include an uppercase letter?

Maybe sites need a check box saying, "I am capable of assessing the risk of my own password." Or, "I know I shouldn't use my middle name as a password." Or, "I do not need a babysitter at this particular time in my life." I understand why Facebook might want to enforce a certain level of password security, because my grandma uses Facebook and she also trusts every pop-up and banner ad she reads. This site I'm registering at provides advanced services for web administrators, something that requires a certain level of knowledge about the technology being used and it's security risks (yeah, that doesn't guarantee a lack of stupidity, but shut up, I'm being angry).

I also understand that using uppercase letters along with lowercase letters increases the number of possible characters by 26, from 66 to 92 (roughly, just looking at my keyboard). Meaning that with a 20-character password, using lowercase letters only means there's a frighteningly small number of possible passwords:


But using uppercase letters, too, you get a large, safe, un-guessable number of possible passwords:


Wow, that safeguard kept my ass out of the fire, for real. Look how exposed I would have been had they not forced me to use uppercase letters! Thanks, web service that will remain anonymous, now fuck off.


(BTW I got the numbers '66' and '92' by counting the number of characters available on my keyboard, it was a quick count, and it's probably wrong)

My life has become the 'Twilight Zone'

So I went to the eye doctor today. Two things of note to report:

1-My prescription is finally the same for both eyes. I've been wearing contacts for I think 10+ years now, and only now can I stop worrying about which lens goes in which eye.

2-My eyes were dilated today for the first time. As someone who has studied lighting and photography, it's interesting to see principles I know pretty well demonstrated in my very eyes (well, more than the usual). The smaller the aperture, the larger the depth of field, providing there's enough light for a clear image. If the aperture is as small as possible without being closed, then everything should be in sharp focus.

The wider the aperture is, however, the narrower the depth of field, and the more finicky focus is. I'm nearsighted (that means I can see things that are near, some people can't seem to crack that particular jargon). For the first time in...well, ever, I cannot see what is directly in front of my nose. I can see distant things okay (with my contacts in) but nothing at any distance is in sharp focus.

My nearsightedness was a bit better before I put my contacts in before leaving the office, though diminished from what it normally is. Once I put the contacts in, I actually started experiencing what it's like to be far-sighted. Leaning in to better read something, as I'm used to, just makes things worse. I have to lean backwards to make anything out. My mother is farsighted, and it always seemed so strange that she would lean away from the computer monitor when trying to read.

So I get home, and I figure I'll watch some shows on our 50" HDTV from a reasonable distance. Except I don't have any shows recorded!!! Okay then, I'll work on some templates for another site I'm working on. Nope, can't SEE NEAR, dipshit. No, but I've got the time now! I've got the whole day free! Not to mention, all these feeds, and I can't read them! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Saw it coming.

Okay, so to pass the time I pillowed my eye sockets with cotton balls and wrapped my head with gauze, just like MacGuyver did in that episode of MacGuyver. When my roommate gets home, we'll do a dramatic unwrapping. Will I have regained my sight, just in time to recognize who it is that blinded me in the first place? Professor Moriarity, of course! I thought you were dead!


PS--Yes, that is a picture of my eyes at the top of the post. That's about 45 minutes after hitting full dilation. They were bigger at the Dr.'s office. And yes, my eyelashes are luxuriously long...shut up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Blender 2.5 Alpha

Another short and sweet post. This isn't news to Blenderheads like myself, but just thought I'd throw out there that the much-anticipated Blender 2.5 is in it's public alpha stage. The 2.5 version is a near-complete rewrite of the software (I think).

Blender, for those of you who don't know, is an (free and) open source 3D modeling and animation program. It is quite possibly the most full-featured 3d program out there, free or commercial. I'm not being a fanboy, and I'm not using hyperbole. It's amazing. Previous versions had a lot of these features, but let me just take a minute to tell you all the things Blender 2.5 will do:

-Full physics simulation, including fluids, softbodies, and now volumetrics (for smoke and clouds)
-Particle system
-Multiple armature systems for rigging
-Amazing system that allows you to save motions and actions and apply them wherever you want (I love this system!).
-Ray tracing, shadows, subsurface scattering
-Built in game engine
-You know what, just look here. Seriously, Blender can do a lot. (link lists current features. Here's a look at what 2.5 will do)

Oh, and it also has a node compositor, supports texture nodes, can edit images, can edit video, and runs on nearly every platform (Windows, Mac OS X [PPC and Intel], Linux, FreeBSD 5.4 [i386], SGI Irix 6.5, Sun Solaris 2.8 [sparc]). There was even a build that ran on PDAs a while ago.

Those of you who've tried the program and hated the interface will love 2.5--it's extremely customizable, to the point where you should be able to get it to mimic the 3d program you're most comfortable with. And I have to add, if you don't like the interface, that's really too bad because although it's a little odd at first, it's designed for speed. Now that I've learned it, I love it.

Just had to spread the news,


PS - I just realized it's a little odd to say Blender's in public alpha, all the code is public, duh.

Random Personal Updates

Hey everyone! I'm working on some blog posts at the moment, but thought now would be a good time to throw out some random personal updates.

I removed Ubuntu from my laptop and replaced it with OpenSuse. I like it. The package manager takes some getting used to, but it's going well. My main reason for leaving Ubuntu is the snail-like pace at which Ubuntu updates their repositories. In fact, Ubuntu usually only updates software in their repositories every six months, when they release official updates to their distro. In the open source world six months is a long time, and way too long to go without bug fixes. There are ways around it, like finding pre-compiled packages, building packages for yourself, and using independent repositories but I wanted to test out some other distros anyways.

A lot of could-be-good games are set to come out next year. Mass Effect 2, Bioshock 2 (still haven't played the first), Dark Void, Just Cause 2, I know I'm forgetting some but rest assured, 2010 should be a good year for games. I can hardly wait. Of course, I still have yet to play Arkham Asylum, Dead Space, Modern Warfare 2, Assassin's Creed 2, and a handful of 2009's other great games. I like having all these presumably great games just waiting for me to play them.

Speaking of gaming, I started watching G4's X-Play last week. I've watched 'Attack of the Show' regularly for close to a year now (since I've had G4) and I don't know why I haven't watched X-Play. Truth is, after Attack of the Show is over, my DVR usually shows the beginning of X-Play after it. My interest is piqued, and then the show is cut off. My interest in games comes and goes--and I don't mind waiting out most games until there's a large price drop (I'm just now playing Mass Effect 1), but we seem to be entering into a golden age of gaming. I mean, superhero games are actually getting fun, who could have predicted that? That said, I enjoy X-Play, especially Adam Sessler's insight (I held off on buying a PS3 because Sessler said at E3 he suspected a price drop was on it's way, though Sony wasn't talking. A few months later, the PS3 dropped to $300). Also, there's a lot of games out there I didn't even know existed, which X-Play has educated me on.

Well, there you have it, a short, scatter-brained post.

You're welcome,