Saturday, January 30, 2010

N900 - Web Browsing

If you have or want an N900, then I'm sure it has something to do with it's amazing web capabilities.

Here's a quick run down of my experiences with the 2 main browsers you'll play with, the default 'microB' and Firefox.

MicroB is fast, has flash support, and is definitely my go-to browser for the N900.

Firefox is pretty slow, it has no flash for the moment, but it can sync all your bookmarks and stuff throuh a Weave account. Firefox also has the 'awesome bar,' which really is awesome.

Just like on desktop versions of Firefox, any text entered into the address bar is sought out in history, bookmarks, and even tabs open in your other computers(with Weave Sync). It saves a lot of time when seeking out previously visited pages.

What else? MicroB lets you use the awesome on-screen keyboard, Firefox for some reason doesn't.

As for general compatibility, the only web site I've seen not load properly is Seesmic Web. It starts to work, albiet slow, but then keeps getting error messages and ultimately it's big hassle.

On a whim I found (via Google) a twitter web app called TwitHive that is super lightweight and runs well with no ptoblems so far, though admittedly I just set it up and haven't used it a lot yet.

Having a lot of microB windows doesn't slow things down very much unless they're running something resource intensive like youtube or something (youtube can even slow down my netbook).

All in all, it's taken a little getting used to, but I really think writing and script-editing aside, this device can and probably will replace my netbook.


Friday, January 29, 2010

The N900 and T-Mobile

I've started and stopped this post about a dozen times. The N900 is a relatively new device, and a lot of the times I start to write something, I think, "Oh, maybe it works this way..." and I get sidetracked by playing with my new phone for another while.

Then I get into forum posts, wikis, tutorials, etc. I completely forget I even started a blog post.

Trying not to get in over my head here, I'm going to try and write a lot of small posts instead of one big one.

First, let's talk about T-Mobile. I had the phone for a day before I got my T-Mobile SIM, so I already had 40GB of mp3s put on it, as well as a lot of games, apps, email accounts, etc.

When I took my phone in, the woman who set up my account got confused a few times, for instance when I said the power button was at the top of the device (the N900 is designed primarily for landscape use, so it's 'top' is actually what most people would probably assume is the side of the device).

She said it was a pretty big phone and one of her co-workers walked up, "It's the same as my phone" and pulled out his Touch Pro 2. That was a bit of a treat for me because even though I was thinking of getting a Touch Pro 2 until I saw it's specs, I still hadn't seen one in person. The Touch Pro 2 is a beautiful device, perhaps better looking than the N900 but the N900 can do so much more.

She pulled out the N900's keyboard, I said I wished it had an extra row of two of keys, and her co-worker complained that the TP2's keys were too big. I tried a demonstration model a little later and I have to say I like the feel of the TP2's keys better than the hard-to-press keys of the N900 and the first Touch Pro.

Then I learned a very valuable lesson in time management. The woman who was helping me, let's call her 'Summer,' had an error in her system and had to call T-Mobile and get them to finish the activation on her end. She talked to one person who put her on hold. Four minutes later, Summer hung up on the call, telling me that she shouldn't have been on hold for nearly that long.

"If I go through the whole activation with her, this could end up being a half-hour call." This call was about 6 minutes when she hung up. "The whole call shouldn't take any longer than eight minutes."

She called back, got a different person, and lo and behold, the call took almost exactly eight minutes. I've been stuck on the phone with some very slow representatives, but it's never occurred to me to just hang up and call back, hoping to get a quick or even average speed employee.

I'm also very grateful I was spared from what probably would have been at least a half an hour call with the first representative.

I've had the phone for 2 days on T-Mobile's network. It's a bit spotty. Who has service gaps on major highways between the 3rd and 4th largest (I think) cities of a state? I suppose I'm just used to Sprint, which roamed on Alltel's (now Verizon's) network, which is the absolutely best network coverage-wise for Kansas.

When I can access T-Mobile 3G network it's very fast, and for most general walking around the house my phone access the internet through my personal broadband-connected wifi, so it's not that important anyway. One of the benefits of working at home.

Well I'm very near the verge of distraction. Topics I hope to cover in upcoming posts include web browsing and mp3 playing on a N900.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

I only have myself to blame...

So not only did I just get a Nokia N900 that, to be fair, I have been saving up to buy for a while. Play time with this phone probably won't be over for a few more weeks.

Not only am I really busy with work, meaning the grindstone now has the shape of my nose worn into it.

Not only that, I just bought Mass Effect 2. I know, I know. I don't know why.

I do not have the time to play this game. Other games I am in the process of playing an hour at a time: Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto 4, Far Cry, and Batman Arkham Asylum.

Generally I play a game obsessively, sometimes even straight through until I beat it. Since work schedules forbid me from doing that, I'm actually taking games in a tiny bite at a time. I also find myself sitting and thinking for a bit, "What am I in the mood to play?" Of course, there's no shortage of good games I haven't played yet.

Games I've bought recently (holiday sales!) and haven't played yet:

Deus Ex 1 and 2
Far Cry 2
Half Life 2 Episode 2 (Waiting for Ep 3 announcement before I play it)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl
oh, I've played but haven't beat Torchlight, too.

This just compounds the importance of the question, why in the hell did I buy Mass Effect 2, a game I expect to take at least 30 hours to beat (probably much, much longer)? I don't know.

Yes I do.

The primary blame goes to Adam Sessler. His review was glowing, but it really only confirmed what everyone expected, that the game would be better than the first.

Then I saw yesterday's episode of Sessler's Soapbox, also about Mass Effect 2. Glowing might be a bit of an understatement. Maybe he said some bad things about the game, I haven't finished watching the whole video yet, I actually paused it halfway to go buy the game on Steam. (I bought the 'Digital Deluxe' edition, I'm a bit curious how the soundtrack and art book will be delivered. Are they accessible in-game only? Surely not.)

Then we get into the murky cloud of principle-driven actions. Here we have a game that, unlike GTA4, Batman AA, and Bioshock 2, will not require Games for Windows Live in order to install, play or save. We have a game in which the only DRM is in the form of a CD-check (or in Steam, only Steam's own login-based DRM). This reasonably DRM'd game, by the way, is also the sequel to a fairly good game and currently has a Metacritic rating of 94 (and a 9.3 user average). Of course I want to support the marriage of a good game and a good DRM policy by paying full retail price.

The only problem is, now I'm going to want to play the damned thing. It's downloading now (just under 13GB of disk space usage, I don't know what the compressed size is).

Hmm. 11 percent downloaded. I'm at least going to give it a few hours as soon as it installs. After that, I don't know.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Package has arrived!

Guess who has an N900? I'll give you a clue, it's me.

So even though I was a bit worried in previous posts, I eventually got enough info that led me to just mellow out and wait for the damned packages to arrive.

I have to say, I was mentally going over my history of tech, and it seems like every time I've wanted a device this bad the experience of actually receiving the device has usually been marred

Sony MZ-R50 (best minidisc player ever) - Bought one refurbished, it arrived missing parts.

Tapwave Zodiac (Gaming PDA. That's right, a gaming PDA) - missed delivery by less than 5 minutes. Literally. Then drove an hour away to pick it up from FedEx hub because I couldn't wait another day for it.

Touch Pro (smart phone, big letdown) - I was stuck away from home for work so all the stores were sold out before I could get one, ended up driving 3 hours just to pick one up at a Best Buy, one of the last ones available in Kansas. In fact, some employees told me people were driving in from neighboring states to grab one from them.

Nokia N900 - Thought I might not get it, but then actually did get it right on time.

That said, I've gotten really good at waiting for things. When I was a kid, waiting for something like this in the mail would kill me from the time I ordered it to the time I finally got it. Today I was prepared to wait another day or two for the N900, and I would've been cool about it. Once I knew it was coming though, I really just wanted to jump up and down by my front door, impatiently waiting for the UPS truck to pull in.

And there's a bonus. The MicroSD card I bought is a Class 2, but it's actually copying files at just under 6 MB/s. I thought I was going to be waiting for days for all my files to copy over, but I've only had it for half an hour and my 15GB of files are almost finished copying.

I haven't even turned on the device yet, but I did finish a very careful unboxing punctuated by actually reading the manual.

Yeah, I know.

Well, off to some N900 fun,


Ping Pong (UPS)

So, in response to my last post, I can say with a strong bit of joy that it now seems as if both packages are probably on their way out for delivery. If both aren't, the important one is, so I'm not worrying too much.

I have two separate packages coming my way, a MicroSD card and a N900. Both scheduled to arrive today. To update all of you from my last post, Both packages hit bad weather this morning (assumedly) in Kentucky. Both couldn't have been delayed for too long because tracking listed both as being in Kansas City later this morning.

Here's a timeline:

6:23 am - both packages arrive in Kansas City, MO.
7:16am - SD card leaves KC for Lawrence
8:09am - SD card arrives at Lawrence's hub.
8:12am - N900 is out for delivery on it's route (eventually to reach my house)
EDIT - just checked and saw my SD is now officially out for delivery as well.
8:19am - SD card is out on it's route (eventually to my house)

This is all the information I've been given since the packages have reached Kansas City. Somehow the N900 never left KC, or even arrived at Lawrence's hub before it went out for delivery. What's more, this almost indicates they're on different trucks. Doesn't it?

No cause for worry anymore, so I won't. Let's just hope the packages arrive sooner rather than, oh, 8:30pm.



Foreign Language Lessons?

I know the title of this post is probably going to open this site to a whole new wave of spam, same as if I put "I need a bigger penis" in a post. Oh, shit.

Point is, I'm trying to learn a foreign language, but I can't seem to find tapes or books to help me out.

Anybody know a good set of tapes or a correspondence course that can teach relative fluency in UPS Tracker-speak?

I love package tracking. It gives my OCD a whole new page to constantly refresh while I'm waiting to get my shiny new things! I try to rotate compulsive page-refreshing in-between obsessive hand washings to try and keep my hands from getting raw so quickly.

As cool as tracking is in theory, it's significantly diminished by it's execution. UPS seems to have just tacked a limited public window into their internal system. 'Origin Scan', 'Arrival Scan', and 'Departure Scan' all make sense, if they're a bit user-unfriendly. They could just say "We have your package." "Your package is on it's way to Kansas City."

It's really not a problem when everything is going fine, but all that needs to happen is for something to go wrong in order for me to get a giant headful of confusion.

Here's the tracking info as it shows up on my site (it's since changed, so I tried to re-construct it):

KANSAS CITY, MO, US 01/26/2010 5:28 A.M. Delay in delivery due to weather or natural disaster
LOUISVILLE, KY, US 01/26/2010 12:52 A.M. ORIGIN SCAN

Now of course I live near KC, and I know there are no adverse weather conditions. It must be in KY, where they were in advisory for about an inch of snow. Why would the location stamp be listed in KC if the weather is in KY? There's another little oddity I wouldn't have noticed had Amazon's tracking page not told the story a little differently:

January 26, 2010 05:54:00 AM Louisville KY US Departure Scan
January 26, 2010 05:28:00 AM Kansas City MO US Delay in delivery due to weather or natural disaster
January 26, 2010 12:52:00 AM Louisville KY US Shipment received by carrier
January 25, 2010 06:49:30 PM Campbellsville KY US Shipment has left seller facility and is in transit

Yes, that's right, the top two lines are switched on UPS's additional tracking, taken out of their proper order. Why, I can't say. I suppose it makes sense to group tracking info by city then by time, because you shouldn't have the same package going back and forth between cities (and I'm sure that never happens).

So what am I to take from this? That it wasn't sent to KC because of bad weather, and I suppose the tracking info was placed as if from Kansas City because that's the next hub the package would be going to?

I would have just assumed the package was delayed going to Kansas City, but it's there now where the weather's fine and my package will arrive today. But the time stamps show it departing KY at 5:54am, 26 minutes after any info tagged to Kansas City. I'm sooooo confused.

Have no fear though, they've updated their info and it is at least definitive if not clear what went on or how:

01/26/2010 12:52 A.M. ORIGIN SCAN

So it is in Kansas City, but it didn't arrive until 6:23am, so I suppose at 5:28am they're just telling me that there will be a delay due to the weather. The funny thing is, if I didn't have tracking I wouldn't have worried and the package will still probably be on time anyway, but that's an entirely different issue.

So I'm going to attempt a UPS-to-civilian translation. Here's perhaps how their tracking info should read:

KANSAS CITY, MO, US 01/26/2010 6:23 A.M. Your package is now in Kansas City.
01/26/2010 5:28 A.M. Due to weather problems your package will be delayed (here's the important part) for about an hour ("about an hour" would have immediately put me at ease and saved me the trouble of even needing to write this post. Of course in worse scenarios they could suit it to fit the situation like "at least a day" or similar. If, you know, they wanted to be transparent and proactive.).
LOUISVILLE, KY, US 01/26/2010 5:54 A.M. You package is leaving Kentucky.
01/26/2010 12:52 A.M. We have your package in our facility.
US 01/25/2010 10:04 P.M. BILLING INFORMATION RECEIVED - We don't have your package but we are aware that it exists.

My biggest problem with tracking systems is that they don't tell you what they have planned.

For instance, Amazon's site lists "Estimated Arrival," although that's generally a bowl of crap and it doesn't change if there's a problem with an order. UPS doesn't tell me on the site when it's estimated to be delivered at all, not even the day, although I do get a clue with the type of shipping they list, "Next Day Air Saver".

I know it'd bring about a lot of problems, but it'd be really nice if they could say: "The truck is out, you are towards the end of the driver's route, which should be finished by 6pm." How about we get a queue number (how many packages are ahead of ours), and we can watch as we get closer and closer to delivery. Then they'd also have to say things like "driver went to lunch," so when I'm next in line I can know the wait is going to be another hour.

I know that's not something that's ever going to happen. But here's something that would save UPS a lot of money and make me extremely happy:

Don't even deliver the package to my house. Many times I've seen my package is in my town at 5-7am, but it isn't delivered until 8:30pm. Yes, I have had that experience with UPS.

Just give customers the option to pick up our packages at a UPS store or something, at our convenience. At 9am, after they've had time to bring it over from the warehouse. At noon over my lunch break (that would save a lot of 9-5 people a lot of problems with missing deliveries). On top of that, UPS is saving gas, it's saving driver time, and it's allowing people to not be chained to their front doors when they're waiting for a package they have to sign for.

Right now they have a simple verification system. If you're in a house, you probably live there or have permission to be there. They don't need to check IDs, they just give the package to whoever's there. They'd have to implement an ID check or similar to pick up a package at a UPS store. I personally like the idea of a customer-chosen password (or simply checking ID), but customer pickups couldn't possibly cause more problems than are already caused by late deliveries, drivers throwing packages onto door steps, and wrong addresses.

As I'm writing this I've been constantly checking my tracking info. It hasn't changed since 6:23am, over an hour ago from this writing. Perhaps I shouldn't worry, but Amazon's status says "Shipment Delayed" and UPS says "Exception." I'm 90% sure my package will arrive today, on time, but seeds of doubt...

If it doesn't show up today I'll probably write up another post. If it does arrive then I'll probably be too busy with the thing that I bought to tell everyone. Well, maybe a quick post, made from my new device. Oh, what device did I order? Oh, some new phone thingy, I might have mentioned it before, it's called an iPhone. That's right, I'm finally cool.

Just kidding. It's an N900. I haven't named it yet, but it's 6.38 ounces, and I intend to raise it Agnostic. It's a boy! Unless I lose the stylus, in which case it's a girl!

EDIT - Okay, I really have 2 packages coming, the N900 and a microSD card. The MicroSD card departed from KC at 7:16am. The N900 hasn't left yet. I will be so pissed off if the SD card comes today but the N900 does not. Very, very pissed.

Extremely pissed.


I will move things with my mind in a menacing fashion. And it will be all UPS's fault.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Really, 2K?

Does anybody remember my post on Batman Arkham Asylum? About it's DRM? About it's requirement to have a 'Games for Windows Live' account in order to save games? Well I still haven't played it. I'm instead playing Bioshock until I stop being mad at Eidos/Rocksteady for making me install bloatware and register with Microsoft before allowing me to save my progress in the game.

Part of the reason I've been playing Bioshock is so I can be finish it in time to play the sequel, Bioshock 2 when it comes out in February.

Then I saw this.

The tech specs for Bioshock 2 are out...To save the game or play online, you need to be logged into Games for Window Live. This still applies on Steam – so SecuRom and Games For Windows Live are needed in addition to the Steam client. Hmm.

This is ridiculous. Bioshock allows 15 machine activations, reasonable to a point, (though as I keep saying, I'd like some assurance that these games will be playable in 10-20 years when the developers will probably have a completely different activation system) yet not quite as cool as Arkham Asylum's 4 activations per month.

I'm willing to put up with reasonable activation limits. I don't have a problem with DRM in and of itself (I really like Steam's basic DRM that allows you as many installations as you want but your games can only be played on the one computer you're logged in on at the time). The Windows Live thing just makes me feel like they're spitting in my face. I have to be connected to the internet to save a game? Seriously? So if my internet's not working, not only can I not check email, look at my news feeds and surf around, I also can't play video games even if they're stored locally?

EDIT: Looks like some new info is showing up on 2K Games' forum.

Here's the word on BioShock 2:

On retail (physical disk) versions, SecuRom is used for disk-checking only.
Activation is done through Games For Windows Live (yes, through the company that's had no problems abandoning old DRM systems in the past, leaving people with useless mp3s).
No confirmation on the Steam version, if it has SecuRom (it shouldn't, it has no disks, but we'll see), or it will have the same activation limit.
You do not need to be online to save games, but you do have to have a G4WL account.

EDIT 2 - From "2K Elizabeth" on the forums, head of 2K's customer support when asked "And what happens if/when Microsoft decide it's not worthwhile to keep running GFWL?":

I'll also ask about that - but as I said with BioShock, I'm confident that we'll keep the game around. In the past, we have made sure, even if digital distribution partners go away, our customers still have access to their games.

She also said she'd post on the forums when she hears for sure what Steam's DRM/activation will be, hopefully by the end of the week.

So my thoughts:

SecuRom is not necessary on Steam at all, so if it's included that's bad.
Requiring Games For Windows Live to run in the background, or at all, is irritating.
I do appreciate that she said they would keep the game playable even if G4WL's activation goes under.

Pending word on the DRM they include with Steam, it might not be that big of deal after all.

We'll see,


PS - You know what game isn't going to require online authentication of any kind? Mass Effect 2. Hell yeah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Witter on the N900

Okay guys, I'm seriously trying not to constantly post about the N900. That said, there's another N900 post coming up in a day or so but, like this post, it's just a link to some video.

The one problem I had with the N900 thus far is it's lack of a really good twitter client. I've heard good things about the few clients that were available, but I want the advanced features I've come to expect from desktop apps like Seesmic and TweetDeck, but with a finger-friendly interface.

Well as this video from Nokia Experts claims (and shows), Witter delivers:

Can't wait to try it out. I was all set to buy an N900 this month, but unfortunately I had a few financial problems, so it'll be a few more months. Dammit!

Till then,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

(not a) 2009 Wrap-Up

Every year since I've had a website/blog (5 years? 7? I'll have to look that up), I've wanted to do a year-end wrap-up. Kind of an all-inclusive post pointing out my highs and lows as far as music, television, movies, and general life. Why haven't I gotten around to doing it? Here are the main reasons:

1) I'm a procrastinator.

Of course I refuse to do this kind of post in December, unlike most movie, music and video game sites with their "Best of 2009/Best of the Decade" lists, most of which came out in early and mid December. I know not that many new projects are listed in December, but it's the principle of the thing.

I also don't want to do the post in February, so I've got a super narrow window of only 30 days to write such a post. Who could do that? Oh, me, if I were on the ball.

2) What are the limits?

All this week I've been thinking about such a post, and what to put on it. This brings up another serious problem--time periods. If I made it a 'Best of 2009" kind of thing, then I would consider it limited to only things released in 2009. If I made it a "Year in Review" thing then that would be a little more broad. For instance, one of the albums I've been listening to the most in 2009 has been Michael Nesmith's "Magnetic South." Kind of country, kind of rock, very mellow and very good. Of course, the album was released in 1970, so I can't quite decide if it's appropriate to include in a 2009 wrap-up.

Ultimately I will include any movie, book, album, whatever, no matter where or when from, so long as I stumbled across or got into them in the year in question, but at the moment it's a little to include all of those works of art into a year-end post because of my third problem.

3) I took lousy notes

Going back to the "Magnetic South" example, it's been out of my rotation for a few months, so I nearly forgot that I discovered it in 2009, and it could very easily not have been on my list, (if I made one, which I didn't).

Don't get me wrong, I take great notes. I worked as a sort of personal assistant for a month at a company before the job they hired me for was ready, and that's a tie with pizza delivery man for best job I've ever had. I got to sit in on meetings, see what goes on with the bigwigs behind closed doors, and all I had to do was take notes and keep them all organized

As far as what I'm watching, reading or listening to, however, I need to keep better track of when. I'm working on getting a database set up. It's easy enough to create a database for all the CDs and DVDs I own, but when I want to start finding a way to, say, enter in a review for every individual episode of a season, or every individual track of an album, it gets a bit tricky.

I know I watched the Wire in 2009. I know I watched all of Farscape in 2009. Did I watch Babylon 5 in 2009 or 2008? Possibly a little of both. Should I include my umpteenth watch through of Angel? It did take up a significant amount of my time, although come to think of it I'm pretty sure my last full viewing was in 2008.

So this post isn't my 2009 wrap-up. Sorry, I know you're all dying to read it. I'm toying with a few ideas, such as doing a twice-a-year wrap up, on my blogiversary (end of July) and at the beginning of the new year. Or perhaps something more frequent even than that, monthly or quarterly. Should give me a nice bit of perspective, and then I have plenty of notes for a huge year-end thing.

I'm sure you can hardly wait.

Till next year,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Games for Windows/Games for Windows Live

Just wanted to throw out a quick clarification to my last angry post about Batman: Arkham Asylum (which I purchased on Steam) requiring a Games for Windows Live account in order to save my progress in the game.

There is 'Games for Windows,' a certification and branding that requires the following (from Wikipedia):

* An "Easy Install" option that installs the title on your PC in the fewest possible steps and mouse clicks
* Compatibility with the Windows Vista Games Explorer
* Installs and runs properly on x64 versions of Windows Vista and is compatible with 64-bit processors (though the game itself can be 32-bit)
* Supports normal and widescreen resolutions, such as 4:3 aspect ratio (800 x 600, 1024 x 768), 16:9 aspect ratio (1280 x 720, 1920 x 1080), and 16:10 aspect ratio (1280 x 800, 1440 x 900, 1680 x 1050, 1920 x 1200)
* Supports parental controls and family settings features in Windows Vista
* Supports launching from Media Center (Windows XP Media Center Edition, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate have Media Center)

'Games for Windows' was announced around the same time Windows Vista was. I've also heard 360 controller support was one of the requirements for certification, but that's unconfirmed.

'Games for Windows - LIVE' is an online gaming service. It is to Windows PCs what XBOX LIVE is to the XBOX. It's a store/distribution platform for games, and it also provides hosting services for some online games.

To be clear:

'Games For Windows' the certification is, in my opinion a good thing. It helps people who may not be as computer-literate as myself to get to the gaming with less fuss and hassle.

'Games for Windows - LIVE' - not my preferred service, but generally okay.

Being required to sign up for 'Games For Windows - LIVE' to play online - perfectly okay. Games manufacturers can set up their servers wherever they want, and Microsoft probably handles the online infrastructure so game developers can better spend their time elsewhere.

Being required to sign up for 'Games For Windows - LIVE' to save a game on my own PC - not okay. Not okay, not cool, not even reasonable. Requiring an online account with a third party service whose online services I may never use just to be able to save my progress on my own PC is very much a hassle, and seems against the idea behind the 'Games For Windows' brand.

I suspect it's tied with something in their DRM, or it's another layer of security to find any suspicious (meaning pirate-like) behavior. I sympathize with that, because as I said in my previous post, all the traditional forms of DRM, such as SecuRom, just end up getting stripped off of pirated versions of these games, leaving the paying customers as the only people encumbered by it's limitations. That doesn't make me like it any more, though.

As for my problems with the 4-activations per month, which I said is more than enough, I think it's key that users know what game companies' support models look like for the future. If no one is playing a game online in ten years of course the multiplayer servers will be shut down, that's understandable. But what about the activation servers?

I'm certain some companies have released "final" patches that remove the need for a CD to play their older games. I want to think it was Rockstar that's done this, as they've also released the first two GTA games for free online. Really, all I want is assurance that if and when the activation servers are shut down, a patch will be released that kills the need for activation altogether. Those of us who've been on the net, over a decade, have seen plenty of DRM systems abandoned while its users' files are rendered useless.

Hopefully that clears up my objections a little more, and alleviates some confusion surrounding the similar names for different types of services.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

N800 Revisited

So a few months ago I started a dastardly experiment. I took my Nokia N800 out of my closet, put two 32GB SDHC cards in it, and tried it out as a 64GB flash-storage mp3 player. Results? Slow, sluggish, and to top it off there were no mp3 player apps I was happy with. I cannibalized the project, using one of the 32GB cards as an easily swappable storage drive for work files, and the other card became a backup of the first that I carry on my person.

The N800, however, still hasn't made it back into my closet. This is due, more than anything else, to the amazing speakers on this device. I used to wear headphones while I cooked or washed dishes. Now I bring my N800, which has a 4GB card full of music, prop it up, and let it's speakers fill the kitchen. It's not extremely loud, but it's loud enough and still sounds really good considering how tiny the device is.

I also keep it in my shirt pocket as I'm playing video games, such as Uncharted 2 on crushing mode. I can't wear headphones, as I need to hear if someone shooting at me, plus I still like to watch the cutscenes, but I can keep the game volume low and play music on the N800 during.

I have an eeePC 901 (netbook), and its speakers sound terrible. That's the only way to describe them, terrible. I can watch some videos on it, movies or tv shows, but listening to music is out of the question. Keep in mind this is a 9" netbook being compared to a 6" internet tablet. In addition to the N800 sounding better than the 901, it's actually louder. How did this happen?

This is, of course, another reason I'm anxious to get my hands on a N900, because I've heard the speakers aren't quite as loud but they're still fairly loud and sound pretty good. So maybe when I get my hands on an N900 I'll be able to finally put my N800 back in the closet. Until then, I don't see it going anywhere.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Batman Arkham Asylum, worth playing?

So I was going to take an hour break or so from work and start playing Batman: Arkham Asylum for PC before bed. Came across a few problems that makes me think this game might not have been worth buying at all.

First, I bought this game in a package with a handful of other games, so I never really looked at it's own page on Steam. If I had, I would have noticed that it has an activation limit, a big no-no for me. True, it's limited to 4 machine installs per month--which is a more than reasonable limit that even I probably would never exceed. However, the same problems remain that all games requiring activation have. What happens in 10 years when they no longer support that kind of DRM and don't want to run a server just to activate old games? This is especially a problem if Microsoft is taking care of the verification through their Windows Live service. Microsoft has shown in the past they have no problem abandoning a DRM service, leaving everyone with hard drives full of unplayable mp3s they can no longer transfer to other devices or play on new computers.

That's problem one. Problem two is 'Games for Windows Live' itself. It insists on running during the game. I'm not saying it keeps launching when I don't want it to and I have to close it, I mean I can't save games without a Windows Live account. Guess what Windows Live? I chose Steam. It's nothing personal, but it just makes sense for me to continue to buy all my games through one service. Maybe you offer some kind of saved game syncing. That's nice, but if that's a service you offer the convenience is completely offset by requiring me to give you my information and register an account to save a game at all.

So by this point I've already waited 6 hours give or take for the game itself to download. That's fine, I'm used to it, and it's far better than it used to be before I had reliable broadband. But I only have an hour to play around, and now that time is spent waiting for Windows Live to install. Then the game finally launches and tells me I have to have a Windows Live account to save games. I set that up, then am told that Windows Live has to update and I can't be 'online' until I update, so I assume I can't save games until then either. So while it's updating I'm writing this. It doesn't matter how long it takes for the update to finish, play time is already pretty much over.

If I did some research on Arkham Asylum's DRM, then maybe I could have made a more informed decision and chosen instead to play a game that doesn't want to take a shit all over my computer. That would be one of, oh, say any of the thousands of games that don't make me register online--with a distribution service other than the one I bought the game from--in order to actually save my place in the game. Not to play online, not to download a patch or some DLC, but to actually save a game on my own PC, folks. In that hypothetical scenario I wouldn't have bought 'Arkham Asylum' at all, nor would I be writing this. I'd simply be playing another game right now. Of course, then you wouldn't be reading this and I wouldn't be watching some shitty programs take a shit (once again) all over my computer.

PC gaming has so many benefits over console gaming, but all this DRM and Windows Live elbowing in is slowly killing it. How many hoops do you have to jump through to play a console game? Maybe 1 in 10 games makes you actually wait while it installs things, most games I've played does it all on the fly. On top of that you can loan, sell or give used console games at your discretion. No mess, no hassle, you just physically hand the disc to someone else.

You have to register an account on your console to download updates or do anything else online, but that registration is a one time thing. Sure, it's a one time thing on Windows Live, but I don't want to be a member of Windows Live, nor do I want it to for some reason be the middleman between me and me saved games. Nor do I want it running on my computer at all. If I had some love for Windows Live, perhaps I would have bought an Xbox, instead of a PS3, or perhaps I'd be buying games through Games for Windows Live right now instead of Steam.

I don't want to give more money or information to Microsoft, the company that wants games on it's platform to charge for DLC so they can take a piece. I want to give more money to Valve, the company that is still actively updating the three-year-old Team Fortress 2 and not charging a dime more than what I paid for it years ago.

I know I said it wasn't personal and it wasn't, until Windows Live designed--or agreed to implement--a system in which I have to register a game online to save a game on my own computer (or even worse, maybe the games aren't being saved on my computer at all and I can't even play the game offline). I wish this game weren't even sold on Steam. I wish at the very least there were a warning on Steam's page somewhere divulging that in order to play this game you have to get an account with a competing game distribution system. Also, said system will be running in the background, making plenty of those retarded sound effects that Microsoft loves so much.

I am so frustrated right now. I just wanted to play a fucking video game. We slowly get more and more used to DRM, and I am very happy with the simple and reasonable DRM Steam has. You can install a game on any PC, but you can only play it on the PC you're currently logged in on. Since you can't reasonably be playing a game on more than one PC at once, it's perfect.

Some software companies still insist on using more strict forms of DRM along with Steam's, such as SecuRom. SecuRom brings with it (occasional) activation limits and hooks that prevent you from running certain administrative tools on your computer while a game is playing. Simultaneously every game ever with the tiniest bit of hype surrounding it has been available online for free from some piracy website without a single byte of DRM attached, generally days or weeks before the game's official release. I am not a pirate, nor am I advocating piracy. Look at the long list of games I own on Steam, for fuck's sake. The point is, as millions of reasonable people have said millions of times before this, such DRM doesn't stop piracy, it doesn't slow piracy, it doesn't even prevent pirates from playing on a company's official multiplayer servers. All it does is give those who actually paid for your game shittier service. That's it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go finish my bottle, get my diaper changed and tuck myself into bed,