Nov 26, 2005 | | 0 comments |

Great. High fuel prices mean more people are switching to hybrids. And you know what B*sh wants to do now? You can guess can't you. Go on. Yes you can.
The US Chamber of Commerce is suggesting the federal government tax hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars. The chamber says the federal Highway Trust Fund is running out of money to maintain the nation's highways, and that Congress needs to consider new sources of revenue. Chamber leaders also are suggesting billing drivers for miles driven. The study also recommends the federal gas tax of about 18 cents a gallon be indexed for inflation. Proponents say drivers should have to pay their fair share to fill potholes and fix bridges, regardless of how much or what kind of fuel they use.

Way to go. That is such a retarded idea I just can't comment any further other than to say the US Chamber of Commerce needs to get its head out of its collective arse and do exactly the opposite of that suggestion. If anything they need to give tax breaks to hybrid owners and tax SUV drivers.

Buuuuuuuuuut I guess when you have a corrupt, lunatic dictator from Texas who puts the interests of Saudi Arabia and the oil companies above those of his citizens, that just 'aint going to happen :-(

And so to winter?

Nov 25, 2005 | | 0 comments |

It's started raining. The weather bods (even the plastic toy on KUTV) reckon we're in for snow tomorrow through to monday, with another storm wednesday and another on friday. We could be waking up with a light dusting of snow in the valley in the morning, or a foot of snow. We'll see. And if we still have power, I'll blog :-)

Black friday. Why?


Thanksgiving has come and gone, and today was the usual Black Friday. I think this is a peculiarly American thing because some people started queuing last night for the sales today. Stores opened at 6am and people started fighting in some stores trying to get deals. We were in Best Buy getting a couple of DVDs in the afternoon and it was a total zoo. Anyone would think they were giving stuff away or something. It was insane. Why people all shop on the same day I don't know - all the sale items will be there tomorrow, and sunday. Why 6am today?
And some people were spending an unbelievable amount of money. One guy in the line in front of me had two DVD players, a camcorder, a digital camera, two PDAs and a stack of DVDs probably 20 deep on his cart. All these items were the same price today that they'll be tomorrow, and on sunday, and in the pre-Christmas sale, the Christmas sale and the post-Christmas sale. It's stupid. These people need their heads examining.

Something every American should be scared shitless to read.

Nov 24, 2005 | | 0 comments |

Deborah Davis' website
Read it. And if you're pro-B*sh, please remember that this happened on your watch, and your chosen "president" is the man who signed into law the Patriot Act which could be used to do this to everyone, anytime, any place, for no reason. If you can read that website and still not see B*sh for the dictator he is, or understand the rights and freedoms he's eroding from your country, you should be ashamed of yourself.

George's thought for Thanksgiving.


Xbox 360 news just gets worse by the day.

Nov 23, 2005 | | 1 comments | have done a breakdown on the Xbox components, now that the machines are actually available. The news is much worse than Microsoft would like us to believe.

The materials inside the XBox360 cost Microsoft $564 before assembly. Semiconductors alone account for $340. The IBM-designed chip at the center of the console costs about $106. The Seagate hard drive costs $53, and the Samsung memory chips $65. The console sells at retail for $399, meaning a loss of $165 per unit just in parts. ie. it doesn't include labour costs. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. There's more than just the console in the box - the power supply, cables, and controllers add another $55, pushing the loss per unit to $220. And these prices include the assumption that Microsoft are getting discounted prices on their components. Now take into account the actual cost of assembly, labour, the case manufacturing, switchgear, smaller items (like screws to hold it all together) and packaging and distribution and you can safely guess that adds another $50 to the unit. That gives a rough guesstimate of $270 loss per unit.
I'll make that bigger because it's an impressive number:

$270 LOSS per unit

As with the Xbox, they'd like us to believe that they'll recover the cost on the games. But the maths doesn't add up there either. They assume people will buy 10 games at $60 a pop, but that simply won't happen. The only reason the original Xbox sold anything like the numbers it did was because of the hard drive and the fact that you could hack the machine to easily play pirated games. Most people own pre-owned games where there's no money to Microsoft anyway so they'll only get a profit on it the first time it's sold.

On top of all of this, Microsoft have made the Xbox360 so much like a PC and so far removed from a games console that the internet is already flooded with reports of crashes, buggy behaviour, running hot, random reboots, and get this - the black screen of death. Nearly 15% of XBox 360s are defective by early estimates.
They've missed the point - it's supposed to be a games machine. Turn it on, pop in a game, play. People don't want buggy Microsoft shit in their games console. Most of us have to put up with it 10 hours a day on our PCs.

XBox 360 launched with a whimper.

Nov 22, 2005 | | 0 comments |

So it's finally here. The news last night had reporters on-site at the lengthy midnight queues around the city. And then we heard the news. Our local BestBuy store - one of two serving about 2 million people, had - wait for it - 45 units to sell. The local SprawlMart had only 14. The next closest SprawlMart had 8, and between them, the 4 closest GameStops had 11. So for basically the whole of the north of Utah, there are 78 Xbox 360s to go around. Not quite the massive fanfare we'd been led to believe.
On top of that I watched G4's XBox360 special last night and I have to agree with the fat black bloke with a bad rastafarian hair job - given the videos Microsoft showed, I'm considerably underwhelmed by their idea of "next generation". Frankly it looks no different to the Xbox. A bit of a letdown for a box with as much power as it supposedly has. I guess the embedded Windoze OS is taking up all the memory and processor power. Or something. Either way, Call of Duty 2 looked just like CoD1, but with horrendous popup and texture paging problems (see my blog entry a few weeks ago about Project Gotham Racing). In the game footage being shown last night, they were in some sort of desert village and every time the player ran towards a pile of sandbags with an enemy behind them, when they got to about 10m from the sandbags, they popped really badly to a higher poly model and higher resolution textures. Once I'd seen that, I started looking, and all the scenery and even the enemy figures had the same problem - as you got to within about 10m of them, they popped. It looked awful.
And Project Gotham Racing? It looks no different to the Xbox version, apart again from the dire popup and paging problems.
They had some Microsoft stuffed shirt on G4 last night and the host asked him "So given that HDTV is still a niche market, is it really worth going out and spending $400 for an XBox360? What does it offer the gamer that they want?" The guy was totally stumped, and stumbled and waffled around something about Xbox Live and HDTV but basically came to the conclusion that perhaps it really wasn't worth the money after all because it really didn't have anything to offer. This was a Microsoft sales rep! I guess he's now an ex-Microsoft sales rep then.
Like I said before - I'm sure it'll be a success for Microsoft, though I don't know why anyone would buy one.

And on a side note - this is the first time I've watched G4 since they sold off all the talent after the hostile takeover of TechTV. G4 still sucks ass and blows goats at the same time. I didn't realise that level of suck was possible in a TV channel.

A games console with a GUI?


XBox 360 comes with a truly Gatesian interface, and by Gatesian I mean bloated and unnecessary. Who the hell puts a GUI on a games console? Well apparently Microsoft does.
Put the disc in, play.
How much easier should it be than that? Well if you believe these screenshots, it's damn near impossible to actually play a game.
And that irritating bowed image effect you're seeing isn't the result of crappy photography. The interface actually looks like that. I'm not sure but I think those doughnut shapes that look like the deflection amp in the TV has gone actually move and pulsate too.
I feel nauseous just looking at the still images.
And if you can believe this (and being Microsoft, you probably can) I read a preview today that said the Xbox 360 wireless controllers suffered from lag. Nice.

"Help us SonyWan, you're our only hope."

From the "that's too funny" file...

Nov 21, 2005 | | 1 comments |

Remember the DRM problem Sony had in the last couple of weeks, where it installed spyware and rootkits onto PCs when you tried to play their CDs?
Get this :
That whole incident can be made to look even more stupid by the knowledge that the DRM technology can be defeated easily. The user can simply apply a fingernail-sized piece of opaque tape to the outer edge of the CD, rendering session 2 - which contains the self-loading DRM software, unreadable. The PC then treats the CD as an ordinary single-session music CD, and all CD ripping programs will continue to work as usual.

Worse still (for Sony at least), even without the tape, your common or garden CD ripper software would still readily duplicate the copy-protected disc in its entirety, complete with session 2.

So all that hassle, 568,000 infected networks, millions of machines open to rootkit problems, antivirus companies and Microsoft having to write removal tools, and all because of what? Because of our old friend the RIAA. There've been plenty of blog entries on that group of morons so I won't go into it again here.

New themes for spam this week.


From my spamfilter this morning, the weekend's new themes for spam are:
- safe spray-on tan
- people trying to give me watches as a gift
- lots of people trying to sell fake hoodia supplements
And one person who apparently is so desperate to get hold of me that she's sent 18 emails from 18 different addresses with 18 different phone numbers. Gosh. It must be important.

Also this weekend I saw the latest drug-company-fabricated medical condition. RLS - Restless Leg Syndrome. I kid you not. Some company is trying to make us believe that the reason we don't sleep at night is because our legs wander around without command. Apparently this is a recognised medical condition too. In fact it's such a recognised medical condition that the first fifty hits on google are all either direct or indirect marketing for Neurosil - this new wonder drug which will cure this invented condition. It is such a massive medical problem that apparently none of the actual medical websites have managed to classify it yet. After all, what other reason could there be for there being no mention of it anywhere other than on sites trying to sell the drug?


Nov 20, 2005 | | 0 comments |

We spent the day Geocaching today. First time out and we found all but two of the caches using my old Garmin GPSIII. Given its tendency to drift even when you're standing still, that's not bad. I've ordered a travelbug to put in one of our local caches with the intent on trying to get it out of the country.