Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Why couldn't Windows rip off menu placement from Mac OS completely?

It's no secret that Windows "borrowed" the menu bar from the early Mac OS, but moved some stuff around so that it wasn't an identical layout to Mac OS, just like using someone else's term paper in college. There are two cases I want to mention where having an application menu, like under Mac OS X, and Windows not copying the Mac OS menu layout exactly is a usability disaster. On Windows, Tools -> Options makes no sense at all for user selectable settings for the application. Are they Options for Tools or the whole app? When Mac OS developers port their apps to Windows, some seem to refuse to relocate their former ApplicationMenu -> Preferences to Tools->Options and instead put it under Edit->Preferences. Come on people, if you want to get paid by the man and his minions, at least completely follow the crowd and don't further confuse the sheep by moving the prefrences/options window out from under Tools. Same thing with Help -> About on Windows. Why the f*#K would a user ever think to find out about the application under Help? On OS X, you retrieve information about the application under the application menu. Applications -> About Application. If you have been tracking Windows Vista, it looks like MS is giving up on consistancy entirely. Cruise Paul Thurrott's Vista December 2005 CTP (build 5270) excellent screenshot galleries: Gallery 1 Gallery 2 Gallery 3 Gallery 4 Gallery 5 Some applications, IE 7, have a menubar placed in a strange location, other applications don't have any menubar, and still others have menubars somewhat like current versions of Windows. Apple may have three different application window themes now (PinStripes, BrushedMetal, Platinum) but unless my memory fails me, all applications use the menubar at the top of the screen and the menu choice placement actually makes sense. Yes the web has taught us that users can understand many different types of application layouts. But good websites define a layout that works for the whole site and stick with it. All I want is for both MS and Apple to make their OSes internally consistant, but it seems like MS has quit and it makes me sad. I am holding out hope that Apple unifies all application display themes in OS X 10.5 so that you can pick and choose the skin you want and it affects all the display windows. Interestingly enough, it seems Windows Vista is going to offer this feature.

Launching Adobe Reader faster on Mac OS X or Windows

An article was posted on Macworld, Mac OS X Hints: Create a lean, mean Adobe Reader machine, which I immediately following to get Adobe Reader to launch as fast as a browser. Adobe Reader launch speed is one of those annoying things you might never really do anything about, but it probably affects you on a daily basis. To improve launch speeds on Windows, I couldn't find any information on how to do it manually, but luckily, someone has written a donationware utility Adobe Reader SpeedUp 1.34 that does what the Finder does in OS X. Adobe Reader 6.0.4 on Windows now launches in about 3 seconds, comparable to Adobe Reader 7.0.5 on OS X after the plug-ins the Macworld article suggested.

How does it work?

Adobe is not strickly necessary on OS X because of the built-in PDF, Preview, which works extremely well. Because Adobe Reader was so slow to load and a view other things, I prefer it to Adobe Reader. But occasionally, a PDF has been created in Adobe Acrobat that follows a new PDF version, so you need to the latest version of Adobe Reader. This happened once or twice, so I keep it around and having it launch as fast as possible is a huge bonus. Making Adobe Reader launch faster is done by disabling Plug-ins most users don't need. On OS X this was simple because it is built-in to the Finder's Get Info window (Apple-I) for the Adobe Reader application with a Plug-Ins section. On Windows with Adobe Reader 6.0.4, from within the application I can't manage plug-ins at all, and Windows has no concept of application Plug-Ins that show up in the Properties window. If you look at the folder structure of Adobe Reader, there is a plug-ins folder that has the same naming of Plug-Ins as I did see in the Finder Get Info window. So perhaps you can just remove the Plug-Ins from the plug_ins folder on Windows (this could be what's happening in OS X as well, just the whole Bundle abstraction for application contents hides this away, I didn't look at the Bundle contents because disabling plug-ins just worked). The Adobe Reader SpeedUp 1.34 utility on Windows moves all but 5 Plug-Ins to from the ReaderInstallDirectory\plug_ins to ReaderInstallDirectory\optional. I don't know if it tweaks any application settings, I am not that interested in firing up Filemon and Regmon from to figure this out. The utlity release notes say that Adobe Reader will load all Plug-Ins in the optional folder on demand, which seems like how Adobe Reader should be configured to begin with anyway! Adobe, hello, get a clue that the fast majority of user's don't need the eBook Plug-In launching by default along with the 37 OTHERS I counted in the optional folder. I have to check OS X to see if the Plug-Ins manager in the Finder does the same thing. My guess is that is does, since it looks like the reader is developed on OS X and ported to Windows. The tell-tale sign is usually the Edit -> Preferences to get to user options instead of Tools -> Options.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Madden 2006 PSP Final Solution to Franchise Mode bugs

EA posted on 12/19/2005 the Long Term PSP Solution to the Franchise Mode bugs in Madden 2006 PSP. They are going to replace the existing discs for free and give you some coupons to spend more money with EA through their online store. LOL. I will be surely be sending the current version of Madden back for the new bits, once my Franchise hit the playoffs and the previous work around for the franchise mode stops working, I just got tired of the crashes and gave up after I "won" the Super Bowl. The saddest thing about this whole experience is that my NY Football Giants might be out of the playoffs before I get the game back from EA (see the details of the long term fix for the timeline). I wonder if I send in the game am I implicitely letting EA off the hook for liability if they ever got slappd with a lawsuit for these shenanigans. Oh well, at least I can ebay Madden 2006 PSP SP1 and advertise it like that...oh, and it took EA 2 months from the last official update to get a new build out and post the final solution in their forums. LAME.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Microsoft Denies Changes in Vista Graphics

Mary Jo Foley says that Microsoft Denies Changes in Vista Graphics. My last post was in response to the TechWorld article that spawned the Mary Jo Microsoft "report". I never read the article as if MS was changing Vista suddenly to pull the graphics subsystem out of the kernel. Instead I read it as if they ALREADY had to improve stability compared to Windows XP, that it was designed that way to begin with. I wonder how many people read it like I did vs. how many MS thinks read it like? Microsoft reponse channeled through Mary Jo says the TechWorld report is wrong, but the MS response is a bit misleading. I think it goes out of its way to suggest that more is business as usually in Vista with regards to graphics as compared to XP than is in motion. The Windows Longhorn Display Driver Model - Details and Requirements PowerPoint I linked to off of Microsoft's site makes it pretty clear that there is significant change to DirectX and the driver model in Vista when compared to XP. DirectX 10 is the native version in Vista and requires new hardware, so I think this should be read as for the "advanced mode" cards I blogged about in my last post. Those DX10 APIs are not backward compatible with any previous version of DirectX. Previous versions of DirectX are "implemented" on Vista. Here is a nice summary post with links to the info that came out of PDC05. Download the slide decks that this article is linked to. These decks where used during the PDC and re-iterate much of the information in the slide deck I linked to above, but with some interesting new details. The Vista Desktop will use Direct3D from DirectX9! This is on slide 16 in the PRS311_Balaz.ppt deck. So this is the "existing DirectX APIs", but its really Direc3D from DirectX9 Extension. This is what "implemented" means because they took the DX9 stack and it runs side by side with the DX10 stack, but they made D3D9 work with the new driver model, with the division of driver labor in user mode and kernel mode. What's really interesting is that MS thinks this is serious enough to issue a press release through Mary Jo. Graphics in Vista are not business as usual compared to XP, and this is what got a lot of people excited on Thursday, including yours truly. The level of change compared to XP and the way Vista has been designed to work has escaped a lot of people's attention, and I think once people started to realize this, they are either scared of MS getting this right (check) or scared what it means to there existing hardware and games. I have been saying since the PDC03 that Longhorn was going to be so huge a change you are going to want new hardware to support it, and this information only reinforces that view.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Microsoft removes the graphics subsystem from kernel in Windows Vista and the relationship to OS X Tigers Quartz 2D Extreme has linked to a story on that states Microsoft is going to remove the graphics subsystem from the Windows kernel and move it back into user mode according to Microsoft infrastructure architect Giovanni Marchetti. I guess I must have missed this news, but it's huge. Here are some links I got from Google: Vista graphics drivers to be more stable than XP drivers, ATI says - This article actually speaks to the driver model going to user mode Graphics Hardware and Drivers for Windows Vista - Really no insight, but this is the top hit for Longhorn Display Driver Model. Windows Longhorn Display Driver Model - Details and Requirements - PowerPoint - Look at slides 7 and 8 for the comparison between XP and Vista. This has a lot of information about exactly what MS is trying to achieve and what the benefits are. Don't get confused though, this isn't a reversal of moving the graphics subsystem into the kernel in Windows NT 4.0. That was done, if I remember correctly, to increase performance of GDI over Windows NT 3.51 since the number of context switches to get graphics work done was so costly that running heavy video apps or games was not practical. This is the now infamous move of Win32K.sys. Windows XP maintained this model, offloading a bit of work through GDI+ to the graphics card, but this was just a band-aid, GDI was showing its age and doesn't work modern graphics hardware and the way applications are being used. Don't misunderstand, I am not a kernel engineer, but the trial and tribulations of this architecture have always been interesting to me. I also have read all the Windows Internals books, nee Inside Windows NT in the Helen Custer days, except the latest. Here is the book on Amazon to that (thanks Mark R. again). Vista doesn't revert to the previous NT 3.51 style model. The graphics subsystem in Vista is a complete brand new. Look at slide 9 in the PPT file, GDI commands are now rendered in SOFTWARE. The Vista graphics subsystem attempts to treat the GPU and video memory just as it treats the CPU and RAM. Multiple applications can access the GPU simultaneously and video memory is virtualized just as RAM is. These functions are contained in the kernel and called by DXGkrnl. DXGkrnl still calls a IHV piece of code, but the way I read this the footprint is significantly reduced and IHV code is less likely to be a cause for hangs. Most of the IHV work is done by the UMD, and I think that means user mode driver. Take a look at slides 18-20 Here is why you should wait until Vista and probably 2nd generation video cards are out to support the OS. Until the hardware is built for it, GPU scheduling is done in software instead of hardware. That means slow and will hit the CPU. In this slide deck, you really want hardware that supports the "Advanced" model. The article states this brings Windows up to par in terms of graphics subsystems with Mac OS X and Linux. Ars Technica has a very good explanation of the OS X graphics subsystem, called Quartz, in 3 pages of information created when Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger was launched in April: Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger - Quartz Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger - Quartz 2D Extreme Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger - QuickTime 7 Apple's Mac OS X Quartz Feature The only problem with moving all the work onto the GPU in Tiger with Quartz 2D Extreme is that it's disabled. The code is in there, but it's not turned on. Reasons for this have never been explained, the only information that has come out is in the About 10.4.3 Software Update, which states: Disables Quartz 2D Extreme—Quartz 2D Extreme is not a supported feature in Tiger, and re-enabling it may lead to video redraw issues or kernel panics. So I think the graphics subsystem in Vista is going to surpass the capabilities in Tiger, at least until a post 10.4.3 software update either enables Quartz 2D Extreme or OS X 10.5 comes out. The strange thing is you can still enable Quartz 2D Extreme, but I thin the 10.4.3 update note is to discourage those on the bleeding edge that they are doing A Bad Thing(tm). I would love to know what problems where encountered that Apple decided to disable the functionality in Tiger. One of the things I am wondering about is the Vista "Advanced" mode video cards. Is Apple going to use these? If so, are they going to change OS X to utilize the hardware based scheduling features? Even though Apple has been using hardware accelerated compositing and VRAM virtualization in OS X for years now, is Apple going to have to change their implemenatation to get closer to the way Vista is handling graphics operations to use the new video cards? What is the patent situation with the capabilities of these new cards? Is MS licensing these patents to ATI and Nvidia? Are Nvidia and ATI effectively just manufacturing cards for MS to spec? MS and Apple cross license patents, I wonder if MS is using any Apple patents to do the Vista graphics subsystem, or vice-versa if Apple is using MS patents for Quartz. Games on Mac OS X perform slower on similar GPU hardware than games running on Windows XP, see World of WarCraft as an example. I wonder how game performance will be now that the entire UI and all applications are sharing the GPU as a virtualized resource. Do games perform on Vista on par with OS X, are they as fast as XP, faster than XP? I haven't really seen anyone talk about this yet, even the XP to Vista comparison. Does MS have a special "games-mode" hack in the graphics subsystem to make it all work faster? The Vista 1.0 graphics subsystem scares me from a backward compatability and Vista native app stability perspective. My money's on at least 2 Service Packs before the Vista graphics subsystem is solid. Of course I could be wrong and Vista is taking so long to get it right, but MS has done nothing to prove it won't take 3 versions to get this right. I don't think MS has been very forthcoming about the "advanced" model video cards, perhaps to prevent an Osbourne effect for this holiday season on PCs or graphics card upgrades. Just a theory, but I am glad I am not in the market for either upgrade until the "advanced" approved video cards are out.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Yet Another Way to Subvert Windows Security

Once again Mark Russinovich of has dove deeply into Windows internals and found something disturbing. Certain Group Policy settings can be circumvented by Limited Users. Go read Mark's article, I'll wait. Back? I was designing AD forests on Windows 2000 back in my sys admin days, always thought Group Policies were one of those killer features for admins. Deploy settings to whole batches of machines, lock down users to what apps they could run, and how they could run them. Frankly, I am surprised that it has taken nearly 6 years since Active Directory and Group Policies were publicly released for the Software Restriction Policies (SRP) to get cracked. This always seemed like a juicy target. There probably isn't a lot of immediate exposure to corporate networks. As with most digital protection mechanisms, the bar doesn't have to be to high to stop the normal user. But there will be those intermediate to advanced users that have been restricted using application blacklists instead of whitelist that will want to subvert the SRP blacklist through a proxy application. If any media that normal users might read, PC Magazine comes to mind, start to pick up on this, it may be a big deal. Of course, this all depends on how many corporations are using SRP. When I was deploying AD back in the day, I only betaed SRP, never implemented, nobody wanted to do ongoing management of it, no one wanted to become the application police.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Why I am not getting an Xbox 360 (or renewing my Xbox Live subscription)

Microsoft's great hardware, software and services hope, the Xbox 360, as just about everyone remotely interested knows launches tomorrow. I will not be getting one for a number of reasons. Sure, Wow's Impact has something to do with it, but it's not the whole story. I have gone back to the Xbox recently to give Star Wars Battlefront II a run through and I am totally enjoying it. The most startling aspect, load times are quick compared to my summer of PSP loading hell, and I don't think I can deal with the PSP load times at all anymore, since completing my Madden 2006 season (a total non-event, not even a trophy ceremony) I haven't touched the PSP. Back to the 360, here are my reasons for not wanting this box:
  • Too Expensive. MS knows the $400 price point is too much, so they offer the $300 version, which you can't even save to or play previous Xbox titles because you have no storage. The cost/benefit it heavily in favor of the $400 version, and that is too much.
  • Not backward compatible enough. I know, 215 titles, but no Battlefront I or II, the game I am playing, and something smells funny
  • No Must Have Game. I am really disappointed that all the games are just re-treads of previous versions or sports titles, and the only thing being upgraded is the graphics. Maybe I am getting old on this, but I expect the graphics upgrade, there is no surprise, the gameplay hasn't changed, so I am disappointed.
  • Need a TV upgrade SDTV has a fixed resolution, the 360 graphics can only get so good. The Xbox Classic already looks pretty good, so to really see the 360 outclass the Xbox, I need an HDTV, bringing the price for gaming nirvana into the thousands. Ah, no thanks.
  • None of my friends are actually playing Xbox Live. This is the main reason I am not renewing my Live subscription. Everytime I boot the Xbox to watch a movie or play some Battlefront II, no one I know is playing anything. Most of them are hard-core into WoW or won't play on Live because they are hardcore mouse and keyboard control freaks. I like the Xbox controller, but I appreciate the mouse and keyboard precision.
  • I am tired of subscriptions. Here is another reason I am not renewing Live, I am really done with the whole subscription model. I feel this need to try and use whatever I am subscribing to as much as possible so that I feel like if I run the breakeven analysis, I am paying a fair price. I know, Live is only $4.16583333 a month, but if I don't use it that month, I get nothing for something, and that doesn't sit well with me. A subscription is always constantly on the mental To-Do list somewhere, and I just don't need anymore of those.
  • I am waiting for all next-gen consoles to ship. Sorry MS, but I saw this story before and believed the hype of the last great white hope, the Sega Dreamcast. Unlike the 360 though, the Dreamcast actually had extremelly compelling games that I wanted to play, like NFL 2K, which redefined video game football. Sorry, Madden 2006 Another Console Edition, is not on my buying list. Plus, you never know if Sony can pull off greatness in the PS3 or if Nintendo redefines console caming with Revolution.
  • I am holding out for all the next Apple gear. This one is much much lower, cause I could make new Apple gear happen if I wanted to in the 2006 and get a 360, but the coming Intel Mac's are really affecting my buying decisions.
  • I am not repeating the Sony PSP. Same kind of games were out at launch (seasonal sports titles adjusted) for the PSP as 360, and then nothing forever. Call me crazy, but I suspect this is the best MS and partners could do for now and we won't see anything truly new until say March or maybe next fall (Halo 360?). Sure, some stuff will trickle out that will be decent, but I haven't heard of a true system seller yet (Gears of War?).
To anyone getting a 360, I hope you enjoy the system and feel like your getting your moneys worth. I saw a demo of King Kong attached to a Samsung HDTV, it did look good.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

My first SQL Server 2005 Experience

I got SQL Server 2005 installed yesterday in a relatively painless experience. Told the installer to dump everything it had onto my system in a named instance so I could run SQL Server 2000 side-by-side, it all seemed to work. I launched the SQL Server Management Studio and connected to a remote SQL Server 2000 database. In the Summary tab, I double-clicked down to Databases, and then tried to double-click into a table, when I received the following error: Once I get this error, the whole ListView is busted and doesn't work. I have to relaunch the application to get this working. Maybe I have some crazy config, but this would seem like one of the top cases that must be tested against, and I really can't believe this is a shipping product.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

GotDotNet is so frustrating and How many developer sites does MS need?

I don't go to GotDotNet because I frequently find that when I do, something just breaks and I can't be bothered. I went today to the FxCop Team Page to see if they had a tool to parse the FxCop logs to create a report in Excel. I want't to get the trend of FxCop violations over several months of automated reports. An additional wrinkle is that my FxCop reports have been merged into my CC.NET log files. So I go to the FxCop Team Page, then click on link for FxCop area within GotDotNet User Samples and I get the following error: This is in IE6 too, not sure that matters. If I refresh a couple times I can see the forum, but it's totally unreliable. How many developer sites does Microsoft need (GotDotNet, MSDN, Channel 9,,, I know I am missing some)? I am tempted to build the FxCop Excel Report Generator myself, I built an FxCop parser at my last company, it was easy using xsd.exe to generate classes from the schema files, but if it's already out there, I am not going to bother.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Sony PSP Media Manager

Shoutout to Paul Thurrott for bringing the Sony PSP Media Manager to my attention. You can buy, that's right buy, the Sony PSP Media Manager here I can't believe Sony is charging $19.95 for the download, $29.95 for the boxed version with a special introductory offer of $24.95! This is terrible, Sony should be giving this away with the PSP, it should just be a free download. Completely evil. Paul also posted a link to the software release notes. Notice that it requires Quicktime 7 and it's a .NET application, both of which I find interesting. And that's right, the final strike against this software, before I have even seen it live, is that it doesn't work on OS X. That's it I guess, I have been waiting for the FREE Sony software for the PSP to do what iTunes does for the iPod, obvious now it's not coming. Scott Hanselman has a good post on manually getting TV content onto your PSP with Windows tools, and I just saw he updated his post with a link to the Media Manager software. After reading Hanselman's post, it seems Handbrake for Mac and Linux can do the video encoding work, you would just have to get the videos onto the PSP manually, which still of course sucks because of Sony's folder and file naming scheme. Maybe a weekend project to try, though video has to be small, I am not spending the money on the 1 GB memory stick until I can get a test done. I am still not paying for software to complete the scenario of getting media on the PSP, no wonder Sony has lost the MP3 player race to Apple, they just don't understand completing the user experience.

Possible file corruption for NTFS volumes on Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1

I subscribe to the Windows Server 2003 Knowledge Base feed to see what issues have been discovered, if my current environment might be impacted, and if a fix is available. This has already saved me hours of troubleshooting as I discover a KB article for something I know we have seen in our environment. Sometimes you get something scary, like this: Potential file corruption problem on NTFS volumes during extensive stress tests in Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 Microsoft explains in the KB article that the scenario that causes corruption is very rare in real world scenarios. Still this should scare anyone in a large environmnent using file services, because Microsoft does not say the probabilty is zero for the unlikely cases, just that it's low. Low! What does that mean? 1%, 5%? If you think you meet the likely criteria, you can either not install Windows Server 2003 SP1 (which is where the problem lies, but I think most organizations have moved forward with deployment already since the "bake in" period is well over) or, uh, MS let you know when then have a hotfix. I wonder if a root cause of the late discovery of this issue, relative to release date for SP1, is the maintenance team building the service packs. I am sure they are all very bright people, but let's face it, the service pack team at Microsoft are not the starters, they're not the A-Team, they're the second string. Microsoft calls it the Windows Sustained Engineering group at least as of 2003 in one reference I found. It is normally this group that produces hotfixes and service packs, but for extraordinary times, like for Windows XP SP2 the main Windows development team is brought back into the fold. Think of this normally as two tracks, the main Windows development team, and the Sustained Engineering team for hotfixes and service packs. The people that wrote Windows are not usually the ones that fix Windows. This isn't to say there is no interaction, I don't know of course, but it is a different team without as much experience on the code when the work is done. Service Packs are also not looked at as major Windows versions (XP SP2 excluded), they're just maintenance releases. I would put money on them being tested less rigourously, not by the test team, but by the outside people the project that really uncover the kruft of the code. Windows Server 2003 Service Pack 1 was based on XP SP2, but XP SP2 certainly wouldn't be stress tested for NTFS corruption. The Windows XP KB feed has no mention of a potential NTFS corruption issue. I am not saying lack of testing or less experienced developers caused this issue, but I am saying NTFS stress tests didn't reveal any potential corruption in Windows Server 2003 RTM and its there in Service Pack 1.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

MSDN Subscription Transition Update #4

Ugh, now this is just annoying. I received another response from MSDN this morning:
Hello Dave, This is -Name Removed To Protect the Innocent- and I am taking ownership of this case. I apologize for the issue that you encountered in the MSDN North America Visual Studio Team Transition Preference Login page. The site is now working correctly. You should now be able transition your MSDN Universal Subscription to a Visual Studio Team Subscription through without difficulties. If you need further assistance in transitioning your subscription, please call MSDN Subscription Services at 800-759-5474, 5:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday – Friday, except holidays. Did I complete completely address your issue? Please let me know by replying to this e-mail. Please do not hesitate to write back should you have other concerns. Thank you, -Name Removed To Protect the Innocent- Microsoft Online Customer Service Representative
*Sigh* The site is still down as of this post.

Sony DRMed CD's Install Virus/RootKit/Malware

Mark Russinovich with his SysInternals site and tools has to be one of the smartest people on Windows (any version) working today. No one has done more outside MS to make Windows systems maintanable. If you don't already go download his Process Explorer, FileMon, RegMon, Autoruns, and RootKitRevealer tools. You will need them one day and be glad you have them on your system. Some go so far as to have the latest version of all these tools on a USB stick in case shit happens Mark has outdone himself with an amazing piece of detective work that reveals that Sony installs DRM software on Windows with their copy-protected CDs that is for all intents and purposes spyware/malware/virus because of the techniques used to install and evade detection. I think a boycott of Sony is in order, this is just unacceptable, looks like the PSP is going on the auction block. I don't like DRM software at all, but of all the schemes out there, seems like Apple with FairPlay on their music and video files strikes an acceptable balance between consumer and content provider. This is one of the core reasons Apple has been so successful with iTunes, the DRM is largely transparent.

Monday, October 31, 2005

MSDN Subscription Transition Update #3

I got another response back from MSDN, and I am not happy:
Hello Dave, Thank you for writing back. I apologize for the inconvenience that you have experienced in accessing the North American Subservices Web site, so you can transition your MSDN subscription. We are aware of this issue and our Production Support team is currently working on a fix. I will inform you as soon as I hear back from them. I know how important it is to you to have this solved immediately. Thank you for bearing with us as we work to resolve your issue. Thank you, -Name removed to protect the innocent- Microsoft Online Customer Service Representative
So in short, your stuff is busted and you don't know when you are going to get it fixed. The transition site has been down since at least Friday (10/28/05) morning, it's crazy they weren't prepared for the deluge of subscribers.

Ripping DVDs to iPod with video format

I haven't personally tested this yet, but Derrick Story on the O'Reilly MacDevCenter links to a tutorial page for using Handbrake (Mac or Linux) to rip DVDs to iPod with video format that seems very straightforward. I happen to have Handbrake on my iMac G5 because a buddy recommended it, so I will test this tonight to get an idea what the effort and time is like.

MSDN Subscription Transition Update #2

I sent an email to requesting my subscription be transitioned to the biggest, baddest version of Visual Studio 2005, but instead of this problem being resovled, I have to help debug which site is down. Here is the email I got:
Hello Dave, Thank you for contacting Microsoft Customer Service. I understand that you would like to transition your MSDN Universal subscription. I apologize for the inconvenience that you have experienced in accessing the Web site, so that you can transition your subscription. To assist you with your request, I will need to know the following: 1. At what specific Web site are you attempting to transition? 2. Could you let me know what you did step by step? 3. Are you receiving any specific error message? If so, please send me a screenshot of the error. Please press Alt+PrtSc, paste into Word, and attach to your response. I know how important this issue is for you, and look forward to hearing from you soon so I can begin investigating the issue. Thank you, -name omitted to protect the innocent- Microsoft Online Customer Service Representative
The North American Subscription Services that I think I have to hit to transition my subscription is still down. I do have a backup plan. Eric tells me the product key is pre-filled, so John has downloaded the bits and will be personally delivering them tomorrow. I don't think MS ever intended for an employee to hand deliver the bits to me, but I will take it :)

Friday, October 28, 2005

MSDN Subscription Transition Update

This is getting comical. The website I am supposed to use is still down, and at Len's suggestion, I sent an email to MSDN, which ended up being the MSDN Academic Alliance Program for North America. They responded with:
This is in response to your email regarding how you can change your subscription to gain access to the Team Edition. You have reached the MSDN Academic Alliance Program for North America, which is a different program from that of MSDN. For prompt access to services for MSDN customers in the United States, please use the following contact information: email: Phone: (800) 759-5474 Technical Support: 1 800-936-5800
My mistake, I scanned this page for the first email address I could find. So I send email to because its in the response I receive and then I get this back:
Hello, You have written to a Microsoft customer service e-mail address that is no longer monitored. If you have this e-mail address saved in your address book, please delete it. We no longer receive customer submissions through direct e-mail, rather through a Web form. Our Web form will help our customer service agents gather the required information from you in order to quickly resolve or address your inquiry. To submit your question or feedback, please visit and fill out the Web feedback form. A Microsoft Customer Service Representative will assist you within 24hours. Thank you, Customer Service
LOL. So I just submitted a request through a web form at the link in the 2nd email, we will see where this takes me.

A subscriber found or this is my 100th post!

For the first time, I discover that someone is reading my blog that I don't personally know. I found this out because Len posted a comment on my Visual Studio 2005 release post. That's really cool, and I say to Len subscribed! This also happens to be my 100th post, and I think a hundred of anything must mean something. Thanks for reading and if you happen to be drinking right now, here's to the next 100. :)

Visual Studio 2005 RTMs and I can't upgrade my MSDN Subscription

Microsoft finally released Visual Studio 2005. I haven't played with the Betas at all, I just didn't have time to or the hardware for it. I certainly wasn't going to install it on my production laptop, I have to get work done. But now it's RTM, in theory I should be able to install this in production :-). But I can't get the any of the Visual Studio 2005 Team Editions, which is what I really want. You can check out the different editions here. My company bought an MSDN subscription for me earlier this year, so I am eligible to transition from MSDN Universal to MSDN Premium I think, which gets you the Team Edition bits. But you have to logon and set some database flag so MSDN Subscriber downloads shows you Team Edition. I mean how lame is this whole process. Microsoft did you really think anyone would self-nerf their subscription to a lower level or not choose the biggest version of Visual Studio they could get?!?! The mind boggles. Not to mention that the place to set the flag is dependent on how you renewed/bought MSDN. Check out this matrix to hit the correct URL. I THINK mine is the North American Subscription Services but I can't tell because the site has been DOWN for 2 days now, at least since VS2005 RTMed. Now I did try the North American Licensing Services URL, because I actually received an email from Microsoft telling me to logon here and make my choice, but I logon and there is nothing for me to choose. I then have our companies volume license administrator, which might include MSDN, add me as a manager on our companies volume licensing agreement, but my MSDN Subscription is not here. Does MS actually want people to get their development tools? I can right now download the VS2005 Professional Edition because I am listed as an MSDN Universal subscriber if MSDN Subscriber downloads actually responded to download requests, but I wouldn't dare install it, I don't know what it would do to my license keys, you know I might be locked out from installing Visual Studio Uber Edition without giving blood and my first born to MS promising not to steal their development tools.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Interview w/ Christopher Nolan

Box Office Mojo has a really good interview with Christopher Nolan, the director of Batman Begins, Insomnia, and Memento. This is an extremely thorough interview. A few things really stood out:
BOM: Is it too long at two hours and 17 minutes? Nolan: It's 2:20. 2:17 has been printed, but 2:20 is accurate. Three years ago, I went to the studio, and I told them roughly what the film was going to be, and I told them it would be two hours and 20 minutes long. The reason is that to me the epic scope of the story we were aiming for, combined with the fact that, in dealing with the origins of the story, you have to spend a lot of time before you even get to Batman. And you want a number of action scenes—you basically want a two-hour blockbuster movie plus an extra movement to the piece at the end with credits—which comes out at two hours and 20 minutes as opposed to two hours and five minutes. We had to start at the very beginning of the story, treating [Bruce Wayne] as a child—and spend time doing that, not just a montage, but really embrace the story—you need that extra room. When you look at the highest grossing movies, they're really long films, whether it's Titanic or The Sound of Music or Gone with the Wind. I always want a film I work on to be as short as it possibly can, and it took a while because there's a lot of story here to cram in. There aren't any deleted scenes on the DVD, because we never removed story; we just compressed it. So it's a furiously paced film, and we're very fortunate that musicians helped us achieve a unity with the right tempo.
Again, Mr. Nolan I applaud as I did in my review sticking to the 2:20 running time. Here is another Q & A that gives me a lot of hope for the sequel, which I underhyped a bit in my review:
Nolan: ...Yet the immediate response to Batman's standing up for what's good is a proportional escalation of evil, and that's not philosophical—it's not that it will always be that way—it's about how bad things have to get before things become good. Batman is positive, but I believe that, in the first couple of years, he's going to find an increasingly negative response from society, because the truth is that, when you have a powerful, negative city like Gotham, it didn't become corrupt by accident, and those entrenched people are going to respond very vigorously. BOM: Sounds like a good sequel.
A good sequel indeed. And one last thing, which I hadn't quite thought of:
BOM: Since Batman is a means to an end, are you rooting for Batman so he can get back to being Bruce Wayne? Nolan: No, I think you're rooting for Batman at the expense of Bruce Wayne. The feeling of the end of the film is the ending, or postponement, of the relationship with Rachel [the character played by Katie Holmes]—it's the ending of the Bruce Wayne story and the beginning of Batman—Batman begins.
This is one of those times where I think my previous exposure to Batman mythology has either led me astray, or I just didn't get it. I had always conceived Bruce Wayne as using Batman as a means to balance justice in the injust Gotham that took his parents lives. Gotham had reached a point where it was so corrupt, the system itself was broken and needed a new catalyst to help restore balance. On a psychological level, I had never really thought that the persona of Bruce Wayne was the facade, instead Batman was the identity assumed to help combat evil, the character of Bruce Wayne/Batman's natural state is Bruce Wayne. That's not what Mr. Nolan is saying. Watch Batman Begins and you can see this woven through the story, Bruce's journey is from grief stricken child, to anger/remorse stricken young adult, to an adult that has assembled all the pieces he needs (identity, company, friends) to do the job of restoring justice to Gotham, to try and achieve justice. By the end of the movie, Bruce has completed his transformation into Batman, he has no emotional capacity to accept love because Bruce Wayne is either buried or no longer exists. Thinking about this reading the interview, Mr. Nolan is right and I am sure glad he was the director on Batman Begins, because he understands this material, treats it with respect, and wants to do it right. Above all, he is committed to doing the best job he can and he has the tools to make it happen. Bravo Mr. Nolan!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Tiki Bar TV

I just discovered Tiki Bar TV. You can subscribe to this video podcast in iTunes. This is some real funny stuff that is just completely off the wall. Videos are short so just go try it. I think my favorite episode is the London Fogcutter.

Ars Technica on the iPod with video

Ars Technica has done another good review of the iPod with video 30GB. These guys always seem to do a fair review and really dig into the device. A few points in the review stood out in my mind. Apple has clearly sacrificed Firewire support for a smaller size device and the video chip. I have no problem with this, I don't own an older Mac with a USB 1.1 port (you need a USB 2.0 port now). The second point is that outputting the iPod formatted video to SDTV actually looks just like broadcast TV. I honestly didn't consider this possible. So I opened in Quicktime the one episode of Lost I bought from iTunes and resized it to 480x360. If memory serves, SDTV has a max of 480 lines. Here is a screenshot from the show format at 480: And the same thing in original size: For that small jump in resolution, the file format seems to scale well. I am still not buying, I am planning for the transistion to HD. Still this might be "good enough" for right now since HD isn't widely deployed in the market, but I want a forward looking solution here.

Review: Batman Begins

Got Batman Begins on DVD the other day, I've watched it 2 times since in addition to the 2 times I saw it in the theater. I am a huge Batman fan, it's the comic I always come back to and pick up occasionally, I am always picking up graphic novels that put a bunch of issues together. Batman Begins is in my eyes a near perfect representation of Batman. The training, the explanation of why he is doing what he does, how he puts the cave, the suit, the car, and his relationship with Gordon together, spot on. Christian Bale is the perfect Bruce Wayne and Batman. There are people that can play either side well, but doing both well is extremely hard. Mr. Bale pulls it off with apparent ease, playing essentially 3 characters, young Bruce, current Bruce, and of couse Batman. Bale's Batman is actually scary, the scene in the rain where is has the corrupt cop hanging upside down and he growls "Swear to me!" is menacing. I remember when I saw this in the theater, people were shocking by the ferocity. The picture feels epic like a Batman origin tale should. The other striking thing is that all the main actors are fantastic, the best representations of all these characters, Alfred, Gordon, Lucious Fox, without Michael Cain, Garry Oldman, and Morgan Freeman in these roles, the picture isn't nearly as strong. Liam Neeson is also good, but he has nothing to compare to in Batman film history before. He doesn't get as high praise from me because the first half of his performance is nearly cut and paste from Star Wars Episode I, he plays the wise older teacher again. This isn't to say he phones it in, but he knows how to do this very well. That said, the other side to his performance is very good. I was very fearful that this film would be doomed for me because of Katie Holmes. I don't know what is going on with her, scientology, and Tom Cruise. I couldn't really see her as a strong female character because I only knew her from promos of Dawson's Creak while watching Smalleville on the WB. Thank goodness she is not annoying in this, far from it, I think she's good. When you watch this movie, keep in mind that a lot of the stunts and effects are practical. That's right, Batman being dragged through the city attached to the monorail, that's actually a guy on a cable! This movie is really a template how to carefully use CGI mixed with model work and practical effects for best results. The scale of the practical effects is normally huge, including nearly all the Batmobile/Tumbler work. I got the Widescreen Special Edition of the DVD, and the extras on disc 2 are good, though not exhaustive, and I can practically feel another edition coming. Chris Nolan, the Director, does not provide a commentary, which is usually the tell-tale sign. For a comic book movie, this gets 5/5 stars. For just a regular movie, this get 4/5 stars, I seriously think its that good. What's the difference between a comic book and regular movie in my eyes, the character's. In comic book movies, characters are usually pretty weak, in regular movies, at least these days, they can be weak too, but in something with a lot of effects, usually time for characters is lost in the effects, but I just don't get that feeling in this movie. I think that may also be due to its running time. The movie is 2:20. You could have easily cut 20 minutes out of this and you would have had left any run of the mill comic book movie, but applaud Chris Nolan the Warner Bros. for not cutting to get as many showtimes in as possible for the theatrical run and putting back the character work in the DVD release. Honestly, I don't think this film hits $200 million theatrical if they cut it out, people would have just felt burned by another bad Bat-flick, and bad word of mouth would have killed it. The final shots in the movie are a fantastic setup for things to come, but I have to say I am a little skeptical of everyone being able to execute on this high level again. They will natural feel like they have to top this one, and we know what's coming next. Plus, they eventually will have to deal with Robin, and no one has been able to execute that in a non-crappy way, even the Batman Animated Series ended up going more comedic with this. This movie has definitely buried Batmans 1-4 in terms of quality and characterizations. I still love Batman, but I had problems with it even when that came out, I never thought they would reboot the franchise in such dramatic fashion. After watching Batman Begins, I don't even want to go get the new Batman - The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997. Of course it's on my Amazon Wishlist, so it would make a nice Christmas present if anyone is asking :) My last thoughts are that man did I feel inadequate while watching Batman Begins. Bruce Wayne turns 30 years old in this film, same as me, so I really need to step it up to save a city from crime. I can't even save my family from dirty dishes most nights :)

PSP TV or Go Read John's Blog

Engadget has an article up on the PSP2TV, a $119 dollar non-Sony authorized device that connects to your TV and lets you play games or movies, even with your PS2 controller. Modchip World has more on this device. Thanks to my buddy John for bringing me the link. He just started blogging for real at Backhand Volley. Here's the RSS. As for this device, Sony why does it take some unknown company to get this capability out the door? Are you going to break it in the next firmware update? Do you have the video chip in the PSP to output to TV like the new iPod? It may not matter for me, I am not buying UMDs, just like I am not buying video's from iTunes, until I can guarantee this stuff is usable elsewhere.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

iPod with video reaction

As probably everyone reading this blog knows, Apple released, depending on who you are listening to, the:
  • the iPod - Apple
  • iPod with video
  • iPod 5G (5th Generation)
One thing that's clear is that this new iPod, with the 2.5" diagonal screen with a 320x240 is the the Video iPod, though some refer to it even as that, but that's not right. A Video iPod would have a widescreen aspect ratio, like the Sony PlayStataion Portable (PSP), and you would be able to download movies for it, something Sony can't figure out, and Sony has the stupid movie library. No this iPod is certainly a music player first, the best iPod yet for people that want their whole collection with them, but it also does some video if you are into that sort of thing. This is a much more tentative step from Apple than I had wanted. 4 huge things are holding back this iPod, or a future Video iPod, from making me upgrade:
  1. Lack of content, you need more TV shows and movies
  2. I can't burn the things I buy from iTunes for playing in a DVD player
  3. I can't rip the content I already have from DVD
  4. The resolution of the video from iTunes is too low for me to replace buying DVDs, which is what has happened with iTunes and CDs
I understand why Apple has to take these steps, legal online distribution of TV shows or movies undermines many existing business models, so everyone is experimenting here, Apple, ABC, and the record labels with music videos. But I want what I want, and I don't want to get video content on physical media anymore or physically tied to the Tivo. If I want to watch the special features of Batman Begins, I don't want to have the disc in the DVD drive. I only want to remember to get the content into the computer once and when I am ready for it, it's there, just like my music is now. I don't have the iPod with video, but I did download two videos to test. I got the music video Kayne West's Golddigger and the 3rd episode of the second season of Lost. At their native resolutions, image clarity looks great. But that's the problem, the native resolution on a 1440x990 17" iMac makes the video from iTunes tiny. So you start doubling it or filling it full screen, and if anyone tells you otherwise there full of it, that looks like crap. You just can't build a permanent library using this as a source. Here is the deal for me, I am done buying the same content over and over again in Super Duper Extra Special Director's Extended Edition. I am not paying DirecTV for the broadcast version of Lost, then pay more for the iPod version, then maybe get the DVD version. I totally want location transparency, I don't want to be tied to even the Tivo anymore. If I go to my in-laws house for the weekend and I want to watch Lost, I want the iPod to be able to do that with stunning HD clarity. Apple seriously the size of the hard drives on the new iPods is enough you could store multiple version of the video, each customized for different format sizes, iPod, SDTV, and HDTV. Apple is keeping the size at 320x240 for three reasons:
  1. don't compete with TV Show DVD revenue (content owner's reason)
  2. Users once they get the file don't have to down-render a HD file to iPod resolution (Apple's reason)
  3. The pipes aren't big enough to have a good experience downloading and HD file
This last one actually looks like a usability problem, but its not. People are already willing to wait DAYS to get a movie from Netflix, a download over broadband is easily faster than this. Heck, Apple could even default to downloading the iPod version and then download an HD version later. I am just not going to buy this stuff over and over again. The power of having videos in iTunes though is the immediacy. With all the above said, I am seriously considering downloading an episode of Kolchak the Night Stalker to see how this show is. I don't have to wait for a re-run, I can get it anytime and watch it when I want. Music videos are potentially even a more powerful draw because just try to find videos playing on MTV now, it's like finding water in the dessert. Seriously, every time I flip through MTV, its some crap reality TV show. Hello, where are the videos! I am just done sitting around waiting for any piece of content I want to watch show up. Tivo really started this for me (Thanks Jeff!), now I want it all when and where I want it. There is very little video content that actually has to be tied to a particular schedule except mine. This is all content that is already filmed, edited, and for all intents, done and ready to be consumed. There is obviously the live event thing that needs to be solved over the Internet in a much better way than live events have been handled before, Apple please do this! How about pricing? If you think $0.99 is a fair price for a song (I do), then $1.99 for a TV show seems like nearly a steal. We are talking about roughly 42 minutes of content vs. about 4 minutes for a song, that's $0.047 a minute for the TV Show, $0.247 per minute for the song, you getting so many more minutes of content for your dollar. But until Apple ups the quality, they aren't going to get another video dime from me. Common Apple, make it happen. Dollars are standing by...

Madden Update: Waiting with bated breath

EA posted this on their forums on October 18, 2005:
We know that the workaround we've issued for Madden 06 PSP Franchise mode bug is working. At the same time, we're developing a longer-term solution to address the issue and make it right for our consumers. We appreciate everyone's support and will release more information as soon as we have it. Nathan
Wow, that's so helpful. So what your saying is you know the workaround to the most egregious bug is buying you time, but you won't tell us what bugs or when to expect fixed in some theoretical long term plan. Get a clue guy, until you put some dates together and tell me how to get a new build of this game, stuff like this only pisses me off.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Turned on Comment Words

Over the last month whenever I posted to the blog, I would get a few comments from either anonymous or registered Blogger users that I would definitely qualify as spam.

This stuff was coming reasonably quickly after a post, so I turned on comments words to hopefully defeat any machine generated comments. This is a pretty common technique now and for all 2 or 3 of your commenting, I hope this doesn’t stop you from commenting, I love real comments.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Madden Update: NFL knows of Madden PSP issues

I tried to return my 2nd copy of Madden 2006 for PSP last night, and I couldn't. I exchanged it for another copy, so I could start the clock running again on this defective copy. I should have returned this turkey when the guy who gave me the 2nd copy didn' strip the shrink wrap off, last night they did. I think the 2nd guy did this purposefully on reflection. The guy at the EB Games in Bridgewater, NJ basically told me to drive around to the other EB Games in the area to see if I could get anybody to give me my money back. I finally went through the work of trying the workaround posted by EA (delete all your franchise saves, then play your franchise schedule only through the Team Schedule option). On my PSP (firmware 2.01) this prevents the shutdowns so far, but I can no longer use the Assistant Coach feature to upgrade my players. This was one of the best features, because it added an RPG element to the game which is usually not included in a football game. I find that playing franchise without the assistant coach feature just isn't as enjoyable. I also turned off the Al Michael's commentary, which speeds load times. Not dramatically, its not 2x faster, but its a little better. I am so upset by this whole situation that I took to emailing the NFL. Someone on the EA boards found an email address for someone in the Communications and Public Affairs office, Jonathan Zimmer. I wrote the following email to him:
Mr. Zimmer, I have been informed that you are in charge of licensing for the NFL. I purchased the game Electronic Art's Madden 2006 for the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) since it is the only football game officially licensed by the NFL. The game is disgraceful, riddled with bugs that either cause the game to turn off the PSP or prevent the player from using the features of the game. When the exclusive licensing deal between EA and the NFL was announced, I was fearful that the monopoly on NFL games would result in decreased quality. That is exactly what has happened. If Sega had been a licensee of the game, there is no way EA would have released a game like this. I have played a lot of console games across multiple platforms, this is the worst bug filled game I have ever played. The worst part of this whole experience is that I can't get my money back. When you buy games from most places, included EB Games where I bought my copy, once you open the game packaging, you can't return it. The only thing I can do is continue to exchange the game, and this is only by store policy for "defective" media. I am on my third copy of the game. I am far from the only person experiencing these problems. You can look at user reports on EA's Forums, mboards/forum.jspa?sls=2&forumID=44 EA has only posted a workaround to one of the PSP turn off issues, also called the shutdown bug. This exposes another bug in the game preventing the player from tuning your team as an assistant coach. They seem unlikely to issue a recall or replace the game with an updated copy that fixes these issues, or issue refunds for people that want them. I hope that with enough external pressure EA will make things right by their customers. The NFL has lost a customer in me for its games as long as they continue to license them only through EA. I know the money from EA for the exclusive license must have been good, but you have damaged the brand of the NFL. Regretfully, David Murdock
40 minutes later, I received this reply:
Dear Mr. Murdock: Thank you for your recent letter. We are now aware of the issue you referenced in your e-mail about Madden 2006 for the PlayStation Portable. We have been assured by EA that it is working to correct the problem. Thank you for your continued support in the NFL. Best, Jon Zimmer National Football League Communications & Public Affairs 280 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017
This was very gratfying to see the NFL actually caring about the issue. It is a form response apparently, as multiple people on the EA forums have have received the same reply But it seems EA is done with this issue. Nathan, the EA Rep posting in their forums, had this to say about the workaround to the shutdown problem:
> At least tell us if they are still working on the > problem or do they consider their "workaround" to be > a solution. > > Obviously the workaround does not work. The > lockups/shutdowns happen in gameplan as well as in > games. So the "workaround" doesn't even apply. > > You can at least tell us if they are still working on > the problem. > > And do they really think it is not a widespread > problem? Nobody has one that works. So not only is > it widespread, it has a 100% failure rate. Have you > communicated to them that it is indeed a widespread > problem? > > People want this game to work. That's why we are so > passionate about it. If we didn't care about the > game, we would just return it. I am being told that the work around is the solution to the shut down issue so assume that this is the final answer on this issue. We are still workingon the online slow down. The work around has been extensively tested on multiple systems and it prevents the shut down. Thanks, Nathan
At this point my only option at EB Games is to take the $30 trade-in credit, eBay the game, or keep it and hope that EA replaces the current UMD with a new one. I don't think I am being unreasonable when I expect to be able to use the features of the game without having to "give up" any so that the game doesn't shutdown the PSP. If this doesn't get fixed, I think I am done with the whole PSP. I really like the idea of portable gaming, but the execution till now has been abysmal. If the rumors of the iPod video are true and Apple gets the software and content right, I'll eBay the PSP and my current iPod to get the iPod video and perhaps a Nintendo DS. A co-worker has one and says it has been a lot of fun and with Advance Wars out for the DS and getting good reviews on Gamespot, it might be time to trade up. The PSP has been nothing but disappointment so far, I really don't need this level of grief or anxiety over something that is supposed to be enjoyable.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Don't Buy Madden 06 PSP

It's probably only a matter of time before the big news sites pick up on this, but Madden 06 for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) is horribly flawed and you shouldn't buy it. Check out the EASports Forums for Madden 06 PSP for the deluge of people that are reporting problems with this game. The worst is the game turns off the PSP most of the time after completing a Franchise mode game, and thus you lose your progress. There is a workaround of course, save your game right before the game ends, but it takes so long for Madden to load from cold boot that this ends up being a 5-10 minutes cycle to get back into the action, horrible and frustrating. There are other bugs all over the place, graphics not loading, freezes in other parts of the game, cancelling actions in Franchise mode Assistant Coach feature not working, and online play turning off the PSP. I even had the game hang just selecting a play today. I will be going back to EB Games tomorrow to see if I can get my money back or a store credit. The final straw for me was EA posting an "official" workaround on the above linked forums, which others have reported as not working. The right thing to do would be for EA to fix all the issues and ship people new builds of the game on UMD, soft patches won't work, PSP wasn't designed to allow game loading from the Memory Stick apparently, thats what someone claiming to be a game dev posted on the EA forums. This is completely disappointing, this is the game I have been waiting for, as I talked about here. I don't pay $50 for this much frustration. EA you have lost a customer for a long time, thanks for not doing the right thing for your customers.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Why is my ThinkPad T40 groggy?

I can’t fathom why my IBM ThinkPad T40 takes so long to come out of sleep. It’s somewhere between 30 seconds and 1 minute before I the logon prompt! Seriously, this is one of the things about Mac laptops, like my PowerBook and iBook, that is make them such a joy to use. When you open the lid on either Mac laptop, OS X is usable at full speed in perhaps 3 seconds. It’s so fast you don’t even think about the time. This was one of the WOW moments when I showed my co-workers at the time how the iBook came out of sleep.

My previous ThinkPad, a T23, was much better about coming out of sleep, under 30 seconds, but nowhere near Mac laptop speed. So I don’t really get why the T40 takes so long. Yes, I have hibernation enabled, just in case I want to use it, but when I close the lid, XP is configured to go to sleep, not hibernate. Even if the ThinkPad is hibernating behind my back, I get no indicator this has taken place. The screen is completely black from the time I open the lid until I see the logon prompt. The status indicator on the bottom of the LCD for HD operation is dark, and the sleep icon remains lit.

If anyone has figured this out, drop me a comment. If it’s XP, I am probably screwed without a reinstall, but if anyone has a T40 and the laptop comes out of sleep quickly, let me know if you have ever had to do anything to make this work.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Madden PSP Review or Hey Sony, where is the software for the PSP?!

When I posted on WoW's Impact, I included a short blurb on Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP). Well Madden 2006 finally came out last night, and I quickly dug into the title.

I have been waiting MONTHS for this to come out. Seriously, I have been carrying the PSP around in my backpack to work doing nothing with it because nearly all of the games were disappointing. How has Sony handled the time since the PSP launch in March? It’s clear now that Sony and all their publishers have been holding out for the holiday season to release some games. What did they do in the meantime? Release a bunch of UMD movies instead.

Why in the world am I going to buy your UMD movies?!?!! Where the iTunes for the PSP that Sony supports? I am not going to pay for some third-party iTunes clone to rip my own movies from DVD to computer and transfer them to the PSP. If you think I am going to drop $20-$30 on a UMD that I can only play on the PSP, you are sadly mistaken. I hope the UMD market completely tanks. You could have at least released a way to connect the PSP to a TV to play movies, but I know that’s too much to ask. Say I actually wanted a movie, like Sin City, to watch on the PSP. I watch that on the PSP, but if I have some friend’s over to watch Sin City, can I watch that on the TV? No, I have to go rent or buy the DVD! Hey Sony, why don’t you stop crap like A-B repeat to the 2.0 firmware and write some software for Mac and Windows, of course.

Back to Madden. I am playing on the train into NYC. We pull into the station, do I stop playing, no, I walk and play at the same time. I have a franchise to groom dammit! I stop in Starbucks to get my morning coffee, I am half a block from the office, do I stop playing, no. I get my latte and sit down, finish training camp and start the preseason. I am laying into the Bengals, I am the NY Giants of course, when the Blackberry vibrates. I jerk my left hand off the PSP to grab the Blackberry and I forget the wrist strap is on my left hand. PSP slams onto the counter and just completely turns off!!! I don’t mean I nudged the Power button, the thing is off cold. Turn the power back on and it does a cold boot. At this point I have a knot in my stomach, have I just lost my franchise work and the beginning of my first preseason game? Surely not, Madden has to have been saving all those changes I was making to my franchise!

Madden doesn’t know anything about my franchise, I am totally disappointed but also thankful I figured out this quirk now. You see the franchise “Save” option is behind the “My Franchise” menu on the main screen of franchise mode.

Besides the comedy of errors above, how is the game? It’s pretty good, but not great. Graphics are somewhat chunky, maybe not even Dreamcast level. Load times are not good, even while in game. Try this, on offense hit the audible key (I think triangle), and then wait 3 seconds or so for the game to figure out overlaying buttons on the screen, weak. Camera seems kind of far away from the action sometimes, but maybe that is just the screen size. There might be some tweaking for me to do there. I haven’t played a Madden game in a long time, used to Sega’s awesome football games, so maybe it’s a bit of what I am comfortable with. Regardless, this thing is going to eat a whole bunch of my time. If you like football games, you’ll probably find yourself sucked in, regardless of the flaws.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Stupid Xbox DVD Player

When I moved from CA back to NJ, somehow I lost my Xbox DVD Remote. I had been using the Xbox as my only DVD player since pretty much it came out, 4 years ago.

So instead of going right out and buying another remote, $29.99, I was sure it would turn up as I cleared boxes. Alas, no remote ever surfaced. In the meantime, I used one of those cheap Wal-mart portable DVD players, an ESA something, for like 6 months. The remote on this thing is terrible, you can never find the buttons when you want them, and finally I got tired of it and went to EB Games and got a previously used Xbox DVD Remote, $24.95, which works perfectly.

I can’t say the same for the Xbox DVD drive. The first DVD I tried playing on the Xbox was Willow, which I had got from Netflix. 3 chapters in, and the Xbox is locked up tighter than Fort Knox. Try skipping 4-5 chapters, same deal. Stupid POS Xbox!!! DVD has all kinds of light scratches on it all over the disc, and the Xbox has never liked any scratched discs. I want to watch the movie though, so then I go get the ESA player and plug that back into the TV, same thing, completely frozen.

My wife had the 14” iBook on the coffee table, so we threw the movie in there just to see if we could watch the flick, played perfectly without a hitch the entire way through. My point, obviously the Xbox and the ESA are using about the same quality DVD drive, low, while Apple is using something much higher. Thanks Apple.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Google Talk Reloaded

I previously blogged about Google Talk here. In short, lots to like, a little sparten, but I couldn't test the biggest feature, you know, the talk part. We'll today I got my chance and all I can say is wow. I was working from home today, and I needed to talk to a co-worker. Out of the blue, she called me on Google Talk. Connecting was super simple, and then we starting talking. Just amazing. Clarity was amazing. I can't overstate this, Google Talk was more clear than:
  • Cordless phone using Vonage
  • Blackberry cell using a headset on Cingular
  • Blackberry cell talking directly into the device on Cingular
I don't know if Skype is this good, but I don't even know if I am going to bother trying. Since eBay bought them, my money is on them charging for everything, trying to squeeze you at every turn, just like their auctions. Let's hope Google Talk stays free and they get a native Mac client soon, or Apple and Google work together to get the Talk part interoperable between iChat and Google Talk.

I wish Bluetooth were as insecure as WiFi

So I am riding the train home from NYC and the guy sitting right next to me, let's call him Franklin, has a PC, I have my 12" PowerBook. After a few minutes of using his PC, Franklin rumages through his bag and pulls out a bluetooth card the he plugs into a PC Card slot. You can spot these suckers a mile away with the stubby fat antenna. I am intrigued cause I have bluetooth on the PowerBook, and I have tried to get an internet connection through the Blackberry, but it looks like the Blackberry can't do, though OS X Bluetooth Assistant finds it no problem. But I start wondering if Franklin is going to use his cell phone to get net access. Sho'Nuff, Franklin does a little incantation on the cell phone, can he starts browsing. Like a shark to chum, I immediately activate my bluetooth hardware (I normally disable it to save juice) and tell the Assistant to go russle me up a device. Hey, I had the World of WarCraft 1.7 patch to download! Not more than 30 second later, the v**** device is listed and I can move to the next step in the process. But here is where things get weird. See I had forgot that Bluetooth wants the device you are connecting to to type in a CODE to complete the connection. Bluetooth doesnt just willy nilly allow any devices to mate, bluetooth uses contraception. What I am used to is slutty WiFi, it will hook-up to anything, and I had grown to used to its free spirit. As soon as the assistant tells me this, I know I have to bail, but its too late. Win XP has already let Franklin know that its been thinking real hard enabling a bluetooth connection, and that all he has to do is click on XP's "idea" and Franklin can make it happen. There is no cancel request button on the OS X bluetooth assistant, and I can't remember the Force Quit key stroke in time, so Franklin notices the thought bubble, and you can see him get a little alarmed and start looking around before we make eye contact. I have 2 choices. 1) Admit I was trying to leech off Franklin's expensive cell data minutes for free or 2) Feign ignorance and blame it on the computer. To choose option 2. No muss, no fuss, Franklin of course accepted their was a "ghost in the machine" and went back about his business and I disabled the Bluetooth so I wouldnt try that again. :-)

iTunes 5: Stealth Release?

It's been all over the web that iTunes 5 includes resources, images and strings, that lead you to believe it already supports an iPod video! It had better. I just spent close to 30 minutes going through iTunes 5, seeing if behavior changed for existing settings, seeing if I had missed functionality in the 4.x point releases, and wow, I am amazed by how little new is visible in iTunes 5. Sure, the UI is reskinned, and I really like it. I am all for removing extraneous pixels wherever they might exist. This is one of the worst tyranies of Windows, there is so much wasted space. Damn you BillG for allowing 42 icons to consume my screen real estate near the clock!!! Anyway, iTunes 5 will either go down as the least spectacular "major" release in a long time, or as genius for stealth enabling functionality that isn't visible. Just about the only thing that might have an immediate impact is folders, and I don't even feel like bothering organizing my playlists into folders. I have had a flat list for years, why bother now?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Missed a chance to meet Adam Curry

At my current employer today in NYC, Adam Curry, former MTV VJ and Podfather, was giving a presentation on podcasting through his Podshow company.

This was very exciting yesterday when I heard about it because it was open for anyone to attend and I had every intention of going.

Alas, I will never meet Mr. Curry. My development team required me to fulfill my duties as app architect on the project I am running, and I missed the presentation.

Adam if you ever read this, thanks for the show, I really enjoy the podcasts.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

PDC 05 - Webcast Feeback - Live!

11:30-11:58 AM
Watching the PDC 05 Webcast right now; and Bill hasn’t said anything yet, its all historical recap.

The webcast blocked out the recruiting video, with this message:
“Due to the proprietary nature of the content being broadcast we must temporarily suspend the audio and video portion of this telecast. Normal program will resume in a few moments”.


11:59 AM - 12:04 PM
Bill doing more recap, snooze.

It strikes me how crappy the video quality is. Apple’s special event where the iPod nano and the Motorola ROKR iTunes phone Webcast, not live mind you so that may be part of it, but once available is gorgeous in Quicktime  HD (mpeg-4 is the standard).

Anyway, waiting for something to happen…

12:05 PM – 12:09 PM
Audio is still live, but video is freeze-framed. Hopefully it will figure itself out before Bill starts showing demos.

Ah, there is goes, Bill is animated again…

12:10 PM – 12:31 PM
Chris Capposela is now demoing Windows Vista. He took one deep breath before starting to talk.

App Switching
Thumbnails on the taskbar, ok, but not great. New Alt-Tab, again ok, but not great.

I missed something with sideways presented 3D windows, but a co-worker interrupted me.

Quicksearch Seems to work just like Spotlight, I don’t see anything here that is impressive. They have the search box everywhere like in OS X Tiger.

There is some stuff in the new Explorer, like expanding amounts of detail with a slider, which looks like it might be cool.

Sidebar and Gadgets. LOL…This is just like Dashboard and Widgets. You can undock Gadgets from the sidebar and put them on the desktop.

I don’t like mini-apps on the desktop, but some due and I think its largely personal preference. It’s clear the sidebar is very influenced by Dashboard and Widgets, Chris C. makes sure to point out they have nice visuals!

Aux Displays. These little LCDs on the front of laptops can show gadgets, which might be useful.

Games Explorer. Has built-in parental controls, and box shots (this is what it looks like) of the games.

Phishing. Chris attempts a joke about paypal phishing emails, it falls like a rock, not even a chuckle. I hope he doesn’t attempt that again. I have nothing against Chris, first time I have seen or heard of him, he has a tough job, just jokes when you don’t have “it” don’t work. He is also going a bit too fast.

IE 7. Thank goodness, they moved tabs under the address bar. Tabs bar itself is looking blueish. Ah, the first nice moment. The Exposed the tabs you have open inside the browser. This is nice functionality, implementation is a bit plain.

Moved on to printing. They finally fixed dangling headers and footers, which has always been annoying.

RSS. Chris says how nice they are presenting the feeds in IE, it looks just like, I mean near identical to Safari. They even put the filter bar on the right. Geez guys, at least put it on the other side, anyone that has ever cribbed a paper off someone in college knows to move sentences around…

12:32 PM  - 12:54 PM
Audience thought Chris was totally down, an awkward cheering moment ensued, now Chris is doing Office 12.

I feel bad for this guy that he has to know all the Vista stuff and Office 12, why couldn’t they split this up? I am surprised Chris is making it through this, you really gotta give it up for him, I have known people giving BillG demoes, they are almost always sick.

Office 12. Chris is in Excel 12. Menus are gone; they act like big tabs that switch the entire toolbar. This is tough to tell if it’s useful or not, the video is so small

Formatting data now, there is definitely some cool stuff with pre-built styles for formatting data. This has always been tough in Excel, it it’s as easy as the demo, they have done some good work.

Ugh, the scrolling repaint is very jaggy. Don’t know if this is the webcast, but painting just wasn’t smooth. Cool functionality, but where is the attention to detail.

Oh my goodness, I think they have a machine for every demo. Chris is demoing an add-on from some company. I know they mirror the machines back stage just in case the main demo machine fails, so it must be a crazy amount of machines they are using for the keynote.

Word. Live preview of font changes, I think Chris thought this would be a homerun demo, but its not really because the font transition happens to subtlety, you need some transition in place so show the user something is happening. He is doing a lot of stuff that is pretty hard now Word very easy.

New File menu, huge departure from any current notion of a file menu.

Ah, they integrated hidden information removal into the File dialog. This has taken way to long, and you get no points from me sir on this.

Powerpoint. Built-in ability to change text only to graphical diagrams, like cycles, flow-charts, arrows.

Man is this annoying; I can hear music over the feed from somewhere. Clearly not part of the demo and it’s very faint in the background. When there was silence earlier, I could hear ESPN radio in the background.

SharePoint. Next version has a recycle bin. How timely, I was in a meeting where my company was discussing backup and restore strategies for Sharepoint, including writing our own code and tables in the DB, or buying a 3rd party tool. They can’t ship this feature fast enough.

Outlook. This is yet another new machine (YANM). Ah how I miss Outlook (I hate Lotus Notes). Tasks are in the main UI now, as is a small calendar. They achieved this by collapsing the folder bar.

Ah, the finally got preview in the messages for attachments. This seems like a potential security nightmare, just knee-jerk reaction based on past history.

Outlook gets RSS. MS just killed RSS readers for anyone using Outlook. Uses the same store as IE 7 for RSS, as expected.

Search looks just like it does in Apple Mail with Spotligh, but it’s across all of Outlook, including Tasks and anything else.

Outlook has SharePoint integration, which includes using the document libraries offline.

Ugh, seriously Moby – Beautiful is playing in the background. Mute WMP, no music and Webacst, unmute, you hear the show and music. Guy running the Webcast should be shot.

12:54 PM – 12:59 PM
BillG is back on stage, recapping again. There is just no energy in this presentation now.

Damn, co-worker wants my attention. Now seems like a good time, Bill is building up to workflow in the server, but I might have time.

1:00 PM – 1:19 PM
I am back online. Jim Alchin is one stage; he is telling the audience that they are getting a pre-Beta 2 build of Vista.

There was some proprietary content, so I picked a good time to answer a question! Jim also demoed what may have been Windows 1.0, so nostalgia is a good thing.

Jim I have always enjoyed listening to his presentations before, his keynote at PDC 03 was very entertaining, particularly with Don Box and Chris Anderson.

But so far, Jim is not very entertaining. It sounds like he is building up to a demo, but geez, we have all heard this before. Maybe this is just me, but I want the delta from PDC 03 to 05. A lot of this keynote seems like PDC 03 redux. I guess that is unfortunately where we are.

Ah, Jim said they are highlighting the changes since PDC 03 somewhere, too bad I am not there.

Jim said there are hundreds of new features in Vista, he can only talk about a few. Stop talking, DEMO DEMO!!!

1:20 PM – 2:02 PM
Reboot Manager. Jim mentions this to reduce reboots from config changes. Very nice.
Transactional NTFS. About time.
Protected Users. Standard normal user, yes, they he is going to demo!!!

LOL. Jim asked if anyone has a machine that gets slower over time? Some chuckles from the audience, everyone knows Windows decays over time. Commonly held rule is that 6 months is the half-life of a Windows install. They are trying to do something about it.

Superfetch. Jim shows what XP is like today. Everyone knows that XP on cold boot load time sucks, but its pretty good after a cold boot.

Jim now turns on superfetch. Shows a monitor that is loading up memory with all the applications you typically use. Everything is fast. Jim has to ask for a clap, because superfetch is faster, but not ridiculously faster.

This is something; Jim plugs a USB memory stick into the box. The virtual memory manager just uses the USB stick as main memory. Impressive, though not sure how USB sticks perform relative to main memory, latency has to be bad. Need to see more info.

Sandbox. Jim is demoing sandbox mode for IE. This is truly impressive, caveat always on if it really works. Even a standard user can break themselves with holes in IE, just as they can on OS X. Sandbox mode for IE, or any app, prevents that. This might be the second killer feature for me, behind transactional NTFS.

Presentation layer. Jim is introducing Atlas, MS’s Ajax dev environment. Atlas works with any modern browser, extension to ASP.NET 2.0

Jim claims the Windows Presentation Foundation (Avalon) is well ahead of what anyone has, breaking it down to the dev framework and the engine.

WPF/E. Windows Presentation Foundation for Everywhere. A subset of WPF on Vista. Instead of C#, dev is in JavaScript.

Darryn Diekon came out to do a demo based on work they have been doing with NetFlix. This should be interesting. App that runs on a PC, Tablet, Media Center, and a phone.

If they are all running some flavor of Windows, not so impressive. Netflix catalog browsing app on Vista, very similar to the Amazon catalog browser they did for PDC 03. They obviously couldn’t show that again, so they came up with this. Again, maybe it’s the Webcast, but the animation ends choppy, I think its not the Webcast because most of the time it’s smooth.

Damn, connectivity problems again. I lost everything for 20 seconds. Darryn is demoing the Netflix browser on Media Center Edition. Movie previews in the app are a bit sketchy, slow to start.

Cell phone itself looks cool. Its over a $1,000 phone. But Jim has a special deal, $149 for first comers at the PDC. That’s sick, and its totally like an infomercial, and he knows it, one of the few genuine laughs during the show.

Darryn shills for Resonate, the app developer that they got the browser done in 1 month with 3 devs and a graphics designer. Geez guy, we all know those people didn’t sleep the whole!

LINQ. Language Integrated Query for searching across XML, relational, or other stores.

Windows “InfoCards”. Something about federated identity, like Hailstorm, but totally different this time.

This is getting very long, I am not sure if it gone over the time, but I am tired even thinking about the new information.

P2P. Can’t remember what they called this feature, but you can connect to other machines on your local subnet and share documents, joint edit, and replicate the changes back to the original machine. Very cool, but as Jim says the experience isn’t done and it shows. I wonder if this is stuff from the Groove acquisition.

DON BOX! Don is such a presence the feed crapped out again for a few seconds. I love Don’s presentations. Here comes Ander’s Heijsberg, father of C#. He is talking about LINQ.

You can query any IEnumerable derived object, like arrays. This looks powerful, but the syntax is looking very similar to T-SQL. Same where and order by clauses.

2:03 PM – 2:27 PM
We get automatic object mapping to the database with LINQ being the query language. This is very powerful, bridging data and objects in a seemingly elegant way. This is tough to see though as the Webcast window doesn’t allow me to see the code.

You can join a table and an in memory object together. This is great stuff.

XLINQ is next. I really don’t know what the standards compliance aspect to any of this is if any.

Chris Anderson is now onstage, Don is talking through the Indigo stuff and the universal contract.

OMG, this presentation is so long, 2:47 so far since I started a few minutes before 11:30 AM.

Don is going crazy fast, you really can’t follow; he obviously knows this backwards and forwards.

Don and Chris so how to connect the browser to indigo services using AJAX. Nice, but the details are lost now because I can’t see any code.

ScottGu is on stage now to flog Atlas. Can’t see code, *sigh*. Scott is going to connect a better looking UI to the indigo service, lots of typing by Chris. Chris types very fast. The client side of this is very nice too.

2:28 PM – 3:22 PM
Wow, drag and drop client side and pretty rich presentation. And they add in the MSN Virtual Earth control.

LOL...they just brought up a Mac to demo cross-platform browsing with Atlas. They run the same demo on Safari, it works perfectly, no code change. Best part of the demo! This would seem to mean ASP.NET 2.0 detects the browser and makes any changes to the browser code as needed. Very intriguing.

The Avalon LapClient looks decent, at least the built-in controls look decent. They added some 3D in it, just goofy.

Jim Alchin just came back on stage. He is teasing a sample app, they are going to demo a sample app that demoes the platform. Hillel Cooperman is doing the demo. He did the first Longhorn UI demo at PDC 03.

Showing Microsoft Max. It’s a photo blogging app, with some nice image rearrange stuff. The smallest thumbnail view has to much white in it, but again tough over the webcast. Slider based zooming, looks very similar iPhoto resizing.

Oops! A co-worked pulled me away for a few minutes and the show is over. Man was that a long one. Some good stuff in there and curious what the other opinions are. Have to hit RSS Bandit!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

WoW's Impact

The NY Times has an article up on the impact of World of WarCraft to the gaming community at large. Here is a quote from the article:

"If you're only playing WOW and you're paying every single month, what does that mean for all of the other Internet games out there that are trying to get your $10 or $12 or $15 a month?" Mr. Green said. "WOW is now the 800-pound gorilla in the room. I think it also applies to the single-player games. If some kid is paying $15 a month on top of the initial $50 investment and is devoting so many hours a week to it, are they really going to go out and buy the next Need for Speed or whatever? There is a real fear that this game, with its incredible time investment, will really cut into game-buying across the industry."

I can tell you this is exactly what has happened to me, but I am not any kid. I have bought zero games for either the computer or Xbox since WoW came out. I would have bought probably 1 a quarter before WoW came out. WoW then is actually saving me money over my normal gaming purchases.

I have bought exactly 3 PSP games this year, Lumines, Ridge Racer, and Coded Arms,  and they have all been disappointments, except maybe Ridge Racer, I would call that acceptable. I got the PSP to play on the train while going to work, but the games are just retreads of existing stuff, nothing with good story. I hold out hope for Madden 2006 when it drops on the 20th.  If I could get an Internet connection to my laptop on the train, I would eBay the PSP and play WoW on the train. It would be tough, you really need a mouse, but I would make due.

I don’t see stopping either. I have only one character, and I have only played for one faction in the game. I have so much I can do with other characters, and I can’t wait to see what comes out next.

For Mac owners, WoW is really the only MMO in town, and as a Mac WoW player, I will continue to reward Blizzard for putting the Mac OS X and Windows on equal footing. Patches come out on the same day and have all the same features. I have to believe this has some affect on the success of the game. Don’t misunderstand, this game would be extremely successful without Mac owners, but since Mac WoW players are a very captive audience, and they have both Mac and PC friends, they lobby to get as many people as they know to keep WoW, their MMO, viable. WoW was the deal maker that allowed me to dump my PC and get a Mac. From the beta, I knew I would be playing this for a long time, so I didn’t need a PC around to play games; WoW is the only one I need.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Rx: Subversion

Let this serve as a reminder to all developers out there, source control is your friend.

I am working on my first Mac OS X development project, and I am the only dev on this, so I think I get rolling without figuring out the whole source control system.

A month later, and I have made pretty good progress learning the frameworks, Objective-C, and Xcode 2.1. I have been doing things the way I am used to in .NET and MS C++, but I just started wrapping my head around Cocoa Bindings, so I copy the code into a backup folder and proceed to start ripping things up to get Cocoa Bindings in the code.

I chop maybe a hundred lines of code out of my app using Cocoa Bindings, so I am pushing hard to do as much as possible using bindings, but then I break something that I SWORE was working with bindings, and I can’t figure out what it is.

I “restore” my backup copy and start adding stuff back in, which goes much faster because I know what settings to hit, but the thing I thought was working, having MyDocument class observe the NSArrayController for the keypath “selection.self” isn’t working. No exception, just nothing happens. I setup the observer in init, actually, maybe that is my problem. Have to try that on the way home. But if I had used source control, I would have had a log of my changes, probably, and I could have seen where things went off the rails.

I think I better get the Subversion stuff installed, find a hosting provider, and configured ASAP. Then maybe I can use Eric’s Subversion Cheat Sheet.