Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Gamestop's In-Store Return Policy

Make sure to save your receipt from Gamestop! I bought an XBox 360 Black Wireless controller from them recently, and it was defective. I threw out the receipt (very uncharacteristic of me, but I figured I could exchange it if it was defective), but apparently you need a receipt even for an exchange, these days. When I got home, I attempted to find their in-store return policy online without success. I finally found an old receipt (for Halo 3 actually), so I've copied the policy below for your benefit. Note: Best Buy and Circuit City also require receipts for all returns/exchanges these days.

"Receipt required for returns/exchanges. Unopened new items can be returned/exchanged w/in 30 days. Opened new video games, new PC games & new systems can be exchanged for the identical item w/in 7 days. Opened accessories & all used items can be returned/exchanged w/in 7 days."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Holy Carp! The Giants Are In The Superbowl!

The Giants utterly dominated Green Bay last night. The Packers had nothing against them. They couldn't run at all, and while they certainly got some yards in the air, the Giants' secondary came away with two pics. Jacobs and Bradshaw split the carries and each got over 60 yards. All in all, a smackdown!

All I'll say is this; if the Giants can pressure Tom Brady up the middle (think Strahan-Osi stunts behind the DTs) they'll have a shot.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

What's In A Name

The Compaq I installed Slackware on was left in my house by the previous owners. It didn't boot, so I swapped out the small HD for a bigger spare I had before installing Slackware. The real question is what to name the computer. My main desktop's internal name is ed-255 (stretching back to freshman year and my room number) and it's informal name is Brittany (because it's a cheap whore). This computer is even cheaper, so what do I do?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wires? We No Need No Stinking Wires!

I spent about two hours last night installing Slackware on my Celeron 350 Compaq. I got it booted up, everything working, fired up Lynx to verify that Apache was running, and was all set. "Allright," I said to myself, "now I just need to connect it to the network and I'll be in fat city!" I looked around the room for a network cable, and then said "... fuck" because my basement isn't wired. So here are my options:

  1. Snake a cable through the walls to the basement. Spend hours trying and end up in a corner crying.
  2. Install my wireless PCI card in the Compaq. Enjoy having multiple connected users cause multiple dropped connections.
  3. Bring the Compaq upstairs and hide it in the couch. Hope Annie doesn't notice the noise. 

So you see, I'm boned.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

As If iTunes Couldn't Anger Me Any More

I use iTunes for my music player on my computer mostly because it does the few things I want well (smart playlists, ratings, sharing). But I hate it. So bloated, always starting "iTunesHelper.exe" and "iPodService.exe", and cancelling a system shutdown if another user is connected to my share; the arrogance of Apple shines pretty brightly through iTunes for Windows.

But I found another punch in the face from Apple today. My iTunes stopped working for some reason or another. Fine, I'll repair the installation. No dice? OK, I'll install the latest on top. Still not working? Ok, I'll uninstall/reinstall. "You must reboot the system to put these changes into effect." Yeah yeah, "cancel", I know what I'm doing. But on installation, I get this:

iTunes Suckz


If you don't have an iPod (like me), iTunes is a music-player program. I don't know what the hell that is, but it's clearly not something I want going on for a basic MP3 player. Sucks.

Black On One Side And White On The Other

Eric recently mentioned that he and his coworkers were debating the merits of the following two ruby code snippets.

if object

if object.nil?

If object is nil, both of these expressions will evaluate to false. The question was, should the former be allowed? I've had my thoughts on this before,  but I stopped myself this time and thought about the issue at a higher level. We're talking about six characters here. What's the big deal? The first time a Ruby developer encounters this issue, he'll ask his buddy, Mr. Tubes, who will tell him the answer. Then he's good forever in that language. So we're really talking about the extra typing (ignoring the fact that if object represents a boolean, then we might have issues). But then this was said:

FxBx: but otherwise, yeah, im all for if object referring to its mere existence
KxDx:Yeah, it's intuitive

Eric dropped the I-word. The programming blagoblog has been abuzz lately about intuition (here and here (yeah I know one of them, is old, but it was recently recirculated)). Some people think intutive means familiar; that viewpoint is at least partially true. Tech reviewers and regular joes criticized Microsoft Office 2007's new interface, the ribbon, because it wasn't intuitive. What they really meant was that it was different and they couldn't figure it out. The QWERTY keyboard and mouse are only intuitive because we're familiar with them. Jef Raskin has said that the word "intuitable" makes more sense than "intuitive" because a user will either intuit an interface or not. 

An interface designer has to balance introducing new concepts with existing ideas, using the old patterns to bridge to the new ideas. A completely new system would frustrate many users who would be unable to intuit the system, while a completely familiar system would add no new value. 

Anyway, I get fired up about intuition and interfaces, but the point I'm trying to make is that spending time worrying about coding convention similar to the one above is wasted time. Unless you're marketing your product to a very specific subset of users who will only understand one way to do things, then just pick your favorite and move on.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Best. Idea. Ever.

Too bad my work blocks IRC. http://blag.xkcd.com/2008/01/14/robot9000-and-xkcd-signal-attacking-noise-in-chat/

Friday, January 4, 2008

Stupid XBox Wireless

I just briefly checked my Google Analytics and it seems that most of the people viewing this blog are looking for information about the XBox 360 Wireless Adapter and Verizon FiOS's ActionTec router. I don't have any more information about a potential fix; I emailed ActionTec again (since they were the only one of the three companies actually acknowledging the problem) and got the same form letter response. Great.

I did successfully nest my two wireless routers to allow me to get online with an open NAT. First I connected my 360 to my extra D-Link wireless router. I logged into the D-Link with my laptop, set the 360 to a static IP address, then made that IP address the DMZ. Then I plugged the D-Link's WAN port to the ActionTec's LAN, logged into the ActionTec, made the D-Link static and DMZ. Bam, open NAT and hello Halo 3.

A friend suggested an alternative to this that ideally would be even easier to set up. If I connected the D-Link's LAN to the ActionTec's LAN, then the two networks would be at the same level, and ideally you could use either wireless network to connect to the same network. I tried this, and for some reason the D-Link wasn't playing nice. To be fair, it was the cheapest wireless router I could find three years ago, so maybe if you have some better equipment, you'll have better luck. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Video Game Log: Heroes of Mana (DS)

Real-time strategy on the DS? Impastabowl! But they did it. Despite the massive dissapointment of Children of Mana (the first in this "World of Mana" series that takes place in the same universe as Secret of Mana but managing to leave all the good bits out), I decided to add this game to my wishlist and give it a swing. I mean, RTS. It has to be good, right?

1/2/08: I've played maybe four two hours so far, and I kinda wish I hadn't. You control a ship that's a carrier of sorts. You build your buildings inside of it, so you don't ever have to worry about space or power or that stuff. There are two resources, Gaia and Treant (which you might remember from CoM if you were unfortunate enough to have played it), and your one worker unit can gather them. You control a series of hero units with equipable items and talents. You can bring three of the heroes on to the battlefield, and the rest provide you with a "Support Aura" bonus of some sort. You can select units by tapping them with the stylus, or by tapping the "group select" button, which pauses the game and allows you to band-box select a group of units. It works... sorta. My hand cramps up while playing HoM on the train. Combat is simple; there is a "balance of power" of sorts where each unit type has another type it's strong against and one it's weak against. Anyways, I'm going to play more and see if it gets any better.

1/3/08: Adjusted the play time above from 4 to 2 hours; apparently time goes really slowly. I noticed a few things in my 30 minutes of HoM on the train this morning. The control scheme is actually quite useful ONLY if you always deselect the units (tap the "C" button on screen) when you're done ordering them around. This is because, unlike a mouse, you only have one control action (tapping), so there's no right or left click to deselect units like a PC RTS. Also I noticed most resource sources only have something like 5-10 of the resource in them, meaning that you have to move your ship around a lot or have your gatherer units (rabbites!) travel far.

Video Game Log: Mass Effect (XBox 360)

I received three video games for Christmas: Mass Effect, Lego Star Wars 2, and Heroes of Mana. I plan to create posts for each and update them as I play the game. So, without further ado, my log of Mass Effect begins here.

1/2/08: Log started. Perhaps a little late, as I am already about 12-20 hours into the game. Still, there appears to be plenty of the game left. Love the game; stayed up until about 2AM playing last night. I like what BioWare kept from KOTOR (varying degrees of depth of dialouge, mostly free range of movement) and what they added (separate meters for goodness and evilness, actual real-time control of your character, a usable journal, an ignorable "codex"). Plus my ship is so much cooler than the KOTOR ships. So that's good.

1/3/08: Two things are really friggin annoying. When you die, the camera looks down on your corpse from above while rotating and the screen goes to a red tint. The problem is that you have to look at your corpse for a good 5 seconds before you can select "Resume", "Load", or "Quit". Resume loads from your last save, so that's nice. Also, you can carry a max of 150 items, but any item can be sold to a merchant or converted to "omni-gel" (a resource that you always have more than enough of) to make room. Items are only viewable where you can use them: weapons/armor on the equipment screen, upgrades on the upgrade screen (those are the only items). Of course, this means to find and get rid of your weakest/worst items, you have to go to multiple places. And just to be mean, the upgrades are sorted by level in descending order, but when you convert one, the current selection jumps back to the top (this doesn't happen when selling to a merchant, thank god).  The worst part of this inventory management is when you reach the limit and acquire some new items. You have to choose which of the new items (or possibly all of them) you want to convert; you cannot choose any of your existing items or put the new ones back down or anything. I've lost out on some badass armor because of this. 

1/10/08: I beat the game the other day. It was a less difficult ending than I had hoped, but the story was good. John told me that apparently the game has "New Game+" built into it in a Diablo-2 style (Normal, then Hard, then Insanity). That's certainly a plus for replayability. The achievements also support this; one of them is simply "Complete 2 Mass Effect Playthroughs on any setting." As far as I can tell, you would need to play through the game at least four, possibly five times to get every achievement. I think that's great; on my first playthrough, I got 430 gamer points (by my reckoning, I missed 205 potential points). My general rule is that at least 50% of all gamer points should be unlocked by a basic playthrough of the game. So this works. And I do play to play through at least one more time.

1/15/08: My second play-through as pure evil is going well. With the different dialogue and different order of tasks, the story flows quite different. Garrus is becoming much more of a badass, and Wrex is quite fond of me. Not sure if I really want to [[SPOILER]] on Virmire (note to self: implement spoiler Javascript). This will probably be my last update, since I can't imagine too much more can be added to my thoughts. 

If you like RPGs, and especially western-style ones, you should buy Mass Effect. If you hate RPGs, then stay away, obviously. If you want an introduction to the genre and don't want to step backwards in time, Mass Effect is a good place to start.

Two Cents Is Too Much: I Am Legend

Holy carp what a movie. I can't say anymore without ruining it but go see it now if you haven't. 

Nothing In Proportion, Everything In Moderation

I continually verbally spar with Eric about various code conventions, procedures, frameworks, ideas, and whatever else related to programming. Strong vs. dynamic typing, variable names, unit testing, you name it, we've debated it. Eric and John were tossing some ideas and articles back and forth in the campfire, and Eric sent over a link asking for my opinion. I read the article, but my net takeaway was neither positive nor negative.why the lucky stiff just argues (in his silly way) against unit testing and the bias against hacks and code tricks. But he doesn't mention context. Would he put that 5-line hack in a high-traffic ecommerce site? 

The oversight is common among programming articles; all too often they preach a single idea as The Path. The real path is that there is no path; you have to think before you leap. It's not some Indiana Jones leap of faith thing. Do you really want to write unit tests for your RoR blog? Or do you want to put in a really nifty hack in an accounts-payable system or anti-spyware code? 

Then John hit me with some of his brilliance:

FxBx: "to each his own, except for YOU." is what Fufflebee said.
FxBx: Some persons can't think
FxBx: They need to know what Microsoft and Apple are doing
FxBx: and copy for their own arts

He's right, of course. Those people are in the 80%, as defined by Jeff Atwood. By definition, the 80% aren't going to be smart; they're just doing to do. So maybe these "leap of faith" articles have a better chance of reaching the 80%. 

What's my point? I'm not sure really. Us in the 20% (I'm fairly certain I'm at the bottom of it) will continue to debate about all sorts of high-falootin' ideas, and those in the 80% will keep plugging along. 

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