Original Light

I posted a poem before, as best as I could remember it, about my youthful disappointment of certain things while getting my Ph.D.

I found the original version while digging through some boxes yesterday:

Looking for Quality
In all the
Right Places:
Institutions of Higher Learning.

We're fooled.
Mediocrity is the rule.
It is great to be bland.

The Ivory Tower,
Symbol of Truth,
Is made of
Painted Stone
And populated by ants.

Looking for Quality,
Role-Models, Truth, Heroes,
We are fooled by the sheen
Of the Ivory Tower.

You can't tell the
Difference, until
  You are
Stone, Ivory... What does it
Matter? It all
Crumbles sooner or later.

Forget the tower:
It's only reflecting.
Go for the
Original Light.

-- Stephen Hunter Willson

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Experimental Music #7 - Death March

This piece - Death March - was played through in real time.

It's mostly digital synths, layered up, and then recorded to a four-track analog tape recorder.

The thing I like about it is that it doesn't end! Every time it seems like it is about to end, it keeps going! Just like a real software death march! Excellent!

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



A child shows you how to act:


(C) Stephen Clarke-Willson


(C) Stephen Clarke-Willson


(C) Stephen Clarke-Willson


(C) Stephen Clarke-Willson


(C) Stephen Clarke-Willson

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Experimental Music #6 - On the Virtual Trail

This piece was created in one pass when a manager I worked for at Northrop, Jim Reiss, loaned me a piece of equipment. I don't remember the model number but it was something like TX-601 or TX-106. This began my transition to digital equipment. I had my D-50 but I didn't really consider it that digital, because it had an overall warm sound to it. Technically, getting the D-50 would have been the start of my transition to the digital world.

But anyway, I layered all of my MIDI equipment together into one big stack (which was about four modules total), and then played this live in one pass.

When it was done, I thought, that sounds like "On the Trail" from The Grand Canyon Suite. I listened to my Tomita version of "On the Trail" and I couldn't really find this sound, but in my mind, it is still inspired by that piece, so I have renamed it for posting here as "On the Virtual Trail".

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Experimental Music #5 - Space Wine

Space Wine.

This one might be good to help you fall asleep.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Experimental Music #4 - Dance with a Polygon

Dance with a Polygon

This was probably composed in the early 1990s on cheap analog equipment and recorded to a four track cassette tape machine. It's generally inspired by this album:

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Experimental Music #4 - Flight and Landing

The fun of the old analog equipment was all of the filtering you could do. You can do all that in modern digital equipment, of course, but somehow it sounds different, even when the exact analog filters are being modeled. I think the reason for that is that you can give all digital stuff a really hard edge, and so people do, and that's why most modern digital filters sound different from old analog filters - they are used differently.

Here's a tune with lots of slow filters.

Flight and Landing

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Experimental Music #3 - Soaring

This piece, Soaring, if you can stand to listen to it, is interesting for two reasons. One, it has lots of old school analog effects in the music. Secondly, it uses the 'bender' doo-dad which lets you play notes that don't exist on the keyboard.

Also, and this is true for everything in the Experimental Music series, it was performed straight into a four-track tape machine, without any planning. This required a fair amount of concentration. I had to remember everything I had done before. One benefit of that kind of concentration is mercifully short pieces of music.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Hollywood: DreamWorks Sale—Why the Dream Didn't Work - Newsweek Periscope - MSNBC.com

Hollywood: DreamWorks Sale—Why the Dream Didn't Work - Newsweek Periscope - MSNBC.com:
"But perhaps the primary failure at DreamWorks was simply one of will. Of the three founders, only Katzenberg wanted to actually head a studio; now he is, at DreamWorks Animation. Spielberg's first love has always been directing, and he has spent the last year on sets making 'War of the Worlds' and 'Munich' back to back. And Geffen has always been upfront about his distaste for the movie business. What both men wanted, it seems in retrospect, was the power and freedom of owning a studio, not the burden of running one. And who can blame them? If you were Steven Spielberg, would you want to sit behind a desk, fretting about profit-and-loss statements? Didn't think so."

I had breakfast with Jeffrey Katzenberg on the morning of his last day with Disney. We met at the Penninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. The meeting was set up by Bill Block, an agent and my business partner at the time, and his boss at ICM at the time, Jim Wiatt. Wiatt was friends with Katzenberg from way-back. You could tell because he snatched a newspaper that was sticking out of Katzenberg's back pocket and hit him with it. Most people in Hollywood can't do that.

We talked a long time, by Hollywood standards, about the video game business. Over an hour I think.

Katzenberg said lots of things I won't repeat, but one worth repeating was that, as he was about to leave Disney, people were offering him incredible sums of money to start something. He said something about people offering to drive a Brinks truck up with a billion dollars in it.

And that's what happened. And Dreamworks SKG was founded.

And now it's sold, but Katzenberg gets to hold onto his first love, running an animation studio.

Which is good for us, because he was the powerhouse behind that run of great Disney animated hits, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Pocahontas would have been better if he had stayed around to re-edit the hell out of it, as he is prone to do. So we can look forward to more years of clever and funny and adult-tolerable animated films, with a higher proportion of potty-humor than the Pixar films.



Next Generation - Game Boss Shelley Day Jailed

Next Generation - Game Boss Shelley Day Jailed:
"Shelley Day, former boss of games publishers Hulabee and Humongous Entertainment has been sentenced to two years in prison for fraud."

Wow. I really liked her. I only met her once or twice when I worked at Cavedog but she seemed like a terrific person.


Experimental Music #2 - Stomach Gurgling

I notice a few songs in my collection focused on bodily feelings. Here is another one - Stomach Gurgling.

This one is fun in that it uses the doo-dad (Portamento) that runs up and down the keyboard making whoops and what not.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Put employees first: Sir Richard Branson

Put employees first: Sir Richard Branson:
"Outlining the Virgin management mantra, Sir Richard said happy employees keep customers happy. A lot of happy customers would create a lot of happiness to shareholders as well. Without good people, corporations are worth nothing. And to motivate people, corporations should create a fun environment to work. Employees should feel that it is a crusade, not just another job. "

Some people think that servicing the needs of shareholders, employees, and customers is a balancing act, but Sir Richard says that's wrong. It's more of a dependency graph: happy shareholders need a company with happy customers which are created by happy employees.

I know a company that puts customers first, and it has had 50% turnover in the last couple of years. Amazing.


Experimental Music #1 - Intestinal Disorder

Way back in the depths of time - I'll say around 1984 - 1990 - I had a bunch of analog synthesizer equipment I liked to play with. I made some really bad and/or strange and/or experimental music, depending on your point of view. I prefer to call it experimental, although 'bad' might also be a suitable description.

I offer here my first posting of bad and/or experimental music: 'Intestinal Disorder'.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



It's strange, but as I look back on my career, I see that it has been influenced more by storage factors than processor factors. This is true going all the way back to NES games where with good compression you could double or triple the content that went into a cartrige.

Now I'm trying to imagine a world with these little microdrives (like in the iPod) in everything. And Wi-Fi connecting them all.

The word of the day will be replication. The idea will be to allow your data (and licensed music, movies, books even) to circulate in your own microdrive eco-system but not migrate to your neighbor's, unless he has a license for the content as well.

It's not immediately obvious to most people but the secret to making all of this work well is to simple make many devices write-only. That's what the iPod is supposed to be - you can store your tunes onto an iPod but you can't get them back off to give to a buddy. (On the other hand, your buddy can bring his iPod to your computer and you can give him a copy of your music. But that's a lot more work than simply having iPods talk to each other and exchange music.)

The thing about the current file sharing world is that it is so easy to share files. The system just needs a little friction so that it is easier to buy the stuff online than to transfer it without a license. And the DRM systems need less friction within a 'local ecosystem' so that once you have licensed some music or a movie or a book, you can listen, look at it, or read it, on any device you want.

I bought the Firefly DVDs because everyone told me to watch them before watching Serenity, the movie spin-off from the short-lived TV series. So I did. $30 from Amazon - pretty good! Now i have this 4 CD set... and quite frankly, I'm happy to loan it to anyone that comes along. I'm not going to be watching it over and over again. Is that illegal? (I hope not!) You can imagine a situation where four families get together and make a DVD club, where they get a DVD and share it. They would have some rule where the family that gets the DVD first rotates in a list. That would save them 75% on DVD costs, but also cut the sales of DVDs 75%, which would be painful for the movie companies. Really popular DVDs would transcend this rule, of course, because each family would want to own their own 'Finding Nemo', as some titles do bear watching over and over and over again by the kids.

And I bought, for $1.99, the first episode of Nightstalker from the iTunes store. I finally watched it and meh. But what I am supposed to do with this big file that I never want to watch again? Delete it, I supposed, but the iTunes store only allows ONE download of a video file. If you want to watch on multiple computers you have to copy it around to different machines yourself. I guess this is to save on bandwidth costs for the iTunes store. But that's kind of lame.

*Sigh*. Digital licensing is complicated.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.



The Bellevue Galleria 11 (movie theatre) is under new management. As part of their renovation they purchased a $130,000.00 Christie 2 megapixel digital projector.

We watched Chicken Little on it last weekend. It was beautiful. I couldn't see a single pixel and we were somewhat close to the front of the theatre.

These latest projectors are much better than the old 1.3 megapixel projectors, such as the one that the Cinerama had (and which they stopped using about three years ago).

Now, if everyone else in the entire world would upgrade to these babies ...

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


iTunes Video

I'm finally watching the iTunes video I bought. It's the Nightstalker pilot. I can't tell if I'm bored because the video is small or the show just isn't that interesting. I think it is the latter, since I've watched little videos before and remained entertained.

You can blow the picture up to full-screen. It looks a little low-res but not so bad. But since the show is boring I put it in a little window on the side and surfed the Internet instead.

I might be willing to spend $1.99 to keep up on Lost if I missed an episode, but otherwise I think iTunes video earns a 'never mind it' recommendation.

(BTW, the Google spelling checker is AWESOME!)

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


SNESMusic.org ~ Game profile: Jungle Book

SNESMusic.org ~ Game profile: Jungle Book

This site is cool! And probably violates a lot of copyrights!

The site hosts the actual musical performances from Super NES games. They downloaded the ROM data and run an emulator that generates the music. You can get a plug-in for WinAmp and then open their "RSN" files directly and hit play. Very nice. (Actually, you might need to associate "RSN" with WinAmp first.)

The piece I arranged and performed is the title track to The Jungle Book. This version is on SNES but it was also used on the Genesis. It's "The Bare Necessities Rag".

I have another game music credit, except uncredited, which is the two chords for the Adrenium Studios logo. The cool thing about that is that it was performed by the Prague Symphony Orchestra. It's played during the logo for all three Adrenium Games console games: Azurik, Samurai Jack, and Lemony Snicket.


Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD

Blu-ray to Win Format War, says Forrester Research:
"It will be a long, tedious war but Forrester Research is convinced that the Sony-led Blu-ray format will succeed in replacing DVD as the next-generation disc. The irony, however, is that by the time consumers are ready to switch digital media may be far more important than physical media. More within..."

[Edit January 14, 2006 - Ha! Blu-Ray machines at CES cost over $1,000 while HD-DVD was $500! Blu-Ray is dead.]

I am pro HD-DVD but the Hollywood people don't know anything and Sony can convince them to use Blu-Ray because of PS3 and Sony Picures etc. It holds more storage which sounds good to Hollywood studio types.

Gates said everyone better get this right since it's likely to be the last physical distribution format ever, as streaming downloads begin to take over. That's actually an argument FOR Blu-Ray because it's bigger! If this is the last format, then make it as big as possible!

I have a friend that says DVD is the last format that will matter. We already don't need a bigger disk format. With MPEG-4 a high-def movie can go on the current DVD format. But his real point is that it's all gonna be on-line anyway.

"The home activity of the future will be very digital, we actually call it the digital lifestyle," he said. "Your music, of course, is already moving away from being on a physical media to just being on a hard disk or streamed across the Internet. My daughter, who's 9, asked me as we went into a record store what a record was, and, of course, she's never seen a record, and five years from now people will say what's a CD, why did you have to go to the case and open something up and you couldn't sequence it your own playlist way; that will be a thing of the past."

Gates continued, "Likewise, even for videos that will happen. The format that's under discussion right now, HD versus Blu-ray, that's simply the last physical format we'll ever have. Even videos in the future will either be on a disk in your pocket or over the Internet and therefore far more convenient for you. You can organize things the way you want and it will show up on all these different devices."

Gates is against Blu-Ray because he doesn't like the copy protection scheme - it doesn't allow making copies to laptops etc. very easy. HD-DVD does, and of course locks the copy to the computer, so it can't be further redistributed. (Gates seems to think that you can't even watch a Blu-Ray movie on your laptop - that the PC wouldn't be granted the rights to even read the disc in the first place. Maybe. I dunno.)

(Also - this is really amazing, BTW, and nobody talks about it - whatever is used will use something like MPEG-4 if not the actual MPEG-4. MPEG-4 is about 10 times better than MPEG-2. So these giant disks will hold an additional 10x more video than the current generation. The DivX people aren't kidding when they say "DivX - the MP3 of video!" I've seen DivX video at 1/10th the size of the original MPEG-2 and it looks terrific. So, if Blu-Ray storage is 25 gigabytes, then that would be about the same as a 250 gigabyte DVD because of the vastly superior encoding.)

From: http://www.blu-ray.com/faq/#1.5:

1.5 How much data can you fit on a Blu-ray disc?

A single-layer disc can fit 23.3GB, 25GB or 27GB.
A dual-layer disc can fit 46.6GB, 50GB or 54GB.

To ensure that the Blu-ray Disc format is easily extendable (future-proof) it also includes support for multi-layer discs, which should allow the storage capacity to be increased to 100GB-200GB (25GB per layer) in the future simply by adding more layers to the discs.

1.6 How much video can you record on a Blu-ray disc?

Over 2 hours of high-definition television (HDTV) on a 25GB disc.
About 13 hours of standard-definition television (SDTV) on a 25GB disc.

I read later that Sony is going to use MPEG-2 on Blu-Ray initially.

I don't understand that.

I don't understand $1,000.00 for a Blu-Ray DVD player.

Sony is a half-dead company. This might be the final straw.


Based on Crap: The 10 Worst Ideas to Make Nintendo Games About - Seanbaby.com

Based on Crap: The 10 Worst Ideas to Make Nintendo Games About - Seanbaby.com

I produced #7. At the time, it was one of the best selling NES games our little company, Virgin Mastertronic, later renamed Virgin Games, later renamed Virgin Interactive, had ever made. Ahead of it was the original Spot by Graeme Devine et.al., but Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was a close second.

We had 16 pages of coverage in Nintendo Power. I guess there wasn't much else going on that year at Christmas time.

We had the rights to use Kevin Costner's image, but then Dances With Wolves came out, and that was the end of that. We ended up using his profile.

We had a Robin Hood game already when the Prince of Thieves license became available. I read the script and it was very dark. The sherrif was having sex with his mother and other such type things.

After deleting all the dark bits, I made a game outline, on a single piece of paper, that used the existing game play bits we had, and laid them out in story order. I went on a trip to Salt Lake City to visit Sculptured Software and present the plan. They had 12 weeks to make the game.

They did a great job, actually.

Tommy Tallarico was the lead tester on it, before he started producing music, and then became a famous TV show personality.

All in all, it was a great experience. I'm not surprised in these days of Hollywood cross overs that the game would make a terrible ideas list, but it worked at the time.


Parents fear intelligent-design backlash - Science - MSNBC.com

Parents fear intelligent-design backlash - Science - MSNBC.com:
The plaintiffs are represented by a team put together by the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The school district is being represented by the Thomas More Law Center, a public-interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians.

More like ... "that says its mission is to defend the religious freedom of Christians by cramming their stupid religious beliefs down the throats of everyone else."

I like what MC Hawking said:

Noah and his ark, Adam and his Eve,

straight up fairy stories even children don't believe.

I'm not saying there's no god, that's not for me to say,

all I'm saying is the Earth was not made in a day.


Hands-On iPod Video

Well, I don't have a Video iPod, but like anyone I can get iTunes version 12,000 (actually version 6) and buy a video. Since I'm up-to-date with Lost I bought the Pilot episode of the Nightstalker.

The video is 320x240 which is pretty small on my 1280x1024 screen. The audio sounds good. I've only watched about the first three minutes because I have been busy.

The iTunes stored crapped out on my first download and charged me for a machine license that I didn't successfully use.

The weird thing about this video is ... who really wants to keep it? I've used Movielink and once I watch something there, then I'm done!

Well, I guess with iTunes I can 'unauthorize' the viewing of a video clip and then just up and delete it, and let it live on the iTunes servers.

I'll probably watch the whole show this weekend...

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Revolution Controller

Allard: Sony Should Be Nervous Right Now: "Allard then shared his thoughts on Nintendo's Revolution controller, saying that it's well intentioned, but he's not so sure about its implementation. 'I think it's great for them to say, 'We've got to make it more approachable.' It's the same reason our DVD remote, at the press conference I could have done our whole demo on the DVD remote because we put A, B, X, Y on the remote. We put the guide button on the remote. We put the media center button on the remote. You're going to be able to play casual games on Live Arcade with the remote control,' he told GI.

'I don't think that's the way you're going to play FIFA. I don't think it's the way you're going to play Madden. I don't think it's the way you're going to play racing games. I think the traditional controller for traditional categories is really going to be what drives that. I don't think most Electronic Arts games are going to be played with that thing. I think they're going to be designed for the classic controller.'"

This pretty well sums up my feelings about the Nintendo controller.

Back in The Seventh Guest days, Graeme Devine used to say that the real competition for computer and video games is the remote for your TV. It's super simple and by pressing a single button you get this incredible experience - channel surfing. So he designed Seventh Guest to have an incredibly simple interface.

So Nintendo has this super simple controller. I like it.

Except I think my arm will get tired waving it around. And my wrist will get strained. And I will be in pain. And that can't be good, can it?


Yahoo! Site Explorer

Yahoo! Site Explorer

Google has the new blog search tool. Now Yahoo has the 'site explorer' which lets you go to a site and then look at the links going into a site.

Of course, an ego search is required.

Typing in this blog results in 269 hits, but most of them are self-referential.

Still, I found a link in (from a guy named Preston Bannister), who I knew in college. That was fun.


More Project Fun

Another graph from one of my current projects.

Click for the bigger view. Looks kind of like a DNA slide to me.

Graphic from a project - looks kind of like a DNA slide.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


GPS Lady

Escape From Houston - How I fled Rita. By Mimi�Swartz:
"It took about three hours heading dead west on side-streets before I reached the approach to I-10. It was utterly jammed. Then I remembered my husband's Christmas present to me last year�a GPS device called the Magellan RoadMate. That may not sound like the most romantic gift, but I spend a lot of time in the car, and a lot of that time on strange roads on the verge of being very, very lost. 'Turn on the RoadMate,' I said to my son. "

These things are expensive - like $850.00 for one that talks to you - but it would be the only way to navigate the back roads in an emergency. Just get off the freeway, tell it where you want to go, and let it figure it out. If you see a crowd ahead, take off at an angle, and then let the GPS figure it out.

I used GPS navigation a lot a couple of years ago when I was travelling to California a lot. It was a life saver! Except the time it had THQ's address wrong. Then I called my wife and she guided me to THQ by using MapQuest from the PC at home.

One time I was going to meet someone at Warner Interactive, and this guy said, "It's on the west side near Santa Monica." Well, I put the address into the GPS and it took me to Burbank. This distressed me greatly, but it turned out the GPS was right.

One time I was in Burbank, taking the bus from the beautiful Burbank Airport to the nearby Hilton. My buddies and I were chatting about "GPS Lady", and how great she was at guiding us around LA. This lady in the bus (who claimed to be a computer programmer but I think she was a standup comic) said, "If I designed that thing, when you missed a turn, it would say, 'That was it! That was it!'". I wanted to hear more jokes but she ran off, probably scared of us game geeks.

One time I had GPS Man. He was a different brand. He was built-in to a Java based smart phone. He was stuck onto my windshield with a big giant suction cup. GPS Man actually gave better directions, but it was hard to operate. You had to make a phone call to some central place, tell them where you wanted to go, and then they would download the data into the phone. Overnight, GPS Man was left on, and his batteries died, which meant I had to figure out how to reinitialize him at least enough to get the central service to download something useful. That was interesting.

I have some friends with GPS Person built into their cars. It's pretty cool. I'm hoping my car lasts a long time, and that when I finally get a new car, instead of GPS Person I get GPS Driver, and I can just sit and surf the web while my car drives me to where I need to go.

(C) 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Palm Teams With Microsoft for Smart Phone: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Palm Teams With Microsoft for Smart Phone: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance:
"In the third quarter of last year, devices running Microsoft's software outsold those with Palm OS for the first time, according to the research firm Gartner Inc.

'No question that Microsoft has made significant inroads compared to where they were just a couple of years ago -- which was no where,' said Charles Golvin, analyst for Forrester Research.

Rumors have circulated for months that Palm was ready to embrace a Windows platform. Palm spent years trying to fend off Microsoft's forays into the sector."

As much as I've been a Palm fan for years, I think I'm looking forward to this. Ultimately the Palm OS is just too awkward when it comes to networking. I've had friends with Windows CE based PDA devices and they seem to be able to stream MP3s and do all kinds of cool things without any trouble. They have a way better browser than the crap that gets bundled in with Palm devices.

I have a Sony Clie that kicks ass - that is once I managed to get it configured properly. It has a huge screen (480x320), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, plays MP3s (but not streaming), and one of the worst designed cameras in the history of the universe*. Sadly the battery life isn't too great. But feature wise it is amazing. But it's also discontinued (the entire Sony Clie line was discontinued in the US). And it's also got a highly customized version by Sony of the Palm OS. So once it dies, it's dead. Game over. And quite frankly, you have to be an incredible computer wiz to even make it work. What a mess.

Since Microsoft has spent years trying to get this phone business going, they probably have something decent by now. I'm hoping. I know there have been buggy releases in the past. Hopefully Palm put an end to that. Well, if I do get one of these, it won't be one of the first ones off the assembly line - that's for sure. Palm has had glitches on product rollouts too.

But longterm, I think this is good.

* The worst camera in the world: you can only take 2-5 pictures with the flash before you have totally drained the battery. Mind boggling. And since you need the battery for everything else, you're pretty screwed. Still, if there is something you really want a picture of (2 megapixels), and the Clie is all you have, then fire away! Just make sure every shot counts.

Project Fun

This is a graphic I made while working on a project recently.

Exactly what it means will have to remain a mystery, but I think it looks cool, so I made a JPEG as a souvenir. (Click for bigger version.)

Fun graphic from a recent project.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.




This "Mini-Microsoft" blog is a strange blog. If I were younger I would agree with everything he says. But since I am older and wiser I don't.

I agree that the Microsoft review system is bad.

I don't agree that executives at Microsoft shouldn't get paid a million dollars a year. I think they should.

I agree that Microsoft used to have a different culture. It was smaller.

As things get big, the abstractions that managers use to manage change radically. In fact, one might argue, the difference between a successful manager and an unsuccessful manager (besides people skills) is his or her ability to grab on to the right abstract representation of the business. Clearly, in a business like Microsoft, it is impossible for the execs to know all the details. It's just impossible!

What matters is that they understand the control points. And those control points might not be obvious to the underlings.

A really good manager will explain those control points in a way the troops can understand. But the number of managers that can do that is about five. And they aren't going to work at a really big company.

It's funny, because I'm more of a fan of Microsoft now than I was in the old days. I find the software less buggy and easier to use than it used to be. And the compatibility problems Microsoft faces are huge! And yet they create this eco-system for PC development that continues to thrive. That's amazing.



When you flip the Bozo Bit on someone, it means that you put them in the Bozo (the clown) category so you never take anything from them seriously again. This is a major step, not easily reversed. "

I had never heard of the Bozo Bit until a manager told me he thought I flipped it on people 'too soon.' (I thought a couple of years of evidence of uselessness was adequate but he basically never wanted me to flip it on this one particular person. Everyone knew this person was a Bozo except the manager.)

So, upon learning of this great concept of the Bozo Bit from the manager, I promptly flipped it on him, since he clearly had no idea who was doing what in the company.


DDJ>PDC 2005: Opening Day

DDJ>PDC 2005: Opening Day:
"As always, Gates runs scared. That's perhaps an oversimplification, but just as Gates is one of the few people to really understand and take advantage of the deeper implications of Moore's Law, he's also one of the few to understand that if the hardware capability doubles every 18 months or so, in three years any company can be obsolete and in five can be out of business--and it gets harder to keep up with the hardware advances every cycle. "

This is so true ... so few people internalize what Moore's law really means for product development. Some people (including me from time to time) luck out because their project is late ... but by then computers are fast enough to run the project. (7th Guest, which I produced, was a year late, thank God! Because there weren't any very many CD drives sold when it was supposed to be finished. But a year later there were boatloads of them.)

My favorite quote from either Bill or the Intel guy is, "People over estimate what will be possible in five years and underestimate what will be possible in ten years."

I'll say now: In ten years cars will be driving themselves (again, Thank God!). Because you can just see it might be possible in five years - so ten years is a good shot. I would love it if the next car I bought drove itself. I've had my current car 12 years, so if I can get it to last another 12 years, I'll be in fat city.


Blogger: Download Blogger for Word (and Puppy)

Blogger: Download Blogger for Word

Wow. I'm going to check it out. It has to be much nicer than typing in this little window.

Okay, I downloaded it, and now I’m doing an edit in Word.

One nice thing: you can type in a link, for instance, http://www.directsong.com/, and it is automatically converted into a hyper link.

I wonder if I can insert a picture of a cute puppy:

(image placeholder)

Nemo with Gentle Leader

Well, the answer is no. Tables and pictures are not supported, but it didn't tell me that until I went to post. Too bad. (I inserted the puppy picture later by hand.)

He’s wearing something called a “Gentle Leader”. It’s not a muzzle. It’s just arranged so that when he pulls against the leash he gets guided back on to the straight and narrow rather than pulling your arm out of its socket.

Apple Hard Disk Based Camcorder

TIME.com: Stevie's Little Wonder -- Sep. 19, 2005 -- Page 1
Apple's stock price has almost quintupled over the past two years, revenues have doubled during that time, and Jobs is sitting on a war chest of $8 billion. He has a company with an almost freakishly diverse skill set--computer hardware, operating systems, applications, consumer electronics, Internet services. Will Jobs try to leverage Apple's dominance in the digital-music space to get its PC line back in the running? Or is the iPod the first in a full suite of Apple-flavored, network-enabled media appliances--TV, digital camera, camcorder, digital video recorder, video-game player?

Is Apple going to become the new Sony? After all, Sony become the ultra-cool 'Sony' that we know and love with the Walkman. The iPod could be the launching pad for a huge range of digital consumer products. I especially like the idea of an ultra-cool Apple camcorder. Think how cool it would be - and of course it would work seamlessly with the Mac. And set a new standard. Yes, I like that idea.

I have a Sony camcorder. It's almost really cool. It takes 2 megapixel stills - nice. It takes 30 fps full-frame progressive movies. It can take movies in widescreen. It has bluetooth - except the bluetooth doesn't work with anything. It has a web browser and a picture upload system - except it is too hard to work. It's got a really cool touch panel interface - pretty good, except too many menus to search up and down for the function I want.

I imagine if Apple had designed this thing. Wow. Everything would work and be simple.

Yes, I like the idea of an Apple camcorder.


Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19

Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19

Arrr! - This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that television show, it sucked!" and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." And those are just a few of the myriad possibilities of Arrr!

I think I mentioned this before - wouldn't a C programmer/pirate say, "Argc, argv, me hearties!"


Variety.com - Mouse of a different culture

Variety.com - Mouse of a different culture:
"Keeping up with reality in the world's most vertical city made designing Tomorrowland the hardest part of conceiving Hong Kong Disneyland, according to Tom Morris, veep and executive producer for Walt Disney Imagineering. The response from the project managers was to deliver the theme park, Disney's 11th worldwide, on budget and ahead of schedule...."

I've known Tom Morris since second grade. Other than my original family, I think I've known Tom longer than anyone. Ever since I have known him he has been an expert on things Disney (yes, even in second grade).

What a great job he has - creative supervision of the creation of a Disney theme park.


What Is Software Design?

What Is Software Design? - DeveloperDotStar.com - Software Development

This is pure genius.

Software confounds description by regular engineering folks. That's because in 'regular' engineering, there is a design phase ("bridge is designed"), which is then turned into a production phase ("bridge is built").

In software, the designing never stops. This is confusing to many people. I found this article so insightful that I had to say, "pure genius".

My favorite bug fix of all time

My favorite bug fix of all time was finding a very subtle bug in a game that I was hired to finish. The developer had written the game, but it was buggy, and the publisher hired me to fix all the bugs. This is about eight years ago.

The original code, which had the biggest section of copy-and-paste coding I had ever seen (that's where someone wants to make a small change without altering the original code, so they copy a whole bunch of code, paste it in, and then make the small change), would crash once in a while.

BTW, the hunk of copied code was so big, that for a long time when I was debugging, I would set a breakpoint in the wrong function, and it took a while for me to realize that there were two GIANT functions, nearly identical to each other.

But ... the best part, which I am proud of, was that the code, which ran under Windows 3.1, had a little pointer which traced through some byte-code language the developer made up. Every once in a while, it returned garbage.

After much thinking, I remembered that on Intel chips (back to the 8086), there is a subtle bug in the actual hardware, where if you move a pointer from one 64k segment to the next, it can sometimes wrap around, and return the wrong value. At the time, nobody had to do this anymore, because Windows 95 was the rage, but when this program had first been written, it was written in 16-bit mode, and it actually tripped over this hardware 'feature'. I'm not even sure why I knew about this bug in the hardware (which I'm sure has been faithfully replicated in every Pentium chip since the original 8086). I must have read about it years before.

So, I tweaked the code slightly to be more careful when crossing a segment boundary, and all was well.

My second favorite bug fix had to do with putting a "Sleep(500)" statement into any program doing Microsoft DirectX processing in a window that was not the main window, just before shutting down the app. This was necessary because DirectX, back in the day, was hacked on top of Windows, and wasn't integrated into Windows. A little program called DDHelp.exe would keep track of which windows were open, and make sure DirectX resources were freed up when your program crashed or shut down, except it frequently screwed up.

Microsoft even published a free program for developers that would kill off DDHelp.exe when things got fubar. This didn't really fix anything, because often times the driver would hang onto to all your texture memory or whatever, but it often allowed you to put off rebooting your machine for awhile.

Anyway, my fix was better. As long as your program didn't flat out crash, by putting in the Sleep statement right after you destroyed your drawing window, you would allow this DDHelp.exe program to notice that you destroyed the window, and clean up. If you didn't give DDHelp.exe time to run, then when it tried to clean up, key information from Windows was already gone, and so, well, no clean up, thus heading you toward an early reboot.

This turned out to be important, because while many games ran in the primary window, any graphic program that, oh say, drew into a browser window, was going to have this problem. In fact, any DirectX program that ran with MFC was going to have this problem.

I wrote an article about it that still gets hits.

I don't know if I have a third most favorite bug. One thing about a favorite bug is that it is important that I didn't create it! It's only cool to fix someone else's subtle screw up.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


FT.com AOL Fined for Cancellation Policy

"The internet service provider is now $1.25m poorer after coming under the eagle eyes of Eliot Spitzer, the New York's attorney-general.

AOL was ordered to pay the money in penalties and legal costs, and agreed to change some of its customer service practices after an investigation based on complaints from about 300 of its New York customers. It may also have to provide refunds for up to four months subscription costs to those customers who complained.

The complaints centred around AOL's cancellation policy. AOL customer service staff had been incentivised to retain customers who wanted to leave the internet service provider. Mr Spitzer said 'in many instances, such retention was done against subscribers' wishes, or without their consent'."

Update 2006 07 06: Check out this recording of a guy trying to quit AOL.


Door of the Future - SlashDot

The 'Door of the Future' (from SlashDot).

Pretty cool. It looks to me like it makes a mistake at the end, but since the video is in Japanese, I can't tell. Hideki - what does that guy say at the end?


Enormous list of video cards

Currently covering over 230 desktop graphics cards, this comprehensive comparison will allow you to easily compare 15 different specifications for each and every card! We hope it will prove to be a useful reference. We will keep this guide updated regularly so do check back for the latest updates!


CleanFilms - Rent and Buy Family Edited DVD Movies

I would love to try this out. Get something really smutty, if they offer it, and see how removing it affects the story. It would also be fun to see the quality of the editing they do.

Actually, more interesting, would be to see what they do with a truly serious film that happens to have some nudity in it.

I noticed they have "The Abyss". The most powerful scene in The Abyss is when Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio has suffocated and Ed Harris is trying desperately to bring her back to life. Her chest is exposed for the electro-shock heart-machine thingy.

I would love to see what they did with that scene.

From their FAQ:

CleanFilms' professional editors use the same technologies and techniques to edit out offensive content as Hollywood editors use in their everyday editing of film and TV content. For profanity or other offensive language, the dialogue volume is often muted, while secondary sound is kept for continuity. For scenes with nudity, sexual content, extreme violence, or extreme language, a cut edit is typically used. These edits are designed by professionals to be inconspicuous, similar to when viewing PG-13 or R rated movies that have been edited to be shown on network television or airlines.

There obviously has been some issues about whether this is legal.

Again, from their FAQ:

Is it legal to edit movies?

CleanFilms is a co-operative rental club. All CleanFilms members collectively agree to have CleanFilms purchase original, un-edited DVD movies on their behalf. Copyright law allows CleanFilms to make a backup copy of each original DVD. This backup copy can be edited under certain provisions of copyright law (Fair Use & First Sale Doctrines).

CleanFilms makes family edited backup copies of the originals to edit out content that is objectionable to its members - similar to how you might press mute to avoid hearing objectionable language when watching a movie in your home. CleanFilms always maintains a 1 to 1 ratio between edited movies and un-edited originals.

I think this stretches the idea of fair use a bit, but honestly, as long as they pay the regular fees, who gives a rat's ass? Re-editing material has a long history of producing a fair amount of creative and social commentary.

I mean, anyone who wants can edit the Bible and republish it ...

But then I thought ... what about adding scenes to a movie? That would clearly be okay under the CleanFilms interpretation of fair use.

It's a messy situation.

What about "The Phantom Edit?" That was "The Phantom Menance" recut with Jar-Jar Binks and other offensive portions removed. Of course, that was distributed illegally, but I can tell you, if they had The Phantom Edit version of The Phantom Menace available at CleanFilms.com, I would want to check that out.


Eastbourne Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More

Eastbourne Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More:
"Louise Gould, the proprietor of Kutz Hair Design in Winston Crescent, has been in business more than 10 years but was shocked to receive a bill for �60 to obtain a licence for the radio.

The request for cash has come from the Performing Rights Society (PRS), an organisation which collects copyright royalty payments on behalf of musicians and bands.

Mrs Gould told us, 'The PRS has told me if I want to play the radio in my salon I have to buy a licence, which this year is �60 and will no doubt go up in time."

I always wondered how much that cost, if you actually paid it. Of course, that it is in UK money (about $90 US).


Cable, wireless firms rankle consumers - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com

Cable, wireless firms rankle consumers - washingtonpost.com Highlights - MSNBC.com:
"Cable and wireless operators in particular ranked the lowest in a customer-satisfaction survey during the first quarter of this year -- even lower than the much-maligned airline industry, according to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Local and long-distance service providers ranked slightly higher -- 70 points on a scale of 100, compared with 63 for wireless carriers and 61 for cable and satellite companies -- although the satisfaction rate had declined 10 points in the last decade, according to the survey, which is an independent measurement jointly taken by the University of Michigan and the American Society for Quality."


Cajun Man

I was just watching a repeat of Saturday Night Live from 1992.

Cajun Man was on. Cajun Man is Adam Sandler who answers everything with this strange pseudo-French-Cajun accent. He generally answers with one or two words and each response ends in "-tion" except it is pronounced "shone".

For instance: "prediction" -> "predict-shone".

Back in 1992 I was in a staff meeting at Virgin Games with the president of the company, Martin Alper. It was Martin, some other execs, and a bunch of producers. I guess Cajun Man had been on TV the weekend before because we were answering Martin's questions like Cajun Man. It went something like this:

Martin: "How's game X coming along?"

Us: "Tough Predict-shone".

Martin: "What does the developer say?"

Us: "Lack of informat-shone."

Martin: "Why are they so far behind?"

Us: "Bad product-shone."

This went on for several more minutes. Finally he told us to quit it. But I thought it was cool that he let us get away with it for so long. I remember the name of one of the other producers at the meeting:

Seth Mendel-shone (Mendelsohn)

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Disney Insider: Walt Disney on Pirates of the Caribbean

You never know where you'll end up. That's my philosophy.

Disney Insider: Walt Disney on Pirates of the Caribbean:
"Attencio found himself a new skill while working on the attraction. As he recalls, 'Walt called over and he says, 'I want you to do the script for the Pirate Ride.' And I had never done any scripting before. I had done story boarding at the animation end of it, and so I said, 'Well, okay.' And I put on my pirate hat and researched all the pirate stuff I could get a hold of. Marc Davis and Claude Coates had already worked out the ride, so we had all the little miniatures for each scene. So all I had to do was walk through the mock-up there and see what was there and what should be said.

'And then, when we finished with the scripting and everything, I think the last story meeting we had, I said, 'I think I have an idea for a song for this thing. A song'd be real good in this' And I kind of half recited and half - I had a melody in mind - sang it. And it started with a 'Yo Ho, Yo Ho, a pirate's life for me.'

'And he says, 'Hey that's fine' ... And I thought he was going to say, 'Get the Sherman brothers to do it,' but he said go ahead, so I became a songwriter then.'"


'Bible Games' instead of 'Grand Theft Auto?' - Games - MSNBC.com

'Bible Games' instead of 'Grand Theft Auto?' - Games - MSNBC.com:
"I play a lot of Christian video games," Tolin said. "They don't have fights. You just have to follow Jesus and pick up little crosses for points."

Jesus would be so proud to know you are running around picking up little crosses in his name.

Right now, the market for Christian titles is small. According to Bean, Christian games represent less than one percent of all games that are out there.

Yeah, like 0.00001 percent.


Billboard PostPlay: "Customers Aren't Stupid" - Jobs

Billboard PostPlay: "Customers Aren't Stupid" - Jobs:
"Apple CEO Steve Jobs has dismissed mobile phone operators as serious competitors for the digital music market, at least until the change tactics. 'Discussing mobile networks attempts to build music download services, Jobs is scathing on price, saying: 'They're going to try to sell music at $2 and $3 a song for the phone...It's hard to imagine that customers are that stupid.' "

I hate to break it to you Steve, but they are that stupid. Just to try it out, I bought a ringtone (actually a 'realtone') for my phone. It costs $2.99, lasts about 20 seconds, and it sounds like shit.

People are buying billions of dollars of this crap each year.

Go figure.


AOL Music: Full CD Listening Party -- Hear Faith Hill's New Album + More!

AOL Music: Full CD Listening Party -- Hear Faith Hill's New Album + More!

This is amazing. Free streaming CDs! Of new releases!

Check it out! The new Faith Hill song "Dearly Beloved" is pretty funny.

Right now they also have the complete Sky High CD.



I mentioned in another entry somewhere that the online music services really want you to buy more than one $0.99 tune because otherwise the credit card fees kill all chance of profit.

Sony recently had a promotion - get a $9.99 album for $0.99 from the Sony Connect Music Store. Since I have a MiniDisc player this seemed like a fine thing to try.

Every album I tried to get said, "Purchase by individual tracks only."

Finally I found a hidden gem that I never would have known about, which is an old album by Dick Hyman, which he made himself, by setting a cassette recorder on top of the piano while he played. It's called "Dick Hyman: An Evening at the Cookery 1973." I like Dick Hyman so I bought it.

It was at least three days before Sony charged my credit card. Talk about wishful thinking! Of course, the purpose of the promotion was to get me in a buying mood but it didn't work. They waited three days, hoping against hope that I wouldn't hit them with a $0.99 credit card charge.

Didn't work, though. I only bought the one thing.

There is something wonderful about listening to an old LP originally made in 1973 from a cassette recorder, republished digitally, transmitted over the internet, and compressed in Sony Atrac format, and played back in a format (Sony MiniDisc) that is very rare in the US.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Microsoft tracks WiFi for new mapping system - Financial Times - MSNBC.com

Microsoft tracks WiFi for new mapping system - Financial Times - MSNBC.com

Microsoft is making an alternative to GPS using the millions of WiFi adaptors spread around the world.

This is mind boggling.

I guess the assumption is that wireless transmitters don't move - once they are set up they probably stay put. At least enough of them stay put to make this practical.



My TiVo2Go up and went!

When we first got TiVo2Go (which is too hard to type, so now I will call it t2g), it didn't work very well.

Most importantly, it is unusable without a $15.00 update to your PC operating system.

The reason for this is that Microsoft Windows XP does not ship with an MPEG2 playback license.

The royalty on this license is $2.50 and no way is Microsoft going to pay someone $2.50 on every copy of Windows they sell.

That's why on the Xbox you had to buy that remote before you could watch DVDs - you were basically paying the MPEG2 licensing fee for hardware, which used to be like $20.00 I think.

Windows Media Center PCs cost a little more and come with the MPEG2 license.

Frequently your video card would include the MPEG2 license so your machine might work. I had reinstalled Windows and my video card so often there was no MPEG2 playback software in sight. Eventually I found something on an old disc but was not reliable.

So, I paid the $15.00 to Sonic for their playback license.

Now I could watch TiVo on my PC, but not burn discs.

That cost more money for TiVo - you have to buy Sonic's burning software which I eventually got on sale for $40.00. It also comes with the MPEG2 playback license but since it was getting put on another machine that gave me two computers that could play back TiVo2Go.

So finally I decide to burn some discs. The Sonic software has a mode that will put your movie on your disc at a variable quality rate which is supposed to make it as good as it can be. Luckily I tried that and found it didn't play back right on an older (not that old) DVD player. Now I manually chose the highest bitrate that will fit on the disc and that looks good on both of our regular old DVD players.

The quality is okay but not great. The thing is, if you want a great looking DVD, you should buy it at the store! The prices are cheap, you get extras, and a box, and the best possible quality. If you are burning your own discs, it's probably stuff that you only want for the kids or where the visual quality doesn't matter that much, or that you can't get any other way.

If you burn your own discs of a movie from HBO, consider the following place you are in the food chain:

Movie comes out in theatres;
Movie comes out on DVD for sale or rental;
Movie comes out on pay-per-view;
Movie comes out on subscription TV;
Movie comes out on regular TV.

You are very near the bottom of the food chain - the movie has been out a long time. So that means you're willing to wait before getting the movie. Then, you finally record it on your TiVo, which compresses it. Then you recompress it, which takes hours, and burn a DVD, which is probably single layer, and so the bit rate isn't very high. If you want chapter stops, that takes extra time to choose.

Finally you have your DVD. It looks okay - kind of like VHS, but better, probably, depending on how much you had to compress it to fit.

So, my feeling is that nobody is losing out on DVD sales due to TiVo2Go.

The main things we recorded onto DVD were some kids shows we couldn't get (mostly Christmas specials and the most recent Clone Wars).

It's great for archiving TV shows, so if you wanted your own version of Lost on DVD without paying for the box set it would work.

Overall, I like it, but for really cool shows or movies, I suggest you buy the DVD rather than burn your own.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Disneyland Celebrates 50th Anniversary - Yahoo! News

Disneyland Celebrates 50th Anniversary - Yahoo! News:
"Broadcaster Art Linkletter, 93, who hosted the live telecast of the park's opening day along with Ronald Reagan and actor Bob Cummings, kicked off the ceremony joking that his longevity allowed him to be present at Disneyland's golden anniversary.

'I'm not only happy to be here, I'm happy to be anywhere,' said Linkletter, who was also celebrating his birthday Sunday."

(Emphasis added.)

Images of Disneyland

MiceAge.com - A different look at Disney...:

"Images of Disneyland"

A series on MiceAge.com of historical pictures of Disneyland:


Harvard Business Review Online | Managing for Creativity

Harvard Business Review Online | Managing for Creativity

Although the press has played up the company’s 35-hour workweek, the truth is, employees often put in extra time to complete a project or fulfill a responsibility. But make no mistake: This is a far cry from some Silicon Valley start-up. The company actively discourages people from working 70-hour weeks. “After eight hours, you’re probably just adding bugs” is a company proverb, repeated often enough by the CEO and others that managers take it seriously. SAS encourages employees to disconnect from work for a time and then come back recharged. Creative people can be trusted to manage their own workloads; their inner drive to achieve, not to mention accountability among colleagues, compels a high level of productivity.


Happy 50th Disneyland

In honor of Disneyland, and really of Walt Disney, certainly one of the most visionary entertainers ever, I present this photo of the model of Epcot that used to be on display at the Carousel of Progress at Disneyland, and which is now briefly visible from the PeopleMover at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Model of Epcot

(Click for bigger version.)

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.




This is a nice presentation of the changes made to Discovery.

I read Feynman's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (I hope I have the right book reference) where he talks about the Challenger disaster and how his analysis showed the risk of catastrophic failure due to the design of the shuttle was about 1 in a 100, and not 1 in 100,000 as Nasa had claimed.

It turns out he was wrong - based on actual history, the chances of catastrophic failure are about 1 in 50 - there have been two disasters out of about 100 launches.

His concerns had to do with the design and not so much the implementation. The design was just too complicated and worked too hard to defeat physics. For instance, a good nuclear reactor will shut down automatically if the water leaks out. This is done by making physical linkages that put the rods into the reactor automatically - it's not done by a sensor, or a computer, but by the nature of the physical world.

The shuttle design flies in the face of that and has all kinds of little hacks (the more recent ones are documented in the link above) to 'work around' the nature of the physical task it is made to perform. (My favorite is the 'bolt catchers'.)

So, the odds are good that the shuttle will fail catastrophically again. And it will be in some system or subsystem where the engineers already knew there was a problem, as happened the last two times.

And it will be very sad.


Aliens invade my hood!

I was getting my oil changed at Oil Can Henry's. The opened up the hood and I saw an alien symbol on my car's hood!

I had a digital camera with me (of course - it won't be long before everyone has one with them all the time, which might have an interesting effect on crime rates) and so I snapped a photo.

Click on the little picture for a bigger picture showing that this is the hood of my car. The alien head is actually the wiper squirter.

An alien symbol on the hood of my car

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

I've been Terminated!

Stephen's actually a terminator!

The fact is I've terminated people and I've been terminated. It's a natural part of life in a capitalistic economy, especially if you are passionate about what you are doing. (Anyone pissed at me for firing them will be happy to know I've been fired two or three times myself. I think three times.)

I was laid off once, but hired back after a month with back pay. I was very young and that made me really nervous! I was very happy to get hired back.

My favorite firing was when I was fired for quiting. That was hilarious. (Well, the boss was pissed because he'd just given me a bonus a few days before, so I don't blame him too much for getting mad at me.)

Another time I was fired and the company gave me a check for $150,000.00. It turns out they had signed me to a contract a few months before and they had to pay off 100% of my brand new stock options which suddenly fully vested. I still have the check stub hanging on my wall as a reminder of the glories of capitalism.

I had to pay over $50,000.00 in taxes on that check. I wish I hadn't spent the rest of it. I should have given it to my wife to invest.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

www.videogameslive.com - Frequently Asked Questions

"Who started Video Games Live?
Video Games Live was founded in 2002 by industry veterans Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall under the parent company Mystical Stone Entertainment, LLC. This show was created by gamers for gamers. Although fans of video games are going to really enjoy this event, the show will want to be attended by anyone who enjoys live upbeat, intense and passionate music with mind-blowing visuals and on-the-fly musical interactivity that has never been attempting in the history of live entertainment."

I'm famous as the person that gave Tommy Tallarico his start in the video game business.

Too bad this concert series isn't coming to Seattle. Hey Tommy, you know, Nintendo and Microsoft and Valve are here in Seattle! And we have a beautiful concert hall!

[Edit - it did come to Seattle and it was great fun!]


Heavenly Sword Developed By Ninja Theory Next Generation Games Developer In Cambridge UK

Heavenly Sword Developed By Ninja Theory Next Generation Games Developer In Cambridge UK

Wow. I wouldn't want to say anything bad about Microsoft Game Studio's Marketing and PR. Luckily this guy says it for me.

It's weird at MS. Sometimes a game (like Project Gotham Racing) will have a super-enthusiastic Program Manager and the marketing guys will have him talk to the press and things go great!

On Halo, that's what Ed Fries did - he knew the game and went out there and hyped the hell out of it. He did a really good job!

Other times they'll put a guy that used to sell sportswear in front of the press, and it all goes to hell.

I don't get it. It's some kind of cultural weirdness there that allows such a thing.

I'm serious. I really don't get it. The usual excuse, 'we grew really fast', won't work anymore. I think there is just something about their culture at MS that says, 'a good marketing guy can sell anything.' But guess what - that's not true!

Especially in games. Game journalists can smell fake gamers a mile away.


Music Industry wins German case against allofmp3.com

Music Industry wins German case against allofmp3.com:
"If there's one site that sells music downloads that has really gotten on the nerves of the major music labels, it is allofmp3.com. The site - based in Russia charges users for their download by amount of data that is downloaded, generally 2 cents per MB. In February this year, the site came under criminal investigation in Russia for copyright violations but later on, in March, it emerged that allofmp3.com wasn't breaking any current Russian laws.

The IFPI swore that it would not give up and it didn't. A Court in Munich has now prohibited allofmp3 from making copyrighted data publicly available within Germany. In the same press release that brought this news, the music industry also stated said it's going to take action against sites that support allofmp3, or similar sites, with advertisement or links."

Billboard PostPlay: Weedshare Adds RCA To Label Roster

Billboard PostPlay: Weedshare Adds RCA To Label Roster:
"I haven't seen an official press release yet, but p2pnet reports that Kelly Clarkson has released a new single, 'Since U Been Gone', in the Weed file format into the P2P universe...Her website also confirms the report and the song is priced oddly at $1.09. Since Sony BMG owns RCA, it is yet another strong signal that the industy is evolving (with less kicking and screaming) to commercial P2P.

Sony BMG Music and RCA Records are the first major label to distribute content in the Weed format and I'm sure the other 3 majors will follow suit soon, once they comprehend and feel comfortable with the whole model. Kelly's Weed file, which is an exclusive remix of her single, is currently available HERE, but will be eventually be everywhere as it grows like a weed across the net..."

Weed was designed and implemented here in the Seattle area.

I like the weed interface to the license server ... you click 'play' and it says, 'Hang on a second.'


Biggest Rainbow EVAR

A short movie of the biggest rainbow EVAR

Click on the thumbnail for a 1.2 megabyte mpeg movie.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Re: Jeffrey Snover - Monad explained

Re: Jeffrey Snover - Monad explained

After watching this video, I was perhaps overly cruel in my earlier entry. It sounds like MSH will leverage all that bizarro inaccessible type information for all the objects floating about your system, and make it accessible.


Finally! TA2

I've been waiting YEARS for this! Atari could never figure out how to make a sequel to Total Annihilation so now THQ and Gas Powered Games are making the 'spiritual' sequel to TA.

Supreme Commander Screenshot


© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Dashboard of best webcams on Net

Dashboard of best webcams on Net

Not bad. You get new stuff everytime you visit.


Speakeasy Speed Test

Speakeasy Speed Test

This is a very nice looking speed test. You can see some while it runs.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


An 'Incredible' Marketing Ploy - Forbes.com

An 'Incredible' Marketing Ploy - Forbes.com:
"The number of kids armed with cell phones is surprisingly high. By the end of this year, half of all children between the age of 11 or 17 will have their own phone, according to the Yankee Group. They're profitable consumers, too: Kids use more minutes on their cell plans and spend freely on premium, paid services. All told, users under the age of 18 probably account for as much as a quarter of the $100 million a year cellular service market. "

A Disney network would follow the lead of the Virgin Group, which launched its own using the Sprint PCS network in 2002. Virgin Mobile USA targets young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, enticing them with sexy commercials and a content partnership with MTV. The company already has nearly 2 million subscribers, and is reportedly considering an IPO during 2005, which could find the company valued at as much as $2 billion.

Thefacebook | Welcome to Thefacebook!

Thefacebook | Welcome to Thefacebook!

When I was at the Northrop Research and Technology Center in 1986 we heard about something called the Face Server. We thought that sounded cool so we went around (no kidding) and collected everyone's security badge and scanned it! Workstations were just black and white (no gray) so we had to reduce each photo down to a dot pattern that was still recognizable.

After we did all that, we lost interest, and never actually implemented the Face Server.

Apparently the Face Book is something similar for college campuses.


Digital Music News

Digital Music News:
"XM Satellite Radio is continuing to beef up its subscriber totals, most recently adding 640,000 in the second quarter. That addition brings the overall total to 4.4 million, and reflects a growing rate of increase. For the first quarter of this year, XM tacked on an additional 540,000, while 418,000 were added in the second quarter last year. 'In just one year, XM has more than doubled its subscriber base from 2.1 million in the second quarter of 2004 to over 4.4 million subscribers today,' said XM chief Hugh Panero."

That's impressive as anything I've heard. You can get people to pay for something they used to get for free.


Google Earth

I saw on SlashDot that Google had made it's earth viewer free.

So I downloaded it.

Luckily I guess, I got in there before the crowd, because now they have restricted access to it, due to popular demand. I imagine it consumes much bandwidth.

The URL to grab it is http://earth.google.com.

Some buddies were over last night and we went flying all around the world. "Let's see the Sphinx!" (Not really visible, but the pyramids nearby are.) "Let's see the Eiffel Tower!" We visited places we used to live, and currently live. We went to China, Baghdad, New York.

It's really amazing. Finally something like "flying cars" that was predicted a long time ago has come true! An Earth viewer!

Here's a picture of the Grand Canyon as seen through Google Earth (click for bigger image):

Google Earth view of the Grand Canyon

This is where I went to high school: Corona del Mar High School. We lived across the street from it, which was nice, for a kid that had trouble getting up in the morning. I got up about five minutes before school started and ran over there. I must admit, from this view, that a great deal of real estate at my old high school was dedicated to sports (the pool, tennis courts, track, baseball fields, general use fields, etc.).

Google Earth view of Corona del Mar High School in California

I can't wait for SolarSystem.Google.com.

© Text 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Too Many Icons

I have too many icons in my system tray:

Too Many Icons in my System Tray

(Can you name what they all represent?)

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

The Onion | America's Finest News Source�

The Onion | America's Finest News Source:
"Dead iPod Remembered As Expensive

VENTURA, CA�A third-generation, 30-GB iPod, serial number AP356372, died early Monday morning at age 2. 'I'll never forget all the great music it used to play during my workouts,' said the late iPod's owner Sarah Zartman at a brief memorial held over the junk drawer. 'It was convenient, portable, and really pricey�almost $500.' Zartman said that, had she known the iPod's lithium-ion battery would have such a short lifespan, she might have spent more time listening to it. AP356372 is survived by a BlackBerry."

Visit The Onion! It's funny!

Theft by any other name | Perspectives | CNET News.com

Theft by any other name | Perspectives | CNET News.com:
"'We hold that one who distributes a device with the object of promoting its use to infringe copyright, as shown by clear expression or other affirmative steps taken to foster infringement, is liable for the resulting acts of infringement by third parties,' Souter said. "

So ... by analogy, if you make guns and tell people to shoot each other, then you're probably in trouble. But if you make guns and promote them for peaceful use (I guess hunting and self-defense and entertainment) then you're okay.

So if you make software and promote its use for stealing copyrighted material, you're in trouble, but if you make software the allows the free sharing of copyrighted material but don't promote that use, then you're okay.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved


Technology News: Hardware : Microsoft, Toshiba To Jointly Develop HD DVD Players

Technology News: Hardware : Microsoft, Toshiba To Jointly Develop HD DVD Players:
"Microsoft and Toshiba said they have agreed to jointly develop HD DVD players, giving the Japanese computer and consumer electronics maker a powerful new ally in its battle with Sony and Matsushita Electric Industrial (NYSE: MC) over technology standards for next-generation audio and visual products."

Sounds like a move by Microsoft to become the standard software provider for HD DVD players. Since the next generation DVD players are likely to be more complicated than the current generation, which have limited interactivity, having a standard platform would be useful, and also a huge win for Microsoft.



I managed to spend 2,262 minutes on my cell phone last month.

Holy Crap! (As the Mormon's say: 'Holy Crap' is the official Mormon swear phrase. No wait, that's not it. It's "Bull Crap". Sorry. Never mind.)

Anyway, that's a lot of minutes! Luckily 1,211 of them were free because they were 'in network'. And I get 850 a month, so that just left, uh, 204 minutes that came out of my Rollover minutes stash.

It would have been higher, but some of us switched to Skype half way through the month.

So, really, that amount of communication was pretty cheap.

The Skype experience was cool. We had a 'virtual office' going where three of us were on the phone via Skype, using our PCs and headsets. You could hear the ambient sounds from the other persons' office, so it felt like I was in one big shared office. It was pretty cool. When my cable modem crapped out, it got suddenly very quiet, and I felt the virtual office disappear.

My cable modem used to be rock solid when Comcast was at 3 megabits, but now at 4 megabits it craps out a couple of times a day. I bought a new cable modem that resets 5x faster than the old one, which makes it much less painful. Some connections (like remote desktop) persist through the outage and come back to life automatically, which is awesome!

It's pretty fun stuff, even when it doesn't quite work right.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Variety.com - War of the windows

Variety.com - War of the windows:
"Last year, studios waited an average of four months and 16 days to release theatrical pics on DVD. But the window is getting shorter and shorter; one studio chief predicts it could dwindle just two months, or even fewer for box-office flops.

If the window keeps shrinking, it could rattle the foundations of the film bizbiz.

With 2005 box-office receipts trailing last year's, and consumer electronics companies making rapid inroads into the nation's home-viewing habits, there are rumblings among distribs that the traditional strategies for theatrical distribution, DVD and even PPVPPV are no longer working."


Investing - Gates and Ozzie: How to Escape E-Mail Hell - FORTUNE - Page 2

Investing - Gates and Ozzie: How to Escape E-Mail Hell - FORTUNE - Page 2:
"Bill, you have been nailed in court through e-mail that was found in legal discovery. Has that changed the way you use it?

Gates: No. I live the examined life. Basically every e-mail that I've ever sent has been looked at by something like 30 or 40 lawyers to see if there's any way it can be misconstrued. I don't put any notes at the bottom where I say, 'Note to lawyer: When I say 'Beat the competition,' I mean in the nice friendly way we always do.' [laughter] So look, the idea that everything you're doing can be examined - there's nothing really wrong with that. Voicemail is like that too. People just should get used to the idea that there's going to be some visibility for things. I don't think we're all going to just go down to the local pay phone or something."


Warner Music Group saved by Digital Downloads

MSN Money - Financial Times Business News: Digital music pushes listed Warner into profit:
"Warner Music Group on Monday moved into profitability in its first quarter as a public company, reporting $4m in net income for the second quarter after suffering a $48m loss the same period a year earlier."


World Peace and the Weekly Enema

We visited the Engineering Open House at UW.

While tooling around the campus I noticed these two signs, one above the other (click for full picture):

World Peace and the Weekly Enema

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


GamesIndustry.biz - Hopes for unified next-gen DVD standard dashed as talks stall

GamesIndustry.biz - Hopes for unified next-gen DVD standard dashed as talks stall:
"Talks between electronics giants Sony and Toshiba aimed at agreeing on a unified next-generation disc format have collapsed, meaning that the incompatible Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats will both probably make it to market."

I hope Microsoft has a backup plan to ship HD-DVD in Xbox 360 this Christmas. If both formats are going to ship this year, then it should be possible.

Balmer was saying "we'll offer an upgrade", but that would be a nightmare all around.

Much better to start out with an HD-DVD player.

The Great Flood Killed the Dinosaurs

theferrett: The Weirdest Book I Ever Got

Very Merry

I worked at Disneyland for a year during college. I had a great job - working on the Rivers of America on the Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes. No, they are not on a track, and if you don't paddle, they don't go. Well, they do go, because the two employees (excuse, me I mean, Cast Members) assigned to dragging your fat ass around the river do all the work. I was very fit that summer.

Anyway, this guy name Kerry, who had been around a few years, had a name tag that said Harry. I said to him, without thinking, "Hey, I get it, Hari Kari," and he, being a supreme snot, said, "You're a real rocket scientist, you just figured that out, huh?"

Well, this annoyed me quite a bit. As it was, we were both on Canoes, and so each time around the river, I would make it a point to drive up next to his Canoe, and say something new each time around the river...

First, I said, "You're a pretty funny guy. I bet people call you Merry Harry Kerry."

Next trip, I said, "You're really funny. I bet people call you Very Merry Harry Kerry."

Next trip, I said, "If you were gay, you would be Very Merry Harry Kerry the Fairy."

Next trip, I said, "If your boyfriend was Larry, you'd be Very Merry Harry Kerry the Fairy who is with Larry."

I think it was about at this point that my point was made and we started splashing each other out of spite. I think there was collateral damage - guests getting wet too. Well, it was a hot summer, so cooling off with disgusting Rivers of America water was a special service we could provide to ourselves and the innocent guests.

I remember, way back then, that they hadn't cleaned the big pond which is the Rivers of America for about 15 years. It was pretty disgusting. I think they drain and clean it every five years now (otherwise underwater Fantasmic parts might get too dirty and stop working).

Which brings me to another point - what two words go together to make Fantasmic?

Could they be ... Fantasy and Orgasmic?

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Amazon Goes Dark

Amazon Goes Dark:
"AlertSite Godskind pointed out that the 41-minute glitch reduced the company's total availability for the month -- assuming 100 percent possible uptime -- by more than .1 percent. 'If Amazon.com has a 41-minute outage during the lunch hour, it probably left impressions on a million people,' he said.

It likely left an impression on earnings, as well. Amazon.com net sales for its first fiscal quarter, ending March 31, 2005, were $1.90 billion. With 90 days in the quarter, and 2,160 minutes, the e-commerce giant raked in roughly $8.8 million an hour."

Microsoft negotiating to give people WMA formatted versions of iTunes purchases

Microsoft planning music subscription service | CNET News.com:
"The tentative features of the new service--which is still under development--include advanced community aspects and playlist-sharing. But sources say Microsoft is also considering a more direct attack on Apple, seeking rights from copyright holders to give subscribers a new, Microsoft-formatted version of any song they've purchased from the iTunes store so those songs can be played on devices other than an iPod. "

Very clever.


Direct Song!

The Direct Song store is now open for business!

The first product is the Guild Wars Special Edition Soundtrack by Jeremy Soule. It's only $5.99 for 67 minutes of music!

Go buy it! It costs about the same as eating lunch out! But it's better and lasts longer!


I love pair.com. I host my main site there.

Every so often, they send out an email where they spontaneously increase the value of your hosting plan. Obviously computers, disk space, and bandwidth continue to drop in cost. Instead of being really opaque about it, they just pass on the savings to me!

Disk Space Bandwidth Mailboxes FTP Logins
2000 MB 40 GB 150 8

I think when I started my disk space allocation was 200 megabytes. Now it is 2 gigabytes!

Very nice.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Blogger: Blogger Mobile

Blogger: Blogger Mobile:


When you send text or photos from your mobile device to go@blogger.com they're automatically posted to your new blog page. Enter your claim token to access more options."

MSN - Music - debug your DRM

MSN - Music

A handy site (with some kind of troubleshooting tool) in case you have trouble with Microsoft DRM.

Goofs for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Goofs for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977):
"Errors in geography: One of the Air Traffic Controllers at the Indianapolis Center asks the Air Force if they have any tests going on in Restricted area 2508. R-2508 is in California and Nevada. It would be controlled out of Los Angeles Center."

People are amazing.


Seattle Tops List for Wireless Web Access - New York Times

Seattle Tops List for Wireless Web Access - New York Times:
"SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Seattle and San Francisco are the most ''unwired cities'' in America -- top spots for computer junkies who send e-mail and surf the Web at restaurants, libraries or public plazas.

Metropolitan Seattle percolated past the San Francisco Bay area this year thanks to an abundance of Starbucks Corp. outlets, which have wireless ''hot spots'' where patrons linger over latte and laptops, according to Intel Corp.'s annual ranking. Seattle also benefited from wireless access at its Pike Place Market and the Space Needle."

Go Seattle!


CVS launches disposable digital camcorder in U.S. - Yahoo! News

CVS launches disposable digital camcorder in U.S. - Yahoo! News:
"NEW YORK (Reuters) - CVS Corp. (NYSE:CVS - news) on Monday begun selling a disposable digital camcorder which the No. 2 U.S. drugstore chain hopes would boost its photo lab business and be as popular as the single-use film and digital cameras.


The $29.99 pocket-sized camcorder was developed by Pure Digital Technologies Inc., a San Francisco-based start-up company."

That's amazing! To get your video out, you return it to the store, where they burn a DVD for you for $12.95. They keep and recycle the camcorder (i.e., sell or more like 'rent' it to someone else).

Dumb Money - The madness of movie advertising. By Edward Jay�Epstein

Dumb Money - The madness of movie advertising. By Edward Jay Epstein:
"Consider the perverse logic of Hollywood: In 2003, the six major studios - Disney, Warner Bros., Sony, 20th Century Fox, Universal, and Paramount - spent, on average, $34.8 million to advertise a movie and earned, on average, just $20.6 million per title. Even if the studios had made the movies for free - which, of course, they didn't- they would have lost $14.2 million per film on the theatrical run, or what the industry calls 'current production.' Given the fleeting attention span of the target audiences (mainly TV-watching teens) and the unmemorable nature of the ad copy, the studios believe they must show the same ad on the same programs at least eight times in order to draw an audience. As a result, the studios spend more to lure a teenager into a theater than they receive at the box office, which is reminiscent of the joke about the idiot in the garment business who 'loses money on every sale but makes it up on volume.' "



Yourmusic.com: the Music Club Revisited - The Digital Music Weblog - digitalmusic.weblogsinc.com _:
"The site is the front end of a new type of music club: sort of a cross between Book of the Month and Netflix. Every CD in Yourmusic.com costs $5.99; no exceptions. The BMG catalog seems decent on first go-through, considering the price. This is a subscription service; your credit card is billed for one CD ($5.99) every month, and you control a queue (like Netfolix) that determines which CD you get automatically. That alone is a huge improvement over traditional book and music clubs, which make the selection for you, and force you to return undesired products. Once subscribed, you can buy unlimited additional CDs at the same price. If this thing gets traction it�ll drive music retailers crazy (it reportedly already is to some extent), as the CDs are sold below cost. "


New-gen wireless technology could shake up cell-phone services

New-gen wireless technology could shake up cell-phone services:
"A new generation of wireless technology could shake up cell-phone services."

One can only hope.

Personal Technology / Walter S. Mossberg: Wireless carriers set agenda for phone technologies

Personal Technology / Walter S. Mossberg: Wireless carriers set agenda for phone technologies:
"At last month's D: All Things Digital technology conference, which I co-produce for The Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said he was wary of producing an Apple cellphone because, instead of selling it directly to the public, he would have to offer it through what he called the 'four orifices' -- the four big U.S. cellphone carriers.

Cellphone carriers say one reason they keep tight control over what phones run on their networks is to protect the networks from harm and assure service quality for their subscribers.

But we've heard that before, and it wasn't true then. Until the 1970s, when the government forced open the market, the old AT&T phone monopoly refused to let consumers buy phones and plug them into their home phone lines. You could only rent phones, and they had to be models made by an AT&T subsidiary. AT&T said the restriction protected the quality of the wired phone network. But, lo and behold, when the ban was lifted the phone network was just fine, even though consumers were plugging in millions of less expensive, more innovative phones."

*Sigh*. Everyone wants a cell phone, but everyone hates their cell phone provider.