archive for December, 2005

A New Look for a New Year

I was never really happy with how my last blog redesign turned out. I’ve gone ahead and moved things on around and changed the colors. Let me know what you think.

Almost Ready

I’ve been getting ready to take my private pilot test. There are two parts: an oral exam to test my knowledge, and a flying portion where the examiner and I will go up and fly around. There are just a few more of my flight maneuvers that need some polish. I still have tomorrow to practice before the test on Thursday. I’ve been pretty busy getting ready, so don’t expect any more updates posts until it’s over. One way or another, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Junk Fliter

I’ve just implemented a junk/spam filter for my blog comments. I don’t know why, but all of the sudden I’ve started getting junk posted to my blog. The system is based on point values for certain words/strings. If the comment contains too many junk words, then the post won’t happen. I’ll release this in the next version of the code once I’ve done some testing.

LinkLink Roundup: Dec. 21, 2005

Squidoo
From what I can tell, this is sort of a cross between About.com and Wikipedia. It has a great interface and looks nice. We’ll just have to wait to see if it’ll become useful or just full of junk.

Mobile WiMax Standard
The standard for the mobile version of WiMax has been approved. WiMax is a wireless communications protocol like WiFi, but it’s supposed to have much faster speeds and longer reach. Unlike DSL, cable Internet access, and even broadband over power lines, WiMax will allow Internet access providers to compete fairly. The problem with the other three is that they are all delivered over lines (phone, cable, power) that are owned by individual companies. WiMax could also make it a lot cheaper for organizations to provide free Internet access to entire cities.

Del.icio.us
A couple weeks ago, del.icio.us was bought by Yahoo! (another smart purchase on their part) which brought it back to my attention. I’d already signed up about a year ago, but this week I really tested it out. Del.icio.us lets you store your bookmarks online and “tag” them with keywords for easier searching (much like Flickr. They’ve made some good progress on the interface, but it still has a ways to go before it could be used by average web surfers. If you want to try it out, be sure to use the del.icio.us Firefox Extension.

Samorost2
The sequel to the original Samorost, it’s sort of a strange online Flash game. I’m not sure there’s anything more I can say about it, but it’s worth taking a look at.

Orbiter
A free space flight simulator. A couple of people in my study group suggested it. I still haven’t had time to try it out, but from what I hear it’s very realistic and hard.

King Kong

Jesse and I just saw King Kong. I really liked it and would recommend watching it in the theater if you can (for the full effect. My one line review is:
This movie goes up to eleven.

Flight Lessons: Up and Down

Last weekend, and again today I continued practicing for my practical exam. Last week we were able to hit both Agua Dulce and Van Nuys. Today we focused more on my short field landings and touch-and-goes just at Van Nuys. I’ve also been studying the types of things that are covered on the written and oral exams with some people from the ground school class last spring.

I’m starting to feel pretty good about my checkride. I make my short field landings within the limits more often than not, and I feel pretty good about the knowledge. The only thing that I really need to spend more time on is steep turns.

I’m scheduled for a solo flight to Camarillo next Saturday. If the weather is nice, that should be fun and quick. After Christmas I’m going to try to get three more practice flights in, and then do my checkride on Thursday.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention… While I was at the airport today, they were doing the groundbreaking ceremony for The Spirit of Santa Monica, and to mark the 70th anniversary of the first DC-3 flight. They had a bunch of vintage airplanes (and pilots) there, and on my way home I saw three DC-3s flying on their way to the airport. I should have some pictures posted on Flickr later this weekend.

Revolution Obsession

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over the Nintendo Revolution*, especially about the “3rd secret”. I know one of the past two secrets was the controllers with built in motion tracking. I think the other secret is the ability to download and play games going back to the original NES system via emulation. Both of these are cool, but only the controllers seem revolutionary.

Here’s what we (think we) know about the new platform:

  • motion tracking, simplified, controllers
  • emulation of old games from the NES to the GC
  • very compact form factor
  • probably lower processing power than Xbox360 or PS3, but…
  • they claim that it will have similar graphics output levels (minus HD) because of efficiencies
  • cheaper than the competition, almost definitely less than $200, probably $150, maybe as low as $100 (unlikely)
  • not high definition
  • built in wireless Internet connection
  • release some time in 2006

I find myself really hoping that the Revolution will turn out to be great. I love the idea of being able to play old games like Super Mario Brothers 3, Kid Icarus, Metroid, Rygar, and more. I love the small form factor. I love that it’ll be cheaper than buying a new graphics card for my computer. I love what I’ve seen of the controller so far.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed in the Nintendo GameCube and DS. They’re both great platforms, but they just don’t have the games behind them that I would have liked. I’m still waiting for a decent Metroid game to be released for the DS — something that should have been a launch title. The possibility of the Revolution being the last console of this generation out of the gates, and maybe underpowered to boot, makes me think that Nintendo will have a hard time getting developers to make games for it.

I’m left thinking that if I want to get a new console, I might be better off getting two and giving up on PC gaming. I could get a PS3 for mainstream games, and a Revolution for more innovative titles (plus the nostalgia factor). At least with the lower price point for the Revolution, this may be possible. I have to ask myself if I’d spend enough time in the living room in front of the TV to make use of it.

So, this third secret could make or break the Revolution, and possibly console gaming altogether. Here are some guesses:

  • Virtual Reality headset – Mitchell Howe has a great post on why this could be possible. There’s also a video floating around a possible VR system called Nintendo On. The video looks fake to me, and VR as a whole feels a little too much like wishful thinking to be true.
  • Efficiencies – It’s not glamorous, but being able to support amazing graphics with much lower computing power than the competition could be important. I just don’t see how they turn this into a marketing point that gets people excited.
  • Price – If they announced a very low price (something less than $100), they could really get people talking, and probably convince a lot of people to buy the Revolution. I don’t see it hurting the sales of Xbox360 or PS3 because it would really fall into a different category.
  • Free Virtual Console – This is the emulation of older systems. Nintendo hasn’t talked about pricing for the older games. I think most people assume that it will be a few dollars to buy older games, and possibly a monthly subscription model. Nintendo could actually just give away all of their older games and make the Revolution that much more attractive. I don’t see third party developers doing this unless Nintendo pays them off.
  • Mystery Launch Title – Launch titles are important because the set the tone for the entire system and drive adoption. A large user base will attract more developers, which means more games, which means more users, etc… I think Nintendo will announce the launch titles at E3, but I don’t know that that would really count as the 3rd secret of the entire platform.
  • Release date – Current speculation points to November of 2006. If Nintendo announced a spring release date (in time for E3), they could really scoop Sony.
  • MMORPG – Massively Multiplayer Online Game. I haven’t heard of any other console based MMORPGs, so Nintendo having the first would be big news. I’m not sure how it would fit with their family friendly persona though.
  • 3D without the visor – This is my personal favorite. With the motion tracking technology that we know they already have, Nintendo could build a system so that as you move you head, the image on your TV is updated to show the proper perspective. I don’t know how this would work with game play, but it might be cool and effective, and it’s very doable.

Here are the sites that I’ve been tracking to keep up on my obsession:

* “Revolution” is only a codename and not expected to be the final name of the platform

Practical Test Scheduled

I’ve scheduled my practical test for Thur. Dec. 29th. This is the equivalent of a final exam or driving test. I should be able to get ready in time. Hopefully the weather will cooperate between now and then. I feel like I’m about 90% ready as far as my knowledge goes. I still need some work on my flying skills and accuracy. I’m pretty nervous about the test and will probably be losing some sleep over it. In any case, the practice work is still fun.

Solution for the AV8 + RAID + x850 Problem?

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, my computer has some problems because of bugs in the BIOS. Well, it looks like A BIT (the motherboard manufacturer) has finally released a new version of the BIOS (26) that may fix the problem. I don’t have time to test it out right now, but I should be able to tonight. I sure hope this works.

Update: The new BIOS works. I’m able to use it with both RAID and my Radeon x850. Unfortunately, I still get crashes when I install the latest Catalyst drivers, so I’m still running version 5.4.

Update: Read the latest in Goodbye RAID…

Cloud Game

I found (via waxy links) and downloaded Cloud Game. It’s relatively small, but very original and fun. Oh, and did I mention that it’s free? I’d love to see a larger version of this on the Nintendo Revolution (or whatever it’s going to be called).

« Previous Entries