Tag Archives: editorial

The Best 13 Day Holiday Sale Comes to a Close

As some of you dear friends know… This year, my holiday gift giving theme was “The Gift of Game” because of how important games are in my life as a tool to destress out from my life. The games, of course, would be delivered from the digital Santa Claus of the computer gaming scene: Valve Software’s Steam Store. Some of you got deeply serious games like Borderlands, while some of you a silly game of Zombie Bowl-o-Rama. Though… The thing I wasn’t expecting: to be gifted back. It was really a fun thing as my measly collection of The Half-Life Holiday 2005 box, The Orange Box, Left 4 Dead, and a few random games here and there totaling around 30 games… Some how exploded to a grand total (as of this afternoon) to 85 games. Of course, I also facilitated some of the growth by seeing some of the games being on sale for a wild $1 to cheap ones for $15.

Of all my gaming years, I was a “console gamer” as I never could build out a computer gaming rig that could even take the power of games. For that, I paid the price in console games. With console games, it’s rare to find fire sales where a game could be reduced down to almost 90% off. Which in turn meant my money as a student/working-man never went far for my purchases. A couple games for the tune of $80 may only last me barely a month total… When Steam came back in full force with my life back in late May of 2009, it made me proud that Valve took their online product key storage model and added a very worthy and easy to use gaming store. That was about the time I had bought up The Orange Box for PC to get Portal and Team Fortress 2 for the price of $30 (about $6 a game for the package deal). After buying my first ONLINE purchase via Steam, it was just amazing to see that since the inception in 2003 has grown so well polished. It was like the Apple iTunes model but for gaming and with TONS less restrictions. I know some naysayers will bemoan “God, Steam is a TERRIBLE platform!” but at the same time I am also willing to say I have tried some of the other digital store models and they are sub-par and worse with how much the games are locked up. The big advantage with Steam I had noticed once I became more active with buying on Steam was occasionally, they do hold “Mid-Week” and/or “Weekend” deals where games are just blitzed priced to move fast! Probably one of the best moves are the “Free Play” weekends where Steam will pick a game and just declare “Play this all weekend from Friday 11am – Sunday 1pm” (times are in CST) as well as discount the game should you like the free full-version trial.

Then came my first holiday sale on Steam… They started the day before Thanksgiving (US) with a sale that lasted until 11am Black Friday. Then had a sale Black Friday, Saturday, and ended Sunday. During that 5 day sales blitz, some of the games had insane pricing… I managed to snag a few games for an early Christmas delivery for friends of mine, but I lamented that I missed out… Little did I know what Valve was going to drop on us around December 22th. Around 5pm that day (12/22/09), Valve did something I didn’t think was possible, they announced the Steam Holiday sale that would be going on until January 3rd. Thirteen days worth of 24 hour sales and with some standing offers that were good until the end of the sale. Publishers like 2K games, Square-Enix Europe/Former Eidos Interactive, Atari, EA Games, Valve themselves were major players. To also level out the market, indie games (independently made/published games) also got some time to shine from their wonderful values. Sure there were some days I missed out, but… The final round yesterday was great. It was the “encore” sale, 7 of the best 24-hour sales deals would return for one last purchase. However, it makes me sad just knowing I won’t see another big PC gaming sale for a good while.

Thanks Valve for making this a great holiday season for me and my friends. We may have had bleak Christmas holidays, bickered with family, or were just trying to escape for a pleasurable New Years Eve celebration… but your sales for the last 13 days gave some of us something to look forward to when we woke up or got off of work.

(Factoid: As of this moment, per the Steam Calculator with Robin Walker of Valve Software who buys every game on Steam… there are 808 games in the catalog.)

[Editorial] Apple’s VP of Marketing is in a Spatial Field Barrier… Ugh…

So on reading through blogs and on [H]ardOCP I saw an article linked about Apple’s VP of Marketing is seeing Windows 7 as a chance to herd up frustrated Windows users (link here). The guy is pining for frustrated Windows users to just decided to hop on over to their grassy knolls to the cult of Mac rather than just buy a $100 copy of Windows 7. I would like quote the CNet News article:

“We think a lot of folks will look at that as the straw that broke the camels back,” Croll said. “People are tired of the headaches with Windows and this is another great excuse for people to check out the Mac.”

From “Apple sees Windows 7 as an Opportunity to Sell Macs” on CNet News by Jim Dalrymple

This logic is a bit flawed in my mind from an economic standpoint in my mind, because of the fact that Brian Croll assumes every computer owner that is frustrated with the notion of upgrading to Windows 7 will have to do MAJOR upgrades to use it. On top of that he keeps mentioning the idea of users frustrated with the Windows experience and hope they will consider the Mac experience.

Disclaimer: Before I go on, I will make the disclaimer that I hate all operating systems equally as much as I love their foibles. I do own a Linux laptop, a G4 Mac Mini, and Windows 7 Release Candidate desktop machine before anyone wants to make accusations of favoritism.

Point #1: Money is hard to find – A home upgrade is easier than buying a new Mac.
His point that people will get aggravated with the process of upgrading the OS. I do agree, the agony of Windows XP users migrating to Windows 7 will be one that will be a bit vexing, because it does require a full wipe. That can be seen in this chart posted by Walt Mossberg on his blog here. But at the same right the Apple guide just mentions in migrating from Windows to Mac mentions migrating files, not complete system settings… In layman’s terms: It’s like the aftermath of a FULL WIPE! Most folks have a means to archive of files like DVD burners, external hard drives, or (now) network storage devices… so this puts Mac migration right in the same ground of a Windows user doing a full wipe. That’s frustrating no matter how you see it. Most home users considering the Mac migration will probably be eyeing either a MacBook, MacBook Pro, or an iMac. That’s a starting price range of $1,000 – $1,300 before applicable taxes. On the Windows side of things MOST old 32-bit technologies are still supported in Windows 7. This sadly was not the same for G4 Mac users when Snow Leopard came out, so the high and mighty “Windows users will have to make major upgrades to get Windows 7” argument is not quite valid. The basic message that G4 users got was “Want the new OS update? BUY A NEW SYSTEM!” so that argument is back in fair game. The entry price for a Windows 7 32-bit Home upgrade is $100 and various online communities have reported the “Use the upgrade disc for a full install” trick still works. So in hard economic times, $100 and maybe using/borrowing an external hard drive versus shelling $1,000+ and still using/borrowing an external hard drive… I think being economical takes precedance to a foolish impulsive need of some ridiculous need to escape a “user experience“.

Point #2: Users tend to use what they use at work
This is a point that the Linux folks mention a lot of. This is also their rallying cry to push for Linux use in the home: get more Linux machines in the workplace then you will have more people considering it for home use. Apply this concept to Windows in the workplace or academic field… Lots of campuses get better volume discounts on Windows machine versus the Mac discounts. The proof of that is seen in the price of several Dell workstation versus an iMac suite. Also the myth of “Apple machines are just better at any art related tasks” is essentially null and moot because the software exists in the realms of both Windows and OS X versions. Then you also have fields where you don’t have Apple OS X equivalents. If the market share were a little more in favor of Apple, I could see the desire of a change of environment with an equally balanced ecosystem of software for both Windows and Mac. However when you have market research showing that close to 85% of people who own Macs also own Windows PC’s (as seen in this PC World article), the grip of Windows isn’t letting up. The rationale that people at home use what they use at work also is to the respect of compatibility. It’s always a pain to the typical end user to try to force compatibility but also it is much easier not to fight against what the work place endorses. Sure there are also things like Citrix or Virtual PC clients, but usually those require that the IT dept of a corporation to get linked up.

In the end, Windows 7 will still be hot. Those who are willing to upgrade will. I think the correct market Brian Croll is targeting are those who have $1,000 to blow on a PC and want something new and shiny. The logic of the Windows XP users being targeted is fair, but he seems to have disregarded one important fact: the size of their wallets.

Google May Have Android eDrama – Editorial

A few days ago, I stumbled upon [H]ardOCP talking about a “front page” article saying that Google may have inadvertently pushed some Android developers to the iPhone SDK… This is rather an ironic tale of karmic shock as about a year ago, there were some whispers in the grapevine that Google was proposing to OpenMoko prospective programmers with a rather gutsy move to say “Come to our project, cause we are Google after all! We have tons of capital and our project is more financially stable.” So naturally, most programmers do want a buck for their efforts and most basically said “bye” to the OpenMoko Project and hopped on the Google Android bandwagon. In the midst of all the hub-bub of Google vs. OpenMoko, the Apple iPhone crowd was rather disappointed that their shiny $500+ toy had no clean API layer to play with like Windows Mobile or PalmOS. They managed to juryrig their own method of installing applications onto “jailbroken” iPhones by apps like iPwn or WinPwn to free the phone’s certification of applications in a means of giving the device a gray zone to play in. Of course, the problem with that was Apple’s coders releasing new firmware builds for the iPhone would render these “jailbroken” iPhones into paperweights unless the unofficial teams such as the “iPhone Dev Team” found ways to circumvent Apple’s check-sums. That somewhat changed with the iPhone 2.0 software release and the offical push of the iPhone Software Development Kit (or SDK for short).

Let’s delve into the background of the 2 “major” projects…

The Android project (in my observation) almost is a deceptive concept of “open source” as depending on how you rank with Google, you get certain layers of access with Android. What do I mean? Like if you’re an amateur coder who wants to make an application for fun, you would have basic access to the API. Now… let’s say you did something like won the “Google Summer of Code” competition or you are dumping millions of dollars to Google’s Android venture, naturally, you get premium access to the newest SDK builds and even API access to even control device functions. That could get some users who have slaved hours on Google’s Android project pissed! This is really the pressing concern from the article highlighted by AppleInsider, actually. Imagine that you and a few friends of yours make a killer app that just requires you to know the exact pressure sensitivity readings of the touch screen for an Android phone, but the caveat is none of your “staff” are big name commercial people or Summer of Code winners… This could be the one failing crux to your masterpiece to ever find completion. However, someone who won the Summer of Code competition may have an all access pass to all functions of the phone and could create a killer app that could rival yours. End result: Your team loses out on a chance to monetize on your killer app, yet your competitor gets a chance to dominate the market. Could you imagine the frustration to know your competitor’s app would be up for sale in Google’s Android App Shop for $2.99 a download while you’re going “If only Google let us access code on touch screen sensitivity…” with your friends?

Apple’s iPhone SDK is much in the same spirit like Google, an illusion of open source, but I feel they have mitigated drama by allowing all users certain levels of access. There’s the “Free” SDK which is just basic tools to build and test apps for personal use. But to get your name out there… Apple wants you to pony up $99 for a Basic Developer license which gives you the right to distribute your app to other iPhones via WiFi and also sell/give your app away at the iTunes App store. Should you sell your app, you do get 70% of the revenue. Then there’s the “Enterprise” license for $299 which allows you the power to make in-house corporate apps for the iPhone, like a trippy app that monitors and plays with your custom ECU for a tuner shop or other endless things your corporation wants to use the iPhone for. This license in particular is recommended for firms employing 500 people or more.

In my opinion, Apple’s rules are a little more concrete than the undefined access rules that Google has imposed on it’s users… We’ll have to sit and see how things brew down. The fact that Google’s been dawdling with producing a real and hard phone is making their time slip, while Apple and even OpenMoko have live phones to play with! Sure, Google has a deal with HTC to have a phone created as well as make it so that users with HTC phones can do a firmware update to have Android operational on their phones… Add to this that they are trying to fight between T-Mobile USA and Sprint|Nextel as official providers… You have a concept that may simply have trouble breaking the market in a solid fashion. I guess in a sense I am saying… Google better give everyone an “eHug” and get their crap straight or come up with a better strategy quickly unless they want to let Apple take more limelight from them..

[Mini Editorial] Gotta love the Feds sometimes…

Financial aid is quite the “clusterfuck” as my former boss mentioned the quoted term.

A while back, I had a personal set-back and a medical condition that ended up being the one-two punch that basically had me dropping out of college while on a federal Pell grant. Let’s just say the Feds were awful quick to scream “ZERO!!!!! WE WANT OUR MONEY YOU ASSHOLE!!!!!” in a proverbial sense and they were aggressive as hell (like calling the day the semester ended). Once I paid them back… They conveniently kept a record on their files saying “Zero has paid his dues in full” however, the forgot to put it on my FAFSA file saying the same apparently all summer… I had contacted them about this flag since February, with various agents going “It takes time for the computer to flag an account as paid.”

Chain reaction: My school basically found that same flag and said “Zero, we can’t offer you any financial assistance cause your file is flagged as you have not paid the Feds their due cash.”

Cue this morning: I call the Feds up this morning and met with a amicable agent on the phone. Got hit with the standard gauntlet of questions to verify my identity of Zero, so after that I fire off my query of “Is there a way I could get my status immediately send over to my school for verification purposes and have my file cleared?” Sadly, I got the standard “It takes up to 2 business days for us to fax that to your educational establishment…” line from them.

That’s actually a bit ironic as when you ever owe the feds cash, they will hunt you down like a pack of bloodthirsty rottweilers. On the converse, when you pay them off… They just silently clear your file and set you free, while not updating anything else vital. That is almost a tactic that the nefarious credit companies would pull to try playing the game of “Oh… you still haven’t paid up” and conveniently putting off to the side you’ve paid in full.

Ugh… I hope the document updating my status shoots over sooner than “two business days”. We live in an era where electronic facsimilies are possible, it should not be that hard to pull up my file, drop in my financial aid office’s fax number, and then say “Send to this number.” I think I am going to be feverishly worried for a good while until my school goes “You’ve been verified and here is your financial assistance eligibility…”

Real Time Strategy – Chess on a more grand scale

With the past days… Miss Wyno has prodded me more and more to play strategy games as well as to wet her bloodthirsty taste for victory. For a while it was friendly games of Settlers of Catan which made me remember my occasional ventures into the comic and game shops when I was a wee lad. It’s almost amazing how deep a board game can make Risk look like child’s play. From that… Wyno wanted to move into active digital mediums rather than stare at a passive Java applet of Settlers of Catan. I am a Blizzard fan and so is Wyno and Sol (who’d be dragged back in to this) so naturally, WarCraft III was the game of choice.

I will concede to the fact that I am not a “perfect” player… If anything I enjoy the recreation of playing. It was fun to see that Blizzard still supports the competitive spirit for even their “vintage” titles such as WarCraft II BattleNET Edition, StarCraft (Brood Wars), and WarCraft III even though they have bigger projects looming (Diablo III, StarCraft II, etc). I don’t harbor hate or distaste for the Command & Conquer series, just I was never much into theme of an alternate reality… That is actually somewhat odd as StarCraft is sci-fi based, but that’s another tangent…

In chess, the seasoned player knows that even the pawn can be one of the more lethal units of the game. Like knowing that if you can get your pawn to your opponent’s side that you can promote your unit to become any unit you desire. Most (wise) people would opt to promote the pawn piece to a queen to ensure best possible returns on their “investment” as their movement is far wider than most pieces. In WarCraft III, Blizzard retweaked the game’s errata from the earlier sequel (WarCraft II: Beyond the Dark Portal) almost in reverence to this principle. Sadly, I didn’t take note of this back in 2003 when I originally got into the game… rather, I learned the merit of this a few nights ago with Miss Wyno and Sol in our 4 person match.

Wyno would attack my human encampment that was woefully doomed to a swift death. My town was overrun by many of my peasants just harvesting materials in hopes of being able to fund my army of dwarven gunners. Unfortunately, my hero, footmen, and buildings were being savagely beaten… In a final rallying cry and more for novelty, I decided to hit the town hall’s “Call to Arms!” command, converting my peasants to a militia unit for a time frame of 45 seconds. I’d see the animation of my peasants dropping whatever they were doing, be it chopping wood or harvesting gold to run back to the town hall to grab armor and a sword to give a last stand. What I would see was something amazing… I saw my peasants encircle her hero unit, just laying down their swords for battle and slaying her hero. At the same time, my peasants were also fending off her armies fairly well even though the game was set and match. From seeing that, I will never underestimate the power of a lowly peasant or peon be it in game…

Zeroism: The Way of Perfection [Editorial Special]

Lately, my friends and associates have hit quite a bad time with their lives falling apart this summer. Honestly, it’s almost coincidental with the fact of summer love or summer dreaming… A few nights ago, one of my readers had said she had broke her relationship off with the man she was seeing because she finally found out he had failed out of school. This failing started a chain reaction that his family has restricted his social life and it failed to instill in him a drive to want to do better. She said it has depressed her, but at the same time she wants to be there for him and hope to instill in him some hope of moving forward.

I was sorely reminded of the Heaven and Hell I went through with living life at the bottom and knowing that I was simmering in the suffering of my own self. Sure I had someone else with me, but that person also brought me down to absolute destruction. At the time, I played it off as nothing, but in reflection, I was in the Hell of all human possible Hells… Ignorance to the truth that I was nothing, I had nothing, and I refused to accept myself for the person I was. It just got me thinking of one of the old martial arts proverbs:

Why struggle with catching a carp in murky water? By the time you think you realized you have forever lost it, the carp may have ascended to Heaven and become a dragon.

The problem most of us have with hitting rock bottom is that we struggle to accept who we are. We keep trying to “fish” for the character flaws within us hoping to ensnare them… but by the time we realize that our character flaws are a part of what makes us human… We have wasted valuable time that could have been used to better ourselves or fish for more skills that make use of our unique humanity. Unfortunately with humanity comes with the caveat that we, ourselves, must figure our needless struggle should not even exist… That we must be like the waters of a river that erode the stone and flow around our adversities.

No one can help us in this darkness with simple inspiration, we must find the strength within ourselves and possibly find mentors who foster nurturing intent in order to guide us on our own personal path. This path that we can choose or choose not to walk is what I call “The Way of Perfection”. The path to greatness is one that differs uniquely from person to person. Some of us may have one that starts easy and ramps upwards… some have it difficult and it pushes to the “ungodly” limitations of their own human faith. The one thing in common that everyone shares on this journey to perfection is that there is always an intrapersonal struggle within ourselves. There will always be the one thing that will make us question our previous definitions of personal integrity and honor… Once we cleave that into a manageable topic that no longer overwhelms us. We can finally get into the stage where we can begin polishing the rough gems and refine the facets of our personalities from rough diamonds into works of beauty.

I won’t lie that the journey is hard… I finally started my journey a while back after coming to terms with myself, but through the challenges brought to me… I have not let my strength waiver. If anything, I look forward to harder challenges later in the future with hopes to really break down barriers that have lost their ability to bind me. From accepting myself, I can say I was ignorant for ignoring my own potentials. I know I am limitless now and that with my educational career just a little over half way done, I can aspire to my dreams.

This is in dedication to those readers out there who have been fighting for so long and with no hope in sight. Let this be a tribute to you and a prayer that you all will find greatness as long as you keep your mind to it.

[Editorial] Empowering Debilitating Words

A while back… My dear friend dare2dreamer had told me quite the interesting anecdote that involved the skill-toy folks. The tale was quite interesting and I thought the resolution that came to it was quite good!

One of my friends had posted a video of his demos online and some egotistical fellow out in New York basically slammed him for his demo. This person went as far as picking out “flaws” in my friend’s demo and even went as far as calling him “mediocre” and his skills “amateur”. Of course, this bothered my friend… however, the guy out in New York claimed he was doing skill-toy stuff on a professional level and made claims that the mediocre skills would not be taken seriously. I decided to pick apart the “professionals” use of the word “mediocre” and decided to re-spin it as a positive. We were joking around and going “I’m mediocre!” with enthusiasm. In essence, we turned the word mediocre from meaning “ordinary” to “awesome”. We may even go as far as making t-shirts just for kicks and have my friend do another demo video of his skills with the t-shirt. In all seriousness, it should have never gone this far.

With regard to this uplifting tale, I can see how we as humans can let debilitating testimony get us down. I know with personal experience that I have let too many trample on me just for the sake of their own glory to just simply gloat “I am better/faster/stronger/[insert misc adj. here] than you.” I have been spinning attacks made on me to a better light, because honestly… what’s the point of getting disturbed with pathetic and cheap-shot attacks? The next time you encounter someone taking a cheap shot at you by saying something that is derogatory… Turn it into something much better!

After all… We’re all mediocre! 😀

Edit: Get your “Mediocre” and “Am I Mediocre Yet” Apparel below!

“Am I Mediocre Yet?” Shop
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What’s the Big Deal with Valentine’s Day? [Editorial]

Valentine’s Day in America is one of the most busy days for flower shops and confectionery specialty shops. Flowers, cards, and candy are abound all over. The occasional fool how has messed up romantically and frantically trying to find a gift can be quite the humorous sight to see. Lovers usually book up all the reservations to the nice restaurants… Of course, with human nature and all, there are those seeking to get lucky after the vast show of romance. 😉 The single folks will lament or just roll their eyes… Though the perverse have “struck back” at the ideal of romance and made a counter-thesis to Valentines Day called “Steak and Blowjob Day [NOT SAFE FOR WORK!]“.

Wikipedia’s article on Valentine’s Day is interesting as it shows the origins of the event being very ritualistic rather than the romantic event we know now. Check out this piece below in the block-quote:

Lupercalia, of which many write that it was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea. At this time many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.
Source: Wikipedia article on Valentine’s Day

For those who want a lazy Cliff’s Note’s summary of the excerpt above… Men basically got stripped down naked while wielding thongs to whip and slap women for fun and laughs, while women got in the way of the herd of naked men in hopes to be impregnated in the fertility ritual of Lupercalia. Not really a flowers, love notes, and sweets sort of image for our modern day concept of Valentine’s Day. From the Wikipedia article again, the streets were anointed in the sacrificial blood of 2 wolves and 1 dog for the festival. Lucky for the civilized world that we don’t have the festival of Lupercalia every February 15th, because random wanton sex in public with folks that should NOT be naked in public would be rather disgusting.

The article also goes more into detail about the event was more about courtly love and friendship, rather than the material aspect of it. Yes, originally, trolling for tail was typically not the ultimate goal. Recognition of friends is one of the focuses of Valentine’s Day in elementary school. I was not the “popular” kids, but I got my fair share of cards from being a stand up person. Though I have heard some stories where there have been cruel or mean spirited kids making concerted efforts to make the unpopular kid a cast out by making sure they get no cards or ones with cruel messages. That causing some school teachers to enact policies to ensure that kindness is promoted.

On the commercialism tangent, you can’t go but about half a step and you hear some ad about Valentine’s items on sale at a local retailer. Hell, the retail jewelry business laps up Valentine’s Day due to the fact misconception that you “need” jewelry to put a physical representation of love on the person you’re enamored with. Card companies like Hallmark and Carlton Cards make a killing in profits when cards run about $5 – $7 a piece depending on decorations and other miscellaneous things tacked on to them. Is it really worth the trouble to fight all that mess just to express one’s feelings? Personally, I don’t think so.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, people should be considerate to those who are single. There’s nothing wrong with being in love, but at the same time it doesn’t hurt to cheer up those who are single. With how most people in the States are so centric on Valentine’s Day being a “holiday” about the ideal of romance, the secondary meaning of friendship is just completely lost. We can all joke about Valentine’s Day being known as “Single’s Awareness Day”, but the truth is we should be aware of those who are single. For some single folks, the day could serve as a jumping point to meeting that special someone.

Play nice and be merry on Valentine’s Day, no material gift should be a “prerequisite” for love and romance. Just think about it… Lupercalia could make a freaky comeback with the random wanton sex in public.