Endless Ocean: Is this even a game?

(GeekStuff)

2008-01-22 20:57
Comments [1]

I’m not exactly flush with cash these days, but the new Wii title Endless Ocean just came out, it’s only $30 (most Wii games are $40-50, and many other games are $60 at release), and I had a Best Buy discount card.

I… I’m not sure whether this is a game. I have heard people griping about Wii software and referring dismissively to some of the less traditional stuff as “non-games”, and I’ve always disputed that. If you can play it, it’s a game, right?

I’m not sure this is a game.

EO is a diving simulator (or “sim”, as gamers would call it). Not a very accurate sim; for instance, if you run out of air, you just automatically return to the boat. So far as I can tell, you simply cannot engage in any sequence of actions or button presses or anything that will cause your character to die. The location is pristine and unspoiled, another clear sign of a fairly loose use of the term “sim”.

You, uhm. You look around. You find interesting-looking things. You interact with them. There’s occasional “missions”, which are apparently all optional. I did one, where I guided someone into finding a fish called a “humphead wrasse”. (It turns out this is not merely an invention of the game; apparently, it’s a real fish!) I have otherwise mostly just, well, wandered around, admiring the scenery.

Make no mistake; the Wii’s not a graphical powerhouse, and this title hasn’t got the kind of painstaking fine detail and texture work that goes into trying to blur the line between Playstation 3 games and Pixar films. It’s possible to see some blurs, and the textures aren’t always perfect. The underwater tone does seem to rather mitigate that, though, making it much less distracting than it has been in some titles.

What this title does have is absolutely beautiful graphics. I don’t mean technically impressive; I mean relaxing and beautiful to look at. Despite being a confirmed lover of Minnesota’s winter weather, I can almost understand, when I play this game, how someone could come to want to live in a tropical environment.

I keep waffling on whether or not this is a game. Games have purpose, and direction. The comparison I’d make, I think, is that every game I’ve ever seen has been like fireworks. Fireworks are beautiful, and I know I enjoy fireworks. And now… I’m looking at a cozy fire crackling in a fireplace, and there’s marshmallows, and all I can do is try to figure out whether or not this is fireworks.

I don’t think EO is exactly a game. I think it is a member of a broader category I don’t know the word for, of which games as I’ve usually played them are a likely and common example.

It’s $29, and I think at that price it’s well worth it. I am taking a couple of vacation days soon, and I’m guessing that one of those days will be spent mostly just swimming around enjoying the scenery and poking fish to see whether they like it.

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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The cat is dead. Long live the cat!

(Personal)

2008-01-19 21:09
Comments

In 1990, or maybe 1991, we got a kitten. He was small and grey; my parents wanted to name him Shadowfax, but I insisted that Greystoke would be a better name. It stuck okay. He turned into an unusually large black and white tuxedo cat, and for the last seventeen years or so, was one of the most fascinating animals I have ever encountered. He was exceptionally tame; not servile, like a dog, but he acted as though he sort of understood that we were the ones making things go. He trusted humans, and put up with a great deal of stuff. He earned his own parody of a verse from Particle Man:

Tolerant cat, tolerant cat tolerates things that bother a cat.

Anyway, Monday night, he was his normal self; a little sneezy, maybe, but normal for him. Tuesday morning, he was lying on the floor, gasping for breath. Apparently, his heart issues had finally reached the point where his body could no longer compensate for them; his lungs were full of fluid, etcetera. The vet determined that, with a diuretic to drain his lungs, he could quite happily lie down and breathe slowly in an oxygen tent, without much pain. Without the oxygen, or without the diuretic, not so good.

The odd thing about pet cats is that, after you’ve spent years teaching them to trust you, you’re pretty much expected to hire someone to kill them. That’s what we did. I didn’t get to see him, sadly; I had to be up at the office, and then take the car to the shop, so all the decisions about this got made from the waiting room of a car dealership in Burnsville. Not a great thing.

Anyway, we used to have four cats, and then we lost one, and then we got another one, and then we lost one… And we were down to three. With Stokes gone, we were down to two, and that’s just not enough to keep Luka’s dog in his place. So I went to the local impound, who turned out to have a darling little girl kitty, whose name is apparently “Molly”, sitting around looking for a home. We have brought her home, and we are trying to get her adapted to the other cats and the dog. She pretty much started out adapted to people; she sits on the bed and purrs.

Having played a lot of World of Warcraft recently, I have a sort of internal monologue.

You have completed Tasty Tartar Control Tuna Treats!
Your reputation with New Cat increased by 10.
You are now Neutral with New Cat.

Haven’t been active in blogging much lately, probably because of Winter Foo, aka Seasonal Affective Disorder. I got a full-spectrum bulb and added it to my room’s collection of light sources, we’ll see whether that helps.

Peter Seebach

Comments

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Running suexec on OS X 10.5 (Leopard)

(GeekStuff)

2007-11-26 11:39
Comments [1]

As posted on macosxhints last time around, OS X ships with Apache configured so that it would use suexec if suexec were installed, which it isn’t.

You can build a suexec binary, drop it in, and magically suexec will start working. However, more settings are required than used to be.

Download Apache 2.2.6 from the Apache site, unpack it, and run this configure command:

./configure --enable-suexec --with-suexec-docroot=/Users --with-suexec-gidmin=20 --with-suexec-uidmin=501 --with-suexec-logfile=/var/log/apache2/suexec_log --with-suexec-caller=_www --with-suexec-userdir=Sites

The suexec docroot should be a directory under which all user home pages will be found; I used /Users. The gidmin and uidmin settings may or may not be strictly necessary, but they’re correct for a default install. The suexec-caller and suexec-logfile settings are necessary (although you may move the suexec-logfile if you wish), and the suexec-userdir setting is needed unless you changed the default user directory name.

Also, for any user who’s supposed to get CGI, add ExecCGI to the Options list in /etc/apache2/users/.conf.

After the configure runs, run ‘make suexec’, then copy the suexec binary to /usr/bin, and give it root ownership, mode 4755. Restart apache (apachectl restart as root), and you should magically see programs running as their owners, allowing you to have an arguably much more secure system.

No, I don’t know why they don’t just ship the suexec binary.

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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Ian Renert wants me to take down some "defamatory" pages.

(Personal)

2007-11-03 16:37
Comments [4]

So, I used to run an ISP, and I still let a couple of the former “customers” keep files on my machine.

One of the things a customer keeps is a copy of an old archive discussing a MLM fraud called “Global Prosperity Group“. One of the files in that archive refers to Mr. Renert. It calls him a “queer” (since I have no contact information for the author, I can’t speak as to why this was deemed relevant to anything), and it asserts that he was a participant in fraud.

Well.

So he complained. And I pointed out that, being an ISP, I was not in the business of policing content; if he dislikes something someone says, he can post something else. He sent me faxes, he called me, and so on. Recently he sent me a whole new letter, and just today an email.

As time goes on, he gets weirder. The boy’s not right in the head, frankly.

Here’s the short form, from some SEC findings:

Renert and Hawthorne induced more than 700 investors in 49 states and more than 100 investors overseas to purchase interests in 30 entities known as the Hawthorne Sterling Family of Funds. (Div. Ex. 2 at 8.) Renert and Hawthorne misrepresented through the internet, offshore seminars, and a network of sales agents that the funds would invest in bank debentures, which were actually fictitious prime bank instruments. (Div. Ex. 2 at 8.) Renert and Hawthorne failed to disclose that Renert used fund assets to engage in day trading in internet stocks, losing at least $2.2 million, and to fund a mortgage on one of Renert’s homes. (Div. Ex. 2 at 11.)

Renert’s explanation is, uhm.

In what may well be his own words:

This is Ian Renert. I was the fund manager for a Bahamian family of funds organised in 1997. BDO International served as both our accountants and auditors. [BDO International is the 5th largest accounting firm in the world]. The Bahamas office of the Firm illegally forced us into receivership under their control on 7th June 2000 and used this opportunity to bury their culpability and that of their Isle of Man operation. While they were at it, they invoiced us for millions of dollars, thereby stealing millions of dollars of our assets in what they claimed would be a ‘protective receivership.’ Through my efforts and that of our lawyer, Maurice Glinton of Freeport, Bahamas – whom I found – we were successful in overturning the receivership, suing and winning lawsuits against BDO and our former lawyers in 2004 (Callender’s & Co. conspired with BDO to create the illegal receivership). Thankfully we received justice through the courts in the Bahamas. It is too bad that the SEC decided to make me into the fall guy and totally excluded all evidence of what the BDO organisation did in their involvement as both our accountants and auditors. It is frightening that such an occurrence is possible within the U.S. legal system.

Most investment managers would have walked away from their clients as soon as they stopped receiving their paychecks. However, I have continued to work for my clients for nearly five years since receiving my last one. My goal is for my clients to receive the value stated on their last statement plus damages, and if that happens, I shall feel as though we were successful in our efforts.

Shame on you BDO International and the SEC!

Ian Renert

Mr. Renert has been very active in hunting down and eliminating things that he claims are defamatory. One particularly long post giving a great amount of detail about his dealings was followed up to shortly later with claims that it was posted by a hacker, and that Ian and Larry can prove they weren’t near a computer, and so on and so forth. And yet…

It all rings hollow.

Here’s a sample from his latest snail mail:

I authored two books on legitimate bank instrument transactions and for this got on the SEC’s hit list. Con artists were using my books to legitimatize what they were attempting to do. And some law firms were hiring me to aid them in defending in their clients’ defence! The SEC didn’t like that.

That’s certainly an innovative take on things. But it doesn’t make any sense; the SEC’s got no history of going after people for writing investment books! Rather, they have a history of going after fraudsters.

I talked to Mr. Renert on the phone for a while. He’s a likeable guy, and he oozes palpable sincerity at all times. That, even more than the SEC rulings and court findings, are among the things that initially convinced me that he was a habitual liar — only habitual liars sound sincere when saying things of no consequence.

But let’s look at another quote from his snail mail:

The site associates me with bank debenture fraud which is not the case and it refers to me as a “queer” which, calling someone that is classified as a hate crime in the US.

Spoken like a man who never watched any prime time television. Furthermore, a casual review of the literature shows that the term “queer” is often used by proponents of hate-crime legislation to refer to the people they hope to protect. Hardly convincing.

His latest missive gets even more surreal:

I have written to you on numerous occasions about the above-referenced link and about the use of the word ‘‘queer’‘ which is classified as a hate crime. If you do not remove any and all references to my name, I will have no choice but to begin a campaign with the FTC and other regulatory agencies. That will bring attention to you and your activities as well as to any other questionable materials being broadcast on your server(s). I will spend the time to initiate the campaign. I think you know that by now. But it would be in everyone’s best interest to simply remove references to my name now rather than later.

So, what do we know?

We know that Ian Renert was tagged for involvement with fraud, and that many people have identified him as a participant in particular frauds they fell prey to.

We know that Ian Renert says things that would be useful to him if they were true, even though they are not true, such as that the word “queer” is a hate crime.

We know that Ian Renert fled the country rather than paying any of the money he was found to owe.

We have compelling evidence that Ian Renert is a habitual liar, with the traditional habits of a con man.

But look one more time at that last note.

I will have no choice but to begin a campaign with the FTC and other regulatory agencies. That will bring attention to you and your activities

Ignore for a moment the FTC’s total non-interest in claims of internet defamation, especially when the substance of the alleged defamation is either a finding of a court or an admitted fact.

“That will bring attention to you and your activities,” he says.

This is a sentence written by a man to whom the idea that someone could be legit, and simply not be doing anything the governmental authorities would object to, is simply inconceivable. It is so far from his experience that the idea that government attention would not be a serious threat never occurs to him; he simply uses the government’s awareness of “activities” as a threat, because it always has been.

This letter, more than anything else I’ve seen, convinces me that the man is, indeed, exactly as someone whom he later claimed really wasn’t Larry, described him:

Sadly, even after being found guilty of a several crimes by the Securities and Exchange Commission of the United States, Ian Renert has not learned his lesson and I now feel that some people? lives may be in danger. Ian continues to blame everyone else for his misfortune and never seems to learn his own lesson. Ian? family has money. If he would have just invested that money into something legitimate he would
be wealthy several times over. But instead, Ian insists on squandering other people? money and is jealous to the point of obsession about other people? success. Ian can not handle other people being more successful then himself in anything.

Ian is using large quantities of prescription drugs and is not well. These drugs being given to him by quacks are probably at the root of his behavior. Ian has repeatedly cheated on me in our relationships and tried to get me to accept these facts sighting a medical infirmity of my own as the reason. I am no longer willing to be used as Ian? personal check book as I have been in the past when he has needed to hide money.

The whole thing, quite long, is found at http://www.offshorebusiness.com/message_board_detail.asp?id=22230 — of course, Renert may be able to get it taken down, and a later message claimed it was forged. But Renert is a man who, by multiple and corroborated accounts, wouldn’t even have to stop to think about whether or not to lie about something like that. So… I’m inclined to believe that, in fact, he’s a kook, and an arguably dangerous one. The down side of saying something like this is, of course, the risk that he’ll take more of his stolen money and try to retaliate somehow. There’s compelling evidence that he may have done so in the past. And, unlike some perps, he doesn’t seem to have the ability to look ahead to realize that such actions merely confirm the truth of all the allegations. On the other hand, what exactly is the FTC going to do? Nothing. I suggest he might get better luck with the SEC, who are at least demonstrably interested in his activities.

So, there you have it. That’s my latest kook. With any luck, he’ll eventually just pick a better assumed name and stop bugging us all.

(This was written on the third, but I took some time to do some research before posting it.

Peter Seebach

Comments [4]

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Trendnet refuses valid rebate... Not this again!

(GeekStuff)

2007-10-28 16:06
Comments [1]

So, a while back, I wanted an 8-port gigabit switch, so I got a TrendNet which was $30 — $59.99, with a $30 mail-in rebate.

Everyone already knows where this is going.

Sure enough, I got a letter, claiming “Submission did not include any original qualifying UPCs”.

You’ll note that, when they claim you didn’t submit something, it’s always the “original UPC”. Why? Because it’s the one part where, once you’ve sent it in, you don’t have it anymore. Sure, I have a scan. It’s not a great scan, but I have a scan of the UPC… But of course, not the original. (Unusually for me, I’m not sure I have the box the UPC was cut from — I think a roomie may have waved it in front of me and said “we can throw this trash out, right?”)

But that’s okay. See, what I learned from my Soyo rebate quest is this:
1. You can sue in small claims.
2. They will default.
3. Once they default, you can file an identification of judgement debtor.
4. Once an unsatisfied judgement shows up on their credit, they will pay. After all, they pretty much have to; no one’s about to go to court to dispute a $150 or so rebate, keeping it up in the air for months, spending thousands of dollars defending the case.

I’ll call them, and I’ll explain that since I scanned everything right before it went in the envelope, I am confident that they do, in fact, have the original, qualifying, UPC. I will offer to send them the scan of it, and all that.

If they don’t agree to pay, then I sue.

BTW, lest you think this is somehow unusual:

http://www.complaints.com/directory/2004/january/5/20.htm
http://forums.slickdeals.net/showthread.php?t=515283

There’s lots of other people having problems like this. Hey, guys! Calling the BBB does nothing. Suing in small claims gets you paid.

Some people say that, if instead of calling the rebate company at 800-679-9869, you call Trendnet directly at (310) 961-5500, you get better results.

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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Point and click adventures are back!

(GeekStuff)

2007-10-24 23:22
Comments [1]

I admit it: I’ve been a sucker for point-and-click adventure games for years. From Loom to Monkey Island, from Myst to the recent Sam & Max, I’ve played a huge number of these, and liked many of them. Some suck. Some are pretty good except for one bit or another — which sucks.

Anyway, since about November 19th last year, I’ve been saying the world really, really, needs a point and click adventure for the Wii. It has one. Capcom is now shipping a game called “Zack & Wiki” which is a sterling example of the genre. Its design is built around set pieces — each level is a shortish scene with a couple of interrelated puzzles. No more trying to sort through a thirty-item inventory, or walking across fifteen slow-loading scenes to pick up an object you should have picked up but didn’t notice. It’s all within visual range.

And, speaking of visuals, it’s gorgeous. Utterly beautiful. Cel-shaded, but it puts games like Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker to shame. It looks like a well-animated cartoon, utterly smooth, beautiful to watch, with a slick combination of detailed textures and visual effects.

If you like point and click adventures, get it. Yes, it’s worth getting a Wii for this game — there’s more where that came from. If you have found point and click adventures frustrating, at the very least give it a try; it seems to reduce the frustration factor noticably, without turning the game into a boring series of obvious “puzzles” that don’t make you think at all. If you’ve never tried point and click adventures, find a friend with a Wii (or get one) and rent this or buy it, because there is no better introduction out there.

Between this and the new Phoenix Wright (the games that it is worth getting a DS to play), it’s a great time to be a gamer. (This is not even including the astounding gameplay videos for Super Mario Galaxy.)

Peter Seebach

Comments [1]

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Okay, this is ridiculous.

(GeekStuff)

2007-10-22 08:44
Comments [2]

Hard drive capacities, as just about everyone knows, are given in base-10 gigabytes: 1,000,000,000 bytes. So, a 500GB drive is 500,000,000,000 bytes. Operating systems tend to use base-2 gigabytes, which are (1024*1024*1024) bytes — about 7% larger.

A while back, someone actually sued Western Digital over this, as reported in PC Mechanic in June of 2006. I just got my class member notification for a similar suit against Seagate.

Should they change the labeling? Yes.

But no one’s asked them to. Instead, they’re being asked to put an explanation on the box that they’re using the wrong units, which most vendors have had for years anyway. Also, you can get cash settlements of five percent of the purchase price of some drives (likely $100-200 base cost); the lawyers get just under two million dollars.

This is a stupid, stupid, suit, and a stupid, stupid, settlement.

Yes, it would be nice if all the vendors agreed to sell drives such that the “capacity” an operating system would see would be sorta close to the number on the box. I’m typing this on a machine with a “250GB” hard drive which actually has room for 232.57GB of files — a mere 249.72 “gigabytes” in the hard drive industry. I suppose next we’ll be seeing lawsuits against people who format disks.

Dumb, dumb, dumb. The disclosures were adequate to begin with, and strictly speaking, the drive vendors are right anyway; the IEC prefix for “binary gigabytes” is GiB.

Peter Seebach

Comments [2]

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I am the king of all packrats.

(GeekStuff)

2007-09-19 22:17
Comments [4]

So, I’ve been going through my old computer stuff. (Suffice it to say that the pile’s noticably bigger than it was last time.)

I found this.

an EGA card, labeled (Bad)

Now, it’s not just that it’s an EGA card. It’s that:

1. I have never in my life used an EGA card.
2. It is labeled “Bad”, so it probably didn’t even work.
3. The label is not in my handwriting.
4. Come to think of it, I never even owned a computer that could take an EGA card.
5. It hasn’t been unpacked since I moved.

In short… Over ten years ago, for no reason anyone can suggest, I acquired an EGA card, which card was already known to be bad, from persons unknown, and dutifully packed it and brought it with me, despite the fact that I did not at that time own any computer in which an EGA card could be used, nor did I have any expectation of owning any such computer in the future. (My first PC-compatibles were PCI machines. I never owned a bridgeboard for my Amigas, and I assure you it never worked in a Sun either.)

I have absolutely NO idea why this card was in my personal collection. I can’t explain it, I can’t justify it.

All I can do is show it to the nice folks from Computer Heaven when they come to take my junk away.

Peter Seebach

Comments [4]

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New house!

(Personal)

2007-09-14 16:03
Comments [2]

We bought a house! We are moving to Northfield, MN, a small town where they have an annual celebration of the last recorded homicide, a tad over a hundred years ago.

This is, of course, related to the huge quantity of computer stuff I’m getting rid of.

Peter Seebach

Comments [2]

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King of the hill

(GeekStuff)

2007-09-13 17:49
Comments [2]

I’m donating my old computer stuff that I never use to Computer Heaven, a local computer-recycling place.

Here’s the whole stack, plus my macbook (which I am not giving them):
a lot of computers

Some statistics might be in order.

StatisticAll The Sun ComputersThe PCsThe MacBook
Disk Space2,800MB160,000MB240,000MB
Memory (RAM)272MB1024MB2048MB
Clock cycles (in MHz)337.624004800
Pixels*bits of display33M32M55M
Power Consumption~3kW~1kW0.085kW
Weightabout 2000 lbsabout 200 lbsabout 7 lbs

To be picky, this isn’t really everything — it’s just all I could move in my spare time over a couple of days. I have about 4 more rackmount machines to bring up once my offsite hosting is up and running, and of course, that would leave the Mac no longer quite on top.

Still, it’s humbling.

Peter Seebach

Comments [2]

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