Thursday, March 25, 2010

Damned Indecision!!!

So let's retrace my old steps.

I bought an eeePC 701. Loved it. Don't mind the tiny keyboard. Prefer it, actually, because my fingers are now used to moving and pressing down less than on any of my other full-size keyboards.

Upgraded to an eeePC 901. Bigger screen. Better battery life. Loved the flat finish of the 701 and the beveled edges. By contrast the 901 is just a glossy, rounded fingerprint magnet. With crappy speakers. I don't regret buying it. It does everything I bought it for, and I have watched many a season of TV shows on it during long car trips.

Can't really use either outdoors, in bright sunlight. I've tried.

Got my eye out for a netvertible now. Use it like a netbook, or fold the touch-screen back and use it like a tablet. Hopefully could write on it with a stylus and stop using so much paper. Looking at:

Asus eeePC T91MT. Glossy, poor battery life, non-removable battery. Weak processor. Same price as the S10-3t.
Lenovo S10-3t. Glossy. Decent battery life, removable battery. Capacitive screen--not good for inking. Decent price.
Viliv Blade S10. Beautiful. Gorgeous. Great specs. Expensive. Too expensive. Would love to be able to afford one, though.
Asus eeePC T101MT. Just looked at this one. A large improvement over the T91. Not out yet, don't know pricing or release date.
Toshiba Gigabyte T1000. Like the look of it. Don't know much about it, but Toshiba's netvertibles have a great reputation. Not released, don't have a price or a date yet.

No matter what I get there's going to be some big compromise. Do I wait and see if the T101MT or the T1000 are reasonably priced, then buy one of them? Cause if I resign myself to wait, there's always going to be a great device coming right around the bend.

I figure, even though Asus and Toshiba seem to get it, most companies are catering to people who only seem interested in using a touch screen for pinch-and zoom. Most review sites automatically write-off any phone or tablet that has resistive (pressure sensitive) touchscreens in favor of capacitive (touch-sensitive) touchscreens, even though resistive screens are far better for writing on.

Capacitive touchscreens are more responsive, but I have yet to see or hear about a consistently good capacitive stylus. That means, any writing or "inking," you want to do, you'd have to do with your finger, or use a stylus that can't even consistently draw a straight line. Then again, another benefit of capacitive screens--they can be made of glass, so they're generally more scratch-resistant than any plastic resistive screen.

There's a good video here that shows how inconsistent current capacitive stylus are, although I am curious about the transparent capacitive Dagi stylus shown here.

I think regardless of how good a capacitive stylus works, any touchscreen is going to get a layer of oil and dirt on it that would prevent such a stylus from making good contact.

Another compromise, I couldn't really use any of these "picks" outdoors, either.

So here's my ultimate, "no-matter-the-cost, I really, really, really want this device" pick:

The Notion Ink Adam. Won't be out for at least 3 more months. Doesn't have a hardware keyboard, but let me tell you what it does have.

It has one of those Nvidia Tegra2 processors that are being bragged about up and down every tech conference. It has one of those Pixel Qi screens that everyone should want. The Pixel Qi screen has 3 modes. Full color with backlight on, full color with backlight off, and black-and white reflective mode. The reflective mode is the most impressive, because it allows you to surf the web and read ebooks in full daylight.

That's not the best part. It's only part of the best part.

Now we all know that when a manufacturer says 4 hours battery life that's really 2.5-3 hours. And when they say 10 hours that means 7-8. 16, probably 12-14. How about 140? Hmm? How do you adjust 140 hours to real-world standards? 140 hours is what the Notion Ink Adam claims, I'm assuming this applies at least to reading ebooks in reflective mode.

I'm sorry to say that, in 2010, 20 hour battery life for a tablet is a big deal. 140 hours, with the catch you have to be in a black-and-white mode? Where do I sign up?

This isn't some kludge where you have to reboot in-between color modes. There's a switch on the corner of the device, you can switch modes on the fly. Turn on full color just to watch a youtube video, then go back to black-and-white as you resume surfing.

I can deal with the lack of a keyboard, because I can get a decent eee-sized USB keyboard for fairly cheap. There is a sort-of large hitch. They seem to be mostly supporting Android for the device.

Android, as we all know, is crap. Maybe great on a mobile phone, but if I have a decent tablet I want my standard word and work apps on that tablet too. Open Office for Android? Celtx for Android? Doubt it. Some sites say the Adam will also support Ubuntu and Chrome. I hope that means at least driver support, and hopefully there'll be a dedicated Ubuntu devel team as well.

I'm really, really, really looking forward to this device. Even if it does have a capacitive screen.

When this device goes for sale, if it's cheaper than $500, I'm ordering it that minute. If it's more than $500, I may have to look at my bank account and do some figuring, and of course I'd want to check out the reviews, but I'd still probably buy it. Just not that exact minute.

Hope it comes out soon,


Thursday, March 18, 2010

See, now I feel like a jerk.

So I'm working on another web site. You see, the 400 monthly page-views I get here are just too much for this one site to handle. I need something to fork off my immense readership. A readership that could comfortably fit in my apartment. My apartment is quite small, for the record.

No, this other site is for a very specific purpose, contrasted with this site which exists as a hose from which I spew blather endlessly yet irregularly.

Regarding this other site, every week I think, "Next week, it'll go online." It's not being delayed because the site itself needs work, it's pretty much sitting there waiting for me to finish a completely different bit of work. Once this other bit of work is done, then the site will go up. When that will be, well, my best guess was Wednesday March 3rd, 2010. Weeks ago.

That's why I don't give specific promises, including dates, on this website.

Those delays are beside this particular point. The problem is, I think the other site looks a lot better than this one. I did a lot of work on this site's design months ago. Actually, what, a year ago? Something like that. The point is, I thought I was done with this site for a while. I should have remembered that web design, like life, is never finished. Until you die. Then the site sits in the Wayback Machine forever, a few minor tweaks away from being exactly like you wanted it. isn't in the Wayback Machine, by the way. That's a getting-kicked-while-one's-down sort of thing.

Tonight, as I was waiting for my day's work to backup, I decided to work on's theme (which is really Royale, a free theme I downloaded and tweaked a very, very little bit).

The other site's theme has a fixed width. In theory, having a re-flowing width makes more sense. It fits the space that's made available by the size of your screen. In reality it looks messy and can be a pain to read. Not to mention I'm playing with the idea of putting images at the top of my posts--without having a fixed width there's no way I can be sure how it's going to look on my reader's screens.

On my 1680x1050 monitor, this site is just a sea of text. Perhaps a little overwhelming? That's my excuse anyway. I've played with typesetting before, I know narrow columns are easier to read, I just ignored that knowledge because if I hadn't, I wouldn't had been able to mess this site up.

I have been aware of the whole sea-of-text thing for a while, that's why I've been trying to have only a few sentences before the "break," so the word-wall is broken up a bit. It's gone a ways to help things out, but I've still come around to the idea of a fixed-width site.

Another problem with the theme as it is now: The text on the header acts as a link that will bring you back to the "main" page. Clicking the little iceberg logo next to the text does not act as a link. I know as little about php and css (so little I don't know which I need to know in order to make the image a link) as I did when I set up that theme. My web searching skills must have gotten a lot better since then though because I found out the right way to do it while working on the other unnamed site.

This other unnamed site is also using a free theme, but it's simple and clean and I can't be bothered to care if it's not especially unique. I went for unique for my first ever theme and it looked like someone ate a bunch of sky blue markers and threw up.

Oh look! Wordpress still has a thumbnail of it!!! Look in horror!


Eew, gross. Right? Well at the very least we can all agree I've come a long way since then. Not in being better at color choice and general design, but in that I now know to find a nice template and not touch it in ways it wasn't intended to be touched. That came out wrong, and in the process actually helped get my point across exactly.

But wait, why do I feel like a jerk? Because I keep pushing back my other project's deadline? Well yes, but not right now.

Because most of my site templates have sucked, either a little or a lot? Again, yes, but not at this very moment.

Stop guessing, I'll just tell you: It's because I have a much better theme set up for this site, all ready to go, but I'm not going to activate it until this other site launches. They're the same theme, with minor color differences and different banners. It just seems appropriate to launch them both at the same time.

So every time I add a new post until the new site is up, I'm going to cringe a little bit more than I usually do. Every time my readership spikes a bit and then drops back down, I'm going to wonder if I would have kept those people had the theme been a little better.

And when the new site is up, I'm going to get all sorts of messages from friends saying, "Really? This is the big improvement you were talking about? Really?"

Well shut up, it looks good to me.

Till then,


Monday, March 8, 2010

Let's Hear It! For Cross-Platform Compatibility

A couple of interesting things have been announced recently. Two separate announcements, both pretty cool. Steam is coming out for the Mac, and Crysis 2 is coming out in Q4 2010.

These things in and of themselves aren't big deals, and in fact have been known or at least suspected for some time. The news riding along is what holds the greatness.

First, and most recently, the Steam announcement. Steam, as you may know, is a digital game distribution platform for PC. It was developed and is ran by Valve, the game company behind the Half Life, Team Fortress, and Portal games.

The great news that tags along with this announcement is that the Valve engine, which all their most recent games run on, has been ported from Microsoft's proprietary Direct X to the cross-platform OpenGL. This is good news. This such a great step in the right direction. Although I have no reason to hope a Linux version is on the way, it's a lot more possible now.

Bonus info--PC and Mac users will be able to play together cooperatively on Portal 2. I'm sure we can all agree that's a sure sign of the apocalypse.

Crysis 2 was announced a while ago. We've known it was coming. We knew it was supposed to be on the PC, PS3, and 360. It's finally nailed down to Q4 2010. That means anywhere between October and December.

The cool news tacked onto this announcement--apparently it was announced nearly a year ago, but it's news to me--involves the CryEngine 3 it's built on.

According to Crytek, it's creators, this engine runs on all three major platforms (PC, PS3, and XBOX 360). That means if you develop games with their engine you don't have to worry about porting the game to other platforms. They also claim the engine will be able to run on future consoles, only requiring minor tweaking of the engine itself, so games already written on the engine should work fine.

I'm very curious to see what impact this has on game design in the future. Of course, people are skeptical about this as Crysis, which was released for the PC only, is notorious even today for requiring a lot of processing power to run smoothly. In it's defense the game was beautiful, and their later game 'Crysis: Warhead' used an updated version of the engine that required a lot less resources.

Only a handful of games used the CryEngine 2, but perhaps this cross-platform compatibility and claimed future-proofing will entice more developers to give the 3rd version a look.

I, for one, would very much like to see the end of console and platform exclusivity. That won't happen so long as Sony and Microsoft are there to pressure and entice game companies, but this is a big step in the right direction.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quick Notes on the Just Cause 2 demo

So I just downloaded and played the Just Cause 2 demo on PC via Steam. I've got some thoughts. You can read them if you'd like.

It has a huge scale for a demo, you have a large map available to you, but the scale is kind of made ineffectual by a 30-minute time limit. After the time limit is up they boast about how much there is to do in the game, showing how large the map is. I have to ask: If there's so much to do, why only allow 30 minutes? I wasn't sure if there'd be enough time to complete a mission (you have to unlock missions by blowing stuff up and causing enough chaos), so I didn't bother. Instead, I just ran around grappling things and blowing some stuff up.

The grapple gun was fun, though I can't figure out how to para-sail behind moving vehicles. I assume that's possible, you can do that in the first game, can't you?

Controls were usual, with a little tweak in how it handled weapons. Standard WASD movement, E is the use key, R reloads, SHIFT sprints, spacebar jumps. You can single-wield a gun, in which case the left-mouse button fires and the right-mouse button throws a grenade. You can also dual-wield some weapons, in which case LMB fires one weapon and RMB fires the other one. You can get a sniper rifle, which can only be single-wielded, and RMB throws a grenade while the sniper is equipped. I couldn't figure out how to use the scope, if that's possible, but I didn't look it up or anything.

One thing that really annoyed me happened when new missions and black market items unlocked. Instead of having a notification pop-up, a warning flashes on-screen that your PDA is opening soon (your PDA has your map, available missions, amount of chaos wreaked, etc.). Whatever you're doing is interrupted by the PDA opening. This is the biggest irritation so far. I was in the middle of a stunt, only to be yanked out and brought into the PDA screen. Once you exit the PDA screen the action is resumed from where you were, but it kind of kills the flow. I'm assuming you'll be unlocking new missions and black market items throughout the entire game, but I hope these annoying and unnecessary interruptions won't be as common as they were in the 30-minute demo.

Also, I think this is the game I heard about that makes it easy to record stunts and upload them onto youtube. What if my PDA opens in the middle of a stunt? Probably stops/upsets the recording? They probably have that 'hit a key to save a video of your last 30 seconds of play time' thing, I imagine going into the PDA resets that, or you end up getting 30 seconds of you accessing the PDA.

I feel like the demo would have been better if it were 10 minutes of tutorial, then 30 minutes of sandboxing, or perhaps a handful of missions before they drop you into sandboxing.

I'm still not sure how the stealth/alert system (not really a stealth system, hopefully you know what I mean) worked. It seemed to be inconsistent but perhaps it makes sense once I've read the manual.

I'm hoping they immerse you into the game a little more gently in the full version. All that said, I wasn't ever bored, and I get the feeling there's a lot more I could have done, I just didn't quite know all I could do or how to do it. Many times I wondered, is there something else I'm supposed to be doing? They tell you to try and get 5,000 chaos points, which I finally earned by the end of the 30 minutes (I could do it a lot faster on a second play), but missions were unlocking the whole time so I'm not sure if I should have given one a go, or if I'd even had enough time to try.

I'm really going to have to wait for reviews and the full game for this one. Basically this demo just reinforced everything the trailers have said--you have an impressive sandbox available to do cool stunts, and you can kill people and destroy things in interesting ways. It was fun. $50-60 fun? That depends on the missions and storyline. I'm certainly not paying that much for a giant explodey sandbox. I have a whole batch of GTA games that can do that just fine.


Monday, March 1, 2010

It must be nice to be Valve

Valve has made a handful of legendary games. They have an awesome digital distribution system, with DRM that people actually seem to like (compared to it's alternatives). They have a great reputation, mostly from making great games but also because they have do things like regularly updating Team Fortress 2 with new items and weapons (and bots!!!) at no added cost.

But that's not why I'm jealous of Valve at this particular moment. I'm jealous because all Valve has to do is post an update like this for Portal:

Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations

And they get a response like this. 64 pages of posts in 4 hours. Posts full of people scouring Portal for clues of how to use the radios recently scattered across the game, as well as trying to decipher the beeps they emit (morse code, some are thinking).

I promise you this, at this very moment there are a lot of people scouring Portal's game files. Some are checking the levels with 'noclip' on so they can walk through walls and look for newly-added secret areas. Others are unzipping game files to sift through models and maps, looking for anything new and interesting.

Team Fortress 2 gets very similar treatment. I had time sit at the edge of my seat and search for clues of what the last Team Fortress 2 update would bring. Unfortunately I'm too busy to follow the progress with Portal, even though I really, really want to.

Hopefully in a few weeks all will be revealed, and I'll hear about it from one of my feeds or one of my friends.

Til then, I'll try to restrain myself.