29 April 2007

Urban Legends

Why do people find it alluring to pass on silly urban legends? I don't know if I would really consider them urban legends really. What I am speaking about are those irksome emails that we all get stating to send this on to twenty people and you'll receive a $25 gift card, or various things of the sort.

One I just ran across today was a blog entry telling everyone not to pump gas on May 15th. It stated that in 1997 a similar attempt was made and the next day gas dropped 30 cents a gallon. It is a nice story, but not true.

There are plenty of debunking sites out there that will confirm or deny these rumors that float around. And it only takes a few seconds to check them out. Just so everyone that is reading is aware, you cannot make money, receive special gifts, or save the world just by forwarding an email.

26 April 2007

Helmet Laws

One thing I never could understand is why certain state governments require motorcycle riders to wear helmets. For that matter, why is it mandatory to wear seat belts? It seems that some states are thinking of repealing laws that require helmets to ride. Missouri is one of the most recent to consider this change.

I suppose this is where my libertarian viewpoint shows through. I don't believe that the government should impose rules on us that affect our lives. If someone chooses to ride without a helmet and dies, then that is for their family to deal with. The government should not have control of my life. I'm sure insurance rates are a bit higher for those who do not wear helmets; then again, maybe the insurance companies don't ask.

I can understand the requirement for minors to wear helmets. But once the person is of the age to make decisions on their own, I believe the choice should be theirs. This could be debatable by some, but I believe that minors should have to wear helmets.

This same argument could be applied to seat belts. Does the government gain anything by requiring seat belts? Maybe there is something I'm missing, but to me, it doesn't seem like there would be much reason to require helmets or seat belts.

Hopefully more states will wise up and give the power back to the people...where it belongs.

19 April 2007

Nintendo dominance Part 2

I left off my last post on Nintendo stating why I thought Nintendo could still fail with this generation of consoles. There are many reasons actually, and a lot of them have to do with what Nintendo is not offering.

Although the Wii is built with wireless technology, there are no games that currently use this capability. The first game will be Pokemon Battle Revolution. While it may seem that games just have arrived with this ability, a lot of it has to do on how Nintendo is approaching online play. In order to show that the console is "safe", they have installed "friend codes". These codes must be traded with those you would like to play online with for every game that you own. That is, every game has a different code that you must trade to play online. This is great if you know who you would like to play against. But if you're like me, and don't have any friends that have a Wii, I can't play online.

So the easy of use of online play is an issue. Nintendo is aware of this fact and chooses to keep the setup the same. While Microsoft uses "gamer tags" to identify a gamer and allow them to connect through the console to play the games, even if they don't know each other. Nintendo could easily do this, and apply parental controls if they are worried about how safe it would be.

Another issue at stake here is third party support. Many developers are pushing out PS2 remakes and not too many original games. The original games that do come out are gimmicky and seemed rushed as the controls do not seem like they have been refined as they should. Also, why do we need motion control for every game? Why can't we be happy with simplified controls every now and then?

Right now the Wii seems to be holding very strong and has broken a lot of sales records already. I would like to see the Wii succeed and spark innovation. This is all when there are still shortages of Wii's everywhere. Can you imagine what the sales could be once the supply problem is fixed?

Some areas that I would like to see the Wii improve on is online gaming. I really think that Nintendo needs to seriously look at the online fan-base and realize what the community as a whole wants. Friend codes are not part of the equation.

I would also like to see more Real Time Strategy games released for the Wii. The motion controller would work perfect as a mouse cursor to control the games. You could bring new franchises to the console market that have been strictly on the PC. Take Command and Conquer, Warcraft, Starcraft or Civilization and port it to the Wii. It would work brilliantly.

It would be neat to see Nintendo open up the console for Homebrew applications. These are programs that are made by people who are fans. They make the games and applications and make them available for the console. If Nintendo could open up that market, they would surely succeed.

Of course, these are only my opinions, but they are shared by many in the Nintendo community. Hopefully Nintendo will be able to do some of this, but I won't get my hopes up because as soon as I do, they will spoil my dreams.

16 April 2007

Want to see Paris Hilton naked?

Well, it seems that most people either want to see Paris Hilton or Britney Spears naked. Personally, both are twigs in my opinion, but open an email with a similar subject line and your computer could be more infected than you were when you came back from Spring Break in Cancun.

It seems that this subject is the latest ploy to spread the Troj/Iffy-B trojan horse from computer to computer. It takes advantage of the animated cursor bug in the Windows operating system. Microsoft released a patch for it last week.

It still amazes me that people still think it is plausible that someone would email them with a link to pictures of a popular celebrity naked. In this day in age of computers and email, I would like to think that people have actually learned something and know that these things are just ploys to sell you something or infect your computer.

This irks me to no end, knowing that people fall for this all the time. Not that I fix computers for a living, but when you have a friend that knows that you are a nerd and asks you why his computer is running slow, a virus is the first thing that comes to mind. Either from surfing porn sites or by opening an email related to porn.

To top it off, most of these problems could be avoided if people would just run basic anti-virus and anti-spyware programs. They could also follow that handy reminder that pops up in their system tray to tell them to install the latest updates.

But in the end, there are always going to be those people who choose to open up suspicious emails from people they don't know, and offering things that they seem unbelievable. Maybe people will wise up ... but I doubt it.

14 April 2007

Nintendo dominance

I have been a Nintendo fan since I was a kid. I was born in 1977, which if I do the math correctly, means I was 8 when the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was introduced. That's prime gaming age. So needless to say, I've always had a soft spot for Nintendo and their consoles. As I read more about the company and some of the practices they have used in previous years, I'm starting to question how much I am attached to them. I also love the Nintendo Wii, but I'm frustrated with it as well.

It all began when I received my first NES on Christmas Day of 1987. My younger and brother and I were not allowed to play it very often, but at least we got to play consistently. The Atari seemed like last decades technology compared to the NES. On that day I became a Nintendo fanboy.

Since that time I have owned every Nintendo Console that they have released, from the NES to the Wii. When the Wii was announced in 2005 as the "Revolution", I was genuinely excited. You see, the Nintendo Gamecube (GC) didn't do very well despite being more powerful than Sony's Playstation 2 (PS2). Nintendo's business practices had made the developers move elsewhere and caused Nintendo's decline.

Beginning with the NES, Nintendo only made it possible for game developers to use their cartridges with the system. So the developers had to buy the cartridges from Nintendo at a higher rate than they could from a third party. Before the game was released, Nintendo had to put their seal of approval on the game. Also, the game developers were not allowed to release more than five games a year. In short, there were a lot of controls that Nintendo placed on the developer, but the developers put up with this because the NES was the leading console and they wanted to make money. Some of these controls were not without their reasons.

Many problems that had plagued previous consoles was an over saturation of low quality games. Nintendo was trying to prevent this by limiting developers to only five games a year. They also reviewed the games to make sure that the consumers were not receiving a game that was low quality. While this seemed to help in the short term, abuse of this would lead to the company's trouble.

The Super Nintendo (SNES) had led the console wars through the use of its previous success and marquee titles such as Super Mario and Metroid. By the time the Nintendo 64 (N64) was released the Playstation was extremely popular. Nintendo decided to use ROM cartridges for the N64, which was not accepted well by game developers as Sony was using CD-ROMs at the time. The CD-ROMs allowed for more data storage at the cost of piracy. This may have been one of Nintendo's reasons for staying with the cartridge, but many developers saw it as a way for Nintendo to get more money from them since they had to buy the cartridges from Nintendo.

This began the decline of Nintendo. Many gamers were sold on the Playstation and its line of games and many attribute this to the core gamers aging and wanting more from their console. The Microsoft XBox and Playstation 2 were released later with online capability and the Gamecube was released with no online options. Despite being more powerful than the PS2, the GC didn't receive a great fanfare because it didn't have online capability and it did not have a lot of 3rd party support.

Bring on the Wii! Despite the some failures of its previous two consoles, Nintendo comes to the plate and hits a home run with the Wii. Its motion activated controllers were revolutionary and were a big hit with casual gamers that may have been intimidated with consoles before. Along with Sony's Playstation 3 blunder (released at $600), Nintendo began to regain some of its former dominance.

Stay tuned for why the Wii may still fail...

08 April 2007

New lights on the subject?

Civilization may have never evolved in the way that it has if it wasn't for the light bulb. Since this invention, it has spurred an industrial revolution, leading the way for many of the products and policies that we have today. So it would seem odd to be without this invention that we have grown accustomed to, but Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) looks to change the light bulb's image. She has introduced H.R. 1547 to place a minimum output on the amount of lumens per watt a light bulb must produce, similar to the new ruling made by Australia.

One of the technologies to immediately see a benefit in sales is the compact fluorescent light bulb, or CFL. While incandescent light bulbs only used about 5% of their wattage on light, CFL's can use up to 2/3 less energy than a standard incandescent bulb and still maintain the same output of light. Energy Star states that you can have a savings of $30 per CFL installed over a years time.

There is a downside to CFL technology: They contain mercury. This toxic substance can cause health problems if it is ingested or introduced into the bloodstream. The only way the mercury can become dangerous, is if the light bulb is broken. For this reason, CFL's should not be thrown away with the rest of your refuse. It should be taken to a recycling center to be reclaimed and reused.

Another downside to the CFL is the price. A CFL light can run about $4 to $7 for a single bulb. There are other deals out there, but in general they cost more than incandescent bulbs. While the bulbs may cost more, they also last longer. CFL's last 4 to 10 times longer than a standard bulb.

There are some who do not take to the new technology, mainly because of misleading information and myths. An article on the American Thinker website claims that there are no American manufactures of CFL's. A simple Google search clarifies this information for us and shows that there are numerous manufactures here in the United States. The article also refers to the H.R. 1547 bill and how the U.S. wants to "Ban the bulb". The bill actually states that there will be standards to set new minimum lumen per watt ratios on light bulbs. This wording allows incandescent technology as long as it can adhere to the new standards. With its current technology, the incandescent light bulb will not meet these standards.

And while there is mercury in every CFL, the very power plants that supply the power release mercury into the atmosphere with their emissions. So much so that in the overall span of each bulb, an incandescent will actually produce more mercury (from consuming more power and in turn emitting mercury from the power plant) than a CFL will with its power consumption and supplied mercury.

Overall, I believe that the CFL is a wise choice to make if you are looking to save a few dollars on your electricity bill. If you are looking to help the environment, there is still plenty debate on whether there is a significant difference in overall environmental impact. Because of manufacturing differences, power consumption and politics, we may never know our true environmental impact on this earth.

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