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Journal: Nintendo Announces DSi and Wii storage solution

Journal by AKAImBatman

Earlier this morning, Nintendo made several major announcements in a press conference in Japan. Ranging from a new Nintendo DS to a Wii storage solution. Nintendo's first announcement was a brand-new handheld in the Nintendo DS line of consoles. This revision of the DS brand will be a significant break from the previous DS Lite console. It will be named "Nintendo DSi". (Nintendo DS-Eye, get it?) Nintendo also announced a solution to the Wii storage problem. Unfortunately, it sounds like players will be able to download to their SD Card, but not actually play games directly from the card.

Firehose Link: http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=1225579

(Still trying to figure out if the firehose does anything.)

User Journal

Journal: WiiCade Open Sources Flash API

Journal by AKAImBatman

Slashdot doesn't seem to get much news about Wii Homebrewing, so I thought I'd throw out an article on the latest updates to the popular Wii Web Gaming site WiiCade.

According to GoNintendo, they have released a new version of their Wii Remote API under a combination of the GPL and LGPL licenses. To sweeten the pot, this new version offers cool new features like IR-Based Motion Sensing, 4 player support, control over zooming, and partial Nunchuk support.

To celebrate, WiiCade released 5 new games that use these features. These games are Icy's Droplet Gathering Adventure, Space Shooting Mania, Asteroid Falldown, Bumper Car Madness, and Catch a Falling Star. It looks like someone has already released another game called WiiCade Snake. And for you Bush lovers/haters out there, they also have a Make Your Own Bush Speech "game". If you're into that sort of amusement, that is.

I personally recommend Bumper Car Madness. It's a rather crazy and fun arcade game that has you competing to see who can get the most tokens. It offers three control schemes, two which allow you to steer by twisting the remote, one which follows the cursor. It's tons of fun, especially with friends.

It looks like they also got a new look to go with the upgrade. Decide for yourselves if it's better or not. I like it, though. :-)

User Journal

Journal: Interesting Misconception 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

Today's lesson on taking things out of context. Here's a post I made today:

How is Science any different from groupthink? Scientists are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. The only checks and balances in place are reviews by scientific peers!

Think about it.

Shocked yet? Frightened at how I could possibly say such a thing? Clamoring for the mods to continue my fall to oblivion? I even got this response from an AC:

You're usually more level headed than this. I think you're just being silly.

Interesting thing, though. No one read the context. Here's the post I was replying to:

How are they different from groupthink? or the political bias at times that persists in Wikipedia?

Their top level admins are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. Obvious subjects to avoid on Wikipedia are those which are based on religious, political, or environmental, concerns. People have taken "maintaining" those types of entries to ridiculous levels that whole pages of discussion exist behind the page where the various factions bitch at each other. The best way to see the bias is to watch what they require to have accredited links and what they do not, let alone what sites they consider credible sources for disputed information.

While it has much useful information there are just certain subjects to avoid

Now let's re-read my text in context:

How are they different from groupthink? or the political bias at times that persists in Wikipedia?

Their top level admins are no where near as impartial as they claim to be.

How is Science any different from groupthink? Scientists are no where near as impartial as they claim to be. The only checks and balances in place are reviews by scientific peers!

See it? Still want my head on a platter?

An interesting experience.

Editorial

Journal: iPhone: Why So Negative? 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

I just got back from reading the Chicago Tribune's various stories on the iPhone. The reviews were very positive, if not a bit reserved. Sales may have topped 500,000 units. And sales have been so good that the AT&T activation servers have been overloaded. All in all, a very good launch for the iPhone. Not perfect mind you, but nothing ever is.

So imagine my surprise when I checked Slashdot this morning to find that the only story on the launch is Activation Problems in iPhone Paradise. No mention of the 500,000 unit estimate. Nor is there mention of the strongly positive reaction by the market. The only thing discussed is the activation problems, which are blown incredibly out of proportion. From the "long-wait-short-celebration" department tag, to a link to an engadget poll that won't let you see the results unless you vote (There's no "I don't have an iPhone option?" WTH?), all the way to using a random blog of one guy's experience as the basis for what all ~500,000 users (estimated) are experiencing.

Maybe it's just me, but this has gone way too far.

Slashdot is a place where intelligent people tend to hang out to converse. Because these people know a lot, they easily become jaded. I know that I personally have struggled a great deal with becoming unintentionally negative. And it's not necessarily the problem of dealing with people who know less. That's a reasonable excuse for tech support reps, but it doesn't hold up for professionals. In fact, I often find that I can become so indoctrinated in a certain way of thinking (because I know quite a bit about it) that anything that seems to violate that doctrine must be wrong.

Of course, this is a very dangerous trap. There are always clever ways around problems without violating the laws of physics. In fact, the solution presented often solves the problem in a very unique way that requires a dramatic shift in thinking.

For example, hydrogen cars are often criticized for requiring grid power to generate the hydrogen. Thus many discount the option because it "doesn't provide an alternative fuel source". Which is true, but it misses the point. Hydrogen provides a shift in the way that our infrastructure works. Rather than having millions of inefficient, dirty, smog-inducing, portable combustion engines on the road, we could generate all the power from relatively clean and efficient sources like Nuclear power plants then distribute that power to a "vehicle grid" using hydrogen as the storage and transmission device. From that perspective, hydrogen suddenly becomes a lot more appealing. (Without diving into the logistics issues of converting fueling stations, of course.)

Thus I can't help but wonder, is Slashdot getting too negative for its own good? I've been noticing a sharp increase in stories that are either overblown or outright inaccurate. From PopCap Distressed Over 'CopyCat' Games (the original interview states that PopCap is distinctly unaffected by clones), to W3C Bars Public From Public Conference (the newsie apparently couldn't understand English), to Judge Orders TorrentSpy to Turn Over RAM (Judge ordered web logging to be turned on), I'm beginning to wonder if the general status of the Slashdot users and editors isn't taking a turn for the worse. I'm seeing fewer and fewer stories with a positive slant. Those that do have a positive slant are either overblown claims (which results in a negative reaction) or misreported claims (which results in the same negative reaction, except that all of Slashdot is barking up the wrong tree).

While I understand that much of the confusion and negativity is pouring out of the press, it's important to keep a cool head on our shoulders and think critically about every piece of information we see. While I don't directly blame the Slashdot editors or the readers, I do think that all of us can make a contribution toward positive reenforcement on Slashdot. We readers can do two things:

1. Try to make sure that the stories we submit are correctly stated and reflect the true issue at hand.

2. Keep our replies civil. It's so easy for all of us (myself included) to get mad at the other guy thinking he doesn't know what he's talking about. Yet sometimes he actually does. So please be gentle when correcting each other. You'd be amazed at the smart people you'll develop a rapport with!

For the editors, I can offer one major suggestion: Apply critical thinking before smacking that "Approve" button. I know you guys see an absolutely incredible number of submissions day in and day out. The catch is finding the submissions that are worth posting to the front page of Slashdot. As of late it seems like submissions are being chosen more for their yellow (read: inaccurate) headline rather than their substantiveness as news. So please be considerate when choosing submissions.

Thank you all for listening! :-)

User Journal

Journal: Did you open your eyes? 34

Journal by AKAImBatman

In a recent post on the topic of altruism being hardwired into the human brain, I challenged others to think about the theological implications of this. As the article suggested, many people jump to the conclusion that science is disproving the existence of a higher being. I used the exact opposite extreme to point out how silly that is.

Here it is again, but this time with the bolding reversed:

I figured it would be fun to respond with a similarly goofy argument:

It seems to me that if man is hardwired with an sense of altruism and a desire to believe in a super-being, there can be no other answer to this question than the existence of a Creator.

The question is, how many of you got the message? How many of you jumped to disprove a statement that did not need to be disproven in the first place?

Slashdot is composed of some of the smartest people in the world. Yet sometimes the smartest people can close their minds. The truth is that science does not prove or disprove religion. It cannot do that as it only concerns itself with the universe at hand.

Faith-based religion is not science. Let's not treat it as such. But science is not faith-based religion. Let's not make the mistake of mistreating it, either.

User Journal

Journal: How I Slashdotted Google 15

Journal by AKAImBatman

It's not every day that you get someone from Google showing up to check on the spreadsheet you shared out using the Google Documents site. But that's exactly what happened after I posted such a spreadsheet in a Slashdot comment and accidentally created an impromptu chat room.

Someone over on Google must have been curious about all those server spikes, because a viewer with the address of google@google.com showed up shortly after the user traffic peaked. In fact, I had never expected that the discussion feature of the spreadsheet would attract so much attention. I figured that people would simply look at the sheet and discuss it on Slashdot. Perhaps even make a copy, modify it, and share it out.

So what could I do when the Google lurker was noticed? Quickly yank the spreadsheet from the public eye? Close my account and hope Google never traces it back to me? No, I went for hollering out an apology for the Slashdotting over the aforementioned discussion feature. This must have satisfied the lurker, because he then exited the sheet without saying so much as a word.

Then again last night, the sheet received a chat from a person with the gmail name of "google". The message was simply, "A chat room through the spreadsheet discussion? Who would have thought?"

While there's no concrete proof that these users were indeed from Google, it does seems likely given how Google tends to control its name inside its own system. Thus I have to wonder, will there be any repercussions from this? Will Slashdoters regularly create impromptu chat rooms with spreadsheets? Will Google use this as an example of how well their collaboration features work? Or will the whole thing simply blow over?

Who knows? But I can say that this little spreadsheet gone haywire was a fun experiment. And if we want to keep Google on its toes, we can always do it again!

Editorial

Journal: A Day Without Mono is like a Day Without a Bullet in my Head 7

Journal by AKAImBatman

I have to admit, I think I owe Miguel de Icaza an apology. When we last butt heads, I believe I accused him of choosing .NET over the existing Java projects out of a case of "Not Invented Here" syndrome. And after the Silverlight announcement (which he wants to name fad-da daw'), I was even starting to buy into the idea that he might be a blind Microsoft follower.

But after spending a few days with Mono, I have changed my mind. It is quite obvious to anyone using the platform that the Mono team is not in bed with Microsoft. In fact, it would seem that the Mono team is explicitly trying to warn you away from .NET technology. Otherwise, why would they make it SO GODDAMN HARD TO DEVELOP FOR?

Excuse my outburst, but I'm just about at my wits end. Allow me to explain.

The whole thing started when I was working on a side project that required ASP.NET. As much as I might want to get around this requirement, it was non-negotiable. So, I looked into Mono and found that they had a special development server capable of running ASP.NET pages. I thought, "Great! Now I can develop on my Mac on the go!"

So I downloaded the Mono for OS X package and installed it. It compiled the requisite "Hello World" program with no issues. (Though it spat out Hello.exe for a binary. WTF?) The XSP server also ran a simple ASP.NET page without any problems. Great! Now all I needed was some documentation.

Before I get to that part, however, let me take a moment and address Microsoft documentation. I've heard plenty of programmers beam about how wonderful Microsoft documentation is, and how they absolutely love Microsoft documentation. If they had it their way, every program would have Microsoft documentation. Personally, I've always wondered what these people are smoking.

My experience has been that Microsoft documentation is poorly organized, lacking in detail, designed to run you around in circles, and packaged in a proprietary format that makes it non-portable and generally quite useless. The only positives to Microsoft documentation is that their docs are very pretty to look at and there is a LOT of it. (Which is what happens when you try to document every possible use rather than how to use the technology.)

Back to my story. Here I am thinking that I will simply download an HTML class reference and be about my business. After all, I'm an experienced programmer. Just tell me the library calls and I'll be good to go.

A quick check of the official Mono site produced the necessary HTML documentation. But only online. Nowhere could I find a download that I could take with me. The more I looked, the more I realized that the Mono folks want you to use a GTK# MonoDoc Browser. Oooook....

MonoDoc browser is (unsurprisingly) not shipped with the Mac OS X Mono package. So I went and downloaded the only package available: The sources. Of course, the MonoDoc browser requires GTK#, so I download those sources as well. It's all cross-platform code, so it should be easy to compile, right? *sigh*

When I untarred the source archives, what do I find? Something incredibly simple and reliable like ANT? Nope. The same old configure/make scripts that have been giving me nightmares for the last decade or so. No problem. I can do this. It's CLR code, so it MUST be a simple compile, right?

First thing that happens is that the configure script can't find Mono. Wait, what? How can it not find mono? It's in the path! After some checking around, I find that the build script is using pkg-config and pkg-config doesn't know about mono. Ok, so I create a mono.pc file in the /usr/lib/pkgconfig directory. Still can't find it. I move the mono.pc to /usr/local/lib/pkgconfig. Still can't find it. I set the PKG_CONFIG_PATH to the folder containing mono.pc. STILL CAN'T FIND IT!

As you can imagine, my blood pressure is getting dangerously high at this point.

I go back to the configure scripts to see if I can simply route around the check. No, it's pretty integral. But I do manage to find that the pkg-config it's pulling is an older version in /sw/bin. Mono apparently installed its own copy in /usr/bin. Ok, I can see that. So I switch the path around (making certain it's exported to the environment) so that /usr/bin will get checked first. It still finds the older copy. I struggle with it a bit more. It still finds the old copy. Finally, I rename the older pkg-config to pkg-config.old.

Eureka! It finds mono! Just to fail on GTK+!

Wait... what?

According to the configure script I don't have GTK+ or Pango. Yet I know they're both installed because of a few other OSS apps I compiled a while back. Finally, I give up. This is a dead end that's already sapped too many hours of my time. The craptacular Linux build process bests me again.

Let's try another tack, shall we? The mono package contained a pre-compiled (thank God) tool called monodocs2html.exe. All I need to do is feed the documentation sources into the tool, and voila! Instant HTML docs! Or so I hoped.

Unfortunately, I couldn't make heads or tails of the process. The documentation on generating documentation seems nice and all, but is a bit difficult to understand without some experience with the platform. And since I can't get any documentation on how to use the platform, I'm kind of stuck with a catch-22 there.

In theory, I just point the tool at the "assembled" documentation and it works. In practice, it keeps telling me that I need index.xml. Yet there's no index.xml anywhere in the lib/monodoc/sources directory. Not even inside the Mono.zip file. Rats, foiled again!

At this point I've resigned myself to wearing the ball and chain of an ethernet cable. After all, why would anyone possibly want to take HTML documentation on the go? Not that I've been too impressed in the online docs themselves. In Java, you tend to document API methods as you go. But with Mono, they separate out the docs from the sources, ensuring that no one ever documents anything! Documentation is handled entirely by online volunteers in a Wiki-like fashion, leading to a great deal of the library being documented with "Documentation for this section has not yet been entered."

So here I am now. My laptop useless in the face of such incredible resistance to using Mono. My blood pressure at all time highs. My patience long ago exhausted. For an instant, Google gives me hope that someone else has shared their generated docs! Yet it's nothing more than an apparition of a carrot dangling in the air as if to mock me.

I really do owe Miguel an apology. His team has been making wonderful strides in ensuring that the platform is completely inaccessible to new users. Thanks, man! We always knew you were secretly anti-Microsoft.

User Journal

Journal: The Commodore 64, now on OSNews! 2

Journal by AKAImBatman

It looks like my most recent article has made it to the front page of OSNews. As usual, the comments got off to a rocky start with the requisite grouch making half-baked arguments. Other than the political sub-thread he started, the comments have otherwise been very positive.

All in all, I think the coverage is kind of cool. Wouldn't you agree? :)

Edit: Almost forgot! One poster was kind enough to provide a link to this little hack. (And I do mean *little*!) Smitty, I think that one is for you? ;)

User Journal

Journal: Are You Keeping Up with the Commodore? 8

Journal by AKAImBatman

In an accidental followup to David Brin's article Why Johnny Can't Code, I share my own experiences with introducing my son to a Commodore 64. The experience convinced me that older machines are just plain better at teaching than modern software and computers. Which would be sad, except that the Commodore 64 is perfectly positioned to make a comeback as an educational toy!

User Journal

Journal: New Comment System 14

Journal by AKAImBatman

Well, it looks like Slashdot has a new comment system. If you're a subscriber, you can turn it on by smacking the checkbox at the top of a comments page.

Unfortunately, I give you about 5 minutes before you'll be smacking that checkbox back off. I don't know about anyone else, but I normally browse at +0 Nested. This gives me a clear view of the discussion, and allows me to quickly browse from comment to comment. Anything else (e.g. Threaded mode) tends to require too much clicking.

The problem is that this new scheme is nothing more than uber-threading mode. It allows you to see the highest rated comments, and/or fold up the comment listings of lower-rated comments. Which breaks up the discussion horribly. It might be nicer for people who *like* threaded mode, but for the rest of us it's not particularly useful. Even worse, it doesn't seem to save your changes. So everytime I go to a new story, I have to lower the threshhold to 0! Fixing this problem alone would increase the usablility by 100%.

Basically, it's a nice concept, but I can't seem to take a liking to it. Perhaps if the threading was a little less clunky, I might like it. One thing I hope they *don't* do is make the comments download via AJAX. When I use a laptop, I'll occasionally load a large page of comments and read them on the go. This can be nice for interesting topics that have generated a lot of comments while I wasn't looking.

If anything, I'd like to see the page overflow feature fixed first. The way the overflow works, comments can disappear into the ether if there are a large number of responses to a top level post. To actually see the comments, you need to muck around with the threading/flat/nested settings trying to find a way of displaying the info so that it doesn't overflow.

Final analysis: I love the attempt and I encourage Taco and Pudge to keep trying. Unfortunately, the current version isn't it. What do the rest of you think?

PC Games (Games)

Journal: Top 10 OSS Games You've Never Played 1

Journal by AKAImBatman

When it comes to Open Source games, it often seems like the selection is limited. Sure, everyone has played Tux Racer and Frozen Bubble, but what comes after that? The answer seems to be "not very much." Still, there are a few diamonds in the rough that have gone unnoticed by the majority of gamers. These are the games that you wish you existed, but are nearly impossible to find. In my latest article, I've collected a list of the top ten games that you've probably never played, but really wish you had.

User Journal

Journal: Why Apple Won't Sell OS X for Generic PCs 1

Journal by phillymjs

Okay, I'm getting tired of explaining this over and over in every discussion where someone whines that Apple could take over the world if only they'd sell OS X for generic PCs. On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I found another blog that mentions this. Having nothing better to do, I responded to that posting and decided to really flesh out my argument and put it here (slightly edited from the version posted there) so I can just link to it in the future. So, without further ado, here it is:

"Release OS X for beige boxes... Your company could be the next Microsoft."

Uh huh. And look at Microsoft now: They may be a huge, rich company with tremendous marketshare, but it was proven in a court of law that they achieved those things through no small use of illegal means. Currently, they're the laughing stock of the industry, struggling to get Vista out the door (years-late and gutted of all its compelling features), and with their employees burned out, demoralized, updating their resumes and one step shy of open revolt (if you believe what you read on minimsft). I much prefer Apple just the way it is, thanks.

Have you even considered what would go into selling OS X for generic PCs? Everyone who advocates this seems to harbor the illusion that they could cobble together a PC from any old spare parts they had lying around, and by putting OS X on it magically end up with something that works as well as a real Mac. Not bloody likely.

First, tight integration of the hardware and software is what makes a Mac a Mac. The OS X developers know exactly what hardware they're writing for, and can take full advantage of its capabilities. The limited pool of hardware also makes testing a much less onerous proposition. The Windows developers have to code to "lowest common denominator,"-- the alphabet soup of acronyms and abbreviations representing the hardware standards Windows supports. All they can do is hope that all the commodity hardware implements those standards correctly, because they have no hope of testing all the possible hardware combinations that can be (and probably have been, somewhere in the world) assembled into a functioning PC. Microsoft has spent twenty years and untold billions trying to approximate the "It just works" aspect of the Mac, and the best they've been able to come up with is "It usually works, but quite often it doesn't and we don't know why. Maybe if you reboot..." I'm a field tech, and the most common Windows problem I hear is "[Feature/application] worked fine all day yesterday, but when I came in this morning it didn't."

Second, where would all the Mac drivers come from for all those commodity components? Jobs can't snap his fingers and suddenly have driver support in OS X for all the cheap, generic hardware pouring out of the factories in Asia. Even when NeXTStep was available for x86, it only came with a short list of supported generic hardware. If you wanted to install and run NeXTStep on something that wasn't on that list, you were SOL. So then the drivers would have to be produced by the companies making the hardware. Crappy hardware drivers are a big part of what makes the Windows experience miserable, and those companies have been putting out Windows drivers for years. What makes you think they'd do a better job of producing Mac drivers without any prior experience at it? Furthermore, multiple components from multiple vendors mean support becomes a nightmare. Right now if you have a Mac problem, it falls to Apple to solve it because they make the hardware and software. I don't know how many times I've heard of and experienced finger pointing matches between Microsoft support people and the hardware vendor support people, each blaming the other for some random problem instead of trying to address it. I've even had that happen with Dell, and they make the whole damn box! It's not a problem for techies who are able to troubleshoot their own problems, but OS X is supposed to be the savior from that sort of thing. It won't be if it runs on generics.

Third, it would not be profitable for Apple to sell OS X for generics because they'd have to price it to make up for at least some of the revenue loss due to the resulting lost Mac sales. The people who currently bitch about the price of a Mac will not buy an OS from Apple that costs as much as their cheap PC did (if not more). And don't even tell me Apple could price it lower and make it up in volume, because a stroll through the dot-com boneyard proves that the "we'll make it up in volume" business model flat out doesn't work. Most of Apple's revenue comes from their computer sales, not iPods. They have to maintain that revenue somehow to fund R&D, or you'll see OS X stagnate like Netscape Navigator did when Microsoft killed Netscape's revenue by making IE free.

Fourth, even if Apple did sell it for generic PCs, many, many, many people would still download it illegally, anyway-- particularly if Apple priced it to try to compensate for lost hardware sales. That means more lost revenue, because now people stealing the OS haven't even purchased a Mac on which to run it. So sooner or later Apple would be adding activation to OS X out of necessity. Honestly, considering how hard the "we want everything for nothing" crowd has already worked to crack the developer copies of OS X Intel and subsequent updates, I wouldn't be surprised to see OS X 10.5 ship with installation keys and/or activation.

Finally, do you think Microsoft would stand idly by while Apple made this incursion into "their" turf? Look what happened to Be, Inc. Hell, look what happened to Netscape and Go Corp, for that matter. The only thing that saved NeXT from the same fate was Apple purchasing them. No, Microsoft would quickly retaliate if Apple started selling OS X for any old PC. They'd probably discontinue Office for OS X, and lean on Dell and the other big-name PC makers to ensure they didn't ink any deals to sell PCs preloaded with OS X. In other words, Microsoft would just go back to their old, anticompetitive ways to the degree they could get away with it.

~Philly

Reasoned replies and/or constructive comments are appreciated.

User Journal

Journal: Thank you Mario, but the Princess is in another Castle! 2

Journal by AKAImBatman

After months of work, and several sleepless nights, I have finally moved. All the articles and your comments have been flawlessly imported to the new site. The Blogger.com site will soon redirect to the new site.

Don't think for a minute that my work is done on the new site, though. I have a lot of plans for expanding it. I'll update all ya' all as my plans for world conquest grow nearer.

Peace out.

User Journal

Journal: The Intelligent File Format 9

Journal by AKAImBatman

Today's systems have hundreds of file formats they must support. Wouldn't it be great if we could reduce all the file formats in existence down to a single file format that could be supported across all systems?

My latest three-part article addresses this concept: The Intelligent File Format

If such a concept could be made into a standard, pressure could be put onto Microsoft and other large companies to support the format or lose massive government business. (See the recent pushes for the Open Document Format for a very real example of how this can work.)

I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions.

User Journal

Journal: China: Getting the Facts 4

Journal by AKAImBatman

A common theme that I've noticed in Slashdot stories about China is that no one seems to know China's actual laws about free speech, criticizing the government, or religion. Nearly everyone is surprised when I drag out the Chinese Constitution and show them the rights that the government supposedly guarantees.

While getting +5's for knowing this is a nice racket, I feel that it's far more important to catalog the information in one place so that others can learn and spread understanding of China's abuses.

Thus this weeks article is China: Getting the Facts.

If you find yourself in a discussion about China again, I hope you'll find it a useful resource to direct people to. If some of you feel that it's worthy of a front page Slashdot story, feel free to submit it. :-)

The meat is rotten, but the booze is holding out. Computer translation of "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

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