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Comment Re:App vs. Program (Score 1) 353

I think there could be a little bit of a language barrier due to this, especially after reading your example of an app vs. a program. We need to educate the layman if they make mistakes thinking they are separate things. App, program, application, widget, are really all synonymous, but I would qualify that a widget could describe a mini-version of a full-fledged program, but it is a program nonetheless. Google Docs is simply a program that runs on a remote server, in the cloud, and it doesn't make it less of a program, app, or what have you.

Comment Re:Engineering Culture (Score 1) 229

You and Neal both made some good points. I do think that path dependency and lock-in are very much present in the space industry, at least in my experience, but some of the changes he's proposing may be in fantasyland at this point. Space missions have a certain objective in mind, whether it's to sell phone time, sell imagery, or study geysers on a moon. The group that wants to do these things usually don't overly care how it's achieved as long as the objective is achieved, and it's as cheap as possible.

Rarely are aerospace companies in the business of trying out radical new designs because of the huge expense involved (typically). They want to make their shareholders happy, because it is a business after all. One word that is hugely important in the space business is the word legacy. When some satellite, rocket, or component has legacy, it means that it has flown before with mission-accomplishing results, and thus instills confidence in the product, and it will be a lot cheaper to build than the alternative. Program managers and board members would love nothing more than to have your spacecraft, rocket, and overall mission to be completely legacy-based. When something is completely legacy-based, it lacks innovation.

I think Neal's point is that rockets and satellites do not see huge amounts of innovation because of the crazy expense for the customer, so we tend to be path-dependent and locked-in to tried and true designs.

The real innovation is going to come from an ambitious young group that can find someone crazy enough to back them for years on end and make a business out of it. It's not going to come from big aerospace companies since all of those are held accountable by their shareholders. So yeah, this is in the sci-fi fantasyland category for now... until it happens.

Comment Alienware gets it mostly right (Score 1) 597

On my m15x, there were no stickers below the keyboard, unlike one you would buy from Best Buy or NewEgg. I think there's a Windows ID sticker underneath that is ugly and likes to flake off over time. Alienware's laptops aren't quite as sleek as Apple's, nor are they quite as robust-feeling, but they are doing some things right. The amount of crapware loaded on the laptop was also very minimal, akin to Apple's method, which I appreciate wholeheartedly. I still put Ubuntu on it though. ;)

Comment Re:Happens to anything that becomes a job (Score 1) 133

I will second this, from experience. Being a games tester really sucks. It was one of my first jobs after college, and I got paid 20k a year to test an MMO to get it ready for prime time. What could be better than that (besides the money), right? Well, it turns out that I'd rather do manual labor out in the hot sun than do that job again. The environment was cool, not unlike a big frat house, but actual work really sucks because the monotony set in on me quickly after the novelty of the cool game ideas wore off. You have to continually try to break the game (which was highly broken anyway), and document your findings so the engineers can use the info and fix the code. Rinse and repeat, a lot. You don't get to play the game as would want to play it, as Sycraft said, but you do get some creative freedom in "how to break it" in the beta stages of the game. I had a dick boss who literally sat behind me literally looking over my shoulder, so that made it all the more unpleasant. After the game was released, I would pull shifts doing online tech support. After the game tanked, I luckily was one of the first to get laid off. This turned out to be a blessing, as I believe it steered me toward my career doing space operations. Now I troubleshoot real problems with real spacecraft in orbit, and thank god my video game career didn't pan out. It is such a brutal industry (competing for consumer's purchases), looking back on it. I still love playing games, but I laugh every time I see Sony advertising "The Tester," a reality show on the PSN competing for the next game tester position. Those poor poor sods... Ha!

Comment Space programs rarely have the choice (Score 3, Informative) 901

Most systems engineers in the space industry know that it's difficult to completely use metric for space missions. There are usually many components and subsystems that are designed by different vendors that have their own paradigms set up. These paradigms are usually kept do a legacy of proven use, and engineers will agree with me that if a product works well on-orbit, why on earth would you want to change a product simply due to unit conversions. You simply take note of the units and move on. I never thought I'd have to deal with microinches, to be honest, but it's no big deal since everyone knows 1 uin = 0.0254 microns.

Comment National Geographic Study (Score 1) 612

I read a great article from National Geographic that helps illustrate some of the effects of light pollution. I'm an amateur astronomer because I find it more stimulating than television, and I feel that attempting to understand the universe we live in is something we ought to do as human beings. But I still have to drive 2 hours to find an astronomically dark sky. Light pollution is fixable and would be a trivial decision when lighting a building if folks think about it. I just simply don't turn on my house lights at night. "Earth Hour" is 24/7 for me.

Comment Looking forward to both (Score 1) 140

It's been a while since I've played FFXI, but I always loved the strategies and character building involved in it. The storytelling was better than all the other mainstream MMORPGs I had played. Chains of Promathia, while very difficult, was truly epic when finished. The other expansions since then were less so.

Battle strategies were intricate and were balanced very well, in my opinion. The elements played a big role, like in most FF games, and even weather plays a part. The job/sub-job system was amazing. I loved being able to change my main job from a dark knight one moment to a white mage, and by the end I was using both when I soloed instead of the usual sub jobs. I had perfected my Souleater - Hexa Strike combo with my white mage by the end.

There were some things holding the game back. The biggest problem for a newcomer was the initial learning curve. FFXI, while charming, is hard to get into. If you're more comfortable with a mouse than a keyboard, you'll probably want to stay away. I loved the game because I never had to touch the mouse. Macros are nearly essential to play the game, and even mentioning the word macro to some gamers will turn them off to it. The PC version was limited to what the PS2 was capable of. Even though the PC and Xbox 360 versions deserved updated interfaces and textures, the bottleneck was the PS2.

Even though I don't play MMORPGs anymore, I am looking forward to what FFXIV. I have tried many others in the past, even since having quit FFXI, and I still can't find one with the depth and appeal of FFXI. I miss it, but I think I'll just wait for 14 instead now.

FFXIII looks amazing, especially from the high-def screens that I've seen of the game. I hope they kept some semblance of the gambit system from FFXII in tact. I loved being able to tell the AI how to behave. I'm a control freak when it comes to games, and there's a high level of satisfaction when one constructs a squad that can essentially sustain themselves if you left the room for a few minutes. That said, the boss battles were generally so often and so difficult that gambits + lots of human intervention was necessary. It was a neat spectacle to watch these battles unfold at times. I enjoyed FFXII immensely for the gameplay, and much less for the story.

Comment MMORPGer (Score 1) 191

I've been a PC gamer ever since I loaded Might and Magic II on my AT&T 8088 PC with CGA display and 20 MB hard drive that my dad gave me when he bought his 386 sx. I still have the 5.25" floppies from that game, as a matter of fact, but of course I have it on CD now if I get the urge to indulge in nostalgia.

Over the last couple of years, however, I still have been buying PC games, but my affinity for them has dwindled. I played FFXI for a few years, jumping into WoW and back to FFXI again because WoW wasn't interesting enough for me, especially when I got into the endgame quests. A went back to FFXI for quite some time, and as much as I loved it, I had a hard time giving it the time commitment that so many players did without thinking much about it. Back then I played a lot of games, and I was on the computer after work several hours a day, and often times I would try to squeeze in another offline game while trying to keep up with the MMORPG.

I stopped playing MMORPGs about 2 years ago, and I don't miss the monthly fee and the amount of time I used to spend on gameplay resembling a carrot on a stick. I do miss the teamwork and the deep level of gameplay offered by FFXI. No single-player game that I've come across can match it, but I guess that's what the monthly fee is for.

Beyond MMORPGs, the PC gaming has really fallen from grace, in my opinion. I could go on and on about horrible DRM practices, but some of the problem is due to cheap development efforts as well. Most big-name titles feel to me like I'm playing a console game rather than a native PC game, like Fallout 3/Oblivion, Far Cry 2, Gears of War, Bioshock, etc. (What do you mean I can't use "M" for "map?") Once in a while, someone does a good port, like Mass Effect (never mind the DRM issues). I'm wondering why I even bother keeping up with the PC anymore. Nowadays, I reserve it for the few real-time strategies I play on occasion, but even my RPG fix comes from the PS3 now, and I've actually resorted to playing old PS1 games again because the enjoyable RPG games are few and far between without having to pay a monthly fee.

I'm looking forward to FFXIII, whenever that comes along.

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