Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Activating Browser Modes with Doctype

If you consider yourself a Web developer, that you know HTML and Web browsers, but you don't understand how DOCTYPE affects what users see, then you don't know HTML and Web browsers. Anyone that considers themselves a Web developer should understand this stuff, and Henri Sivonen, who I previously hadn't heard of, has written a great and comprehensive article about Activating Browser Modes with Doctype.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

R.I.P. Xbox 360 - I got the Red Ring of Death

It took longer than I expected, but last night my Xbox 360 died in spectacular fashion. That brings the failure rate to 100% in my circle of friends. Last night, I played the Burnout Paradise demo for about an hour before I decided to switch to The Orange Box and take Team Fortress 2 for a spin. I got as far as the loading screen and then it happened. A loud screech came out of my TV and the onscreen image changed from the Team Fortress loading screen to a green and white checkerboard, and the Xbox was hung. I immediately felt this was the end, stick a fork in it, it's done. But I was still in denial. Reboot, Red Ring of Death. Immediately went to Xbox Support and was instructed to call customer service. I even followed all the automated prompts to pull the hard drive and unplug and plugin the cables, holding out hope it would just "reset", but of course nothing worked. I ordered my coffin, and I was told the whole process would take around a month. A month! This is when I reach anger. I skipped bargaining, there is nothing the call center rep is going to be able to do for me. The Xbox is my DVD player, so I immediately start ripping some DVDs we had got for my son, on two different Macs using Handbrake. I go to bed depressed, this whole episode ruins my nights sleep. I have I think 5 uncompleted games for the 360 I got for Christmas. Thinking over the good to great games I have completed, BioShock and Halo 3, and some in just the last 3 days, Portal and Mass Effect, helps me, along with finishing this post, reach acceptance. Time to go back to Metroid for the Wii.

One of my friends informed me that I am wrong, his Xbox 360 has not died yet. I thought he had told me his had died months ago, but I was wrong. So among my circle of friends, the failure rate is not 100%, but its pretty damn close.

Update x2
I got the coffin yesterday, exactly 5 business days after I called Microsoft for it, as promised.

Review: Portal, part of The Orange Box, on Xbox 360

Sublime. If you don't have The Orange Box, you really need to pick this up. Mind you I haven't played Half-Life 2, any of its' expansion episodes, or Team Fortress 2. I could easily make this recommendation based just on Portal, the excellent and completely unexpected little game included in The Orange Box. Why is it so good? Read on...

Spoilers Ahoy!
Portal is a shooter, and yet you don't really shoot anything. You open holes in the world, aka Portals, as part of a maniacal lab experiment by an all seeing artificial intelligence, which is quite amusing. It's really a puzzle game, and at least during the first play through not very hard, I think I completed it in about 3 hours of play time, but you haven't ever played a puzzle/shooter like this. I could be wrong, but I can't remember one. The basic premise is that you solve tests by opening 2 portals at any time and making stuff in the environment change so you can reach the end of the test. I won't spoil the rest, part of the fun is discovering the game on your own. Once you have finished it, and your not sure if it over, the game ends and the song starts. This is what pushes it past merely excellent into one of those games you just have to play, the song is absolutely hysterical.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Why Microsoft Points Are NOT Like Poker Chips

Robert McLaws recently posted that Microsoft Points Are Like Poker Chips, and how he loves MS Points, wants to see them everywhere.

I have been pretty vocal and consistent that MS Points suck because they are completely anti-consumer, they only benefit Microsoft. If anyone, like Robert McLaws, say they like them, well then they are a tool. And MS Points are only on the surface like poker chips because poker chips at any casino have two huge feature that MS Points don't:

  1. You can always convert poker chips to cash, not true for MS Points
  2. Poker chips are worth the same thing as dollars, MS Points are fractional to confuse consumers

Finally, until I see a legitimate independent study done comparing purchasing content using MS Points vs. dollars ala Apple and iTunes, I don't believe as McLaws asserts that people buy more content on Xbox Live Marketplace because of MS Points. I would argue that purchases on Xbox Live Marketplace are in spite of MS Points. There is a no way an additional layer of indirection, having to add a block of points before making a purchase and having to convert to dollars, is easier, more convenient, or results in more sales than simply pressing buy in iTunes using dollars and being done with it.

The Unrealized Potential of Apple’s Hybrid Platform: Mac, iPod, iPhone, and TV

It is amazing to me how hard it is for some people to figure out Apple's strategy. RoughlyDrafted Magazine has a good article called The Unrealized Potential of Apple’s Hybrid Platform: Mac, iPod, iPhone, and TV. The short version: Apple is building an entire ecosystem of devices all running OS X. All these devices will be targets for applications, leveraging Cocoa development skills.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A great write-up of GameSpot's Gerstmanngate

Sam Kennedy's 1UP Blog: GameSpot's Sad State of Affairs has a great summary of Gerstmanngate with some new information about what Jeff and some of the other GameSpot editor's that have left the site are going to be doing. Also, there is more on a lot of other changes that happened at GameSpot that should have made it obvious Jeff's firing was coming.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

How long are studios going to offer a rent only option on iTunes?

I was looking around at the various movies that have been added to iTunes for rental, and the thing I see over and over again in customer reviews is enthusiasm for seeing a movie people have wanted in iTunes, but only with a rental option, not a buy. For example, look at Transformers (opens in iTunes). I have taken a screenshot for posterity:

How long until studios realize they are missing out on a revenue opportunity? How quickly until Apple users a fleet of comments from all the new movies that are rent only to go back to the studios and negotiate for a purchase option too? For a lot of iTunes customers, going to a store and buying a DVD, even if it includes an iTunes copy with the movie, is just not going to be good enough. They don't want the disc, they just want the digital copy.

For the movies that are rent and buy, when is there going to be an option to upgrade for a rental to a buy? In the old world, this was always possible at some place like Blockbuster, and when I went to mom and pop video rental, they would offer that kind of option, but now with iTunes its a no-brainer. I am not saying necessary a straight rental price deduction from the buy price, but some discount means more revenue for studios. Are they ever going to get it?

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Blogging from the iPhone

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

NetNewsWire 3.1 Released as Freeware

One of my favorite applications, NetNewsWire, has just been upgraded to 3.1 and is now free, as in beer. Daring Fireball broke the story for me. One of the first badges I ever put on the blog was the NetNewsWire button because I loved the application so much.

Interview with Tim Burton

I have always been a big fan of Tim Burton, director of Batman (1989) and Beetle Juice among a long list of directing projects. David Poland at The Hot Blog did an interview with Burton about Sweeney Todd, Burton's latest directing project, and I found it pretty interesting, mostly because Burton rarely interviews, so I thought I would pass it along:

Monday, January 07, 2008

Bought my first MP3 album from Amazon

I was looking for some new rock to listen to, and ironically I ended up buying Led Zeppelin's Mothership, the remastered greatest hits package released back in November. The buying process from Amazon is very good. About the only negative I could possibly point to was that it wasn't immediately obvious that once the download completed, the songs were going to be automatically added to iTunes.

Why I didn't buy from iTunes
If you look at Mothership on iTunes, which is how I learned about the release in the first place, you can see the album listed for $13.99. Which given the 24 tracks for that price, is $0.58 a track and seems like a good deal. Amazon undercuts by a dollar, $12.99, for $0.54 a track. That might be enough by itself, but I of course knew Amazon is selling a 256 kbps MP3, and unfortunately Apple is only seeing a 128 kbps AAC (really wish this was named MP4) DRMed file. Seems like nearly a no brainer to buy from Amazon, so why am I still questioning my purchase?

I just did exactly what the music labels want
Led Zeppelin's label is Atlantic Recoding Corp, owned by Warner Bros. The labels all want consumers, who in general hate DRM and I am no exception, to get used to buying legal digital downloads from anyplace except iTunes. iTunes, the brand, is synonymous with legal digital downloads, and the labels hate it. They are giving something to iTunes competitors, MP3 DRM-free high quality tracks, they won't give Apple (with the notable exception of EMI, who with Apple got the whole DRM free thing rolling). Apple wants to hold the line on pricing per track, with the only bundling concept, the album, also held low on pricing, all DRM free. If Apple's share of digital downloads (all media types) falls, the labels negotiating position is greatly improved to mandate price increases. This is why I feel bad about following the label's carrot. I know if I take solely my interest into account, I would always choose Amazon over iTunes when tracks are DRMed on iTunes, but DRM free on Amazon. If iTunes and Amazon had the exact same DRM free tracks, I take iTunes every time because iTunes uses AAC/MP4, the files are smaller for the same bit rate, and require less device battery power to decode. But I feel like I must continue to buy DRMed tracks on iTunes and hope for a continued migration path to iTunes Plus tracks when this eventually gets sorted out. I am no lawyer, but a lay interpretation might be that Amazon is in collusion with the labels and studios to unseat Apple as the dominant digital download distributor, then return as much power to the labels/studios as possible through whatever price increases, content bundling, "flexible pricing" they want. What the music labels want most of all is to not have to listen to, in their minds, Apple's crazy, pro-consumer unbundling of all content (songs, episodes) and relatively fixed pricing. They want a return to $16 a CD for one song you want, or even that price point on albums. I don't know how else to reinforce, other than completely not buying, that Apple's model is the one I find acceptable (and even there I think prices are too high by 20%) by sacrificing my short-term self-interest for the greater long term good of a reasonable digital download pricing structure. Since Apple is the only company that has demonstrated a willingness to stand-up to the labels/studios regarding content pricing, I will continue buying from iTunes, even if that means DRMed tracks. Velvet Revoler's Libertad, here I come.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I guess I am not buying HD-DVDs anymore

Happy New Year!

One of the things I was looking forward to that I wasn't surprised with for Christmas was the Blade Runner HD-DVD. I was really looking forward to seeing the film in all its HD glory, but instead received one key HD-DVD from my Christmas list. Hey I am not complaining, but now Warner goes Blu-ray exclusive (via Engadget)

I am really torn on what to do. My first reaction, just stop buying HD-DVDs, which I was admittedly moving slowly into, but now just full stop. Second, sell the HD-DVDs and the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360. I did think about getting Blade Runner on HD-DVD now before supply runs out, but why? If Blu-ray is the winner, then I can always get it there. There is the problem of me not owning a Blu-ray player, but maybe the rumors of Blu-ray for Apple TV will fill the need.

I am overall really disappointed, my favorite HD-DVD is by far Batman Begins, and now I won't be able to get the sequel, The Dark Knight on HD-DVD late in 2008.

This is what happens when your wife doesn't listen to you on technology purchases :-)