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Journal: Three years after Steve died... 1

Journal by jcr

I don't think I've written this down anywhere before, so here's my story about the first time I had a face-to-face conversation with Steve Jobs.

I was working for Richard Kerris in Apple Worldwide Developer Relations, on a group called the SWAT team. I was the Cocoa expert on that team, and I had colleagues who had expertise in UNIX internals, Windows development, and the Metrowerks tools.

Our role was to help third-party developers bring their products to Mac OS X, whether they were coming from Windows, Solaris, Mac OS 9, etc. We would look over their code, and consult with them on how to go about porting and/or rewriting their products for the new platform.

I went to Fred Anderson's retirement party which was held at Cafe Macs in Building four of the Infinite Loop campus. I saw Steve there, and I went over to introduce myself. I said "Hi Steve, I'm John Randolph. You may or may not recognize my name, but I used to flame you from time to time before I worked here." He asked me "Why did you stop?" I told him "Well, I work here now, and I respect the chain of command."

At the time we had this conversation, there was a big fight going on between the foot-dragging laggards who wanted to keep using the old Mac Toolbox API (which had been cleaned up considerably and put into a framework we called "Carbon"), and those of us who wanted to get everyone using the NeXTStep-derived "Cocoa" frameworks,

At the previous WWDC, Steve had started the keynote with a bit of theater: a coffin had risen up through a trap door on the stage, in the midst of a cloud of dry ice fog. Steve had opened the coffin to show a big Mac OS 9 box, and he praised OS 9 in a eulogy, to make the point that Apple developers should consider it dead and gone.

So getting back to our conversation.. I told Steve what I was doing on Richard's team, and I said "I know that you can't do this politically, but I wish you could have another coffin on the stage at the next WWDC...." and he said: "With Carbon in it?"

He was grinning. At that point, I realized that I could quit worrying about where Apple's development environment was heading. Steve knew what we needed to do, and in the years that followed, Apple has kept the best of NeXT's technology, and let go of what we didn't need.

We miss you Steve, but we're doing fine. Thanks for the things you made happen.

-jcr

User Journal

Journal: CthulhuCoin! 2

Journal by rk

So this is a thing. It inspired me to write this:

Day 1: A "git clone git@github.com:thegreatoldone/offerings.git", "make -f makefile/unix" and I'm off generating Cthulhu Offerings cryptocoins!

Day 2: I managed to find a couple optimizations. It's almost as if the code is speaking to me! Also, switched to clang 5.1 and got an extra 8% performance boost with the LLVM toolchain. Awesome!

Day 4: My cryptocurrency generation is going quite well! I'm hoping to have enough to pay my tuition at Miskatonic University by the fall term.

Day 9: A quiet scraping noise seems to be coming from one of my hard drives. I should maybe have sprung for SSDs to save my coins.

Day 12: I awoke with a fever in the night, and the scraping noise has transformed into a frightful howling. Though the console monitor is off, strange non-Euclidean symbols reveal themselves from time to time on the screen. What it means I cannot say.

Day 17: My fever has broken, but I can no longer tolerate the sound from my compute cluster. I have pried the cover off to diagnose the problem, and the drive array is not in there. There is only a horrific eldritch non-emptiness that sears my very soul.

Day 22: Turning, turning, falling falling, Oh! How you speak! It is so...

Day 26: vvvvvvvvvvvmggggngl;l;;m122222

NO CARRIER

User Journal

Journal: The tragedy of brain-dead apparatchiki entrusted with the care of children. 6

Journal by jcr

Earlier today, I read an account of a little girl getting a severe sunburn while on a school field trip, because of an unconscionable policy prohibiting children from possessing sunscreen while at school or on school activities. I looked up the name of the spokesman who had the nerve to try to defend this policy to the press, and wrote her the following e-mail:

Miss Chancellor, you and the pinheads you serve in the Northeast Indecent School District are a tragic example of the kind of abject incompetence that pervades American public schools in the past several decades.

I would urge you to resign and pursue employment in the janitorial services industry, but youâ(TM)re obviously too goddamned stupid to be trusted with cleaning supplies.

-jcr

Well, it would appear that Miss Chancellor was offended by my criticism, and she replied thusly:

Your comments do not warrant an intelligent response. Clearly - you do not have all the facts.

Now, it's rather unusual for an apparatchik in a shitstorm to bother to respond to any of the angry e-mails they get, so naturally I have replied:

On Jun 6, 2014, at 10:26 AM, Chancellor, Aubrey wrote:

>Your comments do not warrant an intelligent response.

Since youâ(TM)re entirely incapable of an intelligent response, that just works out fine and dandy now, doesnâ(TM)t it?

>Clearly - you do not have all the facts.

The fact is that when you screw up like this, the thing to do is apologize and promise the parents, the child, and the rest of the community that it will never happen again. You donâ(TM)t double down on your idiotic policy of depriving children of sunscreen.

When children are entrusted to you by their parents, your paramount duty is to ensure their safety and well being. it is NOT to sacrifice their welfare to your psychotic need for obedience.

-jcr

More on this as it develops. Start the popcorn.

User Journal

Journal: 2+ port router+asterisk server? 14

Journal by drinkypoo

I need a new system on which to run asterisk, bonus points if I don't have to configure it from scratch. I'd like to spend less than $200 (ideally I'd pick up something used if necessary for $100) but I have storage devices available, whether CF, SD, USB, or what have you. It can have wireless, but it doesn't have to because I have a routerboard for that. I have found my pogoplugs to be unreliable at best.

User Journal

Journal: Throwing in the towel on Facebook. 7

Journal by jcr

Last post to FB:

In the time since I created this Facebook account in 2006, I found a bunch of old friends, met many new ones, wasted a whole lot of time, had some arguments that never would have happened in real life, and been frequently annoyed by the business decisions FB has made.

This post will be my last. I will delete this account 48 hours from now. Those of you who want to keep in touch can reach me as always at jcr@mac.com, which I've had for at least a decade.

All's well that ends. I wish you all peace, love and happiness.

It feels like leaving high school. There are people there that I will always care about, some that I love, some that I barely know, some that I have no idea how I met in the first place or why they're in my FB friends list.

A very smart friend of mine is working on changing social media from a site and a vendor that sells the users' info to advertisers, into a protocol that would operate on a peer-to-peer basis, with strong security to ensure that what we write goes to those we wish, and no one else. I hope he succeeds, and I look forward to making a fair bit of cash shorting FB when the writing appears on the wall.

  I will thank my friends who worked on FB, and every user there who ever shared a heartwarming, interesting, inspiring, or even outrageous bit of information that I wouldn't have found otherwise. Congrats to all the FB millionaires and worker bees, I wish them all the best.

I'll still be NSResponder here on /., on StackOverflow and Twitter. The internet is still a lot bigger than Facebook, and I'll see you all around.

User Journal

Journal: Reflections on the last generation's console games

Journal by RogueyWon
We're now at the point, I think, where the Playstation 4 and Xbox One have ceased to be "next generation" consoles and become "current generation". Their predecessors aren't quite ready for retirement yet; the PS3, in particular, has a fairly impressive line-up of releases over the next few months, running all the way to Persona 5 early next year. But those late releases (and we did see a similar long-tail for the PS2 last time around) are outliers now; a by-product of the risk aversion which, following the terrible launches of the PS Vita and Wii-U, saw much of the industry assume that the PS4 and XB1 would fail even before their launches. With both consoles selling at an unprecedented rate, the focus of the industry will inevitably switch towards them.

And about time too. The previous console generation was the longest on record. If you take the longest possible metric - the launch of the Xbox 360 (Nov 2005) to the launch of the PS4 and XB1 (Nov 2013) - it was 8 years. Even if you say that the previous generation only really began properly with the launch of the PS3 (Nov 2006) it was 7 years.

But this isn't a post about the state of the console business. Rather, it's a reflection on some of the more curious aspects of the games lineup of the last-gen consoles. More specifically, it's a reflection on two particular aspects of those games; the newcomers that came out of nowhere and the no-shows.

Some of the major console gaming franchises behaved more or less as you would expect them to during the last generation. Stalwart series such as Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Mario, Zelda, Halo, Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil and God of War all put out major new installments in accordance with their developers' normal timescales (perhaps ever so slightly slower, reflecting the increasing development times needed for games). But a curiously large proportion of the biggest franchises in console gaming right now hadn't even been heard of (outside, perhaps, of the odd preview event) when the Xbox 360 first launched. The other curious category are those franchises which felt like major fixtures of the industry during the previous generation, which inexplicably failed to show up at all for the PS3, 360 or Wii.

The new entrants

Assassin's Creed - There have, to date, been six major installments in the Assassin's Creed series, plus a couple of handheld spin-offs and home-console ports of those console spin-offs. The sixth installment, as well as being released for the last-gen consoles (and PC, of course) was also a launch-window title for the PS4 and XB1. There is probably no franchise that has been milked more relentlessly over the course of the last console generation than this one. But it's easy to forget that this was a franchise that was born on that generation and which had a difficult genesis. An early-cycle game for the PS3 (Nov 2007), the original Assassin's Creed was an odd, awkward stealth game, noted at the time chiefly for its repetitive side-missions and finger-sprainingly awkward controls. It was only with the second game (November 2009), marketed more heavily and with the emphasis shifted towards open-world exploration, that the series gained a genuinely mainstream profile. Since then, the games have come at a rate of around one per year.

Dead Rising - Less prolific than Assassin's Creed in terms of main games, but nevertheless a franchise which, counting spin-offs and major DLC packs, has seen a large number of installments. The series has a curious on-off flirtation with Microsoft exclusivity. The first game, launching mid-2006, was a very early-cycle 360 exclusive. Its vast hordes of zombies served as a useful technological showcase for the new console's capabilities. The second game shed its exclusivity, releasing for PC, PS3 and 360. The third main installment in the series is an XB1 launch exclusive where - quel surprise - its vast hordes of zombies serve as a useful technological showcase for the new console's capabilities. Most people I know who've played this series have a love/hate relationship with it. They love the concept and the slightly surreal sense of humour, but hate many of the gameplay conventions (particularly the save-restrictions and the brutally unforgiving difficulty curve and time-limits).

Dead Space - Now here's a series that tends to divide opinion. It has seen three main installments over the last console generation (each releasing on PC, PS3 and 360), a lightgun rail-shooter for the Wii-U and PS3 (where it remains one of the few things worth buying a PS Move for) and a couple of dreadful downloadable puzzle games. The first game was criticised for being less horror-oriented than advertised and being at heart an action game. The second game was criticised for being less horror-oriented than advertised and being at heart an action game. The third game was criticised for being less horror-oriented than the first two installments and being at heart an action game. If you sense a pattern there, it's because the series has never really been what a lot of people wanted it to be, but memories of the older installments tend to mellow over time. The third game was also hamstrung by a pointless pay-to-win controversy (the microtransactions weren't even vaguely necessary to play the game, but put a lot of people off regardless) and allegedly suffered disappointing sales. The future of the series is uncertain at present (unlike most of the others I'm listing under this category).

Gears of War - An iconic Microsoft exclusive, every bit as linked to their platforms as Halo. This went through four major installments over the course of the last generation (though many people, self included, apparently skipped the final one - a prequel generally felt to be unnecessary). The original game, launched in November 2007, around a year after the launch of the 360, was graphically jaw-dropping compared to other console games available at the time. It's also easy to forget now just how many gameplay conventions that dominate modern shooters were pioneered by Gears of War. The cover mechanic - far more sophisciated than anything that has come before it - and the use of a single generic "action" button for many commands - have both inspired a generation of rip-offs (some of which, in fairness, have been quite good - such as Binary Domain). Some people object to the series's hypermasculine aesthetic, but I've always suspected a strong touch of parody to it.

Hyperdimension Neptunia - Oh I have such a love/hate relationship with this series. The first game, a mid-cycle PS3 exclusive launching in 2010, deserves to be counted as among the worst games of its generation. Pushing graphics that would have disgraced a PS1 game on at framerates that were generally in the single-figures and possessed of a fundamentally broken battle system, a non-existent plot and humour that failed to work on every level, it was utterly terrible. Inexplicably, it got a sequel. And the sequel was a bit better. And then it got another sequel, which was significantly better. And then it got an anime-spinoff, which was genuinely amusing and actually pretty good in a braindead sort of way. And then it started getting hand-held spinoffs and remakes. And, for some reason, I keep buying them. And horribly, with the exception of the first game, I actually quite enjoy them. Yeah...

Mass Effect - Originally a 360 exclusive, this was one of the most exciting early-cycle titles. A swashbuckling sci-fi adventure from Bioware, based on their own IP, it was always inevitable that sequels would follow. A confident, ethically nuanced second game boded well. But then the third game happened. With its combination of clunky exposition, magical deus ex machinas and probably the worst ending ever written, it did a lot of harm to the franchise's reputation. A fourth game is apparently in development, but details are sparse.

Modern Warfare - Ok, ok, Call of Duty as a franchise predates this console generation. The inexplicably popular PC original (a dumbed down version of Medal of Honour) dates from 2003 and the second game in the series was a 360 launch-title in 2005. However, the Call of Duty we are burdened with today, which has had more installments than should exist in a sane world essentially traces its origins to 2007's Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Now Call of Duty 4 was an excellent game. Early modern-era-setting shooters had either been ludicrous cartoony affairs (Soldier of Fortune) or dry, dusty technical jobs (SWAT, anything Tom Clancy branded). Call of Duty 4, by contrast, was slickly produced, fast paced and had a plot which managed to walk a careful line between the requirements of taste and excitement. That it had some of the cleanest, sharpest shooter mechanics around also didn't hurt. Almost immediately, the series began to descent into accidental self-parody with its sequels and inspired a staggering number of hateful spunkgargleweewee rip-offs (the rebooted Medal of Honour series possibly the worst offenders). I had hoped that Spec Ops: The Line, an excellent and thoughtful deconstruction of the genre might kill it off, but sadly that hasn't happened. There are some signs that the cow might have been over-milked - last year's Call of Duty: Ghosts - had generally poor reviews and managed only staggering - rather than stupendous - sales. But this is one series that's not going anywhere soon. As much as we might like it to.

Resistance - The original Resistance: Fall of Man was a PS3 launch title and was, for a long time, the only thing worth playing on the system. A strange but wonderful game, combining a somber tone and setting with some of the most inventive weapon and enemy designs ever seen in a shooter. Its sequel took a more cautious approach, borrowing hateful 2-weapon limits and regeneration health from Halo. The third installment, however, went back to its roots and remains, to my mind, the best console shooter of the last generation. After a poorly-received Vita port, the future of the series is unclear. Sadly, it never seems to have had the same kind of traction as the Killzone series, despite Killzone being far duller to play and having a loathesome setting and chatacters.

Souls - By which I mean Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls 2. When Demon's Souls launched in 2009, it attracted very little notice (a belated US release and a very belated European release didn't help). An odd - and extremely difficult - dark third person action RPG, it was well outside the spectrum of what people expected to see coming out of Japan. However, it got a cult following and managed to get a sequel. And somehow that sequel managed to get some proper marketing behind it - and went on to become one of the best games - and most unexpected successes - of its generation, inspiring another sequel in the process.

Uncharted - Launching in late 2007, the first Uncharted game was an early-cycle PS3 exclusive, arriving at a time when the platform was desperately starved for games. Inspired by Tomb Raider, it combined combat with environmental puzzles and exploration. While the original game was a fairly low-key release, the marketing machine swung into overdrive for its sequels. These abandoned much of the exploration and problem-solving gameplay of the original, becoming pretty-but-shallow corridor-shooters. A spinoff for the Vita Launch brought the series back in a more thoughtful direction. The jury is still out on which direction future installments might take.

The Nearly But Not Quites - For all the successful new mega-franchises that came out of the last generation, there were also a few clear attempts to launch new brands that never quite worked out. In some cases, this was due to insufficient quality (such as The Force Unleashed, which crashed and burned after its second game, taking quality Star Wars game development with it). In other cases, however, genuinely exciting games never managed the sales they deserved and promising franchises died stillborn. Bulletstorm and Vanquish both deserved sequels they never got. Perhaps the biggest crime was Sega's treatment of Valkyria Chronicles. The original - a mid-cycle PS3 exclusive, remains, for my money, the best game of its console generation. However, it had no marketing push and when it managed only "ok" sales, Sega shunted its sequels onto the PSP - a platform which was, by that time, dead outside of Japan. Indeed, "death by handheld" has been a consistent feature of Japanese gaming over the course of the last generation, which brings me neatly onto...

The No-Shows

Kingdom Hearts - Kingdom Hearts 2 was one of the last really big releases for the PS2. Launching in the window when the PS3 hype-machine was already activated, it nevertheless managed strong sales. Putting out what were probably the finest graphics ever seen on the PS2 and with finely honed action-RPG gameplay (no Zelda game has ever held a candle to Kingdom Hearts 2) it felt like a confident installment in a strong and growing franchise. A franchise which has - since then - been entirely unrepresented on the home consoles until a couple of HD-remakes came out last year. There have been handheld games. Oh, there have been so many handheld games. But they've not moved the series's main plot forward at all (instead, they've just further complicated its already ludicrous backstory) and none of them have been a patch on the ambition or quality of Kingdom Hearts 2. There is talk, now, of Kingdom Hearts 3 being in the early stages of development - but our only clue as to a release date is "2016 at the earliest, probably later.

Shin Megami Tensei - This is a series which is, in effect, an umbrella under which a number of other series sit. In the PS2 days, those all co-existed on the same platform. For the most part, they were niche-titles, but then Persona 3, a late-cycle PS2 game, found genuine mainstream success with its blend of dungeon crawling and relationship building. Persona 4, an ultra-late-cycle game that was arguably the last release for the PS2 actually worth playing, managed to better its predecessor. The future for the series looked bright on the home consoles. But since then, nothing but handheld titles - mostly for the DS, indeed - as Atlus took fright at PS3 development costs and ran screaming to a handheld comfort zone. A very solid remake of Persona 4 remains arguably the best reason to own a Vita (a much under-appreciated platform), but it's still just a remake. Persona 5 is, of course, now announced and will be coming out next year - for the PS3. Atlus therefore look set to avoid a complete no-show on that generation - but only by arriving after everybody else had already moved on.

Starfox - You'd have thought that the Wiimote's IR-pointer and motion sensing would have made it a good fit for Starfox's rail-shooting action. Nintendo, for whatever reason, seems to disagree. In fairness, they also abused this franchise horribly on the Gamecube, where of its two installments, one was a shitty third-person platformer and the other was a shitty third-person platformer with a couple of great but blink-and-you-miss-them rail-shooter levels.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - The original game, during its window as an Xbox exclusive (a PC release eventually followed) was instrumental in building the Xbox's credibility and Microsoft's marketshare. This is the game I bought my Xbox to play - and I wasn't alone. A reasonably good (if buggy) sequel followed and further installments felt, at the start of the generation, almost inevitable. Since then, of course, Bioware moved on to work on its own IP (Mass Effect and Dragon Age) and then went down a disastrous Rabbit Hole with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Now, you could argue that The Old Republic is, despite being a MMORPG, KOTOR3. However, it's a PC exclusive and hence doesn't count for these purposes. With Star Wars game development now in the hands of EA, a high quality new KOTOR now feels a remote prospect; expect more microtransaction laden mobile games instead.
User Journal

Journal: God, I'm old and cranky today 4

Journal by rk

So, there's this article here, and some of the comments by, shall we say, users of higher than normal userid value are really grating today. Between the one dipshit who won't use Google to figure out what a CRT is and has to ask (I know they're quickly headed towards obsolescence, and good riddance, but you've got no excuse for not knowing the term if you're 15 or older) and the other dipshit who is ignorant of historical truth and assumes Google's dictionary is the all-knowing, all-seeing Oracle I just kind of lost it and went on a mod-bombing campaign with them. I'm not proud of it, but it sure felt good.

There's a new breed of "techie" who comes here now, and they've got their profiles linked up with their Facebook, G+, and Twitter. I'm not anti these services, I have accounts with all three, but they ain't linked here because my "online presence" isn't about "marketing my unified digital voice" or whatever sewage the tech-hipsters are shoveling out today. They slam together two websites with a javascript library and confer themselves the titles of "wizard", "savant", or "genius". Maybe I come from a different time, but calling yourself that was the mark of a complete prat where I come from. Even self-referring as a "hacker" was a mark of hubris. These titles could only be conferred by others, and when they were, they were terms of respect and perhaps some awe, heartfelt and honest when given and touching and glorious when received.

Rant off, now get off my lawn you damn know-nothing kids, or hang out and have a picnic... say something. It's all good. :-)

User Journal

Journal: In praise of e-cigs 9

Journal by hairyfeet

I had tried everything. I tried the patch, the gum, the pill that made the smokes taste nasty, and nothing. No matter what I kept on smoking. Now after 30 years I FINALLY was able to throw away the cigarette...thanks to e-cigs.

For anyone who wishes to try quitting using e-cigs some advice. 1.- Do NOT use the ones that look like a cigarette, not only are the batteries VERY weak but trying to get one of those to drag like a cigarette will just leave you frustrated. 2.- Get what is called a "510 thread" or "Ego style" unit, these can be had for as little as $25 online. 3.- Watch some of the excellent tutorials to find which tips are right for you, a good place to start would be "indoor smoking" on Youtube.

Hopefully this will inspire at least one other person to give it a try and if this old dog can learn a new trick and give up the butts? Then you can too!

User Journal

Journal: Games of the year 2013 1

Journal by RogueyWon
And it's that time of year again...

I haven't actually played quite as many games this year; busy time at work and the financial constraints imposed by a brand new mortgage. I also don't yet own an XBOne (may pick one up in the new year) and while I do own a PS4, I haven't had it for long enough to do much with it, thanks to delivery delays. So my listings this year may be a little less comprehensive than they have been in the past.

The big trend this year has been an almost total cessation of use of my 360. While, for most of the cycle, this has been my main gaming platform, it has felt pretty much dead this year. I've spent almost all of my time on the PC, with a few detours over to the PS3 for some late exclusives that landed there. The Vita has also had substantially more use this year than last. Anyway, let's start with the top 10.

10) Killzone: Mercenary (Vita) - I've never liked the Killzone series much, so this was a bit of a shock. Not only is it a genuinely good Vita fps, it's also a genuinely good fps, with a well put together campaign and decent, flowing shooter mechanics. Hopefully we'll see more Vita games of this callibre in 2014.

9) Crysis 3 (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Still not a patch on the original Crysis in gameplay terms, but much better than the second game (and one hell of a tech demo on the PC). A few more open sections near the end of the game hint at the more ambitious game that could have been.

8) Metro: Last Light (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Tense and atmospheric first person shooter with some role playing games. Has a notably low-key approach to storytelling that makes a pleasant contrast with the usual more bombastic offerings in the genre.

7) Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm (PC) - Apparently some people play this for the multiplayer. I don't - but it doesn't matter for me as the main campaign was excellent, with plenty of replay value and lots of nice new additions over Wings of Liberty.

6) Bioshock Infinite (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Solid and thought provoking shooter, albeit one that isn't quite as clever as it thinks it is. Has perhaps the most striking visual aesthetic of any game this year. Might have done better if it didn't try to cram in quite so many different themes within a single game.

5) Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (PS3) - One of those late exclusives that kept the PS3 alive this year. Wonderfully put together (and very traditional JRPG), showing that there's life still left in the genre on the home consoles. Would have placed higher on the list if it wasn't quite so grindy.

4) Tomb Raider (PC, also 360 and PS3) - A startlingly good reboot of a franchise that many (including me!) had given up on years ago. I'm happy for them to give the franchise another milking, provided they can maintain this quality.

3) XCom: Enemy Within (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Ridiculously comprehensive expansion for last year's successful XCom reboot. Even after several playthroughs, I'm still finding new bits and pieces that were added.

2) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn (PC, also PS3) - I can't believe they actually did this. FF14 was, when it first launched, so utterly and horribly broken that I thought it was beyond redemption. However, I guess the prospect of a "failed" main-series Final Fantasy game was more than Square-Enix could stomach, because they've invested a vast amount into rebuilding it from the ground up. The result is the most exciting MMO launch since World of Warcraft.

1) Rayman Legends (PC, also 360, PS3, Wii-U and Vita) - Wonderfully imaginative and inventive platform game. Rayman seems to have gone from one of those unloved also-ran corporate mascots to being the most exciting franchise around. There's a degree of fun in Rayman Legends that puts anything we've ever seen from a Mario or Sonic game to shame. The musical levels have to be seen to be believed. Absolutely stunning stuff.

And now the also-pretty-good-but-not-quite-top-10-material games, in alphabetical order:

Bad Piggies (iPad) - I know that admitting to liking a Rovio game is hardly fashionable, but I really enjoyed this invention/puzzler. It's also refreshing to see that it sticks to the traditional buy-to-own mechanic, which is becoming increasingly rare on iOS.

Battlefield 4 (PC, also 360, PS3, XBOne and PS4) - As a game, it's entirely forgettable, but as a next-gen tech demo and PC-benchmark, it's very impressive.

Borderlands 2: Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep (PC, also 360 and PS3) - I couldn't quite justify putting a DLC pack (as opposed to a full expansion) in the top 10, but on every other metric this would deserve a slot there. Simply put, the best piece of DLC I've ever seen for a game. Startlingly good writing and some novel twists to the core Borderlands 2 gameplay.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Coming back to Counter-Strike after many years away was a bit of a shock to the system, but I actually quite enjoyed messing around with this very well-executed technological uplift.

Dead Space 3 (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Probably the winner of the award for "game most crippled by pointless pre-launch controversies". The microtransactions are unnecessary (I beat the game on normal without them and never broke a sweat) and the pace and atmopshere are very similar to the second game. It did feel a bit of a rehash this time around, but the core of the game is still fun.

Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness (PS3) - The core Disgaea gameplay is seriously in need of a revamp these days. However, the joy of going back to the original (and best) cast for a new Disgaea game is enough to compensate on this occasion.

DMC: Devil May Cry (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Leaving aside the obnoxious naming conventions, I found this third person brawler a lot of fun. Slightly surprised at the levels of community-hatred it seems to have generated.

Dragon's Crown (Vita) - It was quite fashionable to criticise this over its art style. But I didn't mind the art style at all and, once I was past the slightly dull introductory levels, really enjoyed the gameplay. Only just sits outside my top 10.

Fire Emblem Awakening (3DS) - Nothing particularly new or innovative, but still a superbly well executed handheld JRPG. Gran Turismo 6 (PS3) - A finely honed game in many respects, but some curiously obsolete elements (sound, AI and the lack of a rewind button) continue to hold the series back from greatness.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory (PS3) - I know, I've always hated this series. However, an anime adaptation which managed - against all the odds - to be genuinely amusing tipped me over into playing the third game in the series. And... while not great, it is certainly a lot more polished and playable than the earlier installments.

Killzone: Shadow Fall (PS4) - I actually thought this was slightly less good than Mercenary on the Vita. However, it's still far better than Killzones 1-3 and a very good demonstration of the PS4's capabilities.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 (PS3) - A very well-done remake of Kingdom Hearts and Chain of Memories. Unfortunately, the quality of the face-lift can't disguise the fact that the first Kingdom Hearts is a rather rough game compared to its sequel and that Chain of Memories is, to be frank, a slightly boring grind-fest. Still decent, though.

Outlast (PC) - In many ways a very flawed game. But also one of the scariest games I've ever played.

Papers Please (PC) - Absolutely, definitely no fun at all. But a perfect demonstration of the fact that a game doesn't have to be fun to be really good.

Pikmin 3 (Wii-U) - Fun, if somewhat short lived, console RTS/action game. As with other Nintendo first-party titles, the production values feel a bit thin (PLEASE stop with the silly twerblenerping pseudo-speech), but there are enough inventive flourishes to make the game worthwhile.

Resogun (PS4) - The Geomety Wars of the new console generation. A lot of fun, but once again, it feels slightly odd to be using brand new console hardware to play a 2d twin-stick shooter.

Saint's Row 4 (PC, also 360 and PS3) - Completely nuts and extremely funny. Occasionally, you get the sense that the humour is covering up a few rather untidy game mechanics, but I can live with that. Soul Sacrifice (Vita) - Decent Monster Hunter and Dark Souls inspired action title, slightly let down by an overly-obscure mission structure.

Xenonauts (PC) - Perhaps slightly unfair to include this as it's still in beta, but I've been playing via Steam early-access and have been impressed by what I've seen. It's a very, very traditional technical-remaster of the "old" X-Com (not a reimagining like the Firaxis version). The core gameplay is as compelling as ever. In the most recent version I played, a couple of months ago, the tactical side of the game felt close to launch-ready, while the Geoscape clearly still needed a lot of tuning. However, things look good for a decent launch in early 2014.

Next up, the games which, while not actively bad, were nevertheless not as good as I was expecting:

Aliens: Colonial Marines (PC, also PS3 and 360) - I didn't hate this as much as most people seemed to. The day 2 patch fixed a lot of the technical issues and decent multiplayer saved it from being a total waste of money. Still far less than what it should have been, however.

Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs (PC) - Don't get me wrong, it's actually a good game. It's just that every substantial change from the original feels like it's actually made things worse rather than better. Baldur's Gate Enhnaced Edition (iPad) - The PC version of this remaster is reasonably good (if slightly unnecessary given the existing third-party facelift suites for the game). Unfortunately, the iPad version remains a mess, with barely function controls and interface.

Final Fantasy VII/VIII remasters (PC) - The games are great. Unfortunately, the PC remasters released earlier this year are pretty dreadful, being quick and dirty ports of the old (inferior) PC versions. The best way to play these games remains either the PSN versions (available on PSP, PS3 and Vita with a single purchase covering all 3 platforms) or the PS1 version emulated on PC.

Grand Theft Auto 5 (PS3, also 360) - Ok, ok, I know. It's a brilliant technical achievement. Unfortunately, as with every previous GTA game, I find it easier to admire than to like. I loathe the characters and the setting and a lot of the humour fell flat for me. Plus the world has that curiously sterile feel that goes with every open-world Rockstar game (except Bully).

Killer is Dead (PS3, also 360) - I liked Suda 51's previous game - Lolipop Chainsaw - quite a lot, which apparently put me in a pretty small minority. For Killer is Dead, however, I struggled to find much in the way of redeeming featues. I'm not upset about the lack of political correctness (see above remarks on Dragon's Crown), but the boring gameplay is not worth tolerating.

Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD (Wii-U) - I got quite excited about having something decent to play on the Wii-U. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten that Wind Waker bored me to tears the first time around. It's no better this time (and the ludicrous price for an HD remake just added insult to injury).

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate (Wii-U) - I almost demoted this to the ranks of the "outright bad", but will acknowledge that it does seem to (eventually) reward perseverence. Unfortunately, poor graphics, poor controls, terrible UI, dull combat and an utterly unintuitive introduction all serve to make this game into an absolute chore.

Spelunky (PC, also pretty much every other platform) - Everybody else seems to love it and I'm sure this is just a sign that there must be something wrong with me, but I couldn't see the attraction in this platforming Roguelike.

Time and Eternity (PS3) - This one makes me a bit sad. The idea and some of the early art for this game looked really good. Unfortunately, the execution of this anime-RPG falls on its face and, despite some occasional amusing moments, the game fails to take off.

The Last of Us (PS3) - Yes, I must be dead inside. Seriously, this seems to be the year when I found myself seriously out of whack with critical consensus. However, I found the story and characters in this to be fair to middling and the gameplay to be actively painful. Both combat and stealth felt utterly broken and particularly unsuited to controller play. It might have been a substantially better game with mouse and keyboard, but sadly, we shall never know for sure.

Total War: Rome 2 (PC) - There's the core of an excellent game here, but unfortunately a huge mass of bugs means that drilling down to it is almost impossible. I'll come back to this in six months to see if they ever fix it.

And now - the genuinely bad. The rare games which lack any redeeming features and make you wonder how on earth they ever passed certification:

Rise of the Triad (PC) - A spectacularly bad remake of an old shooter which, to be frank, wasn't all that great to begin with. Even if you can overlook the crap graphics and gunplay, the autosave system is a crime against humanity.

All that Free-To-Play-Pay-To-Win Garbage (most platforms, but especially the mobile ones) - This needs to die. Now. There's only one thing worse:

All that Not-Even-Free-To-Play-But-You-Still-Have-To-Pay-To-Win Garbage - You know which titles I mean here.
User Journal

Journal: Over 9000?

Journal by hairyfeet

You ever wonder what would happen to privdog privacy guard if it went over 9999? Well if you want to see for yourself head over to "musicvideosthatsuck.net" as so far my privdog has managed to roll over TWICE and IT IS STILL GOING. I think I may have found the spammiest spammy spam of sites in all of creation. Anybody find any worse?

User Journal

Journal: From the archives: or, LOL John Dvorak 3

Journal by rk

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2212850,00.asp

This article made me laugh 6 years ago, and just shows why nobody who knows anything takes John Dvorak seriously, with the possible exception of sticking an inverter gate in front of his output first. Granted, I'm keeping him in business by linking to him because he makes his living as a professional troll: say outrageously stupid things and get the money from ad impressions.

The Gphone is DOOMED!

User Journal

Journal: Well, that about wraps it up for e-trade. 2

Journal by jcr

E-mail to Neal Martin, E-trade's vice president of customer service:

Well Neal,

I doubt that this message will actually get to you personally, but what the hell.

After the fracas over the last few weeks in which e-trade failed to issue me a second ATM card, I finally got around to transferring the bulk of my shares to a competent broker.

The automatic mail from e-trade notifying me of the transfer included this paragraph:

E*TRADE strives to achieve best in class service and is focused on meeting all of your financial needs. We would like to understand your reason for your transfer out and see if there are any improvements we can make to serve you better in the future. If you have the time to discuss, please call us at 1-800-ETRADE -1 (1-800-387-2331).

The fact is, after going around with your underlings a few times on my requirement for a second card, and having told each of them several times that this was a deal breaker, I know that the claim that youâ(TM)re âoestriving to achieve best in class serviceâ is nothing but marketing drivel. Indeed, my direct, personal experience has shown me that my business isnâ(TM)t important enough to get on the radar of anyone who would actually solve the problem.

I had already planned to find another broker, but the thing that made me hurry up and do so was receiving your oh-so-thoughtful gift of an e-trade gym bag. So, after refusing my very simple request, you apparently assumed that Iâ(TM)d be satisfied if I just got a bag to advertise an incompetent financial institution to my friends.

Looking at the transaction log, I see that e-trade has charged me $25 for the privilege of taking my property elsewhere. Now, Iâ(TM)m sure you have something in your fine print that allows you to do that, but itâ(TM)s still kind of shitty on your part. Given that youâ(TM)re not even capable of issuing two cards on one account (as you had done for the previous decade or so), waiving that fee is probably entirely beyond the capabilities of the fifth-rate keyboard monkeys in your so-called âoeIT departmentâ, so you can go ahead and keep it. Iâ(TM)m getting a nice welcome gift from your competition, which I didnâ(TM)t even ask for.

Would you like the gym bag back?

-jcr

User Journal

Journal: Even less impressed with E-Trade. 3

Journal by jcr

Got this from some minion at E-trade, since the VP I wrote to was apparently too busy to answer a customer personally:

Good Morning Mr. Randolph,

We received your email inquiry to our VP of Customer Service, Neal Martin on 8/5/13. We regret that we are unable to accommodate your request for two ATM cards for your account. We appreciate your feedback and it has been shared with management and our product teams for review. If you have any additional questions or concerns feel free to contact me at [phone number deleted]

Thank You,

[Name redacted]
Corporate Support Manager
Alpharetta GA
E*TRADE Securities LLC
[phone number redacted]

Manager? Yeah, right. In a functioning company, a manager is someone who takes the initiative to solve a problem.

I left the VP's name because he fully deserves to have this come up when someone googles him in the future.

My response:

[redacted],

You might mention to Neal Martin that when a customer responds to an email message that has his name on it, itâ(TM)s rather poor form to pass the buck to someone else unless that other person is capable of solving the problem.

I was a more-or-less satisfied customer of E-trade for over a decade. I will be transferring my assets to another broker in the near future, as soon as I determine which of your competitors can demonstrate the competence that E-trade has abandoned.

-jcr

"How to make a million dollars: First, get a million dollars." -- Steve Martin

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