Archive for January, 2011

01/31/2011

I’m still waiting for global warming to kick in

by wfgodbold

Cause it’s still too cold here to spend hours at a time at the range.

I didn’t let that stop me from a quick trip out to the gun club last week, where I ran a couple boxes of ammo through the P226.

For not having done any shooting in a month or more, I did well enough (for certain values of well).  I’m still not going to win any marksmanship contests, but I can put a magazine into a 5″ square at ten yards.

Like I said; not great, but adequate.

I’m about halfway through John Steakley’s Armor.  It’s interesting so far, but at this point I like Felix more than Jack Crow.

I saw The Mechanic over the weekend.  It had some decent action scenes, but the plot wasn’t very interesting, and it was a bit nihilistic.  If you’ve seen Jason Statham get betrayed by his employers and then avenge himself on them in one movie, you’ve seen pretty much every movie he’s done.

01/29/2011

If I met the guys behind Swoopo

by wfgodbold

I don’t know if I’d want to shake their hands, or cower in fear; they’ve got to be evil geniuses.  I wouldn’t be surprised if their corporate offices were in an ancient mansion on a rocky crag overlooking the ocean, and if the CEO played the pipe organ from the board room on the top floor.

Swoopo.com is a self-described “entertainment shopping” site; they have various auctions going, and while at first glance it seems like everyone is getting a great deal, the reality is much more insidious.

Each bid on an auction raises the price by one cent (and increases the time remaining by ~40s); however, placing a bid costs sixty cents.  So if an iPhone 4 has a current price of $23.50, then 2350 people have placed bids on it (netting swoopo a cool $1400).  You pay for your bids whether you win or lose; let’s say that iPhone sells for $23.50, and the guy who won it placed 400 bids.  It might look like he got that phone for $23.50, but he’s actually paying $263.50 (the price plus $240 worth of bids).  That’s still a ~70% savings over the retail price of an iPhone 4, but it’s not as big of a bargain as swoopo makes it appear.  Those other 1950 people who placed bids and didn’t win are out the money those bids cost, and they don’t have a phone to show for it.

I’ve seen ended auctions for laptops where the final price means that swoopo collected over $20,000 just from the cost of the bids.

I’m telling you, these guys are evil geniuses; their entire business model is based on the sunk cost fallacy.  “I can’t stop bidding now, or all the money I’ve spent bidding will have gone to waste!”

I’m afraid to even make an account, lest the lure of deceptively cheap electronics prove too strong to resist.

01/27/2011

A challenger has appeared!

by wfgodbold

It looks to me like the 3DS is going to have some pretty solid competition towards the end of this year; Sony announced today the specs for their next generation portable console, aptly codenamed NGP.

It’s got an OLED multi-touch screen, dual analog sticks (not the nub that the PSP had, actual sticks), and a touch interface (it’s not a screen) on the back of the system (you can control it with your fingers without blocking the actual screen).

Games will be available either via download or at retail on flash memory style cartridges; that should speed load times up significantly over the UMD hobbled PSP.

The system itself is apparently almost as powerful as the PS3, which puts it far ahead of Nintendo’s 3DS, even without the capability for glasses-free 3D.

It looks like the press conferences didn’t cover whether the system would have region locks or not; if I were a gambling man, I would lay odds that it won’t be region locked.  While the PS1 and PS2 both were, the PSP is region free, as is the PS3.  I don’t think it would make much sense for Sony to go back to region locking their systems, unless they expect the economy to further worsen.

No price point was announced.  Speculation ranges from $250 or $300 all the way up to $500 or $600 for the system.  I think it’s likely that they’ll price it around $300; it’s higher than the 3DS, but the system is more powerful, and it’s not so much higher as not to be competitive.

One point in Sony’s favor is the large list of software developers that have agreed to develop for the NGP.  Nintendo’s systems have always had strong first party games, but the third party titles are generally lackluster.  Sony has been good about cultivating third party support for just about the entire time they’ve been involved in gaming, and high quality third party games could make or break their system.

The NGP will probably perform about like the PSP did (when compared to the respective Nintendo system); it won’t do as well, but it will still do well enough to make a profit.

The control scheme will make a big difference as well; two analog sticks will mean that first-person shooters will be easy to make/port to the NGP, and will control better than the 3DS releases will (since that system only has the one analog stick).

I’m more interested in the NGP at the moment; glasses-free 3D is a nifty gimmick, but Sony hasn’t yet let me down on the gaming front.  Hopefully they’ll deliver the goods here, as well.

01/26/2011

I didn’t watch the SotU address last night

by wfgodbold

Though if you’re into that kind of thing, it’s here (and the response).

While I didn’t watch them myself, from excerpts I’ve read, I don’t think I missed much; President Obama hit all the major talking points, and Rep. Ryan was a good budget hawk.

I doubt anything either of them said will actually happen; Congress can’t agree on anything at all these days (and with the house and senate under different control, any agreement is even less likely).

Which is mostly fine with me; after all, if the government can’t do anything at all, then it’s at least not screwing up.

01/24/2011

This is a test

by wfgodbold

Of the WordPress app for the iPhone. It seems fairly capable (even if you can’t browse previously used tags), though the iPhone keyboard is definitely annoying. Auto-correct gets right most of the time; of it didn’t, this would probably be unbearable.
I don’t know of any way to include hyperlinks; I suppose I could try using HTML, but since the app doesn’t have a built in browser, I’d have to switch between it and safari if I wanted to link somewhere.
I can post photos, though; behold!


As you can see, I came prepared for the possibility my battery might die; I have “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” by Orson Scott Card and “Cop Craft: Dragnet Mirage Reloaded” by Shouji Gatoh (illustrations by Range Murata). My bag has another book in it, in addition to my netbook and two notebooks.
All in all, this app works about as well as one could expect; especially given the inability of my 3GS iPhone to do hardly anything. It’s worth every penny it cost in the iTunes store (it was free).

01/23/2011

Cat Shit One needs your support!

by wfgodbold

Starting Feb. 5th, for two weeks, the first (and only, so far) episode of Cat Shit One will stream on youtube (DVD and Blu-ray will go on sale at the same time).

(the actual trailer starts at 1:20; before that is an advertisement)

This heartwarming tale of two rabbit private military contractors and their quest to save some hostages is actually very well done; there are far worse ways you could spend half an hour of your time.

01/22/2011

You don’t have a right to region-free games

by wfgodbold

I’m big on free speech; people can generally say whatever they hell they want, and it might piss me off, but since most stuff pisses me off, I’ve learned to deal.  Go extoll the virtues of living a meat-free life; I’ll be over here, enjoying delicious bacon.  Claim that 9-11 was an inside job; it’s a free country, and I’m just as free to mock your idiocy as you are to reveal to everyone else that you’re an idiot.  Make fun of me for playing video games in Japanese; I’m too busy enjoying games that you’ve never heard of to care.

That said, I find it infuriating when I’m reading something online (in comments, in the news, or even on TV for that matter) that is completed divorced from politics (for example, the recent news that Nintendo is region locking the 3DS), only to have commenters (or in rare cases, the author of the piece himself) bring politics into the matter.  I don’t care if I agree with your views or not; when I’m reading about video games, I want to read about VIDEO GAMES.  Not POLITICS (and especially not what a bunch of people who can barely comment coherently about video games think about politics).

Nintendo owes nothing to me; they are beholden to their shareholders, and their shareholders want Nintendo to maximize revenue while minimizing expenses.  Region locking is a cheap way to increase how much money they make, and I’m pretty sure any sales lost to insignificant number of import gamers are more than made up for by the money they’ll make because of the weak dollar.  The launch price in Japan is ¥25,000; the price in the US is $250; the price in the UK is £230.  That means that for every 3DS sold in Japan, they make ~$52 more than for each sold in the US; for each sold in the UK, they make $117 more.  That’s not insignificant at all, and if they had not region locked the system, Japanese and English customers would have immediately imported the US systems, saving a pretty hefty chunk of cash.

I understand this; I don’t like it, but I understand it.  Nintendo is free to price their system at whatever price the market will bear (and for glasses-free 3D portable gaming, I imagine the market will do just fine bearing $250), and I am free to decline to purchase the system.

Many commenters, though, take this as a personal affront, and go on and on about how Nintendo is just hurting themselves, and this is wrong, and dammit they have a RIGHT to play whatever games they want from whatever region they want!

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.  No one has a gun to your head, forcing you to give these evil corporations money; if you buy a console, it’s because it is worth more to you than the $250 was.  That said, I imagine the hacking community is going to be working on breaking the region locking aspects (and I imagine they’ll succeed; they hacked the PS3, and they hack every update to the PSP firmware that Sony releases).  If it’s easy enough to implement, I may change my mind and get a 3DS; there are games I am interested in for the system (Tales of the Abyss in 3D, on a cartridge, without hellish loading times?  Yes, please!), but until I can play any legally purchased games I choose, I don’t think I’ll buy one (if it really does make people sick, I bet used stores will end up with systems to sell at a discount; if the discount is big enough, I might bite (it’s all about relative value, after all)).

That the 3DS will be hacked is inevitable; the real question, though, is if Nintendo will bring the hammer down on the hackers (I bet they will).  They really went after the sellers of the R4 cards that let people play pirated DS ROMs, and that took a special card; the 3DS has a standard SD slot, and unless Nintendo updates their firmware more religiously than Sony does, it will be cracked just as fast as the PSP has been.

The import gaming market is niche; it’s more niche than just about any other market (it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the “Parents, you should buy your kids these games so they leave you alone” market).  Elite Beat Agents, one of the best DS games to come out in the US (even though it only sold ~180k copies), did as well as it did (though still not as good as Nintendo had hoped) because of how many people imported (and raved about) Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! That’s probably the biggest impact any imported game has had on the American market, and it wasn’t good enough.

Mom and Pop don’t care that the PS3 can play Japanese games; they only care that it can play whatever games Junior wants, and maybe that it can watch them new fancy DVDs.  The main market for the 3DS doesn’t care that it won’t be region free like the DS and PSP are, they only care that it will get their kids to shut the hell up on the drive to Grandma’s.

01/21/2011

In search of something to watch

by wfgodbold

I finished Legend of the Legendary Heroes (yes, that’s the actual title) on Hulu last night.  It was pretty entertaining, though the ending was just a set up for a longer story arc.

Since it just finished airing in Japan last December, it’s too soon (probably) for any official talk of a sequel; for that matter, I don’t know if the light novels have progressed far enough in the story for any sequels to have coherent plots (Full Metal Panic ran into that problem; though now that the story has finished, it’s possible that Kyoto Animation will continue where they left off with The Second Raid).

None of the other anime on Hulu really interests me (and those that might are dubbed instead of subbed); maybe Crunchyroll will have something that does (hopefully of of the titles that’s free and not one that requires a paid membership).

If I can’t find anything, I’ll just go back to Netflix and find some multi-season TV show to stream.  I’d prefer anime, but Netflix only streams dubs; I could always finally watch the rest of Stargate SG-1

01/20/2011

Well, that tears it

by wfgodbold

I’m not getting a 3DS at launch (since there aren’t any games I’d want for it), and probably not any time soon (if ever) once games I’m interested in come out for it; it’s definitely region locked.

It does seem stupid to hamstring your system just so that a feature most parents will probably either a) not know about, or b) not use, can be implemented.  Like I said before, though; import gamers don’t make up a significant enough fraction of the user base to really have any kind of impact on Nintendo’s decisions; we’re stuck with whatever they decide.

Of course, for Japanese in the US (or foreigners in Japan) or Europe, you won’t be able to buy any games unless you also purchase a local system.

The rating system explanation still strikes me as a cop out; I imagine the main reason is actually to prevent reverse importing (since the yen is still strong) and shore up sales in the various regions.

Oh well; it will sell like a house on fire, and everyone will marvel over how amazing the glassless 3D is while I’m crying into my beer and playing games the old-fashioned way: flat.

01/19/2011

If at first you don’t succeed, do the same thing again, only with feeling!

by wfgodbold

Carolyn McCarthy (oh, I hope her district is removed when NY loses their seats) has finally revealed her latest attempt (H/T Uncle, more at Sebastian’s) to regulate so-called “high-capacity” magazines.

Apparently the arbitrary number (beyond which a magazine is too big) is ten; like Tam says, only the 11th victim is important.  Joe Huffman made an excellent short video demonstrating how quickly one can reload; even if Loughner had used three ten round mags instead of one thirty round mag, it would have only taken him an extra three or four seconds (at most) to change magazines.

While laws limiting magazine capacity might pass constitutional muster (though with the sunset of the Clinton AWB, magazines that were “high-capacity” are now just standard capacity, so they might be invalidated because they’re now in common use), I don’t think that a ban is politically feasible.  McCarthy and her gun control pals don’t have the votes, and Boehner isn’t going to waste time on gun control when he can grandstand with Obamacare repeal votes.

That said, most of the magazines I own are standard capacity; for my AR-15, they are all either 20 or 30 round mags, and for my P226, they’re all 18 round magazines (though the .22 LR conversion only has 10 round mags, I could upgrade them to 15 easily enough).  If a standard capacity magazine ban were to pass, I would buy up as many extra magazines as I could afford; just because I think that the law could be found unconstitutional doesn’t mean that I won’t stock up.

This proposed law does differ from the AWB in one major way; during the AWB, you could still buy and sell “high capacity” magazines as long as they were manufactured prior to the ban; I’ve read about magazines going for many times their retail price.  The new bill, on the other hand, would prohibit transfer of standard capacity magazines (I guess they *can* learn after all!).

Anyway, the only real way to enforce bans like these is to go around and go through everyone’s possessions to make sure they aren’t hoarding them (a sure 4th amendment violation).  Even then, there’s no guarantee that all of them would be found (sorry, officer, I lost all my guns and magazines in a tragic boating accident!), or that new magazines wouldn’t be made.  You can make entire guns in a machine shop (easily!), and as long as you don’t do it with the intent to sell them, it’s perfectly legal.  A magazine is just a box with a spring in it (no, officer, these aren’t magazines; they are pez dispensers for entire packages of pez!).  The gun genie is out of the lamp (and he’s been out for a while; the 1911 turns 100 this year, and it’s the progenitor of most (non-revolver) handgun designs even today), and you can’t put him back.

Uncle was right last year, when he said that “need” isn’t a factor at all.  You don’t need a fast car, or a private plane, or a sailboat, or sci-fi books, or video games, or just about anything else, but that doesn’t mean that the government should step in and tell you that you can’t have it.

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