Friday, October 12, 2007

Death is a good motivator

You know those HR meetings where the bosses tell you that you must shape up, do your work well, work harder, and then gives you a reason why you must.


I just had such a meeting and the outcome is a very familiar sight. 


The difference between most companies is how you are compensated for taking the abuse and crap that is served to you.  Every company has crap on a plate that you are supposed to eat and love and say, “Thank you Sir, may I have more?”  The difference is how they treat you after it.  Similar to how you suck up to your wife or girlfriend after you just spend your month’s pay on the PS3 instead of taking her out this weekend like you promised.


Compensation is a tricky thing, because cash will only go so far.  The more money you have, the more expenses you have.  So you look for the silver lining in perks, such as flexible hours, friendly atmosphere, open doors, and company events.  These companies are very hard to come by unfortunately, and I have still to find mine. 


If you currently have such a place to work in, enjoy it and don’t lose focus.  Just remember, “if you are not being at least 80% productive, you are not make the company profitable”.


Wow, what do you say to that except, “Thank you Sir, may I have some more?”



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Logitech Z-5500 5.1 THX Certified Speakers Review

I am not an audiophile. I prefer the joy of sight over the joy of sound, so naturally, you will have to read the following review with that rather large grain of salt. With that caveat aside, I will introduce you to what my experience has been with PC speakers. In ascending chronological order, here are the speakers I have been listening to with my PC for the last 3 years:

  • Creative Cambridge Soundworks 5.1 surround sound system
  • Logitech X-530 5.1 surround sound system
  • Logitech Z-10 2.0 sound system
  • Creative T20 2.0 sound system
And now I'm back to a 5.1 setup. The move to a 2.0 setup actually coinceided with my moving out and getting married period, where we lived in a small 600 sq. ft. apartment and real estate was limited. I do like to game in 5.1 and have missed it, but I also enjoy having a clean desk with little clutter (my wife would disagree but that's another story). I was very happy with my T-20's and they performed exceptionally well for a 2.0 system. I chose to try out the Z-5500 because my friend owns the Z-680 (the predecessor to the 5500) and he absolutely raves about them. That and the deal site I frequent had found these on sale for $250 Canadian. The price was just too sweet to pass them up so I took the plunge. Setup: The subwoofer that comes with this speaker package is a 10" sub enclosed in a wood housing with amplifier and a large aluminum heat sink. The box the whole set comes in is rather large and it was a challenge trying to get in into the trunk of my Mazda 3. However, once it was home and I started to set it up, it was a painless process. The Z-5500 uses regular speaker spring clips and speaker wires for its connection. It's not hard to connect these speakers but it does take a bit of patience and wire stripping. Just make sure you either have a sharp utility blade or a $10 wire stripper from home depot. After you have connected all 5 speakers to their inputs on the back of the amp (sub woofer), you should connect the massive, wired, desktop remote. The remote does more than adjust volume, all the appropriate controls are on there with the audio inputs. You can select which input, effects, and speaker levels all on the remote with the help of a 2 line LCD display. Performance: The Z-5500 accepts a Dolby Digital signal with support for Prologic II decoding and DTS 96/24 as well. You can hook up the speakers using direct 6 channel connection, Digital Toslink, or regular stereo input. I used both the direct 6 channel and Toslink to test these speakers. As most games do not output a encoded Dolby or DTS signal, you are forced to use the 6 channel (green, yellow, black) for positional audio. But for movies, such as the Matrix, you can switch the input to Digital Toslink and allow the Z-5500 to decode the DTS or Dolby track for you. I currently run a 5.1 surround system for my main TV and I really enjoy the loud bang that comes with all 5 speakers firing. And let me say my only complaint about watching a movie with these speakers is that my office chair doesn't transform into a Lazyboy! These speakers are the echelon of PC audio there is no doubt. The sounds from them are very clear, with great separation and well defined lows. The only thing I would like is a more distinct bass instead of a steady rumble, it would be nice if the bass could vary a bit with more life. Gaming is a joy with the Z-5500. You get a great sense of position with them. Bioshock is positively freaking when you can tell which direction a Big Daddy is in just by hearing it from behind....brrrr. Conclusion: I am very pleased with these speakers. They could be had for cheaper come Christmas time I'm sure and with the boxing day and year end sales, you should be seeing regular prices fall closer to the $200 mark. $200 for a set of speakers is expensive. But if you are someone that uses their PC for more than word processing and more for entertainment, then get yourself some decent speakers. There's a reason the majority of people out there call PC enthusiasts geeks and nerds, it's because we spend all this time and money oiling and greasing silicon chips in a box. So if you are going to be putting a HEMI in a Toyota, make sure you give it a good intake and exhaust so it can sound like a monster too.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

What it's like to be on top

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Americans need not apply, your's is coming soon enough. I was hoping that this long weekend would be more relaxing and offer some extra time to crack open that PGR4 sitting on my desk. But like much of the time, I had something else to do besides playing my games. I had to work. Don't misunderstand my position. I am not belittling those hard workers in the service industry that has to work on Saturdays, Sundays, and Holidays at minimum wage. I have been there before and it really grates on your nerves. But, I went to school, completed two degrees, and am now a professional. And why did I do all that? So I can have my weekends off and enjoy the successful life, or so said my University professor/counselors/social adviser. It's never easy to be at the upper echelon of professionalism. I am not a vice president of anything and I don't ever want to be. I am merely needed, just enough to require a long weekend work day, but not enough to be important. I'm not bitter, honest. I'm just wondering where the value in working your tail off is when mediocrity seems to be the battle cry for the majority of the work force. Well, I'll certainly chew on that for a while as I continue to show up to work this week, giving my 85.9% effort. Coming soon, reviews of: Logitech Z-5500 5.1 surround speakers, Spherex Xbox 5.1 speaker system, Creative Zen 8GB Media Player, Heavenly Sword - First Impressions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


The weekend came and went, and I have to say, it was rather uneventful. Although I was able to log in about 2 hours of Team Fortress 2 on Friday night, it was not nearly enough as the rest of the weekend, I spent doing other chores. On a brighter note, I have complete the yard work required for this year in preparation of winter. The dog-run in the backyard is complete, save a few fencing and enclosures, which we will do next year.

TF2 was exhilarating as always and I was able to convince my brother-in-law to pre-order the orange box as well. He has always been a valve fan but has been devoted to Day of Defeat for longer than I care to remember. With the continued changes in that game, it’s become a completely different beast and he’s no longer enjoys playing it. With the introduction to TF2, he has found a new shooter that he can immerse himself into.

We also played a bit of Bioshock, and sadly to say, that game is NOT for me! I have never been a fan of horror games. Even the slightest amount of occult will cause me to lose sleep at night. I remember vividly when I first found this out. It was my friend’s 10th birthday and we were having a sleep over at his house. He had just received a brand new Castlevania game for the NES and we were all determined to play it through. And I too my turn playing Simon Belmont and things weren’t so bad. It wasn’t until the sun set and the music started to get eerie did I start to notice shadows moving and felt eyes on my back. I know, most of you will think I’m a chicken for getting chills from a 8-bit game. But just think, if I’m that freaked out by an 8-bit game then, how much more freaked out would I be with Bioshock! I was able to play through Doom 3, Quake 4, no problems. I never played system shock so I can’t compare but with Bioshock, that’s just one creepy game! My brother in law was just as freaked out as I was and we decided then that TF2 was much more up our alley. Which is too bad as I can see that Bioshock is truly an experience. Perhaps if I run through the game full powered....but that topic is for another time.

My next project, depending on time, is going to be the continued leveling of my World of Warcraft character. I have yet to take a character to 60 and I would love to experience some of the higher end content. We will see, since 2.2 patch apparently broke a whole lot of add-ons, I may not want to continue if I have to reset all my buttons again in the UI. That’s just not worth my time right now.