Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Find Us Now

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hilfe Medic! Nintendo Killed Me!

As I mentioned in this week’s podcast, Nintendo is releasing the DSi this holiday season in Japan with North American plans for sometime next year.  Aside from some of the bigger updates to system in the forms of camera and size, one of the biggest draws would be downloadable games and the SD Card slot.

I have openly said that I modify my consoles – the ones that are mod-able anyway – and my Nintendo DS is also one of them.  I use a M3 device on mine to enable ROM playability, which essentially allows me to play homebrew and other region games.  Currently, all the Nintendo DS games are region free.  So if you visit Asia and buy that new Rockman World, it will work on your North American DS.

Nintendo has been very active during this console generation in trying to kill piracy on their multiple systems and with their latest attempt by epoxy gluing the ROM chips on the Nintendo Wii, it comes with no surprise that they will be region-locking their downloadable games for the new DSi and the DS Download store.  This is also very accepted practice in home consoles and it was always a surprise to me why they were not implemented in handheld devices.  Nintendo’s DS system is currently the best selling gaming platform worldwide, only to be followed closely by the Wii and with a distant 3rd held by Microsoft’s Xbox 360.  As we all know, hardware sales are only a means to an end.  Similarly to how cell phone providers will give you a greater discount for every extra year you extend you contract agreement, console hardware is sold on the basis of attracting platform loyalty and increasing their attach rates.  This is why manufactures such as Sony and Microsoft would be willing to sell their consoles at a loss in order to increase market share.  Because the chances are if you own a XBOX 360 or a PS3, you will likely be buying XBOX 360 and PS3 games.

Nintendo realizes that with the largest market share in their handheld console, the piracy market seriously hampers their attach rate and software sales.  By limiting software compatibility in the form of region lock, they automatically create multiple markets that do not require worldwide competition.  Asian markets can compete locally, while North American markets can retain their own strategy.  By also moving distribution to the “cloud” and following suit with other digital distribution models, they effectively cut out the middleman and are able to retain a greater portion of the revenue from each sale.

What they haven’t announced, and I will bet is true, is that the new DSi will also kill off any Slot 1 modding device.  Given the built in SD Card slot, there is still hope that hackers will find a way to enable its function to run ROMs directly off of the native SD Card but the hardware manufacturers of these Slot 1 devices will also be put out of business.

This is quite uncharacteristic for Nintendo as they have been relatively quiet on the piracy front and as a company on a whole.  This could spell a pretty interesting next generation battle for pirates VS. hardware manufacturers.  With Nintendo’s track record, no one will know what’s going on until it happens.  However, being someone that is using a slot 1 device, I’m sure going to be hanging on to my current DS even if I decide to upgrade.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Social Ineptitude

Let me tell you guys a story about a little squirrel.

This little squirrel has grown up with his community of squirrels and was generally well liked and accepted.  Over the years, he developed in to a contributing member of the group and was even given some responsibilities in leading the younger squirrels.

But something changed over time.  Certain aspects of this little squirrel’s development were not normal.  He would often believe that instead of saving his nuts for winter, it was a wiser move to grow his very own tree so that the nuts would solely be his.  His friends would question his knowledge of horticulture and even some would suggest that it was a smarter thing to gather nuts than growing nuts.

His response to their advice was. “No pain, no gain, right?”

This would continue onto other aspects of his life which ultimately led to the failure in his attempt to fly, his belief that he would be able to learn to drive a car, or that if he only courted younger female squirrels, he would be successful.  Eventually, his friends stopped offering up advice and the ones that truly cared for his well being moved on.

This little squirrel has now become one of the senior squirrels in his community but because all of his friends already moved on, he is not left with the responsibility of mentoring the young squirrels growing up.

It’s hard to believe that a whole new generation of squirrels will now follow in this retarded squirrel’s footsteps but it’s true.  And what’s even harder to believe is that this could happen in real life with real people.

What did this story have to do with tech?  Nothing.

I’m pissed off at someone and this is my way of expressing it.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Episode 7: Epoxy This!

Podcast Episode 7 Show Notes:


  • Stupid winter tires
  • Global Economy and effect on the home front
    • Construction industry taking a real hit
    • Spending will be low this year
    • It’s not confidence in market since it’s not about investments, it’s protecting your own hide, if analysts are wrong, they aren’t going to be paying your mortgage
  • Changing Careers
    • Stats say you change careers 3-4 times in your life now
    • Contemplating a 4 day work week
    • What I learned while I was off for 6 weeks

Around the Net:

  • Warhammer release
    • Beta experience
  • Robber gets away on an inner tube
    • Uses craigslist to enlist 14 people to serve as decoy
    • Smart thieves and institutional drones (police)
    • How to encourage innovation: a place like google VS. MS
  • Spore/EA gets sued
    • DRM again at the forefront
    • Mass Effect had it, why I still played it
  • Android gets released
    • T-Mobile exclusive
    • Engadget video – lagging screen
    • Open source VS. Apple
  • Nokia 5800 XpressMusic announced
    • Will ship with one year free music from nokia store
    • Looks to be the very first direct competitor to iphone
    • Good to see manufactures are standing up to apple and not trying to just clone
  • Grand opening of first Calgary Apple Store
    • First 1000 people gets a free T-shirt
    • Apple as a lifestyle
    • Dec 8 release in Japan
    • 2009 in North America
    • Do we really need another?
    • Old school protection against modders
    • Ballsy move - impressed with Nintendo


  • Force Unleashed
    • Easy as pie
    • Unlimited health - dynasty warriors with stormtroopers - less deep
    • Good story though - better than Clone Wars
  • Heroes Season Premier
    • Too many stories lines
    • Had to rewatch the last 2 seasons to even remember what the hell happened
    • I hate that they don't use their powers properly
  • Knight Rider 2008
    • So bad it’s good?
    • It takes itself too seriously, tries too hard
    • So far, 2 episodes of fan service only
  • Smallville
    • Messing up the Superman mythos
    • doomsday in title credits but doesn't show up

Thursday, October 2, 2008

OPINION: Hindsight is 20/20

The topic du jour seems to be DRM, both on my own blog and around industry news.  With the recent development of Spore/EA’s stance on Securom and other DRM practices, it seems that we are headed towards the same road as what consumers are currently seeing in the music industry.

With Napster and MP3 gaining huge momentum in the mid 90’s, music industry noticed that their sales of physical media were declining.  There were two possibilities for this:

a)       People are now pirating songs and downloading them illegally because of MP3’s

b)      People are realizing that songs in MP3 format produced a far better listening experience logistically and prefer a medium change

And we all know which option the music industry, mostly RIAA, choose to see as the reason for declining sales.  So what we have then is the evolution from heavy DRM which really started with audio CD’s that could not be played in every CD Player as they were formatted in CD-Rom format.  These were not readily introduced until 2002 while MP3 momentum continued.  What we can see is that in the beginning, the majority of consumers (read: over 50% of consumers – exact numbers are irrelevant in this discussion) were still buying their music.  There were a growing number of people that were interested in MP3 technology but that was relegated to mainly the tech savvy crowd and those that were able to afford $300 MP3 players that held 512MB of music.  In fact, more often than not, music was being “dubbed” onto other CD’s but not for the reason of not paying for your music, but for a way to create your own “mixed-tape” CD. 

I remember when there was talk of “burning stations” that would allow you to buy individual songs from a multitude of artists and labels and the machine would burn you a custom CD of those songs.  I personally was very excited by that possibility and believed it could have been commercially successful.  What the industry decided instead was to lock down CD copying (which was readily cracked anyway) which drove more legitimate users to seek alternative means.   If you told Suzie Soccer Mom that her new Tom Jones CD may not be able to play in her car’s CD-player (the most common player unable to handle DRM CD’s in the early 2000’s), she would have a fit.  She would ask the salesman at her local big boxed retailer what her alternatives were and there would be separate CD players with car adapters or this newer product called an MP3 player, which would allow her to fit hundreds of her favourite songs on one small device that won’t even skip!  When she gets this home and realizes that there isn’t a place where she can buy these songs in a MP3 format, she inevitability asks her teenage song what to do and he in turn sets her up with limewire.  This is only one scenario but most outcomes are the same.  This would also coincide with the success of iTunes and the iPod as the only player capable of accessing these songs. 

Now Apple does have their own DRM in the form of fairplay but it’s less intrusive and much more behind the scenes than Microsoft’s WMA’s or Sony’s DRM rootkits.

Fast forward to 2008 and what we have now is a music industry that is facing extinction in physical media sales and a giant elephant in the iTunes store.  iTunes and Apple are making money on music hand over fist and they want a piece of it.  And the only way to attack this problem is to offer the consumer a better alternative – that would be DRM free MP3 music.  E-tailers such as Amazon have already been selling DRM free music at a fraction of the price Apple is selling them.  This should have been the action in the very beginning but who’s to say that without iTunes, we would be without iPods today.  Although I believe that there will always be someone to step up and fill the void if it wasn’t Apple, it would have been someone else. 

We can take this same argument and apply it to the video games industry as it also sits on a precipice of similar elevation as the music industry did 10 years ago.  The tech savvy will always find a way to hack your DRM.  The major difference here is that there are a higher concentration of tech savvy users in the PC gaming sector than in the music scenario.  But if the industry offers a unified way to organize, distribute, and produce clean, consistent, and stable software, I believe sales will increase and piracy will decline (not by much but at least sales will increase).  If someone like me who can pirate my games quite easily would rather buy a game from Steam than pirate it, then I’m sure there are many others out there that would follow suit. 

Which is why I’m very excited by websites such as www.gog.com .  They are owned by Stardock, the Godfather of DRM free gaming, and are releasing working, supported, DRM free “Good Ol’ Games”.  Games such as Fallout 1 and 2, Decent, MDK, etc.  These are games that I’m very fond of and can remember clearly spending many hours playing.  Most of these games I have either lost or damaged the CD’s to or are simply incompatible with the latest operating systems and video cards.  But a site like GOG sells digital copies of these with working patches for XP and Vista while promising DRM free use and support. 

As I have said before, I’m not qualified to dissect the ins and outs of the industry or their business models.  I can only speak as a tech enthusiast and end user.  But to that end, EA and Activision/Blizzard seriously needs to take notice of models such as these because one day, an iTunes for PC games will happen and they will be left in the dust because they were too busy writing new Securom code (in the case of EA).  If I had my vote, I would like to see Activision/Blizzard merge with Valve and redesign Steam to follow a relaxed iTunes model.   

My Mac Smells like...benzene?

Most people love the smell of napalm…I mean new tech in the morning/afternoon/evening.  Even that new car smell has been bottled up and sold.  But what happens when that smell ends up being toxic and your gonads could shrink from it (Ok, I don’t know if your gonads would shrink but it certainly would from all the chemo)? 

French newspaper, LibĂ©ration had first published a story about how Mac Pros built prior to 2008 were emitting a strange odor.  A quote from a scientist used in the article suggests that the smell had toxic properties and one of which is the chemical Benzene.  According to the CDC, “Benzene is a widely used chemical formed from both natural processes and human activities. Breathing benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, and unconsciousness; long-term benzene exposure causes effects on the bone marrow and can cause anemia and leukemia. (Source: ToxFAQs for Benzene August 2007) 

Apple has since said in a statement to Macworld that there were no evidence in their tests to prove the claim but they are still investigating the claim.  

With the recent discoveries of melamine to the milk used in the production of milk products from China, it’s not a surprise that you are now finding weird chemicals in the tech industry as well.  It has been a long running joke within my family that eventually, there will be carcinogens in everything and that if you wait long enough, the things that are now bad for you will be found later to be good for you.  Who’s to say that some odd ball food scientist will come out with a study that Trans-Fats in limited quantities are actually healthy for the liver (that’s conjecture but that’s the joke)? 

I remember years ago, it was told to me that eggs were too high in cholesterol and were not good for you in any amount, but recent articles have stated that eggs indeed are necessary in a proper diet.  I’m not counting out the ill effects of Benzene or Melamine in foods and products as those are clearly harmful industrial chemicals, but the point is that we shouldn’t be surprised.  If any of you reader had the opportunity to travel to China, it would be very clear that in a country with 1.3 billion people, there are actually 3 major cities that could live up to first world standards in healthcare, public safety, and other factors that are taken for granted in North America.  These three cities being Beijing (especially after the Olympics), Shanghai (and only in the new Shanghai – old Shanghai is a shanty town) and, Guangzhou (even though it’s not the 3rd largest).  Hong Kong being the anomaly here since it was a British colony until 1997, it wasn’t affected by the Chinese government’s rules until after that.  

Just some food for thought – that won’t cause you cancer.  No I’ve got to throw out all my M&M’s, Cadbury chocolates, and White Rabbit Candy



Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary

It’s been just over one year since I started this blog and lots have happened since then.  There’s been a controversial Halo opinion, a GTA4 head to head, and my most treasured addition – the podcast.  I’ve tried to keep the updates regular and mostly they have been so, but lately it’s been slacking again.  The podcast takes quite of planning since I don’t have a co-host (of which I’m still working on) but it’s still a lot of fun to do. 

I wanted to celebrate with a special podcast this weekend.  It’s going to have a brand new segment for the ladies that listen (read: my wife!) and it’s going to be “Fashionable Tech”.  Even the manliest man still has to satisfy the women in their lives and this new segment will showcase some interesting tech that has to do with fashion/appearance/accessories.  Admit it, the inner geek in you wants to know what new, hip, cool, fancy, accessory can be used with your latest toy! 

Look for the podcast to be available on iTunes and here on Sunday night/Monday morning. 

Keep the comments and suggestions coming, I’m quite enjoying the responses!