Monday, July 31, 2006

E3 Changing... In Theory

The news all over the interwebs today is that the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is going to change due to certain top exhibitors taking umbrage with various media outlets, primarily the Blogosphere, and their respective coverage. I won't link a direct source since all of them say the same thing so hit Gametab and take your pick. The conclusion on all of them is the same though.

E3 as it has been for a decade will no longer be business as usual. By "business as usual" I of course mean "distract you with loud/large exhibits while showing you as little of the games as possible." Which of course is exactly what a trade show dedicated to video games needs to do. Anyone that's ever been to E3 in a professional capacity knows that it takes the rest of the month to recover enough to re-enter society. It's loud, pulsing, and you see roughly 20 percent of what you wanted to see IF YOU'RE LUCKY.

In the meantime, the expo gets to claim they had the largest numbers in their history and the concession stands at the LA convention center make a ton of cash. But all must not have been wine and roses following this year's convention, as pointed out by all the stories today. The short version can be summed up like so:
...Now in theory, these shows are primarily geared towards connecting businesspeople. To that end, E3 was (again, in theory) only open to industry folks and journalists. In recent years, however, the number of people attending have skyrocketed, in part because E3 registration was a moderately open process.

One source I spoke with told me that media access is indeed a problem, but it probably does not factor in greatly to the decision to downsize the show. Nevertheless, there are plenty of complaints from insiders about how "blogging" in particular has made the shows more difficult, if only because floor people are instructed to speak only of what they are approved to speak of, lest another half-baked headline make the rounds.
Bill Harris translated that last paragraph to mean the industry doesn't want to see negative comments during or after the event. I disagree with him to an extent.

I think Sony is the one who doesn't want to see any negative feedback period, regardless of what it does, and heavily restricting access is the expo's way of pacifying the 800-lbs gorilla. Sony has screwed itself into the ground so hard so frequently with the PS3 fiasco that it's no longer possible to take them seriously in any capacity. This is nothing more than their way of lashing out. Here's the catch though - higher numbers of show attendees equal more revenue for the expo itself and the city of Los Angeles.

As with all things, when there is this much money on the line calmer heads will eventually prevail. There may be fewer crowds next year, but when the expo organizers find themselves in the red by Day Two then emergency meetings will be called. Those restrictive changes will be "lessened" within the next six months after "serious negotiations" and "high-level meetings." They'll spin the precipitous drop in attendance, and resultant internet mockery, as an experiment that everyone learned something from. The next year, 2008, will see even more attendees than 2006 did as E3 changes the registration process to basically let everyone back in under the guise of something completely nonsensical.

Sony, on the other hand, is walking into an unmitigated disaster come this fall and next spring. The PS3 will be the high-dollar mega-ton bomb many suspect it will be, and Sony will spin like crazy as they watch another of their proprietary media formats go down in flames exactly as the others have. I've said this for a while now and will continue to beat the same drum. Sony is exactly where Nintendo was just prior to the N64. Sony's hubris has doomed the PS3 before it's even out of the gate which is terrifically unfair to us as consumers.

We don't even have the console in our hands to judge, yet here we are levying the death sentence upon it without so much as playing one game. Oh that's right. The games look identical to those on the 360 and all of the "exclusives" not personally made by Sony are no longer exclusives to the PlayStation name brand. Meanwhile, you don't see a PS3 version of Halo 3 anywhere in the pipe, do you?

Sony was harshly beaten down this year, and justifiably so. They showed us nothing impressive, told us it would cost a bundle, and that we'd all buy it anyway because they were Sony. We unanimously rejected that notion, and they sulked and took their ball to go home. Along the way they told the E3 organizers how "unfair" us bloggers were on poor little them, and that we should all be excluded indefinitely from E3. Sorry there, hombre, but this is a free country and a free interweb. I can say anything I damn well like wherever I like.

If you don't like it, then try offering up a counter-point other than "no fair."

28 = Magical Number

Casa de Skim would like to take this moment to recognize the number 28 as the Official Numero of Casa de Skim. Of what mighty significance does this numero play in the awe-inspiring awesomeness of this site? Allow me to explain...

The number eight has long followed me. Initially it would appear the number belonged moreso to my sister than I because she was born on August 8, 1980, which put her eighth birthday in 1988. To my knowledge that's where the number ends for her but for me it's continued to pursue me. Things of life changing significance tend to happen most to me whenever there is an eight around somewhere. Ditto the number two in My Fair Lady's life.

When we met the first time it proved to be a disaster. It was awkward and bland and she and I were the only ones at the party that actually spoke to one another and we both left individually and never looked back. This would be in December of 2001. Fast forward two months to February and on the final Wednesday of the month at a group event where we hit it off. I asked her out the next day for that weekend and we've been together ever since. The day I asked her out?

February 28, 2002.

When we were looking at possible wedding dates we had a slew of options including September 11. The moment that date came up there were some discussions about it but I looked a little further back in the calendar and found the perfect one.

August 28, 2004.

I left my most recent job on the 28th of June and started the following week at a place that I plan to make some sort of career out of. The potential of this start-up is literally through the roof and I lucked into the sort of position you don't get everyday. We're in a profit sharing program and once the profits start rolling in then we're granted a percentage based on how involved we are per trade show we're involved with. As the Director of Technology I'll find myself involved in literally every trade show we do for the forseeable future. Hello, payday.

This past week, My Fair Lady took the bar exam and by all accounts is "cautiously optimistic" about how she did. We don't find out until November sometime as to what the results were but I believe firmly that she passed. One graduate from Harvard who received the highest grade on the bar of his class famously began a speech thusly:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I stand here today as an example of a wasted effort."
His point was that you only need a D+ to pass and he busted out something around 900. Employers may applaud that extra mile but you can rest assured the simple fact that you passed is fine enough by itself.

So we're out of the house all day this past Saturday and when we get home we check the mail to find a letter from the Big Downtown Law Firm that My Fair Lady wanted to work for. All indications were that she would receive an offer letter. It wasn't so much a matter of "if" but "when" however she was extremely nervous all the same. As it turns out, this letter was the one contained in the envelope I pulled out Saturday night. As I read the letter to her, the tears of joy and excitement streamed forth from her eyes and it felt like vindication for the endless struggles she's endured for the past decade. She's wanted to be an attorney for almost as long as she's been alive, and here it was laid out for her in black and white. We made the effort for her to sign and seal the letter that night and I drove her to the post office then and there. She was excited about dropping the envelope in the mail and when they call her tomorrow to confirm her start date I can imagine her jumping so high her head gets stuck in the ceiling.

The result of this letter and her signing on with them is the end to a saga that has had more twists and turns than a pretzel factory. We can finally start paying off the credit cards, get her back on insurance, take care of a hundred different things we've needed to do for the past three years but haven't been able to afford it, and so forth. In addition to the money, there is the simple potential for her to become what she has always wanted and so richly deserved: A high powered attorney at law. I'm tremendously proud of her, and know she's going to kick nine kinds of butt at this firm as she helps build up their real estate division. The date on Saturday was July 29.

They mailed out the letter one day prior.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Lohan Gets Served

Lindsay "Nosecandy" Lohan was on the receiving end of a brutally honest and hilariously spot-on letter from Morgan Creek Productions top dog James G. Robinson that threatened legal action against her if she didn't curb her all-night partying during the shoot. Apparently when you call in sick repeatedly then you had better not have been out partying the previous night where only 400 people can ID you.

Thanks to The Smoking Gun for obtaining a copy which you can view in its full glory right here.

Can't Stop the Awesome

Blockbuster's new slogan this summer to get people to rent is "You Can't Stop the Awesome." They're right but not about their stock. You really can't stop The Awesome, you can only see it delayed.

"The Awesome" I'm referring to would be Netflix. How exactly I made it so many moons without this service I'll never know but I'm a fan for life. To put it in context, go to Blockbusters or Movie Trading Company and rent a season of 24. The price tag is roughly $20 for the box. Now I pay roughly $15 or so a month for two discs at a time and can burn through the entire season in a week and a half and still crank through several more films from my queue.

The caveat is how the tend to shift frequent renters to the back of their line if you turn-and-burn films overnight. Netflix can't make all its money back like that so they can throttle your account back a ways. I know they get my films back first thing in the morning the day after I mail them. I have the receipt confirmations. But I've figured out that by simply delaying my return of two films by as much as three to four days means I can literally turn-and-burn with impunity for the next month. So by throttling myself (insert pun here) I get more bang for my buck than I ever could at Blockbusters.

Which I haven't actively gone to since I was in high school and flirting with a cute redhead who worked at the one near my house. I'll still hit them every now and then if I absolutely can't wait for the Netflix mail call, but otherwise I have no reason to go there.


Can't stop "The Awesome?" You're right on that, Blockbuster. Too bad for you The Awesome comes to my house in the form of Netflix and my lazy behind never has to walk into your stores to find tons of copies of the latest Will Ferrell movie but anything from 10 years ago is relegated to the bargain bin or worse - unavailable except by special request. Thanks guys, but I can request plenty from Netflix. Once My Fair Lady is working again I fully plan to expand our plan from two discs at a time to three. Staggering that out should be no problem whatsoever, and will definitely let me burn through future volumes of the Jack Bauer Power Hour with fury.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Wikipedia Owned by The Onion

I have some personal hostility towards Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, lately and that's primarily due to what I view as blatant elitism and hypocrisy. They claim to want to collect the entire world's information and post it on the internet. Fair enough, and that remains a noble goal to boot.

Yet in their collection of the world's knowledge the editors can apparently delete entries at their personal whim. Again, fair enough because if it's privately owned then they can do with it as they please. What I view as blatantly hypocritical is when they earmark Gaming Trend for deletion, give no reason as to why, yet continue to leave other lesser topics alone. Were this over the history of cancer I might have a bigger problem as that actually is a worthy and relevant topic to have as much data on as possible.

So why then does the Dark Phoenix saga have so much data it actually causes your brain to melt from too much nerd? And how the hell is that even remotely important, let alone merit an entry while a gaming website with a 38K Alexa count does not?

But my complaints were rendered irrelevant today when I came across The Onion's absolutely stellar beatdown of Wikipedia and the hilarity is start to finish. For example:
The commemorative page is one of the most detailed on the site, rivaling entries for Firefly and the Treaty Of Algeron for sheer length. Subheadings include "Origins Of Colonial Discontent," "Some Famous Guys In Wigs And Three-Cornered Hats," and "Christmastime In Gettysburg." It also features detailed maps of the original colonies—including Narnia, the central ice deserts, and Westeros—as well as profiles of famous American historical figures such as Benjamin Franklin, Special Agent Jack Bauer, and Samuel Adams who is also a defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals.
God bless The Onion. By all means please check out the full smackdown right here.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Reason #463 To Always Have Tools Handy

So I go to the local Chevron this morning and pick up a regular 20 Oz. Dr. Pepper. Personally I prefer the taste of the bottled kind to the can kind, but that's just me. I get back to the office and run into my first obstacle. I can't get the dang thing open.

I twist and I turn and I tear up the skin on my right hand but that blasted bottle cap remains solidly in place. I then switch to sneaky mode and crack the plastic ring underneath the bottle cap thinking that may help. No dice. I then look around the office for anything resembling a vice or a pair of pliers.

All I find is a whole lotta nadda. So what's the next obvious stop?

The admin's office so he can call up the engineering crew in the back of the building so they can bring in the big gun tools. Yes, all for a soda.

At this point it's become a personal crusade to open that blasted bottle. I expect when I get it back I'll have nary a drop left in it, but at least the seal will have been defeated. I'm all about sacrificing my pride for the greater good here.

So let this be a lesson to you boys and girls: Always have a pair of pliers handy because you never know when the Dr. Pepper Company is going to hire Hercules on as a temp worker in their bottling plant. It pays to be prepared.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Gaming Trend Pimpslaps StarFarce

Over the years computer game developers and producers have gone through different types of copy protection schemes because it was assumed this would stop pirates altogether. The only things it did was: 1) slow them down by hours instead of minutes, 2) piss off regular paying customers who would experience slow-downs and any number of problems caused by wonky copy protection. The most recent and nefarious of all these schemes was Starforce.

The short version is that it installs hidden hardware drivers onto your system then forces a reboot before you can fire up the game that came with it. The drivers regularly phone home to Starforce HQ (located in Mother Russia) and have been traced back to corrupting optical drives and CD/DVD burning software like Nero. Most other game sites just took it in stride and rarely if ever mention whether a game has Starforce on it.

My editor at Gaming Trend, however, has decided to take things one step further.

He posted this thread at the official Starforce forum and the gist of it is that any and all reviews of games with Starforce installed on it will receive an automatic 10 percent penalty straight off the top of the final score. Regardless of how good the game is, that 10 percent is automagically gone before the game is even played. If, however, Starforce screws up our computers during any point of our review window that score drops to a big fat goose egg.

I can't wait to see what happens when publishers and other sites get wind of this and we have a major AAA title receive a 0 percent score because the install of Starforce screwed up one of our machines. I am absolutely behind this because draconian copy schemes are only going to remain in effect as long as we the consumer put up with it. If we actively strike out against this sort of thing then maybe the little guy can make a difference after all.

Viva le Resistance!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Now Playing: Eight Men Out

I'm kicking myself for not seeing this gem before now, but John Sayles always worries me. When he hits its a powerhouse film like Lone Star but when he misses he does so by a wiiiiide margin with a rambling, aimless dud like Limbo. But the man is known as the go-to script doctor in Hollywood and with good reason. He's been used on more than a few blockbusters like Armageddon and Apollo 13 because the man has a way with words most of us can only dream of.

Eight Men Out is a terrific tale brought home by an ensemble of actors that have all made significant names for themselves. I think around this time was when both John Cusack and Charlie Sheen were coming into their own so it's fascinating from a historical point of view to go back and see them before fame took hold.

This is of course based on the infamous Black Sox scandal surrounding eight members of the 1919 Chicago White Sox directly throwing, or having knowledge of the plan to throw, that year's World Series. I love old Chicago and seeing it shot how it was is gold for a history nut like me. It's also a fun and fast moving story that shows how one little suspicion slowly builds to the complete unraveling of the scheme by two reporters. Sayles himself plays Ring Lardner, one of the two reporters, and I thought it was a distraction having him at the center of things. It'd be like M. Night Shyamalan being a supporting character in his films rather than his normal "Captain Exposition" role. At any rate, it remains a solid piece of historical film making and one that's highly recommended.

I'm actually enjoying getting caught up on the blog now, and have a few more reviews to knock out. I'll get to those throughout the week and right now I need to also burn through season three of The Shield. Hopefully it's as good as the first two seasons were.

EDIT: I actually realized tonight when I logged back in that I never hit publish. This review is from the first of June and should have gone up then but didn't. Feel free to enjoy it now, and also note that I've since burned through season 3 of The Shield and packed in a few new movies too.


Okay then, so it's been a good long while since I've been around. Not worry though, things have changed dramatically in the last month (and change) and all for the better. For the busier to be sure, but for the better none the less. Take this afternoon for example when I pwned the former IT admin of my new job:

The story of how I ended up at my new gig is a fascinating one that shall be relayed forthwith in another post. For the matter at hand, accept that I now and the Director of IT at a start-up production company in North Texas. The former IT guru was canned the week before last after six months of sitting on his butt doing absolutely nothing. As the days go on I become increasingly convinced that he fixed his mother's computer once and followed that with a declaration to the world that he was an IT Man.

Sadly, this condition is far too frequent in the IT industry. People assume that since you work in IT that, much like auto mechanics, you must know exactly what it is you're talking about since they themselves are ill equipped to detect when said IT gurus are talking out of their asses. This new company will have several websites dedicated to its client base over the course of the next few years, yet they remained unable to get the first one up after months of "trying."

I use the quotes on that last word because it took me all of 15 minutes today on the phone with the host company's tech support to get the site up and running. I also learned the difference between an actual directory and a virtual directory, received a crash course in Microsoft IIS, and now know how to setup and route websites on this server in the future.

In short, I totally pwned this asshat and can now do pretty much whatever I want in the company. So, to recap:

Asshat = At company for six months, unable to establish web site and wastes money buying unneccesary tech toys.

Yours Truly = At company for four days and has IT inventory completed, website up and running, and a plan for the department's direction.

You see that smile on my face? Ear-to-ear, baby.