2006-12-30

$14 Steadycam The Poor Mans Steadicam

$14 Steadycam The Poor Mans Steadicam

I've been watching a lot of amateur video from the Disney parks recently and most of it is appalling. Nobody knows how to hold the camera still! I admit, with small modern cameras, that it is pretty hard to do. My ancient Super-VHS camera was so big I had to carry it on my shoulder (you remember those things). They were not overly portable but they helped you hold the camera still!

Anywho, the Steadycam is a cheap device that will help you keepy your camera moves clean and smooth.

Unfortunately, Disney might not let you bring it into the park, because of the giant counter-weight.

But here's an idea. Rent a stroller and hook your camera to it. Or buy a mono-pod. They are cheap and super-easy to use and collapse into a very portable size. Even if you just leave the mono-pod attached to your camera while you move your videos will be smoother.

Or ... buy a tripod! You can leave the tripod connected to the camera but collapsed. This will also give you some extra weight that will help you smooth out your camera moves.

Here's the simplest idea. Quick walking with the camera on! You can't do it with this little cameras. What you do instead is stop moving, shoot a few seconds of video, walk further, stop moving and shoot some more, stop shooting, walk to a new place, shoot some more, and so on. Your video will look 1000% better with nice happy edits instead of jerky walking motion.

There is a guy named TJ at the Window To The Magic podcast who does a great job on his "Disneyland Update" video podcasts. Watch those to learn how to do it.

Please, Disney videographers, learn to hold the camera still!

Marcel Waldvogel's Quote Page

Marcel Waldvogel's Quote Page:
Two rules of success in life:
1. Don't tell people everything you know.


I have always attributed the line
The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.


to Christian Morganstern, but a number of web pages attribute the line to Kahlil Gibran. I wonder who said it first.

2006-12-20

Does anybody really know what time it is?

Time, what Time?:
2.3. Is UTC the same as GMT?

The observatory in Greenwich derived GMT from astronomical events like the solar day. UTC is based on a quantum resonance of a cesium atom, being quite more accurate.

Unfortunately the earth's rotation is not very much impressed by the definition of the UTC second. Having 86400 UTC seconds per day on an earth that's slowing down would mean that midnight would eventually fall in the middle of the day. As this is probably unacceptable, some extra seconds can be added or removed inside the UTC time-scale to keep synchronization. That patch work is named leap seconds.

To make things worse, leap seconds can be predicted as much as the earth's rotation, which is not at all. Therefore you can't easily make calculations for dates in the future using UTC; at least not with accuracy of a few seconds.

2.4. What happens during a Leap Second?

During a leap second, either one second is removed from the current day, or a second is added. In both cases this happens at the end of the UTC day. If a leap second is inserted, the time in UTC is specified as 23:59:60. In other words, it takes two seconds from 23:59:59 to 0:00:00 instead of one. If a leap second is deleted, time will jump from 23:59:58 to 0:00:00 in one second instead of two.


I've had some posts here about certain fun dates that have come and gone. It finally got to the point where so many were coming by in the early part of this millennium that I lost interest in the subject.

I ran across the information above which I found amusing. Apparently Universal Coordinated Time isn't particularly constant. I'm not sure how your average computer knows that a leap second has occurred without contacting a smart time server - probably the feeling is that it doesn't matter too much, even though UTC is used by Windows to store the time when a file was created or modified.

2006-12-19

Guild Wars: GameSpy's MMO Game of the Year 2006

GameSpy's Game of the Year 2006:
This year found the Guild Wars expansion-machine in full swing, with two standalone campaigns released six months apart: Factions and Nightfall. While we were very much into Factions, Nightfall edged it out in our minds. Its North African-inspired setting was extremely cool, and the two new professions introduced -- the vicious Dervish and the stalwart Paragon -- were just too cool for words.

In broader terms, Guild Wars is extremely close to being our favorite MMO ever due to its enlightened approach to the genre. The attention that ArenaNet pays to the game's PvP experience would be embraced by the industry at large in a perfect world, and its ability to offer such a stellar product without charging a monthly subscription is nothing short of revolutionary. If subsequent expansions reflect the level of quality we saw in Factions and Nightfall, then ArenaNet's model will be viable indeed.


Double Woot!

2006-12-18

Guild Wars hits Three Million Sold

PlayNC.com:
December 13, 2006 (BELLEVUE, WA) — Fueled by sales of the hit game Guild Wars Nightfall™, the latest release in the award-winning Guild Wars® franchise, sales for one of the world’s leading subscription-free online roleplaying games have surpassed three million units worldwide in a little more than a year and a half. This milestone event was announced today by ArenaNet®, developer of Guild Wars®, Guild Wars Factions™, and Guild Wars Nightfall™, and NCsoft® Corporation, the world’s leading developer and publisher of online computer games.

“Reaching three million units sold in such a short amount of time is absolutely incredible,” says Robert Garriott, CEO, NCsoft North America. “Coupled with the recent news of Guild Wars Factions winning Billboard’s Multiplayer Game of the Year, we couldn’t be prouder of what the team at ArenaNet has accomplished with the Guild Wars games.”


Woot!

2006-12-11

How To Choose CD/DVD Archival Media » Ad Terras Per Aspera

How To Choose CD/DVD Archival Media » Ad Terras Per Aspera:
If you cannot find any company selling Taiyo Yuden under the own brand, I suggest buying from the SuperMediaStore.com, who offer a wide range of Taiyo Yuden CD media, DVD-R media, and DVD+R media. I tend to buy just from them, as they are the only company that guarantees that their media is actually from Taiyo Yuden and not a fake (see the above linked FAQ on information about fake Taiyo Yuden media).


The entire article describes why user-burnable CDs and DVDs degrade and how to minimize data loss.

I guess I should dig through my piles of CDs for the oldest one I can find and see if I can still read it ...

2006-12-04

Advanced Google Search Operators

Advanced Google Search Operators

Have you ever wondered what special commands you can give Google Search (in any Google Search text box)?

For instance, you can get word definitions using "define:", for example, "define:fraud", to get the definition of the word "fraud."

If you want to know which sites link to this blog, you could use "link:drstephencw.blogspot.com".

If you want to find pages that are related to a particular site (or have stolen a copy of your blog entry, thus making it 100% related!), you could use "related:drstephencw.blogspot.com".

Follow the link above to get the latest list of Google operators.

2006-12-01

Ancient calculator was 1,000 years ahead of its time | CNET News.com

Ancient calculator was 1,000 years ahead of its time | CNET News.com:
The Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest known device to contain an intricate set of gear wheels. It was retrieved in 1901 from a shipwreck off the Greek island of Antikythera but until now what it was used for has been a mystery.

Although the remains are fragmented in 82 brass pieces, scientists from Britain, Greece and the United States have reconstructed a model of it using high-resolution X-ray tomography. They believe their findings could force a rethink of the technological potential of the ancient Greeks.


I remember reading once a hypothesis that Moore's Law (actually a variant of it - that computer power doubles every 18 months - the original Moore's Law is a manufacturing claim about the number of transistors on a die) held true for the past couple of thousand years. I wish I could find that reference. Anyway, this ancient gdget might support that hypothesis.

2006-11-29

AllofMP3 set to close News - PC Advisor

AllofMP3 set to close News - PC Advisor
Russia has agreed to US demands to close the popular music website Allofmp3.com. The US wants the site closed to fight music piracy, and Russia has agreed to improve its chance of gaining membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO).


I probably have $.50 left in my account over there. I guess I should hurry up and use it.

Interestingly, the only things I ever bought from AllOfMP3.com were things I couldn't find here. I would have thought the cheap price would have made me a regular customer, but I wasn't.

I won't particularly miss AllofMP3.com. I find that strange, somehow. I would have thought price would have been a bigger issue but apparently it's not.

Hormel's official position on the term 'spam'

RE: SPAM: SPAM and the Internet:
You've probably seen, heard or even used the term 'spamming' to refer to the act of sending unsolicited commercial email (UCE), or 'spam' to refer to the UCE itself. Following is our position on the relationship between UCE and our trademark SPAM.

Use of the term 'spam' was adopted as a result of the Monty Python skit in which our SPAM meat product was featured. In this skit, a group of Vikings sang a chorus of 'spam, spam, spam . . . ' in an increasing crescendo, drowning out other conversation. Hence, the analogy applied because UCE was drowning out normal discourse on the Internet.

We do not object to use of this slang term to describe UCE, although we do object to the use of the word 'spam' as a trademark and to the use of our product image in association with that term. Also, if the term is to be used, it should be used in all lower-case letters to distinguish it from our trademark SPAM, which should be used with all uppercase letters.


So be careful before you photoshop up a picture of SPAM to go with your article on spam.

2006-11-21

My Wii Mii

Stephen Clarke-Willson's Wii Mii

... as designed by my kids ....

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-11-20

Baby Boomers and TV

Baby Boomers unhappy with TV offerings:
A significant number of baby boomers - 37 percent - say they aren't happy with what's on television, according to the study.

'The amount of people dissatisfied with television overall was a pretty big eye-opening thing for us,' said Larry Jones, president of the TV Land cable network, which commissioned the study.


I was thinking about this last night while watching Saturday Night Live. I realize the TV people want to capture the youth market ... but guess what - big hunks of the youth market aren't even watching TV.

I realized that on Monday, today, after watching SNL, that there was no one at work that watched the show. It's a younger crowd where I work. Or I'm getting older. I have a sneaking suspicion that I'm the oldest person in the building.

And it's not just some kind of culture gap where SNL is no longer cool. Many of the people at work don't watch TV at all. Obviously they play games, and probably more than the average person, but they also get their news from the Internet, and they watch TV series by buying whole seasons at a time on DVD.

Rick Lambright pointed out to me that for the cost of a single cable subscription with HBO, you can buy two whole seasons of a show on DVD. I mentioned this to some of colleagues at work and a couple of them said, "Yeah, duh, that's what we do." These, ah, "kids", have no cable subscription at all!

Holy moly.

And, as I mentioned some time ago, DVDs are trivial to share. Do you really care if your buddy borrows the whole box set after you've watched the first season of 24? And your other buddy and your other buddy and your other buddy? This is completely legal. Share these DVD sets with your friends, who are also buying and sharing DVD sets, and pretty soon the cost per season of a show is about $10.00. There are no commercials, the quality is better than just about anything (maybe even better than HD in terms of compression artifacts), and you can watch at your own rate.

As your library of DVD sets grows, your ability to trade with your friends grows, so there is the "fax machine" effect, where the more people that do this, the better it is for everyone.

I don't know how TV will survive. It will, of course, just as radio survives, but I think it will be in some different form than we know now. I guess eventually it will consist entirely of cheap-to-produce reality shows. Certainly the long format series is becoming an increasingly rare commodity - they are just too expensive to produce and there is too much risk the show won't "hit" right away.

Sure, Seinfeld was nursed along until it "hit", but the costs were also very low, and there were far fewer distractions like the Internet and games competing for TV viewer's attention.

The media business changes so fast now.

Holy moly.

2006-11-17

GameDaily BIZ: iSuppli: The PS3 is Costly, but an 'Engineering Masterpiece'

GameDaily BIZ: iSuppli: The PS3 is Costly, but an 'Engineering Masterpiece':
What's so impressive about Sony's console? According to iSuppli, consumers are getting 'supercomputer performance at PC pricing.' All of this performance comes at a great cost to Sony, however. iSuppli's analysis indicates that the Blu-ray drive, Cell processor and other components yield a total production cost of $805.85 for the 20 GB model and $840.35 for the 60GB model.

And that doesn't even factor in added costs for things like the controller, cables and packaging. The end result is that Sony is losing over $300 per 20 GB console sold and more than $240 per 60 GB console sold. As iSuppli points out, 'With Sony taking a smaller loss on the higher-end model, it's not a surprise the company is steering customers to the 60Gbyte version.'


I've heard through the grapevine that Microsoft is already making $75.00 per Xbox360 console after a couple of cost reduction efforts. Microsoft can lower the price anytime they want to kick Sony in the head.

2006-11-16

Zune Revenue Sharing

Long Island Press:
The Zune is different in other ways, too. The record labels get a portion of each Zune sold, a revenue model they started years ago by arguing that everything from blank cassettes to DATs would be used for piracy, so they should get a cut. It’s an odd revenue model, arguing you should get a cut of someone else’s product. But record companies threatened to not license music to the Zune unless they get a percentage of sales. It’s a bit of desperation from an industry that has fought every technology that has made it more money.


Supposedly Universal Music is getting a about a dollar for each Zune that is sold.

I bet they are going to be really excited when they get that first check for $10.00!

2006-11-15

Wiiiii!

We'll be getting our Wii shortly, which is very cool.

Since I believe the family that plays together, stays together, I ordered six controllers! Four wireless controllers with numchucks and two classic controllers. Holy moley.

Hey, does anyone out there know the performance difference between the PowerPC in the Gamecube and the PowerPC in the Wii?

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-11-14

Laptop Battery Fire Video

Laptop Battery Fire Video

This is a pretty amazing video - the guys forced a laptop battery into an "unstable configuration" and then shot video of the ensuing explosion and fire.

On a separate but related subject, it was announced today that Amaze Entertainment was bought by Foundation 9.

Foundation 9 Amazed

I like this:
GS: Have you depleted the Francisco funding, or is there more to work with? What else do you have your eyes on in terms of acquisitions?

JG: Depleted? I actually don't think that's possible. These folks need to sew extra pockets in their trousers to hold all their cash! That is a joke, of course, because they are generally vain dressers and wouldn't commit that kind of sartorial faux pas. That's also a joke. The point here is only partially to sidestep the question: Francisco has made an initial financial commitment to us--large by anyone's standards--and as long as we can find investment opportunities which accrete value, whether internal or external, Francisco will be there to support our efforts. Deploying capital is their business, not holding on to it.

2006-11-05

3500

3500 junk emails since September 16, 2006.

Holy crapola!

Spam Bayes has been doing a pretty good job for me (and a great job for my wife) but I've started getting those annoying spam emails where the text is encoded as an inline picture in the email. Spam Bayes isn't so good with those.

Bummer.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-10-18

Ms. Dewey

Ms. Dewey is a Microsoft promotion for their Live.com services.

Ms. Dewey is an obnoxious but funny front-end to the new Microsoft Search engine. She's made out of Flash and she's waiting to help you! (And make fun of you!)

Try asking for her about Microsoft. Try asking her for her phone number.

Also, if you do ask her for her phone number, look at the search results. There is a service Phone Number Spell which will tell you words that can be made from the touch-pad spelling of your phone number.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-10-16

Hamsters

This notice from an overloaded web site is a funny mix of hamster-talk and senator-talk:

As you all know, our hamsters are always hard at work running on wheels to power your lightning fast search results. But you guys have not been kind to them. During peak periods at day time (~noon PST), our servers are having trouble dishing out the goods through the tubes of your beloved interweb. So we have to skim on seed/leecher stats right now so the servers doesn't go down in flames. Good job guys, our hamsters are not disappointed by the apparent popularity of their hard running.

We'll be doubling our squadron of hamsters to make sure the bits are flowing out the tubes smoothly. Hopefully by Monday tomorrow. In the meantime, please restrain your urge to press the F5 key during busy hours. And more complete seed/leechers stats will be returning when we got our hamster wheels back in running at optimal performance.

Thanks.




© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-10-10

Top Ten Best Selling Albums Of All-Time

Top Ten Best Selling Albums Of All-Time

Here's a fun list - if it's true. The top 10 best selling albums of ALL FRICKIN' TIME. The soundtrack to "The Bodyguard" is one of them! What?

And Shania Twain is on there. Coo coo a choo.

2006-10-06

Rethinking Redux

I was using Blogger for two different things: one, for remembering cool sites, and secondly, for commenting on technology issues.

I decided to delete all of the 'random site' posts, and just leave posts where I have something personal to say. My goal was to get the entire blog to fit on one page. Since Blogger limits the blog to one megabyte this has taken a lot of pruning. The site finally fits on one page. (The pictures don't count in the one megabyte because I serve them from Above the Garage.)

As it turns out, it is fairly difficult to prune a blog using Blogger. And it also turns out Blogger will only let you see the last 300 blog entries. (Thanks Jack for the tip on how to see more than 300 posts.)

I am continuing to prune. Then I will probaby open up a sibling blog about sleep problems, since that deserves it's own blog, and maybe a another sibling blog about politics! And Nano-Plasm, my novel, will be published one chapter every few days on a separate blog.

Also, I left Thomas' Airsoft Tips up at the top for a week... nobody sent him a dollar. Come on, someone send him a dollar! It will make his day (even though he'll only get about $.73). (Update: Thomas received two clicks from kind friends. Thanks Jack and Rhett!)

Update: 2006 10 06: I first posted this last February. Since then I tried out the multiple-blog thing and it failed miserably. Nobody visited the other blogs. Plus Google/Blogspot implemented some kind of crazy ass filtering technology (I use the term loosely) that was supposed to detect blogs that are created solely for the purpose of boosting link counts. So my idea of a sibling blog that just kept cool links failed because the blog was tagged by Blogger as some kind of evil link count increasing blog.

I also tried posting my novel one chapter at a time, but nobody showed up for that either. I'm currently looking at LuLu and going the publish-on-demand route. The sales price is not too much, until you add in the shipping fees... then a $9.50 book becomes $14.50, which is a bit steep for a paperback.

I ordered a book from LuLu as a test - it's called The Disneylands That Never Were and I enjoyed that quite a bit, even though it cost $15.00. LuLu also provides forums where people can chat about your book. I enjoyed this book a lot and I think it's a book that would never have seen the light of day without LuLu, so I think the POD thing has a great future, if your expectations (as an author) are reasonable.

And (for a fee I think) you can get your book distributed to Amazon.com and BN.com, which could really help with the shipping fee.

Of course, once you submit it for publishing, it's expensive to make changes, so if you want a person to have a good experience with your book, you need to edit the hell out of it.

So ultimately I just might post the PDF. I think my book is terrific airplane reading - just about perfect for a trip across country and back. That's actually what I had in mind when I started writing it about five years ago.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

The new CW

It's cool to have a new network named after your initials.

The new CW is of course the merging of the old UPN and the old WB.

It's not called the UW because ... UPN never meant anything and CBS owned UPN and so it was better to use the first C from CBS.

The only thing I have watched on the new CW is the remastered Star Trek. This is not to be confused with extremely strange Star Trek 2.0 airing on G4, which is the old, unremastered Star Trek with all kinds of crap placed around the screen in a feeble attempt to be hip and interactive.

The new, remastered Star Trek, which is just called Star Trek, is pretty good looking. Besides remastering the audio and video, select special effects have been redone.

Some people objected that this would take away from the charm of the old series, but in fact, those old special effects were so bad by modern standards that they really took you out of the show. The new special effects - primarily planets and space ships - are not crazy ass modern - they are simply well executed digital versions of the old effects. The lighting is bit better but most importantly the motion of the ships is smooth, and so the new effects just blend better with action.

Sadly, things like the Horta still look like an elephant puked up a giant pizza, but it would be a major effort to rotoscope out the old crappy Horta and put in a new one. I suspect that will be done someday. You know how they could get it done cheap? Make it a school project. Effects are cheap enough to do that they could get film school kids to do it at video res and it would probably look great! The big problem with rotoscoping is that it is labor-intensive ... so get cheap labor!

I myself am a new CW - after suffering horrifically at the hands of my old sleep doctor, who subjected me to over a year of brutal sleep deprivation while he tried to 'cure' my sleep apnea with a deadly C-Crap machine, I am mostly recovered. I took the opportunity to rethink what I really like doing in life and to focus on those things and little else. It's been quite the voyage of self-discovery.

Woot.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

The MP3 Pillow

The MP3 Pillow » Coolest Gadgets

The MP3 Pillow has an iPod dock connector and apparently can hook directly up to your iPod. There is a speaker inside and the buttons actually work! How cool is that?

I remember having some kind of speaker pillow when I was a kid. It almost worked. It was actually a speaker that you stuck under your pillow.

In modern life, I've used really flat ear bud headphones from Radio Shack for listening to music (privately) while I fall asleep. That works 'pretty well'. (Also remember Willson's Law: Never buy anything with moving parts from Radio Shack. BTW, I'm thinking of extending Willson's Law to include Sony.)

GameDaily BIZ: SIG: Game Rankings Don't Matter

GameDaily BIZ: SIG: Game Rankings Don't Matter:
'After going through multiple scenarios, we believe a game rating, in most cases, is not a reliable tool for predicting game sales,' they said. 'There are isolated examples of strong correlation, but they are just that - isolated. We believe a naked game rating without context is largely useless. The more specific the comparison (controlling for as many variables as possible), the more likely a statistically significant correlation may exist. However, the more specific the sample, the less useful the hypothesis becomes.'


I always wondered about this. I suspect that with a little manipulation it is possible to show that game rankings do correlate to sales. Jason Hall went out on a limb and said he plans to tie Warner Bros. licensing fees to game review results.

But I've personally seen too many games with low ratings sell well and more often just the opposite - games that reviewers think are really cool and don't sell squat.

2006-09-19

Talk like a Pirate Programmer

Since today is Talk like a Pirate Day, I regurgitated this gem from the past:


If Pirates (the kind that sailed in ships) for some reason learned to program in C, would they growl "arg-vee, matey!"?

(I'm sorry, I think this is hilarious. You have to program in C to get it though.)


© 2005, 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-09-02

Mike Stanfill, Private Hand - Flash Animation - The Elements, by Tom Lehrer

Mike Stanfill, Private Hand - Flash Animation - The Elements, by Tom Lehrer

Singing Science Records

Singing Science Records

The innocence of these songs is amazing and inspiring and humbling.

The Rocketboom theme "Zoom A Little Zoom" is there, along with "Beep Beep", which was used in the Rocketboom staring contest that aired recently.

And "Scientific Fact" is simply wonderful. The Creationists should give it a listen - it's at their level.

Escapa!

Escapa!

A fun arcade-style puzzle game that is very simple and requires good reflexes.

2006-08-21

Fellowship of the Ring - HD vs DVD

Fellowship of the Ring - HD vs DVD

This excellent site has screen caps from Hi-Def that you can compare directly against their standard def versions.

Very nice!

It's not enough to make me want to get Hi-Def, because I'm not normally sitting 12 inches from the screen, as I am when I'm web browsing.

But it's good to know what I'll be missing for the next few years.

2006-08-17

Writely

I have just been added to the Writely beta. Writely was acquired by Google, so this ought to work with Blogger.

Writely is an online word processor.

One thing I've wanted to do is to insert pictures without having to write HTML.

Let's give that a shot.



Well, all I see is a little dot. Not sure if it worked.

There is integrated spelling checking - that's a good thing. You don't want to come across like George W. Bush in your Blog.

Now I'll try to post this...

Now here I am editing in Blogger. The picture dimensions were set to zero, so that's why it was a dot. The text was full of paragraph markers, which made it hard to edit in Blogger.

Now let's see how it looks.

Well, it looks okay, but this first test tells me that it is still easier just to type in HTML, especially since Blogger automatically handles paragraph marks.

I will experiment further. Writely is good for other things than just blog editing - you can upload Word documents and then people can edit them simultaneously! That could be good. I'm not sure it's a replacement for Word, but then, I don't think it is supposed to be ... yet.

2006-08-10

Johnny Depp / Captain Jack Sparrow

HD Videos - MOUSEGEEKS.COM-Forums

Speaking of Disney fan videos, here's a site where they are posting hi-def videos. These are pretty good on the Disney fan scale!

The Pirates one is particularly good, in spite of long sequences of nearly black video. If you've heard the buzz about the great new Johny Depp / Captain Jack Sparrow Audioanimatric, and want to see it, then this is the video to watch.

The motion of the "AA" is really great! The big breakthrough in AA motion has been to have "muscles" on both sides of the joints. This allows one muscle to move a bone very quickly in one direction, and then the second muscle is used to stop the motion.

The same technology is used in the giant Yeti at Expedition Everest. I've seen videos of that ride, but none of them have had a good capture of this giant AA.

2006-08-09

Low Res

Is Copying a Crime? Well… - Los Angeles Times:
"'Me and my parents used to download music for free,' said Collins, who lives in Bloomington, Minn. 'But we decided it was like stealing from musicians. So I don't take stolen music from friends, either.'

But later that year, when Collins met a girl he liked, he made her a CD filled with songs by Linkin Park, Blue Man Group and Eiffel 65. Why was his CD OK, while his friends' were verboten? Because Collins paid for his music in the first place, he said.

'I think you're allowed to make, like, two or three copies of a CD you bought and give them to friends,' said Collins. 'It's only once you make five copies, or copy a CD of stolen music, that it's illegal.'

Actually, attorneys say, copying a purchased CD for even one friend violates the federal copyright code most of the time.

But Collins' attitude — that copying purchased CDs or DVDs is legal, while copying stolen music or movies is a crime — is pervasive among young people ages 12 to 24, according to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll."


Ah, the mix tape for a girlfriend. Wasn't there an entire movie about that? I think it was High Fidelity.

I've heard that copying CDs and DVDs is a far bigger problem than illegally downloaded music.

Of course, sharing (loaning) the actual CD or DVD is completely legal. (And if your friend makes a copy, that's illegal. But you can make an archive copy, which is legal. It's rather confusing, don't you think?)

I would think that Collins has the impression that he can make copies for friends because iTunes and other services allow you to make multiple CDs of the music you have purchased. Why else would you make lots of copies unless it was to share with your friends?

My view is that the RIAA and MPAA need to agree that sharing low-res music and video is fine. The definition of what constitutes low-res would be an issue, but what the RIAA and just about everyone needs is the "free sample" system that FM radio provides. FM was never as good as an album but it was terrific for spreading the word about artists.

Now, file sharing could be used the same way. This would be a cultural shift, for sure, for sure, but clearly iTunes has introduced a cultural shift in the way people purchase music. Some new format, a minor derivative of MP3 or WMA, would need to be created. The reason for that is people imply rights from the file extension. People, in my experience, "get" that a WMA or AAC file was probably bought online, and obeys different rules, whereas an MP3 file means "give away freely". It doesn't really mean that, but that's what people think.

So some new extension like "SHR", which contained a bit stream with a maximum bit rate of 48k or 64k, would mean, "Share with your friends." The internal tags could say where to buy the higher res version. Likewise a similar video version based on DivX but with some cap on the bit rate.

This would use the file sharing, email sharing, IM sharing, Internet Radio, and even CD sharing phenomena to spread cool music, while enforcing the idea that if you want to cool high-res version, you need to pay for it.

What do you think? Should the RIAA and MPAA encourage low-res file sharing?

2006-08-08

Battlezone in 32 hrs

Battlezone in 32 hrs:
"Bill Witts wrote this as his first non-trivial Java program back in 1996 as a challenge to write BattleZone, the once well-known Atari arcade game, in 24 hours. In the end, it took 32 hours. Bill wrote the original Atari-approved Quicksilva BattleZone game for the Sinclair ZX Spectrum back in 1983-84, and it took perhaps 15 months in total, so this is a quite favorable comparison of Java versus Z80 machine code (although it helps that your computer is probably 2-3 orders of magnitude faster than a Spectrum...)."


The ancient arcade game BattleZone playable through a web browser.

I like that "it helps that your computer is 2-3 orders of magnitude faster than a Spectrum...". Probably more than 1000 times faster, actually.

Email? Phone? IM?

TheIndyChannel.com - Money - How About An E-Mail On That?:
"Cell phone users spend lots of time talking into their devices, but they generally communicate with very few people. Just how few? Would you believe four?

It's one of the surprising recent findings of a study carried out in Switzerland. In the last few years our communication environment has been expanding at a very fast pace. The lone fixed-line telephone has given way to multiple fixed and mobile phones, e-mail, instant messaging [IM], text messaging, voice-over-Internet-protocol [VoIP] free [or near-free] telephony and videoconferencing, and other interactive channels such as blogs and wikis."


Along time ago, I once got, ah, really mad at someone, who is a good guy, actually, but what he did was send an email to a whole bunch of people that I thought should have gone to just a few people.

I gave a big lecture to the staff about thinking hard about which communication channel you use should depend on what you are trying to communicate. Always think - is this best as a phone call? In person? Email? Now we have IM and SMS and the little used MMS as choices too.

Or you can communicate with someone by writing about them in your blog. And they can communicate with you by posting to your comments section. Sometimes, you're writing in your blog about generalized software engineering practices and someone takes it as a personal insult. This shows up in the comments, sometimes.

Another communication choice is to communicate with someone only through your lawyer or some other intermediary.

It's a big confusing landscape of choices but making the right communications medium choice can have a big impact on your message. "The Medium is the Message" is half right or even 3/4s right - but you still need an actual message. A television just displaying static doesn't say much at all. The X-Files on TV was really good. The X-Files movie, made by the same people, was not so good.

This is something Scott Wallin kept hammering into me when we were talking about virtual worlds. I wanted to do something pretty realistic but his view, which was correct at the time, was that the medium didn't support it, and that the virtual world design had better be very stylized, because realistic wouldn't look realistic at all. His specific example at the time was Lara Croft - if she had been properly proportioned she would have looked strange, because of the limitations of the 3D medium. I guess the same is true of Barbie dolls - yes, the proportions are crazy, but, ah, guess what? They're dolls, not real people!

I was watching The Island on TiVo last night with my kids and so we just skipped ahead to the action sequences, which are great. But my 11 year old son said, "Hey, this is just like a cartoon!" And he was right. The violence was crazy-over-the-top and would fit right into a cartoon without trouble.

Speaking of TiVo, ours was crapping out, and WeaKnees said the most likely trouble was a bad hard drive. So I ordered a replacement and managed to get it installed in about 1/2 hour. So far things are great, plus we have 120 hours more recording time than we had before.

The next day I upgraded the MoBo, RAM, and processor on my wife's PC. That took about 9 hours. Eight of those hours was reinstalled Windows, which took out SP2, and then reinstalling SP2. I am pleased to say though, that I did not have to resort to a clean install.

Speaking of PCs, HD-DVD is supported by most of the PC companies. It's compatible with DVD and CD and it's cheaper both for the drive and manufacturing disks. Fully 1/2 the market for DVD drives is in PCs now. The argument that Blu-Ray will win because of PS3 is not a compelling argument.

Neither HD-DVD or Blu-Ray are selling - some people say that neither will take off until multi-players come out. Which would be another reason to avoid PS3 - it won't be a multiplayer.

More likely is that Blu-Ray will be the format used to distribute PS3 games and for little else. This would be consistent with any other format which Sony has tried to introduce and get broad industry support.

Over and out.

2006-08-02

More fun with times and dates

From a colleague at work:

Next week, on Monday, August 7, 2006 at four minutes and three seconds past five in the morning, time and date will be:

08/07/06, 05:04:03


We'll have to wait until next year for 867-5309.


© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-08-01

Microsoft Live Labs: Photosynth - Video

http://labs.live.com/photosynth/video.html

This one's better - it's a demo and doesn't blather on about Live Labs so much.

Something brilliant from Microsoft!

They have developed software that stitches together photographs, automatically, into larger 3D scenes that you can move around within.

It's kind of like the Panarama tool in Photoshop, ah, except, ah, more.

There's a video at the site. The video spends half of its time promoting promoting Microsoft's Live Labs, which sounds like a great thing, and far better than the bureacratic pile of shit way they do most things.

Check it out.

There may be hope for Microsoft after all.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-07-30

Screw up ...

Major screwup at Airbus - BusinessWeek Online - MSNBC.com:
Fear factor: Yet others say the situation is no surprise, because Airbus's corporate culture openly discourages employees from alerting managers to potential problems. 'If you tell them bad news, they simply don't listen,' says Andrew Walker, a former top engineer at the factory in Broughton, Wales, where the A380's wings are built. 'No one dares tell a high executive that something isn't possible, because he risks losing his job,' says a local union leader at the Toulouse factory who asked for anonymity.


*Sigh*. I've been there.

Me: "We have a big problem."

Them: "Shut up and quit being so negative."

*Sigh*.

One great thing about listenig to people's work-related problems all day is that sometimes you notice a pattern that wouldn't otherwise be apparent.

And then you can fix it!

Or sometimes you notice a way to fix about five problems at once!

Efficiency! Cool!

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Leet

LearnLeetspeak.com - Leetspeak to English Translator

th12 12 PREtTY |_|5ef|_|L Ph0r Reg|_|lAr pE0Ple l1kE |\/|eH th@ r |\|0t E><peRT2 0|\| lEeT-5PEek.

2006-07-19

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Aged 51 1/2

The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, Aged 51 1/2:
So every once in a while, usually when I've smoked a little too much weed and I'm feeling kind of malicious, I like to crank call old Agent Sculley and just frig with his head. I'll call him at like 3 in the morning and ask him if he's got Prince Albert in a can, or I'll tell him I'm a telemarketer raising money for the Unemployed CEO Foundation, or I'll do the one where I pretend I work for the phone company and I'm down at the end of his street and please don't pick up the phone cause if you do I'll get shocked, then I call back and when he picks up I scream like I'm being shocked and I go, 'Ow! Ow! Ouch! Hey! Bzzzzzt! Bzzzzzt! Hey! I told you not to pick up the phoooooone!!! G-g-g-g-g-g ... aaaaaaaarghhhhh!!!'


This is funny as well, shit. It's a fake diary/blog by Steve Jobs. It is PFF.

Hmm. That gives me an idea ...

2006-07-18

GameDaily BIZ: MS: Blu-ray Disc Difficult to Manufacture

GameDaily BIZ: MS: Blu-ray Disc Difficult to Manufacture:
Majidimehr noted that Blu-ray discs are more like 'open-face sandwiches' and he said that because the bits are close to the surface 'scratching can become a big problem.' He continued, 'So when Sony and others first introduced Blu-ray in Japan they put it in a cartridge to protect it, and of course nobody wants a cartridge around their discs... so then they went through a long process of trying to figure out how to protect that layer and they've come up with different surface material to try and provide that protection, but as you try to coat the disc with a protective layer you also contaminate it so that reduces yields and the number of good discs you can get out of a production run.'


I read somewhere (I wish I had posted this - or maybe I did!) a list of formats that Sony has tried to introduce - and every single one was a failure in the marketplace.

That doesn't bode well for Blu-Ray.

2006-07-17

All of Walt Disney World on DVD

Relive The Magic - Welcome!

I ordered this set of DVDs - 17 when I ordered it - but now I think it is 18 DVDs.

I have to say ... it's horrible.

It's shot by a kid walking around WDW with a camcorder on his shoulder - and he holds it at an angle the whole time.

I searched around for a review of the DVD set before I ordered it and I could find one - so I decided to go for it.

It was rather disappointing.

Fortunately, I bought it from the LaughingPlace.com store, and they refunded my money without any questions!

They told me some people like it because it has stuff that you can't get anywhere else. Well, you might like it too, but watching a kid walk around at an odd angle was too much for me.

You know - all you Disney videographers out there - learn to hold the camera still sometimes! Also, unless you have a soundtrack you need to keep going, it's often better to pause, change the view, and then start again. It's much less jaring than all that zooming in and out and swinging around.

(Note: 7/17/2006 - it's on sale for $50.00! That's great for 18 disks. If you're super diehard you might want to get it. But seriously, unless you are super-diehard, it will rip your eyeballs out.)

Great Hackers

Great Hackers:
When you decide what infrastructure to use for a project, you're not just making a technical decision. You're also making a social decision, and this may be the more important of the two. For example, if your company wants to write some software, it might seem a prudent choice to write it in Java. But when you choose a language, you're also choosing a community. The programmers you'll be able to hire to work on a Java project won't be as smart as the ones you could get to work on a project written in Python. And the quality of your hackers probably matters more than the language you choose. Though, frankly, the fact that good hackers prefer Python to Java should tell you something about the relative merits of those languages.


There are too many great paragraphs in this article for me to quote them all. You really should read it.

I'm not sure I agree with everything 100% but it would be pretty dang close.

The Internet is a Series of Tubes Song

www.myspace.com/tedstevensfanclub

This is a song a guy wrote made from Senator Ted Stevens' comments the other day that the "Internet is a series of tubes." The funny thing is that it stopped playing for me half way through because some of those internet tubes got clogged.

Space shuttle returns safely to Earth - World - Times Online

Space shuttle returns safely to Earth - World - Times Online:
Discovery touched down safely in Florida this afternoon, marking the revival of Nasa's manned spaceflight programme after three years tinged by disaster and persistent doubts about the safety of its shuttle fleet.

After 13 days in space and a journey of 5.3 million miles (8.53 million kilometres), the space shuttle's tyres hit the runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral at 9.14am local time (2.14pm BST) to be greeted by Mission Control: 'Welcome back Discovery and congratulations on a great mission.'


I'm certainly happy the astronauts made it safely back to Earth - but one successful space trip does not a successful shuttle design make. After all, there were 100 successful trips interleaved with the other two tragic shuttle missions.

Hopefully (but I doubt it) NASA will continue to be super-careful and go through all of these examinations with the same thoroughness after every flight.

2006-07-12

One Laptop Per Child

IEEE-USA Today's Engineer - One Laptop Per Child

An article by Mary Lou Jepsen who is driving the effort to make the $100 laptop. The display itself is pretty amazing:

The display I've devised: a 7.5" diagonal 1200x900 pixel display. That's higher resolution than 95 percent of the laptops that ship today. It's 200 dots per inch (dpi). It has a sunlight readable, and room-light readable mode — these in black and white. Our target: a display as readable as a newspaper with the backlight off. Then, when the backlight is turned on — the display becomes color — color resolution is ~800x600 color, and in some of our designs we can achieve 1024x768 color at very low power consumption. The entire display consumes about 1W with the backlight on, and about 0.2W with the backlight off. This at $40 instead of the usual $130 for a regular laptop display which consume ~7X the power of our display and is not sunlight readable.

2006-07-10

Taking sex from films violates copyright laws

Taking sex from films violates copyright laws - MSNBC.com:
SALT LAKE CITY - Sanitizing movies on DVD or VHS tape violates federal copyright laws, and several companies that scrub films must turn over their inventory to Hollywood studios, an appeals judge ruled.

Editing movies to delete objectionable language, sex and violence is an 'illegitimate business' that hurts Hollywood studios and directors who own the movie rights, said U.S District Judge Richard P. Matsch in a decision released Thursday in Denver.

2006-07-04

Happy Fourth of July!

When I was a wee-lad (age 16-18) I went to Disneyland every weekend to watch the amazing Rod Miller play the piano at Coke Corner. Then each weeknight I taught myself to play ragtime by slowing down a player piano and looking at the notes. Between watching Rod play (upside down, usually, from the top of the piano) and practicing at home a couple of hours a night, I learned to play. It took a couple of years before it sounded like music but since I had nothing else to do in my latter years of high school it was fun.

I have posted a ragtime medley by me of "The Stars and Strips Forever / God Bless America" at my web site:

Stars and Stripes Forever / God Bless America

It's about half the speed that Rod can play it.

Happy Fourth of July!

-- Stephen

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-06-28

One Minute Movie

One Minute Movies Winner

This is a short (well, one minute!) film about eggs that are about to be eaten.

This is something that couldn't have been done before digital media. I guess it could have been done as a film school assignment, but not as something with this kind of reach.

2006-06-20

Guild Wars sells 2 million - PC News at GameSpot

Guild Wars sells 2 million - PC News at GameSpot:
'ArenaNet continues to take chances in both game design and business model, and it's great to have the fans respond so enthusiastically right out of the gate with Guild Wars Factions,' said Patrick Wyatt, cofounder of ArenaNet.


Woot!

2006-06-17

ABC News: NASA, Despite Dissent, Sets Shuttle Date

ABC News: NASA, Despite Dissent, Sets Shuttle Date:
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. Jun 17, 2006 (AP)� NASA managers on Saturday picked July 1 to launch the first space shuttle in almost a year, despite recommendations against a liftoff attempt by the space agency's chief engineer and safety offices.

The decision to launch Discovery on a trip to the international space station was made after two days of meetings by NASA's top managers and engineers at the Kennedy Space Center. The flight would be only the second shuttle mission since the Columbia disaster in 2003.

During a poll of top managers, representatives from NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance and the Office of the Chief Engineer recommended against flying until further design changes are made to the external fuel tank. Despite their recommendations, the dissenting managers didn't object to making a launch, NASA officials said.


This is the kind of crap that happens when CEOs and "top managers" don't fucking listen to the underlings.

Both times that the shuttle blew up, it took off with people on the ground who knew about the problems.

If you're managing any kind of technology at all, it is highly likely that the 'underlings' know more about their job than you do. Especially where the technology is really complex and integrates a lot of different skills.

What really pisses me off is when the "managers" ignore the "specialists" accusing them of "analysis paralysis" and then have the balls to blame those same specialists when things don't work out.

Because you can't bet that a manager who doesn't listen probably has a highly evolved blame-avoidness system. And you can bet it will be called into action when the shit hits the fan.

2006-06-16

Joel on Software - Bill Gates Reviews Joel's Excel Spec

Joel on Software:
Watching non-programmers trying to run software companies is like watching someone who doesn't know how to surf trying to surf.

"It's ok! I have great advisors standing on the shore telling me what to do!" they say, and then fall off the board, again and again.


Joel on Software ... he says it all for me.

2006-06-14

Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power - New York Times

Hiding in Plain Sight, Google Seeks More Power - New York Times:
"The rate at which the Google computing system has grown is as remarkable as its size. In March 2001, when the company was serving about 70 million Web pages daily, it had 8,000 computers, according to a Microsoft researcher granted anonymity to talk about a detailed tour he was given at one of Google's Silicon Valley computing centers. By 2003 the number had grown to 100,000.

Today even the closest Google watchers have lost precise count of how big the system is. The best guess is that Google now has more than 450,000 servers spread over at least 25 locations around the world. The company has major operations in Ireland, and a big computing center has recently been completed in Atlanta. Connecting these centers is a high-capacity fiber optic network that the company has assembled over the last few years."


This is so awesome. And now, my favorite joke (or perhaps amusing insight is a better term) that I myself made up.

Suppose that Google, with its enormous network of computers, becomes, as many suspect it will, the origin of the global computer brain, known as SkyNet from The Terminator series of movies.

Now this new computer network intelligence would get all of its knowledge by surfing the web which now includes video clips, audio clips, newspapers clips from around the world, 50 million blogs, and most importantly, a huge collection of porn of all imaginable kinds.

I shudder to think what conclusions about humanity such a computer would draw.

Although I suspect those conclusions would be pretty accurate...

© Stephen Clarke-Willson, 2006 - All Rights Reserved

2006-06-07

Where do bad games come from?

Servant of Two Masters #4: That Game Sucks!!
It’s like these people think that all bad games are the result of the people who make them not knowing or caring about what they are doing. While this is surely the case in some instances, it isn’t always how it goes down. I’ve been involved with or have watched other games that were on a track to possibly be a good game, slowly get churned into a giant steaming piece of crap through no fault of the people directly working on it. Developers, for the most part, all want to make a great game and will work themselves to death to get it done. But sometimes no matter how hard you work, someone more powerful than you is going to come in and stick their d!^* in your peanut butter.

...
And fortunately or unfortunately, the customer is always right. That means that no matter how bad I think an idea is. That means no matter how unreasonable the request or how STUPID the last thing they said was, in the end they write the check, so they get to decide. I can voice my opinion. I can tell them what I think because that’s what they are paying me for, but ultimately, if they decide that something must be in the game…then you can bet your sweet ass it’s gonna be in the game.


I think, in general, the publisher gets the game that matches (1) what they were willing to pay for it and (2) what they tell the developer to make.

Obviously there are exceptions - in spite of the best efforts of the publisher to turn a game into "a giant steaming pile of crap" sometimes it comes out okay. It's these rare instances that inspire independent development houses to try, try again.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-05-31

Ode to Maya

(Imagine rap beat in the background.)


Maya is my bitch
She does just what I say
I say connect this node to that
And then she renders all the way

Sometimes I scrub the slider
slide it forward and then back
Make my character jack off
and do all this and that

I can build me worlds
Export them right away
Watch them run on Pee ess pee
Then fuck that bitch

BECAUSE
she'll
fuck
me!

I've got my world set
I've got my timing down
I've got my world working
And then it all GOES DOWN

My work is gone like that
No backup done for me
I have a deadline looming
Must recreate from memory

Try to save more often
Extend my micro-drive
Because if I don't save my self
This game ain't going live

I love that Maya bitch
'Cause I control her nodes
But dammit if that bitch
Won't
Fuck
Me
Up.
And make me prematurely old.


© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-05-23

Lost was lost but now has home


UBISOFT AND TOUCHSTONE TEAM UP TO CREATE “LOST” VIDEO GAME

Interactive Game Based on ABC’s Emmy Award-Winning Hit Series to Debut in 2007

Paris, FRANCE – May 22, 2006 – Today Ubisoft, one of the world’s largest video game publishers, announced a long-term worldwide licensing agreement with Touchstone Television to develop and publish a video game based on the Emmy Award-winning television series ‘Lost.’ Developed by Ubisoft’s award-winning MontrĂ©al studio and scheduled to hit retail shelves worldwide in 2007, the game will be offered for home and portable consoles as well as PCs.

2006-05-18

EALA's Neil Young

GameDaily BIZ: Interview: EALA's Neil Young:
"BIZ: So let's talk a bit about the quality of life issue. Ever since the whole EA Spouse blog post EA has been criticized for quality of life issues. Recently, however, the company settled with its former employees and I hear now that you've really cut back crunch time with something called '5 great days.' Can you talk about how this was enabled and what it means for the workers?

NY: Well the basic underlying idea sort of stems back to that concept of creating intellectual property. Right, so crunch, managed crunch if you like, is built around maximizing execution productivity. And what you really want to do, is you want to maximize creative productivity. You want to create the type of environment where people have the best ideas, you know the first time, instead of a mediocre idea because they're tired and they then have to iterate 9 or 10 times to an OK idea. All of this, '5 great days,' is really just one system with a catchy name. But the whole idea is let's take, in the case of the studio in Los Angeles, which is the studio I run, let's completely rewire the culture. And if you believe that the work is a product of the culture, then the question to ask yourself is, 'What are the things that we need to change in order to deliver a culture that can consistently produce great work?'

And that's about the tone that the management team sets, the talent that you have in your organization and how you work with that talent and how you treat that talent, and you know, the practices that you have in place to be able to move those creative ideas through your organization. And so, really, speaking for Los Angeles, that's really what we've been focused on and I think over the course of the next few years you'll see the results of that and I can tell you that."


Neil Young used to 'work for me' at Virgin. I put 'work for me' in quotes because people like Neil Young and Dave Perry don't really ever 'work for you'. They are genuine self-starters and so the best idea is to create an environment where they can work and then let them go. I also believe in the inverted pyramid view of management - management exists to provide services to the people that do all the work. So in a way it's more accurate to say I worked for Neil and Dave and everyone else in development at Virgin Interactive. In fact, I had the view that Virgin Interactive provided a publishing service to developers. This is definitely in contrast to how most publishers view developers. Most publishers feel that developers are the ones providing the service, which makes sense, since that is the way the cash flows. But I digress.

One thing that Neil did that I really admired was the game Majestic. It was a flop commercially but I was really impressed the way that Neil went out on a limb creatively and technically with that game. I think that modern cell phones have matured to the point where the entire game (which had streaming video and phone numbers you dialed and got clues and things like that) could be played on just the phone. All of the browsing and video and obviously the phone calls could be done by cell phone. The fax portion of Majestic could be converted to text messaging. I think it would be cool if someone resurrected the assets for that game and made it work on modern fancy cell phones.

One thing about Majestic was that it did a pretty good job of making a fake world integrate with the real world, sort of the way Lost (the TV show) is doing with the Hanso Foundation.

On 9/11, 2001, I awoke to find an email in my inbox that one of the World Trade Center towers was on fire. Later I got another email about the second tower being on fire. As I was a beta tester for Majestic I thought these emails were part of the game! Later I received another email about the first tower collapsing and I paid more attention and I realized that these messages were from the alert service I subscribed to from the NY Times. Like everyone else, I instantly ran down and watched the disaster on TV all day.

However, the impact of thinking that the horrible events of 9/11 were fictitious was pretty astounding. (After all, who could have imagined it happening in real life?)

Anyway, I think Neil is really having a positive impact on EALA, which has to be one of the most difficult assignments in the world. Hollywood doesn't 'get' games in general (Spielberg might be an exception) and hiring people who have worked on visual effects to work on games is highly problematic, which is going to be the likely situation if you're located so close to Hollywood. On the other hand if you can integrate with the schizoid Hollywood environment (for instance, by clever use of contracting, which is fairly normal there), you can get a pretty good development engine going.

So good luck to Neil and EALA.


© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-05-04

Security Now!

We've been beefing up security around the house recently. For instance, we now have a double-firewall with the Wi-Fi stuck in no-man's land.

One cool thing is that Wi-Fi web cams are really cheap now. There are even outdoor ones. And there are see-in-the-dark infrared web cams too. So it is pretty easy to surround your home with web cams that record that last few days activity to a hard drive.

Pretty sweet.

I mentioned the double-firewall idea to a friend, because I wasn't sure it would really work very well, and he pointed me to the Security Now! Podcasts by Steve Gibson. These come out once a week and are pretty good! A lot of the stuff I already knew but it was nice to get a refresher course. I've listened to all of them now - I think there are about 37 of them available as I write this.

I really like the iTunes Podcast interface. There are some great Lost TV Show Podcasts, including the official podcast from the show producers.

Speaking of Lost, last night was a bit of a surprise, eh?

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-04-24

Griptonite's Next Game

Pirate Babys Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 - Google Video: "Paul Robertson's Pirate Baby's Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006 is a masterpiece ... all » animation based on the graphic look and feel of platform handhelds. A kind of machinima recursion; where animations inspired by games have inspired animations."

2006-04-22

Marketing?

It seems to me there are two views of marketing organizations. One view is that they exist to package and market whatever they are given and make it as successful as possible.

The other view is that they are supposed to be in touch with the market and therefore their input and even complete specification of what a product should be is considered paramount.

Either way, someone has to decide which products are made and for whom.

Sometimes, in smaller companies, that person is the founder(s).

Frequently (and certainly during the dot-com bubble) many product ideas were brought forth for which there was no market at all. Or a market existed for a free product but not a product that people would pay for.

Ultimately it is up to the person or organization that chooses which products to make to take credit for the success or failure of an enterprise.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-04-20

The Family that Slays Together ...

Far-Flung Families Unite in Cyberspace -- And Kill Monsters

Guild Wars is featured in this Washington Post article about MMOs and CyberSpace.

At our house, when I have time, four of us get together on our computers, log in to Guild Wars, which does not have a monthly subscription fee (which makes it a lot more family-friendly!), and using TeamSpeak coordinate our activities.

"The family that slays together, stays together."

It's a boatload of fun.

(C) 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

"The family that slays together, stays together." is a trademark of Stephen Clarke-Willson. Ah no, it isn't. A simple Google search shows that it isn't original at all. Oh well.

2006-04-15

Undercapitalize

Undercapitalize. The American Heritage� Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.


TRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: un·der·cap·i·tal·ized, un·der·cap·i·tal·iz·ing, un·der·cap·i·tal·iz·es

To supply (a business or government, for example) with so little capital that operations are hindered.


I think that talking about whether a business is undercapitalized is probably one of the most emotional things a person could do. Why? Because talking about money is always emotional and talking about whether a business is undercapitalized is highly subjective.

It's certainly one of the best excuses for failure one can have. "We just never had the money to do what we needed to do to succeed in that market." Maybe, maybe not! Maybe you just weren't clever enough with the money you had. That was certainly true of so many of the dot com companies. They had money and no brains.

So, undercapitalized and incompetent are pretty hard to differentiate. (Of course, you could be undercapitalized, and not think so, in which case you are undercapitalized and incompetent, but thinking about that makes my head hurt.)

It's an important question that VC people have to ask all the time - do we pump more money into this venture, because this is a rocket that is waiting to take off, and it just needs more fuel? Or is this a rock that won't launch no matter how much fuel we burn?

Ultimately it's a judgement call. And a difficult one at that.

2006-04-12

Blue Ball Machine

Game company executives who spend too much time reading my blog should stare at The Blue Ball Machine.

A colleague at work said, "Look at that guy. He's got a case of blue balls." See if you can find him in the picture.

You can also find animated tiles that connect, and find certain blue balls that work their way across the whole screen.

You know, I just can't get over the fact that the CEO of a game company felt the need to post here that everything is okay. It's as if my opinion matters, when it clearly doesn't.

Here's a story:

About eight months ago a couple of guys emailed me to find out if there is a huge game industry wide blacklist administered by a huge publishing company. I told them, of course, that is ridiculous... Because everyone knows I am the one that controls the industry wide blacklist. I assured them they were not on it.

The way the list works is that someone will call me up and say, "Should I work with {person, company} so-and-so?" Of course, it would be legally imprudent to answer such a question. So, if I cough a certain way, that means the person is a loser.

One time I accidentally destroyed a person's career because I cleared my throat at the wrong time. (Sorry about that.) Another time someone didn't hear me cough because of a bad cell phone connection and someone that should have been drummed out of the industry became a vice president!

So, it's not a perfect system.

----

Now, I feel the need to explain that this is a story. It isn't true. Nobody has that kind of power, do they?

(c) 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved

2006-04-11

The Development Abstraction Layer - Joel on Software

The Development Abstraction Layer - Joel on Software: "Management's primary responsibility to create the illusion that a software company can be run by writing code, because that's what programmers do. And while it would be great to have programmers who are also great at sales, graphic design, system administration, and cooking, it's unrealistic. Like teaching a pig to sing, it wastes your time and it annoys the pig."

This is great. As a person who has created two reasonably large (not huge) software development organizations, I can tell you that what Joel says is true: the vast majority of people believe that organizations are they way they are because that's just the way they are. In fact, every organization is designed, either by default, in which case it is horrible, or by conscious design, where a productive supportive, almost invisible environment of productivity reigns.

Both of my organizations fell into disrepair after I left. That's because those that followed thought things were the way they were just because that's how things should naturally be. In fact, the development organization was something alive that needed to be fed and tuned and supported and gently reorganized as times changed. Without that care and feeding it spirals into a Dilbert comic strip.

I wish I knew how to make a software organization that would survive on its own but I don't. And I know some other successful "software organization architects" whose creations have fallen into disrepair.

As soon as the top-level management support beam that believes in nurturing and tuning and massaging the development organization is gone, the whole thing sinks.

What a bummer.

2006-04-03

Another cool date

This Wednesday, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 in the morning, the time and date will be ...

(drum roll please)

01:02:03, 04/05/06.

(See also 5/5/5 or 5/6/5 - and - Nine Nines!)

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-03-28

Old School

After all these years, someone finally asked me a question.

We were so spoiled at Virgin. (In a good way.) The poor schmucks working at most publicly held game publishing companies have nowhere near the freedom we had as a privately held company owned by a billionaire (Richard Branson). To be sure, the company was run with strict financial controls, which I liked quite a bit.

I used to present these incredibly detailed budget plans to Robert Deveraux, who was in charge of the Virgin publishing section of the Virgin Group, and which included us. He'd generally approve them in 24 hours. He once said I was the best manager in the Virgin Group. People asked me why he approved my requests - sometimes for significant sums of money - so quickly. My answer was of course that I presented well thought out plans... which was true.

I learned about budgeting from my wife. Without years of practice tracking our cash outlays, generally down to the penny, I would not have had the experience to produce such detailed budget plans. On a trip to Walt Disney World around 1990, I kept track of every penny. I showed my spreadsheet to David Bishop, who wanted to know how much it would cost to go to Walt Disney World, and who saw that I had noted the price of a two-pack of Tums for $0.27. The funny thing is that I thought there was nothing special about that level of detail!

Ah, the good old days ...

2006-03-26

Cheap shot?


View MicroPoll
Online Survey

The small number of votes is proof positive that hardly anyone visits here. Or at least people that do visit don't do online polls.

Satire is an interesting thing. For instance, this golf poll is only funny within a certain context.

Another example is a posting I made of a partial listing of books by Michael Waite on teaching Christian values to children. Why would anyone take offense at some free advertising? And yet someone did. I find that strange. Mostly likely, that list, when presented in a different context, is hilarious beyond belief.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-03-20

The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites

The Surprising Truth About Ugly Websites

I always thought a flash-heavy web site was a bit of a waste of effort. It just slows a person down. First the download takes time, second just figuring out how to navigate the site takes time, and finally, ... sometimes getting Flash installed takes time.

2006-03-16

Light Sabre

I continue to rethink the nature of this site. Most likely I will fork off (that's Unix talk) several sister-sites. I am getting pissed enough I might even start writing about politics!

In the meantime, this is a great Star Wars fan video:

Your Father's Light Sabre

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

2006-03-03

Pandora

Check out this radio station I created:

http://www.pandora.com/?sc=sh15928173

or this one that Andrew Berg created:

http://www.pandora.com/?sc=sh12424850


Both were created with Pandora, the worldest greatest internet radio station.

Pandora uses the database from the Music Genome Project to find music that you will like!

Interestingly, I'd been thinking recently about the tune "Green Onions" by Booker T and the M.G.s, and wondering where I would find more music like that.

Andrew told me about Pandora, so I created a station based on that one tune, and then dug listening to similar music for an hour!

I used to do this sort of thing with Music Match Radio, which tries to do the same thing, but not as well, and plus it costs a little $$ to get decent quality.

The music quality at Pandora, by the way, is excellent.

And the UI, built entirely in a web browser, is excellent.

And the accessability is excellent - it's so easy to get started.

Two big "thumbs up"* for Pandora.

© 2006 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

*I think "Two big thumbs up" might be a registered trademark of Roger Ebert.

2006-01-14

Airsoft Tips - by Thomas

My son Thomas (age 10) wrote this and would like to share it with everyone:

These are tips on Airsoft safety.

A basic tip for safety: Do not do an airsoft game where you’re shooting each other. To make this a lot safer, wear some kind of eye protection because BB’s can hurt and do something really bad damage to your eye. If you do not want to feel any pain while you’re doing an airsoft battle, wear at least a jacket for armor. That should block the BB’s.

By the way, if you want a full auto airsoft gun, when you get onto the airsoft web site and you want to order one, look at the blue letters above a picture to see what kind it is.

By the way, when you’re ordering keep in mind you could have at least five more dollars because of shipping and handling. So look at the price tags and think about it before you click on the order button.

Look at letters next to a picture and you should find out stuff about a picture and what you could order.

Keep in mind that some Airsoft guns, in fact quite a few, you may have to cock every shot. If you don’t know quite what I just said means, it means that every time you shoot, you may have to cock. It’s not for all of them.

By the way, you may not want to order ones that cost $300 at max because if you look hard enough, you can find a full auto as well. If you find something called a gas-powered gun, it means you have to buy gas for it every time you run out. The benefit of this means that you can get semi-auto instead of cock, then shoot, cock, then shoot, you can just shoot, shoot, shoot, but it’s not full auto. Keep in mind that they can cost from $20 to $70.