Friday, April 27, 2007

This really got me thinking

I'll be the first to admit, I'm likely going to do just the opposite throughout my life, but this guy has some great ideas. It really got me to re-analyze my priorities, or at the very least make me think about re-analyzing my priorities. I really like so many of the things he's saying, but I have a feeling that I'll never be able to actually buck up and do it.

At first, I thought it was just kind of a neat gimmick. But I think it's actually a very deep philosophical point to what he's saying, and more admirably, actually doing.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

So's the *other* Zelda

I actually put a good couple hours into this one on Friday. It's amazing how I still remember which trees to set on fire, and where to place the bombs. I love how you can play old games on the Wii. Hillary likes it too.

Zelda is a lot of fun

That pretty much sums it up.


I must admit, I was highly skeptical when I first heard about Nintendo's new console. Nintendo planned to intentionally eschew the higher end hardware that Microsoft and Sony's new consoles were going to feature. Along with many others, I believed Nintendo was surrendering yet another round of the video game console wars to the deeper pockets at Sony and Microsoft.

However, when Nintendo started to release information on its new console, they made a compelling argument. The industry's focus had been on faster and faster hardware for years. There was little innovation in actual gameplay. The result was more expensive consoles, and prettier games. However, these games were really the same old thing we'd been playing for years. Nintendo pointed out that pretty graphics have little to do with how fun a video game is.

I know all about that, and have been saying the same thing for years. Most of my all-time favorite games aren't even 3d. Yet I suspected Nintendo was merely saying this because it couldn't compete with Sony and MS on the hardware front, and "fun games" was a convenient excuse. Who would argue that fun isn't important?

As it turns out, Nintendo pulled off a brilliant move, one that couldn't have been done without the big hardware guns at Sony and MS. Their $600 consoles and $60 games were pushing the casual gamers out of the market.

I grew up with video games. I played a TON of them as a kid, and continued throughout college. However, the last console I owned was an SNES. The Playstation was too expensive for me, and the PS2 even more so. Forget the PS3. I was only interested in it for resale.

The Nintendo Wii is the first video game console I've purchased since the SNES. They've managed to pull me back in the market. Even better news for Nintendo is that Hillary likes it.

And that's where Nintendo has really struck gold. Hillary used to play video games, but her interest in them was inversely proportional to the number of buttons on the controller. I can't say I blame her. When she saw me playing tennis, she wanted to play. We had a blast. She's better at it than I am. And she was really excited when I showed her that you can play Zelda on the Wii. The ORIGINAL Zelda.

While the hardcore gamers are definitely happy about the PS3 and Xbox 360's muscle, the Nintendo Wii offers something better for the much larger population of people who were left behind somewhere between the NES and the Playstation 2. It also offers something for the people who were never on board the video game train in the first place. While the hardcore gamer market is an important one, Nintendo hit a much larger piece of the pie with the Wii.

Leonardo DaVinci pretty much sums it up: " Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

I'm not sure what to say about it. I think a post by Dave Schroeder in response to this story on Slashdot earlier said it well:

"This kind of draconian, presumptive, knee-jerk response is exactly what people seem to be calling for from Virginia Tech...after all, "what if" this could have been a real bombing? Maybe even the worst school bombing in US history? They needed to react vigorously and without thinking and full consideration of the situation, right? I mean, after all, the daylight savings change is just a minor oversight. They could have been saving lives, right?

I mean, we should be able to, within less than two hours, have an overly aggressive "lock down" a 700 building, 2600 acre, 30000+ person city-like area because of an isolated domestic incident in a dorm, but we shouldn't have an overly aggressive response against this kind of possible school violence?

To anyone who thinks Virginia Tech has ANY culpability here,

1. Remember what your response would be to ridiculous "zero tolerance" tactics on any topic, and

2. Read the below first.


When what is believed to be a single, isolated shooting in a dorm happens on a 2600 acre public, open campus with hundreds of buildings, you can't assume that you're about to have the worst shooting incident (of any type) in US history.

Yet, people are already blaming Virginia Tech.

Would we close or "lock down" a city of 40000 people if there was a shooting? Because that's exactly what a campus of this size and type is (including students and faculty/staff).

No, but people are already calling for siren/PA systems in EVERY of HUNDREDS of buildings, of varying ages and constructions, centralized door locking/control and camera systems for not just outer building doors, but ALL doors.

The University reacted in a reasonable way. Yes, a shooter was "on the loose". Someone who had shot a person in a dorm, and the University immediately sent out notifications that such an event occurred; to be cautious and aware, and to report any suspicious activity to campus police. The area was "locked down", but after over two hours elapsed, there was no reason to believe that a madman was about to go on a random killing spree across campus.

This is not an elementary school. This is not a high school. This is a massive, open research campus with tens of thousands of people spreading over 2600 acres, with private, residential, and other buildings intermixed.

The only person to be blamed here is the shooter. And yes, he's dead. But Virginia Tech is not at fault.


Colleges and universities do have the same kinds of procedures.

But a hospital is typically one building. Virginia Tech is hundreds of buildings - I believe close to 700 - of varying types, purposes, and ages. There is no central PA system or door locking system. Most of the buildings are wide open. They're intermixed with non-university lands and buildings, and span 2600 acres. Some of the buildings are over 50 and 100 years old. Do we retrofit literally tens of thousands of doors with centralized locking and cameras and install central warning/PA systems in all buildings, just because you might be the site of a madman's rampage?

There's security and prudence, and there's waste and ridiculousness.
(My personal favorite -Brad)

And the area in the vicinity of the shooting was locked down and blanketed with police. It was determined to be a domestic-type, targeted incident. And by the time VT had a handle on the situation, thousands of students were already on their way to campus. Nothing happened for over two hours. Then what do you do when you have no means of directly communicating with everyone? Should the university have had a knee jerk to a shooting in one dorm, and before they even knew nearly anything about the situation, have canceled classes within the first 15 minutes? Even if they decided that, how do you contact everyone? Email? Facebook? The web? There would have been no practical way to notify everyone, meaning literally thousands of students would have made it t campus anyway, and then what do you do with them once there?

Lockdown is simple in a controlled setting or a high school or elementary school. But at a 40000-person public land-grant university with hundreds of buildings? I'm sorry, but Virginia Tech simply has no culpability here. This is going to result in a lot of additional security measures that are either artificial and useless, or not representative of a free and open society, or both. I'm sure it will result in several multimillion dollar lawsuits by families against VT, too. After all, you can't be angry at a dead killer.

This tragedy has exactly one culprit: the killer. The alternative is locking down something that is essentially the equivalent of a city when something bad happens, because there is a chance that something else bad might happen. And even if we wanted to do that, it's barely possible or practical on this scale. Even assuming it is or should be represents a failure to understand the scope and logistics here. It's not just "oh, it's just a little bit of money" or "how about mass SMS messaging?" It's nowhere near that simple and there simply would have been no way to reach anything but a fraction of the students even if they had wanted to immediately after the first shooting. Even the "delay" in notifying students of the first shooting, which is now being bandied about, is meaningless, because it would have told them nothing different: there was a shooting today in the dorms. It is being investigated. Be cautious and aware, and remember to always report anything suspicious to the police.

When you have a shooter in a hospital or elementary school, you lock it down.

When you have a shooter in one of several hundred buildings on a sprawling city-like campus with 40000 adults, you don't lock anything down unless you want to live in a vastly different society than I.
(Another good one -Brad)


So, if there's a shooting in a city of, say, 35000 people, what would you do with, say 700 or so buildings across over 2000 acres in the city center?

How would you communicate with those people? (Email is really the only practical different option for the university.)

Would you go into a temporary state of quasi martial-law because a "killer is on the loose"?

I can see locking down a high school. I can't see anything different Virginia Tech could have done, especially since thousands of students would already have been on their way to campus or class by the time the university even figured out what the response to the first situation was.

And no, the appropriate response isn't to immediately close and evacuate what is essentially a good-sized city at the first sign there might be a shooting (which would have been the only thing they could have even tried at 7:15am, which would have been ridiculous).

Any claims that Virginia Tech could or should have done something to prevent this represents a massive misunderstanding of the scope and logistics of the situation - and I mean massive - and represents the worst in 20/20 hindsight armchair quarterbacking. Not to mention a worrying tilt toward apparently wanting the kind of police state infrastructure we'd need to even THINK of "locking down" a 2600 acre campus with hundreds and hundreds of buildings.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Ubuntu Linux

I'm playing around with Ubuntu on the desktop I built this week. Installation went very smoothly, except for the fact that there were no drivers for my network adapter. I did some searching, and apparently the latest version of Ubuntu has support for it. I was using the 6.10 release, and am going to try the 7.04 beta. I should probably hold off until April 19th, when the final version of 7.04 is released, but I don't want to wait.

I was very impressed with what I've seen so far. For the vast majority of computer users, Linux really appears to be sufficient. You can get the job done, whether it's photo editing, document production, or web surfing and email, with 100% free software. I'll be the first to admit that I don't understand the economics of it, but I'm not going to argue with free.

The UI appears to be very polished, and very customizable. You really can lay it out however you'd like. It has some neat things integrated already, similar to the Spaces program Apple is planning to include in the next version of OS X. I haven't messed with it yet, but apparently the Beryl/Compiz project has graphical improvements to the UI that are far ahead of the equivalent Vista and OS X effects.

The really cool thing that I'd like to see in other operating systems, but probably won't any time soon, is an APT-get database type functionality. This way, you can select which programs you'd like to install from a huge list, and it does so automatically, along with any prerequisite software. Also, your OS automatically updates not only itself, but also almost any program you install. I've wondered for years why other operating systems don't have this kind of functionality. When I do a Software Update on my Macs, I'd like it to update all of my software, not just my Apple software. Same goes for Windows and Microsoft software.

I'm just under an hour away from competing my Ubuntu installation image download. I'll report back to see if I have any network card progress.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New Nine Inch Nails Record Online For Free

What makes this news is that it's actually legitimate, for a change. Here you go. The sound quality is pretty decent too, especially for streaming audio.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pics of the new car

I've been promising them for a while, so here they are.

EDIT: I used the Sigma lens in the post below to take these pics on my D80.

Sigma 10-20mm on sale for $399 from Dell Home

That's assuming you have the 20% off coupon. If not, you can buy one from eBay for under $10. It's a pretty solid deal. You can get another 3% off if you use Fatwallet's FatCash program.

It's a really good lens for the price. Works on Nikon DSLR's and most of the consumer level Canon's as well, assuming you select the right one.

Race to the bottom

Well, it happened to the best 10% in 2003, and apparently it's now happening to best of what's left.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pictures from Hillary's D.C. Trip

Hillary and her mom went to Washington, D.C. over Spring Break. Here's a link to the pictures they took.


Last Sunday, Hillary and I ate with a friend at Teller's, an excellent Lawrence restaurant. They have an amazing Sunday brunch for $15.00. It's called Teller's because it was formerly a bank. You can tell when you see the building. I really like the art deco design, the atmosphere, and the food. You can look out over Mass St. from the windows inside. The above picture was taken with my D80, and 18-200mm VR lens.

If you're ever in Lawrence on a Sunday morning, I'd definitely recommend it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A new step

After reading HardOCP's take on Ubuntu Linux, I've decided to give it a shot. I'm building a new PC out of leftover parts from my old machine, and some new components to replace the old ones. I'm getting an AMD X2 4600+ and a cheap motherboard with integrated video for $149 from Fry's. I'm not doing any gaming, but supposedly the onboard video is good enough to run Beryl. I was able to get 2GB of RAM for $109 from, and a 500 Watt Antec power supply for $20, also from Fry's.

I'm pretty excited, because Linux is something I've long considered, but have never had enough motivation to try. Now I think I'm ready.

I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

EDIT: I got an email from Fry's yesterday. The power supply is on backorder. I'll have to look for another one.