Logitech's wireless controllers for XBox and PS2 are good hardware.

Cordless controllers are essential for the lounging-on-couch gaming experience. And the Logitech hardware is quality. Sturdy, responsive, long battery life. Game controllers are complex: two analog joysticks, six or more force sensitive buttons, a couple of vibrating motors. Quality pays off.

But what's best about these controllers is they aren't infrared, they're 2.4GHz radio. That means no line of site required, 50 foot range, and the reliability is rock solid. Radio is so much better than IR I'm suprised all quality audio/video gear doesn't use it. Maybe it's the battery life.

  2004-10-31 16:56 Z
For the longest time now I've been filtering my spam, but still storing it into folders. The theory was I'd examine those folders and make sure nothing valuable slipped through. Of course that never happened, and instead I'd just go delete megabytes of crap every few days.

Yesterday I changed my mail setup to just automatically delete spam. And worms. And bounces from spam forged in my name. No longer storing it, just delete it. The psychological difference is enormous. My mailbox feels much lighter. I no longer have the pressure of "1000 unread messages in folder spam". Then again if you need to mail me a Windows executable I won't ever see it.

I archive absolutely all my mail, including spam. But I never even look at the archive files, so it's no big deal.

Last I checked, ⅔ of my mail was spam.

  2004-10-28 16:23 Z
If you're on a technical mailing list and you need some help getting your program to work, ask your question. But if you're someone I've never heard of before and you say "this is an urgent question", I'm going to ignore you. See also esr's essay "How To Ask Questions The Smart Way".
  2004-10-27 15:26 Z
Saddam Hussein did a better job keeping dangerous explosives out of the hands of terrorists than George Bush. Or as we learn in today's NYT, 380 tons of very dangerous explosives have gone missing in Iraq. Despite the fact that we knew about them and were explicitly asked by the International Atomic Energy Agency to safeguard this particular cache.
Let me put 380 tons of HMX and RDX in context for you:
The bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 used less than a pound of the same type of material, and larger amounts were apparently used in the bombing of a housing complex in November 2003 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the blasts in a Moscow apartment complex in September 1999 that killed nearly 300 people. The explosives could also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon...
But shhh! George Bush is making us safer by invading Iraq. Despite the fact that Iraq was in no way a threat to the US. At least, it wasn't a threat until we destroyed the country and turned it into a haven for terrorists.
  2004-10-25 15:12 Z
Great article in the NYT today about how the GOP plans to steal the election in Ohio. They've signed up 3600 people to be "poll watchers", hanging out in heavily Democratic districts and challenge whether specific voters have the right to vote. They may or may not catch a few people improperly registered, but that's not the point. The point is to make voting in Democratic districts really upleasant.
"Our concern is Republicans will be challenging in large numbers for the purpose of slowing down voting, because challenging takes a long time,'' said David Sullivan, the voter protection coordinator for the national Democratic Party in Ohio. "And creating long lines causes our people to leave without voting.''
As usual, the Democrats are now trying to match the Republicans for dirty tricks but aren't doing as good a job at it. They've got 2000 poll watchers of their own in Ohio.
  2004-10-23 16:03 Z
In the rare event your erection lasts for more than four hours, seek immediate medical attention.

Britney Spears does not appear in this film.

  2004-10-21 02:56 Z
I'm travelling, I'm in a Hyatt in San Diego. Here's what it costs me to make a phone call:
  • $1: local call
  • $12.50 + $1.90/minute: long distance call
  • Free: 800 number
  • $1 + my rates: long distance calling card
Hotel rates have always been offensively high, but charging $1 to make a long distance call on your own calling card is a new low. Hotels are basically data traps. You're stuck there, so you pay the rate. Fortunately Internet is usually $10/day in a hotel. So buy that, use Skype at 2 cents per minute, and tell the hotel to take their evil phone rates and fuck themselves.
  2004-10-15 02:51 Z
The Philips Key 010 key ring camera is bad hardware. Clever product: a camera so tiny (3.5" x 1.2" x 0.8") you always have it in your pocket, but higher resolution (1600x1200) than a camera phone. For $125 at Amazon you also get 128 megs of storage and a good Lithium polymer battery. Sure, it has no screen, but with room for 500 photos just shoot, shoot, shoot.
Shoot away all you want, the photos are going to be shit. The CCD quality is just horrible, deadly lack of colours. The photo above is taken on Ocean Beach at 1pm in full sunlight. It looks like a 25 year old Polaroid. This review says it all.

I bought this after reading a review on Engadget. The gadget factor is good: USB interface, simple UI. But the photo quality is just useless.

Jeremy likes his. His expectations were lower.
  2004-10-09 22:31 Z
I have a 4 year old Tivo series 1. I see no reason to upgrade, particularly since I repaired the hard drive. But last week it mysteriously stopped changing to any channel with the number 6 in it.

The TiVo has an awful IR interface to change channels on the General Instrument cable box. I have to use the cable box thanks to Comcast's evil channel encryption. But the cable box has no channel changing interface, so we're stuck with emulating the remote control IR codes.

For four years this has worked fine with the TiVo set to IR code 00093. Last week the number 6 stopped working. This isn't general IR flakiness, it was specific to the number 6. So after hunting around a bit I find that now I have to use IR code 10006 instead. And it works.

I feel like The Prisoner. Arbitrary meaningless punishment.

Update: thanks to the fabulous PVRBlog I now know this is a known issue. Amazing. Why did this just change? Todd says it's a cable box firmware update. Maybe when I got HBO last week. Don't you love technology?
  2004-10-07 16:02 Z
I really like my 12" Apple Powerbook. All I use it for is a web browser and VT100 emulator. But the hardware is lovely and the font rendering is beautiful. One problem, the VGA port. No matter what I did, I couldn't run more than 800x600 with the VGA plugged in.

I finally figured it out. The Apple video hardware detects the resolutions that the VGA display can handle. If you plug the miniDVI dongle into the laptop with no monitor or projector plugged in to the dongle, the laptop can't detect any resolutions and so drops to 800x600. If you plug the monitor or projector into the dongle first, then plug in the dongle, the laptop will detect resolutions correctly. Or you can force it to redetect by selecting the "detect displays" option in the control panel / menu bar.

I still have this problem where it only detects 1280x1024 on the projectors I plug my laptop in, not 1024x768. But my LCD can only do 1024x768. That means if I want display mirroring, I'm forced to use 800x600. Grr. Apple's attempt to make things simple doesn't quite work. Anyone know of a way to override the resolutions?

PS: what the hell was Apple thinking not putting a VGA port on their laptops? I hate the stupid dongle. The 12" laptop is the worst, it's not even a standard DVI port.

  2004-10-06 15:18 Z
Man, sim games have gotten complex. Remember the original SimCity? It was a lot of fun. It took a couple of hours to figure out the simulation rules, but then you could do most anything with the game. I got bored of it then.

Contemporary simulation games are much more complex. The Sims 2 has an enormous amount of depth, complex social interactions and detailed dollhouse environments. And the Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 demo just blew my mind. Simulations of everything from your total park finances down to the details of what colour balloons your peeps are holding in their hands and how much extra for onions on the hot dogs.

The problem with all this complexity is it can be opaque and frustrating. Good sim games expose details of the simulation without revealing too much of how it works. SimCity 4 failed for me; despite reading the strategy guide and various websites I never could figure out the correlation between choices I made and what happened to my city.

The Sims 2 has a different take on this problem by making it basically OK to do anything. Yeah, it might be hard to make your Sim the smartest professor who gets the most woohoo, but you can have fun anyway just stumbling along and making him wet himself in front of guests. I can't tell from the RCT3 demo whether they've got the right balance of complexity and approachability, and the interface is awfully complex, about 100 screens. Sure is pretty though.

  2004-10-03 17:17 Z
The story of Peter Molyneux apologizing about Fable is getting a lot of pickup. Which is bizarre, because Fable is the most interesting RPG I've played in years.

What's wonderful about Fable is that the innovations in gameplay make for a really compelling narrative experience. I feel like I'm the hero of a classic adventure story, not just visiting the nodes in an RPG story graph. Little touches like the townspeople calling out to you, your character getting older and more careworn, or the complex ways your personality changes in response to your actions. It's a real step forward.

Molyneux is one of the most hyped game designers ever. Deservedly so, because his games are consistently innovative. Populous, Magic Carpet, Dungeon Keeper, Black & White; they're all huge achievments. Molyneux's apology is that Fable doesn't quite live up to the hype, that it only has 15 innovative features and not the 25 he promised. I can live with that.

  2004-10-02 16:08 Z
During last night's debate, Bush bragged "10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan in the upcoming presidential election". But there are fewer than 10 million eligible voters in Afghanistan. Democracy is so successful, folks are taking two helpings! And the election has been "upcoming" for a long time, postponed twice because there is no safety. Go Bush!
  2004-10-01 15:08 Z