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Journal: Modern Video Games and Rewarding Failure

Journal by _xeno_

I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but a lot of modern (and by modern, I can really go back nearly two decades, which is kind of sad) video games have this annoying tendency to reward failure. When you fail at something, rather than letting you try again until you learn how to succeed, they instead make the game progressively easier. The idea is to prevent people from getting "stuck" and allow them to get to the end of the game. Of course, what it really does is prevent you from learning how to meet the challenges the game has and instead encourages you to simply keep on failing until the game gives up and just lets you win.

I really, really wish game developers would stop with that crap. I want to be given a challenge, the tools necessary to figure out, and then the chance to learn how to meet the challenge. I don't want games to just "let" me win because they've decided I'm too dumb to play them, which in turn is caused by them never giving me a chance to learn to play them properly.

Enough with dynamic difficulty. Enough with rewarding failure.

IOS

Journal: iOS 5.1 Unleashes 4G on AT&T Subscribers: iPhone Battery Life Halved

Journal by _xeno_

When the iPhone 4S was released, people wondered why the new iPhone didn't support 4G. The answer is, apparently, that it does, it just wasn't enabled in software. This new update enables 4G support under AT&T. Along with that support comes absolutely abysmal battery life. Since running the update, my phone is now a little pocket-warmer. Three hours after my phone was charged to 100% after updating, my pocket is nearly on fire and the battery is now 50%. So I went looking for a way to disable 4G. You can't. I had to disable cellular data entirely.

But wait, there's more! Does the 4S really do 4G? Nope! It just lies about it.

Which means that the battery issue is apparently a new bug, entirely unrelated to lying about 4G, since the only actual change is that the iPhone 4S claims 4G under AT&T despite the fact that it's using the same 3G connection it's always used.

Of course, iOS 5.1 also claims to contain battery-life fixes that plagued the original iPhone 4S launch. Whoops.

PlayStation (Games)

Journal: PS3 JavaScript Faster than IE7? Really?

Journal by _xeno_

You may have recently heard the story that a PS3 developer is claiming that the JavaScript in the PS3 is now "up to IE7 standards."

Sadly for Sony, this is something that sort of falls into the "testable" category. The JavaScript performance for the PS3 can be measured by a benchmark such as SunSpider.

Well, actually, no. bitops-bitwise-and causes a JavaScript error. The test is a loop that just does a bitwise and 600,000 times. The fact that the PS3 browser can't do a bitwise "and" many times in a row is just baffling, but there you have it.

controlflow-recursive actually crashes the console. Apparently you can't recurse too far in the PS3's JavaScript implementation.

Finally, string-base64 fails. Given the complete lack of debugging utilities for the PS3's browser, I have no idea why.

So I ran a local copy of SunSpider with those three tests removed. The final score is 98 seconds. Keep in mind that this figure is missing three tests.

That gives the following list of Browsers That Have Faster JavaScript Support Than The PS3 Browser:

  • Opera, Safari, Google Chrome, and Firefox on any computer I have access to. (Not surprising.)
  • IE7 on an Intel Core2 Duo desktop.
  • IE7 on a 2-year old Intel Core Duo laptop.
  • IE7 on a 4-year old 3.2GHz Intel Pentium 4 laptop - after skipping the same set of tests the PS3 skipped. (Incidentally, the PS3 processor is clocked at 3.2GHz.) IE7 does terrible at the "string-base64" test, so skipping it really helps its score.
  • The Opera browser on the Nintendo Wii. (It scored about 50 seconds - but that's all tests.)
  • The Safari browser on a second generation iPod Touch. Well, after removing the three tests that the PS3 couldn't do, otherwise they match fairly well.

So, there you have it: Sony's PS3, about as powerful as a second generation iPod Touch. At least when it comes to their browser.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal: Can't Cancel Your MMOG Subscription? Pass a New Law

Journal by _xeno_

Some guy in Illinois can't figure out how to cancel his son's Final Fantasy XI subscription. Which is fair enough, I know how to cancel your account and I can't figure out how you're supposed to get that information from the Final Fantasy XI website (note: JavaScript required).

But in any case, after calling up customer service and being put on hold for about an hour, he finally succeeds. But he's still upset. So he complains to his state representative about the process, and his representative then proceeds to push through a law requiring "game service providers" to allow you to cancel online.

I'm somewhat torn. It seems kind of silly, especially because you apparently can cancel Final Fantasy XI subscriptions online. Just don't ask me how. I don't know. Last I checked you had to do it through the game software, which does make some amount of sense if you're playing one of the console versions.

On the other hand, it seems almost like something that should already be a law for any service provided online. If I'm allowed to sign up online, shouldn't I be allowed to cancel online? I already run into plenty of services that allow online account management, but stop short of actually allowing you to cancel online. Instead you have to call up customer support and be put through to an "account retention specialist" who attempts to annoy you enough that you decide it's not worth the effort of canceling. (AOL comes to mind for some reason...)

So why stop at "game service providers?" Why not require anything that can be subscribed to online and managed online to also be able to be canceled online? I mean, the whole point behind this consumer protection law is to prevent companies from basically making it impossible to cancel your contract. You shouldn't have to waste an hour of your time just to stop being automatically billed every month, whether it's for a video game or for phone service.

Technology (Apple)

Journal: iTunes Sucks, Vista Ultimate Doesn't In This One Case

Journal by _xeno_

So iTunes apparently decided to crap out and destroy its own library.

What does it do? It crashes on loading its XML backup, overwrites it preventing me from reimporting it, and then proceeds to wipe my iPod clean.

Leaving me with absolutely no way to restore my playlists. (Which I'd really miss, along with other things I'd like to have like the play counts and ratings.)

You'd think they could import the metadata from the iPod, but of course not. It just deletes everything.

Thanks a lot, Apple.

Thankfully Vista Business/Ultimate aren't useless, as they have a feature called Shadow Copy that automatically backed up an old copy of my iTunes library. (Sadly the interface for Shadow Copy freezes every five seconds for a minute at a time, but hey, at least it works. Well, for the most part.)

So for once, Vista actually saved me from crappy Apple software. What is the world coming to?

Unfortunately this feature is only available on Vista Business or Vista Ultimate. So if this happens to you on a Vista Home edition, you're screwed. On the other hand, if it happens on Mac OS X 10.5, you're saved, no matter what edition you use.

Shadow Copy should be a standard feature. (Especially for people like me who are a little too rm -rf happy.)

Oh well. That's Microsoft for you.

PlayStation (Games)

Journal: New PS3 Model Coming Out?

Journal by _xeno_

I've been looking into buying a PS3 recently (hey, I need to do something to pass the time before Super Smash Bros. Brawl is finally released...), and I've noticed that the 80GB PS3 seems to be disappearing.

It's no longer available from Best Buy. I asked a blue-shirt at a Best Buy if they had any 80GB PS3s. When they looked it up on the computer, I noticed that the "deleted" flag had been set on its entry. Apparently Best Buy no longer expects to carry 80 GB PS3s.

Other stores still carry it, so it could be that Best Buy is just out of stock, but I think they may know something the rest of us don't. Speculation is that a new 120GB PS3 model will be released "real soon now."

I'm wondering if the new PS3 might be released at the same time Devil May Cry 4 is released. It might make sense, since DMC4 is no longer a PS3 exclusive. They might be able to trick the press into equating DMC4 with the PS3.

Who knows. If we're lucky, and Sony is sane, this new PS3 model will come with a price cut. But given Sony's past, well, that seems to be a bit unlikely.

But I can hope...

Portables (Apple)

Journal: Why I'm Not Getting an iPod Touch

Journal by _xeno_

My journal entry was me explaining how I wanted something that Apple has essentially provided, the iPod Touch. So why am I not rushing out to buy one?

Well, partly has to do with the fact that they removed some of the things I listed that I'd want like the email client. But ultimately, it comes to this: largest version is 16GB, and my current iTunes library size is 20GB.

But assuming the next generation iPod Touch has a 32GB version, I'll be grabbing one when it comes out. It sounds like exactly what I'd want. Email support would be an added benefit, but not necessarily a requirement.

User Journal

Journal: I'll have an iPhone, minus the phone, please

Journal by _xeno_

With the recent announcement that the iPhone will include a custom YouTube application, my interest in the phone has increased 100%. Or 400%. Or 25%. Or -30%. They all wind up with the same initial and final value.

That's not to say I wouldn't want something like the iPhone, I just don't want the iPhone itself. In fact, if you remove the phone part and just leave everything else, I'd love to have that gadget.

Think about it. Strip out the phone part, and make it into a "widescreen iPod." The current 5G iPods already play video. Add in Wi-Fi, keep the browser and other apps, and you've got a device that can surf the web, read email, play music and videos; all in one handy little package. And, what the hey, keep the camera too. The only thing it can't do is be a phone - which is fine.

I don't want an all-in-one thing for my phone. I'd rather be able to use the phone-less iPhone as an iPod all day, draining its battery, while leaving my real phone to act as a phone, and only heavily drain it when receiving calls. I already don't use most of the extra features of my current phone. (This may seem strange, but my most common use of my phone is placing and receiving calls. Weird, I know.)

So here's hoping that the 6G iPods will be 80GB iPhones minus the phone part. (I'm also willing to lose the camera part for extra storage.) I'd buy one.

Role Playing (Games)

Journal: Just Two Hours Into FFXII... 2

Journal by _xeno_

After a total of two hours of playing FFXII, I've apparently managed to screw up to the point it's no longer worth playing the game.

Apparently, if you open certain chests in the game, you lose the ability to get the best equipment in the game. One of these chests is very early in the game.

After opening, there's no point in playing any more. Just restart, it's done, you'll never be able to complete the game.

Someone has to explain to me why anyone would want to play a game like that?

I already put off buying this game until I found it in the bargain bin, but with crap like that, I'm already regretting buying it a mere two hours after starting to play it.

Seriously, what the fuck, Square-Enix?!

User Journal

Journal: Mac and PC: Mac gets upgraded to Leopard 4

Journal by _xeno_

Mac: I'm a Mac.

PC: And I'm a PC.

Pull out to reveal tubes hooked up to Mac's head.

PC: You OK, Mac? What's with the tubing?

Mac: Oh, it's nothing, just getting read to upgrade to Leopard. Backing up the files in case something goes wrong, standard stuff, really. Unlike your upgrade to Vista, I don't have to worry about going under the knife like you did.

PC: [skeptically] Really?

Dinging sound.

Mac: Oh, hey, sounds like I'm ready to be upgraded.

Mac walks out of the scene. After a pause, a loud shotgun blast is heard. A New Mac walks into the scene, in the process of putting on Mac's clothing, which has been splattered with blood.

New Mac: Hi, I'm a Mac!

PC: And I'm a PC. Uh, what just happened over there?

New Mac: Oh, nothing much. Unlike PCs, it's easier to just replace a Mac when moving to a new system.

PC slowly backs away from New Mac.

Microsoft

Journal: Amusing Bit about Microsoft's Security Initiative

Journal by _xeno_

I recently attended a talk on Microsoft's Security Development Lifecycle. I'm going to skip the usual Microsoft bashing, and most of the stuff talked about (if you really want to know more about Microsoft's SDL, read the book) and jump straight to the amusing statement made by the presenter.

One of Microsoft's biggest security problems has historically been Internet Explorer. People are well used to Internet Explorer having flaws, with some people going as far as to tell Windows users to use alternative webbrowsers.

One of the aspects of the SDL is that if a product hasn't successfully passed their security tests, they should delay the launch. With the release of Windows Server 2003 almost ready, Internet Explorer still hadn't passed Microsoft's internal security tests. So they had to make a decision. Looking at the target audience for Windows 2003 Server, they realized that the people using Internet Explorer on a server likely wouldn't need to be able to, as the presenter put it, "browse porn," and therefore set the default security permissions such that most websites would break (since scripting was disabled).

So, keep this in mind. If you plan on browsing for porn on Windows Server 2003, you aren't in Microsoft's target audience. You'll have to use a third-party solution for your porn browsing needs on Windows Server 2003.

Also makes me wonder what happened to allow Windows XP to be released if they considered Internet Explorer to be too broken to enable "unnecessary features" on for the launch of Windows 2003, but I said I'd skip the Microsoft bashing...

User Journal

Journal: Windows vs Linux Boot Time

Journal by _xeno_

So I recently switched my work laptop over to Linux, because Windows XP was running incredibly slowly. Now I know that the usual cause of "Windows XP is running incredibly slowly" is simply "spyware" but in this case, it's "corporate required spyware" (Norton Antivirus, asset tracking software, etc.). It's slowing the thing to a freaking crawl.

It turns out that there's an official way you can get out of having to run the asset software and all that other corporate software: run Linux. (This also gets you out of having a supported PC, but I can cope.)

So I installed Debian Testing on it. And the laptop boots much, much faster now. (We're talking a good two minutes to load everything versus something like 20 minutes under Windows. Not kidding.) It runs faster. About the only thing slower is that, for some reason, GNOME feels slower than Windows. (KDE too, but Debian defaulted to GNOME, and I haven't decided to change it yet. Eclipse and Firefox both use GTK+, so, I'm basically just using GNOME software anyway.) But it's really not that big a deal, because minor things like compiling and running the software are faster.

Which brings me to the title of this post. I have two machines on my desk, currently: the 2.2GHz laptop running Debian, and a 3.0GHz Xeon machine running Windows XP Professional. Guess which one boots faster? That's right, Debian gets me to the logon prompt first.

But there's an added bonus. Windows XP hasn't actually finished booting when you see the login prompt. It's still loading crap. By the time GDM starts, Debian has already finished loading all the various services it's running. The Windows XP machine hasn't. It's still grinding away, loading whatever it needs to load.

(To be fair, the Xeon machine takes longer to make it through POST than the laptop, and I'm currently counting POST time. However, if I counted until Windows XP finished loading stuff versus Debian finished loading stuff, it'd still lose.)

In the end, Debian just works better for what I'm doing. The one problem is that I'm missing IE, which means I have to still test things on the Windows XP machine. But other than that, for the work I'm doing, Debian is just flat-out better than Windows XP.

(Ignoring minor glitches, like the fact that Debian doesn't appear to support docking and undocking of a laptop, even with hotplug. Although I may simply not know how to configure that.)

Slashdot.org

Journal: Slashdot Vendor Section?!

Journal by _xeno_

So I'm looking over my Slashboxes, and notice a new little box I don't remember, labeled " Vendors ." Vendors, hm? Clicky.

Apparently, as of today (January 27th, 2006) there is now an official section for Slashvertisements - the vendor section. So far, everything is from AMD.

Um. Yay?

I wonder how long it will be until those make it to the front page...

The number of arguments is unimportant unless some of them are correct. -- Ralph Hartley

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