Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Consoles Don't Count

My friend Sabbattack came over today. He's been coming by quite often lately, filling his - and my - mornings, which would otherwise mostly be boring (well, that's a lie - I seem to always have things to do lately...).

Last time he came, he left with my Wii - which was formerly my brother's wii, but my brother gave it to me because he couldn't care less for it and I looked at it and drooled - in order to get it chipped for me, and bring it back with a few games as well (including Rayman 2 and Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure, these being Wii-games-with-bunnies, which goes to support my theory that every Wii game with bunnies is made to rule supreme, for the wii is a bunny console).

He's going to bring the Wii back, chipped and set, with the games and everything, on Saturday, when I have friends over, to celebrate the election of Barack Obama as President of planet Earth, and my birthday, the two important events of November 4th, in the order mentioned. And, yes, I'd arranged this celebration more than a week ago, because I can see the future, and because some things are obvious, even if we're used to being disappointed.

Still, Sabbattack came over today, and we discussed Fallout 3 (among other things), because Fallout 2 is my favourite game ever, and because I had to mention that I've got the game there waiting for me and I still haven't even started playing, because I haven't got time. And he promised to bring me his X-Box, because, as he insisted, you need Direct X 10 to enjoy the game, and I don't plan to install Vista, like, ever - and I believe him that you need this beauty, as I remember Oblivion being more beautiful than the real world (no, I didn't play it, but Than was playing it, and we hadn't left the house for a few days, and that was the only 'outside' I'd seen, until I went outside, only to be disappointed...) and I think Fallout 3 is going to be pretty much like a post-apocalyptic Oblivion. Anyway.

Console girl, you say. And, not a gamer, you say. Well, yes, I reply. Because gamers are PC gamers. Console gamers are an inferior brand of people. I may now belong to them, but I'll remain true to some values for as long as I can. You can take my time, real world, but you'll never take my soul.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Still Alive

The LHC is working, and no black hole was created or anyfink. Other than the one in naysayers' arses, that is.

What's interesting (to me) is, last night, before going to bed, I talked to my brother, who mentioned he's been to CERN, with a special group of 17 kids from our school, in 04/2007. He inquired, once he found out what 'the five-storey building' they were building was and what it was supposed to do, if they realized the responsibility attached to a project that involves so much energy. The guy that was showing them around gave him a cool reply, something like "come find me personally and tell me off if anything happens", before explaining that quite a few people around the world had already started with their doomsday scenarios.

The point I'd like to make - nothing that interests you, of course - is that my brother is smart. He could even sort-of-explain what a Higgs boson... could be, on call. It's great for me to realize that this li'l boy is no idiot, especially since I see him as an improved version of me, plus some. I used to be teased for mentioning his basketball achievements when he used to be in a team - he supposedly was in Earth's team, playing against Mars and such. He could easily be a jock, you see, but he's smart, even there.

I was amazed, the other day - about two months ago, I think - when Than suggested that most people around us don't know simple things like what the stars we see in the sky actually are. I couldn't believe that something like that would be possible. I object to being surrounded by stupid and ignorant people, seeing as I am a total intelligence racist (yes, you are allowed to be stupid, as long as you know that to be true). And, especially when my family comes into the equation, given that I am influenced by them in more ways than just genetics, I take it personally. So I was quick to reply to Than that it wouldn't be possible for, say, my brother not to know this - something which I went and checked the other day, just to make sure, for this possibility was eating me up, only to be met with a reply that incorporated ridicule and obvious answers.

A friend told me, when we were fidgeting with the reverse translation of a bad translation of chemical terms (I kid you not), that I choose my friends with intelligence as a primary criterion, and I replied something about my intelligence racism. Still, not being surrounded by idiots doesn't necessarily mean that there aren't billions of stupid people in the world, the way I define 'stupid'. I estimate that the mean IQ of the people I hang out with to be around 120-130 or so, when there are even 80s out there who have every right to consider themselves 'of normal intelligence'.

Do I need to become more tolerant? Really?

Monday, 30 June 2008

Bill of Gates

It's... strange. Starting tomorrow, Bill Gates will "transition out" of his role at Microsoft, allegedly to work more actively at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That's their charity thingy, mind you, if you didn't know.

Having been born in the glorious year 1982, I grew up with the knowledge that Gates is "the richest man in the world", even if he's now just the 3rd richest, poor thing. And I pretty much 'transitioned' myself from thinking he was the bee's knees, during the '80s, when all that was new and shiny, to evil incarnate, knowing that the world around me constantly found more and more reasons to hate the guy.

The reason for the latter seems to be, in my book, that Windows pretty much suck. On many levels, but mostly 'underneath', the way the whole OS works. And the reason for that is evident, and goes waaay back, with the deal that had him buy MS DOS, some random OS from some random company, to give to IBM, since, as we all know, he had an agreement with them to do so, without having an OS.

And, yes, it seems to me that he spent all his life after that, until now, using his business sense to cover that mistake with the icing needed to make his 'vision' work, pretty much, on a sucky base. And, I must say, quite a glorious vision that was: "a personal computer on every desk and in every home". I can't count the times I've quoted that, in different contexts, too. And it's defined the present, on many levels, to a great degree. Glorious.

Yes, he's probably the only dork I know of who is so dorky yet still has such business acumen. 'S true. And business acumen was so hot during the '80s, yes it was. I still think Windows suck, mind you. But I can't help feeling that it's the end of an era, and that Gates is an... OK guy. Or, at least, that he's not worth all the hate he gets, not personally, as a person, personifying the object of all our hate.

At least he's trying to make up for it now. And we've reached the point where we pretty much have a PC everywhere, even if the kids in developing countries were given, quite charitably, a bunch of laptops with an open source OS. Much to Gates' disdain, too, because his business sense obviously overrides his charity sense. Which is 'normal', since it even overrides his common sense, thus branding him a dork.

But I'm the kind of person who's learned to overlook a dork's negative, or annoying, qualities, going for the good qualities that they always keep hidden underneath. And, yes, I'll miss Bill Gates. There, I said it.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

On Types Of Geekdom

After my previous "times change" rant, I have an announcement to make, ladies and gentlemen: I don't play games. PC games, that is. No. Not the way I used to.

Far from that - I only installed Yahtzee's Trilby recently, and I haven't even finished it. And I do play the occasional wii game with my brother (I must say, I trashed his friend Hector in wii sports' bowling the other day), or with whoever has a wii around me lately, or the occasional Spider Solitaire on my PC when I'm dead bored (which happens pretty rarely lately), and I do plan to play Fallout 3 when it comes out (although I know it'll be like a post-apocalyptic Oblivion, but who's to say that's all bad?)...

This is just to make an 'official announcement' somewhere. That, plus I was talking to my friend Nick (or Apophis, call him what you will), and we decided - once he told me all enthusiastic, for the third time, that he now has a second monitor, which he can watch series' episodes on while he plays games (after which Christine and I told him off for not having watched Arrested Development. Again.) - and, alkthough we are all happy for him, like, we are also weirded out by the fact that he's now "the gaming type" so much more than he is "the watching type".

It's true that today's geeks, the type that has a pretty fast DSL connection (or cable, or what-have-you) as a norm, and downloads stuff from "the uncle in the States" ever so often, tend to go one way in spite of all others. Once, there were just "geeks". "Us geeks", we used to say, and feel a certain solidarity. We knew where we stood, and all that.

But now, oh, now. Now we've had to decide, with the limiting reagent where our 'real' interests are concerned being time - and, as I recently realized, "that feeling of absolute boredom" being something I haven't felt for a while - making us have to decide what we love the most out of all our interests, what the real "geek subject" which we belong to is. Even if that feels like the "who do you love more, mommy or daddy? question.

For some, the answer to this has been games. For others, it's been news, or reading stuff online, here and there, on websites and the works, or graphics, creating them and sharing them, or music, in all its forms. Or even - gods forbid - analogue stuff, that slow, boring "real life" some still rant about. Well, for me, it's watching stuff. Movies, or series, or web-based shows, or just your basic YouTube vid. Even just a song's video clip. Moving pictures, if you will.

And what I realized, having once been a kid that spent hours upon end reading at least one book each day, is that what I really love, what I actually crave and chase, is stories. Even the games I've loved back-in-the-day, I've loved them because of their story, because of the 'other world' they took me to, and what happened there. From Monkey Island, say, to Pinball, they all make sense to me somehow, they all 'tell me something' and 'take me somewhere'.

And that's why I really don't mind, as my brother recently discovered while playing Splinter Cell (yes, the wii is old-school in what it can provide graphics-wise, but it has awesomazing new ways to interact, which rule - I must say, I'm the one who awoke my brother to the way to 'jump' in the game, since there's no button there that does that - and I'd obviously missed the game the first time around - that is, when it came out for the PC), if I'm not the one actually playing, and I merely watch as someone else does, as, with games, the tedious part, for me, is actually interacting, in that 'interactive storytelling' do.

And, oh yes, I'm with the "video geek" crowd. Thassme. Not everyone chooses, really, but some of us have to, especially from a certain point onwards. And I did. And, although I may, for old times' sake or for sheer curiosity, touch upon other "geek realms", I know that this is my one. Mine, mine, mine. And here I'll stay. Unless something else shines temptingly on the other side, of course.

Generation Meh

I was trying to fix the PC this morning, as my brother came back from school, where he had to write his one-exam-before-last. And he came in while I had the tower open and, once he'd finished with all his stupid jokes about "why these cables (the IDEs) are lots-of-cables-connected-as-one and they don't sell them as separate cables", I offered to give him a quick once-over about the basic components in a PC, i.e. which is the motherboard, what basic cards there are on it, what the RAM modules are and what they do, what the hard drives are, without planning to mention anything about jumpers etc. Just for him to know the basics, you know?

His reply, much to my shock, was "why on earth?". And when I just stared at him with wide eyes, not having the faintest idea what to say, he just went on: "I'd rather give 50 € to a guy for him to fix the PC for me, than fill my brain with this useless info, taking up space which I can fill with other, more useful things". And I used to wonder why he wants to be a Civil Engineer instead of an Electronic one, when they're both in the same Universities...

The whole incident, poor recently-repatriated-girl (me), made me wonder how this is possible, for a boy born and, therefore, raised, a mere 8 years (and 9 days) after myself. But, you see, once I thought about it a bit harder (>_<), I decided that it's an OK way to go about it, these days. Back in "my day", there wasn't "a personal computer on (pretty much) every desk and in (pretty much) every home", and you had to know about computers in order to own one. At least the basics. And you had to have a few pals that "knew more than you" if you wanted to get along knowing "the basics". Today, in the glorious year 2008 ("the future", as some grew up viewing it), one really doesn't need to know much to own a computer and work on it. My brother has an ECDL diploma, which pretty much goes to say that he's able to do what the John Hodgman PC does in those Mac-Vs-PC ads, namely use spreadsheets and the works. C' est à dire, all is well for my p'tit frère.

And this all made me think of all the other things that I had as constants, as ideologies which I took for granted, but have actually changed as time went by. Things like my stance in the aforementioned Mac Vs PC debate, which all went haywire once it had been established that, with Intel inside, you could have both the Mac OSX and the Windows of your choice (call me XP, 'till the new win come out at least) to do stuff which you can only do there (i.e. to play games, pretty much). I mean, just name another reason why you won't go Mac now, other than "the X being on the wrong side" (read: the forces of habit).

Or, again, being a person who was once a gamer, I grew up believing that you'd be stupid to get a laptop as your "main computer", since it would call for a "no upgrades, just buying a new PC" policy. But no, that was pretty much true before the glorious days of USB. Now, you're able to connect pretty much anything that matters - from a monitor, to a HDD, to a graphics card - on your lappie via USB, if you so want. Plus, the thing you might need an upgrade of while the warantee is valid is your memory, and most laptops come with a memory upgrade capability (that is to say, most mobos used in laptops can take extra memory modules). You just need to take it back to the shop where you bought them, if youwant to waste that space in your brain for "other, more useful things". Which is, as I tried to express, fair enough.

It's just that I feel so old. And, not having followed the "specialist" path in my life, I also feel that I've wasted a good portion of my brain, and of the time in my life. I mean, come on, what's a geek girl to do, when I no longer even wear my geek-tag? And what am I to tell my nieces and nephews, once I get myself some, if their own father doesn't know, and doesn't even want to know or need to know, about this crap?

Still, all this makes me think of the "younger generation" thoughts that I used to have "back in the day". You see, I was convinced that the "new generation" would evolve being able to know all that it needs to know, about science, computers, or even just plain day-to-day logical thinking, but wouldn't need to care much about anything. And, yes, I now find myself in the melting pot of all this knowledge-of-today, feeling that I'm trying to remain afloat in the sea of knowledge, while wearing my semi-literacy armbands, smattering along with a stupid smile of ignorance re. most important things, while the "new generation" just swims idly by me and floats happily like there's no tomorrow.

I know there are much more stupid people out there. Heck, Than is convinced - and is currently researching the matter, and confirming his beliefs, making me wonder what sort of people he now hangs out with - that most youngsters don't even know what stars are, astronomically - you know, the kind we see in the sky... I'm certain that I'm not "too stupid to be alive", then, sure. But I'm not one of the most knowledgeable people, like I thought I was as a kid, either. Nuh-oh. Which only makes the then-me right, even if it makes the now-me bitter-as-coffee.

"One day", you see, the new generation should be able to look through my huge Google Reader list of the past 5 days' worth of RSS crap (1000+ posts, as it says), and decide in an instant what's important and what to ignore. And, when people in Wired magazine, I think it was (unless it was New Scientist, or something else populist-scientific like all the other magazines I now read), wine that people should start learning more of the basics in primary school, gaining a way of thought which is necessary for a scientifically literate society, I'm kinda optimistic where the new generation is concerned. In the long run, at least. But I can't stop looking at myself with one eyebrow raised now (if only I could raise just one eyebrow) for my current state of un-intelligence. Meh.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

iGoogle, Yes iDo!

I've been wanting to write about my google mania for a while. Ever since the year 2000, when I was (kinda pretending to be) studying Biochemistry in Edinburgh Uni and was plugged the search engine there by teachers, other staff and students alike, I've been using it and its services more and more. And more.

I now use everything from Google Documents to Picasa to quickly check (and sometimes share) my documents, awesome services like Google Maps to Google Calendar to get along my otherwise hectic life, gMail and Google Reader I dutifully check every morning when I wake up and every night before I go to bed, and both YouTube and Blogger, those major late-'00s-social-crazes which I'm obviously party to, belong to them too. Google Product Search (formerly known as Froogle) and Google Scholar I rarely use, but I really respect as well for what they are and for what they offer.

This gives rise to all sorts of debates, which I'm sure most of you often get caught up in, involving the fact that, hey, those guys own most of our daily lives and the personal information that goes with it, and most of us not only give them free reign over it, but we frackin' thank them for it. So, if they were actually 'evil', they would have us all by the short-and-curlies, at this point. All they would have to do is use the information they have, and they would pretty much take over the world, in an oh-so-subversive fashion!

So, then, why is it that I don't care? Why is it that, although I do recognize their power and all, I still don't mind handing it over to them in every occasion when they offer something that makes my life easier or more organized? This article kind of gave me an answer for that, which I read as an equivalent to it being OK for Microsoft to have an OS monopoly [until linux manages to bring out a totally user-friendly distro, that even Adobe products and games will come out for, and Larry Lessig doen't need to bring out all those lectures any more, and we all live in a pretty little world where ice cream flows free in rivers].

You see, I really don't think Google's off to take over the world: why would they want to? It would be too much of a hassle anyway! It's just, I find, that some weird survival thang tells us to be afraid of anything that has too much power gathered around it, and automatically fear it and assume it's bad and that its intentions are to hurt us in some way. A conspiracy with good intentions, you say? What's that? (Hitleriffic!)

Monday, 28 January 2008

Sony: So, they're good guys?

or, "Justifying Our Respect For Overpriced 'Style-Gadgets'".

Thanks to David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard in The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution - this book I'm now reading, which Alex (my friend next door, who's doing his MA in Music Business) lent me - I realised something which is kind of evident if you think about it for a second: the digitization of music all started with the invention of the CD! How insightful, eh...

So, was it pretty much Sony's insight that kick-started the 'future of the entertainment business'? I want that to be true, because Sony is my man. Yes, following my theory (shared by Than, to give credit where credit's due) that all major gadget companies have a 'gendered' persona attached to them, Canon is a woman (oh, how I love the XL1's curves), Motorola is a lipstick-wearing Cosmo-girl, LG is the grrl that hangs out with guys, Nokia is your typical 'nice guy' that's nice to men and women alike, Nintendo is a teenage whiz kid, et cetera et cetera, with Sony, oh yes, being a hunky 'man's man'. It would explain Sony's business model as well, for me, if it was something they actually did 'on purpose'.

You see, I've always viewed Sony as a company that brought out innovative, cool stuff - a label that even the failed experiment of the MiniDisc falls under. I have also always viewed it as a company that over-prices things you desperately want anyway, for some weird, unexplained reason (as with the Sony Vaio range... Come on, they're just laptops! Check each one's specs-for-price relationship). I must admit to having respected Sony since the invention of the CD, what was the first in a long line of tech-crushes [yes, I've been an mp3-supporter since the previous millenium, but I was just a kid when CDs came out].

Explaining mu respect for them is really something that will set my mind at ease, on some level. Does Sony actually overprice things because it sees the industry's days as being numbered? And do they also fund research in tech-coolness not merely for them to invent cool tech that they can charge too much for, but to guarantee themselves a seat in the (digital) concert of posterity? So they're not evil tempting sons of Satan?

Maybe this is something which most of you here have figured out so many times in the past that it's pretty much evident to you, but it's late at night here now (early in the morning, actually) and I woke up for some weird reason and then wasn't able to fall back to sleep, so I was reading and it hit me and I thought I'd share, if only to get me tired enough to fall back to sleep. I'm done now.