Army of Shadyness

My gaming days started on the Atari 2600, so I’ve been through most of the videogame era, save for the paleolithic Pong days.  I enjoy playing the oldies, and modern games made in the old style (done right, of course) still find their ways into my consoles.

While role playing games are not a main part of my gaming diet, I will occasionally indulge when I have the time.  My favorite series is Dragon Quest, mainly because the plot and gameplay have remained basically the same: Evil Dude is trying to end the world, you and your merry band of adventures have to find him and take him out.

RPG’s, particulary the Japanese ones, have their own set of odd tropes and cliches (many documented here).  The majority of them feature the ability to resurrect player characters that have kicked the bucket along your travels.  It makes sense, because it would suck to spend a boatload of time building up a character only to have them killed off halfway and then have to start over again with a new one.

In any event, I was playing Dragon Quest VII, and inevitably, a character perished in battle.  At that point, “high-tail it to the nearest town” became the top item on my “To Do” list.  As I fled from each battle, hoping that I wouldn’t crap out of one of the many virtual twenty-sided die throws, I saw that a casket had taken the place of the recently deceased.  I figured we were dragging around his remnants so that there would be something TO resurrect once we got to town.  I imagined that lugging a casket around must be a pain; the weight, the smell, and innkeepers probably would charge extra for that sort of thing…”That’ll be an extra 10 gold coins for the corpse, Mac.”

At that point, I had a great idea:  wouldn’t it be great if we could bring that character back as a ZOMBIE?  I don’t know if it has been done before, but I think it would be cool.  To compensate, the character would be a stat hit, maybe less experience could be gained, and spells probably would be out of the question.  I figure half a character is better than none, especially when you’ve got four Evil Knights staring you in the face.  Maybe they could even have special zombie attacks, and once you get into town to see the priest/wizard/alchemist they can un-zombify the character for half off!

Zombies are like bacon, the number five, and The 1812 Overture: they just make everything better!  I think it could work!

Mac and Me – One Week Later

My new PC-free desktop!

It has been a week since I took the Apple plunge, and I my iMac/OS X experience has been pretty good so far (the one big fark-up was my fault).  I moved the files from my PC’s old hard drive last night, so its time to “move in” to the Mac for good.  My thoughts so far:

SCREEN

I have to start by talking about the iMac’s screen, it is gorgeous. I’m not sure what is different about it, but everything just looks better; more sharper, more vibrant.  The 24″ of real estate is a dream to work on.  Why have multiple monitors cluttering the desk when one honkin’ HUGE one will do?  I have yet to use the camera and mic as of yet, but I’m looking forward to trying them out.

The DVD drive is a located a little farther back than I would like, I’ve already dropped a disc trying to find the slot, and the occasional not-quite-perfectly-flat disc can get a little noisy, but that’s true for all DVD drives, so I can’t knock it too much for that.

The built-in speakers are the worst part of the screen/CPU/whatever Apple calls it.  I’m no audiophile, but they sound pretty bad to me, I quickly plugged in my basic 3-piece Altec Lansing set and Huey Lewis sounds just as good as he did on my PC.

KEYBOARD

The small keyboard freaked me out at first, especially since I like using the numeric keypad.  It is just bigger than the keyboard on my HP Mini 1000 netbook, with more space inbetween the keys.  The action on the keyboard is nice and typing is pretty quiet. I’ve had to re-learn typing shortcuts, due to the lack of HOME/END and PGUP/PGDN keys, but it hasn’t been too painful.  That cord is just too damned short, though.  I was taught that it was a bad idea to be sitting so close to a computer screen.  A USB extension cord fixed that problem easily enough, and I placed a USB hub on the end of it, because you can never have too many ports.

MIGHTY MOUSE

The mouse took some getting used to, particularly due to the lack of distinct buttons.  The Mighty Mouse is not Apple’s worst mouse ever (that distinction goes to the “hockey puck”) but the right-click is pretty finicky, and the “4th button” (pressed by squeezing the indentations you see on the sides) all but drove me bonkers.  I don’t exactly have basketball-player sized hands, but I am accustomed to having my hand covering up the entire mouse.  At random intervals this would activate the 4th button and I would be yanked out of whatever I was doing and taken into Expose, which shows you all open windows at once.  Very distracting, especially when I’m trying to beat my Bejeweled Blitz high score.  Disabling Expose fixed that problem, and I’m not sure how useful I’m really going to find the 4th button.  Much to my surprise, I have had no problems with the teeny scroll ball.  If worse comes to worse, I’ll drop $20 on a new Logitech mouse.

PERFORMANCE

I haven’t really put the iMac through its paces yet (i.e. video editing) but so far it seems to handle multitasking quite well.  As I type this into Firefox, CDs are being ripped into iTunes and I am also IMing a friend.  Everything runs without any hesitations or hiccups so I guess that’s pretty good.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

I have to say, the Mac life is pretty good.  I have yet to experience any of the frustrations that I have long considered to be the “facts of life” of using computers:

No more defragging, no more anti-virus, no more anti-spyware, no more hunting for old driver CDs, no more wondering why the CPU fan is still spinning even though the computer is in sleep mode, no more long boot times, no more waiting for that last program to close when I’m shutting down, no more wondering why flash drives and memory cards won’t unmount even though they aren’t being used, no more wondering if removing that startup program or changing that Registry entry is going to blow the whole thing up, and no more farking annual re-installations of Windows!

I plug in my camera, and up comes iPhoto.  I plug in my printer, and a minute later, I can print.  I drag an external drive to the Trash to eject it, and it unmounts.  Stuff just works! Heck, even Windows Vista works well now that I have enough horsepower to make it happy.

While I’m not sure I will do everything “The Mac Way” I’m looking forward to spending less time maintaining my computer, and more time actually DOING stuff.

After all, isn’t that the whole point of having a computer?

Blockbusted

Blockbuster has been on my “companies I hate” list for some time now because of a screw-up on their part some years ago where they all but labeled me a thief for supposedly not returning a game.  Thus, the news of their slow death (mainly at the hands of Netflix) has filled me with glee.  I am only disappointed that they didn’t buy Circuit City before they imploded; two crappy companies could have been taken off the map at once.  I’ve been noticing signs that The End Is Near for both Blockbuster and Hollywood Video for some time, as various locations in the neighborhood have been closing.

In terms of value, Netflix kicks Blockbuster to the curb: For $10 a month, I get a movie a week from Netflix in the mail AND an all-you-can-watch buffet from their Instant Watch service…or I can rent two first-run movies at Blockbuster for two nights.

The impending demise of Blockbuster and its ilk was made much more apparent to me when I took a trip to one yesterday.  In the past, the lines at Blockbuster on a Saturday evening are as long and as slow as the ones at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Yesterday was different; there were just over half-a-dozen cars in the parking lot, and just as many people inside.  Instead of the hustle and bustle of familes, couples, and kids sorting through the movies, and debating the merits of Shrek 3 versus Finding Nemo, all was quiet save for the rustling of the employees and my size 14s tromping throughout the store.  The line was nonexistent as I went to the counter to pay for my movies and get my foot-and-a-half-long receipt.

As I walked out, I thought about the company I used to work for.  I thought about the movie “Other People’s Money” and the speech given by Danny DeVito’s character:

“We’re dead alright, we’re just not broke…and do you know the surest way to go broke?  Keep getting an increasing share of a shrinking market.  Down the tubes.  Slow but sure…”

I’d like to say its been nice knowing you, but don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you, Blockbuster.

Mac and Me – VistaMac!

As it turned out, I had screwed up my Mac by trying to install a version of Windows that could not “see” the newly created Boot Camp partition.  Thus, my retail boxed copy of XP was pretty much useless; I would need an XP Service Pack 2 disc.

Fortunately, I had one handy that I “borrowed” from one of my previous employers *evil grin*  Sadly, it would not accept the retail license key I had, so I had to punt and install Vista instead.

My previous experiences with Vista were less than pleasant, but then again I was installing it on a two-year old machine.  Vista just was not happy running on my Gateway’s single-core CPU and 1GB of RAM.   Even after I bumped up the machine’s RAM to 2GB it plodded along, and I could hear the hard drive constantly crunching away while I computed.

I hoped that running it on more capable hardware would provide a better experience.  I figured it should be happy running on a 2.66Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB of RAM.  Sure enough, everything went well except for having to sit for about two hours downloading and installing various updates.

I wonder if at some point does it just become cheaper to mail everyone update CDs?  Bandwidth ain’t cheap!

Anyways, once the updates were done and the Mac drivers (and the anti-virus…sigh) were installed, Vista ran like a dream.  After I got Vista up and running, it was really late, so I couldn’t do much else.  Next, I will transfer my PC files over from the Gateway’s old hard drive onto the Mac.

That’s when things should get really interesting!

Mac and Me – Just Like Starting Over…

Well, THAT was a close one…apparently I got a little too button-happy during the Boot Camp process and farked up my iMac’s hard drive…oops.  The fact that I read ahead in the Boot Camp instructions just a teensy may have contributed as well.

Luckily, I found a solution after digging around Apple’s support website for a bit.  I just have to reformat the hard drive and reinstall OS X, which should be done about the time I wake up tomorrow…argh.

Despite the setback, I intend to try Boot Camp again, hopefully the second attempt will go better (frankly, I don’t see how it could go worse).  Nothing lost but time.

I had taken the liberty of not deleting the pictures from my camera in the event that something went Horribly Horribly Wrong.  It probably says something about me that I planned for something going HHW, but hey, learning the hard way is still learning, so onward and upward!

Mac and Me – Booted by Boot Camp

So now it was time to install Windows, I decided to go with Boot Camp since were are some apps (and games) that I wanted to still use and I wanted to unleash all the horsepower contained in my new Mac.  I copied the PDF with the instructions onto my Netbook for reference and proceeded to go through the process.

It is a little disconcerting to see the giant blue installation screen on the Mac, but in no time, I was going through the Windows installation process for what I hope will be the last time.

I went through the XP install blue screens, rebooted…and it went back to the blue screens…I rebooted again and held down “Option” to get the boot options.  There was no option for OS X.

Aw crap…

to be continued…

Mac and Me – iTunes

I had initially tried iTunes a few years ago, and I have to admit, it is one of the few pieces of software that I can honestly say pissed me off.

I like having my music files organized by artist, and then by album.   Apparently that wasn’t good enough for iTunes, after asking it to find my music, it then went ahead and REARRANGED MY MUSIC FILES.

Everything worked fine in iTunes, but when I went to open my music files in other programs, I could not find a damn thing.  My meticulously organized files were all over the place.  I immediately uninstalled iTunes and swore to never use it again.  Instead, I used Windows Media Player to rip my CDs and purchased individual MP3s from Amazon.com.

I recently bought a DSi, and it comes with a music player, which is pretty cool, BUT it only works with AAC encoded files, i.e. the ones that iTunes also uses.  As far as it is concerned, I have about 9GB of useless MP3s on my PC’s old hard drive.  Thus, any music I wanted to use on my DSi I would have to re-rip using iTunes.

Well, fark.

I started iTunes, grabbed some CDs from my collection (AC/DC, might as well start from the top) and popped one into the iMac.  iTunes pretty much looked the same way it did on that fateful day so many years ago (I had to reset my iTunes store password, yeah it had been THAT long) and things went as expected, which was fine.  I then decided to check and see where iTunes had placed the files, and sure enough, there they were, organized by artist, and then album.

I guess it isn’t going to be so bad after all, but I’ll hold my breath and see what happens when I put some MP3 files I had bought from Amazon.com on there.  iTunes didn’t find the album covers for “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “Who Made Who,” which was somewhat disappointing.

I guess the folks at Apple aren’t AC/DC fans.