archive for May, 2006

Fighting Comment Spam

After a couple hours of research, I’ve upgraded my comment spam fighting tools.  The two main changes I made were: installing Bad Behavior (a spam blocking plugin), and moving the page that comments are posted to.  Thanks to Akismet, very few spam posts were making it even as far as my moderation queue, but it was still enough to be annoying.  Hopefully these new changes will eliminate comment spam for me.

Conversive vs. Conversagent

The company I work for (Conversive) just settled a case against one of our competitors (Conversagent) over trademark infringement. I got a copy of the summary judgment last night. It wasn’t too hard to read, but there were plenty of things I didn’t understand. What I did get is that the judge found our trademarks on “Conversive” and “Conversive Agent” to be valid, to have priority, and that the use of “Conversagent” by a direct competitor is confusing.

Burning Circuits

Now I know what a burning circuit board smells like.  My few-years-old Envision monitor just gave up the ghost — right in front of my eyes.

I had been noticing problems with it for about a week.  Every once in a while there would be a staticy, horizontal offset problem in some random rows for just a moment.  When it finally went out, the whole screen got staticy and was accompanied by a crackling sound.  I ducked my head to follow the sound and noticed an orange glow coming from beneath the monitor.  No, not aliens.  Just a chunk of the circuit board going up in flames.

I shut down as quickly as possible and unplugged the monitor.  The smell — a bit like fireworks, but more acrid — was starting to fill the room, so I got it out of here.  Luckily, I have a backup monitor (I’m a bit of an electronics pack rat), so I’m still able to use my computer.

Wii Disappointment

E3 is over, and we’ve probably learned everything important about the Nintendo Wii (pronounced we) that we’re going to learn before launch. I’ve got to say: I’m a bit disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. It still doesn’t look bad, and may very well be the best console of the generation, but I’d really hoped for more.

There are still a lot of open questions. How much will the Wii cost? When will it be available? What games will be available at launch? How much will games on the Virtual Console cost? What will games really look like? How will they play? Can the Wii play DVD movies? What will be included in the box? What kind of Nintendo DS integration will be available?

Instead of answering any questions or revealing any big surprises, Nintendo has continued to taunt us with hints of more information and more secrets. I’m starting to accept the idea that there’s really nothing else that they could tell us. If they had some big news, why not run with it? This is E3 after all.

Here’s what I expect: The basic system (including console, Wiimote and nunchuck attachment, but no game) will cost $249 in the US. It will be released in early November (maybe on the 3rd?). There will be about 15 games available at launch with more following in the “launch window.” Virtual Console games will average about $5 to purchase, or you’ll be able to sign up for a subscription at $15 / month that will included a limited number of downloads per month (similar to Netflix maybe?). The high end graphics games will look a little better than what we see on the Game Cube, but probably not noticeably better than what’s available on the original Xbox. The Wii will not support DVDs out of the box (for some stupid reason).

I’m guessing that the less intimidating controller will be nice, but will have new problems of its own.  The variety of games might sell a few boxes, but I don’t see grandmothers around the world dropping $300 for Nintendogs or a cooking game.  Really, the only things Nintendo has going for it are its loyal fan base, and the prices of its nearest competitors.  I can’t believe that Sony things it’s really going to sell very many Play Station 3s for $600.  If Microsoft is smart, they’ll drop the price of both of their systems by $100 right before the Wii goes on sale.  Then, if the Xbox 360 actually had a nice portfolio of games, people could easily prefer it over both the Wii or the PS3.

Letter to the ESRB

This morning I tried giving the ESRB some feedback of their recent change to the rating of Oblivion from Teen to Mature. Unfortunately, the form on the ESRB site only allows you to type up to 500 letters, a ridiculous constraint. I went ahead and sent them a note anyway, but here’s the letter that I wanted to send.

I think you’ve made a big mistake with the re-rating of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion.  I’ve played the PC version for more than 50 hours and haven’t encountered any content that should qualify it as “Mature”.

Here’s how your website defines Mature:
Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Let’s see… intense violence.  No, not really.  Sure, it contains violence, but it’s not really so intense that a teen shouldn’t be able to play.  Starcraft is far more intense and contains longer durations of violence, but is rated Teen.

Blood and gore.  I have seen blood, but it’s not particularly gory.  The wounds aren’t realistic, and blood doesn’t flow out of bodies.  Sure, there’s a brief mist of blood in the air when you hit someone, but it’s very realistic — more like a hint of blood.  Probably the goriest thing I’ve seen so far have been the bloody handprints on the doors in the Arena.  I can’t imagine how a teen would be troubled by the hints of blood in this game.

Let’s get strong language out of the way.  There is none.  That’s all there is to it.

Sexual content gets trickier.  The game itself doesn’t seem to have any sexual content — certainly none that I’ve seen or heard about.  You specifically state that Oblivion contains nudity.  Again, I haven’t seen or heard any.  From the rumors I’ve read, you’re counting modder’s content in the game.  Yes Oblivion can be modified so that when characters are undressed they’re nude.  It doesn’t come like this standard, and the XBox 360 can’t even be modded.  Most importantly, nudity doesn’t equal sexual.  It’s a good thing you guys don’t rate coloring books.  Who knows what people might draw between the lines!

I’m not too worried about Bethesda or Elder Scrolls.  I doubt this will hurt their sales too much, and the added publicity might even help.  I’m more worried about you.  You’ve just lost huge amounts of credibility as far as I’m concerned.  Based on the blog posts I’ve seen, I’m sure most gamers feel the same way that I do.  You’ve really gone overboard here.  The only way to regain any credibility would be to admit you made a mistake a reverse the rating change.

Sincerely,
Aaron McBride

ABC's Streaming TV

Yesterday, ABC launched a new web tool that let’s you watch new episodes from four of their most popular TV shows.  I tested it out with the latest episode of Lost and was impressed.  The shows are broken up into sections with commercials at the start of each section.  You can jump around within the sections as much as you want, but going to a new section requires that you watch some more commercials.

I don’t know how much money ABC is making on this, but it seems like a fair deal for the viewers.  I’d much rather watch a couple minutes of commercials per episode than pay $2 (or whatever they’re charging) for commercial free shows on iTunes.  It seems like a good deal for advertisers too because people can’t fast forward through commercials like we do with TiVo.

The current incarnation of ABC’s streaming service will only run for two months.  I get the feeling that they’re just testing the waters.  If it does well, I’m sure it’ll be back next Fall. Of course, if nobody watches, then they’ve just spend a whole bunch of money on servers and software development for nothing.  I can’t imagine that people won’t watch, it may just take a while to get the word out and people used to the idea.  I wonder if Firefly would still be on the air if Fox had something like this a few years ago.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see some Internet-only TV shows in the near future either.

Grand Canyon

As you can see from my Flickr pictures, we just took a trip to the Grand Canyon. We met Jesse’s parents and one of her brothers. The weather was nice and comfortable, and it’s still early in the season, so it wasn’t too crowded. Of course, the drive isn’t much fun, especially with the current gas prices, but it was well worth it.

I’d love to hike down and camp at the bottom, but I’m afraid that we’re not in good enough shape for it. I guess it’s something to work towards.